Showing posts from July, 2014

Russia Close to Sending Sustainable Mission to Mars

Russia has come closer than other countries to launching sustainable long-term manned space missions, an expert said on Wednesday. “We expect positive results from experiments. Then we will be able to say whether or not we know how to provide for the vital life sustenance of cosmonauts during a long mission,” Vladimir Uiba, head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency told ITAR-TASS. He said man would fly to Mars and beyond in the future, but “without experiments like those we are doing on Foton [satellite] no one can say how to provide sufficient supply of oxygen, food and so on for such a long flight”. Uiba said no one in the world had such information, “neither the United States no China”. “We have come closer to the answer as our Fotons allow us to model life-support systems for people,” he said. Russia’s Foton-M satellite, control of which was restored on July 26, is functioning as usual, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said. “As of July 28, seventeen communicatio

New Tool For Space Exploration: Onboard 3-D Printer

Challenges abound, but off-planet manufacturing can expedite exploration Nestled in a cargo bag scheduled to fly on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo carrier in September is a piece of equipment its builders hope will begin to change the way humans—and their robots—explore and exploit space. The device, essentially a 3-D polymer printer rated for spaceflight, will be installed in a glove box on the International Space Station (ISS) where the crew will evaluate how well it works in microgravity. Whatever the results, it will be the first space-based factory ever, and could herald a drastic shift in how terrestrial engineers plan deep-space missions. “If we didn’t have to launch everything from the surface of the Earth, maybe we would be further along than we are in space,” says Jason Dunn, who co-founded the Silicon Valley-based startup Made In Space Inc. They designed and built the 3-D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration with a small-business-innovation-research grant from NASA

Want to Colonize an Alien Planet? Send 40,000 People

If humanity ever wants to colonize a planet beyond the solar system, it's going to need a really big spaceship. The founding population of an interstellar colony should consist of 20,000 to 40,000 people, said Cameron Smith, an anthropologist at Portland State University in Oregon. Such a large group would possess a great deal of genetic and demographic diversity, giving the settlement the best chance of survival during the long space voyage and beyond, he explained. "Do you want to just squeak by, with barely what you can get? Or do you want to go in good health?" Smith said on July 16 during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. "I would suggest, go with something that gives you a good margin for the case of disaster." Revisiting the numbers In the past, researchers have proposed that a few hundred people would be sufficient to establish a settlement on or near an alien planet. But Smith thought it was time to

SpaceX Roadmap building on its rocket business revolution

Following the recent success of the Falcon 9 launch with six ORBCOMM spacecraft, SpaceX is in the midst of speedy turnaround of its Cape Canaveral launch site, ahead of the ASIASAT-8 mission. While SpaceX remains on track for a record year, CEO Elon Musk believes the time is coming where there will be thousands of launches each year – as humanity becomes multi-planetary. SpaceX Momentum: The recent mission to launch the batch of ORBCOMM satellites struggled to get off the ground for a number of weeks, due to multiple factors such as technical issues, the weather and the availability of the Eastern Range. While the challenges associated with finding acceptable conditions for launch can vary by rocket and launch site location, Florida’s unpredictable weather can upset even the best behaving rocket eager to depart from Cape Canaveral. Eventually launching on July 14, the successful ride uphill resulted in the six new spacecraft all reporting back as healthy, ready to begin the

No human has ever been to Mars. But NASA wants to put commercial satellites there.

Humanity's research on the red planet keeps getting ever more sophisticated. Between the little rovers we keep sending, the images that come back and the larger payloads NASA hopes to land there in the future, it'll only be a matter of time before research agencies are going to need far more communications capacity with Mars than they currently have. That's why NASA is investigating ways to put commercial satellites into the planet's orbit. A network of privately funded satellite relays could take advantage of next-generation, laser-based data links capable of sending information back to Earth hundreds of times faster than the typical American broadband connection. NASA already has two science satellites orbiting Mars. They'll be followed by a third satellite, arriving this fall, and a European orbiter in 2016. But NASA says it doesn't have any others planned for the foreseeable future, and with the cost of sending such equipment, it's not clear that t

The Rise of Boutique Rocket Firms Inspired By SpaceX

SpaceX has dominated the private space industry since it was founded 12 years ago. The company’s thriftiness, its reusable space launch concept, and Elon Musk’s unabashed hopes to land humans on Mars have all contributed to its swift ascent to the top of the corporate spaceflight ladder. One of the most interesting byproducts of SpaceX’s success, however, is the wealth of opportunities left in its wake. New spaceflight niches are beginning to be filled by a wave of specialized rocket startups, looking to provide solutions for modest satellite manufacturers with limited launch options. Firefly Space Systems is of the youngest of these upstart private space companies. Founded in January 2014 by veteran engineer Tom Markusic—who has previously developed spaceflight systems at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin—Firefly aims to be a kind of boutique rocket company, catering to smaller satellite payloads and missions. “When Elon Musk started SpaceX, he really paved the way for com


Talking about building an interstellar space ship makes you sound like a sci-fi fan who’s lost touch with the real world. Unless you’re Mae Jemison, a former astronaut — the first African-American woman in space. Then you might legitimately wonder, “How in the hell do you get to another star system?” Jemison actually needs to answer that question; she’s the head of 100 Year Starship, an organization the home page of which boldly commands, “Let’s make human interstellar travel capabilities a reality within the next hundred years.” “That time frame is reasonable, why?” she asks rhetorically. “If you said ten years — 'Nah, we know that’s not long enough.’ If you said 500 years, people would say, ‘I can kick back for another two to three hundred years because I don’t have to worry about it.’ One hundred years is close enough." The problem: space is big, and our current rocket technology isn’t cutting it. “If you’re travelling with technology we can already conceive, like say

Why we explore space

Through the one large window in my congressional office, I have a clear view of the Capitol. It symbolizes, to me, the freest, most exceptional and greatest country on Earth. This month, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of America’s moon landing. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those historic steps, every American stood a little higher, pointed to the moon, and knew that it was within our grasp. In that moment, we reaffirmed that we are still a nation built by pioneers. On a wall of my office, I look at a poster-sized photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It inspires me to look beyond Earth, to consider my place in the universe, and to think about infinite possibilities. The photo is of a dark speck of sky, pinpoint in size, where nothing was thought to exist. When the film was developed after being exposed for many hours, it revealed there were 3,000 points of light in that tiny area of the sky. And each point of light was not a star, but a galaxy, which average

Radiation shielding to protect a mission to Mars

The EU-funded SR2S project is developing magnetic shielding that can deflect dangerous cosmic rays. Image: SR2S Lightweight magnetic shields could be the best way to protect an astronaut from deadly radiation as they travel to Mars or beyond. Harmful radiation comes from two main sources in space; low-energy protons emitted from the sun, known as the solar wind, and much higher energy particles known as galactic cosmic rays that originate outside the solar system. Long-term exposure to galactic cosmic rays and solar particles can lead to a significantly higher risk of developing cancer, researchers believe. Increasing the thickness of spacecraft walls would be enough to protect astronauts from low-energy particles from the sun, however high-energy galactic cosmic rays would interact with the shielding materials to produce even more radiation. The EU-funded SR2S project is developing magnetic shielding instead that can deflect these dangerous cosmic rays in the same way


At 84 years of age, Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin still has a lot to say. And with a lifetime of experiences behind him – and ahead of him yet as well – he’s hoping those in power in Washington D.C. and at NASA will listen to his plans to colonize the planet Mars during the next four decades. July 20th, 2014 marks 45 years since Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins ventured to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. While Collins stayed in orbit aboard the Columbia module, Armstrong and Aldrin made history by taking the Eagle module down to the surface and creating mankind’s first footprints on another celestial body. Forever known as ‘the second man to walk on the Moon,’ Aldrin has been the more outspoken of the trio in the decades since. While Armstrong advocated for going back to the Moon, believing that there was much left to learn from the Earth’s nearby satellite, Aldrin has been a strong proponent of extending mankind’s grasp by aiming instead for the Red Planet. Despite

The Future of Moon Exploration, Lunar Colonies and Humanity

A rocket carrying more than a dozen privately built probes touches down on the moon. The robots burst from the vehicle in a race to beam back high-definition video and other data while roving the surface of Earth's nearest natural satellite. The people of Earth watch a broadcast of the race as the rovers roam (or stall) in the lunar dust The motives that drove teams to send these robotic emissaries to the moon might be different — ranging from inspiring a country to starting a sustainable, commercial endeavor — but they have all flown the more than 200,000 miles (321,000 kilometers) to the moon, riding on a wave of commercial hopes that rest on the lunar surface. Could this be what the start of a lunar revolution looks like 45 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing? For some of the people involved with a private race to the moon, that hypothetical scenario could become reality in a little more than a year. "For the X Prize, we're going to carry multiple X Prize te

Space travel 45 years after ‘Men Walk on the Moon:’ ‘We can still do impossible things.’

One of the few men to step on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, of the Apollo 11 mission, has asked public figures to recount what it was like to watch he and Armstrong take ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ and inspire future generations of scientists to travel beyond the moon It’s been 45 years since the planet stopped to cram around a tiny, grainy television set to watch humans land on the moon. The moment can never be erased from history, but for the majority of the world’s current population, they were not alive to experience Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the dusty lunar soil. Director J.J. Abrams and TV host Stephen Colbert were little kids when their parents dragged them out of bed to watch the landing, but both of them admitted to not remembering a single moment of the historic night. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly confessed he slept through the whole thing as a 5-year-old, but that didn’t stop him from later spending 54 days orbiting the Earth a