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Showing posts from April, 2016

NASA's Starshade Spacecraft --Future Exoplanet Exploration Enables Pictures of Earth-like Worlds

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Scientists and engineers are actively working on two technologies to help with this challenge: the starshade, a giant flower-shaped spacecraft; and coronagraphs, single instruments that fit inside telescopes. Both a starshade and a coronagraph block the light of a star, making it easier for telescopes to pick up the dim light that reflects off planets. This would enable astronomers to take pictures of Earth-like worlds -- and then use other instruments called spectrometers to search the planets' atmospheres for chemical clues about whether life might exist there.

Scientists at JPL are getting closer to finding worlds that resemble our own "blue marble" of a planet. NASA's Kepler mission alone has confirmed more than 1,000 planets outside our solar system -- a handful of which are a bit bigger than Earth and orbit in the habitable zones of their stars, where liquid water might exist. Some astronomers think the discovery of Earth's true analogs may be around the c…

How SpaceX's Red Dragon could change the way we land on Mars

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The pros and cons of propulsive landing
SpaceX's bold plan to put a Dragon spacecraft on Mars in 2018 will rely on a type of landing technique known as propulsive landing — a way of using rocket engines to go down instead of up. As the Dragon descends toward the Martian surface, eight SuperDraco engines embedded in the spacecraft's hull will fire, slowing down the vehicle's descent and allowing it to land gently on the ground.
It's akin to how SpaceX lands the first stages of its Falcon 9 rockets on Earth, and it could be a revolutionary way of landing on Mars. Right now, getting cargo to the Red Planet is an extremely complicated process. The Martian atmosphere is one-hundredth the density of Earth's, providing less cushion to slow down incoming vehicles. In the past, getting hardware to Mars has required complex engineering, using a combination of heat shields, retrorockets, parachutes, and more. Propulsive landings could streamline that process, allowing SpaceX…

Just How Ambitious Are SpaceX's Mars Plans?

SpaceX wants to get to Mars within two years. That's pretty ambitious, even by spaceflight standards. Private companies haven't broken out of orbit around Earth yet.

First off, it assumes SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket gets off the drawing board in time to launch a Mars-bound mission. The expected debut has slipped a couple times already.

Money isn't as much of a challenge. In spaceflight terms, getting something to orbit around Mars is relatively cheap. India put a probe around the red planet on its first try, with four years and about $73 million. A single Falcon 9 launch costs only about $61 million.

Landing on Mars is where things get tricky. Mars' atmosphere is thinner than Earth's, which makes it less useful for slowing down. SpaceX's rocket-powered landing would help get around that.

But a Dragon capsule would still be about six times heavier than the Curiosity rover NASA landed on Mars. More weight means higher stakes.

And Curiosity didn't explode…

NASA’s Kepler: Discovering 1,000+ exoplanets, and counting

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On March 6th, 2009, a Delta II rocket was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a payload designed by NASA to be the first that searches for Earth-like planets in our own galaxy. The Kepler space observatory which NASA launched that day was charged with surveying the Milky Way galaxy to find terrestrial planets of a similar size to Earth within the galaxy. Originally scheduled to operate for three-and-a-half years, Kepler, like many other NASA spacecraft, has been able to transcend its initial mission and it continues to be a potential source of new scientific discoveries to this day.

Kepler’s search has been focused on the many exoplanets that exist in our solar system but which orbit a star other than our Sun. Research on exoplanets has increased tremendously over the course of the past two decades, during which time have scientists found thousands of such specimens. The interactive Exoplanets Data Explorer, made available online as a joint project …

From zero to 100mph in 1.2 seconds, the SuperDraco thruster delivers

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Ars takes a closer look at SpaceX's innovative and essential engine. This week SpaceX announced plans to land a Dragon spacecraft on Mars by 2018. This would be a monumental achievement for NASA or any other national space agency, let alone a single company, considering the 6,000kg Dragon is nearly an order of magnitude more massive than anything previously landed on the red planet.
With the long-term goal of Mars colonization squarely in its crosshair, SpaceX has been testing key technologies needed to land on Mars for years. One of them is supersonic retro-propulsion, which Ars revealed has been tested on upgraded Falcon 9 rockets since September 2013. Supersonic retro-propulsion proved a resounding success.
But the Falcon 9 and its Merlin engines won't be going to Mars. SpaceX will use a different type of propulsion, the SuperDraco thruster, to propulsively land on the red planet. Here's how the landing will work: as the Dragon (dubbed Red Dragon) begins its descent to…

Five human spaceflight missions to look forward to in the next decade

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From astronauts breaking records for the longest amount of time spent in space to experiments growing food and keeping bacteria in orbit, the past decade of human spaceflight has been fascinating. There has also been an explosion of privately-funded spaceflight companies providing access to space, including delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The next decade will see a remarkable mix of countries and companies getting involved. Plans include taking humans from low-Earth orbit back to the moon and even an asteroid in the 2020s – all designed to help prepare for the ultimate goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s.

1. First inflatable, commercial space station
The company Bigelow Aerospace is planning on launching the first privately-funded commercial space station – the B330 – in 2020. The station will be able to accommodate a crew of six with more space – an internal volume of 330 cubic meters – than a typical semi-detached house. The project is already u…

NASA views China as "potential partner" in civilian space

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WASHINGTON, April 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space agency NASA views China as a "potential partner," not a threat, in the civilian space area, said its head Wednesday.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made the remakes at an event hosted by the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he discussed his agency's role in U.S. international affairs.

"Since I only views civilian space, I see them as a potential partner," he said. "They're already a partner in some areas" such as Earth and lunar science, including collaborative research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on geodetics and glacial characterization in the Himalaya region.

"So there are potential areas of partnerships there, but because of congressional restrictions right now, we are limited to merely multilateral activities," he said. "Engagement always beats isolation. Engagement always beats trying to do things on their own."

U.…

SpaceX says it will fly a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on Mars as soon as 2018 with the help of NASA, an extraordinary collaboration between the public and private sectors in an effort to eventually get humans to the Red Planet.

SpaceX made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, laying out an ambitious timeline for an incredibly difficult mission that only governments have dared try. Landing a spacecraft or a robot that can then operate successfully on the Martian surface is so difficult that the U.S. is the only country to have done it, and many attempts over the years have failed.

The partnership between SpaceX and NASA, which has the goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, is yet another example of the significant shift in the role NASA is playing in space exploration. While it continues to pursue its own deep space missions, the agency has also spent years, and billions of dollars, helping to support a robust commercial space industry, which it is increasingly partnering wi…

Have scientists cracked the secret of Nasa’s 'impossible' fuel-free thruster? New theory could explain the EmDrive that may one day take man to Mars in 10 weeks

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EmDrive creates thrust by bouncing microwaves in chamberScientists aren't sure how this happens as it defies the laws of physicsDr Mike McCulloch suggests it is caused by effect of 'Unruh radiation'At low accelerations, the radiation causes inertia to increase unexpectedly Research on the engine is due to undergo peer review in coming months
An 'impossible' fuel-free engine, that could take humans to Mars in just 10 weeks, has been shown to work - but no one knows why. 
The so-called EmDrive creates thrust by bouncing microwaves around in an enclosed chamber, and uses only solar power.
Many argue the concept is simply hype, pointing out that the design goes against the known laws of physics.
Now, one scientists claims he has a new theory that could explain exactly how the EmDrive would work.

The idea for an EmDrive was proposed in 2000 by a researcher named Roger Shawyer. 
Since then four independent labs, including one at Nasa, have recreated the drive.
They still…

SpaceX plans to debut Red Dragon with 2018 Mars mission

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SpaceX has entered into an agreement with NASA for a Dragon mission to Mars, set to take place as early as 2018. Known as “Red Dragon”, the variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft will be launched by the Falcon Heavy rocket, ahead of a soft landing on the surface of Mars. The mission is also part of an agreement with NASA to gain further data on Mars landings.

Red Dragon:

SpaceX’s Martian ambitions are well known, although this year will finally see an outline of the ambitious roadmap that it hopes will eventually result in a human colony on the Red Planet.

SpaceX’s Martian ambitions are well known, although this year will finally see an outline of the ambitious roadmap that it hopes will eventually result in a human colony on the Red Planet.

SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk is expected to reveal his plans for the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) – and associated architecture – this summer at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Red Dragon was always seen…

Next-Gen Propulsion System Gets $67 Million from NASA

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The next-generation engines that NASA is counting on to power missions to an asteroid and Mars will begin taking shape soon.

The space agency has awarded California-based company Aerojet Rocketdyne a $67 million, 36-month contract to design, build and test an advanced, superefficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) system. These new engines should have a profound impact on the future of spaceflight, NASA officials said.

"We basically are building a new drive train that enables whole new platforms for deep-space exploration," Bryan Smith, director of the Space Flight Systems Directorate at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, said during a news briefing Thursday (April 21).

SEP systems convert solar power to electricity, then use this electricity to accelerate ions out of a nozzle, generating thrust. Engineers have been developing SEP technology for more than half a century, and such ion thrusters have been used on multiple spacecraft over the years, including NASA'…

China wants to land on Mars by 2021: Top official at the country's space agency reveals plans for mission to the red planet

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Mission chief spoke to BBC about plans for Mars and moon missionsThe agency is planning to launch a mission top reach Mars by 2021It also plans to establish a lunar research base and explore the moonNasa is banned from working with the Chinese, but officials have spoken of their desire to collaborate with the US agency on future projects
China has set its sights firmly on Mars and is aiming to launch a mission to the red planet by 2020, a top official has revealed.
Long-regarded as a secretive branch of the country's vast military, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has been considered something of a lone wolf in the increasingly cooperative space race.
But the chief designer of lunar and Mars missions for the CNSA has opened up about the agency's plans for planetary exploration and future collaboration in a rare interview.

In an interview with the BBC, Wu Weiren said the agency's short-term goal is to orbit and land on the moon as well as bring back lunar samp…

Has the 'impossible' EM drive being tested by NASA finally been explained?

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The EM drive, the so-called “impossible” space drive that uses no propellant, has roiled the aerospace world for the past several years, ever since it was proposed by British aerospace engineer Robert Shawyer. In essence, the claim advanced by Shawyer and others is that if you bounced microwaves in a truncated cone, thrust would be produced out the open end. Most scientists have snorted at the idea, noting correctly that such a thing would violate physical laws. However, organizations as prestigious as NASA have replicated the same results, that prototypes of the EM drive produces thrust. How does one reconcile the experimental results with the apparent scientific impossibility? Wednesday, MIT Technology Review suggested a reason why.

“Today we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Mike McCulloch at Plymouth University in the U.K. McCulloch’s explanation is based on a new theory of inertia that makes startling predictions about the way objects move under very small acceleratio…

Weld by weld, NASA is getting closer to having the biggest rocket once again

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It’s a bit embarrassing: Right now for manned travel to and from space, America, the country that put a man on the moon, has to rely on the private sector and Russia, the country that didn’t. NASA’s rocket technology has not only been languishing due to insufficient funding, it’s also been overtaken in several areas by the private sector. Not just SpaceX, but the rival technologies it produced at places like Boeing — NASA just isn’t the hottest name in launch technology anymore, and it hasn’t been for a while. With the Space Launch System (SLS), slowly coming together by pieces, it hopes to change that.

The Space Launch System is a so-called super heavy-lift rocket, which puts it a category ahead of SpaceX’s venerable Falcon Heavy, and which also makes it the most powerful rocket ever created. It will be created in several stages, each increasing the maximum launch capacity, until it eventually reaches its total capacity of roughly 130 metric tons delivered to Low Earth Orbit, and eve…

Planet colonisation BREAKTHROUGH: Earth-like planet may be nearby

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AN EARTH-LIKE planet could be lurking nearby in what could be a major breakthrough in mankind's mission to colonise another globe.

Astronomers investigating a nearby star system known as Gliese 832 believe that there may be a planet which is similar to Earth and habitable as well.

Although the star system is 16 light years away, making it impossible to get there at the moment, there is hope that in the future humans will be able to travel such distances in a relatively short period of time.


Gliese 832 is a red dwarf star which is just half the mass of our sun.
As it stands there are two known planets orbiting it: Gliese 832b – a gas giant with 0.64 the mass of Jupiter and situated 3.53 AU from it, and Gliese 832c, a massive rocky planet some five times as big as Earth and orbiting just 0.16 AU from its host.

An AU is an astronomical unit and is the measurement between the Sun and the Earth, around 150 million kilometres.
However, because there is such a vast space between the two …