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Showing posts from May, 2016

How SpaceX plans to land on Mars in 2018

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SpaceX successfully landed one of its reusable Falcon 9 rockets on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean last week, marking the company’s third consecutive success. Sending cargo to the International Space Station and then landing the rocket used to transport it is just one step SpaceX is perfecting, as it moves forward with its daring plan to conquer Mars. The company intends to land on the Red Planet as soon as 2018, in order to explore Mars in preparation for a future manned mission to the planet.

SpaceX plans to send the Dragon 2 spacecraft to Mars atop the Falcon Heavy, which is essentially the equivalent of strapping three Falcon 9 boosters together, as Business Insider explains. That amount of power should be sufficient to bring the Dragon 2 to Mars with enough left over to get the Falcon Heavy back to Earth.

The real challenge is landing the Dragon 2 on the Red Planet once the trip to Mars is completed. Because Mars’s atmosphere isn’t as dense as Earth’s, using parachutes won’t …

NASA to be ordered to literally aim for the stars in House funding bill

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It turns out that the mandate for NASA to return astronauts to the moon is not the most exciting part of the space agency’s funding bill now moving through the House. The same bill suggests that NASA start to research propulsion technologies that would be used to send the first probe to Alpha Centauri, according to a Monday story in Science. The idea is that the first expedition to the nearest star to our solar system would depart in 2069, the 100th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The language seems to have been included in the bill by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, the chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA.

“Current NASA propulsion investments include advancements in chemical, solar electric, and nuclear thermal propulsion. However, even in their ultimate theoretically achievable implementations, none of these could approach cruise velocities of one-tenth the speed of light (0.1c), nor could any other fission-based approach (including nuclear electric or…

NASA Beam Inflation Complete

http://gizmodo.com/nasa-beam-inflation-complete-saturday-after-earlier-fai-1779325089

Earth-like planet that ‘could be habitable’ discovered

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Good news.

If we use up all the earth’s resources and predictions of a global warming Dooms Day type-scenario do come true, there might be a get out clause.

Scientists have found an Earth-like planet orbiting a star that could have the conditions suitable for life.

There is a catch though, it’s 1,200 light years away, so unless we invent a way of prolonging our lives drastically, it might remain a pipe dream for now.

The planet has been given the memorable moniker Kepler 62f (or home if things don’t work out here) and is about 40 per cent larger than the Earth.

It is the outermost of five planets circling a star that is smaller and cooler than the sun and computer simulations suggest it is could be habitable.

To put the discovery in context some 2,300 ‘exoplanets’ have been identified outside the solar system, but of those only a couple of dozen orbit the ‘habitable zones’ around stars.

Plus Kepler 62f would need a thick layer of carbon dioxide to in its atmosphere to keep water from …

SpaceX ‘on track’ to launch astronauts in late 2017

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SpaceX is on schedule to fly two NASA astronauts on a test flight to the International Space Station by the end of 2017, but there is a lot of work to do to ensure the company’s new Crew Dragon spaceship is up to the task and ready in time, a SpaceX manager said Tuesday.

Benjamin Reed, director of SpaceX’s commercial crew program, said Tuesday that construction workers will install a crew access arm and other infrastructure for human spaceflights at Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A this summer.

The seaside launch facility — last used for the final space shuttle launch in 2011 — is being leased by SpaceX to support flights by the company’s future Falcon Heavy rocket, commercial satellite launches and piloted space sorties, which will blast off on the smaller Falcon 9.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has finished qualification of the company’s own docking system to connect the Crew Dragon to Boeing-made docking adapters on the space station, and began testing of the capsule’s propulsion system,…

Here’s the 411 on the EmDrive: the ‘physics-defying’ thruster even NASA is puzzled over

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Even if you don’t keep up with developments in space propulsion technology, you’ve still probably heard about the EmDrive. You’ve probably seen headlines declaring it the key to interstellar travel, and claims that it will drastically reduce travel time across our solar system, making our dreams of people walking on other planets even more of a reality. There have even been claims that this highly controversial technology is the key to creating warp drives.

These are bold claims, and as the great cosmologist and astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” With that in mind, we thought it’d be helpful to break down what we know about the enigmatic EmDrive, and whether it is, in fact, the key to mankind exploring the stars.

So without further ado, here’s absolutely everything you need to know about the world’s most puzzling propulsion device.

What is the EmDrive?

See, the EmDrive is a conundrum. First designed in 2001 by aerospace engineer …

THAICOM 8 Hosted Webcast - SpaceX

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Space experts say sending humans to Mars worth the risk

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Summit takes stock of hurdles, technologies, support needed to reach Red Planet by 2030s There’s a long-standing joke that NASA is always 20 years from putting astronauts on Mars. Mission details shared at a recent summit shows that the space agency is right on schedule. A to-do list from 2015 looks remarkably similar to one compiled in 1990. One difference: NASA is now building a rocket and test-driving technologies needed to get a crew to Mars. But the specifics for the longest road trip in history — and what astronauts will do once they arrive — remain an open question.
“Are we going to just send them there to explore and do things that we could do robotically though slower, or can we raise the bar?” asked planetary scientist Jim Bell during the Humans to Mars summit. “We need to make sure that what these folks are being asked to do is worthy of the risk to their lives,” said Bell, of Arizona State University in Tempe.
The three-day symposium, which ended May 19, was organized by E…

U.S. lawmaker orders NASA to plan for trip to Alpha Centauri by 100th anniversary of moon landing

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It seems that the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot project—to send a privately funded fleet of tiny spacecraft to a nearby star—may have started a star rush. Today a senior U.S. lawmaker who helps write NASA’s budget called on the agency to begin developing its own interstellar probes, with the aim of launching a mission to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in 2069—the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Representative John Culberson (R–TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House of Representatives appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday.

In the report, Culberson’s panel “encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability …

LOCKHEED MARTIN WANTS TO SEND HUMANS TO MARS IN 12 YEARS

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ORBITING LABORATORY COULD PAVE THE WAY FOR A LANDING PARTY

Before our species set foot on the moon, we orbited it first. The same will probably be true for Mars, and on Wednesday, Lockheed Martin plans to unveil its vision for a spacecraft that could make it happen. The "Mars Base Camp," as the company is calling it, would set up a laboratory, staffed by 6 astronauts, in Mars orbit in 2028.
Up to now, NASA has outlined the first few steps to Mars. It's building a heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and working with Lockheed to build the Orion crew capsule. The rocket and capsule will launch for the first time, uncrewed, in 2018, and then in 2023 they'll carry astronauts into deep space, just beyond the moon, for the first time ever.
But after the moon it's still a very long way to Mars, filled with unknowns, and then once you get to Mars, landing is a whole new challenge. This is where NASA's plans get particularly vague.
Six astronauts could liv…

Boeing falls behind SpaceX in next space race

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Boeing just fell behind SpaceX in the race to be the first private company to carry U.S. astronauts to space.

Boeing said Tuesday that it has pushed the date of its first manned space mission back from 2017 to 2018. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which will carry the astronauts, is still under development.

SpaceX, led by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, says it intends to have a manned mission in 2017 using its Dragon space capsule. Unlike the Starliner, Dragon is already built and in use, delivering supplies to the International Space Station with unmanned missions. But it will need to go through further testing before it can carry humans.

Both Boeing and SpaceX have contracts with NASA to take astronauts to the International Space Station. It doesn’t really matter which one makes the first trip — it’s really just a matter of bragging rights — since NASA will send multiple missions using both carriers.

NASA’s last space shuttle flight was five years ago, and since then the agency has depend…

NASA just discovered 1,284 new planets — here's how many could potentially support life

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On Tuesday, NASA announced the Kepler space telescope's discovery of 1,284 planets outside of our solar system, more than doubling the number of known Kepler exoplanets. This brings the tally up to 2,325.
More than 100 of the new planets are 1.2 Earth masses or smaller and are "almost certainly rocky in nature."

Of all the new planets, 550 are small and possibly rocky, and nine of them reside in the habitable zone, which could potentially support life.

"We are sampling the galaxy to understand how many planets there are and how far out we have to search in order to find potentially habitable planets like Earth," Natalie Batalha, the Kepler mission scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, said in the announcement.

The Kepler space telescope is a space observatory launched in 2009 with the mission of finding Earth-size planets in areas that could potentially support life.

The telescope searches for the faint dimming that occurs when a planet crosses the pat…

Falcon 9 sticks second sea landing, another victory for SpaceX's reusable rockets

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Elon Musk's private spaceflight company continues to deliver. On Friday, a second rocket landed off the coast of Florida. 
SpaceX had its second successful rocket landing at sea on Friday, lending validity to the idea that private space companies really can make dreams soar.

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket carried a communications satellite, which it put in orbit. Less than three minutes later, the rocket turned around and headed back toward Earth, ultimately landing on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX didn’t expect a successful return landing because of the rocket’s high altitude and speed. Elon Musk was jubilant about the mission on Twitter.

Friday’s rocket launch and return was the second successful landing on a barge for SpaceX. The first occurred in April, when SpaceX was making a supply run to the space station for NASA. SpaceX made its first booster landing on solid ground in December.

The company is the only one so far to recover a rocket following an orbital launch. …

NASA to Announce Latest Kepler Discoveries During Media Teleconference

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NASA will host a news teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 10 to announce the latest discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope.
The briefing participants are:
Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in WashingtonTimothy Morton, associate research scholar at Princeton University in New JerseyNatalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CaliforniaCharlie Sobeck, Kepler/K2 mission manager at Ames For dial-in information, media must e-mail their name, affiliation and telephone number to Felicia Chou at felicia.chou@nasa.gov no later than 11 a.m. Tuesday. Questions can be submitted on Twitter during the teleconference using the hashtag #askNASA.
The teleconference audio and visuals will be streamed live at:
http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio
When Kepler was launched in March 2009, scientists did not know how common planets were outside our solar system. Thanks to Kepler's treasure …

Time for fresh thinking about collaboration in space

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Russia celebrates April 12, the day Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in 1961, as Cosmonautics Day. This year, on the 55th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke via video link with astronauts from the US and Russia aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He highlighted the ability of both nations to cooperate closely in space despite various differences on Earth. It’s really amazing that both Russia and the US have successfully developed an “orbital cooperation” in spite of having ongoing terrestrial confrontation.

The space cooperation between Moscow and Washington offers an example of how, despite major political differences, two nations can work together. Such approach is extremely remarkable since both the states have significant military dependence on their assets in space. These states also understand that superiority in space has wider strategic and global technology leadership connotations. Still they are keen to collaborate in space. It c…

Former Moonwalker Pushes Colonization of Mars From Florida Tech

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Although renowned for long-ago exploits, Buzz Aldrin, at 86, seems as focused on shaping the future as on celebrating his past.

The second man to walk on the moon, in 1969, Mr. Aldrin was the first astronaut with a doctorate in astronautics, or anything else, when he was selected by NASA, in 1963. For decades, he has pressed federal aerospace officials and corporations to plan a permanent settlement on Mars.

To advance that mission, last summer he and the Florida Institute of Technology said they would set up the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute there. Mr. Aldrin became a research professor of aeronautics at Florida Tech and senior faculty adviser to the institute. At the same time, the university said its John H. Evans Library would establish the Buzz Aldrin Special Collection and Archives.

Mr. Aldrin says he chose Florida Tech, a private research university, because of its history of collaboration with the nearby Kennedy Space Center and because he moved from California to Florida last …

SpaceX: our Falcon rockets are more powerful than we thought

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Falcon Heavy will have twice as much thrust as any other rocket, if you ask Elon Musk.

If you thought SpaceX was already making a fuss over the capabilities of both its existing Falcon 9 rocket and the upcoming Falcon Heavy, you haven't seen anything yet. The company has posted updated specs showing that both vehicles are more powerful than previously thought. A Falcon 9 is now known to be capable of hauling 50,265lbs to low Earth orbit, up from just shy of 29,000 pounds. The Falcon Heavy, meanwhile, will carry 119,930lbs instead of the previously promised 116,845lbs. Elon Musk chalks up the improved figures to more thorough testing -- SpaceX hasn't upgraded the hardware, at least not yet.
However, the private space firm is also raising expectations across the board. Musk plans to increase the Falcon 9's rated liftoff thrust to 1.71 million (up from 1.3 million), and the Falcon Heavy will now put out 5.1 million pounds on liftoff instead of the earlier 4.5 million. That…

NASA keeps its eye on a trio of potentially habitable planets just 40 light-years away

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Three potentially habitable and definitely weird planets have been detected orbiting an ultracool dwarf star that’s 40 light-years away from Earth. They’re too far to visit anytime soon, but close enough to spark interest from NASA and astrobiologists who want to study the conditions under which life could arise.

“Why are we trying to detect Earthlike planets around the smallest and coolest stars in the solar neighborhood? The reason is simple: Systems around these tiny stars are the only places where we can detect life on an Earth-sized exoplanet with our current technology,” Michaël Gillon, an astronomer from the University of Liège in Belgium, said in a news release from the European Southern Observatory. “So if we want to find life elsewhere in the universe, this is where we should start to look.”

The discoveries are detailed in a study published today by the journal Nature.

The star in question, known as TRAPPIST-1 in the constellation Aquarius, is ultracool not only because it’…

How NASA's Next Big Telescope Could Take Pictures of Another Earth

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A “starshade” flying alongside the WFIRST observatory could deliver images of potentially habitable worlds decades ahead of schedule Can NASA’s next big space telescope take a picture of an alien Earth-like planet orbiting another star? Astronomers have long dreamed of such pictures, which would allow them to study worlds beyond our solar system for signs of habitability and life. But for as long as astronomers have dreamed, the technology to make those dreams a reality has seemed decades away. Now, however, a growing number of experts believe NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) could take snapshots of “other Earths”—and soon. The agency formally started work on WFIRST in February of this year and plans to launch the observatory in 2025.
WFIRST was conceived in 2010 as the top-ranked priority of the National Academy of Sciences’ Decadal Survey, a report from U.S. astronomers that proposes a wish list of future missions for NASA and other federal science agencies. The…