Showing posts from October, 2016

Manned mission adds more success to China's ambitious space program

There are clear parallels between modern China's persistent efforts to extend its reach into space and the advances that characterized the Red Army's Long March eight decades ago.

The analogy is timely in the context of the launch this month of China's latest, and longest, space mission, a couple of days before celebration of the 80th anniversary on October 21 of the end in 1936 of the revolutionary Long March.

The phrases used by China's President Xi Jinping in hailing the military victory work equally as well in describing the nation's space program which started with a first satellite launch in 1970.

Terms like "a great expedition" and a "monument" to China's rejuvenation are interchangeable in depicting each of the journeys which have their genesis in vastly different eras of the nation's development.

President Xi said the march, a military maneuver undertaken by the Red Army from 1934 to 1936, was "epic" and "a great…

Where does Jeff Bezos foresee putting space colonists? Inside O’Neill cylinders

SpaceX’s Elon Musk wants to settle humans on Mars. Others talk about a Moon Village. But Seattle billionaire Jeff Bezos has a different kind of off-Earth home in mind when he talks about having millions of people living and working in space.

His long-range vision focuses on a decades-old concept for huge artificial habitats that are best known today as O’Neill cylinders.

The concept was laid out in 1976 in a classic book by physicist Gerard O’Neill, titled “The High Frontier.” The idea is to create cylinder-shaped structures in outer space, and give them enough of a spin that residents on the inner surface of the cylinder could live their lives in Earth-style gravity. The habitat’s interior would be illuminated either by reflected sunlight or sunlike artificial light.

O’Neill cylinders and their ilk have become a standby for hard science-fiction stories. For example, in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312,” hollowed-out asteroids known as “terraria” house communities that travel back and fo…

Clinton Wants Balanced NASA Program With Climate Change Research and Exploration Partnerships

Trump: 'I Will Free NASA' From Being Just a LEO Space Logistics Agency

Novo Mundo - National Geographic Channel Mars

In 2033, the first human mission to Mars enters its atmosphere, while currently, SpaceX attempts to land the world's first reusable rocket.

Elon Musk outlines vision for life on Mars with droids, glass domes, and huge rockets

SpaceX and Tesla boss Elon Musk's vision for the colonization of Mars is as sci-fi as you'd expect with robots, glass domes and spaceships with cool names.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session Sunday, the billionaire was asked a number of questions from the technical specs of his rockets to how his plans for colonizing Mars would play out.

At an international space conference last month, Musk talked about plans for SpaceX's Interplanetary Transit System (ITS) – a project that involves launching reusable rockets to Mars with manned missions potentially coming within the next decade.

The Reddit AMA was an extension of the discussion where eager fans asked Musk about his plans.

One user asked how people would live on the Red Planet. Musk said that the idea would be to build "geodesic domes on the surface" made of glass with carbon fiber frames. And "droids" would help with any mining and tunneling operations.

"With the latter, you can build out …

The Push to Photograph Earth-Like Planet Begins With Launch of Project Blue

A consortium of prominent science and research institutions led by BoldlyGo Institute and Mission Centaur today announced Project Blue, an endeavor for a new era of discovery and space exploration. Employing recent technological advances, Project Blue is designed to be the first mission capable of obtaining an image of another planet like Earth -- a powerful next step to understanding and exploring worlds outside our solar system. This new kind of privately-led, non-profit space initiative unites an extraordinary range of experts, including teams from the SETI Institute and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, on a daunting scientific and technical challenge.

Project Blue will work to fund, build and launch a compact exoplanet imaging telescope aimed at Alpha Centauri -- the closest star system to Earth -- to determine whether Earth-like planets exist around it and if so, to capture a direct "pale blue dot" image. While NASA's Kepler mission has shown that terrestria…

NASA will allow private companies to hook up modules to the International Space Station

The space agency wants to give low-Earth orbit to the private sector as it focuses on Mars

Private space companies may soon get the opportunity to add their own habitat modules to the outside of the International Space Station. That’s according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the new initiative today as a way to help expand the number of companies and people that can do work and research in space. That can eventually help companies gain the experience and capability to create private space stations of their own.
"A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," wrote Bolden in a White House blog post.
The announcement of this new opportunity comes just a few months after NASA asked private companies for ideas of how they might use one of the docking ports on the ISS. Based on the responses NASA received, Bolden said companies had a "strong desire" to attach commercial modules to the station that…

Obama talks up NASA’s vision for sending astronauts on giant leap to Mars by 2030s

President Barack Obama is throwing a spotlight on NASA’s plan for Mars exploration – and habitation – in advance of this week’s White House-backed conference on the frontiers of technology.

“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” Obama said in an essay published today on

The president’s space vision statement comes in the wake of SpaceX billionaire founder Elon Musk’s unveiling of a plan that could theoretically put settlers on Mars before NASA astronauts get there.

That plan calls for building giant rockets over the next decade that could start trips to Mars in the mid-2020s. It’s not exactly clear how Obama’s vision meshes with Musk’s, but they could conceivably be compatible.

Today Obama highlighted NASA’s recently announced initiative to support the development of deep-space habitats sui…

A new private space race as Boeing CEO says he’ll beat SpaceX to Mars

Competition breeds progress, so it’s a bit thrilling to hear Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg say that he’s going to beat SpaceX to Mars in terms of delivering real humans to the surface of the red planet.

Muilenburg said that he’s “convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” speaking at a conference in Chicago Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. Boeing is working on a heavy-lift rocket project called the Space Launch System which would aim for a similar goal to what SpaceX is hoping to achieve with its Interplanetary Transport System, the details of which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared in a keynote presented at an international aeronautics convention last week.

Boeing and SpaceX are already close competitors when it comes to commercial spaceflight contracts from NASA, and the company’s approach to its system designed for reaching Mars reflects similar tensions to those present in the ongoing battle between the two for space missions closer to hom…

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lands in the Texas desert after a successful escape system test

Despite expectations of fiery explosions, Blue Origin successfully landed its New Shepard rocket after launching the vehicle for the fifth time today. The landing was a delightful surprise for the company, since it fully expected that rocket to either break up or slam into the floor of the Texas desert.

That's because the purpose of today's flight was to test out the New Shepard's escape system. It's a feature that will save future passengers on board the vehicle, in case the rocket suffers a major failure during flight. Blue Origin initiated the escape system about 45 seconds after takeoff today, causing a rocket motor to ignite underneath the New Shepard's crew capsule — the portion of the vehicle that's meant to carry people. The motor, which burned for about two seconds, successfully carried the capsule up and away from the rest of the rocket. The capsule's parachutes then deployed and lowered the vehicle gently down to the ground.

Prior to the flight,…