Archive for the ‘space’ Category

NASA on target for return to the moon by 2020

December 11, 2007

Despite funding uncertainty, NASA is on track to return humans to the moon by 2020 and set up a lunar outpost to serve as a springboard to explore Mars, officials said Monday.

“Our job is to build towns on the moon and eventually put tire prints on Mars,” NASA’s Rick Gilbrech told reporters here, one year after the US space agency unveiled an ambitious plan to site a solar-powered, manned outpost on the south pole of the moon.

“We have the International Space Station, we’re going to have a lunar outpost, and someday, certainly, somebody will go to Mars,” said Jeff Hanley, head of NASA’s Constellation program, which is developing the tools to return humans to the moon.

“Thirty-five years ago this week, Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Jack Schmitt were on the surface of the moon. We are working hard to return a future generation of astronauts to the moon,” said space flight veteran Carl Walz, who now works for NASA’s exploration systems mission directorate.

Despite budgetary constraints, NASA hoped to have Constellation fully operational by 2016, Gilbrech said.

Source:  AFP

Private Companies Shoot for the Moon

December 7, 2007

Odyssey Moon from the Isle of Man stepped forward Thursday as the first private team intent on exploring the moon and claiming Google’s 30-million-dollar Lunar X Prize.

Google announced the prize in September, challenging entrepreneurs to “re-conquer the moon” and launch a “Moon 2.0” era of private lunar visits and enterprises.

“The moon is the eighth continent and we need to exploit it in a responsible way,” said Odyssey Moon chairman Ramin Khadem. “We want to win the Google prize and, if we do, that will be gravy. But either way we are going to the moon.”

The 30-million-dollar offer to the first private team to make it to the moon is good until 2012, when the amount of money drops to 25 million. All the prize money is taken from the table in 2014 if unclaimed.

Source:  AFP

NASA outlines manned Mars vision

November 29, 2007

Artist's impression of astronaut on Mars. Image: NasaNASA has released details of its strategy for sending a human crew to Mars within the next few decades.

The US space agency envisages despatching a “minimal” crew on a 30-month round trip to the Red Planet in a 400,000kg (880,000lb) spacecraft.

Details of the concept were outlined at a meeting in Houston, Texas.

In January 2004, President George W Bush launched a programme for returning humans to the Moon by 2020 and – at an undetermined date – to Mars.

The “Mars ship” would be assembled in low-Earth orbit using three to four Ares V rockets – the new heavy-lift launch vehicle that Nasa has been developing.

Source:  BBC News

China plans first space-walk

November 20, 2007

PhotoPhotoChina will launch three astronauts into space next year in its third manned rocket flight and broadcast its first space-walk live, local media reported on Tuesday.

China in 2003 became only the third country to put a man into space using its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It then sent two astronauts on a five-day flight on its Shenzhou VI rocket in Oct 2005.

China planned to launch its third manned rocket, Shenzhou VII, into space in October 2008, according to a local newspaper report reproduced in the Shanghai Daily.

Source:  Reuters

South Korea to launch lunar probe

November 20, 2007

South Korea will launch its first lunar probe in 2020, joining an intensifying Asian space race after recent missions to the moon by China and Japan, the government has said.

The plan is part of the government’s Space Development Roadmap that also aims to put a satellite into orbit on a rocket to be developed from homegrown technology by 2017, the Science and Technology Ministry said.

A second lunar probe, which would land on the moon – unlike the first one that would only orbit the moon – is to be launched in 2025.

The announcement came after Japan launched a lunar probe in September and China last month, heating up the space rivalry in Asia. India was planning to send a lunar probe into space in April.

Source:  The Press Association

Spaceflights now for sale; scary part is price

November 14, 2007

Virgin Galactic continues to get great media coverage across the world from articles similar to this in today’s Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Considering space travel on one of Virgin Galactic’s new ships?

The sales pitch goes like this: The first hour will be relatively painless, a graceful ascent in a spaceship attached to a mother ship. Once the vessels reach 50,000 feet, the ship containing you, five more tourists and two pilots will detach and fall for a moment.

Then, the thrusters will propel it up for 90 seconds, traveling three times the speed of sound. All of the spacecraft’s fuel will burn away, leaving its tanks empty.

The G-forces on your body will push your blood toward your feet. It is hoped that you won’t black out, but if you do, you’ll come to when you’re at zero gravity.

Once above the undefined line that delineates Earth from space, your craft will arch to a height of 360,000 feet for about four minutes. You will be weightless and have stunning views of Earth’s curvature, 1,000 miles in any direction.

And then gravity will beckon the vessel down to Earth, the human bodies within it feeling pressure six times their weight, sort of like a “big, hairy, fat cat sitting on your chest.”

Total approximate time: two hours and nine minutes. All this for only $200,000 — a lot of money to most folks, but a mere fraction of the millions spent by previous space tourists.

Russia, India to join in moon mission

November 13, 2007

The leaders of veteran allies Russia and India agreed Monday to launch a joint unmanned mission to the moon during Kremlin talks on boosting military and trade ties.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the plan after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which the two discussed projects for a more than twofold increase in trade by the end of the decade.

“The symbol of our cooperation is the joint agreement to send an unpiloted space ship to the moon for scientific investigation,” Singh said in comments broadcast on Russian state television after the meeting.

Russia’s space agency Roskosmos said it had signed an agreement with the Indian space agency for joint lunar exploration through 2017, including the construction of a module that will orbit the moon “for peaceful purposes.”

Source:  AFP

New hypersonic vehicle could be Aurora

November 12, 2007

An artist's rendering of the Falcon vehicle, which is expected to be capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload.

The Washington Post has done a great investigative-reporting job on how the Pentagon wants funding for a next generation “hypersonic cruise vehicle.” 

They found the $100 million appropriation tucked in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

A new program, dubbed Falcon, centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a “a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours.”

The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth. 

Many of us are left wondering, though.  Has the Aurora Project morphed into Falcon?

A mysterious triangle-shaped vehicle has been seen and heard in the western U.S. since the ’90s, and many have speculated that Aurora is a hypersonic vehicle being tested out of Groom Lake.  The vehicle, with concept photo at right, was even mentioned in a 1985 Pentagon budget.

If Aurora is Falcon, then we may actually get a legitimate look at the plane fairly soon. 

Also, no word yet if Elon Musk will sue the Pentagon for copyright infringement.

Space-Based Solar Power Next Energy Frontier

November 8, 2007

The idea of using satellites to beam solar power down from space is nothing new—the Department of Energy first studied it in the 1970s, and NASA took another look in the ’90s. The stumbling block has been less the engineering challenge than the cost.

A Pentagon report released in October could mean the stars are finally aligning for space-based solar power, or SBSP. According to the report, SBSP is becoming more feasible, and eventually could help head off crises such as climate change and wars over diminishing energy supplies.

The new report imagines a market-based approach. Eventually, SBSP may become enormously profitable—and the Pentagon hopes it will lure the growing private space industry.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

China Plans to Launch Space Station?

November 7, 2007

China said its lunar probe had entered its final orbit around the moon Wednesday, but an official backed away from reports of launching a space station by 2020.

The probe called Chang’e 1 after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon made final adjustments at the end of a two-week journey and entered its final working orbit of 125 miles from the moon Wednesday where it will explore its surface for the next year.

The China Daily newspaper, said China’s planned space station would be “a small-scale, 20-ton space workshop,” quoting Long Lehao, a leading designer of the Long March 3A rocket that carried the Chang’e 1 into space.

Chinese space officials have said previously they wanted to build a space station in the next 10 or 15 years, but the target date of 2020 was the first time a schedule has been made public, Long told China Daily.

Source:  ABC News