News Article | May 1, 2017
May.01 -- Elon Musk's SpaceX had its fifth successful launch of the year on Monday when a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and its first stage landed about nine minutes later. (Source: SpaceX)
News Article | April 19, 2017
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson installs a storage locker on the International Space Station. The locker is covered with signatures of students who built it as part of the HUNCH - High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware - program. Credit: NASA NASA is making sure the next generation of high school graduates understand the variety of career paths that can lead to missions exploring space. In fact, hundreds of students are already helping NASA's astronauts live and work aboard the International Space Station - the orbiting research platform making discoveries that benefit Earth while developing the technology that will allow humans to live and work in deep space. For more than 50 years, NASA has sponsored programs to get students interested in the aerospace industry. This involves extensive outreach efforts, finding and developing the next generation of scientists and explorers to help humans reach the stars. This also includes students who decide to work in more hands-on technical fields and even the culinary arts. The HUNCH program—High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware—shows high school students the many ways they can put their talents to work for NASA, beyond the role of astronaut. The program provides students a hands-on experience with the space agency—building NASA-designed parts for use by agency personnel. "When we started this program 14 years ago, we had two main goals," said Bob Zeek, HUNCH co-founder and program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We needed full-size models of actual space station flight hardware to train ground support personnel. And we wanted to get kids who are good at machining, welding or other technical skills involved with NASA. All the things we do in HUNCH are preparing these students for the future and helping NASA at the same time." The program started with three schools in two states. Now 117 student classrooms in 26 states participate, helping build NASA's future as well as their own. The HUNCH team also joined forces with the SME Education Foundation to help encourage students pursuing engineering and technology degrees. The foundation is a network of manufacturing professionals, researchers, educators and students working to connect and share knowledge and experience through mentoring, internships and job-shadowing. HUNCH and SME's Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program is a new collaboration to introduce more high school students to career opportunities in the aerospace industry. While students have used machining and welding skills to build exact replicas of hardware used on the space station, the program has expanded beyond manufacturing training fixtures. HUNCH has created programs for students to learn about computer-aided design, welding technology, graphic arts and even sewing. Select schools are building actual flight hardware. A student-built locker was recently delivered by the 10th SpaceX cargo resupply mission and installed on the station. Here are some of the recent projects completed by HUNCH student teams: "This is one of those programs that benefits the agency and the students," said Glenn Johnson, HUNCH design engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Students gain valuable working skills creating tangible products that meet a real need for NASA." Explore further: NASA sending African-American to space station for the first time
News Article | May 3, 2017
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that humanity needs to become a multi-planetary species within the next century in order to avoid extinction. Hawking made the prediction in a new documentary called Expedition New Earth, which is set to be released this summer as part of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World science season. Existential risks include climate change, overpopulation, epidemics and asteroid strikes, according to Hawking. Efforts to create a human colony on Mars are already underway, with billionaire Elon Musk hoping to establish a settlement within the next few decades through his aerospace firm SpaceX. “I don’t have a doomsday prophecy,” Musk said in 2016, “but history suggests some doomsday event will happen.” Hawking predicted last year that the chance of a species-ending event on Earth was a “near certainty” when all possibilities were taken into consideration. Don't miss: Justice in America: One in Five Black Prisoners Is Serving Life Sentence “Although the chance of disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years,” Hawking told the Oxford University Union in November. “By that time, we should have spread out into space and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.” Despite the dire warning, Hawking did have some positive news for the assembled students. He pointed to how our fundamental understanding of the universe has advanced in his lifetime and said it is a “glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics.” He added: “Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years and I am happy if I have made a small contribution. The fact that we humans, who are ourselves mere fundamental particles of nature, have been able to come this close to understanding the laws that govern us and the universe is certainly a triumph.”
News Article | April 3, 2017
Top Scientific Minds You Probably Never Heard Of One can count on smart and witty astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to throw someone a playful challenge every time. Take, for instance, his message for SpaceX founder Elon Musk during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday. When asked about the recent Falcon 9 mission (its historic blastoff into space carrying a SES-9 satellite) and whether he would ever consider going to Mars via the Musk-owned company, Tyson answered in truly candid terms. “I really like Earth,” he said. “So any space trip I take, I’m double checking that there’s sufficient funds for me to return.” Here came the catch: “Also, I’m not taking that trip until Elon Musk send[s] his Mother and brings her back alive. Then I’m good for it.” The famed astrophysicist’s challenge speculated on Musk’s willingness to put his family on the line when it comes to his towering space colonization plans. The mother in question is 68-year-old international model Maye Musk, who has walked the different fashion ramps of the world and even appeared in a Beyonce music video. Asked by Mashable last year if she’s moving to Mars, Maye said she isn’t — humanity likely needs “the younger people there like engineers to create a future.” The SpaceX founder himself indicated that he has no Mars travel plans so far, largely to make sure that his spaceflight firm will continue in case some goes wrong in his own spaceflight. deGrasse Tyson also delved on the importance of SpaceX’s innovations for what the future holds for space travel. “Any demonstration of rocket reusability is a good thing,” he said, adding that reusability could be the most fundamental element of affording expensive missions. But while admitting he’s one of the biggest supporters of what SpaceX is trying to do, he did not mince words when it came to potential gaps and issues. “My read of history is that private companies will not be the first to send humans to Mars unless government actually pays for it,” he said, explaining that governments usually perform these “hugely expensive” projects first, allow private firms to learn what works best, and produce an overriding plan. The uncertain returns on SpaceX’s investments, he added, could make “poor activities” as a profit-driven enterprise. Twitter is also the astrophysicist’s playground, where he recently warned that America could easily become “sick,” “weak,” and “stupid” in light of science and health budget cuts during the Trump administration. While deGrasse Tyson’s tweets did not directly reference Trump or his budget proposal, a recently released blueprint of its 2018 budget requests revealed the White House’s proposed $54 billion in cuts to significant portions of the federal government along with popular science and health research and education initiatives. “The fastest way to Make America Weak Again: Cut science funds to our agencies that support it,” deGrasse Tyson wrote on his Twitter account last March 20. On the chopping board are a number of NASA initiatives, such as its ARM program aimed at flying a robotic space vehicle to a near-Earth object, its earth sciences program, and its entire education office. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | May 1, 2017
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Florida on Monday, carrying the company's first satellite for the U.S. military, and breaking a 10-year monopoly held by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
News Article | April 28, 2017
Have you ever stood in the spot where someone died? These places have an uncanny feel to them. They're oddly peaceful. They're quiet, and powerful, and sad. Last weekend, I stood in a spot where three astronauts had died, the spot where my grandfather had tried to save them: Pad 34, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base on Florida's Atlantic coast. On January 27, 1967, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, NASA's crew for Apollo 1, died in a fire that broke out during a routine test. The mission was intended to launch a month later, and send the three astronauts into orbit to test out the equipment that would one day take a man to the moon. My grandfather, a quality control inspector for NASA, was one of six men in the room adjacent to the capsule that night. He and the others fought through flames and dense, choking smoke to pry off the three-layer hatch and get the astronauts out, but they were too late. I never met my grandfather, he died before I was born, but I felt like I got the chance to meet him whenI reported on the fire earlier this year. Traveling to Pad 34 last week—a trip generously arranged for me by NASA staff—made me feel like I finally knew him. I wasn't there alone. My tour, a full-day escapade around Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, was led by John Tribe, a former NASA propulsion manager who worked on the Apollo missions through the Shuttle years. Tribe was also working at the Cape the night of the fire, and greatly contributed to my reporting of the story. He's also an encyclopedia of NASA history and knowledge, pivoting from showing me photos of him with Neil Armstrong to effortlessly discussing the maintenance required for the heat shield tiles on the Shuttle. He didn't know my grandfather personally, but he told me mutual friends had said he was well-respected at NASA, and that was good enough for him. Tribe took me to the pad first, acknowledging that it was the more emotional part of the tour. He told me astronauts still visit the pad before missions, to contemplate, to pray. While passing the SpaceX launch facility, he spotted a FalconX rocket, wrapped in plastic and loaded on the back of a giant truck bed. He pulled over our car and hopped out to take photos, as excited as someone who didn't put a man on the moon. At the Space Center, we walked through a new memorial to Apollo 1—including a wall dedicated to my grandfather and the other men who attempted the rescue—and strolled under the massive Saturn V rocket hung from the rafters. We visited the Atlantic Shuttle, remarkably displayed indoors. I was close to tears at many points, proud of my grandfather, of the space program, of John's enduring enthusiasm for humankind's exploration of our universe. Near the end of our day, John and I stood by Atlantis, marveling at the engineering that went into a spacecraft that could land like an airplane. Suddenly a young boy, maybe eight years old, noticed Tribes NASA badges and ran up to ask a question. "Excuse me, mister, where are the engines?" he asked. "Try the back," Tribe said, pointing the boy in the right direction. I wonder if he'll ever know he was asking the man in charge of those engines, and the ones that put a man on the moon. Probably not, but he did find them, and we continued on our way. Subscribe to Science Solved It , Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.
News Article | May 2, 2017
SpaceX recovered the Falcon 9 First stage rocket after using it to launch the classified National Reconnaissance Organization or NRO satellite, dubbed NROL-76, into the Earth's orbit on Monday, May 1. This is the first time that SpaceX has launched a highly classified intelligence satellite. The successful operation may lead to more such launches in the future. The rocket lifted off at 7.15 a.m. EDT from the historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch was supposed to take place on Sunday, April 30, initially but was held back because of some sensor issues. About 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the rocket's flight, the first stage engines shut down and separated from the rest of the body. The engines housed in the second stage of the rocket started up and continued the rockets journey while the first stage fell off. Due to the secretive nature of the payload, SpaceX did not elaborate on the final trajectory of the second stage rocket and where the satellite was headed. However, the agency revealed how the disengaged first stage rocket returned to Earth. Following the separation from the main rocket body, the first stage flipped over mid-air and restarted three of its nine engines for a short burst to counter its forward velocity. After it came back to the discernible atmosphere, the engines fired up again. Just before landing, one engine fired up so that it could make a soft landing. This ensured the proper touchdown of the first stage rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A live video from the landing pad informed SpaceX technicians about the successful landing. They were ecstatic and reported that the first stage rocket had made it back to Earth in relatively good shape. SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, also tweeted his delight at the successful launch and landing. This marks the 10th successful first stage landing for SpaceX (out of 15 launches) and the 4th landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The other landings took place on specially-built drone ships at sea. Previously, agencies did not implement any method of recovery for the different stages of a rocket. This would make each mission costlier to undertake. Musk's idea of recovering the first stage and then reusing it for a different mission is a way of cutting costs effectively and also speeding up the launch process, as a new first stage rocket does not have to be engineered for the next mission. After Monday's success, Musk posted a video of the landing on his Instagram account. Check it out below. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | April 18, 2017
(AP) — John Glenn's trailblazing legacy took flight Tuesday as a cargo ship bearing his name rocketed toward the International Space Station. An Atlas rocket provided the late morning lift to orbit, just as it did for Glenn 55 years ago. The commercial cargo ship, dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, holds nearly 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of food, equipment and research for the space station. It's due there Saturday, two days after the arrival of two fresh astronauts. NASA's shipper, Orbital ATK, asked Glenn's widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his December death. Glenn, an original Mercury 7 astronaut, became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. He launched again in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery at age 77, the oldest person ever in space. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery two weeks ago. "It's a great tribute to John to be able to take his name to orbit once again," said Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut who now heads Orbital ATK's space systems group. Besides supplies, the capsule contains a banner showing Glenn in his orange space shuttle launch suit — it's the first thing the station astronauts will see when they open the craft — as well as memorabilia for his family. Because the launch was delayed a month by hydraulic problems at the pad and on the rocket, no Glenn family members were able to make it to Cape Canaveral, according to Culbertson. Orbital ATK — one of NASA's prime delivery services for the space station, along with SpaceX — normally uses its own Virginia-based Antares rockets to launch its Cygnus cargo ships, named after the swan constellation. But it opted for the United Launch Alliance's bigger Atlas V rocket in order to carry up a heftier load. A new, larger greenhouse is flying up, along with equipment needed for a spacewalk next month. "Looks like we nailed the orbit once again," said Vern Thorp, a manager for the rocket maker. Three astronauts currently are at the outpost, which is orbiting 250 miles (402.32 kilometers) high. The American, Russian and Frenchman on board will be joined Thursday by another American and Russian who will take off from Kazakhstan. SpaceX and Boeing are developing new capsules that could fly U.S. astronauts to the space station as early as next year. Tuesday's launch was the first broadcast live in 360-degree video. It was the last launch commentary for NASA spokesman George Diller, who is retiring next month after nearly four decades. His was the voice at liftoff for the final space shuttle flight, by Atlantis, in 2011, as well as the send-off of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and all five Hubble-servicing missions, among numerous other launches. "We're really, really going to miss hearing your golden voice on console during launch, George," said Kennedy Space Center's director, Robert Cabana, patting him on the back. "I'm sure when I'm retired and up in the mountains somewhere, there's a launch going, it will be hard not to tune it in some way," Diller replied.
News Article | April 24, 2017
Think space travel is just for skilled astronauts and fictional characters from your favorite "Star Wars" films? Think again. You don't have to be a professional scientist to fly into suborbital space, but you will have to pay a steep price. [See: The 10 Top Places for Stargazing.] With a variety of pioneering companies competing to launch humans into space, lunar exploration is taking off. Take SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk, which plans to transport two passengers aboard its SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to cross over the moon and back in 2018. Or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company, which aspires to launch six lucky tourists into space via a capsule, and that's testing its New Shepard rocket ahead of plans for commercial suborbital journeys in 2018. For those more inclined to board a spaceship, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic aims to send tourists -- including world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking -- aboard the SpaceShipTwo (a six-passenger aircraft) into space this year. If you're not interested in gliding into deep or suborbital space -- or you lack the funds to support a $250,000 journey aboard the Virgin Galactic -- you can enjoy epic space events from Earth this year, including watching the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, stargazing in prized national parks or even checking out the northern lights. Thanks to groundbreaking technological advancements, space tourism is no longer a pipe dream. Here are leading astro-tourism trends to watch in 2017 and beyond. The 21st-Century Space Race Is Heating Up Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin's New Shepard are carving the path for space tourism by utilizing "reusable space vehicles," explains Bill Gutman, vice president of aerospace operations at Spaceport America, a commercial space complex that aims to unlock the future of space exploration. While refurbishing rockets can be costly, reusing rockets, shuttle space engines and space vehicle parts can significantly reduce costs for space entrepreneurs and ultimately space tourists. "These vehicles have the potential to open the space experience to vastly more people than has been possible heretofore," he says. Plus, reusable technology could trim the launch costs, advance technology breakthroughs for future exploration and enable a greater volume of launches, making space travel more accessible to tourists, he adds. "It is anticipated that Virgin Galactic will take more people to space in the first few years of operations than have experienced space from the beginning of the Space Age until present," Gutman explains. Orbital space travel will also be available to tourists in the near future, he adds. Gutman points to Bigelow Aerospace, which is working to build sophisticated space equipment like the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module for the International Space Station. "Bigelow Aerospace is well along with developing space habitat modules that will enable longer space tourism stays perhaps akin the 'Orbital Hilton' as seen in the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey,'" he says. Boeing, in partnership with NASA, also has developed technology that will enable astronauts to experience low-orbit earth journeys aboard the Crew Space Transportation-100 Starliner. While other companies are offering suborbital journeys, the Starliner aims to carry up to seven people per trip to low-earth orbit. Though Starliner's technology is specifically designed for astronauts to advance space exploration, a future commercial airline is already being tested at Kennedy Space Center and is slated to launch in 2019, explains Kelly Kaplan, communications lead at Boeing Space Exploration. Private commercial space tour company Space Adventures has partnered with Boeing to market seats on the Starliner, but it had not yet released information on what the experience will entail. "Our clients have traveled over 36 million miles and have spent a total of approximately three months in space. We also have plans to fly two clients around the far side of the moon on a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft," says Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures. [See: 10 Best Trips for Adventure Junkies.] Commercial Space Stations May Become a Reality in the Near Future Getting materials and supplies transported from Earth to commercial space stations or settlements will have a high initial cost, but in the future, "it is likely that technologies will be developed to recycle materials, to grow food in space and to utilize lunar materials to build and to provide oxygen and water," Gutman says, enabling costs to go down. To accomplish this, commercial space lines will be vital, he adds. But first, operators must "demonstrate to the FAA that risk to the uninvolved public does not exceed a threshold level," he explains. In the future, the FAA may license space adventures, he says, noting that the process "will be complex because international law and treaties must be considered." Boeing and NASA are also teaming up to help astronauts expand research with a deep space gateway and transport system that will create an environment, similar to the International Space Station, complete with a docking system and technology to shield astronauts from the harsh conditions, enabling an ideal jumping-off point for journeys from the moon to Mars, Kaplan adds. In the Near-Term, Space Travel Will Cost You Launching into suborbital space is possible, but it won't be cheap. While you can purchase tickets to board the Virgin Galactic, prices and ticket reservations for Blue Origin's New Shepard have not yet been revealed. "As with all new enterprises, we would certainly expect that as more providers enter the market, the price for a space tourism experience will trend lower. The ultimate price point will be determined by supply and demand and by the success of providers in bringing cost-lowering technologies to the market," Gutman adds. If you're interested in visiting the International Space Station with an outfitter like Space Adventures, you can book tickets now. Pricing is contingent on the mission, timing and vehicle, Shelley explains. The cost for a flight to the ISS is roughly $50 million; flights orbiting the moon are priced at $150 million per person, he explains. You Can Embrace Your Inner Astronaut on Earth If you don't have the funds to support a moon mission, you can still enjoy otherworldly experiences on terra firma. "Space Adventures is able to arrange on-the-ground space-related experiences, such as tours to watch rocket launches from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, or the ability for clients to experience elements of the same training required for our private astronaut clients in Star City, Russia," Shelley explains. Space Adventures also offers zero-gravity flights for roughly $5,000, Shelley adds. [See: Where to See 2017's Total Solar Eclipse.] Meanwhile, Spaceport America offers programs such as interactive exhibits, a g-force simulator and launch videos for enthusiasts. The 8 Top National Parks to Visit This Spring The Best Scenic Getaways in Every State
News Article | May 30, 2017
HAWTHORNE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, SpaceX confirmed that the company is targeting the launch of CRS-11 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The instantaneous launch window is on Thursday, June 1, at 5:55 p.m. EDT. If needed, a backup instantaneous launch window is on Saturday, June 3, at 5:07 p.m. EDT. In addition to the primary mission of delivering critical supplies and payloads to the International Space Station, SpaceX is attempting the secondary mission of landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1. SpaceX has landed a first stage booster at Landing Zone 1 four times prior to this mission. SpaceX has successfully recovered Falcon 9 first stages from six missions at sea using the company’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships. Landing Zone 1 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 13, a U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range. As with the return of the first stage from the CRS-10 mission, there is the possibility that residents of Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing attempt. Residents of Brevard County are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what residents’ experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors. A sonic boom is a brief thunder-like noise a person on the ground hears when an aircraft or other vehicle flies overhead faster than the speed of sound. Residents may wish to follow the company’s launch webcast for real time information concerning Thursday’s launch. The webcast will be available at SpaceX.com/webcast beginning at approximately 5:35 p.m. EDT on June 1. SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Today, SpaceX is advancing the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners, Google and Fidelity. The company has more than 5,000 employees in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., Washington State and Florida. For more information, visit www.spacex.com