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Category Archives: Space Travel
Posted: February 24, 2017 at 6:45 pm
ESA astronaut Homas Pesquet tweeted this image of the Dragon spacecraft hovering just below the space station Thursday. Credit: Thomas Pesquet/ESA/NASA
Running a day late after aborting a rendezvous to resolve a navigation glitch, SpaceXs Dragon cargo craft made a smooth final approach to the International Space Station on Thursday, floating in range of the research labs robot arm for capture to deliver 2.7 tons of supplies and research experiments.
The Dragon spacecraft took four days to travel to the complex after blasting off from the Kennedy Space Centers launch pad 39A on Sunday, hauling food rations, space station repair equipment, and science investigations designed to monitor Earths ozone layer, study lightning and test out new automated navigation tools for a future satellite servicing mission.
The 23-foot-long (7-meter) Dragon supply ship approached the space station from below, pausing at predetermined hold points to allow for status checks by ground controllers. Mission control centers in Houston and at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, gave a green light for the spacecraft to move to a capture box around 10 meters, or 33 feet, beneath the outpost.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet unlimbered the space stations Canadian-built robotic arm to grapple the Dragon cargo carrier at 5:44 a.m. EST (1044 GMT), a few minutes earlier than projected in Thursdays timeline.
Capture of the SpaceX-owned supply vessel occurred as the space station sailed over the northwest coast of Australia.
Looks like weve got a great capture, radioed space station commander Shane Kimbrough, who assisted Pesquet. Thomas did a great job flying it.
Great job with Dragon capture, and sorry about the delays, responded astronaut Mike Hopkins from mission control in Houston. Now the real work starts.
The mission delivered a record payload of scientific hardware for a SpaceX resupply mission, a manifest that includes 40 mice researchers will study to learn about bone healing in microgravity, a field that might have applications for victims with catastrophic bone injuries and patients with osteoporosis.
Were trying to understand what happens in the body as the bones start healing, said Rasha Hammamieh, the rodent research projects chief scientist from the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research.
The military is co-sponsoring the bone health experiment, with an eye toward learning lessons that could help injured soldiers.
Up in space, you lose bone, said Melissa Kacena, co-investigator for the bone experiment and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, anatomy and cell biology, and biomedical engineering at Indiana University. In fact, astronauts lose about 1 to 3 percent of their bone density in a month. Someone with advanced osteoporosis loses closer to 1 percent per year.
Kacena added that scientists want to test drugs on rodents that might be able to rebuild your bone systematically, so it could have applications not only for bone healing, but also for osteoporosis.
Astronauts on the space station will euthanize the mice and return them to Earth for comparison with a control group that remained on the ground.
Bacterial and stem cell researchers also have a stake in the mission.
We are excited to put MRSA, which is a superbug, on the International Space Station and investigate the effects of microgravity on the growth and mutation patterns of these bugs, said Anita Goel, chairman and science director of Nanobiosym, which developed the experiment with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.
I have this hypothesis that microgravity will accelerate the mutation patterns. If we can use microgravity as an accelerator to fast forward and get a sneak preview of what these mutations will look like, then we can esssentially build smarter drugs back on Earth.
The stations robotic arm placed the Dragon spacecraft on the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module a few hours later, and bolts drove closed to create a firm connection. Station astronauts planned to verify no leaks between the station and Dragon spacecraft, then open hatches leading into the supply ship later Thursday to begin unloading time-sensitive specimens and research payloads.
Dragon has now officially arrived at ISS, Pesquet said. Were very happy, indeed, to have it on-board and very much looking forward to the goodies, and the tons of science of cargo it carries.
Thursdays capture marked the 10th time a Dragon spaceship has reached the space station, counting a demonstration flight in 2012.
The Dragon spacecraft automatically aborted an attempted rendezvous Wednesday due to an incorrect value in the capsules relative GPS navigation system. SpaceX engineers fixed the problem in time for another approach Thursday.
While astronauts unpack Dragons pressurized cabin, the stations robotic arm will pull two research experiment platforms and a mounting base out of the ships external payload bay for placement on the outposts huge structural truss.
One of the payloads is NASAs $92 million Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment 3, or SAGE 3, an ozone monitor that comes with a separate ESA-built hexapod mounting plate designed to point the instrument at Earths limb, or horizon, at sunset and moonset.
The sunlight and moonlight passing through the layers of the upper atmosphere will help tell scientists about the condition of the ozone layer and allow researchers to track pollutants and particles suspended high above Earth.
SAGE 3, developed by NASAs Langley Research Center in Virginia, is the latest in a series of ozone measurement sensors developed by NASA since 1979. Previous space missions studying ozone showed a decline in the distribution of the gas over Earths poles, and researchers tied the ozone depletion to chlorofluorocarbon, a chemical used in cleaning agents, refrigeration and air conditioning.
An international treaty called the Montreal Protocol that went into force in 1989 banned chlorofluorocarbons, and scientists have observed the depletion stop and watched the ozone layer begin to recover.
How does SAGE 3 fit into that? Were going to make measurements from the space station that show the recovery is on track, said Michael Cisewski, SAGE 3 project manager at NASA. I think that, from a science perspective, it doesnt get any better than that.
SAGE 3 will also measure other important stratospheric gases and atmospheric aerosols, which are components of pollution that also impact the radiation balance of our planet, said Michael Freilich, director of NASAs Earth science division.
The other experiment package carried inside the Dragon capsules external bay is sponsored by the U.S. militarys Space Test Program, hosting more than a dozen investigations for NASA and the Defense Department.
Among STP-H5s investigations are NASAs Raven autonomous space navigation demonstration designed to support future satellite servicing missions and NASAs Lightning Imaging Sensor.
The Raven payload is made up of three sensors optical, infrared and laser trackers to autonomously follow visiting cargo vessels arriving and departing from the space station.
Benjamin Reed, deputy director of NASAs satellite servicing program at Goddard Space Flight Center, called Raven a three-eyed instrument.
The Raven module will be observing visiting vehicles as they approach in all three wavelengths, Reed said. We will be generating range, bearing and pose estimates of those visiting vehicles on-board with sophisticated algorithms and on-board processing, based on the input that the sensors are receiving.
Raven is a follow-up to a NASA experiment that tried out satellite refueling techniques using a boilerplate test panel outside the space station.
The satellite servicing demonstrations will refine the technologies needed for future robotic missions to refuel, refurbish, upgrade and reposition satellites, beginning with NASAs Restore-L spacecraft in development for launch in 2020 to gas up the aging Landsat 7 environmental observatory in orbit.
Raven will try out the navigation equipment needed for Restore-L, and missions like it, to approach another object in orbit without any input from the ground and latch on to it, even if the target was never designed for a docking.
Landsat 7 was launched in 1999 before any such refueling mission was ever proposed, so it is not equipped with markings or a docking port.
These technologies are quite difficult, and that is why NASA is taking the lead, pushing the envelope, (and) doing the hard work first, Reed said. Once we have developed it on missions like Raven, we will then transfer that technology to U.S. industry that is interested in taking this on commercially.
The Lightning Imaging Sensor, managed by NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will take pictures and log lightning strikes from the space stations perch nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth.
Based on a spare camera made for the U.S.-Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the instrument cost $7 million to refurbish and will detect lightning day and night in a belt between 56 degrees north and south latitude.
Lightning actually occurs somewhere on Earth some 45 times every single second, Freilich said. Understanding the processes which cause lighting and the connections between lightning and subsequent severe weather events like convective storms and tornadoes are keys to improving weather predictions and saving lives and property in this country and throughout the globe.
The Dragon spacecraft will remain at the space station for around 30 days, detach in late March and re-enter the atmosphere for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, bringing home blood and urine specimens, the euthanized mice and other hardware needed back on Earth.
The Dragons arrival is the first of three resupply missions going to the space station in the next month.
A Russian resupply ship launched early Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on track for an automated radar-guided docking with the station early Friday.
Meanwhile, an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vessel is being prepared for blastoff March 19 atop an Atlas 5 booster from Cape Canaveral with another supply delivery.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.
Posted: at 6:45 pm
After NASAs discovery of seven Earth-size planets orbiting around a single star, weve all been reinvigorated with extra terrestrial excitement. One of these planets might have life on it, or at the very least be suitable for life, and thats truly a crazy next step as we make sense of the universe around us.
It comes at a good time, because NASA has announced their iTech Cycle 2, a challenge to innovators of any stripe to come up with a solution or an idea that NASA can use to further their quest in space exploration.
The initiative is open to small and large businesses, universities, non-profits, U.S. Government organizations and individual inventors. All theyhave to do is submit is a five-page white paper with theireureka moment written down.
The iTech Cycle 2 is focusing on five key areas: Autonomy, Big DataData Mining and Machine Learning, Medical Systems and Operations, Radiation Protection and Mitigation, and X-Factor Innovationsany solution out of the box that NASA hadnt taken into account.
The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of experts and whittled down to ten finalists based on relevance to the proposed topics and potential impact on them. The finalists will then present their ideas to NASAs chief technologists, space industry leaders and potential investors at the 2017 NASA iTech Forum taking place at NASAs Langley Research Center July 10-14.
The finalists of last years initiative were Aequor, Liberty Biosecurity, and InnaMed.The iTech Cycle 2 will be open for submissions from February 23 to April 7 to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. NASA will not claim any intellectual property rights for a submitted idea.
Lets all give a cheer forthese groundbreaking innovators. After all, its one of the only things for which we can come together as a planet.
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Posted: February 23, 2017 at 1:33 pm
A newly passed Spaceflight Bill will allow spaceports to be built across the UK, some of which could allow commercial flights.
The space travel industry is set to be worth 25billion in the next 20 years, and the UK is hoping to get its slice of the pie.
The Department for Transport said: Next steps involve government encouraging business and industry to come forward with specific proposals for space launches.
In addition, the government is inviting commercial space businesses to bid for funding to help create a space launch market in the UK.
Together the new powers and funding will potentially allow a commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020.
Science minister Jo Johnson said the Bill would cement the UKs position as a world leader in this emerging market, giving us an opportunity to build on existing strengths in research and innovation.
She added: From the launch of Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, to Tim Peakes six months on the International Space Station, the UKs space sector has achieved phenomenal things in orbit and beyond.
Katherine Courtney, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: With our partners across government we continue to create a supportive environment for commercial innovation and cutting-edge science.
Together, we are working to embrace the emerging small satellite launch market to capture a share of the 25 billion global opportunity.
Im confident that 2020 will see the first launches from British soil, and were working hard to make that a reality.
Glasgow has already become a frontrunner in the bid to build the first spaceport and hopes to get a spaceport up and running by 2020.
Richard Jenner, Spaceport director for Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: We believe that dedicated legislation will help to move this forward at pace.
1 of 10
STS-66 launched at the Kennedy Space Center on November 3, 1994.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport fulfils much of the essential criteria for a spaceport such as infrastructure, favourable weather conditions and relatively clear airspace.
And, as such, we believe that our airport is able to move at pace with the legislative process, and we are equipped to become the UK and Europes first space launch site with minimal investment.
We are confident we can help the government to meet its commitment to have space launch in the UK by 2020.
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Posted: at 1:33 pm
I have always enjoyed history. Todays young folks dont seem to be too interested in studying history. They are more interested in the here and now and not how we got here.
The history of this country is an unfinished tapestry woven through time by people from all walks of life with incredible stories.
It has been my privilege to contribute to FSA Andy during Black History Month for many years now, and I will be forever grateful for having had this opportunity.
When the movie, Hidden Figures, came out I had no idea what it was about but when a friend told me I had to look at the history behind this story.
Katherine Johnson was born Aug. 26, 1918, and raised in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and while she is the main character in the movie, the story is much greater.
By the age of 13 she was attending high school on the historically black campus of West Virginia State College.
When 18, she enrolled in the college itself, and made quick work of the schools math curriculum. She graduated with highest honors in 1937, and took a job teaching at a black public school in Virginia.
In 1939, West Virginia quietly decided to integrate its graduate schools, and it was then that West Virginia States president, Dr. John W Davis, selected Johnson and two male students as the first black students to be offered spots at the states flagship school, West Virginia University.
Johnson left her job and enrolled in the graduate math program. At the end of her first session, she decided to leave school to start a family with her husband.
She returned to teaching when her three daughters got older, but it was not until 1952 that a relative told her about positions opening at the all-black West Area Computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Langley laboratory, headed by fellow West Virginian Dorothy Vaughan.
Johnson and her husband decided to move the family to Newport News, to pursue the opportunity, and she began work at Langley in 1953. After just two weeks on the job, Director Vaughan assigned Johnson to a project in the Maneuver Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division and her position soon became permanent.
The next four years would be spent analyzing data from flight tests and investigating the crash of a plane caused by wake turbulence.
The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 would change history and Johnsons future. In 1957, she had provided some of the math for the 1958 document Notes on Space Technology, a compendium of a series of 1958 lectures given by engineers in the Flight Research Division and the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division.
Engineers from those groups formed the core of the Space Task Force Group, the NACAs first official foray into space travel. Johnson, who had worked with many of them since coming to Langley, came along with the program as NACA became NASA later that year.
She did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepards May 1961 mission Freedom 7, Americas first human spaceflight. In 1960, she and engineer Ted Skopinski coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, a report laying out the equations describing an orbital spaceflight in which the landing position of the spacecraft is specified.
This was the first time a woman had received credit as an author of a research report. In 1962, in preparation for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Johnson Johnson was called upon to do the work she would become most known for.
The complexity of the orbital flight required the construction of a worldwide communications network linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, D.C., Cape Canaveral, and Bermuda.
The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the space capsule in Glenns Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines which were prone to hiccups and blackouts.
As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked the engineers to get the girl Johnson Johnson to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.
If she says theyre good, Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, then Im ready to go.
Of course, Glenns mission was a success and marked the turning point in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in space.
When asked what her greatest contribution to space exploration was Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollos Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module.
She also worked on the Space Shuttle and Earth Resources Satellite and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. Johnson retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley.
In 2015, at the age of 97, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Here at FSA, the time seems to be flying by so we want to remind you of another important deadline fast approaching. For vegetable producers, many spring planted NAP crops have a sales closing date of Feb. 28.
This includes soybeans for any county that does not have crop insurance coverage for soybeans. As always contact your local FSA office for details.
Thats all for now,
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!
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Posted: at 1:33 pm
Stars and galaxies in outer space are just so far away, its hard to comprehend the staggering distances.
Scientists have come up with ways to measure space distance that are easier to understand.
A light year is one of those space measurements and is similar to how a mile or kilometer measures distance on Earth. Distances in space are so vast, though, that a mile or a kilometer is just too small a number to be useful, because of the huge numbers involved in space travel. Light years work better.
A light year is measured by the time it takes a ray of light to travel a given distance.
While a light year has nothing to do with time as we know it on Earth, it does measure the distance that light travels, or the time it takes the light to move in one year, according to NASA.
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Since light moves at about 186,000 miles or about 300,000 kilometers a second, it can travel almost 6 trillion miles or about 10 trillion kilometers in a year.
If people could travel at the speed of light, they would be able to circle the Earth more than seven times in just a second.
In one second, light travels a distance of one light second, and in a year, light travels a distance of one light year.
Related: Nasa finds 7 ‘Earth-sized planets’ orbiting star just 40 light years away
The moon is a little over one light second from Earth, meaning it would take a beam of light on Earth a little more than a second to reach the moon. The sun, which is 93 million miles from earth, is measured in light minutes and is some eight light minutes away.
Mars is under 25 light minutes from Earth, depending on its orbit around the sun, and the other planets in the solar system are several light hours from Earth.
The Milky Way galaxy, for example, measures about 150,000 light years across. The Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large galaxy, is more than 2 million light years away.
How long does it take to travel a light year? Heres an example. The next closest star after the sun, is called Proxima Centauri. It is just over 4 light years away. If a spacecraft were traveling 38,000 miles per hour, it would still take 80,000 years to reach the star, according to the University of Virginia Physics Department.
Posted: at 1:33 pm
The discovery of seven Earth-size planetsaround a nearby star, TRAPPIST-1, is certainly exciting news. But what would it take to visit one of these potentially Earth-like alien worlds?
TRAPPIST-1 is 39 light-years away from Earth, or about 229 trillion miles (369 trillion kilometers). It would take 39 years to get there traveling at the speed of light. But no spacecraft ever built can travel anywhere near that fast.
That said, people have sent some pretty fast vehicles into outer space. With today’s technology,how long would it take to get to TRAPPIST-1?
Characteristics of the seven TRAPPIST-1 worlds, compared to the rocky planets in our solar system.
Given a spacecraft’s speed, calculating the amount of time it would take to travel to TRAPPIST-1 is simple. Because speed is equal to distance divided by time, the total travel time must equal the distance to TRAPPIST-1 (39 light-years) divided by the spacecraft’s speed.
New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft ever launched, flew past Plutoin 2015 and is currently traveling out of the solar system at 14.31 kilometers per second, or about 32,000 mph, according to NASA’s New Horizons tracking page. At this rate, it would take the Pluto probe about 817,000 years to reach TRAPPIST-1.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft actually flew faster than New Horizons during its approach to the gas giant Jupiter in 2016. With the help of Jupiter’s gravity, Juno hit a top speed of about 165,000 mph (265,000 km/h) relative to Earth, making it the fastest human-made objectever (though New Horizons’ initial speed was faster than Juno’s speed after launch).
Even if Juno were constantly traveling that fast not just getting a speed boost en route it would take the spacecraft 159,000 years to reach TRAPPIST-1.
Voyager 1, Earth’s most distant spacecraft, left the solar system and entered interstellar space in 2012. According to NASA, it is currently speeding away at 38,200 mph. For Voyager 1 to get to TRAPPIST-1, it would take the spacecraft 685,000 years.
But Voyager 1 isn’t going there anytime soon, or ever. Instead, the spacecraft is heading for a different star, AC +79 3888, which lies 17.6 light-years from Earth. It will fly within 1.7 light-years of this star in about 40,000 years.
NASA’s space shuttletraveled around the Earth at a maximum speed of about 17,500 mph (28,160 km/h). A spaceship traveling at this speed would take around 1.5 million years to get to TRAPPIST-1.
So for a human mission to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, the space shuttle would not be a practical mode of transportation.
One ultrafast spacecraft that could reach TRAPPIST-1 in a much shorter time span is an interstellar mission dreamed up by Stephen Hawking in his Breakthrough Starshotinitiative.
Hawking’s tiny, laser-propelled probes could theoretically fly as fast as 20 percent of the speed of light, or 134 million mph (216 million km/h). That’s about 4,000 times faster than NASA’s record-breaking New Horizons spacecraft! A spacecraft that fast could reach TRAPPIST-1 in less than 200 years. But that concept has yet to leave the ground.
An artist’s impression of the view from a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
With today’s technology, there’s no way that anyone alive right now could make it to TRAPPIST-1 in a lifetime. While discussing the new discovery at a news conference today (Feb. 22), NASA officials suggested that it would likely take at least 800,000 years to reach the TRAPPIST-1 system.
So don’t start making any interstellar vacation plans anytime soon.
Email Hanneke Weitering at email@example.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on Space.com.
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This Finnish startup democratizes space travel and it just raised over 3 million to find the next ‘Slumdog … – Business Insider Nordic
Posted: at 1:33 pm
After the dismantling of the NASA-program, space exploration has shifted towards private players, led by the likes of SpaceX, Axiom, and Buzz Aldrin-backed Moon Express.
And now a Finnish startup and space media companyCohu Experience, is building the social and educational fabric of this movement. And it is using NASA’s learnings in the process.
CEO Kalle Vh-Jaakkola says Cohu’s mission is to “builda global community centered around space travel and exploration”, andmake it possible for anyone to fulfil their childhood dream of becoming an astronaut with the help of Space Nation, a training app developed together with NASA astronaut trainers.
The company just broke a Finnish crowdfunding record,after raising3,2 million from more than 500 Finnish investors. The first million was raised in just 43 minutes.
The money will be used to launch a Space Nation training program in the the Fall of 2017, where candidates will compete through the app by proving theirphysical, intellectual and social skills.
The competition’s best candidates will be featured in a TV show, as they go through a bootcamp that determines the ultimate winner astronaut.
We want it to be inclusive so anyone in the world can take part. We want to find those ‘Slumdog’ astronauts, Vh-Jaakkola toldSpaceNews, referring to the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” about a teen from the slums who becomes an overnight success by sheer brainpower.
Axiom, a newly founded commercial space company,is one of Cohu’s key partners, which aims to build the first private commercial space station at ISS. If everything goes to plan, Space Nation will be providing talent to man that station.
“Space Nation has been incredibly well received internationally. [..] After our launch at Slush, Forbes named us the #1 European startup to watch in 2017,” says Vh-Jaakkola.
The project is backed by Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio fame, as well as Mike Suffredini, NASA-veteran and co-founder of Axiom. Further star appeal is provided by Finnish ice hockey veteran Saku Koivu, who is one of the earliest investors and eager about the project’s vision.
“Space Nation is more than a space adventure. It unites people from all over the world to develop themselves and reach for their dreams. [The Space Nation training program] is already aiming at further financing from international investors,” says Koivu in a press release.
There are many hurdles to pass before the grand plans turn into reality, but one thing is for sure: Peter Vesterbacka’s enthusiasm will be the last flame to go out.Vesterbacka, who was key in building Finnish successes Angry Birds and Slush, said in a press release:
Finns are bold and have just the right amount of craziness to build a global phenomenon.”
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Posted: February 22, 2017 at 4:30 am
OnSunday, a rocket blasted off from a NASA launch pad and headed for the International Space Station. But the rocket wasnt built by NASA.
The rocket, named Falcon 9, is owned by the private company SpaceX. Founded in 2002 by high-profile businessman Elon Musk, SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
That might sound like a faraway pipe dream. But with hundreds of billions of dollars to play with, Musk may be able to get it done sooner than youd think.
As a company that intends to profit from sending people to space, SpaceX is trying to build and manage rockets as cheaply as possible. Theyve already managed to cut manufacturing and transportation costs enough that they can engineer rockets for a third of the price NASA can. Now, Musk and his team are trying to develop ways to reuse rockets after they have been launched. This will save them billions in manufacturing, and its something no government organization is currently doing.
The Sunday launch is part of this goal, as the Falcon 9 rocket carried the Dragon space craft (also made and owned by SpaceX) into low orbit and then successfully returned to its landing site. The Dragon will continue on to make its delivery at the International Space Station, and the Falcon 9 will be made ready for its next launch. Its a cycle SpaceX has done before and will do again, perfecting their reuse and recycle technique and getting one more step ahead of NASA.
The idea that space travel will be driven by the private sector is perhaps not surprising, as government agencies (like NASA) are non-profit and not likely to be in the business of setting up spa resorts on Mars. However, the legal standing of private companies in space is murky, the ethics of exploring space for private gain is questionable and like any capitalistic system, some government oversight is necessary. These issues are addressed on Earth through legal policies but in space, the law is a little less firm.
The most important legal force beyond the atmosphere is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. It set up a number of fundamental regulations to govern the use of space for example, that space and celestial bodies cannot be claimed by any one country, and must be free for exploration by all. With respect to private companies, the treaty had two things to say: first, that governments are still responsible for those companies activities, and second, that private companies are required to receive authorization and constant supervision from their government.
That holds Space X responsible to the U.S. federal government but what exactly does that responsibility include? Lets say Space X gets their tourism ships up and running, and then sets up a resort on Mars (its not far-fetched Elon Musk says his ultimate goal for SpaceX is a Martian colony). Then theres an accident and something explodes, damaging the surface of the planet. This damage violates the Outer Space Treaty, which stipulates that no harm is to be done to celestial bodies by space exploration. So who pays up? Space X, because they owned the resort, or the U.S. federal government, because according to the treaty theyre responsible for the companys actions in space? Who enforces that decision? Since the treaty also stipulates that celestial bodies cannot be owned by anyone, who do they pay damages to, and who carries out the remediation? More generally, does building the resort or colony, or laboratory, or space station itself violate the treaty, as it implies some type of ownership of that part of the planet? Does the U.S. building a colony on Mars impede Britains freedom to explore Mars, and is that in violation of the treaty as well? If thats the case, Musk can build all the reusable rockets he wants legally, hes not getting off the ground.
The legal issues are complicated, and while they arent going anywhere, SpaceX is. Elon Musk purportedly plans to send crewed crafts to the International Space Stationin 2018, and wants to get a spaceship on its way to Mars in 10to 15years. Whether or not hell have the legal standing to do so has yet to be seen. So if youre planning a trip to Mars, you might have to wait once these private companies overcome the engineering challenges, they will have to start fighting the legal ones.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
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Posted: at 4:30 am
Intrepid travelers could fly to space from a UK space port as soon as 2020 under new laws.
Commercial flights for people willing to go to infinity and beyond could be available in just three years.
Space travel has long been a dream for people hoping to explore the area outside our planet.
Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic and Dutch-founded Xcor are among those that could take passengers up to the final frontier when services go live.
In Virgin Galactics plans, astronauts would cost $250,000 for the flight into the Earths atmosphere.
SpaceX is also offering trips to the International Space Station after it made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the space station.
Sunday night its Falcon 9 rocket launched on a mission to resupply the space station.
Under new powers unveiled this week, scientists will blast into space to conduct zero-gravity experiments in a bid to find cures for deadly bugs like MRSA and salmonella.
The laws allowing commercial flights to take off from UK space ports by 2020 will also permit researchers to carry out tests on potential new antibiotics in orbit.
The powers in the spaceflight bill will be revealed in Parliament this week.
It means a rocket spaceflight could take off from a space port in Britain before a new runway is built at Heathrow.
Science Minister Jo Johnson said the new powers would cement the UKs position as a world leader in an emerging market worth up to $26 billion (25 billion) over the next 20 years.
Space ports could be set up and satellites launched from regions across the UK under the plans.
Newquay in Cornwall; Llanbedr in Snowdonia; and three Scottish sites, Glasgow Prestwick, Campbeltown, and Stornaway in the Western Isles have all been shortlisted as potential space port sites.
Because of Britains position far from the equator, its likely space planes would take off from a horizontal runway rather than a rocket launch pad.
They will transport satellites up into orbit or take paying space tourists although its thought space tourism would only make up around 10 percent of the industry.
NASA scientists have been carrying out scientific research in space for the last five years.
This week US scientists sent the lethal MRSA bug up to the International Space Station for astronauts to study how the superbug becomes resistant to antibiotics.
Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said the ambition was to launch a space flight from the UK as soon as possible.
He said: Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age.
Johnson added: From the launch of Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, to Tim Peakes six months on the International Space Station, the UKs space sector has achieved phenomenal things in orbit and beyond.
With this weeks spaceflight bill launch, we will cement the UKs position as a world leader in this emerging market, giving us an opportunity to build on existing strengths in research and innovation.
This article originally appeared on The Sun.
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