Unlike the robotic explorers now prowling Mars’ dusty landscapes, these new craft -- launched by both NASA and a European-Russian collaboration -- will be engaged in a type of reconnaissance that hasn’t been tried since NASA’s Viking landers set down there in the mid-1970s. The new craft will go beyond merely scouting for locations that were once suitable for life. They’ll be on the hunt for life itself. Dead or alive.
NASA announced agreements worth a combined $43.2 million with 14 commercial partners Friday -- including Blue Origin and SpaceX -- to fund experiments in propellant and power generation, in-space refueling, efficient propulsion systems, and lunar rover technology.
Concrete made in space could one day help humans build habitats on the moon and Mars , new research shows. As part of a recent investigation aboard the International Space Station, astronauts made cement in microgravity for the first time, showing that it can harden and develop in space.
A half-century after the first Moonwalks, talk of travel beyond low-Earth orbit has become so fanciful that it’s almost as if we were back on a quest for the Holy Grail. It shouldn’t be. Let’s don’t over-romanticize space travel. If we’re ever truly going to move off-world, a trip from Earth to the Moon needs to become as mundane as a commercial flight from New York to Paris.
This second and final test flight represents the most significant trial yet of the company's Raptor engine. While the trial frustrated residents in Boca Chica, many of whom evacuated their homes for safety concerns, it encouraged aerospace enthusiasts with its demonstration of a new type of rocket that runs on methane--an essential feature for a space program targeting the moon and beyond.
Most of the spacecraft in science fiction are ridiculously spacious, but real life is much less luxurious. The International Space Station (ISS) has just 388 cubic meters of habitable space, and future deep-space assignments could have astronauts serving much longer tours of duty. NASA has partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation to explore ways to make spacecraft a bit less cramped, and the company has now completed a prototype inflatable habitat module with almost as much living space as the entire ISS.
SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO teased the idea in 2015 during an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," explaining that vaporizing Mars' ice caps would be a good way to warm the planet enough for human colonists to live relatively comfortably. Musk floated the concept again last week via Twitter, initially saying simply "Nuke Mars!" and then "T-shirt soon."
Mars exploration will get a big boost next summer. Earth and the Red Planet align favorably for interplanetary travel just once every 26 months, for a few weeks at a time. The next such window opens in mid-July 2020, and four big-ticket missions aim to take full advantage.
This year, unlike in the two previous years, the polling group found that a slight majority would approve of such a funding appropriation, with 53% of the respondents in favor, 46% opposed and 1% without an opinion in a poll with a sampling error of +/-4%.
“It might be some kid in high school. It could be even somebody older than that. We don’t know. It’s a challenging proposition to send people to Mars and then safely get them back,” Kelly said. “I think it’s something we should be doing as a country. I think when we do these very aspirational things that are very difficult with people, we get tremendous amounts back as a country.”