At the first National Space Council meeting in October, Pence emphasized that the U.S. will "win the 21st century in space," laying out a plan to focus on human spaceflight and get astronauts back to the moon. At today's meeting, hosted at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, he talked about the path toward that goal and brought in several panelists who supported loosening regulations to allow for more innovation from private spaceflight companies.
Sending astronauts back to the moon is one of the top space priorities of President Trump. But his administration wants to accomplish that without giving NASA additional money, and it won’t occur until after he leaves office, even if he wins re-election. Instead, it aims to give the private sector a greater role, according to a budget proposal to be released on Monday.
SpaceX, the private space company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, successfully launched the most powerful commercial rocket in the world on Tuesday. The Falcon Heavy, launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, took off with double the power of the world's next most powerful rocket, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy.
The administration genuinely appears to be motivated to accomplish real human space exploration goals within its term of office. It remains unclear, however, whether a sufficient budget will actually be allotted to enable execution of its ambitious policy, either in whole or in part. Federal budgets are challenging—and will be for the foreseeable future--but there is an extremely compelling reason why the administration should go “all in” on this plan and propose a budget that will enable the United States to aggressively move forward.
The basic outline of this mission was presented in mid-December at American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans. JPL’s Anthony Freeman called the plan “nebulous,” noting that the mission doesn’t even have a name yet. The goal is to launch the as-yet theoretical probe in 2069, the one-hundred year anniversary of the moon landing. The design of the craft, launch vehicle, and propulsion system all remain unknowns.
President Trump in a White House ceremony on Monday signed a new directive aimed at sending U.S. astronauts back to the moon -- one that, while short on details, the administration insisted will restore the U.S. to its role as a leader in space exploration and help spur job growth.
Scientists used to wonder how common planets were throughout the universe, and now we know. They’re extremely common. They’re so common, in fact, it’s possible just to find another one while you’re trying to gather data on the one you already knew about. That’s what happened when astronomers recently turned their attention to the star K2-18. They found a bonus planet.
Before Cassini or Galileo, there were the Voyager probes. Launched in August and September of 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network. Voyager 1 is farther from Earth than Voyager 2, due to differences in their missions and trajectories, at an estimated 141 AU from Earth (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun). On Friday, NASA engineers were able to successfully fire Voyager 1’s backup thrusters -- for the first time in 37 years.
Today, the most innovative research into space travel has shifted to the private sector, especially in the U.S. SpaceX's commercial rockets have not only cut the cost of launching into Earth orbit. They're precursors to bigger rockets the company hopes will send humans to Mars before the end of the 2020s, long before China's state-funded program achieves the same.