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Space Travel

The goal is to make all parts of the Dragon reusable and capable of returning to Earth und...

The private spaceflight company SpaceX declared that 2012 would be the "Year of the Dragon" - a play on the current cycle of the Chinese calendar and the upcoming tests of SpaceX's Dragon space capsule. For a time, it seemed as if SpaceX was regretting that slogan. Dragon was chosen as one of five competitors for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contest to develop a cargo/passenger craft to service the International Space Station. The Dragon program had enjoyed considerable success and was scheduled to be the first private spacecraft to visit and, if all went well, dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Unfortunately, with the need for more testing of the Dragon capsule delaying the launch from its original February 7, 2012 date to late March or even into April, it looked as though the Year of the Dragon was starting a bit late.  Read More

Film-makers Derek Van Gorder (pictured) and Otto Stockmeier are in the process of making a...

When you think about the best-loved movies depicting space travel, what names come to mind? Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek - The Motion Picture, Silent Running, Battlestar Galactica? Interestingly enough, all of those enduring films were made decades ago, and utilized hand-built model spaceships for their space-flight sequences. Today, even low-budget productions usually use CGI (computer-generated imagery) for the same purpose – it’s logistically much easier to create and “film” a virtual spaceship on a computer, than it is to build, light and shoot an actual model. Nonetheless, that second approach is exactly what New York film-makers Derek Van Gorder and Otto Stockmeier are taking with their short film, C.  Read More

Caenorhabditis elegans in the flesh

Microscopic worm Caenorhabditis elegans may hold clues to the human colonization of space, according to scientists at The University of Nottingham. Research published by the university today indicates that C. elegans can reach maturity from egghood and successfully reproduce in space, just as it does on Earth. Now the worm is a prime candidate to form an advance party to Mars in order to examine the effects of long-distance space travel on earthly organisms.  Read More

The Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational lunar ba...

Imagine if every time you went for on a trip, you had to carry all the fuel required to get you to your destination and back - even if that trip was to a place far, far away, like say Mars. In space there are no refueling options available (yet), and given that propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft, this issue is fundamental to saving costs and driving future space exploration. Now the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational base to mine ice on the Moon that will be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for distribution to spacecraft via the first gas stations in space ... and the plan is to be open for business by 2020.  Read More

The CST-100, comprised of a Crew Module and a Service Module, will be constructed at Kenne...

Turns out NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida won’t be gathering dust following the end of the Space Shuttle Program earlier this year. Providing a glimpse of how the NASA facilities will be used in the future, Boeing has signed an agreement with NASA and Space Florida that will see it using the Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) to manufacture, assemble and test its CST-100 (Crew Space Transportation-100) spacecraft.  Read More

Virgin Galactic Terminal Hangar Facility dedication at Spaceport America in New Mexico (Cr...

Space travel just got another step closer for the masses (at least the well-heeled ones) with the dedication of Virgin Galactic's new "Gateway to Space" facility at Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built spaceliner terminal. Situated in the southern New Mexico desert, numerous luminaries were on hand to dedicate the innovative 120,000 square foot terminal/hangar facility (THF), including moon-walking astronaut, Buzz Aldrin and New Mexico governor Susana Martinez.  Read More

The Dream Chaser carried into space on the nose of a rocket. (Photo: SNC)

The Dream Chaser, a reusable space plane currently under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), is to undergo high altitude drop tests in 2012 following a 25.6 million US dollar boost from NASA to top-off the 80 million US dollar contract awarded earlier this year. But it won't be chasing just any dream. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program this year, the very tangible goal is to deliver a low-cost, safe alternative for transporting astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.  Read More

NASA is planning to demonstrate the largest solar sail ever built, in an upcoming space mi...

NASA's upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to "transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities." Three project proposals have been selected for these missions, which should be launching in 2015 and 2016. One of those projects, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, we've told you about already. Another, however, will be demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail. While NASA has recently tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 15,543 square feet, or 1,444 square meters.  Read More

Engineer Tim Lexen has created a prototype ranger device that can move across rough terrai...

Some day in the future, it's possible that an unmanned rover may go trundling across the Martian landscape not on wheels, but on three rotating steel coils. While able to traverse rugged terrain without getting stuck, it could also move sideways to get around obstacles, would be unlikely to malfunction as it would have very few moving parts, and could perhaps even remain mobile if it were to take a tumble and flip over. Although such a vehicle might not be exploring Mars any time particularly soon, a fully-functioning prototype does already exist here on Earth, and its design could find terrestrial applications.  Read More

April 12 marks the 50th anniversary of the first man in space (Photo: NASA)

A remarkable milestone in human history took place exactly 50 years ago today when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. During the flight of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, Gagarin, then 27, completed a single orbit of Earth in approximately 108 minutes. His flight begun at Baikonur cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan and ended with his safe arrival by parachute in the Saratov region of central Russia, where he was famously welcomed back to our planet with a hospitable offer of bread and milk by Anna Takhtarova and her four-year-old granddaughter Margarita.  Read More

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