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Space Travel


— Aircraft

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise makes first manned flight

Virgin Galactic has taken another important step to becoming the world’s first private commercial spaceline with its VSS Enterprise spacecraft flying with a crew on board for the first time. The craft formerly known as SpaceShipTwo remained attached to VMS Eve, the jet-powered carrier aircraft from which the VSS Enterprise will eventually be launched, for the duration of the flight to allow for numerous combined vehicle systems tests to be conducted. Read More
— Science

NASA finds lost Soviet lunar rover after 40 years

On November 17, 1970, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 17 delivered the lunar rover Lunokhod 1 onto the surface of the moon. For 11 months after, controlled in real-time by a human team in Moscow, it explored seven miles of the lunar surface. Sending back reams of data, it was considered to be one of the biggest successes of the little-known Soviet lunar exploration program. And then, it disappeared. It wasn’t abducted or anything, it just ceased transmitting, as space probes have a tendency to do. This spring, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spied it on the moon’s surface. The really neat thing: it can still reflect laser beams back to Earth as if it were brand new. Read More
— Space

Companies join forces to offer more space tourism opportunities

While Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is moving steadily along the space tourism trail, Space Adventures, Ltd, - featured regularly on Gizmag - is currently the only company skyrocketing people into space (and bringing them home again). It has even placed “privateers” in the International Space Station. The company has just announced that it has joined forces with Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, makers of reusable rocket-powered vehicles, to market and sell exclusive trips on Armadillo Aerospace’s future suborbital spaceflight vehicles, currently in development. Read More
— Space

Maido-kun bipedal humanoid robot on the moon by 2015

It's more than 40 years since the first human set foot on the moon, so where are all the robot space explorers? While rovers like those that have been trawling the Martian surface in recent times could properly be called robots, and machines like the legless R2 are heading to space, these don't match the classic science fiction image of a bi-pedal humanoid bot that we've all become accustomed to. Now a Japanese space-business group is promising to set things in order by sending a humanoid robot to the moon by 2015. Read More
— Aircraft

QinetiQ ion thrusters to drive BepiColombo mission to Mercury

There's no air to breathe, it's 400 degrees Celsius and you are six long years away from home. Welcome to Mercury, the smallest and perhaps most mysterious planet in the Solar System. The European Space Agency (ESA) is aiming to increase our knowledge of the Sun's closest neighbor by launching its BepiColombo spacecraft to the planet Mercury in 2014. One of the key challenges faced by the mission is not just getting there, but also how to apply the brakes against the Sun’s gravitational pull when you do... and that's where QinetiQ's solar-electric ion propulsion system comes in. The company has just announced a £23m contract with EADS Astrium for the supply of its system for the BepiColombo mission. Read More
— Space

Water found on the moon – what will it mean for the future?

Newspapers and websites around the world are buzzing with the news that water and hydroxyl (hydrogen and oxygen) molecules have been found in the polar regions of the moon. NASA announced yesterday that instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed that water molecules were present, although in relatively small amounts. It was also discovered that hydroxyl also existed in the lunar soil. Although the amount of water found is small, it is exciting in terms of potential for the possibilities of establishing a lunar base and even for creating spacecraft fuel. Read More
— Aircraft

New ion engine could reach Mars in 39 days

Last week, as the world celebrated the first lunar landing, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins both called for NASA to make Mars its next goal. But the chemical propulsion system that took them to the moon would take six months, at least, to get a man to Mars and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. However, a new ion plasma rocket being developed by another former astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, could potentially reach Mars in just 39 days using a fraction of the fuel. Read More
— Aircraft

That 'small step for man' still very visible on the moon

Exactly forty years ago today, with fuel running short and alarms buzzing, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set their lunar module Eagle down on the face of the moon, and mankind took its very first step on another celestial body. Last week, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. Even after all these years, there’s something truly heroic about seeing those lunar module descent stages sitting silently on the surface, testament to man’s imagination and determination. Read More
— Aircraft Feature

Virgin Galactic and the start of the Commercial Space Race

Space - it's the final frontier of human exploration, a mysterious eternity of distance, all around us and yet so tantalizingly out of reach. In its dark recesses hide the secrets of extraterrestrial life, planets yet to be explored, and it's reasonable to assume, some sort of future home for the human race once we're finished stuffing this planet up. Although mankind has been fascinated with space since we first saw the twinkling of night-time stars, it's only in the last half century that we have developed spaceships that allow us to take both ourselves and our equipment and technology outside the Earth's atmosphere. While the exhilaration of early space exploration seems to have faded in the public imagination over the past three decades, the scene is now set for a whole new space race. Loz Blain looks at where the 21st Century space Odyssey will take us and how we'll get there. Listen to the Podcast or Read More
— Aircraft

Spaceport America breaks ground, flights departing soon

Virgin Galactic may be spending over USD$300 million on a commercial space vehicle, but only now has it actually got a place to land. Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, broke ground in New Mexico on June 19th. The 110,000 square foot facility, designed by Foster and Partners, will cost around $200m and is expected to host the first commercial space flight by 2011. Read More
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