Space Travel

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We’ve recently examined the danger posed to future space missions by the ever increasing collection of space junk orbiting the Earth. Now a plan by a pair of space engineers to use a sail to take out the trash – or rather, bring it back to Earth – may help to stop future space missions adding to the problem of space junk. Read More
When we are born, we soil ourselves and other people clean it up for us. As we mature, we take responsibility for our own excrement. Strangely, as a society, we're not at all good at toilet training ourselves regarding the excrement produced by industry, transport or agriculture. Human beings capacity to eschew short term gain when faced with long term harm is notoriously woeful so it’s not surprising we've done exactly the same thing in space, leaving so much debris that it's now dangerous to be in the orbital band around earth due to the likelihood of being hit by junk traveling at 18,000 mph. The latest evidence: last week saw the first ever accidental collision between two intact spacecraft, a deactivated Russian satellite and an Iridium 33 satellite, which left a fresh cloud of debris 497 miles above the Earth. Read More