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Space Travel

Data from three space missions has shown that water molecules exist on the moon's surface
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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

The VASIMR engine could make a manned flight to Mars in about a sixth of the time of conve...

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

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle and Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon (Photo: NASA)

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

The new space race is about to take-off

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

Terminal Hanger Concept, Spaceport America

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

The space sail for an Ariane 5 launcher (pictured), for example, would is conical with a s...

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

It's busier up there than it looks. Concentration of orbital debris in low Earth orbit wit...

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

WhiteKnightTwo maiden flight
 Photo by Bill Deaver - Mojave Desert News

WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), the carrier aircraft that will become the launch platform for Virgin Galactic's sub-orbital spaceline has taken to the skies over California in its maiden test flight. Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines, the mammoth, 140-foot wingspan carbon composite aircraft launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port on Sunday morning and completed an hour long test flight without a hitch.  Read More

Teddy Bears in space

For half a century, the friendliest face of space travel was Laika the space-dog, launched into Earth orbit aboard Sputnik II. Now Britain has challenged Laika’s supremacy by launching two teddy bears into the stratosphere. The toys, named MAT and KMS, wore space suits designed by children at the Parkside and Coleridge community colleges.  Read More

The South Atlantic Anomaly

Until November, Tristan da Cunha was home only to 271 people, a small flightless bird, and a piece of land named Inaccessible Island. Now the world's most remote inhabited archipelago is host to a Danish Observatory designed to help improve our understanding the Earth’s weakening magnetic field and the way this affects satellites.  Read More

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