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Space Travel

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
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
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
SpaceX, the company behind the Falcon series of launch vehicles and the Dragon space capsule, is developing a new free-flying, reusable, commercial craft. To be known as DragonLab, it will transport pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space, and will launch aboard a Falcon 9 vehicle. Read More
NASA’s 12-wheeled Small Pressurized Rover raced (by lunar rover standards) across the moon-like Arizona outback at 6mph this week as part of the 11th annual Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS). While the buggies on the Apollo missions only provided a 6 mile range, the presence of two or more SPRs on a lunar landing will provide a range of over 150 miles. Read More
The Indian Space Research Organisation has successfully launched Chandrayaan-1, the country’s first scientific mission to the moon. The two-year, USD$80 million mission will see the PSLV-C11 rocket enter lunar orbit in roughly two weeks, before descending to a final 100 km-high circular orbit. The Moon Impact Probe will land on the lunar surface, while the orbiter will continue gathering data with 11 scientific instruments. Read More
Plans are afoot to have humans back on the moon by 2020, but if we want to make it more than just a brief visit and truly begin to colonize the solar system, the challenge will be to find ways to extract and exploit local resources that can help sustain a lunar outpost. That's where the Scarab comes in. The four-wheel, 880-pound lunar prospecting robot designed by Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, and soon to be field tested by NASA on the slopes of a dormant volcano in Hawaii, is equipped to drill and collect three-foot samples of soil and rock while operating in one of the harshest environments imaginable - the moon's southern pole. The rover will act as a terrestrial testbed for the development of technologies that it's hoped can be used to find hydrogen, oxygen and possibly even water, that could be mined from beneath the moon's surface. Read More
With the Space Shuttle scheduled to retire in 2010, alternative transport vessels will need to be developed to keep the International Space Station manned, and to keep options open for possible manned lunar missions. After three failed attempts, the SpaceX Falcon 1 has successfully achieved Earth orbit – the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to do so. Read More
Along with daughter Lucy, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is planning to send his digitized DNA into space as part of NCsoft’s Operation Immortality. The pair hopes the exercise will help publicize the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics; a competition that will award $10 million to the first person or team that can sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days or less. Read More
After the Phoenix lander has finished scraping away at Martian soil, the MAVEN spacecraft will examine the atmosphere of the red planet. The US$485 million Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN program is the second stage of NASA’s Mars Scout program, following the successful Phoenix mission. The MAVEN craft will study the planet’s atmospheric gases, upper atmosphere, solar wind, ionosphere, planetary corona, solar EUV and SEPS, and investigate past climate change. Read More
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