NASA Funds Microbes That Could Break down Metal

Humanity is going to travel far into space sooner or later, and while we’re still trying to figure out exactly how far we can go and when we’re going to start the journey, making sure that our electronics are in working condition throughout the trip is very important. Of course, astronauts could very well bring spare metal with them into space and use it to fix any broken equipment, but that would dramatically increase launching costs, and so a better solution has to be implemented. Fortunately, a team of scientists from California’s Ames Research Center is currently working on creating microbes that could break down certain metallic parts from electronics and create brand new ones.

Sources indicate that the project has received a $100,000 grant from NASA’s Phase I of the Innovative Advanced Concepts, which supports pioneering technologies. The microbes in question would be designed to break down metals by their elements, and then they would serve as bio-ink for a special machine that could use the Martian atmosphere to print new chips. With the money that they have received so far, researchers also want to create microbes that could break down silicon, and they are also looking into how much infrastructure they would actually have to implement on a spaceship in order to make microbial recycling a reality. If everything goes according to plan, the project might receive a Phase II grant of $500,000, which would ensure another two years of development.

Blue Origin Wants to Take Tourists into Space in 2018

We probably don’t need to tell you that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is the founder of Blue Origin – the private space travel company that aims to make space tourism a reality. Actually, the company plans to take tourists into space a lot sooner that originally anticipated, 2018 to be more specific. Journalists who recently visited the Blue Origin Washington state headquarters were informed by Bezos himself that groups of up to six people might be able to embark on short trips into space and experience weightlessness just two years from now. Obviously, the success of this project is going to depend on numerous factors, one of which includes extensive rocket testing.

However, before the service will be made available for consumers, the company will launch a series of piloted test flights in 2017. By the end of 2016, Blue Origin is scheduled to begin testing procedures on its new BE-4 engine, and even though the company is not accepting any deposits for these space journeys right now, it looks like thousands of potential customers have already expressed their interest in the project. Even though Blue Origin is not covered as much in the media, at least when compared to Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, things are going to change in the near future as Bezos plans to make the company’s endeavors more transparent.

Sea Landing Planned for Next SpaceX Rocket Launch

After making their historic rocket landing last year, SpaceX is planning to accomplish another historic feat with a spacecraft, landing it on a platform at sea. It’s something SpaceX have tried twice before in 2015 and failed both times, but undeterred by this, SpaceX must wish to put their record straight with this next mission.

The mission is set to take place on the 17th of January, launching from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is very different from SpaceX’s usual launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As well as attempting the sea landing, the mission’s main objective is to launch NASA’s ocean monitoring satellite, Jason-3.

For this launch, SpaceX will also be using an older, less powerful version of the Falcon 9 than the one that made the ground landing. The vehicle being used is the last of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets, with less thrust and missing some of the reusability features of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust. SpaceX says that a sea landing will be easier than a ground landing for this version of the rocket. Primarily, due to the launch route of rockets, a ground landing required far more distance to be travelled if it is intending to land close to its launch pad. Landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean will allow the weaker rocket to travel a shorter distance and require less fuel to land successfully.

With all eyes on SpaceX after their last rocket landing, the pressure will be on to succeed where their last two rockets fell over and exploded. Being able to land rockets on portable platforms, such as ships would be a major advance towards the ease of space launches as it allows far more freedom of launch locations without needing to set up a landing pad on the ground. Here’s hoping that Elon Musk and his team can make it third time the charm.

Second Commercial Crew Mission for Boeing Ordered by NASA

In a move hopefully stemming from NASA’s revitalized budget for the coming year, NASA has issued Boeing a second flight order as part of the Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two private companies involved in the program, the other being SpaceX. The flight order guarantees a second launch for Boeing following the first order that was issued in May of this year, and a mission order for SpaceX made in November.

The Commercial Crew Program contracts dictate that NASA will order at least 4 flights from the two companies, made 2 or 3 years in advance of the mission’s expected date. With 3 of the 4 flights that NASA is contractually obliged to order now filled, it remains to be seen whether the 4th mission will go to SpaceX, splitting them equally, or whether another will be issued to Boeing. If the results are promising, however, the missions may continue.

The craft that Boeing will use to ferry astronauts into space is their CST-100 Starliner vehicle. While the craft was dropped from NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services second-phase competition, it still remains on track to fulfil its obligations to the Commercial Crew Program. In direct competition is SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which revolves around the recently reinstated Falcon 9 rocket, which, if proven to have fixed the flaws that resulted in a failed supply mission, could pave the way for SpaceX picking up more manned flights.

It is currently unannounced when this new mission will take place, with the previous two mission orders optimistically planned for 2017. The budget now allows for them to keep development on track. With NASA being guaranteed funds for the program going into 2016, new, all-American spacecraft could be making their trips to the ISS within two years.

Elon Musk Thinks That We Should Find Another Planet to Call Home

We’ve all seen the latest news about Elon Musk and his big plans for Mars, but a recent blog post signed by Tim Urban named “How (and why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars” does a good job at explaining why Musk thinks that we should find another planet to call home as soon as possible. Earth has been bombarded in the past by asteroids that caused mass extinctions, and given the fact that there have been a total of five of these events that we know of, it’s probably safe to assume that another apocalypse is on its way. That’s why Elon Musk thinks it’s imperative that we become a multi-planetary species, and the most obvious candidate for colonization right now is Mars. Reportedly, Elon told Urban that he’d like to send about 1 million people to Mars in order to create a viable industry and infrastructure. This sounds like a very ambitious plan indeed, but for now Musk plans to reveal a SpaceX rocket that can carry up to 100 people at once to the red planet.

In the blog post, Urban compared humanity and Earth to a hard drive and its files:

“Now—if you owned a hard drive with an extraordinarily important Excel doc on it, and you knew that the hard drive pretty reliably tended to crash every month or two, with the last crash happening five weeks ago—what’s the very obvious thing you’d do? You’d copy the document onto a second hard drive.”

Do you think that we should figure out a way to leave our planet behind as soon as possible, and if so, do you think that SpaceX will be the company that will facilitate the process?

Thank you TechInsider for providing us with this information.

Interstellar Travel and Time Travel? Never! Says Killjoy Hawking

The major tropes upon which most science fiction is based, time travel and visiting other worlds, will never be achieved by humankind, according to professional bonfire urinator (and astrophysicists) Professor Stephen Hawking.

In a BBC interview with comedian (and physicist) Dara Ó Briain, Professor Hawking said that traveling back in time is theoretically impossible, and that mankind will not leave the solar system in our lifetime, if ever. Professor Hawking told Ó Briain, “I still believe that time travel to the past is not possible for macroscopic effects,” adding that “You can’t send a message back in time.” The ‘Grandfather Paradox’? Stop wasting your bloody time, Hawking says.

Regarding interstellar travel, he says, “The present breed of humans won’t reach the stars.” The distances are too great. The radiation exposure would be too severe.” In an uncharacteristic spirit of optimism, however, Hawking does concede that it could be possible if we were to “genetically engineer humans or send machines.”

Oh, and in case you were wondering, there is no God – “I think the afterlife is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark” – and entering a black hole will kill you – “If you jump in a black hole, you will meet an unpleasant fate” – so, if you were thinking of doing that, don’t.

US Developed a Spaceship Propelled by Nukes in the 1950s Reveals Freeman Dyson

Famed English-born American astrophysicist Freeman Dyson – best known for his theoretical concept for an artificial biosphere that could surround a star and sustain life, known as a Dyson Sphere – has revealed that, before the formation of NASA in 1958, he was working on a space propulsion system based around detonating a series of nuclear bombs.

Dyson, who at the time was working at General Atomics in California, developed the cheap and fast form of interplanetary travel during the early 1950s, under the banner ‘Project Orion’.

“We decided that we would go around the solar system with a spaceship driven by nuclear bombs, so we would launch the ship into space. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb. Going up at about four bombs per second all the way to Mars and then to Jupiter and Saturn – and we intended to go ourselves,” Dyson said in an interview with Quantum Magazine.

Dyson and his team even developed a small prototype, propelled by chemical reactions. “We had an actual model spaceship, about a metre in diameter, with chemical explosives that actually went bomb, bomb, bomb and a few hundred feet up,” he revealed.

Sadly for Dyson and General Atomics, ‘Project Orion’ was overshadowed by NASA’s rocket project during the late fifties, under the guidance of former Nazi scientist Wernher von Braun, inventor of the V2 rocket. “[We experimented with this for] a few years but by that time it was clear that the competition was actually going to win – the competition being Wernher von Braun,” Dyson lamented.

The full, fascinating interview with Dyson is below.

Thank you International Business Times for providing us with this information.

Energy-Delivering Space Laser Patented

A professor from the University of Alabama has patented a revolutionary space-based laser system designed to generate and deliver energy to a nearby spacecraft. Dr. Richard Fork thinks his new innovation could even be used as the first line of defence in the event of a potential asteroid collision with the Earth.

“I see this patent as a useful step in making efficient and effective power infrastructures available to the regions of space surrounding an asteroid or planet orbiting a star,” Dr. Fork said. “The patent is significant in that it gives UAH an advantage in launching what may be the first enterprise designed to provide energy generated in space and delivered in space for commercial purposes, as well as for non-commercial applications of general interest, such as successfully redirecting asteroids or other objects that may threaten Earth.”

“This method is designed to use optical phenomena – again quantum optical phenomena – but very well proven and widely accepted optical quantum phenomena to maximize the efficiency and precision of the processes,” he added. “Sunlight does, of course, distribute energy in space. However, energy in the form of sunlight cannot be directed, delivered or concentrated nearly as precisely and efficiently, or at the peak energies that are maximally efficient for propulsive thrust, as can the coherent light generated by laser systems.

According to Dr. Fork, the technology is ready to be deployed, and could be of great interest to NASA, which funded the original concept, and Elon Musk’s private space enterprise, SpaceX.

“The underlying physical phenomena are non-trivial,” says Dr. Fork. “However, we believe we can clarify and evaluate a highly productive strategy we have in mind by exploring the basic phenomena here in our terrestrial laboratories at UAH given a year or so of adequate funding. I think that SpaceX and other companies might be interested in this patent although that is speculation on my part at this time.”

Thank you Phys.org for providing us with this information.

Ferrari to Build Spaceships?

The most famous supercar manufacturer in the world could be set to venture into the realm of spacecrafts. Flavio Manzoni, Design Director for Ferrari, has revealed a series of beautiful high-concept illustrations for a retro-futuristic spaceship.

“It all started as a bit of fun,” Manzoni said. “At first it was a sketch, or rather, a series of sketches, then [it developed] into a rendering.”

Manzoni revealed that he has been fascinated by space travel since his childhood in Sardinia. “I lived in a six-storey building, with a large terrace at the top. I thought that one day a UFO would land there. It disturbed me a little, but I was curious.”

The sleek, aerodynamic design recalls the LaFerrari Formula 1 car in its front fin, but its overall design bears more than a passing similarity to J-type 327 Nubian royal starship from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Aptly, much like George Lucas, Manzoni was inspired as a child by Flash Gordon.

Image courtesy of Wookieepedia.

“I tried to imagine something that can fly into the future, since there will be less and less space available on the ground,” Manzoni says. “And I focused on creating a little craft that’s different than my childhood dream, when I thought that a car of the future would slip on a cushion.”

Manzoni was coy over whether the designs were a bit of fun or pointed to a future in which Ferrari builds spaceships, preferring to speculate about extraterrestrial life. “I think it’s possible that there are other beings in the universe – more or less evolved – but I also think it’s really difficult to intercept. What if they were living with us already? Perhaps our brothers of the cosmos have done as the first Europeans who conquered the Americas: when the mission ended, they returned home.”

Thank you Form Trends for providing us with this information.

Reports of NASA “Warp Drive” Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

After the huge buzz of discovering that not only was NASA working on its own version of Star Trek’s ‘warp drive’ – the fuelless EmDrive, that uses electromagnetics to propel a craft to astronomical speeds – but that the astronautics agency had successfully tested it, here comes the inevitable deflation: “NASA is not working on ‘warp drive’ technology,” agency officials told space.com.

According to NASA, though the EmDrive was successfully tested in vacuum conditions, the experiment was small-scale and the drive only produced a tiny amount of thrust, far from the speed of light-breaking propulsion of the USS Enterprise. As NASA puts it, “While conceptual research into novel propulsion methods by a team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has created headlines, this is a small effort that has not yet shown any tangible results.”

The problem with the EmDrive, which was a concern even when it seemed that tests were promising, is that it seemed to output more energy than the amount consumed by it which violates Newton’s Third Law. According to astrophysicist Brian Koberlien, the “impossible” result of the EmDrive test could be due to electromagnetic leaks in the chamber or the drive coupling with the Earth’s magnetic field. Until the results are peer-reviewed, Koberlien says, we won’t know.

Regardless, NASA has resolved to continue to research and develop new ways of travelling to the stars:

“The agency does fund very fundamental research as part of our advanced concepts and innovative investments that push the frontiers of science and engineering. This is part of what NASA does in exploring the unknown, and the agency is committed to and focused on the priorities and investments identified by the NASA Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan. Through these investments, NASA will develop the capabilities necessary to send humans further into space than ever before.”

Thank you space.com for providing us with this information.

Mars One Colonising Mission a Scam, According to Finalist

Non-profit Mars colony mission Mars One, currently in the process of narrowing down the candidates it intends to send to the Red Planet, is a scam, according to finalist Dr. Joseph Roche. Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College’s School of Education with doctorate degrees in physics and astrophysics, has called out Mars One in an interview with Elmo Keep on Medium.

Mars One claims to have selected its 100 finalists, of which Roche is one, from a pool of 200,000 applicants, but, according to Roche, the real number is just 2,761. He also accuses some of the finalists of buying their way onto the list.

Roche also claims that the multi-billion dollar Mars One project is pressuring finalists to donate money earned from guest appearances to the non-profit, which is odd considering the relatively low figures finalists would make out of such appearances.

Roche says that the finalists who appeared in a recent documentary about Mars One, produced by The Guardian newspaper, were only given that exposure since they generated the most money for the organisation.

Finally, he claims that the publicised psychological and psychometric tests Mars One supposedly used to narrow down the candidate shortlist never took place – Roche has never even met a member of the organisation, and his only interaction with the organisers was a 10-minute Skype interview.

Though Roche was reluctant to go public, fearing that it could erode public trust in future Mars ventures, he felt that he could not be silent about something that might ultimately damage the public’s perception of science.

Source: TechSpot

Britain Approves Europe’s First Spaceport

The British government has approved plans to build Europe’s first spaceport within the United Kingdom by 2018. The port is set to offer commercial space travel and high-speed international flights. Westminster agreed to the proposal after a three-month consultation period, during which time a shortlist of potential locations was drawn up. The list includes Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, and Llanbedr.

The proposal was first submitted in July last year, after the British Civil Aviation Authority put forward eight prospective sites for construction. Robert Goodwill, the UK’s Aviation Minster, said, “I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”

It is hoped that the port will also push innovation in super-speed flights, with the company behind construction suggesting that long-haul international flights like UK to Australia could be reduced from 12 hours to only 2. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are the two most likely candidates to operate flights out of the new spaceport.

Source: The Verge

Mars One Colonising Mission Down to its Final 100 Candidates

The candidates for the four seats on board the non-profit Mars colony mission, Mars One, are down to the final 100. The latest round of cuts on Tuesday reduced the pool from 660 candidates, a process which began with 200,000 applicants three years ago.

The Mars One mission aims to be the first manned mission to the Red Planet, sending four settlers hurtling through space on a one-way journey. The expedition aims to launch by 2025.

Once the first four colonists are established on Mars – living in hermetically sealed habitat pods, with greenhouses and rovers at their disposal – Mars One plans further missions, adding to the colonists’ numbers every few years.

The 100 finalists have been picked from all over the globe, with 39 from the American continents, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania. The selection was narrowed following interviews with Mars One’s Chief Medical Officer Norbert Craft, who assessed candidates for team spirit, motivation, and risk management.

Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp says that he wants to pick the final four through a televised reality competition, with advertising generated from the show going towards the cost of the mission.

Source: Mashable

Space Probe Rosetta Is Operational After Being In Hibernation For 4 Years

An artists impression of space probe Rosetta rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The space probe launched by The European Space Agency or ESA has sent its first transmission back to earth after 3 years of hibernation from over 800 million kilometers away. The probe named Rosetta sent its first signal to the ESA this morning, with the ESA saying they received Rosetta’s “Hello World” signal loud and clear. The probe was launched in 2004, but was put in hibernation mode in 2011 to save energy for the over 7 billion kilometer trek around the inner Solar System before it will rendezvous with the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Space shuttle carrying the 3 tonne Rosetta blasting off from Kourou, French Guiana

Now that the probe is out of hibernation and if all goes to plan Rosetta will meet up with the comet in the next 10 of months. Once close enough to the comet Rosetta will drop a lunar probe to the comet’s surface to study and carry out experiments on the icy surface of the comet. Depending on whether you believe the creation of the universe happened with the “Big Bang”, comets are seen by those who do as being remnants of the birth of our star system and left overs from the “Big Bang”. Scientists hope that the information the lunar probe finds on the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will help unlock the secrets of how our solar system was created and what was the secret to kick-starting life on earth.

Artists impression of Rosetta’s lunar lander probe

Scientists from the ESA said that the reason Rosetta was placed in hibernation was because on its travels to rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “it was so far from the sun that the light was too dim to power its solar array, so it was shut down to conserve energy”. With Rosetta being so far away scientists at the ESA had to wait over 8 hours for the signal to reach earth, with the transmission travelling over 800 million kilometers just to reach us. A press statement released by the ESA summed up the feelings of all those involved with the project “It was a fairy-tale ending to a tense chapter”.

An artists impression of Rosetta flying past Mars

Who knows what kind of data this expedition will uncover using this high-tech lunar probe, we’ll keep you updated on more information regarding Rosetta and it’s mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko when it becomes available.

Thank you news.com.au for the information provided 

Images courtesy of  news.com.au

Thousands Trying For A Ticket To Mars

Ever dreamed of going into space? How about landing on Mars? Well the Mars One project which was setup in 2011 with the dream of setting up and starting a permanent colony on Mars, is getting closer to this dream. The way Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp plans to do this is by selecting just over 1,000 finalists short listed from over 200,00 people who applied for this one way mission to Mars. The 1,058 finalist will now go onto round two of the shortlist, with the final number of participants selected being only 24.

However before we all get excited, one has to think how is all this going to be paid for? Seeing as the Apollo mission to put a man on the moon costed around $25.4 billion in 1969 or around $135 billion as of 2005, Mars One will need a lot of funding to get this mission off the ground and into space. Well Bas Lansdorp hopes that the project will be funded by investors and rights to a documentary/reality TV broadcasting of tests, training and the final selection. A mixed group of finalists have so far been selected from around the world with the most of the 1,058 finalists coming from America (297), Canada (75) and India (62). These finalists will have to face rigorous tests, from experiencing G-forces, coping with stress, isolation and the biggest test being simulation of life on Mars. Would you be willing to try to be one of the first people on Mars? Do you think you have what it takes? Bas Lansdorp went on to explain Mars One’s selection criteria;

“The challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission less seriously.”

We’ll bring you more information on the finalists and status of the Mars One’s missions when it becomes available.

Thank you Nine MSN for the information provided

Image courtesy of GeoAwesomeness.com

 

 

 

World View Enterprises To Sell $75000 Balloon Rides To Near-Space

Companies offering trips to space are nothing new, but where companies like Virgin Galactic want to use a more familiar style of flying into space in a craft with wings, engines etc, World View wants to take a more relaxed route.

For $75,000 per person, the company hopes to take people up in a balloon like no other. The Tuscon based startup is hoping to use a helium balloon that will take customers to nearly 100,000 feet, which is around 10x more than the average balloon flight, although most only go to around 3000 feet!

100,000 feet really is the edge of space, so much so that the Federal Aviation Administration have declared their capsules as “space vehicles.” This classification means they have to reach a much tougher set of guidelines than typical aircraft.

The craft will hold eight people inside its pressurized capsule as it makes its 1.5 hour ascent to 100,000 feet, then it would stay there for around two hours and then back to earth to complete their 4 hour round trip. At this hight the customers would be able to see the black of space around them as well as the full curvature of the earth, awesome!

The company hopes to take of the skies in just three years.

Thank you Natmonitor for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of World View.