There have been several articles of interest over the past few weeks.
Renewed Kepler Search
NASA’s Kepler is working a new mission. It had been feared that a malfunction aboard the spacecraft would render it useless. Engineers though were able to craft a solution that allows Kepler to keep hunting exoplanets. Using creative thinking, engineers were able to stabilize Kepler by using radiation pressure from the sun.
Now more than 2 years later Kepler’s second life has yielded more than 35 exoplanets and more than 250 exoplanet candidates awaiting confirmation. Kepler has more than 2 years worth of fuel remaining, so we can expect more discoveries.
Kepler is about to add a new task to it’s mission, searching for free ranging exoplanets. Kepler will use micro-gravitational lensing to detect these wandering exoplanets.
SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 first stage on their barge on April 8. That first stage is currently being prepared for use again. The plan is to use it within two months. Being able to reuse the first stage will cut launch costs and make space craft available for laugh more quickly.
Successfully reusing this first stage will be a significant step forward for private space companies like SpaceX.
Inflatables In Orbit
The Bigelow module has been delivered and installed on the ISS. While this is only for evaluation and test, Bigelow already has a much larger unit, the B330 designed. As their web site states “The B330 is an expandable space habitat manufactured by Bigelow Aerospace. The design was evolved from NASA’s TransHab habitat concept. The B330 will have 330 cubic meters (12,000 cu/ft) of internal space. The craft will support zero-gravity research including scientific missions, manufacturing processes, a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars.“
These or similar modules could easily be used to expand the ISS or set up habitat space in orbit around the Moon or Mars. These could also be used to build new orbiting habitats or recreational sites. Bigelow hopes to have these modules in orbit by 2020. They truly lay the groundwork for an “out of this world” vacation.