Here are a few more articles covering space that I thought were interesting.
SpaceX to use Most Powerful Rocket for Mars Shot
In early posts I have mentioned that SpaceX plans to send a Dragon module to Mars by 2018. The plan will be to use it to retrieve samples from Mars. They will be using the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, the big brother to the current Falcon 9. When put into use, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in operation (The Saturn V used for the Apollo Moon missions was more powerful, but has been retired).
In recent tests the Falcon 9 surprised the SpaceX engineers by demonstrating enough thrust to launch over 50,000 pounds of payload into orbit (up from the previous maximum load of only 29,000 pounds). The Falcon Heavy will be able to carry almost 120,000 pounds into orbit. The Falcon Heavy is currently planned for a first launch late in 2016.
The planned soft landing on the surface of Mars using thrusters to slow the descent is untried so far. SpaceX will achieve a number of new firsts if they are able to pull this off. Read more here and here.
Three New Exoplanets Possible Homes for Life
Three exoplanets discovered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Southern Observatory with its Belgian Trappist telescope are good candidates for life. These planets orbit a relatively small, cool star and may have habitable zones. They lie only 40 lightyears away, so are relatively close. Between the proximity and dimness of the star, the atmospheres should be easier to analyze from Earth.
Boing CST-100 Starliner
While the Starliner was supposed to debut in 2017, it looks like it will now be 2018 before it’s first flight. The Boing entry was supposed to be the second space flight option to the SpaceX Dragon for transportation to the ISS and low Earth orbit.