Category Archives: Moon

Tourists Visiting the Dark Side of the Moon

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Elon Musk and SpaceX don’t have a reputation of taking small steps. For the private space company, bigger is better. The next big step? Musk plans to send two private passengers on a one week journey around the moon some time next year.

The passengers have made sizable investments in the company and are “serious” about making the trip. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will carry the two intrepid travelers. A Falcon Heavy rocket will carry the capsule into Earth orbit. One of the things that makes the journey so ambitious is that the Falcon Heavy has yet to launch on an operational flight. That there will be few successful launches before this moon shot, has to raise the pucker factor of the two passengers up a few notches.

What is the Falcon Heavy?

pad_39_a_falcon_heavy_artist_cropped Artist depiction of the Falcon Heavy (SpaceX)

Previously called the Falcon 9 Heavy, the Falcon Heavy will be…

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Jade Rabbit Retired

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Has you heard of the Jade Rabbit? Did you know it was just retired?

I don’t recall hearing about the Moon rover named the Yutu (translated as the Jade Rabbit). As it turns out the Chinese have been guiding the rover around the Moon since December 14, 2013. While its mobility was cut short after only about a month on the lunar surface, it did continue to send scientific data back to Earth until July 31.

While most of what we in the US see is related to NASA and US companies, it is important to understand that there are several other countries with growing and successful space organizations.

Space News #7

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Many articles being published on space related topics. Here are a few that I thought were interesting.

Extraterrestrial First Contact Protocol

Yes we haven’t seen any signs that there are extraterrestrials, but that has not stopped consideration on how we should proceed with that first contact. In “Extraterrestrial First Contact in Space Protocols” retired USAF Major General Ken Wisian, currently with Galactic Ventures LLC of Austin, TX, considers how we should proceed when/if we encounter aliens.

This lengthy academic paper lays out a suggested procedure we should follow if we encounter other intelligent life. Key to his recommendations are: Introduction – approaching without seeming hostile; Current human protocols – encounters between terrestrial vessels;  Human History – results of encounters with indigenous peoples; and What should be in this Protocol – predictability, no hostility and communication.

Needless to say the article has generated quite a bit of discussion in the comments.

Moon Outpost

If and when humans travel again to the Moon with the intentions of setting up a camp, habitat is going to be needed. NASA, the ESA as well as private organizations are looking at 3D printing as one solution. More options to the use of 3D printing are explained in “Want to build a moon base? Easy—just print it“.

Third parties propose orbital platforms for Moon and Mars

Lockheed Martin has proposed a Mars orbiting station that can be put in place by 2028. Their proposal would provide accommodations for six astronaut-scientists. The station would be build around a pair of their Orion spacecraft. More details can be read in “Lockheed Martin Outlines Plan to Send Humans to Mars Orbit by 2028“.

A similar proposal by Orbital ATK would place an outpost in Lunar orbit by the end of this decade. This proposal uses the Cygnus spacecraft that is already being used to ferry supplies to the ISS. More on the proposal can be read in “New Space Station Orbiting The Moon By 2020 Announced“.

In either of these proposals, astronauts could do extensive, remote controlled robotic exploration as there would be near real-time control. I hope that one or both of these get funded.

The next Mars Rover

The next rover is planned for Mars in 2020. NASA is well into the design of the new rover at JPL. The engineers are taking advantage of the Augmented Reality provided by Microsoft HoloLens to complete their work. Using the HoloLens, engineers can see a mixture of real-world and computer generated objects. Read more.