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Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Feb 2017 16:52

What A Nuclear Test Can Teach Us About The Moon
by Sam Lemonick Forbes.com February 09, 2019

More than 70 years later, the world’s first nuclear weapon test has taught us something new. Something new about the Moon.

Image
The Gadget test at Trinity. This photo was taken 0.25 seconds after detonation. (Shutterstock)

The leading theory of how the Moon formed starts with a Mars-sized object smashing into Earth. It’s called the Giant Impact Theory for a reason. The resulting debris cloud eventually coalesced into our moon.

One reason we think that happened is because of what we see when looking at the chemical makeup of rocks. Lunar and terrestrial rocks have essentially identical compositions, implying a common source. But when it comes to lighter elements that evaporate more easily, the Moon has far fewer. That points to the Moon starting out extremely hot, which would make sense if it formed from impact debris.

The element zinc is one way to look see that. It has five stable isotopes, which are close chemical siblings that differ only by a few subatomic particles. Lunar rocks have zinc’s heavier isotopes, but not the lighter ones. Another piece of evidence for the Giant Impact Theory. Except we didn’t have any direct proof that lighter isotopes would evaporate first at the extreme temperatures and pressures we think happened during the Moon’s formation.

That’s where the 1945 Trinity nuclear test comes in. James Day, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, calls it a eureka moment. We can’t replicate the temperature and pressure of a giant impact in the lab, but Day realized that the conditions at the Trinity site were just right.

The Gadget device was detonated at the Trinity site in July 1945 just weeks before an identical one, called Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing 40,000 people.

Among the effects of Gadget’s explosion was formation of a special type of glass, known as trinitite, from the desert sand. It formed between 1,200 and 1,500 degrees Celsius, Day says, just about what we’d expect during the giant impact that may have formed the moon. Day and his research team compared the zinc isotope composition of trinitite to that of lunar rocks.

Just like lunar rocks, they found less of zinc’s lighter isotopes in trinitite. The further out they went from the test site’s ground zero, the more lighter isotopes they found, showing Day and his group that high temperature and pressure—which both decreased with distance from the bomb—are responsible.

“I think it’s kind of cool to work on materials that were from a major human-induced experiment that had such a huge effect and impact on human history, and I’m really pleased we could use it for some kind of scientific benefit,” says Day.

Their new paper in Science Advances confirms the theory about zinc isotopes that Day floated in another paper about five years ago. Now other scientists are thinking the Trinity site could give us more evidence to understand the Giant Impact Theory.

“We never knew there was a giant impact, it’s just giant impact makes sense to explain the current composition of lunar rocks,” says Kun Wang, a geochemist at Washington University in St. Louis. “This type of data is very valuable.”

Wang has done similar work to Day, but with isotopes of potassium. He says he’s planning to test his potassium theories using trinitite, too.

Website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/samlemonick ... cc7f6e3c2c

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Feb 2017 17:03

GOOGLE LUNAR XPRIZE AWARDS $1 MILLION DIVERSITY PRIZE, FIVE TEAMS MOVE FORWARD TO FINAL PHASE OF COMPETITION
by Lunar.xprize.org January 24, 2017

LOS ANGELES (January 24, 2017) - Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that a $1 million Diversity Prize will be split among 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, and that five teams have verified launch contracts and are moving forward to the final phase of the competition to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.

“XPRIZE and Google have been awestruck by the educational outreach activities conducted by all of the competing teams and have decided to split the $1 million Diversity Prize across all 16 teams to recognize each of their unique approaches and initiatives over the years,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. “Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

All teams had until December 31, 2016 to have a verified launch contract in place. XPRIZE has verified the launch contracts of the following five teams, who are moving forward to the final phase of the competition:

SpaceIL (Israel), a non-profit organization, has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Their goal is to make an educational impact and to create an “Apollo Effect” for the next generation in Israel.
Moon Express (USA), signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar missions by 2020. Their directive is to open up the Moon’s vast resources for humanity and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.
Synergy Moon (International), team member Interorbital Systems will serve as the launch provider, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface of the Moon. Synergy Moon is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, with a mission to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration cost effective and accessible.
TeamIndus (India), signed a commercial launch contract aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). TeamIndus’ spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV and will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
HAKUTO (Japan), signed a rideshare agreement to have TeamIndus carry its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. Hakuto’s ultimate target is to explore holes that are thought to be caves or ‘skylights’ into underlying lava tubes, for the first time in history, which could lead to important scientific discoveries and possibly identifying long-term habitats to shield humans from the Moon’s hostile environment.
In recognition of the diverse mission plans of each finalist team, XPRIZE made an update to the guidelines to require that the launch is initiated by the December 31, 2017 deadline, instead of completed.

About the Google Lunar XPRIZE
The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth. Visit http://lunar.xprize.org/ or @GLXP for more information.

About XPRIZE
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, the $1.75M Water Abundance XPRIZE and the $1M Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE. For more information, visit http://www.xprize.org/.

Media Contact
Eric Desatnik
310.741.4892
eric@xprize.org

Website: http://lunar.xprize.org/press-release/g ... ve-forward

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Feb 2017 18:43

Rocket Lab ships first Electron rocket to launch site
by Caleb Henry Spacenews.com February 16, 2017

Image
Rocket Lab's first Electron rocket, named "It's a Test," arrived at the company’s Launch Complex 1 facility to kick off pre-flight checkouts ahead of a test campaign consisting of three trial launches. Credit: Rocket Lab

WASHINGTON — Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab shipped its first orbital launch vehicle to the company’s Launch Complex 1 facility to kick off pre-flight checkouts ahead of a test campaign consisting of three trial launches.

The startup had originally planned to commence test launches in 2016, but opted to perform additional ground testing, give its team some downtime around the Christmas holiday, and also complete infrastructure for the launch facility at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, Founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck told SpaceNews Feb. 15.

Beck said that the first rocket’s name, “It’s a Test,” is indicative of the company’s mindset toward the debut launch as being an extension of the research and development for Electron before it formally enters service.

“What we want to do is make sure we come into our commercial manifest with a vehicle that’s well buttoned and ready to go,” said Beck. “We have a lot of customers and commitments. We don’t really have time to have a vehicle that’s still in development.”

The Electron launcher is a carbon-composite rocket designed to launch payloads up to 150 kilograms into a 500-kilometer low Earth orbit. Announced customers include Planet, Moon Express, NASA and Spire.


Electron Arrives at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1. Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, after launching more than 80 sounding rockets, started development of the orbital Electron launcher three years ago. The company’s long-term goal is to perform roughly one launch a week, providing dedicated missions for small satellite operators.

Beck said each of the first three trial launches will scale in difficulty, increasing altitude and payload mass each time so that Rocket Lab can gauge the performance capability of the rocket. Rocket Lab will collect more than 20,000 channels of data from each flight, he said.

“The first test flights are all about generating data,” he said.

However, only the first launch will be completely absent of customers. Beck said the second and third test flights will have some customer payloads on board.

Image
Image
Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab cautioned that the probability of abandoned, or scrubbed, launch attempts with the test flights is high due to the nature of the company’s test regime. The company didn’t give a timeframe for launch. Spokesperson Catherine Moreau-Hammond told SpaceNews Feb. 16 that the timing of the launches depends on the progress of Electron checkouts at site.

“We expect to notify windows of attempts several weeks in advance of the launch,” she said.

“We understand the desire everyone has to get out there and watch,” Beck said in a prepared statement. “History has shown with any test launch program that there is a likelihood of scrubs. We value everyone’s time, and wouldn’t want people waiting around for us.”

If all goes as planned, Beck said Rocket Lab wants to launch seven times this year — three tests and four fully-commercial — and 13 or more times in 2018. Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 facility in New Zealand is licensed to launch once every 72 hours, and the company has highlighted the location as one with limited constraints thanks to an absence of much maritime or aviation activity.

Website: http://spacenews.com/rocket-lab-ships-f ... unch-site/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 19 Feb 2017 19:09

India may meet its energy needs from moon by 2030
by IANS TOI February 19, 2017

HIGHLIGHTS
India may be able to meet all its energy requirements from moon by 2030
There is enough helium on the moon, which can meet the energy requirements of the world, an Isro professor said

Image

NEW DELHI: India may be able to meet all its energy requirements from resources on the moon by 2030, a scientist associated with the ISRO said on Saturday. Sivathanu Pillai, a distinguished professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said here that India's all energy requirements can be met through Helium-3 mined from the moon.

"By 2030, this process target will be met," Pillai said while delivering the valedictory address at the three-day ORF-Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue, organised by Observer Research Foundation.

Pillai, a former chief of BrahMos Aerospace, said mining lunar dust, which is rich in Helium-3 is a priority programme for the ISRO.According to an ORF release, Pillai said other countries are also working on the project and there is enough helium on the moon, which can meet the energy requirements of the world.

"In a few decades, people will be going to the moon for honey-moon," Pillai quipped.

Lt. Gen. P.M. Bali, Director General, Perspective Planning, Indian Army, said the launch of GSAT-7, India's first dedicated military satellite, is a testimony to the country's outlook towards using the outer space for national security. He noted that India possesses one of the largest constellations of communication and remote sensing satellites covering Asia Pacific.

Lt. Gen. Bali said although India continues with a civilian orientation to its space programme, the changing regional and global realities require it to also develop military assets in space and on ground as an emerging regional and global power. He said there is a need for a dedicated military space programme with adequate resources at its disposal because of "the changing realities in our neighbourhood".

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home ... 230182.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 25 Feb 2017 17:40

Human colony on moon certainly a possibility
by The HANS INDIA February 25,2017

Image
K Kasturirangan

Hyderabad: Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan has said decades of space research have only touched the tip of the iceberg understanding various planets, and continuous exploration of the solar system would throw light on possible options for humans to settle down. The former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) also said that establishing a human colony on the moon is certainly possible that can have objective to explore and exploit resources.

"As a human colony (on lunar surface)...certainly this is possible but as a permanent place for human habitation...one has to evaluate it after the initial exploration part of it," Kasturirangan told PTI.

"There are for example...Chandrayaan-1 (India's moon mission) has looked at a 10-km tunnel (on moon) which looks to be a very nice way in which human beings....after all these developments for centuries, will go back into caves.

That's possible. So, I can't say anything about this at this stage," he said. The former Secretary in Department of Space and ex-Chairman of Space Commission, said issues of sustainability are yet to be evaluated on the matter of permanently setting down on moon. "That's exactly why you want to explore some more objects in the solar system to evaluate that sustainability," he said.

On reports that a mission to Venus is on the drawing board of ISRO, Kasturirangan said, "If that is there, it's great. Solar system is a system on which we have not made much progress and understand...50 to 60 years of space research by itself has only touched the tip of the iceberg understanding the various planets."

Any exploration of the planet gives one an insight into origin and evolution of the solar system, he noted.
"Secondly, this (exploration in general) is to look at some of the planets in respect to long term survivability of human kind," he added. "Currently, human kind has originated and evolved on the Earth.

Can this be a single point of habitation for the human kind? or do we need to have other options in the solar system, so that there is no single point catastrophe that can destroy the society or human kind due to some unexpected reasons...it could be related to meteoric impacts or it could be local problems like virus and things of that kind," he said.

Kasturirangan said exploration of the solar system is a human imperative of the future."How we want to explore this and what kind of planets should come in the agenda are a matter of choice between scientists and other strategic thinkers. And I think that's what ISRO is currently doing," he said.

Website: http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index ... ity/283092

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby gakakkad » 25 Feb 2017 19:23

bharats wrote:India may meet its energy needs from moon by 2030
by IANS TOI February 19, 2017

HIGHLIGHTS
India may be able to meet all its energy requirements from moon by 2030
There is enough helium on the moon, which can meet the energy requirements of the world, an Isro professor said

Image

NEW DELHI: India may be able to meet all its energy requirements from resources on the moon by 2030, a scientist associated with the ISRO said on Saturday. Sivathanu Pillai, a distinguished professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said here that India's all energy requirements can be met through Helium-3 mined from the moon.

"By 2030, this process target will be met," Pillai said while delivering the valedictory address at the three-day ORF-Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue, organised by Observer Research Foundation.

Pillai, a former chief of BrahMos Aerospace, said mining lunar dust, which is rich in Helium-3 is a priority programme for the ISRO.According to an ORF release, Pillai said other countries are also working on the project and there is enough helium on the moon, which can meet the energy requirements of the world.

"In a few decades, people will be going to the moon for honey-moon," Pillai quipped.

Lt. Gen. P.M. Bali, Director General, Perspective Planning, Indian Army, said the launch of GSAT-7, India's first dedicated military satellite, is a testimony to the country's outlook towards using the outer space for national security. He noted that India possesses one of the largest constellations of communication and remote sensing satellites covering Asia Pacific.

Lt. Gen. Bali said although India continues with a civilian orientation to its space programme, the changing regional and global realities require it to also develop military assets in space and on ground as an emerging regional and global power. He said there is a need for a dedicated military space programme with adequate resources at its disposal because of "the changing realities in our neighbourhood".

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home ... 230182.cms


Definitely a misquote .. by 2030 they could probably figure out of way of extracting He. We still don't know how to control a fusion reactor... I doubt isro scientists and professors would make such a rash statement.. ddm at play..

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 25 Feb 2017 20:54

To the moon, and beyond
by The Editorial Board The Times Tribune February 25, 2017

Image
NASA's Orion spacecraft hits the water in a Sept. 16 simulated ocean splashdown test at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. (Associated Press File)

President Donald Trump issued a huge challenge to NASA recently when he said he wants to convert a planned unmanned test of a new system into a manned mission.

Late next year, NASA plans to launch its giant new Space Launch System rocket with a new Orion crew capsule. The plan is for Orion to orbit the moon, return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean for recovery. Under its timeline, a crew would not board Orion until several years later.

Last week, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot directed William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s director of human spaceflight, to assess the feasibility of converting next year’s test into a manned mission.

The question, though, is to what end? Trump wants to send a message to China that the United States still is the predominant power in space exploration, which is to the good. But in terms of putting people in orbit around the moon, NASA has been there and done that, has landed a dozen people on the moon and brought them back to Earth.

If the United States returns to the moon, it must have a purpose other than demonstrating that we can do it. We already know that much. The objective should be the beginning of the next giant leap for mankind — creating a permanent lunar base as a precursor of a human mission to Mars.

Technology and the space business model have advanced exponentially in the nearly 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission. Trump truly should demonstrate American prowess by making any impending human mission part of a grander goal, incorporating the best ideas and technology not only of NASA but of the many private businesses now engaged in space.

Website: http://thetimes-tribune.com/opinion/to- ... -1.2159278

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 25 Feb 2017 21:26

Study suggests we reclassify the moon as a planet – reopening a centuries-old debate
by Stephen Pumfrey Rawstory.com February 25, 2017

Image
Full Moon (Shutterstock)

Every now and then a scientific paper makes a real splash. We had one recently, to judge from recent headlines. “Moon rises to claim its place as a planet” said The Sunday Times on February 19, while the Mail Online asked “Is this lunarcy?”. The articles were among many responding to the humble paper: “A Geophysical Planet Definition”, which suggested that the criteria for determining what constitutes a planet need an overhaul. It argued that the moon, Pluto and several other bodies in the solar system should be upgraded to planets.

The paper, published in Planetary and Lunar Science, was written by a team including Alan Stern. Stern is famous for NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made its spectacular flyby of Pluto in July 2015. The paper is a bit technical, but it basically argues that the geophysics of a body should determine whether it is a planet – not just whether it orbits the sun.

Of course, Stern has an axe to grind. He remains furious that, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union [IAU] deemed that Pluto was not a planet. By the time his probe reached its destination, Pluto was a mere “plutoid”, a “trans-Uranian dwarf planet”. In the article he strikes back. He is fed up with people asking “why did you send New Horizons to Pluto if it’s not a planet anymore?”

Lessons from the past
We are so used to thinking of the Earth’s satellite as a moon that the idea that it could be a planet is truly shocking. But ancient Greek and medieval astronomers all assumed that the moon was indeed a planet.

Ancient observers knew that the stars maintain their relative positions night after night: they saw constellations such as Leo or Gemini just as we do. But they also saw seven heavenly bodies slowly change their positions, wandering from west to east through the sky. The most important was the sun. The 12 signs of the Zodiac it passed through marked out the circle astronomers call the ecliptic (see figure below). The sun (we would say the Earth, of course) orbited in one year, while Saturn wandered through this plane every 30 years, Jupiter every 12 years and Mars every two years. Planet Moon did so in 1/12 year – one month. In fact, the word for planet comes from the Greek πλανήτης (Latin planeta) meaning “wanderer”.

Image
Ecliptic with earth and sun animation.Author Tfr000 /wikipedia, CC BY-SA

The moon was of special interest. Its proximity made it the only “planet” with visible features – “the man in the moon”. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) asked several questions about the physics of the moon – including why we always see the same face, and never the far side? It’s a good question, and astronomers now explain it as the result of gravitational forces between planets and large moons, and they call it “tidal locking”.

Aristotle drew a different conclusion. He thought it proved that the moon had no innate ability to rotate or move. He assumed the same was true of all planets. They only move, he said, because they are carried in a circle. This was the origin of elaborate Medieval cosmology in which the planets and stars are rotated by a nest of celestial spheres. Had our moon not been tidally locked, astronomy might have taken a different path.

Image
An illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric system by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho, 1568.wikipedia

Did our predecessors have good reason to include the moon with the other planets? I think so, but mainly because of a strange astronomical coincidence. Almost all large moons orbit in, or very close to, the equatorial plane of their parent planet, but our moon does not – it inclines by as much as 28 degrees. However, Earth’s equatorial plane is tilted with respect to the ecliptic by angle of 23.5. The combination of these two unusual circumstances means that the moon does appear to move in the plane of the ecliptic – and never more than 5 degrees above or below it. Without it, ancient astronomers might not have treated the moon as a typical planet.

Lingering ambivalence?
With Copernicus’s heliocentric astronomy, published in 1543, the moon ceased to be a typical planet. Uniquely, as Copernicus’s critics pointed out, its orbit was centred on the Earth, not the sun. It was now Earth’s “satelles”, meaning servant, from which our word satellite derives. And there was more loss of status in store. When Galileo trained his telescope on Jupiter in 1610, he discovered four satellites. Lovely news for Copernicans, but not for Luna. It was no longer THE moon, but one of five, a number which rose rapidly towards the 182 moons we know today.

Image
Galileo’s sketches of the moon. Wellcome images/wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Seemingly, there is nothing new under the sun. In Galileo’s time the moon was the subject of an argument between the new cosmologists, who saw it as Earth-like with seas and lands, and the old astronomers who insisted that it was a proper, perfect heavenly body.

With his new definition of a planet, Alan Stern has renewed that battle. According to his paper, astronomers “may find the IAU definition perfectly useful” but “our geophysical definition is more useful for planetary geoscience practitioners, educators and students.” Or, as Stern put it bluntly in 2015: “Why would you listen to astronomers about a planet [instead of] planetary scientists that know something about this subject”. And they know, or think they know, that the moon should become a planet again. Whether that will actually happen is completely down to the International Astronomical Union, which would have to make the decision.

Note:
Stephen Pumfrey is a Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article at https://theconversation.com/study-sugge ... bate-73575

Website: https://www.rawstory.com/2017/02/study- ... ld-debate/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Feb 2017 19:33

Moon may have formed from many small ones
by Associated Press The Times Tribune January 12, 2017

Image
Associated Pres- A nearly full moon is seen among Christmas lights at a holiday display near Lenexa, Kan., on Dec. 24, 2015.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A series of cosmic collisions may have spawned multiple moonlets that morphed into the one big moon we know today.

Rather than one giant impact that knocked off part of early Earth and created the moon, a number of smaller collisions may have produced lots of mini-moons, Israeli scientists reported Monday

And those mini-moons, over millions of years, may have clumped together to make one large one.

The researchers conducted nearly 1,000 computer simulations and estimate about 20 impacts could do the job. They say that would explain why the moon seems to be composed of material from Earth, rather than some other planet, too.

It’s actually an old theory revitalized now by the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Raluca Rufu in Rehovot, Israel, and his team. Their findings were published in Nature Geoscience.

“Our model suggests that the ancient Earth once hosted a series of moons, each one formed from a different collision with the proto-Earth,” said co-author Hagai Perets of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Ms. Rufu added in the same statement: “It’s likely that small moons formed through the process could cross orbits, collide and merge.”

Small collisions like this were common in the early solar system, and support their premise. But a London scientist not associated with the study — Imperial College’s Gareth Collins — is urging more evidence on both sides of the moon-forming argument.

Some of the moonlets surely were lost in space or did not merge properly with what was to become today’s moon, Mr. Collins said in a companion article, and so many more impacts may have been required. That, in turn, would make the multi-impact theory “far less probable than any of the more exotic single-impact scenarios,” he wrote.

Website: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/moon-m ... -1.2141188

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Feb 2017 20:36

Men on Moon mission?
by AFP Thehindu.com February 25, 2017

Image
An artist's concept of the launch of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule. Photo Credit: NASA

Highlights
The Orion test flight known as EM-1, scheduled for 2018, could possibly delay until mid-2019, as the study is evaluating the pros and cons of adding two crew members.
The current plan is to send astronauts on Orion’s second flight, EM-2, an eight-day mission in 2021.
The Orion space capsule aims to “stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.”

NASA mulls putting astronauts on deep space test flight
The U.S. space agency said on Friday it is considering putting astronauts on an upcoming test flight of the deep space capsule Orion as it aims to orbit the Moon. Orion is being built with an eye to one day ferry astronauts to Earth’s neighbouring planet, Mars, perhaps by the 2030s.

Until now, the Orion test flight known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), scheduled for 2018, was expected to be unmanned. But NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot asked on February 15 for the space agency to study the feasibility of putting people on board, and the findings of that study are expected in the coming months.

“Our priority is to ensure the safe and effective execution of all our planned exploration missions with the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s human exploration and operations mission directorate.

The capsule will be propelled to space atop a rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which is currently being developed. NASA has described it as the “most powerful rocket in the world.”. Orion will “fly farther than any spacecraft humans has ever flown,” NASA added.

The space capsule also aims to “stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.” The study is evaluating the pros and cons of adding two crew members, and could possibly delay the EM-1 mission until mid-2019.

The current plan is to send astronauts on Orion’s second flight, EM-2, an eight-day mission in 2021.

Website: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/scienc ... 368968.ece

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 28 Feb 2017 22:31

As SpaceX Unveils Space Tourist Moon Flight, NASA Reacts
by Tariq Malik Space.com February 28, 2017

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled an ambitious plan yesterday to fly two private space tourists around the moon in 2018. The move drew a commendation from NASA along with a clear reminder that the agency expects SpaceX to meet its other obligations while pursuing the moon.

In a teleconference with reporters Monday (Feb. 27), Musk said SpaceX will launch two paying passengers around the moon using the company's Dragon crew capsule and massive Falcon Heavy rocket. Both vehicles are scheduled for unpiloted test flights later this year.

"NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station."

Under the SpaceX plan, passengers would take a trip on Dragon and loop around the moon, "skimming" above the lunar surface at the closest point and flying out up to 400,000 miles (650,000 kilometers) from Earth at the farthest point. The entire trip should last five days, Musk said.

The flight could launch near the end of 2018, and potentially coincide with the 50th anniversary of NASA's historic flight of Apollo 8, which launched the first Apollo astronauts around the moon in December 1968.

SpaceX has a $2.6 billion contract with NASA to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station using its Dragon crew capsules and Falcon 9 rockets, which are smaller than the Falcon Heavy. Those flights are funded through NASA's Commercial Crew Program and were expected to begin in 2018, though a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that the first crewed flights by SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner (NASA's other astronaut taxi choice) will likely slip to 2019.

SpaceX has been flying unpiloted Dragon cargo ships to the International Space Station since 2012 under a separate contract with NASA. Another company, Orbital ATK, has been doing the same with its robotic Cygnus supply ships since 2014. A third company, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, is developing a robotic Dream Chaser space plane to deliver NASA cargo as well.

"For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity's future in space," NASA officials wrote in the statement on SpaceX's moon plan. "NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration."

Musk told reporters that NASA would have first pick on the 2018 moon flight, and SpaceX would bump the two space tourists (who have already placed a "significant deposit" for the trip) to a later flight if the space agency wanted the seats. Musk did not reveal who had purchased the moon flight seats on Dragon, or how much the trip cost per person.

"NASA always has first priority," Musk said yesterday. "So if NASA decides to have the first mission of this nature be a NASA mission, then of course NASA would take priority."

SpaceX representatives said the first unpiloted Crew Dragon (or Dragon 2) test flight will launch by the end of 2017.

"This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board," SpaceX representatives wrote in a separate statement Monday. "A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018. SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions."

The moon flight and commercial Dragon flights for NASA will serve as steppingstones for SpaceX's ultimate goal, building a sustainable colony on Mars, Musk said.

"This should be incredibly exciting," Musk said. "Next year is going to be the big year for carrying people to the space station and hopefully beyond."

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An artist's illustration of a crewed Dragon spacecraft in space. Credit: SpaceX

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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #1 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #2 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #3 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #4 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #5 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX Dragon Mars Mission Concept Art #6 Credit: SpaceX (via Flickr as SpaceX Photos)
This SpaceX conceptual illustration depicts how the private spacecraft company plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to Mars. Image released Sept. 14, 2015.


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SpaceX's Crew Dragon Capsule Comfort Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon capsule (also known as Dragon V2) possesses four windows, offering passengers views from their seats, constructed using carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth. Image released Sept. 10, 2015.


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Crew Dragon Escape System Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon capsule possesses an emergency escape system (tested in 2015) to carry astronauts to safety, exposing them to about the same G-forces as provided by a Disneyland ride. Image released Sept. 10, 2015.


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Crew Dragon's Displays Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon capsule's displays provide information on the state of the spacecraft's capabilities in real time. Image released Sept. 10, 2015


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Crew Dragon Environmental Controls Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon capsule possesses an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) to create a comfortable environment for crew members. Image released Sept. 10, 2015.


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Crew Dragon Control Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon capsule will possess full autonomy, and also can be overseen by on board astronauts and SpaceX mission controllers in Hawthorne, California. Image released Sept. 10, 2015.


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Dragon in DC Credit: Tanya Lewis/Space.com
Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO and chief designer, introduced the new manned Dragon V2 spacecraft in Washington, DC, on June 10, 2014.


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Interior of SpaceX's Manned Dragon Capsule Credit: Tanya Lewis/Space.com
Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO and chief designer, introduced the new manned Dragon V2 spacecraft in Washington, DC, on June 10, 2014. The interior of SpaceX's manned Dragon capsule can fit up to seven astronauts on trips to low-Earth orbit.


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Musk and Senator Nelson Before Entering Dragon Capsule Credit: Tanya Lewis/Space.com
Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO and chief designer, introduced the new manned Dragon V2 spacecraft in Washington, DC, on June 10, 2014. Elon Musk (left) and senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) greet members of the press before entering the manned Dragon capsule on June 10, 2014.


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SpaceX's Dragon V2 Capsule Unveiled Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
The Dragon Version 2, post unveiling on May 29, 2014. Note the landing thrusters, three large windows (one in the swing-up hatch and the other two to the sides), and the landing legs.


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Elon Musk Poses with Dragon V2 Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
Elon Musk poses with his newest – and most remarkable – achievement, the Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, on May 29, 2014.


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Elon Musk Inside SpaceX's Dragon V2 Spacecraft Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
Musk narrated a portion of his unveiling inside the Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, May 29, 2014. The control panel in front of him swings up and completely out of the way for easy entrance and egress.


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Elon Musk Speaks at Dragon V2 Unveiling Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
Musk takes questions from reporters on May 29, 2014. While his media appearances can be brief and unpredictable, here on home turf he generously provided almost an hour of Q&A.


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SpaceX Dragon V2 Unveiled Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk (right) unveils the Dragon V2 manned spacecraft on May 29, 2014 during an event at the company's Hawthorne, California rocket factory. The Dragon V2 is designed to carry up to seven astronauts on roundtrip spaceflights.


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Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk (right) unveils the Dragon V2 manned spacecraft on May 29, 2014 during an event at the company's Hawthorne, California rocket factory. The Dragon V2 is designed to carry up to seven astronauts on roundtrip spaceflights.


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SpaceX's Manned Dragon Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX's Dragon Version 2 spaceship is designed to be reusable. Image released May 29, 2014.


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SpaceX's Dragon Version 2 Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX's manned Dragon Version 2 can carry as many as seven astronauts into orbit. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Dragon V2 Travels Through Space Credit: SpaceX
A still from an animated video shows SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule travelling through space. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Dragon V2 Docking at ISS Credit: SpaceX
A still from an animated video shows SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule docking to the International Space Station. Note a Dragon cargo capsule is already docked in the foreground. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Dragon V2 Reentry Credit: SpaceX
A still from an animated video shows SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule reentering's Earth atmosphere. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Dragon V2 Descent Credit: SpaceX
A still from an animated video shows SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule descending to Earth. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Manned Dragon Landing on Land Credit: SpaceX
The manned version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule will land using thrusters on Earth, as shown in this artist illustration.


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Dragon Version 2's Interior Credit: SpaceX
This wide shot of Dragon Version 2's interior shows the futuristic display screen and leather-lined seats. Image released May 29, 2014.


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Elon Musk Inside Dragon V2 Credit: SpaceX Livestream
SpaceX's billionaire founder Elon Musk steps inside the manned Dragon Version 2 after revealing the spaceship to the world on May 29, 2014.


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SpaceX Dragon V2 Preview Image - Seat Belt Credit: SpaceX (via Twitter as @SpaceX)
Dragon V2 – SpaceX’s next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to space. The unveiling took place on May 29, 2014.


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SpaceX Dragon V2 Preview Image - Control Panel Credit: SpaceX (via Twitter as @SpaceX)
The unveiling of Dragon V2 takes place on May 29, 2014. SpaceX will webcast the event directly from their state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California.


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SpaceX's Passenger-Carrying Dragon Capsule (Infographic)
Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor
Already tested as a cargo carrier, the Dragon spacecraft can also be fitted out to shuttle passengers to low orbit and to the International Space Station.


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SpaceX Engines on Display Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
A cluster of engines, manufactured by SpaceX in this plant, hung next to the Dragon Version 2. Image taken May 29, 2014.


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Dragon Cargo Capsule on Display at SpaceX Credit: Rod Pyle/Space.com
The Dragon Version 1. This particular spacecraft, which hangs over a common area at the SpaceX plant, was the first to return from orbit. Image taken May 29, 2014.


[SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft in Pictures]

Ref: Meet Dragon V2: SpaceX's Manned Space Taxi for Astronaut Trips (Photos): http://www.space.com/26060-spacex-drago ... hotos.html
Website: http://www.space.com/35850-spacex-priva ... ction.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 28 Feb 2017 22:40

SpaceX to send privately crewed dragon spacecraft beyond the Moon next year
by Spacex.com February 27, 2017

We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission. In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. Falcon Heavy is due to launch its first test flight this summer and, once successful, will be the most powerful vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket. At 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy is two-thirds the thrust of Saturn V and more than double the thrust of the next largest launch vehicle currently flying.

Later this year, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, we will launch our Crew Dragon (Dragon Version 2) spacecraft to the International Space Station. This first demonstration mission will be in automatic mode, without people on board. A subsequent mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018. SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions.

Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the moon and return to Earth. Lift-off will be from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral – the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions. This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.

Designed from the beginning to carry humans, the Dragon spacecraft already has a long flight heritage. These missions will build upon that heritage, extending it to deep space mission operations, an important milestone as we work towards our ultimate goal of transporting humans to Mars.

Website: http://www.spacex.com/news/2017/02/27/s ... -next-year

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 01 Mar 2017 23:28

Chandrayaan-2 to measure water on the moon: Misra
by TNN March 1, 2017

Ahmedabad: Work on some of the critical sensors of the Chandrayaan-2 mission is nearing completion at the Space Applications Centre (SAC) and the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL). These include three major payloads — scientific probes, crucial sensors and communication equipment that will be present in the orbiter, Lander and the Rover of the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

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Credit: chandrayaan-i.com

The latest sensors will help Isro validate, confirm and even make more crucial in-depth discoveries of the moon's topography in continuation to Chandrayaan-1 discoveries. While Chandrayaan-1 found water on the moon, SAC has mounted a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) providing L and S band readings on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter that will help calculate the amount of water on the moon.

"The SAR through differential readings can provide us an idea of the volume of water on moon surface," said SAC director Tapan Misra on the sidelines of the National Science Day celebrations at SAC. The orbiter will also carry three separate hyperspectral cameras that will map the terrain of the moon, including providing information on the mineralogy of the moon surface.

Besides the orbiter, SAC is providing the Rover with a high definition camera and a scientific probe, developed at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) to conduct on-site mineral investigations of the moon soil and rocks. SAC officials claim that a new innovation onboard the Chandrayaan-2 is special radar altimeter that will help the Lander to orient itself while it lands on the moon surface safely. The same altimeter will be used for a small test flight of the human space flight mission. The hi-tech SAC payloads will now be sent to Ahmedabad to be installed on Chandrayaan-2 mission to carry out tests.

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city ... 400214.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 16:53

Chandrayaan 2 mission: India may launch its second mission to Moon in first quarter of 2018, says ISRO chief
by Zee Media Bureau Thursday March 2, 2017

Image
Credit: ISRO

New Delhi: Chandrayaan 2, India's second mission to the Moon, is on course and is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2018, according to ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar.

The ISRO chief while delivering a speech at the seventh annual convocation of Vels University on Wednesday said that tests were underway for a controlled landing of the spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

"ISRO will develop an engine that will help in the controlled landing on the moon. The mission is currently planned for the first quarter of 2018," he said, adding that scientists had developed an artificial crater to simulate the surface of lunar conditions for the landing experiments.

He further revealed that a series of ground tests is also in progress at the ISRO facility in Mahendragiri, Tirunelveli district, and in Challakere, in Chitradurga district near Bengaluru. "The satellite is also getting ready," he added.

When asked about the Venus mission, Kumar said the project had not been finalised yet, but talks were on.

Chandrayaan 2, which consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover configuration, is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission.

It is planned to be launched as a composite stack into the Earth Parking Orbit (EPO) of 170 X 18,500 km by GSLV-Mk II, as per the Indian Space Research Organisation.

While the Orbiter with scientific payloads will orbit around the moon, the Lander will soft land on the Moon at a specified site and deploy the Rover.

On February 15, 2017, the Indian space agency scripted history by launching a record set of 104 satellites, including the country's earth observation satellite Cartosat-2 series, on a single rocket.

Website: http://zeenews.india.com/space/chandray ... 82630.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 19:24

Money Won't Save SpaceX's Moon Tourists If Something Goes Wrong
by Rae Paoletta Gizmodo.com March 02, 2017

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Image: SpaceX/Flickr

On Monday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that for the first time in history, it will be sending two private citizens on a trip around the Moon, in a Dragon 2 spacecraft. Because sending untrained civilians into space apparently isn’t enough of a gamble, Musk added that this mission would be taking place in Q4 of 2018. As an added reminder for emphasis, that’s next year. Another reminder: SpaceX has yet to send any humans into space, period.

While the prospect of space tourism is certainly exciting, a few salient questions remain. For one thing, who are these mysterious moneybags with (probably) hundreds of millions of dollars to blow on a week-long space sojourn? All we know about them is that, according to Musk, they’ve already given SpaceX a “significant deposit.” But more importantly, how the hell will this pair prepare for a mission that would take professional astronauts years of training? The answers to these questions are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, respectively.

There are a variety of reasons the thought of sending untrained civilians into space should give us pause. To even be considered for NASA’s astronaut candidate program, a person must meet physical and educational requirements, which these two affluent astronauts may or may not meet. According to NASA, if a person does not have a bachelor’s degree in “engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics,” they will not be considered, period. On top of that, the candidate’s degree “must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.”

These requirements, albeit intimidating, are important because frankly, spaceflight is a shit show. If something goes wrong, and things often do, astronauts have to be able to think on their feet and make complex decisions, which often involve some amount of science or engineering.

Beyond the educational requirements, all candidates for the American space program must additionally undergo a series of physical examinations, and, if selected, they’ll train for approximately two years at NASA’S Johnson Space Center. This is where the fun begins, per NASA’s official Astronaut Selection and Training site:

As part of the Astronaut Candidate training program, candidates are required to complete military water survival before beginning their flying syllabus, and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Consequently, all Astronaut Candidates are required to pass a swimming test during their first month of training. They must swim 3 lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim 3 lengths of the pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes with no time limit. They must also tread water continuously for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.

After a candidate completes basic training, they may or may not be assigned to a specific mission, which they will spend even more time training for. In addition to training for microgravity, learning about robotics and more, astronauts who will be piloting a spacecraft are required to fly for 15 hours per month in NASA’s fleet of two-seat T38 jets. Even non-pilot astronauts must fly a minimum of four hours per month.

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Artist’s rendition of SpaceX’s proposed “Interplanetary Transport System.” (Image: SpaceX Flickr)

It is wildly unlikely that SpaceX’s wealthy space enthusiasts meet most of NASA’s astronaut requirements, never mind all of them. And Mark Shelhamer, former Chief Scientist for the NASA Human Research Program, is pretty unconvinced they can be caught up to speed by late next year.

“I applaud Musk’s efforts and his enthusiasm and what he’s accomplished,” Shelhamer told Gizmodo. “But sending two amateurs to the moon in a new spacecraft on a new rocket, in less than two years? It won’t happen.”

While it’s true that hypothetically, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon 2 spacecraft will have flown a few times before this trip to the Moon takes place, the only thing predictable about spaceflight is that it’s not. Like, ever.

“There’s one thing I know about human space flight, and that is that the unexpected happens all the time,” Shelhamer explained. “That’s why we send professional astronauts, who are highly skilled and extensively trained. Especially with new hardware, which this flight would make use of, you need people who can deal with anomalies and emergencies. That’s what professionals do. That’s why the first astronauts were test pilots.”

As an example of how years of technical training can be life-saving, take the Apollo 13 mission. A damaged oxygen tank left the crew in a life or death situation, so the astronauts had to move into the lunar module and scrap together some parts aboard the ship to make a crude carbon dioxide scrubber in order to breathe.

Obviously, we’ve made incredible advancements in space technology since the Apollo era, but that doesn’t mean getting to the Moon is easy or without risk. While SpaceX has made several successful (and uncrewed) trips to the ISS, that’s not necessarily a sign that a mission around the moon—crewed or not—will go over well.

“Getting to the moon is a lot harder than getting to ISS,” Shelhamer said. “I don’t see it.”

Image
Image: SpaceX Flickr

All this said, Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be fretting over the safety and preparedness of his Moon tourists too much.

“It will certainly be risky,” Musk told Gizmodo in a Twitter DM when asked about training for space tourists, as well as health and safety concerns. “Although we will have flown Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 many times, this will be our first deep space trip with people.” If all goes according to plan, SpaceX will fly an uncrewed Dragon 2 to the ISS by the end of this year. Then, in 2018, it plans to send its first crewed Dragon 2 the ISS, followed by this moon excursion.

Musk declined to answer specific questions about what sort of physical or psychological training the SpaceX tourists will have to undergo, or how this will compare with NASA’s astronaut training program, although he did say there will be another round of news on this “in a few months.”

“If health checks are good (no heart conditions particularly) and they have good bone density, as there will be some bone density loss in zero g, which is regained on the ground, most of the risk is probably reentry or having to deal with a system malfunction in deep space when passing through the deep shadow of the moon, where we may lose comms briefly,” Musk said.

“There’s one thing I know about human space flight, and that is that the unexpected happens all the time.”
While it’s promising that SpaceX is at least conscious of the health risks involved with spaceflight, bone density is really scratching the surface of the potential health complications. The first results from NASA’s twin study, which is analyzing astronauts brothers Scott and Mark Kelly, found that Scott’s body was impacted by spaceflight all the way down to his chromosomes. While he was in space for a year—which is much longer than SpaceX’s Moon passengers will be—other understudied effects of spaceflight may start to manifest quickly.

For instance, it was recently revealed that the shape of astronauts’ brains change due to spaceflight. Even astronauts who spent just two weeks aboard the ISS showed fluctuations in the volume of their brain’s gray matter, which is responsible for key functions like muscle control, memory, and emotions. Scientists involved in this study are still unsure what it could mean for a person’s long-term health.

All of this is to say, it is radically unlikely that these two people are prepared for spaceflight, nor that they can be caught up to speed in a little over a year. Still, when you consider Musk’s ultimate goal of sending ordinary people by the thousands to and from Mars, his desire to send a few willing guinea pigs into space soon makes a lot of sense. If we’re ever going to become a ‘multi-planetary’ species as Musk imagines, we’re going to have to accept the idea of private citizens shouldering considerable spaceflight risks.

And to be completely fair, SpaceX’s Moon tourists may well receive some rigorous health screening and training—we just have no idea what that looks like yet. It’s also entirely possible the mission could get delayed, which is business as usual for all spaceflight, but especially for Musk’s endeavors.

While many of us want to go to space one day, we should do it responsibly. We have many years to infest and destroy the rest of the solar system.

Ref: Astronaut Selection and Training https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pd ... o_trng.pdf
Website: http://gizmodo.com/money-wont-save-spac ... 1792864750

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 20:22

Lunar spaceflight Two races to the Moon are hotting up
One involves robots. The other involves humans
by Economist.com March 4, 2017

Image
Credit: SpaceX

THE $30m Google Lunar XPRIZE has had a slow time of it. Set up in 2007, it originally required competitors to land robots on the Moon by 2012. But the interest in returning to the Moon that the prize sought to catalyse did not quickly materialise; faced with a dearth of likely winners, the XPRIZE Foundation was forced to push back its deadline again and again. Now, though, five competing teams have launch contracts to get their little marvels to the Moon by the end of this year. And as those robotic explorers head into the final straight, a new contest is opening up.

On February 27th Elon Musk said that SpaceX, his aerospace company, had agreed to send two paying customers around the Moon some time in 2018, using a new (and as yet untried) version of its Falcon rocket, the Falcon Heavy. They would be the first people to travel beyond low-Earth orbit since 1972. Two weeks before Mr Musk’s announcement, NASA said it was considering using the first flight of its new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS; also untested), to do something similar, though with astronauts, not paying tourists. The race, it seems, is on.

This is not, though, a simple story of private sector versus public. For one thing, SpaceX can offer such a trip only thanks to NASA’s previous largesse. The company’s Dragon space capsule, in which the Moon tourists would fly, was developed to carry first cargo and, soon, people up to the International Space Station—services for which NASA pays generously. For another, NASA might end up deciding to pay SpaceX for its Moon jollies, just as it pays for rides to the space station.

In January an adviser to Donald Trump sent an e-mail to senior Republicans interested in space policy suggesting an “internal competition between Old Space and New Space” at the agency to get people back to lunar orbit. “Old Space” almost certainly meant the in-house SLS effort; “New Space” probably means SpaceX—or possibly Blue Origin, a company owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, which is also working on a suitably big rocket. A New Space option would seem to make budgetary sense. Though the Falcon Heavy needed for SpaceX’s Moon trip has yet to fly, it is certain to be far cheaper than the SLS. But the SLS has a great deal of support in the Senate—and there are some in Washington who have their doubts about making the country’s space programme too dependent on sometimes capricious billionaires.

The new administration has yet to weigh in—or to appoint a NASA administrator. But its ambitions may have been hinted at when Mr Trump evoked some of the wonders the United States might achieve by the time of its sestercentenary in this week’s speech to Congress: “American footprints on distant worlds,” he said, “are not too big a dream.” The only distant world any foot will be leaving prints on by 2026 is the Moon.

Such feet do not have to be American. China sent a rover called Yutu to the Moon in 2013, and plans a mission to return rocks to Earth this year. The idea of landing people on the Moon by 2030, or perhaps even earlier, has been discussed in public. That brings the possibility of yet another race.

In all such races it would be wise, as the XPRIZE shows, to expect delays. The crew-carrying version of the Dragon is not expected to make its first flight to the space station until the middle of 2018 at the earliest: sending one around the Moon by the end of that year is a tall order. That said, SpaceX’s customers may not mind if the schedule slips to 2019—the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing would add yet more pizzazz to what is sure to be a very high-profile venture.

Who the purchasers of this pizzazz might be is not yet known, though one, at least, must be very rich. One possibility is Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist on SpaceX’s board. Another is the film-maker James Cameron, who directed “Avatar”, the most profitable film ever made. Mr Cameron has already plumbed the Mariana Trench in a submersible; in 2011 he showed interest in a privately funded Russian mission to the Moon. Having such a film-maker on board would certainly ensure that the trip was spectacularly documented. With the right lenses, he might even pick out the tiny XPRIZE rovers as he flashes by.

This article appeared in the Science and technology section of the print edition under the headline "Fly who to the Moon?"

Website: http://www.economist.com/news/science-a ... re-hotting

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 20:45

7 Ways Earth Would Change If Our Moon Were Destroyed
by Ethan Siegel Forbes.com March 2, 2017

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The near and far sides of the Moon, as reconstructed with imagery from NASA's Clementine mission. Image credit: NASA / Clementine Mission / Lunar & Planetary Institute / USRA.

For nearly the entire 4.5 billion year history of our Solar System, the Earth hasn't been alone while we revolve around the Sun. Our giant lunar companion is larger and more massive than any other moon when compared to the planet it orbits. When it's in its full phase, it brightly illuminates the night, and the Moon has been linked throughout history to phenomena such as insanity (or lunacy), animal behavior (howling at the moon), farming (a harvest moon), and even women's menstrual cycles. While those links don't stand up to scientific scrutiny, there are many ways the Moon actually does affect the Earth. Destroying it would be a catastrophe, but would also change our world forever in some incredibly interesting ways.

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Destroying the Moon would result in approximately 7 x 10^22 kilograms of debris, which hopefully wouldn't hit Earth in large chunks. Image credit: Blind Spot Pictures Oy, 27 Films Production, New Holland Pictures, from the movie Iron Sky.

1.) Destroying the Moon would send debris to Earth, but it might not be life-exterminating. Imagine a weapon so deadly it could gravitationally unbind the Moon, blowing it apart. It would take a medium-sized asteroid's worth of antimatter to do it (about a kilometer in diameter), and the debris would spread out in all directions. If the blast were weak enough, the debris would re-form into one or more new moons; if it were too strong, there would be nothing left; of just the right magnitude, and it would create a ringed system around Earth. Over time, those lunar fragments would de-orbit thanks to Earth's atmosphere, creating a series of impacts.

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A ringed system around Earth, which could occur if the Moon were destroyed in just the right way. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Grebenkov, as an add on to the work of Eugene Stauffer.

But these impacts wouldn't be as destructive as the asteroids or comets we're so afraid of today! Even though chunks of Moon would be massive, dense and even potentially larger than the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, they would have a lot less energy. Asteroids or comets striking Earth move at twenty, fifty or even over a hundred kilometers-per-second, but lunar debris would be moving at a mere 8 km/s, and would strike only a glancing blow with our atmosphere. The debris striking Earth would still be destructive, but would impact our world with less than 1% the total energy of a comparably sized asteroid. If the chunks hitting us were small enough, humanity could easily survive.

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The Bortle Dark Sky Scale, from 1-9, illustrating urban to pristine skies. A full Moon, incidentally, is bright enough that it can turn even a '1' into a 7 (away from the Moon) to an 8 (nearby it) on its own. Image credit: International Dark Sky Association, 2008, using the free software Stellarium.

2.) The night sky would be naturally much brighter. Once the Moon and all its remnants were gone, the second-brightest object from Earth's sky would be completely gone. While the Sun is naturally 400,000 times brighter than even the full, perigee Moon, the full Moon is again 14,000 times brighter than the next-brightest object in the sky: Venus. When you look at the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, a full Moon can take you from a "1" -- the most pristine, naturally dark sky possible -- all the way up to a 7 or 8, washing out even bright stars. Without a Moon, there would be no natural impediments to pristine, dark skies every night of the year.

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An illustration of the Sun-Moon-Earth configuration setting up a total solar eclipse. The Earth's non-flatness means that the Moon's shadow gets elongated when it's close to the edge of the Earth. Image credit: Starry Night education software.

3.) Eclipses would be no more. Whether you're talking solar eclipses -- partial, total or annular -- or lunar eclipses, where Earth's natural satellite passes into our shadow, we would no longer have eclipses of any type. Eclipses require three objects to be aligned: the Sun, a planet and a planet's moon. When the moon passes between the Sun and a planet, a shadow can be cast on the planet's surface (total eclipse), the moon can transit across the Sun's surface (annular eclipse), or it can obscure just a fraction of the Sun's light (partial eclipse). But without a moon at all, none of these could occur. Our only natural satellite would never pass into Earth's shadow if it didn't exist, putting an end to eclipses.

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The Moon exerts a tidal force on the Earth, which not only causes our tides, but causes braking of the Earth's rotation, and a subsequent lengthening of the day. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Wikiklaas and E. Siegel.

4.) The length of a day would remain constant. You might not think about it much, but the Moon exerts a tiny frictional force on the spinning Earth, causing our rotation rate to slow down over time. We might only lose a second here or there over many centuries, but it adds up over time. Our 24 hour day was only 22 hours back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and was under 10 hours a few billion years ago. In another four million years, we won't need leap days any longer in our calendar, as the rotation rate slows and the length of a day continues to get longer. But without a Moon, all that would cease. It would be 24 hour days every single day to come, until the Sun itself ran out of fuel and died.

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Gorey Harbour at low tide, illustrating the extreme difference between high and low tide found in bays, inlets and other shallow, coastal regions here on Earth. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user FoxyOrange.

5.) Our tides would be tiny. High tide and low tide presents an interesting, vast difference for those of us who live near the coast, particularly if we're in a bay, sound, inlet, or other area where water pools. Our tides on Earth are primarily due to the Moon, with the Sun contributing only a small fraction of the tides we see today. During full moons and new moons, when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned, we have spring tides: the largest differences between high and low tide possible. When they're at right angles, during a half Moon, we have neap tides: the smallest such differences. Spring tides are twice as large as neap tides, but without our Moon, the tides would always be the same paltry size, and only a quarter as big as today's spring tides.

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The obliquity of Earth's axial tilt, currently 23.4 degrees, actually varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. This is a very small variation compared to, say, Mars. Image credit: NASA, Wikimedia Commons user Mysid.

6.) Our axial tilt would be unstable. This is an unfortunate one. Earth spins on its axis, tilted at 23.4° with respect to our orbital plane around the Sun. (This is known as our obliquity.) You might not think the Moon has much to do with that, but over tens of thousands of years, that tilt changes: from as little as 22.1° to as much as 24.5°. The Moon is a stabilizing force, as worlds without big moons -- like Mars -- see their axial tilt change by ten times as much over time. On Earth, without a Moon, its estimated that our tilt would possibly even exceed 45° at times, making us a world that spun on our sides. Poles wouldn't always be cold; the equator might not always be warm. Without our Moon to stabilize us, ice ages would preferentially hit different parts of our world every few thousand years.

And finally...

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The Apollo mission trajectories, made possible by the Moon's close proximity to us. Image credit: NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight, Apollo missions.

7.) We would no longer have our stepping stone to the rest of the Universe. As far as we can tell, humanity is the only species ever to willfully put ourselves on the surface of another world. Part of why we were able to do that, from 1969 to 1972, is because of how close the Moon is to Earth. At only 380,000 km away, a conventional rocket can make the journey in approximately 3 days, and a round-trip signal at the speed of light takes only 2.5 seconds. The next closest options -- Mars or Venus -- take months to get there via rocket, over a year for a round trip, and many minutes for a round-trip communication.

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We also never would have had any of the Moon landings. This is Buzz Aldrin setting up the Solar Wind experiment as part of Apollo 11. Image credit: NASA / Apollo 11.

The Moon is the easiest, most useful "practice run" we could have asked the Universe for if our goal was to explore the rest of the Solar System. Perhaps we'll take advantage of it again -- and all that it brings to Earth -- someday soon.

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel is the founder and primary writer of Starts With A Bang. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, and order his book: Beyond The Galaxy, today!

Website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswith ... 22bbd23852

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 20:51

A lunar journey: Humanity's missions around the Moon
Elon Musk's private space company SpaceX is planning to send two unnamed tourists around the Moon in 2018.

by Aljazeera.com February 28, 2017

Entrepreneur and futurist Elon Musk has announced that his private space company SpaceX would send two unnamed customers on a journey around the Moon next year.

The private space tourists have already paid a significant deposit towards the cost of the flight, which would see humans returning to the Moon for the first time since Gene Cernan left the final footprints on the Earth's only natural satellite as part of NASA's Apollo 17 mission 1972.

Although the two SpaceX customers will not actually land on the Moon, the trip in the company's Dragon 2 capsule would take them around the far side of the Moon before returning them back to the Earth.

There is some scepticism in the space community that SpaceX will manage this ambitious mission by 2018.

In a statement put out by NASA, SpaceX was reminded of its contractual obligations to the government space agency that it will "return the launch of astronauts to the US soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station".

To date, only 24 people have ever been around the Moon, and just 12 have walked on its surface. The first living organisms to go around the Moon included a pair of steppe tortoises, sent by the then-Soviet Space Agency on the Zond 5 mission in 1968.

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Website: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/intera ... 00905.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 21:00

New Definition Would Make the Moon and Pluto Planets
by Jason Daley Smithsonian.com March 3, 2017

A suggested update to the International Astronomical Union criteria would add over 100 planets to the solar system

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Pluto and its moon Charon. Credit NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Anyone fuming over Pluto’s demotion from full-fledged planet to dwarf planet in 2006 will be happy to hear that there is still hope. Pro-Plutonians recently suggested a new definition of a planet that would add the celestial sphere back to the solar system’s list of heavy hitters. The only catch? It also reclassifies Earth’s moon and 100 other bodies orbiting the sun as planets as well.

The reason Pluto was given the cold shoulder was because it did not fulfill one of the three criteria set by the International Astronomical Union that define a full-fledged planet. The first two criteria—that it orbit around the sun and have sufficient mass to have a round shape—Pluto passed with flying colors. But it failed the housekeeping test—after millions of years, its gravity had not “cleared its neighborhood,” or become the gravitationally dominant object in its orbit, since Pluto shares its neighborhood with several “plutinos” that are affected by the gravity of Neptune.

Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, and his colleagues argue in a paper, published in the journal Lunar and Planetary Science, that the definition should be changed. They suggest this mouthful: “A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters.”

They write that this simplifies more or less into a grade-school-friendly definition of “round objects in space that are smaller than stars.”

Science Alert reports that the astronomers aren’t just plumping for Pluto, but level three main criticisms at the current definition of a planet. First, the current definition only applies to objects in our solar system, meaning that technically, any of the many exoplanets, including the seven Earth-sized planets circling the star TRAPPIST-1 announced last week, aren’t technically planets since they don’t orbit our sun.

Second, they argue that none of the planets in the solar system actually satisfy the “neighborhood clearing” criteria since every planet, including Earth, has many objects like trojans, quasi-satellites and mini-moons that are popping in and out of planetary orbits all the time.

And the last argument is that the current definition of a planet does not ever define the neighborhood or zone that a planet’s gravity is expected to clear, meaning the dividing line between planets and non-planetary objects is arbitrary.

For Stern and his colleagues, there is also a public-relations element to the redefinition. Between the time the New Horizons probe launched in January 2006 and the time it reached Pluto in July 2015, the sphere went from being a planet to a dwarf planet. “In the decade following the supposed 'demotion' of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged 'non-planets' cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration, though the IAU did not intend this consequence,” the team writes in their paper. “To wit: a common question we receive is, 'Why did you send New Horizons to Pluto if it’s not a planet anymore.'”

Calling something "planet," they argue, gives it a little extra status when it comes to exploration.

There is no word on whether the IAU has any plans to reassess its definition of a planet, but there seems to be scientific and public interest in hashing out the issue. In 2014, a debate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics about Pluto stirred up the controversy once more, with the audience of academics and astrogeeks voting that Pluto is a planet based on their preferred definition that “A planet is the smallest spherical lump of matter that formed around stars or stellar remnants.”

There hasn't been much debate on whether the moon should get an upgrade as well. Stephen Pumfrey, a historian at Lancaster University, writes at The Conversation that Greek and medieval astronomers considered the moon a planet. It wasn’t until Copernicus pointed out that the moon orbits the Earth and not the sun that it became simply a satellite. Reclassifying the moon as a planet, he writes, would take astronomy full circle.

If the definition does change and Pluto resumes its spot in the celestial lineup, it may have to find a different nickname other than the Ninth Planet. Astronomers are hopeful they will soon discover another planet orbiting the Sun beyond Pluto tentatively called Planet 9.

Website: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new ... 180962379/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Mar 2017 21:36

An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon
by Christian Davenport Washingtonpost.com March 2, 2017

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More than four decades after the last man walked on the lunar surface, several upstart space entrepreneurs are looking to capitalize on NASA's renewed interest in returning to the moon, offering a variety of proposals with the ultimate goal of establishing a lasting human presence there.

The commercial sector's interest comes as many anticipate support from the Trump administration, which is eager for a first-term triumph to rally the nation the way the Apollo flights did in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The latest to offer a proposal is Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin has been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump's transition team about the company's interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

The Post obtained a copy of the white paper, marked “proprietary and confidential,” and the company then confirmed its authenticity and agreed to answer questions about it.

Bezos’s proposal comes as SpaceX founder Elon Musk made a stunning announcement this week that his company planned to fly two unnamed, private citizens on a tourist trip around the moon by next year — an ambitious timeline that, if met, could beat a similar mission by NASA.

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New Shepard In-flight. Credit: Blue Origin

Anticipating that the Trump administration is focusing on the moon, the space agency recently announced it is considering adding astronauts to the first flight of its Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule. That flight, originally scheduled to fly without humans in 2018, would also circle the moon. But as the space agency seeks to move faster under the Trump administration, it is now studying the feasibility of adding crew for a mission that would then occur by 2019.

Obama killed plans for a lunar mission, saying in 2010 that “we’ve been there before.” But the administration’s Mars plan was still far from actually delivering humans there, and critics grew frustrated that NASA has not been able to fly humans out of low Earth orbit since the 1970s. A shot around the moon, however, could be feasible, even within a few years.

Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.

NASA already has shown a willingness to work closely with the commercial sector, hiring companies to fly supplies and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. It is providing technical expertise, but no funding, to SpaceX’s plan to fly an uncrewed spacecraft to Mars by 2020.

The prospect of a lunar mission has several companies lining up to provide not just transportation, but also habitats, science experiments and even the ability to mine the moon for resources.

The United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has also been working on plans to create a transportation network to the area around the moon, known as cislunar space.

“I’m excited by the possibilities,” said Tory Bruno, the alliance's chief executive. “This administration, near as we can tell, feels a sense of urgency to go out and make things happen, and to have high-profile demonstrations that are along the road map to accomplish these broad goals. … There is an opportunity to begin building that infrastructure right now — within the next four years.”

Robert Bigelow, the founder of Bigelow Aerospace, a maker of inflatable space habitats, said his company could create a depot that could orbit the moon by 2020, housing supplies and medial facilities, as well as humans. A smaller version of the possible habitats, known as the BEAM, is docked to the International Space Station, where astronauts have been testing it.

In an interview, Bigelow said he was glad the administration seems to be refocusing on the moon. “Mars is premature at this time. The moon is not,” he said. “We have the technology. We have the ability, and the potential for a terrific business case.”

At an Aviation Week awards ceremony Thursday evening, Bezos added that the moon could help propel humans even further into space, to destinations such as Mars: "I think that if you go to the moon first, and make the moon your home, then you can get to Mars more easily."

After remaining quiet and obsessively secretive for years, Blue Origin’s attempt to partner with NASA is a huge coming out of sorts for the company, which has been funded almost exclusively by Bezos. The paper urges NASA to develop a program that provides “incentives to the private sector to demonstrate a commercial lunar cargo delivery service.”

Blue Origin could perform the first lunar mission as early as July 2020, Bezos wrote, but stressed that it could “only be done in partnership with NASA. Our liquid hydrogen expertise and experience with precision vertical landing offer the fastest path to a lunar lander mission. I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen.”

Last year, Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its suborbital rocket, the New Shepard, five times within less than a year, flying just past the 62-mile edge of space and then landing vertically on a landing pad at the company’s West Texas facility.


New Shepard In-flight Escape Test. Credit: Blue Origin

That same technology could be used to land the Blue Moon vehicle on the lunar surface, the company said. Its white paper shows what looks like a modified New Shepard rocket, standing on the moon with an American flag, a NASA logo and Blue Origin’s feather symbol.

The company said it plans to land its Blue Moon lunar lander at Shackleton Crater on the moon’s south pole. The site has nearly continuous sunlight to provide power through the spacecraft’s solar arrays. The company also chose to land there because of the “water ice in the perpetual shadow of the crater’s deep crevices.”

Water is vital not just for human survival, but also because hydrogen and oxygen in water could be transformed into rocket fuel. The moon, then, is seen as a massive gas station in space.

The Blue Moon spacecraft could carry as much as 10,000 pounds of material and fly atop several different rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V or its own New Glenn rocket, which is under development and expected to fly by the end of the decade, the company said.

“Once on the surface, the lander’s useful payload can be used to conduct science or deploy rovers,” the company said. “A robotic arm attached to the lander will deploy to examine the lunar surface with an array of instruments.”

The initial landing “is envisioned as the first in a series of increasingly capable missions,” including flying samples of lunar ice back to Earth for study.

The company said it could also help deliver the cargo and supplies needed for human settlements.

“Blue Moon is all about cost-effective delivery of mass to the surface of the Moon,” Bezos wrote. “Any credible first lunar settlement will require that capability.”

Website: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the ... f8cbbf92d8

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Mar 2017 20:38

How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years--This Time to Stay
The answer is pretty straightforward: turn to private industry

by Howard Bloom Blogs.scientificamerican.com February 22, 2017

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Artist's rendering of the Space X Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: Space X Flickr

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump wants to make a splash in space. And he apparently wants to make that splash by orbiting the Moon.

Orbiting the Moon? Merely circling it? What a comedown from America’s past high…landing twelve humans on the lunar surface. But there is a way to outdo America’s past achievements. And to accomplish this in a shorter time with a smaller budget than the Trump team imagines.
It’s a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently. A way to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years.

How?
Turn to private industry. Turn to two companies in particular—Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace. Why? Because the approach that NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot is pushing won’t allow a Moon landing.

Lightfoot’s problem lies in the two pieces of NASA equipment he wants to work with: a rocket that’s too expensive to fly and is years from completion—the Space Launch System; and a capsule that’s far from ready to carry humans—the Orion. Neither the SLS nor the Orion are able to land on the Moon. Let me repeat that. Once these pieces of super-expensive equipment reach the moon’s vicinity, they cannot land.

Who is able to land on the lunar surface? Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow. Musk’s rockets—the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy—are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What’s more, SpaceX’s upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth’s surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready.

There’s more. Within the space community, there is a wide disenchantment with “flags and footprints” missions. Flags and footprints missions are those like the Apollo landings in which astronauts land, plant a flag, hit a golf ball, then disappear for 45 years. Major segments of the space community want every future landing to add to a permanent infrastructure in the sky. And that’s within our grasp thanks to Robert Bigelow.

In 2000, Bigelow purchased a technology that Congress had ordered NASA to abandon: inflatable habitats. For the last sixteen years Bigelow and his company, Bigelow Aerospace, have been advancing inflatable habitat technology. Inflatable technology lets you squeeze a housing unit into a small package, carry it by rocket to a space destination, then blow it up like a balloon. Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow’s been developing something far more ambitious—an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules. What’s more, Bigelow has been developing a landing vehicle to bring his modules gently down to the Moon’s surface.

Then there’s a wild card—Jeff Bezos. Bezos’ Blue Origin rockets already have a well-tested capacity to take off, land, then take off again. Which means that in the next few years Bezos’ rockets, too, could land cargoes and passengers on the Moon.

If NASA ditched the Space Launch System and the Orion, it would free up three billion dollars a year. That budget could speed the Moon-readiness of Bigelow’s landing vehicles, not to mention SpaceX’s Falcon rockets and could pay for lunar enhancements to manned Dragon 2 capsules. In fact, three billion dollars a year is far greater than what Bigelow and Musk would need. That budget would also allow NASA to bring Jeff Bezos into the race. And it would let NASA refocus its energy on earth-orbit and lunar-surface refueling stations…plus rovers, lunar construction equipment, and devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen. Not to mention machines to turn lunar dust and rock into building materials.

This new Moon program could be achieved within NASA’s current budget. In fact, members of the group I run—the Space Development Steering Committee—estimate the total cost of what I’ve described (Moon landings plus a permanent moon base) at ten billion dollars. That’s just three years’ worth of the money currently being funneled into the SLS and the Orion.

Also speaking in the Washington Post, President Trump says he wants to send “a clear signal to the Chinese that the U.S. intends to retain dominance in space.” Looping the loop around the moon without touching down would demonstrate only one thing: America’s fecklessness. But landing Americans on the lunar surface for long stays at an American base would send a message of a dramatically different kind.

If NASA deep-sixed the Space Launch System and the Orion, then bought Moon-landing services from SpaceX, Bigelow, and, possibly, Blue Origin, America could land its citizens on the Moon in less than four years. But this time, thanks to Bigelow’s Moon Base, Americans be there to stay.

Note: The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Website: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/gu ... e-to-stay/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 07 Mar 2017 23:47

Space Startups Are Booming in the Mojave Desert
by Jennifer Alsever Fortune.com February 20, 2017

Inside a series of nondescript buildings in the ­driest desert in North America, an entrepreneurial enclave is chasing the next frontier of commerce. Explosions are routine. The science is complex. Brain power and ambition are high, as is danger. This cluster of 17 young companies at the Mojave Air and Space Port, 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is shooting for the moon—and beyond.

The startups there are building the components, engines, materials, and rockets that are dispatching a new generation of cell-phone-size satellites and more into space. These so-called NewSpace companies have sprung up around a former military base in the California desert. The remoteness of Mojave and the permissive attitude toward, say, detonation and flames—the airport’s slogan: We eat explosions for breakfast—make it the ideal location for companies aiming to reach the heavens.

“Mojave is the Silicon Valley of space exploration,” says Mark Bünger, who follows the sector at Lux Research. Mojave isn’t alone, as galactic entrepreneurship is also burgeoning in Seattle, Tucson, and Silicon Valley itself. Says Sunil Nagaraj of Bessemer Ventures: “2017 will be the year that NewSpace startups will hit their stride.”

It used to be that space projects were so daunting and expensive that only governments and their massive corporate partners could take them on. Then, in the past decade or so, a cadre of ­billionaires—think Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson—entered the arena with what first seemed like eccentric pet projects. Today, in the wake of their successes, there’s a third generation: minnows that service those private companies and leverage the growing economies of scale such that a startup without extraordinary resources can now contemplate a voyage to another planet.

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Working on one of Interorbital ­Systems’ Neptune rockets, whose modular design allows them to be expanded for larger payloads. Photo: Randa Milliron—Interorbital Systems

Plenty of factors are making space missions cheaper and more feasible: the miniaturization of electronics, the development of stronger and lighter materials, better engineering, and new standards that make it easier to build mini-satellites and send them up as hitchhikers on a larger launch. A traditional low-earth-orbit satellite, for instance, weighs three tons, stands two-stories tall, and costs tens of millions of dollars to build. Today there are “microsatellites” between 22 and 220 pounds and even “nanosatellites” under 22 pounds. A so-called cubesat, for example, weighs around two pounds, is about the size of a fist, and costs less than $100,000 to build. Some 60 companies now sell them, allowing small governments and companies to put a tiny probe into orbit for precision agriculture, oil spill monitoring, or security systems.

Of the 115 space-related companies started in the past decade and backed by investors, 84 focus on satellites, according to the Tauri Group, which tracks space investments. Just last year, those companies launched 100 microsatellites, up from 25 in 2011. Tauri projects that 2,400 nano- and micro­satellites will launch between 2017 and 2023.

Investment is starting to take off. Venture capitalists have put $8.2 billion into space companies over the past five years, according to Tauri, most of it into rockets and satellites.

Mojave has become an oasis of billionaires, scientists, vendors, and service providers. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has 500 people there building and testing propulsion systems and a suborbital spaceship, according to CEO George Whitesides. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace is nearing completion of its massive Stratolaunch airplane. NASA officials scout Mojave for technology and commercial space partners, and rockets are launched by small companies like XCOR and Masten Space Systems, which are assembling light, reusable launch vehicles to drastically reduce the cost of spaceflight. All that activity has drawn even smaller operations, including a school for test pilots and tiny vendors that provide everything from industrial coatings to ancillary offerings like financial services and a gym.

The biggest driver has been the deep pockets and confidence of Musk, Bezos, and others, including dotcom entrepreneur Naveen Jain and hotel mogul Robert Bigelow, who have been funding startups through venture investments and contests like the Google XPrize. Musk’s SpaceX slashed tens of millions of dollars from rocket prices, helping land the company a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to fly 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station. Musk and Bezos are now, separately, planning missions to Mars. “They were the primer to the pump for this new resurgence,” says Jay Gibson, CEO of XCOR.

Moon Express, funded by Jain, plans its maiden voyage to the moon later this year, vying for the Google Lunar XPrize, a $20 million award to the first company to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and accomplish several technical challenges. Once there, Moon Express plans to extract iron ore, water, minerals, and precious metals, as well as nitrogen, hydrogen, and more. Ultimately, Jain thinks, the moon could become a fuel depot where spacecraft can stop before continuing longer journeys. “Entrepreneurs have the potential to change the trajectory of how humanity lives,” he says, “where the moon becomes the eighth continent and a great place to live.”

Needless to say, the challenges remain immense. “I sound like a curmudgeon, but people always say this will be the year,” says Gary Hudson, an industry veteran and the president of the Space Studies Institute. “Everything costs more and takes longer than you think, and people die if you screw up.”

The difficulty hasn’t curbed enthusiasm at Interorbital Systems, a 12-person operation in Mojave. Cofounders Roderick and Randa Milliron started their business two decades ago with a goal of eventually living on the moon. Interorbital sells satellite kits and says it will launch 137 satellites in 2017 and 2018 with its modular rocket, whose size can be adjusted depending on the mission. The revenue from satellite and launch sales, space-testing missions, and more should help it reach its goal of using its rocket to get to the moon this year, as part of a team competing for the Lunar XPrize.

Perhaps the ultimate evidence that space technology is catching on is that it is even filtering down to hobbyists. A hacker space called Mojave Makers allows individuals to, say, build their own 3D-­printed rocket motors. Says Bessemer’s Nagaraj: “You now have people tinkering with space just as the previous generation tinkered with computers.” A version of this article appears in the March 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline "Rocket Boom in the Desert."

Website: http://fortune.com/2017/02/20/space-sta ... atellites/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 11 Mar 2017 16:15

China developing manned space mission to the moon: State media
by David Reid Cnbc.com March 09, 2017

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Imaginechina via AP Images, In this TV grab, Chinas latest manned space capsule docked with the lab, the Tiangong-1 in space, 13 June 2013

China is building a manned spacecraft capable of sending astronauts to the moon as well as near-Earth orbit flight, according to Chinese state media. The official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China cited system chief architect Zhang Bainan who claimed the craft is being designed to carry as many as six astronauts.

The newspaper, Science and Technology Daily, quoted Zhang Bainan Tuesday as saying China wished to catch up with international standards of space exploration. The fresh announcement follows a separate Chinese ambition to bring back samples from the moon before the end of this year. The unmanned Chang'e-5 lunar probe is undergoing a final round of tests and is expected to be on standby for launch from August, according to the official People's Daily.

China first landed an unmanned craft on the moon in December 2013. It marked the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. The United States' Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon, on 20 July 1969.

Website: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/09/china-de ... -moon.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 12 Mar 2017 12:18

NASA's Found a Lost Spacecraft Orbiting Our Moon Lost in space
by Fiona MacDonald Sciencealert.com March 11, 2017

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An Indian spacecraft that lost contact with Earth eight years ago has been rediscovered orbiting the Moon. NASA's Earth-based radars have detected the signal of the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) tiny Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which left Earth for the Moon's orbit back in 2008, and was last heard from in August 2009.

You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to find a spacecraft that we know is in orbit around our closest satellite, but it's a lot trickier than it sounds.
It's tough enough to accurately find space debris in Earth's own orbit, and thanks to the lunar glare, optical telescopes are out when it comes to looking for lost objects around the Moon.

Not to mention that Chandrayaan-1 is only around 1.5 metres (5 feet) on each side, so from Earth it would be less than a tiny speck around the Moon. There's also the fact that our Moon is covered in regions called mascons, or mass concentrations, which have higher-than-average gravitational pull and have been known to tug a spacecraft out of orbit over time - sometimes even causing them to crash into the lunar surface.

So despite the fact that we last heard from Chandrayaan-1 while it was circling the Moon, after eight years of radio silence, there were no guarantees it was still there, and the orbiter had been classified as 'lost'. But NASA has used a new radar technique to discover the missing spacecraft, as well as showing that it could accurately pinpoint the location of NASA's still-active Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

"Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission's navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located," said Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Finding India's Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009."

To figure it out, the team first came up with the best predictions of where Chandrayaan-1 might have ended up. According to where it was last heard from, their best guess was that it would be some 200 km (124 miles) above the Moon, in a polar orbit. Based on that estimate, they then beamed microwaves towards the Moon's north pole, around 380,000 km (237,000 miles) away, using a huge antenna at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, and waited for them to bounce back.

The idea was that if any small spacecraft crossed the paths of these microwaves, they'd be able to detect them - similar to the way we can map the bottom of Earth's oceans with radars. And that's exactly what happened - the team detected a small spacecraft crossing the path of the microwaves twice in around four hours, the same orbital period that Chandrayaan-1 was predicted to have.

They continued to listen in to the radars bouncing back from the spacecraft in order to get a better idea of its new orbit and position. Impressively, they found it had barely shifted course in the almost eight years it had been adrift by itself.

"It turns out that we needed to shift the location of Chandrayaan-1 by about 180 degrees, or half a cycle from the old orbital estimates from 2009," said Ryan Park, manager of JPL's Solar System Dynamics group. "But otherwise, Chandrayaan-1's orbit still had the shape and alignment that we expected."

Chandrayaan-1 was India's first mission to the Moon, and its job was to perform chemical and geological mapping. Most famously, it had an impactor attached to it that was released in November 2008 and deliberately crashed into the Moon, blasting up huge amounts of lunar dust for scientists to examine - providing the first solid evidence of water ice on the lunar surface.

After 10 months, Chandrayaan-1 completed its mission, and lost contact with Earth as planned. No one knows what shape it's in now or what it's been doing out there in the cold depths of space all this time, but it's slightly comforting to know it's still there. India is now planning its second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, which will consist of an orbiter, lander, and rover, for early 2018.

In the case of Chandrayaan-1, there's not a whole lot we can do with this information. But the accurate discovery of the spacecraft, as well as NASA's LRO, is a proof-of-concept for this new technique, which will be hugely useful in years to come as we continue to send humans and technology out into space.

Not only does it mean we can keep better track of any spacecraft or people we have in space, but it also means we can better monitor for any hazards heading their way. Plus, it's always nice to know in the cold expanse of space that someone back home can figure out where you are.

Website: http://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-s-foun ... g-our-moon

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby Varoon Shekhar » 12 Mar 2017 20:01

Apart from being astonished at the idea itself, I am somewhat astonished that few people are remarking on ISRO conducting two moon missions within the space of 4 months :-o ! The "Indus Rover" is going up in December of this year, followed by Chandrayaan 2 by March 2018. That's incredible! Are we going to be seeing interplanetary missions within a few months of each other, starting in the next decade?

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 15 Mar 2017 21:35

Russia's Space Agency Wants New Cosmonauts for Moon Voyage
by AFP Seeker.com March 14, 2017

Roscosmos currently has 30 cosmonauts, 14 of whom have never been to space. It seeks six to eight recruits who will operate a new spaceship now in development and "will become the first Russians to fly to the Moon.

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Russia's space agency on Tuesday announced a recruitment drive for young would-be cosmonauts who it hopes will become the country's first on the Moon. And women are welcome, an official stressed.

In the first such drive for five years, Roscosmos space agency said it is looking for six to eight cosmonauts who will operate a new-generation spaceship now in development and "will become the first Russians to fly to the Moon."

Russia is keen to rekindle the space triumphs of the Soviet era after a series of embarrassing glitches in recent years. It has announced plans for its first manned Moon landing by 2031.

"There will be no discrimination based on skin colour or gender," the executive director of manned programmes Sergei Krikalyov said at a news conference, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.

Applications are welcome for the next four months, said the first deputy director of Roscosmos Alexander Ivanov, cited by RIA Novosti. Ivanov said the new recruits will pilot the first launches of the new-generation Federatsiya manned transport ship and "continue the lunar program."

The Federatsiya is designed to fly to the Moon with four people on board. The first manned test launch is planned in 2023 from Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome in the country's far east.

The criteria for applicants include an age limit of 35, height between 1 meter 50 centimeters and 1 meter 90 (4 foot, 11 inches to 6 foot, 2 inches) and weight of no more than 90 kilograms (14 stone, 2 pounds), according to Roscosmos.

IT skills and knowledge of a foreign language are required, as well as an engineering degree or pilot training or experience in the aviation or space industries.

A high standard of fitness is a must and would-be astronauts have to cross-country ski for 5 kilometers. They undergo a barrage of psychological and physical tests including gynecological examinations for women.

Applicants can apply by post or in person to Star City astronaut training center outside Moscow, remembering to enclose three passport-sized photographs.

Russia currently has 30 cosmonauts, 14 of whom have never been to space. The oldest is 58-year-old Gennady Padalka, who holds the world record for total time spent in space, while the youngest is 31-year-old Ivan Vagner, according to TASS state news agency.

The first such open recruitment drive — not just for military pilots and those working in the space industry — was held in 2012.

Website: http://www.seeker.com/russias-space-age ... 48581.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 16 Mar 2017 23:24

Spacex’s 2018 Moon mission faces significant challenges
by Curt Godwin Spaceflightinsider.com March 15, 2017

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A rendering of the Falcon Heavy in flight. Image Credit: SpaceX

Last month’s announcement that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon in late 2018 – fresh on the heels of a similar announcement from NASA – has ignited considerable debate among industry insiders, pundits, and followers of the NewSpace company.

On the face of it, the plan seems relatively simple: two passengers who have given SpaceX a sizable deposit will undertake a relatively short-duration mission (by today’s spaceflight standards) in which the Crew Dragon capsule will leave low-Earth orbit after launching atop a Falcon Heavy rocket to loop around the Moon, return to Earth, and splash down in the ocean.

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Dragon V2 infographic. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

This circumlunar flight will make use of a free-return trajectory, which is an orbital path that allows the spacecraft return to Earth after making a long loop around the Moon without subsequent propulsion. This type of flight profile allows for a return to Earth, even in the event of a failure of the vehicle’s propulsion system, and is inherently safer and less complicated than if the spacecraft were to enter orbit around the Moon.

It’s a mission that will, in many ways, harken back to humankind’s first flight to lunar vicinity: Apollo 8. Perhaps not coincidentally, SpaceX’s planned flight might occur in close proximity to the anniversary of that groundbreaking mission from 50 years ago.

SpaceX’s many Accomplishments:
Formed in 2002 by Elon Musk, SpaceX has been in existence for a mere 15 years. In that time, it has accomplished a number of things including creating the first privately developed liquid-fueled launch vehicle to go into orbit – the Falcon 1. A two-stage rocket, the Falcon 1 stood some 70 feet (21.3 meters) in height.

After that, the company’s attention began to focus on the larger, more powerful, Falcon 9. With the help of development funding via NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, the first flight occurred in 2010. Also a two-stage rocket, the current version of the Falcon 9, the “Full Thrust” stands some 230 feet (70 meters) in height.

In 2012, a short 10 years after the company’s founding, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a spacecraft that subsequently rendezvoused with and was berthed to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dragon capsule, which was also partially funded by COTS, is now one of two private spacecraft that service the ISS several times a year. SpaceX’s comparatively inexpensive launch service has been a disruptive force throughout the worldwide launch industry, causing many providers to examine ways to cut their costs while providing a competitive product.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is one of two companies developing spacecraft to send people to the ISS. For added safety for a crew, engineers are developing an integrated launch escape system (LES) that also doubles as a landing system.

Rather than discard an expensive towed-tractor style LES, like those used on Apollo and the new Orion spacecraft, this new system has the potential to be used to allow heavier payloads to be landed on Mars, or to propulsively land on a pad back on Earth, negating the need for a water recovery.

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SpaceX has rewritten space flight by having the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets land for preparation for eventual reuse. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Perhaps SpaceX’s crowning technical achievement to date, however, is the recovery of the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket. While every other active launch service provider discards their hardware once its job is complete, SpaceX’s goal is to recover the stage, either by landing it near the launch site or having it land on an automated drone ship, and reuse the hardware.

The NewSpace firm now wants to send people around the Moon. NASA was able to accomplish something similar nearly 50 years ago during a time when crewed deep space flight information was non-existent and flight computers were a tiny fraction as capable as today’s smartphones. As such, the argument could be made that SpaceX can accomplish the same thing in less time.

SpaceX's history to date:
Certainly, SpaceX has done some incredible things, and it’s not entirely unlikely it could pull off a crewed flight around the Moon in less than two years. However, the company is not infallible, something a cursory glance at its track record will readily show.

SpaceX has lost two rockets within a 14 month period – one of which exploded on the pad during a test. Though no one was injured in either incident, it is still a point of significant concern. In fact, some have questioned SpaceX’s focus and consider it a prime reason for the company’s issues.

While the company has 29 successful launches on its books, it has never launched crew, or flown the Falcon Heavy, or orbited the Crew Dragon spacecraft, or conducted an in-flight abort, or have a completed space-worthy life support system.

With so little time to meet the stated goal of the end of 2018, each of these development milestones takes on extra urgency. Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of evidence comes from the company itself. In stark contrast to the ambitious announcement, SpaceX has never once met its projected annual flight cadence, often missing it by a significant margin. Nor has it ever accomplished a major stated goal on-time. To wit, Falcon Heavy was to initially fly in 2012.

Indeed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is well-known for aggressive schedule forecasts – often unmet – and has even made mention of it himself. Unfortunately, the inability of the company to meet its timelines has caused SpaceX to lose business. As noted, SpaceX has launched 30 times, 29 of them successful since June of 2010, providing them with a rate of launch of about 4 times per year.

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The Amos 6 telecommunications satellite was lost when the Falcon 9 exploded during a routine pre-flight dress rehearsal on Sept. 1, 2016. Image Credit: Mike Wagner /USLaunchReport

Progress is being made, but hurdles remain:
SpaceX is confident it can conduct the mission while still meeting its Commercial Crew Program commitments to NASA. For its part, the space agency released a statement that initially seemed to support SpaceX’s bold mission, though a closer inspection hints that might not be the case.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station,” the agency’s release stated.

A possible translation: NASA needs SpaceX to complete the tasks for which it has been paid. Of course, SpaceX plans to fulfill its Commercial Crew Program obligations while also working on the circumlunar mission. For both to happen, however, significant work remains to be done. There is the potential that these differing objectives might strain the company’s capabilities.

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SpaceX is conducting evaluations of the Crew Dragon life support system. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Allaying concerns about the spacecraft, Musk has said the Crew Dragon’s heat shield was designed for reentry from cislunar missions and is ready as is. “The heat shield is quite massively over-designed,” Musk said in a conference call with reporters, according to Eric Berger in a report by Ars Technica.

Life support systems development is also moving forward, with SpaceX recently initiating evaluations for the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) of its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“Extensive testing of the ECLSS module has and will continue to contribute to improvements to Crew Dragon’s design and operation, which ultimately leads to greater crew safety,” said Nicolas Lima, a life support systems engineer at SpaceX, in a release from NASA.

Musk said the vehicle is hardened against radiation, a necessity when spacecraft go beyond the protection of Earth’s radiation belts, but the communication system will need to be upgraded as it is undersized for a mission at lunar distance. “We are confident this will be a good vehicle to fly on,” Musk said during the conference call.

Time marches on:
Though the SpaceX CEO is optimistic the mission will lift-off in 2018, that confidence isn’t shared by all. The lack of flight-proven experience is something that concerns Wayne Hale, a former manager of the Space Shuttle program. In an interview with Space.com, Hale gave a succinct analysis, likely shared by many.

“I would feel much more positive about their program if they had already demonstrated human spaceflight on their Dragon V2 capsule,” Hale said. “I think their schedule is so aggressive as to not be believable.”

Website: http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/organ ... hallenges/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 17 Mar 2017 23:35

Seven teams qualify for first Indian private Moon mission
by Pune Mirror March 17, 2017

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Top: The rover that will traverse the Moon’s surface; Below: Contestants of the Lab2Moon competition (PIC: TEAMINDUS/AFP)

The private team will carry experiments to the moon as part of the 30-million-dollar Google Lunar Xprize, a global contest to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration

Seven teams, including three from India, have qualified for the country’s first private moon mission in December, space technology start-up TeamIndus said.

“Teams Callisto, Ears and Kalpana from India, Space4Life from Italy, Lunadome from Britain, Killa Lab from Peru, and Regolith Revolution from the US have qualified to fly their experiments to the lunar surface in our spacecraft,” said a TeamIndus statement here.

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fly TeamIndus spacecraft (robot) on its PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.

Bangalore-based TeamIndus is competing in the 30-million-dollar Google Lunar Xprize, a global contest to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.

“Space4Life from Naples in Italy will send an experiment to the lunar surface under the Lab2Moon Challenge to test the effectiveness of using a colony of cyanobacteria as a shield against harmful radiation in space,” the statement added.

Cyanobacteria are micro-organisms capable of photosynthesis to produce oxygen using sunlight. They represent the earliest known form of life on earth.

TeamIndus, which proposed an experiment to explore photosynthesis on the moon, will fly along with Space4Life to the lunar surface.

“Team Space4Life will work with TeamIndus engineers to make the experiment space-worthy for the journey of a lifetime,” said the statement.

An international jury comprising former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan, former European Space Agency chairman Alain Bensoussan, and Yale University’s astronomy professor Priyamvada Natarajan examined the prototypes of the experiments in granular detail over three days.

“Congratulations to Space4Life. The data from its experiment have the potential to dramatically impact mankind,” said Kasturirangan in the statement.

Launched in mid-2016, Lab2Moon, a global challenge for youth, inspired about 3,000 teams to send in ideas for experiments.

The Lunar Xprize requires privately funded teams to land their rovers on the surface of the moon, travel 500 metres and broadcast high-definition video, images and data back to earth.

In a launch window starting on December 28, the PSLV will inject the spacecraft into an orbit 880 km x 70,000 km around the earth. The spacecraft will then undertake a 21-day journey to soft land in Mare Imbrium, a region in the northwestern hemisphere of the Moon.

After landing, the spacecraft will deploy its payload, including the TeamIndus rover that will traverse 500 metres on the Moon’s surface to accomplish its objectives.

TeamIndus’ rover has been designed and developed in Bangalore by a 100-person engineering team, including 20 retired Indian space scientists.

Website: http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/others ... 674833.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Mar 2017 22:06

China plans a new moon probe in response to possible return there by U.S.
by Reuters Washingtonpost.com March 10, 2017

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China has announced plans to launch a space probe to bring back samples from the moon before the end of the year, in what state media cast as competition to President Trump’s ambitions to revitalize U.S. space exploration.

The unmanned Chang’e-5 lunar probe is undergoing a final round of tests and is expected to be on standby for launch starting in August, the official People’s Daily reported, citing the China National Space Administration.

The launch will involve new challenges for China in sample collection, taking off from the moon and high-speed reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere, making it “one of China’s most complicated and difficult space missions,” Hu Hao, an official with China’s Lunar Exploration Program, told the paper.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to become a global power in space exploration.

“Not long ago, the United States’ Trump Administration revealed an ambition to return to the moon. Our country also announced a series of deep space exploration plans,” said the official Science and Technology Daily.

“The moon is the first stop for humanity’s march toward deep space,” the paper said.

In February, the Trump administration asked NASA to look into the possibility of a heavy-lift-rocket mission, expected to be launched in 2018, perhaps setting the stage for a human return to the moon.

China’s new probe is the latest step in its lunar exploration program. In 2013, it completed its first lunar “soft landing” since 1976 with the Chang’e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover. China is aiming to send a probe to the dark side of the moon by 2018, the first-ever such trip, and hopes to put astronauts on the moon by 2036.

Website: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national ... e66f66d391

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 19 Mar 2017 23:16

Stay connected – even on the Moon with #PTScientists, #Vodafone and #Missiontothemoon
by Spacewatchme.com March 19, 2017

PTScientists teams up with Vodafone Germany to bring mobile data roaming to the surface of the Moon – and the cost needn’t be astronomical!
No need to worry about letting people know that you’ve arrived safely on the Moon – you’ll be able to check in on Facebook and send a selfie from the lunar surface thanks to a new partnership between Berlin-based PTScientists and international (soon to be lunar) mobile communications operator Vodafone.

Pioneering new-space company, PTScientists, is working with Vodafone to deliver the first mobile data (4G LTE) base-station to the lunar surface. Not only will this enable super-fast data access for those of you who make it to the Moon, but it will provide essential communications support their upcoming Mission to the Moon.

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ALINA and Audi lunar quattro; Credits: PTScientists

“This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system” says PTScientists CEO Robert Boehme. “In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet. With Mission to the Moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon.”

Investing in vital infrastructure is always costly, and the additional hurdle of launching equipment into space only adds to the expense. But PTScientists have designed their lunar lander, ALINA, to double up as a communications base station in order to keep costs down.

In addition, using commercially available technology that’s already in a billion mobile devices on Earth, PTScientists are creating a network that will be accessible to future lunar explorers – and maybe even the first settlers on the Moon.

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PTScientists team

PTScientists aim to be the first commercial company to land on the Moon and will be launching their mission next year. They are sending a pair of small, but sophisticated, rovers to explore the final landing site in the US Apollo programme.

“Our rovers are packed with sensors and equipped with high definition cameras” says PTScientists electrical engineer and rover driver Karsten Becker. “We will be collecting a lot of scientific data on the Moon and the high-speed data connectivity that LTE gives us will enable the rovers to communicate with ALINA to send that valuable data back to Earth”.

The benefit of using LTE data connectivity is that it uses drastically less energy than traditional radio communications. This means that large amounts of data can be transferred from the rover, via ALINA, and back to Earth, without the risk of draining the rovers’ batteries, or requiring them to stop each time they have data to transmit. “The less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science!” says Boehme.

Once the ALINA spacecraft has safely landed the pair of Audi lunar quattro rovers on the Moon, it will act as a base station enabling high speed data connectivity between all vehicles. What’s more, it can also be used as a navigation beacon for future missions landing on the lunar surface.

“Together with the PTScientists we are embarking on a journey to space, enabling Germany’s first private Moon landing. All whilst establishing the first LTE network in space.” says the CEO of Vodafone Germany, Hannes Ametsreiter. “With this this step we are laying the groundwork for all future moon missions to come. When Elon Musk sends his first private passengers to Orbit the Moon in 2018 or ESA opens the doors of its moon village our Vodafone LTE network will already be there. With our contribution, we don’t just want to enable space based infrastructures but show that with bravery, pioneering spirit and inventive talent made in Germany great things can be achieved.”

The consumer market for mobile data on the Moon may be some way off, but PTScientists believe that building versatile infrastructures is the key to make humanity a fully-fledged space-faring species. Not only will they reap the benefit of connectivity during next year’s Mission to the Moon, but they are delivering an important first piece of equipment for a future space communications network.

Website: https://spacewatchme.com/2017/03/stay-c ... even-moon/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 20 Mar 2017 23:36

‘Crazy dream’: the former Delhi IT worker in the race to land on the moon
by Vidhi Doshi Theguardian.com March 20, 2017

TeamIndus is one of four teams competing to win Google’s Lunar XPrize for the first ever private moon landing, worth $20m

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Rahul Narayan of the Indian company TeamIndus which is attempting to land on the moon. Photograph: TeamIndus

To this day, Rahul Narayan doesn’t know why he said yes, except that it was the very last day to sign up, and if he didn’t agree to it, then there would be no Indian teams in the running. He threw together a proposal and clicked submit.

Perhaps it was the dullness of his day job in IT services, or a last-ditch effort to recapture some adolescent Star Trek-themed fantasy; but once the idea got into his head, it stuck.

And so it was decided Rahul Narayan would send a spacecraft to the moon.

Sitting in his office now, three years since his moon mission started, Narayan talks through the complexities of lunar expeditions. Sometimes, people ask him why he, a software engineer from Delhi, and a complete outsider to the space industry would attempt a lunar landing, a feat that only three countries have successfully achieved so far.

“The real answer to that,” Narayan says, “is that if you were an insider you’d never attempt something like this.”

If he succeeds, Narayan and his company TeamIndus will be the first private company ever to land on the moon.

But competition is stiff. Three other teams are competing to win Google’s Lunar XPrize for the first ever private moon landing, worth $20m. When Narayan signed up, at the end of 2011, there were 30 teams in the running. The competition’s elimination rounds have whittled it down to four.

TeamIndus is now racing against MoonExpress, led by Indian-American dot-com billionaire Naveen Jain; SpaceIL, set up by three Israeli engineers, and an international team called Synergy Moon, all planning to launch their spacecrafts in December this year. A fifth team, Japan-based Hakuto will send a rover on TeamIndus’ spacecraft which will be launched on a government-owned rocket in Chennai, and reach a top speed of 10.3km a second.

After landing at Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers, a four-wheeled, solar-powered, aluminium rover, one of the lightest ever to roam the moon’s surface will beam HD images back to earth as it makes a 500m journey.

If it completes all this successfully and before the other teams, TeamIndus will have done enough to win the Xprize. Money however, is tight. The project has raised only $16m of the $70m it will need. Private investment from friends, family members and Indian entrepreneurs make up part of the pot, selling payload on the spacecraft, corporate sponsorship and crowdfunding, the company hopes, will make up the rest of it.

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A model of the moon lander to be used by Indian company TeamIndus Photograph: TeamIndus

Narayan started working on the moon mission in 2012, mostly in the evenings and on weekends in Delhi. After a year of juggling between his IT company and his new obsession with the moon, he decided it had to be one or the other, and so left the company, and moved his family to Bangalore, India’s tech capital, and the headquarters of India’s space industry. His wife didn’t object. “She knows what I’m like,” he says.

TeamIndus is the only company from a developing country to attempt the moon landing. “If we could pick this as a problem statement and solve it, I think we could solve any complex engineering problem,” says Narayan.

The company has vague plans to start a satellite programme or develop solar powered drones after the moon mission. But the real ambition, says Narayan was to prove the impossible can be done. “I don’t think anybody starts something to inspire people, but because what we’re doing is exceptionally difficult, I think the impact is very clearly cultural and social,” he says.

The new space race:
Narayan’s mission appears a long way from the heady days of the 60s and 70s when the US and then USSR spared no expense to explore space. The last few decades have seen some of those dreams die amid severe cuts.

But now, with the rise of China and India in the past two decades a new race for technological ascendancy began. The 37-year hiatus in lunar landings was broken by the China National Space Administration in 2013, when the Chang’e 3 sent back soil samples to earth after successfully performing the first soft landing on the moon in decades.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) plans its own first lunar landing with the launch of Chandarayaan II planned in the next few years. The Indian company’s landing however, if successful, could beat its own government to the punch, and make India the fourth nation ever to land on the moon.

Vishesh Vatsal, an aerospace engineering graduate joined TeamIndus when the company only had a handful of employees. He was hired as an intern by Narayan, despite failing technical interviews, and is now responsible for the team working on the spacecraft’s lunar descent system, one of the trickiest parts of the entire journey.

“We’re not the most elite group of Indian engineers that have come together. A lot of people used to laugh at us,” he says, recalling one of his first weeks on the job, when Narayan pushed him in front of some executives during a company review. “I gave the silliest answers possible. We got ridiculed in subtle ways,” he says.

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A diagram of the moon lander to be used by Indian company TeamIndus Photograph: TeamIndus

The criticism didn’t deter them. In January 2015, TeamIndus became the last of four teams to qualify for the XPrize award.

After that, India’s space scientists started taking them seriously. A number of veteran Isro engineers signed up to help the moon landing. Some like 72-year old PS Nair had even worked on Isro’s first satellite launch in 1975, and shaped the national space mission from its infancy.

“[The] goal is not going to the moon,” he says. “The goal is to empower industry and the country to do what big, giant organisations have done earlier, and that’s the goal of the XPrize too, to popularise hi-tech activity and take it out of the control of big organisations like Nasa or Isro. Thats the real motivation for many of us.”

India’s space programme is hugely controversial, especially in the west, with some campaigners arguing millions of pounds of British aid money was being misspent in India.For many, the space mission is a symbol of neglect towards India’s most impoverished citizens, while its delusional elites reach for superpower status.

Sheelika Ravishankar, head of marketing and outreach, argues the country’s ventures are a huge source of national pride. “Different parts of India care about what we’re doing in different ways,” she says, recalling an auto rickshaw driver who donated a part of his salary to TeamIndus after one of the company’s employees told him about the moon mission on his way to work, or a man who left a board meeting to donate 2m rupees (£23,800) when the cash-strapped company urgently needed to test its spacecraft.

“Folks are coming forward to say this is architecting a new India, which is technologically advanced, which is bright, which is not the last stop of IT services where you backend to the cheapest country. This is the front of technology.”

As the launch deadline draws closer, teams are working faster than ever to test and enhance their models. A misplaced particle of dust or a simple electronic malfunction could derail the whole mission.

Many see TeamIndus as underdogs in the moon race, up against teams with vast resources.

But Ravishankarsays being in the race, and in it to win, puts India on the map.

“This proves that you can get state of the art technology coming out of India. It is proof, that you don’t have you be a huge team of rocket scientists with the deepest pockets to do research. It’s also for the rest of the world to see that anybody can put together a crazy dream. I mean, how much crazier can you be than to look at the moon and say, ‘hey, I’m going there’?”

Website: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/ ... razy-dream

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 21 Mar 2017 21:02

Experiment to brew beer on Moon not selected to fly on TeamIndus spacecraft
by Vishwa Mohan TNN March 21, 2017

The US based Team Original Gravity - which had proposed to brew beer on the Moon as part of its yeast based experiment - has not been finally selected to fly on the TeamIndus spacecraft. An international jury has, however, selected other innovative entries from India and different parts of the world.

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Young contestants from different countries participate in the 'Lab2Moon' competition organised by the TeamIndus Foundation, in Bangalore on March 15, 2017(AFP photo)

The successful entries include an experiment to test the effectiveness of using a colony of Cyanobacteria as a shield against harmful radiation in space and another one to explore photosynthesis in space. The Bengaluru-based TeamIndus is the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE which is a global competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.

Explaining the latest development, the TeamIndus in a statement said, "Earlier this month, an international jury comprising K Kasturirangan, former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, Alain Bensoussan, former President of Centre National D'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and former Chairman of Council, European Space Agency and Priyamvada Natarajan, Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University examined in granular detail the prototypes of these experiments that came in from all over the world.

"Team Space4Life, which proposed an experiment to test the effectiveness of using a colony of Cyanobacteria as a shield against harmful radiation in space and India based Team Z?I, which proposed an experiment to explore photosynthesis in space, have been shortlisted to fly aboard the TeamIndus Spacecraft".

According to the statement, six other teams and their experiments that have qualified include Team Callisto (India) - Lunar Dust Accumulation Analyser, TeamEARS (India) - Electrostatics Active Radiation Shield Experiment, Team Kalpana (India) - Instrument for Lunar Dust Analysis, Team Killa Lab (Peru) - an experiment Testing Microbial Growth And Decomposition, Team Lunadome (UK) - an Inflatable Dome experiment, Team Regolith Revolution (USA) - looking at the Effect on Plant Growth in Moon Regolith.

"The US based Team Original Gravity which had proposed a yeast based experiment, is not in the final shortlist of teams that has qualified to fly on the TeamIndus spacecraft", said the statement. The issue had figured in the Parliament last week when the Trinamool Congress member Sisir Kumar Adhikari wanted to know whether an Indian Spacecraft is planning to brew beer on the Moon.

Though the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in his written response on March 15 that there was no plan to brew beer on the Moon by any spacecraft to be made by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), he while referring to certain media reports noted about a proposal. The minister had said, "As understood, the aim of this experiment is to test and observe the survivability of yeast in space and how it performs under Moon's gravity conditions. The experiment plans to brew a small batch of beer in space".

Website: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home ... 750848.cms

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 23 Mar 2017 07:18

Will Anyone Win the Google Lunar X-PRIZE?
One giant leap for robot kind.

by Greg Freiherr Air & Space Magazine March 23, 2017

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“Andy,” a lunar rover designed by Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University, takes a test drive at a cement plant near Pittsburgh last year. (Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

It was more a leap than a launch, the yellow-red flame splashing across a concrete slab in the Mojave Desert, firming into a cone, propelling a gangly collection of pipes, tanks, and electronics skyward.

The rocket-powered leap was the show, but the onboard Landing and Hazard Avoidance System was the star. The artificial pilot guided the test vehicle a distance of 300 meters; there it hovered momentarily, then settled safely among the sandbags that stood in for lunar boulders.

That was three years ago. In June 2014, the developer of this computerized vision system, Astrobotic Technology, was hugging the inside rail in the latest race to the moon, one set in motion by the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Back then, it looked a lot more like a race. Announced in September 2007, the Google Lunar XPRIZE is a competition sponsored by the web giant to spur private investment in lunar exploration. The challenge is this: Teams must land a spacecraft on the moon, dispatch a rover at least 500 meters (about a third of a mile) across the surface, then transmit high-def video and images from the rover’s camera back to Earth.

The first team to launch in 2017 (originally it was 2014) and land on the moon gets $20 million; the second gets $5 million. Another $5 million in bonuses is available to teams for other achievements, like if their spacecraft make it through the lunar night—that is, if they endure the weeks of sustained cold (minus 173 degrees Celsius) while the moon is in shadow on battery power and then “reawaken” once solar power is again available.

Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh-based outfit that hopes to offer delivery service to the moon and provide power and communications to whatever it deposits there, had emerged as one of the frontrunners, earning $1.75 million in Google money for meeting Earthbound milestones: $1 million for landing the Xombie rocket (which Astrobotic rented for its successful 2014 navigation system test in the Mojave); $500,000 for demonstrating the mobility of its prototype rover; and another $250,000 for demonstrating­ it could capture, compress, and transmit video, still pictures, and other data in a simulated lunar environment. But in December 2016, Astrobotic abruptly dropped out of the race.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton says the deadlines are unreasonable. “Many of the teams left in the XPRIZE are taking monstrous amounts of risk and frankly have unrealistic programs for getting it done,” he said after pulling out of the race. “There is very unlikely to be an XPRIZE team that lands in 2017.” To win, teams must merely launch by the end of the year; they don’t necessarily need to have landed by then. And Astrobotic still intends to go to the moon; just not on Google’s timeline.

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Astrobotic CEO John Thornton with the company’s Griffin lander in 2014—the year by which contestants in the Google Lunar XPRIZE were originally supposed to reach the moon. (Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Bob Richards, CEO of one of the remaining competitors, Moon Express, says his team can do it. The mission of Moon Express, he says, is to build the space equivalent of the railroads that opened the western United States to commerce. He waxes about the moon as a “gas station in the sky” for fueling spacecraft bound for Mars and the asteroids. He predicts that space pioneers will be the new forty-niners, who drove America’s gold rush. And he predicts that Moon Express will claim the $20 million XPRIZE.

But he isn’t counting on it—Moon Express has secured its own financing to the tune of $45 million, he says, and it considers the Google Lunar XPRIZE Foundation only one of its customers.

In the decade since the contest was announced, the field has thinned dramatically. At one point, 29 teams were registered, but since that peak, roughly a dozen have dropped out or merged with others. Last December, an XPRIZE deadline eliminated several more—teams that could not verify launch contracts by the last day of 2016. Only five remain: Moon Express, which, like Astrobotic, has already won about $1.25 million for incremental successes; TeamIndus of India, which has earned $1 million; HAKUTO of Japan, which has been awarded $500,000; and Israel’s SpaceIL. The last is Synergy Moon, an international concern with individuals from 15 countries.

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Moon Express co-founder Bob Richards wants to make the moon a refueling stop for spacecraft bound for Mars and beyond. He is unmoved by complaints that the Google Lunar XPRIZE’s deadlines are unreasonable, and he believes his team will launch by year’s end. (NASA)

To remain competitive, the five left standing will have to launch—but not necessarily land on the moon—before the end of this year. Why launch and not land? Says the competition’s senior director, Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer: “Some teams could be in space for three days; some for 45; some might go straight for the moon. So obviously there had to be some flexibility about when they actually land. But it is still a prize, so the first team that does it will win.”

Of the five still in the running, only three have proposed to use proven rockets to reach Earth orbit. SpaceIL, which has received at least $16 million in grant money from American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, plans to use a SpaceX Falcon 9. TeamIndus will fly on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle provided by the Indian space agency. HAKUTO has made a pact to share a ride aboard that Polar rocket with TeamIndus. Moon Express and Synergy Moon have both proposed to launch aboard rockets that remain, as of late February 2017, unflown: Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle and the Interorbital Systems’ Neptune, respectively. And no one is getting a chartered flight, as it were; all will share the nose cone with other payloads on whatever rocket launches them.

Meanwhile, SpaceIL says it does not share its main rivals’ commercial ambitions, at least not yet. “Only after we complete this mission will we talk about the next stages,” SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman says. He’s conscious of a substantial level of risk, but he says his team will launch only when they believe their probability of success is above 70 percent. “If we feel that by the end of the year we need another few months to make sure that we will land on the moon, I believe we will delay,” says Privman.

Beyond the material goals of the competition, SpaceIL wants to create an “Apollo moment,” Privman says, inspiring youth around the world—and particularly in Israel—to pursue careers in science and engineering. If SpaceIL wins the prize, the money will be put into educational grants earmarked for these fields, he says.

But in addition to the educational goals, there is an unmistakable whiff of nationalism. “Putting a spacecraft on the moon next to the USA and Russia and China [would be] very impressive,” he says. In his view, it would be a gesture befitting “the spirit of a startup nation.”

The Road to Victory:
Once they’re out of Earth’s atmosphere, each contestant will have a slightly different lunar commute. Moon Express plans to get dropped off in low Earth orbit, then fire the main engine of its lunar lander to enter trans-lunar injection. SpaceIL expects to use the final stage of the Falcon 9 to kick the lander into a path typical of communications and GPS satellites en route to geosynchronous orbit. Then the SpaceIL craft will also burn its lander’s main engine to reach trans-lunar injection.

If all goes as planned, the trip for both SpaceIL and Moon Express will take four to five days from Earth orbit, at which time they plan to re-fire the engines to drop into lunar orbits.

If and when Astrobotic, which is no longer in the running for the XPRIZE, heads for the moon, the company expects to follow a lower-energy route. Its spacecraft, dubbed Peregrine, will share a ride to geosynchronous orbit. After reaching orbit, Peregrine will gently fire its thrusters, and embark on a months-long, looping flight a million miles from Earth, where—in the grip of the gravitational fields of Earth, the sun, and the moon—it will fall toward the moon. At least three lunar orbital missions have done it this way: NASA’s GRAIL in 2011, the Japanese space agency’s Hiten in 1990, and the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 in 2003.

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HAKUTO’s PFM3 lunar rover is slated to share a ride to the moon aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with TeamIndus’s own lunar rover. (Team Hakuto)

Astrobotic chose the low-energy route to save money, but that savings will come at the expense of speed. Thornton expects Peregrine’s trip to take three to six months. After demonstrating that the company can land on the moon, Thornton expects demand will increase. Having more paying customers will justify the cost of a direct lunar trajectory.

Regardless of the route, Astrobotic plans for its Peregrine lander to enter a nearly circular polar orbit about 60 miles above the moon. As the moon rotates underneath, primary and secondary landing sites will eventually come into alignment.

Moon Express is also counting on a polar orbit. But SpaceIL is planning to enter a high inclination orbit, which Privman says is needed to access a landing site “around 45 degrees latitude.” Several landing sites along this orbit are of interest to scientists, who will use an instrument aboard the SpaceIL lander to study the nearby magnetic field.

The five remaining teams and XPRIZE officials are eager to join in a new moon race, but something is missing from that picture: convincing evidence that any of these teams can actually make it to the moon. They’ve run simulations. “Millions,” Richards says. But not a single piece of any team’s hardware has flown outside Earth’s atmosphere. Nor is any likely to until launch day.

SpaceIL is scheduled to fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9, which has put many payloads into Earth orbit, though none to the lunar surface.

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The Jakkur, Bangalore-based TeamIndus has nearly 100 staffers working to reach the moon by year’s end. (TeamIndus)

TeamIndus might have an advantage. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on which it is supposed to fly has successfully launched 37 times, placing more than 100 satellites into Earth orbit. But none has yet escaped Earth’s gravitational pull.

“No matter how many [flights] you have under your belt, you are still accelerating something through the atmosphere along a very precise path from zero to Mach 25 in 10 minutes,” says Paul D. Spudis, a 40-year-veteran space scientist (whose blog “Once and Future Moon” appears on airspacemag.com). “That is a very challenging thing to do.”

Spudis serves as senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and consults with Moon Express but emphasizes that his opinions are his own.

Machine or Market?
In 2007 the Google Lunar XPRIZE Foundation set the end of 2014 as the original deadline. Since then, the foundation has pushed it back twice. There won’t be more delays, says Gonzales-Mowrer. “We feel that 10 years is adequate for this competition. The teams have put down nonrefundable payments [to reserve space for their landers on rockets], so I think the commitment all around is pretty strong. The feeling is that this will happen.”

But even for the winner, a $20 million purse won’t offset the cost of going to the moon, or developing a robotic lander. It won’t even come close.

“The [XPRIZE] teams have said their mission could cost as much as $60 million,” Gonzales-Mowrer says. “So right there, even if they were to win the grand prize, [their costs] would be more than double. The teams are raising a lot of money. They know it’s very expensive.”

Will investors see a return? A video on the Google Lunar XPRIZE website describes the moon as chock-full of “resources and clean, affordable, limitless energy,” a reference to the use of lunar materials to build solar power stations. Spudis talks of mining water on the moon to make rocket fuel from oxygen and hydrogen. But that scheme assumes that the moon would be used as a way station to Mars or asteroids. Since that use currently appears very far off, mining seems an uncertain revenue source. Other sources of income that might arrive sooner include contracts with governmental space agencies to deliver cargo to the lunar surface. But at present, no one knows if companies can make money flying to the moon.

“There is not a market for going to the moon because there is not an easy way to get there,” Spudis says. “And there is not an easy way to get there because there is not a market to go. That is sort of why the Google XPRIZE was founded: to incentivize people to develop the systems. And then we would see what commercial markets might develop.”

The problem, he says, is not a lack of customers. “It is breaking through that Catch-22.”

Cash and Carry:
Gliding under the radar until last year were regulatory issues related to the Outer Space Treaty. Signed by more than 100 countries in the heat of the 1960s superpower race to the moon, the treaty requires government authorization and oversight of space missions emanating from each signatory’s domain. Last summer, Moon Express became the first private company to be granted approval by the United States to fly beyond Earth orbit.

Before Moon Express started the process, there was no process. “It was something that had to be worked out,” Richards says. “I can’t speak to how other countries will solve this. I am just saying it had not been worked out, and I know firsthand that it is not easy.”

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Israel’s SpaceIL is taking a novel approach to hitting the Google Lunar XPRIZE benchmarks: Instead of landing and dispatching a rover, its spacecraft will touch down and then hop to a second lunar landing site 500 meters from the first. (Spaceil)

Astrobotic CEO Thornton acknowledges as “technically correct” the claim that Moon Express is the only company with U.S. approval to fly to the moon. But he says the significance has been “massively puffed up.” Thornton says Astrobotic is “well on track” to getting government approval. “For our mission,” he says, “it is too early to get a launch license.” Getting a license to fly to the moon, says Thornton, doesn’t even “crack the top 10 of mission risks, but Bob has done a fantastic job of drumming up a lot of noise about it.”

So what are the most pressing mission risks? Thornton and Richards agree that the biggest hurdle for private sector moonshots is the one you’d expect: money. “No bucks, no Buck Rogers,” says Richards, quoting Gus Grissom (as reported by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff).

Though Astrobotic is no longer in the XPRIZE competition, the company could yet be among the first to land on the moon. Thornton expects its first lunar mission to launch in 2019, and 10 payloads are on the manifest. In addition, the company has 100 more payloads in its pipeline. Astrobotic announced years ago its intention to fly via SpaceX Falcon 9. But Thornton now says his company is seeking additional launch options including United Launch Alliance.

Once it gets to the moon, the company has an entertainment goal—a holdover from its XPRIZE entry—as well as several science ones. Astrobotic plans to fly rovers to the surface strapped to the hull of its lander. At least two are on the manifest: the company’s own rover and one built by Japan’s Team HAKUTO. In what the company has framed as the lunar equivalent of a NASCAR or Formula One race, the rovers will roll down ramps, line up, then “sprint” to a finish line as the world watches via a live video feed. People around the world will cheer for their country’s rover, says Thornton—or whichever one they choose.

“We are just as close to the moon today as when we were in the XPRIZE,” says Thornton, who notes that the competition spurred the start of his company nine years ago, making his decision to withdraw a painful one. “They obviously have been a big help over time,” he says.

As for the grand prize and the efforts to win it, future generations may be in a better position to assess whether the Google Lunar XPRIZE served its purpose. More than a century ago—just eight years after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk—newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst offered $50,000 to the first aviator who could fly coast to coast in 30 days. Cal Rodgers took him up on it, leaving from the Sheepshead Bay race track in Brooklyn, New York. After at least 15 crashes, two engine explosions, and dozens of mechanical problems, Rodgers completed the transcontinental crossing in 49 days.

The century-old prize and Rodgers’ dogged pursuit of it attest to the belief that with persistence someone might achieve what was previously thought impossible.

Shortly after completing the first transcontinental trip, Rodgers died in a plane crash. He is buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, the city where he was born. The inscription on his grave reads: “I endure. I conquer.”

Website: http://www.airspacemag.com/space/moon-r ... 180962397/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 26 Mar 2017 22:03

Hopping rockets and flying washing machines in Google's wacky race to moon
by Robin McKie Theguardian.com March 26, 2017
Five competitors remain in a $20m Google contest to land a probe on the lunar surface by the end of the year, but all their craft are untested, rudimentary, or look like R2-D2

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Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan drives across the lunar surface in the last manned mission to the moon in 1972. Photograph: Science & Society Picture Librar/SSPL via Getty Images

By the end of the year, space engineers hope to fulfil one of their greatest dreams. They plan to land a privately funded probe on the moon and send a small robot craft trundling over the lunar surface. If they succeed they will open up the exploitation of the moon for mining and ultimately human colonisation – and earn $20m prize money as winners of the Google Lunar XPrize.

Out of the 29 companies that originally entered the competition, only five remain in contention. Each has until the end of 2017, the XPrize deadline, to launch its robot mission.

It is an extraordinarily ambitious task. To date, not a single piece of any competitor’s hardware has flown outside Earth’s atmosphere, while two of the rockets earmarked to send craft to the moon have still to undergo test launches. As a result, many observers now wonder if anyone will win the Google XPrize given its tight timetable.

Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express – one of the five remaining competitors – is bullish, however. “We have tested our lander. We have tried out all our hardware and software and we have raised all the money we need to complete the mission. We are very confident.”

The rules for the Google XPrize are straightforward. The winning robot craft must be the first to land on the moon and must then travel 500 metres over the lunar surface while sending back high-resolution images to Earth. At the same time, at least 90% of the mission must be commercially funded.

The first team to succeed in this undertaking will win $20m, with further bonuses on offer. For example, a spacecraft that not only lands successfully but also survives a lunar night – which lasts for two Earth weeks when temperatures drop to minus 173 degrees – will win an extra prize of several million dollars.

The aim of the exercise is “to incentivise space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond,” say the organisers. It was set up 10 years ago, attracting considerable interest from aerospace investors. Most would-be competitors have since dropped out as the technical hurdles of the mission have proved too onerous. The five now left are:

■ TeamIndus of India. Set up by dotcom entrepreneur Rahul Narayan, this outfit is backed by a several major Indian businesses.

■ Hakuto of Japan, which has developed its own four-wheel rover for trundling over the lunar surface

■ Israel’s SpaceIL. It has received substantial backing from American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and it wants to create an “Apollo moment” when it lands, thus inspiring the young to pursue careers in science and engineering.

■ Synergy Moon, an international concern with individuals from 15 countries, which will use a Neptune 8 rocket, built and launched by Interorbital Systems, to carry a lander and at least one rover to the moon.

■ Moon Express. Funded by Naveen Jain, the founder of dotcom search giant InfoSpace, it has set its sights on mining the moon for minerals and is the only competitor yet to receive permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration to land a craft on the lunar surface.

Most of the challengers have invested sums up to $60m to develop their technology – though several have to finalise this funding. The benefits of taking part in the competition were nevertheless clear, said the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. “Challenge prizes like these are very good ideas. They have played major roles in developing driverless cars and the development of private launch systems like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and they could do the same for roboticised space missions.”

In future, said Rees, humanity would depend more and more on robot craft to assemble telescopes and to build orbiting solar power plants and to operate mines on asteroids. “Such operations are not likely to be in use for many decades, but challenges like these definitely help to get things moving.”

It remains to be seen if any of the missions make it to the moon by the end of the year. All are rudimentary in concept, are largely untested and employ a wide variety of technologies. Moon Express will not use a rover to cross the lunar surface, for example. It will employ the craft’s rocket engines to hop across it. Similarly, its craft will be launched on a Rocket Lab electron launcher, from New Zealand, while Synergy Moon’s rocket will blast off from an ocean launch pad. This wide variety of approaches has left some bemused observers viewing the competition as a lunar Wacky Races.

For his part, Moon Express’s chief executive Bob Richards acknowledged that its lander did look a bit like a flying washing machine. “Actually it looks more like R2-D2. But it will work,” he insisted.

However, one awkward task that faced past lunar efforts – returning to Earth – will not be a problem that will affect these competitors. Yes, they will have to overcome the headaches of launching a spacecraft from Earth and they will have to land it gently on the moon, a world that lacks atmosphere and thus precludes the use of parachutes. However, there is no requirement in the Google XPrize regulations for competitors to bring their craft back to Earth. They will be left on the lunar surface as possible visiting sights for future tourists.

“That does make things a little easier,” said Rees. “Returning to Earth was the real nail-biting part of the Apollo missions. At least competitors won’t have to worry about that.”

As to follow-up missions, competitors are also divided. SpaceIL says that if it wins the XPrize, the money will be invested – not on further space missions but into educational grants. By contrast, Moon Express has pledged that regardless of winning the prize or not it intends to embark on a long-term strategy of mining on the moon. “This effort is just the start,” said Richards. “We see a real future up there.”

Website: https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... o-the-moon

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 30 Mar 2017 11:48

Is photosynthesis possible on the Moon? Indian students are finding out
by Malavika Vyawahare Hindustan Times March 30, 2017

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That spacecraft will host Team ZΩi’s experiment to observe photosynthesis in cyanobacteria on the moon.

Santosh Roychowdhury, 25, remembers the exact moment he fell in love with the universe. As a child, he spent a night camping on the roof of their house in Kolkata to watch a meteor shower. “I was awake looking at thousands of shooting stars, then a beautiful sunrise followed and that was the moment when I truly fell in love with the universe,” he recalled, explaining what drove him to participate in a competition to place an experiment on the moon on India’s first privately funded moon mission.

Roychowdhury’s team, Team ZΩi, won the second prize in the Lab2Moon competition hosted by Team Indus, a Bangalore-based space startup sending the spacecraft. That spacecraft will host Team ZΩi’s experiment to observe photosynthesis in cyanobacteria on the moon.


Team ZΩi Lab2 Moon Team Indus

“It is one of the most challenging problems now trying to find out how to sustain this fragile phenomenon called life in the harsh conditions of space and extraterrestrial environments like Moon, Mars and beyond,” Roychowdhury, who has a masters in Theoretical Physics and hopes to pursue a PhD in cosmology.

In recent years, the prospect of life beyond earth has begun to feel less like science fiction and more like a scientific quest. NASA announced this month the discovery of a cluster of planets in a nearby star system that has as many as three potentially habitable planets.

“For our survival it is absolutely essential that we step outside our comfort zone and become a multi-planetary species,” according to the young scientist.

The TeamIndus moon mission is potentially groundbreaking in its own right. If it is successful it will become the first private Indian startup to land a craft on the moon. They are finalists in Google’s Lunar X challenge, which requires teams to land a spacecraft on the moon and guide it for 500 metres, all the while transmitting high definition video and images to earth. The teams are competing for prizes worth US$30 million.

In June 2016, TeamIndus organised the Lab2Moon competition allowing youngsters to devise experiments that would be included on their moon mission. The final results were announced earlier this year and Roychowdhury’s team won the second prize. An Italian team came in first.

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Team ZΩi, Sukanya Rowchowdhury, Santosh Chowdhury and Autumn Conner (from left to right). (Courtesy: Santosh Roychowdhury)

Roychowdhury did not have to look far to find a partner to enter into the competition. His sister, Sukanya Roychowdhury, is a science lover like him and in his own words a“super genius.” But inspiration and support also came from afar. About two years ago Roychowdhury connected with Autumn Conner, 24, a graduate student at Arizona State University, at an online physics forum, and very soon they discovered their common interest in space exploration.

They brought Conner on board. The association with Conner had another fortuitous result. The cyanobacteria they wanted to put on the moon are very rare, they are found in only three places: Antarctica, Atacama desert and some deserts in Israel. Fortunately, ASU had batches of the bacteria that the team received access to.

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The prototype of the solar can Team ZΩi is planning to send to the moon. (Courtesy: Santosh Roychowdhury)

Their experiment, that will be housed in a solar can, 110 millimetres in height, 65 mm in diameter and weighing 250 grams. The contraption will host the cyanobacteria, a nutrient medium in which they can survive, sensors and regulators providing all necessary conditions for photosynthesis for the bacteria. The only thing that will be uncontrolled will be the sunlight.

Once they make the lunar landing, the cyanobacteria will be released into the medium and closely monitored for photosynthetic activity, utilising the carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Their hopes for the experiment go beyond being able to show that photosynthesis can happen on the moon. In the future these cyanobacteria might help sustain extraterrestrial settlements, Roychowdhury hopes, maybe other species could survive these conditions by genetically modifying them to incorporate genes of these bacteria.

While their aspirations are out of the world the challenges the brother-sister duo faced in pursuit of their passions were more commonplace. Their father is a school teacher and mother is a homemaker. “Getting to this has not been easy coming from a lower middle-class family with everyone insisting on money and job being more important than passion and dream,” Roychowdhury said.

Their parents came onboard but their grandfather took the most convincing that his grandchildren would not become engineers but were rather interested in pursuing pure sciences. When he came around, he asked Roychowdhury for one thing, to aim to win two Nobel prizes, one for the sciences and one for peace, to use his knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

His grandfather passed away from cancer a few years ago, but, Roychowdhury said his words continue to guide him in his pursuits. “I know there are thousands if not millions like me, Autumn and my sister, who want to do something for the world who want to understand the world a little better but who might be facing a lot of problems or are discouraged from following their dreams,” he said. “All we want to tell them is never give up.”

Website: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-new ... GDcqJ.html

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 31 Mar 2017 12:46

Can ASU students create life on the moon
by Ryan Cody KPNX 12news.com March 30, 2017

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TEMPE, Ariz - An Arizona State student might be taking the first steps toward creating life on the moon. Autumn Conner is busy enough these days trying to graduate in December with a degree in computer systems engineering.Let’s just say it takes a certain kind of person to dive into that career field.

“I have a history of not only coming up with ideas, but really throwing myself into them," Conner says

Now she is taking one of her ideas to new heights, literally. Her latest project involves sending a capsule the size of a soda can to the moon, where it will hopefully create photosynthesis.

“Our idea is to send an extremophile cyanobacteria," which we know barely anybody reading this article will understand. Basically, this cyanobacteria can withstand extreme conditions, like the ones it will encounter on other planets. From there, Autumn and a group of students from India are hoping to create a reaction that will couple with sunlight and eventually photosynthesis. (Hopefully this journalism major is explaining things properly.)

Autumn didn't just dream this whole thing up overnight, in fact, she was approached by the students from India in an online physics forum.

“We designed it specifically so it could have all the parameters necessary to sustain this life form," Conner says.

The project is fully funded by a startup company called TeamIndus, which is a finalist in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. They solicited ideas from people around the world, and narrowed 3,000 submissions down to two. Conner and her team are one of those ideas which will be funded for launch to the moon in a few months.

Website: http://www.12news.com/news/asu-student- ... /427054832

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 02 Apr 2017 23:14

Astro Bob: How moon colonists might survived the frigid lunar night
by Bob King Wctrib.com April 2, 2017

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A future lunar base, perhaps constructed using 3-D printing devices, will have to be heated during the long lunar night. Covering it with lunar soil, called regolith, would help to insulate the structure against extremes of heat and cold. Credit: ESA/Foster and Partners

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A “Last Quarter” Earth seen from the shadowed lunar landscape photographed by Japan’s Kaguya moon probe. During the fortnight-long lunar night, temperatures can drop to almost 300 below zero. The European Space Agency proposes to the heat retained by the lunar soil during the day to keep a future moon colony warm at night. Copyright JAXA/NHK

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Part of a panorama showing China’s Yutu rover and some of the tracks it made in the lunar soil. A small impact crater is visible at left. Photo courtesy of Chinese Academy of Sciences, CNSA

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This pellet of plutonium-238 dioxide is glowing red from the heat generated by radioactive decay. Pellets like this in the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Galileo mission to Jupiter produced about 62 watts of heat each. A device within the spacecraft converts the heat to electricity.

Man, it can get cold on the moon. With virtually no air to speak of and a night that lasts just shy of two weeks, the surface temperature drops to around 275 degrees below zero. Dry ice or frozen carbon dioxide is toasty in comparison with a temperature of just 109 below.

Picture the scene. You're standing in darkness under a sunless sky, but you can still look around and get your bearings. Even seeing crater rims and hills off in the distance. Why? Not only does starlight provide lighting, but the Earth, four times the size of the full moon in our sky, casts a cool, blue light across the landscape.

Designers of future moon missions and bases will have to contend with the lunar chill to make sure any habitats and machinery endure the long lunar night. Several robotic missions have suffered mishaps during the prolonged cold including China's "Jade Rabbit" or Yutu rover, which landed on the moon in December 2013 and lost its mobility after about a month. Temperatures at the landing site plunged as low as 300 below.

The Apollo-manned missions stayed on the surface only a few days at a time, all during the early lunar morning when temperatures were moderating between bitter nighttime lows and sizzling daytime highs of around 250 degrees. One day, settlers will live day and night on the moon, but they'll have to do so without vital solar energy and heat during 14 days of darkness.

We could just use radioactive heat. Power cells that contain radioactive plutonium, like those featured in the movie "The Martian," have been a staple on long-term missions to the outer solar system, where they're used to not only keep electronics warm but also to provide power for probes far from the sun. The heat from the decay of plutonium kept China's Yutu warm and continues to power and warm NASA's Mars Curiosity rover.

Unfortunately, this method may not be sustainable on a larger scale. That's why folks at the European Space Agency are looking for a better solution.

"Up until now, radioactive heat and power sources have been the preferred solution for lunar habitats," explained ESA's Moritz Fontaine. "But these would multiply the cost and complexity of any expedition. "So, we're exploring a more sustainable solution, using the capacity of moondust to absorb and store energy when hit by sunlight, then releasing this energy during the lunar night."

Driven by the temperature difference of night versus day, this heat engine would keep things running during the day while storing excess heat for use at night.

Once night falls, the heat engine would be kept running in turn by the gradual release of the energy from the heated soil. Nice thing is, it's workable in principle, so the next step will be to perform a simulation and then construct a demonstration unit to test it out. Moondust not only captures solar heat but can also be processed by future astronauts to extract oxygen, fuel and even water. Dead as the moon might appear to the eye, its dust may hold the key to making a future lunar outpost self-sustaining.

Website: http://www.wctrib.com/news/4242041-astr ... unar-night

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 04 Apr 2017 21:22

India: TeamIndus shoots for the Moon
by Emmanuel Derville Aircosmos International April 04, 2017

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TeamIndus lunar rover © TeamIndus

The countdown is running and there is no time to spare. On 28th December, an Indian PSLV launcher will take the TeamIndus module into orbit. The module, carrying a lunar rover, will orbit the Earth two and a half times before firing its engines to start a seven-day trip to the Moon travelling at 10km per second. At a distance of 100km from the lunar surface, the spacecraft will decelerate and enter into lunar orbit as it starts its approach to Mare Imbrium, the “Sea of Showers”, a vast lava plain in the Moon's Northern Hemisphere. In the final phase, the module will touch down, and the lunar rover will travel at least 500m, taking images and transmitting them back to Earth.

If successful, it will be the first privately funded lunar mission, and it will win the €20m Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition launched in 2007 and running through 31st December. To win, TeamIndus will have to beat four other competitors who have all teamed with a national space agency to send their module to the Moon. The other teams hail from the U.S., Israel and Japan, along with an international team including members from multiple countries.

French partnership
For Team Indus, the adventure started in 2010, when a young engineer, Rahul Narayan, launched the project and recruited retired engineers from the Indian space agency to supervise a team of young scientists. The company has around 100 employees. Since then, TeamIndus has created a network of subcontractors and partners, from France in particular, to complete the mission.

In June 2016, France’s CNES space agency agreed to provide two latest-generation micro-cameras developed in cooperation with a French firm, 3DPlus, for the TeamIndus rover. TeamIndus is buying other systems from suppliers in the Toulouse area.

The Google competition is the first step in a plan to develop the low-cost space sector. TeamIndus is working on two other projects, Sat Plus and Long Endurance Aerial Platform. The former aims to develop lightweight, low-cost satellites, while the latter is focusing on the development and construction of solar-powered long-endurance stratospheric drones. Though these craft would be flying at lower altitudes than satellites, they would be less expensive and could be brought back to land for repairs.

Invest in Toulouse
Sridhar Ramasubban who is in charge of international sales at TeamIndus, explains why the company is looking for new partners in France, particularly in Toulouse. Once the lunar rover mission has been completed, the company has further plans, he indicates. He says that the company needs to establish an office close to its prospective customers and, from this point of view, Toulouse is seen as a priority destination.

The exact form of the company’s presence in Toulouse remains to be determined. TeamIndus is thought to be planning a secondary control centre for the lunar mission, alongside its Bangalore centre. A decision has yet to be made, but the new facility will not be just a commercial office. According to Ramasubban, the company aims to start hiring engineers this summer. He says they are looking for people with a passion for aerospace and who would be prepared to work on a variety of projects – the lunar mission, the satellite project or the drones.

For CNES, the partnership with TeamIndus and the company’s plan to set up shop in Toulouse represent an opportunity. India has been looking at low-cost space solutions for several years. In September 2014, India placed a satellite in orbit around Mars for only 4.5bn rupees (€62m), approximately the budget for a major Hollywood film. For Mathieu Weiss, who represents CNES in India, the partnership with TeamIndus is a way of getting closer to innovative players. He explains that CNES needs to accelerate the development of less-costly systems and explore new methods. Weiss believes that India has a lot to offer. In January, CNES signed an agreement with ISRO to explore new technologies for low-cost launchers.

Website: http://www.aircosmosinternational.com/i ... moon-92623

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 05 Apr 2017 21:01

Space agency heads see the moon on the path to Mars
by Jeff Foust Spacenews.com April 5, 2017

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Robert Walker, the former U.S. congressman and Trump space adviser, had the unenviable task of bringing order to a panel discussion involving the leaders of 15 of the world’s space agencies. Credit: Tom Kimmell

COLORADO SPRINGS — With NASA’s long-term strategy for human missions to Mars in flux, heads of several space agencies said they supported initial missions to the moon as a key step before going to Mars.

During an April 4 panel session during the 33rd Space Symposium that featured representatives from 15 agencies, many expressed support for going to Mars only after building up experience at the moon first.

“We think that the moon is also a very important step. Mars is not the ultimate goal,” said Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency. “The moon is an intermediate step to go to Mars, but the moon can also offer some special opportunities.”

Woerner, as he has done in recent years, promoted his vision for a “Moon Village,” a lunar facility that would include contributions from various countries and companies. “Moon Village is part of our overall strategy,” he said.

The Moon Village concept got an endorsement from Yulong Tian, secretary general of the China National Space Administration. He outlined plans for a series of robotic missions to the moon in the next several years, including China’s first sample return mission, Chang’e-5, scheduled for launch in November.

Later missions, Tian said, would include missions to the lunar poles, thought to have deposits of water ice that could support future human bases. “In the coming five to 10 years we have a few more missions to the polar regions of the moon, including establishment of a lunar base, or part of the Moon Village,” he said.

In a press conference here April 4, Igor Komarov, director general of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said he has talked with ESA about participating in any Moon Village effort.

“We should go to the moon,” he said, in part to study issues associated with Mars missions. “It’s better to solve all these problems on the moon before going to Mars.”

Smaller space agencies on the panel shared a similar desire to do lunar missions first. “We don’t consider the flight to Mars as a vital program or task,” said Yuriy Radchenko, chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine. “Currently, we are very seriously considering tasks connected to lunar exploration.”

NASA’s current plans for human missions to Mars have not emphasized a human return to the lunar surface as an intermediate step. Instead, NASA has been planning for missions in cislunar space, lasting up to a year at time. The agency has, in recent weeks, provided more details about that concept, including the sequence of missions to build up what it calls the Deep Space Gateway.

That gateway could support human missions to the lunar surface by NASA’s international or commercial partners. “The goal is to see out what we can prove out in the area around the moon and work with our international partners on what we do on the surface of the moon,” said NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

He did not rule out, though, NASA activities on the surface of the moon, such as testing technologies for in-situ resource utilization. “We think we can maybe do some work on the moon to feed forward for how you would do it on Mars,” he said.

One agency head, though, showed little interest in going to the moon. “We think that the future is Mars, rather than the moon,” said Roberto Battiston, president of the Italian space agency ASI. Lunar missions, he said, could help prepare for Mars, “but the real future goal, in the long term, is really getting to the next challenge, which is Mars.”

Website: http://spacenews.com/space-agency-heads ... h-to-mars/

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Re: Google Lunar XPRIZE and Space 2.0 Discussion

Postby bharats » 18 Apr 2017 01:32

The American flags on the moon are disintegrating
by Dave Mosher Businessinsider.com April 10, 2017

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Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands next to a flag on the moon on July 20, 1969 Credit: NASA

The photos have stood the test of time: A spacesuit-clad Apollo astronaut stands proudly next to a red-white-and-blue American flag, his national trophy telling the lonely world “the United States was here.”

Unfortunately, all six flags they planted from 1969 through 1972 haven’t fared so well. Images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2012 do show that at least five out six flags still stand. However, scientists think decades’ worth of brilliant sunlight have bleached out their emblematic colours.

The result? The flags are probably completely bone-white by now, as we first learned from Gizmodo. But their condition may be even worse than that. Each one of the flags was made by the company Annin Flagmakers, woven out of rayon, and cost NASA $US5.50 (more than $US32.00 when adjusted for inflation). On the surface of Earth, such flags fade in sunlight. That’s because ultraviolet light — the same wavelength that causes sunburn — isn’t fully absorbed by our planet’s atmosphere, and it excels at breaking down fibres and colours.

The moon doesn’t have any atmosphere to absorb sunlight, and outside of craters there is no shade. This means the flags planted by the Apollo astronauts are exposed to constant, gleaming sunlight and even more solar radiation, and for two-week stretches at a time. (One “day” on the moon lasts about 28 Earth days.)

Writing in a July 2011 article for Smithsonian Air&Space magazine, lunar scientist Paul Spudis explains:
“Over the course of the Apollo program, our astronauts deployed six American flags on the Moon. For forty-odd years, the flags have been exposed to the full fury of the Moon’s environment — alternating 14 days of searing sunlight and 100° C heat with 14 days of numbing-cold -150° C darkness. But even more damaging is the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pure unfiltered sunlight on the cloth (modal) from which the Apollo flags were made. Even on Earth, the colours of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced. So it is likely that these symbols of American achievement have been rendered blank, bleached white by the UV radiation of unfiltered sunlight on the lunar surface. Some of them may even have begun to physically disintegrate under the intense flux.

“America is left with no discernible space program while the Moon above us no longer flies a visible U.S. flag. How ironic.”


Will we return to the moon?
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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, wants to colonize the moon Creit: Ted S. Warren/AP; NASA’s Scientific Visualisation Studio; Business Insider

A lot has and has not changed since Spudis’ lament nearly six years ago. NASA is working hard to fly astronauts into deep space, but has since decided to skip a moon landing using its ultra-powerful Space Launch System rockets. Instead, the space agency plans to send astronauts to Mars by 2033.

There may be hope for a moon mission in the commercial sector, though. Tech mogul Elon Musk, for example, planets to slingshot two civilians around the moon (but not land on it) in 2018 using his rocket company, SpaceX. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the rocket company Blue Origin, is eager to colonize the moon.

Should neither company get people to the lunar surface, five teams competing for the $US20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition might, as soon as the end of 2017. Their mission includes landing a robot on the surface and broadcasting high-definition footage.

A $US4 million “Apollo Heritage Bonus Prize” will go to whichever team can record the first live-video stream or panoramic image from the site of Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, or 17 and include views of lunar hardware.

If they succeed, there may be an iconic flag in the frame — and we might settle the question of what they actually look like after spending more than 45 years under the sun.

Jennifer Welsh contributed to this post.
Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

Website: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/amer ... ?r=US&IR=T


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