SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday, March 2, 2019. The capsule docked with the International Space Station this morning. The Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on the 'Of Course I Still Love You" drone-ship following the launch. The mission was "intended to demonstrate SpaceX’s capabilities to safely and reliably fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program" (SpaceX Crew Demo-1 Mission Overview).
The success of this mission marks a major milestone in modern day space exploration. SpaceX has now proven that they are prepared and equipped to send humans to space. This signifies that SpaceX can now continue to move closer towards launching humans into space, for the first time from a rocket, since the last Space Shuttle launch.
This milestone comes along with the success of another private space company, Virgin Galactic, who became the first private company to send humans to space (however this is a topic of debate that will be talked about later) from the United States, late last year. Virgin Galactic's current goal is space tourism, while SpaceX's is human space exploration.
In fact, Virgin Galactic has done it twice. The first mission, which occurred on December 13, 2019 featured two pilots. The second, which occurred on February 22, 2019 had 3 passengers, including 2 pilots and a passenger/cabin specialist, who will train future fliers. All passengers of both flights received their astronaut wings. Virgin Galactic founder, Richard Branson, plans to fly his first flight on July 16, 2019. Both missions flew into space as defined by the US Air Force, however, neither have passed limit defined by the International Astronautical Federation. There is some debate as to whether this should be defined as a space flight. Regardless, the flight is still monumentous, and the Unity will continue to fly farther to reach what is unanimously defined as outer space.
Virgin Galactic, like SpaceX, uses a special method to make space travel efficient and relatively inexpensive. Virgin Galactic flies it's rocket plane, VSS Unity, to an altitude of , attached to a larger plane. Once it reaches this altitude, the spaceship separates from its host vehicle, ignites it engine, and begins it's gradual assent to space. After reaching space and completing the mission, Unity glides and lands like a plane, similar to the Space Shuttle. All of these money saving tactics makes space travel more convenient and accessible to the public.
We are seeing a significant shift towards human space travel through private companies rather than the government. This shift had been noticeable in the past, however all of these companies and projects were in their infancy. There had been great doubt surrounding the success (and even the possibility) a private companies. These recent achievements are beginning to change the attitude towards these companies.
What do you think about the latest achievements in space exploration by private companies? Feel free to share your thoughts below!
After getting caught in a dust storm, NASA's Opportunity mars rover officially died. It's solar panels got covered in dust and were no longer able to produce energy. It's last communication occurred June 10, 2018 and the last attempt to reach the rover occurred on February 13, 2019, to not avail. NASA declared it was going to stop attempt to reach the rover after the final attempt.
Opportunity was launched with its twin rover, Spirit, in 2003, as a part of a mission to search Mars for past life. Opportunity was only planned to survive for 90 days and exceeded this expectation by about 14 years! Spirit was also only planned to survive for 90 days and outlived the estimate by about 7 years, with the mission ending on May 25, 2011. Spirit got stuck in soft soil, and was never able to escape.
Both of these rovers gave us extremely useful information about mars, such as the fact that Mars was once far wetter than it is today.
The general public has grown quite emotional about the termination of Opportunity's mission, and have called for missions to revive it. Some say that builders should send the next rover with additional batteries to bring new life to the classic Mars rover.
What do you think about the attempts to revive Opportunity? How do you feel about Opportunities mission coming to an end?
The winner of the scholarship has been announced! Isabella Velasco is officially the first recipient of the Future Voyager Scholarship! I surprised her with the news that she had been selected as the recipient of the scholarship on June 3rd! She received a Raspberry Pi 3, a 3D printer, two rolls of filament, a book to help in the process of discovering the art of additive manufacturing, and "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" by Neil deGrasse Tyson! Each of these items fits Isabella's interests uniquely to fuel her interest in the STEAM. I am also going to personally mentor her with whatever she may need help with. I would like to give a special thanks to all of those who donated to make this possible! Thank you to Mochi for allowing us to make the surprise possible by allowing us to host the celebration at their location. I will keep everyone updated on her progress!
The company Orion Span has been getting publicity recently for unvieling their plan for a luxury hotel...in space. This idea is definitely not new by any means, but it is true that this task has never been done before. The CEO of Orion Span says that visits to Aurora will be open to the public by 2022. The cost to get on the waiting list for a vacation of a lifetime will be a hefty $80,000.