China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space


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China plans to build a huge solar power station 36,000 kilometres above the ground in an attempt to battle smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve energy crisis, much on the lines of an idea first floated in 1941 by fiction writer Isaac Asimov, state media reported today.

If realised, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station, and be the largest-ever space project.

The power station would be a super spacecraft on a geosynchronous orbit equipped with huge solar panels. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

In 1941, American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov had published a short story “Reason”, in which a space station transmits energy collected from the sun using microwave beams.

Wang Xiji, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an International Academy of Astronautics member, says Asimov’s fiction has a scientific basis.

After devoting over 50 years to space technology research, Wang, 93, is an advocate for the station: “An economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the solar panels reaching 5 to 6 sq km.”

That would be equivalent to 12 of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, or nearly two New York Central Parks. “Maybe people on Earth could see it in the sky at night, like a star,” says Wang.

Wang says the electricity generated from the ground-based solar plants fluctuates with night and day and the weather, but a space generator collects energy 99 per cent of the time.

Space-based solar panels can generate ten times as much electricity as ground-based panels per unit area, says Duan Baoyan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“If we have space solar power technology, hopefully we could solve the energy crisis on Earth,” Duan said.

Wang says whoever obtains the technology first “could occupy the future energy market. So it’s of great strategic significance.”

Countries such as the US and Japan have studied space solar power station. Japan leads the development of wireless power transmission technology. However, many hurdles lie ahead: A commercially viable space power station would weigh 10,000 tons. But few rockets can carry a payload of over 100 tons to low Earth orbit.

Continue reading China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space

NASA is working with Russia on a new space station


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Astronauts Repairing Space Module

Russia is teaming up with the USA to build ISS 2.0 once the current one’s funding runs out in 2024 — at least according to Russia Today and state news agency TASS. The country’s space agency, Roscosmos threatened in February to use the Russian ISS modules as a platform for a new base of its own after 2024, but now it looks like there will be a followup collaboration.

This time around, both parties are looking for participation from other countries, as well as private industry, and are apparently even eyeing a team-up for potential missions to Mars. Russian news outlets report the announcement came during a news conference Saturday following the launch of a year-long mission (video of the launch and subsequent ISS docking is embedded after the break) to the current International Space Station.

NASA Statement –

We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 — a priority of ours — and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA’s history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking. Today we remain focused on full use of our current science laboratory in orbit and research from the exciting one-year mission astronaut Scott Kelly just began, which will help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight.

Chief Komarov, who was there for the US-Russia year-long ISS mission launch, reportedly said: “We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station.” In addition to building a new ISS, sources say the agency’s partnership also entail working on a joint Mars mission. In the same event, NASA chief Charles Bolden is quoted saying: “Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication.”

So far NASA hasn’t announced or confirmed anything through its official channels. We’ve contacted the agency for comment and will update this post if we hear anything.

Source : engadget.com

This woman wants to live and die on Mars—and 200,000 others would gladly take her place


Volker Maiwald, executive officer and habitat engineer of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission, walks among the rock formations in the Utah desert

Ok, it’s Utah – but we can dream. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

Dina was born in Iraq, lives in the US, and may end her life on Mars.

She’s one of 663 people who are still in the running for a place on the first four-person team that Mars One, a Dutch organization launched in 2011, wants to send to the red planet. Candidates have been whittled down from some 200,000 who applied.

In a video made for the Guardian by Stateless Media, Dina (whose last name isn’t given) and two other hopefuls—one from the UK, one from Mozambique—discuss love, sex, and death on Mars.

Dina is 29 now, but she’ll be nearing 40 by the time of the Mars mission’s planned launch in 2024. She could be almost a year older than that when they arrive on Mars, which is up to 300 days’ travel away .
Her days may then be numbered. A group of strategic engineering graduates estimated that the first of the travelers would die in 68 days—though the plan is to live there much longer .

Intimacy is not encouraged, because of the potential risks of childbirth—though in the long term the future of colony would rely on it .

No one will return from the mission. This led, last year, to a prohibition on Muslims joining the mission , issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates. It judged the mission to be so inevitably fatal that it is essentially suicide.

In the future, the mission plans to meet its costs, to a large extent, via broadcast rights . The first mission will cost $6 billion, according to estimates, though a subsequent mission—a plan is already in the pipeline—would be somewhat cheaper.

Source : qz.com

Russia to create joint orbital station with India, China


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Russia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July.

“Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said.

The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported.

The proposal comes after months of speculation that the crisis in Ukraine would doom U.S.-Russia space cooperation. For two decades this effort has largely been focused on the International Space Station project (ISS), which is due to end in 2020. NASA has proposed extending it to 2024, but Russia has suggested it might duck out and instead build its own space station — possibly with the participation of China.

The BRICS project would be roughly analogous to the ISS, a $150 billion project involving 15 nations. Anchored by the United States and Russia, the world’s leading spacefaring powers, the ISS allows countries with less advanced spaceflight capabilities to either join onto the station’s Russian and American segments or contribute smaller segments.

A BRICS space station would likely emerge from a similar two-nation partnership, again with Russia in a driver’s seat. The Military-Industrial Commission recommended approaching either China or India — both countries that have well-developed and increasingly ambitious space programs. The proposal would then allow other BRICS members to join.

India has yet to put a man in space without hitching rides on other nations’ rockets. Last year, it demonstrated its rising capabilities after launching an unmanned satellite to Mars on a shoestring budget.

China is perhaps the best partner for such a project. China already launches its own astronauts into space, and is designing its own medium-sized space station. The placement of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East also makes close cooperation with China far easier.

Source : Times Of India , TheMoscowTimes

SpaceX, Boeing on Track to Take Astronauts to Space Station by 2017


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The agency will use the partnership to end dependency on Russia

SpaceX has completed the first certification milestone in its CCP commitment, and will spend much of 2015 testing abort solutions for its formerly cargo-only Dragon capsule. (Abort procedures are more critical in crewed missions.) A launchpad abort will be tested in the next two months at Cape Canaveral, and an in-flight abort test will follow “later this year,” according to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. Uncrewed missions to the ISS with the new capsule will start in 2016, and the company is still working out the makeup of its first test flight crew.

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“I DON’T EVER WANT TO HAVE TO WRITE ANOTHER CHECK TO ROSCOSMOS.”

The company is also working on outfitting its Dragon capsule with propulsive landing, Shotwell said, which could improve reusability by dispensing with the need to splash down in water. Instead, the capsule would land right at Johnson Space Center, using rockets on the bottom to help control the descent. That’s not the only new technology the company is working on. It hopes to outfit its Falcon 9 rockets with wings and retrorockets so they can land on autonomous barges in the ocean.

Boeing has completed the first two certification milestones for its CST-100 spacecraft. NASA has signed off on parts of its commercial crew operation, including designs for the control center, training systems, flight simulators, and software. Boeing has also started building its crew access tower on the Atlas V launchpad, and that construction will continue in between uncrewed Atlas V launches.

The CST-100 will undergo a critical design review in March, and if approved, will let the company launch “full-bore” into manufacturing, according to VP and General Manager of Boeing Space Exploration John Elbon. Boeing’s spacecraft can fit up to seven crew members, and is also being designed with reusability in mind. According to Elbon, the plan is for the capsule to be recovered, refurbished, and reused up to 10 times.

When asked how this all fits in with the 2016 budget, Bolden said he’s “very optimistic.” “Congress has, I think, kind of started to understand the critical importance of commercial crew and cargo. They’ve seen, as a result of the performance of our providers, that this is not a hoax. It’s not a myth. It’s not a dream,” he said. “It’s something that really is happening.”

Source : theverge

Windows Holographic will let NASA explore what Curiosity sees on Mars


Mars Hololens

Microsoft announced the futuristic at-home augmented reality project Windows Holographic today, and one of the many different uses the company teased was a collaboration with NASA and the Curiosity rover team. Now, NASA has released more information on the software it built for Holographic, a program called OnSight.

By using Microsoft’s HoloLens visor, NASA scientists will be able virtually explore the areas of Mars that Curiosity is studying in a fully immersive way. It will also allow them to plan new routes for the rover, examine Curiosity’s worksite from a first-person view, and conduct science experiments using the rover’s data.

The science teams at NASA that have worked with Curiosity’s data before have had no problem learning plenty just by a computer screen, but Holographic and HoloLens will literally offer a new perspective on how to interpret the findings. Scientists will be able to virtually surround themselves with images from the rover and then explore the surface from different angles.

HERE is the video of Microsoft Hololens which makes Holographic Display near to reality :

That’s a big deal, according to OnSight’s project manager, who’s quoted in the release. “This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” he says.

We may still be decades away from landing humans on Mars, but it looks like Holographic and OnSight will help bridge the gap until then. The JPL team will start testing OnSight with Curiosity later this year. Deeper integration into future missions may have to wait until the next proposed Mars rover lands on the red planet in 2020.

Source : theverge

U.S. and Russian Astronauts to Spend One Year on the ISS


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In another U.S. and Russian joint mission, American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend 12 months on the International Space Station starting this March, confirms NASA.

During their one year stay in the ISS, Kelly and Kornienko will perform seven research experiments to aid scientists gather significant knowledge on the biomedical, psychological and medical challenges faced by astronauts in long-term space flight.

Among other things, scientists will study differences in vision, functionality, mental health, metabolic processes and physical performance separately from behavioral changes and motor performance.

Another set of tests will be conducted on Kelly and Astronaut Mark Kelly, Scott Kelly’s twin brother and also an astronaut who will stay on Earth.

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“These investigations will provide broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments for one year,” NASA said in a statement.

Mark Kelly’s experience includes piloting Space Transportation System 108 (Endeavour), STS-124 (Discovery Commander) and STS-134 (Endeavour Commander).

Scott Kelly was a crewman of STS-103 in 1999; STS-118 in 2007 and a 159-day stay on the ISS starting on October 7, 2010.
It’s going to be a strangely extensive space mission since a typical NASA mission to the ISS lasts no more than six months.

Source : full-timewhistle.com

ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission Team Wins Space Pioneer Award


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The men and women behind India’s Mars Mission at ISRO, Bangalore. (Reuters Photo)

ISRO’s Mars Mission team has won the prestigious 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category in recognition of achieving the rare feat in its very first attempt.

The prestigious award given by the National Space Society would be presented to the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Programme Team during the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference to be held in Toronto from May 20-24.

The mission was launched on November 5, 2013 and went into Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

In a statement, the Society said, this mission has achieved two significant mission firsts. One an Indian spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try (on Sept 24, 2014), which no other country has ever done.

Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis (point at which an orbiting object is farthest away from the body it is orbiting), and has a high resolution camera which is taking full-disk color imagery of Mars.

“Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists,” the statement said.

The Mars Orbiter programme team located in Bangalore is headed by Dr Mylswamy Annadurai.

The Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist.

Source : NDTV

New Hubble Telescope Photos Capture One of the Universe’s Most Stunning Formations


In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope captured what would become one of history’s most enduring images of the universe: The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. Now, 20 years later, Hubble has released a collection of brand new, high-definition shots of the iconic formation. 

If you thought the universe was hauntingly beautiful before, wait until you see these.

Behold:

New view of the Pillars of Creation — visible

Eagle Nebula Captured by Hubble Space Telescope (Click Image to Download)

Comprised of three towers of gas, dust and space matter, structures like this are not altogether uncommon in star-forming regions. But as the Hubble website notes, the Pillars of Creation are some of the most photogenic and mesmerizing examples ever seen.

“The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps,” HubbleSite writes.

The telescope used the Wide Field Camera 3 to capture the stunning new images. It sees near-infrared light, visible like and near-ultraviolet radiation, and also has higher resolution and a bigger field of view than the camera that came before it.

This time, Hubble also captured an image taken in infra-red light, which “penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars,” according to the website. “Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.”

New view of the Pillars of Creation — infrared

Not everything is happy-go-lucky in Pillars of Creation-land, however. Despite their name, the new shots indicate that the pillars are also being worn down by the very stars they are helping to incubate. “The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars,” HubbleSite explains.

Arizona State University’s Paul Scowen, who helped lead Hubble’s first deep dive into the Eagle Nebula, stressed just how incredible our sightings of the Pillars are. “I’m impressed by how transitory these structures are,” he said in a press release. “We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution.”

Interestingly, environments like the Eagle Nebula and other star-forming regions were instrumental in our own solar system’s development. “What that means is when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula or other star-forming regions, you’re looking at exactly the kind of nascent environment that our Sun formed in,” Scowen said.

The Pillars of Creation — 1995 and 2015 comparison

Source : mic.com

8 new planets found in ‘Goldilocks zone’, NASA may find Earth’s ‘twin’ very soon


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(Click Image To download)

NASA is closer than ever to finding a twin for the Earth, astronomers said today, announcing the discovery of eight new planets that circle in the habitable zones of their stars.

Two of the eight are the most Earth-like of any known planets found so far outside our solar system, astronomers told the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

The pair are likely to have hard, rocky surfaces in addition to being an orbiting distance from their stars that is neither too hot nor too cold for water and possibly life to exist, astronomers said. The discovery doubles the number of known planets that are close in size to the Earth and believed to be in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” of the stars they orbit.

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Representational image. AFP

“We are now closer than we have ever been to finding a twin for the Earth around another star,” said Fergal Mullally of the Kepler Science Office. “These candidates represent the closest analogs to the Earth’s own system found to date.”

The worlds were found with the help of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission, a space telescope which has scoured more than 150,000 stars for planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009. The latest trove of candidate planets found by Kepler and announced today was 554, bringing the total potential planets to 4,175.

Scientists have recently verified the existence of the 1,000th planet found by Kepler.

“Three of the newly validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet,” NASA said in a statement. “Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.”

While it is intriguing to consider the possibility of life existing on another planet like ours, the two best candidates are so far away that learning more about them presents a big challenge.

Source : firstpost