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Astronauts Arrive In Florida To Ready For SpaceX Launch To Space Station

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Four astronauts arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday to bring the U.S. one step closer to regularly ferrying travelers to and from the International Space Station.

The NASA and SpaceX Crew-1 mission is scheduled to launch Saturday evening. NASA sees the mission as a major step for its commercial crew program, which aims to routinely rotate crews on and off the International Space Station, while also laying the groundwork for future missions to the moon and Mars.

“Today we are taking another big leap in this transformation in how we do human spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “What we’re talking about here is the commercialization of space. NASA is one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”

The crew includes commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all Americans. Mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, the first Japanese astronaut to perform a spacewalk outside the space station, rounds out the four.

Upon docking with the ISS, the four will be welcomed by the current crew — including astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently voted from space — bringing the space station’s complement to seven for the first time in its history. Over the next several months, the crew will conduct science research on such topics as botany and cancer. Their return is scheduled for the spring.

NASA has been working with the private company SpaceX to deliver cargo to and from the station for years. This summer, two NASA astronauts flew to the ISS on a SpaceX capsule, and later successfully splashed down off the coast of Pensacola. It was the first planned splashdown since 1975. After that successful test, NASA certified the SpaceX crew system as “operational” for future astronaut missions.

Since NASA retired the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for its flights to the ISS.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to welcome a crew here to go to space again,” Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana told the group upon their arrival Sunday. “I envy each and everyone of you. This whole effort to commercialize low Earth orbit, this is just a gigantic step in making that happen.”

Glover, the only crew member without previous spaceflight, was enthusiastic: “It’s really special today, because we flew an airplane in here, but the plan is to leave on top of a rocket,” he said. “So that’s pretty neat.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Nasa sets prices for Moon dust – Bangkok Post

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Nasa has awarded contracts to four companies to collect lunar samples.

WASHINGTON: The US space agency Nasa awarded contracts to four companies on Thursday to collect lunar samples for US$1 to $15,000, rock-bottom prices that are intended to set a precedent for future exploitation of space resources by the private sector.

“I think it’s kind of amazing that we can buy lunar regolith from four companies for a total of $25,001,” said Phil McAlister, director of Nasa’s Commercial Spaceflight Division.

The contracts are with Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado for $1; ispace Japan of Tokyo for $5,000; ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $5,000; and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California for $15,000.

The companies plan to carry out the collection during already scheduled unmanned missions to the Moon in 2022 and 2023.

The firms are to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and to provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material.

Ownership of the lunar soil will then be transferred to NASA and it will become the “sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.”

Under the Artemis program, Nasa plans to land a man and a woman on the Moon by 2024 and lay the groundwork for sustainable exploration and an eventual mission to Mars.

“The precedent is a very important part of what we’re doing today,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations.

“We think it’s very important to establish the precedent that the private sector entities can extract, can take these resources but Nasa can purchase and utilize them to fuel not only NASA’s activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration on the Moon,” Gold said.

“We must learn to generate our own water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Living off the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in awe inspiring science and unprecedented discoveries.”

Any lessons learned on the Moon would be crucial to an eventual mission to Mars.

“Human mission to Mars will be even more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it’s so critical to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars,” Gold said.

“We want to demonstrate explicitly that you can extract, you can utilize resources, and that we will be conducting those activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty,” he said. “That’s the precedent that’s important. It’s important for America to lead, not just in technology, but in policy.”

The United States is seeking to establish a precedent because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on the subject.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is vague but it deems outer space to be “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

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Chinese moon mission begins return to earth with lunar rocks – Global News

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A Chinese spacecraft lifted off from the moon Thursday night with a load of lunar rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.

Chang’e 5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon and the first to take off from it again, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space program, which also has an orbiter and rover headed to Mars.

Read more:
Chinese robot probe sent to retrieve lunar rocks lands on the moon, officials say

The Chang’e 5 touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side. Its mission: collect about two kilograms (four pounds) of lunar rocks and bring them back to Earth, the first return of samples since Soviet spacecraft did so in the 1970s. Earlier, the U.S. Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of moon rocks.

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The landing site is near a formation called the Mons Rumker and may contain rocks billions of years younger than those retrieved earlier.

The ascent vehicle lifted off from the moon shortly after 11 p.m. Beijing time Thursday (1500 GMT) and was due to rendezvous with a return vehicle in lunar orbit, then transfer the samples to a capsule, according to the China National Space Administration. The moon rocks and debris were sealed inside a special canister to avoid contamination.

It wasn’t clear when the linkup would occur. After the transfer, the ascent module would be ejected and the capsule would remain in lunar orbit for about a week, awaiting the optimal time to make the trip back to Earth.

Chinese officials have said the capsule with the samples is due to land on Earth around the middle of the month. Touchdown is planned for the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where China’s astronauts have made their return in Shenzhou spacecraft.

Chang’e 5’s lander, which remained on the moon, was capable of scooping samples from the surface and drilling two metres (about six feet).

While retrieving samples was its main task, the lander also was equipped to extensively photograph the area, map conditions below the surface with ground penetrating radar and analyze the lunar soil for minerals and water content.

Read more:
China’s lunar rover finds unknown ‘gel-like’ substance on the far side of the moon

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Right before the ascent vehicle lifted off, the lander unfurled what the space administration called the first free-standing Chinese flag on the moon. The agency posted an image — apparently taken from the lander — of the ascend vehicle firing its engines as it took off.

Chang’e 5 has revived talk of China one day sending astronauts to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.

China launched its first temporary orbiting laboratory in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, possibly to be serviced by a reusable space plane.

While China is boosting co-operation with the European Space Agency and others, interactions with NASA are severely limited by U.S. concerns over the secretive nature and close military links of the Chinese program.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Massive telescope collapse caught on remote camera and drone in Puerto Rico – CBC.ca

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released new footage of the collapse of the Arecibo telescope platform in Puerto Rico.

The 57-year-old radio telescope suffered major damage in August when one of the cables supporting the platform snapped. Another cable snapped in early November.

Then, on Tuesday, the entire platform came crashing 122 metres onto the dish below.

The telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Seen here in better days, it was already set to be decommissioned following irreparable damage earlier in 2020. (Arecibo Observatory)

“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Mendez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

Arecibo has also been featured in movies such as Contact and the James Bond film GoldenEye.

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