CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing landed its crew capsule in the New Mexico desert Sunday after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that threatened to derail the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.
The Starliner descended into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in the predawn darkness, ending a two-day demo that should have lasted more than a week. All three main parachutes popped open and airbags also inflated around the spacecraft to ease the impact.
“Congratulations, Starliner,” said Mission Control, calling it a successful touchdown.
A test dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer — after Rosie the Riveter from World War II — rode in the commander’s seat. Also returning were holiday presents, clothes and food that should have been delivered to the space station crew.
After seeing this first test flight cut short and the space station docking cancelled because of an improperly set clock on the capsule, Boeing employees were relieved to get the Starliner back .
It was the first U.S. capsule designed for astronauts to return from orbit and land on the ground. NASA’s early crew capsules all had splashdowns. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which made its orbital debut last winter, also aims for the ocean at mission’s end.
The astronauts assigned to the first Starliner crew — two from NASA and one from Boeing — were part of the welcoming committee in the bitter cold.
The capsule’s first trip to space began with a smooth rocket ride from Cape Canaveral on Friday. But barely a half hour into the flight, it failed to fire its thrusters to give chase to the space station and ended up in the wrong orbit.
The problem was with the Starliner’s internal clock: It did not sync up with the Atlas V rocket, throwing off the capsule’s timing.
The capsule burned so much fuel trying to orient itself in orbit that there wasn’t enough left for a space station rendezvous. Flight controllers tried to correct the problem, but between the spacecraft’s position and a gap in communications, their signals did not get through. They later managed to reset the clock.
Boeing is still trying to figure out how the timing error occurred. The mission lasted nearly 50 hours and included 33 orbits around the Earth.
Last month’s parachute problem turned out to be a quick fix. Only two parachutes deployed during an atmospheric test because workers failed to connect a pin in the rigging.
NASA is uncertain whether it will demand another test flight from Boeing — to include a space station visit — before putting its astronauts on board. Boeing had been shooting for its first astronaut mission in the first half of 2020. This capsule is supposed to be recycled for the second flight with crew.
Despite its own setbacks, SpaceX remains in the lead in NASA’s commercial crew program.
SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule successfully completed its first orbital demo last March. While the flight to the space station went well, the capsule exploded a month later on a test stand at Cape Canaveral.
If a launch abort test goes well next month, SpaceX could start launching NASA astronauts by spring and end a nearly nine-year gap in flying people from Cape Canaveral.
As its space shuttle program was winding down, NASA looked to private industry to take over cargo and crew deliveries to the space station. SpaceX kicked off supply runs in 2012. Two years later, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to the orbiting lab.
SpaceX got $2.6 billion under NASA’s commercial crew program, while Boeing received more than $4 billion.
The goal was to launch NASA astronauts by 2017.
Because of delays, NASA is looking to buy another two seats on Russian rockets in 2020 and 2021 to guarantee a continuing U.S. presence on the space station. Even when private companies are regularly carrying up astronauts for NASA, the space agency always will reserve a seat for a Russian in exchange for a free U.S. seat on a Soyuz.
Over the years, these Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million apiece, with the tab totalling in the billions.
An audit last month by NASA’s inspector general found a Starliner seat will cost slightly more than that, with a Dragon seat going for just over half the price.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
SpaceX expands public beta test of Starlink satellite internet to Canada and the UK – CNBC
SpaceX has launched more than 1,000 of its Starlink high-speed internet satellites to date and, as it seeks regulatory approval in other countries, Elon Musk’s company is now offering early public access to the service in Canada and the U.K.
“Earlier this month we expanded our ‘Better than Nothing Beta’ program to include customers across the pond in the United Kingdom,” SpaceX lead manufacturing engineer Jessie Anderson said during the company’s launch webcast on Wednesday.
“Within the northern U.S. and Canada, and now the U.K., we are focused on rural and remote areas where there is no easy access to fiber or cable,” Anderson added.
SpaceX began the public beta program in October, with service priced at $99 a month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites.
Starlink is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet.
The network is an ambitious endeavor, which SpaceX has said will cost about $10 billion or more to build. But the company’s leadership estimates that Starlink could bring in as much as $30 billion a year, or more than 10 times the annual revenue of its rocket business.
SpaceX launched its 17th Starlink mission from Florida on Wednesday morning, with a Falcon 9 rocket carrying another batch of 60 satellites to orbit.
The launch also marked a milestone for SpaceX’s reuse of its rockets, with the Falcon 9 booster launching and landing for a record eighth time. Musk has previously said that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to launch and land up to 10 times without major repairs or refurbishment.
Anderson noted that, in addition to individuals in rural areas of the northern U.S., SpaceX has signed up the town of Marysville, Ohio, and Virginia’s Wise County Public School District for Starlink service.
In the Ontario province of Canada, the rural indigenous community of Pikangikum First Nation became the first in the country to receive Starlink service.
Pikangikum is about 300 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg and has a population of less than 3,000 people, with about 400 to 500 households. SpaceX partnered with Canadian information and technology services company FSET to bring Starlink user terminals to the Pikangikum community.
“I hope that this gives them, the younger generations, a little bit of hope,” Pikangikum Health Authority victim services leader Vernon Kejick said in a video on SpaceX’s launch webcast. “We’re creating a pathway for the younger people.”
The Starlink kits were delivered via airplane, which is the main way the community connects with more populated areas of Canada.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but at least we have access to technology and information, and hopefully that playing field is at least a little closer to being level,” FSET CEO Dave Brown said on the launch webcast on Wednesday.
Starlink recently received approval to begin operating in the U.K., where it is priced at £89 per month plus the £439 cost of the kit. It’s unclear how many homes and offices are currently using Starlink’s service.
SpaceX continues to look to expand Starlink internationally, with public records showing the company registered in Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.
The company also requested market access in Japan, and Musk has talked about Starlink coming to India and the Caribbean as well.
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Scientists Take a Mighty Close Look at a Dinosaur's Butthole For the First Time Ever – Interesting Engineering
Scientists have a pretty good idea about what dinosaurs looked like, they can deduce things like if they were scaly, feathered, or horned for example. But what they haven’t had a chance to discover and describe in much detail are these prehistoric creatures’ backsides. Yes, we mean buttholes.
But these aren’t mere buttholes, these are cloacae, or vents, that have been pleasantly described as the “Swiss Army knife of buttholes,” by Science Alert. Used for breeding, defecating, and urinating, these vents are found in vertebrates and are truly multi-purposed.
Scientists from the University of Bristol managed to get a close look and describe for the first time ever what a Psittacosaurus dino’s cloaca looked like, publishing their findings in Current Biology on Tuesday.
Thanks to these scientists, we now have a detailed description of a non-avian dinosaur’s cloaca. Even though some animals today, such as birds, amphibians, reptiles, and some mammals have cloacae, very little was yet known about dinosaur cloacae — up until now.
“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” explained palaeobiologist Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol.
So Vinther and his team decided to compare the fossilized cloaca to modern-day ones. The team could only gather information about the exterior of the fossilized cloaca, as the interior was not properly preserved.
Dr. Diane Kelly, an expert on vertebrate penises and copulatory systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also working on the study said, “Indeed, they are pretty non-descript. We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.”
Regardless, the exterior of the cloaca could provide decent information about what the dinosaur’s “vent” looked like, and how it was used. The team found out the dino cloaca was different from those of living creatures, however, it shares similarities with those of crocodilian reptiles, like alligators and crocodiles.
One interesting facet the researchers noticed was the dino’s cloaca’s outer margins were highly pigmented with melanin, which means it may have been used as a signaling system, similar to baboons today.
As Robert Nicholls, a colleague working on the study and a paleoartist, said “Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeoartists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship. It is a game-changer!”
SpaceX delivers 60 more Starlink satellites in first launch of 2021, and sets new Falcon 9 rocket reusability record – Yahoo Movies Canada
Paloma Faith will be the subject of an “exposing” BBC documentary about juggling her career with motherhood. The one-hour film Paloma Faith – As I Am will follow the singer, who has spoken openly about her experiences with IVF, over a year of her life as she balances motherhood and her career, navigating the demands of a make-or-break tour with writing a new album, launching an acting career and being a parent. The London-born singer, 39, welcomed her first child with her long-term boyfriend, the French artist Leyman Lahcine, in December 2016 although they initially decided not to reveal the child’s gender in a bid to maintain their privacy.
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