Boeing’s new Starliner capsule rocketed toward the International Space Station on its first test flight Friday, a crucial dress rehearsal for next year’s inaugural launch with astronauts.
The Starliner carried Christmas treats and presents for the six space station residents, hundreds of tree seeds similar to those that flew to the moon on Apollo 14, the original air travel ID card belonging to Boeing’s founder and a mannequin named Rosie in the commander’s seat.
The test dummy — named after the bicep-flexing riveter of World War II — wore a red polka dot hair bandanna just like the original Rosie and Boeing’s custom royal blue spacesuit.
“She’s pretty tough. She’s going to take the hit for us,” said NASA’s Mike Fincke, one of three astronauts who will fly on the next Starliner and, as test pilots, take the hit for future crews.
Liftoff! Go <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Starliner?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Starliner</a>! Go <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AtlasV?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AtlasV</a>! <a href=”https://t.co/wHbRh4u06O”>pic.twitter.com/wHbRh4u06O</a>
As the astronauts watched from nearby control centres, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the capsule blasted off just before sunrise from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was a one-day trip to the space station, putting the spacecraft on track for a docking Saturday morning.
SpaceX could carry astronauts by spring
This was Boeing’s chance to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider that completed a similar demonstration last March. SpaceX has one last hurdle — a launch abort test — before carrying two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, possibly by spring.
The U.S. needs competition like this, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday, to drive down launch costs, boost innovation and open space up to more people.
“We’re moving into a new era,” he said.
The space agency handed over station deliveries to private businesses, first cargo and then crews, to focus on getting astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars.
Commercial cargo ships took flight in 2012, starting with SpaceX. Crew capsules were more complicated to design and build, and parachute and other technical problems pushed the first launches from 2017 to now next year.
U.S. astronauts reliant on Soyuz spacecraft since 2011
It’s been nearly nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis — now on display at Kennedy Space Center — made the final space shuttle flight.
Since then, NASA astronauts have travelled to and from the space station via Kazakhstan, courtesy of the Russian Space Agency. The Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million US apiece.
“We’re back with a vengeance now,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said from Kennedy, where crowds gathered well before dawn.
Chris Ferguson commanded that last shuttle mission. Now a test pilot astronaut for Boeing and one of the Starliner’s key developers, he’s assigned to the first Starliner crew with Fincke and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. A successful Starliner demo could see them launching by summer.
“This is an incredibly unique opportunity,” Ferguson said on the eve of launch.
Mann juggled a mix of emotions: excitement, pride, stress and amazement.
“Really overwhelmed, but in a good way and really the best of ways,” she said.
What Starliner is like
Built to accommodate seven, the white capsule with black and blue trim will typically carry four or five people. It’s five metres tall with its attached service module and 4.5 metres in diameter.
Every Starliner system will be tested during the eight-day mission, from the vibrations and stresses of liftoff to the Dec. 28 touchdown at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Parachutes and air bags will soften the capsule’s landing. Even the test dummy is packed with sensors.
Boeing Starliner launch this morning. <a href=”https://twitter.com/NWSJacksonville?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NWSJacksonville</a> <a href=”https://t.co/2ZcwPeSRED”>pic.twitter.com/2ZcwPeSRED</a>
Bridenstine said he’s “very comfortable” with Boeing, despite the prolonged grounding of the company’s 737 Max jets. The spacecraft and aircraft sides of the company are different, he noted. Boeing has long been involved in NASA’s human spacecraft program, from Project Mercury to the shuttle and station programs.
Boeing began preliminary work on the Starliner in 2010, a year before Atlantis soared for the last time.
In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX made the final cut. Boeing got more than $4 billion to develop and fly the Starliner, while SpaceX got $2.6 billion for a crew-version of its Dragon cargo ship.
NASA wants to make sure every reasonable precaution is taken with the capsules, designed to be safer than NASA’s old shuttles.
“We’re talking about human spaceflight,” Bridenstine cautioned. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It never has been, and it’s never going to be.”
When the pee hit the fan: What SpaceX passengers didn't mention about their flight – National Post
Repeat incidents of loose toilet tubing leads engineers to check that capsules’ internal structure integrity is still intact
SpaceX is under two tight and important deadlines this week: Not only is it preparing the launch of another of its Dragon capsules on Sunday to take four astronauts to the International Space Station, it is also fixing the embarrassing problem of a loose hose on a toilet, which has a tendency to spring liquid leaks into the interior.
In mid-September, when five private guests were in the air on the first-ever passenger flight, glue on a toilet tube came unsealed, spilling urine onto a fan and leaking under the floor. The incident also happened on another capsule, which has been docked at the International Space Station since April.
The design flaw has apparently been fixed in the new Endurance capsule by welding the urine-flushing tube to its attachment point. Study continues on the other capsules to test the integrity of the tube and to ensure the spill didn’t weaken the docked capsule in any way, said William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice-president who used to work for NASA. Crew rotation will see astronauts come back to Earth in November.
In the Dragon capsule docked at the space station, less urine had leaked under the floor panels than in the one that carried a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier told the Associated Press . That may simply be due to the NASA-led crew only being in the capsule a day before docking at the space station. The capsule repairs will be completed later this week.
The Oct. 31 launch will be SpaceX’s fourth of NASA astronauts, its fifth passenger flight and its 28th visit to the ISS. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, it contracted SpaceX and Boeing to take crews to and from the space station. NASA astronauts piggybacked on Russian flights until SpaceX took over last year.
Boeing has yet to launch anyone. A repeat test flight of its Starliner capsule, without a crew, has been postponed until next year over valve trouble.
Once he launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, NASA says German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space and U.S. crewmate Kayla Barron will be the 601st.
But, he said, “she and I will be together like No. 600. I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space.”
Spacecraft commander and NASA astronaut Raja Chari said Tuesday that he has “complete confidence” in the repairs.
NASA's Perseverance rover beamed back striking images of Mars after 2 weeks cut off from Earth – Yahoo Movies Canada
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back new pictures after being offline for two weeks.
The rover was out of touch while Mars the other side of the sun, a period called “solar conjunction.”
During that time, messages from Earth can be garbled as they pass the sun’s charged particles.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back its first pictures after spending two weeks out of reach from Earth.
NASA scientists limited their communication with the rover during the “solar conjunction” between September 28 and October 17, when Mars and Earth are opposite sides of the sun.
The rover was parked between a dune and a rocky outcrop, waiting to come back online, according to its Twitter feed. It used the downtime to monitor the weather and see how Martian dust moves in the wind.
During solar conjunction, which happens once every two years, Earth-bound scientists were asked not to try to communicate with the rover, with a strict moratorium on communications between October 2 and 16.
They worried that signals could be garbled as they pass the sun and interact with its charged particles, per NASA.
If data sent by the rover is lost along the way, that’s not such a big deal, according to NASA.
But the risk is that the other way around, commands sent from Earth are jumbled when they arrive on Mars, which could be misunderstood and cause the rover to damage itself, as shown in the clip below from a NASA video:
During the solar conjunction the rover is put on autopilot. Some scientists took the chance to take some vacation, NASA said.
The rover was “back to work” on October 25, according to its Twitter feed. Below are a few pictures sent back since the end of the solar conjunction.
Before going offline, the rover gathered two major successes for the mission.
Images from the rover also revealed that an ancient river was sometimes overcome by flash floods that dragged heavy boulders at speeds as high as 20 mph.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Earth's Inner Core Is Home To A 'New Hidden World,' Finds Study – India Times
Earth’s solid inner core may be home to a “hidden new world”, scientists have claimed. Within the scientific community, there is consensus about Earth’s inner core being a solid compressed ball of iron alloy, which is surrounded by the Earth’s outer core. A new study may change that understanding of the Earth’s insides.
Published on September 20, the new research suggests that Earth’s inner core may not be as solid as previously thought, and that it has certain semisoft characteristics where liquid metal is stored.
Earth’s core isn’t easy to study
The major problem with studying the Earth’s core is that it still remains inaccessible. In fact, for humans to ever get raw access to the Earth’s core, the planet must undergo some sort of disaster than rips it open.
With so much heat and pressure at the centre of Earth, it’s not ideal for humans to travel into or to even send remote probes.
Most of what we know about the Earth’s centre is based on readings taken from the crust (the surface). Vibrations from seismic waves caused by earthquakes or movement of tectonic plates are scientists’ only window into the Earth’s centre.
Why Earth’s inner core may be semisolid
The new liquid characters of Earth’s inner core were discovered by Rhett Butler from the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. While trying to understand how seismic waves travel through different layers of Earth, Butler found that instead of going in a straight direction (as a solid metal ball would facilitate), the waves kept getting deflected in certain areas.
Based on this, Butler ascertained that the Earth’s core isn’t as solid as previously assumed and that it has certain areas where liquids may be found. By comparing their readings, scientists involved in the study found that the Earth’s core has certain pockets of “mushy” liquid and semi-solid iron near the surface.
In conversation with Live Science, a seismologist from the University of Bristol, Jessica Irving said that this means we’re now “finding a whole new hidden world.” Irving did not contribute to the study.
What are your thoughts on this startling new claim about Earth’s inner core? Share with us in the comments below.
Antipodal seismic reflections upon shear wave velocity structures within Earth’s inner core. (2021, December 1). ScienceDirect.
Thompson, J. (2021, October 27). “New hidden world” discovered in Earth’s inner core. Livescience.Com.
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