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Elon Musk offers for SpaceX to make NASA spacesuits, after watchdog says program to cost $1 billion – CNBC

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Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wears a ground prototype of the new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), during a demonstration on Oct. 15, 2019.
Joel Kowsky / NASA

Elon Musk offered SpaceX’s services to help NASA make its next-generation spacesuits, after a watchdog report on Tuesday said the agency’s current program is behind schedule and will cost more than $1 billion.

“SpaceX could do it if need be,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

Musk’s company has developed and made flight suits for astronauts who launch into orbit in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The flight suits are primarily designed to protect the astronauts in case of a fire inside of the spacecraft, or if the cabin depressurizes. Building spacesuits would be a more complex and challenging endeavor, given the need to survive outside of a spacecraft in the harsh environment of space.

NASA spokesperson Monica Witt, in a statement to CNBC on Musk’s offer, pointed to the agency’s request last month to companies in the space industry for feedback on “purchasing commercial spacesuits, hardware, and services.”

From left: Mission specialist Thomas Pesquet of the ESA, pilot Megan McArthur of NASA, commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and mission specialist Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA.
SpaceX

Musk’s proposal came in response to a report by NASA’s inspector general – which is the investigative office which audits the agency for fraud and mismanagement – on the work being done to develop a new line of Extravehicular Mobility Units, which are informally called spacesuits.

Astronauts on board the International Space Station use spacesuits “designed 45 years ago for the Space Shuttle” program, the report noted. The IG also highlighted that those spacesuits have been “refurbished and partially redesigned” over the past decades to continue working.

The space agency has started three different spacesuit programs since 2007, the inspector general found, and has spent $420.1 million on development since then. Additionally, the report said NASA “plans to invest approximately $625.2 million more” on development, testing and qualification to complete a suit for a demonstration on the ISS and two suits for the crewed mission to the moon – for a total cost of “over $1 billion” through 2025.

NASA Inspector General

Beyond the soaring cost, the inspector general said delays “attributable to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts, and technical challenges” have eliminated the chance the spacesuits are ready in time. The spacesuits will “not be ready for flight until April 2025 at the earliest,” the report said. NASA originally said the spacesuits would be ready by March 2023.

NASA needs new spacesuits for its Artemis program, which was announced by former President Donald Trump’s administration and has continued under President Joe Biden. Artemis is expected to consist of multiple missions to the moon’s orbit and surface in the years ahead, with NASA aiming to land astronauts on the lunar body by 2024. Although NASA has stuck to the 2024 goal, the inspector general has warned repeatedly that the schedule is threatened by several major programs that are key to Artemis’ success.

Musk earlier this year called the 2024 timeline “actually doable,” after SpaceX became one of the critical pieces of Artemis by winning a $2.9 billion contract to use its Starship rocket to deliver astronauts to the moon’s surface.

The spacesuits have a multitude of different components, which the inspector general noted are supplied by 27 different companies. That’s a point Musk also highlighted, saying in a tweet that it “seems like too many cooks in the kitchen.”

SpaceX did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on whether the company has begun work on its own spacesuits. While the company hasn’t publicly disclosed spacesuit plans, it is one of nearly 50 companies that expressed interest in NASA’s program to purchase privately developed spacesuits and spacewalk services.

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

“The only way we can save them is to record them — to take a lot of photos and make 3D models,” he said.

Earlier excavations in White Sands National Park have uncovered fossilized tracks left by a saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Columbian mammoth and other ice age animals.

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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.

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Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit – Illinoisnewstoday.com

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Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — SpaceX made history on Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civil mission to get going from the Space Coast, Florida.

The Inspiration4 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 pm on Wednesday. The four crew members on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft were launched onto a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and later separated from the spacecraft and landed on the drone.

The mission’s five-hour launch window began at 8:02 EST. The window was very large, as the crew was sent to orbit the Earth rather than the International Space Station, and therefore did not have such strict time constraints.

The crew is set to travel 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

“This is important and historic, because it’s the best time humans have been in orbit since the Hubble Space Telescope mission,” said Benjireed, SpaceX’s manned spaceflight director.

(Photo provided by SpaceX)

The crew will spend three days in orbit to participate in research experiments on human health and performance. We hope that the results of our research will apply not only to future space flight, but also to human health here on Earth.

Inspiration4’s main goal is to provide and inspire support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They want to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude in a three-day mission.

According to SpaceX, each of the four members of the crew was chosen to represent the pillars of a mission of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership. The Inspiration 4 crew and the pillars they represent are:

  • leadership: 38 years old Jared Isaacman – Founder and CEO of Shift4Payments
  • Hope: 29-year-old Haley Arseno – Doctor assistants and childhood cancer survivors treated with St. Jude
  • Generosity: 41 years old Chris Sembroski – Lockheed Martin US Air Force veteran and aerospace employee
  • prosperity: 51 years old Dr. Cyan Proctor – Entrepreneurs, educators, trained pilots, and the active voice of the space exploration community

SpaceX trained all four crew members as commercial astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, weightlessness, other stress tests, emergency preparedness, and spacesuit training.

The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman has also invested $ 100 million towards a funding target for the St. Jude mission.

Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit

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'Flying' microchips could ride the wind to track air pollution – Yahoo Movies Canada

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Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They’re designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination. 

The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species. 

The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. “We think we’ve beaten biology… we’ve been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds,” said lead Professor John A. Rogers. “The other thing… was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world.”  

They’re not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. “All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow,” Rogers told Vice. “Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere.”

The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation. 

The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn’t persist in the environment. 

“We don’t think about these devices… as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration,” Rogers said. “That’s the way that we’re envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them.”

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