A former Israeli fighter pilot, an American technology entrepreneur and a Canadian investor will be part of the crew of the first entirely-private orbital space mission. The three men are paying a whopping $55 million each to fly aboard a SpaceX rocket for an eight-day visit to the International Space Station, organised by Houston-based spaceflight firm Axiom.
“These guys are all very involved and doing it for kind of for the betterment of their communities and countries, and so we couldn’t be happier with this makeup of the first crew because of their drive and their interest,” Axiom’s chief executive and president Mike Suffredini told the Associated Press. The mission will be led by former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who now works for Axiom space.
What do we know about the mission?
The Axiom Mission 1 (AX 1) flight is being arranged under a commercial agreement with NASA. While private citizens have travelled to space before, the AX 1 mission will be the first to use a commercially built spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon 2, best known for flying its first two crews to the ISS late last year.
Elon Musks’ SpaceX is scheduled to launch the all-private crew no earlier than in January next year. After lifting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the crew will take about a day or two to arrive at the ISS and will then proceed to spend eight days there, AP reported.
But Axiom insists that the mission is by no means a vacation. The three men will participate in research and philanthropic projects alongside the astronauts from all over the world who are already stationed at the ISS.
What training will the crew receive?
Axiom chief executive Suffredini told AP that the private astronauts will have to pass medical tests and also undergo 15 weeks of rigorous training before their trip to space.
Who are the three men paying to fly to the space station?
The American real estate investor and technology entrepreneur is the head of the Connor Group, an Ohio-based real estate firm worth over $3 billion in assets. The 70-year-old will be the second-oldest person to fly to space and will be serving as the capsule pilot under Lopez-Alegria.
According to Axiom, he will be collaborating with Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on research projects at the ISS. He also plans to provide instructional lessons to students at Dayton Early College Academy in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Pathy, 50, is the CEO and Chairman of MAVRIK Corp, a privately-owned investment and financing company. The Canadian is also the chairperson of the board of Stingray Group, a Montreal-based music company. An active philanthropist, he serves on the board of the Pathy Family Foundation and is also a board member of both Dans la Rue and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. He will be the 11th Canadian astronaut in space.
Pathy is collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, who are helping identify health-related research projects that could be undertaken during the mission, Axiom said in a statement.
Stibbe, the founder of Vital Capital Fund and a former fighter pilot, will be the second Israeli to be launched into space. He is also a founder and board member of the Center for African Studies at Ben-Gurion University and is on the board of several NGOs working specifically to develop education, art and culture.
The first Israeli to go to space was Ilan Ramon, who died onboard the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated as it re-entered the atmoshphere in 2003. Ramon was a close personal friend of Stibbe’s.
Who is the mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria?
The former Spanish astronaut has participated in four space flights and logged over 257 days in space. He was a member of NASA’s astronaut corps for over two decades. He has performed 10 spacewalks, totalling 67 hours and 40 minutes of Extravehicular activity (EVA), according to NASA.
Lopez-Alegria joined Axiom in 2017 and now serves as the company’s Vice President of Business Development.
Is this the first time civilians have been launched into space?
No, private civilians have travelled to the space station before. Since 2001, Russia has been selling rides to the ISS to wealthy businessmen around the world. They travelled onboard the Russian Soyuz aircraft along with professional cosmonauts and NASA astronauts.
Until 2019, NASA did not permit ordinary citizens to be launched into space from American soil. It finally reversed its stance, stating that the missions would help spur growth in the commercial space industry, the Washington Post reported.
Several other space companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, also plan to take paying customers to space in the near future. But these up-and-down flights will last mere minutes, AP reported.
See Astronaut's Sublime Shot of Total Lunar Eclipse Snapped From the ISS – CNET
Earthlings on Earth weren’t the only ones whothe lovely blushing of the “flower blood moon” total lunar eclipse on Sunday night and Monday morning. Residents of the International Space Station had a great view of the spectacular celestial event.
European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared a beautiful series of photos of the eclipse as seen from orbit. “A partially eclipsed moon playing hide-and-seek with our solar panel,” Cristoforetti tweeted on Monday.
The photos show the eclipse in progress, with the moon peeking under the station’s solar panels. One stunning view also shows Earth below, clouds visible against an expanse of blue. The images highlight the subtle shading of the moon as our planet threw its shadow across it.
Cristoforetti shared another look with just the eclipsed moon peeking over the curve of Earth.
Cristoforetti is an accomplished space photographer, having snapped plenty of gorgeous images during her last stay on the ISS in 2014 and 2015. Her most recent stint started in late April as part of launched by SpaceX.
I watched the eclipse last night from New Mexico. As the shadow moved across the moon, the ISS flew over, a bright bead of light crossing against the starry sky. So as I was seeing the ISS, Cristoforetti was likely tracking the eclipse, too. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the ground or up in orbit,.
NASA's InSight still hunting marsquakes as power levels diminish – Phys.org
Dusty solar panels and darker skies are expected to bring the Mars lander mission to a close around the end of this year.
NASA’s InSight Mars lander is gradually losing power and is anticipated to end science operations later this summer. By December, InSight’s team expects the lander to have become inoperative, concluding a mission that has thus far detected more than 1,300 marsquakes—most recently, a magnitude 5 that occurred on May 4—and located quake-prone regions of the Red Planet.
The information gathered from those quakes has allowed scientists to measure the depth and composition of Mars’ crust, mantle, and core. Additionally, InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) has recorded invaluable weather data and studied remnants of Mars’ ancient magnetic field.
“InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “We can apply what we’ve learned about Mars’ inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems.”
InSight landed on Mars Nov. 26, 2018. Equipped with a pair of solar panels that each measures about 7 feet (2.2 meters) wide, it was designed to accomplish the mission’s primary science goals in its first Mars year (nearly two Earth years). Having achieved them, the spacecraft is now into an extended mission, and its solar panels have been producing less power as they continue to accumulate dust.
Because of the reduced power, the team will soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position (called the “retirement pose”) for the last time later this month. Originally intended to deploy the seismometer and the lander’s heat probe, the arm has played an unexpected role in the mission: Along with using it to help bury the heat probe after sticky Martian soil presented the probe with challenges, the team used the arm in an innovative way to remove dust from the solar panels. As a result, the seismometer was able to operate more often than it would have otherwise, leading to new discoveries.
When InSight landed, the solar panels produced around 5,000 watt-hours each Martian day, or sol—enough to power an electric oven for an hour and 40 minutes. Now, they’re producing roughly 500 watt-hours per sol—enough to power the same electric oven for just 10 minutes.
Additionally, seasonal changes are beginning in Elysium Planitia, InSight’s location on Mars. Over the next few months, there will be more dust in the air, reducing sunlight—and the lander’s energy. While past efforts removed some dust, the mission would need a more powerful dust-cleaning event, such as a “dust devil” (a passing whirlwind), to reverse the current trend.
“We’ve been hoping for a dust cleaning like we saw happen several times to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the mission. “That’s still possible, but energy is low enough that our focus is making the most of the science we can still collect.”
If just 25% of InSight’s panels were swept clean by the wind, the lander would gain about 1,000 watt-hours per sol—enough to continue collecting science. However, at the current rate power is declining, InSight’s non-seismic instruments will rarely be turned on after the end of May.
Energy is being prioritized for the lander’s seismometer, which will operate at select times of day, such as at night, when winds are low and marsquakes are easier for the seismometer to “hear.” The seismometer itself is expected to be off by the end of summer, concluding the science phase of the mission.
At that point, the lander will still have enough power to operate, taking the occasional picture and communicating with Earth. But the team expects that around December, power will be low enough that one day InSight will simply stop responding.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s InSight still hunting marsquakes as power levels diminish (2022, May 17)
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Peek-a-Boo Moon: Astronaut on Space Station Captures Spectacular Photos of the Lunar Eclipse – SciTechDaily
On the evening of May 15, 2022, Earth passed between the Sun and the Moon blocking sunlight and casting a shadow on the lunar surface. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti witnessed this lunar eclipse from the International Space Station and captured it in a series of photographs.
During a lunar eclipse, Earth’s atmosphere scatters sunlight. The blue light from the Sun scatters away, and longer-wavelength red, orange, and yellow light pass through, turning our Moon red.
In these images, the Moon appears to play hide and seek with one of the International Space Station’s solar panels:
Samantha is living and working aboard the Space Station for her second mission, ‘Minerva’. Learn more about Samantha and the Minerva mission.
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