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NASA cuts short ground test of its giant moon rocket – Al Jazeera English

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The test is a vital step in NASA’s Artemis programme to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.

NASA ignited all four engines of a deep space exploration rocket – the Space Launch System (SLS) – for the first time on Saturday, but the “hot fire” test ended much earlier than expected.

Mounted in a test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the SLS’s 212-foot (65-metre) tall core stage roared to life at 4:27pm local time (22:27 GMT) for just more than a minute – well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the mega rocket’s first launch in November this year.

During the live broadcast of the test, NASA did not explain the reason for the early shutdown, but Wayne Hale, a former manager of NASA’s space shuttle programme, suggested a “major component failure”.

The fiery show, the last leg of NASA’s nearly year-long “Green Run” test campaign, was a vital step for the space agency and its top SLS contractor, Boeing, before the rocket’s debut launch in November.

The success of that unmanned mission, called “Artemis 1”, will set the stage for the first landing on the Moon by humans since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. US President Donald Trump has pushed for that trip – which will also see the first woman on the Moon – to happen by 2024.

It was unclear whether Boeing and NASA would have to repeat Saturday’s test, a prospect that could push the debut launch into 2022.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking at a news conference after the test, said the agency “got lots of data that we’re going to be able to sort through” to determine if a do-over is needed.

NASA’s SLS program manager John Honeycutt cautioned the data review from the test is continuing and told reporters the turnaround time for another hot fire test could be roughly one month.

The expendable super heavy-lift SLS is three years behind schedule and nearly $3bn over budget.

Critics have long argued for NASA to retire the rocket’s shuttle-era core technologies, which have launch costs of $1bn or more per mission, in favour of newer commercial alternatives that promise lower costs.

By comparison, it costs as little as $90m to fly the massive, but less powerful, Falcon Heavy rocket designed and manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and some $350m per launch for United Launch Alliance’s legacy Delta IV Heavy.

While newer, more reusable rockets from both companies – SpaceX’s Starship and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan – promise heavier lift capacity than the Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy, potentially at a lower cost, SLS backers have argued it would take two or more launches on those rockets to launch what the SLS could carry in a single mission.

Reuters reported in October that President-elect Joe Biden’s space advisers aimed to delay Trump’s 2024 goal, casting fresh doubts on the long-term fate of SLS just as SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin scramble to bring rival new heavy-lift capacity to market.

NASA and Boeing engineers have stayed on a 10-month schedule for the Green Run “despite having significant adversity this year,” Boeing’s SLS manager John Shannon told reporters this week, citing five tropical storms and a hurricane that hit Stennis, as well as a three-month closure after some engineers tested positive for the coronavirus in March.

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Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year.

NASA’s Kate Rubins and Victor Glover put the mounting brackets and struts together, then bolted them into place next to the station’s oldest and most degraded solar wings.

They had to lug out the hundreds of pounds of mounting brackets and struts in 8-foot (2.5-meter) duffle-style bags. The equipment was so big and awkward that it had to be taken apart like furniture, just to get through the hatch.

Some of the attachment locations required extra turns of the power drill and still weren’t snug enough, as indicated by black lines. The astronauts had to use a ratchet wrench to deal with the more stubborn bolts, which slowed them down. At one point, they were almost an hour behind.

“Whoever painted this black line painted outside the lines a little bit,” Glover said at one particularly troublesome spot.

“We’ll work on our kindergarten skills over here,” Mission Control replied, urging him to move on.

With more people and experiments flying on the space station, more power will be needed to keep everything running, according to NASA. The six new solar panels — to be delivered in pairs by SpaceX over the coming year or so — should boost the station’s electrical capability by as much as 30%.

Rubins and Glover worked on the struts for the first two solar panels, due to launch in June.

The eight solar panels up there now are 12 to 20 years old — most of them past their design lifetime and deteriorating. Each panel is 112 feet (34 metres) long by 39 feet (12 metres) wide. Tip to tip counting the centre framework, each pair stretches 240 feet (73 metres), longer than a Boeing 777’s wingspan.

Boeing is supplying the new roll-up panels, about half the size of the old ones but just as powerful thanks to the latest solar cell technology. They’ll be placed at an angle above the old ones, which will continue to operate.

A prototype was tested at the space station in 2017.

Rubins’ helmet featured a new high-definition camera that provided stunning views, particularly those showing the vivid blue Earth 270 miles (435 kilometres) below. “Pretty fantastic,” observed Mission Control.

Sunday’s spacewalk was the third for infectious disease specialist Rubins and Navy pilot Glover — both of whom could end up flying to the moon.

They’re among 18 astronauts newly assigned to NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. The next moonwalkers will come from this group.

Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris put in a congratulatory call to Glover, the first African American astronaut to live full time at the space station. NASA released the video exchange Saturday.

“The history making that you are doing, we are so proud of you,” Harris said. Like other firsts, Glover replied, it won’t be the last. “We want to make sure that we can continue to do new things,” he said.

Rubins will float back out Friday with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to wrap up the solar panel prep work, and to vent and relocate ammonia coolant hoses.

Glover and Noguchi were among four astronauts arriving via SpaceX in November. Rubins launched from Kazakhstan in October alongside two Russians. They’re all scheduled to return to Earth this spring.

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Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings – StCatharinesStandard.ca

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year.

NASA’s Kate Rubins and Victor Glover put the mounting brackets and struts together, then bolted them into place next to the station’s oldest and most degraded solar wings.

They had to lug out the hundreds of pounds of mounting brackets and struts in 8-foot (2.5-meter) duffle-style bags. The equipment was so big and awkward that it had to be taken apart like furniture, just to get through the hatch.

Some of the attachment locations required extra turns of the power drill and still weren’t snug enough, as indicated by black lines. The astronauts had to use a ratchet wrench to deal with the more stubborn bolts, which slowed them down. At one point, they were almost an hour behind.

“Whoever painted this black line painted outside the lines a little bit,“ Glover said at one particularly troublesome spot.

“We’ll work on our kindergarten skills over here,” Mission Control replied, urging him to move on.

With more people and experiments flying on the space station, more power will be needed to keep everything running, according to NASA. The six new solar panels — to be delivered in pairs by SpaceX over the coming year or so — should boost the station’s electrical capability by as much as 30%.

Rubins and Glover worked on the struts for the first two solar panels, due to launch in June.

The eight solar panels up there now are 12 to 20 years old — most of them past their design lifetime and deteriorating. Each panel is 112 feet (34 metres) long by 39 feet (12 metres) wide. Tip to tip counting the centre framework, each pair stretches 240 feet (73 metres), longer than a Boeing 777’s wingspan.

Boeing is supplying the new roll-up panels, about half the size of the old ones but just as powerful thanks to the latest solar cell technology. They’ll be placed at an angle above the old ones, which will continue to operate.

A prototype was tested at the space station in 2017.

Rubins’ helmet featured a new high-definition camera that provided stunning views, particularly those showing the vivid blue Earth 270 miles (435 kilometres) below. “Pretty fantastic,“ observed Mission Control.

Sunday’s spacewalk was the third for infectious disease specialist Rubins and Navy pilot Glover — both of whom could end up flying to the moon.

They’re among 18 astronauts newly assigned to NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. The next moonwalkers will come from this group.

Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris put in a congratulatory call to Glover, the first African American astronaut to live full time at the space station. NASA released the video exchange Saturday.

“The history making that you are doing, we are so proud of you,” Harris said. Like other firsts, Glover replied, it won’t be the last. “We want to make sure that we can continue to do new things,” he said.

Rubins will float back out Friday with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to wrap up the solar panel prep work, and to vent and relocate ammonia coolant hoses.

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Glover and Noguchi were among four astronauts arriving via SpaceX in November. Rubins launched from Kazakhstan in October alongside two Russians. They’re all scheduled to return to Earth this spring.

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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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Mars City design: 6 sci-fi cities that will blow your mind – Inverse

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As Perseverance inspires the entire world about the thrill of visiting our nearest solar neighbor, Mars, it’s easy to start fantasizing about what it will be like when human beings regularly live on the red planet in the future.

Between SpaceX and NASA, it feels reasonable that human beings will be living on Mars before the end of the century. The question is when they do, what will the first Martian cities look like?

Science fiction should never be used as an actual forecast for human culture, but it is a lot of fun to think about how sci-fi stories have imagined our future lives on Mars. Here are six of the best very best Martian cities, ranked not in order of livability, but instead, but pure sci-fi coolness.

6. Bradbury City – Mars trilogy

Ray BradburyGetty

There are several fictional cities in Kim Stanely Robinson’s seminal SF books about the settlement of Mars — Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars — so it’s hard to pick just one. But, if you have to choose only one Martian metropolis from his books, Bradbury City is the way to go.

Named for Ray Bradbury, who wrote The Martian Chronicles, Robinson’s Bradbury City is designed to recreate a city in Illinois. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois. The Martian Chronicles features several unlikely Martian cities, some made by humans, some made by Martians. But, in almost all cases, like in “Night Meeting,” these towns and cities often have gas stations and pickup trucks.

5. Bowie Base One – Doctor Who

Bowie Base One in “The Waters of Mars.”BBC

Not exactly a city per se, but certainly a great Martian settlement in the pantheon of science fiction — if only for its name.

In the 2009 David Tennant-era Doctor Who one-off, “The Water of Mars,” the Doctor battles a type of sentient alien water called “the Flood,” that turns people into water zombies. Bowie Base One, in the Who-canon, is the first human colony on Mars, which leads to many, many others. Obviously, it’s named for David Bowie and the song “Life on Mars.”

4. Utopia Planitia – Star Trek

Paramount/CBS

In the 24th Century-era of Trek, most of the best ships in Starfleet are built at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards in orbit of Mars. The Trek franchise rarely visited Mars, although the final episodes of Enterprise Season 4 — “Terra Prime” and “Demons” — had a lot of action on the Martian surface.

Both Star Trek: Picard and its prequel, “Children of Mars,” revealed that the shipyards weren’t just in orbit of Mars, but also on the ground, which meant that a huge civilization population lived and worked on Mars prior to the Sythn revolt in 2285.

3. Londres Nova – The Expanse

Mars in The Expanse.Amazon

More than any other contemporary science fiction series, The Expanse — both the books and the TV series — have made a convincing projection of what a future Martian colony might be like.

The capital city, Londres Nova, is sometimes called “New London.” In the reality of The Expanse, what makes the settlement of Mars so interesting is the way in which it eventually just becomes totally independent from the Earth to the point at which its government is basically in direct competition with Earth for the entire solar system’s resources. By the future time period of The Expanse, Mars is basically an alien planet, populated by humans.

2. Mars Dome One – Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Mars Dome ONe.Warner Bros

Somewhat unique among science fiction, Babylon 5 started off with a lead character who was born on Mars, Commander Jeffery Sinclair. In B5, being from Mars isn’t that weird, but the politics of Mars are integral to the overall story of the series.

Mars Dome One

Mars Dome OneWarner Bros.

Mars Dome One is the biggest city there, and yes, it’s a giant dome. But, Mars Dome One and other cities in Babylon 5 are fascinating because unlike Earth, there’s more of an underworld on Mars, including an underground railroad for rogue telepaths.

1. Chyrse – Total Recall

Mars in Total Recall.TriStar

The Martian city visited by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Quaid is by far the most memorable Martian city in science fiction, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

In the Philip K. Dick short story upon which Total Recall was based, “We Can Remember It For Your Wholesale,” the lead character never actually goes to Mars, at least not in the realtime of the story. The triumph of Chryse in Total Recall is the edgy naturalism of this future city. It’s sleazy, dirty, and dangerous.

Total Recall

Can you grab me a copy of Mars Today?TriStar

In Blade Runner, you’re told that humans have emigrated to a variety of other planets. Chryse in Total Recall is like the Martian city equivalent of Los Angeles in Blade Runner. You can basically imagine them existing in the same shared universe. Would author Philip K. Dick approve? Maybe!

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