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NASA selects SpaceX among 3 companies to build next moon landers – CBC.ca

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On Thursday, NASA selected space firms SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics to build lunar landing systems that can carry astronauts to the moon by 2024, the White House’s accelerated deadline under the space agency’s moon-to-Mars campaign.

The three companies, which include firms of tech billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, will share $967 million from NASA.

Details on specific amounts each company will receive were not immediately known.

Boeing, a NASA contractor and one of the companies that bid for this contract, was not selected.

Unlike the Apollo program that put astronauts on the moon 50 years ago, NASA is gearing up for a long-term presence on Earth’s satellite that the agency says will eventually enable humans to reach Mars.

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The next manned mission to the moon will require leaps in robotic technologies and a plan for NASA to work with the three companies to design and develop human landing systems.

“We are following through on the president’s space policy directive,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, calling the selection “historic.”

Picking three providers allows NASA to have redundancy in case one company falls behind in development, Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s human landing system program manager, told reporters on Thursday.

Last year, Bezos unveiled Blue Origin’s design for the lunar lander, Blue Moon, it intends to build as a prime contractor with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Blue Origin plans to launch its landing system using its own heavy-lift rocket, New Glenn.

Musk’s SpaceX, which is on the cusp of launching its first manned mission for NASA next month, will develop its Starship landing system to send crew and up to 100 pounds of cargo to the moon.

Dynetics, a space firm recently acquired by Leidos Holdings Inc, will manage a team of 25 partners to develop its human landing system that Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance will launch on its Vulcan launch system.

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2 astronauts head for launch pad for historic SpaceX flight – Yahoo Canada Finance

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2 astronauts climb aboard SpaceX rocket for historic flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two NASA astronauts climbed into their capsule Saturday for a second attempt at a history-making ride into orbit aboard a rocket ship designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

Stormy weather had threatened another postponement most of the day, but the outlook improved markedly in the afternoon, just ahead of the scheduled 3:22 p.m. liftoff of the 260-foot Falcon 9 in what would be the first launch of astronauts into orbit by a private company.

Their destination: the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth.

It would also be NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

The mission unfolded amid the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed over 100,000 Americans, and racial unrest across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. NASA officials and others held out hope the flight would would lift American spirits.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity here for America to maybe pause and look up and see a bright, shining moment of hope at what the future looks like, that the United States of America can do extraordinary things even in difficult times,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken pulled on their angular, white-and-black spacesuits with help from technicians wearing masks, gloves and black hoods that made them look like ninjas.

Before setting out for the launch pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV — another Musk product — Behnken pantomimed a hug of his 6-year-old son, Theo, and said: “Are you going to listen to Mommy and make her life easy?” Hurley blew kisses to his 10-year-old son and wife.

Wednesday’s countdown of the rocket and its bullet-shaped Dragon capsule was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning.

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence returned to the Kennedy Space Center for the second launch attempt.

Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous,” Bridenstine said before the launch attempt. “We want to do everything we can to minimize the risk, minimize the uncertainty, so that Bob and Doug will be safe.”

Because of the coronavirus, NASA severely limited the number of employees, visitors and journalists allowed deep inside Kennedy Space Center, and the crowd was relatively small, at a few thousand. At the centre ‘s tourist complex, though, all 4,000 tickets were snapped up in a few hours.

The space agency urged people to stay safe and watch from home, and by NASA’s count, at least 1.14 million viewers followed the launch preparation online. But spectators also began lining the Cape Canaveral area’s beaches and roads. Signs along the main beach drag read, “Godspeed.”

Among the spectators was Neil Wight, a machinist from Buffalo, New York, who staked out a view of the launch pad from a park in Titusville.

“It’s pretty historically significant in my book and a lot of other people’s books. With everything that’s going on in this country right now, it’s important that we do things extraordinary in life,” Wight said. “We’ve been bombarded with doom and gloom for the last six, eight weeks, whatever it is, and this is awesome. It brings a lot of people together.”

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to taxi astronauts to and from the space station, under contracts totalling $7 billion. Both companies launched their crew capsules last year with test dummies. SpaceX’s Dragon aced all of its objectives, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and was almost destroyed because of software errors.

As a result, the first Starliner flight carrying astronauts isn’t expected until next year.

___

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

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Two astronauts climb aboard SpaceX rocket for historic flight – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
Despite more storms in the forecast, two NASA astronauts climbed into their capsule Saturday for a second attempt at a history-making ride into orbit aboard a rocket ship designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

With the flight already delayed three days by bad weather, forecasters put the odds of acceptable conditions at 50-50 for the 3:22 p.m. liftoff of the 270-foot Falcon 9 in what would be the first launch of astronauts into orbit by a private company.

Their destination: the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth.

It would also be NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

NASA officials and others held out hope the mission would be a morale-booster amid the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed over 360,000 people worldwide, including more than 100,000 Americans.

Veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken pulled on their angular, white-and-black spacesuits with help from technicians wearing masks, gloves and black hoods that made them look like ninjas.

Before setting out for the launch pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV — another Musk product — Behnken pantomimed a hug of his 6-year-old son, Theo, and said: “Are you going to listen to Mommy and make her life easy?” Hurley blew kisses to his 10-year-old son and wife.

SpaceX and NASA monitored the weather not just at Kennedy Space Center, where rain, thick clouds and the chance of lightning threatened another postponement, but all the way up the Eastern Seaboard and across the North Atlantic to Ireland. Waves and wind need to be within certain limits in case the astronauts have to make an emergency splashdown on the way to orbit.

Wednesday’s countdown of the rocket and its bullet-shaped Dragon capsule was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning.

Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said before the launch attempt. “We want to do everything we can to minimize the risk, minimize the uncertainty, so that Bob and Doug will be safe.”

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence planned to return for the second launch attempt.

Because of the coronavirus, NASA severely limited the number of employees, visitors and journalists allowed deep inside Kennedy Space Center, and the crowd was relatively small, at a few thousand. At the centre’s tourist complex, though, all 4,000 tickets were snapped up in a few hours.

The space agency urged people to stay safe and watch from home, and by NASA’s count, at least 1.14 million viewers followed the launch preparation online. But spectators also began lining the Cape Canaveral area’s beaches and roads. Signs along the main beach drag read, “Godspeed.”

Among the spectators was Neil Wight, a machinist from Buffalo, New York, who staked out a view of the launch pad from a park in Titusville.

“It’s pretty historically significant in my book, and a lot of other people’s books. With everything that’s going on in this country right now, it’s important that we do things extraordinary in life,” Wight said. “We’ve been bombarded with doom and gloom for the last six, eight weeks, whatever it is, and this is awesome. It brings a lot of people together.”

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to taxi astronauts to and from the space station, under contracts totalling $7 billion. Both companies launched their crew capsules last year with test dummies. SpaceX’s Dragon aced all of its objectives, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and was almost destroyed because of software errors.

As a result, the first Starliner flight carrying astronauts isn’t expected until next year.

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How to Make the Food and Water Mars-Bound Astronauts Will Need for Their Mission – Universe Today

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If we ever intend to send crewed missions to deep-space locations, then we need to come up with solutions for how to keep the crews supplied. For astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who regularly receive resupply missions from Earth, this is not an issue. But for missions traveling to destinations like Mars and beyond, self-sufficiency is the name of the game!

This is the idea behind projects like BIOWYSE and TIME SCALE, which are being developed by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) in Norway. These two systems are all about providing astronauts with a sustainable and renewable supply of drinking water and plant food. In so doing, they address two of the most important needs of humans performing long-duration missions that will take them far from home.

Even though the ISS can be resupplied in as little as six hours (the time between launch and the time a supply capsule will dock with the station), astronauts still rely on conservation measures while in orbit. In fact, roughly 80% of the water aboard the ISS comes from airborne water vapor (generated by breathing and sweat) as well as recycled shower water and urine – all of which is treated with chemicals to make it safe for drinking.

Food is another matter. NASA estimates that every astronaut aboard the ISS will consume 0.83 kg (1.83 pounds lbs) of food per meal, which works out to about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) a day. About 0.12 kg (0.27 pounds) of every meal is just from the packaging material, which means a single astronaut will generate close to a pound of waste per day – and that’s not even including the other kind of “waste” that comes from eating!

In short, the ISS relies on costly resupply missions to provide 20% of its water and all of its food. But if and when astronauts establish outposts on the Moon and Mars, this may not be an option. While sending supplies to the Moon can be done in three days, the need to do so regularly will make the cost of sending food and water prohibitive. Meanwhile, it takes eight months for spacecraft to reach Mars, which is totally impractical.

It is little wonder then why the proposed mission architectures to the Moon and Mars include in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), where astronauts will use local resources to be as self-sufficient as possible. The availability of ice on the lunar and Martian surfaces is a prime example, which will be harvested to provide drinking and irrigation water. But missions to deep-space locations will not have this option while they are in transit.

To provide a sustainable supply of water, Dr. Emmanouil Detsis and colleagues are developing the Biocontamination Integrated cOntrol of Wet Systems for Space Exploration (BIOWYSE). This project began as an investigation for ways to store freshwater for extended periods of time, monitor it in real-time for signs of contamination, decontaminate it with UV light (rather than chemicals), and dispense it as needed.

https://horizon-media.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/field/image/time_scale_crop.jpg
The prototype space greenhouse developed by the TIME SCALE project, which recycles nutrients to grow food. Credit: Karoliussen/HORIZON

What resulted was an automated machine that could perform all of these tasks. As Dr. Detsis explained:

“We wanted a system where you take it from A to Z, from storing the water to making it available for someone to drink. That means you store the water, you are able to monitor the biocontamination, you are able to disinfect if you have to, and finally you deliver to the cup for drinking… When someone wants to drink water you press the button. It’s like a water cooler.”

In addition to monitoring stored water, the BIOWYSE machine is also capable of analyzing wet surfaces inside a spacecraft for signs of contamination. This is important since closed-systems like spacecraft and space stations, you have humidity buildup, which can cause water to accumulate in areas that are unclean. Once this water is reclaimed, it then becomes necessary to decontaminate all the water stored in the system.

“The system is designed with future habitats in mind,” added Dr. Detsis. “So a space station around the moon, or a field laboratory on Mars in decades to come. These are places where the water may have been sitting there some time before the crew arrives.”

http://www.esa.int/var/esa/storage/images/esa_multimedia/images/2001/07/biolab_is_designed_to_support_biological_experiments/9159967-5-eng-GB/Biolab_is_designed_to_support_biological_experiments_pillars.jpg
Artist’s impression of Biolab. a facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, small plants and small invertebrates. Credit: ESA – D. Ducros

The Technology and Innovation for Development of Modular Equipment in Scalable Advanced Life Support Systems for Space Exploration (TIME SCALE) project, meanwhile, is designed to recycle water and nutrients for the sake of growing plants. This project is overseen by Dr. Ann-Iren Kittang Jost from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) in Norway.

This system is not unlike the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) or the Biolab system, which were sent to the ISS in 2006 and 2018 (respectively) to conduct biological experiments in space. Drawing inspiration from these systems, Dr. Jost and her colleagues designed a “greenhouse in space” that could cultivate plants and monitor their health. As she put it:

“We (need) state of the art technologies to cultivate food for future space exploration to the moon and Mars. We took (the ECMS) as a starting point to define concepts and technologies to learn more about cultivating crops and plants in microgravity.”

Much like its predecessors, Biolab and the ECMS, the TIME SCALE prototype relies on a spinning centrifuge to simulate lunar and Martian gravity and measures the effect this has on plants’ uptake of nutrients and water. This system could also be useful here on Earth, allowing greenhouses to reuse nutrients and water and more advanced sensor technology to monitor plant health and growth.

Plants cultivated in the TPU autonomous greenhouse. Credit: TPU

Technologies like these will be crucial when it comes time to establish a human presence on the Moon, on Mars, and for the sake of deep-space missions. In the coming years, NASA plans to make the long-awaited return to the Moon with Project Artemis, which will be the first step in the creation of what they envision as a program for “sustainable lunar exploration.”

Much of that vision rests on the creation of an orbital habitat (the Lunar Gateway) as well as the infrastructure on the surface (the Artemis Base Camp) needed to support an enduring human presence. Similarly, when NASA begins making crewed missions to Mars, the mission architecture calls for an orbital habitat (the Mars Base Camp), likely followed by one on the surface.

In all cases, the outposts will need to be relatively self-sufficient since resupply missions won’t be able to reach them in a matter of hours. As Dr. Detsis explained:

“It will not be like the ISS. You are not going to have a constant crew all the time. There will be a period where the laboratory might be empty, and will not have crew until the next shift arrives in three or four months (or longer). Water and other resources will be sitting there, and it may build up microorganisms.”

By having technologies that can ensure that drinking water is safe, clean, and in steady supply – and that plants can be grown in a sustainable way – outposts and deep-space missions will be able to achieve a level of self-sufficiency and be less reliant on Earth.

Further Reading: HORIZON/European Commission

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