Next Crew Dragon flight will launch four civilians into Earth orbit
One of the four private astronauts to ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule for a five-day orbit of the Earth later this year will attempt a spacewalk — the first to be conducted by a non-government astronaut.
SpaceX flight suits are designed to protect a person in space for a few hours in the event of an emergency, and while it’s the most dangerous part of any astronaut operation, no one has ever died performing a spacewalk.
Jared Isaacman, the billionaire e-commerce mogul who last year led the world’s first all-private space crew launched into orbit, said on Monday he plans to help bankroll up to three more such missions with SpaceX, independent of NASA’s human spaceflight program. He declined to say how much he was paying.
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In his new Polaris collaboration with fellow billionaire and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, Isaacman, the New York Times reports, will fly with Scott Poteet, a retired Air Force pilot who was the mission director for the Inspiration4 mission; Sarah Gillis, a SpaceX engineer overseeing the company’s astronaut training program; and Anna Menon, another SpaceX engineer who works as a flight director in the company’s mission control.
(If the Polaris mission goes as planned, Menon will reach space before her husband, Anil Menon, SpaceX’s former medical director who last year was picked by NASA as an astronaut candidate.)
It has not been disclosed which of the passengers would perform the spacewalk. The Polaris differs from other capsules in that it has no airlock component, the Times notes, so all four would have to wear new SpaceX spacesuits, currently under development, to survive the near-vacuum.
Once a private flight reaches space, the crew operates without the benefit of government safety regulations, which they enjoy on the launch site. A moratorium on such regulations, instituted in 2004 to allow for spaceflight innovation, runs until 2023.
— with additional reporting by Reuters
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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