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SpaceX rolls Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon capsule out to pad for Ax-1 astronaut launch (photos) – Space.com

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The hardware that will launch the first-ever all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station has made its way to the pad.

On Tuesday (April 5), SpaceX rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Ax-1 mission out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. SpaceX posted photos of the rollout on Twitter (opens in new tab)

Ax-1, which was organized by Houston company Axiom Space, is scheduled to lift off on Friday (April 8). It will send three paying customers and Axiom employee Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who’s commanding the mission, to the orbiting lab for an eight-day stay. 

Photos: The first space tourists
Live updates: The Ax-1 private mission to the International Space Station

Another look at the Ax-1 Dragon and Falcon 9 during their rollout on April 5, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

Private citizens have visited the station before, but they’ve always flown alongside government astronauts — specifically, employees of Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency. Ax-1 will therefore blaze a new trail.

The coming mission isn’t the first all-private crewed trip to Earth orbit, however. That distinction belongs to Inspiration4, a SpaceX flight purchased and commanded by tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. He and three other people circled our planet for nearly three days last September aboard a Dragon capsule, but they didn’t meet up with the space station.

Ax-1’s launch had been targeted for Sunday (April 3), but it was pushed back to accommodate the “wet dress rehearsal” of NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission, which was held that same weekend at KSC’s Pad 39B. 

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The Artemis 1 test didn’t wrap up on Sunday as planned, however; it was delayed and then halted by technical issues and will resume sometime after Ax-1 gets off the ground.

SpaceX has another crewed Dragon mission coming up this month as well — Crew-4, which will send three NASA astronauts and one European spaceflyer to the space station for a lengthy stay. Crew-4 is currently scheduled to launch from Pad 39A on April 20.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Joe Biden Wants to Put a Japanese Astronaut on the Moon – Gizmodo

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Gateway, illustrated here, will serve as a crucial part of the upcoming Artemis missions.
Illustration: NASA

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida further solidified their plans to send a Japanese astronaut to the upcoming lunar space station, while also affirming the possibility of having a Japanese astronaut walk on the Moon during future Artemis missions.

Biden and Kishida met in Tokyo on Monday to continue discussions around an Implementing Agreement that will potentially place a Japanese astronaut on the Gateway space station. The leaders also reaffirmed each country’s commitment to share data on climate change. The discussion around Gateway personnel is a part of ongoing conversations between the U.S. and Japan regarding NASA’s upcoming missions to the Moon.

Gateway is an integral component of NASA’s larger effort to return to the Moon, a series of upcoming missions known as the Artemis program. Once built, Gateway will serve as a Moon-orbiting outpost offering lunar-bound astronauts support for their visit. The lunar space station, in addition to serving as critical infrastructure for the Artemis missions, will also serve as a staging point for future crewed missions to Mars. The first pieces of the upcoming lunar station are set to launch no earlier than November 2024.

“In recent years, the alliance between Japan and the United States has grown stronger, deeper, and more capable as we work together to take on new challenges—just as important as the opportunities—of a rapidly changing world,” said President Biden in a NASA press release.

Japan and the U.S. are also interested in placing a Japanese astronaut on the surface of the Moon during a yet-to-be-determined Artemis mission, according to a White House fact sheet. NASA is looking to land astronauts on the lunar south pole by 2025, and Artemis will involve the first crewed Moon missions since Apollo 17 in 1972. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the release: “Our shared ambition to see Japanese and American astronauts walk on the Moon together reflects our nations’ shared values to explore space responsibly and transparently for the benefit of humanity here on Earth.”

While the first pieces of Gateway are still a few years away from launch, having the U.S. and Japan team up is an opportunity to get more nations involved. The Artemis missions will be a global effort, and getting back to the Moon represents an exciting next step in space exploration and engineering.

More: This Tiny Moon-Bound Satellite Could Carve a Path For a Lunar Space Station.

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Crumbling comet could create meteor shower May 30 – Toronto Sun

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A crumbling comet could create a meteor shower on May 30.

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The ‘tau Herculids’ meteor display might be one of the most dramatic observed in over two decades, according to Space.com.

Meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter Earth’s atmosphere at a very high speed, the U.K. Sun explained.

This one is expected to be the product of a comet named 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, also known as SW3.

SW3 was first discovered in 1930 but did not reappear again until the 1970s, Republic World reported.

In 1995, astronomers noticed that the comet’s nucleus split into four smaller chunks, according to CNET.

It has continued to disintegrate more in the ensuing years.

The display is expected to be very visible in the Northern Hemisphere as it is occurring on a Moon-less night.

A consensus of experts predicts that the shower will be visible starting from 1 a.m. EST on May 31.

It is suggested viewers will want to be outside at least an hour before this so your eyes have a chance to adjust to the dark.

“The southwestern USA and Mexico are favored locations as the radiant, the area of the sky where these meteors come from, will be located highest in a dark sky,” Robert Lunsford wrote for AMS.

“The outburst may be seen from southeastern Canada and the remainder of the (eastern) USA, but at a lower altitude.”

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Boeing capsule returns from space station after test flight with no crew – CBC News

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Boeing’s crew taxi returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Wednesday, completing a repeat test flight before NASA astronauts climb aboard.

It was a quick trip back: the Starliner capsule parachuted into the New Mexico desert just four hours after leaving the orbiting lab, with airbags attached to cushion the landing. Only a mannequin was buckled in.

Aside from thruster failures and cooling system snags, Starliner appeared to clinch its high-stakes shakedown cruise, 2½ years after its botched first try. Flight controllers in Houston applauded and cheered the bull’s-eye touchdown.

NASA astronauts will strap in next for a trip to the space station. The space agency has long wanted two competing U.S. companies ferrying astronauts, giving it added insurance as it drastically reduced its reliance on Russia for rides to and from the space station.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already the established leader, launching astronauts since 2020 and even tourists. Its crew capsules splash down off the Florida coast; Boeing’s Starliner returns to the U.S. Army’s expansive White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

This image from NASA TV shows the Boeing Starliner approaching the International Space Station last Friday. (NASA/The Associated Press)

Boeing scrapped its first attempt to reach the space station in 2019, after software errors left the capsule in the wrong orbit and nearly doomed it. The company fixed the flaws and tried again last summer, but corroded valves halted the countdown. Following more repairs, Starliner finally lifted off from Cape Canaveral last Thursday and docked to the space station Friday.

Station astronauts tested Starliner’s communication and computer systems during its five days at the space station. They also unloaded hundreds of kilograms of groceries and other supplies that flew up in the Boeing capsule, then filled it with empty air tanks and other discarded gear.

A folded U.S. flag sent up by Boeing stayed behind, to be retrieved by the first Starliner crew.

“We’re a little sad to see her go,” station astronaut Bob Hines radioed as the capsule flew away.

Along for the ride was Starliner’s test dummy — Rosie the Rocketeer, a takeoff on the Second World War’s Rosie the Riveter.

The repairs and do-over cost Boeing nearly $600 million US.

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