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SpaceX will try to nab its Crew Dragon capsules in giant NETS as they land

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By Ian Randall For Mailonline

SpaceX will try to catch its astronaut-bearing ‘Crew Dragon’ capsules in giant nets as they return from orbit, Elon Musk has suggested.

The US aerospace firm is already using the same method to try to catch the protective nosecones of rockets which are jettisoned after launch.

According to Mr Musk, each nosecone costs around £4.6 million ($6 million) — and keeping them out of corrosive seawater is the first step to being able to reuse them.

Catching the crew capsules, similarly, could save money by allowing them to be more easily restored for multiple flights.

The nets are suspended above specially-equipped boats, of which there are presently two in operation — ‘Ms Chief’ and ‘Ms Tree’ (formerly ‘Mr Steven’).

Both vessels have managed to catch the falling rocket parts on a number of occasions — but the majority have landed in the ocean instead.

SpaceX will likely want to improve its success rate before it attempts to try the same manoeuvre to land a crewed spacecraft.

SpaceX will try to catch its astronaut-bearing ‘Crew Dragon’ capsules in giant nets as they return from orbit, Elon Musk has suggested. Pictured, the net-bearing boat ‘Ms Tree’ capturing a SpaceX rocket’s protective nosecone — or ‘fairing’ — as it falls to earth

‘I think it would be quite cool to use the boats that we are using to catch the fairing, once that is really well-established, to catch Dragon as it’s coming in from orbit,’ Mr Musk said during a press conference on January 19, reported Space.com.

‘And then that would alleviate some of the constraints around a water landing.’

However, Mr Musk added, ‘this requires ongoing discussions with NASA.’

The US space agency will have to sign off on any such plans as SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon capsules under contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The plan is for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules and competitor Boeing’s Starliner craft to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

At present — in the wake of the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011 — this function has been entirely dependant on the use of Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The nets are suspended above specially-equipped boats, of which there are presently two in operation — 'Ms Chief' and 'Ms Tree' (formerly named 'Mr Steven')

 

 The nets are suspended above specially-equipped boats, of which there are presently two in operation — ‘Ms Chief’ and ‘Ms Tree’ (formerly named ‘Mr Steven’)

At present, SpaceX does reuse its so-called ‘Cargo Dragon’ capsules — used for resupply missions to the International Space Station — following their water landings.

However, more care must be taken when considering the reuse of spacecraft intended to carry human life.

In contrast to the Crew Dragon design, Boeing’s Starliner will land on firm ground — enabling it to be reused up to nine times.

Mr Musk, pictured with an illustration of the Crew Dragon capsule, made the announcement following Crew Dragon's completion of a crucial so-called 'in-flight abort' test last week

 

Mr Musk, pictured with an illustration of the Crew Dragon capsule, made the announcement following Crew Dragon’s completion of a crucial so-called ‘in-flight abort’ test last week

Following a lift-off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:30 EST (15:30 GMT), mission controllers simulated an emergency

 

Following a lift-off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:30 EST (15:30 GMT), mission controllers simulated an emergency

Mr Musk made the announcement after Crew Dragon passed a crucial so-called ‘high-altitude in-flight abort’ test last week.

Following a lift-off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:30 EST (15:30 GMT), mission controllers simulated an emergency.

The Crew Dragon capsule — which was not carrying any NASA personnel — then separated from the rocket and accelerated to safety, touching down in the Atlantic Ocean a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket self-destructed.

According to the Guardian, NASA engineer and former astronaut Douglas Hurley described the test as ‘the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do.’

The successful completion of the manoeuvre could lead to crewed flights and NASA once again launching astronauts from US soil — possible as early as this spring.

The Crew Dragon capsule — which was not carrying any NASA personnel — then separated from the rocket and accelerated to safety, touching down in the Atlantic Ocean a few minutes later. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket self-destructed, as pictured

 

The Crew Dragon capsule — which was not carrying any NASA personnel — then separated from the rocket and accelerated to safety, touching down in the Atlantic Ocean a few minutes later. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket self-destructed, as pictured

WHAT IS SPACEX’ CREW DRAGON CAPSULE?

The March 2 test, the first launch of U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil in eight years, will inform the system design and operations (Artist's impression)

 

The March 2 test, the first launch of U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil in eight years, will inform the system design and operations (Artist’s impression)

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time.

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland.

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members.

Crew Dragon’s displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.

Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use ‘propulsive’ landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean.

 That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

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We Now Have a Beautiful Colour Image of Earth's Minimoon – ScienceAlert

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Dear Moon, we love you very much. For 4.51 billion years you’ve been a steady and true orbital companion.

So, with that in mind, please excuse us for a brief moment while we absolutely freak out over the tiny minimoon we’ve just discovered looping around our planet.

Designated 2020 CD3, so far we know that it’s likely a car-sized piece of carbonaceous rock, and has been in orbit for about three years already.

On February 24, the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii took a beautiful colour photo of our new friend, with the 8-meter Gemini North telescope.

(Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIARL/AURA/G. Fedorets)

Combining three images with different filters, the picture shows our little minimoon as the spot in the centre of the image, with the colourful stars blurry around it.

It looks this way because the minimoon was being tracked over the sky; as the camera moves, the stars (which don’t move as much) blur.

Alas, our new tiny friend will not be around forever.

“Obtaining the images was a scramble for the Gemini team because the object is quickly becoming fainter as it moves away from Earth,” explains Gemini Observatory astronomer John Blakeslee.

“It is expected to be ejected from Earth’s orbit altogether in April.”

Although it might be too late for us to become further acquainted with little 2020 CD3, researchers think there are many more of such minimoons out there – we just need to find them.

“We expect to find a population of these objects once the Rubin Observatory is operational,” said Grigori Fedorets, the lead astronomer for the Gemini observations. 

“Stay tuned!”

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Astronomers detect biggest explosion since Big Bang – DW (English)

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Researchers say the blast is the biggest since the universe began. It occurred at the center of a galaxy cluster some 390 million light years away from Earth.

Astronomers have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the universe, originating from a super-massive black hole.

The blast, they said, is the biggest explosion seen in the universe since the Big Bang. The explosion reportedly released five times more energy than the previous record holder.

Read moreWhat’s happening in the night sky in 2020?

The blast occurred at the center of the Ophiuchus cluster of galaxies, some 390 million light years away. The cluster is a conglomeration of thousands of galaxies, hot gas and dark matter bound together by gravity.

“We’ve seen outbursts in the centers of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive, ” said Melanie Johnston-Holitt, a professor at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). “And we don’t know why it’s so big.”

Read moreMercury creates tiny solar eclipse in rare celestial act

Astronomers used NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory to make the discovery, as well as a European space observatory and ground telescopes. Scientists picked up the first sign of the explosion in 2016.

Chandra images of the cluster revealed an unusual curved edge, but scientists ruled out a possible eruption given the amount of energy that would have been needed to create such a large cavity of gas. The curviture was later confirmed to be a cavity.

According to ICRAR, the lead author of the study, Dr Simona Giacintucci from the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States, compared the blast to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which tore the top off the mountain.

“The difference is that you can fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” she said.

The blast is believed to be over by now, and, according to the research team, more observations are needed in other wavelengths to better understand what occurred.

Read moreMilky Way gobbled up smaller galaxy in cosmic crash, astronomers find

We made this discovery with Phase 1 of the MWA, when the telescope had 2048 antennas pointed towards the sky,” said Johnston-Hollitt. “We’re soon going to be gathering observations with 4096 antennas, which should be 10 times more sensitive. I think that’s pretty exciting.”

DW sends out a selection of the day’s news and features. Sign up for it here.

lc/aw (AP, EFE)

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Bright-Red "Blood Snow" Is Falling From the Sky in Antarctica – Futurism

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Blood Snow

A Facebook post by Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science shows a research station on an island just off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula covered in “blood snow.”

The gory-looking scene is not the result of a seal hunt gone wrong — it’s an astonishingly red-pigmented, microscopic algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis, which thrives in freezing water as the ice melts during Antarctica’s record-breaking warm summer.

Algae Bloom

When summer hits the polar regions, the algae bloom, staining the snow and ice around it in blood-resembling red, as Live Science explains. The phenomenon was first noticed by Aristotle thousands of years ago and is often referred to as “watermelon snow” thanks to its subtly sweet scent and color.

What makes the blooming algae red is the same stuff that give carrots and watermelons their reddish tint — carotenoids.

Feedback Loop

It’s a stunning display of a natural phenomenon — but it also creates a nasty feedback loop that causes the ice to melt faster. The red color causes less sunlight to be reflected off the snow, causing it to melt faster, as the Ukrainian team explains in its post. The accelerated melting then causes more algae to grow, completing the cycle.

It’s not the only surreal display in the world caused by such a feedback loop, as Live Science points out. Blooming algae caused sea foam to swallow up the coast of a Spanish town in January. Similar algae blooms even caused shores around islands in the East China Sea to glow blue.

READ MORE: Spooky ‘blood snow’ invades Antarctic island [Live Science]

More on algae: A New Bioreactor Captures as Much Carbon as an Acre of Trees

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