Connect with us


Starliner Spacecraft's Landing on Sunday a Critical Moment for Boeing and NASA –



Update for Dec. 22: Boeing’s first Starliner spacecraft has successfully landed in New Mexico. For photos and videos, read our full landing story here.

Boeing’s first Starliner spacecraft will return to Earth Sunday (Dec. 22) to cap a rocky test flight that, despite some successes, left the capsule in the wrong orbit and unable to reach the International Space Station for NASA as planned. 

If all goes according to the revised plan, the uncrewed Starliner — which Boeing designed to eventually fly astronauts for NASA — will land at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico at 7:57 a.m. EST (1257 GMT), six days earlier than its original Dec. 28 target. The spacecraft will rely on a heat shield to withstand the searing heat of reentry, three parachutes to slow its descent back to Earth and airbags to cushion its landing. And all of that gear needs to work perfectly for a safe touchdown.

“Tomorrow is a big day,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said of Starliner’s landing in a teleconference with reporters today (Dec. 21). “We have to be on our ‘A’ game.”

You can watch Boeing’s Starliner landing live on Sunday, courtesy of NASA TV, beginning at 6:45 a.m. EST (1145 GMT).

Video: How Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Will Land
Boeing’s 1st Starliner Flight Test in Photos

This Boeing graphic shows the stages of entry, descent and landing for the Starliner spacecraft. Boeing’s first Starliner will return to Earth Sunday, Dec. 22, to land at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. (Image credit: Boeing)

A critical test

“Entry, descent and landing is not for the faint of heart…”

Jim Chilton, Boeing Space & Launch Div.

A smooth, successful landing will be a redemption of sorts for Boeing’s Starliner, which was left in its unplanned orbit due to a timing error with the spacecraft’s mission clock. The glitch meant Starliner, which launched early Friday (Dec. 20), was unable to rendezvous with the space station to demonstrate its automated docking system, a vital capability for future astronaut missions. 

But just as vital is landing safely. And that’s what Boeing will attempt to show on Sunday. 

“Entry, descent and landing is not for the faint of heart, and this vehicle has not entered,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division. “We have not gone from space to the atmosphere.”

The airbags on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule will deploy once the spacecraft reaches an altitude of 3,000 feet (900 meters) during its return to Earth.  (Image credit: Boeing)

Leaving orbit

Starliner’s return to Earth will occur in stages, each of which must go right for the spacecraft to land safely. First, Starliner will have to leave its current orbit, which is about 155 miles (250 kilometers) above Earth.

To do that, Starliner’s service module will fire its thrusters in a so-called “deorbit burn” at 7:23 a.m. EST (1223 GMT) that will last 50 seconds. That should slow the spacecraft to about 25 times the speed of sound, Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said in the teleconference. Mach 25 is about 19,181 mph (20,870 km/h).

After the deorbit burn, the cylindrical service module should separate from the Starliner crew capsule and perform its own maneuver to fall safely out space and into the Pacific Ocean, Stich said. 

An artist’s illustration of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner during its airbag and parachute-assisted landing. (Image credit: Boeing)

Parachute landing

The rest of the landing scenario relies on Starliner’s crew capsule, which will plunge through the atmosphere on a trajectory that flies over the Pacific Ocean and crosses Baja California and Mexico,  and then just west of El Paso, Texas, to reach a landing zone at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. 

When the gumdrop-shaped Starliner slams into the Earth’s atmosphere, its heat shield will heat up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius), according to a Boeing mission description. The spacecraft will then jettison that heat shield and prepare to deploy its parachutes. 

“By the time we get to 30,000 feet [9,100 meters], we’ll deploy parachutes; the vehicle will be going less than the speed of sound, less than Mach 1,” Stich said. 

Starliner is equipped with three main parachutes to slow its descent back to Earth. During a pad abort test in November, only two of those parachutes deployed during a Starliner landing, a glitch Boeing pegged to a misaligned pin in the parachute rigging system. 

Chilton said both Boeing and NASA have checked and double-checked that the pins in the current Starliner’s parachutes were installed correctly. 

“We did have a NASA team go in and look at all the closeout photos,” Stitch added. “The parachutes on this spacecraft were rigged correctly.”

Starliner’s big test

At 3,000 feet (900 m), air bags should inflate on Starliner’s base. Those airbags are designed to cushion the impact of landing on astronauts inside the spacecraft. 

While there are no human astronauts on this Starliner, the spacecraft is carrying “Rosie the Rocketeer,” a spacesuit-clad anthropomorphic test dummy equipped with sensors to measure what astronauts will feel. 

“We’re going to be able to measure how the human would receive the Gs during entry, and also as the parachutes deploy and as we land,” Stich said. “We can measure that environment on Rosie and then extrapolate how a human would do in that environment.”

Related: Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Space Capsule (Infographic)

After landing, teams from Boeing and NASA will arrive to recover the vehicle (and its Rosie dummy) to see how Starliner and its systems performed during the trip home. 

About the only thing Starliner will not have done during its test flight is the actual docking with the space station. Timing issue aside, the spacecraft fared well during launch and its major systems performed as expected in orbit, Chilton said. Engineers were also able to to deploy and retract Starliner’s docking system to make sure it would work during actual dockings. 

But just like launch, landing is a test that stands apart, Chilton said.  

“Not all objectives are created equal,”he added. “Make no mistake. We still have something to prove here on entry tomorrow.”

Visit Sunday, Dec. 22, for complete coverage of Starliner’s OFT landing at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico.

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

All About Space Holiday 2019

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title “All About Space” Magazine for the latest amazing news from the final frontier! (Image credit: All About Space)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests –



A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.

Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.

While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers. 

“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”

Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 —  visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.

The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.

‘Everything went south, super-fast’

By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.

“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”

Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.

“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.

When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.

“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.

“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.

Strate’s parents say her health deteriorated quickly after being exposed to COVID-19. She died at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge on Monday. (Ron Strate)

Searching for answers

At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.

But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.

“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”

The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.

According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.

‘Unusual but not impossible’

University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.

However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.

“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.

According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.

She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop. 

“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.” 

Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.

‘An amazing kid’

The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.

But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.

Strate, pictured here at three years old, had plans to become a massage therapist. She attended Grade 12 at Magrath High School and was an active, healthy teenager who was involved in sports, music and the school’s suicide prevention group. (Ron Strate)

Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.

She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.

“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.

“She’s an amazing kid.”

Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.

“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.

“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


China launches key module of space station planned for 2022



BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.

The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.

Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.

“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.

Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.

The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).

In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.

Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.

China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.

In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.

The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.

Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.

Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)

Continue Reading


NASA Pays Rich Homage To Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins – Gadgets 360



NASA on Thursday paid a rich tribute to Michael Collins, the American astronaut who was the command module pilot for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Collins, 90, passed away on Wednesday after battling cancer, his family said. Sharing a photograph on Instagram, NASA said the picture was clicked by Collins, who spent seven years of his career as an astronaut with them. The photograph shows the lunar module, “Eagle,” returning to the command module, “Columbia,” after landing on the Moon. The Earth can be seen in the background of the picture. NASA said the picture had all of the humanity in it, save for Collins who captured it.

Collins kept the command module flying while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. “We remember Michael Collins, @NASA astronaut and crew member of Apollo 11, who passed away on April 28, 2021,” NASA said.

In the post, NASA also quoted what Collins had said during a transmission to Mission Control on the trip back to Earth from the Moon on July 21, 1969. “This trip of ours to the Moon may have looked, to you, simple or easy… All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all those I would like to say, thank you very much.”

NASA further shared what the mission control stated during Apollo 11. “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during the 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia. While he waits for his comrades to soar with Eagle from Tranquility Base and rejoin him for the trip back to Earth, Collins, with the help of Flight Controllers here in Mission Control Center has kept the Command Module’s system going.”

Besides, the space agency also released a statement, saying the nation had lost a “true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration” in Collins. NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said that as the pilot of Apollo 11 some referred to him as the “loneliest man in history”.

“While his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot,” he said.

Jurczyk shared that Collins would say, “Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative,” adding “What would be worth recording is what kind of civilisation we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy.”

Jurczyk added that Collins’ own signature accomplishments, his writings about his experiences, and his leadership of the National Air and Space Museum helped gain wide exposure for the work of all the men and women who have helped our nation push itself to greatness in aviation and space. “There is no doubt he inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, test pilots, and astronauts.”

We dive into all things Apple — iPad Pro, iMac, Apple TV 4K, and AirTag — this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading