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With The SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch A Success, Can You Invest In Elon Musk’s Mission To Mars? – Forbes

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Key Takeaways

  • SpaceX completed a successful launch of the most powerful rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy.
  • It’s just the latest successful launch for the rocket, which is expected to help land NASA astronauts on the Moon and potentially even send humans to Mars.
  • SpaceX recently completed a further venture capital raise, valuing the company at $127 billion.
  • Regular investors aren’t likely to be able to get in with SpaceX, but there are other ways to gain exposure to the private space sector and other cutting edge tech investments.

In all the hoopla surrounding Elon Musk’s privatization of Twitter, the sacked executives and the blue check mark commotion, it can be easy to forget that he also has a number of other side projects on the go.

If you can call aiming to colonize Mars a side project.

Elon Musk is surely the most prolific Founder and CEO of this generation and potentially, of all time. He’s currently the Founder and/or CEO of Tesla, Twitter, Neuralink, The Boring Company, OpenAI and SpaceX.

It’s kind of incredible that launching rockets into space blends in with the rest of his accomplishments, but here we are. SpaceX has now been around for a surprisingly long time. It first started back in 2002 and the aim even back then was to eventually develop technology that would enable the colonization of Mars.

Musk has spoken at length about the importance of the human race becoming a ‘multi-planetary’ species. This issue has come to the forefront in recent years with climate change causing concern for what Earth may look like in the future.

As you’d expect, progress in the space exploration sector is slow, but SpaceX has essentially created the private space industry, which is now seeing multiple new entrants including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

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The latest SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch was a success

This week SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in the world, for the first time in three years. Through a combination of technical problems and lack of demand for their ‘courier services’ during the pandemic years, it’s been a long time between drinks.

SpaceX operates the rockets on behalf of many other organizations looking to access space. Their clients are wide ranging and include NASA, as well as the space programs from other nations and even wealthy private individuals.

This latest flight carried satellites on behalf of the US military and as you might expect with a client like that, further details are somewhat hard to come by.

The Falcon Heavy is still relatively new, with this being only the fourth launch since its first one back in 2018. That turned out to be quite the event, with Elon Musk launching his personal Tesla Roadster into space as a test payload. It’s still out there, taking a long trip around the Sun and towards Mars.

There were two further launches in 2019, with one of these missions another satellite delivery for the US Department of Defense and the other the launch of a large TV and phone satellite for Saudi Arabian headquartered Arabsat.

That doesn’t mean that the SpaceX engineers have been sitting around drinking coffee since then. The Falcon Heavy is only required for larger payloads due to its enormous level of power. Because of that, the smaller Falcon 9 rocket is used much more frequently, having conducted almost 50 launches so far in 2022.

One of the defining features of the SpaceX rockets is their ability to land back on Earth. Previously, rockets were ditched into the ocean rendering them useless for future missions. By creating the technology to have them land back safely on the ground, SpaceX are able to re-use vital components which aims to bring the overall cost down.

It’s considered a vital piece of the puzzle for making future space travel viable and their competitors are following suit.

SpaceX’s upcoming missions

After the long break from using the Falcon Heavy, there are a number of exciting missions in the near future.

In 2023 the company is expecting to launch the world’s first private lunar mission, called dearMoon. The project is being funded by Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa and will involve a fly-by of the moon with Maezawa and six to eight other civilians on board.

The purpose of the flight has been stated as an art project, with Maezawa hoping that the experience of space will inspire creativity, with the subsequent art works to be exhibited back on Earth to promote world peace.

These billionaires don’t think small do they.

The Falcon Heavy is also part of the grander plan for landing humans and cargo on the Moon and, eventually, on Mars. SpaceX have been developing their own spacecraft, Starship, to work in conjunction with the Falcon Heavy rockets, which will help NASA complete their first manned mission to the Moon since 1972.

For SpaceX, the Starship project is also the craft that they believe will be able to eventually be used to go to Mars.

Can you invest in SpaceX?

SpaceX is a fully private company, just as Twitter now is. That means that for regular investors, getting a piece of the SpaceX pie is likely to be impossible unless you’re on first name terms with Elon himself.

But it’s not surprising that many investors want in. SpaceX is now the largest venture capital backed private company in the world, with the latest round of funding putting it at a valuation in the region of $127 billion.

To put that into context, that makes it more valuable than companies such as Goldman Sachs, Intel, Unilever, American Express, Starbucks and BP.

That’s not to say you can’t invest into the private space sector at all. There are a number of players in the space (pun intended) that are listed on public markets, which means investors can buy into the industry.

However, it’s a high risk game. As you’d expect, space exploration requires enormous levels of startup capital and the potential for things to go horribly wrong are very, very high.

Some examples are private space company Momentus (MNTS) which has seen its stock plummet almost 90% over the past 12 months, Astra Space (ASTR) which is down 93.95% in the last year and even Richard Branson’s spinoff Virgin Galactic (SPCE) is down over 75% over the same period.

All of these went public via SPACs and it hasn’t been a good ride for investors since.

There are other ways to gain access to the space sector without betting on high risk startups. Many of the world’s major aircraft manufacturers are heavily involved in the sector. Boeing (BOE) helped send the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon and they’re still working on rockets for NASA today.

Boeing is currently building the Space Launch System for NASA, which will work alongside SpaceX technology to send humans back to the moon. They also built the Starliner capsule which transports people to and from the International Space Station.

As well as their own projects, Boeing has a joint project with another publicly traded company, Lockheed Martin (LMT) to provide launch vehicles to Blue Origin, NASA and others.

Invest in cutting edge technology

Private space exploration is an emerging sector that is likely to continue to grow in coming years, but it remains high risk. With high risk comes the potential for high returns, but it’s more important than ever to ensure investors have enough diversification to weather the almost certain volatility.

When it comes to the use of technology, we employ it heavily in creating our Investment Kits, using the power of AI and machine learning to predict returns across a huge range of different assets.

For tech focused investors, we’ve packaged this into our Emerging Tech Kit, which invests across four main verticals within the tech sector. These are large cap tech companies, new and growing tech companies, tech etfs and even cryptocurrencies via public trusts.

Every week our AI analyzes massive swathes of data and predicts how each of these verticals are going to perform each week, as well as which holdings within each vertical are expected to perform the best on a risk adjusted basis.

It then automatically rebalances the portfolio based on the best expected risk-adjusted returns and repeats this process every week.

Not only that, but we also offer Portfolio Protection with the Emerging Tech Kit. This utilizes our AI by assessing your portfolio’s sensitivity to risks such as interest rate risk, oil risk and overall market risk and then automatically implementing hedging strategies to counteract them.

It’s like having a personal hedge fund manager in your pocket.

Download Q.ai today for access to AI-powered investment strategies. When you deposit $100, we’ll add an additional $100 to your account.

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Las Vegas Aces Rookie Kate Martin Suffers Ankle Injury in Game Against Chicago Sky

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Las Vegas Aces rookie Kate Martin had to be helped off the floor and taken to the locker room after suffering an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Sky.

Late in the first quarter, Martin was pushing the ball up the court when she appeared to twist her ankle and lost her balance. The rookie was in serious pain, lying on the floor before eventually being helped off. Her entire team came out in support, and although she managed to put some pressure on the leg, she was taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

Martin returned to the team’s bench late in the second quarter but was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

“Kate Martin is awesome. Kate Martin picks up things so quickly, she’s an amazing sponge,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said of the rookie during the preseason. “I think (coach) Becky (Hammon) nicknamed her Kate ‘Money’ Martin. I think that’s gonna stick. And when I say ‘money,’ it’s not just about scoring and stuff, she’s just in the right place at the right time. She just makes people better. And that’s what Becky values, that’s what our coaching staff values and that’s why she’s gonna be a great asset to our team.”

Las Vegas selected Martin in the second round of the 2024 WNBA Draft. She was coming off the best season of her collegiate career at Iowa, where she averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game during the 2023-24 campaign. Martin’s integration into the Aces organization has been seamless, with her quickly earning the respect and admiration of her teammates and coaches.

The team and fans alike are hoping for a speedy recovery for Martin, whose contributions have been vital to the Aces’ performance this season.

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Asteroid Apophis will visit Earth in 2029, and this European satellite will be along for the ride

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The European Space Agency is fast-tracking a new mission called Ramses, which will fly to near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis and join the space rock in 2029 when it comes very close to our planet — closer even than the region where geosynchronous satellites sit.

Ramses is short for Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety and, as its name suggests, is the next phase in humanity’s efforts to learn more about near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) and how we might deflect them should one ever be discovered on a collision course with planet Earth.

In order to launch in time to rendezvous with Apophis in February 2029, scientists at the European Space Agency have been given permission to start planning Ramses even before the multinational space agency officially adopts the mission. The sanctioning and appropriation of funding for the Ramses mission will hopefully take place at ESA’s Ministerial Council meeting (involving representatives from each of ESA’s member states) in November of 2025. To arrive at Apophis in February 2029, launch would have to take place in April 2028, the agency says.

This is a big deal because large asteroids don’t come this close to Earth very often. It is thus scientifically precious that, on April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass within 19,794 miles (31,860 kilometers) of Earth. For comparison, geosynchronous orbit is 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above Earth’s surface. Such close fly-bys by asteroids hundreds of meters across (Apophis is about 1,230 feet, or 375 meters, across) only occur on average once every 5,000 to 10,000 years. Miss this one, and we’ve got a long time to wait for the next.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was for a short time the most dangerous asteroid known, being classified as having the potential to impact with Earth possibly in 2029, 2036, or 2068. Should an asteroid of its size strike Earth, it could gouge out a crater several kilometers across and devastate a country with shock waves, flash heating and earth tremors. If it crashed down in the ocean, it could send a towering tsunami to devastate coastlines in multiple countries.

Over time, as our knowledge of Apophis’ orbit became more refined, however, the risk of impact  greatly went down. Radar observations of the asteroid in March of 2021 reduced the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit from hundreds of kilometers to just a few kilometers, finally removing any lingering worries about an impact — at least for the next 100 years. (Beyond 100 years, asteroid orbits can become too unpredictable to plot with any accuracy, but there’s currently no suggestion that an impact will occur after 100 years.) So, Earth is expected to be perfectly safe in 2029 when Apophis comes through. Still, scientists want to see how Apophis responds by coming so close to Earth and entering our planet’s gravitational field.

“There is still so much we have yet to learn about asteroids but, until now, we have had to travel deep into the solar system to study them and perform experiments ourselves to interact with their surface,” said Patrick Michel, who is the Director of Research at CNRS at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, in a statement. “Nature is bringing one to us and conducting the experiment itself. All we need to do is watch as Apophis is stretched and squeezed by strong tidal forces that may trigger landslides and other disturbances and reveal new material from beneath the surface.”

The Goldstone radar’s imagery of asteroid 99942 Apophis as it made its closest approach to Earth, in March 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/NSF/AUI/GBO)

By arriving at Apophis before the asteroid’s close encounter with Earth, and sticking with it throughout the flyby and beyond, Ramses will be in prime position to conduct before-and-after surveys to see how Apophis reacts to Earth. By looking for disturbances Earth’s gravitational tidal forces trigger on the asteroid’s surface, Ramses will be able to learn about Apophis’ internal structure, density, porosity and composition, all of which are characteristics that we would need to first understand before considering how best to deflect a similar asteroid were one ever found to be on a collision course with our world.

Besides assisting in protecting Earth, learning about Apophis will give scientists further insights into how similar asteroids formed in the early solar system, and, in the process, how  planets (including Earth) formed out of the same material.

One way we already know Earth will affect Apophis is by changing its orbit. Currently, Apophis is categorized as an Aten-type asteroid, which is what we call the class of near-Earth objects that have a shorter orbit around the sun than Earth does. Apophis currently gets as far as 0.92 astronomical units (137.6 million km, or 85.5 million miles) from the sun. However, our planet will give Apophis a gravitational nudge that will enlarge its orbit to 1.1 astronomical units (164.6 million km, or 102 million miles), such that its orbital period becomes longer than Earth’s.

It will then be classed as an Apollo-type asteroid.

Ramses won’t be alone in tracking Apophis. NASA has repurposed their OSIRIS-REx mission, which returned a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, 101955 Bennu, in 2023. However, the spacecraft, renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Apophis Explorer), won’t arrive at the asteroid until April 23, 2029, ten days after the close encounter with Earth. OSIRIS-APEX will initially perform a flyby of Apophis at a distance of about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from the object, then return in June that year to settle into orbit around Apophis for an 18-month mission.

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Furthermore, the European Space Agency still plans on launching its Hera spacecraft in October 2024 to follow-up on the DART mission to the double asteroid Didymos and Dimorphos. DART impacted the latter in a test of kinetic impactor capabilities for potentially changing a hazardous asteroid’s orbit around our planet. Hera will survey the binary asteroid system and observe the crater made by DART’s sacrifice to gain a better understanding of Dimorphos’ structure and composition post-impact, so that we can place the results in context.

The more near-Earth asteroids like Dimorphos and Apophis that we study, the greater that context becomes. Perhaps, one day, the understanding that we have gained from these missions will indeed save our planet.

 

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McMaster Astronomy grad student takes a star turn in Killarney Provincial Park

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Astronomy PhD candidate Veronika Dornan served as the astronomer in residence at Killarney Provincial Park. She’ll be back again in October when the nights are longer (and bug free). Dornan has delivered dozens of talks and shows at the W.J. McCallion Planetarium and in the community. (Photos by Veronika Dornan)

Veronika Dornan followed up the April 8 total solar eclipse with another awe-inspiring celestial moment.

This time, the astronomy PhD candidate wasn’t cheering alongside thousands of people at McMaster — she was alone with a telescope in the heart of Killarney Provincial Park just before midnight.

Dornan had the park’s telescope pointed at one of the hundreds of globular star clusters that make up the Milky Way. She was seeing light from thousands of stars that had travelled more than 10,000 years to reach the Earth.

This time there was no cheering: All she could say was a quiet “wow”.

Dornan drove five hours north to spend a week at Killarney Park as the astronomer in residence. part of an outreach program run by the park in collaboration with the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University.

Dornan applied because the program combines her two favourite things — astronomy and the great outdoors. While she’s a lifelong camper, hiker and canoeist, it was her first trip to Killarney.

Bruce Waters, who’s taught astronomy to the public since 1981 and co-founded Stars over Killarney, warned Dornan that once she went to the park, she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

The park lived up to the hype. Everywhere she looked was like a painting, something “a certain Group of Seven had already thought many times over.”

The dome telescopes at Killarney Provincial Park.

She spent her days hiking the Granite Ridge, Crack and Chikanishing trails and kayaking on George Lake.  At night, she went stargazing with campers — or at least tried to. The weather didn’t cooperate most evenings — instead of looking through the park’s two domed telescopes, Dornan improvised and gave talks in the amphitheatre beneath cloudy skies.

Dornan has delivered dozens of talks over the years in McMaster’s W.J. McCallion Planetarium and out in the community, but “it’s a bit more complicated when you’re talking about the stars while at the same time fighting for your life against swarms of bugs.”

When the campers called it a night and the clouds parted, Dornan spent hours observing the stars. “I seriously messed up my sleep schedule.”

She also gave astrophotography a try during her residency, capturing images of the Ring Nebula and the Great Hercules Cluster.

A star cluster image by Veronika Dornan

“People assume astronomers take their own photos. I needed quite a lot of guidance for how to take the images. It took a while to fiddle with the image properties, but I got my images.”

Dornan’s been invited back for another week-long residency in bug-free October, when longer nights offer more opportunities to explore and photograph the final frontier.

She’s aiming to defend her PhD thesis early next summer, then build a career that continues to combine research and outreach.

“Research leads to new discoveries which gives you exciting things to talk about. And if you’re not connecting with the public then what’s the point of doing research?”

 

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