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Entries in Space (21)

Tuesday
Feb112014

Virgin Galactic to Begin Space Flights This Year

 

The countdown is on, wealthy space enthusiasts. Virgin Galactic will begin commercial flights into space in the second half of 2014.

The interest is definitely there: Virgin said it’s collected $80 million in deposits and has sold 680 tickets at $250,000 a pop.

Flights will take off from the Virgin Spaceport, which is located in southern New Mexico. They’ll climb 50,000 feet into the outer atmosphere, giving passengers their first taste of true weightlessness.

Virgin will start full test flights this spring. In the meantime, check out the video of one of their early-stage tests, which was conducted in January. In it, SpaceShipTwo reached 71,000 feet and achieved top speeds of Mach 1.4—which is 1.4 times the speed of sound.

According to reports, the first Virgin Galactic flight will be made by Richard Branson and his family. However, the company must first obtain FAA approval on its commercial license.

Tuesday
Jan282014

Wall-crawling Gecko Robots Could Revolutionize Space Travel

The European Space Agency has found that climbing robots inspired by gecko lizards have the potential to change the way humans function in space.

These potential "hull-crawling automatons" could be used to maintain and repair the exterior of spacecraft, using gecko-like "feet" to stay put, even in extreme temperatures and in the vacuum of space. The so-called Abigaille crawling robots worked better in ESA tests than those that used wheels to move; with six legs, each enjoying 4 degrees of motion, the gecko-like robots are much more dexterous than wheeled models.

The implications for space travel are exciting. With the robots patrolling the exterior of a ship, astronauts could avoid dangerous and time-consuming space walks for spacecraft upkeep. Abigaille robots could help to keep spacecraft, and even satellites, in working condition for longer. The robots could even be useful on Earth, cleaning and maintaining skyscrapers, large aircraft and other difficult-to-maintain structures.

We can't wait to see what other nature-inspired robots emerge in the coming years. In the meantime, check out the gecko robots in the video above.

Friday
Jan182013

Inflatable Rooms in Space

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are partnering to deliver an attachable inflatable room for the International Space Station. When expanded, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) measures 13 feet, but for the delivery to the space station by SpaceX, it can be compressed into a 7-foot tube. According to NASA, the BEAM should arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration of expandable space habitat technology.

Thursday
Apr122012

NASA's 'Eyes on the Earth' Gets Sharper

NASA's "Eyes on the Earth" interactive virtual reality visualization now delivers even-sharper images and data from satellites to home computers.

New features include a simplified interface, event timelines, an image gallery and more up-to-date data on global sea level height and surface temperatures.

See the location of all of NASA's 15 currently operating Earth-observing satellite missions in real time and observe the Earth from their views. They monitor sea level height, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, global temperatures and extent of sea ice in the Arctic, to name a few.

There's also "Eyes on the Solar System," a 3-D platform that allows visitors explore space from their computer. They can ride along on an asteroid, fly with NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft abd see the entire solar system moving in real time. 

Tuesday
Jan032012

China to Send a Man to the Moon

The United States may soon be surpassed as the world's leader in space. China announced last week that it intends to place a manned spacecraft on the Moon as just part of its efforts to explore deep space.

According to the whitepaper, the lunar mission would be step one in the country's three-step deep space development plan. Eventually, China hopes to place satellites in orbit around the Moon and return lunar samples to Earth. Their main goal, however, is to build a "foundation for human spaceflight" moving forward.

Chinese officials haven't released a timetable for these goals, but The Guardian reports that the Moon mission could happen as early as 2025 -- more than 50 years after the United States first achieved the feat. Meanwhile, NASA's own plans for the coming decades leave some worried that China will soon leave the agency behind in space. 

As NASA faces weakened public support and slashed budgets, maintaining the space crown seems a daunting task. What do you think the agency should focus on in 2012 and beyond?