Remember the historic launch of the Commercial Crew Dragon on May 30? Well, the two astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are coming down again. They expect to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow (August 2) evening at 20;48 CET. It will be historic again, the first return of a commercially operated vehicle with a human crew! Make sure to watch it! As I write this, they are actually preparing the return, watch below!
NASA's 2.4 Billion dollar Mars rover Perseverance is set to launch to the red planet on July 30 at 13:50 CET. This is the third mission to Mars this summer, as both the UAE Hope probe and the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission are allready on their ways. Watch the Perseverance launch live via the NASA Live TV YouTube link below! Perseverance should land on Mars on February 18, 2021.
There is lots of heritage from the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in August 2012, in the Perseverance rover. The chassis is mostly identical but the science instruments are all significantly upgraded or entirely new. There is even a cache on-board where samples for a future Mars Sample Return mission could be stored. As there is no drill on-board, I actually doubt if this is sufficiently interesting for a Sample Return mission. I put my bet for this on the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars rover, to be launched to Mars in 2022. This rover has a drill that could go as deep as 2 mtrs down the surface. Samples from these depths will be less scarred by the brutal radiation levels at Martian surface level, that would have dimnished and/or destroyed any complex biological molecules.
I hope to get involved again professionally in the Mars Sample Return mission. I was already involved in ESA's Mission studies back in 2004. It's a very complex mission with lots of interesting robotics and automation. One of the interesting technological challenges will be to secure that the samples recovered will not be forward contaminated from Earth biology by the retrieving hardware. At the same time, seal technology needs to be in place to encapsulate retrieved samples, without potentially contaminating the hardware with Martian (harmfull biology), that could theoretically whipe out humanity when exposed. Allthough I believe the chances are incredibly slim for this to happen, I still think the so-called Planetary Protection guidelines are important to follow. Black swans happen...
It's the sizzling summer of Mars. China just launched Tianwen-1 to Mars. A stack of orbiter, lander platform and six wheeled rover were hurled to Mars on a Long March 5 rocket today. Just days after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined the ranks of just a handfull of nations that ever directed machines to Mars. It's Hope probe got sent up from the Japanese insula of Tanegasima Space Center on a H-2A rocket.
Now we wait for number 3: the Nuclear powered Perseverance rover from NASA, planned for launch by the end of July on an Atlas-V ride.
There was actually a fourth one planned by the European Space Agency (ESA). It's ExoMars rover unfortunately got delayed by two years because of parachute testing problems and the impact of the Corona virus. The ExoMars Tracegas Orbiter was launched already back in 2016, and is needed for telecommunication between the ExoMars rover on Mars and planet Earth. Hopefully, the ExoMars orbiter stays in shape for some bits longer.
It is no coincedence that these three launches to Mars are so close together. The alignment of the Earth and Mars around the sun is currently in a favorite position to make the transfer, something that occurs every 26 months.
In a first for the MENA region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is launching a mission to the red planet Mars. The UAE’s space mission HOPE, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, will launch on Monday July 20, 2020 at 01:58am UAE time from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The probe will orbit Mars and take remote sensing measurements of its atmosphere.
Development of this mission is one of ways to build STEM competences in the UAE society. There is strong international cooperation and its deep pockets are an interesting business case for US, South Korean, Japanese and European Space Industry. The UAE has also laid out a vision where its society can transform from an Oil backed economy to a more sustainable track, and Space is obviously part of that.
Follow the launch from Japan live via YouTube video below:
Today (June 30, 2020) is 112 years ago that a 100 mtr asteroid exploded in the atmosphere over the desolated Tunguska area in Russia. A forest area of 2000 km2 was instantly flattened. Just 7 years ago, in the morning of february 15, 2013, we were reminded again. An airburst of the Chelyabinsk meteor created an explosion of about 30 times the Hiroshime atomic bomb at an altitude of 30 km. This time, the casualties were not trees but windows, that shattered all over the place.
These events should explain humanity why the dinosaurs never celebrated Asteroid day. They were violently wiped out 65 million years ago by an asteroid, with a diameter of at least 10 km. The remaining Chicxulub crater in Mexico is still the remaining witness of this event.
Today (June 16, 2020) is 57 years ago that Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to fly in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times, spent almost three days in space on board the Vostok 6. She still holds the record for youngest female, at age 26, in Space and remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission.
As a symbolic tribute to the power of women, the second name of my daughter is also Valentina. I hope one day they could meet for a photo opp!
Below some nice Russian propaganda about her fairy tale life ;-)
"For every action, there is a reaction: that is the principle on which all space rockets operate, blasting propellant in one direction to travel in the other. But one NASA engineer believes he could take us to the stars without any propellant at all.
Designed by David Burns at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, the “helical engine” exploits mass-altering effects known to occur at near-light speed. Burns has posted a paper describing the concept to NASA’s technical reports server.
It has been met with scepticism from some quarters, but Burns believes his concept is worth pursuing. “I’m comfortable with throwing it out there,” he says. “If someone says it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to say, it was worth a shot.”
To get to grips with the principle of Burns’s engine, picture a box on a frictionless surface. Inside that box is a rod, along which a ring can slide. If a spring inside the box gives the ring a push, the ring will slide along the rod one way while the box will recoil in the other. When the ring reaches the end of the box, it will bounce backwards, and the box’s recoil direction will switch too. This is action-reaction – also known as Newton’s third law of motion – and in normal circumstances, it restricts the box to wiggling back and forth (see video below)..."