Stunning images reveal SpaceX’s revolutionary approach to landing on Mars

Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX has big plans to usher in a new era of reusable rockets that could send the first humans to Mars and return them home.

And as mind-blowing as these innovative ideas are, the video animations and illustrations that bring Space X’s goals to life are equally impressive.

But these animations and illustrations aren’t just fiction and propaganda: They are a way for SpaceX to envision the future and make it a reality.

For example, in 2011 SpaceX released a videoshowing how they were going to re-land a rocket booster after launching it to space — something that had never been done before. And in 2015, SpaceX began attempting to land their rockets exactly how they had envisioned in the video.

(Neither of the two attempted landings, so far, have succeeded.)

And if you check out the latest photos and illustrations on SpaceX’s Flickr account, you’ll see something that is even cooler than landing a rocket on Earth: Landing a spacecraft on Mars. And judging from the illustrations, SpaceX plans to land on Mars using a super-simple approach that has never been tried before.

This is SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which is not designed to carry humans, sitting on the Red Planet:

spaceXSpaceX Photos

SpaceX will first send its Dragon capsule to Mars before transporting a crew on board its Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is designed to carry seven astronauts at a time and is currently being tested by SpaceX for its debut launch, scheduled for 2017.

This unmanned Dragon capsule has been making trips to the International Space Station since 2010. But to get to Mars, which is 560,000 times farther, the Dragon will need to ride a more powerful rocket than the Falcon 9, which it takes to the ISS.

That rocket is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, illustrated below, that is scheduled to launch out of Kennedy Space Center for the first time next year.

spaceXSpaceX on Flickr

However, this monster rocket will only take Dragon so far. Getting to Mars is easy compared to landing on it because the Martian atmosphere is a tricky beast to control.

The Martian atmosphere is about 1,000 times thinner than Earth’s, so simple parachutes won’t slow a vehicle down enough to land safely.

But that atmosphere is still thick enough to generate a great deal of heat from friction against a spacecraft.Therefore, to land on Mars you have to have a spacecraft with a heat shield that can withstand temperature of 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Luckily, Dragon’s heat shield can protect it against temperatures of over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so plummeting toward Mars, illustrated below, shouldn’t be a problem heat-wise.

spacexSpaceX Photos on Flickr

But there’s still the problem of slowing down. Although gravity on Mars is about 1/3 of what it is on Earth, the vehicle is still plummeting toward the ground at over 1,000 miles per hour after entering Mars’s atmosphere. If it were to hit the ground at those speeds, you’d have a disaster.

The way that SpaceX aims to deal with this tricky problem is to use the thrusters on board the Dragon spacecraft to first redirect its momentum from downward to sideways, as illustrated below, thus reducing its speed:

spacexSpaceX Photos on Flickr

And then, as the spacecraft continues to plunge toward the surface, it will fire its thrusters one final time for a soft, vertical touch down:

spacexSpaceX Photo on Flickr

This sort of landing is unlike anything that anyone has ever tried before, but you have to admit that Dragon looks pretty great on Mars if it ever manages to get there:

spaceXSpaceX Photo on Flickr

The last major Mars landing was NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2012. This landing was a huge success but extremely complicated that involved half a dozen steps that, if not completed perfectly, would end in disaster. NASA dubbed the landing process “7 minutes of terror” because that’s how long it took to enter the atmosphere and land.

SpaceX has not announced when it plans to first send a Dragon spacecraft to Mars. However, there is a project called “Red Dragon” that NASA is considering and would involve sending a Dragon to Mars to retrieve samples collected by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and then return them to Earth. This project has not yet been selected for funding by NASA but if funded could launch as early as 2022.

  • Jessica Orwig

 

Does oxygen necessarily mean aliens?

Astrobiologists find that the presence of oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere may not necessarily mean that life exists there.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki

Scientists and E.T. enthusiasts may have to rethink an allegedly telltale sign that a planet has life.

The presence of oxygen, specifically O2 , in a planet’s atmosphere has long been thought to be a near-certain signal that there are, or at least were, living organisms engaging in photosynthesis on the planet. But new research suggests that oxygen can exist in large quantities without being produced by living things.

A study published Thursday in Scientific Reports found that some planets could have “abiotic” oxygen, produced through a a photocatalytic reaction of titanium oxide

World’s first head transplant patient schedules procedure for 2017

RARE DISEASES

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Valery Spiridonov who has put himself forward to have the world’s first head transplant is going to meet the surgeon. (CEN)

A man set to become the world’s first head transplant patient has scheduled the procedure for December 2017.

Valery Spiridonov, 30, was diagnosed with a genetic muscle-wasting condition called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, and volunteered for the procedure despite the risks involved, Central European News (CEN) reported.

“When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction,” Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist, told CEN. “The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience, like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”

Dr. Sergio Canavero, an Italian neurosurgeon, will perform the procedure on Spiridonov. The procedure is expected to last up to 36 hours, and it will require Spiridonov’s head be cooled as well as the donor’s body to extend the period during which the cells can survive without oxygen, CEN reported.

“According to Canavero’s calculations, if everything goes to plan, two years is the time frame needed to verify all scientific calculations and plan the procedure’s details,” Spiridonov told CEN. “It isn’t a race. No doubt, the surgery will be done once the doctor and the experts are 99 percent sure of its success.”

Spiridonov joked that first thing he plans to do after the procedure is go on a vacation.

“But on a serious note, this operation is aimed at restoring independence of severely disabled people. Once I get it back I’ll see what the life of a healthier person looks like,” he said.

China aims to be first to land probe on moon’s far side

Image result for far side of the moon

BEIJING (AP) — China’s space program says it plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon’s far side.

 

Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ moon exploration department told state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday that the Chang’e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020.

 

Zou said the objective of the mission would be to study geological conditions on the moon’s far side, also known as the dark side. Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the far side, making it an excellent location to place a radio telescope for use by astronomers.

 

China’s next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples..

 

‘Alien Corpse’ Discovered Near Nuclear Power Plant

Andy Wells

Conspiracy theorists are in a bit of a flutter after the discovery of what the believe is an alien corpse near a nuclear power plant.

The odd discovery of the apparent body with a “mysterious skull” in Russia has got UFO hunters excited at what could be evidence of life on other planets.

Either that or it’s a mutant chicken embryo – which is what experts first thought it might have been.

However, scientists believe that if it is a corpse, it isn’t from any known animal on the planet.

One said: “It seems that this body is neither fish nor fowl – this creature has a mysterious skull, no neck and wings.”

Experts from the Institute of Biophysics in Krasnoyarsk, where the body was taken for more tests, are equally baffled.

Biologist Yegor Zadereev said: “Extensive studies are needed to determine what kind of creature or organism it is.”

However, alien hunters are in no doubt what it is – an extraterrestrial.

Scott C Waring, from UFO Sightings Daily, said: “This tiny alien body was found near a river in Russia and has no resemblance to any animal known.

“Russian scientists are confused over what it could be and said they need to wait for the results of the tests, which are probably DNA I assume.”

To be fair, the body does look a bit like the aliens out of the Sigourney Weaver movies.

Though what it was doing poking around a nuclear power plant in the middle of Russia is anyone’s guess…

Pics: YouTube/Flickr

HOVER BOARDS CHEAP PRICE V

NASA IS SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING TERRAFORMING PART OF THE MOON WITH ROBOTS

By Kelsey D. Atherton
Lunar Transformer Concept

Lunar Transformer Concept

NASA

Announced yesterday, NASA is moving ahead with funding to study several ambitious space research projects, including one that would transform an inhospitable lunar crater into a habitat for robots — and eventually, human explorers. Located on the moon’s South Pole, Shackleton Crater isn’t just prime real estate for terraforming experiments, it’s Optimus Prime real estate. NASA wants to fill the crater with solar-powered transformers, and then use the fleet of robots to turn the crater into a miniature hospitable environment.

Shackleton Crater is uniquely qualified as a location for terraforming in the small scale. Named after the famous explorer of Earth’s own south pole, the crater covers about 130 square miles, or roughly twice the size of Washington, DC. It is surrounded on all sides by peaks that rise over 14,000 feet above the surface of the crater. Inside this moon-bowl, scientists have already found water, which is essential for any future human habitation.

Before the humans come the robots. To function, robots need electrical power and warmth, and with the right equipment, the sun can provide both, with a little help. In darkness, the crater is about 100 degrees Kelvin, or -280 fahrenheit, but a series of solar reflectors could capture light from the peaks on the crater rim and then reflect it down into the crater, warming and fueling solar-powered rovers at the same time.

These reflectors would be carried around the crater rim by other rovers, unfolding and transforming into useful shapes when needed. A single reflector 130 feet in diameter could send light over six miles into the crater, powering a rover (or a fleet of several Curiousity-sized rovers) with up to one megawatt of energy and preventing them from freezing. Thanks to their height, there is always at least one point on the peaks on the crater rim that receives sunlight, so work could be done continuously in the crater.

Should this plan all work out, several transforming robots with reflectors would work on the edge of the crater, beaming sun in, while robots inside the crater built something close to an “oasis” on the moon. Or at least, an oasis for lunar robots.

The project was awarded in NASA’s Phase II funding, which provides up to $500,000 for two-year-long studies, so the next task is designing a workable reflector that fits into a cube slightly larger than three feet each side, weighing less than 220 pounds, and that unfolds to cover 10,700 square feet. If it all works out, the robots shall inherit the moon.

[NASA]

German space researchers reboot effort to launch hypersonic space plane

by Sean Gallagher

Goal: 100 passengers, 1-hour intercontinental flights, with test flights by mid-2030s.


From Europe to Australia in 90 minutes—but meal service would be problematic.

The Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Germany’s aerospace research center, has renewed decade-old plans for a suborbital passenger space plane that could fly from Europe to Australia in under 90 minutes. The rocket-powered SpaceLiner, originally conceptualized as a 50-passenger hypersonic airliner, has now been given new urgency and direction with a roadmap for flights within the next 20 years, SpaceLiner project lead Martin Sippel told Aviation Week at last month’s American Institute of Aerodynamics and Astronautics’ Space Planes and Hypersonics Conference in Glasgow. Sippel spoke at the conference, presenting on SpaceLiner’s technical progress and the program’s mission definition—which now includes potentially delivering satellites and other payloads to space.

In addition to providing a fairly exclusive passenger service—which would target an extremely small percentage of the international travel market—the goal of the program is to spur large-scale production of reusable rocket engines and booster vehicles that would reduce the cost of other space missions. “The point-to-point passenger market already exists and is growing,” Sippel told Aviation Week. “We have several hundred million passengers traveling intercontinental distances each year. But even if the share will only be 0.2 percent… from a space perspective that’s a potentially huge impact. We could increase hundredfold the number of launches and, as it is a reusable vehicle designed for between 150 and 300 flights, you have serial production of engines. If you have 11 engines per vehicle then you would build 2,000 engines per year or so. That’s a huge production run, and that was the motivation.”

The DLR SpaceLiner would launch upright with the assistance of an external booster, in a fashion similar to NASA’s now-retired Space Shuttle. The booster stage, equipped with its own wings, would be captured after use by a tow aircraft and then be released for an autonomous landing. The main vehicle would glide in a low orbit trajectory and then land like a normal aircraft at its destination, reaching a maximum speed of 4.3 miles per second. The goal size of the space plane is a 100-passenger vehicle, with the passenger compartment capable of ejection and flight on its own as an emergency measure. The reusable booster stage could also be used to ferry other vehicles to space, including launch systems for satellites to be placed in higher orbit.

The development of a flying prototype of the SpaceLiner could cost as much as $33 billion and would require multiple design reviews “before you build the first hardware in 2030,” Sippel said. Testing would involve up to six prototype vehicles, and actual commercial service wouldn’t begin until 2040. So please, don’t start calling Lufthansa to book a flight.


Conan O’Brien’s moving tribute to robot-sex pioneers

Technically incorrect: Robot sex has come a long way since the early days. But, boy, were those early days rough.

You probably can’t wait for your unreliable, moody, ill-mannered lover to be replaced by a sturdy, consistent, polite robot.

You’ve likely already experimented with a little robot sex. At least in your mind, surely.

But have you ever thought about those who came before you? Have you ever thought about the pioneers who began to conceive of a robot becoming your ultimate pleasure center?

Conan O’Brien decided to pay them and their hard work a tribute.

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Robot Sex Pioneers

There was the creator of the Flappertron. Who could forget the man who invented Daddy’s Secret? And then there was the Gassy Chassis.

Each of these men — why were they all men? — deserve their place on the podium of progressive scientific thinking.

Many lost their dignity, if not their lives, in the pursuit of man’s pursuit of sexual satisfaction.

They toiled away in their laboratories, garages and, no doubt, bedrooms in order to bring us to where we are today, where there are at least 42 (allegedly) robots for you to have sex with (naturally, you should think twice about exploring that link while at work).

You might not feel the need for such mechanical companions right now. You may feel that your own companion is mechanical enough.

But these men’s work represents the future. These men will one day be revered for the contributions they made, the imagination with which they took to their task, and the sheer selflessness involved in helping you become involved with a robot.

These great scientists have ensured that no man will be left blissless. Just think how happy the future will be.

by

 

Watch a Boston Dynamics humanoid robot wander around outside

A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Above: A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Boston Dynamics, that company Google bought in 2013, has begun to testing one of its humanoid robots — those that are designed to function like humans — out in the wild.

Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, talked about and showed footage on the research during a talk on Aug. 3 at the 11th Fab Lab Conference and Symposium in Cambridge, Mass.

“Out in the world is just a totally different challenge than in the lab,” Raibert said at the conference, which was organized by the Fab Foundation, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms. “You can’t predict what it’s going to be like.”

Boston Dynamics has tested its LS3 quadruped (four-legged) robot out in natural settings in the past. But humanoid robots are different — they can be much taller and have a higher center of gravity. So keeping them moving through rugged terrain, as opposed to paved asphalt, which is what Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots dealt with recently during the DARPA Robotics Challenge, can be more tricky.

See for yourself how this humanoid robot performs in the woods.

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Tested Outside

 

JORDAN NOVET

 

 

 

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The Pope’s Lead Astronomer Says Aliens Exist But They Probably Aren’t Catholics

BY TRACE WILLIAM COWEN

Image result for Are will alone

Perhaps the biggest component of the “Are we alone in the universe?” debate, for some, is the resulting dismantling of religious institutions here on Earth following inarguable proof that such institutions are decidedly anti-universe. For the religiously inclined, the question arises: Would inhabitants of another planet, likely within another universe entirely, even have knowledge of the respective god of one respective religion or another? The answer, of course, is a relatively firm “No.” Now, just three short centuries after the Catholic Church violently condemned Galileo for suggesting that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, the Vatican Powers That Be are joining the realistic side of this debate.

Following NASA’s announcement of a possible Earth-like sister planet, Father José Gabriel Funes once again expressed his updated thoughts on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. “It is probable there was life and perhaps a form of intelligent life,” says Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome. “[Though] I don’t think we’ll ever meet a Mr Spock.” When pressed about the inherent contradictions of such an expression from a person of such devout Christian faith, Funes gives an admirably forthright response. “The Bible is not a scientific book. If we look for scientific responses to our questions in the Bible, we are making a mistake.”

Funes also believes, in a humorous act of deflection, that this theoretical extraterrestrial life likely aren’t Catholics, wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to who Jesus is, and most definitely haven’t experienced similar events of supposed religious importance. “The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there’s another Jesus,” offers Funes. “The Incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity of the universe.” That’s perfect, isn’t it? A powerful religious figure admits to the increasing likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (i.e. aliens), but in the same breath reinforces the outmoded belief that humans are the center of everything.

Sorry, aliens. Please don’t visit us until we have our shit together.

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