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A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts returned to Earth early Sunday (May 2) with an ocean splashdown off the Florida coast, successfully completing the company’s first full-fledged crewed mission to the International Space Station.
The astronauts of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission for NASA splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City at 2:56 a.m. EDT (0656 GMT), with a recovery ship swiftly retrieving their Crew Dragon capsule from the sea. The spacecraft landed on target, marking the first nighttime splashdown of a U.S. crewed flight in 53 years. The last was NASA’s Apollo 8 moon mission on Dec. 27, 1968.
“Dragon, on behalf of NASA and SpaceX teams, we welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you’ve earned 68 million miles [109 million kilometers] on this voyage,” a SpaceX crew operations and resources engineer told the Crew-1 astronauts after splashdown.
“It is good to be back on planet Earth,” replied NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, commander of the Crew-1 mission. “We’ll take those miles. Are they transferable?”
NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity keeps pushing the aerial exploration envelope.
The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper lifted off from the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater today at 10:49 a.m. EDT (1449 GMT), kicking off its fourth flight on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity achieved all of its main technology-demonstrating goals on flights one through three — which occurred on April 19, April 22 and April 25 — so the helicopter’s handlers let it off the leash today. Ingenuity covered 872 feet (266 meters) of ground and reached a top speed of 8 mph (13 kph) during the 117-second jaunt, NASA officials said.
The previous highs, set on sortie number three, were 330 feet (100 m) of lateral distance, a 4.5 mph (7.2 kph) maximum speed and an 80-second flight time. (The maximum altitude attained — about 16.5 feet, or 5 m — has remained the same on the three most recent flights.)
If all went according to plan, Ingenuity also took 60 photos with its downward-facing navigation camera and five with its 13-megapixel color imager while aloft today, helicopter team members said.
We don’t yet know if Ingenuity’s robotic partner, NASA’s Perseverance rover, will be in any of those shots. Ingenuity managed to spot the rover from the air during flight number three, capturing an image unprecedented in the history of exploration.
Perseverance carries two onboard microphones, and the rover attempted to record sound of Ingenuity’s flight today for the first time, mission team members said. Again, we’ll have to wait until more data comes down to see if that did indeed happen.
Seeing the Earth from the ISS and from SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight can always be exhilarating. Since the inception of the first civilization settlement at Gobeklipe, mankind has always looked upon the stars to wonder about them. Now anyone can watch Earth from space.
Race to the moon is heating up between USA, Russia, China and India with news of new missions every day. China’s first lunar sample return heated up this race this year and Artemis Project by NASA is going full speed ahead as it has a goal of having a manned landing on moon and then to have a sustainable long term presence on the moon with moon habitats by the end of 2020s. Now a new development heats the moon race as Elon Musk states that SpaceX can land astronauts latest by 2024 to the moon.
SpaceX spacecraft Starship is about 50 meters tall and its a heavy rocket with lift capability that can allow a moon mission similar to the Saturn rockets of moon missions in the 1960s. The giant first-stage rocket that will launch Starship off Earth is called Super Heavy. SpaceX has built a Super Heavy prototype but has not yet flown one. If the prototype is successful, this development can make SpaceX become the first private company to reach the moon and make USA the first nation to reland a manned mission on the moon after 1960s.
Musk acknowledged that his target timelines tend to be optimistic and should be taken “with a grain of salt.” But the occasion of today’s news conference offers some reason for optimism, highlighting as it did SpaceX’s human spaceflight achievements (albeit with a different transportation system, the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule). With Crew-2 safely on its way to the space station, SpaceX has now launched three crewed missions to Earth orbit in less than 12 months.
SpaceX was able to create another milestone in the space technology missions of the private sector with its recent launch of 4 astronauts into space. It’s the third crewed launch for SpaceX owned by Elon Musk in less than 12 months.
A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A.
The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch countdown proceeded smoothly, with the closeout crews completing leak and communications checks ahead of schedule. The crew was relaxed and even enjoyed a quick game that resembled rock, paper, scissors (but was actually a game Thomas played as a kid and shared with his crewmates) while waiting for the leak checks to be completed.
“Our crew is flying astronauts from NASA, ESA and JAXA, which hasn’t happened in over 20 years,” Kimbrough told SpaceX flight controllers just before launch as he thanked the NASA and SpaceX teams. “Off the Earth, for the Earth, Endeavour is ready to go.”
The Falcon 9 put on a breathtaking show this morning as the glows from the rocket’s engines lit up the sky.
Crew-2’s launch was one for the history books. It marked several firsts, including the first time that people have flown on a used Crew Dragon and with a used Falcon 9 first stage, and the first time that two different international astronauts have ridden in the capsule.
It was a harrowing sight as the NASA Ingenuity UAV or Martian helicopter was able to fly high and mighty on Martian surface. It was a first time a helicopter like object flew on another planet and it was a momentous event for space exploration.
NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity just made aviation history, and its robotic buddy caught the whole thing on video.
Early this morning (April 19), Ingenuity aced the first-ever powered flight on a world beyond Earth. The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper rose 10 feet (3 meters) above the floor of Jezero Crater, stayed aloft in Mars’ thin air for 39 seconds and came down for a pinpoint landing at its takeoff spot.
Ingenuity landed with Perseverance inside Jezero on Feb. 18 and deployed from the rover’s belly early this month. The solar-powered rotorcraft carries two cameras but no scientific instruments. It’s a technology demonstration designed to show that powered flight is possible on Mars, which has an atmosphere just 1% as thick as that of Earth at sea level.
Perseverance’s main jobs are to hunt for signs of ancient life on Mars and collect and cache samples for future return to Earth, but the rover won’t start that work in earnest until Ingenuity’s month-long flight campaign comes to an end. Perseverance is documenting that campaign and supporting it in crucial ways. For example, all communications to and from the solar-powered chopper are routed through the rover.
Russian space program which has been dormant for decades and which has mainly focused on ISS transportation is waking up after its long sleep to start its space programs again with the upcoming Luna 25 mission in October 2021. Now its also partnering with the Chinese Space program to get an asteroid sample and to study a comet and becoming partners in this endeavour.
China has selected a Russian science payload to fly on an upcoming mission to sample a near-Earth asteroid and later visit a main-belt comet.
China is aiming to launch the ambitious mission around 2024. First, it will collect samples from the small near-Earth asteroid Kamo’oalewa. Then, the spacecraft will return to Earth to deliver the samples and use the planet’s gravity to send the spacecraft toward the main asteroid belt to orbit the Comet 133P/Elst–Pizarro.
Russia will now join the mission with instruments built by the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The payload was selected following a 2019 call for proposals announced by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) for the combined asteroid-comet mission.
The spacecraft, tentatively named ZhengHe after a famous Chinese naval explorer of the early 1400s, will carry a range of imaging, multispectral and spectrometer cameras as well as a radar, a magnetometer and payloads for detecting a range of particles. Now, some of those payloads will come from Russia’s Space Research Institute.
“We agreed with one group from China to split instruments,” Oleg Vaisberg, a space physicist at the Space Research Institute and principal investigator of the payload, said. ULTIMAN and ULTIWOMAN will detect ions and electrons, and a small detector for studying how solar wind plasma interacts with the small bodies will also be provided by the Russian side. That payload will measure any potential tenuous atmosphere and ionosphere of the main-belt comet, as well as study the interaction between the solar wind and the two small bodies.
The ambitious mission will see the spacecraft use four robotic arms to land on Kamo’oalewa, with drills on the arms to secure the probe to the asteroid’s surface, according to an early mission outline.
In addition to carrying a sample capsule that will deliver asteroid bits to Earth, ZhengHe will also carry a nano-orbiter and a nano-lander for remote sensing and on-the-ground exploration of Comet 133P. The spacecraft will use an explosive to expose the subsurface of the comet ahead of the nanolander’s touchdown; that robot aims to use its instruments to study the composition of the comet’s subsurface, with a special interest in water and volatiles.
Russia is revisiting its Soviet space heritage for a new series of missions that will take the nation back to the moon. It must be remembered that Soviets were the first nation to send a probe to the moon and Soviet Moon Missions were very important during the Space Race. Now the Russian Federation Space program wants to build upon the legacy of Soviet Space Program.
The first of those missions, dubbed Luna 25, is scheduled to launch this October, ending a 45-year drought of Russian moon landings with the nation’s first arrival at the south pole, where, like everyone else targeting the moon, Russian scientists want to study water locked below the surface in permanent ice. “The moon is the center of our program for the next decade,” Lev Zelenyi, scientific advisor for the Russian Space Research Institute, said during a virtual presentation on March 23 hosted by the National Academy of Sciences.
Luna 25. The lander that will launch in October is designed to study ice permanently frozen below the moon’s surface, which would-be explorers hope to tap into as a resource, and to evaluate the dangers posed by sharp fragments of lunar dust. As it lands, the spacecraft will use a European-built camera to advance the European Space Agency’s future lunar missions.
But Luna 25 is only the beginning, Zelenyi emphasized, walking through a total of five lunar missions in various planning stages. In 2023 or 2024, Russia plans to launch Luna 26, this time an orbiter that would look for magnetic and gravitational anomalies in the moon and capture high-precision images of potential landing sites.
Then, in 2025, it would be back to the surface with Luna 27, which Zelenyi called “I think the most important.” Like the lander arriving this year, Luna 27 will target the moon’s south pole and carry European landing software. But also on the robot courtesy of the European Space Agency would be a first: a drill that can gather south-pole lunar rock without melting compounds like water ice found in the material.
The final two missions in the Luna series as described by Zelenyi don’t yet have launch dates. But Luna 28, also known as Luna-Grunt, would build directly on its predecessor by bringing back to Earth cryogenically stored samples from the lunar south pole that would retain water ice and other so-called volatile compounds.
“It’s sample return, but a different sample return than has been done earlier,” Zelenyi said. “It will be … not just regolith [lunar dirt] but all volatiles and cryogenic inclusions to it, which is technically challenging.”
Finally, Luna 29 would carry a new Lunokhod rover, harkening back again to Soviet missions. Lunokhod-1 became the first successful rover on another world in 1970 and spent 10 months exploring the region dubbed Mare Imbrium, or the Sea of Rains.
A three-person crew embarked for the International Space Station on Friday (April 9), launching just three days shy of the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight.
Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei lifted off aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft for a three-hour, two-orbit rendezvous with the space station. The Soyuz took flight at 3:42 a.m. EDT (0742 GMT or 12:42 p.m. local time) from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, near where cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made history by becoming the first person to fly into space on April 12, 1961.
To honor the anniversary, the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft was christened the “Yu.A. Gagarin” and bore the name on its exterior insulation.
“It is a big honor for us to fly and celebrate the anniversary of the first flight into space,” said Novitskiy on Thursday (April 8), addressing the Russian state commission that approved the crew’s launch.
“For me,” added Dubrov, “it is a special honor to have my first flight on such an important date when we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first flight into space.”
That the crew included an American underscored one of the key advancements made since Gagarin’s one-orbit Vostok mission, said Vande Hei.
NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity will have to wait a few more days to make its historic first flight on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity, which flew to Mars tucked into the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover that successfully landed on the planet Feb. 18, is set to make history with the first controlled, powered flight through another planet’s atmosphere.
The interplanetary helicopter was previously set to take off no sooner than April 8, but the little craft will now take flight no earlier than April 11, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, announced via Twitter Wednesday (March 31).
“Come fly with us,” JPL tweeted. “#MarsHelicopter is preparing to do something that’s never been done: controlled, powered flight on another planet. Takeoff is now slated for no earlier than April 11, with data arriving on Earth on April 12.”
The helicopter, located underneath the rover, has been unfurling from Perseverance’s belly, preparing for the Flight. On March 21, Perseverance dropped a protective shield, which helped the helicopter to endure the perilous descent through Mars’ atmosphere. It takes a bit of time for the helicopter to unfold and formally deploy for the flight. It takes about six sols, or six Mars days (one sol is equal to about 24 hours and 40 minutes on Earth, or a little more than one Earth day), NASA officials said in a statement.