After some setbacks — including, but not limited to, an explosion in September — SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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Late next year, NASA is hoping to launch its Space Launch System — a powerful next generation rocket capable of exerting 900 tonnes of thrust. NASA engineers have now completed construction of a stand sturdy enough to test its enormous fuel tank. It's an important milestone, and another step towards sending humans to Mars.
Video: Now this is some fun times. The Backyard Scientist strapped a kitchen knife to some homemade sugar rockets, put it on a track sprayed with graphite lubricant so it could cut things while zooming down at 240km/h, and then put various sliceable items on the other end to reach their imminent doom (for our infinite viewing pleasure).
New years bring new beginnings, and for SpaceX, that means a return to flight after a five-month dry spell. Having officially determined the cause of the infamous Falcon 9 "anomaly" at Cape Canaveral on September 1, the rocket company is eyeing January 8 for its first launch of 2017.
Going to the Moon is officially hip again, thanks in no small part to Google, which is offering $US20 million to the first private company that can land on our nearest neighbour, roll around a bit, and beam images back to Earth. The latest contender for that sweet sweet X-Prize money is Japan, which has just obtained a launch vehicle for the shiny metal cheese grater rover it plans to send to the Moon late next year.
National Geographic's new TV miniseries Mars has a message for the people of Earth: Colonising the Red Planet is not a pipe dream. In fact, it's achievable within a generation. Unfortunately, in the first few episodes at least, that message smothers the show's ability to tell a good story. Mars is much more enjoyable when it's not trying to cram facts, figures and carefully scripted interviews down our throats.
The European Space Agency's Schiaparelli lander did not touch down on Mars as planned yesterday. During a press briefing this morning, ExoMars mission scientists confirmed that the lander's signal cut out about 50 seconds before landing, and that something went wrong in the final steps, right around when the parachute was jettisoned. ESA is still analysing data collected by satellites and telescopes to get the full story.
Richard Branson and Elon Musk aren't the only personalities in the commercialised spaceflight game. There a plenty of smaller operations having a crack, from hobbyist operations such as John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace, to more serious efforts. In this video from Freethink — which will be an ongoing series — we get a chance to meet one of these dedicated outfits, with the focus here being Jeff Greason and XCOR Aerospace.
As SpaceX's investigation of a Falcon 9 rocket explosion on September 1 drags into its second month, rumours are flying that this may have been more than a random technical failure. According to a Washington Post report, SpaceX is considering the possibility of sabotage.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk revealed his plan to make humanity a multi-planetary species by building an express train to Mars. There are a lot of open questions about how this will work, technically speaking, and who will pay for it. But there's another fundamental issue that must be addressed before anybody can reserve a seat on the first spaceship out: Is going to Mars even legal?
Yesterday, billionaire tech entrepreneur and noted late guy Elon Musk unveiled his hotly-anticipated plan to send humans to live — and die — on Mars. And not just a few humans: A lot of them. In a talk that wavered between overreaching science fair presentation and straight-up science fiction, Musk described sending fleets of spacecraft, each packed hundreds of colonists, to live on a dusty, airless wasteland that we're apparently going to fix up with nuclear reactors and artificial magnetic fields.