Tagged With rockets

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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.

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Pandora is one of Saturn's many baby moons, far too runty to form a sphere under its own gravity. Instead, this 84km across space rock looks more like a fossilized glob of silly putty in closest image ever captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In these early days of commercial spaceflight, rockets die in spectacular accidents — but also, sometimes, on purpose. This morning, you can watch Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket go out in a fiery blaze of glory somewhere in the Texas desert, so that future space tourists don't meet the same fate.

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In October 2012, just a few days before Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey, it was churning north past the narrow strip of white sand beach separating NASA's most celebrated spaceport from the sea.

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Yesterday, billionaire tech entrepreneur and noted late guy Elon Musk unveiled his hotly-anticipated plan to send humans to liveand 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.

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SpaceX has been talking up its Martian travel plans for a while now, but we still don't know how it intends to get (or survive) there. As of yesterday, however, it's cleared a major hurdle: The rocket engine it will use to get to the Red Planet just fired-up for the first time.