Following a successful Falcon 9 launch-and-barge-landing in California this month, SpaceX is now looking to get back in the swing of regular flight. But while the company's next two flights seem fairly routine on the surface, they're going to be historic in one very important aspect.
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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.
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.