Tag Archives: spaceflight

Balloon Capsule That Will Take People To The Edge Of Space Completes Test Flight

Balloon Capsule That Will Take People To The Edge Of Space Completes Test Flight

A commercial spaceflight company that wants to send people on balloon-powered capsule trips to the edge of space has completed a prototype test of its ambitious endeavor.

On October 24, 2015, World View Enterprises based in Arizona, where the test also took place sent a one-tenthscale replica of the final vehicle to a height of 30,625 meters (100,475 feet) using a high-altitude balloon filled with helium. Now, the company is working towards its goal of sending humans high into the sky by 2017.

This test flight is symbolic of a major step towards a new era of accessible space travel for us all, CEO and co-founder Jane Poynter said in a statement. Of course, this vehicle will not actually be going to space defined as the Karman line, 100 kilometers (62 miles) up. However, what it will do is still pretty impressive.

Check out a video of the test flight above. World View.

World View is buildinglargercapsules for passengers to travel high into the sky, from where they will be afforded views of the curvature of Earth. Each Voyager capsule, weighing 4,500 kilograms (10,000 pounds), will be carried upwards by a football pitch-sized balloon, taking no more than two hours to ascend to its maximum altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles).

The capsule then detaches from the balloon and a parasail unfolds, known as the ParaWing, which a pilot on board can use to steer the capsule back to the ground anywhere up to 480 kilometers (300 miles) from the original launch site. The total time of the flight is up to six hours.

Sound unbelievable? Well, this latest successful test proved the entire concept, albeit with a 10% scaled version. But the company is confident that the first planned human flights in just two years can be achieved. Full-scale unmanned tests are expected in the coming months.

While each individual system has been analyzed and extensively tested in previous test flights, this significant milestone allowed us to test and prove all critical flight systems at once, said Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Taber MacCallum in the statement. Now were ready for the next major phase of development full scale system testing.

MacCullum told IFLScience that the pilot on the first human flight would likely be former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, whose twin brother Scott is currently taking part in the Year In Space mission on the ISS. The process to pilot andland the capsule wont be unlike flying the Space Shuttle, said MacCullum. Both are essentially big gliders, with which Mark already has extensive experience.”

A ticket aboard a Voyager capsule will cost you $75,000 (50,000), significantly less than other high-altitude commercial endeavors such as Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic, but still obviously too dear for many. Nonetheless, initially expensive space tourism ventures like this could make space or at least near-space more accessible and hopefully drive the price down in the future.

Image in text: The scaled test flight on October 24. World View.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/balloon-will-take-people-edge-space-capsule-completes-test-flight

Space Program Should Aim for Mars, Says New Report

Space Program Should Aim for Mars, Says New Report

Iss-spacewalk

Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy completed a five and a half hour spacewalk on May 11, 2013 to inspect and replace a pump controller box on the International Space Station, which was leaking ammonia coolant.

After weighing the costs and dangers of human spaceflight against concerns such as national security and “the eventual survival of the human species through off-Earth settlement,” a congressionally mandated report concludes the United States should go for it — but only under certain conditions.

NASA’s human spaceflight program must take a disciplined and incremental approach toward the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars, the National Research Council’s Human Space Flight Committee said in a congressionally mandated report released Wednesday.

This “pathway” approach would involve specific intermediate accomplishments and destinations — likely to include the moon, an asteroid and perhaps Martian moons — with a clear eye toward the surface of Mars itself.

“Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration,” said Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal.”

Indeed, the program’s success will require international cooperation — almost certainly including with China. “Current federal law preventing NASA from participating in bilateral activities with the Chinese serves only to hinder U.S. ability to bring China into its sphere of international partnerships and reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars,” the report said.

The program will also require a more reliable stream of greater amounts of money. “A program of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit that satisfies the pathway principles . . . is not sustainable with a budget that increases only enough to keep pace with inflation,” the report said.

Howard McCurdy, an American University professor with expertise in space policy who did not help author the report, said money has been a missing element in recent human spaceflight programs. “I’m glad they’re focusing on the financing,” he said. “NASA can’t do this within it’s current tax-financed discretionary budget profile, but that doesn’t mean it’s not another alternative — there are other alternatives.”

McCurdy offered the possibility of private-sector funding or participation, as well as international cooperation: “The big issue is the heavy-lift launch vehicle: who can do that cheaper?”

NASA’s human spaceflight program has in the last decade been at the whim of sharp policy shifts and funding constraints. The agency’s science programs at least have the continuity of decadal studies, with recommended priorities coming from the scientific community. In the absence of a clear path toward a long-term goal, NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011 without an immediate successor. U.S. astronauts now rely on Russian rides to the International Space Station — a taxi service the private-sector is looking to take over. “A national consensus on the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond our commitment to the ISS remains elusive,” the report noted.

NASA itself appeared more sure of its human spaceflight future, welcoming the report as validation of the plan the agency said it has been implementing since 2010 — when the study was requested. “There is a consensus that our horizon goal should be a human mission to Mars and the stepping stone and pathways thrust of the NRC report complements NASA’s ongoing approach,” the agency said in a statement responding to the report. “NASA has made significant progress on many key elements that will be needed to reach Mars, and we continue on this path in collaboration with industry and other nations.”

The report was required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act to review “the goals, core capabilities and direction of human spaceflight.” In addition to the usual lot of astrophysicists and engineers, the committee also sought perspectives from sociologists, historians and a scholar of African American studies on the rationale behind human space flight and the public good it might provide.

While NASA has been justifying space exploration for decades, the arguments that held in the early days aren’t necessarily relevant in 2014. Competition with the Soviet Union fueled the Apollo program, which put men on the moon in 1969. “The arguments that triggered the Apollo investments, national defense and prestige, seem to have especially limited public salience in today’s post-Cold War America,” the report said.

The committee considered a handful of other rationales, including practical benefits, such as the inspiration human spaceflight would provide U.S. students and the economic benefits of earthly applications of scientific advances.

Then there were the aspirational considerations about species survival and the human need to explore: “It is not possible to say whether off-Earth settlements could eventually be developed that would outlive human presence on Earth and lengthen the survival of our species. This is a question that can only be settled by pushing the human frontier in space,” the report said.

The committee concluded that while no one argument justified the expense and health risks of human spaceflight, the aspirational rationales coupled with the practical benefits the program could provide do ultimately make it worthwhile.

“Some say it is human destiny to continue to explore space. While not all share this view, for those who do, it is an important reason to engage in human spaceflight,” the report said.

After weighing the costs and dangers of human spaceflight against concerns such as national security and “the eventual survival of the human species through off-Earth settlement,” a congressionally mandated report concludes the United States should go for it — but only under certain conditions.

NASA’s human spaceflight program must take a disciplined and incremental approach toward the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars, the National Research Council’s Human Space Flight Committee said in a congressionally mandated report released Wednesday.

This  “pathway” approach would involve specific intermediate accomplishments and destinations — likely to include the moon, an asteroid and perhaps Martian moons — with a clear eye toward the surface of Mars itself.

“Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration,” said Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal.”

Indeed, the program’s success will require international cooperation — almost certainly including with China. “Current federal law preventing NASA from participating in bilateral activities with the Chinese serves only to hinder U.S. ability to bring China into its sphere of international partnerships and reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars,” the report said.

The program also will require a more reliable stream of greater amounts of money. “A program of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit that satisfies the pathway principles . . . is not sustainable with a budget that increases only enough to keep pace with inflation,” the report said.

Howard McCurdy, an American University professor with expertise in space policy who did not help author the report, said money has been a missing element in recent human spaceflight programs. “I’m glad they’re focusing on the financing,” he said. “NASA can’t do this within it’s current tax-financed discretionary budget profile, but that doesn’t mean it’s not another alternative — there are other alternatives.”

McCurdy offered the possibility of private-sector funding or participation, as well as international cooperation: “The big issue is the heavy-lift launch vehicle: who can do that cheaper?”

NASA’s human spaceflight program has in the last decade been at the whim of sharp policy shifts and funding constraints. The agency’s science programs at least have the continuity of decadal studies, with recommended priorities coming from the scientific community. In the absence of a clear path toward a long-term goal, NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011 without an immediate successor. U.S. astronauts now rely on Russian rides to the International Space Station — a taxi service the private-sector is looking to take over. “A national consensus on the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond our commitment to the ISS remains elusive,” the report noted.

NASA itself appeared more sure of its human spaceflight future, welcoming the report as validation of the plan the agency said it has been implementing since 2010 — when the study was requested. “There is a consensus that our horizon goal should be a human mission to Mars and the stepping stone and pathways thrust of the NRC report complements NASA’s ongoing approach,” the agency said in a statement responding to the report. “NASA has made significant progress on many key elements that will be needed to reach Mars, and we continue on this path in collaboration with industry and other nations.”

The report was required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act to review “the goals, core capabilities and direction of human spaceflight.” In addition to the usual lot of astrophysicists and engineers, the committee also sought perspectives from sociologists, historians and a scholar of African American studies on the rationale behind human space flight and the public good it might provide.

While NASA has been justifying space exploration for decades, the arguments that held in the early days aren’t necessarily relevant in 2014. Competition with the Soviet Union fueled the Apollo program, which put men on the moon in 1969. “The arguments that triggered the Apollo investments, national defense and prestige, seem to have especially limited public salience in today’s post-Cold War America,” the report said.

The committee considered a handful of other rationales, including practical benefits, such as the inspiration human spaceflight would provide U.S. students and the economic benefits of earthly applications of scientific advances.

Then there were the aspirational considerations about species survival and the human need to explore: “It is not possible to say whether off-Earth settlements could eventually be developed that would outlive human presence on Earth and lengthen the survival of our species. This is a question that can only be settled by pushing the human frontier in space,” the report said.

The committee concluded that while no one argument justified the expense and health risks of human spaceflight, the aspirational rationales coupled with the practical benefits the program could provide do ultimately make it worthwhile.

“Some say it is human destiny to continue to explore space. While not all share this view, for those who do, it is an important reason to engage in human spaceflight,” the report said.

This article originally published at Nextgov
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/human-spaceflight-mars/