Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission (ARRM)

arm-optionb-carrying-asteroidOver the last few years there has been a buzz over at NASA about getting people to Mars. One of the steps in their overall plan is called the Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission (ARRM). This mission looks at a Near Earth Object and shifting it to cislunar space, the space between the Earth and the Moon.

The mission itself is exciting to follow. Moving an object into cislunar space has never been done before. Moving anything inside our solar system hasn’t been done before and NASA has currently set up four companies to work on design studies for the robotic spacecraft. The companies selected are Boeing Phantom Works, Lockhead Martin Space Systems, Orbital ATK, and Space Systems/Loral. These companies are working in the first phase of the project as part of a way to see whether we can create a spacecraft that can do everything that NASA is supposed to demonstrate.

The ARRM has plans to preform a few tasks. The basis of the mission will be to demonstrate a 20-fold increase in deep space solar-electric propulsion and be able to move large payloads. The ARRM will also move a boulder up to 20 tons and redirect it an orbit around the moon that we can send crews to at a later time. Upon sending a crew, the ARRM will also work as part of an integrated team to show the viability of crewed and robotic operations in deep space.

It’s an exciting time for space exploration as we will be able to witness things happen for the first time in the next few decades. There have been a few things that have happened in the last few decades with the use of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, however, no time has felt as exciting to me as it is now. It feels like a sort of science fiction as we see steps, not only from NASA but from some commercial companies, that push the human race towards another planet.

What missions are you excited for? What do you think about the Journey to Mars? Do you think we spend too much money on space funding and should redirect it somewhere else? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Credit due to NASA for information in this article.

Happy 10th Birthday New Horizons!

Happy 10th Birthday New Horizons!

Last summer I spent a lot of time writing about the New Horizons mission. It was awe inspiring to be a part of the first mission ever to the celestial body of Pluto. Well to be apart of it from the public’s point of view. I sat at my desk on the morning of the flyby, watching the NASA Eyes app and looking at a real time computer generated image of the flyby. That’s as good as we got as the probe was doing all it’s scientific work during the flyby.

It’s crazy to think that something that reached it’s target this previous summer could already be ten years old.

New Horizons
Artist concept of the Pluto Flyby. Credit NASA/JHU APL/SwR/Steve Gribben

Spotting the former planet Pluto wasn’t the only new thing that occurred on the mission. Everything about this mission was record setting from the get go. During lift off, there was a third stage specially built by Boeing for this mission that allowed the probe to leave Earth at a speed of more then 36,000 miles per hour, becoming the fastest departure of any spacecraft yet. As if this wasn’t fast enough, 13 months later the mission tested it’s equipment and did a gravity assist around Jupiter that increased the speed by another 9,000 miles per hour.

In January of 2015, distant images of the Pluto System started coming back in. These blurry images were used to make sure the probe was on track and that it wouldn’t run into anything along the way. A small fragment of space dust can make a big problem when traveling at 45,000 miles an hour.

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Image credited to NASA

On July 14th, 2015, New Horizons flew by the dwarf planet of Pluto, marking the end of a 50 year mission by NASA to visit every planet in our solar system. Now to be fair, when New Horizon’s launched nine years earlier, Pluto was still a planet. New Horizons has sent back images of soemething that was unknown close up to us just a few years ago. To this day as it flies towards its new destination, images are still being sent across the vastness of space to enthrall the coming generations. Who knows when we will be able to send a probe to the outer reaches of the solar system again, but I know I will remember everything I was doing on that July morning, watching NASA TV and the NASA Eyes app and seeing the excitement from the team when New Horizons flew past Pluto.

Pluto: Will you be watching?

New Horizons

If you follow my Facebook and this blog, you’ve heard a little bit about the New Horizon’s mission to Pluto. This first of its kind mission will who us close up photos of the dwarf planet Pluto for the first time in human history. The science and knowledge that we will gain will be astronomical to our understanding of the solar system.

But how many people will really see or even care about what is taking place? I’m sure for a lot of people it will pass them right by. Just a foot note in a day full of crappy entertainment news and who is dating who articles. When did we turn away from human achievement?

In the 1960’s the entire country was focused on the moon. The space program was in it’s hay day as people were watching as we tried to get to the moon before the Russians. Numerous scientific achievements came out of this time. Heck some of the products that we use on a daily basis came out of the space race. But the country had a goal when it came to space and everyone was supporting it’s mission.

Today those ideas have changed. NASA has grand plans for the continuation of the human race searching the stars, but because of politics and government budget control, they have limited capability to get things done. Space just doesn’t bring in the ratings it used to. If our missions were a little more popular in the public eye, then maybe the people wouldn’t see the money that NASA gets as a waste.

The Space Program is a must have for our country. I know there hasn’t been any talk about it going away or anything, but the things that we can learn by sending out probes and even manned missions to other worlds, far surpasses some of the crap that we currently spend money on.

So I urge you, (I’m sure most my followers already do check, but for new visitors) take some time out of your day and read up on what the New Horizon’s spacecraft is doing. This is human achievement at its finest. The team has been waiting for nine years to complete their mission.

So what do you think? I love hearing from you!

SpaceX – Dreamers or Crazy?

As we talked about last week, space is the next frontier for humans that are on this planet. Everyday we come closer and closer to having a bigger presence in this Solar System of ours. These days it isn’t only NASA that is on the forefront with new technologies and ideas. Today we’re going to talk about SpaceX.

SpaceX Logo

SpaceX is a company that was founded by Elon Musk. According to their website (www.spacex.com) “SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, however they are accomplishing baby steps along the way every single year. The company has 3 different vehicles and has been on numerous missions to the International Space Station, even finding a way into getting a commercial contract with NASA.

It’s hard to go through a day without hearing something about SpaceX. They are innovating the way we go to space. SpaceX has created a vehicle (Dragon) that will take astronauts into space. As big a feat as that is, they are also looking at ways to make space travel quicker and more affordable. SpaceX has started to develop their rockets with the capability to land back on the Earth. This will allow a quicker turnaround between missions and save money on the rockets themselves.

Image of the SpaceX Dragon Vehicle
Image of the SpaceX Dragon Vehicle

These amazing feats are happening everyday in the space world. It is more exciting then it has ever been in my life. Based on my last post – Space – Pushing the Limits – you can see how humans are trying everything they can to continue into space and make our dreams of colonizing distant worlds a reality. So SpaceX – Dreamers or Crazy? I’ll let you decide on that one.

What do you think? Do you think focusing on space is a good idea? I love hearing from you!

NASA FTL Ship

I’m sure that most people out there know that NASA has been spending time studying Warp Drive Technology. As we become more technologically advanced as a planet, science fiction seems to become science reality.

Since a lot of people have covered this already, I’m just going to show you a nice pretty picture of what the design turned out to be. We can talk more about the direction of NASA in future posts.

For now just enjoy. I get giddy every time I see it.

IXS Enterprise

Commercializing Space: NASA and it’s Contracts

NASA has made a major shift in it’s operations over the last couple of years. With the retiring of the Space Shuttle, NASA has been in dire need of a new astronaut carrier. Currently they are working with Russia to send someone to the International Space Station, but with tensions high in Ukraine, diplomatic problems have arisen.

So why commercialize space? Well NASA has been tasked with sending people deeper into space then we have ever traveled before. There are already plans in the works to send manned missions to Mars and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t stop there. So why set up these contracts with companies instead of relying on the government for funding? I believe they are doing it in the name of science.

Commercial industries do not have the same oversight and budget restrictions that NASA would have by solely relying on government funding. Through the use of their new commercial space program, NASA is also setting up a new industry to be born as companies vie for the chance to send cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. Also through these contracts, NASA has enabled the broadest access to micro-gravity research in the US section of the International Space Station.

Cygnus
Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus
Dragon
Space Exploration Technologies Dragon

Two companies have already been accepted to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Each has uniquely designed their own delivery system to transport cargo to the station. At this point, both companies have successfully resupplied the space station and have contracts to do so again in the coming future. Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft has a mission taking off June 17th.

Along with cargo transportation, NASA also needs companies that are willing to build craft for crew transportation if we are going to succeed in our upcoming space goals. Check back in Part 2 of this series as we look at upcoming crew transportation vehicles and the companies that will build them.

It’s exciting to see Space in the news again! Don’t you think so?

NASA Tuesday: Ocean Wind Monitor

NASA is not known for its reuse of technology. They are known for the multiple articles about all the junk that is flying around the planet. Many pieces of old technology are orbiting, staying in their paths and being watched by people on the ground.

Not so in this case. NASA has announced that they are going to reuse some hardware that was originally used on their QuikScat satellite. Given a new name, ISS-RapidScat, NASA is going to launch the wind monitor to the International Space Station in 2014. The RapidScat will help to measure ocean wind speed and direction, which in turn will create an avenue for better weather forecasting and tracking hurricane movement. RapidScat will also be able to help us better understand the interaction between the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The ability for NASA to quickly reuse this hardware and launch it to the space station is a great example of a low-cost approach that will have high benefits to science and life here on Earth,” said Mike Suffredini, NASA’s International Space Station program manager. RapidScat will help replace a hole in data from the QuikScat satellite as it was originally scheduled for operation for two years but ran for ten before it went out of commission in 2009.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been working to find an alternative to the QuikScat satellite. The engineers at JPL came up with using the hardware from QuickScat with some new components and installing it on the International Space Station. This is not a permanent fix, but it will help bridge the gap because a replacement for the QuikScat satellite will not be available anytime soon.

To find out more information about this project and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station