Space: The Visionaries Take Over

Charles Krauthammerkrauthammer-sm writes: Fractured and divided as we are, on one thing we can agree: 2015 was a miserable year. The only cheer was provided by Lincoln Chafee and the Pluto flyby (two separate phenomena), as well as one seminal aeronautical breakthrough.

On Dec. 21, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after launching 11 satellites into orbit, returned its 15-story booster rocketupright and intact, to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. That’s a $60 million mountain of machinery — recovered. (The traditional booster rocket either burns up or disappears into some ocean.)

The reusable rocket has arrived. Arguably, it arrived a month earlier when Blue Origin, a privately owned outfit created by Jeffrey P. Bezos (Amazon chief executive and owner of this newspaper) launched and landed its own booster rocket, albeit for a suborbital flight. But whether you attribute priority to Musk or Bezos, the two events together mark the inauguration of a new era in spaceflight.

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Musk predicts that the reusable rocket will reduce the cost of accessing space a hundredfold. This depends, of course, on whether the wear and tear and stresses of the launch make the refurbishing prohibitively expensive. Assuming it’s not, and assuming Musk is even 10 percent right, reusability revolutionizes the economics of spaceflight.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

Which both democratizes and commercializes it. Which means space travel has now slipped the surly bonds of government — presidents, Congress, NASA bureaucracies. Its future will now be driven far more by a competitive marketplace with its multiplicity of independent actors, including deeply motivated, financially savvy and visionary entrepreneurs. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Jan 27, 1975

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January 27, 1975 — The Apollo command/service module for the Test Project mission goes through prelaunch checkout procedures in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

(NASA)


[PHOTO] Orion descends to the Pacific Ocean

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Orion descends to the Pacific Ocean

via reddit

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[VIDEO] Success: Orion Splashes Down After First, 2-Orbit Test Flight

NASA’s Orion capsule has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after its first, unmanned, two-orbit test flight.

It came down on the surface of the ocean at 11:29 a.m. ET about 270 miles off the coast of Baja California, NASA said.

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral and rocketed to orbit Friday morning — the first test flight for a program that NASA hopes eventually will get astronauts to asteroids and Mars.

The 4½-hour, uncrewed, two-orbit flight is taking Orion farther from Earth than any craft designed for human flight has been since the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in 1972.

“The launch itself (was) just a blast,” NASA Orion program manager Mark Geyer quipped on NASA TV shortly after liftoff, “as you see how well the rocket did. It was exciting to see.”

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The Delta IV Heavy rocket lifted off at 7:05 a.m. ET and put the capsule and the rocket’s second stage into low-Earth orbit less than 20 minutes later.

Then, two hours later, a milestone: The second stage lifted Orion higher for its second orbit, expected to be about 3,600 miles above Earth, or 15 times higher than the International Space Station. Read the rest of this entry »


Orion Exploration Flight Test Launch

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 at at 7:05 a.m. EST, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Florida. The Orion spacecraft will orbit Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean. No one is aboard Orion for this flight test, but the spacecraft is designed to allow us to journey to destinations never before visited by humans, including an asteroid and Mars.

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