Tag: human spaceflight

Poll Reveals Public Skepticism of Government and Private Human Spaceflight

SpaceShipTwo powered test flight
A poll found 58 percent of people said private companies like Virgin Galactic should be allowed to send people to space, which it plans to do via its suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle (shown during a powered test flight). Credit: Virgin Galactic


Excerpt from spacenews.com

WASHINGTON — The American public is skeptical that private ventures will be able to launch “ordinary people” into space in the coming decades, and is split about spending money on government-led human space exploration, a new poll indicates. 

 The Monmouth University Poll results, released Feb. 16, showed that a majority of Americans believe private companies should be permitted to launch people into space, but also that they did not believe it likely those companies would be able to do so in next 20 to 30 years.  In the poll, 58 percent of people said private companies should be allowed to launch people in space, versus 37 percent who said that human spaceflight should be left to governments alone. 

However, 55 percent thought it was not likely that “ordinary people will be able to travel regularly” into space in the next 20 to 30 years, while 44 percent said such travel would be somewhat or very likely.  Most people also said they were unwilling to fly in space themselves: 69 percent said they would decline a free trip into space, while 28 percent said they would accept it. The poll did not specify what kind of trip — suborbital or orbital — was offered.  The poll revealed a sharp difference in gender, with men more willing than women to believe private ventures should be allowed to fly people in space. Men supported private over government-only human spaceflight by a margin of 71 to 26 percent. 

Women, though were, more evenly split, with 44 percent backing private human spaceflight and 49 percent supporting government-only efforts. MoonFifty percent of those polled said the U.S. government should not spend “billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids.” 

The public is also divided about spending money on government human space exploration. Asked if the U.S. government should spend “billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids,” 50 percent said no, while 42 percent said yes.  As with private spaceflight, there was a strong gender split, with 50 percent of men, but only 36 percent of women, supporting spending on human space exploration. There was, by contrast, little difference by party affiliation.  

The poll showed greater support for government spending on space in general. Asked if increased spending on the space program in general would be “a good investment for the country,” 51 percent agreed and 43 percent disagreed.  The poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,008 people in December, and has an overall margin of error of 3.1 percent.
WASHINGTON — The American public is skeptical that private ventures will be able to launch “ordinary people” into space in the coming decades, and is split about spending money on government-led human space exploration, a new poll indicates.
The Monmouth University Poll results, released Feb. 16, showed that a majority of Americans believe private companies should be permitted to launch people into space, but also that they did not believe it likely those companies would be able to do so in next 20 to 30 years.
In the poll, 58 percent of people said private companies should be allowed to launch people in space, versus 37 percent who said that human spaceflight should be left to governments alone. However, 55 percent thought it was not likely that “ordinary people will be able to travel regularly” into space in the next 20 to 30 years, while 44 percent said such travel would be somewhat or very likely.
Most people also said they were unwilling to fly in space themselves: 69 percent said they would decline a free trip into space, while 28 percent said they would accept it. The poll did not specify what kind of trip — suborbital or orbital — was offered.
The poll revealed a sharp difference in gender, with men more willing than women to believe private ventures should be allowed to fly people in space. Men supported private over government-only human spaceflight by a margin of 71 to 26 percent. Women, though were, more evenly split, with 44 percent backing private human spaceflight and 49 percent supporting government-only efforts.
Moon
Fifty percent of those polled said the U.S. government should not spend “billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids.” Credit: NASA
The public is also divided about spending money on government human space exploration. Asked if the U.S. government should spend “billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids,” 50 percent said no, while 42 percent said yes.
As with private spaceflight, there was a strong gender split, with 50 percent of men, but only 36 percent of women, supporting spending on human space exploration. There was, by contrast, little difference by party affiliation.
The poll showed greater support for government spending on space in general. Asked if increased spending on the space program in general would be “a good investment for the country,” 51 percent agreed and 43 percent disagreed.
The poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,008 people in December, and has an overall margin of error of 3.1 percent.
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/poll-reveals-public-skepticism-of-government-and-private-human-spaceflight/#sthash.6PxcrjTQ.dpuf

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Cape hopes to be world’s busiest spaceport in 2016



A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, with the
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, with the Air Force’s AFSPC-4 mission aboard.(Photo: United Launch Alliance)


Excerpt from news-press.com


With two dozen rockets projected to blast payloads into orbit, Cape Canaveral this year hopes to claim the title of "world's busiest spaceport," the Air Force's 45th Space Wing said Tuesday.
"It's a great time to be here," said Col. Thomas Falzarano, commander of the Wing's 45th Operations Group. "Business is booming."

Falzarano presented the Eastern Range launch forecast to several hundred guests at the National Space Club Florida Committee's meeting in Cape Canaveral.

Weather, technical issues and program changes frequently delay launches, so it's likely some of the missions will slip into next year. But the forecast shows the Space Coast launching at an increasingly busy clip even without human spaceflight missions, which aren't expected to resume for several years.

The 2015 forecast anticipates United Launch Alliance matching last year's total of 10 Cape launches, including eight by Atlas V rockets and two by Delta IV rockets.

And it assumes as many as 14 launches by SpaceX. Last year had six Falcon 9 flights.

That was SpaceX's most launches in a calendar year, but five fewer than was projected last January.


This year the company hopes to activate a second launch pad, complementing its existing one at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The debut of the Falcon Heavy rocket from a former Apollo and shuttle pad at Kennedy Space Center would be one of this year's most highly anticipated launches.

In addition, SpaceX plans to launch more ISS resupply missions, and commercial and government satellites.


ULA's first launch of the year is coming up Tuesday, with an Atlas V targeting a 7:43 p.m. liftoff with a Navy communications satellite.

The Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture has its usual slate of high-value science and national security missions. The manifest includes a roughly $1 billion NASA science mission, an X-37B military space plane and more Global Positioning System satellites.

Overall last year, the 45th Space Wing supported 16 space launches — five less than projected last January (all attributed to SpaceX) — plus two Trident missile tests launched from submarines.
That ranked the Cape No. 2 behind the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan, Falzarano said.

But with 24 missions potentially on the books this year and more than 30 in various planning stages for 2016, Falzarano said the Eastern Range is facing its busiest two-year stretch in more than two decades.

"The Cape, right here, is going to be the busiest spaceport in the world," he said.



Growing launch rate
2013: 14
2014: 18
2015: 24 (projected)
Source: U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

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NASA Is Building a Sustainable ‘Highway’ for Unprecedented Deep Space Exploration

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comIn early December, NASA will take an important step into the future with the first flight test of the Orion spacecraft -- the first vehicle in history capable of taking humans to multiple destinations in deep space. An...

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Welcoming the Era of In-Space Manufacturing


Mike Snyder (right) and Jason Dunn of Made In Space get the company's 3D printer ready for its September 2014 launch toward the International Space Station. The machine printed its first part in orbit on Nov. 24, 2014.
Mike Snyder (right) and Jason Dunn of Made In Space get the company's 3D printer ready for its September 2014 launch toward the International Space Station. The machine pri

Excerpt from space.com

Mike Snyder, lead engineer for the company Made In Space, which designed and built the 3D printer currently aboard the International Space Station, contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Human spaceflight reached an important milestone this week. An additive manufacturing device or 3D printer, was turned on, and initiated the first official 3D print on the International Space Station (ISS). 

The print took slightly more than an hour, and once it finished, the world changed. At the Made In Space Operations Center in Moffett Field, California, the rest of the team and I had the ability to command the printer and see inside it as the machine received and executed our commands. For the first time, humans demonstrated the ability to manufacture while in space. At this moment, if the space station absolutely needs a part that the 3D printer can build, I can start producing the part onboard the ISS within minutes — from my chair in California. 


The ability to deliver components on demand without the need of a launch vehicle can redefine how space-mission strategies work. Before last week, every object that humans have ever put in space was launched there and not made in space. Of course, many experiments and efforts have been able to form items such as crystalline structures and latex spheres, as well as assembly-type construction. 3D printing is completely different. This capability does more than just build predetermined articles that were designed months or years before launch. The 3D printer can build files that are created after launch and sent to orbit when needed.

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Astronaut Bioethics: Reproducing in space, lifeboat problems & other ethical quandaries of Mars journies

 


Disaster can happen at any moment in space exploration. “A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode,” the editors of the journal Astronautics wrote in 1937, and nothing has changed: This August, SpaceX’s rocket blew up on a test flight.
But exploding in space isn’t the worst thing that could happen. You could suffocate or be stranded on the moon—a slow death. You could be a child born in space, deformed by space radiation and microgravity during fetal development, then raised apart from the rest of humanity. You could go mad from the social isolation of space.
As Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s 100-Year Starship Mission, Inspiration Mars Foundation, Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries, and many other private and public space programs make their grand plans, we need to think carefully about not only the physical risks of space exploration but also legal and ethical risks.
For instance, Mars One is still sorting through thousands of applications to be the first residents on Mars—and reality television show stars—with the first batch scheduled to blast off in 2023. But is it even ethical to recruit astronauts for a one-way trip—essentially a suicide mission? Or does that exploit a vulnerable population that has an overdeveloped sense of adventure or other psychological conditions?
As Facebook, OkCupid, and other technology companies recently discovered, their experiments could be seen as “human subjects research” in some key respects. Likewise, the space industry could find itself subject to this ethically strict framework and others that haven’t been discussed much. Being an adventurer or scientist doesn’t exempt you from labor laws, for instance. Herewith is a sort of Astronaut Bioethics 101. (Elon Musk, take notes.)

Lifeboat ethics in space
Let’s look at one plausible scenario to start. In 2025, suppose you are the captain of a spaceship bringing four crewmembers to the red planet. Previous spacecraft were already sent to build a basic habitat and food supply, and now your ship is only five days away from landing and joining a few others already there. But something has gone terribly wrong: Micrometeorites have pierced the hull and caused a slow leak. Calculations show there will not be enough oxygen for all four crew members to survive. Unless one person stops breathing immediately, all four will asphyxiate before landing. If you wait even one day before sacrificing a crew member, then at most two members could survive.
As the captain of the ship, what should you do? If you volunteer to die, who will then pilot the ship in the final, treacherous landing maneuvers? Should the doctor be killed, risking the future lives of the colonists? Or the engineer, tasked with keeping the habitations running? What about the scientist who hopes to make fundamental discoveries, perhaps even alien life? Should you make sure at least one male and one female survive, so future procreation is possible—and does it have to be a couple? Or should you just draw straws?
This kind of scenario could become all too real in the near future. Humans, for the first time, are beginning to extend space flight to destinations in which return to Earth is possible only in time frames of months to years, if ever. In those travels, we encounter truly novel circumstances—destinations more impossible to return from than even for Christopher Columbus sailing off to the New World.
The habitation modules of Mars One will be a fragile oasis of water and oxygen on an otherwise desolate and profoundly inhospitable Martian soil, where temperatures average around minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Those astronauts will be subject to the whims of solar and dust storms, meteorite strikes, physical injury, possible alien contamination, and the other barely glimpsed hazards of Martian living.
This is to say, many things can go wrong on Mars. Given the dangers and severely limited resources, including medical, what should astronauts do if they need to choose between the lives of their fellow astronauts, a so-called lifeboat decision? This is a question best answered in advanced and not during the panic of the moment, when our judgment may be compromised.
Crisis planning is neither unreasonable nor unprecedented in space or anywhere else. In the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned to Earth as heroes, as the first men to ever walk on the moon. But what if they never made it back? President Nixon had a speech ready for that disaster, written by William Safire: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. … For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”

Sex and kids
One crisis the all-male crews of the Apollo program never had to worry about was the possibility of a pregnancy in space. But that won’t hold true for would-be mixed crews headed to Mars, especially missions planning colonization.
Space agencies haven’t had to deal with it much so far, though astronauts think about sex, and it occasionally gets them in trouble, too. Given plans now for long missions, we need to confront the issue as well as the usual things related to it, such as babies.
If we send heterosexual astronauts, of different sexes and of reproductive age, on extended space missions, then the possibility of pregnancy looms. To ward that off, could it be ethical to demand sterilization for any potentially fertile astronauts in a mixed-sex crew? Radiation exposure may eventually take care of the issue by causing infertility, but some pregnancies could happen before infertility occurs. Is conception even possible in the zero-gravity of space, or in the low-gravity, high-radiation habitats on Mars? If so, would a fetus develop normally?
We don’t know, since it would seem patently unethical to even conduct these sorts of experiments today in space or anywhere else, at least with human subjects. Again, the physical and psychological dangers of procreating and living outside of Earth can seem inhumane, especially for involuntary subjects (the children). Yet many plans for space exploration already take it as a foregone conclusion that humans will reproduce in space. For some, it’s a crucial part of the business plan, as in the case of Mars One’s goal of moving toward a “permanent human settlement.”
Inspiration Mars Foundation, a competitor of Mars One, has an interesting way to account for the pesky human sex-drive on long missions: The company is recruiting older married couples to ensure stability in the relationship and to avoid the ethical problems with having babies in space. It recognizes that the problems of sex begin with interpersonal dynamics among the crew.
But why married couples? They’re infamous for squabbling in confined spaces for months on end, and more than half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Is that really better than sending only men, or only women, or unmarried crew members into space? Other related ethical issues with sex include the possibility of rape: Should abortions be allowed in outer space—and how should crimes be handled? (We’ll return to this in a moment.)

Psychology and privacy
It will also be critical to account for mental health and resiliency on long missions. An astronaut who suffers a major depressive episode or a psychotic break while stuck in space won’t have access to medical and psychological interventions that we do here, for instance.
Governmental astronauts are carefully screened with psychological tests, since conditions such as suicidal ideation and sociopathy might cause trouble in space. If an AI is part of the crew, we might need to also test the computers, lest it get inspired by HAL and think the puny humans are getting in the way—after all, it might decide that the mission is too important to let you people jeopardize it.
But NASA’s studies of psychological problems during missions on the International Space Station, or even on pseudo-Mars habitats in the Arctic, do not begin to match the reality of the problems posed by a six-month or longer mission to Mars. The best-case scenario for those astronauts is still a constantly stressful existence within a tiny community of fellow settlers.
Major psychological challenges that are impossible to fully prepare for on Earth would include unprecedented social isolation. Real-time interaction with friends and family back on Earth will be impossible: The shortest delay for sending transmissions would be approximately 10 minutes. To make things worse, for the duration of their lives, the Mars One participants would know direct interaction only with their fellow settlers who, even if all goes well, would increase from only three people in the first two years to 23 others after 10 years.
There’s also the related problem of confinement. While some pioneers on Earth may cheerfully choose to be isolated for months to trek through unexplored reaches of the polar regions or the deep ocean, that won’t be the case for children of Mars One colonists. They’ll be stuck on Mars. Primate studies indicate that being raised in captivity has harmful effects on the development of young apes, including experiencing abnormally high fear and a reduced desire for exploration—exactly the wrong traits for success as colonists on a hostile planet. Would this spell disaster for the long-term survival of the colony, as well as for the well-being of the children themselves?
To make things worse, the astronauts would lack physical privacy for the rest of their lives in a tiny habitat on Mars. (And then there’s the whole “reality TV” angle. Would the children experience a real-life version of The Truman Show?) But we won’t even be able to carry out research to get an idea of what that would mean: It’s difficult to imagine that any institutional research board would allow anyone to risk that, and so far there’s no clear and present danger—such as a killer asteroid that may wipe out humanity—that justifies such an extreme experiment.

Laws and discrimination
To mitigate some of these problems, Mars One and others are conducting physical and psychological screening of astronauts. But in most contexts, it’s illegal to reject job candidates because they are disabled or have predispositions toward some health conditions. We can perhaps understand why a paraplegic person wouldn’t be an ideal astronaut, but what about a fully healthy person whose family has a history of cancer or depression?
As a Netherlands-based mission, Mars One would be subject to at least Dutch anti-discrimination laws, which are similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in the United States. These laws typically bar discriminatory treatment for persons with certain physical and psychological conditions, such as a genetic disposition for Alzheimer’s disease.
The loophole here is that countries with anti-discrimination laws routinely include a “bona fide occupational qualification” exception that can justify discrimination that would otherwise be unlawful. But the BFOQ must be defensible. For example, until last year, U.S. policy presumed that women are unfit for combat roles in the military. But the reasons behind the discrimination against women in the military turned out to be weak. That kind of conversation for space missions should be made more explicit and transparent, if they want exemption from the democratic value of nondiscrimination. And the results may have implications for other BFOQs on Earth, so we need to think carefully here.
Back to the issue of sex and reproduction: Could Inspiration Mars Foundation’s astronaut-selection strategy be illegal? Labor laws prohibit recruiting only older married heterosexual couples in just about every known case, as they bar discrimination on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences.
One possible objection is that many or all of these private space programs are building an all-volunteer cadre of unpaid adventurers, so they aren’t employers in the usual sense and therefore shouldn’t be subject to labor laws. But labor laws also protect the unpaid, such as interns and volunteers, and presumptively cover even volunteer astronauts. It’s at least worth investigating.
You might argue that the astronaut or the workplace needs to be on Earth for labor laws to apply. After all, U.S. federal laws and regulations, such as from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, don’t reach into outer space, even if they bind NASA workers while on the ground. But NASA has its own health standards that it follows; it’s not as if all bets are off in space. Indeed, many nations have already agreed to be bound by the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Agreement, though neither regulates the behavior of individual astronauts, only the signatory states.
These are conversations we can have right now on Earth. But legal disputes and crimes could crop up while in space, giving us good reason to export law enforcement, courts, and other state institutions off-planet. Death is inescapable before too long, and each one needs to be investigated to rule out homicide. But this is still a challenge in Antarctica and other remote parts of our home planet. Asteroid mining, Mars colonies, and other such plans already raise the issue of how property rights should be handled in space. But how do we decide which laws and institutions are needed on Mars in the first place, and who gets to decide?

Other bioethics puzzles
What about human enhancements? Artificial reproductive technologies (such as in vitro fertilization and even artificial wombs) and pre-implantation genetic testing could have a role in addressing some of the worries mentioned above. Others may be very useful for purposes beyond reproduction: a greater ability to breathe at lower partial pressures, to resist space radiation, to survive with little sleep or food, or to think faster and more clearly in stressful situations. But human enhancements raise all sorts of ethical worries in normal Earth contexts, such as safety to the human subject, fairness, reversibility, and unintended effects.
Bioethics frameworks can help us here, as we start to hit upon questions about informed consent and acceptable risk—a subject deserving of its own article. But let’s note that bioethics doesn’t need to be concerned only with human life: There are things inside us that aren’t human.
It turns out that only 1 in 10 cells in our body is actually Homo sapiens genetically, and the rest make up the flora known as a microbiome inside every one of us. The microbiome is increasingly understood to have crucial effects on our health, yet the effect of long-term spaceflight on it is largely unknown. Could zero-gravity or increased radiation environment cause unpredictable changes in our gut bacteria, perhaps even ones resulting in lethal disease? Even a pandemic in the colony?
Speaking of nonhuman life, one of the most exciting aspects of space exploration—and a main focus of NASA—is the search for alien life. One of the activities Martian colonists will likely engage in is the search for Martian microbes, in the hope that we will find a second source of life in the universe. Of course, astrophysicists such as Paul Davies remind us that life on Earth might have begun with microbes that hitched a ride from Mars. But could they hitch a ride back on astronauts? If the search for alien life on Mars fails, we will surely one day search for it in the oceans of Europa or Ganymede, or the petrochemical seas of Titan and so on, until we find that we are not alone in the universe.
In the event of alien contamination, even if a remote possibility, we need to think about the quarantine of astronauts. Under what circumstances, if any, should we deny living astronauts the opportunity to return to Earth? NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection has protocols in place, but private businesses, such as Mars One, aren’t legally obligated to follow them. Suppose a sick astronaut on a private spaceflight wants to return to Earth: Who would have the authority to forcibly stop her, even if we could? For that matter, how can we know for certain whether an astronaut is infected before it’s too late?

Look before we take another giant leap
Those bioethical challenges are just the beginning. Space agencies have long been focused on the health and safety of their astronauts themselves, and experts are looking at the ethics of finding extraterrestrial life or astrobiology. But the possibility of long missions means that other social dynamics and future generations become relevant now.
Eventually, every colony will want its independence, history suggests. For Martian settlers, that independence may exist de facto from the very start, so perhaps all bets really are off where authorities can’t reach. Thus, with the possibility of space exploration, we have a clean slate in front of us to reinvent society, without being bogged down by legacy systems for property, economics, governance, and even ethics.

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NASA Giving People Chance to Send Their Names to Mars on Orion Flight






Excerpt from cnet.com

Since Richard Branson hasn't gotten around to offering Mars vacations yet (he's still working out that whole suborbital thing), we're all pretty much stuck here on Earth for the time being. But NASA understands the human desire to write our names upon the stars, so it's giving everybody a chance to shoot their names up into space on the first Orion mission, scheduled to launch December 4.
The collected names will be included on a microchip the size of a dime. The first trip will be on board NASA's initial test flight for the new Orion spacecraft. It's set for a 4.5-hour mission in orbit around Earth. It will then take a flying leap back through the atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean.

When you sign up to send your name off into space on Orion, you're signing up to send your name to Mars at some future time.

Currently, nearly 95,000 people have submitted names to fly to Mars. To sign up, you just go to NASA's name-collecting site, fill out some basic information, and submit. The site then generates a digital "boarding pass." You get the simple message "Success! Your name will fly on Orion's flight test." Next, enjoy a happy little chill up your spine as you imagine your name zipping through the atmosphere and some day taking up residence on Mars.

NASA Mars Boarding Pass
Your name here – get your boarding pass for Mars! (via NASA)

NASA also will be tracking mileage for all of our names, giving us a spacey version of frequent-flyer award points. The points are just for fun, but it's also a way to keep the public engaged and following along with these groundbreaking missions.

The deadline for getting your name on Orion's inaugural flight is October 31. If you miss Orion this time, NASA will still give newcomers an opportunity to sign up for name fly-alongs on future missions.

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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Glides Through Test Run ~ Space rides booking for $250,000

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, centered between its double fuselage WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane  nbcnews.com Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane soared into the air and glided ...

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NASA’s Newest Human Spacecraft on the Move




NASA's Newest Human Spacecraft on the Move





sci-tech-today.com


NASA is one step closer to launching its newest spacecraft designed for humans. Workers at Kennedy Space Center gathered to watch as the Orion capsule emerged from its assembly hangar Thursday, less than three months from its first test flight. The capsule -- sealed for protection -- slowly made its way to its fueling depot atop a 36-wheel platform. The capsule and its attached service module and adapter ring stretched 40 feet (12 meters) high.
"Isn't this awesome?" said Kennedy's director, Robert Cabana, a former space shuttle commander. "This is our step to the future, the exploration of establishing a presence in the solar system."
Space center employees lined up along the rope barricade to snap pictures of Orion, NASA's lofty follow-on to the now-retired space shuttle program.
During its Dec. 4 test flight, the unmanned capsule will shoot more than 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) into space and take two big laps around Earth before re-entering the atmosphere at 20,000 mph (32,000 kph) and parachuting into the Pacific off the San Diego coast. The entire mission will last 4½ hours.
The second Orion flight won't occur until around 2018 when another unmanned capsule soars atop NASA's new megarocket, still under development, called SLS for Space Launch System.
NASA intends to put astronauts aboard Orion in 2021 for deep space exploration; each capsule can accommodate up to four.
The plan is to use Orion for getting humans to asteroids and Mars -- no space station ferry trips for Orion. A handful of private U.S. companies are competing for these short taxi flights; NASA expects in the next week or so to pick one or two candidates for funding.
While Orion may resemble an oversize Apollo capsule on the outside, everything inside and out is modern and top-of-the-line, officials noted Thursday. "I'm as excited as can be," said NASA's Orion production operations manager, Scott Wilson.
For Orion's dry run, the Lockheed Martin Corp.-built capsule will have hunks of aluminum in place of seats for ballast, and simulators instead of actual cockpit displays. A Delta IV rocket will do the heavy lifting.
When asked by a reporter, Cabana said he wishes Orion's flight pace was quicker.
"But it is what it is," he said. "Given the budget that we have, I think we've got the best program that you could imagine."
Orion has its roots in the post-Columbia shuttle era; it originated a decade ago as a crew exploration vehicle to get astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and managed to survive the cancellation of the Constellation moon project.

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10 Ways Space Is Trying to Kill You


Space Exploration Pictures
While leaving Earth and returning to it are both risky business, the time that astronauts spend in the airless, cold and highly irradiated void of space is fraught with peril, too. See more space exploration pictures.
M-gucci/iStock/Thinkstock


In the Hollywood thriller "Gravity," screenwriters concocted a frightening space scenario. Two NASA astronauts on a spacewalk, portrayed by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, find themselves stranded in the emptiness of space, after their spacecraft is wrecked by debris from a satellite destroyed by a missile.

While that particular dilemma was fictional, it resonated powerfully with movie audiences, because those of us who grew up watching the triumphs and tragedies of the Space Age know that being an astronaut is dangerous work. We've heard about the deaths of the three Apollo astronauts during a launching pad test exercise in 1967, the six who lost their lives when the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff in 1986, and the seven who were killed when the Columbia shuttle broke up during re-entry in 2003 [source: Airsafe.com].

But while leaving Earth and returning to it are both risky business, the time that astronauts spend in the airless, cold and highly irradiated void of space is fraught with ever-present lethal peril, too. Space is so dangerous, in fact, that it's amazing that only three humans—a trio of Soviet cosmonauts on a 1971 mission—have actually perished there. Here are 10 of the ways in which the cosmos is unforgiving of our inherent frailties.

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A History of Curious Artifacts Sent Into Space



The Florida State Quarter dispatched with New Horizons. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Rodgers, JHU/APL.
The Florida State Quarter dispatched with New Horizons. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Rodgers, JHU/APL.

universetoday.com 

Since the dawn of the Space Age in 1957, thousands of artifacts and memorabilia have been flown into space. Some have been hoisted on brief suborbital flights, while others have been flung out of the solar system, never to return. And of course, it’s become a fashionable — and highly commercialized — trend as of late to briefly loft products, stuffed animals, etc via balloon towards the tenuous boundary of space. Fly a souvenir or artifact into orbit, and it goes from mundane to priceless. But a few may also serve as a final testament to the our ephemeral existence as a species long after our passing. 

Here’s a look at some of the most memorable objects sent into space:

New Horizons Memorabilia
Launched on January 19th, 2006, New Horizons is headed towards a historic encounter with Pluto and its moons next year. From there, New Horizons will survey any Kuiper Belt objects of opportunity along its path and then head out of the solar system, becoming the fifth spacecraft to do so. In addition to a suite of scientific instruments, New Horizons also carries the ashes of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, a Florida & Maryland state quarter, a piece of Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne, and an American flag. These will doubtless confuse any extraterrestrial salvagers!
The Humanoids Where Here: the plaque affixed the the Pioneer 10 & 11 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL.
The Humanoids Where Here: the plaque affixed to the Pioneer 10 & 11 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL.


The Pioneer Plaques
The first spacecraft sent on escape trajectories out of our solar system, the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft each carry a plaque which serves as a sort of postcard “greeting” to any future interceptors. The plaque depicts a diagram of the solar system, a map of our location in the galaxy using the positions of known pulsars, and a nude man & woman, which actually generated lots of controversy.  Scientist James Van Allen tells of deliberately placing a fingerprint on the Pioneer 10 plaque in his biography The First Eight Billion Miles.
Earth's Greatest Hits: the Golden Record attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL.
Earth’s Greatest Hits: the Golden Record attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL.


The Voyager 1 and 2 Golden Records
Conceived and designed in part by Carl Sagan, these records contain images and sounds of the Earth that’ll most likely outlive humanity. The records carry greetings in 55 languages, music ranging from Mozart to Chuck Berry, 116 images and more, along with instructions and a stylus for playback.  The record is also enclosed in an aluminum cover electroplated with Uranium-238, which an alien civilization could use to date its manufacture via half-life decay.
A closeup of the "Mars Penny." Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
A closeup of the “Mars Penny.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


The Mars Curiosity Penny
Strange but true: The Mars rover Curiosity carries a 1909 U.S. Penny for a backup camera calibration target.  The penny itself is embedded just below the primary color calibration targets used by Curiosity’s MArs Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Rare enough on Earth, the 1909 Lincoln “Mars penny” will be priceless to future collectors!
Jupiter-bound figurines from left: Jupiter, Juno, & Galileo. Credit: NASA.
Jupiter-bound figurines from left: Jupiter, Juno, & Galileo. Credit: NASA.


Juno’s LEGO Figurines
Mini-figurines of Galileo and the Roman deities Jupiter and Juno were launched in 2011 aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft en route to Jupiter . LEGO has flown products aboard the U.S. Space Shuttles and to the International Space Station previously, but Juno’s cargo represents the “most distant LEGO launch” ever. The figurines will burn up in Jupiter’s atmosphere along with the spacecraft at the end of the mission in October 2017.
An Apollo 15 postal cover flown to the Moon. Credit: NASA.
An Apollo 15 postal cover flown to the Moon. Credit: NASA.


Apollo 15 Postal Covers Fiasco
Apollo 15 astronauts got in some hot water over a publicity scheme. The idea that stamp collector and dealer Hermann Sieger approached the astronauts with was simple: 400 commemorative postage stamp covers would be postmarked at point of departure from the Kennedy Space Center and again at the return point of arrival aboard the USS Okinawa after their circuitous journey via the Moon. NASA was less than happy with the whole affair, and Command Module Pilot Al Worden recounts the aftermath in his book, Falling to Earth.
A Marsbound DVD... Courtesy of Lockheed Martin/LSP.
A Marsbound DVD… Courtesy of Lockheed Martin/LSP.


Haiku for MAVEN
Last year’s MAVEN mission to Mars also carried haiku submitted by space fans.  Over 12,530 valid entries were submitted and over 1,100 haiku received the necessary minimum of two votes to be included on a DVD disk affixed to the spacecraft. MAVEN reaches orbit around Mars in October 2014.
The copy of the Soviet pennant aboard Luna 2on display at the Kansas Cosmoshpere. Credit: Patrick Pelletier under a Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The copy of the Soviet pennant aboard Luna 2 on display at the Kansas Cosmoshpere. Credit: Patrick Pelletier 

Luna 2: A Russian Pennant on Moon
On September 12th, 1959, the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 spacecraft became the first man-made object to impact the Moon. Luna 2 carried two spherical “pennants” composed of pentagon-shaped elements engraved with the USSR Coat of Arms and Cyrillic letters translating into “CCCP/USSR September 1959.” An identical pennant is now on display in the Kansas Cosmosphere.
EchoStar XVI in its clean room. Credit: Space Systems Loral.
EchoStar XVI in its clean room. Credit: Space Systems Loral.


A GeoSat Time Capsule Aboard EchoStar XVI
A disk entitled Last Pictures similar to the Voyager records was placed on a satellite headed to geosynchronous orbit in 2012. Launched aboard EchoStar XVI, Last Pictures is an ultra-archival disk containing 100 snapshots of modern life along with interviews with several 21st century artists and scientists.  Geosynchronous satellites aren’t subject to atmospheric drag,  and may be the last testament to the existence of humanity on Earth millions of years hence.
An artist's conception of NASA's Lunar Prospector mission leaving Earth orbit. Credit: NASA.
An artist’s conception of NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission leaving Earth orbit. Credit: NASA.


Lunar Prospector Carries An Astro-Geologist’s Ashes to the Moon
Though he never made the selection to become an astronaut, scientist Eugene Shoemaker did make a posthumous trip to the Moon.  The Lunar Prospector spacecraft departed Earth with Shoemaker’s ashes on January 7th, 1998 in a capsule wrapped in brass foil. Lunar Prospector impacted the south pole of the Moon on July 31st, 1999.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule on approach to the ISS during the COTS 2 mission. Credit: NASA.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule on approach to the ISS during the COTS 2 mission. Credit: NASA.


SpaceX Takes Star Trek Actor to Space
The ashes actor James Doohan (AKA Scotty) were launched aboard a 2012 SpaceX flight to the International Space Station. The COTS Demo Flight, or COTS 2, was the first commercial spacecraft to berth at the ISS. SpaceX had flown a small amount of Doohan’s ashes on the 2008 unsuccessful test launch of the Falcon 1 rocket.
The "Top Secret Payload" of  Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX.
The “Top Secret Payload” of the Dragon capsule revealed. Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX.


Cheese Wheel Makes a Suborbital Journey
All eyes were also on SpaceX during their December 8th 2010 maiden flight of the Dragon space capsule. And the hinted mystery cargo? None other than a wheel of cheese, a nod by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to a classic Monty Python sketch.
The Apollo 12 “Moon Museum”
Did it really go into space? One of the legends surrounding the Apollo program is the existence of what’s been dubbed the “Moon Museum.”  This was a postage stamp-sized “gallery” of art which included a sketch by Andy Warhol and other 1960s artists that was supposedly attached to descent stage of Apollo 12 and left on the Moon.  It will be up to future lunar visitors to confirm or deny its existence!
…And lastly, I give you the “Space Hubcap”
Was the first man-made object propelled into space actually a 1 ton armor plate? On August 27th, 1957 — just two months prior to Sputnik 1 — the Pascal-B underground nuclear test was conducted in southern Nevada.  During the explosion, a steel plate cap was blasted off of a test shaft. The plate could be seen in the initial high-speed video frames, and it was estimated to have reached a speed six times the sufficient escape velocity to depart Earth. To this day, no one knows if this strange artifact of early Space Age folklore still roams the void of space, or simply vaporized due to atmospheric compression at “launch”.

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