Elon Musk Reveals SpaceX’s New Retro Test Rocket

Complete with a decidedly retro feel, SpaceX’s new experimental rocket has been fully assembled at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, launch site. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has tweeted out a picture of the Starship test rocket.

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The “test hopper,” as Musk and COO Gwynne Shotwell call it, isn’t actually meant to fly into space. It’s meant for suborbital VTOL testing (vertical takeoff and landing). It will hop, so to speak, around 16,400 feet into the air and then land again, according to documents filed with the FCC. These tests are crucial for new rockets like the SpaceX Starship.

No stranger to branding or pop culture references, Musk celebrated the Falcon 9’s testing with Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire.” This time around, he’s referencing Hergé’s classic Tintin cartoons, as well as 1950s sci-fi classics like Destination Moon.

This isn’t what the final version of the Starship will look like. The orbital Starship, eventually meant to ferry up to 100 people to Mars with 150 tons of cargo, will be bigger and sport a much sturdier skin needed to withstand the journey out of Earth’s atmosphere. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship remains the company’s most ambitious project. Down the road, it’s hoped that the Starship will replace all of the company’s current rocketry, including its reusable Falcon 9.

Because of its experimental and limited nature, the SpaceX team could get a little more creative with the design. Reflecting on the design on Twitter (where else?), Musk commented that it “must be more pointy.”

Popular Mechanics

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA’s future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.

The probe has made a 3-D map of the Moon’s surface and has provided high resolution images of Apollo landing sites. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA’s Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, LRO was the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years. LRO and LCROSS were launched as part of the United States’s Vision for Space Exploration program.

Artist’s illustration of the LRO

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Tycho Central Peak

Far side of the Moon

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Near side of the Moon

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North Pole

 

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South Pole

 

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Earthrise over Compton Crater

 

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Apollo 11 landing site

 

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Apollo 17 landing site

 

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Douglas Rain, Voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dies at 90

Douglas Rain, voice of the computer HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, died on Sunday morning. He was 90 years old.

Born in Canada, Rain started on the stage and was known in both the Canadian and British theater communities for his roles in William Shakespeare’s classics like Othello and Twelfth Night. But Rain is best known in the sci-fi community as the voice of HAL—a cold, monotone voice that immediately evokes fear in anyone who hears it.

Even if you’ve never seen Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1967 movie, you know the famous exchange between the astronaut David Bowman and HAL. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL,” Dr. Bowman says. “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the HAL computer replies.

From NBC News:

Rain was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and trained at the Old Vic Theatre in London. In 1972, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Drama for his performance as William Cecil in “Vivat! Vivat Regina!” on Broadway.

In 1953, he became a member of the first repertory cast of the Stratford Festival and performed in 32 seasons with the company.

According to Vincent Lobrutto’s 1997 study “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography,” Rain was initially contracted to narrate “2001″ after Kubrick heard his narration of the short documentary “Universe,” which was released by the National Film Board of Canada in 1960.

“Today we lost Douglas Rain, a member of our founding company and a hugely esteemed presence on our stages for 32 seasons. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” the Stratford Festival in Ontario tweeted yesterday.

RIP Douglas Rain. You gave life to a character that will live on for generations to come; a character that served as a warning to those of us living in “the future.” Sadly, we didn’t listen. Or, if we did listen, we just didn’t care. Because HAL is now becoming real. The HAL of today just goes by a different name: Sometimes Siri, sometimes Alexa. And for those with a truly dark sense of humor, just HAL.

Chinese City May Get Fake Moon

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An aerospace executive in China has announced plans to launch a satellite which would serve as an artificial moon designed to illuminate a city at night. The unorthodox idea was reportedly revealed by Wu Chunfeng, who heads one of the main contractors for the Chinese space agency, at a conference last week. According to him, the faux moon will hover over the city of Chengdu emitting a “dusk-like glow” which would eliminate the need for street lights.

The illumination from the satellite, he said, will be adjustable and could cover an area of land ranging from five to fifty miles in diameter. While the idea may sound fanciful to some, Chungfeng appears to be quite serious about the endeavor, explaining that the concept has been tested extensively for the last few years and now looks to be almost fully feasible. With that in mind, the executive is eying a 2020 launch for the fake moon.

Lest one have concerns about how the illumination will impact wildlife in the area, an aerospace professor was quick to assure Chinese media that it will not be a problem thanks to its similarity in intensity to twilight. Be that as it may, whether the residents of Chengdu want another moon is another matter altogether. Alas, they probably won’t have much of a say in the decision, so hopefully they won’t mind living under the light of a fake moon.

NASA contest finalists show off their Mars habitat models

They’ll now have to build a one-third-scale version of their designs.

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Yes, we’ve yet to successfully send humans to Mars, but we already need to start thinking how we can stay there for long stretches of time — or even for good. NASA launched the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge back in 2015 to find a suitable artificial housing for the first wave of Martian residents, and now the agency has narrowed the contestants down to five after seeing the realistic virtual models they created. The agency and its project partner, Illinois’ Bradley University, judged 18 teams’ models created using a specialized software.

According to TechCrunch, the software requires various details about the structures creators are designing. In other words, the teams couldn’t just come up with a concept that looks good — they had to make sure their habitats’ wall thickness, heating, pressure sealing and other elements can actually withstand harsh Martian conditions.

The five teams split a $100,000 cash pot earmarked for this stage of the competition, with the two top teams taking home $20,957.95 each. One of the top teams, Zopherus from Arkansas, has envisioned a habitat built by moving 3D printers that can deploy rovers to retrieve local materials for construction.

AI. SpaceFactory of New York designed a cylindrical habitat for max space usage.

Team Kahn-Yates of Jackson, Mississippi, which got third place, features a design with translucent dots to let the light in. It was also created to withstand Mars’ massive dust storms.

SEArch+/Apis Cor from New York prioritized creating a habitat that lets the light in but can provide strong radiation shielding.

Finally, Team Northwestern University from Illinois has conjured up a design that features a spherical shell with an outer parabolic dome. They also want to make building one as easy as possible by using an inflatable vessel as base for a 3D printer, so it can quickly print out a dome with cross beams.

The five teams now have to prove their ideas are feasible by 3D printing — autonomously, that is — part of their structures and to create a one-third-scale version of their design. Monsi Roman, NASA’s Centennial Challenges program manager, said: “We are thrilled to see the success of this diverse group of teams that have approached this competition in their own unique styles. They are not just designing structures, they are designing habitats that will allow our space explorers to live and work on other planets.”

Engadget.com