Space.com: NASA, Space Ex United States of America
Get the latest space exploration, innovation and astronomy news. Space.com celebrates humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier.
Fly around SpaceX's Crew-2 rocket at the launch pad with this drone video - Space.com
Here's a bird's-eye view of the Falcon 9 at Pad 39A.
SpaceX's next astronaut launch for NASA is just a day away from liftoff and you can catch a close-up look at the mission's rocket on the launch pad in a new drone video. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station on the Crew-2 mission Friday (April 23). Liftoff is set for 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) from the historic Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida With dark clouds and a yellow sky adding some dramatic lighting, the new drone video pans slowly around Pad 39A showing SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and its Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. The big structure looming beside the rocket is the gantry tower for electrical and consumable connections; the tower also allows the four Crew-2 astronauts to access the spacecraft just prior to launch. Related: SpaceX is launching 200 experiments to space on Crew-2 flightLive updates: SpaceX's Crew-2 astronaut mission for NASA The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon Endeavour stands atop Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 18, 2021. It will launch the Crew-2 astronauts to the International Space Station on April 23. (Image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) The Crew-2 team includes NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet and the Japanese Aerospace Agency's Akihiko Hoshide, who have all been to space before in various space shuttle and International Space Station missions. Their mission was originally scheduled to launch on Thursday (April 22), but was delayed one day due to weather concerns. The mission represents SpaceX's third commercial crew ferry after Demo-2 – which sent two astronauts to space during a test flight in August 2020, the first such flight from American soil in almost a decade – and Crew-1, the first operational Crew Dragon mission that launched four people in November. "It's awesome to be here at Kennedy Space Center," Kimbrough, the Crew-2 mission commander said to the media on the same day as the launch dress rehearsal Sunday (April 18). "We've had some training already this morning, yesterday we got to go out to the pad to see the rocket and our spacecraft, which is really exciting for us." SpaceX is busy figuring out its flight manifest with NASA, with Crew-3 expected to lift off around Oct. 23, and Crew-4 slated for 2022. Boeing's Starliner is not yet authorized to carry astronauts to space for commercial crew, having failed to reach the ISS as planned during an uncrewed test in 2019. Related: SpaceX's Crew-2 astronaut mission in photos Boeing — which has been facing technical and weather delays in trying again — is waiting for an ISS docking slot to open up for a second uncrewed test. The next flight will likely be August or September, Boeing said Saturday (April 17), although the company added it will "evaluate options if an earlier launch opportunity becomes available." This situation means Starliner may not fly people until at least 2022. NASA has been acquiring a few seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts in the meantime, to meet its crew manifest requirements in space. Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
NASA's Perseverance rover makes oxygen on Mars for 1st time - Space.com
MOXIE's work could help Mars astronauts live off the land someday.
NASA's Perseverance rover just notched another first on Mars, one that may help pave the way for astronauts to explore the Red Planet someday. The rover successfully used its MOXIE instrument to generate oxygen from the thin, carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere for the first time, demonstrating technology that could both help astronauts breathe and help propel the rockets that get them back home to Earth. The MOXIE milestone occurred on Tuesday (April 20), just one day after Perseverance watched over another epic Martian first — the first Mars flight of NASA's Ingenuity helicopter , which rode to the Red Planeton the rover's belly. "This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars," Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement today (April 21). "MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars." In photos: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission to the Red Planet Making Mars oxygen The toaster-sized MOXIE (short for "Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment") produces oxygen from carbon dioxide, expelling carbon monoxide as a waste product. The conversion process occurs at temperatures around 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius), so MOXIE is made of heat-tolerant materials and features a thin gold coating to keep potentially damaging heat from radiating outward into Perseverance's body. The MOXIE team warmed the instrument up for two hours yesterday, then had it crank out oxygen for an hour. MOXIE produced 5.4 grams of oxygen during that span, about enough to keep an astronaut breathing easily for 10 minutes, NASA officials said. That first effort didn't max MOXIE out; it can generate about 10 grams of oxygen per hour. The instrument may reach such levels eventually, for the team plans to conduct about nine more runs over the course of one Mars year (about 687 Earth days). These trials will be grouped into three phases, NASA officials said. The first phase is checking out and characterizing the instrument, and the second will assess MOXIE's performance in varying atmospheric conditions. During the third and final phase, "well push the envelope," MOXIE principal investigator Michael Hecht said in the same statement. Pushing the envelope will likely involve testing new operating modes or adding "new wrinkles, such as a run where we compare operations at three or more different temperatures," added Hecht, who's based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Haystack Observatory. Engineers lowered the MOXIE instrument into the Mars Perseverance rover in March 2019. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) MOXIE and humanity's future on Mars MOXIE itself cannot produce enough oxygen to make a difference for future exploration efforts. For example, launching four astronauts off the Martian surface would likely require about 15,000 lbs. (7,000 kilograms) of rocket fuel and 55,000 lbs. (25,000 kg) of oxygen, NASA officials said. (Rocket propellant consists of fuel and an oxidizer that helps it burn.) But much larger MOXIE successors could potentially be great exploration enablers, allowing Mars astronauts to "live off the land " rather than depend on costly and infrequent resupply from Earth, agency officials have said. Perseverance touched down inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, tasked with hunting for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting samples for future return to Earth. The rover will be able to focus fully on those core jobs in about two weeks, when Ingenuity's month-long flight window comes to an end. And MOXIE will continue to do its thing in the background, pumping little puffs of carbon monoxide into the dusty Mars air every now and again to animate the six-wheeled robot's considerable labors. Mike Wall is the author of "Out There " (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
The Lyrid meteor shower of 2021 peaks tonight! Here's how to see it. - Space.com
One of springtime's most prominent "shooting star" groups peaks overnight tonight (April 21-22). The famous Lyrid meteor shower will become visible in the Northern Hemisphere beginning at about 10:30 p.m. local time and continuing overnight, weather permitting in your area of course. The best visibility will likely be before dawn, after the waxing gibbous moon sets; otherwise, you may have some interference from moonlight. The individual meteors, or tiny space rocks, of the Lyrids appear when the Earth, moving in its orbit around the sun, plows into the dusty trail of a long-departed comet, called Thatcher, that swings by Earth every 415 years (the last time being in 1861, exactly 160 years ago). Related: Lyrid meteor shower 2021: When, where & how to see it The radiant, or point that the shooting stars appear to emanate from, is in the Lyra constellation high above the horizon. You can find your way to Lyra by looking for Vega, one of the brightest stars of the northern sky. But make sure to look slightly away from Lyra, because the meteors with the longest trails will appear well outside of the constellation. You don't need telescopes or binoculars to view a meteor shower; your eyes will do. Dress warmly (April is still very chilly in many U.S. regions) and get outside about 20 minutes before you plan to begin your observations, to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. Move away from any outdoor lights that you can and if possible, use a lounge chair to avoid neck pain while looking at the sky. Technically the Lyrids continue until April 30, but NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com that you should see the most meteors Wednesday into Thursday morning (April 21 to April 22). "Get up early before dawn, after the moon has set. You have a pretty good chance of seeing some Lyrids this year," Cooke said. That said, NASA warns that the window of ideal viewing time Thursday is very short — probably only about half an hour before the sky brightens just before 5 a.m. local. Cooke predicted skywatchers will see roughly 18 meteors an hour — depending on how dark your sky is, so get away from light pollution where you can (and if it's safe to do so, given that many regions of the world are under pandemic quarantines right now.) Related: How to see the best meteor showers of 2021 This year's predicted quantity of visible meteors is well within the usual range of 15 to 20 meteors an hour. At times, Lyrid meteor showers can produce bursts of up to 100 meteors an hour, but Cooke said the forecast for this year is very unlikely in that regard. Past prominent meteor showers were in 1803, 1922 (96 per hour) and in 1982 (80 per hour); 1803's event was particularly spectacular as the townspeople of Richmond, Virginia left their beds to see a shower that appeared to come from all parts of the sky. Any meteors you can see this year will likely stand out. Skywatching columnist Joe Rao says the meteors are bright and swift, moving through the atmosphere at average speeds of 30 miles (48 kilometers) per second. Roughly a quarter of the individual meteors will leave big trains across the sky, perhaps as many as five to 10 such meteors during a night of excellent conditions around the peak shower date. Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
NASA, SpaceX declare Crew-2 astronaut mission 'go' for Thursday launch - Space.com
Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, April 22.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. NASA has given SpaceX the official go-ahead for the launch of its next crew mission to the International Space Station. That mission, called Crew-2, will blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:11 a.m. EST (1011 GMT) on Thursday morning (April 22) from NASA's historic Pad 39A and Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the second flight of this particular Crew Dragon. The capsule, named "Endeavour," first carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the space station last year for the Demo-2 test flight. It will also be the second flight for the first stage booster, which previously ferried the Crew-1 astronauts to the space station on Nov. 18, 2020. Strapped inside the Dragon will be four veteran crewmembers: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Video: See the SpaceX Crew-2 rocket on the pad in awesome drone videoRelated: SpaceX's Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station in photos From left to right, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Crew-2 mission launch, on April 18, 2021, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA) SpaceX's Crew Dragon marks the third different space vehicle for both Hoshide and Kimbrough, as the duo followed in the footsteps of Crew-1 astronaut Soichi Noguchi of JAXA. (Noguchi became the first astronaut to fly in three different spacecraft the space shuttle, the Soyuz, and now the Crew Dragon when he launched in November 2020.) Last week, NASA and SpaceX met for a flight readiness review to go over the spacecraft and launch vehicle to ensure both were certified and ready to fly later this week. The teams went through their checklists and only left one minor issue to work through prior to liftoff. One of those issues was concerning how much liquid oxygen is loaded onto the launch vehicle. Falcon 9 relies on two components to fuel its trips to space: rocket-grade liquid kerosene and liquid oxygen. A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are prepared for the launch of the Crew-2 mission, on launchpad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 19, 2021. (Image credit: Stéphane Corvaja/ESA) According to Bill Gerstenmaier, current vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX (and former head of human spaceflight at NASA), said in a news conference last Thursday (April 15) that the teams detected a small discrepancy in the amount of liquid oxygen loaded into the launcher compared to the amount SpaceX had expected. On Tuesday (April 20), Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight at SpaceX, said that the liquid oxygen issue had been resolved and that Falcon and Dragon passed two big tests over the weekend: a static fire test and a dress rehearsal with the crew. Both exercises were executed flawlessly and the mission received the green light to proceed with Thursday's early morning liftoff. "It's a very exciting time, and we're looking forward to a successful mission," Reed said during a prelaunch news conference on Tuesday (April 20). Forecasters at the 45th Space Wing's Weather Squadron are calling for an 80% favorable chance of liftoff in the predawn hours on Thursday. The only cause for concern at the launch site are liftoff winds. It's been very rainy here on the space coast in the days leading up to launch, but fortunately a high pressure system will be moving in on Wednesday, and that should clear out the storms, weather officer Brian Cisek said in Tuesday's news conference. The team at the 45th Space Wing monitors a set of 10 weather constraints on launch day, plus any additional constraints set by the specific launch provider. These include electric field rules, thick cloud rules, and the potential for cumulus clouds, to name a few. But SpaceX also has its own set of constraints that deal with how much precipitation the rocket can fly through and things like upper-level winds. But that's not all. SpaceX also has to monitor ocean conditions at the landing zone to make sure that the booster can safely land on the drone ship. If that wasn't complex enough, because there are astronauts on board this Dragon, NASA has its own conditions that take into consideration the weather at various abort points throughout Dragon's climb to orbit. In photos: SpaceX's amazing Crew Dragon in-flight abort test launch A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are seen at sunset on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Crew-2 mission, on April 19, 2021, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA) Crew Dragon is outfitted with a launch escape system that will push the spacecraft to safety in the unlikely event that something goes really wrong with the rocket as it's climbing toward space. All of these factors together make up the launch weather constraints for this and other commercial crew missions. If all goes as planned, and the weather continues to look good, then we can look for a predawn liftoff on Thursday morning. Cisek says there is a backup opportunity on Friday morning and the weather looks equally as promising for it. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on [email protected] orFacebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
SpaceX test-fires rocket ahead of Crew-2 astronaut launch for NASA - Space.com
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceXhas fired up the rocket that will ferry its next crew of astronauts to the International Space Station next week. The private spaceflight company conducted a static-fire test on Saturday (April 22) of its Falcon 9 rocket at Pad 39A here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The test is one of the last major milestones ahead of a planned launch on Thursday (April 22). The routine preflight test kicked off the countdown to the highly-anticipated flight of the company's second operational mission of its Dragon crew capsule, called Crew-2. The spacecraft is bound for the International Space Station, carrying with it two NASA astronauts and one astronaut each from the Japanese and European space agencies. The test occurred as expected in the predawn hours on Saturday. Smoke and fire billowed briefly as the rocket's nine Merlin 1D engines were lit. The brief ignition, known as a static-fire test, is a standard part of prelaunch procedures and one of the last major milestones before liftoff. Live updates: SpaceX's Crew-2 astronaut mission for NASARelated: SpaceX's Crew-2 astronauts arrive at launch site During the test, the Falcon 9 is held down on the pad while its nine first-stage engines are briefly fired. This allows crews to ensure that all systems are working properly and that the rocket is ready to fly. Shortly after the test, SpaceX tweeted that the static-fire test was a success and that the company planned to launch on Thursday at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT). The flight marks SpaceX's 11th mission of the year and the 2nd long-duration mission to launch from Florida. The rocket's first stage is expected to land on one of SpaceX's drone ships, "Of Course I Still Love You". Following a successful liftoff, the crew capsule will spend just under 24 hours trailing the space station before arriving at the orbital outpost early Friday (April 23). In a shift from the company's previous two crewed missions, both the Dragon capsule and its launcher have flown before. Following the success of the Demo-2 mission, which launched two NASA astronauts to the space station in May 2020, NASA gave SpaceX permission to reuse both the crew capsule and the rocket on future missions. For this mission, the first stage is the same one that delivered the Crew-1 astronauts to space in November, and the Dragon capsule is the same one that Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew on last year. Its name is Endeavour. In photos: SpaceX's Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station With the Dragon capsule perched atop the rocket, the duo rolled out of the hangar and onto the launch pad at complex 39A on Friday morning (April 16). Standing 256.3 feet (78.1 meters) tall, the pair were lifted upright later that afternoon. Secured to the launch pad, teams were up early Saturday morning, loading the rocket with super-chilled propellants kerosene and liquid oxygen and then briefly ignited the first stage's nine Merlin 1D engines. The engines briefly fired at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT), generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust while the booster remained firmly on the ground. Engineers reviewed the data before confirming they would proceed with the Falcon 9's planned launch attempt Thursday morning. "Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete targeting Thursday, April 22 at 6:11 a.m. EDT for launch of Dragon’s second operational mission to the @space_station," SpaceX wrote of the test on Twitter . The static fire test comes on the heels of a flight readiness review. On Thursday evening (April 15), NASA gave SpaceX the green light to proceed with launch preparations, with one exception. During the preflight inspections, engineers noticed that more liquid oxygen was being loaded into the Falcon 9 than expected a discrepancy that has been occurring without incident throughout the vehicle's flight history. "There's one item we still need to do a little more work on," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's former head of Human Spaceflight, and SpaceX's current vice president of build and flight reliability said Thursday during a media briefing . "In Texas, we discovered there was a potential loading error, where we actually may be adding a little extra oxygen in our tank than normal. We've been doing that throughout our flight history." With a successful static fire test now under SpaceX's belt, teams have likely cleared the issue and the rocket is ready to fly. A final launch readiness review is planned for Tuesday (April 20) to discuss any remaining unresolved issues before the launch. Following a successful liftoff on Thursday morning, SpaceX plans to land its first-stage booster on a floating platform at sea. If successful, it would mark the company's 80th booster recovery. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on [email protected] orFacebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
As NASA troubleshoots its Mars helicopter, Perseverance rover keeps busy - Space.com
There's never a boring day for a Mars rover!
The Ingenuity helicopter's first flight on Mars has been delayed, but NASA's Red Planet teams are staying busy with the larger Perseverance mission. The car-sized Perseverance rover has an ambitious agenda during its two-year primary mission to seek out potentially ancient habitable environments and pick up the most promising samples for a future mission to carry back to Earth in 2031. So while Perseverance is sticking close to Ingenuity to pick up footage from the drone's eventual flight, the rover has been far from idle. Dispatches from the official account on Twitter show it's staying in place after having driven 0.17 miles (270 meters) from its Feb. 18 touchdown site to the airfield overlook selected by the mission team. To keep busy during the delay, Percy is studying the rocks at its feet. Related: How to watch the Mars helicopter Ingenuity's first flight online "I'm getting ready to do some local science at the #MarsHelicopter lookout point, while we await the first flight. I've been imaging some of the local rocks," the account tweeted on Wednesday. You can view the most recently downloaded images at this NASA website , which indeed shows quite a few pictures of nearby rocks along with long-range views of the Ingenuity helicopter. Meanwhile, the Ingenuity team is busy troubleshooting a high-speed rotor-spinning test that didn't produce the expected results on Friday (April 9). The anomaly pushed back the first flight date , which was supposed to be Sunday (April 11). Ingenuity must fly on its own due to the distance between Earth and Mars; effectively, this means nobody can "joystick" the drone, so the Ingenuity team wants to proceed carefully before authorizing the helidrone to fly. The team spent last weekend looking for a solution and found "that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity's flight control software is the most robust path forward," officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, which manages the technology demonstration mission, wrote in an update Monday . JPL hasn't set a new flight date yet, and noted that it will take some time to beam up the software modifications and to validate them. The team has 30 Martian sols (or 31 Earth days) to get Ingenuity off the ground at least once before the rover is scheduled to move on. Since Ingenuity remains healthy, JPL officials added they are confident the helicopter will fly before its window closes. Perseverance, Ingenuity and the mission are all working through the first crucial 100 days where JPL tries to make the most of the enthusiasm and adrenaline that accompanies a new landing on Mars. The controllers are temporarily working on "Mars time" and moving their schedules forward by about 40 minutes a day so that they are awake at the same time as the rover and helicopter. The helicopter's mission to fly on Mars could, if successful, herald a new generation of flying explorers that could scout ahead of rovers and humans to look for travel routes or to examine dangerous terrain inaccessible from ground vehicles. Ingenuity could make as many as five flights on Mars, with the last one (if it ever happens) expected to fly into uncharted terrain in Jezero Crater. Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]