Tag: space

Who Is SpaceX’s Mystery Moon Passenger?

The moon is essentially grey, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand.

This was how Jim Lovell described the lunar surface in 1968 from his perch about 60 miles above the moon.

Lovell and his fellow NASA astronauts never touched down, but they returned to Earth with memories of what was, at the time, the closest view a human being had ever experienced of the planet’s rocky companion.

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 mission, SpaceX wants to give someone that view again.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company announced Thursday that it will send a private passenger to fly around the moon on its next launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. The voyage is “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said on Twitter.

SpaceX did not give a potential launch date or other details, but those may come Monday night, when the company said it would reveal the identity of the passenger.

This gives us a full weekend to speculate, and speculate we will. Because this trip, if it indeed moves forward—SpaceX previously announced and scrapped a similar plan—would make history.

And not because the voyage would be developed, funded, and operated by a commercial company, rather than NASA, but because the passenger is probably unlike anyone who has made the journey before.

Only 24 people have been to the moon. They were all American, male, and white.

So, who could this mystery moon traveler be?




In February of last year, SpaceX announced it would send two paying customers on a trip around the moon aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in 2018.

The plan never materialized, likely because Musk eventually decided not to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight and focused on the development of the BFR instead.

The identities of these private citizens were never revealed, though Musk did say that “it’s nobody from Hollywood.” The passenger SpaceX plans to fly on the BFR may be one of them.

The passenger doesn’t have to be a U.S. citizen.

SpaceX will someday fly Americans, yes, but these will be the astronauts that NASA has chosen to test the company’s crew transportation system, which the space agency wants to use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Unlike that project, the BFR is not affiliated with or funded by NASA. After the announcement Thursday, when a Twitter user mused whether the lucky passenger may be Musk himself, Musk responded with the emoji for the Japanese flag, prompting some to throw out names of wealthy Japanese individuals with an interest in tech.

Russia, China, and India have all said they hope to put their astronauts on the moon, with India aiming to do so as early as 2022. SpaceX may beat them, and give another country the historic first.

Perhaps the voyage will record another first, for women. The Soviet Union sent the first woman to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Twenty years later, the United States sent Sally Ride.

As of March of this year, 60 women from nine countries have gone to space, and several of them have made multiple trips, according to NASA. But none have been to the moon.

If this concept becomes reality, the mystery passenger—and the flight engineers picked to accompany them—will have plenty of leg room.

Their experience will be very unlike that of Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts, who were packed like spacefaring sardines in the lunar module.

The view, however, will be the same. The window will fill up with the slate gray of the moon, with the texture of the ridges and craters of its surface.

And then, as the spaceship circles the moon, the Earth will slink into view from behind it. “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” exclaimed one of the NASA astronauts 60 years ago when he snapped a photograph of that view, the now iconic “Earthrise” shot.

Whomever the mystery SpaceX passenger is, let’s hope they don’t forget to pack a camera.

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Watch SpaceX Announce Its First Passenger To The Moon

Tonight will be a big night for space tourism.

SpaceX, the private spaceflight company spearheaded by Elon Musk, will reveal the identity of the mystery passenger who booked a trip around the moon on the company’s massive BFR rocket.

The announcement is being broadcast from the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, but you can watch the highly anticipated event live, courtesy of SpaceX.

The event—which kicks off at 9 pm EDT and is expected to last an hour—will feature Musk unveiling not only the name of the first BFR (aka the Big Falcon Rocket) passenger, but the person’s reasons for going.

The big reveal comes a few days after SpaceX’s initial surprise tweet announcement last Thursday that it signed its first passenger to fly around the moon on the company’s next-generation rocket, the BFR.

Leading up to today, Musk has stoked speculation by dropped tantalizing previews of the BFR’s new rocket design as well as subtle clues to the mystery passenger’s identity on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement, Musk tweeted a Japanese flag emoji, which could be a hint as to the nationality of the BFR passenger.

It’s probably safe to assume that the mystery person is extremely wealthy.




With Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic preparing to take tourists to suborbital space for a couple hundred thousand dollars a ticket, and trips to the International Space Station carrying a hefty price tag of $35 million (or more) for space tourists, SpaceX’s moon shot will likely be significantly higher.

This customer will be the first private astronaut to go to the moon, assuming no one beats SpaceX to it in the meantime.

Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972,” SpaceX tweeted following its initial announcement.

The company has dubbed this flight the “BFR Lunar Mission.” But it’s not the first time that SpaceX has announced it would be ferrying tourists to lunar space.

In 2017, Musk said that the company would take not one, but two astronauts on a trip around the moon. Those two people, however, would be riding on the Falcon Heavy, not the BFR.

Scant details emerged about those individuals or their proposed flight. Musk revealed only that they had both put down a “significant deposit” for the trip.

But during the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight last February, Musk admitted that the Falcon Heavy moon trip was not going to happen; instead the company would focus on putting people on the BFR.

Musk did confirm that the design of the BFR has changed slightly since it was first announced in 2016.

Last night, he tweeted new images showing a few changes to the vehicle’s design, which included three huge fins, seven engines, and a black heat shield, mounted on the underside of the spacecraft.

Musk also indicated that there will be a deployable “forward moving wing” near its nose.

It’s unclear whether this new customer is one of the two passengers who planned to fly on the Falcon Heavy. We also don’t know any specific details about the mission other than the destination.

Will this person be alone, or will they be accompanied by official astronauts? If this person is one of the passengers who signed up to fly on the Falcon Heavy, what happened to the other one?

If this person is a third individual entirely, does that make two purported customers who are now unaccounted for? And the money question that we’re all asking: how much is this ride going to cost?

One thing, at least, is clear: The BFR is far from ready to send a passenger around the moon. SpaceX recently leased property near the Port of Los Angeles to build the massive new rocket. Exactly when that will happen remains to be seen.

We’ll be looking for answers to these questions and more during tonight’s event. Check back in at 9pm ET / 6pm PT to watch the livestream with us.

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Over The Past Nineteen Years, This Man Has Dedicated His Work To The Study Of Our Solar System

Dr. Franck Marchis is a senior planetary astronomer and chair of the exoplanet group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer and Founder at Unistellar.

He began full-time work at the Institute in June 2011 after leaving a joint position with Institute and the department of astronomy at University of California, Berkeley.

Marchis moved to the United States in October 2000 shortly after getting a Ph.D. from the University of Toulouse in France that he acquired while traveling around the world for his research and for the sake of exploration.

Over the past nineteen years, he has dedicated his work to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics (AO).

More recently he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes.

He has also developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of astronomical and biological images.




He is currently the collaboration manager of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging and characterizing Jupiter-like exoplanets using an extreme AO system designed for the Gemini South telescope.

Today, Marchis dedicates most of his energy to instruments capable of imaging and characterizing Earth-like exoplanets by being involved in education, public outreach, technology, and scientific investigations related to those ambitious projects both in the United States and in Europe.

Marchis is also involved in startups related to astronomy so he joined Unistellar as a Chief Scientific Officer and VR2Planets as a scientific advisor in 2017.

Marchis is a member of numerous science committees including the SETI Science council, the GPI steering Committee, the TMT Science Definition Team, PLOS One editor board, the Project Blue and the PLANETS Foundation Advisory board.

He has co-authored more than 380 scientific publications, trained numerous students, and served as a science consultant and interviewee for numerous documentaries and movies in English, French, and Spanish.

The asteroid (6639) was named Marchis in honor of his discovery of the first triple-asteroid system in 2007. He has been an affiliated Astronomer at Observatoire de Paris since 2003.

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Legacy Of NASA’s Dawn, Near The End Of Its Mission

 

An ion propulsion system.

After 11 years of gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering, Dawn – NASA’s space probe for the asteroid belt – is drawing to a close due to lack of a key fuel, the US space agency said.

Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 2007, Dawn was majorly tasked to study two of the three known protoplanets of the asteroid belt Vesta and Ceres, which when combined, make up 45 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt.

The spacecraft is likely to run out of a fuel known as hydrazine, which keeps it oriented and in communication with Earth – between September and October.

When that happens, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth, but will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades, NASA said in a statement late on Thursday.

Not only did this spacecraft unlock scientific secrets at these two small but significant worlds, it was also the first spacecraft to visit and orbit bodies at two extraterrestrial destinations during its mission,” Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at Headquarters in Washington, said.




From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft swept over Vesta, capturing images of craters, canyons and even mountains of this planet-like world.

Then in 2015, Dawn’s cameras spotted a cryovolcano and mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which scientists later found might be salt deposits produced by the exposure of briny liquid from Ceres’ interior.

Dawn has shown us alien worlds that, for two centuries, were just pinpoints of light amidst the stars. And it has produced these richly detailed, intimate portraits and revealed exotic, mysterious landscapes unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California.

It has continued to gather high-resolution images, gamma ray and neutron spectra, infrared spectra and gravity data at Ceres.

Nearly once a day, Dawn will swoop over Ceres about 35 kilometers from its surface – only about three times the altitude of a passenger jet – gathering valuable data until it expends the last of the hydrazine that feeds thrusters controlling its orientation.

Engineers have designed Dawn’s final orbit – around Ceres, which has no atmosphere – to ensure it will not crash for at least 20 years, and likely decades longer, NASA said.

According to Rayman, Dawn’s is “an inert, celestial monument to human creativity and ingenuity.

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Saturn’s Northern Pole Is Home To A Six-Sided Feature That Mystifies Scientists

This stunning new image reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings. Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands.

At first glance, it looks like a serene planet.

However, stunning new images reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings.

In reality, the planet’s atmosphere is an ever-changing scene of high-speed winds and evolving weather patterns, punctuated by occasional large storms, Nasa says.

The latest image shows Saturn’s north polar region’s bands and swirls, which Nasa says somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting.

Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands.

Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands’ interactions produce many eddies and swirls.

The northern polar region of Saturn is dominated by the famous hexagon shape which itself circumscribes the northern polar vortex – seen as a dark spot at the planet’s pole in the above image – which is understood to the be eye of a hurricane-like storm.




Such collisions play a key role in the rings’ numerous waves and wakes, which are the manifestation of the subtle influence of Saturn’s moons and, indeed, the planet itself.

The long duration of the Cassini mission has allowed scientists to study how the atmosphere and rings of Saturn change over time, providing much-needed insights into this active planetary system.

It has long baffled astronomers, and now the strange hexagon at Saturn’s north pole has a new mystery.

The mysterious six-sided hexagon on Saturn’s North Pole has long captivated astronomer, and is thought to be nearly 20,000 miles (32,190 km) wide.

The hexagon is made of a band of upper-atmospheric winds which creates its shape.

A polar cyclone can be seen at its centre.

Recent natural colour images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the changing appearance of Saturn’s north polar region between 2012 and 2016.

It shows a clear change from blue to gold – and nobody knows why.

The stunning image reveals the massive hexagonal storm at Saturn’s North Pole, and its gigantic rings. The rings, consist of countless icy particles, which are continually colliding.

Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in color of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn.

The colour change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s seasons.

In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017,” Nasa said.

Researchers think the hexagon, which is a six-sided jetstream, might act as a barrier that prevents haze particles produced outside it from entering.

During the seven-year-long Saturnian winter, the polar atmosphere became clear of aerosols produced by photochemical reactions – reactions involving sunlight and the atmosphere.

This helps to explain why the hexagon is not influenced by seasonal changes, said the researchers.

It is hoped that by studying the movement of the hexagon it may be possible to understand more about the winds that are hidden beneath the stormy clouds in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.

Speaking to Space.com, Professor Morales-Juberías said: “With a very simple model, we have been able to match many of the observed properties of the hexagon.

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Jupiter’s Magnetic Field Has Weird Structure

Jupiter as seen from the Juno spacecraft.

Jupiter has the strongest magnetic field of any of the planets in the solar system. Like the field that shelters Earth, it’s essentially dipolar, which means it has a north pole and a south pole, like the field created by a bar magnetic.

A really, really big bar magnetic.

Earth’s magnetic field is produced by churning liquid iron in the planet’s outer core. Iron conducts electricity, and a changing electrical current creates a magnetic field.

So as the liquid iron cycles up and down, carrying heat from the planet’s center up to the mantle and then sinking again, it creates powerful electrical currents that in turn produce the planet’s global field.

But Jupiter doesn’t have an iron core. In fact, it’s unclear if it has a core at all — Juno’s observations suggest the core might be “fuzzy,” a concentration of rock and ice that has dissolved (or is still dissolving) into the surrounding hydrogen.

Instead, the source of the global field is the overlying mantle of metallic hydrogen, where hydrogen molecules trade electrons, creating currents. The planet’s rotation organizes the resulting magnetic field into a dipole.

Or, at least it kind of does. Reporting in the September 6th Nature, Kimberly Moore (Harvard) and colleagues have discovered a strange plume of magnetic field shooting up from a region in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere and reentering the planet at its equator.

And it’s three times stronger than the main dipole field.




Detecting the Invisible

As it flies around Jupiter, the Juno spacecraft measures the planet’s magnetic field using two instruments called fluxgate magnetometers.

At each magnetometer’s core lie two rings, made of a material that soaks up magnetic field. Think of it like a magnetic sponge. Like a sponge, the material can only hold so much before it saturates.

The scientists can magnetically “fill up” the rings by running current through wires coiled around them, first one direction, then the other, explains John Connerney (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), who heads up Juno’s magnetometer investigations and is a coauthor on the new study.

But if there’s another magnetic field in the environment, the rings will soak it up, too.

That will reduce how much of the applied field the rings can absorb from the wires in one direction, but increase the amount absorbed from current flowing the other direction.

When the magnetometer cancels out this imbalance using another wire-wound structure around each of the rings, the instrument measures how strong the environmental field is based on how much current it takes to push the field in the rings back to zero.

The coils’ orientations give the external field’s direction. But the magnetometer only detects the magnetic field the spacecraft is flying through.

The researchers have to extrapolate from those measurements, using detailed calculations to map the field at the planet’s cloudtops and below.

Combining data from eight of Juno’s flybys, the scientists confirmed the existence of the bizarre magnetic feature, hints of which had shown up in an analysis last year from Juno’s first orbit.

The structure looks like a ponytail shooting out from the planet’s forehead and reentering through the nose, at a location the team is calling the Great Blue Spot (for its color in a map of the planet’s field).

There’s nothing like this ponytail in the southern hemisphere. Why does this magnetic ponytail exist? Scientists don’t know.

The team considers several ideas in their paper, the most likely being that there’s some sort of layering in the metallic hydrogen mantle that’s messing with the convection pattern.

Layering could naturally arise with a dissolving core: Rock and ice mixed in with hydrogen would raise the density, and if that mixing isn’t uniform, it could create layers of different density that could destabilize the cyclic convection patterns or spur different convection patterns in distinct layers.

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Voyager Spacecraft Sail On, 41 Years After Launch

Science is primary object of Voyager mission. A science boom deploys in one direction, a magnetometer boom in another; 12-foot parabolic antenna rests on 10-sided basic bus. Nuclear generator will provide power.

Nearly 41 years after lifting off, NASA’s historic Voyager mission is still exploring the cosmos.

The twin spacecraft launched several weeks apart in 1977 — Voyager 2 last Aug. 20 and Voyager 1 last Sept. 5 — with an initial goal to explore the outer solar system.

Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter and Saturn, while its twin took advantage of an unusual planetary alignment to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

And then the spacecraft kept on flying, for billions and billions of miles. Both remain active today, beaming data home from previously unexplored realms.

Indeed, in August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object ever to reach interstellar space.

The mission’s legacy reached into film, art and music with the inclusion of a “Golden Record” of Earth messages, sounds and pictures designed to give any prospective alien who encountered it an idea of what humanity and our home planet are like.

This time capsule is expected to last billions of years.

The spacecraft are now flying through space far away from any planet or star; their next close encounter with a cosmic object isn’t expected to occur for 40,000 years.




Their observations, however, are giving scientists more insight into where the sun’s influence diminishes in our solar system, and where interstellar space begins.

Voyager 1 is nearly 13 billion miles (21 billion kilometers) from Earth and has spent five years in interstellar space.

This zone is not completely empty; it contains material left over from stars that exploded as supernovas millions of years ago.

The “interstellar medium” (as the space in this region is called) is not a threat to Voyager 1. Rather, it’s an interesting environment that the spacecraft is studying.

Voyager 2 is nearly 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth and will likely enter interstellar space in a few years, NASA officials have said.

Uranus’ icy moon Miranda is seen in this image captured by Voyager 2 on Jan. 24, 1986.

Its observations from the edge of the solar system help scientists make comparisons between interstellar space and the heliosphere.

When Voyager 2 crosses the boundary, the two spacecraft can sample the interstellar medium from two different locations at the same time.

Mission designers made the spacecraft robust to make sure they could survive the harsh radiation environment at Jupiter.

This included so-called redundant systems — meaning the spacecraft can switch to backup systems if needed — and power supplies that have lasted well beyond the spacecraft’s primary mission.

Each of the spacecraft is powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which convert the heat produced by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity.

An artist’s rendering of a Voyager spacecraft flying past Jupiter, Saturn, and their respective moons

The power available to each Voyager, however, decreases by about 4 watts per year.

This requires engineers to dig into 1970s documentation (or to speak with former Voyager personnel) to operate the spacecraft as its power diminishes.

Even with an eye to efficiency, the last science instrument will have to be shut off around 2030, mission team members have said.

But even after that, the Voyagers will continue their journey (albeit without gathering data), flying at more than 30,000 mph (48,280 km/h) and orbiting the Milky Way every 225 million years.

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Gravitational Wave Detection Is Going Through An Even Tighter Squeeze

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover and from the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover has developed an advanced squeezed-light source for the gravitational-wave detector Virgo near Pisa.

Now, the Hannover scientists have delivered the setup, installed it, and handed it over to their Virgo colleagues.

Beginning in autumn 2018 Virgo will use the squeezed-light source to listen to Einstein’s gravitational waves together with the worldwide network of detectors with higher sensitivity than ever before.

The German-British gravitational-wave detector GEO600 near Hannover has been routinely using a squeezed-light source since 2010.

“It has increased the part of the Universe that GEO600 listens to by a factor of up to four,” says Prof. Karsten Danzmann, director at the AEI Hannover and director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover.

“The development and perfection of the cutting-edge technology is another successful chapter in the history of GEO600 as think thank of gravitational-wave research.”




Both US LIGO instruments and the Virgo detector based in Tuscany are currently being upgraded and improved in preparation of the next joint observation run “O3” which is planned to commence in autumn 2018.

O3 is expected to usher in full-scale gravitational-wave astronomy through a large number of further gravitational-wave detections from merging binary black holes and additional signals from merging neutron star pairs.

For this purpose, Virgo has now received a valuable addition from Hannover: A setup called a squeezed-light source is expected to significantly increase Virgo’s sensitivity from the beginning of O3.

The custom-made device is a permanent loan of the AEI to Virgo and is worth about 400,000 Euros.

The sensitivity of all interferometric gravitational-wave detectors (LIGO, Virgo, and GEO600) to the ripples of space-time from large cosmic events is fundamentally limited by quantum mechanical effects.

They cause a background noise which overlaps with the gravitational-wave signal that is measured with laser light.

The sensitivity of all interferometric gravitational-wave detectors can only be further increased in the future through the use of similar squeezed-light sources.

Planned third-generation detectors like the Einstein Telescope will also depend on this technology.

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Paper-Thin Spacecraft Could Take Out The Trash In Space

NASA has awarded Aerospace a grant to investigate the possibility of developing an extremely thin spacecraft that would wrap around debris and remove it from Earth’s orbit.

The innovative concept, called Brane Craft, is a 1-meter square spacecraft that is less than half the thickness of a human hair, and therefore exceptionally light, maneuverable, and fuel efficient.

The Brane Craft concept is based on the one-dimensional compression of a complete spacecraft and upper stage into an essentially two-dimensional object in order to maximize power-to-weight and aperture-to-weight ratios,” said Dr. Siegfried Janson, the lead investigator on this project.




If you have trouble wrapping your brane, er brain, around the concept, think of the spacecraft as a large piece of high-tech plastic wrap zipping through space and enveloping flying garbage.

The Brane Craft is one of 13 ideas that were picked for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which, according to NASA, “nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs — radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts.

NIAC provides $100,000 for nine months of research, with the possibility of another $500,000 for two more years if the results are promising.

Janson’s idea for the Brane Craft is definitely cutting-edge, and it could provide a solution to a difficult problem—how to get rid of all the orbital debris that could harm active spacecraft.

Janson had previously considered a concept called the Distributed Orbital Garbage Sweeper (DOGS).

DOGS would consist of many small satellites sent to “fetch” individual pieces of orbiting debris and bring them down to burn up in the atmosphere. The problem was the cost.

Sending conventional spacecraft, even CubeSats, to each of the thousands of 10-cm or larger debris objects for active deorbiting is prohibitively expensive,” Janson said.

Undaunted, Janson, who has worked in the field of small satellites for about 20 years, decided to go even smaller, at least in mass, with the Brane Craft.

To put the mass in perspective, a GPS IIF satellite weighs about 1500 kg, and a standard CubeSat is about 1 kg. The Brane Craft would only weigh about 50 grams.

The 30-micron-thick spacecraft would have a very high thrust-to-weight ratio, and would be capable of traveling long distances, which opens up other possibilities beyond just the removal of space debris.

Brane Craft prospectors could land on any near-Earth asteroid, Phobos, Deimos, a wide variety of main belt asteroids, or orbit Mars or Venus, and return,” Janson said.

Brane Craft could access just about any orbit within cis-lunar space [between Earth and the moon] several times, with propellant to spare.

It sounds great in theory, but obviously there are a number of engineering challenges associated with actually creating a flat spacecraft.

Janson has identified a number of current technologies that he believes could adapted for the Brane Craft, such as thin film solar cells and electrospray thrusters to propel the craft through space.

To allow the Brane Craft to change shape, he is considering electrostatic polymers that will contract like muscles when a voltage is applied. He’ll also be investigating thin film transistors, super flat cameras, and more.

This whole exercise is to see: can I get everything that I need for this spacecraft to fit on a thin sheet?” he said.

That’s what he will spend the next nine months researching. If successful, the Brane Craft project could provide a method of cleaning up the plethora of junk around the Earth, not to mention a really cool spacecraft with other potential uses.

According to NASA, “NIAC projects study innovative, technically credible, advanced concepts that could one day ‘change the possible’ in aerospace.”

The Brane Craft project aspires to do just that.

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How To Become A Full-Fledged Astronaut

Becoming an astronaut doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes many years of education and experience to meet the basic qualifications.

Many people aren’t accepted on the first try, either, requiring them to learn more to be better prepared for the next try.

Even then, only a small percentage of applicants become astronaut candidates, making it a hard job to get.

The fact that I applied to become an astronaut 15 times has not been lost on my friends, followers, or fans,” wrote retired astronaut Clay Anderson in his biography, “The Ordinary Spaceman,” as quoted in Popular Mechanics.

Jokes and snide remarks have hinged upon the ugly truth that on 14 of those 15 attempts I was a complete and abysmal failure. As a matter of fact, there’s a NASA public service announcement highlighting how it took me 15 tries. I like to cling to the reality that I can always say ‘better late than never,’ but at this point it’s all academic.

This article focuses on the selection process for NASA, which applies to American citizens.

While many of the qualifications can be generalized to astronaut programs in other countries, it’s important to note that each space agency has its own selection process.

Non-U.S. citizens in the following geographical areas should consult one of these agencies for more information on becoming an astronaut:

  • European Space Agency
  • Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency
  • Canadian Space Agency
  • Russian Federal Space Agency
  • China National Space Administration




The first step to being an astronaut is getting relevant experience in school. There are two main classes of astronaut applicants: military applicants and civilian applicants.

Military application procedures vary depending on the branch of the U.S. armed forces you are working for, since you apply through your respective branch. Civilians apply to NASA directly.

No matter the background, NASA wants its astronauts to have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics.

Many astronauts have a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. in their field. Some astronauts, such as Story Musgrave (now retired), have degrees even beyond that.

While education implies you’ll need some money to make astronaut selection possible, a Forbes article points out that several astronauts received assistance from the military or government programs to pick up qualifications.

It takes more than school to gain a foothold as an astronaut selection candidate, however.

NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidate class, with Robb Kulin in the center with the selfie stick.

NASA wants at least three years of “related, progressively responsible, professional experience” or (in a nod to military candidates) at least 1,000 hours of “pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.”

Advanced degrees are considered equivalent to this experience, however, with a master’s equaling one year of experience and a doctorate three years of experience.

A notable exception to these requirements are teachers, who still must have a technical bachelor’s degree but can qualify through the act of teaching — even for elementary school children.

NASA astronaut candidates must also pass a demanding physical. Among the requirements:

  • 20/20 vision (either naturally or with corrective lenses)
  • blood pressure not more than 140/90 in a sitting position
  • a height of between 62 and 75 inches

In general, you must be in extremely good shape to be an astronaut as it’s expensive to make an emergency return to Earth in case of medical emergency in orbit.

There also are interviews during the selection process to figure out if a candidate is physically and psychologically able to work as an astronaut.

Flexibility, group work skills and a love of learning are some of the personality traits NASA looks for.

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