Moon Tourism When you see the far side of the moon, you want to hang a hard right.Space Adventures
If you’ve got a lust for space travel, a desire to go where only a couple of dozen people have gone before, and $150 million to spare, Space Adventures needs you. The space tourism company--it’s the one that organizes the ISS trips via the Russian Soyuz--has mapped a potential tour around the moon that could lift off within five years. But until it sells the second seat, the mission will remain grounded.
That’s right, the second seat. The company has already secured a nine-digit commitment from one customer for a potential lunar sightseeing tour. And the logistics are already in place as well: aboard a three-seat Russian Soyuz spacecraft (the third seat is for a Russian mission commander), the tourists would launch into orbit where they would rendezvous with a separately-launched unmanned rocket, which would jet them the rest of the way to the moon.
Alternatively, the Soyuz might stop at the ISS before making its rocket rendezvous, depending on a variety of factors (like how much money you’re willing to shell out, for one). Round trip: eight or nine days.
The Soyuz wouldn’t land tourists on the moon obviously, but it would circle it at an altitude of just 62 miles at minimum, providing that up-close view of the cratered lunar surface and that storied Earthrise that thus far has only been witnessed by 24 people.
Of course, first you have to get the money together. Space tourists to the ISS have paid between $20 million and $35 million for the privilege. That $150 million price tag mentioned above isn’t absolutely fixed, but even as a ballpark figure it dwarfs the already astronomically high price of previous space tourism. But if you’re the kind of person that can reasonably drop $150 million on vacation, you’re probably not going to quibble over a few million more.
Search teams find part of the crucial "data recorders"
"Memory unit" that could help investigators determine cause of crash still missing
All 228 people aboard the Airbus A330 Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were killed
Recovery operation hoping to retrieve bodies once flight recorders have been found
(CNN) -- Search teams have found a part of the crucial "data recorders" of the Air France flight which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, says France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA).
The orange-colored recorder 'chassis' was found on Wednesday during the second day of an operation which also hopes to retrieve bodies from the wreckage site.
All 228 people aboard the Airbus A330 Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were killed.
The find - which comes more than three weeks after search teams found the tail section of the aircraft -- does not include the "memory unit" which holds the recorded data that could eventually help investigators determine the cause of the crash.
Martine Del Bono, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based BEA says there is a good chance the memory unit, which records any instructions sent to the aircraft's electronic systems, will still hold retrievable data.
Del Bono said: "Our priority is to recover the flight recorder and then we will start to recover bodies. The images are in color the (flight recorders) are orange, it is not black and white, so we are hopeful we can find them. We believe they (flight recorders) are still on the accident site, but it takes times to analyze the photos. We need to be optimistic and confident."
Phil Seymour, chief operating officer of the International Bureau of Aviation, a British aviation consultancy, said: "I remain skeptical about how useful this device (memory unit) will be. If you were to throw a computer into the ocean imagine how all the parts would eventually split and you have the corrosive effects of seawater and the depths involved.
"It may be that the more wreckage they find will help them to piece it all together which bit by bit could help them build a picture of what caused the plane to come down."
The Airbus A330's pilots lost contact with air traffic controllers while flying across an area of the Atlantic Ocean known for constant bands of severe turbulence, officials said.
But exactly what caused the plane to plunge into the sea has remained a mystery, with only small portions of the wreckage and a handful of bodies found in the remote area where it went down.
Del Bono said Thursday that weather conditions for the recovery were good and that the operation would continue on a 24-hour basis.
Steve Saint Amour, director of commercial operations, Phoenix International, offered the BEA use of a remote-controlled submarine known as the Remora 6000.
Each round trip for the Remora takes some 14 to 16 hours says Del Bono, taking over two hours to descend to the wreck site, estimated to lie at a depth of between 2,000 to 4,000 meters (6,562 to 13,124 feet).
When asked about the likelihood of finding the crucial part of AF447's data recorders, Amour declined to comment directly but did say "Our past performance has been 100% success."
The End of Pointy Rockets New crew escape systems like the one on SpaceX's Dragan capsule are powered from behind rather than pulled by an escape rocket, dispensing with the escape "tower" that graced the tip of space race-era rockets.via SpaceX
The earliest American astronauts were lauded for their bravery, but even those early Project Mercury crew capsule designs had a backup plan in the launch abort system (LAS) that, if a rocket began to explode on the launch pad, would throw the crew capsule clear of danger. The Space Shuttle has no such LAS. So now that we are returning to rocket-launched crew capsules for space travel, new methods of launch escape are emerging.
Today, we learn a little more about how SpaceX plans to keep crews aboard its Dragon capsule safe during the dangerous launch phase and beyond via New Scientist. SpaceX and Boeing have both developed schemes that dispense with the LAS towers that sat atop the crew capsules of the Saturn V and Atlas rockets of yesteryear (and that still grace the Soyuz and Shenzhou launch vehicles).
That pointy nose on those older rockets was actually another smaller rocket. In an emergency, this rocket would fire it’s motors and pull the crew capsule clear of the doomed rocket below. But if the launch went well, this LAS rocket was ditched, wasting perfectly good motors and expensive rocket fuel.
Boeing engineers already unveiled the escape mechanism for their Crew Space Transportation vehicle, CST-100, which integrates the LAS into the capsule itself via a so-called “pusher” design. Thrusters mounted beneath the capsule do the firing, pushing rather than pulling the capsule out of harm’s way. Bonus: no wasted motors, no wasted fuel. But that fuel has to be carried into orbit, and that spells added weight--weight being the arch-nemesis of any economical space launch.
SpaceX’s new LAS design is similar, but by mounting escape thrusters on the side of the capsule (still blasting downward of course), it’s possible to integrate that extra fuel into mission activities, like on orbit maneuvers or--at some point--retro rockets for landing the capsule on an extraterrestrial body.
More importantly, it furthers one of SpaceX’s most important goals: cost reduction. If the fuel can be used on-orbit, great. Even if it can’t, SpaceX’s design (as well as Boeing’s) at least save their pricey rocket motors, which can be used again. Makes those Apollo missions look wasteful by comparison.