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Category Archives: Space Exploration
Space Race 2.0: Get ready for commercial space exploration within YEARS, says expert – Express.co.uk
Posted: October 10, 2019 at 12:48 am
We could witness commercial space exploration turn into a sustainable and frequent occurrence in the decade after
However, Daniel Inocente, senior architectural designer with New York-based architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), has stressed the need for international cooperation as mankind moves into a new era - while warning of potential challenges to the landmark 1967 Outer Space Treaty adopted by the United Nations, which declares the Moon and other celestial bodies cannot be owned by any of Earths nations.Mr Inocente, who is preparing to give a talk at this years New Scientist Live event at ExCel London on Friday, said: NASAs goals are to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and sustain our presence there by 2028.If industry plays a major role in collaborating with international partners to achieve this goal, we could witness commercial space exploration turn into a sustainable and frequent occurrence in the decade after.
His talk will focus on a pioneering partnership between SOM, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which he described as a major paradigm shift.
He explained: We will discuss the importance of international cooperation between industry, academia, and government as a way to progress space exploration and development.
This project is addressing the challenge of supporting living systems in highly constrained environments, and of extending the human experience beyond our world through architecture.
Our goal is to inspire new ideas that could achieve these human exploration endeavours. We want to push the boundaries of what architecture can do for human exploration, because that will ultimately lead to advancements in science, engineering, architecture, biology, and so much more in unpredictable ways.
Mr Inocente acknowledged there was significant renewed interest in a return to the Moon, partly but not solely because of the publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, which saw Neil Armstrong take his famous first step on the lunar surface.
He said: Its much larger than that. Its a result of visionary alignments between government, industry, and other players around the world. In September 2017, at the IAC in Adelaide, Elon Musk gave a presentation about the new reusable rocket that his company was developing.
Many saw this as a turning point; entrepreneurs and governments were inspired to develop new partnership opportunities and to refocus their efforts on travelling into space. Now, companies around the world including Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Space IL, Axiom Space, Firefly, Rocket Lab and others are producing innovative solutions to space exploration. And that, in turn, is continuing to drive interest.
However, he stressed innovation and progress could only be sustained by a shared vision coupled with the resources to sustain them, acknowledging space travel and habitation to be an enormous challenge.
READ MORE:Jet suit breakthrough: Buck Rogers in the 21st Century
He said: Many people believe that settlements on the Moon are impossible. Yet, we have seen examples of extraordinary accomplishments by visionary people in the most inhospitable parts of the world, and even in low earth orbit. It is up to the new generation to make the next step possible.
The Apollo era demonstrated that we can certainly travel to the Moon and back and that was 50 years ago. There have been many advances in space flight technologies since then. SpaceXs reusable rockets would be an example. There is no doubt that we can get there and back with todays technology.
The Apollo missions were extremely costly however, and Mr Inocente said in order to make the dramatic progress necessary, it will be crucial to enhance reusability and reduce overall cost per launch.
Once Mr Musks Starship comes online, he said, pioneering space explorers would have reached a significant milestone in our transportation capabilities, adding: And as a result of that, we will see space open up to the public and to the commercial realm.
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Partnerships between Governments and the private sector would be vital to future spacefaring missions, Mr Inocente said.
He explained: Commercial and government sectors have always collaborated to achieving human exploration goals.
A sustainable human presence in space and on the surface of the Moon requires challenging traditional business models, because only public-private partnerships will be able to develop the technologies to make it a reality.
However, huge challenges lie ahead, not least developing technologies to mitigate the harmful effects of radiation exposure in environments where people are not shielded by Earths magnetic field in an environment which is regularly bombarded by solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun.
Mr Inocente said: While radiation exposure can be mitigated by certain materials and habitable systems, it still effects human health and specific life-supporting technologies. We will also need to learn how to work and operate in a very constrained environment.
Lunar dust is harmful to both humans and machines and will need to be managed in order to achieve ISRU capabilities. Extracting natural resources such as water, oxygen, and minerals will be necessary if we are to successfully live outside of Earths protection.
However, groundbreaking new technologies are being developed which could tilt the balance in mankinds favour.
Mr Inocente explained: Materials are being developed to decrease radiation effects on human health. There are several key technologies that we can use to reduce radiation to the allowable limits set by NASA.
The first habitable systems SOM has proposed features radiation-reducing materials such as Graded-Z composites and hydrogen rich bladders filled with water, and will protect astronauts for long-term mission durations.
However, he had disappointing news for anyone hoping permanently to relocate to the Earths celestial companion anytime in the near future.
He explained: NASA, the European Space Ageny (ESA), the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) and others have verified that first we will need to have several unmanned robotic missions.
Then, a teleoperated support system will need to be established, habitable systems will have to be emplaced, and ISRU capabilities and surface systems will need to be proven before we can begin thinking about lunar colonies.
Infrastructure can be built and maintained to be permanent, but permanent human habitation on the Moon will more difficult.
We already have permanent infrastructure in extreme environments on Earth, such as McMurdo station in the Antarctic, and in low earth orbit with the international space system.
But people spend limited durations at these locations. While we expect that visitors to the Moon will have limited stays, the ecosystem of a lunar base could be in operation permanently.
Nor there much prospect of terraforming the Moon, he said, explaining: This would be highly improbable on the Moon, unlike on Mars where there is an atmosphere and which Elon Musk said he would see as the ultimate solution.
Nevertheless, setting up bases there could have enormous benefits. Mr Inocente said: Important science can be conducted from the Moon, particularly from the far side. For instance, orbiting satellites have gathered evidence that water resources exist in subsurface areas and in the polar regions. It would be incredible to discover how much water is there.
The greatest benefits of building a base would come not only from answering scientific questions but also from learning how humans can exist beyond Earth all while we continue improving existing technologies and develop new ones.
As mankind moves into a new era of space exploration, Mr Inocente stressed big challenges lay ahead - and even the potential for worrying future conflicts.
US Donald Trump has plans for a Space Force, while, speaking at the UK Space Conference earlier this month, defence and procurement minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan admitted the UNs 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which declares it the preserve of all mankind, was becoming increasingly obsolete.
He said: Entrepreneurs and new private companies are making space more accessible both economically and technologically. But any new frontier comes with unpredictable risks that might affect natural environments.
The competition to harness resources for future space development is no longer only between nations.
Private companies are now developing the ability to land payloads on the Moon to eventually conduct ISRU experiments. China,
India, the United States, Russia, Israel, and countries throughout Europe are also interested in learning how to make use of resources on the Moon. Figuring out how to use those natural materials will be one of the most important aspects of making space habitation sustainable.
As we progress towards a sustainable presence in space, attitudes and demand for natural resources on the Moon will not be much different from that on Earth.
For this reason, the future coordination of information and governing principles is key to making sure that national entities will communicate with each other when developing their own legal frameworks to ensure proper conduct..
Mr Inocente pointed out that the treaty in question says nations are free to explore and use celestial bodies.
He said: Existing treaties have faced various challenges recently. In 2015, the United States passed the Space Act of 2015.
Then, in 2017, Luxembourg became the first European country to adopt such legislation with the Space Resources Act.
Welcome to Lunarville is on the Cosmos Stage on October 11 from 6.20pm to 7pm.
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Life on Mars, moon tourism and an interstellar ambush: What space exploration has in store – Haaretz
Posted: at 12:48 am
In the second half of the 20th century, humankind liberated itself from the shackles of gravity and went into space. By the end of the century its robot emissaries had visited every planet in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After running out of planets, space agencies shifted to smaller bodies: asteroids, comets and dwarf planets such as Pluto and Ceres. Now weve exhausted those, too. Humans want to be first, and the fact is that the 10th robot on Mars isnt as exciting as the first. Accordingly, in the years ahead well see initial missions to the moons of planets, with the emphasis on the ocean worlds that orbit the outer planets, which are among the leading candidates for the existence of life elsewhere in the solar system.
The decade ahead will also be devoted to the search for life, both simple and intelligent, on exoplanets planets outside the solar system with the aid of powerful Earth-based and space-based telescopes. If the rate of expansion of human range and human curiosity in the 20th century are anything to go by, by the middle of this century, humankind will launch a first mission to the neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri.
But space is not the exclusive preserve of robots. We humans, too, deserve to stretch our legs a little and enjoy the spectacular views and the dangers that attend a journey into the expanses of this vast universe. Here, though, our biology enters the picture and it cant keep up. So, in the decade ahead we shall see American, Chinese and Indian astronauts, along with regular tourists (not necessarily in that order) returning to, of all places, the moon, a little over 50 years since the first visit there, and the end of the next decade will find astronauts and pioneer settlers on Mars. In fact, the first permanent communities in space will likely be simply in space: in a low satellite orbit around Earth, or in an elliptical orbit around the moon.
2020: Methane on Mars
Because the window of opportunity for launching spacecraft to Mars which opens biannually lasts only two weeks, in March 2020 three new rovers (robotic vehicles to explore the surface of other worlds) will be launched to Mars: NASAs March 2020 (its still waiting for a permanent name), Britains Rosalind Franklin and, a first, a Chinese rover, HX-1. The rovers will conduct astrobiological experiments in the hope of finding signs of life on Mars, in the past or the present. But none of them will be equipped with sensors capable of solving the most urgent scientific riddle on the red planet: the source of its methane.
Here on Earth, methane gas is emitted primarily by microbes, and the suns ultraviolet radiation breaks up the gas relatively quickly. Which is why its seasonal presence in the thin Martian air is surprising. If the source is indeed biological, the phenomenon could be the swan song of bacteria that became extinct on Mars millions of years ago, with the methane they emitted into the depths now slowly being released onto the surface.
According to another scenario, Mars is still pulsing with life in the depths, which thaw with the advent of summer. The European-Russian orbiter ExoMars has been sampling the methane emissions since 2016, so that we can expect to get an answer during the coming year. If it also fails, and the new rovers dont succeed in finding samples of life on or near the surface, we will just have to wait patiently for initial physical samples from Mars, though they will not reach Earth before the 2030s.
At the same time, the China National Space Administration will launch the first section of what will become, by 2022, a large, manned space station, intended to compete with the International Space Station. The station will be based on the successful experiments of the Chinese with two smaller space stations, Tianzhou-1 and Tianzhou-2, and will provide long-term quarters for up to three taikonauts, as Chinese astronauts are called.
And Elon Musks SpaceX company is expected to complete its Starlink project: 12,000 satellites that will net the skies and provide internet to every person in every place on the planet and to future Mars settlers. Hot Televisions customer service isnt answering? Youre stuck in a volcanic crater and need to check your frequent flyer miles? Take out a phone and connect to the space-based internet.
2021: James Webb reports
In March 2021, following numberless delays, NASA will at last launch the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The new telescope will be launched to Lagrange 2, a relatively stable point between the gravitational forces of Earth and the sun, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. The advanced space telescope will be able to see galaxies more distant and ancient than anything previously known in history, and even supply us with a first direct photograph of a planet in another star system.
When the present author came into the world, the notion of exoplanets was only a theory. Now we know of 4,000 such worlds, some of them in the habitable zone at the right distance from their mother star to enable the existence of liquid water on the surface and of Earth size. After the Kepler and TESS 1 telescopes told us where the planets are hiding in the stars dazzling light, like coins under a flashlight, the next stage will be to understand what is going on there. James Webb which is named for an early administrator of NASA will be able to analyze the light refracted from the atmospheres of these planets, and perhaps even to confirm or deny the existence of life in their close proximity. JWST will be the pioneer of photographing the exoplanets, and in the third decade of the 21st century will be replaced by more advanced and more precise telescopes, whose entire purpose will be to analyze closely the reflection of the starsin the skies of foreign worlds.
2022: Juice on the ice
The European Space Agency will launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (aka JUICE, because every mission needs an acronym). It will explore the giant planets icy moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in order to determine whether they contain an environment that is appropriate for the existence of life as we know it. The three moons are worlds of water possessing an ice envelope. The gravity from gaseous Jupiter warms and nourishes the liquid water below the frozen envelope, and as we know, where there is water, there is life. The moons are considered the best candidates for life in the solar system, along with Mars, of course, and Enceladus and Titan, which are both moons of Saturn. JUICE will only reach Jupiters system in 2030, so if you absolutely must know whether there is life on Callisto, you should give up smoking until at least 2033.
NASA will also launch the initial section of the first manned moon-orbiting space station, Lunar Gateway, which will orbit Earths satellite elliptically at a distance ranging from 1,500 kilometers to 70,000 kilometers from the lunar surface. The station will serve as a transition point for astronauts and robots on the way to the moon, Mars and Venus. According to the plan, the first manned space ferry will dock at the station in 2024 and will enable the first Americans to make a return trip to the moon. In 2033, the Americans will use the station to refuel a first manned mission to Mars.
On the other hand, NASAs concept of duty-free in space has drawn heavy flak, with many scientists arguing that the shortest way between two points, such as Earth and the moon, or Earth and Mars, is simply a straight line. At the moment, the expensive program is well-financed, but its possible we will see a diversion of budgets in the direction of manned missions to the moon and Mars with a more competitive timetable, especially if the plans of the Indians and the Chinese to launch manned spacecraft prove viable.
2023: First space tourist
SpaceX will launch the first space tourist, the Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa, who will enter into a lunar orbit.
2024: The race resumes
SpaceX will launch a first manned mission to Mars. In Elon Musks vision, the first settlers will arrive on Mars in 2025. Their task will be to prepare a base, and particularly the fuel, for those who will follow. How will it be done? The thin Martian air is rich in carbon dioxide (CO2), and the frozen Martian soil is not lacking in ice (H2O). From them, oxygen (O2) for breathing and methane (CH4) for fuel can be produced. The ultimate vision of SpaceX is a thriving city of a million people, who will travel from Earth to Mars in a thousand flights of 100 passengers each by the end of the 21st century.
Alongside the first manned mission to Mars, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, will take advantage of the window of opportunity to send a first expedition to explore the small Mars moons, Phobos and Deimos. The mission, called Martian Moons eXploration, or MMX, will enter into orbit around Mars in 2025 and will land a German-French rover on one of the two moons, to explore its surface. Soil samples will be flown back and reach Earth labs in 2029 the first samples in history from the Mars system (but not yet the samples we need in order to determine conclusively whether there is or was life on Mars itself).
But 2024 is also zero hour for the new moon race. The United States has announced that it intends to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 as part of the new Artemis program, sister to Apollo. The Indians are hoping to beat the Americans to the punch and land astronauts on the moon as early as 2022. The Chinese, for their part, have stated that they intend to have taikonauts on the moon in the coming decade. Nongovernmental players, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, the latter founded by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, are also taking part in the new moon race, and have set 2024 as their target year. But they will likely act as NASA subcontractors in this race.
Finally, in 2024, the International Space Station is scheduled to conclude its scientific role when NASA ends its participation in whats said to be the most expensive project in human history. The station will probably be transferred to commercial companies, for example tourism and pharmaceutical firms. Beyond the terrific fun of floating in microgravity, the low air-pressure conditions in space allow for amazingly rapid experiments with medications, and the pharmacological giants are already ogling the white elephant thats floating in space. With the lifting of the limitation on profit-generating research studies in space, the International Space Station will become an extremely lucrative business for its founding partners.
2025: Europes water
The thermoelectric radioisotope generators in the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, which produce power from radioactive decay, will no longer be able to supply electricity to scientific instruments. The two spacecraft, which were launched in 1977 and were the first to leave the solar system, will continue their interstellar voyage eternally (or until they collide with something), but communication with them will be lost and we wont hear from them anymore. Go in peace!
In parallel, NASA will launch the Europe Clipper, an orbiter that will map Jupiters ice moon. Below the ice covering of about 100 kilometers on Europa lies a global ocean, which is heated above the freezing point by the powerful tides of Jupiter, the gaseous giant. The missions purpose will be to find a landing zone for the European Space Agencys Europa Lander. It will be launched separately in 2025 and will touch down on one of the fault lines of the ice, where it will acquire a direct approach to water and analyze its composition in order to determine whether there is life below the surface whose astonishing smoothness is itself suspicious.
2026 Titans methane lakes
NASA will launch the rotorcraft Dragonfly to Titan, Saturns singular, intriguing moon. Since Titans atmosphere is four times as dense as ours, the eight-rotor drone will not be essentially different from unmanned aircraft that we see on Earth. Dragonfly will reach Saturns system in 2034, carry out dozens of flights in Titans sky, and land to take samples from a large number of sites, in its search for life on this rich, frozen world.
Titan, the largest of Saturns moons, is considered one of the leading candidates for the existence of life in the solar system. Its the only body in the solar system, with the exception of Earth, of course, on whose surface whole lakes have been found in a liquid state. The lakes on frozen Titan, however, consist not of water but of liquid methane. Here on Earth, all living creatures use water as a solvent (matter that it is capable of dissolving other matter) for their biochemical activity; however, alternative theories of biochemistry maintain that liquid methane can serve as a life-supporting solvent. Will we find methane-based life on Titan?
2028: Interstellar ambush
The European Space Agency will launch Comet Interceptor, a bold mission that will set a space ambush for a comet, asteroid or any other object that will infiltrate from another star system and will map it by means of three separate spacecraft. The mission was planned within the framework of drawing conclusions from the case of Oumuamua, the first object in history positively identified as having come from outside the solar system before passing through it, but which disappeared before it could be investigated. Comet Interceptors three spacecraft will lie in ambush at Lagrange 2 for the next interstellar guest, and will be hurtled toward it when it shows up, in the hope of getting a first close-up glimpse of an object that was formed in another star system.
2029: Closest asteroid
On April 13, 2029, the frightening asteroid Apophis will approach to within 31,000 kilometers of Earth a tenth of the distance to the moon and closer to the ground than some of our manmade satellites. The asteroid, which has a diameter of about 375 meters, is not expected to strike either Earth or the moon, but it will be close enough to be seen even without a telescope, including in the skies above Israel.
2035: Americas choice
NASA will launch the space telescope Habitable Exoplanet Observatory, or HabEx, to Lagrange 2. From there, the telescope will be able to scan thousands of exoplanets in a search for biological and technological signatures in the light reflected from the worlds atmospheres, such as a suspicious absorption of water molecules or emission of carbon dioxide. If simple or complex life exists in our neighborhood of the galaxy, HabEx will be able to identify it even where its predecessor, the James Webb Space Telescope, could not.
At the moment, HabEx is in competition with LUVOIR, a more expensive multipurpose telescope, which would be launched in 2039 and be capable of performing other tricks beyond searching for life, such as photographing ancient and remote galaxies from the beginning of the universe. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Congress are supposed to choose between these two projects immediately after next years presidential election.
2036: Different star system
Breakthrough Starshot, a space initiative of the billionaires Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg and the scientists Stephen Hawking and Avi Loeb, will launch the first of thousands of nano-spacecraft toward the closest star system to us, which is 4.37 light years away. The spacecraft will be accelerated to a speed of about 20 percent of the speed of light by means of Earth-based lasers, and would be expected to reach the triple-star system of Alpha Centauri around 20 years later in 2056. The images that will be sent back from Alpha Centauri to the solar system will travel at the speed of light and will take four years to reach Earth, taking us to 2060. Members of Gen Y or Gen Z toddlers you are likely to be the first to feast your eyes on another star system.
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Posted: at 12:48 am
Starship and Super Heavy are the biggest, most important pieces of Elon Musk's grand plan for SpaceX, his private spaceflight company.
Musk has repeatedly stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize Mars. It's vital that we become a multiplanet species, the billionaire entrepreneur has said, citing both a much-reduced probability of extinction and the thrill that meaningful space exploration will deliver to billions of people around the world.
SpaceX is now actively trying to turn this sci-fi dream into reality. The company is developing a 100-passenger spaceship called Starship and a giant rocket known as Super Heavy, which together constitute the transportation system that Musk thinks will bring Mars settlement within reach at long last.
"This is the fastest path to a self-sustaining city on Mars," Musk said in September 2019, during a webcast update about the Starship-Super Heavy architecture.
Related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Rocket in Pictures
These updates have become a highly anticipated annual tradition; Musk has given one every September since 2016.
During that first presentation, he laid out the basic idea: A large spacecraft and a huge rocket, both of which will be completely and rapidly reusable. The rocket will launch the spacecraft into Earth orbit, then come back down to Earth for a vertical, propulsive landing.
The spaceship, meanwhile, will make its own way from Earth orbit to Mars (or the moon, or any other desired destination). The craft will touch down on such alien worlds and take off from them as well, without the need for any additional landing craft or ascent vehicles. (The separate rocket is needed just to get out of Earth's substantial gravity well.)
Off-Earth refueling of the ship is therefore key to Musk's vision. For example, spacecraft coming home from Mars or the moon will need to be topped up on those worlds, using locally produced propellant.
In 2016, Musk called this architecture the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). The name was new, as the billionaire had previously referred to his envisioned concept (though much more vaguely) as the Mars Colonial Transporter.
The ITS architecture isnt supposed to be Mars-specific; the system could help establish a base on the moon, Musk said.
(Image credit: SpaceX)
The ITS will stand 400 feet (122 meters) tall when stacked, Musk said back then. The rocket will contribute most of that height, measuring 254 feet (77 m) tall to the ship's 162 feet (49 m). There will be some overlap of the two vehicles during stacking, which explains why the total height isn't 416 feet.
Both vehicles will be powered by SpaceX's next-generation Raptor engine, which is more powerful than the Merlin that propels the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The ITS ship will sport nine Raptors and the 40-foot-wide (12 m) booster will boast a whopping 42, allowing the rocket to produce 13,033 tons of thrust at liftoff 3.6 times more than NASA's Saturn V moon rocket was able to generate, Musk said. (For comparison, the Falcon 9 has nine first-stage engines and the Falcon Heavy has 27.)
Related: See Stunning Photos of SpaceX Falcon Heavy's First Night Launch
And there won't just be one ITS ship and booster. The ultimate plan involves sending 1,000 or more people-packed spaceships to Mars every 26 months, helping to establish a million-person city on the Red Planet within 50 to 100 years, Musk said. (Earth and Mars align favorably for interplanetary missions just once every 26 months.)
Musk did not lay out plans for building this city. That will happen organically as more and more people arrive on Mars, he said, comparing the ITS to the transcontinental railroad that helped open the American West to settlement from the East and Midwest in the 19th century.
And these pioneers won't just be the super-rich, if all goes according to plan. The ITS's reusability could eventually bring the price of a Mars trip down enough to make it affordable for large numbers of people, Musk said.
"The architecture allows for a cost per ticket of less than $200,000," Musk said during the 2016 presentation. "We think that the cost of moving to Mars ultimately could drop below $100,000."
This overall vision has held firm over the past three years, but Musk has repeatedly tweaked the design and the system's name.
In 2017, for example, he announced that ITS was now the BFR, which stood for "Big Falcon Rocket" (or "Big F***ing Rocket;" SpaceX representatives have invoked both variants). The BFR was shorter, slimmer and less powerful than its design predecessor, measuring 348 feet (106 m) tall by 30 feet (9 m) wide when stacked and featuring "only" 31 Raptor engines on the booster and six on the spaceship.
But the biggest change concerned use of the spaceship-rocket duo. Musk announced that SpaceX eventually planned to employ the BFR for all of its spaceflight needs, from launching satellites to ferrying people to and from Mars to cleaning up space junk in Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy therefore will be phased out over the long haul, as will both the crew and cargo variants of SpaceX's Dragon capsule.
Expanding the BFR's role in this manner will make the system much more affordable for SpaceX to develop and manufacture, Musk said at the time.
"If we can do that, then all the resources that are used for Falcon 9, Heavy and Dragon can be applied to this system. That's really fundamental," he said in September 2017. "We believe that we can do this with the revenue we receive for launching satellites and for servicing the space station."
Related: See the Evolution of SpaceX's Rockets in Pictures
The BFR design then experienced a growth spurt that nearly took the system back to its original height. In September 2018, Musk told us that the rocket-spaceship duo will now stand 387 feet (118 m) tall when stacked. The BFR ship will also sport seven Raptors instead of six, Musk added, and the vehicle will now sport four movable fins two near its nose and two bigger ones near the tail.
These fins will help the ship maneuver its way to safe landings on worlds with significant atmospheres, such as Mars and Earth. The two rear fins will also serve as landing pads, as will a leg that's stylized to look like a fin, Musk said.
The ship's overall aesthetic will therefore resemble that of the rocket used by the cartoon character Tintin in the 1954 adventure "Explorers on the Moon." And that tidbit pleases Musk.
"I love the Tintin rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that," he said at the time. "If in doubt, go with Tintin."
Other big news came out of the September 2018 update as well: SpaceX had signed its first BFR customer. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa booked a round-the-moon trip on the BFR, with a target launch date of 2023. Maezawa said he planned to take a handful of artists with him on the mission, which he calls DearMoon. Neither SpaceX nor Maezawa has revealed how much the flight will cost.
Related: How SpaceX's 1st Passenger Flight Around the Moon with Yusaku Maezawa Will Work
Two months later, the BFR was no more: Musk told us that the system will now be called Starship. That will also be the spaceship's name, whereas the huge rocket will be called Super Heavy.
At that point, SpaceX still planned to build the Starship vehicle out of carbon fiber. But in January 2019, Musk announced that he was switching to stainless steel. Steel is a bit heavier than carbon fiber but has great thermal properties and is far, far cheaper, Musk said. He has since called the material switch the best design decision yet made on the ITS/BFR/Starship project.
In May 2019, Musk said the current plan calls for six Raptors on the Starship vehicle rather than seven. And a few months later, he tweeted that Super Heavy will now sport 35 Raptors instead of 31.
That brings us to the latest design update, which Musk presented on Sept. 28, 2019, from SpaceX's South Texas facility, near the tiny village of Boca Chica. The billionaire didn't announce any huge changes, though there was some more engine news: Super Heavy will now have space for 37 Raptors, though not all of those slots will be filled on every flight. Each mission will probably require at least 24 Raptors on the booster, Musk said.
Musk had previously estimated the total development cost of the Starship project to be between $2 billion and $10 billion. On Sept. 28, he said he now believes the price tag for SpaceX will be toward the lower end of that range "probably closer to two or three [billion] than it is to 10," Musk told CNN Business during an interview shortly after the design update.
SpaceX's Super Heavy rocket booster launches the Starship interplanetary spacecraft in this still from a SpaceX animation.
(Image credit: SpaceX)
The September 2019 update was more dramatic than those of previous years, because Musk had an eye-catching visual aid nearby a 165-foot-tall (50 m) Starship prototype called the Mk1.
SpaceX had already built and flown a Starship prototype a stubby, one-engine vehicle dubbed Starhopper that aced two brief, untethered test flights at Boca Chica before being retired in late August.
But the Mk1 is a big step forward. It's the first full-size Starship test vehicle, and it's scheduled to fly high soon. During his presentation, Musk said that SpaceX aims to fly the three-engine Mk1 on an uncrewed test mission in October or November that will take the vehicle to an altitude of about 12 miles (20 km).
SpaceX is building a similar vehicle called the Mk2 at its Florida facilities, reasoning that some intracompany competition will improve the design of the final Starship vehicle. And more iterations of the spaceship should hit the skies in short order as well.
During the September 2019 presentation, Musk said that SpaceX wants to launch an orbital test flight with Starship in less than six months so, by early spring of 2020. The vehicle that flies that landmark uncrewed mission will likely be the Starship Mk4 or Mk5, he said.
Related: Why NASA's Annoyed About Elon Musk's Giant Rocket
If the development and testing campaigns continue to go well, Musk added, people could start flying aboard Starship for the first time next year. (The first operational Starship missions, by the way, could happen as soon as 2021, company representatives have said. Those early commercial flights will be uncrewed and probably loft communications satellites.)
There's a fair amount of work to do in the interim, of course, and it's not all about optimizing fin design. For example, there's the not-insignificant issue of keeping Starship's passengers happy and healthy during their flights to the moon, Mars and beyond.
We know little about Starship's life-support system. But Musk did say during the September 2019 update that he envisions a "regenerative" system, which recycles water vapor and carbon dioxide, processing this latter gas to provide oxygen. And he doesn't think implementing this tech will be all that difficult.
"I don't think it's actually superhard to do that," he said. "Relative to the spacecraft itself, the life-support system is pretty straightforward."
Musk is famous for his "aspirational" timelines, so the above target dates are far from set in stone. But big things are definitely happening on the Starship project; stay tuned!
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall.
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Posted: at 12:48 am
The ISS has been in orbit over 7,000 days.
When my husband rushed me onto the back porch claiming we would be able to see the International Space Stationpassing over our house one night, I didn't exactly believe him. We're far enough out in the country to see stars, but we haven't completely escaped the city's light pollution. Still, I looked up. While I didn't expect to see the ISS taking up half the sky, I couldn't see anything different happening above us.
My husband was looking at his phone, the screen illuminating his face in the outdoor darkness. He told me he'd found an app that could track where the ISS was around the world. After a few moments of silence, he turned and pointed above our roof.
"That's it," he said, as what looked like a bright, rapidly moving star shot over the top of our house.
We watched the ISS speed across the sky and disappear into the clouds. No sooner had we lost sight of the light, my husband told me it was already over New York. That's some hustle.
Space travel has been making headlines this year. This past July marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Just before the anniversary, NASA announced plans for the first all-female spacewalk in history but later nixed it due to a suit-sizing issue. The first space crime was even said to have been committed by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, who was accused of identity theft (she denied the allegations).
The ISS, about the size of a five-bedroom house, serves as a laboratory in space while housing astronauts. The first piece of the Station launched in 1998 and has been constructed by astronauts in its entirety since human arrival in 2000. While orbiting the Earth, astronauts perform unique research, developing plans for the future of space exploration and keeping a consistent human presence in space. Space tourism for the wealthy could also become a possibility in the near future.
While the ISS has been in orbit over 7,000 days, it's captured some truly stunning images as it travels around the Earth.
If you want to keep up with the ISS's location around the world, you can check out NASA's Spot the Station feature on its website or download the NASA app. For more focused space station tracking, you can download the ISS Detector app for any phone, which its developers claim is the most-used satellite tracking app. Here's how it works.
The app works for iOS and Android. Use those links or search for ISS Detector in the Apple App Store and ISS Detector: See the Space Station in the Google Play Store.
The ISS Detector asks for access to your location. This is so it can tell you when the station will be over your area.
The ISS Detector app shows a wide range of data to help you keep up with the space station.
Once you plug in your location, the app can tell you how often you can expect to see the ISS in the sky. For example, residents of Louisville, Kentucky will typically be able to see the ISS between about 7:57 p.m. and 9:37 p.m. each night for about 30 seconds to a minute and a half. A fleeting window, right? That's because the ISS is traveling at about 17,500 miles per hour.
I found the display was best viewed on a tablet versus a smartphone. The app displays lots of numerical information on a dashboard, and it's easier to digest if it's spread out. The ISS Detector will tell you the upcoming sightings for the next 10 days, potential weather conditions, elevations, latitude and longitude, direction, the current location of the ISS is and more.
The app also keeps track of how long until the ISS will pass over your location and how long it'll be visible. On average, it looks like the ISS is visible in a given area one to two times per day over the course of a week. Whether it's day or night depends on your geographical location.
You can also set up a notification so you don't miss the sighting. Just tap the alarm bell in the corner.
Set up a notification for the next sighting, have a snack and go to sleep. If the ISS just flew over, you won't see it again until the next day. While you're waiting for the ISS to pass over your area, you can keep tabs on where it is around the world for free.
If you're a space enthusiast and don't mind spending a few bucks, the app has a few extensions that enhance the experience. If you watch an ad, you can also get the extensions free for five days.
If you're interested in space news read the latest from CNET:
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Posted: at 12:48 am
Boeing agreed to invest $20 million for a minority stake in Virgin Galactic, a startup that is preparing to fly its customers into space next year.
The relationship is designed as a collaboration aimed at shaping the future of human space travel, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. Virgin Galactic also is setting longer-term sights on shuttling airline travelers around the world at high speeds a mode of transport that will take years to achieve.
The deal positions the companies to explore the marketplace for airline travel at hypersonic speeds above the Earths atmosphere, trimming trips across the globe to two hours or less. Elon Musks Space Exploration Technologies Corp. also has announced plans for such flights in the future.
Boeings investment is a catalyst for broader collaboration and deeper collaboration, said Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer George Whitesides.
The future of high-speed airline travel is a big chess board with numerous engineering, technological and financial issues to resolve, he said in an interview. We can really start to dig into some of these questions that need to be put in place.
Boeing will make the investment through its HorizonX Ventures arm to join the space startup founded by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson. Boeing next year is set to fly its first commercial space customers astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations commercial crew program.
Weve gotten the question, Why now, why this timing?' said Brian Schettler, senior managing director at HorizonX Ventures. Really, we see this great, momentous occasion on both sides with the companies first customer flights to space approaching.
Boeings investment is contingent on Virgin Galactic going public by year-end as part of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp., which will hold a 49% stake in the merged company. The arrangement to take Virgin Galactic public, announced in July, is designed to raise about $800 million for Bransons firm.
Branson halted talks about a $1 billion investment in Virgin from Saudi Arabia last year after the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.
Social Capital, based in Palo Alto, California, is a special-purpose company that raised $600 million in September 2017 with a blank check initial public offering.
This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight program, Branson said in the statement.
Posted: at 12:48 am
Published: 10:10 Monday 07 October 2019
So says the message from the human race on the Voyager spacecraft. But is there anyone out there? Alex went to speak to an astrophysicist to find out. This is what he learned: Stellar Wobble. The Mirror Test. The Drake Equation. Fermis Paradox. Capitalist chimps and murderous dolphins.
Somewhere between stand-up comedy and an astrophysics lecture, Third Angels production is a simple show about huge ideas: the story of how a three-hour conversation with an astrophysicist changed the way Alex understands the way the Universe works. 600 People explores how we think about evolution and intelligence, belief and invention and space travel.
Alexander Kelly, co-artistic Director of Third Angel, said: The show was inspired by a conversation I had with astrophysicist Dr Simon Goodwin in 2013.Simon convinced me 99.5 per cent that there is no other intelligent alien life in our galaxy. Ive long been drawn to the idea of the Voyager space craft as messengers from humanity to other life forms, and I was surprised to discover how disappointed I was by this news.
The production is on at Harrogate Library on Tuesday October 29 at 7.30pm. Tickets from Harrogate Theatre.
An Algorithm May Be the 1st Thing to See Europa Clipper’s Coolest Discoveries from Jupiter Moon – Space.com
Posted: at 12:48 am
Spacecraft are great explorers, but they can be frustrating pen pals.
The farther from home a probe ventures, the longer its dispatches take to reach eager humans on Earth and the terser such reports must be. That's why computer scientists and planetary scientists are teaming up to develop an algorithm that could potentially identify the most intriguing data an icy moon explorer mission collects, sending those tidbits to receivers first.
"We're in this golden age of space exploration, and we have hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of data flooding back from across the solar system," Ashley Davies, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, told Space.com. "It's not possible to return all the data that you ever collect."
Related: On Icy Moons, Alien Life May Go with the Flow of Ocean Currents
Hence the interest in an algorithm to negotiate what to report first. A team based at JPL is developing a potential system to do just that for individual instruments on NASA's Europa Clipper mission.
That spacecraft is due to launch in the mid-2020s to explore Jupiter's icy moon Europa. The moon is one of the most intriguing worlds in our solar system for scientists interested in understanding whether life exists beyond Earth. An ocean hidden below Europa's icy shell could potentially host microbial life similar to that found near deep-sea vents on Earth, and Clipper could collect information that would give scientists a more detailed understanding of the moon.
Europa Clipper will carry nine different science instruments, and the algorithm team is already working with the teams behind three of them, with more partnerships under discussion. The instruments will look for features like warm patches in the icy shell and plumes of seawater bursting out into space.
The idea behind the algorithm project is that it should be possible to train the spacecraft to spot the most promising data it gathers, then bump that to the front of the communications queue. It wouldn't change what Europa Clipper does next, but it could mean scientists wouldn't need to be quite as patient.
There's just one problem: space-ready machines are not the typical hardware computer scientists use. The system on board Europa Clipper will be able to run at speeds of up to 200 megahertz. "For comparison, that's about the equivalent of an early '90s desktop PC, if you took that and put that into orbit," Kiri Wagstaff, a computer scientist at JPL who is leading the project, told Space.com. "We don't really encounter machines that limited today in our day-to-day life."
The stunted processing capacity means any space-bound algorithm has to be lean, and extremely so. It's one of the two key challenges Wagstaff and her colleagues are facing in developing a system for Europa Clipper: The researchers have to come up with ways of flagging key data for the limited processor to execute in ways that are simple and quick. "We get questions about, well, 'Are you using deep learning to help these spacecraft make these decisions?'" Wagstaff said. "And the answer is emphatically no, it's simply not possible."
The team's other main challenge is that, after all, Europa Clipper itself doesn't exist yet and hasn't produced any data yet. Wagstaff and her colleagues are basing their current work on data gathered by other spacecraft and on simulations of what Clipper's data could look like, but it's not the same.
Right now, the algorithm isn't a formal part of Europa Clipper, and there's no guarantee it will be used during the mission. First, it needs to pass a series of tests designed to make sure the algorithm is trim enough to work in flight. "That's kind of a go, no-go point," Wagstaff said. "If it can't fit into the available resources, you can't use it."
Wagstaff and her colleagues are also checking whether the algorithm can withstand the harsh radiation environment around this frigid moon. The computer on the spacecraft will be sheathed to protect it from radiation, but some particles will still sneak through. Scientists need to know whether such hits can derail a calculation.
But if the team can get the algorithm right, it could make Europa Clipper a more powerful mission, encouraging scientists to gather too much data to send home in the allotted time, with the assurance that they'll see the most intriguing of it.
That's the first step in using such algorithms to actively shape outer solar system missions. The process has already begun at Mars on NASA's Curiosity rover, which can use its laser spectrometer to analyze rocks that meet current science priorities without waiting for instructions from Earth. "It all happens without any human in the loop," Wagstaff said. "The rover itself decides, 'This looks like an interesting rock, I will sample that,'" in time that it would otherwise spend twiddling its thumbs. "We're getting this bonus science basically for free."
Examples like that make a tempting lure for planetary scientists with more distant targets. But even if an algorithm doesn't fly on Clipper, there's plenty for scientists to look forward to, Davies said.
"Whatever happens, the data that we're going to get back from Europa Clipper is going to be of immeasurably higher quality than what was achievable from previous missions," he said. "We're going to see a lot of things that previous instruments simply couldn't have detected." They may just need a little more patience.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the Mars Curiosity instrument that can operate autonomously is its laser spectrometer, not its drill. Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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NASA is Going to Test 25 New Technologies in Upcoming Aircraft, Balloon and Sub-Orbital Rocket Flights – Universe Today
Posted: at 12:48 am
NASAs Flight Opportunities program has selected 25 space technologies for further testing. Theyre testing the technologies on aircraft, balloons, and sub-orbital rocket flights. NASA hopes to learn a lot about each of the technologies with this rigorous testing, without the expense of sending them all into orbital space.
This testing will subject each of the technologieswhich includes everything from navigation technologies to astronaut health-monitoringto the demands and rigor of space travel, without actually sending them into space. Its an important step in the the development of these technologies before theyre included in any actual missions.
With vibrant and growing interest in exploration and commercial space across the country, our goal with these selections is to support innovators from industry and academia who are using rapid and affordable commercial opportunities to test their technologies in space, said Christopher Baker, program executive for Flight Opportunities at NASA Headquarters in Washington. These suborbital flights enable researchers to quickly and iteratively test technologies with the opportunity to make adjustments between flights. The ultimate goal is to change the pace of technology development and drastically shorten the time it takes to bring an idea from the lab to orbit or to the Moon.
NASA call this program a bridge between laboratory testing and testing in Earth orbit and beyond. The technologies being tested fall under two fairly broad categorizations:
The short name for this program is Tech Flights. NASA invited interested companies/organizations to apply to the Tech Flights program, and awardees were given a total of $10 million this year. Awardees will either receive the money as a grant, or as a part of a cost-sharing arrangement with NASA. From there, the awardees can select a flight-provider that meets the testing needs of their technology.
The Tech Flights program is part of NASAs Space Technology Mission Directorate, and has been operating since 2010. So far, over 200 technologies have been awarded funds for testing.
Theres an astounding variety of technologies among those 200. Everything from a vacuum-based sample collector that works in the vacuum of space, to robotic grippers based on geckos. From parts-per-billion trace gas detectors that can help find life on other planets and can be used in medical breath diagnosis, to radiation-tolerant computing technology for satellites.
The 25 chosen in this years program also feature a wide variety of space technologies. From large-scale solar arrays that fold up like origami during transport, to a system that can synthesize pharmaceuticals for astronauts on long-duration space missions.
The Moon will see a lot of visitors and activity in the near future. NASAs Artemis Program aims to have astronauts there by 2024. Theyre also planning on building the Lunar Gateway, which is not only a base for expanding the exploration of the Moon and its resources, but also for a future mission to Mars.
With all of that activity comes a need for better technology. There are a vast number of problems to be solved and technologies to be developed before human presence can be expanded beyond Earth orbit. In operation since 2010, and with over 200 technologies tested, the Flight Opportunities Program is playing an important role in space exploration.
The complete list of the 25 technologies chosen for Tech Flights is here.
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Posted: at 12:48 am
One of NASA's two hired rides to the moon's surface is tackling a host of milestones leading up to a July 2021 launch and looking ahead to future flights.
Intuitive Machines, a company based in Houston, signed on in May to ferry five NASA payloads to the moon next summer. Now, the company's lander has a ride and a destination, and the team is filling out the package of payloads destined for the lunar surface. But as the company continues to prepare, it also watched another team fail to accomplish the same mission when India's Chandrayaan-2 moon lander, Vikram, apparently crashed into the lunar surface.
"There's so many people attempting to land on the moon," Trent Martin, vice president of aerospace services for Intuitive Machines, told Space.com. "Not surprisingly, it's really hard to land on the moon, and we're aware of that. We're trying our best to learn lessons from those that have succeeded and those that have been not as successful."
Related: 50 Years After Apollo 11, A New Moon Rush Is Coming
"We were disappointed that they were unable to succeed in their soft landing," Martin said of the Indian team behind Chandrayaan-2. "But the more people that go to the moon, the better for the market, so we're happy when anyone is on their way to the moon."
Of course, Intuitive Machines is happiest when groups are on their way to the moon via their lander, which is dubbed Nova-C. On its first voyage, the spacecraft will carry five NASA payloads and two or three commercial payloads, Martin said. The company is also in discussions with a host of countries that may be interested in joining the flight.
"We certainly are looking at all the major space players," Martin said. "[We're] finding some in the countries you might expect and then we're finding some potential customers in countries that are emerging in the space business, who have the will to go do science on the moon but not the capability yet."
Whoever signs on for Nova-C's first journey will have their payload deposited in Mare Serenitatis, Intuitive Machines has decided. When the company first signed with NASA, it was discussing a potential landing at Oceanus Procellarum as well; it has now concluded that Mare Serenitatis will be safer for the attempt.
"Whether we were on the east side or the west side didn't really matter to us," Martin said. "There was no specific requirement from any of the payloads that we're currently flying to land at a specific location on the moon, so we chose the location that allowed us the best opportunity of landing on our first mission."
NASA's payloads on that mission will include a retroreflector, a radio science instrument, navigation technology and a camera that will study the plume of lunar dust created by the rockets slowing the lander's arrival to the surface.
With the commercial payloads Intuitive Machines is discussing so far, the company believes it has filled 121 lbs. (55 kilograms) of its 220-lbs. (100-kg) capacity for landed cargo; the rest could be allotted to landed or orbiting payloads. But the company is also looking to future missions, including developing larger landers that could bring 1,100 lbs. (500 kg) and 2,200 lbs. (1,000 kg) of cargo to the surface. Such next-generation landers could fly as soon as 2023, Martin said.
Intuitive Machines has also arranged for its first launch and will fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. "Securing our ride to the moon is a major milestone that we are thankful to be part of," Martin added in an emailed statement. "The partnership between Intuitive Machines and SpaceX is an example of two stellar private companies working together with NASA to advance space exploration."
Email Meghan Bartels at email@example.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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NASA breakthrough: How Bill Nye outlined tech to allow ‘extraordinary’ rocket-speed travel – Express.co.uk
Posted: at 12:48 am
Solar sails are a method of spacecraft propulsion using radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on large mirrors, proposed by scientists since the Eighties.In 2010, a team from NASAs Marshall Space Flight Centre, along with the NASA Ames Research Centre, launched the NonoSail-D2 which became the first successful low-Earth orbit solar sail. The success of the mission inspired a whole new generation of scientists, including researchers at The Planetary Society, who developed the LightSail 1 and LightSail 2.
In July this year, the LightSail 2 was successfully launched and deployed its sail, becoming a fully functional spacecraft using the new technology.
Bill Nye, who is the CEO of the non-profitfoundation,was asked during a Q&A session on Twitter on September 17 whether the success of the technology will help to conquer the costumes.
The tweet read:I heard we could get to the next habitable planet in a few years with the space sail.
We just need a sail the size of Texas to do it?
Solar sails such as LightSail 2 may revolutionise space exploration
Dr Nye, who is known to many as "The Science Guy," denied the claim, but explained why the success was such a big step for space science.
He stated: A sail the size of Texas is not going to take us to another inhabitable planet in a few years.
But solar sails such as Lightsail 2 may revolutionise space exploration here in the Solar System because we can go at extraordinary speeds with no rocket fuel.
There are certain missions that solar sails are ideal for.
Put a solar sail spacecraft at an inferior orbit closer to the Sun than the Earth is and keep an eye out for asteroids or maybe more importantly coronal mass ejections from the Sun which sends a beam of charged particles slashing through space towards the Earth which could disable many of our communication systems.
JUST IN:Astronomers warn of colossal galaxy explosion heading towards Earth
So there are certain missions that solar sails are ideal for, but a Texas-sized one going to a nearby inhabitable planet is probably not among them.
The Planetary Society works closely with NASA to support future projects and the Lightsail 1 is expected to piggyback on future launches.
Dr Nye went on to give some more details on how the spacecraft works.
He added: Let me remind you that it is not the solar wind, its not particles streaming from the Sun that give a solar sail spacecraft that push.
It is light itself, photons.
There is about 100 times more pressure from photons than charged particles.
Fascinating, I hope, carry on questioning it though.
Last week, Elon Musk was also revealing the secrets of his company, SpaceX's, success.
He said:I think Ive learned a lot of lessons about how to make things go fast.
And then Ive propagated those lessons to the SpaceX team and theres just like an incredibly talented hardworking team at SpaceX.
In fact, at times, I think maybe there are too many talented people at SpaceX, we have too many talented people, were cornering the market.
But theres this very talented group that works super hard and they have to take the general approach of, if something is taking too long, the design is wrong.
Therefore, the design must be modified to accelerate progress.