Viewers can explore distant Pluto with a new addition to the New York Times virtual reality app, using only a smartphone and a Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer or just the smartphone .The new 7-minute Pluto tour, narrated by the science writer Dennis Overbye of the New York Times, is available for download from the Times' virtual reality app, and can be viewed through a Google Cardboard headset or on a plain smartphone screen for those who don't have one.The film, called "Seeking Pluto's Frigid Heart," walks viewers through the arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto last July before dropping them down on the surface and pointing out many alien geographic features on the surprisingly complex body.You can download the New York Times VR App here there are options for both Android and Apple to see the awesome 3D Pluto views.The vivid 3D view, so different from the few pixels we had seen before New Horizons' approach, was pieced together for the film from New Horizons' data, with help from the Universities Space Research Association's Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas.Even now, only around half of the images and measurements have been beamed back to Earth from the spacecraft; new data will be coming until October, and scientists will be hard at work analyzing it for a long time after.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station ISS will tomorrow pump up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module BEAM - the "first human-rated expandable structure that may help inform the design of deep space habitats".The engorgement is expected to begin at 10:10 GMT 6:10 AM EDT , with NASA TV's live coverage kicking of at 09:30 GMT 5:30 AM EDT .Pic: Bigelow AerospaceAstronauts will first venture into BEAM on 2 June, and then several times a year over the next two years, "to retrieve sensor data and assess conditions inside the module".Once scientists have determined how the structure "protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space", it'll be cut loose from the ISS and consigned to a fiery death in Earth's atmosphere.The obvious threat to BEAM is high-speed orbiting debris, such as that which chipped the ISS's cupola window.It's unclear whether ISS crew are armed with a space-rated bicycle puncture repair kit to tackle such an eventuality.
On Monday, the Indian Space Research Organization India s version of NASA launched a 22-foot winged spacecraft to an altitude of 65 kilometers about 40 miles and navigated the vehicle back down into the Bay of Bengal, east of India.The entire mission lasted less than 13 minutes and didn t travel high enough to reach space, but it was an important step for the Indian space agency on the path to making launches more affordable.RLV-TD will undergo four experimental flights, the first of which was completed on Monday: hypersonic flight experiment HEX followed by the landing experiment LEX , return flight experiment REX and scramjet propulsion experiment SPEX .ISRO is still many years away from a commercially available version of RLV-TD, but the fact that they re joining the likes of Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR in an effort to develop a reusable vehicle is a sign that the entire industry is shifting away from traditional expendable designs.At just 22 feet in length, the RLV-TD pales in comparison to NASA s massive, human-rated 122-foot Space Shuttle Orbiter which brought astronauts into Low Earth Orbit for 30 years.Regardless, this week s successful mission marks an exciting milestone for India, one of the few countries that allocates significant resources to space exploration activities.
If you're not familiar with Hyperloop One, consider what it would be like to travel on the ground at 760 mph faster than a jet airplane .In 2013, Elon Musk and a group of engineers from Tesla and SpaceX published a speculative design document for a concept they called "The Hyperloop."In other words, it's a "vacuum tube transportation network" that will be able to travel at around 760 mph 1200 kilometers per hour — on land and underwater.They just closed their latest round of funding of $80 million and achieved a major technology milestone last week.He expects the Hyperloop One team will have their real Kitty Hawk moment by the end of this year.Hyperloop One is hosting a global competition inviting teams from around the world to submit a commercial, transport, economic and policy case for their city, region or country to be considered to host the first Hyperloop networks.
Deeper in the solar system, on Europa, a large spacecraft lands near a fissure and drops small probes into the ocean far below.Beyond the Moon, a telescope with a specially fitted shade images an Earth-like exoplanet for the first time, possibly finding chemical markers of life.It all sounds like science fiction, but a new budget for NASA proposed by the US House of Representatives includes seed money for all of these initiatives, some of which are receiving funding for the first time.Most of these concepts should therefore survive.NASA has some instruments—including the James Webb Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite—coming in the next decade that will begin to scratch around the edges of this problem.The House bill directs NASA to consider a variety of sci-fi-like options, including antimatter-catalyzed fusion, the Bussard interstellar ramjet, matter-antimatter annihilation reactions, multiple forms of beamed energy approaches, and immense "sails" that intercept solar photons or the solar wind.
Pic: NASANASA's improbably acronmyed* "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer" OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has arrived at Florida's Kennedy Space Center ahead of a September launch on an asteroid-sampling mission.OSIRIS-REx will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu, arriving in 2018, and spend two years mapping the approximately 500-510 metre diameter object before collecting a surface sample for return to Earth.The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer OTES will collect "mineral and temperature information by collecting infrared from 5 to 50 microns spectral data"OVIRS "OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer" will, meanwhile, measure visible and infrared light from Bennu.Finally, the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer REXIS - developed in collaboration with MIT and Harvard University - will sniff "which elements are present, and how abundant they are, on the surface of Bennu".The space agency believes it can hoover up 2kg of Bennu - or at least 60g at worst - for return to Earth aboard the Sample Return Capsule SRC - "an aeroshell design container with a heatshield and parachutes".Bootnote*Here's the background: "OSIRIS-REx is an acronym that incorporates the mission s major concepts and goals.
On Monday, India s space agency announced the successful launch of a prototype of its reusable space shuttle, marking the first time the south Asian nation has gone beyond the stratosphere.The relatively low-cost shuttle could pave the way toward far more inexpensive space travel, but India notes that it s still a ways away from a perfected, final version of the spacecraft.But comparisons aside, this is no small accomplishment for the country — indeed, the proof of concept for the RLV-TD shows that traveling beyond Earth doesn t have to cost an arm and a leg.He added, The dynamism and dedication with which our scientists and ISRO have worked over the years is exceptional and very inspiring.Of course, India is not alone in its mission to make space travel affordable.So don t get too attached to Earth, friends — we may soon be on our way to a new home altogether.
India s unmanned shuttle was launched on a HS9 booster rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota, an island off India s Bay of Bengal coast.Related: Cheap Mars mission could prove lucrative for India, experts sayAfter reaching its peak altitude, RLV-TD began its descent, which was followed by atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5.After re-entering Earth s atmosphere with the help of its Thermal Protection System, the spacecraft glided down to land in the Bay of Bengal, about 280 miles from Sriharikota.The Times of India reports that the final version of the spacecraft is expected in the next 10 to 15 years.Related: India's Mars orbiter captures beautiful 3D images of the red planetThe successful test earned praise from India s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Despite the space shuttle s retirement, reusable space planes are set to feature in NASA s future.
Since a space policy speech in 2010 by President Obama, the space agency has been following a loosely defined plan to first send astronauts to visit a fragment of an asteroid near the Moon and then conduct other operations in the vicinity of the Moon before striking off for Mars some time in the 2030s.NASA s focus on a Journey to Mars, even when the resources do not exist to pull it off, has been an increasing source of frustration within the aerospace community.As NASA flies around the Moon in cislunar space, Chiao and Pulham warned, these countries may partner with China, which has said it intends to send humans to Earth s satellite within a couple of decades.Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act at the end of 2015, which allowed private companies to keep any resources they mined from asteroids or, critically, the Moon.A number of businesses are interested in harvesting ice believed to be abundant in dark craters at the lunar poles.The spacecraft and rockets NASA is developing, Orion and the Space Launch System, could easily be adapted to lunar missions.
The RLV-TD winged body spacecraft takes off Monday morning.For the last several years, India has been making steady progress with its space program, including the successful insertion of a spacecraft into Mars orbit in 2014, something previously only the United States, Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency had accomplished.At 7am local time, the HS9 solid rocket booster fired for 91.1 seconds, lifting the RLV-TD winged body spacecraft to above 50km.After separating from the booster, the spacecraft crested to an altitude of 65km, nearly two-thirds of the way to outer space, before beginning its descent.Enlarge / The RLV-TD vehicle on the ground, before being mated to its boosterThe RLV-TD flown Monday will not be recovered from the sea, but the 1.75-ton vehicle will undergo successive test flights during the coming years to demonstrate landing capability.ISRO must also continue development of an air-breathing scramjet engine that will help power the vehicle all the way into space.
India is joining the reusable space race.Its space agency has today launched a seven-metre space shuttle, that will be used test the country s plans for creating a spacecraft that can be used multiple times.The 1.75-tonne unmanned spacecraft — known as Reusable Launch Vehicle — will travel to 43 miles above the Earth s atmosphere then descend back to the surface of the planet.This mission is the result of five years of work and £9.6 million of investment,according to the BBC.It s hoped that the country will be using a full-scale reusable spacecraft within the next 10 years.India joins a long line of people — not least the private companies like SpaceX andBlue Origin — trying to build a reusable space craft.
The Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator RLV-TD takes flight Image: ISRO Early this morning, India launched its very first reusable space shuttle.These remarkable photos illustrate just how majestic the teensy shuttle looked as it took off.One of the things these photos underscore is the scale of the launch.NASA s space shuttle orbiters each measured over 122 feet in length, and the cost of just one shuttle, Endeavour, came in at over $1 billion.It s a huge milestone for India and for the growth of reusable spacecraft worldwide.Now, ISRO scientists say that they managed to guide the craft into a soft descent into the Bay of Bengal, where it appears to be intact.
An artist's impression of the full size reuseable rocketIndia has tested an unmanned, small-scale, space shuttle as part of its plans to create a reusable rocket.The 7 metre scale model rocket "successfully" flew 65km 40 miles into the air before it came down at sea, officials at the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO said.On re-entry through the Earth's atmosphere the vehicle reached Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, before it landed at sea.The mission was the first test flight of a "winged body aerospace vehicle" that the country hopes will provide data for its bid to create a reusable rocket.The 1.75 tonne model was created over the last five years and cost 1 billion rupees £9.6 million .Reusable rockets for space missions are being developed by a number of companies.
Fairing separation: The artist's impression.Pic: ESA / Pierre CarrilEurope's home-grown Galileo satnav system will take another step towards a full constellation tomorrow when satellites 13 and 14 head heavenwards from Kourou in French Guiana.ESA recently fired up Galileos 11 and 12, and said of when we can expect to enjoy metre-accurate satnav: "Initial services will be made available by the end of 2016.Then as the constellation is built-up beyond that, new services will be tested and made available, with system completion scheduled for 2020."There's more on the system's current status in this Galileo 13/14 overview vid:This autumn, ESA will attempt to lift the next four Galileos in one hit using a customised Ariane 5 ES.Ultimately, there will be 24 operational satellites, with six in-orbit spares.