Friday, October 16, 2015

China seeks to start a new space race? Co-operation is the aim.

Earlier this week China released a statement of their plans and hopes for the next few years of space travel. They've expressed to send manned missions deeper into space, send a probes to Mars and Jupiter, and maybe even a landing on the far side of the moon. "When exploring the unknown, we should not just follow others. China should be more creative," said Liu Jizhong, director of the lunar exploration program and space engineering center under the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. This is good news. China wish to succeed in their space ventures, and if you ask me that's great for humanity. I don't think we should be concerned about borders when talking about space travel and the advancement of all things space, we should want to see humanity as a whole excel.

NASA are still by and large the best at spacial discovery. They're the leader for a reason, despite the ineffective funding they're given. Voyager 1 and 2 are still operational, currently in deep space, New Horizons is sending back awesome pictures of Pluto, the Mars rovers and the Hubble Telescope are still operational too. However, the progress of NASA in the past few decades has been decreased to a slow burn rather than the fiery attitude it had in the 60's and 70's. This was due to a completive nature of the "Space Race". America was rushing against the Russia to beat them in space. Eventually they did it, and put a man on the moon. Nowadays NASA gets 0.5% of the US federal budget, and there are those which would like it further reduced. Hence why their needs to be global co-operation, and a competitive nature. One could argue that if China suddenly started progressing forward with some impressive feats in space, the US congress would act quickly to make sure NASA keeps up. This is all just speculation. The real aim should be co-operation. Imagine if NASA's budget was increased, and the rule against working with the Chinese Space Agency was removed. Co-operation could begin. No one country should have to drive this aim alone. The combined ability of several countries should be aiming for one goal, progress of humanity.

What should be next on the list then? What's the way forward for co-operation. For me, it's probably the moon. Humanity wants to send people to Mars, and the amount of training and experience needed is exhausting. If we're going to succeed, we need to go through a huge amount of trial and error. It's been a while since people have done space walks, descents and landings from another planet. The gravity on Mars, is about 40% of that on Earth, and the moon is about 17% of that on Earth. It's not ideal, but it's a starting point. Effective landings, takeoffs and other tests need to be done, repeatedly.
Mars want to do a landing Mission on the far side of the moon. Why shouldn't NASA, the ESA etc. get involved too? It's probably of reluctance and politics. I hate saying it but personal interested and national pride get in the way of progress.

The next step has to be about co-operation. It needs to be seen as a global effort to achieve some common goals. The main goal for space should be exploration. It doesn't necessarily need to be manned , just done in a way that multiple  international stakeholders are involved. Right now, China are extending a hand. The world should accept it and move on from this stance of separation.

Also, take a look at this picture of Pluto released recently. Isn't it amazing?
Picture of Pluto

Sunday, October 11, 2015

SpaceX Launch November 2015

It's been a while since I've posted, and unfortunately I don't think I'm going to make this a particularly regular blog. I have another blog related to STEM subjects, which has grown in popularity: It's located at that blog if you're interested.

However, I am still extremely passionate about SpaceX, so will be creating some posts related to SpaceX and their launches. I don't think I could ever replace some of the more in depth blogs, like the blog from waitbutwhy, but I can give my opinion and provide some sort of worthwhile commentary on it. They're at the centre of innovation, and I believe they're going to play a huge part in the progress of humanity. In mid November, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9. This Falcon 9 could be considered version 1.1 as some serious improvements have gone into the rocket. Specifically, a 20 percent increase in engine thrust on the first stage booster. The Falcon 9 is already ahead of its competition in terms of thrust, so this is quite amazing that they're still able to innovate to such a level.

They have several launches planned for the next few years. However, I think it's important to stay grounded and only concentrate on the launches in the near future. Baby steps are needed here.
SpaceX have been trying their best to land a rocket vertically, and as I've said in previous posts, it hasn't been very successful. However when they do finally pull it off  in such a way that it is 100% repeatable, they will change how we access space, in a huge way.

SpaceX have a few launches left for 2015:

  • On November 17th, A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the SES 9 communications satellite.
    It will launch from launch site SLC-40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • In early December, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch 11 second generation communication satellites for Orbcomm. The rocket will fly in the Falcon 9 v1.1 configuration with upgraded Merlin 1D engines , stretched fuel tanks, and a payload fairing.
  • In mid December, A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Jason 3 ocean altimetry mission. Jason 3 will measure ocean surface topography to aid in ocean circulation and climate change research for NOAA, EUMETSAT, NASA and the French space agency, CNES.

These launches are part and parcel of SpaceX's daily operations. They're first and foremost a launch company. It may be exciting to see the new innovations, but you can't lose sight of the daily workings of the company. Sure , they've got long term goals for reusable rockets and colonising Mars, but we can't lose track of what they're doing right now. The overall goal takes time, and these smaller missions help achieve that goal. There aren't many test launches planned for the next while, and I'll update the blog when I find out. Stay tuned!

Until then have a look at this test launch: