Spaceflight stuff

Future tech is the name of the game at the moment it seems. Discovery is asking what is the next step in solar system exploration. The answer for them appears to be between a Europa mission or a Mars sample return one.

NASA has announced three new centennial challenges. One is to put a small satellite into orbit twice in a week, with a prize of $2 million for whoever does it. The second is to develop a rover that can operate in the dark, with $1.5 million as the prize. The final one is to develop an autonomous sample gathering robot that can work in a variety of terrains without human intervention. As well as those, there are three current challenges waiting for an answer. One is to develop a way of powering a device crawling up half a mile of cable by firing a laser at it. Another is to produce a material fifty percent stronger than anything commercially available at present. The third one is to fly an aircraft 200 miles in under two miles using the equivalent of less than one gallon of gasoline per occupant. When that eventually gets converted into metric units, the rest of the world may apply… For everyone else, click here for more details.

To the immediate future now and NASA have been calling for funds for the new Space Technologies Program in 2011. Pictures from the two-day event are here.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been sending back images of the star formation region NGC 2467. I don’t normally link to stories that are just about images, but this one was taken by Orsola De Marco, who at one point was my tutor.

And finally, a little further back in time for a future symposium. NASA want people to come along and talk about Key Moments in Human Spaceflight, 1961/81, covering the time period from Yuri Gagarin’s trip into space on the 12th of April 1961 to the launch of the first space shuttle mission exactly twenty years to the day later in the most detail, but reflecting the half centenary of human spaceflight in its entirety. The symposium will occur on the 26th-27th of April 2011 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Send proposals for talks via the address mentioned at the website linked to earlier.

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