Some spaceflight stuff

Following announcements by various others concerning new spacecraft, China has got in on the act by suggesting it will be building a super-heavy lift rocket. At present, the Chinese are well into development of the Long March 5 rocket, which is capable of lifting 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit, allowing work to be done with the space station, and 14 tonnes to geostationary orbit, where various communications satellites lie as well as unmanned missions into deep space and the Moon. The rocket under consideration, on the other hand, is large enough for manned missions to the Moon. Long March 5 is scheduled for first launch in 2014.

Rockets do tend to be the expensive part of sending people to the Moon, as pointed out by Mitchel and Webb recently:

Also getting in on the act, shortly after announcing they will sort out fusion matter of factly, is Iran. The regime had previously announced they had intended to put a man in space by 2024, however, in response to action taken against them by the international community, they say they will accelerate the plans to 2019. A new satellite, Rasad 1, is also to be launched at the end of August.

The Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani visited ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation in Italy. He learned about the various uses for data from Earth Observation and the industrial ties to it, from designing to building to operating and even making use of data.

The Mars Rover Curiosity has taken its first steps in the lab (live on Martian baby-cam for all to see). The car sized rover will be launched to the red planet during November 2011, where it may become one of three active rovers scouring the alien sands of Mars.

November this year will see another machine blast off for a bit of a job in space. The Robonaut 2, called R2, will be launching on mission STS-133, presently scheduled for the 1st of November. Once up there, the highly dexterous robot will show people what it can do in space. R2 is designed to look and act human, and in an effort to make it appear even more human, NASA have given R2 its own twitter feed. R2 will be partly autonomous, using its sensors to determine the strength it requires for a task – like tweeting on its phone. If you want to ask R2 a question, it is doing a twitter interview, so mark your questions #4R2 and they’ll be answered in a session from 10am CDT on the 4th of August (although I did squeeze in a couple when he first went live). At 1pm on the same day, R2 will be doing the final demonstration for reporters. R2’s feed has been added to Collect Space’s astronaut twitter feed list here (also available as a list to follow here). NASA also has a group account, though that has had a recent problem.

From astronauts in waiting to astronauts still undergoing their laurel tour. The STS-132 final full crew of Atlantis have been visiting USA President Obama (picture here) as well as giving a presentation at the National Air and Space Museum, shortly after a replica Nobel Prize flown aboard Atlantis was entered into the museum’s permanent collection.

The third launch from Arianespace, Europe’s new spaceport, will take place on the 4th of August between 20:45 and 23:34 BST. The launch, the 196th Ariane family blast off, will deliver two multimedia communications satellites into geostationary orbit to provide services to north Africa, the middle east and parts of southern Europe.

The Cassini satellite has watched Saturn’s moon Prometheus slowly colliding with the inner edge of the F ring and gravitationally interacting with the material within it. A movie of images taken is here.

NASA’s Blueshift Blog’s own quick roundup of the best of the week’s new is here.

Discovery news has been worrying about how NASA would feed astronauts on the way to Mars. It isn’t like canned food could be popped in the microwave, wet food has a habit of going off rather quickly and even dry food and pills lose their nutrients over the course of such a mission. In order that the crew may have food to last over the course of 18 months, should they be forced to wait until second closest approach to Earth after landing, food would need a shelf life, both in terms of taste and nutritional value, of around five years. This menu is still a bit off according to their food scientists – around 2035 at the earliest.

The Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, has been making his views on the future of space exploration known in some reflections on the legacy of Apollo 11, heard in the following youtube audio slideshow clip:

There’s been a bit of a spacewalk to help do some work on the International Space Station. Briefing below:

Cosmonauts Yurchikhin and Kornienko began their EVA at 5:11 BST and began by replacing a video camera monitoring dockings with the Zvezda modules. They then routed and installed communication cables for the Kurs automatic docking system on Rassvet, the Mini-Research-Module-1. The spacewalk was completed at 11:53 BST, making it 147 EVAs for building and maintaining the station.

And finally, here’s This Week @Nasa:

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