Kim Stanley Robinson says Elon Musk's Mars plan is a "1920s science-fiction cliché"


Kim Stanley Robinson, whose seminal Mars trilogy (coming soon to TV?) changed the way we talk about our neighboring planet, says that Musk's Mars colonization plan "is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his back yard." Read the rest

Understanding Musk's plan for colonizing Mars


Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake's feature on Elon Musk's plan for millions of people to live on Mars is the best explanation (and contextualization) of this far out vision that I've read. From Nat Geo:

The rocket would deliver the crew capsule to orbit around Earth, then the booster would steer itself toward a soft landing back at the launch pad, a feat that SpaceX rocket boosters have been doing for almost a year now. Next, the booster would pick up a fuel tanker and carry that into orbit, where it would fuel the spaceship for its journey to Mars.

Once en route, that spaceship would deploy solar panels to harvest energy from the sun and conserve valuable propellant for what promises to be an exciting landing on the Red Planet.

As Musk envisions it, fleets of these crew-carrying capsules will remain in Earth orbit until a favorable planetary alignment brings the two planets close together—something that happens every 26 months. “We’d ultimately have upward of a thousand or more spaceships waiting in orbit. And so the Mars colonial fleet would depart en masse,” Musk says.

The key to his plan is reusing the various spaceships as much as possible. “I just don’t think there’s any way to have a self-sustaining Mars base without reusability. I think this is really fundamental,” Musk says. “If wooden sailing ships in the old days were not reusable, I don’t think the United States would exist.”

"Elon Musk: A Million Humans Could Live on Mars By the 2060s" by Nadia Drake (National Geographic, thanks Tom Andres for the video tip!)

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SpaceX rocket explodes on launchpad; Facebook satellite destroyed


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload—a communications satellite backed by Facebook—were destroyed this morning during launch tests at Cape Canaveral, Fla. No-one was hurt in the explosion. Read the rest

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples

Image from NASA's live coverage: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft departing the ISS at 6:10 am EDT Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, after successfully delivering almost 5,000 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on its ninth resupply mission to the orbiting lab.
Another successful SpaceX mission to resupply the ISS ended today with a splashdown in the Pacific, southwest of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Here's an update from NASA.

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SpaceX launched 2 satellites into orbit, but its Falcon 9 rocket crashed

As seen from VAB roof at NASA Kennedy, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 10:29 a.m. EDT with Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A comms satellites. Photo: SpaceFlightNow.
SpaceX successfully deployed two satellites on Wednesday, but the Falcon 9 rocket that carried them into orbit then crashed into its drone ship while touching down in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Elon Musk Says Humans Will Go To Mars by 2024

Elon Musk (Reuters / Stephen Lam)

In my weekly segment on KCRW's “Press Play” news program with host Madeleine Brand, we listen to Elon Musk wax poetic about artificial intelligence and whether life might be a dream--and his plans to send humans to Mars by 2025.

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SpaceX plans to send unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars by 2018, with humans to follow

By way of tweets and Facebook posts, SpaceX this week announced plans to send its unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018. Sending this privately-funded craft on a bold, brave, risky trip like this could bring SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk closer to his goal of getting humans to Mars.

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SpaceX releases new video of Falcon 9 launch and landing

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SpaceX today published some wonderful new footage of its recent successful Falcon 9 launch and landing.

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SpaceX launches Hyperloop pod design competition geared for students and indie engineering teams

The high-speed ground transport system was first described by Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper, and its first route would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with an expected journey time of 35 minutes.

SpaceX unveils new Dragon V2 manned spacecraft

Described by its chief designer Elon Musk as "a true 21st-century spacecraft," the DragonV2 flight could achieve its first unmanned flight as soon as late 2015, and its first crewed flight as soon as mid-2016.

Rocket launch filmed by drone

The SpaceX Grasshopper's latest launch—and graceful descent!—captured by a drone-mounted camera. Grasshopper was most recently seen terrifying the cows. Read the rest

How SpaceX saved the Dragon capsule from destruction

On March 1, SpaceX ran a test launch of Dragon, the capsule in which it hopes to someday transport human beings into space. Dragon was due to connect with the International Space Station, but very quickly into the launch things started to go all wrong. This is a short summary of the SpaceX team managed to stop their capsule from tumbling out of control. Read the rest

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft successfully attaches to ISS

For the second time in 2012, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has connected with the International Space Station. ISS expedition 33 crew members Akihiko Hoshide and Sunita Williams grappled Dragon and attached it to the station, completing a critical stage of the SpaceX CRS-1 cargo resupply mission. Read the rest

SpaceX, Boeing win $900 million to develop spacecraft for human space flight

NASA has awarded Boeing (not to be confused with "Boing Boing," you guys), SpaceX, and a Colorado-based systems integration firm more than a billion in contracts to develop spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts. The Chicago-based aerospace giant Boeing gets $460 million. Elon Musk's space transportation startup SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, CA, gets $440 million. And Sierra Nevada Corp. in Colorado gets $212.5 milion. NASA's press release is here.

Above: NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim stands inside the Dragon Crew Engineering Model at SpaceX headquarters, during a day-long review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout. (Photo: SpaceX) Read the rest

With a splash, the (SpaceX) Dragon has landed

The first picture of the Dragon spacecraft as it floats in the ocean awaiting recovery ships. (SpaceX)

At 8:42AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern this morning, SpaceX completed an historic mission as the business end of the Dragon capsule splashed down safely in the Pacific ocean, to be recovered by boats and head for land. From the SpaceX announcement:

Last week, SpaceX made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station. Previously only four governments – the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency – had achieved this challenging technical feat. Dragon departed the space station this morning. This is SpaceX's second demonstration flight under a 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA to develop the capability to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.

More analysis in this previous BB post from this morning's event. Read the rest

SpaceX mission control vs. NASA mission control (photo comparison)

Boing Boing reader Michael Smith-Welch shares this image, and says,

Why did I see so many binders (presumably filled with paper) on the desks of the engineers at NASA's Mission control yesterday when they were docking SpaceX's Dragon module to the Space Station?

In contrast, the SpaceX folks had (almost) none at there mission control center. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the government agency is so riddled with bureaucracy that everything must be followed "by the book" so to speak. But this seems simple minded to me.

Yup. Read the rest

With SpaceX launch, remains of James Doohan (Star Trek's "Scotty") finally rest in peace, in space

The late actor James Doohan, best known for his role as "Scotty" on the original Star Trek series, left instructions in his will that he wished to be buried in space. His family worked hard to fulfill that wish, and made arrangements with Celestis, Inc., a subdivision of the Houston-based company Space Services that offers "post-cremation memorial spaceflights."

Those remains became part of the payload for a 2008 SpaceX Falcon 1 launch attempt that didn't reach orbit because of technical problems. Each failed attempt was newly agonizing for family members, prolonging their grief and lack of closure.

But today, seven years after "Scotty's" death, SpaceX successfully launched his ashes into space. From the website today:

Doohan’s ashes – which also were launched to space in 2008 as part of an unsuccessful mission -- were part of a secondary payload included on the second stage of the rocket, not on the Dragon itself. That payload separated from the capsule at the 9-minute, 49-second mark and is now orbiting, on its own, above the Earth. It’s expected to stay in orbit for approximately a year before descending back to Earth and disintegrating during re-entry.

Wende Doohan, James Doohan's widow, was on hand for the launch with the couple’s daughter, Sarah, now 12. Doohan posted a photo on Twitter and tweeted the following comment early today. “Sarah and I enjoyed watching a beautiful rocket launch this morning - certainly a first for her.” Also, on May 18, Doohan tweeted the attached photo of Sarah at Cape Canaveral with a caption that read “Following Daddy’s footsteps?”

In 2008, just after that last unsuccessful attempt, we shared on Boing Boing a personal account of what the process felt like for Doohan's family. Read the rest

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