spaceflight

In Case You Missed It...

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir sat down and answered your questions during a Tumblr AnswerTime session! 

But don’t worry, we’ve got a recap for you! In addition to the highlights below, you can check out the full AnswerTime here

Astronaut Jessica Meir was selected as part of our 2013 astronaut class (which was 50% women!) and is currently training to go to space. She could be one of the first astronauts to ride in the Orion spacecraft, which will carry humans deeper into space than ever before. 

Let’s check out some of her responses…




Follow astronaut Jessica Meir for more: @Astro_Jessica on Twitter and Instagram and follow the Orion space capsule as it prepares to fly to deep space on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow NASA on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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     Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, offers the unique sight of a complete Mercury spacecraft. Many of these spacecraft are available for viewing all over the United States, but this one is special because it did not fly.

     During the course of a Mercury flight, several parts of the spacecraft are jettisoned and not recovered, including the retro package. This piece of equipment is visible here in my photos as the striped metal object strapped to the bottom of the heat shield. This small cluster of solid rocket motors was responsible for the safe return of the astronaut from space, making just enough thrust to change the shape of the orbit so that it would meet the atmosphere and use aerobraking for a ballistic reentry.

     If this package had not fired properly, the astronaut would be faced with the dire situation of being stuck in orbit. Fortunately, this never happened in real life, but it was captured in the fanciful novel “Marooned” by Martin Cardin, in which a NASA astronaut was stranded on orbit after his retro rockets failed. When the book was released in 1964, it was so influential that it actually changed procedures for Mercury’s follow on program Project Gemini, adding more redundancy to the spacecraft’s reentry flight profile.

     Alan Shepard, the first American in space and later Apollo 14 moonwalker, didn’t fail to notice that there was a leftover spacecraft at the end of the Mercury program. He lobbied for a second Mercury flight in this ship, speaking personally to both NASA Administrator James Webb and President John Kennedy about this flight. He told them his idea of an “open ended” mission in which they would keep him in orbit indefinitely until there was a malfunction or consumables began to run out. Webb stated (and Kennedy agreed) that it was more important to shelve the Mercury spacecraft in order to jump start the more capable Gemini Program. Thus, we now have this whole Mercury on display for future generations to appreciate.

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The First Woman In Space Turns 80, And You Probably Never Heard Of Her

“Her flight into space, at age 26, is still the record for youngest female astronaut/cosmonaut. Aboard Vostok 6, her rendezvous with Vostok 5 cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky made them the first cosmonauts aboard different vessels to communicate in space. In cosmonaut history, only Yuri Gagarin and Alexey Leonov are more revered.”

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, launched aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 amidst controversy. At 32, she was the youngest astronaut in history, surrounded by questions such as “will it ruin her reproductive organs,” “what if she’s menstruating” and “will she weep if something goes wrong on the job?” But 20 years prior, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova proved that women had every bit as much mettle and ability as the men. Tereshkova’s 1963 flight – which she piloted, orbited Earth 48 times in, and even had the first spacecraft-to-spacecraft communication in – demonstrated that women could withstand and function in space just as well as men. She was only 26 at the time, still a global record for women in space. Her incredible life in the military, in politics and as an ambassador for space exploration continues to this day, on which she celebrates her 80th birthday.

Come get the whole story – as much as fits in 200 words – on Valentina Tereshkova as part of today’s Mostly Mute Monday.

Expedition 52 Begins Aboard Space Station

When humans launch to the International Space Station, they are members of expeditions. An expedition is long duration stay on the space station. The first expedition started when the crew docked to the station on Nov. 2, 2000.

Expedition 52 began in June 2017 aboard the orbiting laboratory and will end in September 2017. 

FUN FACT: Each Expedition begins with the undocking of the spacecraft carrying the departing crew from the previous Expedition. So Expedition 52 began with the undocking of the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft that brought Expedition 51 crew members Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet back to Earth, leaving NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin aboard the station to await the arrival of the rest of the Expedition 52 crew in July.

This expedition includes dozens of out of this world science investigations and a crew that takes #SquadGoals to a whole new level. 

Take a look below to get to know the crew members and some of the science that will occur during the space station’s 52nd expedition.

Crew

Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) – Commander

Born: Batumi, Adjar ASSR, Georgian SSR
Interests: collecting stamps and space logos, sports, history of cosmonautics and reading
Spaceflights: STS-112, Exps. 15, 24/25, 36/37, 51
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2o9PO9F 

Jack Fischer (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born:  Louisville, Colorado.
Interests: spending time with my family, flying, camping, traveling and construction
Spaceflights: Expedition 51
Twitter: @Astro2Fish
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2o9FY7o

Peggy Whitson (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Mount Ayr, Iowa
Interests: weightlifting, biking, basketball and water skiing
Spaceflights: STS-111, STS – 113, Exps. 5, 16, 50, 51, 52
Twitter: @AstroPeggy
Bio:  https://go.nasa.gov/2rpL58x

Randolph Bresnik (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Fort Knox, Kentucky
Interests: travel, music, photography, weight training, sports, scuba diving, motorcycling, and flying warbirds
Spaceflights: STS-129 and STS-135
Twitter: @AstroKomrade
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rq5Ssm

Sergey Ryazanskiy (Roscosmos) – Flight Engineer

Born: Moscow, Soviet Union
Interests: Numismatics, playing the guitar, tourism, sport games
Spaceflights: Exps. 37/38
Twitter: @Ryazanskiy_ISS
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rpXfOK

Paolo Nespoli (ESA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Milan, Italy
Interests: scuba diving, piloting aircraft, assembling computer hardware, electronic equipment and computer software
Spaceflights: STS-120, Exps. 26/27
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rq0tlk

What will the crew be doing during Expedition 52?

In addition to one tentatively planned spacewalk, crew members will conduct scientific investigations that will demonstrate more efficient solar arrays, study the physics of neutron stars, study a new drug to fight osteoporosis and study the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart.

Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA)

Solar panels are an efficient way to generate power, but they can be delicate and large when used to power a spacecraft or satellites. They are often tightly stowed for launch and then must be unfolded when the spacecraft reaches orbit.

The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), is a solar panel concept that is lighter and stores more compactly for launch than the rigid solar panels currently in use. ROSA has solar cells on a flexible blanket and a framework that rolls out like a tape measure.  

Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER)

Neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, are the densest objects in the universe, and contain exotic states of matter that are impossible to replicate in any ground lab.

The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) payload, affixed to the exterior of the space station, studies the physics of these stars, providing new insight into their nature and behavior.

Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for Osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5)

When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss. The Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5) investigation tests a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving health for crew members.

Fruit Fly Lab-02

Exposure to reduced gravity environments can result in cardiovascular changes such as fluid shifts, changes in total blood volume, heartbeat and heart rhythm irregularities, and diminished aerobic capacity. The Fruit Fly Lab-02 study will use the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to better understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart.

Watch their progress HERE!

Expedition 52 Mission Patch 

Our planet is shown surrounded by an imaginary constellation shaped like a house, depicting the theme of the patch: “The Earth is our home.” It is our precious cradle, to be preserved for all future generations. The house of stars just touches the Moon, acknowledging the first steps we have already taken there, while Mars is not far away, just beyond the International Space Station, symbolized by the Roman numeral “LII,” signifying the expedition number. 

The planets Saturn and Jupiter, seen orbiting farther away, symbolize humanity’s exploration of deeper space, which will begin soon. A small Sputnik is seen circling the Earth on the same orbit with the space station, bridging the beginning of our cosmic quest till now: Expedition 52 will launch in 2017, sixty years after that first satellite. Two groups of crew names signify the pair of Soyuz vehicles that will launch the astronauts of Expedition 52 to the Station. 

Click here for more details about the expedition and follow @ISS_Research on Twitter to stay up to date on the science happening aboard YOUR orbiting laboratory!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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Take a Virtual Tour of NASA

Welcome to NASA! Today, we’re taking you behind-the-scenes for a virtual tour looking at our cutting-edge work and humanity’s destiny in deep space!

Starting at 1:30 p.m., we will host a series of Facebook Live events from each of our 10 field centers across the country. Take a look at where we’ll be taking you…

Glenn Research Center
1:30 p.m. EDT

Our Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH will host a tour of its Electric Propulsion Lab. This lab is where we test solar propulsion technologies that are critical to powering spacecraft for our deep-space missions. The Electric Propulsion Laboratory houses two huge vacuum chambers that simulate the space environment.

Marshall Space Flight Center
1:50 p.m. EDT

Our Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL will host a tour from a Marshall test stand where structural loads testing is performed on parts of our Space Launch System rocket. Once built, this will be the world’s most powerful rocket and will launch humans farther into space than ever before.

Stennis Space Center
2:10 p.m. EDT

Our Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, MS will take viewers on a tour of their test stands to learn about rocket engine testing from their Test Control Center.

Armstrong Flight Research Center
2:30 p.m. EDT 

Our Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA will host a tour from their aircraft hangar and Simulator Lab where viewers can learn about our X-Planes program. What’s an X-Plane? They are a variety of flight demonstration vehicles that are used to test advanced technologies and revolutionary designs.

Johnson Space Center
2:50 p.m. EDT

Our Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX will take viewers on a virtual exploration trip through the mockups of the International Space Station and inside our deep-space exploration vehicle, the Orion spacecraft!

Ames Research Center
3:10 p.m. EDT

Our Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley will bring viewers into its Arc Jet Facility, a plasma wind tunnel used to simulate the extreme heat of spacecraft atmospheric entry.

Kennedy Space Center
3:30 p.m. EDT

Our Kennedy Space Center in Florida will bring viewers inside the Vehicle Assembly Building to learn about how we’re preparing for the first launch of America’s next big rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Langley Research Center
3:50 p.m. EDT

Our Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia will bring viewers inside its 14-by-22-foot wind tunnel, where aerodynamic projects are tested.

Goddard Space Flight Center
4:10 p.m. EDT

Our Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD will discuss the upcoming United States total solar eclipse and host its tour from the Space Weather Lab, a large multi-screen room where data from the sun is analyzed and studied.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4:30 p.m. EDT

Our Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA will bring viewers to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility to learn about robotic exploration of the solar system.

So, make sure to join us for all or part of our virtual tour today, starting at 1:30 p.m. EDT! Discover more about the work we’re doing at NASA and be sure to ask your questions in the comment section of each Facebook Live event! 

Additional details and viewing information available HERE

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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Blue Origin recently revealed the interior of their New Shepard crew capsule which the company hopes to fly next year. New Shepard will carry up to six people on an 11-minute suborbital flight high above Texas.

A computer tablet mounted on the corner of each massive four-foot wide window will provide external and internal camera views, map views, and mission data to each flyer. Each flight will experience around four minutes of weightlessness. The capsule’s interior is sparse, maximising the available space for microgravity acrobatics. 

The entire flight will be monitored by Launch Control on the ground, and there will not be any bulky control equipment. A black table-like structure in the capsule’s center is actually the Launch Escape Motor required in the event of a launch abort.

P/C: Blue Origin

July 10, 1962, Telstar 1 is launched aboard a Thor-Delta rocket at Cape Canaveral. The first live television broadcasts, faxes, and phone calls were delivered through this satellite, ushering in an era of instantaneous data transmissions from all over the world. 

Telstar 1 and it’s nearly identical twin, Telstar 2, were developed in a multinational partnership between NASA, Bell, AT&T, National PTT and GPO (of France and the UK respectively). Telstar weighed 170 pounds, with a diameter of 35 inches, and was covered in solar panels to provide electricity. The size and design of the satellite was limited by the capabilities of the Thor-Delta. The instrumentation carried were simple transponders, requiring massive earth-based receivers to transmit the signals relayed by the satellites.

Telstar 1 would successfully prove telecommunications through satellites before experiencing failure in February 1963, due to increased radiation exposure caused by Cold War nuclear tests at high-altitudes, causing damage to the delicate transistors aboard the craft. Telstar 2 would launch in May of 1963. Subsequent Telstars would be launched in the 1980s and 90s, with the latest, Telstar 19V, scheduled to launch in 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. These newer Telstar satellites are similar to the twins Telstar 1 and 2 in name only.

While not as sexy as the Mercury 7, or as memorable as Sputnik, Telstar 1 and 2 are seminal to the history of modern telecommunications, proving the concept of the communications satellites, without which, life as we are accustomed would not be possible. While non-functioning, both Telstar 1 and 2 continue to orbit the earth. A backup craft to Telstar 1 and 2 is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington DC. 

Also in 1962, The Tornados release an instrumental song that becomes the first UK single to reach #1 on the charts in the US. 

One Year Later

On March 1, 2016, veteran astronaut Scott Kelly returned from his Year in Space mission. In many ways, the adventure was just beginning.

The spaceflight part of the One Year Misson to the International Space Station ended a year ago today, but the science behind it is still moving. Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko continue to provide samples for the data collection from their ground-breaking mission. Results are expected to to start coming later in 2017, which will help launch humanity on deep space missions.

Kelly not only commanded the International Space Station’s Expedition 46, he participated in spacewalks like this one on Dec. 21, 2015, in which Kelly and astronaut Tim Kopra successfully moved the Space Station’s mobile transporter rail car ahead of the docking of a Russian cargo supply spacecraft.

On the station in 2015, Kelly showed off his home away from home. Scott tweeted this image out with the comment: “My #bedroom aboard #ISS. All the comforts of #home. Well, most of them. #YearInSpace." 

Why was the Year In Space important? As we work to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit, how the human body reacts to microgravity for extended periods is of paramount importance. Not only were Kelly and his Russian counterpart monitored throughout the mission, they both continue to submit to tests and monitoring one year later to see if there are any lasting effects from their voyage aboard the station. 

Scott Kelly also a human control here on Earth, his identical twin brother and fellow astronaut Mark Kelly. Both brothers have served aboard the International Space Station, but Scott’s stay was almost twice as long as typical U.S. missions. The continuing investigations are yielding beneficial knowledge on the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long-duration spaceflight.

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The age of human spaceflight began 56 years ago when Yuri Gagarin launched into space aboard Vostok 1. The 27-year-old Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes during which he completed one revolution of the Earth. Upon his return to Earth, Gagarin toured the world as a beloved Hero of the Soviet Union and praised the world over for his historic accomplishment.

Roughly every six weeks or so the ground track of the International Space Station matches up with that of Vostok 1′s at the same time of day that the historic mission flew. This allows astronauts on board the ISS to see the world almost exactly as Gagarin saw it. 

In 2011, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli filmed the Earth during one of these orbits as part of a film called First Orbit, created by filmmaker Christopher Riley. Audio of Gagarin’s flight and his conversations with ground control are included in real time to simulate the cosmonaut’s historic journey.

May 15th, 1963 - Gordon Cooper launches aboard Mercury-Atlas 9, Faith 7, and is the last astronaut to fly to space under Project Mercury.

Faith 7’s mission was one of durability and stamina, in order to try and catch up with the Soviets, which had longer lasting missions following Yuri Gagarin’s Vostock 1, whereas the Mercury flights lasted only a few hours. (Thank you to YuriGagarinOfficial for catching my mistake!) 

Gordon Cooper would orbit the Earth 22 times in a mission that lasted over 34 hours before being picked up by the USS Kearsarge in the Pacific Ocean. This would be the last time an American Astronaut would orbit the Earth solo. Cooper’s capsule, Faith 7, is currently on display at Space Center Houston.

Project Mercury would be succeeded by Project Gemini, publicly announced in January 1962.

13 Reasons to Have an Out-of-This-World Friday (the 13th)

1. Not all of humanity is bound to the ground

Since 2000, the International Space Station has been continuously occupied by humans. There, crew members live and work while conducting important research that benefits life on Earth and will even help us eventually travel to deep space destinations, like Mars.

2. We’re working to develop quieter supersonic aircraft that would allow you to travel from New York to Los Angeles in 2 hours

We are working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently. Seventy years after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 aircraft, we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy by working to create a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight.

3. The spacecraft, rockets and systems developed to send astronauts to low-Earth orbit as part of our Commercial Crew Program is also helping us get to Mars

Changes to the human body during long-duration spaceflight are significant challenges to solve ahead of a mission to Mars and back. The space station allows us to perform long duration missions without leaving Earth’s orbit.

Although they are orbiting Earth, space station astronauts spend months at a time in near-zero gravity, which allows scientists to study several physiological changes and test potential solutions. The more time they spend in space, the more helpful the station crew members can be to those on Earth assembling the plans to go to Mars.

4. We’re launching a spacecraft in 2018 that will go “touch the Sun”

In the summer of 2018, we’re launching Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will get closer to the Sun than any other in human history. Parker Solar Probe will fly directly through the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. Getting better measurements of this region is key to understanding our Sun. 

For instance, the Sun releases a constant outflow of solar material, called the solar wind. We think the corona is where this solar wind is accelerated out into the solar system, and Parker Solar Probe’s measurements should help us pinpoint how that happens.  

5. You can digitally fly along with spacecraft…that are actually in space…in real-time!

NASA’s Eyes are immersive, 3D simulations of real events, spacecraft locations and trajectories. Through this interactive app, you can experience Earth and our solar system, the universe and the spacecraft exploring them. Want to watch as our Juno spacecraft makes its next orbit around Juno? You can! Or relive all of the Voyager mission highlights in real-time? You can do that too! Download the free app HERE to start exploring.

6. When you feel far away from home, you can think of the New Horizons spacecraft as it heads toward the Kuiper Belt, and the Voyager spacecraft are beyond the influence of our sun…billions of miles away

Our New Horizons spacecraft completed its Pluto flyby in July 2015 and has continued on its way toward the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft continues to send back important data as it travels toward deeper space at more than 32,000 miles per hour, and is ~3.2 billion miles from Earth.

In addition to New Horizons, our twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Continuing on their more-than-37-year journey since their 1977 launches, they are each much farther away from Earth and the sun than Pluto. In August 2012, Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between the stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago.

7. There are humans brave enough to not only travel in space, but venture outside space station to perform important repairs and updates during spacewalks

Just this month (October 2017) we’ve already had two spacewalks on the International Space Station…with another scheduled on Oct. 20. 

Spacewalks are important events where crew members repair, maintain and upgrade parts of the International Space Station. These activities can also be referred to as EVAs – Extravehicular Activities. Not only do spacewalks require an enormous amount of work to prepare for, but they are physically demanding on the astronauts. They are working in the vacuum of space in only their spacewalking suit. 

8. Smart people are up all night working in control rooms all over NASA to ensure that data keeps flowing from our satellites and spacecraft

Our satellites and spacecraft help scientists study Earth and space. Missions looking toward Earth provide information about clouds, oceans, land and ice. They also measure gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone and carbon dioxide and the amount of energy that Earth absorbs and emits. And satellites monitor wildfires, volcanoes and their smoke.

9. A lot of NASA-developed tech has been transferred for use to the public

Our Technology Transfer Program highlights technologies that were originally designed for our mission needs, but have since been introduced to the public market. HERE are a few spinoff technologies that you might not know about.

10. We have a spacecraft currently traveling  to an asteroid to collect a sample and bring it back to Earth

OSIRIS-REx is our first-ever mission that will travel to an asteroid and bring a sample of it back to Earth. Currently, the spacecraft is on its way to asteroid Bennu where it will survey and map the object before it “high-fives” the asteroid with its robotic arm to collect a sample, which it will send to Earth.

If everything goes according to plan, on Sept. 24, 2023, the capsule containing the asteroid sample will make a soft landing in the Utah desert.

11. There are Earth-sized planets outside our solar system that may be habitable

To date, we have confirmed 3,000+ exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system that orbit a Sun-like star. Of these 3,000, some are in the habitable zone – where the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist on the surface.  

Recently, our Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the first known system of SEVEN Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these plants are firmly in the habitable zone, and could have liquid water on the surface, which is key to life as we know it.

12. Earth looks like art from space

In 1960, the United States put its first Earth-observing environmental satellite into orbit around the planet. Over the decades, these satellites have provided invaluable information, and the vantage point of space has provided new perspectives on Earth.

The beauty of Earth is clear, and the artistry ranges from the surreal to the sublime.

13. We’re building a telescope that will be able to see the first stars ever formed in the universe

Wouldn’t it be neat to see a period of the universe’s history that we’ve never seen before? That’s exactly what the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to do…plus more!

Specifically, Webb will see the first objects that formed as the universe cooled down after the Big Bang. We don’t know exactly when the universe made the first stars and galaxies – or how for that matter. That is what we are building Webb to help answer.

Happy Friday the 13th! We hope it’s out-of-this-world!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

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(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpY9gGWRD0s)

Boeing’s proposals for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway and Deep Space Transport

SpaceX announces two-person mission around the Moon in 2018.

Humans may once again travel from the Earth to the Moon according to the latest announcement by SpaceX. Elon Musk, in a teleconference arranged with less than 24-hours notice, stated Monday afternoon, February 27, that the company intends to send two private citizens on a circumlunar voyage sometime in late 2018.

The week-long mission would see the travelers in a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a free-return trajectory around the Moon, ultimately reaching a distance of 397,600 miles before returning to the Earth. Dragon would launch atop a Falcon Heavy rocket from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center – the same launch pad where the original Lunar missions departed from in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Musk stated that the individuals, which have not been identified yet, will begin health and fitness training later this year. SpaceX was approached by the two individuals for the mission and placed a “significant deposit” on the flight.

He also did not disclose the exact amount the mission would cost but stated that the individual price of each lunar seat was “on par” with what NASA is currently paying Russia to transport their astronauts to the ISS on Soyuz vehicles. These seats are around $80 million dollars per person per flight.

“I think this should be a really exciting mission that gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again,” Musk said. “I think it should be super inspirational.”

SpaceX’s goal of a Lunar Dragon flight is within the realm of technical possibility for the company, though there are still significant hurdles to overcome. Crew Dragon’s systems will not require many significant modifications as the capsule was designed for interplanetary travel from the beginning. The PICA-X heat shield is capable of withstanding the intense heat generated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere at lunar velocities of 32,000 miles per hour. Only the spacecraft’s communications systems will have to be significantly modified to allow for the greater distance between the spacecraft and receiving stations on the ground.

Falcon Heavy is scheduled to make its first demonstration mission in the summer of 2017, and the first Crew Dragon is slated for an uncrewed flight test later in 2017. Flights with astronauts on board are not planned until March 2018, when the first crewed missions to the International Space Station are scheduled to begin. SpaceX hopes that if this timetable holds, the data and experience gathered through these initial flights into Low Earth Orbit will be sufficient for the circumlunar mission in late 2018.

SpaceX’s announcement has come less than two weeks after NASA’s announcement that the agency is considering adding astronauts to the first flight of its Space launch System rocket in early 2019 on a flight known as Exploration Mission 1. EM-1 will see an Orion capsule make a circumlunar flight on a mission also lasting around a week.

Private citizens paying for flights aboard Crew Dragon has not been publicly considered by SpaceX before, though Musk stated that multiple others have approached the company in recent months for possible trips into space. Musk hinted that the company could take in around 12% of their budget if it sold some flights to public customers.

P/C: SpaceNews

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October 11th, 1968 - Apollo 7 launches Astronauts Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham into orbit aboard a Saturn IB, with the task of testing the Command Service Module, functions, rendezvous and communications procedures. The mission would last 11 days.

Unfortunately, the crew of Apollo 7 suffered motion sickness, and Schirra from a head cold. This, along with a distaste for the sweet, high-energy foods they were given, plus the duration of the flight, caused discomfort of the crew to the point of committing a ‘mutiny in space’ against Mission Control, talking back and purposefully disregarding Control when asked to turn on the cabin TV camera, or to put on their helmets during re-entry.


Esiele and Cunningham would not return to space, whereas Schirra had already planned on retiring from NASA. Despite the mutiny, Apollo 7 completed its mission of testing the CSM to ensure it’s flight on Apollo 8 two months later, and again to the moon the following year.