Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Curiosity Right Over

Unlike the Russians, at least we can get our Mars missions out of Earth’s orbit.

NASA launches super-size Mars rover to red planet

The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer, NASA’s Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the red planet might once have been home to itsy-bitsy life.

It will take 8½ months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space center for NASA’s first launch to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

See also:
NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars
For NASA’s rover Curiosity, it’s ‘Mars or Bust!’
NASA Launches Hefty Curiosity Rover to Mars
NASA launches $2.5 billion rover to Red Planet
Super-size Mars rover blasts off, biggest robotic explorer ever built to roam another planet
Launch of Nasa Curiosity Mars rover could lead to human mission by 2030
NASA launches super-size rover to Mars: ‘Go, Go!’
NASA rover launched to seek out life clues on Mars
Nasa rover begins journey in search of life on Mars
Curiosity on its way to Mars – November 26, 2011
NASA Rover to Begin Journey to Mars
Curiosity Starts Nine Month Journey to Mars
NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Off
Will NASA’s Curiosity rover find signs of life on Mars?
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory

Well, so far so good, the mission is off to a good start. Of course, there’s still plenty of thing that could go wrong, the landing sequence for setting Curiosity down on the Martian surface looks to be extremely complex, like something Rube Goldberg would come up with.

/for $2.5 billion, Curiosity had better perform as advertised and discover something spectacular

Picking Up Where We Left Off

NASA may be grounded, but the Chinese are just getting warmed up.

Rocket launches Chinese space lab

A rocket carrying China’s first space laboratory, Tiangong-1, has launched from the north of the country.

The Long March vehicle lifted clear from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 21:16 local time (13:16 GMT).

The rocket’s ascent took the lab out over the Pacific, and on a path to an orbit some 350km above the Earth.

The 10.5m-long, cylindrical module will be unmanned for the time being, but the country’s astronauts, or yuhangyuans, are expected to visit it next year.

Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Chinese.

See also:
“Heavenly Palace:” China’s dream home in space
Space flight in service of science
Tiangong-1 blasts off
China’s Space Launch Closes Gap With U.S.
China launches Heavenly Palace space station module
China launches module for space station
China launches 1st space station module
China Launches Spacecraft, Eyes Space Station
China Launches ‘Heavenly Palace-1’ Into Space; Takes Step Toward Station
China Set to Launch Its Own Space Station; Mission: Unknown
China Launches Space Lab; An Insider Look Into China Space Program
Rocket’s red glaring error: China sets space launch to America the Beautiful
Tiangong 1

Okay, so the Chinese are still quite a ways behind the U.S. space program.

/but hey, at least they have an active space program

Abandon Ship!

What’s I say? This is what happens when you put all your eggs in the Russian technology basket and the basket falls apart.

Space station could be abandoned in November

Astronauts may need to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station before the end of this year if Russia is unable to resume manned flights of its Soyuz rocket after a failed cargo launch last week, according to the NASA official in charge of the outpost.

Despite a delivery of important logistics by the final space shuttle mission in July, safety concerns with landing Soyuz capsules in the middle of winter could force the space station to fly unmanned beginning in November, according to Michael Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager.

“Logistically, we can support [operations] almost forever, but eventually if we don’t see the Soyuz spacecraft, we’ll probably going to unmanned ops before the end of the year,” Suffredini said in an interview Thursday, one day after Russia lost a Soyuz rocket with an automated Progress resupply ship bound for the space station.

See also:
Will the Space Station be Abandoned?
International Space Station might be abandoned in November
Cargo Craft Loss Prompts ISS Concerns
NASA Sets Space Station Status Update Briefing for Monday
Roscosmos smarting after Progress loss
ISS crew safe despite supply failure: Russia, US
Matt Reed: After Russian crash, turn to the F-150 of American rockets
Progress Fails To Make Progress

Okay, so the Russian rockets are turning out to be piles of junk. Why can’t we launch the Progress cargo ship or the manned Soyuz capsule on top of the highly successful, dependable workhorse, Delta IV or Atlas V rockets? Where’s that old fashioned American ingenuity?

/and what about SpaceX, they’re already planning a rendezvous mission to dock with the ISS later this year, why can’t resources be poured into that and the schedule moved up?

Progress Fails To Make Progress

It’s been a really bad week for the Russians with two rocket failures in the last seven days and four failures total in less than a year.

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

. . .

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

. . .

Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.

See also:
Russia’s Progress M-12M launches toward ISS – fails to achieve orbit
Russian supply spacecraft crashes after launch
Russian cargo rocket lost in rare launch mishap
Technology.ISS supplies strained as Russian Progress freighter crashes to Earth
Space station manager: We can weather the Russian crash
Rocket headed for space station crashes
Russian Progress unmanned ISS resupply vehicle lost during launch
Russian Progress space truck crashes in Siberia
Unmanned Russian Supply Ship for Space Station Crashes
Search Underway for Remains of Russian Spacecraft
Debris from Russian space freighter falls in south Siberia
Spaceship crash ‘exposes Russia’s systemic failures’
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Roscosmos to tighten control of space industry after rocket lost
Russia grounds rocket, orders probe
Russian spacecraft lost to apparent engine failure uninsured
Will cargo crash leave ISS crew high and dry?

It’s not that I was a big fan of the space shuttle, but if the Russians can’t get these recurrent rocket failure problems under control, there’s a possibility that the International Space Station might eventually have to be abandoned, because there’s currently no available alternative to supply the ISS. The ISS managers are putting on a brave face that they can manage the cargo loss, but losing three tons of scheduled resupply has just got to hurt.

/what is it they say about putting all your eggs in one basket?

The Navy Gets A Drone . . .

. . . the Navy gets a drone, Fly-Fer the carrier, the Navy gets a drone.

Navy unveils new bat-winged stealth bomber; unmanned X-47B is military’s deadliest new drone

An unmanned, bat-winged stealth bomber made its first demo flight in California, marking the first step in the Navy’s development of a new generation of killer drones.

The experimental warplane, named the X-47B, took off from Edwards Air Force base, shot to 5,000 feet and flew a racetrack pattern over a dry lakebed during the 29-minute demo flight on Friday, the Navy said in a statement.

“Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy’s first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the program manager for the plane, said in a statement.

Military leaders see the plane as a major shift from the current fleet of robotic aircraft.

Combat drones are usually controlled remotely by human pilots, but the X-47B can carry out extended missions controlled by a computer and is designed to fly faster and farther than existing jets, like the Predators and Reapers used in Afghanistan.

It’s also the first drone capable of taking off and landing aboard an aircraft carrier in the ocean.

See also:
X-47B Sorties Ramping Up
Northrop’s X-47B robotic jet makes first flight from Edwards Air Force Base
U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned aircraft successfully conducts first flight
X-47B stealth drone takes its first test flight
X-47B Unmanned Stealth Bomber’s Maiden Flight
Lockheed Martin Supports U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman in X-47B UCAS-D Successful First Flight
Unmanned X-47B bomber successfully completes first test-flight
X-47B unmanned Stealth Bomber performs successful maiden flight
GKN Aerospace partners with U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman for X-47B first flight
New, stealthy Navy drone makes its maiden flight
Robot X-47B stealth bomber test flight
Northrop Grumman Demonstrates Unmanned X-47B Plane
X-47B UCAS
Northrop Grumman X-47B

Well, the X-47B is certainly going to take up a lot of space on board a carrier, without the ability to contribute anything towards carrier defense.

/they’re probably looking forward to using it in conjunction with the CVX Next Generation Aircraft Carrier