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SpaceX’s Starship May Fly for Just $2 Million Per Mission, Elon Musk Says

The big spaceship-rocket duo will use just $900,000 of fuel per launch.

SAN FRANCISCO — Each flight of SpaceX’s big Mars-colonizing spacecraft will have a very small price tag, if all goes according to plan.

The Starship system, which consists of a reusable 100-passenger spaceship stacked atop a huge reusable rocket known as Super Heavy, will use just $900,000 worth of propellant to get off Earth and into orbit, Elon Musk said here today (Nov. 5) at the first U.S. Air Force Space Pitch Day.

“If you consider operational costs, maybe it’ll be like $2 million” out of SpaceX’s pocket each time, Musk said during a conversation with Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

“This is much less than even a tiny rocket,” Musk added. “So, it’s something that needs to be made.”

An aerial view of SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 prototype, seen during Elon Musk’s Starship update in South Texas on Sept. 28, 2019.
(Image: © SpaceX)

During Space Pitch Day (which should be called Space Pitch Days, since it runs through tomorrow), companies try to sell Air Force brass on their space-related ideas. In keeping with this focus, Thompson mostly asked Musk about business stuff — how to spur innovation, how management and leadership styles shift as a company grows, and so on.

This may sound relatively dry to space geeks, but Musk injected some fun nuggets into the conversation. For example, the billionaire entrepreneur said he does “zero market research whatsoever,” striving instead to create the Platonic ideal of a rocket or car. (Musk is also CEO of electric-vehicle maker Tesla.)

If he pulls that off, then “people will want to buy it,” Musk said.

The Starship MK1 assembled at SpaceX’s build and launch facility in Texas.
(Image credit: SpaceX)

He also hyped Tesla’s new pickup truck, saying that “it looks like an armored personnel carrier from the future,” and announced that he had just finished watching the 1996 movie “Space Jam” (serially, during 15- to 20-minute morning workout stints on the treadmill).

Musk demurred when Thompson asked about his leadership qualities, saying he doesn’t consider himself an expert on leadership. Thompson urged Musk not to “sell himself short” in this regard, teeing up a self-deprecating joke that the billionaire jumped on.

“That’s true. There’s plenty of others doing that,” Musk said, referring to investors who are betting on the stock price of his companies (particularly Tesla) to fall.

Toward the end of the 40-minute conversation, Thompson gave Musk the floor to say anything he wanted to the audience of investors, engineers, entrepreneurs and military officials. The SpaceX founder and CEO took the opportunity to talk about something near and dear to his heart: the importance of fully and rapidly reusable orbital rockets.

This is the technological advance that will slash the cost of spaceflight by orders of magnitude, allowing humanity to become a truly spacefaring species, Musk has said repeatedly over the years.

“It’s absolutely profound to have a reusable rocket,” he said here today. “This is the holy grail.”

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk chats with Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which is based at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The conversation took place in San Francisco on Nov. 5, 2019, at the U.S. Air Force’s first Space Pitch Day.
(Image credit: MIke Wall/Space.com)

SpaceX has been working to make this vision a reality, and the company has made considerable progress. SpaceX now routinely lands and reflies the first stages of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, and it’s doing the same with the heavy-lift Falcon Heavy, which has three launches under its belt. The company is now also starting to recover and refly payload fairings, the protective nose cones that surround satellites during launch. (There is still work to do, however; for example, the second stage of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy is still single-use hardware.)

Starship and Super Heavy fit well into this grand vision. Both vehicles (the spaceship, like the overall architecture, is known as Starship) will be fully reusable, and each individual craft will fly many times before it’s retired, Musk has said.

These missions will be quite varied. Starship and Super Heavy are designed primarily to help humanity settle Mars, the moon and other deep-space destinations, but SpaceX wants the duo to take over all of the company’s needs eventually. So, if all goes according to plan, Starship will also launch satellites (perhaps starting as early as 2021) and maybe even clean up space junk and ferry people on point-to-point trips around Earth, Musk has said.

Being able to do all of this for $2 million a pop would be revolutionary. That would be the cost of each mission for SpaceX, to be clear; we don’t yet know how much the company will charge customers for a Starship mission (or “is charging,” for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a round-the-moon flight on the vehicle, with a target launch date of 2023).

But, for some perspective, SpaceX currently sells Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches for $62 million and $90 million, respectively. And those prices are considerably lower than similar services offered by SpaceX’s competitors.

Source www.space.com

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The new telescopes are about to transform the hunt for alien life and our understanding of the universe

From strategic points, on Earth and in space, the next telescopes will depend on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of the most important questions of scientists about dark matter, the expansion of the universe and extraterrestrial life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the heavens.

The first of these telescopes, the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope from NASA , will be released in 2021, and then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. Already in 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the heavens, while observatories on Earth look back to the ancient universe.

This is what is in process and what these new tools could reveal.

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding faster than scientists imagined.

However, many questions remain to be answered. How has the universe evolved over time? Why can’t we see 95% of it? If there are aliens, where are they?

The next generation of telescopes – in space and on land – will try to fill these gaps in our knowledge.

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born and where there could be life in the universe.

The next telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process at the Northrop Grumman facility in California before its launch on March 30, 2021.

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe distant galaxies in detail and capture extremely weak signals within our own galaxy.

The farther you look into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first flashes of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe in detail young and distant galaxies that we have never seen before.

Thanks to the new infrared technology, the telescope was able to provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

These images could help answer questions about how the galaxy formed and its black hole.

“Do the black hole comes first and stars form around it? Do the stars come together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer, ”said Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, in an October press release.

JWST will also look for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) – but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of the light from the stars that crosses the atmosphere of a planet, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

Scientists have already identified more than 4,000 exoplanets.

But so far, they have not been able to study most of the atmospheres of these planets to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signals like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen is not stable enough to last a long time on its own, so it must be constantly produced to make it so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (as in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more revealing, especially if there is no carbon monoxide.

This is because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is likely to produce them constantly. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only one way of life could release that amount of methane without also shedding carbon monoxide.

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Scientists detect water vapor on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Scientists already had indications that there was a large ocean beneath the ice sheet of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Now, with this finding, it could become the first habitable place of our Solar System, in addition to the Earth.

Europa Scientists detect water vapor on Jupiter's moon Europa

Forty years ago, a Voyager spacecraft took the first foreground images of Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 moons.

These revealed brown cracks that cut the icy surface of the moon, which gives Europa the appearance of a venous eyeball.

Missions to the outer solar system in subsequent decades have accumulated enough additional information about Europa to make it a priority research objective in NASA’s search for life.

What makes this moon so attractive is the possibility that it has all the necessary ingredients for life.

Scientists have evidence that one of these ingredients, liquid water, is present beneath the icy surface and that it can sometimes break into space in huge geysers.

But nobody has been able to confirm the presence of water in these plumes by directly measuring the water molecule itself, until now …

Recently, a team led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has detected water vapor for the first time on the surface of Europa.

To do this, the vapor was measured by observing this moon through one of the largest telescopes in the world, the WM Keck Observatory on top of the Mauna Kea volcano, Hawaii.

Confirming that there is water vapor over Europa helps scientists better understand the inner workings of the moon.

For example, it helps support an idea: that there is an ocean of liquid water, possibly twice as large as Earth’s, splashing beneath the ice sheet of miles of this moon – an idea that is almost a certainty.

Scientists detect water vapor on Jupiter's moon Europa
Left: the image of Europa taken 2.9 million km by the Voyager 1 probe, on March 2, 1979. Center: color image was taken on July 9, 1979, by the Voyager 2 probe. Right: view of Europa made with images taken by the Galileo probe in the late 1990s.

Some scientists suspect that another source of water for plumes could be shallow deposits of melted water ice not far below the surface of Europa.

It is also possible that Jupiter‘s strong radiation field is removing water particles from Europe’s ice sheet, although recent research argued against this mechanism as the observed water source.

«Essential chemical elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur) and energy sources, two of the three requirements for life, are found throughout the solar system.

But the third, liquid water, is somewhat difficult to find beyond Earth, ”said Lucas Paganini, a NASA planetary scientist and who led the water detection investigation.

“While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, we have found the following best option: water in the form of steam.”

Paganini and his team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on November 18 that they detected enough water release from Europa (2,360 kilograms per second) to fill an Olympic pool in minutes.

However, scientists also discovered that water appears infrequently; at least not in quantities large enough to detect them frequently from Earth.

In fact, surface water molecules were detected only once in 17 nights of observation.

“For me, the interesting thing about this work is not only the first direct detection of water on Europa but also the lack of it within the limits of our detection method,” Paganini concluded.

Future research

Soon we could find definitive answers about the mysteries of Europa and its habitability level.

The Clipper mission to this moon is expected to be launched in the middle of next year, to finally round off decades of investigation of other missions.

When it arrives on Europa, Clipper will orbit it and make a detailed survey of its surface, interior, atmosphere, subsurface ocean, and other characteristics.

It will also take pictures of the geysers and perform analysis of the atmospheric molecules with mass spectroscopes.

And if that were not enough, it will leave everything ready for the next step, finding an ideal place for NASA to send a robot to collect samples.

Source: NASA

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Astronauts may hibernate on trips to Mars

Sony Media

Astronauts traveling to Mars in the near future may have to hibernate, according to a European Space Agency (ESA) scientist.

Astronauts may hibernate on trips to Mars

In interview with The Telegraph, Professor Mark McCaughrean, senior science consultant to the ESA Board of Science, revealed that hibernation could reduce the need for large amounts of food during the seven-month trip to Mars.

He explained:

The idea is that you sleep while traveling and use much less consumables.

Sleep is not the same as hibernation, because if you hibernate, it lowers your body temperature and reduces everything else, oxygen, and so on.

Placing astronauts in this state can also prevent fights between astronauts during the tiring journey, according to Professor McCaughrean.

He added:

If you have 100 people within a few hundred cubic meters for seven, nine months, you will have 20 people at the end, because they will do the Hunger Games. They will kill themselves.

While the idea of ​​hibernating astronauts may seem absurd, ESA is already conducting experiments on animals.

Professor McCaughrean said:

We are now experimenting with artificial hibernation to numb someone for seven months and not worry about food. We are talking about how we would do that. You do this with animal testing and we have programs to analyze how it would happen.

However, there are several obstacles to be overcome before these tests can be performed on humans.

He even said:

We are nowhere near that, because there are all ethical questions about how you would do it.

(Source)

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