Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has blueprinted what they term “the modern day space elevator – 2021.”

According to ISEC’s president, Pete Swan, the space elevator idea is ready to begin engineering development. “It is the Green Road to space,” he explains, part of a dual space access architecture which includes advanced rockets. Furthermore, the space elevator is part of a permanent transportation infrastructure for the movement of massive cargo to GEO and beyond and enabling new enterprises along the way.

Galactic Harbors will unify transportation and enterprise.
Credit: ISEC

Video presentations

Highlighting current thinking about the space elevator, a series of ten video presentations are available demonstrating that the engineering development of the space elevator is ready to begin. The videos were part of Blue Marble Week, an event run by the Space division of Foundation for the Future and co-sponsored by ISEC. 

Global momentum

Additionally, ISEC is soon releasing the anticipated report: Space Elevators: The Green Road to Space. The essence of the report is that space elevators 1) are green in that they raise the payloads to the Apex Anchor with electricity — no burning rocket fuels, and 2) they enable green missions that are not really doable with even advanced rockets launching 1,000 times a year — the limit of 20 tons to GEO per launch is very restrictive when looking to deliver 5,000,000 tons for Space Solar Power or 1,000,000 tons to Mars for SpaceX and Elon Musk’s Red Planet-placed colony.

“There is currently a large global momentum for humanity’s movement off planet,” ISEC’s Swan says, “and the space elevator provides the infrastructure for that movement.”

To review the new videos, go to:

To learn more about ISEC and its upcoming report — Space Elevators: The Green Road to Space – go to:


The Wilson Center has made available 20 declassified documents that provide an extraordinary peek into the preparations and implementation of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, who flew into space in his Vostok spaceship on April 12, 1961.

Credit: Roscosmos



Compiled by Asif Siddiqi, a professor in the Department of History at Fordham University, the documents come from a variety of archives including the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF) and the archive of the Energiya Rocket-Space Corporation.



The translated Soviet documents, selected, curated, and annotated by Siddiqi in a digital archive is available here at:

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3090 tasks.

The robot’s drive on Sol 3088 went well, “and there is lots of bedrock in the arm workspace,” reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The strategic plan included full contact science to support selection of the next drill target, but unfortunately the Sol 3088 Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) activities did not complete as expected, so no MAHLI imaging was included in a recent plan while the team evaluates MAHLI telemetry.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“But we’re still planning to brush a bedrock target named ‘Bardou’ and observe the brushed spot and a nearby unbrushed spot with [the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer] APXS, to help understand the compositions of the bedrock, dust, and sand in the area,” Herkenhoff adds.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Distant targets

Before deploying the rover’s arm, a passive Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation of Bardou is planned, along with Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaics of distant targets on the flank of “Mt. Sharp” and what appears to be a windblown drift deposit near the top of “Mont Mercou.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Later in the afternoon of Sol 3090, the Left Mastcam will acquire a full 360-degree mosaic, which is likely to provide a spectacular view,” Herkenhoff explains.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3089, April 15, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“After the arm is moved out of the way late in the morning of Sol 3091,” Herkenhoff reports, “Navcam and Mastcam will measure the amount of dust suspended in the atmosphere, then Mastcam will acquire a multispectral observation of the brushed spot and stereo mosaics of “Mini Mont Mercou” and a ridge in the distance toward the southwest. Finally, the Left Mastcam will survey the sky for clouds during twilight.”

Orbital debris hit.
Credit: NASA



Tag it as a tragedy of the commons. Decades of detritus build-up in the form of Earth-circling, high-speed clutter – from spent rocket stages, paint chips, dead or dying satellites to leftover remains from anti-satellite testing.

The amount of human-made objects in low-Earth orbit has been steadily mushrooming over the past 50 years.

Clutter in the cosmos.
Credit: Used with permission: Melrae Pictures/Space Junk 3D





And there’s a messy message growing too, one of close-calls between orbiting assets, even side-swiping collisions that generate menacing refuge that worsens an already bad situation.


Take a read about this situation by going to my new Scientific American story:

“Space Junk Removal Is Not Going Smoothly – Despite promising technology demonstrations, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the growing problem of taking out the orbital trash” at:

Credit: Roscosmos

During an April 12 meeting on long-term priorities of space exploration, pilot-cosmonaut of the USSR and State Duma Deputy Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman to orbit Earth aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963) asked Russian President Vladimir Putin a lifestyle question regarding cosmonauts.

Valentina Tereshkova: On this important date, when 60 years ago our compatriot Yury Gagarin opened a space page in the history of humanity, I would like to speak about his successors, Russian cosmonauts. It is common knowledge that this profession is always very risky. This is why it is very important to provide a decent lifestyle for the cosmonauts and their family members. I would like to hear in this context what will be done in this regard.

Credit: Wiki/

Vladimir Putin: Ms Tereshkova, I have discussed this issue with my colleagues. Indeed, this seems to be a current issue but it is still no less important for those who work in this industry. Up to this day, they have not just done all they can to achieve the desired common result but even put their health and lives at risk. Therefore, I suggest a 50 percent increase in the salaries of those who have already been to space and are important members of the cosmonauts’ team. The salaries of those who have not yet been to space but are getting ready for this will go up by 70 percent. These increases will also be reflected in premium payments and so I think that in all, our cosmonauts will receive handsome remuneration.

The top of “Mont Mercou” in front of the Curiosity rover is visible in this image taken by the Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3083. Mount Sharp is the white hill in the distance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.



NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3087 tasks.

Last week, Curiosity circled the base of “Mont Mercou” and has 3-D profiled the large outcrop, reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. The robot began climbing up the side of the nearly 20-feet (6-meters) high outcrop.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 3086, April 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We found ourselves almost at the top, with a beautiful expanse of bedrock in our workspace and stunning views of the top of ‘Mount Sharp’ off in the distance,” O’Connell-Cooper adds.

Dust Removal Tool apparently in action, shown by circular patch. Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3086, April 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Paired drill sites

The plan calls for drilling at that spot, a companion drill to the “Nontron” drill at the base of the outcrop.

“These paired drill sites, and resulting mineralogical data, combined with the extensive imagery acquired by Mastcam, will go a long way to help us understand the evolution of this outcrop,” O’Connell-Cooper points out.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3086, April 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As part of any drill campaign, researchers carefully investigate an area, sometimes finding the most “representative” drill site to reflect the bulk composition of the outcrop.

Choosing a drill target

“For some of our previous drill locales, bedrock was homogeneous, with little evidence of veining for example, which makes choosing a drill target much easier,” O’Connell-Cooper notes. “Here at Mont Mercou, this is definitely not the case! Bedrock in today’s workspace varied from nodule-rich — small circular or lenticular features — to nodule-poor and contained both white veins (typically calcium sulphate) and more unusual dark toned resistant “fins” of vein material – lots happening here, geologically speaking!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3086, April 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Curiosity target last Wednesday labeled “Puymangou” may be the remnant of the same type of dark veins scientists see in the rover’s


current workspace. New targets are being appraised to aid the next drilling session, but are also safe for the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument.

“Those dark veins look really interesting but the fin-like morphology means that they can pose a danger to APXS if, for example, a pointed edge went up into the sensor,” O’Connell-Cooper says. “Eventually, we decided on a flat bedrock ‘Peyrignac’ which we can brush with our DRT [Dust Removal Tool] centered on the nodule-poor bedrock, to analyze with APXS and MAHLI [Mars Hand Lens Imager].

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3086, April 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Nodule-rich bedrock

“Typically, DRT targets also have an offset APXS and MAHLI target, 18 mm from the center of the main target. Conveniently, the Peyrignac offset target should end up centered on nodule-rich bedrock, so this will give us a more complete idea of the composition here,” reports O’Connell-Cooper.

The plan calls for driving further onto the top of Mont Mercou on the second sol of the plan (Sols 3085-3087) “and then Mastcam will image our terrain, with the aim of refining our drill target selection in the next plan, on Monday,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes. “With luck, we might even be drilling again by this time next week!”

China’s space station expected to be completed around 2022.
CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab


The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said on Monday that a Long March-7 Y3 rocket, slated to loft a supply ship to China’s still-to-be-built space station, has arrived at its launch site in southern China’s Hainan Province.

The rocket, alongside the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft, has been transported to the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site where it will be assembled and tested. CMSEO also said the facilities and equipment at the launch site are in good condition and preparations are being carried out as scheduled.

The uncrewed Tianzhou-2 is one element of a go-getting schedule to construct China’s space station.

Core module of China’s space station.
Credit: CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s has completely transferred its human spaceflight agenda to the construction stage of its space station. A number of missions — including launching the core module of the space station, cargo replenishment, and crewed space flights — will be implemented this year.

The space station’s Tianhe core module and its booster, a Long March-5B Y2 are also at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. Liftoff of that central element is scheduled to be implemented in the first half of this year.

China’s space station to be operating in the 2020’s. Credit: CCTV

Development strategy

Space program officials in China see building the country’s orbiting outpost as the third step of its “three-step development strategy” for a crewed space program.

In May 2020, the successful launch of a Long March-5B kicked off the “third step” of the development strategy.

As reported by the China Central Television (CCTV) network, the spacefaring country has launched 11 manned spacecraft, one cargo spacecraft, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space labs, sending 11 astronauts into space, completing the first two steps of the three-step manned space program.

Shenzhou-11 crew onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab. Mission lasted 33 days.
Credit: CCTV-Plus

CCTV adds that the space station will be completed around 2022, and a national space laboratory with stable operation in orbit will be built up within that time period.

Working with the United Nations, China has completed selection of a first batch of space science experiments to be implemented onboard the Chinese crewed space station.

Foundational element

The upcoming launch of the Tianhe core module is a foundational element of the Chinese orbiting complex.

“After we launch the core module, we will send a cargo spacecraft to dock with it. And then we will launch the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft,” said Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, in a recent CCTV interview. “That’s why I say it is critical this year, as all the flight missions rely on our core module, and it must succeed. The launch of the core module will be a milestone indeed,” Yang added.

China’s space station agenda also includes lofting an optical module that carries a space telescope, touted as having a better field angle than the NASA Hubble space telescope.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“For Experiment Modules I and II that we will launch next year,” Yang said, “they both need to be docked with the core module, which is of significant and symbolic meaning to the whole space station program of China. Only after we launch the space station to outer space, will we truly enter the phase of verification and building of the space station.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Astronauts selected

A total of 12 Chinese astronauts will enter space in 11 missions launched under China’s manned space program over the next two years, said Yang.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

This year and next, while China’s space station is being assembled, Yang said four crewed spaceflight missions will be carried out. “We have chosen the astronauts for the four crews, and are now training them for each of the missions. There will be experienced and new astronauts assigned to each crew, and you will see many familiar faces among them,” he told CCTV.


In total, China’s astronaut corps consists of 34 individuals.

On hold: Helicopter flight delayed. Mars Perseverance Right Mastcam-Z Camera photo, acquired on April 10, 2021 (Sol 49).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA has scraped a weekend plan to fly the Ingenuity Mars helicopter at Jezero Crater.

The decision to delay the test flight has been based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode, said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

“The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned,” the JPL statement explained. “The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. “

Following that review, Ingenuity engineers are to reschedule the full-speed test.

The glitch has meant rescheduling the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14, according to a JPL statement.


The new installment of Diary of the 12th Man is now available, a captivating look at the Apollo 17 mission of 1972, written by astronaut Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt.

In Section 3 of Chapter 12 – “Pages of History” – the reader will find a treasure trove of experiences by Apollo 17 moonwalkers, Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitt.

A last grand panorama view of the west entrance to Taurus-Littrow Valley showing 3 days of activities both near and far from Challenger lunar lander.
Credit: NASA

For example, before re-entering the Challenger lunar lander, Schmitt tossed a geology hammer using a partial Olympic-style discus-throwing technique. The large extent of the impact plume is shown in a contrast-stretched photo not usually seen in the literature, spotlighting how much regolith can be moved by impacts of even the smallest low velocity objects.

Apollo 17 rover in its final location, put in position so television viewers back on Earth could view the departure of Cernan and Schmitt from Taurus-Littrow.
Credit: NASA


The reader has the ability to download a number of photos in a window separate from the text at higher resolution. Some images can also be enlarged for further examination by clicking areas of the image. Additionally, there are also convergent stereo anaglyphs of various lunar samples showing exceptional depth and structure of the objects.

“All-in-all, a remarkable conclusion to one of the most prolific lunar surface explorations of the 20th century,” explains editor-in-chief, Ronald Wells.

Schmitt’s down-sun “before” photo of the block group (right of the gnomon; left piece) from which samples 79115, 79135 will be taken. The west wall of Van Serg Crater spans the top of the photo. “The dust on Cernan’s suit shows how severe the problem will be for astronauts returning to a lunar module, or more permanent habitat after a day’s work in the field,” Schmitt explains.
Credit: NASA




“Although Chapter 12 concludes the 3 EVAs, the Diary is by no means at an end,” Wells explains. “The next chapter recounts Dr. Schmitt’s scientific evaluation of the mission data with the aid of a half century’s progress in analytical techniques, combined with new conclusions that arise from the synthesis of analytical data with his evolving interpretations of the geology of Taurus-Littrow and the Moon.”




To access Apollo 17: Diary of the 12th Man, go to:


Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3082, April 8, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3083 tasks.

The robot is near the transition between the “Glasgow” member and the sulfate-bearing unit. “As this is a major geologic transition, the science team is trying to get as much data as possible before moving away,” reports Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity’s location on Sol 3081. Distance driven 15.53 miles (25.00 kilometers) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New plans called for Curiosity to do a “touch-and-go,” performing contact and targeted remote science before driving away.

Bedrock slab

First, Curiosity was to get some arm exercise in, doing Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) observations of “Puymangou,” a dark spot on a bedrock slab in front of the rover.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3082, April 7, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Science will test if the color difference represents a difference in composition relative to the nearby bedrock,” Stroupe adds. “For the Rover Planners (of which I am one today), this is a challenging target because it is small and a little raised relative to the surrounding parts of the rock. We also need to avoid the nearby pockets of sand trapped by the surface roughness of the rock. After the arm activities, Curiosity will stow the arm to prepare for driving.”

Curiosity Mast Camera imagery taken on Sol 3081 April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



Sedimentary structures

Before driving away, there is a set of targeted science observations with Curiosity’s Mastcam. “In addition to a small 3×3 mosaic of the contact science target, we will take a large stereo mosaic of “Mont Mercou” from the southwest to get more views of the sedimentary structures of the ridge,” Stroupe explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3081, April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition to all the images taken from other locations around Mont Mercou, Stroupe adds that this last set will enable researchers to build a complete 3-D model of the feature.

In this same pre-drive time, the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will also do a passive sky observation as part of our environmental suite.

Good viewshed

“Then, we say goodbye to Mont Mercou and begin our drive, about 30 meters [98 feet] to the south-southwest. The terrain in this area is both quite rocky and has patches of sand, providing another challenge for the Rover Planners,” Stroupe notes.

“Curiosity will wind her way around some of the sharper rocks and bigger patches of sand in order to land on a high point that should provide a good viewshed for planning the next drive, as well as landing on some bedrock to enable contact science in the weekend plan,” Stroupe reports. “The Rover Planners (and Curiosity’s wheels) are definitely looking forward to being further south, where the terrain is more benign and our drives will no longer need to look like a slalom track.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3081, April 6, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Cloudy skies

After the drive, researchers will take some imaging to support the next drive, as well as some additional ChemCam observations of the sky and its calibration targets in order to continue to monitor the health of the instrument.

“Just around sunset, we will do another set of cloud observations with Mastcam and Navcam in the hopes of getting yet another spectacular image of the Martian cloudy skies,” Stroupe says, and a Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image of the ground below the rover.

Also on tap is the robot performing environmental observations, including a dust devil movie and a supra-horizon movie, as well as some twilight Mastcam images, Stroupe adds.