The lunar bases, the Orion shuttle, Virgin Galactic and the space reality show - it looks like a new phase has begun in space exploration. Naked science has selected 10 space missions of the near future, which will soon make space a little closer for us
After the tragedy with the Columbia shuttle, the authority of the Space Shuttle program ships was seriously undermined, and NASA was faced with the task of creating a new reusable manned shuttle. In the mid-2000s, this project was named Crew Exploration Vehicle, but later acquired a more sonorous and beautiful name - "Orion".
Orion is a partially manned reusable spacecraft, which, in fact, repeats the technical design of the Apollo series ships, but has a much more advanced "stuffing", especially the electronic one. Almost everything has undergone an update - even the toilet in the new shuttle will be in the image of those used on the ISS.
It is assumed that the Orion spacecraft will begin with near-earth activities - mainly, they will be engaged in the delivery of astronauts to the orbital station. Then the most interesting thing will begin: NASA representatives say that the new shuttle will be able to return a person to the moon, help to land astronauts on an asteroid and even make the "next big leap" (Next Giant Leap - already officially one of the slogans accompanying the Orion program) - to allow man will finally set foot on the surface of Mars.
The first serious test (Exploration Flight Test-1) of the largely finished spacecraft will begin in December 2014 - however, it will only be an orbital and unmanned flight for initial tests. The first flight of astronauts aboard Orion is scheduled for the early 2020s. The most attractive, and therefore the most probable (due to its relatively low price) manned mission prepared by NASA for the new shuttle, so far, is a visit to an asteroid previously delivered to lunar orbit.
British company Virgin Galactic, led by billionaire Richard Branson, is one of the engines of space tourism and is about to take commercial space exploration to the next level.
Around the end of 2014, the first passenger launches of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital shuttle will begin, which for $ 250,000 will be able to fly six lucky ones at an altitude of 110 km above sea level. This is 10 km higher than the Karman Line, the FAO-established boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.
Rockets are not used when launching SpaceShipTwo; instead, the shuttle raises the main aircraft - WhiteKnightTwo to the required height, then the ship is dropped, and the main - already rocket - engine, specially developed for it (RocketMotorTwo), is turned on, which brings the ship to the cherished line of 110 km. Then the ship descends and re-enters the atmosphere at a speed of 4200 km / h (and can do this at any angle), and then lands on the airfield on its own.
The number of people who signed up for the first flights of SpaceShipTwo tends to a thousand. Among them are actors Ashton Kutcher and Angelina Jolie, as well as, for example, Justin Bieber. Places for a flight with Leonardo DiCaprio were generally raffled off at a charity auction - it turned out that many were not averse to paying a million dollars for such a service.
Incidentally, the UK's recent decision to build its own commercial spaceport is dictated, among other things, by the need to create infrastructure for companies such as Virgin Galactic. The company is currently using the Spaceport America launch site in the US state of New Mexico.
The mission of the interplanetary automatic station Dawn ("Dawn") is unique: the satellite must explore a pair of dwarf planets of the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter), and directly from their orbit. If everything succeeds, then this device will become the first satellite in history to visit the orbits of two different celestial bodies (not including the Earth).
Developed by NASA and launched in 2007, and equipped with an experimental ion engine, the device has already successfully completed its mission to explore the rocky protoplanet Vesta in 2012. All data received by the satellite are in the public domain.
At the moment, Dawn is heading towards an even more interesting object - the icy Ceres. This protoplanet (previously classified as an asteroid) has a diameter of 950 kilometers and is very close to a spherical shape. With a mass of one third of the entire asteroid belt, Ceres could officially become a planet (5th from the Sun), but in 2006, together with Pluto, it received the status of a dwarf planet. According to calculations, the ice mantle on its surface can reach 100 km in depth; this means that there is more fresh water on Ceres than on Earth.
Both objects - Vesta and Ceres - are of great interest to scientists. Their study will delve deeper into the understanding of the processes occurring during the formation of planets, as well as the factors that affect it.
Dawn is expected to arrive in orbit around Ceres in February 2015.
A little later, in July 2015, another major event is planned related to the mission of another interplanetary automatic station. Around this time, Pluto's orbit will reach the New Horizons spacecraft launched by NASA in 2006, whose mission is to thoroughly explore Pluto and its satellites, as well as a couple of objects in the Kuiper Belt (depending on which will be most accessible in surrounded by a satellite in 2015).
At the moment, the device has a bright record - it has reached the highest speed in comparison with any device launched from Earth, and is heading towards Pluto at a speed of 16, 26 km / s. To achieve this New Horizons helped the gravitational acceleration, which he received, flying near Jupiter.
By the way, many research functions of the apparatus were tested on Jupiter and its moons. After leaving the Jupiterian system, the device to save energy plunged into "sleep", from which it will be awakened only by the approach of Pluto.
The mission of the interplanetary automatic station "Don Quixote", developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), is truly knightly. Consisting of two devices - the research "Sancho" and the "impact" "Hidalgo", "Don Quixote" will have to demonstrate once and for all - whether it is possible to save humanity from the imminent fall of an asteroid, forcing a potential murderer to change course.
It is assumed that both parts of the device will reach some pre-selected asteroid with a diameter of about 500 meters. "Sancho" will revolve around him, conducting the necessary research.
When everything is ready, "Sancho" will move away from the asteroid at a safe distance, and "Hidalgo" will crash into it at a speed of 10 km / s. Then "Sancho" will again study the object - more precisely, what consequences the collision left: did the asteroid's course change, how strong the destruction was in its structure, and so on.
Don Quixote is slated to launch around 2016.
In Russia, projects of lunar apparatuses are being revived, and from the lips of people responsible for the Russian space industry, words are increasingly heard about the creation of a lunar colony with a tricolor.
The creation of a space base on the Moon is still a distant prospect, but projects of interplanetary automatic stations for the study of an artificial Earth satellite are quite feasible right now, and for several years the main one in Russia has been the Luna-Glob program - in fact, the first necessary step on the way to a potential lunar settlement.
The Luna-Glob interplanetary automatic probe will mainly consist of a lander.It will land on the lunar surface in its southern polar region, presumably in the Boguslavsky crater, and work out the mechanism of landing on the lunar surface. The probe will also study the lunar soil - drilling in order to take soil samples and further analyze it for the presence of ice (water is needed both for the life of astronauts and potentially as hydrogen fuel for rockets).
The launch of the apparatus was postponed many times for various reasons, at the moment the launch year is called 2015. In the future, before the manned flight planned for the 2030s, it is planned to launch several more heavier probes, including Luna-Resource, which will also be engaged in study of the moon and other necessary preparatory measures for the future landing of astronauts.
The Dream Chaser mini-shuttle from Sierra Nevada Corporation is being developed for NASA as a reliable and reusable manned vehicle for suborbital and orbital flights. It is supposed to use the Dream Chaser to deliver astronauts to the ISS.
The device is launched by an Atlas-5 rocket. The shuttle itself, capable of carrying 7 people, is powered by hybrid rocket engines. Landing, like SpaceShipTwo, it carries out independently and horizontally - at the cosmodrome.
Along with SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100, Dream Chaser is a commercial contender for the status of the new main manned spacecraft for the United States and NASA (all three projects received government funding). It is worth noting that these vehicles are being developed by the private sector of the American space industry with partial government support and are aimed at operations in near-earth space. As far as activities in deeper space are concerned, NASA already has its own manned spacecraft program, and this is the Orion mentioned above.
Most recently (July 22, 2014), Dream Chaser tests were carried out, which showed the readiness of all key systems for space flights. The first test manned shuttle flight is scheduled for 2016.
Of course, many people know about the Mars One project - the planned space reality show, the authors of which are now holding a worldwide competition to select applicants for a manned flight to Mars by the early 2020s and create a permanent human settlement there. However, there is another similar project - Inspiration Mars.
The Inpsiration Mars Foundation is a non-profit organization created by the first space tourist, American Dennis Tito. Tito intends to collect the necessary funds and send two people in a spaceship to Mars. No landing or launching into orbit is planned; just flying past the Red Planet and returning to Earth. With a good luck, the mission should take 501 days.
The funds are expected to be attracted both from the private sector and from the US budget; in total, from 1 to 2 billion dollars is required, the exact cost has not yet been named. The American "Orion" is called as an apparatus that can be used for the mission.
Tito believes that the flight should be made already in 2018 (Mars at this moment will again get as close to Earth as possible, which will create favorable conditions for interplanetary flight; next time this will only be in 2031).
There is also "Plan B" in case the mission is not ready by 2018: to extend the mission to 589 days, launch the device in 2021 and fly not only past Mars, but also past Venus.
James webb telescope
A space telescope that costs more than three Curiosity rovers. The James Webb Telescope is the successor to the world famous Hubble telescope (whose hardware continues to age). The development of the project was attended not only by the United States, but also by 16 other countries. Space agencies in Europe and Canada have provided significant assistance to NASA.
The $ 8 billion telescope, the latest figure announced by Congress, is expected to be launched on an Arian 5 rocket in October 2018 and placed at the Lagrange point between the Sun and Earth.
The main mirror of the telescope consists of 18 gilded movable mirrors, connected into one, and has a diameter of 6.5 meters. The telescope will “see” in the optical, near and mid-infrared ranges. With its help, it is supposed to study the early stages of the development of the Universe and see celestial bodies extremely distant from our galaxy, as well as make clearer than ever pictures of objects of the solar system.
In terms of its capabilities, James Webb will surpass not only Hubble, but also another important space telescope - the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The interplanetary automatic station Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer is likely to change our understanding of small bodies in the solar system. The JUICE satellite, developed by ESA, will travel to Jupiter in 2022 and will engage in long-awaited exploration of some of the most interesting objects in the solar system - the three closest and largest satellites of Jupiter from the so-called Galilean group: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
It is assumed that each of these celestial bodies has an under-ice ocean, that is, theoretically - the conditions for the origin of life. JUICE will closely study the physical characteristics of these satellites, search for organic molecules and study the composition of ice (remotely, through scientific equipment on board).
The data obtained by JUICE will help analyze Jupiter's moons as potential targets for future manned missions. In case of a successful launch at the scheduled time, the device will reach the Jupiter system in 2030.