Tag Archives: SpaceX

Are we in a state of a Second Space Race? (opinion)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

With the development of rocket technology in the 40’s and 50’s it was obvious that humanity would soon try to reach to the Space. However due to the period of tensions between Democratic World (led by USA) and Socialist Block (led by USSR), we now refer to as the Cold War, both Superpowers instead of collaborating for the good of humanity on that matter started to compete. Eventually the US and Soviet Union would scramble for which country would first launch a satellite to orbit the Earth, whose astronauts would land on the Moon first etc. Eventually, due to USSR’s collapse in 1991 the Cold War came to an end, and with it the First Space Race as well.

The 90’s and the beginning of the XXI Century saw Space Agencies from many countries doing joint research on Mir and on International Space Station. Since the end of the Apollo program in 1972 no-one has set foot on the Moon, but unmanned spaceships and rovers are still exploring our Natural Satellite and other worlds, like Mars, as well.

However in the past decade mutual relations between the Powers started to deteriorate. Tension is steadily growing, as 2014’s Russian annexation of Crimea Penninsula was considered unlawful by the ‘Western World’, which imposed sanctions on Russian Federation. Furthermore, for the last few years America is de facto in the state of Trade War with China and implemented bans on Chinese high-tech companies.  

The competition between the Powers seems to be more and more visible. The examples of that are most recent rovers on Mars: NASA’s Perserverance and CNSA’s Tianmen 1 which both launched in July of 2020. American landing on the Moon as a part of Artemis Program is scheduled for 2024 (which is unrealistic, as it was scheduled before COVID), and the works on apprioprate rocket and drive continue, while China is also planning to launch a manned space mission to the Moon in 2030’s. Taking some of the difficulties into account, like emergence of a global epidemic and constant funds shortages, it becomes obvious that by 2024 NASA won’t have sent its astronauts to the Moon. Moreover, some of the equipment needed for the project is still being developed and tested. This means, that there’s a chance of China being the first country to send astronauts to the Moon since Apollo program.

As International Space Station – home to astronauts from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos and others is steadily approaching the end of its mission, a question arises on the horizon: what Station will eventually replace it, and which Space Agency will be first to do so. The Country which first finishes building it most probably will make it available for others on their terms. For example, if PRC along with Russia manages to do it, then there’s a huge chance that during negotation of the terms on which American or European astronauts would gain access to the station tensions between those countries will rise even more.

On the other side there are commercial organizations like SpaceX or Blue Origin also looking to reinforce their presence in Space. 10 years ago those companies hardly had such level of importance and recognition as today. Recently those two were battling for a contract for a Lunar lander intended for the Artemis program. When Nasa after changing the details of contract choose SpaceX’s project, Blue Origin’s founder Jeff Bezos filed a lawsuit against the agency. Blue Origin eventually lost the case earlier this month.

To conclude, Global Superpowers – USA and China continue to compete against each other on many fields: technological, economic, diplomatic, with Space exploration being another proof of their rivalry. However, both countries’ leadership draw conclusions from the Cold War and understand, that they can’t allow mutual relations to deteriorate to the point of armed conflict. Recently, U.S. President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping, during which they stated, that despite differences both countries want to avoid open conflict between each other. “”As I’ve said before, it seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure the competition between our two countries does not veer into conflict, either intended or unintended. Just simply straightforward competition,” – said American President to his Chinese counterpart during the summit. Even during the Cold War both USA and USSR agreed on demilitarising the Space and halting nuclear tests there. The competition between both Superpowers or between private companies sometimes is a sign of rivalry or bad relations, however in this case it may also be considered a driving force, which speeds up development in the area. When Chinese Tianwen 1 succesfully landed on the Red Planet, NASA Administrator congratulated on success: “Congratulations to CNSA’s #Tianwen1 team for the successful landing of China’s first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong! Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet.” All of this means that, even though we can consider this Competition the Second Space Race, it does not mean that Humanity will experience a military conflict outside the Earth any soon. Even term Star Wars, derived from popculture was just a catchphrase for American anti-ballistic defense system, which in reality didn’t saw any use. We are not having real Star Wars on Earths’ Orbit in near future.

Sources:

https://www.ft.com/content/5527d9e5-ed0d-416d-8bd2-e9b12732f16d

https://www.ft.com/content/01f469d3-0c5c-41c2-8199-8c53df3bad0d

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/biden-seeks-competition-not-conflict-as-virtual-summit-with-chinas-xi-begins-01637025182

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/15/politics/joe-biden-xi-jinping-virtual-summit/index.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisakim/2021/11/04/bezos-blue-origin-loses-lawsuit-against-nasa-over-lucrative-lunar-lander-contract-awarded-to-musks-spacex/?sh=75e1aea82259

https://www.ft.com/content/5b20b49d-279a-4258-b4ae-6acbf29c8604

https://www.space.com/how-to-destroy-a-space-station-safely

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Lunar_Exploration_Program#Crewed_mission_phase

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_(rover)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianwen-1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program

https://www.history.com/news/reagan-star-wars-sdi-missile-defense

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How to build a house on Mars

Reading Time: 3 minutesNeedless to say that modern technologies keep developing so fast and rapidly that colonization of Mars is around the corner. The main trailblazer in discovering this mysterious planet is Elon Musk with his SpaceX, he claims that humans will travel there in 10 years. SpaceX is already developing a spaceship named Starship and training future astronauts, but it hasn’t been decided yet where and how first Mars discoverers are going to live. It’s an extremely significant decision to make because astronauts will have to stay on Mars for quite a long time to finally figure one of humanity’s main mysteries. In this article, I would like to present a vision of possible accommodation on Mars.

Unlike the Earth, the red planet has no bricks and the materials used have to be durable. In 2018 NASA conducted a contest where participants had to present their prototypes of a house that can be built on Mars. There were many wonderful and unconventional projects, but the most capturing among others tends to be the Marsha prototype. The house shape reminds of a cylinder and was developed considering Mars’s features. But the main question is what materials to use in the construction of it? As I have mentioned, it’s unable to produce ordinary materials like bricks on Mars. Possible you thought that materials carried on the spaceship are the solution, but I’d say it’s almost impossible. The way to Mars is not days or months, it’s years long. That is why food and other life resources are more preferable. Although it could be some space left for constructing materials, it’s far less than required. That is why scientists started to look for natural materials of the red planet to produce durable material for accommodation.

They concluded that it’s easier as it may seem. 

What materials can be used to build houses on Mars was discussed in the scientific journal Public Library of Science One. The surface of Mars is covered with soil weathered over millions of years, so-called regolith. To create at least some semblance of bricks out of it, water is needed, and scientists haven’t yet been able to find its obvious sources. Besides, now people can form materials suitable for building houses only under terrestrial conditions. And on Mars, it is necessary to come up with a way to create artificial stones and their analogs.

Recently, an interesting solution to this problem was proposed by scientists from Singapore. They suggested that the regolith could be made more flexible by mixing it with chitosan. This is the name of the substance that can be obtained from the material, which is the main component of the shells of shrimp, crabs, and some insects. The final material was named biolite. From it, scientists tried to create a smaller version of the Marsha house that I’ve mentioned before, but it was not created from scratch. Three components were 3D printed and then glued together using biolite. It turned out quite well, so we can assume that the houses of the future colonists of Mars will look like this.

Back in 2018, NASA researchers realized that some structures could be built from mushrooms. First, people build a primitive frame and then grow a special type of mushrooms under it, which wraps around the structure and takes its shape. When the structure takes its final form, the mushrooms can be heat treated and made clean and dry. In the picture, you can see that things made of mushrooms look disgusting and scary. Scientists want to make “mushroom houses” out of 3 layers. The first is mushrooms, the second is out of bacteria and the last one is ice. But they didn’t mention where to take so much water on Mars and how to prevent ice from melting.

 

As you can see, humanity is preparing to move to Mars. But before that, the planet must be carefully studied. In my opinion, every effort is valuable and I would never criticize a single try to invent or discover something new, especially connected to space because that moves the progress.

Sources:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/ames/myco-architecture

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0238606

https://www.aispacefactory.com/marsha

NASA-awarded ‘marsha’, a 3D-printed vertical martian habitat by AI spaceFactory

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Crew Dragon’s last straight

Reading Time: 2 minutesNasa conducted a test of the Crew Dragon crew capsule, made in collaboration with SpaceX and Boeing. The agency wanted to check key emergency procedures for crew safety. It was spectacular.
The emergency in-flight abort system has just been successfully demonstrated.
On January 19th a thrice-flown Falcon 9 sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon 12 miles into the sky and after about 84 seconds after launch, the rocket shut off its engines, and the vehicle’s own SuperDraco engines turned on, separating Crew Dragon from Falcon 9 at Mach 2.2 and getting a mile away in a matter of seconds.
It was a key test of safety procedures for the Crew Dragon capsule. It is a project whose point is to re-supply people to space regularly. This is the first action of that kind that can be repeated since the suspension of space shuttle missions.

The test that has been made on 19th January at the afternoon of polish time and has gone as planned. Its purpose was to simulate irregularities during take-off. The mission’s task was to perform a controlled disconnection of the Crew Dragon capsule from the Falcon 9 rocket, which carried the capsule into space.
Disconnection took place about a minute and a half after take-off. Fifteen seconds later, due to strong vibrations, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded spectacularly. However, the mission command center provided for this possibility. It was even said that there is a small chance that the rocket would survive the test.

However, it survived the most important part of the mission, the capsule disconnected from the rocket without problems and began a short flight on the engines built into it. Less than 6 minutes after take-off, four new-generation parachutes emerged from the vehicle, which were designed to slow down the capsule flight and make its launch not particularly uncomfortable for the potential crew. After 9 minutes, Crew Dragon fell into the ocean about 30 km from the start. Rescue teams started their work, whose task was to train the procedures of getting the crew out of the capsule.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com

https://www.space.com/spacex-crew-dragon-in-flight-abort-test-photos.html

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