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In a key milestone for NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon, the space agency today announced that SpaceX will build the vehicle that will land astronauts on the lunar surface. The current plan, known as Artemis, calls for astronauts to launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, fly to lunar orbit on the space agency’s Orion space capsule, and then transfer to SpaceX’s Starship rocket to make the final descent to the surface.

The contract, worth $2.9 billion, will go toward developing a moon-ready version of the Starship rocket. The futuristic-looking vehicle is still in the prototype stage, with testing ongoing at a Texas facility. SpaceX beat out proposals from Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin—which has been working with defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper—and Dynetics, a defense contractor based in Huntsville, Alabama.

Here’s everything you need to know about NASA’s ambitious Artemis mission and how SpaceX will play a key role.

What is NASA’s Artemis program?

Announced in 2017 under the Trump administration and named in 2019, the Artemis program aims to return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, including landing the first woman and the first person of color on the moon.

The Biden administration has voiced support for the program, as well. But while Trump’s team pushed for a crewed mission to the moon’s surface in 2024, Congress has not provided the amount of funding for the program that NASA says would be needed for that time table. Due to a smaller budget than requested, and delays during the development of the SLS rocket and other parts of the program, NASA is reevaluating the soonest date that it could launch people on a lunar mission.

The Artemis I mission, which will launch no sooner than late 2021, will be an uncrewed test flight of Orion and SLS. Artemis II will follow, using SLS and Orion to fly a crew around the moon and back but not land, similar to 1968’s Apollo 8 mission. Then Artemis III will use SLS, Orion, and SpaceX’s Starship to complete the journey to the moon’s surface.

To fly the quarter-million miles to the moon, astronauts will travel on NASA’s SLS heavy-lift rocket and Orion deep-space spacecraft. The plan then calls for Orion to dock with a Human Landing System (HLS)—which is what NASA selected SpaceX’s Starship for. This spacecraft will wait in lunar orbit up to a hundred days before the astronauts arrive and then land them on the surface. To return to Earth, the crew will launch off the moon on Starship, transfer back to the waiting Orion spacecraft, and fly home.

What is SpaceX’s Starship?

Starship is a heavy-lift rocket that is currently being developed by SpaceX. The full rocket will consist of two pieces: a 230-foot-tall booster called Super Heavy, and a 165-foot-tall upper stage called Starship. (Together, the booster and upper stage of the rocket are also known as Starship). In a departure from past launch vehicles, the goal is to build a rocket that can launch and land itself. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket, which NASA uses to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), has a booster stage that can achieve this feat, allowing it to be reused.

During missions to the moon, the Super Heavy booster will help launch Starship off Earth and on its way to lunar orbit, where the upper part of the rocket will wait to ferry astronauts to the surface using its own engines.

Starting in December 2020, SpaceX has launched four prototypes of the Starship rocket on high-altitude flight tests. So far, Starship rockets have flown as high as 41,000 feet, but each of the prototypes exploded during attempted landings. NASA said that its award requires SpaceX to perform an uncrewed demonstration of a lunar landing before shuttling people to the moon.

What other companies were competing to build NASA’s lunar lander?

SpaceX was one of three teams competing to win NASA’s contract, including the team organized by Blue Origin, and the separate design from Dynetics.

Perhaps the single biggest surprise from NASA’s announcement is that, out of three finalists, NASA chose to go with just SpaceX. Typically, NASA selects contractors in pairs so that the space agency has two options for spacecraft in critical missions, and so it can continue with a given program if one of the contractors fails to deliver. NASA’s Commercial Cargo Program, which sends supplies to the ISS, works with both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman, for example, and the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program has contracted with both SpaceX and Boeing.

The move to go with just SpaceX signals NASA’s confidence that the company can build a version of Starship that is capable of landing on the moon. Selecting a single contractor also means that NASA can attempt to get back to the moon on the budget Congress has approved, as SpaceX’s $2.9 billion bid was substantially less expensive than the competing proposals, and the company plans to pay for more than half of Starship’s development costs. But it also means that NASA has no backup option for now.

NASA’s Artemis program isn’t the only lunar mission that SpaceX hopes to launch. In 2018, SpaceX signed an agreement with Japanese fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to send himself and a group of artists around the moon and back. The company hopes to launch that mission, called dearMoon, in 2023.

A mission to the moon is extraordinarily ambitious, however, and setbacks could occur as NASA, SpaceX, and other organizations prepare the hardware needed to safely land humans on the lunar surface. But once astronauts return, NASA hopes that they will live and work on the moon for long periods of time—testing the technologies that will be required to venture on to Mars.

“I think the 2020s are going to be the most exciting decades in space since the Apollo era,” Dreier says, “and this is one of the big reasons why.”

Soul Harmonics, Frequency and Resonance

Elon Reeve Musk FRS (born June 28, 1971) is a business magnate, industrial designer, and engineer. He is the founder, CEO, CTO, and chief designer of SpaceX; early stage investor, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; co-founder of Neuralink; and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI. A centibillionaire, Musk is one of the richest people in the world.

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (23 March 1912 – 16 June 1977) was a German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect. He was the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany and a pioneer of rocket and space technology in the United States.

Elon von Braun (23 March 1912 – {16 June 1977 June 28, 1971} – until present)

{ No Time in the Quantum Realm }

Laughing all the way to the Bank!

Back to the 1950s

Designed by Gerry Anderson

Fireball XL5

Fireball XL5 is a 1960s British children's science-fiction puppet television series about the missions of Fireball XL5, a vessel of the World Space Patrol that polices the cosmos in the year 2062. Commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac, XL5 defends Earth from interstellar threats while encountering a wide variety of alien civilisations.

Inspired by the Space Race, Fireball XL5 was created by the husband-and-wife team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company AP Films (APF) for ITC Entertainment. It was APF's final black-and-white series and the third to be made in what the Andersons dubbed "Supermarionation": a style of production in which the characters were played by electronic marionettes whose mouth movements were synchronised with the voice actors' pre-recorded dialogue. Zodiac was voiced by Paul Maxwell while two of his companions – XL5 co-pilot Robert the Robot and "space doctor" Venus – were voiced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson themselves. The series' scale model special effects were directed by Derek Meddings.

Filming of Fireball XL5's 39 half-hour episodes began in February 1962 and the series premiered on ATV London (part of the ITV network) on 28 October that year. It was also purchased by NBC in the United States, becoming the only Anderson series to air on an American network. The TV episodes were supplemented by an audio play, comic strips in TV Comic and TV Century 21, and other tie-ins including books, toys and model kits. The series was regularly repeated on British TV until 1974 and has since been released on DVD in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Regarded by some commentators as a space opera or space Western, Fireball XL5 has been praised for its music; its closing theme – "Fireball", sung by Don Spencer – was commercially released to moderate success in the UK charts. It is often confused with Space Patrol, a puppet series with a similar premise that was made by the Andersons' former collaborators Roberta Leigh and Arthur Provis.

Space Patrol

Space Patrol is a British science-fiction television series featuring marionettes that was produced in 1962 and broadcast beginning in 1963. It was written and produced by Roberta Leigh in association with the Associated British Corporation.

The series features the vocal talents of ★★★★ Vosburgh, Ronnie Stevens, Libby Morris, Murray Kash and Ysanne Churchman, and comprises 39 half-hour episodes. This series is also known by its US title Planet Patrol to avoid confusion with the 1950s American live-action series of the same name. The marionettes used in the series incorporated some elements of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation technique – specifically their mouths would move in synch with dialogue.

The series is set in the year 2100, by which time the indigenous and autonomous civilizations on Earth, Mars and Venus have banded together to form the United Galactic Organization (UGO). Space Patrol is the UGO's military wing, and the series follows the actions of this interplanetary force, focusing on the missions of a tiny unit led by the heroic, bearded Captain Larry Dart. The humanoids in his crew consist of the elfin Slim from Venus, and the stocky, ravenously sausage-mad Husky from the Red Planet, Mars. The imperfect Slavic accent variants and six-pointed star chest emblems of these two may have been a sly nod to the Jewish-Russian heritage of the English series creator/writer. These men would regularly use one of two interplanetary space vehicles, the Galasphere 347 and the Galasphere 024.

Providing technical support on Earth is the brilliant and inventive Irishman Professor Aloysius O’Brien O’Rourke Haggarty, called "Pop" by his daughter Cassiopeia, to his perpetual dismay. Haggarty's garrulous pet Martian "parrot" (a Gabblerdictum bird), taught to talk in "The Slaves of Neptune" episode, accompanies the crew on rare occasions. Keeping them all on a tight rein are Colonel Raeburn and his super-efficient Venusian secretary, Marla, both also based on Earth.

The show reflected sex roles characteristic of the culture and era which produced it, but blonde and brainy Marla would often explicitly point out that "There are no dumb blondes on Venus." Indeed, the series was created and written by the prolific polymath artist Roberta Leigh, the first woman producer in Britain to have her own film company.

The series was sold overseas and broadcast in the US, Canada and Australia, and in spite of the very low budget – which meant that sometimes the shadow of a puppet could be seen behind a "TV Screen" before the communication device was supposedly turned on —the show rated strongly with young audiences in many regions (including New York City)[5] and garnered a huge following. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski said that it was his favourite TV show as a child.

The Science

Whereas Gerry Anderson had a rocket ship in Fireball XL5 that could travel light years to planets around other stars as though they were just a few million miles away, Space Patrol took a more realistic approach. Because of limited speed, trips to other planets in our solar system could take weeks or months and this was facilitated by the crew of the Galasphere going into a freezer chamber and being put in suspended animation for the trip. A robot would then take over (its movements were said to cost £2,000 a time rather than being just a puppet.) The zirgon ray (faster than light) could be used from Earth to wake them up in an emergency. The term "galaxy" was used inaccurately, but consistently, to refer to a solar system in the series, so "Galactic Control" only supervised the local planets and "other galaxies" referred to nearby star-systems.

On other planets, they would use dial-selector translators (dial P for Pluto) to talk to alien beings – at the time, even some serious scientists considered the possibility of life on Venus, Mars and maybe elsewhere. Unusually for a TV show, the translators didn't instantly pick up new languages; they had to be programmed on Earth before they could be used, a lengthy process requiring recordings of the alien language. Life support in hazardous atmospheres was provided by a "Mo-lung" (short for 'Mobile Lung')- a sealed cylindrical transparent helmet, and the crew would often ride around on "Hover Jets", or more rarely, an "Ion Gun" which looked like a giant sparkler firework. Neptune was said to have atomic heating but none of the planets were really cold, such as when Dart walked about on Pluto (in "The Buried Spaceship") without any extra protection in what would be temperatures of about −230 °C.

The Galasphere had a top speed of about 800,000 mph, using "meson power". In "The Talking Bell" episode, they use "Boost Speed", which is dangerous, but allows them to travel at almost one million miles per hour for a long period. Meson power is dangerous to use in atmosphere. The engine also used gamma rays and 'Yobba rays'. The Galasphere has a force field which would protect it from enemy missiles, and it also turned out to protect them from the mind control of the evil Neptunians who were thousands of years ahead of Earth people, with great mental powers, and who hated work.

The Galasphere was constructed of Plutonite from Pluto, and a number of times, like in "The Human Fish", it also travelled underwater. Pluto was the furthest they normally travelled but after an accident they went way beyond that to a self-heated new planet which was full of giants who treated the Galasphere as a toy. Another time, an alien from Alpha Centauri visited them and installed a device which allowed the Galasphere to travel faster than light (at which point it vanished). They had their adventure twenty five trillion miles away and then returned to Earth, and just made it, with Galasphere 347 collapsing under the strain of such travel, just as they left it. In "The Planet of Light", Dart and Slim were taken to a planet circling Sirius (8.7 light years away) in just a few hours. This fast journey was necessary as the "light beings" who took them would be poisoned by air, so the two had to rely on their own supplies.

In "The Rings of Saturn" and a minority of other episodes, the crew rode the Galasphere 024, rather than the Galasphere 347. The references to Galasphere 024 are, for the most part, continuity errors introduced by the continual re-use of stock footage from the pilot episode, "The Swamps of Jupiter". Although the Galasphere is referred to as 024 during the takeoff programme sequence, it is often later referred to as 347 in the same episode.

More Like Progress - Galasphere 347


Apr 17, '21
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