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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)

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Astronomers Discover “Mini-Moon” Which is Temporarily Orbiting The Earth

Our permanent Moon is an average of 384,400 km away from Earth

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Earth
The orbit of the newly discovered object, 2020 CD3, shows that it entered Earth's orbit some three years ago, The Minor Planet Center (MPC) of the International Astronomical Union confirmed. Pixabay

Astronomers have discovered that a car-sized second natural satellite, commonly called a mini-moon, is temporarily orbiting Earth for the past three years.

“Earth has a new temporarily captured object/possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of Feb. 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object,” Kacper Wierzchos, a researcher with the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab, tweeted this week.

The orbit of the newly discovered object, 2020 CD3, shows that it entered Earth’s orbit some three years ago, The Minor Planet Center (MPC) of the International Astronomical Union confirmed.

“The object has a diameter between 1.9 – 3.5 metre (6.2 and 11.5 feet) assuming a C-type asteroid albedo. But it’s a big deal as out of approximately 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey),” Wierzchos said.

In its official designation, MPC had stated that orbit integrations indicate that “this object is temporarily bound to the Earth.”

“No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen, and no link to a known artificial object has been found. Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged,” it added.

In an article published in The Conversation on Thursday, David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University in Britain explained that the so-called “mini-moons” like this one come and go, and the newly found object is probably already on its final loop before breaking free.

These “mini-moons” do not orbit for long as gravitational pulls from the Sun and Earth’s permanent moon make their orbits unstable. The initial approach of the newly discovered mini-moon towards the Earth suggests that it was captured into orbit at a somewhat greater distance than the Earth’s permanent moon, Rothery said.

Our permanent Moon is an average of 384,400 km away from Earth.

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Astronomers have discovered that a car-sized second natural satellite, commonly called a mini-moon, is temporarily orbiting Earth for the past three years. (Representational Image). Pixabay

While astronomers believe that there is at least one mini-moon orbiting Earth at any given time, they often go undetected due their their relatively small size.

Until now, only one such satellite has been discovered — a three feet wide asteroid called 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.

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The new mini-moon, 2020 CD3, was discovered using a 1.52-metre telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory near Tucson, Arizona on February 15. (IANS)