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Space Technology

  • Elon Musk bids Starman farewell in a final Instagram snap

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has shared the "last pic" of his cherry-red Tesla roadster hurting towards the Asteroid Belt, after it was launched into space on Tuesday. The launch itself was historic, giving SpaceX claim to the most powerful operational rocket, the Falcon Heavy. "Last pic of Starman in Roadster enroute to Mars orbit and then the Asteroid Belt," he wrote on Instagram. Last pic of Starman in Roadster enroute to Mars orbit and then the Asteroid Belt A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Feb 7, 2018 at 2:00pm PST And with the caption, he included an image taken looking down...

  • Manned missions, moon shots: what else can we expect from SpaceX for 2018?

    SpaceX has blasted to the history books with the successful launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket last night, but you might be wondering about its other plans for 2018. Falcon Heavy is expected to have a few more appearances, with its first commercial payload set for a vague "first half of 2018" timeline, according to Space Flight Now. The mission, to lift-off from Cape Canaveral, will see it launch the Arabsat 6A satellite into orbit. The Falcon Heavy will then see another appearance (tentatively set for June), launching the US Air Force's Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission. This consists of "a cluster of military and scientific research satellites". Falcon...

  • Replay: Watch the moment SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched

    After numerous delays, SpaceX has finally delivered the first test flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket. Billed as the most powerful operational rocket available right now, Falcon Heavy is expected to be the vehicle of choice for future Moon and Mars missions. The rocket lifted off at 10:45pm SAST (3.45pm local time), following a delay due to weather concerns. For the test flight, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk decided to use his own Tesla Roadster as a dummy payload. The result, as the above image shows, speaks for itself, as the rocket and payload successfully left Earth. The rocket's three first stage boosters separated...

  • Pictures: the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ lights up social media

    There's something mythical about the Moon -- that little spherical ball roughly the size of Australia revolving around the Earth more or less once a month. Tonight, it's the centerpiece of a particularly storied event. 31 January 2018 sees the month's second full moon, commonly known as the "blue" moon. It coincides with the perigee of the Moon -- its closest point to Earth -- which is also known as the "supermoon". And finally, because of its positioning in relation to the Earth and the Sun, some will see a total lunar eclipse, and a reddish-tinted Moon as it passes through the Earth's...

  • Falcon Heavy: world’s most powerful rocket gets launch date

    The Falcon Heavy rocket launch has been long-awaited, but it's seen numerous delays. In fact, SpaceX initially planned for a first test flight as long ago as 2013. Now, the rocket, expected to be the most powerful since the Apollo programme's Saturn V, has received a firm launch date of 6 February. The date comes from SpaceX founder Elon Musk himself, via Twitter. Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy. Easy viewing from the public causeway. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 27, 2018 According to Space Flight Insider, the launch is expected to...

  • Interstellar object seen in solar system for first time

    Astronomers around the world have rushed to observe the first confirmed interstellar object in our solar system, taking the form of a cigar-shaped asteroid. The object, dubbed 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "messenger from afar, arriving first"), measures up to 400 metres long and could be up to ten times longer than it is wide, NASA wrote on its website. "That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems...

  • SpaceX won’t launch Zuma into space tonight

    SpaceX's secretive Zuma payload will not be sent into space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket tonight, the company tweeted. "Standing down on Zuma mission to take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer," the company wrote around 1am SAST Friday. Standing down on Zuma mission to take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. — SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 16, 2017 The payload, which isn't a hat-tip to the president of South Africa, was commissioned by Northrop Grumman, a US defence technology company. What said payload actually includes remains a mystery. Nevertheless, no new launch...

  • Watch astronauts goof off on the ISS with a fidget spinner

    The fidget spinner craze is all but over, but astronauts aboard the International Space Station are only now experiencing the joys of the toy. A video posted on Friday by astronaut Randy Bresnik demonstrates how much fun fidget spinners can be in a low-gravity environment. "A fidget spinner in space! How long does it spin? I'm not sure, but it’s a great way to experiment with Newton’s laws of motion!" tweeted Bresnik. Not bound by Earth's atmosphere or air resistance that comes with it, the spinners just go on spinning, and spinning, suspended in the low-gravity environment of the ISS. The astronauts...

  • Elon Musk’s BFR will fly from London to Cape Town in just 34 minutes

    Elon Musk may be nuts, but a remarkable number of the South African-born businessman's ventures have been successful. This week at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia, he announced another "really special" proposal. His space exploration company SpaceX is pondering a new method of transporting people from one corner of the Earth to the other. And it involves a space vehicle/rocket system called the BFR. "The BFR will be capable of taking people from any city to any other city on Earth in under one hour," the company revealed. Elon Musk's SpaceX believes a journey from Johannesburg to Sydney could last just...

  • Osiris-Rex will today fly past Earth before visiting our asteroid neighbour

    We're still mourning the loss of Cassini but space exploration doesn't have time for emotion. Instead, another craft is on NASA's radar this week as it's set to fly past Earth to begin its mission in earnest. The craft in question is Osiris-Rex. Launched in September 2016, it's on its way to the nearby asteroid Bennu. It's also set to return samples of the 500m diameter asteroid to Earth. It's an ambitious mission, and part of it involves using Earth's planet's gravitational pull as a slingshot. Completing this manoeuvre today, it will today pass around 11 000km above Antarctica and eastern...

  • ‘Thanks for the science’: NASA leads emotional Twitter farewell to Cassini

    After nearly 20 years in space, and 13 years studying Saturn and its host of moons, Cassini has plunged headfirst into the gas giant, ending its mission. Cassini-Huygens was one of the most daring missions undertaken by three space agencies -- NASA, the ESA and Italian Space Agency -- and in the process gathered invaluable information about Saturn, its two possibly habitable moons -- Titan and Enceladus -- and its gorgeous rings. But as the world waited for Cassini's final radio messages to reach Earth, the planet's Twitter users could hardly stand it. #GrandFinale and #GoodbyeCassini were two hashtags used to...

  • ETA 2 days: Cassini begins its daring death dive towards Saturn

    Nearly 20 years ago a spacecraft named Cassini-Huygens began its journey to the Solar System's second largest gas giant Saturn to study the planet and its numerous moons. On 15 September 2017, its mission will be terminated in the most triumphant way possible: a deep dive and eventual crash into the surface of Saturn. It'll be a sad moment for those vested in the craft, but Cassini has nonetheless been an invaluable tool to astronomers, scientists, and little boys hosting Goodbye Cassini parties in their back gardens. We're approaching #Saturn over the northern hemisphere in advance of first #GrandFinale dive through gap...

  • NASA’s SDO captures huge solar flares in gorgeous GIF

    Human beings might be under siege thanks to the current tropical weather on Earth, but in space, the Sun's atmosphere is seemingly more active than normal too. NASA's SDO (Solar Dynamics Obervatory) recorded two massive solar flares that erupted from the star's surface Wednesday, both the most intense the organisation has seen since 2008. GIF: NASA/Goddard/SDO "Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation," NASA explains. "Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel." And that...

  • Hubble delivers hints of water in Earth-like TRAPPIST-1 system

    Earlier this year, NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star, called TRAPPIST-1. The find meant that TRAPPIST-1 was among the star systems with the largest number of Earth-sized planets. Now, an international team has used the Hubble space telescope to estimate the chances of water on the planets -- and the results are encouraging. "The results suggest that the outer planets of the system might still harbour substantial amounts of water. This includes the three planets within the habitable zone of the star, lending further weight to the possibility that they may indeed be habitable," read a...

  • Cassini takes deepest dip into Saturn before crashing

    NASA's Cassini space probe is less than a month away from crashing into Saturn as part of its Grand Finale, but this week will see the probe take its closest look at the ringed world yet. The Grand Finale portion of Cassini's mission started on 22 April and sees the probe complete 21 orbits around Saturn before plunging into the gas giant on the 22nd orbit (set for 15 September). Now, the space agency has confirmed that the probe has started its 20th orbit, set to be its lowest orbit before the final one. We’ve begun #GrandFinale orbit #20, which will include the deepest...