Everyone’s going back to the moon. But why?

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The Deep Space Gateway, seen here in an artist’s rendering, would be a spaceport in lunar orbit. Boeing

As the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing approaches, a host of countries are undertaking lunar missions. What’s behind the new space race?

At 2.51am on Monday 15 July, engineers at India’s national spaceport at Sriharikota will blast their Chandrayaan-2 probe into orbit around the Earth. It will be the most ambitious space mission the nation has attempted. For several days, the four-tonne spacecraft will be manoeuvred above our planet before a final injection burn of its engines will send it hurtling towards its destination: the moon.

Exactly 50 years after the astronauts of Apollo 11 made their historic voyage to the Sea of Tranquillity, Chandrayaan-2 will repeat that journey – though on a slightly different trajectory. After the robot craft enters lunar orbit, it will gently drop a lander, named Vikram, on to the moon’s surface near its south pole. A robot rover, Pragyan, will then be dispatched and, for the next two weeks, trundle across the local terrain, analysing the chemical composition of soil and rocks.

Continue reading… “Everyone’s going back to the moon. But why?”

Could I Borrow a Cup of Your Urine?

Could I Borrow a Cup of Your Urine?

You know the economy is weird when urine becomes a hot commodity

You’ve got to wonder when someone comes up to you and asks for some of your urine.

Space program contractor Hamilton Sundstrand is seeking urine from workers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as part of its work on the new Orion space capsule that eventually would take astronauts to the moon, according to an internal memo posted on the Web site Nasawatch.com. The need is voluminous: 30 liters a day, which translates into nearly 8 gallons. Even on weekends.

Continue reading… “Could I Borrow a Cup of Your Urine?”