Mankind eyes Mars as next 'giant leap'

The Japan Times

Humankind has cast an eye toward another "giant leap" forward nearly half a century after the United States' Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered humans to the moon for the first time. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to put a manned spacecraft into orbit around Mars in the 2030s, before sending humans to explore the red planet. Similar in size to Earth, and relatively close, Mars is widely considered as the most promising and realistic candidate planet for manned space exploration. The planet, however, is more than 50 million km away from Earth even when their orbits are at their closest. With a round-trip journey taking multiple years, a realistic approach to the journey calls for fuel and other required materials to be made available along the way.

Why this Japanese space mission comes with a 2,296-foot whip

Christian Science Monitor

Japan's space program, JAXA, soars this weekend after its robotic cargo spacecraft began its four-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday. Onboard the spacecraft, called Kounotori (after the Japanese word for "white stork"), are more than four tons of cargo, including JAXA's massive debris clearing space whip and a new array of lithium ion batteries for the space station's solar arrays. Friday's cargo launch is particularly important after the failure of a Russian Progress cargo launch earlier this month. Several other cargo launches have met similar fates over the past two years. "Spaceflight's not an easy thing," said NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in an interview aboard the ISS.

Was SpaceX rocket hit by a drone?

Daily Mail

A grainy video uploaded to YouTube appears to show a small object flying over the SpaceX rocket moments before it exploded. SpaceX said an'anomaly' had occurred while the rocket was being loaded with fuel. No was injured in the blast. The rocket's payload, an Israeli-built communications satellite for Facebook due to launch on Saturday, was also destroyed. A video of the blast, posted to the site by Steve Svensson, appears to show a silver spherical object flying close to rocket when the blast happened.

Tim Peake's next challenge: Driving a rover from space

Christian Science Monitor

The International Space Station (ISS) astronauts may soon have a new duty – driving rovers on distant planets. Tim Peake, the popular European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut who ran a marathon in space earlier this week, will have to steady himself in a seat aboard the ISS as he pilots a rover on Earth on Friday. The driving is part of a project simulation program, called Meteron, in which a Mars rover will be driven around a faux-Mars landscape in England. The end goal, however, will be for an astronaut orbiting outside a distant world to help direct a rover in dangerous maneuvers. "Space is such a harsh place for humans and machines that future exploration of our Solar System will most likely involve sending robotic explorers to'test the waters' on uncharted planets before sending humans," the ESA says on a Meteron website.