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Why did NASA dispense with the Shuttle programme?

Todd Bowen

The Space Shuttle programme was conceived as a plan to design a spacecraft that could work as a reusable ‘space truck’. It would be used as a workhorse to provide cheap access to low Earth orbit for the US and associated partners. The main goal of the Space Shuttle was the planned construction of a United States space station in the early-Nineties. After completion of this station, the Shuttle would then be retired and replaced with a new vehicle.

Despite flying 135 missions, the Shuttle never really fully achieved its original plans, with nine flights being the most

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Underwater space training

How astronauts are prepared for danger-filled space missions in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Training for the weightlessness of space is a major undertaking on NASA’s part that requires a dedicated test facility and a battery of cutting-edge equipment. As zero gravity free-fall on a specially adapted flight isn’t practical for long training periods and anti-gravity ‘machines’ are set to remain the stuff of science fiction, NASA uses the 23.5-million-litre (6.2-million-gallon) giant swimming pool at its Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas.

Neutral buoyancy itself is a property of an object that gives it an equal tendency to float to the

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Space Launch System

The Space Launch System (SLS) is the next step in NASA’s space exploration programme. The retirement of the Space Shuttle in July 2011 has left America without a means to take their own astronauts to orbit for the first time since 1981, but such a step was necessary in order to transition from missions into low Earth orbit (LEO) to deep space missions.

LEO is being left to the realm of private space companies, with NASA now focusing its exploration efforts almost solely on deep space. The SLS is the rocket that will enable humans to reach new destinations such

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Space factories

3D printing Moon bases, rockets, and… food?

The prime challenge of living in space — besides the inherent danger — is figuring out how to bring enough with you to survive. Equipment, oxygen, food and water all need to be hauled there: or could there be an alternative solution?

Every kilogram that must be hauled into space for human crew requirements represents one kilogram less that can be used for science experiments, for example. More capable rockets is one solution to this problem. But what about actually making the components and food you need on site?

The idea actually isn’t

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Power Shift

Variable-speed drive systems

Open up new possibilities for efficient rotorcraft

Momentum is growing behind the desire for a step-change in rotary-wing performance. More speed is most often mentioned by customers and manufacturers, but range and payload limitations are also seen as holding back rotorcraft from wider use.

As a result, one attribute could change that has stayed essentially constant since helicopters were invented— rotor speed. Most helicopters operate at a fixed 100% rpm to provide the slender blades with rigidity and stability in edgewise flight. But as designers push for higher speeds, the ability to slow the rotor is becoming

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Europa drill.

What lies under Europa’s ice? Astronomers have been asking themselves that question for decades, ever since two NASA Voyager spacecraft swung by the Jovian moon in 1979 and imaged the icy surface.

If there’s water or some similar liquid under the surface, it’s possible that Europa could host life. It would most likely be microbial life, something that is suited to living in cold temperatures. But we can’t know for sure without drilling.

The American movie Europa Report (released this summer) explored this possibility in detail, when the crew needed to drill several kilometres into the ice. However, it would

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Alternative View

Could liquified natural-gas fuel and hybrid-electric propulsion be the future of aviation?

Boeing’s 2035-timeframe Sugar Freeze combines cryogenic LNG fuel with advanced turbofans and BLI drag-reducing aft thruster.

What technologies could be available for an airliner entering service in 2045 that would not be ready in time for aircraft designed to be fielded in 2030? That is the question NASA asked when it awarded Boeing a year-long extension to its concept studies for «N+3»-generation airliners that could be flying in 2030-35.

In NASA’s vision, N+3 is three generations on from today’s 737 and 777. Boeing’s «N+4» study, the final results

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5 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT The Apollo spacecraft

The Apollo programme cost $200 billion

The initial estimated cost of the Apollo programme was around $7 billion (£4.6 billion), before it was revised to $20 billion (£13.2 billion) by the first NASA administrator, James Webb. By the end of the programme, the 17 missions had cost the US government $23.9 billion (£15.8 billion), around $200 billion (£132 billion) in today’s money.

Apollo 1 met a tragic end

The first manned Apollo mission was scheduled to launch on 21 February 1967 but never made it. During a launch pad test on 27 January, a cabin fire broke out destroying the

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AD-1 aircraft with variable sweep wing asymmetrically «scissors»

South American aircraft designer Burt recognizable (Elbert Leander «Burt» Rutan), recognized during the life of a genius (he’s only 69 years old at the moment). He did not KB and employs thousands of people and without a huge financial concepts 367 aircraft, and 45 of them climbed into the sky. One of his creations is a unique aircraft Ames-Dryden AD1. Swept wing design allows the aircraft to fly at subsonic and supersonic speeds, even at the expense of the least efficient operations at low speeds. Introduction of variable sweep allowed to make a number of revolutionary aircraft, such as

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TPK crew Soyuz TMA-07M returned safely to Earth

May 14 at 6:00 Moscow time on 31 minutes in a given area southeast of the city of Dzhezkazgan (Kazakhstan) landed lander transport manned vehicle (WPK) "Soyuz TMA-07M." Planting took place in a normal mode.

To Earth after 146 daily mission crew returned the thirty-fifth long-duration mission to the International Space Station as part of the commander of the WPK Roscosmos cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Flight Engineers astronaut Chris Hadfield (Canadian Space Agency) and Thomas Mashburn (NASA). The crew is doing well. For a Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut it was the second flight into space, and for

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