False alarm: No space junk threat after all to SpaceX crew

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Washington Post 26 April, 2021 - 03:43pm 13 views

Who is Elon Musk?

Elon Musk, (born June 28, 1971, Pretoria, South Africa), South African-born American entrepreneur who cofounded the electronic-payment firm PayPal and formed SpaceX, maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft. britannica.comElon Musk | Biography & Facts

Approximately eight hours after launch from Kennedy Space Center on Friday April 23, Sarah Gilles, lead space operations engineer at SpaceX, interrupted the crew as they were preparing for bed.

“For awareness, we have identified a late-breaking possible conjunction with a fairly close miss distance to Dragon, as such we do need you to immediately proceed with suit donning and securing yourselves in seats,” she said. “We will be erring on the side of caution to get you guys in a better configuration,” adding that the time of closest approach to the mystery object would be in about 20 minutes, or 1:43 p.m. EDT (10:43 a.m. PDT) on Saturday, April 24.

So instead of going to sleep, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, had to put on their sleek SpaceX spacesuits, strap themselves back into their seats, and flip down their protective visors. The crew was even told to turn on their suit fans, presumably in the event of cabin depressurization.

The exercise was done out of an abundance of caution, but sadly, it’s emblematic of a burgeoning problem: We now have way too much crap in low Earth orbit. I can’t recall a situation in which astronauts en route to the space station had to scramble back to their seats and brace for impact, but this sort of thing does happen on the ISS.

Last September, for example, the Expedition 63 crew had to temporarily relocate to the Russian segment when a piece of space debris threatened the orbital outpost. The offending object—a piece from Japan’s H-2A F40 rocket stage—came to within 0.86 miles (1.39 kilometers) of the ISS, requiring NASA and Russian flight controllers to perform an avoidance maneuver. The incident marked the third time in 2020 that the ISS had to be relocated on account of space debris. The same year, a pair of decommissioned satellites nearly smashed into one another, so yeah, this is starting to become normal.

The ISS, at roughly the size of a football field, represents a big juicy target up there, unlike the 27-foot-long CrewDragon. Still, with all the stuff in space right now—both functional and non-functional—it makes sense that even relatively small vehicles like CrewDragon might also come under threat.

As if to underscore this sad fact, ESA just completed a four-day virtual conference on the subject of space debris. As the space agency pointed out in its conference backgrounder, approximately 900,000 objects larger than a AAA battery and 128 million objects larger than the thickness of a dime are currently parked in Earth orbits. At speeds approaching 35,000 miles per hour (56,000 km/h), even tiny bits of debris “can seriously damage or disable an operational spacecraft,” according to ESA.

Which takes us back to CrewDragon.

Thankfully, the space junk was far enough away from the capsule such that no evasive maneuvers were required. With seconds to go before closest approach, mission controllers working at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, brought the crew up to speed.

“We believe the object is farther away than anticipated, lower risk of possible conjunction, but please ensure visors are closed and zippers are closed prior to [closest approach] in approximately 20 seconds,” said Gilles.

The unidentified debris flew past without incident, and at 1:44 p.m. EDT (10:44 p.m. PDT), mission control gave the all clear. The crew resumed their pre-sleep preparations, but I’d be willing to bet their heart rates were a bit higher than normal.

Read full article at Washington Post

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk: Uncaring Billionaires Lost in Space

Common Dreams 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

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As earthly hazards grow—not just environmental menaces but also social instability related to growing inequality—escaping to Mars is not option for humanity.

Elon Musk says SpaceX will land humans on Mars by 2026 and wants to establish a colony by 2050. Its purpose, he says, will be to ensure the continued survival of our species. (Photo: flicker/cc)

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos want to colonize outer space to save humanity, but they couldn’t care less about protecting the rights of workers here on earth.

Musk’s SpaceX just won a $2.9 billion NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon, beating out Bezos.

"The rich have also found ways to protect themselves from the rest of humanity—in fortified castles, on hillsides safely above smoke and sewage, in grand mansions far from the madding crowds."

The money isn’t a big deal for either of them. Musk is worth $179.7 billion. Bezos, $197.8 billion. Together, that’s almost as much as the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.

And the moon is only their stepping-stone.

Musk says SpaceX will land humans on Mars by 2026 and wants to establish a colony by 2050. Its purpose, he says, will be to ensure the continued survival of our species.

“If we make life multiplanetary, there may come a day when some plants and animals die out on Earth but are still alive on Mars,” he tweeted.

Bezos is also aiming to build extraterrestrial colonies, but in space rather than on Mars. He envisions “very large structures, miles on end” that will “hold a million people or more each.”

But Musk and Bezos are treating their workers like, well, dirt.

Last spring, after calling government stay-at-home orders “fascist” and tweeting “FREE AMERICA NOW,” Musk reopened his Tesla factory in Fremont, California before health officials said it safe to do so. Almost immediately, 10 Tesla workers came down with the virus. As cases mounted, Musk fired workers who took unpaid leave. Seven months later, at least 450 Tesla workers had been infected.

Musk’s production assistants, as they’re called, earn $19 an hour—hardly enough to afford rent and other costs of living in northern California. Musk is virulently anti-union. A few weeks ago, the National Labor Relations Board found that Tesla illegally interrogated workers over suspected efforts to form a union, fired one and disciplined another for union-related activities, threatened workers if they unionized and barred employees from communicating with the media.

Bezos has fired at least two employees who publicly complained about lack of protective equipment during the pandemic. To thwart the recent union drive in Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon required workers to attend anti-union meetings, warned they’d have to pay union dues (untrue – Alabama is a “right-to-work” state), and threatened them with lost pay and benefits.

Musk and Bezos are the richest people in America and their companies are among the country’s fastest growing. They thereby exert huge influence on how other chief executives understand their obligations to employees.

The gap between the compensation of CEOs and average workers is already at a record high. They inhabit different worlds.

If Musk and Bezos achieve their extraterrestrial aims, these worlds could be literally different. Most workers won’t be able to escape into outer space. A few billionaires are already lining up.

The rich have also found ways to protect themselves from the rest of humanity—in fortified castles, on hillsides safely above smoke and sewage, in grand mansions far from the madding crowds. Some of today’s super rich have created doomsday bunkers in case of nuclear war or social strife.

But as earthly hazards grow—not just environmental menaces but also social instability related to growing inequality—escape will become more difficult. Bunkers won’t suffice. Not even space colonies can be counted on.

I’m grateful to Musk for making electric cars and to Bezos for making it easy to order stuff online. But I wish they’d set better examples for protecting and lifting the people who do the work.  

It’s understandable that the super wealthy might wish to escape the gravitational pull of the rest of us. But there’s really no escape. If they’re serious about survival of the species, they need to act more responsibly toward working humans here on terra firma.

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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'Probably a group of people will die,' says Elon Musk of tourism on Mars

Entrepreneur 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

Would you love to go to Mars? Maybe you would like to consider the idea. Elon Musk stated in a conversation with Peter H. Diamandis, founder of XPRIZE, that "a lot of people will probably die" on the first trips to the red planet.

The founder of Tesla and SpaceX explained that traveling to Mars would be dangerous and uncomfortable, also warning that you may not enjoy good food and not return alive. However, he added that it would be a glorious adventure and an incredible experience.

Musk said that the trip is not for everyone, precisely all those who will do it are volunteers, while Diamandis added that despite all the warnings that the tycoon had just made, he had "thousands if not millions of volunteers."

Faced with that last comment, Elon Musk once again emphasized that they did not force anyone to go and that they were only volunteers.

Musk and Diamandis met with the objective of announcing and explaining the bases of a project related to carbon removal that is funded by Elon Musk through his foundation.

Astronauts prepare for SpaceX Dragon splashdown after 6-month space station stay

WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – After becoming the first long-duration mission to arrive at the International Space Station via a private company’s spacecraft, four astronauts plan to depart the orbiting laboratory Wednesday and splashdown in the Crew Dragon capsule hours later.

SpaceX Crew-1 mission astronauts including Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, all of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have been on station since they launched from Florida in November on the Crew Dragon capsule called Resilience.

Following the arrival of another team of Dragon riders, known as the Crew-2 mission, the astronauts are set to undock from the ISS Wednesday beginning at 7:05 a.m. and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico around 12:40 p.m.

Walker, Glover, Hopkins and Noguchi answered questions Monday from reporters as they prepare to say farewell.

Each crew member shared their favorite memory of their six-month mission.

For Noguchi, it happened just a few days ago when another Dragon spacecraft docked bringing the Crew-2 astronauts to station.

“Most memorable was yes, two days ago, when the door opens and all four friends come into the space station,” the JAXA astronaut said. “This is our communities, looking for new members coming, taking over. We have a great camaraderie.”

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News.

Crew-1 astronauts prepare for splashdown

Associated Press 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

Elon Musk Says a 'Bunch of People Will Probably Die' When Humans Fly to Mars: 'Volunteers Only'

PEOPLE 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

Elon Musk's SpaceX may not have plans to send humans to Mars anytime soon — but when it does, those on board may want to take caution.

The tech mogul and SpaceX CEO warned in a recent interview that "a bunch of people will probably die" in the beginning stages of Mars exploration as his company works out the kinks of traveling to the Red Planet.

"Going to Mars reads like that ad book for [explorer Ernest] Shackleton going to the Antarctic," Musk, 49, told Peter Diamandis in a lengthy interview that streamed live on YouTube on Thursday. "It's dangerous, it's uncomfortable, it's a long journey. You might not come back alive. But it's a glorious adventure, and it'll be an amazing experience."

He continued: "You might die… and you probably won't have good food and all these things. It's an arduous and dangerous journey where you may not come back alive, but it's a glorious adventure. Sounds appealing. Mars is the place. That's the ad, that's the ad for Mars."

When Diamandis pointed out that plenty of people were still sending in applications to take part in a journey to Mars, Musk again remarked that explorers should be careful what they wish for.

"I mean, honestly, a bunch of people probably will die in the beginning," he said. "It's tough sledding over there, you know? … We don't want to make anyone go, so… Volunteers only."

Musk, who was recently tapped to host the May 8 episode of Saturday Night Live, initially hoped that SpaceX would be able to send people to Mars by 2024, but later revised the goal to a later date.

In December, he said he was "highly confident" that his company could land humans on Mars by 2026, according to CNBC.

"If we get lucky, maybe four years. We want to send an uncrewed vehicle there in two years," he reportedly said at an award show webcast from Berlin.

SpaceX is currently working on a vehicle called the Starship, a reusable system the company says will be "the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever developed."

Starship's fourth high-altitude flight test took place in Texas in March, though it "experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly" shortly after the landing burn started, according to SpaceX.

"Test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond," the company's website says.

NASA, meanwhile, said in July that technology development "has already begun to enable a crewed Mars mission as early as the 2030s."

The space agency, which recently landed the Perseverance rover on Mars, previously announced that it plans to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024, and that they will use that mission to learn more about how to develop a Mars mission.

The first manned SpaceX flight took place last May, and the third docked with the International Space Station with four astronauts on board after launching from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

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Tense exchange aboard SpaceX craft records ‘possible close call'

New York Post 26 April, 2021 - 07:00pm

By Will Feuer

April 26, 2021 | 2:38pm | Updated April 26, 2021 | 3:59pm

Live video caught the tense moment that astronauts aboard NASA’s Crew-2 mission were warned about a possible collision with an unidentified object

“For awareness, we have identified a late-breaking possible conjunction with a fairly close miss distance to Dragon,” SpaceX’s Sarah Gilles told the astronauts, according to video broadcast live by NASA and SpaceX. “As such, we do need you to immediately proceed with suit donning and securing yourselves in seats.”

Gilles added that the earliest time of the possible collision was less than 20 minutes away, too soon to maneuver the ship away from its course.

“Copy, Sarah, you want us in the suit for a possible close call,” Crew-2 astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency radioed back.

The warning came at roughly 1:30 p.m. ET Friday as the crew was preparing to sleep inside the Dragon Crew Capsule en route to the International Space Station. About 10 minutes later, pilot Megan McArthur tells Gilles that two of the crew members are “suited and getting seated” and the remaining two “are getting in their suits now.”

Moments later, Gilles notified the crew that “we believe the object is farther away than anticipated, lower risk of possible conjunction.” And minutes later, Gilles confirmed that the object had passed. 

A spokesman for the NASA Johnson Space Center said the warning of a possible collision was in fact based on a “false report.”

“Upon further analysis, Space Control determined the potential conjunction between the Crew-2 capsule and the object was a false report. There was never a collision threat to the Crew-Dragon, and the astronauts safely continued their mission,” NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told The Post on Monday.

“Of course, NASA was happy to hear that there never was a threat, but also glad the procedures were in place and the crew would have been ready if the threat had been real,” he added by email.

Humphries said the crew acted “in accordance with standard safety procedures.” He pointed further questions to Space Control, which did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour docked at the ISS on Saturday without any more surprises. 

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