NASA announces new booster contract for Space Launch System and Orion

Artist’s conception of the Space Launch System (SLS) launching from Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA
Artist’s conception of the Space Launch System (SLS) launching from Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

In its continuing progress towards returning American astronauts to space, NASA has announced a new $23.3 million contract for the design of advanced boosters for the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS heavy-lift rocket will be used to launch the manned Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle spacecraft into space, taking astronauts back to the Moon and even beyond.

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Orbiting outpost proposed for far side of the Moon

Artist’s conception of the proposed orbiting outpost near the Moon. Astronauts on board could help direct robotic missions on the lunar surface. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The prospect of when, or even if, NASA astronauts will return to the Moon has been a subject of much debate in recent years. Some experts see it as a necessary stepping stone before future Mars missions. Others see it as a case of “been there, done that.”

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NASA planning for possible landings on Europa

Credit: NASA/Ted Stryk

All these worlds are yours except Europa
Attempt no landing there
Use them together use them in peace 

Despite that famous cryptic warning in the film 2010: The Year We Make ContactNASA is planning for a possible attempted landing on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This is a mission that many people have been hoping for, since Europa is believed to have a liquid water ocean beneath the icy surface (as well as lakes within the surface crust itself), making it a prime location in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system. Two landers are being proposed which would launch in 2020 and land about six years later…

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NASA developing real-life tractor beams

Artist's conception of a future space probe using a tractor beam to gather samples of material from an asteroid. Credit: NASA

If you are a Star Trek fan, you will of course be familiar with “tractor beams,” those cool-looking laser beams that can grab an object in space and it pull backwards toward the source of the beam (including trapping spacecraft as evil aliens would often do). They are another long-running staple of science fiction that is now closer to science reality. NASA is now working on developing just such technology, which would help primarily in obtaining material samples in real-life space missions, such as on Mars or an asteroid or comet…

See Universe Today for the full article.