Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 20:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ESA-Sonde Rosetta/Philae / Komet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - Update-64


Rosetta: A Comet’s List of Ingredients

For the first time, researchers from the COSIMA team present a quantitative analysis of which chemical elements make up comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


The dust that comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko emits into space consists to about one half of organic molecules. The dust belongs to the most pristine and carbon-rich material known in our solar system and has hardly changed since its birth. These results of the COSIMA team are published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. COSIMA is an instrument onboard the Rosetta spacecraft, which investigated comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from August 2014 to September 2016. In their current study, the involved researchers including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) analyze as comprehensively as ever before, what chemical elements constitute cometary dust. 

When a comet traveling along it highly elliptical orbit approaches the Sun, it becomes active: frozen gases evaporate, dragging tiny dust grains into space. Capturing and examining these grains provides the opportunity to trace the "building materials" of the comet itself. So far, only few space missions have succeeded in this endeavor. These include ESA’s Rosetta mission. Unlike their predecessors, for their current study the Rosetta researchers were able to collect and analyze dust particles of various sizes over a period of approximately two years. In comparison, earlier missions, such as Giotto’s Flyby of comet 1P/Halley or Stardust, which even returned cometary dust from comet 81P/Wild 2 back to Earth, provided only a snapshot. In the case of the space probe Stardust, which raced past its comet in 2004, the dust had changed significantly during capture, so that a quantitative analysis was only possible to a limited extent.

In the course of the Rosetta mission, COSIMA collected more than 35000 dust grains. The smallest of them measured only 0.01 millimeters in diameter, the largest about one millimeter. The instrument makes it possible to first observe the individual dust grains with a microscope. In a second step, these grains are bombarded with a high-energy beam of indium ions. The secondary ions emitted in this way can then be "weighed" and analyzed in the COSIMA mass spectrometer. For the current study, the researchers limited themselves to 30 dust grains with properties that ensured a meaningful analysis. Their selection includes dust grains from all phases of the Rosetta mission and of all sizes.


Left: The surface of Rosetta’s comet. As the comet approaches the Sun, frozen gases evaporate from below the surface, dragging tiny particles of dust along with them. Right: These dust grains can be captured and examined using the COSIMA instrument. Targets such as this one measuring only a few centimeters act as dust collectors. They retain dust particles of up to 100 microns in size.
ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA (left), ESA / Rosetta / MPS for COSIMA Team MPS / CSNSM / UNIBW / TUORLA / IWF / IAS / ESA / BUW / MPE / LPC2E / LCM / IMF / UTU / LISA / UOFC / vH & S. (right)

"Our analyzes show that the composition of all these grains is very similar," MPS researcher Dr. Martin Hilchenbach, Principal Investigator of the COSIMA team, describes the results. The scientists conclude that the comet’s dust consists of the same "ingredients" as the comet’s nucleus and thus can be examined in its place.

As the study shows, organic molecules are among those ingredients at the top of the list. These account for about 45 percent of the weight of the solid cometary material. "Rosetta’s comet thus belongs to the most carbon-rich bodies we know in the solar system," says MPS scientist and COSIMA team member Dr. Oliver Stenzel. The other part of the total weight, about 55 percent, is provided by mineral substances, mainly silicates. It is striking that they are almost exclusively non-hydrated minerals i.e. missing water compounds.


Left: Overview of the chemical elements that make up Rosetta’s comet. Right: Average mass distribution of organic and ... [more]

Tags: Raumfahrt - ESA-Sonde Rosetta/Philae / Komet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - Update-64 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 20:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - China startet Long March-2D mit Exploration Satelliten


China launches land exploration satellite


China launches a land exploration satellite into a preset orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, northwest China's Gansu Province, Dec. 3, 2017. The satellite is mainly used for remote sensing exploration of land resources. A Long March-2D rocket carried the satellite into space. (Xinhua/Zhen Zhe)

JIUQUAN, Dec. 3 -- China launched a land exploration satellite into a preset orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert at 12:11 p.m. Sunday Beijing Time.

The satellite is mainly used for remote sensing exploration of land resources.

A Long March-2D rocket carried the satellite into space.

The launch was the 257th mission of the Long March rocket series.


China launches a land exploration satellite into a preset orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, northwest China's Gansu Province, Dec. 3, 2017. The satellite is mainly used for remote sensing exploration of land resources. A Long March-2D rocket carried the satellite into space. (Xinhua/Zhen Zhe)

Quelle: Xinhua


Tags: Raumfahrt - China startet Long March-2D mit Exploration Satelliten 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 20:00 Uhr

Luftfahrt - These Flying Animal Robots Are Real and Magnificent


They put even the coolest drones to shame.



Just barely making it under the wire of a year full of bizarre and adorable robots, the fancy animal robot-makers at Festo are back with three new flying robots.

An industrial automation company, Festo's robotic menagerie also includes herring gullskangaroosants, an elephant's trunk, and a gripper inspired by the tongue of a chameleon. Festo showed off three new animalistic flying drones at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC last summer, and they can seen beautifully gliding through the air in a video captured by IEEE Spectrum.

The eMotionButterfly uses a camera tracking system to fly autonomously, avoiding crashes into the ceiling and walls without human guidance. A kaleidoscope of up to 15 butterflies can work together at once, using the tracking cameras to navigate without crashing into one another.

AirJelly, a giant flying jellyfish, is gently propelled up and down by eight tentacles and directed remotely with a bearing inside the helium body. It only weighs about two pounds, and can fly for two hours on one small battery.

Last but perhaps cutest, the AirPenguin is a chubby silver blimp-bot with flippers that help it glide forward through the air, and moveable tail fins and a beak. Each of these creatures seems plucked from alternate reality, where mechanical zoos and Atomic Age-style penguins reign the skies. We'll allow it, even though real penguins don't fly.





Quelle: Motherboard



Tags: Luftfahrt - These Flying Animal Robots Are Real and Magnificent 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 09:30 Uhr

Astronomie-History - 1990: Hubble Teleskop

Aus dem CENAP-Archiv:












Quelle: ESA, CENAP-Archiv

Tags: Astronomie-History - 1990: Hubble Teleskop 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 08:45 Uhr

Astronomie - Supermoon: search Sundays skies for Decembers moon before yule



Sunday’s full moon will be the first and last supermoon of the year, appearing 7% larger and 15% brighter than average – and may have a reddish hue


The first and last supermoon of the year will rise above the horizon in the east on Sunday and loom larger and brighter than normal as it climbs in the night sky until it sets the next morning.

Known in the Farmer’s Almanac as the cold moon, the long night moon, and the moon before yule, the event comes as the December full moon coincides with the body’s close approach to Earth, making it appear 7% larger and 15% brighter than average.

The moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular and its distance from Earth varies from around 222,000 miles to more than 250,000 miles over the course of a month. A full moon arises when the Earth sits directly between the sun and the moon.

The supermoon will rise from around 4.15pm GMT in Britain, but will be nearest to Earth shortly before 9am on Monday morning. When close to the horizon, the moon may take on a reddish hue, because the sunlight it reflects passes through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, which strips out blue light more than red.



For most observers, the shorter distance to the moon will make so little difference to its appearance as to be imperceptible. The difference between the largest full moon and the smallest as seen from Earth is on a par with the difference between a 1p and 5p coin.

“It’ll be slightly bigger and brighter, but whether you can tell that from looking at it without an average full moon to compare it with is a moot point,” said Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.


The most dramatic views of the supermoon in the UK are expected soon after moonrise when it still hugs the horizon and appears huge against the backdrop of the skyline. The effect is down to the poorly-understood “moon illusion”, in which the moon seems bigger when viewed next to familiar, nearby objects such as trees, churches and tower blocks.

“A full moon is always a really lovely sight to see,” said Kukula, “And as the moon rises on Sunday, you’ll get a feeling that this is a big-looking moon.”

As ever for observers in Britain, the sight could be completely obscured by cloud. According to the Met Office, much of the country may be under cloud on Sunday afternoon and evening. With weather coming in from the west, the best spots to view the supermoon are expected to be in the east of England, through thinning and occasional breaks in the cloud.

If the weather fails to cooperate, a virtual telescope project aims to livestreamfootage of the supermoon from its robotic telescopes. But if watching on a screen misses the mark, it is not long until the next supermoon, when conditions may be more favourable. The next two full moons, on 2 and 31 January, both qualify as supermoons. The latter is technically a super blue moon, as it will be the second full moon in a calendar month. Rarer still, it will pass directly through Earth’s shadow, creating a super blue moon eclipse.

Quelle: theguardian


Tags: Astronomie - Supermoon: search Sunday's skies for December's 'moon before yule' 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 08:30 Uhr

Astronomie - Hidden Supercluster Could Solve Milky Way Mystery


Astronomers generally stay away from the “Zone of Avoidance.” When one astronomer didn’t, she found a giant cosmic structure that could help explain why our galaxy moves so fast.
An illustration of the Vela Supercluster peeking out from behind the Milky Way’s Zone of Avoidance.

Glance at the night sky from a clear vantage point, and the thick band of the Milky Way will slash across the sky. But the stars and dust that paint our galaxy’s disk are an unwelcome sight to astronomers who study all the galaxies that lie beyond our own. It’s like a thick stripe of fog across a windshield, a blur that renders our knowledge of the greater universe incomplete. Astronomers call it the Zone of Avoidance.

Renée Kraan-Korteweg has spent her career trying to uncover what lies beyond the zone. She first caught a whiff of something spectacular in the background when, in the 1980s, she found hints of a potential cluster of objects on old photographic survey plates. Over the next few decades, the hints of a large-scale structure kept coming.

Late last year, Kraan-Korteweg and colleagues announced that they had discovered an enormous cosmic structure: a “supercluster” of thousands upon thousands of galaxies. The collection spans 300 million light years, stretching both above and below the galactic plane like an ogre hiding behind a lamppost. The astronomers call it the Vela Supercluster, for its approximate position around the constellation Vela.

Milky Way Movers

The Milky Way, just like every galaxy in the cosmos, moves. While everything in the universe is constantly moving because the universe itself is expanding, since the 1970s astronomers have known of an additional motion, called peculiar velocity. This is a different sort of flow that we seem to be caught in. The Local Group of galaxies — a collection that includes the Milky Way, Andromeda and a few dozen smaller galactic companions — moves at about 600 kilometers per second with respect to the leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

Over the past few decades, astronomers have tallied up all the things that could be pulling and pushing on the Local Group — nearby galaxy clusters, superclusters, walls of clusters and cosmic voids that exert a non-negligible gravitational pull on our own neighborhood.

The biggest tugboat is the Shapley Supercluster, a behemoth of 50 million billion solar masses that resides about 500 million light years away from Earth (and not too far away in the sky from the Vela Supercluster). It accounts for between a quarter and half of the Local Group’s peculiar velocity.

The Milky Way as seen by the Gaia satellite shows the dark clouds of dust that obscure the view of galaxies in the universe beyond.

The Milky Way as seen by the Gaia satellite shows the dark clouds of dust that obscure the view of galaxies in the universe beyond.


The remaining motion can’t be accounted for by structures astronomers have already found. So astronomers keep looking farther out into the universe, tallying increasingly distant objects that contribute to the net gravitational pull on the Milky Way. Gravitational pull decreases with increasing distance, but the effect is partly offset by the increasing size of these structures. “As the maps have gone outward,” said Mike Hudson, a cosmologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, “people continue to identify bigger and bigger things at the edge of the survey. We’re looking out farther, but there’s always a bigger mountain just out of sight.” So far astronomers have only been able to account for about 450 to 500 kilometers per second of the Local Group’s motion.

Astronomers still haven’t fully scoured the Zone of Avoidance to those same depths, however. And the Vela Supercluster discovery shows that something big can be out there, just out of reach.

In February 2014, Kraan-Korteweg and Michelle Cluver, an astronomer at the University of Western Cape in South Africa, set out to map the Vela Supercluster over a six-night observing run at the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Australia. Kraan-Korteweg, of the University of Cape Town, knew where the gas and dust in the Zone of Avoidance was thickest; she targeted individual spots where they had the best chance of seeing through the zone. The goal was to create a “skeleton,” as she calls it, of the structure. Cluver, who had prior experience with the instrument, would read off the distances to individual galaxies.

That project allowed them to conclude that the Vela Supercluster is real, and that it extends 20 by 25 degrees across the sky. But they still don’t understand what’s going on in the core of the supercluster. “We see walls crossing the Zone of Avoidance, but where they cross, we don’t have data at the moment because of the dust,” Kraan-Korteweg said. How are those walls interacting? Have they started to merge? Is there a denser core, hidden by the Milky Way’s glow?

And most important, what is the Vela’s Supercluster’s mass? After all, it is mass that governs the pull of gravity, the buildup of structure.

How to See Through the Haze

While the Zone’s dust and stars block out light in optical and infrared wavelengths, radio waves can pierce through the region. With that in mind, Kraan-Korteweg has a plan to use a type of cosmic radio beacon to map out everything behind the thickest parts of the Zone of Avoidance.

The plan hinges on hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant gas in the universe. Atomic hydrogen is made of a single proton and an electron. Both the proton and the electron have a quantum property called spin, which can be thought of as a little arrow attached to each particle. In hydrogen, these spins can line up parallel to each other, with both pointing in the same direction, or antiparallel, pointing in opposite directions. Occasionally a spin will flip — a parallel atom will switch to antiparallel. When this happens, the atom will release a photon of light with a particular wavelength.

The likelihood of one hydrogen atom’s emitting this radio wave is low, but gather a lot of neutral hydrogen gas together, and the chance of detecting it increases. Luckily for Kraan-Korteweg and her colleagues, many of Vela’s member galaxies have a lot of this gas.

During that 2014 observing session, she and Cluver saw indications that many of their identified galaxies host young stars. “And if you have young stars, it means they recently formed, it means there’s gas,” Kraan-Korteweg said, because gas is the raw material that makes stars.

The Milky Way has some of this hydrogen, too — another foreground haze to interfere with observations. But the expansion of the universe can be used to identify hydrogen coming from the Vela structure. As the universe expands, it pulls away galaxies that lie outside our Local Group and shifts the radio light toward the red end of the spectrum. “Those emission lines separate, so you can pick them out,” said Thomas Jarrett, an astronomer at the University of Cape Town and part of the Vela Supercluster discovery team.

While Kraan-Korteweg’s work over her career has dug up some 5,000 galaxies in the Vela Supercluster, she is confident that a sensitive enough radio survey of this neutral hydrogen gas will triple that number and reveal structures that lie behind the densest part of the Milky Way’s disk.

That’s where the MeerKAT radio telescope enters the picture. Located near the small desert town of Carnarvon, South Africa, the instrument will be more sensitive than any radio telescope on Earth. Its 64th and final antenna dish was installed in October, although some dishes still need to be linked together and tested. A half array of 32 dishes should be operating by the end of this year, with the full array following early next year.

Kraan-Korteweg has been pushing over the past year for observing time in this half-array stage, but if she isn’t awarded her requested 200 hours, she’s hoping for 50 hours on the full array. Both options provide the same sensitivity, which she and her colleagues need to detect the radio signals of neutral hydrogen in thousands of individual galaxies hundreds of light years away. Armed with that data, they’ll be able to map what the full structure actually looks like.

Cosmic Basins

Hélène Courtois, an astronomer at the University of Lyon, is taking a different approach to mapping Vela. She makes maps of the universe that she compares to watersheds, or basins. In certain areas of the sky, galaxies migrate toward a common point, just as all the rain in a watershed flows into a single lake or stream. She and her colleagues look for the boundaries, the tipping points of where matter flows toward one basin or another.

A few years ago, Courtois and colleagues used this method to attempt to define our local large-scale structure, which they call Laniakea. The emphasis on defining is important, Courtois explains, because while we have definitions of galaxies and galaxy clusters, there’s no commonly agreed-upon definition for larger-scale structures in the universe such as superclusters and walls.

Part of the problem is that there just aren’t enough superclusters to arrive at a statistically rigorous definition. We can list the ones we know about, but as aggregate structures filled with thousands of galaxies, superclusters show an unknown amount of variation.

Now Courtois and colleagues are turning their attention farther out. “Vela is the most intriguing,” Courtois said. “I want to try to measure the basin of attraction, the boundary, the frontier of Vela.” She is using her own data to find the flows that move toward Vela, and from that she can infer how much mass is pulling on those flows. By comparing those flow lines to Kraan-Korteweg’s map showing where the galaxies physically cluster together, they can try to address how dense of a supercluster Vela is and how far it extends. “The two methods are totally complementary,” Courtois added.

The two astronomers are now collaborating on a map of Vela. When it’s complete, the astronomers hope that they can use it to nail down Vela’s mass, and thus the puzzle of the remaining piece of the Local Group’s motion — “that discrepancy that has been haunting us for 25 years,” Kraan-Korteweg said. And even if the supercluster isn’t responsible for that remaining motion, collecting signals through the Zone of Avoidance from whatever is back there will help resolve our place in the universe.


Tags: Astronomie - Hidden Supercluster Could Solve Milky Way Mystery 


Sonntag, 3. Dezember 2017 - 08:00 Uhr

Astronomie - 100 Jahre Strathmore-Meteorit


Der Meteorit mit dem Tintenfleck

Schottland ist ein kleines Land. Seine Oberfläche bedeckt weniger als ein 6.500-Hunderstel der gesamten Erdoberfläche. Entsprechend gering ist die Zahl der bekannten Meteoriten, die auf schottischen Boden gefallen sind.


Bruchstück des Meteoriten, der am 3.12.1917 über dem Süden Schottlands niedergegangen ist (National Fund For Acquisitions)

Das Bulletin der Internationalen Meteoritischen Gesellschaft verzeichnet nur etwa eine Handvoll bestätigter Meteoritenfälle über den kargen schottischen Highlands.

Der vorletzte registrierte Fall ereignete sich vor einhundert Jahren am helllichten Tag, am 3. Dezember 1917 um kurz nach 13 Uhr. Augenzeugen berichteten von einer grellen Feuerkugel, die östlich der Hauptstadt Edinburgh auftauchte, nordwestwärts zog und schließlich in mehrere Teile zerbarst.

Insgesamt konnten vier dieser Bruchstücke entlang einer etwa zehn Kilometer langen Linie nordwestlich der Hafenstadt Dundee gefunden werden. Zusammen wogen die Trümmerstücke rund dreizehn Kilogramm.

In Keithick Lodge durchschlug ein etwa ein Kilogramm schwerer Brocken das Dach eines Einfamilienhauses. Fünf Kilometer entfernt soll ein ähnlich schweres Teilstück im Freien knapp zwanzig Meter neben einer Bäuerin eingeschlagen sein.

Als ein paar Tage später ein Fotograf das Loch im Dach dokumentieren wollte, hatte der Besitzer des Hauses den Schaden allerdings schon wieder repariert. So musste er auf der Fotoplatte durch einen Tintenfleck nachträglich wieder eingearbeitet werden.

Das größte Stück, fast zehn Kilogramm schwer, befindet sich heute im Schottischen Nationalmuseum in Edinburgh.

Quelle: Deutschlandfunk


Tags: Astronomie - 100 Jahre Strathmore-Meteorit 


Samstag, 2. Dezember 2017 - 23:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - The Historic Apollo Mission Control Center Will Be Restored



At 4:18 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, the lunar module lands with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Neil Armstrong radios, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Mission control erupts in celebration. As the tension breaks, Charlie Duke, then sitting at the CapCom console, tells the crew, "Roger, Tranquility.  We copy you on the ground.  You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue—we’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”

NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the Apollo Flight Operations Association (AFOA) are bringing the excitement of that time back to life with the complete restoration of the Historic Apollo Mission Control Center. By the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in July 2019, the room will be fully restored, providing a snapshot of how it looked during the moon landing on July 20, 1969. Initial work and assessments are underway and restoration is scheduled to begin this December.

Restoration will include the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR), Visitor Viewing Room, Simulation Control Room, and the Summary Display Projection Room (“bat cave”), the areas that make up the Apollo MCC - all located in the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center (MCC) at Johnson. The MCC is where NASA’s flight control team planned, trained and executed Gemini, Apollo, Apollo/Soyuz, Skylab and Space Shuttle missions until 1992 including the momentous Apollo 11 and 13 missions.

In 1985, the MCC was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. Throughout the years, some work was done to partially restore the Apollo MCC to its Apollo-era configuration, but it was not fully restored and continued to deteriorate.

The flight control consoles are original and will be fully refurbished. The modules in the consoles will also be reconfigured to harken back to Apollo. Wallpaper and carpet samples are being evaluated against recently identified originals and will be recreated for the room. Johnson Space Center plans to acquire and reproduce the same furnishings that were in the room during that time period: items such as ashtrays, trash cans, and book cases.

Space Center Houston, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation, spearheaded the effort to raise funds for the project. While NASA cannot accept public donations that have a targeted purpose, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has the flexibility to accept public donations and designate the funds for specific historic preservation projects. The ACHP is an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation and productive use of our nation's historic resources, and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. Space Center Houston is sending the funds to the ACHP so they can be earmarked specifically for the Apollo MCC restoration.

The restoration of this National Historic Landmark will create a space for the Apollo generation to remember an incredible time in history and keep that inspiration alive for the next generation. The lessons learned from Apollo set the stage for subsequent NASA programs, including the Space Shuttle Program, which made the construction of the International Space Station possible, and the Orion Program, which will take astronauts into deep space and farther than ever before.   

In July 2019, visitors will be able to experience the drama of the Apollo moon landing from the Visitor Viewing Room, learning firsthand how the accomplishments of an earlier generation catapulted the future of space exploration.



Flight controllers celebrate the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission on July 24, 1969, at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston.
Quelle: NASA

Tags: Raumfahrt - The Historic Apollo Mission Control Center Will Be Restored 


Samstag, 2. Dezember 2017 - 22:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Japan eyes joining US space war game next year



Multinational exercises cover simulated attacks on satellites

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is moving toward participating for the first time in American-led defense exercises that ready against satellite jamming and other threats in the space domain. 

The U.K. and a number of other countries have in recent years taken part in the Schriever Wargame, held by agencies including the U.S. Air Force Space Command.

A Japanese government advisory panel submitted on Friday recommendations for a national space policy plan, including participation by the Self-Defense Forces in the 2018 exercises. A task force led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will approve the plan within the year.

Other proposals include participation in international efforts to explore the moon and Mars. Japan would aid the U.S. in its plans for an orbiting lunar space station in the late 2020s. Separately, businesses would get free access to Earth image data generated by Japan's Daichi and Daichi-2 mapping satellites.

Quelle: Asian Review


Tags: Raumfahrt - Japan eyes joining US space war game next year 


Samstag, 2. Dezember 2017 - 19:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - SpaceX will attempt to launch a red Tesla Roadster to the red planet


“Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”


Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental—there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention.

On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be—his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster." And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie, which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload.

Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" (meaning January) from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company may attempt a "static fire" test of the rocket's three cores and 27 engines on the launch pad this month. As the Falcon Heavy rocket has been oft-delayed, launch dates should not be taken too literally, but it does seem like the rocket and associated hardware are close to ready to fly.

Silly payloads are kind of a tradition for SpaceX. Earlier this year, Musk explained that, inspired by the suggestion of a friend and the British comedy group Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch, the Dragon spacecraft's demonstration flight in 2010 carried among its cargo a giant wheel of French Gruyére cheese.

In this case, sending a Tesla to Mars (it may be this vehicle) would not only have panache, it would provide some cross promotion for Musk's other major company. Launching a Raodster would also send a message to NASA and those who fund the space agency—SpaceX's new rocket can reach Mars, and the privately developed booster could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon. No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet.

"The launch of the biggest rocket since the US Moon booster is a game changer for our country's space exploration future and for national security," said Phil Larson, an assistant dean at the University of Colorado and a former SpaceX official. "The fact that development of such a capability is coming from US industry is a very positive sign for our economic competitiveness."

Quelle: arsTechnica

Tags: Raumfahrt - SpaceX will attempt to launch a red Tesla Roadster to the red planet 


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