Why Are We Going to the Moon, Again? Oh Right, to Make It a “Gas Station for Outer Space”

Outer Space Gas Station

Space travel is back on the United States’ radar in a big way, with the Trump Administration declaring in October 2017 that it wants the U.S. to be a leader in the space industry. This includes going to the Moon and being the first country to send astronauts to Mars.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box about the country’s future commercial space projects, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said our future successes largely depend on what we accomplish by going to the Moon, such as turning it into a refueling station by establishing a lunar colony.

The Race for a Moon Base: Who Will Build the First Lunar Colony?
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“I think a lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the Moon into a kind of gas station for outer space,” Ross told CNBC. “The plan is to break down the ice [found on the Moon] into hydrogen and oxygen, [and] use those as the fuel propellant.”

Ross foresees a scenario in which rockets are launched from Earth with the intent of going to the Moon first, rather than traveling directly to, say, Mars or deep space. Once at the Moon, the rocket would refuel and take off once again for another planet or asteroid. This subsequent launch would require less thrust since the Moon’s gravitational force is much lower than the Earth’s.

Privatizing the ISS

Beyond turning the Moon into a pit stop, the Trump Administration’s plans for space also include turning the International Space Station over to private companies. The ISS requires billions of dollars to maintain, but if it’s no longer the responsibility of the U.S. government, that money could potentially be used to fund future space projects.

That said, if private companies were to acquire the ISS and use it to launch their own rockets and satellites, Ross explains a set of “rules to the road” would need to be established.

“There need to be means for policing, if you will, the debris in space,” he said to CNBC. “That’s one of the big problems. And as more and more launches occur, more and more satellites reach the end of their life, that’s going to be a problem we have to deal with.”

The newly revived National Space Council (NSC), of which Ross is a member, recently held it’s second public meeting in February to discuss several reforms, including better licensing for spacecraft, consolidating offices, and developing recommendations to control export. Currently, commercial spacecraft that land in another country is considered an export, and the fees associated with this policy have quickly become a big complaint from space companies.

Guidance from the NSC is critical if the U.S. wants to ensure that organizations like NASA and companies like SpaceX can pave the way to the stars. Through the council, new policies can be put in place to guarantee they have everything they need.

The post Why Are We Going to the Moon, Again? Oh Right, to Make It a “Gas Station for Outer Space” appeared first on Futurism.


Want to Fly People to the Moon? Become a Commercial Astronaut.

With the commercial space industry booming, it’s highly likely that we’ll see the first space tourists departing our atmosphere in just a few years. Private company Starfighters, Inc. is preparing for that inevitability with the first commercial astronaut training program. Currently it has just one customer — but hopes to expand soon.

VICE Motherboard reports that the $ 20,000-per-flight program currently consists of training to fly Starfighters’ fleet of F-104 jets, capable of executing 90 degree turns, flying at twice the speed of sound, and floating riders into microgravity on nose dives — not a bad way to simulate launching on a rocket. (Though Starfighters only gained permission to train licensed pilots in September 2017, the F-104 are the same jets used to train Apollo-era astronauts.)

“We don’t think it’s good for the industry if people don’t go up without some knowledge of what they’re going to encounter,” Rick Svetkoff, the CEO of Starfighters, told Motherboard. “The last thing you’d want to do is see yourself climb onto a rocket with the expectation it’s going to be so cool to go to space, and then to be sick all the way.”

After all, it’s not uncommon for weightlessness to affect people new to the experience somewhat—shall we say—unpleasantly.

In the future, Starfighters plans to have a more thorough program, which will incorporate the same elements used to train professional astronauts. Svetkoff told Motherboard this will prepare space tourists for what they’ll experience on a longer trip, including preparation for intense G forces and neutral buoyancy training for when gravity releases entirely.
Before that can happen, however, Svetkoff will have to get the F-104s certified as Space Support Vehicles, a designation that’s currently in process.

In 2007, Starfighters signed a deal with NASA to help the agency develop commercial space flight, which gave them a permanent role at NASA and space in the former space shuttle landing facility. That means Starfighters Inc. will almost certainly play a role in training space tourists for NASA partner SpaceX, which hopes to shoot two tourists off to the moon as early as late 2018. Competitors BlueOrigin and Virgin Galactic have plans of their own to launch space tourism on a similar timeline. Training could help those tourists prepare for the sometimes surprising effects that space has on the body — and ensure that they all survive the trip.

The post Want to Fly People to the Moon? Become a Commercial Astronaut. appeared first on Futurism.


Crescent Moon Games Will Release ‘Reed’, Android-Exclusive Platformer, on iPhone and iPad

Crescent Moon Games is going to publish the Android-exclusive platformer Reed by PXLink on iOS later this year, and it’s going to have iOS gamers wondering what else on Android they’re missing out on. The game’s a bit similar in theme to Cat Bird [Free], though I only bring this title up as a reference, since Reed pre-dates the game. In each level, you have to collect a large floating cube in order to unlock the exit, while trying to survive spikes, dart shooters, breakaway platforms, and wandering enemies. The game does promise some tricky platforming sections, and your only real tool is a double jump, but the game boasts quick restarts so you can get right back in the action after you die.

Reed‘s pixel art is quite impressive. The game has somewhat of a low-resolution, blocky look with thick outlines, but the art still appears incredibly detailed. The game does look like it’s behind an Instagram filter the entire time with the color usage, but it gives the game a different look from the similar Cat Bird. The animation in particular is impressive. The developer put a lot of time and work into making the cube that players have to collect in each level the most impressive object in the game. The cube looks and feels important, and satisfying to collect.

Reed is a fun and challenging platformer, great for pick-up-and-play sessions, or for sitting down and trying to tackle a bunch of platforming challenges for a couple hours. And it comes in at the criminally low price of $ 0.99. Reed should garner attention from Apple and the iOS gaming community, so why wasn’t it on iOS already? Well, apparently the developer only had Android and PC, which made it difficult to release for iOS, since that requires a Mac specifically. And if a developer is making games primarily for the love and not necessarily as a business, well, maybe buying a Mac to release on iOS isn’t the highest priority. Also consider that a game might easily not make its costs for porting and hardware back if it doesn’t gain any traction!

What this means is that Android has plenty of hidden gems to find, as the sheer number of developers that might not have Macs and just want to release a mobile game for fun is incredibly high. Reed shows that some of these titles have the kind of quality that makes them well worth your time and money. If you have an Android device, you can play the game right now for only $ 0.99. If you don’t have an Android, keep an eye out for the Crescent Moon-published iOS release later this year, and check out the thread in the TouchArcade Upcoming Games forum for more details.


Trump’s new budget won’t land us on the moon anytime soon

Vice President Pence may have vowed that the US would return astronauts to the moon, but it looks like we aren't getting there anytime soon. Ars Technica appears to have received an early copy of the White House's fiscal year 2019 budget set for rele…
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