The perennial question: Moon or Mars?

We don’t need to go to the Moon in order to go to Mars. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go to the Moon. It’s just not a prerequisite.

I love this quote from John Grunsfeld, when asked about the radiation risk of a Mars trip: “How does that compare to the risk of blowing up on the launchpad or on ascent; getting hit by a meteor, asteroid, debris, some kind of space junk on the way there; burning up in the Mars atmosphere; burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere on the way back; or missing the Earth? You add up all those risks, and the [risk of radiation exposure] is kind of just another one.”

Crew Dragon abort test tomorrow

SpaceX will conduct an inflight abort test of Crew Dragon tomorrow morning. As the Falcon 9 reaches max-Q, it will shut off its engines to simulate a worst case failure. This should trigger the Crew Dragon to separate from the rocket and fire its own Super Draco engines to get away from the failing rocket. Once clear, Crew Dragon will pop its parachutes and land gently in the Atlantic. This should be quite a show and is the last major milestone before an actual crewed launch.

ISS as Mars transit testbed

Transit to Mars using current technology takes about six months. How might a crew react to that length of time in close quarters, moving ever farther from Earth? The ISS could provide a testbed and training facility for such a trip.

Apollo pooping

This might be the most dedicated space journalism I’ve ever encountered. I want to say “Bravo!”, but that seems weird.

Apollo 11 landing

In the final minutes of the Apollo 11 LM’s descent to the surface, Armstrong noticed that the intended landing site was too rocky and took manual control of the descent in order to find a better spot. The LM had never been flown in this manner, and Armstrong didn’t have time to discuss it with mission control.

We’ve all heard recordings of those final minutes of the LM descent. But we’ve never seen exactly what Armstrong saw until now. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team has reconstructed Armstrong’s view of the surface in those final minutes.

Pairing the audio recording with this footage is edge-of-the-seat exciting, as you imagine Armstrong coolly working the LM down while the voices at mission control have no idea of this extra drama under way at the time.

Apollo 11 launch

Watching this original coverage of the Apollo 11 launch today, I was struck by the professionalism. There is no attempt to entertain or sensationalize here. Just calm and composed communication of the most momentous event in human history.