Tony Robbins puts money behind Cape Canaveral space balloon business

Self-hep guru Tony Robbins is reportedly putting some of his money behind a Cape Canaveral start-up that wants to send people to space onboard balloons.

The company, Space Perspective, announced Wednesday in a press release that it has secured $7 million “for the development and early flights of Spaceship Neptune to the edge of space.”

A high-performance space balloon with a pressurized capsule.  (Space Perspective)

“The infusion of capital advances the human space flight company another step closer to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space for research and tourism,” the statement read.

Space Perspective said it chose investors who are the “cutting edge of venture capital.” Among its investors is Robbins.

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“My life is dedicated to delivering people extraordinary experiences that expand human consciousness,” Robbins said in a press release. “I always say a belief is a poor substitute for an experience and Jane and Taber’s work at Space Perspective will deliver a life-changing experience to people across the world and help us all realize that we are part of a human family sharing this remarkable planet.”

According to the company, the “space balloon” uses a pressurized capsule technology that “gently travels to and from the edge of space over a six-hour period.”

WITH SPACEX LAUNCH MUSK, BEZOS, BRANSON LEAD BILLIONAIRES IN SPACE RACE

The company says it will offer “opportunities for groundbreaking research and life-changing travel experiences for off-world travels.”

It’s first flight, Neptune 1, is scheduled around the end of the first quarter 2021 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.

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Japan Space Probe To Bring Asteroid Dust To Earth

Call it a special delivery: after six years in space, Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe is heading home, but only to drop off its rare asteroid samples before starting a new mission.

The fridge-sized probe, launched in December 2014, has already thrilled scientists by landing on and gathering material from an asteroid some 300 million kilometres (185 million miles) from Earth.

Hayabusa-2 will near Earth to drop off rare asteroid samples before heading back into deep space on a new extended mission Hayabusa-2 will near Earth to drop off rare asteroid samples before heading back into deep space on a new extended mission Photo: AFP / Behrouz MEHRI

But its work isn’t over yet, with scientists from Japan’s space agency JAXA now planning to extend its mission for more than a decade and targeting two new asteroids.

Before that mission can begin, Hayabusa-2 needs to drop off its precious samples from the asteroid Ryugu — “dragon palace” in Japanese.

Scientists are hoping the capsule will contain around 0.1 grams of material that will offer clues about what the solar system was like at its birth some 4.6 billion years ago.

Graphic explaining how Japan's Hayabusa-2 space probe will drop off asteroid samples to Earth before starting a new mission Graphic explaining how Japan’s Hayabusa-2 space probe will drop off asteroid samples to Earth before starting a new mission Photo: AFP / Janis LATVELS

The samples could shed light on “how matter is scattered around the solar system, why it exists on the asteroid and how it is related to Earth,” project manager Yuichi Tsuda told reporters ahead of Sunday’s drop-off.

The material is in a capsule that will separate from Hayabusa-2 while it is some 220,000 kilometres above Earth and then plummet into the southern Australian desert.

They were collected during two crucial phases of the mission last year.

Hayabusa-2 needs to drop off its precious samples from the asteroid Ryugu - 'dragon palace' in Japanese Hayabusa-2 needs to drop off its precious samples from the asteroid Ryugu – ‘dragon palace’ in Japanese Photo: JIJI PRESS / Handout

In the first, Hayabusa-2 touched down on Ryugu to collect dust before firing an “impactor” to stir up pristine material from below the surface. Months later, it touched down to collect additional samples.

“We may be able to get substances that will give us clues to the birth of a planet and the origin of life… I’m very interested to see the substances,” mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa told reporters.

Half the material from Ryugu will be kept for future study as advances are made in analytic technology Half the material from Ryugu will be kept for future study as advances are made in analytic technology Photo: Jaumann et. al., Science 2019 / HO

Protected from sunlight and radiation inside the capsule, the samples will be collected, processed, then flown to Japan.

Half the material will be shared between JAXA, US space agency NASA and other international organisations, and the rest kept for future study as advances are made in analytic technology.

Videographic presenting the Hayabusa2 mission. Nearly six years after its launch from the Tanegashima space centre in Japan, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 is on the verge of completing its mission.
VIDEOGRAPHICS Videographic presenting the Hayabusa2 mission. Nearly six years after its launch from the Tanegashima space centre in Japan, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 is on the verge of completing its mission.
VIDEOGRAPHICS
Photo: AFP VIDEOGRAPHICS/CNES/JAXA / David Lory

After dropping off its samples, Hayabusa-2 will complete a series of orbits around the sun for around six years — recording data on dust in interplanetary space and observing exoplanets.

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Gaia space telescope measures solar system’s acceleration

Gaia space telescope measures solar system's acceleration
The image shows the apparent motion of 3000 randomly selected, distant quasars caused by the acceleration of our solar system. For each quasar an arrow indicates the direction in which it is accelerated. Note how the motions appear to converge towards a point just below right of the direction to the centre of the Milky Way, which is in the image centre. The background shows Gaia’s all-sky view of our Milky Way Galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on the data released in the new EDR3 Gaia catalogue. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The measurement of the acceleration of our solar system by astronomers of TU Dresden is a scientific highlight of the third Gaia catalog, which is now being released. With its publication on December 3, 2020, at 12:00 , the public will have access to high-precision astronomical data, such as positions, velocities, magnitudes and colors of about 1.8 billion astronomical objects.


What is Gaia? The aim of the ESA mission, launched on December 19, 2013, is nothing less than to produce a three-dimensional map of all astronomical objects that can be detected by the satellite’s 1000 megapixel camera—an impressive average of three million stars per hour. The observations are so accurate that Gaia could trace a motion of only a few centimeters for objects that are as far away as the Moon. An international team of scientists generates scientifically usable results from this enormous amount of observational data. This calculation, the iterative solution of a huge system of equations with 10 billion unknowns, has kept supercomputers in several European research institutions busy since 2015. Among those, TU Dresden’s high performance computers were heavily demanded by Prof. Klioner’s team to produce the numerous interim solutions which finally resulted in decisive improvements of the new Gaia products.

The excellent quality of these results enabled the scientists in Dresden to detect a highly interesting phenomenon: The acceleration of our solar system. In astronomy, it has been known for a while that such an acceleration causes a slow, apparent displacement of all astronomical objects, which should become noticeable as a global pattern in the measured motions. However, for nearby stars, this effect is completely superposed by the complex structure and dynamics of our galaxy.

Only a precise measurement of extremely distant astronomical objects, so-called quasars, could reveal this acceleration effect. These extremely luminous nuclei of distant galaxies are considered to be almost fixed on the sky, which is why they are used in astronomy as reference points.

The Dresden team identified about 1.6 million Gaia objects to be quasars, which will now be published as a Gaia own celestial reference system. These quasars clearly show the expected motion pattern of the extremely small acceleration, which, according to the results produced in Dresden, is 0.23 nanometers per second squared. It is the first time that this detection is obtained using optical observations. Professor Klioner explains:

“Measuring the acceleration of the solar system with a relative precision of 7 percent is a very

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Voyager Probes Spot Previously Unknown Phenomenon in Deep Space

Artistic conception of a Voyager spacecraft.

Artistic conception of a Voyager spacecraft.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Voyager spacecraft may be billions of miles away and over 40 years old, but they’re still making significant discoveries, as new research reveals.

A paper published today in the Astronomical Journal describes an entirely new form of electron burst, a discovery made possible by the intrepid Voyager probes. These bursts are happening in the interstellar medium, a region of space in which the density of matter is achingly thin. As the new paper points out, something funky is happening to cosmic ray electrons that are making their way through this remote area: They’re being reflected and boosted to extreme speeds by advancing shock waves produced by the Sun.

By itself, this process, in which shock waves push particles, is nothing new. What is new, however, is that these bursts of electrons are appearing far ahead of the advancing shock wave, and that it’s happening in a supposedly quiet region of space. The new paper was co-authored by astrophysicist Don Gurnett from Iowa University.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have done tremendous work for king and country, and they’re still enabling meaningful scientific work after so many years. But instead of studying active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io or taking glorious photos of Saturn’s rings, these probes are now studying the uncharted waters beyond the heliopause—the zone between the hot solar plasma and the cooler interstellar medium at the outer reaches of the solar system.

“This is analogous to seeing light reflected from the cloud of a far-away explosion, and then hearing the boom at a later time.”

Voyager 1 is currently 14.1 billion miles away, and Voyager 2 is 11.7 billion miles away (the probes were launched within 16 days of one another, but they were sent on different trajectories during their respective sojourns through the solar system). Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause boundary in 2012, and Voyager 2 did the same in 2018. They’re currently traveling through a region referred to as the very local interstellar medium (VLISM), according to the study. The Voyager probes are the most distant human-made objects ever.

Some may quibble about the term “interstellar medium” and claim that the Voyager probes are still technically inside the solar system, but Gurnett is adamant that the Voyager probes are indeed traveling through interstellar space, which literally means the “medium between the stars,” as he explained by phone. “We won that argument,” said Gurnett, “but of course I’m biased.” The pressure of gas at the location of the Voyager probes, he said, is equal to the pressure of gas we would expect to see in interstellar space. To him, that means the probes are inside the interstellar medium.

In 2012, Gurnett at his colleagues declared that Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space, a claim confirmed by NASA the following year.

Years ago, before the NASA probes entered this region of space, “we thought

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How robot tentacles may capture our floating space trash

It could be one small step for space junk, one giant leap for commercial space operations. 



How robot tentacles may capture our floating space trash


© Provided by Mashable
How robot tentacles may capture our floating space trash

The European Space Agency signed an €86 million contract with a team led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA in November, talking to reporters on Tuesday about what could be the first space mission to remove an item of debris from orbit, and one that could potentially push the commercial space trash removal market forward. And folks, the proposed spacecraft has four robotic tentacles.

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Space debris has long become a colossal problem, not one you can personally see clogging up your streets and drains outside, but one that could have serious impact on future space endeavours — particularly if you’re in the business of launching say, thousands of satellites. 

It’s been 60 years since the Space Race started, and more than 5,550 rocket launches from Earth have left approximately 23,000 tracked objects remaining in space, not to mention the millions of bits and pieces floating around low Earth orbit known as “space junk.” About 9,600 satellites have been placed into Earth’s orbit to date, with about 5,500 still in space, and just 2,300 of those are functioning. 

This only stands to increase, with today’s space industry averaging 100 launches a year. Add to this the rising popularity of satellite “mega-constellations” as a means for worldwide telecommunications coverage, consisting of hundreds, even thousands of objects — Elon Musk wants to send a total of 42,000 satellites into orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink project, aiming to provide high speed internet to the globe.

Problems arise when larger objects in orbit collide in space, causing fast-moving, smaller fragments of space debris to break off, creating a space junkyard that can cause all kinds of hazards at speed, especially for active spacecrafts. The 2009 collision between active commercial satellite Iridium 33 and inactive military satellite Kosmos-2251 has become the prime example of this, but even as recently as September last year, the European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite had to fire its thrusters to avoid colliding with one of Musk’s Starlink satellites. 

It’s a problem with exponential growth potential, most notably due to a phenomenon known as “Kessler Syndrome,” a term coined in 1978 by astrophysicist Don Kessler, a former senior scientist for orbital debris research at NASA, which describes the idea that one collision could result in several more, like falling dominos.

“The more populated the orbits around us get, the higher probability of collisions,” Rolf Densing, ESA director of operations told reporters on Tuesday. “This has happened in the past, and unfortunately, I’m quite sure that this will happen in the future as well.”

Space junk clean-up is no easy task — you can’t just vacuum it up, sweep it under some space rug, or pluck it out like a piece of lint on a cardigan. People have tried, some more successfully than others. NASA has been studying this since the ’70s. But ClearSpace’s

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NASA reveals Earth’s ‘mini-moon’ 2020 SO is definitely just space junk

centaurupperstage1964

This photo from 1964 shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket. Space object 2020 SO is one of these.


NASA

Welcome back, Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster. We just got a new chapter in a bittersweet space saga that involves a fiery launch, a doomed moon mission and decades of space wanderings. 

A rocket booster NASA used to launch the Surveyor 2 lunar lander in 1966 has returned to us for a temporary spin as a mini-moon in orbit around Earth. When scientists spotted it in September, they named it 2020 SO. On Wednesday, NASA announced the strange object has been positively identified as the ’60s booster.

While the booster did its job admirably back in 1966, the lander didn’t survive a crash landing on the moon’s surface.   

The booster’s specific orbit around the sun tipped astronomers off that it probably wasn’t an asteroid, one of the many space rocks that zip around our cosmic neighborhood. Some sleuthing tracked the booster back to near Earth in 1966. 

Telescope observations have now revealed the stainless steel composition of 2020 SO. This cosmic detective work involved comparing spectrum data on the enigmatic object with data gathered on a known Centaur rocker booster that’s been floating around in space since 1971. It was a match. 

The object has attracted a lot of interest due to the mystery surrounding it and the fact that it was captured into an Earth orbit that makes it a cute little visiting mini-moon. The Virtual Telescope Project livestreamed 2020 SO when it came in close to Earth on Nov. 30.

The Centaur booster will stick around with us for a few months, but is expected to continue its space adventures back in orbit around the sun sometime in March 2021. At which point we can all say, “Goodnight, Centaur. Goodnight, mini-moon.”


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NASA determines mystery space object 2020 SO is a ’60s rocket booster

centaurupperstage1964

This photo from 1964 shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket. Space object 2020 SO is one of these.


NASA

Welcome back, Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster. We just got a new chapter in a bittersweet space saga that involves a fiery launch, a doomed moon mission and decades of space wanderings. 

A rocket booster NASA used to launch the Surveyor 2 lunar lander in 1966 has returned to us for a temporary spin as a mini-moon in orbit around Earth. When scientists spotted it in September, they named it 2020 SO. On Wednesday, NASA announced the strange object has been positively identified as the ’60s booster.

While the booster did its job admirably back in 1966, the lander didn’t survive a crash landing on the moon’s surface.   

The booster’s specific orbit around the sun tipped astronomers off that it probably wasn’t an asteroid, one of the many space rocks that zip around our cosmic neighborhood. Some sleuthing tracked the booster back to near Earth in 1966. 

Telescope observations have now revealed the stainless steel composition of 2020 SO. This cosmic detective work involved comparing spectrum data on the enigmatic object with data gathered on a known Centaur rocker booster that’s been floating around in space since 1971. It was a match. 

The object has attracted a lot of interest due to the mystery surrounding it and the fact that it was captured into an Earth orbit that makes it a cute little visiting mini-moon. The Virtual Telescope Project livestreamed 2020 SO when it came in close to Earth on Nov. 30.

The Centaur booster will stick around with us for a few months, but is expected to continue its space adventures back in orbit around the sun sometime in March 2021. At which point we can all say, “Goodnight, Centaur. Goodnight, mini-moon.”


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ESA signs contract for first space debris removal mission

JOHANNESBURG — The European Space Agency (ESA) has finalized an 86 million euro ($104 million) contract with Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to complete the world’s first space debris removal mission. 

ClearSpace-1 represents the first real space debris removal and is not just a demonstration mission, ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, said during a Dec. 1 media briefing. The payload adapter ClearSpace-1 intends to retrieve is an active piece of space debris, a prospect that is far more challenging than a stable demonstration target, he added.

“With space debris, by definition no such control is possible: instead the objects are adrift, often tumbling randomly,” said Wörner. “So this first capture and disposal of an uncooperative space object represents an extremely challenging achievement.

ESA officials signed a contract with Clear Space on Nov 13. to complete the safe deorbiting of a payload adapter launched aboard the second flight of the Arianespace Vega rocket in 2013.

Unlike traditional ESA contracts that involve the agency procuring and running the entire mission, ClearSpace-1 is a contract to purchase a service: the safe removal of a piece of space debris. ESA officials said they intend this mission to help establish a new commercial sector led by European industry.

The 86 million euros supplied by ESA will be supplemented with an additional 24 million euros ClearSpace is raising from commercial investors. Approximately 14 million euros of the privately-raised funding will be utilized for the mission, while the remaining 10 million will be set aside for contingencies.

In addition to the partial-purchase cost, ESA will supply key technology for the mission developed by the agency’s Clean Space initiative as part of its Active Debris Removal/In-Orbit Servicing project. The technology to be supplied includes advanced guidance, navigation and control systems, vision-based AI, and the robotic arms to capture the target object.

The 112-kilogram Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) target object is located in orbit around Earth at an approximate altitude of 801 by 664 kilometers. The object was selected because it is the approximate size and weight of a small satellite, an initial target market for ClearSpace’s debris-removal service.

The 500-kilogram ClearSpace-1 chaser spacecraft is slated to be launched aboard a Vega-C rocket in 2025. The spacecraft features cameras, radar and LIDAR for navigation, and four articulating tentacles designed to capture the target object.

Once launched, the ClearSpace-1 spacecraft will be deployed into a 500-kilometer orbit for commissioning and testing. The spacecraft will then be raised to the target orbit for rendezvous and capture. Although much of this process will be automated, a series of go/no go points will be completed leading up to capture.

After the target object has been captured, the ClearSpace-1 spacecraft will drag itself and its payload into a destructive orbit to burn up in the atmosphere.

ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet said following the completion of ClearSpace-1, the company plans to undertake progressively more ambitious follow-on missions. The company’s goal is to get to the point where a single spacecraft can capture multiple objects, which

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To study aging, scientists are looking to outer space

As anyone who has experienced middle age will know, the process of growing old can be extremely hard on the body. Your bones begin to leak calcium, your muscles begin to shrivel, the immune system weakens, and arthritis can set in. Poor posture and balance affect how you move about the world, while cataracts and deteriorating eyesight impair how you see it. Heart problems and declining cognitive function eventually set in as people approach the end of their lives.



Mark Kelly in a blue shirt: Former NASA astronauts and identical twins Scott Kelly (right) and Mark Kelly. Scott spent a year on the ISS from 2015 to 2016 while Mark stayed on Earth, allowing scientists to study the effects of living in space on Scott's body and compare the changes to Mark.


© Photograph by ROBERT MARKOWITZ, NASA

Former NASA astronauts and identical twins Scott Kelly (right) and Mark Kelly. Scott spent a year on the ISS from 2015 to 2016 while Mark stayed on Earth, allowing scientists to study the effects of living in space on Scott’s body and compare the changes to Mark.


These symptoms, however, can also be caused by something less common: space travel.

Spaceflight influences biology in dramatic ways, and people in space appear to experience the effects of aging faster than people on Earth. Now, scientists have gained a better understanding of space travel’s influence on living beings than ever before. A slew of 29 papers recently published in the journals Cell, Cell Reports, iScience, Cell Systems, and Patterns examine the biological hazards of spaceflight in 56 astronauts—more than 10 percent of all the people who have ever been to space.



NASA astronauts Terry Virts (right) and Scott Kelly perform experiments for Rodent Research-2, a commercial investigation of the effects of spaceflight on the muscles, skeletons, and nervous systems of mice that were launched to the ISS on April 14, 2015.


© Photograph by NASA

NASA astronauts Terry Virts (right) and Scott Kelly perform experiments for Rodent Research-2, a commercial investigation of the effects of spaceflight on the muscles, skeletons, and nervous systems of mice that were launched to the ISS on April 14, 2015.


The new studies bring us a step closer to identifying the mechanisms underpinning the biological responses to living in space. More than 200 scientists demonstrated that space upends the genes, mitochondrial function, and chemical balances in the cells to trigger a cascade of broader health effects in spacefaring humans and animals.

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“The entire body is affected, because [space] is such a different and extreme environment,” says Susan Bailey, a radiologist at Colorado State University who participated in multiple of the new studies.

The health effects associated with spaceflight have several similarities to aging-related disorders, such as cancer and osteoporosis. While spaceflight’s parallels to aging are a concern for long-term crewed missions—such as those that would be required on a voyage to Mars—the unique space environment also presents a unique opportunity to study the physiology of aging.



NASA’s Rodent Habitat, shown here with one of the two access doors open, provides long-term housing for rodents aboard the International Space Station.


© Photograph by Dominic Hart, NASA
NASA’s Rodent Habitat, shown here with one of the two access doors open, provides long-term housing for rodents aboard the International Space Station.

It’s estimated that the heart, blood vessels, bones, and muscles deteriorate more than 10 times faster in space than by natural aging. This means to study the aging process, scientists don’t have to wait for their biological subjects to naturally mature on Earth—they can harness the accelerated health effects by running experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).

Scientists stress that the symptoms of space

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Virgin Orbit will try again to blast LauncherOne to space before Christmas

launcherone

A Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket mated to the modified 747 Cosmic Girl.


Virgin Orbit

Richard Branson is hoping to kick off the holiday season by shooting a rocket to space from midair later this month. The Virgin founder’s space launch subsidiary, Virgin Orbit, has announced the launch window for its latest demonstration mission and still aims to meet a goal of returning to flight before the year is out.

Virgin Orbit plans to send satellites into orbit using a rocket that ignites after being released in midair from the belly of a modified 747. Its first demonstration launch in May failed to reach orbit as hoped; a 747 named Cosmic Girl dropped one of the company’s LauncherOne rockets, but the rocket’s engines fired for only about 10 seconds. 

The company later said the abbreviated flight was caused by an issue with a high-pressure line.

Virgin Orbit now says it has reviewed and responded to all the data from that first demonstration and is prepared to try again. The space startup is confident enough in its chances of success that it’ll be carrying satellites for paying customers for the first time. It’s teamed up with NASA, which works to match research satellites from a number of universities with commercial launch providers.

Nine small CubeSats will be on board, including one from California Polytechnic University that can help predict space weather, and another from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette that’ll allow students to connect and interact with it via a smartphone app. The full manifest can be found here. 

Virgin Orbit says the launch window for its Demo 2 mission will open on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT. A backup window is also available the following day.

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