Mike Wall / Space.com
The moon has not superseded Mars as a human-spaceflight target, despite NASA’s current focus on getting astronauts to Earth’s nearest neighbor, agency officials stressed.
The Red Planet remains the ultimate destination, and the moon will serve as a stepping stone along the way, Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, and Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said during congressional hearings yesterday (Sept. 26).
“The moon is the proving ground, and Mars is the goal,” Bridenstine said during testimony before the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, part of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. [How Will a Human Mars Base Work? NASA’s Vision in Images]
Tariq Malik / Space.com
It’s going to be a big night for space tourism. The private spaceflight company SpaceX will reveal its first passenger for a trip around the moon on the company’s massive BFR rocket and you can watch it all live online. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has even dropped tantalizing previews of the BFR’s new rocket design on Twitter.
SpaceX will unveil its BFR rocket passenger (the name stands for Big Falcon Rocket) in a webcast tonight (Sept. 17) at its Hawthorne, California headquarters. You can watch it live here, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 Sept. 18 GMT).
The highlight anticipated reveal comes on the heels of SpaceX’s surprise announcement late Thursday (Sept. 13) that it had signed its first passenger to fly around the moon on its BFR spaceship. The company has dubbed the flight the “BFR Lunar Mission.” [The BFR in Images: SpaceX’s Giant Spaceship for Mars & Beyond]
Mike Wall / Space.com
A “private passenger” has signed up for a trip around the moon aboard SpaceX’s BFR rocket-spaceship combo, company representatives announced via Twitter this evening (Sept. 13). SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk will fill in the details Monday (Sept. 17), during a webcast event that begins at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT on Sept. 18). You can watch the SpaceX moon shot webcast live here, courtesy of SpaceX.
Musk may already have given us a clue about the private space explorer’s identity. Somebody on Twitter asked Musk if he were the passenger, and the billionaire entrepreneur responded by tweeting an emoji of the Japanese flag. [The BFR: SpaceX’s Giant Spaceship for Mars Colonization in Images]
Robert Z. Pearlman / Space.com
HOUSTON — Jim Bridenstine wants to make sure that there is never another day when humans are not in space.
“In fact,” the NASA administrator said, “we want lots of humans in space.”
Bridenstine, who became the space agency’s chief in April, recently sat down with Space.com and other reporters during a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, during which he shared what he saw as his priority for NASA going forward. [These 9 Astronauts Will Fly the 1st Flights on SpaceX and Boeing Spaceships]
“When you look back at history, look back at the end of the Apollo program, 1972 when we didn’t go back to the moon… you look back and there was a period of time there after Apollo and before the space shuttles when we had a gap of human spaceflight capability,” Bridenstine said. “And then you go forward and look at the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, and now we’re getting to the point where we’re ready to fly commercial crew. We’ve got a gap of about eight years in our ability to fly crew into space.
India’s space program wants to go where no nation has gone before – to the south side of the moon.
And once it gets there, it will study the potential for mining a source of waste-free nuclear energy that could be worth trillions of dollars.
The nation’s equivalent of NASA will launch a rover in October to explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyze crust samples for signs of water and helium-3. That isotope is limited on Earth yet so abundant on the moon that it theoretically could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.
“The countries which have the capacity to bring that source from the moon to Earth will dictate the process,’’ said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. “I don’t want to be just a part of them, I want to lead them.’’
SpaceX won’t launch two space tourists on a mission around the moon in 2018 after all, according to media reports.
In February 2017, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that the company aimed to fly two paying customers on a weeklong journey around the moon before the end of 2018, using its Dragon capsule and powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. (The customers, who have never been publicly identified, put down a deposit for the mission, SpaceX representatives said at the time.)