NASA moon-landing tech hitches ride to space on Bezos rocket

In this news, we discuss the NASA moon-landing tech hitches ride to space on Bezos rocket.

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin on Tuesday launched a New Shepard rocket for the seventh time from a remote corner of Texas, testing new lunar landing technology for NASA that could help put astronauts back on the moon from here 2024. The entire flight – barely skimming space with a maximum altitude of 106 kilometers (66 miles) – lasted only 10 minutes. The thruster landed vertically at the launch complex after take-off, and the capsule followed, parachuting onto the desert floor.

“Landing! New Shepard, let’s go. I’m sorry you can’t hear me pounding the desk into my mic,” launch commentator Caitlin Dietrich said. The capsule contained science experiments, including 1,2 million tomato seeds that will be distributed to school children in the United States and Canada, and tens of thousands of children’s postcards with space-themed designs that will be returned to young senders.

NASA’s navigation equipment for future moon landings was located on the booster. The sensors and computer – tested during the descent and landing of the booster – will hitchhike another suborbital ride with Blue Origin. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted his congratulations after Tuesday’s demo. The space agency needs the ability to land precisely on the moon in specific locations, he noted.

The Texas-based Southwest Research Institute had an experiment with magnetic sampling of asteroids on board, as well as a mini-rocket refueling test. Led by Amazon founder Bezos, Washington state-based Blue Origin is leading a team of companies to develop a lunar lander for astronauts. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also working on a lander, as is Alabama-based Dynetics.

NASA has chosen three teams in this first phase of the Artemis moon landing program to increase the chances of bringing astronauts to the lunar surface by the end of 2024, a deadline set by the White House. Delayed for three weeks by technical problems, this was the 13th New Shepard flight for Blue Origin. The first was in 2015. The rocket is named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard.

Tuesday’s launch was the first in nearly a year for Blue Origin: the pandemic has stalled operations. Blue Origin said its staff are keeping their social distances and taking other safety measures. Blue Origin said it needed a few more flights before it launched people – tourists, scientists and professional astronauts – on short jumps. The capsule has six seats and six windows, the largest for flying in space.

News Highlights:

  • Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin launched a New Shepard rocket from a remote corner of Texas on Tuesday, testing new lunar landing technology for NASA that could help astronauts return to the moon by 2024.
  • NASA’s moon landing technology speeds up space travel on the Bezos rocket
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