A few months after returning from a stint on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins was ready to talk about his experience. During an hour-long Reddit.com Ask Me Anything session, Hopkins covered everything from space sweat to space enchiladas. In fact, the majority of his commentary feels like a person describing a normal day on earth. Hearing Hopkins describe his ISS workout regimen and share low-earth orbit reading list makes space seem strangely familiar.
With more industry privatization, familiarity is becoming a reality, and humanity is beginning to close in on the final frontier. While most of us are not bidding $1.5 million for a Virgin Galactic seat next to Leonardo DiCaprio, the fact that space tourism is a possibility is one giant step toward “normal” space travel. Space normalcy might be hard to believe, but remember the Wright Brothers first flight was only 111 years ago. Given the speed of modern technology, imagine how far we’ll soar over the next generation. This week’s “Recently in” looks at some of the advancements that are helping us all get closer to the stars.
There’s nothing more familiar than your morning routine. You know what happens when a routine is interrupted. Now imagine being denied your morning cup of Joe 250 miles above the earth. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria! No need to worry. Space espresso is on the menu. Set for launch in 2015, the ISSpresso was created by Lavazza and Argotec to put an end to bad coffee on the ISS. How does it taste? NASA astronaut Donald Pettit has already crowned the beverage, “the best coffee that we’ve ever had in space.”
Going back to the Wright Brothers for a moment, Orville and Wilbur were not the only humans trying to solve the riddle of flight. Balloon travel had existed as far back as the 18th century and zeppelin flights began in 1900. A lot of people experimented in flight, and now we’re experimenting in space flight. Interestingly enough, US-based startup World View is bringing the balloon back in a big way. During a recent unmanned test, the company’s Tycho spaceflight system reached altitudes of more than 20 miles above the earth. By 2016, World View hopes to launch passengers on a two-hour sail offering a breathtaking view of the sunrise. The good news: at $75,000, it’s relatively affordable in space travel terms and it comes with internet access that will facilitate all of your space selfie needs.
Faster-than-light (FTL) travel has been the intergalactic sci-fi travel catalyst for decades. Similar to other technologies dreamed up by the likes of Wells and Verne, FTL could one day transition from science fiction to science fact. Based on a project spearheaded by NASA physicist Dr. Harold White, FTL could be possible by warping space time around a spacecraft. Working with Dr. White, artist Mark Rademaker has created a concept craft that provides a visualization of space travel’s future. Light speed, warp speed, Ludacris speed – go!
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) to pursue studies of the physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. Designed in SOLIDWORKS, the Solar Probe Plus will venture where Icarus could not: the sun’s atmosphere. Launching in 2018, mankind’s first mission to the sun will analyze plasma in the solar atmosphere with the goal to gain a better understand what makes our star tick. Click the image below to learn how SOLIDWORKS is helping the SAO quench our thirst for galactic knowledge.
Mike Hopkins image courtesy of NASA
Tycho image courtesy of World View
Enterprise image courtesy of Mark Rademaker