Monday, April 10, 2017

Space Station Trio Return to Earth After 73 Million Mile Journey

After a journey of over 73 million miles, the Expedition 49/50 crew have safely returned to Earth after completing a 173 day mission to the International Space Station.

Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov with crew mates Andrey Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough landed their vehicle in the remote steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan at 11:21 p.m. GMT.
Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko adjust to life back on Earth shortly
after landing. credit: NASA/Ingalls

The trio bid farewell to their crew mates early this morning before hatches between the station and the Soyuz were closed. This was followed at 7:56 a.m. by the undocking of the spacecraft from the station's Poisk module - marking the official beginning of Expedition 51.

Since their arrival to station the crew have conducted hundreds of scientific experiments across a wide range of scientific fields including biology, biotechnology, physics, Earth observation and human physiology experiments.

Landing in perfect conditions under clear skies, the crew were extracted one by one from the vehicle by Russian search and recovery forces at the landing site and flown to the remote town of Karaganda a short time later for a welcoming ceremony.

Ryzhikov and Borisenko will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center plane for a flight back to Star City to be reunited with their families, while Kimbrough will return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

This morning's landing brings to an end the first long duration space flight for Ryzhikov, and the second for his Russian crew mate Borisenko, who first flew to the station as a Flight Engineer on Expedition 27/28. He now logs a total of 337 days in space.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who previously flew on a short-duration mission to the station on space shuttle mission STS-126, returns to Earth with a combined 184 days in space under his belt.

Before his departure this morning, Kimbrough handed over the reigns of the International Space Station to Whitson in the traditional Change of Command ceremony, in which he recognised the difference science conducted in space has for people the world over;

"We get the ability to interact with things up here that benefit all humanity."
The Soyuz MS-02 carrying Ryzhikov, Borisenko and Kimbrough shortly before landing at 11:21 a.m. GMT.
Credit: NASA/Ingalls
In the meantime, station commander Peggy Whitson alongside Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet remain aboard station. Whitson, who became the first two-time female commander of the International Space Station with this morning's departure paid tribute to her commander for the past four and a half months.

"Up here we don't wear shoes but Shane's leaving me some big socks to fill!"

Meanwhile back on Earth, veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer are in the final stages preparations for their launch to the International Space Station. The duo will launch in their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 20.

Thank you for reading Irish Space Blog!

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Space Industry Seminar Previews Space Studies Program in Cork

by Cian O'Regan

Space industry professionals and enthusiasts from around the world descended on Cork County Hall on Thursday to discuss the growth of the Irish space industry, as well as preview the Cork Institute of Technology, Blackrock Castle Observatory and Ireland playing host to the International Space University's Space Studies Program - taking place between June 26 - August 25 this year.

Guests were welcomed by the Mayor of County Cork, Cllr. Seamus McGrath, who kicked off proceedings by introducing the first speaker of the day, Orla Flynn.
Niall Smith, Head of Research at CIT outlines plans for the International Space
University's Space Studies Program coming to Cork this summer. credit: Phil O'Reilly

Flynn is the Deputy Director of the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Vice President for External Affairs at CIT. She expressed her delight at the fact that Cork and CIT was chosen to host SSP17, and was looking forward to seeing the growth of the space industry in Ireland, particularly in Cork.

Following Flynn was David Gibbons - Head of the European Space Agency Space Solutions Centre in Ireland - based at the Tyndall National Institute. Gibbons began by stating that the Irish space industry is currently worth €76m annually and expects that figure to double in the next five years. He was quick to point out that most people don't even know that there is a space industry in Ireland.

"The SpaceX Dragon - the first private vehicle to visit the International Space Station had 350 components that were built in Ireland, so we're already in space" Gibbons said.

"At the Space Solutions Centre we take technologies from space and spin them into existing companies." 

The aim of the Space Solutions Centre is to provide easy access to the technical expertise of ESA. It provides €50,000 to startup companies looking to apply space technologies on the ground.

Omar Hatamleh is the Chief Innovation Officer and Engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He is also the Director of the Space Studies Program.

Hatemleh explained the structure of SSP which is now in its thirtieth year. Taught through core lectures, team projects and workshops, the curriculum covers the principal space related fields, both non-technical and technical and ranges from policy and law, business, management and humanities to life sciences, engineering, physical sciences and space applications.

"This will be a unique opportunity to inspire young people to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics." 


Bringing the Space Studies Program to Cork will also bring with it substantial economic benefits. It is expected that over €3m will be generated in the local economy as a result of SSP.

Next to speak after Hatamleh was Niall Smith - Head of Research at Cork Institute of Technology and a driving force behind the team bringing SSP17 to Cork as the Lead of the CIT Local Organising Committee. He gave an overview of some of the key features of this year's program which includes:
  • 132 participants from all over the world will take part in this year's program. They will be assisted by 50 ISU staff members.
  • 100 visiting experts.
  • €1.7m will go into the local economy directly from ISU.
  • SSP17 will be the largest conference programme ever held in Cork.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the International Space University’s Chancellor and Apollo 11 moonwalker will kick off the 30th edition of ISU’s Space Studies Program SSP17 on Monday June 26.

Aldrin will in addition address SSP17 participants, faculty and the general public on the evening of 27th June 2017. Aldrin is one of only twelve humans to have walked on the moon, after he participated in the Gemini program. He is one of the leading advocates for a human Mars mission.

Official poster for SSP17
credit: International Space University

"There's no silver bullet in terms of SSP but the chance for opportunity is huge."


Over the course of the nine-week programme, Cork and CIT will play host to fifteen public events which will also be live-streamed, seven astronauts, a space jobs fair as well as a lecture by former Director of NASA's Ames Research Center and current President of Breakthrough Innovation, Pete Worden, to highlight just a few.

Also present on the day was James Fogarty - Divisional Manager of Cork City Council and a self-confessed space geek who praised the efforts of those already involved in not only the Irish space industry, but the space industry which exists in Cork -

"I think the credibility of the space industry in Cork is bigger than we realise."

For the latest news on the International Space University's Space Studies Program coming to Cork this summer - be sure to keep up to date with Irish Space Blog, Blackrock Castle Observatory on their websiteTwitter and on Facebook and the International Space University.

Be part of a fantastic summer of space in Cork by using the hashtag #OurSpaceOurTime and #SSP17 on social media.

Thank you for reading Irish Space Blog!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

SpaceX Dragon Launches from Apollo Pad to Resupply Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to resupply the International Space Station.

From the same launchpad used to send men to the Moon during the Apollo missions, the Commercial Resupply Services(CRS)-10 mission blasted off at 9:39 a.m. Eastern Time bound for the orbiting laboratory.
CRS-10 lifted off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at 9:39 a.m. EST
credit: NASA

Today's events mark the first time a rocket has roared to life at Pad 39A since the final flight of the space shuttle programme in July 2011.

Just eight minutes after launch, the rocket's expended first stage fell back to Earth, fired its engines, before successfully landing upright for the second time at SpaceX's Landing Zone-1 -  around 15 kilometers south of Launch Complex 39.

The vehicle will arrive at the space station on early on Monday, February 22 carrying science research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory in support of the Expedition 50 and 51 crews.

Among the investigations are experiments with potential to fight human disease and a new autonomous spacecraft docking technology for testing.

From the station's Cupola, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough alongside European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will capture Dragon with the station's robotic arm, Canadarm-2(Grapple is scheduled at 6 a.m.) before flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston berth Dragon to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony module a few hours later.

Today's launch marks the beginning of the tenth Dragon resupply ship to fly to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight from Pad-39A.

Dragon was originally scheduled to launch a day earlier on February 18, but a problem with the positioning of the vehicle's second stage engine nozzle led to an abort at T-13 seconds.

Just two days after Dragon's arrival to the station, the Russian Progress 66 resupply craft will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:58 a.m. EST on February 22 to deliver food, fuel and supplies to the International Space Station, followed by manual docking on Friday morning.

Thank you for reading Irish Space Blog!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Scintillating Science with Dara O'Briain

by Cian O'Regan

Hundreds of people from all over Ireland descended on Dublin's National Concert Hall on Monday for an evening of Scintillating Science hosted by Dara O'Briain.

The night began with O'Briain inviting physicist and professor of science education at UCD, Shane Bergin on stage to conduct a quick hearing test on the audience.

Using oscilloscopes, Bergin tested the crowd's ability to hear different pitches of sound waves - with all but one person(admitting to never have used earphones) being able to hear the highest frequency.

O'Briain and Bergin experimenting with liquid nitrogen
credit: Naoise Culhane
After the first of the evening's experiments, O'Briain was joined on stage by aspiring Irish space farers - STEAM artist and science communicator Niamh Shaw, and Ireland's very own aquanaut Marc O'Griofa.

O'Griofa is a physician, scientist, engineer and an expert diver by trade who works to train astronauts while testing procedures for future space flights.

Admitting that his Irish charm may have had something to do with getting a job at NASA, Marc recently returned from an eight-day mission this past July to conduct science and research for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)-21 mission.

O'Griofa - who was responsible for flying the first Irish experiment to the International Space Station - conducted a multitude of groundbreaking scientific experiments during his time living on the ocean floor.

The NEEMO-21 crew, which included NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Megan Behnken and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, tested a DNA sequencing device, the operational performance of a HoloLens for human spaceflight cargo transfer, building a coral nursery as well as evaluating various techniques and equipment for a manned mission to the Moon, an asteroid or Mars.

"There's no way to simulate risk if there's no risk there!" O'Griofa replied when asked why NASA sends astronauts training for space station missions to an underwater habitat.

"If there's an emergency, we have to go through a 15-hour decompression to purge the nitrogen out of our system.. It's not as simple as being able to just go out the hatch and swim back up to the surface.."

O'Briain was quick to point out that he had a weightless experience of his own - filming a hysterical yet insightful segment for the popular BBC show 'Stargazing Live' in the Zero-G vomit comet.

From the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to the Utah Desert, Niamh Shaw is getting ready to spend a month living and working in a space habitat to simulate a mission to Mars.

Irish aquanaut Marc O'Griofa talks about his NEEMO-21 mission to conduct science
 and research on the ocean floor. credit: Naoise Culhane
In February of next year, Shaw will be part of an international crew to simulate a mission to the red planet at the Mars Desert Research Station(MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah.

During her mission, Niamh will study how living in a confined space(a factor astronauts will have to deal with on a journey to Mars)affects humans both physically and mentally. The MDRS is a two-story cylindrical building eight meters in diameter that can house seven crew members at one time.

Equipped with an airlock to conduct spacewalks, Shaw and her team will have to contend with a sixteen minute delay to mimic real-time communications between astronauts on Mars and Mission Control back on Earth.

After a short break, the theme of the event turned from space to the science of winning, with O'Briain being joined on stage by psychologist Dr Ian Robertson to discuss the science of the brain.

Robertson educated those in attendance with fun facts about the brain. Did you know that the sole purpose of having bends and turns on the majority of our roads is not to avoid hills, mountains and rivers, but to keep the mind of the driver alert and ready to adapt to change?

Jessie Barr - the Irish Olympian who is currently working toward a PhD on the mental well-being in sport - admitted to using this to her advantage in running a 400 meter hurdles race.

"You run that race in about fifty seconds, and with ten hurdles in your way, you've got to be ready and alert all the time.."

Jessie's brother Thomas Barr admitted that he is at the peak of his motivational reasoning having just finished in fourth place in the men's 400m Olympic final in Rio.

Barr attributes this to setting small goals which develop into something big.

"If you asked me beforehand where I hoped to finish in the Olympics, I would have said the final, but sometimes reality goes way beyond your expectations."

Dara O'Briain quizzes Niamh Shaw on her upcoming mission to simulate a
mission to Mars early next year. credit: Naoise Culhane
Similarly Brian Cody, with fourteen All-Ireland medals under his belt as both a player and manager, focuses on achieving small goals before dreaming big.

Now in his nineteenth season at the helm of The Cats, Cody puts a big emphasis on making sure his players are in the right state of mind before setting foot on the pitch.

"You can tell them to be ready for September, but if you don't prepare enough physically and more importantly mentally, then you'll be ready - you just won't be there!"

Cody mentioned that when it comes down to All Ireland Final day - what dictates how well a player is going to perform isn't his fitness - but his state of mind.

O'Briain recalled how golfer Colin Montgomerie would be able to make one hundred four-foot putts in a row in practice, but when it came to making that same, deceptively simple four-footer going down the stretch of a major championship, there was no guarantee that he would sink the putt. But why does this happen?

Well, it all comes back to Marc O'Griofa's point - you can't simulate risk if it's not there!

To bring the evening to a close, Shane Bergin was invited back on stage to conduct the final experiment of the night.

Armed with a tank filled with liquid nitrogen, Bergin and O'Briain attempted to mark the beginning of Science Week with a bang! However, sometimes scientific experiments don't always go according to plan, as was the case when the duo were unsuccessful in their attempts to demonstrate the explosive power of the boiling liquid when sealed in a bottle.

After several minutes with their hands cupping their ears, the audience were happy to leave with their eardrums intact. It is still unclear at this time whether or not the bottle has exploded.

More to follow on this story shortly..

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dream Big - Space, Limerick and Two Men's Quests to Reach for the Stars

by Cian O'Regan

Crowds of excited space enthusiasts descended on the Limerick Institute of Technology's Millennium Theatre on Wednesday evening, to hear from Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Al Worden, and Limerick's very own Space Tourist Cyril Bennis.

Moderated by the brilliant Dr Niamh Shaw, the evening began when the two special guests were both asked what made them decide they wanted to dedicate their lives to space exploration.
Most Al Worden stories finish with whooping laughter, as seen here!
credit: Irish Space Blog(Cian O'Regan)

Worden was able to trace this all the way back to his humble beginnings growing up on a farm in Michigan, when he discovered that a life spent working the land simply wasn't for him;

"I made the decision, albeit at an early age, that I wanted to get as far away from the farm as possible."

Little would this farm boy know that years later he would travel a quarter of a million miles to the Moon to fulfill this promise.

With the full support and backing of his parents, Worden decided to follow the theme of the evening and dream big - firmly setting his sights on attending the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point. However, he soon found out that things weren't going to be that straightforward.

"One big obstacle I had to face was that we didn't have enough money to send me to college," Worden said. "I did all my study at the side, and got myself set for a competitive exam in the state that I lived in, did well enough in that exam to get an appointment from one of the state senators, and that got me into West Point..

All I had to do was keep my nose clean, nose to the grindstone, shine my shoes, make sure my clothes were neatly folded in the closet, get up readily at six o'clock and be out there with the rest of them, do what I had to do, and I found out that I did okay!"

The twenty-three year old Worden graduated from the USMA as a member of the class of 1955, and thanks to a number of senior Air Force officers at the Academy, decided that flying aeroplanes would be his next big move.

"I found out that I had a knack for flying - it was almost second nature."

Having earned his Air Force wings, Worden decided that flying aircraft higher and faster than anyone else was what he wanted to do next. For any pilot with such lofty aspirations, Edwards Air Force Base in the high-desert of California - the kindergarten for astronauts - was the next logical step.

Following in the footsteps of some of America's first space explorers at Edwards(Gus Grissom, Frank Borman, Tom Stafford and Ed White to name just a few), and after spending time at the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough, England, Worden was selected as part of NASA's fifth group of astronauts in April 1966.


Cyril Bennis was just a young secondary-school student when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth aboard his Friendship 7 spacecraft in 1962. A school visit by Glenn on a post-flight goodwill tour to Limerick was the source of inspiration for a young Bennis to reach for the stars.

"At that moment I thought that this is what I want to achieve in my life" said the former mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon in England. "I believe that absolutely everyone has a potential to do something great, and that something great for me I hope is to fly in space."

Like Al Worden, Bennis had the full backing of his parents to pursue a career in space, in particular from his mother.

"I would spend a lot of my time in school dreaming, dreaming of places I wanted to go..
My mother always used to say that I needed a rocket under me to get me going, well now when I make my flight - I'll have four under me!"

Widely tipped to become the first Irish citizen to fly in space. Bennis is due to make two flights with XCOR Space Expeditions. On his first flight, Bennis will zoom to the edge of space - 60 kilometers above the Earth aboard the company's Lynx Mark I spacecraft.

Bennis describing his flight profile using a scale model of the XCOR Mark I
credit: Irish Space Blog(Cian O'Regan)
His second flight will be aboard an updated Lynk Mark II, which will take him past the Karman Line(the internationally recognized boundary of suborbital space at an altitude of 100 kilometers), pull 4Gs on the way home, and in the process, become Ireland's first astronaut.

As the night went on, Worden, with NASA and Apollo 15 patches emblazoned on his flight jacket, told stories of his journey to the Moon with the same enthusiasm and excitement as if he had only returned a from the odyssey a few months ago.

As one of the 24 men to have flown to our nearest neighbour, and one of only seven men to have orbited the Moon alone as Command Module Pilot as he did in 1971, you could hear a pin drop as the audience listened intently to tales ranging from launching atop the 363-foot tall Saturn V rocket into space, to what was visible outside the porthole-sized windows of his spaceship Endeavour.

"I had a full panorama of the heavens! Because of the rotation of the spacecraft I would watch the Sun go by, the Moon go by and then the Earth go by." Shaw was quick to ask what goes through a person's mind after seeing something so unique.

"You don't process it much in flight because you're still in awe that you're there.. Those thoughts come to you a couple of weeks after, and you relive what you saw and all those thoughts in your head start to come out."

For Worden, he found the best way express what he saw and felt was through the art of poetry;

"When we got back to Houston, we would get up early and debrief with the whole Mission Control team. Every single second of the flight had to be debriefed, and it took us two weeks to go through all that.

Afterwards I began to have strange thoughts.. I was at home by myself at night, so I'd sit in my living room, turn off all the lights, and these thoughts would come to me. So one day I got a legal pad and I start writing and writing and writing, never really thinking about what I was writing as it was just sort of coming to me. That resulted in a book of poetry!"


Worden discussing his days as a West Point cadet
credit: Irish Space Blog(Cian O'Regan)
Bennis, who has yet to see the Earth from space, told the audience that he'd hopefully be able to answer the same question in the not too distant future.

DREAMING BIG

In their closing remarks, both men focused on the power of aiming high, and stopping at nothing until you've set out what you wanted to achieve in the first place.

"I think it's good to have two feet on the ground and be humble about things" said Limerick man Bennis. "If you dream, you can do these things."

Recalling R-Day(Reception Day - the first day of a cadet at the USMA) at West Point, Worden admitted to feeling way out of his depth.

"I went into West Point that day with something like 850 cadets, and I looked at all those guys and I said to myself "I don't know why I'm here. These guys are so much better than I am. They're the star quarterback on the football team, the straight-A student, the student body president - really great, great guys, and I'm just a little kid off the farm competing with these big city kids."

It took me about three months to figure out that they were no better than I was!

If you want something badly enough, you're going to find a way to do it. You've got to have the dream, the goal, the persistence and the determination to reach that goal, and you'll find that if you can go through life with that kind of attitude, you can do anything you want. Don't ever short-change yourself."

Niamh Shaw, who recently attended Elon Musk's keynote speech at the 67th International Astronomical Congress in Mexico,(an event overshadowed by a straight-up weird Q&A session dominated by over-enthusiastic fans of the billionaire) thankfully did not face such a dilemma as she opened the floor to questions ranging from thoughts on conspiracy theorists to the growth of the commercial spaceflight industry.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end as the night had to come to a close. Yet with everyone already smiling from ear-to-ear after hearing such wonderful stories and adventures, we couldn't not take a special Space Week group selfie!


On behalf of everyone in attendance that night, I would like to sincerely thank the Blackrock Castle Observatory for organising this fantastic Space Week event in association with LIT and Lough Gur Heritage Centre, and of course offer my sincerest thanks to the superb duo of Al Worden and Cyril Bennis for their stories and inspiration.

Thank you for reading Irish Space Blog!

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Space - A Cosmic Ocean Elon Musk Intends to Sail

Speaking in front of a capacity crowd at the 67th International Astronomical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX founder, CEO and chief designer, Elon Musk, boldly unveiled his futuristic plans for sending humans to Mars.

In his much anticipated speech entitled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Spacies," the billionaire outlined his ideas for colonizing the red planet in his trademark thinking-out-loud style of speaking.
Musk speaking in front of a capacity crowd the the International Astronomical
Congress on September 27. credit: bloomberg.com

He began by asking the question, "Why Mars?", before explaining that solar system real-estate is limited and that finding a prime spot is not as easy as people may think.

Musk stated that if a manned launch to Mars were to take place right now, a seat on board that ship would cost an astronomical $10bn per person. In other words, the system does not yet exist.

However, Musk's mantra has and always will revolve around driving down the cost of getting to space and making it accessible to all.

"The cost of a Mars ticket should equal the median cost of a house in the United States.. which is about $200,000" he went on to say. "You can't create a self-sustaining civilisation on Mars if the price is ten billion dollars per person."

This Musk explained, could only be achieved by addressing four key issues. These issues are:

-Full reusability
-Refilling in orbit
-Propellant filling on Mars
-Using the right propellant

If he succeeds in doing so, Musk believes he will be able to reduce the cost per tonne to Mars by five million percent, and in the process, facilitating the mass landing of around a million or so humans on our nearest neighbour by the 2060s.

While proclamations of slashing ticket prices to Mars were greeted with enthusiastic whoops and hollers from the crowd, the question that everyone wanted answered, was what exactly will this interplanetary space system look like?

Standing in front of a fifteen-foot-tall image of Mars, occasionally Musk would turn to catch a subtle glimpse of the revolving red globe, as if to remind himself that Mars was still there - that it wasn't so far away.

Getting to Mars
Blasting off atop a 254-foot booster from the same launch used on man's first voyage to land a man on the Moon, SpaceX's "Planetary Spaceship"(yet to be officially named, but Musk admitted that he would probably name the first ship "Heart of Gold" as a tribute to the ship used in "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy") would firstly be delivered into a preliminary parking orbit around the Earth.
SpaceX System Architecture credit: SpaceX

The booster, similar in profile of returning a Falcon-9 first stage to Earth, would then return directly to the launchpad, refuel its tanker, and launch back up to the parked manned vehicle in orbit.

This refueling process would be repeated four more times before the interplanetary ship would get the green light to rendezvous with the red planet.


In what he described as something straight out of Battlestar Galactica, Musk said he hopes to include not one, not two, but a thousand Mars ships in a single fleet, with up to two hundred people per spacecraft.

The Planetary Spaceship will use its aerodynamic lift ability to enter the Martian atmosphere, and will come to a soft landing on the surface of the planet using its propulsive rocket system.

In theory, this would allow the Spaceship to land on any rocky body in the solar system, and provided there would be fueling stations along the way, it would result in humans gaining access to almost anywhere in the solar system.

The people in these craft would require only "a few days of training" before being certified to fly. If you arrive at the place and decide you don't like it as much as you thought and yearn to come home - don't worry! With the billionaire planning on sending fleets to Mars roughly every two years, there'll be another ship along shortly to bring you back to mother Earth.

As far as safety is concerned, for the first flights of the Interplanetary Spaceship on a journey to Mars, Musk offered the grim prediction that "The risk of fatality will be high."

Throughout the speech, Musk shied away from setting any concrete dates for accomplishing the above goals, estimating that it will take anywhere between forty and one hundred years to develop a self-sustaining species from the first ship's rendezvous.

What happens now?
As a space enthusiast, Musk excites me with his audacious plans to turn humans into a multiplanetary species. The fact that someone is even thinking about doing so, let alone already investing tens of millions of dollars in order to make it a reality brings me a profound sense of joy for the present, and quiet optimism for the future.

"With each passing day, the barrier separating science fiction
and science fact is constantly being eroded" 
credit: SpaceX
Scouring online forums, websites and fan pages in the hours after Musk delivered his keynote, reactions ranged from sheer delight to downright doom and gloom. If Musk's speech was a movie, it would have received mixed reviews, and here's why..

Following the catastrophic loss of two of his Falcon-9 booster's in just fifteen months(for which a smoking gun in the second accident is yet to be identified), SpaceX's reputation as a reliable company capable of delivering payloads and one day astronauts in to space has taken a hard blow.

By the beginning of 2018 Musk hopes to begin conducting missions of its Red Dragon spacecraft(the vehicle that will deliver SpaceX's first astronauts to Mars), with Mars flights set to commence before 2023.

However, with the Hawthorne company yet to deliver a single astronaut to the International Space Station in its Crew Dragon, Elon Musk's timelines for the moment must be taken with a pinch of salt.

In summary, let us recognise that space is an awfully big ocean, and getting comfortable in the shallow cosmic waters of low-Earth orbit is a must before even thinking about venturing any deeper. It is therefore essential that Musk invest as much time and money into figuring what is going wrong with the Falcon-9, before pressing on with bigger issues.

With each passing day, the barrier separating science fiction and science fact is constantly being eroded. But it is mandatory that Musk firstly learns how to fly his troublesome Falcon as close to total reliability as possible. Otherwise, none of this will ever get off the ground - let alone to Mars.

Godspeed, Elon Musk!

Thank you for reading Irish Space Blog!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Breaking News: Explosion at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

In breaking news, there has been an explosion at one of the launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The pad in question is Launch Complex 40, which is currently used to by SpaceX to launch their Falcon-9 rocket to deliver payloads into Earth orbit.

SpaceX have been issuing statements throughout the day;

"SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the launch vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
Video footage showing extensive damage to the Falcon-9 launch vehicle at the
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. credit: wftv.com

The 45th Space Wing at the Cape stated that the explosion, which occurred at approximately 9:07 a.m. as the rocket was being loaded with fuel.

"The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle." -SpaceX statement

SpaceX, which was set to launch the Israel Aerospace Industries/Spacecom AMOS-6 communications satellite on Saturday, was conducting a static fire test on the vehicle today ahead of the launch.

A static fire test is conducted in the days prior to every Falcon launch in which the engines of the rocket are ignited to test its engines as well as other onboard systems, without the vehicle leaving the pad.

More to follow shortly..