India plans to launch space station by 2030

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India’s broadening spaceflight ambitions now include a longer-term presence in Earth’s orbit. Indian Space Research Organization chief K Sivan (above) recently revealed plans to launch a space station around 2030. It will be a relatively small station where astronauts would only stay for 15 to 20 days, but that should be enough to allow microgravity experiments. India won’t lean on other countries for help, Sivan said.

More details are expected to come after India’s first human mission in 2022. It’s currently focused on an uncrewed lander mission to the Moon that should launch on July 15th.

If everything goes according to plan, this will make India part of a very exclusive club. Apart from the partner countries involved with the International Space Station, only China, Russia and the US have operated orbital homes away from home. It also shows that India intends to catch up on many aspects of space flight — it fully intends on competing with spaceflight veterans.

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Hitting the Books: We won't colonize space without a Weyland-Yutani

Welcome to Hitting the Books. With less than one in five Americans reading just for fun these days, we’ve done the hard work for you by scouring the internet for the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find and delivering an easily digestible nugget of their stories.

Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA, and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age
by Rod Pyle


Book cover

It’s been nearly six decades since Yuri Gagarin made humanity’s first foray into space. In that time, we’ve landed on the moon, set rovers loose on Mars and flung probes to the edge of the solar system. That’s nothing compared to the advances in space exploration we’ll see come to fruition in the next few decades.

In Space 2.0, space historian Rod Pyle dives into the incredible opportunities (as well as the challenges) we’re sure to face as humanity spreads to new planets. In the excerpt below, Pyle explains how corporations can help accelerate colonization efforts after a government has set down the basic infrastructure, and why they’d do that in the first place.

The larger goal of human settlements in the solar system depends on the success or failure of the pathfinder programs outlined above. The process of establishing long-term bases may be undertaken by governments working with traditional aerospace contractors, or by private industry alone, but will most likely be achieved through a combination of both. National governments will continue to pursue space settlements because they think it is important in the long term, for a variety of both rational and emotional reasons. Corporations will ultimately undertake such ventures because they know that there is potential profit in them. Extremely wealthy individuals may pilot such projects for philanthropic reasons, but nobody is wealthy enough to support an ongoing space settlement—yet. No matter the project’s backers or their motivations, though, it’s going to take individuals willing to venture out into the unknown to make any plan a reality.

Jim Keravala is CEO of OffWorld, a company developing robots that will extract and process space resources. He has a long history in the space business. In his view, the traditional motivations for individual migration and settlement on Earth—access to opportunities and resources—will not apply to much of the settlement of the moon or Mars, at least early on. Keravala believes that day-to-day life in these places will be very hard, more akin to working on an oil rig than the luxurious existence foreseen by people such as O’Neil.

However, the opportunity to improve our circumstances in space lies just over the horizon, in Keravala’s view. He sees much of the heavy lifting for settlements being done by machines and a few human overseers, but this will lead eventually to the construction of luxuries of which we can scarcely dream on Earth. “The requisite for a better life in space is to create an oasis . . . the only reason people will settle in space, post commerce-driven, is to achieve that better life.”

Note that he said “post commerce-driven.” This is an important point. Mining, resource extraction, and commercial services, such as telecommunications, will drive the first phase of space exploration, and it is only after this phase has set the infrastructure in place that those who are motivated primarily by the desire for “a better life” will find the final frontier appealing. “So far, there is no better place to settle than Earth,” Keravala noted. “It’s the baseline 1.0 definition of an oasis for now. To close the loop, we must take the issue of somewhere to live and create luxury living, total creative freedom, abundant cuisine, longevity, unlimited entertainment, an ability to explore, and [a good system of] regulation.”

Former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver drilled down a bit further into human nature. “Over the long term, as you evolve space activities to benefit civilization, ultimately we have to go into space to assure our survival and to benefit civilization . . . Settling in new lands is what humans have always done, and I think we need to continue to do so, not only for resources, but for liberty and the human spirit. To be blunt, it is a combination of fear, greed, and glory. The will to survive is innate in every living thing. In general, people will want to go for their own reasons. These processes are not usually government driven. I’ll add that the people who go on their own are typically the ones who stay.”

Jeff Greason emphasized property rights—the “greed” part of Garver’s position. “If one could acquire title to portions of other planetary bodies, one could use the tried and true methods of past colonization efforts on Earth. Many such schemes have been tried in which the settlers get shares in the settlement. Up front, something like the Hudson Bay Company might put up the investment, and then offer the opportunity for people to come and work there—and subsidize them to go—but then [those settlers] have to work for some number of years in order to pay off the cost of their transportation and support.”

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Former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz thinks it is destiny, the oldest of trump cards that will drive settlement: “I believe it is our destiny to populate space. Space holds the key to our survival as a species. We need to prepare humanity to embark on that journey before the growing environmental and social stresses of our own planet extinguish our capacity to do so.”

Ultimately, whatever rationale one selects for seeking a future in space, those reasons must make sense to the stakeholders who count the most: private enterprise, government, and perhaps most importantly, you. Any efforts at space settlement must be supported by popular opinion—governments need it to survive, and private enterprise needs it for investment. As companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin push the boundaries of what can be accomplished, popular support for these ventures has been on the rise. The last major survey of public attitudes about spaceflight was conducted in the US in 2015 by the Pew Research Center.

It found that 58 percent of Americans felt that it was essential that the country remain a leader in space exploration. About 64 percent felt that spaceflight was a good investment for the country. Almost 70 percent held a favorable opinion of NASA. While another major survey has not been conducted since the launch of the Falcon Heavy, media accounts reported great excitement about the accomplishment worldwide. Public support seems to be solid and appears to be increasing as people see the aspirations of Space 2.0 becoming achievements. This, along with the ever-increasing amounts of private investment in spaceflight, portend great things ahead.

Excerpted from Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA, and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age by Rod Pyle (BenBella Books, 2019)

Image: NASA (inline)

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Andrew has lived in San Francisco since 1982 and has been writing clever things about technology since 2011. When not arguing the finer points of portable vaporizers and military defense systems with strangers on the internet, he enjoys tooling around his garden, knitting and binge watching anime.

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NASA ask private companies to share how they might supply the Lunar Gateway

NASA’s stated goal of sending the first woman ever, and the first man since the Apollo program to the Moon involves setting up a new space station that will orbit the Moon which is supposed to begin being built by the end of 2022 per current timelines. Today, the U.S. space agency issued an open call for industry feedback and insight on how American companies might help supply said station.

Like the ISS, the forthcoming ‘Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (aka the LOP-G, but much more commonly simply referred to as ‘The Gateway’) will need regular resupply runs, and delivery of cargo – both for the many stages of its build, which are projected to span at least six years to get to its target state of completion. NASA is also considering the possibility that private companies could provide transportation for parts of its lunar landing and eventually, exploration and base building on the Moon.

NASA’s move today is to release a draft request for proposals, which means that at this stage, it’s not actually looking for providers to provide formal bids – this is the step before that happens, when it’s more informally looking for guidance from industry on what kinds of cargo delivery methods they might even be able to provide ahead of looking to lock in any official contract winners for ongoing business.

To dive deeper into what it’s after and field questions from industry, NASA is hosting a Q&A on June 26, and comments are due on July 10. The more formal actual RFP will happen later this summer, the agency expects, and ultimately, the contract award for this admittedly big job could be as high as $7 billion.

NASA previously awarded private official ‘Commercial Resupply Services’ for the ISS, which is a similar type of business but much closer to home, to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, and then another round of CRS contracts more recently to Orbital ATK (the new, Northrop Grumman-owned entity which Orbital Sciences became), Sierra Nevada and SpaceX once again. It’s likely SpaceX will once again bid, as could Blue Origin, Northrup Gruman and Lockheed Martin to name a few.

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NASA’s OSIRIX-REx probe sets a space record with a close orbit of weird asteroid Bennu

If you follow space news at all, you may have heard of ‘Bennu’ – the near-Earth asteroid that has a slim (but higher than most) chance of colliding with our planet sometime nearly 200 years from now. The asteroid is notable for many reasons, including the recent discovery that it’s actually also “active,” which means that it’s been spewing dust and gravel into the surrounding space as it continuous along its path.

That discovery is what prompted NASA to reduce the distance at which its OSIRIS-REx probe orbits the spacefaring rock. The probe arrived at Bennu late last year to observe the asteroid after a selection process determined which of the known near-Earth ones would be the best candidate for a research mission.

NASA’s probe is now just over 3,000 feet above the centre mass of Bennu, which is closer than your average military attack helicopters fly at cruising distance above Earth, as NASA helpfully points out in the illustrative graphic below.

The mission refers to this orbit as the ‘Orbital B’ phase, and it’s a record not just for Bennu, but also stands as the closes a spacecraft has ever orbited any extraterrestrial body anywhere in the solar system. It’ll remain in this orbit until mid-August, and it’ll focus the next few weeks on photographing the asteroid’s surface regularly to study the dust and gravel ejection mentioned above.

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Elon Musk: 'The Simulation, The Simulation, The Simulation'

A young woman wanted to know how much she needed to beg to take a selfie with him. A young man wanted to know if he could get his CyberPunk 2077 hat autographed. These are the kind of questions people were asking Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, during a panel at E3 2019. Musk, who was joined by legendary video game designer Todd Howard (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4), spent most of the conversation talking about how gaming has influenced his life, his vision for the industry and, of course, “The Simulation.” Almost every response from him ignited cheers from the crowd at E3, who were the latest people to witness the Church of Elon Musk at a technology conference.

“The reason I got interested in technology was video games,” Musk said. “I probably wouldn’t have started programming if it wasn’t for video games. Video games are a very powerful source for getting young kids interested in technology.” He went on to say that they have “a way bigger effect than people realize,” noting that many of the software engineers who get hired at Tesla and SpaceX come from a gaming background. “If you look at someone like John Carmack [Oculus CTO], who’s an amazing software engineer, he was also a really good aerospace engineer, and it shows that problem-solving does transfer to other things.”

Musk, who said the last game he played regularly was Fallout 4, said he has a running joke that “if reality was a video game, the graphics are great, the plot is terrible and the spawn time is really long.” Which, to his point, does kind of make sense? (Oh no, have I, too, been hypnotized by Musk?) Naturally, since this is E3 after all, Musk revealed that Fallout Shelter will be coming to Tesla cars in the near future, along with a game called Beach Buggy Racing 2 that will be playable using the Tesla’s steering wheel. He also said there are plans to let people watch video-streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube on their Tesla screen, as long as the vehicles are parked.

And yes, because you know Musk isn’t shy about his belief that humans could be characters in a video game, he was asked about how realistic graphics and technologies like AI in gaming may be blurring the lines between what is and isn’t real. “I bet we see these creatures in the games saying ‘wow, can you imagine if there was a simulation?” he said, with a slightly evil laugh, the kind you would get from a villain in a superhero film. “It’s, like, you’re in a simulation, guys.” Musk seemed to be implying that we, the humans, are the creatures in this case.

“The simulation, The simulation, The simulation. Seems likely,” he added. “If you assume any greater improvement in video games at all, then one of two things are gonna happen: ‘Civilization will end or games will be so realistic you can’t tell the difference between them and reality.'” Musk said he doesn’t know if The Simulation is a good thing, but “just FYI, we could be somebody’s video game right now.”

The question you have to ask yourself, he said, is “whose avatar are you?”

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Edgar began hitting newsrooms as a young kid in the ’90s, when his dad worked at a regional newspaper. Growing up, he had two passions: technology and football (soccer). When he wasn’t on the pitch scoring hat tricks, he could be found near his SNES or around the house, taking things apart. Edgar’s also deeply in love with tacos, sneakers and FIFA, in no particular order. He lives in New York City with his better half.

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