Over the past week there have been a couple of news items that give us a glimpse into the future of manned spaceflight in both the near and long term.
The first item is Boeing’s unveiling of their new design for the spacesuit that astronauts will wear as they rocket into space onboard the company’s CTS-100 Starliner capsule starting hopefully next year. The new suits are half the weight of current NASA spacesuits and more flexible. The helmet is directly incorporated into the suit rather than being detachable and the gloves are sensitive enough to allow the astronauts to use touchscreens even while wearing them. Despite these and other improvements however the thing that everybody keeps talking about is that the suits are blue.
Now as it happens blue is my favourite colour but still, American is about to start putting people back into space again and the news media is trying to turn this into a fashion show. Hey Elon Musk, what kind of spacesuits are astronauts going to wear on your Dragon capsule, and will they be pink?
Actually there is a lot of progress being made and within a year or so we should see the maiden flights of not only Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule but the first flight of NASA’s Orion capsule designed to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo program. Think about it, America will have three different space vehicles, Russia is developing a new capsule called the Federation spacecraft to replace the Soyuz capsule, and the Chinese have their Shenzhou. Low Earth Orbit will be getting crowded.
Another story that deals with more long term developments in space was the announcement by Axiom Space Corp. of their plans for the “Axiom International Commercial Space Station” which they hope to have assembled in orbit by 2024. The plan, which has been approved by NASA, is to begin by attaching a commercial module to the existing International Space Station (ISS) in 2020 and to detach that module in 2024 as a new, independent station. See the picture below for what the Axiom Space Station will initially look like.
Again, with the Chinese working on the development of their Space Station, the Russian’s plans for a station of their own along with other commercial companies Low Earth Orbit could soon become quite busy. For more information on Axiom’s plans click on the link below.
Of course there’s always new things happening out there on the “Final Frontier” and I’ll keep you posted.
Speaking of which here’s a quick update on the Cassini Mission now orbiting Saturn. NASA has released some new images of the planet’s Rings, the closest and most detailed ever seen. Check out the image below.
For more on Cassini click on the link below to go to NASA’s Cassini site.