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Musk: SpaceX could land humans on Mars in 10 to 12 years

Musk: SpaceX could land humans on Mars in 10 to 12 years

SpaceX founder Elon Musk thinks his private spaceflight company will have the capability to land humans on Mars within 12 years, assuming the availability of funding for the historic mission. Also, once SpaceX starts making steps toward this goal, the company could be floated on the stock market to boost investment for the red planet adventure.

Musk, who also founded the electric car manufacturer Tesla, has always made his interplanetary intentions known, but this recent announcement is a reminder about how far the company has come and how far it is looking into the future.

 During the CNBC interview, Musk said: “I’m hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it’s certainly possible for that to occur. But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary.”

Musk also highlighted NASA’s role in SpaceX’s success, pointing out that without the US space agency’s pioneering work that SpaceX wouldn’t be where it is today. NASA provided funding to help develop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket series and Dragon space capsule, eventually awarding the company a $1.6 billion contract to help resupply the International Space Station.

SpaceX is now competing for the next round of NASA contracts that will be awarded to a private US spaceflight company for commercial crew launches to the space station. Musk unveiled the crewed version of the Dragon capsule — dubbed the Dragon “V2″ (version 2) — at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorn, Calif., last month.

The Dragon V2 will be considered in a 3-way competition to acquire NASA contracts to fly astronauts to the space station (and beyond), ending the US dependence on the Russian Soyuz launch vehicle to get astronauts into space after the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Aerospace giant Boeing and spaceflight company Sierra Nevada also have potential “space taxis” in the running, but NASA cannot fund them all.

Should SpaceX not win the commercial crew contract, however, Musk is still confident that his ultimate Mars dream can be fulfilled.

“It’s possible that we may not win the commercial crew contract. … We’ll do our best to continue on our own, with our own money,” he said. “We would not be where we are today without the help of NASA.”

SpaceX is hoping to see the maiden flight of the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket within the next year, a booster that could launch heavy components for a Mars mission into space.

A potential route to funding a Mars mission could come if SpaceX went public and floated on the stock market. But with investors comes pressure for the company to be constantly growing and being profitable, momentum that can be difficult to maintain over a multi-year effort toward the one Mars goal.

“We need to get where things a steady and predictable,” Musk said. “Maybe we’re close to developing the Mars vehicle, or ideally we’ve flown it a few times, then I think going public would make more sense.”

While commenting on Tesla’s pioneering work into driving down the cost of electric cars, Musk joked that a mission to Mars may be an easier task than driving down the cost of electric car batteries to less than $5000. He was, however, optimistic that Tesla could start producing a “compelling” mass-market electric car within the next 3 years.

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Our Sun Has a Huge Hole In It

There’s a hole in the sun, NASA says

By Ian O’Neill

Published June 04, 2013

Discovery News

  • Coronal hole May.jpg
    NASA/SDO
  • Coronal Hole May 2.jpg
    NASA/SDO
During the latter part of last week, a huge void rotated across the face of the sun.
But never fear, it isn’t a sign of the “end times” or some weird sci-fi stellar malnourishment: This particular hole is a coronal hole. Though it may be a well-known phenomenon, it is noteworthy — it’s the largest coronal hole to be observed in the sun’s atmosphere for over a year.

Snapped through three of NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory‘s (SDO) extreme ultraviolet filters, this coronal hole is caused by a low density region of hot plasma.

The sun’s lower corona is threaded with powerful magnetic fields. Some are looped — or “closed” — very low in the corona, creating the beautiful, bright coronal loops that trap superheated gases that generate vast amounts of extreme ultraviolet light, radiation that is produced by multimillion degree plasma (the bright regions in the image, top).

However, there are also “open” field lines that have one end of their magnetic flux anchored in the solar photosphere. These lines fire solar plasma into interplanetary space at an accelerated rate, often intensifying space weather conditions. These regions of open field lines, or coronal holes, act like fire hoses, blasting plasma into space. These regions are the source of the the fast solar wind that accelerates solar material toward Earth, which often only takes 2-3 days to travel from the sun to Earth.

Through the SDO’s eyes, coronal holes appear dark as there is a very low density of the multimillion degree plasma generating the EUV radiation. And as this dramatic observation demonstrates, to the eyes of the SDO, the sun really does appear to have a hole.

We are currently going through an uptick in solar activity as our nearest star experiences “solar maximum” — the peak of its natural 11-year cycle. At this time, we can expect an increased frequency of solar flares and coronal mass ejections as the sun’s magnetic field becomes increasingly stressed. Although this solar maximum is less active than predicted, it is producing some powerful flares and CME’s. 

Now we’re seeing huge coronal holes, all a consequence of the twisted turmoil our sun is currently enduring.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/04/there-hole-in-sun-nasa-says/?intcmp=features#ixzz2VJuHzoVj

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