Scientists gear up to drill into ‘ground zero’ of the impact that killed the dinosaurs
This month, a drilling platform will rise in the Gulf of Mexico, but it won’t be aiming for oil. Scientists will try to sink a diamond-tipped bit into the heart of Chicxulub crater—the buried remnant of the asteroid impact 66 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs, along with most other life on the planet. They hope that the retrieved rock cores will contain clues to how life came back in the wake of the cataclysm, and whether the crater itself could have been a home for novel microbial life. And by drilling into a circular ridge inside the 180-kilometer-wide crater rim, scientists hope to settle ideas about how such “peak rings,” hallmarks of the largest impact craters, take shape.
“Chicxulub is the only preserved structure with an intact peak ring that we can get to,” says University of Texas, Austin, geophysicist Sean Gulick, co–chief scientist for the $10 million project, sponsored by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. “All the other ones are either on another planet, or they’ve been eroded.”
Antares already in first half of 2016
Antares rocket remains official competitor of Falcon-9 in commercial resupply missions under CRS agreement between NASA, Orbital ATK and SpaceX. After last failed launch, performed on 28 October 2014 from Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, Antares was not utilized in any mission. All Cygnus flights under the contract with NASA for resupply missions to International Space Station were performed with Atlas V rocket provided by United Launch Alliance. After the unlucky fifth mission of Antares, the rocket has remained not operational for almost two years.
Antares rocket was designed by Orbital ATK especially to meet demands of NASA CRS contract. Rocket primary objective was lifting Cygnus robotic spacecraft with supplies for ISS eventually to deliver any other payload to LEO. It was largest launch vehicle in Orbital ATK fleet after Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur launch vehicles. It was designed in the cooperation with the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau (Ukraine); first test flight was performed on 21 April 2013 and was, just like further flights, successful.
US Military set to unveil concepts based on Skylon space plane tech
Within the next year, the U.S. Air Force plans to unveil novel spacecraft concepts that would be powered by a potentially revolutionary reusable engine designed for a private space plane.
Since January 2014, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has been developing hypersonic vehicle concepts that use the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which was invented by England-based Reaction Engines Ltd. and would propel the company’s Skylon space plane.
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Do you want to directly contribute to space exploration? With the Astronaut Selection Test, the European Space Agency (ESA), Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI and NLR are collaborating to give you the opportunity to test for yourself if you have the right stuff to be an astronaut. The test is open for everyone to participate. ESA’s Head of Astronaut Training, Rüdiger Seine, explains: “By ‘playing’ with the test online you will help the team validate it, essentially making sure it works. For us, the more people who participate, the better.” More information