Musk says that SpaceX will use a giant party balloon to bring an upper stage back

When Elon Musk of SpaceX tweets something interesting, it generates a wave of excitement. So when he tweeted recently that SpaceX might be working on a way to retrieve upper stages of their rockets, it set off a chain of intrigued responses. SpaceX has been retrieving and reusing their lower stages for some time now, and it’s lowered the cost of launching payloads into space. But this is the first hint that they may try to do the same with upper stages. Twitter responders wanted to know exactly what SpaceX has in mind, and what a “giant party balloon” might be. Musk hasn’t elaborated yet, but one of his Twitter followers had something interesting to add. Quinn Kupec, a student at the University of Maryland’s James Clark School of Engineering tweeted to Musk: Universe Today contacted Mr. Kupec to see if he could help us understand what Musk may have been getting at. But first, a little background. An “ultra low ballistic entry coefficient decelerator” is a bit of a mouthful. The ballistic coefficient measures how well a vehicle can overcome air resistance in flight. A high ballistic coefficient means a re-entry vehicle would not lose velocity quickly, and would...

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Mars Balloons

In order to improve Mars exploration new tools are needed besides orbiting probes and landers. Aerial robots (or aerobots) are another feasible tool for exploration and preparation for future missions including sample return. An aerobot can provide images at a scale and resolution relevant for scientifically valuable and safe lander and rover operation, and can fill the gap in data resolution between orbit and ground. Global Aerospace Corporation’s personnel had major involvement in NASA’s Mars balloon efforts, and helped conduct a study to explore the feasibility of a Mars Aerobot/Balloon System (MABS) Mission. The MABS program built upon the technology advances from previous aerobot/balloon concepts. In the mid 1980’s, the Soviets and the French began collaborating on a Mars Aerostat mission set to depart in 1994. The Soviets planned to put two spacecraft in orbit around Mars, which would release landers and balloons to gather data on the Martian surface to send back to the orbiters, which would in the meantime make their own observations from space. “Mars 94” came to include more than 20 countries, which included the former Soviet bloc nations, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States (read more). In 1994, a Mars balloon...

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THE CLIMATE LEADERSHIP THAT INSPIRES ME: Greta Thunberg

For unapologetically telling truth to power. Greta speaks unapologetically and truthfully about the threat of climate change. Too many people moderate what they say, and Greta’s ability to state the science and its implications without spin regardless of whether she’s speaking to another 16-year-old or a world leader is exactly what we need. Being young and having such a simple way of protesting, yet making the difference that she has, makes every young person believe that they have power. She’s challenged young people to join the frontlines and have a say in the affairs of their future. The new generation needs to know they’re important right now as inheritors of inaction. Her impact has been indelible and inspirational for me since she first started her protest. She has inspired many school children to pay attention to climate and environmental issues and the climate strike movement shows the power that lies in each and every one of us when we relentlessly dedicate ourselves to positive change. In a time of competing headlines, being able to draw attention to an issue of such importance it is a critical part of creating unstoppable momentum in confronting the climate crisis we all face. See...

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