Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is auctioning off a seat on its space tourism rocket set to launch in July

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin
  • Blue Origin is auctioning off a single ticket for a space tour on July 20.
  • Bidding for the first space tour began on Wednesday and will go through June 12.
  • The company released a video announcing its plans to start selling rides on its New Shepard rocket last week.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is auctioning off a seat on its first-ever space tourism flight.

It will be the New Shepard’s first flight with a full human crew. The winner of the online auction will be one of six people to ride to space on the New Shepard on July 20.

“This flight will change how you see the world,” the company said in its press release.

There will be three phases to the online auction, starting with sealed bidding on the company’s website. People who are interested in riding on Blue Origin’s very first space tour can bid any amount they want on the company’s website from Wednesday through May 19. Then the bidding process will become public and participants must exceed the highest bids to continue in the auction.

The final auction will be live on June 12 and the winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future.

In order to qualify for the “Astronaut Experience,” the participant must meet a series of requirements set forth by Blue Origin, including the ability to deal with heights, walk on uneven surfaces, and handle up to three times the individual’s weight. The participant will fill out a long series of waivers, as well as complete a special Blue Origin training program.

The company announced the auction on YouTube, as well as its website. The video highlights the historic opportunity for individuals to participate in the first Blue Origin space tour.

The company teased the release last week with a video of Bezos visiting the New Shepard capsule after the company’s latest test flight earlier in April. The flight served as a rehearsal for the New Shepard’s crew, as the astronauts ran through pre-flight tests, but left the capsule before it took off.

People can sign up to for the first stage of bidding on Blue Origin’s website.

The company has yet to release any ticket prices or specifics related to its plans for full capacity space tourism. But, Virgin Galactic – Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism company – has sold tickets for about $250,000 to about 600 passengers. Bezos has said in the past that tickets to ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard tourism rocket will have competitive prices with the other space-tourism company.

The initial video announcing the space tickets video has footage of Bezos visiting the New Shepard capsule after the company’s latest test flight earlier in April.

“Guys, how exciting is this – come on!” Bezos said in the video, labeled “It’s time.”

Bezos is also seen in the video riding around the Texas launch site in a Rivian electric truck emblazoned with Blue Origin’s logo.

Jeff Bezos rides in a Rivian pickup truck

The 11-minute New Shepard space tour will launch from a 60-foot-high rocket in the West Texas desert and allow tourists to experience a glimpse of space, reaching an altitude of over 340,000 feet, according to the company’s website.

The capsule has windows to allow customers to get a full view of space and it will linger in zero gravity for several minutes before returning to Earth. The New Shepard is designed to carry six people.

BlueOrigin_NS15_11_CCRecovery
Blue Origin team stand in front of capsule

Blue Origin, which was founded by Bezos in 2000, is focused on making access to space more cost effective and reliable by using reusable rocket-launch materials.

The company has long been in competition with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s venture, SpaceX. The two companies have similar goals when it comes to making space more accessible, as well as creating a future for humanity beyond Earth.

Last month, SpaceX beat out Blue Origin for a $2.9 billion NASA contract designed to help the organization return to the moon. Bezos quickly lodged a complaint against the contract with SpaceX, calling NASA’s decision “flawed” and “unfair.” Last week, NASA told Musk’s company to suspend the project until Bezos’ complaint could be resolved.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin will soon begin selling tickets for rides on its space-tourism rocket

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin

  • Blue Origin released a video announcing its plans to start selling rides on its New Shepard rocket.
  • The company said it plans to release more details on the space tours on May 5.
  • Tickets are expected to be competitive with Virgin Galactic’s space tours at around $250,000.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin will soon begin selling tickets for space tours on its New Shepard rocket.

The company announced its plans via a video release on Thursday and launched a countdown clock on its website. The clock is counting down to May 5 when Blue Origin will reveal more details about the rides.

People can also sign up on Blue Origin’s website to get more details about the space tours.

The company has yet to release any ticket prices, but Virgin Galactic – Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism company – has sold tickets for about $250,000 to about 600 passengers. Bezos has said in the past that tickets to ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard tourism rocket will have competitive prices with the other space-tourism company.

The video has footage of Bezos visiting the New Shepard capsule after the company’s latest test flight earlier in April.

“Guys, how exciting is this – come on!” Bezos said in the video, labeled “It’s time.”

Bezos is also seen in the video riding around the Texas launch site in a Rivian electric truck emblazoned with Blue Origin’s logo.

Jeff Bezos rides in a Rivian pickup truck

The 11-minute New Shepard space tour will launch from a 60-foot-high rocket in the West Texas desert and allow tourists to experience a glimpse of space, reaching an altitude of over 340,000 feet, according to the company’s website.

The capsule has windows to allow customers to get a full view of space and it will linger in zero gravity for several minutes before returning to Earth. The New Shepard is designed to carry six people.

BlueOrigin_NS15_11_CCRecovery
Blue Origin team stand in front of capsule

Blue Origin, which was founded by Bezos in 2000, is focused on making access to space more cost effective and reliable by using reusable rocket-launch materials.

The company has long been in competition with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s venture, SpaceX. The two companies have similar goals when it comes to making space more accessible, as well as creating a future for humanity beyond Earth.

Earlier in the month, SpaceX beat out Blue Origin for a $2.9 billion NASA contract designed to help the organization return to the moon. On Tuesday, Blue Origin filed a protest against the contract going to SpaceX, calling NASA’s decision “flawed” and “unfair.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA’s Mars helicopter survived its first night alone on the red planet after the Perseverance rover set it free

ingenuity helicopter mars
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover on April 4, 2021.

NASA’s new space helicopter has survived its first night alone on Mars.

After slowly unfolding from its hideaway in Perseverance’s belly, the 4-pound robot dropped the last four inches to the ground on Saturday. By weathering freezing temperatures, Ingenuity – as the helicopter is called – has overcome one of the biggest hurdles in NASA’s quest to fly the first drone on another planet.

Ingenuity is set to conduct its first Martian flight as early as April 11. If that goes well, the space drone will have a roughly 30-day window to attempt up to five increasingly difficult flights, venturing higher and further each time.

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars, will perch nearby and record video. That footage will help NASA collect crucial data about this technological demonstration, since it could pioneer a new method of exploring other planets.

Sitting alone on its Martian airfield, Ingenuity is finally in position for those flights.

Mars ingenuity helicopter nasa perseverance rover
The Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, sitting where the Perseverance rover dropped it, April 5, 2021.

After depositing the helicopter on the ground, the rover backed away, exposing Ingenuity’s solar panels so they could soak up sunlight. This also exposed the rotocraft to frigid Martian nights. In Jezero Crater, the ancient lake basin where Perseverance landed, nighttime temperatures can plunge as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” MiMi Aung, NASA’s project manager for the helicopter, said in a press release. “But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.”

Ingenuity’s otherworldly flight could be the first of many

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa
An artist’s concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Martian skies.

NASA spent $85 million developing Ingenuity. The rotocraft has already proven tough enough to survive the nearly 300-million-mile journey to Mars and weather the planet’s extreme temperatures. But it also has to fly.

Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere; it’s just 1% of the density of Earth’s. To catch enough air, the helicopter’s four carbon-fiber blades have to spin in opposite directions at about 2,400 revolutions per minute – about eight times as fast as a passenger helicopter on Earth.

Ingenuity’s first flight will just test whether the helicopter can successfully get a few feet off the ground, hover for about 30 seconds, and then touch back down. From there, each test will get more difficult, culminating in a final flight that could carry the helicopter over 980 feet (300 meters) of Martian ground.

mars helicopter ingenuity flight nasa gif
An animation of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter exploring the Martian surface.

Ingenuity won’t conduct any further science on Mars – it’s meant as a technology demonstration – but future space helicopters could open new scientific frontiers on other planets.

“We use drones and helicopters here on Earth for all sorts of things that they’re more suitable for than land-based vehicles,” Håvard Grip, NASA’s chief pilot for Ingenuity, said in a March press briefing.

On other planets, the thinking goes, similar aerial explorers could accomplish tasks that rovers can’t.

“That could be for reconnaissance purposes – taking pictures to scout out areas, potential science targets for future rovers, or even future astronauts on Mars,” Grip said. “Or it could be carrying its own science instruments into areas where you can’t get with a land-based vehicle.”

Once Ingenuity’s test flights are over, Perseverance is expected to drive toward the cliffs of an ancient river delta for its own revolutionary science mission: a search for fossils of ancient alien microbes on Mars.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is dominating orbit with its Starlink satellites, making the risk of space traffic collision a serious hazard, industry experts say

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • SpaceX Starlink satellites have taken over the lower Earth orbit, experts told Insider.
  • There are apparently 1,300 Starlink satellites in lower orbit and 300 from other entities.
  • “We’re not at the end of the world yet but it’s a serious situation,” another space researcher said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX is rapidly deploying its Starlink internet network across the globe with rocket launches happening on a monthly basis.

By rapidly adding to the number of satellites in orbit, space industry experts believe Elon Musk’s space company is heightening the risk of collisions between space objects, generating an abundance of debris.

SpaceX’s Starlink has blasted around 1,300 satellites into orbit and plans for a megaconstellation of up to 42,000 spacecraft in mid-2027.

In October, Starlink launched its Better Than Nothing Beta test across the northern US for $99 a month, plus $499 for the kit. It now operates in more than six countries and has more than 10,000 users worldwide.

Starlink has previously said its satellites can avoid collisions using an ion drive, which allows it to dodge other objects in orbit. But if the satellites’ communications or operations fail in orbit, they become hazards to space traffic.

In the lower part of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Starlink satellites “are completely dominating the space object population,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Insider on Tuesday.

He said there are around 300 other satellites in the lower LEO, including the International Space Station, in comparison to the 1,300 Starlink satellites.

“There’s a point at which they are so many of them manoeuvering all the time that it’s a hazard to traffic” in space, McDowell said, adding that the hazard can result in a massive collision, creating junk.

Each satellite travels at 18,000 miles per hour and all of them are going in different directions, according to McDowell. If they smash into each other, it sends hypersonic shockwaves through the satellites and reduces them into thousands of pieces of shrapnel which then make a shell around the Earth, he said.

This becomes a threat to other space users and an obstruction for astronomers observing the skies.

McDowell calculated in November that 2.5% of Starlink satellites may have failed in orbit. This may not sound bad in the grand scheme of things. But if this issue persists, SpaceX’s entire planned constellation may produce more than 1,000 dead satellites.

10,000 satellites are due to launch in the next decade

John Auburn, managing director of Astroscale UK, an orbital debris removal firm headquartered in Tokyo, said in a press briefing on March 17 that more than 10,000 satellites are scheduled to be launched in the next 10 years.

McDowell said satellite companies may have some “nasty surprises” if they get this amount of satellites in orbit. He said firms should stop launching satellites when the amount hits 1,000 and monitor them for a while to see if any problems crop up, such as design flaws.

There could be a “complete catastrophe” on the horizon, McDowell said.

But its not all bad news. Daniel Oltrogge, director at the Center for Space Standards and Innovation, told Insider it’s beneficial that Starlink satellites are in the lower LEO because they can be removed more quickly if they fail.

Oltrogge said the space junk issue isn’t a blame game. Any user of space, including governments, and commercial and civil companies, have all contributed to this picture of space debris today, he said.

There are many problems to tackle, said Oltrogge, including satellite operators complying with guidelines that help minimize collision risks, improving space situational awareness and spacecraft design, and exchanging more data between satellite companies.

But if we don’t address the space junk crisis at a global level, rather than at an operator one, “we risk missing how the environment is degrading,” according to Oltrogge.

“We’re not at the end of the world yet,” Oltrogge said. “But it’s a serious situation that warrants scrutiny.”

Why SpaceX is one of the top satellite launchers

Compared to other private commercial satellite companies, SpaceX comes top trumps. Since May 2019, there’s been a staggering 23 Starlink launches via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

McDowell believes the company’s acceleration may be down to its CEO. “Elon doesn’t have to answer to many people, he can make decisions effectively, he doesn’t have to diver around and get permission,” he said.

On top of this, he has his own rockets to launch the satellites into orbit, McDowell said. This saves him time and money as he doesn’t have to negotiate another launch contract. The fact that the rockets are reusable – the last Falcon 9 booster on Wednesday’s mission was used six times – also makes it cheap for SpaceX to launch satellites.

“That’s an advantage the other companies don’t have,” said McDowell.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How helpful is SpaceX’s customer support when Starlink customers run into problems? Users gave Insider their verdict.

  • Starlink users told Insider how efficient and helpful Starlink’s customer service team was.
  • Some users thought it was quick, but others had long delays and had to cancel Starlink altogether.
  • “My only wish is that [Starlink] was a bit cheaper,” said one customer from Canada.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starlink users gave Insider mixed responses about the speed and effectiveness of SpaceX’s customer support team when they ran into problems.

Some users said Starlink’s help was quick but others experienced delays, leading to cancellations of the satellite internet service.

Since the launch of its beta test in October, Starlink has accumulated more than 10,000 users worldwide and operates in more than six countries. SpaceX has more than 1,200 satellites in orbit but the goal is to have up to 42,000 by mid-2027.

Starlink’s beta test is called the “Better Than Nothing” beta and SpaceX warned users in an initial email to expect speeds to range between 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 150 Mpbs.

Although users told Insider that setting up the kit is very easy, it’s still possible to run into problems with connectivity.

Rayce Townsend, who is based in Montana, contacted the Starlink team twice via email. He wanted to know whether he could take the kit to Texas and install it there. Starlink told Townsend the service wasn’t yet mobile but he could reapply in Texas for the future.

Townsend said the response was “quick, friendly and thorough.” So far, he’s found Starlink “trouble-free.”

Starlink box with the instructions on top
Starlink box with the instructions on top.

Dan Ventrudo from Northern Ontario, Canada, said he contacted customer service twice about the connection and they were also quick to respond. “My only wish is that [Starlink] was a bit cheaper,” he said.

But Jim Glassford from Michigan wasn’t impressed.

He told Insider: “One thing we were not aware of is the distance restriction for the satellite dish and the power supply. The nearest unobstructed location from the house was about 300 feet and you cannot extend the 100 foot long cable included.”

Glassford got in touch with customer support but it took a week for them to respond. After a bad experience, “we had to cancel,” he said. It’ll cost him $130 to send the kit back to Starlink.

When Gary Konkol from Wisconsin came across technical problems with the power box, Starlink customer support assisted him over several days of emailing. He said it was helpful but there were long delays between messages.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about long delays from its customer service team.

Tom Gooch from Montana said: “I have not needed to contact Starlink customer service. Everything has run flawlessly since I started it up.”

“Elon Musk has a reputation for doing things well and it appears that holds true with Starlink,” Gooch added.

Dishy in rural Montana
Dishy in rural Montana.

Have you got any Starlink tips? Get in touch with this reporter via email: kduffy@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA’s Mars helicopter has made its first appearance on the red planet. It’s set to fly within weeks.

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa
An artist’s concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Martian skies.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is almost ready to drop a helicopter from its belly.

The $85 million, four-pound rotocraft, called Ingenuity, could pioneer a new approach to exploring other planets. As a technological demonstration, the drone is set to conduct up to five test flights on Mars starting as early as April 8.

mars ingenuity helicopter perseverance rover belly shield drop skitch
A camera on the Perseverance rover captured the Ingenuity helicopter, exposed for the first time, after its shield dropped on March 21, 2021.

The rover and its helicopter stowaway have already begun their journey to an open Martian plain that will serve as an airstrip. On Sunday, Perseverance dropped the guitar-shaped shield that was protecting the helicopter, exposing Ingenuity to Martian air for the first time.

A camera on the rover captured the drone folded up against its belly. Ingenuity will soon unfold itself – a process NASA has called “reverse origami” – and attempt the first controlled flights on another planet.

“We use drones and helicopters, here on Earth, for all sorts of things that they’re more suitable for than land-based vehicles,” Håvard Grip, NASA’s chief pilot for Ingenuity, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

On other planets, the thinking goes, similar aerial explorers could do all kinds of things rovers can’t.

“That could be for reconnaissance purposes – taking pictures to scout out areas, potential science targets for future rovers, or even future astronauts on Mars,” Grip said. “Or it could be carrying its own science instruments into areas where you can’t get with a land-based vehicle.”

Ingenuity’s mission is to demonstrate that this new kind of spaceflight works. So in the next few weeks, the drone must unfold itself, drop from the rover’s belly, survive frigid Martian nights, and fly in the thinnest atmosphere any rotocraft has ever attempted.

Ingenuity must survive a short drop and freezing Martian nights

NASA announced on Tuesday that the Ingenuity team has picked out an airfield: a 33-by-33-foot patch of flat land near Perseverance’s landing spot. From there, Ingenuity can safely lift off and land, with a roughly 300-foot-long flight zone to explore in the air.

nasa ingenuity helicopter mars flight zone airfield
The area where Ingenuity will attempt its test flights, captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Once Perseverance reaches the airfield, it will spend six days maneuvering the helicopter into place, allowing it to unfold itself. Then it will drop Ingenuity the last 5 inches to the ground.

“The most stressful day, at least from for me, is going to be that last day when we finally separate the helicopter and drop Ingenuity on the ground,” Farah Alibay, who leads the team in charge of the helicopter’s integration into Perseverance, said in the briefing.

That’s because Perseverance has to back away quickly, exposing the helicopter’s solar panels so they can charge. That will be critical, since Mars’ surface temperatures at night dip as low as negative 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Ingenuity can only survive one night in those intense conditions without filling up on solar power.

After its first charging session, Ingenuity will spend about a week testing its sensors and motors. If everything is in working order, it will finally be ready to fly.

A month of helicopter flights on Mars

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa gif

Because communicating with spacecraft on Mars takes a few minutes from Earth, ground controllers can’t direct Ingenuity’s flight in real time. So engineers have designed and programmed the helicopter to carry out up to five flights autonomously, within a span of 30 Martian days (roughly one Earth month).

Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere – just 1% the density of Earth’s. To catch enough air, the helicopter’s four carbon-fiber blades have to spin in opposite directions at about 2,400 revolutions per minute – about eight times as fast as a passenger helicopter on Earth.

“I think the biggest challenge will be that we are flying in the atmosphere of Mars, which has its own dynamics, its own winds, wind gusts, and so forth,” Bob Balaram, NASA’s chief engineer for the helicopter, said in the briefing. “These are things which we tested with wind tunnels in our chamber. We have some confidence that everything will be good. But there’s nothing that beats actually being in the real environment of Mars to see how well the flight and aerodynamics actually works out.”

Ingenuity’s first flight will just test whether the helicopter can successfully get a few feet off the ground, hover for about 30 seconds, then touch back down. From there, each test will get more difficult than the last, culminating in a final flight that could carry the helicopter over 980 feet (300 meters) of Martian ground.

Even one short flight would be a major achievement.

“It will be truly a Wright Brothers moment, but on another planet,” MiMi Aung, project manager for the helicopter team, said in a briefing before the rover landed. “Every step going forward will be first of a kind.”

After Ingenuity finishes its flights, Perseverance will begin its main mission: driving across a former river delta and searching for signs of ancient alien microbes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Starlink users explain how you can set up the internet service in your own home in 5 straightforward steps

Elon Musk's Starlink terminal
Elon Musk’s Starlink terminal.

  • Starlink users shared with Insider the five steps to setting up Elon Musk’s Starlink internet.
  • The kit comes connected in the box. All you need to do is plug it in and download the Starlink app.
  • “I am now a real participant, of the 21st century!” one Starlink user told Insider.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

With more than 10,000 users worldwide and $99 preorders in more than six countries, demand for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network is rapidly growing.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carried another 60 satellites up into orbit on Sunday, taking the number of Starlink satellites to 1,241 and expanding the internet network even more.

CEO Elon Musk’s goal is to build a high-speed broadband system run by satellites that wrap around the Earth and provide internet to people, especially those in rural areas. There could be up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.

The question is, how do you set up the $499 satellite service from your own home?

Starlink users revealed to Insider the five steps to assemble the speedy satellite internet from their own home.

1. Find an open space

For Starlink to provide the best speeds, the terminal needs to have about 100 degrees of clear sky above it to easily connect to the satellites. Prepare to set up the kit here.

The Starlink kit arrived to Hall's house on New Year's Eve
Starlink box.

2. Open the box and look at the instructions

When you open the grey Starlink box, there’s a sheet of paper with three drawings – no words. These are the instructions. Take the instructions out and you’ll find the Starlink kit neatly stacked with the tripod on top of the terminal next to the router and 100 feet-worth of thick black cable.

Users told Insider the terminal -nicknamed “dishy” – weighs around 10 pounds.

3. Build the kit

Put the tripod on the ground and click the rod of the terminal into the tripod. The router is already connected to the terminal and the cable.

Alternatively, if you want to attach the Starlink securely to a roof or pole, you can buy a “Volcano Roof Mount” or a “Pipe Adapter” from the Starlink website.

“It was literally so easy to set up as everything is already plugged in and ready to go,” said Dan Ventrudo, who is based in northern Ontario in Canada.

4. Power up Starlink

Plug the end of the cable into a power source to get Starlink up and running. Two white lights will appear on the power brick. The terminal will then tilt upwards.

“The ordering and set up process was truly, simple and easy,” said Gary Konkol, from Wisconsin. “I am now a real participant, of the 21st century!”

5. Download the Starlink app

Go onto the app store on your smartphone to download the Starlink app.

starlink satellite internet spacex smartphone phone trcker logo illustration GettyImages 1229328429
Satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Click the “Start Setup” button, it’ll then ask you if all the kit is plugged in. Click “Open Wifi Settings” and join the Starlink network. Then set up your WiFi with a name and password on the app, and connect to it on your phone’s WiFi settings.

Go back to the app to check when the terminal connects to the satellites. It will then tilt to align with any of the 1,241 Starlink satellites in orbit. This may take a few minutes.

“That whole process from unboxing to having speedy internet was about 20 minutes,” said Tom Gooch, a Starlink customer in rural Montana, who positioned his terminal on top of his roof.

Check out contributor Alex Lockie’s experience with Starlink after moving to rural Vermont and the comparison with Hughes Net.

Are you a Starlink user with an interesting story about the service? How have you found Starlink customer support? Get in touch with this reporter at kduffy@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA’s Perseverance rover is preparing to drop a helicopter from its belly and watch it fly on Mars

mars rover perseverance helicoper ingenuity skitch
An artist’s illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is about to drop a four-pound helicopter from its belly, then record footage of it flying over Martian plains.

The $85 million rotocraft, called Ingenuity, could pioneer a new approach to exploring other planets. Though for now just a technological demonstration, the drone is set to conduct up to five test flights this spring. Two cameras on its underside should record to Martian surface from above as it flies.

NASA announced on Wednesday that its helicopter team has picked a location for these flights. The first takeoff could happen as soon as the first week of April. The agency plans to share more details in a press conference on Tuesday.

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa gif

If it succeeds, Ingenuity could beam back some incredible video. Perseverance is expected to follow the flights with its own cameras as well.

Success would bode well for future missions that seek to explore the watery moons of Jupiter and Saturn using helicopter technology.

However, since nobody has ever flown a helicopter on Mars, unknown factors could thwart Ingenuity’s attempts. In January, another pioneering Mars technology – a “mole” on NASA’s InSight lander that was programmed to hammer deep into the planet’s crust – was unable to complete its mission due to unexpectedly thick soil.

“The helicopter Ingenuity is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor,” Matt Wallace, the Perseverance deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a briefing ahead of the rover’s landing. “There’s always going to be some probability of an issue. But that’s why we’re doing it. We’ll learn from the issue if it occurs.”

Spinning through the thin Martian atmosphere

After it landed in an ancient Martian lake bed in February, Perseverance began checking out its systems and testing its tools. Now the rover is entering a new phase of its mission: It’s helicopter time.

mars helicopter ingenuity nasa gif

Because communicating with spacecraft on Mars takes a few minutes, ground controllers on Earth can’t direct Ingenuity’s flight in real time. So engineers have designed and programmed the helicopter to carry out up to five flights autonomously, within a span of 30 Martian days (roughly one Earth month).

To catch enough air in the thin Martian atmosphere, the helicopter’s four carbon-fiber blades have to spin in opposite directions at about 2,400 revolutions per minute – about eight times as fast as a passenger helicopter on Earth. Solar panels on top of the spacecraft should power that spinning.

Ingenuity’s first flight will just test that the helicopter can get a few feet off the ground, hover for about 30 seconds, and touch back down. From there, each test will be more difficult than the last, culminating in a final flight that could carry the helicopter over 980 feet (300 meters) of Martian ground.

Even one short flight would be a major achievement.

“It will be truly a Wright Brothers moment, but on another planet,” MiMi Aung, project manager for the helicopter team, said in a pre-landing briefing. “Every step going forward will be first of a kind.”

After Ingenuity finishes its flights, Perseverance will begin its main mission: driving across a former river delta and searching for signs of ancient alien microbes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX’s Starlink: Everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s internet service

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband service that beams down internet from satellites launched into orbit.
  • Since its launch in October, it has more than 10,000 users and operates in more than six countries.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s Starlink.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Elon Musk is inching ever closer to fulfiling his dream of creating super-fast internet around the world, which beams down from satellites in orbit to Earth.

In the past two weeks, SpaceX’s Starlink internet has reached more than 10,000 users worldwide and started offering $99 preorders of the service to more countries and cities on a global scale.

Starlink’s public beta test, known as “Better Than Nothing Beta,” launched in October and has been a big hit with those living in remote areas of northern US, where it was first rolled out.

What’s the hype about Starlink?

SpaceX is building an expansive satellite internet network in space called Starlink

The aerospace company launched its first batch of Starlink satellites into orbit in May 2019. Now, it has over 1,000 working satellites prepped for the service. The goal is to have up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.

The satellites are strapped onto the top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and blasted into orbit, usually releasing 60 satellites per launch.

The goal is to create a high-speed broadband system generated by satellites which envelope Earth and provide internet to people especially in rural areas without connection.

spacex falcon 9 rocket launch starlink internet satellites 13th mission cape canaveral florida beach family GettyImages 1228923231 edit
Spectators watch from Canaveral National Seashore as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites launches.

Starlink isn’t cheap

A subscription to the beta is currently $99 a month. It costs a further $499 for the Starlink kit, which includes a mounting tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the satellites.

On Monday, the company began offering preorders of Starlink to other countries so users can now put down a $100 deposit to get their hands on the service once it becomes available. The deposit will be applied to the amount due on the Starlink kit.

Overall users will be paying $600 upfront for Starlink.

Users the UK are paying £439 for the kit and £89 for the subscription fee. Compared to other internet providers that charge £79 per month for speeds of up to 516 Mbps, this isn’t cheap.

On the SpaceX side, the company in December won $885 million in federal subsidies to expand Starlink, but small internet service providers say this shouldn’t be allowed because Musk’s firm is using “unproven” technology.

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish antenna ufo on a stick roof los angeles california website
A photo of SpaceX’s Starlink user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick,” and they’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting spacecraft.

The fastest speed recorded so far is 215 Mbps

SpaceX said in an email to Starlink beta test subscribers in October that they should expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps, with intermittent outages. But some users are hitting much higher speeds.

A list compiled by Reddit’s Starlink community shows the fastest download speed so far was 209.17 Mbps, recorded in New York. One person in Utah recorded in December their speed test showing 215 Mbps.

Starlink has even reached speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds and snow. Users have been impressed with the terminal heating up enough to melt any snow or frost on top of it.

Snow is melting on the Starlink user terminal
Snow melting on Starlink terminal.

It’s available to preorder in six countries

Starlink was initially operating in parts of the northern USsouthern Canada, and, most recently, in the UK.

On Monday, Starlink began opening up preorders to other parts of the world. 

People in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and parts of the US and Canada – where Starlink is not yet up and running – confirmed on Twitter and Reddit they were able to put down a deposit to get the internet service in mid to late 2021.

Read more: Here’s how many millions of users Starlink may need to break even if it loses $2,000 for every satellite dish it sells, according to experts

More countries could green-light Starlink this year, including Spain, Italy, India, Japan and the Caribbean, according to a report from Teslarati

Insider explained Tuesday how to sign up for the service which works on “first-come, first-served basis.”

starlink satellite internet spacex smartphone phone trcker logo illustration GettyImages 1229328429
A photo illustration of a satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Starlink has helped rural communities get online

SpaceX agreed in October to provide internet to a rural school district in Texas next year via Starlink. A total of 45 families will get internet access in the area, followed by an additional 90 families later on.

Scott Muri, the district’s superintendent, told Insider he agreed to the deal because so many students’ families have “zero internet” and no conventional way to get it.

Then in December, SpaceX connected up Pikangikum First Nation, a remote 3,000-person indigenous community in north-western Ontario, to Starlink. Before the internet service, Pikangikum couldn’t offer higher education or healthcare, and struggled with high suicide rates. Now, they’re able to access everything.

Dave Brown, CEO of FSET, the company that linked up SpaceX and Pikangikum, said in an interview with Insider: “We took a community that was one of the most technologically disadvantaged anywhere in the world. They’ve now become one of the most technologically advanced, yet are still remote, living where they are and not having to move.”

Have you setup Starlink recently? How are you finding it? Get in touch with this reporter via email: kduffy@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch live: NASA reveals the first video footage of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars

perseverance mars rover landing photo
A photo of NASA’s Perseverance rover just feet above the Martian surface – part of a video several cameras recorded of the landing on February 18, 2021.

NASA is about to share unprecedented video footage of its new Perseverance rover landing on Mars.

The rover, which touched down in the planet’s Jezero Crater on Thursday, has spent the weekend beaming photos and video back to Earth. Now, NASA is ready to reveal the first video footage in a press conference on Monday.

The new video, titled “How to Land on Mars,” was captured as Perseverance touched down, according to a NASA statement teasing the footage release.

That means, for the first time in history, you’ll be able to watch a rover landing on Mars.

The closest NASA has ever gotten to such footage is a stop-motion movie that Curiosity captured during its descent to the red planet. The footage doesn’t show the rover, or its parachute and jetpack.

Perseverance tried to revolutionize Martian cinema with its descent and landing. It’s possible that six cameras and a microphone captured the entire process: a capsule carrying the rover plummeting to Mars at 12,000 mph, a parachute to slow it, and a jetpack flying the rover to a safe landing.

“I just want to repeat: you WANT to take time and attend this press conference! Trust me – you will not regret it!” NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen wrote on Twitter.

A livestream of the press conference, embedded below, begins at 2 p.m. ET.

Beyond sending Earthlings incredible video footage, Perseverance has an ambitious mission ahead of it. The rover is set to explore Jezero Crater for signs of microbial life that scientists think may have thrived there 3.5 billion years ago, when the crater was filled with water. Back then, a river flowing into Lake Jezero would have dumped mud and clay that could have trapped communities of microbial life (like algae), imprinting them as layer in the rock.

Over the next two years, Perseverance aims to gather about 40 samples of rock and soil across the lake bed and the river delta. NASA plans to send another mission in the 2030s to grab those samples and bring them back to Earth. Aside from providing unprecedented documentation of Mars geology, these samples could offer the first evidence of microbial alien life.

But first, the rover has a few weeks of hardware checkouts and software upgrades. Then it has another video-recording detour before it begins exploring.

In the spring, Perseverance is set to release a small helicopter called Ingenuity from a compartment in its belly. The rover will capture footage as the drone attempts to fly over a Martian field.

Read the original article on Business Insider