Google+ SpaceTravelFoundation: 2014-06-15

June 20, 2014

NASA plans to explore Titan moon with drones

Dear readers and followers,

NASA has really great plans for space exploration. The US space agency wants to search Saturn's moon Titan for life but they're having trouble coming up with a good way to cover a large territory and obtain samples. For this, they think they may have a good solution: A 22-pound quadcopter that will work from a mothership.

Despite brisk temperatures of -290 degrees F, Saturn's giant Titan moon is of great interest to scientists, thanks to Earth-like geography, hydrocarbon "lakes" and even possible life. Though NASA's Cassini-Huygens probe visited Titan some time ago, the space agency would like to return at some point -- this time with a quadrotor. 
Using the latest drone and sensor tech, it would weigh less than 10kg, deploy from a recharging nuclear "mothership" balloon and acquire high-res images from close to the surface. With the benefit of that reconnaissance, it could land at promising spots, take microscopic photos and scoop up samples to be analyzed later by the mothership. NASA plans to develop the mission concepts further and design the drone in collaboration with AeroVironment.

Stay tuned.


June 16, 2014

Google in talks with Virgin Galactic

Dear readers and followers,

The Montain View firm continue to develop its interest for space companies. After the purchase of Skybox Imaging few days ago, the search giant is in talks about a deal to take a stake in Sir Richard Branson's space tourism venture. Negotiations between the two companies have been taking place for months, and are said to be at an advanced stage.
The deal could be reputationally valuable for Virgin Galactic, which has had to defend itself against frequent suggestions that problems with its development will curb its viability.

The talks are likely to lead to a deal with two main elements, according to insiders:
The first will see Google inject hundreds of millions of dollars into a joint venture, with Virgin Galactic folding in the technology it has developed as part of its efforts to build the world’s first space tourism business. The second component will involve Google spending roughly 30 M$ in return for a small stake in the Virgin Galactic holding company.

The company has insisted that flights should begin this year, although there is no firm date, while rivals such as Elon Musk, the billionaire businessman, are developing competing projects. Celebrities including Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry and Sir Richard himself are said to have paid $200,000 to secure seats on the venture’s inaugural flights.