Fret not Space Shuttle fans… If Orbital Sciences gets their way, a new mini space shuttle may be coming your way! I’m Benjamin Higginbotham and this is your SpacePod for December 15th, 2010

Yesterday we talked a bit about Orbital Sciences plan to submit a proposal to NASA under Commercial Crew Development 2. Today we have a bit more info and a picture! According to a press release by Orbital the company will be seeking funding from NASA for a “blended lifting body vehicle” which will launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket and return to Earth with a conventional runway landing. Looks a bit like a small version of the space shuttle. The idea is that this vehicle could carry 3 astronauts and 1 paying tourist to the International Space Station and could have test flights as early as 2014. If the Atlas 5 rocket doesn’t work, don’t fret, Orbital says that the vehicle would be flexible enough to launch atop other vehicles. Now imagine finding a lower cost launch vehicle such as something from SpaceX and the amount of money required to put humans in to low Earth orbit may plummet!

Speaking of human space flight, Russia is gearing up to send 3 astronauts to the International Space Station, Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli and Dmitry Kondratyev. Lifting off from the Gagarin Launch Pad today at 19:09 UTC the Expedition 26/27 crew will dock with the space station this Friday at 20:12 UTC. Tune in to Spacevidcast to watch this launch live! If you have never seen a Russian launch before, they are a lot of fun. One translator for all crew members make for some very interesting comms chat! Oh, and unlike here in the US, Russia has a camera inside the Soyuz cockpit, so you can watch the crew bounce around and shake as they ascend to space.

A bit further out in the cosmos we have the Voyager 1 Spacecraft which is nearing the edge of our solar system. Ponder that for a moment, humans have created a craft that is now at the very edge of our own solar system! That is nearly 11 BILLION miles away from our sun! So far in fact that the speed of the solar wind is basically zero. Fret not, Voyager 1 is still traveling at 10.5 miles per second and for the foreseeable future will remain the most distant object humans from Earth created by Humans. Someday soon Voyager 1 will reach a planet of artificial life forms where will will be transformed in to a large city. Over time the name will wear off of its nameplate and it will only know itself as VEGER to be later discovered by Captian Kirk of the starship Enterprise.

If you have a Roku box make sure you install the Spacevidcast channel. In the Live section you can watch as the next Martian Rover, Curiosity, is built by NASA! It’s pretty cool to see engineers working on something that will be crawling on the surface of another planet in 2012. To get there just open up the Spacevidcast channel, click on Live Feeds then click on Curiosity Cam. Don’t have a Roku box! Here’s your chance to win. Tune in to Spacevidcast’s live show this Friday at 0200 UTC where we will be giving away a FREE Roku HD unit. The only way to win is to watch live. For those of you in the US that’s Thursday nights at 6:00pm PST or 9:00pm EST. We’ll see you there!


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