Good news from the open frontier of space travel

After a rough week on the frontier of private space travel, some good news: a huge investment by Google and a probe landed on a comet.

11/11 – – Google Leases NASA’s Moffet Field, Historic Hangar for $1.2 Billion and 11/11 – CNN – Google leases massive Navy blimp hangar

Google leased a lot of buildings and space at the Moffet Federal Airfield, including the signature humongous Hangar One. That signature building was designed as a blimp hangar. It is 20 stories tall and 0.2 miles long. You could probably park a pair of blimps in there.

In return for $1.16B over the next 60 years, they also get two more hangars, two runways, a flight ops building, and a golf course. That works out to be $19.3M a year. Speculation is that will give them lots of room to experiment on tech for things such as space exploration and robotics.

11/12 – Guardian – Philae lander makes historic touchdown on comet – The probe named Philae launched from the mother ship named Rosetta and landed on a comet, called 67P, about 317 million miles from earth.

Extremely cool. Lots of photos available from the New York Times Landing on a Comet, 317 Million Miles From Home.

Why is this a big deal? First of all, lots of experiments give scientists lots of new info about comets, like what they are made of, how much water they might hold, and whether they are relatively solid or are a bunch of small rocks held together.

Bigger reason is that comets hold huge amounts of water, lots of ore, and presumably hold lots of rare earth minerals. The water can be used for fuel and sustaining life. The minerals can be used to build stuff cheaper than lifting raw materials from earth.

This is a huge proof-of-concept that you can actually land on a comet.

This is great news for private space exploration.

11/14 – Wall Street Journal – Scientists Race Against Comet Lander’s Battery Life – Uh oh.

The harpoons did not fire as intend upon landing so the Philae lander bounced 3,300 feet for a few minutes before being pulled back to an unknown location. It is only getting 1.5 hours of sunlight a day instead of the 7 hours it needs to stay fully charged. Time is running out on the 2.5 day battery capacity. Would be far better if the probe worked for its full 3 month design life, but 2.5 days of info would still be a wonderful success.

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