Daily Dispatches
This image provided by NASA shows a Sikorsky S-64 Sky Crane helicopter lifting Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser test spacecraft into the air for a captive carry test.
Associated Press/Photo by Ken Ulbrich/NASA
This image provided by NASA shows a Sikorsky S-64 Sky Crane helicopter lifting Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser test spacecraft into the air for a captive carry test.

One more small step toward space

Science

The space shuttle may not be flying anymore, but the last and greatest frontier is by no means closed. This week saw two different pushes into the wild, blue yonder, both originating in California. 

A company from Colorado developing a spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station ran its craft through a series of tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edward’s Air Force Base. A helicopter picked up a test version of the small spacecraft and flew it three miles, reaching up to 12,400 feet. 

The Dream Chaser, developed by Sierra Nevada Corp., is designed to carry seven people and land like a plane. The craft successfully followed its projected path during the test, which evaluated its flight computer, guidance, and navigation systems, landing gear, and nose skid. The test paves the way for further tests at Dryden this fall as part of the company’s agreements with NASA. 

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But the nation’s space agency isn’t ready to completely relinquish its place in space to private companies. The agency is restarting one of its hibernating spacecraft to search for asteroids that astronauts can explore on their way to Mars. 

NASA said Wednesday it will restart the Wise spacecraft program next month to begin a three-year mission to hunt for space rocks. The program’s annual budget will total about $5 million. 

NASA launched Wise in 2009. It scanned the sky for galaxies, stars, asteroids, and other celestial objects. After its primary mission, it focused on surveying asteroids and comets before NASA placed it in hibernation in 2011. Eventually, NASA hopes to drag an asteroid closer to earth so that spacewalking astronauts could visit it by 2025 as a stepping stone to Mars. The new mission would seek out possible asteroids for humans to explore. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a student at Patrick Henry College. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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