SpaceX Dragon Capsule Crew

On 23 February 2009, SpaceX announced that its chosen phenolic-impregnated carbon ablator heat shield material, PICA-X, had passed heat stress tests in preparation for Dragon’s maiden launch. The primary proximity-operations sensor for the Dragon spacecraft, the DragonEye, was tested in early 2009 during the STS-127 mission, when it was mounted near the docking port of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and used while the Shuttle approached the International Space Station. The DragonEye’s lidar and thermography (thermal imaging) abilities were both tested successfully. The COTS UHF Communication Unit (CUCU) and Crew Command Panel (CCP) were delivered to the ISS during the late 2009 STS-129 mission. The CUCU allows the ISS to communicate with Dragon and the CCP allows ISS crew members to issue basic commands to Dragon. In summer 2009, SpaceX hired former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox as vice president of their new Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance Department, in preparation for crews using the spacecraft.

Titan's atmosphere is approximately 95% nitrogen. However, in a way that dramatically differs from Earth's own mostly-nitrogen atmosphere, Titan's atmosphere has very little oxygen. Indeed, the remainder of Titan's atmosphere is almost entirely composed of methane--along with small qunatities of other gases, such as ethane. At the extremely cold temperatures that are found at Saturn's great distance from the heat of our Star, Titan's methane and ethane can accumulate on its icy surface to form pools of liquid. Furthermore, the icy stuff that collected on Methone's surface could even be more lightweight than that which lies beneath. It is possible that such fluffy, snowy, stuff can actually flow--at least over long periods of thousands to millions of years--thus filling in the tell-tale scars of impact craters. Dr. Thomas and his team at Cornell University have tried to peer into the mysterious interior of the weird little Space egg that is Methone. They started out with the hypothesis that Saturn's relentless strong gravity pulls the little moon into an elongated shape, just like Earth's own large Moon raises ocean tides on our own planet. Then the team went on to calculate how dense the little moon would have to be for its own gravity to counteract those intense tidal forces and create its strange egg-shape.