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Elon Musk unveils spacecraft to ferry astronauts



HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) - A company that has flown unmanned capsules to the Space Station unveiled a spacecraft designed to ferry up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit that SpaceX founder Elon Musk says will lower the cost of going to space.

The futuristic, cone-headed craft dubbed Dragon V2 featured landing legs that pop out and a propulsion system designed to land almost anywhere "with the accuracy of a helicopter," Musk said Thursday at the Southern California rocket builder's headquarters near Los Angeles International Airport.

SpaceX CEO Unveils New Dragon V2 Spacecraft

The technology would enable rapid reloading and reusability of the spacecraft, he said. He noted that in the past, many rockets and space craft return to Earth in a fireball, rendering them unusable.

"You can just reload, propel it and fly again," Musk said. "This is extremely important for revolutionizing access to space because as long as we continue to throw away rockets and space crafts, we will never truly have access to space. It'll always be incredibly expensive."

"If an aircraft is thrown away with each flight, nobody will be able to fly or very few (can)," he said. "The same is true with rockets and spacecraft."

The capsule also features a bright, sleek interior with swing-up computer screens at the control station, a two-level seating system to accommodate up to seven astronauts and large windows for them to marvel at Earth's curvature. The cone-shaped cap can open to allow for the manned craft to dock at the Space Station on its own. The spacecraft also has more powerful engines, better heat shields, the landing legs and backup parachutes to ensure a soft landing.

In a NASA briefing with reporters last year, Musk said Dragon V2 would look futuristic like an "alien spaceship" and promised "it's going to be cool."

Since the shuttle fleet retired in 2011, NASA has depended on Russian rockets to transport astronauts to orbit and back, paying nearly $71 million per seat. The space agency has said it wants U.S. companies to fill the void by 2017 and has doled out seed money to spur innovation.

SpaceX - short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - has made four cargo runs to the giant orbiting outpost some 200 miles above Earth. Just last month, its Dragon capsule splashed into the Pacific, returning nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment.

Companies competing for the right to ferry station astronauts need to design a spacecraft that can seat a crew of four or more and be equipped with life support systems and an escape hatch in case of emergency. SpaceX has said it's designing a seven-seat spacecraft.

SpaceX and longtime NASA contractor Boeing Co. are "more or less neck and neck" in the competition, but there's a long way to go before astronauts can rocket out of the atmosphere on private spacecraft, said John Logsdon, professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

Logsdon said progress by private companies is slower than anticipated mainly because Congress has not fully funded NASA's budget request for the effort. He said it's important for the U.S. to wean its reliance on Russia given the political tension over the annexation of Crimea.

"It's essential to have our own capability to transport people to space," he said. "This is an important step in that direction."

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stengernc May 30 2014 at 7:24 AM

Sometimes I wonder if humanity is worth saving since it seems so ignorant of the reality of life and wastes so much of the resources needed to sustain us. Our political system is broken, Republicans want to protect the rich who seem bent on marginalizing the majority of humanity. Democrats react by regulating and creating social programs to compensate and around and around we go. Life on the cosmic scale is so infrequent, so precious, so rare that we are an example of that instance in time when a species becomes self aware of its surroundings and finds itself capable of projecting its understanding of time and space. Now if only the remaining 99.9% of humanity would wake up and stop destroying its future. We have so much potential but so much stupidity at the same time. Modern humans are only about 17 seconds old in relationship to the age of the Universe....just babies. Perhaps people like Elon Musk will at least find a way to save some humans if we implode on ourselves.

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12 replies
salmagundi111 May 30 2014 at 6:21 AM

The key to successful spacefaring is free enterprise.

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6 replies
RICH BIEGEL May 30 2014 at 7:47 AM

NOTHING ADVANCES AMERICANS LIKE NECESSITY AND COMPETITION. IM SURE THE PRIVATE SECTOR WILL ECLIPSE NASA IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE WITHOUT EATING OUR TAX DOLLARS

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4 replies
Michael May 30 2014 at 7:22 AM

Good by Russia and your Soyuz.

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2 replies
simply.red Michael May 30 2014 at 11:14 AM

Can we just leave all the bad grammar and misspellings on Earth while we are at it?

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3 replies
Kate Michael May 30 2014 at 11:57 AM

Not until Congress approves the funding.

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Boss May 30 2014 at 7:51 AM

Why do space rockets always look white and clean? Put some dang stickers on it NASCAR style. Each sticker on a NASCAR vehicle has a monetary value to it. THe size and place determine the cost.

Come one free market system.

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12 replies
onionson May 30 2014 at 6:26 AM

I wish I had enough time left to make the money for a trip.

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2 replies
Taxi Talk onionson May 30 2014 at 11:56 AM

...and correct chat room spelling !! ;D

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WashingtonDC onionson May 30 2014 at 3:25 PM

Maybe you will win a sweep...offering a free ticket?

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1 reply
Picka Ura Nosea WashingtonDC May 31 2014 at 10:14 AM

How many people on Earth would spend $10 USD on a chance to be a passenger? I'd buy about 100 tickets for THAT raffle...

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thuff31564 May 30 2014 at 7:53 AM

Wonder how the government will try to control this?

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5 replies
Rob May 30 2014 at 10:23 AM

I miss the simple life before the internet. Living in Hawaii spear fishing, surfing, boogie boarding, cliff diving, mountain climbing, lobster diving, and some awesome cookouts. Kicking back, enjoying some good food, good friends and some good herb. Now when you get on the computer and read current events, it's like watching an episode of the Springer Show. Everyone pointing the finger and bad mouthing each other. God help you if you misspell a word. Even though people know the point you're making, they will crucify you for making a grammatical error. Who cares? It's the point being made that matters. All of you self appointed critics can go to hell. Leave people alone and let their points be made without reprisal regarding a misspelled word. Relax, stop being an a s s h o l e and part of the problem, be part of the solution. I bet you wouldn't have the balls to mouth off to peoples faces, easy to hide in a chat room you nutless wonders.

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2 replies
Mark Rob May 30 2014 at 11:58 AM

I couldn't have said it better. That's one of my pet peeves also people going ballistic on a misspelled word. Whoopee do people get a life!

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Larry Rob May 30 2014 at 5:53 PM

Yeah...isn't it a shame that people complain about people complaining.

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pallen4896 May 30 2014 at 7:31 AM

Looks like a helmet off some Star Wars character. I hope it works.

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1 reply
Taxi Talk pallen4896 May 30 2014 at 11:58 AM

...looks like something my ex-girlfriend had in her drawer.

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Richard May 30 2014 at 8:18 AM

Lottery tickets should be made available for the flight. That is the closest that near everyone could get to this dream. That would be the only ticket I would every purchase. Hey, maybe this idea will make them so rich that they will offer me a free ride! :)

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1 reply
Maurie Richard May 30 2014 at 9:19 AM

The thread herein has turned to the political theatre. OK so it space voyage, no hurry but by the 22nd Century we as humans had better be able to control our population otherwise we will be moving into the black beyond looking for establishing ourselves or as might some say reinventing ourselves at a distant planet. We will have scorched this earth are realized between damage and over population there is not enough room for man and the creatures to still exist on Earth as we know it now. Look around you, your probability is very slim you will see this but your youths of tomorrow will.

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