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Don Lee: The race into space continues

Although the national media did show a simulated launching of the Dragon-crewed capsule, most of our news has been about the COVID-19 pandemic.


I think that is appropriate since it affects each and every one of us.


I will try to give you some inside information on what is happening in space.


The Japanese mission to the asteroid Ryugu is coming to an end. It has gathered samples of dust from the surface and started back to the earth in November 2019. It is expected to arrive in December of this year. It is a long way back.


No doubt, it will be some of the most expensive dust samples ever retrieved. It has come rather close to the earth, approximately 60,000 miles. It is a half mile in diameter and could devastate the earth if it were to collide with us.


Of more concern to us is the launch of the Dragon capsule. It will be the first trip by our astronauts on a U.S. rocket since the last space shuttle. As a backup, NASA has bought a round trip ticket on the Russia rocket for one astronaut for $90 million.

The launching of the Dragon on top of a Space X Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station is scheduled for May 27.


The two crew members are Bob Behuken and Doug Hurley, who are in training and in quarantine.


They are not expecting anything to go wrong but the U.S. Space Force has been alerted for a rescue mission should there be an abort.


There is another launch scheduled for Saturday, before the Dragon launches.


It is the X-37 space planet that sits on top of an Atlas V Rocket. It is a robotic spacecraft which re-enters the atmosphere and lands to be used again. It has already completed five orbital missions. It is similar to the shuttle, but only one-fourth the size and with no crew members. One of the projected missions is to rendezvous with satellites and make repairs.

It appears that there is a lot of interest in getting to the moon again.


The German space company, OHB, is planning to launch a commercial lunar lander in late 2022. They are looking for government and commercial companies who want to land payloads on the lunar surface.


Another interesting development is the preparing of the Perseverance Mars Rover for launch during a three-week window starting July 17. This rover is a vehicle the size of a car. It will be lowered on a nylon rope from the carrying vehicle which will be slowed by parachutes and rockets. When the Rover senses that it has landed, explosive bolts will release it. It is scheduled to arrive on Mars in February 2021.


Another item that concerned NASA and us too.


Long March 5B, a Chinese rocket, with a weight of almost two million pounds, returned to earth after delivering its payload.

The problem of concern was that it was too massive to burn up completely as it entered through the earth’s atmosphere.


On May 11, it was tracked from Los Angeles to New York and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. It was big enough to take out a house, if it crashed.


Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at eelnod22@gmail.com