Hello and welcome back to the TechCrunch space. Last week, NASA held its annual Day of Remembrance to remember all those who lost their lives in human space exploration, including the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. Today is a sobering reminder of the dangers of spaceflight and the dear costs we have paid to expand humanity into the stars. More on that below.
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Chathuryam, a small helicopter that has been buzzing around the Red Planet for nearly three years, took its final flight late last week. NASA said on Thursday that at least one of the helicopter's carbon fiber rotor blades was damaged on its final mission, grounding it for good.
To say the ingenuity has had a remarkable run is an understatement: The helicopter began as a technology demonstration mission, with engineers hoping to achieve five flights with the vehicle. In the end, the helicopter flew 72 flights a collective 11 miles and climbed to a maximum altitude of 79 feet.
Farewell, ingenuity. Thanks for everything.
Start the highlights
This week's top launch goes to Virgin Galactic, which successfully pulled off its eleventh suborbital spaceflight on Friday. The company's VSS Unity flight carried four private astronaut customers from New Mexico's Spaceport America, whose names were not disclosed in a secret statement prior to the mission. After the mission, Virgin announced the names of the customers and revealed that the crew included the first Ukrainian woman in space.
The company's next mission is expected in the second quarter of this year.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) January 26, 2024
Eric Berger describes what happened after astronaut Taylor Wang ran into problems with his launch on the ISS; how he was deeply depressed; how he threatened mission controllers in Houston that he was “not going back” to Earth; And how he began to take an insatiable interest in the space shuttle's hatch, to the point where he and the other astronauts on the ISS sealed it off with duct-tape.
“It's not a particularly fun issue to talk about, so NASA, SpaceX and the people who fly on the vehicles don't usually talk about it. But the space community will probably see something that has a discussion about it, like expanding access to space. With Crew Dragon, SpaceX regularly sends citizens to the International Space Station and on free-flying missions. .most of whom have not undergone the rigorous psychological tests that shuttle astronauts receive. Boeing's Starliner, SpaceX's Starship, and other vehicles will, in the not-too-distant future, add to the pool of orbiting aircraft. Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic already fly people on brief suborbital hops almost entirely without training. .
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The whole point of low-cost access to space is that we're going to have more people in space, doing good things and pushing the frontier. But space is a harsh, incredibly forbidding domain. It can play with the mind.”
This week in space history
This week, we remember the men and women who lost their lives aboard the space shuttle Challenger, along with other astronauts who died in space.
On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off, killing all seven crew members. The disaster resulted in a nearly three-year moratorium on space shuttle missions, and subsequent investigations identified numerous problems in NASA culture that directly or indirectly led to the disaster.