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To date, Soviet and Russian cosmonauts have spent more time in space than their astronaut colleagues in other countries. The splendor of days past has faded into distant memory, however. In an effort to restore that former glory, Roscosmos, the state aerospace agency founded in 2015, has constructed the new spaceport Vo- stochny and is examining plans to send tourists to the ISS space station in the fu- ture. Russia also intends to set up stations in the orbits of the Moon and of Mars.
China has only made a few manned flights into space so far; however, it spends US$8.4 billion annually for its civil and military aerospace activities, and is quickly catching up. The gov- ernment’s plan: to become the leading aero- space nation by mid-century. China’s strategy: a space station of its own to rival the ISS will be completed in 2023, and will focus on the Moon from 2030 on, along with plans to deploy probes to Mars and Jupiter. The National Space Administration caused a furor in early 2019 when the Chang’e 4 space probe touched down on the far side of the Moon—a spectacular feat that no one else had achieved before. In 2018, China was already launching more rockets into space than any other nation.
Jupiter orbits the sun at a distance of around 778 million kilometer, taking 4,333 Earth days to do so, and is by far the largest planet in our solar system. If the Earth were the size of a grape, Jupiter’s size would equal that of a basketball.
The International Space Station—operated by Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan, and Canada—soars 400 kilometers above the Earth, traveling at 28,800 km/h. The ISS has room for six researchers, and needs ninety minutes to complete one orbit of the Earth. Its construction, which had to be done in space, required forty missions, and the station has been inhabited since 2000. The costs of development, construction, and ten years of operation amount to €100 billion.
Bigger, further, cheaper: these are the criteria that entrepreneur Elon Musk, together with 6,000 em- ployees, is using as a basis to build rockets, some of which can be used several times and—as is the case with the Falcon Heavy—can deliver heavy loads to the ISS space station. NASA contracts account for the majority of the company’s turn- over. It launches weather and intelligence satel- lites into space for the state-owned agency. Two of Musk’s objectives: to fly tourists to the Moon by 2023, and to set up colonies on Mars. Should this not succeed, then the technology used for propul- sion can be utilized on Earth, with Musk specu- lating that it will be possible to reach any given location in no more than thirty minutes.
Billions of years ago, the Red Planet, which is half the size of Earth, was warmer and wetter—nowadays, its surface resembles a cold and dusty desert with only a thin atmo- spheric layer covering it. Mars orbits the sun at a distance of 228 million kilometers, with light taking 13.6 minutes
to reach its surface. A series of probes and spacecraft have been sent to Mars by the US, Europe, and India to conduct research into the planet.
Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy (right)
is currently the largest rocket of all, and designed for missions to Mars. Its payload would total 16.8 tons on a flight like this. When its missions are closer to Earth, it needs less fuel and can transport a maximum of 63.8 tons. Its propulsive force is eighteen times that of a Boeing 747, with each launch costing US$90 million.
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