PopSci’s Best of What’s New: Dragon V2, LDSD & Chang’e-3

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)
Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Science has published its year end  Best of What’s New list. In the aerospace category, the list included two NASA-funded programs and China’s first landing on the moon.

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 – Grand Award Winner

Elon Musk debuted a model of the human-rated Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in May. The vehicle, being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, could carry astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2016.

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The LDSD project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and air speeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm

Chang’e-3

The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.
The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landed on the lunar surface in December 2013 and then deployed the Yutu rover to further explore the moon. The moon landing was the first for China, and it marked the first exploration of the lunar surface in nearly 40 years. China is aiming to return soil samples from the moon with its Chang’e-5 spacecraft.