Musk has been making some big announcements lately –from the release of Tesla’s electric car model predicted to occur by 2017 to SpaceX going to work for the United States Air Force. SpaceX has confirmed that the U.S. Air Force has certified that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has completed three successful flights that met the Air Force’s qualifications and standards. As a result, SpaceX can now finish the certification process and seek to receive government contracts awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.
SpaceX’s announcement could be good news for taxpayers. Currently, the government (via taxpayers) is paying United Launch Alliance $1 billion each year just to stand ready to launch satellites into space. If a satellite is actually launched into space, ULA is paid an additional $380 million per launch! SpaceX has claimed it can perform the same work for the bargain price of $100 million per launch. If SpaceX becomes a competitive bidder for the EELV contracts, it could potentially save U.S. taxpayers as much as $50 billion over the next 15 years.
But the news about SpaceX doesn’t end there because the company will soon be launching one of its Dragon spacecrafts to the International Space Station. The crew members on board will consist of 40 mice that are being referred to as “mousetronauts.” The mice will live in the International Space Station for approximately six months.
NASA will study the mice to understand how microgravity could affect the human body in an effort further NASA’s planned manned exploration of Mars and other parts of space. Although astronauts spend up to six months in microgravity on the Space Station, the other planned missions may last two years or more. Since mice only typically live for about two years, spending six months on the Space Station is one-quarter of a mouse’s life span. Thus, understandings how weightlessness impacts the mice, the researchers can extrapolate those effects and apply to years of a human’s lifespan.
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