It has been suggested that if humanity wants to truly embark on a renewed era of space exploration, one of the key ingredients is the ability to manufacture structures in space. By assembling everything from satellites to spacecraft in orbit, we would eliminate the most costly aspect of going to space. This, simply put, is the sheer expense of escaping Earth’s gravity well, which requires heavy launch vehicles and LOTS of fuel!
This is the idea behind the Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER), a technology-demonstrator that will be going to space as part of NASA’s Restore-L spacecraft, which is designed to service and refuel a satellite in low-Earth orbit. Once deployed, the SPIDER will assemble a communications antenna and composite beam to demonstrate that space-based construction is possible.
Hard to believe the decades fly by so fast. It was 45 years ago today that the crew of Apollo 9 took off from the Kennedy Space Center en route to a big test of the lunar module. Being March 1969, history shows that it was only about four months later when men touched the moon for the first time ever.
Getting to the moon, however, required making sure that the lunar landing craft was in tip-top shape. This was the first test of the lunar module in space. Apollo 9 astronauts Jim McDivitt, Rusty Schweickart and Dave Scott spent several days shaking out the spacecraft in the relative safety of Earth orbit.
The mission is perhaps best remembered for the first docking of “Spider” (the lunar module) and “Gumdrop” (the command module), but plenty happened during their March 3-13, 1969 mission. You can relive some of the most memorable moments of training and the mission in the gallery below. More information on the mission is available at NASA.