October 20, 2014

Tom Hanks on His New Space Fiction (Source: New Yorker)
I think Alan Bean should be a household name, along with Jack Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young—all of the dozen guys who walked on the moon. They aren’t—ah, well. Alan is probably the only example of a guy who was really changed by his trip to the moon. He’d been a military guy, a jet pilot, an astronaut, he was on Skylab, etc. Then he came back and took up painting, something he hadn’t done prior to that. Now he’s a full-time artist. Click here. (10/20)

Russia to Orbit 9 Advanced Military Commsats by 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian military will add nine advanced communications satellites to its orbital grouping by 2020, a senior military commander said Monday. “By 2020, the orbital grouping of military communications satellites will be strengthened with nine modern satellites,” Maj. Gen. Khalil Arslanov, the chief of the Main Communications Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, said Monday.

Arslanov said additional satellites will allow the Russian military to quadruple communications traffic and increase average data transfer speed to 8 Mbit/sec. According to open sources, Russia has over 100 satellites deployed in various orbits. Two-thirds of them are military or dual-purpose spacecraft. (10/20)

Earth at Risk After Cuts Close Comet-Spotting Program (Source: Guardian)
The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned. The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding. “There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn’t know about it.” (10/20)

Hey, MIT — What About Success on Mars? (Source: Digital Journal)
MIT's study of the Mars One project has come up with a few very interesting, but debatable figures and options. It’s not infallible. It includes a lot of necessary measures, using different case scenarios based on given parameters, reasonable enough for the purposes of a study. The scenarios including growing food, not growing food, oxygen and nitrogen depletion, and water depletion, accounting for calorie intake and full recycling.

Some news reports on the paper are clear as mud, and wrong in some major respects. Click here. (10/20)

'Virtual Therapist' for ISS Crew (Source: Space Daily)
Since 2001, Dartmouth, Harvard, UCLA and The Troupe Modern Media have been developing the "Virtual Space Station," a set of interactive behavioral health training and treatment programs with support from NASA's National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). The NSBRI recently gave Dartmouth a $1.6 million grant to add new virtual reality and conflict management content to the existing Virtual Space Station programs. The NSBRI is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions developing solutions to health-related problems on long-duration missions.

Dartmouth's Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation lab, better known as DALI, is creating the new technology for the system, including virtual reality content "to help make people feel at ease, at home, happy, comfortable and calm," says Lorie Loeb, a Dartmouth research professor in computer science and executive director of the lab. (10/20)

Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near (Source: Space Daily)
The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust. NASA's Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, Oct. 19, as the comet flew near Mars.

The comet sped within about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars, equivalent to about one-third of the distance between Earth and Earth's moon. Odyssey had performed a maneuver on Aug. 5 to adjust the timing of its orbit so that it would be shielded by Mars itself during the minutes when computer modeling projected a slight risk from high-velocity dust particles in the comet's tail. (10/20)

MAVEN Studies Passing Comet and Its Effects (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft -- full name Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution -- reported back to Earth in good health after about three hours of precautions against a possible collision with high-velocity dust particles released by comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. (10/20)

Two Ways To Space And Back - An Astronaut's View (Source: Aviation Week)
Michael Lopez-Alegria has been to orbit four times – three of them in a NASA space shuttle and once on a Russian Soyuz capsule. At the recent International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, the former U.S. Navy test pilot described the differences taking off and landing in the two vehicles. As you will hear, they are very different indeed. Click here. (10/20)

Thermal Images Of SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket On Descent (Source: Aviation Week)
A partnership between NASA and SpaceX is giving the U.S. space agency an early look at what it would take to land multi-ton habitats and supply caches on Mars for human explorers. Click here so see the video. (10/20) 

Opinion: Mars One Should Take MITs Disturbing Report Seriously (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A disturbing computer simulation by students at MIT indicates that the Mars One plan is a doomed venture before it even gets off the ground. The study, by MIT students Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens, and Olivier de Weck was presented to the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. It points up potentially deadly flaws in the Mars One mission architecture as it is currently designed.

These problems the effort could lead to the crew facing starvation, suffocation, and even incineration. Do, a doctoral student in aeronautics and astronautics, said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post: “We found many problem areas, many of which revolve around the current capability of state-of-the-art technologies. These problems in turn impact the long-term sustainability of the Mars One Plan.”

...Let’s just hope they’re considering all the difficulties that they may encounter. When dedicated to a goal, it’s easy to overlook or minimize problems. In this new era of space exploration, the recent successes of private companies have emboldened groups to reach for ever-loftier goals. However, as these firms and organizations run the risk of overreaching – and in the case of space exploration – such mistakes can be deadly. To put it another way, Lansdorp needs to avoid “go fever.” (10/20)

An All-Female Mission to Mars (Source: Slate)
In February of 1960, the American magazine Look ran a cover story that asked, “Should a Girl Be First in Space?” It was a sensational headline representing an audacious idea at the time. And as we all know, the proposal fell short. In 1961, NASA sent Alan Shepard above the stratosphere, followed by dozens of other spacemen over the next two decades. Only in 1983 did Sally Ride become America’s first female astronaut to launch.

But why would anyone think a woman would be the first to space, anyway? Medical studies, for one thing. Some studies in the 1950s and ’60s suggested female bodies had stronger hearts and could better withstand vibrations and radiation exposure. Moreover, psychological studies suggested that women coped better than men in isolation and when deprived of sensory inputs. Click here. (10/19)

Space Station Is Getting A UPS-Style Shipping Service (Source: Popular Science)
It’s easy to forget that the International Space Station isn’t just a place for astronauts to hang out and take epic selfies. Because of its unique microgravity environment, the station is actually a valuable hub for research and development, housing hundreds of ongoing experiments that involve everything from human tissue growth to protein crystal formation.

Except there’s one little snag when it comes to conducting experiments on the ISS: It’s kind of far away. Getting critical samples from the station to Earth can be a lengthy process, and researchers usually have to wait anywhere from six months to a year before samples can make the trip to laboratories on the ground. These long waits can be risky, as live biological samples have a perishable lifespan and often need to be reviewed quickly before they degrade.

Well now, private spaceflight company Intuitive Machines has a solution to this problem. In cooperation with NASA, the company is developing the Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV), a spacecraft that can deliver experiment samples from station to Earth in less than 24 hours. Think of it as same-day shipping for the ISS. Such a short sample return time opens up more opportunities for research on the ISS that could never have been done before. Click here. (10/20)

Legislative Meeting Monday to Focus on Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The state Legislature's New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee will hold two days of meetings in Las Cruces this week, devoting the entire first day on Monday to Spaceport America. That meeting will include a thorough review of spaceport finances, past, present and future. The Spaceport Authority Board of Directors is expected to be present, along with Executive Director Christine Anderson and Chief Financial Officer Doreen Sieberg, and Finance Authority CEO Robert Coalter. (10/19)

NASA Ames Turns 75; Tens of Thousands Flock to Open House (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Greg Katayuma visited NASA's Ames Research Center when he was in grade school but hadn't been back since. So when he heard that the center was inviting the public into the famed facility to celebrate its 75th anniversary, he jumped at the chance to return.

"We thought we'd come out here and take a look and see what they do," said Katayuma, 59, who spent the better part of Saturday with his family touring the Moffett Field center. He was one of thousands of curious visitors who attended the open house, Ames' first in 17 years. (10/18)

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