March 6, 2015

Could Humans Set Up Camp in Martian Lava Tubes? (Source: Lights in the Dark)
Building a safe habitation for humans for any sort of long term stay would be a time-intensive and expensive challenge, to say the least, and the environment of Mars – regardless of how much it might look like the deserts of Arizona or Utah in pictures – is harsh, unforgiving, and downright inhospitable for people.  A lot of protection against the Martian elements would have to be built into modules for living and working, especially the extreme daily (and seasonal, depending on latitude) temperature changes and exposure to both solar and cosmic radiation.

Protection equals mass, and mass equals fuel, and fuel equals more mass… and more money. What if there were a way for humans to set up base somewhere that radiation exposure and temperature variations could be mitigated? Somewhere like an easily-accessible cave where Mars itself could provide safe shelter to astronauts? Click here. (3/5)

Arianespace Wins SES-15 Launch Contract (Source: SpaceRef)
SES has chosen Arianespace to launch its new, all-electric telecommunications satellite, SES-15. The launch service contract marks Arianespace's 41st contract with SES. SES-15 will be launched by an Ariane 5 during the second quarter of 2017 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. (3/6)

NASA-Supported Startup Competiton Planned in Texas (Source: Houston Business Journal)
A new startup competition put together by a Houston nonprofit in cooperation with NASA is expected to take off at SXSW with a big prize for the winner. The Launch Health Space Innovation Challenge will take place at the SpaceCom Conference in November. It's being put together by Energizing Health, a nonprofit that focuses on bringing innovators and health care organizations together. (3/5)

100 Virgin Galactic Jobs Offered at Long Beach Airport Career Fair (Source: LA Daily News)
The commercial spaceflight company is hiring 100 positions. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at 4022 East Conant St. in Douglas Park at Long Beach Airport. “These are primarily technical positions, engineers, technicians” said Will Pomerantz, vice president of special projects at the company.

Virgin Galactic’s 150,000 square-foot Long Beach facility will be dedicated to research and manufacture of the rocket, called LauncherOne. The two-stage rocket is designed to put payloads up to 500 pounds into low earth orbit, or payloads up to 265 pounds into high-altitude sun-synchronous orbit for less than $10 million. For a full list of open positions and to RSVP to the career fair visit (3/5)

SpaceX Gets PTAB To Review Blue Origin Rocket Patent (Source: Law 360)
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board will review a rocket landing technology patent owned by Blue Origin LLC, ruling that the company's rival SpaceX has shown that the patent is likely invalid. The PTAB on Tuesday instituted inter partes review under the America Invents Act of 13 of the 15 claims of Blue Origin's patent on a system of landing and recovering a space launch vehicle at sea. (3/5)

High-Tech UCF Sensor Payload Headed for Stratosphere (Source: UCF)
NASA and a UCF physics professor plan to launch a high-altitude balloon on Sunday to test a high-tech payload that may one day be used to detect life on other planets. A team led by Robert Peale of the University of Central Florida’s Department of Physics is sending an experimental sensor the size of a toaster oven into the stratosphere, about 20 miles above the Earth.

The sensor is designed to detect trace gases at parts per trillion levels – far below what other current technologies are capable of. The Planetary Atmospheres Minor Species Sensor (PAMSS) has the potential for important practical applications both on Earth and off. NASA is interested in the sensor’s ability to reveal more about the atmospheres of other planets. Signs of methane, even at very low levels, could mean there is life there. (3/5)

Harris Originally Proposed $22 a Share All-Cash Offer for Exelis (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Harris and Exelis have submitted documents to secure antitrust clearance for largest defense deal in almost 20 years. Harris Corp. first proposed offering $22 a share in cash for Exelis Inc. before twice raising its proposal to the $23.75 accepted last month by its smaller defense-industry rival, according to a regulatory filing Thursday. (3/5)

Russian SAR-401 Space Robot Ready for the ISS (Source: Sputnik)
The Russian robot-android which is controlled through a wearable interface will be heading to the ISS soon, the head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center announced. The Russian SAR-401 robot-android will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) soon, head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Yuri Lonchakov told Russian media on Thursday. (3/5)

Ancient 'Blue' Mars Lost an Entire Ocean to Space (Source: Discovery)
Mars was once a small, wet and blue world, but over the past 4 billion years, Mars dried up and became the red dust bowl we know today. But how much water did Mars possess? According to research, the Martian northern hemisphere was likely covered in an ocean, covering a region of the approximate area as Earth’s Atlantic Ocean, plunging, in some places, to 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep.

It is becoming clear that, over the aeons, Mars lost the majority of its atmosphere to space. That also goes for its water. Though large quantities of water were likely frozen below the surface as the atmosphere thinned and cooled, the water contained in an ocean of this size must have gone elsewhere — it must have also been lost to space. (3/6)

Thermonuclear Supernova Ejects Galaxy’s Fastest Star (Source: Keck Observatory)
Scientists using the Keck Observatory and Pan-STARRS1 telescopes on Hawaii have discovered a star that breaks the galactic speed record, traveling with a velocity of about 1,200 kilometers per second or 2.7 million miles per hour. This velocity is so high, the star will escape the gravity of our galaxy. In contrast to the other known unbound stars, this compact star was ejected from an extremely tight binary by a thermonuclear supernova explosion. (3/5)

Astronomers See Star Explode Four Times (Source: ANU)
Astronomers have glimpsed a far off and ancient star exploding, not once, but four times. The exploding star, or supernova, was directly behind a cluster of huge galaxies, whose mass is so great that they warp space-time. This forms a cosmic magnifying glass that creates multiple images of the supernova, an effect first predicted by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity 100 years ago. (3/5)

Lockheed Martin Claims Sustainable Fusion Is Within Its Grasp (Source: eWeek)
Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works claims the ability to generate cheap energy from nuclear fusion with little waste or global warming is within its grasp. Imagine a source of electrical power that uses water for fuel, produces byproducts that are totally safe and releases no air pollution. It'll be so portable that an entire power plant could fit into the cargo hold of an airplane.

Now, imagine that it'll be running in prototype form in five years and operating commercially in ten. It sounds like science fiction, but it's not. It is being built by the same Skunk Works created by the near-mythical Kelly Johnson, an aerospace engineer able to head teams that built the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet years before any other organization even thought Mach-3 flight was possible. (3/4)

NASA Finds Evidence of a Vast Ancient Ocean on Mars (Source: The Guardian)
A massive ancient ocean once covered nearly half of the northern hemisphere of Mars making the planet a more promising place for alien life to have gained a foothold, NASA scientists say. The huge body of water spread over a fifth of the planet’s surface, as great a portion as the Atlantic covers the Earth, and was a mile deep in places.

In total, the ocean held 20 million cubic kilometers of water, or more than is found in the Arctic Ocean, the researchers found. The compelling evidence for the primitive ocean adds to an emerging picture of Mars as a warm and wet world in its youth, which trickled with streams, winding river deltas, and long-standing lakes, soon after it formed 4.5bn years ago. (3/4)

Nano-Satellite Launched From ISS Tests Space Brake (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The International Space Station deployed a small satellite using its Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer, the first NASA satellite to be thus ejected. TechEdSat-4, as the payload is named, is designed to test new space brake technologies to facilitate the rapid return of payloads to Earth. Deploying what NASA terms a “second-generation exo-brake,” essentially a fancy parachute designed to produce drag, a payload can be induced to de-orbit faster than other maneuvers can affect. (3/4)

China Plans to Launch Space Station in 2018 (Source: People's Daily)
China is planning to launch its space station in 2018 and complete the project by 2022, said Zhang Bonan, chief designer of China's manned spacecraft system. The station will be multi-cabin with a large capacity and high power, where Chinese scientists and their international colleagues will be able to work together in labs.

The challenges that China needs to overcome are mainly supply lines, including the absorption of carbon dioxide and the collection and reuse of urine, to enable astronauts to live in space for a long time. The scientist also said both China's Tiangong-1 space module launched in 2011 and the Tiangong-1 scheduled in 2016 serve to test the technology for life support systems. (3/4)

Probe Examines Leftovers From the Construction of the Solar System (Source: The Economist)
The asteroid belt, a ring of spacegoing rubble between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, is the remains of a planet that failed to form during the solar system’s creation 4.5 billion years ago. The largest of these remnants is called Ceres.

Studying rubble—even big chunks of it—sounds less romantic than missions to the “proper” planets. But the asteroids are of great interest to astronomers, for they offer a way to test their ideas of how the solar system came to be. Astronomers know, from computer modelling and from watching it happen elsewhere, that the sun and its planets condensed out of a giant rotating disc of dust and gas. (3/4)

SpaceX Still Hasn't Broken Ground at Its Texas Spaceport of Dreams (Source: Popular Mechanics)
SpaceX wants to transform this empty, wind-swept patch of South Texas into the world's first commercially built, owned, and operated spaceport that can launch to orbit—and beyond. The company says that within 18 to 24 months of breaking ground at Boca Chica, rockets could rise here carrying satellites off the planet. And if Musk has his way, this is the location from which human beings will travel to Mars. He says he'll be one of the first travelers.

The view from the beach doesn't help make the dream seem more real. SpaceX says it could be launching rockets here by the end of 2016. But as of early February, when I visited, there were no visible signs of construction. So, when will it start? Not as soon as locals wanted—or expected.

"We think it will probably be in the summer," says Brownsville Economic Development Council executive vice president Gil Salinas. Asked if the spaceport work was on schedule, Salinas responds: "Kind of." He described progress as "more along the lines of a long-term process, with momentary pauses." Click here. (3/4)

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