April 4, 2015

Quietly, NASA is Reconsidering the Moon as a Destination (Source Houston Chronicle)
Despite a declaration from President Barack Obama that the moon is not a planned destination for American astronauts, senior NASA engineers have quietly begun reconsidering using it as a staging point for an eventual mission to Mars. (4/3)

SETI: Let’s Stop Listening For Aliens And Start Talking Instead (Source: Information Week)
There are more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Many of those stars have multiple planets swirling around them, and many of those planets have moons orbiting them that might be capable of supporting life. This means there might be literally trillions -- certainly billions -- of rocks in this galaxy alone capable of supporting intelligent life. Why haven't we heard from their inhabitants?

In a Geekend-approved plan, Seth Shostak, director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute has a bold new plan to find them. He wants to make a long distance call. Instead of waiting for ET to phone home, we're going to dial ET's home and invite him over for some Reese's Pieces. To be more precise, Shostak presents the idea of beaming the entire contents of the Internet into space. (4/3)

Contested, Congested, and Invested (Source: Room)
Things are not business as usual in space. Broadening access to space technology and capabilities is a key driver in a landscape that looks dramatically different from the early days of the Space Age. This increased availability is leading to more innovation, lowering of costs, and greater access to beneficial capabilities and services available from satellites. Over 70 nations, private sector companies, non-governmental organizations, and even individuals, make up a rapidly growing community of space actors. Click here. (4/3)

Minisatellites Could Detect Dangerous Asteroids (Source: Science News)
Go tiny or go home. That’s one suggestion for building telescopes to find a city-smashing asteroid before it finds us. A fleet of pint-sized satellites orbiting the sun could track down the majority of asteroids that threaten the Earth, researchers propose online March 29 on arXiv.org. Some experts worry, however, that the plan has holes big enough to drive an asteroid through.

Five miniature observatories evenly spaced just inside the orbit of Venus would let NASA meet its congressional mandate to discover 90 percent of asteroids wider than 140 meters by 2020, says Michael Shao, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues. Whereas a single dedicated space telescope would take eight to 10 years and about half a billion dollars to find the same space rocks, Shao contends that his armada could do it in three years for about one-tenth of the cost. (4/3)

Rosetta Survives Close Encounter with Comet Debris (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Rosetta comet-chaser satellite has apparently survived a dangerously close flyby of Comet 67P, which it is accompanying toward the sun, despite a dazzling of its star trackers by cometary debris and a subsequent shutdown of its science instruments. ESA on April 2 said Rosetta, which following the March 29 automatic emergency shutdown had been moved 400 kilometers away from the comet, had been cleared for a new, albeit less-close, approach to within 140 kilometers. (4/3)

Cloud Observatory, Lunar Reflectance Craft in NASA Earth Venture Race (Source: Space News)
A moon-watching small-satellite and a trio of formation-flying cloud monitoring sensors are among the early candidates vying for a shot at $150 million in funding under a NASA Earth Venture competition set to begin this summer. Details about the proposed missions appeared in separate notices posted to a NASA procurement website in March.

The lunar observation concept, Arcstone, originated at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The three-satellite Cloud Observation for Updraft Determination (CLOUD) came from the Glenn Research Center. Arcstone will attempt to create the most accurate measurements yet of the lunar irradiance spectrum. Glenn's three 180-kilogram CLOUD satellites will "address climate change uncertainties and enhance weather prediction.” (4/3)

Citizen Scientists Find Green Blobs in Hubble Galaxy Shots (Source: WIRED)
IN 2007, A Dutch schoolteacher named Hanny var Arkel discovered a weird green glob of gas in space. Sifting through pictures of galaxies online, as part of the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo, she saw a cloud, seemingly glowing, sitting next to a galaxy. Intrigued, astronomers set out to find more of these objects, dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp (“Hanny’s object” in Dutch). Now, again with the help of citizen scientists, they’ve found 19 more of them, using the Hubble space telescope (4/3)

Space Apps Challenge Lets Nonscientists Solve Real-World Problems (Source: Space.com)
The power of the people is being applied to space science this month: The fourth-annual International Space Apps Challenge will let citizen scientists all over the world come up with new and creative ways to use data from space.

Information collected by space probes and other space-agency instruments can be used to help expand humanity's knowledge of the cosmos, or to make life a little better here on Earth. Doing so requires not only collecting the data, but also knowing what to do with it. The 2015 International Space Apps Challenge engages nonscientists in this pursuit. Click here. (4/3)

Making Babies in Space May be a Terrible Idea (Source: Motherboard)
With public and private entities jostling to bring humans to places like asteroids, Mars and even Venus, longterm human spaceflight is getting sexy. Except so far, there's not much sex. That's a problem: Even before future Mars colonists begin contemplating extending the human germ line elsewhere in the solar system, astronauts and scientists will need to confront not only astronauts' physical and psychological health but the matter of coitus and reproduction outside of Earth's atmosphere.

So far, that doesn't seem like a very good idea. Humanity has sent everything from rats, geckos, sea urchins and birds (although not bees) into space to study the effects of microgravity on non-human embryonic and fetal development, and the results have been far from promising. While reproduction has generally been successful, the mortality rates and gross abnormalities among the experiments’ progeny continue to suggest that space might not be the ideal environment to put a bun in the oven. (4/3)

ESA, Industry at Odds over Ariane 6 Funding Responsibilities (Source: Space News)
European governments and the prime contractor for the future Ariane 6 rocket, Airbus Safran Launchers, have reached a tentative agreement on program development funding following an incendiary letter from the company alleging a nearly $1 billion shortfall, European government officials said.

But while both Airbus Safran Launchers and the European Space Agency signed a two-page document that appears to express a common view of Ariane 6 costs, the two sides agree that the underlying disagreement over who pays what remains unresolved.

Government officials said the two-page document reaffirms that Ariane 6 development will cost 3.215 billion euros ($3.91 billion) between 2015 and the planned inaugural flight of 2020. The figure does not include the new Ariane 6 launch pad, which is being built under the authority of the French space agency, CNES. (4/3)

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