May 19, 2015

Space is a Win for All (Source: The Hill)
There is an industry capturing the imagination of the public and gaining recognition for creating accessible and reliable spaceflight capabilities. Yes, you read that correctly – commercial companies are developing platforms to take science, technology, and humans to space, and are using innovative technologies to make this service affordable and reliable.

Last week, we saw the markup of several commercial space bills in the House, and are expecting the Senate to follow suit this week. Unlike many dividing issues often in the spotlight, the U.S.’s commercial space competiveness has historically been a bi-partisan effort, with both sides of the aisle recognizing the importance of continued development of the sector. Click here. (5/18)

New Technique to Search for Chemical Evidence of Life on Mars (Source: America Space)
Despite decades of searching, definitive evidence for life on Mars, past or present, has still remained elusive and controversial. Confirmation of such a finding would need to be thoroughly tested and documented, and now researchers at the University of Kansas have developed a new technique that they hope would help to do just that, should that evidence be found by future rovers or landers.

The new technique is designed to improve the way scientists detect condensed aromatic carbon, which is thought to be a chemical signature of life. According to Craig Marshall, Alison Olcott Marshall’s husband and associate professor of geology at KU, “If we’re going to identify life on Mars, it will likely be the fossil remnants of the chemicals once synthesized by life, and we hope our research helps strengthen the ability to evaluate the evidence collected on Mars.” (5/19)

Mexico Plots Way Forward After Loss of Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The Mexican government says it will collect a $390 million insurance payout after losing an advanced communications satellite Saturday aboard a failed launch of a Russian Proton rocket. A similar craft set for liftoff in October will fill the communications gap caused by the launch failure, relieving pressure to immediately order a replacement, said Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s minister of communications and transportation. (5/18)

Russia Recruits 1,000 Student Laborers to Finish Corruption-Ridden Spaceport (Source: Moscow Times)
A group of Russian students on Monday began an unconventional summer vacation laboring to help finish a much-delayed and corruption-riddled cosmodrome construction project in Russia's Far East. The opening ceremony for the student's summer of construction work took place Monday, the Amur regional government said in a statement.

More than 1,000 students will join the construction effort, adding to the more than 8,000 builders already on site, the statement said. About 130 students have already joined the builders, it said. Deputy Construction Minister Leonid Stavitsky said in early April that the students would be paid for their work but did not specify how much, news agency Interfax reported. (5/18)

NASA Scientist: Space Mining Decades Away (Source: My Kawartha)
Prospecting on the moon or on asteroids is probably a couple of decades away, a NASA scientist told a symposium on planetary and terrestrial mining Tuesday. The event, part of the Canadian Institute of Mining's annual convention, heard that issues like ownership and management of resources in outer space still have to be worked out. One of the main problems is that no country owns anything in space. (5/12)

NewSpace Initiative Connects ASU with Space Industry (Source: ASU)
The next big thing in space research is small. Small, agile companies and small, inexpensive devices are changing how we explore the universe. Arizona State University researchers are working with both. Most people have probably heard of such companies as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. The term “NewSpace” is often used to describe them. But what does that word mean?

“It’s commercial entities that are building, designing, operating, thinking about space-related projects and applications, but it’s not always the usual players – the Boeings and the Lockheeds,” said Jim Bell, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and director of the NewSpace Initiative. “It’s usually smaller, more nimble, more entrepreneurial kinds of companies.”

The field is growing rapidly. ASU’s NewSpace Initiative is tracking nearly 900 companies that have entered the industry, up from around 500 just a year ago. These include everything from small start-ups working on technology projects out of someone’s garage to companies with thousands of employees designing and building new rockets. (5/18)

Leave Space Travel (and Surgery) to Robots, Says Expert (Source: The Times)
There is no longer any “practical case” for sending humans into space and the future of interplanetary exploration belongs to swarms of robots, according to the astronomer royal. Within decades machines will also take over most jobs, including the work of middle-class professions such as surgery and the law, leaving the majority of people doing “social” tasks such as gardening and nursing, Lord Rees of Ludlow told The Times. (5/19)

No Financial Help Coming from Aerojet Rocketdyne for Virginia Pad Repair (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It appears that Aerojet Rocketdyne, the manufacturer of the AJ26 rocket engine, will not be providing financial assistance for repairs to Pad 0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility's Mid-Atlantic Spaceport's (MARS). These repairs become necessary after an Orbital ATK Antares exploded approximately twelve seconds into flight in 2014. “The quick answer is that, no, Aerojet Rocketdyne won’t be contributing to the expenses,” said Jennifer Bowman, a spokesperson for Orbital ATK.

The AJ26 was constructed 40 years ago by the Kuznetsov Design Bureau for use on the N-1 Moon rocket. It has encountered at least two failures at NASA’s Stennis Space Center during tests. The fact that these engines were built during the earliest days of the Space Age has been called into question by many experts within the industry. (5/19)

Interview: Gwynne Shotwell (Source: Defense News)
Do you think the relationship between SpaceX and the Air Force was damaged by the decision to sue over ULA's block buy of launches?

A. There's no question that a lawsuit is a tough way to initiate a relationship, right? It hinders relationship-building [because] by definition they can't talk to us, we can't talk to them without lawyers in the room. So it was a difficult time while we were litigating. But frankly I think both sides learned a lot from that process — about what was important to us, we learned what was important to the Air Force — so in a really kind of unfortunate way, it forced a common understanding. I think in the end it was very helpful. Click here. (5/18)

A Space Habitat Created in North Las Vegas (Source: Las Vegas Sun)
Houston may be home to the U.S. space program, but out-of-this-world innovations also are being created right here in Southern Nevada. NASA officials recently visited Bigelow Aerospace’s sprawling 50-acre campus in North Las Vegas to view the completed Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a $17.8 million space habitat billionaire Robert Bigelow and his team invented for the federal government. Click here. (5/18)

E-mail Triggers Row Over Hawaii Telescope (Source: Physics World)
The delay in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, is continuing to cause turmoil within the astronomy community. First, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Regents announced in April that it had withdrawn its support for the telescope. Then, last month, an e-mail forwarded to some 200 astronomy faculty, researchers and students sparked outrage when it claimed that the telescope was being "attacked by a horde of native Hawaiians".

On 6 May, Megan Urry, president of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), released a statement in which she underlined the diversity in the astronomical community. "I tell all of you, very clearly," she wrote, "that racism is unacceptable, that referring to groups as monolithic is not acceptable, and that the AAS is firmly committed to an inclusive, welcoming, professional environment." (5/18)

Boulders Balance on Tiny Tips as Comet 67P Zooms Through Space (Source: Science News)
Balanced Rock in Arches National Park in Utah has cousins on comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three boulders — the largest of which is roughly 30 meters across — are barely in contact with the comet’s surface, researchers report May 18 on the Rosetta blog. The resolute rocks showed up in images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft, which has been orbiting comet 67P since August.

Balancing boulders on Earth are either deposited by glaciers or carved by wind and water erosion — none of which exist on a comet. Researchers speculate that the comet’s boulders might have been relocated by surface material slipping and sliding after being heated by the sun. (5/18)

Bolden Criticizes Aspects Of House NASA Funding Bill (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said May 18 that while he was happy with the overall funding the House is offering the agency in a draft appropriations bill, some elements of it are giving him a case of heartburn. “I’m happy because the top line that we saw with the House appropriations bill is $18.5 billion,” Bolden said. “What causes us some consternation is when you get down inside the budget. That’s where we have a lot of work to do.”

That bill provides $18.529 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, the same amount requested by the Obama Administration in its budget proposal released in February. However, appropriators shifted funding among NASA’s various programs, adding money to the Space Launch System and planetary science and cutting space technology and commercial crew. (5/18)

Hang Gliders on Mars (Source: Space.com)
An innovative concept for tiny probes attached to gliders could one day allow small robots to explore intricate locales on Mars that probes never could reach before, scientists say. The project, called MARSDROP, would send two landers to the Red Planet as hitchhikers aboard a larger spacecraft. The landers would then detach and use a steerable parawing to glide the miniature probes (called "microprobes") down to the surface of Mars. (5/18)

Asteroid Impacts Once Made the Earth's Oceans Boil for A Whole Year (Source: Smithsonian)
Earth’s first 600 million years are called the Hadean eon, a name that offers a big clue as to why the planet’s baby years were not cute. Early Earth was violent, hence the nod to Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. The planet’s surface was still roiling with volcanism and asteroids repeatedly slammed its face. It wasn’t a great place for life, especially when several giant impacts apparently boiled the Earth’s oceans for more than a year. (5/18)

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