July 7, 2015

Japan Shows Off its Space Ambitions with Upcoming HTV Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It has been a busy week for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA ) as the country once again demonstrated its growing space prowess. The agency presented its core advancements in fields of cargo transportation and rocketry, and also showed off its persisting lunar aspirations via a rocket and its payload of the next HTV cargo craft bound for the International Space Station. (7/7)

Editorial: We Should Invest in Space Program (Source: Ocala Star Banner)
Someday, according to NASA’s plans, a human will step foot on Mars and plant a flag. There was a time, not so long ago, when it seemed obvious that the flag would be Old Glory. However, America’s space program is in distress and her leaders do not seem all that concerned about the next stage of human advancement. Click here. (7/7)

SpaceX’s Falters, But We Progress (Source: Decatur Daily)
In 2010, President Barack Obama shelved a planned 2020 U.S. moon mission and scaled back NASA funding. He outsourced some of the space business to private firms such as SpaceX because they promised to be more nimble, innovative and cost-effective than the ponderous NASA bureaucracy. That is proving to be true: There’s brisk demand for these services. “We’re at the crawl stage right now, but we’ll be walking and running, and running might be the right word 10 years from now,” said Eric Stallmer, of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

SpaceX’s Musk is well known for his space enthusiasm, envisioning a Mars shot one day and a human colony there with ... a space Internet connection. The explosion of the Falcon temporarily grounds that lofty dream while SpaceX engineers investigate. They’ve learned what NASA engineers know: Completely safe space flight is not within human grasp, nor will it ever be. That’s the terror — and splendor — of space travel. (7/7)

Newest Photos of Pluto Reveal a Peachy Dwarf Planet (Source: Washington Post)
NASA's New Horizons missed out on some new pictures of Pluto when it took the long weekend off but luckily the shots it took just before its unplanned downtime are gorgeous. Really: It was just weeks ago that Pluto was only a blobby point of light. Now it's a (colorful!) dwarf planet, albeit one that's still a little fuzzy. Scientists are particularly interested in the dark spots near Pluto's equator. But for now, no one is quite sure what they are.

The best of the new images comes from nearly 8 million miles away from Pluto. When it passes by the dwarf planet  July 14, New Horizons's closest approach will put it just 7,800 miles away from the surface. (7/7)

Is the U.S. Space Program Too Risky a Business? (Source: LA Daily News)
The saddest thing about the loss of the SpaceX vehicle late last month at Cape Canaveral was surely not the delay in getting the water-filter replacements or new food up to the astronauts on the International Space Station. NASA insists there are still plenty of supplies up on the orbiting barge.

No, the saddest thing seems to be seeing student experiments, including one from Damien High School in La Verne, blown to smithereens after all their hard work. The experiment created by five students was meant to study the effects of long periods of low gravity on tiny, hardy little animals known as tardigrades. Now, they say they will try, try again.

But what in a larger sense does this failure, the third unmanned mission to the station to blow up in the past several months, say about Americans’ confidence in the ongoing safety of trying to leave these earthly bounds? Yes, it always was a risky business. But wouldn’t someone imagining the future from the vantage point of the Sputnik launch in 1957 or John Glenn orbiting the Earth in 1963 have thought that we would have had it down pat by now? Click here. (7/7)

How Can USA Can Be Seen as Leader in Space Exploration? (Source: Athens News)
The 1970 NASA was an agency that would fix it or die trying. The 2003 NASA was an agency that didn’t want to know and didn’t want its astronauts to know, either. That’s quite a difference. Wednesday night, Administrator Bolden was asked how long the U.S. would remain the leader in space exploration. “Forever,” he replied. “Okay, that’s an arrogant answer.

Bolden spoke well and passionately, but I don’t think he spoke of a NASA that currently exists. When he talked of American space leadership, he spoke of something that was once true but that in a day in which we have to pay Russia to launch our astronauts to our own space station, isn’t true any more. We have already gotten lazy, to use his words. We are already doing something else.

If the administrator’s inspiring words are to translate into action, his job is to purge the space agency of the kind of bureaucratic career-enhancing behavior that typified the NASA of STS-107 and replace it with the attitude of doing the impossible that characterized the space engineers of Apollo 13. (7/7)

Space Tech Makes Everything Better, Even Wind Farms (Source: WIRED)
The history of innovation is full of happy accidents. The World Wide Web? Came from particle physicists at CERN who wanted easier internal communication. Wi-Fi? Invented by radio astronomers in Australia trying to detect pulses of radio waves from exploding black holes. And it took a failed space mission to fix the one of the biggest problems in green energy: The awful grinding noise of a wind farm at work.

More inventions than you’d expect come not from focused, dedicated research, but the serendipitous application of tech developed for some other purpose—often a space-going one. Like the planet-finding technology from the European Space Agency’s Darwin mission, which recently ended up in a bunch of noisy German wind turbines. Click here. (6/26)

Canada's Arctic as a Moon and Mars Analog for Astronauts (Source: SpaceRef)
We've all seen pictures of the moon and Mars. But did you know that Canada's Arctic contains regions that look almost identical to the surface of the moon and Mars? Of particular interest to scientists and astronauts are the Haughton Crater on Devon Island in Nunavut and Tunnunik Crater on Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories.

It is the latter, the Tunnunik impact crater, that Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be spending a good part of his summer training. He is joining a team of researchers from Western University's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration led by veteran Arctic explorer and planetary geologist, Gordon Osinski.

The research team of 15 including Hansen will spend a month at Tunnunik Crater performing a variety of research. The research is funded in part by the Canadian Space Agency's Science and Operational Applications Research (SOAR) program. Western received $200,000 from this program and is using RADARSAT-2 satellite data. (7/6)

Space Foundation Report Reveals Global Space Economy Climb to $330 Billion (Source: SpaceRef)
In 2014, the global space economy grew slightly more than 9 percent, reaching a total of $330 billion worldwide, up from 2013’s $302.5 billion. Together, commercial space activities made up 76 percent of the global space economy. The industry as a whole demonstrated a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of seven percent from 2005 to 2014, nearly doubling in size over the course of the decade.

U.S. government space spending went up slightly, 2.9 percent, from 2013 to 2014. The U.S. devoted 1.2 percent of the government’s national budget to space in 2014. During that year, U.S. government space spending made up more than half of what all governments around the world spent on space. Space expenditures by governments other than the U.S. grew 12.9 percent in 2014, in spite of decreases in budgets of international cooperative efforts such as the European Space Agency. Click here. (7/7)

Small Bodies Dominate NASA’s Latest Discovery Competition (Source: Space News)
Over half of the 28 proposals NASA received for a $450 million robotic solar-system mission launching in 2021 seek to explore small bodies such as comets, asteroids or tiny moons. Discovery missions are proposed and led by a single principal investigator. Mission costs excluding launch are capped at $450 million, with NASA bearing all expenses. Click here. (7/7)

GAMBIT in the House (Source: Space Review)
At long last, a 1960s-era GAMBIT reconnaissance satellite is on display at the National Air and Space Museum. Dwayne Day recaps the history of the program and describes the efforts it took to get the spacecraft displayed at the famous museum. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2784/1 to view the article. (7/6)

Thirty Meter Troubles (Source: Space Review)
Construction of a telescope on a Hawaiian mountain has stopped because of protests from those who believe it would desecrate what some native Hawaiians consider a sacred place. Jeff Foust reports on the controversy and what some astronomers are doing to try and find a resolution acceptable to all. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2783/1 to view the article. (7/6)

Is India Turning a Blind Eye to Space Commerce? (Source: Space Review)
This month, India will carry out its biggest commercial launch to date, of five satellites weighing nearly 1,500 kilograms. Narayan Prasad argues that, despite this milestone, India needs to do more to promote commercial space ventures in the country. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2782/1 to view the article. (7/6)

Magic Carbon Layer is Not a Sign of Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Ars Technica)
Sometimes, scientists announce things that are breathtakingly stupid. The Guardian, which generally has pretty good science coverage, has an article up reporting that some top scientists believe that the comet 67P may harbour lots and lots of life. The purported evidence for life is the presence of complex hydrocarbons on the comet's crust. Of course, this article is just based on a press release, and the data won't be available until it's presented later today at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.

But The Guardian could at least have done some background reading on the person behind the claim, Chandra Wickramasinghe. It would have found that he has a long history of making claims about extraterrestrial life (and that he testified in favour of teaching creationism in US classrooms). Or, the reporter could have talked to someone who knows a little bit about surface chemistry—like me.

I am here to make a prediction: this claim will vanish, never to be heard from again. If scepticism were radioactive, a crowd of lead-suited firefighters would be sacrificing their lives to bury me in concrete as I typed this. At this point, you should be thinking, who the hell is this guy to say that an astronomer is wrong about something astronomical? Surely, Chris-the-physicist is out of his depth here? (7/6)

Falcon Failure Findings Coming This Week (Source: I4U News)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk just announced on Twitter that there will be a statement by end of the week with the preliminary conclusions regarding the failed ISS supply mission end of June. Elon Musk promises an answer about the Falcon 9 explosion by end of this week on Twitter. He said: "Expect to reach preliminary conclusions regarding last flight by end of week. Will brief key customers & FAA, then post on our website." (7/6)

Raytheon Wins $240M Continuation Contract for Earth Science Data System (Source: Raytheon)
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has awarded the Raytheon Company (RTN) a five year contract valued at up to $240 million to continue its support of the Earth Observing Systems Data and Information System (EOSDIS). This system ingests, archives and makes earth science data available to the scientific community worldwide.

The latest EOSDIS Evolution and Development (EED-2) contract is the third competitively awarded contract Raytheon has received to maintain, operate and develop improvements for data access and system performance. The initial contract award was in 1992. (7/6)

NEEMO 20 to Build Knowledge for Delayed Deep Space Communications (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
An international effort to work on the challenges associated with deep space communications is continuing on the ground, in space and underwater – with the upcoming NEEMO 20 mission set to simulate the time-delays associated with sending and receiving commands between controllers on Earth and astronauts on Mars.

The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) objectives are a highly advanced – and a more involved – version of the underwater training environment provided by the likes of the giant Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). (7/6)

Company Aims to Offer On-Demand Meteor Showers (Source: Space.com)
Skywatchers hoping to see a shooting star may soon be able to order them on demand. A group of Japanese scientists say they have a shooting-star secret formula — an undisclosed chemical mixture packed into tiny, inch-wide balls that the team hopes to eject from a satellite to create on-demand meteor showers.

A Japanese start-up company called ALE is partnering with researchers at multiple universities to create the artificial meteor showers, which will cost around $8,100 per meteor for buyers. The researchers said the manufactured meteors would be bright enough to be visible even in areas with light pollution, like Tokyo, assuming clear weather. (7/6)

NASA Selects Leading-Edge Technology Concepts for Continued Study (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected seven technology proposals for continued study under Phase II of the agency's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The selections are based on the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities or significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

The selected proposals address a range of visionary concepts, including metallic lithium combustion for long-term robotics operations, submarines that explore the oceans of icy moons of the outer planets, and a swarm of tiny satellites that map gravity fields and characterize the properties of small moons and asteroids. Click here. (7/6)

China May Buy Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Tass)
China may buy rocket engines for it space program from Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "We are talking about urgently preparing the most complex intergovernmental agreements that will outline the issue of maintaining Russia’s intellectual property on most high-technology production which will be sold in China. These are, first of all, rocket engines. China displays great interest in this issue," Rogozin said. (7/6)

How Virtual Reality is Hitting the 'Space Workplace' (Source: Discovery)
Virtual reality tech suffered a blow last month when an experimental Microsoft headset going up to the International Space Station got caught in an explosion. But as the accident investigation continues, virtual digital technologies are gradually taking a hold in space exploration.

Headlining these efforts was supposed to be the HoloLens, a headset made by Microsoft that in part would allow ground controllers to look over the shoulders of astronauts. However, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying up a Dragon spacecraft exploded June 29; the cause is still being investigated. While there’s no date yet on when astronauts will use it in space, it will be used underwater very shortly. Click here. (7/6)

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