August 17, 2015

Video Game Jams Showcase Tech Skills to Companies Who Need Them (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Video game jams have grown in popularity around Central Florida and across the globe. The competitions typically span a weekend and award prizes to the better games, or those that meet specific criteria. In Orlando, a game that put players into a soccer-like match in space won the top prize of $5,000 from Space Florida.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances, said a bigger relationship between space and video game professionals will help the region. “The opportunity to integrate the development community with the space community made a great deal of sense,” he said. “We are trying to create an environment (in Central Florida) where the space industry wants to come here.”

Central Florida is home to a vibrant video game development community, anchored by Electronic Arts Tiburon, which employs about 800 people in its Maitland studio. The studio has made some of the biggest sports titles. In addition, several independent studios have helped make Florida one of the largest video game development communities in the country. (8/17)

Red Planet Rumble (Source: Space Review)
During the annual Mars Society conference last week, the CEO of Mars One and a member of his technical team debated two critics of the one-way venture from MIT. Dwayne Day recaps the event, which exposed a lack of detail in Mars One's technical plans. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

The Unnatural Selection of Planetary Missions (Source: Space Review)
The process of sorting through dozens of proposals for NASA missions is a thankless job for an anonymous group of reviewers. Ralph Lorenz explains the challenges involved with developing and reviewing mission proposals. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

A Funding Breakthrough for SETI (Source: Space Review)
Efforts in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence got a boost last month when a Russian billionaire pledged $100 million over ten years for SETI projects. Jeff Foust reports what that $100 million means for SETI projects and who might be left out, at least for now. Visit  to view the article. (8/17)

Harnessing "The Martian" (Source: Space Review)
In October, the film version of the bestselling book "The Martian" hits theaters. Rick Zucker and Chris Carberry discuss how space advocates can use the release of the film about a fictional human Mars mission to build support for the real thing. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

Apollo 13 Splashes Down in Oshkosh (Source: Space Review)
Forty-five years after their dramatic mission, the two surviving members of the Apollo 13 crew joined two others involved with the mission at the EAA AirVenture show last month. Eric Hedman describes their presentation on the mission, and what the famous movie got wrong. Visit to view the article. (8/17)

New Road Map For DLR’s Suborbital SpaceLiner (Source: Aviation Week)
A decade after DLR first unveiled the suborbital SpaceLiner concept, the German aerospace research agency is mapping out an ambitious development road map to help define mission goals and stimulate potential industry and government funding for a flying prototype. Conceived as a winged, hypersonic airliner capable of carrying 50 passengers from Europe to Australia in 90 min., the rocket-powered system incorporates a flyback booster and other dual-use technologies. (8/17)

Baby Jupiter Discovery a Step Toward Rewriting Planet Formation Models (Source:
Over the last two decades, the discovery of thousands of exoplanets outside our solar system has shaken up old theories about how planets form;the recent discovery of an "infant Jupiter," rich in methane, may be one step toward writing a new one.

A very young gas giant planet called 51 Eridani b, located 96 light-years from Earth, has a methane-rich atmosphere, just like Jupiter. This is a first, according to a statement from Stanford University: the handful of gas giant atmospheres that scientists have been able to study contain only trace amounts of methane, despite what scientists anticipate for those types of planets. (8/16)

Philae Silver Lining: Robot Lab Shielded From Sun (Source: Space Daily)
When a comet whizzes past the Sun on Thursday it won't mean certain high-temperature death for a European robot lab riding on the chunk of ice and dust. Instead, the rough, off-target landing by the Philae lander -- deposited on the comet's surface last November by the Rosetta spacecraft -- has turned out to have a silver lining.

"It had some disadvantages. We had to reschedule everything, which had to happen really fast in the first days after landing," said Manuela Braun. "But you also have the advantage that it (Philae) has really survived much longer. On its original site it would have been too hot by March or April." In other words, if the lander had hit the mark on the comet last year it would have been cooked into inaction by now. But because it bounced and tumbled to a halt on a shadier stretch of the alien surface, it might be able to witness the dramatic show on the comet as it warms. (8/12)

Mars One Is Still Completely Full Of Crap (Source: Gizmodo)
After watching a two hour debate on the feasibility of the Mars One mission last night, I think I finally understand its problem. It’s not that the company is broke. It’s that we don’t yet have the technology to sustain human life on Mars, and Mars One still won’t admit it. A public debate at the annual Mars Society Convention pitted Mars One cofounder Bas Lansdorp against MIT PhD candidates and vociferous Mars One critics Sydney Do and Andrew Owens.

The topic of the debate was simple: “Is Mars One Feasible?” That is, can we start sending pairs of human colonists on a one-way journey to Mars every 26 months, beginning in the 2020s, and expect them to survive? Do and Owens say that we can’t, because the technologies needed to support a colony on Mars aren’t yet mature. To make that point, the two presented a condensed version of a detailed feasibility analysis they published last fall. That analysis basically shows that the Mars One mission (as it’s been sold to the public) will fail because the astronauts will starve, their habitats will catch on fire, they will run out of spare parts, or some combination of the above.

Lansdorp disagrees. Throughout the debate, he insisted that all the technology we need to settle Mars “already exists.” But he refused to offer any specifics, instead repeatedly falling back on metaphorical comparisons between his harebrained dream and the Apollo 11 mission. (8/17)

Retired Shuttle Donating Water Tanks for Space Station (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's space shuttle Endeavour, retired and on exhibit in Los Angeles for the past three years, has been called back into service — or rather, parts of it have — for the benefit of the International Space Station.

A NASA team working this week at the California Science Center will remove four tanks from deep inside the winged orbiter to comprise a water storage system for the space station. The reactivated artifacts are intended to help free more crew time for science operations onboard the orbiting outpost by reducing the astronauts' involvement in refilling their water reserves. (8/17)

Google Skirted Drone Test Rules by Using a Deal with NASA (Source: Engadget)
Getting an FAA exemption to operate commercial drones in American airspace is almost more trouble than it's worth, what with the litany of requirements and restrictions. That's why Google, according to a Guardian report, has been sidestepping those FAA rules and testing its Project Wing UAV over private US land for more than a year.

Google apparently leveraged NASA's Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which allows government agencies to operate UAVs but prohibits commercial use, as part of a joint project the two organizations are working on. What's more, COAs specify that any public agency operating a drone must either own it or be its exclusive operator. That would mean that the Mountain View company either "sold" NASA a Wing prototype or is relying exclusively on NASA pilots to fly the drones. (8/13)

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