September 30, 2015

The Real Martians - Who Should We Send to Mars? (Source: LinkedIn Pulse)
A hot topic these days for our team performance group is what individuals should comprise the 4-6 member crew that NASA plans to send to Mars? The Mars trip is a scary prospect for most of us. The crew will be in living quarters smaller than some RV's, together for 2-3 years, without instantaneous communication or the possibility of human support from anyone other than the crewmates themselves.
This will have to be a special group of people, chosen for their unique knowledge, skills and abilities.

However, one of the most perplexing problems in selection really centers not on knowledge and skill sets (which indeed are crucial), but on the internal characteristics, the personality that crew members should have that allow them to survive and function in this extreme versions of the "Big Brother" house. Click here. (9/30)

ULA Wins $882 Million Air Force Contract (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance has won an $882 million contract to continue launching satellites for the U.S. Air Force with its Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. The contract covers launch capability, mission integration, base and range support, maintenance, depreciation on equipment, mission assurance, program management, systems engineering, and launch site and range operations during fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1. Air Force and company officials had no immediate comment on how many rocket launches would be included in the contract. (9/30)

China Should Dream Big in Outer Space (Source: Global Times)
The US has sent more than 20 spacecraft to the Mars since 1964, among which several probes have landed on the surface of the red planet. The Curiosity is still roving Mars and sending back information. NASA is leaving the other space competitors far behind. NASA's far sight and one discovery after another have met our curiosity and gained respect from the world, including the Chinese people. At the same time, its discoveries gives us a sense of urgency.

China was the third country to send an astronaut into space. It sent the Jade Rabbit probe to the surface of the moon. However, while the US has been getting close-up inspections of almost all planets in the solar system, China's Mars probe, Yinghuo 1, lost contact before leaving the Earth orbit. China has no deep space telescope, and no spacecraft flying out of the solar system - the gap with the US in space technology is deep.

The disturbing thing is that the Chinese public does not have a strong will to catch up with the US in space exploration. Perhaps it is time China sets up a special organization for space exploration. Its tasks should not be limited to Earth-related things like launching satellites. It needs to eye the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. It should work on things that satisfy people's curiosity and widen humanities' horizons. (9/30)

NASA Mulls Participation in China-Europe Small Space Mission (Source: Space News)
With a little help from the European Space Agency, NASA could soon find itself cooperating in a roundabout way with China on a small solar science mission, the director of the U.S. space agency’s Heliophysics Division said here Sept. 29.

NASA is mulling participation in the Sino-European heliophysics mission known as the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE). The spacecraft would carry four instruments and study the interaction of solar winds — charged particles emanating from the sun — with Earth’s magnetosphere.

The mission would launch in 2021, assuming ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences approve it later this year. A final decision is expected as soon as November, Steven Clark, the new director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, said here at NASA Headquarters in a presentation to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) heliophysics subcommittee. (9/30)

Why We Should Land on Mars' Moon Before We Land on Mars (Source: Popular Mechanics)
NASA wants to land a human crew on Mars in the 2030s. But to succeed with such an ambitious, expensive, long-timescale project, the agency needs a roadmap that inspires confidence that it really can send people to the Red Planet. Firouz Naderi, director of Solar System Exploration at NASA-JPL, has a budget-conscious idea: Let's land on Phobos first.

Of the two moons of Mars, Phobos is the larger one. Its proximity to Mars allows for a place to remotely control robotic rovers and landers in near real-time, without the minutes-long time delay inherent in sending instructions from Earth. In this way, a Phobos mission could test technologies for a big manned landing on the planet. It also provides a way to put boots on solid ground without extraordinary fuel requirements to return.

A Phobos landing won't be like a moon landing. At it's widest, Phobos is just 14 miles across. The Mars moon is mostly an oblong rock with a chunk taken out of it called the Stickney Crater. That site might prove an ideal location for landing. A swift rotation means that Phobos orbits the planet every four hours. At just more than 3,200 miles above the surface of Mars, it also provides a great perch to study the surface of Mars from orbit and control robotic spacecraft below. (9/30)

Company Buys Falcon-9 Launch for Ridesharing Small Satellites (Source: GeekWire)
In the first deal of its kind, Seattle-based Spaceflight says it’s buying a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will be set aside exclusively for launching other people’s small satellites into orbit.

The first dedicated rideshare launch is due to go into sun-synchronous low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California during the latter half of 2017, said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. Sun-synchronous orbits are particularly popular for Earth imaging satellites, and Spaceflight anticipates buying a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 every year to service the market. (9/30)

Who'll Be the First to Set Foot on Mars? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Will NASA's Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft carry American astronauts to Mars? Or will China, Russia, or SpaceX beat them to the Red Planet. We handicap the new space race. A relatively unbiased analysis of the groups attempting to reach Mars puts real Vegas odds on their success. Click here. (9/30)

NASA Has Cut Off the Group That Wants to Save Us From Killer Asteroids (Source: Motherboard)
A nonprofit organization that many have looked at as our best chance to detect potentially Earth-destroying asteroids has just been dropped by NASA, apparently because it missed a series of deadlines the agency set up for it.

The B612 Foundation’s mission is to launch Sentinel, an infrared space telescope that would trail Venus and point at Earth in order to detect potentially dangerous asteroids and meteors. Unlike many startup space projects (most of which are little more than pipe dreams), Sentinel is largely made up of former astronauts and space industry veterans, so many thought it would actually happen. (9/30)

Opinion: Investors Shouldn’t Follow Bezos, Musk, or Branson into Space (Source: Market Watch)
In deference to “Star Trek,” perhaps we should call it the final frontier market. With markets crashing down here on earth, a class of billionaires is launching itself into orbit. From Jeff Bezos to Paul Allen to Elon Musk to Richard Branson, there is a sudden rush of interest in private investment in exploring the rest of the solar system — and eventually tuning those ventures into hard business propositions.

Right now, it looks as if no one will be able to hear you above the jabber of billionaires going on about how this is the next great investment opportunity. They may have a point. Between them, the tycoons playing with their rocket launchers have a combined worth of $80 billion, which suggests that they know more than most of us about how to create a new business and make it worth something. The trouble is, no one has yet to demonstrate how it is possible to turn a profit out of any of these ventures. (9/30)

NASA's 3D Printing Is Fast-Tracking The Manned Mars Mission (Source: Forbes)
NASA is closing in on manufacturing a phenomenal, 3D-printed rocket launch engine, and the lead engineer says it is bringing ever closer the manned journey to Mars. Elizabeth Robertson, propulsion engineer the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, tells me that the megathrust engine, and similar 3D printed metal projects, can now be completed significantly more cheaply and quickly.

This is essential as NASA accelerates its production for a manned Mars mission by the 2030s. “The ultimate goal is to assemble and test a liquid engine, capable of producing 30,000 pounds of thrust by using components made largely with additive manufacturing [3D printing],” she says. NASA has just hit a 3D printing breakthrough, with Robertson and her team successfully testing an additively manufactured turbo pump – one of the most complex parts of the launch engine. Data from the tests will inform 3D printing of other metallic parts that will form the engine. (9/30)

Space Debris: A Law and Economics Analysis of the Orbital Commons (Source: Mercatus Center)
Past studies of space debris have too quickly assumed that the space debris problem resembles the tragedy of the commons and concluded that public sector action is therefore justifiable. While a public policy response is reasonable, including a role for the public sector better specify the “rules of the game,” previous academic analyses have been too hasty and casual in arriving at their conclusions. In order to find a solution, policymakers must pay attention to the economics and institutional factors involved in the space debris problem. Click here. (9/23)

Scary Stories from the Rocket Range and Beyond! Dinner Event (Source: MSRP)
The Missile, Space and Range Pioneers (MSRP) present Scary Stories from the Rocket Ranch and Beyond, the theme of the Fall Banquet that will feature presentations by four Space Pioneers telling of their personal Scary Stories from the Rocket Ranch and beyond.

The Fall Banquet is set for Friday Oct. 30 at the Courtyard by Marriott, located off A1A in Cocoa Beach. The event is open to the public. The Banquet will include a sit down dinner and cash bar. There is a social event prior to dinner from 5:30 PM with time mingle and meet the Space Pioneers. Dinner is served at 7 pm. Click here for information and reservations. (9/30)

Ariane 5 Rocket Sends Two Communications Satellites Into Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched on Wednesday, Sept. 30, a pair of communications satellites for Argentina and Australia. The lift-off took place at 4:30 p.m. EDT (20:30 GMT) from the Ariane Launch Area 3 at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission, conducted by the commercial launch services provider Arianespace, was designated Flight VA226. (9/30)

Compromise Bill Still Leaves ULA Short on RD-180 Allowance (Source: Breaking Defense)
A defense authorization bill will give ULA access to only nine RD-180 engines for future national security launches. The compromise version of the fiscal year 2016 national defense authorization act, announced by the House and Senate Tuesday, follows language in the Senate version that adds four engines to the five previously approved.

The House version allowed ULA to use a total of 14 engines for Atlas 5 launches of national security missions, the minimum the company said it needed. The bill also authorizes $184 million for engine development work, with the requirement that it not be used to develop new launch systems. (9/30)

China Launches Another Beidou Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a Beidou navigation satellite Tuesday. The Long March 3B rocket carrying the Beidou spacecraft lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:13 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, and Chinese media declared the launch a success. The launch was the 20th to date for the Beidou system, which ultimately will provide global satellite navigation services similar to the American GPS network. (9/30)

Boeing Wins Judgment In $355M Suit Over Sea Launch (Source: Law360)
A California federal judge on Monday awarded Boeing summary judgment on its claims that its Russian and Ukrainian partners in Sea Launch skipped out on $355 million owed to the aerospace giant after Sea Launch went bankrupt, ruling the venture's founding agreement requires the partners to pay. (9/30)

NASA’s Surprise ‘Martian’ Vindication of Dan Quayle (Source: New York Post)
Dan Quayle was right! George H.W. Bush’s vice president won wide ridicule back in 1989 when he told a TV interviewer there was water on Mars. “We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water,” Quayle said. “If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.”

OK, so Mars doesn’t have canals — that was a 19th-century mistake cleared up as astronomy improved, though it did inspire some fine science fiction by the likes of Jules Verne. Indeed, Quayle’s spokesman had to quickly explain that the VP “obviously knows there’s no water flowing in the canals right now.” (9/30)

Mars Attracts: the Cosy Relationship Between NASA and Hollywood (Source: Guardian)
Stanley Kubrick recruited NASA designers to hone 2001’s look, just as cosmologist Carl Sagan was a consultant on Contact, and Interstellar hired astrophysicist Kip Thorne to help model its black hole – more accurately than even NASA had done. Cue tie-in coverage in Scientific American and Wired, and a respectability that translates into awards, box office and viral videos from astronauts, judging by the likes of Gravity.

The Martian goes further than any of them. Weir’s book was already an agency favourite, thanks to its exhaustive research and technical detail. So when Ridley Scott called NASA last year, asking for help, they were delighted to oblige. “When we read a sci-fi book, we paint that visual ourselves; Ridley’s gotta paint that picture for everybody,” says Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science (his equivalent in The Martian is the Chiwetel Ejiofor character, he says proudly). (9/30)

Setback for ISRO, Antrix to pay $672 Million Damages to Devas (Source: IBN)
In a jolt to ISRO's commercial arm, Antrix, an international tribunal has asked it to pay damages worth $672 million (Rs 4,432 crore) to Devas Multimedia for "unlawfully" terminating a deal four years ago on grounds of national security. (9/30)

Tyson and Branson Want to Send Politicians to Space — Here’s Why (Source: Tech Insider)
Richard Branson and Neil deGrasse Tyson think we should launch politicians into space. Not permanently, but for just enough time that they can "see Earth in a way where there are no national boundaries," Tyson said. The "overview effect" and it's the experience of seeing Earth from above leaves astronauts feeling awestruck and gives them a newfound appreciation for the world as a fragile planet that we share. (9/30)

Stay the Course to Mars (Source: Space News)
All of us can be guilty of feeling nostalgic for the “good old days.” Space advocates are no exception. Many hark back to the glory days of the U.S. space program during the 1960s. After years of eagerly awaiting a magical “Kennedy moment,” space advocates are finally coming to the realization that John F. Kennedy is not likely to be reincarnated in any future president.

That said, presidential leadership is needed, even if that leadership is primarily just to challenge NASA, industry/commercial and other players to articulate clearly how we can achieve our goal of landing crews on Mars starting in the 2030s — and to provide leadership and support when needed.

What should be made clear, however, is that the next president will not need to reinvent our national space policy. The overall policy direction is fine, but despite a lot of progress with architectural elements and growing support from a number of stakeholders and policymakers, a clear pathway (including necessary precursors) has yet to be fully articulated. (9/30)

Garver on Space: The ‘Endless’ Frontier for Commercial Ventures (Source: Geek Wire)
Former NASA official Lori Garver’s resume is filled with highlights from politics and government service – going back to John Glenn’s presidential campaign – but when it comes to America’s space program, her heart’s with commercial ventures. “The opportunities in commercial space are endless,” she told GeekWire. “Government opportunities are not endless.” Click here. (9/30)

Virgin Galactic Testing Engine for LauncherOne Air-Launch Rocket (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic said Monday it is making progress on the rocket engines it will use on its smallsat launcher. The company said it recently carried out a 20-second static fire test of NewtonThree, the engine that will go on the first stage of LauncherOne, and tested a key component for the NewtonFour engine for the rocket's upper stage. The engines will help enhance the payload capacity of LauncherOne, which the company said earlier this month would double to about 200 kilograms for missions to sun-synchronous orbit. (9/29)

Space Fence Passes Design Test (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The Space Fence System has passed its critical design review. Lockheed Martin said Monday that the company completed the three-day review recently with the Air Force, allowing construction of the system to begin. The S-band radar, to be built on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, will track objects in orbit, and is scheduled to enter service in late 2018. (9/29)
NASA Ends Agreement with B612 Foundation (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA has terminated a Space Act agreement with the B612 Foundation regarding near Earth object searches. Under the 2012 agreement, NASA was to provide technical support and tracking facilities for B612's planned Sentinel space telescope, which the organization is raising funds privately to develop. NASA officials said that B612 failed to meet milestones in that agreement regarding its development, and the agency concluded it could no longer reserve funds to support it. B612 said it is continuing to raise funding for Sentinel and would consider approaching NASA again for support when the project is closer to launch. (9/29)

GE is Latest Victim of Ex-Im Loss; 350 US Jobs Move to Canada (Source: Wall Street Journal)
General Electric has announced the shuttering of an engine plant in Wisconsin and a plan to shift 350 jobs to Canada, citing the availability of export financing that is no longer accessible in the US. The announcement is the latest fallout from congressional failure to renew the Export-Import Bank's charter. (9/28)

Congressman Calls on Lawmakers to Include Ex-Im in Funding Measure (Source: The Hill)
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., is calling for the reauthorization of the US Export-Import Bank to be included in a continuing resolution to fund the federal government. "The merits of the bank are clear. The support for the bank is clear. And it is clear that every day we wait to reauthorize the bank is another day we are forcing American businesses to compete with one hand tied behind their backs," he writes. (9/28)

U.S. and China Talk Civil Space Cooperation (Source: US State Dept.)
U.S. and Chinese officials met Monday in the first civil space policy dialogue between the two nations. At the meeting, held in Beijing, officials from the U.S. State Department and China National Space Administration exchanged information and discussed potential areas of cooperation, but made no agreements regarding any joint efforts.

The two countries agreed to meet again in Washington next year. Any cooperation between the two countries is hampered by law that prohibits NASA from engaging in bilateral cooperation with China without congressional consent. (9/28)

India Could Hand Rocket Production Over to Industry (Source: PTI)
India is considering turning over production of its PSLV rocket to industry. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said Monday that he would like to see Indian industry take over manufacturing of the PSLV launch vehicle in three to four years, a task today handled within the space agency. Kumar spoke after a PSLV launched an Indian astronomy satellite and several small satellites. (9/28)

Planet Labs Offers Free Imagery to Support Sustainable Development (Source: Planet Labs)
Planet Labs will donate satellite imagery to support global sustainable development. The company, one of just two to participate in the recent United Nations' Sustainable Development Summit in New York, said it will provide imagery valued at $60 million of selected regions of the Earth. That imagery, the company said, can be used in support of 15 out of 17 sustainable development goals established by the U.N. (9/28)

Why We Can't Look for Life in the Waters of Mars (Source: Popular Science)
Searching for life on Mars won’t be simple, as Scientific American’s Lee Billings notes. The Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. is party to, outlaws the “harmful contamination” of other worlds with Earth biology. Earth spacecraft have to go through rigorous cleaning to remove their microbes before they head into space.

The microbes are subjected to drying, chemical cleaning, ultraviolet radiation, and starvation. But the bugs are stubborn, and a few of them can outlive NASA’s efforts to get rid of them. For example, the Curiosity rover launched with 65 bacteria species onboard—whoops! Because of these tiny hitchhikers, the international organization COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) has designated “Special Regions” on Mars where conditions are potentially ripe for Martian biology to flourish.

Spacecraft are supposed to avoid these areas unless their equipment is super-sanitized. Otherwise they risk infecting Mars with Earth’s microbes, and confusing the life-detection equipment. Unfortunately, the Mars 2020 rover, which is the next spacecraft that could potentially search for life in Mars’ soggier habitats, is not allowed to go near them. Such watery areas could be prime real estate for microbes, and the rover’s radio-thermal generator could provide enough heat for it to be loaded with earth germs. (9/28)

Tampa Man Who is Finalist for Mars Trip Excited to Hear of Water Discovery (Source: WFTS)
The discovery of flowing water on the red planet has a local man even more excited about his future travel plans. Hampton Black of Tampa is one of 100 finalists for the privately-funded Mars One project -- a one way ticket to the planet to form a colony millions of miles away. If chosen, and if the project reaches its goals in the next 10 years, Black will say goodbye forever to everyone and everything here on earth. Click here. (9/28)

Congress Approves Short-Term Extension of Commercial Spaceflight Regulatory Moratorium (Source: Space News)
A bill passed by Congress Sept. 29 will extend by six months the current restriction on the FAA’s ability to regulate the safety of people flying on commercial spacecraft, as House and Senate members reconcile bills that would provide for a longer extension. The Senate approved by unanimous consent Sept. 29 H.R. 3614, the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015. The House passed the bill on a voice vote one day earlier. Click here. (9/29)

Aerojet Shares Drop Further 4 Percent After Contract Loss to Orbital ATK (Source: Reuters)
Shares in Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc fell another 4 percent on Monday after a spate of bad news for its space business, including the loss of a key contract to its rival Orbital ATK. The company's shares closed $0.65, or 3.9 percent lower at $16.05 on the New York Stock Exchange, a drop of about 33 percent from a high of $24.35 in July. (9/28)

Ukraine Working on Low-risk Rocket Engine Solution (Source: Space News)
The US has adopted the goal of replacing the Russian RD-180 engine used on the Atlas 5 launch vehicle. LOX-rich staged combustion oxygen-kerosene engines have been in production for decades in Ukraine. The intricate requirements of staged combustion have long since been mastered by Ukraine's  Yuzhnoye. The lowest-cost, lowest-risk option is to import this proven LOX-rich stage combustion technology from Ukraine and firmly establish this technology in the US without the added cost and risks that the Aerojet and Blue Origin approaches entail.

Yuzhnoye is a proven business and technical partner to the U.S. space industry, as evidenced by its highly successful relationship with Orbital ATK on the Antares program over the last eight years. Yuzhnoye is not interested in a replay of the unrealized RD-180 co-production concept. Yuzhnoye and Ukraine are absolutely committed to manufacturing and operations in the United States right from the beginning of this program.

During the past five years Yuzhnoye, the leader of the Ukrainian space industry, has been actively developing a new first-stage liquid rocket engine family including the Guardian 250 (GU250), a formidable engine -- with 551,000 pounds of thrust -- for production in the US. Yuzhnoye is currently moving forward with the establishment of production facilities in the US. Click here. (9/29)

Destination Phobos: ‘Humans Orbiting Mars’ Report Goes Public (Source: Geek Wire)
The nonprofit Planetary Society has laid out a detailed blueprint for sending astronauts to the Martian moon Phobos in 2033 and then touching down on Mars itself beginning in 2039.

The blueprint released Tuesday is based on a “Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop that was conducted in April – and it’s probably already out of date, due to last month’s announcement that NASA’s first crewed flight of the Orion deep-space capsule is likely to be put off until 2023. Nevertheless, the Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier says the full study can serve as a realistic yardstick for NASA’s Mars exploration timetable. Click here. (9/29)

NASA: Background Ozone a Major Issue in U.S. West (Source: NASA)
Levels of "background ozone" -- ozone pollution present in a region but not originating from local, human-produced sources -- are high enough in Northern California and Nevada that they leave little room for local ozone production under proposed stricter U.S. ground-level ozone standards, finds a new NASA-led study.

The researchers, led by Min Huang of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, used a novel technique that combined data acquired from two instruments on NASA's Aura spacecraft in the summer of 2008. The technique more accurately determines levels of background ozone and their relative contribution to total surface ozone levels. (9/29)

Why Finding Water on Mars Matters (Source: IGN)
Water has long flowed on Mars whether we knew about it or not. But our understanding of the facts, the truth of the way things really are, was irrevocably altered today thanks to years of research by dedicated, underfunded agencies determined to discern a more perfect understanding of the universe. Today’s confirmation is a capstone on countless hours of hypothesis, research, and informed speculation by scientists, a vindication of their efforts reaping an incalculable reward.

Today is a reminder that our assumptions about the fundamental nature of things deserve to be challenged. Is there life on Mars? It’s an immense leap of logic from the presence of water to the likelihood of life. The magnetic and atmospheric conditions make familiar modes of life improbable on the surface, possible beneath it. Strange life could also dwell there, forms adapted to spectrums of exposure outside our terrestrial experience. But even if life is absent, the wonder of today’s discovery is in no way diminished. (9/28)

A Self-Healing Plastic for Astronauts (Source: Cosmos)
On Mars, if your spacesuit is punctured, you'll almost certainly die. But if future Mars colonists' spacesuits were made from a material developed by Scott Zavada and his team at the University of Michigan, the terrifying whoosh of escaping oxygen might be just what saves their life. Click here. (9/26)

Mysterious Circles Appear, Grow on Comet (Source: Science News)
A comet is growing its own version of crop circles. Over the course of a month, five expanding disklike depressions appeared on the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft, which has been orbiting 67P since August 2014.

The first roundish feature showed up on June 3 and was joined by a second 10 days later. Within a month, the first spot had grown to 220 meters across and 5 meters deep, and it had run into its neighbor. Three more spots appeared in early July, flanking the original two.

The spots form around weak points in the surface, where sunlight can easily turn buried ice to vapor. That vapor in turn erodes the surrounding smooth plain — though the pits are growing too fast for sublimation alone to be their cause. Loosely bound dust or heat released by ice as it transforms from a disarray of water molecules into orderly crystals might help the spots along. Click here. (9/28)

Space: Final Frontier and Political Odyssey (Source: ABC)
While some see space exploration as a natural extension of our innate desire to seek out new places, space flight has always been held hostage by short-term, geo-political goals. Erica Vowles explores our enduring relationship with space through history and science fiction. Click here. (9/28)

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