January 24, 2016

NASA Leverages ISS as it Gets Go Ahead for Deep Space Habs (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
In the latest omnibus spending bill approved by Congress, NASA was awarded $55 million in order to help accelerate development of a deep space habitation module. SpaceFlight Insider spoke with agency representatives to determine what these initial efforts might entail.

According to the report that accompanied the appropriations bill, NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems program was allotted the funds in 2016 to create a ‘habitation augmentation module’ for crewed deep space operations. Additionally, the bill requires that NASA report how it plans to spend the funds and what progress has been made within 180 days. The report also stipulates that the space agency have a management structure in place to direct the program.

Representatives with NASA clarified where the funds came from and the fact that this amount is a part of $19.3 billion that the agency received for this year. “The explanatory statement accompanying the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill designated $55 million for habitation systems. The designation, however, does not represent a funding augmentation,” said NASA’s Director of the agency’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division Jason C. Crusan. (1/23)

In 73 Seconds, Everything Changed for Challenger (Source: Florida Today)
It was a bright, clear morning, and a frigid one by Florida standards: Icicles glistened on the launch tower as the space shuttle Challenger counted down to liftoff from Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 28, 1986.Late the night before, a group of engineers had recommended against launching the shuttle, uncertain how the cold might affect seals in the shuttle’s twin solid rocket boosters. Managers overruled them, and their concerns never reached top officials or the astronauts. Click here. (1/23)

Pluto's Bizarre 'Ice Volcano' Seen Up Close In Latest New Horizons Image (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA has released an up-close image of what may be one of the strangest features on Pluto: a massive volcano that spewed ice instead of lava. "This feature is enormous," NASA said on its website. "If it is in fact a volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer solar system."

The unusual feature is one of two possible ice volcanoes, also known as cryovolcanoes, spotted on Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft. Unlike volcanoes here on Earth, these would have erupted with an icy mix of frozen water, ammonia, methane and/or nitrogen.

The suspected ice volcanoes on Pluto resemble shield volcanoes; rather than rising to a sharp peak, they are longer and lower, like a shield. The feature in this image has been named Wright Mons, for the Wright Brothers, and is 2.5 miles high by 90 miles across. It's located just below the famous "heart" on Pluto. (1/18)

Voyager Mission Celebrates 30 Years Since Uranus (Source: NASA)
Humanity has visited Uranus only once, and that was 30 years ago. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft got its closest look at the mysterious, distant, gaseous planet on Jan. 24, 1986. Voyager 2 sent back stunning images of the planet and its moons during the flyby, which allowed for about 5.5 hours of close study. The spacecraft got within 50,600 miles (81,500 kilometers) of Uranus during that time.

"We knew Uranus would be different because it's tipped on its side, and we expected surprises," said Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission, based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Stone has served as project scientist since 1972, continuing in that role today. Uranus revealed itself to be the coldest planet known in our solar system, even though it's not the farthest from the sun. This is because it has no internal heat source. (1/22)

Should We Just Rename Uranus Already? (Source: io9)
Two-hundred-and-thirty-two years ago a mistake was made. The question is, do we have to keep living with it forever, or is it finally time to rename Uranus? Even as I write this, I am bracing myself so that I can be stoic in the face of the inevitable barrage of comments that amount to, "I named my anus Flossie!" That's the problem. There is no way to write an article without the Uranus/your anus subtext. Even when no one mentions it, you know it's there.

It didn't have to be. When William Herschel discovered the planet in 1781, he wanted to name it The Georgian Planet, after King George, his patron. Unfortunately the convention for naming planets after the Roman gods was, even then, cemented in place. Herschel was shouted down by the astronomical community. (12/13/13)

What I Learned When I Flew to Zero Gravity With an Oatmeal Brand (Source: AdWeek)
Last weekend, I got a last-minute chance to join programmatic video advertising platform Virool for the final stage of a contest it began in 2014 to send one lucky creative to space. Adweek had already written a few stories about Virool's contest, which called for creatives from around the world to submit a commercial for a chance to win a flight on a future Virgin Galactic flight.

The winning brand was Quaker Canada, which, along with OMD Canada and Studio M, filmed the touching spot called "The Recital." However, after the fatal Virgin flight last year, Virool decided to alter its award to something exponentially safer: the experience of a zero-gravity flight. Flights throughout the year take off from airports around the U.S., but ours left from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The flights are operated by Zero-G (more officially known as Zero Gravity Corporation), a privately held space entertainment and tourism company based in Arlington, Va. While Zero-G might fly under—or over—the radar, its passengers do not. Previous ones have included interstellar royalty like Buzz Aldrin, Stephen Hawking and Richard Branson. Oh, and it's also flown research flights for NASA. Click here. (1/23)

How a Spaceport in Scotland Will Change the World as We Know It (Source: The Herald)
It is being heralded as bringing the opportunity for ordinary people to follow in the footsteps of astronauts like Tim Peake and travel into space. But the UK’s first spaceport - which looks likely to be based in Scotland - will also bring new advances in technology that cand be used for everything from tracking pirates in the open seas to developing fridges which automatically fill with food.

Plans are underway to develop a facility for space travel in the UK, with six locations in Scotland – including Prestwick, Campbeltown, Leuchars and Stornoway airports - in the running to host the site. Plans are underway to develop a facility for space travel in the UK, with six locations in Scotland – including Prestwick, Campbeltown, Leuchars and Stornoway airports - in the running to host the site. Click here. (1/23)

Scott Kelly Did an AMA From Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Scott Kelly recently participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session and fielded a number of questions from the ISS. Kelly talks about things ranging from a future mission to Mars to his favorite movie (it's The Godfather). Here are some of the highlights. (1/23)

"Otherworlds" Exhibit Casts New Light on Space Using Raw Data (Source: CBS)
Explosions in the sky light-years away are coming into focus in ways never seen before, as are the very active volcanoes on a Jupiter moon and the rings of Saturn. They are the spectacular interstellar landscapes of our solar system, usually reserved for space missions, that are now on display for all to see at London's Natural History Museum, reports CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti. Click here. (1/23)

We Debate Sideshows and Phony Problems — While This Very Real Threat Looms Undiscussed (Source: Salon)
While we waste time debating whether science is real, a terrifying biodiversity loss continues under our noses. We spend too much time discussing smaller threats, including North Korea, ISIS, Oregon militias and even Sarah Palin. Anthropogenic climate change is a looming catastrophe whose effects are anticipated to be “severe,” “pervasive” and “irreversible.”

Based on the best current science, climatologists anticipate more extreme weather events, melting glaciers, sea level rise, megadroughts, desertification, deforestation, food supply disruptions, famines, infectious disease, mass migrations, social upheaval, economic distress, and political instability.

Climate change is perhaps best described as a “conflict multiplier” that will exacerbate existing geopolitical problems and introduce brand-new struggles between state and nonstate actors vying for control of habitable land and dwindling resources. (1/23)

Garver: Bloomberg Not Bad for Aerospace (Sources: Twitter, The Hill)
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering a third-party bid for president, telling allies he could spend at least $1 billion to mount the uphill climb, according to the New York Times. He has reportedly set a final deadline of early March and has asked his aides to create a roadmap for his potential bid.

Those efforts include research into state-specific rules on how to appear on presidential ballots and a "detailed study of past third-party bids," the report says. Lori Garver a former NASA Deputy Administrator and current General Manager at the AirLine Pilots Association (and longtime space advisor to Hillary Clinton), tweeted "Bloomberg is an avid pilot with sound aviation & space views.  A supporter of commercial space & U.S. leadership!" (1/24)

China's Progress in Developing Hypersonic Weapons Unsettles Pentagon (Source: Sputnik)
Although Beijing has repeatedly stated that its efforts to modernize its military are aimed strictly at boosting China's defense capabilities, US military officials never miss an opportunity to present these developments as an alarming trend. In late 2015 China successfully launched a rocket carrying a record 20 micro-satellites, as well as tested hypersonic and anti-satellite weapons as part of its rapidly developing space program.

"China, like Russia, has advanced 'directed energy' capabilities that could be used to track or blind satellites, and like Russia, has demonstrated the ability to perform complex maneuvers in space," Adm. Cecil Haney said at the Center for a New American Security on Friday. He also described Beijing's space program as "the most rapidly maturing" one globally, citing the 2015 Annual Report to US Congress.

According to Haney, has conducted six successful tests of long-range high-speed precision strike weapons, also known as hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV). The latest test took place on November 23. (1/24)

Thirteen-Year-Old Wins Competition With Satellite to Produce Oxygen on Mars (Source: NextShark)
A 13-year-old’s model satellite has the potential to create oxygen while in the orbit of a lifeless planet like Mars. Roni Oron, from Ramat Hasharon, Israel, is the recent winner of the “Satellite is Born” competition hosted by the Israel Space Agency. The competition is open for all young people ages 12-15 that have a passion for designing model satellites that can positively impact science and humanity.

Oron’s winning idea is called Bio Sat which aims “to solve a problem for astronauts trying to prove that life on Mars is possible” through the use of photosynthesis, according to the Isreali youth magazine “Ma’ariv L’Noar”. Oron explained that the Bio Sat is “built like a large bubble on one side of which there is a mirror and the other is transparent, enabling the penetration of sunlight. (1/23)

Quantum Links in Time and Space May Form the Universe’s Foundation (Source: WIRED)
These correlations seriously mess with our intuitions about time and space. Not only can two events be correlated, linking the earlier one to the later one, but two events can become correlated such that it becomes impossible to say which is earlier and which is later. Each of these events is the cause of the other, as if each were the first to occur. Quantum correlations may be more fundamental than space-time, with space-time itself somehow built up from correlations among events in what might be called quantum relationalism. The argument updates Gottfried Leibniz and Ernst Mach’s idea that space-time might not be a God-given backdrop to the world, but instead might derive from the material contents of the universe. Click here. (1/23)

Florida Space Day Brings Business Leaders to Tallahassee on Feb. 3 (Source: FSD)
Promoting the economic impact of the space industry, Florida’s aerospace leaders will visit Tallahassee on February 3, 2016, for Florida Space Day, sharing with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation.

“Over 140,000 Floridians are employed by more than 19,000 aerospace companies generating in excess of $18 billion in annual sales and revenues.” All 67 Florida counties contribute to this multi-billion dollar industry. The aerospace product and parts manufacturing sector is the largest manufacturing segment in Florida with an average wage of $77,343. (1/22)

Vancouver Firms Race to Keep Pace in Space Industry (Source: Business In Vancouver)
A government contract awarded to Ottawa tech firm Neptec Design in January was relatively small, just $1.7 million. But Wade Larson hopes money earmarked by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for a new camera aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is just the start of better times to come in 2016.

Larson, who was promoted to CEO last month at Vancouver-based UrtheCast, said 2015 was the biggest year yet for his company, which specializes in ultra-high-definition cameras in space. UrtheCast signed a brand partnership deal with Pepsi last year and later acquired Spain’s Deimos Imaging, along with its two satellites, for $102 million. (1/22)

AAS Assumes Leadership of WorldWide Telescope (Source: AAS)
Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) astronomy software has a new institutional home: the American Astronomical Society (AAS). This follows a vote by the Society’s governing board at the 227th AAS meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, earlier this month.

WWT is a scriptable and interactive “universe information system” for exploring the multiwavelength sky. It allows users to retrieve and share data using an interface that resembles either the sky as seen from Earth or a 3D view of the universe. WWT can be run in a browser on any computer or mobile device or in Windows as a desktop application. With its powerful capabilities to visualize and contextualize astronomical data and to create guided tours of the cosmos, WWT is useful for astrophysics researchers, science educators, amateur astronomers, and other enthusiasts. (1/19)

NASA Glenn Kicks Off 75th Anniversary (Source: NASA)
A groundbreaking reenactment is one of many events planned throughout Glenn’s anniversary year. Other events include two free open houses for the public: the first at Glenn’s Lewis Field main campus in Cleveland on May 21 and 22, and the second at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, on June 11 and 12. More details on the open houses will be published on the center’s website in the coming months.

The center also will host a Technology Day for government, academic and industry leaders on May 24. Attendees will learn about cutting-edge technology developments and find out how to do business with Glenn and license Glenn technologies. The event will feature a special keynote luncheon presentation on NASA’s Journey to Mars. Registration information and other details are forthcoming. (1/19)

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