January 4, 2016

What NASA’s $1.3 Billion Budget Increase Means for JPL (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Though NASA has not specifically allocated the unusually high $19.3 billion budget approved this month by Congress, one clear winner is NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The omnibus spending bill increased NASA’s budget by $1.3 billion over last year and earmarked funds for two of JPL’s future robotic missions to Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

The Mars 2020 Rover, a follow up to 2011’s Curiosity rover, received $250 million, while NASA’s mission to explore the frozen moon Europa received $175 million. The funding sets aside $25 million for a possible lander on Europa, where NASA suspects giant oceans beneath the ice could contain evidence of life.

“It’s very positive from our point of view,” said Richard O’Toole, JPL’s manager of legislative affairs. “Those are two major missions at JPL and keeping them on track is very, very important to us and our future.” O’Toole said NASA will outline over the next month how it intends to spend the money at each NASA center. (1/3)

A Step Towards Reusability (Source: Space Review)
SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket last month, an accomplishment widely heralded as ushering in a new era of reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on the landing and the steps SpaceX still must take to make reusability a reality. Click here. (1/4)
The Moon in the Crosshairs (Source: Space Review)
Did the threat of a Soviet manned circumlunar mission weigh on NASA’s decision to fly Apollo 8? Dwayne Day examines what role, if any, intelligence on Soviet plans affected NASA’s planning. Click here. (1/4)
Increasing the Profit Ratio (Source: Space Review)
SpaceX recovered its first stage from a successful orbital launch. Sam Dinkin assesses progress of SpaceX toward its goal of reducing the cost of launch by two orders of magnitude. Click here. (1/4)
Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts: An Under-Appreciated Provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (Source: Space Review)
Much of the attention the recently enacted Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act received focused on provisions ranging from asteroid mining to launch indemnification. Michael Listner discusses another provision in the act that may be just as important as the others. Click here. (1/4)
Bringing Asgard to Earth: Making a Thor Heritage District at Vandenberg (Source: Space Review)
The last Delta II rocket will launch next year from Vandenberg Air Force Base, ending an era that dates back to the early days of the Space Age. Joseph Page argues that the launch facilities Delta and its predecessors used there should be preserved as a historic site. Click here. (1/4)

Loral Wins Indonesian Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
Space Systems Loral won a contract to build an Indonesian communications satellite. SSL announced Wednesday it won the contract from government-owned satellite operator PT Telkom for the Telkom-4 satellite, which will replace the aging Telkom-1 satellite at 108 degrees east in GEO. The companies did not announce a launch date for Telkom-4. (1/4)

Soyuz-2 Rocket Declared Operational (Source: Sputnik)
Russia has declared the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle fully operational. A Russian test commission announced Wednesday that the Soyuz-2.1a and 1b versions of the vehicle have successfully completed their test program and have turned over operations of the vehicles to the Russian Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos. The vehicles have launched dozens of times on operational missions over the last several years, and the statement did not explain why the test program was only now considered complete. (1/4)

Curiosity Engineer Critical of NASA's Weak Mission Plans (Source: Forbes)
The engineer who guided the Curiosity Mars rover through its "seven minutes of terror" is critical of the agency's lack of missions. In a new book, Adam Steltzner, who led development of Curiosity's entry, descent and landing systems, argues that NASA "doesn’t do enough flight projects to forge a broad set of practical skills." The limited number of missions and long development times for those missions creates "a time constant that defeats learning," he claims. (1/4)

South Korean Astronaut Resettles in Seattle (Source: The Olympian)
The first South Korean in space is looking for work in Seattle. Soyeon Yi, who flew to the International Space Station in 2008, is adjusting to life in a Seattle suburb, doing part-time teaching. Yi said she would like to find a job in Seattle's burgeoning commercial space industry, and has had talks with Blue Origin. (1/3)

Space Took Over the Internet in 2015 (Source: The Verge)
Spaceflight got a lot of mainstream attention this year — whether it was hype over a Pluto flyby or a SpaceX launch and landing. And many private companies, as well as NASA, are figuring out how to capitalize on that interest through social media, each in different ways. Click here. (12/31)

Japan Plans Phobos Sample Return Mission for 2022 (Source: Yomiuri Online)
In 2022, a Japanese spacecraft will be sent to Phobos, one of two Mars moons, using the new "H3" rocket in the development. In order to explore the origins of Mars history, about 10 grams of stones and sand will be collected and brought back to Earth after about three years from launch. (1/4)

Scotland Leading the Wway to Play Host to UK’s First Spaceport (Source: Sunday Post)
A new government report – seen by The Sunday Post – shows Scotland is leading the way in the race to play host to the UK’s first launchpad. All of the potential Scottish space sites are in step with a government checklist of base requirements – with their remote nature helping allay safety and noise pollution fears over rival bids south of the Border.

Spaceports have previously only been seen in films like Star Wars, but the government is keen to establish one in the UK to allow regular space tourism flights and to send satellites into orbit. And with firms like Space X and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic expressing an interest in launching flights from the UK as soon as 2018, the reality of space tourists and commercial rocket launches into orbit is tantalisingly close.

Howie Firth, of the Spaceport Scotland group, which is spearheading the Scottish bids, said: “Economically a spaceport is not a luxury, it’s a vital investment. “It would be a tremendous prize to come to Scotland. It would attract industries, create jobs and it would be the most incredible inspiration. The potential is huge.” (1/4)

America's Space Program Primed for New Year of Launch Accomplishments (Source: America Space)
Several U.S. launch providers—United Launch Alliance (ULA), SpaceX and Orbital ATK—are primed to embark on perhaps the most ambitious 12 months to date, with Atlas V, Delta IV, Antares, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets destined to deliver missions into low-Earth orbit, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), as well as sending a spacecraft onto a trajectory to encounter Comet Bennu.

Four piloted Soyuz missions will transport four Americans, six Russians and one astronaut apiece from Japan and France to the International Space Station (ISS), allowing the sprawling multi-national outpost to continue unprecedented scientific research and respond to around a dozen unpiloted Dragon, Cygnus, Progress and H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) visitors. Click here. (1/4)

New Way to Measure Gravity at the Surface of Distant Stars (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers have found a new way to measure the pull of gravity at the surface of a star. For distant stars with planets orbiting them, this information is key in determining whether any of those planets can harbor life. The new method allows scientists to measure surface gravity with an accuracy of about four per cent, for stars too distant and too faint to apply current techniques. (1/4)

International Institute of Space Law OK with U.S. Asteroid Mining Law (Source: Space Policy Online)
The International Institute of Space Law has rendered an opinion regarding new U.S. commercial space legislation that extends ownership rights to resources mined by citizens from asteroids and other planetary bodies. The law does not violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, according to the Institute’s board. (12/24)

Gardening in Space: Sow the Cosmological Seeds and Scatter (Source: New Scientist)
“He is 60,” wrote the novelist Leo Tolstoy, “a pauper, gives away all he has, is always cheerful and meek.” Former schoolteacher Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov was also one of the most powerful cult figures in pre-revolutionary Russia, numbering among his followers the rocket theorist Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky.

Unusually for a Russian (the country’s huge, remember), Fedorov took the population theories of UK economist and demographer Thomas Malthus seriously. He worried that Earth would become unsustainably overcrowded, and came up with a novel solution: colonize outer space.

In The Philosophy of the Common Cause, Fedorov explains that as humans evolve hand in hand with technology, they will be able to get rid of their digestive and sexual parts, harvest cosmic energy for food, achieve psychological perfection, and become immortal. Click here. (1/3)

Clinton Vows to ‘Get to the Bottom’ of the UFO Mystery (Source: GeekWire)
If the truth about UFOs is out there, Hillary Clinton says she’ll be on it as president. When the Democratic presidential front-runner vowed to “get to the bottom” of the alien-visitation issue, she just might have locked up the “X-Files” vote – while giving her critics one more thing to taunt her with.

Clinton’s comment came at the end of a recent chat with the editorial board of the Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Feb. 9. Reporter Daymond Steer reminded her about a conversation they had about UFOs in 2007, and that perked up the candidate. “Yes, I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” Clinton reportedly replied. (1/4)

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