January 8, 2016

NASA Says Partnerships are Key to Reaching Mars (Source: Bloomberg)
The European Space Agency's participation in funding the Orion service module that will carry astronauts beyond the moon represents a template for how, with international help, NASA will land humans on the Martian surface. "Partnership is an important element of this whole endeavor," said NASA's Greg Williams. (1/7)

Europe will Send Humans Back to the Moon by 2030, ESA Says (Source: WIRED)
NASA and the private space industry has its sights set on putting a human on Mars. Europe, however, has slightly more modest goals; it wants to put humans back on the moon and build a base. The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced its intentions to send astronauts to our nearest satellite by 2030. A video posted on the agency's website titled 'Destination Moon' sets out the plan that -- if all goes to plan -- will see European-developed robots sent to the surface first.

"This return to the Moon envisions a series of human missions starting in the early 2020s that would see astronauts  interact with robots on the lunar surface from orbit," a statement on the ESA website says. "Eventually we will see a sustained infrastructure for research and exploration where humans will live and work for prolonged periods," the video's narrator says. (1/8)

NASA Wants to Ride-Share to Get to Mars (Source: Bloomberg)
Amid the Cold War scramble to best the Soviets in space, NASA got all the money it needed to put astronauts on the moon. Achieving the agency’s present-day goal of a Mars landing won’t be quite so simple. NASA officials have been coy about the total projected cost of the Martian mission, but analysts estimate that the tab could run anywhere from $100 billion to $1 trillion or more, making it inevitable that the U.S. will need help from its space-faring friends to reach the red planet.

On Nov. 30, NASA officials joined peers from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus at NASA’s Plum Brook research station in Sandusky, Ohio, to mark an important milestone in the Orion program, which will ferry astronauts beyond the moon. The attendees witnessed the delivery of the first service module that will provide propulsion, power, air, and water for astronauts on the spacecraft. Click here. (1/7)

Sorry NASA, Europe Says it’s Going to the Moon Instead of Mars (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA has made it clear for the last half decade that it considers Mars the next destination for its astronauts. Nevertheless, since President Obama took the Moon off the table during a 2010 space policy speech, potential partners for NASA's "Journey to Mars" have fallen by the wayside.

Earlier this decade, both China and Russia, the two nations now capable of launching humans into space, signaled their intentions to first explore the Moon. Now they have been joined by arguably NASA's most important partner in the coming years, the European Space Agency (ESA).

In a new video titled "The Moon Awakens," the agency says it will take lessons learned from the International Space Station and team with other interested partners to return humans to Earth’s natural satellite by the end of the next decade. (1/7)

SpaceX Plans Barge Landing for Jan. 17 California Launch (Source: NBC)
SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its next Falcon 9 launch at sea. The company confirmed a report Thursday that the first stage of the Falcon 9 launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base Jan. 17 on the Jason-3 mission will attempt to land on a ship in the Pacific Ocean. The company successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage from its last launch from Cape Canaveral last month, but two previous attempts to land the stage on ships in the Atlantic failed. (1/8)

Air Force Delays Missile Warning Satellite Launch (Source: Space News)
The Air Force has delayed the launch of an experimental missile warning satellite until at least 2018. The Air Force said in a request for information this week it is planning to launch the satellite in 2018 or the first half of 2019. Previously, the Air Force planned to fly the wide-field-of-view sensor as a secondary payload as soon as this year in a sole-source deal with Space Systems Loral that was cancelled shortly after it was issued in 2015. (1/8)

China Plans 20 Launches in 2016 (Source: Xinhua)
China is planning to perform more than 20 launches in 2016, including one human mission. Chinese officials said the country plans to launch later this year its Tiangong-2 laboratory module, which will be followed by the Shenzhou-11 mission carrying a crew to visit the module. Shenzhou 11 would be the first Chinese human spaceflight mission since 2013. China is also planning test launches of the new Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets. (1/8)

ViaSat and Gogo Have Competing Claims for Faster Data (Source: Space News)
ViaSat claims its satellite-based broadband service for aircraft will remain faster than a competing product from Gogo. ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg said his company's use of Ka-band satellites means it will continue to provide faster service than Gogo's planned Ku-band system, despite Gogo's claims that it will offer more bits per megahertz. ViaSat, which will launch its first ViaSat-2 satellite on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy later this year, wil provide more details about its planned ViaSat-3 system next month. (1/8)

A New Pluto Wonder? Possible Ice Volcanoes Spotted (Source: Space.com)
The more scientists learn about Pluto, the more interesting the dwarf planet gets. Two of the towering mountains observed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic July 14 flyby of Pluto — the 13,000-foot-high (3,960 meters) Wright Mons and the roughly 18,000-foot-high (5,500 m) Piccard Mons — appear to be ice volcanoes, mission team members said in a new video.

"From New Horizons' vantage point, these features look just like volcanoes do on Earth when seen from orbit," mission team member Amy Shira Teitel said in the video, which was released today. Specifically, the two peaks both feature large holes in their summits, which likely formed when material erupted from underneath, causing the mountaintops to collapse. In addition, the flanks of Wright Mons and Piccard Mons sport an odd "hummocky" texture that could be the residue of past volcanic flows, New Horizons scientists said. (1/7)

The Health Risks of Spending a Year in Outer Space (Source: CNBC)
Space missions with humans have grown far longer and more complex since the early days of the space program. NASA's One Year Mission, launched in March 2015, will keep astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko on the International Space Station for a full year. Nearly twice as long at the typical ISS mission, the One Year Mission is in part designed to help NASA understand the effects of living in a weightless environment with tightly limited resources.

The 2015 Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks, released Thursday, is the third of five such documents produced by a committee of researchers at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. The review's recommendations include that NASA do the following. Click here. (1/7)

Medical Risks Connected with Space Travel Researched as Tourist Flights Step Closer (Source: ABC)
With the reality of commercial space flights no longer light years away, there is a growing interest in space medicine. Doctors from across the country have travelled to Adelaide to better understand the medical risks associated with space travel. The Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine is holding a three-day conference covering the medical challenges surrounding humans in space.

"Space environment, vacuum, extremes of temperature, radiation, weightlessness are pretty tough on the human body," he said. "We're determined to continue exploring space so we have to come up with medical counter measures that allow astronauts to continue and thrive in space." Studies looking at ways to counteract the physiological impacts are underway. (1/8)

FYI, NASA's Space Gyms Are The Weirdest Thing Ever (Source: Huffington Post)
For astronauts in space, exercise is not a choice. In order to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density due to a lack of gravity, working out is a necessity. NASA even mandates that astronauts aboard the International Space Station exercise two hours per day. But how exactly do astronauts work up a sweat in microgravity? For starters, the equipment they use barely resembles what you'll find at the neighborhood gym.

Below, take a look at five bizarre contraptions that help keep astronauts in tip-top shape. Your treadmill has never looked so mundane. Click here. (1/7)

Camden was a Finalist for Blue Origin (Source: Tribune & Georgian)
Spaceport Camden was under consideration earlier this year as a launch site for aerospace company Blue Origin. The company announced plans in September to launch its New Shepard rockets from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and will invest $200 million to establish the East Coast launch site. But according to Steve Justice, director for the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace, Blue Origin also took a good, hard look at the proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County. (1/7)

The ISS Is Getting a New Canadian Camera to Check Itself for Space Debris Damage (Source: Motherboard)
The International Space Station is under constant threat of impact from space debris. Some of that debris is so small that damage can be hard to see in traditional photos or with the naked eye. Some of it, such as meteorites, is natural. But more and more, debris is man-made.

On Thursday, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency announced a new CAD$1.7 million "vision system" that will be able to regularly scan the ISS for damage at a degree not previously possible, and is slated to launch in 2020. (1/7)

Outer Space Will Be 2030's Hottest Travel Destination (Source: Conde Nast Traveler)
Once there are settlements on the moon, will hotels be next? Some of us may have moved on from our dream of being an astronaut when we grow up, but that doesn’t mean we can hide our excitement about the latest advancements in space travel. In early 2015, 100 people won the chance to be the first non-astronauts on Mars One’s one-way trip to colonize the red planet, planned for 2025. Click here. (1/7)

Northrop Grumman Awarded USAF Contract to Support GPS Modernization (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) has been awarded an order to support embedded Global Positioning System (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (INS) Pre-Phase 1 modernization efforts. The Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program is developing M-Code-capable GPS receivers, which are mandated by Congress after fiscal year 2017 and will help to ensure the secure transmission of accurate military signals.

Under the cost-plus-fixed-fee order valued at $4.8 million from the Joint Service Systems Management Office, Northrop Grumman will evaluate new GPS receivers' modes of performance, including M-Code and Selective Availability Anti-spoofing Module. Additionally, the company will perform trade studies, assess the state of development of MGUE for upcoming applications and contribute to architecture development for next-generation GPS/inertial navigation systems. (1/6)

SpaceX's Reusable Rocket: The 'Holy Grail' of Space Flight? (Source: Defense News)
SpaceX's historic landing of a reusable rocket booster sets the stage for a new era in US access to space and likely marks the beginning of the end of the disposable launcher. This extraordinary achievement lays the groundwork for a revolution in the launch services market, analysts contend. SpaceX’s demonstration of a reusable rocket in late December potentially drives down the cost of space launch to unprecedented levels, leaving its competitors scrambling to catch up.

If SpaceX proves its Falcon 9 booster can be used again and again to launch vehicles and satellites into space, the price of the rocket could potentially drop by half, Caceres estimated. The $60 million to $70 million per Falcon 9 launch is already much cheaper than its main competition. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, offers its Atlas V rocket for about $160 million to $170 million per launch.

If SpaceX can repeat the feat, it will force competitors to race to lower their rockets's costs, Caceres said. “They are all trying to play catch-up now because their vehicles are suddenly too expensive to compete with SpaceX over the near- or midterm,” he said “There is no way that a company that has expendable launch vehicles can compete effectively over the long term.” (1/6)

Researchers Mix Up Batches of Martian Concrete (Source: Popular Science)
NASA says that if we can make it Mars, we'll be there to stay. Not on a one-way mission like the Mars One fanatics crave, but to gradually build a permanent human presence on the red planet. To do that, we're going to need to live in something slightly better than a pop-up tent.

Unfortunately, we can't just send a bunch of wooden planks and roofing shingles to Mars. That would be crazy expensive, and probably not all that protective against the radiation that constantly bombards Mars' surface. Instead, we'll have to use materials at hand. That's why scientists at Northwestern University are whipping up batches of concrete made from 'martian' soil--and it doesn't even require any precious water.

To make their martian concrete, doctoral candidate Lin Wan and colleagues heated up sulfur—a common component on Mars—past its melting point of 240 degrees Fahrenheit, then mixed in a simulated Martian soil. Trying out different ratios of ingredients, they found that the strongest stuff was made from 50 percent sulfur and 50 percent Martian soil, and it works best if the soil has a fine grain. (1/6)

Russia's Big Plan To Finally Put Cosmonauts on the Moon (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, typically celebrates the new year in a traditional Russian fashion: With a two-week bash lasting through Orthodox Christmas and up to January 14. But this year, things were a little more subdued.  Workers building the new Vostochny spaceport in the country's remote far-eastern taiga were given just two days to mark the coming of 2016.

Now, that's partly because of the lagging construction at Vostochny. But Roskosmos had another reason to be in a less-then-festive mood. The Kremlin crossed off the biggest item on the agency's Christmas list: a flight to the Moon.

The annexation of Crimea, the war in Ukraine, and the resulting economic sanctions from the West—combined with falling oil prices—have squeezed the Russian economy and forced Moscow to tighten the belt across the board. Not surprisingly, all but most essential projects in the Russian space program were slashed. Click here. (1/6)

China Rises, America Stalls: The Year Ahead in Space (Source: The Interpreter)
NASA is becoming comically inept in trying to define its next goal after ISS goes dormant. There's no chance of sending astronauts to the Moon or Mars any time soon. Americans seem indifferent to spaceflight. If NASA cannot recover its mojo soon, America's future as the world's predominant space power will be in question.

The rising challenger is China. The Tiangong 2 space laboratory (essentially a miniature space station) will fly at some point this year. China is fast-tracking plans for its own major space station, which should launch around 2018. International partners are being invited to join the Chinese Space Station. At some point, the CSS could become the world's only operational space station. China recently launched a dark matter astronomy satellite and is building a massive radio telescope on the ground. This 500-meter diameter dish will be the largest antenna in the world. (1/7)

China Takes Umbrage at Plan for ISRO Station in Vietnam (Source: The Hindu)
India’s plan to activate a new satellite data reception and tracking station in Vietnam has been criticized by a Chinese think-tank, terming it an attempt by India to “stir up trouble” in the disputed South China Sea region to serve its own ends.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has set up a Data Reception and Tracking and Telemetry Station in Ho Chi Minh City, which will be activated soon and linked with another station in Biakin, Indonesia, state-run Global Times quoted reports from India as saying. India also has a satellite tracking station in Brunei. (1/6)

The Out of This World Legacy of Supernova Mikulski (Source: Roll Call)
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski spent Wednesday back on the campus where she watched as astronauts repair the Hubble Space Telescope more than two decades ago. “I was here for that first mission,” recalled the Maryland Democrat who will retire at the end of this term of  Congress. “I went on so many Rolaids that day, I knew that I would never have acid reflux for 20 years.”

The truth is NASA wouldn’t be the same without Mikulski and the steady stream support of she has delivered — and the people at the Goddard Space Flight Center know it. There were presents and cake for the Senate’s very own supernova at Wednesday’s visit to the facility in suburban Washington. (Astronomers based in Baltimore already named an exploding star for the senator).

The significant number of Maryland jobs connected to space exploration have undoubtedly contributed to Mikulski’s interest, but hearing the emotional tone she struck Wednesday in the packed auditorium to multiple standing ovations, it was clear it’s become much more for the senior appropriator. (1/6)

Meet the Four Women Astronauts Who Can't Wait to Go to Mars (Source: Glamour)
In first grade Jessica Meir made a drawing of herself standing on the moon. Turns out she underestimated her own ambition: Today, at 38, Meir could become the first human to touch down on an even farther destination: Mars. A next step for man? Yes, and a giant leap for womankind. The mission itself is at least 15 years away—it will take that long to build and test every last piece of equipment. But it's already the most hotly anticipated space-exploration effort ever. Click here. (1/6)

Black Hole Burps Uup Gobbled Gas and Dust (Source: Science News)
Supermassive black holes are a lot like toddlers. They’re energetic, often the center of attention — and occasionally spit up their food. A black hole at the core of another galaxy has belched twice in the last 6 million years, leaving a record of these eruptions drifting through intergalactic space.

Two arcs of X-ray light hovering next to galaxy NGC 5195 are the hot remnants of two eruptions from a supermassive black hole at its center, astronomer Eric Schlegel reported January 5 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The arcs are about 3,000 light-years apart and several thousand light-years long. (1/6)

Arianespace Beats SpaceX for Commercial Launch Orders in 2015 (Source: Space News)
Arianespace beat out SpaceX and other companies for commercial launch orders in 2015. Company CEO Stephane Israel said this week Arianespace won orders for 14 commercial geostationary satellite launches, compared to 9 for SpaceX and only 1 each for ILS and ULA. Israel added he remained skeptical about the prospects of reusable launch vehicles despite SpaceX's successful Falcon 9 landing last month because of questions about how easily and how frequently the stage can be reused. (1/7)

Jeb Bush: NASA Has Lost its Purpose (Source: CBS)
Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said NASA has "lost its purpose." Told by a 13-year-old during a New Hampshire campaign stop Wednesday that NASA had "kind of like closed," the former governor of Florida responded, "It's not closed, but it's lost its purpose. There is no big aspirational purpose." Bush also praised private space efforts by companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX, according to a report about the encounter. "I'm not obsessive about space but I think it's part of our identity as a culture," Bush said. (1/7)

Interstellar Civilizations May Thrive in Globular Clusters (Source: Science)
If you want your civilization to reach the stars, you need to live somewhere special: tranquil enough for your culture not to be wiped out by some cosmic catastrophe, yet close enough to other stars to make interstellar travel possible. A pair of astronomers say they may have found the perfect place: deep inside a globular cluster. These densely-packed clutches of many thousands or millions of stars—of which there are around 150 in our Milky Way galaxy, like the cluster UKS1 above—were previously thought to be one of the worst places to look for an advanced civilization.

First, because stars are so closely packed together they can potentially disrupt the orbits of planets around neighboring stars, and also because their stars are seriously old, forming before the universe was seeded with the heavier elements needed to make planets and life. But here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the team told attendees that we shouldn’t discount globular clusters so quickly.

Of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission, many are around stars with less heavy elements than the sun. Globular clusters are also typically made of small red slow-burning stars, all the hot and bright ones having long burned out. Such small stars give a civilization many billions of years of unchanging illumination so it can develop, and star’s size means its habitable zone is close in, where planets are less prone to disruption by neighboring stars. (1/6)

Millions of Small Asteroids That Could Threaten Our World Remain Uncatalogued (Source: Scientific American)
Before it became a crater of saurian doom, the space rock that ended the age of the dinosaurs most likely was a near-Earth object (NEO), an asteroid that occasionally came within striking distance of our planet as it orbited the sun. NASA and other space agencies are now developing ways to deflect and redirect asteroids should they approach, but those techniques will be useful only if we find dangerous NEOs before they find us. Yet NASA's search is not going as planned.

In 2010 NASA completed a congressionally mandated inventory of more than 90 percent of NEOs with a diameter of one kilometer or greater—objects that are big enough to create a planetary-scale disaster. No known objects of such cataclysmic size are now on collision courses with Earth, but smaller NEOs are still out there undiscovered by the millions. (1/1)

China Confirms Recent Anti-Satellite Test (Source: Free Beacon)
A Chinese military official recently confirmed Beijing’s latest test of a satellite-killing missile that threatens U.S. space assets. Zhou Derong, a professor at the People’s Liberation Army Logistics Academy, described the development of anti-satellite weapons as being part of China’s national defense.

Writing in an official science and technology publication, Zhou was quoted as responding to reports of the flight testing of China’s DN-3 anti-satellite missile. “It is perfectly legitimate for China to carry out normal missile launch tests,” Zhou said. “Besides, even if China were developing anti-satellite weapons, these would be no more than self-defense measures taken to protect its own space resources.” (12/31)

Layoffs Hit Bigelow Aerospace (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace, a company developing commercial space station modules, has laid off an unspecified number of employees as it seeks to transition from research and development to commercial operations. In a Jan. 6 statement, Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow said that the company determined that many areas of the company were “overstaffed” and decided to lay off employees to reduce the company’s expenses. (1/7)

Rogers: U.S. Air Force Wasted $518 Million on Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
A key U.S. House member blasted the Air Force’s top acquisition official Jan. 7 over the service’s handling of its weather satellite program, saying Congress would have been better off burning $500 million and questioning the Air Force’s ability to manage space programs.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on acquisition reform, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said Congress had lost confidence in the Air Force’s ability to run its legacy weather satellite program. Rogers chairs the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which provides oversight of military satellites. (1/7)

Supercomputers Lower the Cost of Space Access (Source: Desktop Engineering)
When Dave Masten traded the life of a Silicon Valley coder for that of a self-taught rocketeer in Mojave, CA, he didn’t start with much. But, with three other renegades and a portable test stand towed by a pickup, he set up shop in a World War II-era hangar at the Mojave Airport, building rocket engines and vertical takeoff/vertical landing vehicles to go with them.

Eleven years later, the company that bears Masten’s name has a solid business testing hardware and software designed for planetary landers. Low and slow is the name of the game here, as customers including NASA and Draper Laboratories use Masten Space Systems rockets as testbeds for their own technologies designed to help rocket-powered landers touch down safely on airless worlds like the moon or in the rarified atmosphere of Mars. Click here. (1/1)

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