February 13, 2016

Flowering Zinnias Set Stage for Deep-Space Food Crop Research (Source: Space Daily)
Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control experiment at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida were harvested Feb. 11 in the same way that crew member Scott Kelly will harvest the zinnias growing in the Veggie system aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 14-Valentine's Day. Flowering plants will help scientists learn more about growing crops for deep-space missions and NASA's journey to Mars. Click here. (2/13)

The Future of Gravitational Wave Astronomy (Source: Scientific American)
Soon, astronomers say, LIGO will record and unveil far more than the birth cries of newborn black holes. LIGO and other operational observatories are already looking for ripples from the violent death throes of massive stars and from collisions of city-sized orbs of degenerate matter called neutron stars.

Current observatories could also help reveal what makes spinning neutron stars called pulsars tick, mapping their starquake-shaken interiors and any centimeters-high “mountains” (which would weigh roughly the mass of a planet because of neutron stars’ extreme density) that could pop up on their surfaces. Click here. (2/12)

The Soviet Union's Secret Moon Base That Never Was (Source: Popular Mechanics)
A quarter-century after the Soviet space program dropped its thick veil of secrecy, many fascinating details about the enormous scope of the USSR's space ambitions are still trickling in. The latest treasure trove of information quietly made public reveals what might have been the earliest Soviet proposal to permanently colonize the moon.

Conceived in 1967 at the height of the Moon Race with the United States, the bold plan was developed inside the same think tank that had launched Sputnik and put the first man into space. Not surprisingly, they dreamed up an innovative and ambitious plan to put people on the lunar surface to stay. Click here. (2/12)

Ground Control To Major Tim, Eat Some California Prunes! (Source: California Prune Board)
Media coverage has fueled interest into the long term health consequences of extended periods in space and the potential dangers posed by exposure to space radiation - which includes risks to bone health.  So great news then that research just released has indicated once again that eating prunes may be beneficial in helping to preserve bone strength!

This exciting new animal research, is timely as a year-long space mission to help scientists better understand the effects of space on the human body is about to conclude in March. Results suggest that California Prunes may help minimize bone loss in those exposed to radiation, including astronauts in space. Additionally, radiation workers and those who receive radiation therapy as part of a treatment for cancer are also subject to possible bone loss from exposure to radiation.

While California Prunes have been linked to bone health in previous studies, this emerging research explores the bone-preserving role of prunes specific to radiation exposure. Researchers observed that the California Prune powder was the most effective in reducing undesired bone marrow cells' responses to radiation compared to the other interventions. Additionally, the researchers observed that mice on the prune diet did not exhibit decrements (bone volume loss). (2/11)

India Can Launch 4-Tonne Satellite (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
Engine level tests for the GSLV Mark 3 rocket are complete and stage level tests will be conducted in two-three months. The rocket will be ready for launch by December this year. The GSLV Mark 3 will be capable of carrying a payload of four tonnes and will be used in manned space missions by ISRO. The earlier versions could carry only 2.2 tonnes. (2/12)

Google Tests Its Internet Balloons at Florida Hangar (Source: WIRED)
Project Loon is Google’s ambitious plan to deliver Internet service from enormous balloons floating in the stratosphere. When the company revealed the project in the summer of 2013, these polyethylene balloons stayed aloft for about five days. As part of Google’s effort to increase their flight time--and turn them into a viable way of getting underdeveloped regions online--the team has traveled to Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida.

Eglin is home to McKinley Climatic Laboratory, a 55,000-square-foot hangar where the Air Force simulates extreme conditions like sub-zero temperatures, high-speed winds, rain, and snow as it tests fighter jets, bombers, helicopters, and such. Inside McKinley, Google is testing its balloons, exposing them to the kind of weather they’ll experience floating about 20 miles above the globe.

“It’s a hangar the size of Moffett—except it can go down to -60 degrees,” says Krishnaswamy. “It’s a giant freezer in Florida.” These tests are another step in the rapid evolution of the unexpected and surprisingly effective Project Loon. Click here. (6/15/15)

What Happened When a NASA Astronaut Got Harassed on Twitter (Source: Motherboard)
Time and time again, those who have been harassed on Twitter have pleaded for the social media network and law enforcement to take threats against them seriously. What has to happen, some openly wonder, to take meaningful steps to curb harassment? Well, apparently it helps if you’re an astronaut.

In late 2013 and early 2014, Twitter, Google, and three law enforcement agencies in two countries tracked down a British woman who allegedly harassed a NASA astronaut over the course of several months in 2013. The astronaut and the woman began direct messaging on Twitter and also texted and called each other several times. After the woman realized the astronaut had a girlfriend, she began sending “false and malicious statements that include excessive profane and abusive language,” according to case documents.

The case is particularly notable for its thoroughness: The woman was visited at her home by British law enforcement at the behest of NASA, photos of her and her mental health and police records were shared between law enforcement agencies, and she was put on a Customs and Border Patrol watch list that would have immediately alerted authorities if she tried to enter the United States. Click here. (2/12)

TMT Would Relocate if Permit Not Secured Soon (Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald)
The TMT International Observatory’s decision to consider locations other than Mauna Kea for its next-generation telescope didn’t come as much of a surprise to supporters of the project, given the hurdles it still faces. But the announcement is nonetheless increasing anxiety that Hawaii Island could lose out on the jobs and funding for education that comes with the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.

“I think we put it in a precarious situation,” said Bill Walter, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce vice president. “You get the sense that the investing countries are getting very restive.” The project is expected to create 300 construction jobs and 140 long-term jobs, earning it support of business groups and organized labor.

“It’s not only jobs but a great opportunity for the people of Hawaii,” said Dean Au, Hawaii Council of Carpenters Hilo field representative. TMT also is contributing $1 million a year for science, technology, engineering and math education on the island, which supporters note would be lost if the project goes elsewhere. (2/12)

Durbin Clashes with John McCain Over Use of Russian Rocket Engines (Source: WMAQ)
“The pork-barrel impulse is so strong that some lawmakers are now trying to have American taxpayers subsidize Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his cronies,” Sen. John McCain said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. McCain fears that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on Russian technology while the country occupies Crimea.

“Such dark-of-the-night shenanigans have too often been typical in Washington,” McCain said. “But in all my years in elected office I have rarely seen a more cynical scheme to undermine the will of Congress and the American people.”

Sen. Dick Durbin responded to McCain’s op-ed in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. “Despite Sen. McCain’s statement in your newspaper, the secretary of the Air Force has made it clear that it will take at least five years before we have an American-made substitute rocket engine and that to prohibit the use of Russian rocket engines before then could endanger our national security,” Durbin said. “My colleague from Arizona is unmoved by that warning.” (2/12)

Newcomer Rocket Lab Secures Spire As Their Next Customer (Source: Tech Crunch)
Rocket Lab, the venture capital-backed space start up, is constructing the first private launch range in the world. The company told TechCrunch that they have secured Spire as their next customer for a launch later this year. While Rocket Lab has yet to fly their first commercial mission, Spire has made an agreement with the launch provider for an impressive 12 launches over the next 18 months once their launch facility is complete.

With companies like SpaceX, ULA, and Arianespace dominating the launch market, it’s hard to believe that there’s room for a new launch provider. But satellite technology has gotten smaller and cheaper over the years, lowering the barrier to entry into the space industry. More companies have been able to affordably design and build their own small satellites, or satellite constellations, and are looking for launches to get their products into orbit. (2/12)

No comments: