February 14, 2016

This Man Knows the Secret to Successful Space Exploration (Source: National Geographic)
One of the key figures on the Curiosity team was a flamboyant engineer who defies all the stereotypes of the geek. A former bass player in a rock-and-roll band who likes to go to work in snakeskin cowboy boots, Adam Steltzner led the team that invented the revolutionary Sky Crane, which enabled the Curiosity rover to set down on Mars as gently as a duck landing on a pond. Click here. (2/14)

Japan to Release Satellite Images of Forests to Combat Illegal Logging (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan will join international efforts to crack down on illegal logging in forests near the equator by releasing satellite imagery for free of areas under threat. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expect to post the data online from August.

Officials expressed the hope that the information will prove useful to dozens of countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America that are struggling to contain illegal logging.

These regions are home to roughly half of the world's forested areas, and the sites of many illegal logging operations. “Forests must be preserved by whatever means in the fight against global warming,” said Masanobu Shimada, a senior researcher with JAXA. “Japan can contribute to the cause by monitoring forests by satellite.” (2/14)

Apollo Moonwalker Harrison Schmitt Featured at Pensacola Lecture Event on Feb. 18 (Source: IHMC)
Apollo Astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt will be the featured lecturer at a February 18 event hosted by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola. The event is free and open to the public. Click here for information. (2/14)

SpaceX Planning to Launch Every 2 to 3 Weeks with 70% Landing Success Rate in 2016 (Source: NextBig Future)
Elon Musk is confident about Spacex's ability to land rockets in 2016 and he predicted a 70% success rate for the year. If all goes as planned, Spacex will achieve a launch rate of once every two to three weeks, according to a recent comment from SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

Spacex is transforming its rocket factory. It is going from building six or eight rockets cores a year to about 18 cores a year. By the end of 2016 Spacex should be at over 30 cores per year. Beyond ramping up production of its Falcon 9 at the company's factory, SpaceX is increasingly focused on preparing its Falcon Heavy. The more powerful rocket is slated for its first launch during 2016. (2/12)

Quantum Entanglement: Love on a Subatomic Scale (Source: Space.com)
When talking about love and romance, people often bring up unseen and mystical connections. Such connections exist in the subatomic world as well, thanks to a bizarre and counterintuitive phenomenon called quantum entanglement. The basic idea of quantum entanglement is that two particles can be intimately linked to each other even if separated by billions of light-years of space; a change induced in one will affect the other.

In 1964, physicist John Bell posited that such changes can occur instantaneously, even if the particles are very far apart. Bell's Theorem is regarded as an important idea in modern physics, but it seems to make little sense. After all, Albert Einstein had proven years before that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Indeed, Einstein famously described the entanglement phenomenon as "spooky action at a distance."

Last year, however, three different research groups were able to perform substantive tests of Bell's Theorem, and all of them found support for the basic idea. "Our paper and the other two published last year show that Bell was right: any model of the world that contains hidden variables must also allow for entangled particles to influence one another at a distance," co-author Francesco Marsili, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. (2/14)

SpaceX and Blue Origin Race to Space: Here's Who's Winning Now (Source: Motley Fool)
A pattern is emerging in this race to "reusable space." First, SpaceX does something. Then, Blue Origin does something slightly different. Both companies declare victory, while privately planning to one-up whatever their competitor just did -- and Boeing and Lockheed Martin sit grumbling on the sidelines.

NASA may still view space as its bailiwick, but it's been 40 years since they put a man on the Moon. By the same token, Boeing and Lockheed Martin may be very good at winning contracts from NASA. But when it comes to innovation, their plan to parachute spent rockets back toward Earth, then grab them midair by their ponytails and land them with a helicopter, seems lacking in the originality department.

Editor's Note: ULA seems constrained by Boeing and Lockheed Martin's lack of will to invest their own money, after relying for decades on DOD's commitment to sustain a launch capability at any cost. ULA is probably hoping to use for Vulcan much of the DOD's proposed $1.2 billion for new launcher development. After recent successes by SpaceX and Blue Origin, I'll bet ULA is taking a hard look at powered landings for Vulcan, instead of their helicopter/parachute approach. (2/13)

The Simplest Explanation of Why We Should Care About Gravitational Waves (Source: Vox)
If you look with visible light as far as we can look in the universe, the universe is no longer transparent, it becomes opaque. There’s nothing you can do about that. If you could see [gravitational waves], you can see back past where you can’t see with physical light. That would be cool. We’d have direct access to something that’s farther away than we can hope to see otherwise.

Right now, we can currently only see celestial objects that emit electromagnetic radiation — visible light, X-rays, gamma rays, and so on. But some objects — like colliding black holes or the smoking gun of the Big Bang — don't emit any electromagnetic radiation. They emit gravity. And that's why, with this discovery, invisible objects in the universe may soon become visible. (2/13)

NASA Wants You to Become a 'Telenaut' who Explores Mars with Virtual Reality (Source: Tech Insider)
"If we can let people explore Mars in the same ways they have learned to explore Earth, then we think we can become more effective," said Jeff Norris of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Norris presented his thoughts on a joint partnership between NASA and Microsoft called OnSight, which has allowed researchers to virtually meet on the Martian surface and explore the area together, using data from JPL rovers on the surface and satellite photography from above.

Here's the scenario: You don your shiny new Microsoft HoloLens device and load up the VR experience of Mars, which all comes from NASA image stocks. While walking around the surface, you spot something interesting and mark it for scientists to check out later. Think of it as crowd-sourced space exploration. "We've built marvelous telescopes" to explore the universe in the past, Norris said. "The role of VR [is] how it can act as a new telescope for us." (2/12)

Quirky Town's 'Authenticity' Could Land a Slew of Spaceport America Tourists (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
When Virgin Galactic launches its first commercial flight into space, it's likely that several thousand people will come to watch the takeoff. Some New Mexico leaders and developers have even referred to the future event as a potential Woodstock moment — where tens of thousands of people will descend upon many small and quirky towns surrounding the Spaceport America site, located about an hour north of Las Cruces.

Virgin Galactic, with plans to launch in 2018, is very aware of the area's lodging limitations and has formed partnerships to provide options for its future astronauts and those who pay $250,000 for about a two-hour ride into space.

Truth or Consequences' community development director Bill Slettom said when Virgin Galactic officials toured amenities available in the town, they were impressed with what was already there. "They liked our authenticity — it's not trying to be something it isn't," Slettom said. (2/12)

Space School Seeks U.S. Location for Education Institute (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
If you ever thought the Space Coast needed another space school, you might soon get one. The International Space University has reached out to different regions across the country — including Central Florida — in an effort to establish a center for space entrepreneurship. With new space companies popping up along the coast, it would be an interesting addition to the region.

Florida Institute of Technology already offers space science classes in Melbourne. Having a second school could further establish the coast as a place for the space industry's future. “It makes sense on a number of levels,” Space Florida's strategic alliances chief Dale Ketcham said. “The issue, however, is further digesting what the requirements of the solicitation would be and who would step up to meet them.”

The deadline for schools to apply to house ISU's Robert A. Heinlein Institute for Space Entrepreneurship & Space Innovation is Feb. 29. The institute will offer training, conferences, seminars and short courses, along with public events, once established. (2/11)

SpaceX Aims for Drone Ship Landing After Feb. 24 Falcon 9 Launch (Source: Florida Today)
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing has formally approved SpaceX’s request to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and commercial communications satellite on Feb. 24. The launch window opens at 6:46 p.m. and extends to 8:24 p.m. The launch will be SpaceX’s first of the year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and second overall, following one last month from California.

Due to delays in its launch schedule, SpaceX has agreed to lift the SES-9 satellite to a higher orbit than originally planned to put it on a faster path to its operational orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator. With little fuel to spare, SpaceX won’t attempt to land the Falcon 9 booster back on shore like it did — successfully — on Dec. 21. But the company is expected to try to land the rocket stage on an ocean platform, even though the odds of success are low because of the higher flight and low fuel margin. (2/13)

DiBello Selected for Space Club Award (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast's most prestigious space industry prize this year has been awarded to Frank DiBello, president and CEO Space Florida. The National Space Club Florida Committee last week announced DiBello is the 27th recipient of the Debus Award, named for Kennedy Space Center’s first director, Kurt Debus.

Established in 1990, the award recognizes achievement by individuals who have made significant contributions to the space industry in Florida through either technical achievement, education or the management of aerospace-related activities. (2/13)

Amid Launches, ULA Preps for Cygnus Flight (Source: Florida Today)
While launching two rockets within a week recently, United Launch Alliance also was preparing for its next mission, now targeted for March 22. Soon after an Atlas V rocket lofted a Global Positioning System satellite into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Feb. 5, teams offloaded the next Atlas booster from ULA’s Mariner ship, completing its journey from Alabama.

The booster and a Centaur upper stage, which arrived earlier, are slated to launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft carrying International Space Station supplies. The launch was pushed back from March 10 after black mold was found to have decontaminated two cargo bags, prompting a decision to disinfect all of them as a precaution. (2/13)

Construction of SLS’ Pathfinder Begins (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Pathfinder, the word evokes images of a stalwart explorers and machines that pave the way for exploration. It is also the name of the 213-foot mockup of NASA's new super heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System - or 'SLS.' Work on the 230,000 lb simulator is gearing up - in the lead up to the first flight of the massive new rocket. (2/13)

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