March 21, 2016

China’s Space Science Plans Receive Budget Boost (Source: GB Times)
Scientists working on China’s space science program expect to receive funding of around 5.9 billion yuan (US$ 910m) across the period of the country’s new Five Year Plan (2016-2020). The cash will fund a range of missions outlined in a national roadmap for space science for 2016-2030 produced by China’s National Space Science Center (NSSC).

The missions were shortlisted after consultations with China’s science community, and will seek answers related to fundamental questions, such as the formation and evolution of the universe, exoplanets and potential extra-terrestrial life, and new physics beyond the current theories.  The NSSC estimates that the country's overall research and development funding will maintain 2.5 percent annual growth between 2016 and 2030. (3/21)

Life in Cocoa Beach Revolved Around the Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Pete Godke’s parents moved their family to Cocoa Beach in 1938 looking for a calmer, quieter area to raise their children after they had operated a small hotel along U.S. 1 in Sebastian. About 50 people called Cocoa Beach home back then, according to a 1940 census.

“At that time, the only thing in Cocoa Beach was the Ocean Lodge and a dozen or so stucco homes,” said Godke, 84. (The Ocean Lodge was where Coconuts on the Beach is today.) But it didn't stay quiet for long. With the start of the space program and a growing military presence, the population began to grow rapidly in the 1950s. Click here. (3/20)

A look Inside Blue Origin (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month, Blue Origin opened the doors of its headquarters for the first time to the media, showing off their work on suborbital vehicles and rocket engines. Jeff Foust reports on the tour and the vision for the future of humanity in space that company founder Jeff Bezos wants to enable. Click here. (3/21)
A Vision Ahead (Source: Space Review)
Next year will bring a new President and Congress, and perhaps another reexamination of NASA’s human spaceflight plans. Eric Hedman proposes that any such effort focus on developing infrastructure in cislunar space to make voyages to Mars and beyond more affordable. Click here. (3/21)
Desolate Magnificence (Source: Space Review)
Originally developed as an initial step in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has become a valuable mission for planetary scientists in understanding the Moon. Dwayne Day describes how its images, some of which are on display in a museum, are also works of art. Click here. (3/21)
Planetary Defense to Avert Global Economic Crisis (Source: Space Review)
There’s been a heightened awareness in recent years of the threat posed by near Earth objects and the importance to take steps to protect the Earth from that threat. Vid Beldavs argues that such investments can have a positive influence on the global economy as well. Click here. (3/21)

Caught For The First Time: The Early Flash Of An Exploding Star (Source: NASA)
The brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave—what astronomers call the “shock breakout”—has been captured for the first time in the optical wavelength or visible light by NASA's planet-hunter, the Kepler space telescope. An international science team analyzed light captured by Kepler every 30 minutes over a three-year period from 500 distant galaxies, searching some 50 trillion stars. They were hunting for signs of massive stellar death explosions known as supernovae.

In 2011, two of these massive stars, called red supergiants, exploded while in Kepler’s view. The first behemoth, KSN 2011a, is nearly 300 times the size of our sun and a mere 700 million light years from Earth. The second, KSN 2011d, is roughly 500 times the size of our sun and around 1.2 billion light years away. “To put their size into perspective, Earth's orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,” said Garnavich.

Whether it’s a plane crash, car wreck or supernova, capturing images of sudden, catastrophic events is extremely difficult but tremendously helpful in understanding root cause. Just as widespread deployment of mobile cameras has made forensic videos more common, the steady gaze of Kepler allowed astronomers to see, at last, a supernova shockwave as it reached the surface of a star. The shock breakout itself lasts only about 20 minutes, so catching the flash of energy is an investigative milestone for astronomers. (3/21)

Why There Might Be Many More Universes Besides Our Own (Source: BBC)
The idea of parallel universes, once consigned to science fiction, is now becoming respectable among scientists – at least, among physicists, who have a tendency to push ideas to the limits of what is conceivable.
In fact there are almost too many other potential universes. Physicists have proposed several candidate forms of "multiverse", each made possible by a different aspect of the laws of physics.

The trouble is, virtually by definition we probably cannot ever visit these other universes to confirm that they exist. So the question is, can we devise other ways to test for the existence of entire universes that we cannot see or touch? Click here. (3/21)

Arizona Grants $750K for Orbital ATK Expansion (Source: Arizona Republic)
Orbital ATK is expanding a satellite factory in Arizona with help from the state government. The company announced Friday it will expand its Gilbert, Arizona, satellite factory by nearly 5,600 square meters, creating 155 new jobs. The Arizona Commerce Authority is providing a $750,000 grant to support the expansion. The company currently employs more than 1,750 people in the state, counting facilities in nearby Chandler and Mesa. (3/20)

China Commits to Mars Program (Source: Xinhua)
China is pressing ahead with plans for an ambitious Mars mission in 2020. The mission, which will be China's first to launch independently to Mars, will include both an orbiter and a lander with a rover. The team working on the unnamed mission is the same that developed the Chang'e-3 lunar lander, an official with the Chinese Academy of Sciences told state media. "Mars will be a key focus of China's deep space exploration in the future," another scientist said. (3/20)

Airbus Sells Defense Electronics Unit To KKR For $1.2B (Source: Law 360)
Airbus Group SE on Friday said that it sold its defense electronics business to private equity giant KKR & Co. LP for £1.1 billion ($1.2 billion), marking the aerospace conglomerate’s latest effort to slim down and reorganize. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017, pending regulatory and other approvals. Airbus said it may maintain a minority stake in the business, which provides mission-critical sensors, integrated systems and services for defense and security applications in Ulm, Germany. (3/18)

Embry-Riddle Scores $10M Florida Investments for Aerospace and Aviation Programs (Source: ERAU)
In a show of commitment for STEM education and the growth of high-paying jobs in the aerospace workforce, Florida Governor Rick Scott approved the 2016-17 Florida First budget, which includes $10 million in funding through three separate grants for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The first is a $5 million grant for the construction of a new wind tunnel complex that will serve as a major differentiator for the university’s research park. The wind tunnel will house testing, measurement and airflow functions unlike any other comparable technology in the Southeast, providing students and the university a competitive advantage when vying for research and commercial opportunities globally.

Embry-Riddle also received $3 million to continue the Gaetz Aerospace Institute – a STEM education program now in over 70 Florida high schools across 35 counties. The program offers free college credits and hands-on experience in courses focusing on aviation, unmanned systems, aerospace, engineering, computers and business. An additional $2 million grant will focus on helping qualified student pilots secure the needed certifications at a reduced cost to meet the industry demand for pilots. (3/18)

Jeff Bezos Unveils His Grand Plan to Conquer Space (Source: Motley Fool)
SpaceX and Blue Origin are engaged in a great battle to conquer space. This much we know. But here's something you might not know: While they're owned and run by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, respectively, and both of these space exploration firms are therefore private companies, one of them has historically been much more private than the other. Click here. (3/19)

Indian Govt Plans Law on What Can Be Seen in India From Skies (Source: Hindustan Times)
Under draft legislation — tentatively titled Geospatial Information Regulation Bill — disseminating, publishing or displaying information that is likely to affect “security, sovereignty or integrity” of the country will become a punishable crime, a senior government official said. (3/21)

For Rockets Going Farther Than Ever, You Need the Best and Biggest Tools (Source: Ars Technica)
The scope of NASA's Space Launch System is unlike anything the organization has taken on before, and that's not only true of its deep space aspirations. Size is a factor, too. In terms of mere height, the SLS rocket will end up nearly 38-stories tall. Building and assembling something that unfathomably massive and unique (remember, it must traverse treacherous space environments) requires equally impressive tools. Luckily for NASA, that's exactly what its Michoud Assembly Facility can offer. Click here. (3/20)

How NASA’s Katherine Johnson Had the Right Stuff to Win the Space Race (Source: The Root)
“Get the girl to check the numbers.” These words came from astronaut John Glenn in February 1962 as he prepared to become the first American to orbit the Earth. The trajectory of his orbit had been calculated by NASA’s new state-of-the-art computers, but Glenn did not trust the machines.

Mercury 7 astronauts had always relied on “computers in skirts,” women who were mathematicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center for such flight data. So before he made his historic voyage into space, Glenn called on Katherine Johnson to recheck the computer’s analysis, knowing that she had provided similar calculations for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Johnson, one of the few African-American women then working for NASA, calculated and confirmed the data for Glenn’s orbit. Click here. (3/21)

Astronomers Spot Universe’s Most Eccentric Planet Yet (Source: CSM)
The most eccentric planet ever observed has been identified whipping round a star about 117 light-years from Earth. The research, published February by a group of researchers from eight universities and five scientific institutions, also detected a flash of starlight reflected from the planet’s atmosphere as it made its closest orbital approach to its sun.

Planets in our own solar system orbit the sun in an almost circular fashion, but there are some whose orbits are far more elliptical – or “eccentric” – in nature, and this planet, HD 20782, has the most eccentric orbit ever seen. Click here. (3/20)

SpaceX Hopes to Raise Launch Tempo After Space Station Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX is targeting April 8 for the launch of its first resupply run to the International Space Station in nearly a year, a mission that the company hopes will mark the start of a rapid-fire launch manifest full of payloads waiting to fly. The early April blastoff aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will be the company’s eighth of at least 26 space station cargo missions under contracts to NASA.

Launch of the Dragon supply ship from Cape Canaveral is set for approximately 4:43 p.m. EDT on April 8. It will mark the 23rd launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and the third flight of an upgraded version of the two-stage booster burning densified, super-chilled liquid propellants. SpaceX aims for up to 18 launches before the end of the year, three times more than the number of successful missions the company achieved in 2015.

“We hope to grow year-over-year,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “We only launched for half a year last year, and we still did six (successful) launches. This year, we’ll probably do about 18, and we’ll increase 30 to 50 percent year-over-year.” (3/20)

A Doctor Is Spending a Year in Antarctica to Research the Isolation of Space (Source: Motherboard)
One thousand kilometres from the Antarctic coast, a 12-strong crew is overwintering at one of the most remote places on Earth. The Concordia Station, a French-Italian research base on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, is truly in the middle of nowhere; the next nearest station is 560km away, and all the crew can see if they look around is flat whiteness.

The last plane left for the winter in February, leaving the base completely isolated. It won’t see the Sun for four months and temperatures will drop to below -60 Celsius. Oh, and because it’s 2,300 metres above sea level, inhabitants have to make do with about a third less oxygen than at sea level.

It’s not a normal environment for humans, which is exactly why Floris van den Berg is there. A medical doctor sponsored by the European Space Agency, Van den Berg is running a series of research projects at Concordia to explore the physical and psychological effects of living in such surroundings—and the results could give an insight into how we’ll cope with long-distance space travel. (3/21)

Here’s What Space Actually Looks Like to the Human Eye (Source: WIRED)
Photos of space are everywhere online. Their beauty is dazzling, showing a universe awash in color and light. But if you’re a skeptic, you’ve likely wondered whether it all truly looks like that in real life. Click here. (3/21)

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