March 3, 2016

PayScale Ratings Rank SpaceX and Tesla Low on Salary, but High on Meaningfulness (Source: Geek Wire)
What do the employees at two of billionaire brainiac Elon Musk’s companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, think about their job situation? Newly released ratings from Seattle-based PayScale suggest that they don’t draw the highest salaries in the tech world, but see their jobs as extraordinarily meaningful (and stressful).

The two ventures lead a list of 18 top tech companies when it comes to the percentage of survey respondents who say their jobs have lots of meaning (92 percent for SpaceX, 89 percent for Tesla) and high stress (88 percent for SpaceX, 70 percent for Tesla).

That’s in line with the companies’ difficult but rewarding missions: Tesla aims to revolutionize the automotive and power industries with its approaches to electric cars and in-home batteries, while SpaceX aims to lower the cost of spaceflight and eventually turn humanity into a multiplanet species. (3/2)

The Status of Mental Health in Planetary Science (Source: Women in Astronomy)
College and professional sports teams have medical professionals on staff to attend to injuries, in real time, on the field. Game play halts until that person is able to be safely removed from the game or return to play. The audience claps out of respect. The media talks about injury reports for players and how long they’ll be unable to play. As scientists, our minds are our most important trait. Where are our high-profile, professional trainers? Why don’t we get put on the injury list when our minds are hurt?

So far, it has been up to the individual to get help for themselves, not always with the critical support they need, with regards to mental issues. But after speaking out at meetings about what as I see as an epidemic of mental health illnesses in our community, total strangers came up to me and thanked me for my words. Young, old, male, female, reinforcing this idea of an epidemic. I worry for the ones who did not approach me, or the ones who aren’t even aware they might need help, what jeopardy their lives are in. (3/2)

InSight Mission Decision Coming Soon (Source: Space News)
NASA could make a decision within a week on the future of the InSight Mars lander. That spacecraft was scheduled to launch this month, but NASA postponed the mission in December because of problems with one of its key instruments, a seismometer. The project has developed a plan to launch the mission in 2018 at an additional cost of about $150 million, and presented that proposal to NASA this week. A decision on whether to approve that plan or cancel the mission altogether could come within a week, a NASA official said Wednesday. (3/2)

Air Force Weather Satellite Fails in Orbit (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force's youngest weather satellite, DMSP-19, stopped responding to commands Feb. 11. Officials do not know the cause of the problem, or if the satellite can be recovered. The Air Force has reassigned DMSP-17, which launched in 2006 and had been serving as a backup, into a primary role. (3/2)

Russian Eyes Nuclear Engine for Fast Space Travel (Source: Space Daily)
A nuclear engine currently being developed in Russia by the nuclear agency Rosatom and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will allow a spaceship to reach Mars in an unprecedentedly short period of just 1.5 months, Rosatom's General Director Sergei Kirienko said Wednesday.

According to Kirienko, using existing technology, a spacecraft takes around 18 months to reach Mars and it has no way of returning back to Earth or to maneuver while en route. "Installing a nuclear engine will allow [a spacecraft] to fly to Mars in a month and a half and to come back, as the spacecraft would retain the ability to maneuver," Kirienko said, addressing the Federation Council. (3/3)

What if Extraterrestrial Observers Called, but Nobody Heard (Source: Space Daily)
As scientists step up their search for other life in the universe, two astrophysicists are proposing a way to make sure we don't miss the signal if extraterrestrial observers try to contact us first. Rene Heller and Ralph Pudritz say the best chance for us finding a signal from beyond is to presume that extraterrestrial observers are using the same methods to search for us that we are using to search for life beyond Earth.

Heller and Pudritz turn the telescope around to ask, what if extraterrestrial observers discover the Earth as it transits the sun? If such observers are using the same search methods that scientists are using on Earth, the researchers propose that humanity should turn its collective ear to Earth's "transit zone", the thin slice of space from which our planet's passage in front of the sun can be detected. (3/2)

Aerojet: AR1 Engine Not Tied to Vulcan (Source: Space News)
The Air Force could continue to fund development of Aerojet Rocketdyne's AR1 engine even if it is not selected by United Launch Alliance. Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake said in an interview that a selection of the AR1 by ULA for its Vulcan rocket is not a condition for additional Air Force funding to complete work on the engine. ULA is considering the AR1 but has stated that Blue Origin's BE-4 is their current preferred choice. Drake said Aerojet has held discussions with at least two other unidentified launch providers about using the AR1. (3/2)

Pentagon Space Spending Plans Reach $22 Billion for 2017 (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon plans to spend $22 billion on space in 2017, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this week. Carter mentioned that spending level in a speech earlier this week in San Francisco, where he discussed emerging threats in space and stated that the Defense Department "must now prepare for, and seek to prevent, the possibility of a conflict that extends into space." Carter didn't elaborate on the $22 billion figure, which is more than twice what the Air Force said last month it plans to spend on unclassified space projects. (3/2)

Orbital Pcks Satellite Servicing Over Rocket Reusability (Source: Space News)
The head of Orbital ATK believes satellite servicing is more promising than reusable launch vehicles. David W. Thompson said in a conference call with investors this week that while reusable rockets are "intuitively appealing," he is skeptical that they can provide sustainable cost reductions. Orbital ATK is planning a new launch vehicle, which he said will not incorporate reusability. Thompson also said that the company will provide more details about its satellite servicing initiatives, including customer agreements, later this year. That work is commercially funded with no government investment. (3/2)

China to Launch Over 100 Long March Rockets Within Five Years (Source: Space Daily)
China in the next five years will launch 110 Long March rockets, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee said. According to Liang Xiaohong, cited by Xinhua, in 2011-2015 the country launched 86 such rockets, while in 2006-2010 the number of launches amounted to 48. He added that the increase demonstrates China's growing capacity in space rocket design and production. (3/3)

China's Heavy-Lift Rocket Will Rival NASA's SLS (Source: GB Times)
China has plans for a heavy-lift launch vehicle similar in size to the Space Launch System. The Long March 9 could place about 130 metric tons into low Earth orbit, a payload capacity similar to upgraded versions of the SLS. Chinese officials said the rocket could be used to support Mars exploration plans as well as sending humans to the Moon. The vehicle, though, is still in its earliest design phases and is not expected to launch until at least 2030. (3/2)

Air Force Space Chief Could Become Chief of Staff (Source: Breaking Defense)
The head of Air Force Space Command is "close to a lock" to becoming the next Air Force Chief of Staff. Gen. John Hyten has been widely rumored to be a top choice for the service's top post, and another candidate, Gen. Lori Robinson, is expected to instead take over Northern Command. Hyten is not a fighter pilot, which in the past would have been a handicap but, under current Defense Department leadership, could work to his advantage. Hyten's space experience could help elevate the importance of space systems within the Air Force should he become Chief of Staff. (3/2)

India Negotiating to Launch U.S. Commercial Satellite (Source: IANS)
An American company is in negotiations to launch a satellite on an Indian GSLV rocket. An Indian government minister told the nation's parliament Wednesday that the U.S. firm, identified as only a "leading space company," is in talks with Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, about launching a communications satellite on a GSLV. Neither the size of the satellite nor the proposed launch date were disclosed. (3/2)

J.J. Abrams Producing Docu-Series on Google’s $30 Million Moon-Landing Project (Source: Variety)
J.J. Abrams, who has helmed space epics “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Trek Into Darkness,” has turned his hand to the real-life drama behind the Google Lunar Xprize competition to land a robot on the moon. The Google-funded “Moon Shot” docu-series is produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot and Epic Digital and exec produced by J.J. Abrams. Here's the trailer. (3/3)

5 PR Lessons From the Tepid Virgin Galactic Launch (Source: PR Daily)
Sir Richard Branson is accustomed to the media spotlight. However, media attention can become a bad habit for executives. As a world-famous entrepreneur, Branson boasts a list of impressive accomplishments. However, his commercial spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, is not yet one of them.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo exploded in mid-air on Oct. 31, 2014, during a test flight. One pilot was killed and another was severely injured after ejecting. Members of the news media were unforgiving. Virgin Galactic tried to downplay the disaster by calling it an "in-flight anomaly." Many thought this characterization was flippant, considering the loss of life and millions of dollars spent on the risky project—which ended catastrophically.

The Washington Post described the catastrophe as "the most visible failure of the biggest test program in space aviation history." The Wall Street Journal reported: "Richard Branson's projections on launch ran counter to technical capabilities...the craft’s progress had been plagued by technical problems that few outsiders knew about." Click here. (3/3)

China Sets Sights on Mining the Moon (Source: Times Live)
The space-faring nations have ignored the 1979 outer space treaty, and last year the US’s Space Act removed legal obstacles to extraterrestrial activity, and many people are gearing up to mine one of the most valuable substances that occurs in nature. This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel. It is rare on Earth. It is found in troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the moon’s crust.

A fully loaded spaceship's cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value in the order of about £1-billion (R22-billion) a ton, making it the moon's most valuable commodity. China's lunar exploration program is proceeding fast, strongly attracted by the prospect of helium-3 mining. In 2013 China managed to land a lunar robot lander. The final stage of its current program intends sending a robotic craft to the moon that will return lunar rocks to Earth. (3/3)

Coming to a Launch Pad Near You: Outside Labor Woes (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
After receiving $1 billion in incentives from Nevada for Elon Musk to build a battery plant, local labor leaders are saying the billionaire is using loopholes to fill labor slots with outside, cheaper, labor. In South Texas, the political leadership from the Governor's mansion to the city commission have embraced Musk's SpaceX lured by promises of good-paying jobs for local workers and gave Musk $25 million in "incentives." Is Brownsville also going to lose those high paying jobs to our partners in Mexico just across the river?

In Nevada, hundreds of union construction workers walked off the job at Tesla Motors' battery manufacturing plant to protest what union organizers say is the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay. Approximately 350 plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters and others walked away from the construction site Monday.

The incentive package allows in some cases for Tesla to hire more out-of-state workers if not enough skilled workers are available in Nevada. But James insisted that's not the case. "They say it's because there are not enough workers in state to fill the jobs, but we have all kinds of workers available." (3/1)

Carl Sagan’s Dream of a Martian Microphone May Finally Be Real (Source: Motherboard)
Mars 2020, the successor to the Curiosity rover, is currently under development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The robotic explorer is expected to land on the Red Planet in the next decade, and could carry with it a very special instrument: the first Mars microphone.

For the past 50 years we’ve been exploring our closest planetary neighbor, Mars, with the help of a fleet of robotic space probes. We’ve learned that Mars was once very similar to Earth; that the harsh conditions were once more hospitable, and the barren world could have supported life. We’ve got our most convincing evidence yet that Mars may have traces of liquid water on its surface today, and we’re beginning to understand how Mars lost its atmosphere. What our trusty robotic pals cannot do, however, is tell us what Mars sounds like. (3/1)

No comments: