March 5, 2016

Embry-Riddle Alumni Help Fuel Blue Origin Rocket Launches (Source: ERAU)
When Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard space vehicle in West Texas on April 29, 2015, Brittany Feldman was there. “I’m one of four or five people in the company who know how to control the rocket—test the rocket and all of its systems,” said Feldman, an aerospace engineer and integrated test engineer at Blue Origin.

Ryle Maxson, a mechanical engineer for Blue Origin who was in the operations control center during the launch, said Feldman is actually in the company’s video of the rocket blast off. For the 18 Embry-Riddle alumni working at the commercial space company established by Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos, launching rockets and working towards achieving private human space flight is all in a day’s work. Click here. (3/4)

Investors Can Participate in New Era of Space Travel (Source: Indianapolis Business Journal)
America is embarking on the next great era of space exploration, and investors in both private and public companies will play a big role. NASA ended the space shuttle program in 2011 and has handed the baton over to the private sector to provide transportation into low Earth orbit. The expectation is that these firms will be able to manage these operations cheaper and more efficiently than a government agency.

Publicly traded Orbital ATK, SpaceX run by Elon Musk, and United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, have more than 30 launches scheduled in Florida this year. That is the most since 1960 and up from 18 launches last year. Blue Origin, founded by’s Jeff Bezos, also plans to enter the business soon. In 2014, the launch-services industry generated $5.9 billion in global revenue. (3/5)

Legislative Blitz Pushes Space Agenda (Source: SEA)
On February 21-23, 2016, the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) held its annual Legislative Blitz on Capitol Hill.  During this year's event, over 60 citizen activists conducted 173 meetings with Senate and House offices, articulating the need for continued support for an ambitious yet affordable and sustainable space program. Specifically, participants asked Congress to build on the progress made in the FY2016 Omnibus budget that increased NASA funding over the previous year's reduced budget by $1.3 billion. (2/29)

Coalition of 13 Space Organizations Release Space Policy White Paper (Source: NASA Watch)
During the press conference Elliot Pulham of the Space Foundation said that to some extent, he doesn't want space to be a campaign issue in case a candidate says something stupid. Considering what's already been said on the campaign trail, a candidate saying something stupid on any topic would be the norm. Click here to download the document, which was supported by Space Forida and organizations from California, Colorado and other states. (3/4)

Scientists Ready to Drill Into ‘Ground Zero’ of Yucatan Dinosaur-Killing Impact Crater (Source: Science)
This month, a drilling platform will rise in the Gulf of Mexico, but it won’t be aiming for oil. Scientists will try to sink a diamond-tipped bit into the heart of Chicxulub crater—the buried remnant of the asteroid impact 66 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs, along with most other life on the planet.

They hope that the retrieved rock cores will contain clues to how life came back in the wake of the cataclysm, and whether the crater itself could have been a home for novel microbial life. And by drilling into a circular ridge inside the 180-kilometer-wide crater rim, scientists hope to settle ideas about how such “peak rings,” hallmarks of the largest impact craters, take shape. Click here. (3/4)

Greenland Ice Sheet is Filthy, and That's a Problem (Source: Huffington Post)
Scientists have long known that Greenland's surface is neither green nor snowy white like you'll find on a world map. Rather, many of the country's massive ice fields have morphed into an ugly grey-black you'd find on the side of the road a few days after a blizzard.

Now, a new paper links this darkening of Greenland's ice to a familiar culprit, climate change, and warns that the worst is yet to come as the planet warms. The study, published Thursday in the journal The Cyrosphere, suggests that a "feedback loop" of melting ice in turn causes the once-white landscape to collect impurities like soot, where it then soaks up more heat and melts further. (3/4)

Hubble Space Telescope Shatters Distance Record, Spots Oldest Galaxy Ever Found (Source: Huffington Post)
On Friday, NASA announced that the telescope had seen farther back in time than ever before, successfully observing the most distant (and oldest) galaxy in the universe to date. The galaxy, dubbed GN-z11, is located a record 13.4 billion light years from Earth -- that’s just 400 million years after the Big Bang -- in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major. (3/4)

SpaceX Launches SES Commercial Satellite From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The fifth time was the charm for SpaceX. The company launched the SES-9 communications satellite into orbit at 6:35 p.m. EST (23:35 GMT) on Friday, March 4. This evening's launch was the 22nd flight of a Falcon 9 and the first from Florida since the successful launch carried out on Dec. 22, 2015. (3/4)

SpaceX’s Rocket Loses Its Battle Against a Robot Boat (Again) (Source: WIRED)
The rocket never had a chance. Rocket: zero. Boat: five. On the fifth encounter between Space’s Falcon 9 rocket and its autonomous drone barge, the rocket’s first-stage booster tried valiantly to land upright on its rocking, football field-sized landing pad, a barge called Of Course I Still Love You. The odds weren’t in its favor, after three failed landings and one catastrophic explosion in the air before it got to try. Today, it turned out, was no different. (3/4)

Pentagon Spends Big on Vertical Lift X-Plane That Will Never See Service (Source: Sputnik)
The US Defense Department has awarded a multimillion contract to develop DARPA’s new, state-of-the-art vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) plane – that it never intends to use. The Boeing V-22 Osprey was developed in 1988 to provide the US military with a VTOL aircraft. It flies like a plane, but has the flexible landing advantages of a helicopter.

Still, the Osprey relies on two large open rotors which, while operating on relatively little power, are only 60 percent efficient. The Osprey’s fairly clunky design also gives the aircraft a poor lift-to-drag ratio. Aeronautical engineers point out that a more aerodynamic vehicle would be able to get off the ground with much less energy. (3/4)

“Global Warming is Now in Overdrive”: We Just Hit a Terrible Climate Milestone (Source: Grist)
We’ve just surpassed a historic climate threshold — and the world is still heating up. As of Thursday morning, for the first time in recorded history, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere briefly crossed the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above “normal.”

A few degrees warmer since preindustrial averages may not seem like much, but in the grand scheme of things, it matters. Countries around the world formally agreed years ago to hold warming under the 2-degree mark, and the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned of the dangerous impacts of 2 degrees of  global warming.

The news comes in the wake of a parade of record-shattering temperatures. Last year was the hottest on record for the globe, and last month is looking pretty warm, too. Despite the enormity of the moment, not everyone is paying attention, as Holthaus pointed out. Maybe people will pay attention at 3 degrees, or 4 degrees … or … 5 … ? (3/4)

NASA’s Foremost Solar System Explorer Says Europa Lander a “Necessity” (Source: Ars Technica)
The fact that Charles Elachi is retiring after 15 years of directing NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in June may have him willing to speak freely. During a hearing Thursday before a Congressional committee, Elachi apparently had no qualms about contradicting NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden.

Bolden has said NASA should fully explore Europa with a flyby mission before building and flying a lander to Jupiter's ice-covered moon, which contains a vast, subsurface ocean. "Our belief is that that is imprudent from a scientific perspective," NASA's administrator said late last year.

During the Congressional hearing, however, Elachi said his engineers could design both a flyby spacecraft and lander that could fly to Europa in tandem. Moreover, Elachi said, to really begin addressing the question of life existing on Europa, such a mission must have the capability to reach the surface. "In order to make sure we have confirmation, we really need to make direct measurements on the surface, to take samples," he said. (3/4)

Russia Approves First Private Project of Reusable Space Tourism Rocket (Source: Tass)
Roscosmos has admitted the private space company KosmoKurs to support a project for the development of a reusable system for space tourism flights, KosmoKurs Director General Pavel Pushkin said. "Our technical design specification was approved by Roscosmos two days ago. The system’s preliminary design will be created with this document," Pushkin said.

The system that is being developed by KosmoKurs consists of a reusable suborbital launch vehicle and reusable suborbital spacecraft for space trips at an altitude of 200 km. The company plans to make flights for groups of six space tourists. Each flight will last for 15 minutes, during which the tourists will be in zero gravity for 5-6 minutes. (3/4)

Where on Mars Should Astronauts Go? (Source: Scientific American)
The Martians invaded Houston one morning in October of last year—although in truth some of them already lived there. As home to NASA’s astronaut corps at Johnson Space Center and the NASA-funded Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston probably has the highest per capita density of aspiring Martians on Earth. Click here. (3/4)

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