June 12, 2016

ULA Delta-4 Heavy Launches Spy Satellite From Florida Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA launched a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office atop a Delta-4 Heavy rocket on Saturday at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The successful launch came after a two-day weather-related delay. (6/11)

Surveying The Skies To Safeguard Earth (Source: Honolulu Civil Beat)
The threat of a massive asteroid or comet hitting the Earth has not escaped the members of Congress. In 1998, they established the Spaceguard Survey and called for NASA to discover, within a decade, 90 percent of Near Earth Objects (objects defined as having the potential to come within one-third of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) with a diameter of 1 kilometer in size or greater.

Meager funding and the inability to fulfill the objectives set by the Safeguard Survey led to a second mandate in 2005 called the Near-Earth Objects Survey Act. This congressional mandate called for NASA to find 90 percent of NEOs of the size 140 meters (750 ft.) or greater by 2020.

In Hawaii, work started in 2006 to build the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, on the summit of Haleakala on Maui. After a long period of commissioning, during which the installation, alignment and acceptance were completed, the Pan-STARRS 1 or PS1 telescope went into full operations in 2010. (6/10)

Developing Technology to Push Out Into the Solar System Not Just to Visit, But to Stay (Source: White House)
In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs—converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again. Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.”

And NASA is leading the way for this push with plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. Recently, NASA announced that they plan to dedicate up to $30 million over the next five years to support university-led research institutes to more rapidly develop two game changing capabilities needed to make this happen: ultra-high strength, lightweight materials and bio-manufacturing for deep space exploration. Click here. (6/7)

Moon Express Reveals Need for Space Law (Source: Tech Policy Corner)
“Congress needs to finish what it started last year,” concluded James Dunstan, founder of Mobius Legal group, TechFreedom Senior Adjunct Fellow and thirty-plus year practicing space lawyer. “That means creating a clear statutory system for governing what U.S. companies do in space with the lightest regulatory touch necessary for the U.S. to fulfill its international obligations."

"Allowing them to succeed will require avoiding cumbersome regulation, and will best be done by extending basic principles of property and tort law into space — but even that still requires legislation. And the 2015 mining law won’t help Lunar Express ultimately mine the Moon because it only covers asteroids. If the New Space Renaissance is to succeed, we need comprehensive property and non-interference (tort) protections, but also clear Article VI rights — the sooner, the better.” (6/6)

Alien Civilizations Almost Certainly Exist(ed) (Source: GeekWire)
Are we alone? Fifty-five years ago, astronomer Frank Drake came up with an equation that weighed the odds for aliens, and now two astronomers have tweaked the formula to come up with a slightly different spin. Their bottom line? There’s an astronomically high chance that other civilizations have arisen elsewhere in the universe at some point in its 13.8 billion-year history.

The University of Washington’s Woody Sullivan and the University of Rochester’s Adam Frank published their assessment in the May issue of Astrobiology, and Frank is following up with an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times. “While we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history,” Frank writes. (6/11)

Monitoring Pipelines From Space (Source: Space Daily)
Dutch company Orbital Eye has developed a service that uses satellites to monitor gas and oil pipelines. A major African pipeline operator has already signed up for the service. Worldwide, gas and oil pipelines extend two million km. In most cases, this network is not very deep: just 1.5 m below our feet. Gas pipes in the EU alone stretch 140 000 km, another 40 000 km carry oil and related products. In addition, there are the final distribution lines to our homes and places of work. (6/7)

Washington's Aerospace Tax Breaks Went to Nearly 290 Companies (Source: Seattle Times)
The state’s aerospace tax breaks cut the tax bills of local aerospace companies over the past two years by $553 million, according to data released by the state Department of Revenue. While Boeing received the lion’s share of that tax relief — 93 percent — an additional 286 companies in the state benefited in smaller ways.

Coming in second behind Boeing’s mighty $517 million in aerospace tax relief for 2014 and 2015 was Mukilteo-based Electroimpact, the high-end engineering company that designs and builds automated manufacturing equipment for Boeing, Airbus and other plane makers. The tax breaks saved Electroimpact a combined $2.4 million over the two years.

Kelly Maloney, chief executive of the Aerospace Futures Alliance, the state aerospace lobbying organization, said it’s easy to justify the tax breaks. “The investment that aerospace companies put into this state is far greater than the tax incentives they receive,” she said. (6/9)

Low Gravity and High Radiation: Would Humans Remain Human on Mars? (Source: Ars Technica)
Even if we overcome the technical and financial challenges that stand in the way of putting humans on Mars, we know precious little about how microgravity and heightened radiation will affect the ability of humans to reproduce in space. Without procreation, there is no permanent colony, and early tests aren’t promising.

New species evolve most commonly when a barrier prevents a population from mating, such as on an island archipelago, so species on separate Galapagos islands evolve along separate lines. With modern humanity, of course, the trend is going in the opposite direction, as people move around the planet at a rate unprecedented in human history. “So on planet Earth it would take a major change to imagine us having populations isolated long enough to have distinct species,” he said.

The gulf between Earth and Mars might present such a barrier, if the Martian colony were self-sustaining and persistent. Through natural selection, humans and any organisms they bring with them, such as a plants, may evolve and adapt to Mars' harsh environment and low gravity, which is only a third of Earth's gravity. (6/11)

That Time an Astronaut Lost His Wedding Ring in Space (Source: WIRED)
On the second day of the 1972 11-day Apollo 16 trip to the moon and back, command module pilot Ken Mattingly lost his wedding ring. “It just floated off somewhere, and none of us could find it,” Duke says. They orbited around the moon for a day and still, it eluded them. They landed on the moon ... “It’s now the eighth day of the mission, and Mattingly is still looking for his ring.”

As he turned to head back in, something caught his eye, small, glistening in the sun, floating slowly out of the door. He reached his big gloved hand out to catch the ring and missed. “Well,” he thought, “lost in space.”

But as he watched, Duke realized the ring was headed right for the back of Mattingly’s head. The astronaut, unaware, was absorbed in his experiment when the ring hit him right on the back of the helmet, turned 180 degrees, and headed back for the hatch. About three minutes later, Charlie caught it in his big gloved hand. (6/10)

Pope Francis Speaks to Participants of Vatican Observatory Summer Course (Source: Vatican Radio)
Pope Francis on Saturday addressed the participants of a summer course organized by the Vatican Observatory, reminding them how diversity enriches scientific research, which in turn draws us ever closer to our Creator God. The fifteenth installment of the Vatican Observatory’s summer course for astronomers falls on the 125th anniversary of the Observatory’s founding.

In his address to the summer course participants, Pope Francis focused on the importance of cultural diversity in scientific research. Noting the diverse provenance of the participants, he said their desire to discover the truth of the cosmos will lead them to the Creator. (6/11)

Why NASA Sent 3 Defenseless Legos to Die on Jupiter (Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
In less than two years, NASA will send three unique Lego Minifigures to their fiery deaths in Jupiter’s atmosphere. It will make the only other set in the universe — a prized possession at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — much more valuable.

But fear not, the two Lego men and one Lego woman will be sacrificed in the name of science. The aluminum figurines of astronomer Galileo, Roman god Jupiter and goddess Juno are aboard a deep-space probe that’s been heading to the gas giant for the last five years.

Lego created two sets of figures specifically for the mission. One was a backup in case the first set broke. While the same size as store-bought Minifigures, these Legos are made out of aluminum to protect them from the harshness of space. (6/11)

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