August 4, 2016

North Korea Hopes to Plant Flag on the Moon (Source: ABC)
North Korean space officials are hard at work on a five-year plan to put more advanced satellites into orbit by 2020, and don't intend to stop there: They're also aiming for the moon, and beyond. In an interview with The Associated Press, a senior official at North Korea's version of NASA said international sanctions won't stop the country from launching more satellites by 2020, and that he hopes to see the North Korean flag on the moon within the next 10 years.

"Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon," said Hyon Kwang Il, director of the scientific research department of North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration.

An unmanned, no-frills North Korean moon mission in the not-too-distant future isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. Outside experts say it's ambitious, but conceivable. While the U.S. is the only country to have conducted manned lunar missions, other nations have sent unmanned spacecraft there and have in that sense planted their flags. (8/4)

Russia Plans Ganymede Lander (Source: Ars Technica)
After years of pressure from Congress and the scientific community, NASA has finally begun formal mission planning to send both an orbiter, possibly launching as early as 2023, and a follow-up lander mission to the Jovian moon Europa. But the US space agency may not be alone in sending probes Jupiter's moons. Russia now says it is going to Ganymede.

In a promotional video, engineers from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, discuss a proposed orbiter and lander mission to the largest moon in the solar system. Specific dates are not discussed for this "Laplace-P" concept, but the Russians have previously targeted a launch date of 2023, and the video suggests a launch could come in the next decade. The video appears to suggest that Ganymede may be as good a candidate (or better) for life than Europa. (8/3)

Suit, Craft Ready, But India's Space Odyssey Gets A Go Slow Signal (Source: NDTV)
 India will not be putting a man in space anytime soon. Jitendra Singh, the minister in charge of India's space programmes, has recently told Parliament "as of now, manned space program is not an approved program".

With a goal to launch Indian astronauts into space on Indian rockets from Indian soil, the Indian Space Research Organization or ISRO had sought Rs. 12,500 crore from the government. With Russia, USA and China being the only countries to have successfully conducted human space flight programs, the scientists were hoping to make India the fourth. (8/4)

Building a Bright Regulatory Future for the Commercial Space Industry (Source: Space News)
As a founder and chief technology officer of a U.S. commercial spaceflight company, I’m proud to live in a country that openly supports and encourages innovation through action. In that regard, the Federal Aviation Administration has been a key collaborator, supporter and enabler of the commercial human spaceflight industry.

They’ve expertly implemented the current legal framework that fosters innovation and promotes progress, ensuring both U.S. leadership on a global stage and a favorable climate for private investment and calculated risk taking. But as U.S. companies inch closer to commercial operation and our industry evolves, so too must our regulatory framework. '

The human spaceflight regulatory regime that governs large segments of our industry has limitations on the FAA’s ability to issue new regulations intended to ensure occupant safety. Because these limitations, under what is known as the “learning period,” are due to expire in 2023, there is an unintended consequence of legal and fiscal uncertainty. Click here. (8/3)

A New Reason We Haven’t Found Alien Life in the Universe (Source: Washington Post)
Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once famously exclaimed “Where is everybody?” We have been trying to answer his paradox — we exist, so aliens should exist, too — ever since. According to one new solution, we have not seen or heard from any galactic neighbors because we are still waiting for them to be born. And it will, according to the calculations, be a long time before we can throw other solar systems a baby shower.

If you grade earthlings on a cosmic curve, as recently hashed out by Harvard and Oxford University astrophysicists, we’re at the head of the class. So says a team of astronomers in a new study, to be published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The researchers calculated the probability that life as we know it should exist at any given point in the universe. Based on their assumptions, Earthly life is quite likely premature. (8/3)

Would You Take a Selfie on Mars? (Source: CNN)
If you went to Mars, would you take a selfie? In his photo series "Greetings from Mars," photographer Julien Mauve imagines life as a tourist on the Red Planet -- selfie-stick and all. The irreverent photos were awarded the 2016 Sony World Photography Award for professional conceptual photography. Click here. (8/3)

Elon Musk Says Tesla and SpaceX Will Not Merge (Source: Inverse)
Tesla and SpaceX will not combine, Elon Musk, CEO of both companies, confirmed in a Tesla investor call today. "There’s not a strong rationale to combine SpaceX and Tesla,” Musk said, unlike his previous merger — apparently, “there is (rational) for Tesla and SolarCity” to combine.

Musk is referring to a deal for Tesla to acquire SolarCity (a company that Musk sits on the board for) in an all-stock buyout that has been called crazy, bad for business, unethical, sound long-term thinking, and everything in between. Apparently, though, a single Musk-backed entity that controls a green future and the future of space transportation just isn’t in the stars. (8/3)

Tucson Airport Board Backs Spaceport Operation (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
The Tucson Airport Authority board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday backing development of World View Enterprises’ new headquarters and Spaceport Tucson, despite some lingering safety concerns. The measure also commits the airport to work with the Federal Aviation Administration and key stakeholders during the licensing process, to ensure the safe operation of the high-altitude balloon operation under construction south of Tucson International Airport. (8/4)

First Agent Now Offering Virgin Galactic’s Space Flights (Source: Travel Week)
What do you think the commission is on a $250,000 flight? A Sydney-based travel agent has become the first agent to offer Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flights. Gill McLachlan of Lachlan Travel Group will be offering the 90-minute, $250,000 flights from his Sydney agency, even though no lift-off date has been confirmed. (8/3)

Spaceport America Needs Experienced Air, Space Manager (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We need a go-getter to get going. A spaceport is a business, and that business is transportation. There are five modes of transportation; ground, sea, rail, air and space. The state has a secretary of transportation. I wonder if he has been involved in the discussion about the qualifications of our next spaceport director.

Running a spaceport is a profession. New Mexicans can look at the spaceport as an asset. A qualified director would know all about developing infrastructure, including roads and rail. She or he will be someone who understands how to run a transportation hub, who can reach out to the growing network of spaceports across the country, and who can build an economic engine around the spaceport.

We taxpayers own that facility. Yet, very few people seem to understand, this is a profession where qualified people work in this industry and are available. Three people in the industry have contacted me about this position. They don’t see any job announcement, so I have suggested they call the chairman of the Spaceport Authority. This is a pretty low-key approach to telling people in the industry we want the best person we can recruit to this job. (8/2)

Extinction-Level Asteroid Could Collide with Earth in 2175 (Source: CTV)
It’s the end of the world as we know it. Well, maybe it’s the end of the world as our great- great- great- great-grandchildren will know it. Scientists believe that an asteroid named 101955 Bennu could be on a direct collision-course with Earth. Possible date of impact? 2175.

“It is what we call an Earth-crossing asteroid,” York University astrophysics and astronomy professor Paul Delaney told CTV News Channel on Monday. Bennu is one of hundreds of celestial bodies flying through space on a possible collision course. Bennu, which measures nearly 500 metres in diameter, is large enough to dramatically alter life on Earth, if it ever collided with our planet. (8/1)

Spectrolab Creates Most Efficient Space Solar Cell (Source: Via Satellite)
Spectrolab, a Boeing company, has pioneered efficiency in space solar cells, reaching a record 30.7% conversion rate. "The increased efficiency of the XTJ Prime solar cell drives a lower-dollar-per-watt solution, meaning spacecraft using this new cell will be lighter and less expensive to build and launch, and more powerful once in space," said Tony Mueller, president of Spectrolab. (8/1)

Astronomers Just Found a Huge Void in the Milky Way (Source: Mic)
Our understanding of the Milky Way galaxy just got turned upside down. Astronomers have found a chunk of the center of our galaxy that is completely devoid of any young, pulsing stars called cepheids, according to new research. Yep, our Milky Way has a bald spot.

There are billions of stars that make up our entire galaxy. Studying the distribution of those stars helps astronomers figure out the galaxy's structure. Cepheids are especially useful because it's easy to measure how bright they are and figure out how far away they are. They help us map out material in the galaxy and understand how it evolved over time. This newly discovered bare patch without cepheids could mean that we have our Milky Way history all wrong.

"We already found some while ago that there are cepheids in the central heart of our Milky Way (in a region about 150 light-years in radius)," astronomer Noriyuki Matsunaga explained in a statement. "Now we find that outside this, there is a huge cepheid desert extending out to 8,000 light-years from the center." (8/2)

NASA to Sample Asteroid That Might One Day Hit Earth (Source: Australian Geographic)
NASA is launching a mission next month to sample a potentially hazardous asteroid that's due to come within close range of Earth late next century. The mission – called OSIRIS-Rex – will take about seven years, with the explorer spacecraft set to launch on 8 September this year, to reach the 492m-diameter asteroid – called Bennu – by 2018, returning with a 60g sample by 2023. (8/2)

China's Unique Space Ambitions (Source: The Diplomat)
China’s space ambitions and goals are unique. Unlike the space rivalry between the United States and the former USSR, which was mostly about “who got where first” (prestige and status) as well as geopolitical rivalry, China’s space ambition is to harness the vast resources available in space to benefit and sustain its economic rise. Click here. (8/3) 

Vector Space Systems Successfully Completes First Sub-Orbital Launch (Source: Vector Space)
Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced the successful launch of its P-20 rocket, a sub-scale test vehicle for  the Vector 1, in advance of orbital launches in 2018. The test, conducted July 30 in Mojave, CA, also carried Vector's first customer payload through a partnership with Finnish-based Iceye. (8/2)

Volcanic Moon's Atmosphere Freezes Daily in Jupiter's Shadow (Source: Cosmos)
Jupiter's massive tidal push and pull bestows explosive volcanism on its innermost moon Io. But the gas giant's huge shadow also freezes Io's atmosphere on a daily basis, crystallising sulfur dioxide gas into ice which falls onto the moon's surface as frost. Constantine Tsang from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and colleagues in the US, France and Spain recorded, for the first time, how Io's atmosphere behaves during its orbit around Jupiter from sunshine to shadow.

In a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Planets, they saw the atmosphere begins to “deflate” when the temperatures drop from around -150 °C in sunlight to around -170 °C during eclipse which happens two hours of every Io day (1.7 Earth days). The atmosphere puffs up again as the surface warms once the moon returns to full sunlight. (8/3)

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