September 26, 2016

Different Paths to Mars (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk will unveil his plans for human missions to Mars this week, but he’s not the only person talking about Mars exploration. Jeff Foust reports there’s a new emphasis on Mars mission planning, as other companies and organizations propose alternative approaches for getting humans to the Red Planet. Click here. (9/26)

Further Steps Toward the Frontier: Recent Policy Efforts on Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Getting space settlement put into law as a goal for US space policy has been a long-running goal of space advocates. Cody Knipfer argues that there are encouraging signs of progress. Click here. (9/26)
Unpopular Truths About Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, among others are developing the technical capabilities to establish private enterprise space settlements. Alan Wasser points out that actually establishing space settlements would be infinitely easier to fund if they could be as potentially profitable as their other businesses. Click here. (9/26)

Why India's Commercial Space Program is Thriving (Source: BBC)
India's ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has put it on firm footing in the global market. Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently. So they need to piggyback on missions from agencies like Isro that have launch facilities.

"The need for launches is growing exponentially worldwide, primarily because of new companies that are planning to launch entire commercial constellations [groups] of satellites," says Susmita Mohanty, chief executive of Earth2Orbit, a company that has been helping negotiate launch deals between India's space agency and private firms.

Another thing that could be making India an attractive proposition is the frequency of its launches and its ability to meet deadlines. "So far we have been able to meet the time requirements of the customers," says Mr Kumar. India now plans to have as many as 12 launches a year, a pace that's more than doubled since 2015.
Still, getting foreign satellites on board is not simple. (9/26)

Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa (Source: NASA)
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes. The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa's surface. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness. The plumes provide a tantalizing opportunity to gather samples originating from under the surface without having to land or drill through the ice. (9/26)

NASA: Odds Favor Successful SpaceX Mars Mission (Source:
Before NASA decided to help SpaceX on its journey to Mars, details of which company chief Elon Musk plans to unveil on Tuesday, the U.S. space agency reviewed the plan for SpaceX's first mission, slated to launch in 2018, and decided it has a reasonably good chance of success.

For NASA, a successful mission means that SpaceX's Mars vehicle, called Red Dragon, flies through the Martian atmosphere with its thrusters firing in the direction of travel, a technology known as supersonic retrograde propulsion. The feather in the cap would be a propulsive landing on the Martian surface.

"This is a critical, critical technology for us," said Phil McAlister, director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Division. "This is flight data that would not be available to us by any other means." NASA is working toward sending astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s. Musk aims to beat that by a decade. (9/26)

SpaceX Test-Fires Raptor Engines (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has conducted its first firing test of its Raptor engine, the powerful propulsion system that the company aims to use to take humans to Mars. SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted pictures of the tests late last night, sharing one image that showed a steady stream of flame emanating from the engine, and another showing "Mach diamonds" — patterns formed in the exhaust plumes of supersonic craft.

Musk has been has been fairly vague on Raptor specifications so far, but tweeted a few extra details after last night's tests, confirming production goals and chamber pressure. Previously he indicated that Raptor engines will deliver about 500,000 pounds of liftoff thrust — about as much as the Space Shuttle's main engines — and will use liquid methane rather than kerosene. Full-scale Raptor engines first arrived at SpaceX's testing facility in Texas earlier this year. (9/26)

Gary Johnson Calls for Space Colonization, Vows to Stay in Race (Source: WTOP)
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate and former governor of New Mexico, said that the future of the human race will depend upon learning to inhabit other planets. “We do have to inhabit other planets. The future of the human race is space exploration,” Johnson said in offering a response on how to address the challenges posed by climate change. (9/26)

India Launches PSLV C-35 with Eight Satellites (Source: The Wire)
A PSLV C-35 rocket, carrying India’s SCATSAT-1 meant for ocean and weather studies and seven other satellites including from US and Canada, today lifted off from the spaceport in Sriharikota. Besides SCATSAT-1, the 44.4 m tall ISRO’s workhorse PSLV rocket is carrying two Indian university satellites, three from Algeria and one each from US and Canada. For the first time in its mission, the PSLV will launch its payloads in two different orbits. There will be two Fourth Stage Engine restarting for this purpose. (9/26)

Man in India Carrying Fake NASA ID with Obama Signature Held (Source: Hindustan Times)
A college student in Dewas was arrested on Saturday on charge of extorting money using a fake identity card of NASA bearing the signature of US President Barack Obama. The police said 20-year-old Ansar, a resident of Kamlapur, placed a few antennas and gadgets on the roof of his house to mislead villagers that these help NASA get a picture of the area.

Ansar also told people that he was selected for a NASA project and got annual package of `1.85 crore. He was even felicitated by Kamlapur Government Higher Secondary School on August 15 for his “outstanding work”, and met some including politicians and bureaucrats. But he had his luck run out when he met district superintendent of police Shashikant Shukla. As Ansar wore the identity card during the meeting, Shukla raised doubt on the signature. As he left the office, Shukla called Bagli police station in-charge BS Gore and asked him to keep a watch on Ansar. (9/26)

Going to Mars Could Mess Up the Hunt for Alien Life (Source: National Geographic)
Twenty years ago, America celebrated its Independence Day by landing several thousand invaders on the surface of Mars. On July 4, 1997, the Pathfinder spacecraft touched down in a northern lowland called Chryse Planitia carrying a small rover named Sojourner—as well as a large amount of stowaways in the form of earthly microbes.

Did any of these microbes survive and reproduce, establishing themselves as Earth’s first colonists on a distant world? Highly unlikely, NASA assured us at the time, noting that scientists believed “it would be difficult to sustain and cultivate life on Mars.” But, as Jurassic Park famously pointed out, life often finds a way. Biologists have been discovering all kinds of organisms on Earth capable of thriving in extreme environments. (9/26)

Apollo 1 Memorial Proposed at Arlington Cemetery (Source: CollectSpace)
Legislation introduced last week would establish an Apollo 1 memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The bill, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), directs the Secretary of the Army, working with NASA, to establish a "memorial marker" for the Apollo 1 crew at the cemetery. Similar memorials are there for the astronauts lost on the Challenger and Columbia shuttle accidents. (9/26)

Major Reform Sought for National Security Space (Source: Space News)
The head of a key House subcommittee said he wants to carry out "major reform" to national security space. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee, said last week he will seek those reforms in a fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act, warning that the military is not "organized and prepared to fight and win a war in space." His subcommittee is holding a hearing on the issue Tuesday. (9/26)

Boeing Distributes $6 Million in Education Grants, Says It Will Be In Washington for Decades (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing showered $6 million in grants on more than 50 educational institutions and nonprofits across Washington state Wednesday, seeking to dispel fears that it plans to shift jobs overseas. “Boeing will be a significant jobs provider in Washington for decades to come," Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a news release announcing the grants. "Our hope and goal is that those future jobs will continue to be filled by kids who grow up right here in the state.” (9/23)

Boeing CEO Rips Donald Trump Over China Remarks (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
The chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and a former U.S. ambassador to China have taken turns criticizing Donald Trump, saying the Republican presidential nominee is misrepresenting U.S. trade with China and Boeing's dealings in China in particular. Trump has made the aircraft manufacturer's China activities an election issue, alleging Boeing will move U.S jobs to China if he's not elected to stop major corporations from shifting jobs offshore. (9/20)

How NASA Plans To Discover Other Earths With The Help Of Starshade (Source: Fossbytes)
Every star like our very own star, the sun, have at least one planet orbiting around it. Astronomers can currently detect planets outside our solar system through indirect methods like observing the changes in light from the distant stars when its planet passes across it. They have been doing this for more than 15 years, but unfortunately have not documented clear pictures of any exoplanets.

Firstly, even the closest star is several light years away. So when the astronomers observe these stars from an astronomical distance, their orbiting planets appear very close to the star. That defect disables the telescope from detecting them.

Secondly, the stars are billion times brighter than their planets, which makes viewing these planets nearly impossible. We reach for our sunglasses when the blinding sunlight shines into our eyes and that is exactly what NASA is doing. They are designing a huge pair of sunglasses for its telescope which will help them in capturing pictures of exoplanets. (9/25)

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