October 16, 2016

European Space Lander to Begin Descent to Mars (Source: ABC)
The European Space Agency is dispatching an experimental probe on the final leg of its mission to land on Mars. The Schiaparelli space lander is to separate from its mother ship at 10:42 EDT Sunday in preparation for a controlled descent to the red planet Wednesday. The probe will take images of Mars and conduct scientific measurements on the surface, but its main purpose is to test technology for a future European Mars rover. (10/16)
China Amps Up Space Program in Race to Challenge U.S. (Source: NBC)
If the U.S.-Soviet space rivalry helped define the second half of the 20th century, China's drive to become a space superpower looks set to mark the first half of the 21st. On Monday local time, China is set to launch a Shenzhou-11 into orbit from an isolated military launching pad in Inner Mongolia. The two-man vessel will rendezvous with a space lab launched September 15, where the crew will conduct experiments for a month — China's sixth and longest manned mission so far.

With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space. China is "on the rise and the U.S. is in very real danger of falling behind in the future," warned Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut and veteran of four space flights, one of which included commanding the International Space Station. Click here. (10/16)

China Hopes for Cooperation With Russia on Construction of Space Station (Source: Sputnik)
China is going to launch the core module of its space station in 2018. The station is expected to be completely ready for work in 2022. China hopes to deepen cooperation with Russia in the sphere of space exploration, particularly on construction of the Chinese space station, Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, said on Sunday.

“Since the start of the Chinese manned space program, we launched more than 20 cooperation projects with the Russian space agency and achieved constructive results. In future, during construction of the space station we hope for deepening cooperation and exchanges with Russia in the sphere of choosing and training cosmonauts, conducting scientific experiments and others,” Wu Ping said at a press conference dedicated to the forthcoming launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft. (10/16)

Space Policy 101 For Clinton and Trump (Source: Forbes)
President Obama penned an op-ed this week encouraging America to renew its commitment to space exploration. 68% of us hold a favorable view of NASA and our space agency is consistently ranked as the best place to work in the federal government. Americans are excited by the accomplishments of  entrepreneurial firms like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. So, you might think that our presidential hopefuls would share the voter’s interest . . .  but you’d be sadly mistaken.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rarely comment on space and neither has offered a coherent space policy. When Aerospace America asked the candidates about space policy this spring Clinton did not respond at all and Trump’s responses were poorly informed. In September, Scientific American queried the pair on science and graded Trump 1/5 and Clinton 2/5 on their space savvy.

Last week, SpaceNews presented nine good questions to the candidates. Clinton was vaguely supportive with feel-good statements like, “I even wrote to NASA to ask how I could become an astronaut.” Trump’s responses indicated a real lack of interest. When asked for “Any other comments” all the normally over-talkative GOP candidate could think of was, “No.” Seriously, “No.” Click here. (10/15)

Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Source: Japan Times)
What we’ve not been considering is that we’re hastening the evolution of our own species. If we manage to get to Mars, we won’t just be multiplanetary — we will be on the way to splitting our species in two. That’s because humans evolved on Earth and are just not up to space travel. We’ll need to engineer people to to help them adapt better.

Our most obvious weakness is our ability to handle radiation. Radiation mutates our DNA and makes us prone to cancer. It’s enough of a problem on Earth but in space, even on a relatively short six-month trip to Mars, travelers would be exposed to large doses of cosmic radiation, certainly more than the current NASA limits for astronauts on the ISS. Maybe, people say, we would be able to reach Mars but then die there of cancer.

Takekazu Kunieda at the University of Tokyo has a possible solution, although it may also be some years off. He works on tardigrades, microscopic animals with eight legs that are resistant to massive doses of radiation. Kunieda and colleagues last month published a paper in the journal Nature Communications showing that tardigrades have a “damage suppressor” protein, or Dsup for short, that shields their DNA from radiation damage. Click here. (10/15)

Orbital ATK Heads Back to Wallops for Space Launch (Source: Loudoun Times)
Two years after a launch explosion, Orbital ATK is returning to Virginia's Wallops Island to send a load of supplies to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:03 p.m. Sunday. The mission seeks to put the state-owned launch pad back into business. It's been idle since the 2014 rocket explosion that caused about $15 million in damage.

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on an island that NASA uses to launch small research rockets. Most of those launches are suborbital, and they've continued. For Sunday's planned launch at Wallops, Orbital will use a newer engine, also Russian built, on its Antares rocket. (10/15)

Virgin's Suborbital Tourism a Step Toward Point to Point Hypersonic Transport (Source: Next Big Future)
A "hypersonic space line," or a transportation system that would transport people halfway around the earth in a matter of hours, isn't science fiction. It's a science being perfected in part at Spaceport America, according to Michael Moses, president of spaceport tenant Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic was supposed to launch flights from Spaceport America, in southern New Mexico, several years ago. Area taxpayers paid about $219 million to get the spaceport going. But a series of minor setbacks and a major spacecraft crash during testing in October 2014 set the company back years. “It’s never easy to develop technologies that have never been tried before,” Moses said. “And it often takes more time than anyone anticipates.”

Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, has invested more than $500 million in Virgin Galactic. His plans include more than building a rocket ship to give rich people rides into space. “Sir Richard’s real vision is building a sub-orbital, point-to-point transportation system,” Moses said. “He wants to have the first hypersonic space line.” Tourism flights from Spaceport America are a means of proving technologies and gaining experience. Each time SpaceShipTwo flies it will generate more than $1 million in revenue, cash that underwrites some of the investment. (10/15)

Meet XCOR, One Of The Little Guys In The Commercial Spaceflight Race (Source: Gizmodo)
Richard Branson and Elon Musk aren’t the only personalities in the commercialised spaceflight game. There a plenty of smaller operations having a crack, from hobbyist operations such as John Carmack’s Armadillo Aerospace, to more serious efforts. In this video from Freethink — which will be an ongoing series — we get a chance to meet one of these dedicated outfits, with the focus here being Jeff Greason and XCOR Aerospace.

Jeff Greason envisions something more like Southwest Airlines for space for his company XCOR. XCOR's team of aerospace engineers are hunkered down in the Mojave Desert, working on a spacecraft prototype with a very ambitious goal: four daily, safe, round-trip flights to space, five days a week. If XCOR is successful, they could take more people to space in six months than NASA did in 30 years. Click here. (10/15)

Raytheon in Tucson Developing Tiny Satellites to Help Troops on Ground (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
For more than a decade, Raytheon Missile Systems has been making missile interceptors that destroy their targets in space. Now, the Tucson-based company is adapting those capabilities to develop small, disposable military satellites that give ground troops on-demand views of their locations.

Raytheon has modified some of its manufacturing lines in Tucson to produce relatively inexpensive satellites for a program called Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements, or SeeMe. The program, managed by DARPA, aims to give ground forces the ability to get high-resolution satellite images of the battlefield via their smartphones or other hand-held devices, within 90 minutes. (10/16)

How the Workplace Resembles a Spaceship to Mars (Source: The National)
The eventual idea – that a colony of maybe a million people could eventually be established on the Red Planet – certainly captures the imagination, even if the feasibility of the whole enterprise still appears to be somewhat questionable to some people.

Among all the thrilling details of interplanetary travel, however, one fairly mundane detail struck me. The proposed flight across the emptiness of space might, apparently, take a matter of months – perhaps three or four by some estimates – which seems like an inordinate amount of time to be in enforced proximity with a group of people you might know very little about or have much in common with.

Worse still if you discover one of those people happens to be genuinely unpleasant or actively disruptive. If the idea of being trapped on an airplane beside an incorrigible talker for a matter of hours fills you with dismay, then the Mars flight could be a very long trip indeed. (10/16)

Congresswoman Calls for Stable, Multiyear NASA Funding (Source: Time)
Rep. Donna F. Edwards, D-MD, writes that NASA "deserves a solid multiyear authorization and appropriation" to provide stability for long-term missions. "We owe our next generation a vibrant NASA working in partnership with industry, academia and international partners to continue the amazing record of achievement and to persevere in striving towards the ambitious and worthy goal of one day sending humans to the surface of Mars," she says. (10/13)

Caterpillar Teams With NASA on 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Caterpillar Inc. is working with Bechtel, Brick and Mortar Ventures and Bradley University to sponsor NASA’s latest Centennial Challenge—the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The competition is created to incent America’s most talented to come up with innovative ways to design and print a habitat that could be used for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars, as well as have applications on Earth today. (10/9)

Lockheed Reveals Next-Gen ICMB Partners; Northrop, Boeing Silent (Source: Defense News)
Lockheed Martin today revealed the industry partners on its bid to design America’s next intercontinental ballistic missiles, as competitors Northrop Grumman and Boeing are staying silent on their teams. John Karas, Lockheed Martin vice president and Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program manager, also revealed that the Air Force is open to bids that feature mobile control sites as part of the proposal.

The Lockheed GBSD offering teams the world’s largest defense company with General Dynamics, which will focus on weapon system command and control; Draper Laboratories, which will help develop the guidance navigation and control systems; Moog, to provide the cross-vector control systems; and Bechtel, to help develop the launch facilities. (10/13)

Mission Prepares for Next Jupiter Pass (Source: NASA JPL)
Mission managers for NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter have decided to postpone the upcoming burn of its main rocket motor originally scheduled for Oct. 19. This burn, called the period reduction maneuver (PRM), was to reduce Juno's orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 to 14 days. The decision was made in order to further study the performance of a set of valves that are part of the spacecraft's fuel pressurization system. The period reduction maneuver was the final scheduled burn of Juno's main engine.

After consulting with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and NASA Headquarters, Washington, the project decided to delay the PRM maneuver at least one orbit. The most efficient time to perform such a burn is when the spacecraft is at the part of its orbit which is closest to the planet. The next opportunity for the burn would be during its close flyby of Jupiter on Dec. 11. (10/14)

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