November 16, 2016

Port Commissioners Delay Decision on SpaceX Expansion Agreement (Source: BayNews9)
SpaceX will have to wait at least a month longer to move forward with plans of expanding at Port Canaveral. At the Port Canaveral Commission meeting Wednesday morning, port leaders postponed a vote to approve a lease agreement with SpaceX. The rocket company is aiming to take over new facilities at Port Canaveral to store and work on its first stage boosters after they return from launch.

Port Canaveral Commissioners on Wednesday were going to decide if SpaceX can take over the former SpaceHab building to refurbish and process rockets. One commissioner called the postponement disappointing, but port leaders said SpaceX has a temporary use permit to use the existing hangar for their use. They say they're still working on the lease agreement and SpaceX will have to wait until next month’s port meeting before they can expand any more at the port. (11/16)

Teenage Girls to Launch Africa's First Private Space Satellite (Source: CNN)
They may be teenagers, but 17-year-old Brittany Bull and 16-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa have grand ambitions -- to launch Africa's first private satellite into space. They are part of a team of high school girls from Cape Town, South Africa, who have designed and built payloads for a satellite that will orbit over the earth's poles scanning Africa's surface.

Once in space, the satellite will collect information on agriculture, and food security within the continent. Using the data transmitted, "we can try to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future", explains Bull, a student at Pelican Park High School. (11/15)

My Personal Mission To (And For) Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
Frankly, I was ignorant. I freely admit that.  Before I joined the cast of the National Geographic series, Mars, I didn’t know very much about Mars ― and to be honest I didn’t really care.  Like many people, I didn’t see how it related to me and why we should spend the money to go to Mars when there are so many problems in the world today that I deemed more important. Click here. (11/15)

Dutch Firm Unveils Concept Space Suit for Mars Explorers (Source: Daily Maverick)
Dutch company Mars One, which aims to send people to the Red Planet within a decade, on Tuesday unveiled its first concept for a space suit to protect humans "under the  most difficult conditions." The pressurised suit will include an impact resistant helmet with a see-through bubble. It will "make maximum use of local Mars resources to provide a safe and comfortable environment for crew members," Mars One said in a statement.

Made from material similar to that used for NASA's astronauts when exploring the Moon, the suit's design also takes into account "new challenges" presented by Mars' surface. This included dealing with omnipresent red dust, which the company admitted still "needed more work." Consisting of interchangable parts, the suit will have to ward off life-threatening radiation and be able to fit many different seizes of would-be Martian explorers. (11/15)

What Branson Thinks of Bezos and Musk (Source: Fortune)
Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk are the three billionaire entrepreneurs leading the 21st century privately-funded space race. While Elon Musk’s SpaceX focuses on launching satellites and transporting humans to Mars, Branson doesn’t necessarily see him as a direct competitor. “I suppose I see [Musk] as a younger version of myself,” he says.

As for Bezos? Branson plans to beat him in the tourism space race. Branson is behind Virgin Galactic — a private company that’s already signing up passengers to pay $250,000 per ticket to experience a few minutes of weightlessness in outer space. In a recent interview, Branson said he welcomes the competition because it will give customers more options while also driving ticket prices down. (11/15)

NewSpace Sector Is Likely Facing Recession (Source: Forbes)
Markets are rife with rumblings about an impending global recession, but at least one prominent commercial space analyst thinks a U.S. newspace downturn is already here. If so, it would come on the heels of a decade and a half of nearly double digit commercial space sector growth. “We are just beginning to see the realized effects of a contraction that has been happening since the beginning of 2016,” said Jeff Matthews. “And the full effects will not be realized until mid-to late-2017.”

Even so, venture capital firms are increasingly reticent to invest in early-phase start ups. That is, in a once burgeoning sector that offered the promise of everything from Earth-orbiting nano-sats, lunar and/or asteroid mining, Mars colonization, to space condos. Post election, venture investors across the board may slow down even further while they wait to see how the Trump Administration’s policies and initiatives will play out, says Matthews.

Many newspace firms are already in the economic repair or recovery phase. In 2016, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research reported that space companies still in economic recuperation include SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Skybox, Nanoracks, Planetary Resources, Planet, Blue Origin and Spire. (11/15)

The Race to Mine the Moon Heats Up (Source: WBAL)
The last time a human went to the moon was aboard Apollo 17 in 1972. Now there is a fierce competition to get an unmanned spacecraft back to the moon. Moon Express, which is based in Florida but has ties to the University of Maryland, is trying to send a spacecraft there to mine precious minerals from the moon. Some are raising the question of whether we should be messing with the moon.

It used to be global powers competing to get to the moon, but now it is private companies jockeying to be the first thanks to the Google Lunar X competition. Google will pay $20 million to the first private company that successfully lands an unmanned craft on the moon, moves it 500 meters and then transmits HD pictures back to Earth. Moon Express, founded by a pair of Silicon Valley billionaires, aims to be that company. Its mission is to mine the moon mainly of tritium, a very rare and valuable element used for fuel and fusion.

The University of Maryland will be piggybacking on that mission. University of Maryland astrophysicist Douglas Currie has arranged with his colleagues to deliver a new set of lunar laser ranging rays. Experts hope the new generation of reflectors or mirrors, which are small yet very expensive, will help study and lead to an understanding of the mysteries behind dark matter, which makes up about 70 percent of the universe. (11/15)

Could Human Beings Ever Reach 'Earth 2.0'? (Source: NBC)
How far away is 1,400 light-years? Even in science fiction, that is not a quick journey. If Captain Jean-Luc Picard wanted to travel from Earth to Kepler-452b, it would take the USS Enterprise more than 16 months traveling at warp 8 to reach its destination. That is for a ship that can go faster than the speed of light — which, as far as we know, is impossible. Sticking to existing technology, a trip to Kepler-452b might take so long human beings could evolve into a different species before the spacecraft completed its mission. (11/15)

Space-Bound Bacteria May Actually Keep Astronauts Safe (Source: BTN)
U-Maryland Seniors Yaniv Kazansky, Aaron Solomon and Gary Soroosh devised a study of how bacteria might develop in the microgravity of space through bacterial pathogeny. Astronauts have been shown to be more susceptible to bacteria, and researchers would like to know why as humans begin to travel to space in greater numbers. Click here. (11/15)

Venture Investment Takes Space Travel to New Heights (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Venture funding has flowed more freely into space businesses in recent years, bringing the industry into the mainstream and boosting confidence that new space-related products can both make money and provide useful data. Click here. (11/15)

NASA Shows How Close its SLS Rocket is to Getting a Big Squeeze (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA brought the media to one of the rarest rocket test sites in America Tuesday to show how close it is to a big squeeze test of critical parts of the Space Launch System (SLS). In early January, Vancleave and her team will begin a series of more than 50 tests to squeeze, jam and shift the stack to simulate the forces of a rocket launch. She said she'll be "very nervous" during Thursday's crane move, but eager to get started with the tests. (11/15)

For NASA Commander, Breaking Glass Ceiling Meant Aiming for Outer Space (Source: Badger Herald)
Highly decorated astronaut Eileen Collins visited the University of Wisconsin Monday to discuss her adversity in NASA’s mostly-male industry. Collins is best known for being the first female to both pilot and command the NASA shuttle Columbia in 1999. Collins is also recognized as a decorated colonel for the United States Air Force.

To achieve her dream of being a pilot, Collins began working at a young age at various jobs to pay for her own flying lessons and college tuition at Syracuse University, Stanford University and finally Webster University where she earned degrees in mathematics, economics, operations research and space systems management.

What was scariest for Collins, though, was going to the local airport during her junior year at Syracuse University and asking them to teach her how to fly. “It scared me to go up there because I thought they were going to say no because I was a girl, but it didn’t matter to them,” Collins said. (11/16)

Babin backs Pence-led National Space Council (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House space subcommittee said he believes Vice President-elect Mike Pence would do a good job running a reconstituted National Space Council, a key element of the Trump campaign’s proposed space policy. In a video address given at the Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or Spacecom, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) also endorsed other elements of the Trump space policy, including a greater focus on human spaceflight versus Earth science research. (11/16)

If Aliens Call, Does Humanity Have a Plan? (Source: Live Science)
What would happen if humans really did make contact with an intelligent alien civilization? If E.T. calls, is there a plan? The answer is yes, and no, said astronomer Seth Shostak, who leads efforts to detect radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. "There are some protocols, but I think that's an unfortunate name, and it makes them sound more important than they are," Shostak said.

In the 1990s, Shostak chaired a committee of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) that prepared a revised version of the "post-detection protocols" for researchers who watch for possible alien transmissions using radio telescopes, a field known as SETI (short for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

The protocols were first drawn up in the 1980s to help scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union share information about any potential SETI signals. But, Shostak explained, the SETI post-detection protocols are guidelines for governments and scientists, rather than a global action plan for dealing with alien contact. (11/16)

SpaceX Exec Quits to Fight Trump 'Nightmare' (Source: CNN Money)
On the eve of the election, Dex Torricke-Barton wrote an impassioned blog post urging readers to choose "diversity and openness" and vote for Hillary Clinton. For Torricke-Barton, head of communications at SpaceX, it was personal. He is the son of a refugee from Burma and emigrated to the U.S. from the U.K. He also spent much of his career pushing for a more connected world with roles at Facebook and Google.

Like much of Silicon Valley, Torricke-Barton was surprised and saddened to see Donald Trump win. Unlike some in the industry, however, he is now looking to do something about it. Torricke-Barton announced Tuesday that he was quitting his job at SpaceX after just six months in order to do grassroots work to combat the rise of Trump and bridge the "growing gulf... between coastal elites and communities left behind by globalization." (11/15)

Putin Calls on Roscosmos to Take Part in More Commercial Projects (Source: Tass)
Russia must retain and strengthen its positions in the space sector, including through more active participation in commercial projects, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday at a government meeting dedicated to the strategy of development of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos till the year 2030.

Thus, in his words, it is necessary to develop Russia’s orbital grouping not only by means of increasing the number of spacecraft but also by means of improving their quality and reliability. Moreover, it is necessary to expamd the range of good and services offered by Roscosmos. (11/15)

Trump NASA Transition Set In Motion (Source: Aviation Week)
Now that the Electoral College vote count has made Donald Trump the U.S. president-elect, NASA is preparing to brief its “Agency Research Team (ART),” as presidential transition teams are officially designated. Unofficially known within NASA as the “boarding party,” the team will spend the next month or so perusing tablet computers provided by NASA headquarters that are chock full of what one insider terms “eye-glazing” detail on the agency. (11/16)

Hawaii Land Board Seeks Quick Dismissal of Telescope Appeal (Source: ABC)
Hawaii's land board is urging the state Supreme Court to quickly dismiss an appeal by opponents of a proposed telescope on a dormant Big Island volcano that is viewed as sacred by some Native Hawaiians.

The appeal filed last week is premature because no final decision has been made on whether the Thirty Meter Telescope will receive a construction permit, state lawyers say in a motion. The opponents are appealing various decisions that have been made during an ongoing contested-case hearing process, including time limits for parties to question witnesses.

"Because of the statewide importance of the underlying contested-case hearing, the board requests that this court act as soon as possible," the motion said. In 2011, telescope opponents requested so-called contested-case hearings before the land board approved a permit to build on conservation land. The hearings were held, and the permit was upheld. Opponents then sued. (11/15)

Favorable Signs for a Lunar Return (Source: Air & Space)
Pointing out that morale in the lunar community has been low over the past few years isn’t news. Since the decision was made to terminate the lunar portion of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) in 2010, proponents of a sustainable, incremental space faring program have been living on faint yet still detectible fumes of hope for an eventual return to a sane and a sound space program—one that takes advantage of what the Moon offers.

The general mood of lunar scientists and engineers at the recent meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) seemed different from what had become more of a yearly crepe hanging exercise. Like ancient Romans watching the portentous appearance of a comet in the skies, there was an undercurrent of feeling that perhaps our fortunes might be improving. (11/14)

'Project Blue' Space Telescope Launches Crowdfunding Campaign (Source:
Project Blue, an ambitious initiative to directly image planets around the double suns of Alpha Centauri, has started crowdfunding for its space telescope.

The initiative would launch a small space telescope designed specifically to look at Alpha Centauri, which, along with Proxima Centauri, is the nearest stellar neighbor to Earth's solar system. Because of the star system's closeness, that small telescope would be able to take a "pale blue dot" image of any potentially Earthlike planets orbiting there — a photo of a small blue speck like the one the Voyager spacecraft 1 took of Earth from afar. A blue hue would indicate potential oceans or atmosphere surrounding the planet. (11/15)

Boeing to Cut 500 Jobs in Defense/Space Unit Consolidation (Source: Reuters)
Boeing will cut 500 jobs over four years and shut two plants as it revamps its defense and space unit. The company, which is shutting plants in El Paso, Texas and Newington, Virginia, said some jobs in Huntington Beach plant would move to El Segundo, Long Beach, and Seal Beach in Southern California. Boeing also said many positions in Kent, Washington will move to nearby Tukwila.

The company said about 1,600 positions will move to Los Angeles County, California; 500 to St. Louis, Missouri and about 400 to Huntsville, Alabama as part of the consolidation. Boeing's defense, space and security business, which had about 48,000 employees as of Oct. 27, accounted for 31.4 percent of the company's total revenue of $23.9 billion in the latest quarter. (11/15)

International Space Station Crew to Downsize in Early 2017 (Source: Ars Technica)
The International Space Station has usually been home to six astronauts since May 29, 2009, when Roman Romanenko, Frank de Winne, and Bob Thirsk arrived on the station, expanding the crew to its full complement for the first time. But that will change in March, as Russia scales back its involvement in the partnership by flying two fewer cosmonauts to the station per year.

NASA announced Tuesday that a March launch of its Expedition 51/52 to the station will contain just two crew members, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency, instead of the more typical three. They will join the crew of Peggy Whitson, Thomas Pesquet, and Oleg Novitskiy aboard the station to make for a semi-permanent crew complement of five. (11/15)

Clouds Form Beautiful Hexagon in New Photo of Saturn's North Pole (Source: Mashable)
Saturn is perhaps the most photogenic planet in our solar system, and a new photo taken by the Cassini spacecraft shows the world off in a big way. Bands of clouds look like they were painted on the planet in the new photo, which shows Saturn's north pole dominated by the planet's hexagonal jet stream surrounding the "hurricane-like storm" at the top of the world. Click here. (11/15)

No comments: