November 5, 2016

America’s First Female Rocket Scientist Ran Away From Home to Become a Chemist (Source: Motherboard)
On what would have been her 95th birthday, let’s remember Mary Morgan, the first female rocket scientist, who invented a new type of rocket fuel that put the first American satellite into orbit.

Morgan was born in North Dakota in 1921. A nerd from the get-go, Morgan cultivated a love of chemistry in her teens and graduated as her high school’s valedictorian in 1939. Her father was against the idea of Morgan pursuing higher education, so the night she graduated high school she ran away from home to pursue a degree in chemistry at a small college in Ohio. Click here. (11/4)

A Dress Rehearsal For Life on Mars (Source Wall Street Journal)
In the Utah desert, scientists live and work at the Mars Desert Research Station. The terrain’s ferrous-red hue and the harshness of the climate are supposed mimic Mars’s. Each crew carries out experiments ranging from astrobiology and meteorite analysis to 3D-printing and social psychology. Click here. (11/5)

Elon Musk Holds Forth on SolarCity, Tesla, SpaceX … and Donald Trump (Source: GeekWire)
His timeliest comments may relate to next week’s presidential election: Musk gave a lukewarm endorsement to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“I would say it’s not going to make much of a difference one way or the other, honestly,” he said. “I think Hillary’s economic policies and her environmental policies particularly are the right ones, you know? Yeah. Also, I don’t think this is the finest moment of our democracy in general. But so it goes.”

So what about GOP candidate Donald Trump? “I feel a bit stronger that probably he’s not the right guy,” Musk said. “He just doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.” (11/4)

Trump Aims at Space to Sway Must-Win Florida (Source: Mother Jones)
When Donald Trump visited Florida last week, he suggested a new theme for his presidential campaign in its waning days: Make NASA Great Again. "I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low Earth orbit activity," Trump promised. "Big deal. Instead, we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars. With a victory in November, everything will change."

Trump's campaign has been defined by a lack of his policy details. His alternative to Obamacare is "something terrific." His Washington, DC, policy shop dissolved this fall after he failed to pay its staffers. But in crunch time before Election Day, Trump brought in an outside expert to craft a surprisingly detailed and ambitious space policy—one that aims far higher than proposals by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Trump's newfound interest in the heavens was born more of humiliation than enthusiasm. Last month, the Trump and Clinton campaigns submitted responses to a questionnaire from Space News. Clinton offered substantive, detailed answers to the nine questions. Trump barely mustered any response except for vague praise for the space program. On the final question—"Any other comments you would like to make?"—the Trump campaign simply responded, "No." (11/4)

Virgin Galactic Looks to Next SpaceShipTwo Flight Test (Source: Inverse)
After Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, took to the skies for its third-ever test flight on Thursday — and again had to scrub a “glide test” at the last minute — the aerospace company is now looking ahead to its next test run.

The glider remained attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, and the highly anticipated glide test was delayed yet again. Another test flight has not been announced. On Tuesday, heavy crosswinds forced Virgin Galactic to call a scrub for the gliding test, with the pair of planes landing safely in the Mojave desert about an hour and a half after takeoff. (11/4)

Stafford Letter to Gerstenmaier Raised Two SpaceX Commercial Crew Issues (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA released a letter that Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford (Ret.) sent to Bill Gerstenmaier, who heads NASA's human spaceflight operation. The letter raises two concerns about SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket when it is used to carry NASA astronauts. Stafford, a former Gemini and Apollo astronaut, chairs NASA's ISS Advisory Committee and the letter was from the committee as a whole. Stafford said he still has not received a reply.

It raises two issues. First is SpaceX's proposal to fuel the rocket after the crew is aboard because it uses supercooled oxygen that must be loaded just 30 minutes before launch. "There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally."

The second issue raised by the Stafford letter is that the Falcon 9 design does not include a recirculation pump. "We are concerned that there may be insufficient precooling of the tank and plumbing with the current planned oxidizer fill scenario, and without recirculation there may be stratification of oxidizer temperature that will cause a variation in the input conditions to the oxidizer pump." SpaceX's September explosion occurred after this correspondence and the company has pointed to the temperature and pressure conditions aboard the rocket during helium loading. Click here. (11/4)

Brazilian Astronomers Discover 2 Planets Near Sunlike Star (Source: Xinhua)
A team of Brazilian astronomers has discovered two new planets around a star similar to the sun, known as HIP 68468, local media reported Friday. The two new planets, dubbed "super Neptune" and "super Earth," are the first to be discovered by Brazilian astronomers since the discovery in 2015 of a planet similar to Jupiter, according to Brazil's G1 news website.

Astronomer Jorge Melendez, a professor at the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, and head researcher, said one of the objectives of the team was to compare the solar system with other planetary systems. The planetary environment around HIP 68468 is quite different from the system that includes Earth, he said. (11/5)

Watch the Most Powerful Rocket Blast Off in 360-Degree Video (Source: Mashable)
Hearing the roar of a rocket launching to space in person is a pretty incredible experience. The sound of the powerful, human-built tool blasting off on its mission literally shakes the ground beneath your feet as it ascends. Actually making it to a rocket launch, however, is no easy task, so a new 360 degree video produced by ULA transports you to a spot next to the most powerful rocket in use today as it leaves Earth behind. Click here. (11/4)

Will a Space Agency Jump-Start the Philippines’ Space Program? (Source: WPR)
Last week, two bills were introduced in the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives that would establish a space development program and a Philippine Space Agency. The legislation has been well received, but it is unknown when lawmakers will vote on the bills. In an email interview, Rogel Mari Sese, a program leader at the National SPACE Development Program, the government agency working to establish a space agency, discusses the Philippines’ space program. Click here. (11/3)

South Korea-U.S. Agreement on Space Cooperation Goes Into Effect (Source: Yonhap)
An agreement reached between South Korea and the United States earlier this year to deepen space cooperation has taken effect, paving the way for closer ties between the allies in the exploration of the cosmos, the foreign ministry said Friday.

In April, Seoul and Washington signed the "Framework Agreement for Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Civil and Peaceful Purposes." South Korea became the first Asian country to sign such a deal with the U.S., known as a leader in space exploration. The agreement went into effect on Thursday and it is expected to accelerate and deepen cooperation between the two countries, the ministry said. (11/4)

Luxembourg Digs Deep for Asteroid Mining Project (Source: WORT)
Luxembourg's Government has invested 25 million euros ($28M) in asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources Inc, making it a key shareholder. The investment was made via public-law banking institution “Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement” (SNCI) and was agreed as part of Luxembourg's initiative to mine resources from near earth objects such as asteroids.

The funds will be used to further the firm's technical advancements so that it can launch the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020. (11/3)

ESA and the Vatican Join Forces to Save Data (Source: ESA)
ESA and the Vatican Apostolic Library have agreed to continue their years-long cooperation on the preservation, management and exploitation of archived information. The declaration follows a five-year activity by the Vatican Library to digitise its ancient collection using the ‘FITS’ flexible image transport system format, to ensure that future generations will have access to the books. ESA and NASA developed FITS in the 1970s, stemming from radio astronomy. (11/4)

Clinton, Trump and NASA: Space Policy of the Presidential Candidates (Source: Houston Press)
Their respective views of NASA are more important than people may realize, because, as we've recently noted, government support of NASA and space exploration has hinged on who is in the White House ever since President Dwight Eisenhower responded to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik by establishing the federal space agency in 1958.

The way it works, the president comes up with a budget proposal for NASA each year, setting the space agency's agenda, and sends the budget to Congress for approval. Filling this role gives the president huge influence on what goals NASA pursues and how well-funded various programs actually are, as we've pointed out before. Click here. (11/4)

Air Force Picks ADS to Demo Commercial Alternative to Space-Track Catalog (Source: Space News)
The Air Force Research Laboratory recently selected Applied Defense Solutions to spend a year cataloging human-made objects in geostationary orbit using data solely derived from commercial space-surveillance sources. The Air Force will compare the company’s cataloging effort against the current gold standard, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network’s Space-Track catalog, to see how the commercially compiled database compares. (11/4)

Musk Predicts Mid-December Return to Flight for Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk expects the Falcon 9 rocket to return to flight in the middle of December after overcoming a problem he claimed was unprecedented in the history of spaceflight. He said that investigators had determined what caused the Sept. 1 pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 and its satellite payload during fueling for a static-fire test. (11/4)

Arecibo Observatory Faces Uncertain Future (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish active radar telescope in the world at 1,000 feet across, may be shut down or destroyed due to flat budgets at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The 53-year-old radio and radar telescope located in Puerto Rico has been an invaluable scientific instrument for Nobel prize-winning radio astronomy, critical radar characterization of potentially-hazardous asteroids, and upper atmospheric studies.

The NSF released a “Dear Colleague” letter at the end of September 2016 that requested proposals for future operation of the observatory “under conditions of a substantially reduced funding commitment from NSF.”  NSF’s current budget for running Arecibo Observatory is approximately $8 million a year. Combined with about $4 million a year from NASA to operate the planetary radar system at the facility, Arecibo’s total budget is approximately $12 million a year. (11/4)

Undiscovered Moons May Lurk in Our Own Solar System (Source: Seeker)
Uranus may have small, undiscovered moons and there are likely more to be found elsewhere. Even decades after Voyager, there are likely new moons waiting to be found -- especially with the sharper eye of the James Webb Space Telescope slated to start working in 2018.

Part of the secret appears to be the Cassini factor. Scientists have been learning a lot about ring behavior, and how satellites affect them, since the mission has been examining Saturn in 2004. Recently, scientists applied that understanding to the Uranus system, using data from Voyager obtained in 1986. They found regular patterns in the rings that suggest there could be moonlets there. (11/4)

Near-Earth Asteroid Tally Reaches 15,000 (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Much like the steady climb of the stock market with time, there's no particular significance to a count of 15,000 (it's already zoomed to 15,197 as I write this) or to 2016 TB57. Observers participating in the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey discovered it on October 13th as it neared Earth. Rather small, roughly 15 to 35 m across, it passed by at a very safe distance of 2,010,000 km (more than five times the Moon's distance) on October 31st.

Most NEAs are found, as their name implies, someplace near Earth. Generally they're too small to be spotted far away, and it's only within the week or so when they skim near our planet that they make their existence know. These days almost all NEAs are swept up by the Catalina survey or by Pan-STARRS 1, a wide-field telescope on Haleakala in Hawai'i. (That name is a contraction of Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System.) (11/4)

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