December 1, 2016

'Thank the Aliens': Thousands Displaced for China's Huge Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
Humanity's best bet at detecting aliens is a giant silver Chinese dish the size of 30 football fields -- one that simultaneously showcases Beijing's abilities to deploy cutting-edge technologies and ignore objectors' rights as it seeks global prominence.

The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in the country's southwest, which began operations in September and cost 1.2 billion yuan ($180 million) to build, is the world's largest radio telescope. Once fully operational, FAST will be able to peer deeper into space than ever before, examining pulsars, dark matter and gravitational waves -- and searching for signs of life.

Authorities also hope it will bring tourist dollars to the province of Guizhou, one of China's poorest regions. But it comes at the cost of forcibly displacing about 9,000 villagers who called the site in Pingtang county their home. Many were outraged at being forced to leave the valley surrounded by forested karst hills and hundreds of families are now suing the government, with some cases being heard this week. (11/30)

Culberson Defends NASA Earth Science Role (Source: Science)
A key House appropriator is downplaying concerns about cuts to NASA's Earth science program. In an interview, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, said that discussions of moving Earth science research out of NASA are "very speculative" and that there's "strong support in Congress for keeping a close eye on planet Earth." Culberson said he's had "good conversations" with President-elect Trump's transition team on space issues in general. (11/30)
Aldrin Evacuated After Falling Ill During South Pole Visit (Source: Washington Post)
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being medically evacuated from the South Pole after falling ill on a visit there. The National Science Foundation, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program and its base at the South Pole, said Thursday that Aldrin became ill during a visit to the base as part of a tourist group, and that NSF agreed to provide a medical evacuation flight to New Zealand. The company that operates the tour, White Desert, said Aldrin was in stable condition but did not provide additional details about his health. (11/30)

ESA Ministers Meet to Map Out Future Direction (Source: BBC)
A meeting to plan the future of the European Space Agency is underway in Switzerland. European space ministers are meeting today and tomorrow to reach decisions on ESA's plans for the next three years. Among the key issues are agreeing on additional funding for the ExoMars 2020 lander and rover mission and an extension of ESA's participation in the ISS to 2024. (11/30)

Maryland Offers $20M to Keep Northrop Grumman (Source: Law360)
Maryland's Republican governor and the Democratic lawmakers running its General Assembly have announced an agreement to work out a proposed $20 million grant aimed at enticing Northrop Grumman Corp. to not pick up roots and leave the state. (11/30)

Let's Colonize Titan (Source: Scientific American)
The idea of a human colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn, might sound crazy. Its temperature hovers at nearly 300° below zero Fahrenheit, and its skies rain methane and ethane that flow into hydrocarbon seas. Nevertheless, Titan could be the only place in the solar system where it makes sense to build a permanent, self-sufficient human settlement.

We reached this conclusion after looking at the planets in a new way: ecologically. We considered the habitat that human beings need and searched for those conditions in our celestial neighborhood. Our colonization scenario, based on science, technology, politics and culture, presents a thought experiment for anyone who wants to think about the species’ distant future. Click here. (11/29)

Compromise Bill Would Authorize $19.5 Billion for NASA in FY-2017 (Source: Space Policy Online)
Congress could be close to acting on a compromise version of a NASA authorization bill. The full Senate could take up a version of an authorization bill based on one approved in September by the Senate Commerce Committee, after House and Senate negotiators worked out an agreement that would then allow the bill to be swiftly passed by the House during the ongoing lame duck session. The compromise bill would authorize $19.5 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2017 and include a wide range of policy provisions, from a study of alternatives to the Asteroid Redirect Mission to an independent review of a concept for a human Mars flyby mission in 2021. (11/30)

China's Expace Developing Small Launcher (Source: Space News)
A Chinese company is trying to get into the small launch business by offering low prices and high flight rates. Expace Technology Co., a spinoff of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, is selling launches of its Kuaizhou 1 small launch vehicle at a price of $10,000 per kilogram of payload. Expace says it expects to launch 10 Kuaizhou 1 rockets per year, and has letters of intent from customers for nearly 20 launches. (11/30)

Glitches with Australian Satellite Broadband (Source: Space News)
Australia's national satellite broadband service is suffering from outages and other problems. A national broadband association found that 86 percent of the customers for NBN Co.'s Sky Muster satellite experienced at least one "connection hiccup," with a fifth of customers also reporting installation problems. NBN said it's aware of the problems and has already resolved many of them. Sky Muster, along with a second satellite launched in October, are key elements of NBN's efforts to provide national broadband services, particularly to remote areas of the country. (11/30)

Russia's Lunar Sample Mission Plans Unclear (Source: Tass)
Russian officials offered conflicting messages about that country's plans for a lunar sample return mission. Boris Shustov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Astronomy said at a conference Tuesday that Russia had abandoned plans for Luna-Grunt, Russia's first lunar sample return mission since the mid-1970s, saying that the country would instead focus on lunar orbiters and landers. However, a spokesman for Roscosmos said later in the day that the agency was still planning to carry out the Luna-Grunt mission as part of its lunar exploration plans through 2025. (11/30)

Gravitational-Wave Detector Resumes Hunt for Space-Time Ripples (Source:
The experiment that made the first direct detection of gravitational waves is once again hunting for these space-time ripples. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) stopped collecting data in January for a scheduled period of upgrades to its two detectors, located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. Now, the machines are back on, looking for gravitational waves coming from distant cosmic sources.

The LIGO collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves in February 2016 and announced a second detection in June. In both cases, the waves were created by sets of black holes colliding and merging together in space. (11/30)

Chinese Astronaut Puzzled by 'Knocking Sound' in Space (Source: BBC)
Imagine you're alone in a tiny spacecraft - it's your first time up there, all alone in endless space. Then suddenly - a knocking sound. That's what happened to Yang Liwei, China's first man in space, on his maiden flight in 2003. In a recent interview, he has now recalled hearing "someone knocking the body of the spaceship just as knocking an iron bucket with a wooden hammer."

"It neither came from outside nor inside the spaceship." Naturally, he got a bit nervous and had a peek out the porthole but failed to spot any explanation for the eerie knock. He's not been able to figure out what it was, neither up in space nor after returning to earth. He has even tried - but failed - to recreate the sound so that experts could help him identify it. (11/30)

Russia to Expand Its Constellation of Earth Observation Satellites (Source: Sputnik)
A Roscosmos officials said that there were three Resurs P satellites currently in place, launched in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The orbital group ensures round-the-clock observation of the Earth’s surface sending down obtained data via a high-speed radio communications system. According to the Roscosmos representatives, the Resurs P satellites offer domestic and foreign users a wide range of services, such as high-resolution, wide-angle and multi-spectral observations of the Earth's surface. (11/30)

Trump Pick Signals Plan to Tighten Ties Between Pentagon, NASA (Source: Wall Street Journal)
President-elect Donald Trump's appointment of space expert Mark Albrecht to the transition team signals plans to increase coordination between the Pentagon and NASA in space. Albrecht is a former Lockheed Martin executive and staffer to President George H.W. Bush. (11/29)

Defense Authorization Cuts Acquisition Chief Role (Source: The Hill)
After months of negotiations, the annual defense policy bill has been finalized, authorizing $618.7 billion and including a 2.1% troop pay raise, a higher end-strength total in all services and the elimination of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics post. Among the provisions dropped are a requirement that women register for the draft and an amendment that federal contractors can't be discriminated against due to their religion. (11/29)

Orlando-Based IDEAS to Build Space Related Super Bowl VR (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Orlando may not have an NFL team playing here but one of its companies is Super Bowl bound. IDEAS Orlando, a multimedia production company, will build a virtual reality experience for the Super Bowl LIVE fan festival in Houston. The 10-day event helps build enthusiasm for and leads into the NFL’s marquee matchup on Feb. 5.

As part of the festivities, Future Flight will give fans a chance to check out several space exhibits and take a virtual reality-based trip to Mars and back, using actual footage from Mars. The 2-minute, 10-second ride ends with a virtual 90-foot drop that lands on the 50-yard-line of NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans. Editor's Note: IDEAS has led multiple space-focused projects, including the design of Spaceport America's visitor experience. (11/30)

Six Investor Expectations for the NewSpace Sector (Source: Via Satellite)
There is a startup revolution taking place in the satellite industry. Every month, and sometimes every week, a new company announces plans for a product, a constellation, or an unconventional take on the way a particular service is done. With this wave of new companies has come a second wave of investors, each trying to identify which ones will be the real game changers. These investors mean business, and startups have to convince them that they mean business too.

It’s not uncommon for both entrepreneurs and investors to be unfamiliar with each other when it comes to the satellite industry. Lots of satellite programs and technologies are government driven or government influenced, and not incidentally, early stage investors have historically looked elsewhere to more fast-paced, lucrative sectors. But things are changing, as satellite entrepreneurs have taken the buzzword “disruptive,” and made it a real thing instead of a trite industry expression. Click here. (11/30)

Space Florida to Host Cape Canaveral Spaceport Master Plan Workshop (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida announced a public workshop to request comment on its Cape Canaveral Spaceport Master Plan – Update 2016. The plan, regularly updated to address industry developments, provides information to guide Space Florida in its efforts to modernize and expand infrastructure at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

AECOM is leading the development of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Master Plan – Update 2016 for Space Florida. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, December 7 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Canaveral Port Authority Chambers and will inform attendees on the current draft of the Master Plan and seek comments from attendees. (11/30)

United Launch Alliance Reveals Revamped Launch Costs with "RocketBuilder" (Source: CBS)
Rocket-builder United Launch Alliance unveiled a first-of-its-kind website Wednesday that shows potential customers exactly what it will cost to buy an Atlas 5 booster, along with expected savings based on the rocket’s demonstrated reliability, ULA’s on-time launch record and the company’s sophisticated guidance system.

The new “RocketBuilder” web tool, reflecting ULA’s ongoing push to streamline operations and lower prices, shows that an entry-level Atlas 5, capable of boosting a small to medium-size satellite to the high orbit used by communications stations, would cost $109 million -- $75 million less than the same rocket cost just a few years ago. (11/30)

Trump Names Insider to Lead NASA Transition (Source: Space News)
The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump has named a congressional staffer and former NASA official to the “landing team” overseeing transition planning for the space agency. Chris Shank will serve on the landing team for NASA, the first individual named to date to handle transition issues for the space agency. The selection came after the transition team selected several dozen other people to serve on landing teams for cabinet-level departments and other agencies. (11/30)

Spanish Propulsion Startup Wants to Build Europe’s First Reusable Rockets (Source: Space News)
A Spanish space startup is designing a set of rockets that it hopes will be the first reusable launch vehicles from a European company. PLD Space, founded in 2011, closed its first investment round worth 1.2 million euros in 2013 to fund research and development in liquid propulsion. This year, both the Spanish government and the European Space Agency have linked up with the company to spur the development of reusable rockets for small-satellite missions. (11/30)

Trump’s First 100 Days: Space (Source: Scientific American)
President-elect Donald Trump says he loves NASA and that “space is terrific,” although “we’ve got to fix our potholes,” too. These statements—given to a 10-year-old boy who asked about NASA at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire in November 2015—would prove to be the most informative things Trump offered about the nation’s space program for most of his presidential campaign.

Almost a year later, as he campaigned along Florida’s “Space Coast” near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Trump offered more specifics about his space-policy plans, vowing to revitalize the agency through cost-saving partnerships with the burgeoning commercial space industry. According to an accompanying op-ed from the campaign, NASA under Trump would transform from “a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity” into a spaceflight powerhouse with the lofty goal of conducting “human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century.”

As of yet, Trump has made no further mention of space in his public statements or his 100-day agenda, discussing instead executive actions on trade, energy, national security, immigration and the economy. Indeed, as of this writing no members of Trump’s NASA transition team are known to have met with senior NASA officials, who have been awaiting the onset of discussions for weeks. Click here. (11/30)

Private Plan to Send Moon Rover to Apollo 17 Site (Source: BBC)
A proposed private space mission is planning to visit Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon. A German team wants to land a pair of rovers on the lunar surface to inspect the buggy left behind in 1972 on the last crewed mission to the Moon. The group, called PT Scientists, is one of 16 teams vying for the $30m Google Lunar X-Prize. It has signed a deal with launch broker Spaceflight Inc. to secure a ride on a commercial launcher. (11/30)

What The World Loses If Trump Guts NASA’s Earth Science Research (Source: Vocativ)
Last week, Donald Trump’s space policy adviser revealed the incoming administration’s plans to end all of NASA’s climate research and, in the process, gut the agency’s earth science division. Let’s consider the crucial science that could be lost if the Trump administration follows through on the most extreme end of this promise.

The $5 billion NASA spends on science research accounts for about a third of its overall annual budget. While the $2 billion the earth science division receives makes it the best-funded climate change research program on the planet, that’s only part of the agency’s exploration of our planet. NASA’s earth science missions also study daily weather patterns, map land and ocean surfaces, monitor natural disasters, and build a clearer picture of how countless geological and atmospheric processes fit together as one interconnected global system. Click here. (11/29)

Newsmakers: Elon Musk and His Rocket Plan (Source: MacLean's)
Visionary entrepreneurs are expected to have their heads in the clouds. But Elon Musk’s is often on another planet. He founded electric carmaker Tesla Motors 13 years ago with the daunting but sensible goal of weaning the world off climate-altering fossil fuels. He launched the private rocket ship company SpaceX in a bid to make space travel cheaper and, one day, colonize Mars—a proposition that suddenly sounds more attractive now that Donald Trump’s been elected U.S. president. Click here. (11/29)

Brazil to Launch Its First Mission to the Moon (Source: Folha)
A group of scientists belonging to leading Brazilian institutions plans on collaborating with the private sector to launch the country's first mission to the moon which should take place no later than 2020: a nanosatellite that will conduct scientific experiments. The objective behind Garatéa-L, as the satellite is called, is to conduct research on life in outer space. The scientists plan on taking advantage of one of the most promising kinds of equipment in terms of space exploration. (11/29)

Why Mars? – A Perspective From The United Arab Emirates (Source: Huffington Post)
“We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us. The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward.” When His Highness Shiekh Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai made that proclamation, it was July of 2014, and the UAE was 43 years old. The comment was made shortly after the establishment of the UAE Space Agency. (11/29)

5 Reasons Why President Trump Should Build a Hotel on the Moon (Source: Big Think)
One of Trump’s most quoted passages from his bestseller “The Art of the Deal” is undoubtedly "I like thinking big. I always have. To me it's very simple: if you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big." That kind of approach can be a great fit when applied to space exploration. We need to think big to put together a space program that is worthy of America, a country that has the imagination, the know-how, and the resources to make real advancements. Click here. (11/29)

Senate Committee Discusses Proposed Georgia Spaceport (Source: Golden Isles News)
The Senate Camden County Spaceport Study Committee held its second meeting Monday in Atlanta to discuss issues surrounding the proposed project. The committee, chaired by Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, included three other state senators and five citizen members, including Camden County commissioners Jimmy Starline and Chuck Clark.

The committee is tasked with studying the conditions, needs and issues surrounding the creation of a commercial spaceport in Camden County. The speakers included representatives from commercial space flight organizations, the state Department of Economic Development, Georgia Tech and Camden County. The committee also allowed members of the public to comment about the project. Click here. (11/29)

Schedule of Upcoming Florida Rocket Launches (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast this year could see as many as 30 launches by a more diverse group of rockets, launching from more pads than last year and even from a runway. See the full list of confirmed launches here. (11/30)

Russia to Spend Over $450 Million Annually on Vostochny Spaceport Construction (Source: Tass)
The budget for the construction of the second stage of the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East in 2017-2019 has been approved in the amount of 25-30 billion rubles ($382.8-459 million) annually, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told TASS on Wednesday. "The money has been allocated and specified by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for 2017-2019 within the limits of about 25-30 billion rubles annually, i.e. these funds are not as large as it seemed to us earlier," the vice-premier said. (11/30)

Obama Signs McCarthy Bill to Protect Spaceports (Source:
Suborbital space planes have flight trajectories that often differ from conventional aircraft, but until now, the Federal Aviation Administration was unable to take that into account when studying potential obstructions near space ports, such as electrical transmission towers or other tall structures.

President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, that gives the FAA the authority to consider impacts on space operations in any study intended to determine whether a proposed structure interferes with such operations. The new law could impact the Mojave Air and Space Port as well as other American space ports established at existing airports, which are classified as “General Aviation” facilities.

The bill, H.R. 6007, gives the secretary of transportation the authority to conduct aeronautical studies at spaceports, allowing the FAA to study the potential impact of structures on spacecraft arriving or departing from a licensed launch site. The new law requires rulemaking to implement this requirement within 18 months of enactment. Gliding spacecraft and large transport aircraft require protection from obstacles, including power lines, wind turbines and cell towers in close proximity to runways, Eric Stallmer said. (11/30)

Airbus to Slash More Than 1,100 Jobs in Cost-Cutting Drive (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Airbus Group SE said it would shed as many as 1,164 positions in a companywide belt-tightening that will merge its corporate headquarters with that of its commercial-jetliner unit. Airbus, the maker of A380 superjumbo planes and the popular A320 single-aisle jetliner, announced the job cuts to its labor groups on Tuesday. (11/29)

The Cold of Deep Space Will Be No Match for NASA's Robots (Source: Inverse)
Robots are expensive. The materials used to create humanoid robots in particular make them challenging to mass-produce, and even if a company builds on a larger scale, parts are bound to break. NASA announced Monday that it wants to solve both those problems with one thing: gears made from metallic glass.

The space agency announced that metallic glass, which was developed in the ‘60s, offers many benefits over the metal used in gears now. For one, the gears are molded as if they were made of plastic. This allows companies to mass-produce vital components used by humanoid robots to make sure their joints don’t wobble.

The gears could make robots more common. “Mass producing strain wave gears using [metallic glass] may have a major impact on the consumer robotics market,” NASA’s Douglas Hoffman said. “This is especially true for humanoid robots, where gears in the joints can be very expensive but are required to prevent shaking arms.” (11/29)

The Cheapest Trip to Mars Leaves From This Tiny Indian Island (Source: Bloomberg)
The cheapest flight to Mars may leave from a tiny barrier island in southeastern India. Sriharikota, the nation’s Cape Canaveral, is the launchpad for an ambitious space program that has shot more than 120 satellites into orbit -- including for the U.S., Israel and Germany. Spacefaring rivals can’t beat the prices charged by India, which sent its own probe to the Red Planet for less money than Hollywood spent making a movie about an astronaut stranded there. (11/30)

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