December 18, 2016

Next Step: Pictures of Earth-Like Worlds (Source:
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it's the first ever image of an Earth-like exoplanet, a picture could be worth far more. That's our goal at Project Blue. Ten years ago, scientists didn't know if Earth-like planets were common in this galaxy. "Earth-like" means planets that are made of rock (rather than being gas giants) and orbit their stars in the "Goldilocks zone", where it's the right temperature for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface.

What scientists would really like to know is whether all those exoplanets are barren worlds, like Mars, or if some might be lush and teeming with life, like the Earth. Our photograph won't answer that question, but it will provide the first valuable clues and lay the foundation for more detailed follow-up missions as imaging technology advances.

By studying the light recorded in a visible image, we should be able to determine if the planet has an atmosphere. Based on the color, we can evaluate the composition of that atmosphere. For example, does it contain oxygen and nitrogen, two compounds that are essential to life on Earth? (12/18)

ULA Atlas Launches EchoStar at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
United Launch Alliance successfully delivered the EchoStar 19 commercial telecommunications satellite to orbit in the year's final launch at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Atlas-5 launch vehicle roared off the pad at Launch Complex 41 on Sunday afternoon. (12/18)

Senator Nelson Talks Space in Tallahassee (Source: WTXL)
Senator Bill Nelson was in Tallahassee Friday to discuss, among other things, the future of the space program. The future of space travel, a topic near and dear to his heart, was not asked about, but the senator made sure to mention it at the end. He said in the next 18 months or so, we'll be putting Americans on American rockets going to and from the International Space Station.

The long term goal Senator Nelson and NASA are looking forward to is traveling to Mars. That's right, the mission to the red planet is becoming less like science fiction and more of an attainable goal. Right now, his eyes are set on the year 2033 when we hope to send humans on a fly-by of Mars.

"To build all of the equipment, technologies and techniques to protect humans all the way and come back is going to be one of the greatest adventures that planet earth has ever done," says Senator Bill Nelson. Even though that's still many years away, this is something that is well underway. (12/18)

The Next-Generation Rockets That Japan Could Use To Protect Itself (Source: Forbes)
Uncertainties about U.S. policy in Asia will affect the security postures of allies in the region. Japan, for one, is going to tilt even more toward its own national security space ventures. As the country’s defense minister Tomomi Inada urged recently, the time is ripe for Japan to reevaluate how best to protect itself.

At a practical level, space assets are going to loom large in any reevaluations about protecting Japan’s security. Two are worth watching, both of which I wrote about at early stages last year. As 2016 comes to a close, both have progressed and are worth a reassessment in the new geopolitical context for Japan. Click here. (12/18)

Japan Helping Newcomers to Space Get Off the Ground (Source: Nikkei)
The Japanese government is looking to strengthen partnerships with other countries in space exploration, particularly with those that are relative newcomers. Areas of collaboration include looking for ways to expand the aerospace market and providing training and technical support. Japan hopes offering support to countries looking to develop space programs will lead to new opportunities for Japanese space startups and established aerospace companies. The ultimate goal is to make Japan a larger and more powerful competitor in the industry.

In September, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency signed a cooperation agreement with Turkey's Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications that grants the country access to Japan's experiment module Kibo at the International Space Station. Yosuke Tsuruho, Japan's minister in charge of space policy, attended a signing ceremony in the Turkish capital, Ankara, to mark the occasion. (12/17)

If an Asteroid Hits the Ocean, Does It Make a Tsunami? (Probably Not) (Source: Seeker)
"An asteroid impact is a point source and it only affects the immediate region around the impact point and moreover, to create a tsunami, you need something that disturbs the entire water column," said Gisler.

He likens an asteroid ocean impact to throwing a rock into a pond. Sure, the energy of the rock hitting the water will produce waves, but the ripples are very dispersive. In other words, they lose their energy very quickly. These dispersive waves in an ocean will be very localized and won't have the energy that a tsunami does. "It's very different physics," he added. (12/17)

That 'Mars' Look: Designer Draws on Real Tech for Futuristic Spacesuits (Source:
Like most of the technology featured in National Geographic's "Mars" miniseries, the futuristic spacesuits worn by the Mars colonists are based on realistic ideas conjured up by scientists and engineers today. "Mars" tells a fictional story about the first humans to land on the Red Planet in the year 2033. Though we have yet to send people to Mars, researchers at NASA and other institutions have been working on concepts for Mars spacesuits for more than a decade. Click here. (12/16)

Big Space Reorganization Coming, House Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers Says (Source: Defense News)
Space, for US House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers, is the next frontier. The Alabama Republican told Defense News he plans in 2017 to spearhead a major reorganization of the way the US government manages space capabilities — yielding changes that are “very disruptive” but ultimately positive.

“It will be very disruptive and that will make some people unhappy because they don’t like change,” Rogers said. “I wouldn’t fool with it if I was just moving the chairs around on the deck. We intend to have a substantial effort. That’s why we have been taking our time.”

For months, Rogers and the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, have been discussing with experts a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office that recommends a course correction on space, Rogers said. (12/14)

The top 15 Events That Happened in Space in 2016 (Source: Tech Crunch)
2016 was a big year for research and discovery in space. The year started off with Caltech astronomers picking up the presence of a ninth planet while researchers at LIGO were detecting gravitational waves for the first time. NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally arrived in orbit around Jupiter, and astronomers found the closest exoplanet to Earth. Blue Origin showed off their suborbital rocket reusability skills and Elon Musk revealed a plan to colonize Mars. Not to mention the huge developments for SpaceX. These are the top events for space in 2016. Click here. (12/16)

Your Space Company Sucks at Branding (Source: Inverse)
The space industry is expanding massively and globally. Naturally, the money pouring in from venture capitalists, governments, and wealthy explorer-types has mostly gone toward engineers’ salaries, parts purchasing, and liquid propellant. Branding has been of secondary concern. Still, it matters. The NASA Graphics Standards Manual by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn is one of the hot gifts this Christmas for a reason: Beautifully rendered ambition resonates across decades and demographics.

If space companies have succeeded at making America look up again, they have failed to craft a message so beautifully that it moves people. Andrew Sloan wants to change that. A designer by trade, Sloan is now the founder of Cosma Schema, a firm built to offer branding services specifically to space companies and organizations. (12/16)

Trump Could Replace Obama's Asteroid Catcher with a SpaceX-Backed Mars Mission (Source: Business Insider)
When Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20, there's a good chance he could scrap one of President Obama's boldest visions for NASA: the asteroid redirect mission, or ARM. ARM would ostensibly launch a robotic probe to an asteroid in 2023, capture the space rock, and tow it near the moon. Next, astronauts would ride NASA's shiny new Space Launch System and Orion space capsule (which aren't finished yet) to visit and dig into the asteroid sometime in 2025.

But ARM's slipping deadlines, ballooning costs, redundancy with the recently launched asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe, and seeming incongruence with the space agency's larger ambitions to send people to Mars will almost certainly doom the mission, Eric Berger reported for Ars Technica in February. (The Trump-friendly House Committee on Science, Space and Technology also recently sent an unfriendly letter about ARM to NASA, and it appears to be yet another presumed nail in ARM's coffin.)

So what could a Trump-controlled NASA replace it with? Physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld, who recently retired as the leader of NASA's science mission directorate, is pitching a popular idea involving a retrieving a sample of Martian soil. Grunsfeld's Mars mission would send a satellite into Martian orbit and an uncrewed space capsule to the surface. Though it stops short of involving astronauts, it could check all sorts of boxes required to send people to the red planet in the future. Click here. (12/12)

Mars One Now Trading Publicly (Source: Mars One)
Mars One is pleased to announce that it has secured an investment of €6 million from the Hong Kong based investment firm World Stock & Bond Trade Limited. Mars One Ventures AG is now trading publicly at the Frankfurt stock exchange. World Stock & Bond Trade Limited spokesperson, Non-executive Director Torben Pedersen: “We know that Mars One carries inherent risks and this will remain a challenge for some time. However, we believe that the potential returns, if and when the brand name takes hold, makes this an exciting investment opportunity for us". (12/12)

Free Trade Deal With Europe a Serious Cause for Concern for Canadian Space Industry (Source: SpaceRef)
Free trade agreements are by their very nature a means of increasing trade between two or more countries. In the case of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the deal Prime Minister Trudeau signed in Brussels on October 30th could have a significant negative effect on Canada's domestic space industry. Industry sources SpaceRef Canada spoke to are very concerned, with one saying the deal appeared lopsided.

The problem is that suppliers in the European Union (EU) will have access to the Canadian civil space tendering process for goods and services, while there is little to no reciprocal access for Canadian companies. EU suppliers will be limited to goods and services related to satellite communications, earth observation and global navigation satellite systems. (12/14)

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