December 22, 2016

From Hidden to Modern Figures (Source: NASA)
The film "Hidden Figures," based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, focuses on the stories of Katherine Johnson (left, after receiving the Medal of Freedom in 2015), Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, African-American women who were essential to the success of early spaceflight. Today, NASA embraces their legacy and strives to include everyone who wants to participate in its ongoing exploration. "Progress is driven by questioning our assumptions and cultural assumptions," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says. "Embracing diversity and inclusion is how we as a nation will take the next giant leap in exploration." (12/22)

NASA’s Next Stop—Mars or the Moon? (Source: Ars Technica)
A choice must be made. For the last six years, NASA has continued developing a deep space capsule, Orion, as well as begun construction on a large new rocket, the Space Launch System, as the foundation of an exploration program. NASA has promoted a “Journey to Mars,” but in reality the space agency has taken no definitive steps to preclude either a Moon or Mars pathway. That decision will have to be made soon. Within the next four years or so, the space agency must start designing and building specific hardware, for landing and living on either the Moon or Mars. Click here. (12/22)

The Biggest Space Race Milestones of 2016 (Source: Gizmodo)
Given how badly things are going here on planet Earth, it’s encouraging to see entrepreneurs working tirelessly to get us off this rock. From reusable rockets to Martian manifestos to asteroid mining, 2016 was a near like no other in the commercial space race. Here are the highlights. (12/21)

Spiders Growing on the Surface of Mars Right Before Our Eyes (Source: Universe Today)
For years, scientists have understood that in Mars’ polar regions, frozen carbon dioxide (aka. dry ice) covers much of the surface during the winter. During the spring, this ice sublimates in places, causing the ice to crack and jets of CO² to spew forth. This leads to the formation of dark fans and features known as “spiders”, both of which are unique to Mars’ southern polar region.

For the past decade, researchers have failed to see these features changing from year-to-year, where repeated thaws have led to their growth. However, using data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter‘s (MRO) HiRISE camera, a research team from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona have managed to catch sight of the cumulative growth of a spider for the first time from one spring to the next. (12/22)

DARPA, NASA Seek Industry Help Setting Satellite-Servicing Standards (Source: Space News)
ARPA and NASA are announcing co-sponsorship of a privately led effort to leverage emerging government-developed best practices to develop non-binding industry consensus standards for safe robotic servicing by commercial servicers. While DARPA and NASA are serving as the impetus for this consortium with DARPA providing initial funding, we envision industry eventually taking full responsibility for this effort as it has done with standards-setting in other domains. Click here. (12/22)

The Sacred and the Scientific Clash on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea (Source: PBS)
Over a thousand years ago, Polynesians followed the stars in the Mauna Kea sky on their path to Hawaii. Those stars are now of interest to astronomers, who believe the mountain's summit is the perfect spot to build a giant, cutting-edge telescope. But native Hawaiians view that peak as a sacred space. Click here. (12/21)

Are Mars' Dark Streaks Really Evidence of Liquid Water? (Source:
The intriguing story of Mars' mysterious dark streaks may have a new twist. The streaks, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), occur seasonally on steep, relatively warm slopes at many locations on the Red Planet. They were discovered in 2011 with images captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Many researchers initially speculated that RSL may be signs of liquid water at or near the Martian surface, and this hypothesis got a big boost last year when a study reported that MRO had detected hydrated salts within the streaks.

But it may be prudent to rein in that excitement a bit, according to a new study. Hydrated salts are crystalline solids, and it's possible that the water the RSL salts contain comes from the Martian atmosphere rather than liquid water at or near the surface, said Raina Gough, a research scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. (12/19)

NASA ‘Space Laser’ Detects Eco-Disaster in Ocean (Source: Russia Today)
A tiny organism at the base of the food chain, but vital for life to exist on Earth, is under threat, according to data collected by a NASA satellite that has been firing a laser into the ocean for a decade. Phytoplankton, a tiny plant organism living near the Earth’s poles, is an essential food source for ocean dwellers. It also sucks in carbon dioxide, assisting with the planet’s carbon cycle, contributing to up to 85 percent of the planet’s breathable oxygen.

The new findings by NASA worryingly indicate that the species' “boom and bust” population is heavily threatened by melting ice-caps caused by global warming. The organism’s population has been difficult to study due to “limited sunlight and persistent clouds” around the polar regions, making readings hard to detect on satellite sensors. Using the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP), a giant laser beam has been studying phytoplankton since 2006 in great detail. (12/21)

Blue Origin President Encourages Embry-Riddle Grads to Get Ferocious (Source: Headline Surfer)
Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, a pioneer in 21st-century space flight and exploration, cited his company's motto in Latin and then English for the 500-plus graduates of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's 500-plus fall semester graduates: “Gradatim Ferociter” or “step-by-step, ferociously.”

Meyerson's commencement message to Embry-Riddle's 506 bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. graduates at the Daytona Beach Campus at Monday's during fall graduation was clear, concise and to the point in counseling graduates to find an environment where failure is a way to learn from mistakes, where one can practice humility and transparency. And above all, Meyerson challenged the graduates to “take that first step, ferociously.” (12/22)

United Launch Alliance Pays to Settle Kickback Allegations with the DOJ (Source: Denver Post)
United Launch Alliance paid $100,000 in a settlement over kickback allegations involving a subcontractor that the space rocket company voluntarily disclosed, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Employees of the rocketmaker were paid gratuities by the owner of a subcontractor, Apriori Technologies Inc., in return for ULA awarding Apriori work in technology, compliance and project management between July 2011 and July 2015, according to a settlement announcement published by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Colorado.

“Certain Apriori-awarded subcontracts resulted in higher costs being billed by ULA to the U.S. Air Force,” the announcement said. The Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigated the allegations with the justice department. ULA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. (12/21)

China’s Race To ‘Dominate’ Space (Source: Eurasia Review)
For decades, China appeared to be trailing behind or merely catching-up to the world’s two major space pioneers – the United States (US) and Russia – until this past August 2016, when China assumed its position as the world’s first country to launch a quantum satellite called “Micius.” Micius is designed to “establish ultra-secure quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” noted China’s state news agency, Xinhua. Click here. (12/22)

Space Offers 'Huge Opportunites for Investors' (Source: Trade Arabia)
Angel investors, including a growing number from the Gulf, are now helping to finance space-related entrepreneurial projects enabling individuals to get a slice of the multi-planetary action for as little as $25,000, said an industry expert.

Getting in at the seed stage is vital to fuel an industry, added Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels Network, which brings space start-ups together with investors via online dealing. “There’s a lot of business in space which is new,” he said, pointing out opportunities in reusable launch technology, small satellite constellations, private in-space habitats, lunar logistics, and asteroid mining. (12/21)

China, United Nations to Issue Call for Proposals for Chinese Space Station (Source: GB Times)
The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) are to soon issue an international call for science project proposals from UN member states for the future Chinese space station. UNOOSA and CMSA will work together to solicit proposals for payloads and experiments for the space station from scientists all over the world, with projects to be decided by international selection committees.
UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo, in comments provided to gbtimes, stated that: “We expect that the first announcement for project proposals should come in late 2016 or early 2017. Other activities will be undertaken as the environment for their implementation becomes ready.” Click here. (12/22)

Arianespace Launches Cmmercial Satellites (Source: Space News)
Arianespace closed out its year with the successful launch of two communications satellites Wednesday. The Ariane 5 carrying the Star One D1 and JCSAT-15 satellites lifted off on schedule at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and released the satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. Star One D1 will be used by Brazil's Embratel Star One to provide communications services in Latin America, while Japan's Sky Perfect JSAT will use JCSAT-15 to provide services in Japan, Oceania and the Indian Ocean. Both satellites were built by Space Systems Loral. The launch was the seventh Ariane 5 mission of 2016, and the 11th overall for Arianespace. (12/21)

China Launches Carbon-Monitoring Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a carbon-monitoring satellite Wednesday. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 2:22 p.m. Eastern Wednesday and deployed the TanSat spacecraft into a sun-synchronous orbit. TanSat is designed to monitor the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as part of efforts to study climate change. (12/21)

ULA Delta-4 Set for Jan. 19 Florida Launch (Source: Space News)
ULA is gearing up for its first launch of 2017. A Delta 4 will launch the SBIRS GEO-3 missile warning satellite Jan. 19 from Cape Canaveral, the company announced. The launch was scheduled for this fall but postponed to investigate a potential issue with the spacecraft's engine. (12/22)

Raytheon to Demonstrate Military Satellite Capabilities for U.S. Air Force (Source: UPI)
Raytheon has received a $37 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to demonstrate Wideband Global Satellite Communications capabilities. The demonstration supports the Protected Tactical Services Field Demonstration program, which seeks to improve anti-jam security abilities using constellation and commercial satellites.

During the demonstration, Raytheon plans to showcase how reusing antenna and other existing equipment can boost security while cutting costs for the program. Raytheon adds the new system will benefit commercial and government satellite communication capabilities, and enhance security for military users. (12/21)

NASA Wants You to Get Set for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 (Source:
With 2017 right around the corner, it's time to start getting ready for the "Great American Total Solar Eclipse," NASA announced this week. For the first time in nearly 100 years, a solar eclipse will sweep across the entire continental United States, happening on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most skywatchers, so don't miss out!

As the moon passes before the sun, it will cast a dark shadow that begins at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1:15 p.m. EDT) on the West Coast near Salem, Oregon, before traveling cross-country to Charleston, South Carolina, where it will end at 2:48 p.m. EDT. (12/16)

Probe Of United Launch Exec's Comments Finds No Bid Bias (Source: Law 360)
The U.S. Department of Defense's internal watchdog has concluded that the agency did not show contracting favoritism to United Launch Alliance over competitors like SpaceX for military launches, saying a probe into controversial comments made by ULA’s vice president uncovered no impropriety. (12/21)

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