December 25, 2016

Piers Sellers: UK-Born Astronaut Dies Aged 61 (Source: BBC)
British-born astronaut Piers Sellers has died of pancreatic cancer, aged 61, NASA has said. Born in Crowborough, East Sussex, Dr Sellers began working for the US space agency as a scientist in 1982 before joining its astronaut corps in 1996. The climate expert made three Space Shuttle flights to the International Space Station, between 2002 and 2010. (12/24)

Here's Who Could Win the $20 Million Lunar XPrize—But Will Any Science Get Done? (Source: Science)
Science was never the primary driver for the Lunar XPrize, which reaches a major milestone at the end of this month. Only those teams with a contract to launch their spacecraft before the end of 2017 will be allowed to stay in the competition. Of the 16 industry teams still in the running, the XPrize authorities have confirmed launches for just four, including SpaceIL.

A fifth team, Part-Time Scientists, a Germany-based team founded by researchers who initially entered the prize alongside their day jobs, is still awaiting confirmation of its launch booking. Click here. (12/22)

No Damage to JWST After Vibration Test Anomaly (Source: Space News)
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows no signs of damage after an “anomaly” during a vibration test earlier in the month, the agency announced Dec. 23. In a statement posted on the JWST web site, NASA said that engineers were making progress tracking down the root cause of the Dec. 3 incident that halted vibration testing of the telescope’s mirror assembly and instruments, known as the Optical Telescope element and Integrated Science (OTIS). (12/23)

First Space Observatory to Open in Central Vietnam (Source: Xinhua)
Vietnam will open its first-ever astronomical observatory in central Khanh Hoa province in March 2017, according to the Vietnam National Satellite Center. The observatory, built on a rocky area called Hon Chong in Khanh Hoa's Nha Trang City, some 1,040 km south of capital Hanoi, is in the finishing stage and will be ready for a pilot run by the Lunar New Year holiday in late January. Its official opening is scheduled in March next year. (12/21)

Florida Scientists Call for Climate Meeting with Trump (Source: Miami Herald)
Florida scientists who called out Gov. Rick Scott two years ago for doubting climate change now hope to meet with President-elect Donald Trump while he’s in the state celebrating the holidays. In a letter this week, 10 scientists asked for a meeting to explain the perils of sea rise to the future president, who has called climate change a hoax.

While Trump has nominated heads of energy and environmental departments who also deny climate change, he has met in recent weeks with former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, two of the more famous faces fighting to address the causes warming the planet.

In October, before his win, the scientists made a similar request to Trump on the heels of Hurricane Matthew, which produced powerful storm surges causing an estimated $600 million in damage. “Much of your Mar-a-Lago Club could be under water in coming years because of man-made climate change,” the scientists wrote. “This is not a distant threat. Climate change is making an impact today.” (12/23)

Caadian Groups Gambled on S3 With Lab Construction Incentive (Source: CBC)
Two years ago, there was great fanfare as officials with FedNor, North Bay's Canadore College and a Swiss aerospace company announced a new venture. Now, the company has disappeared, reportedly bankrupt. Swiss Space Systems, also known as S3, was to work with the school to test equipment that could one day launch small satellites into orbit. The company would also offer zero-gravity flights to the public out of North Bay.

To help with that project, a $9-million lab was built at Canadore College. The federal economic funding agency decided to provide $2 million to Canadore. The company put in $4 million — and the facility opened. Canadore's role was to assist S3 in its research related to the company's small satellite launch business. (12/23)

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