January 15, 2017

Mars One Seeks Content Production Partner for Round 3 Astronaut Selection (Source: Mars One)
Mars One today releases a request for proposals for the media content production covering its astronaut selection round three. Mars One welcomes proposals from production companies with proven experience in creating high quality, factual storytelling for a global audience.

Mars One’s third selection round is designed to trim down the remaining 100 Mars One astronaut candidates to forty through a series of team challenges. It will be the first time all candidates will meet in person and demonstrate their capabilities as a team. Candidates will start the group challenges in 10 groups of 10. These groups will change throughout Round Three and the selection round will end with 40 candidates. (1/12)

Using Microgravity to Understand How Bacteria Can Cause Disease (Source: UOP)
Space may be the final frontier, but it’s not beyond the reach of today’s biologists. Scientists in all areas of biology, from tissue engineering to infectious diseases, have been using the extreme environment of space to investigate phenomena not seen on Earth. NASA has conducted research in the life sciences for almost 50 years. Some of this research relates directly to human space exploration, while other projects investigate broader scientific questions related to human health and disease.

In the early 1990s, NASA started flying living cells on their space shuttles to investigate how cells respond to the rigors of spaceflight. Several different types of human cells were flown in space, with each showing various changes in size, shape, growth rate, and other behaviors. At the same time, NASA built a vessel capable of mimicking the microgravity environment of space. While not able to fully recapitulate all the environmental changes brought on by spaceflight, the rotating wall vessel (RWV) provides an environment of low-shear modelled microgravity (LSMMG), which is sufficient to induce many of the changes seen in space. Click here. (1/15)

Why Mars Is the Best Planet (Source: The Atlantic)
Our tale of two planets begins four billion years ago. One planet was Earth, and the other planet was Mars, and the two had much in common in their infancy. Rivers and lakes etched their surfaces, craters pockmarked their faces, and volcanoes rose from their plains. But something seems to have changed on one and not the other.

In Earth’s burbling warm water, fate and chemistry combined amino acids into complex molecules, and in a process we still don’t understand, these gave rise to single cells that figured out how to make copies of themselves. Tiny mistakes in those copies eventually turned them into oxygen-exhaling organisms we call algae. Endless forms flowed from these humble ancestors, and after eons, there we were: All of human culture and hope and possibility arising within a tiny slice of time. Click here. (1/13)

Fish Are Having a Real Hard Time in Space (Source: Motherboard)
Fish traveling aboard the International Space Station in 2014 experienced a near-immediate reduction in bone density upon encountering the microgravity environment of orbit. This is according to research published recently in Scientific Reports by a team of biologists at Tokyo Institute of Technology who conducted remote imaging experiments on newly-hatched medaka fish launched into space.

The general findings are concerning but not all that surprising. The dramatic effects of microgravity on bone density have been observed in human astronauts aboard the ISS, where bone deterioration begins after about 20 days in orbit in a process resembling the sort of osteoporosis more often associated with old age. The mechanisms behind this, however, are still being explored, both for the sake of long-term space travel and for treating osteoporosis here on Earth's surface. And so we have medaka fish, whose process of skeletogenesis is similar to our own. Click here. (1/15)

Japanese Microsatellite Launcher Fails in First Launch (Source: CNN)
Japan's attempt to launch one of the smallest-ever rockets into space has ended in failure. The 9.5-meter (32-foot) rocket lifted off around 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday from the Uchinoura Space Center in southwestern Japan, according to state broadcaster NHK. The rocket was carrying a micro-satellite that is 35 centimeters (13 inches) tall and weighs 3 kg (6.6 lbs.).

However, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), communication systems malfunctioned after the rocket launched, causing the ignition of the second booster to be terminated. The rocket fell into the sea southeast of Uchinoura. The launch, which was delayed from earlier this week because of weather, was supposed to be a proof of concept for Japan's micro-satellite and mini-rocket technology, which JAXA hopes to commercialize as private companies seek cheaper options that are easier to put into orbit. (1/15)

Private Chinese Firm Inks Contract for Commercial Rocket Launch (Source: Xinhua)
Landspace Technology Corporation, a private aerospace company based in Beijing, said it has secured a contract with Gomspace, a Danish company, to launch a series of satellites. It is the first time for a private Chinese company to provide satellite launching services to the international market, the company said. According to the contract, Landspace will use its Landspace-1 rocket to put Gomspace's satellites into orbit in 2018. (1/15)

How a Russian Musician Creates Some of NASA's Coolest Images (Source: The Verge)
On Friday, NASA released an image of Jupiter taken by the Juno Spacecraft on December 11th. Interestingly, the stunning picture was processed by Russian musician Roman Tkachenko, who took the raw data taken by Juno's cameras to produce the final result. Ever since Juno’s arrival to Jupiter, Tkachenko has been producing some stunning pictures of the gas giant.

He got his start processing images with data sent back by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, piecing together images from Pluto and Charon. He’s also put together images with data from Saturn’s Cassini spacecraft, and of the planet Mars. “[I use] different tools and processing algorithms for different images taken in space missions,” he noted, “because sometimes some of the images needs more sophisticated processing methods.” Click here. (1/14)

SpaceX Returns to Flight With Successful California Launch and Landing (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Jan. 14 at 12:54 p.m. Eastern and successfully delivered ten Iridium Communications satellites into polar orbit one hour and 14 minutes later, while the Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on a ship off the California coast.

It was the first SpaceX flight since a Falcon 9 exploded Sept. 1 on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, destroying the Amos-6 communications satellite. SpaceX blamed the failure on a helium tank in the rocket’s second stage that ruptured during fueling for a static-fire test, and the company said earlier this month it would adjust the rocket’s fueling process. (1/14)

South Africa: New CEO for SA Space Agency (Source: All Africa)
South African space strategist and policy maker Dr Valanathan Munsami has been appointed CEO of the SA National Space Agency (Sansa). "Dr Munsami takes the helm following an impactful past in shaping South Africa's space science landscape," Sansa said on its website on Thursday. Munsami takes over from Dr Sandile Malinga, who left Sansa in August 2016, five years after being appointed to the post as its inaugural CEO and board member. (1/12)

Rocket Troubles Cause Huge Financial Loss for SpaceX in 2015 (Source: LA Biz)
After three consecutive years of skyrocketing revenue, Elon Musk's ambitious commercial space venture suffered a major financial setback when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded moments after a June 2015 launch. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained five years of financial records for SpaceX, reported Friday that the company took a quarter-billion dollar loss and saw revenues drop by 6 percent in 2015. SpaceX, as the company is known popularly, is a privately held firm and is not required to publicly disclose its financials. (1/13)

Do They Need a ‘Damn Satellite’? Why Trump Worries California Scientists (Source: Sacramento Bee)
At the conference last month where Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state would “launch its own damn satellite” if the Trump administration restricts access to climate data, a group of scientists from the University of California gathered in a side room to figure out how to do just that.

Alarmed by statements they’d read from members of Trump’s transition team, the scientists brainstormed whether they could find new data sources or if they could somehow partner with a private company to pay for a satellite program. The group did not settle on a plan, and it may not need to find one. It’s unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump’s administration actually would make it more difficult for researchers to access information from NASA satellites they’ve been using for years.

But the gathering was another sign that California scientists don’t know what to expect from an incoming Trump team. They’re preparing for everything from a cut in funding for scientific research to a public relations campaign deriding their work. “We’re being pre-emptive. It would be a mistake not to think preemptively,” said Ben Houlton. (1/13)

KSC Visitor Complex Highlights NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Programs (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Just after the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex unveiled in the West wing of the IMAX Theater a display showcasing spacecraft that are being used on NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo endeavors.

The public is now able to see the first Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX to go to the ISS during the NASA COTS trials. And to her right is the Pressure Vessel of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner currently being finished for her first flight in 2018. Also on display is a replica of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Cargo Variant (a lifting body spacecraft that will land horizontally), which will be used in the Third round of the Commercial Resupply contract for the International Space Station. (1/14)

Airfield Bosses in Battle to Become UK’s First Spaceport (Source: Cambrian News)
Aviation experts in Llanbedr are in line for a busy year as they aim to make the airfield the number one choice as the UK’s first spaceport. An operational spaceport could lead to spaceplanes carrying passengers and small satellites into space. Llanbedr is currently one of five sites currently being considered by the UK Government. Snowdonia Aerospace chief executive Lee Paul said: “The past 18 months have been about creating the right operating environment, completing the first phase of investment and getting us ready for the future.

“We hope that new developments in 2017 will mean that Llanbedr is even more appealing to world-wide investment. We are now working with partners to put together a package of investments such as on site accommodation, better site access and licensing to instil even greater investor confidence.” The airfield at Llanbedr has all the attributes of a former RAF site, plus state-of-the-art facilities following significant investment with more already underway. (1/14)

Moon Express Has Money for Moonshot – But Launch is Up in the Air (Source: GeekWire)
Moon Express says they have reached its funding goal for this year’s planned commercial mission to the lunar surface, thanks to $20 million in new investment. “We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon,” the Florida-based company’s CEO, Bob Richards, said. Moon Express has preliminary approval for its payload from the U.S. government. It has its spacecraft, and it has a verified contract for the launch of its lander. The one big-ticket item it doesn’t have is a rocket that’s been flight-tested.

Moon Express’ contract calls on Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to send its MX-1E lander into low Earth orbit atop a low-cost Electron rocket that’s to be launched from New Zealand. The lander has to be launched this year to meet the deadline for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Rocket Lab has finished construction of its rocket complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, and it has finished ground testing of the Electron’s liquid-fueled Rutherford rocket engine. It still lacks the New Zealand government’s authorization for launch, however, and thus has not yet conducted any flight tests. (1/13)

New White House Strategy Preps Earth for Asteroid Hit Scenarios (Source: Scientific American)
In the waning days of Pres. Barack Obama’s administration, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy” last week. The strategy outlines major goals the country will have to tackle to prepare to meet the NEO threat, signaling that some leaders are taking the danger more seriously. Whether the U.S. government is willing to put significant funding behind such efforts, however, still remains to be seen.

The White House report shows that there is high-level interest in the NEO threat, and that even if incoming NEOs are not among the most likely threats we face, the consequences of an impact could be dire. “It’s a good thing to keep your eye on,” William Ailor says, and the new report “brings reality home.” The 19-page report, the product of an interagency faction of experts convened in January 2016 dubbed the Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects (DAMIEN) working group, was released January 3.

Overall, the group found the U.S. needs more tools to track space rocks, and that greater international cooperation is necessary. Specifically, the report outlines several goals, including increasing the ability both in the U.S. and in other countries to more rapidly detect NEOs, track their movements and characterize the objects more completely. It also says more research is needed to study how best to deflect and disrupt a space rock. (1/13)

Russian Engine Failure Blamed on Workmanship, FOD (Source: Space News)
Roscosmos said Wednesday the leading cause for the Dec. 1 launch failure was foreign particles that got into the Soyuz rocket’s engine, causing a fire and explosion that ripped apart the oxidizer tank. The report indicated the “defective workmanship” in the assembly of the engine may have also played a role in the failure. (1/12)

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