January 30, 2017

Planet Earth Makes its Own Water From Scratch Deep in the Mantle (Source: New Scientist)
Our planet may be blue from the inside out. Earth’s huge store of water might have originated via chemical reactions in the mantle, rather than arriving from space through collisions with ice-rich comets. This new water may be under such pressure that it can trigger earthquakes hundreds of kilometers below Earth’s surface – tremors whose origins have so far remained unexplained.

That’s the upshot of a computer simulation of reactions in Earth’s upper mantle between liquid hydrogen and quartz, the most common and stable form of silica in this part of the planet. “This is one way water can form on Earth,” says team member John Tse at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. “We show it’s possible to have water forming in Earth’s natural environment, rather than being of extraterrestrial origin.” (1/27)

India Seeks New Record: 104 Satellites on One Rocket (Source: Mashable)
India is looking at the sky once again as it preps for another world record next month. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will attempt to launch 104 satellites on a single rocket in February. ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will carry three satellites from India, and another 101 smaller nano satellites from five countries including the USA. If things go as planned, ISRO would be able to surpass, by a long margin, the record set by Russia, which sent 37 satellites in one go in 2014. (1/30)

NASA's Best Test For Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Forbes)
Proof of anything is hard to come by; much less life on a far flung moon or planet. But NASA says it has a new method of detecting biosignatures that is some 10,000 times better than what has been used on flight missions in the past. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reports that their capillary electrophoresis experiment is designed to target 17 signature amino acids, using a liquid-based technique that allows them to separate molecules based on a size-to-electrical charge ratio.

JPL says it works even when amino acids --- the structural building blocks of all life on Earth --- are present only in highly salty, very low concentration samples. In a paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, co-author Peter Willis and colleagues at JPL note that the technique allows researchers to look for the chemical distribution patterns unique to life. And in so doing, the researchers can distinguish between amino acids formed by abiotic versus biotic processes. (1/30)

NASA's Groundbreaking New Development in Rocket Science Is … Paint? (Source: Motherboard)
Paint probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of rocket science, but NASA’s Ames Research Center has discovered it can use paint to identify the parts of rockets that are being overly buffeted by pressure as they zip toward supersonic speed. Specifically, it’s “Unsteady Pressure Sensitive Paint” that reacts with oxygen to create light, causing the parts of the rocket under the most duress to shine bright red in simulations. By studying those points, they can refine their designs to minimize or eliminate those problem spots in order to keep the craft or rocket from breaking up.

The paint isn't actually used on real rockets. Instead, the pinkish substance is lightly painted over a scale model, which is then set up in a wind tunnel that mimics the intense atmospheric pressures on a real spacecraft or aircraft. NASA has used pressure sensitive paint in the past, but it wasn't effective as it could be as it only measured averages over time.

With the new "unsteady" paint, however, researchers can see the fluctuations from buffeting in far greater and faster detail when they're monitored under ultraviolet light with multiple high-speed cameras. When the resulting data are compiled, the areas enduring less pressure than average appear blue and the most affected parts shine red. (1/29)

SpaceX Delays First Flight From NASA Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: Seeker)
SpaceX on Sunday bumped this week's planned launch of an EchoStar communications satellite until after a mid-February cargo run to the International Space Station for NASA, saying it needs more time to get its new launch pad ready. SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, is leasing the historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA to fly its Falcon 9 and planned Falcon Heavy rockets. The pad was last used by NASA's space shuttles in 2011 and previously by the Apollo program moon rockets. (1/29)

Black ZEUS: The Top Secret Shuttle Mission That Never Flew (Source: Space Review)
In the 1970s, the National Reconnaissance Office considered developing an imaging payload that would fly on space shuttle missions. Dwayne Day reveals what is known about that effort thanks to newly-declassified documents. Click here. (1/30)
Tumult, Continuity, and Uncertainty (Source: Space Review)
The first week of the Trump Administration has been hectic, and a cause for concern among many scientists. Jeff Foust reports on the changes that have been made, what’s stayed the same, and the underlying concerns about science in the new administration. Click here. (1/30)
Adapter in the Rough (Source: Space Review)
Sometimes space history research can involve tracking down a long-forgotten object. John Charles describes his quest to find a piece of hardware from the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. Click here. (1/30)
Three Principles to Cconstructively Engage China in Outer Space Security (Source: Space Review)
How should the Trump Administration develop a space policy that can effectively deal with China? Michael Listner offers three principles that he believes should guide the new administration’s space policy. Click here. (1/30)
Why the US and Russia Should Work Together to Clean Up Orbital Debris (Source: Space Review)
Relations between the US and Russia have been contentious in recent years, although space has been mostly free of those tensions. Al Anzaldua and Dave Dunlop argue that a means of improving relations between the countries, and solving a key space-related problem, is to cooperate in space debris cleanup. Click here. (1/30)

Space Traffic Management (Source: Launchspace)
Those familiar with air traffic management architectures understand the constraints of aircraft flying in the atmosphere, vehicle dynamics and command and control techniques. Unfortunately, space traffic has many more degrees of freedom and much less control capability. Add to this the completely uncontrolled nature of space debris and the reality that most debris objects cannot be tracked and motion cannot be accurately measured or simulated. Click here. (1/30)

In fact, orbiting debris is a product of negligence. Over the first 60 years of space flight, mission plans ended with the completion of in-space operations. Satellites were shut down and left in their orbits, subject to natural influences. Little thought was given to any collateral effects of objects "adrift" in space, because "space" was thought of as "big." (1/30)

Congress Wants NASA Strategic Plan for Exploration (Source: Space News)
A bill introduced in Congress last week would require NASA to develop a strategic plan for human space exploration. The Mapping a New and Innovative Focus on our Exploration Strategy (MANIFEST) for Human Spaceflight Act, introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), specifies NASA develop an interim report analyzing various aspects of its human spaceflight plans within 90 days of enactment, with a final report, reviewed by the National Academies, delivered within a year. The bill also explicitly makes human missions to Mars a goal of NASA's human space exploration efforts. (1/30)

Large Financial Gift Boosts University of Colorado's Aerospace Program (Source: Space News)
A multimillion-dollar donation will help grow the University of Colorado's aerospace program. The $15 million gift, announced last week, will support a graduate student scholars program in the university's aerospace engineering department and endow a chair for space technology. Bobby Braun, the new dean of the university's College of Engineering and Applied Science and a former NASA chief technologist, described the gift as "transformational" for the department as it seeks to enhance its links to the state's large aerospace industry. (1/30)

How NASA Keeps Track of Alien Worlds (Source: Space.com)
The Milky Way is littered with a vast diversity of planets: giants that blur the line between planet and failed-star brown dwarf; tiny worlds similar in size to Earth's moon; planets that take 100,000 years to orbit their suns or whip around in hours; lava worlds; ice worlds; and planets that circle multiple suns or whirling pulsars.

Scientists find them by watching stars that wobble, change gravity, vary in color or dip slightly in brightness. (This last strategy is employed by the most prolific planet hunter of all time, NASA's Kepler space telescope.) And someone needs to keep track of them all. Click here. (1/30)

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