February 19, 2017

USF Scientist Advises on How to Protect Europa From Earthlings (Source: Science)
In less than a decade, NASA will send a spacecraft to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Once there, a lander will navigate the world’s icy surface for about 20 days and attempt to probe its hypothesized vast subsurface ocean. But whether or not Europa contains life, how can we avoid contaminating it with our own? That was the focus of a session here yesterday at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science.

Part of the problem, said session speaker Norine Noonan, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa who previous served as chair of NASA’s Planetary Protection Advisory Committee, is that humans are “autonomous microbial growth distribution systems.” Our bodies “spew fountains of bacteria,” she told attendees, and these microbes hitch rides on sensitive space equipment despite efforts to sterilize it. “If you take a 2-billion dollar rover to Mars to study the organic microbes you brought with you, it’s not cost effective.” Click here. (2/18)

India's Energy Needs May be Met by the Moon (Source: DNA)
The Sun has always been a source of energy for the world. But an untapped source of power may soon be able to meet all of India’s energy requirements. And that’s the Moon. Sivathanu Pillai, a distinguished professor at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) stated that our country can meet its energy demands through Helium-3 mined from the Moon. By 2030, this process target will be met," Pillai said. (2/18)

Expert Panel Supports Study to Accelerate First Crewed SLS Mission (Source: Space News)
A panel of former NASA astronauts and officials offered tentative support for an agency study to examine putting a crew on the first flight of the Space Launch System. The witnesses, which included two former astronauts, a former chief scientist and a former center director, were asked during a hearing on NASA by the House Science Committee. (2/18)

SpaceX Launches From NASA's Historic Moon Pad, Lands Nearby (Source: AP)
NASA's historic moonshot pad is back in business. A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off Sunday morning from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A. It was visible for just seconds before ducking into clouds on its way to the International Space Station, with a load of supplies.

Astronauts flew to the moon from this very spot nearly a half-century ago. The pad was last used for NASA's final shuttle mission nearly six years ago. This is SpaceX's first launch from Florida since a rocket explosion last summer. As an extra special treat, SpaceX landed the booster rocket back at Cape Canaveral following liftoff, for only the third time. (2/19)

KSC Showcases its Future as Multi-User Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA has made major strides in its seven-year effort to transform Kennedy Space Center (KSC) into a multi-user spaceport. Efforts to date include modifying Launch Complex 39B and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to support the Space Launch System (SLS), institutional and infrastructure changes to support commercial customers, and changes to one of the Shuttle Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs) to support the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.

Director of KSC since 2008, former astronaut Bob Cabana has been the driving force behind the center’s efforts to transition from a government operation supporting only the Space Shuttle to a public-private facility capable of supporting NASA and multiple commercial customers. These changes have included leasing launch facilities like LC-39A to SpaceX for 20 years. “We didn’t need it. 39B can support three launches a year […] otherwise it would have sat there and rusted.”

In cooperation with Space Florida and the U.S. Air Force, KSC has leased properties and facilities to SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin to support new rocket manufacturing, launch, and landing facilities. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) also has a say in what happens at the center, as they are responsible for performing controlled burns to prevent forest fires on the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. (2/18)

Shotwell Enlightens on SpaceX Pad Improvements (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
“There’s some work to do on the pad … We have the crew arm to put in and we’ve got some other upgrades as well,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said. While SpaceX’s current manifest does not require adding to LC-39A’s Fixed Service Structure, Shotwell said that the company would need to add some height to the 305-foot (93-meter) structure if it wants to add vertical integration capabilities for national security payloads.

“We’re good where we are with crew [launches],” Shotwell said, referring to the current structure. She said SpaceX plans to add a crew access arm for Crew Dragon before the end of the year. SpaceX is also working to make all its launch pads operational. Space Launch Complex 40 is expected to be back online this summer while the company’s work on its new spaceport in Brownsville, Texas, is doing “dirt work.” (2/18)

Why NASA is Sending a Superbug to the Space Station (Source: CNN)
An antibiotic-resistant superbug will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Sunday from the same Kennedy Space Center launch complex where the first manned mission to the moon lifted off and then the bug will be studied by astronauts on the International Space Station. Before you start to worry, this isn't a sign of an impending apocalypse.
Working in conjunction with NASA, lead researcher Dr. Anita Goel hopes that by sending MRSA bacteria to a zero-gravity environment, we can better understand how superbugs mutate to become resistant to available antibiotics. Goel is also interested to see the changes in the gene expression patterns of this bacteria. (2/18)

NASA's Next Frontier Is Washington (Source: The Atlantic)
NASA’s Apollo-era budget accounted for 4.5 percent of the federal budget, while today’s budget is less than half a percent. Plus, there’s no Cold War driving national pride to make those tax dollars seem worth it. Lawmakers that handle space policy are aware of this reality. “It is very difficult to explore a universe of infinite wonder with a finite budget,” Brian Babin, the Republican congressman from Texas who chairs the Space Subcommittee, said Thursday.

But that doesn’t stop lawmakers from interrogating NASA folks about when they’re going to get the big stuff done. Many members at the hearing wondered when, exactly, Americans would be flying to Mars. Two congressmen from Colorado held up bumper stickers with photos of the Red Planet and the year 2033 in big letters. One asked whether NASA could shave off a year and make it 2032. (2/17)

Due to Concerns About Engine, Juno to Remain in Elongated Jupiter Orbit (Source: Ars Technica)
When NASA sent a series of commands to the Juno spacecraft’s main engine last October, the spacecraft did not respond properly: two helium check valves that play an important role in its firing opened sluggishly. Those commands had been sent in preparation for a burn of the spacecraft’s Leros 1b engine, which would have brought Juno—a $1.1 billion mission to glean insights about Jupiter—into a significantly shorter orbital period around the gas giant.

Due to concerns about the engine, NASA held off on a “period reduction maneuver” that would shorten Juno’s orbital period from 53.4 to 14 days. When the next chance to do so came in December, again NASA held off. Now the space agency has made it official—Juno will remain in a longer, looping orbit around Jupiter for the extent of its lifetime observing the gas giant. (2/17)

NASA Moving Fast on New Moon Shot, 'Urgent' to Increase Budget (Source: Huntsville Times)
Whatever decision NASA makes regarding a new moon shot, it has to make fast, Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. said. "I'm giving them a short fuse," Lightfoot told a large crowd of the National Space Club's Huntsville chapter. He referred to the team he has asked to study whether NASA can fly astronauts on the first launch of its new Space Launch System. It had planned to fly them on the second launch.

"It's just a study," Lightfoot cautioned. "I understand the challenge." But Lightfoot said, "It's an urgent thing to get the dollars up if we're going to do this." Driving that urgency is the next federal budget, and NASA will need a bigger piece to get ready to launch a crew in 2019 or 2020. (2/17)

New NASA Teams Will Make Human Mars Missions Light and Efficient (Source: New Scientist)
For a crewed mission into deep space, every piece of technology and equipment has to be better: lighter, stronger, multi-purpose. NASA just funded two new teams of researchers to form Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) working toward that goal. The new institutes will develop materials to allow astronauts to travel lightly to Mars, and biological and microbial technology to make them self-sufficient when they get there.

Each institute consists of researchers that span a variety of disciplines and institutions, all working together in one relatively narrow area of technology. The two new teams are called the Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) and the Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES).

US-COMP will focus on creating new materials for vehicles, habitats, and whatever other structures astronauts will need on Mars. “The materials that are currently available have the necessary strength requirements, but are too heavy for extended missions and would require excessive fuel consumption,” says US-COMP team leader Gregory Odegard at Michigan Technological University. Click here. (2/17)

BLM Signs Decision Record on the Spaceport America's Southern Road Improvement (Source: KRWG)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Cruces District announced today that it signed the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Decision Record for the proposed Southern Road Improvement Project (Project), a 23.6-mile section of county roads in Doña Ana and Sierra Counties. (2/17)

Cruz, Nelson Champion American Leadership and Exploration in Space (Source: Senate CST)
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 442, The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), and John Cornyn (R-TX). The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.  (2/17)

Do You Have The Right Personality For Long-Term Space Travel? (Source: Seeker)
The longest consecutive amount of time anyone has spent in space was roughly 438 days. That's a long time to be up there, and a mission to Mars and back could take even longer, leaving astronauts alone, in confined spaces, deep in the reaches of the cosmos.

But prolonged isolation is, to put it simply, not always great for humans. According to the book Space Psychology and Psychiatry, long duration space travelers have reported depression, abnormal weakness and loss of energy. Another major problem in long term space travel is something termed the "third quarter phenomenon". Click here. (2/18)

SpaceX Pushes Back Red Dragon Mission to Mars by 2 Years (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX will delay its 2018 Red Dragon mission to Mars at least two years to better focus its resources on two programs that a running significantly behind schedule. “We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program,” Shotwell said at a pre-launch press conference in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “So we’re looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that.”

The mission will land a modified Dragon spacecraft on the martian surface. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he planned to launch Dragons to the surface every two years beginning in 2018, culminating in a crewed mission in 2024. (2/17)

When's the Next SpaceX Launch? An Updated Calendar (Source: Inverse)
Since launches can be delayed for all sorts of reasons — from accidents to inclement weather, the calendar changes regularly. This is what we know: SpaceX is essentially planning a launch every few weeks for the next few months. You can watch live webcasts of SpaceX launches — and the droneship landings — at spacex.com/webcast. Because a number of scheduled flights had to be delayed because of the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in September, the upcoming SpaceX calendar is chock-full of rocket launches. Click here. (2/18) https://www.inverse.com/article/27731-spacex-next-launch-calendar

Delays Expected in SpaceX, Boeing Astronaut Capsules (Source: LA Business Journal)
SpaceX and Boeing Co. should expect to experience delays in certifying their astronaut transport capsules for use by NASA astronauts, says a U.S. government watchdog agency. The Government Accountability Office released Thursday a report saying that the two companies, which are each building spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station, will likely have to put off final certification until 2019. (2/18)

Republicans Aim to Prioritize NASA Space Exploration Efforts Over Environmental Research (Source: IJR)
Republican lawmakers have begun working to fund space exploration projects over environmental research within NASA. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the future of NASA on Thursday morning. Republicans, many of whom doubt the validity of concerns surrounding climate change, took issue with Obama-era increases in NASA earth science funding.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, emerged as a leader in the fight to re-prioritize space exploration. The Senate could pass Cruz's NASA reauthorization legislation once again as early as Friday. Republicans in both houses of Congress are in agreement with Cruz's priorities for NASA.

A spokesman for Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, told IJR about his goals for NASA in the new Congress: “The shift back towards NASA should be focused on space exploration. We have one agency that studies space. We have something like sixteen others that focus on climate issues.” (2/17)

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