February 26, 2017

Harris CEO 'Encouraged' After Trump Talk (Source: Florida Today)
Harris Corp. Chief Executive Officer William Brown, fresh from a meeting with President Donald Trump and key federal officials on Thursday, said he came away optimistic that business leaders have someone who will listen to their concerns and ideas to build manufacturing and the economy.

Less than a week after Trump visited the Space Coast, Brown was among nearly two dozen top U.S. business leaders who met with the president and key advisers Thursday to talk manufacturing and the economy. It's meant to be part of an ongoing series of meetings that address issues such as workforce training, infrastructure, manufacturing and tax, trade and regulatory reform.

Harris, headquartered in Melbourne, was the only Florida-based company represented at the Thursday meeting in Washington. The business leaders met first for about an hour with Vice President Mike Pence, key cabinet leaders, as well as Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband — and Trump adviser — Jared Kushner. They then met with Trump for another hour. (2/24)

Why Did the House Science Committee Overlook NASA's [Female] Former Chief Scientist? (Source: The Atlantic)
Last week, the House Science, Space and Technology committee invited four witnesses from NASA’s past to discuss the agency’s future endeavors. NASA consistently polls as Americans’ favorite federal agency, and its popularity cuts across party lines. The hearing could have been a brief respite from the bickering that has seized Washington of late. And it almost was. Near the end, Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief science officer under President Barack Obama, testified that we can expect a lunar habitat by the 2020s and humans in Mars orbit in 2032.

But then last Friday, Stofan shared a picture from the House committee's Twitter  account showing the other male witnesses, highlighting that the committee posted 10 tweets about the hearing but none mentioning Stofan. But she testified at length, giving detailed answers to numerous questions about the space agency’s Earth science mission, about NASA’s Mars trajectory, about human space exploration, and plenty of other topics. It was curious that she didn’t appear at all in the committee’s Twitter feed.

“I understand that it’s probably mostly because they are the Republican witnesses. I was invited by the minority party, the Democrats. But the optics of being the only woman…,” she trailed off, with a rueful laugh. “You know, I understand, that’s the way the system works. I hope we’re turning away from that system.” Stofan was referring to the systemic mistreatment of women in science, as supported by a  wealth of scientific papers in academic journals, which speak to the persistence of sexism, ossified gender roles, the prevalence and endurance of bias, and the underrepresentation of women (especially women of color). (2/25)

13-Year-Old Aspiring Astronaut from Jacksonville Raises Money for 1,000 Girls to See Hidden Figures (Source: People)
Thirteen-year-old Taylor Richardson was so inspired after watching the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures that she set out to raise enough money for 1,000 girls to see the encouraging flick in theaters. The seventh grader from Jacksonville, Florida, first saw the movie at The White House Hidden Figures in Space Exploration event in December during a special screening. Taylor, an admirer of engineer and astronaut Mae C. Jemison, grew up dreaming of space exploration and aspires to work for NASA one day. (2/24)

1 In 3 Americans Would Move To An Alien Planet To Escape U.S. Politics (Source: Huffington Post)
If it meant escaping the current political atmosphere, nearly 1 in 3 Americans say they’d be willing to leave Earth altogether. That’s according to a SurveyMonkey poll conducted Thursday, which found that 29 percent of U.S. adults would consider temporarily moving to one of the newly discovered Earth-like planets to avoid the next four years under President Donald Trump. (2/24)

The ‘Celestial Empire’ Looks to Space (Source: RUSI)
China’s State Council, the country’s chief administrative authority, recently published a White Paper on its space policies. It not only lifted a veil of secrecy that shielded Beijing’s space policies, but also outlined the country’s recent achievements and offered a five-year outlook on future activities. Click here. (2/24)

The Top 7 Ways a Trip to Mars Could Kill You (Source: Vox)
Elon Musk wants humans to travel to Mars. He just doesn’t want to be the first to go. Because, uh, there’s a very good chance of dying. "The risk of fatality will be high," Musk conceded in the course of describing SpaceX’s absurdly ambitious (and still preliminary) plan to establish a human colony on Mars. "There’s no way around it."

So what exactly makes a journey to Mars so perilous? Chris McKay, a senior scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center involved in planning future Mars missions, walked us through some of the hazards. Some, like exploding rockets, are hair-raising; others, like radiation exposure, could prove more tolerable. Click here. (2/24)

Martian Politics Are a Mess and We Haven't Even Arrived (Source: Inverse)
The instantly iconic image of a barely ruffled American flag, perched proudly at the top of the Lunar Flag Assembly, ran on the front page of LIFE magazine’s August 8, 1969 issue. The photograph, part of a series taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, wasn’t just for American eyes.

It was a masterful piece of propaganda that heavily implied the United States had taken a permanent lead in the space race by claiming the moon in much the same way it had claimed Hawaii a decade earlier. But no country owns the fifth-largest natural satellite in the solar system. And, unless changes are made to international laws, no country will own Mars even if NASA arrives on schedule in the 2030s.

Concepts that define nations and international relations on Earth translate poorly to the Martian surface for economic and legal reasons. Resources on Mars are limited and inefficiencies are massively expensive. Free markets aren’t likely to emerge rapidly. There are plenty of places — Antarctica, Diego Garcia— where similar constraints have led to the creation of more martial installations. But this process is much more complicated on Mars, because international treaties make it illegal for parties to claim land. Click here. (2/24)

Mars Needs Lawyers (Source: FiveThirtyEight)
The Liberian flag is easy to mistake for the U.S. flag. There’s the red, white and blue. There’s the stripes. The only difference is that the Liberian flag features one star in the upper left corner, instead of 50 — a legacy of the coastal West African country’s origins as a U.S. colony. Someday, maybe 10 years from now — or more likely hundreds — this could be the flag that flies above a geodesic dome, fluttering in the dusty red breeze of a Martian afternoon.

The treaties that govern space allow private individuals and corporations to travel the stars, but only with the licensure and legal backing of an earthbound government. It’s similar that way to the laws of the sea. And today, on Earth’s oceans, more than 11 percent of all the tons of freight shipped is carried on boats that fly the Liberian flag. In exchange for lower taxes and looser regulations, both the shipping companies of the present and the Martian explorers of tomorrow could pay to register their vessel with a small country they have no other connection to2 and carry its flag (and laws) with them, wherever they go.

We may slip the surly bonds of Earth, but we will not escape the knots tied by Earth law and politics. The history of space politics and space law was about superpowers and how they might interact in the heavens. The future of space politics, in contrast, could involve more global coalitions, more small countries wielding surprising levels of influence, and more of a presence for countries outside Europe and the U.S. (2/24)

There's Going to Be a Traffic Jam at Mars in 2021 (Source: Inverse)
The best opportunity to launch spacecraft to Mars comes around once every 26 months, when the planets align in the best possible way. That opportunity is coming in July/August 2020. More spacecraft will be launched to Mars during the 2020 launch window than at any one time before, all of them arriving in February 2021.

It's exciting to be sure, as countries and private companies around the world seek to reach the Red Planet, but it creates a problem for NASA: How to direct, control and communicate with all these spacecraft and, more importantly, prevent them from slamming into one another. Click here. (2/24) http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a25386/nasa-air-traffic-control-mars-spacecraft/

Eastern Range Innovation Will Cut Costs, Expand Capacity - Autonomous Flight Safety Used for Feb. 19 SpaceX Launch (Source: USAF)
The Air Force is breaking another barrier in spaceflight with implementation of the Autonomous Flight Safety System. AFSS provides the capability to not only reduce reliance on aging range infrastructure, but enhances the ability to support more launches by expediting range turnaround times with more stringent safety standards and fewer people on console while reducing overall launch costs.

A self-contained, independent system mounted to the launch vehicle, AFSS determines if the launch vehicle poses an unacceptable hazard to people or property by using pre-established, programmed mission rules developed by Range Safety Flight Analysts. These configurable software-based rules are reliant on redundant flight processors using data from Global Positioning System and inertial measurement unit navigation sensors. If necessary, AFSS has the ability to destroy the rocket to ensure public safety.

With more stakeholders demanding access to space, both the Eastern and the Western Ranges were faced with developing innovative solutions to launch rockets without compromising public safety while accounting for aging infrastructure and recognizing that the wing has fewer resources and personnel accomplishing comparable and greater launch rates than before. (2/24)

Want to Build Infrastructure to Make America Great? Look to the Stars (Source: The Hill)
Lost during the recent controversy of Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s dinner-table planning of a response to North Korea’s recent missile launch was admiration that the leaders knew about the launch mere minutes after the rocket engines ignited. That timely intelligence came not from a secret agent passing coded messages out of North Korea, but from America’s unblinking eyes in the sky – satellites.

Asked what the U.S. government does in space, most Americans would think first of NASA’s astronauts, but only half of NASA’s budget goes toward human spaceflight, while the rest funds scientific investigations of aeronautics, space, and technology. NASA is great, but it is far from the only U.S. government agency doing great things in space. U.S. Military and Intelligence agencies operate dozens of satellites that provide secure communications, remote surveillance, weather data, and missile and nuclear detection to the American national security community.

On the campaign trail, Trump pledge to spend $1 trillion dollars building bridges, roads, rails, and airports across the United States to create jobs and grow the economy. In the face of such a towering number, allow me to offer a modest proposal: President Trump should look higher. There are many aspects of our nation’s space infrastructure that are crumbling every bit as badly as interstate highways. Take a tour of most NASA or Air Force space facilities and you will see buildings that predate Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the Moon and that have been postponing badly needed maintenance since the end of the Cold War. (2/24)

Start Planet-Hunting Right Now - Scientists Release Star Data and Search Tools to Public (Source: Big Think)
A team of research institutions that includes MIT and Carnegie Institution for Science recently made a giant amount of observations available to the public. They are hoping folks can help find exoplanets, which are basically planets that orbit stars outside our solar system.

The dataset was collected over two decades by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and contains close to 61,000 measurements from over 1,600 stars about 325 light years away from us. Along with it you should download the open-source software package, which will help process the data and an online tutorial. (2/25)

Iranian-American Space Experts to Step In for Farhadi at Oscars (Source: Reuters)
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has chosen an Iranian-American female engineer and a former NASA scientist to represent his film "The Salesman" at Sunday's Oscar ceremony, which he is boycotting in protest over U.S. President Donald Trump's crackdown on immigration.

Farhadi, who has given no interviews since Trump in January banned travel from seven majority Muslim nations, planned to address a rally in Beverly Hills on Friday via video from Tehran, rally organizers said. The rally, organized by the United Talent Agency, which represents Farhadi in Hollywood, is being held instead of the agency's traditional pre-Oscar party.  (2/24)

New York Guardsmen to Test Space Capsule Recovery Systems in Hawaii (Source: DOD)
Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii, Feb. 27, to participate in a joint NASA and Defense Department mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA's Orion spacecraft, the next generation of American space vehicle. The team of 45 airmen is made up of pararescuemen; combat rescue officers; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and other support airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing's 103rd Rescue Squadron. (2/24)

NASA's Being Cagey About Why a Crewed Lunar Mission in 2019 is a Good Idea (Source: Inverse)
NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) may send a crew to orbit the moon by 2019, although it is unclear why NASA is now making these considerations, and whether it’s due to pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration.

NASA was given the task of conducting the feasibility study a week ago. Despite repeated questions about whether the White House asked or directed NASA to put a crew on EM-1, neither Gerstenmaier nor Hill gave clear answers about why NASA would want to speed things up.

“We had early conversations with the transition team about accelerating crew capability,” Hill said. “We kind of ruled out trying to accelerate EM-2 [originally meant to be the first crewed Orion mission, in 2021] (Exploration Mission 2) and focus our attention on adding crew to EM-1.” (2/24)

NASA’s Trump-Inspired Moon Mission is Still Looking for a Reason to Exist (Source: Quartz)
Human flight onboard the new rocket was not originally planned until 2021, to allow for careful testing of its systems. However, the new Trump administration, which has yet to appoint a NASA administrator, told the agency to see how much sooner it could fly humans.

“From my perspective, there’s not pressure to go do this,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, said when asked about the surprise decision. “This is something we’re going to evaluate. … What do we really gain by putting crew on this flight?”

Developing the the two vehicles costs $3 billion a year, and the rosiest projections suggest annual costs of $2 billion, assuming one launch each year. With commercial rocket firms including United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and Blue Origin promising to put nearly-as-powerful but significantly cheaper products on the market in the years ahead, many wonder if NASA should be putting so much of its resources into projects they may be quickly outmoded. (2/24)

NASA Ordered to Give Back Lunar Bag, Moon Dust (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A sample bag of lunar dust from the 1969 moon landing by the Apollo 11 crew was put up for auction in 2015 and bought by a collector in Inverness, Illinois. She sent it to NASA for testing. When NASA did not return it, she sought possession of it through the federal judiciary. On Friday, a district judge in Houston ruled that the bag is hers. (2/24)

Star-Studded Cast Watches Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Glide Through Mojave Test Flight (Source: GeekWire)
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided through its third free-flying test run today, and although it hasn’t yet lit up its engine, there was a high-powered crowd to fuel the excitement at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. The company’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was in attendance, as was his son, Sam Branson. Brian Cox, the British physicist and TV host, was there as well.

Virgin Galactic’s unpowered glide tests begin with a twin-fuselage mothership, White Knight Two, taking off with SpaceShipTwo attached underneath. When the White Knight reaches the right altitude, SpaceShipTwo is released to glide down to a landing at Mojave. (2/24)

Stephen Colbert Dons Boeing’s Spacesuit for Starliner Stardom (Source: GeekWire)
Let history record that America’s first late-night astronaut is … Stephen Colbert? In a pre-recorded bit that was broadcast Friday night on CBS’ “Late Show,” Colbert wore the spacesuit designed for crews on Boeing’s Starliner space taxi and did his shtick at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with Boeing’s Chris Ferguson as straight man. Click here. (2/24)

DigitalGlobe Acquisition Will End Run of Buying Colorado Satellites (Source: Denver Business Journal)
The purchase of satellite imaging company DigitalGlobe by Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates Ltd. will likely end the DigitalGlobe’s history of buying satellites made by Colorado-based companies. DigitalGlobe plans a $600 million system of satellites it hopes to start launching into orbit as soon as 2020.

DigitalGlobe and Canada-based MDA announced reaching agreement on a $2.4 billion cash-and-stock merger transaction Friday. Three of DigitalGlobe’s satellites, each one worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were built by Boulder-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies. Jefferson County-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems made another DigitalGlobe’s satellite. MDA’s acquisition will make DigitalGlobe part of a vertically-integrated space company that includes MDA’s California-based SSL, a leading maker of geostationary commercial communications satellites. (2/24)

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