March 25, 2017

Mars Spacesuits: Designing a Blue-Collar Suit for the Red Planet (Source:
The first explorers on Mars will need a new kind of spacesuit, and a university-based team has taken a novel approach to design the equipment. Researchers have set up a "collaboratory" at the University of California, Berkeley, to come up with a spacesuit that will allow expeditionary crews to work effectively on Mars.

"The kind of suit that we're talking about is a blue-collar suit. You've got to be able to be out and about on Mars 7 to 8 hours a day, seven days a week," said project leader Lawrence Kuznetz, a UC Berkeley professor and former NASA engineer with a long history of investigating Mars spacesuit concepts. Click here. (3/23)

McCarthy: Bill Will Bbenefit Mojave Air and Space Port (Source: Daily Independent)
Congressman Kevin McCarthy released the following statement on President Trump signing the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017: "...With President Trump's signature, American space exploration is poised for continued breakthroughs. As a nation, we have always looked to the stars for the inspiration that has fueled our pioneering spirit, leading to technological advances. Our past success only encourages our future endeavors and this legislation provides the resources and stability necessary to bolster core missions and expand commercial space support.

"Our community is at the forefront of space exploration and aeronautics innovation from the Mojave Air and Space Port to NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. Together, with the support from the President of the United States, we will enter the next frontier of space exploration with the readiness and vigor to inspire the world." (3/24)

Vietnam Set to Self-Produce Satellites by 2022 (Source: Xinhua)
Vietnam targets to self-develop Lotusat-2 by 2022 when its technical facilities for satellite research, assembly, integration and testing are ready to operate, according to the Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC). Pham Anh Tuan, director of VNSC, was quoted by local Nhan Dan (People) newspaper as saying on Friday that after developing one-kilogram PicoDragon, the first Vietnamese self-produced mini satellite which was sent into the orbit in 2013, his center will continue a project of satellite manufacturing to make NanoDragon (weighing 4-6 kg), MicroDragon (50 kg) and Lotusat (600 kg). (3/24)

Planet or Dwarf Planet: All Worlds are Worth Investigating (Source: The Conversation)
Pluto’s status as a “dwarf planet” is once again stirring debate. This comes as some planetary scientists are trying to have Pluto reclassified as a planet – a wish that’s not likely to come true. Pluto has been known as a dwarf planet for more than a decade. Back in August 2006 astronomers voted to shake up the Solar System, and the number of planets dropped from nine to eight. Pluto was the one cast aside.

The distinction of planet and dwarf planet brings a consistency to how objects are named across the universe. On the grand scale, there are galaxies and there are dwarf galaxies. Within our Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun is a yellow dwarf star that in billions of years will evolve to become a red giant before ending its life as a white dwarf. These distinctions among galaxies and stars helps astronomers interpret and understand them, tracing their evolution.

Planets and dwarf planets are distinct because of their size and their location in the solar system. It provides a way to examine how planets and dwarf planets may have originated and evolved differently. At present, the IAU has officially recognised five dwarf planets. They are Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea, which orbit the Sun beyond Neptune, and Ceres, which is the only object in the asteroid belt massive enough to be spherical. (3/19)

India Prepping for Two More GSLV Launches (Source: India TV)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is getting ready for two GSLV launches in next couple of months. ISRO is planning these launches after setting a world record by launching 104 satellites at one go in February this year. ISRO is also working on the first developmental flight of GSLV MKIII that will carry about 3.2 tonne payload. (3/24)

Trump and the Elimination of NASA Earth Science (Source: Paste)
Last week, the Trump administration released a preliminary budget that outlines its vision for NASA. That vision includes an emphasis on space exploration and a de-emphasis on earth sciences. The organization’s budget decreases by 0.8 percent, with a 7 percent decrease to earth science initiatives.

Overall, the new NASA budget reflects Trump’s vision to “Make America Great Again.” He’s prioritizing space travel, moving forward with projects like the Europa Clipper flyby mission, Mars 2020 rover, Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion spacecraft, at the expense of earth sciences—highlighting the president’s skepticism about the science behind climate change. The roughly $100 million cut to earth science will terminate four missions to examine the planet: PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR, and CLARREO Pathfinder. Click here. (3/24)

US Air Force Installs Remote-Controlled Telescope in Australia to Monitor Space Junk (Source:
There are more than 20,000 man-made objects orbiting Earth. To keep a close eye on them, members of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) have installed a telescope at Gingin, 80 kilometers north of Perth. The half-meter telescope at the Gravity Discovery Center Observatory is part of a network of 12 telescopes the USAFA has around the world. The Falcon Network, when complete, will give it complete oversight of all the objects larger than 10 centimeters in Earth's orbit. (3/4)

Stennis Test Puts US Closer to ‘Journey to Mars’ (Source: SunHerald)
America’s Journey to Mars made two big leaps this week. The RS-25 engine controller, which will be used on the first flight of the new Space Launch System was tested at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. And in Washington, the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 was signed that sets a goal of landing astronauts on Mars by 2033.

NASA called the March 23 test at Stennis a “critical milestone.” Engine Controller Unit-2 — the brain that has the electronics to operate the engine and communicate with the SLS vehicle — was installed on RS-25 development engine No. 0528. It was test fired for 500 seconds on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis. This controller will be installed on one of four flight engines that will power the first flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. (3/24)

How Did a NASA Scientist Get in Turkish Prison? (Source: Daily Beast)
Serkan Golge said the Turkish government was accusing him of being a CIA agent, and that the only evidence they had against him was a single dollar bill they found in his family’s home. Serkan’s indictment charges him with being a member of the FETO terror organization. This charge has been imposed against many of those arrested in Turkey since July 15. Since a coup attempt, more than 45,000 have been arrested for alleged links to FETO, the acronym for a political organization now considered an illegal terrorist group inside Turkey.

Turkey claims that possession of a dollar bill is proof of membership in FETO, a sort of membership card given to loyal followers. The American government has said little about this, but the latest State Department travel warning cautions ominously: “Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, have become more common.”

Golge was one of these dual citizens. His wife says he got his green card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program (also known as the green card lottery) and completed his graduate studies in North Carolina and Virginia. A former coworker (who wishes to remain anonymous) met Golge eight years ago at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF) in Newport News, Virginia, where they sat a few cubicles apart. The coworker describes him as a brilliant scientist who designed a new class of device at the facility. (3/25)

A Space Odyssey: Making Art Up There (Source: New York Times)
If you’re an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, you spend much of your time running science experiments. Among the jobs for Thomas Pesquet, a Frenchman currently there on a six-month stint: using virtual reality to gauge the effects of zero gravity on his hand-eye coordination, trying out a suit designed to keep weightlessness from stretching out his spine, analyzing the microbes in his water and directing a robot in the Netherlands from about 240 miles up.

In his spare time, he posts photos on Twitter and Instagram of what’s passing beneath him: Mount Etna erupting, the artificial islands of Dubai, the Australian Outback, the entire country of Denmark. Last month, however, there was a more unusual item on Mr. Pesquet’s agenda.

Working with the earthbound artist Eduardo Kac, he created an artwork in space. It was a simple piece: nothing more than could be done with two sheets of paper and a pair of scissors. “Since the goal was to be born in space, it had to be created with materials that were already in the space station,” Mr. Kac (pronounced katz) explained in a telephone interview from his home in suburban Oak Park, Ill. Transporting art materials by rocket ship was not in the plan. Click here. (3/23)

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