May 2, 2017

Make Mars Livable with Asteroids: Researchers Propose Terraforming Plan (Source:
A research team has devised a plan to make a portion of Mars more Earth-like by slamming an asteroid into it. This Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT) concept would create a persistent lake on the Red Planet's surface in 2036, potentially accelerating Mars exploration, settlement and commercial development, the team said. "Terraformation need not engineer an entire planetary surface. A city-region is adequate for inhabitation. MATT hits this mark," the Lake Matthew Team, the group behind the idea, wrote in a press release last month.

Key to the plan is a "Shepherd" satellite, which would steer an asteroid or other small celestial body into the Red Planet. That impactor would inject heat into the Martian bedrock, producing meltwater for a lake that would persist for thousands of years within the warmed impact zone, Lake Matthew Team members wrote.

"Whereas prior designs of habitation structures (habs) were limited to thousands of cubic meters, MATT habs can scale to millions of cubic meters — stadium scale, or greater," team members wrote in the press release. Furthermore, the impact site's treated lake water would be sufficient to cover and protect subaqueous domes, the team added. (4/25)

FAA Tests Space-Based ADS-B (Source: General Aviation News)
Aireon and the FAA recently completed a successful flight test of space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology, collecting ADS-B data to be used as part of a larger validation effort exploring the new system’s capability from low-earth orbit. The flight took place on Thursday, March 30, 2017, utilizing the FAA’s specially equipped “flying laboratory” Bombardier jet with three Aireon payloads available to receive data.

A total of 2,462 ADS-B messages were received and decoded, providing comparable data to that of terrestrial ADS-B stations. The flight test was highly choreographed and precisely located and timed within the Washington and New York Flight Information Regions (FIRs) to help provide validation of the capabilities of the Aireon system, according to Aireon officials. Aireon’s space-based ADS-B global surveillance and aircraft tracking technology is largely a combination of FAA NextGen advancements, and the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, which hosts the Harris-built Aireon ADS-B receivers.

Editor's Note: ADS-B is an exciting potential tool for launch vehicle tracking (range safety) and space situational awareness (space traffic management). (4/28)

Surprise! Most Americans Want Trump to Slash Military (and NASA) Spending (Source: Motley Fool)
A new poll conducted by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation (PPC). Surveying more than 1,800 registered voters, PPC presented the federal government's 2017 budget as a series of 31 line items. PPC then asked voters to tweak those numbers into their ideal federal budget for 2018 -- and then compared voters' ideal budget with the actual budget that President Trump proposed last month.

In several areas, voters broadly agreed with the president's proposals. For example, both voters and their president agree that the U.S. spends too much ($36 billion) on the State Department and the Agency for International Development, and on NASA as well ($19 billion). On other items, they differ. For example, voters generally disagreed with the president's proposal to make steep cuts in education spending, and to cut funding for medical research. The biggest disagreement, however, was over funding for the military. (5/2)

Space Security Strategy in the Trump Administration (Source: China US Focus)
What is the U.S. position on NATO? How does the U.S. intend to deal with growing threats from North Korea? What is the U.S. position on China and Russia? Is the U.S. picking a trade war with Canada? Where does the U.S. stand on the Iranian nuclear agreement? Is the U.S. fleet on its way to Korea? These questions and many more like them feed the headlines every day, with answers coming from Twitter, remarks from President Donald Trump, the Pentagon, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer, though not necessarily always consistent or in agreement.

Whether a product of deliberate flexibility, indecision, lack of coordination, and lack of comprehension about the subject matter or some other reason, U.S. strategic communication on a variety of key foreign policy topics has seemed to go haywire.  Space security strategy is no exception. In response to a question about Russian work on anti-satellite weapons at a April 2017 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, stated that the United States must “have the ability to defend” against those threats and “build an offensive capability to challenge” theirs. Click here. (5/2)

What it's Like to Spend 6 Minutes in Zero Gravity (Source: Houston Chronicle)
When my boss casually asked if anyone on the team was interested in going up on a media flight to experience zero gravity, my hand shot up straight into the air. I looked around and wondered why I was the only one who had volunteered. It turns out my coworkers had been watching the most recent season of "The Bachelor," which featured a Zero G flight as one of the dates. It didn't go so well for the contestant on board. Click here. (5/2)

'Iceball' Planet Discovered Through Microlensing (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Scientists have discovered the lowest-massed exoplanet ever detected using gravitational microlensing. The “iceball” exoplanet, OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, is located in the constellation Scorpius some 13,000 light-years from Earth. Similar to Earth in both mass and distance from its host star, the similarities to Earth seem to end there. Unlike Earth’s temperate location within the habitable zone of the Sun, this exoplanet is believed to be a frozen ball of ice due to the dimness and coolness of its star, which scientists aren’t entirely sure is even technically a star.

The body in question, OGLE-2016-BLG-1195, has a measured mass of just 7.8 percent that of the Sun and is on the cusp of what is thought to be large enough to be able to ignite internal fusion within its core, which classifies a body as a star. It will take further study and close observation to determine whether this object is in actuality an ultra cool red dwarf star or if it is simply a star-like brown dwarf. (5/2)

'NASA Day in Baton Rouge' to Recognize Louisiana's Ongoing and Historic Role in Space Exploration (Source: NASA)
NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, invite media to learn the latest about work and testing underway on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and other programs in Louisiana during NASA Day in Baton Rouge Thursday, May 4, at the State Capitol.

NASA team members and interactive exhibits in the rotunda and on the Capitol lawn will give the public a look at SLS -- the most powerful rocket in the world, designed to carry astronauts and equipment on exploration missions deeper into space than ever before. There also will be displays of other NASA projects and related educational initiatives at Louisiana universities and schools, including students' work on robotics and student teams' participation in NASA's Human Exploration Rover Challenge. (5/2)

Congress Gives Trump's Science Budget Cuts the Cold Shoulder (Source:
Congress has put forward a proposed budget to fund the remainder of 2017, and despite the wishes of President Donald Trump, science does not seem to be on the chopping block. President Trump had suggested draconian cuts to several science agency budgets for fiscal year 2018, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In this newly released budget, NIH will get a $2 billion bump in funding that was promised by Congress when it passed the 21st Century Cures Act, taking its total 2017 proposed budget to $34 billion. The Food and Drug Administration's proposed $2.8 billion budget is a modest $39 million increase over last year's budget. NASA's proposed budget of $19.7 billion is $368 million above the level enacted in 2016.

The proposed NSF budget is essentially flat, at $7.5 billion. EPA will potentially sustain a modest cut of $81 million to its $8.06 billion budget, while the National Park Service will get an additional $81 million, for a total of $2.9 billion in funding, according to the House Appropriations Committee's Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Summary. (5/1)

India Pushes Project for Satellite In-Space Repair, Refueling (Source: Times of India)
ISRO's plan to develop technology that will allow two space vehicles to attach in orbit and also transfer material between them — described in technical terms as spacecraft docking and berthing — has been cleared by the department of space with a grant of Rs 10 crore. The technology will eventually allow ISRO to transfer humans in space, but the immediate goal is to enable the refuelling of spacecraft to give them a longer life and transfer other crucial systems to spacecraft in orbit. (5/2)

Medical Guidelines for Astronauts to be Launched in the US (Source: Space Daily)
With Cassini making final preparations to penetrate Saturn's rings, and renewed interest in colonising the Moon and sending people to Mars, space flight and exploration are experiencing a level of interest not seen since the Apollo missions to the Moon in the late 60's and 70's, and the space shuttle programme of the 80's.

Space travel and exploration have resulted in a variety of technological developments which have benefitted life on Earth - but could the experiences of humans in space also have impact on our understanding of terrestrial human health? Scientists at the University of Plymouth and Northumbria University, Newcastle, are helping to write the medical rulebook that will keep astronauts fit and healthy during long trips through the solar system.

While working at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC), in Germany, Northumbria's Dr Andrew Winnard realized there was very little evidence housed under one roof on what changes we expect to occur in astronauts during spaceflight - and what interventions work best to try and prevent these changes. Andrew also noticed that there was no systematic review group for the entire aerospace medicine field, like there are for almost all other areas of medicine. (5/1)

Space Exploration Takes Center Stage at Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
This year's Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC), held on April 21–23 at the San Jose Convention Center, added space exploration to the event's mix of pop culture and technology. Both NASA and the SETI Institute had large displays in a central area of the exhibit hall. Panels were held throughout the convention, with scientists and engineers discussing a variety of space-related topics. Other highlights included a talk by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the SETI Institute's SpaceBall Gala. (5/1)

Monitoring the Airways of Space Travelers (Source: Space Daily)
Astronauts in space are valuable sources of scientific data. Researchers collect blood and urine samples to understand what effects living in weightlessness has on their bodies. For one experiment, investigators are interested in their breath. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, is analyzing astronauts' exhaled air to probe lung health. The results so far have been breathtaking.

The Airway Monitoring experiment measures the level of nitric oxide in astronauts' lungs, a naturally occurring molecule produced in the lungs to help regulate blood flow. Small amounts are normal, but excess levels indicate airway inflammation caused by environmental factors such as dust and pollutants or diseases like asthma. Aboard the Station, astronauts breathe into an analyzer at normal pressure and in the reduced pressure of the Quest airlock - similar to the pressure in future habitats on Mars and lunar colonies. The measurements are then compared to those taken before flight.

The experiment began with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in 2015 and has tested six astronauts so far, aiming to finish with more astronauts by 2020. Preliminary results are surprising. While nitric oxide levels were lower throughout astronauts' stays in space, as expected, they found that the levels initially decreased just before flight. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case. (5/2)

Is a Dream a Lie if it Don’t Come True? (Source: Space Review)
Despite decades of failed efforts, true believers of space settlement still believe in that vision. Dwayne Day explores why space enthusiasts cling to their dreams despite the lack of accomplishment. Click here. (5/1)
Commercial Space’s Policy Wish List (Source: Space Review)
As the space community waits to see what the Trump Administration might do in space policy, some are already developing proposals to support the commercial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on a recent Senate hearing that examined a range of proposals, from modest to wide-ranging. Click here. (5/1)
Fifty Years Later: Soyuz-1 Revisited (Source: Space Review)
In the conclusion of his two-part history of the Soyuz-1 mission, Asif Siddiqi examines the tragic landing and investigation that followed, while debunking a number of myths associated with the mission. Click here. (5/1)
Loss of Faith: Gordon Cooper’s Post-NASA Stories (Source: Space Review)
The “treasure map” that Gordon Cooper reportedly made during his Mercury flight might not have any substance to it, but it’s hardly the first time the late astronaut was linked to a questionable project. James Oberg discusses how Cooper was associated with a string of such ventures later in his life.  Click here. (5/1)

Design Competition for 50th Anniversary Coin for Apollo 11 (Source: CollectSpace)
The U.S. Mint has started a competition to solicit designs for a coin to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The competition, open through June 29, invites artists to submit their portfolio. The Mint will then select about 20 artists to provide designs for the coin. The coin, authorized by a law passed by Congress last year, will be produced in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the mission in 2019. (5/1)

NASA Reveals Prototype for Return of Supersonic Travel (Source: Seattle PI)
While NASA's space adventures attract most of the public's attention, the space agency also has been working with a private company to return supersonic travel to the atmosphere of our very own planet. About a year ago, NASA announced a $20 million contract with Lockheed Martin of Palmdale, California, to develop a supersonic plane that would go easy on fuel and make a lot less noise when breaking the sound barrier. The U.S. banned commercial, supersonic speeds over land because of the massive sonic boom that would result. (4/28)

National Space Council Creation Coming Soon (Source: Space News)
An executive order to formally reestablish the National Space Council is expected soon. At a symposium in Washington Monday, Robert Walker, the former chairman of the House Science Committee who served as a space policy adviser to the Trump campaign last fall, said the executive order has already been written and that is a "matter of timing" about when it will be released. Walker said that timing may be linked to the selection of an executive secretary who would run the council on a day-to-day basis. Attendees of the symposium, devoted to developing ultra low-cost access to space, said they believed the council could pay a key role in that area. (5/1)

Virgin Galactic Gives SpaceShipTwo Another Glide Flight (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic carried out the latest glide flight of its second SpaceShipTwo Monday, testing its feathering mechanism for the first time. The test flight Monday was the fourth unpowered free flight for the suborbital spaceplane, and the first since late February. After release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, SpaceShipTwo raised its twin tail booms, a process known as feathering that is designed to keep the spacecraft stable during reentry. The vehicle's pilots then lowered the booms into their regular configuration and glided to a runway landing in Mojave, California. (5/2)

Iridium Readies to De-Orbit Original Constellation (Source: Space News)
As Iridium deploys its next-generation satellite constellation, it's starting the process of deorbiting the satellites in its original system. The company says new satellites are initially co-located with the satellites they're replacing, then the older satellite is moved either into a temporary storage orbit as a contingency, or is deorbited. The company says it follows NASA guidelines for lowering each spacecraft's orbit and depleting it of fuel, as well as discharging its batteries and aligning its solar arrays for maximum drag. The company expects that each satellite that goes through that process should reenter within a year. (5/1)

India Seeks Prosecution of Former Space Agency Chief (Source: IANS)
Indian prosecutors are seeking to try a former chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO on charges linked to a satellite deal. The Central Bureau of Investigation told a judge Monday that it's planning to charge G. Madhavan Nair, former ISRO chairman, and two other ISRO officials, saying they abused their positions to support a deal with Devas Multimedia that cost the Indian government tens of millions of dollars. The judge plans to consider the charges at a June 1 hearing. (5/1)

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