July 13, 2017

Moon Express Unveils its Roadmap for Giant Leaps to the Lunar Surface (Source: GeekWire)
Moon Express has laid out the plan it intends to follow to send probes to the surface of the moon and start bringing lunar samples back to Earth by 2020. The plan calls for completing work on Moon Express’ MX-1E lander and its 3-D-printed PECO rocket engine, setting it on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle and sending it to the moon by the end of this year. At least two more missions would follow, heading for the moon’s south polar region in 2019 and 2020.

The Florida-based company’s lunar exploration architecture was unveiled today at a Capitol Hill news conference in Washington, D.C. Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told GeekWire that the plan was well past the proposal stage. “We’re not ‘proposing’ this to anybody,” he said. “We’re doing it.” (7/12)

Space Florida Official to Trump Administration: Appoint Space Leaders (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
President Donald Trump could start to make good on a promise to support the U.S. space industry by appointing a NASA administrator and science adviser, positions that have been vacant since he took office Jan. 20, a Space Florida official said Tuesday. NASA “will continue to operate well but what you want to do is put someone on the job permanently to create some stability,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said. DiBello gave VP Pence high marks for his recent KSC speech but said further details would give NASA a road map, of sorts, to follow and strive for.

“The speech was full of promise and now they have to come through with a more-concrete definition of their plans,” he said. “That would give NASA a charter that is visible and around which they can start to garner political support. That makes everything we do a lot easier.” Others have been more critical of Pence’s speech.

Phil Larson, who served as a senior adviser to former President Obama, said he was concerned that Pence didn’t share many details or plans for the space program. Larson also disagreed with Pence’s suggestion during the speech that the U.S. had fallen behind in space exploration. “With all due respect, we are far and away leading in space …” he said. “To say we are going to lead in space again discredits a lot of what NASA and the American private sector are doing right now.” (7/12)

SpaceX is Out-Launching its Biggest Competitors for the First Time Ever (Source: Quartz)
This is what it looks like when a start-up disrupts an existing industry. With its successful launch of a communications satellite last night, SpaceX has flown ten rockets this year. Elon Musk’s rocket company has now beat its own annual record, and the firm is on pace to out-launch its key rivals in the commercial launch market, Europe’s Arianespace and United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

It has taken just seven years since the company’s first Falcon 9 rocket flew for SpaceX to dominate the launch market by offering cheaper and, increasingly, faster service to orbit. The last burst of SpaceX activity was impressive: The company flew three rockets in twelve days between June 23 and July 5, including two in 48 hours. Check out this chart. (7/6)

Watch Jenna Bush Hager Learn What It’s Like to be Weightless in NASA Training (Source: NBC)
A new series, Into the Air, Land and Sea TODAY, takes a closer look at how humans are pushing the limits in fantastic frontiers. To kick things off, Jenna Bush Hager gets to experience a small part of what it’s like to train to be a NASA astronaut. Click here. (7/12)

Counting Calories in Space (Source: Space Daily)
First thing in their morning, Paolo will wear a breathing mask to measure the levels of carbon dioxide he produces and the amount of oxygen consumes. This allows researchers to calculate how much energy the body uses to maintain basic functions in a resting state. Before breakfast, he will drink a dose of water labelled with trace elements. By tracking how much is eliminated over time in collected urine, total energy use will be calculated.

Paolo will eat a standardised breakfast and use the breathing mask for four hours. This reveals how much energy the body is consuming to digest, process and store the meal. The last step is to calculate how much energy is used in physical activity. Throughout the 10 days, Paolo will sport a tracker on his arm to record the time and intensity of different activities. (7/12)

Squeezing Innovation Out of the NASA Twins Study (Source: Space Daily)
Innovative thinking could improve the way biological samples are processed and transported from space back to research labs on Earth for future studies. This thinking was prompted by researchers in NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) and Twins Study investigators at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Freshly isolated samples yield better results than cells isolated from frozen samples returned to Earth from the orbiting laboratory. Pipetting fresh samples at ambient temperature and performing cell isolation on the space station also eliminates the need for expeditious transportation logistics, and allows for more frequent sampling. Once cells are isolated, the samples can be viably frozen and return on any transfer vehicle at any time for further analysis.

On an aircraft that is used as a parabolic flight analog to create short periods of simulated microgravity, Twins Study Investigators Dr. Andrew Feinberg and Lindsay Rizzardi of Johns Hopkins Medicine tested a theory that liquids could be transferred safely in microgravity using a pipettor, which is a slender, graduated measurement tube. Previously researchers thought transferring biological fluids in space could pose risks to precisely controlling the sample. (7/12)

Spiky Ferrofluid Thrusters Can Move Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
A researcher at Michigan Technological University has created a new computational model of an electrospray thruster using ionic liquid ferrofluid - a promising technology for propelling small satellites through space. Specifically, he looks at simulating the electrospray startup dynamics; in other words, what gives the ferrofluid its characteristic spikes.

Electrospray involves microscopic, hollow needles that use electricity to spray thin jets of fluid, pushing the spacecraft in the opposite direction. But the needles have drawbacks. They are intricate, expensive and easily destroyed. To solve this problem, L. Brad King, Ron and Elaine Starr Professor in Space Systems at Michigan Tech, is creating a new kind of microthruster that assembles itself out of its own propellant when excited by a magnetic field. The tiny thruster requires no fragile needles and is essentially indestructible. (7/12)

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