July 18, 2017

JPL Moves Ahead with Mars and Europa Missions Despite Funding Uncertainty (Source: Space News)
The director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said his center is pressing ahead with work on current and proposed missions to Mars and Europa despite ongoing debates on Capitol Hill about funding some of those missions and the impact they could have on the lab’s capabilities and workforce. Michael Watkins said that work is going well on two flagship-class planetary science missions under development at JPL, the Mars 2020 rover and the Europa Clipper multiple-flyby mission.

However, Congress and NASA are offering mixed messages about follow-on missions to those two worlds. In the case of Mars, NASA has approved no missions beyond Mars 2020, despite growing alarm from scientists that existing spacecraft there are aging.

NASA requested just $2.9 million for “Future Mars Missions” in its 2018 budget request, an amount Mars advocates say is insufficient to support development of a communications and reconnaissance orbiter for a 2022 launch. A spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee July 13, though, would provide $62 million for that program, which could support early development of a 2022 orbiter. (7/18)

Future Space Colony? Maybe We Should Look Beyond Mars to Saturn's Titan Moon (Source: Seeker)
NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are focused on getting astronauts to Mars and even one day establishing a colony on the Red Planet — but what if their attention is better directed elsewhere? A new paper in the Journal of Astrobiology Outreach suggests that humans should instead establish a colony on Titan, a soupy orange moon of Saturn that has been likened to an early Earth, and which may harbor signs of “life not as we know it.”

“In many respects, Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is one of the most Earth-like worlds we have found to date,” NASA says on its website. “With its thick atmosphere and organic-rich chemistry, Titan resembles a frozen version of Earth, several billion years ago, before life began pumping oxygen into our atmosphere.”

To be clear, Titan could have microbes — or, at the least, chemistry that resembles prebiotic life — but it is no Earth. The moon is perpetually covered in an orange cloud, and its atmosphere is not human-friendly. But Titan’s gravity is walkable (14 percent that of Earth), radiation on the surface is less than on Mars due to its thick clouds, and it offers various sources from which visitors might generate energy. (7/18)

Spanish Company Finalizes Balloon Pod Design (Source: Design Boom)
zero 2 infinity, the private space transportation company based in Barcelona, Spain, has revealed the final design of the ‘bloon’ pod. the pressurized capsule aims to take six humans at a time – two pilots and four passengers – to the edge of space. first announced back in 2011, the ‘bloon’ is a sustainable solution to space voyages, offering a ‘near space experience’ whilst inflicting zero negative impact on the environment with a reusable pod and helium-inflated balloon. Click here. (7/18) http://www.designboom.com/technology/zero-2-infinity-bloon-pod-balloon-space-07-18-2017/

SpaceX Fire at Port Canaveral Caused by Building Maintenance (Source: Click Orlando)
The Sunday afternoon roof fire at a SpaceX building at Port Canaveral has been ruled an accident, a Cape Canaveral Fire Department spokesman said. The state fire marshal was at the site until about 9 p.m. Sunday, said Assistant Fire Chief Chris Quinn. A crew was using a grinder on the side of the building Thursday or Friday. A hot ember sparked from that work landed on a piece of wood, and eventually ignited. It was accidental, he said. (7/18)

The Cosmic Dance of Three Dead Stars Could Break Relativity (Source: New Scientist)
Imagine you’re an astronomer with bright ideas about the hidden laws of the cosmos. Like any good scientist, you craft an experiment to test your hypothesis. Then comes bad news – there’s no way to carry it out, except maybe in a computer simulation. For cosmic objects are way too unwieldy for us to grow them in Petri dishes or smash them together as we do with subatomic particles.

Thankfully, though, there are rare places in space where nature has thrown together experiments of its own – like PSR J0337+1715. First observed in 2012 and announced in 2014, this triple system is 4200 light years away in the constellation Taurus.

Its three dead stellar cores are winding through a ballet that could confirm – or revise – Einstein’s ideas about space-time. The stakes are high. In the 1970s, a system of two dead stars provided strong, albeit indirect, evidence backing Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and that the gravitational waves LIGO would eventually find actually existed. For that work, the researchers would eventually earn the Nobel prize. (7/17)

Russia Launches Work to Design New Outfit for Spacewalks (Source: Tass)
Zvezda Research and Production Association has started designing a new-generation spacesuit for work in outer space, Zvezda CEO and Chief Designer Sergei Pozdnyakov said. "It can be said that this work has started," he said. Zvezda is considering several promising areas to further upgrade cosmonauts’ outfits for spacewalks. The company plans to increase the size of "entry" into the spacesuit to heed cosmonauts’ wishes. (7/17)

Is Dark Matter Real? (Source: Space.com)
Many science-savvy people take it for granted that the universe is made not only of Carl Sagan's oft-quoted "billions and billions" of galaxies, but also a vast amount of an invisible substance called dark matter. This odd matter is thought to be a new kind of subatomic particle that doesn't interact via electromagnetism, nor the strong and weak nuclear forces. Dark matter is also supposed to be five times more prevalent in the universe than the ordinary matter of atoms.

However, the reality is that dark matter's existence has not yet been proved. Dark matter is still a hypothesis, albeit a rather well-supported one. Any scientific theory has to make predictions, and if it's right, then the measurements you do should line up with the predictions. The same goes for dark matter. For instance, dark matter theories make predictions for how fast galaxies are rotating. But, until now, measurements made of the detailed dark matter distribution at the center of low mass galaxies didn't line up with those predictions. (7/17)

NASA Considers Delay of Next-Gen TRDS Satellite Launch After 'Incident' (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
ASA and Boeing officials are looking into whether an incident that damaged an antenna on a next-generation satellite planned to launch Aug. 3 will change the mission’s timeline. The episode occurred Friday and was announced on the agency’s website Saturday.

The Tracking Data Relay Satellite, known as TDRS-M, was scheduled to head into space on a ULA Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The accident happened during “final spacecraft closeout activities,” at the Astrotech processing facility. ULA and NASA officials did not immediately return emails requesting comment. (7/17)

What Could Space Archaeologists Tell Us about Astronaut Culture? (Source: Space.com)
"Space archaeologist" would be a fine job description for a fictional character on an interplanetary mission to unearth the ruins of an alien civilization. But a handful of real-life archaeologists are already making a bid to study culture in space — of the human, not alien, variety. A new effort, called ISS Archaeology, seeks to understand the "microsociety" aboard the International Space Station. (7/17)

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser On the Move in California (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An atmospheric test model of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, a cargo carrier for the International Space Station that will take off on top of an Atlas 5 rocket and land on a runway, is undergoing braking and steering checks in California ahead of a flight test later this year, the company said Monday.

The full-scale Dream Chaser is pulled behind a tow vehicle for the ground tests now underway, reaching speeds fast enough to gauge the craft’s braking performance and guidance, navigation and control systems. Rolling on two main landing gear wheels and a nose skid, the Dream Chaser traveled down a runway Monday in Sierra Nevada’s latest tow test at Edwards Air Force Base, which is co-located with NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. (7/17)

How to Make NASA Great Again (Source: Daily Signal)
The goal of going to Mars is laudable, but NASA’s timetable is unrealistic. In addition to the enormous expense of a mission to Mars, sending humans into deep space presents a host of other challenges.

A flight to the moon, for example, takes three days; traveling to Mars will take about 300 days. Once on Mars, astronauts will have to stay there for a year to give the planets time to align properly for the flight back to Earth. This roughly three-year voyage will expose the crew to space radiation and cosmic galactic rays.

Currently, we have no means to protect Orion’s crew from these cancer-causing phenomena. What’s more, planetary scientists testifying before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee have questioned the launch system’s capacity to take crews into deep space. Click here. (7/17)

NASA Window Sign Sparks Discussion (Source: WPSU)
A sign in a downtown State College store window reads, “50 years ago we drove cars on the moon — What happened!” David Godiska is the owner of Lion Antiques. He is so passionate about space exploration, he actually owns the original flying saucer from the film “Mars Attacks.” He said he hung up the sign in his store window because he strongly believes NASA has become obsolete.

“I just thought it was interesting that we’re approaching 50 years since we, you know, landed on the moon, and the space program is going nowhere," Godiska said. "I thought, with the students in town, I try to do positive things that would stimulate some interest.”

Godiska said he thinks our technology has regressed since we first landed on the moon. “Our space program was really strong in 1969," Godiska said. "Nothing’s happening right now, not compared to what was going on there.” And he isn’t the only one who said space exploration is at a standstill. Click here. (7/16)

A Red Star is Acting Weird 11 Light-Years Away from Earth (Source: Mashable)
A star about 11 light-years from Earth might be a weirdo. Scientists using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico took a look at the relatively small red star — named Ross 128 — in May, but last week, researchers noticed something kind of odd in the 10 minutes of data.

The signal picked up by the observatory seems to show the star pulsing in deep space, but astronomers still aren't sure exactly what the cause of that signal might be. So what is it? Is this star just a little wacky? Is the signal being emitted by something else entirely? Maybe it's the kind of star that just likes playing by its own rules. (7/17)

Cuts Imperil Brazil’s Stake in Astronomy Observatories (Source: Science)
Strapped for cash after 3 years of austerity budgets, Brazilian scientists are bracing for an even harsher year ahead. The federal government is planning to slash science funding by nearly 40% in 2018, jeopardizing major projects including Brazil’s participation in world-class telescope facilities, ScienceInsider has learned.

Brazilian scientists were already reeling before the latest dispiriting news. This year, the science ministry absorbed a 44% budget decrease. Perennial cuts are “choking” institutes “to the point of endangering their existence,” says a manifesto released last week by 19 institutes managed by the federal science ministry based in Brasília. The money woes, they claim, are causing “irreversible damage” to institutions that are crucial to the nation’s economic recovery. (7/17)

Musk Gets State/Local Funding for Texas Spaceport (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
SpaceX is now getting the first down payment of the loot promised by the state. SpaceX will receive a $2.6 million grant from the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corporation after the board received its first disbursement from the Office of the Governor last week. The funds come from the State Spaceport Trust Fund Account and are the first installment of a $13 million allocation. Nearly everyone and their uncle has jumped aboard the SpaceX bandwagon to throw millions at the billionaire.

Everyone – from Cameron County Parks to the University of Texas System, and even the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation – has pitched in to help the valiant efforts of Musk to push back the frontiers of ignorance and economic injustice. The Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport is pegging the lengthening of the city airport runways to accommodate the envisioned coming of large freight and aircraft to service the SpaceX facility.

Cameron County is spending millions to construct an amphitheater at Isla Blanca Park so the millions of tourists can see the satellite launches. UTRGV-TSC has already tailored its courses to begin training aerospace engineers and and the Brownsville Independent School District has fashioned a space-based curriculum to start educating the future astronauts who will take off from Boca Chica Beach for Mars and beyond as the huckster billionaire has promised. Click here. (7/10)

Plan to Create Apollo 1 Crew Memorial Passes House (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House has passed an amendment to defense authorization legislation that will create an Apollo 1 crew memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. "AIA has supported Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's ... effort along with our partners at the Challenger Center. ... AIA applauds these three representatives for their leadership in moving forward the noble idea of authorizing a memorial marker honoring these American heroes," AIA said in a statement. (7/15)

Worldwide Demand Growing for Alabama-Made Aerospace Products (Source: Made in Alabama)
Aerospace companies across Alabama are seeing strong demand for their products around the world, with the value of the state’s aerospace exports topping $1.4 billion last year, an increase of more than 65 percent from the previous year. Over the past five years, the same export category has grown 156 percent, as aerospace and aviation firms in Alabama communities find more customers abroad.

The numbers follow a national trend for aerospace exports, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade at the Alabama Department of Commerce. Based on reports from the Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. aerospace and defense industry broke new records for international sales in 2016, with a total of $146 billion in exports. (7/16)

AsiaSat Warns of Major Profit Shortfall (Source: Space News)
Hong Kong-based satellite fleet operator AsiaSat warned investors that it is expecting a 28 percent drop in profit for the first half of 2017 due to a trio of losses on top of steep competition in a highly competitive regional market. In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange July 17, AsiaSat said it has not completed its interim results for the first six months of 2017, which it expects to deliver in August, but that the operator’s preliminary assessment of its unaudited financial information projects a significant loss. (7/17)

Japan’s Space Camera Drone on the ISS is a Floating Ball of Cuteness (Source: The Verge)
Japan’s space agency has for the first time released photos and videos taken on the International Space Station by its resident robot drone, which can be remote-controlled from Earth. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says footage taken by the Internal Ball Camera (or Int-Ball) can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground and then fed back to the onboard crew. Click here. (7/17)

Congress Toes a Cautious Line on Support for Commercial Space Partnerships (Source: GeekWire)
Members of Congress spoke to space industry leaders on Capitol Hill last week to show their support for the private sector, but both sides expressed frustrations as well. The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, introduced last month, is a step in the right direction, Kilmer said. The legislation would shift most of the federal government’s authority for overseeing commercial space activities from the FAA to the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce. Click here. (7/17)

4 Private Spaceflight Companies You Need to Know About (Source: Mashable)
Almost any space nerd will tell you that the future of the space industry hinges upon private spaceflight. Of course, almost anyone with an interest in tech and space knows about Elon Musk's SpaceX or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, two heavy-hitters in the commercial spaceflight industry.

But what about the other, less known, less accomplished, yet still important companies out there hoping to leave their marks on spaceflight? Here are a few of the space companies you should be keeping a close eye on in the future. Click here. (7/17) 

The Future (or Lack Thereof) of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s ongoing program for exploring Mars with orbiters and rovers appears, at first glance, to be working well. Jason Callahan and Casey Dreier describe how the program is actually facing serious questions about its future because of funding challenges. Click here. (7/17)
A Legal Look at Elon Musk’s Plans to Colonize Mars (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk unveiled his plans last September for establishing a permanent human presence on Mars, with a focus on the technical issues of getting people to Mars. Michael Listner examines some of the legal obstacles that such an effort would have to overcome. Click here. (7/17)
Giving a Push for In-Space Propulsion (Source: Space Review)
With NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission now cancelled, the agency is looking for other ways to demonstrate advanced propulsion technologies like high-power solar electric propulsion. Jeff Foust reports on what concepts NASA is working with industry on that could find eventual use on Mars exploration missions. Click here. (7/17)
Creating a Spacefaring Civilization: What is More Important, Means or Motivation? (Source: Space Review)
Those who remember the Apollo program may be disappointed by the lack of progress in human spaceflight in the decades since. Stephen Kostes sees promise in the growing capabilities available today to enable new, sustainable space applications. Click here. (7/17)

No comments: