A regular update on the most important news stories in astronomy and space from the best United States and North American news sources. Breaking news, latest discoveries plus the weird and wonderful. Updated regularly

ASA Invests in Concept Development for Missions to Comet, Saturn Moon


Dec. 21, 2017 – NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

NASA to Name Finalists for Future Solar System Mission

Dec. 19, 2017 – NASA will announce finalist concepts for a future robotic mission to explore the solar system during a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 20.

NASA Awards Contract for Aircraft Operations Support

Dec. 19, 2017 – NASA has awarded the Aircraft Maintenance, Logistics, Integration, Configuration Management and Engineering (ALICE) contract to Yulista Tactical Services, LLC in Huntsville, Alabama.

Nominations Process Opens for New Advisory Group

Dec. 19, 2017 – Public nominations now are being accepted from U.S. citizens and organizations for potential membership on an advisory group that will represent the perspectives, interests and expertise of industry and other non-federal entities to the National Space Council.


ASRC Wins Air Force Launch Support Contract at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: DOD)
ASRC has been awarded a $395,000,000 Air Force IDIQ contract for launch operations and infrastructure support at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Eastern Range annexes. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, and four offers were received. (12/26)

Russia Restores Contact with Angosat Satellite (Source: TASS)
Russian officials said they have restored contact with the newly launched Angosat-1 satellite. In a statement, satellite manufacturer RSC Energia said they were again receiving telemetry from the satellite and that “all its systems settings are in order.” The communications satellite, launched Tuesday on a Zenit, stopped transmitting shortly after deployment from the rocket’s upper stage. Energia suggested an issue with the satellite’s battery may have caused the temporary loss of communications. (12/29)

Orlando Magic Unveil Space-Themed Jersey (Source: WBDO)
The NBA’s Orlando Magic will have a space-themed jersey. The team revealed the jersey this week, featuring its logo on a star field background intended to pay homage to Central Florida’s history of space exploration. The jersey is part of the league’s “City Edition” series of alternative jerseys, and the Magic will wear it for the first time in a game in late January. (12/27)

Failed Space Launches Haunt Russia; Kremlin Eyes Probe (Source: Seattle Times)
Russia’s latest space launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation’s struggling space industry, the Kremlin said Thursday. A Russian weather satellite and nearly 20 micro-satellites from other nations were lost following a failed launch from Russia’s new cosmodrome in the Far East on Nov. 28. And in another blow to the Russian space industry, communications with a Russian-built communications satellite for Angola, the African nation’s first space vehicle, were lost following its launch on Tuesday.

Asked about the failures, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Thursday that authorities warrant a thorough analysis of the situation in the space industry. Amid the failures, Russian officials have engaged in a round of finger-pointing. Click here. (12/28)

China Tests New Ballistic Missiles with Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (Source: Space Daily)
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has conducted two flight tests of a new ballistic missile attached to a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), US officials confirmed in a recent intelligence assessment. The two DF-17 ballistic missile tests occurred November 1 and November 15, respectively, a US official briefed on the intelligence assessment told the Diplomat on December 28. (12/29)

2018 a Big Year of Transition for Military Space (Source: Space News)
A controversial shakeup of the military space organization mandated by Congress will get underway in 2018. Details of how and when the changes will unfold are slowly emerging. A laundry list of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act will reshape the military space chain of command and oversight of programs. Pentagon and Air Force officials are still grappling with the full extent of the reforms, the most significant of which is the removal of the role of principal Defense Department space adviser from the secretary of the Air Force. (12/29)

Italy’s Avio Expanding Vega Launch Abilities, Mulls “Light” Mini-Variant (Source: Space News)
Designers of Europe’s light-lift Vega rocket are creating a slew of new products intended to lure prospective customers away from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and to fend off the coming wave of launch startups that are developing dedicated rockets for cubesats and other small satellites.

Avio’s product mix includes a suite of advanced offerings meant to challenge PSLV on grounds other than price — a factor both Avio and the European Space Agency admit plays to India’s advantage — as well as a possible “mini-launcher” variant, to perform dedicated missions for cubesats and larger but still low-mass satellites. (12/28)

NASA, American Girl Inspire Next Generation of Space Explorers (Source: NASA)
NASA is collaborating with a well-known doll and book company to inspire children to dream big and reach for the stars. Through a Space Act Agreement, NASA partnered with American Girl to share the excitement of space with the public, and in particular, inspire young girls to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

NASA provided the company subject matter experts for their advisory board, provided input for an upcoming book series, and also reviewed merchandise as it was developed for a new STEM-inspired character to ensure authenticity and adherence to agency graphic and media usage standards. In addition to technical advice, NASA provided imagery and content for a new American Girl app and educational website. The app and website will offer children space simulations, educational quizzes, challenges, and more. (12/28)

This Aerospace Company Is Ready To Blast Off (Source: ValueWalk)
It would be great to be able to invest in a company with such a unique and monopoly-like focus as SpaceX and Blue Horizon, but unfortunately that’s not an easy option; these companies are not publicly traded. However, I believe the next best option is investing in the systems that make these companies’ rockets “go.” I believe I’ve found the best investment in the space industry right now. It’s a relatively small aerospace and defense company here in the United States. Its specialty is propulsion systems, which comes in handy when working with rockets and other space-traveling vehicles. In fact, it’s the largest producer of space propulsion and power systems in the U.S.

The company also has a huge client for whom it does most of its business: NASA. In the past, most of the business it has done for NASA involved the space shuttle. It also supplies the batteries used to keep the station running. Another project this company has been selected to work on is the propulsion system for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Experimental Spaceplane. In this project, it is collaborating with Boeing to make a hybrid airplane/traditional launch vehicle that will be used to send military satellites into space.

Of course, any company can sound like a great investment, but it still has to be financially stable to actually be a great investment. That’s why I believe Aerojet Rocketdyne is on the verge of newfound growth in revenue due to the revitalized space program. Looking at Aerojet’s stock price, it’s obvious that the market has discovered the company’s growth potential. The stock has gone up about 100% over the past year. But I still believe it has plenty of room to grow going forward. (12/27)

Presidential Visions for Space Exploration: From Ike to Trump (Source: Space.com)
Kennedy, of course, isn’t the only leader who had a vision for the nation’s space program. Since NASA’s founding in 1958, every president from Eisenhower to Obama has left his mark. Take a look at how each U.S. commander-in-chief helped shape and steer American activities in space. Click here. (12/28)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Buys More Land Near Kent HQ for Expansion (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Blue Origin has purchased 31 acres of agricultural land for $14 million. Owned by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Kent-based Blue Origin filed plans with the city to build office/warehouse structures on the property. “The company employs over 750 people at its Kent headquarters and anticipates adding hundreds more in the coming years,” Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said in April.

“An expansion project is underway on what is known as the Barnier Property near its current campus, and Blue Origin has additionally purchased a 120,000-square-foot building across the street for further growth.” Blue Origin is using that building to manufacture some BE-4 rocket engines and reusable booster rockets. Bezos has sold $1 billion worth of Amazon.com stock annually in recent years to fund the space business. (12/27)

Emerging Technologies in Healthcare Will Benefit the Future of Space Health (Source: LinkedIn)
To ensure astronauts stay healthy on long-duration spaceflights to the Moon, Mars and beyond, we can learn from terrestrial healthcare innovation. New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are making tremendous progress to a point where they could possibly provide real care. Conversational AI services are actually being set-up and tested worldwide to play a role in psychological coaching for patients.

Virtual- and augmented-reality tools can also be used to train astronauts for medical procedures in a realistic way, which is something startups are working on for terrestrial healthcare, for example for surgery. Digital solutions ensure on-demand availability of care, focused on patients instead of centered around institutions. At the same time, terrestrial healthcare might benefit from solutions that are the result of designing for extreme environments. (12/28)

NASA Works with FAA to Upgrade Air Traffic Control (Source: KJZZ)
The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA are joining on a new system designed to smooth air traffic control operations by integrating arrival, departure and surface control under one system. “NASA brings some sort of scheduling capability and tools and interfaces it to the existing systems, and on to the controller and flight crews in order for them to conform to those schedules,” said Leighton Quon, NASA project manager. (12/26)

Russia Blames Recent Space Failures on Roscosmos ‘Systemic Mistakes’ (Source: TASS)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin blamed recent probems in Russia’s space program on “systemic mistakes” by Roscosmos leadership. Rogozin, in a televised interview Wednesday, said the state-run space corporation suffered “systemic mistakes in both management and among the executives” leading to failures. The interview came after Roscosmos issued a report blaming last month’s Soyuz launch failure on software issues with the Fregat upper stage, including failing to account for launching from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome. (12/28)

Angolan Satellite Built and Launched by Russia with Russian Money will be Garbage (Source: Leonid Tokarev)
The first Angola satellite AngoSat-1, from which telemetry ceased to arrive, is likely to be declared inoperative, a source in the rocket and space industry of the country said. “Despite the fact that after the separation from the Fregat upper stage the satellite has regularly got in touch, the telemetry disappeared. If the device for some reason can not open solar panels and will not be able to reboot the on-board computer, then after a while with a high degree of probability it can be expected that the satellite will be recognized as inoperable,” the source noted.

The satellite manufacturer, the Energia corporation, acknowledged the loss of communication with the device. According to the United Aerospace Defense Command of North America, AngoSat-1 is withdrawn and is in the calculated orbit. Russian specialists expect to restore communication with the satellite within 11 hours. According to available information, the rocket and the accelerating unit successfully brought AngoSat-1 to the target orbit, and problems with telemetry are associated with the satellite itself. (12/28)

Gallium Nitride Finding a Home in Space (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A material known as gallium nitride (GaN), poised to become the next semiconductor for powerful electronics, could be also essential for various space applications. Yuji Zhao, an expert in electrical and computer engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), plans to develop the first ever processor from gallium nitride, which could revolutionize future space exploration missions.

Gallium nitride is a semiconductor compound commonly used in light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The material has the ability to conduct electrons more than 1,000 times more efficiently than silicon. It outstrips silicon in speed, temperature, power handling and is expected to replace it when silicon-based devices will reach their limits.

Besides LEDs, GaN can be used in the production of semiconductor power devices as well as RF components. Now, Yuji Zhao aims to use this material to develop a high-temperature microprocessor for space applications. He received a three-year $750,000 grant from NASA’s Hot Operating Temperature Technology (HOTTech) program for his project. (12/28)

China to Promote Space Remote Sensing Development in 2018 (Source: Space Daily)
China will make more efforts in space remote sensing development in 2018 and prepare for the launch of Gaofen-7 high-resolution remote sensing satellite, said director of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG). The goal of the Gaofen series is to provide all-weather, 24-hour services covering the entire globe. (12/28)

It’s Time to Let Go of Our Dreams of Going to Venus (Source: Slate)
The most recent time NASA launched a mission to Venus was in 1989. The Magellan orbiter lasted four years, transmitting data back to Earth that had to be recorded onto physical tapes. The generation-long drought of missions solely intended to study Venus was extended further last Wednesday, when NASA selected two projects as finalists for a mid-2020s science mission. None of the three Venus projects were chosen. One did receive additional funding for more study, but it will have to wait till the next application cycle to contend again for mission selection.

The general public might be more or less ambivalent to such a decision, but within the scientific community, there’s plenty of lamenting that Venus continues to draw the short straw when it comes to NASA’s science program. But NASA is right. It’s time to let go of Venus. There are two major reasons it’s time to move on from Venus. The first is cost and accessibility. The planet’s hellacious environment is a destructive force. Spending millions or billions of dollars on a lander that can’t last more than a few hours is a hard sell against projects that can study other worlds for several years on end. (12/27)

NASA Reaches Out to Commercial Technology Sector to Improve Space Exploration (Source: Federal News Radio)
NASA has launched its third round of funding for what it calls “tipping point” technologies. It wants to encourage companies to invest in the agency’s mission and develop technologies that can help with space exploration. The catch? The company must be able to develop programs that are mature enough to have commercial application.

Tipping point technologies are defined by NASA as programs where reasonable investment is needed to advance current missions, but also ease the transition into the commercial space market. These technologies are ranked by readiness, according to Stephen Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We want to encourage new and innovative technologies and new innovative approaches … developing the technologies that we need for our future capabilities,” Jurczyk said.

But the technologies have to at least be at level four to be considered successful investments. In other words, the technology must at least be demonstrated in a laboratory environment, and has been demonstrated to work. “We’re trying to get [them] to a six,” he said. “Which is tested in a simulated space environment on the ground and get it to the point where its getting ready to fly.” (12/27)

DARPA and NASA Team Up to Design Refueling Satellites (Source: Popular Mechanics)
DARPA is collaborating with NASA to develop new robotic helper satellites. The satellites would tend to other satellites in geosynchronous orbit, roughly 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. As The Washington Post explains, Orbital ATK is working on a satellite that attaches itself to another satellite to provide a new source of thurst. NASA plans to refuel Landsat 7, a Earth observation satellite launched in 1999, by 2021.

Service satellites would also be a useful defensive tool for the Department of Defense and civilian agencies responsible for America’s constellation of communications, navigation, and spy satellites. In the event of war service satellites could inspect satellites for damage, repair them, and determine if they’ve been tampered with.

Plans for service satellites are all perfectly above board and fulfill an important role of protecting vital national assets. That having been said, satellite attacks would likely be the first shots in a serious war between major powers, as each side attempts to blind the other. Service satellites could go after enemy satellites in wartime, using their repair abilities to pluck the solar arrays or antennas off an adversary’s vital military communications satellite. (12/27)

China: The Dark Horse in the Search for Dark Matter (Source: The Atlantic)
Two years ago, China launched a space probe into orbit around Earth. The probe’s job was to track and record cosmic rays, the streams of high-energy particles that constantly bombard Earth’s atmosphere from all corners of the universe. In its first 530 days of operation, the probe recorded more than 2.8 billion cosmic rays. When scientists looked at data, they found something unusual. Some of the cosmic rays-—at least 1.5 million of them—-were recorded at a different and higher energy level than the others. Plotted on a chart, they appeared as a cluster of tiny outliers suspended above the curve.

Though they don’t look like much, this blip is incredibly important to astrophysicists around the world who are trying to solve one of the biggest mysteries in science: the existence of dark matter. The top theory for dark matter suggests that the mysterious stuff is made of WIMPs, weakly interacting massive particles. Formally as the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), the probe is designed to detect the signal that comes from WIMPs.

WIMPs are lazy, slow-moving particles that collide rarely, but when they do, they could form pairs of electrons and positrons—the antimatter counterparts of electrons—the particles that make up cosmic rays. An uptick in the number of these pairs would be detected as a distinct bump in a survey of cosmic rays—like the one DAMPE identified. (12/28)

Russia Looking at Deploying Two State-of-the-Art Telescopes in Cuba (Source: TASS)
Russia plans to build two state-of-the-art astronomical observatories in Cuba, Cubadebate website said on Wednesday. “A joint project provides for the deployment of two state-of-the-art completely automated telescopes in Cuba that would be used to study positional, photometric and spectral characteristics of various space objects,” the website said. In particular, it is planned to use these telescopes to track potentially hazardous space objects, such as meteorites and space debris. It has not yet been decided where these telescopes will be deployed. (12/28)

Avanti Tallies $114.1 Million in Impairment Charges for Hylas-1 and 2 Satellites (Source: Space News)
Avanti says the evolution of high-throughput satellites are outpacing the company’s satellite fleet, making it difficult to secure business with the Hylas-1 and Hylas-2 broadband satellites. The British satellite operator recorded a $53.3 million impairment charge on the seven-year old Hylas-1 spacecraft and a $60.8 million impairment charge on the five-year old Hylas-2, blaming falling capacity prices and the finite lifespans of both assets for limiting their competitiveness and value. Avanti reported $56.6 million in revenue for FY-2017, almost a third less than the $82.8 million reported for 2016. (12/27)

2017: A Year of Mixed Fortunes for Indian Space Sector (Source: Economic Times)
The year 2017 could be said to be one of mixed fortunes for the Indian space agency as it launched the much-awaited four-tonne rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III (GSLV-Mk III); put into orbit 104 satellites in a single mission; sent up the South Asia Satellite; and also crossed the double century mark of launching foreign satellites.

With the size of earth observation satellites reducing and the future trend moving towards a constellation of small satellites rather than a large one, India’s space agency is developing a smaller rocket that can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg. But on the negative side, India’s long-due satellite navigation system (NavIC) faced serious problems with the atomic clocks in a couple of satellites developing problems. (12/28)

Does NASA Shoot RAW? An Interview with Astronaut Randy Bresnik (Source: YouTube)
It all started with a question, “do astronauts on the space station shoot RAW?”.  I figured why not call NASA and find out. While on the call I thought it would be a good idea to ask if I could interview an astronaut on the actual space station. This time around we didn’t get to interview someone on the station but we did get to interview Randy Bresnik who arrived back to earth only three days prior to our interview.

We talked a lot about photography and the issues you may face in space as a human and a photographer. I was amazed by the fact that I was talking to a real life SPACEMAN and get to share the whole thing with you. I look forward to bringing you even more interviews as we venture into 2018. It is my goal to do an interview with someone in SPACE in the new year. I’m planning on seeing a SpaceX launch as well. Click here. (12/26)

Could the Pentagon’s New R&E Head Take Over Military Space Programs? (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon’s new office of the undersecretary of research and engineering could end up with a lead role in America’s development of military space capabilities, as the department grapples with congressional interest in a massive reorganization.

In 2015, the Pentagon declared that the Air Force secretary will henceforth also be the principal Department of Defense space adviser, or PDSA — the department’s top adviser on space issues. But recent congressional action stripped that job from Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and handed the choice of where it should go to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Now the Pentagon’s No. 2 has hinted he is considering switching that job over to the newly created undersecretary of research and engineering. “We haven’t laid flat the final responsibilities there, but what’s really exciting about next year is we’ve got Mike Griffin on board,” who touts extensive experience in the space domain, the deputy said. Griffin was formally nominated this month. He has yet to have a confirmation hearing but is expected to have one in January. (12/26)

Space-Based Communications Will Reach New Heights With Airbus in 2018 (Source: ASD News)
Airbus will mark new milestones next year with launches of innovative communications spacecraft that range from large, high-power relay platforms incorporating electric propulsion systems to compact, mass-produced units for a 900-satellite constellation providing affordable global internet access.

Starting off 2018 will be the orbiting of the Airbus-built SES-14 for Luxembourg-based telecommunications satellite operator SES, scheduled for launch on 25 January. The 4-metric-tonne weight category spacecraft is based on Airbus’ reliable Eurostar platform in the E3000e variant – which exclusively uses electric propulsion for raising its altitude to geostationary orbit above Earth.

The fully-electric system replaces chemical propulsion that satellites traditionally use to reach and maintain orbit after deployment by their launch vehicle. This technological revolution in propulsion has tangible benefits: with chemical propulsion, half of a satellite’s mass at lift-off is made up of the propellant; electric propulsion eliminates a considerable part of the mass, enabling satellites to be lighter in weight or carry significantly increased payloads. (12/27)

NASA Isolation Study May Provide Answers for Mission to Mars (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Karen Brun was among the most recent group of civilians to voluntarily spend 45 days in isolation at Johnson Space Center as part of a “virtual” mission to space. The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) is a three-story, about 600 square-foot enclosure that mimics exploration scenarios such as isolation, confinement and remote conditions.

It allows NASA researchers to observe and document how long-term space flight might impact human behaviors – an important study if Americans hope to send people to Mars any time soon. The problems crews headed to Mars could “encounter are a decline in mood, cognition, morale or interpersonal interaction,” NASA’s website states. “The more confined and isolated humans are, the more likely they are to develop behavioral or cognitive conditions, and psychiatric disorders.”

Virtual missions in the three-story habitat, located in a large warehouse at Johnson, began in 2014. The first crew members only stayed in isolation for seven days. Each year, Johnson researchers tap 16 civilians to participate in four separate missions. And each year, the missions have gotten longer. The idea is to better understand and counteract potential problems that could arise from an individual staying isolated in a confined space for months on end. (12/27)

NASA Plans Search for Alien Life on Ceres (Source: Newsweek)
Ceres is a strange place and NASA has learned through its Dawn mission that the dwarf planet could be much more habitable than scientists had ever guessed. Now the space agency plans to probe Ceres even further by sending the Dawn spacecraft closer than ever to its mysterious surface.

The Dawn mission launched a decade ago and was meant to wrap up its work two and a half years ago. But the spacecraft is still working and still has fuel, and scientists are determined to get all the information they can from it, especially now that we know so much more about its target than we did at launch.

Ceres is the only object in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, large enough to be classified as a dwarf planet. The team behind Dawn had expected to find a sort of time capsule from the formation of the solar system. But since the spacecraft arrived, scientists have spotted some evidence for lost water on the planet and for geological activity. (12/24)

50 Years After His Death, The First Black Astronaut Honored at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Blavity)
On the 50th anniversary of his tragic death, Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., finally received full honors. Hundreds gathered at Kennedy Space Center to commemorate Lawrence. If he had not died in a plane crash Dec. 8, 1967, experts say he would almost certainly have gone on to fly in space. According to the Associated Press, those gathered included NASA dignitaries, astronauts, fellow Omega Psi Phi fraternity members, schoolchildren, and relatives of Lawrence and other astronauts who have died in the line of duty.

Lawrence was a part of a classified military space program in the 1960s called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which was meant to spy on the Soviet Union. He was only 32 when his F-104 Starfighter crashed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, causing his death. At his commemorating ceremony, people made note that Lawrence inspired all the African American astronauts who followed him. Lawrence had a doctoral degree in physical chemistry — a rarity among test pilots — and was brilliant. He graduated from high school at age 16 and college at 20. Later, he obtained a doctoral degree in physical chemistry in 1965. (12/27)

Next Stop: the Moon (Source: Space News)
Much has been written about the advantages of the moon as a technical and programmatic proving ground for humanity to expand toward Mars and beyond. The only real question left to answer is this: how we shall go to the moon in a coordinated manner? This is a hurdle as challenging as any engineering or technological problem to be solved. We need to somehow federate already-existing program and business plans. We need to define architectures that are open to all stakeholders, ones that encompass government, corporate, scientific and public interests.

The answer could be the Moon Village, a destination for multiple users and missions, for science, utilization and human presence and more. The Moon Village is not an “ISS on the moon” but rather the ensemble of all efforts — private, governmental and other — aiming to explore and use the moon in a sustainable manner. However, we need now to be more specific on how to go about accomplishing this attractive vision. It is clear that the Deep Space Gateway or other orbiting stations in the lunar vicinity is one important element in this, but we need also surface access and operations. Click here. (12/27)

The New Astronaut Training Experience At Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Source: CitySurfing Orlando)
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) has long been known as the gateway to outer space for those seeking to get a close up view of our nation’s space program. Between housing space artifacts and memorabilia, to actual spacecraft like the orbiter Atlantis, as well as hosting viewings of launches from the historic pads, they have always been on the cutting edge of space related tourism. With the introduction of the all new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX), KSCVC will continue the tradition of offering hands-on interactive exhibits, but with a twist – you actually get to experience training for simulated space missions! (12/24)

Trump’s New National Space Policy Isn’t Exactly a Giant Leap (Source: SyFy Wire)
It is a lot of pomp but no real circumstance. The reason I say this is twofold: One is that this new version of the document is almost identical to the previous version, with some minor changes that, in my opinion, don’t mean much. The other is that Trump and his administration make a lot of promises, but the vast majority of these turn out to be fantasy.

The last version of this policy was signed by President Obama in 2010. It was 14 pages long. The new version replaces just a few lines. Most notably, on Page 11, this paragraph in the old version: “Set far-reaching exploration milestones. By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth”…

Is replaced with this: “Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.” (12/27)

Elon Musk, SpaceX, and NASA: Who Gets to Own Outer Space? (Source: The Ringer)
Where spaceflight in the 20th century was defined by heroic exploration, science, and national pride, the 21st century has seen an unprecedented rise in private spaceflight investment, from a combination of traditional defense contractors and Silicon Valley–backed startups. A company called Moon Express, backed by investors including Peter Thiel, received permission to send a craft to land on the moon, with the eventual goal of building a mining colony. SpaceX, meanwhile, is eyeing Mars.

Is the government still ensuring that American spaceflight is a humanitarian enterprise, or are we heading toward a future as bleak and hostile as the surface of the moon itself? The short-term reality is a little more mundane. The only special thing about commercial spaceflight nowadays is that, at least in NASA’s dealings with private companies, capitalism is working as advertised. Competition is sparking innovation and keeping costs down.

Multiple private companies are making enough money to not only enter a market with high barriers to entry, but to make enough money to want to stay there, while NASA enjoys lower costs and offloads some of the logistical burden, and at the same time sparking a burgeoning industry that creates high-paying jobs in the United States. Which raises an obvious question: Why did we ever do it any other way? Click here. (12/27)

A New Space Race? (Source: The National Interest)
This new space policy directive raises many pertinent questions about the future of space exploration in general, and why, after thirty-five years since Apollo 17, this announcement has come out. If one tries to read between the lines, one thing that stands out prominently in the remarks by both the president and vice president is the sentiment that the United States will lead again in space.

The U.S.. has always been a pioneer in the space exploration, since the 1960s and even earlier. The Cold War space rivalry between United States and the Soviet Union was one of the most interesting chapters of the modern history, because it not only intensified the rivalry between these two superpowers but, as a result of the rivalry and the zeal to outdo each other, a great deal of scientific and technological innovation considered unthinkable before was achieved. The field of aerospace engineering widened, and a lot of new jobs were created. Click here. (12/26)

Ex-Im Supports US Jobs; New Bank President Nominee Needed (Source: The Examiner)
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) has called on the White House to nominate a new Export-Import Bank president soon, and he has highlighted the important role of the bank in supporting trade. “Ex-Im helps us keep more businesses and factories here at home, more jobs from being shipped overseas, and produces bigger paychecks for American workers,” he writes. (12/27)


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