18Apr2013
USA

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


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Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy


Last fall, Neil Armstrong’s two sons began a round of media appearances to promote a venture that would make them millions of dollars: a series of auctions of about 3,000 mementos from their father’s moon mission and NASA career. Mark and Rick Armstrong talked up the items — an American flag that had flown to the moon on Apollo 11; a flight suit their father had worn earlier in his career; and many possessions that had nothing to do with space, including Mr. Armstrong’s childhood teddy bear and a preschool report card he signed.

“You just hope that people get positive energy from these things,” Mark Armstrong told “CBS This Morning.” He told The New York Times they had “struggled with” what their father might think of the auctions. “Would Dad approve? Let’s see what positive things we can do with the proceeds,” he said. The auctions would prove lucrative amid the rising wave of publicity leading up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this month: $16.7 million in sales to date.

The Dallas auction house advertised the events as sales of the Armstrong Family Collection, though about a quarter of the revenue came from items with other sources, including the astronaut Buzz Aldrin. What the brothers took home after fees is unclear. Another auction, the fourth, is set for November. Those sales by the brothers have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted. Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.(7/28)

Russian Space Agency to Initiate Talks on Banning Anti-Satellite Weapon Tests (Source: TASS)
Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos plans to initiate international negotiations on banning full-scale tests of anti-satellite weapons, Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said. “Roscosmos plans to initiate international negotiations with the aim of banning full-scale anti-satellite weapon tests held by way of destroying spacecraft and littering low orbits,” Rogozin said. The Roscosmos chief said he was concerned over these tests as satellite fragments “may destroy the station.” (7/26)

Watch Japan’s Hayabusa2 Land on Asteroid Ryugu (Source: Space.com)
An incredible new video from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft completing its second touchdown operation, on July 11. It shows the spacecraft touching down on, and then receding from, the asteroid Ryugu. Hayabusa2 took the video of the touchdown with its monitor camera, Cam-H, which is pointed past the craft’s sampling mechanism (or sampler horn). The craft’s sampler horn, which can be seen in the video pointed “downward,” toward Ryugu, picked up new samples from the asteroid. (7/27)

Scientists Stunned by ‘City-Killer’ Asteroid That Just Missed Earth (Source: Washington Post)
This asteroid wasn’t one that scientists had been tracking, and it had seemingly appeared from “out of nowhere,” Michael Brown, a Melbourne-based observational astronomer, told The Washington Post. According to data from NASA, the craggy rock was large, an estimated 57 to 130 meters wide (187 to 427 feet), and moving fast along a path that brought it within about 73,000 kilometers (45,000 miles) of Earth. That’s less than one-fifth of the distance to the moon and what Duffy considers “uncomfortably close.” (7/26)

Meet Alyssa Carson, the 18-Year-Old training to Become the First Human on Mars (Source: TNW)
At just three years old, Alyssa Carson knew she wanted to be an astronaut, and since then, she’s worked tirelessly. Carson could soon become the first human to set foot on Mars — even if it means never returning back to Earth. “My fascination with space all started when I watched an episode of the cartoon The Backyardigans called ‘A Mission to Mars,” Carson told TNW.

Growing up, Carson’s imagination blew up with questions about space and space travel which eventually led her today, America’s best chance to landing on Mars. At 16 years old, Carson became the youngest person to have ever graduated from the Advanced Space Academy, the first person to have completed all of NASA’s seven Space Camps, and received the certification in applied astronautics. This officially makes Carson certified to do a suborbital research flight and venture into space, all before receiving her driver’s permit. (7/26)

The Coming End of an Era at NASA
 (Source: The Atlantic)
For the youngest generations, the idea of the moon landings, captured in crackly black-and-white footage, might seem as distant as the moon itself. The moon was a weird place to be. Aldrin, now 89 years old, felt disoriented as he took in the sight. “On the Earth when one looks at the horizon, it appears flat; on the moon, so much smaller than the Earth and quite without high terrain, the horizon in all directions visibly curved away from us,” he wrote in a memoir in 1974.

Thanks to the airless environment and the lunar soil, as fine as talcum powder, the astronauts never had to worry about getting lost. “Everywhere you walk, you left your footprints,” said Charlie Duke, who visited in 1972, at an event last year. “You just turn around and follow your tracks back.” President Richard Nixon correctly predicted in 1972, as the crew of the last lunar mission flew home, that “this may be the last time in this century that men will walk on the moon.” But after pulling off the feat—six times in three and a half years, at that—it seemed hard to imagine the possibility that no one would ever return. Click here. (7/26)

VAB Architects Honored: NASA’s Most Famous Building Receives ‘Test of Time’ Award (Source: Click Orlando)
Driving over the Indian River to the Brevard County barrier islands the Vehicle Assembly Building with its football-field size American flag and NASA meatball logo looms large to the east. What would become NASA’s most notorious building began with a sketch created in a few hours by a 25-year-old architect.

More than 50 years after that first sketch, the design and project team behind the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, and Launch Control Center, will be recognized Saturday by the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects for creating an architectural design that has stood the test of time through the Apollo and space shuttle programs and dozens of hurricanes. Click here. (7/26) https://www.clickorlando.com/news/space-news/vab-architects-honored-nasas-most-famous-building-receives-test-of-time-award

Skyrora Celebrates Successful Rocket Engine Testing (Source: Edinburgh Reporter)
Scottish space company Skyrora has successfully carried out testing on a fully 3D-printed, commercial rocket engine for the first time ever in the UK.
The Edinburgh-based firm used its base in Cornwall to carry out engine checks on its XL rocket, the firm’s main orbital launch vehicle. The engine boasts stop-start technology, meaning Skyrora’s rocket can deliver satellites to different orbits – similar to a school bus dropping pupils off at different locations on its route. (7/26)

Supporters Say Hawaii Telescope Will Bring Jobs, Knowledge (ABC News)
A giant telescope planned for Hawaii’s tallest mountain will enhance humanity’s knowledge of the universe and bring quality, high-paying jobs, supporters said as protesters blocked construction for a second week. An international consortium plans to build the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope at the top of Mauna Kea, which some Native Hawaiians believe is sacred. Protesters blocked the road to the top of the mountain for the 12th day Friday after more than 100 telescope supporters rallied Thursday in front of the state Capitol.

They held signs with messages like “Support Culture and Science” and “Move Forward Not Backward” and waved at passing cars. Some drivers honked in support. Opponents of the telescope have gotten more attention than supporters as their protest has prevented crews from starting construction. The Hawaii Supreme Court last year ruled that the project had a valid permit, clearing the way for work to begin after a decadelong battle. Protesters say building another telescope on a peak that already has 13 observatories will further desecrate the mountain on the Big Island. (7/26)

Germany Wary of Macron’s Space Force (Source: Politico)
Emmanuel Macron’s race into space makes Germans nervous. The French government is poised to lay out details on Thursday of a plan to staff up a “space high command” in Toulouse, as it expands the remit of its air force to cover orbital defense and ward off potential threats to infrastructure in space from big powers including China, Russia and India. Macron unveiled the broad outlines of the plan during Bastille Day celebrations this month, saying it would help the country “better protect our satellites.”

But the French president’s agenda, unveiled in the midst of France’s biggest national celebration, sits uneasily with Germany’s preference for a multilateral approach to military and defense issues. “We need a robust answer to the challenges in space but I see this as a job for the European Space Agency and the EU,” said Thomas Jarzombek, the German government’s coordinator on aerospace and a lawmaker in the Bundestag. (7/26)

Rep. Charlie Crist Embraces Role as Florida Space Coast Booster (Source: Politico)
Fifty years after the moon landing the Florida Space Coast is preparing to once again play a major role in the nation’s space exploration goals — and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) says he’s working overtime to ensure it remains in the driver’s seat. Crist, who served four years as Florida’s Republican governor before later switching parties, is now a member of both the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NASA.

“I want to do everything I can from this platform … to be supportive of whatever NASA is doing, whether that’s going to the moon in 2024 with Artemis or beyond that, in the exploration of Mars,” he said. Crist said he also seeking new ways to support the types of public-private partnerships between commercial space companies and government players that he says have already had an “electric effect on the Space Coast and Florida.” For example, he “regularly” meets with representatives of SpaceX. “They’ve been a real leader when it comes to public-private partnerships in space. (7/26)

Another Front in the Tensions Between the U.S. and China: Space (Source: Washington Post)
The United States has noticed China’s ambitions, which have touched off a debate over how to respond and what China’s intentions really are at a time when space is seen as a critical warfighting domain. The Trump administration and hawkish conservatives have cast the competition as a power struggle with enormous consequences — the moon as the cosmic equivalent of the South China Sea, where China has expanded a military presence that is of concern to the Pentagon.

Earlier this year, the White House announced NASA would dramatically speed up its own mission to return to the moon, initially planned for 2028, but now, at the direction of Vice President Pence, moved up to 2024. “Make no mistake about it: We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s, and the stakes are even higher,” he said in a speech in March calling for the shortened timeline. China’s landing on the far side of the moon “revealed their ambition to seize the lunar strategic high ground and become the world’s preeminent spacefaring nation,” he said.

U.S. officials fear the Chinese advance in space. “Looking at Chinese behavior in other shared domains — the South China Sea, cyberspace — they’ve given us pause for concern,” Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an interview. “And so looking out in space, it’s hard to imagine that they will behave any better than they’d behaved in other areas where they felt that their national interests are at stake.” (7/26)

Finding God on the Moon (Source: The Outline)
An astronaut walked into a church, and stepped behind the pulpit. The stained glass windows behind him did not depict a Biblical scene or long-dead saint, but the technicolor reds and blues of deep space nebulae. Draped over the pulpit was a quilted scene of an astronaut climbing a ladder toward a chalice, a perfect circle of a wafer perched upon its lid. He settled in at the podium with the ease of a man often given microphones, and an energy that screamed “friend of your dad’s.” Though he was dressed in business casual, it was not difficult to imagine him confidently donning the traffic cone orange, 14-layer space suit. “Greetings, Earthlings,” he said, looking out across the sea of parishioners.

Retired astronaut Clayton Anderson, 60, had returned to Webster Presbyterian, his former church, to deliver his first sermon on the anniversary of a special event in the community’s history. Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin consumed the symbolic body and blood of Christ on the lunar surface in an act of Holy Communion. In the Moon’s 1/6th gravity, the wine “curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the chalice,” as Aldrin later recalled. Inside the Lunar Module, Neil Armstrong watched quietly. But instead of following along across millions of radios, the world was none the wiser.

Webster Presbyterian isn’t just any church: It’s the “Church of the Astronauts,” located just down the road from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the home of space flight control since 1961 and the “Houston” in “Houston, we have a problem.” Like many other astronauts, Aldrin was a member. According to the 1970 book First on the Moon, he had approached the late Reverend Dean Woodruff in the weeks before the flight for help coming up with a symbolic gesture that “transcended modern times.” Woodruff believed that “God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life,” and suggested that Aldrin bring along with him a little silver chalice, a sachet of wine, and a piece of bread. (7/25)

Satellite Manufacturing & Launch Servivces Market to Generate $225 Billion in Next Decade (Source: NSR)
NSR’s Satellite Manufacturing and Launch Services, 9th Edition (SMLS9) report published today forecasts a $225 B market opportunity over the next decade, driven by Situational Awareness and Earth Observation markets. Despite the hype created by smallsat LEO constellations, the traditional market is expected to remain the dominant source of revenue globally for building and launching satellites. While it is not likely to return to heady levels of yesterday, new opportunities are emerging that the industry can grasp if it adapts to a nimbler state of affairs.

The satellite launch market is also going through a period of transition and will experience more competition and diversity in launch options. “New launch actors are poised to enter the market, and traditional launch service providers are retiring and replacing their veteran vehicles on a global scale,” noted Leena Pivovarova, NSR Analyst and report co-author. “All launch service providers are looking to address the global demand in various ways to remain flexible, innovative and stand out among their competitors.” (7/16)

Toyota, Japan to Launch Huge Moon Rover for Astronauts in 2029 (Source: Space.com)
A decade or so from now, astronauts could be cruising around the moon inside a Toyota rover. The carmaker and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) just signed a three-year agreement to jointly develop a pressurized lunar rover, which will incorporate fuel-cell electric-vehicle technologies. “Over the course of the three-year joint research period, JAXA and Toyota will manufacture, test and evaluate prototypes, with the goal of developing a manned, pressurized lunar rover and exploring the surface of the moon as part of an international project,” Toyota representatives wrote. (7/23)

Insurance in Space – the Final Frontier (Source: Insurance Business)
Currently, two suborbital space ride firms, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, are theoretically planning to offer to arrange personal accident insurance for their passengers via the established market, but participants will potentially have to pay the premiums themselves.

Under the scheme, the passengers might not be classed as “passengers” in the legal sense, having signed away any liability as part of the deal with the operator, they would possibly become “participants” in the flight. Nevertheless, there is some question about whether such waivers would actually insulate the operator in the event of loss as the families of any lost participant astronauts would not have signed the waiver, and thus could theoretically still sue the operator.

Whilst worldwide travel insurance cover is widely available in 2019, cover for a lunar voyage clearly seems to be a more difficult product to launch. Our fascination with space seems set to continue, suggesting that there is now a genuine need for either some very specific additions to the standard travel policy in relation to space tourism insurance to cover suborbital trips or room in the market for a new bespoke product to be delivered. (7/25)

Can Water Survive in the Moon’s Deep, Dark Craters? Maybe Not
 (Source: CNN)
When NASA lands the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program, it will be aiming for the lunar south pole region. It’s an environment of extremes, full of craters, incredibly cold temperatures, and areas of full sunlight or complete darkness. Some of the craters in this region never see sunlight because of the angle. If you were standing at the south pole, the sun would skim the rims of craters as it hovered on the horizon and shone sideways on the surface.

Temperatures dip to negative 388 degrees Fahrenheit in these craters, according to measurements from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Typically, that means frost would perpetually trap water in the soil. Yet a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters finds that water is escaping the uppermost layer of moon. Surprisingly, that top layer is thinner than the width of a red blood cell, according to the study.

The moon doesn’t have a protective atmosphere like Earth. It’s at the mercy of the sun’s solar wind, a stream of charged particles that can hit the moon and spray up water molecules. Meteoroids also continuously hit the moon’s surface, further disturbing the tiny frost and soil particles. Because there is so little gravity on the moon, the particles can travel as far as 19 miles away from their point of origin. (7/26)

Australia Should Coordinate With New Zealand in Space (Source: The Diplomat)
Australia could soon be a leader in space-based data connectivity. That’s the hope behind the agreement just signed between Australia’s one-year-old space agency and Myriota, an Australian Internet of Things satellite company. Australia’s space agency is aiming high, signing myriad agreements with foreign governments, multinational corporations, and local startups. But critics question whether the agency’s small budget — just $15 million this year — can support Canberra’s goal of building a $12 billion national space industry by 2030.

To increase its likelihood of success, Australia must target its resources. And to do this most effectively, it should coordinate with neighboring New Zealand. Both countries have recently created space agencies to build their space sectors. But New Zealand is further along in its efforts, and Australia should avoid replicating the niche New Zealand is building for itself in the space economy. For the benefit of both countries’ space sectors, Australia should complement, not compete with, New Zealand. (7/26)

‘Green Run’ Engine Test for Space Launch System to Be in Mississippi(Source: US News)
NASA says it will conduct the “Green Run” rocket testing campaign for the new Space Launch System rocket at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith welcomed Thursday’s announcement by NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine. Officials say when completed, the SLS will be “the world’s most powerful rocket” and is the linchpin within NASA’s Artemis deep space exploration program. Wicker says the test is critical in the rocket’s development. He says the road back to the moon and to Mars runs through Hancock County. Hyde-Smith echoed Wicker, saying “that if you want to go to space, you’ve got to first go through Mississippi. (7/25)

Ariane 6 Vulcain Engine: Successful Qualification Testing (Source: Ariane Group)
The qualification tests of the Vulcain 2.1 engine, which will power the Ariane 6 main stage, were completed during the 26th development test. This final qualification test took place on July 16 on the P5 test stand at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen. Both Ariane 6 liquid propulsion engines have now completed their firing qualification tests. The qualification tests for the Vinci re-ignitable engine for the Ariane upper stage were completed in October 2018. (7/26)

Amazon Rain Forest is Disappearing at an Alarming Rate as the Government of Brazil’s Far-Right President Slashes Protections (Source: New York Times)
The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining. Protecting the Amazon was at the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy for much of the past two decades. At one point, Brazil’s success in slowing the deforestation rate made it an international example of conservation and the effort to fight climate change.

But with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been fined personally for violating environmental regulations, Brazil has changed course substantially, retreating from the efforts it once made to slow global warming by preserving the world’s largest rain forest. While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation. (7/28)

Climate Already Hitting Key Tipping Points (Source: Reuters)
With study-after-study showing climate impacts from extreme weather to polar melt and sea level rise outstripping initial forecasts, negotiators have a fast-closing window to try to turn the aspirations agreed in Paris into meaningful outcomes. “There’s so much on the line in the next 18 months or so,” said Sue Reid, vice-president of climate and energy at Ceres, a U.S. non-profit group that works to steer companies and investors onto a more sustainable path. “This is a crucial period of time both for public officials and the private sector to really reverse the curve on emissions,” Reid said. (7/28)

Quantum Darwinism Could Explain What Makes Reality Real (Source: WIRED)
It’s not surprising that quantum physics has a reputation for being weird and counterintuitive. The world we’re living in sure doesn’t feel quantum mechanical. And until the 20th century, everyone assumed that the classical laws of physics devised by Isaac Newton and others—according to which objects have well-defined positions and properties at all times—would work at every scale. But Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and their contemporaries discovered that down among atoms and subatomic particles, this concreteness dissolves into a soup of possibilities.

An atom typically can’t be assigned a definite position, for example—we can merely calculate the probability of finding it in various places. The vexing question then becomes: How do quantum probabilities coalesce into the sharp focus of the classical world? Physicists sometimes talk about this changeover as the “quantum-classical transition.” But in fact there’s no reason to think that the large and the small have fundamentally different rules, or that there’s a sudden switch between them. Over the past several decades, researchers have achieved a greater understanding of how quantum mechanics inevitably becomes classical mechanics through an interaction between a particle or other microscopic system and its surrounding environment.

One of the most remarkable ideas in this theoretical framework is that the definite properties of objects that we associate with classical physics—position and speed, say—are selected from a menu of quantum possibilities in a process loosely analogous to natural selection in evolution: The properties that survive are in some sense the “fittest.” As in natural selection, the survivors are those that make the most copies of themselves. This means that many independent observers can make measurements of a quantum system and agree on the outcome—a hallmark of classical behavior. (7/28)

 

 

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