Showing posts from September, 2017

Lockheed Martin's Mars lander concept

human Mars: Lockheed Martin's Mars lander concept: To compete with SpaceX for a viable manned Mars mission concept aerospace heavyweight Lockheed Martin has presented a Mars lander. It woul...

Vice President Mike Pence to NASA: 'It's about to get exciting'

"Stay. It's about to get exciting."

That was Vice President Mike Pence's advice to a NASA veteran he met in Huntsville Monday afternoon. As chair of the nation's reanimated National Space Council, Pence will have a big role in generating that excitement.

Pence came to the Payload Operations Information Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to see how it helps astronauts run science experiments in space. Pence also spoke via NASA communications link with station commander Randy Bresnik and flight engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba. "This may be the most long-distance call I've ever made," Pence joked.

"I can assure you that under President Donald Trump, America is determined to lead once again," Pence told the astronauts, "not just in Low-Earth Orbit, but once again leading the world in space exploration."
Pence said the National Space Council will hold its first meeting in "a few weeks." Its job …

Elon Musk to detail updates and new uses for SpaceX’s interplanetary rocket

Elon Musk revealed the Spaceship Interplanetary Spaceship and Rocket at last year’s International Astronautical Congress , detailing a very ambitious plan to get humans to Mars – and to help them stay there and colonize, and even commercialize, the red planet. This Friday, he’ll reveal updated details on SpaceX’s interplanetary plans.
Last year’s presentation detailed Musk’s Mars ambitions in more detail than ever previously revealed, including the physical design of the rocket and spacecraft that would ferry cargo and crew to the planet. It also showed a bit of information about how he hoped to pay for the trip, though a lot of that was still left an open question by the end of the plan. Mostly, Musk hoped to decrease costs exponentially through advances like the reusable rocketry that it such a massive part of SpaceX’s business model.
Musk teased not only “major improvements” to be revealed at this year’s IAC, along with some new, “unexpected applications” of the interplanetary lau…

In possible dig at Russia, Bridenstine says NASA should end 'dependency on unfriendly nations'

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a Tulsa Republican nominated to lead NASA, says the nation's space agency should end its “dependency on unfriendly nations,” hinting that NASA could abolish a shaky partnership with Russia that has been threatened in recent years.

Bridenstine's first public comments since being nominated as NASA administrator Sept. 2 came in written responses to questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The committee will consider Bridenstine's nomination during a hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

When asked to list three top challenges facing NASA, Bridenstine wrote, “Maintaining and building international partnerships while ending dependency on unfriendly nations to avoid exploitable vulnerabilities.”

“NASA is an incredible leadership and soft power tool for the United States of America,” he added. “With NASA's global leadership, we will pioneer the solar system, sending humans back to the Moon, to Mars and beyond.…

Buzz Aldrin and Greg Autry: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to run NASA

President Trump called for “unlocking the mysteries of space” in his inaugural address and then envisioned “American footprints on distant worlds” in his speech before a Joint Session of Congress. Addressing a crowd at the Kennedy Space Center this summer, Vice President Pence confidently stated that “our nation will return to the Moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars.” Such an audacious agenda will require inspired engineering, committed financial support and bold leadership of the kind that Administrator James Webb supplied to NASA during the glory days of Gemini and Apollo.

Finding another Webb was no easy task. The president considered several excellent candidates, some of whom we personally admire, but in the spirit of Webb’s leadership, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine is the president’s nominee for NASA administrator. Rumors of Mr. Bridenstine’s appointment have been swirling in the space community since the spring and during that time, the two of us have come to k…

NASA center director: If Trump pivots to the Moon, we’re “set up” to do it

“It's not at all incompatible with what we’re doing,” Ellen Ochoa said.

Ellen Ochoa is a four-time astronaut who has served as director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston since 2013. As part of that job, Ochoa oversees a space center that trains astronauts for spaceflight missions, houses Mission Control, and manages the International Space Station and Orion spacecraft programs.

In recent years, the space center has also played a central role in preparing for and publicizing NASA's "Journey to Mars," the poorly funded effort by the agency to send humans to the red planet in the 2030s. Orion has been touted as a centerpiece of this strategy, and astronauts have talked about using what they've learned on the station and applying it toward going to Mars.

Now, however, key Trump appointees are beginning to talk about sending humans to the Moon before Mars. The administration's choice to serve as executive secretary of the National Space Council, Scott …

Trump’s pick for NASA lays out agenda and answers critics

Jim Bridenstine likely to win fairly easy approval from Senate.

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who was nominated to become NASA's next administrator by the Trump administration on September 1, may get a Senate confirmation hearing as early as next week. The choice of the 42-year-old Republican pilot has raised objections among some of his fellow members of Congress because of his lack of a technical background. Environmentalists have also objected to Bridenstine due to his views on climate change.

However, a pre-hearing questionnaire submitted by Bridenstine addresses some of these criticisms and also offers some important clues about where he would like to see the space agency go. "With NASA's global leadership, we will pioneer the Solar System, send humans back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond. This requires a consistent, sustainable strategy for deep space exploration." Bridenstine supports human missions to the Moon before going to Mars.

Florida senators


A lawsuit almost stalled NASA's Cassini mission

Captain Scott Kelly wasn't kidding when he famously quipped that "space is hard". Even getting to the launch pad can prove to be a daunting challenge. Take the Cassini mission to study Saturn, for example. Despite an investment of $3.4 billion and nearly a decade of development, Cassini wound up being very nearly scuttled at the last minute by protesters who thought they knew better than a federal agency that has put multiple men on the moon. Geez guys, it was just 73 pounds of plutonium riding aboard that Saturn orbiter -- it wouldn't have caused that much damage had something gone horribly wrong at launch.

The Cassini mission, named after the 17th century Italian-French astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini, marks the end of an era for NASA. It is likely the final "flagship-class" mission (those costing more than $1 billion) fielded by the space agency, if NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's claims from 2013 are still accurate. Other flagships included t…

China Unveils Physics-Defying Engine for Deep Space Exploration

Chinese scientists claim they have developed a working model of a microwave engine, which defies the laws of conventional physics, CCTV-2 reported.

The TV channel provided no details of the EmDrive microwave engine, saying only that it would soon be tested in space.

The EmDrive is built around a microwave-generating magnetron and a resonator, which accumulates the energy of their fluctuations. This generates thrust, which can’t be explained by the conventional energy conservation law.

The magnetron pushes microwaves into a closed truncated cone, driving them against its short end thus propelling the craft forward without producing any exhaust.

This differs from the type of propulsion currently used by spacecraft, which burn large quantities of fuel to generate a massive amount of energy to rocket the craft into space.

Scientists believe that a rocket propulsion system based on electromagnetic drives engines could enable humans to reach the outer fringes of our solar system in a matte…

BoldlyGo Institute and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement for Joint Cooperation on Project Blue Mission

The BoldlyGo Institute (BoldlyGo) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have signed a Space Act Agreement to cooperate on "Project Blue," a mission to search for potentially habitable Earth-size planets in the Alpha Centauri system using a specially designed space telescope.

"We're pleased to be working with NASA on this ambitious public-private partnership," said Dr. Jon Morse, CEO of BoldlyGo. "Much of the coronagraph imaging technology needed for Project Blue to take direct images of exoplanets from space has been developed through NASA-funded programs. Having access to NASA's scientific and technical expertise throughout the mission lifecycle is invaluable," Morse continued.

The Space Act Agreement is non-reimbursable, with no exchange of funds between NASA and BoldlyGo. It allows NASA employees - scientists and engineers - to interact with the Project Blue team through its mission development phases to help review mission…

NASA preparing call for proposals for commercial lunar landers

WASHINGTON — NASA is preparing to release a solicitation for the commercial transportation of payloads to the lunar surface, the latest step in the agency’s efforts to help promote the development of commercial lunar landers.

In testimony Sept. 7 at a House space subcommittee hearing on private lunar exploration, Jason Crusan, director of advanced exploration systems at NASA, said the agency was developing a call for proposals for such services after evaluating the results from a request for information (RFI) earlier in the year.

“What we are now looking at doing is actually buying landed delivery services in the next fiscal year, of actually buying the first ability to land small payloads,” he said. “We’re preparing for the solicitation as we speak.”

That solicitation, he said, is being informed by responses the agency received from an RFI it issued in early May. That RFI sought details from companies about their ability to deliver “instruments, experiments, or other payloads” throu…

NASA's Will Use TESS To Discover Hundreds Of Exoplanets

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is a spacecraft that will be launched sometime in 2018 that will take on a two-year mission to monitor more than 200,000 stars in an attempt to discover more exoplanets. TESS is the first spaceborne all-sky transit survey, meaning that the craft will remain in space while it completes its mission. If successful, it will accomplish what no ground based survey can.

The Mission

TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants like Jupiter. The main focus is to find small planets with host stars that are 10-100 times brighter than those surveyed during the Kepler mission. Planets that have bright host stars are easier to study. Really the only time we can get a good look at planets like these is when they pass in front of their host star. Therefore, the brighter the star the better.

The Coverage

The prime objective of TESS is to observe bright stars. To do this TESS will maintain a unique high Earth orbit. It will have an …

White House nominates Bridenstine as NASA administrator

WASHINGTON — After leaving the space community waiting and wondering for months, the White House announced Sept. 1 that President Trump planned to nominate Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) as NASA administrator.

In a statement issued late Sept. 1, the White House announced its intent to nominate Bridenstine to the position, standard terminology to indicate that the nomination had not yet been formally transmitted to the Senate. The one-paragraph statement provided only biographical information about Bridenstine, and no discussion about the reasons the president chose to nominate him.

The announcement came after several space industry sources, speaking on background, said they anticipated a formal nomination of Bridenstine to run the space agency on Sept. 5, the day after the Labor Day holiday. At the time, they cautioned that the nomination could be delayed after the 5th depending on administration activities.

Bridenstine emerged as an early favorite for NASA administrator immediately …

'Major Pucker Factor': Will SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Ace Its Maiden Launch?

SpaceX says its Falcon Heavy, which is slated to make its maiden launch in November from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, will be the world's most powerful operational rocket.

No matter how you look at it, the reusable Falcon Heavy is a big deal. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores, adding up to a total of 27 Merlin engines that will generate 5 million lbs. of thrust at liftoff.

The mega-lifter was designed from the outset to propel humans into space, and it could eventually fly missions with crew to the moon and Mars. But the first flight may not go so well, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. [SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket in Images]

"There's a lot that could go wrong there. I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission; it's guaranteed to be exciting," Musk said in July at the 2017 International Space Station Research and Development conferenc…