Another selection of space policy/politics related links:
- Commercial space policy
- DC events:
- GAO report on NAS large scale projects:
Another selection of space policy/politics related links:
Our Moon helps to reduce the earth’s wobbling, i.e. the variation in the tilt of the earth’s rotational axis relative to the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun. This stabilizing effect, particularly with respect to climate, has been often presented as a necessary condition for the emergence and evolution of life on earth. However, a new paper is out that argues that an earth-like exoplanet without a big moon would benefit from the resultant wobbling because it would mean more even heating of that world and therefore less chance of freezing over. This is particularly important at greater distances from an exoplanet’s star and so the effect will expand outward the size habitable zones.
Here is a press release about the paper:
Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life
A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps.
That’s because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them — turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets — are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.
This happens only at the outer edge of a star’s habitable zone, the swath of space around it where rocky worlds could maintain liquid water at their surface, a necessary condition for life. Further out, a “snowball state” of global ice becomes inevitable, and life impossible.
The findings, which are published online and will appear in the April issue of Astrobiology, have the effect of expanding that perceived habitable zone by 10 to 20 percent.
And that in turn dramatically increases the number of worlds considered potentially right for life.
Such a tilt-a-world becomes potentially habitable because its spin would cause poles to occasionally point toward the host star, causing ice caps to quickly melt.
A plot showing star temperatures vs distance from the star
for the habitable zone. Credit: PHL@UPR Arecibo
“Without this sort of ‘home base’ for ice, global glaciation is more difficult,” said UW astronomer Rory Barnes. “So the rapid tilting of an exoplanet actually increases the likelihood that there might be liquid water on a planet’s surface.”
Barnes is second author on the paper. First author is John Armstrong of Weber State, who earned his doctorate at the UW.
Earth and its neighbor planets occupy roughly the same plane in space. But there is evidence, Barnes said, of systems whose planets ride along at angles to each other. As such, “they can tug on each other from above or below, changing their poles’ direction compared to the host star.”
The team used computer simulations to reproduce such off-kilter planetary alignments, wondering, he said, “what an Earthlike planet might do if it had similar neighbors.”
Their findings also argue against the long-held view among astronomers and astrobiologists that a planet needs the stabilizing influence of a large moon — as Earth has — to have a chance at hosting life.
“We’re finding that planets don’t have to have a stable tilt to be habitable,” Barnes said. Minus the moon, he said, Earth’s tilt, now at a fairly stable 23.5 degrees, might increase by 10 degrees or so. Climates might fluctuate, but life would still be possible.
“This study suggests the presence of a large moon might inhibit life, at least at the edge of the habitable zone.”
The work was done through the UW’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, an interdisciplinary research group that studies how to determine if exoplanets — those outside the solar system — might have the potential for life.
“The research involved orbital dynamics, planetary dynamics and climate studies. It’s bigger than any of those disciplines on their own,” Barnes said.
Armstrong said that expanding the habitable zone might almost double the number of potentially habitable planets in the galaxy.
Applying the research and its expanded habitable zone to our own celestial neighborhood for context, he said, “It would give the ability to put Earth, say, past the orbit of Mars and still be habitable at least some of the time — and that’s a lot of real estate.”
Barnes’ UW co-authors are Victoria Meadows, Thomas Quinn and Jonathan Breiner. Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is also a co-author. The research was funded by a grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Here’s a recent NASA article about an extreme case of a wobbly world: Kepler captures a weird, wildly wobbling world – NASA PlanetQuest -
The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top. The tilt of the planet’s spin axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. In contrast, Earth’s rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale.
Saturn’s rings may be birthing a new moon:
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.
The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn’s A ring in this image from
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth
process of icy moons. Full image and caption
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart. But the process of its formation and outward movement aids in our understanding of how Saturn’s icy moons, including the cloud-wrapped Titan and ocean-holding Enceladus, may have formed in more massive rings long ago. It also provides insight into how Earth and other planets in our solar system may have formed and migrated away from our star, the sun.
“We have not seen anything like this before,” said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London, and the report’s lead author. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.”
The object, informally named Peggy, is too small to see in images so far. Scientists estimate it is probably no more than about a half mile in diameter. Saturn’s icy moons range in size depending on their proximity to the planet — the farther from the planet, the larger. And many of Saturn’s moons are comprised primarily of ice, as are the particles that form Saturn’s rings. Based on these facts, and other indicators, researchers recently proposed that the icy moons formed from ring particles and then moved outward, away from the planet, merging with other moons on the way.
“Witnessing the possible birth of a tiny moon is an exciting, unexpected event,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. According to Spilker, Cassini’s orbit will move closer to the outer edge of the A ring in late 2016 and provide an opportunity to study Peggy in more detail and perhaps even image it.
It is possible the process of moon formation in Saturn’s rings has ended with Peggy, as Saturn’s rings now are, in all likelihood, too depleted to make more moons. Because they may not observe this process again, Murray and his colleagues are wringing from the observations all they can learn.
“The theory holds that Saturn long ago had a much more massive ring system capable of giving birth to larger moons,” Murray said. “As the moons formed near the edge, they depleted the rings and evolved, so the ones that formed earliest are the largest and the farthest out.”
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
To view an image of the Saturn ring disturbance attributed to the new moon, visit: www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA18078
For more information about Cassini, visit: www.nasa.gov/cassini
A NASA image taken in San Jose, California
Image Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Brian Day
And lots of imagery is collected in this video:
3D printing, also known as “additive printing”, will benefit space activities in manifold ways as described in this ESA article : Ten ways 3D printing could change space – ESA.
For example, it can make structures that can’t be made with conventional machining techniques:
A lightweight titanium lattice ball manufactured using the Additive Manufacturing
or 3D printing process. This design is a good example of AM capabilities: these
hollow balls possessing a complex external geometry could not have been
manufactured in a single part using a conventional manufacturing process.
But they are incredibly light while also stiff, opening up possibilities for future
At the other end of the scale, entire large structures on the Moon and elsewhere could be built with the 3D printing technique:
Multi-dome lunar base being constructed, based on the 3D printing concept.
Once assembled, the inflated domes are covered with a layer of 3D-printed
lunar regolith by robots to help protect the occupants against space
radiation and micrometeoroids
Update: The ESA article mentions making models with 3D printing. Here is a video showing an animation using 50 models made with 3D printing:
Tonight there will be an eclipse visible in North America (at least where the clouds part). It will
start a few minutes before 1 a.m. EDT and slowly continue over the next two hours until it peaks (reaches totality) about 3 a.m. Tuesday. On the West Coast, it starts about 10 p.m. Monday night and reaches totality just after midnight.
A bonus: This eclipse will be a “blood moon,” in which our nearest celestial neighbor will look the color of a desert sunset. The reason? Because “even when the Earth moves directly between the moon and the sun, filtered sunlight still shines through Earth’s atmosphere, making the moon appear red.”
If you miss this one, there will be three more in the coming year and half.
Skunk Bear‘s Adam Cole welcomes the eclipse with a song:
More about the eclipse and four other sky highlights this month: 5 Sky Events This Week: Full Lunar Eclipse and Lord of the Rings – National Geographic
A selection of space policy/politics related links:
* Open Lines, Sunday, 4-13-14 | Thespaceshow’s Blog - Discussion among the Space Show audience and David Livingston on a range of topics.
1. Monday, April 14, 2014, 2-3:30 PM PDT(5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome BRETT STROOZAS, the Director of Flight Operations for Elysium Space Burial Company. See elysiumspace.com.
2. Tuesday, April 15, 2014:, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back JOHN POWELL of JP Aerospace. See www.jpaerospace.com.
3. SPECIAL TIME: Friday, April 18, 2014, 11:30 AM-1 PM PDT (2:30-4 PM EDT; 1:30 PM-3 PM CDT): We welcome authors DAVID MEERMAN AND RICHARD JUREK regarding their new book, Marketing The Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program .
4. Sunday, April 20, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). No Show Due to Easter. Happy Easter to all.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
NASA held its latest NASA Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday and Saturday:
NASA today declared the winners of the first NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, held April 11-12 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Student racers from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology in Reno, Nev., claimed first place in the high school division; the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2 won the top prize in the college division.
They raced to victory against 70 high school, college and university teams from 19 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, India, Mexico and Russia. All told, more than 500 students — drivers, engineers and mechanics, plus team advisers and “cheering sections” — took part in the competition.
The winning teams posted the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, with the fewest on-course penalties. The team from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology finished the half-mile course in 3 minutes, 37 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2 finished in 4 minutes, 9 seconds. In addition to the winning trophy, first-place teams received a cash prize of $3,000, courtesy of The Boeing Co. of Huntsville.
Finishing in second place in the high school division was Team 2 from the Vocational High School Teodoro Aguilar Mora in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. In third place was the International Space Education Institute team from Moscow, Russia. Southern Illinois University Carbondale Team 2 won second place in the college division and Team 1 from the school finished in third place. (For a complete list of additional awards for design, most improved and spirit, see below.)
Organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and building on two decades of competitive student innovation in the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race (held in the “Rocket City” from 1994-2013), the new event challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered roving vehicles, solving technical problems along the way just like NASA engineers must do.
Those NASA engineers are paying attention: Students’ most innovative vehicle and hardware designs could help inform NASA’s own development of rovers and other space transportation systems for future exploration missions across the solar system.
Just as importantly, the experience is designed to provide the future workforce to realize those new missions, inspiring students to pursue careers in the technical “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — so crucial to the agency’s endeavors.
The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is sponsored by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and organized by the Marshall Center’s Academic Affairs Office. Major corporate sponsors for the race are The Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Aerojet Rocketdyne, Jacobs Engineering ESSSA Group, and Northrop Grumman Corp., all with operations in Huntsville.
Full replays of the race will be available in coming days on the Marshall Center’s official UStream site, where Marshall Center media personnel and television crews provided continuous, streaming coverage of the event: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc
For more information about the race, visit: www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge
For information about other NASA education programs, visit: http://education.nasa.gov
Continue to list of award winners.
ANS 103 Weekly AMSAT Bulletin – April 12, 2014:
* March/April 2014 AMSAT Journal is Ready
* NASA, SpaceX Officials Continue Preparations for 14 April Launch
* KickSat CubeSat to Deploy Smallest Earth-Orbiting Satellites
* AMSAT at the Dayton Hamvention – 2nd call for volunteers
* N8PK appears with students in YouTube video
* ISS HamTV moves to 2369 MHz
* FUNcube/AO-73 Transponder plans for the future
* Upcoming AMSAT Events
* ARISS News
* Satellite Shorts From All Over
More AMSAT/student sat news:
More space policy/politics related links:
* Dr. Clay Moltz, Friday, 4-11-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog - Dr. Moltz talked about his new book, Crowded Orbits: Conflict and Cooperation in Space,
Dr. Moltz told us why he wrote the book which was to address orbital crowding, possible conflict in space and to bring these issues and others to the attention of the general public as space impacts everyone everyday. A major topic for our discussion was space debris. Using this field as an example, Dr. Moltz made a very strong case for rules of the road, space traffic control issues, and responsible behavior by both governments and the private sector. We talked about entrepreneurs and private groups resisting a more regulated environment and he made the case for the need for cooperation to avoid conflicts.
The Canadian General Fusion project, whose investors include Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame, is aiming to start building a working prototype of their innovative fusion power system this year:
On their website it says,
In the next phase of development, General Fusion will be constructing a full scale prototype system. The prototype will be designed for single pulse testing, demonstrating full net energy gain on each pulse, a world first.
Here’s a video showing a schematic of their design:
The Planetary Society opens a new contest to provide a cool name for the orbital gymnastics the Cassini spacecraft will do in the final phase of its mission at Saturn : Help name the last phase of the Cassini mission! – The Planetary Society
The name “proximal orbits” is a Vulcan-sounding phrase, all logic and science. But getting this science is going to take navigational bravery of which Captain Kirk would be proud. To help the public understand just how cool this part of the mission is going to be, the Cassini team is asking the public to learn about Cassini’s final phase and then weigh in on a name for the final phase that has more punch to it. You can either cast a vote for one of the team’s suggestions, or write in your own.
Meanwhile, the Mars Society selects a winner of its poster contest:
The Mars Society is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2014 Mars Society Poster Contest is Scott Porter, a Ph.D. student studying architecture at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Each participant (12 in total) in this year’s competition was required to submit a poster design that best represented the theme – ‘Blazing the Path to Mars’ – for the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention, to be held August 7-10 in League City, Texas (just outside Houston).
In addition, the Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to the second and third place winners – Jamie Polancic and Miguel Cooper (respectively). The organization would also like to recognize two additional artists for honorable mention – Katarina Eriksson Marka and Joseph Sweeney.
To view the winning poster as a PDF document, please click here.
The Black Knight TRANSFORMER is a “transformer” style vehicle from Advanced Tactics, Inc. that combines a roadable truck with a multi-copter suite of rotors to achieve vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and horizontal flight. This week it left the ground and achieved a stable hover: The Advanced Tactics Black Knight Transformer Successfully Completes First Flights – Advanced Tactics, Inc.
The vehicle is concept
was spurred by several things: the growing popularity and acceptance of “multicopter” aircraft, the military’s need for a low-cost platform for casualty evacuation and cargo resupply missions, and our passion for developing game-changing military and civilian vehicle technology. The aircraft is designed specifically for autonomous casualty evacuation and unmanned cargo resupply missions. Its unmanned capabilities keep pilots out of harm’s way during dangerous missions while a pilot-optional capability allows it to be flown like a conventional helicopter. Advanced Tactics began work on the AT Black Knight Transformer in 2010 with funding from the United States Congress. In 2012, Advanced Tactics began work on the AT Panther Transformer, a similar vehicle designed specifically for Special Operations missions. It is a low-cost vehicle that carries two passengers and their gear, is transportable in a CV-22 Osprey cargo hold, and is operable with minimal training. Advanced Tactics is also currently developing a modular, cargo carrying aircraft capable of delivering up to 3,500 lb payloads in a detachable cargo pod. The AT Transformer technology is scalable and reconfigurable.
The Black Knight Transformer is larger than a Ford F350 crew cab truck,
shown for scale. The engines are stowed against the side of the vehicle
in driving configuration.[High Resolution]
It can be transformed into multiple configurations:
The AT Transformer design is highly modular for rapid repair and reconfiguration. For instance, each of the propulsion subsystems can be replaced in the field by two people and the mission package can be rapidly reconfigured from casualty evacuation to cargo resupply. Additionally, the modular automobile portion of the vehicle can be removed for additional payload capacity or replaced with a boat hull or an amphibious hull for water operations.
The latest issue of MAKE magazine has an article about JP Aerospace and their PongSats program: Flight of the Space-Grazing Ping Pong Balls – MAKE
Don’t forget the JPA crowdfunding campaign to fund the flight of 2000 PongSats for school kids this fall: 2000 Student Projects to the Edge of Space by John Powell — Kickstarter.
The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission has gotten the green flag to begin building the hardware in preparation for launch in the fall of 2016. It will reach the asteroid Bennu in 2016 and return a sample from its surface in 2023.
Here is a press release from NASA about OSIRS-REx project:
NASA’s team that will conduct the first U.S. mission to collect samples from an asteroid has been given the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system, and launch support facilities.
This determination was made Wednesday after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The CDR was held at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colo., April 1-9. An independent review board, comprised of experts from NASA and several external organizations, met to review the system design.
“This is the final step for a NASA mission to go from paper to product,” said Gordon Johnston, OSIRIS-REx program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. “This confirms that the final design is ready to start the build-up towards launch.”
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016, rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. After more than a year of asteroid reconnaissance, the spacecraft will collect samples of at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and return them to Earth for scientists to study.
“Successfully passing mission CDR is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us — building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Key mission objectives focus on finding answers to basic questions about the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made life possible on Earth. The mission will also aid NASA’s asteroid initiative and support the agency’s efforts to understand the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects and characterize those suitable for future asteroid exploration missions. The initiative brings together the best of NASA’s science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President Obama’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.
“The OSIRIS-REx team has consistently demonstrated its ability to present a comprehensive mission design that meets all requirements within the resources provided by NASA,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator from the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Mission CDR was no exception. This is a great team. I know we will build a flight and ground system that is up to the challenges of this ambitious mission.”
In January, NASA invited people around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard the spacecraft. After submitting their name, participants are able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission. The campaign is open until September 30, 2014.
Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in the agency’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The University of Arizona leads OSIRIS-REx and provides the camera system and science processing and operations center.
To participate in “Messages to Bennu,” go to: http://planetary.org/bennu
Here’s a NASA video giving a lighthearted overview of the OSIRIS-REx sample mission:
The latest presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group is now posted in the FISO Working Group Presentations Archive. Both slides (pptx) and audio (mp3) are available for the talk, Evaluating International Collaboration for Human Exploration Beyond LEO by Emanuele Capparelli, Skolkovo Inst. & Natasha Bosanac , Purdue Univ. – April 9, 2014
But the rover did not arrive at the crater, or even reach the lander. It stopped as it was getting close to the lander, apparently because the electronics associated with moving its wheels and solar panels, so probably an important central control unit, failed at that point. I don’t know when it stopped, but the map shown at LPSC is instructive. It shows the daily stops between drives (the rover was only operated when in direct contact with China, for at most half a day at a time), and counting them suggests the fault occurred in the middle part of the day, possibly due to excessive heating which might have been exacerbated by dust buildup on the rover body. But this is conjecture, as I don’t know that each stop occupied only one day.
At any rate, it soon became apparent that the rover could neither move nor fold itself up to protect against the cold of the night. Enormous efforts were made to overcome this, to no avail. As night approached the problem was made public, most memorably by the rover’s Twitter alter-ego itself. Meanwhile the lander continued operating, and I’ll come back to that later. Sunset, and possibly the end of Yutu’s short life, came on 25 January. After a seemingly interminable wait the sun rose again, and a few days later on 12 February both lander and rover woke up. Yutu was more robust than expected. All its instruments, even the fragile cameras, were fine, but it couldn’t move. I don’t know if the lack of movement extends to the robotic arm with the APXS. The instruments may work, but future science would be very limited if the NIR spectrometer and the ground-penetrating radar are limited to always making the same observation.
NASA’s latest Space to Ground report on ISS activities of the past week: