** Down to Earth – Episode 6 – Ever Changing Picture
As we enter the year the space station 20th anniversary, NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson shares what stood out to her most about seeing Earth from orbit in this episode of “Down to Earth – Ever Changing Picture.” The shift in worldview is inspired by space philosopher Frank White.
** Christina Koch’s Memorable Moments: Part 2
The longest single spaceflight ever by a female astronaut or cosmonaut is now 306 days long, with more to come. On top of adding to her total spaceflight time, NASA astronaut Christina Koch looks back over her long mission and recalls some favorite moments, including her favorite meal and most memorable view from orbit.
** Train Like An Astronaut: Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie
On December 11th, 2019, Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie from the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spent the day at NASA’s Johnson Space Center training like astronauts and learning about NASA’s plans to explore the Moon with the new Artemis program, which includes landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024. Follow Tran and Ackie – used to traveling through galaxies far, far away – through their training with NASA astronauts Meghan McArthur and Jessica Watkins on a gravity offload system, in the Orion crew capsule, an exploration rover, and much more! Music from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker featured tracks include: Main FanFare, The Rise of Skywalker, and The Finale composed by John Williams.
** NASA Astronauts Spacewalk Outside the International Space Station on Jan. 15, 2020
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will step outside of the International Space Station into the vacuum of space together. The duo will replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries to continue upgrading station power systems on the Port-6 truss structure. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 6:50 a.m. EST and last about six-and-a-half hours.
The Space Tourism Conference (STC) is an annual event that will be produced with support from the Space Tourism Society (STS), the world’s leading space tourism advocacy organization for over 20 years.
The April 28 conference date was deliberately chosen as the anniversary of Dennis Tito’s lift-off into the history books in 2001 as the world’s first private space tourist. Tito’s flight jump-started the space tourism industry, generating massive consumer awareness as to the possibilities of private space travel and commercialization of space through earth-based experiences.
A hallmark of the STC is a dynamic mix of executives and cross-section of industries:
space tourism flight providers ✦ private space station developers ✦ space enterprise strategists ✦ space investors ✦ entertainment executives ✦ astronauts ✦ media producers ✦ architects ✦ digital media experts ✦ futurists ✦ scientists ✦ space-themed fashion ✦ lifestyle designers ✦ consumer brands ✦ esports ✦ artists ✦ musicians ✦ high tech leaders
Attendees can expect concrete, actionable information, real-world use cases, and stellar deal-making.
PLUS you’ll have an insider track to the growth areas in space tourism, including earth-based space experiences, such as Zero Gravity aircraft flights.
Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced today that it has reached the “Weight on Wheels” milestone in the build of its second commercial spaceship. In this milestone, all major structural elements of the vehicle were assembled, and the vehicle deployed its main landing gear and carried its own weight for the first time. The milestone signals strong progress in the manufacture of Virgin Galactic’s space vehicle fleet by The Spaceship Company, VGH’s wholly-owned aerospace development subsidiary.
This Weight on Wheels milestone has been reached considerably faster than it took to get to this stage with the first spaceship in the Virgin Galactic fleet, VSS Unity, which is currently in flight test. This pace has been achieved through a more efficient, modular assembly process, as well as experience curve benefits.
With the spaceship now capable of bearing its own weight, the assembly team is hard at work connecting the vehicle’s integrated systems, including the flight control systems from fuselage to tail booms, as well as completing the final structural closeouts.
As this work is completed, the spaceship will be positioned in the hangar for the start of integrated vehicle ground testing, which will verify the integrity of all systems. This step is a precursor to the start of its flight test program.
Beyond today’s Weight on Wheels milestone for the second space vehicle, the Virgin Galactic spaceship fleet is already advancing to its third spaceship, also currently under construction in Mojave. Structural and system part fabrication for that third vehicle is now over 50% complete.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “Reaching the Weight on Wheels milestone considerably faster than was achieved for VSS Unity is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to the growing expertise and capabilities of the company. We now have two spaceships that are structurally complete, with our third making good progress. These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space.’’
Virgin Galactic has kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program – the process of preparing Future Astronaut customers for their flights to space. As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, we are now finalizing all elements of the customer experience, including the recently unveiled customer spacesuits, created in partnership with Under Armour, and the interior of our Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The next phase in this process is to ensure that Future Astronauts are optimally prepared to fly to space.
The Astronaut Readiness Program launched [last November] at the Under Armour Global HQ in Baltimore where we were joined by Future Astronauts who will be among the first to fly with Virgin Galactic. Guided and instructed by some of our key team members, they carried out a number of flight preparation activities. Through completing this unique program they are helping us to tailor and perfect the program for those who follow.
** On December 11th, Blue Origin flew an uncrewed New Shepard again (see the report on the flight here). This was the 6th flight of that vehicle, which had only inspections after each flight rather than major refurbishment. Achieving fast, airliner-like turnarounds is key to lowering the cost of flying rocket powered vehicles.
However, there have been long breaks between New Shepard flights and no explanation for the gaps. Company officials say that they need a few more test flights before they will put people on the vehicles so that might mean many months if they do not speed up the flight rate.
** The sights of earth from space will draw many people to go there, especially after rocket transport ticket prices drop with vehicles like the SpaceX Starship. Most who have gone to space have said it was one of the greatest experiences of their lives and they never tired of watching the ever-changing earthscapes below.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s record for the longest single spaceflight ever by a female astronaut or cosmonaut has reached a new milestone: today, it’s been 300 days (and still counting) since her launch on March 14, 2019! She’s racked up quite a few favorite moments so far—check out two of her most memorable.
** Down to Earth – Out of the Bubble
As we continue to celebrate the space station 20th anniversary, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg shares what it was like to see the Earth from above during her two spaceflights in this episode of “Down to Earth – Out of the Bubble.” As she describes it, she experienced a shift in her worldview known as “the Overview Effect,” a term coined by space philosopher Frank White.
It has been a busy year of science aboard the International Space Station. In November, we kicked off the 20th year of continuous human presence aboard the space station, which so far has hosted 239 people and more than 2,700 science experiments. During the past year, research has ranged from growing leafy greens in microgravity to analyzing mining microbes to testing out autonomous robots. This research is benefiting people on Earth while helping prepare us to go forward to the Moon in 2024, and then on to Mars. Learn more: https://go.nasa.gov/36pXycY Learn more about the research being conducted on Station: https://www.nasa.gov/iss-science
** Down to Earth Swimming in the Universe – “I’d give a lot to see that view again” – Mike Fossum. I don’t understand why people doubt the economic value of space tourism. Many people will pay a lot to go to space to see the sights Fossum and other astronauts have been lucky see.
In anticipation of the space station 20th anniversary, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum shares how he experienced the universe differently during his time in low-Earth orbit in this episode of “Down to Earth – Swimming in the Universe.” This shift is known as “the Overview Effect,” a term coined by space philosopher Frank White.
** Christina Koch Record Breaking Spaceflight Interviews – December 27, 2019
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 61 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA discussed her record-setting mission and life on the orbital outpost during a series of media interviews Dec. 27. Koch, who launched to the station back in March, will pass former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson’s mark of 288 days in space for the longest single spaceflight by a woman on Dec. 28. Koch is scheduled to return to Earth Feb. 6 on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with a total of 328 days in space, second only to former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s record of 340 days in space as the longest single flight by an American astronaut.
** #AskNASA┃ How Will Astronauts Live at the Moon?
NASA is working with its partners to design and develop a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon called the Gateway. This spaceship will be a temporary home and office for astronauts, just about a five-day, 250,000-mile commute from Earth. NASA’s Gateway Program Logistics Element Manager Mark Weiss answers questions about the Gateway’s development’s for the Artemis Missions. The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
A new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters will help [select landing spots on Mars] by providing a map of water ice believed to be as little as an inch (2.5 centimeters) below the surface.
Water ice will be a key consideration for any potential landing site. With little room to spare aboard a spacecraft, any human missions to Mars will have to harvest what’s already available for drinking water and making rocket fuel.
NASA calls this concept “in situ resource utilization,” and it’s an important factor in selecting human landing sites on Mars. Satellites orbiting Mars are essential in helping scientists determine the best places for building the first Martian research station. The authors of the new paper make use of data from two of those spacecraft, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey orbiter, to locate water ice that could potentially be within reach of astronauts on the Red Planet.
“You wouldn’t need a backhoe to dig up this ice. You could use a shovel,” said the paper’s lead author, Sylvain Piqueux of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re continuing to collect data on buried ice on Mars, zeroing in on the best places for astronauts to land.”
Before we get too far into this, it is important to clearly differentiate between “space settlement” and “a space settlement.” Space settlement is the general process of developing and settling space. A space settlement is a specific place in space where people live, work, and raise families.
Let’s start with a relevant dictionary definition of settlement—“the settling of persons in a new place.” This definition is almost immediately self-referential, as it refers to “settling of persons.” When we look at “settle” the verb, we see definitions that include “to migrate to and organize (an area, territory, etc); colonize,” “to cause to take up residence,” and “to furnish (a place) with inhabitants or settlers.”
All these definitions revolve around people living in a new place—“colonizing,” “taking up residence,” etc. This is very important—“taking up residence” implies permanence, family life, a job, and so on. A soldier being assigned to a base for a year is not “colonizing” or “taking up residence”—instead they are “being deployed.” A scientist might be “assigned” to work at a base in Antarctica for a period of time, but they are not “colonizing” Antarctica.
Thus, I propose that a “space settlement” is a group of people (men, women, children) who move to some specific location in space (Moon, Mars, an asteroid, orbital free space, etc.) to take up permanent residence there. This implies that they will raise their children in this “space settlement,” work in or near the “space settlement,” and in all probability die and have their remains disposed of there as well.
Skan concludes with
To summarize, the space settlements we are working to establish have the following characteristics:
Families live in them on a permanent basis
The settlements engage in commercial activity that generates the wealth needed to sustain them, and are not dependant on infusions of government funds.
They are large enough and diverse enough to be, at least potentially, both economically and biologically self-sustaining.
They may have a variety of organizational forms, including kibbutz style common ownership of the settlement, systems based on private property, company towns, or religious communities.
To say that OffWorld’s dream is an ambitious one is to put it mildly. The company envisions a future in which millions of smart robots work together using swarm intelligence “on and offworld” to build the infrastructure of tomorrow. Long term, they even imagine the possibility of using the robots to mine for materials which could be used to build new chips “with zero reliance on terrestrial supply.”
In October, the Air Force Research Lab announced a $100 million program to develop hardware for a solar power satellite. It’s an important first step toward the first demonstration of space solar power in orbit, and [long time SBSP proponent John Mankins] says it could help solve what he sees as space solar power’s biggest problem: public perception. The technology has always seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea, and the cost of setting up a solar array on Earth is plummeting. But space solar power has unique benefits, chief among them the availability of solar energy around the clock regardless of the weather or time of day.
The NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) and collaborating organizations SETI Institute, Mars Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, Collins Aerospace, and Ntention are announcing the successful field test of an “astronaut smart glove” for future human exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The smart glove is a prototype for a human-machine interface (HuMI) that would allow astronauts to wirelessly operate a wide array of robotic assets, including drones, via simple single-hand gestures.
Here is a video about the project:
Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) video showing the first field test of a prototype “Astronaut Smart Glove”, a human-machine interface (HuMI) and augmented reality (AR) spacesuit system for future Moon and Mars exploration. Filmed at Haughton Crater, Devon Island, High Arctic. Collaborating organizations: Mars Institute, SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, Collins Aerospace, and Ntention.