Category Archives: Living in Space

Space tourism roundup – Jan.12.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to commercial human space travel (see also previous space tourism related posts):

** Plan to attend the Space Tourism Conference – “Profiting from the Space Experience Economy”. The STC will be held on April 28, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Las Angeles, California.

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.

Dennis Tito enters the ISS on April 30, 2001.

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. 

** The Space Show – Mon, 12/30/2019John Spencer of the Space Tourism Society, which is organizing the above conference, talked about “space tourism, The Space Tourism Society, earth tourism analogs, social profits compared to financial profits, space tourism careers and opportunities plus more”:

** See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight: the Sweeping History and Future of Space TourismAlan Ladwig, formerly of NASA, spoke recently to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group about the history of space tourism and its future prospects. He focused in particular on his experiences with the Teacher in Space Project and other NASA programs that intended to send civilian, non-government employees to orbit on Space Shuttle flights.

Here is the audio of his presentation to the FISO group and his slides (pptx):

Alan covers these topics in detail in his new book, See You In Orbit?: Our Dream Of Spaceflight(Amazon commission link).

** Yusaku Maesawa is looking for a girlfriend to take on a  trip around the Moon aboard a SpaceX Starship:  Yusaku Maezawa’s real decision. Looking for his “life partner”.

** Virgin Galactic update from CEO George Whitesides: Virgin Galactic ticket sales will re-open this year, CEO says – CNBC

    • Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides on Thursday revealed the company has seen steadily increasing demand from prospective space tourists.
    • “Later on in the year we’ll re-open those sales,” to fly to space, Whitesides told CNBC.
    • In the past tickets have gone for $250,000 per person but the company may increase its prices substantially for the first commercial flights.

** Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo nears completion: Second Spaceship in Virgin Galactic’s Fleet Completes Major Build Milestone – Virgin Galactic

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.

“The Virgin Galactic fleet.” The second SS2 on right is about 80% complete. Credits: Virgin Galactic

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 (SPCE) is now a publicly traded company (see last roundup) . Here are some articles about how the stock is doing:

** Virgin Galactic opens a program to prepare customers for rides to space: Virgin Galactic Kicks off Astronaut Readiness Program – Virgin Galactic

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.

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay talks with future adventure travelers on SpaceShipTwo rocket planes. Credits: Virgin Galactic

** 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.

Here is an interview from last fall with with Blue Origin chief executive Bob Smith about the company and its space tourism plans:  Blue Origin CEO on rocketry, space tourism and the relationship with Amazon – CNBC

** 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.

Helen Sharman certainly appreciated the view during her space trip: Helen Sharman: ‘There’s no greater beauty than seeing the Earth from up high’ – The Guardian

A couple of relaxing tours of earth as seen from the ISS:

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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Jan.10.2020

Here is the latest episode in NASA’s Space to Ground weekly report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** Christina Koch’s Memorable Moments: Part 1

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.

** 2019 Space Station Research in Pictures | NASA

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

Fabricating new tissue: “NASA astronaut Christina Koch activates the BioFabrication Facility (BFF) to test its ability to print organ-like tissues in space. Scientists and medical professionals have long dreamed of using 3D biological printers to produce usable human organs. But printing the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs has proven difficult in Earth’s gravity. The BFF allows researchers to explore whether the microgravity environment of space may support the fabrication of human organs in space.” Credits: NASA

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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Dec.27.2019

Here is the latest episode in NASA’s Space to Ground weekly report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** 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.

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Space settlement roundup – Dec.17.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** Map shows Mars settlers where to find water: NASA’s Treasure Map for Water Ice on Mars | NASA

“This rainbow-colored map shows underground water ice on Mars. Cool colors are closer to the surface than warm colors; black zones indicate areas where a spacecraft would sink into fine dust; the outlined box represents the ideal region to send astronauts for them to dig up water ice.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU”

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.”

See also:

** Recent interviews on The Space Show dealing with space settlement:

**** Fri, 12/13/2019 – Morgan Irons discussed “space farming and agriculture, closed and quasi-closed loop life support, food security and lots more”.

**** Thu, 12/05/2019Al Globus discussed”new information and an implementation program for his ELEO space habitat” concepts.

**** Tue, 12/03/2019Bryce Meyer discussed “space farms, growing food in space, lunar agriculture, food on Mars, recycling human waste, space farm energy needs and TRL’s”.

** A discussion of the definition of space settlement by Dale A. Skran: SPACE BASICS: What is Space Settlement? – National Space Society

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.

**  OffWorld is developing universal industrial robots for “heavy lifting” on Earth, Moon, asteroids and Mars: Meet OffWorld, the startup that wants to mine the moon with a swarm of robots | Digital Trends

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.”

Check out OffWorld’s Master Plan (pdf).

** Baking cookies and other tasty foods in space: Time Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, reports on the new baking system on the ISS: How NASA will bake in space for the first time and why that’s a BIG deal! – Everyday Astronaut

More at DoubleTree Cookies in Space – The First Food Ever Baked in Space

** A video of “Olympus”, Bigelow’s largest expandable habitat design:

Featuring a simple cut-away view of the B2100 “Olympus” to show the interior, this video is a compilation of previously uploaded Bigelow habitat clips as well as some new ones. Enjoy!

B330 and B2100 models by fragomatik.
ISS model by NASA, adapted for use within IMAGINE v2.19 by fragomatik.

** Space based solar power has been failed to reach orbit despite decades of proposals and advocacy. Perhaps big drops in launch costs and cheaper SBSP system designs will finally make it practical, especially for powering remote sites:  How to Get Solar Power on a Rainy Day? Beam It From Space | WIRED

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.

It can also provide renewable energy to remote locations, such as forward operating bases for the military. And at a time when wildfires have forced the utility PG&E to kill power for thousands of California residents on multiple occasions, having a way to provide renewable energy through the clouds and smoke doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. (Ironically enough, PG&E entered a first-of-its-kind agreement to buy space solar power from a company called Solaren back in 2009; the system was supposed to start operating in 2016 but never came to fruition.)

“Illustration of One Version of the SPS-ALPHA Concept”. Credits: SPS-ALPHA NIAC study

See also

** Ntention‘s Astronaut Smart Glove tested at the Haughton Mars Project facility on remote Devon Island in northern Canada.

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.

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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Dec.14.2019

Here is the latest episode in NASA’s Space to Ground weekly report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** Expedition 61 Inflight University of New Mexico – December 10, 2019

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 61 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA discussed life and research on board the orbital outpost during an in-flight educational event Dec. 10 with students at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Koch is nearing the home stretch of a long-duration mission on the station which is expected to span 328 days by the time she returns to Earth in early February – more days in space than any other woman in history

** Expedition 61 Inflight event with Second Baptist School – December 13, 2019

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 61 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA discussed life and research aboard the outpost during an in-flight educational event Dec. 13 with the Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas. The event featured Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who attended the private school and graduated as valedictorian in 1988. Koch is nearing the home stretch of a long-duration mission on the station which is expected to span 328 days by the time she returns to Earth in early February – more days in space than any other woman in history.

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