The Space Show this week – Dec.31.2018

The guests and topics of discussion on The Space Show this week:

1. Monday, Dec. 31, 2018:; 2-3:30 pm PST (4-5:30 pm CST, 5-6:30 pm EST): No show today due to New Years Eve. Happy New Years Everyone.

2. Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019: 7-8:30 pm PST (9-10:30 pm CST; 10-11:30 pm EST): No show today due to New Years. Happy New Year everyone.

3. Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, Jan. 4, 2019: 9:30-11 am PST; 11:30 AM-1 pm CST; 12:30-2 pm EST. We welcome FRANK BUNGER, CEO of Orion Span (, which is developing Aurora Station, “the world’s first luxury space hotel in orbit”.

5. Sunday, Jan. 6 2019: 12-1:30 pm PST, (3-4:30 pm EST, 2-3:30 pm CST): This will be our first Open Lines show for 2019. We will announce some Space Show changes, talk about current news happening, listen to what is on your mind and more. First time callers welcome.

See also:
* The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
* The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
* The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

The Space Show - David Livingston
The Space Show – David Livingston

Some recent programs:

** The Space Show – Friday, 12/28/2018Dr. Alan Stern talked about the New Horizon probe’s flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule.

** The Space Show – Sun, 12/30/2018Thomas A. Olson and David Livingston reviewed the past year in space.

** Sun, 12/23/2018 – David led an open lines discussion with Space Show listeners on a wide range of space related topics.

** Fri, 12/21/2018 – Space lawyer Laura Montgomery gave “a space policy, law and regulatory review for 2018”.

** Wed, 12/19/2018Anatoly Zak of talked about the recent “Cosmonaut risky spacewalk, ISS leak, Angara pad construction issues, Vostochny construction company corruption”.


Space policy roundup – Dec.31.2018

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** Watch: Why is ISRO keen to take humans to space – The Economic Times Video | ET Now

** The Space Show – Friday, 12/28/2018Dr. Alan Stern talked about the New Horizon probe’s flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule.

** The Space Show – Sun, 12/30/2018Thomas A. Olson and David Livingston reviewed the past year in space.


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Rocket launches: Chinese Long March-2D + Soyuz-2.1a

A couple of launches by China and Russia finish out a busy year of global rocket traffic:

** Chinese Long March-2D/YZ-3 (Chang Zheng-2D/YZ-3) rocket launch today with six atmospheric environment research satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center –

More at

** Russian Soyuz-2.1a launched two remote sensing satellites plus 26 educational and commercial small satellites:

From the caption:

A Soyuz-2.1a (Союз-2.1а) launch vehicle, with a Fregat (Фрегат) upper stage, launched the Kanopus-V №5 (Канопус-В № 5) and Kanopus-V №6 (Канопус-В № 6) remote sensing satellites from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Oblast, Russia, on 27 December 2018, at 02:07 UTC (11:07 local time). As secondary payloads, Soyuz-2.1a launched 26 small satellites: GRUS (Axelspace), Flock 3k (twelve Planet Labs Inc 3U Dove CubeSats), ZACube-2, Lume-1 cubesat, D-Star ONE (iSat), D-Star ONE (Sparrow), eight Lemur-class satellites (Spire Global Inc) and UWE-4 (Würzburg University).

More at:


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Videos: Greenhouse lettuce for Antarctica + Greenhouse citrus for Nebraska

The TMRO Science program recently had an interesting long-distance conversation with Paul Zaber, a scientist working with the EDEN-ISS project in Antarctica. The project involves operating a greenhouse in Antarctica to learn how foods can be grown more effectively in a closed-loop environment. This has applications for space habitation as well as for food production on Earth.

The goal of the EDEN ISS project is to advance controlled environment agriculture technologies beyond the state-of-the-art. It focuses on ground demonstration of plant cultivation technologies and their application in space. EDEN ISS develops safe food production for on-board the International Space Station (ISS) and for future human space exploration vehicles and planetary outposts.


Operating a greenhouse in Nebraska may seem to be a far less interesting challenge than doing so in Antarctica but growing tropical fruits and other warm climate plants in a region that often reaches -20°F (about -30°C) in winter is not a trivial accomplishment.

Retiree Russ Finch has developed a clever low-cost approach to keeping the inside of a northern latitude greenhouse temperate year round using underground warmth, i.e. geothermal heat. Rather than a complex and expensive system involving an anti-freeze fluid controlled with pumps and valves, he designed a simple low-cost system with fans blowing air through plastic tubes buried about 2 meters below the surface. The ground at that depth stays constant at about 50°F (10°C)  year round. He grows oranges, lemons, and many other tropical fruits and vegetables in his greenhouse.

From the caption to the video:

… retired mailman Russ Finch grows oranges in his backyard greenhouse without paying for heat. Instead, he draws on the earth’s stable temperature (around 52 degrees in his region) to grow warm weather produce- citrus, figs, pomegranates – in the snow.

Finch first discovered geothermal heating in 1979 when he and his wife built it into their 4400-square-foot dream home to cut energy costs. Eighteen years later they decided to add a 16’x80′ greenhouse in the backyard. The greenhouse resembles a pit greenhouse (walipini) in that the floor is dug down 4 feet below the surface and the roof is slanted to catch the southern sun.

To avoid using heaters for the cold Nebraska winter nights, Finch relies on the warm underground air fed into the greenhouse via plastic tubing under the yard and one fan.

For more about Finch’s greenhouse designs, see Citrus In The Snow- Geothermal Greenhouse

Over 40 installations have now been built following Finch’s designs as outlined in his Citrus In The Snow Report.


The High Frontier: An Easier Way

New Horizons to make New Years flyby of Ultima Thule

The New Horizons probe made its flyby of Pluto in July of 2015 and then sped on into the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of space inhabited by debris from the earliest era in the formation of the solar system. As a mission bonus, the trajectory of the spacecraft was subsequently nudged by its engine to send the craft past the recently discovered Kuiper object labeled 2014 MU69. With the help of a public contest, the object was given the more interesting name of Ultima Thule –

Thule was a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography. Ultima Thule means “beyond Thule”– beyond the borders of the known world—symbolizing the exploration of the distant Kuiper Belt and Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons is performing, something never before done.

On New Years Day 2019 at 12:33 am EST, New Horizons will make its closest approach to Ultima Thule, which is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) in size. In fact, it will fly three times closer than its nearest distance from the surface of Pluto. Ultima Thule will be the farthest object ever targeted by a spacecraft from earth.

The Kuiper Belt lies in the so-called “third zone” of our solar system, beyond the terrestrial planets (inner zone) and gas giants (middle zone). This vast region contains billions of objects, including comets, dwarf planets like Pluto and “planetesimals” like Ultima Thule. The objects in this region are believed to be frozen in time — relics left over from the formation of the solar system. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Here is an update: All About Ultima: New Horizons Flyby Target is Unlike Anything Explored in Space – New Horizons – Dec.26.2018

Marc Buie, New Horizons co-investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and members of the New Horizons science team discovered Ultima using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014. The object is so far and faint in all telescopes, little is known about the world beyond its location and orbit. In 2016, researchers determined it had a red color. In 2017, a NASA campaign using ground-based telescopes traced out its size — just about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across — and irregular shape when it passed in front of a star, an event called a “stellar occultation.”

From its brightness and size, New Horizons team members have calculated Ultima’s reflectivity, which is only about 10 percent, or about as dark as garden dirt. Beyond that, nothing else is known about it — basic facts like its rotational period and whether or not it has moons are unknown.

“All that is about to dramatically change on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, also of SwRI. “New Horizons will map Ultima, map its surface composition, determine how many moons it has and find out if it has rings or even an atmosphere. It will make other studies, too, such as measuring Ultima’s temperature and perhaps even its mass. In the space of one 72-hour period, Ultima will be transformed from a pinpoint of light — a dot in the distance — to a fully explored world. It should be breathtaking!”

A sequence of images from the New Horizons camera shows the object growing larger in the field of view:

Here is a preview discussion of the flyby:

Members of the New Horizons team previewed the mission’s New Year’s 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule during a media briefing at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Ultima flyby, with closest approach set for 12:33 a.m. EST in Jan. 1, will be the most distant planetary encounter in history. Team members covered the significance and challenges of this flyby, its science goals and operational timelines, and the Kuiper Belt in the context of solar system exploration.

Presenters are: Alan Stern, principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute Carey Lisse, science team collaborator, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Hal Weaver, project scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Kelsi Singer, co-investigator, Southwest Research Institute

More resources:


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto