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Support for NASA spending depends on perception of size of space agency budget

MarkWhittington The text reads .5 percent. (2 comments)

That's about $17.5 billion

1 year,6 days

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White House wants ideas for 'bootstrapping a solar system civilization'

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  4 days ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for “bootstrapping a solar system civilization.” Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose.

The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts."

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An Asteroid Redirect Mission hab module could support a lunar return

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about two weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Space News reported on Wednesday that NASA is mulling a hab module as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The inclusion of the hab module would extend the mission from 28 days to as long as 60 days. The module would provide enough consumables such as food, water, and oxygen and other support to sustain the crew of astronauts for weeks while examining a small asteroid in orbit around the moon. The module might also support a return to the lunar surface, given certain modifications."
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MIT study finds fault with Mars One colony concept

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about two weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The Mars One project created a great deal of fanfare when it was first announced in 2012. The project, based in Holland, aspires to build a colony on Mars with the first uncrewed flight taking place in 2018 and the first colonists setting forth around 2024. The idea is that the colonists would go to Mars to stay, slowly building up the colony in four-person increments every 26-month launch window. However, Space Policy Online on Tuesday reported that an independent study conducted by MIT has poured cold water on the Mars colony idea.

The MIT team consisting of engineering students had to make a number of assumptions based on public sources since the Mars One concept lacks a great many technical details. The study made the bottom line conclusion that the Mars One project is overly optimistic at best and unworkable at worst. The concept is “unsustainable” given the current state of technology and the aggressive schedule that the Mars One project has presented."

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How President Nixon saved/wrecked the American space program

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about two weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "John Callahan posted an account of a talk given by space historian John Logsdon on the Planetary Society blog in which he described how President Richard Nixon changed space policy. The talk covered the subject of an upcoming book, After Apollo: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program. Logsdon argued that Nixon had a far more lasting effect on NASA and the American space program than did President Kennedy, most famous for starting the Apollo project that landed men on the moon.

Nixon came to office just in time to preside over the Apollo 11 lunar mission. At that time, the space program was a national priority due to the Kennedy goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. However by the time Neil Armstrong made that first footstep, public support for large-scale space projects had diminished. Nixon, therefore, made a number of policy decisions that redound to this very day."

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China is keen to send its own mission to Mars in the wake of India's Mangalyaan

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about three weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The recent arrival into Mars orbit of both NASA’s MAVEN and India’s Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission has not escaped the notice of China, according to a Thursday story in Xinhua. The achievement of its Asian rival has especially proven galling to the Chinese. China has yet to successfully send a space probe beyond the moon. The development has elicited calls in Beijing to accelerate China’s Mars program.

China currently plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, perhaps, do a Mars sample return mission in 2030. However, it feels that India, which China regards as its rival in an Asian space race, has stolen a march and has left the Chinese behind. China is now keen to try to play catchup with its own Mars mission.

One of the hold ups for a Chinese interplanetary exploration program is the delays surrounding the development of the Long March 5 rocket, which will be roughly the equivalent of the America Delta IV in its capabilities. The Chinese launch vehicle has slipped to at least 2015 because of the technological challenges it faces. The Long March 5 is also needed to launch the 20 ton modules of the Chinese space station, currently planned for later this decade."

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SpaceX's Elon Musk hints first person on Mars may go via Brownsville spaceport

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "If SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has his way, the first astronaut to set foot on Mars may begin his or her journey from the new commercial spaceport being built at Boca Chica Beach, just outside Brownsville, Texas. The Texas Tribune reported on Monday that Musk made the suggestion at the ground breaking ceremony of the commercial spaceport. The ceremony was also attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and various other Texas politicians and dignitaries, Musk’s desire to establish a Mars colony and even retire to the Red Planet himself is not a secret."
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Boeing to take space tourists on its CST-100 spacecraft to the ISS

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Thursday story in Investment Business Daily, Boeing, whose CST-100 spacecraft was one of the two winners of NASA’s commercial crew competition, will reserve one seat per flight for a paying tourist. For a price comparable to what space tourists now pay for trips on the Russian Soyuz, anyone will be able to take a jaunt to the International Space Station. The move places Boeing in direct competition with the Russians, who are working through a company called Space Adventures for their tourist space jaunts."
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Newt Gingrich slams NASA commercial space decision

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich slammed the commercial crew decision reached by NASA in an article published on the CNN website on Wednesday. He objected to Boeing, an old line aerospace company, getting the bulk of the $6.8 billion contract that would create government funded, commercially run space taxis. SpaceX also made the cut to start shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station in 2017. Gingrich also, curiously, took a shot at the Orion/Space Launch System even though that space craft is designed for space exploration and would not be involved in servicing the ISS."
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Fans accuse Discovery Channel of gender, racial bias in 'Mythbusters' firings

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month and a half ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "At the end of the final episode of the last season of “Mythbusters,” the long running Discovery Channel science show, it was announced that the three of the program’s stars, Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara were being let go. Henceforth the show would feature exclusively the two main hosts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. However, as the Hollywood Reporter noted on Friday, fans of the show have reacted negatively to the move, even going so far as to suggest gender and racial bias."
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DARPA XS-1 space plane could allow rapid deployment of satellites, fuel depots

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Monday story on Space.com. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is having another go at developing a space plane that can deliver a payload to low Earth orbit, land, and then be rapidly turned around to do it again. The dream is as old as the original space shuttle program, but has thus far eluded researchers. If the goal can finally be achieved, it will allow for not only the rapid deployment of satellites, but for the topping off of orbiting fuel depots, a scheme favored by many as an alternative to launching deep space missions on a heavy lift rocket such as the Space Launch System,"
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Report suggests that robot sex partners will be common by 2025

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "A Thursday story in Extreme Tech suggests that “robot sex partners” are going to be pretty common by 2025, just over a decade away. Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are combining to make possible any kind of sexual experience one could desire, without actually having to deal with an actual human being with feelings and desires of their own. The potential for disruption for society and human relations will be profound. Imagine the demise of the world's oldest profession and even a decline in human to human sexual relations as even the unattractive and unappealing can have their deepest desires satisfied with no strings or consequence."
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Breitbart California slams SpaceX decision to build space port in Texas

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "SpaceX’s Elon Musk’s decision to build a space port on the Texas Gulf Coast has been met with near universal acclaim, albeit perhaps muted from Florida, which lost out on the hunt for a commercial launch facility. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand, tweeted, “Congrats to Texas & @SpaceX for their commitment to a commercial launch facility in Cameron county!” However a writer for Breitbart California took a much dimmer view of the deal in a Wednesday article.

The article, while taking issue with the incentives the state of Texas used to attract the commercial space port, when riven with numerous factual errors concerning the incentives, the other reasons Texas was chosen, and SpaceX''s plans for its California facilities."

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SpaceX executive calls for $22-25 billion NASA budget

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called “The US Space Enterprise Partnership” at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA’s budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online’s Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency’s limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics’ Jeff Foust added a tweet, “Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s.” The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

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Asterioid mining bill introduced in Congress to protect private property rights

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida announced on Thursday that he was introducing a bill along with Rep, Derek Kilmer, D-WA called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014. The act is designed to protect the private property rights for entities mining asteroids and to otherwise encourage asteroid mining. The bill is in apparent reaction to efforts by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to locate and mine Earth approaching asteroids for their resources.

The crucial part of the short piece of legislation states that the resources mined from an asteroid would be the property of the entity undertaking the operation. This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that states that states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a perquisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something that the treaty does not mention. This is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however."

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Buzz Aldrin wants President Obama to announce new space exploration initiative

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While he has initiated the social media campaign, #Apollo45, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also using the occasion to campaign for an expansion of American space exploration. According to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post, Aldrin has expressed the wish that President Obama make some sort of announcement along those lines this July 20. The idea has a certain aspect of déjà vu.

Aldrin believes that the American civil space program is adrift and that some new space exploration, he prefers to Mars, would be just the thing to set it back on course. There is only one problem, however. President Obama has already made the big space exploration announcement. Aldrin knows this because he was there.

President Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, with Aldrin accompanying as a photo op prop, and made the announcement that America would no longer be headed back to the moon, as was the plan under his predecessor George W. Bush. Instead American astronauts would visit an Earth approaching asteroid and then, decades hence, would land on Mars."

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Robert Zubrin throws down the gauntlet to Franklin Chang-Diaz over VASIMR

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Thursday, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin issued a challenge to a debate to Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, former astronaut and president and CEO of Ad Astra to a debate. The debate is not whether or not astronauts will go to Mars. The debate will be about how they will go to Mars. "Resolved: Electric Propulsion in an Enabling Technology for Human Mars Exploration.” Chang-Diaz would make the affirmative argument. Zubrin will make the negative argument.

The argument boiled down to its essential is about a mode of propulsion. Chang-Diaz is working on a plasma rocket engine called VASIMR which he claims will make trip times to and from Mars far less than conventional chemical rockets. Zubrin not only disputes that this is possible, but even desirable.

Chang-Diaz asserts that the radiation hazards inherent in interplanetary flight makes a quicker population system a vital pre requisite for missions to Mars. He has touted his VASIMR engine, which he has been working on for a number of years, as a solution to that problem. Zubrin responded that these assertions are false."

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'In the Event of a Moon Disaster' movie imagines Apollo 11 ending in tragedy

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Wednesday story on Coming Soon, a movie called “In the Event of a Moon Disaster” has been greenlit for production starting in early 2015. The movie is based on the premise that the Apollo 11 moon landing ended in a disaster that left Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to die on the lunar surface. That alternate ending was actually quite possible.

During the final descent of the lunar module, Armstrong and Aldrin found themselves being taken straight into a boulder strewn field on the lunar surface by the automatic landing system. Armstrong quickly took manual control of the lunar module and landed it in a relatively flat part of the moon that would become famous as Tranquility Base. But that and a pair of computer glitches that occurred around the same time could have resulted in tragedy rather than triumph.

The movie is based on a speech that writer William Safire had written for President Richard Nixon in the event of a moon disaster. The speech, perhaps the best Safire ever wrote, was a heartfelt salute to the fallen astronauts as well as a vow that men would follow in their footsteps. It ended with, “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”"

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Draper Labs develops low cost probe to orbit, land on Europa for NASA

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.

The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa’s subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.

The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa’s atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth."

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Elon Musk's Solar City makes manufacturing capacity play with Silevo acquisition

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Elon Musk is well known as a private space flight entrepreneur, thanks to his space launch company SpaceX. He is also a purveyor of high end electric cars manufactured by his other company, Tesla Motors. But many people do not know that Musk has a third business, Solar City, which is a manufacturer of solar panels. Tuesday that company announced a major play to increase the output of solar panels suitable for home solar units.

Solar City has acquired a company called Silevo, which is said to have a line of solar panels that have demonstrated high electricity output and low cost. Silevo claims that its panels have achieved a 22 percent efficiency and are well on their way to achieving 24 percent efficiency. It suggests that 10 cents per watt is saved for every point of efficiency gained.

Solar City, using the technology it has acquired from Silevo, intends to build a manufacturing plant in upstate New York with a one gigawatt per year capacity. This will only be the beginning as it intends to build future manufacturing plants with orders of magnitude capacity. The goal appears to be for the company to become the biggest manufacturer of solar panels in the world."

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Russian RD-180 embargo could be shot in the arm for American rocket engine firm

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Saturday story in the Los Angeles Times, the recent revival of tensions between the United States and Russia, not seen since the end of the Cold War, may provide a shot in the arm for the American rocket engine industry. Due in part in retaliation for economic sanctions that were enacted in response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Russia announced that it would no longer sell its own RD-180 rocket engines for American military launches. This has had American aerospace experts scrambling to find a replacement.

The stakes for weaning American rockets off of dependency on Russian engines could not be starker, according to Space News. If the United States actually loses the RD-180, the Atlas V would be temporarily grounded, as many as 31 missions could be delayed, costing the United States as much as $5 billion. However SpaceX, whose Falcon family of launch vehicles has a made in the USA rocket engine, could benefit tremendously if the U.S. military switches its business from ULA while it refurbishes its own launch vehicles with new American made engines."

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