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What we now know (and still dont) about life on Mars – WTOP

The first lander to reach Mars was launched nearly 50 years ago, but much about the red planet remains a mystery. After decades of roving, research and taking illuminating photos, the biggest question remains: Could there be life on Mars?

For decades, space was the final frontier. But as space exploration advanced, scientists increasingly set their sights on a new frontier: Mars.

The first lander to reach Mars was launched nearly 50 years ago, but much about the red planet remains a mystery. Scientists are still attempting to bring samples of Mars red soil back to Earth for further study, and human trips to Mars are still years from being feasible.

After decades of roving, research, and taking illuminating photos of the red planet, the biggest question remains: Could there be life on Mars?

To understand Mars potential for life, we need to go back in time about 3 or 4 billion years.

At that time, Mars and Earth shared many of the same characteristics. The red planet was warm and wet, with a robust atmosphere a far cry from the cold, unforgiving place it is today.

Mars is a planet that started with all the same raw materials as Earth, but along the way has suffered changes, said the European Space Agencys Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker. You could say its kind of broken down.

Because it was once Earths sister planet, Parker said scientists must ask themselves, When life got going on Earth, did it get going on Mars?

Mars lost its magnetic field, meaning nothing shields the planet (or potential life forms) from radiation. Mars also lost most of its atmosphere another deviation from Earth, where the atmosphere supports life by giving us oxygen and acting as a blanket for the planet.

Mars still has an atmosphere but its very thin and mostly carbon dioxide, so its colder, explained Parker.

That means the average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it an unforgiving planet for most life forms.

But just because Mars is cold and unprotected doesnt mean scientists have ruled out finding life.

In 2018, NASAs Curiosity rover found organic matter on Mars, which could mean that the building blocks for life once existed, or still exist, on Mars.

Organic matter preservation is central to understanding biological potential on Mars through time, wrote NASA researchers in the journal Science. Whether it holds a record of ancient life, is the food for extant life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.

NASAs rover has also detected methane on Mars, which is considered the most simple organic molecule and could be another chemical clue of life.

With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern, said Paul Mahaffy, director for NASA Goddards Solar System Exploration Division, in a June press release.

Meanwhile, Europe and Russias ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter launched in 2016 with the aim of detecting atmospheric gases that could mean theres active, biological life on Mars. The ESAs Parker said that while the Curiosity Rover found methane on parts of the surface, they have not detected methane all across Mars atmosphere.

We have not seen methane globally on Mars, which means methane gas is being produced somehow, Parker said. So is there a methane cycle on Mars?

The discovery of localized methane presents an exciting breakthrough because a common source of methane on Earth is microbial life, according to NASA.

Water and ice on Mars also provide valuable clues that suggest Mars might be more habitable than once thought.

In 2015, NASA scientists thought they found evidence of occasional flowing, salty water flows across the surface of Mars. However, another NASA study in 2017 determined that the flows were most likely grains of sand and dust.

But another breakthrough came in 2018 when the European Space Agency detected a small lake of liquid water beneath the southern polar ice cap of Mars, which the ESA said could further contribute to knowledge about Mars evolution and habitability.

And this year, NASAs Curiosity rover found evidence in Mars Gale Crater that there were once ancient salty lakes on the surface another hint that the red planet could have once supported microbial life.

Water is key because almost everywhere we find water on Earth, we find life, wrote NASA on their website.

Its not just liquid water that space scientists are interested in, but also ice. Parker said the ESA is currently working on research about the ice below Mars surface.

Were getting more and more information about subsurface water ice its further from the poles than we thought, Parker told CNN.

Ice could be further evidence of habitable conditions, and it could also be a valuable resource if space agencies send humans to Mars one day.

To unravel the more complex mysteries surrounding life on Mars, scientists want to collect samples, which would require a round-trip mission.

Because the really powerful scientific instruments are huge, we cant take them and never will be able to take them to Mars. So we need to bring Mars back to Earth, Parker said. By bringing Mars back, we can study it for the next 50 years.

Although no space agency has yet figured out how to launch an unmanned craft from the surface of Mars to get samples back to Earth, one way to bring back Martian samples would be for astronauts and cosmonauts to collect them in person.

But reaching Mars, which at its closest point is still about 33.9 million miles away from Earth, would be a feat of engineering.

Its is an order of magnitude farther away. Youre talking about a 3-year round-trip mission, said NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz.

If reaching the Moon was one giant leap for mankind, reaching Mars would be more like an Olympic long jump. And unlike traveling to the International Space Station (a mere 250 miles above Earth), traveling to Mars would potentially require a lot more packing.

We send up resupply missions every few months (to the space station), Schierholz said. We dont have the luxury of doing that if we go to Mars.

Despite the challenges, NASA is aiming to send astronauts to Mars by 2035. That means the first life on Mars could be us.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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What we now know (and still dont) about life on Mars - WTOP

This Phoenix engineer will have her own device in space in 2021 – FOX 10 News Phoenix

This Phoenix engineer will have her own device in space in 2021

A 26-year-old engineer from Arizona, working in Phoenix, invented a system that will allow space explorers to stay in the solar system for at least 2 years. The device reduces CO2 in the International Space System.

PHOENIX - An engineer from the valley is helping astronauts breathein space through her own invention.

Phoebe Henson, 26, created a device that cuts down on carbon dioxide in the International Space System. She'sbeen at Honeywell for just 4 years, but she'salready leading engineers that are much older and who've been doing it much longer.

She works as an advanced systems engineer, and herproject will allowastronauts to live in space for twoyears.Some say this will change space exploration as we know it.

The system will be used to help astronauts breathe on missions to the moon and Mars, and even out in deep space.

Henson says it's the most efficient, safest, lightestand smallest comparedto any other system on the market.

Leading a team of engineers at Honeywell, which has a partnership with NASA, a CO2 removal system for the international space station was created. The deviceabsorbs CO2 from the air, captures it and turns it into oxygen.

She says her system maintains a CO2 concentration half the levels on the space station currently.

"This problem is a critical one to solve if we are going to make long term space habitation a reality," Henson says.

This is important because astronauts experience negative healtheffects including headaches dizziness and fatigue.

At a young age, Henson says she wanted to become an engineer. She studied at Arizona State University and tookher first job out of college at Honeywell.

She's proud to work for a company that's given her opportunities to grow and change the way we study space.

"It is really exciting," she said."It is always a dream of mine to put something into space."

Henson's system will be put to use in the space station in 2021.

Another bit of exciting news for Henson: She was just namedas one of Forbes' "30 Under 30" recipients for her groundbreaking work.

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This Phoenix engineer will have her own device in space in 2021 - FOX 10 News Phoenix

This Space Anthropologist Is Chronicling Astronauts’ Lives in Orbit – Discover Magazine

In the fall of 1957, the Soviet Union satelliteSputnik 1streaked across the nights sky. The event kicked off the Space Age. It also captured the attention of 9-year-old Jack Stuster, who watched from outside of his grandmothers house, full of awe.

Stuster could never have guessed that his future career path would land him at NASAs Kennedy Space Center. After college, he pursued a doctorate in anthropology, hoping to study hunter-gatherers in Borneo. He instead wound up writing his doctoral dissertation on commercial fishermen in Santa Barbara, California. And in 1982, shortly after joining a behavioral sciences and human factors research firm calledAnacapa Sciencesin Santa Barbara, he began working with NASA.

Stuster is one of just ahandful of anthropologiststo specialize in space exploration. He applies anthropological techniques, such as interviews and participant observation, to understand the physical, psychological, and interpersonal experiences of astronauts, and help plan missions with the explorers human needs in mind.

When the astronauts know Im an anthropologist they open up, explains Stuster, now president and principal scientist at Anacapa. He notes that, unlike the psychologists or physicians who evaluate astronauts, he cant expel anyone from the mission roster.

Over his career, Stuster has helped forecast potential issues, identify real problems such as when shuttle refurbishments were delayed by poor communication and made suggestions that influenced the design and activities on the International Space Station (ISS). As NASA turns its focus toward Mars, he recently completed a report identifying all the tasks interplanetary explorers must be ready formany of which NASA hadnt yet considered.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Your first space project was in 1982, when NASA called in Anacapa Sciences to help make the refurbishment of space shuttles safer and more efficient. How did it feel to arrive at Cape Canaveral during the early shuttle program?

We started with a tour of the shuttleColumbia. At each level, we would stop and look at this incredible machine, this spacecraft. I let the others walk ahead of me so that I could pinch myself. It was awe-inspiring to be that close. I was proud to be a member of the species that could build such a complicated machine.

Iwanted to remain involved. During this job, I noticed a sign on a door that said, Space Station Working Group. I thought, Wow, NASAs actually thinking about building a space station? Maybe thats my ticket.

In the absence of a real space station, I proposed to study conditions on Earth that are in various ways similar to a low Earth orbit space station: Antarctic research stations, submarines, oil platforms, things like that.

That research led to your1986 report on living in space. You provided a variety of recommendations, including daily changes of underwear and regular mental health monitoring. How did NASA respond?

The report was a really big hit among the engineers who were designing the International Space Station. They liked it because it was based on real-world conditions. Several of my recommendations made it to the ISS, such as facilities that enable the whole crew to eat together.

Sharing meals aboard the International Space Station can help maintain harmony among astronauts. (NASA Johnson/Flickr)

Spending months in space is a tough assignment. In astudy of ISS astronaut diary entries, you found that morale tends to decline around the third quarter of a tour. What makes astronauts miserable, and how can NASA improve things?

Early on, astronauts would complain about having to do inventories of lightbulbs and underwear and stuff. It helps to divide tedious housekeeping tasks as evenly as possible. Now, since NASA has enlarged the crew size, these tasks are spread over a wider group.

Plus, when astronauts get on the ISS, they are confronted with this phenomenon called space fog or the space stupids. They dont think as quickly as they did on the ground. This may be a result of fluid building up in their head so they feel stuffed up, too little sleep, busy schedules, low gravity, and high levels of carbon dioxide. They get behind schedule and put things away quickly, so its harder to find tools the next time. To adjust, NASA should schedule sufficient time for all tasks.

When youre living in isolation and confinement, every little annoyance is magnified. Astronauts need to do the same things we do on Earth to get along, like refilling the toilet paper or putting the seat down after using the commode. Its really aggravating when you go to use the zero-gravity toilet and the supplies you need arent there. Or the person before you left the solid-waste reservoir full, which means you cant use the toilet until youve emptied it. Keeping up morale, in many ways, is just a matter of being as considerate as possible. More than considerate: Avoid being annoying in any way.

In the next 20 years, NASA hopes to send humans to Mars, following the explorations of the Curiosity Mars rover. (Credit: NASA)

NASA plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, likely with a six-person crew of different specialists. You recentlycompleted a reportthat enumerates 1,125 tasks that crew could face. Did you find any gaps in NASAs planning?

The three most recent NASA Mars mission plans did not include a pilot, assuming piloting and navigation would be automated or directed from Earth. I seriously doubt that you would get professional astronauts to go on a mission with no human pilot, only a computer, meaning they wouldnt survive if the computer and communications failed.

NASA assumed Mars explorers would use the standard, gas-pressurized space suit. But if you get a wheel of your rover stuck in the loose sand and rocks on the Martian surfaceas happened to the character Mark Watney in the filmThe Martianyou have to kneel to dig it out. That would be impossible wearing a gas-pressurized suit. Theyll need a mechanical pressure suit, or some sort of hybrid, that enables more flexibility.

In that new report, you defined key jobs that ought to be spread among the Mars crew: leader, pilot/navigator, geologist, biologist, physician, mechanic, electrician, and computer specialist. Who would be on your personal dream team to Mars?

Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver inAlien. Wouldnt you want Sigourney Weaver? Mark Watney played by Matt Damon. Joe Turner played by Robert Redford inThree Days of the Condornot a space film, but the characters that Redford plays tend to be calm and deliberate. John Wick played by Keanu Reeves in theJohn Wickseries, in case the crew encounters hostile aliens, and because Reeves seems to be a kind and generous persona perfect comrade during prolonged isolation and confinement.

Do you see any role for anthropologists as crew members on future expeditions?

Idoubt it, not unless the first mission discovers theres an alien culture.

Iapplied to be an astronaut, for many years, but I wasnt selected. I would have gone in a heartbeat.

This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here.

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This Space Anthropologist Is Chronicling Astronauts' Lives in Orbit - Discover Magazine

Universities must break interdisciplinary boundaries to help advance space-based technologies (opinion) – Inside Higher Ed

Space research and space exploration are vital to the future of humankind. The Earth may be resilient -- it's still here long after the dinosaurs, and it shows no scars from the Carrington solar storm that fried telegraph lines in 1859. But society on this planet is facing some unprecedented challenges.

Our dependence on technological systems such as power grids and satellite communication makes us more vulnerable than ever to solar storms. We should not forget that another significant asteroid collision is a matter of when, not if. And planetwide shifts such as climate change, ocean acidification and deforestation raise vital questions about how the Earth can continue to support the growing population.

These are just a few reasons why this is a pivotal time to take major steps in space-based technologies that can help us predict, adapt to, mitigate and protect ourselves from catastrophes or slower-occurring changes. Theyre also good reasons to boost space exploration. To ensure that our species endures, we have a responsibility to develop our society to become a spacefaring one.

Technologically, we're making exciting progress. For example, through the Artemis program, NASA is partnering with private industry and universities to take people back to the moon by 2024 and to Mars by the 2030s. Chinas uncrewed Chang'e program just landed a rover on the far side of the moon, where the Chinese space agency is laying the groundwork for a lunar research station. University, industry and government programs around the world are conducting promising research on ion thrusters for faster interplanetary travel and on small low-cost satellites to explore our solar system and beyond for signs of habitable worlds.

Many of us who work in these areas will be gathering next week for the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. Its the worlds largest Earth and space science conference, and this happens to be its centennial year. As we consider the next hundred years, we must embrace the notion that technology alone wont carry us forward.

We need to design this spacefaring future in context, and universities can play an important leadership role. Thats why, on our campus, weve recently launched the University of Michigan Space Institute. Its purpose is to bring together a strong multidisciplinary community and facilitate entirely new types of collaborations that might not have emerged organically solely within science and engineering communities. Here are some key areas where we believe this approach can pay dividends.

Zoning on the moon. Who owns the moon? How do we determine where we can build a station or mine for water or minerals? While the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits nations from claiming celestial bodies, it didn't anticipate the privatization of space exploration. Technological advancement and economic shifts have opened many new questions about how nations and companies should operate on outposts beyond the Earth. Researchers in engineering, policy and law will need to work together to develop processes for establishing sustainable settlements.

Tracking and reducing space junk. Artificial satellite explosions and collisions have left behind more than 23,000 pieces of orbital debris that are larger than 10centimeters, as well as more than 100million that are smaller in size. Traveling at more than 15,000 miles per hour, the debris poses threats to the International Space Station and to the future crewed and uncrewed spacecraft crossing their orbits as space travel becomes increasingly commonplace. Today, the international Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee works to limit the accumulation, and other entities are aiming to improve tracking, but it will take both engineers and space policy makers to solve the problem.

Astronaut health. While we have some knowledge of how long-term weightlessness and living in a space environment affects the human body and mind, theres still so much we dont know about how to stay safe and healthy beyond Earth. To ward off physical and mental health problems, present-day astronauts spend two hours of every eight-hour workday exercising. Kinesiologists, biomedical engineers and other health and space environment experts are needed to develop better and more effective exercise hardware and regimens.

Beyond our brains, muscles and bones are our microbiomes. Trillions of micro-organisms help us digest food and fight disease. Microbiologists, gastroenterologists and environmental engineers will need to determine how the human microbiome will react to environments beyond Earth, and how we can ensure that it thrives.

The list goes on in this area. We need better understandings of radiation exposure, immune function, nutrition and medication stability. Only multidisciplinary teams can tackle such challenges.

Building the space workforce. As we move forward in space research and exploration -- whether were focused on understanding, protecting and improving life on Earth, or expanding human civilization beyond its cradle -- we must inspire and prepare tomorrows workforce to collaborate across traditional boundaries. Were already witnessing the space industry outgrowing dependence on government funds and creating new kinds of jobs. We have a responsibility to introduce students in majors not typically associated with space to the opportunities in the new space economy. And the space industry will benefit from the types of creativity that are new to the sector.

In one step toward building a more diverse future space workforce, several universities, including the University of Michigan, are working with NASA to explore ways to increase the number of women who are principal investigators of large missions. We know that more diverse teams, and more diverse leadership, lead to more innovative ideas.

These and other emerging areas are already demanding collaborations not only between engineers and planetary scientists, who have driven much of space exploration to date, but also among scholars from a wide variety of other disciplines. As we become more ambitious, moving toward self-sustaining colonies and human exploration beyond our home planet, the need for a space research community that represents all areas of human knowledge will only grow.

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Universities must break interdisciplinary boundaries to help advance space-based technologies (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed

Putin fears the US and NATO are militarizing space and Russia is right to worry, experts say – CNBC

Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) First Deputy Head Alexander Ivanov, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and Federal Agency for Special Construction head Alexander Volosov watch a rocket booster carrying satellites blast off from a launch pad at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images

NATO, the U.S. and Russia have a new domain to compete and conflict over: space.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that the U.S. saw space as as "theater of military operations" and that the development of the U.S. Space Force posed a threat to Russia.

"The U.S. military-political leadership openly considers space as a military theater and plans to conduct operations there," Putin said at a meeting with defense officials in Sochi, according to Russian news agency TASS.

"For preserving strategic supremacy in this field the United States is accelerating creation of its space forces, which are already in the process of operative preparations," Putin said, adding that the world's leading countries are fast-tracking the development of modern military space systems and dual purpose satellites and that Russia needed to do the same.

"The situation requires us to pay increased attention to strengthening the orbital group, as well as the rocket and space industry as a whole."

Russia opposed the militarization of space, Putin insisted, but said "at the same time the march of events requires greater attention to strengthening the orbital group and the space rocket and missile industry in general."

Putin's comments Wednesday reiterated those he made in late November to his security council, in which he said he was "seriously concerned" about NATO's "attempts to militarize outer space."

That comment came after NATO had declared space a fifth "operational domain" for the military alliance, alongside air, land, sea and cyber.

"Space is part of our daily life here on Earth. It can be used for peaceful purposes. But it can also be used aggressively," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a meeting of foreign ministers on November 20.

"Satellites can be jammed, hacked or weaponized. Anti-satellite weapons could cripple communications and other services our societies rely on, such as air travel, weather forecast or banking," he said. "Space is also essential to the alliance's deterrence and defense," Stoltenberg added, referencing the organization's ability to navigate, to gather intelligence, and to detect missile launches.

"Making space an operational domain will help us ensure all aspects are taken into account to ensure the success of our missions," he said. "For instance, this can allow NATO planners to make a request for allies to provide capabilities and services, such as satellite communications and data imagery."

He said that around 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth with around half of them owned by NATO countries.

Stoltenberg insisted that "NATO has no intention to put weapons in space. We are a defensive alliance." He added the alliance's approach to space will remain fully in line with international law. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is a global agreement considered a foundation stone of international space law.

The treaty was first signed by the U.K., U.S. and then-Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War to promote the peaceful exploration of space. It banned the placing of nuclear weapons in space and limited the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only. It also established that space shall be free for exploration and use by all nations, but that no nation may claim sovereignty on any part of it.

There are other space treaties covering, for example, the rescue of astronauts, the moon, the International Space Station (ISS) and liability for damage caused by space objects. Still, the use of space for defensive activities is likely to be litigious and provocative territory.

It's not the first time that space has been seen as a potential realm for defense though, especially during the Cold War. The "Strategic Defense Initiative" was a program first initiated in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. The aim of the program was to develop an anti-ballistic missile system that was designed to shoot down nuclear missiles in space, with potential missile attacks from the Soviet Union specifically in mind.

Artist's concept of interceptor under development for the U.S. Army's HEDI (High Endoatmospheric Def. Interceptor), a key element of its 1983 Strategic Defense. Initiative (aka Star Wars)

Time Life Pictures | The LIFE Picture Collection | Getty Images

It was dubbed "Star Wars" because it envisaged that technologies like space-based x-ray lasers could be used as part of the defensive system. Funding shortages as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that the SDI was never built.

The idea of space dominance and defense has gained more traction in recent years, however, and in 2018, President Donald Trump floated the idea of developing another military branch, the "Space Force." He said the idea of a Space Force had started as a joke but he had then decided it was a "great idea."

"Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea," Trump said. "We have the Air Force, we'll have the Space Force." In June 2018, he ordered the Pentagon to begin the creation of the new branch.

At the start of 2019, the U.S. unveiled an overhaul of its missile defense program in its "Missile Defense Review" in which it stated the need for a "comprehensive approach to missile defense against rogue state and regional missile threats." The review also recognized "space is a new war-fighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way" and said it would ensure "American dominance in space."

In a speech presenting more detail on the Missile Defense Review, Trump said the U.S. would "invest in a space-based missile defense layer. It's new technology. It's ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defense and, obviously, of our offense," he said.

U.S. Air Force Space Command Gen. John "Jay" Raymond stands next to the flag of the newly established U.S. Space Command, the sixth national armed service, in the Rose Garden at the White House August 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Citing potential threats from China and Russia and the nations reliance on satellites for defense operations, Trump said the U.S. needs to launch a 'space force.'

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

"The system will be monitored, and we will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers, or even from powers that make a mistake. It won't happen. Regardless of the missile type or the geographic origins of the attack, we will ensure that enemy missiles find no sanctuary on Earth or in the skies above."

Russia responded angrily to the comments, saying it was tantamount to the U.S. relaunching the Cold War-era "Star Wars" program. According to a statement from Russia's foreign ministry, reported by Reuters, Russia condemned the strategy as an act of confrontation and it urged Washington to reconsider its plans.

"The strategy, de facto, gives the green light to the prospect of basing missile strike capabilities in space," the statement said. "The implementation of these ideas will inevitably lead to the start of an arms race in space, which will have the most negative consequences for international security and stability," it said.

"We would like to call on the U.S. administration to think again and walk away from this irresponsible attempt to re-launch, on a new and more high-tech basis, the still-remembered Reagan-era 'Star Wars' program," it said, Reuters reported.

Experts say Russia is wary of the U.S., and NATO, opening up a new operational frontier in space as Russia would be easily out-competed by the combined NATO countries' technological expertise, advances and weaponry in space.

"I think when the Russians hear this, they primarily think of the 'Strategic Defense Initiative', they think of missile defense, and those are the kinds of things they can't compete in those areas as well and something they would be very keen to avoid (competing over). The question is, what is NATO actually going to do here?," Daragh McDowell, principal Russia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC Wednesday.

Russia was quick to criticize NATO's announcement of space as a new operational domain with Putin telling his security council that "we are also seriously concerned about the NATO infrastructure approaching our borders, as well as the attempts to militarize outer space."

Earlier this year, Putin had said Russia needs to heavily upgrade its space industry, telling his security council in April that "it is obvious that it is necessary to fundamentally modernize the rocket and space industry," according to news agency TASS. He also said that leading positions in space exploration were essential for solving national development tasks, ensuring the country's security and technological and economic competitiveness, TASS reported.

Christopher Granville, managing director of EMEA and Global Political Research at TS Lombard, told CNBC Wednesday that Russia had spent considerable time and effort, in the last few decades, developing technologies to defend against "any conceivable U.S. strategic defense or anti-missile defense capabilities."

"And if the U.S. were hypothetically to develop new capabilities in outer space, then Russia would have to come up with new responses in addition to the weapon system that Putin announced with some fanfare last year," he said, referencing Putin's revealing of new nuclear weapons in March 2018 that he said were "invincible."

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Putin fears the US and NATO are militarizing space and Russia is right to worry, experts say - CNBC

An investor’s perspective on the current state of the global space startup industry – TechCrunch

Investment in space startups is significant and growing, and the opportunities available to commercial players in space exploration, research and industrialization are multiplying. But for non-expert investors and observers, these opportunities can seem obtuse and obscured, buried in technical jargon and a heady amount of hype.

Thats a great time to consult with those already active in space investing like Franois Chopard, CEO of global aerospace and defense accelerator Starburst.

Chopard recently presented a deck detailing the current state of the space industry, specifically from the perspective of early-stage startup and investment activity. The Starburst CEO essentially pegs the beginning of the current upturn in space and defense startup investing as getting off the ground in around 2015, right around the time that SpaceX started ramping its launch cadence after more than a decade of development, testing and early commercial launch service.

Notably, Chopard says that Starburst has a database holding more than 6,000 aerospace and defense startups put together by its scouting team, and that while he personally expected some kind of plateau or slow in the rate of growth in the sector to have come into play by now, in fact there has been no such slowdown.

This year alone, there was a total of $5 billion in disclosed funding and thats data that doesnt include the final three months of the year. Taken together, that represents four percent of the overall VC market, per Starbursts calculations.

Chopard also outlines trending opportunities that Starbust is seeing in terms of the space and defense industrys development, citing the ground segment as the next bottleneck, for instance.

Essentially, that means that all these new satellite companies who are able to get their hardware to space thanks to the advent and availability of affordable launch vehicles will need Earth-based infrastructure to handle the data they gather, both in terms of transmission and storage, and thats going to be a booming opportunity for new and emerging companies.

This deck is a great look at whats interesting and exciting to investors about aerospace and defense, and why its a category that has seen a lot of growth in terms of VC investment in recent years despite seemingly high technology hurdles and perceived long development timelines.

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An investor's perspective on the current state of the global space startup industry - TechCrunch

To the moon and beyond 5: What space exploration will look like in 2069 – AlterNet

What will space exploration look like in 2069, a century after the first moon landing? In the fifth and final episode of podcast series, To the moon and beyond, we speak to space scientists about the missions they are dreaming about and planning for the future.

In episode four we heard about plans to establish a base on the moon, potentially mining the lunar surface for minerals and even water that could be turned into rocket fuel. Episode five finds out what happens when this is built. How could a base on the moon help us travel to other parts of the solar system? And where should we go? These are some of the questions we investigate.

We start by finding out why the moon is seen as such a great place from which to launch missions further into space. Ultimately its down to the fact that the hardest part of any space journey is getting a rocket out of Earths gravity.

Alex Ellery, an associate professor of Space Robotics and Space Technology at Carleton University in Canada, explains the different ways its possible to exploit the moons weak gravity. One way is to build a new space station that orbits the moon something that NASA and other international space stations are already planning.

Another way is to build a base on the moons surface using lunar resources. This would be much more ambitious but could ultimately be safer and more sustainable, according to Ellery:

In fact, there is a veritable host of useful stuff on the moon. Iron, aluminium, titanium, silicon, ceramics, reagents, regolith gases of various kinds, and so on, from which it is possible to build an entire infrastructure and to do this robotically. This is how we get the true value of using the moon as a stepping stone towards Mars and elsewhere.

While different people have different views about when well actually make it back to the moon and how, most academics weve spoken to are confident it will happen. Monica Grady, professor of planetary and space sciences at the Open University in the UK, told us where she would go, once a moon base is set up.

For her, its all about travelling to the places where life might be. This could be Mars, Jupiters moon, Europa, or Saturns moon, Enceladus. Europa and Enceladus are unusual in the sense that they have huge internal liquid oceans buried under a thick sheet of ice heated by the gravitational tug of the huge planets they orbit. Grady says:

If I had to really pick one place where I thought there was definitely going to be life a living life I would say Europa. Because Europa has had all those building blocks, its had all the ingredients, its had plenty of time. I imagine that the ocean floor, Europas ocean floor must be a relatively stable environment [for life to develop].

Grady also explains how scientists would go about finding life on another planet when that life is probably not going to be visible aliens walking around above ground. In cold places like Mars, Europa or Enceladus, its more likely to be some sort of microorganism thats not visible to the naked eye and is deep below the surface.

When it comes to finding life elsewhere in the solar system, a big concern is the extent that humans (and robots built by humans) may contaminate alien ecosystems in the process. At the same time, futurists warn that space exploration is a necessary part of human survival. Anders Sandberg, from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, says the financial cost of space exploration is a worthwhile investment:

In terms of cost effectiveness, space is maybe not in the cheapest way of saving humanity. There are many other important things we can and should do down here. But its not a competition. Its not like the space budget is always eating into the budget of fixing the environment. In fact theyre quite complementary. One of the best ways of monitoring the environment is after all from space.

Sandberg predicts that humans could be living on Mars in 30 to 100 years time. Going beyond our solar system to exoplanets will be much trickier, but this is the next step. And there are scientists working on far flung missions to explore them. Frdric Marin, an astrophysicist at the University of Strasbourg in France, is one. He tells us about ideas for a giant, multi-generational spaceship that could go the distance:

You have to find a way to keep your crew alive for centuries-long missions and part of my work is to investigate if this is feasible in biological terms, in terms of physics, chemistry, food production and energy production, artificial gravity, and so on. So Im currently working on simulations of multi-generational space travels, in which a population will live inside a vessel and procreate, die and the new generation will continue this cycle until the population reaches an exoplanet.

While this kind of mission may get off the ground in the next 50 years, current technology would not see it arrive at the nearest exoplanet until well beyond 2069 into future centuries. So watch this space.

To the moon and beyond is produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh. Additional reporting by Nehal El-Hadi and Aline Richard. Sound editing by Siva Thangarajah. Thank you to City, University of Londons Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios.

Music: Even when we fall and Western Shores by Philipp Weigl; An Oddly Formal Dance by Blue Dot Sessions; Traverse Night Sky (Non Dreamers) by epitomeZero. All via Free Music Archive.

Take it all in via Zapslat.

Archive footage: Apollo 11 and 17 audio from NASA.

Miriam Frankel, Co-host, To the moon and beyond Podcast, The Conversation and Martin Archer, Space Plasma Physicist, Queen Mary University of London.

It's that time of year when we all give thanks, and we want to extend that thanks to you. All of us at AlterNet are honored by your readership and support. We hope you and your family enjoy a cozy, joyful Thanksgiving.

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To the moon and beyond 5: What space exploration will look like in 2069 - AlterNet

Meet the future of Philippine space exploration – ABS-CBN News

In one of the buildings of the University of the Philippines science complex, a team of young engineers and scientists is busy at work - studying and building what is supposed to be the countrys first locally made satellite.

Among them is electronics engineer Renzo Wee from Zamboanga, who is responsible for ensuring that the cube satellite can withstand the harsh environment of outer space.

He helped set up a monitor showing the movement of one of the Philippine satellites already deployed in space, Diwata-2, which was assembled by Filipino engineers in another country.

Wee pointed to a marker showing Diwata-2 in the area of the United States.

It wont pass over the Philippines until much later, the 24-year-old engineer said.

The marker inched up the map, which basically means Diwata-2 is moving - hurtling across space - 620 kilometers above ground.

The satellite that Wee and the other scholars are working on is much smaller than the 56-kilogram Diwata-2. At 10 cubic centimeters, a cube satellite can easily rest on the palm of your hand. Despite its small size, it is packed with instruments such as sensors and cameras, which will allow government to survey agricultural crops, protected forests and other areas of concern.

CHILDHOOD DREAM

As a child, Wee dreamt of becoming an astronaut and so he was immensely interested when he read on social media that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was offering scholarships for those willing to participate in their microsatellite program.

Its better to live a life full of Oh wells than live a life full of What ifs, he said, recalling how he decided to try out for the scholarship, which requires participants to let go of their jobs to become full-time students.

For the longest time, young Filipinos like Wee who wanted to become astronauts or be involved in space research had no way of pursuing it in the Philippines. Those who had the means to seriously pursue their passion often had to study and work abroad.

But in recent years, the Philippines has been investing in space research. Since 2015, UP and the DOSTs Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) have been sending engineers to Japan to participate in its microsatellite program, in a bid to further the nations technological capabilities and to save money spent on satellite imagery from other countries. The partnership with Japan has resulted in the assembly and launch of the following satellites in the last four years: microsatellite Diwata-1 (2016), cube satellite Maya-1 (2018) and microsatellite Diwata-2 (2018).

In August, the Philippines approved a law creating its own space agency.

With the future of space exploration looking bright, Wee is excited to see what will happen in the next few years.

IMPORTANT STEP

After a series of tests and screening, Wee and seven others from different science backgrounds and regions were accepted into UPs graduate program for electrical engineering and into the Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) program of the DOST.

For Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano, who heads the STAMINA4Space program and the DOST-ASTI, said making cube satellites locally is an important step for the Philippines.

Building satellites is one way you can be in space, he said. These smaller satellites are becoming more powerful, can take meaningful missions, experiments in space.

Marciano said it can be likened to cellphones that are small but are now able to take videos and other data.

We expect these platforms (satellites) to evolve, he says.

Marciano said they chose a university setting for their team because of practical reasons - an existing graduate program, among others - and the fact that all the creative ideas, all the young enthusiastic hardworking people are there.

You just need to guide and mentor them. Give them a lot of resources, he said.

UNIQUE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Under the nanosatellite track of UPs Master of Science or Master of Engineering in Electrical Engineering program, the scholars are being personally trained by senior engineers who created the first batch of Filipino-made satellites.

Assistant professor Paul Jason Co, head of the STAMINA4Spaces Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP), says the students attend lectures and are subjected to hands-on training.

They learn about satellite communications, space environment, orbital mechanics, Co said. In directed studies thats where they actually learn how to build the cube satellite.

Co said they have a replica of Maya-1, which they use to teach the graduate students. Theyve been studying the different components of Maya-1Theyve been playing around with all aspects of Maya-1. And they do that hands-on not just by reading books. And thats the very unique part of this degree program.

As Wee and the others work on their computers, computer engineer Lorilyn Daquioag is hunched over a circuit board, cutting and connecting wires.

The 31-year-old engineer from Davao City is studying how to create an onboard computer.

(Its) the brain of the satellite, she said as she tested her work.

Like Daquioag, two scholars from the Philippine Navys Naval Research and Technology Department - electronics and communications engineer Marielle Gregorio, 32, and computer science graduate Christy Raterta, 30 - are working on their circuit boards.

Their ultimate mission? To help start the Navys own microsatellite program.

While our ships have radars for surveillance, the coverage is limited. If you have a satellite in space, your will have a broader coverage, said Gregorio, who hails from Bohol.

Gregorio is assigned to build the electronic power system, which gives life to the satellite, while Raterta is responsible for the satellites program. Both of them work together on the satellites radio.

Its fun, Raterta, who is from Iligan, told ABS-CBN. Each one of us have his or her own set of skills. So we are able to help each other on areas we are not familiar with.

Bryan Custodio, 22, who was an electronics engineering instructor at the FEU Institute of Technology, said their rigorous training is one-of-a-kind.

Every day is a chance to learn something new, says Custodio who is the designated team leader.

CHALLENGES

Since all of the scholars are required to be full-time students, relying mainly on their stipends, each of them has had to make their own sacrifices.

You have to leave your job. All of us have our own sacrifices, said Daquioag who not only had to leave her career in the software industry but also bring her child with her to live in Metro Manila.

Despite this, she said getting the scholarship is a great opportunity to learn skills that she can share with the younger generation of Filipinos who want to be involved in science and technology.

Meanwhile, Gregorio has to be away from her daughters who are staying with her parents in Bohol. Although this has been the case before as she and her husband, who is also with the Navy, are deployed elsewhere in the Philippines.

For the most part, these young engineers believe that challenges make the work more interesting.

Gladys Bajaro, who was a research staff of the Philippine microsatellite program before applying for a scholarship, said she is inspired to follow the footsteps of senior engineers who constructed the Philippines first microsatellites.

Its challenging but exciting work so far, said the 21-year-old electronics and communications engineer who is in charge of the ground station and the satellites mission payload, which will include cameras and other components.

Meanwhile, electronics engineer Judiel Reyes, 25, and applied physics graduate Derick Canceran, 21, are both fascinated at the number of components they are trying to fit inside the cube satellite.

How do they fit everything into a single cube? Reyes said. That brings excitement to engineers - to be able to do something that seems impossible.

Its also a challenge to decide which components to choose, said Canceran, who is using his physics background to set up the satellites control system.

There are also challenges that are out of the engineers' hands, such as procurement through a government institution.

The program is still new so acquiring equipment is still a challenge, Canceran says.

Marciano says the program is really meant to reveal inherent problems in transplanting processes learned overseas.

We dont want our researchers worrying about those things, Marciano says of administrative and other logistical tasks.

LOCALIZATION

Besides testing how possible it is to assemble satellites in the Philippines, Co said among the main objectives of the program is to localize payload such as cameras.

They will do this by using locally-made and commercially-available components and testing them in space.

In the past, it was the other way around, with scientists and engineers creating space-grade equipment that are later used on Earth. With the advancement in technology, some consumer components might prove to be space-grade as well, according to Marciano.

We are engaging local industries, Co said. At the end of the day, the main goal of the program is to build the space industry (in the Philippines).

Co said this will ensure that locally-made satellites will remain sustainable. Its not sustainable to always rely on foreign partners for supply.

Marciano added that they want to encourage the local industry to go beyond their usual customer-supplier relationship.

We want to bring that to the next level, he says. We want to have partnerships with industry groups and companies wherein theyre also willing to make an investment to learning this technology and how they can expand their current portfolio.

FUTURE

In a year or so, the scholars will delivery two cube satellites, which will then be deployed in space to join other Philippine satellites.

During Diwata-2s anniversary this year, Marciano said the Philippines will have 13 satellites in five years, some of them in space and the others serving as engineering models for students.

Asked what their plans are after the launch, team leader Custodio said he might go back to the academe and share what he learned, adhering to the main objective of the program.

Like the others, he is also mulling the possibility of joining the government.

Once the Philippine Space Agency is fully established, maybe we can all be part of it, he said.

As for Wee, he is already thinking about the possibility of the Philippines launching its own rocket in the future.

Were near the equator. Its more efficient, he said. Thatll be our advantage against other launching sites. It would boost our economy.

While Marciano believes that it will probably take a long time before we can launch our own rocket or send a Filipino to space, he is optimistic about bringing the microsatellite program down to the undergraduate and even high school level.

He said people should not underestimate cube satellites, which provide society with important data.

Satellites are things that we utilize every day, Marciano said, explaining how they are used for weather monitoring, mapping land use, traffic apps and systems used to observe the earth from space. Without them we are less productive.

At the end of the day, its all about information being at hand when we need it. Satellites contribute to it, he said.

Last month, STAMINA4Space announced a new call for applications for its second batch of scholars. Visit their Facebook page (STAMINA4Space / PHL-Microsat) for more information.

satellite, cube satellite, DOST, space, space technology, Department of Science and Technology, University of the Philippines

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Meet the future of Philippine space exploration - ABS-CBN News

The Mystery at the Center of the Solar System – The Atlantic

Read: Astronomers cant decide what the sun is made of

To ponder the unknowns feels like sitting with an inquisitive toddler. Why is the suns outer atmosphere, the corona, so hot? Where does the solar wind come from? Why does it shoot out of the corona like that? What makes the sun flare up sometimes, shooting even more excited particles out into space? These are some of the questions that scientists hope Parker can answer before its mission ends in 2025, with a fiery plunge right into the sun.

NASA released the first batch of results this week, published across four papers in Nature. The findings come from measurements of the corona, which is, remarkably, hotter than the surface itself. The corona extends millions of miles from the surface into space. The region is only visible to the naked eye during a solar eclipse, when the moon casts a shadow on the Earth and blocks out the sun, leaving only a golden ring hanging in a darkened sky.

The corona unleashes powerful streams of high-energy particles, known as the solar wind, which can be felt all across the solar system, and far beyond Pluto. The data from the Parker probe show that the solar wind is far more turbulent near the sun than in our own vicinity, tens of millions of miles away. The wind drags the suns magnetic field out into space, and even bends the field enough for magnetic forces to completely flip around for a few minutes at a time, pointing back at the sun itself instead of into space. The researchers werent expecting the strength of this effect, as well as how often it seems to occur.

Scientists also found that shifts in the suns magnetic field speed up the particles flowing away from the sun much faster than any of their models had predicted. Astronomers have spent decades probing the depths of countless distant stars in the cosmos, some of them billions of light-years away, but their own still keeps secrets from them.

Read: Where is our suns twin?

Scientists havent been able to make such close-up detections with instruments on Earth, or even with earlier missions to the sun, which never got as close. For studying the sun, proximity is everything. Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always going past us, and we want to know, what is the source of the waterfall up at the top? says Stuart Bale, a scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, and the lead on a Parker instrument that examines the solar wind by measuring magnetic fields. Is there an iceberg melting up there? Is there a sprinkler system? Is there a lake, a hole in the ground? And its very hard to tell from halfway down. So what Parker has done is got us closer than ever to the sun.

At every close approach, the Parker probe will also get closer to pulling off one of the toughest feats of robotic space exploration. It sounds counterintuitive, but its actually harder to reach the sun than it is to leave the solar system altogether. The suns gravity is always tugging at everything around it, from giant planets to tiny moons, but those objects are also looping around the sun at great speeds, which keeps them from falling toward it. To get to Mars, you only need to increase slightly your orbital speed. If you need to get to the sun, you basically have to completely slow down your current momentum, Yanping Guo, the mission-design and navigation manager for the Parker Solar Probe, explained to me.

Go here to read the rest:

The Mystery at the Center of the Solar System - The Atlantic

Creating A Movement for Space – The Planetary Society

Jennifer Vaughn November30,2019

A Look Back at The Planetary Society's Founding Documents

The --------- Society. During the months leading up to the founding of The Planetary Society, that was the organization's place-holder name. 40 years ago, Planetary Society founders Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman took an idea and turned it into the public movement that continues to advance space science and exploration today.

The beginning of our beginning goes back to a need and a potential solution. It was 1979 and, after the initial exploration of our solar system in the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. was dramatically scaling back planetary exploration efforts. Society co-founders Carl Sagan a well-known and well-respected planetary scientist and Bruce Murray the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were actively advocating for more missions and more exploration. As they did so, they learned that decision-makers were using perceived public apathy to justify defunding U.S. planetary exploration.

Having worked with the Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager missions, Carl and Bruce had ample anecdotal evidence of significant public support for planetary exploration, but they were unable to prove the breadth and depth of this public support. This challenge led Carl and Bruce to wonder whether a grassroots public organization such as the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, or Cousteau Society could be created to prove and harness public support for planetary exploration.

Carl and Bruce identified Louis D. Friedman a JPL engineer who was finishing a year in Washington D.C. as a Congressional Science Fellow on the Senate space subcommittee staff as a potential organizer of such an organization. In May 1979, Lou met with Bruce, his boss at JPL, and learned about their idea for the organization.

Lou's personal diary gives a glimpse of this first meeting:

The Planetary Society

Lou had independently been thinking that a group focused on exploration could be a powerful tool to support future NASA missions. Lou was intrigued by the possibility of taking on the lead organizing role, even jotting in his diary, "Neat opportunity; can't pass up."

The proposed timeline was aggressive Carl and Bruce envisioned incorporating the organization in about six months. Over those months, Lou was tasked with learning as much as possible about starting and running a successful non-profit.

The founders identified key tenets to form the foundation of the organization. Most importantly, the organization needed to be broad and open to the public. In an August 1979 draft description for the still-unnamed organization, Lou Friedman wrote, "As space exploration has no single rationale, neither does it serve a single constituency. Those who care about its conduct come from many walks of life and hold many outlooks on why and how space exploration should be conducted." Lou went on to write that the goal of this nascent organization would be to "bring together the various constituencies and to provide a public opportunity for participation in and support of the continuing exploration of space."

In the same memo, Lou drafted goals and objectives for the nascent organization:

The Planetary Society

By the end of November, just 6 months after the three co-founders began discussing the idea, the organization which they named The Planetary Society was ready to incorporate. The following memo memorializes the founders thinking about the purpose, status, and plans of The Planetary Society.

The Planetary Society

Finally, on November 30, 1979, the founders filed the organization's Articles of Incorporation.

The Planetary Society

Today, The Planetary Society is still pursuing the goals that Carl, Bruce, and Lou set decades ago. For four decades, our visionary members have been taking action for space, proving public support for planetary exploration and the search for life beyond Earth. And to us, this is still only the beginning.

Throughout 2020, The Planetary Society will be celebrating our 40th anniversary. As we celebrate we will continue to share archival documents, photos, and videos we've compiled over the decades. Thanks to a partnership with Californias Huntington Library, we know these archives will be maintained for generations to come.

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

LightSail 2 launched aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Be part of this epic point in space exploration history!

Donate

Continued here:

Creating A Movement for Space - The Planetary Society

A Toast to Alcohol in Space – The Planetary Society

They are not for everyone, but theres no doubt that alcoholic beverages have been part of human culture for as long as there has been human culture. And theres no reason to think booze wont follow us across the solar system. Host Mat Kaplan talks with Chris Carberry about his comprehensive and eye-opening book, Alcohol in Space: Past, Present and Future. The December Solstice edition of The Planetary Report has just been published online. Editor-in-chief Emily Lakdawalla provides an enticing overview of its contents. Weve also got headlines from The Downlink, and a glance at the crowded night sky in Whats Up.

What are the names of the first two modules joined to form the core of the International Space Station?

What is the largest known object in our solar system that, as of now, has NOT been visited by a spacecraft? Flybys count. The Sun does not.

The winner will be revealed next week.

What is the new or relatively new name for the most distant object visited by a spacecraft?

Arrokoth is the new name for the most distant object visited by a spacecraft. It had been informally called Ultima Thule by the New Horizons team.

Mat K.: [00:00:00] What? More beer in space? How about cognac? This week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. We humans have brought along our spirits, the liquid kind, wherever we have roamed. Chris Carberry says they will follow us across the final frontier. We'll talk with him about his new book called, what else, Alcohol in Space. It's about much more, including the embryonic attempts at space agriculture. You'll be glad to hear Emily Lakdawalla's back with a brand new edition of The Planetary Report, and we'll have some fun later with the chief scientist. Bruce Betts has another space trivia quiz in store, along with a meteor shower. We'll open with these sample headlines from The Downlink, presented by Planetary Society Editorial Director, Jason Davis.

There's no bigger news in [00:01:00] this week's Downlink than the decisions made last week about funding for the European Space Agency. ESA will move forward with the Hera mission, a spacecraft that will visit asteroid Didymos in 2026 after it has been smacked by NASA's dark probe. The resulting data will provide invaluable guidance as we work toward the ability to deflect near Earth objects. That same budget will pay for a Mars rover designed to retrieve the surface samples collected years earlier by NASA's 2020 rover, and then boost them toward a European orbiter that will return them to anxious scientists on Earth.

And then there's the moon. ESA will build two components of the lunar gateway, a refueling and communications module and, in collaboration with Japan, a habitat for visiting humans. The agency is also working on a large lunar lander. There's more waiting for you every Friday at [00:02:00] planetary.org/downlink. Here is the Planetary Society Senior Editor and Editor-in-Chief of its magazine, Emily Lakdawalla. Emily, I have had a- a preview exposure to the December solstice edition of The Planetary Report. It is outstanding once again, no less than I expected. And I'm glad that you're, uh, here to give us a little overview. Tell us about some of the highlights.

Emily L.: Well, the main highlights for this issue are the- the feature articles we have contributed by Abigail Fraeman and Javier Gomez-Elvira on, uh, what we learned looking back at the Mars exploration rover missions, and then looking forward at what we're going to do with the coming rover missions to further the search for life on Mars.

Mat K.: Of course, Abigail is an old favorite of ours, uh, particularly talking about spirit and opportunity. But now she's part of the curiosity mission, right?

Emily L.: Absolutely. Yeah. Abigail, I first met when she was in high school. She was one of my red rover goes to Mars student astronauts. She was lovely then and is lovely today, and I couldn't be prouder of the fact that she [00:03:00] is now deputy project scientist for the Mars exploration rover missions, and like you say, very involved with the curiosity mission.

Mat K.: What a success story she has been. Uh, can you tell us something about, uh, Javier? Uh, it is he who looks to the future of exploration on Mars.

Emily L.: That's right. He, for some time, headed the Centro de Astrobiologa in Spain, so the center for astrobiology. And astrobiology is obviously the main topic if you're looking for life on Mars. So I asked him in particular to look forward because ExoMars is a mission that's really hoping to, um, advance the search for life on Mars today with its deep drill. So it has a drill that can get down about two meters beneath the surface. In Javier's article, he explains the different kinds of signs of- of life, mostly evidence of past life, that we're looking for in the rocks that, uh, ExoMars will be able to drill.

Mat K.: You got all the other, uh, usual features in the magazine. There's lots more to look forward to.

Emily L.: Absolutely. There's a whole lot going on across the solar system. You get that in the, uh, Where We Are feature that I put in. And we [00:04:00] also kind of come back to Earth a little bit, with Frank [inaudible 00:04:03], for instance, about why we explore the solar system, and with a neat little, uh, image feature on the way that we simulate Pluto in the laboratory here on Earth with [inaudible 00:04:11].

Mat K.: This, uh, edition of The Planetary Report also is sort of a right of passage, I suppose. I'm not too sad to say that you're gonna be moving on. I'm not sad because of what you'll be- what you'll be returning to.

Emily L.: I've, uh, helmed The Planetary Report for slightly less than two years. In that time, I've transformed it from, um, the publication it was before. I've- I've added a bunch of cool things, I think, including infographics and some new features featuring the kinds of people involved in space missions. I've, uh, changed the way we report The Planetary Society's activities and I'm really proud of what I did with the magazine, but I found out, being an editor wasn't really my bag. I wanna write.

Mat K.: [laughs].

Emily L.: I desperately wanna write and I have not had time. So, um, I am stepping aside from the editorship in order [00:05:00] that I can get back to doing what I think I do best, which is to explain science and engineering to the public. And I'll be doing a lot more of that in The Planetary Report and on our website going forward. I'm not actually completely stepping aside. I'll still be involved in helping to find great authors for the feature articles. I'll still be writing the, uh, snapshots from space and working on a couple of the other more educational content features there, but I'll have a lot more time to write from now on.

Mat K.: In that case, we'll get the best of both worlds or, considering who we are, the best of all worlds.

Emily L.: [laughs].

Mat K.: Thank you, Emily.

Emily L.: You're welcome, Mat.

Mat K.: That's Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor at The Planetary Society, and, at least still for the moment, Editor-in-Chief of The Planetary Report, uh, where she has done outstanding work. And you can read that, uh, edition, that December solstice edition of The Planetary Report at planetary.org. Of course, our members will be getting the printed copy.

It's the holiday season here in the U.S. and across much of the world. That means our thoughts turn to loved [00:06:00] ones, cherished memories and hope for a better future. That future is likely defined some of us in Earth orbit and beyond, even after nearly 60 years of human space travel, there are huge questions that must be answered if we are to become a space faring species. Making or drinking alcoholic beverages in space might not be at the top of many list but there is history here and there are efforts underway that might result in far more than the ability to enjoy a cold one on Mars.

These topics and much more are in the new book by Chris Carberry. Chris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Explore Mars, Inc. and has written extensively about space topics, but this is his first book. Chris, thanks so much for joining me on Planetary Radio, actually, rejoining me because this is far from the first time we've talked, there are all those, uh, times we've spoken at the Humans to Mars Summit that, uh, you run on behalf of Explore Mars where you are the CEO, and, uh, [00:07:00] maybe we'll be able to talk about what's coming up for the 2020, uh, summit in Washington DC toward the end of today's conversation. Of course, the major topic is this book that I've enjoyed reading, Alcohol in Space, Past, Present and Future. Uh, it's out now from McFarland & Company. I enjoyed it enormously. Thanks for this, Chris.

Chris C.: Well, thank you, Mat. It was a lot of fun writing it. And an unusual topic but a very real topic as you saw and is based on a lot of research and a lot of interesting stories and a fascinating number of organizations actually trying to figure out if alcohol- alcohol can be manufactured in space.

Mat K.: And you cover a lot of ground here. Now if somebody was just to look at the- the fairly fanciful cover, which has this, um, astronaut in full EVA regalia holding a- a frosty glass of something, with another one in the background sidling up to a, uh, uh, it looks like a bar maybe [inaudible 00:07:57]. Between these and Andy Weir, author Andy [00:08:00] Weir's very entertaining forward, people might think that this is just for laughs, but you clearly did a lot of research putting this together.

Chris C.: Absolutely. As you mentioned, yeah, the cover is a bit, you know, [laughs] comical, but the topic-

Mat K.: It's fine.

Chris C.: ... while I- while I do try to keep it lighthearted, is very real and it's based on a lot of research. As you may know, actually, I come from a research background. I... before my career in space exploration, I actually was a research historian, an archivist, and I did a lot of research helping authors writing biographies and histories. So I put that same sort of discipline into writing this book and trying to get as much firsthand information as possible. And I interviewed probably 50 or 60, um, experts in various fields, former astronauts, people from the alcohol industry, from science fiction community, historians, technologists and people, experts in agriculture as well, trying to b... put together a- [00:09:00] a large picture to show not only why this is inevitable that there'll be alcohol in space, and frankly, already has been, but why it's played such a prominent role in history and why it's likely to move forward.

Mat K.: And among those, uh, people that you talked to, my boss, uh, the CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye, who I suspect would not, uh, refuse a nice glass of Bordeaux or- or some other libation in space.

Chris C.: Yeah, I suspect you're correct there. And I should note, it's very timely with the release in this book because 12 bottles of Bordeaux were launched to ISS just last month for an aging experiment.

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: So even since the book has come out, they have an additional alcohol related experiment sent into space, so I'm glad you mentioned Bordeaux [laughs].

Mat K.: Well, long before humans brought alcohol into space, uh, alcohol was no stranger, was it, to the space between the stars?

Chris C.: Uh, yeah, very correct there. We've- we've discovered large, enormous clouds of [00:10:00] ethanol and methanol in space, too far away for us to go, not likely we could go and [inaudible 00:10:05] and have a drink but nonetheless, it's already been there, um, naturally occurring, well, obviously, for billions and billions of years.

Mat K.: Maybe someday, somebody will invent a- a bizarre ramjet to collect alcohol and bottle it in, uh, in the deep reaches of space.

Chris C.: Maybe. It will be an interesting marketing. People were looking for some sort of market in space, you can find a way of collecting that.

Mat K.: [laughs]. I'm not gonna hold my breath, uh, or my glass. Um, uh, you- you start with much more recently, but, uh, a history, uh, humanities history with alcohol that goes back really far. I mean, it's a brief history, you don't intend it to be exhaustive, but it does show that, uh, booze has accompanied us wherever we've gone and- and, uh, it seems that you expect that it will follow us across the solar system.

Chris C.: Well, absolutely. And I thought [00:11:00] that chapter was extremely important. Without context, I think what could be far less effective to show that alcohol has played an integral role in human culture from the very beginning. We have evidence of intentional fermentation way back over 10,000 years. It's been part of human culture. And many... there are many experts who believe that the desire for an alcoholic beverage actually may have played more of a role in the development of early agriculture than the actual desire for food [laughs]. And of course, agriculture was one of the enabling, uh, technologies for civilization.

But throughout society, it's played a critical role, not always a good one. There's no question that alcohol is a dark... there's a dark side to alcohol but sometimes, we ignore the very positive things, roles that alcohol played throughout human civilization, whether it be in diplomacy, to social gatherings, religion, as I mentioned before, agriculture. It's been [00:12:00] constantly a part of human culture all through history, and I don't expect that's gonna stop once we start exploring space, particularly if we can finally get private sectors, space exploration or astronauts going into space, private tourists, or if there were settlers going off to new worlds, like the moon or Mars, in almost certainty that they will actually want to drink [laughs], probably smuggle it along with them, but eventually start manufacturing their own alcohol in space.

Mat K.: Yeah. And Andy Weir, who we've already mentioned, wrote the forward for the book. He says he fully agrees with you and in fact, his most recent novel, Artemis, uh, there is alcohol in that base on the moon, oh, it's really a vacation community. Um, alcohol plays a pretty important part there. I guess I shouldn't be surp... shouldn't have been surprised that, uh, alcohol has been along for the ride almost from the beginning of space travel.

Chris C.: Yeah, absolutely. At the beginning, at the early part of the space ex... yeah, [00:13:00] space program, um, alcohol, we sent up a number of times these gags, like for instance, in Apollo 8, uh, three bottles of brandy were sent up. Um, they didn't drink them but, you know, they were sent up more as a gag for their holiday meals. You recall, it was there around the Christm- Christmas time, holiday season, when Apollo 8 was up there. Uh, and of course, in my book, I note Jim Lovell's bottle, obviously unconsumed, was auctioned off for a large amount. I can't remember off the top of my head what it was auctioned off for. But there were also other occurrences, like this has been a well-documented one, [inaudible 00:13:34] performed a, uh, communion ceremony on the surface of the moon and consumed, um, wine as part of it.

To my knowledge, this is the only time in human history, somebody has consumed wine or any other alcoholic beverage on another planetary body. But even more recently, I think we've seen tales of, we've heard about, heard the rumor about alcohol on for... the former Mir space [00:14:00] station and on the International Space Station. Well, it has occurred. Well, people say there must be a lot of vodka up on Mir in the past or the Russian section of ISS. Uh, that's actually not entirely correct, not vodka. The preferred drink in space has actually been cognac. And so cognac has been smuggled up over time, not in huge amounts, and this is where I think a lot of the misperceptions have taken place.

It has taken place, people do cons- consume alcohol in space, but usually, in small amounts, you know, small, little shots hanging in the air, these little orbs of cognac, you know, in the air in microgravity.

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: I think it served an interesting role. It's not just the Russians. They have, um, from the reports I've seen, they occasionally have these little receptions where you get the international crew together for s... you know, special events and they all come together and bond. And I actually think it's played an interesting and important [00:15:00] diplomatic role to, um, be able to bond the crews, his international crews and sometimes, a challenging situation. I have not encountered one report, that doesn't mean there... it hasn't happened, but haven't, uh, encountered one report of over-consumption, inebriation in space. It sounds like it's all been quite, um, responsible and in such small amounts, it would not cause inebriation.

Mat K.: More from Chris Carberry about alcohol in space is just ahead. I am very happy to once again welcome back The Great Courses Plus. It's the educational streaming surface that makes learning very easy and accessible, and there are thousands of lectures on practically any topic that you can think of, with the best, and I'm really serious here, I have never taken one of these courses or- or completed one of these courses, that wasn't delivered by an absolutely fantastic professor. And the one that I wanna recommend this [00:16:00] week, I'd mentioned it before, it's Apollo 11, Lessons for All Time. Not one, four different professors, each of them exploring a different aspect of Apollo 11. It is an absolutely terrific course and you can listen, you know, whenever it's convenient, your lunch break, at the gym, in the kitchen.

Uh, they make it so easy to do this because it's all streamed directly to you. You can hear this course for free. Go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/planetary for access to the full Great Courses Plus library for one month. That's thegreatcoursesplus.com/planetary. Happy learning.

We all know how alcohol can sometimes, uh, and maybe frequently lubricates social relationships. I was also... it was very interesting, uh, how you revealed how good Russian and other astronauts have gotten at, uh, [00:17:00] hiding, uh, secreting, uh, little packets of, uh, alcohol, uh, that they can, you know, they're not officially allowed to bring up into space, but apparently, the Russian officials kind of looked the other way. I mean, some of them actually think it's, uh, it maybe, uh, healthy, uh, for personally, not just for social, uh, social lubrication.

Chris C.: No, absolutely. It... well, it is formally, officially prohibited within the sp... Russian space program as well, it's not as strictly adhered to [laughs] as it is with NASA. And so, yeah, you... there are a lot of quotes and various Russian officials and cosmonauts think it's healthy for them to drink it, primarily just something to help them, um, relax after a har- hard day's work. Uh, I- I don't disagree with that. But as you mentioned, now I don't disagree with the official prohibition, but I think- I think it has played an interesting important role and frankly, a healthy role in some regards.

But as for the smuggling, yeah, they've come up [00:18:00] with, from what I read, some, um, astronauts and cosmonauts are allowed to bring up a certain amount of weight, their weight, carry some things along with them.

Mat K.: Sure.

Chris C.: There were some reports of cosmonauts intentionally losing weight before their lunch so they could bring up that amount of weight worth of cognac-

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: ... you know, or hiding it, you know, in places like [inaudible 00:18:21] books or other places like that. One of the places where they al- also would do this by sticking it in their suits, ideal with this and the book as well, kind of some of the interesting, um, traditions, preflight traditions. The Russians have some, um, extremely rigid preflight tra- traditions based on what Yuri Gagarin did before his flight. And there's this famous story of Gagarin having to, well, uh, urinate [laughs] before going, getting to the rocket, getting out of the bus and, you know, urinating on the back of a tire of the transport vehicle.

So now, everybody going up through the Russian space program, they go through [00:19:00] this regimented process, get out of the bus and either urinate on the back of the tire or pretend they're urinating on the back of the tire [laughs]. That's al- also a place where a lot of people, well, I've heard, occasionally find that opportunity to stick something in their space suits [laughs].

Mat K.: [laughs]. And- and I will point out that, uh, uh, this is not, uh, too sexist. Uh, the women who, uh, are going up on the [inaudible 00:19:26], uh, have been known to bring a small container of something that may or may not be, uh, urine, uh, and splash it against the... that tire.

Chris C.: Well, yeah. I- I should've mentioned that. Yeah. This is not just for men. Yeah, the women go through this, uh, tradition as well but obviously have to do it in a different way.

Mat K.: Well, maybe we'll leave that topic alone for now. But [laughs]...

Chris C.: [laughs].

Mat K.: And not pursue that, but you do have an entire chapter as well, uh, about, uh, the role of alcohol in science fiction. Uh, I just finished rereading a collection of Arthur C. Clarke's short stories, and as you know, there are [00:20:00] some very fun ones that are set in this fictitious pub, The White Hart pub-

Chris C.: Yeah, yeah.

Mat K.: ... and, uh, you give them honorable mention in y- in your... in this chapter.

Chris C.: Yeah, I do. And I'd certainly, I probably missed a lot of... well, I know I missed a lot 'cause I intentionally, [inaudible 00:20:14] mentioned all of them so people, I probably missed a lot of people's favorite alcohol stories and science fiction, but once again, it's been, not... maybe not critical, but a really key part of a lot of different science fiction, from practically the beginning, not even practically, the beginning of science fiction, yeah, Jules Verne had it and H.G. Wells talked about it, moving forward in literature, you know, with, uh, Ray Bradbury, uh, Martian Chronicles, it was wine, you know, available and they would make, you know, be able to make it.

In television and movies, we certainly see a lot of it, you know. In Star Trek, we all know about, um, Ten Forward on the Enterprise or [crosstalk 00:20:55].

Mat K.: I've had a rum, mule and ale or two.

Chris C.: Hey, rum, mule and ale. And there's even a, [00:21:00] um, a science fiction bar which I mentioned on Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, called the Scum and Villainy Cantina-

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: ... obviously based on modeled on the Star Wars bar, and they serve all these different science fiction themed drinks. Long [laughs]- long story still long, [laughs] um, you know.

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: I just go over this, looking at the different television and movies and how all the different science fiction authors are... have incorporated. They just generally assume it's gonna be part of life in the future in space because it's- it's so natural. It's such a part, key part of human civilization is not likely to go away.

Mat K.: Sure seems that way. Uh, let's turn back to, uh, the factual side of alcohol in space. Just last week, we featured the work of, uh, this small company in Kentucky called Space Tango, and as you know, because you mentioned them in the book, they are working on many projects, but one of them is with, uh, Anheuser-Busch, uh, [00:22:00] which, uh, so many of us know as the- the creator of the, uh, quote, King of Beers, unquote. Research that is exploring if not the creation of beer in space, at least how conditions in space, and especially microgravity might change the nature of beer's ingredients, and this is happening on the International Space Station. But they're not alone, are they?

Chris C.: Uh, no, they're not. As you mentioned, with Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser, they wanna be the king of beers on Mars.

Mat K.: [laughs].

Chris C.: Uh, they actually announced this south by southwest in, um, 2017 that they wanted to be the first beer manufacturer on Mars, they backed this up with actual real research, as you mentioned, with Space Tango, um, they've sent up, um, barley experiments to ISS. But they're not the only ones. Right now, there is still whiskey aging onboard ISS through Suntory, the, uh, Japanese, uh, whiskey maker. They sent a couple of batches up several years ago. One batch came back already, the others still [00:23:00] aging up there. They have been pretty closed lipped. They haven't been actually expressed too much in result, so we haven't heard much from Suntory.

But one company we have heard from was the first company to do an aging experiment for whiskey in space, that was Ardbeg, a Scottish whiskey maker. They sent up a, um, sample in 20... when was it? 2011, came back 2015, I believe. And it was a quickly put together experiment, so, uh, they- they conceived that. But the difference between the space flown one and the example that was left on the ground was remarkable. It was a lot different. They report that it had kind of an antiseptic taste to it. It was definitely a lot different than the ground sample. And so they're not sure if that was a result of the actual aging in microgravity or if it had to do with the not so gentle handling, you know. There's a lot of shaking on launching and landing.

Mat K.: Yeah.

Chris C.: And so it may have had more, may have been more result of that than the actual aging in space. But [00:24:00] last I heard, they were planning another experiment, taking all this into account and trying to do a more authentic aging experiment. There were a lot of other companies looking at other aspects as well. As I mentioned, the 12 bottles of Bordeaux that were launched up to ISS last month, an aging experiment for wine. There've also been companies, not- not- not necessarily launching their stuff into space right now, but looking at, can you create beverages that you can consume pleasurably in space? And I mean pleasurably 'cause I'm talking about specifically alcoholic beverages that are carbonated.

Mat K.: Yes.

Chris C.: Carbonated beverages are a challenge in microgravity. Um, as you all know, when you're drinking a carbonated beverage in one- 1g on the surface [inaudible 00:24:46], the gas rises up and disperses into the atmosphere, well, it doesn't do that in space. It all goes to the center, congeals to the center and it does that on your stomach as well. So astronauts who have consumed [00:25:00] carbonated beverages, they've reported stomach cramps and wet burps, which is not a pleasurable drinking experience. There have beer company- companies and, actually, a champagne company looking at this problem. Uh, recently, the champagne company [inaudible 00:25:15] has been creating a, um, champagne or utilizing one of their champagnes but also created a bottle and a glass to try to dispense the champagne effectively but also a glass where they could actually drink out of a little champagne glass in microgravity.

They said they wanna do, enhance the conviviality of drinking champagne in space and then finding the right balance in their champagne so the carbonation didn't create problems. And they've tested this on the European version of the vomit comet. Another company on the beer side that created the, um, uh, beer, uh, Vostok, which was a collaborative between an aerospace company in a brewery in Australia trying to create a beer [00:26:00] that would actually have the right balance of carbonation but also the right taste. 'Cause another problem that the astronauts reported in space is their taste- taste buds are im- impacted. It kinda feel... a lot of astronauts feel as though, slight, you have a head cold or something, so it really diminishes your taste sensation. That's why a lot of astronauts like having hot spicy food, bringing up hot sauce, so Vostok created a beer utili- utilizing a, using a stout beer with a strong taste, but finding the right balance of carbonation.

And they have also tested that on, uh, uh, zero-G flight here in the U.S. trying to find and see if, first off, if you can drink it without feeling sick, but they're also trying to see how human bodies metabolize alcohol in space. But there are also companies working on different sort of glasses. There's a company, there are group trying to create a, um, scotch glass where you can sip scotch like you do on Earth [00:27:00] without it floating out of the glass, and also one for a cocktail glass [laughs].

Mat K.: Who wants to drink a cocktail or scotch out of a plastic bag?

Chris C.: I wouldn't, you know. Really, these- these- these little things do make a lot of difference. And this is another area where this technology going into it goes well beyond the need and desire to have a drink and drink it authentically. These companies are looking at all sorts of fluid dynamics and so these- these will have uses well beyond, whether we can have our scotch our our cocktails in a more authentic container in space.

Mat K.: You know, this touches on, uh, I- I think it was... may have been the last, uh, comment by Bill Nye that you quoted in the book, because he says, it- it's so hard to tell where R&D is going to take us. Could be that research into space booze could pay off an entirely unexpected and- and seemingly unrelated ways. I mean, this is pretty much what we've seen not just across, uh, space science, [00:28:00] uh, but across science.

Chris C.: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. As I've mentioned earlier, this is actually probably the most interesting thing I found in the book, and the most fascinating. Just in the potential for secondary benefits. Yeah, I certainly wanna be able to have a drink if I'm space. No question. I like a drink [laughs], but it's just fascinating, all the innovation, the technologies, the capabilities that are, well, what these companies are looking at, different organizations, whether it be creating these glasses or figuring out. Like for instance, there are lots of groups around the world looking whether you can grow crops in lunar soil or Martian soil, simulated, of course, some of which... some of whom have actually done it with the very purpose to see if you could grow or manufacture beer on Mars, et cetera.

So the more that we invest, you know, groups like this are investing in these technologies or looking at questions in a different way that the space program might not look at it, we might answer a lot of questions that might not have been [00:29:00] answered or at least answered in the same way if we had just looked the same problem in the usual manner. I think this is a great thing and it's not just alcohol. When more industries can start looking at different problems in space, I think that's only gonna help us advance space exploration, space settlement and create markets that were not there before.

Mat K.: And I'm so glad that you went in this direction, particularly mentioning these experiments with, uh, space agriculture, uh, uh, because you devote a chapter toward the end of the book to this topic. And the efforts that you described, some of them are much farther along than I thought. Are there a couple of these projects that- that you're most impressed by?

Chris C.: I was impressed by a lot of them. I thought this was another essential thing, kinda like the history of alcohol, basically give, once again, a- an overview of what's going on, what's happened in space agriculture, what's currently going on in some speculation moving forward. And there are literally dozens, if not more, experiments going on around the world. There's some up on the [00:30:00] International Space Station.

Mat K.: Uh, there's a European experiment, a sa, uh, uh, a, uh, a satellite.

Chris C.: Yeah. Eu:CROPIS' mission's really fascinating. It was launched, uh, I believe in December of last year. That's a satellite which is simulating both lunar and Martian gravity by spinning. And so there's a greenhouse inside, I believe, with tomato seeds, and there are also some synthetic biology experiments onboard the, um, that came from the United States. So they are experimenting on growing food, growing crops in various, uh, gravities. First, I believe the first one is just in microgravity as without it spinning. That will go to, um, spin up to one-sixth gravity, lunar gravity, then it'll start spinning a little bit more and go to one-third gravity simulating, uh, Martian gravity. So this will be the first time really in this sort of sustainable way that we've been able to grow crops in these simulated gravities. Very important. Has a lot of ramifications [00:31:00] also for other kinds of biology, like our own [laughs].

Mat K.: In many ways, this chapter about agriculture in space, perhaps because it's almost certain that some form of farming is going to be essential if we're going to, uh, both explore Mars and perhaps someday, a few people settle there or at least open up a research station there. We still know so little about how it might work.

Chris C.: Yeah. It's one of these critical technologies we don't talk about as much. Everybody always loves talking about, you know, which launch vehicle we're gonna use, which crew vehicle, land or et cetera, but if we wanna create sustainability anywhere off Earth, we need to learn how to grow crops in space. Small scale experiments have done one... have been done on ISS and earlier space stations. There are a couple, uh, greenhouses up there right now, the veggie greenhouse, but also, uh, Lada one, L-A-D-A, um, that grown crops, like [00:32:00] lettuce and similar things like that in small quantities, but there are also been a lot of experiments here on the surface experimenting with growing crops in, um, simulated lunar soil and simulated, even more so, simulated Martian soil.

But as I said, this is simulation. We can- we can create simulations and approximate what the lunar or this Martian soil [inaudible 00:32:23] is like. For instance, on Mars, we know there are perchlorates in the soil. And so perchlorates are known to be toxic to humans. Will that be a problem? Uh, if you- if you're able to grow a crop inside that, will the actual vegetables, will the plants absorb the toxin, so even if they grow, they're not gonna be consumable by the crew? It's a good question. And/or can we actually get rid of the perchlorates before growing crops in it?

In the book, I mentioned a number of people say in the book that you can get rid of perchlorate by burning it off or washing it off or there are certain [00:33:00] microbes you can bring that'll eat it away. So there are a lot of different questions but many of these questions, we're not going to know for sure until we actually get to Mars or the surface of the moon to see if we can actually grow things, grow crops in the soil.

Mat K.: So we have a lot to learn. In your final thoughts in the book, you mentioned several apparent opportunities, including your suggestion that the time may have come for professional association of some sort. What do you have in mind?

Chris C.: [laughs]. Funny. That's gonna be announced fairly soon. I guess...

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A Toast to Alcohol in Space - The Planetary Society

Wanted: A new UAE astronaut – The National

The UAE wants a new homegrown astronaut for its second space mission.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the second round of open applications on Friday.

Taking to Twitter, Sheikh Mohammed said men and women with ambition, energy, and determination should apply for the job.

On Saturday, Salem Al Marri, director of the UAE Astronaut Programme said they had received nearly 1,000 applications in the four hours since registration opened.

Once again we are witnessing the determination of Emiratis to apply for the programme, he said.

Hazza Al Mansouri in September became the first Emirati astronaut to be sent into space and was the first Arab to work on the International Space Station.

He was picked from 4,022 applicants for the first UAE Astronaut Programme after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests.

The UAE has now launched its search for its next astronaut, with applications invited from degree-educated, adult Emiratis who can speak Arabic and English.

"People of all professions are invited to register," a statement from the Government of Dubai Media Office said.

The new search marks a "new phase of the UAEs space exploration journey", the statement added.

The new programme would benefit from the experience of Maj Al Mansouri, a former fighter pilot, and back-up Sultan Al Neyadi, who was also selected from the first programme.

The number of applications is expected to be high, with the exploits of Maj Al Mansouri capturing imaginations across the country.

When he successfully returned to Earth in early October, he spoke of the start of a new "golden era" of Arab space exploration.

We are not done yet, and we will never be, he said, as he set off on his journey home. We just began, and we will be back soon.

The UAE is also planning to send an unmanned probe to Mars in 2021, the year of the UAE's 50th anniversary.

During a call with Maj Al Mansouri during his mission, Sheikh Mohammed told him: You're a source of pride for all Emiratis. You're the first (Emirati to travel to space) and the first is always remembered. However, I can proudly assure you that a generation of young Emiratis will follow in your footsteps and become space scientists and technology pioneers.

The search for the next UAE astronaut, who will be trained to carry out scientific missions, has launched exactly two years after the first search got under way.

Updated: December 7, 2019 05:51 PM

Continued here:

Wanted: A new UAE astronaut - The National

Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition: Breaking Ground Expansion Out Tomorrow – PlayStation.Blog

Leverage a suite of new robotic parts with the KAL-1000! Breaking Ground is the second DLC available on PS4 for the award-winning multi-genre space exploration game, Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition.

One core aspect of Kerbal Space Program is how it blends engineering and creativity, allowing players to see their ideas realized before their eyes in-game. In the new DLC, we are equipping our players with a new suite of robotic parts and a programmable controller, the KAL-1000, that will allow you to sequence the actions of these parts by binding them to action groups. This article serves as a guide to the KAL-1000 and how to program robotic parts in Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition: Breaking Ground.

The KAL-1000 is an intelligent programmable controller. While it isnt sentient, it can sequence the actions of all the robotics parts as well as many others. It gives access to a powerful track editor tool to set up how parts will behave over time.

So, how do we use it? First, youll need to build a contraption. In this example, we created a robot-ant, but anything can be built. The skys the limit!

Next, we will add a KAL-1000 to the craft. Open up the Action Group editor.

With the KAL selected in the Action Group Editor, we select the parts we want to control and choose an action in this example, a hinge and its target angle.

Open up the Track Editor of the KAL-1000.

Then we edit how the part behaves over time by adjusting the curve that represents each variable in the track editor. For example, were adjusting the target angle of this hinge, which will allow it to move back and forth smoothly.

Do the same steps with other parts you want to control and play the track to see how it operates. Test it out in the world, with real physics operating, to make sure itll work. Once your Robot-Ant is operational, its time to raid a picnic! Thats it!

By using the KAL-1000 Controller, we can set up complex robotic mechanisms in tandem with action groups. The possibilities are endless. Happy Launchings!

Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition: Breaking Ground Expansion is available tomorrow at PlayStation Store.

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Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition: Breaking Ground Expansion Out Tomorrow - PlayStation.Blog

The Trail Of The Cosmonauts – Reykjavk Grapevine

Before man simultaneously took one small step and one giant leap, more than 30 astronauts travelled to Iceland to train for the unique challenges they might face on a lunar walk. It was this unique and oft-forgotten piece of history that inspired Bristol-based photographer Matthew Broadhead to cross the Atlantic for his new exhibition, Space for Humans: The Moon on Earth at the Reykjavk Museum of Photography.

One Google search term

I had specific criterium that I wanted in a new project. I was interested in astronomy and geology and I wanted something fresh, Matthew relays. He talks in a point-by-point manner, stoically, almost like hes giving a presentation. I thought maybe I should be a bit ambitious so I literally did a search term on Googleastronomy geology Icelandand one of the first things that came up was the Exploration Museum in Hsavk.

Run by astronaut enthusiast rlygur Hnefill rlygsson, the Exploration Museum is one of Icelands most peculiar treasuresa gallery devoted to photographs and artefacts from the 1965 Apollo geology field trip in Iceland. The site instantly fascinated Matthew, who subsequently teamed up with rlygur to plan a trek following the trail of the cosmonauts.

Mother Earth

Upon arrival, Icelands otherworldly exterior and its history in the space race instantly captivated the photographer, and also made him reflect on his own relationship with the pale blue dot. There was this particular emphasis that our own planet isnt fascinating enough and space exploration maybe was setting a precedent for forgetting about our own planet a little, he explains. Like, oh we found some other habitable planet so were forgetting our own. I felt really strongly about Earth being Mother Earth.

To relay these emotions, Matthew endeavoured to capture each component of the landscape individually. By isolating certain aspects of a landscape, you can imagine it as the moon or as an analogue to a planet like Mars, he explains. So theres a romantic, literary aspect as well.

1960s to today

The exhibit is small, with but a few photos peppering the walls, contrasting sharply with each other. For example, on one wall, a portrait of rlygurs famous Apollo 11 spacesuit hangs sandwiched between the desolate Grjtagj lava cave and bustling Krafla Geothermal Power Plant.

Every single photo has a story to me, Matthew says, pointing to the spacesuit portrait. rlygurs spacesuit is emblematic, he adds softly. He then gestures to the lava cave. You wouldnt be able to tell because there arent any astronauts in this picture, but I saw a snapshot from the 1960s, a photograph of astronauts just sitting on this ridge. The first time I came to Iceland I couldnt find it, but I did the second.

He pauses, turning to the third in this trio. This geothermal power station is a slight sidestep from the core concept, but I think I was just in awe of the technology in Iceland and that felt quite relevant to the endeavour to get people into space, he explains. So in a way, it fits into the same sequence. He stops and smiles. It also looks quite futuristic, right?

Space for Humans: The Moon on Earth is open until February 3rd at the Reykjavk Museum Of Photography.

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The Trail Of The Cosmonauts - Reykjavk Grapevine

Dreams of Space, Skepticism and the Right – Splice Today

Im fascinated by factions. Various causes in which Ive had a stake over the years readily broke into competing groups that may have shared some sweeping dream but had different visions of exactly what it constituted or how to go about achieving it.

Among enthusiasts of space exploration, for instance, there are factions that want to: adopt a crash program of sending humans to Mars; return humans to the moon and treat Mars as a long-term goal; emphasize robotic exploration over human; build up an industry of orbital tourism; orbit giant solar panels as an energy solution; emphasize free-market principles in whatever gets done in space; expand government space activities for national prestige and security; foster international cooperation through multilateral space projects; and more.

Some of those ideas are diametrically opposed, while others have differences of priority or emphasis. But the proponents of all of them share what Ill call the space dream, a belief that humanity can benefit greatly from expanded involvement in space. I share the space dream, though Ive tended to migrate among the factions, once seeing more plausibility for near-termMars colonization and asteroid miningthan I do today, and more recently being frustrated that free-market space activity, such as Elon Musks Starlink satellites, isundermining astronomy.

A couple of decades ago, when I worked atLou Dobbs Space.com, I thought the space frontier was going to move outward faster than it has. Perhaps the space movement has been hindered by its factionalism, though Im more inclined to think its wide range of visions is a sign of health; that sooner or later, some of those visions will edge into reality, even as others fall by the wayside. Still, I wouldnt recommend that anyone alive today plan on aretirement in space.

The skepticism movement is another that has produced various factions. You may wonder what the skepticism movement is, as it hasnt gripped the public imagination to the degree that others and I have hoped. Beginning in the 1970s, some groups and publications arose in reaction against a profusion of public and media credulity regarding claims of the paranormal: psychic powers, Bigfoot, Atlantis, visits from aliens and from beyond the grave, and much more.

The skepticism dream was to make society more rational, more prone to demand and evaluate evidence when confronted with dubious or extraordinary claims. Its worked in bolstering a subculture of people who think that way, though a quick look at the offerings of cable TV, with its profusion of ancient aliens and paranormal encounters, indicates theres plenty of room for improvement in bringing skepticism to a wide public.

The factionalism in skepticism has been partly about how broad a mandate to pursue: notably, whether probing the truth claims of religion should be a focus of the movement. Some skeptics have embraced an atheistic mission, while others see religion as outside their scope or limit their investigations to tangible matters, such as the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Im a practicing Episcopalian, and one step in my becoming so was reading anessayby the secular humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz, who saw religion as having a proper domain thats evocative, expressive, emotive. Though Kurtz didnt believe in God, he ended up being pushed out of the skeptical organization hed founded by others more aggressively atheistic.

The intersection of skepticism and politics is an area of longtime interest to me. The question sometimes arises as to whether right-wingers or left-wingers are more prone to beliefs contrary to mainstream science. Broadly speaking, the data Ive found suggests theresplenty of credulityabout bizarre things on left and right, though hostility to mainstream science on policy-related matters, such as global warming, is more evident on the right than on the left. Id like the skepticism movement to become more involved in addressing politically charged issues. Trumps corruption is more important to me than Bigfoot or Atlantis.

The role of factionalism in politicsand its desirabilityis the topic of a recent paper by Steven Teles and Robert Saldin at the moderate Niskanen Center. Titled The Future Is Faction, the paper argues that moderates should work to become significant factions within the two major parties, rather than trying to form a third party or emphasizing institutional reforms (like changing how redistricting is done) that might empower the middle against the extremes.

Its a message I didnt particularly want to hear. Ive written about myhopes for a third party, myanimus against my former party, the GOP, and how afterdecades as a right-winger, I moved to the center as the right abandoned intellectual integrity and empirical reality. Still, I see Teles and Saldins point, as theres not even a hint of an incipient third party in the current scene, and revamping the political system is likely to be a long, incremental, uncertain process.

As I write this, though, Im watching congressional Republicans do their best to obscure the facts uncovered in the impeachment inquiry. If people who take science and evidence seriously want to join or stay in the Republican Party, Im open to the possibility they might do some good. But I dont expect to be part of any such faction. I no longer share the right-wing dream.

Kenneth Silber is author ofIn DeWitts Footsteps: Seeing History on the Erie Canaland is on Twitter:@kennethsilber

Link:

Dreams of Space, Skepticism and the Right - Splice Today

Kerbal Space Program’s Breaking Ground Expansion Now Live on PC – IGN India

Kerbal Space Programs newest expansion, Breaking Ground, is out now on PC. Key feature of Breaking Ground is the addition of all new robotic parts, including hinges, rotors, pistons and more in a variety of sizes. Along with new parts, Breaking Ground is also bringing Deployed science to Kerbal Space Program.

Deployed science enhances experiments and data-collection objectives, going hand-in-hand with space exploration. Players can use a storage container in their craft to keep science equipment, which can then be deployed to monitor and collect data through assorted methods and relay it back to the Kerbals home planet of Kerbin. Keeping with the generally wacky tone of the game, one instrument, the active seismometer, even has players crashing various contraptions into celestial body to gather seismic data.

Breaking Ground will also bring minor, but still important changes to Kerbal Space Programs space exploration. Celestial bodies will now have new features scattered across the planets in the solar system. These features can be scanned using a robotic arm attached to rovers.

Kerbal Space Program is available on Steam, and is priced at Rs. 849, while the Breaking Ground expansion is priced at Rs. 459.

Go here to see the original:

Kerbal Space Program's Breaking Ground Expansion Now Live on PC - IGN India

NASA will push exploration rocket test hardware beyond its limits – Space Daily

Engineers are preparing to push a test article identical to the world's largest rocket fuel tank beyond its design limits and find its breaking point during upcoming tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Earlier this year, a NASA and Boeing test team subjected a test version of the Space Launch System (SLS) liquid hydrogen tank to a series of 37 tests that simulate liftoff and flight stresses by using large hydraulic pistons to push and pull on the test tank with millions of pounds of force. The test article aced these tests and showed no signs of cracks, buckling or breaking and qualified the design for flight. Now, the team wants to see just how much the tank can take.

"Space exploration involves risk," said Julie Bassler, manager of the Space Launch System Stages Office. ""This is a different kind of exploration that happens before we launch. A test to failure of the largest liquid hydrogen tank ever produced will expand our knowledge to ensure we can safely get the most performance out of the rocket that will send astronauts and large cargo to the Moon and then to Mars."

The hydrogen tank is part of the SLS core stage. Measuring more than 130 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter, it stores 537,000 gallons of super cooled liquid hydrogen to help power the four SLS core stage RS-25 engines for the 8-minute climb to orbit at more than 17,000 miles per hour. The test article's structure is identical to that of the flight hardware.

Having certified the tank for both the current version of SLS, called Block 1, as well as the more powerful Block 1B version in development, engineers are preparing their 215-foot-tall test stand for one final test to see exactly how much stress the hydrogen tank can take before it fails structurally.

Built by Boeing at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and barged to Marshall last December, the hydrogen tank test article has been fitted with thousands of sensors measuring, stress, pressure, and temperature, while high-speed cameras and microphones capture every inch for the expected telltale buckling or cracking in the cylindrical tank wall.

"The core stage hardware structures are brand new, first-time developments, so this testing is crucial to ensuring mission success," said Luke Denney, qualification test manager for Boeing's Test and Evaluation Group. "The tests were designed to prove that each component of the stage will be able to survive its own unique set of extreme environmental conditions during liftoff, ascent and flight."

In fact, this will be the largest-ever controlled test-to-failure of a NASA rocket stage fuel tank, said Mike Nichols, Marshall's lead test engineer for the tank.

"The failure mechanism of a slender multi-segment rocket stage is not very well understood," he said. "By taking this test article to failure, we can better understand the phenomenon. This test will benefit all rocket engineers, providing valuable data for their propellant tank designs for future rocket stages."

Engineers have computer calculations that predict when and where and how the tanks should fail. But without a carefully planned test they won't know exactly. That difference is important for NASA's plans to return human explorers to the Moon.

"In spaceflight, especially human spaceflight, we always walk the line between performance and safety, said Neil Otte, the chief engineer for the SLS Stages Office. "Pushing systems to the point of failure gives us additional data to walk that line intelligently. We will be flying the Space Launch System for decades to come, and we have to take all the opportunities we have to maximize our understanding of the system so we may safely and efficiently evolve it as our desired missions evolve.

This is not the first SLS test article to be tested to structural failure. Test versions of the engine section and intertank were also tested until they broke above 140% of anticipated flight stresses.

While engineers predict the test will not create a sizable hole in the tank, should that happen, areas of the community close to Redstone Arsenal hear a low-level sound as the nitrogen gas used to pressurize the tank is vented.

The 212-foot-tall core stage is the largest, most complex rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages that powered the Apollo missions to the Moon. SLS and Orion, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA's backbone for deep space exploration and the Artemis program, which will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Related LinksNASA's Artemis programRocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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NASA will push exploration rocket test hardware beyond its limits - Space Daily

SpaceX will launch genetically enhanced ‘mighty mice’ to the International Space Station – CNN

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SpaceX will launch genetically enhanced 'mighty mice' to the International Space Station - CNN

How ISRO can be the number one player in the game – WION

2014. I was in grad school at that time and will never forget seeing a demeaning cartoon in the New York Times making fun of Indias Mangalyaan robotic probe into orbit around Mars. The illustration portrayed that India was nowhere close to the elite space club.

Sardonic Much?

Fast forward to 2019. I ask my nieces and a few other high school students about the Vikram Lander and the moon. These kids are quite well-informed and were aware of Chandrayaan 2. But when I asked them why they thought this was significant, I was baffled at the unclarity and weak responses I got. It was quite evident that the importance of space exploration was not at all a thing for them.

Since its inception in 1969, ISRO has significantly evolved and has come into the elite space club. Yet, it is not as popular as the USAs NASA or Russias space agency Roscosmos. Why? Well, ISRO was first established after India gained independence. In terms of funding, the government had to justify why spending would be allotted to ISRO versus those in poverty. And for these reasons, ISRO focused on missions that were developmental in nature.

Things like weather forecasting and communication satellites. By doing this on lower budgets, ISRO is one of the most cost-effective space industries on the planet. But now that India has entered the elite space club, it is high time that the people of India- especially the youth- understand the significance and importance of space exploration. To do this, ISRO must focus on the following things.

Marketing

When NASA was founded, the US space program was determined to differentiate itself from the USSR. It would instead be an open program in which facts and data would flow freely between the agency and the public. For that, an aggressive public relations team was built. The aim? Not just releasing information but also explaining astronomy, rockets and complicated physics to the lay person clearly and accurately. NASAs PR created items that addressed reporters needs along with background material. They also produced broadcasts and held media symposiums. Every mission was explained before the launch and reported with text and visuals. An example? Before Apollo 11s launch, NASAs public affairs office gave journalists an entire binder with detailed diagrams of the spacesuit, the command module and even oxygen tanks. By doing this in a consistent manner, NASA not only helped the USA enter the elite space club but also sold space education to the masses.

In the same manner, ISRO should consider doing this. Chandrayaan2 has put Indian space exploration on the global radar. ISRO not only launched satellites but also has several cool unique initiatives that engage the youth of the country. The latest student satellite was launched in 2019 itself. ISRO should take up NASAs approach and aggressively push for more information, statistics and details to get out to the public. It is not just enough to put it on their website. Press releases can be held along with symposiums explaining launches to the masses. In these public relations events and materials, ISRO should also actively engage with the youth. Scientists and engineers should visit schools more often to try and engage youth with space exploration and how they can get involved.

Private Partnerships

Earlier this year, the Central Government approved a commercial enterprise- NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)- under Indias Department of Space as an effort to build ISRO-private sector relationships and to expand ISRO commercialisation as well. NSIL helps with technology transfer between ISRP and private players along with promoting space-based products and spin-off technologies. While ISRO currently is and should remain government-funded and managed, getting the private sector to take some of the burdens of space exploration will not diminish ISROs reputation. In contrast, it will bolster it with more funding, more ideas and people and more cutting edge technology. With the increased partnership with private players, ISRO can focus on things that will help it grow as an organisation itself and also grow mainstream with the Indian masses. This includes human space flight, space exploration and developing larger and more cutting edge rockets.

Diplomacy

Another thing that ISRO must focus on at the earliest is making deals with foreign markets. This can both be a tool for diplomacy, as well as, bringing in revenue for further missions. With that being said, India needs to increase its number of missions annually if ISRO wants to remain in the same league as the elite space players. Working on space exploration with other countries would not just be great for diplomacy. A great move happened just last week with India launching the CARTOSAT along with American satellites in the same mission. Collaborating more with the global commercial space market will also help keep competitors like China at bay.

ISRO should be proud of itself and citizens should be proud of how ISRO has propelled India's global respect. But think about this. Despite not maximising its potential [yet] in marketing, outreach, private partnerships and foreign collaboration, ISRO STILL ranks in the top five global space players. Now, how can India go from within the top five to number 1'? Marketing will educate the masses to the importance of every mission. Youth, in particular, need to be engaged. Private partnerships will not only bring in more innovation and revenue, but will also help ISRO focus on more advanced missions like human space exploration. Finally, collaborating with foreign space players will both increase ISRO productivity and work as a great diplomacy tool. This is the need of the hour for ISRO. This is because there are more space actors than ever before; both government and commercial players. If ISRO does not act quickly, Indias elite status can slide away as quickly as it has risen.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

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How ISRO can be the number one player in the game - WION

SpaceX, Maxar, and Nanoracks to Demo Orbital Space Station Construction in 2020 – The Motley Fool

Do you like space stations? Would you like to see more of them in orbit -- maybe even spend a few nights on an orbiting space hotel?

So here's the problem with building space stations: They're really big.

The International Space Station, for example, stretches 357 feet end-to-end (about as long as a football field, including the end zones), masses nearly 420 tons, and encompasses 932 cubic meters of pressurized volume.

Image source: Getty Images.

And here's the other problem with building space stations: The rockets that carry them up to orbit are (relatively) small, so you can't do it all in one go. Getting all the components needed to put the ISS into orbit required no fewer than 42 separate space missions, spread over 10 years' time.

Granted, things are a bit easier today. SpaceX's new Falcon Heavy rocket, for example -- currently the biggest rocket in operation anywhere on the planet -- can lift about 64 tons at a time. But SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsule, which Falcon Heavy can carry, still only has a total payload volume of about 46 cubic meters. Using Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon together to build another space station would therefore take at least 20 separate launches.

But what if there's another way to build space stations -- a better way?

What if, for example, one could leverage Falcon Heavy's unmatched ability to lift very heavy (but not especially bulky) equipment payloads into orbit, and then install this equipment into hollow, spent fuel tanks from other rockets already in orbit?

This, in a nutshell, is the concept that SpaceX and its partners, Nanoracks and Maxar Technologies(NYSE:MAXR), intend to explore late next year.

In a mission being called "In-Space Outpost Demonstration," Nanoracks, the self-proclaimed "world's leading commercial space station company," will send a payload massing close to 200 kilograms but occupying just over half a cubic meter of volume into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (This experiment is part of, and funded by, NASA's NextSTEP-2 program to experiment with technologies for building deep-space habitats.

Once in orbit, Nanoracks' device will utilize "a new articulating robotic arm" built by Maxar Technologiesto "friction mill" (i.e. grind and melt) pieces of metal, similar to the casings of empty upper-stage rocket fuel tanks. Over the course of 30 to 60 minutes, Nanoracks hopes to demonstrate its ability to transform such spent rocket parts into building material that can be used to construct a new space station -- in orbit.

Successful completion of this demonstration will be first-of-its-kind. As Nanoracks observes, "never before has structural metal cutting been done in-space."

And this won't be the only first accomplished on this mission. Remember how we told you back in August that SpaceX was planning to offer dedicated rocket rides for companies wanting to launch small satellites into orbit, and guaranteeing the launch dates?

Well as it turns out, Nanoracks' In-Space Outpost Demonstration will go up on the very first ever such "SmallSat Rideshare" launch. As SpaceX has confirmed, in addition to institutionalizing the offering of ad-hoc rideshares aboard rockets carrying the company's system of Starlink internet broadband satellites, SpaceX has also scheduled a series of four missions completely dedicated to (i.e. all passengers will be) smallsats.

Initially, SpaceX advised that the first of these dedicated rideshare missions -- call it the "SmallSat Express" -- would take place somewhere between November 2020 and December 2021. Now, with Nanoracks' announcement, we know that the first SmallSat Express mission will happen in Q4 2020.

And so this mission takes on an extra layer of importance. On the one hand, Nanoracks' In-Space Outpost Demonstration holds the potential to open the door for an entirely new industry for investors to invest in: in-orbit construction of space stations, and probably of space ships as well.

Success here also has the potential to dramatically lower the cost of space exploration by, for example, transforming second-stage rocket boosters (which everyone -- SpaceX included -- currently throws away after launch) from an expensive consumable into a valuable resource useful for orbital construction companies. It could advance the technology of building large objects in space. And in so doing, it could turbocharge Nanoracks' business, and transform Nanoracks from a little-known space start-up into a viable candidate for IPO.

The fact that this mission could also prove the concept of SpaceX's new business line -- launching small satellites in batches on dedicated rockets -- is almost just icing on the cake. Success there could potentially permit SpaceX to dominate the smallsat launch business, much as it's already moving to dominate the large satellite launch business.

All I can say on that score is that, right now, I wouldn't want to be a SpaceX competitor.

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SpaceX, Maxar, and Nanoracks to Demo Orbital Space Station Construction in 2020 - The Motley Fool


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