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Category Archives: Space Exploration
Posted: June 20, 2020 at 9:55 am
Clayton Turner received the Career Achievement Award at the 2020 BEYA STEM Conference for his outstanding contributions to the space program, as well as aeronautics and space research during his 30-year career.
Currently, as center director of NASAs Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Turner leads a diverse group of about 3,400 scientists, researchers, engineers and support staff, who work to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earths atmosphere, and develop technology for space exploration. He assumed the directors position in September 2019.
Turner began his career with NASA in 1990 as a design engineer. Over the next 29 years, he served in various roles leading the agencys engineering contributions to successful flight projects, including the Space Shuttle Program Return-to-Flight, the flight test of the Ares 1-X rocket, the flight test of the Orion Launch Abort System, and the entry, descent and landing segment of the Mars Science Laboratory.
I served in the military, worked as a video game and pinball machine technician, and as a recording engineer, Turner said after receiving his Career Achievement Award at the BEYA STEM Conference in February. Along the way I felt like I was doing what I would do for life. What I did not know was that each of those situations was preparing me for a dream career at NASA that I could not even imagine, he said.
Each one of those positions taught me lessons, Turner added. How to function as part of a team, how to be curious and innovative in creating solutions, and how to encourage the best in people as a servant leader.
Turner said that he also learned by the examples of family members and mentors, what it means to be a blessing to someone, how to love enough to be honest, to forgive fully, and to push the reluctant to take on greater challenges.
I encourage you to find your passion, fulfill your dream, and most important be a part of helping someone else to do the same, he urged.
Turner is active in coaching youth sports and promoting career choice. He earned a bachelors degree in electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Throughout his career, Turner has received many prestigious awards, including the Presidential Rank Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, and the Paul F. Holloway Non-Aerospace Technology Transfer Award. The presenter of the Career Achievement in Government Award at the BEYA STEM Conference in February was the chairman of the NASA Advisory Council General Lester L. Lyles.
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Posted: at 9:55 am
Piano legend Rick Wakeman is gearing up to release a new album later this year a progressive rock album.
Its been a while since the piano legend last released an album of this kind, and fans certainly wont be disappointed with The Red Planet.
The new album is inspired, of course, by the planet Mars. Composed over the past three years in Wakemans traditional way of working, namely by sitting at the piano every day to work on ideas for new music and to hone ideas for future live performances, it was during these sessions that Wakeman was inspired to write the rich material for The Red Planet.
He was further spurred on to record the album, having noted that during his 2019 Grumpy Old Rockstar tour in the USA, request after request would come in asking for keyboard orientated prog rock numbers.
The album theme grew out of Wakemans long time fascination with all things connected to space and space exploration. He is proud to count many astronauts as friends and has a long-standing association with NASA and also the STARMUS events that happen biannually.
Rick Wakeman has already recorded a few albums with space connections, the most recent being Out There and previous to that, 2000AD into the Future and No Earthly Connection. Both Out There and 2000AD into the Future have been sent up in space on NASA missions. Thats not to mention his legendary collaboration with David Bowie on Life on Mars.
The Red Planet is an album of which Wakeman is immensely proud. He notes: It has achieved everything I set out to achieve plus so much more.
Rick appeared on the cover of issue 95 ofPianist.
Main image: Rick Wakeman
Posted: at 9:55 am
Speculation has increased about the future role of the US, globally, amid the domestic social movements and protests the country is experiencing. Some go as far as to suggest the country might face a secession crisis or some kind of implosion.Such claims seem to be highly exaggerated and very unlikely. Indeed, the current situation seems similar in some ways to the unrest of the mid-1960s. Is it a coincidence, or a historical cycle, that the US is beginning a new chapter in space exploration at the same time as the nation is rocked by major protests, just as it was back then?In the late 1960s, the US was still embroiled in the Vietnam War, and sad events such as the Detroit riots and the Orangeburg massacre were happening around the same time as the first moon landing. Now, as SpaceX gets the US back in the space exploration game by sending two astronauts to the International Space Station, the country is once again facing riots and protests.As happened in the 1960s, social unrest and the conquest of space are once again happening at the same time. It might seem like the two things have nothing in common, but they are highly symbolic of the way the US operates as a country. Even when facing severe internal difficulties it continues to advance and face challenges beyond its borders. It seems to be a defining characteristic of the US that it is able to experience extreme pressure while at the same time conquering new frontiers, fight wars and still find a way to push forward.Tensions often seem to rise in the run-up to a presidential election, which is another way in which the current unrest can be compared with events in the 1960s. The Democratic convention of 1968 was overtaken by protests against the Vietnam War, raising tensions and sparking massive protests throughout the country. It also came soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which highlighted issues of poverty and racism, which are again in the spotlight now.The situations of all communities have obviously improved greatly since the 1960s and poverty has been reduced, and so the intensity of the current protests is not comparable to those that took place five decades ago. However, the glare of social media does intensify how the current situation is perceived by a global audience.This quick comparison of then and now serves to indicate that the approach of the US to international issues will not be affected by its current domestic challenges; it is, rather, guided by strategic decision-making. So, whether or not the US decides to withdraw from a region or shift its focus to another, for example, will not be affected by the protests.In the Middle East, it is clear that despite a strong commitment, the US focus has been shifting for more than 15 years. This was not caused by domestic US issues but by a strategic decision to be less dependent on energy from the region, as well as the necessity of refocusing on the challenges in Asia.This provides a small indication that any suggestion the US might break apart or be forced to disengage from the global scene seems to be misplaced, and that domestic tensions will probably ease after Novembers presidential election. There might be even greater domestic instability in the next five months, like there was at the time of the 1968 election, but the US will undoubtedly pull through.Social challenges and evolving social pacts are not the sole preserve of the US. Similar issues seem to be increasingly emerging around the world and might be linked to the global economy. Here, again, we find some similarities with the 1960s.The immediate aftermath of the Second World War marked the emergence of the consumer market, which unleashed growth on a scale never before seen, especially in the US and Europe. It was a first-acquisition market: Households were buying their first fridge, their first TV, their first car and so on. This marked a period of rapid growth, with low unemployment.The mid-1960s marked the beginning of a plateau and slowdown, with a shift toward a replacement market; most households had everything they needed and now were only replacing items that failed (or, in the case of more privileged individuals, buying a second one).This shift had consequences on a social level, as it was an indication that a peak had been reached. It was accelerated by a major geopolitical incident: The oil embargo of the early 1970s. However, the economic slowdown was not caused by the oil crisis, it was caused by the shift in the dynamics of the market that preceded it. The protests of the late 1960s were, in fact, a precursor to this.So have we now reached a similar situation, with the technology market shifting from first acquisition to replacement? It seems as if almost everyone has a tablet, a mobile phone, a flat-screen TV and most other gadgets, after all, so have we reached peak tech growth? And is COVID-19 the 2020 equivalent of the oil shock that pushed the world into stagflation (persistent high inflation, high unemployment and stagnant demand in an economy)?These changes affect not only the US but all big economies, including China, the EU and, ultimately, the global economy. Yet, just as the oil shock of the 1970s paved the way for new political movements and new business sectors, such as the green economy, it seems that COVID-19 has, in a way, opened the door to the next phase for political movements and businesses.It is unclear, however, whether this phase which includes new technology that is mostly being created in the US and China, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics and unmanned vehicles will, like every industrial revolution before it, create new employment opportunities, or be a destroyer of jobs.
The common denominator in every protest happening globally is that people are demanding a new social and economic pact.
Khaled Abou Zahr
It seems that many people feel the latter is more likely as, beyond other considerations, the common denominator in every protest happening globally is that people are demanding a new social and economic pact.This is entwined with particular domestic demands in each individual country, such as the sovereignty of the state in Lebanon and Iraq; the refocusing of resources for the benefit of the people in Iran; or the greater social protection demanded by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in France.However at the heart of every protest lies FOLO, or fear of losing out. This is the fear among many people that the door to the pursuit of prosperity is being closed to them. This is the biggest threat to stability, not only in the US but worldwide, as it is motivating both the populist voices of the right and the cancel culture of the left, exacerbated by social media.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view
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Posted: at 9:54 am
Jasmine Lawrence works withthe Everyday Robots project from Alphabets X moonshot factory. She thinks theres a lot of unanswered ethical questions about how to use robots and how to think of them: Are they slaves or tools? Do they replace or complement people? As a product manager, she said, confronting some of those questions can be frightening, and it brings up the question of bias and the responsibility of the creator. Lawrence said she wants to be held accountable for the good and bad things she builds.
I want to be called out. I want to be yelled at. I want to be challenged. I want to be encouraged to use renewable energy, or I want to hear from people who are allies and advocates for communities that my personal work might be negatively affecting, she said. I will admit that I have blind spots and Id love to see that from every builder, every inventor, every creator, every student, just that ownership that I might hurt someone. I know I didnt try, Im not being intentional, but it just might happen. So theres a lot of soul searching, and theres a lot of actions that we can truly take.
University of Michigan professor and Laboratory For Progress director Chadwick Jenkins said the idea that keeps him up at night is the thought that robotics wont be used to advance humanity, create more jobs, or aid in space exploration but to make cheaper products and reduce human labor needs. He noted that the Voting Rights Act and Moores law are contemporaries, both coming out in 1965.
[W]hat youve seen is both an exponential increase in our computational power as given by Dennard scaling and Moores law, but youve also seen an exponential increase in incarceration, Jenkins pointed out. Michelle Alexander goes through this in The New Jim Crow, but I think Im worried about the future Jim Crow, which is what I worry were building using AI technology and large scale computing.
Lawrence and Jenkins shared their optimism, concerns, and thoughts about next steps on Tuesday evening as part of a panel discussion about race, robotics, and AI put together by the nonprofit Silicon Valley Robotics. The conversation focused on how to improve experiences for Black students in STEM education and how the tech sector can better reflect the diversity found in the United States. Silicon Valley Robotics managing director Andra Keay acted as moderator of the conversation.
Historic protests in recent weeks against institutional racism and the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black people have led to some police reforms and renewed commitments by tech giants. In STEM education, tech, and AI, progress toward equitable diversity has been especially slow, however.
Also on the panel was Maynard Holliday, cofounder of the Defense Innovation Unit, a team helping the Pentagon with emerging technology that was created during the Obama administration. He wants to see executive compensation directly tied to diversity and inclusion metrics and to hold corporate Boards of Directors accountable for poor progress toward diversity.
He also endorses the idea of an algorithmic bill of rights to give people certain inalienable rights when dealing with artificial intelligence. Such a document would ensure transparency and give people the right to know when an algorithm is being used to make a decision about them, the right to redress if an algorithm makes a mistake, and freedom from algorithmic bias. Laws proposed last year, like the Algorithmic Accountability Act and the data privacy law introduced in Congress, would also require bias testing or outlaw algorithmic bias. The idea of a Hippocratic oath for AI researchers has also come up in the past.
Jenkins wants to see academic institutions that allow staff to take sabbatical to work in industry take the diversity records of those businesses into account.
[T]here are lots of university faculty that take leaves and sabbaticals to work at companies that have not had great representation. I can think of just a few examples, like OpenAI or Googles DeepMind. Maybe universities shouldnt offer sabbatical leaves to faculty that are working at those companies, Jenkins said. Thats a placeholder measure, but at the end [of the day] its about how do you affect the funding that is allowing us to pick winners and losers.
Jenkins also endorsed following the guidance in an open letter from blackincomputing.org published earlier this month. The letter says Black people in machine learning know what its like to be treated differently and acknowledges that the structural and institutional racism that has brought the nation to this point, is also rooted in our discipline. The letter is signed by Jenkins, more than 100 other Black people in AI and computing, and more than 100 allies.
We know that in the same way computing can be used to stack the deck against Black people, it can also be used to stack the deck against anyone, the letter reads. We see AI and big data being used to target the historically disadvantaged. The technologies we help create to benefit society are also disrupting Black communities through the proliferation of racial profiling. We see machine learning systems that routinely identify Black people as animals and criminals. Algorithms we develop are used by others to further intergenerational inequality by systematizing segregation into housing, lending, admissions, and hiring practices.
The letter also contains calls to action and demands to uphold existing civil rights law like the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, which ensures no exclusion based on gender; and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Jenkins believes enforcing those laws could help address a lack of diversity in education.
[A]t a university, our product is our ideas and people, and we are funded by tuition and public funding, so I think we should try to represent that public and the future people better by shaping that economic incentive, Jenkins said.
Jenkins believes incentive structures within organizations must also change to give people a reason to promote diversity that does not place people who are passionate about diversity at a disadvantage.
I know if I care about diversity and equal opportunity, I will have to make a professional sacrifice to provide the mentorship and effort needed to broaden participation in our field, he said.
Socializing with people in positions of privilege within the existing power structure can be an important part of gaining access to funding, hiring, publishing, citations, and other things associated with advantages in the peer review process. If doing diversity work has no economic incentive or doesnt make a person more attractive for things like hiring, promotion, or tenure, then it will move down that stack and well never really address it.
Monroe Kennedy is an assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, where he leads the Assistive Robotics Manipulation laboratory (ARM). On the panel, he spoke from the perspective of an educator in academia, asserting that engaging young people is essential for computer scientists.
I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, and only, I think, educators know this: When you look into a childs eyes and you see that moment, you literally could have changed the direction that that person might go, he said after describing an encounter with a young Black student in a classroom. We who do the research in this space, who do the amazing things that we do, we have a profound responsibility to go into these spaces and change the status quo and realize the power that a few words and more importantly, your time has when it comes to making a difference at that level.
He knows that experience from the other side, too. Being told hes good enough to be a professor someday by graduate advisors neither of whom were Black is what led Kennedy to become a professor.I have self-confidence, but its different when the person that you respect and is in that leadership role looks into your eyes and sees that special thing as well, he said.
Reiterating Lawrences remarks, Kennedy and other Black roboticists on the panel also talked about the importance of starting with discovery of your own bias. Nobody, Lawrence said, is immune to bias.
Im not immune to it just because Im a Black woman. Im not bias-free or discrimination- or judgment-free. So I would say, acknowledge them, discover them, challenge yourself, and recognize where you have those areas of growth, she said.
She also joined multiple members of the panel who stressed that the onus of diversity initiatives should not be placed disproportionately on Black employees who, like her, may want to avoid getting labeled by coworkers as a social justice warrior instead of a thoughtful product manager who believes diversity should be a priority.
Making space for me to solve problems or for us to congregate as minorities I just dont see the progress there, and I do feel the fear of alienating my co-workers or seeming like I have any idea how to fix this or that I have everything going on, she said.
Jenkins said hes supportive of people willing to speak publicly on the need for diversity, but said hes heard personally from people who are unwilling to speak up or participate in discussions around diversity without being labeled as angry. I would say that a lot of Black people in engineering, robotics, [and] AI still have trouble coming up and speaking the truth from their perspective. I think a lot of people still feel like there will be a penalty, they will be labeled as angry or uncivil or worse. Ive heard worse terminology come up, Jenkins said.
Tom Williams also spoke on the panel. Williams is White and a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. In an open letter published online earlier this month titled No Justice? No Robots, Williams and other roboticists in Colorado pledged not to create robots of any kind for police.
We have to not just refuse to build robots that actively cause harm, which seems obvious but I would also argue that we should be refusing to build even benign or socially beneficial robots in collaboration with or for the use of police because of what that action would communicate to our community about our moral principles, he said.
If we choose to build robots for or with the police, regardless of how socially beneficial those robots might be, this action does two things. First, it launders the reputation of the institution of policing. And two, it condones the existence and behavior of that institution, which is deeply problematic, Williams said.
Space Mining Market Analysis Research Report: Growing Demand in Market Growth by 2027 – Cole of Duty
Posted: at 9:54 am
What is Space Mining?
Space mining also known as asteroid mining is a process that is involved in exploitation of raw materials from asteroids and other minor planets, as well as near-Earth objects. Minerals are extracted from a spent comet or asteroid, then taken back to Earth or utilized in space for construction materials.
The reports cover keymarket developments in theSpace Mining as organic and inorganic growth strategies.Various companies focus on organic growth strategies such as product launches, product approvals and others such as patents and events.The inorganic growth strategy activities observed in the market were acquisitions, partnerships and collaborations.These activities paved the way for an expansion of the businesses and customers of the market players.Themarketpayersof theSpace Mining are destined for lucrative growth opportunities in the future with the increasing demand formarket Space Mining in the world market.
The key factors propelling the growth of space mining are increasing government initiatives and investments to frame regulations for asteroid mining and impending and ongoing space mining missions. Further, government initiatives resulting in rising number of start-ups and adoption of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) practice in space exploration are anticipated to provide growth opportunities over the next few years. However, high costs allied with asteroid mining and huge environmental risks due to mining activities are some of the restraints that are hindering the market to grow.
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Posted: at 9:54 am
For many years, Martin Fone was convinced that the moon was inextricably linked with the night. Having realised his error, he ponders why it's so rate to see or at any rate to notice the moon in the daytime sky.
Life seemed so much simpler when I was a child, full of black and white with nary a shade of grey interposing itself to confuse or perplex me. Night was a time of darkness with the moon in the ascendancy whilst the sun reigned in all its splendour during the day. The heavy banks of cloud and the temperamental British weather often meant that I had to take their presence as a given, but that was good enough for me.
With the dichotomy between day and night being so extreme and the sun and moon the largest spheres visible in the sky, it is not surprising that many ancient peoples were drawn to worship them. So ingrained was the practice that the Old Testament went out of its way to condemn this form of perceived idolatry. In the book of Deuteronomy, for example, the reader is warned, not to lift your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord, your God, has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. (4:19).
Perhaps it was because I did not lift my eyes to heaven that, for many years, I was convinced that the moon was inextricably linked with the night and missed the fact that on occasions it was perfectly visible during daylight, becoming a sort of celestial interloper into the settled universal order of my childhood. How did that happen and, if I followed the right astronomical advice at the right time, could I even see the sun during the night?
Of course, the moon has nothing to do with the division between daylight and night-time. The Earth rotates around not only the sun but also its own axis. This means that for a certain part of a 24-hour period roughly half of the world is facing the sun and receives natural illumination in the form of direct sunlight. The actual period of sunlight is determined by the precise tilt of the Earth. At the same time, the remainder of the planet is facing away from the sun and as its rays cannot reach it, darkness prevails. So, no, I could not see the sun at night.
It is also a misconception that the moon rises just as the sun is setting and sets when it is rising. The only time in a lunar month that this happens is at the full moon when the moon is directly opposite, or 180 degrees away from, the sun. It is also the point when the moon appears at its brightest.
On the other hand, it is invisible to the naked eye when it moves directly between the Earth and the sun, the phase we call the new moon, when the suns light shines fully on to the side of the moon facing away from us. For the rest of the time it makes a stately progress along a semicircle, positioned somewhere between 0 and 180 degrees from the sun. The timing of its rise and setting is most out of synchrony with the setting and rise of the sun when it is approaching the point where it is almost 90 degrees away from the sun, in other words when it is reaching its first and last quarters. It is at these points in its orbit that we are most likely to see the moon in daylight.
That said, it should be possible to see the moon in daylight at any time other than at the new and moon phases. Earths axial rotation means that in any 24-hour period, the moon will be above the horizon at any one point for roughly twelve hours. Whilst that twelve-hour period will not coincide with a full stretch of daylight, there will be several hours when the moons position above the horizon occurs during a period of light.
What also helps us to see the moon as clearly as we do, whether at night or during daylight, is its proximity to our planet. At its nearest point, at what the astronomers call its Perigee, it is 104 times closer to Earth and at its Apogee, when it is furthest away, 644 times nearer than the next adjacent heavenly object, Venus. The fact that the moon dwarfs anything else in the sky simply reflects the fact that it is nearer to us, a reason why it was selected as the go-to destination for space exploration and continues to be so to this day. I will watch with interest how the first tentative steps into providing commercial trips to the moon take off.
Despite a theory espoused by a proverb that gained popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries, the moon is not made of green cheese, another childhood illusion sadly shattered by science. Despite the absence of cheese, green or otherwise, lunar soil enhances its visibility. Look at most stars, including the sun, through a telescope and you will see that they are brighter at their centre and duller towards the outer edges. This is a phenomenon which astronomers call limb darkening. With the moon, though, its soil reflects more light back directly towards the sun than in other directions, with the result that its edges appear to be just as bright as its centre.
With all of these factors in its favour, why is still relatively uncommon sight to see the moon during daylight in Britain?
The answer, in part, is down to the good old British weather. Any form of cloud covering in the relevant spot will prevent us from glimpsing the moon. Then there is the horizon to consider. Anyone who has travelled to the Prairies in North America will be familiar with the big skies to be found there, where the sky seems to dominate your sightline, providing an enormous canvas in which to spot the moon during daylight. In comparison, the British skies in most of the country are much smaller, filled with obstructions, some natural, others man-made, the skyline more crowded, forcing you to look to the upper reaches of the sky and, consequently, reducing your chances of seeing the moon make its appearance in broad daylight.
When I do see the moon in daylight, the fine spell of weather in late May this year coinciding with the optimal lunar phase made it a regular spectacle, I find it a source of wonder, delighted that it is unwilling to be constrained by the boundaries of the night. No wonder the ancient Babylonian astrologers considered the moon to be the most important of the celestial spheres.
It's a phrase which gets bandied around all the time, but what does a 'Blue Moon' actually consist of? And
Carla Carlisle recalls her memories of the moon landings 40 years on.
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Posted: at 9:54 am
In the space race, Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE) is a contender, but recent lethargy suggests the company is more of a pretender. SPCE stock is down 1.73% over the past month, a period in which broader benchmarks and smaller companies a relevant mention because of Virgins $3.12 billion market capitalization are soaring.
Source: Christopher Penler / Shutterstock.com
A year-to-date return of nearly 33% is nothing to scoff at. However, Virgin Galactic traded above $42 in February. It closed just over $15 on June 16. Those are the type of declines that foster jitters among investors, particularly when the company in question operates in a nascent, niche industry where the payoff could be years away.
An obvious near-term headwind for Virgin Galactic is the recent success of SpaceX getting into space. SpaceX comes with the cache of being Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) founder Elon Musks baby.
With SpaceX not yet public, Virgin Galactic has the allure of being perhaps the only publicly traded pure space play, but theres a brewing rivalry between these two firms investors need to be cognizant of.
Another recent hurdle on Virgin Galactic, though that one will dissipate, Sir Richard Bransons Virgin Group recently giving up majority control of the space exploration company because the bigger Virgin needs cash to keep more established business afloat. In this case, its just bad optics Branson is a billionaire and held in high esteem for his business acumen.
An interesting factor to consider with Virgin Galactic is that the aforementioned selloff the stock endured during the Covid-19 swoon one where the peak-to-trough decline was roughly 75% was probably over-exaggerated.
Perhaps it sounds trite, but this company has barely anything in the way of sales. It has no leverage to areas of the economy that are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus pandemic, such as airlines, casinos, cruise lines or retail sales. Heck, Virgin Galactic hasnt even taken anyone to space yet, though its gotten crew members close.
What this boils down to is that the company is a reservations story. As in it books revenue based on reservations would-be space travelers make in anticipation of eventually going to the final frontier. In the first quarter, Virgin Galactic posted revenue of $238,000. Sounds tiny, but thats mostly reservation deposit accruals and when it comes to sales, there could be more on the way.
In the first three months of this year, the company launched an initiative for tourist-astronauts to reserve a place in Galactics flight queue, attracting commitments for up to $100 million in sales, reports Barrons.
CEO George Whitesides offered some encouraging comments on the reservations situation.
This response to our [initiative] demonstrates the appetite for our product and complements the strength and ongoing support of our existing customer base of 600 future astronauts who already have reservations on our spaceflights, he said.
Another part of the Virgin Galactic story thats not getting much attention because the investment community views this as a space stock is hypersonic air travel.
Yes, the idea of fast flights was around years with the Concord jet, but the price points never appealed to ordinary travelers. However, air travel, like so many old guard industries, is ripe for disruption.
Undoubtedly, theres plenty of tech on a traditional carrier jet, but tangible advances havent been made in terms of flight times. Today, a non-stop flight from New York to Los Angeles takes almost six hours, roughly the same amount of time it took 40 years ago.
Virgin Galactic could disrupt the old airline if it can do so on a cost-effective basis. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas estimates hypersonic air travel could be worth $10 a share alone to SPCE stock and its unlikely that opportunity is priced in at current levels.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014.As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
Posted: at 9:54 am
On May 30, human space travel entered a new era when a private company, for the first time, launched two astronauts into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule that carried them were built and operated by SpaceX, a company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk. The launch, the first on US soil since 2011, was not only a reminder of Americas supremacy in technology, but also a prelude to how things might work in the sector in the future.
Space missions are expensive, and they are mostly done using taxpayers money. The participation of private players not only takes some burden off the public exchequer, but also gives an opportunity for entrepreneurs. This is exactly why India wants increased private participation in the space ecosystem.
Private companies currently play a minuscule role in Indias growing space business. The Space Activities Bill, on which comments have been sought, promotes commercial activities in space and suggests a regulatory mechanism for them. Interestingly, all this is proposed to be done through the Indian Space Research Organisation. As ISRO itself is a service provider for commercial launches through its subsidiary, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), many people see a conflict of interest.
ISRO has been set up for space research, and is not a regulatory body, with scientists, project managers and engineers, said Raju Prasad, chief of business development at Satellize, Indias first private company in space technology. It has done a good job of designing and launching satellites and developing launch vehicles. But that makes good resources in one field a wasted choice for another. Regulators need to be more market savvy and have legal minds that are able to throw open industry with least regulation. Intellectual Property (IP) generated shall be deemed to be the property of the central government. So this seems to be largely about private sub contractors willing to handover whatever IP they develop to the government, rather than any real companies out there developing their own IP and keeping it.
Private players are not comfortable with ISROs opaque nature, either. This leaves limited avenues for private-public partnership, and even the open sectors are limited to contractors acting as outsourced manufacturing units.
While the biggest challenge for private companies in the space segment in India remains getting spectrum allocation and launch permission, there are plenty of other problems as well. Currently, there are a myriad of problems for satellite builders such as GST, security clearances, orbital slotting, and liability and insurance. Similarly, for downstream companies, there are problems pertaining to data acquisition (you can buy only from or through the National Remote Sensing Centre, even if the satellite is a foreign-owned private asset), making the whole process slow, opaque and expensive, said Divyanshu Poddar, co-founder of the space startup Rocketeers. India needs a better map policy and needs to liberalise access to and use of satellite data for private players. In the US, there is a single window clearance for all things and satellite data is freely traded by players like any other commodity. There are no government controls except with data pertaining to national security.
Encouraging private players to invest in original IP creation can go a long way in improving private participation in the sector. This will help them create their own products and IP, and become independent from ISROs supply chain. This will equip these firms to compete in global markets. There is a lot of uncertainty on what is allowed for private sector and what is not, said Yashas Karanam, director of Bellatrix Aerospace, a company which works with ISRO. Since any object sent to space by a nation is governed by International Outer Space Treaty, the liability of a space object would fall on the country that permitted its launch. Hence, there was uncertainty on whether private companies can launch their own satellites and rocket. Now, the space industry hopes to have a predictive policy that would allow companies to operate out of India. With fingers crossed, we are hoping for a business-friendly policy that could ease foreign customers to work with Indian companies.
Unlike India, most space faring countries have clearly defined space laws, and private companies are encouraged to build their capabilities. They get contracts from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) for technology development (both industrial and R&D). Private companies in the US and Europe have access to NASA and ESA test facilities, patents and research grants. In the US, the Commercial Space Launch Act facilitated the private enterprise of the commercialisation of space and space technology in 1984 itself. In other countries like China, Japan, Australia and the UK, the sector was opened up only in the past few years. Though we are late, it is good to see the government take this initiative, said Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder and CEO, Skyroot Aerospace Limited.
Private players have all welcomed the Space Activities Bill. The governments initiative is laudable and in the right direction, said Narayan Prasad, chief operations officer at Satsearch, a marketplace for the space industry. However, the mechanics of it are still unclear and needs to be spelt out. There is enough room to review the procurement process and change the base of it to incentivise the industry to invest and create products and services of its own. The emerging startups are looking in this direction and getting established industry players to move in this direction will help these companies service both the local economy and get a global market share.
Such a system will help private players move up the supply chain to become system integrators. It would also help ISRO become more agile and competitive, especially in the international market. By offloading all the routine satellite making and rocket building activities to the private players, ISRO can focus on developing cutting edge space technology such as optical communication for satellites, robotic space exploration and removal of space debris, said Rachana Reddy, a former ISRO space engineer who is now based in Germany. It would also be able to focus more of its resources on the Gaganyaan mission and engage with other R&D institutions in the country on various aspects of the human space flight.
Indian space industry is still in the nascent stage, and capital remains a major challenge. Developing a new product in space industry requires significant investment on test equipment and other infrastructure, which many private players cannot afford, said Karanam. [Sharing] ISROs facilities will definitely open doors for the rise of Indias name in space, both with ISRO and its private ecosystem.
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Posted: June 6, 2020 at 5:38 pm
Although the possibility of exploring space has long excited people in many walks of life, for most of the latter 20th century and into the early 21st century, only national governments could afford the very high costs of launching people and machines into space. This reality meant that space exploration had to serve very broad interests, and it indeed has done so in a variety of ways. Government space programs have increased knowledge, served as indicators of national prestige and power, enhanced national security and military strength, and provided significant benefits to the general public. In areas where the private sector could profit from activities in space, most notably the use of satellites as telecommunication relays, commercial space activity has flourished without government funding. In the early 21st century, entrepreneurs believed that there were several other areas of commercial potential in space, most notably privately funded space travel.
In the years after World War II, governments assumed a leading role in the support of research that increased fundamental knowledge about nature, a role that earlier had been played by universities, private foundations, and other nongovernmental supporters. This change came for two reasons. First, the need for complex equipment to carry out many scientific experiments and for the large teams of researchers to use that equipment led to costs that only governments could afford. Second, governments were willing to take on this responsibility because of the belief that fundamental research would produce new knowledge essential to the health, the security, and the quality of life of their citizens. Thus, when scientists sought government support for early space experiments, it was forthcoming. Since the start of space efforts in the United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe, national governments have given high priority to the support of science done in and from space. From modest beginnings, space science has expanded under government support to include multibillion-dollar exploratory missions in the solar system. Examples of such efforts include the development of the Curiosity Mars rover, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moons, and the development of major space-based astronomical observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1957 used the fact that his country had been first to launch a satellite as evidence of the technological power of the Soviet Union and of the superiority of communism. He repeated these claims after Yuri Gagarins orbital flight in 1961. Although U.S. Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower had decided not to compete for prestige with the Soviet Union in a space race, his successor, John F. Kennedy, had a different view. On April 20, 1961, in the aftermath of the Gagarin flight, he asked his advisers to identify a space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win. The response came in a May 8, 1961, memorandum recommending that the United States commit to sending people to the Moon, because dramatic achievements in spacesymbolize the technological power and organizing capacity of a nation and because the ensuing prestige would be part of the battle along the fluid front of the cold war. From 1961 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was a major influence on the pace and content of their space programs. Other countries also viewed having a successful space program as an important indicator of national strength.
Even before the first satellite was launched, U.S. leaders recognized that the ability to observe military activities around the world from space would be an asset to national security. Following on the success of its photoreconnaissance satellites, which began operation in 1960, the United States built increasingly complex observation and electronic-intercept intelligence satellites. The Soviet Union also quickly developed an array of intelligence satellites, and later a few other countries instituted their own satellite observation programs. Intelligence-gathering satellites have been used to verify arms-control agreements, provide warnings of military threats, and identify targets during military operations, among other uses.
In addition to providing security benefits, satellites offered military forces the potential for improved communications, weather observation, navigation, timing, and position location. This led to significant government funding for military space programs in the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the advantages and disadvantages of stationing force-delivery weapons in space have been debated, as of the early 21st century, such weapons had not been deployed, nor had space-based antisatellite systemsthat is, systems that can attack or interfere with orbiting satellites. The stationing of weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies is prohibited by international law.
Governments realized early on that the ability to observe Earth from space could provide significant benefits to the general public apart from security and military uses. The first application to be pursued was the development of satellites for assisting in weather forecasting. A second application involved remote observation of land and sea surfaces to gather imagery and other data of value in crop forecasting, resource management, environmental monitoring, and other applications. The U.S., the Soviet Union, Europe, and China also developed their own satellite-based global positioning systems, originally for military purposes, that could pinpoint a users exact location, help in navigating from one point to another, and provide very precise time signals. These satellites quickly found numerous civilian uses in such areas as personal navigation, surveying and cartography, geology, air-traffic control, and the operation of information-transfer networks. They illustrate a reality that has remained constant for a half centuryas space capabilities are developed, they often can be used for both military and civilian purposes.
Another space application that began under government sponsorship but quickly moved into the private sector is the relay of voice, video, and data via orbiting satellites. Satellite telecommunications has developed into a multibillion-dollar business and is the one clearly successful area of commercial space activity. A related, but economically much smaller, commercial space business is the provision of launches for private and government satellites. In 2004 a privately financed venture sent a piloted spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, to the lower edge of space for three brief suborbital flights. Although it was technically a much less challenging achievement than carrying humans into orbit, its success was seen as an important step toward opening up space to commercial travel and eventually to tourism. More than 15 years after SpaceShipOne reached space, several firms were poised to carry out such suborbital flights. Companies have arisen that also use satellite imagery to provide data for business about economic trends. Suggestions have been made that in the future other areas of space activity, including using resources found on the Moon and near-Earth asteroids and the capture of solar energy to provide electric power on Earth, could become successful businesses.
Most space activities have been pursued because they serve some utilitarian purpose, whether increasing knowledge, adding to national power, or making a profit. Nevertheless, there remains a powerful underlying sense that it is important for humans to explore space for its own sake, to see what is there. Although the only voyages that humans have made away from the near vicinity of Earththe Apollo flights to the Moonwere motivated by Cold War competition, there have been recurrent calls for humans to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and visit other locations in the solar system and beyond. Until humans resume such journeys of exploration, robotic spacecraft will continue to serve in their stead to explore the solar system and probe the mysteries of the universe.
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Posted: at 5:38 pm
Why explore space? Its an expensive arena to play in, between the fuel costs and the technological challenge of operating in a hostile environment. For humans, a small mistake can quickly become fatal something that we have seen several times in space history. And for NASAs budget, there are projects that come in late and over budget, drawing the ire of Congress and the public.
These are some of the drawbacks. But for the rest of this article, we will focus on some of the benefits of going where few humans have gone before.
Perhaps the most direct benefit comes from technologies used on Earth that were first pioneered in space exploration. This is something that all agencies talk about, but well focus on the NASA Spinoff program as an example. (NASA will be used as the prime example for most of this article, but many of these cited benefits are also quoted by other space agencies.)
The program arose from NASAs desire to showcase spinoffs at congressional budget hearings, according to its website. This began with a Technology Utilization Program Report in 1973, which began as a black-and-white circular and progressed to color in 1976 following public interest. Since that year, NASA has published more than 1,800 reports on spinoffs.
The agency has several goals in doing this. Dispelling the myth of wasted taxpayer dollars is one NASA cites, along with encouraging the public to follow space exploration and showing how American ingenuity can work in space.
There are many commercialized advances the program says it contributed to, including memory foam (first used for airline crash protection), magnetic resonance imaging and smoke detection. In many cases, NASA did not invent the technology itself, but just pushed it along, the agency says.
But as counterpoint to NASAs arguments, some critics argue the technology would have been developed anyway without space exploration, or that the money spent on exploration itself does not justify the spinoff.
Another popularly cited benefit of space exploration is job creation, or the fact that a space agency and its network of contractors, universities and other entities help people stay employed. From time to time, NASA puts out figures concerning how many associated jobs a particular project generates, or the economic impact.
Heres an example: in 2012, NASA administrator Charles Bolden published a blog post about the Curiosity Mars rover landing, which was picked up by the White House website. Its also important to remember that the $2.5 billion investment made in this project was not spent on Mars, but right here on Earth, supporting more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31 states, he wrote.
But the benefit can cut in a negative way, too. NASAs budget is allocated by Congress, which means that the amount of money it has available for employment fluctuates. There are also some programs that are highly dependent on grants, which can make stable jobs challenging in those fields. Finally, as the priorities of Congress/NASA change, jobs can evaporate with it. One example was the space shuttles retirement, which prompted a job loss so massive that NASA had a transition strategy for its employees and contractors.
Its also unclear what constitutes a job under NASA parlance. Some universities have researchers working on multiple projects NASA-related or not. Employment can also be full-time, part-time or occasional. So while job creation is cited as a benefit, more details about those jobs are needed to make an informed decision about how much good it does.
Teaching has a high priority for NASA, so much so that it has flown astronaut educators in space. (The first one, Christa McAuliffe, died aboard the space shuttle Challenger during launch in 1986. Her backup, Barbara Morgan, was selected as an educator/mission specialist in 1998 and flew aboard STS-118 in 2007.) And to this day, astronauts regularly do in-flight conferences with students from space, ostensibly to inspire them to pursue careers in the field.
NASAs education office has three goals: making the workforce stronger, encouraging students to pursue STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and engaging Americans in NASAs mission. Other space agencies also have education components to assist with requirements in their own countries. Its also fair to say the public affairs office for NASA and other agencies play roles in education, although they also talk about topics such as missions in progress.
But its hard to figure out how well the education efforts translate into inspiring students, according to a National Research Council report on NASAs primary and secondary education program in 2008. Among other criticisms, the program was cited as unstable (as it needs to change with political priorities) and there was little rigorous evaluation of its effectiveness. But NASAs emphasis on science and discovery was also praised.
Anecdotally, however, many astronauts and people within NASA have spoken about being inspired by watching missions such as Apollo take place. And the same is true of people who are peripherally involved in the field, too. (A personal example: this author first became interested in space in the mid-1990s through the movie Apollo 13, which led to her watching the space shuttle program more closely.)
Added to this host of business-like benefits, of course, are the intangibles. What sort of value can you place on better understanding the universe? Think of finding methane on Mars, or discovering an exoplanet, or constructing the International Space Station to do long-term exploration studies. Each has a cost associated with it, but with each also comes a smidgeon of knowledge we can add to the encyclopedia of the human race.
Space can also inspire art, which is something seen heavily in 2014 following the arrival of the European Space Agency Rosetta mission at Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko. It inspired songs, short videos and many other works of art. NASAs missions, particularly those early space explorers of the 1950s and 1960s, inspired creations from people as famous as Norman Rockwell.
There also are benefits that maybe we cannot anticipate ahead of time. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a network that advocates looking for life around the universe, likely because communicating with beings outside of Earth could bring us some benefit. And perhaps there is another space-related discovery just around the corner that will change our lives drastically.
For more information, here is a Universe Today article about how we really watched television from the moon. We also collected some spin-offs from the Hubble Space Telescope. You can also listen to Astronomy Cast. Episode 144 Space Elevators.