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Category Archives: Space Station

New crew will launch to the International Space Station in October – CNN

Posted: July 5, 2020 at 9:45 am

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New crew will launch to the International Space Station in October - CNN

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Astronauts are taking a spacewalk outside their space station today. Watch it live! –

Posted: at 9:45 am

Two NASA astronauts are venturing outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk today (July 1) to finish replacing old batteries on the station's solar arrays.

Expedition 63 Cmdr. Chris Cassidy and Demo-2 astronaut Bob Behnken, who arrived at the space station on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft in May, began at 7:13 a.m. EDT (1113 GMT) and will spend up to seven hours working in the vacuum of space.

You can watch the spacewalk live here on, courtesy of NASA TV. You can also watch it at and on the agency's YouTube.

Related: The International Space Station: inside and out (infographic)

This will be the second spacewalk for Cassidy and Behnken, who completed a 6-hour and 7-minute spacewalk together on June 26. During that spacewalk, the duo swapped out three old nickel-hydrogen batteries on the far starboard truss (S6 Truss) of the station for two more efficient lithium-ion batteries. Today, they will swap out one more battery and wrap up power upgrades that began in 2017. These batteries are designed to power the station through the end of its planned lifetime in 2024.

The new lithium-ion batteries that Cassidy and Behnken are installing arrived at the International Space Station on Japan's HTV-9 cargo resupply spacecraft, which arrived at the station in May.

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and onFacebook.

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Astronauts are taking a spacewalk outside their space station today. Watch it live! -

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Looked Like I Was Walking Into A Space Station: Thrill-Seekers In New Jersey Flock To Six Flags Great Adventures Reopening – CBS Philly

Posted: at 9:45 am

JACKSON, N.J. (CBS) Fridays hot weather did not stop thrill-seekers from flocking back for Six Flags Great Adventures reopening. Season pass holders and members were welcomed back Friday with significant changes made in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus precautions have changed a lot at Great Adventure, but one thing that remains the same? The long lines.

First things first, everyone gets a temperature check.

It kind of looked like I was walking into a space station with a giant thing aimed at me, Tristan Souza said.

REOPENING GUIDE: Current COVID-19 Guidelines for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware

Not everyone is happy with all of the changes.

Its really [thumbs down] in my book, Anthony Fuschino said. I dont like it.

And like always, lines galore.

Were going in the fast pass line because theres a two-hour wait right now for Nitro, Constance Licata said.

Even in the hot summer temps masks are required, unless you take a break in one of the designated areas.

We have eight designated spots where you can sit socially distanced with your groups, from other groups and take off your mask, Megan Werts, a communications supervisor, said.

None of this changes the excitement some are feeling.

I like the Joker because it makes me feel like Im going in 15 different directions at once, Karissa Clark said.

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The Joker didnt disappoint. Too bad for Justice League Battle for Metropolis fans, that ride is currently closed. Not only is it indoors, but there are also too many touchpoints for the newly-formed cleaned team to get to. They are, however, making sure the rest of the grounds are sanitized.

If youre planning on visiting any theme park, get used to new protocols, including social distancing on rides.

Although it seems like a long wait to get in, park employees say theyre only at 25% capacity, way less than the governors 50% mandate.

To ensure that everyone is social distancing so far, Werts said. That may increase as were gradually increasing our attendance.

The park was open for the season pass holders and members on Friday. On Saturday, its all-access for the public. Remember, you first have to make a reservation.

The normal July 4th fireworks have been canceled. The park is only open until 7 p.m., at least for July.

Looked Like I Was Walking Into A Space Station: Thrill-Seekers In New Jersey Flock To Six Flags Great Adventures Reopening - CBS Philly

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Op-ed | On the verge of a new era for space exploration? Assessing the impact of the ongoing crisis – SpaceNews

Posted: at 9:45 am

Establishing an international long-term sustainable lunar presence in partnership with the private sector remains the core focus in space exploration

For more than 50 years, our desire to explore space has led to new discoveries while providing a continuous stream of socioeconomic benefits here on Earth. Space exploration, moreover, has increasingly cemented itself as a field of high strategic importance for governments around the globe.

Fueled by these multiple factors, global government investment in space exploration has grown in the past decade driven by programs in leading countries and joined by an increasing number of actors. According to Euroconsults latest research, Prospects for Space Exploration 2nd Edition, global government investment in space exploration totaled nearly $20 billion in 2019, increasing at a 5% compound annual growth rate over the past five years. Thirty-one countries and space agencies lead this global investment with the United States accounting for 71% of it.

The strategic and geopolitical value of the Earths natural satellite plays an important role behind the rationale of heading back to the moon, and it is considered as a central piece toward future crewed Mars missions. Moreover, space agencies share the objective of creating a sustainable lunar market environment, with cost-sharing, risk-sharing, and partnering as key goals for this new wave of lunar exploration.

Leading space agencies also agree on the importance of maintaining a sustained presence in low Earth orbit. The International Space Station remains the worlds largest international cooperation program to date and the cornerstone for human spaceflight. Funding for the station is secured by all partners until at least 2024 and support has grown for extending operations to 2028 or 2030 in cooperation with the private sector. NASAs future vision for LEO includes a sustainable U.S.-led commercial human spaceflight marketplace. China, in the meantime, has ramped up investments to ensure the launch and completion of its LEO space station in the coming years. Meanwhile, astronomy and planetary missions to Mars and other destinations will continue expanding our scientific knowledge and technical capabilities.

To achieve these goals, global government investment for space exploration is forecast to increase to $30 billion by 2029. This forecast funding growth of about 50% over the coming decade reflects government support of large-scale, ambitious plans, which have started to materialize with the moon as a core focus.

Space exploration is not only attracting the interest of an increasing number of governments but also the private sector. From startups to large companies, players are seeking to exploit the commercial potential of space as human and robotic presence expands beyond Earth. The next decade promises numerous commercial exploration initiatives, significantly impacting the strategic planning of governments and their agenda for space exploration. New public-private contractual schemes are taking shape, reflecting the willingness from space agencies to act as both a strategic partner and a potential future customer of commercial services to achieve a sustainable model for space exploration. However, while enthusiasm for space exploration and the moon in particular is real, numerous missions remain uncertain due to a great number of external risk factors accentuated by the current global context.

The unprecedented context created by the COVID-19 pandemic is causing repercussions of varying degrees throughout the global economy. The precise impact of the current health and economic crisis are, as of today, still difficult to predict with exactitude. The space sector has already experienced the direct effects of the lockdown caused by the pandemic: Space missions operated by employees at home, science missions on standby, launches postponed, and manufacturing plans on hold are some of the examples that have challenged the daily activities of the space sector during the past months. However, as the world slowly returns to normal operations, it is expected that space activities will do so as well. We are experiencing, for instance, the excitement of NASAs Commercial Crew Program, including the first crewed launch to the International Space Station from the United States since 2011. This summer will also see the launch of notable planetary exploration missions if all proceeds as planned such as NASAs Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the United Arab Emirates Mars HOPE orbiter.

Nonetheless, the space sector is not immune to the global international context and will experience the ripple effect of the economic fallout. It remains uncertain how readjustments in investments or new allocations will fully develop, as countries around the world might experience higher pressure created by the current turmoil. The impact of the pandemic is anticipated to vary greatly among countries and space verticals. Space exploration activities are long-term in nature and often experience inherent delays. While the current crisis may accentuate further potential delays, it is unlikely to disrupt governments long-term objectives. Space exploration stands high on the space agenda of leading government space programs due to its ties with national strategic interests. Recent announcements such as NASAs contracts awarded to American companies for the development of the lunar human landing system are some of the examples that reaffirm governments ambitions in exploration despite current events. These milestones, nonetheless, are the result of the strategic planning and budget allocations that space agencies made over the past months.

The outlook for space exploration will also be largely influenced by the steps taken by the U.S. in the coming months, as the country remains to date the largest investor and a major driving force in defining the global strategy in space exploration. While the American moon-to-Mars exploration campaign has gained increased bipartisan support, the potential implications that a change of administration during the upcoming elections could have in exploration objectives remain debatable. Space exploration remains deeply tied to American politics as every new administration defines new objectives. The fact that lunar exploration has consolidated as a key strategic asset for many governments around the world, including China, might be a key factor for the U.S. to maintain a moon focus in its exploration strategy independent of a potential political change. However, even if the lunar objective prevails in the United States, questions would arise on the potential delays in programs (such as its moon 2024 objective or the lunar Gateway program), which could also be further stressed due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. A deferment of exploration projects could have a negative effect on the current momentum of exploration initiatives, with detrimental effects to international and private partners.

Within the private sector, the increase in private investment in the past decade has facilitated the emergence of new commercial exploration initiatives. Despite this increase, the total private funding in space exploration continues to be, to date, moderate and with investments concentrated only on a rather limited number of actors. Investors remain more reluctant to fund space exploration initiatives due to the inherent high risks and long-term vision of this field, a reluctance which may be further exacerbated by the current global context. The pandemic crisis might additionally accelerate preexisting fragile conditions of startups, challenging their survival. Support from the governments as a customer and a partner will continue to be (even more) critical to the success of commercial initiatives.

Despite the current global scene and the many challenges associated with it, the coming decade may well present opportunities for many. Global leading actors are expected to reinforce their position, while new entrants might face higher difficulties to enter an increasingly competitive field. International collaboration and public-private cooperation are expected to continue consolidating as an essential requisite in the public stakeholders exploration strategy and road map to achieve a sustainable model for space exploration moving forward.

Natalia Larrea is a principal advisor at Euroconsult and chief editor of the Prospects for Space Exploration research.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2020 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

Op-ed | On the verge of a new era for space exploration? Assessing the impact of the ongoing crisis - SpaceNews

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How will astronauts poop on the moon? New NASA challenge aims to flush this mystery –

Posted: at 9:45 am

It's no secret that humans poop even in space.

But the actual, physical act of going to the bathroom while floating in space can be tricky, to say the least. In a new contest, NASA is calling on innovators from around the world to develop a new space toilet that would work not just in microgravity such as aboard the International Space Station, but also in lunar gravity aboard a future lunar lander as part of NASA's Artemis program which aims to return humans to the moon by 2024. The contest has a total prize purse of $35,000 to be shared by winning teams.

"This challenge hopes to attract radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment," NASA wrote in an overview of the challenge, titled "NASA's Lunar Loo Challenge."

The challenge is being overseen by the NASA Tournament Lab and organized on the HeroX crowdsourcing site.

Video: Space Toilet Technique: NASA's How-To Guide (Video)More: How to Pee in Space (and What to Do If the Toilet Breaks)

Anyone can apply to this challenge and the winning design will receive a $20,000 prize, the second-place design will win $10,000 and the third-place winner will win $5,000. The contest even includes a "junior" category in which children (anyone under the age of 18) can apply with their innovative space toilet idea. Children in the junior category can win "public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise," according to the challenge overview.

Specifically, the contest calls for designs that work in lunar gravity, which is about one-sixth Earth's gravity and microgravity. Designs should also take up no more than 4.2 cubic feet (0.12 cubic meters) of space and shouldn't be louder than 60 decibels (that's about the same volume as a bathroom fan on Earth, according to the same statement).

The space toilet will have to be able to collect both urine and feces at the same time and hold at least a quarter gallon (1 liter) of liquid waste and 17.6 ounces (500 grams) of solid waste. The device also has to be able to capture at least 114 grams of menstrual blood per day.

Related: SpaceX has a new space toilet for astronauts. But how does it work?

The final requirements are that the system must be able to store or get rid of waste and should be able to be cleaned and maintained "with 5 minute turnaround time or less between uses," the statement reads.

Hopefully, this next-gen space toilet will be a major step up from some of the more, ahem, challenging waste removal systems that have been used in space throughout human spaceflight history.

During NASA's Apollo program in the 1960s and early 1970s, astronauts would urinate into a "relief tube" (designed only for male astronauts, since women were not yet allowed in NASA's astronaut corps) which they would dispose of urine into space where the urine would freeze. Apollo astronauts would also have to figure out how to get their solid waste into plastic bags which they had to bring back to Earth to be studied.

The space shuttle had toilets known as the Waste Collection System, which emptied waste out into the vacuum of space. But it didn't always work perfectly. The International Space Station improved on the space toilet with a new design, and NASA is working on a new space toilet known as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS).

To learn more about NASA's Lunar Loo challenge, including rules and registration requirements, visit the contest website here.

Email Chelsea Gohd at or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Its like being on a space station: Aftab Shivdasani on shooting amid coronavirus pandemic – The Indian Express

Posted: at 9:45 am

Written by Komal RJ Panchal | Mumbai | Updated: July 5, 2020 8:23:36 am Aftab Shivdasani on the set of Poison 2. (Photo: PR)

Actor Aftab Shivdasani recently started shooting for web series, Poison 2. In an interview with, he shared his experience of resuming work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He believes its time we made peace with the new normal as the virus is not going away anytime soon, and we need to learn how to live with it for a bit. He remarked, It felt good to be back on sets, doing what I love. Every one of us will have to get back to work to sustain ourselves. We better get used to the new normal. The set had all safety measures in place, and we would regularly wash and sanitise our hands.

Wearing a mask has become second nature now, admits Aftab Shivdasani, emphasising on the need to safeguard oneself from the virus. Since we have been practising social distancing for more than 90 days now, wearing a mask and following precautions has become automatic. The actor shared a fun anecdote from the set when, after returning from a coffee break, he had forgotten to take off his mask. When the director said action, he had to pause as Shivdasani still hadnt removed his mask for the take. He commented, It looked like we were shooting on a space station and not a film set.

The Maharashtra government on May 31 had announced that film and television shoots could resume in non-containment zones from June, as part of the relaxation process in the state. It also issued a 16-page set of guidelines, which include maintaining 33 per cent crew (not including the main cast) on set, all staff members to carry identification cards and Aarogya Setu app downloaded on their compatible devices etc.

The Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) introduced an added clause, where before starting work all unit members proposing to work in the shoot should submit negative COVID-19 reports.

Aftab Shivdasani commented, Things are strict, only once we got our negative reports, were we allowed to come for the shoot. Before we enter the set, in the morning, our body temperature is checked. We are sanitised. I think it is a healthy trend to make sure we stay safe and healthy on and off the sets.

While maintaining social distancing between actors during shots is impossible, filmmakers and writers are working around it. According to the actor, There have been changes in some scenes to make sure that we can maintain some sort of distance and arent very close to each other.

Much of the set construction work, too, takes place one day before the actors and technicians arrive for the shoot so that both teams avoid coming in contact. The shoots follow strict shift timings to ensure all teams can work seamlessly and without any schedules colliding with each other. Everybody reaches the set on time. We shoot in shifts allocated to us, pack up between 6 pm to 6.30 pm to make sure everybody reaches home before 9 pm, to observe the night curfew. People in general seem to have become more understanding and working on the set feels good, Aftab Shivdasani concluded.

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Its like being on a space station: Aftab Shivdasani on shooting amid coronavirus pandemic - The Indian Express

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Are we making spacecraft too autonomous? – MIT Technology Review

Posted: at 9:45 am

Does this matter? Software has never played a more critical role in spaceflight. It has made it safer and more efficient, allowing a spacecraft to automatically adjust to changing conditions. According to Darrel Raines, a NASA engineer leading software development for the Orion deep space capsule, autonomy is particularly key for areas of critical response timelike the ascent of a rocket after liftoff, when a problem might require initiating an abort sequence in just a matter of seconds. Or in instances where the crew might be incapacitated for some reason.

And increased autonomy is practically essential to making some forms of spaceflight even work. Ad Astra is a Houston-based company thats looking to make plasma rocket propulsion technology viable. The experimental engine uses plasma made out of argon gas, which is heated using electromagnetic waves. A tuning process overseen by the systems software automatically figures out the optimal frequencies for this heating. The engine comes to full power in just a few milliseconds. Theres no way for a human to respond to something like that in time, says CEO Franklin Chang Daz, a former astronaut who flew on several space shuttle missions from 1986 to 2002. Algorithms in the control system are used to recognize changing conditions in the rocket as its moving through the startup sequenceand act accordingly. We wouldnt be able to do any of this well without software, he says.

But overrelying on software and autonomous systems in spaceflight creates new opportunities for problems to arise. Thats especially a concern for many of the space industrys new contenders, who arent necessarily used to the kind of aggressive and comprehensive testing needed to weed out problems in software and are still trying to strike a good balance between automation and manual control.

Nowadays, a few errors in over one million lines of code could spell the difference between mission success and mission failure. We saw that late last year, when Boeings Starliner capsule (the other vehicle NASA is counting on to send American astronauts into space)failed to make it to the ISS because of a glitch in its internal timer. A human pilot could have overridden the glitch that ended up burning Starliners thrusters prematurely. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine remarked soon after Starliners problems arose: Had we had an astronaut on board, we very well may be at the International Space Station right now.

But it was later revealed thatmanyother errors in the software had not been caught before launch, including one that could have led to the destruction of the spacecraft. And that was something human crew members could easily have overridden.

Boeing is certainly no stranger to building and testing spaceflight technologies, so it was a surprise to see the company fail to catch these problems before the Starliner test flight. Software defects, particularly in complex spacecraft code, are not unexpected,NASA saidwhen the second glitch was made public. However, there were numerous instances where the Boeing software quality processes either should have or could have uncovered the defects. Boeing declined a request for comment.

According to Luke Schreier, the vice president and general manager of aerospace at NI (formerly National Instruments), problems in software are inevitable, whether in autonomous vehicles or in spacecraft. Thats just life, he says. The only real solution is to aggressively test ahead of time to find those issues and fix them: You have to have a really rigorous software testing program to find those mistakes that will inevitably be there.

Space, however, is a unique environment to test for. The conditions a spacecraft will encounter arent easy to emulate on the ground. While an autonomous vehicle can be taken out of the simulator and eased into lighter real-world conditions to refine the software little by little, you cant really do the same thing for a launch vehicle. Launch, spaceflight, and a return to Earth are actions that either happen or they dontthere is no light version.

This, says Schreier, is why AI is such a big deal in spaceflight nowadaysyou can develop an autonomous system that is capable of anticipating those conditions, rather than requiring the conditions to be learned during a specific simulation. You couldnt possibly simulate on your own all the corner cases of the new hardware youre designing, he says.

So for some groups, testing software isnt just a matter of finding and fixing errors in the code; its also a way to train AI-driven software. Take Virgin Orbit, for example, which recently tried to send its LauncherOne vehicle into space for the first time. The company worked with NI to develop a test bench that looped together all the vehicles sensors and avionics with the software meant to run a mission into orbit (down to the exact length of wiring used within the vehicle). By the time LauncherOne was ready to fly, it believed it had already been in space thousands of times thanks to the testing, and it had already faced many different kinds of scenarios.

Of course, the LauncherOnes first test flightended infailure, for reasons that have still not been disclosed. If it was due to software limitations, the attempt is yet another sign theres a limit to how much an AI can be trained to face real-world conditions.

Raines adds that in contrast to the slower approach NASA takes for testing, private companies are able to move much more rapidly. For some, like SpaceX, this works out well. For others, like Boeing, it can lead to some surprising hiccups.

Ultimately, the worst thing you can do is make something fully manual or fully autonomous, says Nathan Uitenbroek, another NASA engineer working on Orions software development. Humans have to be able to intervene if the software is glitching up or if the computers memory is destroyed by an unanticipated event (like a blast of cosmic rays). But they also rely on the software to inform them when other problems arise.

NASA is used to figuring out this balance, and it has redundancy built into its crewed vehicles. The space shuttle operated on multiple computers using the same software, and if one had a problem, the others could take over. A separate computer ran on entirely different software, so it could take over the entire spacecraft if a systemic glitch was affecting the others. Raines and Uitenbroek say the same redundancy is used on Orion, which also includes a layer of automatic function that bypasses the software entirely for critical functions like parachute release.

On the Crew Dragon, there are instances where astronauts can manually initiate abort sequences, and where they can override software on the basis of new inputs. But the design of these vehicles means its more difficult now for the human to take complete control. The touch-screen console is still tied to the spacecrafts software, and you cant just bypass it entirely when you want to take over the spacecraft, even in an emergency.

Theres no consensus on how much further the human role in spaceflight willor shouldshrink. Uitenbroek thinks trying to develop software that can account for every possible contingency is simply impractical, especially when you have deadlines to make.

Chang Daz disagrees, saying the world is shifting to a point where eventually the human is going to be taken out of the equation.

Which approach wins out may depend on the level of success achieved by the different parties sending people into space. NASA has no intention of taking humans out of the equation, but if commercial companies find they have an easier time minimizing the human pilots role and letting the AI take charge, than touch screens and pilotless flight to the ISS are only a taste of whats to come.

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SpaceX Vs Blue Origin: Who Wins The Space Race – Analytics India Magazine

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The space projects have been dominated by government bodies until we saw the ambitious companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin diving into this diverse area. These two are the most prominent names in the private space community and are often put on a face-off due to the similarity of its founders in other areas as well.

Owned by two of the most powerful businessmen of all time Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, they have been on the competition radar for their interest in the area of autonomous vehicles. Similarly, in the space segment, while the two companies might look quite similar in its attempts to explore space, the ideology and the approach of these companies vary quite significantly. But one thing cannot be denied that they both are developing large, reusable vehicles capable of carrying people and satellites across space.

While we have often heard about SpaceXs missions and launches over the past few years, Blue Origin does not come out to be so ambitious in gaining traction. In the last two years alone SpaceX has performed 21 launches, representing about 20% of roughly 100 worldwide launches.

Recently it also became the first private company to successfully launch its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into space. It is the first time ever that commercially-developed space vehicles owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA have transported humans into orbit. Musks obsession with exploring Mars and other space is not unknown. Back in 2001, he came up with the idea for Mars Oasis and even pledged a few million dollars for the project.

Blue Origin, on the other hand, has yet to launch anything into orbit. But its ambitions are not too different from SpaceX. Its rocket called the New Glenn is often the talk of the town, and the company is aiming to launch it in 2021. This rocket will be powered by an engine developed by the company itself, called the BE-4. It was secretly found in 2000 by Bezoz but has gained attention only after 2015. It is also working on New Shepard, a vertical takeoff and vertical landing rocket that the company wants to use for human tourism.

In 2018, SpaceX sent an AI-based robot called CIMON, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion to the international space station. It was designed to help astronauts perform their work such as scientific experiments. It became the first AI technology to be launched to the space station.

Not just that, the recently launched Falcon 9 rocket also made use of artificial intelligence. It has a sophisticated AI autopilot that steers the cone-shaped Crew Dragon. Once it reaches within 60 feet of the space station, the astronauts then manoeuvre it.

Talking about Blue Origin, Bezos parent company Amazons cloud unit, AWS recently unveiled a new space business segment called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment. With an aim to bring AWS services to space enterprises and satellite industry, it aims to help them with spaceflight operations. It aims to reimagine space system architectures, launch services that process space data on Earth, provide secure, flexible, scalable, and cost-efficient cloud solutions to space missions. It might hardly come as a surprise if Blue Origin tries to benefit from it in the coming future.

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SpaceX has many firsts in its name, for instance, building and sending liquid-fueled rockets in Earths orbit, developing a small launcher, successfully launching, orbiting and recovering spacecraft, developing the cheapest rocket, first private company to send humans into space and more.

Blue Origin, on the other hand, likes to take smaller steps at a time. It has so far developed a suborbital capsule system, acquired the technology of reusable rockets with vertical takeoff and landing, made a two-stage orbital launch vehicle with New Glenn and soon aims to send astronauts to the moon again.

While SpaceX has sent many rocket designs to orbit and recently sent astronauts to space, Blue Origin is working towards it. It has till now flown suborbital rocket flights and is in the early stages of assembling its first rocket capable of reaching orbit. Though there is a visible lag, experts believe that Blue Origin is well set for giving major competition to SpaceX. Especially with Amazons Kuiper project and AWS space unit, it can soon be expected to make a competitive move against SpaceX.


Srishti currently works as Associate Editor at Analytics India Magazine. When not covering the analytics news, editing and writing articles, she could be found reading or capturing thoughts into pictures. Contact:

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Pacific Northwest Bathed in Green and White –

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This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), illustrates several environmental wonders and highlights of the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The Cascade Mountains, running north-south along the right side of the image, extend from southern British Columbia in Canada through Washington, Oregon, and Northern California in the U.S. The rugged terrain is largely masked by snow in this photograph from mid-April 2020. Several of the peaks are active volcanoes in the Cascade arc. Rising to an elevation of 10,525 feet (3,207 meters), Glacier Peak is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in the range.

Olympic National Park occupies the center of the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington. Naturalist John Muir, known as the Father of the National Parks, explored and documented this wilderness in the late 1800s, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the area as a national park in 1938. The park features a spectrum of ecosystems, from rugged coastline to temperate rainforests to the glaciated peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range.

The Salish Sea encompasses several waterways, including the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. Situated within these waterways is an archipelago called the San Juan Islands, which were formed from strong bedrock that resisted the glacial scouring of the surrounding straits. The islands were proclaimed a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2013 due to their ecological significance as a home to diverse species and several ecosystems ranging from sandy beaches to Douglas fir forests.

Astronaut photograph ISS062-E-148249 was acquired on April 13, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 62 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Laura Phoebus, Jacobs Technology, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.

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Spuds and space: NASA and Idaho have a long history – East Idaho News

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From left, Apollo astronauts Joe Engle and Eugene Cernan with NASA geologist Dr. Ted Foss at Craters of the Moon in August 1969. As their mission was to involve collecting rocks from the moons Fra Mauro Highlands, NASA officials decided the national monument in Idaho would be a suitable place to train. | (Photo: NASA)

IDAHO FALLS When people think of NASA, Idaho doesnt exactly jump to mind.

Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are in Florida, Johnson Space Center and Mission Control are inTexas, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is in California.

But Idahos contributions to space exploration date back to the early years of the space race and continue today.

In fact, when NASA launches the Perseverance mission to Mars this summer, its rovers heat and power will come from a radioisotope power system (RPS) assembled and tested at Idaho National Laboratory.

Craters of the Moon

Idahos relationship with NASA began in 1969, the same year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

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That August, NASA sent four Apollo astronauts, including Alan Shepard, to Craters of the Moon National Monument for geology training.

In the Apollo days, NASAs central mission was to get astronauts where they were going and return them alive.

Only one scientist was sent to the moon, said Idaho State University volcanologist Shannon Kobs-Nawotniak. The rest were all test pilots. Today, things are driven much more by science.

The former test pilots would be collecting rocks on the moons Fra Mauro Highlands, and NASA mission planners decided Craters of the Moon would be a good place for them to practice spotting scientifically interesting rock specimens.

A rover prototype explores a cave at Craters of the Moon. More than 50 years after Apollo astronauts trained at the national monument, it continues to be a resource used by the space agency whose BASALT and FINESSE programs conduct field experiments that may one day be used on the moon and Mars. | (Photo: NASA)

NASA still uses Craters of the Moon for research. In 2014, scientists from the Ames Research Center began a project called FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration) to conduct field experiments and procedures that may be used by astronauts on the moon and Mars. A second project, BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains) examines terrain similar to the surface of Mars.

We have the benefit of so much more technology, said Kobs-Nawotniak, geology co-lead on FINESSE and deputy principal investigator on BASALT. With tools such as spectral imagery and more sophisticated satellites, we have a much better sense of what were looking for, she said.

FINESSEs focus on volcanic terrain applies to both the moon mission slated for the mid-2020s and Martian exploration in the 2030s. BASALT focuses on how water-rock interactions might affect habitability for microbial organisms on Mars.

In addition to her research, Kobs-Nawotniak engages with students all over the country, including the Idaho Space Grant Consortium, which funds Idaho students who are awarded NASA internships. Based at the University of Idaho in Moscow, the consortium was established in 2009 with a $1 million grant for STEM education.

NASAs BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains) program conducts experiments and procedures on terrain determined to be similar to the surface of Mars. This includes locations in Hawaii and Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Here, students learn in a mock space station at the national monuments headquarters. | (Photo: NASA)

Partnering in STEM education

NASA has emerged as a vital partner for STEM education in Idaho, especially in the states underserved rural communities and on Native American reservations.

Ed Galindo, a part-time professor at Idaho State University in Pocatello, deserves a lot of credit. A member of the Yaqui tribe, Galindo first gained NASAs attention when he formed the Native American Science Association. Realizing the agency might be sensitive to another group using its name, he went right to the head of NASA for permission. This was the beginning of a warm relationship.

In 1997, Galindo took Fort Hall students to Houston for a ride on NASAs notorious Vomit Comet, a Boeing KC-135A that makes parabolic arches to give passengers the sensation of zero-gravity flight.

None of the Native American students lost it on the plane, Galindo said. I just told the students to have fun.

A series of student-designed NASA experiments followed, including Spuds in Space, in which the Fort Hall students planted Idaho potatoes in JSC Mars-1, a soil mix designed to emulate everything scientists knew about the Martian soil. The test, done on the STS-Atlantisin 2000, examined how soil would support plant growth in space.

Fun With Urine went aboard STS-Endeavor in 2001 to learn whether urine could serve as the basis of usable space water. In 2003, the club launched its sequel, More Fun With Urine, in which students sought to learn whether their space water could be mixed with paint pigment and American Indian dyes to make art.

Other students around Idaho have put science projects in space. Gary Lam, a sixth-grade teacher at Potlatch Elementary School, helped his class get the Pepper Oil Surprise experiment on the International Space Station.

We wanted to see if water and oil would separate in space, said Lam. We got hold of someone at NASA who told us, You should be OK because they do have pepper oil on board to spice up their food.

Power and heat for Mars, deep space

Since 2003, INL researchers and engineers have participated in four missions for NASA.

That includes support for the radioisotope heater units that warmed the Spirit and Opportunity rovers during the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover mission.

More recently, INL has assembled and tested the systems that power and heat spacecraft and rovers as they gather data.

In 2006, the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft launched with a radioisotope power system provided by INL. That system is still generating electricity and heat as the craft approaches the edge of the solar system. Nearly four years after passing Pluto in 2015, New Horizons flew by and photographed Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt, the most distant object in the solar system ever explored by humans4.1 billion miles away.

The second RPS assembled and tested for NASA at INL left Earth in 2011 on NASAs Curiosity rover.

Finally, INL delivered an RPS for the latest Mars Rover, Perseverance, which is scheduled for launch in late July or early August 2020. Once the rover lands, its RPS will provide a source of power and heat for the rovers instruments and onboard systems as it explores the surface.

NASAs BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains) program conducts experiments and procedures on terrain determined to be similar to the surface of Mars. This includes locations in Hawaii and Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Here, students learn in a mock space station at the national monuments headquarters. | (Photo: NASA)

Center for Space Nuclear Research

Idaho National Laboratory is home to the Center for Space Nuclear Research, which invites undergraduate and graduate-level students to work with INL scientists on space nuclear research of potential interest to NASA. CSNR researchers have studied a tungsten-based fuel for use in a nuclear thermal rocket that emits a clean, nonradioactive exhaust.

NASA luminaries and supporting players from Idaho

Barbara Morgan of McCall was the first teacher in space onboard the STS-Endeavor in 2007 for a mission to the International Space Station. She served as a robotic arm operator and transfer coordinator, directing the transfer of over 5,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS and bringing home over 3,000 pounds.

John Herrington of Lewiston, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the first Native American in space, flew on the shuttle Endeavor in 2002. After leaving NASA and retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2005, he earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Idaho.

Nick Bernardini, now at JPL, is the planetary protection lead on Curiosity and the 2020 Perseverance mission. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry at UI in 2008.

Jason Barnes, an associate professor at UI, is a founding member and deputy principal investigator on NASAs Dragonfly project, the robotic rotorcraft lander planned to launch for Saturns Titan moon in 2025.

David Atkinson, UI professor of electrical engineering from 89 to16, is now a senior systems engineer at JPL on the Saturn Ice Giant Probe Mission.

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