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Category Archives: Space Station

Second all-female spacewalk devoted to space station battery replacements – CBS News

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:38 am

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir floated back outside the International Space Station on Wednesday for history's second all-female spacewalk, installing two powerful new lithium-ion batteries on the far left end of the lab's solar power truss.

The pair plan to conduct another spacewalk Monday to install a final battery, completing a four-spacewalk upgrade that began last year. A final set of batteries is scheduled for installation later this year.

Floating in the station's Quest airlock, the astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:35 a.m. ET, officially kicking off the 225th excursion devoted to station assembly and maintenance. It was Meir's second spacewalk and the fifth for Koch, who is wrapping up a record 328-day stay in space.

"Beautiful view out here, Stephanie," Meir radioed astronaut Stephanie Wilson in mission control.

The spacewalk proceeded smoothly from start to finish with only one problem of any significance: Koch's helmet lights and camera assembly somehow came loose shortly after the excursion began.

Meir worked with flight controllers to come up with a way to reattach it, but in the end, they decided to simply stow the assembly and press on without it. Koch had no problems, staying relatively close to Meir and her helmet lights during orbital darkness.

Spacewalk duration was seven hours and 29 minutes.

"The ... ground team would like to thank you for your work today," Wilson radioed when the spacewalk ended. "We made great progress towards upgrading the batteries. You're both awesome. Nice work."

"Thank you very much, Stephanie, we love working with you," Meir replied. "And it was truly amazing for Christina and me to be back out here today. We've been talking about it a lot, and it was really something we were looking forward to."

NASA is in the process of replacing all 48 of the space station's older-generation nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 more powerful lithium-ion units, along with circuit-completing "adapter plates" to fill in for batteries that were removed but not replaced.

The new batteries are arranged in sets of six in integrated electronics assemblies, or IEAs, at the bases of the station's four main solar array wings. Each wing is made up of two extendable blankets of solar cells, and the electricity they generate is delivered throughout the station using eight electrical buses, or channels, two per IEA.

In 2017, spacewalkers replaced the 12 right-side inboard solar array batteries with six lithium-ion units. In March 2018, the 12 left-side inboard batteries were replaced by another six LiOH batteries. NASA currently is working to replace the 12 left-side outboard batteries. The final set of lithium-ion batteries will be installed in the right-side outboard IEA later this year.

Last year, Koch and astronaut Drew Morgan installed three of the left outboard array's six lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates on October 6 and October 11. But shortly thereafter, engineers discovered one of the three battery charge-discharge units in that circuit had failed after 19 years of service, sidelining one of the new batteries.

Koch and Meir staged the first all-female spacewalkon October 18, removing the failed BCDU and installing a replacement. The faulty unit was returned to Earth earlier this month aboard a SpaceX Cygnus cargo capsule. The device will be refurbished and relaunched on a future resupply mission.

In the meantime, with the BCDU swap-out complete, NASA managers opted to press ahead with three higher-priority spacewalks by Morgan and Luca Parmitano in November and December to repair the cooling system in a $2 billion cosmic ray detector mounted on the solar power truss. A fourth spacewalk is planned later this month to verify the repairs and to reinstall insulation.

Koch and Meir were assigned to complete the left-side outboard battery replacements during another two spacewalks. During Wednesday's excursion, the astronauts, running ahead of schedule, removed four older nickel-hydrogen batteries one more than planned and installed two new lithium-ion units and one adapter plate.

If all goes well, Koch and Meir will finish the job Monday, removing two remaining nickel-hydrogen batteries and installing the final lithium-ion power pack needed by the station's left-side outboard set of solar arrays.

Second all-female spacewalk devoted to space station battery replacements - CBS News

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Mighty Mice In Space May Help Disabled People On Earth : Shots – Health News – NPR

Posted: at 10:38 am

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft that ferried musclebound mice to the International Space Station and back can be seen at the top of this picture taken from the station on Dec. 20, 2019. NASA hide caption

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft that ferried musclebound mice to the International Space Station and back can be seen at the top of this picture taken from the station on Dec. 20, 2019.

In early December at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two anxious scientists were about to send 20 years of research into orbit.

"I feel like our heart and soul is going up in that thing," Dr. Emily Germain-Lee told her husband, Dr. Se-Jin Lee, as they waited arm-in-arm for a SpaceX rocket to launch.

A few seconds later the spacecraft took off, transporting some very unusual mice to the International Space Station, where they would spend more than a month in near zero gravity.

Ordinarily, that would cause the animals' bones to weaken and their muscles to atrophy. But Lee and Germain-Lee, a power couple in the research world, were hoping that wouldn't happen with these mice.

"It was worth waiting 20 years for," Lee said as the Falcon 9 rocket headed toward space. "And someday it may really help people," Germain-Lee added.

The couple hope that what they learn from these mice will lead to new treatments for millions of people with conditions that weaken muscles and bones. Among those who might eventually benefit: children with muscular dystrophy or brittle bone disease, cancer patients with muscle wasting, bedridden patients recovering from hip fractures, older people whose bones and muscles have become dangerously weak, and astronauts on long space voyages.

Dr. Emily Germain-Lee and Dr. Se-Jin Lee waited eagerly at Kennedy Space Center for a SpaceX rocket to launch their experimental mice into space in December. Courtesy of Jennifer Read hide caption

Dr. Emily Germain-Lee and Dr. Se-Jin Lee waited eagerly at Kennedy Space Center for a SpaceX rocket to launch their experimental mice into space in December.

For Lee and Germain-Lee, both professors at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, the launch represented a high point in a partnership that began in the late 1970s.

"We met when I was 18 and we were biochem majors in college together," Germain-Lee said.

The Harvard undergraduates clicked. And in those early years, Emily had a teenager's big dreams about what she and Se-Jin might accomplish.

"Wouldn't that be amazing if one day we worked on some project together that had incredible meaning and helped people," she recalled thinking. "All that stuff."

The couple went to medical school together at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

She went on to become a pediatric endocrinologist who treated children with rare bone disorders. He added a Ph.D. to his M.D. and started a lab that studied muscle growth.

Along the way, they got married and had a son. And in the late 1990s, Se-Jin Lee got kind of famous for helping to create some bulked-up rodents known as "mighty mice."

The mouse on the right has been engineered to have four times the muscle mass of a normal lab mouse.

Lee showed me one when I visited his lab in 2006. It had been genetically engineered to have about four times the muscle mass of a normal mouse.

Lee had altered the animal's genes so it wouldn't produce a protein called myostatin. Ordinarily, myostatin limits the growth of muscles. Without it, you get the mouse version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"If you open up the mouse and actually look at the muscles it is really unbelievable," he told me. "These animals are almost getting to the point where they don't really look like mice." Lee thought his discovery might help people with diseases that weaken muscles. So he began looking for a drug that could block myostatin and duplicate the effects of genetic engineering.

Meanwhile, as Germain-Lee treated more and more children with bone diseases, she noticed that weak bones could lead to weak muscles.

"My bone patients don't escape muscle loss because they have long periods of time where they can't move or their whole lifetime where they're wheelchair bound," she said.

And because she also sees patients with diseases like muscular dystrophy, she realized it could work the other way. "Any muscle disease leads to weakness and any weakness leads to bone fragility eventually," Germain-Lee said.

At home, the couple spent many evenings discussing muscle, bone, her patients and his work on myostatin.

"Probably most people would think we're really odd," Germain-Lee said. "But it's given great meaning to our life."

Over the years, they realized that what many patients really needed was a way to simultaneously strengthen muscle and bone. And remarkably, they eventually identified a drug with the potential to do that.

It's a substance that affects not only myostatin, but also a protein called activin, which is involved in the growth of both muscle and bone. And it would bring together the parallel lines of research each scientist had been following for decades.

Germain-Lee wanted to test the drug on mice in her lab that developed a version of osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. "I said, oh my gosh I really have to try this, and Se-Jin said sure," she said. "And those were the first set of experiments we did together."

The experiments, published in 2015, were successful. The mice developed both stronger bones and bigger muscles. And the results helped inspire Lee to revive an idea he'd been pursuing for two decades. It involved astronauts.

"Astronauts in space have lots of health things that they need to be thinking about," he said, "but certainly at the top of that list would be muscle loss and bone loss.

Without gravity, astronauts can lose up to 20 percent of their muscle mass in less than two weeks, according to research by NASA. And as muscles atrophy, bones begin to weaken too.

So starting in the late 1990s, Lee had approached NASA about funding an experiment to see whether his mighty mice maintained their muscles in space. But his efforts to interest the agency in the project "failed miserably," he said.

That changed after the couple had moved to Hartford, where, in addition to their faculty posts at the University of Connecticut, Germain Lee holds an appointment at Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Lee works at The Jackson Laboratory.

And it was through The Jackson Laboratory that Lee got a chance to send his mighty mice to the International Space Station.

In late 2018, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, which manages the International Space Station, contacted The Jackson Laboratory about potential science projects. And Lee's new employer suggested the mighty mice.

Lee and Germain-Lee quickly assembled an experiment that included not only the bulked up rodents, but normal mice that would receive the drug that (on earth) builds both muscle and bone.

The mice, which had gone into orbit in December, were brought back to earth in early January. And since then, Lee and Germain-Lee have been hard at work analyzing what happened to the animals' muscles and bones.

It will take months to know for sure whether any of the mice were able to defy the usual effects of weightlessness. Also scientists rarely discuss experiments before they're published.

But the couple says preliminary results look promising.

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SpaceX Test Delayed to Sunday – The New York Times

Posted: at 10:38 am

Because of rough seas in the Atlantic, SpaceX called off a test on Saturday that would have destroyed a rocket in flight to demonstrate that its spacecraft are safe for astronauts.

The company will now try to conduct the test on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Since 2012, the company founded by Elon Musk has been flying to the International Space Station for NASA, but it has never before carried a human crew, only cargo. In a final major milestone before it is ready to start taking NASA astronauts to the station, SpaceX will test a system that is to rescue astronauts in case of an emergency during launch.

The main objective of this test is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away, said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management for SpaceX, during a news conference on Friday.

This flight of a Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon capsule on top is known as an in-flight abort test. It will not have any astronauts aboard, and it will not be like most launches where were really hoping for it not to be exciting, said Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program for NASA.

About 84 seconds after launch, the Falcon 9 rocket will shut off its nine engines, simulating a failure, and powerful thrusters on the Crew Dragon will ignite to propel the capsule away. The force of that sudden departure will destroy the rocket, possibly even causing it to explode.

Probably a fireball of some kind, Mr. Reed said.

After reaching an altitude of about 25 miles, the Dragon will then drop off the trunk, or bottom half of the spacecraft, and small thrusters will push the capsule into the correct vertical orientation before parachutes deploy. It is to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean just 10 minutes after launch.

While weather on Saturday looked favorable at the launchpad, waves and winds were high at the splashdown site.

If the test is successful, Ms. Lueders said, the next Crew Dragon mission, which is scheduled to take two NASA astronauts, Douglas G. Hurley and Robert L. Behnken, to the space station, could launch as soon as early March.

A success in SpaceXs in-flight abort test would bring NASA closer to the culmination of its strategy of turning to private companies SpaceX and Boeing for providing transportation for its astronauts. In the past, NASA built and operated its own vehicles, like the space shuttles.

Delays have pushed back the first commercial crew flights by a couple of years, but NASA hopes that the first crewed missions will take off this year. In California, SpaceX is completing construction of its next Crew Dragon capsule and plans to ship it to Florida within a few weeks.

Last month, Boeing launched its capsule, called Starliner, in a test flight without astronauts, but a problem with the spacecrafts clock led to calling off a planned docking at the space station. Boeing and NASA are investigating what went wrong and NASA will decide whether it will allow astronauts on the next Starliner flight, or if it will require Boeing to first repeat the uncrewed orbital test flight.

Since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Soyuz rockets built by Russia for taking astronauts into orbit. It is looking to buy one or two more seats from Russia, at a cost of more than $80 million apiece. If SpaceX and Boeing experience further delays, NASA will have to cut the number of astronauts at the space station, which would limit the amount of scientific research.

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SpaceX Test Delayed to Sunday - The New York Times

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Ask our Astronaut | What do astronauts living at the International Space Station fear most? – Euronews

Posted: at 10:38 am

Astronauts are trained to handle dangerous situations and are prepared for emergencies that could occur in outer space.

"We're worried about fire. We're worried about toxic atmosphere," NASA astronaut Drew Morgan said in the latest instalment of Euronews' Ask Our Astronaut.

The astronaut was responding to one of your questions submitted on social media: "What is the biggest and most terrifying thing astronauts fear about being in space?"

Euronews space correspondent and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano picked his favourite questions from more than 100 submitted online.

"There is always the possibility that we could depressurise or that a hole could be punctured by a micrometeoroid or something and we could leak our atmosphere overboard," Morgan said, adding that they train for that regularly. But he said astronauts don't think about that on a daily basis.

"We know that our line of work is dangerous and we train for that and we're prepared for that," he said.

Instead, Parmitano and Morgan said they're focused on making sure they don't embarrass their space agencies and countries. They just want to do their job effectively.

"The only fear that we have is the unknown," Parmitano added. "So the things that we are ready for, that we are prepared for, don't scare us."

Watch the full report from the International Space Station in the video player above.

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Ask our Astronaut | What do astronauts living at the International Space Station fear most? - Euronews

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In photos: The amazing spacewalks of Expedition 61 –

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Image 1 of 34

Expedition 61 Cmdr. Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency assists NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) in their U.S. spacesuits before a spacewalk on Oct. 6, 2019. During their spacewalk, Morgan and Koch replaced some old batteries on the space station's solar arrays.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up inside the Quest airlock before beginning a 7 hour-long spacewalk on Oct. 6, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan works to replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries during his second spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch on Oct. 11, 2019. During that spacewalk, Morgan and Koch paid tribute to cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the world's first spacewalker, who died that same day.

Christina Koch (left) and Andrew Morgan work while tethered on the Port 6 truss segment of the InternationalSpaceStation to replace older hydrogen-nickel batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries during the six-hour and 45-minutespacewalk, on Oct. 11, 2019.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir prepare for their firstspacewalktogether on Oct. 18, 2019, to replace a failed power controller on the InternationalSpaceStation's P6 truss structure.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir fist bump each other during a spacesuit fit check on Oct. 12, 2019.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch pose together during a spacesuit fit check on Oct. 12, 2019, ahead of their historic first all-woman spacewalk.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir waves at the camera during her historic spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame), on Oct. 18, 2019.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir prepares to exit the crew lock portion of the Quest airlock to head out into the vacuum of space on Oct. 18, 2019.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is pictured during aspacewalkwith fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame), on Oct. 18, 2019.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch takes a "space-selfie" with the Earth behind her and reflecting in her helmet during her spacewalk together with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (out of frame), on Oct. 18, 2019.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch prepares to exit the crew lock portion of the Quest airlock and head out into the vacuum ofspace for her spacewalk together with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (not pictured) on Oct. 18, 2019.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is pictured tethered to the outside of the InternationalSpaceStation during her spacewalk together with NASA astronaut Christina Koch (not pictured), on Oct. 18, 2019.

Look ma, no hands!NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan waves as he is photographed next to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (lower left) during his spacewalk on Nov. 15, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano "stands" on the end of the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm duringthe first of four spacewalksto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment together with NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, on Nov. 15, 2019.

"My first #SpacewalkForAMS task: install a special handling aid before attempting the removal of the debris shield," ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano tweeted along with this photo, on Nov. 20, 2019.

The debris shield that once protected NASA's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer from micrometeoroid impacts floats away from the International Space Station after two astronauts removed it and flung it into space during aspacewalkon Nov. 15, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano takes a "space-selfie" with his spacesuit's helmet visor down during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is tethered to the Starboard-3 truss segment of the International Space Station during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, whose spacesuit is outfitted with a variety of tools and cameras, holds on to a handrail during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is tethered to the Starboard-3 truss segment of the International Space Station during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

EuropeanSpaceAgency astronaut Luca Parmitano holds a camera during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano is attached to a portable foot restraint at the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during the secondspacewalkto repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan points his camera toward himself to take a "space-selfie" on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan prepares to take a photograph with his special space camera, which is protected from the microgravity environment of space with special shielding, on Nov. 22, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano takes a photo while attached to a portable foot restraint at the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during a spacewalk on Nov. 22, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano takes a photograph during the secondspacewalkto repair the InternationalSpaceStation's cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan takes a "space-selfie" with his spacesuit's helmet visor down during the secondspacewalkto repair the InternationalSpaceStation's cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan (left) and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano suit up for their second spacewalk together on Nov. 22, 2019.

NASA astronaut and U.S. Army Colonel Andrew Morgan displays his Army pride ahead of the Army versus Navy football game on Dec. 12, 2019, during the third spacewalk together with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, on Dec. 2, 2019.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is pictured outside the International Space Station on Dec. 2, 2019, during his third spacewalk to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (not pictured).

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano carries the new thermal pump system that was installed on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer during the spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano snapped this shot of his feet inside of the foot restraint while "riding" the Canadarm2 robotic arm during a spacewalk on Dec. 2, 2019.

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How to shield the space program from changing political winds – Politico

Posted: at 10:38 am

Q&A: Rep. Pete Olson talks about Houstons space legacy and how Congress can help protect future missions from political upheaval.

Exclusive op-ed from retired Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast on why the Space Force must protect the American economy in space to counter China.

Story Continued Below

Tomorrow: SpaceX is expected to conduct its in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon capsule the last major milestone before flying crew.

WELCOME TO POLITICO SPACE, our must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the new space age in Washington and beyond. Email us at, or with tips, pitches and feedback, and find us on Twitter at @jacqklimas, @bryandbender and @dave_brown24. And dont forget to check out POLITICO's astropolitics page here for articles, Q&As, opinion and more.

SPACE CITY, USA. The Johnson Space Center is the control hub for the International Space Station and the training ground for NASA astronauts. Rep. Pete Olson, a Texas Republican who represents the Houston suburbs, is trying to ensure what was officially dubbed Space City in 1967 retains its place for future projects, including the Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon that is set to launch in 2022.

Every single human being who has gone up on the space station or on the space shuttle, whether foreign or American, have trained for a couple years at Johnson Space Center," Olson, a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, told us."Johnson Space Center has a neutral buoyancy lab, a big massive pool to do spacewalking prior to going to the space station. Thats irreplaceable.... Thats why we should always be the heart and soul of American human space flight.

Olson also said providing some stability to Trumps 2024 moon goal is one of his top priorities before retiring at the end of the year by pushing for multi-year appropriations for NASAs signature projects. The main goal is to get this program going to the moon and make it happen.

Rep. Pete Olson with the crew of STS-130, a 2010 mission to the International Space Station. | Courtesy of Rep. Pete Olson.

AN EXPANDED MISSION FOR THE SPACE FORCE. The new space branch, which got its first officer this week when Gen. John Raymond was sworn in as its leader, must extend its reach beyond protecting military assets orbiting the Earth to defending the broader space economy, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast argues in a new POLITICO op-ed. For the Space Force to keep pace with China, it must separate from the Air Force and pursue new missions like establishing spacecraft fueling stations in orbit, protecting important travel corridors or lines of communication and deploying personnel to space.

The problem is that the Air Force is proposing a Space Force that will not protect the marketplace of space beyond Earths orbit. But China is, Kwast writes. China is building a navy in space, with the equivalent of battleships and destroyers that can move fast and kill. America's satellites will be helpless to win against the superior speed and firepower in Chinas force.

Defense officials met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to lay out the path ahead for the Space Force, including the decisions that need to be made over the coming months. Those include administrative tasks like like assigning troops to the new service and paying them to figuring out which, if any, bases will be transferred to the new branch, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence told us after Raymond's swearing-in as the services first chief of space operations on Tuesday that It's going to be a very busy year. We think it's going to be a process over the next 12 to 18 months.

BUDGET WATCH. Space watchers are eagerly awaiting the release of the fiscal 2021 budget request, which will provide the first public look at the full cost of the Artemis moon program through the expected first launch in 2024. The president's budget request, which will be released Feb. 10, typically includes a five-year estimate. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has previously estimated the full price tag between $20 and $30 billion.

The budget request will show how serious the Trump administration is about the 2024 goal, says Casey Dreier, a senior space policy adviser at the Planetary Society. I dont know what the request will be, but for me personally to take it seriously, I expect to see at least $4 billion per year added on to support Artemis," he said.

Other items to looking for in the new budget request? A funding commitment for the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission and a program to bring a sample of Martian soil back to Earth, says Dreier. Hes also waiting to see if the administration will once again cancel a number of Earth science and STEM education programs cuts that Congress has reversed before. Weve seen Congress reject those three times in a row now. It would be great to see the administration and Congress aligned, he said.

EUROPEAN SPACE MOGULS STRUGGLE TO LAUNCH. Difficulty fundraising coupled with a sluggish pace of innovation at the European Space Agency are grounding European space entrepreneurs, our colleague Joshua Posaner reports for POLITICO Europe ahead of the two-day European Space Conference that begins Tuesday in Brussels. In one case, Robert Boehme, the founder of PT Scientists, which seeks to transport payloads up to 300 kilograms to the lunar surface, said his company was effectively killed by NASAs Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which will pay companies for delivery services to the moon. "The moment they announced this, all the investment negotiations we had were basically dead in the water," said Boehme. Potential backers told him to pack up, take his best staff and set up shop in the U.S., Posaner writes.

European space tourism faces a similar uphill battle, in part because it is so difficult to gain political support for building spaceports, POLITICO Europes Charlie Duxbury writes. There have been too few politicians who can see the benefits from the many spinoff effects, such as local jobs, increased tourism and research possibilities, said Christer Fuglesang, Swedens first NASA astronaut, who now runs the Space Center at Stockholms Royal Institute of Technology.

TOP DOC: Balancing 5G and weather forecasting demands on spectrum. New 5G networks may offer better connectivity and faster download speeds, but the frequencys proximity to the bands of spectrum that satellites use to measure temperature and humidity could harm forecasters ability to predict the weather, according to a paper from the Center for Space Policy and Strategy published this week.

International and domestic regulators must issue regulations that provide adequate protection between weather forecasting data frequencies and other spectrum users in order to ensure forecasters access to the data, the paper says. This data is essential to delivery of trusted forecasts required for day-to-day use and protection of life and property from severe weather.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Congratulations to Benjamin Isaacoff at the State Department for being the first to correctly answer that there were six women in the eighth class of astronauts, the first to include females.

This weeks question: A class of astronauts graduated last week at the Johnson Space Center. Why was their class nickname the turtles? First person to email the answer to gets bragging rights and a shoutout in next weeks newsletter!

How mice aboard the ISS can help improve healthcare on Earth.

Future Moon habitats could grow from fungus.

A critical test for NASAs SLS megarocket.

Sen. Ted Cruz on one new astronaut: He can kill you and then bring you back to life. And do it all in space.

The second all-female spacewalk happened this week with little fanfare.

NASA says 2019 was the second hottest year on record.

What should the Space Forces anthem be?

Why failure could be the best way for the space military industrial complex to profit.

Space companies raised a record $5.8 billion in private investment last year.

Space industry warms up to working with the government.

FCC may have broken environmental law in approving SpaceXs mega constellation.

SATURDAY: SpaceX is expected to conduct its in-flight abort test for the Crew Dragon capsule. A post-test news conference with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine follows.

MONDAY: Two ISS astronauts are expected to conduct a spacewalk to replace batteries.

TUESDAY: The two-day European Space Conference begins in Brussels.

WEDNESDAY: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation holds a hearing on the 5G workforce and obstacles to broadband deployment.

WEDNESDAY: The International Academy of Astronautics, Indian Space Research Organisation and Astronautical Society of India host a conference on human space exploration in Bangalore.

WEDNESDAY: The GPS Innovation Alliance, the Congressional Tech Staff Association and CompTIA Space Enterprise Council hold an event on Capitol Hill about the role of satellites in emerging technologies.

WEDNESDAY: The National Symphony Orchestra plays The Planets by Gustav Holst at The Anthem.

THURSDAY: The board of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center holds its second meeting in Washington.

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How to shield the space program from changing political winds - Politico

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Florida governor announces expansion of space manufacturing company in Jacksonville – The Florida Times-Union

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Made In Space, which makes technology that allows satellite construction in space, will expand and set up its corporate headquarters in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville takes a giant leap into orbit as Made In Space announced the relocation of its corporate headquarters to its existing operation at 8226 Philips Highway.

Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday at the companys 19,000-square-foot office just south of Baymeadows Road, saying the current 75-plus member workforce who design and create orbiting satellite manufacturing systems and other space technology will expand.

The company works with NASA on manufacturing and assembly systems that build satellites in orbit. It was recently awarded a contract to develop whats called Archinaut to build a small satellite power system in orbit.

Now its joins the many companies in Florida that work with a reinvigorated NASA on the future in space.

"The amount of private sector involvement is just incredible. Made In Space is a great example of that," DeSantis said. "They have already flown eight different missions to the International Space Station, and last November they launched their latest space station facility using hardware developed and tested right here in Jacksonville."

Made In Space has room for about 150 employees in its newly designated Jacksonville headquarters and should have close to that within a year or two, CEO Andrew Rush said. It is also "keeping our options open" for possible expansion, possibly into the Jacksonville Aviation Authoritys Cecil Spaceport at the former Westside Navy base, he said.

"We do have ambitions of one day building a larger satellite facility and Cecil is definitely on the short list of places where we might do that," Rush said. "The facilities there and the infrastructure, especially with the runways, are really attractive from a hardware delivery perspective."

Made In Space was founded in 2010 in Californias Silicon Valley to enable space manufacturing and expanded to Jacksonville in 2015. It has flown eight different missions to the International Space Station and has several more slated to launch to there in 2020.

NASA awarded the company a $73.7 million contract to develop Archinaut One, an automated factory that will make components for a satellite in orbit. It will then use its robotic arms to arrange the data-transmitting nodes and struts it makes into a space-optimized "ULISSES" satellite structure," as video animation at shows.

This will be the worlds first self-assembling satellite, helping NASA with long-term goals for missions from the Moon to Mars as it builds huge lattice-type structures in space without the limitations of gravity, the company said.

The Philips Highway headquarters will include the capability to locally make, test and control spacecraft and 3D printing technology to build that in orbit. The expansion is part of a multi-year program that generated more than 50 new jobs in Jacksonville since early 2019, the company said.

The Jacksonville headquarters will also consolidate the administrative, engineering, operations and production teams for the companys major technology programs, including Archinaut One.

In conjunction with Cecil Spaceport, Made In Spaces relocation will make Jacksonville a leader in the new field of space manufacturing, said Frank DiBello, head of Space Florida, the principal state agency for aerospace-related economic development.

"With that relocation comes the addition of a number of high-paying jobs, but more importantly new and extremely innovative technology segment to Jacksonvilles already vibrant economy," he said. "... It helps turn Duval County into a space industry hub for the state."

DeSantis said the move will also give Made In Space easy access to the "No. 1 place in the world" for space exploration: the Kennedy Space Center and the countrys new Space Command.

"They are investing more than $3 million, and their footprint is increased from a 2-room facility to this 19,000-square-foot facility," the governor said. "... This thing is just going to blossom."

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549

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Space Junk Is Cluttering Up The Final Frontier – NPR

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Dots of orbital debris are visible in this image of the Lunar Module Challenger from the Apollo 17 spacecraft, after docking maneuvers. The debris is from the Saturn S-IVB stage separation. NASA hide caption

Dots of orbital debris are visible in this image of the Lunar Module Challenger from the Apollo 17 spacecraft, after docking maneuvers. The debris is from the Saturn S-IVB stage separation.

Since the dawn of Sputnik in 1957, space-faring nations have been filling Earth's orbital highways with satellites: GPS, weather forecasting, telecommunications.

Decades later, orbital debris is a growing problem.

Orbital debris, commonly known as "space junk," exists at all levels of orbit, but is especially concentrated in low Earth orbit. Space junk has the potential to damage working satellites and crewed spacecraft, including the International Space Station.

And, the population of space junk is projected to grow, as the commercial space economy continues to expand and more satellites are scheduled to launch.

Picture a band of debris, circling the earth. "[It's] everything from upper-stage rocket bodies, completely intact dead satellites, shards of stuff...flecks of paint, bolts, nuts," says Moriba Jah, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

The U.S. adopted Orbital Debris Mitigation Standards in 2001, but there has not been a concerted effort to fund clean-up operations. This worries those concerned about the sustainable use of space.

"This is a tragedy of the commons in near earth space because of a lack of holistic management of this finite resource," Jah tells NPR's Short Wave podcast.

How much space junk exists in Earth's orbit is unknown, but government agencies around the world have crafted estimates.

The U.S. Department of Defense is tracking on over 20,000 artificial satellites payloads, rocket bodies, and debris. Approximately 90 percent of these satellites are non-operational.

Moreover, their public catalog,, only tracks objects that are 10 centimeters in diameter at minimum objects basically larger than a softball.

NASA estimates the population of debris between one and 10 centimeters is about 500,000 objects. The latest models from the European Space Agency estimates that figure is closer to 900,00 objects in space.

How is space junk created?

Satellites generate debris in a variety of ways.

After launch, spent rocket bodies are shed and pieces become unglued. They can cross flight paths and collide with one another. Satellites have been known to explode when unspent fuel is on board.

"Whenever a satellite sheds pieces, they tend to not shed one, but many, many pieces, hundreds of thousands of pieces depending on the type of collision," says Jah.

The movement of these debris clouds is difficult to predict.

At times, these collisions have destroyed satellites outright. In 2009, Iridium 33, an American communications satellite, collided with Cosmos 2251, a dead Russian communications satellite. Both shattered.

In 2007, the Chinese military intentionally destroyed one of their own weather satellites, Fengyun-1C, while testing anti-satellite technology.

Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation remembers tracking that explosion for the U.S. Air Force. "In the end, we ended up cataloging more than 3,000 objects. That one satellite turned into three thousand things," Weeden says.

Why is space junk such a problem?

Space junk has the daily potential to alter satellites' operations and movement. This translates into real-world costs, as satellite operators field alerts about potential collisions.

Satellites in low Earth orbit, such as those used for imaging and weather data collection, are especially vulnerable.

"That could mean our climate models are less accurate, or we don't have a good way to track emitters. That could have negative impacts down the road," Weeden says.

Space junk is also problematic for astronauts. The International Space Station is equipped with a tracker to monitor for collision risk. In the past, crews have performed avoidance maneuvers and hid in the Soyuz capsules when the risk for collision was too great.

That scenario provided the staging drama for the 2013 Alfonso Cuarn film, Gravity. The opening scene depicts earth's orbit rapidly filling with debris after a missile strike. That depiction does not capture reality. Space junk is a problem that unravels slowly.

"In the movie Gravity, orbital debris was portrayed as sort of a nuclear chain reaction. The reality is the opposite, where it's like climate change. It's this long, relatively slow accumulation of stuff over decades or longer that results in a really big negative impact down the road," says Weeden.

Mitigating the risk of space junk, Weeden says, involves convincing governments and companies launching satellites that they should change their behavior now, mindful of the future.

Some space junk naturally falls back to earth - one tracked object a day, on average - and either burns up or falls in the ocean. Space junk is very unlikely to fall on your head.

What's being done to reduce and clean-up space junk?

Globally, there are no international regulations for how satellites should operate in space. Each nation implements its own policies, which creates a lack of coordination and accountability in space traffic management.

In 2007, the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) revised their recommendations for mitigating the risk of debris. Space agencies and governments follow these guidelines voluntary.

As for cleaning up the junk? Remediation technologies have not yet been tested in space. There's been demonstrations with magnets in Japan and deployable nets in England, which took place on Earth.

In December, the European Space Agency (ESA) commissioned the very first orbital debris clean-up mission, called ClearSpace-1.

Their plan is to launch a multi-armed robot in 2025 to scoop up a chunk of old European rocket, a mission estimated to cost $130 million. The debris and the clean-up robot would self destruct upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Meanwhile, each individual nation is managing the risk that space junk poses to hardware and to human life.

"This is absolutely something that NASA is keeping tabs on the Chinese space station, all the private space stations that are going up they're all going to have to deal with this. A fixture of human spaceflight is going to be avoiding debris that could collide with your space station," says Weeden.

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Space Junk Is Cluttering Up The Final Frontier - NPR

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Australia fires from space: Astronauts send out ‘hearts and thoughts’ from Space Station –

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The deadly Australian fires are now so vast, they have spread smoke around the world. NASA astronauts on the International Space Station are closely monitoring and photographing the fires as Australia continues to burn.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is among those on the Expedition 61 ISS crew to share aerial photos of dust flying across Australia and smoke rising from numerous fires.

Ms Koch, who recently set a new record for the longest space mission by a woman, published a series of fire photos with the caption: Australia. Our hearts and thoughts are with you.

The American crew members post swiftly received thousands of likes, with several users expressing their sadness at the continuing tragedy in Australia.

Twitter user Roman replied to the post: Very sad. If this keeps happening the planet is going to end up just like Venus.

READ MORE:NASA unveils stunning photo of ISS transiting Sun

Other images from the ISS astronaut showed thick dust streaming over the ocean near Australia.

Mr Parmitano said in another tweet: Australia fires: lives, hopes, dreams in ashes.

The Australian fires have killed at least 27 people since September last year, while the inferno is now spewing dangerous smog around major Australian cities.

The US space agency NASA is tracking smoke spreading around the globe, a phenomenon easily visible from space.

Thunderstorms caused by the wildfires are accelerating the smoke plume in its path around the world.

The smoke is forecast to soon return to Australian airspace, according to ABC Australia.

Lisa Harvey-Smith, an astrophysicist at the University of New South Wales, told ABC the resulting smoke can rise at least 10 miles (17km) into the atmosphere and travel relatively unimpeded, above most of the atmosphere and weather.

A NASA Earth Observatory blog post revealed different types of clouds are accompanying the fire smoke plumes, such as pyrocumulonimbus and flammagenitus.

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Astronauts and addiction: Ending the stigma (op-ed) –

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Michael D. Shaw is a biochemist and freelance writer. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and a protg of the late Willard Libby, winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Shaw also did postgraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Based in Virginia, he covers technology, health care and entrepreneurship, among other topics.

Astronauts sometimes face the gravest threats after they return to Earth. Facing depression, alcoholism and substance abuse in general, astronauts are not immune from addiction.

As Buzz Aldrin has explained in his memoirs and interviews, addiction among NASA astronauts is real, prevalent and serious. In an interview with The Telegraph, Aldrin talked about his "lost decade" in the 1970s, when he went through two marriages and worked as a car salesman at a Cadillac dealership in the years following his historic Apollo 11 moon landing. He said he was marginalized and shunned by NASA and the Air Force when he revealed his struggles with alcoholism and depression.

It was not until 2007, when NASA reviewed allegations (since disproved) of "heavy use of alcohol" by two shuttle astronauts within 12 hours of flying, that things began to change. And yet, despite a 1991 law directing NASA to create a policy for alcohol and drug testing of its employees, no such policy was in place in 2007.

Related: 10 ways that astronauts are helping you stay healthy

NASA now has a Drug Free Workplace Program Employee & Supervisor Guide that consolidates several of our previous publications into a single booklet for both supervisors and employees, and is suitable for training. The guide has sections involving testing and privacy, employee rights, mental health services, and more.

More recently, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine ordered a workplace safety review at SpaceX and Boeing, two companies contracted to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, after SpaceX founder Elon Musk smoked marijuana and drank whiskey publicly. Musk's activities happened on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast in September 2018.

"I will tell you, that was not helpful and that did not inspire confidence, and the leaders of these organizations need to take that as an example of what to do when you lead an organization that's going to launch American astronauts," Bridenstine told reporters during a news conference in Washington two months later, referring to Musk's actions. Bridenstine added that the workplace culture assessment would "ensure the companies are meeting NASA's requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment."

If NASA wants to be more proactive about workplace safety, the agency should also consider how astronauts deal with depression in space, not only how its workforce could be using drugs or alcohol on Earth. In a live broadcast from the International Space Station on Feb. 7, 2019, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques said, "The problem you develop here is that everything is a little bit the same every day. It can be depressing sometimes if you're not careful."

Further increasing the risk of substance abuse disorders among astronauts, the medical treatment astronauts may receive for injuries sustained during spaceflight can also be addictive. For example, because back pain is common among astronauts, it is not uncommon for doctors to write an opioid prescription to treat this ailment.

Now, consider that more Americans die from opioid overdoses than car crashes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 47,600 overdose deaths, or 67.8% of all overdose deaths in 2017, were due to opioids.

How we treat opioid addiction or polysubstance abuse, then, is crucial. Take, for instance, the use of ibogaine: a naturally occurring, plant-based psychoactive substance, which, along with medical treatment in general, can help reduce opioid addiction. While not available in the U.S., which is a separate matter involving law and politics, ibogaine is, in my opinion, a credible way to lessen or eliminate opioid dependency.

"While ibogaine treatment is an extremely effective solution for interrupting polysubstance abuse disorders, the full continuum of care is required to maintain lasting abstinence," said Dr. Alberto Sol, an emergency medicine physician and medical director of Clear Sky Recovery in Cancn, Mexico.

As a biochemist, I agree with Sola's statement. I also think NASA needs to focus more on astronauts' vulnerability to injury and opioid dependency, as the physical demands of training for a mission may cause or worsen back pain.

Between acknowledging the existence of a problem and treating it, between screening for alcohol and drug abuse and having a plan to help people who recover from addiction, NASA has a lot to do. Society has a lot to do, too.

Rather than firing or ostracizing workers who have chemical dependencies, all of us can take a giant leap to improve humankind. We can be more candid about addiction, without letting fear of rejection or reprisals hold us back. We can save lives, and offer hope, to those who need it, now more than ever.

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and onFacebook.

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