High-Risk Satellite Conjunction Passes Without Incident

The Joint Space Operations Center issued a notification that the close approach of two non-maneuverable satellites did not result in a collision: “The close approach predicted at 21:53:00 UTC on 7 Jan 2017 has passed without incident. The JSpOC has confirmed that both satellites are being tracked as single objects, indicating that no collision has occurred.”

The JSpOC had identified a close approach between two non-maneuverable satellites in a sun-synchronous orbit (approximately 800km altitude) with a time of closest approach at 21:53:00 UTC on 7 January 2017. The probability of collision had been predicted as high as 44%.

Such warnings are extremely rare as close encounters of this kind do not occur frequently and active satellites typically maneuver out of harms way days or hours in advance to avoid the possibility of a collision.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Mystery of Russia’s Doomed Progress Spacecraft May Delay Next ISS Crew Launch

More than a month after a Progress spacecraft bound for the International Space Station plunged to the ground during a botched launch attempt, investigators are still unable to clear its rocket to carry future ISS crews, industry sources said.

The Progress MS-04 spacecraft was lost December 1 after its Soyuz-U rocket apparently experienced a catastrophic breakup during launch. The Soyuz-U is virtually identical to the Soyuz-FG variant, the only launcher certified to deliver cosmonauts and astronauts to orbit. The next international crew is slated to depart for the station on March 27, but until officials clear the rocket for a return-to-flight, that mission may not be going anywhere.

Two days after the launch accident, the Roscosmos State Corporation promised to complete an investigation of the failure by December 20.  However, despite some progress in understanding the sequence of events during the crash, the root cause of the failure remains elusive.

Read more at: Planetary

Cause of SpaceX Explosion

Over the past four months, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with several industry experts, have collaborated with SpaceX on a rigorous investigation to determine the cause of the anomaly that occurred September 1 at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This investigation team was established according to SpaceX’s accident investigation plan as approved by the FAA. As the primary federal licensing body, the FAA provided oversight and coordination for the investigation.

Investigators scoured more than 3,000 channels of video and telemetry data covering a very brief timeline of events – there were just 93 milliseconds from the first sign of anomalous data to the loss of the second stage, followed by loss of the vehicle. Because the failure occurred on the ground, investigators were also able to review umbilical data, ground-based video, and physical debris. To validate investigation analysis and findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests at its facilities in Hawthorne, California and McGregor, Texas.

Read more at: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Next Big Leap Toward Mars

It will likely take over a decade for SpaceX to launch a manned mission to Mars but before those first history-making human colonists arrive, Elon Musk’s company must develop an established cargo route with the red planet to regularly transport scientific instruments, equipment and supplies to the surface. To accomplish this lofty goal, SpaceX must get its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket—which will be the most powerful rocket in operation—off the ground. The private space firm plans that to happen this year.

The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of its current Falcon 9 cores strapped together to generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust, thanks to its 27 Merlin engines that can carry over 54 metric tons of cargo to orbit. It dwarfs the lift potential of the current most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, by a factor of two, and not since the Saturn V moon rocket last launched in 1973, has there been a rocket with this kind of deep space capability.

Read more at: Observer

India to Launch 103 Satellites in Record Single Mission

India will launch a rocket carrying 103 satellites next month in a record single mission, a report said Wednesday, as its famously frugal space agency looks to zoom ahead in the commercial space race.

The rocket is set to blast off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota in February carrying three Indian satellites and 100 foreign ones including from the US, France and Germany, the Press Trust of India said.

If successful, India will set a world record as the first country to launch the most satellites in one go and leave behind Russia, which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014. “We are making a century by launching over 100 satellites at one go,” S. Somnath, a director at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was quoted as saying at a science convention in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Read more at: Space Daily

Mission Awards Secure Commercial Crew Transportation for Coming Years

NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew transportation to the International Space Station into the next decade. The agency’s Commercial Crew Program has awarded an additional four crew rotation missions each to commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The four additional missions will fly following NASA certification. They fall under the current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts, and bring the total number of missions awarded to each provider to six.

The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs. The awards do not include payments at this time.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Health Risks of Space Travel

Since the year 2000, humanity has maintained a continuous presence in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS). People from 18 different countries have spent time at the ISS. The record for longest continuous stay is held by U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly one year there. But despite such achievements, space travel still involves a myriad of health risks for people.

From DNA damage caused by radiation exposure to the bone loss, muscle loss, and blood pressure changes that occur when living in microgravity, to name a few. And the longer a person is in space, the greater the toll on their health.

Read more at: Healthline

Four Extreme Environments Where Humans are Tasting Life on Mars

It’s all about the long haul. The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) tasked six researchers with spending a 366-day stint in a 111-square-metre dome 2500 metres up the slopes of an active volcano, Mauna Loa. They were only allowed leave their habitat to explore the vicinity if they wore space suits. The team didn’t see another soul for an entire year, and all communications were put through a 20-minute delay, to mimic the reality of interplanetary existence.

Within the dome, the team experimented to find out which crops might grow best inside a Martian hut under LED lights and with limited water. They ate the results of these hydroponic experiments – radishes, lentils and kale – and also ate fermented foods they made themselves, including yogurt and cheese.

The crew celebrated Earth holidays and had a non-denominational winter celebration. Sheyna Gifford (pictured above), the mission’s chief medical officer, wonders if Christmas will make sense on another planet. “When are they going to do that on Mars given that the calendars don’t match?” She suspects Martian settlers will probably invent new holidays such as “Landing Day”, the date of the first human touchdown on the Red Planet

Read more at: New Scientist

Exploring the Problems of Criminal Justice in Space

This article examines some of the issues facing the regulation of individual criminality in outer space, both in respect of tourist activity near to Earth and the more problematic issue of how to regulate crews engaged in long duration, interplanetary exploration. It will be necessary to establish the current basis of criminal law in space, how such laws could be administered in the future and, ultimately, how punishment for transgressing crimes in outer space will be enforced.

It is significant that, when considering the human element of spaceflight, those responsible for the planning and implementation of missions have employed (and to some extent continue to employ) one central assumption: the basic compliance of the traveller with the internal discipline of the crew and the mission.

Read more at: Room.Eu

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Completes Static Fire Test Ahead of Critical Return to Flight Launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket fired up its nine first stage engines on Thursday in a critical Static Fire Test carried out at Vandenberg Air Force Base in preparation for the rocket’s Return to Flight mission planned as early as Monday – coming back from a four-month stand-down following the dramatic September 1st testing accident at Cape Canaveral.

Thursday’s Static Fire Test was watched by many as it represents SpaceX’s transition back to launch operations, ending a lengthy investigation into the complex failure mechanism that transpired on September 1st when Falcon 9 suddenly blew apart minutes prior to a planned test firing of the rocket’s engines.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Cosmonaut Igor Volk Dead at 79

Former Soviet cosmonaut Igor Petrovich Volk passed away while on vacation in Bulgaria on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 – he was 79. Volk was a test pilot for the Mikoyan Aircraft Design Bureau. His accomplishments covered an array of vehicles and environments – including a mission to orbit.

Born on April 12, 1937, Volk first took to the skies in 1954, becoming an accomplished pilot and test pilot. Volk had more than 7,000 hours’ worth of flight time in over 80 different aircraft. He also was a test pilot on the Soviet version of the X-20 aircraft. As noted, Volk flew on a wide-range of aircraft which included fighters, bombers, and other craft.

According to SpaceFacts, Volk was selected as a cosmonaut on December 12, 1977, as part of the LII-1 Group. Volk’s single flight into space saw him serving as a research cosmonaut on the three-person Soyuz T-12 crew that flew to the Soviet Salyut-7 space station in July 1984.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

How China’s Seizure of a Naval Drone Could Set a Precedent for Nabbing a Satellite in Orbit

China’s mid-December abduction of a US Navy unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) as the vessel was returning to its mothership after a scientific excursion showed that China is willing to play hardball with US hardware. In previous confrontations, China took custody of an EP-3 reconnaissance plane and its crew in 2001, and has harassed multiple unarmed US Navy survey ships with dangerous maneuvers. As part of its “peaceful rise”, China has focused on gaining ground in new domains of strategic interest outside of its traditional focus. As a result, it has adopted assertive and asymmetric strategic postures in the maritime, cyber, and space domains.

Lessons that China learns in one domain tend to find their way into others. In June 2016, China launched Aolong-1, the first of a planned series of satellites equipped with a robotic manipulator, purportedly for the purpose of capturing and de-orbiting space debris.

Read more at: Space Review

The Future of Space Travel Looking Increasingly Chinese

Space – as it’s so often said – is the final frontier. But 2017 is already shaping up as a year when humankind will be launching a growing number of space missions to push back those frontiers ever further. Even so, it seems would-be space travellers might need to keep their plans in check, with promises about the emergence of space-tourism seemingly no closer to becoming reality. But, as space flight analyst Dr Morris Jones has been telling me, the future of space is looking increasingly Chinese.

Morris Jones, let’s just look back over 2016 for a moment. There were some high expectations about the growth in private spaceflight over the past 12 months, but it was perhaps China that really left its mark in space in the past year?

Morris Jones: That’s right. Well, China has really been the rising space power of the 21st century. They’ve become the third nation to develop their own astronaut launch system. In 2016 they launched their second space laboratory and they sent two astronauts to live on that laboratory for a month. And that’s the longest mission that they’ve ever flown to date.

And another thing that didn’t attract as much attention is the fact that they’ve brought out a brand new rocket called Long March 5, which is a very heavy lift rocket. And having this new, powerful rocket is the key to all of the big and ambitious things that China plans to do this year and over the next decade.

Read more at: ABC

China Space Plan to Develop “Strength and Size”

China wants to develop “strength and size” in its space program, a China National Space Administration official said last week. In the next five years, the country plans to speed up the development of its space program. China wants to become the first country to carry out a controlled landing of a probe on the far side of the moon in 2018. China also has plans to launch its first probe to the planet Mars by 2020.

China released an official policy proposal, known as a white paper. The document provides details of China’s plans for space exploration for the next five years. It was released by the State Council Information Office last Tuesday.

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” the white paper said. China says it will use space for peaceful purposes, to guarantee national security and to carry out new scientific research according to the paper.

Read more at: Space Daily

Responding to the Chinese Space Challenge

As 2016 drew to a close, China published its third space white paper, sustaining the pattern of publishing one every five years. This is consistent with the cycle of Five Year Plans that are central to Chinese economic and social planning efforts. China’s Space Activities in 2016 provides both an overview of China’s space achievements over the past five years and an outline of key projects and milestones for the next five years.

Much has been made of the white paper’s discussion of Chinese lunar, deep space, and manned space efforts. According to the white paper, a major focus during the next five years will be conducting several landings on the Moon. These missions, parts of the China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), build on the experience of deploying lunar orbiters and a rover, Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”), over the past several years. The immediate goal is to obtain and retrieve lunar soil samples (Chang’e-5) and to land a probe on the far side of the Moon (Chang’e-4). Chang’e-4 would make China the first nation to land an object on that side of the Moon.

Read more at: Heritage

Astronauts Could Live Inside Ice Domes on Mars

When you built a snow fort as a kid, you were unwittingly protecting yourself against more than ice monsters. You were building a radiation shield. On Earth, that doesn’t matter so much, but on Mars? It’s life or death.

The sun and other stars in the Milky Way produce high-energy particles that damage human bodies. Solar particles are mostly protons with low enough energy to be absorbed by basic physical structures. Galactic cosmic rays might sound like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, but they’re actually one of the most dangerous long-term threats to astronaut health. The small fraction of galactic cosmic rays that aren’t protons are heavy chemical elements moving at close to the speed of light. When they collide with a spacecraft, they break apart the atoms inside that material to produce showers of secondary radiation inside the craft.

The astronauts who will someday go to Mars will be bombarded by radiation from space. The Apollo astronauts who landed on the moon—the only people to travel outside of the Earth’s radiation-protective layer—got higher than normal exposure to radiation while on the surface. They weren’t outside for very long, so the effects were limited.

Read more at: Popsci

Boeing’s T-X Prototype Takes Flight

NASA’s famous T-38 trainer, which has been flown by astronauts for fifty years, is being replaced. Boeings T-X made its first flight on Tuesday, Dec. 20. It heralds what could be a new age in training aircraft for NASA. 

On Dec. 20, 2016, test pilot Steven Schmidt took one of the company’s two demonstrator planes on a 55-minute flight, along with Dan Draeger – Boeing’s chief pilot for Air Force programs. Schmidt and Draeger took the plane up to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and flew at speeds of up to 231 knots (265.8 mph / 427.8 km/h). During the flight, they conducted handling checks, tested backup systems, and collected information for post-flight analysis.

“The aircraft met all expectations,” Schmidt said after the flight. “It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.” Draeger added, “It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission. I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training.”

“We went from CDR (Critical Design Review) to first flight in 12 months,” said Boeing’s T-X program manager Ted Torgerson. “We don’t do that very much at the Boeing Company. I don’t want to say it has not been done, but for a manned aircraft to go through a complete production-ready design, that is as fast and as efficient as we’ve ever been through it.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Elon Musk is Meeting With Trump Advisor Steve Bannon

lon Musk, the billionaire president of SpaceX and Tesla, is meeting with Donald Trump’s Senior Counselor and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, according to the press pool. Musk was spotted walking into New York’s Trump Tower on Friday a little before noon.

There aren’t many details about what the two will be talking about at this point. It’s not the first time Musk, who has a role advising Trump as part of the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum — has come to Trump Tower to meet with members of the incoming administration. In December, he was one of several big, big names in the tech industry, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who met with the president-elect in a gather that led to, if nothing else, some awkward photographs.

Read more at: Inverse

Commercial Crew Heads for Regular Missions, Despite First Piloted Flights NET 2018

This week’s announcement by NASA of eight additional crew-rotation missions to the International Space Station (ISS)—four each by Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) partners Boeing and SpaceX—now secures the maximum number of contracted flights available to them. When the two companies were chosen in September 2014, after a multi-phase selection campaign, the terms of the combined $6.8 billion contract called for uncrewed and piloted test flights of their respective spacecraft to the ISS, followed by “at least two, and as many as six” operational Post-Certification Missions (PCMs) to deliver and exchange long-duration crew members to the orbital outpost. Boeing and SpaceX have now received the full complement of six operational missions apiece and, according to NASA, this recent award enables them to plan for all aspects of the flights and fulfil ISS transportation needs through 2024.

“Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.”

Read more at: America Space

National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy

The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy (Strategy) and the forthcoming National NearEarth Object Preparedness Action Plan (Action Plan) together seek to improve our Nation’s preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking. The Strategy and Action Plan build on efforts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to better detect and characterize the NEO population as well as recent efforts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prepare for and respond to a NEO impact. Together, they aim to foster a collaborative effort in which the Nation can better understand, prevent, and prepare for the effects of a NEO impact. The Nation must continue to leverage existing networks of expertise and capabilities, both public and private, and pursue targeted enhancements to improve the ability to manage the risks associated with NEOs. Seven strategic goals underpin the effort to enhance the Nation’s preparedness to NEO impacts.

Read more at: Spaceref

‘Spaceport America’: 0 for 2016

If New Mexico’s spaceport offers “the world an invitation to space,” no one’s RSVPing. In 2016, the facility launched … nothing. No satellites placed in orbit. No tourists sent on one-of-a-kind journeys. Heck, even UP Aerospace wasn’t able to launch a single sounding rocket last year.

But rest assured, taxpayers, economic-development “visionaries” are doubling down. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that construction “could start late spring or early summer of 2017” on a 24-mile route from the “Upham Exit of Interstate 25 north to Spaceport America.”

Read more at: krwg

NASA Study Finds Solar Storms Could Spark Soils at Moon’s Poles

Powerful solar storms can charge up the soil in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles, and may possibly produce “sparks” that could vaporize and melt the soil, perhaps as much as meteoroid impacts, according to NASA-funded research. This alteration may become evident when analyzing future samples from these regions that could hold the key to understanding the history of the moon and solar system.

The moon has almost no atmosphere, so its surface is exposed to the harsh space environment. Impacts from small meteoroids constantly churn or “garden” the top layer of the dust and rock, called regolith, on the moon. “About 10 percent of this gardened layer has been melted or vaporized by meteoroid impacts,” said Andrew Jordan of the University of New Hampshire, Durham. “We found that in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions, sparks from solar storms could melt or vaporize a similar percentage.”

Read more at: NASA

‘Levitating’ Moon Dust Explained in New NASA Study

A new study may explain how dust particles on the moon “levitate” just above the surface, even though there is no wind or flowing water on the moon to kick-up the material.

In a recent laboratory study, researchers found that micron-size dust particles could “jump” several centimeters high under ultraviolet (UV) radiation or exposure to plasmas (electrically charged gas), said a statement from NASA. This finding may help researchers better understand how lunar dust is transported across vast regions of the moon and other airless bodies, according to the statement.

“On Earth’s moon, these dust particles would have been lofted more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) above the lunar surface, leading researchers to conclude that the moon’s ‘horizon glow’ — seen in images taken by Surveyor 5, 6 and 7 five decades ago — may have been caused in part by sunlight scattering in a cloud of electrostatically lofted dust particles,” NASA officials said in the statement.

Read more at: Space.com

Trump Might be Thinking About a Moon Base

Last week, upon leaving the president-elect’s office, Douglas Brinkley, a historian and conservationist, reported that Trump “was very interested in a man going to the moon.” Before that point, the entirety of Trump’s utterances of space policy consisted of two sentences: “Honestly I think NASA is wonderful!” and “Right now, we have bigger problems… We’ve got to fix our potholes.” Brinkley’s remark suggests he might be thinking about a moon base, an idea long-favored by Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s advisers. The constitution of his transition landing team at NASA, which includes lunar advocates, would seem to bear this out.

The principal arguments for a moon base involve digging mines and building fuel depots. Though the moon lacks the resources to ever be truly self-sustaining, it only takes a few days to reach from Earth. If the U.S. decides that the goal of human spaceflight should be to gather resources, the moon and its quarry of helium-3 will be a compelling target.

Read more at: Atlantic

2016 Space Launch Statistics

The year 2016 saw a total of 85 known orbital launch attempts operated by eight nations from space ports in nine different countries. 2016 ranks third in the current century in terms of the total number of orbital launch attempts, short to 92 attempts in 2014 and 87 in 2015, and tied with 85 attempts in 2000.

In the lead for 2016 are the United States and China, each with 22 orbital launch attempts. Russia was not able to keep its leading position in the number of annual launches it held since 2004 and ranks third with 19 performed launches. Europe’s rockets flew nine times this year while India continued to catch up to the big players in the space business and carried out seven orbital missions plus a pair of sub-orbital technology demonstration missions to feed into future launch vehicle development. Japanese launchers flew four times this year, Israel launched one mission and North Korea carried out a single, controversial orbital mission.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

International Cooperation Drives Germany’s Space Ambitions

In space research, the International Space Station (ISS) is a symbol of peaceful interational collaboration in Earth orbit, and is intended to be used intensively as a one-of-a-kind laboratory for cutting-edge research. In future, it will be necessary to maintain humankind’s capabilities for human spaceflight as well. If this is to be achieved, it will be necessary to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the operation of the ISS if a decision is to be made about a potential successor system.

The development of autonomous systems, particularly in the field of robotic exploration of the Solar System and the use of robots to support human missions, is a top priority for Germany.

At the same time, the Moon is a nearby location where we can gain knowledge about the evolution of the Solar System and is also a potential platform for space exploration.

Read more at: Room.eu

For NASA’s Human Spaceflight Programs a Difficult Year Lies Ahead

The new year finds NASA beset by uncertainty, especially with regard to its human spaceflight programs. Soon, the agency will be without its current leadership. Administrator Charlie Bolden has told his team he will leave office at noon on January 20, along with his boss, President Barack Obama. And as yet there is no clear direction for what comes next from the Trump administration and its space transition team, which remain locked in a struggle over the future direction of the agency.

It’s not a good time for uncertain leadership, as many of NASA’s human spaceflight initiatives face serious questions. As 2017 begins, recurring issues with the Russian Soyuz launch vehicle have left the agency unable to say when its next astronaut will go into space. Its much-anticipated private space taxis remain more than a year from flight. And questions remain about the viability of its big-ticket programs, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

Read more at: Arstechnica

SLS Shocked During Wind Tunnel Testing to Better Understand Rocket’s Transonic Behavior

Tucked away in Hampton, Virginia, is a 56-year-old NASA wind tunnel capable of generating winds speeds of up to 900 miles per hour. In its lifetime, the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel has hosted hundreds of NASA projects, recently welcoming its latest guest, a 10-foot model of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).

SLS will send an Orion spacecraft to an asteroid and other deep space destinations on the Journey to Mars, and may also open new possibilities for robotic science missions to places like Saturn and Jupiter.

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia are testing the model to understand how the rocket may perform during deep-space missions. This test is particularly focused on understanding how the cargo version of the heavy-lift Block 1B  SLS rocket, capable of lifting 105 metric tons, will behave at speeds just below supersonic.

Read more at: Technology.org

The Space Drill Used By NASA Astronauts

NASA conducted a spacewalk today to replace the International Space Station’s batteries. Twelve aging nickel-hydrogen batteries will be replaced with six new lithium-ion batteries, a mission that will take two spacewalks. In today’s, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson were at work for six and a half hours.

If you watched the spacewalk, then you saw the astronauts using NASA’s “pistol-grip tool,” a cordless power drill designed for use in space. Built by Swales Aerospace Inc., it is the staple of NASA’s space tool arsenal. The pistol-grip tool helped build the International Space Station as well as the Hubble Space Telescope, and it’s been at all the repairs along the way. Needless to say, NASA’s cordless power drill needs to do a few things that the one in your garage can’t.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Exit Memo: Office of Science and Technology Policy

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has a broad mandate to: provide the President and the President’s senior staff with accurate, relevant, and timely advice on the scientific and technological aspects of all issues before them; ensure the policies and programs developed across the Executive Branch are informed by sound science; and ensure that Federal investments in science and technology (S&T) are making the greatest possible contribution to economic prosperity, public health, environmental quality, and national security.

Technology has become increasingly important to policy, to the delivery of government services, and to the Nation as a whole. President Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge to appoint within OSTP the first-ever U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO), with the rank of Assistant to the President. The mission of the Office of the U.S. CTO within OSTP is to advise the President and the President’s senior staff on how to harness the power of data, technology, and innovation on behalf of the American people—in so doing, the Office of the U.S. CTO continuously catalyzes and supports the Federal Government to better serve the American people.

Read more at: Whitehouse

It’s Time to End Washington’s Bad Habit of Changing NASA’s Goals in Midstream

As a newly minted president, Barack Obama told NASA to steer away from the moon—a destination set by his predecessor George W. Bush—and head for Mars instead. Richard Nixon encouraged NASA to cancel its final Apollo missions to divert funds to the space shuttle program. Unfortunately, President-elect Donald Trump seems set to follow this precedent. “After taking office, we will have a comprehensive review of our plans for space and will work with Congress to set both priorities and mission,” he told SpaceNews a month before the election.

These repeated relaunches come at great cost. Space exploration is a long-term proposition: changing our minds every four or eight years means wasting effort, time and money. Another reshuffle could prove disastrous. NASA has finally regained momentum after its last change of plans in 2010 and says it is on track with its giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, intended to target the Red Planet. “This is not a time that we can start over,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in October 2015. Our space program needs stability, and several groups have proposed changes that could help.

Read more at: Scientific American

NASA Should Build a Superhighway in Space

Donald Trump will take power any minute now, and we need to take advantage of the change in the White House to change NASA’s focus.

Why? NASA needs to get out of the rocket business and shift its attention to a permanent space transport infrastructure, an Eisenhower-style highway in the sky. An infrastructure with Gas stations (propellant depots), Rest stops and permanent housing—roomy human habitats with windows and vegetable gardens, Truck stops and freight yards—logistics bases with cargo-handling equipment, Trucks, SUVs, and dune buggies—Moon-and-Mars ground vehicles; plus tugs to haul loads around in space, Fuel production equipment—units to turn the water of the Moon and Mars into rocket fuel, breathable oxygen, and drinkable water, Units to turn the carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere into plastics, graphene, and carbon fiber with which 3-d printers can build more habitats, tools, and rovers—more trucks, SUVs and dune buggies. Units to turn the rusty rocks lying around on the Martian surface into high strength steel for habitats.

Why move NASA into space highway construction? Because no one else will do it. And our future in space depends on it. Our future share in a space economy that United Launch Alliance (a joint venture rocket company from Boeing and Lockheed Martin) estimates will be worth $2.7 trillion in thirty years.

Read more at: Scientific American

‘Lost Dream Job’: Man Sues NASA for Alleged Mistreatment

Lealum Mulugeta has always had a passion for space flight. “I arrived at NASA with the hopes of pursuing my dream,” he told Eyewitness News.
When he got a job working for NASA through contractor Universities Space Research Association, he was over the moon. That soon changed.

“There were certain things said to me that were not proper. One of the civil servants I worked under told me I was practically his slave and he could abuse me all he wants,” he said. Mulugeta, a native Ethiopian who emigrated to Canada as a child before coming to the United States to work for NASA, said at first he didn’t want to think it was discrimination. “I personally believe to give people the benefit of the doubt,” he explained.

But when it continued over the course of years, he said he’d had enough. He complained to managers who he says did not listen. “I was discouraged from actually filing the complaints and whenever I tried to have meetings with appropriate managers, they were quite evasive,” he said.

Read more at: ABC13