Being In Space For Long Periods Is Terrible For Your Brain, Scientists Say

While commercial space entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos tout space travel as a normal part of humanity’s future, medical researchers are starting to realize that the human body — and particularly brain — is not really designed to be floating around weightlessly for a long time. Sure, astronauts mostly come back in relatively good shape — but remember, these are people who are selected in part for being in excellent physical health, a far cry from the average citizen that may aspire to space tourism.

Now, two researchers have published an editorial saying just as much in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)’s neurology issue, sounding the alarm bells over the impact of microgravity on the human brain.

Read more at: salon

It’s A Tougher Life In Space Than We Thought

Two new studies confirm that life in space is pretty hard on the body.

Scientists have known for some time that extended periods away from Earth come with some risks, such as muscle and bone loss due to the effects of microgravity, but now it appears it could adversely affect cells in your immune system and even change the make-up of your brain.

The first study, by US researchers led by Richard Simpson from the University of Arizona, looked at the impact of spaceflights of six months or more on natural killer (NK) cells – white blood cells that kill cancerous cells in the body and prevent old viruses from reactivating.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

So Close! SpaceX Just Misses Rocket Fairing Catch at Sea with Mr. Steven (Video)

OK, now that was a near miss.

We’ve seen SpaceX’s net-equipped boat, Mr. Steven, come close to catching payload fairings — the protective nose cones that surround satellites during launch — out of the sky, both during operational missions and during tests.

But the speedy ship actually had a fairing in its clutches during a recent test off the California coast, a newly released SpaceX video shows. The hardware hit the net and seemed to rest momentarily, but then tipped up and slid downward, off the net and into the waiting whitewater wake.

Read more at: Space.com

Russian Specialists Eliminate Anomaly On Fregat Booster — Source

Russian specialists at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana have eliminated a micro-hole on the Fregat booster intended to deliver OneWeb satellites into orbit, a source in the domestic space industry told TASS on Thursday.

“There was a micro-hole in the duct with helium and pressure started to fall during checks. The specialists at the Kourou spaceport used standard materials and have already eliminated the micro-hole, using an ordinary repair kit. The transportation of the Fregat booster to Russia won’t be required,” the source said.

The commission for the preparation and launch of OneWeb satellites, including French specialists, has given its approval for the further preparation of the Fregat upper stage for the launch, the source said.

Read more at: TASS

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Will Be Ready for 1st Test Flight in March

Boeing is on track to launch its new astronaut taxi to the International Space Station (ISS) next month.

Along with SpaceX, the private spaceflight company was contracted by NASA to begin launching astronauts from U.S. soil again for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner won’t be taking any astronauts along for its first flight to the ISS, however. After docking robotically with the orbiting lab, it will return to Earth for a parachute landing.

If this test flight goes according to plan, Boeing will be ready to launch its first crew of astronauts to the space station in August, Boeing spokesperson Maribeth Davis told Space.com during a presentation of Boeing’s future vision for space travel here.

Read more at: Space.com

Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard Rocket to Carry People Is in ‘the Barn’

Today, only the Russians regularly bring people to space. By the end of 2019, several private U.S. companies could join them — including Blue Origin, which announced its intentions last week.

Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, said that its human-rated rocket is in Texas in “the barn,” the nickname for the vertical processing facility where technicians are readying the rocket for spaceflight.

Along with SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner — both of which may have human test flights this year to the International Space Station — the new Blue Origin rocket could soon offer another spaceflight option for astronauts.

Read more at: Space.com

Better Interior Design Might Keep Astronauts Healthier And Happier In Deep Space

When it comes to building the interior of a spacecraft, engineers often prioritize function over aesthetics, focusing on materials and hardware that are both safe and effective for executing the vehicle’s intended mission. But some scientists say it’s time to consider another crucial factor when designing a spacecraft’s insides: how it will affect the behavior of the passengers?

For astronauts traveling vast distances — perhaps on a trip to Mars — the design of a spacecraft’s interior could be a critical tool for keeping people happy and healthy during the journey. Room will likely be limited on any vehicle we send to the Red Planet; getting massive objects into space takes a lot of energy and money, so the interiors on these transports could be tight.

Read more at: Verge

Chinese Rover and Lander Survive 1st Frigid Night on Moon’s Far Side

China’s Chang’e 4 lander and rover are in good shape following a cold spell on the moon. They were put to sleep as night fell roughly two weeks ago at the mission’s Von Kármán Crater landing site.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on Thursday (Jan. 31) that the lander and rover both survived their first trial by ice. The rover, Yutu 2 (“Jade Rabbit 2”), woke up at about 7:00 a.m. EST (8:00 p.m. China time) Tuesday (Jan. 29), and the lander followed suit 24 hours later, CNSA officials said.

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length.

Read more at: Space.com

Russian Space Firm Unveils Scheme Of Crewed Flight To Moon

Russia’s Energia Space Rocket Corporation unveiled its scheme of a flight to the Moon with the subsequent landing of cosmonauts on the Earth’s natural satellite.

The scheme was presented at the readings on cosmonautics devoted to Soviet Rocket Designer Sergei Korolyov.

As the presentation suggests, the Federatsiya (Federation) promising spacecraft and the lunar take-off and landing module will be launched to the Moon separately. For this purpose, Angara heavy carrier rockets are expected to be used.

Read more at: TASS

SSC Seals Launch Site Partnership With Arianegroup

The Shetland Space Centre today announces a major partnership with ArianeGroup.

The joint venture, equally owned by Airbus and Safran and lead contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers, will define a concept of operations and assess the range of missions for the SSC spaceport project in the frame of a three-month study. The spaceport will be designed from the ground up to be a commercial facility operated by SSC.

During a visit this summer ArianeGroup representatives acknowledged that Unst, Shetland’s most northerly island, is a “perfect location in Northern Europe” to establish a spaceport for launching small satellites and supporting associated services such as data-linking and storage.

Read more at: Shetland space centre

First Private Spacecraft Shoots For The Moon

“Moon of Israel” is an epic 1924 film from the golden era of silent movies, and helped launch the directing career of Michael Curtiz, of “Casablanca” fame. Sequels seldom live up to the original. But if Israel’s plans to put a robotic lander on the moon in February 2019 can be considered a sequel, this new “Moon of Israel” mission, led by the nonprofit company SpaceIL, will be a blockbuster in its own right.

Lunar landings date back to the 1960s. The United States landed 12 people on six separate occasions as part of the Apollo program, along with robotic spacecraft such as Surveyor, which served as a precursor to human missions. The Soviet Union preformed robotic Luna missions and landed Lunokhod automated rovers in the 1970s. Most recently China landed the Chang’e 4 robotic probe on the back side of the moon. These missions are all amazing technical accomplishments, and marvels of human know-how, sponsored and built by large government space agencies.

Read more at: Conversation

ABL Space Systems Increases Performance And Cuts Price Of Its Small Launch Vehicle

A small launch vehicle company is increasing its vehicle’s payload capacity and reducing its price as it seeks to find a niche in a crowded market.

ABL Space Systems plans to announce Feb. 1 that it is offering an upgraded version of the RS1 rocket at a price of $12 million a launch, down from an earlier price of $17 million. The vehicle’s performance has been increased from 900 to 1,200 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

Company executives say the change in performance and cost comes after a year and a half of work to refine the design of the vehicle and better understand what it would take to produce the vehicle.

Read more at: Spacenews

In New Starship Details, Musk Reveals A More Practical Approach

On Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of Raptor rocket engines that recently left the company’s factory in Hawthorne, Calif., headed out to be tested at its facility near McGregor, Texas. “Preparing to fire the Starship Raptor engine,” he said by way of a caption on Twitter.

The photos were interesting, but Musk had additional comments about the engine that revealed much about how the company is proceeding with overall design of the vehicle it will power. SpaceX’s approach seems focused on keeping costs down and moving as quickly as possible towards a launch of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket in the early 2020s.

Read more at: Arsteehnica

NASA, Spacex And Boeing’s ISS Program Is As American As Moon Pie

It almost sounds like the start of a joke: NASA walks into a bar with one of the oldest aerospace companies and a guy who smoked pot with Joe Rogan

But while they may sound like unlikely bedfellows,  NASA has formed partnerships with Boeing and SpaceX in a bid to get into space faster and to once again launch astronauts from US soil. It’s known as the Commercial Crew Program, and it’s been set up to help NASA get astronauts to the International Space Station (without spending too many taxpayer dollars).

In this week’s episode of Watch This Space, we take a look at what these two giants of American industry bring to the table and what NASA has to gain from outsourcing its space program. Let’s break it down.

Read more at: CNET

Morgan Stanley Says Spaceflight Industries Is ‘Entirely’ Disrupting The Rocket Launch Market

The rocket launch business is expensive and risky, and then there are the technical requirements: Launch providers have to ensure a customer’s delicate and expensive spacecraft survives the trip to orbit.

But Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries is showing things can be done differently, according to Morgan Stanley analysts Adam Jonas and Armintas Sinkevicius. In a note to investors Friday, they said that the company “is disrupting this model entirely” by applying the ride sharing concept to satellites.

The company packed a record-breaking 64 satellites on a SpaceX rocket in December for a mission known as Spaceflight SSO-A. Morgan Stanley called it “a significant milestone for the company.”

Read more at: CNBC

Indian To Launch 2,535 kg Satellite Onboard European Launch Vehicle

India will launch its latest communication satellite onboard European launch services provider Arianespaces launch vehicle on February 6 from French Guiana, Indian Space Research Organisation said Friday.

According to Arianespace, the launch of Ariane-5 (VA 247) is scheduled for 2:31 am India time on Wednesday.

Weighing about 2,535 kg, the Indian satellite, GSAT-31, will provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites, ISRO said.

The satellite derives its heritage from ISROs earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series, the space agency said, adding that it provides Indian mainland and island coverage.

Read more at: NDTV

Blue Origin Inks Deal To Launch Satellite Internet Constellation

Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket has been selected by Canadian-based Telesat to send a fleet of satellites into orbit. The payload for these flights could help improve web services around the globe.

The satellites, designed to provide internet services across the globe, will be sent to low-Earth orbit by Texas-based Blue Origin’s New Glenn over the course of multiple launches.

“Blue Origin is honored that Telesat has selected our powerful New Glenn rocket to launch Telesat’s innovative LEO satellite constellation into space,” Blue Origin’s CEO, Bob Smith, stated via a post on the company’s website. “We are excited to be partnering with this industry leader on their disruptive satellite network architecture. New Glenn’s 7-meter fairing, with its huge mass and volume capabilities, is a perfect match for Telesat’s constellation plans while reducing launch costs per satellite.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Cutbacks At Stratolaunch, Virgin Galactic Show The Space Industry Is Entering A Second Stage

Even space projects backed by billionaires are not immune to Earth-bound realities.

Almost two weeks ago, after the death of founder Paul Allen, Stratolaunch Systems Corp. said it would cease development of a rocket engine and two planned satellite-launching rockets as well as a rocket-powered plane that could take a crew to space. The Seattle venture described its retrenchment, which reportedly includes dozens of layoffs, as “streamlining operations” and said it would allow the company to focus on conducting a first test flight of its massive satellite-launching aircraft.

Read more at: LA Times

Space Tourists In Russia Will Need Only One Day To Train For Flight

Space tourists who plan to carry out a suborbital flight won’t need long training, preparation will take just one day, Pavel Pushkin, head of the Russian company CosmoCourse, told TASS.

CosmoCourse plans to engage in space tourism from 2025. “In principle, training for suborbital flights is not needed. This training is at the instruction level, it takes one day, most likely,” Pushkin said.

According to him, future space tourists will pass a medical examination. Those who have contradictions won’t be allowed to fly, he said adding that but the number of contradictions for a suborbital flight is small.

Read more at: TASS

Relentless Rise of Space Junk Threatens Satellites and Earth

Space is vast. Yet Earth orbits are becoming increasingly littered with debris (speckled graphic). A satellite could be demolished if struck by a 10-centimeter piece of junk, about the size of a softball. Even a one-centimeter tidbit could disable a spacecraft. And the more functioning, defunct or fragmented objects up there, the more that decay in the atmosphere (pink stripe). The collision problem has become so serious that in 2016 the European Space Agency (ESA), which tracks the objects, announced it might capture derelict satellites in low orbits, starting in 2023. Clutter is rising fast as more countries and companies launch electronics. In February 2017 India sent 101 shoebox-sized “cubesats” into a low orbit on a single rocket.

Read more at: Scientific American

Europe’s Space Station Module Has Hundreds of Tiny Dents from ‘Marauding’ Debris

A new scan of an International Space Station module shows several hundred impact craters from “marauding” debris, according to the European Space Agency. But so far, the hull of the European Columbus science laboratory is doing its job in protecting astronaut crews.

After nearly 11 years in orbit, Columbus shows wear and tear from tiny meteorites striking its surface, as well as from possible bits of human-generated space debris, according to a statement from ESA. Agency officials haven’t expressed any concerns about the damage yet, but this new information will better feed into models of orbital debris density near Earth.

Read more at: Space.com

Using Asteroid Science To Track Space Debris

Scientists trying to track the cloud of space debris that threatens to make it ever more risky to launch and maintain satellites are consulting with those tracking near-Earth asteroids, or NEOs (the “O” is for “object”), in an effort to refine their techniques.

The hazards posed by NEOs and space debris are, of course, different. It’s one thing if a telecom satellite gets smacked by a piece of somebody’s broken-up launch vehicle. That’s an expensive nuisance. It’s an entirely different thing if a 100-metre asteroid comes down on, say, Paris.

But, scientifically, keeping tabs on these hazards is basically the same process, says Vishnu Reddy, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona in the US.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

European Space Junk Cleanup Concept Gets New Mission: Refuel and Repair

The European Space Agency (ESA) has redesigned its active space-debris-removal demonstration mission concept e.Deorbit as a multipurpose, in-orbit servicing vehicle that could be used to refuel, refurbish or re-boost satellites.

ESA officials announced their decision to refocus the mission in a statement last month.

According to Luisa Innocenti, head of ESA’s Clean Space initiative, the agency found it would have been difficult to raise money for a single-case mission. The original goal for e.Deorbit was to remove the defunct satellite Envisat from low Earth orbit. Envisat, an 8-metric-ton (18,000 lbs.) Earth-observation spacecraft the size of a double-decker bus, failed in April 2012 after a 10-year mission

Read more at: Space.com

Meteorite Appears To Hit Cuba

A meteorite appeared to hit western Cuba early Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Key West said. In a tweet, the National Weather Service said its radar “may have detected the meteor” at 1:21 p.m. near Viñales, Cuba.

The NOAA’s GOES East satellite also detected the apparent meteor flash, NASA Sport said in a blog post.

Amid speculation on social media, Cuban state media denied that any planes had crashed, calling it a “natural, physical phenomenon.”

Read more at: CBS news

Simulating Meteorite Impacts In The Lab

A US-German research team has simulated meteorite impacts in the lab and followed the resulting structural changes in two feldspar minerals with X-rays as they happened. The results of the experiments at DESY and at Argonne National Laboratory in the US show that structural changes can occur at very different pressures, depending on the compression rate. The findings, published in the 1 February issue of the scientific journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters (published online in advance), will aid other scientist to reconstruct the conditions leading to impact craters on Earth and other terrestrial planets.

Read more at: desy

P120C Solid Rocket Motor Tested for Use on Vega-C

The first qualification model of the P120C solid-fuel motor, configured for Vega-C, was static fired yesterday on the test stand at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Fully loaded with 142 tonnes of fuel, the 13.5 m long and 3.4 m diameter motor was ignited for a final simulation of liftoff and the first phase of flight.

During a burn time of 135 seconds, the P120C delivered a maximum thrust of about 4650 kN. No anomalies were seen and, according to initial recorded data, the performance met expectations. A full analysis of these test results will confirm readiness of this motor for Vega-C’s debut launch.

Read more at: ESA

US Military Space Plane Wings Past 500 Days on Latest Mystery Mission

The secretive mission of a U.S. Air Force X-37B miniature space plane just winged past 500 days of flight.

The robotic drone is performing classified duties during the program’s fifth flight.

The current mission — known as Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5) — was rocketed into Earth orbit on Sept. 7, 2017, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 boosterfrom Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Read more at: Space.com

Russia, France Should Develop Space Sector Cooperation – Glavcosmos Head

Russian space sector enterprises should exchange experience with similar companies in Europe to advance the entire industry, said Dmitry Loskutov, the head of Glavcosmos, a Russian launch services provider.

“It is obvious that without both financial and technological international integration, it is hardly possible today to make progress in space exploration and achieve ambitious goals. European enterprises in the sector have significant experience, and sharing this experience will doubtless benefit bilateral cooperation between Russia and France,” the company’s press service quoted Loskutov as saying.

Glavcosmos, as the coordinator of Roscosmos’s foreign economic activity, will continue this work, he said.

Read more at: Interfax

Op-Ed | China Is Beating The United States In The New Space Race

The Chinese are beginning to bear the fruits of 30 years of massive, state investment into developing their STEM education (as well as a having a coordinated strategy for ensuring their young people were successful in entering those fields). For years, China has identified science, technology, engineering, and math as the source code to creating a truly dominant state. Having been raised on what the now-deceased former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once referred to as the “wolf’s milk of nationalism,” the ruling Chinese Communist Party have nursed a grudge against the West for what they refer to as the “century of humiliation.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Space Operators Provide Tacps Tactical Space Training

Deployed Tactical Air Control Party Airmen expect space effects to work; otherwise pilots get shot down, bombs miss targets, and soldiers die. TACPs may not know how space works, but if it doesn’t work well for America and its allies then its results devastating.

Space operators from the 16th and 4th Space Control Squadrons at Peterson Air Force Base are working to change the TACP community’s knowledge of space by developing the first Space Operations Course, Jan. 7-11. The course was an Airman initiative designed to give the TACPs a working knowledge of what space effects from three Air Force Space Command wings do to specifically impact their ground operations.

The week-long course, organized by Airmen of the 21st Space Wing and the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, allowed TACP Airmen a look into tactical-level space operations with regard to mission planning.

Read more at: AFSPC

Weaponization Of Space Will Harm The United States More Than It Gains

Developing and deploying weapons in space will ultimately hamper US national interests. President Trump’s recent endeavor to create a “space force” that would oversee the US military’s space activities does not mean that the United States will weaponize space. Rather, whether the United States will deploy weapons in space in the future or maintain outer space as a weapon-free zone is yet to be known. Nevertheless, if the US government leans towards dispatching weapons in space, this decision will only endanger existing US space systems, threaten stability in space, and demean American national prestige.

In general, “space weaponization” should be distinguished from “space militarization.” Space militarization is often used to depict the reality that space systems are utilized as a means to achieve military objectives. These systems have been used mainly for strategic planning, such as information garnered from reconnaissance, surveillance, and telecommunication satellites. But today, in addition to assisting military strategic planning, it also contributes towards real-time combat as well. Space weaponization, by contrast, often refers to more aggressive and offensive use of space systems for military purposes (i.e., force application): space-based weapons will be used to destroy targets either in orbit or on the ground.

Read more at: Spacereview

The US Space Force is Overdue

The formation of the United States Air Force followed a torturous route. It started with the establishment of the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps (1907 to 1914), then on to the Army Air Force (1941 to 1947) and finally to the Air Force (1947 to the present).

Forty years after the recognition that the atmosphere joined the Earth’s surface and the Earth’s oceans as focused combat theaters, the Air Force was formed. Each operational theater requires unique skills, unique platforms, uniquely qualified staff, and unique concepts of operations.

Read more at: Hill

China’s Military-Run Space Station In Argentina Is A ‘Black Box’

When China built a military-run space station in Argentina’s Patagonian region it promised to include a visitors’ center to explain the purpose of its powerful 16-story antenna.

The center is now built – behind the 8-foot barbed wire fence that surrounds the entire space station compound. Visits are by appointment only.

Shrouded in secrecy, the compound has stirred unease among local residents, fueled conspiracy theories and sparked concerns in the Trump administration about its true purpose, according to interviews with dozens of residents, current and former Argentine government officials, U.S. officials, satellite and astronomy specialists and legal experts.

Read more at: Reuters

Pentagon Space Budget Is On An Upward Trend. How Long Can This Last?

When it comes to military space issues, the Pentagon and Congress have not always seen eye to eye. But in the appropriations bill that Congress passed in September to fund the Defense Department for 2019, lawmakers gave the Pentagon what it asked for: $8.1 billion for investments in space systems.

As DoD officials haggled with lawmakers over various sticking points of the $716 billion defense budget that President Trump signed into law three days before the government’s new fiscal year began Oct. 1, the Pentagon’s space proposals encountered little resistance from Congress.

“The dog that didn’t bark in the fiscal year 2019 budget was space,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Wilson recounted in December. “The fact is that we were able to build very broad consensus and significant support in the Congress without controversy.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Pentagon Chief Backs Space Force — But As Part Of The Air Force

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan has recommended that a new Space Force be established within the Air Force, making it a separate branch akin to the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy but not a fully fledged military department.

“It’s going to be small, as small as possible footprint, that’s why I recommended it sits underneath the Air Force,” Shanahan said told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The Defense Department is still putting the final touches on a Space Force legislative proposal for Congress, which will have the final say. The White House is also preparing a new directive on the policy for President Donald Trump, who has made a separate Space Force a signature goal.

Read more at: Politico

‘Lock the Doors’: Remembering Columbia’s Loss, OTD in 2003

On this day, 1 February, in 2003, the seven-member crew of shuttle Columbia—Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Mike Anderson and Laurel Clark and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first spacefarer—were lost during re-entry, after the otherwise hugely successful STS-107. For the past 16 days, Husband and his crew had supported more than 80 scientific experiments in the first Spacehab Double Module, in what was expected to be the last “standalone” science mission of the shuttle era.

What was also known about STS-107—although its true gravity would only become apparent that terrible February morning—was that Columbia had sustained a strike on her thermal-protection system during ascent. A briefcase-sized chunk of foam insulation had been spotted on launch video falling from her External Tank (ET) on 16 January and had impacted the shuttle’s left wing at precisely the spot where Reinforced Carbon Carbon (RCC) panels would later shield her against the extreme temperatures of re-entry. Concern was elevated for a time, but later dismissed.

Read more at: Americaspace

Former NASA Rocket Scientist On Why We’re Still Going Nowhere Fast

Time and again we hear that we are behind the aerospace curve; that we should be farming peanuts on Mars by now; mining Helium-3 in some far-flung lunar lava tube, or living the dream in a space condo parked in low-Earth orbit. But nearing the 50th anniversary of humankind’s first steps on the Moon, we appear to have wavered in our commitment to crewed exploration.

Even so, within the last century and a quarter we have gone from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to skirting the outer reaches of our solar system; from a quaint Boeing tri-motor passenger biplane to airliners that continually shrink the globe.

Read more at: Forbes

Elon Musk Blames Spacex Layoffs On ‘Absolutely Insane’ Mars Rocket And Satellite Internet Projects

During Wednesday’s investor call for his public car company, CEO Elon Musk took a rare moment to talk about his private rocket company.

Musk explained that the recent layoffs at SpaceX were different than those at Tesla, the latter of which he said came from the need “to be relentless about costs” to keep the electric vehicles “affordable.”

Rather, Musk said the SpaceX layoffs were due to the company’s “two absolutely insane projects:” Starlink (a network of thousands of tiny satellites intended to bring global high-speed internet coverage) and Starship (the enormous rocket SpaceX is building to transport humans and cargo to-and-from Mars).

Read more at: CNBC

Elon Musk’s Highflying 2018: What 150,000 Miles In A Private Jet Reveal About His ‘Excruciating’ Year

Tesla chief Elon Musk’s corporate jet flew more than 150,000 miles last year, or more than six times around the Earth, as he raced between the outposts of his futuristic empire during what he has called “the most difficult and painful year” of his career, according to flight records obtained by The Washington Post.

The billionaire executive’s frequent travel on a private plane was largely paid for by Tesla, the cash-burning automaker that faces billions of dollars in debt and has laid off thousands of employees within the last year, including slashing 7 percent of its workforce this month.

Read more at: Washington post

Book review: ‘Interplanetary Robots: True Stories of Space Exploration’

The term ‘space exploration’ might have Buck Rogers/Luke Skywalker connotations for some, but it’s been a part of the political, military and industrial scene for more than 60 years, which makes it a subject for historical analysis. While some authors compile memoirs and monographs on space history, writer and documentary-maker Rod Pyle adopts a more accessible approach, which is showcased in his latest book ‘Interplanetary Robots: True Stories of Space Exploration’

Although the title risks evoking the likes of Terminator and C3PO, it accurately describes what used to be called unmanned planetary probes. In the past half-century, these ‘robotic’ spacecraft have visited all the planets of the solar system – including former planet Pluto – along with several asteroids and comets.

Read more at: eandt