China’s Second Space Lab Tiangong-2 to be Launched

China’s second space lab Tiangong-2 is scheduled to be put into space between September 15 and 20, according to the office of China’s manned space program.

The space lab was transferred with its carrier rocket to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Friday, said a statement from the office. It took 90 minutes to complete the transfer from the assembling center to the launch pad. “The completion of the transfer signals that the space lab Tiangong-2 mission has entered its launching stage,” it said.

Technicians completed testing on the assembling of the lab and the rocket after they had been separately delivered to the launch center in July. In the next few days, the launch center will continue testing rocket and inject propellent before the launch. Tiangong-2, which can enable two astronauts to live in space for 30 days, is capable of receiving manned and cargo spaceships and will be used for testing systems and processes for mid-term space stays and refueling.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

New SpaceShipTwo Completes Captive Carry Flight

Today marks an exciting milestone in our shared quest to open space to change the world for good. For the first time, a spaceship built by our manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company, and operated by us at Virgin Galactic has taken to the skies.

One unique aspect of our human spaceflight program is that—unlike NASA’s Space Shuttle, Russia’s Soyuz, or other past systems—SpaceShipTwo doesn’t launch from a pad on the ground, but rather from under the wing of a carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo (our LauncherOne small satellite launch service uses a similar technique, launching from the wing of a 747). Today’s flight test was what we called a ‘captive carry’ flight, during which VSS Unity remained mated to our WhiteKnightTwo mothership (VMS Eve) for the entire flight from takeoff to landing.

In this configuration, WhiteKnightTwo serves as a veritable ‘flying wind tunnel,’ allowing the highest fidelity method of testing airflow around SpaceShipTwo while simultaneously testing how the spaceship performs when exposed to the frigid temperatures found at today’s maximum altitude of ~50,000 feet and above.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

China Planning $1.5bn Theme Park that will Take Visitors to Space

A top Chinese investor is keen to get the jump on Virgin Galactic and launch trips to the edge of space using weather balloons from China.

KuangChi Science has announced that it plans to invest 10 million yuan ($1.5m, £1.12m) into developing a futuristic theme park in Hangzhou province called “Future Valley”, that comes with a series of rides aiming to let people experience what it would feel like to be an astronaut in space.

The most exciting experience planned is what the company calls a “deep space tour”, whereby a weather balloon carries a capsule up to 21km above the ground at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere to simulate real space flight, which the firm says will fulfil mankind’s dream of going into space.

Read more at: IB Times

NASA’s Orion Space Capsule on Course for 2018 Trip Around the Moon

NASA’s next-generation crew-carrying spacecraft remains on track to make a historic journey around the moon in 2018, agency officials say.

The bulk structure of the Orion capsule that will be used for that uncrewed test flight, which is known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is now mostly complete, NASA officials said. Engineers and technicians have moved on to installing critical systems — for example, welding together the metal tubes that make up the spacecraft’s propellant and other fluid lines.

This work is being done inside a large clean room at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). “It’s a very clean environment,” Scott Wilson, NASA manager of production operations for the Orion Program, said during a media tour Thursday (Sept. 8).

Read more at: Space.com

Government Inspectors Put NASA’s Orion Program Under Microscope

Less than a week after a SpaceX launch pad explosion, federal inspectors have questioned NASA’s plan for building the Orion space capsule in a report that again illustrates how complicated, costly and dangerous it is to travel in space.

Specifically, the NASA Inspector General’s report released Tuesday questions NASA decision to work toward an optimistic internal launch date for its first crewed mission, a decision that is delaying some important technical tasks. It urges the space agency to re-evaluate its launch plans to avoid risking the capsule and the astronauts on board.

In its reply, NASA agreed to take another look at the schedule that it said it constantly monitors, but added that the space agency is “confident that the cost and risk schedule of the current approach is manageable.” The Inspector General ultimately concluded NASA’s answers to the office’s questions were acceptable.

Read more at: Al

RapidScat Team Investigating Power System Anomaly

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, are assessing two power system-related anomalies affecting the operation of NASA’s ISS-RapidScat instrument aboard the International Space Station. RapidScat measures surface wind speeds and directions over the ocean.

RapidScat is currently deactivated and in a stable configuration. A RapidScat project anomaly response team has been formed, working in conjunction with the space station anomaly response team. RapidScat will remain deactivated as the investigation continues.

On Aug. 19, the RapidScat team was notified by the International Space Station payload operations center at Marshall that the station’s Columbus Module experienced an anomaly with one of the two units aboard the station that distribute electrical power to the module. The anomaly resulted in the loss of power to several payloads aboard the space station, including RapidScat. Later that day, as JPL mission managers attempted to reactivate RapidScat, one of the outlets on the power distribution unit experienced an electrical overload. That outlet powers the station’s RapidScat, High-Definition Earth Viewing Experiment (HDEV) and Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR) payloads.

Read more at: JPL

Watch a Rare Daytime Fireball Streak Across the Sky

Fireballs are like super meteors. Specifically, they’re defined as a meteor that is brighter than the planet Venus. It’s rare to see a fireball, but even rarer to see one during the day, when it must be bright enough to show up against the light of the sun.

That’s what happened the other day in North Carolina, where over 250 people reported witnessing a daytime fireball and several people captured it on video. “Daytime fireballs are only recorded a few times a year, if at all,” Michael Hankey, operations manager at the American Meteor Society, told local news channel Fox25. “The meteoroid, or underlying rock, has to be pretty big for it to be seen in the daytime.”

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Suspected Meteor Hits Cyprus with a Bang

There were no reports of casualties or damage from the phenomenon which was reported across a wide area of the south of the Mediterranean island between midnight and 1 am.

Authorities are now searching for space rock debris from any meteorite fall. “We have yet to confirm that it was in fact a meteorite but it is more than likely that it was,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides said. “We have had many witness reports of a flash of light in the sky, a series of loud noises that were especially loud and heard in the districts of Nicosia and Limassol.”

Police said they had received hundreds of calls from the south coast of the island and some inland areas. They said they would continue to investigate. The civil aviation authority said that there had been no reports of anything untoward in the skies from pilots and all flights had operated normally in the island’s air space during the pre-dawn hours.

Read more at: Times Live

Blue Origin Prepares for October Test of In-flight Abort System

As the New Shepard spacecraft and booster accelerate through the most aerodynamically stressful part of their launch profile, also known as “max Q”, a flight computer detects an anomaly and triggers an in-flight abort. The crew module shoots away from the stricken booster, allowing the gumdrop-shaped capsule to safely return its occupants to a safe recovery. Although notional in description, this is what Blue Origin plans to verify in an early October 2016 test flight of the company’s reusable rocket and spacecraft.

The company already performed a pad abort test, nearly four years ago, during which the abort motor fired for nearly 2 seconds and lofted the craft to an altitude of 2,307 feet (703 meters). The capsule landed under its triple-parachute canopy 1,630 feet (497 meters) away from the pad.

Unlike the traditional tower-based, towed-tractor style abort systems used during Mercury and Apollo programs – and soon on NASA’s Orion spacecraft riding atop the Space Launch System – Blue Origin’s abort motor is integrated into the crew vehicle and is a “pusher” system: it pushes the capsule from below rather than pulling it from above as with the tower systems.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Kuang-Chi Near Space Test Flight Set for 2016

Kuang-Chi Group, a Shenzhen-based technology conglomerate, has announced that Traveler II Beta will carry animals into near space during a test flight this year. The announcement came during the opening ceremony of the company’s research center for near space technologies in Haikou, Hainan, China’s southernmost province.

Traveler II Beta is a flying device used for data collection and analysis, and traveling in the near space region, which is between 20 and 100km above sea level – more than twice the altitude flown by commercial airlines. In June 2015, Traveler completed its first test flight in New Zealand, reaching the designated flight altitude of 21km and successfully transmitting data back to the ground.

Located in the Haikou Hi-tech Zone, the only one of its kind in the province, Kuang-Chi’s Haikou Institute of Future Technology signed an agreement on the development and exploration of near space technologies in December 2015.

Read more at: Space Daily

Russian Spacecraft with 3 Cosmonauts Onboard Lands in Kazakhstan

The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft with three crew members aboard has landed in Kazakhstan, the Russian news agency TASS reported Wednesday. Search and rescue groups have set off to the place of landing to evacuate the crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) from the capsule.

Russian cosmonauts Aleksey Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, and U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams went to the orbit on March 19 and spent 172 days in space. This was the first space flight for Ovchinin, second for Skripochka and fourth for Williams.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Ariane 5 Solid Rocket Booster Fires Up for Ground Verification Test

An Ariane 5 Solid Rocket Booster fired up this week at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana to verify the quality of Ariane SRB production and test new components to the implemented on the booster for Ariane 5 as well as Europe’s small Vega rocket.

The test, carried out on Thursday, was performed under the Ariane 5 Research and Technology Accompaniment (ARTA) program and involved a highly instrumented, full-sized Ariane 5 Solid Rocket Booster also called EAP. Ariane 5 relies on two EAPs for the first two minutes and 15 seconds of its flight, typically helping accelerate the launcher to a speed of two kilometers per second.

The EAP boosters are tested on the ground to make sure the ones flying are up to the quality standards required by the Ariane 5 program. Also, the tests are used to prove new systems on the boosters as Ariane 5 continues to evolve with the goal of squeezing out the maximum possible performance due to always-growing payload masses.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Watch the Launch of an Asymmetric Rocket

The Atlas V rocket is the “workhorse” that will get NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft into space this evening, and on the way to the distant asteroid Bennu. But for aerospace aficionados, tonight’s launch vehicle is of great interest in and of itself. That’s because the 7:05pm ET (12:05pm BST) launch from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad offers the rare opportunity to see the 411 configuration of the Atlas V rocket in action.

The Atlas V 411 variant, with just a single strap-on solid booster, has flown only three times previously, and just once from Cape Canaveral back in 2006. The other two launches, in 2008 and 2011, were national security payloads that flew from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles. Up to five strap-on boosters can be added to an Atlas V launch vehicle, but it makes sense to only pay for the power you need. For the Bennu-bound spacecraft, which will get a gravity assist from Earth in one year, just one booster is required.

As there is only poor quality video of the non-classified 2006 launch, tonight offers a viewing opportunity for people to see an Atlas V 411 fly with unprecedented clarity. And it should be quite a show. With just a single strap-on booster, the rocket will have to gimbal its main engine, the RD-180, during the initial ascent to account for the lack of symmetry.

Read more at: Ars Technica

A Bus-Size Asteroid Just Gave Earth a Close Shave

An asteroid the size of a school bus buzzed by Earth today (Sept. 7) in an exceptionally close—but safe—flyby. Scientists discovered the object on Monday, just two days before its encounter with Earth.

The newfound asteroid, named 2016 RB1, is between 13 and 46 feet (4 to 14 meters) wide. The space rock made its closest approach to Earth at 1:28 p.m. EDT (1728 UTC). According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, RB1 zoomed past Earth at a relative speed of over 18,000 mph (8.13 km/s) and passed within 23,900 miles (38,463 kilometers) of the Earth’s surface. This is only one-tenth the average distance between Earth and the moon.

The rock came particularly close to Earth’s communication satellites, which orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles (35,900 km). But there was no need for panic—scientists tracking the asteroid said there is no risk of impact, according to a report from EarthSky.

Read more at: Scientific American

Tiny Lightning Bolt Explosions can Vaporise the Moon’s Thin Soil

Mini-lightning may flash in the coldest craters on the moon, melting and vapourising soil. All that sparking could have altered the surface as much as impacts from incoming rocks and dust.

The outer layer of the moon is a sort of history book recording the interactions between the moon and the rest of the solar system. To correctly interpret that history, we need to understand the mechanisms that shape it. We already knew that impacts stir up the fine layer of dust and ground rock that covers the lunar surface. But now Andrew Jordan at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and his colleagues suggest we keep an eye out for another cause: electrical sparks.

The lunar dust is normally an electrical insulator that can’t conduct much current. But high-energy particles thrown off by the sun during solar storms might be able to collect in cold patches of lunar soil. If enough charged particles accumulate, they could transform the soil into a conductor by opening up vapour-filled channels within the grains that let the current through. That would set off tiny explosions, each one like the spark you might get from touching a metal car door on a dry winter day.

Read more at: New Scientist

Russia Postpones Two Rocket Launches

Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation announced Sept. 1 the decision to postpone its two rocket launches slated for October this year. According to the corporation’s press service, the liftoff of the Proton-M rocket with the EchoStar 21 satellite was rescheduled from Oct. 10 to Nov. 23, while the launch of Soyuz 2.1a booster carrying the Kanopus-V-IK spacecraft was postponed from October to Dec. 22.

“The Roscosmos commission has drawn up a plan of launches of spacecraft within the framework of the Federal Space Program, Federal Target Programs, international cooperation programs and commercial projects in September-December 2016,” the press service said. However, Roscosmos has not revealed any more details regarding the postponement.

The launch the Proton-M with the EchoStar 21 satellite has been already delayed several times. The liftoff was initially planned for the first quarter of 2016, but then it was rescheduled to late June. Next it was postponed until Aug. 29, and afterwards to Oct. 10 – in order to complete an inquiry into a glitch discovered during a Proton rocket flight in June 2016.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Arianespace May Add 2017 Launch Slot in Wake of SpaceX, Proton Issues

Europe’s Arianespace launch-service provider — the only one of the three principal commercial launch operators not grounded by rocket problems — might be able to add a supplemental heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle to its 2017 manifest if market conditions demand it, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said Sept. 8.

In an interview, Israel said the Evry, France-based company would finish this year with a seventh Ariane 5 campaign, not eight as originally planned. The company’s 2016 Ariane 5 manifest was upset by the non-availability of Japan’s DSN-1/Superbird-8 satellite, which was damaged en route to the launch site.

Israel said the company would be able to catch up on its backlog by early 2017 and was already planning seven Ariane 5 campaigns for the year. Earlier plans were to launch six Ariane 5 rockets in 2017.

Read more at: Space News

Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations

The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the “Murray Buttes” region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.

Curiosity took the images with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on September 8. The rover team plans to assemble several large, color mosaics from the multitude of images taken at this location in the near future.

“Curiosity’s science team has been just thrilled to go on this road trip through a bit of the American desert Southwest on Mars,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The Martian buttes and mesas rising above the surface are eroded remnants of ancient sandstone that originated when winds deposited sand after lower Mount Sharp had formed.

Read more at: Colorado Space News

Watch NASA Train its Astronauts to be Weightless in an Underwater Pool

Ever wondered what it’s like to train to become an astronaut? While you might have seen astronauts floating around in reduced gravity aircraft to get used to the feeling of being weightless, there’s also another way.

Since 1996, Nasa has been using a 202ft x 102ft pool with a depth of 40ft that contains a full-scale replica of the International Space Station (ISS) at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas, to help simulate weightlessness and enable astronauts to get used to completing complex tasks in a zero-gravity environment, such as helping to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Water works better than the aircraft because it provides a neutral buoyancy environment, so objects can be easily manipulated, much like in orbit, because they are just as likely to float as they are to sink, so the astronaut can get used to the types of situations they would encounter in space. Of course, water can never truly replace the feeling of being in space, because an astronaut will never truly be weightless in the water, even if the combined weight of the astronaut and the suit is neutrally buoyant, and water resistance can make it harder to do certain things than in space.

Read more at: IB Times

Musk: No Answers So Far in ‘Difficult’ Failure Investigation

SpaceX is more than a week into a company-led probe of a launch pad explosion Sept. 1 that destroyed a Falcon 9 booster and an Israeli communications satellite, but the investigation so far has turned up no smoking gun on the cause of the mishap, Elon Musk said Friday.

In a series of tweets posted Friday, Musk said SpaceX is “still working on the Falcon fireball investigation,” and the inquiry is “turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.”

The 23-story Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage suddenly blew apart at Cape Canaveral during fueling for a preflight “static fire” test Sept. 1. The explosion occurred about eight minutes before the first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines were supposed to ignite for a few seconds while the booster remained firmly restrained to the ground. At that point in the countdown, the Falcon 9 rocket’s propellant tanks are typically not yet pressurized for ignition, based on standard practice on previous SpaceX missions.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Falcon 9 Explosion Could be ‘Most Difficult and Complex Failure’ in SpaceX History

It has been over a week since the Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed both the Falcon 9 rocket and the $200 million Amos-6 satellite. In that time, SpaceX has shed few details about what exactly happened. In a Sept. 9 post on Twitter, the company CEO and founder, Elon Musk, said the failure could be “the most difficult and complex” the NewSpace firm has had to deal with in 14 years.

It happened during a static fire test – something the company does a couple of days before every mission to ensure all systems are working properly. Ordinarily, once fully fueled and the countdown reaches zero, the engines would fire for a few seconds and then shut down.

In a measure to save time, SpaceX and the satellite’s owner, Spacecom, decided to perform the test with the payload already on top – a practice the NewSpace firm only started doing this year. However, some eight minutes prior to when the first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines would have ignited, an explosion occurred – but not where anyone might have expected.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX Falcon 9 Explosion Aftermath Brings Legal Battles

SpaceX experienced a rather serious setback last week as a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad while preparing for a static fire test. The launch was meant to deploy one of Spacecom latest communications satellites (AMOS-6), which was also destroyed in the accident. Mercifully, no one was hurt, and an investigation was quickly mounted to determine the root cause.

However, in the aftermath of the explosion, it appears that SpaceX could be facing legal battles, as Spacecom indicated that it is seeking compensation for the loss of their satellite. According to a recent press released by the Israel-based telecommunications company, this will either take the form of $50 million, or a free flight aboard another SpaceX launch.

As the sixth satellite to be launched by the telecommunications company, the AMOS-6 satellite was intended to provide phone, video and internet services for the Middle East, Europe, and locations across sub-Sahara Africa. As such, it’s destruction was certainly a loss for the company.

Read more at: Universe Today

Who Pays for SpaceX’s Spaceport Calamity?

The smoke is clearing from the catastrophic accident that detonated a SpaceX rocket during prelaunch tests, but the issue of who winds up paying for this disaster may not be cut and dry. If past experience is to be a guide, NASA and taxpayers in general may wind up footing the bill.

Let’s start with Thursday’s explosion. The fact that it happened on the ground may make insurance a little dicey, as Space News editor Peter de Selding sagely pointed out: “SpaceX explosion didnt involve intentional ignition – E Musk said occurred during 2d stage fueling – & isn’t covered by launch insurance.”

Surely such a small loophole wouldn’t make a difference to an insurance company? Ah yes, of course it would. While insurance on payloads during rocket launches is well-trodden turf, insurance on damage that happens on the ground isn’t. It can lead to fights and literal buck-passing.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Rocket Lab and Airways Launch Agreement for Flights Through NZ Airspace

Rocket Lab operates a private satellite launch site on the Mahia Peninsula between Napier and Gisborne.  The company plans around 100 launches a year through its Electron rocket.

Airways chief operating officer Pauline Lamb said “a special use airspace will be created around the Electron rocket as it launches through New Zealand airspace. Our air traffic controllers will protect this airspace from other aircraft using separation procedures and will do all they can to minimise the impact the launch operations may have on other airspace users.”

Rocket Lab is backed by Silicon Valley investor Khosla Ventures, Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 fund, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bessemer Venture Partners, and global defence group Lockheed Martin.

Read more at: TVNZ

I Tried Really Hard Not to Contaminate NASA’s Asteroid Hunting Spacecraft

I now have an irrational fear of nylon, thanks to NASA. Or rather, a fear of completely screwing up a groundbreaking mission that’s about to launch to intercept a small but potentially hazardous asteroid.

In August, NASA invited me and a few other reporters to get a last look at the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft before it embarks on its 1.2 billion mile journey to the asteroid Bennu. In the days leading up to the visit in the clean room at Kennedy Space Center, the space agency dropped quite a few warnings into my inbox about nylon–of which, I’ll admit, my knowledge does not extend far beyond seeing it written on my clothing tags.

NO NYLON! NASA insisted again and again. Ok, we get it, but why? Well, on September 8, OSIRIS-REx will launch to Bennu in search of amino acids—the building blocks of life. And it needs to bring back a “pristine sample” of the asteroid’s regolith for scientists on Earth to study. But what does this have to do with my Target-bought Simpsons-themed boxer shorts? It’s simple: Things like nylon, hair, natural rubber, silk and latex have the potential to contain amino acids and must be “encapsulated, covered or left out of the clean room entirely.”

Read more at: Popsci

Space Debris is no Longer Just a Nuisance … Now it’s a Threat

There are more than half a million pieces of human-made material in orbit around our planet. These materials, referred to as space or orbital debris, range in size from that of a school bus to a thumbtack. Generally space debris is made up of a mix of defunct spacecraft, components of booster rockets and the remains of upper stages of launch vehicles, plus equipment that is lost during spacewalks.

To keep astronauts and spacecraft safe, scientists use radar and telescopes to track debris larger than 10cm and keep a record of these objects and their orbits or trajectories. More than 21,000 objects have been catalogued. This information is used to estimate the number of smaller pieces of debris that cannot be directly detected or monitored, and scientists have estimated the population of particles between 1 and 10 centimetres in diameter to be 500,000, while the number of particles smaller than 1cm could exceed 100 million.

The higher the altitude, the longer the orbital debris will typically remain in Earth’s orbit. Debris left in orbit below 600 kilometres normally falls back to Earth within several years. At altitudes of 800km, the time for orbital decay is often measured in decades. Above 1,000km, orbital debris will normally continue circling the Earth for a century or more.

Read more at: The National

The Vatican’s In-House Astronomer

To get to Brother Guy Consolmagno’s office, you take a train heading southeast from Rome. It winds its way away from Vatican City for an hour, into a bucolic setting that holds Lake Albano and the tiny town of Castel Gandolfo. Once you get off the train and walk through the streets, you look for a little bronze plaque whose Latin simply reads “Specola Vaticana.” Open the doors and you’re in the Vatican Observatory — a secret lab in a volcanic crater, just what every budding scientist dreams of.

And Brother Guy is a scientist, in addition to his work with the church. The Detroit native holds two degrees from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. In another life, he made theoretical computer models of various bodies in the solar system — models that turned out to be right (even though, he says, the data he was basing them on wasn’t quite so spot on). But a crisis of his faith in research sent him to join the Peace Corps and then the Jesuits — which led him to his current calling: science in the name of God. He’s been working at the Vatican Observatory for 23 years, and last year was named its director.

Read more at: Ozy

An Unexplained Event Occurred in the Earth’s Stratosphere for First Time Since Records Began

In the 1960s, scientists coined the term ‘quasi-biennial oscillation’ to describe a predictable aspect of the Earth’s wind pattern which repeats itself over a roughly two-year period. Recently, this pattern changed unexpectedly, something that has not been seen since measurements of the phenomenon were first recorded more than half a century ago.

While the disruption to the wind pattern did not have any immediate obvious impact on the weather or climate as we experience it on the Earth’s surface, it does raise interesting questions for the Nasa scientists who observed it. For example, if a pattern remains the same for six decades and then suddenly changes, what caused that to happen and will it occur again? What effects could this have?

Read more at: IB Times

Stanford Engineers Develop a Plastic Clothing Material that Cools the Skin

Stanford engineers have developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that, if woven into clothing, could cool your body far more efficiently than is possible with the natural or synthetic fabrics in clothes we wear today.

Describing their work in Science, the researchers suggest that this new family of fabrics could become the basis for garments that keep people cool in hot climates without air conditioning. “If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science at Stanford.

This new material works by allowing the body to discharge heat in two ways that would make the wearer feel nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than if they wore cotton clothing. The material cools by letting perspiration evaporate through the material, something ordinary fabrics already do. But the Stanford material provides a second, revolutionary cooling mechanism: allowing heat that the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through the plastic textile.

Read more at: Space Daily

Obama Taps Raymond to Lead Space Command

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next head of Air Force Space Command, the service secretary said Sept. 7.

In a briefing with reporters, Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, said Raymond, the current deputy chief of staff for operations, has been nominated to lead Space Command, which oversees 38,000 employees and organizing the Air Force’s space operations. He would also pin on his fourth star.

Raymond has been seen by industry and Pentagon insiders as a longtime favorite to replace Gen. John Hyten, the current head of Space Command. Hyten, who has led Space Command since August 2014, is thought to be a frontrunner to move to U.S. Strategic Command in the next 12 months, but there have been no formal announcements about his future assignments.

Read more at: Space News