Study Finds Cause of Visual Impairment in Astronauts

A visual problem affecting astronauts who serve on lengthy missions in space is related to volume changes in the clear fluid that is found around the brain and spinal cord, according to new research being presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Over the last decade, flight surgeons and scientists at NASA began seeing a pattern of visual impairment in astronauts who flew long-duration space missions. The astronauts had blurry vision, and further testing revealed, among several other structural changes, flattening at the back of their eyeballs and inflammation of the head of their optic nerves. The syndrome, known as visual impairment intracranial pressure (VIIP), was reported in nearly two-thirds of astronauts after long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Read more at: Colorado Space News

One-Second Navigation Error at the Root of Schiaparelli Mars Lander Crash

A one-second glitch led to a 3.7-Kilometer free fall for the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander that crashed on Mars back on October 19 when attempting an experimental parachute-and-rocket-assisted landing on the red planet to pave the way for the ExoMars 2020 mission that aims to dispatch a rover to the Martian surface.

Significant progress was made by the European Space Agency, piecing together the chain of events that led up to the lander’s hard impact in the plains of Meridiani Planum. According to the new findings, Schiaparelli’s crash has been traced back to a combination of a transient Inertial Measurement Unit lock-up and faulty software leading the onboard computer to think the vehicle was already on or close to the ground.

Schiaparelli embarked on its adventurous six-minute landing sequence after being shepherded to Mars by the Trace Gas Orbiter following a March 14 liftoff atop a Russian Proton Rocket. Hitting the atmosphere, Schiaparelli – more formally known as the Entry, Descent & Landing Demonstrator Module – was set to first slow down during a blazing entry, deploy a supersonic parachute, fire nine landing engines and finally drop to the surface from only one and a half meters.

Read more at: Spaceflight101

NASA Ends Efforts to Repair Space Station Earth Science Instrument

NASA announced Nov. 28 it was formally ending a mission of an instrument on the International Space Station that malfunctioned earlier this year, a setback in the agency’s efforts to use the station as an Earth sciences platform.

NASA said it was terminating the ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or RapidScat, instrument, that had been operating on the station since October 2014. The instrument collected wind speed and direction data over the oceans by measuring the scattering of radar waves it transmitted and then received.

RapidScat lost power Aug. 19 when an electrical power distribution system in the station’s Columbus module malfunctioned. As space station controllers worked to restore power to RapidScat and several other affected instruments later that day, an electrical outlet overloaded. While controllers were able to restore power to the other instruments, they were unable to power up RapidScat again, making the last attempt to do so Oct. 17.

Even before the loss of power, RapidScat had encountered problems. The instrument suffered an anomaly in August 2015 that caused a significant drop in the power level of the reflected signal. Several times since the initial anomaly the instrument’s gain would briefly increase to normal levels before dropping again, complicating efforts by scientists to use the data to monitor ocean winds.

Read more at: SpaceNews

Space’s Trash Collector? A Japanese Entrepreneur Wants the Job

Sitting in a drab industrial neighborhood surrounded by warehouses and factories, Astroscale’s Tokyo office seems appropriately located for a company seeking to enter the waste management business.

Only inside do visitors see signs that its founder, Mitsunobu Okada, aspires to be more than an ordinary garbageman. Schoolroom pictures of the planets decorate the door to the meeting room. Satellite mock-ups occupy a corner. Mr. Okada greets guests in a dark blue T-shirt emblazoned with his company’s slogan: Space Sweepers.

Mr. Okada is an entrepreneur with a vision of creating the first trash collection company dedicated to cleaning up some of humanity’s hardest-to-reach rubbish: the spent rocket stages, inert satellites and other debris that have been collecting above Earth since Sputnik ushered in the space age. He launched Astroscale three years ago in the belief that national space agencies were dragging their feet in facing the problem, which could be tackled more quickly by a small private company motivated by profit.

Read more at: NYTimes

A House Hit by an Alleged Meteor

Residents of Sungai Serut District, Bengkulu City, Indonesia were surprised by a rock that is alleged to be a meteor that ripped through a house owned by Wahab (56), on Wednesday, November 24, 2016.

At the time of the incident, according to Wahab, he was having a casual conversation with his friend. Suddenly, they heard a loud thump from the inside of his house. The noise originated from his kitchen. After a quick search, Wahab found a rounded smoky object that is as big as a basketball that had made it through his kitchen roof. “Not only did it hit the roof, the rock also destroyed the water dispenser and a water gallon, as well as a table,” he said.

Wahab and a number of his friends flushed the rock with water and placed it outside the house. The locals broke the white-colored rock to pieces and gave it to a number of people as they believe that the meteorite has a certain effect.

Read more at: Tempo

Re-Entry: Soyuz Block I Stage from ISS Expedition 50 Crew Launch

The third stage of the Soyuz Rocket that helped boost the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft into orbit re-entered the atmosphere this wee, four days after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dispatching Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet and Peggy Whitson into orbit for a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station as part of Expeditions 50 and 51.

Read more at: Spaceflight101

Cargo Ship-turned-research Lab Ends Mission with Re-entry

In the week since it departed the International Space Station to wrap up a successful cargo delivery mission, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus supply ship hosted a combustion research experiment, deployed four small satellites for a San Francisco-based startup, then descended into Earth’s atmosphere Sunday for a destructive re-entry.

Sunday’s descent was the Cygnus freighter’s final act, destroying the spacecraft and its contents as intended as the spaceship streaked over the remote South Pacific Ocean, disposing of waste and other items discarded by the space station’s crew.

Debris from the re-entry, which occurred around 6:40 p.m. EST (2340 GMT) Sunday, fell in the sea east of New Zealand, according to Orbital ATK, owner and operator of the Cygnus spacecraft.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Russia to Deploy New Space Surveillance System Elements in Four Regions

Advanced elements of the Russian Space Surveillance System will be deployed in a number of the country’s regions, including Crimea and the Far East, in the next few years, according to Andrey Ivashina, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The next few years will see the deployment of sophisticated complexes of the Russian Space Surveillance System in the Altai Republic, the Far East, Crimea and the Republic of Buryatia, Andrey Ivashina, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Forces, was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

In an interview with the Russian news network Life.ru, Ivashina explained that “this will be a network of next-generation special radio-electronic surveillance complexes.” He said that unlike current systems, the new complexes will be equipped with new hardware components.

Read more at: Space Daily

Russia to Develop Super-heavy Class Rocket for Building Station on Moon

Russia is about to launch a project for building a new super-heavy space rocket that will make it possible to create a research station on the Moon someday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin while addressing an audience at the space rocket corporation Energiya.

“On instructions from the president, which is being finalized technically, we are launching a super-heavy space rocket project, with quite different payload capabilities. It will pave the way for implementing the idea of a research station on the Moon, visitable and inhabitable,” he said.

The project for creating a super-heavy class rocket was approved in the autumn of 2014, but in the spring of 2015 the head of the space rocket corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov said the work on a new rocket had to be postponed. The project was absent from the federal space program for 2016-2025 adopted last spring. At the same time there are plans for creating a Feniks rocket, which is seen as the first stage of a future super-heavy rocket.

Read more at: TASS

Russia’s New Cargo Spacecraft to Make First Flight After 2020

Russia’s new generation cargo spacecraft, due to replace the current Progress MS family, is scheduled to begin flights to the International Space State ISS after 2020, the designer of all of Russia’s spacecraft, Energia Corporation, has told TASS.

“The first flight of the enhanced payload cargo spacecraft is possible after 2020,” the corporation’s press-service has said. Later on the spacecraft will be commissioned to provide all transport services for the Russian segment of the ISS, while the Progress MS launches will be terminated.

The new generation cargo spacecraft will be put in space from the Baikonur site in Kazakhstan, just as the Progress family.

Read more at: TASS

The Proper Role of the Federal Government in Space Exploration

I am a big fan of space exploration and I think that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is a visionary company that is trying to conduct meaningful space exploration.  Yet, Congress might want to take a hard look at the ticket price for Musk’s latest endeavor before spending $10 billion to populate Mars.

Space is truly the final frontier.  Men like Elon Musk are visionaries who may not be very good at politics, yet they are great at building billion dollar companies that break new ground.  Musk’s company Tesla is revolutionizing the way people travel by car.  His SolarCity company is trying to wean Americans off fossil fuels. His space exploration company SpaceX’s goal is to “make life multiplanetary.”  These three companies fit into the category of visionary.

Read more at: Origin-nyi

New Chinese Commercial-launch Company Advertises High Launch Rate, Low Price

A Chinese commercial launch-service provider created earlier this year to bid for small-satellite business worldwide expects to launch 10 of its Kuaizhou solid-fueled rockets per year between 2017 and 2020, the company said Nov. 29.

In a statement published by China Daily, Zhang Di, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) Fourth Academy, said Expace Technology Co. would charge around $10,000 per kilogram of satellite payload, which he said was less than half the prevailing commercial price. Zhang is also chairman of Expace.

CASIC created Expace in early 2016 as China’s second commercial-launch provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing, which has long been China’s showcase export vehicle for launches and commercial satellite contracts. China Great Wall is part of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST).

Read more at: Space News

Ex-astronaut’s Plans to Take Tourists to Outer Atmosphere

A BBC summit dedicated to exploring world-changing innovations in science, technology and health has been taking place in Sydney, Australia. Retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan spoke at the summit about space company World View’s plans to take tourists 30km (20 miles) above the Earth. Mr Garan believes travel above the Earth can bring a new perspective to our lives on the ground.

Gigantic high altitude balloons blown up to the size of a professional football pitch will be attached to a pressurised gondola-like craft holding two crew and six passengers. The first trip is planned before the end of 2018.

Other companies are also looking into space tourism. Zero2infinity, has similar ambitions for high altitude balloons while Virgin Galactic unveiled the new version of its spaceship earlier this year which is designed to travel at more than 100km above the Earth.

Read more at: BBC

Report Finds Commercial Spaceports Confused About Insurance Requirements

A new report recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration do more to assist commercial spaceports in determining their insurance requirements, but stops short of calling for regulatory changes regarding coverage for facilities not owned by the federal government.

The report, prepared by the U.S. Government Accountability Office under a provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act signed into law one year ago, said that operators of launch sites licensed by the FAA are often puzzled about whether and how their facilities are covered by insurance in the event of an accident.

The request for the report came out of the aftermath of the October 2014 Antares launch failure at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia, that caused $15 million in damage to the launch site. Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which operates MARS, disputed who was liable for damages to the pad. Ultimately, each paid $5 million, with NASA contributing an additional $5 million by increasing the value of an existing contract with the authority.

Read more at: Space News

Georgia Spaceport Opponents Question Suitability of Site

The site of a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia is a safety and environmental threat, opponents of the project argued Monday.

Rockets launched from the proposed Spaceport Camden would fly over about 2,000 acres of private property and more than 60 homes on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island, as well as portions of the environmentally fragile Cumberland Island National Seashore, Dick Parker, a Little Cumberland Island property owner, told members of a state Senate study committee.

“We’ve got people here and a national seashore that would be put at risk by rockets literally flying over their heads,” he said.

The study committee was formed this year after the General Assembly balked at legislation aimed at shielding the spaceport from lawsuits resulting from injuries or deaths suffered by passengers on commercial space flights. The bill is considered vital to allow Georgia to compete for commercial spaceflight business with states that provide such liability protection to spaceport operators.

Read more at: Bizjournal

NASA has been Setting Trash Fires in Space

While we dream of landing on other worlds, we cannot overlook the basics of living there. Basics like fire safety in space, for example. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of interplanetary exploration, but if you can’t get it right, things could get messy very quickly.

That’s why NASA has been setting trash fires on cargo vehicles in space. NASA’s second Spacecraft Fire Safety experiment, also known as Saffire-II was launched in October 2016. It expanded on the list of objects set on fire during Saffire-I a few months earlier. According to NASA, the nine samples in the test included a “cotton-fiberglass blend, Nomex, and the same acrylic glass that is used for spacecraft windows,” commonly known as Plexiglass.

These objects were put inside a box onboard the cargo vehicle Cygnus, heading to the International Space Station on a routine mission. Inside that box, in addition to the Plexiglass and Nomex, was an avionics bay complete with computer and instrumentation. The objects that were burned were inside a flow duct. Once all the goods are taken off Cygnus and replaced with ISS trash, it then flew into a drift mode.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Can we Deflect Asteroids?

In the edition of Space, Euronews correspondent Jeremy Wilks reports from the Observatory of the Côte d’Azur in the south of France on a unique mission to deflect an asteroid.

Asteroids have the potential to cause a catastrophe – a small asteroid could wipe out an entire city, while a large one could mean the end for us all. It’s a threat we’re aware of, and which scientists and engineers are working to overcome. Among them is leading expert Patrick Michel, from the Observatory of the Cote d’Azur.

“An asteroid is a small rock which is one of the bricks left over from the formation of our planets. Some of them are dangerous, because although most are out there between Mars and Jupiter, in what we call the asteroid belt, there are some that have a trajectory that crosses that of Earth. And those are the ones that pose a threat,” he points out. It’s a threat that’s limited – a sizeable asteroid strike only happens every ten thousand years or more- but it’s a threat to be taken seriously.

Read more at: Euro News

Space Food Bars will Keep Orion Weight Off and Crew Weight On

When astronauts in the Orion spacecraft travel beyond the moon to explore deep space destinations, they’ll need a robust diet to keep them healthy and sharp. While crew members aboard the International Space Station can choose from approximately 200 items for their meals and have the space to stow an array of options, feeding the crew on deep space missions presents several unique challenges that NASA scientists are working to tackle.

Orion has limited room inside it to accommodate the supplies and food astronauts will need during their missions. Because flights to deep space will not rely on resupply spacecraft to deliver what astronauts need and dispose of trash, the Orion crew will have to take everything they need with them and bring it all back home. Given the distances Orion will travel, teams also must limit Orion’s mass, since a heavier spacecraft requires more fuel and energy to propel it to its ultimate destination.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Chinese Astronauts’ Space Menu Features 100 Seperate Dishes

The two Chinese astronauts aboard the Shenzhou XI spacecraft returned home from space on Friday, after having completed their month-long missions in the Tiangong-2 orbiting laboratory.

Apart from tracking the astronauts’ high altitude tasks, overseas media outlets have always taken an interest in what food is available on board. U.S. news website Buzzfeed previously compared Chinese astronauts’ menus with those of their foreign counterparts.

In the beginning, foreign astronauts usually ate foods stored in toothpaste tube-like wrappers. Their simple packaging seemed to mirror the bland, flavorless goop inside. Later, space menus saw an increase in diversity, including items such such as canned food and dried fruit. However, the menus were still disheartening for most Chinese people who famously think “food is the first thing.”

As such, from the very beginning, Chinese space recipes have boasted strong national characteristics and embraced more and more culinary variety. As early as 2003, the food available for China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei stretched to 20-30 dishes, including barbecued pork, cuttlefish balls, steamed gluten rice, pickled cucumber, moon cakes, peanut butter and sandwich biscuits.

Read more at: WomenofChina

Testing An Impenetrable Shield

In just a few years, NASA’s Orion space capsule will transport its first crew of astronauts into deep space. When it comes screeching back through Earth’s atmosphere, it will generate temperatures hot enough to melt rock. To protect the capsule and its inhabitants, Orion is equipped with an advanced heat shield designed to endure the extreme conditions of the rapid descent. In fact, it’s so effective, even sound has a hard time penetrating it.

That’s a problem, at least here on Earth. The heat shield is a critical component, and needs to be thoroughly tested before flight, as the slightest flaw can be catastrophic. NASA tried many methods to probe the heat shield material, with limited success. Traditional nondestructive methods, such as x-ray and ultrasonic inspection, were simply not up to the task.

NASA then asked The Aerospace Corporation to apply its considerable expertise in nondestructive evaluation (NDE). According to Dr. Shant Kenderian, director of the Materials Processing Department in the Space Materials Laboratory, Aerospace has a reputation for tackling the most frustrating testing problems. “The NDE staff routinely takes on inspection challenges that other experts have deemed undoable,” he said. “The easy ones don’t come to us.”

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Metallic Glass Gears Make for Graceful Robots

Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist. For robots, it’s all in the gears.

Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you’ll need won’t come from a hardware store.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear. Hofmann is the lead author of two recent papers on gears made from bulk metallic glass (BMG), a specially crafted alloy with properties that make it ideal for robotics.

“Although BMGs have been explored for a long time, understanding how to design and implement them into structural hardware has proven elusive,” said Hofmann. “Our team of researchers and engineers at JPL, in collaboration with groups at Caltech and UC San Diego, have finally put BMGs through the necessary testing to demonstrate their potential benefits for NASA spacecraft. These materials may be able to offer us solutions for mobility in harsh environments, like on Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

Read more at: JPL

Help Astronauts Poop and be Richly Rewarded

Pooping in space “isn’t glamorous, but it is necessary for survival,” an astronaut explains—yet it’s presenting quite a challenge for NASA. See, while the International Space Station has a pretty fancy toilet, an astronaut must wear a diaper during launch and landing activities or while spacewalking.

But as NASA looks toward future missions in deep space, it’s also looking for a way for astronauts to relieve themselves while remaining in their space suits for up to six days, reports Time.

That’s where you come in. The agency is offering a $30,000 prize in a “space poop challenge” if someone can create “a system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands.” There are plenty of stipulations. For example, the system “needs to take no more than five minutes [to set up]” as an astronaut might be forced to jump into their suit quickly in an emergency, per Space.com.

Read more at: Foxnews

Recommendations to the Next Administration Regarding Commercial Space

Tremendous progress has been made in the commercial space arena since the last presidential transition in 2008. To ensure that the impact of these changes is adequately reflected in US space policy, the National Space Society (NSS) assembled a hand-picked group of experts to prepare recommendations for the incoming administration. This group met at the venture capital firm DFJ in Menlo Park, California, on Saturday, October 8, 2016. After a full day of discussion and deliberation, five major recommendations, focused on commercial space, were agreed upon.

In 2008, the Obama campaign stated, “There is currently no organization in the Federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government’s space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department and the other federal agencies.” We recommend that the US government re-establish a National Space Council (NSC). The chair of the National Space Council should be appointed by and report to the President, and advise the President on space policy topics, including NASA Administrator candidates.

Read more at: Space Review

Can Russia Beat the U.S. to Mars?

Russian scientists have announced their desire to participate in an international partnership to perform a manned expedition to Mars within 30 years. On Tuesday, Dr. Igor Mitrofanov, head of the space gamma-spectroscopy laboratory of the Russian Space Research Institute, told TASS: ‘A manned expedition to Mars is not an easy task. In my estimate, technically we’ll be able to implement it approximately in the 2040-2050s. This Martian expedition will most probably be performed on the basis of consolidated international efforts.’ The elements of a future Martian expedition can be tested during Russia’s manned lunar programme, which is expected after 2030.

Russia has been cutting down its investment in space projects. In August, Roscosmos announced its plans to reduce Russia’s crew at the International Space Station from three to two cosmonauts to boost the efficiency of the space programme. So, the announcement of the Martian plans is an encouraging sign that constraints on resources and budget haven’t put Russia off the investment in space travel entirely, considers Inverse.

Read more at: Realnoevremya

China’s Secretive Space Program Threatens NASA’s Dominance

Jiayuguan was once the tangible edge of Chinese civilization –- where the Great Wall ends and the desolation of the Gobi Desert begins. Now, four hours beyond those limits in a locked-down location along the Ruoshui River, China has built a gateway to the new final frontier.

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is the nation’s preeminent “space city”—one of only three places where humans are blasted into the cosmos. Six manned flights have departed from here, including last month’s Shenzhou 11 mission to China’s own orbiting lab. Manned trips to the moon and Mars in the next decades also are being discussed.

The center also is the launching place for China’s most-important machines. The world’s first quantum-communications satellite, designed to provide hack-proof transmissions for the military, left here in August. The government and military, which ultimately controls the space program, don’t announce every launch, but the nonprofit Space Foundation estimates that at least 82 attempts have been made from the site since 1970.

Read more at: Bloomberg

ESA Releases Findings of Citizens’ Space Debate

On 10 September, about 2000 Europeans helped to shape the future of space by taking part in a world first: the Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe.ESA organised the event to gather opinions and ideas to help develop and nurture the future strategy for space in Europe.

When Jan Woerner was elected as Director General of ESA by its Member States he expressed the wish to boost dialogue with all stakeholders and to open up space to a broader public. This Citizens’ Debate translated his intention into practice, by including people from all walks of life around Europe.

About 2000 people representing a broad diversity of citizens in 22 countries debated space issues during the day-long event. This consultation exercise, on an unprecedented scale, was organised in all ESA Member States simultaneously, following the same approach.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

Einstein’s Theory Says the Speed of Light is Constant – But What if He was Wrong?

Albert Einstein predicted the speed of light is constant across the universe. This has been used to underpin many other theories in physics. But what if he was wrong?

Scientists from the UK and Canada have now developed a test to find out if the speed of light is variable – almost 20 years after first proposing the theory. In his theory of general relativity, Einstein suggested the speed of light is always constant. It is measured as 186,000 miles per second.

However, this consistency leads to problems with the universe – namely the “horizon problem”. This refers to the fact the universe we see appears pretty much the same in its entirety. For example, its density is largely the same throughout. If the speed of light is constant, this should not be the case. If it were, there would not be enough time for light to have reached the edge of the universe and even out the energy.

Read more at: Ibtimes

The Future of War in Space is Defensive

The best defense is a good offense — or is it? The answer to this question, along with an understanding of the stronger form of warfare, is the single most important consideration in U.S. space strategy and funding major space programs.

Satellites and other spacecraft have always been vulnerable targets for America’s adversaries. Today, attacking U.S. on-orbit capabilities offers the potential to cripple U.S. conventional power projection and impose significant costs, whether in dollars, lives or political capital.

Many strategists and policymakers have concluded that because space-based systems are seen as exposed to attack — with little way to defend them — that the offense is the stronger form of warfare in space. This conclusion is incorrect and has led to an underdeveloped U.S. space strategy. Time-tested theory and principles of war underscore that the defense is the stronger form of warfare in space.

Read more at: warisboring.com

US Military Prepares for the Next Frontier: Space War

Since man first explored space, it has been a largely peaceful environment. But now US adversaries are deploying weapons beyond Earth’s atmosphere, leading the US military to prepare for the frightening prospect of war in space.

“As humans go out there, there has always been conflict. Conflict in the Wild West as we move in the West … conflict twice in Europe for its horrible world wars,” Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, told CNN. “So, every time humans actually physically move into that, there’s conflict, and in that case, we’ll have to be prepared for that.”

Today, the US depends on space more than any other nation. In a nightmare scenario, as adversaries launch a massive cyber attack on key infrastructure and disable and destroy our satellites in space, televisions would go blank, mobile networks silent, and the Internet would slow and then stop.

Read more at: CNN