SpaceX’s Starship SN1 Prototype Blows Up During Pressure Test On Its Texas Pad

A prototype for SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket was destroyed tonight during a pressure test on its pad at the company’s South Texas facility.

Streaming video from Boca Chica showed the silo-shaped tank assembly for the prototype known as Starship SN1 wreathed in light and vapor during the test, which was conducted with inert liquid nitrogen. At about 10 p.m. CT (8 p.m. PT), the tank popped. The structure imploded as it flew into the air, then fell to the ground.

Initial reports suggested that the tank suffered a structural failure during pressurization. Information about potential injuries or the extent of damage wasn’t immediately available, but we’ve reached out to SpaceX and will update this item with anything we hear.

Read more at: Geekwire

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Is Built To Carry Astronauts, But Safety Concerns Loom

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which was slated to begin flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station this year, faces new questions about safety after a botched test flight in December.

On Friday, Boeing revealed that ground controllers lost contact with Starliner 37 times during the mission, and investigators are still working to determine how to correct those issues. The company also confirmed that it had failed to run a full simulation of how the spacecraft’s software would run during the two major stretches of the mission — from liftoff to docking with the International Space Station and from undocking to landing. Such testing could have potentially detected software problems that caused Starliner to stumble off its path toward the International Space Station, forcing it to make an early landing.

Read more at: CNN

Boeing Says Thorough Testing Would Have Caught Starliner Software Problems

The program manager in charge of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule program said Friday that additional checks would have uncovered problems with the spaceship’s software that plagued the craft’s first unpiloted orbital test flight in December, but he pushed back against suggestions that Boeing engineers took shortcuts during ground testing.

Boeing missed a pair of software errors during the Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test. One prevented the spacecraft from docking with the International Space Station, and the other could have resulted in catastrophic damage to the capsule during its return to Earth.

Both errors could have been caught before launch if Boeing had performed more thorough software testing on the ground, according to John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner program.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Arianespace Begins Stacking Vega Ahead Of March Return To Flight

Arianespace’s Vega rocket is on track to conduct its Return To Flight (RTF) mission in March after stacking operations began at the European Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega suffered the first failure of her career during the July 2019 launch of Falcon Eye-1.

Vega’s return will involve the lofting of numerous satellites, with the manifest of passengers growing as the mission heads towards a March 23 launch date.

The SSMS POC flight is a rideshare mission, involving tens of satellites ranging from 10 Astrocast 1 smallsats to a Royal Thai Air Force CubeSat and numerous Dove spacecraft.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Critical Rocket Escape System Motor For NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Aces Final Test

NASA’s Orion spacecraft has achieved a new milestone with a successful final test of the vehicle’s attitude-control motor (ACM) Tuesday (Feb. 25). 

Orion is designed to carry astronauts to the moon for NASA’s planned 2024 Artemis mission. The ACM steers and orients Orion’s launch-abort system, which would carry the crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent. 

The ACM was built by Northrop Grumman and was tested at the company’s facility in Maryland. The 30-second hot fire was the third and final test of the motor, qualifying the motor for human missions. Those flights will start with Artemis II, the first planned crewed mission of the Orion spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA. 

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NASA Preparing For Long-Duration SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight

NASA is leaning increasingly towards making SpaceX’s crewed test flight to the International Space Station a long-duration mission, a move that could alleviate concerns about a lack of crew on the station later this year.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center released Feb. 22 images of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley training for their upcoming Demo-2 mission to the station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. That included Behnken in a spacesuit, training for spacewalks in the center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, while Hurley worked on robotics training.

Read more at: Spacenews

‘Mad Mike’ Wasn’t Trying To Prove ‘Flat Earth’ Theory On Ill-Fated Homemade Rocket Launch

Following the tragic death of ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, we revisit the real reasons why he launched himself into the air aboard his homemade steam rocket, knowing how risky the stunt was. 

This past weekend (Feb. 22), Hughes, 64, a daredevil and amateur rocketeer, tragically died during the launch while filming for the Science Channel’s show “Homemade Astronauts.”

Hughes was attempting to launch to 5,000 feet (1.5 kilometers) into the air on private property near Barstow, California. He built the rocket himself with the help of his partner Waldo Stakes as part of the show (the Science Channel has yet to comment on whether or not production will continue) that set out to highlight amateur teams working to reach incredible altitudes.

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Hainan Resumes Construction Of Aerospace Town As Coronavirus Fears Recede

Hainan authorities resume construction of the aerospace town in the island’s north-east following receding coronavirus fears, according to Wenchang city authorities.

“It is necessary to take every effort to promote the construction of the international aerospace town, to boost Wenchang’s development even more”, the party committee wrote on WeChat social network.

The statement says that the city administration will continue to fight coronavirus while at the same time trying to revitalize the economy. In addition to space industry, the authorities intend to cultivate agriculture, tackle poverty, draw new enterprises manufacturing highly processed goods to the region.

Read more at: TASS

India Outlines Launch Plans, Progress In Human Spaceflight And Space Transportation

India’s launch plans for the coming year include a range of Earth observation, communication and navigation satellites according to an annual report.

Progress in the areas of space transportation and human spaceflight is also laid out in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) report.

India is gearing up to launch 10 Earth observation satellites across the next financial year, starting April. These include optical, multi- and hyperspectral, and synthetic aperture radar satellites. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Two Private Satellites Just Docked In Space In Historic First For Orbital Servicing

In a historic first for satellite operations, a commercial spacecraft “helper” has docked with a working communications satellite to provide life-extension services.

The companies involved in the meetup  — Northrop Grumman and Intelsat — hailed the operation, which took place Tuesday (Feb. 25), as the beginning of a new era that will see robotic spacecraft giving new life to older satellites that are low on fuel or require repairs.

Because launch costs constitute a large part of a satellite’s total price tag, the hope is that refurbishing aging satellites will eventually reduce the expense of services that satellites provide, such as telecommunications or weather monitoring.

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ISRO To Begin Testing For First Human Gaganyaan Mission As Rocket Design Sees Completion

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is finally getting closer to its dream of sending a manned indigenous spacecraft to the outer space. According to an official statement from ISRO Chief K Sivan, the designing part of the Gaganyaan rocket has already been completed.

During the 70th Annual General Meeting and National Conference, the ISRO Chief stated that the design and engineering of the launch vehicle, including the orbital module system for India’s first human space flight, has been completed. He added that a series of tests need to be undertaken in order to validate the design and engineering of the systems during this year.

Read more at: Republic world


First reports of a large fireball explosion over Slovenia and Croatia this morning, Feb 28th – loud sonic boom and shockwave reported!

A spectacular fireball (meteor) exploded over northern Balkans today at 10:34 local time (09:34 UTC), Feb 28th. The event was seen and heard from northern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria. There are numerous reports of a loud sonic boom with the accompanying shockwave, strong enough to be registered by the seismographs as an earthquake! It is possible some pieces of the object survived the atmospheric entry.

Read more at: severe-weather

The United States Is Losing Its Leadership Role In The Fight Against Orbital Debris

After more than a year of effort, the Trump Administration released an update to the US Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices in December 2019. The Standard Practices define the standards for minimizing the creation of orbital debris and generally apply to all US government space missions and establish the foundation for rulemaking that applies to commercial space activities licensed by the US government. The updated Standard Practices are a key part of demonstrating how the United States fulfills its national space policy goal of strengthening the safety and sustainability of space activities and establishing a benchmark for other countries to follow.

Read more at: Spacereview

Opinion: It’s Time For Comprehensive Space Traffic Management

In today’s complex space operations environment, the benefits we derive from space—as well as the welfare of our astronauts, spacecraft, commercial space industry and general public—are vulnerable. Spacecraft operators are not receiving the decision-quality space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM) required to conduct safe operations and ensure space sustainability.

U.S. flight safety services freely provided by the Defense Department to commercial spacecraft operators are insufficient, through no fault of the men and women in uniform but rather as a result of the aging legacy tools they are using.

Read more at: Aviation week

What Can The Coronavirus Outbreak Teach Us About Bringing Mars Samples Back To Earth?

A new virus called SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus that has caused an outbreak of a disease called COVID-19.

Public health groups, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are still learning about the virus, monitoring the disease it causes, and researching potential ways to stop it. You can read all about the coronavirus and COVID-19 at our sibling site, LiveScience.

But me being me, my mind went straight to Mars. I have long been aware of science fiction’s vision of Earth receiving space souvenirs that carry organisms that might be dangerous to Earth’s fragile biosphere — that’s me, and you, too! Such arrivals could be accidental, or they could be purposeful.

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What Should We Do If A ‘Planet-Killer’ Asteroid Takes Aim At Earth?

If a giant object looks like it’s going to slam into Earth, humanity has a few options: Hammer it with a spacecraft hard enough to knock it off course, blast it with nuclear weapons, tug on it with a gravity tractor, or even slow it down using concentrated sunlight.

We’ll have to decide whether to visit it with a scout mission first, or launch a full-scale attack immediately. Those are a lot of decisions to make under existential duress, which is why a team of MIT researchers have come up with a guide, published February in the journal Acta Astronautica, to help future asteroid deflectors.

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Passive Space Debris Removal Using Drag Sail Deorbiting Technology

There are currently about 22,000 tracked objects in LEO, some of which are smaller than one centimeter. The focus of many current plans has been on the active removal of current debris.

But with a projected 57,000 new satellites expected to launch by 2029, the question becomes: how to prevent new debris? Currently, at Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, David Spencer and his team are working on a passive debris removal system using drag sail deorbiting technology where these passive deorbiting systems are embedded within a spacecraft for deorbiting at the end of the spacecraft’s lifetime.

Read more at: Spacereview

Will We Hit The Snooze Button On An Orbital Debris Wakeup Call?

On the evening of January 29, about 900 kilometers above Pittsburgh, two satellites approached each other at a relative velocity of nearly 15 kilometers per second. And there was nothing anyone could do about it but watch.

One of the satellites was the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), a joint mission of the US and the Netherlands launched in 1983. The other was Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE) 4, a technology demonstration satellite launched in 1967 and linked to the POPPY series of signals intelligence satellites.

Read more at: Spacereview


Virgin Galactic Chairman Declares We’re Not a Bubble Stock as Shares Slide

Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya was on a financial news network yesterday denying the stock was a bubble, a claim that hasn’t aged well in the short term.

With shares soaring to a high of $41.55 only a week ago, they are hovering at around $23 as I writing this story. The shares were offered at $12 when Virgin Galactic went public last Oct. 28 and rose sharply in recent weeks.

The shares slid after Virgin Galactic reported a larger than expected loss for the fourth quarter 2019 and hinted at delays in the start of commercial suborbital flights, which were to have started in June. Analysts have downgraded the stock based on the earnings report.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Virgin Galactic Hints At More Delays For Start Of Spaceshiptwo Commercial Flights

Virgin Galactic executives suggested Feb. 25 that the beginning of commercial flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle might slip again, even as the company starts planning to resume ticket sales.

The company, which became publicly traded in October after closing a merger with special-purpose acquisition company Social Capital Hedosophia, released its fourth quarter and full year 2019 financials after the markets closed Feb. 25, showing, as expected, a significant loss as the company continues development and testing of SpaceShipTwo.

Read mroe at: Spacenews

FAA Environmental Assessment Details SpaceX Plans at Cape Canaveral

As SpaceX competes for the right to launch future US military satellites, an environmental assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration has revealed details of the company’s plans for national security missions and future operations of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

SpaceX is one of four companies competing for two available contracts under Phase 2 of the Department of Defense’s National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. NSSL, which was formerly the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, aims to provide the US military with assured access to space by maintaining a pair of fully-certified launch vehicles able to carry vital national security payloads into orbit.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Boeing Buying Russian Components for Starliner

In development for nearly a decade, the Starliner programme was Boeing’s answer to the decommissioning of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011, which left NASA and allied space agencies dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets to take crews to the International Space Station.

Boeing is buying Russian-made power converters for its new Starliner manned capsule programme, the company’s space division has confirmed.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Sea Launch Platform To Leave California • Hispasat Boosts Red Eléctrica’s Financials

Sea Launch’s mobile Odyssey launchpad was loaded onto a cargo ship, the Xin Guang Hua, for transport from California. The 46,000-ton launchpad, last used in 2014, is expected to arrive near Vladivostok, Russia, in March. Russian aviation company S7 Group completed its purchase of Sea Launch in 2018.

EchoStar, Khosla Ventures and OneWeb founder Greg Wyler have invested an additional $24 million into Tarana Wireless, a California startup developing technology for long-distance wireless links.

Read more at: Spacenews


New Patented Invention Stabilizes, Rotates Satellites

Many satellites are in space to take photos. But a vibrating satellite, like a camera in shaky hands, can’t get a sharp image. Pointing it at a precise location to take a photo or perform another task, is another important function that requires accuracy. Vedant, an aerospace engineering doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was working on a way to eliminate vibrations on a satellite when he discovered his invention could also rotate the satellite.

Read more at: Illinois

Deep-Sea Osmolyte Makes Biomolecular Machines Heat-Tolerant

Researchers have discovered a method to control biomolecular machines over a wide temperature range using deep-sea osmolyte trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). This finding could open a new dimension in the application of artificial machines fabricated from biomolecular motors and other proteins.

Biomolecular motors are the smallest natural machines that keep living organisms dynamic. They can generate force and perform work on their own by consuming chemical energy.

Read more at: nanodaily

NASA’s Mars Lander Discovers Quakes And A Surprising Magnetic Field

NASA’s Mars lander InSight is on a mission to probe the Red Planet’s rocky guts. A suite of studies published Monday in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications describe the results of the robot’s first 10 months of exploration. Mars trembles with seismic activity, and the planet is more strongly magnetic than experts predicted.

InSight touched down in November 2018 after surviving “seven minutes of terror” — the descent, during which mission control can do nothing but wait, from when the lander met the Martian atmosphere to when it touched down on the planet’s surface.

Read more at: Washington post


Washington’s Future In “Final Frontier” Economy

State lawmakers in recent years have monitored the emerging private space economy developing in Washington state, and while previous proposals have struggled to take flight, a new House bill appears to be getting off the ground.

HB 2596 sponsored by Rep. Matt Boehnke (R-8) tasks the state Department of Commerce with creating an advisory committee as well as studying the best path to foster a strong business climate for the industry. The bill, which is currently in the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade Committee, cleared the House on Feb. 19 with a 94-3 vote – and the requisite Star Trek and Buzz Lightyear references.

Read more at: lens

Diplomats, Experts Talk Space Policy, Governance Issues

Diplomats and experts discussed issues in space governance at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.

Panelists hailing from several different countries discussed their nations’ unique issues regarding space policy at the event, like controlling space traffic and creating well-designed regulations. About 30 people attended the event, which was hosted by the Space Policy Institute.

Josef Koller, the systems director for the Center for Space Policy and Strategy at the Aerospace Corporation, said he primarily works with issues like space traffic management, flight safety and space debris, adding that the lack of rules leads many to refer to space as the “Wild West.”

Read more at: gwhatchet

Australian Launch Industry Looks To Government For Regulatory And Financial Support

Australia’s nascent launch industry says it would like to see the country’s government provide more financial and regulatory support to help it get established in the global market.

In a panel discussion during the Ninth Australian Space Forum in Adelaide Feb. 18, leaders of launch vehicle companies and spaceport operators in the country emphasized the benefits of their industry in creating jobs and overall economic development, and that Australia was well-positioned to capture a share of the growing demand for satellite launches.

Read more at: Spacenews

ESA Head Woerner Confirms Plans Not To Seek Another Term

The head of the European Space Agency formally announced Feb. 28 he will leave ESA when his current term ends next year, confirming months of speculation about his future with the agency.

In a blog post, ESA Director General Jan Woerner said he had “finally decided” to step down from that position when his current term expires in July 2021, rather than seek another term, saying the agency needed a new, and younger, leader.

“For some months now there have been discussions about whether or not I would stay on for another term. Having given a great deal of thought to the question, I finally decided against it,” he wrote in the post.

Read more at: Spacenews

The US Space Force And International Law Considerations

President Trump’s signing of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act has put into action the United States’ ambitions of an independent Space Force, ushering its military ascendancy in the outer space and attaching a new facet to its hard power. The US Space Force will formally be the sixth military service branch, absorbing its predecessor, the Air Force Space Command.

The addition is the latest in a series of new developments and shuffling at the Pentagon. The House of Representatives passed a fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill that contained a proposal for a service called the Space Corps, but it did not survive negotiations with the Senate.

Read more at: Spacereview


Russia Successfully Test Fires Tsirkon Hypersonic Cruise Missile

Russia has successfully test-launched its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from a ship for the first time and is planning more tests from nuclear submarines.

The missile was fired from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov in early January while it was cruising in the Barents Sea, state news agency TASS reported Thursday. It landed at a military testing range in the Northern Ural mountain range more than 300 miles away.

More Tsirkon cruise missile tests from nuclear-powered submarines are expected this year.

Read more at: Spacewar

Russia Concerned Elon Musk’s Satellites Could Be Used For Military Purposes

A constellation of 12,000 Starlink satellites launched by Elon Musk’s company to create a network designed to provide global internet coverage from space could be used for military purposes, Sergei Boyev, general designer of Russia’s early warning system and CEO at MAK Vympel, said.

“One of the first event held by [Gen. John Raymond], the recently appointed head of the U.S. Space Force, was a meeting with [Elon] Musk [CEO of SpaceX], [Richard] Branson [founder of Virgin Galactic] and some other business representatives engaged in space research and development, and space-related activities. He [Raymond] had a talk with them about how their civilian spacecraft could help increase the potential of the Space Force of the United States of America,” Boyev said during the Voyennaya Priyomka (Military Acceptance) show on the Zvezda television channel.

Read more at: Interfax

Elon Musk: ‘Radical Innovation’ Needed To Beat China Militarily

China’s economy is going to eventually reach “at least twice” the size of the America economy, says SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, so the only way for the United States to remain the dominant military power is for the US to rapidly innovate.

“The foundation of war is economics,” Musk told an audience here in Orlando at the annual Air Force Association meeting today. “”In the absence of radical innovation, the US will be militarily second.”

Read more at: Breakingdefense

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett Chats About Her Top Four Priorities

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett is coming into the service at a unique time, as the civilian leader of both the Air Force and the fledgling Space Force, which was established late last year. Turning that new service into a fully-formed organization is a major priority for Barrett, and one with no real blueprint to follow.

But some of her goals, like keeping critical modernization programs on track or improving the lives of Air Force spouses and children, may seem a bit familiar.

Read more at: Defensenews

Pentagon Vows Not To Let Russia, China Deny West’s Space Superiority

A senior Pentagon official has warned that China and Russia are stepping up efforts to develop sophisticated space capabilities in a bid to deny the United States and its allies of their current superiority.

James Anderson, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told a House of Representatives panel on February 27 that China and Russia are developing sophisticated on-orbit capabilities and an array of space weapons capable of targeting nearly every class of U.S. space assets, many of which were developed when there were few threats in space.

Read more at: rferl


How Science Will Help Us Find Our Way To The Future

It was a rainy night when the future became a place, one you could visit. A downpour at sunset couldn’t discourage the 200,000 people who had gathered for the opening ceremony of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. “World of Tomorrow” was the theme of this art deco land of promise.

There were television sets, calculating machines, and a robot. For the first time, people saw these things that would change their lives. But on that night they had come to hear the greatest scientific genius since Isaac Newton.

Read more at: National geographic

Photo Essay: How Do NASA Astronauts Train For Spacewalks? In A Giant Swimming Pool Lab

Astronauts Anne McClain and Zena Cardman wiggled into their roughly 270-pound spacesuits attached to a platform. It’s a weight they wouldn’t have to shoulder in microgravity. But here, on the edge of a giant swimming pool, they needed help standing upright, waiting for a giant crane to hoist them up, over and into the water.

Nothing can truly prepare astronauts for the weightlessness of spacewalks. But NASA’s swimming pool lab — and some help from foam blocks, weights and scuba divers — comes close. The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston is where NASA prepares its astronauts for spacewalks.

Read more at: Houston chronicle

Senate Passes Resolution In Honor Of NASA Pioneer Katherine Johnson

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to honor Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a NASA pioneer who passed away Monday at the age of 101.

The resolution was sponsored by Senators Mark Warner, D-VA, and Tim Kaine, D-VA, along with Senators Joe Manchin, D-WV, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV.

Read more at: CBS19news

Freeman J. Dyson, a mathematical prodigy who left his mark on subatomic physics before turning to messier subjects like Earth’s environmental future and the morality of war, died on Friday at a hospital near Princeton, N.J. He was 96.

His daughter Mia Dyson confirmed the death. His son, George, said Dr. Dyson had fallen three days earlier in the cafeteria of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, “his academic home for more than 60 years,” as the institute put it in a news release.

Read more at: NYTimes

‘We Should Not Establish Some Kind Of Quota’

NASA made the “correct decision” to cut science programs for kids and boost spending on exploration, says a former astronaut and the agency’s second in command who says historic new achievements in sending humans to deep space will do just as much or more to inspire a new generation.

Frederick Gregory says education is “an essential part” of NASA’s mission, but the space agency has to make hard choices even with a 12 percent increase in its latest annual budget request, totaling $25.2 billion.

Read more at: Politico

For All Mankind’s Alternate History Of The Space Race Is Brilliant

YOU may have been put off For All Mankind by the pretty mediocre reviews it received when it first came out as part of the Apple TV+ launch. “Adequately entertaining” was one verdict; “moves too slowly” was another. I think those reviews were unfair.

The show does take a while to put on its afterburners, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given it was created by Ronald D. Moore, who was behind the brilliant 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. This had an enormous amount of character set up and humdrum daily life (albeit on a spaceship) before, in a thrilling heartbeat, the crew of the Galactica finally understood what was happening.

Read more at: Newscientist

Hunters’ Nazi NASA Scientists Are Based on the True Story of Operation Paperclip

Amazon’s new series, Hunters, tells the story of a group of 1970s New Yorkers who spend their time tracking down Nazis hiding in America and bringing them to bloody justice. It’s only based on real history in the loosest possible sense—real Nazi hunters pursue legal justice, not extrajudicial vengeance.

But that doesn’t mean that everything in the series springs purely from the imagination of its writers. In the show’s first episode, we see FBI agent Detective Millie Malone investigating the murder of German-American NASA scientist Gretel Fischer, only to find a photo of a young Fischer posing alongside Adolph Hitler. Gretel Fischer isn’t real—but it’s very true that NASA hired former Nazis.

Read more at: Esquire

11th IAASS conference