China Space Program White Paper Outlines Lunar & Mars Missions

china_flagA white paper outlining China’s space policy for the next five years calls for a sample return mission to the moon, a landing on the far side of Earth’s closest neighbor, and the launch of an orbiter and lander to Mars by 2020.

China will also begin constructing a permanent space station and research and development work on a heavy-lift launcher, reusable boosters and satellite servicing systems.

The nation also wants to expand international cooperation in areas that include remote sensing, space applications, lunar and planetary exploration, and human spaceflight.

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NASA’s Exploration Year in Review

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
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UK Space Agency Allocates 1.4 Billion Euros to ESA Budget

UK_space_agencySWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — UK Space Agency allocates more than €1.4 billion over the next five years to European Space Agency programmes at the Council of Ministers in Lucerne, Switzerland.

  • €670.5 million investment in satellite technology for UK industry and science, including telecommunications, Earth observation, navigation and satellite services supporting every sector of the economy, including
  • €23 million to build on UK leadership of ESA’s climate change monitoring programme, based at the ECSAT facility in Harwell, Oxford.
    €82.4 million for the next phase of the ExoMars programme, to put a British-built rover on the surface of Mars.
  • €71 million for ESA’s International Space Station programme to 2021 and for the future of deep space exploration, building on the legacy of Tim Peake’s Principia mission

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GAO: Spaceport Operators Confused Over Insurance Requirements

us_spaceports_2016

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that the nation’s spaceport operators are confused about the insurance they should have for launch accidents.

“Specifically, several spaceport operators GAO interviewed said that, based on their interpretation of the financial responsibility regulations, they were unsure whether their property would be covered under a launch company’s insurance policy or whether they would need to purchase their own insurance for their property to be covered,” the report states.

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NASA Seeks Input on Long-term Sustainability of SLS, Orion

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)
Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The early missions of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft will be the first of several missions that travel more than 40,000 miles beyond the moon to demonstrate capabilities in deep space farther than humans have ever traveled, but close enough to return home in days or weeks if needed. With the SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems programs now past their respective critical design reviews and flight hardware in production for the first integrated mission, NASA is transitioning from design and development to long-term affordability and sustainability in support of the Journey to Mars.

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Trump, Musk, Bezos, Bruno & the Future of America’s Space Program

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

There’s been a lot of speculation since the election on  what president-elect Donald Trump will do with the nation’s civilian and military space programs.

Two Trump advisors laid out some goals before the election: more commercial partnerships, boosting defense spending, increasing hypersonics and slashing NASA Earth science. However, most details remain unclear.

A key question is whether Trump really cares about space all that much. That’s a little hard to discern given his comments during  the campaign.

When first questioned on the subject, he expressed a preference for fixing potholes in America’s crumbling streets over sending people to Mars. Trump has promised a large infrastructure repair program.

During a visit to Florida, he attacked the Obama Administration for allegedly wrecking NASA and the space program. During another appearance in the Sunshine State about a week later, Trump praised the space agency for how well it was performing.

So, NASA is either doing great, a disaster that needs to be made great again, or an obstacle to pothole repair. Assuming Trump actually cares, and he’s willing to spend some money on making NASA great again, what might he do? What major decisions does he face?
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NASA Peer-reviewed Paper on Controversial EM Drive Published

EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)
EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

A long-awaited, peer-reviewed scientific paper has been published that indicates the controversial EM (Electromagnetic) Drive appears to work even though it apparently violates one of the laws of motion.

In case you’ve missed the hype, the EM Drive, or Electromagnetic Drive, is a propulsion system first proposed by British inventor Roger Shawyer back in 1999.

Instead of using heavy, inefficient rocket fuel, it bounces microwaves back and forth inside a cone-shaped metal cavity to generate thrust.

According to Shawyer’s calculations, the EM Drive could be so efficient that it could power us to Mars in just 70 days.

But, there’s a not-small problem with the system. It defies Newton’s third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction….

Yet in test after test it continues to work. Last year, NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory team got their hands on an EM Drive to try to figure out once and for all what was going on.

The new peer-reviewed paper is titled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum“, and has been published online as an open access ‘article in advance’ in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)’s Journal of Propulsion and Power. It’ll appear in the December print edition.

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Report Confirms Scientific Benefits of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth's moon. (Credit: NASA)
Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new report provides expert findings from a special action team on how elements of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) can address decadal science objectives and help close Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) for future human missions in deep space.

Read the report online: ARM Connections to the Priority Small Body Science and Exploration Goals.

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PISCES, NASA Team Up for Simulated Human Mars Mission

PISCES’ John Hamilton (r) in the field at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, with two simulation astronauts. (Credit: PISCES)
PISCES’ John Hamilton (r) in the field at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, with two simulation astronauts. (Credit: PISCES)

HILO, Hawaii  (PISCES PR) — This November, PISCES is partnering with NASA’s BASALT research group to conduct a full-scale Mars simulation exercise on the rugged lava terrain in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP). BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains) is one of NASA’s prestigious PSTAR (Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research) grant programs, combining their Science Directorate and Exploration Mission Directorates.

The main goal of BASALT is to develop the mission technologies and protocols necessary for anticipated human missions on the Red Planet. Future Mars astronauts will be able to use these valuable methods to research and operate on the Martian terrain, extracting samples for geologists, geochemists and astro-biologists to search for potential signs of microbial life.

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Detailed Images of Schiaparelli & Descent Hardware on Martian Surface

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — A high-resolution image taken by a NASA Mars orbiter this week reveals further details of the area where the ExoMars Schiaparelli module ended up following its descent on 19 October.

The latest image was taken on 25 October by the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and provides close-ups of new markings on the planet’s surface first found by the spacecraft’s ‘context camera’ last week.

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Musk Talks About Mars Plans, Upgraded Falcon 9 During Reddit AMA

Interplanetary Transport System (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on Sunday afternoon about his Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) and plans to colonize Mars. Musk also provided an update on upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 booster which SpaceX expects to launch for the first time next year.

Below are some key excerpts. You can find the full session here.

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ESA Engineers Try to Determine What Happened to Mars Lander

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 20 October 2016 (ESA PR) — Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

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Musk’s Mars Memes: My Heart Will Go On (Even When Earth is Gone)

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
A hypothetical view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

The first in an occasional series on Elon Musk’s Mars plan.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk’s gigantiastic plan for transporting a million settlers to Mars is based on two basic premises that are alternately hopeful and apocalyptic. One is to have a great adventure while expanding humans out into space. The other is to save humanity from itself.

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ExoMars Orbiter Now Circling Mars, No Contact With Lander

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 19 October 2016 (ESA PR) — The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA’s ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, while contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission’s test lander from the surface.

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