Weekend Reading: Spaceport America, SpaceX, LightSail 2 & More

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility in October 2011. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Dream a Little Dream of Me: SpaceX’s launch of Bangladesh’s “dream” satellite, Bangabandhu 1, has them celebrating in Dhaka. https://www.thedailystar.net/science/space-science/bangladesh-bd-first-commercial-satellite-bangabandhu-1-on-way-orbit-after-successful-launch-space-spacex-florida-us-1575244

Musk’s Big Promises for F9 B2: Crazy Elon’s prices are so low they’re insane! https://www.investors.com/news/spacex-elon-musk-predictions-reusable-falcon9-lower-costs/

A Shot of Maple Syrup, Coming Right Up: Nick Rose samples the cuisine for David Saint-Jacques’ upcoming mission to the International Space Station. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nekwyz/canada-astronaut-food-david-saint-jacques-perspective-space

All Quiet on the Spaceport Front: Maggie Grimason visits Truth or Consequences and finds patience is wearing thin. https://undark.org/article/spaceport-america-new-mexico/

Let there be LightSail: Jason Davis has an update on The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2, whose launch aboard Falcon Heavy is now set for the Fall.
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2018/20180511-lightsail2-launch-slip.html

Kenya Enters the CubeSat Age: A homegrown satellite is launched from the International Space Station. https://qz.com/1275698/kenya-to-launch-first-satellite-into-space/

Opposition to Nye’s State of the Union Attendance Grows

Bill Nye (Credit: Montclair Film Festival)

The criticism of the decision by The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address tonight at the invitation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has grown to include a petition and an opinion piece in a prominent scientific publication.

An online petition urging Nye to cancel his plans started by ClimateHawkVote had garnered 35,790 signatures, more the 35,000 it was seeking. The petition reads:

President Donald Trump is a bigoted climate denier. So is Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s embattled nominee for NASA Administrator. So why is Bill Nye “very pleased” to be Bridenstine’s guest at Trump’s first State of the Union address?

Bill, please be the Science Guy, not the Bigoted Climate Denial Guy. Cancel your plans to attend Trump’s State of the Union as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest.

An opinion piece in Scientific American by the organization 500 Women Scientists disagrees with Nye’s claim that he is not endorsing Bridenstine, the Trump Administration or their science policies by attending the annual address.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education….

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.

Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

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LightSail Falls Silent Again as Battery Problem Suspected

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

UPDATE: Ground controllers have received data packets from the satellite. They’re now analyzing them and planning their next move, which could be deployment of the solar sail.

It’s not looking good again for The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft. After losing communications with the ground and then regaining it, the experimental CubeSat again fell silent after what appeared to be the successful deployment of its solar panels.

In an e-mail summary sent this afternoon, mission manager David Spencer said before contact was lost, LightSail’s batteries did not appear to be drawing current from the solar arrays; nor were they properly shunting power to the spacecraft’s subsystems.

“Following solar panel deployment,” he wrote, “it was noticed that all of the battery cells were drawing near zero current. This indicated that the batteries were likely in a fault condition stemming from the solar panel deployment event.”

Unless controllers can get the spacecraft online, it will not be possible to deploy the spacecraft’s solar sail.

Planetary Society Regains Contact With LightSail

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Ca., May 30, 2015 (Planetary Society PR) — After a successful launch into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral, The Planetary Society’s LightSail™ spacecraft went silent after two days of communications. The solar sailing spacecraft test mission, a precursor to a 2016 mission, has now resumed contact after a suspected software glitch affected communications. The LightSail team will soon determine when to attempt deployment of the spacecraft’s Mylar® solar sails.

Bill Nye (The Science Guy), CEO at The Planetary Society, issued the following statement:

“Our LightSail called home! It’s alive! Our LightSail spacecraft has rebooted itself, just as our engineers predicted. Everyone is delighted. We were ready for three more weeks of anxiety. In this meantime, the team has coded a software patch ready to upload. After we are confident in the data packets regarding our orbit, we will make decisions about uploading the patch and deploying our sails— and we’ll make those decisions very soon. This has been a rollercoaster for us down here on Earth, all the while our capable little spacecraft has been on orbit going about its business. In the coming two days, we will have more news, and I am hopeful now that it will be very good.”

For in-depth coverage of LightSail’s test and 2016 missions, follow embedded reporter, Jason Davis at planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis.

ULA to Launch X-37B, LightSail on Wednesday

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B spacecraft and The Planetary Society’s LightSail prototype will share a ride into space from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday aboard an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster. NASA will also conduct a materials sciences experiment aboard the X-37B.

The launch window opens at 10:45 a.m. EDT and runs until 2:45 p.m. EDT. ULA will webcast the launch at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

The weather forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

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Secret Workshop Reaches Consensus on Human Mars Mission; Details to Follow

Mars_Soil
Washington, D.C., April 2, 2015 (Planetary Society PR)
– The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) and members of the Society’s Board of Directors today announced results of the ”Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop. The goal of the workshop was to gather expert science, engineering, and policy professionals to build consensus on the key elements of a long-term, cost constrained, executable program to send humans to Mars.

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Planetary Society Says NASA Budget Proposal Inadequate

Planetary_Society_LogoPASADENA, Calif. (TPS PR) — The Planetary Society cannot fully support the FY2015 NASA Budget Request. While there are some positive aspects—particularly the newfound openness to exploring Europa and the continued science operations of most high-priority planetary missions—the request imposes unacceptable cuts to the Science Mission Directorate that damage the immediate and long-term health of some of NASA’s most successful programs, particularly planetary exploration. If this budget is passed unchanged, there will be fewer planetary missions in development by 2019 than at any point in the past few decades (Fig. 1).

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Planetfest 2012 to Celebrate Curiosity Landing

The Planetary Society is holding its Planetfest Event this Saturday and Sunday in Pasadena to celebrate the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover. The details:

August 4, 2012, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
August 5, 2012, 2:00 pm – 11:30 pm or later

Pasadena Convention Center
300 E. Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

Tickets

The program will feature leaders in space exploration, including:  Charles Elachi, Director of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Bill Nye (the Science Guy®); planetary vulcanologist Rosaly Lopes; Jim Bell, PanCam lead on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and member of the Curiosity team; Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla; Mars rover driver Scott Maxwell; NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green; former “Mars Czar” Scott Hubbard; Star Trek™ actor Robert Picardo; historian Shelley Bonus; author and space historian Andrew Chaikin; space artists; and private space entrepreneurs.

In addition to this full schedule, both days will have the following ongoing events and displays:

  • Touch a piece of Mars: A fragment of a real martian meteorite discovered in Sultanate of Oman.
  • See a full-size mockup of the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital vehicle
  • A space-themed art show with over 50 works of art including 4 original pieces just for Planetfest.
  • Hands-on science activities for kids of all ages (build your own Martian sundial, dirty comets workstation, First Robotics demonstrations)
  • A full-size model of the Curiosity rover that will land on Mars
  • Demonstrations and hands-on workstations for NASA Eyes on the Solar System and Google Mars
  • XBoxes with the Mars Rover Landing Game
  • The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) used in the current Mars rover mission and other future tech from Honeybee Robotics
  • A room full of presentations and displays about the future of space from our sponsors.

Get more information.

Bill Nye, Lou Friedman to Discuss New Space Plan on Webchat

Where Should We Go in Space?
Tell Bill Nye During a Live Ustream Chat

“Tell us where you want to go in space!” said Bill Nye, slated to take the reins as the Planetary Society’s new executive director.

Nye will join Louis Friedman, the Society’s current executive director, on July 14, 2010 to talk with the public about The New NASA Plan — Destinations, during a live interactive video event on Ustream.

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Groups Praise SpaceX for Successful Falcon 9 Flight

The National Space Society, the Planetary Society, and the Space Foundation all issued statements praising SpaceX for the first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket on Friday.

NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on a successful first launch of their Falcon 9 rocket, The launch payload for this test flight was the aerodynamic test article for the Dragon cargo and crew module.

Gary Barnhard, Executive Director of the National Space Society, said, “This is another milestone in the annals of spaceflight.  By successfully launching a multi-engine, multi-stage rocket of their own design and manufacture with a payload to Low Earth Orbit, SpaceX has taken a bold step forward.  Make no mistake about it, building rockets is not a forgiving business.  Their successful flight is a testament to SpaceX’s concerted efforts to get it right.  The eyes of the world were on them and they did get it right.”

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Druyan: Solar Sail Could be “Kitty Hawk” Moment

solarsail_msfc

Space.com has an interesting interview with writer-producer Ann Druyan, who is the widow of Carl Sagan. She talks about the Apollo program and her hopes for the future of America’s space program.

S: Do you have any particular space endeavors in mind?

A: I would love to see personally – and have been working as hard as I can on the notion of – solar sailing. This is something that could be tremendously cost-effective, because solar sailing is a way to move through the cosmos at speeds unprecedented. You know Voyager moves at 38,000 miles an hour, which is very impressive and extremely fast to us. But of course the cosmos is so very big that that won’t get you very far. Solar sailing is a way to move ten times faster.

I’ve been working with the Planetary Society for the last decade trying to launch a solar sailing mission precisely because I believe it would be a Kitty Hawk moment for space exploration. It would thrill me to see a very ambitious program of solar sail research, because I think that that would give us an edge, and I think we want that feeling again of being on the cutting edge.

Read the full interview.