Archive for June, 2019

Wally Funk’s Race for Space: The Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer by Sue Nelson; Chicago Review Press, 2019; hardcover: 256 pages, $26.99

This is a wonderful read, one that underscores politics and prejudice in America’s embryonic human spaceflight program. 

Wally Funk was a trailblazer, among the Mercury 13, the first group of American pilots to complete NASA’s 1961 Women in Space program.

Sue Nelson’s engaging and personal account of Funk’s lifetime pursuit of becoming an astronaut is also a story of tenacity and dogged perseverance. The book’s preface explains that in 2019, the same year as the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Wally Funk will celebrate her 80th birthday.

“During that year,” Nelson writes, “she hopes to finally cash in her ticket with Virgin Galactic for one of the first commercial flights into space. Understandably, she is eager for this new era of space tourism to begin. History, for Wally, will then have come full circle.”

At age 23, Funk and her fellow women astronaut candidates participated in rigorous physical exams – as did the Mercury 7 male candidates. But the program to select female space travelers was suddenly shut down in 1961. NASA declared women could not qualify as astronauts, with the author describing the sexism facing women keen on orbital flight.

Funk went on to become one of America’s first female aviation inspectors and civilian flight instructors, with her dream of being an astronaut never fading and still intact.

The reader will find this book inspirational – a vibrant portrait of Funk’s can-do spirit and stick-to-itness. It’s a retro-fire back into space history and a tell-all tale of the flack that Funk endured.

For more information on Wally Funk’s Race for Space go to:

Credit: Feist/Apollo 11 in Real Time


A unique multimedia website has been launched, one that plays the entire Apollo 11 mission in real time.

Included are 2,000 photographs, 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio, 240 hours of space-to-ground audio, all onboard recorder audio, 15,000 searchable utterances, post-mission commentary, and astromaterials sample data.

The website is the most complete presentation of the mission’s historical film footage ever assembled, explains Ben Feist of NASA JSC/Jacobs-JETS.

Feist, along with archivist, Stephen Slater, produced the website that contains all of the 16mm film that was scanned for the recent film, Apollo 11.

Much of this silent film has had sound added to it for the first time, Feist adds, painstakingly lip synced with restored mission control audio that has been digitized.

Ben Feist, software engineer and historian at NASA JSC and Goddard with Gene Kranz, retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Credit: Ben Feist

The 240-hour cut

The centerpiece of the website is 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio that has been synced to mission time. For any moment in the mission, visitors can open a panel that exposes 50 channels of audio covering every controller position in Mission Control and several other communication loops.

“It’s pretty much guaranteed that visitors will see things that they’ve never seen before,” Feist explains. “All footage is included, not just the popular stuff during landing that has been used over and over. We’ve been jokingly saying that is the 240-hour cut of the Apollo 11 film. It’s the whole thing.”

To access this invaluable website, go to:

Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live

A newly discovered hydrothermal field at the northern Gorda Ridge in the Pacific Ocean has been named the Apollo Vent Field in honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s Moon landing this July.

The SUBSEA (Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog) Research Program team aboard Exploration Vessel Nautilus (E/V Nautilus) tagged the feature. Doing so is fitting since the SUBSEA project isn’t just ocean research – it is also an analog project designed to contribute to the future of space exploration.

Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live

Off-Earth ocean systems

The Apollo vent field offers a rare glimpse into environments that could be windows into ocean systems elsewhere in our Solar System – on moons such as Saturn’s Enceladus and Jupiter’s Europa.

Jupiter’s Europa could be site for water…and life?
Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

SUBSEA is a partnership between NASA Science Mission Directorate’S PSTAR Program, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Ocean Exploration Trust, and multiple academic research centers.

NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) program addresses the need for integrated interdisciplinary field experiments as an integral part of preparation for planned human and robotic missions.

Darlene Lim, served as senior scientist on the Apollo Vent Field investigation. Lim is from NASA Ames/Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI).

Seafloor activity

The target of the 2019 SUBSEA expedition was the Gorda Ridge, discovered offshore of northern California and Oregon.

This section of mid-ocean ridge is of interest to ocean researchers in that it hosts seafloor hydrothermal activity that departs from the convention of “black smoker” hydrothermal systems.

The focus of exploration was the SeaCliff hydrothermal field, which has previously been reported to emit clear fluids at temperatures no greater than 300°C. The emphasis of the dive was on locating the SeaCliff hydrothermal field for the first time in roughly 15 years and then carry out geological reconnaissance of the site to identify its current size and shape and the number of vents present and the range of temperatures for those vents.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Credit: NASA


The SUBSEA Science team utilizes remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) to observe, survey, gather instrument data, and collect samples from analog environments that mimic potential volcanic hydrothermal systems on other ocean worlds, such as Enceladus.

During the SUBSEA field deployment, researchers tested technology and scientific procedures necessary for crewed space exploration. A human-robotic mission to the Moon or Mars might parallel SUBSEA’s mission architecture using robotic explorers controlled by humans nearby, receiving direction from a remote team of scientists.

Ultimately, the results of SUBSEA’s research can inform both strategies for conducting science via teleoperations at destinations such as the Moon or Mars and scientists’ understanding of a wider range of deep-sea environments for conducting ocean world research.

The Apollo Vent Field is part of Gorda Ridge. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live

The SUBSEA team work at the Gorda Ridge built upon the work conducted during the first field program at Lō`ihi Seamount off Hawai’i in 2018.

The E/V Nautilus is operated by the non-profit organization Ocean Exploration Trust, founded in 2008 by Robert Ballard to engage in pure ocean exploration.


To view the newly discovered Apollo Vent Field via a Nautilus Live video, go to:

E/V Nautilus is exploring unknown regions of the ocean seeking out new discoveries in biology, geology, and archaeology. You can join the team 24/7 for live video from the seafloor and to ask questions of the explorers currently aboard Nautilus at:

Also, go to this informative video about the underwater campaign at:

How much did this footprint cost? Credit: NASA

The Planetary Society has released a new Apollo cost analysis, reporting that the effort would cost nearly $300 billion in today’s dollars. The analysis comes in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

As explained in the analysis, the United States spent $264 billion on Project Apollo when adjusted to today’s dollars.

Annual budget

The new analysis by Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society’s Senior Space Policy Adviser, spotlights that the total cost of the lunar effort grows to $288 billion when Project Gemini and the related robotic programs are included.

The United States spent an average of $24 billion per year for Apollo between 1961 and 1972—larger than NASA’s entire current annual budget of $21.5 billion.

Apollo 17’s Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the last man to set foot on the lunar surface, taking part in the 6th human landing on the Moon in December 1972.
Credit: NASA



Resource pages

In addition to the new cost analysis, The Planetary Society also released mission summary resource pages for each Apollo mission.

These mission pages collate high-quality information including per-mission costs, major event timelines, memorable photographs, and links to historical sources such as press kits, videos, and flight journals.



To access this informative analysis and related materials, go to:

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2435, June 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2437 duties.

“We are investigating the ridges which are such a prominent feature in this section of Glen Torridon,” reports Catherine O’Connell, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The ridge, with Mount Sharp in the background. Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The ridges appear to be composed of sand and pebbles, capped with layered bedrock. The Rover Planners (RPs) at JPL assessed the ridge imaged, known as ‘Teal,’ and gave a go for driving up onto it,” O’Connell adds.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Two drives

The ascent by the rover was broken into two drives. “The RPs got us exactly to where we wanted to be for this plan, and we ended up on a very small outcrop of more coherent bedrock, surrounded by pebbles and sand,” O’Connell points out. “Those of us in the Geology theme group were very excited to find ourselves here, as this is the most substantial piece of bedrock we have seen this week.”

Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will analyze the “Iapetus” target on the bedrock, and do a 2-point raster “Almond” across small grey pebbles and sand.

The rover was too close to Iapetus to allow the robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to shoot it with the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) laser without danger to the rover, O’Connell notes, so ChemCam focused on documenting pebbles here, looking at the targets “Angus,” “Braan,” and “Tweed.” A Mastcam multispectral image, using multiple filter types, will examine spectral variability of the pebbles and sand between Tweed and Almond.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Rubbly material

“Before climbing up onto the ridge, Mastcam will take some color imagery, looking at the rubbly material in the lower part of the ridge,” O’Connell reports, “and documenting the transition from the rubbly material to the capping material.”

Curiosity’s drive will hopefully take scientists bedrock, and once there, will acquire imagery (Mastcam and Navcam) of the rover’s new workspace and future drive direction, to be ready for a full week of exploration on top of this ridge when the robot comes back after the weekend.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“Mastcam will also get a post-drive image of the workspace under one of our wheels, as part of a long-running observation of bedrock, pebbles, and soils along our traverse,” O’Connell says.

Environmental sensing

The Environmental theme group (ENV) planned paired Mastcam observations for each sol of the plan, to determine the amount of dust in the crater (“crater rim extinction” measurements) and to measure the optical depth of the atmosphere and constrain aerosol scattering properties (“full tau” measurements).

The Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS) will acquire hourly temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV radiation measurements.

DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons) continues its search for subsurface hydrogen, with frequent passive (utilizing cosmic rays as a source of neutrons to measure hydrogen) and post-drive active (actively shooting neutrons from the rover) measurements.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2436, June 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cloud movies

“Finally, ENV planned a number of movies, used to document clouds and dust devils,” O’Connell concludes. “Zenith” cloud movies look upwards, whilst “suprahorizon” movies look at clouds and variations in optical depth in a more horizontal direction.

“Dust devil movies can give information on surface heating and winds near the surface,” O’Connell adds.

Credit: ISRO

India has announced they plan to construct their own space station.

“Our space station is going to be very small… useful to carry out experiments,” said Kailasavadivoo Sivan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

India space program officials are all thumbs up. Behind them, full scale model of the Gaganyaan crew module.
Credit: ISRO

The orbiting facility, Sivan advised earlier this week, serves as an extension of its Gaganyaan mission; it aims to place New Delhi’s first ever astronauts into orbit by August 2022.

“We have to sustain the Gaganyaan program after the launch of the human space mission,” Sivan explains.

Kailasavadivoo Sivan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Credit: ISRO

Microgravity experiments

According to Indian media sources, a detailed plan for the station will be submitted to the administration of prime minister Narendra Modi. It is expected that, following the Gaganyaan mission, the proposed installation will be put into orbit around 2030.

ISRO hopes to deploy its biggest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), to send three Indians into space from the Sriharikota space port in Andhra Pradesh. GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle using two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster, and a cryogenic upper stage.
Credit: ISRO

Once in Earth orbit, ISRO’s 20-ton (20,000 kilograms) space station is set to facilitate microgravity experiments. Astronauts would be able to stay on board the station for up to 15 to 20 days.

First meeting of Gaganyaan National Advisory Council.
Credit: ISRO



Setting priorities

Meanwhile, the first meeting of Gaganyaan National Advisory Council was held June 8 at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru chaired by Sivan.

“The council deliberated in detail on various aspects of Gaganyaan and appreciated the efforts made in this regard in the fast track mode and Institutional mechanisms put in place by ISRO,” according to a ISRO press statement. “It stressed the need for setting priorities at various National Institutions including Industries to accomplish Gaganyaan.  Many essential aspects of Gaganyaan, especially the life support systems and crew selection and training, were discussed in detail.”

An upshot from the council was emphasis on further accelerating the efforts to realize Gaganyaan “in a very demanding time frame of December 2021 amidst formidable challenges.”










For more information regarding India’s human space initiatives, go to these earlier Inside Outer Space stories:

India Inaugurates Human Space Flight Center

India Puts in Motion Human Spaceflight Plan: Make way for “Vyomnauts”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2434, June 12, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2435 duties.

Reports Mariah Baker, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland: “It’s a good thing that Curiosity doesn’t have any competition on the road as she drives fervently across undulating terrain towards a large geologic ridge of unknown origin…informally named Waypoint 4.”

This Navcam image acquired on sol 2432 shows some of the rubbly terrain in front of Curiosity as well as the “Waypoint 4” ridge we are driving towards (upper right corner).
Curiosity Navcam Right B image acquired on Sol 2432, June 10, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Long drive

Following a long 144 feet (44-meter) drive to put the robot into its current location (on a similar, but smaller ridge), and two more drives of 82 feet (25-meters) were planned for this week to put the rover into a good vantage point for imaging the side of the ridge.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2434, June 12, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“But the team decided to put the pedal to the metal and try to make it to this ridgeline in just one drive. Ridge features are common throughout the Glen Torridon unit, so characterizing the morphology and chemical composition of these ridges can place important constraints on their formation and on the overarching geologic history of this region. This will be the goal of our investigation at Waypoint 4,” Baker says. “Although her current priority is getting to the large ridge as quickly as possible, Curiosity will still conduct science along the way.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2434, June 12, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

End-of-drive location

Various contact science and remote sensing observations are planned, including Chemistry and Camera Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) on the target “Portessie,” and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on target “Smoogro.”

Mastcam stereo images will also be acquired on “Portessie” and “Lossie.”

“Once these activities have concluded, the rover will start her lengthy drive over to Waypoint 4. Post-drive imaging, including standard Navcam, Hazcam, and Mastcam mosaics as well as an extended Navcam upper tier mosaic, will help us assess our end-of-drive location and will provide the first up-close look at the ridge in question,” Baker points out.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona




Road map

A newly released map shows Curiosity’s traverse through Sol 2432.

The map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2432 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (June 10, 2019).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2429 to Sol 2432, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 112.26 feet (34.22 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 12.88 miles (20.73 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Credit: CMSA

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced today the winners of their joint opportunity to conduct experiments on board the China Space Station (CSS).

Six winning projects were selected, and three were conditionally selected. They were carefully evaluated by a team of around 60 experts from UNOOSA, CMSA and the international space community.

Variety of countries

The winning institutions come from a variety of countries, including Belgium, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Switzerland.

Credit: CMSA

The selected winners will have the chance to physically access space by flying their experiment on the CSS, developing their capabilities in space science and technology.

Next call for experiments?

CMSA Director-General, Chun Hao, said in a UNOOSA press statement: CMSA stands ready to help the winning teams prepare and implement their experiments on board of the Station. CMSA is working closely with UNOOSA to further our existing cooperation and create more opportunities to enhance access to space: for example, we are thinking of releasing the next call for experiments in the near future.”

Experiments selected

The following 6 proposals are ACCEPTED:

No. 1: POLAR-2: Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimetry on the China Space Station

This is an experiment project in astronomy in space.It was applied and will be implemented by four institutions from four countries, which are:The University of Geneva from Switzerland, the National Centre for Nuclear Research of Poland,the Max Plank Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics of Germany, and the Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

No. 2: Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas (SING)

This is an experiment in astronomy in space. It was applied and will be implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

No.3: Behaviour of Partially Miscible Fluid in Microgravity

This is an experiment in microgravity fluid physics and combustion. It was applied and will be implemented by two organizations from two countries, namely the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) and the University Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium.

No.4: Flame Instabilities Affected by Vortices and Acoustic Waves (FIAVAW)

This is an experiment project in microgravity fluid physics and combustion. It was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: Tsinghua University from China and the University of Tokyo from Japan.

No.5: Tumours in Space: Signatures of early mutational events due to space-flight conditions on 3D organoid cultures derived from intra-individual healthy and tumour tissue

This is an experiment project in space life sciences and biotechnology. It was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by four institutions from four countries, namely the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, International Space University, Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and the Belgium Nuclear Research Centre.

No. 6: Effect of Microgravity on the Growth and Biofilm Production of Disease-Causing Bacteria

This is an experiment project in space life sciences and bio-technology. It was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by the Mars Society – Peru Chapter, and the Mars Society – Spain Chapter.

Conditionally accepted

The following 3 proposals are CONDITIONALLY ACCEPTED,which signifies that the applicants will be given the opportunity to quickly update their respective excellent proposal, so they fully comply with detailed specifications of the CSS. They are:

No.7: Mid infrared platform for Earth observations

This is an experiment project in Earth science in space. It was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two organizations from one country, which are: the National Institute of Astrophysics Optics and Electronics (INAOE), and Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) from Mexico.

No.8: Development of Multi-Junction GaAs Solar Cells for Space Applications

This is an experiment project in space utilization technology. It was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from one country, which are: the National Centre for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, and the King Abdelaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) from Saudi Arabia.

No. 9: BARIDISANA – High Performance Micro 2-Phase Cooling System for Space Applications

This is an experiment in microgravity fluid physics and combustion. It was applied and will be implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, and the Machakos University in Kenya.


Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is showcasing the modules of the country’s Chandrayaan-2 that is scheduled to be launched between July 9 and 16 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander -Vikram and rover- Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at latitude of about 70° south.

Credit: ISRO

South pole science

The Moon’s south pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas in that area. Lunar cold traps contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.

Credit: ISRO



The booster, GSLV Mk-III, will carry Chandrayaan-2 to its designated orbit. This three-stage vehicle is India’s most powerful launcher to date, and is capable of launching 4-ton class of satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).






Video at:


Credit: Obayashi Corporation of Tokyo, Japan


The Space Elevator is closer than you think.

That’s the topic of a free webinar offered June 14-15 by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).

This online seminar will have four short talks on the concept and the current planning and research to build a space elevator for Earth. The webinar will be presented twice over two days so you can pick the best time that works for you.

Climber makes it way up lengthy space elevator.
Credit: Frank Chase/Chase Design Studios

Register for free for one of the two online sessions below as space is limited.

Register for Session 1 – Friday, June 14, 2019 from 4pm to 8pm PDT (8am to 12pm Sat June 15 Tokyo time zone)


Register for Session 2 – Saturday, June 15, 2019 from 9am to 1pm PDT (6pm to 10pm Central Europe time zone)

Here is the planned agenda for each webinar:

  • Introduction and Welcome by Dennis Wright/John Knapman (10 min)
  • Space Elevators 101 by Pete Swan (45 min)
  • Space Elevator Materials with Focus on Graphene by Adrian Nixon (45 min)
  • Tethers, Space Elevators and Debris by Jerome Pearson (45 min)
  • Space Elevator Research by Dennis Wright/John Knapman (45 min)
  • Q & A (questions from registrants submitted during the webinar) (30 min)
  • Closing by Dennis Wright/John Knapman (10 min)

Go to: