Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Attention Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomer or older generations: space tourism is not an excursion that appeals to everyone.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey:

About four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they would definitely or probably be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft in the future, while roughly six-in-ten (58%) say they would not be interested.

Interest in being a space tourist is higher among younger generations and men. A majority (63%) of Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) say they would definitely or probably be interested in space tourism. Only minorities of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) (39%) and those in the Baby Boomer or older generations (27%) would be interested.

About half of men (51%) say they would be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft, compared with one-third of women (33%).

A look through the open hatch of the Dragon V2 reveals the layout and interior of the seven-crew capacity spacecraft. SpaceX unveiled the new spacecraft during a ceremony at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on May 29, 2014. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Reasons for space travel

Among the 42% of Americans who said they would be interested in traveling into space, the most common reason given (by 45% of those asked) was to “experience something unique.” Smaller shares of this group said they would want to be able to view the Earth from space (29%) or “learn more about the world” (20%).

Among the 58% who said they would not want to orbit the Earth aboard a spacecraft, equal shares said the main reason was that such a trip would be either “too expensive” (28% of those asked) or “too scary” (28%) or that their age or health wouldn’t allow it (28%).


Too expensive, too scary

Men and women and older and younger Americans cited different reasons for why they would not want to travel into space.

Millennials and Gen Xers were more likely to say the main reason they would not be interested was that it would be too expensive or too scary.

But for Baby Boomers and older generations, the most common reason they would not be interested in orbiting the Earth was that their age or health would not allow it (of those who were asked this question, 45% of those in the Baby Boomer or older generations said this, compared with 6% of Millennials).

Men were more likely than women to say the main reason they would not be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft was that it would be too expensive (37% vs. 22%), but women were more inclined than men to say they would not want to go because it would be too scary (34% vs. 18%).

Off-world colonies

Americans were also asked about their expectations for space tourism in the next 50 years.

The public is split over whether this will happen, with half saying that people will routinely travel in space as tourists by 2068 and half saying this will not happen.

Americans are more skeptical about the possibility of colonies on other planets – an endeavor championed by space entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

About one-third of Americans (32%) say people will build colonies on other planets that can be lived in for long periods by 2068.

To read the entire survey, written by the Pew Center’s Mark Strauss and Brian Kennedy, go to:

Also, go to the Pew Center’s new survey “Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the U.S. Remain a Global Leader in Space” at:

A close-up image of a 2-inch-deep hole produced using a new drilling technique for NASA’s Curiosity rover. The hole is about 0.6 inches (1.6 centimeters) in diameter. This image was taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2057. It has been white-balanced and contrast-enhanced.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now wrapping up Sol 2074 duties.

Curiosity rover scientists received the happy news that the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite received enough sample to conduct its “evolved gas” analysis of the powdered rock from the “Duluth” drill hole!

“This will allow the team to study the composition of Duluth and search for clues about the habitability of Gale Crater billions of years ago,” explains Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It also fully validates the new sample drop off routines that were created to work with our new ‘feed-extended drilling’ technique.”

After a busy several sols where Curiosity’s onboard laboratories got back in action, the rover’s plan of action was relatively quiet with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) analysis of rock targets “Little Marais” and “Independence,” and some housekeeping activities from SAM following its investigations sols ago.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo acquired on Sol 2074, June 7, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Dust storm

Guzewich reports that the environmental science theme group is monitoring a growing large dust storm on the other side of Mars.

“To help keep tabs on if and when this storm begins to impact Gale Crater, we added two observations with Mastcam to monitor the amount of dust in the atmosphere and a short Navcam dust devil survey,” Guzewich adds.

Amount of dust in Gale crater is likely to increase over the next several days and viewing of the crater’s rim will become far hazier.
Photo taken by Curiosity Mastcam Left camera on Sol 2072, June 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We expect that even if the storm dissipates before becoming a global dust storm,” Guzewich points out, “that the amount of dust in Gale will increase over the next several days,” with the view of the crater’s rim becoming far hazier.

International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness convened a hearing entitled “Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives,” on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

The second in a series of hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing provided ISS stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration.


Golden era 

Commerce Committee ranking member, Bill Nelson, said in an opening statement:

“This November will mark twenty years since the Russians launched the Zarya module into space. NASA launched the Unity module two weeks later, and so began assembly of the International Space Station.

Now, we are on the verge of a golden era for the ISS. Boeing and SpaceX are set to begin launching crew from Cape Canaveral to the ISS next year. That will allow us to increase the number of astronauts aboard the station and dramatically increase the amount of research we can do there.

Ratcheting up use of 3D printing onboard the International Space Station. NASA Astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore holds a 3-D printed ratchet wrench from the new 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station. The printer completed the first phase of a NASA technology demonstration by printing a tool with a design file that was transmitted from the ground to the printer.
Credit: NASA

It’s taken the dedication of countless workers at Kennedy Space Center, at Johnson Space Center and in countries all over the world to get to this point.

Through 2030

Thanks to their efforts, the ISS is performing well and should keep functioning through 2030 or even longer.

Now is the time to reap the benefits of all of that effort and to maximize the return from our investment in ISS.

There is a strong, bipartisan consensus that we need a steady and deliberate commercialization of activities in low Earth orbit. That transition depends on the development of demand for services in low Earth orbit by non-NASA entities.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson works on the Combustion Integrated Rack in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.
Credit: NASA

Arbitrary end date

Setting an arbitrary end date for the ISS in 2025 isn’t going to help build demand for these types of activities. To the contrary, it could crush the demand.

Who would want to make large, multi-year investments in space research and development activities if they have no assurance there will be a platform in orbit on which to carry out their activities?

What about the commercial crew and cargo capabilities that we are investing so heavily in right now?  What would happen to them if there is no certainty that they will have a destination just a few years after they first get started?

Credit: China Manned Space Agency

China station

The Chinese certainly realize this. I suspect it is no accident that, within a few months of the administration’s proposal to end federal funding for ISS in 2025, the Chinese announced that their space station will soon be open for business. Just last week they invited countries around the world to conduct research aboard their station beginning in the 2020s.

And the research capabilities they advertise – medical sample analysis, combustion science, freezers, a science glovebox – sound remarkably similar to the ISS.

Cultivate demand

One day, low Earth orbit may be filled with commercial space stations serving NASA and other government and private sector customers. And NASA will be leading a human mission to Mars.

The ISS isn’t an obstacle to those developments – the ISS is the key to enabling them.

I am looking forward to today’s discussion on how the ISS can help cultivate the demand for new space activities and accelerate the development of commercial space habitats.”

Video of hearing:


Witnesses and written testimony


Cynthia Bouthot

Director of Commercial Innovation & Sponsored Programs, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space


Jim Chilton

Senior Vice President

Space and Launch, The Boeing Company


Bob Mitchell


Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership


Michael Suffredini

Chief Executive Officer and President

Axiom Space

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo acquired on Sol 2071, June 4, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is deep into Sol 2073 science operations.

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, reports that the focus of Curiosity operations continues to be on the analysis of the Duluth drill sample.

The latest Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite Evolved Gas Analysis (EGA) was scheduled for the evening of Sol 2072, so the results of that analysis have not been received yet.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2069, June 1, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Improve the statistics

Both SAM and the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) analyses require significant power, and can therefore not typically be scheduled on the same day.

“So today it’s CheMin’s turn to analyze the the Duluth sample again, to improve the statistics of the X-ray diffraction measurements,” Herkenhoff advises.


The uplink team was also able to squeeze in a few daytime observations before the overnight CheMin analysis: Right Mastcam images of Noodle Lake, the Duluth drill tailings, and the portion drop area to look for changes due to winds, Mastcam images of the Sun to measure dust opacity, and a Navcam zenith movie to look for clouds.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 2072, June 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


“These observations should be helpful in determining the frequency, strength, and direction of winds near the surface and high above the rover,” Herkenhoff explains. “Such information will be very useful if the science team decides to drop another sample portion into either CheMin or SAM using the new sample transfer technique, as high winds can disperse the portion before it makes it into the instruments.”

Credit: Esri

Esri, a leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, has created Satellite Map – an application that maps the current location of about 14,000 human made objects orbiting the Earth.

The application is driven by data sourced from, which is maintained by the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, and allows you to intersect with over 16,500 space objects.

A Preset dropdown menu allows you to select a subset of satellites, for example, Russian or low earth orbit satellites.

The buttons and sliders below the Preset dropdown can be used to build your own selection or refine a preset selection. It is possible to construct quite complex selections, for example, American satellites in low earth orbit (apogee/perigee <2,000km) that are not junk.

Clicking on an individual satellite in the 3d view will display a panel with detailed information. Links to NASA’s website are provided for additional information. In addition to displaying name and orbital details, the 3d view displays the satellite’s future trajectory with respect to the Earth’s surface. By default the trajectory is for one day but this can be changed to either one hour or one week.

Space junk

Perhaps the most surprising fact for users of this application is the large proportion of orbital objects classified as junk. Approximately 3/4 of human made objects are spent rocket boosters or debris from satellite collisions.

It is important to note that satellite positions are derived from an ephemeris database downloaded in May, 2015. As such this app will not display satellites launched since then or reflect intentionally or unintentionally orbital adjustments. Similarly atmospheric friction and gravitational forces are likely to influence orbital position. However the different between projected and actual position is unlikely to be perceptible at the scale used.

Go to:

Curiosity drill bit positioned over the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) inlet as part of the new Feed Extended Sample Transfer (FEST) drop-off technique.
Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2068, June 1, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is wrapping up Sol 2072 duties.

Reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California: “Every single day that the Curiosity team gets to go into work and operate a one-ton rover on the surface of Mars is a good day. But last Friday was not just your typical good day — it was a very, very, very good day.”

Adding a personal opinion, Fraeman adds “it was probably one of the top five most excellent planning days we’ve had on the mission to date.” Early Friday morning the science team learned that the Feed Extended Sample Transfer (FEST) drop-off of the “Duluth” drill sample to Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) had worked. “This means we had enough rock powder in the instrument to measure its mineralogy.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2071, June 4, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Critical step

Most importantly, now that Curiosity controllers demonstrated this critical step on Mars, the team can officially say that Curiosity’s drilling and sample transfer capabilities have been restored.

“This represents a huge accomplishment for the tireless engineers who’ve worked over a year to learn to operate the vehicle in a way it was never designed to work,” Fraeman explains. It’s also an extremely exciting time for the science team, as scientists are eager to learn the key information CheMin and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite will provide and further unravel the history of Gale Crater.

FESTive spirit

“The scientists and engineers at JPL celebrated this accomplishment with a joyous afternoon cookie break,” Fraeman notes.

Duluth drill sample analysis activities were to continue in the sol 2070-2072 plan.

“Since we now know we have successfully delivered to CheMin, SAM is up next. Our main activity for the weekend plan was a preconditioning of SAM and the sample dropoff using the FEST technique,” Fraeman says. “We also squeezed in some remote sensing science of our local area.”

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo acquired on Sol 2072, June 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Change detection imagery

On sol 2070 the plan called for acquiring Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS) observations of targets named “Little Marais” and “Bartlett,” and a Mastcam change detection image of an area where the robot dropped a previous portion of the drill sample on the ground.

Also planned is to take a Mastcam tau (dust monitoring) observation on sol 2070, followed up with a Navcam dust devil movie, dust devil survey, and suprahorizon and zenith movies on sol 2071, Fraeman concludes.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2072, June 5, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Apollo 15’s David Scott performed a seat belt assault during his 1971 mission to the Moon.
Credit: NASA

On Wednesday, May 30th, NASA held the “Transformative Lunar Science” talks in the James Webb auditorium at NASA Headquarters. Hosted by Dr. James Green, NASA Chief Scientist, the talks discussed cutting-edge science that is transforming our understanding of the Moon, and what we can still learn from our nearest neighbor.

The talks included a panel discussion with Mr. David Schurr, Deputy Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, and Dr. Jason Crusan, Director of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division.

Credit: NASA

A panel discussion on the future of lunar science and exploration, including description of Apollo 15’s “Seat Belt Assault,” involved three preeminent lunar scientists — Dr. Carlé M. Pieters, (Brown University) spoke about the lunar water cycle; Dr. Robin Canup, (Southwest Research Institute) talked about the origin of the Earth-Moon system; Dr. David Kring, (USRA Lunar and Planetary Institute) spoke about how the Moon can reveal the chronology of the Solar System.

The Q&A was moderated by Dr. James W. Head III (Brown University).

Go to:

Credit: Via NASA/JPL

Just in time for “Asteroid Day” on June 29th!

A small asteroid discovered on Saturday disintegrates hours later over Southern Africa

As noted in a JPL release: “A boulder-sized asteroid designated 2018 LA was discovered Saturday morning, June 2, and was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away. Because it was very faint, the asteroid was estimated to be only about 6 feet (2 meters) across, which is small enough that it was expected to safely disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. Saturday’s asteroid was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson and operated by the University of Arizona.”

Match up

Although there was not enough tracking data to make precise predictions ahead of time, notes the JPL statement, a swath of possible locations was calculated stretching from Southern Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and onto New Guinea.

Reports of a bright fireball above Botswana, Africa early Saturday evening match up with the predicted trajectory for the asteroid.

Bright fireball

This object penetrated Earth’s atmosphere at the high speed of 10 miles per second (38,000 mph, or 17 kilometers per second and disintegrated several miles above the surface, creating a bright fireball that lit up the evening sky.

Infrasound data collected just after the impact clearly detected the event from one of the listening stations deployed as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The signal is consistent with an atmospheric impact over Botswana.

The event was witnessed by a number of observers and was caught on webcam video here:

The Jezero Crater delta, a well-preserved ancient river delta on Mars. New research suggests sedimentary rocks made of compacted mud or clay, like those found in the Jezero Crater delta, are the most likely to contain microbial fossils.



A candidate landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is being flagged as a prime spot for finding fossils on Mars. A duty of that robotic mission is to collect rock samples to be returned to Earth for analysis by a future mission.

A team led by a University of Edinburgh researcher has determined that sedimentary rocks made of compacted mud or clay are the most likely to contain fossils. These rocks are rich in iron and a mineral called silica, which helps preserve fossils.

New planetary prowler – the NASA Mars 2020 rover – scouring the Red Planet for select samples for eventual return to Earth.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Wet past

On Mars, Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. Water filled and drained away from the crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater after the lake dried up. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed sediments.

NASA Mars 2020 rover is designed to collect samples, store the specimens in tubes, then deposit the tubes on the surface for later pick-up.
Credit: NASA/ESA

Fossils of microbes

A new review study – “A Field Guide to Finding Fossils on Mars” – was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. It sheds light on where fossils of microbes, if they exist, might be preserved on the Red Planet.

This paper reviews the rocks and minerals on Mars that could potentially host fossils or other signs of ancient life preserved since Mars was warmer and wetter billions of years ago.

Earth’s fossil record

The research team applied recent results from the study of Earth’s fossil record and fossilization processes, and from the geological exploration of Mars by rovers and orbiters, in order to select the most favored targets for astrobiological missions to Mars.

They conclude that mudstones rich in silica and iron‐bearing clays currently offer the best hope of finding fossils on Mars and should be prioritized, but that several other options warrant further research. They also recommend further experimental work on how fossilization processes operate under conditions analogous to early Mars.

Newly selected helicopter for the Mars 2020 rover can extend the exploration zone of the rover’s landing location.

Prioritize promising deposits

The study, led by Sean McMahon of the UK Centre for Astrobiology, School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, also involved researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University in the U.S.

“There are many interesting rock and mineral outcrops on Mars where we would like to search for fossils, but since we can’t send rovers to all of them we have tried to prioritize the most promising deposits based on the best available information,” said McMahon.

For the free access research paper, go to:

Callisto, a reusable first stage demonstrator.
Credit: CNES via

The French space agency, CNES, is exploring reusable rockets.

Jean-Marc Astorg, the head of CNES’ launch vehicles directorate recently gave a technical talk on Europe’s response to U.S. reusable launchers and its plans for the future. Also detailed: the pros and cons of reuse; Callisto, a reusable first stage demonstrator; an overview of worldwide development efforts, including China’s work on developing a reusable launcher too: Long March 8-R, to be ready for 2028.

Credit: CNES via










This article posted on is a translated transcript of what he said, illustrated by slides shown during the presentation.

Griffith Observatory Event