Archive for May, 2020

How best to gauge the value and use of space-based capabilities and our reliance on space, sector by sector?

A new study released by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) delves into uses of more than 2,200 active satellites that support earthly infrastructure, economies, and national security systems.

The study explains that, with the help of space-based services, utility companies synchronize energy flows across the grid, stock market exchanges record transactions, oceanographers track endangered whales, while scientists monitor the climate and farmers increase crop yields.

Use of satellite services for agricultural applications.

Communications satellites let air traffic controllers manage planes in crowded airspace, remote-sensing satellites reveal what is happening on Earth’s surface in near real-time, and weather satellites give us a better chance of having an umbrella when we need it.

Frenzy of technological change

“In this frenzy of technological change and policy debate,” the study explains, “it is important to remember the immense value that space provides.”

Use of GPS for product shipping and delivery.


“Space-based communications, navigation, weather, and remote sensing services make our daily lives better, and contribute to saving Space-based services have become fundamental to daily life, but there’s more going on in space than you may realize,” the volume explains. “How does our modern world rely on space?”


On the horizon

As for new space-based services…there is more to come.

“Just as it was difficult to foresee the myriad uses of GPS in the late 1980s, it’s hard to imagine how this fresh flood of commercial space data will affect the economy, the military, and daily life,” the study points out.

To access this informative report — The Value of Space – go to:

NASA has orchestrated the Artemis Accords that sets the stage for America returning to the Moon.
Credit: NASA


NASA is trumpeting a set of principles tagged as the “Artemis Accords” – a set of ideals for a “safe, peaceful, and prosperous future” that the agency envisions to return to and utilize the moon while inviting other nations to sign up if they want to partner with the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the Space Policy Directive – 1 after signing it, directing NASA to return to the Moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani


The Accords stem from NASA’s Artemis program, catapulted into being by U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House and a National Space Council edict to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. Artemis involves activities in cislunar space — between the Earth and the Moon — in orbit around Earth’s moon, as well as smack dab on the lunar landscape.

For a detailed look at the Accords by lawyers, policy makers, a space military expert and a moonwalker, go to my new Scientific American story:

NASA Proposes New Rules for Moon-Focused Space Race

The Artemis Accords could ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for lunar exploration—if everyone agrees to them

By Leonard David on May 21, 2020

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.
(Image: © NAO/FAST)


Researchers using China’s new Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) telescope — the largest single-dish telescope in the world — are piecing together a technological strategy to carry out a major and sweeping search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is an international, collaborative affair. SETI scientist Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley, co-authored a recent paper on China’s SETI program with the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST). He is shown here with other FAST SETI collaborators, including the paper’s lead author, Zhi-Song Zhang, to his left. (Image credit: Dan Werthimer)


What are the consequences of China first claiming they have found other star folk and how would such a Chinese claim be verified? Might there be an unofficial race between nations to declare a signal breakthrough?



For more details, go to my newly posted story:

Ready, SETI, go: Is there a race to contact E.T.?

This image is a view of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) inlet before dropping off the “Glasgow” drill sample.
Photo taken by Curiosity Mast Camera Left on Sol 2765, May 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2769 tasks.

Curiosity is still busy at “Glasgow” with the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite analyzing the drill sample in an upcoming plan, reports Susanne Schwenzer, a planetary geologist at The Open University, Milton Keynes, in the U.K.

This image shows the ChemCam target “Gutcher” and was taken by Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imaging (RMI) camera on Sol 2768 May 20, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

“This takes a lot of the rover’s power, thus other activities have to wait just a little,” Schwenzer explains. “But we are all looking forward to what SAM will find, so patience isn’t a problem at all!”

Mineralogy questions

Questions those SAM analysis can answer, from a mineralogist point of view are: “How much water does this sample release when heated?” and “How much sulphur does this sample release?” – both of which are very important additions to the information we get for mineralogy from the robot’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) and for chemistry from ChemCam and APXS.

Despite the power going mostly to SAM, there are two ChemCam activities planned.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imaging (RMI) camera photo taken on Sol 2768 May 20, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Target “Glenapp” will be used for ChemCam pointing test. “Since the instrument is looking at tiny, tiny things on Mars, the team is going to use this activity to even better understand the accuracy with which the laser hits its target,” Schwenzer notes.

The second target, “Bowhill,” is a float rock that could come from the pediment, at least that’s how it looks to today’s planning team.

“ChemCam will investigate it, so we can be sure by comparing the chemistry of the pediment rocks and this one,” Schwenzer reports.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2768, May 20, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Mastcam is slated to document ChemCam targets, looking at “Glowhill,” “Gutcher,” “Thistle Street,” “Lochbuie,” and “Glasgow.”

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2768, May 20, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sand patch

The robot’s Mastcam will also investigate a sand patch near the rover to add to the science on modern sediments that the team has been doing throughout the mission.

And then Mars researchers start to “stare into the distance,” Schwenzer says.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2767, May 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2768, May 20, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On the schedule is a Navcam line of sight, and Navcam suprahorizon and zenith movies, and then a look for dust devils, too, Schwenzer concludes. All this will allow the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) team to assess the status of the atmosphere and its dust load.

Credit: Scaled Composites

Burt Rutan is a legendary American aerospace designer and entrepreneur noted for his innovations and dynamism, from creating light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft to his sub-orbital spaceplane design, the SpaceShipOne. That craft in 2004 became the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space, winning the Ansari X-Prize that year for achieving the feat twice within a two-week period.

Pioneering SpaceShipOne on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Credit: NASM/Eric Long

In reaction to watching a Hollywood-style video of the upcoming SpaceX/NASA May 27th Demo-2 mission four times, — — the now retired Rutan says he remembers what NASA did during its first decade and had to comment, sharing with Inside Outer Space this communiqué.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley in preparation for their upcoming flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
Credit: NASA

Rutan had four comments on the Demo-2 mission:


“The present situation is not exciting, it’s embarrassing. This mission will represent the first time that America will launch humans to space in nine years.  Hmmmm……. exactly the same time period it took America to go from the 10-minute sub-orbital flight of Alan Shepard to a round trip to the surface of the Moon,” Rutan said.

“Media coverage of Demo-2 will likely focus on the tremendous technical breakthroughs and the huge bravery of the two NASA astronauts. But they might not point out the embarrassment of the last nine years. Today’s media seems to never do the research on their stories,” he added.


“Compare the Demo-2 mission to the two-place Gemini program which developed the rendezvous tasks needed for Apollo. Gemini/Titan flew ten manned space flights, the first in March 1965 and the tenth in November 1966. I will be impressed with the performance of today’s NASA/SpaceX/Boeing efforts only when they significantly beat the flight rate Gemini achieved (a manned space flight every two months) 50+ years ago,” Rutan noted.

Credit: SpaceX/Screengrab


“Now, let’s count the new important breakthroughs and capabilities of space launch that have been achieved the last half century: 1) Reuse of the rocket booster’s first stage. This huge breakthrough was accomplished only because SpaceX funded the effort, was willing to take the risk it might not work (a risk that NASA and Boeing were not willing to take) and pressed on in spite of multiple failures.  2) ……crickets………,” Rutan added.


“I cannot fail to comment on the selection of the mission name,” Rutan points out.  “One might think America’s first space mission that finally frees us from paying exorbitant fees to Russia to launch our astronauts on their rocket design that first flew [piloted] in 1967, would command a better name than ‘Demo-2.’ Hell, this is an important milestone, not just some numbered ‘test demo.’ The guy responsible for the name of this mission should be looking for another job, and not one requiring creative marketing skills,” Rutan remarked.

Credit: NASA

Market share

In closing comments, Rutan said that no one familiar with what was done back then can be proud of our current situation. 

“That said, I am now optimistic about the space future because it might finally be driven by real competition among those who do it for profit. The incentive for market share will result in things being done in the most dollar-efficient and quickest possible way,” Rutan suggested.

“Left only to Government, I might not live to see another Moon landing and my six great grandchildren might not live to see us colonize another planet to protect our species from another extinction that would occur due to asteroid/comet impact on Earth,” Rutan concluded.

A new freely-available anthology released by the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) delves into probing questions about microbial life on Mars and elsewhere to all the way to the Fermi Paradox: Where are they?

The anthology, titled Strangest of All (a nod to H. G. Wells’s War of The Worlds), was edited by the author, editor and scientist Julie Novakova – an award-winning Czech author of science fiction and detective stories.

The book contains reprint science fiction stories by G. David Nordley, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Peter Watts and D. A. Xiaolin Spires, plus a bonus story by the editor.

Strangest of All is the first of major outreach projects coming from the EAI.

The anthology can be downloaded for free in several formats.

Go to:

The return capsule of the trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China space officials are detailing use of the country’s new-generation spacecraft to support human missions to the Moon.

The return capsule of the trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship is under intensive study after touching down at the Dongfeng landing site, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, on May 8, 2020.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The spacecraft was first transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and then to Beijing, reports China Central Television (CCTV).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Follow-up development

Scientists at the Fifth Academy under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) — the place where the capsule was developed and produced – are collecting and analyzing the capsule for follow-up development of China’s new-generation manned spacecraft.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab


“We have experienced a lot of setbacks and hard work,” said Yang Feng, Party branch secretary of the general department of manned spaceflight testing center in the Fifth Academy under CASC.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“The spaceship, including the return capsule, was made by ourselves…it has returned to the place where it came into being, and I am very happy,” said Yang Qing, chief designer of the new-generation experimental manned spaceship.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Thermal-protective coating

The new thermal-protective material adopted on the return capsule for the first time has withstood the high temperature caused by its reentry into the earth atmosphere.

Zhang Bainan, Chief Designer of the Spacecraft System Project Leader of China’s Manned Space Program and also project leader of the new-generation experimental manned spaceship, paid much attention to the situation of the thermal-protective coating bottom.

“This thermal-protective material is of our own intellectual property rights, and it worked particularly well in integrity, much better than before. We will do detailed analysis for these materials,” Zhang said.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Space experiment results

Next, scientists will conduct professional inspection on the appearance of the capsule, collect and analyze relevant data to verify the return capsule’s reusable performance. Meanwhile, they will also conduct research on the space experiment results brought back by the capsule, so as to provide further technological base for the overall plan of the new-generation manned spacecraft.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“We will verify the deformation of the metal structure to confirm whether it is reusable. We will also take a sample of the ablated thermal-protective material outside and conduct an electrical test on the whole cabin to confirm the reusable performance of the electronic equipment in the cabin,” said Liu Yan, electricity chief designer of the new-generation experimental manned spaceship.

Credit: CCTV/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Lunar ambitions

“The new-generation spacecraft can not only offer transportation services for building the space station, but also realize the goal of manned lunar landing. It is designed for the manned lunar landing mission,” explained Zhang. “Now we are keeping pace with the U.S., instead of always following it like before.”

Go to this China Central Television (CCTV) video titled “China’s new crewed spacecraft is designed for lunar missions,” at:

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera Sol 2764 May 16, 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2768 tasks.

Reports Sean Czarnecki, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, Curiosity is at the “Glasgow” drill site, and preparing to deliver more sample material from Glasgow to the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite in the near future.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left Sol 2765 May 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSS

Take a break

“The SAM analysis will use a lot of power, so we’re limiting our power use in this plan to let the batteries charge up,” Czarnecki adds. “Even the most curious field geologists have to take a break every day to eat lunch and Curiosity does the same, although with a considerably more energy dense meal! But just like a geologist on lunch break, Curiosity is still making some useful science observations of the surrounding rocks!”

Czarnecki explains that the rover’s Mastcam will take stereo images of “Western Butte,” then its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will measure the geochemistry of “Loch Olabhat 2” followed by a Mastcam image of this target.

In the background, the rover’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will continue to monitor the environmental characteristics of the robot’s current location.

Getting it ready

In an earlier report, Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, notes that, after a successful SAM preconditioning (rover-speak for “getting it ready”), the rover delivered some “Glasgow” drill sample into the instrument.

“The first experiment will be an ‘evolved gas’ one. This is where we bake the rocks causing them to release gases from within the minerals in the sediments. These gases will be flowed to two of the three instruments which make up SAM (a mass spectrometer and tunable laser spectrometer) to measure the composition of the gas. The temperature at which gases are released gives us further insight into the composition of the sample, and allows scientists to look at how water is stored within minerals,” Calef adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imaging (RMI) camera photo taken on Sol 2767, May 19, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Mineral flavors

“Since the rover didn’t have a whole lot of power, and SAM is energy intensive, we only had a few other observations,” Calef explains.

A large Mastcam mosaic was taken on the first sol covering the Greenheugh pediment as well as other Mastcam imaging for looking at dust in the air (line-of-sight extinction and solar tau) and a ChemCam passive sky observation.

Concludes Calef: “Looking forward to seeing what mineral ‘flavors’ we find!”

In this artistic rendering, different kinds of suns are shown as they interact with various Earth-like surfaces in distant solar systems. The combinations create an array of climates. In the search for exoplanets, astronomers can be guided by color for possible habitable planets.
Credit: Jack Madden/Cornell

Large ground- and space-based telescopes will be able to observe Earth-like planets in the near future.

Cornell astronomers have developed an environmental color “decoder” – to tease out climate clues for potentially habitable exoplanets in galaxies far away.

The researchers see their work as helping to spot different planetary surfaces that are strongly influenced by climate, atmospheric composition, and remotely detectable spectra – a way to model potentially habitable rocky exoplanets.

Reflected light

“We looked at how different planetary surfaces in the habitable zones of distant solar systems could affect the climate on exoplanets,” said Jack Madden who works in the lab of Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

“Reflected light on the surface of planets plays a significant role not only on the overall climate,” Madden said, “but also on the detectable spectra of Earth-like planets.”

Madden and Kaltenegger are co-authors of “How Surfaces Shape the Climate of Habitable Exoplanets,” released May 18 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

This artist’s rendering shows the Extremely Large Telescope in operation on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile. The telescope is shown using lasers to create artificial stars high in the atmosphere.
ESO/L. Calçada

Calculate a climate

In their research, they combine detail of a planet’s surface color and the light from its host star to calculate a climate. For instance, a rocky, black basalt planet absorbs light well and would be very hot, but add sand or clouds and the planet cools; and a planet with vegetation and circling a reddish K-star will likely have cool temperatures because of how those surfaces reflect their suns’ light.

Madden said forthcoming instruments like the Earth-based Extremely Large Telescope will allow scientists to gather data in order to test a catalog of climate predictions.

“There’s an important interaction between the color of a surface and the light hitting it,” Madden said. “The effects we found based on a planet’s surface properties can help in the search for life.”

The Brinson Foundation and the Carl Sagan Institute supported this research.

To read “How Surfaces Shape the Climate of Habitable Exoplanets,” released May 18 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, go to:

Note: Article based on Cornell Chronicle story by Blaine Friedlander

Credit: NASA

Enroll today to be part of the summer 2020 class of the Commercial Space Studies program, hosted by the International Space University-Center for Space Entrepreneurship (ISU-CSE) at Florida Tech in Melbourne, Florida.

The 2020 program now features a unique hybrid online structure that will enable a healthy balance of distance learning with two weeks of on on-site learning on the Space Coast and expeditions to space industry destinations.

Credit: Commercial Space Studies program

Practical training

This space-focused, multidisciplinary program is only graduate-level certificate of its kind in the U.S. and provides rigorous, practical training in the nuances of space finance, policy, management, technology and entrepreneurship.

Master’s students and young professionals from around the world will gain valuable academic and real-world insight to spark economic innovation in the fast-emerging commercial space industry.

More details and registration at: