Archive for July, 2022

Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin has announced the crew flying on its suborbital NS-22 mission will include Dude Perfect cofounder Coby Cotton, Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira, British-American mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III, Egyptian engineer Sara Sabry, and telecommunications executive Steve Young.

Sara will become the first person from Egypt to fly to space; Mário will become the first from Portugal. Vanessa will become the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea, and air, completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta, a Guinness World Record. 

Credit: Blue Origin

This mission will be the sixth human flight for the New Shepard program, the third flight this year, and the 22nd in its history.

The flight date will be announced soon. 

Mosaic of the Valles Marineris hemisphere of Mars composed of 102 Viking Orbiter images of this huge feature on the Red Planet.
Credit: NASA, USGS, Viking Project




There is movement in Mars exploration circles that see Valles Marineris as a “tell all” place, ripe for human exploration that can uncover the planet’s history and its capacity to sustain microbial life.






Noctis Landing on Mars is an ostensibly flat transitional region between Noctis Labyrinthus and Valles Marineris proper.
Credit: Pascal Lee




That said, how best to investigate the multifaceted geology in evidence at this site? Can future crews on the Red Planet dive safely into this huge canyon system? And what awaits those probing a vast region that’s been branded as the Grand Canyon of Mars?

For a deep dive into this amazing feature, go to my new story – “How can astronauts explore Mars’ Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris” – at:


In the tool kit: Astronauts working on the surface of Mars could employ a helicopter (airborne at left) similar to the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
Credit: NASA

Shown at recent Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The U.S. Department of Defense has established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office – a progressive step to synchronize efforts between the DoD and other U.S. federal departments and agencies.

While not using the term Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) or Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) duties are clear: “to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects,” the DoD statement explains.

Sean M. Kirkpatrick

Director named

The AARO is being stood up within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. Also the AARO director has been named – Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center.

The AARO Executive Council (AAROEXEC), led by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security (USD(I&S)) Ronald Moultrie, will provide oversight and direction to the AARO along these primary lines of effort:

  1. Surveillance, Collection and Reporting
  2. System Capabilities and Design
  3. Intelligence Operations and Analysis
  4. Mitigation and Defeat
  5. Governance
  6. Science and Technology

Transfer of data

Credit: Via petitions

In addition, the Secretary of the Navy was directed to disestablish the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) no later than the date the AARO is established, and to support the orderly transition of the UAPTF, including the transfer of any data, analysis, or other relevant material, to the newly created All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

For more information on this office, along with AARO establishment memos and Kirkpatrick’s biography, go to:

To support the campaign to return samples from Mars, multiple robots were to team up to ferry to Earth select samples that are now being gathered by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech

There appears to be a Mars Sample Return strategy change underway.

At the crux of the discussion is perhaps dropping the European Space Agency Fetch Rover. Toss in for good measure, lots of politics.

Artist’s concept of the ESA Sample Fetch Rover approaching sample tubes
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While the decision about the Fetch Rover apparently has not been made, ace reporter, Jonathan Amos, a BBC science correspondent, caught up with European Space Agency (ESA) human and robotic exploration director, David Parker.

Parker advised that due to the overall health of NASA’s Perseverance rover, its status would allow the joint NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return project to “streamline the program and remove the fetch rover,” Amos reports.

Departure of Mars Ascent Vehicle carrying Mars samples.
Credit: NASA


Lower-risk strategy

Indeed, it has been recognized that given the way Perseverance has held up, a lower-risk strategy is probably to have the samples be held inside its sample rack, never put them on the ground, and have Perseverance personally deliver them to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). 

If that path is followed, then the Fetch Rover might be considered a contingency vehicle. It could be used only if there is a problem with the other rover, which means that under the current planning that Mars machinery could be flown to the Red Planet and not used.

Signs of ancient life on Mars could be preserved in layered rocks like those shown in this illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover in Jezero crater.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Contingency mode

All in all, both NASA and ESA planners are in contingency mode, appraising pathways to minimize risk to the Mars Sample Return undertaking. How the space agencies will sort this out is to be determined.

Inside Outer Space has reached out to the Fetch Rover team, an Airbus UK-assembled endeavor. No word as yet.

Meanwhile, work on the MAV continues. It would be packaged within NASA’s Sample Retrieval Lander, another central part of the campaign, with the all-in-one spacecraft (lander and MAV) touching down near or in Jezero Crater. That’s the spot where the Perseverance rover is already busily gathering Mars specimens, some of which are destined to be shot back to Earth in the early 2030’s.

Perseverance rover photo of Ingenuity micro-helicopter taken by Left Mastcam-Z Camera. Image acquired on April 18, 2021 (Sol 57).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Helicopters to fetch samples?

Recent language from the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill called for investigation of using two “Ingenuity-class helicopters” to fetch samples.

“The Committee is aware that the Mars Sample Return mission is expected to reach Key Decision Point-B later this year and directs NASA to brief the Committee on expected changes to cost, schedule and management challenges revealed during that decisional process, including NASA’s efforts to address such challenges,” the bill notes.

“As NASA conducts Mars Sample Return formulation studies to determine mission architecture and science requirements, the Committee directs NASA to provide a report not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act assessing the feasibility and cost of using more than one Ingenuity-class Mars Helicopter. The report should examine whether using more than one Ingenuity-class Mars Helicopter could increase redundancy and ensure NASA has a capability to return samples by augmenting the Ingenuity helicopter design to add a sample retrieval capability.”

Next up on Mars? One idea is this Mars aerial craft – the Hexacopter.
Credit: Theodore Tzanetos/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Refined and solidified

Once again, what decisions have been made are surely to be discussed in a NASA-hosted media teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 27, to discuss the architecture for its Mars Sample Return campaign.

NASA and ESA recently held a systems requirement review as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign’s conceptual design phase — a phase when the architecture is refined and solidified.

Next week’s briefing will present the architecture proposal that is expected to be finalized in September 2022.


Credit: Lockheed Martin/Goodyear


Transport on the Moon, dealing with one-sixth gravity and rough, cratered landscape is no trouble-free drive.

Tackling the issue of lunar vehicle tires is a new, well-rounded partnership struck between Lockheed Martin and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. The work is focused on commercializing lunar mobility.

Airless tire technology

There’s need for lunar surface transportation, vehicles driven by astronauts or operated autonomously without crew, said Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin.

Credit: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

“We’re developing this new generation of lunar mobility vehicle to be available to NASA and for commercial companies and even other space agencies to support science and human exploration,” Shireman said in a Lockheed Martin statement.

For its part, Goodyear is drawing from its advanced airless tire technology used on Earth with micro-mobility, autonomous shuttles and passenger vehicles, to advance lunar mobility and withstand the challenging conditions on the Moon.

The companies are already applying existing expertise to the project including testing concepts in lunar soil test beds

Longer distances, greater temperature extremes

It’s a good time to look back on the Apollo program, today saluting the first human touchdown on July 20, 1969.

Apollo 16 exploration site.
Credit: NASA/Washington Heritage Register

Several follow-on missions included Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRVs), purposely built for just a few days of use on excursions within five miles of their landing sites. Three LRVs were driven on the Moon, one on Apollo 15 by astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin, one on Apollo 16 by John Young and Charles Duke, and one on Apollo 17 by Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt.

Given the NASA Artemis program, future missions will need to traverse rugged terrain over much longer distances while operating in greater temperature extremes.

Credit: NASA

Years of durability

New tire capabilities will need to be developed for years of durability and even survive the night that sees temperatures of below -250 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temps of over 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Everything we learn from making tires for the Moon’s extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tires on Earth,” said Chris Helsel, senior vice president, Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer at Goodyear.

The companies, along with MDA of Canada that will provide commercial robotic arm technology to be used on the human-rated lunar mobility vehicles, expect to have its first vehicle on the surface of the Moon in time to support NASA’s first landed mission.

That Artemis target time for the first woman and first person of color walking on the Moon is currently planned for 2025.

Credit: Piplsay

Remember that great line in the Stealers Wheel 1970’s song?: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you,” written by Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty.

Let’s spin that recording up into the 21st century and fly it next to all the perplexing chitter-chatter of Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) and Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) folklore.

Here’s my premise: For one, the Twitter/Facebook frenzy about this topic is fraught with folks pointedly posting imagery that are intentionally faked.

The question is: Should there be a law about this given that Congress is opening up the floodgates for a new ability to report UAPs? In a recent UAP hearing this was briefly mentioned, of people purposively clogging the Internet wavelengths with false sightings.

Credit: MUFON

Perhaps, it’s time to deal with this problem now?

Ought to be a law?

“Well, while people certainly fake images, which has become easier and easier to do. As far as problems with this regarding the government investigations, I don’t see how that applies,” responds Mark Rodeghier, the scientific director of the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago.

“For better or worse, the government investigations are only going to use, as I read it, reports from military or other government personnel, or data from various government instrumented systems, and this would include UFO photos,” Rodeghier adds.

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU)

“They still don’t have any intent of including civilian reports, and this is true even in the new Bill S.4503 which requests the government to do way more than its doing now about UFOs/UAP,” Rodeghier emphasized.

So unless we expect official sources to start faking stuff, Rodeghier points out, “then I see this as a non-starter and not a problem. And I’m definitely not for Congress creating laws about UFO reporting, anyway, unless that law, as with S.4503, is to make it easier to report without retribution from bosses and a military or civilian government agency.”

Integrity: pillar of scientific research

Another take on the situation is offered by Avi Loeb, head of Harvard’s Galileo Project, a systematic scientific search for evidence of extraterrestrial technological artifacts.

“Yes, I agree that data should never be faked,” Loeb told Inside Outer Space. “In academic research, this issue is resolved by the requirement that scientific results must be reproducible by independent researchers. The same should apply in UAP studies.”

Up close and personal! Scene from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers circa 1956.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Loeb said that integrity “is a pillar of scientific research and cannot be violated. One of the most effective ways to enforce it is by assigning the reputation of the reporter to future testing of the credibility of the results by other researchers.”

Mick West is a skeptical investigator of the UAP matter.

“Some UAP may represent a serious phenomenon, possibly a national security threat,” West said. “Fake UAP reports waste everyone’s time and redirect resources from the investigation of honest reports. Making false reports to a government reporting system should be illegal.”

Recent Congressional hearing on UAP.  Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Space legalese

Adding her space legalese to this topic is Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, professor emerita and Journal of Space Law editor-in-chief emerita at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

“The more relevant law here are the U.S. federal statutes about lying to Congress and submitting false statements,” Gabrynowicz said. “Federal law requires that statements and documents submitted to Congress be completely truthful. If falsified documents are submitted under oath, perjury could also be involved.”

Publicity-seeking hoaxers

The history of fake UFO photos and artifacts is as old as UFOs themselves, points out Robert Sheaffer, a long-time UFO skeptic. “The motive of the UFO hoaxer seems to center around publicity-seeking, and the satisfaction of (presumably) outsmarting people.”

Sheaffer said that if you took away all the fakes from UFOlogy, what remains would not be all that interesting. “I have concerns about proposals to criminalize UFO hoaxes, as being intrusive and unworkable. I suppose, however, that it might be actionable in the narrow sense of ‘filing a false police report’…but only that.”

All in all – keep an eye on the sky but keep it truthful and if you are a fraudulent eye-sighting UAP/UFO reporting person, get a lawyer!

What’s your view?

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)/China Manned Space Agency (CMSA)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China is developing the prototype sample of the country’s first space telescope Xuntian, also known as Chinese Survey Space Telescope or the Chinese Space Station Telescope

According to the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, the space telescope has an aperture of two meters and loaded with state-of-art detectors. A bus-sized facility, the telescope has a length equal to that of a three-storied building and weighs more than 10 tons.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Two part telescope

“The Xuntian space telescope consists of two parts. One is the Xuntian optical facility, and the other is the Xuntian platform. The Xuntian optical facility is a telescope and it has many subsystems,” Zhan Hu, principle scientist of the Xuntian optical facility and researcher from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told China Central Television (CCTV).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The first-generation Xutian space telescope consists of five observation apparatus, including the Xuntian module, the terahertz module, the multichannel imager, the integral field spectrograph, and the extrasolar planetary imaging coronagraph.

The Xuntian module, a camera with a wide field of view, will take up major observation time.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Independent flight

“We are still developing the prototype sample. Currently, we’ve completed the development of all subsystems, components, and units, and we are preparing for the test after they are assembled,” said Xu Shuyan, chief designer of the Xuntian optical facility and researcher from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“After this, we will start the development of the telescope sample, and start the research of the flying parts. Then we will conduct the joint test with the Xuntian platform and the test at the launch base, before it is launched,” Xu told CCTV.

During its normal observations, the space telescope will fly independently in the same orbit as China’s space station – but at a faraway distance.

The space telescope will be launched after the construction of the space station is completed and will be put into operation around 2024.

For an informative video about China’s space telescope effort, go to:

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU)


In early June, NASA announced it is calling into action an independent study on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – UAP in nameless, shape-shifting short form.

NASA is commissioning a UAP study team to start early in the fall to look into events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena.

The intent is to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.

Credit: Via petitions

I reached out to a number of UAP and Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) groups, leading experts in the field, as well as those skeptical of NASA’s endeavor. Clearly, lots of advice and some concerns flagged.

For more information on NASA and its study of UAPs, go to my new story – “Will new NASA study move the needle on UFO research? – Experts weigh in” at:

The Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft was undocked from the Tianhe Core Module on July 17, 2022.
Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s space station construction site entered a new stage with the undocking of the Tianzhou-3 cargo craft in preparation for the launch of the Wentian lab module.

Video released by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) showed the freighter slowly detaching from the front docking port of the core module Tianhe and flying away.

Credit: Lee Brandon-Cremer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Before undocking, Tianzhou-3 was docked with the core module’s front port, which will be the one lab module Wentian docks with following its launch. So, before Wentian arrives, Tianzhou-3 needed to detach from the combination to prepare for the launch of the lab module,” said Jiang Ping, deputy chief designer with the cargo spacecraft team at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

“The entire undocking process went on without a hitch, with the craft completing the separation safe and sound and switching to normal in-orbit flight mode,” Jiang said in a China Central Television (CCTV) video.

Solo flight mode

“Tianzhou-3 is now in solo flight mode. Next, after the successful launch of lab module Wentian and its subsequent docking with the space station combination, Tianzhou-3 will be deorbited. By then we will lower the cargo craft’s flight altitude through two orbit adjustments,” said Luo Chengdong, assistant to the cargo spacecraft program at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Shenzhou-14 crew.
Credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space

Tianzhou-3 was lofted on September 20, 2021 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern province of Hainan. It delivered six tons of goods to the country’s under-construction space station.

Now onboard the station’s core module, the Shenzhou-14 crew — Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe – are the third batch of astronauts to work within the Chinese space station.

Busiest-ever mission

During the busiest-ever spaceflight mission of six months, the trio will carry out an array of sophisticated tasks in space and complete the construction of the Tiangong space station, with a basic three-module structure consisting of the core module Tianhe and the lab modules Wentian and Mengtian.

Mengtian Lab Module undergoes ground testing.
Credit: CAST

In the six months, the trio will conduct rendezvous and docking for five times, three separation missions, and two transposition tasks [with the core module]. They will enter the two lab modules for the first time.

The astronauts will also carry out relevant function tests on the two-module space station complex, three-module space station complex and large and small mechanical arms with the assistance of the ground team, according to CCTV.

China is set to launch the lab module Wentian later this month (likely July 24) and another lab module Mengtian in October. The intent is to fully outfit the orbiting outpost by year’s end.

For a video of the supply craft undocking, go to:

Credit: NASA


“New and unexpected” findings from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on the International Space Station, says Samuel Ting of MIT at the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) being held July 16-24, 2022 in Athens, Greece.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a precision particle physics magnetic spectrometer, normally used in accelerators, installed on the International Space Station.

Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting, principal investigator for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, speaks about the first published results of AMS-02 during a 2013 press conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Credit: NASA/James Blair

Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting, principal investigator for the AMS, reports that in ten years the space-based equipment has collected more than 200 billion cosmic rays of elementary particles and nuclei with a large acceptance and per cent level accuracy.

Credit: NASA

New physics

“The results on positrons, electrons, and antiprotons show the existence of new physics,” Ting explains.

“The results on nuclei, from hydrogen to iron, show that the current understanding of cosmic rays cannot explain the data,” Ting notes in a COSPAR abstract. “The ten-year AMS results require the development of a new and comprehensive theory of the cosmos.”

AMS was launched on Space Shuttle Endeavour on May 16, 2011, then attached to the International Space Station’s Starboard Truss-3 structure.