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Submission + - Neil degrasse Tyson causes firestorm with remarks on commercial space ( 1

MarkWhittington writes: In an interview published in The Verge, celebrity astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson touched off a firestorm when he suggested that commercial space was not going to lead the way to open up the high frontier. Tyson has started a live show that he calls "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts” in which he touched on, among other things, why the Apollo program did not lead to greater things in space exploration such as going to Mars. Tyson repeats conventional wisdom about Apollo and the Cold War. In any case, it is his remarks on commercial space that has caused the most irritation.

Submission + - What humans may do by following New Horizons to Pluto (

MarkWhittington writes: NASA’s New Horizons flew by Pluto last July and is continuing to send back stunning images and breathtaking data. Forbes speculates about sending humans to the once and possibly future ninth planet from the sun. Since New Horizons took nine and a half years from launch to flyby, such a voyage would have to await the development of very advanced propulsion systems, among quite a few other technologies.

Submission + - Lori Garver claims that NASA is 'wary' of Elon Musk's Mars plans (

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reported that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are “wary’ of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX’s Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. As with many things that publically come out of Garver’s mouth, this statement has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Submission + - Despite environmentalists objections, FDA approves first GMO salmon (

MarkWhittington writes: ZME Science reported that the FDA has approved of a species of genetically modified salmon for human consumption. The salmon, developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies, took 20 years to get approval. Five years, the FDA deemed the new species of salmon safe, but then took its time to “get everything right.” Despite rather stringent requirements to keep the GMO salmon segregated from the wild, Think Progress notes that environmentalists are outraged at the approval

Submission + - Thanks to a Texas congressman, NASA will land on Europa (

MarkWhittington writes: Business Insider reported that NASA has decided, quietly, to add a lander to its upcoming $2 billion mission to Europa, the ice-bound moon of Jupiter. The Europa Multi-Flyby Mission will orbit Jupiter, making multiple passes at Europa, examining and mapping it in detail. Now, when an appropriate landing site is detected and decided upon, a landing craft will detach and set down, it is hoped, on the Europa ice field.

Submission + - Florida group wants to make space a 2016 presidential campaign issue (

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story on News 13, an Orlando TV station, Space Florida is working to make space a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. Thus far the campaign for the presidency has been dominated by more mundane issues such as the economy, illegal immigration, and the threat of terrorism. Space Florida, which is “the State of Florida’s aerospace economic development agency,” is said to be “working with three other battleground states to make sure America's space program is a part of the campaign for president.” Presumably one of those states is Texas, which has lots of electoral votes

Submission + - NASA selects universities to develop humanoid robot astronauts (

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades.

Submission + - How Bill Nye insulted NASCAR fans about the sport being the 'anti-NASA' (

MarkWhittington writes: Bill Nye, the former science guy and current head of the Planetary Society, is very depressed about NASA and NASCAR, according to a story in Business Insider. He believes that the red-state yokels pay too much attention to NASCAR, which employs gas guzzling cars in races, and not enough to NASA, which employs cutting edge and environmentally correct technology, to explore the universe. However, it is a meme that the space agency itself once disagreed with. Indeed, NASA has suggested that the exploration of space is like NASCAR only with rocket ships instead of souped up, high powered cars

Submission + - Ted Cruz helped write & pass U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Ac (

MarkWhittington writes: Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, is known for quite a few things, including waging fights against Obamacare and illegal immigration. He is not generally known for crafting and passing legislation. However, as the Dallas Morning News reported, Cruz played a crucial role in writing and then passing the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The bill, a compromise between a previous Senate and House version, had recently passed the Senate and yesterday passed the House. It is on its way to President Obama for his signature,

Submission + - Space journalist provides critique of Obama NASA space policy (

MarkWhittington writes: Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated that NASA would be “doomed” if the next president were to deviate in any way from the current Journey to Mars program. Space journalist and founder of the America Space website Jim Hillhouse took exception to Bolden’s assertion in a letter to the aerospace newspaper Space News. In the process, Hillhouse provides a good summary of how space policy has evolved during the past five years under the Obama administration.

Submission + - Louis Friedman says humans will never venture beyond Mars (

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, “Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars,” an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.

Submission + - Lunar scientist proposes dozens of impact probes to map moon's water (

MarkWhittington writes: Water ice believed by scientists to reside at the lunar poles is the key to opening up the solar system to human activity. The water could help sustain a lunar settlement. It could also be refined into rocket fuel, not only to sustain travel to and from the moon but to make it a refueling stop for spacecraft headed deeper into the solar system. A recent MIT study suggested that lunar fuel would simplify NASA’s Journey to Mars. Lunar scientist Paul Spudis, writing in Air and Space Magazine, pondered the next step in determining the extent and composition of the lunar ice.

Spudis’ idea is to deploy several dozen impact probes across one of the lunar polar regions.

Submission + - Donald Trump tramples on 10-year old boy's NASA space dreams ( 1

MarkWhittington writes: The Washington Post reported about a remarkable exchange that presidential candidate Donald Trump had with a ten-year-old boy named Adam at a townhall in New Hampshire. The lad, a recent spelling bee champ, asked the mercurial real estate tycoon his opinion of NASA. After a brief exchange about whether the young man had meant “NAFTA,” Trump offered a less than satisfying answer that showed that he is still rough around the edges where it comes to dealing with future voters.

Trump said, “"You know, in the old days, it was great. Right now, we have bigger problems — you understand that? We've got to fix our potholes. You know, we don't exactly have a lot of money.

Submission + - NASA announces that Mars' moon Phobos is doomed ( 4

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that the days of Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, are numbered. Recent images of the moon show long, shallow grooves in its surface that show the early signs of structural failure. In about 30 million to 50 million years, Phobos will be pulled apart by Mars’ gravity.

Currently, Phobos orbits Mars at a distance of 3,700 miles, closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. Mars is slowly pulling Phobos closer to it at a rate of 6.6 feet per second. The tidal forces of Mars are already acting on the moon as it hurtles slowly but steadily closer, suggests Terry Hurford of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Submission + - Bill confirming property rights for asteroid miners passes the Senate (

MarkWhittington writes: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the passage of a bill H.R.2262 — SPACE Act of 2015 designed to facilitate commercial space. The bill has a number of provisions for that purpose, including extending the “learning period” during which the government would be restricted from imposing regulations on the commercial launch industry to September 2023. The most interesting and potentially far-reaching provision concerned property rights for companies proposing to mine asteroids for their resources. In essence, the bill confirms that private companies own what they mine. The bill is a compromise between previous Senate and House versions

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