What Doomed the Great City of Cahokia? Not Ecological Hubris, Study Says


The New York Times 24 April, 2021 - 04:00am 22 views

When is the space launch?

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying four Crew-2 astronauts lifts off from NASA's Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Station in Cape Canaveral Florida on April 23, 2021. The Crew-2 astronauts walk out before launch April 23, 2021. The Crew-2 astronauts walk out before launch April 23, 2021. Space.comSpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing

Who are the astronauts on spacex?

The crew is composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. ABC NewsSpaceX docks at ISS on recycled rocket and capsule

As the astronauts were getting ready for sleep, there were a few minutes of concern: Mission controllers at SpaceX headquarters in California warned the crew that a piece of space debris was going to whiz past the capsule at about 1:43 p.m. Eastern time.

The astronauts were told to put on their spacesuits, get back in their seats and lower their protective visors.

With the growing number of rocket launches and satellites — especially with the proliferation of constellations in orbit like SpaceX’s Starlink system — low-Earth orbit is becoming increasingly cluttered with debris like pieces of rockets and dead satellites, and experts on Earth have repeatedly voiced their worry about the risk of collisions. The European Space Agency hosted a major conference on the subject this past week.

The space station, which is about the size of a football field, periodically has to adjust its orbit to avoid a piece of space debris. It is more unusual to find debris on a near collision course with something the size of the Crew Dragon — 27 feet tall, 13 feet wide.

For the space station-bound crew, the object appeared likely to miss the Crew Dragon, and no emergency maneuvers were performed to get out of the way. But because of the uncertainty in the exact location and trajectory of the debris, the spacesuits offered an extra level of protection if the debris did collide with the spacecraft.

The debris was not immediately identified, and the time of closest approach came and went uneventfully. The crew members then returned to doing what they had been doing — getting ready to sleep.

Read full article at The New York Times

SpaceX launches 3rd crew with recycled rocket and capsule

Q13 FOX Seattle 24 April, 2021 - 09:10am

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit Friday using a recycled rocket and capsule, the third crew flight in less than a year for Elon Musk’s rapidly expanding company.

The astronauts from the U.S., Japan and France should reach the International Space Station early Saturday morning, following a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May. They’ll spend six months at the orbiting lab.

It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA, after years of proving the capability on station supply runs. The rocket was used last November on the company’s second astronaut flight.

Embracing the trend, spacecraft commander Shane Kimbrough and his crew weeks ago wrote their initials in the rocket’s soot, hoping to start a tradition.

“If you have rapid and complete reusability, then that is the gateway to the heavens. That’s what we’re trying to get done, and the support of NASA makes a huge difference,” Musk said after the launch.

Just a week ago, NASA awarded SpaceX a nearly $3 billion contract to provide the lunar lander that will deliver astronauts to the surface of the moon — Musk’s Starship, intended to be fully reusable to attain his ultimate prize of carrying astronauts to Mars and building a city there.

Flying in a recycled capsule Friday provided a bit of deja vu for NASA astronaut Megan McArthur. She launched in the same seat in the same capsule as her husband, Bob Behnken, did during SpaceX’s first crew flight. This time, it was Behnken and their 7-year-old son waving goodbye. McArthur blew kisses and offered virtual hugs.

It was a stunning scene: The launch plume glowed against the dark sky, reflecting the sunlight at high altitude.

Despite the early hour, spectators lined surrounding roads to watch the Falcon take flight an hour before sunrise. Liftoff was delayed a day to take advantage of better weather along the East Coast in case of a launch abort and emergency splashdown.

“You’re seeing a piece of history happening here,” said Lance Bryan, visiting from Burnsville, Minnesota. “It’s, in this case, good history versus some other things that can happen that have been in our backyard practically.”

Hours after liftoff, SpaceX was notified of a piece of space junk that might come dangerously close to the capsule. So flight controllers ordered the astronauts to put on their spacesuits and lower their visors just in case. There was no danger, and the unidentified debris turned out to be farther than initially thought, passing about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the vehicle.

“We don’t know what the object was or how big it was, but it did not come close to Dragon,” said NASA spokesman Rob Navias.

A masked Musk met briefly with the astronauts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before they boarded white gull-winged Teslas from his electric car company. The astronauts’ spouses and children huddled around the cars for one last “love you” before the caravan pulled away and headed to the pad in the predawn darkness.

“From now on, I’ll see you on a screen!” tweeted Pesquet’s partner, Anne Mottet.

Visibly weary, Musk later said he doesn’t sleep the night before a crew launch and this one was no exception.

“It gets a little bit easier, but still pretty intense, I have to say,” said Musk, who started his space company in 2002.

NASA limited the number of launch guests because of COVID-19, but passengers for SpaceX’s first privately purchased flight made the cut. Tech billionaire Jared Isaacman, who’s bought a three-day flight, watched the Falcon soar with the three people who will accompany him. Their capsule is still at the space station and due back on Earth with four astronauts next Wednesday. It will be refurbished in time for a September liftoff. Another crew flight for NASA will follow in October.

For Friday’s automated flight, SpaceX replaced some valves and thermal shielding, and installed new parachutes on the capsule, named Endeavour after NASA’s retired space shuttle. Otherwise, the spacecraft is the same vehicle that flew before.

“We’re thrilled to have a crew on board Endeavour once again,” SpaceX Launch Control radioed just before liftoff.

All four astronauts clasped hands as Kimbrough noted it was the first time in more than 20 years that U.S., European and Japanese astronauts had launched together.

The first-stage booster touched down on an ocean platform nine minutes after liftoff.

SpaceX picked up the station slack for NASA after the space agency’s shuttles retired in 2011, starting with supply runs the following year. The big draw was last year’s return of astronaut launches to Florida, after years of relying on Russia for rides.

“It’s awesome to have this regular cadence again,” said Kennedy’s director Robert Cabana, a former shuttle commander.

Boeing, NASA’s other contracted crew transporter, isn’t expected to start launching NASA astronauts until early next year. First, it needs to repeat a test flight of an empty Starliner capsule, possibly in late summer, to make up for its software-plagued debut in December 2019.

Last Friday, SpaceX beat out two other companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, to land astronauts on the moon for NASA in three or more years. They’ll descend to the lunar surface in Starship, the shiny, bullet-shaped rocketship that Musk is testing in the skies over southeast Texas, near the Mexican border.

Musk said Starship should be ready to carry people in a couple years, although he expects to smash more of them before getting there. The 2024 deadline for putting astronauts on the moon, which was set by the Trump administration, is doable, he added.

“It’s a great time to be here, and we’re very excited,” said the European Space Agency’s Frank De Winne, an astronaut turned manager. The space station eventually will come to an end, he noted, but the partnership will continue amid hopes of “European astronauts one day walking on the surface of the moon.”

AP videojournalist Cody Jackson contributed to this report.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Why Global Collaboration, Not Competition, is the Future of the Space Industry

Via Satellite 24 April, 2021 - 09:10am

An image of Earth Earth Observation taken during a day pass by the Expedition 40 crew aboard the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to participate in the ever-growing field of space exploration and research. I read up on astronauts and scientists obsessively, envisioning myself in their shoes. I have the opportunity to make that dream a reality, because I immigrated to Canada when I was six, one of the few countries in the world with a reputable space program. But the many people are cut out from this exciting field, because the industry is too nationalistic. The global space industry should consider shifting the paradigm from competitive to collaborative, and recognize the importance of equal global participation in the space industry.

Employment at renowned private companies and public institutions in the U.S. such as NASA is largely restricted to citizens of the country where they are based. SpaceX, for example, is limited in its ability to hire non-U.S. citizens, because of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). These regulations manage the import and export of defense articles and classify rockets as military technology, forcing space programs in the United States to limit their hiring pool to American citizens, in the interest of national security. These limitations, which are a consequence of the militarized nature of space, keep qualified and diverse professionals out of the most sought-after space companies in the United States.

Investment in space research does not only allow us to investigate the universe, it also helps us gain a better understanding of our own planet. Past and current Mars missions have worked on characterizing the Martian climate, trying to understand how the planet lost most of its atmosphere. The extreme greenhouse gas effect on Venus gives us a much clearer picture of the process of climate change, and findings from these missions help us map out the evolution of Earth’s climate. Research conducted in space also improves our healthcare, because it broadens our understanding of the body. These discoveries impact every individual on Earth. Why should the majority of people be barred from contributing to them?

Global collaboration in the space industry has already proven to be massively beneficial, and the International Space Station (ISS) is the most famous example of this. It was built through the partnership of five different space agencies from the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, and Europe, and for the past 20 years has allowed for the development of ground-breaking research on how the human body changes under microgravity, producing some remarkable findings.  There are already working examples of international collaboration in the form of regional space agencies, such as plans for an African space agency, which aims to foster collaboration and resource sharing between African nations.

It is clear that the idea of international collaboration in the space industry is not new, but access to it is very limited. While the building of the ISS is an impressive example of global collaboration, the people involved in its construction and ongoing maintenance represent only a handful of countries.

At the same time, organizations dedicated to space research and exploration, such as NASA, face a shortage of qualified employees. This is not for lack of interest — the space industry has been steadily growing as it entices more and more investors, and it is estimated that the industry could generate a global revenue of more than $1 trillion by 2040. Consequently, we need more qualified people to participate in this rapid growth. As of right now, the demand for workers with the necessary skills to tackle these projects outweighs the supply, due in part to these restrictions. Opening up the space industry would provide for a flood of new, eager, and qualified workers that will not only accelerate its growth, but also allow for global participation in an industry that affects every single person on the planet.

Regional space agencies, like the one that the African Union has started to build, are one way to start. An Asian space agency, for example, could bring together well-established space programs like those of China, Japan, and India with other Asian countries that have limited to no access to the space industry. World renowned space agencies and companies like NASA and SpaceX should create more programs centered around employing global citizens, with ITAR restrictions easing to accommodate this. These ideas may seem out of the realm of possibility, but it is no secret that humanity is capable of extraordinary feats, and this is one feat I feel is necessary for a peaceful and harmonious future.

The way we think about the space industry needs to change. In an increasingly globalized world, it is imperative that we recognize space research as a global endeavor and engage developing countries. By limiting participation to citizens of the few countries who have a space program, the industry cuts out a large pool of promising talent, and with it, the chance at accelerated progress in the most exciting field in modern history. If every global citizen interested in space were given a chance to apply their breadth of knowledge to tackling these challenges, we will be more prepared for a prosperous future of interstellar travel and discovery.

The space industry's David vs. Goliath - POLITICO

Politico 24 April, 2021 - 09:10am

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A start-up plans to take on SpaceX as a one-stop shop for launch services, satellites and in-orbit transportation.

The Biden administration is still aiming for 2024 to return to the moon, but the presumptive NASA boss is managing expectations.

To mark Earth Day, a new push to get serious about tapping into solar power directly from space.

WELCOME TO POLITICO SPACE, our must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the new space age in Washington and beyond. Email us at [email protected] with tips, pitches and feedback, and find us on Twitter at @bryandbender. And don’t forget to check out POLITICO's astropolitics page for articles, Q&As, and more.

‘THEY HATE US’: Start-up Firefly Aerospace has an enviable advantage in the small space launch market as a tenant at Vandenberg Space Force Base, with all the supporting infrastructure that comes with it. But it is still grounded by Washington red tape.

“You cannot launch just because we don’t have a full set of licenses for the flight termination system,” founder Max Polyakov, managing partner at Noosphere Ventures Partners, told us this month. But a well-placed industry source says a breakthrough could be imminent that could pave the way for launches from the California coast.

Firefly, along with Noosphere’s other space properties, has big ambitions after landing a NASA contract in February to deliver payloads to the moon in 2023.

“We have a long-term view of producing a fully integrated scenario,” Polyakov said. Ultimately, that means being a one-stop shop, he said: launch services, in-orbit transportation, and communications satellites — particularly for underserved regions such as the Middle East and Africa.

“Even our moon lander will not fly on SpaceX,” Polyakov predicted. “We will try to get a fully integrated solution to NASA or the Air Force. They care how much per kilogram can be delivered to the moon. It’s like cargo airplanes and trains.”

Does that mean taking on Elon Musk and SpaceX? “We are now in the stage where they hate us,” Polyakov joked, “because we have gotten recognized. Now we are coming to the point of fighting. But it is a trillion-dollar market. There’s enough market for everyone.”

Related: Noosphere Ventures aims to build an integrated space powerhouse: Q&A with managing partner Max Polyakov, via Space News.

THE MOON CLOCK: The Biden administration still plans to stick to former President Donald Trump’s aggressive goal to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. But the presumptive NASA boss made it clear this week we shouldn't hold our breath.

“I think you may be pleased that we’re going to see that timetable try to be adhered to, but recognize that with some sobering reality that space is hard,” former Sen. Bill Nelson told the Senate Commerce Committee in his confirmation hearing.

Nelson also doubled down on Biden’s planned budget increase for the space agency, particularly the $2.3 billion for the earth science portfolio to help confront climate change. “It's a very important increase,” he testified. “You can't mitigate climate change unless you can measure it, and that's NASA's expertise.”

As for NASA’s big-ticket programs such as the Boeing Space Launch System, which is central to the moon program, but is much delayed and over budget? It’s no surprise that the former Florida lawmaker is still on board, telling Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that continuity is “very important,” adding it “takes a long time to develop these technologies and this is cutting-edge stuff. So it didn't just start yesterday.”

Nelson is proving to be one of the smoothest nominations for Biden so far. “There are not many Biden nominees about whom I am enthusiastic,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “Your nomination is a notable exception to that.”

Related: Pam Melroy to be nominated to be NASA deputy administrator, via SpacePolicyOnline.

And: NASA Statement on Nomination of Margaret Vo Schaus for Agency CFO.

THE MONEY’S ON MUSK: Speaking of the Artemis project to return to the moon, NASA’s surprise decision on Friday to award only one $2.9 billion contract for the Human Landing System — instead of two — is still sinking in.

It’s safe to say a lot is riding on the winner, SpaceX, which outbid a team consisting of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and another led by Dynetics. “Given SpaceX's price, a protest may be difficult,” predicts Roman Schweizer, an analyst at Cowen and Company.

The contract is for two flights to the moon aboard the Starship (the first unmanned and the second crewed). The Space Launch System is set to carry astronauts into space inside the Orion capsule built by Lockheed before meeting up with the Starship to get them to the surface and then back to Earth.

ICYMI: NASA’s source selection statement

Related: All in on Starship, via The Space Review.

‘UNFETTERED ACCESS TO THE SUN’S RAYS’: Space solar power, that is. The National Space Society is out with a new video titled “Dear Earth: We're Sorry for What We've Done to You” that makes the case for a major push to tap into solar power from orbit to provide unlimited energy for the entire planet, night and day.

“We have a new source of power at our fingertips,” the narrator says. “Space solar power is clean, abundant, and the cost of collecting and transmitting back to you, dear Earth, are negligible. … We have the rockets and proven technology we need to start building space solar power now. We may even be able to utilize the resources of your neighbor, the moon, to build these orbiting power stations.”

The military’s technologists are also making a fresh case for taking solar energy to the next step. “If the solar panels were in orbit they could have unfettered access to the sun’s rays, providing an uninterrupted supply of energy,” the Air Force Research Laboratory contends in a new video highlighting its Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research Project.

A leading space solar power evangelist, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, now a senior fellow for defense studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, put it this way: “We can treat the symptoms or we can come up with the cure.”

Oh, and happy belated Earth Day.

Related: NASA and the new urgency of climate change, via Space News.

EARLY WARNING: We caught up this week with Hawkeye 360, which operates a cluster of commercial satellites that captures radio frequency signals, to learn what it’s been tracking lately.

Couple of interesting targets: It discovered “increased RF activity up the Galway Valley” last spring ahead of the border clashes between India and China. It has also monitored Chinese fishing vessels encroaching off the Galapagos Islands; assessed the Covid-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the global pandemic; and revealed increased maritime traffic in the Arctic. (We’ve asked for any data on the recent Russian military buildup along its border with Ukraine.)

Government partnerships: The company is steadily making inroads into the government market, including a study contract with the National Reconnaissance Office that is “exploring how to integrate into NRO’s architecture to augment government systems.” It is also working on a pilot program at the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency that is dedicated to “placing this new commercial RF GEOINT source into the hands of end users.”

Hawkeye has also been building an influential board of advisers drawn from the halls of the Pentagon, Congress and the intelligence community.

INFLUENCE UPDATE: Paragon Space Development Corporation in Tucson, Ariz., has hired The Charles Group, a Washington consulting firm, to lobby on “human spaceflight programs,” according to a lobby registration filed this month.

The Charles Group is run by Robert Charles, a former assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration and a congressional staffer. Handing the Paragon account is Connor Martin.

‘TEST GODS’: Readers can get an inside look at Virgin Galactic’s space tourism business in “Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut,” out May 4 from the New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle.

Schmidle spent four years embedded with Richard Branson’s company, which has completed at least two successful test flights with the goal of making trips to space routine. More than 600 people have made reservations to fly with the company for around $250,000 apiece. Virgin started accepting down payments last year for the next batch of flights.

The book focuses on the men and women building and flying SpaceShipTwo, Virgin’s unique rocket ship that launches from under the wing of a plane. An excerpt tells the story of how Mark Stucky, a Virgin Galactic test pilot, first decided he wanted to go to space while watching John Glenn orbit the Earth.

Related: Richard Branson dumps $650 million Virgin Galactic stock in a year, via Observer.

Who was the only one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts to walk on the moon? And what activity was the only one to do there? The first person to email [email protected] gets bragging rights and a shoutout in the next newsletter!

How to see SpaceX's predawn Crew-2 launch from the US East Coast early Friday: Space.com

Boeing pushes second Starliner test flight to late summer: Space.com

NASA emphasizes good relationship with Roscosmos as Russia mulls exiting ISS: Space News

Senior NASA employee pleads guilty to COVID-19 related loan fraud: Department of Justice

China is set to launch first module of massive space station: Scientific American

NRO to sign deals with commercial providers of satellite radar imagery: Space News

Coming soon: An announcement on which Army and Navy units will move to the Space Force: C4ISRNet

Space Force Reserve too important to be dictated by active duty: Air Force Times

Success! NASA's Ingenuity makes 1st powered flight on Mars: NPR

— LISTEN: Flight on Mars: an interview with Smithsonian’s Ellen Stofan: Aviation Week

TODAY: SpaceX will launch astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon. A post- launch press conference is scheduled for 7:30 a.m.

TODAY: The American Enterprise Institute holds a discussion on air and space power with Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston at 2 p.m.

TODAY: The Future Space Leaders Foundation holds its “Lift-Off Event” featuring Sen. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Don Beyer at 2 p.m.

MONDAY: SMI’s online Small Satellites Conference kicks off from London.

MONDAY: The International Academy of Astronautics’s Planetary Defense Conference begins.

MONDAY: Oak Ridge National Laboratory kicks off the 2021 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space conference.

TUESDAY: The International Academy of Astronautics holds a symposium on small satellites for Earth observation from Berlin.

WEDNESDAY: The Los Angeles Venture Association holds its Space Tourism Conference.

WEDNESDAY: The Beyond Earth Institute will hold a webinar on the "Military Role in Enabling Communities Beyond Earth" at 10 a.m.

WEDNESDAY: SMI’s Military Space Situational Awareness Conference streams from London.

WEDNESDAY: The Washington Space Business Roundtable holds a webinar with Beyer at noon.

WEDNESDAY: Boeing reports its first quarter earnings.

THURSDAY: Northrop Grumman reports its first quarter earnings.

THURSDAY: The Senate Commerce Committee holds a nomination hearing for Eric Lander to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy at 10 a.m.

THURSDAY: The House Science Committee’s Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover at 11 a.m.

SpaceX Crew Dragon docks with International Space Station | AFP

AFP News Agency 24 April, 2021 - 09:10am

Crew-2 astronauts to arrive at ISS

WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando 24 April, 2021 - 09:10am

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