Inside Space - September 11th, 2018

Inside Space (Sep 11th, 2018)

Probing for alien life / Worms in space / Dawn mission ending / Breakthrough Listen project

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1. NASA's Parker Solar Probe is investigating more than just the sun. Twenty-four orbits around the sun, seven times closer than any probe before it, will enable the Parker Solar Probe to study distant exoplanets for the possibility of life beyond our planet. "There is talk of whether or not moons around these hot Jupiters could be habitable," Evgenya Shkolnik, Arizona State University planetary scientist, said. If and when alien life on distant exoplanets is detected during the seven-year mission, it would most likely occur during later orbits around the sun. By swooping in and out of the sun's atmosphere to study its "corona" center, scientists will be able to closely study the sun's magnetic field and how the flow of high-energy photons create oxygen by breaking down H2O, which would certainly make life on exoplanets habitable. --

2. The first UK-led experiment at the International Space Station could help scientists understand muscle loss and how to treat it. Worms in space is not a novel idea, but using the soil dwelling organisms to study human muscle loss in Earth's outer orbit is. "Worms are, perhaps surprisingly, a very good model for human muscle maintenance. At the molecular level, both structurally and metabolically they are highly similar to that of humans and from a space flight specific perspective – they provide a lot of practical advantages," Tim Etheridge, lecturer at the University of Exeter, said. With the data derived from "The Molecular Muscle Experiment," first announced in 2015, scientists hope to learn how to treat muscular maladies on Earth by comparing it to the atrophy astronauts experience while in space, which has been proven to be as much as 40 percent in six months. --

3. France has accused the Russian government of eavesdropping on one of its communications satellites. French Minister of Defense Florence Parly said the 2017 incident occurred when Russia's Luch satellite flew close to the Franco-Italian Athena-Fidus satellite. "It got close. A bit too close. So close that one really could believe that it was trying to capture our communications," Parly said. It is not the first time the Russians have been accused of using the Luch satellite to intercept communications. -- POPULAR MECHANICS

4. After an 11-year mission, including the orbit of two planetary bodies, NASA's Dawn mission will come to an end. It had a good run, but with low hydrazine fuel levels making it impossible for Dawn's antenna to point toward Earth, NASA will lose communication. During the $500-million mission, scientists learned about the advantages of xenon propulsion while closely observing Vesta and Ceres, the asteroid belt's two largest bodies. While discovering the dry and rocky craters of Vesta, Dawn also detailed the salty subsurface ocean of Ceres, which was classified as a dwarf planet rather than an asteroid. “Not only did the spacecraft unlock scientific secrets at these two small but significant worlds; it was also the first spacecraft to visit and orbit bodies at two extraterrestrial destinations during its mission," Lori Glaze, NASA Planetary Science Division director, said. — ​​​​​​POPULARSCIENCE

5. U.S. Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is preparing for a December voyage to the International Space Station. McClain, along with two Russian cosmonauts, will begin a six-month rotation aboard the ISS following a Dec. 20 launch from Kazakhstan, performing various experiments and technological demonstrations. She served as an OH58F Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot and was a member of the U.S. Rugby Women's National Team. "Working with this crew is an incredible opportunity, but it is also an example of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and really focus on what motivates us," McClain said. --

6. The hunt for alien life in Breakthrough Listen project detects more mysterious light flashes. 21 fast radio bursts in one hour were heard in late August, according to scientists. "This work is only the beginning of using these powerful methods to find radio transients," Gerry Zang, UC Berkeley doctoral student, said. 

7. The Cassini mission walks away with an Emmy award. The grand finale of the Cassini mission to Saturn won the Outstanding Original Interactive Program accolade on Sept. 8. The award-winning program was seen on all major social media platforms including Twitter and Snapchat.   

8. India unveils its space suit for the first crewed mission in 2022. The four layered, bright-orange suit, first shown to the public Sept. 6, will cover astronauts in the country's first flight in the Gaganyaan space program. 

9. Small launch vehicle startups are growing at a rapid pace, according to Virgin Orbit president Dan Hart. “There’s a lot of noise in the system right now. There’s another announcement every week, I think, on somebody who wants to build a launch system," Hart said. 

10. Vanishing Arctic ice will be tracked by the new NASA Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2). The billion dollar satellite is set to launch Sept. 15 from California. With lasers fired 10,000 times a second, the new laser system will offer a higher resolution than its predecessor ICESat-1, as it tracks Earth's melting poles. 

Written and curated by Angela Underwood in upstate New York. After years of covering local and state-level politics as a Gannett journalist and tackling topics such as health and nutrition, Angela now enjoys covering stories that are out of this world. Follow her on LinkedIn here.

Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at, game-masteratScreen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast),andSusmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram)

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