Inside | Real news, curated by real humans
Inside Space

Inside Space (Aug 19th, 2019)

Welcome one and all to a new edition of Inside Space. Our List of the 100 Most Essential Twitter Accounts in Space is growing rapidly. Please, send me recommendations. To stay abreast with the latest in space exploration you can subscribe here!

Eduardo

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

1. NASA skeptics are trying to convince President Trump that the government should incentivize private space companies to set up a moon base instead of spending billions of dollars in the Artemis program. Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about NASA's plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2024, saying that the agency should instead focus on Mars. But a plan promoted by an eclectic group that includes former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a three-star Air Force general and the former publicist for pop stars Michael Jackson and Prince argues that private space companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX are better positioned to send astronauts to the moon. The group has pitched the plan to officials serving on the White House National Space Council. – POLITICO

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

2. An Electron rocket lifted four small satellites into orbit on Monday, three days after a previous launch attempt was postponed due to strong winds. The primary payload of the mission is a maritime surveillance CubeSat for French company UNSEENLABS. The Electron rocket also carried three satellites for rideshare aggregator Spaceflight – an Earth-imaging microsatellite for BlackSky and two CubeSats for the U.S. Air Force. It was the company's fourth launch this year and its eighth launch overall. (You can watch a video of the launch here.) The rocket that flew on Monday will record data that will later be used to reinforce the Electron so that it survives re-entry. CEO Peter Beck recently said that Rocket Lab decided to make the Electron reusable because demand is so strong that "at the moment, we just can’t build enough rockets." – SPACENEWS

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

3. A Jielong-1 (Smart Dragon-1) rocket developed by China Rocket Co reached space for the first time on Monday, sending three satellites into orbit. China Rocket is a commercial spin-off of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which is controlled by the Chinese government. The Smart Dragon-1 is a four-stage solid-propellant rocket that can lift a 200-kilogram payload to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. The 19.5-meter-tall Smart Dragon is similar to the Electron in lifting power, while China Rocket and Rocket Lab charge similar fees to deploy satellites. The main payload of Monday's mission was a 143-pound remote sensing, communication and navigation satellite. The launch marks the second time that a private Chinese company sends a rocket into space. The first company to achieve the feat was iSpace, which sent several payloads into orbit in late July. – SPACENEWS

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

4. The much-anticipated test flight of the Starhopper will likely take place this week. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had previously indicated that the test in which the Starship prototype is due to reach an altitude of 200 meters was likely to take place last weekend. But on Thursday, Musk tweeted: "Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon." According to an official note by Cameron County, in Boca Chica, Texas, a highway near the SpaceX test site will be closed on Aug. 21 from 2 p.m. to midnight local time to accommodate SpaceX activities. The note said that these activities could also take place Aug. 22 and Aug. 23. The Starhopper is a scaled-down prototype of the Starship, the launch vehicle that SpaceX is developing to transport people to the moon and Mars. – SPACE

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

5. Astronomers have spotted the most massive star ever known to be destroyed by a supernova explosion. According to a new study, spectral observations revealed that SN2016iet is different from other supernovas known to scientists. It does not seem to contain hydrogen or helium but seems to have calcium and oxygen. "Everything about this supernova looks different – its change in brightness with time, its spectrum, the galaxy it is located in, and even where it’s located within its galaxy," said study co-author Edo Berger, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University. "We sometimes see supernovas that are unusual in one respect, but otherwise are normal; this one is unique in every possible way." SN2016iet is located in a previously uncatalogued galaxy one billion light-years from Earth. – GIZMODO

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

6. Elon Musk refloated the idea of detonating nuclear bombs on Mars' poles to make the red planet habitable. According to the "Nuke Mars" idea, the blasts would vaporize ice deposits that will send water vapor and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, gases that could help warm the planet. Musk first mentioned the idea publicly during an interview with Stephen Colbert in 2015. On Thursday, Musk tweeted: "Nuke Mars," followed by "T-shirt soon." He later tweeted: "Not saying it solves everything, mind you, but it is a step in the right direction." – CNET

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

7. The red Tesla Roadster that was lifted into space by a Falcon Heavy in February 2018 has completed its first orbit around the sun. According to data from Where is the Roadster, the vehicle has traveled 762 million miles. To track the car, Where is the Roadster creator Ben Pearson uses data from the Horizons website run by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. – ENGADGET

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

8. The latest episode of NASA's "Houston We Have a Podcast" centers on the life-support systems that make the International Space Station (ISS) habitable. These systems provide astronauts with air and water needed to sustain life and remove pernicious contaminants and waste. NASA will need to improve these systems to send humans to the moon and Mars under the Artemis program. At present, total water recovery aboard the ISS is 90 percent, but for a trip to Mars, NASA would need to recover 98 percent of the water aboard the spaceship. "And that just means we take a lot less resupply water with us ... water is very heavy and so we want to recycle as much as we can," said Laura Shaw, the ISS Program Lead for Exploration Life Support Systems. – NASA

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

9. A new NASA video explains how biomining may one day help us turn the surfaces of other planets into soils to grow plants. Biomining consists of using microbes to break down rocks. "But before we can use this technique in planetary settlements we first need to test it in space," the video says. A NASA experiment that arrived at the International Space Station on July 27 is doing just that. It consists of 18 "biomining reactors" to study how three different types of microbes interact with samples of basalt rock. – NASA

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

10. Image of the Day: NASA's Vehicle Assembling Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is one of the largest buildings in the world. It is 525 feet tall and 518 feet wide, and covers a surface of eight acres. It was built to manufacture the Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo missions to space. Under a contract announced last week, Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket at the VAB.

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

Written and curated by Eduardo Garcia in New York. Eduardo is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School M.A. Science program and writes regularly for the New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter. In one of his previous lives, Eduardo worked as a Reuters correspondent in Latin America for nearly a decade. 

Editor:  David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

  • Email gray

Subscribe to Inside Space