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Space News and Facts Newsletter - June 27 - July 3, 2021

Space News and Facts Newsletter
Space News and Facts Newsletter - June 27 - July 3, 2021
By Paul Fulford • Issue #7 • View online
Here are several articles posted to the SN&F website and social media pages this past week. There are many more. Click here for Facebook. The website also embeds space agency videos from YouTube. View everything in one place. Click here for the website.

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Another indication of how the private, commercial space industry is expanding. Naturally, the contracts (money) will come from NASA, and they are looking to private industry for solutions to regular lunar landings. To that end, NASA has announced funding for contracts up to $45 million that will encourage private sector innovation for assistance with their Human Landing System (HLS), an important aspect of the #Artemis mission. The Artemis mission is for planned, regular trips to the Moon, starting in 2024, and for eventual permanent bases on the Moon. HLS systems will be the connection between an orbiting station around the Moon called #Gateway and Moon stations.
NASA Offers $45 Million to Solve Risks for Astronaut Moon Landing Services
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An update on the problems with the #Hubble Space Telescope. One of the computer systems, an important one called the “payload computer,” malfunctioned on June 13th. The term “payload” is computer lingo for a system that transmits data (in case you didn’t know). It sends commands to the various scientific instruments on Hubble, so when it malfunctions, everything else gets shut down, too. Of course, there are backups, but it’s not a scenario where you want to get it wrong and make things worse. So, NASA is testing on simulators (here on Earth) before attempting to revive the system itself. Just to be clear, the spacecraft itself is functioning, it’s the payload computer that’s the problem.
NASA taking “careful and deliberate” approach to repairing Hubble computer - SpaceNews
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Did you know … asteroids are classified based on their composition and/or their orbital properties? There are 3 material-type classes: C-type, S-type and M-type asteroids. And there are several orbital classifications, including “Main Asteroid Belt,” “Trojan,” and 5 Lagrangian Points (gravitationally stable points in space due to the Sun and Jupiter’s gravitational pull) where apparently there are more than 250000 asteroids. (FYI: an asteroid is different from a comet. Asteroids are typically made up of metals and rocks, whereas comets are more icy and dusty. Furthermore, a meteor is a break-away part of an asteroid or comet that enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns up. Just so you know.) This article explains these different classifications in some detail.
Asteroid 101: Classification of Asteroids, Their Position, Interactions with Earth, and More | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel | weather.com
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Widely reported today, but I think also worth mentioning here, is that #Wally_Funk will accompany #Jeff_Bezo into space (a very low Earth orbit) on July 20th. Mary “Wally” Funk, now 82, is a former astronaut candidate who trained for a private program, supported by NASA, called “Women in Space” in 1961. There were 13 candidates, and they became known as the “Mercury 13.” (FYI: not Apollo 13.) She was the first female air safety investigator and the first female civilian flight instructor. (FYI: she also has her own website: wallyfly. com.) This article talks about her past and the selection process for the Blue Origin flight with Bezos.
‘Mercury 13’ woman aviator Wally Funk will ride with Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin suborbital space trip
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This article investigates some of the #biotech experiments on the #ISS. Zero gravity, as the article quotes NASA, “controls on the directionality and geometry of cell and tissue growth can be dramatically different to those on Earth.” It is hopeful that these experiments will result in new therapies and/or manufacturing methodologies. The article discusses, amongst other subjects, particles 1000 times smaller than nanoparticles called "picoparticles” and their use in encapsulating drugs for Alzheimer’s. This is a long read, about 15 minutes.
Biotechnology Brings Microgravity Down to Earth
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Did you know … #NASA makes available to the public more than 800 software programs for free! This article mentions some of those apps such as #TetrUSS, an app that aircraft engineers can use for architectural dynamics. Also #Worldwind, an app that collects and displays satellite images. There are broad categories of applications, but unfortunately, the article doesn’t link to the NASA site, so I’ve appended the actual NASA link in a comment.
NASA Software Catalog Offers Hundreds of Downloadable Applications For Public Use; Bill Nelson Quoted - Executive Gov
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On #Mars, methane is a conundrum. Apparently, some instruments detect it, while other instruments don’t. This has scientists confused. Evidence of methane could indicate the existence of organic microbes. Then again, it might simply be the byproduct of rocks, water, and heat. Nonetheless, it was expected that the #ESA‘s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter would confirm what #NASA’s Curiosity rover did, namely that minute traces of methane exist on Mars. This hasn’t been the case, however, and this #JPL article looks at some of the scientific speculations as to why.
First You See It, Then You Don’t: Scientists Closer to Explaining Mars Methane Mystery
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To live on the Moon, we’ll need water. #Masten Space Systems and #Honeybee Robotics have designed a mining system to extract water from the Moon’s regolith (topsoil), much of which is embedded with ice. Called “Rocket M,” the general idea is to blast rockets into the surface, thus propelling the regolith into an enclosure, and then separating the earth and ice. Prototypes have been tested in the Mohave Desert. There is a promo video to explain this in more detail.
Rockets to mine water from the moon | ZDNet
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Really quite a breathtaking image of an expanding, exploded star. Composited from 14 (!) years of observations by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) telescope. “The graphics present the entire hand-shaped nebula … which was produced by the pulsar left behind after the explosion.” The article gets into the chemical composition of certain areas in the image. The explosion is moving at an estimated 9 million miles per hour. There’s a 3:38 minute embedded video explaining more detail. Very interesting.
Astronomers Capture Cosmic Hand Hitting a Wall – Watch Blast Wave Moving at 9 Million MPH
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Fire risks on space stations and shuttles. In order to understand what would happen in the event of an unexpected fire, zero-gravity conditions are needed. The problem is … where can you find controlled, zero-gravity environments to do the experiments? Free-fall drops from high-altitude balloons are one option, but the cost is prohibitive. So, zero-gravity (or close to it) somehow needs to be simulated. A team at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras* has developed “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles … multirotor microgravity platform” along with the specialized algorithms needed to do just that. Think high-speed, controlled drones. Experiments have already been performed to “observe capillary action as well as the change in the shape of the liquid meniscus in microgravity.” No doubt, there will be other uses for this technology. (*FYI: Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996, but the IIT kept its name.)
IIT Madras develops drone algorithms to help study how fire behaves in space stations, satellites
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Paul Fulford

Every week on I publish a newsletter containing space-related articles that I have found interesting.

I read a lot of material on the space industry. There's a lot going on out there other than NASA and SpaceX (although I am not excluding those sources). It is my hope that this newsletter will bring these interesting articles and insights to your attention, and that you, too, will gain a broader appreciation for the vastness of space.

Most of these articles are curated from my own social media posts. Each issue contains links directly to the article that has caught my attention. The article links are not affiliate links - I don't make money from them. They're just what I have discovered and want to share.

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