Space: the final frontier May 2021-

Written by  //  July 24, 2021  //  Aviation & Aerospace, Science & Technology  //  No comments

Space news
European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta Overview
Mars ;
The Hubble Deep Field:

24 July
Why the billionaire Space Race is something to cheer
(CAPX) The reactions to Branson and Bezos’ trips have been predictably negative. Criticisms fall into three broad camps:
Space exploration is a waste of money. With so many pressing needs here on earth it’s wrong to pour billions into what is essentially a vanity exercise.
If they’ve got so much spare cash, why don’t they pay their taxes and treat their workers better.
The commercialisation of space travel is wrong and will just lead to yet another industry offering expensive perks to the super-wealthy.
There is actually a fourth category of criticism which boils down to ‘I really, really, don’t like these people’, which is perfectly reasonable but not particularly relevant or useful to debate.
…the most immediate justification for the money poured into space travel by both states and individuals: practical uses here on Earth for innovations developed in order to enable space exploration and the research that it has enabled.
Looking back over the last few decades it is truly astounding how many of these there are. Products in daily use today which only exist because of the research carried out for space exploration include: artificial limbs; the insulin pump; the polymers used in firefighters’ heat-resistant suits; shock absorbers to protect buildings during earthquakes; solar cells; water filtration technology; wireless headsets; camera phones; CAT scans; air purifiers; memory foam; home insulation; LED devices that relieve pain.
… There is a more fundamental challenge however about the ownership of the Moon, Mars, the skies themselves and the resources and knowledge they provide. As the Moon is increasingly visited by private companies as well as national agencies, perhaps even colonised, how it will it be used? Will access be modelled on the Antarctic, with strict controls on uses and population? Or will governments and private companies just stake claims? The legal issues are extremely complex. We urgently need an internationally agreed framework, with treaties agreed by the countries actively involved in space flight and a clear set of rules governing the involvement of private companies.
Much of the criticism of Jeff Bezos centres on the ability of large companies like Amazon to avoid paying much tax. That arises from the failure of nations and international bodies to keep up with the internationalisation of the world’s economy and put in place effective rules to govern it. Now that economy is set to become not just international but inter-planetary, we must not make the same mistake.

20 July
Jeff Bezos And Blue Origin Travel Deeper Into Space Than Richard Branson
(NPR) The founder of Amazon, who stepped down as CEO earlier this month, lifted off early Tuesday with three crewmates on the maiden flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle.
Liftoff! Jeff Bezos And Three Crewmates Travel To Space And Back In Under 15 Minutes
The date of the New Shepard’s maiden launch is no accident: July 20 was the day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon
Heather Cox Richardson: In 2021, Bezos paid $973 million in taxes on $4.22 billion in income while his wealth increased by $99 billion, making his true tax rate 0.98%. After his trip into the sky, he told reporters: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this…. Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”

11 July
Richard Branson Has Completed A Historic Trip To The Edge Of Space On Virgin Galactic
(NPR) The ascent to the launch [the spacecraft was attached to a larger plane,] — where the mothership released the Galactic Unity 22 — lasted nearly 50 minutes. Once detached, an on-board rocket was engaged, shooting Galactic Unity 22 to a peak altitude of more than 282,000 feet.
Branson…is one in a trio of billionaire businessmen who’ve launched commercial space flight ventures.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, is set to take his company Blue Origin to space on July 20. Elon Musk, the CEO and chief engineer of Space X, has also been in pursuit of creating commercial space flight opportunities.

3 July
How to Decipher the Pentagon’s UFO Report The crucial, missing context for what military pilots might actually be seeing.
By Jeff Wise
(New York) For many, aerial objects moving in impossible ways immediately brings to mind alien visitors. But for those working in the electronic warfare industry, strangely manifesting phenomena are their stock-in-trade. The field is tasked with the detection of adversaries across the electromagnetic spectrum, from visual light to infrared and radar, as well as manipulating signals so that your forces are not detected by the enemy. “By radiating electromagnetic energy, one can deny, deceive, disrupt, delay or deceive that energy to confuse an observer about what you’re doing,” says Glenn “Powder” Carlson, president of the Old Crows Association, the EW professional organization. …
By opening up discussion of mysterious aeronautical encounters to the general public, even to the extent of endorsing the idea that alien UFOs are real, the military hopes to encourage the regular reporting of potentially worrisome anomalies.
25 June
Watershed U.S. UFO report does not rule out extraterrestrial origin
(Reuters) – A U.S. government report on UFOs issued on Friday said defense and intelligence analysts lack sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by American military pilots including whether they are advanced earthly technologies, atmospherics or of an extraterrestrial, released to Congress and the public, encompasses 144 observations – mostly from U.S. Navy personnel – of what the government officially calls “unidentified aerial phenomenon,” or UAP, dating back to 2004.
Labeled a preliminary assessment, it was compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in conjunction with a Navy-led task force created by the Pentagon last year.
14 June
The woman who forced the US government to take UFOs seriously
(The Guardian) In 1999, Leslie Kean was handed a 90-page report of UFO sightings by pilots. After publishing her first story on the subject, she was hooked.
Kean’s biggest breakthrough came in 2017, when she was invited by a longtime source to meet with Luis “Lue” Elizondo on the day he resigned as the director of a clandestine Pentagon program that collected information about UFOs, the shadowy Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).
Essentially, he revealed the very program she had lobbied for.
Kean teamed up with Ralph Blumenthal and Helene Cooper to write up her scoop for the New York Times, Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious UFO Program. The story revealed the existence of AATIP from 2007 to 2012, funded by an initiative from the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid and fellow Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye.
[Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program
In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.
Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.
For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times.
16 December 2017]
17 May
For some Navy pilots, UFO sightings were an ordinary event: ‘Every day for at least a couple years’
(WaPo) When the Navy pilot first spotted the strange object hovering in restricted airspace off the Atlantic Coast, he was stunned — no exhaust plume, no visible engine and all the makings of something secret, something mysterious or something dangerous.
But years later, Ryan Graves sounded almost bored as he recounted for a national television audience his history with unidentified aerial phenomena — UAPs, better known as UFOs.
Perhaps because for him and some of his former Navy colleagues, such sightings became a regular occurrence.
Graves has told his story before. But the interview — part of a “60 Minutes” report dedicated to the subject — signaled something new: UFOs are going mainstream. The shift — from kooky conspiracy theory to object of congressional inquiry — has accelerated in recent years, fueled by the revival of a Pentagon unit to investigate the sightings. And in the next six weeks, a report is due that is required to make public everything the government knows about UFOs.
19 May
A very long, thorough, account of the gradual acceptance of the existence of UFOs or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena
How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously
For decades, flying saucers were a punch line. Then the U.S. government got over the taboo.
(The New Yorker May 10 issue) Last summer, David Norquist, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, announced the formal existence of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, signed this past December, stipulated that the government had a hundred and eighty days to gather and analyze data from disparate agencies. Its report is expected in June. In a recent interview with Fox News, John Ratcliffe, the former director of National Intelligence, emphasized that the issue was no longer to be taken lightly. “When we talk about sightings,” he said, “we are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for, or are travelling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.”

5 May
America’s moon effort is getting weirder
(The Atlantic) We’re living in an exciting moment in American spaceflight history. I’m sure every space journalist since the Apollo era has said this at some point. But it’s true, and it’s true now in stranger ways than before. NASA is in the midst of a new moon effort—named Artemis, for Apollo’s sister—to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon, this time including the first woman and the first person of color.
The space agency has already picked which of its astronauts are eligible to train for these missions, though they’re not yet household names like Armstrong and Aldrin were. The most high-profile figures in this new project are instead Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who are also the two richest people in the world. Both men had pitched their rocket companies for the NASA mission, which is supposed to leave in 2024. NASA picked Musk’s SpaceX, but then Bezos’s Blue Origin challenged the decision, and now the whole thing is on hold. It’s a messy situation…
This is what I mean when I say that this moment in space history is different. Private companies are now doing work once reserved for government agencies, and their billionaire founders are shaping the future of space travel, for better or worse. Rich people can pay for flights to the edge of space to experience a few minutes of weightlessness, or for trips all the way into orbit, to loop around Earth for a couple of days. One very rich person has already purchased a moon journey.
Deeper in the solar system, robotic spacecraft are doing ever more exciting exploring for us. NASA’s little Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has already completed several flights on the red planet’s surface, proving that people can make machines fly in the atmosphere of an entirely alien world. Space robots such as Ingenuity are distinctly good at capturing the public’s imagination. People tend to anthropomorphize robots that act as if they have minds of their own, even something as purely mechanical as Ingenuity wiggling its blades. When machines make the long journeys to Mars and other planets in our cosmic neighborhood, they take a little piece of humankind with them. — Marina Koren

6 May
Elon Musk Is Maybe, Actually, Strangely, Going to Do This Mars Thing
From his private Cape Canaveral, the billionaire is manifesting his own interplanetary reality—whatever the cost.

5 May
How the Space Fantasy Became Banal
The final frontier, as a setting, has long channeled giddy dreams of human communion. A new group of cultural works explores the opposite possibility.

29 April
Path to the Pad: NASA Artemis I Moon Rocket Comes Together
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is on its path to the pad for Artemis I, the first integrated mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft through the agency’s Artemis program. … With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration in preparation for missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

28 April
The World’s Richest Men Are Brawling Over the Moon
NASA gave Elon Musk’s SpaceX a coveted contract for a lunar mission. Jeff Bezos plans to fight for it.
Marina Koren
(The Atlantic) In one corner is Jeff Bezos, the founder of the rocket company Blue Origin, and the richest person in the world. In the other is Elon Musk, the founder of the rocket company SpaceX, and the second-richest person in the world. Bezos and Musk have pitched their respective businesses to NASA in the space agency’s search for new technology to land astronauts on the moon. It is a massive opportunity. Astronauts haven’t set foot on the moon since the final Apollo mission, in 1972. But American officials have long called for a triumphant return, longer stays, and even the construction of a permanent base. And in recent years, they have turned to the private sector for help.|NASA announced last week that SpaceX had won the coveted contract, worth $2.9 billion, to develop a lunar lander, beating out Blue Origin, which had partnered with a few longtime space contractors for its bid. This week, Blue Origin filed a protest with the federal agency that investigates government spending, challenging the decision.

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