by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
June 29, 2017


Musk Thinks He Can Make Getting to Mars Cheaper Than Going to College

Sending people to live on Mars may sound outlandish, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is adamant about his plan. And now, we know a little more about how he sees this all coming together. Space technology journal New Space published an article by Musk this week outlining his plans, and Musk tweeted Friday night that changes to the plan are coming. Here’s what the 16-page paper, available for free online from New Space until next month, tells us: Going to Mars is still too expensive. The people who can afford to go to Mars, and the people who actually want to go, are not the same people at this point. Musk estimates the cost of getting 12 people to Mars to start a colony is about $10 billion per person at this point. “If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high,” he writes. “I think it would almost certainly occur.” — Recode

Photo Credit: Asa Mathat


Musk Reveals Vision for a SpaceX City on Mars

Elon Musk has revealed his vision for what a SpaceX city on Mars would look like, saying he wants people to believe setting up a colony on the Red Planet will be possible within our lifetimes. Musk has discussed the possibility of creating a human settlement on Mars for several years. SpaceX is currently planning to send a robotic mission to Mars by 2024, and says that manned missions could begin as early as 2024–long before NASA’s projected timescale of the early 2030s. — Newsweek


Selecting a New Astronaut Class

Earlier this month, NASA unveiled a new class of 12 astronauts from a record-breaking pool of more than 18,000 applicants. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA carried out that selection process and the future of both new and current astronauts from the point of view of the agency’s former chief astronaut. — Space Review

NASA recruits 12 new astronauts for Earth orbit, deep space missions


Meet Jessica Watkins, The Only Black Woman In NASA’s Newest Astronaut Class

Watch out, universe. NASA’s newest class of astronauts includes one woman with some serious black girl magic. NASA announced its first class of astronaut candidates since 2013 on Wednesday. The twelve candidates from various backgrounds and fields of study met some pretty rigorous requirements and made it to the top of the pool of 18,300 applicants, a record number for NASA. Among them is one black woman: Jessica Watkins. — Huffington Post


Rocket Scientist Says Space the Place for Budding Entrepreneurs

The man behind one of the world’s first rocket launches from a private site has called on Irish spacetech firms to focus on small satellites if they want to get ahead. Peter Beck, chief executive and founder of Rocket Lab, said money is no longer an obstacle for companies who want to build their own satellites. Rocket Lab, whose mission it to remove barriers to commercial space by providing frequent-launch opportunities, last month successfully launched a low-cost battery-powered 3-D printed rocket called Electron into orbit from New Zealand’s remote Mahia Peninsula. The maiden flight was one of three tests the company is undertaking this year. At full production Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times per annum. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the US, and 82 internationally. Starting price for flights start at about $5 million, with already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight. — Irish Times


Hawking Urges Moon Landing to ‘Elevate Humanity’

Prof Stephen Hawking has called for leading nations to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020. They should also aim to build a lunar base in 30 years’ time and send people to Mars by 2025. Prof Hawking said that the goal would re-ignite the space program, forge new alliances and give humanity a sense of purpose. “Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity,” he said. — BBC 

Prof Hawking says: “If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before.”


The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA’s Future

On March 21 of this year, both parties in Congress and the Trump administration made a change to a federal document that amounted to only a few words, but which may well change the course of human history. Amongst the many pages of the 2017 NASA Authorization Act (S. 422) the Agency’s mission encompasses expected items such as continuation of the space station, building of big rockets, indemnification of launch and reentry service providers for third party claim and so on. But in this year’s bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency’s mission: “the search for life’s origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” It’s a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. — The Atlantic


Budget Proposal Fails to Recognize NASA’s Growing Importance to Nation

Vice President Pence stressed the importance of NASA’s work to inspire young people and demonstrate American leadership to the world and pledged that “NASA will have the resources and support needed to continue to make history, to push the boundaries of human knowledge, and advance American leadership to the boundless frontier of space.” We applaud Vice President Pence’s support for a great NASA, and industry stands ready to work to assure that NASA can meet this bold vision for American space leadership. Unfortunately, the administration’s FY2018 budget request seeks to cut NASA by more than $560 million and then hold spending flat through 2022, further eroding NASA’s buying power from levels that are already below those of the 1990s. This budget fails to address NASA’s growing — not shrinking — importance to our nation. — Space News

Vice President Mike Pence applauds during an event where NASA introduced 12 new astronaut candidates, Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. After completing two years of training, the new astronaut candidates could be assigned to missions performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and launching on deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)


Falcon 9 Launches from Vandenberg Using New Automated Safety System

A Falcon 9 rocket soared through a mostly clear sky over the Lompoc Valley early Sunday afternoon following a launch that marked a pair of firsts for Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch was the first under new 30th Space Wing Commander Michael Hough and it was also the first from the base — and just the second ever — to use an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS), which relies on computer systems rather than humans for rocket safety tracking. — Lompoc Record 

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Iridium NEXT satellite lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex-4.


Space Tourism Investment Prospects in the Near Future

By all accounts, 2018 should be the year of the space tourist. Like the Chicago Cubs who endured decades of “wait until next year,” credibly both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic should be positioned to fly paying passengers in late 2018. How will a successful commercial flight impact the economics of space tourism? What is the demand for such flights? One key question for the space tourism industry is will there be repeat flyers? That is, until space tourism is a destination-based business (e.g. flights to a private space station or to the moon) will flyers pay to fly more than once after they have earned their astronaut wings? The answer to this is likely very dependent on the experience itself. — Space News

SpaceX Dragon. Credit: SpaceX


World View and KFC Plan Stratospheric Balloon Mission for Chicken Sandwich

Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken is planning to fly its Zinger sandwich up to the stratosphere and back on a World View balloon platform. But no, the mission isn’t merely a publicity stunt. For World View Enterprises, the flight is expected to serve as a four-day shakedown cruise for its “Stratollite” system, which could eventually send military and commercial imaging payloads to the edge of the atmosphere for months at a time. “When KFC first brought this to us, we had a good chuckle,” World View CEO Jane Poynter told reporters during a teleconference today. But then the Arizona-based company realized there could be a serious point behind the project. “If you can fly a chicken sandwich to the edge of space … you can fly really just about anything,” Poynter said. — Geek Wire

A fanciful view shows KFC’s Zinger chicken sandwich in a “bucket satellite.” The actual bucket satellite won’t look quite like this. (KFC Illustration)



Boeing, Apple Could Build A New Internet In Space

Here’s a match made in heaven, or at least low Earth orbit: Boeing’s aerospace expertise combined with Apple’s consumer-product savvy. If the two form a partnership to provide broadband access via thousands of satellites, it could transform how you – and the machines that surround your life – will connect to the internet. Boeing already has a plan to develop, launch and operate a constellation of 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. Apple is reportedly in talks with Boeing to be an investor-partner in the project. With Apple on board, hundred-year-old Boeing could beat out the likes of Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and SpaceX in the race to create a new internet in space and capture hundreds of billions of dollars. In the process, Boeing also could upend the telecom market and enable emerging technologies, ranging from smart devices to self-driving cars, that are expected to send the appetite for spectrum soaring. — Investors Business Daily


How One Company Wants to Recycle Used Rockets Into Deep-Space Habitats

As NASA works toward sending people into deep space, the agency is looking for new types of space habitats that astronauts can live in far from Earth. One company, Nanoracks, has a design idea in mind — but rather than build something completely new, the company has a bold plan to recycle space hardware to create living quarters. Their plan: turn used rocket tanks into suitable places for deep-space explorers to live. And now, Nanoracks has signed a contract with NASA to start turning this habitat concept into reality. Last summer, the company was one of six picked to be part of the second round of NASA’s NextSTEP program, an initiative to create concepts and ground prototypes of novel deep-space habitats. Now with a finalized contract, Nanoracks can get to work on developing its concept, called Ixion, and eventually turning a spent rocket tank into a habitat that can then be tested out in space. — The Verge

A Centaur upper stage, which Nanoracks eventually wants to turn into a habitat. Image: NASA


It’s Time to Explore Uranus and Neptune Again — and Here’s How NASA Could Do It

A group of researchers from NASA and various US universities have come up with plans to explore two of the least visited planets in our Solar System: Uranus and Neptune. That’s because compared to the other worlds in our cosmic neighborhood, these ice giants have been sorely neglected. To fix that, researchers released a report this week detailing four different types of missions that could be sent to Uranus and Neptune sometime in the next decade or so. The concepts include vehicles that could orbit the planets for 10 to 15 years and even carry probes to dive into the worlds’ atmospheres. The main focus of each mission would be to figure out what the planets are made of — and how their interiors are structured. — The Verge

The four different missions that the recent NASA report came up with: three to Uranus and one to Neptune. NASA


Compact Fusion Rockets Could Be the Future of Interplanetary Space Missions

Fusion-powered rockets that are only the size of a few refrigerators could one day help propel spacecraft at high speeds to nearby planets or even other stars, a NASA-funded spaceflight company says. Another use for such fusion rockets is to deflect asteroids that might strike Earth and to build manned bases on the moon and Mars, the researchers say. Instead of chemical rockets or ion drives, scientists have also suggested using fusion rockets propelled by the same nuclear reactions that power stars. These rockets would not only be efficient, but also generate vast amounts of electricity. However, so far, no one has built a fusion reactor that generates more energy than it consumes. Moreover, the fusion reactors that are under development are huge, making them difficult to hoist into space. But now, researchers funded by NASA are developing small fusion rockets. The aim for the fusion drives is to get about 1 kilowatt of power per 1 kilogram of mass. A 10-megawatt fusion rocket would therefore weigh about 10 metric tons. “It would probably be 1.5 meters in diameter and 4 to 8 meters long,” Paluszek said. — Seeker


Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely)

On Aug. 21, 2017, people across the United States will see the sun disappear behind the moon, turning daylight into twilight, causing the temperature drop rapidly and revealing massive streamers of light streaking through the sky around the silhouette of the moon. On that day, America will fall under the path of a total solar eclipse . The so-called Great American Total Solar Eclipse will darken skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land about 70 miles (113 kilometers) wide. People who descend upon this “path of totality” for the big event are in for an unforgettable experience. —

The total solar eclipse of 2017’s path of totality, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina.
Credit: Michael Zeiler,
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