by Jennifer Hurst
March 22, 2018


Stephen Hawking, Famed Physicist Who Defied ALS Odds, Dies at 76

Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest minds of modern physics, has died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge, England, The Guardian reported today (March 14). He was perhaps the best-known physicist in the world, despite having to communicate via a computerized voice that recorded the minute motion of his cheek muscle.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking, the children of the physicist, said in a statement announcing his death. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.” —

Stephen Hawking in 2006. Credit: The World in HDR/Shutterstock


Elon Musk Talks SpaceX’s BFR Rocket for Mars at SXSW

WASHINGTON — SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said March 11 the company could begin tests of part of its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch system as soon as next year, reiterating a schedule he provided last month.

Musk participated in an on-stage interview, announced on less than a day’s notice, at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. During the appearance, he said the company was progressing on the development of BFR, which features a first-stage booster and upper-stage “spaceship,” the latter able to travel to and land on the moon or Mars.

“We’re making good progress on the ship and the booster,” he said. “That design is evolving rapidly” from his presentation about the BFR concept at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia in September 2017, which itself was a revision of the design presented at the same conference a year earlier in Mexico. —


NASA Shapes Science Plan for Deep-Space Outpost Near the Moon

DENVER — NASA is pressing forward on plans to build a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, an outpost for astronauts positioned in the space near Earth’s moon.

According to NASA, the Gateway will not only be a place to live, learn and work around the moon but will also support an array of missions to the lunar surface. And scientists foresee a host of uses for the station.

By making use of a suite of instruments housed on or inside the structure itself, or free-flying nearby, scientists could make Earth and solar observations.They could also carry out astrophysics and fundamental physics experiments as well as human physiology and space biology studies. —

Boeing’s design for a Deep Space Gateway, an astronaut outpost near the moon. NASA is developing plans for a new Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway in orbit near the moon for future astronaut missions. Credit: Boeing



Trump: We’re Trying to Top JFK by Looking at Mars Mission

President Trump said Thursday that he wanted to “top” former President John F. Kennedy’s ambitions to send a man to the moon by pursuing a trip to Mars. “We’re looking at Mars, by the way,” Trump said. “Trying to top [Kennedy]. We’re going to get there. It’s moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened, Mike, having to do with that subject. Way ahead of schedule.”

Kennedy, who served in the Oval Office from 1961 until his assassination in 1963, set the United States’ sights on reaching the moon during the so-called “space race” with the Soviet Union. Trump has made a return to the moon and an eventual trip to Mars a primary goal of his administration’s space policy. He signed a directive in December outlining the ambitions. “Very soon we’re going to Mars,” he said. “You wouldn’t be going to Mars if my opponent won, that I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it.” — The Hill


Trump: U.S. Should Have a ‘Space Force’

“We have the Air Force. We’ll have the Space Force,” Trump said in a speech to U.S. Marines in San Diego. An idea that the Pentagon has long opposed — creating a separate military service dedicated to space warfare — suddenly is back in the headlines after President Trump endorsed it in a speech on Tuesday. Addressing a military audience in San Diego, Trump boasted about his plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, develop hypersonic weapons, and the possibility that the U.S. will need a “space force” to fight enemies that threaten U.S. access to space.

But the president may not have been aware that the idea of a military branch dedicated to space is not new. In fact it has been championed for a long time by members of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. And it’s one of the few issues in the House that gets bipartisan support. A provision in the House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required the Air Force to spin off a separate department focused on space.

The bill passed the House but didn’t have enough votes in the Senate. And it was fiercely opposed by the Air Force and the Pentagon. The law directed the Defense Department to hire an independent think tank to study the issue. The Air Force manages most of the military’s space programs and has come under criticism from lawmakers for short-changing space programs. — Space News


The Secretary of (Space) Commerce

Efforts by the National Space Council have given new prominence to the Department of Commerce for the regulation and promotion of the commercial space industry in the United States. Jeff Foust interviews Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on some of the issues coming out of the latest council meeting. — Space Review

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (left) watches the March 1 Atlas 5 launch of the GOES-S weather satellite with United Launch Alliance president and CEO Tory Bruno. (credit: ULA)


Bezos and National Reconnaissance Office Talk About Space and Innovation

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos paid a visit to the National Reconnaissance Office this week — which fits right in with his plan to participate in national security space missions through his Blue Origin space venture. Based on the readout from the NRO, the nation’s spy-satellite agency is also interested in what Bezos had to say about technological innovation. — Geek Wire


Mysterious Milky Way Signal Comes from the Past, Not Dark Matter

A mysterious cosmic signal radiating from the center of our Milky Way galaxy is actually triggered by ancient stars, rather than dark matter, according to a new study.

There is a mysterious abundance of high-energy gamma-rays at the Milky Way’s core, also known as the galactic bulge. Previous studies suggested that this abundance originated from dark matter — the mysteriously invisible substance that does not emit light or energy, yet is thought to make up most of the matter in the universe.

Instead, new research shows that the gamma-rays emanate from thousands of rapidly spinning neutron stars known as millisecond pulsars, which are believed to be some 10 billion years old. Because the stars are so far away, their emissions appeared to merge into a signal that astronomers previously interpreted as dark matter, according to a statement from the Australian National University (ANU). —


Bezos and Musk are Ramping Up Their Space Race

While Musk has the functioning infrastructure in place and is working to create a viable business with SpaceX, which he said on Sunday is “alive by the skin of its teeth,” Bezos has nearly unlimited assets to devote to his aerospace company, Blue Origin. The various rivalries suggest that the next space race won’t be fought between countries, but between billionaires pouring money into private ventures. — Vanity Fair


Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic Will “Be in Space in About Four Months”

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, which includes spaceflight company Virgin Galactic, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box” on Wednesday to state that he expects the company to send its first astronauts into space “in about four months.” This comes after a more optimistic statement by Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight last week. He said that he hopes for Virgin Galactic “to be in space by the end of this year.”

Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, the VSS Unity, must first successfully navigate a series of test flights before the craft can make its way into outer space. However, it is likely that suborbital commercial tourism and research flights will come before the company ventures outside of the atmosphere. — Futurism

Richard Branson


Bezos Says He’ll Spend `Amazon Lottery Winnings’ on Space Travel

Jeff Bezos wants to make space travel as dynamic and entrepreneurial as the internet. “The price of admission to space is very high,” Bezos said while accepting the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”

Bezos later declined to clarify just how much of his fortune he’ll spend on space travel. But Paulsen, at the next table, said Bezos could spend it all, “if he leaves enough to take care of his mother.” Bezos is definitely not leaving mom behind. She said she’s going into space. She’s already been on an ocean voyage to recover F-1 rocket engines, a trip where the crew made accommodations for her, as Bezos recounted from the stage. — Bloomberg


How the International Space Station Could Operate Commercially

Boeing envisions commercial developments in the biotech and fiber-optic industries helping fund the International Space Station after government funding runs out for the orbiting laboratory. Operating costs for the ISS have been estimated at $3 billion-$4 billion a year, with the bulk coming from the U.S. government. Boeing has a contract with NASA to operate and maintain the ISS, which is also used by more than a dozen other countries.

But under President Trump’s 2019 budget request, federal ISS outlays will end in 2025 as the administration pushes NASA to shift resources toward a moon base. John Vollmer, Boeing’s ISS chief engineer, has been on the program since its inception and told IBD recently that a public-private partnership might be the answer for the future of the space station, which has been in service for 20 years.

“Ultimately, the government is trying to reduce the cost so they can spend more money on deep space,” he said in an interview at Boeing’s facility near NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. “We understand that and support that. What we need to do … is look at those technologies that are mature enough to become commercialized” to fund the station. Editor’s Note: …And we must look at those processes that are mature enough to privatize. — IBD


SpaceX Sees Direct Route To Mars

HOUSTON — While SpaceX is focused on going straight to Mars, Boeing (BA) said a less direct route to the red planet would help build infrastructure for future missions, including commercial ones.

SpaceX, started by Tesla (TSLA) founder Elon Musk, is building its largest rocket to date, dubbed the BFR, to send humans to Mars and beyond. Earlier this week, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said the rocket would be “orbital in 2020 or so” after “short hops” planned for next year. By 2022, SpaceX plans to send a cargo mission to Mars with crewed missions eventually following. — IBD


Using AI to Discover the Moon’s Hidden Treasures

With the help of artificial intelligence, NASA’s Frontier Development Lab and Intel are mapping the moon’s craters to find hidden lunar resources.

Scientists believe the moon is rife with natural resources that could help space explorers settle the lunar landscape – much like early settlers did on earth.

But before they can access those resources, they need to find them.

“We have 50 years’ worth of NASA imagery from all sides of the moon,” said Shashi Jain, innovation manager at Intel’s Software and Services Group. “We’ve only recently begun to combine them and make one big, awesome map.”

Working with the NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL), a team of Intel AI engineers and data scientists are tackling the challenge of building complex maps of the lunar poles.

Craters in the permanently shadowed polar regions of the moon are potentially filled with water, ice and other volatile resources that can be used to produce rocket fuel, an air supply for astronauts or other essential materials, according to Jain. — iQ by Intel

A.I. spots thousands of unidentified craters on the moon
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


NASA Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA)

Common Modular Avionics System for Nano-Launchers Offering Affordable Access to Space.

Small satellites are becoming ever more capable of performing valuable missions for both government and commercial customers.  However, currently these satellites can only be launched affordably are secondary payloads.  This makes it difficult for the small satellite mission to launch when needed, to the desired orbit, and with acceptable risk.

What is needed is a class of low-cost launchers, so that launch costs to low Earth orbit (LEO) are commensurate with payload costs.

Several private and government-sponsored launch vehicle developers are working toward just that – the ability to affordably insert small payloads into LEO.  But until now, the cost of the complex avionics has still remained disproportionately high. AVE solves this problem. — NASA

AVA Controller is small, light in weight, and economical to fly.

AVA Controller is smaller than a stack of 6 Compact Disc cases, and weighs in at under a kilogram – batteries included!