by Jennifer Hurst
November 4, 2018

Elon Musk Says SpaceX is on Track to Launch People to Mars Within 6 Years

Elon Musk is hell-bent on colonizing Mars. That’s the spirit with which he founded SpaceX, his rocket company, in 2002. Musk was frustrated that NASA wasn’t doing more to get people to the red planet — and concerned that a backup plan for humanity wasn’t being developed (for when Earth becomes an uninhabitable wasteland).

Since then, SpaceX has developed several impressive aerospace systems: Falcon 1, its first orbital rocket; Grasshopper, a small self-landing test rocket; Falcon 9, a reusable orbital-class launcher; Dragon, a spaceship for cargo and soon NASA astronauts; and Falcon Heavy, a super-heavy-lift launcher.

But Mars is a cold, unforgiving, and almost airless rock located an average of 140 million miles from Earth. Astounding ingenuity is required to land even a small spacecraft there today, let alone a giant spaceship full of people and cargo in the future. That’s why SpaceX is taking the lessons the company has learned over the past 16 years — and its increasing amount of money and staff— and using them to build a space vehicle called the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR. — Business Insider


SpaceX Official Says Company About to Launch a Falcon 9 for the Third Time

SpaceX has re-used its Falcon 9 rocket 16 times, but the company has never flown a single first stage more than twice. However, in May of this year the company debuted a newer version of its Falcon 9 rocket, dubbed Block 5, that is specifically optimized for reusability across multiple flights. At present SpaceX intends to reuse a Falcon 9 rocket for the third time to launch a rideshare mission of dozens of small satellites for Spaceflight. This Spaceflight SSO-A mission currently has a launch date of November 19. — Ars Technica

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket


SpaceX’s ‘Starman’ and Its Tesla Roadster Are Now Beyond Mars

Starman has put a lot of miles on his Tesla Roadster in the last nine months. The red electric car and its spacesuit-clad mannequin driver, which launched on the maiden mission of SpaceX’s huge Falcon Heavy rocket in February, have made it beyond the orbit of Mars, company representatives said Friday night (Nov. 2).

The Roadster and Starman will come within a few hundred thousand kilometers of our planet in 2091, according to an orbit-modeling study. You can track the space mannequin and cosmic Tesla at, a website created by Ben Pearson, founder of Old Ham Media. —

SpaceX’s Starman mannequin is seen inside Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster with Earth in the background, shortly after launch on Feb. 6, 2018. As of Nov. 2, the duo were beyond the orbit of Mars.
Credit: SpaceX


Asteroid Mining Startup Bought by Blockchain Firm Hoping to Democratize Space

A blockchain startup is hoping to get a cut of a potentially trillion-dollar industry, after it took over a space company set up to mine near-Earth asteroids.

ConsenSys announced its acquisition of Planetary Resources on Wednesday, 31 October, together with its intention of “democratizing and decentralizing space endeavors.”

The space mining startup has had some high-profile backing since forming in 2009, including Google co-founder Larry Page, who was involved in a $21.1 million funding round in 2016.

“Over the course of nearly a decade, Planetary Resources has simultaneously pioneered technology, business, law and policy, and brought the promise of space resources irreversibly closer to humankind’s grasp,” said Chris Lewicki, a former Nasa worker who helped co-found Planetary Resources. — Independent

Asteroid mining startup Planetary resources aims to bring ‘the promise of space resources irreversibly closer to humankind’s grasp’
Getty Images


Upstart Rocket Company to Develop 3D Printed Rockets

Upstart rocket company Relativity Space, which has backing from Mark Cuban, sees a vital opening for business. “We feel like it’s inevitable that if humanity is going out to colonize other planets, 3D-printing is really the only way to manufacture things like tools and replacement parts,” Tim Ellis, a co-founder of Relativity Space, told Business Insider. Ellis is a rocket-propulsion engineer who formerly worked at Blue Origin.

“So that’s what we’re working on: How to 3D-print an entire rocket,” he said. So far, spaceflight companies are only dipping their toes into the technology. “They’re only printing parts here and there and cannibalizing launch systems from the bottom-up,” he said. “The problem with that approach is that there are close to 100,000 parts in a rocket.”

The startup also has a partnership with NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test rocket engines. In total, Relativity Space has about 40,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space, employs 35 full-time staff, and has 14 advisors and consultants. — Business Insider


NASA’s Curiosity Rover Takes An Epic Panorama Shot of Mars

NASA has released incredible footage of a Martian panorama that was snapped by the Curiosity rover. It gives us an unprecedented look at the Gale Crater and was taken from high up on the Vera Rubin Ridge.

The space agency also showed off a quirky selfie of the Curiosity, which celebrated its 14th year on Mars this month. The Curiosity is NASA’s longest-running rover and has traveled more than 28 miles since 2004. The rover has proved to be a treasure trove of stunning Martian images, sending back over 224,000 snaps since it first arrived on the red planet.

It’s currently exploring the Perseverance Valley — where the new pictures were taken — which is a giant channel that scientists say was likely carved by a fluid. — NYPost


Naturally Occurring ‘Batteries’ Fueled Organic Carbon Synthesis on Mars

Mars’ organic carbon may have originated from a series of electrochemical reactions between briny liquids and volcanic minerals, according to new analyses of three Martian meteorites from a team led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele published in Science Advances.

The group’s analysis of a trio of Martian meteorites that fell to Earth—Tissint, Nakhla, and NWA 1950—showed that they contain an inventory of organic carbon that is remarkably consistent with the organic carbon compounds detected by the Mars Science Laboratory’s rover missions.

In 2012, Steele led a team that determined the organic carbon found in 10 Martian meteorites did indeed come from the Red Planet and was not due to contamination from Earth, but also that the organic carbon did not have a biological origin. This new work takes his research to the next step—trying to understand how Mars’ organic carbon was synthesized, if not by biology.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and sometimes include oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and other elements. Organic compounds are commonly associated with life, although they can be created by non-biological processes as well, which are referred to as abiotic organic chemistry. —

Mosaic image of Mars created from over 100 images taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Credit: NASA


White House Drafting Space Force Policy Recommending That it be Formed as a Separate Branch of the Armed Forces

The White House is drafting a policy directive on the next steps for establishing a Space Force. That policy, which would become Space Policy Directive-4, would direct the Defense Department to submit a legislative proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget by Dec. 1 recommending that a Space Force be formed as a separate branch of the armed forces. The Defense Department would also include the Space Force in its fiscal year 2020 budget request. That policy would require the Space Force to be a “lean” organization that will “minimize duplication of effort and eliminate bureaucratic inefficiencies.” The National Space Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Washington to discuss military space issues, but it’s not clear if the policy will be announced or formally signed at the event. — Space News

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the National Space Council. Credit: NASA


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Endorses Trump’s ‘Space Force’

Count the CEO of SpaceX as among the fans of the Trump administration’s proposed “Space Force.” Elon Musk sees a new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as “obvious” as Americans travel far off the planet.

“It’s basically defense in space. And then I think also it could be pretty helpful for maybe expanding our civilization,” Musk told Kara Swisher on a new episode of Recode Decode. “I do think it will become obvious over time that a Space Force is a sensible thing to do.”

Donald Trump pitched the new military operation this year, and hopes to have it running by 2020, bringing the military into conversation with space leaders like NASA and Musk’s SpaceX. It would sit alongside branches like the Army and the Air Force. — Recode

Sean Rayford / Getty Images


US Voices Alarm Over Russia Satellite’s ‘Very Abnormal Behavior’

Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development.

The United States has voiced concern about Russia’s launch of a mysterious satellite that is exhibiting “very abnormal behavior”, raising suspicions about Moscow’s pursuit of new space weapons.

The Russian government has insisted the satellite is a “space apparatus inspector”, but an American official said the object’s movements in orbit were “inconsistent with anything seen before” in that capacity.

“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” said Yleem Poblete, US assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance. “But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development.” — Independent


Small Rockets are Taking Off

In mid-November, a company called Rocket Lab will try to send six small satellites into orbit around Earth—a fairly banal undertaking, save for the size of the launch rocket. It is only 17 meters (56 feet) tall and 1.2 meters (four feet) in diameter.

And if all goes well, the US company will send up more than one of its Electron rockets every month in 2019.

Rocket Lab, which was created in 2006, completed a successful test flight in January and is expected this month to be the first of a new generation of companies to declare itself operational in the so-called “small launch industry.”

The launch window opens on November 11. Barring a mishap, or another delay after a months-long technical setback, the rocket will blast off from the world’s first private orbital launch range in Mahia, New Zealand.

Like Rocket Lab, dozens of start-up companies are developing rockets adapted to send small, micro or nanosatellites—which weigh anything from a few kilos to a few hundred kilos (pounds)—into space.

It’s a whole new chapter for the “New Space Race,” the latest industry revolution begun about a decade ago and based on private, not public, innovation—especially in the United States. —

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket—seen on the launch pad in Mahia, New Zealand in June 2018—is expected to take flight sometime in November

How Hibernators Could Help Humans Treat Illness, Conserve Energy and Get to Mars

Researchers will gather today to discuss the potential for hibernation and the related process, torpor, to aid human health in spaceflight. The symposium will explore how synthetic torpor might be induced by the brain, its similarities and differences to sleep, and how it could benefit astronauts.

Studying hibernation in mammals — how they are able to safely lower their body temperature and metabolism for extended periods of time — may also aid treatment of people experiencing traumatic medical events, such as stroke, cardiac arrest and severe blood loss. Animals that use torpor have a natural resistance to various injuries that can happen due to lack of blood flow. They are also resistant to radiation injury — such a resistance would be especially beneficial to humans in deep space. — Science Daily


Space: The New Frontier

“Space is becoming smaller, closer and cheaper, reinventing an industry that has stagnated for decades and making room for new applications, new technologies and competitors,” says Noah Poponak, aerospace and defense senior equity research analyst in Goldman Sachs Research.

Dissolving barriers to entry – combined with geopolitical tensions – have ignited a new space race, with implications for scientific research, defense, communications and travel. — Goldman Sachs


‘War of the Worlds!’ The Infamous Martian Invasion Radio Broadcast Explained

Orson Welles’ Oct. 30, 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” based on the English author H.G. Wells tale of a Martian invasion, startled many listeners who thought Martians were really attacking. Here are some photos relating to the historic broadcast.
Here Welles, an American actor, director and producer, stands with British author H.G. Wells following the attention-grabbing radio show.

The “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast was part of Welles’ “Mercury Theater on the Air” program on CBS, which broadcast from Radio City in New York. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the program was a relatively low-budget affair that had been running for 17 weeks. At the time of the broadcast, it didn’t have a sponsor. —

In this image, Welles is seen rehearsing his part for the historic broadcast.
Photo Credit: Bettmann Archive