Conquering the Challenge of Isolation in Space: NASA’s Human Research Program Director Receives National Recognition

NASA Human Research Program Director, William Paloski, Ph.D. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On a recent afternoon at the Johnson Space Center, Bill Paloski, Ph.D., Director of NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP), commented on HRP’s mission to protect the health and safety of astronauts. He reflected on some of the human hazards of space, including radiation, isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, altered gravity, and hostile/closed environments.

“We still have a lot to learn about these hazards,” says Paloski. “For instance, how long does it take for space radiation to damage the human body? When you’re isolated, and can’t get home or talk to your family, how long can you stay positive? NASA’s Human Research Program exists to ensure the safety of brave people who are navigating unfamiliar territory in very stressful conditions. We need this program and its research teams to develop strategies to protect our explorers and pioneers who represent the front line of our nation’s space program.”

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NASA Makes Progress Toward Science Priorities Outlined in 2013-2022 Planetary Decadal Survey

In June 2018 NASA’s Curiosity Rover used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to snap photos of the intensifying haziness the surface of Mars, caused by a massive dust storm. The rover is standing inside Gale Crater looking out to the crater rim. The photos span about a couple of weeks, starting with a shot of the area before the storm appeared. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – Despite significant cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science Division budget early in this decade, the space agency has made impressive progress in meeting goals outlined in the 2013-2022 planetary decadal survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, says a new midterm assessment from the National Academies.

The report notes that the agency met or exceeded the decadal survey’s recommendations for funding research and analysis, and for technology programs. However, NASA has not achieved the recommended timeline for New Frontiers and Discovery missions for the decade. At least one more New Frontiers mission and three Discovery missions should be selected before the end of the decade in order to achieve the schedule recommended in Vision and Voyages.
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SpaceX Hosting Stealth Mars Settlement Workshop

SpaceX BFR (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has convened an invite-only workshop on its plans to establish a colony on Mars at the University of Colorado Boulder today and tomorrow.

However, SpaceX may be getting more serious about preparing for human landings on Mars, both in terms of how to keep people alive as well as to provide them with something meaningful to do. According to private invitations seen by Ars, the company will host a “Mars Workshop” on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the University of Colorado Boulder. Although the company would not comment directly, a SpaceX official confirmed the event and said the company regularly meets with a variety of experts concerning its missions to Mars.
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Human Health Gaps Loom with End of Space Station in Sight

After 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew – NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – return to Earth Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Credit: NASA Television)

Long exposure to microgravity conditions does some bad things to the human body. The heart shrinks, bones become weaker and cells are exposed to damaging radiation.

The impacts will become more acute as NASA launches astronauts to the moon and Mars, which lie outside of the protection of the Earth’s Van Allen belt. The space agency has been conducting research aboard the International Space Station to find ways of addressing these risks before flights begin in the 2020’s.

The Trump Administration wants to end direct federal support for the station in 2024 to free up funding for human lunar missions. However, a recent NASA Inspector General audit indicates doing so could leave some vital human health research being left uncompleted, resulting in greater risks to astronauts on deep-space missions.

Below is an excerpt from the audit that discusses the human health research being conducted on the space station and the risks involved of ending station support in 2024.
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Mars Terraforming Not Possible Using Present-Day Technology

This infographic shows the various sources of carbon dioxide on Mars and their estimated contribution to Martian atmospheric pressure. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Science fiction writers have long featured terraforming, the process of creating an Earth-like or habitable environment on another planet, in their stories. Scientists themselves have proposed terraforming to enable the long-term colonization of Mars. A solution common to both groups is to release carbon dioxide gas trapped in the Martian surface to thicken the atmosphere and act as a blanket to warm the planet.

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NASA Inspector General Skeptical of Agency Plan for Commercializing Space Station

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment. (Credit: NASA)

The NASA Inspector General is skeptical about the space agency’s plan to transition to commercial operations in Earth orbit after the end of direct federal support for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024, according to a new report.

“Transitioning the ISS to private operation under the timetable currently envisioned presents significant challenges in stimulating private sector interest to take on an extremely costly and complex enterprise,” the audit found. “Based on our audit work, we question the viability of NASA’s current plans, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit on the timetable proposed…

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NASA Statement on Possible Subsurface Lake near Martian South Pole

Detecting buried water with radar. (Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new paper published in Science this week suggests that liquid water may be sitting under a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole.

The finding is based on data from the European Mars Express spacecraft, obtained by a radar instrument called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding). The Italian Space Agency (ASI) led the development of the MARSIS radar. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the U.S. portion led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Beneath Planet’s South Pole

Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars. (Credit: Context map: NASA/Viking; THEMIS background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PARIS, 25 July 2018 (ESA PR) — Radar data collected by ESA’s Mars Express point to a pond of liquid water buried under layers of ice and dust in the south polar region of Mars.

Evidence for the Red Planet’s watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and gigantic outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.

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Name Europe’s Mars Rover Competition

ESA’s Exo Mars Rover (Credit: ESA)

FARNBOROUGH, UK — 20 July 2018 (ESA PR) — The UK Space Agency has launched a competition to name a rover that is going to Mars to search for signs of life.Due to launch in 2020, the UK-built rover is part of ESA’s ExoMars mission. It will investigate how Mars has evolved and whether there may be conditions for life.

The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to travel across the martian surface and drill down to determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the Sun’s radiation that bombards the surface of the ‘Red Planet’.

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Airbus Wins Two ESA Studies for Mars Sample Return Mission

Mars in opposition. [(Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute) ]

Sample Fetch Rover to retrieve cached samples on Mars
Earth Return Orbiter to capture the samples and return them to Earth

STEVENAGE/TOULOUSE (Airbus PR) – Airbus has won two studies from the European Space Agency (ESA) to design a Sample Fetch Rover and an Earth Return Orbiter. These two elements will be critical parts of a mission to return samples of the planet Mars to Earth before the end of the next decade. NASA and ESA signed a letter of intent in April 2018 to pursue a Mars Sample Return mission.

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Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

UK Industry to Design a Future Mars Rover

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — UK industry will design a future Mars rover, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced today after a visit to the Harwell space cluster with Tim Peake.

A new rover set to visit Mars and collect the first ever samples from the planet to be brought back safely to Earth, will be designed in Stevenage by Airbus following the award of a £3.9 million contract by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The sample fetch rover will retrieve samples left by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and transfer them to an ascent vehicle. This will put them into orbit about the planet, where they will then be brought back to Earth by a separate spacecraft.

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Rogozin Lays Out 10 Principles to Guide Roscosmos

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Today, June 28, 2018, Moscow hosted the scientific and practical conference “The main tasks and prospects for the development of Roscosmos”, at which the General Director of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin announced ten principles on which the State Corporation and enterprises of the industry will operate.

At the event, not only the heads of Roscosmos, but also all the enterprises of the industry gathered, there were altogether more than 250 people. The moderator of the conference was acting. Nikolay Sevastyanov, First Deputy General Director of Roscosmos State Corporation, who outlined the program of the meeting.

Opening speech delivered by Dmitry Rogozin, at the very beginning of which he cited Academician Andrei Sakharov: “Life is an expansion.” He also stressed that the Russian cosmos is the crown of self-identification of our people.

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National Academies’ Recommendations to NASA on Planetary Protection

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
June 2018

Full Report

Findings & Recommendations

Recommendation 3.1

Finding: In connection with Mars sample return, planetary protection requirements for the sample containment, verification of containment, return vehicle and sample receiving facility are not yet in place.

Recommendation 3.1: NASA’s process for developing planetary protection policy for sample return missions should include early consultation with mission developers and managers, mission and receiving facility science teams, and microbiologists and include providing a means to use the best available biological and technological knowledge about back contamination and containment.
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Tethers Unlimited Delivers In-Space Recycler to NASA


BOTHELL, Wash. (Tethers Unlimited PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has successfully delivered the Refabricator payload to NASA in preparation for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

The Refabricator is a mini-fridge sized experimental payload that combines a plastics-recycling system with a 3D printer. NASA will use this payload to demonstrate the ability for astronauts to recycle plastic waste and use the material to create new parts and tools to support long-duration manned missions to the Moon, Mars, and deep space.