Partnerships Between NASA and Industry Can Support Lunar Exploration, Say Two New Reports

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – Renewed interest in exploration of the moon has the potential to benefit lunar science greatly and could evolve into a program facilitated by partnerships between commercial companies and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), say companion reports by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Review of the Planetary Science Aspects of NASA SMD’s Lunar Science and Exploration Initiative and Review of the Commercial Aspects of NASA SMD’s Lunar Science and Exploration Initiative laud the rapid and effective steps the agency’s science directorate has taken in responding to a 2017 presidential directive to lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners, beginning with a near-term focus on the moon.

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National Academies: NASA Should Lead Large Direct Imaging Mission to Study Earth-Like Exoplanets

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – To answer significant questions about planetary systems, such as whether our solar system is a rare phenomenon or if life exists on planets other than Earth, NASA should lead a large direct imaging mission – an advanced space telescope – capable of studying Earth-like exoplanets orbiting stars similar to the sun, says a new congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The study of exoplanets – planets outside our solar system that orbit a star – has seen remarkable discoveries in the past decade. The report identifies two overarching goals in this field of science:

  • To understand the formation and evolution of planetary systems as products of star formation and characterize the diversity of their architectures, composition, and environments.
  • To learn enough about exoplanets to identify potentially habitable environments and search for scientific evidence of life on worlds orbiting other stars.

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Report: NASA Should Update Policies That Protect Planets, Other Worlds During Exploration Missions

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 — July 2, 2018 (NAS PR) – The current process for planetary protection policy development is inadequate to respond to increasingly complex solar system exploration missions, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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Decadal Survey Recommends “Robust, Resilient, and Balanced” Earth Science Program


WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) should implement a coordinated approach for their space-based environmental observations to further advance Earth science and applications for the next decade, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

This approach should be based on key scientific questions in areas such as reducing climate uncertainty, improving weather and air quality forecasts, predicting geological hazards, and understanding sea-level rise. The report also recommends building a robust, resilient, and balanced U.S. program of Earth observations from space that will enable the agencies to strategically advance the science and applications with constrained resources.

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NAS: Many Goals Outlined in Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Are Met, Others Delayed

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NAS PR) – While scientists have made remarkable advancements in astronomy and astrophysics since the beginning of this decade – notably the first detection of gravitational waves and the discovery of distant Earth-like planets – unforeseen constraints have slowed progress toward reaching some of the priorities and goals outlined in the Academies’ 2010 decadal survey of these disciplines, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report calls for NASA, National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – the federal agencies largely responsible for funding and implementing these research activities – to maintain, and in some cases adjust, their programs in order to meet the survey’s scientific objectives.

The 2010 survey, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), identified an array of scientific and technical projects for the next decade that would trace back the formation of the first stars and galaxies, seek out black holes, reveal nearby habitable planets, and advance understanding of the fundamental physics of the universe.  The new report is an assessment of the progress made thus far by NASA, NSF, and DOE on the suite of large-, medium-, and small-scale programs given priority in the survey, including NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) and the NSF/DOE’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

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Smallsat 2016: Trends, Policies & Science

Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

While the smallsat market is forecast to experience double digit growth over the next five years, U.S. government policy continues to lag behind the rapid developments in the field. Meanwhile, a recent National Academies report has found that smallsats can be return high-quality scientific data if missions are designed correctly.

Those are the conclusions of three presentations made this week at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah. Below are summaries of the talks drawn from Tweets by the following attendees:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • Hanna Steplewska ‏@spacesurfingirl

Enjoy!
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National Academies Report Recommends Greater Use of CubeSats

In February 2014, Planet Labs Inc. launched its first flock of Dove nanosatellites into space. Shown are two shoebox-sized Doves being ejected into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station. The company’s goal is for the flock to take a high-resolution snapshot of nearly the entire globe every 24 hours. (Credit: NASA)
In February 2014, Planet Labs Inc. launched its first flock of Dove nanosatellites into space. Shown are two shoebox-sized Doves being ejected into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station. The company’s goal is for the flock to take a high-resolution snapshot of nearly the entire globe every 24 hours. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (National Academies Press PR) — In the last few years, hundreds of contained “nano” satellites known as CubeSats have been launched in low Earth orbit for many purposes, including for collecting targeted scientific data.  Federal agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation are exploring the potential of these highly affordable satellites in advancing research goals.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concludes that CubeSats have demonstrated usefulness for scientific data gathering and can also augment – but not replace — the capabilities of large satellite missions and ground-based facilities. The report identifies examples of high-priority science goals that could be pursued through the use of CubeSats in areas such as solar and space physics, planetary science, and Earth science.

In order to continue building the capabilities of CubeSats for research, federal support is crucial, the report says, which identifies several steps NASA and NSF should take to ensure that CubeSats reach their full potential.

DETAILS:

Copies of Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box are now available at www.nap.edu.

NRC: We’ve Got Options to Deal With Asteroid Threats, But Not Enough Money

Asteroid Ida
Asteroid Ida

NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS RELEASE

A new report from the National Research Council lays out options NASA could follow to detect more near-Earth objects (NEOs) – asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard if they cross Earth’s orbit. The report says the $4 million the U.S. spends annually to search for NEOs is insufficient to meet a congressionally mandated requirement to detect NEOs that could threaten Earth.

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National Academies Want Your View on the Future of the U.S. Space Program

Wanted! Your Views On America’s Space Program Goals
Space.com

The new study “Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program” is looking for the public’s view on the following questions:

What’s the future of human, robotic, commercial, and personal spaceflight? Is your life impacted in a meaningful way by the space program? What kind of emphasis should the space program represent in going forward? How can the country’s civil, or non-military, space program address key national issues?

Views – positive or negative – of the general public are welcomed. This study is sponsored exclusively by The National Academies, and it is not receiving any funds from government agencies or any other external sources.