Archive for the 'Space Exploration' Category

On this episode of Talking Space, we discuss how SpaceX's Falcon 9 delivers again sending the Inmarsat 5-4F Communications satellite into its proper orbit. The company also tested the core stage of its Falcon Heavy booster slated for a hopeful debut this year. A SpaceX employee was also in the news with some interesting words for the competition and what may have been a  mild rebuke of NASA Space Launch System. We report on NASA's 200th Spacewalk in support of ISS operations and in particular an enthusiastic NASA astronaut in Jack Fischer 

Vector Space Systems Conducted a successful test flight of its Vector-R booster capeable of carrying 50 Kg (110lbs) to low Earth orbit and set to take on CubeSat and microsat market. We examine the implications. During a May 12 press conference, NASA's Human Spaceflight Office announced the results of a study requested by the Trump NASA Landing Team, answering the question could the first mission for the Space Launch System carry humans? We discuss the press conference conducted by Robert Lightfoot, Interim NASA Administrator and William Gerstenmaier NASA Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight answering the question will Exploration Mission 1 be piloted. We give you the answer and analysis of why the decision was made.

Show recorded 5-15-2017

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman

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On this extra packed episode of Talking Space, we discuss the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the classified NROL-76 satellite. We also address a tweet sent to us regarding our view on SpaceX, a comment we get quite often and wanted to address. We also discuss the arrival of the Cygnus resupply vehicle to the International Space Station, and the return of a 4K camera from the station. This reportedly allowed more detailed science documentation, but our opinion of 4K, including the first live 4K broadcast from space? You'll have to listen. 

We then address some shake-ups happening at Roscosmos, and why one of the most decorated cosmonauts is choosing to leave. We then discuss the first of 22 dives taken by Cassini into the space between the rings of Saturn and what we're hoping to get as it nears its "Grand Finale". Of course, we had to discuss the announcement that the launch of NASA's SLS is now set for 2019, coming shortly after a report from the GAO stating that 2018 was highly unlikely. It's not just the rockets that are facing issues, but so are the aging spacesuits used by NASA.

Finally, we discuss Mark's time at the FIRST Robotics Championships in Houston, Texas. Mark discusses the tech inn, the Program Executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters. You'll also hear from Cathy Olkin, the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission to study Trojan asteroids

For more information on FIRST, visit https://www.firstinspires.org/

To view the video Mark referenced in the episode, visit https://youtu.be/ZU3hHHFJT_k

To see Mark's "Get Smart" team at the competition, visit https://twitter.com/MaureenWilt/status/855618901685698560

Show recorded 4-29-2017

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman

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This season launches with, well, a look at a few launches. First up is OA-7, the second launch of a commercial cargo flight featuring Orbital ATK’s Cygnus atop a ULA Atlas V rocket. The International Space Station is living up to the last word in the name with the departure and  arrival of new crews as well, including the launch of a Soyuz carrying 2 NASA astronauts, first-timer Jack Fisher and storied veteran Peggy Whitson. For the latter, this trip will result in yet another few barriers broken for women and all humans alike as she settles in for a long stay in orbit. Just because this is his first trip to space, though, doesn’t mean Jack Fischer doesn’t have plenty to say already, and we bring you part of an exclusive unaired interview with him in celebration of his first trip to the laboratory. On the other side of Russian rocketry, reports indicate that there are issues with not just a few Proton engines but all of them. What implications could this have, not only for future Proton flights but for Russian aerospace as a whole? Meanwhile, while we’ve been on hiatus, SpaceX has managed to get one step closer to their vision of reusability by carrying the CRS-9 cargo towards the ISS by successfully relaunching a booster that had already been to the station.

From new beginnings we move to a spectacular mission that will be coming to a close soon with the latest findings about Enceladus from Cassini. The liquid plumes escaping through the moon’s icy shell have now been shown to contain molecular hydrogen (H2), generating increased questions about the possibility of organic matter in the hidden oceans. Meanwhile, similar plumes have been spotted on Europa using data from the Hubble Space Telescope which, while not yet able to be analyzed for chemical content, makes us wonder all the more if we just might not be truly alone even in our solar system, even if our only non-terrestrial neighbors would be microorganisms. Continuing with the search for potential habitability outside Earth, we begin our dive into this year’s Northeast Astronomy Forum with the search for exoplanets in the “Goldilocks” zone and the work of MIT planetary scientist and astrophysicist Sara Seager, her team, and the citizen scientists of planethunters.org. Planet hunting is hardly the only way amateur enthusiasts can contribute, though, and astrophotography is not only an area where amateurs can contribute significantly to scientific knowledge but can even make you a different sort of professional. Robert Reeves is just a guy with a camera who fell in love with imaging the moon decades ago and is now known as one of its best portrait-takers. We share a few of his tips and tricks and encourage you to take a look around the internet for his images. While we ramp up to this year’s main astronomical event for America, the total solar eclipse in August, our friend Alex Shimp brings us more about the talk by Joe Rao, FiOS1 meteorologist, on his experiences with eclipses. Swinging back around to launches, we finish up NEAF by discussing the latest news from United Launch Alliance about their commercial crew plans and the designs they are currently working with for these new systems. Finally, we check in with our own Mark Ratterman on what it’s like to volunteer with a FIRST Robotics team on their way to the championships to bring this super-sized season premiere to a feel-good close.

Show recorded 4-15-2017

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Alex Shimp, and Kassy Tamanini

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This week we must sadly open with the news of the passing of John Glenn, whose list of accomplishments has been surpassed by none, serving America with honor both on and off our planet for almost all of his 95 years. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t get much better quickly as we discuss the recent failure of the Progress 65 resupply mission. We discuss the impact on ISS operations and the reliability of not just Progress, but other cargo resupply providers and what sort of payloads might be a bit more critical than others.

On the brighter side, we get an update on a SpaceX return to flight following their September 1, 2016 anomaly. Still brighter, after numerous attempts were thwarted by bad luck with weather and small glitches, Virgin Galactic completed the first free flight test of the VSS Unity, successfully gliding the new craft for the first time since the tragic loss of the VSS Enterprise.

Perhaps brightest of all, though, is our coverage from the successful launch of the first in a new line of extremely powerful weather satellites, NOAA/NASA GOES-R (now GOES-16). Our own Sawyer Rosenstein was at Cape Canaveral to capture the sights and sounds of what turned out to be a spectacular night launch, and you really don’t want to miss our exclusive audio on this one (grab the headphones!). 

Then again, what’s brighter (to us) than our own sun? Pulling double special-duty this week, Sawyer brings an exclusive interview with Terry Kucera, an astrophysicist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar Physics Laboratory and the STEREO Deputy Scientist. She brings us an update on the recently-recovered STEREO-B and hits home the importance of and ongoing efforts in understanding our local variable star in the Space Age.

[An image gallery was added here. To view amazing images from the GOES-R launch, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com]

Show recorded 12-05-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini

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This week we’re (mostly) back to our regular programming, kicking off with two of our favorite subjects – the launches and landings of International Space Station crews, and it’s a busy season of shift changes via Kazakhstan. Since our last regular episode, we saw the conclusions of Expeditions 48 and 49 with some beautiful landings and the beginning of Expedition 50, with an additional 3 crewmembers scheduled to launch next week. Peggy Whitson, legendary astronaut, commander, and current holder of the record for spaceflight time for women, will not only add another long-duration mission to her impressive list of accomplishments, but will resume command for Expedition 51.

In other launch news, China’s Long March 5 joined the list of successfully-launched heavy lift vehicles last week while Worldview 4’s Atlas 5 launch issues spread across the country to affect GOES-R. It’s not all bad news for United Launch Alliance and their workhorse rocket, though, as Orbital ATK announced they will use it to launch another Cygnus on an ISS cargo mission. This time, rather than using it as a backup, it is for the additional rocket power enabling Orbital ATK pack a bit more cargo into Cygnus. Meanwhile, their competition, SpaceX, is narrowing down their investigation of the anomaly that took out the AMOS-6 mission, and is still planning to return to flight this year.

Moving from launches to space itself, we turn to NASA Goddard for some celebration and investigation. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) set yet another world record, this time for using GPS at the highest altitude. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Noah Petro, also at NASA Goddard, about his background in lunar geology and the upcoming supermoon. Be sure to check out this cool visual! Finally, we close out this episode with a discussion of the successful failure of the ESA’s Schiaparelli lander.

Show recorded 11-07-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini

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We begin this episode with an ending, as Rosetta joined its companion, Philae, on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on September 30, with confirmation arriving at mission control in Darmstadt at 11:19 UTC. This is hardly a time for mourning, but rather the celebration of an ambitious mission accomplished and still more data to learn from. While we await those studies we invite you to check out the latest installment of Rosetta’s cartoon and the short film Ambition.

Meanwhile, back in the States, Orbital ATK was preparing to return the Antares to flight. Carrying their Cygnus cargo ship full of supplies headed to the International Space Station, this launch has been plagued by storms in the Atlantic and other delays, and our own Gene Mikulka headed down early to keep an eye on the process and discusses what this launch means for the launch facility, the area around it, as well as for Orbital ATK and NASA.

Speaking of recovering from mishaps, this brings us down to the Kennedy Space Center and the investigation of what happened with SpaceX’ AMOS-6. Was it the second stage helium tank… or could it have been sabotage? The Washington Post reports that an official from SpaceX wanted to investigate the roof of a United Launch Alliance building known as the SMARF. We discuss the rumors, innuendo, known facts, and when there might be some concrete answers that will allow SpaceX to prepare for future launches safely. Looking further ahead, how will this incident affect the larger space industry?

Looking still further ahead, we begin our coverage of the 67th International Astronautical Congress with a breakdown of Elon Musk’s presentation, Making Humans an Interplanetary Species with insights from in the room by Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini. Is Musk’s plan to not only have SpaceX be the first to land on Mars but to move 100 people at a time to the red planet realistic? From the details he revealed (and didn’t) to the way the event was managed, we’ve got plenty to comment on.

An image was inserted here. To view it, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com.

Show recorded 10-10-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Kassy Tamanini

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On September 8 an Atlas V carrying the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission took off from Cape Canaveral and our own Sawyer Rosenstein brings you exclusive sounds and experiences right from the front row. This asteroid sample-collecting mission to Bennu aims to help us understand the origins of life, but this trip to the Kennedy Space Center also featured a look at the future – particularly technologies for in-situ resource collection and usage, recycling of all garbage generated in space, and otherwise enable long-distance human space travel and colonization. In addition, we have an early response to the NASA Office of the Inspector General report discussed in episode 808 (spoiler alert: it’s all about the money). While on the Cape, Sawyer also got a chance to check out LC-40, the scene of the recent SpaceX fast fire, and it’s not pretty. However, that’s apparently not slowing down Musk’s push toward Mars, nor ours. 

Scientists studying the features of Mars have published a paper radically changing the dates of when Mars had its most recent flowing waters, while another set studying rocks here on our own planet suspect that Marsquakes might be releasing bits of hydrogen into the Martian ground as they do here, which could have enormous implications for the red planet. Speaking of Musk, expectations for his highly-anticipated talk at the International Astronautical Congress next week in Guadalajara are just about all the space world is talking about already, and Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini will be there to bring it to you. However, they’re hardly going just for that, both panelists will be presenting their own work at IAC and give us a preview of what they’ll be talking about. Watch our social media over the next week to hear about it all first, and of course, come back for the next episode of Talking Space for full coverage (after you’ve devoured this one, of course).

An image gallery was inserted here. To view it in its entirety, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com.

Show recorded 09-19-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Kassy Tamanini

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A new episode and a new crew make their way to the international space station, we highlight the members of Expedition 47 and Astronaut Jeff Williams who will assume command of the station under Expedition 48, and break the US endurance record for time in space during this increment. Only weeks after they have wrapped up the OA4 mission, OrbitalATK is is poised to launch the Cygnus cargo craft the SS Rick Husband  to the ISS. We profile one of its experiments the Spacecraft Fire Experiment or SAFFIRE which will study how fires develop and spread in a confined space.

Could the US establish its own lunar base by 2022? NASA Ames Astrobiologist Chris McKay seems to think so, and do it for $10 Billion, about the price of a US Aircraft Carrier. The base according to Dr. McKay’s would be established under the McMurdo Antarctic base model, and could be set up rather quickly. Dr. McKay’s paper was first published in the New Space Journal and in light of ESA’s Lunar Village concept we discuss the merits of both ESA’s and Dr. McKay’s vision.

Host: Gene Mikulka
Panel Members: Kat Robison & Kassy Tamanini

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This week we take a journey from the halls of Congress out through our solar system, and then journey out to a point 1.3 billion light years away from home. On February3rd, the Space Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology met to discuss the current status of NASA’s Journey to Mars, and how it may survive past the current presidential administration. We examine the winners and losers in the 2017 NASA budget proposal. NASA announces the Exploration Mission 1 Launch Director and we discuss the Cygnus OA-6 Mission launch delay.

The Year In Space increment on board the International Space Station is coming into the home stretch, while back on Earth, the primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is completed.

European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission continues, but without the Philae lander that made landfall on Comet 67P in November. There has been no response from Philae since July and ESA has announced they will stop trying to contact the spacecraft. We discuss some of the highlights and lessons learned from this milestone mission.  NASA releases  a terrain map of Pluto’s ‘heart’ region, based on New Horizon’s spacecraft data , revealing a few big surprises.

The final story: the discovery of gravitational waves from the collision of two massive black holes. These waves reached our own planet this past September and were detected by the freshly-upgraded advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), providing the first proof of parts of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. What does this mean and why is it so exciting? We break it down for you

The LIGO comic by Talcott Starr discussed in the episode can be found here and make sure to give it a like if you enjoy it.

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini



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In this special edition, the Talking Space Team puts the  66th Annual International Astronautical Congress which took place in Jerusalem, Israel between October 12th and 16th into focus. Our first stop is a paper presented by our own Kat Robison on the issues surrounding scientists communicating the importance and relevance of their own research to the public.  

The theme for IAC 2015 this year was "Space: The Gateway for Mankind's Future" and we review the various gateways starting to open though the International Space Station, leveraging cis-lunar space, and finally humanity declaring "Earth independence" setting sail for Mars. The episode includes commentary from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and new European Space Agency Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner. On various concepts including analysis of NASA's Journey to Mars outline and ESA's vision for a permanent research outpost on the lunar surface

Commercial ventures were also a topic at IAC 2015 and the team examines a new launch services company, Bloostar with an interesting approach to placing 100 kg (220 lbs) payloads into orbit. 

We end our visit to Jerusalem with an interview Kat conducted with NASA astronaut Suni Williams who was selected to fly one of the first Commercial Crew missions to the International Space Station. 

Talking Space congratulates Kat Robison on her presentation at IAC 2015 and thanks both Kat and Kassy Tamanini for their work in preparing this episode.  

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