Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Legislation for 'Space Corps' Military Branch Introduced By House Armed Services Committee

The Space Corps would serve under the Department of the Air Force, similar to the Marine Corps which serves under the Department of the Navy.

Lawmakers within the House Armed Services Committee have introduced legislation that would require the U.S. Air Force to establish a "Space Corps" as a distinct branch of the military by January 1, 2019, according to Space News. The proposed legislation would create a Space Corps to serve "as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force and under the civilian leadership of the Secretary of the Air Force."

"There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding," said Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama and Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee in a statement. "We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems."

Rogers and Cooper are the top representatives of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees military space operations. The House Armed Services Committee is preparing to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the subcommittee led by Rogers and Cooper introduced the new Space Corps legislation to the bill on Tuesday, June 20.

There are currently five branches of the United States Armed Forces: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. However, there are only three subordinate departments within the Department of Defense: the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force. The Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy, and in many cases Marines operate from Navy vessels, such as Marine Corps fighter squadrons that fly missions from Navy aircraft carriers. The Space Corps would be structured in much the same way, receiving its own four-star command but working closely with the Air Force to carry out its missions.

Command of the Space Corps would fall to its own chief, equal in rank to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who would sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and answer to the Secretary of the Air Force. The legislation would also establish a U.S. Space Command under the U.S. Strategic Command.

Congress believes rapidly increasing space infrastructure from nations around the world presents a potential threat to U.S. assets in orbit. If an adversary destroyed satellite networks, it could cripple communications and surveillance systems that the military depends on. Lawmakers and military commanders envision a future where space is much more accessible and crowded, and U.S. leaders worry that an adversary such as China or Russia could gain a strategic edge over the United States by establishing military capability in space first.

While a number of Air Force generals said in May that the creation of a Space Corps would ultimately be necessary, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein maintains that the Air Force should manage military space operations for the time being. "I don't support it at this time," Goldfein said of the Space Corps proposal. "Whether there's a time in our future where we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we keep that dialog open, but right now I think it would actually move us backwards."

The introduction of legislation by the Strategic Force Subcommittee is just the beginning of a long road to actually establishing a Space Corps. The subcommittee will hold a formal legislative markup session to discuss the new portions of the bill on Thursday, June 22. After the subcommittee's session, the entire House Armed Services Committee will need to vote on the bill before it can be debated on the House floor, which is not expected to vote on the NDAA bill until after July 4. The Senate Armed Services Committee will also hold a markup session for the NDAA on June 28. If the Space Corps legislation in the bill makes it through votes from the entire House and Senate, then it will finally be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

Even if a Space Corps is not established by January 1, 2019, as currently proposed, lawmakers and military officers will continue to discuss the best way to provide for defense in orbit and beyond. In all likelihood, these debates will eventually lead to the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Source: http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/news/a27030/lawmakers-lay-groundwork-for-space-corps-a-new-branch-of-the-military

Stephen Hawking: Humans need to leave Earth

Physicist Stephen Hawking believes time is running out for humankind on Earth, and humans should focus their efforts on exploring new worlds in order to survive.

For years, Hawking has warned that humankind faces extinction from a slew of threats ranging from climate change to destruction from nuclear war and genetically engineered viruses. Hawking recently estimated that humans have 100 years left on Earth — if we’re lucky.

During a speech at Starmus, an arts and science festival in Norway, Hawking reiterated that humanity’s future is not on the planet it has treated so poorly, BBC reported.

“If humanity is to continue another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before,” Hawking said, BBC reported.

Hawking noted that leaving Earth can not be the mission of one country, but a collective effort.

"To leave Earth demands a concerted global approach, everyone should join in,” he said. “We need to rekindle the excitement of the early days of space travel in the sixties."

He suggested the world’s nations should work together to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and Mars by 2025. Furthermore, there should be plans in place to build a lunar base within 30 years.

"Whenever we make a great new leap, such as the Moon landings, we bring people and nations together, usher in new discoveries, and new technologies," he said.

And space exploration can’t stop with Mars and the Moon. Hawking noted that climate change and dwindling natural resources, make it clear a long-term colonization plan is needed.

Hawking said when humans have faced “similar crises” or lack or resources, they’ve set out to discover and colonize new parts of the world, Newsweek reported.

 “Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the New World,” Hawking said.  “But now there is no new world. No Utopia around the corner.”

Hawking noted that the path forward is clear: It’s time to get out of Dodge.

“We are running out of space, and the only places to go to are other worlds,” he said. “It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.”

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/stephen-hawking-humans-need-to-leave-earth/

Monday, June 19, 2017

NASA reveals 10 new potentially Earth-like planets

The Kepler space telescope's latest and most complete planet catalog adds 219 new candidates, including one that could be a close cousin to Earth.

NASA announced the latest findings Monday in its hunt for friendly exoplanets, and the haul includes 219 new candidates. Of those, 10 are potentially rocky and located in the habitable zones of their stars where liquid water might be found.

The findings come courtesy of NASA's pioneering Kepler space telescope, our eye in the sky when it comes to spotting potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system. It's designed to find rocky planets (not gaseous ones like Jupiter) that are located in habitable zones of stars where temperatures are temperate enough to potentially sustain life as we know it.

Of particular note in this newest batch is KOI-7711, which could be a close cousin to Earth based on its size and distance to its sun-like star. "KOI" stands for "Kepler object of interest." "There's a lot we don't know about this planet," said Kepler researcher Susan Mullally, so it's too soon to say if KOI-7711 is truly a twin of Earth with a similar atmosphere and liquid water.

Kepler spots potential planets by looking for a dimming of a star's brightness due to a planet crossing in front of it. "The latest Kepler catalog of planet candidates was created using the most sophisticated analyses yet, yielding the most complete and reliable accounting of distant worlds to date," NASA says.

So far, Kepler's missions have identified more than 4,000 candidate planets. The last big group from Kepler's K2 mission came in July 2016 with the announcement of over 100 new exoplanets. So far, NASA scientists have used Kepler to identify around 50 terrestrial-size planets in their stars' "Goldilocks zones" where it's not too hot and not too cold.

Kepler's discoveries have sparked hopes of finding Earth-like planets, but it has also dashed them. Exoplanet Kepler-438b seemed like an exciting candidate for hosting life, but in 2015 scientists said it was actually uninhabitable due to its star's flares.

Kepler launched in 2009, but its time is limited. NASA is working on the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is scheduled to launch in 2018 on a fresh exoplanet-hunting mission.

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/nasa-planets-exoplanets-kepler-koi-7711/

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ELON MUSK REVEALS VISION FOR A SPACEX CITY ON MARS

Elon Musk has revealed his vision for what a SpaceX city on Mars would look like, saying he wants people to believe setting up a colony on the Red Planet will be possible within our lifetimes.

The founder of SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) has discussed the possibility of creating a human settlement on Mars for several years. The company is currently planning to send a robotic mission to Mars by 2024, and says that manned missions could begin as early as 2024—long before NASA’s projected timescale of the early 2030s.

In a commentary piece published in the journal New Space, Musk outlines how he plans to build a city on the planet and what the next steps in space exploration could be.

“By talking about the SpaceX Mars architecture, I want to make Mars seem possible—make it seem as though it is something that we can do in our lifetime,” he writes. “There really is a way that anyone could go if they wanted to.”

He said there are two fundamental paths for mankind—that we stay on Earth forever, eventually succumbing to an extinction event, or to become a “space bearing-civilization and a multi-planetary species.”

The latter options, Musk says, is the “right way to go,” adding that in our solar system, Mars is really the only option: “We could conceivably go to our moon, and I actually have nothing against going to the moon, but I think it is challenging to become multi-planetary on the moon because it is much smaller than a planet. It does not have any atmosphere. It is not as resource-rich as Mars. It has got a 28-day day, whereas the Mars day is 24.5 hours. In general, Mars is far better-suited ultimately to scale up to be a self-sustaining civilization.”


The latter options, Musk says, is the “right way to go,” adding that in our solar system, Mars is really the only option: “We could conceivably go to our moon, and I actually have nothing against going to the moon, but I think it is challenging to become multi-planetary on the moon because it is much smaller than a planet. It does not have any atmosphere. It is not as resource-rich as Mars. It has got a 28-day day, whereas the Mars day is 24.5 hours. In general, Mars is far better-suited ultimately to scale up to be a self-sustaining civilization.”

In the commentary, Musk discusses what life on Mars would be like: “Mars is about half as far [again] from the sun as Earth is, so it still has decent sunlight. It is a little cold, but we can warm it up. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily CO2 with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere.

“It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37 percent of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around. Furthermore, the day is remarkably close to that of Earth. We just need to change the populations because currently we have seven billion people on Earth and none on Mars.”


The latter options, Musk says, is the “right way to go,” adding that in our solar system, Mars is really the only option: “We could conceivably go to our moon, and I actually have nothing against going to the moon, but I think it is challenging to become multi-planetary on the moon because it is much smaller than a planet. It does not have any atmosphere. It is not as resource-rich as Mars. It has got a 28-day day, whereas the Mars day is 24.5 hours. In general, Mars is far better-suited ultimately to scale up to be a self-sustaining civilization.”

In the commentary, Musk discusses what life on Mars would be like: “Mars is about half as far [again] from the sun as Earth is, so it still has decent sunlight. It is a little cold, but we can warm it up. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily CO2 with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere.

“It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37 percent of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around. Furthermore, the day is remarkably close to that of Earth. We just need to change the populations because currently we have seven billion people on Earth and none on Mars.”


Outlining how SpaceX will go about setting up a city on Mars, Musk said there will be many obstacles to overcome. Firstly, the cost. He said the price of a trip to Mars must come down so anyone who wants to go (if they save up) will be able to. “You cannot create a self-sustaining civilization if the ticket price is $10 billion per person,” he said.

All materials sent up to the planet will need to be reusable. There would need to be a refueling station orbiting the planet so we can make more frequent, cheaper trips. On top of this, we will need to produce a propellant on the surface that would allow spaceships to make return trips: “It would be pretty absurd to try to build a city on Mars if your spaceships just stayed on Mars and did not go back to Earth. You would have a massive graveyard of ships; you have to do something with them.”

On the ships that would transport people to Mars, he said the first Mars Colonial fleet would “depart en masse,” carrying with them the required cargo and the first settlers. “[The ship] needs to fit 100 people or thereabouts in the pressurized section, carry the luggage and all of the unpressurized cargo to build propellant plants, and to build everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to you name it—we need to carry a lot of cargo.”

Musk believes the threshold for a self-sustaining city on Mars would be a million people. Current calculations indicate that it would take between 40 to 100 years “to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization on Mars.”

While Musk does not explain how the city would be built or what it would look like, he does share his view on where a permanent city on Mars could take us next—pretty much anywhere in the solar system.

With the right technology, he believes a base on Mars would open the door to even greater space exploration. “By establishing a propellant depot, say on Enceladus or Europa, and then establishing another one on Titan, Saturn's moon, and then perhaps another one further out on Pluto or elsewhere in the solar system, this system really gives you the freedom to go anywhere you want in the greater solar system,” Musk said.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Elon Musk: SpaceX may launch its biggest and most powerful rocket in 3 months

Elon Musk has broken some tantalizing news about the biggest rocket ever built by his company SpaceX.

If the tech mogul's plans hold, the new launch system, called Falcon Heavy, could lift off for the first time in just a few months.

The new 230-foot-tall rocket would combine the power of three smaller Falcon 9 rockets, using all 27 rocket engines to generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

That's enough oomph to put about 119,000 pounds, or a fully loaded 737 jet, into orbit. The new rocket could also send a small spaceship, two passengers, and other gear to the moon, totaling about one-third the mass that NASA's Saturn V moon rocket could lug into space.

In fact, a privately funded journey around the moon is exactly what Musk hopes to pull off before the end of 2018.

Musk's response on Thursday to a Twitter user's question about the three-rocket system included the most specific and up-to-date timing yet for the Falcon Heavy's first launch.

There's reason to be skeptical that Falcon Heavy will launch on time, however, since Musk has been known to miss deadlines and underestimate the difficulty of his endeavors.

For example, Falcon Heavy was originally supposed to launch for the first time in March. But an explosion on a launchpad in September, followed by a monthslong investigation and a temporary stand-down on launches, pushed the giant rocket's inaugural launch back to the third quarter of 2017.

But if SpaceX can pull off the launch, calling it a big advancement for spaceflight would be an understatement.

A reusable beast

To blast off its Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX will strap two previously launched Falcon 9 boosters to the side of a new central rocket core.

After launch, the two side rockets would peel off and attempt to land themselves at Cape Canaveral, Florida, so they could be refurbished and reused for yet another launch.

The central core would continue flying for a little while and then detach from an upper-stage rocket, which would blast a payload into orbit. The core would then fall back toward Earth, land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, and also be recovered for reuse.

Nearly all rocket parts in history have fallen back to Earth as garbage. Musk hopes to break that expensive tradition by repeatedly launching, landing, and reusing his rocket parts. His hope is to reduce the enormous cost of launching things into space hundredfold and, later on, more than thousandfold.

Musk is the first to admit his plans are highly ambitious.

"We will probably fly something really silly on Falcon Heavy because it is quite a high-risk mission," Musk said in March after the successful launch of the unprecedented SES-10 mission, which was the first to reuse a Falcon 9 booster.

The tech mogul hasn't said what that silly payload might be, but his company did once launch a big wheel of cheese into orbit.


Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/falcon-heavy-first-launch-date-2017-6

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Michio Kaku Says: Alcubierre’s Warp Drive is “A Passport to the Universe!”

Well, your kids won’t be traveling by the speed of light—probably not their kids either—but new theoretical advances may mean that warp drive will someday become a reality. Light travels at 186,000 mi/sec—if we could move that fast today, we could circle the Earth along the equator 7.5 times per second. Or travel to Mars in 3 minutes. We’re nowhere near the ability to travel at or close to the speed of light today, making warp drive—or faster-than-light (FTL)—travel seem like an insurmountable feat best left for the fictional realm. But, back in 1994, the idea of faster-than-light (FTL) travel became a possibility when physicist Miguel Alcubierre hypothesized a way to travel FTL on a “magic carpet” that doesn’t actually move at all. Because no object can move faster than the speed of light, we would instead travel by remaining still on a piece of space-time (i.e., the carpet) that sits inside a warp bubble capable of moving at FTL speed.

This all rests on the idea that there is no limit to the speed at which space-time can expand and contract. During the Big Bang, for example, we know that space-time expanded at 30 million billion times the speed of light—at least. So how does this warp bubble idea work? It uses gravity to compress the space-time fabric in front of an object, then expand that fabric behind it. The actual space-time that we (or a spacecraft) would sit on would float along at theoretically 10 times the speed of light or more, wrapped comfortably in a warp bubble much like a surfer is carried along on a wave.

Sounds great in theory, but the negative literally outweighs the positive in this model. Alcubierre’s original model would require more negative energy than the total mass of the Universe to allow even a small aircraft to travel at FTL speeds. Although refinements in the 20+ years since he developed the idea have brought the amount of negative energy needed down to a few hundred kilograms, we’re still traveling in the land of science fiction here, because this so-called “exotic matter” with the negative energy and negative pressure to make this happen doesn’t exist in the realm of classical physics. Quantum mechanics holds some possibilities for negative energy, but not the right kind to generate the warp bubble we need for FTL travel.

Luckily, there’s a dark side to all of this. We know that dark energy is the stuff that causes the universe to expand. If we can harness and manipulate dark energy—which makes up almost 75% of the universe—perhaps we could use it to expand space-time and create the warp bubble. This model still comes with problems—dark energy is spread thin across the universe, and we have yet to figure out how to amass enough of it to put it to use. But theoretically, doing so is possible. Scientists at NASA are experimenting as we speak to see if warp drive can someday become a reality. Since 2012, NASA’s Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory (aka. Eagleworks) has had a team of scientists working on warp field mechanics. “We’ve initiated an interferometer test bed in this lab, where we’re going to go through and try and generate a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble,” said team lead Dr. Harold Sonny White. “And although this is just a microscopic instance of the phenomena, we’re perturbing space time, one part in 10 million, a very tiny amount… The math would allow you to go to Alpha Centauri in two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth.”

Source: http://sciencevibe.com/2017/06/01/michio-kaku-says-alcubierres-warp-drive-is-a-passport-to-the-universe/