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January 30 2018

20:01

Opposition to Nye’s State of the Union Attendance Grows

Bill Nye (Credit: Montclair Film Festival)

The criticism of the decision by The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address tonight at the invitation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has grown to include a petition and an opinion piece in a prominent scientific publication.

An online petition urging Nye to cancel his plans started by ClimateHawkVote had garnered 35,790 signatures, more the 35,000 it was seeking. The petition reads:

President Donald Trump is a bigoted climate denier. So is Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s embattled nominee for NASA Administrator. So why is Bill Nye “very pleased” to be Bridenstine’s guest at Trump’s first State of the Union address?

Bill, please be the Science Guy, not the Bigoted Climate Denial Guy. Cancel your plans to attend Trump’s State of the Union as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest.

An opinion piece in Scientific American by the organization 500 Women Scientists disagrees with Nye’s claim that he is not endorsing Bridenstine, the Trump Administration or their science policies by attending the annual address.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education….

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.

Bridenstine’s nomination to be NASA administrator is facing a tough battle in the Senate, in large part to Democratic concerns about his past positions on climate change and other issues.
19:25

Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

In a string of Tweets, Nye he was not endorsing Bridenstine or the Trump Administration by attending the annual address. [Emphasis mine]

Tomorrow night I will attend the State of the Union as a guest of Congressman Jim Bridenstine – nominee for NASA Administrator – who extended me an invitation in my role as CEO of The Planetary Society.

The Society is the world’s largest and most influential non-governmental nonpartisan space organization, co-founded by Carl Sagan. While the Congressman and I disagree on a great many issues – we share a deep respect for NASA and its achievements and a strong interest in the future of space exploration.

My attendance tomorrow should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this administration, or of Congressman Bridenstine’s nomination, or seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community.

The U.S. Space Program has long been a source of American technical achievement, a symbol of our innovative spirit, and a source of national pride. There are extraordinary opportunities for our country, and for all humanity, in the continued exploration of space.

Historically, the Space Program has brought Americans together, and during his address, I hope to hear the President’s plans to continue exploring the space frontier.

As several Twitter followers have pointed out, the caveats that Nye places on his attendance might matter far less than the spin that Bridenstine and his allies on the right will impart to it.

Lo and behold, the spin has already begun. Just take a look at this story in the Conservative Review, which includes the following claim from the Congressman’s office about why he invited The Science Guy to the speech.

They both believe in a science-driven national space program. They also believe that space exploration uniquely inspires people to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the statement continues. Both [the congressman and Nye] believe that NASA is the world’s preeminent agency to conduct the science necessary to understand our changing planet.

The story makes no mention of it, but Bridenstine’s embrace of NASA’srole in studying “our changing planet” is a recent development that roughly coincided with his campaign to run the space agency. His record during his five years in Congress demonstrates the exact opposite when it comes to climate change and NASA’s role in studying it.

The Congressman once took to the House floor to deny that global warming was occurring and to demand an apology from President Barack Obama for spending 30 times more studying a non-existent climate change problem than improving the nation’s weather forecasting capabilities. PolitFact rated Bridenstine’s claim as mostly false, saying he exaggerated the gap in spending using incorrect numbers.

Bridenstine has pushed for better forecasting during his time in Congress due to the number of tornadoes that touch down in his state. Although weather forecasting and climate change research are related, they are not the same. In April 2017, Trump signed a bill co-sponsored by Bridenstine that required NOAA to “re-balance” its spending away from climate change and toward weather forecasting.

The Congressman also introduced the American Space Renaissance Act that would have removed Earth science from the list of NASA’s goals in favor of a pioneering doctrine focused on sending astronauts to the moon and other destinations in deep space. Under the bill, any programs not in line with that doctrine — such as climate change research — would be canceled, privatized or moved to other federal agencies.

Bridenstine has since softened his stance on global warming, saying he believes it is occurring but is not sure why or what the impacts will be of it. This is the same position taken by the Trump Administration, which has been slashing climate research across the government. The Administration proposed cutting five NASA Earth science programs in its proposed FY 2018 budget, which Congress has yet to pass four months into the fiscal year.

Bridenstine has said that he would follow the decadal survey that sets priorities for Earth science. How much of the decadal survey NASA will be able to accomplish will depend upon funding levels provided by a Republican-controlled White House and Congress that are not overly supportive of these programs.

Nye’s attendance at the speech comes as Bridenstine’s nomination faces a close vote in a Senate the Republicans control by a narrow 51-49 margin. Democrats appear united in their opposition due the nominee’s positions on climate change and other issues. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has joined Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in criticizing Trump for nominating a highly partisan politician to lead a space agency that enjoys broad bi-partisan support in Congress.

Bridenstine’s invitation to Nye appears to be an attempt to soften his image on science. The Science Guy can protest all he wants about how his attendance does not constitute an endorsement of Bridenstine or Trump. But, the State of the Union Address is an exercise in political theater were impressions and spin matter far more than intentions.

 

12:21

An Update on Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 Spacecraft

Video Caption: On January 12, 2018, Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 spacecraft successfully launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. In this video, Director of Software Brian Geddes details the progress the team has made, the next steps in the mission and the overall excitement! Read more here: https://www.planetaryresources.com/2018/01/arkyd-6-is-in-orbit/

10:39

NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

Through the CCP, based primarily at Kennedy, partners SpaceX and Boeing are developing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low-Earth orbit with American-built spacecraft systems. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are the next generation of American spacecraft to carry astronauts to the space station.

Lisa Colloredo, deputy program manager for the Commercial Crew Program, noted that two uncrewed demonstration flight tests, known as Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing are scheduled for later this year. After the uncrewed flight tests, to the station, both companies will launch a mission with astronauts aboard prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.

“This is going to be a big year for the Commercial Crew Program,” Colloredo said.

According to Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, crews aboard the space station also will continue to receive supplies launched by SpaceX commercial resupply services missions lifting off from the Florida spaceport.

“The space station continues to be a high priority for our organization,” she said. “We are flying numerous commercial cargo flights to the station this year.”

While partnering with industry to support transportation to the space station and meet other needs, NASA continues to focus on development of its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that one day will send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.

Darrell Foster, chief of Project Management in Exploration Ground Systems, explained that his organization will spend 2018 completing construction of facilities to support SLS and Orion and be ready to accept flight hardware.

The SLS is a new heavy-lift rocket that will be capable of sending humans aboard Orion to destinations such as the Moon and Mars. The first integrated flight of the SLS and Orion is known as Exploration Mission-1, and will demonstrate the nation’s commitment and capability to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond.

“We are now working full bore toward the Exploration Mission-1 launch in December of 2019,” Foster said.

The coming year also will be a busy time for the Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy. Mic Woltman, chief of the Fleet Systems Integration Branch of LSP, spoke about his organization’s plans.

“This will be an exciting year for us,” he said. “We have six launches, with six launch vehicle configurations at six launch sites this year.”

Those missions are:

“I’m really excited about our future,” Cabana said. “If we take care of our employees, our organizations, focus on our customers and bring innovation into the forefront through our leadership efforts, there is no doubt we will be successful.”

08:28

GLXP Update: Parabolic Archers Called It!

Congratulations are in order for Parabolic Arc readers! Or at least the 59 percent of you who voted correctly in our latest poll.

That’s the percentage of voters who chose “None of the Above” on the question of  who would win the Google X Prize. And wouldn’t you know it, last week the X Prize announced that the prize was ending without any winner.

So, kudos to you guys. Each and everyone one of you are a regular Ed Glosser.

As for the rest of you losers….21 percent voted for Moon Express, 9 percent of Team Indus, and 3 percent for Synergy Moon.

I’ve put in a new poll up on what will happen to Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA.

Remember: vote early. Vote often. Vote as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Seriously. I’ll explain later.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

07:25

Falcon 9 Launch to Kick Off Busy February

Falcon 9 on the launch pad with Intelsat 35e satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for late this afternoon will kick off a busy period of international launches that will see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy and China’s sixth orbital mission of 2018. SpaceX has four flights scheduled by the middl

January 29 2018

18:58

Super Blue Blood Moon & Lunar Eclipse Occurring on Jan. 31

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — If you live in the western part of North America, Alaska, and the Hawaiian islands, you might set your alarm early the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a lunar trifecta: a pre-dawn “super blue blood moon.”

Beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 31, a live feed of the Moon will be offered on NASA TV and NASA.gov/live. You can also follow at @NASAMoon.

“For the (continental) U.S., the viewing will be best in the West,” said Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Set your alarm early and go out and take a look.”

The Jan. 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of “supermoons,” when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit — known as perigee — and about 14 percent brighter than usual. It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a “blue moon.” The super blue moon will pass through Earth’s shadow to give viewers in the right location a total lunar eclipse. While the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a “blood moon.”

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If you live in North America, Alaska, or Hawaii, the eclipse will be visible before sunrise on Jan. 31. For those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the “super blue blood moon” can be seen during moonrise in the evening of the 31st.

“Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish,” said Johnston. “Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. The eclipse begins at 5:51 AM ET, as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”

So for viewers in New York or Washington, D.C., the Moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow at 5:51 a.m., but Johnston says it won’t be all that noticeable. The darker part of Earth’s shadow will begin to blanket part of the Moon with a reddish tint at 6:48 a.m. EST, but the Moon will set less than a half-hour later. “So your best opportunity if you live in the East is to head outside about 6:45 a.m. and get to a high place to watch the start of the eclipse—make sure you have a clear line of sight to the horizon in the west-northwest, opposite from where the Sun will rise,” said Johnston.

If you live in the Central time zone, viewing will be better, since the action begins when the Moon is higher in the western sky. At 4:51 a.m. CST the penumbra — or lighter part of Earth’s shadow – will touch the Moon. By about 6:15 a.m. CST the Earth’s reddish shadow will be clearly noticeable on the Moon. The eclipse will be harder to see in the lightening pre-dawn sky, and the Moon will set after 7:00 a.m. as the Sun rises. “So if you live in Kansas City or Chicago, your best viewing will be from about 6:15-6:30 a.m,” said Johnston. “Again, you’ll have more success if you can go to a high place with a clear view to the West.”

In the Rocky Mountain region, the show begins as the umbra touches the edge of the Moon at 4:48 a.m. MST. The peak of the blood moon eclipse is at about 6:30 a.m. local time, and the Moon will set shortly after 7 a.m.

Californians and viewers in western Canada will be treated to the total eclipse phase from start to finish, though the penumbral shadow will pass after the Moon has set. The umbral eclipse begins at 3:48 a.m. Pacific Time. At 4:51 a.m., totality will begin, with best viewing between about 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. local time. The totality phase ends about 6:05 a.m.

Weather permitting, eclipse fans in Hawaii will experience the lunar eclipse from start to finish, as will skywatchers in Alaska, Australia and eastern Asia.

Global map showing areas of the world that will experience (weather permitting) the Jan. 31, 2018 “super blue blood moon.” The eclipse will be visible before sunrise on Jan. 31 for those in North America, Alaska and Hawaii. For those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the “super blue blood moon” can be seen during moonrise the evening of the 31st. (Credit: NASA)

If you miss the Jan. 31 lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait almost another year for the next opportunity in North America. Johnston said the Jan. 21, 2019 lunar eclipse will be visible throughout all of the U.S. and will be a supermoon, though it won’t be a blue moon.

Johnston has been following and writing about the Moon since 2004, when he and about 20 colleagues at NASA Headquarters would get together after work during the full moon in “celebratory attire”—which for Johnston meant his signature bow tie. Long after the socializing fell by the wayside, Johnston’s monthly blog lives on, with a dedicated following on NASA’s lunar website, moon.nasa.gov.

Said Johnston, “I have always been fascinated by the night sky. Most of what we can see without a telescope are points of light, but the Moon is close enough that we can see it and the features on it, and notice what changes and what stays the same each night.”

To watch a NASA ScienceCast video, A Supermoon Trilogy about the Dec. 3, 2017, Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2018 supermoons, click here.

Love to observe the Moon? It’s easy to make a Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator that will keep all of the dates and times for the year’s phases of the Moon at your fingertips.

Take notes and record your own illustrations of the Moon with a Moon observation journal, ready to download and print at moon.nasa.gov.

16:46

This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, Jan.29 , 2018: 2-3:30 PM PST (4-5:30 PM CST, 5-6:30 PM EST): We welcome back LAURA MONTGOMERY, noted space attorney. Laura will be discussing recent trends and concepts for US legal space policy and the OST.

2. SPECIAL DAY AND TIME: Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018: 9:30 AM-11 AM PST, (12:30 -2 PM EST; 11:30 AM-1 PM CST): We welcome PAUL GILSTER regarding interstellar.possibilities and technologies.

3. Wednesday, Jan.31, 2018: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, Feb. 2, 2018; 9:30 AM-11 AM PST, (12:30 -2 PM EST; 11:30 AM-1 PM CST): No show today as am working on finishing my move and studio setup.

5. Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018: 12-1:30 PM PST; 2-4:30 PM EST; 2-3:30 PM CST. We welcome DR. JOEL SERCEL, author of the NASA study “Stepping Stones: Economic Analysis of Space Transportation Supplied From NEO Resources.” The study examines Benefits of Settling Space Using NEO Resources

10:37

NASA & JAXA Agree to Pursue Deep Space Gateway

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On January 24, 2018, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met to exchange their views on space exploration. The agencies signed a joint statement affirming their strong mutual interest in continued future cooperation in space exploration.

Both agencies have established a strong and committed partnership throughout the many years of cooperation in all mission areas, including human exploration, Earth and space science, fundamental aeronautics, and especially through the International Space Station (ISS) Program.

Both agencies affirmed to expand this partnership in the field of space exploration, upon sharing their long-term vision for expanding human presence deeper into the solar system, by starting with extending human presence to an orbiting platform around the moon, that can benefit from contributions and technological expertise from both agencies, acting as an important piece of infrastructure for human access to the lunar surface and eventually to Mars.

Both agencies welcome on coordinating with their governments to enable an innovative and sustainable exploration program.

Joint Statement by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and
Japan Space Exploration Agency on Space Exploration
January 24, 2018

Consistent with the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting of November 2017, whereby Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America noted the long history of bilateral space cooperation between Japan and the United States and affirmed their commitment to continuing cooperation in space exploration between their two nations;

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (hereinafter referred to as NASA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (hereinafter referred to as JAXA),

Recognizing their strong and committed partnership in all mission areas, including human and robotic exploration, Earth and space science, and fundamental aeronautics research, and in particular their many years of experience in the International Space Station (ISS) Program;

Recognizing their shared objective to leverage the strong foundation of the ISS to advance cooperative, innovative and sustainable space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, and their intention to continue to utilize the ISS to enable exploration through research and technology development, including development of international standards for exploration;

Recognizing their shared enthusiasm and long-term exploration vision for expanding human presence deeper into the solar system, starting with extending human presence into the lunar vicinity as a proving ground for future missions to Mars;

Recognizing that their agencies, together with the other ISS Partners, are studying the concept and confirmed technical feasibility of a deep space gateway that orbits the moon;

Recognizing the deep space gateway concept can benefit from contributions and technological expertise from both agencies;

Recognizing the deep space gateway concept, supported by NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, enables human presence in cis-lunar space, acting as an important piece of infrastructure for human access to the lunar surface, and eventually Mars, as well as, supporting robotic missions to the lunar surface;

Expecting that the continued partnership between both agencies will yield concrete results in maturing a flexible and sustainable deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex human and robotic missions in the boundless frontier of space that will include participation from other international partners and industrial partners;

Welcome coordinating with their governments to seek endorsement of plans for an innovative and sustainable exploration program and their potential respective contributions to such a program.

08:55

ASU Student Payloads Selected to Fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

TEMPE, Ariz. (ASU PR) — Three Arizona State University student-led payload projects have been selected to launch into space on Blue Origin’s “New Shepard” space vehicle later this year.

The projects were selected during a competitive pitching competition Monday night at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. To earn a spot on “New Shepard,” students were challenged to do one of three things for their payload project: answer a science question, test technology development, or engage the five senses (smell, taste, sight, touch, sound) in space.

The pitching competition was organized by ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative, a pan-university effort to build the future of humans in space, and ASU’s NewSpace, which is leading the integration of academic and commercial space enterprises using ASU’s strengths in space science, engineering, and education. A major partner in the event and the project is Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

One team from each of the three categories was selected for a prize spot on “New Shepard.” The winning teams, comprised of students from both the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Earth and Space Exploration, will be designing and building the payloads at ASU.

Members of the ASU Space Devils payload team include Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering (mechanical engineering) undergrads from L to R: Clint Farnsworth, Landon Wiltbank, Cody Bisbing, Josh Fixel, Pete Marple, and Gabby Bovaird. (Credit: ASU)

The three teams selected for launch are, by category: Particle Interactions in Microgravity (science category), Remote Acoustic Sensor (technology category), and Space Devils (five senses in space category).

“This competition provides ASU students the unique opportunity to design their own payloads from the ground up and actually fly them into space on a state-of-the-art reusable rocket,” said Interplanetary Initiative’s Tanya Harrison, who is a post-doctoral scholar at the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“We wanted to see what they came up with on their own from there, and we were thrilled to see the results of their ingenuity and imagination,” said Harrison, who is also the project lead for the Blue Origin/ASU payload project and the director of research for NewSpace.

The RAS team, winners in the technology category, consists entirely of online students working out of state. One team member, Bryan Trinidad, is working aboard a naval vessel, currently in the Persian Gulf. (Credit: ASU)

The competition’s judges, which included space industry representatives, academic professionals and local venture capitalists, were Erika Wagner from Blue Origin, Robert Anchondo from Honeywell Aerospace, Fred von Graf from Web3Mavens, Shawn Linham from Qwaltec and Dean Bacalzo, ASU assistant professor of industrial design.

The payloads are expected to launch in late 2018 from the Blue Origin Facility in west Texas, approximately two hours east of El Paso. The “New Shepard” vertical takeoff and landing vehicle is capable of carrying hundreds of pounds of payload per flight and is ultimately expected to carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally recognized boundary of space.

“This competition shows that the opportunity exists for ASU students to design, build and fly in space,” said Pete Swan, Interplanetary Initiative team member and space industry expert. “In the past it’s been rare, but now it can be a part of the experience of being a student at ASU.”

Winning Payloads and Teams

Five Senses Category Project Winner: Space Devils

The Space Devils five senses payload includes an ASU Sparky figure attached to a spring. During ascent and decent, Sparky will be pushed up and down, creating the illusion that Sparky is doing push-ups, which will be measured by an accelerometer. (Credit: ASU)

The Space Devils “Five Senses” payload will focus on measuring and collecting data on sight, smell, taste, touch and sound in space. It has, as its centerpiece, an ASU Sparky figure attached to a spring. During ascent and decent, Sparky will be pushed up and down, creating the illusion that Sparky is doing push-ups, which will be measured by an accelerometer. A camera will record the push-ups, a microphone will capture the sounds of the spaceflight, and air will be pulled into the payload and passed through scent paper to capture the smell of space.

Members of the team include Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering (mechanical engineering) undergrads: Cody Bisbing, Gabby Bovaird, Clint Farnsworth, Josh Fixel, Peter Marple and Landon Wiltbank. The lead faculty mentor for this team is Abdelraham Shuaib of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Technology Category Project Winner: Remote Acoustic Sensor

The “RAS” technology payload will use the the emerging technology of remote acoustic sensing to capture acoustic data from bees. (Credit: ASU)

For humans to live in space, agricultural development will be necessary, and bees, as master pollinators, will likely be an essential part of successful crops. But how do bees react in space? This project will use the emerging technology of remote acoustic sensing to capture acoustic data from the bees, as well as to record the vibrations, pressures, and orientation in space.

Members of the team include Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering (electrical engineering) undergrads Bryan Trinidad, David Bates, Roland Lizana and Logan Sisca. The lead faculty mentors for this team are Michael Goryll of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Danny Jacobs with the School of Earth and Space Exploration. This student team consists entirely of online students spread across the country, as well as one student, Trinidad, who is working aboard a naval vessel in the Persian Gulf. While team communication can be done online, the team also ships the payload around the world to work on it.

Science Category Project Winner: Particle Interactions in Microgravity

The science category project winner, “Particle Interactions in Microgravity” payload, will test the agglomeration of small particles, ranging from millimeter to centimeter in size, as they make collisions in microgravity, helping us to understand how planets form. (Credit: ASU)

This project seeks to test the agglomeration of small particles, ranging from millimeter to centimeter in size, as they make collisions in microgravity, helping us to understand how planets form.

Members of the team include School of Earth and Space Exploration undergraduates Pat Jackson (exploration systems design), Jason Pickering (astrophysics), Chris Huglin (exploration systems design), Jin Kim (astrophysics), Kevin White (astrobiology), Kanishka Nirmale (astrophysics) and Mitchell Drake (explorations systems design). The lead faculty mentor for this team is Chris Groppi, with the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

January 28 2018

23:35

TRAPPIST-1 System Planets Potentially Habitable

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Tucson, Ariz. (Planetary Science Institute PR) — Two exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system have been identified as most likely to be habitable, a paper by PSI Senior Scientist Amy Barr says.

The TRAPPIST-1 system has been of great interest to observers and planetary scientists because it seems to contain seven planets that are all roughly Earth-sized, Barr and co-authors Vera Dobos and Laszlo L. Kiss said in “Interior Structures and Tidal Heating in the TRAPPIST-1 Planets” that appears in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“Because the TRAPPIST-1 star is very old and dim, the surfaces of the planets have relatively cool temperatures by planetary standards, ranging from 400 degrees Kelvin (260 degrees Fahrenheit), which is cooler than Venus, to 167 degrees Kelvin (-159 degrees Fahrenheit), which is colder than Earth’s poles,” Barr said. “The planets also orbit very close to the star, with orbital periods of a few days. Because their orbits are eccentric –not quite circular – these planets could experience tidal heating just like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.”

“Assuming the planets are composed of water ice, rock, and iron, we determine how much of each might be present, and how thick the different layers would be. Because the masses and radii of the planets are not very well-constrained, we show the full range of possible interior structures and interior compositions.” Barr said. The team’s results show that improved estimates of the masses of each planet can help determine whether each of the planets has a significant amount of water.

The planets studied are referred to by letter, planets b through h, in order of their distance from the star. Analyses performed by co-author Vera Dobos show that planets d and e are the most likely to be habitable due to their moderate surface temperatures, modest amounts of tidal heating, and because their heat fluxes are low enough to avoid entering a runaway greenhouse state. A global water ocean likely covers planet d.

The team calculated the balance between tidal heating and heat transport by convection in the mantles of each planet. Results show that planets b and c likely have partially molten rock mantles. The paper also shows that planet c likely has a solid rock surface, and could have eruptions of silicate magmas on its surface driven by tidal heating, similar to Jupiter’s moon Io.

Visit www.psi.edu/news/trappistimage for an image of the TRAPPIST-1 system.

19:37

Group Forms to Support Spaceport America

LAS CRUCES, NM (Ambassadors for Spaceport America PR) — Supporters of Spaceport America, who envision a the development of a thriving commercial space industry in New Mexico, have formed a new organization to support and promote those opportunities to the public, elected officials, policy makers and the media.

The founders of AMBASSADORS FOR SPACEPORT AMERICA, Tom Hutchinson of Las Cruces and Dale Dekker of Albuquerque, hope to create a broad and diverse community of support for Spaceport that is informed and educated about the opportunities that space commercial development offers to the State. According to Tom Hutchinson, several business leaders from throughout the state got together to discuss the emerging personal and commercial spaceflight Industry and the huge opportunity that New Mexico, with its state-of-the-art facility, has to become an industry leader. “We all shared the vision that Spaceport could anchor an economic hub based on the aerospace and commercial space industry, which would generate a job creation and business recruitment engine for the State.”

Dale Dekker strongly believes that commercial space development is rapidly growing and is expected to become a major sector of the world economy in the near future. “I believe that New Mexico is uniquely positioned, with our national labs, the Air Force Research Labs, White Sands Missile Range, and our top-ranked research universities to contribute to the technological advancement of space commercialization.” The State could become a global center of space technology innovation. “We formed the Ambassadors to promote Spaceport America as a hub around which the State can develop a strong presence in this rapidly growing industry.”

The group that created SPACEPORT AMBASSADORS were inspired by a shift in momentum regarding activity at Spaceport America, as well as a new awareness in the national and international business community that space commercial development is a huge and growing sector of the economy. Dale Dekker cites the October 2017 Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report “To Infinity and Beyond” on that growth trend. “Clearly market availability and Spaceport’s preparedness for new business was an indicator that it was time to re-energize the support, advocacy, and awareness effort in the State, particularly from the private sector” so we formed the Ambassadors group to do just that.”

A major focus of Ambassadors will be the tourism and hospitality industry. According to Tom Hutchinson, “Spaceport America already is a major generator of tourism and that will grow as activity at Spaceport increases.” Ambassadors also envision Spaceport as a great educational asset, and will support and encourage educators to utilize the Zoom program to excite the State’s children science and technology. And Ambassadors will support the research and testing programs offered by Spaceport to our university students.

Founders Tom Hutchinson and Dale Dekker, as well as the many New Mexicans who have already joined Ambassadors, believe that “Spaceport America is a tremendous asset to New Mexico. We are fortunate to have a facility that will allow New Mexico to take advantage of the potential for the rapidly growing aerospace and commercial space industry.”

Ambassadors are also supporting SPACEPORT DAY AT THE LEGISLATURE on January 29 at the State Capitol. Spaceport will be showcasing some of its broad range of customers, vendors and other users at a Media Conference in the Rotunda at 1pm that day.

January 27 2018

11:45

CubeSats for Hunting Secrets in Lunar Darkness

Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

“It was a difficult process to select these final winners, because the high quality of all the concept studies we received – and especially our four semi-finalists,” explains Roger Walker, ESA’s technology CubeSat manager.

European companies, universities and research centres teamed up to design lunar missions to fit within the low-cost CubeSat standard – built up from 10 cm- cubes.

Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (Credit: ESA)

Roger adds: “The idea behind our lunar CubeSat competition was challenging – up until now CubeSats have operated solely within Earth orbit. However, opportunities should open up to piggyback to the Moon in the coming decade, with circumlunar flights of the NASA–ESA Orion spacecraft and planned commercial flights.”

The two winners were chosen after final presentations within ESA’s advanced multimedia centre used to design all Agency missions. They now have the chance to work with ESA specialists on mission development during February and March.

The impact-tracking Lumio is a single 12-unit CubeSat, conceived by a consortium including Politecnico di Milano; TU Delft, EPFL, S[&]T Norway, Leonardo-Finnmeccanica and the University of Arizona.

Orbiting a special point in space, Lumio’s sophisticated optical camera would detect impacts on the Moon’s far side. Such near-side flashes are mapped by telescopes on Earth during the night, but the Moon’s other face is a blind spot.

Away from the stray light of the terrestrial environment, very faint flashes should be detectable, improving our understanding of past and present meteoroid patterns across the Solar System. Such an observation system could also develop into a system offering early warning to future settlers.

Mosaic of the lunar south pole from images acquired by SMART-1. (Credit: ESA)

VMMO, developed by MPB Communications Inc, Surrey Space Centre, University of Winnipeg and Lens R&D, also adopts a 12-unit CubeSat design. Its miniaturised laser would probe its primary target of Shackleton Crater, adjacent to the South Pole, for measuring the abundance of water ice. The region inside the crater is in permanent darkness, allowing water molecules to condense and freeze there in the very cold conditions.

Scanning a 10 m-wide path, VMMO would take around 260 days to build a high-resolution map of water ice inside the 20 km-diameter crater. Its laser would also beam high-bandwidth data back to Earth through an optical communications experiment.

VMMO would also map lunar resources such as minerals as it overflew sunlit regions, as well as monitoring the distribution of ice and other volatiles across darkened areas to gain understanding of how condensates migrate across the surface during the two-week lunar night.

A secondary radiation-detecting payload would build up a detailed model of the radiation environment for the benefit of follow-on mission hardware – as well as human explorers.

“This competition – run through ESA’s SysNova Challenge scheme – has helped to bring together lunar and CubeSat specialists,” adds ESA’s Ian Carnelli. “This means Europe’s space sector should be more able to take advantages of such flight opportunities as they arise in future.”

The runner-up missions were the radiation-analysing MoonCARE and the far-side radio astronomy CLE.

January 26 2018

18:54

Sierra Nevada Signs Contract with NASA for Deep Space Habitat Prototype

Artist rendering of conceptual design for deep space habitat. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (January 25, 2018) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has formalized its agreement with NASA under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), signing a contract to design and develop a prototype for a deep space habitat. The formal signing of the contract under NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A: Habitat Systems, aimed at enabling potential long-duration human missions in deep space, clears the way for actual production of SNC’s prototype in the coming months.

SNC is partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne and ILC Dover to begin the conceptual architectural design; they will build a full-scale ground prototype of the main habitable volume over the next 19 months.

“The future of human spaceflight includes long-duration travel in deep space and these prototypes will help develop the concepts to make it possible. The idea that humans are starting to expand farther into space than ever before is exciting and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said Fatih Ozmen, owner and CEO of SNC.

The public-private habitation development work supports NASA’s study of a deep space gateway concept in cislunar space. Located in lunar orbit, a gateway could enable a new level of space exploration never before possible. NASA gateway studies and prototypes will be used to look at commercial capabilities and risk reduction as the agency defines requirements and objectives for the spaceport.

If the concept is approved, the gateway would launch in several elements, and the first would be power and propulsion. SNC is studying this element under a separate NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement contract award for Appendix C: Power and Propulsion Studies. SNC envisions the power and propulsion element utilizing the company’s logistics and control module (LCM) and solar electric propulsion module (SEPM) as initial building blocks for our proposed deep space gateway architecture concept.

SNC’s concepts could incorporate all of NASA’s key elements for a gateway:

  • LCM delivers a utility room that houses avionics, guidance and navigation control and life support systems.
  • A version of the LCM combined with the SEPM provides transportation, station keeping and orbit transfer while stationed around the moon.
  • Large inflatable fabric environment (LIFE) provides pressurized volume for living quarters, exercise equipment, experiment area, SNC’s advanced plant growth system and emergency radiation shelter for long-duration habitation.
  • Flexible airlock architecture allows for in-space assembly, extravehicular activities (EVA) by crew members and docking of visiting vehicles such as Orion.

The deep space gateway concept complements SNC’s extensive space portfolio which includes the Dream Chaser® spacecraft slated to start resupply missions to the International Space Station in 2020 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract. SNC’s work under the NextSTEP-2 architecture leverages technology developed for the Dream Chaser vehicle including proximity operations systems for in-space vehicle docking, environmental control and life support systems, as well as other essential subsystems for on-orbit operation and control.

“Working on this technology shows SNC’s dedication to the future of spaceflight and long-duration exploration missions that are critical to NASA’s vision of space exploration,” said Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area.

SNC previously won a NASA award for Phase I of the project that allowed research on a concept study for a habitat life support system. The study incorporated the concept and development of a prototype for the Greenwall, an advanced plant growth system for long-duration human sustainability in deep space.

18:28

Ariane 5 Anomaly: Satellites Healthy But Not Where They Should Be

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An Ariane 5 booster delivered two communications satellites into the wrong orbits on Thursday, but their owners say the spacecraft are healthy and will be able to reach their intended destinations using on-board propulsion.

SES says its SES-14 satellite will be reach its intended geosynchronous orbit four weeks later than planned.

“SES confirms that the spacecraft is in good health, all subsystems on board are nominal, and the satellite is expected to meet the designed life time,” the company said in a press release. “SES-14 will be positioned at 47.5 degrees West to serve Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and the North Atlantic region with C- and Ku-band wide beam coverage and Ku-band high throughput spot beam coverage.”

Yahsat issued a similar statement concerning its Al Yah 3 satellite. The company is working on a plan to get the spacecraft to its planned orbit.

“We are pleased to know that the satellite is healthy, and that the necessary steps are being taken to ensure the original mission is fulfilled,” said CEO Masood M. Sharif Mahmood. “I would like to thank our technology partner Orbital ATK and the Yahsat team in ensuring the Al Yah 3 objectives are met.“

Orbital data show the satellites were delivered close to their targeted geo-transfer orbits of 250 x 45,000 km. However, their inclinations are at 20.64 degrees rather than at the planned 3 degrees.

Controllers lost contact with the Ariane 5’s second stage into its engine burn. The telemetry loss continued throughout the rest of powered flight.

Arianespace is investigating the anomaly.

“Arianespace has set up an independent enquiry commission in conjunction with ESA,” the company said in a press release. “The upcoming launch campaigns currently underway at the Spaceport in French Guiana are proceeding as scheduled.”

 

14:44

Ariane 5 sous le signe du suspens

Le 25 janvier, Ariane 5 a joué la carte du suspens en raison d’une perte de la télémétrie alors que le deuxième étage s’allumait. Les 2 satellites ont toutefois été placés sur une orbite qui leur permet de rejoindre leur position de travail.
13:58

MDA Selected to Study Alternatives to Protect Canadian Space Assets

Richmond, BC (MDA PR) – MDA, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), today announced that it has been awarded a contract by Public Service Procurement Canada on behalf of the Defence Research and Development Canada, under the Space Operations program within the Joint Force Development portfolio, to develop a Threat Detection and Early Warning System to provide protection for Canadian space-based assets. The contract is for the study, concepts and research and development phases which could lead to MDA pursuing subsequent phases of technology demonstration and technology pilot.

Satellites support a wide variety of applications like telecommunications and remote sensing which provide on-going, critical services to individual Canadians, businesses and government agencies. Canada has invested billions of dollars to create these services, which have become essential for Canadian society. Disruption or loss of these services would impact the ability of Canada to respond to emergency situations and to meet commitments to its global allies and would have widespread negative impacts on day-to-day life.

The contract includes the work required for the development of the Threat Detection and Early Warning System (TDEWS) up to a proof-of-concept stage. The TDEWS will incorporate technologies and systems capable of providing automated, reliable early warning of potential in-orbit threats against operational Canadian satellites. The goal is to identify credible threats against space assets to generate operationally relevant intelligence and enable prompt mitigation actions.

Mike Greenley, group president of MDA said, “DND and MDA have worked closely together over the years to build and operate the Canadian Sapphire surveillance of space mission. This project builds on that success but drives the innovation well beyond Sapphire, using emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and big data to enhance the security of the critical Space assets upon which Canadians depend.”

About MDA

MDA is an internationally recognized leader in space robotics, satellite antennas and subsystems, surveillance and intelligence systems, defense and maritime systems, and geospatial radar imagery. MDA’s extensive space expertise and heritage translates into mission-critical defence and commercial applications that include multi-platform command, control and surveillance systems, aeronautical information systems, land administration systems and terrestrial robotics. MDA is also a leading supplier of actionable mission-critical information and insights derived from multiple data sources. Founded in 1969, MDA is recognized as one of Canada’s most successful technology ventures with locations in Richmond, Ottawa, Brampton, Montreal and Halifax. MDA is a Maxar Technologies company (TSX: MAXR; NYSE: MAXR). For more information, visit www.mdacorporation.com.

About Maxar Corporation

Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates) is a leading global provider of advanced space technology solutions for commercial and government markets including satellites, Earth imagery, geospatial data and analytics. As a trusted partner, Maxar Technologies provides unmatched end-to-end advanced systems capabilities and integrated solutions expertise to help our customers anticipate and address their most complex mission critical challenges with confidence. With more than 6,500 employees in over 20 locations, the Maxar Technologies portfolio of commercial space brands includes: SSL, MDA, DigitalGlobe, and Radiant Solutions. Every day millions of people rely on Maxar Technologies to communicate, share information and data, and deliver insights that empower a better world. Maxar trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange as MAXR. For more information visit www.maxar.com.

01:46

Ariane 5 Suffers Anomaly, Chinese Launch 3 Satellites

UPDATE: Agence France Presse (AFP) is reporting the problem with Ariane 5 involved more than just a loss of telemetry:

But a source told AFP the satellites did not detach from the rocket in the correct place after the craft followed an “imperfect trajectory”.

Arianespace said they were currently “repositioning the satellites in the right place using their propulsion systems” adding that the current status was “reassuring after strong concerns”.

I don’t see any further updates on the mission on the websites of Arianespace, SES or Yahsat. This leads me to believe the AFP report is accurate. If it had been a simple telemetry loss, Arianespace would have said so, and there would be press releases and social media messages declaring the flight to be a complete success.

Yahsat does have a link to a page with an update about the mission. It’s in Arabic so I ran it through Google Translate. The update doesn’t appear to go beyond Arianespace’s original statement about the spacecraft separating from the second stage and being in contact with control centers.
________

Controllers lost contact with the upper stage of an Ariane 5 booster carrying a pair of communications satellites on Thursday. The loss telemetry began a few seconds after ignition of the stage and continued through the rest of the powered flight, Arianespace said in a statement.

“Subsequently, both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit,” the company said. “SES-14 and Al Yah 3 are communicating with their respective control centers. Both missions are continuing.”

The precise orbital parameters of the geosynchronous communications satellites are unknown.  SES-14 will use electric propulsion to reach its intended orbit while the Al Yah 3 will use a liquid bi-propellant transfer system.

Earlier on Thursday, China launched the fourth group of three Yaogan Weixing-30 satellites. A Long March 2C booster flew from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Officially, the Yaogan Weixing are remote sensing spacecraft. However, analysts believe they are military reconnaissance satellites.

The flight marked China’s fifth successful launch of 2018. The nation is aiming to achieve more than 40 orbital launches this year.

January 25 2018

14:03

Successful First Test of the Ariane 6 Vulcain Engine

  • The Vulcain® 2.1 engine, which will power the main stage of Ariane 6, has completed a successful first test firing
  • The test was carried out on behalf of ArianeGroup by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) at its Lampoldshausen site
  • This is a version of the Ariane 5 Vulcain® 2 engine optimized for Ariane 6

Lampoldshausen, Germany, 23 January 2018 (ArianeGroup PR) — The Vulcain® 2.1 engine, developed by ArianeGroup to power the main stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, for which the maiden flight is scheduled for 2020, has just been successfully tested by the DLR (German Aerospace Center) on the P5 test facility at its site in Lampoldshausen, Germany on behalf of ArianeGroup.

This is a version of the Ariane 5 Vulcain® 2 engine especially adapted for the Ariane 6 main stage, to simplify production and to lower costs. To reach these objectives the engine integrates technologies such as a gas generator built using 3D printing, a simplified divergent nozzle, and an oxygen heater for tank pressurization. These adaptations contribute to achieving the cost targets set for the Ariane 6 launcher, while retaining the efficiency and reliability demonstrated on Ariane 5.

The tests carried out at Lampoldshausen will allow the new engine to be tested throughout its flight envelope (thrust, mixing ratio, propellant supply conditions).

In parallel, the Ariane 6 upper stage Vinci® engine qualification program is continuing on schedule, with more than 130 test firings performed on the two test beds in France and Germany (the P4.1 at the DLR’s Lampoldshausen site and the PF52 at the ArianeGroup test site in Vernon, France), including several demonstrations of the multiple ignition capability required by Ariane customers for their missions on Ariane 6.

Design authority and industrial lead contractor for the development and operation of the Ariane 6 launcher on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), ArianeGroup coordinates an industrial network of more than 600 companies in 131 European countries, including more than 350 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

11:51

Musk’s New Tesla Pay Package Seems to be Aimed at Mars

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk has a new pay package with Tesla Motors that could net him $55 billion over the next decade if the company reaches a series of extremely ambitious targets, according to press reports. If he doesn’t reach those goals in 10 years, he could end up with nothing.

That might seem like a crazy plan even for Musk, who is known for taking great risks. But, it makes sense when you consider the billionaire’s ultimate long-term goal: to develop a transportation system to facilitate the establishment of human colonies on Mars.

Musk has said he is dedicating his personal wealth to that objective. And although his net worth is estimated at $21 billion, actual profits from his various businesses have been elusive.

Tesla Motors has lost billions of dollars, is deeply in debt, and has rarely shown a profitable quarter. It’s sky high stock price is predicated on future earnings. Tesla’s acquisition SolarCity was either a “no brainer” (Musk) that created synergies between the two companies, or a terrible acquisition (critics) of a money-losing company that did little more than bail out Musk and his two cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, while adding billions in debt to the car company.

SpaceX is a private company that does not release financial information. However, officials have said that the investment in developing reusable rockets totaled about $1 billion. That figure apparently does not include the company’s investment in the Falcon Heavy or a new launch complex in Texas. A report in  The Wall Street Journal cited internal financial records showing SpaceX lost $260 million in 2015.

Meanwhile, Musk’s efforts to interest governments in his Mars plans as part of a public-private partnership have apparently come up short. Despite making two widely publicized presentations outlining his plans, the reaction from the world’s leading space powers has been a collective shrug.

The U.S. government under President Donald Trump is focusing NASA on returning astronauts to the moon. Every other major space agency seems focused on the moon as well. The only government that seems somewhat interested on Mars is the United Arab Emirates, but there’s no evidence thus far that it is willing to help fund Musk’s plan.

So, the Tesla compensation deal is likely a big throw of the dice, betting that he can meet the targets. With $55 billion he would be able to fully fund his Mars plan. In the meantime, he will continue to work on the big rocket he needs to get people there with whatever profits he has from his companies.

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