Quick Takes (04-11-16)

To illustrate the challenges of sending robotic missions to Mars,Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, showed this chart of the history of Mars missions during a March 31 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council. The chart — part of a presentation Gerst gave on NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s — “shows how difficult Mars really is, if you look at the number of failures.” Credit: NASA

To illustrate the challenges of sending robotic missions to Mars,Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, showed this chart of the history of Mars missions during a March 31 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council. The chart — part of a presentation Gerst gave on NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s — “shows how difficult Mars really is, if you look at the number of failures.” Credit: NASA

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eccentric-orbits-cover_4.11.16With Iridium poised to deploy its 72-satellite Iridium Next constellation, it’s easy to forget the firm’s first 66 satellites were headed for destruction amid bankruptcy.

Veteran journalist John Bloom follows the quest of Dan Colussy, the former head of Pan-Am who came out of retirement at 69 to buy Iridium.

Iridium says it cooperated with Bloom on the book, which its publisher describes as a “swashbuckling, unforgettable tale of technological achievement, catastrophic management, the military-industrial complex, and one of the greatest deals of all time.”

Eccentric Orbits is due out June 7, roughly a month before SpaceX is slated to loft the first 10 Iridium Next satellites on a Falcon 9.

Maybe NASA should buy Sea launch?

About two-thirds of the land NASA manages is within five meters of sea level, including the Kennedy Space Center and Houston’s Johnson Space Center. Increases in sea levels could result in more frequent coastal flooding at those locations, jeopardizing billions of dollars of NASA launch pads and other infrastructure. As The New York Times put it in an April 4 feature, “NASA is facing a climate countdown.” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden dramatized the threat in a March 2015 exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz during a budget hearing. Cruz said NASA was funding Earth science at the expense of exploration. “I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space,” Cruz said. “We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it,” Bolden replied.


Beer brewed with space-flown yeast back for a second spin

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In October 2014, Ninkasi Brewing Co. sent six vials of brewer’s yeast to space aboard an UP Aerospace SL-9 suborbital rocket launched from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The Eugene, Oregon craft brewer used the space-flown microbes to produce its first “space beer,” Ground Control, which was released in 2015.

The beer returns April 12 with its sequel — Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ground Control. At 10-percent alcohol by volume, liftoff is assured.

Ground Control is an imperial stout brewed with hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs. It is being sold in limited-edition 22-ounce bottles throughout Ninkasi’s distribution territory, which includes Colorado, California, Texas, Utah, and Washington, D.C.