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U.S. Committee Wants Your Opinions Of The Future Of Human Spaceflight

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NASAWe here at GFR are obviously huge supporters of advancing exploration of and expansion into space in whatever form it can take. And while the private sector seems more ambitious about space exploration than ever before, it seems like every other day we hear a new story about how NASA’s funding has dwindled to a stack of scratch-off lotto tickets and $0.73 in loose change. Since it’s a government entity, NASA will always be subject to the whims of politicians, and there’s generally not much we can do about that other than voting for people who support the space program. Now a U.S. government committee has invited space proponents to speak up about what role human spaceflight should play in our future.

Given how prevailing anti-science attitudes seem to be these days, the space program could use all the proponents it can get. It’s a chance to speak up, for whatever that’s worth. You can submit your thoughts, no more than four pages in length, via the U.S. National Academies of Science website right here. The deadline for submissions is July 9. Here are the details:

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Mysterious Moon Bubbles Could Hold The Key To Radiation Shielding On Spacecraft

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Mankind may have walked on it, zoomed around it, and thrown satellites into its surface, but the moon still has her secrets. One of the mysteries that has perplexed scientists for quite a while has been mysterious milky white blotches on the moon’s surface that correspond with small magnetic fields that should be too weak to have any effect on the lunar soil. Now a group of scientists think they may have discovered the reason for the moon’s discoloration and understanding it could hold the key to keeping astronauts safe from radiation on long space flights.

While the Earth has a magnetic field that encompasses it, keeping us safe from the massive amounts of radiation that the sun can put out, our moon has no global defense against solar flares and cosmic rays. In a lot of areas, constant exposure to solar radiation has charred the lunar soil to a much darker shade of grey (not to be confused with the dark lunar maria that can be seen from earth which are the remnants of ancient lava plains). When scientists saw white blotches on the sun-baked surface that couldn’t be accounted for by lunar impacts, they had no idea what caused them until the Apollo program. With Apollo came the understanding that each of these white blotches were surrounded with extremely weak magnetic fields, fields so weak that they shouldn’t have any effect on the coloration of the surface. That mystery has remained for years, but a team looking into radiation shielding for spacecraft may have just figured out the answer.

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NASA Announces Award Winners In Commercial Crew Development

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Two days before the Curiosity rover landed on Mars in a spectacular fashion, NASA awarded the next generation of human spaceflight with a large chunk of money. The Commercial Crew integrated Capability Initiative (CCiCap) awarded money for the development of commercial crew capable vehicles that could well be the follow up to the space shuttle in bringing astronauts to the International Space Station.

The $1.1 billion dollars goes to 3 different companies with 3 very different vehicles. These awards don’t all amount to money in hand though, as the money will get doled out to each winner as they complete certain design and testing milestones within a set time frame all the way up to the Critical Design Review (CDR) which is pretty much the final verification of a craft’s design before it gets approved for manned test flights.