ANNOUNCEMENT OF PRESS CONFERENCE – CNRS and Mars Analogue for Space Exploration …

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

Mars Analogue for Space Exploration (MASE) Project

PRESS VISIT AND BRIEFING Wednesday 29th March 2017 (09:30 – 12 :00)

CNRS – Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France.

If you are attending, you must RSVP in advance.

The CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) will hold a press conference and visit on 29th of March at the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire (CBM) at Orléans. This press conference will be held the day after a scientific meeting of the FP7 MASE project (Mars Analogue for Space Exploration), being held in France for the first time.

The MASE project gathers European scientists from different countries who study the possibility to detect present / past life on Mars.

This press conference offers the opportunity for a briefing on:

– Current progress assessing the habitability of Mars and detecting life.

– Identifying the landing site for the Exomars Mission launching in July 2020.

– Using microfossil analysis to detect past signatures for Martian life.

This press conference will also cast light on research facilities studying signatures of life in other planets to maximise the scientific output of future space exploration missions.

– Visit to International Space Analogue Rockstore with rocks of billions of years in age.

– Visit to the analytical platform for Raman Spectroscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy.

DETAILS FOLLOW – please also see the news section at www,

Members of the Media are invited to attend this Visit and Conference – you must please register in advance.

To register, please contact: Florence Royer (+33) 02 38 25 79 86

Members of the media are also welcome to contact the relevant scientists and researchers working on these projects and their contact details are below.

For press conference issues please contact:

Florence Royer – Press Conference Room CNRS:
Dr. Patricia Cabezas – Administrative Coordinator, European Science Foundation:
Mr. Nicolas Walter – Administrative Coordinator, European Science Foundation:

For MASE project information please contact:

Prof. Charles Cockell – Scientific Coordinator, University of Edinburgh:
Dr. Patricia Cabezas – Administrative Coordinator, European Science Foundation:
Mr. Nicolas Walter – Administrative Coordinator, European Science Foundation:

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Mars Analogue for Space Exploration (MASE) Project
Press conference and visit
Wednesday 29th March 2017 – 9h 30
Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire – CBM (CNRS)
Entrée principale du campus CNRS – 3E avenue de la recherche scientifique

9h 30
About MASE (Mars Analogues for Space Exploration)

What landing site for Exomars 2020?

Looking for past life on Earth and on Mars: Why microfossils are so important?

Speaker: Dr. Frances Westall

Questions / Answers with Dr. Frances Westall, Dr. Frédéric Foucher and Dr. Frédéric Gaboyer

10h 30
Visit to the “lithotheque” ISAR (International Space Analogue Rockstore)
Speaker: Dr. Frédéric Foucher

11h 15
Presentation of studied samples and visit to the analytical platform of Raman spectroscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy

Further information about MASE:


Twitter: @MarsAnalogues

Facebook : MASE @MarsAnalogues

Middlebury Reacts to Space Tourism

SpaceX’s vintage-esque PR poster advertises the emergent ‘space tourism’ industury.

Humans are going back to the moon. On Monday, Feb. 27, the commercial space flight company SpaceX announced that they are sending two tourists around the moon late next year in a privately-crewed capsule. These tourists will be launched into space, where they will loop around the moon – but not land on it – and come back to Earth. The mission is estimated to take about a week.

It is still unknown who the tourists are and how much they are paying. They will be not the first space tourists; there have been seven space tourists before, each paying between 20 and 40 million dollars to the Russian government to send them up. However, none of these tourists ever went above Low Earth Orbit.

To gauge the perspective of students and faculty around the College, I interviewed Assistant Professor of Physics Eilat Glikman and had quick conversations with 12 Middlebury students about their thoughts on this event, as well as their feelings about space travel in general.

Glikman is an astrophysicist. Naturally, she is excited about this news. However, she is not excited that tourists can now pay to go into space. She hopes this event “won’t just create one more thing that rich people can do”.

“I think it’s the kind of thing that makes the news, and I think that kind of thing making the news definitely wakes people’s minds up and gets people excited,” she said.

Glikman mentioned the 1969 moon landing, which she said is in a weird way, “so far in the past, it’s almost like it didn’t happen.” People from our generation know that people have been on the moon, but have taken it for granted their whole lives. Tourists going to the moon in our lifetime could reawaken the excitement our grandparents felt when Neil Armstrong took those first extraterrestrial steps.

“I would hope that this sort of thing would push our nation to invest in more space exploration, from the NASA side,” added Professor Glikman. “Not to take away from the entrepreneurial aspect, but I think, at the end of the day, if you really want to break barriers, you need the kind of investment that isn’t driven by profit.”

She believes that governments need to take the risk and pave the way without monetary profit in mind. After that, commercial businesses can take over.

In her discussion, she drew a parallel to Lewis and Clark.

“After Lewis and Clark did their charting and mapping out of the West, you had migrations, you had people moving into those places…”

Glikman went on, however, to mention the current government’s lack of funding for NASA.

“It’s interesting to think of private industry saying [to the government], ‘we’re just not going to wait for you,’” she said. “So you have people like Elon Musk … eccentric Billionaires who are willing to take risks and kind of allow for those losses.”

Glikman mentioned the story of Richard Garriott as an example of the potential benefits of space tourism. Garriott was a space tourist who performed some scientific studies while aboard the ISS. Because of him, NASA was able to determine the effects of space on LASIK, the corrective eye surgery.

Some people today are drawing parallels between space – specifically Mars – and the New World in the 1400’s. When I asked Glikman whether or not she would agree with this, she seemed skeptical about the possibility of humans colonizing another planet.

“Mars is not a hospitable place,” she said. “We are components of an ecosystem; it’s not just that we need an atmosphere to breathe, we need food. Well, our food comes from plants that grow in the ground, and plants don’t just grow … our entire biological existence depends on other biological existences which depend on other ones, you can’t just pluck one out and plop it somewhere else … ecosystems don’t just sprout out of nowhere.”

While all these deterrents are valid, I have to mention that there are several theories for how Mars could successfully be made hospitable, though none of them are perfect.

Another part of space exploration that Glikman brought up was law. If people want to harvest an asteroid, “Who owns the asteroid?” Or, if people manage to colonize Mars, “Who owns Mars? Is that another country?” Glikman brought up these questions as interesting things to consider, stating openly that she “[doesn’t] have answers to any of them.”

Finally, I asked Glikman whether she would fly around the moon. She responded with a resounding no. Her answer was a personal preference, however, and she does not discourage other people from travelling into space. As an astronomer, she has seen some of the best night skies viewable on Earth. She describes those experiences as “existentially overwhelming.” She does not know how she would react if she saw the view from space. Moreover, she understands that the human body has evolved over billions of years to thrive on Earth. She would personally prefer to stay where humans are evolutionarily meant to be.

“I’ll let Hubble take my pictures for me,” she said.

I also talked to 12 somewhat random students around campus. Five of them had not heard that SpaceX was sending people to the moon. When I asked about whether they viewed this event as important to their lives, 10 answered yes, and two were more apathetic. All of the students were excited about the possibility of space travel. However, the two who were more apathetic stated that the money spent on going to the moon could be used for issues that humans are facing here on Earth. In rebuttal, one student mentioned that space travel pushes the advancement of technology, and thus is beneficial to current issues that Earth faces. There are scores of world changing technologies that were invented solely because of the world’s space programs.

Finally, I asked every student whether or not they would go to the moon if they did not have to pay. Every student but one answered yes. That one person said they are claustrophobic and would dislike being in such a cramped space. The rest of the students I asked were very enthusiastic, most saying yes in an instant.

Lunar habitat on display at museum

Hampton visitors will soon be able to explore what life on the moon could be like.

The Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton received an inflatable 12-foot diameter lunar “habitat structure” exhibit this week from NASA Langley. Researchers at NASA Langley have worked on the concept for at least a decade to understand what space-related opportunities lay ahead not just for astronauts but for the public, according to Steve Lee, management coordinator at NASA Langley.

“Would you like to go to the moon and live one day?” Lee asked Tuesday. “Do you know someone who might want to go to the moon and live one day? There may be an opportunity for people to go and spend some time in outer space — that’s a speculation on my part. But I’d say these are opportunities.”

The 2,426-pound module was built by engineer and manufacturing company, ILC Dover, in 2007 and tested at NASA Langley. The Planetary Surface Habitat and Airlock Unit, has helped researchers in determining the best possible materials for sustaining human life on the moon for more than one year. A key component of the multilayer inflatable module is its ability to be compressed into a much smaller space than it would use when fully set up. The structure is made of temperature-insulated and impact-detection layers.

The Billionaires Working To Make A Fortune In The Final Frontier

Stephen Hawking To Travel To Space (At Last)

Stephen Hawking recently admitted in an interview with the Independent that his “ultimate ambition is to float in space.” The British astrophysicist, father of the study of black holes and always ready to make his science accessible to the public, suffers from Charcot’s disease, which prevents him from moving or communicating verbally.

© Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network/Wikimedia Commons

(Photo: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network/Wikimedia Commons)

He thought he would never succeed going into space, but Richard Branson came to the rescue. The billionaire, president of Virgin and its subsidiary Virgin Galactic, has apparently offered the scientist a free return ticket to space, thus making his dream come true.

This does not mean that Stephen Hawking will fly to Earth orbit any time soon though, because although Richard Branson has been promising us space tourism since the time SpaceX was still a totally unknown start-up, the two companies have experienced diametrically opposite fates.

Whereas SpaceX has established itself as one of the most exciting technological challenges of our generation, Virgin Galactic has been cumulating disasters after disasters since 2009, the most spectacular of all being the crash of the SpaceShipTwo shuttle in 2014, that resulted in a death and another person seriously injured.

“He is the only person I have given a free ticket with Virgin Galactic”

Nevertheless, the company is still working on the development of a suborbital aircraft, the VSS Unity, capable of flying in low orbit at an altitude of 110 kilometers. This spacecraft would allow wealthy tourists to enjoy a view of the earth’s curvature.

The first free flights were successfully carried out in December 2016 and SpaceX announced it will send two tourists as anonymous as they are wealthy for a stroll in Lunar orbit in 2018.

Virgin Galactic has enlisted Stephen Hawking to become its mascot and, we must admit, it is quite the promotional coup. Although for now neither the company nor Richard Branson has confirmed the physicist’s comments, there is every reason to believe that they are true, Richard Branson having declared in 2015 that “he is the only person I have given a free ticket with Virgin Galactic, and he is signed up to fly as a Future Astronaut with us if his health permits it.”

Let’s hope that the astrophysicist’s health will hold (he’s been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for several decades now), and also that Virgin Galactic will quickly come up with a reliable ship. We really want to see Stephen Hawking, the symbol of human resilience, defy space (after his brush with parabolic flight in 2007).

Read More – >  SpaceX Aims To Take Tourists Around The Moon By 2018

Science, data, culture et galéjades. Internet est mon église.

Space Is Booming. America's Next Heavy-Lift Rocket Should Reflect That

As the U.S. government leaves the RD-180 rocket engine behind, it should position itself to support and reap the benefits of the growth in orbital markets.

The Russian RD-180 rocket engine has been an integral part of the U.S. military’s space launch capabilities since the 1990s. The RD-180 was chosen for the Atlas V because it was an advanced rocket engine with unmatched technical capabilities. The decision to use the RD-180 was influenced by many other non-technical factors as well, such as the United States’ geopolitical goal of easing the former Soviet Union’s transition from communism and U.S. industry’s desire to remain competitive in the global launch market. And despite the EELV program’s cost overruns and program restructurings, the RD-180 has helped the U.S. military achieve its goal of mission assurance for the launch of national security payloads.

From the beginning, the U.S. government and its industry partners planned to eventually move production of the RD-180 to the United States. However, after costs began to rise on the EELV program, this goal was repeatedly delayed. In 2007, the government decided to forgo the goal of producing the RD-180 domestically, and instead chose to stockpile enough engines to mitigate the risk of a supply disruption. This approach held until the 2014 Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. With the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Russia, and Russian threats to retaliate by possibly withholding sales of the RD-180, policymakers made breaking the reliance on Russian engines a top priority.

Under current law, DoD must end its dependence on the RD-180 by 2022. It also remains the policy of the United States to maintain two independent launch vehicle families that can launch all national-security space payloads. Assuming that the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy (once certified) will be one of the two launch vehicle families, DoD must still have an alternate launch vehicle family that does not use the RD-180.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne AR1 engine currently under development is the closest to being a drop-in replacement for the RD-180. However, because it is heavier, has a higher thrust, and has a lower specific impulse (fuel efficiency), the AR1 would require modifications to the existing Atlas V launch vehicle that would lower the vehicle’s overall performance. The same AR1 engine could also be used on the new Vulcan launch vehicle, which would achieve higher performance than the current Atlas V. The Vulcan could also be powered by Blue Origin’s new BE-4 engine, which is further along in development than the AR1 and largely self-funded by Blue Origin. All three of these options have some level of technical risk because they are new development programs, and each launch option would take several years before it is certified to launch national security payloads.

Related: It’s Time to Declare Our Independence from Russian Rockets

Related: If Russia is Selling, the Pentagon Should Keep Buying — Rocket Engines, That Is

Related: Wishing for a US-Made Heavy Lift Rocket Won’t Make It So

Alternatively, the existing Delta IV and Ariane 5 families of launch vehicles could be used to launch payloads currently serviced by the Atlas V. Both would involve less technical risk and would be available immediately because they are already in production and have well- established safety records. However, the Delta IV family of vehicles is much more expensive than the Atlas V and Falcon 9, which means it is not a viable competitor in the long-term. And because the Ariane 5 is a European-made launch vehicle, its use would create a host of security and political challenges. Policymakers must weigh each of these options and consider a range of factors, such as schedule, cost, technical risks, and the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. space launch industrial base.

Simultaneously, the Defense Department will need to reconsider its acquisition strategy for the next phase of the EELV program. As public-private partnerships continue to evolve, DoD should consider the critical ingredients necessary to make its acquisition strategy successful, including: 1) the nature of the acquisition; 2) the health of the commercial space launch market; 3) the range and scope for purchasing launch services and how integrated or federated this needs to be; 4) the mechanism for purchasing launch; and 5) the management of risk in space launch acquisition.

With these ingredients in mind, there are several different ways to have successful, but varying, amounts of competition in the national security space launch market. Block buys allow for limited competition that assures some access to space with one launch provider while allowing for competition for a smaller, but still significant, number of launches. Allocated competition focuses on achieving and maintaining assured access to space through two launch providers. IDIQ competition obtains full service launch with enhanced competition. Lastly, the most price-competitive option comes from full and open competition.

The global space market is poised to grow significantly over the coming decade, and the U.S. government should position itself to support and reap the benefits of this growth. This will require some flexibility and perhaps new approaches for how the government buys space launch. The transition away from the RD-180 is an opportunity for the U.S. government to remake the EELV program so that it avoids mistakes from the past and supports a robust and innovative national security space program. 

This is an excerpt from “Beyond the RD-180,” a report released on March 22, 2017, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Aerospace Security Project.

New NASA Bill Aimed at Sending Humans to Mars, Plus Commercial Space Flights

As the first NASA-authorization bill in seven years.

President Trump has signed a bill aimed at assisting NASA in sending humans to Mars, with $19.5 billion in funding. NASA aims to send people to Mars by the 2030s, and congress’ funding will assist with the construction of the Space Launch System rocket, which is set to be NASA’s most powerful rocket ever, and will send astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before.

This is in line with Trump’s plan to have NASA focus on deep space exploration rather than Earth, with the bill specifically listing that NASA “should be a multi-mission space agency and should have a balanced and robust set of core missions in space science, space technology, aeronautics, human space flight and exploration, and education.”

Some specifics include Astronauts getting health care for life, and will require NASA to pay for “monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of any health problems related to spaceflight for all former astronauts.” NASA already monitors astronauts for health problems even after they return to Earth, but previously has not treated astronauts for any issues they discovered.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission (or ARM), which would have had NASA collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid near Earth for studies, has also formally been cancelled, since it no longer has funding. The ARM was intended to be a stepping-stone towards having humans on Mars, but congress has effectively asked NASA to find alternate study.

One of the most exciting parts, though it isn’t totally explicit, is that NASA is encouraged to explore ways to boost the private space industry. This means NASA may be allowing and actively seeking out commercial flights to the International Space Station some time soon.

Regarding the bill, President Trump said: “It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed reaffirming our national commitment to the core mission of NASA, human space exploration, space science and technology.”

Alanah is an Editor at IGN, and her #1 goal in life is to visit the International Space Station, for real. You can find her on Twitter @Charalanahzard.