Bill Nye to President Trump: Keep supporting NASA

Bill Nye the Science Guy has a message for President Trump: Please support NASA.

A day before the president releases his first budget proposal, Nye, the CEO of the Planetary Society, sent Wednesday an open letter to the president, via a video on YouTube.

Nye said he’d be open to meeting with the president, Vice President Pence or other members of the administration to talk about his recommendations, and he noted that NASA and space exploration have bipartisan support in Congress.

Here are the five recommendations Nye had for the agency, some of which seemed to appeal to Trump as a businessman who pledged to keep jobs in America:

1) Keep the planet Mars as the goal for space exploration.

Nye urged Trump to maintain existing programs and missions already underway that support the goal of reaching the red planet.

“Let’s keep this momentum going and get humans to Mars in our lifetimes,” he said.

Which means we need to …

2) Orbit Mars first.

Experts have already met and proposed plans for how to get humans to orbit Mars by 2033, Nye said. Following these proposals would allow humans to land on the planet two or more years later. It’s similar to how we eventually sent people to the moon.

3) Strengthen NASA’s science.

There are four pillars of science at NASA: astrophysics, planetary science, heliophysics and earth science. Nye recommended strengthening all of them — despite calls by some members of Congress to transfer earth science to other agencies.

“I urge you to embrace the full potential of all of NASA’s science programs so that they can continue to lead the world in science, technology and exploration,” Nye said.

4) Embrace commercial space.

Private space have grown “substantially,” Nye said.

“Let’s unleash private investment in lower orbit and find ways to encourage this next generation of entrepreneurs and inventors to blaze a trail to mars and beyond,” he said.

5) Boost NASA’s budget by 5% every year for five years.

This may be the hardest selling point, but Nye called for what he calls the five-over-five plan. The money would be spent “on Earth, in the United States,” he noted.

“Our citizens expect so much of NASA,” he said. “The organization is often asked to do a lot with not quite enough … Without budget increases, NASA won’t have the ability to send these people anywhere. Not to the moon, not to Mars, not anywhere.”

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SpaceX lands second military contract

Two space giants with ties to Central Florida have landed work with the U.S. Air Force.

The Department of Defense announced late Tuesday that it had awarded contracts to SpaceX and Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Co.

The nearly $97 million SpaceX deal will require the company to provide the launch vehicle for an operation that hopes to send a GPS satellite into orbit by April 30, 2019. The announcement said that two companies vied for the contract.

It’s the second contract SpaceX has landed with the U.S. Air Force, with the last being in April.

That contract essentially ended United Launch Alliance’s informal exclusivity on military contracts.

In a statement, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said the company was proud to have been selected.

“We appreciate the confidence that the U.S. Air Force has placed in our company and we look forward to working together towards the successful launch of another GPS-III mission,” she said.

SpaceX made one of two bids for the latest deal.

Most of the preparation work will be done at the company’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters with launch operations expected at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast.

SpaceX has been competing with Lockheed Martin’s and Boeing’s United Launch Alliance for launch contracts.

Lockheed Martin, which has two of its major facilities in Orlando, landed a modification to a previously secured contract.

The modification adds $15 million to an agreement that will add cyber-related capabilities to the ground system of the Air Force’s “space-based infrared system.”

Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facilities will handle most of the work.

The contracts, while not putting a major financial dent into the billion-dollar industry, potentially represent an uptick in the region’s space industry.

Florida has been launching rockets for decades and, after a five-year lull following the shuttle program’s deactivation, it has been the location for increased activity as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have jumped into what has been called a new space race.

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NASA Finds Lost Indian Lunar Probe

14 Mar, 201714 Mar, 2017

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NASA has tracked down a lost Indian lunar probe that last had contact with Earth in 2009 by using a new microwave radar detection system to follow its orbit around the moon.

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The Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, a 5-foot by 5-foot cubical craft, studied the moon from October 2008 through to August 2009. It launched an onboard impactor into the moon shortly after orbit, revealing evidence of water in the form of ice on the moon’s surface. However, the craft then lost contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation, and its location remained unknown until NASA picked it up.

Researchers at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California sent a powerful beam of microwaves towards the moon from their 270-foot antenna in July 2016, with the beams that bounced back to Earth received by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

It turns out the Chandrayaan-1 was pretty much where the teams at NASA expected it to be, despite the moon being covered with “mascons,” the technical term for areas on the lunar service which have a higher gravitational pull, such as mountains. These can dramatically affect the orbit of probes, but did not drastically alter the path of Chandrayaan-1.

Those searching for the craft utilized their knowledge that the probe should be in a polar orbit, always crossing above both the north and south poles of the moon. Something with the velocity, size and predicted orbit of Chandrayaan-1 was then picked up by the radar detectors.

Ryan Park, the manager of the Solar System Dynamics Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and a member of the detection team, said in a statement that in order to find Chandrayaan-1, they had to shift its location “by about 180 degrees, or half a cycle from the old orbital estimates from 2009. But otherwise, its orbit still had the shape and alignment that we expected.”

NASA was not only able to pick out Chandrayaan-1, but also their own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. This was not as much of a challenge, as it is still an active craft. Marina Brozovic from JPL in Pasadena said that finding the LRO was “relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located.”

According to a statement from NASA officials on the mission, these new ground-based radar systems could be used “in both future robotic and human missions to the moon, both for a collisional hazard assessment tool and as a safety mechanism for spacecraft that encounter navigation or communication issues.”

Jack Hadfield is a student at the University of Warwick and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @ToryBastard_ or on Gab @JH.