October 27, 2018 - November 2, 2018
NASA official: Tense moments but
calm crew in aborted launch
photo provided by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, the Soyuz
MS-10 space capsule lays in a field after an emergency landing near
Dzhezkazgan, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Baikonur,
Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Russian Defense Ministry Press
Service photo via AP)
Moscow (AP) -
NASA’s chief heard one reassuring sound over
the radio link after the aborted launch of a Soyuz capsule with an
American and a Russian aboard.
It was U.S.
astronaut Nick Hague calmly relaying information in Russian to flight
“My reaction was,
‘things aren’t going well and he’s not speaking English,’” NASA
Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Friday, after Hague and
Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin returned to the Star City training center
outside Moscow from their abruptly shortened mission.
“So, in other
words, he was calm, he was cool, he was collected, he was doing what he
was trained to do,” said Bridenstine, who was at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
to watch the launch.
Two minutes after
Hague and Ovchinin blasted off Thursday for the International Space
Station, their rocket failed, triggering an emergency landing. Their
capsule fell from an altitude of about 50 kilometers (31 miles) at a
sharper-than-normal angle, building up gravitational forces at 6-7 times
those on Earth.
It was the first
such accident for Russia’s manned program in over three decades,
although there also have been launch failures in recent years involving
unmanned vehicles. An investigation is underway, and Bridenstine said he
doesn’t expect the next mission taking a crew to the space station in
December to be delayed.
He recalled the
tense moment when he heard Hague reporting the G-forces in Russian to
Mission Control, followed by a break in communications and the loss of
“There was the time
when I heard 6.7G, and that was the first time I realized that’s not
right,” he said. “And then of course data was lost, communications were
lost for a period of time, and then everybody went to their respective
corners attempting to find out what the truth is. And when we learned
that the crew was safe and descending it was a moment to behold. A lot
of people very, very happy.”
Hague’s calm voice
showed he was well-trained for the emergency, although there was still a
nervous atmosphere at Baikonur, Bridenstine said.
“That’s the scary
moment, you know, when you know that the Gs are not where they should be
and then communications stops and I’m sure that they are going through
their procedures and doing their thing and the question is what’s the
ultimate G-load ... and how does that affect the crew,” he said. “And
during that time we weren’t getting a lot of feedback, but again that’s
appropriate because they were busy and we were OK with that.”
About 34 minutes
elapsed from the time the rocket failed to when the capsule finally
parachuted to a landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan, where rescue crews
swiftly picked up the pair.
the Soyuz emergency rescue system, saying it functioned like a
“Even when a
failure occurs, because of the engineering and the design and the great
work done by folks in Russia, the crew can be safe,” he said. “That’s an
amazing capability and we can’t understate how important it is. Not
every mission that fails ends up so successfully.”
expressed his gratitude.
“Thank you all for
your support & heartfelt prayers,” he tweeted from Star City.
“Operational teams were outstanding in ensuring our safety & returning
us to family & friends.”
the head of Roscosmos’ manned programs, said the launch went awry after
one of the rocket’s four boosters failed to jettison about two minutes
into the flight, damaging the main stage and triggering the emergency.
Experts are now
trying to determine what specific glitch prevented the booster’s
“We will need to
look and analyze the specific cause - whether it was a cable, a pyro or
a nut,” Krikalyov said, adding that Roscosmos hopes to be able to sort
out the problem and carry out the next Soyuz launch in December.
to share all relevant information with NASA, which pays up to $82
million per Soyuz seat to the space station.
“I have no
anticipation right now that the launch in December for the next crew
will be delayed,” Bridenstine said. “The investigation is ongoing,
Russia has been very supportive of sharing data with the United States
and we’re grateful for that. And at this point I’m confident that we’ll
launch in December.”
The current space
station crew of an American, a Russian and a German was scheduled to
return to Earth in December after a six-month mission. A Soyuz capsule
attached to the station that they use to ride back to Earth is designed
for 200 days in space, meaning that their stay in orbit could only be
“We don’t have an
opportunity to extend it for a long time,” Krikalyov said.
In August, the
space station crew found a hole had been drilled in the Soyuz capsule
that caused a brief loss of air pressure before being patched.
that the Russian space agency will do its best not to leave the orbiting
“The station could
fly in an unmanned mode, but will do all we can to avoid it,” he said.
“The conservation of the station is possible, but it’s undesirable.”
operates the only spacecraft for ferrying crews to the station following
the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet, but it stands to lose
that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of commercial U.S.
crew capsules - SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner.
really close already,” Bridenstine said. “We are anxiously anticipating
early next year the test of two separate commercial crew vehicles that
will fly to the International Space Station - SpaceX ad Boeing.”
He said that the
launch failure underlined the need for multiple launch systems to
complement one another.
“In other words, if
there is a hiccup in one country’s system, there is another country’s
system capable of maintaining the operation until the first country is
ready to go again,” he said. “This demonstrates how important it is to
have collaboration and to not be dependent on one system or another
But he also
underlined the need for continuing U.S.-Russian cooperation in space,
voicing hope that it wouldn’t be affected by politics.
“We can both do
more in space together than we can ever do alone,” Bridenstine said.
“When it comes to space and exploration and discovery and science, our
two nations have always kept those activities separate from the disputes
that we have terrestrially.”
October 13, 2018 - October 19, 2018
Nobel Prizes still struggle with wide gender disparity
file photo dated Friday, April 17, 2015, a national library employee
shows the gold Nobel Prize medal awarded to the late novelist Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, in Bogota, Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Norway (AP) - Nobel Prizes are the most
prestigious awards on the planet but the aura of this year’s
announcements has been dulled by questions over why so few women have
entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences.
The march of Nobel
announcements began last Monday with the physiology/medicine prize.
Since the first
prizes were awarded in 1901, 892 individuals have received one, but just
48 of them have been women. Thirty of those women won either the
literature or peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the
laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. In addition,
only one woman has won for the economics prize, which is not technically
a Nobel but is associated with the prizes.
Some of the
disparity likely can be attributed to underlying structural reasons,
such as the low representation of women in high-level science. The
American Institute of Physics, for example, says in 2014, only 10
percent of full physics professorships were held by women.
But critics suggest
that gender bias pervades the process of nominations, which come largely
from tenured professors.
“The problem is the
whole nomination process, you have these tenured professors who feel
like they are untouchable. They can get away with everything from sexual
harassment to micro-aggressions like assuming the woman in the room will
take the notes, or be leaving soon to have babies,” said Anne-Marie
Imafidon, the head of Stemettes, a British group that encourages girls
and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering
“It’s little wonder
that these people aren’t putting women forward for nominations. We need
to be better at telling the stories of the women in science who are
doing good things and actually getting recognition,” she said.
Powerful men taking
credit for the ideas and elbow grease of their female colleagues was
turned on its head in 1903 when Pierre Curie made it clear he would not
accept the physics prize unless his wife and fellow researcher Marie
Curie was jointly honored. She was the first female winner of any Nobel
prize, but only one other woman has won the physics prize since then.
More than 70 years
later, Jocelyn Bell, a post-graduate student at Cambridge, was
overlooked for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the
discovery of pulsars. Her supervisor, Antony Hewish, took all of the
Brian Keating, a
physics professor at the University of California San Diego and author
of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and
the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor,” says the Nobel Foundation should
lift its restrictions on re-awarding for a breakthrough if an individual
has been overlooked. He also says posthumous awards also should be
considered and there should be no restriction on the number of
individuals who can share a prize. Today the limit is three people for
would go a long way to addressing the injustice that so few of the
brilliant women who have contributed so much to science through the
years have been overlooked,” he said.
Keating fears that
simply accepting the disparity as structural will seriously harm the
prestige of all the Nobel prizes.
“I think with the
Hollywood #MeToo movement, it has already happened in the film prizes.
It has happened with the literature prize. There is no fundamental law
of nature that the Nobel science prizes will continue to be seen as the
highest accolade,” he said.
This year’s absence
of a Nobel Literature prize, which has been won by 14 women, puts an
even sharper focus on the gender gap in science prizes.
Academy, which awards the literature prize, said it would not pick a
winner this year after sex abuse allegations and financial crimes
scandals rocked the secretive panel, sharply dividing its 18 members,
who are appointed for life. Seven members quit or distanced themselves
from academy. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, said the academy
wanted “to commit time to recovering public confidence.”
The academy plans
to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize next year - but even
that is not guaranteed. The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars
Heikensten, has warned that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its
tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature
prize each year.
Stung by criticism
about the diversity gap between former prize winners, the Nobel
Foundation has asked that the science awarding panels for 2019 ask
nominators to consider their own biases in the thousands of letters they
send to solicit Nobel nominations.
“I am eager to see
more nominations for women so they can be considered,” said Goran
Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and
vice chairman of the Nobel Foundation. “We have written to nominators
asking them to make sure they do not miss women or people of other
ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations. We hope this will
make a difference for 2019.”
It’s not the first
time that Nobel officials have sought diversity. In his 1895 will, prize
founder Alfred Nobel wrote: “It is my express wish that in the awarding
of the prizes no consideration shall be given to national affiliations
of any kind, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he
be Scandinavian or not.”
Even so, the prizes
remained overwhelmingly white and male for most of their existence.
For the first 70
years, the peace prize skewed heavily toward Western white men, with
just two of the 59 prizes awarded to individuals or institutions based
outside Europe or North America. Only three of the winners in that
period were female.
The 1973 peace
prize shared by North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and American Henry Kissinger
widened the horizons - since then more than half the Nobel Peace prizes
have gone to African or Asian individuals or institutions.
Since 2000, six
women have won the peace prize.
After the medicine
prize was awarded on Monday, Oct. 1, the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences announced the Nobel in physics on Tuesday the 2nd,
and in chemistry on Wednesday the 3rd, while the Nobel Peace Prize was
awarded last Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On Oct. 8,
Sweden’s Central Bank announced the winner of the economics prize, given
in honor of Alfred Nobel.
October 6, 2018 - October 12, 2018
1st private moon flight passenger to invite creative guests
founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese
billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, after announcing him as the first
private passenger on a trip around the moon, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP
billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, looks at a monitor showing the BFR
spacecraft. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles (AP)
- After announcing that he’ll take the
first-ever commercial rocket trip around the moon, Yusaku Maezawa said
he wants company for the weeklong journey. The Japanese billionaire said
he plans to invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other
creative people to join him on board the SpaceX rocket “to inspire the
dreamer in all of us.”
The Big Falcon
Rocket is scheduled to make the trip in 2023, SpaceX founder Elon Musk
announced at an event Monday at its headquarters near Los Angeles.
Maezawa, 42, said
he wants his guests for the lunar orbit “to see the moon up close, and
the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience.”
Musk said the
entrepreneur, founder of Japan’s largest retail website and one of the
country’s richest people, will pay “a lot of money” for the trip but
declined to disclose the exact amount. Maezawa came to SpaceX with the
idea for the group flight, Musk said.
“I did not want to
have such a fantastic experience by myself,” said Maezawa, wearing a
blue sports jacket over a white T-shirt printed with a work by the late
painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. He said he often mused about what artists
like Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have come up with if they’d traveled
“I wish to create
amazing works of art for humankind,” Maezawa said.
immediately say who will be on his guest list for the spaceflight, but
in response to a question from a reporter he said he’d consider inviting
“Maybe we’ll both
be on it,” Musk said with a smile.
Musk said the BFR
is still in development and will make several unmanned test launches
before it takes on passengers. The reusable 118-meter (387-foot) rocket
will have its own dedicated passenger ship, and its development is
expected to cost about $5 billion, Musk said.
The mission will
not involve a lunar landing.
distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles (382,500
kilometers). Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA’s Apollo
program. Twenty-four men flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, and
half of them made it to the lunar surface.
NASA is planning
its own lunar flyby with a crew around 2023. The space agency also aims
to build a staffed gateway near the moon during the 2020s. The outpost
would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and
Maezawa, a former
musician, founded the retail firm Start Today in 1998 and built it into
one of Japan’s most successful companies. In 2012, he started the
Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation to support young artists. He
made headlines in 2016 when he paid more than $57 million at auction for
an untitled work by Basquiat. A year later, he paid more than $110
million auction for another piece by the same artist.
Musk outlined a
somewhat different SpaceX lunar mission last year. He said then that two
people who know each other approached the company about a weeklong
flight to the moon and back. Musk did not name the clients last year or
say how much they would pay.
mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful rocket
flying today - and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one NASA
astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early
as next year.
The era of space
tourism began in 2001, when California businessman Dennis Tito paid for
a journey on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. The
trip was organized by the Virginia-based company Space Adventures, which
has since sent several more paying customers on spaceflights.
SpaceX already has
a long list of firsts, with its sights ultimately set on Mars. It became
the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and safely
return it to Earth in 2010, and the first commercial enterprise to fly
to the space station in 2012 on a supply mission.
have recently been overshadowed by his behavior and the struggles of his
Tesla electric car company to deliver.
criticized analysts during a Tesla earnings conference call, took a hit
off an apparent marijuana-tobacco joint during a podcast interview, and
tweeted that he had funding to take Tesla private but then announced the
deal was off.
executives announced departures from Tesla. Last month he told the New
York Times he was overwhelmed by job stress.
NASA satellite launched to measure Earth’s ice changes
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket with the NASA Ice, Cloud
and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) onboard is seen shortly after
the mobile service tower at SLC-2 was rolled back, Saturday, Sept. 15,
2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The ICESat-2 mission will
measure the changing height of Earth’s ice. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Force Base, Calif. (AP) - A NASA satellite
designed to precisely measure changes in Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers,
sea ice and vegetation was launched into polar orbit from California
A Delta 2 rocket
carrying ICESat-2 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m.
and headed over the Pacific Ocean.
NASA Earth Science
Division director Michael Freilich says that the mission in particular will
advance knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica
contribute to sea level rise.
The melt from those ice
sheets alone has raised global sea level by more than 1 millimeter (0.04
inch) a year recently, according to NASA.
The mission is a
successor to the original Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite that
operated from 2003 to 2009. Measurements continued since then with airborne
instruments in NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge.
Built by Northrop
Grumman, ICESat-2 carries a single instrument, a laser altimeter that
measures height by determining how long it takes photons to travel from the
spacecraft to Earth and back. According to NASA, it will collect more than
250 times as many measurements as the first ICESat.
The laser is designed
to fire 10,000 times per second, divided into six beams of hundreds of
trillions of photons. The round trip is timed to a billionth of a second.
In addition to ice, the
satellite’s other measurements, such as the tops of trees, snow and river
heights, may help with research into the amount of carbon stored in forests,
flood and drought planning and wildfire behavior, among other uses.
The launch was the last
for a Delta 2 rocket, United Launch Alliance said.
The first Delta 2
lifted off on Feb. 14, 1989, and since then it has been the launch vehicle
for Global Positioning System orbiters, Earth observing and commercial
satellites, and interplanetary missions including the twin Mars rovers
Spirit and Opportunity.
Photos from Japanese space rovers show asteroid is ... rocky
23, 2018 image captured by Rover-1B, and provided by the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the surface of asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA via AP)
taken on the surface of an asteroid show that it is (drumroll, please) ...
rocky. (JAXA via AP)
Tokyo (AP) -
New photos taken on the surface of an asteroid show that it is (drum roll,
please) ... rocky.
It may be no surprise,
but Japan space agency scientists and engineers are thrilled by the images
being sent to Earth by two jumping robotic rovers that they dropped onto an
asteroid about 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) away.
The Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency posted the latest photos on its website late Thursday.
They show slightly tilted close-ups of the rocky surface from different
“I cannot find words to
express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on
the surface of an asteroid,” project manager Yuichi Tsuda said on the space
It took more than three
years for the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft to reach the vicinity of
asteroid Ryugu. One week ago, the craft successfully dropped a small capsule
with two rovers onto its surface. The rovers, each about the size of
circular cookie tin, don’t have wheels but jump around the asteroid.
Hayabusa2 is scheduled
to drop a German-French lander with four observation devices onto the
asteroid next week. It later will attempt to land on the asteroid itself to
collect samples to send back to researchers on Earth.