Space Quote: Is Opaque SpaceX the Only Game in Town?

Image (Credit): SpaceX’s mission control room located in Hawthorne, California. (SpaceX)

“Nobody really knows anything about the financials of SpaceX…No balance sheet or financial report is available. We have a very large company of 10,000 people — a main contractor to NASA and the Defense Department — and there is absolutely no information available on its financial health.”

-Statement by Pierre Lionnet, the research and managing director of Eurospace, regarding the situation at SpaceX in a December 29, 2022 New York Times article, “31 Hours Inside SpaceX Mission Control.” Overall, it was a very positive article about the situation on the ground at SpaceX, but maybe it is time to push even harder for greater redundancy in the U.S. space program. Mr. Musk’s troubles at Twitter have already spilled over into Tesla. Will SpaceX be next? One of the people interviewed for the article noted that SpaceX is the “only game in town.” We already had this rocket dependency with the Russians, and look where we would have been if we did not expanded into the commercial sector. I think even greater expansion would be advantageous as Mr. Musk continues to spin out of control.

Space Stories: Chinese Space Partnerships, Approaching Comet, and European Rocket Shortage

Image (Credit): Chinese space program poster. (Asia Times)

Here are some recent stories of interest. “China Looks to Build Space Partnerships with Gulf Nations

China is aiming to grow cooperation with emerging space nations including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Space was named as one of a number of priority areas for the next three to five years during the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit held in Riyadh earlier this month. “China stands ready to work with GCC countries on remote sensing and communications satellite, space utilization, aerospace infrastructure, and the selection and training of astronauts,” according to the text of the keynote speech made by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summit, Dec. 9. The GCC intergovernmental group comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Newsweek: “Once-in-a-Lifetime Cosmic Event Could Be Visible to the Naked Eye

A comet zooming through the solar system could soon be visible to the naked eye from Earth in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And some astronomical predictions indicate that the object may never return to our cosmic neighborhood. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is currently located around 100 million miles away from Earth and will make a close approach to our planet in early February 2023. Europe Runs out of Rockets for Autonomous Access to Space

Overnight, the European Space Agency (ESA) headed by Austrian Josef Aschbacher has been left without any capacity to position its own satellites in outer space. Neither Aschbacher nor his director of space transport, the Swiss Daniel Neuenschwander, have any space vector model to fulfil their commitments to the European Union to renew the Copernicus constellation and place their Sentinel environmental monitoring satellites in orbit. Much less is ESA in a position to meet the growing global demand for launch services that is knocking on its doors, those of the United States, China and India.

Pic of the Week: Stunning Auroras

Image (Credit): View from the ISS – further description below. (ESA/NASA-S.Cristoforetti)

This week’s image is from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Year in Images 2022 collection and shows a view from the International Space Station (ISS).

Here is the description of the image from the ESA:

Aurorae observed by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the International Space Station for her Minerva Mission. She shared these images to her social media on 21 August 2022 with the caption: “The Sun has been really active lately. Last week we saw the most stunning auroras I have ever experienced in over 300 days in space!”

You can read more about ESA astronaut Cristoforetti’s work on the ISS here.

A Day in Astronomy: Birth of Astronomer Johannes Kepler

Credit: NASA

It was on December 27, 1571 that German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer Johannes Kepler was born in the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt. He is best remembered for his laws of planetary motion, though he had many discoveries, including:

  • The first to formulate eyeglass designing for nearsightedness and farsightedness;
  • The first to explain the principles of how a telescope works;
  • The first to develop integral calculus;
  • The first to explain that the tides are caused by the Moon; and
  • The first to derive the birth year of Christ (a date that is now universally accepted).

Kepler’s name is also attached to a NASA space telescope launched into space in 2009 that was designed to detect exoplanets, which it did with great success. Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, we now know that planets are common throughout the galaxy, including Earth-sized planets. As of today, NASA reports there are 5,235 confirmed exoplanets, and more than 9,000 are still being reviewed. However, using the small patch of sky studied by the Kepler telescope as a start, scientists now estimate the Milky Way may contain over 100 billion exoplanets.

Credit: NASA Exoplanet Exploration

Looking to Experience Mars? It is Possible Today

Image (Credit): Earlier FMARS participants. (Mars Society)

The Mars Society is looking for volunteers who want to experience what it would be like to live on Mars. Don’t worry, you do not need to spend months traveling to get there, but you can experience the cold and isolation of the Red Planet while never leaving the Blue Planet.

The Mars Society is looking for six volunteers who will help to reactivate its Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS), which is located on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic and has not operated since 2017. This location creates a Mars-like environment that can be used to anticipate some of the issues future astronauts will experience on Mars.

What will you do? The site notes:

The team will spend the first half of this period working to repair and upgrade the station. It will then spend the second half of the visit exercising the station with a Mars mission simulation during which it will attempt to conduct a program of sustained geological and microbiological exploration while operating under Mars mission constraints.

The mission will take place from June through August 2023, so you do not have a lot of time to get prepared. It will be challenging work. Not only will you face aggressive Martians (in this case local bears), but you will have to assist with the financing of the mission. Each of the six volunteers will need to arrive with $20,000 in sponsorship funding. That said, you will not need to bring your own sleeping bag, as “…all supplies, mission equipment, training, firearms, transportation to the Arctic and transportation and housing while on site.”

Interested? You can read more about it here and reach out to the Mars Society at

The Mars Society also runs the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The site runs an eight month field season for professional scientists, engineers, and college students of all levels that trains participants for human activities on Mars.

Image (Credit): Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. (Mars Society)