Category Archives: Space


Reversing aging in mice:

In the latest paper, the scientists revealed new details on how NAD+ works to keep cells young. Sinclair put drops of NAD+ into the water of a group of mice, and within a couple of hours, their NAD+ levels started to rise. Within the first week, the scientists saw obvious age reversal in muscle and improvements in DNA repair. “We can’t tell the difference between the tissues from an old mouse that is two years old versus a young mouse that is three to four months old,” Sinclair says.

I’ve started taking it myself. And this is interesting, too:

“The idea is to protect the body from radiation exposure here on earth, either naturally occurring or doctor-inflicted,” he says. “If I were going to have an X-ray or a CT scan, I would take NMN beforehand.” He already has plans to go even farther than earth: NASA is collaborating with Sinclair’s group on the human tests to see if it’s possible to insulate astronauts from the effects of cosmic radiation in space.

That would be nice.

[Sunday-afternoon update]

This looks like a promising similar breakthrough.


Living In Space

Things you’re not allowed to do.

a) I find it difficult to believe that no one in the past several decades, especially with women in the mix since the early 80s, has not joined the 150-mile club. They even flew a married couple in the early 90s. Shuttle had very sensitive accelerometers, and I imagine ISS does too. Mission control knows what’s going on.

b) I also find it difficult to believe that anyplace with engineers and scientists and sugar doesn’t have hooch in short order. The free fall might make the fermentation an interesting process, but I’ll bet it’s been happening.

These are things that are against the rules, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

The First Falcon Reflight

It may happen this month. Eric Berger has the story. But this seems just wrong for the 21st century:

it can occur no earlier than March 29, because the launch of an Atlas V rocket has slipped to March 27, and it requires about 48 hours for the Air Force to reconfigure its downrange tracking system for a launch from a different pad.

There was a panel at the satellite conference a couple weeks ago on the need not to just rethink the range, but get rid of the concept entirely, as it becomes more like an airport. Like “human rating,” a “range” is an archaic concept from the early days of launching things into space on ordnance.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from Chris Petty:

If the SES-10 launch proceeds without problems many of the doubters may be silenced and SpaceX could truly be on the brink of a real revolution in spaceflight – a tipping point at which expendable rockets become the exception for a launch company rather than the rule as they have been since the dawn of the space age in 1957. But can reusability really work? It has become something of a fashionable mantra from some within NASA to state that the Shuttle proved reusable vehicles couldn’t be economically competitive with expendable launchers. Whilst this was certainly the case for the hugely expensive shuttle, this single example shouldn’t be taken as a rule that can be broadly applied to reusable vehicles per-se. There were many factors inherent within the shuttle’s design that conspired to mean that the planned high flight rates could never be attained, nor could the aspiration of ‘aircraft-like operations’ with highly automated check-out procedures and rapid turnarounds between flights ever be achieved. Many of these had their roots in the restricted post-apollo budgets from which the compromised design for the Space Transportation System emerged.

With the Falcon 9, SpaceX has been able to iteratively design a launch system that could gradually test elements of reusability while still carrying out the all important revenue generating work of delivering payloads to orbit. Unlike the shuttle, failure during recovery was an option for the Falcon 9 during its development. This points to one of the key differentiators that SpaceX and fellow reusable commercial launch company Blue Origin, have on their side. With founders coming from the technology startup culture, both firms have concepts of lean, agile development ingrained into their corporate DNA. Functioning as space launch OEMs, they have developed their own vehicles and propulsion technologies from scratch. The risk in these new developments has been met partly by the significant financial resources of their founders, but also by clients willing to chance their fortunes with less-proven technology in return for reduced launch costs. While some still refer to SpaceX and Blue Origin as ‘New Space’ both are now well into their second decade of operation, so perhaps it is more appropriate to refer to Commercial Space as compared to the more established Government Space represented by NASA, where the cost-plus contract is still king and development takes place at a far slower pace, insulated to a large extent from market forces.

And at some point, as he notes, SLS will become so obviously ridiculous that it won’t survive.

[Update a few minutes later]

Sorry, solved the missing link.

[Update a few minutes later]

Space Tourism

isn’t for sissies:

Other physical challenges are more difficult to address and also less acute. Humans in space suffer muscle and bone atrophy. Space travel requires exposure to increased levels of radiation, which can lead to surprising visual effects. “All of a sudden you will see this really intense, bright white … and then it will fade back out,” says Garriott de Cayeux. “That is basically you being damaged by radiation, it triggers the impression of light even though there is no light.”

His time in space required a year of difficult preparation, although physical fitness wasn’t a focus. “If you’re going on a space walk, you need to be in excellent physical condition, because an inflated space suit is hard to bend. But if you’re not, you just need to be healthy,” he says. Still, SpaceX’s tourism clients will likely be studied head to toe, undergoing a battery of medical tests they’ve probably never heard of before. “In my case, they found I was missing a vein on one lobe of my liver,” says Garriott de Cayeux. “On Earth that’s irrelevant, but in space it could have led to internal bleeding, which is why I ended up having surgery to remove that lobe.”

Yes, word of mouth will dissuade and reduce the market, but many will still find it worth it. and

Stem Cells

in spaaaaaaaace:

“Stem cells are inherently designed to remain at a constant number,” Zubair explains. “We need to grow them faster, but without changing their characteristics.”

The first phase of the investigation, he adds, is answering the question: “Do stem cells grow faster in space and can we grow them in such a manner that they are safe to use in patients?”

Investigators will examine the space-grown cells in an effort to understand the mechanism behind microgravity’s effects on them. The long-term goal is to learn how to mimic those effects and develop a safe and reliable way to produce stem cells in the quantities needed.

Just once, it would be nice to discover something that can be done in space that can’t be later mimiced on the ground. I hope that Made In Space has found one.

And of course, as I point out in the book, this kind of research could be accelerated if they added one more crewperson to ISS. The only reason they haven’t is lifeboat requirement, something that doesn’t exist in Antarctica.

Trump’s NASA Proposal

Loren Grush has the details.

This is just a proposal; as she notes, Culberson is likely to restore the Europa lander. And in general, the White House proposes, and Congress disposes. What really matters is what gets appropriated.