Since the U.S. Space Shuttle program was ended in 2011 after one hundred and thirty five missions, the U.S. has had to rely on the launch capabilities of Russia in order to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Since retiring the Space Shuttle, NASA has been working with private contractors to develop a new space plane to carry astronauts and supplies to orbit.
It takes very powerful propellant and powerful engines to raise payloads out of the Earth’s deep gravity well. But once you are in space, there are much less powerful propulsion systems that can provide low thrust over time which can add up to substantial acceleration for station keeping in orbit and getting around in the solar system.
One of the problems with our economic system is that it allows the unlimited accumulation of money by individuals. Often fortunes are wasted on the whims of immature selfish individuals on idle pursuits and expensive toys. The arbitrary decisions of the wealthy can affect the lives and incomes of millions of people. Some other wealthy people spend their money interfering with our political process.
NASA has just awarded a eighteen million eight hundred thousand dollar contract to BWXT Nuclear Energy to start on a conceptual design for a nuclear reactor for possible use on a manned Mars mission. BWXT is a subsidiary of BWX Technologies which provides nuclear components, nuclear fuel and nuclear services to the nuclear industry.
When I read that NASA has a job opening for a Planetary Protection Officer, visions of fighting off alien invaders filled my head. On reading more about the position, I found that it was a perfectly legitimate and logical job posting with a salary range from $124,000 to $187,000. The idea of a PPO dates back to the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967.