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Infectious Enterobacter Bacteria Found Aboard the ISS

Scientists at NASA discovered that infectious organism somehow made it onboard and now thrive inside the International Space Station (ISS).

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Scientists at NASA discovered that infectious organism somehow made it onboard and now thrive inside the International Space Station (ISS).

They predict a 79 percent probability that the five different varieties of the genus Enterobacter might lead to one or more astronauts aboard the orbiting space station getting sick.

Enterobacter, which are anaerobic, rod-shaped bacteria that commonly infect hospital devices, places astronauts at risk of contracting diseases if the bacteria is found to be drug-resistant.

Dr Nitin Singh, the lead author on the Enterobacter report, said that given the multi-drug resistance results for these bacteria and the increased chance of pathogenicity, “we have identified, these species potentially pose important health considerations for future missions.’

Thankfully, scientists have said the infectious bugs don’t yet pose a threat to ISS astronauts. Three of the strains belonged to a species which caused disease in newborn babies.

“It is important to understand that the strains found on the ISS were not virulent, which means they are not an active threat to human health, but something to be monitored,” said Dr. Singh.

The authors found the ISS isolates had similar antimicrobial resistance patterns to the three clinical strains found on Earth. They included 112 genes involved in virulence, disease and defense. While the ISS E. bugandensis strains are not pathogenic to humans, they still have the potential to cause disease.

Whether or not an opportunistic pathogen like E. bugandensis causes disease and how much of a threat it is, depends on a variety of factors, including environmental ones. “Further in vivo studies are needed to discern the impact that conditions on the ISS, such as microgravity, other space, and spacecraft-related factors, may have on pathogenicity and virulence,” said the study.

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SpaceX Breaks World Record for Most Commercial Launches in a Year

SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018. It still has one more launch remaining on its 2018 manifest.

SpaceX also broke its own record for the most orbital rocket launches by a single company in a year. The company set the old record (18 launches over a single calendar year) in 2017. United Launch Alliance held the title prior to that with 16 commercial rockets launched in 2009.

This has been SpaceX’s best year yet for rocket launches. The 20 successful SpaceX missions sent dozens of payloads into orbit. It also took two experimental Starlink internet satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and even hurled a red-colored Tesla Model X with a dummy driver past the orbit of Mars.

In May, Musk was feeling good enough about SpaceX’s 2018 progress that he said the company might “launch more rockets than any other country.”

That didn’t pan-out since China successfully launched 35 of its Long March orbital rockets in 2018, and will still launch a few more rockets before the year ends.

The 20th SpaceX mission on Dec. 5 was a successful re-supply mission to the International Space Station.

The 21st and last SpaceX mission for 2018 will loft the U.S. Air Force’s GPS IIIA-01 satellite into LEO on Dec. 18. This sat will improve global positioning coverage for the U.S. military.

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U.S. Has Two More Astronauts Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Mojave, CA, United States (4E) – The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and “Rick” C.J Sturckow earned their U.S. astronaut wings by flying the rocket-powered spacecraft named Unity to an altitude of 83 kilometers or 51.4 miles. The flight on Dec. 13 was Virgin Galactic longest rocket-powered flight ever.

Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.

The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots that have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. “Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

Slung underneath the jet-powered mothership named Eve, Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Eve released Unity upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet.

Stucky and Sturckow then piloted Unity in a thunderous boost that lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it roared into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line, which is the boundary where space begins.

After doing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

In October, Branson said Virgin Galactic was “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space.

“We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,” he said.

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China’s Lunar Probe Will Take a Month to Land on the Moon

A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Beijing, China (4E) – A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

The puzzling question is why will it take a month for this probe named Chang’e-4 to land on the Moon when it only took U.S. astronauts of the Apollo Program only three days to make the same journey?

China hasn’t given an official explanation, but Western scientists have their theories. The Smithsonian Institution said the Chang’e-4 space craft will make a few course corrections along the way to prepare for a landing at the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Chang’e-4 will consist of a lander and a rover. The lander will deploy a ramp to allow the rover to access the lunar surface. The rover has dimensions of 1.5 × 1.0 × 1.0 meters and has a mass of 140 kg.

The Chang’e-4 lander will carry scientific payloads to study the geophysics of the landing site. Among the more intriguing payloads on the lander is a 3 kg container with potato and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds (among others), and silkworm larvae (or eggs) to test if plants and insects can hatch and grow together.

Chinese scientists hope that if the eggs hatch, the larvae will produce carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the germinated plants will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. The plants and silkworms will together establish a simple synergy inside the container. A camera will take pictures of this experiment.

This will be the first time humans have tried to grow plants and raise insects on the Moon.

The lander will also deploy the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND), a neutron dosimeter developed by Kiel University in Germany.

If China can pull it off, it will become the first country to land a probe on the Dark Side of the Moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is a vast basin in the southern hemisphere of the far side. It extends from the South Pole to Aitken crater.

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