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NASA's $45 Million Startup Incubator
PLUS: Organic Molecules at Universe's Edge
Happy Saturday, my fellow Earthlings 👽️🖖
Let’s get right into it…
NASA is boosting 249 small businesses and 39 research institutions with an injection of $45 million in funding, and is part of a wider government program to spur innovation in the space tech industry.
Among the winners are a handful of startups that have also received venture capital to fund their businesses and have now secured the institutional backing of NASA:
Starfish Space is the brainchild of ex-Blue Origin and NASA engineers, and is planning on redefining satellite servicing. Think of Starfish as a cosmic pit crew or a galactic tow-truck designed to rendezvous with satellites, perform repairs, or even relocate them. They're not just extending the life of Low Orbit satellites but also clearing space debris. Their Otter Pup satellite mission, supported by an SBIR grant, is set to soar into space in Summer 2023.
Argo Space Corporation is working on the Argonaut, a small reusable spacecraft transfer vehicle. They plan to revamp the space economy by harvesting water propellant from clays, minerals, groundwater, and organic molecules found in the Moon’s crust. Scientists claim the extracted water can be used for making rocket propellant, air to breathe, and potable water for human and plant consumption. Their goal is to untether space operations from Earth and expand the possibilities for businesses off-world.
Here’s a quick primer on NASA's SBIR program, if you’re interested:
Phase I: A 6-month span where you have to demonstrate your innovation's scientific, technical, and commercial merit. The maximum funding available is $150,000.
Phase II: This 24-month phase, with funding up to $850,000, is where the innovation is developed, demonstrated, and prepared for delivery.
Phase III: The final phase where your innovation integrates into a NASA mission or transitions into commercialization.
I hope you’re ready for the space-age, Earthlings. This funding represents a commitment to an exciting future beyond the confines of our atmosphere.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the latest and most advanced space telescope ever built, has made a wild discovery. JWST detected complex organic molecules in a galaxy named SPT0418-47, which is an incredible 12 billion light-years away. To put that into perspective, it's like identifying a specific grain of sand on a beach…on Mars. This is also the farthest distance at which we've ever found these types of organic molecules.
The molecules detected are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). I’m sure many of you have no idea what that means (like me), but on Earth, we typically find PAHs in places like car exhausts and wildfire smoke. In space, scientists believe they might assist in star formation where these molecules seem to control the temperature of gas clouds where stars are born, and thus play a crucial role in the life cycle of stars.
Now, let's talk about the wild part. The galaxy where these molecules were detected is located at such a vast distance that the light we're seeing from it comes from a time when the universe was less than 1.5 billion years old, or about 10% of its current age. We're basically looking back in time, to an era when the universe was incredibly young, and finding organic molecules just hanging around. Research suggests that generations of stars have already lived and died there, yet these molecules are still kicking.
Joaquin Vieira, an astronomer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and co-author of the study, shared his excitement about this groundbreaking discovery: "We didn't expect this," he said. "Detecting these complex organic molecules at such a vast distance is game-changing regarding future observations.”
🐦 Tweet of the Day
Elon Musk Lands Rover On Surface Of New York https://t.co/PcVp3zWlye https://t.co/ikGacJnPrg
That’s it for today, Earthlings.
Thanks so much for reading - we’ll see you next time! 🧑🚀