NASA recently released a call for tenders. Reportedly, this tender is intended for the commercial modules that can be added to the International Space Station. This call can be troublesome as one industry executive warned that such facilities might not be as beneficial as NASA considers.
This week, NASA released a call for proposals for “commercial destination development in low Earth orbit using the International Space Station.” The solicitation is said to be an addition to the space agency’s NextSTEP (Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships). This is a program that employs public-private partnerships to form important exploration-related technologies. Under this solicitation, on Node 2, or Harmony, a module on the ISS, NASA is supposed to eventually offer a docking port for use by a commercial module. The language in the solicitation leaves free the likelihood of a “commercial section establishment” of the station there, comprising of numerous commercially developed elements.
On a similar note, this week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover came into the news as it discovered a shocking result: a huge amount of methane ever computed during the mission. Reportedly, the rover measured about 21 ppbv (parts per billion units by volume) of methane. The latest discovery came from the Curiosity Mars rover’s SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) tunable laser spectrometer. This finding is said to be exciting as the microbial life is a key methane source on Earth. However, methane can also be formed through interactions between water and rocks.
Curiosity does not hold instruments that can authoritatively say what the source of this methane is. It is not able to even confirm if methane is coming from a regional source within Gale Crater or in another place on the planet. Paul Mahaffy, SAM Principal Investigator, Goddard Spaceflight Center, NASA, proclaimed, “With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern.”