Boeing and Blue Origin CEOs become space advisers

Mike Pence and Discovery

Vice President Mike Pence delivers opening remarks at the National Space Council’s inaugural meeting last October at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The shuttle Discovery looms in the background. (NASA Photo / Joel Kowsky)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith are among 29 candidates for the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group, which is meant to promote coordination, cooperation and information exchange for the U.S. space effort. Vice President Mike Pence listed the candidates on the eve of a National Space Council meeting at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Find out how to store your data in DNA

DNA data storage experiment

University of Washington researcher Lee Organick (foreground) and Microsoft researcher Yuan-Jyue Chen (background) work in the Molecular Information Systems Lab. (UW Photo / Dennis Wise)

Scientists from the University of Washington and Microsoft are improving their system for preserving digital data in strands of synthetic DNA — and they’re giving you the chance to participate.

The UW-Microsoft team laid out the method in a research paper published this week in Nature Biotechnology.

For the experiment described in the paper, text files as well audio, images and a high-definition music video featuring the band OK Go were first digitally encoded, and then converted into chemical coding — that is, adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine, which make up the ATCG alphabet for DNA base pairs.

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Bigelow sets up new company for space stations

Bigelow space complex

An artist’s conception shows three Bigelow Aerospace B330 modules linked together to create a space station being serviced by SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. Such a configuration would provide as much pressurized volume as the International Space Station. (Bigelow Aerospace Illustration)

Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace has had space modules in orbit for more than a decade, but now billionaire founder Robert Bigelow is starting a new push to operate commercial space stations.

To that end, he has set up a separate company called Bigelow Space Operations, or BSO, with the aim of having Bigelow’s expandable B330 modules sent into orbit. Two of the 330-cubic-meter (12,000-cubic-foot) habitats are due to be ready for launch by as early as 2021.

The timing for deployment will depend on the outcome of Bigelow’s negotiations with potential launch providers, and the findings of a market study to be conducted by BSO this year.

“We intend to spend millions of dollars this year in drilling down, hopefully, to a conclusion one way or the other as to what the global market is going to look like, and we expect to finish this investigation by the end of this year,” Bigelow told reporters today during a teleconference.

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Time to check in with Jeff Bezos’ 10,000 Year Clock

10,000 Year Clock

Workers install components of the 10,000 Year Clock in Texas. (Jeff Bezos via Instagram)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is highlighting the start of installation of the 10,000 Year Clock, a $42 million project that’s arguably as way-out as his Blue Origin space venture.

Today Bezos posted a time-lapse video to Twitter and Instagram showing workers setting up steampunk-style assemblies of gears and sprockets deep inside a mountain in West Texas.

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Amazon’s Whole Foods delivery gets a taste test

Sushi selfie

GeekWire’s Alan Boyle takes a sushi selfie.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gray skies, cops on bikes, microbrews and transit turmoil: If Texas’ state capital gets picked as Amazon’s HQ2, Amazonians will find much that’s familiar, plus the scent of barbecue wafting through the air.

And they’ll find something they can’t yet get in Seattle: one-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods, courtesy of Amazon Prime Now.

Sure, Prime Now can deliver the goods in Seattle, from PCC Community Markets, New Seasons Markets and other vendors. But Whole Foods isn’t on the list in Amazon’s hometown. Yet.

Austin, however, is one of four cities (also including Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach) where Amazon rolled out one-hour Whole Foods grocery delivery for Amazon Prime members this month. You can even get free delivery within two hours if you order at least $35 worth of groceries.

It probably helps that Austin is the home base for Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired last year for $13.7 billion. (That’s a lot of lettuce.)

To try out the system, and to keep my stomach from growling during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, I put together an online order in my hotel room.

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Planetary Resources misses goal and trims jobs

Image: Arkyd 6

An artist’s conception shows Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 satellite. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources, a Redmond, Wash.-based venture that aims to make a fortune mining asteroids, is facing a more down-to-earth challenge: a fundraising shortfall.

Just last month, the company had its Arkyd-6 prototype space telescope launched into orbit by an Indian PSLV rocket, and that spacecraft has been undergoing testing.

Arkyd-6 is designed to provide midwave infrared imagery of Earth, as a technological tryout for future asteroid-observing probes.

A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, Stacey Tearne, told GeekWire that financial challenges have forced the company to focus on leveraging the Arkyd-6 mission for near-term revenue — apparently by selling imagery and data.

“Planetary Resources missed a fundraising milestone,” Tearne explained in an email. “The company remains committed to utilizing the resources from space to further explore space, but is focusing on near-term revenue streams by maximizing the opportunity of having a spacecraft in orbit.”

Tearne said no further information was available, and did not address questions about employment cutbacks. However, reports from other sources in the space community suggest there have been notable job reductions. For what it’s worth, Planetary Resources had more than 70 employees at last report.

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Former VP Joe Biden comes out swinging for science

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden, shown on a huge video screen, addresses the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas. (GeekWire Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas — Joe Biden may no longer be vice president, but he’s still leading the charge for his cancer moonshot, and for science funding as well.

“The United States government, at this point in our development, should be doubling and tripling down on investment in pure research across the board,” Biden said today in Austin at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

That line drew sympathetic applause from the hundreds of scientists and educators who turned out to see the 75-year-old statesman.

Biden is said to be considering a presidential run in 2020, and if that’s the case, his views on science could well be part of the platform.

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