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Hello, Beijing? What’s going on up there?

The US Space Force wants a hotline to China. China’s Space Circling raises $13.9M in a Series A round. IM-1 sets a time for its lunar landing. And more.




The US Space Force wants a hotline with China to prevent crises in space. Chinese commercial company Space Circling raises $13.9 million in a Series A funding round. Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander is scheduled to touchdown on the moon tomorrow, February 22, at 1649 CST, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is former NASA Astronaut Trainer and Author, Debbie Ramos Trainor. 

You can connect with Debbie on LinkedIn and find out more about “Tortillas to Astronauts: An Unexpected Journey” on Goodreads.

Selected Reading

Space Force: We need a hotline to China - Defense One

Space Circling Secures $13.9 Million in Series A Funding to Revolutionize China's Commercial Space Industry

Lunar company Intuitive Machines' stock surges 50% to trade above SPAC debut price

IM-1 | Intuitive Machines 

Fly the Lightning - Firefly Aerospace

U.S., Partner Nations Strengthen Space Interoperability During Global Sentinel

Hughes Selected to Provide Modems and Multi-Orbit Auto-PACE Solution in Support of SES Space & Defense's US Air Force DEUCSI Program

Space Tango Selected by NASA for Key Role in Artemis II Mission

Spire Global Awarded €8.4M by the European Maritime Safety Agency for Provision of SAT-AIS Data Services

ClearSpace secures another UK contract to develop refuelling capabilities

Tamil Nadu's Space Industrial and Propellant Park: A New Era of Aerospace Achievement

Skyroot Aerospace launches Kalpana fellowship for women interested in space tech

Exposure to Role Models is Essential for Girl Students to Join Space Sector

SpaceX Senior Vice President Tom Ochinero is leaving the company in a rare high-level departure

How Elon Musk's SpaceX was boosted in Indonesia by a Chinese rocket failure | Reuters

Authentic STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Captain's Chair Heads to Propstore Auction in March 

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Hello, Beijing?

Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?

Uh-huh, that's much better.

It's good that you're fine and we're fine.

I agree with you that it's great to be fine.

So, uh, what's going on up there?

Today is February 21st, 2024.

I'm Maria Varmausis and this is T-minus.

The Space Force wants a hotline to China.

The Chinese commercial company Space Circling raises $13.9 million in a Series A round.

I am once at the time for its lunar landing tomorrow and our guest today is former NASA astronaut trainer, Debbie Ramos, trainer.

And she has written a book about her life at NASA called Tortillas to Astronauts, An Unexpected Journey.

She has a really great story to share with us, so stay with us for the second half of the show.

Let's take a look at our Intel briefing for this Wednesday and the red phone, that link between the US and Russia and a mainstay of Cold War era TV and film like Dr.

Strangelove, was not a real thing.

I know, shucks.

But secure communications between even adversarial nations definitely was, though it took the decidedly less photogenic tack of faxes, teletypes, and secure email.

And the leaders of the US Space Force say that kind of hotline to directly communicate to their counterparts in China is exactly what they need.

That's because international norms of behavior when it comes to sensitive space assets still aren't well-defined or established.

And as various orbits get more crowded and as military space capabilities continue to develop in both the United States and China, near misses are certainly going to become more common as our potential miscalculations, misunderstandings, or worse, unintended consequences.

The specter of China's 2007 anti-satellite test certainly looms large in this discussion.

And if another ASAT test were ever to occur, how would the intent of that test be interpreted in real time today?

At the Aaron Space Force's Association Warfare Symposium last week in Colorado, Brigadier General Anthony Mastelier, commander of US Space Force's Indo-Pacific, said this, "When you think about a hostile act or demonstrating hostile intent in space, what does that look like?

And do all nations have a shared understanding of what that looks like?

It is a question certainly worth pondering, and we should note Chinese and US military leaders do have open lines of communication.

But the call from the Space Force is for direct communications access, specifically in the context of space operations.

In the meantime, everybody, can't we all just get along?

And staying with China, rocket company Space Circling has raised over $13.9 million in series A funding round.

The Xi'an-based company known as Shanxi Tianhui Aerospace Technology Corporation secured the capital late last year, but only released details over this weekend.

Space Circling says they will use the funding to accelerate the production of their Chao Long'uan rocket engine and support the development of reusable launchers capable of transporting significant payloads to various orbits.

Intuitive machines are on a roll.

Not only is their IM-1 mission officially in lunar orbit as of today, their stock performance is also on a high.

Their stock has surpassed their post-SPAC debut price, as the company's first lunar mission continues to reach major milestones.

And speaking of IM-1, set your clocks for the landing attempt tomorrow, which will be livestreamed after all.

IM says Odysseus is scheduled to land on the moon tomorrow, February 22nd, at 1649 CST to be very precise.

Perhaps tune in at 1600 CST to get the lead-up.

The video will be streamed live on the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission website, and of course, we've got a link in our show notes for you.

Firefly Aerospace have shared an update on the investigation into their December mishap.

The investigation determined that the mishap was due to an error in the guidance navigation and control, or GNC software, algorithm that prevented the system from sending the necessary pulse commands to the reaction control system thrusters ahead of the Stage 2 engine relight.

Firefly is now implementing corrections actions to ensure the GNC software issue is resolved.

The Commercial Space Transportation Conference is underway in Washington, DC today and tomorrow.

The Federal Aviation Administration has used the event to announce the establishment of a new rulemaking committee to identify ways to further improve how launch and reentry licenses are reviewed and approved without compromising public safety.

According to the FAA, the committee will gather recommendations from industry and other stakeholders to help the agency improve the Part 450 launch and reentry licensing requirements.

This includes the issuance of new licenses, the renewal or modification of existing licenses, and conducting payload reviews.

The committee will be formally created in the coming months.

SES Space and Defense has awarded Hughes Network Systems a contract to provide a flexible software defined multi-orbit auto-pace solution and associated modems in support of SESs and the Air Force Research Laboratories defense experimentation using commercial space internet program.

The Hughes solution will enable resilient broadband connectivity using both KU and KA-band geostationary medium-Earth orbit and low-Earth orbit satellite constellations for various comms on the pause and comms on the move test scenarios.

Space Tango has been awarded approximately $5 million to support the biological and physical sciences division within the NASA Science Mission Directorate for the Artemis II mission.

Under the contract, Space Tango will support biological data collection for the first crewed flight test to lunar orbit since Apollo.

Spire Global has been awarded two framework contracts by the European Maritime Safety Agency, also known as EMSA, with a maximum overall budget of 8.4 million euros.

Spire received two specific awards to provide space-based automatic identification system data services for ship tracking over a four-year period.

Clear Space has secured a contract with the UK Space Agency to investigate the feasibility of an in-orbit satellite refueling mission.

The Refuel Me Study, which will run until September 2024, will involve the establishment of the key mission requirements and the definition of the mission concept of operations, leading to an initial design of the servicer satellite and a review of the market potential.

Ultimately, the selected servicer will first refuel the UK National Debris Removal Mission before continuing to refuel other commercial satellites.

UKSA has invested £2 million for UK industry to research and develop refueling missions through a set of feasibility studies.

The Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation has announced plans to develop a space industrial and propellant park in the vicinity of Thu Thukudi District.

The planned project will span 2,000 acres and aims to foster innovation and growth in the space technology industries, aligning with the Indian Space Research Organization's efforts to establish a spaceport in Tamil Nadu for the deployment of small satellite launch vehicles.

And staying in India and startup Skyroot Aerospace have launched a fellowship for women interested in a career in space.

The Kalpana Fellowship, named after Indian American astronaut and aerospace engineer Kalpana Chawla, will select about a dozen women engineers and provide monthly stipends based on their educational qualifications.

The program is aimed at encouraging more women to join the industry in India.

And that theme of women in the space industry is continued in the first of our additional stories, added to the selected reading section of our show notes.

You'll also find two additional stories on SpaceX in there, one's on the resignation of the Senior Vice President of the company, and there's another on SpaceX's work with Indonesia.

Those links and more can also be found on our website, space.ntuk.com, and just click on this episode title.

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We really appreciate it.

Our guest today has the most amazing last name for the job.

Her name is Debbie Ramos-Trainer, and Debbie is a former NASA astronaut trainer, and she has written a book about her life at NASA called Tortillas to Astronauts, An Unexpected Journey.

And I started off by asking Debbie about the title of her book, Why Tortillas?

There's so many different layers, and I call them my tortilla foundation.

So many, you know, just like a tortilla is a good foundation for any Mexican meal.

You need a good foundation around you.

I was blessed in my childhood.

I grew up, I went to school from kindergarten through the eighth grade to a Catholic church here in Pasadena.

And because it was kindergarten through the eighth grade, of course, you know, we all got to know each other so well.

And I'm still friends with all of them.

And then from working at NASA for, you know, 30 years, I started off young there and just kind of grew.

So that was my NASA family that I'd grown.

And I also share in the book, I love to play volleyball.

So I've played volleyball for over 30 years.

My whole volleyball community is another layer of just all these wonderful tortillas I have around me that build me up when I need it.

And it's it's just been great.

You mentioned in the teaser for your book about how you had a life changing experience when you were in high school with STS-1.

Can you tell me a bit about that?

When you read the book, you also see I am named after Debbie Reynolds.

So movie nerd, TV nerd.

So I like all of that.

You know, so Star Trek, one of my favorites and Star Wars, of course, both of them.

But just happened to be a sophomore year, that very first launch for Space Shuttle.

And Captain John Young was a commander.

And I just remember at school going, "What, you know, astronauts going?"

And because it's a shuttle, you can go and come back.

You know, it was just a different phase of spaceflight compared to Apollo, etc.

So it was a new age of spaceflight.

Were you super interested in space at that time, aside from like Star Trek and Star Wars?

Just in the sci-fi of it that, you know, we, and of course, again, with my faith, we cannot believe that there's this big huge universe.

Just look through a telescope and there's way more beyond us.

And so, so I've just always been intrigued and wondered about it.

But of course, I was in my little childlike world, you know, but it's going to be a big feat just for me to graduate high school.

Because for so many generations, that's really what it was, is just, you know, make it through to high school, get a job and plug away.

That's how it was.

I could not believe that moment when I jump ahead to when I work at NASA and end up in the astronaut office at the same time that Captain John Young is still in the astronaut office.

And sitting in meetings with him was history unfolding because he would basically talk about different things that he experienced, what he went through training, because of course, most of the meetings I were in was in was spaceflight training meetings.

And then when he retired, I was fortunate to be in the astronaut office and go to that retirement party.

How crazy is that?

So, I mean, you had that amazing experience with seeing STS-1 and eventually the crazy way life is.

But you ended up at NASA.

I mean, was it seeing the shuttle that made you go, "I wanted to have a job there"?

Did it just happen to be where you ended up?

Like, how did that actually happen?

Since I had not taken advantage of any college opportunity, you know, scholarship opportunities, I wasn't aware there were any for me.

I saw an Air Force ad and that's when I decided, "Okay, I'll join the Texas Air National Guard so they can help me pay for school."

And so, did that.

And then my home base was at Ellington Field here in Houston.

And Ellington happens to also be the home base for the NASA hangar.

At the time, we had a KC-135, which stimulated weightlessness.

And then we also have, they still have T-38s, Air Force T-38s, that the astronauts fly.

That's when I really got the NASA bug, because it was also much more real and it was right on the site for where I was working.

So, that's when I decided to apply for a civil servant job there at the Johnson Space Center.


So, sometimes when people talk about when they eventually join NASA, they don't know what they wanted to pursue or they had a very direct path that they wanted to do.

What was yours like?

So, definitely not a direct path.

But I did just want to get my foot in the door.

And that's one of the things when I speak to kids from basically all ages is that, yes, you can have a dream, but don't try to overstep the little steps getting to it.

It's okay to take little steps to that dream.

A lot of times, seeing that I come across some people that, "Well, I don't want that job because I want this job."

But once you get your foot in the door, it gives you a better opportunity to get to that other job.

So, basically, my foot in the door at NASA was as a secretary.

When I interviewed, I could have gotten a job in human resources or I could have got the job in engineering.

And it was so new to me, this engineering world, and especially I was very appreciative of the branch chief that interviewed me.

He even showed me some ISS schematics because we were just, and actually at that time it was called Space Station Freedom, he showed me some Space Station Schematics.

This is what we're going to be doing, some new stuff, da-da-da-da.

And so, that really got me interested.

And I was, as I mentioned in the book, was so, again, blessed.

This was the start of my NASA tortilla foundation, my NASA family.

Those engineers were so great to share with me information because, you know, at that time, the secretary was the only one who had a word processor.

I basically typed up all of the correspondence and I read everything in detail.

I wanted to make sure that things made sense and not just type it word for word, but also because a lot of times there were attachments and making sure, did you include your attachment, you know?

It sounds like you were really paying attention to what was going on.

And what a great way to learn by paying such close attention to detail.

I mean, you got a very hands-on education that way.

Right, exactly.

And so, it was so great that these engineers encouraged me to learn more and that's when I started to get the idea of, well, maybe I could be an engineer.


And you went on from there, and I'm sure it was not necessarily a straight path.

You went on to do astronaut training.

So, how did you end up there?

I first started off when I was going to get my degree.

You know, when I decided that little, you know, light bulb moment, though, I think I could be an engineer, you know?

And at that time, I still didn't really quite know much about engineering.

And I thought engineers were basically like train conductor engineers.

I didn't ever think about that, you know, although different separate flavors of engineers that they have.

But because I was of the computer that I learned when I was a secretary, I thought, well, I'll try computer science.

So, I tried that and ended up switched jobs, or changed positions from a full-time position as a secretary to a part-time position as a computer assistant to take advantage of a NASA program where they would let you work part-time so you could concentrate on getting a degree.

I just really appreciated that that was something that was offered to me to pursue.

And I ended up with the job of not only being a mini computer help desk to the human resources group that I was in that organization for, but also I ran reports for different manager levels.

But I discovered that working on my computer science degree, because I wasn't able to afford my own computer, I just was, you know, starting to think, well, what else is out there, you know, that maybe I could do.

And ended up discovering through the database that I had that are the space flight training organization.

They had a ton of math majors.

And there's a lot of math required for a computer science degree.

And it turned out, I could graduate earlier if I switched my degree plan.

So I was, well, why not?

I imagine you must have so many stories from your time doing all that astronaut training work.

Do you have any favorite anecdotes from your experience doing all that work?

Anything you want to share?

Maybe a favorite story or experience?

Yeah, there's so many wild moments, you know, like the first time I represented NASA at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

I mean, I still remember walking on, it was a Russian Air Force base at that time.

And I'm like, oh my gosh, it was Mexican American girl from Pasadena, walking around this Russian Air Force base, like representing NASA.

So that was a wild moment.

But definitely that Expedition 1 whole training experience, you know, was two years of them putting the two years that I was involved with them, getting them ready for flight.

And there was so many unknowns, you know, the different modules were created in different places until they were actually put together in space.

And we were all just praying and crossing our fingers, everything was going to work as it's supposed to work.

Thankfully it did, but my goodness, it wasn't big a no.

So one funny anecdote that I'll share is that right before Bill Shepard, the first commander for space station, being the first of Expedition 1.

And there was quite, there were still so many unknowns, not enough documented.

So I happened to go on a volleyball trip and we went into restoration hardware and they had this survival guide.

And it was basically real random, you know, how to, what to do if you're attacked by a bear and what to do if you're just random.

Those books are fun to read.

Yeah, and I saw that that was my gift to Shepard before we might not have captured everything, but here you go.

And you can read so many more funny and wonderful anecdotes in Debbie's book, Tortillas to Astronauts, An Unexpected Journey, which is available now from all good book retailers.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back and today's story is for all my fellow Trekkies, especially those of us of the next generation era who may have at least, I don't know, $10,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

This includes Dave Bittner who told me about this story this morning.

Thank you, Dave.

So there you are, not just Dave, but everybody, dialing into your latest meeting and you emerge on the screen sitting pretty in Captain Picard's bridge chair, the iconic, or at least iconic, for Trekkies, very late 80s angular tan chair with the L cars panels on both armrests, a worthy throne upon which to engage in that QBR or to tell your direct reports to make it so.

This is the actual chair used in Star Trek the next generation starting in season two, sat down upon and then stood up from by Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard.

And this chair is up for auction.

And this chair was also thought lost for decades as what often happens to sci-fi TV show props and sets is that things get binned.

But Trekkies spotted this chair on a prop store auction page and doing what Trekkies do best, they poured over the most inane minutia from screenshots and verified that this is not a fan replica.

It is not the duplicate from the Las Vegas Star Trek experience that you and I may have sat in back when that place existed.

But in fact, this is the real deal captain's chair.

Bids for this chair start at $25,000 and the chair is estimated at a $50,000 to $100,000 value to start on the prop store auction house.

And it does go up for bid formally on March 12th.

But I guarantee it is going to go for a lot more than that.

And I hope, I really hope the head of a space company snatches this up for their office.

That would be such a power move.

And if the captain's chair is a bit too pricey for you, I understand, though yes, it is priceless for a Trekkie, of course.

The lot does have other next generation props up for bid, like a framed bridge Elkar's Red Alert Turbolift panel for just a few thousand dollars.

Now, keep in mind, it's just the panel.

You've got to make it lay up yourself.

And if you really want to go for the gold, make it voice activated.

Red Alert.

[Music] That's it for T-Mindness for February 21st, 2024.

For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com.

We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

We promise it's not always about Star Trek, but sometimes it is.

You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes.

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This episode was produced by Alice Garouth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jen Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp.

And I'm Maria Varmazes.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] [Music] [ вообще, you can see the Marty's educate contra croy left here ...]

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