By: Courtney Pinard, Ph.D.
Science and Environment
A New European Rocket Design Uses 3D Printed Parts
“The dream is moving to reality” was the message from European Space Agency (ESA) boss, Jan Woerner. Woerner was referring to the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which is the ESA’s next-generation rocket built by Airbus Safran Launchers. The Ariane 6 rocket is under development by the ESA, with a first test flight scheduled for 2020. The new rocket will be used to launch medium-sized government science missions and commercial telecom satellites. Ariane 6 is Europe’s response to the competitive prices offered to satellite operators from the US and California-based SpaceX company. Space X’s Falcon nine rocket is twice the mass and more than twice the price as Ariane 6. One reason for these differences is the use of 3D printed parts for rocket engines in Ariane 6. Airbus CEO Alain Charmeau believes that different market conditions apply in Europe and the US, which means there will not be a single, winner-takes-all approach. In addition, he cites that in Europe there is an “unwritten rule” that European states should use European rockets. For example, there is a procurement in political blocs, especially in the US, which bars foreign rockets from launching home institutional and government satellites. Now Europe is following suit with its new Ariane rocket design. Ariane 6 is projected to lead 11-12 space missions per year, with reduced cost for EU government and private satellite operators. (Jonathan Amos, BBC News)
U.S. Senators Still Disagree on Mandatory Spending for the NIH
So far the U.S. Senate has approved eighteen biomedical innovation bills with one to go. Lawmakers on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held the last meeting yesterday to approve the bills. The bills form a companion to the House of Representative’s 21st Century Cures Initiative, which aims to encourage medical breakthroughs by reforming the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While Democratic lawmakers on the HELP committee support mandatory funding for the NIH, Republicans in the Senate have yet to agree. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), for example, does not support the selling off of petroleum reserves to pay for mandatory NIH spending. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) thinks that using mandatory funding for NIH’s 2017 budget is “risky,” and prefers that the NIH focuses on “specific projects.” NIH director Francis Collins explained that the agency could use a special fund on five specific areas, which include: President Obama’s precision medicine initiative, the recently announced cancer moonshot, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative, a system of grants for “big ideas” across NIH institutes, and support for young investigators. The final Cures package and companion bills could be available for a floor vote next week if bipartisan agreement is reached. (Kelly Servick, Science News)
Eradicating Poverty is Possible: Just Take a Small Fraction of Global Military Spending
Two of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the United Nations in 2015, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, are not so out of reach. U.N. figures show an estimated 800 million people live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. It turns out that eradicating poverty can be achieved with about ten percent of the world’s military spending. A new study published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on April 5th, shows that global military spending is up for the first time since 2011, at $1.7 trillion in 2015. Overall expenditure increases occurred in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Spending on the military fell in North America, Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa. Although spending dropped in the US, the country still ranks number one in terms of military expenditures, spending $596 billion last year. China was the second largest spender at $215 billion. The head of the study, Sam Perlo-Freeman, looked at what could be achieved with just ten percent of global military spending. According to a 2015 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, eliminating extreme poverty and hunger sustainably by 2030 would require an estimated additional $265 billion a year on average. Of this, $89–$147 billion would need to come from public funding, putting total annual public spending requirements at $156–214 billion. This amounts to 9.5–13% of global military spending in 2015. “This could stir up some debate although we are certainly not expecting a ten percent cut in military spending at all,” said Perlo-Freeman in an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation. The SIPRI military expenditure project was established in 1967 to study developments in world military expenditure. (Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters)
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