October 24, 2014

NASA Ames Celebrates 75th Anniversary with Open House (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Ames Research Center welcomed about 120,000 visitors on Saturday, Oct. 18 during an Open House held in celebration of the Center's 75th anniversary. The event featured a 2-mile self-guided walking tour, panel discussions, "Ask-An-Expert" sessions, static aircraft displays and "Backstage Pass" guided tours of Ames Research labs and wind-tunnel facilities. (10/23)

Huntsville Leaders Want to Build ‘Space Academy’ in Rocket City (Source: WHNT)
Local leaders are looking into the idea of bringing a space academy to the Rocket City. The plan is in the conceptual phase, but local, state and federal leaders are involved, according to information provided by U.S. Space and Rocket Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart.

Barnhart says this is not a USSRC project necessarily, but the organization would benefit from having a world-class space academy in North Alabama. “This is about an economic mandate for our community to continue to be the space capital of the universe,” Barnhart said. Currently there is not a “space academy” anywhere in the county, but Barnhart and others who support the plan say other cities are eager to create a facility like this to their city due to the economic benefits. (10/23)

SpaceX Land Holdings Grow Near South Texas Spaceport Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
In preparing the site of the world’s first commercial and vertical orbital launch complex at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County, SpaceX continues its land purchases, public records show. SpaceX recently purchased six more lots, bringing the number of tracts of land that it now owns to 93, which comprise approximately 110 acres of land. (10/23)

Oculus Rift Could Make Grueling Trips to Mars More Tolerable (Source: Washington Post)
When you think of the Oculus Rift, you probably think of interactive gaming or entertainment experiences made possible through virtual reality. But NASA is also considering how those same types of virtual reality experiences could be used during long-haul missions to address the unique psychological and physiological problems encountered by astronauts traveling in small teams through cold, dark space over extended periods of time. Click here. (10/23)

India's Human Spaceflight Endeavor Inches Ahead (Source: Deccan Herald)
Taking a first flight-related step in its Human Space Flight (HSF) endeavour, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will, in nearly 45 days’ time, launch an unmanned crew module on the experimental GSLV MK III flight. According to ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan: “The government had sanctioned Rs 145 crore towards the HSF program. With that funding we have been able to develop a crew module that will fly the astronauts to space, space suits, life support systems and a host of technologies relevant to the HSF." (10/23)

Russia to Spend Around $50 Billion on Space Program in 2016-2025 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Roscosmos space agency estimates the costs of most ambitious space projects in the federal space program for 2016-2025 at about $7.5 billion, a source says. Roscosmos has requested about $50 billion from the federal budget for the program, while another $6 billion is to be spent from manufacturers’ own funds and incomes from commercial projects. (10/24)

Government, University Commitments Keys To Aerospace Engineering (Source: Aviation Week)
What are the opportunities and challenges for aerospace engineering as it enters its second century? One opportunity is to adapt the education curriculum to a very different world. The aerospace profession has evolved from hardware-based science, technology and engineering to include systems  and even system-of-systems engineering.

Sustainable aviation provides another opportunity. The quest for faster, larger and longer-range aircraft is over—for now. Today’s challenge is to achieve the industry’s stated goal of carbon-neutral growth by 2020. Aircraft technologies help solve only one piece of the puzzle; next-generation air traffic management and biofuels also will contribute. Engineering schools will need to step up to these multi-disciplinary challenges.

The commercialization of space offers a third opportunity. In speaking with students, I’m struck by their interest in entrepreneurial companies like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and Blue Origin, where big, bold ideas are being implemented by teams of young engineers. The same is true of the unmanned aerial systems sector, which is poised to explode when airspace liberalization occurs. Click here. (10/20)

Dummy Astronaut Shows ISS Crew Better Protected from Radiation than Thought (Source: Space News)
A decade-long experiment using a human-like mannequin to assess radiation absorption inside and outside the international space station has concluded that the human body is much better at protecting astronaut internal organs than previously thought.

The experiments, which used U.S. technology monitored by U.S., Russian, Japanese and European teams, conclude that previous radiation-intake measures, mainly dosimeters worn by astronauts in their pockets or on their chests, overstate the radiation exposure to internal organs.

For an astronaut working inside the space station, the overestimate was about 15 percent — a fairly close correlation given that the station’s exterior shell provides much of the protection needed. But for astronauts working outside the station, the radiation absorption measured was substantially less than what had been registered by the personal dosimeters worn by astronauts. (10/24)

Miami-Based Startup Plans Microsatellite Launch Services (Source: Mishaal)
Mishaal Aerospace Corp., the Miami-based launch vehicle provider for small satellites, is pleased to announce that SpaceQuest Ltd., a Virginia based advanced satellite developer, signed a Letter of Intent for launch of their satellites once Mishaal Aerospace’s M-OV, Orbital Vehicle, is ready. Mishaal Aerospace's M-SV propulsion system successfully completed its first static test on August 11, 2014. Click here. (10/22)

SpaceX Builds Enough Merlin 1D Engines for 10 Falcon 9 Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Less than two years after SpaceX began producing the Merlin 1D engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket, the 100th Merlin 1D engine is complete. SpaceX is currently the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world. The Merlin 1D is an all-American engine designed and built in-house at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Engines are currently manufactured at a rate of four per week, projected to rise to five per week by the end of 2014. The production process begins with major engine components – injector, turbopump, gas generator, thrust chamber, valves and actuators – integrated with tubing, sensors, and other small components to form the major sub-assemblies of the engine. These sub-assemblies are put together to become the engine’s lower and upper assembly. Once the lower and upper assemblies are stacked and mated, the engine undergoes a series of quality checks prior to testing. (10/23)

China Launches Flyby Mission to the Moon (Source: CBS)
A Long March 3C rocket launched a robotic Chinese space probe Thursday, setting the stage for a looping flight around the moon and a high-speed dash back to Earth to test technology and procedures needed for a planned robotic sample return mission in 2017.

Chinese news agencies reported the 184-foot-tall Long March booster blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, but the launch time and other details were not immediately available. The ascent was intended to put the solar-powered spacecraft, known in some quarters as Chang'e-5 T1, on a "free return" trajectory around the moon. (10/23)

Report: KSC Must Do More to Succeed as Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center has made progress transitioning into a multiuser spaceport but must do more to compete with a growing number of alternative launch sites, according to a NASA audit report. "The better Kennedy can position itself now as a commercial-friendly launch site, the more competitive it will be in the future," says the report by NASA's Office of Inspector General.

In interviews with the auditors, six companies and KSC's closest government partner, Space Florida, continued to raise concerns about bureaucracy, high costs and potential mission conflicts that can hamper commercial operations at KSC. The companies have not abandoned the spaceport given limited options available today, but "this may change as the commercial space industry grows and additional non-Federal launch sites become available," the report says. (10/23)

Report: KSC Offers Weak Reason for Resisting Shiloh Support (Source: Florida Today)
The OIG audit of KSC's commercial spaceport efforts undercuts one of NASA's primary reasons for resisting a state proposal to develop a site that might make the Cape more attractive for commercial launches. Space Florida two years ago sought NASA's permission to develop one or two pads on up to 200 acres at the north end of KSC and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, in an area known as Shiloh.

While NASA let the state start an environmental review of the proposed site, it continues to claim that it needs the land as a safety buffer zone and to support future missions. When questioned by auditors, however, "Kennedy personnel were unable to provide any details as to the need for a buffer zone of information about specific future missions involving the property." Click here to download the report. (10/23)

Hold Your Breath: 'Aquastronauts' Go Underwater to Train for Space (Source: NBC)
Have you ever wondered where astronauts train before heading into space? They actually travel in the opposite direction of the International Space Station: they go underwater. Since 2001, NASA has sent astronauts-in-training to take part in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program, alongside astronauts from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. So far, they’ve completed 19 missions, each of which comprises a six- to ten-day stay in the habitat.

I had the rare opportunity to join a group of NASA astronauts-in-training underwater at the Aquarius base off of Key Largo, Florida, located 63 feet underwater. The base offers the would-be space-faring candidates the most extraterrestrial experience available while still on Earth. Click here. (10/23)

Florida Transportation System is Adding More Intermodal Components (Source: Florida TaxWatch)
"One of the selling points for relocating space-oriented businesss to Florida is that our state includes areas where multi-modal transport is possible for payloads to space. The Cape Canaveral Spaceport already provides access for four modes of transportation: roads, rail, sea, and space; and this combination of efficient transfers between modes has helped companies decide to relocate to Florida to pursue delivery of payloads of satellites and other space-oriented items." (10/23)

Original Redstone Launch Team Recalls Start of Modern Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Bill Grafton ran. As the last one on the pad before the launch of the first Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, on Aug. 20, 1953, it was his job to plug an igniter into the enormous, seven-story missile. "I was a little bit nervous, because this thing was filled with all the fuel and it was sitting there puffing like an old train," Grafton, 89, remembered recently.

Four of the five living members of the original Redstone launch team gathered last week in Titusville home to reminisce and record some of their stories. Reed Barnett, of Melbourne Beach, and Bill "Curly" Chandler, of Astor, Fla., joined Rigell and Grafton, visiting from Flagstaff, Ariz. Their friend Jim Rorex was unable to make the trip from Huntsville, Ala. Click here. (10/23)

CASIS Awards Life Sciences Research Grants (Source: Parabolic Arc)
CASIS announced a series of unsolicited investigations focused on life science studies for flight to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. These unsolicited investigations represent targeted areas of emphasis in the life and biological sciences as determined by the CASIS Science and Technology Advisory Panel as well as the CASIS business development team. Click here. (10/23)

Suborbital Rocket Launched at Spaceport America (Source: Parabolic Arc)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced the launch of the third NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket from Spaceport America. The launch of SpaceLoft XL 9 (SL-9) took place from Spaceport America’s Launch Complex-1. Today’s liftoff marks the 21st launch at Spaceport America and the 13th flight conducted by UP Aerospace, the spaceport’s oldest launch customer. (10/23)

Ukraine Seeks to Revive Space Industry (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Oct. 21, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko held a meeting to discuss progress, problems and prospects of development of the space industry. General Designer Alexander Degtyarev presented on participation in international projects like Sea Launch and Land Launch; in the joint Ukrainian-Brazilian Cyclone-4; the Antares; and remote sensing satellites.

President Poroshenko said that Ukraine’s space industry suffered through a break ties with Russia as key partners in space programs. However, there are prospects for cooperation in space with such countries as Brazil, Turkey, and the USA. He also raised questions about the prospects for space cooperation with other interested countries, including the Republic of Kazakhstan.

"We need to develop a strategy to return the status of great space power,” he said. According to him, Ukraine requires political will and support of the international community. Also, According to a Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, YS Alekseev was dismissed as Chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine. (10/22)

Buzz Aldrin Says One-Way Trips to Mars Could Actually Work (Source: Space.com)
Buzz Aldrin wants to send people on a trip to Mars, and he doesn't want them to come home — at least not at first. The time and resources that will be used to get humans to the Red Planet only make sense if the astronauts stay there and help to jump-start an outpost on the new world, Aldrin said.

"It [will] cost the world — and the U.S. — billions and billions of dollars to put these people there, and you're going to bring them back?" Aldrin said. "What are you going to do when you bring them back here that can possibly compare [to] the value that they would be if they stayed there and Mars wasn't empty? And then, they helped to work with the next group and it builds up a cadre of people. When we've got 100 — or whatever it is — then we start bringing people back." (10/23)

October 23, 2014

Cruise With Story Musgrave (Source: Central Travel)
Join us on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, featuring Illuminations - the ONLY Planetarium at Sea - for a five night cruise hosted by Dr. Story Musgrave, astronaut, speaker, educator, mentor & consultant. The cruise departs on July 30, 2015, from New York City and returns on August 4. Click here. (10/23)

ULA Earnings Take Sting out of Lockheed’s Lackluster Space Returns (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin on Oct. 22 reported lower revenue and operating profit for its Space Systems division during the nine months ending Sep. 28, but a higher operating profit margin due to increased earnings from government launch services provider United Launch Alliance. Lockheed said the 29 percent increase in ULA earnings, to $90 million from $70 million for the same nine-month period in 2013, will be followed by a drop in 2015 with fewer launches, and launches on lower-profit vehicles. (10/23)

How 3-D Printing Could Help Replace Russian Rockets (Source: Defense One)
As the Pentagon looks to develop a replacement for the Russian engine that blasts the Atlas V rocket into orbit, two U.S. companies have been working on a little-known project that could speed up the process. Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne are already building a replacement engine that could power the Atlas V for military launches and future NASA manned space launches. Much of the engine has been built using a 3-D printing technique know as additive manufacturing. (10/23)

Waypoint 2 Space Kickstarter Campaign for Space Training System (Source: W2S)
METS, or the Modular EVA Training System, is a fully enclosed black chamber that houses a 12 foot high by 10 foot wide Spacecraft Training Module. With Star Field generators above and below, METS allows astronaut trainees to simulate an Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), commonly known as a spacewalk. METS creates the sensation of weightlessness while the astronaut trainee moves around the space module - simulating space walk repairs performed by astronauts at the International Space Station. Click here. (10/23)

Spaceport America: a Convergence of Ideas and Events (Source: RocketSTEM)
The rumble of a rocket engine and then a distant sonic boom break the breezy silence of a remote desert plain. Another unmanned commercial rocket has been launched from Spaceport America. Soon, perhaps in a few months, Virgin Galactic will begin space tourism flights with a futuristic spacecraft air launched from a mothership using Spaceport America’s 12,000-foot runway for takeoff and landing.

How did this, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, come to be built in southern New Mexico? It was the continuation of more than seven decades of space development in a geographic setting ideally suited for it. Click here. (10/16)

What Killed the Space Race? (Source: IAI News)
It was a dream that did not come to pass. Travelling to other planets is something our grandparents did, not something we do. We send tiny, intricately clever machines to fly past the planets instead. Instead of going out there, we have developed immensely ingenious methods for analysing the trickle of data from space that reaches our world. It’s cheaper that way.

Keeping human beings safe in the ultra-inhospitable environment of space is complex and expensive, and we have other things to spend our money on. Big expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t fund themselves, you know. What happened to the dream of space exploration? In a nutshell: people got bored. By “people” I mean the human race, considered globally, not the outliers and eccentrics for whom the dream kept burning in their souls – and they got bored with it depressingly quickly. (10/23)

Commercial Spaceflight Companies Optimistic, but Frustrated, Over Slow Progress (Source: Space.com)
The leaders of commercial space flight companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic remain optimistic, if a bit frustrated, over the slow pace of getting regular space flights off the ground. Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight this month, Virgin Galactic officials said they expect to begin test flights for SpaceShipTwo "quite soon." (10/22)

New Date Set for Antares Launch to ISS From Virginia Spaceport (Source: WBOC)
A date is now set for the next cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket is scheduled for lift off at 6:45 p.m. on October 27. The Orb-3 Commercial Resupply Services mission was delayed because Hurricane Gonzalo hit an area of Bermuda where there is a rocket tracking station. After inspection, NASA and Orbital established the new launch date.

NASA says Orbital is launching the Orb-3 mission to orbit several days earlier than necessary to preserve schedule flexibility and time its arrival at the station to conform to other visiting vehicle operations. According to NASA, the Cygnus spacecraft is fully fueled and loaded with most of its cargo bound for the ISS. (10/23)

Saturn's Moon Mimas May Have an Underground Ocean - or Just a Weird Core (Source: America Space)
It wasn’t that long ago that Earth was thought to be the only place in the Solar System capable of having liquid water oceans, but now we know of several moons that do as well, including Europa and Enceladus, and likely Titan and Ganymede as well. In all these cases, the oceans are below ground, similar to ocean water below ice sheets at the Earth’s poles.

Now there is yet another moon which might be added to this special list: Saturn’s moon Mimas. Like those other moons, Mimas is very cold and icy on the surface, as might be expected in the outer solar system. But also like the other moons, there may be something more happening underground, where more heat could be available. The evidence seems to point to two interesting possibilities: either Mimas has a frozen core shaped like a football or it has a subsurface ocean. (10/23)

Angara Trial Program Includes Ten Test Launches (Source: Interfax)
The trial program of Russia's brand new launch vehicle Angara includes ten test launches, according to materials released by Roscosmos. "The Angara trial program stipulates ten launches, the first two using mockups and the others with real satellites," the materials read. The maiden launch of the heavy-lift Angara-A5 has been tentatively planned for December of this year. (10/23)

Russia Predicts Rivalry for Moon Exploration (Source: Itar-Tass)
Authors of the Russian Moon exploration concept predict that different countries will compete actively for exploration of the Earth satellite in next few decades and suggest Russia taking control over most promising areas on the Moon, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday, noting that the most precious area is the lunar south pole which is planned to be explored by Russia urgently.

Moon development initiatives have already been produced by several organizations involved in Russian space program, including rocket and space corporation Energia, Central Scientific-Research Institute of Machine-Building, the Institute of Space Research and Lavochkin Research-and-Production Association. (10/23)

Spaceport Groups Plans Fall Banquet on Nov. 1 (Source: MSRP)
Days of Future Past will be the theme of the Fall Banquet sponsored by the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers in conjunction with the Cape Canaveral Chapter of the Air Force Association. The Dinner will feature presentations on a CubeSat project, the Challenger program, and lessons learned that help NASA with Commercial Crew and Orion.

The Spring Banquet is set for Nov. 1 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cocoa Beach. The event is open to the public. Social hour starts at 6PM with dinner served at 7PM. Click here. (10/22)

Lingering Doubts Drove Europe To Sideline Galileo Launches until Next Year (Source: Space News)
European governments’ decision to forgo a December launch of two Galileo navigation satellites was fueled both by ongoing concerns about the Soyuz rocket following the August failure and by unresolved performance issues on the two satellites stuck in a bad orbit, European government and industry officials said.

Officials said that despite an inquiry board’s conclusion that the Soyuz Fregat upper stage misdirected the two satellites because of an easily fixable design flaw, the inquiry uncovered several other Soyuz issues that will have to be resolved before they will launch.

In addition, each of the two Galileo satellites placed into the bad orbit initially failed to deploy one of its two solar arrays, for reasons that could be due to the bad orbit but may have some other cause. An investigation is ongoing and has come to no conclusion, officials said. (10/22)

NASA Silent on Smith Request for Information (Source: Houston Chronicle)
On Aug. 27, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden asking for a status report on the new Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle, key projects in returning the nation to preeminence in space.

Other than a cursory acknowledgement that NASA received the letter, Smith got crickets. A September 10 committee deadline passed, and still no reply. So on Wednesday, Smith tried again, firing off a letter to NASA complaining that the agency has ignored a number of requests for information this year.

Similarly, NASA public affairs officials did not respond to media requests asking about Smith’s complaint, which is that the information he seeks is necessary for the committee’s oversight responsibilities. The exchange, or lack thereof, follows allegations by some House Republicans that the Obama administration has underfunded the programs, which are at the center of a debate about NASA’s future focus. For now, Smith has pushed his deadline back to Oct. 28. (10/22)

What’s Cooler Than One Comet? A Storm of Them (Source: TIME)
A stunning sighting around a nearby star offers a glimpse of our own solar system billions of years ago. With some 2,000 planets now known to orbit stars beyond the Sun and thousands more in the can waiting for confirmation, the once-exotic term “exoplanet” is so commonplace it requires no definition for many people. The term “exocomet,” by contrast, is a bit more obscure.

Astronomers have known for years that comets orbit other stars—in particular, the relatively nearby star β Pictoris, which lies about 63 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pictor. But a new paper in Nature is more than a little mindblowing nevertheless. A team of astronomers is reporting the detection of nearly 500 individual comets that passed in front of β Pictoris between 2003 and 2011. (10/22)

NASA Launches Free Sound Library (Source: BBC)
Historical audio from NASA missions has been uploaded to a free sound library. More than 60 samples have been added to the agency's new dedicated Soundcloud account, but listeners are unable to leave comments underneath the files. Astronaut communications, including "Houston, we've had a problem" and "the Eagle has landed", can be heard - as well as some more abstract noises made by working spacecraft and debris. (10/22)

ESA Spaceplane Progressing Towards Vega Launch (Source: Space Daily
Europe's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane has completed another step in its pre-launch checkout process, and is now being readied for fueling ahead of the November 18 flight with Arianespace's lightweight Vega. This activity - which included IXV's fit-check on the adapter that will serve as its interface with the Vega launcher - occurred inside the Spaceport's S1B clean room facility. (10/22)

Intelsat to Study Commercialization of USAF Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
Intelsat is one of four companies awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to study the viability of using commercial facilities and operations expertise for the tracking, telemetry and command (TT and C) of government satellites. The goal of the contract, known as the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) Commercial Provisioning study, is to provide USAF Space Command with a detailed plan for leveraging commercial TT and C facilities and capabilities. (10/23)

New Space Shuttle Monument Dedication in Titusville on Nov. 1 (Source: NSCFL)
The U. S. Space Walk of Fame will dedicate the Shuttle Monument in Space View Park in Titusville on Saturday, November 1st at 10:00 a.m. Bob Crippen, retired astronaut and Kennedy Space Center director will be the speaker. Click here. (10/22)

China's Secret Moon Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Soon, a rocket will launch a Chinese spacecraft to the Moon and back. It's the first time that China has attempted this long and perilous journey. It should be a great achievement for the nation, worthy of extensive publicity. Ironically, this mission has been shrouded in more obscurity than the "secret" X-37B spaceplane operated by the US Air Force, which even had its re-entry pre-announced and covered extensively on video.

It would seem that Chinese President Xi Jinping is tightening the screws on "state secrets" even more than he did in the past. Censorship of China's space program increased soon after he took office, and the situation seems to have deteriorated even further. But there could be other reasons why this specific mission is being treated with such caution by China's state media.

Let's get through some technical details. The spacecraft will probably not enter orbit around the Moon, despite precise statements made in the Chinese media that previously suggested this. It's flying a free-return trajectory that should take slightly over a week to return home. The capsule to be used in this mission is a scale model of the descent module used on the Shenzhou astronaut-carrying spacecraft. The "service module" for the spacecraft is a boxy satellite bus based on the Chang'e lunar orbiter design. (10/23)

Another Possible Anomaly with Proton Launch? (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Russian Proton-M was back in action on Tuesday, tasked with lofting the Ekspress-AM6 communications satellite on a multi-hour flight to a geostationary orbit via its Briz-M Upper Stage. The Russian workhorse launched on schedule from its traditional home at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and apparently successfully deployed the satellite. However, half a day later, questions were raised about its initial orbit.

Sources note the satellite was deployed into the wrong orbit, but officials have not confirmed this issue and have apparently claimed it is in the correct orbit. It is possible the orbit parameter problem – if confirmed – can be solved during the satellite’s propulsive trip to its designated orbital home. (10/22)

NASA Banks on SpaceX, Other Firms for Mars Missions (Source: Universe Today)
NASA's recent recording of footage of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 reusable rockets in flight demonstrates the way the space agency is hoping to tap the expertise of private companies as it builds the data infrastructure needed to launch missions to Mars. NASA hopes the data it collects from SpaceX will help it lower huge payloads of cargo onto Mars in the future. (10/21)

Boeing Reports Strong Third-Quarter Results (Source: Boeing)
Boeing reported third-quarter revenue increased 7 percent to $23.8 billion. Third-quarter core operating earnings (non-GAAP) increased 13 percent to $2.4 billion from the same period of the prior year. Operating cash flow before pension contributions guidance increased to greater than $7 billion. (10/22)

LHT Modifies Luftwaffe A310 as Zero-Gravity Aircraft (Source: Flight Global)
Lufthansa Technik is converting a former German air force Airbus A310 into a test and research aircraft for French national space center CNES. The twinjet, which previously served as a VIP transport for the German government, will be used for parabolic flights to simulate zero-gravity conditions. It will be operated by CNES subsidiary Novespace in partnership with ESA and Germany's DLR. (10/22)

JSC Media Resource Center to Close (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Johnson Space Center Media Resource Center will close its doors on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. The rationale behind the closing was listed as “funding availability.” The space agency noted that supporting current events at JSC had received “highest priority.” Journalists can now call the JSC Newsroom via telephone to receive access to still and video imagery. Requests can also be submitted electronically or via mail. (10/22)

NMSU Rebids for NASA Scientific Balloon Contract (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico State University has submitted a proposal to re-bid for a NASA contract that will provide an estimated $20 million to $30 million a year toward high-altitude scientific balloon research and scientific work conducted by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, a NASA facility managed by the NMSU Physical Science Lab and located at Palestine, Texas.

The contract is administered by the by NASA's Balloon Program Office at Wallops Flight Facility. The Physical Science Lab (PSL) has held the contract for the past 27 years and has been the principal launcher of high altitude balloons for NASA's Scientific Balloon Program. The previous 10-year contract — NMSU's largest research contract — had a potential value of more than $200 million and was worth $28 million in the most recent year.

The new contract will span five years (including a two-year base period and options for the next three years), said Dan Howard, NMSU executive vice president and provost. "We're confident that we're going to be successful in winning it again and it will be business as usual for us," Ball said. If won, this will be the fifth time the NMSU Physical Science Lab has won the competitive bid process, Ball said. (10/22)

October 22, 2014

Irish Researchers Develop New Tool to Protect Earth From Space Debris (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Researchers from the Trinity College in Dublin have designed a risk assessment tool for spacecraft re-entry, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA ). The tool developed by the team of scientists from the School of Computer Science & Statistics, Professor of Statistics, Simon Wilson and Cristina De Persis is now being filed with the European Patent Office to become Trinity’s 500th patent.

The tool designed to help protect Earth and its inhabitants from the falling debris of defunct and disintegrating spacecraft and satellites that eventually re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. The invention is directed towards providing improved accuracy of modelling to achieve more accurate predictions for any given space vehicle (spacecraft, satellite, space station) on re-entry into the atmosphere.

According to Wilson, due to development in IT sphere they also managed to create new tools that will calculate more accurately impact points of satellite parts that didn’t burn in dense atmosphere. “Particularly, we are now able to calculate with higher probability whether objects in dense atmosphere will burn or not,” he noted. Other details will be kept secret until researchers get international patent. (10/22)

Japan, US Plan Military Space Cooperation to Counter Chinese Threat (Source: Itar-Tass)
Japan and the United States will carry out joint space observation in order to counter possible attacks of China. These plans are indicated in the main updated principles of Japan–US of defense cooperation, which will be published by the end of a year. Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State, said the US is concerned about increasing capabilities of the Chinese armed forces. (10/22)

The Man Who Dreams of Mining the Moon (Source: Globe and Mail)
Most look to the moon as a beacon for bedtime stories and lovers' strolls. Robert Richards sees it differently, more as a destination for an outer-space trucking service and ultimately as a giant, orbiting hunk of minerals and resources to exploit.

The Toronto-bred entrepreneur has dedicated his career to organizing various ventures geared to the heavens and is now focused on the ambition of mining the moon and asteroids for what he says are trillions of dollars worth of resources. But to do that, his company is developing a spacecraft to deliver equipment to those orbiting bodies. Click here. (10/22)

The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar (Source: WIRED)
Kip Thorne into the black hole he helped create and thinks, “Why, of course. That's what it would do.” This particular black hole is a simulation of unprecedented accuracy. It appears to spin at nearly the speed of light, dragging bits of the universe along with it. In theory it was once a star, but instead of fading or exploding, it collapsed like a failed soufflé into a tiny point of inescapable singularity. A glowing ring orbiting the spheroidal maelstrom seems to curve over the top and below the bottom simultaneously. Click here. (10/22)

X37-B is Back. And So is the Militarization of Space (Source: GQ)
The guessing game surrounding the X37-B's mission underscores a crucial fact behind the entire history of manned exploration of space: it's always been militarised. The writings of Verne or Tsiolkovsky describing the possibility of manned spaceflight might have made imaginations run wild, but it was the Nazi V-weapons that demonstrated it was possible.

When the first manned expeditions were launched in the 1960s, the military industrial complexes of both superpowers tagged along for the ride. Military experiments were authorised on Project Gemini; the Soviets explored deployment of an armed space station. Both sides routinely spied on one another with the aid of reconnaissance and signal interception satellites. (10/22)

This Is the Comet That Just Buzzed Mars (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Comet Sliding Spring was 86,000 miles from Mars when one of NASA's explorers snapped these pictures. And while you might not see much more than a dot, you're looking at history. This is the closest look we've ever gotten at such a comet.

It came from the Oort Cloud, a vast region of icy objects 50,000 times farther from the sun than we are, and even much further than the Kuiper Belt that's home to Pluto. Comets from the fringes of the solar system find their way into our area from time to time, but this time luck was on NASA's side. As the ice ball passed within 100,000 miles of the Red Planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) turned its instruments on Sliding Spring. Click here. (10/22)

Space Tourism Society Plans Tour for Students (Source: Nigerian Tribune)
In its resolve to further boost tourism education in the area of space travel, Space Tourism Society, Nigeria Chapter is packaging a two-week tour of space facilities and activities for students and tourists in the United States of America. The space tour will take students and tourists on different fact-finding mission on space adventure, logistics and innovations, which will also avail them the opportunity experiencing a zero gravity activity at a space camp.

According to the Chief Executive Officer Space Media Technologies and National President, Space Tourism Society, Mr. Oladunni Paul Olanrewaju, “we are taking students and tourists on an educational tour of space and a space camp at Alabama and Los Angeles in the United States of America. (10/22)

Were We Contacted by Aliens in 1977? (Source: BBC)
In the 1960s, radio astronomy was put to work in the search. Radio telescopes surveyed the sky, searching for something that might come from an alien civilization. For years they heard nothing except the background hum of space. Then one day in 1977, a radio telescope in the US received a signal...

The Wow! signal fitted the profile of an alien transmission. Other explanations have been ruled out. Transmitters on Earth can’t use the same frequency, and the signal was too narrow to come from natural sources. Interstellar scintillation, the audio equivalent of a star twinkle, has also been dismissed. Scientists immediately searched for a repeat of the Wow! signal.

They scanned the sky in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius, where the signal had come from. And as technology improved, more sensitive telescopes were put on the case, along with software that was designed to find signals among the background noise. Click here. (10/22)

Kickstarter for Preserving America's Space History (Source: Kickstarter)
Abandoned in Place is a photography book exploring and documenting America's early space launch and research facilities. Click here. (10/22)

Northrop Grumman Reports Third Quarter 2014 Financial Results (Source: SpaceRef)
Northrop Grumman reported third quarter 2014 net earnings of $473 million in the third quarter of 2013. Third quarter 2014 net earnings were reduced by $62 million. (10/22)

China's Space Policy Gets Even Tighter (Source: Space Daily)
The recent policies concerning China's upcoming lunar test launch are a shocking testimony to a new "dark age" of media coverage for the Chinese space program. Even less has been said about this flight in the lead-up to launch than for any comparable mission. This is a major achievement for China. Only two other nations have recovered a spacecraft from the Moon. Unfortunately, reportage and imagery have been tighter than for any previous lunar launch.

China may be seeking to control the flow of "state secrets" to outsiders. China could also want to avoid generating too much interest in a lunar program that was partially tainted by the problems experienced by the Yutu lunar rover. But this is counter-productive. The Chinese space program is an outstanding triumph for this nation, and matched by so few.

Greater publicity would be in China's best interests. It would also promote greater international co-operation in space, which is something China apparently wants. With this excessively high level of secrecy, China misses out on these gains, and space enthusiasts also miss out on the fun. Nobody wins in this new "dark age". Not even China. (10/22)

Court Rejects Sierra Nevada Motion to Reinstate Commercial Crew Stop-Work Order (Source: Space News)
A federal court ruled against a motion by Sierra Nevada Corp. to reinstate a suspension of work by two companies on commercial crew contracts awarded by NASA last month. NASA had issued stop-work orders to Boeing and SpaceX shortly after Sierra Nevada filed its protest of the CCtCap awards on Sep. 26.

In a statement announcing the protest, Sierra Nevada alleged there were “serious questions and inconsistencies” in NASA’s selection process. On Oct. 9, NASA announced it was lifting the stop-work order, citing “statutory authority available to it” in order to keep the overall commercial crew effort on schedule. NASA warned of risks to operations of the international space station and NASA’s ability to meet its international commitments if the development of commercial crew systems was delayed. (10/21)

Pentagon Report: Commercial Bandwidth 4 Times More Expensive than WGS (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Defense Department study says buying bandwidth from commercial satellite providers is nearly four times more expensive than using military-owned communications satellites. The study provides a counterpoint to the long-held position of commercial satellite operators that leasing is cheaper than buying, and illustrates the uphill challenge they face in seeking to change the way the Pentagon meets its satellite communications needs.

The report says the U.S. Air Force-owned and -operated Wideband Global Satcom system should remain a top priority and that the Defense Department should use commercial satellite bandwidth only when WGS capacity is not available. (10/21)

KSC To Offer Undeveloped Property for Commercial Use (Source: Space News)
With most of its surplus space shuttle-era infrastructure handed over to other organizations — including the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B military spaceplane program — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon solicit proposals from companies that want to develop new facilities there, including new launch sites.

“Now that our assets, for the most part, are spoken for or transitioned from shuttle, they can provide us a proposal for undeveloped land” on center property that companies would like to develop, said Scott Colloredo, director of KSC’s Center Planning and Development Directorate.

That land use, which he said could include additional launch sites or manufacturing facilities, would have to be consistent with KSC’s master plan published this year. That plan sets aside land at the center for additional horizontal and vertical launch and landing sites, as well as locations for assembly, testing and processing buildings. “As long as it’s compatible with our master plan and our future planning, we’ll entertain it,” Colloredo said. (10/21)

Marshall Partnerships Push Boundaries of Technology (Source: WAAY)
Going to and developing space is one of the biggest challenges that face humanity. As such, it requires some of the brightest minds and most motivated agencies to overcome the problems that the harsh environment of space presents. The Marshall Space Flight Center knows that they can't do it alone, and forge partnerships with industry, government and academic entities to combine resources and manpower to create groundbreaking technology not only for use in space, but also to make life better on Earth. Click here. (10.21)

Zero-G Printer Shares History with Voyager Mission (Source: Made In Space)
Jon Lomberg is without question the preeminent space artist and the world’s most experienced designer in creating messages for other times and other beings. From artwork on far-reaching probes like Voyager and New Horizons to sun dials on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. It is a rare privilege for Made In Space to work with him on yet another milestone in space history; artwork on the the first manufacturing device in space. Click here. (10/21)

Florida Space Day 2015 Invites Sponsorships (Source: FSD)
On March 25, 2015, Florida-based companies that support the aerospace industry will be meeting with legislators in Tallahassee for Florida Space Day 2015. This event includes legislative visits with our House and Senate Representatives to discuss their support of our industry and to bring them our collaborative messages on space-related issues and pending legislation.

The funding for Florida Space Day is solely supported by Florida aerospace partners like you. Sponsorship allows involvement in various planning committees, and provides budget for developing and communicating our message, as well as partner recognition. All contributors are invited to participate in the planning and implementation of the Florida Space Day 2015 event; as well as attend the March 25th evening reception on the 22nd Floor of the Capitol Building, and to attend other events that are presently being scheduled. Click here. (10/20)

Fox Plans Billionaire Space Race TV Drama (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Fox is going for a new take on space race with an untitled drama, from 20th Century Fox TV. It falls under a deal Film 44 inked with the Fox network at the beginning of the summer. Written by Attie, the present-day drama us about a space race — but between people instead of nations, as two wildly ambitious egos with a long and ugly personal history battle to control the future of space exploration. Attie, Berg and Aubrey executive produce. (10/21)

Virgin Galactic Now Has More Land Rovers Than Spaceships (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic has received the first production vehicle of Land Rover’s Discovery Sport vehicle after it rolled off the assembly line in Halewood, England last week. The vehicle was sent to Virgin Galactic headquarters in London, Land Rover announced. This brings to at least six the number of Land Rover vehicles Virgin Galactic has received under a partnership and promotional deal between the two companies that was announced earlier this year.

Five Land Rovers have been seen at Virgin Galactic’s production and test center in Mojave, California. Virgin Galactic also will use Land Rovers at Spaceport America in New Mexico, where the company will fly tourists on suborbital flights aboard SpaceShipTwo. (10/21)

Sleepy Sun Could Make Mars Trips Deadly (Source: New Scientist)
Space is getting more dangerous. Just as missions will ramp up, it seems that exploring the solar system will become more deadly. The sun is going through a quiet period. Simulations suggest that, by the 2020s, this means astronauts spending a year in space will exceed NASA's safety limits for radiation exposure, potentially thwarting missions to Mars or to asteroids.

High-energy particles from deep space called cosmic rays bombard the solar system and can damage spacecraft and human DNA. The sun's magnetic field shields us from much of this radiation, but the field's strength waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. The most recent peak in activity – a solar maximum – has been abnormally weak, reducing the shield's effectiveness.

Earth's own magnetic field protects people on the ground and even on the International Space Station, but a sleepy sun could be bad news for those going further afield. (10/21)

Doses of Radiation Contracted by Cosmonauts Overstated (Source: Itar-Tass)
Doses of radiation contracted by cosmonauts during orbital missions are smaller by a factor of several times that it was thought previously, suggest the results of the Matryoshka-R experiment held aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by scientists from different countries, including Russia, since 2004.

“This finding is crucial to the planning of protracted space flights,” Dr. Vyacheslav Shurshakov from the Moscow-based Institute of Medical-Biological Problems, one of the authors of the research, told TASS. "It means in practical terms we can fly longer and go further." (10/21)

Russia Launches Proton Rocket (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia launched on Tuesday an Express-series communications satellite on board the Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Based on the heavy-class Express-2000 platform, the spacecraft will have an active lifespan of 15 years and carry 11 antennas as well as 72 transponders, according to Russia's Reshetnev Company, which designs and builds Express-series satellites. (10/21)

Ice Spotted on Mercury—Yes, We Know It Sounds Nuts (Source: TIME)
At high noon on Mercury, the temperature can soar to 800°F—and no wonder. The Solar System’s smallest planet (as of 2006, anyway) averages only 36 million miles from the Sun, which is right next door compared with Earth’s 93 million. You’d be justified in thinking that ice couldn’t possibly exist on such a scorching world.

But you’d be wrong. Scientists using the MESSENGER space probe are reporting in the journal Geology that they’ve taken images of that reveal what they call “the morphology of frozen volatiles” in permanently shadowed crater floors near the planet’s north pole. That’s ice, in plain English. “This is making a lot of people happy,” said Nancy Chabot of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins, lead author of the report.

It’s good news because the discovery confirms circumstantial evidence for ice on Mercury that’s been mounting for decades—first from radar observations with powerful radio telescopes on Earth that showed high reflectivity from the polar region, then from MESSENGER’s neutron spectrometer, which picked up the atomic signal of hydrogen in the same area. That pointed to H2O, almost certainly in the form if ice. (10/21)

Inmarsat Details The Forensic Search For MH370 (Source: Aviation Week)
A fresh assessment of satellite data has shifted the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) to another zone in the southern Indian Ocean, based in part on new analysis from satellite operator Inmarsat, which cautions that “significant uncertainty” remains as to the location of the missing Boeing 777-200ER.

As the underwater search for MH370 moves to an area approximately 800 km (500 mi.) south of the previous zone, London-based Inmarsat, which has been criticized for its part of the investigation, shared details of the refined data analysis on which the shift was largely based. Click here. (10/20)

Lockheed Tumbles as Sales Fall Short of Analyst Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin declined the most in almost two years after its third-quarter sales fell short of analysts’ estimates and margins declined in the unit that includes its F-35 fighter jet. Lockheed is increasingly reliant on the $398.6 billion F-35 program, the Pentagon’s most-expensive weapons system.

The jets were temporarily grounded earlier this year after an engine fire on one plane. While the company’s sales have suffered amid U.S. budget cuts, Lockheed’s shares had been buoyed on speculation that increased global tensions will improve the prospects for defense spending. Sales decreased 2.1 percent to $11.1 billion, the company said, the ninth straight quarterly decline amid government budget cutbacks. Analysts had projected $11.27 billion. (10/21)

NASA Has Found a Way to Listen to Space (Source: Esquire)
When a spaceship whooshes by in the middle of a sci-fi movie, every nerd worth his salt blurts out, “There is no sound in space!” There isn’t. No sound detectable to the human ear, that is. The only vibrations that survive the vacuum of space are electromagnetic waves. NASA has found a way to hear them.

Using a “plasma wave antenna” to record vibrations within 20 to 20,000 hertz, the range of human hearing, NASA has captured the actual sounds of our planets. It should come as no surprise that our Solar System sounds more majestic than any sci-fi director could fabricate. (10/21)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Selected to Power and Propel 2020 Mars Rover (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With NASA preparing to send crews to travel to Mars some time in the 2030s, the space agency is developing mechanical pathfinders which will blaze the trail that their human counterparts will retrace when their time comes to make history. However, getting to the Martian surface – is more difficult than recent missions have made it out to be.

To help ensure that NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover makes it safely to the dusty terrain – it has selected a well-known aerospace entity, under a larger collaborative effort - to provide key systems to help ensure success. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s thrusters have been selected for the follow-on mission to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity. In its current configuration, the robotic explorer will be very similar to Curiosity – which landed on the Martian surface in August of 2012 after a nine-month journey across the void. (10/21)

China Launches New Satellite Via Orbital Carrier Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
China has launched its new Yaogan-22 remote sensing optical satellite into scheduled orbit Monday, Chinese News Service reported. The satellite was launched atop a Long March 4C rocket, which blasted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, a Chinese space and defense launch facility and a spaceport. (10/21)

Russia to Create Space-Based Ballistic Missile Warning System (Source RIA Novosti)
Russia will create a space-based ballistic missile warning system capable of detecting launches of existing and test missiles, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday. "The creation of an integrated space system is one of the key directions in which Russian nuclear deterrent forces will be developed." (10/21)

October 21, 2014

Heavy Seas Delay Return of SpaceX Dragon Capsule (Source: Florida Today)
Heavy seas have delayed a SpaceX Dragon capsule's return home from space this week. Instead of on Tuesday, the unmanned cargo craft's departure from the International Space Station is now planned just before 10 a.m. Saturday, setting up a splashdown less than six hours later in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California.

A deorbit burn is expected at 2:43 p.m., followed by a parachute-assisted splashdown around 3:39 p.m. The Dragon will re-enter the atmosphere carrying nearly 3,300 pounds of equipment and science experiments. It's the only spacecraft flying today that can return large amounts of cargo to Earth. (10/20)

What It Could Be Like to Live on Mars (Source: WIRED)
I'd always wanted to visit Mars. Instead I got Hawaii. There, about 8,200 feet above sea level on Mauna Loa, sits a geodesically domed habitat for testing crew psychology and technologies for boldly going. I did a four-month tour at the NASA-funded HI-SEAS—that's Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation—in 2013. It's a long time to be cooped up, “so the psychological impacts are extremely important,” habitat designer Vincent Paul Ponthieux says. The key to keeping everybody sane? A sense of airiness. Click here. (10/21)

China Lofts Yaogan-22 via Long March 4C Rocket (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Chinese have launched another new satellite in the military’s Yaogan Weixing series via the use of a Long March-4C (Chang Zheng-4C) rocket. The mission began with lift off at 06:31 UTC on Monday from the LC901 launch platform of the LC9 launch complex at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. (10/20)

Federal Tax Money for Spaceport America? Congressional Candidates Support Idea (Source: NM Watchdog)
State taxpayers have already kicked in $218.5 million to build Spaceport America, the commercial space venture in southern New Mexico that is still waiting for its anchor tenant  Virgin Galactic to launch its first flight into suborbital space. But federal taxpayer money? That’s never really been on the table.

Both the Democrat and Republican in the race for U.S. House of Representatives in New Mexico’s Second Congressional District say they support the idea of federal funding going to the project. Incumbent Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, and challenger Roxanne Lara were asked, “Would you pursue and approve of federal funding … for the Spaceport?” Pearce said he “would be glad to support it” and Lara said the Spaceport “needs a good plan that’s going forward and  the federal funding can be a part and a piece of that.” (10/21)

Weather Grounds Spaceport America Launch (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Poor weather grounded the UP Aerospace rocket that was scheduled to launch into suborbit from Spaceport America on this morning. “We scrubbed the launch yesterday because the weather forecast for today was not favorable,” UP President and CEO Jerry Larson said. “We’ve re-scheduled the launch for Thursday morning.”

The rocket, dubbed the SpaceLoft, will carry four payloads paid for by NASA under the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program. That initiative, launched in 2011, pays commercial aerospace companies for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space. (10/20)

Spaceport's Relationship to County Discussed at Legislative Meeting (Source: KVIA)
Spaceport America's finances, and a still unbuilt southern access road, were big topics Monday when a New Mexico legislature finance committee met in Las Cruces. More than 90 percent of the price tag thus far has been borne by Dona Ana County, yet one state senator pointed out there still isn't a road leading to the spaceport from Dona Ana County.

"I think we are definitely setting the pace for the rest of the industry,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of the Spaceport. With more than $218 million spent thus far, Anderson is confident New Mexico's spaceport is ahead of any other venture of its kind. “For Virgin Galactic, the assumption was they would start commercial flights in June. We will be thrilled if they come earlier,” Anderson said. (10/20)

What it Took for SpaceX to Disrupt Boeing and Leapfrog NASA (Source: Quartz)
The SpaceX rocket factory is a large, white hangar-like building near Los Angeles international airport, with a parking lot filled with late-model motorcycles and Tesla electric cars. The vast metal structure once churned out 737 fuselages for Boeing. When you get through the front doors, past security and a cubicle farm stretching the width of the building, there it is: Science fiction being wrought into shape, right in front of you.

Right in front of all the workers, too. The company’s two-floor cafeteria is practically on and overlooking the manufacturing floor. Designers and accountants can eat lunch watching technicians build space capsules and rocket stages. There’s a lot to see: Rockets, like good suits, are bespoke objects, hand-made to order; a SpaceX tour guide says much of the work is too precise for robotic assembly. Click here. (10/20)

Pentagon Will Wean Itself from RD-180 Engine (Source: Space News)
A top U.S. defense official reiterated to a large group of California lawmakers that “now is the time” to study how to reduce the Pentagon’s dependence on a Russian-made rocket engine. In September, 32 members of California’s congressional delegation asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to broaden competition in the U.S. national security launch program and to move away from the RD-180 rocket engine that powers the Atlas 5 rocket sooner rather than later. (10/21)

CASIS Awards $800,000 in Grants to Boost ISS Science (Source: Space News)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit manager of non-NASA science aboard the international space station, spread about $800,000 in grant money among three experiments aimed at improving scientific research aboard the orbital outpost.

Individual awards range in value from $200,000 to $300,000, Patrick O’Neil, spokesman for Melbourne, Florida-based CASIS, wrote in an Oct. 15 email. Winning experiments were selected from among those that replied to CASIS’s February request for proposals for “Enabling Technology to Support Science in Space for Life on Earth.” The experiments have not yet been scheduled for launch. Click here. (10/21)

Spaceport America Takes Spotlight Before NM Lawmakers (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The first phase of an improved southern road to Spaceport America is slated to be under construction in the summer of next year, county officials told state lawmakers. The road proposal, vetted by the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee, is still being reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency responsible for much of the land along the 24-mile route.

The county is waiting for the agency's environmental assessment of the road construction, Armijo said. The county is hoping the BLM will issue a finding of "no significant impact," giving the project a green light. That decision could happen in mid-April, though "they haven't given us a firm date."

Doña Ana County officials also told lawmakers they're questioning the spaceport's current practice of spending excess dollars from the 2007 spaceport sales tax. Now, the spaceport authority uses most of the spaceport's share of tax revenue — one-quarter goes to education — to repay bonds that were used to build Spaceport America. But it's also using excess tax revenue beyond what's needed for that bond repayment to help pay for other spaceport operations. (10/21)

Former Boeing Exec Named to New USAF Launch Post (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has created a new senior executive service position at its primary space acquisition headquarters to improve what it describes as the “business of launch.” Claire Leon, a former Boeing executive, is the new director of launch enterprise at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The move comes as the service begins the competitive phase of its launch program.

Leon retired from Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems in 2013 as vice president of national programs, a euphemism for classified intelligence systems. She had previously served as vice president of the company’s navigation and communication systems and as program director for the Wideband Global Satcom system, on which Boeing is prime contractor. (10/20)

When Good Rockets Go Bad: Orion's Launch Abort System (Source: Planetary Society)
On conventional rockets, where a capsule full of humans sits at the very tip of the launch vehicle, it makes sense to have a second controlled explosion at the ready that can pull the capsule away from whatever went wrong. This second rocket motor is usually built into a tower attached to the capsule, which, under normal launch conditions, gets thrown away once the capsule makes it through most of Earth's atmosphere.

Future capsule designs by companies like SpaceX plan to forgo the tower and use thrusters built into the capsule. These thrusters could also be used to land the capsule in lieu of parachutes, which normally bring spacecraft home under both normal and abort scenarios. NASA has a lot of experience with the tower system—it's been used on every American human spaceflight program except Gemini and the space shuttle. So for Orion, NASA's new spacecraft, the capsule and tower system are back.

Critics have questioned why NASA didn't try out next-generation abort systems like built-in thrusters or powered landings. They argue Orion is simply an Apollo redux—and that other NewSpace capsules are, as one prominent journalist once told me, "still f—ing capsules." But other considerations aside, capsules and launch abort towers are a safe bet for a government agency trying to please a long list of bureaucrats, politicians and industry leaders. (10/21)

First Privately Funded Moon Mission to Ride on a Chinese Rocket (Source: Air & Space)
A Long March rocket scheduled to launch on Thursday to test technology for a future Chinese lunar mission will also carry a historic “hitchhiker”: the first privately funded payload sent to the moon. The Luxembourg-based company LuxSpace is attaching its “4M” payload to the upper stage of a Long March 3C rocket, whose main job is to launch a capsule that will round the moon and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed to test the spacecraft’s protective heat shield. China plans to use such a capsule in 2017 for the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission. (10/21)

Satellite Imaging Firm Working with Google Maps (Source: Toledo Free Press)
Blue Water Satellite (BWS) of Toledo announced its collaboration with Google Maps for Work to provide immediate feedback to help the team improve Google’s image processing capabilities. BWS uses satellite and other spectral imagery and patented image processing to monitor the world’s land and water resources by implementing Google Earth Engine and Google Maps Engine, BWS can process its satellite imagery and serve the data to desktops and mobile devices supported by Google’s cloud. (10/21)

French Official Invokes U.S. Market ‘Dumping’ To Make Case for Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
France’s space minister, seeking to marshal support for a next-generation Ariane rocket that will better compete in the global market, on Oct. 20 said Ariane’s U.S. competitors, enabled by a richly profitable government business, are all but “dumping” their rockets on the commercial market.

Returning to a theme she has regularly used in the past two years, Genevieve Fioraso said the France-backed Ariane 6 rocket being considered by European nations will be Europe’s way of countering the inherent U.S. advantage of a large domestic government market. In her speech to the parliamentarians, Fioraso did not list any specific examples, but in the past she has pointed to SpaceX as billing NASA much more than it bills commercial satellite customers for the same Falcon 9 rocket. (10/20)

Close Encounters of the Top Secret Kind (Source: Space Review)
In 1969, a Soviet spy satellite passed close to an American one. Dwayne Day examines whether this was a deliberate attempt by the Soviets to image the American satellite -- or even test an ASAT system -- or just a coincidence. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2623/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Commercial Crew's Extended Endgame (Source: Space Review)
Last month, NASA awarded contracts for commercial crew systems that were expected to end months of uncertainty about the program's future. However, Jeff Foust reports that the uncertainty lingers today, as one company protests those awards while also working on alternative plans for its vehicle design. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2622/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Powering Cislunar Spaceflight with NEO Powder (Source: Space Review)
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission plans to use xenon as the propellant for ion propulsion systems that will nudge a small asteroid into lunar orbit. Ronald Menich argues that using NEO materials themselves is a more sustainable approach to developing long-term cislunar infrastructure. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2621/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Big Data Computing Above the Clouds (Source: Space Review)
Data centers, the essential if invisible component of cloud computing, require large amounts of power and cooling to operate effectively. Vid Beldavs describes one solution that would put cloud computing literally above the clouds, in orbit. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2620/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Rocket Lab Among Winners in New Zealand Innovators Awards (Source: Scoop)
Rocket Lab’s creation of a carbon-composite launch vehicle will allow businesses to launch satellites into orbit more cost effectively than anywhere else in the world. Built in their Auckland facility, it will also reduce launch lead-time from years down to weeks. It has the ability to deliver up to 100kg into low Earth orbits. The evaluators thought that the Rocket Lab have done a great job in working out a disruptive and market creating application for this breakthrough technology. (10/16)

Behind the Scenes of Virgin Galactic (Source: Virgin Galactic)
What actually goes on behind the hangar doors of the world’s first commercial spaceline? Here is your chance to find out: join us for a behind the scenes look at Virgin Galactic. Click here. (10/20)

Senate Space Staffer Ann Zulkosky Leaving for Lockheed Martin (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce science and space committee’s top Democratic staffer is stepping down Nov. 7 to take a government affairs position with Lockheed Martin. Ann Zulkosky joined Senate Commerce in 2007 as a NOAA legislative fellow, but spent most of the last seven years working on civil space matters under Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who chairs the science and space subcommittee. (10/20)

Why Floating Into Space is a Dream Come True for Zero Gravity Hero (Source: Independent)
Gavin Walsh realized a lifetime ambition onboard NASA G-Force-1 at the world's top space center in Florida. The opportunity for the visiting public to take a weightless flight was introduced at KSC by the Zero Gravity Corp. last year. The cost of the entire experience - which lasts a day - is around $3,700, according to the website.

Since their introduction, the flights have proved a huge hit with the space- mad visiting public. Each flyer experiences Martian gravity (1/3 Earth's gravity, referred to as "g"), lunar gravity (1/6 g) and zero gravity - the sensation of floating freely with no pull from terra firma. The flight patterns temporarily counteract Earth's gravity, creating weightlessness for several seconds. (10/20)

Network of Spaceports Needed to Advance Space Industry (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico Governor Jack Campbell was a visionary. In 1963, he sent a letter to President Kennedy asking him to "support the establishment of the first inland aerospace port." Today, 51 years later, the state of New Mexico is committed to evolving its role in the commercial space transportation industry. Spaceport America is one piece of the puzzle in creating a global space transportation industry that will be stimulated by the evolution of a network of spaceports in the United States.

Visionary governors are just one of the essential components in the growing commercial space transportation industry in the United State. As states increase their interest in commercial space enterprise, spaceport development has become the leading indicator of the growth of the commercial space transportation industry. Likely, the U.S. will continue to lead in the development of the spaceport network for the next 10 years, as the space transportation industry begins to grow on a global scale. Click here. (10/20)

Editorial: Winds of Change for Weather Data (Source: Space News)
Even limited-government conservatives, like me, would concede that the federal government has a role in weather prediction, at the very least for military operations and national security. Unfortunately, the United States ranks just fourth in accurate and timely weather forecasting despite spending much more than the rest of the world combined.

NOAA is doing some good things to correct this situation. First, NOAA is investing in high-performance computing, which is necessary for the numerical weather prediction models that will enable us to improve weather forecasting. Second, NOAA is exploring options to utilize commercial satellite companies. The U.S. can dramatically improve weather forecasting, save taxpayer dollars and reduce risk by empowering the commercial weather and satellite industries. (10/20)

October 20, 2014

Tom Hanks on His New Space Fiction (Source: New Yorker)
I think Alan Bean should be a household name, along with Jack Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young—all of the dozen guys who walked on the moon. They aren’t—ah, well. Alan is probably the only example of a guy who was really changed by his trip to the moon. He’d been a military guy, a jet pilot, an astronaut, he was on Skylab, etc. Then he came back and took up painting, something he hadn’t done prior to that. Now he’s a full-time artist. Click here. (10/20)

Russia to Orbit 9 Advanced Military Commsats by 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian military will add nine advanced communications satellites to its orbital grouping by 2020, a senior military commander said Monday. “By 2020, the orbital grouping of military communications satellites will be strengthened with nine modern satellites,” Maj. Gen. Khalil Arslanov, the chief of the Main Communications Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, said Monday.

Arslanov said additional satellites will allow the Russian military to quadruple communications traffic and increase average data transfer speed to 8 Mbit/sec. According to open sources, Russia has over 100 satellites deployed in various orbits. Two-thirds of them are military or dual-purpose spacecraft. (10/20)

Earth at Risk After Cuts Close Comet-Spotting Program (Source: Guardian)
The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned. The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding. “There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn’t know about it.” (10/20)

Hey, MIT — What About Success on Mars? (Source: Digital Journal)
MIT's study of the Mars One project has come up with a few very interesting, but debatable figures and options. It’s not infallible. It includes a lot of necessary measures, using different case scenarios based on given parameters, reasonable enough for the purposes of a study. The scenarios including growing food, not growing food, oxygen and nitrogen depletion, and water depletion, accounting for calorie intake and full recycling.

Some news reports on the paper are clear as mud, and wrong in some major respects. Click here. (10/20)

'Virtual Therapist' for ISS Crew (Source: Space Daily)
Since 2001, Dartmouth, Harvard, UCLA and The Troupe Modern Media have been developing the "Virtual Space Station," a set of interactive behavioral health training and treatment programs with support from NASA's National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). The NSBRI recently gave Dartmouth a $1.6 million grant to add new virtual reality and conflict management content to the existing Virtual Space Station programs. The NSBRI is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions developing solutions to health-related problems on long-duration missions.

Dartmouth's Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation lab, better known as DALI, is creating the new technology for the system, including virtual reality content "to help make people feel at ease, at home, happy, comfortable and calm," says Lorie Loeb, a Dartmouth research professor in computer science and executive director of the lab. (10/20)

Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near (Source: Space Daily)
The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust. NASA's Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, Oct. 19, as the comet flew near Mars.

The comet sped within about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars, equivalent to about one-third of the distance between Earth and Earth's moon. Odyssey had performed a maneuver on Aug. 5 to adjust the timing of its orbit so that it would be shielded by Mars itself during the minutes when computer modeling projected a slight risk from high-velocity dust particles in the comet's tail. (10/20)

MAVEN Studies Passing Comet and Its Effects (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft -- full name Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution -- reported back to Earth in good health after about three hours of precautions against a possible collision with high-velocity dust particles released by comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. (10/20)

Two Ways To Space And Back - An Astronaut's View (Source: Aviation Week)
Michael Lopez-Alegria has been to orbit four times – three of them in a NASA space shuttle and once on a Russian Soyuz capsule. At the recent International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, the former U.S. Navy test pilot described the differences taking off and landing in the two vehicles. As you will hear, they are very different indeed. Click here. (10/20)

Thermal Images Of SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket On Descent (Source: Aviation Week)
A partnership between NASA and SpaceX is giving the U.S. space agency an early look at what it would take to land multi-ton habitats and supply caches on Mars for human explorers. Click here so see the video. (10/20) 

Opinion: Mars One Should Take MITs Disturbing Report Seriously (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A disturbing computer simulation by students at MIT indicates that the Mars One plan is a doomed venture before it even gets off the ground. The study, by MIT students Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens, and Olivier de Weck was presented to the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. It points up potentially deadly flaws in the Mars One mission architecture as it is currently designed.

These problems the effort could lead to the crew facing starvation, suffocation, and even incineration. Do, a doctoral student in aeronautics and astronautics, said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post: “We found many problem areas, many of which revolve around the current capability of state-of-the-art technologies. These problems in turn impact the long-term sustainability of the Mars One Plan.”

...Let’s just hope they’re considering all the difficulties that they may encounter. When dedicated to a goal, it’s easy to overlook or minimize problems. In this new era of space exploration, the recent successes of private companies have emboldened groups to reach for ever-loftier goals. However, as these firms and organizations run the risk of overreaching – and in the case of space exploration – such mistakes can be deadly. To put it another way, Lansdorp needs to avoid “go fever.” (10/20)

An All-Female Mission to Mars (Source: Slate)
In February of 1960, the American magazine Look ran a cover story that asked, “Should a Girl Be First in Space?” It was a sensational headline representing an audacious idea at the time. And as we all know, the proposal fell short. In 1961, NASA sent Alan Shepard above the stratosphere, followed by dozens of other spacemen over the next two decades. Only in 1983 did Sally Ride become America’s first female astronaut to launch.

But why would anyone think a woman would be the first to space, anyway? Medical studies, for one thing. Some studies in the 1950s and ’60s suggested female bodies had stronger hearts and could better withstand vibrations and radiation exposure. Moreover, psychological studies suggested that women coped better than men in isolation and when deprived of sensory inputs. Click here. (10/19)

Space Station Is Getting A UPS-Style Shipping Service (Source: Popular Science)
It’s easy to forget that the International Space Station isn’t just a place for astronauts to hang out and take epic selfies. Because of its unique microgravity environment, the station is actually a valuable hub for research and development, housing hundreds of ongoing experiments that involve everything from human tissue growth to protein crystal formation.

Except there’s one little snag when it comes to conducting experiments on the ISS: It’s kind of far away. Getting critical samples from the station to Earth can be a lengthy process, and researchers usually have to wait anywhere from six months to a year before samples can make the trip to laboratories on the ground. These long waits can be risky, as live biological samples have a perishable lifespan and often need to be reviewed quickly before they degrade.

Well now, private spaceflight company Intuitive Machines has a solution to this problem. In cooperation with NASA, the company is developing the Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV), a spacecraft that can deliver experiment samples from station to Earth in less than 24 hours. Think of it as same-day shipping for the ISS. Such a short sample return time opens up more opportunities for research on the ISS that could never have been done before. Click here. (10/20)

Legislative Meeting Monday to Focus on Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The state Legislature's New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee will hold two days of meetings in Las Cruces this week, devoting the entire first day on Monday to Spaceport America. That meeting will include a thorough review of spaceport finances, past, present and future. The Spaceport Authority Board of Directors is expected to be present, along with Executive Director Christine Anderson and Chief Financial Officer Doreen Sieberg, and Finance Authority CEO Robert Coalter. (10/19)

NASA Ames Turns 75; Tens of Thousands Flock to Open House (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Greg Katayuma visited NASA's Ames Research Center when he was in grade school but hadn't been back since. So when he heard that the center was inviting the public into the famed facility to celebrate its 75th anniversary, he jumped at the chance to return.

"We thought we'd come out here and take a look and see what they do," said Katayuma, 59, who spent the better part of Saturday with his family touring the Moffett Field center. He was one of thousands of curious visitors who attended the open house, Ames' first in 17 years. (10/18)

October 19, 2014

ULA Targeting Oct. 29 Launch from Florida (Source: Florida Today)
United Launch Alliance is preparing for an Oct. 29 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport of a new Global Positioning System satellite, the eighth in the newest series of 12 built by Boeing. An Atlas V rocket's 18-minute launch window opens at 1:21 p.m. EDT. More than 30 GPS satellites orbiting about 11,000 miles up provide highly accurate positioning, navigation and timing data to military and civilian users. (10/19)

Science Sample Return Vehicle for ISS National Laboratory (Source: Intuitive Machines)
Intuitive Machines in cooperation with NASA has been selected by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop a Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV) that will enable on demand, rapid return of experiments from the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. Through this commercial service, Intuitive Machines will enable researchers to regularly and quickly return small samples and components from the ISS to Earth. (10/17)

New Mexico Senator Supports RD-180 Replacement (Source: Space News)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said Oct. 17 he continued to support efforts in Congress to fund development of a replacement for the RD-180 rocket engine despite a joint venture by Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance to develop such an engine on their own. “I’m pleased that, in Congress, we’ve taken the steps to provide the initial funding needed in 2015 to begin risk reduction and develop that next-generation rocket engine, and I will continue to support those efforts,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich said he was not swayed by criticism of a planned RD-180 replacement, such as estimates of as many as seven years to develop a replacement. “I think these arguments only serve to prolong the inaction and delay a course of action that will eventually make us much more self-reliant,” He did not suggest that the Blue Origin/ULA effort, which the companies are funding on their own, eliminated the need for the RD-180 replacement. (10/17)

Editorial: Indian Space: Hype Versus Priorities (Source: The News (Pakistan))
India's Mars orbiter may have served as a steroid shot for ISRO. But it will do little to advance India’s S&T. For decades, India was the Third World’s unquestioned ‘science superpower’. In 1980, it globally held the eight position in the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, while China was a distant No 15. By 2010, China had moved up to No 2, and India down to No 9.

India lags behind the developed countries in number of R&D (research and development) personnel, and in scientific output and its impact (measured in the number of citations of papers). Other emerging economies are also catching up. Not just China, but even Russia and South Korea, have more people engaged in R&D than India. Brazil isn’t far behind.

Although India accounts for 3.5 percent of all scientific papers published worldwide, the share of Indian publications in the top one percent impact-making journals is a low 0.54 percent. As many as 45 percent of Indian publications remained uncited in 2006-2010. India’s S&T establishment is in crisis. Its priorities are warped. (10/18)

We Must Explore Space (Source: Humanity Plus)
Space exploration is a challenge to human ingenuity, and celebrations this week, under the banner of World Space Week, are an ode to it. Extreme challenges are found across our solar system. In July 2015, New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto. Pluto is so far from Earth that data will come back from the spacecraft about 5,000 times slower than your home broadband, mimicking the early days of spaceflight where images of Mars from Mariner 4 took hours to trickle back to Earth.

But it will provide a new window into a largely unknown alien world. What will we discover? What will we learn about the origins of the solar system? What will we learn about ourselves? Continued space exploration is the only way we can answer any of those questions. (10/16)

The Biggest Problem Facing Elon Musk's Dream Of Building A City On Mars (Source: Business Insider)
One particular obstacle towers over the rest when building a Mars colony: "no one knows how to manufacture an entire atmosphere." We barely know enough about how our own atmosphere works to keep from destroying it. "On Mars, the best we can expect is a crude habitat, erected by robots," Anderson writes.

Those first pioneers will face a unique set of problems, including carrying out medical and equipment repair procedures they know nothing about. What works for them definitely won't scale to house 1 million people comfortably enough for them to want to spend the rest of their lives there. For one thing, atmosphere of Mars is 100 times lighter than that of Earth, making the air too thin to breathe.

The low atmospheric pressure is also partially responsible for Mars' frigid average surface temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to 57 degrees on Earth). (10/15)

SPACErePORT LinkedIn Group Follows Spaceport Issues (Source: SPACErePORT)
Interested in spaceports? I have created a LinkedIn Group that focuses on spaceport news, including LinkedIn's ability to host discussions. Join the group here. (10/19)

Branson Responds To Musk's Criticism; 'We're About To Prove Him Wrong' (Source: Business Insider)
Q: "Your friend Elon Musk had an interesting thing to say recently. 'I like Richard but,' I think his exact quote was, 'technology is not your whack.' He makes technology; you use technology to create better experiences. What do you think about that?"

A: "Well, I hope we're about to prove him wrong in that. I mean, I would not be able to change a sparking plug and I would not be able to fly a spaceship or build a rocket or whatever. But what I am good at doing is finding brilliant people and surrounding myself with brilliant people. And you know, before Christmas, we'll start to go into space. Earylish next year, I'll be going to space with my kid Sam. I would love to have my daughter, Holly, with me, but she's pregnant. And then we're going to start a whole new era of sending people to space."

"We're building our own spaceships shaped as airplanes. That means that one day we'll be able to transport people across the earth in spaceships. We're going to be able to put thousands of small satellites into space. So at the moment Elon and I are in different areas, but there will come a time, I'm sure, where we'll overlap. He's done something extraordinary — I think our team has done something extraordinary, as well." (10/18)

Sending Pakistan to Mars (Source: Asian Age)
When spacecraft Mangalyaan successfully entered the Martian orbit in late September after a 10-month journey, India erupted in joy. Costing more than an F-16 but less than a Rafale, Mangalyaan’s meticulous planning and execution established India as a space-faring country. Although Indians had falsely celebrated their five nuclear tests of 1998 which were based upon well-known physics of the 1940s the Mars mission is a true accomplishment.

Pakistanis may well ask: can we do it too? What will it take? Seen in the proper spirit, India’s foray into the solar system could be Pakistan’s sputnik moment — an opportunity to reflect upon what’s important. Let’s see how India did it: First, space travel is all about science and India’s young ones are a huge reservoir of enthusiasm for science. Surveys show that 12-16 year olds practically worship Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking...and most want a career in science.

But how can we cash-strapped Pakistanis get to our bit of the solar system? Or establish a presence which we so far lack in the world of science? The process will be slow, but here is how to do it. First, create enthusiasm in our young people for science. Space exploration is only a part of the larger whole. Instead of TV channels saturated with dharna news and random political “experts”, have good educational programmes. Standards of English in Pakistan must improve. Sadly, the world of science is closed to those who can only read or understand Urdu. (10/18)

Leave Space Alone! (Source: Khaleej Times)
We are looking at conquering other planets even as we destroy our own! When Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon in 1969, it was a “giant leap for mankind”. There could have been no disputing that. Today, however, that ‘small step’ can definitely be disputed! In fact, not regretting may be a blunder!

While humans are unable to control the destiny of the planet they occupy, they are bidding to shape the destiny of planets beyond their own. Surely, there could have been better ways to spend the $250,000 (approximately today’s price) a minute that it cost for Armstrong to walk on the moon.

In the intervening years, as threats to our planet have multiplied, that question has become even more important. No doubt, there have been spinoffs, from satellites to several other luxuries that we have got used to in our daily lives, but surely safeguarding the survival of earth should rate above exploring Mars and beyond. (10/19)