May 27 News Items

Continental Pilot Startled by Encounter with 'Rocket' (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A Continental Airlines pilot reported being startled by what he described as a rocket that shot past his cockpit window Monday when the plane was about eight miles north of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. "We don't know for sure what the object was. But we think it might be somebody doing model rocketing," said an FAA spokesman. "The pilot saw the rocket and some people saw the rocket's trail (of smoke)." The pilot made no diversionary maneuvers and the plane was not damaged.

If it was model rocket, investigators want to know the type and who launched it. "Building rockets is a legitimate hobby, but hobbyists have to let the FAA know what they're doing," the FAA spokesman said. Robert Morehead, an engineer who is president of the Amateur Spaceflight Association in Houston, said the FAA would only need to be notified if a rocket would be entering controlled airspace.

Alternative Boondoggles (Source:
The direct cost to the US government of the war and occupation of Iraq — counting only funds appropriated by Congress — so far runs to roughly $523 billion. So. What fun boondoggles could we have bought with $523 billion? Price estimates vary from $20 billion (presumably for a single round-trip) to $450 billion (presumably for a single round trip plus all the externalities, like developing the spacecraft and equipment and conducting a thorough prior reconnaissance using unmanned landers).

Either way, the direct costs of the Iraq war exceed the maximum cost estimate for a manned Mars expedition, infrastructure and all, by 20%. If we take $20 billion as the cost per mission and $450 billion as the cost to develop the technology to go there, the direct cost of the Iraq war would be sufficient to develop a gold-plated Mars expeditionary capability and send six crews of astronauts to Mars (and bring them back afterwards). (5/26)

Space Policy Panel at Netroots Nation (Source: Space Politics)
There will a space policy panel at Netroots Nation (formerly Yearly Kos), this July in Austin, Texas. It’s a fairly high-power panel, featuring Lori Garver, Patti Grace Smith, and George Whitesides, among others. The panel is “an opportunity to bring critical space policy issues to light within a potent progressive political constituency—the Netroots—that hasn’t historically paid much attention to space. It is also an opportunity for the Netroots to weigh in on what a new progressive space policy agenda could be under a progressive Administration in 2009.” The formal description of the panel:

"NASA is in crisis–overburdened, under-funded, and inefficient. Yet the progressive legacy of space, which dates back to JFK, is being quietly reborn: NASA can reinvent itself as a critical resource in climate change mitigation; the UN and some in the U.S. military are collaborating to prevent space weapons from becoming an arms race with China; progressive “NewSpace” entrepreneurs are creating new domestic high-tech jobs. Before 2009, a new progressive space policy needs to be devised and advocated beyond the traditional space constituencies, to upgrade Bush’s failing space exploration vision. Who better to initiate this work than the Netroots?" (5/26)

China Launches First of New Generation Polar Orbiting Satellites (Source:
A Chinese CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicle - carrying the Feng Yun-3A satellite - has lifted off from the Taiyuan spaceport located in the Shanxi province. This is the first satellite of the second generation of Chinese polar orbiting meteorological satellites. The satellite will operate in a 836 km sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of 98.7 degrees, covering the planet twice a day. (5/27)

There is a Better Way Forward, Part Two (Source: Space Review)
Advocates for DIRECT (as an alternative to Ares-1 and Ares-5) argue that their concept takes better advantage of existing shuttle infrastructure and provides better performance than the vehicles currently under development by NASA. If we allow the Ares 1 to destroy our current Shuttle-derived heavy-lift infrastructure and workforce, there will be no going back. Visit to view the article. (5/27)

Russia and Europe to Build New Manned Spacecraft (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian and European space agencies are due to discuss the joint development of a manned spacecraft at a Berlin air show taking place May 27 to June 1. A spokesman for the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said earlier that it had agreed with the European Space Agency (ESA) to jointly build a manned spacecraft for flights to near-Earth orbits and the Moon. Anatoly Perminov said further talks would focus on areas of responsibility for the agencies. He went on to say that once responsibilities had been settled, funding and commitments at the level of production facilities would be considered in detail. (5/27)

Japan Plans to Brew 'Space Beer' (Source: AFP)
A Japanese brewery Tuesday said it was planning the first "space beer," using offspring of barley once stored at the International Space Station. Researchers said the project was part of efforts to prepare for a future in which humans spend extended periods of time in space -- and might like a cold beer after a space walk. Japanese brewery Sapporo Holdings said it would make beer using the third generation of barley grains that had spent five months on the International Space Station in 2006. "We want to finish the beer by November. It will be the first space beer," Sapporo executive Junichi Ichikawa told reporters. (5/27)

Not So Fast, Japan, Comet's Tail Ale is First Space Beer (Source: MEI)
The world's first space beer made its inaugural flight at Kelly's Brewery in Albuquerque. Microgravity Enterprises Inc., which partnered with Kelly's to make Comet's Tail Amber Ale from yeast that went to space, held a "Launch Fest" last year at the brewery. "We went through three kegs in about four hours," said Zach Guilmette, head brewer at Kelly's. "I've never seen a new beer sell so quickly." Said one customer: "The fact that it went to space sort of guarantees that you have to at least try it." (8/07)

Educational Launch Competition Planned For New Mexico Spaceport (Source: MEI)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) intends to create a competitive educational launch program for students in public schools and universities. The program is envisioned to be a collaborative effort between the NMSA, the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFRL), the X-Prize Foundation, the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University (NMSG), UP Aerospace and Microgravity Enterprises, Inc. (MEI).

NMSA Executive Director Steve Landeene looks forward to creating the launch competition for the 2008-2009 academic year. “The spaceport is all about finding new, innovative ways to access space, and inspiring today’s young minds to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” Landeene said. “It is a part of fulfilling Spaceport America’s educational mission.” The competition will be for students to build and fly 100-plus scientific payloads on an upcoming UP Aerospace vertical launch out of Spaceport America, scheduled for Spring 2009. (4/15)

Nelson on Presidential Candidates and Space Policy (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) recently spent some time talking about the presidential election and the relevance of space policy to the campaign. He is convinced that space will be critical to winning Florida, and thus the White House. “I am banking on the fact that I believe that Florida is going to be critical again in this presidential election,” he said. “And therefore I am going to take this opportunity to educate the two presidential candidates that if they want to win Florida, this [space policy] is mightily important.”

Nelson has already talked about this issue to the Democratic candidates. Nelson referred to Obama’s recent comments about space in Florida. “You will see he made a different statement, and I thanked him for that this morning, and he said, ‘I’ve been listening to you,’” he recounted. “And I said, ‘I know how to win in Florida.’” He added he had similar discussions with Clinton, who he described as having “the best position of all three of them on the space program.”

Nelson said he had some discussions with McCain on space, “and it is my intention to lean on him pretty hard” on the subject. Nelson said he was concerned about McCain’s proposal for a domestic spending freeze if elected. “The thing that worries me about John is that John gets into these rigid positions and it’s hard to get him off of it,” Nelson said. “If that’s his position, I want to make sure the people of Florida know that, and especially the people of east-central Florida. So maybe we’ll have a chance to get a little more flexibility out of him if Florida becomes key.” Nelson added that another battleground state in the general election is likely to be Ohio. “And guess who I’ve been talking to: John Glenn,” he said. “I think he is prepared to do the same thing in Ohio” if the state becomes key to the election. (5/26)

NASA, Brevard Board to Sign Accord (Source: Florida Today)
NASA and the Brevard Workforce Development Board will sign an agreement today to help Kennedy Space Center workers find new jobs after the space shuttle program ends in 2010. The goal of the Space Act Agreement will be to prepare both federal and contract shuttle employees to work on NASA's next-generation space vehicles or find new employment outside the space program. "We're interested in what kind of skills they'll need to upgrade and be competitive," said Brevard Workforce Development Board President Lisa Rice. (5/27)

Discovery Launch Preparations Underway (Source: Florida Today)
With the successful arrival on Mars of the Phoenix spacecraft, NASA will turn its attention to Saturday's launch of Discovery on a mission to deliver a massive Japanese laboratory to the International Space Station. Discovery's astronaut crew arrives at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday about 11:30 a.m. EDT. The coundown begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Few technical issues have arisen to slow work, and a record low number of technical issues has been reported during Discovery's processing flow. Discovery will blast off at 5:02 p.m. EDT on a trip to deliver the 37-foot Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station. (5/27)

Space Station Crew May Face Another Bumpy Re-Entry (Source: Reuters)
Faulty bolts were suspected of causing the last two "ballistic landings" aboard Russian Soyuz capsules and they are also fitted on the re-entry capsule now docked at the ISS. "There are explosive bolts which keep two modules attached to Soyuz capsules," the source said. "They are supposed to go off right before the entry into the Earth's atmosphere." "For some reason this didn't work (on the previous two re-entries), although the unseparated modules fell off eventually. What is bad is that another Soyuz-TMA is believed to have this faulty device and is docked at the ISS for the return trip." (5/25)

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