May 22 News Items

Rocket Fuel: We're Going Back to the Moon to Get Water? (Source: What's New)
Last week, Science magazine was perpetuating the rocket-fuel-on-the-Moon fantasy. I don't know where it got started, but in March of 1998, Alan Binder, the chief scientist on the Lunar Prospector mission, exulted that, "for the first time, we know that when we go to another planetary body, we can fuel up." It seems that water, or ice, had been detected in lunar soil at the bottom of craters near the poles. Science magazine said last week that, "the lure of a resource easily convertible into to a high-energy fuel of oxygen and hydrogen has driven the decades long and often exasperating search for lunar ice." It's not nearly as exasperating as it will be in the unlikely event that they do find water and try to turn it into rocket fuel. If our planet is indeed covered with rocket fuel to a depth of miles, why is there an energy crisis? (5/22)

Russian Plan Would Save ISS Modules for "Shipyard" Work (Source: BBC)
Russia is making plans to detach and fly away its parts of the International Space Station when the time comes to de-orbit the rest of the outpost. Industry officials told BBC News of plans to keep the Russian ISS modules flying around a decade from now. ISS partners are optimistic they will be able to extend funding for the project beyond a current 2015 deadline. But most observers agree that most of the International Space Station will have to be scrapped around 2020. According to the plans, the remaining Russian modules will form the core of a new orbital outpost, which would serve as a haven and assembly shop for deep space missions heading to the Moon, Mars and beyond. (5/22)

UCF's Rosen College, Industry Leaders Host Space Tourism Conference (Source: UCF)
Senior hospitality, tourism and entertainment leaders will join space industry executives at a unique conference next week to talk about how their businesses can collaborate. The Space Investment Summit 6 will be held Wednesday, May 27, at the Omni Orlando Resort in ChampionsGate. The summit is organized in part by the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The full-day summit will focus on rapidly expanding links between space and non-space industries and will bring together many of the most respected and creative minds to address issues such as the development of simulation and virtual space experiences. (5/22)

Senate Confirms Babbitt to Head FAA (Source: AIA)
The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Randy Babbitt, President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. The former president of the Air Line Pilots Association will face a long-simmering labor feud with air traffic controllers and oversee the rollout of the NextGen system. (5/22)

House Passes FAA Reauthorization Legislation (Source: AIA)
For the second time, the House of Representatives has passed its version of a bill reauthorizing the FAA. The legislation details have been debated for several months, and the version passed yesterday includes several amendments and provisions that sparked debate on the House floor. These include: a provision that would make it easier for FedEx employees to unionize by shifting jurisdiction of unionization rules to the National Labor Relations act; authorization of a congressional study of pilot training; and increased inspection of aircraft repair stations abroad. The legislation still must pass the Senate, which allowed a similar bill to die in 2007. (5/22)

NASA Study Shows Asteroids May Have Accelerated Life on Earth (Source: NASA)
A NASA-funded study indicates that an intense asteroid bombardment nearly 4 billion years ago may not have sterilized the early Earth as completely as previously thought. The asteroids, some the size of Kansas, possibly even provided a boost for early life. The study focused on a particularly cataclysmic occurrence known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, or LHB. This event occurred approximately 3.9 billion years ago and lasted 20 to 200 million years. The results show that while the Late Heavy Bombardment might have generated enough heat to sterilize Earth's surface, microbial life in subsurface and underwater environments almost certainly would have survived. (5/21)

NASA Set to Move Endeavour for Next Mission (Source: NASA)
In preparation for the STS-127 space shuttle mission in June. Shuttle Endeavour will move from Launch Pad 39B to pad 39A on May 30, and the STS-127 crew's launch dress rehearsal, known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, will take place from May 31 to June 2. Endeavour had been sitting on 39B for a potential rescue mission to save the crew of Atlantis in the event of an on-orbit emergency during their Hubble repair mission. (5/22)

Bolden's Lobbyist Past Could Be An Issue For NASA Nomination (Source: Science Insider)
Last weekend, several media outlets reported that the White House was on the verge of nominating former astronaut Charles Bolden Jr. as the administrator of NASA. The only step along the way was supposed to be a meeting between the 62-year-old Bolden and President Barack Obama. The meeting did take place on Tuesday, but a nomination seems unlikely this week.

It's possible that Bolden's past as a lobbyist for ATK, a manufacturer of rocket boosters, and his connection until March 2008 to GenCorp, which provides propulsion systems for the space shuttle, is raising concerns about a possible conflict with Obama's ethics policy. The policy bars appointees from participating in matters involving former clients for 2 years from the appointment date. White House officials have not offered any statements about how the policy might impact Bolden's capability to make decisions as NASA head. There's also no indication on whether the Administration will seek a waiver to enable his appointment, as it has done with some previous appointments. (5/21)

Bolden's Lobbyist Past Shouldn't Be An Issue (Source: Space Politics)
So Bolden was a registered lobbyist for ATK for a few months, recorded less than $10,000 in income, and eventually stated that the lobbyist registration was a mistake. Should this be an obstacle to a potential NASA administrator nomination? It does not run afoul of the White House’s executive order issued just after President Obama took office, which has only a two-year statue of limitations on lobbying activity. (It also, strictly speaking, refers only to “appointees”, not “nominees” for positions that require Senate confirmation.) If there are reasons why Bolden should not be NASA administrator, this, it seems, should not be one of them. (5/22)

How to Build an Affordable Spaceplane (Source: Time Compression)
Take off from a typical airstrip, fly a nearly vertical maneuver to 200,000 feet at twice the speed of sound, make a slow backflip, take a few snapshots of the earth while you linger a few minutes at zero G, and spiral down safely back to the runway. Refuel and repeat. That’s the 30-minute flight plan for the Lynx, a two-seat suborbital air/spacecraft developed by XCOR Aerospace, one of a handful of companies chasing the dream of private space travel. Their reusable craft will fly several times a day, taking sightseers to the edge of space--for a $95,000-ticket. Click here to view the article. (5/22)

Talis Enterprise Signs Dev Deal with SPL, Malaysian Space Tourism Group (Source: Parabolic Arc)
From the Talis Enterprise website comes news of a joint development agreement between the German space tourism company, the Swiss Propulsion Laboratory (SPL), and Space Tourism Society, Malaysian Chapter (STSMC). According to the press release: "A goal is it to develop space travel systems for research institutes or for space tourism operators." (5/22)

NASA Targets Saturday Landing (Source: Florida Today)
The Atlantis astronauts will spend at least one extra day in space, due to weather conditions in Florida that have scrubbed a Friday landing at KSC. They'll make another attempt to land at KSC early Saturday but conditions could divert the crew to a back-up site in California or keep them in orbit yet another day. Atlantis will have two shots at landing at KSC on Saturday: 9:16 a.m. and 10:54 a.m. Two opportunities also would be available at Edwards Air Force Base in California: 10:46 a.m. and 12:24 p.m. EDT. (5/22)

Russia Orbits Military Satellite (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia successfully launched and orbited a military Kosmos communications satellite aboard a Soyuz rocket. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said last month the space military information system will get two communication satellites this year, as well as “a principally new reconnaissance craft.” “It was the sixth successful launch of the modernized Soyuz-2 rocket in the framework of test flights,” said Sergei Tyulevin, first deputy director of Progress design bureau, adding launches will continue from Plesetsk, Baikonur, and Kourou in French Guiana. The basic Soyuz rocket accomplished 1650 launches. “It is the most reliable, the most widely launched rocket in modern space research,” Tyulevin said. (5/22)

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