September 4 News Items

Space Scientists Meet at ASU to Plan Mars Exploration (Source: ASU)
What should be the nation's goals and priorities for exploring Mars in the 2013 to 2022 timeframe? To help answer this question, space scientists from the United States and around the world will gather Sep. 9-11 at the Faculty Club on ASU's Tempe campus. Most of the discussions will be open to the public, in person and by webcast at The meeting is sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences as part of its efforts to prepare a "Planetary Decadal Survey." The survey is not limited to just Mars but will cover all aspects of solar system exploration. It will broadly canvas planetary scientists to determine current knowledge and then identify the most important scientific questions they will face in the years 2013-2022. (9/4)

Private Enterprise's Ticket to Fly Into Space (Source: Washington Post)
Perhaps, someday, going into space will be as mundane as flying on a commercial aircraft: Buy the ticket online, drive to the aerodrome, shuffle through a cattle-pen security line, grab a burger in the food court, watch a mediocre movie on the way up, and so on. Here's a somewhat more plausible scenario: In the near future, U.S. astronauts could ride into orbit on a rocket that says, on its side, "SpaceX." Or some such exotic company name. The prospect of commercialized spaceflight -- with astronauts going into orbit on rockets owned and operated by private companies -- is becoming more plausible as the White House awaits a sweeping review of the human spaceflight program. (9/4)

Laser-Propelled Spaceships Could Transform Transportation (Source:
Beamed Energy Propulsion (BEP) is far more than a dream or idea: It is a powerful enabling technology that will radically transform the future of air and space transportation. It is physics, not imagination. BEP permits us to build and fly hyper-energetic vehicles driven by remote sources of laser, microwave, and mm-wave power. Such vehicles provide unique performance that would be impossible to achieve with traditional, combustion-based engines. Vehicles driven by BEP will be "greener," safer, smaller, lighter, faster, and far more efficient than any currently existing means of flight transport. (9/4)

NASA Approves CalTech X-Ray Space Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA recently confirmed that the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission will launch in August 2011. NuSTAR will carry the first high-energy X-ray focusing telescopes into orbit, providing a much deeper, clearer view of energetic phenomena such as black holes and supernova explosions than any previous instrument has provided in this region of the electromagnetic spectrum. NuSTAR is a NASA Small Explorer mission led by Caltech, managed by JPL, and implemented by an international team of scientists and engineers. (9/4)

Univ. of Arizona Lectures on Migrating Planets, Hazardous Asteroids Search (Source: UA News)
The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is launching its Fall 2009 Evening Lecture Series with talks on wandering solar system planets and searches for hazardous asteroids from Mount Lemmon. The hour-long lectures begin at 7 p.m. in the Room 308, the Kuiper Space Sciences Building lecture hall. The Kuiper Space Sciences Building is located on the UA campus at 1629 E. University Boulevard. (9/4)

2009 Shaping Up as Profitable Year for Insurers (Source: Space News)
Insurers are likely to face a claim of slightly more than $100 million to pay for the reduced service life of Indonesia’s Palapa-D telecommunications satellite, bringing to around $500 million the amount of satellite-related insurance claims made so far in 2009, insurance broker Willis Inspace said Sept. 4. That $500 million in losses will be set against around $800 million in premium revenue if the three Ariane 5 vehicles and three or four International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rockets scheduled to be launched between September and December occur without failure, according to Willis.

Four major claims make up the estimated losses so far in 2009: the sudden in-orbit loss of Eutelsat’s W2M satellite, insured for 120.5 million euros ($172 million); the failure of two or more of the six satellites launched in mid-2008 by satellite-messaging service provider Orbcomm, which has filed a $50 million claim; a claim of 130 million euros by the Eutelsat-SES joint venture for a defect in the S-band antenna aboard Eutelsat’s W2A satellite; and the Palapa-D claim for about half the satellite’s insured value of some $203 million. (9/4)

Super-Secret Atlas Flight Set For Tuesday Night (Source: Florida Today)
An Atlas V rocket and its classified payload were given a preliminary green light for launch next week as United Launch Alliance and an unidentified U.S. government customer agreed to press ahead with final countdown preparations. The 191-foot-tall Atlas V and its clandestine cargo are scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:35 p.m. Tuesday. The launch window will extend through 7:45 p.m. that night. (9/4)

Astronauts Continue Rigging ISS For Science (Source: Aviation Week)
The 13 astronauts and cosmonauts on the space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station took some time off Friday before plunging into preparations for the third and final spacewalk of the docked portion of their mission. Halfway through the 13-day STS-128 mission, the two crews had accomplished two of their most important tasks - delivering NASA astronaut Stott as the replacement for Tim Kopra, also of NASA, on the space station crew, and swapping out a depleted ammonia-tank with a fresh unit containing 600 pounds of fresh coolant. The astronauts will also replace a rate gyro assembly and a remote power control module, connect some heater cables, route some avionics cables for the Tranquility pressurized node scheduled to arrive in February 2010, and perform other maintenance tasks. (9/4)

NASA Aims for a Mars Landing in 30 Years (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Forget racing to the moon. Some planners within NASA want the space agency to delay its mission of returning astronauts to lunar surface by 2020 and instead set its sights on Mars, according to an internal paper that surfaced Friday afternoon. The six-page proposal envisions a 30-year plan for exploration. Access to low-Earth orbit, including the International Space Station, would be left to commercial rocket companies so NASA could focus on the “higher-risk development” of spacecraft “needed for the path to Mars.”

This plan does not rule out a return trip to the moon. But the moon and asteroids are viewed as “proving grounds” meant to help researchers develop technologies capable of reaching Mars -- a distinction from the Bush administration plan of establishing moon outposts. “NASA must remain the world leader in human spaceflight and lead humankind to prepare for missions to Mars. We are going to Mars because it is civilization’s next major challenge,” notes the paper. “It is exciting, inspiring and what NASA should be doing.” (9/4)

California Space Enterprise SpotBeam Awards Update (Source: CSA)
Air Force Space Command General Robert Kehler has confirmed his attendance at CSA's SpotBeam Awards event on Nov. 18. The deadline for nominations has come and gone. Watch for an announcement of the winners soon. Click here for information. (9/4)

NASA and ATK Schedule Ares-1 Motor Test on Sep. 10 (Source: NASA)
NASA and Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, have rescheduled the test of the new first-stage solid rocket motor for the Ares I rocket. The static firing of the five-segment solid motor, designated development motor -1, is scheduled for 1 p.m. MDT on Thursday, Sep. 10, at the ATK test facility in Promontory, Utah. The first firing attempt on Aug. 27 was scrubbed because of an anomaly with the ground test controller. (9/4)

Low Earth Orbit: Two Pieces of Space Junk Pass in the Night (Source: What's New)
A portion of a European Arianne 5 rocket passed within a mile of the ISS and the shuttle Discovery. There are about 19,000 objects larger than 10 cm that are known to be in low-Earth orbit. This piece was much larger, but even a 10 cm piece of junk is big enough to bring down the ISS. As serious as the space junk problem is, the ISS is far more likely to be brought down by a piece of paper bearing the report of the Augustine panel. The panel has presumably delivered its report to the White House. Norm Augustine is scheduled to testify on the group’s findings in back-to-back hearings before the House and Senate on Sep 15-16. (9/4)

Embry-Riddle to Host Aviation Law Meeting, Including Space Tourism Discussion (Source: ERAU)
On Sep. 11, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will host the tri-annual meeting of the Aviation Law Committee of the Florida Bar. The attendees are practicing attorneys from around the state who specialize in aviation law, including transactional law, representing pilots in FAA enforcement actions, personal injury, representing plaintiffs and defendants, and corporate aviation. At the meeting, to be held at the Daytona Beach campus, the committee members will hear presentations by personnel from the Daytona Air Traffic Control Center (TRACON), as well as discussions of liability issues related to space tourism, and the legal issues involved in training rotor wing pilots. (9/4)

Scientist Rubbishes Apollo 15 Conspiracy Theory (Source: Space Daily)
A Camera on board India's maiden unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 has recorded images of the landing site of US spacecraft Apollo 15, rubbishing conspiracy theories that the fourth US mission to land on the moon four decades back was a hoax. The Terrain mapper camera (TMC) on board Chandrayaan-1, which had an abrupt end a few days back, has sent the prints of landing site of Apollo 15 and tracks of the lunar rovers used by astronauts to travel on lunar surface, a senior scientist associated with India's lunar mission said during a presentation here. (9/4)

One Giant Slip in Bangladesh News (Source: BBC)
Two Bangladeshi newspapers have apologized after publishing an article taken from a satirical US website which claimed the Moon landings were faked. The Daily Manab Zamin said US astronaut Neil Armstrong had shocked a news conference by saying he now knew it had been an "elaborate hoax". Neither they nor the New Nation, which later picked up the story, realised the Onion was not a genuine news site. "We thought it was true so we printed it without checking," an associate editor said. (9/4)

Is Europa Our Best Hope for Finding Extraterrestrial Life? (Source: Discover)
Jupiter’s moon Europa is a forbidding world, yet NASA intends to devote billions of dollars over the next decade to getting there. At the center of this effort will be the most complicated orbital explorer ever built, each of its components carefully armored against the deadly stream of particles in Jupiter’s massive wake. The orbiter will require six years to reach its destination. Then, when it arrives at Europa, engineers will consider the mission successful if it survives for just three months of exploration before shorting out. (9/4)

White House to Receive Augustine Summary Next Week (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An independent space panel is expected on Tuesday to present the White House with a "summary report" of its recommendations for NASA's future, according to the panel's website. The report follows weeks of public hearings aimed at finding the best course for NASA's human spaceflight program, which faces an uncertain future. (9/4)

Editorial: Humans Too Attached to Terrestrial Life, Lack Curiosity (Source: Daily Cardinal)
Do you realize that we’re floating in space? It’s something I found myself saying over and over again this summer, while being bombarded with coverage of Apollo 11’s 40th anniversary as well as the Parseids meteor shower in July. I also found myself asking, why aren’t we out there in space? Why aren’t we exploring like we used to? Have we run out of curiosity? I supplemented my cosmic ruminations with countless episodes of the BBC sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” watching as David Tennant’s terribly clever Doctor guided mankind safely through the perils of the galaxy in his spaceship cloaked as a police call-box. “Brilliant,” the Doctor would exclaim upon finding humans somewhere out amongst the stars. “So far from Earth, out here only to explore.” (9/4)

The Hunt for Habitable Exomoons (Source: Astronomy Now)
While astronomers keenly await the discovery of Earth-like planets around other stars, the possibility of habitable moons should not be ruled out either, say scientists. NASA's Kepler spacecraft launched earlier this year with the hunt for Earth-like planets the primary goal of the mission. It will make detections using the transit method – by looking for the characteristic dips in stellar brightness as a planet passes in front of its parent star.

An exomoon’s gravity tugs on the planet it orbits, making the planet wobble during its orbit around its host star. Kepler should be able to record the resulting changes in the position and velocity of the planet during these transits. Low density Saturn-like planets give the best possible chance for detecting moons since their low mass means they wobble much more than comparatively heavier planets like Jupiter. An even more exciting scenario is if the Saturn-like planet orbits within the not-too-hot, not-too-cold 'Goldilocks zone' of the star then liquid water could be stable on any sufficiently large moon, and the presence of water is crucial for life as we know it. (9/4)

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