September 6 News Items

Chandrayaan-I Was 'Killed' by Heat Stroke (Source: Times of India)
The reasons for early termination of the Chandrayaan-I mission are now tumbling out and they reveal that ISRO had kept the Moon orbiter's problems tightly under wraps. Contrary to the space agency's explanation that Chandrayaan's orbit around the Moon had been raised from 100km to 200km in May this year for a better view of the Moon's surface, it is now known that this was because of a miscalculation of the Moon's temperature that had led to faulty thermal protection.

Admitting this, Dr T K Alex, director, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, said, “We assumed that the temperature at 100km above the Moon's surface would be around 75 degrees Celsius. However, it was more than 75 degrees and problems started to surface. We had to raise the orbit to 200km." It now transpires that heating problems on the craft had begun as early as November 25, 2008, forcing ISRO to deactivate some of the payloads — there were 11 in all. As a result, some of the experiments could not be carried out which raised questions on whether the pre-launch thermal vacuum test done on the spacecraft at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore was adequate. (9/6)

Space Sights and Smells Surprise Rookie Astronauts (Source:
For rookie astronauts flying aboard the International Space Station, the food is good, the rocket thrusters are loud and there's an odd tang in the air - apparently from outer space. "It's a very, very different environment than I expected," Discovery shuttle pilot Kevin Ford, a first-time spaceflyer, said from orbit late Friday. One of things Ford wasn't ready for is the weird smell.
"From the [spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in," Ford said from the station in a Friday night news conference. "It's like...something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it. You know how those things stick with you." In the past, astronauts have described the smell of space as something akin to gunpowder or ozone. (9/5)

Travel to Space in an Inflatable Elevator (Source: Times of India)
The idea of a space elevator that zooms people into space has long been the dream of scientists, sci-fi writers such as Arthur C Clarke and even children’s writer Roald Dahl. It was Dahl who famously wrote ‘Willy Wonka and the Glass Elevator’. But a major hurdle in realizing the dream has been finding the right construction material. Now, three scientists from York University in Toronto, Raj Seth, Brendan Quine and George Zhu, have proposed an inflatable space tower up to 20 km tall, which can carry people and payloads into space.

The Toronto proposal is for a space elevator made of Kevlar, a light, strong, synthetic fibre that is normally used for bullet-proof vests. The proposed elevator would be a pressurized structure with compartments arranged in vertical and horizontal sections. It would be stabilized with a variety of balancing methods. "Inflatable structures have several advantages, such as being lightweight, lower lifecycle costs, and simpler design with fewer parts. The tower beam ...can be inflated with air, helium and/or hydrogen.” (9/6)

Brown Economists Measure GDP Growth from Outer Space (Source: Brown University)
Measurements of economic growth often fall short for developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Three Brown University economists suggest a way to improve GDP estimates for such areas by using images of nighttime lights as seen from space. While almost all industrialized countries receive a grade of A, nearly all sub-Saharan African countries get a grade of C or D. Several countries do not appear in the table, including Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, and Liberia. To improve these estimates, researchers suggest combining measured income data with the changes observed in a country’s “night lights” as seen from outer space. Using U.S. weather satellite picture composites, they look at changes in a region’s light density over a 10-year period. “Consumption of nearly all goods in the evening requires lights,” they write. “As income rises, so does light usage per person, in both consumption activities and many investment activities.” (9/6)

Ares May Look Dead but Keeps Kicking (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Critics of NASA's Ares 1 rocket have all but declared the program dead. But Ares 1 contractors are fighting back with a campaign to convince the White House that their plan to replace the space shuttle should continue. The ultimate decision rests with the Obama administration, which has not yet taken a public stand on its preference. "It's not dead. But is it [Ares 1] the optimal choice? I don't know," said Leroy Chiao, a panel member and former astronaut. Champions of Ares insist that after four years — and $3 billion — the program is too far along to throw away. (9/6)

Join The Debate And Vote On NASA's Future (Source: Florida Today)
The White House is facing big decisions about NASA's human space flight program and we're launching a special online poll and town hall forum to find out what you think. Should President Obama extend shuttle fleet operations? Should the International Space Station be ditched in the Pacific in 2016 as planned? Should NASA cancel the Ares I rocket and rely on commercial or military launchers to send up U.S. astronauts? Should NASA go back to the moon? Straight to Mars? Or perhaps an asteroid?

All of the options will result in job losses at the Kennedy Space Center. We'd like you to weigh in by voting on our 10 poll questions and sharing your more detailed thoughts in a week-long forum starting now. You can interact there with our space reporters and editors as well as some special guests. You can find it all by clicking here now. (9/6)

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