October 18 News Items

UAE Pioneers Way Into Space For Arab Countries (Source: Space Daily)
The UAE is forging ahead with the development of a national space industry and its pioneering role can help accelerate the establishment of a Pan Arab space agency which would reduce the cost of sending satellites into orbit. The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology's recent launch of the UAE's first ingeniously built remote sensing satellite, DubaiSat-1, and Yahsat's planned telecommunications satellite launches are evidence that the UAE is showing the way forward for Arab countries in the creation of a regional space program.

The need for the UAE to lead Arab countries into space was highlighted by senior delegates at the Global Space Technology Forum launched in Abu Dhabi last November, and that message is being underlined in the countdown to this year's event which will attract experts from NASA to the UAE capital for the first time in December. The establishment of an Arab Space Research Agency is seen as essential to combine talent, information and technology between countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and plans have already been submitted to governments across the region. (10/18)

2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge Kicks Off in California (Source: SpaceRef.com)
With clear skies the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge got underway this week. With judges certifying that excavators have met the required specifications, the competition is underway at NASA Ames Research Center. Exceeding expectations, hundreds of audience participants are meeting with team contestants, viewing the robotic creations, exploring exhibits and eagerly watching the competition unfold. Three of the 23 teams who originally registered for the competition withdrew on their own accord. The event is co-sponsored by the California Space Authority. For more information about the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge, click here. (10/18)

Jupiter's Moon Europa Has Enough Oxygen For Life (Source: PhysOrg.com)
New research suggests that there is plenty of oxygen available in the subsurface ocean of Europa to support oxygen-based metabolic processes for life similar to that on Earth. In fact, there may be enough oxygen to support complex, animal-like organisms with greater oxygen demands than microorganisms. If a 100 kilometer-deep ocean existed below the Europan ice shell, it would be 10 times deeper than any ocean on Earth and would contain twice as much water as Earth's oceans and rivers combined. Click here for the article. (10/18)

Shuttle Question: Fly, or Not to Fly? (Source: Florida Today)
Postponing the shuttle's retirement would save jobs, shorten the gap in U.S. human spaceflight and avoid having to rely on Russia to launch American astronauts into space. Politically, it's safer than the alternative because it could save thousands of jobs in a poor economy. But is that option -- one of many being presented to President Barack Obama this month -- even viable? And if so, is it safe to keep flying the orbiters?

Many respected aerospace industry veterans say no. They contend that NASA's shuttle is an inherently dangerous vehicle that should be retired in 2010 or 2011, after the assembly of the International Space Station is complete. NASA's own space operations chief notes that it may be too late to reverse course and keep the fleet flying through 2015. If directed to do so, however, he and other NASA officials said it could be done safely. "My opinion is that it is acceptably safe, and I think it's much better than the alternative of not flying anyone on U.S. spacecraft for the period of time we're talking about," said John Shannon, NASA's shuttle program manager.

The agency has begun shutting down production of external tanks at a factory in New Orleans. The last shuttle solid rocket booster segment has been cast in Utah. And a final main engine test firing took place in Mississippi two months ago. Nationwide, the shuttle workforce already has been cut to 11,800 -- down from 16,000 in 2005, 20,000 in the late 1990s and 40,000 in the early '90s. (10/18)

Maintaining Morale as Shuttle Workforce Declines (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The space shuttle program has had a busy year, with four flights already and another likely next month with STS-129. At the same time, as the program winds down (it could end as early as September 2010) managers say they are concerned about the morale of the workforce. "It's something that's very much on our minds daily," said John Shannon, the shuttle program's manager. The shuttle program currently employs about 11,800, down 900 positions in the last month after manufacturing workers were let go as the final components for the final six shuttle missions are completed.

Of the remaining employees about 10,300 are contractors and 1,500 civil servants with NASA. Shannon said another round of layoffs -- not as significant as the cuts during the last month -- will come in January. One big uncertainty for many of these employees looking ahead is whether they will have a program to go to, Constellation, or whether that program will be largely undone after President Obama considers recommendations from the Augustine panel he appointed. If that happens, or if Constellation is delayed due to a lack of funds, a lot of human spaceflight employees could be jobless in a year's time. (10/18)

600th Atlas Mission Launches Military Satellite from California (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
After nearly 52 years of venerable service to the United States and the world’s space endeavors, the veteran Atlas rocket vehicle embarked on its 600th mission Sunday, launching the USAF Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F18 (DMSP F18) satellite from Vandenberg AFB on the newest member of the Atlas rocket family: the Atlas V. Making its inaugural flight on December 17, 1957, the Atlas missile was originally conceived of and built as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) during the Cold War.

Approximately 350 Atlas missiles were originally constructed, many of which were later converted into orbital launch vehicles after the missiles were withdrawn from military service. Since 1957, the various incarnations of the Atlas rocket (18 in all), have been responsible for a wide range of successful launches for the U.S. and world community. Some of these missions include the launch of the first communications satellite, four of the six manned Mercury Program missions, Agena target vehicles for the Gemini Program, numerous weather satellites, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the New Horizons probe to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. (10/18)

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