November 1 News Items

The Worst Spy Ever (Source: Daily Beast)
He thought he was talking to Mossad, but it was really the FBI. How a former NASA scientist, who pleaded not guilty this week to espionage charges, walked into an intelligence trap. If Stewart David Nozette, arrested by the FBI this month, is convicted of imagining he was spying for Israel, though the Israelis never recruited him, then it will be because he built his own prison cell for the next 10 to 20 years. If you have been an eminent space scientist with a serious security clearance—as Nozette was—and you run around telling people you want to spy, you shouldn’t be surprised if the FBI knocks on the door. Click here to view the article. (11/1)

Virgin Galactic Eschews Flight Attendants (Source SPACErePORT)
During last month's International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, Virgin Galactic was asked if it intends to include a professional flight attendant aboard its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplanes. Given current unknowns about the potential for health and safety problems during such weightless flights, and the FAA's current hands-off approach to regulating the new industry, the question attracted attention from many in the audience.

Their answer surprised some. The company currently does not plan to include a flight attendant (probably out of concern that profits would suffer by reducing passengers from six to five per flight). Instead, the Virgin official said they would rely on passenger training, team-building, and other measures to address potential problems. (Perhaps the co-pilot could be assigned some additional responsibilities, or one passenger might receive additional training.)

Without a trained attendent onboard, passengers might be on their own during the tricky transitions from multi-g rocket-powered flight, to free-floating weightlessness, to strapped-in re-entry. Zero-G Corp., operating under a different set of FAA regulations, is required to have flight attendants onboard its weightless flights to insure passenger safety. (11/1)

European Satellite to Launch From Russian Spaceport (Source:
Europe is preparing to launch a new satellite to unravel the mysteries of Earth's water cycle, shedding new light on how moisture is absorped into the atmosphere and the process's link to climate change. The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity, or SMOS, satellite is awaiting launch early Monday aboard a Rockot launcher. The Rockot, made of retired USSR ballistic missile parts, will take off from Complex 133 at the Plesetsk spaceport about 500 miles north of Moscow. (11/1)

Japan's HTV Completes resupply Mission to ISS (Source: Mainichi Daily)
The H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), Japan's first unmanned resupply spacecraft, completed its mission to the International Space Station (ISS) early on Saturday and began its journey back towards Earth. The HTV was successfully detached from the ISS at 2:32 a.m. on Saturday, 43 days after docking on Sept. 18. The HTV is expected to be visible to the naked eye from Japan until it re-enters the atmosphere Monday morning, where it will burn up. (10/31)

Politicians Won't Get Us Back Into Space, But Novelists Might (Source: Newsweek)
What has culture done to fuel our interstellar dreams lately? A survey of the popular fictional work in this decade turns up grim results. Over the summer, ABC produced Impact, a miniseries that capped its bad acting and cliché plots by splitting the poor old moon in two—a gratuitous act of interplanetary violence. J. J. Abrams's big-screen Star Trek reboot was a better-than-average summer popcorn flick, but lost in all its exciting fight scenes was the aura of wonder and camaraderie that might explain why the young Barack Obama (as he later put it) "grew up on" the original series.

Battlestar Galactica earned some snob approval for sci-fi a few years back, using its setup (the last survivors of the annihilation of humanity on the run) to explore such issues as cloning and civilian-military ties. But the relationships never seemed all that compelling, and the production design somehow made even the distant cosmos look like a Canadian soundstage. Most egregious of all are the Star Wars prequels, which are interesting mainly for the chance to watch George Lucas ignore so completely the message of his own films—embracing soulless technology over such human concerns as story and character, ineluctably giving in to his own Dark Side.

An exception to this trend is Joss Whedon's swashbuckling series Firefly and follow-up movie Serenity. In its offhand, off-kilter way—imagine a Western in space, starring the A-Team—it made me laugh and held my interest. It's the only mainstream sci-fi lately that made me dream even briefly of zipping through space, or feel more willing to cough up tax dollars so somebody else could do the same. (11/1)

Nebraska Museum Gets NASA Spacecraft (Source: KETV)
A NASA spacecraft designed to save lives has a new home in Nebraska. The Johnson Space Center in Houston chose to house its experimental X38 crew return vehicle at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. The spacecraft was designed to help astronauts make an emergency trip back home in case of trouble on the International Space Station. The program was scrapped in 2002. (11/1)

NASA Funding May Land in Arizona (Source: Arizona Republic)
NASA's efforts to transform human space missions could boost Arizona's aerospace industry. Orbital Sciences Corp. and Paragon Space Development Corp. are vying for a piece of the $50 million in research funding NASA is expected to award businesses this month as part of the initiative.

The companies design and develop space-related technology at facilities in Arizona, and other local technology firms could benefit if either company secures funding. NASA is exploring options that would involve private businesses operating human missions into space. While still just an idea, the move would be a radical shift for NASA. Dulles, Va.-based Orbital, which employs 1,500 workers at its growing manufacturing campus in Chandler, and Tucson-based Paragon, which employs 65, both submitted plans. Orbital and Paragon executives said their potential involvement in the program could lead to the creation of new jobs at their Arizona facilities. (11/1)

Ares I-X Test May Not Save Ares I, But Could Help Future NASA Funding (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's spectacular launch of the Ares I-X test rocket last week may not save the Ares I crew rocket developed at Marshall Space Flight Center, but it could pave the way for more NASA funding overall, a local space expert says. "This test gives NASA credibility, not that it was needed from the perspective of engineering. It was needed from the political side," said Mark McDaniel, a Huntsville attorney who formerly sat on the NASA Advisory Council and still advises congressmembers on space issues. "This gives NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden something to have in his bag when he goes up on the Hill and tells Congress he really does need $3 billion more a year to make NASA viable. (11/1)

Dark Matter "Wrecking Ball" May Have Hit Milky Way (Source: USA Today)
Darth Vader's Death Star? Ming the Merciless and his war rockets? The awesome power of Chuck Norris? Piffle, suggests one astrophysicist, at least when it comes to explaining what force could have permanently bent a ring in our Milky Way Galaxy within the last 60 million years. The real explanation may be the power of an invisible wrecking ball made of dark matter — a cloud of the enigmatic physics particles born in the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang and weighing as much as 10 million suns.

Left behind by this "Dark Matter Clump" cataclysm was a tilted swirl of newborn stars circling within the galaxy called the " Gould Belt," which incidentally may have sent comets hurtling towards Earth, suggests astrophysicist Kenji Bekki of Australia's University of New South Wales in a recent Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. (11/1)

No comments: