November 2 News Items

Study: Bacteria May Limit Space Travel (Source: Space Daily)
French scientists say the prolific virulence and growth of bacteria in space, coupled with reduced production of antibodies, might limit future space travel. The researchers from Nancy-University in Lorraine, France, said long-term space flights might be compromised by microbial hitchhikers, such as bacteria. That's because space travel appears to weaken the human immune system, while increasing the virulence and growth of microbes, they said. "When people think of space travel, often the vast distances are what come to mind first," said Jean-Pol Frippiat, one of the report's co-authors. "But even after we figure out a way to cover these distances in a reasonable amount of time, we still need to figure out how astronauts are going to overcome disease and sickness." (11/2)

NASA’s Future – Commercial, Constellation or Russia? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It wasn’t quite the Augustine commission, but a committee of space experts gathered in a half-empty room on Capitol Hill today to analyze the findings of that independent space panel and (try to) find common ground on NASA’s human spaceflight program. Instead, the discussion seemed to confirm the divide that has emerged since the Augustine Panel issued its findings last month.

The schism largely exists between those who want NASA to rely more on commercial rockets to send astronauts into low-Earth orbit and backers of Constellation, a NASA program meant to use Ares rockets to reach the International Space Station and one day return astronauts to the moon. The commercial approach has gained some traction in the White House while aggravating Constellation supporters.

“There are a few people in the administration who want to kill Ares I and put all the money in commercial and the [Augustine] report tends to endorse that type of scenario. I think that is absolutely wrong,” said Doc Horowitz, former astronaut and Constellation architect. An administration official said this after hearing of the prospect of continuing to develop Ares I for a dual launch exploration system: "Great. Our fifth U.S. medium launch vehicle ..." However, there are whispers that the administration is exploring plans outside options presented by the Augustine committee, although it is unclear as to what they could include. (11/2)

Russian Rockot Launches European Satellites (Source:
A Russian Rockot vehicle placed two European satellites into orbit early Monday. The Rockot booster lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodome in northern Russia and placed into low Earth orbit the SMOS and Proba-2 satellites for the European Space Agency. SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) is a 650-kilogram ESA satellite designed to measure moisture levels in soil and salinity levels in oceans to better understand global climate. The 135-kilogram Proba-2 spacecraft is a technology demonstration mission, testing technologies ranging from star trackers to thrusters. (11/2)

Senator Discusses NASA's Future With Obama (Source: WFTV)
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson told Eyewitness News Monday morning that he met recently with President Barack Obama about NASA's future and believes the President will make a decision soon. Nelson says it would take an additional $27 billion over the next decade to replace the shuttle after 2011, continue flights to the International Space Station, and to take care of NASA’s workers. “He is very sensitive to this and I really believe the President is a fan of the space program and, at the end of the day, I am optimistic. But in a very tough money time, it's going to take a lot more money to make up for the deficiencies of the last decade,” Nelson said. Senator Nelson expects the President to make a decision sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday. (11/2)

AI Spacesuits Turn Astronauts Into Cyborg Biologists (Source: WIRED)
Equipped with wearable AI systems and digital eyes that see what human eyes can’t, space explorers of the future could be not just astronauts, but “cyborg astrobiologists.” That’s the vision of a research team led by Patrick McGuire, a University of Chicago geoscientist who’s developed algorithms that can recognize signs of life in a barren landscape. At the heart of McGuire’s system is a Hopfield neural network, a type of artificial intelligence that compares incoming data against patterns it’s seen before, eventually picking out those details that qualify as new or unusual.

The system successfully differentiates lichen from surrounding rock — a proof-of-principle test that lays the foundation for adding other types of data. For the last several years, McGuire worked on CRISM, a Mars-orbiting imager that detects infrared and other invisible-to-human-eye wavelengths of light, allowing it to identify different types of rock and soil. McGuire envisions the digital eyes of cyborg astrobiologists as scaled-down versions of CRISM, their data perpetually crunched by the Hopfield networks on their hips. (11/2)

NASA and X PRIZE Announce Winners of Lunar Lander Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA will award $1.65 million in prize money Thursday to a pair of innovative aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again. NASA's Centennial Challenges program will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif., and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Tex., for their Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge flights. The competition was managed by the X PRIZE Foundation. The Northrop Grumman Corporation is a commercial sponsor that provided operating funds for the contest to the X PRIZE Foundation. (11/2)

Embry-Riddle to Collaborate with FAA on Space Transportation Research (Source: ERAU)
The Space Shuttle’s fast-approaching retirement is opening up new opportunities for commercial space transportation, and Embry-Riddle is making strides to support the industry’s growth under a new collaboration with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. An agreement with the agency identifies five space transportation topics that can be supported by Embry-Riddle faculty and student researchers, including Special Activity Airspace Standards; Critical Spaceport Infrastructure Needs; Space Launch Operations Issues and Anomalies; Uncertainty Risk Study; and Spaceport Capacity Study.

Under the agreement, Embry-Riddle and the FAA will initially support faculty and student work on at least two of the research topics, allowing presentations on their progress during an upcoming FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation conference. Embry-Riddle is also exploring ways to integrate space transportation information and scenarios into its air traffic management training and curriculum and to educate space-literate air traffic leaders who can help integrate aviation and space transportation operations. Click here for more. (11/2)

Boring But Important Policy Developments (Source: Space Review)
NASA's exploration program has been getting all the space policy attention in recent months, but it's not the only space policy issue of interest in Washington. Jeff Foust reports on a couple of lesser-known, but important, issues that are making some headway in Congress and the White House. Visit to view the article. (11/2)

Don't Forget the Robots (Source: Space Review)
While people focus on the future of NASA's human spaceflight efforts, its robotic missions are also facing a variety of issues. Taylor Dinerman discusses those concerns and potential future budget pressures on those missions. Visit to view the article. (11/2)

An Open Letter to President Obama (Source: Space Review)
The Planetary Society's Louis Friedman calls on the president to take the report of the Augustine Committee and turn it into a blueprint for a bold new space exploration program. Visit to view the article. (11/2)

Breaking Up May be Good To Do (Source: Space Review)
DARPA is studying a concept of taking a large spacecraft and splitting it up into several smaller, interconnected components. Jeff Foust reports on the implications this could have not just for spacecraft development but the overall industry. Visit to view the article. (11/2)

Florida Scientist Chairs NASA Advisory Council (Source: NASA)
Dr. Kenneth Ford, president of the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, will continue serving as the chair of the NASA Advisory Council, which has been expanded to include some new committees and committee chairs. The council's members provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator about agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls and other matters pertinent to NASA's responsibilities. Here are the chairs for some of the committees: Aeronautics Committee - Marion Blakey; Commercial Space Committee - Brett Alexander; Education and Public Outreach Committee - Miles O'Brien; Exploration Committee - Lester Lyles; Science Committee - Wesley T. Huntress; Space Operations Committee - Eileen M. Collins; and Technology and Innovation Committee - Esther Dyson.

Florida Universities Win Space Research and Education Grants (Source: Space Florida)
The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC), and Space Florida have announced the selection of 22 space research and education grants for 2009. The Florida Space Research Program (FSRP) will provide a total of $453,191 in combined federal and state funds to selected recipients.

The FSRP 2009 awardees include eight Florida universities: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, and University of North Florida. Other recipients include the Astronaut Memorial Foundation and Jacksonville-based Tekna-Theos.

Embry-Riddle's research project is focused on Aerodynamic Stability Research for Satellites in Elliptic Low Earth Orbits. A total of 50 proposals were received. Each submission was independently evaluated by a team of experienced professionals from Kennedy Space Center, other NASA centers and Grant Consortia located throughout the U.S. (11/2)

Transformation of Japan's Space Policy (Source: Japan Focus)
Japanese space activity started in 1955. After fourteen years of rocket and satellite experimentation, space activity was initiated in such practical realms as weather forecasting and broadcasting. Scientific missions extending from the near-Earth region to deep space were organized by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), which was founded at Tokyo University in 1964. Other missions such as weather satellites, communication satellites, broadcasting satellites and environment monitoring satellites were managed mainly by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), which was established in 1969. The two organizations together with the National Aerospace Laboratory were merged to form the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003. Click here to read the analysis. (11/2)

India: 'We Need to Have At Least 6 to 8 Launches Every Year' (Source: Times of India)
K Radhakrishnan , 60, took over as chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) last week. The Times spoke to him about his vision for ISRO. Q: What challenges lie ahead? A: We need to have at least six to eight launches every year to be truly in the race. It is a major challenge. Then there is the Chandrayaan 2 which will launch a rover on the moon. The rover will be an Indo-Russian joint venture. Click here to read the entire article. (11/2)

Want a Solution? Try Offering a Prize (Source: Boston Globe)
The $10 million Ansari X Prize proved that to be true five years ago, when its winners launched a private manned vehicle into space. The prize spawned a resurgence of high-profile competitions, with private foundations and companies putting up hundreds of millions of dollars to solve technological challenges as urgent as building more efficient cars, and as trivial as predicting what movies people would like. Recently, prize fever has also breached the thick walls of government bureaucracy, and more federal agencies are using competitions as a strategy to spur innovation. The competitions leverage modest amounts of taxpayer money to attract inventors and investors to certain scientific and technological problems. (11/2)

India to Outsource Rocket Work to Private Companies (Source: Economic Times)
For the first time since the success of India's maiden unmanned moon mission, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is ready to outsource more high-end work to private companies — everything from building more complicated systems to assembling it. According to aerospace industry officials and others familiar with the discussions, proposals are being readied wherein private participation will be invited to build and run competing systems.

The commercial-aerospace industry is now eager to play a larger role in the space missions and tap the outsourcing work offered by ISRO which has an annual budget of $1.01 billion for 2009-2010. It has a spending blueprint of Rs 12,400 crore ($3 billion) for its manned space exploration and around Rs 425 crore will be spent for the second unmanned lunar mission — Chandrayaan-2. It also has huge spending plans for missions to Mars and various domestic and international satellite launches. (11/2)

GPS Satellite Beset by Permanent Signal Problem (Source:
A Global Positioning System satellite launched in March is suffering from permanent signal distortions and will miss its target to enter operational service this year, Air Force officials said. The GPS 2R-20 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, is being kept from service because of signal distortions that are degrading the accuracy of its navigation measurements.

Officials said in June the problems could be fixed in time for the satellite to be introduced into the GPS fleet by this fall, but now the Air Force says the craft won't be ready until at least next year. "The satellite's signal distortion is permanent, and if brought into operational service its impact on users would be variable and application-specific," said a Global Positioning Systems Wing spokesperson at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. (11/2)

Ares-1X Showed the Right Stuff, But Will it be the Last? (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
At the Kennedy Space Center, cranes were hoisting pieces of Ares I's mobile launch platform into place. At Cleveland's Glenn Research Center, engineers were supervising the design of the service module that will hold vital life support, power and communications gear. In Southern California, the rocket's upper-stage engine was being pieced together. And at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, workers were welding together the shell of the Orion capsule that will carry astronauts back to the moon.

But an inescapable question hung in the air like the smoke from Ares I-X's thunderous ascent: Was the $450 million rocket's first flight its last? The Augustine Panel concluded on the eve of the test flight that Ares I is the wrong rocket for the wrong mission. Rather than using Ares I to replace the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles and carry astronauts on the first leg of a lunar mission, NASA ought to be building bigger, double-duty crew/cargo rockets that would fly to a nearby asteroid or one of Mars' moons, the panel said.

Its members favor "Ares V lite," a slightly less powerful version of the heavy-lift Ares V rocket that NASA intends to build as a partner to Ares I. For trips to and from the International Space Station, the panel suggests that NASA rely on commercially built rockets that are still in development. (11/2)

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