December 24 News Items

Space Butterflies Dead (Source: Discovery)
I hate to break this news on Christmas Eve, but I can't think of a better time to remember our orbital space pioneers. The International Space Station (ISS) butterflies have died. Unfortunately, I don't think they perfected the art of flight inside their habitat (although they did flap a bit), but they appeared to live a whole butterfly life-cycle in space -- the first time this has ever been achieved. The space butterfly ISS outreach experiment was organized by BioServe Space Technologies and the University of Colorado for school kids to follow the progress of the orbiting creatures. This experiment offered an unparalleled experience to compare a control (ground-based) group of butterflies with their cousins in space. (12/24)

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Awards Contract for Apron Construction (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority board on Tuesday awarded a $5.75 million contract to build the facility's apron, the concrete slab that surrounds the terminal-hangar facility. The authority awarded the contract to David Montoya Construction, of Albuquerque, which already has a $29.5 million contract to build the 10,000-foot runway at Spaceport America. Once built, the apron will be 440,000 square-feet in surface area and will eventually connect to the taxiway, which leads to the runway. Landeene said it will serve as an area for launch vehicles to maneuver outside the terminal. (12/24)

Another Obama Space-Related Promise Ranked as "In the Works" (Source: Politifact)
During his campaign, President Obama promised to support an improved weather prediction program, launching "without further delay" the Global Precipitation Measurement mission as "an international effort to improve climate, weather, and hydrological predictions through more accurate and more frequent precipitation measurements." The folks at PolitiFact have updated the status of this promise to "In the Works." Click here for more. (12/24)

Colorado Program Enables Visitors to Interact with Space Program (Source: The Coloradoan)
Come to the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center to participate in Under Pressure, a program presented via live, interactive videoconference in collaboration with Space Center Houston. Learn more about the challenges of air pressure and flying meteorites that space suit designers have to face in Suit Up for Space between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Participants can make their own miniature space suit out of balloons as well as create some astronaut food. On Tuesday the museum will connect with educators at Space Center Houston for the videoconference, during which visitors can learn how and why astronaut suits are designed they way they are. Visitors will also have a chance to test the durability of their homemade, balloon space suits against meteorite impacts. (12/24)

Engineers Work Hard to Keep Endeavour Toasty (Source: Florida Today)
Space shuttle Endeavour has been kept warm and cozy in Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, even as temperatures dipped below 45 degrees outside. Air circulating through the crew cabin and various purge lines maintain the vehicle's temperature near 70 degrees and relative humidity around 50 percent. "We're trying to keep moisture from setting up in there," said George Diller, a KSC spokesman. "The intent is to keep all the critical systems warm and dry, as well as the inside of the ship itself." Some of those critical systems include the main engines and thrusters at the orbiter's nose and tail. (12/24)

Astrium Starts Work On Ariane 5 ME (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has contracted with EADS Astrium for definition of a higher-power, more versatile variant of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift booster. The new version, known as the Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution), will feature a new upper stage, a re-ignitable Vinci upper stage engine and enhanced avionics and flight software. Expected to make its first flight around 2017, the Ariane 5 ME will have a payload capacity of 12 metric tons, compared to 10 tons for the existing Ariane 5 ECA, and be capable of launching spacecraft into multiple orbits. It is intended to allow the Ariane 5 to remain competitive with new launch vehicles like China's Long March 5. (12/24)

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