March 14, 2010

Astrodocs: For These Physicians, Space is Their Workplace (Source: AMA)
Since 1973, 23 U.S. physicians have launched into space. They have taken part in spacewalks, treated fellow crew members and conducted medical research. They have participated in 49 space missions, conducting dozens of spacewalks and experiments to advance space exploration and the understanding of how space affects the human body. They take care of the health needs of fellow astronauts, and, through their research, have helped further medicine on Earth.

They have made history: the first black person to walk in space was Bernard Harris Jr., MD, in 1995. In 1997 J.M. Linenger, MD, PhD, MPH, set the record for the longest duration flight for a U.S. man -- 132 days, 4 hours and 1 minute in space. (That mark has since been broken.) They also have died on missions: David Brown, MD, and Laurel Blair Salton Clark, MD, were on the shuttle Columbia when it broke apart while re-entering Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003. "The role of the physician-astronaut is a very vital one to NASA's mission," said Jeffrey Sutton, MD, PhD, president and director of the Texas-based National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which works with NASA to sponsor research at universities nationwide. (3/14)

US Lifts Sanctions Against Russian Space Company (Source: Space Daily)
The U.S. government has lifted sanctions against the Russian space organization Glavkosmos. The United States imposed economic sanctions against Glavkosmos on July 30, 1998, accusing it of export control violations and engaging in proliferation activities related to Iran's missile program. The sanctions barred the company from exporting or importing goods to the United States and also blocked it from receiving any U.S. assistance. (3/14)

Private Texas Spaceport Gets NASA Backing (Source: El Paso Times)
On Texas Highway 54, a quiet and isolated corridor along the Chihuahuan Desert, most inhabitants of the area are rabbits, lizards and snakes. But travelers spot something strange as they reach the halfway point between Van Horn and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Far off to the east of the highway, an 84-foot-tall base building and a red structure emerge from the desert. When vehicles arrive at 35961 Texas Highway 54, they find a blue gate with high-tech surveillance cameras and identification-checking devices. It smells like danger and reminds the traveler that this is not just any ranch.

On this remote site lies a billionaire's idea of the future -- a commercial spaceport to send tourists and NASA astronauts to outer space. Aerospace company Blue Origin built the facility about five years ago. founder Jeff Bezos owns the company. The project's most visible breakthrough came in 2006, when it vertically flew and landed an egg-shaped rocket it calls New Shepard. Last month, Blue Origin was one of five commercial aerospace companies to receive federal money for rocket research. NASA awarded the company $3.7 million to work on an advanced technology, which detaches a crew cabin from its launcher if the vehicle malfunctions.

The link with NASA placed the company as a finalist in the suborbital space race. FAA officials said Blue Origin does not have an active experimental flight permit. But the company could be getting ready to launch three people into space in 2011 and 2012. Until then, company executives said, they would not reveal any more information. (3/14)

Former Astronaut Chang Urges Costa Rica Aerospace Development (Source: Inside Costa Rica)
Costa Rica's own former NASA astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, feels that Costa Rican businesses should take advantage of the aerospace technology that is ripe for local businesses to be involved in a field with enormous possibilities. Chang said that now is the time to take advantage of the success of the plasma engine that was developed in Costa Rica at his AdAstra laboratory in Liberia and soon will be launched into space.

The former astronaut is urging Costa Rican entrepreneurs to take advantage of the results of his experiments that soon will be tested in space. The revolutionary plasma rocket engine is expected to eventually be cheaper to operate that conventional models and reduce travel time for space missions. Chang's hopes that the plasma engine will boost commercial spacecraft into higher orbits, stabilize space stations and then power the trip to Mars. The possibilities of the project for Costa Rican companies are endless. One of those businesses, said Chang, would be maintenance of the space station and the hundreds of satellites currently orbiting the earth.

For Chang, now is the time for Costa Rica to insert itself in the business that is at a crucial stage of aerospace development. Editor's Note: Costa Rica should establish the same pro-space policies and laws that now make the Isle of Man a haven for space businesses and entrepreneurs. (3/14)

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