March 21, 2010

Privately Owned Rover Spotted on Moon (Source:
Richard Garriott has many accomplishments to his name - he's a successful video game developer and one of fewer than 10 private citizens to travel into space. Now he even owns property on the moon. "I am the world's only private owner of an object on a celestial body," he says. The object he's referring to is the Lunokhod 2 rover. The Lunokhod 2 is a Russian space vehicle that landed on the moon in 1973 - and stopped working that same year. Even though no one knew exactly where the rover was, it went up for sale at a 1993 Sotheby's auction in New York, and Garriott handed over $68,500 for it.

Last Monday, scientists spotted the Lunokhod 2 rover for the first time in 37 years. "As soon as I saw this new data, I did a recheck of the findings, and there's no question that they have the right target. It's my Lunokhod 2," Garriott says. Garriott says he's thrilled to finally have photos of his "private flag sitting on the moon." Click here to view the article. (3/21)

NASA to Talk Budget With Senator Mikulski (Source: Spaceports Blog)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin and NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Council member John Frost are now scheduled to appear before the US Senate Appropriations subcommittee chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) on Mar. 25.

On Mar. 24 in the House, a hearing on "Proposed Changes to NASA’s Exploration Program: What’s Known, What’s Not, and What Are The Issues for Congress?" is now scheduled by the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics. NASA Association Administrator Douglas Cooke and Lockheed Martin retired executive A. Thomas Young are scheduled to testify. (3/21)

Nelson Prefers ‘Restructuring’ to 'Cancelation' of Constellation (Source: WESH)
There are new hopes this week that NASA could wind up building a replacement for the space shuttle and fly to Mars. Sen. Bill Nelson told a crowd on Friday that the president isn’t canceling NASA’s future plans. Instead, he said, he’s restructuring them. Florida's senior senator, after talking to the president, said U.S. astronauts could wind up launching in an American-built spacecraft after all. It would mean developing a giant rocket based on space shuttle engines, tanks and boosters to go with a new spacecraft, Billow said, perhaps the very one NASA was designing anyway. (3/21)

Military Sites Could Help Launch South Africa Into Space (Source: Sunday Times)
The government is considering reopening apartheid-era space rocket launch sites to fast-track a national space program. The move coincides with a major breakthrough for the country's space science industry - the first detailed images from the national space satellite launched last year and now orbiting 500km above the earth. Naledi Pandor, the minister of science and technology, said the aim of the program was to turn South Africa into a regional space hub. Recommissioning old launch sites would be a major step forward for the country's space ambitions, she said. The two sites are both in the Western Cape - the Overberg Test Range (OTB) outside Bredasdorp, and Houwteq near Grabouw. (3/21)

Florida Lobbyist Fighting for Space Funding in Washington (Source: Florida Today)
A contingent from Brevard County, along with representatives of six other states with major space-related facilities, will meet in Washington later this week on a lobbying mission. They will try to persuade members of Congress to change the proposed NASA budget so that there is a bigger focus on human space exploration. The trip on Wednesday and Thursday will involve representatives not only from Brevard, but also from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. They will meet with congressional subcommittee members who are dealing with NASA's budget.

Now is a crucial time in NASA's history, as the space shuttle program is winding down this year, and President Barack Obama wants to cancel the Constellation program. Constellation would have been the successor to the space shuttle program, and had a goal of sending astronauts to the moon and later to Mars. "We will have one message: fund human space exploration," said said the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president. (3/21)

New Mexico Residents Have Yet to Book Spaceflights (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A 30-minute drive from the nearest town, past grazing cattle and windswept mesquite, isn't what will draw the adventurous to this middle-of-nowhere site in southeastern Sierra County. Rather, it's the thrill of a 68-mile trip skyward, beyond the fringes of Earth's atmosphere and into suborbital space that's the big attraction. Throughout its history, space travel has been limited to researchers, pilots and the occasional wealthy person able to swing the multimillion dollar cost of securing a rare spot on a government flight.

But if plans by London-based Virgin Galactic pan out, spaceflights for the everyday person might one day be routine and, just possibly, affordable. The company is contracted to launch from New Mexico's Spaceport America, currently under construction. Now, Virgin Galactic tickets sell for $200,000 apiece. A $20,000 deposit reserves a seat. (3/21)

Dotcom Millionaires Launching Their Own Private Space Race (Source: Guardian)
As the space shuttle ages and NASA's funding is cut, America's technology entrepreneurs are building a new generation of rockets with their own money to fill the gap – and make a profit. For the past few weeks, engineers have been carrying out tests on one of these rockets at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Rocket take-offs are not exactly rare at the spaceport, of course. Yet the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 will be followed with extreme interest. Many believe its success could transform space travel and save America's space program from oblivion; others have dismissed the flight as dangerous "cure-all hype".

The launch of Falcon 9 is controversial for a simple reason: its design and construction has been carried out by private enterprise. The rocket is the idea of SpaceX, the company established by South African dotcom entrepreneur Elon Musk. Angered by the price he was being asked to put a payload into space, Musk, 38, decided to transform the launch business and so designed the Falcon. If he succeeds, companies like SpaceX could be running deliveries and taxi rides for astronauts within a few years, he believes. "Our success is vital to the success of the US space program," Musk said last week. (3/21)

Texas' NASA Jobs in Limbo (Source: Galveston Daily News)
What does NASA’s new budget really mean for the economy of the region and the agency’s 3,265 employees and workforce of 14,000 contractors at the Johnson Space Center? Members of Texas’ congressional delegation and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a group that represents contracting companies that depend on Johnson Space Center, are lobbying the White House and other members of Congress to change their minds about ending Constellation, NASA’s mission to send humans back to the moon.

They claim the end of Constellation could result in thousands of job losses and the end of U.S. domination in space. But some associated with Johnson Space Center’s past and present argue fighting for the survival of the space shuttle program, not Constellation, should be their mission — if saving jobs is the goal of Constellation’s supporters. Click here to view the article. (3/21)

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