June 20, 2010

Hunting For Fossils On Europa (Source: Space Daily)
If extraterrestrial life exists on Jupiter's moon Europa, instead of deploying probes to drill past its ice shell to look for aliens in the ocean below, one might just go fossil-hunting on the icy surface. "A prospector sent there could possibly find extraterrestrial life within our lifetimes," suggested planetary scientist Richard Greenberg at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at Tucson.

Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth's moon, is enveloped by a global ocean that may be about 100 miles deep (160 km). This ocean is overlain by an icy crust of unknown thickness, although some estimates are that it could be only a few miles thick. (6/20)

Bolden Has Possible Conflict of Interest on Biofuel Project (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA is working on an ocean-based biofuels venture that could revolutionize clean-energy production at sea and treat wastewater at the same time. The scientist running the $10 million experiment, called Project OMEGA, uses words such as groundbreaking and exciting to describe his baby. But there's a hitch.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden doesn't believe in OMEGA — and has sought to slow it down. The reason: He was advised against it by Marathon Oil — the Texas-based company on whose board Bolden sat until he was named NASA administrator last year. Bolden still holds as much as $1 million worth of Marathon stock.

In a brief interview, Bolden confirmed that he still holds the Marathon stock but said that he does not think there was any conflict of interest in his reaching out to the company. He directed further questions to NASA's general counsel. (6/20)

Flashback to December 2009 - OMEGA Plans Tampa Bay Pilot Project (Source: AIA)
NASA is developing a method to grow large quantities of oil-producing freshwater algae that are deployed inside bags offshore near where sewage is dumped. The algae can then be converted into biofuel. The OMEGA system uses the energy of the ocean's waves to have algae in the bags feed on sewage, and it releases cleansed water into the ocean through forward osmosis. Nevada-based Algae Systems, which has licensed the NASA technology, plans to operate algae bioreactors off the coast of Tampa, Fla. (12/17)

By 2013, India Satellite to Track Forests (Source: Times of India)
The quality of life and infrastructure in Pune and 64 other cities across the country will soon improve as the 'National Mission on Sustainable Habitat' has been approved by the Prime Minister. Disclosing this during a public consultation on the ‘National Mission for A Green India’, Union minister for environment and forests also said that the first Indian forestry satellite will be launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 2013. (6/20)

Musk Outlines SpaceX Efficiencies (Source: PE Hub)
"Using the same propellant in the upper and lower stages means that operationally, you only need to have one set of fuel tanks. If you can imagine a situation where you have a kerosene first stage, hydrogen upper stage, and solid rocket side boosters, you’ve just tripled your cost right there." Click here to read the entire article. (6/20)

NASA Contractors Preparing for the Worst (Source: Galveston Daily News)
The number of layoffs that face NASA contractors in the Houston area is unknown at this point, but major Constellation and shuttle program contractors are preparing for the worst. NASA administrators invoked the Anti-Deficiency Act, which requires federal contractors to set aside a portion of payments in case a program is canceled. NASA estimates contractors are short $991 million of money the companies must withhold, and must cut back spending on the Constellation program to account for the shortfall.

United Space Alliance, a subcontractor for Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems on Constellation work, does not have a clear number of employees who might lose their jobs, a spokeswoman said. “We’re still flying shuttles, and some people work both programs,” she said. “There’s not a clear line in the sand of who will lose their job yet.”

Most of Boeing’s work on Constellation’s Ares I rocket is done in Huntsville, Ala. The company will reassign about 40 employees in Houston involved with the project, a spokesman said. Layoffs for Houston area workers will come, however, once the space shuttle retires, the date of which is also uncertain. “Once the shuttles retire, about 1,000 people will be laid off,” he said. “A vast majority are in Houston.” (6/20)

JPL's Amazing Missions Chronicled (Source: Pasadena Star News)
If you're star-struck, learn more by reading "Missions From JPL: Fifty Years of Amazing Flight Projects" by Robert Aster. It covers the 85 projects launched by JPL for NASA with explanations of technical terms, inside stories about people and events and more. It also features more than 200 images and illustrations. Pasadena resident Aster has worked at JPL for 33 years. He has held positions in renewable energy research, advanced information systems performance analysis and flight project planning and engineer training. (6/20)

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