August 8, 2010

Israel Boosts Space Budget (Source: Israel 21C)
An Israeli has yet to moonwalk - and the country's only astronaut Ilan Ramon perished on a tragic NASA mission in 2003 - but Israel has big ambitions to jump into the billion-dollar space industry. One of only eight nations in the world to launch an indigenous satellite into space, Israel's government recently announced an $80 million boost to its space activities in research and development, which should jibe well with the country's established defense and high-tech communications industries.

While the space industry is commonly associated with the development of space-related defense technologies, according to Dr. Zvi Kaplan, director general of the Israel Space Agency, its civilian applications are also extensive, and in some cases critical. For example, the monitoring of global warming from earth to space or from space down to earth is vital for studying the phenomenon and potentially mitigating risks. (8/8)

Exciting Hints from the Hunt for Habitable Planets (Source: Deseret News)
NASA announced some preliminary results of studies by its Kepler probe on June 15: the probe's camera chips had pointed out 706 potential planets in its first 43 days of operation. Though NASA has been issuing cautionary comments, this is thrilling. These are in addition to five planets that were announced earlier by the project, places where life seems extremely unlikely.

First, a heap of those ifs, ands and buts: Kepler can find planets by the dimming of a star when a planet crosses in front, but the announced results are only targets that seemed promising. Some could be nothing more than binary stars eclipsing the target stars. Of those that really are planets, many could be outside the star's habitable zone, the region that's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water. (8/8)

Shuttle crews train at White Sands (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
Air Force Col. Eric Boe, 45, is one of the relatively few souls in the history of mankind who've had the privilege of witnessing earthrise. It's a perspective only available from space. That's exactly where Boe was in November 2008, as part of a 16-day space shuttle Endeavour mission. It was his first spaceflight.

Now, Boe is slated to return Nov. 1 as the pilot on the second-to-last flight before NASA permanently retires the shuttle program. Part of Boe's in-depth training for the trip takes place at White Sands Space Harbor, a backup space shuttle landing site east of the San Andres Mountains. (8/8)

3rd Spacewalk Needed to Restore Cooling System (Source: AP)
A pair of space station astronauts had to hammer loose a stuck connector during an urgent spacewalk to restore a crucial cooling system Saturday, then an ammonia leak erupted and hampered the entire repair effort. Despite making one of the longest spacewalks ever, Douglas Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson had to give up trying to remove a broken ammonia pump and retreat inside. Disappointed managers said two more spacewalks now will be needed to replace the pump and get the International Space Station's cooling system operating normally again. The original plan called for two spacewalks. (8/8)

Webb Space Telescope Promises New Look at Universe — if NASA Can Get it Into Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When it works, and if it works, the James Webb Space Telescope could revolutionize astronomy by peering so deep into space that scientists soon could study the dawn of time. But construction of NASA's next big telescope has been so hurt by delays and cost overruns that even its staunchest champion in Congress reached a breaking point. In a letter dated June 29, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., all but ordered NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden to assemble a panel of outside experts to ensure the Webb project doesn't break its latest promise: a 2014 launch on a $5 billion budget. (8/8)

Florida Resident Prepares for Suborbital Spaceflight on Virgin Galactic (Source: Washington Post)
Would-be space traveler Daniel Hardin of Lighthouse Point, Fla., is preparing for his greatest adventure -- a suborbital rocket ride on a Virgin Galactic spaceship. Q: How did you find out about this opportunity? A: About three years ago, I read stories about Virgin Galactic developing its spacecraft and selling tickets for future flights. Once I was familiar with the conditions and the cost, I didn't struggle with the decision. Q: What's the attraction? A: I grew up with the space program and many times dreamed of what it would be like to be on board the rockets that take off from Cape Canaveral. (8/8)

Future of Space a Common Question Across Brevard County (Source: Florida Today)
The future of America's human space flight program is emerging this summer as a front-burner political issue with voters like never before, elected officials and candidates say. That's true not just in the northern Brevard County communities surrounding the Kennedy Space Center but across the county. And it's not just a hot topic in the races for seats in the U.S. Senate and House, positions in which the people elected could have direct influence over NASA's budget and policies. The shutdown of the shuttle program, NASA's future and the rippling economic impact is coming up in state, county and local races.

Residents are worried about how space industry layoffs will influence the broader economy, their jobs and the value of their homes. The end of the shuttle program next year is expected to mean the direct loss of at least 8,000 aerospace jobs at KSC. Government studies indicate another 14,000 or so jobs off the space center could be at risk as well. Click here for more. (8/8)

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