September 1, 2010

When We Find Habitable Extrasolar Planets, How Will We Look for Life? (Source: Seed)
You might think looking for planets outside of the solar system is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. Actually, finding a needle in a haystack is easy as long as you have a powerful enough metal detector. Try finding that same needle in a barn full of cannonballs, using only your metal detector. If you’re looking for planets similar to Earth, reduce the size of the needles a hundred-fold. Now you might have a better idea of what searching for planets orbiting stars hundreds of light-years away is really like.

Last week, NASA announced that its team of scientists working on the Kepler mission had found a likely candidate for a planet outside of the solar system that’s roughly the same size as Earth. Unfortunately, even if it is verified, it’s unlikely to harbor life, as surface temperatures for a planet so close to its sun are estimated at over 2,000° C.

So what would it take to actually find a planet similar enough to our own that carbon-based life—the only form of life known here on Earth—would be possible? Last month, astronomy graduate student Alexander Bastides Fry discussed efforts to find extraterrestrial life. The most obvious planet to support this type of life would be roughly Earth-size, Earth-distance from a star similar to the Sun. Click here. (9/1)

Pioneer Woman in Aviation to be Honored at Caltech (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Aerospace engineer and executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company Joanne Maguire is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious International von Kármán Wings Award for her sustained and visionary accomplishments in aerospace. She is the first woman to win the award.

The von Kármán Wings Award acknowledges outstanding contributions by international innovators, leaders, and pioneers in aerospace and is presented by the Aerospace Historical Society, which is part of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at Caltech (GALCIT). For the past 26 years, the society has been dedicated to the preservation of the history and achievements of aerospace. (9/1)

NASA Selects University Finalists for Inflatable Loft Competition (Source: NASA)
NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected university teams from Maryland, Oklahoma and Wisconsin as finalists in a competition to design, manufacture, assemble and test an inflatable loft. NASA is challenging college students to design and rapidly develop prototype concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The loft will be integrated onto an existing NASA operational hard-shell prototype habitat. The winning concepts may be applied to space exploration habitats of the future. (9/1)

Mos Def Encourages Students To Go To Space (Source: All Hip Hop)
Rapper/actor Mos Def will team with NASA to encourage students to pursue higher education using science and technology this Sunday (September 5th) in Oakland, California. The rapper will team with famed African-American NASA astronaut Leland Melvin to debut a special holographic presentation at the Chabot Space & Science Center. (9/1)

Void That is Truly Empty Solves Dark Energy Puzzle (Source: New Scientist)
Empty space may really be empty. Though quantum theory suggests that a vacuum should be fizzing with particle activity, it turns out that this paradoxical picture of nothingness may not be needed. A calmer view of the vacuum would also help resolve a nagging inconsistency with dark energy, the elusive force thought to be speeding up the expansion of the universe.

Quantum field theory tells us that short-lived pairs of particles and their antiparticles are constantly being created and destroyed in apparently empty space. A branch of the theory, called quantum chromodynamics (QCD) - which explains how gluons and quarks, the particles that make up protons and neutrons, behave - predicts that a vacuum should be awash with an interacting sea or "condensate" of quarks and gluons. Click here to read the article. (9/1)

USA Contract Extension Won't Save Florida Jobs (Source: CFNews13)
NASA and USA signed a $1 billion contract extension related to flight operations for space shuttle and International Space Station programs. The extension runs through March 31 and could be extended again if Congress approves a third shuttle mission. The contract extension will not affect the company-wide layoffs of 1,400 workers on Oct. 1. A total of 900 of those workers are here in Florida. (9/1)

Veteran Astronaut Joins ASRC (Source: ASRC)
ASRC Research and Technology Solutions (ARTS) today announced that former NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Altman has joined ARTS as vice president of strategic planning. A veteran of four space flights, Altman most recently served as chief of the Exploration Branch within the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

In his new position, Altman will lead ARTS’ strategic planning process and will focus on leveraging the company’s expertise in engineering, information technology and technical services within the space, aviation and defense industries. He will also lead new business initiatives within the commercial space market. (9/1)

LockMart Advancing on Next-Gen Commercial Remote Sensing System For GeoEye (Source: Space Daily)
The Lockheed Martin team developing GeoEye's next-generation, high-resolution commercial Earth-imaging satellite system known as GeoEye-2, has successfully completed on-schedule a System Requirements Review (SRR), an important program milestone that precedes the Preliminary Design Review. (9/1)

EDA Solicits Applications for $35 Million to Expand and Diversify Space Coast Economy (Source: EDA)
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the upcoming availability of funding through the Space Coast Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) Competition under EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program. The $35 million, multi-agency initiative solicits competitive applications for this major effort to build on existing strengths and promote collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit partners in the region.

The competition was one of several key recommendations presented to the President by the Task Force on Space Industry Workforce & Economic Development, which was tasked with developing a plan to grow the Space Coast’s economy and prepare its workers for 21st century opportunities. The competition will be coordinated by EDA in collaboration with members of the Task Force, including NASA, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Labor, and other agencies. Click here to view the solicitation. (9/1)

Licensing Intellectual Property Rights Out of this World (Source: Space News)
The harsh environment of outer space turns even the most routine tasks into significant engineering challenges. I was recently surprised to realize that outer space operations can also turn even the most routine contractual language into a legal conundrum. As an in-house attorney for a research laboratory that specializes in guidance, navigation and control technologies, I was reviewing a typical license agreement for software that would be used on a small satellite. The agreement stated that we would have a “worldwide” license to use the software for our intended purpose.

At first, I read the word “worldwide” without concern, as this term is commonly used in license agreements to convey that there are no geographic restrictions on the recipient’s use of the licensed technology. Yet, on second thought, I wondered whether a worldwide license actually gives us sufficient rights to use the software in a satellite that is arguably out of this world (i.e. orbiting Earth). What, exactly, is the geographic scope of a worldwide license? Could a licensor take advantage of this ambiguity to extract additional payments from an unsuspecting licensee? Click here for more. (9/1)

Pressure Builds for House To Change NASA Authorization Bill (Source: Space Policy Online)
Fourteen Nobel Prize winners plus former NASA officials, former astronauts and others sent a letter to House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) urging him to reconsider the provisions of the NASA authorization bill (H.R. 5781) reported by his committee. The bill has not yet been voted upon by the House.

Both the House committee's bill and the bill that passed the Senate last month (S. 3729) require NASA to develop its own crew transportation system for LEO and beyond, promising that the government system will not compete with any commercial systems that emerge. The Senate bill is much more supportive of commercial efforts, though not as strongly as the President. (9/1)

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Seeks Deputy Director (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) is accepting applications for a Deputy Director to oversee the daily operations of Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. This position announcement marks another significant milestone as the historic project transitions from a construction site to an operating spaceport. The Deputy Director will be responsible for flight and ground safety, tenant relations, FAA compliance programs, and technical, security and maintenance services. (9/1)

Retired Space Shuttle Launch Pad to be Dismantled Soon (Source:
NASA is expected to give final approval this week to demolish the servicing towers at a mothballed space shuttle launch pad, clearing the complex for a still-unknown rocket of the future. Workers at launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center are stripping the facility of antiquated equipment to ready it for a new program, but NASA still doesn't know when a new rocket could blast off from the storied complex or what the launcher will look like.

NASA knows any next-generation rocket will not use the shuttle's custom-made fixed and rotating service structures, so those towers will come down this fall. The demolition will leave the pad with its raised concrete surface, sound suppression water tower and three 594-foot-tall lightning masts erected in 2009. (9/1)

Five Teams at Pentagon Set Up to Address Areas of Efficiency (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon has set up five teams to focus on specific areas as part of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to improve efficiency. The teams will address the areas of affordability, incentives, contract terms, metrics and service contracts, and officials say they expect to be able to save 2% to 3% of the Department of Defense budget every year. (9/1)

California Aerospace Industry Fared Relatively Well Over Recession (Source: AIA)
California's aerospace industry, which accounts for about 25% of the aerospace industry in the U.S., was not as adversely affected by the recession as others in the manufacturing sector, according to a recent study. The study found that the industry added more than 5,500 jobs between 2004 and 2008, and despite a sharp decline of nearly 14,500 job losses in 2009, the industry declined only 5% between 2004 and 2009, compared to 12% in the overall manufacturing sector. (9/1)

NASA Doctor Urges Against 'False Hopes' for Chile Miners (Source: BBC)
A team of NASA experts have arrived in Chile to aid the rescue of 33 miners and advised officials not to give them "false hopes". The NASA team, which includes a doctor, nutritionist, and engineer and a psychologist, arrived in Santiago after a request by the Chilean authorities. They are due to travel to the mine site on Wednesday. NASA's Dr Michael Duncan told a news conference he didn't think the long wait would be a surprise to the miners. (9/1)

Hold Off on Booze, NASA Urges Trapped Chile Miners (Source: Reuters)
Already deprived of sunlight, fresh air and their loved ones for 26 days, NASA doctors say 33 miners trapped deep in a Chilean mine must continue to forego two other pleasures: alcohol and cigarettes. Facing a wait of around two to four months as rescuers race to drill a narrow shaft 2,300 feet vertically down to extract them, the miners are in good spirits, and included wine on a wish-list of items to be sent down a tiny borehole from the surface.

Health officials have sent them high-protein, high-calorie foods in narrow plastic tubes to help them build up their strength after losing an estimated 22 lb (10 kg) each during 17 days entombed after a cave-in before they were found alive. Booze will have to wait. (9/1)

ARES Corp. Named Dryden Small Business Subcontractor of the Year (Source: ARES)
ARES Corporation announced that it has been named NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's (DFRC) Small Business Subcontractor of the Year. This award, presented by each of NASA's 10 field centers, recognizes companies who "provide value-added and outstanding support—on schedule and within cost—and innovative solutions to problems / issues that arise in the execution of the contract." Nominated for work performed in support of the successful Orion Launch Abort System Pad Abort Demonstration and for the development of NASA's Flight Test Safety Data Base, ARES personnel at DFRC provide systems engineering, safety, and information technology support. (9/1)

Dryden Seeks Education Director (Source: NASA)
NASA currently is seeking interested applicants for the position of Director of the Office of Education at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center located on Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Director of Education will work out of an office in the AERO Institute in Palmdale, Calif. Applications are currently being accepted through Sept. 7, 2010. Click here. (9/1)

Ames Research Center Looks to Shrink Environmental Footprint (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Deborah L. Feng has worked at NASA Ames Research Center for 25 years, moving through a number of positions and eventually to director of center operations. The research center is one of 10 NASA field installations, with more than $3 billion in capital equipment and a $600 million annual budget. Feng says managing the facility is similar to being a city manager because the center serves more than 600,000 people. Click here to read a Q&A with Feng. (9/1)

Spaceport America Will Bring Big Economic Impact (Source: AZ Central)
New Mexico will build and lease part of the $200 million facility to Virgin Galactic. rojects," Lou Gomez, a Spaceport America program manager, said one of the benefits of the spaceport will be it's economic impact on the area. Once it's completed and fully operational, it will provide 2,200 new jobs and pump nearly $5 billion into the local economy over 20 years. The spaceport should be completed next year with space travel still at least a couple more years away. Test flights are being conducted. So far 350 people have already signed up to fly to space. The cost for a ticket, $200,000. However, prices are expected to go down. (9/1)

NASA Presents Challenge to Top Chef Contestants (Source: NASA)
A new dish is being prepared for astronauts working in space. Bravo TV's Emmy-award winning reality show "Top Chef" will feature a special challenge for the five remaining "chef'testants." The winning contestant will have his or her recipe prepared by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and flown on a future space shuttle mission. Food preparation and taste have come a long way since the Apollo era. Today, the menu for astronauts includes 180 food and beverage items. These include tomato basil soup, chicken fajitas, shrimp cocktail, scrambled eggs and beef tips with mushrooms. They can also munch on nuts, granola bars and cookies. Beverages come in powdered form and include coffee, tea, apple cider, orange juice and lemonade. (9/1)

ORBITEC Helps NASA Grow Vegetables in Space (Source: ORBITEC)
Long duration space missions will require Astronauts to grow food to supplement their diet. ORBITEC's "VEGGIE" vegetable production systems will be used for this purpose during this fall's annual "Desert RATS" space analog testing. Desert RATS (Research and Technology Studies) tests offer a chance for a NASA-led team of engineers, astronauts, and scientists to conduct technology development research in the Arizona desert.

During the trials, researchers study the effectiveness of new designs for space suits, robots, rovers, surface networking and communications, exploration information systems and computing, habitats, and other equipment, and gain experience in the use of new technologies designed to make planetary exploration safer, easier, and more efficient.

For this year’s trip to the desert, ORBITEC delivered one of its the “VEGGIE” units, or deployable plant growth systems for producing salad-type crops in space. The VEGGIE design provides growing areas that can be linked together to provide up to one square meter of growing area, but stowed within a single crew transfer bag on the Space Shuttle. (9/1)

Export Controls for the 21st Century (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The current U.S. export control system is a legacy of the Cold War and fails to distinguish between low-tech items and the most advanced proprietary technology. This week, President Barack Obama will announce a major step forward in the administration's efforts to fundamentally reform the nation's export-control system so that we strengthen our national security and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and technology.

Export controls constitute the regulations we have to restrict the export of certain products and technology for national security and other reasons. The changes that we are making-—in what we control, how we control it, how we enforce those controls, and how we manage our controls—-will help strengthen national security by focusing on controlling the most critical technologies and preserving our technological edge. (9/1)

Lockheed Chief: Congress Should Approve Export Changes (Source: DOD Buzz)
Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens says he hopes Congress looks favorably on the Obama administration’s proposed arms export control reforms because it will make U.S. companies more competitive, help generate U.S. jobs and better protect crucial U.S. technology. The administration announced roll-out of its first tranche of substantial changes yesterday, none of them requiring congressional approval.

But Congressional aides have indicated deep unease with some of the administration’s more ambitious proposals, such as a single agency overseeing arms export licenses and merging the State and Commerce departments lists governing what is subject to an arms export license. Stevens said he hoped “that we can turn to facts and look to history and the experience we have had over the last couple of decades and recognize that the world is changing. Today much technology is already available on a global basis.”

Stevens said he believes “we have the resources, the understanding” to create a single list of technologies and “to safeguard and to protect them.” U.S. competitiveness should also drive arms export changes, he said: “It’s also in the interest of members of Congress and the administration and people like me in the industry to work on ways we can be more competitive.” (9/1)

Nobel Winners Sign Letter Backing Obama Space Plan (Source: New York Times)
Fourteen Nobel laureates have signed a letter supporting President Obama’s proposed strategy for NASA and criticizing a NASA authorization bill under consideration in the House of Representatives. The House bill, the writers said, would leave “substantially underfunded” the areas of technology development, commercial spaceflight, robotic missions, and university and student research.

“These are the key elements of the president’s new plan for NASA that must be retained in any consensus solution reached by Congress and the White House,” said the letter, delivered to the office of Representative Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who leads the Committee on Science and Technology.

A Senate version of the authorization bill, passed last month, reduced money for commercial crew and technology development to finance the development of a heavy-lift rocket. The House bill would take away almost all the money from the commercial crew program and instead offer loan guarantees. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a trade group, helped coordinate the effort. (9/1)

Hatch Backs Constellation But Isn't Against Commercial Firms (Source: Deseret News)
Sen. Orrin Hatch summed it up even before ATK's test firing began Tuesday morning: he isn't against private firms competing in the work to put humans into space, but there has been only one such launch so far and it was "primitive compared with what you're going to see here today." Ares and the whole Constellation program, designed to return Americans to the moon and then to land astronauts on Mars, is under attack by the Obama administration.

The administration has been pushing to engage private firms in the effort, though many in Congress are fighting to continue funding Constellation. Hatch, R-Utah, speaking at an impromptu press conference here, said the program is "very, very important," and that "we've been in a massive effort" to keep it funded. "I hope this administration will see the light on this." Because of efforts on the congressional budget process, Hatch said, "we've come a long way from where the administration was originally." (9/1)

NASA in Plans to Launch Manned Mission to an Asteroid by 2025 (Source: Daily Mail)
NASA scientists are making plans to send a manned mission to visit an asteroid. President Obama has already declared that he wants a manned asteroid mission to take place by 2025 to form part of a test run for technologies needed for a Mars mission. And Lockheed Martin has already completed a study looking at how the Orion space capsule, which is to replace the Shuttle, could be used for such a mission.

As well as being a valuable dry run for a Mars mission, sending astronauts to an asteroid could also help scientists plan for how to protect Earth from any possible collision with one in the future. Lockheed has been working on a design since 2007 and have come up with a plan which would send two astronauts to an asteroid in a mission that culd last as long as six-months. (9/1)

Russia To Test Chandrayaan-2 Lander Next Year (Source: Aviation Week)
Next year, Russian space agency Roscomos plans to test the lander that will be part of India’s second Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2. Scheduled to be lofted in 2013, Chandrayaan-2 will have an orbiter, a lander and a rover. It is slated to fly on India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. While the lander will be provided by Russia, the orbiter and the rover are being built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The rover will move on wheels on the lunar surface, pick up samples of soil or rocks, perform a chemical analysis and send the data to the spacecraft orbiting above. (9/1)

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