October 24, 2010

“The Day of Reckoning”: Appropriators to Decide on Key Isotope For Space Probes (Source: AIP)
When Congress returns to Washington later this month appropriators must make a critical decision about the future of U.S. planetary robotic missions. The Obama Administration has requested-–for the second time--$30 million to initiate the production of Plutonium-238 (Pu-238) which has been used in radioisotope power systems on 26 space missions. U.S. production of this essential isotope ceased in 1988, and the sale of this material from Russia has been halted. While it appears that House appropriators have approved the $15 million that the Department of Energy requested for FY2011, Senate appropriators included no money for the reestablishment of a U.S. production program in its DOE funding bill. (10/22)

NASA Takes Social Media Plunge (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is doing a superb job engaging a younger audience via social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, trying to find ways to reach young people and younger professionals with news, information and fun activities. Evidence of that comes next week when the agency will host 150 of its Twitter "followers" -- basically people who've "subscribed" to NASA's tweets on that website -- at the Kennedy Space Center for the scheduled launch of space shuttle Discovery on its final voyage. (10/24)

NASA to Mark 10th Anniversary of Life on Space Station (Source: NBBD)
NASA will commemorate the 10th anniversary of human life, work and research on the International Space Station (ISS) with an Oct. 27 series of roundtable discussions. The events at three NASA centers and headquarters in Washington will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website www.nasa.gov/ntv. The events will feature former space station residents, key leaders and team members who have guided the station through its first 10 years. (Russia’s Mir space station spent 15 years in orbit--three times its planned lifetime—and remained almost continuously occupied for nine years before it was de-orbited in 2001.)

Panelists at Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Johnson Space Center; Marshall Space Flight Center; and NASA Headquarters will discuss the challenges and accomplishments of the station's first decade of assembly and research and consider the promise of the upcoming decade of microgravity research. (10/21)

Florida Residents — Buy One, Get One Free - Admission to KSC Visitor Complex (Source: KSCVC)
For a limited time, Florida residents get one free admission of equal or lesser value with the purchase of a full-price admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. So bring a loved one. Bring a friend. Bring anyone and come share a day of fun. And a lifetime of inspiration. Offer valid through December 18, 2010. Click here for a coupon. (10/24)

Meanwhile, in Mojave... (Source: Parabolic Arc)
While much of the space industry's focus was on festivities at Spaceport America, the Air Force’s Everyday Sci-Fi show visited the Mojave Air & Space Port where blogger Derek Nye got a tour of XCOR Aerospace and watched Dave Masten launch a Xombie. Click here to see the video. (10/24)

Public Can Watch Wheels Go On New Mars Rover (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
A newly installed webcam is giving the public an opportunity to watch technicians assemble and test the next NASA Mars rover, one of the most technologically challenging interplanetary missions ever designed. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover, is in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

The video will be supplemented periodically by live web chats featuring Curiosity team members answering questions about the rover. Currently, work in the clean room begins at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. Clean room technicians have been busy adding new avionics and instruments to the rover. Beginning Friday, viewers will see technicians carefully add the rover's suspension system and its six wheels. On Monday, the rover's 7-foot-long robotic arm will be carefully lifted and attached to the front of the rover. Continuous live video of rover construction is available here. (10/24)

NASA Completes Fuel Line Work (Source: CFnews13)
NASA said it it has replaced two fuel line seals all trying to stop a small leak once and for all. The work was completed late Saturday night. NASA has spent days on the repairs, first draining toxic fuel from the shuttle before completing the work. NASA spent Sunday reloading the rocket fuel into the shuttle, all in hopes of keeping things on track for a launch on Nov. 1. (10/24)

India Outwits NASA in Moon Findings (Source: Economic Times)
India has taken the lead over NASA in discovering water, carbon dioxide and other elements on the moon through its Chandrayaan-1 mission. The US space agency announced these findings only on Friday, months after ISRO made these discoveries public. On Oct. 22, NASA announced the discovery of water, carbon dioxide and other species through the LRO (lunar reconnaissance orbiter) and LCross (lunar crater observation and sensing satellite) mission, a robotic spacecraft operated by NASA. (10/24)

Female Embry-Riddle Grad Ready for 2nd Ride Into Space (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
In the 1980s, Nicole P. Stott was a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Last year, however, she got to see Florida from a very different perspective -- from orbit. Now 47, the astronaut spent 3 1/2 months at the International Space Station as a member of ISS Expeditions 20 and 21 crews. This was Stott's first trip into space, but not her last. While still at the space station, she was tapped for the STS 133 mission, now scheduled for Nov. 1. It's the final flight planned for space shuttle Discovery and perhaps the penultimate flight planned for the space shuttle program. (10/24)

Embry-Riddle's Next Frontier (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Embry-Riddle administrators say Nicole Stott is an example of what women can accomplish in the aerospace industry. Even so, more than 20 years after Stott graduated, the university still struggles to attract female students. This fall, about 16.5 percent or 843 of the approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the Daytona Beach campus are women, university reports show. That's down from about 18 percent last fall, but it represents slow progress long-term. In 1992, for example, the percentage of female students was 12 percent.

Embry-Riddle President John Johnson said even 18 percent is not good enough. He's on a mission, along with his wife, Maurie, to improve the ratios with a range of programs from new scholarships to women's athletics and early education in schools. "It's all role stereotypes in society that we need to get rid of," Johnson said. "We are all people. We are all smart." The university's strategic plan is to raise the percentage of females to 25 percent by 2020, though Johnson wants to reach that goal in two to three years. (10/24)

SpaceX Now Targeting Nov. 18 for First COTS Demo Flight (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX has pushed back the target date for its first NASA demonstration flight by 10 days, to Nov. 18. The planned launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will be the first in a NASA program testing the vehicles' readiness to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX had been targeting Nov. 8 for the first mission under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, or COTS. (10/24)

German Government Asks EU to Propose Galileo Cost Cuts (Source: Reuters)
The German government has asked the European Commission to propose ways to cut the cost of Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system. The project, Europe's planned alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System network, has been hit by delays and disputes over funding that ended when the 27-nation European Union agreed to invest public money. German media reported that Europe's biggest single space program will face further delays and additional costs of 1.5-1.7 billion euros. (10/24)

Russia to Open New Spaceport Complex in 2015 (Source: Xinhua)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos and Financial Ministry finalized and signed the project of building a new space launch site in Russia's Far East. Now the project on construction of Vostochny space launching complex is ready for submission to the government, head of Roscosmos Anatoli Perminov said. Vostochny, located in the Amur region bordering China, will host two booster sites, a training center and a medical research center. The first launch from Vostochny has been planned for 2015, and the first manned expedition would start from there in 2018. (10/24)

Washington Senator Fighting to Get Retired Orbiter into Museum of Flight (Source: Examiner)
Recently, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to NASA in a bid to acquire the retiring Space Shuttle Orbiter for the Museum of Flight in Washington State. Senator Murray wrote, in part: “Washington State has a long history of contributions to human space flight. The Boeing Company, founded in Seattle almost 100 years ago, built the 747 aircraft which transports the Space Shuttle. In addition, the Boeing Company is the primary contractor for the International Space Station and is part of the United Space Alliance." (10/24)

Russia Marks 50 Years Since Space Launch Disaster (Source: France 24)
Russia on Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the world's most horrific but long-classified space catastrophe when 126 people were burned alive during a launch pad accident at the Baikonur cosmodrome. The Soviet Union, locked in a space race with the United States, was developing an intercontinental ballistic missile known as the R-16, and on October 24, 1960 was scheduled to launch a prototype rocket when it exploded on the launch pad.

"To this day it is considered the most horrific (tragedy) in the history of space exploration," the agency said ahead of Sunday's anniversary. In the West, the tragedy is referred to as the Nedelin disaster, after the commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Mitrofan Nedelin, who oversaw the rocket programme and died along with designers and testers. (10/24)

Editorial: To the Moon, Back ... and Again? (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
Those who continue to advocate for going where no man (or woman) has gone before fear that the U.S. space program is rudderless because it has no inspiring goal. They point to John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 pledge to land a man on the moon and — more importantly — return him "safely to the Earth." It galvanized a nation, and sparked a science and technology boom, which Kennedy intended.

Perhaps few people today are as qualified to talk about that effort as the next speaker in the public lecture series at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola on Oct. 27. Dr. John Logsdon is the author of the forthcoming book, "John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon." Today, the space program is adrift as politicians and technicians seek a similarly inspiring — and useful — goal. Achieving it could restore U.S. leadership in space, which has lost none of its importance.

Should we return to the moon and set up a base? Go to Mars? Concentrate on orbital space stations or space exploration? Look for UFOs? Logsdon will review Kennedy's involvement with the Apollo program, one of America's signature achievements. He assesses its results, looking both at Kennedy's reasons for pushing it and its impact on the U.S. space program. Click here for information. (10/23)

Cal Poly Satellite Program Gets $5 Million from NASA (Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune)
Cal Poly’s mini-satellite program just got a $5 million boost from NASA. The university’s CubeSat program has existed for 10 years, during which students have played a key role in helping to launch 32 mini-satellites into orbit as part of six missions. Aeronautics engineering professor Jordi Puig-Suari said the NASA funding will facilitate more launches in the U.S. and help build working relations with the federal space agency.

“In the past, we’ve participated in launches in Russia, and it can be a very intensive process to meet the requirements of the U.S. State Department,” Puig-Suari said. “Working with NASA will make it much easier to conduct more launches in the U.S.” Puig-Suari worked with Stanford University to develop the initial protocol for the CubeSat standard. Click here to read the article. (10/23)

Is Warp Speed Possible? (Source: Discovery)
Humans shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears in search of the almighty loophole. From sweet tax dodges to life-extending gene hacks, there's nothing like finding an exploitable weakness in an intensely complicated system. But is it possible to find a loophole in the universal speed limit? Can we skirt Einstein's theory of special relativity and travel faster than a beam of light?

"As an object approaches the speed of light, all sorts of interesting things happen," says theoretical physicist Richard Obousy. "For example, time dilation occurs and an object’s mass increases. As you reach the speed of light, relativity calculations indicate that an object's mass becomes infinite." Plug in the numbers, Obousy says, and you face some staggering fuel costs. To accelerate an object to the speed of light, you'd need nothing short of an infinite amount of energy. There has to be a better way, right? Click here to read the article. (10/23)

Five Places to Pretend You're on the Moon (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Will we need passports for space travel? In a few years, the moon just might be the hottest travel destination in the universe. Before you start packing MoonPies and book your flight, here are five places to learn about Earth's favorite satellite and what to expect on your travels there. Click here to read the article. (10/23)

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