October 25, 2010

NAC Planetary Defense Task Force Makes Recommendations to NASA (Source: Space Policy Online)
The NASA Advisory Council's (NAC's) Task Force on Planetary Defense made five recommendations to NASA in its report to NAC, which accepted the report on October 6. The Task Force was co-chaired by two former astronauts, Tom Jones and Rusty Schweickart. In this context, planetary defense means defending Earth from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) -- asteroids and comets -- headed our way.

The recommendations are: a) Organize for Effective Action on Planetary Defense; b) Acquire Essential Search, Track and Warning Capabilities; c) Investigate the Nature of the Impact Threat; d) Prepare to Respond to Impact Threats; and e) Lead U.S. Planetary Defense Efforts in National and International Forums. (10/25)

Still No Space Florida Board Appointments From Gov. Crist (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida remains without a board of directors and officially unable to initiate large contracts while the agency awaits the appointment of a new board of directors by Governor Charlie Crist. The previous board was dissolved in the summer as the result of legislation passed in early 2010 in Tallahassee. The legislation required Crist to appoint a new board by August 24.

Currently running for the U.S. Senate as an Independent candidate, Crist may be delaying the appointments to avoid potential political fallout from his choice of board members. However, his delay has caused its own fallout, as highlighted in this letter from House Speaker Larry Cretul. (10/25)

Space Tourism Ticket Prices Could Drop (Source: Space Daily)
Two space tourism companies say the price for a trip into space could drop from millions of dollars down to hundreds of thousands by late 2011. A brief trip into space featuring a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the earth 62 miles below could be within reach of the merely well-off and not just the mega-rich, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

Space Adventures, the Vienna, Va.-based company that brokered the flights of seven space tourists to the International Space Station between 2001 and 2009, also plans to offer suborbital tourist flights. Both Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic are expected to offer tickets at between $100,000 and $200,000, still a steep price for a flight lasting a few minutes. (10/25)

NASA Seeks More Proposals on Commercial Crew Development (Source: NASA)
NASA has issued an announcement seeking proposals from U. S. industry to further advance commercial crew space transportation concepts and mature the design and development of system elements, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft. Awards will result in funded Space Act Agreements. Multiple awards are expected to be announced by March 2011 for terms of up to 14 months. Approximately $200 million total is expected to be available for awards under this announcement, but funding is dependent on the 2011 fiscal year appropriations from Congress. The deadline for submitting proposals is Dec. 13. (10/25)

Shadowy Groups Fund Ads to Oust Kosmas (Sources: Florida Today, New York Times)
Anonymously financed conservative groups that have played such a crucial role this campaign year are starting a carefully coordinated final push to deliver control of Congress to Republicans, shifting money among some 80 House races they are monitoring day by day. A vivid picture of how outside groups are helping Republicans across the country can be found in central Florida. The incumbent Democrat, Rep. Suzanne M. Kosmas, had a nearly four-to-one fund-raising advantage over her Republican challenger, State Representative Sandy Adams, at the end of September.

Ms. Adams, low on cash, has not run a single campaign commercial. But a host of outside groups have swept in to swamp Ms. Kosmas with attack ads, helping establish Ms. Adams as the favorite without her having to spend on television. The coordinating effort is led out of a nondescript office suite just blocks from the White House, where two groups formed with help from Karl Rove — American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — share space with American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Together those strategists had already committed nearly $45 million for advertisements among them, according to Democratic advertising monitors’ best estimates. That does not include millions more being spent to get voters to polls through mailings, phone calls and text messages. "They are not required to disclose who they are," Ms. Kosmas said. "Therefore it's impossible to connect them to their real agenda." (10/25)

Bolden Releases Statement on China Visit (Source: NASA)
"I am pleased that NASA was able to meet its objectives for the visit, which included becoming acquainted with relevant Chinese space officials and institutions, better understanding Chinese human spaceflight programs and plans, and reaching a common understanding of the importance of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of any future interaction between our two nations in the area of human spaceflight.

"Although my visit did not include consideration of any specific proposals for future cooperation, I believe that my delegation's visit to China increased mutual understanding on the issue of human spaceflight and space exploration, which can form the basis for further dialogue and cooperation in a manner that is consistent with the national interests of both of our countries." (10/25)

Virgin Galactic Plans Participation in Contest for Orbital Space Vehicles (Source: AIA)
Virgin Galactic plans to be among companies bidding on a contract with NASA to follow up on its $50 million Commercial Crew Development program. The company's head, billionaire Richard Branson, said Virgin Galactic was in discussions with two companies to team up on a bid, or may opt to move ahead on its own, but either way, the company plans to be in orbital travel in the next few years. (10/25)

TASC Lands 10-year, $828 Million FAA NextGen Contract (Source: AIA)
TASC Inc. will play a key role in the Federal Aviation Commission's satellite-based NextGen air traffic control system. Last week, the FAA announced it had awarded TASC a 10-year contract worth as much as $828 million to help launch the NextGen network by 2025. TASC will work on advanced systems engineering, investment and business case analysis, planning and forecasting, and business, financial and information management support services. (10/25)

Humanoid Robot Hitching Space Ride on Shuttle Discovery (Source: Space.com)
After 15 years of preparation, the first human-like robot designed for use in space is ready for launch. The robot helper, called Robonaut 2, is packed in a box-within-a-box and cushioned with foam for its trip on the space shuttle Discovery scheduled to launch Nov. 1. The humanoid robot, which resembles the torso, head and shoulders of a person, was designed by NASA and General Motors to work alongside astronauts to complete chores and repairs aboard the International Space Station. (10/25)

Recycled Military Jets Serve as Satellite Launchers (Source: Space.com)
Space is quickly becoming a less remote place as dozens of universities and organizations prepare to launch small satellites in the coming years. A number of companies aim to increase launch capacity and decrease costs by offering dedicated small satellite launching services. The NanoLauncher venture will initially operate out of the United States at established spaceports, such as NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Fla., Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif.

NanoLauncher plans to use existing technologies rather than create its own rocket or satellite deployment systems, said A.C. Charania, president of SpaceWorks Commercial, based in Washington, D.C. His company is working with three Japanese firms – IHI Aerospace, the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer, and CSP Japan, Inc. – to get NanoLauncher off the ground. Click here to read the article. (10/25)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Update (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers a total of $30 million in prize money to the first privately funded teams to land robots on the Moon that explore the lunar surface by moving at least 500 meters and by sending back two packages of high definition video and photos. We're now three years into a fairly long effort: the prize is available until all of the prize purses are claimed or until the end of the year 2015.

Last week, we accepted our 24th team into the competition (although the identities of our two most recent teams have not yet been revealed). It's our most international competition to date; teams are headquartered in 12 different nations, but so many of them are multinational that we have team members living and working in around 70 nations. We're fairly confident that one of these teams will be responsible for returning the first photos and videos from the lunar surface since the final Soviet robotic surface mission in 1976. The window for new teams to register in the competition closes at the end of this year.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is part of the "Omega Envoy" team pursuing this prize. Embry-Riddle is the technical lead for a "critical component demonstration" aimed at fabrication and test of a lunar descent vehicle and propulsion system. Space Florida is an Omega Envoy sponsor, supporting Embry-Riddle and UCF efforts to win funding under the NASA Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contract. (10/25)

Florida Gets $800 Million More for High-Speed Rail (Source: Sen. Bill Nelson)
The U.S. Department of Transportation will award $800 million more to Florida to build a high-speed rail line slated to run from Tampa to Orlando. The announcement came today from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a phone call with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The additional $800 million comes on top of $1.25 billion President Obama announced in January the state would receive for the Tampa to Orlando stretch. DOT also notified Congress Monday of its intent to award an $8 million planning grant for the proposed high-speed rail line between Orlando and Miami. (10/25)

Editorial: The Politics of Running NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is awash in controversy, which is a bit strange for someone who has had so little to say since taking the job. Some 15 months into his tenure, Mr. Bolden has yet to make the rounds with U.S. media; during public appearances with reporters present he has largely stuck to prepared remarks before being whisked away by handlers. Perhaps his most famous press encounter was during a visit to Egypt this summer, when he suggested that one of his principal missions was to engage and inspire the Muslim world. U.S. President Barack Obama’s critics had a field day with that gaffe, for reasons that had far more do with politics than actual policy.

The latest dust-up surrounding Mr. Bolden concerns his trip to China, which has drawn heavy fire from that country’s congressional detractors including U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who, depending on how the Nov. 2 elections turn out, could find himself in charge of the House subcommittee that funds NASA come next year. These critics are strongly opposed to any cooperation with the Chinese in human spaceflight, which, while on Mr. Bolden’s discussion agenda, is hardly something that’s in danger of happening anytime soon.

Given the circumstances, Mr. Bolden might not have been the best choice to be NASA administrator; he certainly wasn’t the first choice. He has stumbled, badly in some instances, but he hasn’t gotten much help from the White House, which seems content to have him serve as a lightning rod for criticism. He deserves better. The White House needs either to give Mr. Bolden some visible moral support or to find a qualified replacement who’s better suited and willing to deal with the politics that go hand in hand with running the U.S. space agency. (10/25)

A Spaceport Takes Shape (Source: Space Review)
Last week Virgin Galactic and the state of New Mexico dedicated the runway at Spaceport America, the state's new commercial spaceport. Jeff Foust reports on how the event was designed to demonstrate to the industry and to local citizens the progress being made on the remote facility. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1716/1 to view the article. (10/25)

Black Fire: De-Orbiting Spysats During the Cold War (Source: Space Review)
In the 1970s, the NRO and the Air Force discovered that reentering spysats did not burn up in the atmosphere the way they expected. Dwayne Day discusses the research those organizations performed to better understand such reentries in order to keep key technologies out of the hands of the Soviets. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1715/1 to view the article. (10/25)

Space shuttle Discovery - A Look Inside its Final Mission (Source: CFL-13)
The six-member crew of space shuttle Discovery will launch an 11-day mission to the International Space Station, a trip that is being billed as the last flight for shuttle Discovery. This mission will bring an end to the flying life of Discovery, the most flown spacecraft in human history. Click here to read the article. (10/25)

A Wet Run for a Dry Planet (Source: Scientific American)
NASA recently tested drilling technology in the California desert with Mars sample return in mind. Despite a gummed up drill bit and three days of very un-Martian precipitation, engineers pronounced the test a success--and learned to expect the unexpected, whether it be in the California outback or on Mars.

At Mono Lake, spires of calcium carbonate formed long ago when calcium-bearing fresh water bubbled up into the alkaline lake rich in carbonates. Scientists think this evaporating basin paints a picture akin to what may have existed on Mars about four billion years ago, as some planet-wide catastrophe began desiccating Martian lakes, rivers and streams.

Studying the mineralogy, chemistry and biology of the deposits that remain from an evaporating basin on Earth helps scientists better understand what to look for in the geologic record on Mars—specifically, how Martian rocks today may have preserved evidence of ancient microbial life. (10/25)

Secure World Foundation Holds Space Debris Workshop in Beijing (Source: NewsWise)
Secure World Foundation, along with its partners at Beihang University in Beijing and International Space University in Strasbourg, France, held the 2010 Beijing Space Debris Mitigation Workshop on October 18-19. International participants from a dozen universities around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, and Japan, participated in the event in Beijing, along with faculty and graduate students from across China. (10/25)

Lost in Space - What Really Happened to Russia's Missing Cosmonauts? (Source: Fortean Times)
The ‘Lost Cosmonauts’ debate has been reawakened thanks to a new investigation into the efforts of two ingenious, radio-mad young Italian brothers who, starting in 1957, hacked into both Russia’s and NASA’s space programs – so effect­ively that the Russians, it seems, may have wanted them dead. Click here to read the article. (10/25)

U.S. Space Policy (Source: Voice of America)
All space-faring nations face several critical challenges to their ability to operate safely and responsibly in space. The United States is committed to facing the challenges that we find today where the benefits of space permeate almost every facet of our lives. The National Space Policy renews our pledge of cooperation in the belief that with strengthened international collaboration and reinvigorated U.S. leadership, all nations and peoples will find their horizons broadened, their knowledge enhanced, and their lives greatly improved. Click here to read the article. (10/25)

Russia's Progress Craft to Undock From Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Progress M-05M cargo spacecraft will be undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday. The freighter will then be "buried" at a "spaceship cemetery" in the southern Pacific in mid-November. A new Progress M-08M cargo ship will be launched from the Baikonur space center on October 27. Progress cargo spacecraft are used for supplying the ISS with fuel, as well as water, air and food for astronauts. (10/25)

Reorganizing Military Space (Source: Hudson New York)
The reorganization that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been imposing on the Defense Department may have its virtues, but they are not apparent when it comes to Air Force Space operations. While the Obama administration has been signaling that it intends to cut the Air Force budget, and some Generals see this change as a way to better integrate the space side of the organization back into the Air Force as a whole, other experts speculate that the worst cuts will fall on the space sector.

Taking control of the acquisition process away from the space professionals will facilitate crippling the space sector, which, if Chinese military preparations are any guide, could well be the next theater of war. These cuts in the acquisition role of the Air Force's space experts will prevent them from complaining too loudly about the cuts: they will lack access to the decision making process. Click here to view the article. (10/25)

The International Space Station: a Giant Science Laboratory (Source: Guardian)
The International Space Station arose when the US, Russia and other countries merged plans for independent space projects in 1993. The Russian Zarya (Star) module was the first to be lofted into orbit in November 1998. The station was designed as an orbiting science laboratory and researchers have already carried out more than 400 experiments on board. Science on the space station follows broad themes, including human research, biology, physics and materials science, technology, earth and space research and education. (10/25)

Tourism in Space Poised for Giant Leap (Source: Houston Chronicle)
In the half-century since humans first touched the stars, just seven people have paid their way into space, each forking over tens of millions to orbit around the Earth for about two weeks. But by late next year, more paying customers will make a brief venture into space, and at a much cheaper cost, if plans by two companies flourish. Costing from $100,000 to $200,000, the flights will give customers a few minutes of weightlessness and a grand view of the Earth 62 miles above the ground.

This goal is among the latest efforts in the world of space tourism. Conceived decades ago, the idea to provide spaceflight to the paying customer is starting to become a reality. The tangibility was made clear earlier this month when Virgin's VSS Enterprise completed its first manned glide flight from 42,000 feet to a Mojave, Calif., spaceport. Click here to view the article. (10/25)

No comments: