November 2, 2010

NASA Will Decide Wednesday On Possible Launch Thursday (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will decide Wednesday afternoon whether to try to launch shuttle Discovery the following day or perhaps delay its mission until early December so repairs can be made to one of its three liquid-fueled main engines. Discovery and six astronauts now are tentatively slated for a 3:29 p.m. Thursday blast-off, but engineers still have to explain trouble with a circuit breaker that plays a key role in routing commands from the shuttle's primary flight computers to a computer that controls Discovery's Engine No. 3. (11/2)

Aviation Week's Frank Morring Wins National Space Club (Huntsville Committee) Award (Source: NSCH)
The National Space Club in Huntsville, Alabama, has bestowed its 2010 Media Award to Frank Morring, Jr. Aviation Week's senior editor, space. Each year, this prestigious award honors an individual or group that has made a significant contribution to public knowledge and understanding of astronautics and its impact upon our nation and all mankind. The award was presented to an audience of aerospace professionals, business and community leaders, and NASA and military officials at the Club's 22nd Annual Dr. Werhner von Braun Memorial Dinner on October 27. (11/2)

Red States, Blue States, Astronauts Vote in Weightless State (Source: CFnews13)
The three Americans orbiting the planet on Election Day have cast their ballots. Space station astronaut Scott Kelly voted Sunday via a secure e-mail system. Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker also voted recently 200-plus-miles up. Kelly said Tuesday it was an "honor and a privilege" to vote from the International Space Station. (11/2)

Bye Bye to a Lovely Planet (Source: Huffington Post)
The planet Gliese 581g might be a chimera. This intriguing object has dominated science news for the last few weeks because it was the first world found in deep space that might sport an environment comparable to our own. Gliese 581g could be wrapped in oceans, a thick atmosphere and -- who knows? -- some biology. After discovering nearly 500 planets around other stars, it appeared that astronomers had finally tripped across one that might approximate the Earth.

Well, buck up and stand down. A new analysis by astronomer Michel Mayor and his Swiss team suggests that Gliese 581g is an apparition -- a planet conjured into existence by other researchers' faulty interpretation of noisy data. It now seems you can stop fantasizing about oddball Gliesians 20 light-years from your doorstep.

Disappointing, sure. But there's nothing either novel or disturbing in this. Astronomy is largely an exploratory science, heavily dominated by observation. Astronomers have mapped out the cosmos by using their telescopes first and their imaginations second. And since the really exciting discoveries are perforce made at the hairy frontier of telescope performance, mistakes happen. (11/2)

NASA and LEGO Partner for Education (Source: NASA)
A LEGO space shuttle headed to orbit helps mark the Tuesday signing of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and The LEGO Group to spark children's interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To commemorate the beginning of this partnership, the small LEGO shuttle will launch with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The partnership marks the beginning of a three-year agreement that will use the inspiration of NASA's space exploration missions and the appeal of the popular LEGO bricks to spur children's interest in STEM. The theme of the partnership is "Building and Exploring Our Future."

As part of the Space Act Agreement, NASA will send special LEGO sets to the International Space Station aboard shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission in February 2011. The sets will be assembled by astronauts on-orbit and by children and student groups across the country. The construction process and activities with the sets will demonstrate the challenges faced when building things in the microgravity environment of space. (11/2)

The Fading Final Frontier (Source: Space Daily)
After NASA's initial successes, bureaucratic creep slowly took over, and soon programs were being designed by political committees and bean counters. The public lost interest in human space flight and NASA lost congressional support for exploration, except when jobs in districts were at stake. NASA has now become a mature and politically driven government agency. Human space exploration programs are essentially jobs programs. For example, Constellation has been cancelled, but congress is yelling for a new large booster, an example of a solution looking for a problem.

Frankly, there is nothing wrong with a jobs program. Let's just not call it something that it is not. For example, call NASA's human space exploration activities a research program that will assure the availability of top technical talent for future programs. Everyone knows that PowerPoint engineering is not rocket science. Let's tell it like it is and maybe we can move beyond "ho-hum" space. (11/2)

NASA Tallies Space Station Launches To-Date (Source: NASA)
In a recent Twitter post, NASA says there have been 103 launches to the International Space Station, including 67 by Russia, 34 Space Shuttle missions, one European and one Japanese. Discovery's mission will be the 39th assembly flight (35 of which have been by the U.S. and four have been Russian). (11/2)

Slug-Like Dunes of Mars (Source: Discovery)
Just in case you didn't think Mars could get any more alien, here's an intriguing photograph taken by the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2007. What are those dark objects? Giant slugs slithering over the Martian plains? Are the Sandworms from Frank Herbert's classic 1965 novel "Dune" real? As much as I'd love to be announcing the discovery of an alien herd of rampaging giant invertebrates, alas (as you might have guessed) this is actually an image of some odd-looking dunes inside a 150 kilometer-wide Martian crater. Click here for more. (11/2)

Technology Opens U.S. Military Space, Despite China's Concerns (Source: Aviation Week)
Analyst Dean Cheng says Chinese doctrine makes no distinction between deterrence and compellance (making an adversary take an action, rather than refraining), and that deterrence extends across all domains, including conventional, cyber and space. He said China’s policy of compellance and deterrence stresses the importance of demonstrating the will to act.

China, added Cheng, sees the U.S. Schriever X space wargame—conducted at Nellis AFB, Nev., in May—as a demonstration of intent, and although China has proposed to stop the “weaponization” of space, these proposals encompass only weapons on-orbit, not ground-launched systems or orbital sensors. Ballistic missile defense (BMD) technology can be adapted to counterspace use, and will only increase its reach into higher orbits with the advent of higher-velocity interceptors now under development.

Space-based infrared technology, used to track orbital objects in the U.S./Boeing Space Based Surveillance System and to support BMD in the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, can be used against satellites as well as missiles or debris. Click here to read the article. (11/2)

Ride a Starship? Not for a Century (Source: MSNBC)
It turns out that the $1.1 million "Hundred Year Starship" project is a yearlong study for a multigenerational mission which is yet to be named ... and for which humans might need to be re-engineered. Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, created a stir last month at a conference sponsored by the Long Now Foundation when he mentioned that the space agency was kicking in an extra $100,000 to the project, sponsored by DARPA. Here's a clip from DARPA's news release:

"The 100-Year Starship study will examine the business model needed to develop and mature a technology portfolio enabling long-distance manned spaceflight a century from now. This goal will require sustained investments of intellectual and financial capital from a variety of sources. The yearlong study aims to develop a construct that will incentivize and facilitate private co-investment to ensure continuity of the lengthy technological time horizon needed." (11/2)

Effects of NASA's Shuttle Program Ending (Source: Marketplace)
After 30 years, NASA's Shuttle program will end. Bloomberg Businessweek's Paul Barrett talks with Jeremy Hobson about the impact this will have on Florida and America's competitiveness. Click here to listen to the radio discussion. (11/2)

This is How Saturn's Rings Roll (Source: MSNBC)
The scientists behind the Cassini mission to Saturn say they have figured out the reasons behind the irregularities in the behavior of the most dynamic regions in Saturn's rings. They're due to a combination of natural oscillations that are amplified by the motions of the ring particles themselves -- plus an extra disturbance created by the moon Mimas. The scientists also have discovered two regions within the rings that are the likely homes of moonlets yet to be discovered. Click here to read the article. (11/2)

Modernized Soyuz-2 Rocket Lifts Off From Russia's Plesetsk Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
A carrier rocket in the family of modernized Soyuz-2 carriers lifted off from the Plesetsk space center at 03:38 Moscow Standard Time Tuesday to bring into space the Meridian probe. The latter has been launched in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin, an official spokesman for the Russian Space Troops said. (11/2)

California Delta-2 Launch Scrubbed Again (Source: Lompoc Record)
A last-minute problem led to another liftoff delay Monday night for the Delta 2 rocket and its Italian satellite at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The team will again try to launch the rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday, officials said after mission managers scrubbed Monday’s countdown. (11/2)

Major Surgery Complete for Deep Space Network Antenna (Source: JPL)
The seven-month upgrade to the historic "Mars antenna" at NASA's Deep Space Network site in Goldstone, Calif. has been completed. After a month of intensive testing, similar to the rehabilitation stage after surgery, the antenna is now ready to help maintain communication with spacecraft during the next decade of space exploration. The month of October was used as a testing period to make sure the antenna was in working order and fully functional, as scheduled, for Nov. 1. (11/2)

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