January 10, 2011

Fermi Catches Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter into Space (Source: NASA)
Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth, a phenomenon never seen before. Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF), a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. It is estimated that about 500 TGFs occur daily worldwide, but most go undetected. (1/10)

Nelson: NASA May Have To Consider Having Only 2 Launches (Source: WFTV)
NASA is getting a stern reality check from one of its biggest supporters. Senator Bill Nelson admitted Monday there may only be two more shuttle missions instead of three. WFTV learned NASA will announce another delay for Discovery on Tuesday and, Nelson says, if engineers can't fix Discovery's external tank they must cancel the Atlantis mission and use that tank, because they aren't making tanks anymore. The plant that makes the tanks in Louisiana has already been shut down, so NASA is really faced with two options: fly with a tank that has had more repair work done than any other tank or scrap an entire shuttle mission. (1/10)

Ex-NASA Worker Charged with Military Tech Sale to South Korea (Source: AFP)
An American who worked for NASA was charged with illegally shipping infrared military technology to South Korea, the Department of Justice announced Monday. Kue Sang Chun, 66, of Avon Lake, Ohio, was charged with one count of illegally exporting US defense articles and one count of knowingly making and subscribing a false US individual income tax return, the department said. Chun, a former employee at the NASA Glenn Research Center, was not however "accused of taking technology or related materials from the research center," a department statement said. (1/10)

Hubble Snaps Sharpest-Ever Photo of Dead Green Quasar (Source: WIRED)
The Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the eerie, green-glowing gas highlighted by a recently deceased quasar. The Milky-Way-sized object, located about 730 million light-years away, surrounds a supermassive black hole that was once the heart of a galaxy. The black hole gobbled up its last available meal of gas and dust as a quasar between 45,000 and 70,000 years ago, ionizing oxygen in distant gas clouds into a bright green glow before fading back into darkness. Click here. (1/10)

Russia to Conduct 10 Space Launches in First Quarter (Source: Xinhua)
Russia plans to launch 10 space rockets in the first quarter of 2011. Five launches will be conducted from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, four from Plesetsk in Russia and one from the Dombarovskaya rocket division deployment area in Orenburg region. The rockets will include Zenits, Soyuz, Rokot, Dnepr, and Proton. (1/10)

The War of the Worlds, Round 2 (Source: New York Times)
Not everyone is yet convinced that Eris is definitely smaller than Pluto. Dr. Brown, for one, is perplexed. The occultation measurement seems to demonstrate convincingly that Eris’ diameter is less than 2,360 kilometers, or 1,466 miles, Dr. Brown said. That is smaller than earlier estimates of 3,000 kilometers, based on infrared light from Eris, and 2,400 kilometers, based on Dr. Brown’s observations with the Hubble Space Telescope.

But he notes that a number of conflicting figures for the size of Pluto appear on various Web sites. Wikipedia, citing a 2006 scientific paper, puts the diameter at 2,306 kilometers, give or take 20 kilometers. And now Pluto is bigger than Eris, “because, um, 2,306 kilometers is greater than 2,360 kilometers?” Dr. Brown asked, rhetorically and quizzically, on his blog. Delving further to make sense of the numbers, Dr. Brown did not question the yet-to-be-published Eris measurements by Dr. Sicardy’s group, but rather concluded, “I have to say: there is something fishy in the size of Pluto.” (1/10)

Want to See The Space Shuttles' Last Hurrah? Here’s How (Source: Space.com)
Record crowds by the thousands are expected to turn out to watch the final launches of NASA's space shuttles as they soar into space for the last time. The agency has two scheduled missions left — Discovery's STS-133 and Endeavour's STS-134 — and a third planned, pending congressional appropriations. So, how can you be a spectator at one of these historic liftoffs?

Luckily, a shuttle launch is such a bright spectacle that anyone on Florida's Space Coast can get a decent view. Tickets are scarce, but there are still some steps viewers can take to make sure they have a memorable experience watching a shuttle launch. The best launch-viewing spot available to the public is on the NASA Causeway, about 6 miles (9.6 km) from the shuttle's Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

Earth Must Prepare for Close Encounter with Aliens, say Scientists (Source: Guardian)
World governments should prepare a coordinated action plan in case Earth is contacted by aliens, according to scientists. Scientists argue that a branch of the UN must be given responsibility for "supra-Earth affairs" and formulate a plan for how to deal with extraterrestrials, should they appear. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

Veteran Astronauts Bobko, Helms Selected For Hall Of Fame (Source: Florida Today)
The first woman to serve on the International Space Station and an astronaut who flew on the maiden voyages of the orbiters Challenger and Atlantis will be inducted this May into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Helms and retired Air Force Col. Karol "Bo" Bobko were selected from a field of 19 candidates and will bring to 79 the number of elite U.S. space explorers inducted in the hall of fame. The two will be enshrined during a public induction ceremony on May 7 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (1/10)

Groups Seek Legislative Support for Space in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Legislature will be asked to support a variety of space-related funding and policy issues in 2011, including programs aimed at mitigating the economic impacts of the Space Shuttle's retirement. Space Florida is garnering legislative sponsors for a "Space Business Incentives Act", aerospace and R&D tax credits, and an effort to make permanent a spaceflight informed consent law to shield human spaceflight companies from liability. Space Florida also hopes to receive an adequate budget to continue its statewide efforts toward space industry expansion and diversification.

In addition to Space Florida's requests, groups like Brevard Workforce will request as much as $4 million to support space workforce retention, retraining and support services. All of these requests will likely be supported by a coalition of space-related businesses sponsoring the annual Florida Space Day event during the first week of the Legislative Session on March 16. This event will bring dozens of industry, government and university leaders to Tallahassee for space-focused meetings with government officials. Click here for information on Space Day. (1/10)

The ISS X Prize (Source: SpaceKSC Blog)
So let's have a series of X Prizes for ISS research. Whether it's the X Prize Foundation or the federal government or a combination thereof, I'd like to see $1 billion set aside for five X ISS challenges ($200 million each). What would those challenges be? That can be debated, but here's my list: (1) Research that significantly contributes to a cure for cancer; (2) Research that leads to a significant advance in computer technology, e.g. increased processing time or data storage; (3) Research that leads to a new propulsion system resulting in less travel time from Earth to Mars; (4) Research that leads to a significant improvement in solar energy that lessens the cost of using that technology here on Earth; (5) The first photo of either a new planet within our solar system, or a planet in orbit around a nearby solar system. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

NASA Orders Full Round of Stiffeners to Discovery Tank (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Senior NASA managers Monday agreed to install stiffeners all the way around the shuttle Discovery's external tank to beef up structural ribs, or stringers, that are susceptible to cracks when exposed to ultra-low-temperature propellant. Engineers say the modifications can be completed in time to support at launch as early as Feb. 24, assuming the work goes smoothly no other major problems develop.

The so-called radius block plates will be attached to the top few inches of all the stringers making up the ribbed intertank that separates the external tank's liquid oxygen and hydrogen sections. Eight known cracks in five of the 108 stringers already have been repaired by splicing in fresh stringer segments and installing doublers for additional strength. (1/10)

To Boldly Go: What Made 400 People Volunteer for a One-Way Mission to Mars? (Source: FOX News)
An interplanetary trip to Mars could take as little as 10 months, but returning would be virtually impossible -- making the voyage a form of self-imposed exile from Earth unlike anything else in human history. What would inspire someone to volunteer? We've just found out.

A special edition of the Journal of Cosmology details exactly how a privately-funded, one-way mission to Mars could depart as soon as 20 years from now -- and it prompted more than 400 readers to volunteer as colonists. "I've had a deep desire to explore the universe ever since I was a child and understood what a rocket was," Peter Greaves told FoxNews.com. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

NASA'S Kepler Mission Discovers Its First Rocky Planet (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Measuring 1.4 times the size of Earth, it is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system. The discovery of this so-called exoplanet is based on more than eight months of data collected by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010. Kepler's ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. The distance between the planet and the star is calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star. (1/10)

Space Florida President Featured in Space News (Source: Space News)
With the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet looming, Florida is facing its greatest space-related job dislocation since the Apollo program was ended in the early 1970s. This follows the departure of most of the state’s commercial space-launch industry within the last decade, as U.S. rocket makers found themselves unable to compete on price or schedule with European and Russian services.

Tapped in May 2009 to lead Space Florida, Frank DiBello has set an ambitious goal of tripling Florida’s aerospace industry work force over the next 10 years. That is a tall order under the circumstances, especially given the struggles Space Florida’s legacy organizations have had in attracting new space-related commerce to the state. DiBello is pinning his hopes not only on NASA but on other agencies like DOD as well as emerging commercial space services. He also says Florida’s skilled space workforce can adapt readily to aviation and related businesses. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

Human Operations Beyond LEO by the End of the Decade (Source: Space Review)
Where should humans go next beyond Earth orbit, and how quickly? Harley Thronson, Dan Lester, and Ted Talay make the case for quickly and affordably establishing an outpost at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1756/1 to view the article. (1/10)

Public Interest and Space Exploration (Source: Space Review)
The general public remains fascinated with many aspects of space exploration, from the Hubble Space Telescope's observations of the cosmos to the activities of the Mars rovers. Lou Friedman notes that this interest must be taken into account when dealing with troubled current programs and planning future ones. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1755/1 to view the article. (1/10)

Northrop Grumman-Built James Webb Space Telescope Makes Significant Progress (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Highlighted by the completion of its most important milestone to date, Mission Critical Design Review, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope made significant progress throughout 2010. Northrop Grumman is leading the design and development effort for the space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center.

In April, the telescope passed its Mission Critical Design Review, which signified that the integrated observatory will meet all science and engineering requirements for the mission. This review encompassed all previous design reviews and marked seven years of intense, focused effort on the part of NASA, Northrop Grumman and the Webb telescope team members. Editor's Note: A good effort here to highlight the positives of JWST as Congress and NASA sharpen their knives for inevitable budget cuts. (1/10)

UK Tech to Aid Private Space Shot (Source: BBC)
UK technology could aid a US company's ambitions to send spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit. Bigelow Aerospace's plans include telescopes that could be sent into deep space. The UK's Astronomy Technology Center (UK ATC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Bigelow. Bigelow's space telescope concepts include operating beyond the Moon, more than one million kilometers away at one of the Lagrange points - gravitational "sweet spots" where spacecraft can hold station without expending too much fuel. (1/10)

Astronauts Urge Preservation Of T-38s (Source: Aviation Week)
Though the 30-year-old space shuttle fleet is headed for retirement this year, NASA’s director of flight crew operations and chief astronaut believe the agency should continue to fly a reduced fleet of aging T-38 supersonic jet aircraft based near Johnson Space Center as an essential part of future astronaut training.

“We don’t fly the T-38 to be good pilots. We fly them to stay proficient in a fast-paced environment,” Brent Jett told a panel co-chaired by former NASA astronaut and deputy administrator Fred Gregory. “I can’t get that any place else.” Peggy Whitson, a biochemist, told committee members that without her training as a T-38 “back seater” she would have been ill-prepared to command the station during a 192-day mission that included five spacewalks. (1/10)

Dwarf Galaxy Solves Supermassive Mystery (Source: Physics World)
Ever since supermassive black holes were found to lurk at the heart of most large galaxies, astronomers have wondered what came first: the galaxies or the black holes themselves? Now astronomers in the US have spotted the first known supermassive black hole at the heart of a very young "dwarf" galaxy, where stars are still breeding rapidly. The finding, obtained using data from the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico and the Hubble Space Telescope, suggests that supermassive black holes form before their companion galaxies.

The mystery about which came first – galaxies or their supermassive black holes – initially arose when astronomers found that the mass of the black hole divided by that of the galaxy's dense central core (or "bulge") is the same for nearly all large galaxies, including our own Milky Way. It seemed that the black holes and bulges affect each other's growth – and therefore develop at the same time. However, over the past few years observations seem to be suggesting that young galaxies harbour much more massive black holes than this ratio would allow – suggesting that their black holes formed first. (1/10)

Plans for Excalibur Almaz Stations Not Yet Decided (Source: isleofman.com)
The two space station hulls which were transported to Jurby last week could be used as 'space hotels', but there are no specific plans for them at the moment. The Russian built station frames have been bought by Island-registered space exploration and tourism company Excalibur Almaz.

It aims to provide anybody who can afford the multi-million dollar fee the opportunity for holidays in space using their own spacecraft, one of which was exhibited on the Island a year ago. The first such flights could be launched in 2013. Executive vice-president of technical operations at Excalibur Almaz Leroy Chiao hopes the stations can be used at some stage in the future, but at the moment he can't say how long they will remain here. (1/10)

Photos To Space Supports Leading Infant Health Charity (Source: Photos To Space)
In an effort to raise funds and create awareness that saves infant lives, Photos To Space has launched a new partnership with First Candle; a leading national nonprofit dedicated to infant health and survival. Photos To Space will be donating 10% of their sales from their next flight, planned April of this year. The proceeds will be used to support critically needed SIDS and stillbirth research, education and bereavement support programs at First Candle. (1/10)

NASA Map Will Guide India on Moon (Source: DNA)
The first ever complete map of Moon’s surface, being developed by US’ National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), will show India’s second unmanned lunar mission—Chandrayaan-2—the way around on Moon. Importantly, the map which is being readied by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre by using its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft that is orbiting Moon, will help India’s 2013-scheduled Chandrayaan-2 determine its precise landing point on the lunar surface. (1/10)

Central Florida Defense and Space, Industries Face Uncertain Future in 2011 (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With cuts in U.S. military spending looming and the phaseout of NASA's space-shuttle program almost complete, the forecast this year is cloudy, at best, for the region's multibillion-dollar high-tech clusters. The clouds are darkest over the Space Coast, as the U.S. space agency and its private subcontractors continue to shed thousands of shuttle-related jobs in Brevard County. The losses, which began last year, are rippling through the local economy, from restaurants and retailers to doctors and dry cleaners.

"I would assume we will become successful at enticing the private launch industry to locate and work in Central Florida," said Roger Handberg, a space-policy expert at the University of Central Florida. "But their business models involve a minimal work force. So that's not going to return Central Florida and the Space Coast to the good old days." Click here to read the article. (1/10)

Project ADR: Removal of Large Orbital Debris Interests NASA (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A study into Active Debris Removal (ADR) has begun laying the foundations of a long term project to remove large pieces of orbital debris from space. The effort, which may grow into an international project, aims to eventually remove around five large pieces of debris – such as the numerous spent Upper Stages from Russian vehicles – per year. Click here to read the article. (1/10)

Would Alien Life Change Your Life? (Source: MSNBC)
Recent scientific findings plus some educated guesses have led some experts to estimate there may be 10,000 extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way. Come up with your own estimate using our Drake Equation Calculator. Would the detection of extraterrestrial life cause the kind of paranoia or alien worship we see in science-fiction? In a fresh round of studies, scientists and theologians suggest it really wouldn't have much impact on what we do or what we believe.

The Brookings Report warned in 1961 that the discovery of life beyond Earth could lead to social upheaval. But Albert Harrison, a psychologist at the University of California at Davis, says "times have changed dramatically" since then. Even the discovery of intelligent aliens "may be far less startling for generations that have been brought up with word processors, electronic calculators, avatars and cell phones as compared with earlier generations used to typewriters, slide rules, pay phones and rag dolls," Harrison writes. (1/10)

The International Space Station Enters the New Year with a New Era of Utilization (Source: NASA)
The new year is here, and along with it a new era of utilization for research and technology begins for the completed International Space Station. The orbiting laboratory shifts focus in 2011 from finalizing construction efforts to full-scale use of the facility for scientific investigation and technological advances. (1/10)

Positioning the International Space Station for the Utilization Era (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Two principle factors will determine ISS productivity in the coming years. Can ISS-based R&D truly have a substantive impact on future paths in science and technology? There are both cynics and visionaries on this question, which is to be expected in any emerging field of research. Also, will the programmatic opportunities and constraints allow for the R&D potential to actually be realized in practice? History is abounding with lost opportunities, sometimes even signaling the decline of entire societies when viewed retrospectively. Click here. (1/10)

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