January 27, 2011

A Call for Openness at Blue Origin (Source: Unreasonable Rocket)
Most of the "new space" companies are somewhat open from SpaceX down to the smallest garage operation. Other companies participate in conferences, they publish their success, the publish their failures, and all involved learn. Blue Origin does none of this. They have access to everyone's information and yet share none. In addition Blue Origin has started filing patents that restrict the trade space.

News of the barge landing patent is a perfect example. Other new space people have publicly talked about barge landing of various vehicles to recover stages. I remember John Carmack talking about barge landing more than 4 years ago. Others have commented to me personally that they have written notes talking about barge landing from more than 5 years ago.

There is a huge on-line discussion base about lower cost space flight and it clearly covers this and other B.O patents. If the patent is challenged the patent will be clearly invalid, but if it is issued it will cost millions to have it declared invalid. This is a huge expense to any small organization that might want to use that technology. So if Mr Bezeo's intent is to help get the human race off of the planet, please don't be evil, try being more open. (1/27)

Scott Fires Enterprise Florida Chief John Adams (Source: Palm Beach Post)
After chairing the Enterprise Florida board meeting in downtown Tallahassee, Gov. Rick Scott quietly fired the public-private economic development agency’s president, John Adams. Adams, who earns about $300,000 a year, was hand-picked for the job five years ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Scott’s move, which will require some action by the board but which his office says will take effect immediately, took Enterprise Florida Board member Hal Valeche by surprise. Valeche said severing Adams’ contract was not discussed during the board meeting. Editor's Note: This move precedes some other major changes to Florida's economic development programs. (1/27)

Russia Launches Another Cargo Ship to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
With Japan's cargo freighter safely arriving at the International Space Station early Thursday, Russia has launched its next resupply ship loaded with more provisions and even a tiny amateur radio satellite that spacewalkers will deploy from the orbiting outpost. Liftoff of the Soyuz booster carrying the Progress vessel from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, beginning Russia's 41st such cargo delivery mission to the space station. (1/27)

Rep. Sandy Adams Remarks on Astronauts Lost (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) released the following statement today on a "Day of Remembrance" for the 17 brave astronauts who lost their lives during the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia tragedies: "No matter how much time passes, it is important to remember the brave men and women who dedicated their lives to better our country and who died in that noble pursuit... I join all of Central Florida in honoring their memory.

"For over 50 years NASA has been a global leader in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. At a critical juncture in our nation's economy, it's imperative that NASA is given the tools to continue to thrive. NASA isn't simply about exploration - it's about jobs, national security, research and the economy. After more than 50 years of innovation, we cannot let NASA fall to the wayside - it must remain a top priority." (1/27)

Rep. Hall Wants U.S. To Keep Winning in Space Exploration (Source: Space Policy Online)
Rep. Ralph Hall responded to those parts of the President's speech that addressed issues within the committee's jurisdiction, including clean energy technologies and basic research. His overall take is that "While appropriate investments in science and technology are important, they must be made prudently within the confines of a disciplined budget."

He said that his committee would conduct oversight of the President's science and technology policies "as well as the broader research and development priorities necessary to advance American competitiveness... Absent from the President's speech, apart from mentioning Sputnik as a metaphor, was any vision for our Nation's space agency. NASA's exploration program has been paramount to securing America's lead in the global economy and spurring innovation. So many technological advancements have stemmed from an ambitious, goal-oriented space program." (1/27)

Obama's Call for Innovation Hits Institutional Roadblocks, Except in Some Sectors (Source: Washington Post)
Another area where U.S. innovation has long flowered is space exploration and space science. Although American dominance in space travel will temporarily end with the grounding of the last space shuttle this year, a new generation of wealthy entrepreneurs is providing a level of space innovation unmatched in the world.

"We have private entrepreneurs now attempting and succeeding at space ventures that most nations can only dream about," said John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "These are entrepreneurs who took their profits and put them where their longtime interests were - in space," Gedmark said. "That personal excitement is what breeds innovation, which is the lifeblood of our industry."

In addition, he said, the innovation was a result of national necessity. With the space shuttle soon to be grounded, the United States will not have any spacecraft that can take astronauts and cargo to the space station for a matter of years. Gedmark said Obama's support of commercial space has been essential to its progress. The president proposed a more than $3 billion allocation over three years to support commercial space development in his 2011 budget but faced stiff opposition in Congress. (1/27)

Bezos Seeks Blue Origin Patent for Water Landing (Source: TechFlash)
What does Jeff Bezos think about when he's not thinking about the next Kindle? Landing rocket boosters at sea, for one thing. The Amazon.com CEO is listed as one of the inventors in a newly surfaced patent application from his secretive spaceflight venture, Blue Origin LLC. The filing, submitted last summer and made public today, gives a sense for the ideas percolating in the minds of Bezos and his Blue Origin colleagues.

The application describes a process of catching a rocket booster on a platform at sea after it has separated and sent its payload into space. The system proposes a floating platform that would broadcast its location to the booster, which would be equipped with "bidirectional aerodynamic control surfaces" to control its trajectory. The booster's engines could be restarted to slow its descent once it was over the platform. Click here for a diagram. (1/27)

Bigelow Aerospace and Space Florida Plan Announcement (Source: Space Florida)
Robert Bigelow - president of Bigelow Aerospace, Frank DiBello - president of Space Florida, and Dr. George Sowers – vice president of United Launch Alliance, will address up to 100 community leaders and news media to discuss the future of commercial space in Central Florida and the role Bigelow may play in that future. At this event, Mr. Bigelow and Mr. DiBello will sign a Memorandum of Understanding representing a business development partnership between both entities.

Mr. Bigelow will directly address the audience regarding his company’s plans for growth in the coming months and years. Elected officials will be present at this event, including County Commissioners and State legislators. Additionally, Governor Rick Scott, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Bill Nelson have been invited to attend. (1/27)

NASA, The Moon, and National Security (Source: Space Politics)
Freshman Senator Marco Rubio made the following remarks last fall when running for the Senate: “Space exploration is not something we do for fun,” he said in the October interview. “It’s something this country does because it has commercial applications, it has technical applications that help us in other fields. It has military and national defense applications.” He also, at the time, pointed to China’s space activities. “Look, China has invested heavily in getting to the moon, it’s not because they want to go up there and collect rock samples. It’s because they believe space is the high ground of national defense, and they want to have space superiority over the United States.”

Editor's Note: Comments like these by multiple elected officials have sparked a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about whether the Moon has any military value (it doesn't) and whether NASA's programs are vital to our national security (they might be). Said one poster on Space Politics: "Association of NASA with DoD is a major mistake. DoD does well without NASA and its politics and will keep doing well. Why would they need such a headache?" On the other hand all sorts of non-military U.S. rockets, satellites and their related technologies are treated as militarily sensitive and are barred from export. (1/27)

New Mexico Spaceport: Rich Person's Toy with Limited Market? (Source: Lurio Report)
Charles Lurio's periodoc "Lurio Report" this week speaks of "Reports of the labeling of the [New Mexico spaceport] project as a rich person’s toy with the assumption of no markets beyond a few initial flights." "No one knows--with certainty--the extent of the market for suborbital flights by individuals... Since most of the state money for the Spaceport has been spent, the remaining “gamble” has been refocussed on the shoulders of Virgin Galactic and its ability to deliver an operational vehicle and build a market. It’s not as if there aren’t perhaps the world’s most deft marketers there nor strong motivations for that. Virgin will have spent some half-billion dollars by the end of development." (1/26)

NASTAR Announces 2011 Summer Camp Dates (Source: ETC)
The NASTAR Center, the premier commercial space training and research center in the world, will once again host its popular NASTAR Camp program for students in grades 4 - 6 and 7 - 8. During the summer of 2010, more than 100 students attended the program. NASTAR Camp sessions are Monday - Friday, from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM. The NASTAR Camp curriculum has been structured to be fun while reinforcing the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science and Technology and Engineering Education. All curricula are age and grade appropriate. Click here for details. (1/27)

Sen. Rubio Gets Four Committee Assignments (Source: Florida Today)
Sen. Marco Rubio will serve on four committees: Commerce, Science & Transportation; Foreign Relations; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He said in a press release that the committees will allow him to work on economic and security issues facing the nation. Rubio joins Sen. Bill Nelson on the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, where Nelson chairs the Science & Space Subcommittee. Rubio's subcommittee assignments were not announced. (1/27)

Where The Discussion Of Space Tourism Began (Source: AmericaSpace.org)
To understand the enthusiasm and efforts by those who seek to move from our current, national human space flight program to one run by commercial entities begins with the 2002 Futron “Space Tourism Market Study: Orbital Space Travel And Destinations With Suborbital Space Travel“. It is this study that forms the intellectual foundation for those who believe space tourism will soon be a profitable market, including especially those in the Executive Branch and at NASA. All subsequent studies on commercial human space flight derive from the conclusions of the Futron study and branches to other studies to some greater or lesser degree.

But the Futron study’s predictions have proven wildly inaccurate. For example, the study predicted that by 2010 there would be roughly 1,000 suborbital passengers and by 2011 15 orbital passengers–to date, there have been no suborbital passengers and 7 orbital passengers have flown since 2001. On January 12 of this year, Space Adventures and Russia announced that orbital space tourism would resume in 2013, with 1-2 passengers per year, the same year that the Futron study predicted that there would be 2,000 suborbital and 20 orbital passengers.

Given the importance, inspirational or otherwise, as well as the missed predictions of the Futron study, it’s important to understand what the study’s authors got right and wrong. Acolytes of the 2002 Futron study in the White House and at NASA have been willing to forsake NASA’s current and future human space flight efforts in lieu of commercial cargo or crew launch capabilities that do not yet exist and the businesses undertaking those future efforts are as yet untested. (1/27)

TRDA and USA Co-Sponsor SBIR/STTR Proposal Preparation Workshop (Source: TRDA)
TRDA and United Space Alliance are co-hosting an SBIR/STTR Phase I Proposal Preparation Workshop on Feb. 18. This workshop will help businesses develop higher quality proposals that can lead to higher company win rates for federal SBIR and STTR grants. Click here for details. (1/27)

Orbital Lands Iridium Next Integration Contract (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. will integrate and test the 81 Iridium Next mobile communications satellites under a contract with Iridium Next builder Thales Alenia Space, Orbital announced Jan. 27. Financial terms were not announced, but industry officials have said the contract is valued at around $150 million. Virginia-based Orbital will receive the Iridium Next satellite platforms and communications payloads from Cannes, France-based Thales Alenia Space, and then integrate the hardware at its Gilbert, Ariz., facility. Orbital’s industrial capacity at its Arizona plant was a factor in its selection over Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., for the integration and test work. (1/27)

Plans for Defense Spending Cuts Divide GOP (Source: AIA)
Efforts to slash defense spending are causing a divide among Republicans, as Tea Party-backed members of the House Armed Services Committee say no part of the Pentagon's $700 billion budget should be immune from cuts, while others argue in favor of protecting some aspects of the budget. Tea Party members say the nation's debts amount to security risks, but the head of the committee, Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., argued against plans to stop work on the Marines' $14.4 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. (1/27)

General Dynamics Profits Rise Amid Increased Aerospace Demand (Source: AIA)
General Dynamics reports that higher profits in its Aerospace unit helped boost fourth-quarter profit by 19%, beating Wall Street estimates. According to CEO Jay Johnson, demand is on the rise for Gulfstream jets, and the company should see double-digit growth this year. (1/27)

Harris Beats Forecasts as Revenues Rise 7.8% (Source: AIA)
Harris Corp. reported a $151 million profit in the December quarter, an 18% improvement that beat Wall Street expectations. The company's largest unit, Government Communications Systems, reported a 20% jump in quarterly sales, helped by a $273 million avionics support contract for Canada's CF-18 Hornet fighter jets. (1/27)

United Technologies Reports Rise in Q4 Earnings (Source: AIA)
United Technologies' profit increased by 11.7% in the fourth quarter as orders for commercial plane spare parts from jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney rose and business also improved for heating and cooling building systems operations at Carrier. While United Technologies' adjusted earnings beat Wall Street expectations, guidance for 2011 indicates that earnings could fall below expectations. (1/27)

Raytheon Posts Lower Quarterly Profit (Source: Reuters)
Raytheon Co posted lower quarterly earnings and forecast higher sales and per-share profit for this year. The missile maker on Thursday said net income came to $459 million for the fourth quarter, compared with $504 million a year earlier. Sales rose 3 percent to $6.89 billion. (1/27)

Lockheed Reports Strong Fourth-Quarter Profits (Sources: Financial Times, Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin, the largest US defense contractor, had a record year for new orders in 2010 in spite of the squeeze on military budgets, as it reported better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter. Pre-tax profits from continuing businesses, excluding two services companies that Lockheed is selling, fell 10 percent to $3.83 billion for 2010 as a whole. Lockheed booked $20 billion of orders in the quarter, and its backlog stood at $78.2 billion at the end of last year, up from $77.2 billion at the end of 2009. Space Systems sales declined 13 percent to $2.28 billion. The unit's profits declined 7 percent to $279 million. (1/27)

Boeing Announces $1.16B Quarterly Profit, but Cautions on 2011 (Source: AIA)
Boeing earned $1.16 billion in the fourth quarter, falling $110 million short of year-earlier levels but still exceeding analysts' expectations. Revenues fell to $16.55 billion, compared to $17.94 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009. For 2011, the company said higher pension costs and delays in its 787 program will be a drag on profits, which are estimated at $3.80 to $4.00 per share. (1/27)

Mica: FAA Bill is Job 1 for Transportation Committee (Source: AIA)
On Wednesday, as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee convened for the first time this year, Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said a long-term reauthorization for the FAA would be his top priority. Mica said such a bill would provide a "blueprint" for the aviation industry, which accounts for 11% of the U.S. gross domestic product. "We are going to pass a bill some way, so I need everybody on the committee pushing for that," he said. (1/27)

Russia's Angara Rocket to be 'Ready for Tests' in 2012 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's new generation Angara booster rocket will be ready for a test launch by 2012, the country's space force commander said. "We plan that it will be fully prepared for launch in 2012," Oleg Ostapenko told reporters. "Everything is going according to plan." Angara rockets, designed to provide lifting capabilities between 2,000 and 40,500 kg into low earth orbit, are expected to become the core of Russia's carrier rocket fleet, replacing several existing systems. (1/27)

Russian Answer to U.S. Reusable X-37 Robotic Spacecraft in the Offing (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian researchers are working on an unmanned spacecraft similar to the U.S. Boeing X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle, Space Troops chief Oleg Ostapenko said. He said, however, it was not clear as yet how it would be used. "Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell," Ostapenko said. (1/27)

NASA Launches Public Outreach Program to Boost Space Tech (Source: Space.com)
NASA kicked off the first of a year-long series of meetings in Washington D.C. Jan. 26 to encourage the public to provide innovative technological ideas and insights that could influence the future of space exploration. Although NASA has held technology roadmap meetings in the past, this is the first time it has reached out to the public community for input. "We desperately need your help," said Robert Braun, NASA Chief Technologist. "We know we can make a difference through technology to reinvigorate the aerospace industry and get NASA back to its roots as a true innovator. But we can only do that if we have a plan." Click here. (1/27)

NASA Honors Astronauts Lost in Line of Duty (Source: KHOU)
NASA is pausing Thursday to remember the 17 astronauts lost in the line of duty. The so-called Day of Remembrance—always the last Thursday of January—takes on special meaning this year. Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the shuttle Challenger launch disaster. Flags will fly at half-staff at NASA centers nationwide Thursday. In addition, NASA officials will lay wreathes at various memorials to honor the dead. (1/27)

Editorial: NASA is Key to President's Research Push (Source: Huntsville Times)
President Obama invoked the importance of science during his State of the Union address. What better way to lure young Americans into the sciences than to support a strong space program that sparks wonder and innovation... He challenged America's scientists and engineers that "if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo projects of our time."

Those who were looking for a commitment to NASA didn't hear it in the president's speech. But his space references and call to strengthen America's innovative spirit show he sees the value of having a viable space program. Republicans controlling the U.S. House have promised to try to cut non-defense and non-entitlement spending this year to at least 2008 levels, which would mark a $1.4 billion loss for NASA's budget. That would essentially wipe out the money NASA hoped to spend this year on the new heavy-lift rocket.

Lest space buffs think powerful representatives from space states like Alabama, Florida, Ohio and Texas will just muscle NASA programs into the budget, Obama vowed to veto legislation containing pet projects known as earmarks. Rather, they will have to sell such programs on their merits, And certainly, there are plenty of selling points for having a robust space policy. A strong NASA could work hand in hand with Obama's goal to invest more in education, research and technology to groom a new wave of entrepreneurs who will make the discoveries of tomorrow. (1/27)

Utah Congressman Blasts Lack of Space Focus in Presidential Address (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), a staunch critic last year of the administration’s plans to cancel Constellation, kept up the rhetoric in his response to President Obama's speech. “...While the President is calling for ‘new levels of research and development that haven’t been seen since the Space Race’ his Administration is also calling for the termination of our nation’s manned space program – a program whose science and technology research is an essential component of our nation’s missile defense program,” he claimed. “Terminating this program...would cede our leadership in space exploration over to countries like China, Russia and India.” (1/27)

Avanti Pursues Arbitration in Launch Dispute with SpaceX (Source: Space News)
Startup satellite broadband provider Avanti Communications Group alleges that launch-services provider SpaceX has unrightfully retained a $7.6 million launch-contract deposit and is asking a New York arbitration panel to settle the issue, the companies said.

London-based Avanti, whose Hylas 1 satellite was launched in November, had originally signed with SpaceX for the launch. But Avanti, saying it could not wait for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to be qualified, subsequently contracted with Arianespace. Avanti says it canceled the SpaceX contract because SpaceX could not assure the requisite number of qualification launches before the Hylas 1 launch, as the contract had stipulated. (1/27)

Rick Scott Suggests Creating Florida Department of Commerce (Source: Miami Herald)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said this morning that he wants to create a "Department of Commerce" to streamline economic development efforts in the state. "We're looking at how we make government work better," Scott said at the annual meeting of Enterprise Florida. "One thing I'm going to do - I'm going to work with the legislature to do this - I want to streamline how we do economic development," he said.

"What I want to do is set up a Department of Commerce. I'm going to have the secretary of that office in my office - two doors from my office. And I want them to be the ones to work with Enterprise Florida, they'll work with OTTED and work with the Agency for Workforce Innovation."

Editor's Note: Everything old is new again. I started my career in the Florida Dept. of Commerce and served as an economist for the state's early space industry development efforts. I left in 1990 to help start-up the Spaceport Florida Authority on the Space Coast. Jeb Bush was the Secretary of Commerce at that time. The Dept. of Commerce was dissolved in 1997 to make way for Enterprise Florida. (1/27)

Japan's HTV Cargo Vessel Attaches to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Second-stage capture is complete and the HTV is hard-mated to the International Space Station, beginning about two weeks of logistics transfers between the outpost and visiting freighter. Engineers will finish activating the HTV overnight and the crew will open hatches between Harmony and the HTV and ingress the ship on Friday. (1/27)

Lockheed Settles Fraud Claim for $2 Million (Source: Washington Technology)
Lockheed Martin Corp. has paid $2 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that claimed the company was part of a scheme to funnel information on a pending contract to the team bidding on the contract. Lockheed was a subcontractor to SAIC on a support services contract for the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

According to a Justice Department announcement, two government employees allegedly conspired with Lockheed, SAIC and Applied Enterprise Solutions to share insider information on the contract so that SAIC’s team would win the contract. The SAIC team allegedly received information that was not available to other bidders. SAIC was paid $115 million under the contract with Lockheed’s portion being $2 million. (1/27)

Internet Gives Vandenberg Satellite a Personality (Source: Santa Maria Times)
“I have gas” is the kind of Facebook status that makes people cringe, but the online messenger in this case has a perfectly legitimate excuse for sharing such seemingly intimate information. “That is a good thing in the spacecraft world,” added the first-person Facebook posting for NASA’s Glory satellite.

It’s one of the many updates “from” the NASA satellite as Glory settles in to its temporary quarters at Vandenberg Air Force Base after making a cross-country road trip, passing various milestones en route to space. The latest Earth-observing satellite developed by NASA, called Glory, arrived at Vandenberg Jan. 18 in preparation for a Feb. 23 launch. Glory was trucked from Orbital Sciences Corporation’s facility in Dulles, Va. (1/27)

UCSC Astronomers Find Most Distant Galaxy Candidate Yet Seen (Source: UCSC)
Astronomers studying ultra-deep imaging data from the Hubble Space Telescope have found what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, about 13.2 billion light-years away. The study pushed the limits of Hubble's capabilities, extending its reach back to about 480 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was just 4 percent of its current age. (1/27)

Will We Ever Glimpse the Universe's First Stars? (Source: New Scientist)
The race to see the universe's most distant objects continues. Astronomers reported today the discovery of the farthest galaxy seen to date. If history is any guide, the galaxy, dubbed UDFj-39546284, is unlikely to hold that title for long. So how far back in time can we ultimately go? New Scientist takes a look at the prospects for seeing the very first galaxies and stars. Click here to see the article. (1/27)

A Fizzy Ocean on Enceladus (Source: NASA)
For years researchers have been debating whether Enceladus, a tiny moon floating just outside Saturn's rings, is home to a vast underground ocean. Is it wet--or not? Now, new evidence is tipping the scales. Not only does Enceladus likely have an ocean, that ocean is probably fizzy like a soft drink and could be friendly to microbial life. (1/27)

Obama Will Have a Special Sputnik Moment in Wisconsin Town (Source: CNN)
Have you been wondering why Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is the first stop for President Barack Obama after his State of the Union address? Any true space cadet will tell you that Manitowoc was chosen for its "Sputnik moment." Where else to launch a new course of direction but in the tiny Lake Michigan town that's best known for its own Sputnik moment. And it was a whopper.

On September 6, 1962 -- when Obama was but a mere lad, John F. Kennedy occupied the White House and the Cold War was raging -- a 20-pound hunk of smoldering metal fell from the sky and crashed in the middle of Manitowoc's Eighth Street. Turns out it was a piece of the Soviet satellite Sputnik IV. The Sputnik moment that Obama referenced happened when the Soviet Union launched the first-man made object into space -- Sputnik I in 1957 -- shocking the U.S. into a technological boom. Sputnik IV came five years later.

Two Manitowoc police officers noticed what looked like a piece of cardboard lying in the street, according to the Rahr-West Art Museum, which sponsors a Sputnik festival in Manitowoc every year. They approached the glowing object and kicked it to the curb, thinking it was a piece of slag from a local foundry. Wrong! It was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for analysis and was confirmed as a piece of the Soviet satellite. (1/27)

Space, the Next Economic Frontier for Singapore (Source: Today Online)
There are opportunities for Singapore in the space industry. This possibility was sounded out yesterday by a senior government official. Citing the emergence of Asia as a hub for space-related industries, Mr Tan said there is great potential for Singapore to carve a key role for itself.

Singapore, he said, has a pro-business environment, with a market and technologically-savvy workforce which has helped to draw corporations dealing in space-related services here. These include satellite service providers such as Arianespace, SpotImage and GeoEye. Singapore is also making investments to build a highly-skilled workforce for the fledging space industry here. (1/27)

Space Disasters Still Have Lessons to Teach (Source: MSNBC)
If, as the cynic writes, “The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history” ... where does that leave the lessons of the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia space catastrophes? NASA is observing a "Day of Remembrance" on Thursday to honor the astronauts lost during those three events, which all took place in late January and early February. But with the space shuttle program winding down, is there anything to be learned from that trio of tragedies?

In engineering terms, the three disasters taught lessons that space workers already knew but had forgotten — or at least had not thought to be important enough to sway operational choices. And all three disasters share a common root cause. That's the big reason why I resist calling these events "accidents": There was nothing random about them; rather, they were consequences of specific choices. (1/27)

Nelson: 25th Anniversary of Challenger Reinforces Need for Space Exploration (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Friday is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion, a tragedy that left seven dead and NASA’s reputation in ruins. Sen. Bill Nelson, who only 10 days earlier had returned from six days in Earth orbit aboard shuttle Columbia, has cut a video about the importance of exploring space. “We know exploration is necessary if our country is to remain a leader among nations,” he says, while urging NASA to get to work on a new heavy-lift rocket that the agency has said it can’t afford to build in time for Nelson’s 2016 deadline. Click here. (1/27)

Construction of World's Largest Radio Telescope Begins in Southwest China (Source: Xinhua)
Workers in southwest China's Guiyang Province have started leveling the ground upon which a five-hundred-meter aperture spherical telescope (FAST) will stand. Located in Pingtan County, the telescope will be the world's largest, the size of 30 football fields. Its construction has begun after 14 years of preparation and two years of land surveys and resident relocations. The telescope's main spherical reflector will be made up of 4,600 panels. Construction will be complete in 2016. (1/26)

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