January 9, 2011

Lunar Water May Have Come from Comets (Source: AFP)
Water on the Moon came in large part from comets which bombarded the lunar surface in its infancy, a new study suggests. For decades, the Moon was thought to have been as dry as it was void of life and atmosphere. This assumption, though, has been revisited after findings by NASA last year of significant traces of frozen water in a permanently shadowed crater. (1/9)

Energy Consortium Launches "Asset Mapping" to Diversify Space Coast (Source: SCEC)
Join Brevard County business and community leaders on Jan. 20 in Cape Canaveral for the official launch of the Space Coast Energy Consortium. Learn what we’ve been working on since the symposium in September and get an update on future activities, including the effort to map energy assets here on the Space Coast. Following the presentations, you will be encouraged to join one of our working groups and help drive our common goal of creating a clean energy economy in the Space Coast and Central Florida. Click here for information and here to RSVP. (1/9)

Flashback: Shuttle Launches Planned at Vandenberg (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
As we count down to the upcoming Delta 4-Heavy rocket on its maiden West Coast flight from the same launch pad once built for military space shuttle missions, let's look back a quarter-century to the time when Enterprise stood atop Space Launch Complex 6 for testing. It was 1985 and the prototype shuttle was checking out the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Eventually, the whole idea of launching the shuttle from there was canceled, but the pad lives on and will support the unmanned Delta 4-Heavy liftoff on Jan. 17.

Click here, here, here and here for photos. Editor's Note: Of course the Space Shuttles never were launched from Vandenberg. Among the challenges facing the program was the likelihood of damage from of intense vibro-acoustic reverberations from the hills surrounding Space Launch Complex 6 as the vehicles lifted off from the pad. (1/5)

Aftermath of Arizona Shooting May Extend Into Space (Source: Space.com)
The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords is likely to have effects that ripple all the way into space. Giffords, 40, underwent surgery yesterday but remains in critical condition, according to doctors at the University Medical Center of Tucson. Giffords holds seats on the House Science and Technology, House Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs committees, and has served as chairwoman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee.

She is also married to NASA astronaut Mark Kelly – a veteran of three space shuttle flights – who is scheduled to command the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, which is slated to launch April 1. Giffords' brother-in-law, Scott Kelly, is also a NASA astronaut. He is Mark Kelly's identical twin brother and is currently living aboard the International Space Station as commander of the Expedition 26 mission.

The ramifications of the shooting for Mark Kelly's upcoming flight are unclear. "Because his mission was delayed to April, in some sense, that does provide some time for him to be away from [NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston] and be with his wife," said Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com. "In the interim, NASA will have to look at what training requirements they have, and he'll need to decide whether he wants to go fly or if he wants to remain at his wife's side." (1/7\8)

Tragedy's Impact Extends to Space (Source: MSNBC)
Gabrielle Giffords' husband Mark Kelly is currently in training to command the shuttle Endeavour's crew on a flight to the International Space Station in April. The space agency had no immediate word about how Kelly's status might change. In addition to being an astronaut, Kelly is a Navy captain who was a combat aviator during the first Gulf War.

"Normal practice in military flying is to ground a pilot who is undergoing severe family crisis, for a reasonable time," NBC News space analyst James Oberg observed. "Add to that — his wife now faces a long recovery, and his chances of being with her more than a few hours a week are slim to none, if he continues training. He could well request being replaced, perhaps by the commander of the STS-135 [Atlantis] mission that is to follow his flight. They could swap seats. Or he could figure he's had his fair share of flights and just stand down." (1/9)

Downey Benefactor Helps Kids Enjoy Columbia Memorial Space Center (Source: Press-Telegram)
Fifth-graders in the Downey Unified School District can now blast off to outer space, thanks to a $15,000 donation made by Mary T. Stauffer and her foundation to the Columbia Memorial Space Center. The money will be used to pay for field trips for every fifth-grader to experience the space center's Challenger Learning Center, which features a two-hour simulated mission to the moon. Without Stauffer's donation, admission to the learning center is $350 per group (a minimum of 16 and maximum of 36 students), including entrance to the space center. Stauffer, a long-time resident and retired Downey physician, made her donation during a visit to the space center. (1/8)

Spaceport Coordinates Launch Schedules with White Sands (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
Establishing a partnership that will continue a long history of space activities, White Sands Missile Range leaders and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority last month signed an agreement to coordinate launch schedules with the range. The spaceport's long-term plans include the goal of one day launching a commercial spacecraft into orbit. The spaceport will require lots of clear airspace above land with a low population density. By working with WSMR, as well as Holloman Air Force Base, the spaceport will be able to schedule airspace clearance similar to a test mission. (1/8)

Space Race: the New Generation of Super-Telescopes (Source: Guardian)
Astronomers are taking part in a new space race – to build the world's largest telescope. Four rival projects are now under way and should see a series of giant observatories operating on mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile by the end of the decade. Each telescope will be at least 10 times more powerful than any operating on Earth today and will revolutionize our knowledge of the universe by peering further and further back into the dim recesses of the cosmos.

Each instrument is scheduled for construction by around 2018. However, precise completion dates are being kept secret by each construction team to prevent their competitors from gaining an advantage. "Being first matters," says Gary Sanders, a designer on one of the super-telescopes. "When you open a window, the first to look through it sees the most exciting things." (1/9)

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