March 21, 2011

Taking the Initiative: SLI and the Next Generation (Source: Space Review)
If achieving affordability in future launch vehicles requires at least partial reusability, what is the best way to achieve it? Stewart Money examines the various approaches studied over the years, from recovering rocket engines to flying back complete stages. Visit to view the article. (3/21)

The Path to the Future, From a Voice from the Past (Source: Space Review)
When the day comes when humans settle space, what legal structures will they use? Jeffrey G. Liss uncovers some insights from an unlikely but authoritative source: a former member of the Supreme Court. Visit to view the article. (3/21)

New Competition and Old Concerns in the Commercial Launch Market (Source: Space Review)
SpaceX achieved a major milestone last week when it won a launch contract from a major commercial satellite operator. Jeff Foust reports that SpaceX's entry into this market, and other developments, come at a time when other launch companies are worried about a potential shakeout in the market. Visit to view the article. (3/21)

Earthquakes and Climate Change: Get the Data (Source: Space Review)
Most would agree that satellites play a key role in studying and perhaps even predicting natural disasters, like the recent earthquake in Japan. Lou Friedman wonders why their isn't similar support for using satellites for understanding climate change. Visit to view the article. (3/21)

America's Unknown Astronauts (Source: Space Review)
Throughout the history of NASA, a handful of astronauts have won widespread recognition for their achievements. Anthony Young notes that, during the shuttle program, many more carried out their missions in something more closely resembling obscurity. Visit to view the article. (3/21)

Adams: Make Manned Space Exploration Funding a Top Priority (Source: Sunshine State News)
While Congress continues to look to cut the budget, freshman Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams joined Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson of Texas in sending House Budget Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin a letter arguing that the budget needs to make human space exploration a major priority.

“I strongly encourage Chairman Paul Ryan and the rest of my colleagues to make human space exploration a top priority as we continue our discussion on our Republican budget for the 2012 fiscal year,” said Adams. “Human space exploration has contributed greatly to our nation’s economy, national security, and has fueled American ideas for innovation and technology."

"NASA’s human space flight program has been an American flagship and a symbol of strength for our country and has inspired children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While I believe there are ways we can trim NASA’s budget – specifically within the Earth Science account – we mustn’t do so at the expense of human space flight, which is a proven economic driver and job creator.” (3/21)

Lockheed Martin Unveils Colorado Training Center for Orion (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin unveiled a $35 million space flight simulation center Monday, showing off where astronauts and others involved with the Orion space capsule will practice flying and docking the future space craft. More than 200 aerospace, media and political dignitaries attended a formal opening of the Space Operations Simulation Center at the Littleton-based space contractor’s campus.

The 41,000-square-foot facility features a real-scale mockup of the docking area of the International Space Station (ISS). Audiences got to see demonstration of the center’s a 70-ton, hydraulically controlled tower simulating a flying Orion space craft docking at the ISS. (3/21)

Bolden: I Stood on Shoulders of Ron McNair (Source: Daily Comet)
Standing a few hundred feet from the memorial to the fallen Challenger astronaut, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told hundreds Monday that he owes his career of his fellow South Carolinian Ron McNair. "He was my very good friend and a person I owe everything to because I would not be standing here today if it were not for Ron," Bolden, a black Columbia native, told about 400 people attending the dedication of the Ronald McNair Life History Center. "I stood on his shoulders." McNair died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after lifting off 25 years ago. (3/21)

NASA's Stennis Center Tests Rocket for Cargo Missions to Space Station (Source: Gulf Live)
NASA on Saturday performed more testing of the Aerojet AJ26 flight engine, a rocket with a bold mission: to power the launch of unmanned, commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station. The Aerojet AJ26 will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle, marking progress with the Orbital Sciences commercial cargo demonstration effort. (3/21)

Robot Swarms Could Help Search for Life in Martian Caves (Source: WIRED)
Autonomous swarming robots, programmed to search like honeybees, could be the best strategy to explore caves on Mars that may harbor life. Methane traces in the Martian atmosphere point to undiscovered activity — whether geological or biological — lurking beneath the surface. ”Something interesting is going on down there,” said Áron Kisdi, an engineer at the University of Southampton, U.K. “We just need to find it.”

For his swarm-search strategy, Kisdi envisions using a rolling, jumping robot, Jollbot. A Mars lander would release 40 to 60 swarmbots to autonomously and randomly scout for caves, in the same way bees hunt for nesting sites. When a robot finds a cave it returns by the shortest route back to the lander. It wirelessly uploads the cave’s coordinates and temperature readings to the lander. Then it checks the information uploaded into the lander by the rest of the hive and decides to either start a new search or visit a cave discovered by another robot. (3/21)

Japanese Astronaut Focused on Space Mission Despite Tragedy at Home (Source:
As Japan reels from the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, one of the country's astronauts is soldiering on with training for his upcoming mission to the International Space Station. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those that suffer a great deal of damage from the big earthquake in Japan," Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, 46, said in a mission briefing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We are with you. People all over the world are with you." (3/21)

Bid On Astronaut Experiences, Mementos (Source: Florida Today)
Dinner with the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission. Skydiving or Scotch Tasting with shuttle astronauts. A signed portrait of the first American astronaut to fly in space. A Mercury-Atlas booklet signed by John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. These rare opportunities and space program memorabilia are up for bid this week in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's online Semi-Annual Auction. (3/21)

Satellite Firms Pitch the Government on Off-the-Shelf Products (Source: Washington Post)
When the Obama administration set down its National Space Policy last summer, the guidelines for government agencies with missions in outer space boded well for commercial satellite companies. It told agencies to avoid building satellites from scratch if products on the market could fulfill their needs with few adjustments.

The directive's message was not lost on the satellite operators and manufacturers attending last week's annual industry conference in Washington. Although the government's practices don't yet mirror policy, many local companies were touting ventures that executives said could help the government to conduct missions on budget and on time. Click here to read the article. (3/21)

Solar Installations Increase Across U.S. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
Sixteen states each installed more than 10 megawatts of photovoltaic solar-energy capacity in 2010, up from only 4 states in 2007, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. Just 7 states — California, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Pennsylvania — accounted for three-quarters of U.S. solar installed capacity. System costs have declined 8% and 11%, respectively, in residential and commercial-property PV installations. (3/21)

Long-Neglected Experiment Gives New Clues to Origin of Life (Source: Science)
A classic experiment that has sat on the shelf for more than a half-century is yielding new clues about how life may have arisen on Earth, according to a team of scientists that has gone back and analyzed the data with modern techniques. In 1952, Stanley Miller of the University of Chicago and his colleagues conducted one of the most famous experiments in all of science. They repeatedly sent electric sparks through flasks filled with the gases thought to resemble Earth's early atmosphere, including water vapor, hydrogen, methane, and ammonia.

After 1 week of near-continuous zapping, the simulated lightning had converted a substantial portion of the gases into organic compounds, including several of the amino acids needed to produce proteins, indicating that this might be how life began on our planet. In the next few years, Miller and his colleagues repeated the experiment with the same lab equipment and procedures but with different sets of gases.

For some reason, the results of the experiments were shelved but not analyzed, surfacing again only after Miller died and colleagues began poring through his archives. In 2008, researchers reported the results of one of those experiments, in which the half-century-old residues yielded 22 amino acids, 10 of which hadn't been detected in the original 1952 experiment. (3/21)

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