March 26, 2011

Bulgarian Company Negotiates with Chinese for Space Travel Project (Source:
The first Bulgarian company which will start offering space travel tickets will discuss its future project with the Chinese government and the Chinese Embassy in Bulgaria. The idea of a potential cooperation between the two countries came during the Space Travel Summit, which was held on March 17. A special guest and a keynote speaker at the Space Travel Summit was the top NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave, who shared the vision that Bulgaria should develop its space travel solutions with the support of China. (3/25)

Florida Aerospace Leaders Support Education (Source: SPACErePORT)
A big thank you to United Space Alliance for their generous donation of $2,200 to the Da Vinci Academy aerospace program at Merritt Island High School. This marks the second large donation this school year, the first donation of $2,000 from Lockheed Martin in the fall of 2010. (3/23)

Heavy Lift Rocket Standoff on Capitol Hill (Source: NASA Watch)
There is a cottage industry these days wherein people speculate what Heavy Launch Vehicle (HLV) design NASA is or is not pursuing. NASA has not made its mind up and isn't due to report back to Congress until June. Congress wants a 130 MT HLV to be tested and operational not later than Dec. 31 2016. Charlie Bolden said NASA cannot meet that deadline and he does not feel the agency should be building the rocket that Congress has specified in the first place - or at least not until a decade from now.

Bolden claims that he is trying to meet the provisions listed in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, yet Congress says that the President's proposed FY-12 budget violates certain aspects of that Act. Neither side seems inclined to budget. Stalemate.

So, to restate the current conundrum, Congress wants their big rocket flying in 2016. Bolden is not inclined to build it - at least not the way Congress wants it to be built. Congress will continue to hold hearings and beat Bolden up on this - all while he is asked to make plans that must simultaneously take a CR for FY 2010, the stalled FY 2011 budget, and the FY2012 into account. Click here to read the article. (3/26)

Bolden Wants to Build Evolvable HLV, Not the One Congress Wants (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA's Charlie Bolden told a luncheon audience that he does not want to build the heavy lift launch vehicle (HLV) specified in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. He said he does not think that the 130 metric ton lift capability prescribed in the law is necessary today and is not sure the agency can do it. He wants to build an "evolvable" launch vehicle, working in "small incremental steps [to] demonstrate that we can keep to cost and schedule and then people will begin to have confidence that we know what we're talking about."

"There are things I do not know... I don't know what my 2011 budget is... and that plays a critical role in what I can do," he said. The law reflects a compromise reached last year between Congress and the Administration on the future of the human spaceflight program. The President wants NASA to provide funding to companies to build a "commercial crew" capability to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station instead of NASA. In the President's plan, NASA meanwhile would focus on developing technologies to enable astronauts to someday go beyond LEO, to asteroids or Mars, for example.

Congress is skeptical that the commercial sector is ready to take on that responsibility, and wants the U.S. to have a bold program of human exploration that includes missions beyond LEO sooner, not later. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act took a middle ground, approving some funding for NASA to facilitate commercial crew, but also directing NASA to build its own Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). They would serve as a backup to the commercial companies for LEO access and also provide the beyond LEO capabilities Congress wants. (3/25)

Space Travel Advisory: Nothing Ever Happens on Mars (Source" Faster Times)
Before you go to Mars, step out onto your front lawn... Plunge your hands into the soil and look at the green blades alive between your fingers. None of this will likely ever exist on Mars. They say there’s plenty of carbon dioxide for plants to breathe, but the alkaline soil is full of rust and the mean temperature is -63° C. There’s also no ozone layer, so even in the places where it’s sometimes warmer, the ground is completely irradiated through about the first 15 centimeters.

You’d have better luck terraforming Chernobyl if it was in Antarctica; at least you’d have some oxygen, which is kicked to the curb by Mars’ thin atmosphere and scant atmospheric pressure (which, along with the temperatures, disallows liquid water on the surface). The planet’s small magnetic field is also completely out of whack, so compasses as we know them won’t work. All this is to say that on Mars, you will be lost, irradiated, asphyxiating, and freezing to death, all at once, and then the largest dust storms in the Solar System will wipe out whatever’s left of you. (3/25)

The Race for Space Solar Energy (Source: The People's Voice)
The failures of the General Electric nuclear reactors in Japan to safely shut down during the 9.0 Tahoku earthquake, following in the wake of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the deadly methane gas explosion in Massey’s West Virginia coal mine, conclusively demonstrate the grave dangers to human society posed by current energy production methods.

Presently, only the top industrialized nations have the technological, industrial and economic power to compete in the race for space solar energy. In spite of, and perhaps because of, the current disaster, Japan occupies the inside track, as it is the only nation that has a dedicated space solar energy program and which is highly motivated to change directions. China, which has launched astronauts into an earth orbit and is rapidly become the world’s leader in the production of wind and solar generation products, will undoubtedly become a strong competitor.

However, the U.S., which should have every advantage in the race, is most likely to stumble out of the gate and waste the best chance it has to solve its economic, energy, political and military problems. After being deemed feasible by a NASA study, the study’s leader, John Mankins, now says the program "has fallen through the cracks because no organization is responsible for both space programs and energy security." Click here to read the article. (3/26)

Editorial: Wallops is Poised at Spaceflight Forefront (Source:
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is not quite a vision from "The Jetsons," but it is without a doubt a commercial spaceport. Where, you might ask, is there any commercial opportunity in space? There is the International Space Station... NASA has partnered with Orbital Sciences Corp. to conduct future supply missions to the station. If, as Sen. Barbara Mikulski contends, a successful beginning could lead to Wallops Island becoming a cargo hub for the International Space Station, then lower Delmarva is poised at the forefront of commercial spaceflight. (3/26)

Florida Tech Professor's Stint on Makeshift Mars Begins (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Tech professor John Deaton always dreamed of being an astronaut. The closest he came was years ago when he made it to the semifinals of NASA's astronaut training program. The closest, that is, until now. Deaton, a human factors professor in the college of aeronautics, is going to "Mars." Mars being the Mars Desert Research Station, a small two-story building in a remote area of Utah, about four hours from Denver. Run by the nonprofit Mars Society, the station was created to simulate the red planet.

"I've always had this keen interest in going into space, so I guess this is going to have to be my compromise," said Deaton, 61. Starting today, the 26-foot-long building will be Deaton's home until April 9. He'll share it with five strangers from around the world: two Italians, one person from Greece, another from Canada and one other American. Together they'll study what a foray on Mars might be like. Deaton is especially interested in the experiment's effect on participants, including how they handle being in such close quarters with strangers for two weeks. (3/26)

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