March 5, 2011

Crunch Time for New Commercial Spaceships (Source: MSNBC)
At least eight companies have been invited to chat with NASA about their plans to build spaceships for sending astronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttles are retired. Among the big questions yet to be answered: How much money will actually be set aside for supporting the development of those spaceships, and how many companies will get that money? The list of eight was reported last week by Space News. Here's the rundown, with links to more information about each venture's proposal. (3/5)

Gravity's Bias for Left May be Writ in the Sky (Source: New Scientist)
Is gravity left-handed? An answer could provide a clue to a long-sought theory of quantum gravity - and might be within our grasp by 2013. General relativity describes gravity's actions at large scales. For tiny scales however, a theory of quantum gravity, incorporating quantum mechanics, is needed. But first physicists need to understand gravitons, hypothetical quantum particles that mediate the gravitational force. These likely come in left and right-handed varieties: in the former, the particle's spin would be aligned with the direction of its motion; in the latter, the spin would be the opposite.

General relativity does not distinguish between right and left, so you might expect gravity to be transmitted by both varieties. But the quantum world may play favourites. When it comes to the ghostly particles known as neutrinos, for example, the weak force only interacts with the left-handed variety. Click here to read the article. (3/5)

Scotland Aims to Carve Out Role in Space Tourist Race (Source: Press and Journal)
Moray could soon have a starring role in the space tourist race after the concept for a Lossiemouth center was unveiled yesterday. The Space Wheel is being hailed as having the potential to become the north-east’s top tourist attraction for those with an interest in inter-galactic travel. A new forum of scientists, engineers and business leaders has seized upon the plan as the first step to launching Moray’s visitors towards the moon. Freelance project consultant Maarten de Vries, 45, said he was thrilled that his futuristic design had stimulated interest. (3/5)

NASA Scientist Claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite (Source: FOX News)
A photograph taken through a scanning electron microscope of a CI1 meteorite is similar in size and overall structure to the giant bacterium Titanospirillum velox, an organism found here on planet Earth, a NASA scientist said. We are not alone in the universe -- and alien life forms may have a lot more in common with life on Earth than we had previously thought. That's the stunning conclusion one NASA scientist has come to, releasing his groundbreaking revelations in a new study in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.

Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. In the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites -- only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.

Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies -- comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said. Click here to see a photo. (3/5)

Rep. Brooks Defends Sen. Shelby's Decision on Constellation (Source: WAFF)
Congressman Mo Brooks is defending U.S. Senator Richard Shelby. He said Shelby did what was reasonable in 2010. Shelby attached an amendment to the emergency bill to pay for U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amendment kept NASA from shutting down Constellation's Ares 1 Rocket program, despite the agency's directive to cancel Ares and move into development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle. $215 million has been spent on Ares since then.

Brooks said part of the problem is an ambiguous direction set for NASA by the Oval Office. President Obama's FY-12 budget proposal includes heavy-lift launch development, with Constellation cut. Congressman Brooks sits on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has oversight for NASA.

"We're going to have to figure out if we're going to go with the Constellation program with Ares on the one hand-- which means we're backing up to where we were about a year ago-- or if we're going to go to some alternative, heavy lift vehicle, or low earth orbit vehicle rather than the Constellation program," Books said. (3/5)

Astronauts' Thoughts Turn to Next Era of Space Exploration (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took a few moments Friday to reflect upon the end of one era and the beginning of another. "We've been very busy during our mission, so mostly we've been spending 95 to 99 percent of our time doing the work and getting the work done," said Steve Lindsey, commander of Discovery. "But there are times, personally, when I've reflected on this being the last mission. I reflect on what a great vehicle it's been, with 39 missions and nearly a year on orbit. (3/5)

No comments: