April 24, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords Given 'OK' to Attend Endeavour Launch (Source: CFnews13)
One of the most highly anticipated guests at Friday's shuttle launch is Representative Gabrielle Giffords, wife of Endeavour's commander, Mark Kelly. Giffords' doctors have given her the "OK" to travel to Kennedy Space Center Friday. Physicians treating the Arizona Congresswoman said she can now stand on her own and even walk.

In January, a gunman opened fire in a Tucson parking lot, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords. President Obama and his family are also scheduled to attend the launch which is set for Friday at 3:47 p.m. (4/24)

SpaceX Aims to Put Man on Mars in 10-20 Years (Source: AFP)
Private US company SpaceX hopes to put an astronaut on Mars within 10 to 20 years, the head of the firm said. "We'll probably put a first man in space in about three years," Elon Musk said. "We're going all the way to Mars, I think... best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years." (4/24)

Editorial: Demanding Answers on Shuttle Decision (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden perplexed and frustrated the people of Houston by announcing that we will not receive one of the retiring space shuttle orbiters. Space City, USA, is going unrecognized for its great contributions to humanity and the progress of science.

We are extremely disappointed and dismayed that it appears politics were allowed to play any role in what should have been a merit-based decision. New York and Los Angeles have not played the same role in history and in space flight as Houston. Neil Armstrong did not address Los Angeles to announce that man had arrived on the moon for the first time. Our brave astronauts don't train for the rigors of manned space flight in New York.

We have joined a delegation of Texas members of Congress in sending a letter to the NASA administrator demanding to know why Houston was left out. We would like to know the specific reasons New York City was chosen. Considering the Intrepid Museum in New York is a mere 224 miles from the Smithsonian in Virginia, where Discovery will be displayed, wouldn't it make sense to place a shuttle in a more central location? (4/24)

Budget Crunch Mothballs Telescopes Built to Search for Alien Signals (Source: Scientific American)
The hunt for extraterrestrial life just lost one of its best tools. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a field of radio dishes in rural northern California built to seek out transmissions from distant alien civilizations, has been shuttered, at least temporarily, as its operators scramble to find a way to continue to fund it.

In an April 22 letter to donors, Tom Pierson, CEO of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., explained that the ATA has been put into "hibernation," meaning that "starting this week, the equipment is unavailable for normal observations and is being maintained in a safe state by a significantly reduced staff." The ATA is a partnership between the SETI Institute, which is responsible for building the telescope array, and the University of California, Berkeley, which is responsible for operating it. (4/24)

Japanese Earth Observing Satellite Feared Lost (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Japan's Advanced Land Observing Satellite, one of the world's foremost remote sensing platforms, inexplicably lost power Friday, likely ending its mission mapping Earth and monitoring natural disasters, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The spacecraft switched to a low-power mode on Friday, where the satellite's three observation instruments shut down to conserve electricity. Telemetry indicated ALOS lost all power later Friday, according to JAXA.

Two other electrical system failures have ended major Japanese satellite observation missions in the last 15 years. The ALOS anomaly signature is similar to the failure of the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite 2, or ADEOS 2, which lost electricity in October 2003 and was never heard from again. ADEOS 2 replaced another satellite that succumbed to structural damage on its solar panel less than a year after it launched. (4/24)

Shuttle Endeavour Payload May Unlock Universe's Mysteries — Or Not (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Stowed in Endeavour's cargo bay is a science experiment that could upend astronomy in ways unparalleled since the Hubble Space Telescope. Or — if it flops — it could end up as a $1.5 billion hood ornament on the Space Station. The Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer will find and analyze high-energy cosmic rays and exotic and elusive space particles — including some that could help solve the most profound mysteries of the universe.

Yet there have been doubts about the AMS, as it's known, and delays. Six years ago, NASA nearly canceled the mission. It took an act of Congress to specifically fund this Endeavour launch. And doubts remain. The AMS is the scientific version of a lobster trap. A 15,000-pound supercooled magnet wrapped around an open cylinder, it's designed to sit outside the space station, catching and analyzing whatever floats or zooms through its magnetic tunnel, giving scientists the chance — just like lobstermen — of netting something big. Or not. (4/24)

Stability And Security In Space (Source: Voice of America)
"A long-standing principle of U.S. national space policy," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank Rose, "is that all nations have the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with international law."

The National Space Policy directs that the United States will pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures. For that reason, the United States is consulting with the European Union on its proposal to develop an international Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. (4/24)

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