May 1, 2011

Wounded Lawmaker Leaves Florida After Shuttle Delay (Source: AFP)
Wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has returned to a Texas rehabilitation center after the postponement of the space shuttle launch, but will travel to Florida again once it is rescheduled, her office said Sunday. (5/1)

Atlas-5 Will Launch This Week From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source:
A United Launch Alliance Atlas-5 rocket will launch the U.S. military's first Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 1, for missile early-warning detection. The rocket will fly in the 401 vehicle configuration with a four-meter fairing, no solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage. The launch is scheduled for May 6 during a 40-minute window that opens at 2:14 p.m. (5/1)

Who Broke Obama's $40 Million Promise to Space Coast? (Source: Florida Today)
The grant money appeared in the 2011 budget passed last fall by the U.S. House, led then by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. The Commerce Department had the list of projects and was poised to cut checks, Sen. Bill Nelson's (D-FL) office reports. But it was an election year. Republican Senators killed the budget bill on Nov. 30, along with Brevard's $40 million. Then-Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL) was among those who did this (he's now running for Senate again).

"There was no point person to put it in any budget," Bill Posey's (R-FL) office said. "This was not our initiative. If the president had reached out, we could have helped." Meanwhile, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) never weighed in publicly on the $40 million, and her office did not respond to a request for comment last week. Adams voted against an April 8 budget compromise, not because of NASA, but because Congress didn't cut deep enough, she said in a prepared statement.

White House spokeswoman Hannah August stressed Friday that Obama has also proposed much bigger initiatives in Brevard, including $4.25 billion over five years to develop human spaceflight on commercial spacecraft from the Cape to the International Space Station. True, that's much bigger and possibly more important than the $40 million for a few clean-energy startups or a spec building for a research lab. But a promise kept by Washington to the Space Coast would have proved significant nonetheless. (5/1)

Cernan Deplores Loss of Shuttle Program (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon, so he's experienced the end of a NASA spaceflight program. With the shuttle program now ending like Apollo, Cernan, 77, gives his thoughts on where NASA is today, and where he'd like to see it go. Q. What are your thoughts as we near the end of the shuttle program in a couple of months?

A. In the shuttle we have the finest flying machine that's ever been designed and flown. One of the greatest engineering feats in recent history has been the assembling of the International Space Station, which could not have been done without the shuttle. The shuttle is now in the prime of its life. We suffered through a few mistakes and a couple of tragedies; we've paid our dues. It's not even at the halfway point of the shuttle's design life, and we're taking them and putting them into museums. Click here to read the interview. (5/1)

Endeavour Launch Slips to No Earlier Than May 8 (Source:
Endeavour’s critical – and final – mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed until at least May 8, following an engineering evaluation into her Auxiliary Power Unit 1 (APU-1), which suffered from a heater problem, breaking Launch Commit Criteria rules. The investigation found the root cause relates to a hybrid driver inside the (Load Control Assembly), requiring the lengthy process of removing and replacing the box. (5/1)

Charles Bolden: NASA's New Endeavor (Source: Florida Today)
Six astronauts are scheduled to lift off into space on shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, reminding the world of the U.S.’s continued leadership in space. And while Endeavour will complete its last voyage, the Obama administration’s commitment to human exploration remains as strong as ever.

American astronauts continue to live and work aboard the International Space Station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, as they have for more than 10 years. And this critical research facility in low- Earth orbit will continue to be the anchor of our human spaceflight for the next decade.

We at NASA are committed to maintaining America’s leadership role in human exploration — and sending U.S. astronauts into space aboard American-made spacecraft. It’s time for NASA to get out of the expensive business of owning and operating space transportation systems to service the International Space Station, and focus our limited resources on developing new vehicles to take us farther into deep space. (4/29)

Space: Medicine's Final Frontier (Source: WIRED)
On September 18, 2006, aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper turned a crank and gave millions of bacteria an impromptu bath. She was holding a carefully sealed device composed of several glass barrels, each containing separate fluids that could be mixed at will. Carefully, she dunked some dormant bacteria into a nutritious broth that allowed them to grow, change and multiply.

At the same time, scientists under the supervision of Cheryl Nickerson turned a similar crank in a room at Kennedy Space Center, designed to mimic the Shuttle's temperature and humidity. The scientists synchronized their efforts via real-time radio communication. The experiment was a groundbreaking one: it demonstrated that bacteria turn into superbugs in the gravity-free environment of space, gathering together, gaining strength and becoming much more effective at causing disease.

The results were remarkable: the bacteria killed half the infected mice at a third of the dose and in five fewer days than their Earthbound peers did. They had not changed in size or shape. Instead, they had become better at forming biofilms -- the bacterial equivalent of cities. In these communities, bacteria gather in large numbers, protected by a network of substances that they secrete. (5/1)

Super-Civilizations Might Live Off Black Holes (Source: Discovery)
The sad unplugging of the Allen Telescope Array due to lack of funding brings a screeching halt, at least temporarily, to the most ambitious search for "hello" radio transmissions from E.T. But perhaps it's time to simply think far outside of the box regarding our preconceptions of how to find extraterrestrial civilizations, says researcher Clement Vida. And, the most advanced aliens may be the easiest to find.

He emphasizes that we have to look at variety of search strategies in solving the mystery of our cosmic loneliness. That is, if we are satisfied with simply finding E.T. and not communicating with it. Vidal's reasoning: The universe is so old there have to be far-advanced civilizations out there, billions of years more evolved than us.

Energy-hungry galactic empires might extract energy from black holes. They are far more efficient at converting mass to energy than are the fusion engines of stars. But more than that, says Vidal, is the ability to control the microcosm as well. Today we can manipulate individual atoms via nanotechnology. But advanced alien physicists would tinker with elementary particles and the very structure of space-time itself. (5/1)

Virgin Galactic Has Eyes on Posh Hotel Near New Mexico Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Truth or Consequences boasts a hodgepodge of local attractions: an expansive lake and tandem state park, a downtown full of quirky art museums and shops and a lineup of natural hot springs. Not on the list? An upscale hotel. But that may be about to change.

The area will need luxury lodging to accommodate the tourists who plan to launch into suborbital space at Spaceport America, said Julia Tizard, operations manager for Virgin Galactic, the British company planning to launch spaceflights 30 miles away from T or C. That's because plenty of spaceflight passengers - some 420 have made paid reservations so far - will want more high-end amenities than the area now offers. (5/1)

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