May 22, 2011

Editorial: Huntsville a Perfect Fit as National Solar Observatory Headquarters (Source: Huntsville Times)
The city that helped send man to the moon could soon train America's sights on the sun. What better place than Huntsville - the Rocket City - for the proposed National Solar Observatory? Gov. Robert Bentley joined Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and an impressive team of business and academic leaders last week in a recruiting trip to Tucson.

Their mission was to pitch the University of Alabama in Huntsville over the other finalist, the University of Colorado in Boulder, as the best site to relocate NSO headquarters near Tucson. A decision is expected before the end of the year. If chosen, the project would bring 70 top scientists and engineers and an annual budget of $20 million to study findings from solar telescopes in Tucson, Sunset, N.M., and Hawaii. (5/22)

Cosmonauts Exchange Command of Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
A day before his planned return to Earth with two crewmates, Russian Dmitry Kondratyev today handed over command of the International Space Station to fellow cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko. In a brief ceremony the pair shook hands while four other Expedition 27 crew members clapped and offered congratulations. (5/22)

Opportunity Mars Rover Just Three Miles Away From Endeavour Crater (Source: Space Daily)
Opportunity continues the trek towards Endeavour crater, now less than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away. The rover drove on four of the last six sols. On Sol 2595 (May 13, 2011), Opportunity headed southeast with a drive of over 91 meters (300 feet).

On the next sol, the rover drove further southeast achieving over 140 meters (460 feet). On Sol 2599 (May 17, 2011), Opportunity headed first southeast then east totaling over 86 meters (282 feet) of distance. On the next sol, the rover drove over 112 meters (367 feet) with a dog-leg maneuver mid-drive so close-up imaging of a crater could be done. The plan ahead is more diving. (5/22)

Radio Telescopes Capture Best-Ever Snapshot of Black Hole Jets (Source: Space Daily)
An international team, including NASA-funded researchers, using radio telescopes located throughout the Southern Hemisphere has produced the most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy. Click here to see. (5/22)

NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer Helps Confirm Nature of Dark Energy (Source: Space Daily)
A five-year survey of 200,000 galaxies, stretching back seven billion years in cosmic time, has led to one of the best independent confirmations that dark energy is driving our universe apart at accelerating speeds. The survey used data from NASA's space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Anglo-Australian Telescope on Siding Spring Mountain in Australia.

The findings offer new support for the favored theory of how dark energy works - as a constant force, uniformly affecting the universe and propelling its runaway expansion. They contradict an alternate theory, where gravity, not dark energy, is the force pushing space apart. According to this alternate theory, with which the new survey results are not consistent, Albert Einstein's concept of gravity is wrong, and gravity becomes repulsive instead of attractive when acting at great distances. (5/22)

Russia Sends Two Soyuz Rockets to French Guiana (Source: Space Daily)
Two Russian Soyuz-ST carrier rockets are on the way from Samara to St. Petersburg to be shipped to French Guiana for future launches from the Kourou space center, the Progress design bureau said. "A ship with carrier rockets will arrive in French Guiana in June," the company said. "The launch of one of these rockets is scheduled for the third quarter of 2011." The Russian rocket will carry two Galileo navigation satellites that are the equivalent of the U.S.'s Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's Glonass. (5/22)

Space Florida Plans June 8 Board Meeting in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida is arranging a June 8 public meeting of the agency's board of directors. The meeting will be held in Tallahassee at the DoubleTree Hotel, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The board is currently in flux, awaiting the appointment of members by Governor Rick Scott and the leadership of the Florida House and Senate. In the absence of new appointees, the agency may rely on its existing membership. Click here for more information. (5/22)

Space Florida Invites Ideas for Spaceport Infrastructure (Source: Space Florida)
Each year, Space Florida submits a list of project priorities to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for consideration in preparing a five-year work program in partnership with local Transportation Planning Organizations (TPOs). This five year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) serves as the basis for receiving Federal and State transportation funds for aerospace-related projects.

Spaceport Infrastructure Projects may be included in the FDOT TIP if they are included in the Space Florida Spaceport Master Plan and adopted by the local TPO. Spaceport users operating within the territory of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, which includes Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and KSC, are invited to submit project ideas by 5:00 p.m. on May 25. These projects will be considered for adoption by the Space Florida Board of Directors on June 8 as an amendment to the Spaceport Master Plan.

The Florida Dept. of Transportation is authorized to fund spaceport transportation facilities within spaceport territories. Current Florida law defines that territory as the property within the boundaries of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. As the Spaceport Master Plan is a long-term planning document, projects outside this boundary may be included in the Master Plan and considered for future funding opportunities. Click here. (5/22)

Asteroid Mission Would Give University of Arizona Boost (Source: Arizona Republic)
The University of Arizona has been a hub of space research for decades, and is a finalist to oversee a new asteroid sample return mission for NASA. It would provide a big boost in research funding and raise the school's profile. Snagging the mission, worth up to $1 billion, would keep the university at the forefront of NASA research. Officials estimate the direct economic impact would be about $200 million, mostly in salaries for engineers and other employees.

Federal research contracts benefit the local economy in a variety of ways, said Alberta Charney, an economist with UA's Eller College of Management. It's new money, so besides creating jobs, these new employees buy food at the grocery stores and make purchases at local retailers and restaurants. The university also makes purchases, some local, of office supplies, lab equipment and a host of other needs. The university receives tens of millions of dollars in grants and contracts from NASA. In fiscal 2010, UA was awarded close to $90 million in grants, contracts and other agreements with NASA and its subsidiaries. (5/22)

Loose Bolts on Space Station Give Spacewalkers Trouble in Orbit (Source:
Spacewalking astronauts working outside the International Space Station early May 22 ran into problems with bolts and washers popping free, forcing Mission Control to change their plans for greasing a joint that rotates the orbiting laboratory's power-providing solar arrays. Shuttle Endeavour astronauts Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke ventured outside the station to top off the complex's slowly-leaking ammonia coolant system and lubricate the left-side solar arrays' rotary joint. (5/22)

Space Day Blasts Off at San Diego's Balboa Park (Source: North County Times)
Three ---- two ---- one: Space Day blasts off Saturday, with a full slate of fun science activities for children at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park. The eighth annual event is designed for junior astronauts who want to learn more about space exploration and have a chance to meet and speak with local and national space experts.

Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Space Day will feature presentations by NASA, San Diego Space Society, the Jet Propulsion laboratory, The Mars Society, SETI Institute, San Diego Astronomy Association, UCSD EarthKAM, The Planetary Society, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), Virgin Galactic, Aerospace Legacy Foundation, Sally Ride Science, Astronaut Teacher Alliance and many others. (5/22)

Huntsville Lobbying Team Heads to Washington to Listen, Not Just Talk (Source: Huntsville Times)
Greater Huntsville, the military and aerospace metropolis that federal dollars built, sends its leaders on their annual spring lobbying trip to Washington today at a time of growing uncertainty. The Iraq war and its spending are winding down, the Defense Department is reorganizing and downsizing, powerful lawmakers have lost their budget earmarking privileges, and federal spending in general is under a national microscope.

"We've been in this situation before," Mike Ward, vice president for governmental affairs of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday, explaining why no one in the local business community is ordering antacids by the case. Yet. But the uncertainty means two priorities - not one - for this year's trip. Still fundamental is making sure the state's congressional delegation has the facts to lobby other lawmakers about Huntsville's contributions to national space and defense interests. But this year is about asking questions, too. (5/22)

Damaged Heat Shield Tile No Threat to Re-Entry (Source: CBS News)
The shuttle Endeavour's crew used an instrumented boom on the ship's robot arm Saturday to carry out a close-up, focused inspection of a damaged heat shield tile on the belly of the orbiter. By late afternoon, analysts concluded the damage posed no threat to the orbiter and NASA's Mission Management Team cleared the ship for re-entry as is. (5/22)

KSC Closeout Crew Ensures Astronauts' Safety (Source: Florida Today)
Travis Thompson has a cool job. On launch day, he's one of the last seven people to see the astronauts before they blast off. You've seen them on TV, in white jumpsuits with giant Nos. 1 to 7, which identify the closeout crew members to the launch team watching via video. Travis wears No. 1. The 52-year old, who lives near Mims, is the leader. "There's thousands of jobs that need to be done. We just happen to have the last hands-on job," he says.

They go with the astronauts to the pad. They're waiting for them as they cross a walkway into the white room outside the orbiter's hatch. They help the astronauts configure their orange flight suits and helmets, then guide them through the hatch into seats in the crew compartment, awkwardly turned sideways and pointing up. The crew helps the astronauts in their bulky suits maneuver through tight spaces. (5/22)

'India, France Now Equal Partners' (Source: The Hindu)
“We have a very close collaboration with the French going back many decades. In the 60s the French had sounding rocket technology called the Centaur to measure activity in the upper atmosphere at altitudes of up to 200 kilometers. This technology was made available to us and we began producing sounding rockets in Thumba."

“In the 70s there was another major association, on the liquid propulsion Viking engine, a technology that we needed for the PSLV launch vehicles. There was no transfer in cash, just close scientific collaboration and the Viking later became the Vikas. We have understood, assimilated and upgraded this technology and we continue to use it today for the PSLV 2nd stage and GSLV 2nd stage. We use indigenous materials and components and we have developed 60 to 70 such engines in India."

“This is the part of the story when we gained from France. After that we became equal partners and perhaps the most significant programme that sums up this equal partnership is Megha-tropiques — combining the Sanskrit word Megha meaning cloud and the French tropiques which indicates the area we hope to study — ocean and meteorological observations in the tropics. In this partnership the instruments are made by the CNES the French National Centre for Space Studies, the satellite is made by India and the launch takes place from India in Sriharikota." (5/22)

Northrop Grumman Signs MOU with Zayed University in Dubai (Source: SPACErePORT)
Dubai's Zayed University and Northop Grumman Corp. (their Melbourne, Florida division) last week signed a memorandum of agreement to explore areas of common interest in providing educational initiatives, training programs, and business ventures. Areas of interest will include GIS data analysis, energy storage technologies, sustainable development technologies, and risk mitigation and policy implementation workshops for the UAE leadership. (5/20)

Mars Madness -- Or Not? (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Last week, long-time Mars advocate Robert Zubrin published an op-ed saying mankind could get to Mars on the cheap within 5 years using SpaceX hardware -- but was he serious, or just fishing for a debate? Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to drop a trail of bread crumb hints that it's build up infrastructure capable of supporting a long-term commitment to Mars.

One launch would put an unmanned Dragon capsule with a kerosene/oxygen stage into orbit around Mars for a return trip. The second launch would put 11 tons of gear on the surface of Mars, including a Mars Ascent Vehicle transport to move people and Mars samples to the in-orbit return Dragon, a chemical reactor designed to suck in Mars air and turn it into liquid oxygen to fuel the transport, three tons of exploration gear, and a 10 kilowatt nuclear or solar power supply.

A third launch would put a crew of two on a direct trajectory to Mars in a Dragon capsule, along with 2500 kilograms of consumables -- mostly food, since water and oxygen are expected to be recycled for up to three years, a light ground vehicle (i.e., a rover), and a couple of hundred kilograms of scientific instruments. It's an interesting concept, but it seems to smack of the sort of "flags and footprints" sprint that the Apollo moon missions were accused of and doesn't really put down a framework for a sustainable exploration infrastructure that Zubrin himself has called for. (5/22)

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