May 18, 2011

AMS Installation Caps 17-Year Odyssey (Source: Aviation Week)
When the STS-134 crew installs the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) particle detector experiment aboard the International Space Station later this week, it will mark another milestone in a project that began in 1994. AMS was developed for the U.S. Dept of Energy with Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting.

It is designed to characterize dark matter and pursue evidence of “strangelets,” matter comprised of three quark types – u, d and s. The observed gravitational influence of dark matter suggests the mysterious stuff mingles with ordinary matter and may account for up to 90% of the mass in the universe. Matter found on Earth is comprised of two quark types – u and d – though six types have been identified experimentally.

Over the long haul, scientists also expect the AMS to help them better characterize the cosmic radiation threat that astronauts will face on long missions to deep-space destinations. (5/18)

AIA: U.S. Human Spaceflight at a Critical Juncture (Source: AIA)
The future of the U.S. human spaceflight program is at a critical juncture, said AIA Vice President for Space Frank Slazer. U.S. space technology and its many spin-offs have fueled our economy and made us an unquestioned world leader. However, with the retirement of the space shuttle, the U.S. will pay Russia to transport crews to the Space Station.

“While cutting the federal deficit is essential to assuring our economic future,” Slazer said, “cutting back on exploration investments is a penny-wise but pound-foolish approach that will have an infinitesimal impact on the budget deficit.” (5/18)

Space Industry Candidate Loses Special Election Bid (Source: Space Politics)
One of the candidates in the special election for California’s 36th congressional district is an executive with an entrepreneurial space company: Stephen Eisele, the head of sales for Excalibur Almaz. In Tuesday’s election, though, Eisele’s bid to be the newest member of Congress fell a bit short. He finished in ninth place out of 16 candidates, getting 660 votes.

Rep. Wolf's China Clause Could Halt University Project (Source: Space Politics)
The so-called “Wolf Clause” that forced NASA to revoke media credentials for Chinese journalists who planned to cover Endeavour’s launch (its primary payload, the AMS, features participation from Chinese scientists) may also prevent UCLA collaboration on an upcoming lunar mission.

UCLA scientists will be barred from hosting a meeting at JPL with Chinese counterparts to exchange data from US and Chinese lunar spacecraft. A review of the provision by California university officials, however, said that the provision “would not necessarily prohibit NASA from funding research projects by U.S. investigators that include collaborations with Chinese colleagues.” (5/18)

Free-Floating Planets May be More Common Than Stars (Source: OnOrbit)
Astronomers, including a NASA-funded team member, have discovered a new class of Jupiter-sized planets floating alone in the dark of space, away from the light of a star. The team believes these lone worlds were probably ejected from developing planetary systems.

"Although free-floating planets have been predicted, they finally have been detected, holding major implications for planetary formation and evolution models," said Mario Perez, exoplanet program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The discovery indicates there are many more free-floating Jupiter-mass planets that can't be seen. The team estimates there are about twice as many of them as stars. In addition, these worlds are thought to be at least as common as planets that orbit stars. This would add up to hundreds of billions of lone planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone. (5/18)

Wallops to Host Collegiate Rocket Challenge (Source: DelMarVaNow)
Teams from three universities in the southeastern United States will step up to the launch pad May 21 to meet NASA's rocketry challenge to fly to 10,000 feet and survive a water recovery. Accepting the challenge are The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Mississippi State University in Starkville and Mitchell Community College in Statesville, N.C. The challenge, which will take place at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, is an expansion to the NASA Student Launch Project. (5/18)

The Early Adopter's Guide to Space Travel (Source: Popular Mechanics)
There are dozens of miles to go before you're an astronaut. But at an altitude of 50,000 feet, your spaceflight is under way. That's when White­KnightTwo, the plane that has been in control so far, releases your craft like a massive bomb, and it starts to free-fall. After a 3000-foot drop, SpaceShip­Two's rocket fires. The craft bucks. The thrust presses­ you deep into your seat, building as you climb. On paper, you're experiencing nearly 4 g's, equal to four times Earth's ­gravity. In practice, this gradual ramp-up to Mach 3 is smooth and exhilarating.

The media might focus on the weightlessness you'll soon feel, but that's not the point. You don't spend up to six years on a Virgin Galactic waiting list, or longer than that, maybe an entire lifetime, dreaming of floating. The dream was always to land a seat on a rocket ship. Click here to read the article. (5/18)

Bolden: We Will Go to Deep Space (Source: ABC News)
"[you] will hear our detractors say, 'But where are you going?' The important thing is that the destinations haven't changed since the earliest times. This President has said he wants us to go to asteroids, eventually to Mars, even back to the Moon as necessary to enable us to get to these distant destinations.

Humans have not ventured beyond the Moon yet, and it's only been one nation that's ever gone there. If you go back and read Jules Verne or you go back and read people who wrote and dreamed, even before we had the first airplane, people have always wanted to go to deep space, and that's what we're trying to do. That's what President Obama has asked us to do. (5/17)

Poll: GOP Nomination to Take on Bill Nelson 'Wide Open' (Source: Sunshine State News)
A poll released Tuesday by Sunshine State Communications, a firm with connections to prominent Republicans, revealed that Florida Republicans have yet to get behind a candidate who will challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012 with any voracity. The poll found that almost two-thirds -- 64 percent -- of likely primary voters were undecided on who they wanted to see take on Nelson, who has been in the Senate since first being elected in 2000. The four leading candidates in the race combined to take only 24 percent of the total surveyed.

Editor's Note: The state's space industry advocates are already discussing plans to establish Florida's role in space as a campaign issue for 2012. Sen. Nelson is a longtime space supporter and flew aboard a Space Shuttle while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. (5/18)

Maddow Producer Among Launch Tweetup Participants (Sources: HobbySpace, MSNBC)
A producer from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show was among the tweeps selected to participate in a KSC-based "Tweetup" during the launch of Endeavour. Her story was subsequently featured on the show as "The Best New Thing in the World Today". Click here to see the segment. (5/18)

Foundation Commits $25 Million to Giant Magellan Telescope (Source: TAMU)
Houston businessman George P. Mitchell has taken another pioneering step in his personal quest to position Texas A&M University as an international leader in fundamental physics and astronomy. He has agreed to a landmark $25 million gift to the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corporation toward construction of the $700 million Giant Magellan Telescope, a next-generation, ground-based wonder poised to open a new window on the Universe for the 21st century. (5/18)

Mitchell's gift is being made through the Carnegie Institution for Science, home of Carnegie Observatories and headquarters of the GMTO, which manages the telescope project. Half of the gift, or $12.5 million, will be credited to Texas A&M, bringing Mitchell's total commitments to the GMT on behalf of Texas A&M to more than $21 million.

Wounded Rep. Giffords Undergoes Brain Surgery With Husband in Space (Source:
Wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will undergo intensive brain surgery in Houston this morning (May 18), three days after watching her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, launch into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.

Giffords, D-Ariz., is scheduled to have cranioplasty surgery at Memorial Hospital in Houston today, as her husband and his STS-134 crewmates link up with the International Space Station on Endeavour's final trip to the orbiting outpost. The surgery is expected to be a critical step in her recovery from a failed assassination attempt in January. (5/18)

Astronauts to Install 15,000-Pound, $2 Billion AMS Device to Station Thursday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Early Thursday morning, Endeavour’s team will get to the main job that sent them to the International Space Station this week – installation of the $2 billion, 15,000-pound Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The device is the pride and hope of a large number of top physicists around the world, a tool designed to collect, detect and analyze high-energy cosmic rays and space particles that could provide evidence scientists lack for their theories about the origins and makeup of the universe. (5/18)

Delta II Rockets Are Next in Line at Vandenberg (Source: Launch Alert)
United Launch Alliance will launch two Delta II rockets for NASA on June 9 and October 25. These are the next two scheduled orbital launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The June mission will carry Argentina's SAC-D environmental satellite with NASA's Aquarius instrument. The October mission will carry an NPP environmental satellite for NASA and NOAA. (5/17)

Is NASA Trying To Slow-Roll SLS? (Source: AmericaSpace)
One way to kill a new program such as the Space Launch System is by division. In this case, build two launchers, naturally the first to “…test [NASA's] nascent crew capsule — and keep shuttle workers and the aerospace industry busy — while the agency figures out what it really wants in a next-generation ‘heavy-lift’ rocket that could go to the moon or beyond.” This is called the “dual phase approach“.

Congress guessed that opponents of the heavy-lift vehicle might try to slow-roll it, so language was inserted into the 2011 Appropriations bill (p. 214-215), Sec. 1333(a)1, stating “…heavy lift launch vehicle system which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously.”

One might guess that, with such clear language, this would be the end of any attempt to slow-roll SLS by dual phasing development. After all, spending money in a way not sanctioned in an appropriation could be construed as misappropriation of funds, which is pretty serious stuff legally. (5/18)

Spaceport Education Launch will be Webcast Live on May 20 (Source: New Mexico Business Weekly)
This year’s annual educational launch from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico will be webcast live online on May 20. Up Aerospace Inc.’s SpaceLoft 5 rocket will carry the experiments of 27 students to suborbit when it launches at 7 a.m. MDT. The payloads are sponsored by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. It provides annual access to space for student experiments at the end of the academic year to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The rocket includes 35 sensors to measure electromagnetic fields, carbon dioxide, radiation, acceleration, temperature, pressure and piezoelectricity, said Consortium Director Pat Hynes in a news release. “We’re expecting over 800 students and their families and members of the public to be on-hand to watch this year’s launch,” Hynes said. “We are privileged to share it with the world on the Internet.” Click here to watch. (5/18)

White House: NASA Chief as San Diego School Commencement Speaker (Source: Mission Times Courier)
San Diego’s High Tech High International will not be hosting President Barack Obama as their commencement speaker; but in lieu of the nations’ Commander in Chief, students at the Point Loma charter school will hear from another prominent leader: NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.

The White House announced today, on the occasion of NASA’s second-to-last space shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral, that the local contenders for President Obama’s Race to the Top Commencement Challenge would host the shuttle program’s chief administrator during their graduation ceremony. While Bolden was not on High Tech High’s “runner up” list of speakers (a list that included Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), students have said that they are nevertheless “thrilled” with the NASA chief’s selection. (5/17)

Out-Of-This-World Ideas On Offer (Source: Space Daily)
Is your company on the hunt for out-of-this-world business concepts? ESA is placing information on its intellectual property rights online, aiming to promote the commercialization of these patents in terrestrial contexts. This new online guide, undertaken by ESA's Technology Transfer Program Office (TTPO), includes descriptions of the intellectual property rights in question, their innovations and advantages, and their potential market applications.

"In the first place, ESA files patent applications in order to safeguard its own programs," explains Luz Becker, Secretary of the Agency's Patents Group. "We need to keep Europe a strong player in space; we want to avoid that someone else claims inventions we have made and could potentially block their use by ESA and its contractors.

"In addition, if you are a start-up looking to attract venture capital, it's much easier if you have access to intellectual property, either through your own patents or a licence. "And patents make the licensing process legally watertight, demonstrating that we do indeed own the knowledge we are transferring." (5/17)

GSAT-8 Launch Postponed (Source: The Hindu)
The launch of GSAT-8 communication satellite, scheduled for the early hours of May 20 from French Guiana, Kourou Island, has been postponed to May 21. The postponement is due to additional inspection of the launch vehicle by Arianespace. The exact schedule for the launch will be announced later, said a press release from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). (5/17)

Bolden Talks About NASA’s Post-shuttle Role (Source: Space News)
Asked what he sees as the division of labor between NASA and commercial space firms, Bolden says: “What will be significantly different from the way we’ve always done it before is that NASA will no longer procure vehicles and operate them for low Earth orbit activities. We are going to completely rely on our partners to do that work. We’ll still have oversight in terms of safety and engineering and the like, but we are not going to over-prescribe what they do and how they do it."

On the subject of reliance on Russia for transportation to the space station, Bolden says: “The primary hurdle it creates is that people will become comfortable with it and won’t feel the urgency that we feel to bring back a U.S. domestic capability to get our own astronauts and our partner nation astronauts to the international space station and other low Earth orbit destinations... I don’t want people to get comfortable that the international space station is still operating and we don’t need an American capability. We must have American capability.” (5/17)

Student Balloon Launched From Gainesville Photographs Shuttle Launch (Source:
A camera-toting balloon captured unique views of NASA's space shuttle Endeavour as it soared into space for the final time, snapping pictures from the stratosphere as part of a student-led project. The helium-filled balloon carrying the so-called "Senatobia-1" payload was launched near Gainesville, Florida at 7:30 a.m. Endeavour blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 8:56 a.m.

"Senatobia-1 has multiple video and still cameras to catch Endeavour's climb into space," Quest for Stars officials said via Twitter. The balloon's earlier launch time allowed the payload to be in position at an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet to witness Endeavour's ascent. The balloon was built and flown by students as part of Quest for Stars, a non-profit educational organization, in coordination with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and the Coalition for Space Exploration.

Endeavour's flight was the second shuttle launch a Quest for Stars balloon has observed. The group's "Robonaut-1" balloon snapped pictures of the space shuttle Discovery's launch from the edge of space in February 2011. The payload of this balloon, Senatobia-1, takes its name from the city of Senatobia, Miss., which has long shared a special connection with Endeavour. Senatobia was one of two communities that originally suggested the name "Endeavour" as a possible name for NASA's youngest space shuttle, which was built as a replacement for Challenger. (5/17)

Ask Your Member of Congress to "Represent" Your Support for Commercial Space (Source: SFF)
The U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has asked your Member of Congress for their input about what programs in NASA (and other agencies) should receive increased or decreased funding in FY2012. This gives you an opportunity to have your Representative support vital NASA initiatives like Commercial Crew and Space Technology.

What you should do - ASAP, but definitely before noon on Friday, May 20th - is call your Member of Congress' office in Washington, D.C., ask to speak to the staff person who handles "NASA appropriations" and ask that staffer to take two actions. Click here to read the call to arms. (5/17)

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