June 12, 2011

For the Future of Space Travel, Check the NYSE (Source: Kennebec Journal)
While various plans have been floated to create a new breed of rockets to return to the moon, this time permanently, and then launch a manned mission to Mars (the most Earthlike of the other planets), no one really knows when or how that will happen. The focus of manned space travel appears to be moving to the private sector, where efforts to produce cargo lift and tourism-related capabilities (including "space hotels") seem to be nearing some level of success.

The reasons for the current hiatus on new missions to deep space are complex, involving politics, national security and competing demands on limited funding, and yet one reason stands out: While there is money to be made in orbit, nobody has yet found a way to make a profit from travel to the moon or the planets. The logic of space exploration, then, tracks the logic of human migration and colonization from the earliest annals of recorded history. People will find a way to go where they can find new resources to improve their lives.

Sometimes they have removed those resources to bring them back to their original homes, and sometimes they have settled in the new lands they discovered (often displacing the former occupants, if there were any) to create new societies where a chance to prosper presented itself. Space is no different, because people are no different now than they have ever been. (6/12)

Kraft: Why We Must Save the Shuttle: As an ISS Rescue Fleet (Source: NY Daily News)
For more than 10 years, space crews from the U.S., Russia and other countries have successfully lived and worked year round, in six-month shifts, on the International Space Station. That work will continue - but with a crucial safeguard missing: the space shuttle fleet that gives human beings a unique capability to fix the space station's guidance system and rocket thrusters in the event of a terrible failure.

The shuttles are now about to retire - all of them, with no true replacements. This is an extremely dangerous development. Loss of control of the space station would mean a catastrophic reentry into the Earth's atmosphere of the massive structure - the largest object ever placed in orbit around the Earth, measuring over three football fields long and weighing more than 400 tons.

The tons of falling debris that would survive reentry would pose an unprecedented threat to populated areas around the world. To be sure, the space station has numerous, triple-redundant life support and control systems that makes such a total technical failure unlikely. However, to say that it is so redundant that it could never happen ignores the tragic lessons learned due to the overconfidence in fail-safe technology in disasters throughout history. (6/12)

Shedding Light on NASA Delays (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's penchant for busting budgets and schedules on big projects is not limited to one or two missions. Last week, we reported on the multibillion-dollar cost overruns and almost decade-long launch delay for the space agency's next big space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Later in the week, NASA's Inspector General released another report citing the potential for more expensive overruns and maybe even a launch delay for the agency's next big mission to Mars. NASA, later that same day, held a news conference to insist the Curiosity rover remains on track to launch later this year. So people often ask, "Why does this keep happening?"

For decades, auditors with the Government Accountability Office, the NASA Inspector General, the White House Office of Management and Budget and other independent bodies have consistently offered several broad flaws in the way that big-government space projects are fielded and managed. They've found the same kinds of problems, over and over again, in almost every space project that has blown its budget and launch target. Click here. (6/12)

Tiny Tracking Site Plays Gigantic Role in Launches (Source: Florida Today)
Before Atlantis lifts off on the final shuttle flight, a tiny, little-known team of experts from Patrick Air Force Base will spring into action on a remote, somewhat mysterious island in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

A mere blip on the globe, many local space workers and military personnel have gone to live on the picturesque, but mostly desolate island during five-plus decades to handle critical tracking and communications for hundreds of important U.S. space missions -- from the trail-blazing early missile shots, to John Glenn's first orbit of Earth, to the Apollo moon shots, and the shuttle missions that delivered science and military craft to space and later built the International Space Station. Click here. (6/12)

Arecibo Prepares for New Management, Projects (Source: Washington Post)
Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope has received a five-year, $42 million NSF funding commitment that new management says will allow scientists to probe the mysteries of imploded stars and maybe even lead to the detection of elusive gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein.

A new consortium’s takeover of the observatory is expected to occur in October. Located in Puerto Rico’s lush north coast and featured in the movie “Contact” with actress Jodie Foster, the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) telescope has been operated by Cornell University since 1963. (6/12)

European ATV-2 Freighter to Readjust ISS Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Mission Control will raise on Sunday the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by 20 km (12.4 miles) using Europe's ATV-2 Johannes Kepler to 365 km (226.8 miles). ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2), which docked with the ISS on Feb. 24, is scheduled to conduct another similar operation before undocking on June 21. (6/12)

ESA Lifting Body Vehicle on the Cusp of Final Approval (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The European Space Agency should formally approve this summer the construction of an Italian-led demonstrator that will launch into space on a rocket, fly back to Earth like an airplane and parachute into the Pacific Ocean, according to the mission's project manager. The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle is on track to blast off on a Vega rocket in late 2013, speed around the Earth at a peak altitude of nearly 300 miles, then fly back to Earth with the help of aerodynamic flaps and a parachute. (6/12)

Indian Military’s Space Program: Implications For Pakistan (Source: Islamabad)
The military role of space satellites has increased incessantly in last three decades.
Military space satellites are used both for peacetime collection of intelligence of the enemy, as well as the location of targets, troops deployment and to support combat operations in modern warfare. India is heading towards development of space capabilities; such capabilities would revamp their overall surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities which is an essential element in the modern Warfare.

Indian Military satellites would have wide range of implications for Pakistan and for the entire region. These satellites will improve Indian military’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; that would provide Indian military with round the clock coverage of Pakistan’s military installations, deployment of Pakistan army close to the border with India. After acquiring such capabilities Indian military would be confident to launch a preemptive conventional strike against Pakistan’s nuclear weapon delivery systems at their bases.

Therefore Pakistan’s missile forces and launching site will also be vulnerable of detection, monitoring and target by Indian military. Furthermore India’s accesses to high tech international market after the Indo-US deal will impact negatively on strategic stability of south Asia. Therefore it is imperative for Pakistan Military’s decision makers to closely monitor Indian military’s space program and come up with adequate response to counter any future challenges and threats to Pakistan’s security. (6/10)

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