July 28, 2011

NASTAR Center Completes Fifth Suborbital Scientist Training (Source: NASTAR)
The NASTAR Center, the premier commercial aerospace training and research center in the world, completed another Suborbital Scientist Training Course for private astronauts that will conduct commercial space research missions on suborbital spaceflights. The fifth Suborbital Scientist class (SS Class #5) included 10 individuals, eight of which were Astronauts4Hire members interested in taking commercial payloads into space as a service for researchers. All participants successfully completed the training program. (7/21)

Rick Perry Blasts Obama for NASA Cuts, Forcing Americans to “Hitchhike in Space” (Source: Houston Chronicle)
An era of human space exploration has come to its end — and a new frontier in presidential politics has dawned. Texas Gov. Rick Perry blasted President Obama for shutting down the nation’s “legacy of leadership” — a move he claims will leave ”American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike in space.”

The governor (and potential presidential candidate) also accused the Obama administration of leading “federal agencies and programs astray, this time forcing NASA away from its original purpose of space exploration, and ignoring its groundbreaking past and enormous future potential.” Perry also noted that about 4,000 contract positions at JSC will be lost due to the end of the program. (He did not mention that the end of the shuttle program was set into motion during the presidential administration of his predecessor as Texas governor, George W. Bush.)

The issue of NASA job cuts is resonant in the three hardest-hit states: Florida, Texas and Alabama. But while Texas and Alabama are all-but-certain to vote Republican in 2012, Florida is a key swing state. Perry’s savage critique of Obama’s vision for NASA could serve two political purposes: Reinforcing a popular position at home and creating problems for the president with Florida voters. (7/22)

Mars Rover to Launch from Cape Canaveral, Comb Massive Crater (Source: Florida Today)
A Martian crater that may once have held water will be NASA's next target for exploration on the red planet when the Curiosity rover lands there in a year. The Gale crater was the winner among four possible landing sites because the layered terrain reminded scientists of the Southwestern United States. "This kind of terrain around here reminds us a lot of Sedona, Ariz.," said John Grotzinger, the mission's project scientist at the California Institute of Technology. "There is a lot of rock -- hundreds of meters of it, layer after layer -- that we can study to tell us the history of Mars and Gale crater." (7/22)

The Shuttle is Dead; Long Live the Politics (Source: Discovery)
If you were to listen to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, you'd think there's a super-secret replacement spaceship ready to be rolled out to the launch pad. But how bright is the future for human spaceflight, really? Internationally, human spaceflight is the buzzword for technological prowess. Sadly, for NASA, it's become a political punch bag.

Perhaps it's to be expected that the former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is at odds with Bolden's enthusiasm: "When you push aside all the puffery and high-flying political announcements, with the landing of Atlantis, the human spaceflight program of the US will come to an end for the indefinite future," Griffin told the BBC on Thursday.

How can two administrators, from two different administrations, have polar-opposite opinions on NASA's human spaceflight program? Is it purely political? Or is there a genuine confusion as to where NASA is going? One thing's for certain, for the thousands of highly skilled space shuttle workers who are now without jobs, the future is anything but rosy. Click here to read the article. (7/22)

Wonky Gyro Grounds Private Moon Lander (Source: MIT Technology Review)
The champagne was poured, and rocket-shaped cookies handed out to an audience of investors, space engineers, and journalists assembled at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Yet a technical problem grounded the commercial moon lander being celebrated, post-poning the first public test flight of a non-government Moon craft.

The lander belongs to Moon Express, a year-old startup bidding to win the Google Lunar X Prize that will award prizes totaling $30 million to privately funded spacecraft that reach the lunar surface before the end of 2015. One of the lander's gyroscopes failed and had to be replaced by a component from another company. But the replacement worked slightly differently, convincing the lander it was spinning in the opposite direction to its true rotation. Previous flights have taken place successfully behind closed doors. (7/23)

NASA Layoffs Hit 2,000 Workers Day After Atlantis Landing (Source: First Coast News)
An estimated 2,000 NASA workers were laid off Friday, one day after space shuttle Atlantis landed ending the program. The news was expected, but will devastate the Space Coast economy, from housing to employment. It's an region where the space industry is connected to all parts; the area code here is 3-2-1, a nod to the famous countdown clock.

"The space shuttle is just now maturing to where it's a great flight vehicle. And what are we doing with it? We're scrapping it. We're turning it into a museum," said Steve Bishop, a former NASA worker. At NASA, employees got their pink slips throughout the day. "It's very uncertain with so many people leaving," said fired worker Freddy Maldonado. (7/22)

Russians: 'It's Our Space Age Now' (Source: MSNBC)
Russian space officials are hailing the end of the space shuttle era as the beginning of the "Soyuz epoch." For at least the next few years, Russian Soyuz craft will serve as the only way to get back and forth from the International Space Station, and NASA will be paying up to $63 million a seat for the ride. Russian cosmonauts will also make up half of the space station's crews from here on out, even though NASA has paid most of the estimated $100 billion cost of construction. (7/22)

NASA Heavy Lift Rocket Plan Emerging (Source: Space Politics)
NASASpaceFlight.com reported on a draft manifest for the Space Launch System (SLS) under a “budget restricted” scenario. According to that document, the first SLS launch would take place in 2017 and send an uncrewed Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on a circumlunar trajectory. The next SLS mission would not take place until 2021, and carry a crewed Orion on the same type of mission. Those initial SLS missions would use the initial SLS configuration with shuttle-derived components. The “evolved” SLS, with a capacity of 130 metric tons to LEO, would not debut until 2032. (7/28)

Remind Me Again, Why Isn't Pluto a Planet? (Source: Discovery)
Last week, news broke that a team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope had discovered a new moon in orbit around Pluto. They were actually looking for signs of a ring system when they stumbled across another tiny object -- now imaginatively called "P4" -- bringing Pluto's moon count to four. What I hadn't anticipated was a deluge of messages asking me if this means Pluto is now a planet again.

Well, the answer is a resounding no. It is still, and always will be, a dwarf planet. But what rules have we applied to Pluto to forever condemn it to the back seats of the solar system rankings? Before we look at the well established rules of planetary terminology, it's worth remembering why we even need such a definition. Click here to read the article. (7/26)

The Future of Russia’s Space Industry (Source: Russia & India Report)
After the successful rocket launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, the head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Vladimir Popovkin, shared with reporters his vision of the future of Russia’s rocket and space industry. “We are working to attract private business to the space industry,” said Popovkin. “Perhaps, a number of enterprises will be re-established as a private-public partnership.” He did not go into detail about the reform, explaining that the concept is not yet fully developed.

“The idea was that because the government is investing significant funds in space projects, it is necessary to create conditions for the private sector’s involvement,” said Izvestia’s source. “As an example, he had cited projects for the creation of the GLONASS system and the Vostochny Cosmodrome: we are talking about state investment in these projects in the amount of dozens of billions of rubles a year."

While speaking of promising projects, Popovkin had cited a flight to Mars as an example which, according to the head of Roscosmos, could also be funded by large private business. The idea to interest the private business sector in large-scale space projects is actively being promoted by NASA. However, the main focus of the NASA leadership slightly differs as it suggests that the state will cease funding large-scale space projects altogether, allowing private companies to execute them instead. (7/26)

Outfitting the Next Mars Rover (Source: WIRED)
A rock-vaporizing laser. Miniaturized chemical analyzers. A flying crane. As NASA prepares to launch the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover that will “follow the water” and pursue potential signs of life on Mars, international teams are tricking it out with a new set of scientific instruments that can analyze data in real time as the rover moves across the surface.

Since future NASA funding is up in the air and the rest of the planetary science community is arguing that other targets in the solar system are long overdue, MSL may be the agency’s last chance for several years to get wheels back on the rocky red ground. It’s a $2.5 billion gamble that aims to redefine our understanding of habitability in the universe. So engineers are making sure MSL has the right tools for the job. (7/26)

Editorial: Bill Nelson, NASA's Coulda-Been Hero Who Wasn't (Source: Sunshine State News)
So, four hours after the Atlantis astronauts land, Sen. Bill Nelson sends out a big, weepy "Help me pay tribute" plea. You could almost feel his lip quiver... Oh, please. Isn't this all coming a tad late, Senator? Seems to me we "owe" our space shuttle workers more than a smarmy group kiss led by Candidate Disappointment panning for votes.

The one Floridian close enough to the president of the United States to have kept NASA and the Kennedy Space Center in the president's face and maybe, just maybe, could have persuaded him to rethink his decision ... somehow managed to do just enough yet not enough. Just enough to convince some on the Space Coast he was working to save their jobs. Not enough to sacrifice his president's warm embrace or the pipeline to national-party cash. That's Sen. Bill Nelson.

Anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 Florida jobs will evaporate because we're no longer looking to set up science labs on the Moon, we're going to Mars. And by the time we get there, most of the jobs that send up the rockets will have gone to other states. There was a time when I thought this senator was going to come through. A year ago he and Sen. Hutchison of Texas supported Sen. Rockefeller's bill to pump more money into the space program and keep the Space Station open until 2020. But that was it. That was his whole offense. He was shooting a cap pistol when he needed an Uzi. (7/22)

Could the Moon Provide Clean Energy for Earth? (Source: CNN)
Gerald Kulcinski has a big problem. The nuclear engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin needs a rare element to fuel his research into a fusion reactor. But the cost of the isotope -- helium-3 -- is rising faster than a rocket headed to space. A few years ago it was $1,000 a gram, this year it is $7,000 and next year, well, he assumes it will be tens of thousands of dollars. There are only about 30 kilograms of 3He on Earth, Kulcinski said.

The Kulcinski team's approach toward creating fusion is unique. Ninety-nine percent of research is geared toward using deuterium and tritium together. But using helium-3 instead of tritium would be much safer and drastically cut the chance of nuclear weapons proliferation. If 3He-3He fusion works, there would be no radioactive waste. A breakthrough would be huge, but the team needs more years and more helium-3.

The thing is that there are tons of helium-3 -- on the moon. About 1 million tons, Kulcinski said, adding that we also have a pretty good idea as to where the 3He is on the moon. We would know precisely how many trillions of dollars of the stuff is there if someone goes back to the moon and establishes a base there. "A few years ago we thought we were going back soon but that's all changed now," he said. (7/22)

Florida Space Workers Face Few Job Prospects With End of Shuttle Program (Source: Bloomberg)
About 9,000 people living near the Kennedy Space Center who work for NASA contractors will lose their jobs, Denise Beasley, a spokeswoman for Brevard Workforce, a county agency that helps space employees find new positions, said. That leaves five graduates of the class of 1975 at Astronaut High School in Titusville, 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the space center, with few prospects, they said at a Cracker Barrel restaurant on the eve of Atlantis’s touchdown.

“We’re all 54 years old, and we should be able to relax, and instead we’re all starting over,” said Tish Lawing. Her husband works for a company that helps remove shuttle waste and her father worked in the space center’s launch-control center. “This is going to be a ghost town.” Declines in home prices, already slumping with the national real-estate collapse, will be “exacerbated” by the shuttle’s end. Titusville-area prices have fallen 47 percent over the past five years, more than the U.S.’s 18 percent decline and Florida’s 45 percent drop, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. (7/21)

One Percent for NASA (Source: Petosky News)
NASA is turning over low Earth orbit to private companies, but it will be at least five years before the private sector puts people in space. Meanwhile, Russia will ferry our astronauts to space for $63 million per person using 1960s technology. Who really won the space race? The United States won, and we are still ahead, but we keep lurching in one direction, then another. We start a program, cancel it, start another. We have no clear definition of where we are going or how to get there.

In an eloquent commentary about the upcoming end of the shuttle program, NPR’s Scott Simon noted NASA’s $19 billion budget is about 0.5 percent of all federal spending. (It was nine times that — 4.4 percent — in the mid-1960s). “Would it be so out of whack, as some space enthusiasts suggest, for the United States to double what’s spent on space to, say, 1 percent of the federal budget?” Simon asked. “To plot a course for Mars, one of Jupiter’s moons or an asteroid, and inspire a new generation?” (7/26)

GAO: Blocked Fuel Line Hampered Military Satellite (Source: AP)
A small piece of cloth stuck in a fuel line may be the reason a military communications satellite hasn't reached its planned orbit since it was launched in August, government auditors said Thursday. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite is still expected to reach its intended altitude, but not until October, nearly a year late. The Air Force Space Command and the contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., devised a work-around plan to get the satellite to its intended altitude.

A Government Accounting Office report said the blocked fuel line was most likely caused by a piece of cloth inadvertently left in the line during the manufacturing process. The GAO report said the total cost of the satellite system is $12.9 billion and that it incurred $250 million in extra costs and a two-year delay because of quality problems with parts, including defective electronics in a power system. (7/21)

Father of 321 Says Space Coast Area Code Still Rings True (Source: Florida Today)
Robert "Ozzie" Osband says Brevard's 321 area code is still appropriate. "We will still be the countdown capital of the world," said the person most credited with pushing the Florida Public Service Commission to designate 321 as the Space Coast's area code, in a tribute to the space program's countdown to liftoff.

The 321 replaced 407 locally at a time when an increase in landline phone, mobile phones and fax lines in Central Florida necessitated a new area code. The change started to take effect in 1999. He is quick to note that, even with the end of the shuttle program, he and others will have many unmanned rocket launches to watch in the coming years before a new human spaceflight program starts launching from the Space Coast. (7/22)

Jobs for Laid Off Texas NASA Workers (Source: KUHF)
Emil Peña with Rice University is part of a special task force put together by the Greater Houston Partnership, looking at ways to repurpose these skilled workers from JSC to the energy industry. Several local energy companies are listening, given the calibre and standards of the former NASA contractors. Veronica Reyes directs the Aerospace Transition Center, a small storefront located in a strip mall in Clear Lake, that helps former contractors find work. She says they've set up hundreds of interviews so far. (7/22)

For Marshall Center, Shuttle has Landed but Paperwork Flies On (Source: Huntsville Times)
The last space shuttle has landed, but the paperwork rolls on. So do the victory laps as Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center celebrates and closes the 30-year shuttle era. "There's still a lot of work to do," Marshall shuttle team member Ann Towry said. "The job's not over yet."

What kind of work are we talking about? Imagine your last move multiplied by a million. Files must be organized, backed up and stored. Equipment must be accounted for and decommissioned. Inventories must be checked and double-checked in a process sure to take months. (7/23)

FAA Raises Concerns with LightSquared's Revised Proposal (Source: Wall Street Journal)
LightSquared has modified its proposal for launching a wireless broadband network, but the Federal Aviation Administration said the proposed network would still interfere with global position systems, which are critical to aviation. "The effects of LightSquared deployment would be far-reaching and potentially devastating to aviation. Proposed LightSquared operations would severely impact the efficiency and modernization of the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world," according to a report from the FAA's Navigation Services. (7/27)

Large Asteroid Not Far From Earth in Same Orbit Around Sun (Source: BBC)
The 200-300m-wide rock sits in front of our planet at a gravitational "sweet spot", and poses no danger. Its position in the sky makes it a so-called Trojan asteroid - a type previously detected only at Jupiter, Neptune and Mars. It is a fascinating find because the relative stability and proximity of Trojans would make possible targets for astronaut missions when we eventually go beyond the space station.

2010 TK7 is probably not the rock of choice, simply because it travels too far above and below the plane of Earth's orbit, which would require a lot of fuel to reach it. Nonetheless, its detection means it is highly likely there are other, more suitable Trojans out there waiting to be found. It traces quite a complex path at its orbital point. Currently, it is about 80 million km from Earth, and should come no closer than about 25 million km.

The team says its orbit appears stable at least for the next 10,000 years. 2010 TK7's existence should not really be a surprise. Jupiter, Neptune and Mars all have collections of rocks sitting in the so-called Lagrange points 60 degrees ahead of or behind the planets in their orbits. In the case of Jupiter, the number of Trojans now tops 1,000 rocks. (7/28)

Telenor Revenue Down 12 Percent (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway on July 21 reported a 12 percent drop in revenue for the three months ending June 30 compared to the same period a year ago as it continued to feel the effects of a new, less favorable contract with its biggest customer. Oslo-based Telenor said second-quarter revenue, at 243 million Norwegian kroner ($44.9 million), was up 1.7 percent over the previous quarter, when the new contract with Norway’s Canal Digital took effect. (7/22)

NASA Brass Tells Workforce To Embrace Change (Source: Aviation Week)
Though difficult for a workforce facing economic upheaval, it’s time for change, top NASA officials said. “As we move forward, we stand on the shoulders of these astronauts and the tens of thousands of people who supported us on the ground as well as those who cheered our triumphs and mourned our tragedies,” Bolden, a former shuttle astronaut, told workers as they gathered before Atlantis.

“I recognize that change is very hard, but huge improvement really comes from change,” Bill Gerstenmaier says. “It’s time to move on and focus on the future,” added Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, another former shuttle astronaut who is reshaping the Florida shuttle base into a multi-mission launch complex suitable for commercial space transportation companies as well as new NASA exploratory vehicles. (7/22)

With Launch Site Behind Schedule Taurus 2 Facing Two-month Delay (Source: Space News)
The inaugural flight of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 rocket will be delayed by about two months, to December, to allow time for the completion and certification of rocket propellant and pressurization facilities at the vehicle’s Virginia launch site. Orbital still intends to demonstrate its space station cargo vehicle on the second Taurus 2 flight about two months after the first successful liftoff, meaning that mission, in which the Cygnus capsule will approach the international space station, will be delayed to February.

ISS Crew to Launch Mini-Satellite on August (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian cosmonauts aboard the Space Station will launch a mini-satellite during a spacewalk on August 3. The mini-satellite, Kedr, is part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project, and is designed to transmit greeting messages in 15 languages and relay images of Earth and telemetry data to amateur radio operators. Its name comes from Russian cosmonaut Yury Gagarin's call sign and it is being launched in honor of the 50th anniversary of Garagin's flight. (7/22)

Ex-NASA Agent Pleads Guilty in Church Theft Case (Source: Marin Independent Journal)
A former NASA special agent pleaded guilty Thursday to failing to report nearly $300,000 he stole from his Southern California church on his tax forms. Alvin Danielle Allen admitted before a U.S. District Judge that he filed fraudulent tax returns from 2004 to 2008. He faces up to three years in federal prison when he is sentenced Nov. 7.

The Internal Revenue Service said Allen was a deacon at Lancaster Baptist Church and served on a church committee that counted tithes when he stole the cash contributions. A hidden camera caught him putting cash into his pockets in October 2009. (7/21)

Space Shuttle A Defense Issue (Source: Wheeling News-Register)
Americans would not tolerate a situation in which deployment of U.S. troops to a trouble spot abroad depended on a call to Moscow, Brussels or Tokyo asking if we could please borrow transport aircraft or ships for the purpose. Yet, on Thursday, we entered just such a situation regarding a potential theater of war - space. (7/22)

Jews in Space: Played a Central Role in Shuttle Program (Source: Jewish Herald Voice)
Achievements of the 30-year exploration program include the building of the International Space Station, the launching of observatories, and teaching how humans can live and work in space. There have been a total of 14 Jews who’ve flown into space – a dozen Americans, one Israeli and one Soviet. (7/21)

Defense Industry Faces Reduced U.S. Spending, Analysts Say (Source: Reuters)
Defense companies are bracing for cuts to government spending and are expecting consolidation over the next couple of years, according to analysts. The 105 top defense contractors' core performance was flat again in 2010, after similar performance in 2009, Deloitte says. "That's an indicator of the status of the industry, which is treading water at this point," said Tom Captain, vice chairman for aerospace and defense at Deloitte. (7/27)

Lockheed Prepared for Possible Defense Cuts, CEO Says (Source: Bloomberg)
Bob Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin, said the company is as prepared as possible for changes in global military programs, including possible cuts to defense spending by the U.S. The defense contractor raised its full-year profit outlook after reporting a 3.9% increase in profit for the second quarter. Lockheed Martin posted a $742 million profit for the quarter, compared with $714 million in the same quarter last year. (7/27)

AIA: Government to Lose $200 Million Per Week During FAA Shutdown (Source: AIA)
Congress has failed to come to an agreement on reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, which has halted construction projects at airports and led to furloughs of nearly 4,000 employees. According to the Aerospace Industries Association, the government's inability to collect ticket and fuel taxes during the impasse will result in lost revenue of $200 million per week. (7/27)

Europe Wants to be Part of NASA's Space Exploration Plan (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The European Space Agency and NASA are negotiating the idea of modifying parts of Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle to travel with the U.S.' Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. "Our interest is firstly to capitalize on what we have already developed," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general at the European Space Agency. "The ATV is a major development for Europe." (7/27)

Wheels Stop (Source: Space Review)
When the shuttle Atlantis landed Thursday morning, it was more than just the end of the Space Shuttle program. Jeff Foust discusses how it represents an end of a much longer era in human spaceflight, as the momentum built up from the original race to the Moon is finally exhausted. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1892/1 to view the article. (7/25)

The Bbest of Spacecraft, the Worst of Spacecraft (Source: Space Review)
The Space Shuttle's legacy has been widely debated as the program reaches its end: despite all its accomplishments, it failed to achieve its original goals of cost reduction. Andre Bormanis argues that the shuttle should best be remembered for taking a step on the path towards better and less expensive space access. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1891/1 to view the article. (7/25)

The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning? (Source: Space Review)
The end of the Space Shuttle program marks a profound change for NASA, in more ways than one. Roger Handberg warns that in the post-shuttle era the political environment for NASA may become more difficult and partisan. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1890/1 to view the article. (7/25)

Churned in Space? Ohio State Fair’s Tribute to the Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ohio apparently is commemorating NASA’s now-retired space shuttle program as only Ohio can: with a butter sculpture at the Ohio State Fair, which opens August 7 in Columbus. “The astronaut was unveiled at noon today in the Dairy Building on the state fairgrounds. The figure, not of a specific person, is eating freeze-dried ice cream at a shuttle control panel. (7/26)

Daunting Space Task: Send Astronauts to Asteroid (Source: AP)
With the space shuttle now history, NASA's next great mission is so audacious, the agency's best minds are wrestling with how to pull it off: Send astronauts to an asteroid in less than 15 years. The challenges are innumerable. Some old-timers are grousing about it, saying going back to the moon makes more sense. But many NASA brains are thrilled to have such an improbable assignment.

And NASA leaders say civilization may depend on it. An asteroid is a giant space rock that orbits the sun, like Earth. And someday one might threaten the planet. But sending people to one won't be easy. You can't land on an asteroid because you'd bounce off — it has virtually no gravity. Reaching it might require a NASA spacecraft to harpoon it. Heck, astronauts couldn't even walk on it because they'd float away.

NASA is thinking about jetpacks, tethers, bungees, nets and spiderwebs to allow explorers to float just above the surface of it while attached to a smaller mini-spaceship. It would take half a year to reach an asteroid. The deep space propulsion system isn't perfected yet. Football-field-sized solar panels would help, meaning the entire mothership complex would be fairly large. It would have to protect the space travelers from killer solar and cosmic ray bursts. And, they would need a crew capsule, maybe two, for traveling between the asteroid complex and Earth. (7/23)

Death of Space? (Source: Weekly Standard)
Forty-two years ago, Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ascended from the surface of the moon and rendezvoused with Michael Collins in the command module Columbia for their trip home from mankind’s maiden voyage to the moon. All three men are now in their 80s, and no human being has been on the moon since each of them was 42 — and now even the space shuttle has had its last liftoff.

Americans, however, do not seem to be content with this state of demise. A new CNN poll reminded Americans that, for the foreseeable future, “all manned U.S. space flights will take place in spacecraft that are owned by other countries” and then asked whether “the end of the space shuttle program” would be “good” or “bad” for the U.S.” By a margin of almost 3 to 1 (50 to 16 percent), Americans answered that it would be “bad.”

Moreover, by a margin of slightly more than 3 to 1 (75 to 23 percent), Americans think that we “should,” rather than “should not,” “develop a replacement spacecraft that will be capable of sending U.S. astronauts into space and returning them to Earth.” And by a margin of 28 points (64 to 36 percent), Americans think that it’s at least “fairly important” for us “to be ahead of Russia and other countries in space exploration.” (7/22)

Spaceport Authority Seeks Media Relations Services (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has issued a request for proposals for media relations services for Spaceport America, announced Christine Anderson, executive director of the spaceport. "Spaceport America has been attracting attention from news and media outlets worldwide," said Anderson in a news release Friday. "This contract will help develop, manage and maintain effective communications with members of the local, national and international press corps as well as the public about our exciting project."

The RFP calls for services in the following areas: media relations and liaison, public relations outreach, media tours, press releases, statement writing and press coverage archival work. The RFP is available for download under the "Proposals" tab at www.spaceportamerica.com. (7/23)

Manned Space Flight? Call The Russians! (Source: DelCo Daily Times)
Say what you want about Americans, but at least we’re consistent. After all, we have willfully allowed the demise of our nation, not from outside invasion, but within. And the biggest culprit is overseas outsourcing. We have outsourced our energy needs. Rather than utilizing our mammoth domestic reserves, we are bent over a barrel, paying through the nose to nations who don’t put put America on their Christmas card lists. This transfer of wealth, the largest in history, continues unabated.

We have outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base. When a nation makes nothing, it is infinitely harder to rebound from a severe recession, so expect the economy to be in the tank for the long haul. So now that the Space Shuttles have been retired, it’s no surprise that we have outsourced manned space flight. Naturally, we have no shuttle replacement, since that would have required common sense, so now we are in the peculiar situation of relying on the same folks who less than two decades ago were our archenemy --- the Russians. (7/22)

India to Focus on Domestic Needs for Satellites (Source: Economic Times)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman, Dr K Radhakrishnan said on Thursday, that the country's nodal space agency will be focused more on meeting the nation's domestic requirements for satellites, than looking for export orders. ISRO has around 150 of its own transponders currently in operation, while leasing 86 transponders from abroad. (7/23)

Branson on Virgin's Space Travel Plans (Source: BBC)
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is hoping to take tourists into space by 2013. He told the BBC there could also be the possibility of much faster international air travel. Click here to see the video. (7/23) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14242878

‘Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent’ (Source: Forbes)
Infospace and Intellius founder Naveen Jain didn’t grab a spot on Forbes’ list of billionaires at the peak of the dot-com boom by being understated. Last week Jain unveiled a plan that could put the first entrepreneurial venture on the Moon. “The moon has never been explored from an entrepreneurial perspective,” he told a crowd of party-goers sipping champagne as violinists played “Fly Me To The Moon,” at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. “Think of the moon as just another continent that is part of our ecosystem.”

Jain’s Moon Express is just one of 29 groups competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, which will award $30 million to the first team to put a lander on the moon by the December 2015, but it might be the most entrepreneurial. The plan is to build a business that takes stuff to the Moon. The first customer — the International Lunar Observer Association — wants Moon Express to put a telescope on the far side of the Moon. (7/22)

One More Step Backwards (Source: Washington Times)
America has been in a downward spiral for too long. Our leaders in Congress and the White House continue to choose paths that have already been proven wrong by history on everything from giving up leadership on space travel to economic policy. A United States of America was created for just the kind of capacity it took to inspire millions around the world with spaceflight. Yet, today it seems our focus is spending more borrowed money for more and bigger entitlement programs. (7/22)

Florida Officials Must Spur Growth in Space Industry (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
The Space Coast can't count on Washington to rescue its economy. Last year, President Obama pledged $40 million to help the Space Coast recover, but most of the money got eliminated earlier this year when Congress and the White House agreed to cut $38 billion in federal spending. This month, a House panel proposed lopping about $2 billion from NASA's next budget, which would further diminish the agency's capacity to offset the loss of shuttle jobs.

While Florida's members in Congress should unite in opposing plans to gut NASA's budget, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature should step up their efforts to promote new space development and jobs. After wasting some critical years under former Gov. Charlie Crist — they didn't pass a single space-related bill in 2009 — legislators put together a strong package of measures this year to spur the industry's growth in Florida.

Legislators need to keep looking for ways to boost the state's efforts to grow the space industry. Funding for Space Florida, the space development agency, has been inconsistent over the years. A stable funding plan for the agency would help convince companies that Florida is committed to the industry. The governor shouldn't hesitate to be more outspoken in highlighting space jobs. Florida also should be poised for the opportunity to lead the nation into the commercial space age. (7/23)

Enceladus Supplies Water for Saturn Atmosphere (Source: Space Daily)
Observing Saturn, Herschel has detected evidence of water molecules in a huge torus surrounding the planet and centred on the orbit of its small moon, Enceladus. The water plumes on Enceladus, which were detected by the Cassini-Huygens mission, inject the water into the torus and part of it eventually precipitates into Saturn's atmosphere. (7/27)

Invitation to a Dialogue: Our Ambitions in Space (Source: New York Times)
As one of the most enthusiastic supporters of human space flight for 60 years, I appreciate your support of a “far more ambitious set of manned voyages” to follow the end of the shuttle program (which did, indeed, fail to live up to its promise) and “inspire a new generation.” I believe that Apollo and the shuttle’s Hubble telescope repair flights proved conclusively the value of human space flight. Apollo sent half a dozen manned expeditions to land on the moon in less than a dozen years from the program’s conception. That’s “ambitious,” and it certainly inspired my generation.

Unfortunately, I cannot characterize the Obama plan as either ambitious or inspiring. President Obama wants us to spend the next 25 years on scientifically useless stunts like sending manned expeditions to land on a small asteroid and to orbit Mars. The goal is to land on Mars and search for life. We should immediately start on the Mars Direct proposal of Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society. We could return to the moon before this decade is out, followed by the first human landing on Mars early in the next decade. (7/28)

Russia: ISS to be Sunk After 2020 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, its space agency said Wednesday. "After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish," according to a Russian space agency official. (7/28)

NASA, SpaceX Agree on Space Station Flight (Source: Space Daily)
NASA and SpaceX, based in California, have agreed on the private spacecraft company's first date with the International Space Station, the space agency says. The SpaceX Dragon capsule will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Nov. 30 and will rendezvous and dock with the ISS Dec. 7. The original plan had been for two missions, one for a rendezvous and a second for the actual docking, but after a successful test flight SpaceX requested that NASA combine the two missions. (7/26)

Spaceport America Awards Florida Company Contract for Visitor's Center (Source: Las Cruces Sun Journal)
Arts & Technology, Inc. - doing business as IDEAS - works with The Walt Disney Company, NASCAR, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and others. Now the Orlando, Fla.-based design and production company is bringing its expertise to southern New Mexico.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority announced on Wednesday that IDEAS will develop the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. The company was awarded a two-phase contract of a not-to-exceed value of $7.5 million. IDEAS will oversee the design and development of the Visitor Experience and facilities at Spaceport America, as well as the design, fabrication and installation of all exhibits and attractions for visitors to the spaceport. (7/27)

New Uses for Space Station (Source: ESA)
For more than a decade, the International Space Station has been a busy orbiting research lab. But it could soon take on a new role as a testbed for ambitious missions deeper into space. Future ventures could include Mars missions, lunar habitats or traveling to an asteroid – all needing new technologies and techniques that could be tested on the Station.

Following yesterday's meeting of the orbital outpost's Multilateral Coordination Board, member agencies expect to begin identifying specific technology initiatives based on sample exploration missions. The Board meets periodically to coordinate Station activities, with senior representatives from ESA, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, Russia's Roscosmos and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (7/28)

Human-Rated Launcher Flight Computers In Works (Source: Aviation Week)
Developers of future human-rated launch vehicles will have a commercial flight computer to plug in if a new development internally funded by Ball Aerospace & Technologies works out. Ball based the design of its prototype launch vehicle flight computers on hardware already in use by NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center simulation laboratories for developing software and test systems for human-rated launch vehicles.

The fault-tolerant computers are designed for human-rated systems, Ball says. With NASA turning over to the private sector the job of transporting cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS), the company also has developed phased array antennas, avionic assemblies and cryogenic storage systems for future human spacecraft. (7/27)

White House Proposes Export Control Changes (Source; Aviation Week)
The Obama administration is proposing to shift tanks, trucks and other military vehicles currently controlled on the U.S. Munitions List (USML) to the less-restrictive U.S. Commerce Control List (CCL) by year’s end as part of a broader effort to reform the U.S. arms export licensing process.

The licensing process governs foreign sales of sensitive U.S. technologies to other countries, including commercial communications satellites. Under a proposed federal rule issued July 15, the Commerce Department would implement a new regulatory framework for the transfer of defense articles that the president determines no longer warrant control under the Arms Export Control Act, which governs the State Department-administered USML. (7/21)

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