July 31, 2011

Astronauts4Hire, Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab Partnership (Source: A4H)
Tampa-based Astronauts4Hire has entered into a research and training partnership with the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory (AGSOL). The two organizations recently signed a memorandum of understanding agreement focused on addressing the goals, challenges, and issues of astronaut training for private spaceflight.

A particular emphasis of the collaboration between Astronauts4Hire and AGSOL will be improving task performance under modified gravity conditions and mitigating space motion sickness, which has plagued almost three quarters of all astronauts. Representatives from Astronauts4Hire toured the AGSOL on July 14 and gained a firsthand perspective of the lab’s capabilities to support human sensorimotor control in unusual force environments. (7/31)

Bova: ‘Designed’ by Politicians, Shuttles Were Engineering Marvels (Source: Naples News)
I saw, firsthand, how uninformed political decisions can cripple a technical program. In 1956, the White House wanted the world to see that Vanguard was a peaceful program, so no military missiles were allowed to serve as its booster. Instead, a totally new launching vehicle was built, powered by a rocket engine with barely enough thrust to lift a 20-pound satellite into orbit. Built by General Electric, that rocket engine was very unreliable.

Years later, I learned how political decisions hamstrung the space shuttle’s design and performance, from Dr. Thomas Paine, who was chief administrator of NASA at the time. NASA wanted to build a space station in orbit around the Earth and a reusable vehicle to shuttle personnel and cargo to and from the space station (which is why the vehicle was called the “shuttle”). The politicians said fine, but allocated only a third of the money needed to start the job.

NASA chose to tackle the shuttle first, since it was more technically demanding than the space station. Engineers began to design a fully reusable vehicle. Too expensive, the politicians said. So NASA had to design a partially reusable shuttle, a vehicle that took off like a rocket and returned from orbit as a 99-ton glider, unpowered. Even at that, the shuttle needed strap-on solid rocket boosters to get off the ground. (7/31)

NASA Tech for Anti-Gravity Treadmill Now in Clearwater (Source: WFTS)
Running without any weight sounds impossible. However, it is now possible thanks to a unique treadmill that is now in available in Clearwater. The anti-gravity treadmill is so unique, there is only one in the Bay Area. The treadmill is called the AlterG.

"It's a very different type of sensation," said Brian Gillooly, rehab coordinator at Morton Plant Mease Hospital. "Basically, without NASA, we probably don't have this," Gillooly said. NASA came up with the technology to help astronauts. (7/31)

Editorial: Sunrise for Space Program (Source: inForum)
Obama’s decision to cultivate private spaceflight may be just what the industry needs to finally gain traction. The U.S. now boasts: multiple demonstrated, private space-faring vehicles (SpaceShipTwo by Virgin Galactic, and the Falcon-9/Dragon by SpaceX); the world’s first commercial spaceport (Spaceport America); plans for advanced inflatable space habitats (by Bigelow Aerospace); and state-of-the-art private astronaut training facilities (the NASTAR center).

With the shuttle out of the way, NASA is now free to focus on developing technologies to return to deep space exploration. Dozens of key problems have been identified in which innovative technological solutions are required (everything from new propulsion technologies to treatments for space radiation).

The shuttle program may have come to a close, but our space program has most certainly not been eclipsed – it is simply transitioning from one sunset to an even brighter sunrise. (7/31)

Space Tourism More Fiction Than Fact (Source: Sign On San Diego)
Now that the shuttle program is over, the conversation has turned to related topics, like space tourism. At least a couple of companies, -- Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures -- are taking deposits for future flights that will cost from $110,000 to $200,000. But this whole venture looks more like fiction than fantasy, say Gary Robbins and Scott Paulson, co-hosts of the U-T Science Talk. Clear here to listen to their show. (7/31)

Soon, India to Have its Own Space Shuttle (Source: NDTV)
The Americans recently retired their one of the most successful space shuttles, the Atlantis. Now, India is working towards realizing its dream - to create a re-usable satellite launch vehicle. An engineering model of what scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) call the re-usable launch vehicle, is currently housed at a secure and secret facility in Kerala. Covered with special heat resistant tiles, soon it will roar skywards.

The unmanned Indian space shuttle will be initially launched vertically like a rocket and in the first few flights it will be dropped back into the sea, but later it will make a landing like any other aircraft. ISRO feels this technology will drastically reduce the cost of launching satellites to space. Indeed ISRO is dreaming big. (7/31)

Space Can Make Eastern Shore Blast Off (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Just as NASA's space shuttle program is relegated to the history books, the stars are aligning to turn the NASA Wallops Flight Facility with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport into a successful incubator for commercial spaceflight. A key factor is Orbital Sciences Corp. stepping in for the shuttle and utilizing the Eastern Shore launch site to supply the International Space Station.

For decades, Wallops was the proverbial bridesmaid — never the bride. Decades of glamorous space exploration efforts — putting men in space, on the moon and in a space station — went to Cape Canaveral and the Johnson Space Center. This was not really a fair shake, since Wallops was where the space program began in 1945. As America's first spaceport, it also launched the first female in space. Local legend Miss Sam was the monkey whose successful test mission helped clear the way for the 1961 suborbital flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr. — the first American in space. (7/31)

Wallops Crew Earns Shout-Out (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The crew of the last space shuttle mission gave a shout-out from space to NASA Wallops Flight Facility during the mission. The Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8 and landed safely at 5:57 a.m. July 21, marking the last of 135 space shuttle launches dating back to 1981 -- and the end of an era in manned spaceflight in the United States. The crew of the Atlantis thanked Wallops' employees for their support of the program over the years.

Wallops' Research Range Services program supports NASA missions by providing tracking, telemetry, meteorological, optical and command and control services for vehicles including the space shuttle, as well as orbital and suborbital rockets, aircraft, satellites, balloons and unmanned aircraft systems vehicles. (7/31)

20 Years After Nanotube, Space Elevator Still Far From Take Off (Source: Intl. Business Times)
The Space Elevator is an evolving technology that is expected to replace the chemical rocket technology in future. The Space Elevator uses carbon nanotube as a ribbon for passengers to climb up orbit of the earth and then launch into distant planets. Despite the successful production in 1991 of carbon nanotubes, making them suitable for a tether still remains a challenge. Once that is achieved, it would help in shipping high-volumes at a lower cost than rockets. (7/31)

NASA, Merritt Island High Take On Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
The next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers may very well come from Merritt Island High. At the very least, a dozen technology-inspired students may have a leg up on the competition. Engineers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center are working with Merritt Island students to construct a satellite as part of a project called CubeSat.

Merritt Island is one of two high schools in the nation to begin work on the project. Their mission is to construct and prepare for launch a small satellite, which will collect data and transmit it to other satellites or to the ground. (7/31)

Poll: Public Would Have Been Happy Continuing to Fly Shuttle (Source: Florida Today)
Americans like space travel, and they generally don't mind their tax dollars being spent on exploration. They tend to like NASA as an organization. They liked the shuttle. But they don't mind that private companies may get to do some of the flying of U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

Those are among the intriguing findings of a poll by the respected IBOPE Zogby International taken in the wake of NASA's final space shuttle mission this month. Certainly, the results won't alter national space policy. The politicians making those decisions are far more driven by job concerns in their individual states and districts and those factors -- above all others -- always have driven congressional decision-making on space. (7/31)

Launches Leave Legacy of Costly Cleanups at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
NASA spent decades to send men to the moon, launch the space shuttles and build a laboratory in space, and now it will take a century to clean up the chemical messes left behind. Plumes of carcinogenic chemicals used in the launching of the space shuttles, Apollo moon shots and other rockets seeped deep into sandy soils beneath launch pads and other structures at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

They form viscous toxic goo that will take $1 billion in cleanup costs agencywide over many decades, and could bog down funding for next-generation spacecraft. NASA estimates it will spend $96 million in the next 30 years at KSC, including $6 million this year. The Air Force says it will take another $50 million to get the rest of its cleanups at Cape Canaveral under way by 2017. (7/31)

NASA Chief to Workers: Congress Debt Ceiling Talks Won't Stall Space Agency (Source: Space.com)
Congress may be facing a looming Tuesday (Aug. 2) deadline to raise the U.S. national debt ceiling, but NASA will be open for business as usual next week, the agency's chief told employees. In a memo to space agency workers Friday (July 29), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reminded employees that the agency's mission (like those of other federal agencies) will continue as Congress works to find a resolution to the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.

"As you know, Congress is debating how it plans to meet its obligations and raise the debt ceiling so that the country can pay its bills," Bolden wrote in the memo. "The President expects that Congress will do its job, enact an increase of the debt ceiling that he can sign into law, and end this impasse. I am sending this note to remind you that NASA employees should plan to come to work next week, as scheduled, at their normal place and time." (7/31)

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