July 5, 2011

Scientists Finally Get Angry About Indifference to Climate Change (Source: Guardian)
James Hansen never expected to become a radical activist at the age of 65. He is a grandfather who loves nothing more than exploring nature with his grandchildren. He holds down a respectable job as the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. But he is 70 now, and he has a police record.

Hansen gets himself arrested, testifies in court on behalf of others who have broken the law and issues public pronouncements that have made NASA try to gag him – all because he can't bear the thought that his grandchildren might hold him responsible for a burned-out planet. Hansen is the climate scientist's climate scientist.

He has testified about the issue in front of Congress, but has had enough of the standard government response – "greenwash", he calls it. Last month, Hansen issued an uncompromising plea for Americans to involve themselves with civil unrest over climate change. "We want you to consider doing something hard – coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested," he says in a letter on grist.org. (7/5)

Consensus Among Scientists on Global Climate Change (Source: Guardian)
In April 2010 a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that nearly 98% of working climate scientists accept the evidence for human-induced climate change. The voices of dissent reported "for balance" come almost exclusively from researchers who are not publishing in the field. Unfortunately, this consensus over climate change is in danger of becoming the world's best-kept secret. (7/5)

Human Spaceflight, and the Reason for (Almost) Being There (Source: Space Review)
When is it appropriate to send humans to other worlds versus sending robotic probes? Dan Lester argues a key factor in future human spaceflight may be the degree of latency needed to successfully perform telerobotics. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1877/1 to view the article. (7/5)

The Mission of the Final Shuttle Mission (Source: Space Review)
Attention is focused on the Kennedy Space Center this week for the launch of Atlantis on the final mission of the Space Shuttle program. Jeff Foust reports on one largely overlooked factor in this surge of attention: the mission itself. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1876/1 to view the article. (7/5)

China to Launch an Experimental Satellite in Coming Days (Source: Space Daily)
China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday said it will lauch an experimental orbiter in China's Shi-Jian satellite series in coming days. The orbiter, SJ-11-03, will be boosted by China's indigenous Long-March II-C rocket at an appropriate launch window. Currently, the orbiter and rocket are in good condition and all preparations for the launch are going smoothly, said a press release. (7/5)

Spooks in Orbit (Source: Economist)
Despite its strong inheritance of military DNA (much of it, somewhat counterintuitively, coming from the American navy), NASA is a civilian agency, set up that way in deliberate contrast to the military-run Soviet space programme. In practice, the distinction is not always so clear-cut: NASA has done plenty of work for the Pentagon. But America’s armed forces maintain a separate space programme of their own, largely out of the public eye. Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, it is thought that the military space budget has matched or exceeded NASA’s every year since 1982.

All the signs are that it is roaring ahead. The air force’s public space budget (as opposed to the secret part) will increase by nearly 10% next year, to $8.7 billion, with much of it going on a new generation of rockets. Bruce Carlson, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive outfit that runs America’s spy satellites, announced in 2010 that his agency was embarking on “the most aggressive launch schedule…undertaken in the last 25 years”.

Much of the money goes on satellites—spy satellites for keeping tabs on other countries, communications satellites for soldiers to talk to each other, and even the Global Positioning System satellites, designed to guide soldiers and bombs to their targets, and now expanded to aid civilian navigation. (6/30)

Sierra Nevada Adds Former NASA Leaders to Dream Chaser Team (Source: Sierra Nevada)
Sierra Nevada Corp. announces the augmentation of its Dream Chaser Orbital Space Transportation Vehicle team through the addition of several former NASA veteran human spaceflight experts."The depth of human spaceflight expertise from these former NASA leaders is already directly contributing to SNC’s rapid success in developing the Dream Chaser spacecraft for transport of crews to the International Space Station.”

The newest member of the Dream Chaser management team is astronaut Steven Lindsey who will be joining the SNC Dream Chaser team in July as Director of Flight Operations. Steve is the former Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office. Steve joins a select group of other former NASA personnel who bring extensive human spaceflight experience in the area of operations, safety, design, development, systems integration, and programmatics.

Other former NASA personnel that joined recently or are already part of the Dream Chaser management team include: Former astronaut Jim Voss as Vice President of Space Exploration Systems; Dr. Merri Sanchez (former NASA Liaison to Air Force Space Command) is SNC's Senior Director of Space Exploration Systems; John Curry (former Chief of NASA's Constellation Systems Engineering and Integration Office) is SNC's Director of Systems Integration, Test, and Operations; and others. (7/5)

Challenges and Dangers of Amateur Astronomy in Afghanistan (Source: UniGalactic)
Most of us amateur astronomers take for granted that we can just go outside and enjoy viewing the night sky without encountering many problems — aside from keeping mosquitoes at bay or fixing equipment malfunctions. But in order for amateur astronomers in Afghanistan to simply set up a telescope in a dark region, they have to deal with more serious complications, such as making sure the area is clear of land mines, not arousing the suspicions the Taliban or the local police, and watching out for potential bombing raids by the US/UK/Afghan military alliance. But Saeid Aghaei takes those risks in stride just so he can share the beauty of the night sky with the Afghani people.

Aghaei is an amateur astronomer and a science and technology columnist from Neyshabur, Iran. For several years, he has been translating Universe Today articles on space and astronomy and publishing them in his local newspaper in Iran. But he is now in Kabul, Afghanistan working with his Afghan friends to help establish and nurture the Afghanistan Astronomy Association.Aghaei said there is confusion between astronomy and astrology (which, unfortunately happens everywhere) and also, due to limited access to the internet and illiteracy among the majority of Afghanis, many don’t see the practical applications of studying the sciences.

Aghaei is helping the cause by doing what he calls “Adventure Astronomy” – basically braving dangerous situations to expose more Afghanis to astronomy. “Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by a group of gunmen,” Aghaei said. “We explained that we are astronomers, but the local police commander approached so to be sure that we are not terrorists and that our telescope had no military application and it is not a rocket launcher. We invited him to watch M4 Star Cluster, but he didn’t like it and said that his own binocular is more powerful. He told us were a group of half-witted and nothing else. One of the police registered our names and listed all our equipment.” (7/5)

Storms Could Spoil Shuttle Atlantis Launch (Source: BBC)
The countdown to Friday's final launch of a space shuttle has begun at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). But the famous clock in front of the spaceport's press centre may struggle to get all the way down to zero. Forecasters say showers and even storms will be over Florida's Space Coast by the week's end. "Right now we are going with a 60% chance of KSC weather prohibiting launch due to the potential for showers and isolated thunderstorms in the area." Saturday's forecast is better (40% chance of no-go weather conditions); Sunday's even more so (30%). (7/5)

The Big Question: Was the Shuttle a Good Investment? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Excluding the final three missions, the program has cost NASA an estimated $209 billion. That’s a lot of coin, but it has allowed the United States to stay at the forefront of human spaceflight for three decades, launch untold satellites and construct the International Space Station. So was it worth it?

Today Pew Research published a poll that asked the public just that, and found that 55 percent of respondents said yes, while 36 percent did not. Interestingly, college graduates answered yes 66 percent of the time, whereas those with a high school education or less were pretty much split 47 to 43 percent. (7/5)

First Piloted Spaceship to be Launched from Vostochny Spaceport in 2018 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s spaceport Vostochny currently under construction will launch 12 rockets and spaceships from 2015 to 2018. Jointly with the chief executives of the Amur Region and several federal agencies, the Roskosmos chief has made a flight over a future spaceport by helicopter. A future ‘Star City’ is intended for 30,000 residents and its construction will be launched in 2013. This year priority infrastructure facilities will be built, namely a combined motor vehicle and railway station in Uglegorsk, a railway line from the Ledyanya station to a fourth launching site of the spaceport, and electric power supplies will be provided. (7/5)

Satellite Built in Krasnoyarsk to Test New Equipment in Space (Source: Itar-Tass)
A satellite MiR was designed and built in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The satellite will be put into the orbit within a few months, the press service of the Information Satellite Systems company, which created the satellite, reported on Tuesday. “A pilot satellite is designed to test absolutely new devices and systems in the outer space. A greater part of the satellite onboard equipment will be used as the payload for the first time and will receive a flight certification." (7/5)

Harris Corp. Audio Systems Headed to Space Station (Source: Harris Corp.)
Advanced audio systems developed by Harris Corp. will head to the International Space Station (ISS) when Atlantis blasts off for the last time on July 8, marking the final launch of the historic shuttle program. Technology from Harris has been onboard every space shuttle since the program began 30 years ago, either providing direct mission support via onboard computers and electronics, or as part of the spacecraft's payload.

The audio terminal units and controllers flying on Atlantis will become part of the ISS Audio/Video Distribution System (AVDS). The AVDS provides audio communications among individual crewmembers in the station as well as with teammates on Earth, docked spacecraft, and crewmembers engaged in extravehicular activity, such as spacewalks. It also distributes video signals from various cameras to monitors within the Space Station or for transmission to Earth. (7/5)

The Danger of Space Debris (Source: CNN)
Last week, six astronauts living on board the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits some 200 miles above the earth’s surface, received notice that a piece of space debris traveling 29,000 miles per hour would pass dangerously nearby. NASA officials calculated that the probability of the ISS being hit at around one in 360. (One in 10,000 is NASA’s nominal threshold for which it will authorize a “collision avoidance maneuver.”)

Normally, the ISS receives ample notice so that it can maneuver out of the pathway of potential space debris. However, with less than fifteen hours’ warning, the astronauts were forced to relocate to Soyuz space capsules for only the second time in the ISS’s thirteen-year history. While the debris missed the space station by 1,100 feet, orbital space debris is a growing threat to civil, military, and commercial satellites in space.

Presently, there are some 22,000 items over ten centimeters across, or roughly the size of a softball, which can be regularly tracked with existing resources and technology. Though it took forty years to produce the first 10,000 pieces of softball-sized space debris, it required less than a decade for the next 12,000. This recent increase was due in part to two worrying incidents, which, according to NASA, combined to increase the number of total space objects by over 60 percent. (7/5)

The Empty Shells of America’s Shrinking Space Industry (Source: Daily Mail)
These are the empty shells of what was once Florida's thriving Space Coast. Workers at the Kennedy Space Center always knew the end of the shuttle program would bring hard times - they just couldn't predict how much pain. Soon-to-be-jobless space workers and those who've already lost their jobs are now competing for work in a labour market where more than one in 10 is unemployed.

And the Space Coast is still reeling from the housing crisis, making it tougher for workers to sell their homes and move elsewhere for a job. 'Everything is taking a turn for the worst, it seems like,' said Kevin Smith, local president of the union for space center firefighters, paramedics and workers at emergency landing sites. 'What little is out there, everybody is competing for.' (7/5)

Proposed Defense Cuts Could Hurt U.S. Economy, AIA Warns (Source: Reuters)
Defense spending is on the chopping block as Congress seeks to cut the $1.4 trillion U.S. budget deficit. President Barack Obama has asked the Pentagon to trim $400 billion from the defense budget over the next 12 years. Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, warns that defense cuts should be done in a "careful and thoughtful manner guided by our military leaders," or they may cause more harm to the U.S. economy than good. (7/5)

NextGen Overhaul Faces Challenges (Source: Washington Post)
The Obama administration has begun to overhaul the current air guidance system, which uses 60-year-old radar tracking technology in favor of the more efficient GPS network. The NextGen system will save airlines millions of dollars in fuel costs, decrease pollution and reduce travel time for customers. "It's going to be like pulling out of your garage and all the traffic lights are green," said Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association. (7/5)

Rocket Launch Scrubbed at Wallops (Source: NASA)
Today's launch attempt of two NASA sounding rockets carrying payloads to study the ionosphere was scrubbed because of cloud cover at one the optical viewing sites set up to view the lithium release from the Terrier-Improved Orion rocket and also because activity in the ionosphere began to diminish. We will try again tomorrow, July 6, with a launch window between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (7/5)

NASA's Final Shuttle: The End of an Error? (Source: TIME)
It's never been hard to blame Richard Nixon for stuff. Communist witch hunts? Nixon. Illegal war in Cambodia? Nixon. Massive corruption and the decades of political cynicism that followed? Nixon and Nixon. That's a little glib, of course. Bad wars, crooked pols and red-baiting were all around before the 37th president. And give the man his props too — for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the EPA, the opening to China, all of which were genuine Nixonian gems.

Then there was the space shuttle, which bears Nixon's stamp as indelibly as all the rest. It was on Jan. 5, 1972, that Nixon brought the shuttle program into being with a presidential order and an appearance alongside NASA administrator James Fletcher. And this Friday, the 135th and last shuttle mission is scheduled to be launched, ending a program in which five ships carried 777 passengers into space, traveling a collective half a billion miles — or out past the orbit of Jupiter.

But there's the other side of the shuttle too. The $500 million price tag every time one took off, the months of maintenance and prep work needed between flights, the temperamental electronic and hydraulic systems that scrubbed launches time and time again, the thermal tiles the ships would shed like dry leaves. And, finally, there are the 14 astronauts who lost their lives when first Challenger and later Columbia soared aloft but never returned home. (7/5)

As Shuttle Era Ends, Questions Loom for Shrinking Astronaut Corps (Source: Washington Post)
When astronaut Garrett Reisman returned from an 11-day space shuttle mission last May, he knew he was headed to the back of the line. If he wanted to return to orbit, he would have to wait at least five years for a second tour aboard the international space station, which he had called home for 95 days in 2008. And even if he were offered a chance to return to space, Reisman would have to fly aboard a cramped Russian capsule, not an American space shuttle. After NASA’s Atlantis rolls to a stop later this month, the Soyuz will be the only ride to space — and slots are limited.

For the foreseeable future, NASA plans to send just four to six astronauts — American and international — to the space station each year, paying Russia up to $56 million per seat. Instead of waiting, Reisman joined a steady flow of astronauts drifting away from NASA like so many untethered spacewalkers. “A lot of astronauts have to make a decision. Do they want to wait five, six, seven years?” said Thomas D. Jones, a Baltimore native who flew four shuttle missions before leaving NASA in 2001.

At that time, the agency employed 150 astronauts, the largest space-going workforce in its history. By October 2009, that number had fallen to 92. Now it stands at 61, with two retirements imminent — including that of Mark Kelly, the commander of a recent shuttle mission and the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the wounded Arizona congresswoman — and “a few more departures” likely later this year, said Peggy Whitson, chief astronaut at Johnson Space Center in Houston. (7/5)

Prices of Collectibles Jump at Space Shuttles' End (Source: Florida Today)
Get your shuttle memorabilia soon -- before the prices lift off. With the shuttle program set to end this month, collectors say they're already seeing more interest in items ranging from autographed crew photographs to small flags that flew into space. Robert Pearlman, editor of collectspace.com, said it's difficult to put an across-the-board number on how much shuttle merchandise will increase in value, but he expects some prices to double. (7/5)

Tech from Space Shuttle Program a Big Hit on Earth (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Tang. Velcro. Teflon. What do these products have in common? Most people mistakenly believe they were born out of NASA's space shuttle program. Truth is, none of them were invented for NASA shuttle missions and all were commercially available products that were adapted for space travel use. Their use in orbit, however, probably contributed to their popularity. So, with the approach of the final shuttle launch, what types of technological advancements has NASA brought us?

Since 1976, more than 1,700 documented NASA technologies have benefited U.S. industry, improved our quality of life and created jobs and industries. NASA says the space shuttle program alone has generated more than 100 technology spinoffs ­- commercially available systems, products or services that owe their existence to NASA-based technologies. It's almost impossible to find an area of everyday life that has not been improved by these spinoffs. Click here. (7/5)

A Complex and Risky System (Source: Space KSC)
Much time and space is being dedicated to the impact the end of the Shuttle program will have on the future of U.S. human spaceflight. Little, if anything, is being said about why this is the last flight. The decision was made in January 2004 by the Bush administration in the wake of the Columbia disaster. The administration's steps were taken after the release of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Report in August 2003.

The report is a scathing indictment, not just of the decision-making process that led to the accident, but also of NASA management and a failure of political leadership to properly fund U.S. human space flight. The Bush administration's actions in January 2004, including the Vision for Space Exploration, were a response to CAIB's conclusions and recommendations. Click here to read the article. (7/4)

Alabama Space Camp Shifts Focus to Moon, Mars and Asteroids (Source: Washington Post)
NASA may be shutting down its space shuttle program, but that won’t stop a group of young astronauts from heading to the moon this summer, and Mars the next. In simulation, at least. For 29 years, Space Camp and its attendees have followed in NASA’s footsteps. This summer, the camp is taking the next giant leap for mankind largely on its own. The U.S. government may not want to fund space travel right now, but many children and adults have the money to pretend. (7/5)

Astronauts4Hire Supports the One Flag in Space Initiative (Source": A4H)
Tampa-based Astronauts4Hire proudly supports the "One Flag in Space" initiative by Blue Marble Space, a nonprofit organization devoted to enabling international unity through space exploration. Astronauts4Hire Flight Members will wear the Blue Marble emblem on their flight suits during training and flight activities beginning with our inaugural training class this July. (7/5)

Telenor Selects Arianespace for Thor 7 Launch (Source: Broadband TV News)
Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSBc) has announced it has signed a contract with Arianespace for the launch services of its Thor 7 satellite. The satellite will be launched into geostationary transfer orbit in Q4 2013 on an Ariane 5 launcher from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. (7/5)

Pratt & Whitney Turbopumps, Built in Florida, Helped Shuttle Soar (Source: Palm Beach Post)
You could say the space shuttle's six turbo­pumps pack a punch. Each is about the size of a car engine and produces 75,000 horsepower. If you're keeping score at home, the standard engine on the 2011 Chevy Corvette puts out 430 horsepower. If you have a pool that needs to be drained, one of the turbopumps could do the job in less than a minute. The turbopumps, which are made at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's plant in northwestern Palm Beach County, use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to help the shuttle reach speeds of 17,500 mph.

"They are the heart and soul of the engine," said Bruce McDavid, a manager at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Pratt & Whitney began building and testing military jet engines in Palm Beach County in the 1950s. When NASA in 1972 chose a company to build engines for the shuttle program, Pratt & Whitney lost to then-rival Rocketdyne. (Pratt & Whitney parent United Technologies bought Rocketdyne in 2005.)

Pratt & Whitney didn't get another shot at the shuttle until the 1980s. Concerned that the shuttle's Rocketdyne-built turbopumps had to be overhauled after each mission, NASA in 1987 hired Pratt & Whitney to build a more durable turbopump that could last 10 missions. "We should have won the thing, didn't win it, and then we came back and bailed them out," recalled Frank Gillette, former chief engineer at Pratt & Whitney. (7/5)

Time to See what Space Station Can Do (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
If the American public can't get excited over research breakthroughs in salmonella vaccines, how microgravity affects the human immune system and cosmic-particles analysis, this could be a difficult decade for supporters of NASA's manned spaceflight program. Once space shuttle Atlantis delivers a pod of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station and returns to Earth later this month, the 13-year construction phase of the station — like the shuttle program that made it possible — will be over.

The station, longer than a football field and costing an estimated $100 billion, is the shuttle program's ultimate legacy. Now it's time to see what the station can do. "We believe this next 10 years it's important to do meaningful science," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. "That's a 10-year period in which the nation is going to look at what kind of return on investment can be achieved for the $100 billion." (7/5)

Don’t Let American Space Program End (Source: Wheeling News-Register)
NASA at one time had plans to replace the nation's fleet of space shuttles with new, more advanced and flexible spacecraft. But President Barack Obama has ordered that program canceled. From now on, if Americans wish to travel in space, they will have to get there by boarding launch vehicles made in and operated by Russia or, perhaps, some other country taking advantage of the U.S. lapse.

For a half-century, Americans have been leaders in exploring space. Suddenly, solely because of Obama's decision, that is coming to an end. That is foolish and short-sighted for a variety of reasons, many of them very practical. It is within the power of Congress to order that NASA resume development of new launch vehicles. Lawmakers should issue that order. (7/5)

The Excitement of 'New Space' (Source: BBC)
Like all would-be space entrepreneurs, David Thompson needed a big idea to get his business going. Having worked on the development of the shuttle, he thought there might be something interesting one could usefully do with the vehicles' giant external fuel tanks. His vision was for them to be deposited in orbit and filled with water. Over time, the tanks would then use electrolysis to split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen - to produce yet more rocket fuel. A "gas station in the sky".

"There were a number of problems with this idea," Thompson recalls with a grin - "the number one being that there weren't that many rockets coming along this road where our gas station would be." Undeterred, he simply moved on to his next concept. The Transfer Orbit Stage was the first product of the Orbital Sciences Corp., the company set up by Thompson and two friends.

Today, there are no mad-cap ideas - just solid business practice that has turned the company into an established player in the space market, and one that now aims to play a significant role in the new commercial approach to human spaceflight being adopted by NASA. David Thompson's Arthur C Clarke Award was formally announced at the UK Space Conference on Monday night in Coventry. Click here to read the article. (7/5)

Square Kilometer Array telescope May Help Make Contact with Aliens (Source: Xinhua)
The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the world's most powerful radio telescope in development, may help make contact with aliens, if there is any, Australia's leading astronomer Fred Watson said on Tuesday. The SKA is a global collaboration of 20 countries, which is aimed to provide answers to fundamental questions about origin and evolution of the Universe.

It will be able to survey the sky more than 10,000 times faster than ever before. With receiving stations extending out to distance of 3,000 km from a concentrated central core, it will continue radio astronomy's tradition of providing the highest resolution images in all astronomy. Watson said, "The SKA will be by far the most sensitive radio telescope ever built. It will have the potential to reveal all kinds of things ranging from the possibility of picking up signals from aliens, if they exist." (7/5)

Space Shuttle's Legacy: Soaring In Orbit And Costs (Source: NPR)
The space shuttle was sold to America as cheap, safe and reliable. It was none of those. It cost $196 billion over 40 years, ended the lives of 14 astronauts and managed to make less than half the flights promised. Yet despite all that, there were some big achievements that weren't promised: major scientific advances, stunning photos of the cosmos, a high-flying vehicle of diplomacy that helped bring Cold War enemies closer, and something to brag about. But America has done far more for far less. The total price tag for the program was more than twice the $90 billion NASA originally calculated. (7/5)

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