August 8, 2011

Is Elon The Next Steve? (Source: Forbes)
Here’s a bold idea: Is Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk (who happens also to be the founder of the rocket company SpaceX), the most promising tech CEO since Steve Jobs? Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich raised that notion this morning in a research report in which he launched coverage of the electric car company with a Buy rating and $34 target price. (8/8)

Donations Revive SETI Quest (Source: MSNBC)
The SETI Institute's search for extraterrestrial intelligence is back on track, thanks to more than $200,000 in donations from thousands of fans. "We're not completely out of the woods yet, but everybody's smiling here," the institute's chief executive officer, Tom Pierson, said.

In April, the institute had to put its big ear for hearing E.T.'s radio call, the 42-antenna Allen Telescope Array in Northern California, into "hibernation" due to budget woes. The biggest hit was the loss of funding by the University of California at Berkeley, the institute's partner for operating the antenna array. (8/8)

Sen. Nelson Praises Commercial Spaceflight (Source: Hobby Space)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) talks about space in the first half of this video. Good to hear him sound enthusiastic about commercial launch services. (8/8)

Earth May Not Have Needed Moon for Life (Source: Discovery)
Earth's moon helped stabilize the planet's tilt, making its climate suitable for advanced life. Without a moon, life on Earth probably would have flourished as well, since Jupiter and other factors exert a steadying hand. The research has implications for understanding if planets in habitable zones are indeed suitable for life.

Scientists have long believed that without the moon's stabilizing gravitational influence, variations in Earth's tilt would have caused climate change too dynamic for complex life to evolve. Not so, concludes a new study that has implications for understanding conditions for life elsewhere in the solar system. (8/8)

Tea Party Condemns “Bailout Earmark” for Solid Rocket Motor Industry (Source: TPIS)
Tea Party in Space (TPIS) strongly condemned a letter being circulated in the US Senate that advocates a sole-source bailout for the Solid Rocket Motor industry. The letter, addressed to Charles Bolden and OMB Director Jack Lew, demands that the Administration ignore recent bipartisan calls for competing major elements of the proposed Space Launch System and instead use existing Solid Rocket Boosters made by only one company, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), in Utah. The letter makes clear that the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was designed to earmark several billion dollars for existing Shuttle and Ares contractors such as ATK. (8/5)

Iridium Reports Double-digit Revenue Growth (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on Aug. 8 reported a 13 percent increase in revenue for the first six months of 2011, with subscriber growth for both voice and data links more than offsetting declines in monthly revenue per subscriber. Iridium said it has seen no appreciable decline in any of its major markets, including U.S. military use of Iridium gear in Afghanistan and commercial use of Iridium by the maritime industry. (8/8)

Nearly 300 More Aerospace Jobs Threatened in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Nearly 300 more aerospace jobs are threatened in Huntsville as Marshall Space Flight Center moves to what its director calls "a smaller, leaner center." Jacobs Technology ESTS group notified 281 workers in writing last week that their jobs could end on or before Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal government's new 2012 fiscal year. Jacobs has been Marshall's primary support contractor for engineering, science and technical services since 1989. (8/8)

Orbiters Prepare for Nose-to-Nose Meeting (Source: Florida Today)
Two shuttle orbiters are getting ready for a face-to-face meeting this week at Kennedy Space Center. Normally sequestered in private hangars, Discovery and Endeavour on Wednesday morning will be moved from one facility to another and pass each other on the way. They'll pause for a nose-to-nose photo opportunity outside Discovery's former hangar, called Orbiter Processing Facility-3. With only two hangars available for three orbiters, they're each taking turns occupying OPF-1, OPF-2 and an empty high bay in the Vehicle Assembly Building. (8/8)

Business Competition Win Boosts Altius’ ISS Cargo Delivery Plans (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On July 30, Altius Space Machines won the $25,000 grand prize in the 2011 Heinlein NewSpace Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Space Frontier Foundation. Altius’ winning business plan focused on their “Direct to Station” space station delivery solution.

A key part of the Direct to Station delivery concept is the Sticky Boom™ docking technology being developed by Altius and SRI International. Sticky Boom™, which incorporates SRI’s patented electroadhesion technology at the end of a long deployable boom, can stick to any surface in space, from spacecraft to asteroids. In addition to simplifying space station deliveries, this technology can aid satellite servicing, robotic asteroid missions and space junk disposal. (8/8)

An Enduring Value Proposition for NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
The end of the shuttle program has created uncertainty about NASA's long-term future. In the first part of her analysis of the situation, Mary Lynne Dittmar says the lack of a compelling and enduring value proposition for human spaceflight is at the root of this problem. Visit to view the article. (8/8)

Still Eyeing the Lunar Prize (Source: Space Review)
It's been nearly four years since the Google Lunar X PRIZE was unveiled, and no team had won it, or even appears reasonably close to winning it. Jeff Foust reports on some recent developments among the various teams, and discussions about what Google itself gets out of the prize competition. Visit to view the article. (8/8)

Avoiding "the End" of NASA (Source: Space Review)
In the last several weeks many have claimed that the retirement of the shuttle is tantamount to the end of NASA human spaceflight, or even NASA itself. Justin Kugler argues while that isn't the case, we're in danger of repeating the same mistakes of the past. Visit to view the article. (8/8)

An Update on the Proposed European Code of Conduct (Source: Space Review)
Michael Listner provides a brief update on the US government's consideration of a proposed European "code of conduct" for space activities. Visit to view the article. (8/8)

Japan Charts Path For Manned Space Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
First, deliver things to the International Space Station. Second, deliver things and bring things back. Finally, send people up and bring them back. That, in a nutshell, is the sequence that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to follow as it takes the first step, launching the HTV Kounotori cargo craft, and sets out its plans for the next two.

With an eye on flying a manned space mission in 2025, JAXA engineers are working on a capsule as big as SpaceX’s Dragon in their nascent program for an Earth-return cargo spacecraft. After a series of launches to the International Space Station (ISS) late this decade, the proposed HRV (HTV return vehicle) cargo capsule could be fitted with equipment to carry people, or JAXA could use it as a technology demonstrator for a specially designed spacecraft for human transportation. (8/8)

India Explores Idea or Re-usable Launch Vehicle (Source: Deccan Herald)
A technology demonstration of re-usable launch vehicle, which is critical for India’s human space flight program, is likely to be done by year-end. But India’s wait to master the technology will be a long one. Thirty years since the US championed re-usable vehicle technology through its “space shuttle,” India, one of the leading countries in space technology, has yet to test a proper technology demonstrator of re-usable vehicle.

Although India is making advances in this technology, the challenges faced, especially due to a lack of specific funding for the project, would mean that it will a long time for us to boast of such a technology. “There is a long way to go in terms of re-usable technology. We are found wanting for some critical technology needed to make such a mission successful, and also, we have not got a project cleared completely.” (8/8)

Russia Developing Space Rover to Study Sun from Close Distance (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences is developing Interheliozond, a space rover for studying the Sun. The Academy and the Federal Space Agency will agree on the rover platform and innards before next year. Interheliozond is supposed to fly around the Sun along an orbit smaller than that of Mercury. The mission will open up new vistas and face colossal difficulties. (8/8)

Mighty Mars Rover on the Blocks (Source: New Scientist)
In the 50 years since NASA unveiled the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, it has been used to build missions to the moon, Venus and Mars. More recently, it was home to the biggest rover ever constructed. Called Curiosity, the rover will be flung towards Mars at the end of this year in a $2.5 billion mission.

In the early days, people working on space missions were often casually dressed and allowed to smoke, says Arden Acord, section manager for JPL's System Verification, Validation and Operations section. Today they wear protective garb in Class 10,000 conditions, which means that fewer than 10,000 particles of 0.5 micrometres or larger are allowed in every cubic foot of air.

Among the hundreds of people working on the mission is film director James Cameron. He helped develop Curiosity's cameras, which will take images of the surface of the planet, including in 3D, after its scheduled landing in August 2012. (8/8)

Beyond Space-Time: Welcome to Phase Space (Source: New Scientist)
It wasn't so long ago we thought space and time were the absolute and unchanging scaffolding of the universe. Then along came Albert Einstein, who showed that different observers can disagree about the length of objects and the timing of events. His theory of relativity unified space and time into a single entity -- space-time. It meant the way we thought about the fabric of reality would never be the same again. "Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade into mere shadows," declared mathematician Hermann Minkowski. "Only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality."

But did Einstein's revolution go far enough? Physicist Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, doesn't think so. He and a trio of colleagues are aiming to take relativity to a whole new level, and they have space-time in their sights. They say we need to forget about the home Einstein invented for us: we live instead in a place called phase space.

If this radical claim is true, it could solve a troubling paradox about black holes that has stumped physicists for decades. What's more, it could set them on the path towards their heart's desire: a "theory of everything" that will finally unite general relativity and quantum mechanics. So what is phase space? It is a curious eight-dimensional world that merges our familiar four dimensions of space and time and a four-dimensional world called momentum space. (8/8)

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