October 6, 2011

Wasserman Schultz: Giffords Has a Long Way to Go Before Full Recovery (Source: National Journal)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was shot at close range earlier this year, is now able to initiate conversation but still has "a long way to go," said her friend, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Giffords will attend a retirement ceremony for her husband, astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly in her second trip to Washington since she was shot in Arizona in January.

As for whether she will be able to return to Capitol Hill, Wasserman Schultz said “we’re still 10 months from the shooting... She’s got a long way to go, she’s working very hard,” the Florida congresswoman said. “… At this point they’re still focused on trying to have her make a full recovery.” Giffords is not expected to go to Capitol Hill or conduct any congressional business on her visit. Editor's Note: Giffords is still the official "Ranking Member" (lead Democrat) of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. (10/6)

Call for South Africa to Develop Space Technology (Source: IOL)
Gazing at the stars is not enough; space exploration is a commodity that needs to be tapped into. This is the view of Brad Inggs, founder and managing director of the African Space Institute based in KwaZulu-Natal. “It’s crucial for Africa to grow its knowledge and become a world player in more than just a select few areas. We can’t just rely on our resources like gold, as they are limited,” he said. Space technology, he said, allowed us to monitor our resources and manage them effectively; to protect our nations from natural disasters, and to plan efficiently as more and more people moved from rural areas to cities. (10/6)

Win Trip to Virgin Galactic Event in New Mexico (Source: Virgin)
This is your chance to join Richard Branson at the Virgin Galactic Keys to a New Dawn event and visit Spaceport America. To enter the competition, simply tweet @richardbranson your answer to this question: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is how many times faster than the fastest animal on earth, the cheetah? Include your answer and the hashtag #spacecheetah and send it to @richardbranson. This competition is only open to UK, US and Australian residents and you must be 21 years old and over. (10/6)

Space Tourism: The Frightening Truth (Source: Astronotes)
My main reason for being sceptical about the claims of Virgin Galactic (and its rather insubstantial competitors) is the possible safety of rocket planes (or lack thereof). The major aircraft-building nations between 1940 and 1975 spent a lot of money researching rocket planes, including flying a series of experimental prototypes. Nazi Germany even put one into mass production. The rocket planes crashed very often. A liquid-fuelled rocket engine is a very complex piece of engineering with many components capable of potential (and often catastrophic) failure.

A rocket plane is full of very explosive propellants and flies at high speeds where any structural failure will bring disaster so quickly no pilot could react. Perhaps this does not mean there are grounds for concern. Travel by conventional aircraft was once very dangerous. If a similar improvement to rocket-propelled aircraft has occurred – and I have no doubts that this is achievable – the safety of space tourists will be assured. However it is unclear if such improvement has happened.

We do not have enough experience of rocket-powered craft operating at the edge of space. Passenger aircraft must make thousands of test flights before they are certified. I am not sure that Spaceship Company can afford to do this with SpaceShipTwo. I am sorry to say this but sooner or later a space tourism craft will be lost and almost certainly passengers will be killed. I very much hope that I am wrong but I suspect space tourism in the Virgin Galactic mode is a false dawn. I fear the first crash of a space tourism vehicle will do as much harm to commercial spaceflight as the Hindenburg crash did for travel by airship. (10/6)

Globalstar, Thales Alenia Pursue Arbitration in Satellite Dispute (Source: Space News)
Thales Alenia Space, the prime contractor for the second generation of Globalstar mobile communications satellites, has rejected a Globalstar order for six quick-delivery spacecraft, alleging that the company “has no right to place the order,” Globalstar said. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Globalstar also disclosed modifications to bank financing that will permit the company to delay the in-service date for the 24 second-generation satellites already under construction without being declared in violation of its loan covenants. (10/6)

UCF Earns $1.3 Million National Green Challenge Grant for Clean Tech (Source: UCF)
The University of Central Florida is leading a team that just won $1.3 million in a national White House competition aimed at driving technology commercialization and entrepreneurship to support a “green innovation economy.” UCF is leading the state’s only winning team, which includes the Technological Research and Development Authority and the University of Florida’s Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Research centers at universities across the state, economic development agencies, incubators and entrepreneur support organizations will participate in an online network to share proven techniques and encourage technology development in cleantech industries. “Not only do we have outstanding energy research expertise, we have a skilled technical workforce located in Florida’s Space Coast to develop a strong energy innovation cluster in Central Florida,” said the UCF project leader, Tom O’Neal.

Among the resources the program will offer is a catalog of energy research conducted at Florida universities, a dedicated market research team to identify opportunities for research while helping with market evaluation and business plan development and a statewide network of experienced mentors, investors and industry experts to assist entrepreneurs in business strategy, financing and management. (10/6)

Major Iridium Shareholder Selling its Stake (Source: Space News)
The investment company that took mobile satellite services operator Iridium Communications public in 2009 is selling all its shares despite the stock’s decline in recent months, saying it will use the proceeds to shore up its own depressed stock. Greenhill & Co. Inc. of New York, which is a major Iridium owner, will be selling its 9.8 million shares of Iridium stock on a daily basis over the coming months, with the daily sell-off ebbing and flowing with Iridium’s share price. (10/6)

For Review: U.S.-Russian Exploration Options (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have agreed to set up an “expert-level group” to review exploration targets for joint cooperation, provided the two sides in the bilateral discussion can agree on where to go. Vladimir Popovkin said that the talks could lead to a deal for sharing the expense of exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Deep-space exploration is “unthinkable without broader international cooperation,” Popovkin said.

The discussions with NASA may help clarify the issue, he says. Popovkin says Russia has “a few ideas” about where to explore first in an international effort, but with the discussions not yet started, “it’s a bit too early” to say what they are. “To talk about how to share our inputs to the [exploration] project, first of all we must reach an understanding of what targets we have,” Popovkin says. “After this is decided, we will be able to specify shares, and how they will contribute to each other.” (10/6)

6 Wild Ideas from DARPA's Starship Conference (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The stars are so far, and humans' current space-travel range so limited, that it could take 100 years or more to even design a ship to travel interstellar distances. Last weekend in Florida, though, dreamers gathered at a DARPA conference to take the first step: Batting around crazy ideas for how humanity could colonize the galaxy. The 205 papers submitted (of which about 40 were presented), explored propulsion possibilities, extraterrestrial habitats, the ethical implications of scattering humankind's progeny through the cosmos and more. The result: a step-by-step roadmap for settling the galaxy. Click here. (10/6)

Fewer Women on NASA Space Flights (Source: The Hindu)
The nature of NASA’s space programs is changing, says a former American woman astronaut, pointing to a growing gender imbalance on the U.S. agency’s space flights. Over the years, the number of women on flights had dwindled for several reasons, former astronaut Mary Ellen Weber said. “One of the reasons I resigned from NASA was that I could not fit into the medium size space suits after my second mission with my small frame. They were big,” she said.

Space suits are expensive to maintain and the general idea is that taller people do better space walks than shorter people, she said. “Taller people have longer arms. The suits became standard in size...,” she said, hinting at a new cost consciousness at NASA. Moreover, a woman has to excel to be chosen as an astronaut, she said. “I don’t think there is a drive to keep women out... it is just that they are inadequately represented. I had to undergo 300 hours of training at NASA from 1992 before being chosen for a flight in 1995,” she said. (10/6)

‘Space or Suicide, Yes We Can’ (Source: IOL)
The solution to the world's economic woes is a human mission to Mars, delegates at the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town heard. Global society was in “a process of implosion” and a new frontier would re-ignite economic prosperity, the Mars Society's Emmanuel Etrakakis told them. His intriguingly-titled paper, “Space or Suicide, Yes we Can”, drew appreciative applause from those attending a “Mars Exploration” session.

In it, he had warned that the global economy was faltering and financial rescue plans were not working. The modern world was characterized by “greed, aggression and speed”; hundreds of millions of people were living below the $30 (about R240) a day poverty line; and there were high levels of crime, drug proliferation, public discontent and environmental degradation. Society needed the stimulus of a new frontier. (10/6)

Hernandez Sets His Sights on Congress (Source: San Joaquin Record)
Jose Moreno Hernandez, whose life story from the farm fields to outer space is well-chronicled, has decided to run for Congress from a newly drawn district that encompasses most of California's southern San Joaquin County. The 49-year-old former NASA astronaut, a Democrat, filed papers this week forming a campaign committee. After weeks of hinting he would run for public office, the Hernandez for Congress Committee is official. (10/6)

NanoRacks "Customer Operations Center" Opens in Houston (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks, an industry leader in low-earth orbit space services, has opened a "Customer Operations Center" for their commercial customers' payloads utilizing NASA's U.S. National Lab on the International Space Station. "This move consolidates services for our customers that previously have been taking place with external partners," explains Center manager Rob Alexander. "Our customers will benefit from having NanoRacks control every aspect of their payload process, from integration, testing, manifesting, safety and mission control operations during our space station missions." (10/6)

Cape Canaveral Continues Cleanup Efforts (Source: USAF)
Air Force officials have recently implemented changes to the force's environmental cleanup program to focus on cleaning up more sites more quickly. The environmental management team here is using cutting-edge technologies and accelerated cleanup procedures to implement some of those changes and ensure its facilities remain available to support current and future missions. Cape Canaveral AFS is a barrier island facility with an active, ongoing space mission.

Located between the Atlantic Ocean and an ecologically diverse estuary system that is home for dozens of rare and threatened species, the facility also has numerous historic sites. These characteristics present unique challenges to the 45th Space Wing's environmental restoration program. The recent award of the 2011 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Installation Environmental Restoration to Cape Canaveral AFS demonstrates the dedication and effectiveness of the ERP team and its efforts.

Since the ERP was instituted here in 1984, the base ERP has identified 127 contaminated sites covering almost 2,400 acres and committed $175 million to investigating and cleaning them up. Using a range of treatment techniques, 74 percent have reached site completion status and been returned for mission use without restrictions, with another 24 percent cleared for safe industrial use with some limited use controls, according to the Cape Canaveral AFS environmental management team. Final remedies have been initiated at two of the three remaining sites. (10/6)

3 Weird Alien Planets Found Around Sun-Like Star (Source: Space.com)
A NASA spacecraft has found an unusual three-planet system that consists of one super-Earth and two Neptune-size worlds orbiting a star similar to our sun, a new study reveals. The planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope discovered the three planets around the star Kepler-18, which is only 10 percent larger than the sun and contains 97 percent of the sun's mass, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin said. The alien system could also host more planets than have been found so far, they added.

All three planets, which are designated Kepler-18b, c, and d, orbit much closer to their parent star than Mercury does to the sun. The planet Kepler-18b orbits closest to the star, taking 3.5 days to complete its journey. The planet is about 6.9 times the mass of Earth and is twice the size of our home planet, making planet b a so-called super-Earth, the researchers said. (10/5)

Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan Reborn As Space Rocks (Source: Space.com)
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were sleepless in space last month. It wasn't the flesh and blood actors, but their astronomical counterparts — asteroid 12818 Tomhanks and asteroid 8353 Megryan — that made a cosmic rendezvous. The two asteroids, discovered seven years apart in different hemispheres, both happened to make their closest approach to Earth in September.

The cosmic events reunited the space rock versions actors well known for co-starring in such films as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail." And they aren't the only pop culture-themed space rocks headed our way. Other objects making their closest approaches to Earth this month include: asteroid 3656 Hemingway, asteroid 7032 Hitchcock, asteroid 4457 van Gogh, asteroid 18932 Robinhood, asteroid 2919 Dali, asteroid 2266 Tchaikovsky, asteroid 3769 Arthurmiller, and asteroid 214476 Stephencolbert. (10/5)

Florida Officials Focus on Space in Washington Meeting (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With employment at Kennedy Space Center expected to reach historic lows next year, Florida lawmakers from both parties met Wednesday to powwow on ideas to help thousands of workers displaced by the end of the space shuttle era. Their conclusion: back the new rocket unveiled by NASA last month and hope that economic groups like Space Florida can mitigate job losses until the new Space Launch System comes online later in a few years.

“We have to grudgingly accept the fact there is going to be some transitional disruptions as a result of where we are in the space program,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, one of the four lawmakers who met for an hour in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL. “But the sooner we can establish an exciting vision the better.” Adding to the woe is that the new Space Launch System won’t approach full employment for years.

In the interim, groups such as Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast have pressed other industries to relocate to the Space Coast. There were signs the issue was getting some attention on Capitol Hill. Staff members from the offices of 15 Florida House members also met Wednesday to raise awareness of the Space Coast unemployment and lay the groundwork for state officials to work together as a delegation. (10/5)

Will the Aliens Be Nice? Don’t Bet On It (Source: New York Times)
The probability that there is intelligent life somewhere other than earth increases as we discover more and more planetary systems that seem capable of sustaining life. The thought that there might be extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) somewhere out there excites us and has led to organized efforts to contact any such beings.

We have sent space probes with data about us, and we transmit signals with a structured content (like symbols expressing mathematical formulae) to what we hope will be an intergalactic audience. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is obviously based on the assumption that the possible benefits of contact with ETI outweigh the possible harms. But do they?

A recent study by researchers at Penn State and NASA provides a useful outline of the various ways that encounters with ETI could be beneficial, neutral or harmful to us. The study faces up to the most chilling possibilities: ETI might “eat us, enslave us, attack us,” inadvertently infect us with horrible diseases or just decide to eliminate us for the greater good of the universe. Click here. (10/5)

Laid-Off Aerospace Workers Use Clear Lake Job Center to Move On (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
With almost 4,000 people in the aerospace industry laid off in the last two years, former NASA workers can use all the help they can get. On Oct. 4, oil and gas service company Halliburton invited former aerospace professionals to a recruiting event at Workforce Solutions’ Aerospace Transition Center in Clear Lake City.

League City resident Elaine Blakely, a former systems safety engineer at Boeing, has been looking for a job for a year now. She is a frequent visitor to the Aerospace Transition Center. Lately, she has had to fight big crowds at the center, leaving her wondering why there is no better system in place to keep order. “We may be able to put a man on the moon,” she said. “But we can’t get a straight line working.” Still, Blakely said she is extremely thankful for the opportunity that the center provides for laid-off aerospace employees. (10/5)

Comets Take Pole Position as Water Bearers (Source: Nature)
The tide of an ongoing debate about whether comets or asteroids supplied most of Earth's water has turned back to comets with the discovery that the Hartley 2 comet has a similar ratio of heavy water to ordinary water as Earth. Scientists measured the comet's ratio of deuterium to hydrogen using the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory. (10/5)

Land-Launch Zenit Launches US Satellite (Source: AFP)
Russia successfully launched a US Intelsat satellite into space late Wednesday, aboard a Zenit carrier rocket from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. The launch provided more good news for the country's space industry which is resuming normal service after some recent high-profile failures. Editor's Note: Although Russian interests own the Sea Launch group and market the launch services, the Zenit rocket is developed by Yuhznoye in Ukraine..though a Russian upper stage is used. (10/5)

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