November 18, 2011

Orbital Tests Taurus-2 Engine Again (Source: Orbital)
On Nov. 17, Orbital, Aerojet and NASA conducted a successful acceptancec hot-fire test of an AJ26 flight engine. The engine will now go to the Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, where it will be integrated with the Taurgus-2 first-stage core. There are currently three first-stage core structures at the spaceport. Click here. (11/19)

Science Panel: Get Ready for Extreme Weather (Source: AP)
Top international climate scientists and disaster experts meeting in Africa had a sharp message Friday for the world's political leaders: Get ready for more dangerous and "unprecedented extreme weather" caused by global warming. Making preparations, they say, will save lives and money. These experts fear that without preparedness, crazy weather extremes may overwhelm some locations, making some places unlivable.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new special report on global warming and extreme weather after meeting in Kampala, Uganda. This is the first time the group of scientists has focused on the dangers of extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, droughts and storms. Those are more dangerous than gradual increases in the world's average temperature. (11/18)

Blue Origin Spruces Up Rocket Report (Source: MSNBC)
Blue Origin, the secretive rocket venture founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has unveiled a spruced-up website that includes videos of its successful "short hop" flight test back in May. However, there's no new information about the crash of its PM-2 prototype in August, which came at the end of an ambitious supersonic tryout. Bezos acknowledged the crash a week after it happened in an online update, and said his team was already working on a new prototype. In Thursday's update, he made no mention of August's setback or the state of the development effort.

Thursday's update is part of a redesigned website that lays out Blue Origin's spaceflight plans and highlights the venture's employment opportunities (including 14 "immediate openings" and a summer internship program). Blue Origin intends to field a suborbital space vehicle known as New Shepard, which could take on tourists as well as researchers and their experiments. It's also working on an orbital space capsule capable of taking astronauts to the International Space Station.

For orbital missions, Blue Origin has said it intends to use expendable Atlas 5 rockets at first but will eventually switch to its own reusable first-stage booster and upper stage. The upgraded website provides more details about the suborbital as well as the orbital effort, including diagrams of the space vehicles and the "Cabin Payload Bays" that will hold experiments. Click here. (11/18)

SpaceX Gets Environmental Green-Light for Grasshopper Testing in Texas (Source: SpaceRef)
The FAA has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) concerning the issuance of an Experimental Permit to SpaceX for operation of the Grasshopper vehicle at the company's McGregor Test Site in Texas. The Grasshopper program basically uses a modified first-stage of a Falcon-9 for tests of a vertical-landing reusability system. (11/18)

Rocket Racing League Backs Off Space Coast Relocation (Source: Florida Today)
The fledgling Rocket Racing League is no longer considering moving its headquarters from Orlando to Melbourne International Airport, said Mike D’Angelo, chief operating officer. Someday, RRL pilots may zoom across 5-mile virtual racetracks in the sky. But the league, which was organized in 2005, has yet to debut because of financing, technological development and other factors.

“Financing, like rocket propulsion technology, is a difficult task — and some would say a formidable beast,” D’Angelo said. “Yet we continue to succeed in conquering both with steady momentum.” Two years ago, RRL executives discussed a potential Melbourne move with Space Florida, Brevard Workforce and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. (11/18)

Landsat 5 Showing Signs Of Impending Failure (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has suspended imaging operations for the Landsat 5 satellite as engineers mount a 90-day effort to restore satellite-to-ground transmissions for the 27-year-old spacecraft. The Landsat flight operations team has been tracking for several months the fluctuating performance of a key electronic component, an amplifier essential for transmitting Landsat 5 imagery to ground receiving stations around the world.

Instead of continuing to operate Landsat 5 until the amplifier fails completely, the USGS said it decided to suspend imaging activities for 90 days “in order to explore every possible option for restoring satellite-to-ground image transmissions.” A replacement craft, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is under construction at NASA and scheduled to launch in mid-2013. (11/18)

Border Patrol Eyeing Surplus Military Gear (Source: Aviation Week)
With the American military presence in Iraq ending next month, and the return of over two million pieces of military gear from that conflict, the Department of Homeland Security and some members of Congress are starting to look longingly at those full containers of gear heading home. Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D-TX) said that “as our military is drawing down we should use DoD equipment to see if it can fill a capabilities gap here at home” along the U.S.-Mexican border, adding that he would like to see some aerostats deployed along the border to assist with surveillance. (11/18)

At 10.3%, Florida's Unemployment Rate Lowest Since 2009 (Source: Sunshine State News)
Unemployment in Florida stood at 10.3 percent in October, the lowest point in more than two years, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported. Overall, 931,000 Floridians were listed as out of work, down from 984,000 a month earlier, when the unemployment rate for Florida was 10.6 percent. With a net increase of 9,500 jobs since September, 106,900 since January, the new numbers are seen as encouraging by Gov. Rick Scott. (11/18)

Cabana: Severance Packages Soon to End for Laid-Off Workers (Source: SPACErePORT)
At a ribbon-cutting event for Brevard Workforce's latest facility on the Space Coast, KSC Director Robert Cabana praised the agency's hard work and success in finding jobs for many laid-off space industry workers. But his comments also provided a reason for heightened concern when he noted that the financial severance packages provided to many of those workers would soon expire. (11/18)

IT Staff Would Rather Pocket $100K Than Blast off into Space (Source: Red Gate)
Given the choice between a ticket into space and $102,000, 60 percent of IT staff would take the cash. That’s the finding of a survey of 4,000 global Twitter followers by UK-based software company Red Gate. The research was carried out as part of Red Gate’s current DBA in Space competition, which has a spaceflight as the first prize. Now extended until Nov. 22, the free competition, open to anyone who is involved with IT databases in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Germany, will put one lucky database administrator (DBA) on a Space Adventures flight into suborbital space.

For legal reasons the winner of the competition can choose between the flight and its cash equivalent of $102,000. The Twitter survey found that cash-conscious DBAs would overwhelmingly put their money into bricks and mortar over space travel, with 65 percent promising to splash the cash on paying off their mortgages. The survey is still running and anyone in the IT community can simply visit DBA in Space to indicate their preference for either cash or space. Click here. (11/18)

Congress to NASA: Drop Dead (Source: SpaceKSC)
NASA officials and the CCDev participants have warned Congress that failure to fully fund the program — $850 million was requested by the Obama administration — would only prolong the monopoly Russia will have on launching astronauts to the International Space Station. The House of Representatives voted to give CCDev only $312 million, nearly two-thirds less than requested. The Senate voted $500 million, about forty percent less than requested, and impounded about $100 million of that until certain Space Launch System (SLS) milestones are achieved.

They compromised by splitting the difference. CCDev will receive only $406 million, and the SLS language will remain. The 2012 fiscal year began October 1, so the appropriation is already six weeks late. It's unlikely either house will reject it over the CCDev line item, nor would the President veto it over one program. The CCDev language is a clear win for entrenched interests trying to protect the status quo.

Editor's Note: The funding bill received "no" votes from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL). Adams' staff says her vote was based on other elements of the bill, unrelated to NASA. Based on discussions with NASA insiders, it is likely that the reduced CCDev funding will accelerate NASA's down-select process and perhaps include fewer companies approved to go to the next round of competition. Aside from the CCDev issue, they are generally happy with the appropriation outcome. (11/18)

Thales Alenia and ISS Reshetnev Sign Satellite Pact (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturers Thales Alenia Space of Europe and ISS Reshetnev of Russia on Nov. 18 signed an agreement intended to lead to a joint venture to build commercial telecommunications satellites. It calls for the joint venture to “jointly develop, produce and integrate new communications satellite platforms offering more than 12 kilowatts of power, as well as components and subassemblies for satellite platforms and payloads.” (11/18)

Phobos-Grunt Failure Scenarios (Source: Russian Space Web)
As of November 17, several failure scenarios have been put forward, but none of them could be proven in the absence of telemetry from the spacecraft. According to one theory, erroneous data from BOKZ star sensors could interrupt the operation of the the main BVK timer (sequencer). BOKZ were obviously first to be blamed since they had been off (as planned) during the initial phase of the flight (when first and only telemetry was received), while all other systems seemed to be operating normally. However, the flight clock could also fail, as could a number of other systems. A combination of several failures was strongly suspected. (11/18)

Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Confirmed (Source: MSNBC)
Researchers say new tests have confirmed earlier indications that neutrinos can travel faster than light, but not everyone is convinced. The claim runs so counter to a century's worth of physics that most observers won't be content until the findings from the OPERA experiment are repeated under a variety of conditions, by different teams of researchers. If the results hold up, that would require a reinterpretation of Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, which effectively sets the velocity of light in a vacuum as a cosmic speed limit.

The latest round of tests was conducted to address some of the criticisms that cropped up in the wake of the OPERA team's initial announcement about faster-than-light neutrinos in September. "The experiment OPERA, thanks to a specially adapted CERN beam, has made an important test of consistency of its result. The positive outcome of the test makes us more confident in the result, although the final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world." (11/18)

Petition Seeks Stronger Support From President for Commercial Crew (Source: White House)
A new petition on the White House's "We the People" website urges the Obama administration to "become more vocal about its space policy and fight for full support and funding of the commercial crew program. Click here to read and support the petition, which needs 25,000 signatures by Dec. 9 to receive formal consideration. (11/18)

Ukraine Looks to Commercial Partnerships to Boost Space Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The National Space Agency of Ukraine is looking to foster the “development of public-private partnership [and the] deepening the commercialization of space activities and international cooperation” as part of a series of changes to the nation’s space policy. “For the first time to finance the program is envisaged to raise funds from other sources in amounts that make up about a third of the necessary funding and the development and implementation of public-private partnership,” according to a press release. (11/18)

$2.5B Rover Reignites NASA's Search for Habitability on Mars (Source: USA Today)
NASA is aiming its next Mars rover, a laser-equipped and nuclear-powered lab on wheels, for a Nov. 25 launch. The space agency's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity" rover will reignite the search for signs that Red Planet could have harbored, or still could harbor, life forms, mission scientists say. The 1,982-pound vehicle, "the largest and most complex machine ever placed on the surface of another planet," now sits atop an Atlas V rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (11/18)

Cleansed of Debt, Satmex Beginning To Rebuild Core Business (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico, which exited bankruptcy in May with a $325 million loan, on Nov. 17 reported a slight decline in core satellite-lease revenue for the nine months ending Sep. 30. The company said its Satmex 5 satellite, whose electric-propulsion defect has forced it to survive on its backup chemical propulsion, is now estimated to be able to continue service until Dec. 2012 — time enough to secure a smooth transition with the company’s new Satmex 8 satellite. (11/18)

Masten Flies Xombie in Pad-to-Pad Hop (Source: On Orbit)
Here's a video from a camera on Xombie looking down at the ground during a pad-to-pad flight that you might recognize as almost identical to the flight path flown during the Lunar Lander Challenge. In this case, we had about 60 lbs of payload at the top of the vehicle and she handled it with ease! Click here. (11/18)

Life On Other Planets? Bright Lighting Might Help, Study Says (Source: Huffington Post)
A new study suggests that astronomers could soon look for city lights on distant worlds. Astronomical campaigns already in the works, for instance, could spot a large illuminated city as far away as the Kuiper Belt, where Pluto and many other icy worlds orbit. Artificial illumination on a Kuiper Belt Object would stand out because it would vary less than reflected sunlight does when the world moved toward or away from the sun.

"Just by checking for how their brightness varies with distance, you would be able to identify interesting candidates." Princeton's Edwin Turner, a co-author of the new study. Unfortunately, Turner says, no telescopes currently in the works would be powerful enough to identify city lights in other planetary systems. Unless the aliens like things really bright. (11/18)

Blaming Phobos-Grunt Failure on Chinese Payload? (Source: Russian Space Web)
The decision to add the Chinese spacecraft to the Phobos-Grunt mission, dictated primarily by political rather than economic reasons, proved to be very controversial. Even thought the contract apparently required China to pay a modest amount for the integration of its satellite, the move led to a major redesign of the Russian spacecraft, putting additional pressure on the already tight launch schedule.

The propulsion unit onboard the cruise stage of the Phobos-Grunt probe would no longer be capable of inserting itself and the Chinese satellite into the Martian orbit. Instead, it was now required to give the Fregat upper stage not only its usual role of sending its payload away from Earth, but also a job of slowing down and inserting the vehicle into its orbit around Mars. As a result, Fregat would have to be heavily modified to surive an interplanetary journey. (11/18)

Neuharth: Sad Space Transition (Source: Florida Today)
Four of our old-time astronaut heroes, including three who went to the moon more than 40 years ago when we were No. 1 in space, were honored belatedly with Congressional Gold Medals in a packed Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday. Meanwhile, one of our present-day astronauts this week had to hitchhike a ride to the International Space Station from the Russians who now control space. President John F. Kennedy, the father of our space program, probably turned over in his grave! (11/18)

SpaceX Searches for New Commercial Launch Site (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX is searching for a new launch site to meet increasing demand from commercial customers. SpaceX already has an active launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and is developing a new launch site at Vandenberg in California. The company also operates a rocket development facility in Texas. “Our growing launch manifest has led us to look for additional sites. We're considering several states and territories,” said Elon Musk. “I envision this site functioning like a commercial Cape Canaveral.”

The company has over 3 billion dollars of revenue on the books through 2017, and has sold over 40 missions for the Falcon 9, over half of which are for commercial customers. Four U.S. states – Virginia, California, Alaska, and Florida – have active launch sites. Given the complexity of developing a rocket launch site, SpaceX will be pursuing several options concurrently in order to fully understand the pros and cons of each location. (11/18)

Editorial: Defense Industry Could Bolster U.S. Exports (Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)
The export strength of the U.S. defense industry is fading because of government regulations, writes a former U.S. deputy secretary of defense in an editorial. "The time has also come for the Department of Defense to recognize that increasing international sales is one strategic way to deal with lower budgets," writes Gordon England. (11/18)

Certified Safe: What’s Required to Operate a Taxi Service for NASA (Source: Air & Space)
What will it take for commercial companies to win a contract to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station? NASA’s basic requirements for commercial crew vehicles include being able to dock with the ISS within 48 hours after launch, remain docked to the station for 210 days with minimal maintenance, and return to Earth within 4 to 8 hours after undocking. Andrew Chaikin spoke with the head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Ed Mango, about some of the other requirements and expectations. Click here. (11/18)

Town Annexes 300 Acres for Spaceport America Welcome Center (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A Hatch village expansion OK'd this week set the stage for future economic development and the possible location there of a Spaceport America welcome center, the town's mayor said. Village trustees, in a special meeting, gave the final approval for a 300-acre annexation - not 150 acres as previously reported. The expansion covers both public and private parcels, including 26 acres owned by Frank Carril. He said he's offering to donate 10 acres - five for a building and five for parking - to the spaceport for its welcome center project. (11/18)

Russian of ISS crew Engaged in Biotechnology Experiment (Source: Itar-Tass)
Flight engineer of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 29 Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov conducts in orbit on Friday the Konstanta biotechnological experiment that determines the laws of behavior of living matter in cosmos. “The purpose of the experiment is aimed at identifying effects of space flight environment on the activity of a model enzymatic agent with respect to a specific zymolyte,” an official said.

According to the observations of scientists, with time spent in weightlessness the enzyme activity decreases. The data obtained as a result of the experiment will help scientists understand the behaviour of enzyme systems in space, including in human body, in order to subsequently develop effective methods for astronauts’ life support in long-term, including interplanetary missions. (11/18)

China: Space Missions Not Directly Linked to Defense (Source: Xinhua)
China's space missions have not included any programs that directly serve defense purposes, a senior space program official said. However, space-related technological developments can be used in both civilian and military sectors, Wang Zhaoyao, vice director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said. "For example, a communication satellite can be used for TV broadcasting and military communication," he said.

In response to comments that China's space missions have lacked transparency, Wang said the country has made great efforts to introduce its missions to the outside world and will continue to cooperate with other countries under the principle of mutual respect, mutual benefit and transparency. (11/18)

South African Tracking Station Helps US Launch Rocket to Mars (Source: Sowetan)
Next Friday, the Mars Science Laboratory attached to a rocket launcher will blast off into space from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the US. Twenty minutes after the official count down, the staff at the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) will use their radio antenna and highly specialized computers to monitor the separation of the laboratory from its launch rocket. (11/18)

Military Space Would Take Big Hit if Supercommittee Fails (Source: Space News)
U.S. military space initiatives would lose up to $27 billion if a congressional “supercommittee” tasked with reducing federal spending fails, triggering a $600 billion reduction to be applied evenly across Pentagon programs. Satellite communications, space protection, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs could face delays or termination if the supercommittee misses the Nov. 23 deadline for drafting legislation to reduce federally spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, DOD Secretary Leon Panetta said.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama in August, the Pentagon would absorb half of the $1.2 trillion cut to federal spending that would be applied automatically starting in 2013 should the 12-member supercommittee fail to agree on more targeted reductions. With time running short, the panel has yet to produce its legislative proposal, raising concerns about cuts that defense advocates say would compromise the nation’s war-fighting ability.

Editor's Note: While military space programs would surely be impacted if the supercommittee fails, civilian space spending at NASA and the FAA may be cut more deeply if they succeed. (11/17)

Mikulski Continues Critical Investments in James Webb Space Telescope (Source: Sen. Mikulski)
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS), today announced final Congressional approval of $530 million in funding for the James Webb Space Telescope. Chairwoman Mikulski has championed funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will advance scientific discovery around the world and sustain jobs in Maryland and across the country. (11/17)

Hutchison Presses NASA to Keep Promises to Houston (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Under close questioning by Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden assured Congress on Thursday that his budget-squeezed space agency is making steady progress toward resuming the marquee manned space exploration that Congress wants.

But Hutchison, R-Dallas, and other cautious senators on the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee pressed the former astronaut to make good on private promises by administration officials to sustain year-by-year funding for multibillion-dollar deep space exploration systems such as the Orion crew capsule and the heavy launch rocket despite the federal budget crunch. (11/17)

Nelson: KSC to Get As Much As $484 Million in Construction Money (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A dark year for Kennedy Space Center got a bit brighter Thursday when a key Florida lawmaker announced that the aging NASA facility would get as much as $484 million over the next year to upgrade its launch infrastructure. That's more than expected and would put KSC back on track to meet President Obama's goal of spending $1.9 billion over five years to transform the half-century-old center into what his administration has dubbed a "21st century launch complex."

"This is real. These are real dollars," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, who successfully pressed to secure the money. However, $316 million is subject to NASA's discretion on where to spend it. The money for KSC is intended to help the center transition from its 30-year-old mission of launching space shuttles, an assignment that ended with the final flight of Atlantis in July. The shuttle's retirement already has cost the center and its contractor work force about 6,000 jobs, and hundreds more are expected to disappear early next year once close-out work is done. (11/17)

Huntsville's Lightfoot says NASA Centers Have Stuck Together (Source: Huntsville Times)
The long wait to get a new manned rocket program under way brought new togetherness to NASA's competitive field centers, a Senate panel heard today. "We decided early on we were going to stick together on this," Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot said. "We" referred to Lightfoot; Michael Coats, director of Johnson Space Center in Houston; and Robert Cabana, director of Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For decades, NASA centers have engaged in legendary competition for projects and the jobs and budgets that come with them. Now, when it comes to human space flight, there is one manned rocket project, and Lightfoot said things have changed. "And we've tried to transfer that over to our teams," he said. (11/17)

Mars Probe Fuel 'Not a Threat' (Source: China Daily)
Toxic fuel in the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, stuck in Earth orbit, is unlikely to survive re-entry and endanger life, a space debris researcher said. "The fuel inside the Russian Mars moon probe will have exploded as the probe breaks up during re-entry," said Han Zengyao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology, who heads a team monitoring orbital debris. (11/17)

NASA Develops New Game-Changing Technology (Source: JPL)
Two NASA California centers have been selected to develop new space-aged technologies that could be game-changers in the way we look at planets and how we safely transport robots or humans through space and back to Earth. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will use advanced compound semiconductor materials to develop new technologies for the High Operating Temperature Infrared Sensor Demonstration. If successful, this sensor technology could be used in many future NASA Earth and planetary science instruments, as well as for commercial and defense applications.

Seeking to radically change the way heat shields protect spacecraft during atmospheric entry, NASA's Ames Research Center is developing the Woven Thermal Protection System. The project is a revolutionary approach to thermal protection system design and manufacturing for extreme environments. Ames is the lead center for the project, partnering with NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. (11/17)

House Passes Bill Demanding Shuttle Accountability (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Tucked into what is largely an agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) House lawmakers have required NASA to report quarterly on the progress of parsing out its retired shuttle orbiters to museums in Florida, New York, Washington D.C. and California. The reports must include:

1) Expected dates of the physical transfer of each orbiter; 2) The total net cost to NASA for the storage, preparation and transport of each orbiter; 3) Details on how they will be moved and a plan for ensuring their safety in transit; 4) A description of each recipient’s physical display and educational plan; and 5) Notification if any recipient has failed to meet a financial or physical milestone and, if so, an action plan for addressing that missed milestone. (11/17)

Asteroid or Moon: U.S., Partners Split on Space-Exploration Plans (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The head of the U.S. space program told lawmakers on Thursday that his agency remained sharply split with partners in some countries as to what missions should be undertaken over the next decade, even as he cited broad agreement on an ultimate trip to Mars. Charles Bolden said global space authorities had reached no consensus about whether the next major destination for human travelers should be the moon or an asteroid. (11/17)

Taurus 2 To Deploy Nanosatellites in Debut (Source: Space News)
The Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus 2 rocket slated to make its maiden launch in early 2012 as part of a NASA-sponsored demonstration program will carry four nanosatellites into space under an agreement with Spaceflight Inc., a Seattle-based company that books rides for secondary payloads. Spaceflight President Jason Andrews said Nov. 16 his company recently signed contracts with two customers to launch a total of four tiny satellites on Taurus 2 when the medium-lift rocket makes its debut, currently targeted for February. (11/17)

SpaceX Demo Flight To ISS May Slip (Source: Aviation Week)
Though tentatively targeted for early January, the NASA-sponsored SpaceX cargo resupply demonstration mission of the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station could slip a little later into the new year. “I think January is pretty aggressive,” NASA's Alan Lindenmoyer said. “At the end of this month, we will know better.”

Nonetheless, 2012 promises to be a year for major strides by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., representatives from the two COTS participants told the aerospace gathering. During the SpaceX demonstration mission, the Dragon spacecraft will attempt to rendezvous with the space station, allowing the U.S. crewmembers to grapple and berth the supply craft using Canadarm2. (11/17)

Honoring Neil Armstrong, Boehner Cries (Source: Politico)
House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t keep it together when presenting a Congressional Gold Medal to astronaut Neil Armstrong on Wednesday. C-SPAN video shows Boehner getting choked up after he handed Armstrong the award. It’s one of many times that Boehner has gotten emotional in public. Click here. Editor's Note: What is it about space these days that so often brings people like Boehner and Charles Bolden to tears? Never mind, I guess there's plenty to cry about with the current state of our nation's space program. (11/18)

Branson: 'Capitalism Has Lost Its Way' (Source: Guardian)
Capitalism has "lost its way" and financial profit should no longer be the main driving force behind big business, says Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic founder. Branson makes the assertion in the foreword of his book, Screw Business As Usual. In it, he says he wants to reflect "a vibrant and marked sea change from the way business always used to be done, when financial profit was the only driving force". The Virgin entrepreneur says he wants businesses to transform themselves along ethical lines. (11/18)

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