November 6, 2011

Voyager 2 to Switch to Backup Thruster Set (Source: NASA)
NASA's Deep Space Network personnel sent commands to the Voyager 2 spacecraft Nov. 4 to switch to the backup set of thrusters that controls the roll of the spacecraft. Confirmation was received today that the spacecraft accepted the commands. The change will allow the 34-year-old spacecraft to reduce the amount of power it requires to operate and use previously unused thrusters as it continues its journey toward interstellar space, beyond our solar system. (11/5)

Space Club Plans Networking Event on Dec. 7 (Source: NSCFL)
Please join the National Space Club Florida Committee and The Missile, Space and Range Pioneers for our next Networking Event on December 7, 2011 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at Fish Lips at Port Canaveral. Click here for information. (11/6)

When Obama Talks Space, We Should Listen (Source: Florida Today)
Presidents don't talk often about the space program. During the past few days, President Barack Obama talked about the space program on multiple occasions and it seems worthwhile to share exactly what he's saying about an endeavor so critical to the future of our community. Saying "we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs," President Barack Obama took direct aim at the Republican leadership in Congress on an issue he knows is important in a key battleground state in next year's election.

The key point to draw from this is that the president appears to be continually reminding people that he has put the space program on a privatization track, one that Republicans might typically embrace. But this track depends upon funding from Congress that has been slow in coming. He went on to say that his decisions were based out of concern that NASA was back on a frequently tread path of cost overruns and schedule delays, and needed to take a time out to reconsider its direction. (11/6)

European Turmoil Imperils Proposed Leadership in Environmental Science (Source: Aviation Week)
Under pressure to reduce spending, the institutions responsible for setting and financing European space programs will meet this week to hash out space funding priorities against a backdrop of tremendous financial turmoil in Europe. The European Commission has already kicked off months of wrangling among its 27 members after a draft budget plan abandoned future funding for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) project.

Abandoning GMES would mean giving up on Europe’s ambition to take the global lead in environmental monitoring —a goal well within its grasp. Likewise, a plan to allow private companies to sell some GMES data products and services to the EU would suffer, compromising the health of Europe’s commercial space sector. (11/4)

Western Australia High-Tech Business Helps Astronomers Discover the Universe (Source: ICRAR)
A quest to study the earliest stars and galaxies in the Universe is underway, with local industry building the first major pieces of a revolutionary new radio telescope in Western Australia, as part of the Murchison Wide-field Array.Murchison Wide-field Array (MWA) industry partner and Fremantle-based high-technology company, Poseidon Scientific Instruments (PSI), has been awarded a $1.3m contract by Curtin University to build 16 packages of sensitive electronics.

The MWA is being built by an Australian consortium led by The International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia, in close collaboration with US, Indian and New Zealand partners. ICRAR Deputy Director, Professor Steven Tingay, said PSI was a world-class technology company and working with its local expertise to design and develop components for the international project was an enormous advantage. (11/6)

Budget Pressures Squeeze the Dreams of Mars Explorers (Source: Washington Post)
Mars explorers should be ecstatic. At Cape Canaveral, the biggest, most sophisticated rover ever aimed at our planetary neighbor sits atop a towering Atlas V rocket. Dubbed Curiosity, the $2.5 billion dune buggy-sized robotic scientist is poised for a Nov. 25 launch. Arrival is scheduled for next August. And yet, top Mars scientists are worried and angry. They fear an end to a carefully-crafted campaign underway since 1994 to explore the red planet ahead of an eventual human landing.

At a White House meeting during the last week of October, administration officials “were clearly not very keen on signing up” for unmanned Mars missions in 2016 and 2018, said Daniel Britt. That presents an international problem. In 2009, NASA agreed to jointly fund the dual missions with Europe, a longtime partner in space. But now, “the administration’s position is that they cannot commit to the plan of Mars in 2016 and 2018,” said the chief of NASA’s planetary science division. (11/6)

China's Huge Leap Forward Threatens US Ascendancy in Space (Source: Telegraph)
China took a giant step towards its dream of becoming the pre-eminent power in space, a position some experts believe it may claim by 2040. It was a message to the rest of the world of China's ever-growing reach and ambition, as each successive mission in the country's space program narrows the technological gap with its rivals.

With the Russians also stating that manned space missions are no longer a priority, it is likely that - within 15 years or so - the next men to set foot on the moon will be Chinese. Nor is China looking merely at near space. Later this month, it will launch its first Mars probe, carried into space as part of the payload on a Russian rocket.

Shenzhou 8's launch has set alarms bells ringing, because the craft was delivered so precisely to its intended location. If China can send a rocket into space with such accuracy, it means it can destroy any object in near space as well. China's new strides in its rocket guidance systems comes despite an embargo on US exports of sensitive hi-tech equipment to Beijing. Having relied on re-engineered Russian technology for much of its space program, the docking system that brought Tiangong 1 and Shenzou 8 together was Chinese-designed. (11/6)

Bova: 'Grand Tour' of the Future (Source: Naples News)
A few weeks ago reader Christopher Pritchard asked, "Ben give me your vision of my future." Well, actually, I've been writing my version of the human race's future for several decades. In a series of novels that my readers have dubbed "The Grand Tour" I've tried to show how – and why – the 21st century will develop. The background for this scenario is the inevitable climate shift, caused by global warming, that is already taking place, here and now.

Whatever the causes of today's global warming, the fact is that our planet's climate is changing, as it has many times in the past. At present we're heading into a warm spell. The key factor in my novels is that we do nothing to alleviate global climate change until it's much too late. After nearly a century of gradual warming, the global climate reaches a tipping point. Temperatures rise rapidly and uncontrollably. Sea levels rise high enough to flood coastal cities around the world.

The electrical utility grids that power our civilization crash. Inland areas are devastated by decades-long droughts while killer storms, powered by the warmer atmosphere, wreak havoc. Tens of millions of people are suddenly homeless, jobless, hopeless. Governments around the world become more and more authoritarian, clamping down on individual freedoms as they desperately try to feed and house the hordes of refugees. (11/6)

Keys’ Underwater, Weightless World Helps Prepare Astronauts (Source: Miami Herald)
At 60 feet below the ocean’s surface, alongside coral, fish and a curious goliath grouper, NASA astronauts and scientists spent seven days testing battery-powered jet packs, booms with magnets, robotic arms on one-man subs and other ways to function in zero gravity. The Florida Keys underwater world is helping NASA prepare for humankind’s first trip to an asteroid.

“It would be the first time that human beings have left the Earth/moon system and started to explore the solar system, to explore Mars and beyond,” said NASA asteroid expert Paul Abell. “That’s a very exciting prospect for us.” Such an endeavor will take billions of dollars and years of effort to learn the unknowns and conquer the challenges and risks. But Abell, based out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the ambitious program is worthwhile for many reasons, including this biggie: planet defense. (11/6)

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