December 31, 2011

Virginia's Unusual Space Tax Break is Only Part of the Story (Source: WDBJ)
We're learning more about an unusual proposal, a tax break for launching cremated remains into space. Backers of the bill say there's more to it than that. They admit it's an unusual piece of legislation, but say their ultimate goal is firmly grounded in science. Jack Kennedy is a member of the Virginia Commerical Spaceflight Authority Board. "I think it is so unusual it can take people aback. Unusual ideas tend to do that, and one needs to look a little deeper."

Wise County's Circuit Court Clerk, Kennedy is a former Delegate and State Senator and a longtime advocate for the space industry in Virginia. He proposed the space burial tax deduction as a way to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport more competitive with other launch facilities in New Mexico and Florida. The bill would authorize a tax deduction of up to eight thousand dollars for Virginians who pay to launch their cremated remains into space.

If Virginia can develop a new market, he says the rockets that lift cremated remains into space, could also carry toaster sized nano-satellites developed by Virginia universities. "We've got to have a larger capability that ranges from being able to put small sats into orbit to doing much larger human missions," Kennedy said. (12/31)

40-Year-Old Puzzle of Superstring Theory Solved by Supercomputer (Source: KEK)
A group of three researchers from KEK, Shizuoka University and Osaka University has for the first time revealed the way our universe was born with 3 spatial dimensions from 10-dimensional superstring theory*1 in which spacetime has 9 spatial directions and 1 temporal direction. This result was obtained by numerical simulation on a supercomputer.

According to Big Bang cosmology, the universe originated in an explosion from an invisibly tiny point. This theory is strongly supported by observation of the cosmic microwave background*2 and the relative abundance of elements. However, a situation in which the whole universe is a tiny point exceeds the reach of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and for that reason it has not been possible to clarify how the universe actually originated. Click here. (12/31)

Billionaire Space Race: The Year Private Space Transport Takes Off (Source: Forbes)
I apologize in advance to those of you with aversions to new year predictions, but here’s mine: 2012 will see private space ventures attract more interest from the super-rich than ever before. Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen will find themselves with some company as billionaires across the world begin to invest in space transport in earnest.

This isn’t exactly rocket science (pardon the terrible pun): as NASA slows its own plans and parcels out multimillion-dollar Space Act Agreement contracts, the very wealthy will be able to indulge their fascination with the final frontier while picking up the government’s slack. Entrepreneurs with an engineering bent who may not be interested in space tourism — inevitably a niche market, with tickets costing upwards of $200,000 — may feel energized by the prospect of an expanding role for the private sector in space transportation.

For contracts worth billions rather than millions, they’ll find themselves competing with more established aerospace giants, but there’s room in what is arguably a limitless market. What was essentially a government fiefdom for 50 years is up for grabs. Click here. (12/31)

India to Select Crew for First Manned Mission to Space (Source: Economic Times)
Joining the project for India's first indigenous manned mission to space, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has signed an MoU with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and is now planning to set up facilities for selecting the crew for the maiden flight. IAF is setting up facilities for the first round of selection process which will begin by 2020.

"IAF has entered into an MoU with the ISRO for long term space research. ISRO has supplied it with lot of equipment and the provisional time for first selection is 2020 and the original thing is likely to take place much later," Kakria said. Maintaining that the mission would be completely indigenous, Kakria said all equipment required for the project would be supplied by ISRO and there is no collaboration with any foreign company or country. (12/31)

Could Ancient Pottery Improve Spacecraft Tiles? (Source: Discovery)
You might not think that a collaboration to study the chemical and physical properties of ancient Attic pottery would have anything to do with space missions, but, well, you'd be mistaken. Earlier this year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded nearly $500,000 to scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute, Stanford's National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) and the Aerospace Corporation to do just that.

Among other objectives, it is hoped that the project will improve our understanding of iron-spinel chemistry, which is critical to the advanced ceramics used for thermal protection in aerospace applications, such as protective tiles on the Mars Rover Sojourner, or the fleet of space shuttles, for example. Click here. (12/31)

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