January 24, 2012

Is Gingrich's Pro-Obama Space Policy Stance About to Flip Flop? (Source: NASA Watch)
From a February 2010 op-ed written by Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker, published in the Washington Times: "Despite the shrieks you might have heard from a few special interests, the Obama administration's budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserves strong approval from Republicans. The 2011 spending plan for the space agency does what is obvious to anyone who cares about man's future in space and what presidential commissions have been recommending for nearly a decade."

"Bipartisan cooperation has been difficult to achieve in Congress, but here is a chance. By looking forward, NASA has given us a way to move forward. It deserves broad support for daring to challenge the status quo. It has proposed the real change that Americans are seeking." Editor's Note: After essentially endorsing President Obama's approach to establishing a post-Shuttle direction for NASA, one wonders whether Newt Gingrich will change his position as he campaigns for the GOP nomination and the presidency. Click here. (1/24)

TRDA Announces 2012 Clean Tech Venture Initiative (Source: TRDA)
Clean Tech Ventures is a part of the i2 Capital Accelerator, which is a program of the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA). The i2 Clean Tech Ventures program consists of four weeks of intense mentoring that kicks off with a two-day business boot camp. The i2 Mentor Network is a statewide network of "been there, done that" technology entrepreneurs that have founded and raised capital for their own companies. Our mentors have collectively raised over $300 million for their own companies, and will work with you to prepare your company for the capital raising process. Click here. (1/24)

A Wolf in Rocket Clothing (Source: NHPR)
The latest twist in the Obama administration’s so-called Asian pivot. The president’s chief science advisor, John Holdren, has said the US would benefit from cooperating with China on future space missions. But federal legislation now prohibits NASA from pursuing such efforts with a little known clause that’s popped up in two pieces of legislation within the past year. Click here to hear an interview with John Matson of Scientific American. (1/24)

Antrix: Ex-ISRO Chief Madhavan Nair Banned from Future Government Job (Source: Indian Express)
In an unprecedented disciplinary action, four of the biggest names in the space community, including former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) G Madhavan Nair, have been barred from occupying any government position — current or in future — for their role in the Antrix-Devas deal, in which a private company was accused to have been wrongfully allotted S-band frequencies for radio waves. (1/24)

Congressman McCarthy Wants to Extend FAA Moratorium on Human Spaceflight Regulation (Source: Ridgecrest Daily Independent)
Eight years ago, I witnessed firsthand the beginning of a new space age right here in Kern County: the era of private spaceflight. The Mojave Air and Space Port has led the way in cutting-edge aerospace innovation, and is home to a thriving private commercial space industry that was born from the Ansari X-Prize. Currently, the Space Port is at 100 percent capacity with a quarter of all jobs there in the private commercial space industry. And this is just the beginning. More jobs are coming. It’s clear that the private sector is ready and willing to step up to keep America at the forefront of space flight.

The business owners and innovators in our community are well aware of the government’s affinity to regulate just for the sake of regulating. Fortunately, in 2004, common sense legislation regarding the regulation of commercial space flight was passed that gave the industry room to innovate and grow while also protecting the safety of crew members and the public. This is an example of government allowing the private sector to do what it does best: innovate and create new technologies.

However, the legislation is slated to expire at the end of this year, and that could mean a whole slew of new regulations on the growing $34 billion commercial space flight industry. There is no question that the safety of crew members and the public is of utmost importance, but unleashing Washington bureaucrats on this industry now could mean the end of private commercial space flight in America before it even gets off the ground. That is why I am fighting to extend the 2004 provisions. The successes witnessed and the jobs already created are just a glimpse into the full economic and technological possibilities of private commercial space flight. (1/24)

Insurance Group Includes Space Tourism Among "Emerging Risks" (Source: Insurance Journal)
The Willis Group identified 18 “emerging risks,” as causing increasing concern among the world’s insurance community. While “headline-grabbing events” – the euro zone crisis, the Arab Spring, natural catastrophes like the Japanese earthquake and Thai floods – have all received extensive exposure and commentary, “new risks are emerging that could blindside business executives,” Wills warns.

The survey focuses on 18 emerging risks facing industries as diverse as Energy, Banking, Captives and Power & Utilities. The blog also polls readers asking them to identify which of the risks listed they think will have the greatest impact in 2012. Number nine on the list is "Space Tourism". Click here. (1/24)

Pentagon Denies Downing Russian Mars Probe (Source: WIRED)
The Russians are pretty sure they know why their Mars moon probe fritzed out. It must have been U.S. radar waves, emanating from a facility named after the hated Ronald Reagan all the way out into the depths of space. And wouldn’t that be just like Reagan? Alas, that’s “utterly impossible,” says Brian Weeden, a former officer with the U.S. Air Force Space Command. Radar just doesn’t work like that. And the Pentagon denies the whole thing, of course. Problem is, Weeden says, “it’s going to be almost impossible to disprove to the believers.” Welcome to another edition of Tinfoil Tuesday, our exploration of the planet’s least likely conspiracy theories. (1/24)

U.S. Air Force Draws Final Curtain on DWSS (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has officially stopped work on the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS), which arose from the ashes of a canceled civil-military program only to be rejected by Congress. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles said it took the action to implement the 2012 defense authorization and appropriations bills, both of which were signed into law late last year.

“Today the Air Force Defense Meteorological System Program constellation of satellites continues to provide high-quality and timely weather data to forecasters with two more satellites yet to be launched,” the service said. The Air Force requested $445 million in 2012 for DWSS, which was under contract to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 provided $43 million to terminate DWSS and $125 million for an unspecified follow-on weather satellite program. (1/24)

Russian Space Freighter to be Buried in Pacific (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Progress M-13M cargo spacecraft will be sunk in a remote area in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday after deploying a micro-satellite, a spokesman for the Russian Mission Control said. The space freighter undocked from the Pirs docking module on the International Space Station (ISS) at 02:10 a.m. Moscow time on Tuesday. After two orbit corrections, the Progress was positioned at about 500 km from the orbital station to deploy the Chibis-M micro-satellite, which carries about 12 kg of equipment to study high-altitude powerful pulses of gamma-and X-ray. (1/24)

NASA Langley Reopens Back Gate During Lunch Hours (Source: DailyPress.com)
NASA Langley Research Center employees will once again be able to drive into the Hampton facility's back gate at lunch time, which is a relief to Poquoson business owners. NASA Langley Director Lesa Roe told Poquoson Mayor Gene Hunt about the change Tuesday. Starting Jan. 30 the back gate will be open to incoming traffic again from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

NASA Langley's back gate on Wythe Creek Road used to be open to both incoming and outgoing traffic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In October incoming access was changed to 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. only because budget cuts eliminated the gate guard. The new traffic pattern added an additional two-mile drive for employees to get back into work via the front gate. Since then Poquoson businesses, and particularly restaurants, have seen a drop in lunchtime business. (1/24)

Making Space Exploration Come Alive for Young Earthlings (Source: Huffington Post)
According to Virgin Galactic's George Whitesides: "It's important for children today to realize that they are growing up in a world where, if anyone puts their mind to it, they can go to space." He added, "Since the dawn of the space age, only about 525 people have been to space." And as space travel today is made safe and more affordable for the private citizen, "Virgin Galactic is hoping to fly that number of people into space the first year to year-and-a-half of our operation." Click here. (1/24)

Growing Budget Deficits May Have Scuttled an “Inspiring” Obama Space Program (Source: Space Politics)
Tuesday night President Obama will give his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress. Some have wondered if he might sneak a brief mention of space into the speech because astronaut Mark Kelly will be at the speech, sitting with the First Lady. Of course, the primary reason why he’ll be there has little to do with his NASA career but instead because of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords.

Another reason why it’s unlikely space would get much a mention in the address is that the administration may have something along the lines of space policy fatigue. This week’s issue of The New Yorker features a long article that takes readers behind the scenes of the Obama Administration, based on hundreds of pages of internal memos obtained by the magazine. The article takes a broad look at the administration acted and reacted to various issues, including, as it turns out, space.

The article notes that as a candidate for president in 2008, Obama “had promised a bold space program”, a reference to his space policy white paper the campaign released in August 2008. However, according to the New Yorker article, those plans foundered on projections of growing budget deficits. “Especially in light of our new fiscal context, it is not possible to achieve the inspiring space program goals discussed during the campaign,” a November 2009 memo (authorship unstated) advised the president. That sentence, the article noted, was in bold and underlined for particular emphasis. (1/23)

SpaceX Offers Interactive Panorama View of Dragon Interior (Source: SpaceX)
In the coming days, we'll take a closer look at some of Dragon's advanced technologies in celebration of the Year of the Dragon and the opening of a new era in space travel. They include a new interactive panorama of the interior of a SpaceX capsule in cargo delivery configuration. Click here. (1/23)

Cabana to Moderate Panel on 50 Years of Spaceflight at KSC (Source: NSCFL)
KSC Director Bob Cabana will moderate a panel of 'KSC Legends' during a Feb. 14 luncheon of the National Space Club (Florida Committee) in Cape Canaveral. The panel will include Steve Francois, JoAnn Morgan, Ike Rigell, Bob Sieck, and Lee Solid, focusing on 50 years of spaceflight at KSC. Click here for information. (1/24)

US Space Industry Losing Competitive Edge Under ITAR (Source: Examiner)
The U.S. space industry is losing its competitive edge and risks falling short of future national security requirements unless the government reforms export control regulations and promotes the international competitiveness of U.S. industry, according to a new report released by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).

"A strong and globally competitive space industrial and supplier base is a major national security asset," said AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey. "Reforming America's export control system and promoting space exports will better serve our national security and bolster our economy and technological leadership."

The AIA report released on Monday, “Competing for Space: Satellite Export Policy and U.S. National Security,” surveys U.S. satellite systems and component manufacturers about the challenges the space industrial base faces as a result of strict U.S. export policies. Between the adverse impacts on industry is loss of global market share and dampening of satellite component sales opportunities to sustain U.S. space technology leadership. (1/24)

U.S. Should Reform Export Process for Aerospace Industry (Source: AIA)
The Aerospace Industries Association says export controls should be reformed to ease the process for U.S. aerospace companies. "Promotion of satellite and space exports to U.S. allies and partners will help ensure our security and aerospace industrial base remains second to none," said AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey. (1/24)

Editorial: Cut Military Personnel, Not Military Programs (Source: Newark Star-Ledger)
Gen. Ronald Fogleman, a retired Air Force chief of staff, says the Pentagon should focus on reducing military personnel instead of cutting high-tech programs. "Instead of these reckless cuts to research and modernization, we should reduce the active military and expand the National Guard and Reserves -- saving hundreds of billions of dollars," he writes. (1/24)

NASA’s Robotic Satellite Servicing Demo Delayed Until March (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission, a space station-based demonstration effort caught up in a cascading series of delays following the last summer’s crash of a Russian cargo module, will finally begin its first on-orbit satellite servicing tests in March, the project’s lead said. “We will go through the first tasks from March through June, and then pick it up again with the refueling tasks from July through September [and] October,” said Frank Cepollina. (1/23)

Iran Set to Launch Large New Rocket, Repeat Fatal Monkey Mission (Source: America Space)
Iran is poised to begin a surge in space launch activity that will also include the first test of the large new space booster that could also eventually serve as a nuclear armed ballistic missile. As many as 4 new spacecraft including a radar imaging satellite and two optical imaging spacecraft are to be launched as part of this surge, the Iranian Fars News Agency announced January 22. In addition Iran is also planning a second attempt to launch a monkey 75 mi. into space after its first attempt in mid 2011 failed, killing the primate. (1/23)

Wallops Media Roundtable With NASA's Space Technology Director (Source: NASA)
Journalists are invited to a roundtable discussion at 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 24, with NASA's Chief Technologist Mason Peck during his visit to the agency's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. Wallops Flight Facility Director Bill Wrobel will join Peck for the event. They will discuss Wallops' important role in the agency's development of cutting-edge technologies and innovations that will enable NASA's future missions in science, exploration and space operations.

Wallops will conduct critical high-altitude balloon and sounding rocket flights for several major space technology projects during the coming years. The center will test inflatable aerodynamic decelerators for safely returning cargo to Earth from the International Space Station and landing large payloads on planetary surfaces. NASA also will launch a small technology secondary payload aboard a commercial rocket from Wallops this year. (1/24)

Discovery Headed to the Smithsonian (Source: AP)
The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is preparing to welcome the space shuttle Discovery into its collection. The shuttle will be flown to Washington Dulles International Airport on the back of a Boeing 747 in April, including a flyover above the nation's capital. The flyover is planned for April 17. A museum spokeswoman later said the flyover has not been confirmed, and details are still being finalized. A formal welcome ceremony is planned for April 19 at the museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. Shuttle Endeavour will travel to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the second half of the year. (1/24)

Kelly Will Not Run for Congress (Source: Omaha.com)
Capt. Mark Kelly said Monday that his wife "feels pretty good" about her decision to resign from Congress. Kelly, a retired astronaut, was at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Monday to deliver a lecture as part of the Peter J. Hoagland Integrity in Public Service Lecture Series. About 500 people attended. "Everyone thought Gabby would run again," Kelly said. "She could've. She could've hung onto her seat and done the politically expedient thing. But she wanted to do the right thing. She wanted to focus on her recovery."

Kelly said he has been asked repeatedly but will not run for Congress. "Right now my goal is to make sure she can get back to where she needs to be so she can go to work," he said. Public service is something with which Kelly, who spent 35 years in the U.S. Navy and with NASA, has experience. His mother, Patricia Kelly, was a police officer. His twin brother, Scott Kelly, is also an astronaut. (1/24)

GOP Wants Private Sector to Rescue Space Program (Source: KHOU)
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich want to revive Florida's Space Coast. But the Republican presidential contenders, eager to address a key local concern in Monday's debate, say they don't want the federal government to spend too much in the effort. (1/24)

Launch of Research Spaceship to Mars Should be Repeated (Source: Itar-Tass)
The launch of a research spaceship to the Mars should be repeated. This proposal is not only in favour of the interests of science, but also some considerations that failures should be overcome with new deeds and new victories, Director the Institute of Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Academician Lev Zeleny said in comments on a new RAS initiative.

RAS sent a letter to the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) that insisted the Phobos-Grunt project is unique. “A major amount of work was done for the project, scientists and designers have done a huge amount of work and introduced innovations. We cannot refuse from all these developments over the Phobos-Grunt failure,” Zeleny commented on the letter. “All space agencies do so. This was and remains our traditions. The failures should be overcome with new ambitious successful undertakings,” he noted. (1/24)

China's SatNav Sector Annual Output Predicted to Reach $35 Billion in 2015 (Source: Xinhua)
The annual output value of China's satellite navigation industry is estimated to reach more than 225 billion yuan ($35.64 billion) in 2015, according to a latest research report on the country's geographic information sector. Compiled by a think-tank under the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, the report predicted the industry would become the country's third new IT economic growth point, after mobile communication and Internet. (1/24)

Astronauts4Hire Sponsors 2012 Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (Source: A4H)
Tampa-based Astronauts4Hire has become a sponsor of the 2012 Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Resort in Palo Alto, California from February 27-29, 2012. The NSRC will bring together researchers from government, industry, and academia in the largest forum of its kind focused on the research and education capabilities of new suborbital vehicles. (1/24)

Sea Launch Plans Another Intelsat Mission (Source: Sea Launch)
During the third quarter of 2012, Sea Launch will launch the Intelsat 21 satellite aboard a Zenit 3SL rocket aboard the company's Odyssey platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In 2010, Sea Launch and Intelsat signed a multiple-launch agreement for up to five missions. (1/24)

Say So Long to CCDev, Hello to CCiCap (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has done it again. The acronym happy space agency has changed the name of its commercial human spaceflight (CHSF) program. The program formerly known as Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) is being succeeded by Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap). Try to say that acronym 10 times. Or even thrice. Go ahead. I’ll wait…no, try it again…ah, not even close… See what I mean? Impossible. (1/24)

Boeing GPS IIF Satellites Assembled Using 'Pulse' Manufacturing Line (Source: SpaceRef)
Boeing has accelerated the assembly of its Global Positioning System (GPS IIF) satellites through the use of a pulse-line manufacturing approach adapted from the Boeing 737 airplane production line. "Using this pulse-line approach, we are able to build up to six satellites per year," said Craig Cooning. "This is the highest satellite production rate in Boeing history, and it ensures we will deliver the remaining GPS IIF satellites on schedule."

Boeing is currently under contract for 12 GPS IIF satellites for the U.S. Air Force. Two are in orbit and meeting mission requirements; two have been completed and are being stored until launch; and eight are in various stages of pulse-line production. The next GPS IIF launch is scheduled during the third quarter of 2012. Boeing is prepared to deliver several GPS IIF satellites within the next year. (1/24)

NASA's Ed Mango in Colorado to Help Guide Local Companies' Space Efforts (Source: Denver Post)
With the space shuttle fleet retired, it is up to private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the international space station and other low-Earth-orbit destinations. It's Ed Mango's job at NASA to help companies — such as Sierra Nevada Space Systems and United Launch Alliance — make those spacecraft and the rockets to launch them.

The goal, said Mango, who manages NASA's commercial crew program, "is to develop the best concepts" in collaboration with private companies with an eye on flying by 2017. The only way to the space station until then is to rely on the Russians at $63 million per seat, raising concerns about the loss of U.S. leadership in space. Click here. (1/24)

Newt Gingrich: Let's Go To The Moon Permanently, Get To Mars ASAP (Source: Huffington Post)
Space travel is an issue that will likely come up in few states besides Florida this primary season, but both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were quick to recognize the importance of the Space Coast is to this state and agreed that the issue is important for the country. "It should certainly be a priority," said Romney when asked whether, during a time of reduced federal spending, space exploration should be a focus. "What we have now is a president who does not have a vision or a mission for NASA. As a result of that, there are people on the Space Coast that are suffering. Florida itself is suffering as a result," he said.

Gingrich added that he would like to go back to the moon "permanently" and get to Mars "as rapidly as possible, building a series of space stations and developing commercial space." Romney and Gingrich both said that space exploration should be a collaborative effort between the federal government and the private sector. Gingrich was then asked whether he would "put more tax dollars into the space race and commit to putting an American on Mars instead of relying on the private sector." "Well, the two are not incompatible," he replied.

"For example, most of the great breakthroughs in aviation were as a result of prizes. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize. I would like to see vastly more of the money spent encouraging the private sector into a very aggressive experimentation. I would like a leaner NASA. I don't think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there. But if we had a series of goals that we were prepared to offer prizes for, there is every reason to believe you have folks in this country and around the world who would put up an amazing amount of money and would make the Space Coast literally hum with activity because they'd be drawn to achieve prizes." (1/23)

Romney, Gingrich Respond to Space Question in GOP Debate (Source: SPACErePORT)
During Monday night's GOP debate, both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich responded to questions about the future of our nation's space program, asked in the context of ongoing economic problems on the state's Space Coast. Romney gave the first response, saying space should be a national priority and that it is important for science, commercial, and military development. He said stakeholder groups including NASA, the Air Force, industry, and universities should come together to establish a vision for space exploration, and that funding for space should come from a mix of government and private sources.

Romney said the folks on the Space Coast have technology and vision for supporting the space program. Meanwhile, Gingrich's answer focused on reducing NASA's bureaucracy and establishing a series of space prizes to advance the exploration and development of space. He envisioned a series of space stations, a moon base, and missions to Mars. Gingrich said he wants "vastly more money" to encourage private sector involvement in space.

Alan Boyle of MSNBC tweeted that it "sounds like both Romney and Gingrich would start at square one on NASA vision. Deja vu all over again." Good point. It doesn't seem like either candidate would want to continue down the current path for space exploration, which could lead to familiar inaction and gridlock when one of them attempts to sway Congress as president. (1/23)

Coalition for Space Exploration Appoints New Chairman, Deputy (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Coalition for Space Exploration announced veteran aerospace communicators Lon Rains of Northrop Grumman and Mary Engola of Ball Aerospace will lead the Coalition in 2012. Rains and Engola will serve as the new chair and deputy chair, respectively. Each will serve a one-year term, effective January through December 2012.

The Coalition for Space Exploration is a group of space industry businesses and organizations collaborating to ensure that the United States remains the leader in space, science and technology. By reinforcing the value and benefits of space exploration with the nation’s leaders, the Coalition intends to build lasting support for a long-term, sustainable, strategic direction for space exploration. Through marketing, communications and outreach efforts, the Coalition highlights the benefits of a robust American space program. (1/23)

Masten Flight Tests GENIE System (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA could test its payloads on Earth under realistic flight conditions before sending them into space by using a technology flown by Draper Laboratory last month. Using the GENIE (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) System, Draper recently fully controlled the Xombie suborbital rocket built by Masten Space Systems during a closed loop tethered flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

This successful first step brings the NASA Dryden Flight Opportunities Program closer to a new testbed capability that could be used to validate future planetary technology payloads. Aircraft available to test NASA instruments today are unable to fly at the desired trajectories for planetary landings, and computer simulations are used to generate that data. However, a GENIE controlled flight vehicle could mimic a spacecraft’s final approach to the Moon and Mars here on Earth.

Emerging and advancing future space technologies will then have the opportunity to fly their payloads terrestrially to raise their overall Technology Readiness Level and show that they are ready for use in space. Draper plans to conduct a free-flying demonstration with GENIE and the Masten rocket later this winter. The GENIE precision landing GN&C system was developed jointly between Draper and the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) under the Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) and Morpheus lander programs. (1/23)

NASA Set To Start Spending for Big Human Spaceflight Programs in 2012 (Source: Space News)
With the space shuttle fleet having retired in July, leaving NASA with no independent means to launch astronauts to the international space station, human spaceflight will be the primary focus of the agency’s 2012 procurement activity. NASA intends to select one or two companies this year to finalize designs for commercially operated vehicles to ferry crews to and from the station starting around 2017.

The agency also intends to competitively award contracts for risk reduction studies for the Space Launch System (SLS), a congressionally mandated heavy-lift rocket that in combination with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will support manned missions beyond low Earth orbit starting as soon as 2021. The next phase of the Commercial Crew Program, which was to feature fixed-price contract awards, will now be administered under a Space Act Agreement structure. (1/23)

Russian Scientist's Claim of Life on Venus Proven False (Source: Space.com)
A respected Russian scientist claims to have found signs of life on Venus in photographs taken by a Soviet probe 30 years ago. However, outside analysis suggests he is breathing life into an assortment of camera lens covers and image blurs. Leonid Ksanfomaliti, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences who worked on unmanned Soviet missions to Venus during the 1970s and '80s, has written a new article in the journal Solar System Research.

In the article, he calls attention to several objects photographed by the Venera-13 landing probe, a spacecraft that landed on Venus in 1982. The objects — including features described as a disc and a scorpion — appear to change locations from one photo to the next. "Let's boldly suggest that the objects' morphological features would allow us to say that they are living," Ksanfomaliti stated.

Whether the scientist really has suggested that the old photographs contain living creatures that were somehow overlooked previously, or whether his words have been mistranslated, misconstrued or should have been quietly ignored, the claim has made headlines around the globe. Click here to view the photo. (1/23)

Ariane 5 Upgrade Could End Subsidies (Source: Aviation Week)
European Space Agency subsidies intended to offset high fixed costs incurred by the Arianespace commercial launch consortium could be unnecessary by decade’s end if ESA members agree to invest a little over €1 billion to upgrade the Ariane 5 rocket, according to Astrium Chief Executive Francois Auque. The 19-nation agency is currently providing about €120 million in annual price supports to the European launch services company, which manages missions of the Astrium-built Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle.

In recent years Arianespace has struggled to break even, though additional product offerings in 2011 and 2012, including Europeanized Soyuz rockets and the new Italian Vega launcher, are expected to offset the company’s high fixed costs. The uptick in launch tempo alone is not likely to alleviate the company’s reliance on continued ESA price supports. But Auque says the need for that particular line of ESA financing could be eliminated by increased lift capacity planned for the Ariane 5 Mid-life Evolution (ME), which would add 20% to the payload capacity of the rocket at no additional cost. (1/23)

Should the U.S. Collaborate with China in Space? (Source: Scientific American)
The next time humans set foot on the moon, they may well plant a five-starred red flag there. The Chinese space program is developing rapidly, and further progress should come this year when taikonauts, a colloquial term for Chinese astronauts, visit the Tiangong-1 space module.

The president’s chief science adviser John Holdren has said the U.S. would benefit from cooperation with China. The two countries could tackle the problem of space debris and, possibly, lay groundwork for a joint mission to Mars. His thinking fits with the Obama administration’s so-called Asian pivot, a shift in focus from the Middle East to China’s growing influence; the idea is that science and technology cooperation could be a useful lever in negotiations.

But federal legislation now prohibits NASA from pursuing any such joint efforts. The relevant clause first popped up last April in a stopgap funding bill, and in November it reappeared in the legislation funding NASA for 2012. The author of the provision is Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia, who cites China’s human-rights record and the threat of espionage. (1/23)

Vega Expected to be Price-competitive With Russian Rockets (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, whose inaugural flight is scheduled for mid-February, will be sold commercially for about 32 million euros ($42 million) per launch — a price that can compete with converted Russian ballistic missiles, Vega officials said. Program managers said the rocket’s competitive position is even better than it was at the start of development. (1/23)

Tallahassee Educator Named to National STEM Board (Source: WTXL)
Susan Borland, education manager of the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee, was selected from the Challenger Learning Center national network to sit on the board of directors for the network headquarters, Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Challenger Center for Space Science Education is a not-for-profit education organization whose mission is to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through exploration and discovery.

Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee is part of a national network of 48 Challenger Learning Centers throughout the US, Canada, United Kingdom and South Korea. Combined, Challenger Centers reach 400,000 students and 15,000 teachers each year through mission-based activities focused on STEM education.

Borland began her career with the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee in February 1999 and was involved in all aspects of planning the center. As education manager, her duties include standards based curriculum planning, workshop preparation and delivery, camp coordination, grant writing and the management of the education department. She currently serves as a network consultant and mentor for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education network. (1/23)

Satellite Data Track Plants’ Response to Warming Temperatures (Source: Space News)
Warming temperatures are having a significant impact on the distribution and health of plants in arctic and tropical regions, according to recent studies that rely on long-term satellite records to study the changes. Researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center used Landsat Earth imaging satellite data to determine how plants in Northern Quebec were responding to warming temperatures. Click here. (1/23)

Meet the 21st-Century Pioneers Who Want to Take You Into Space (Source: Reason.com)
Lots of kids go through an astronaut phase, usually sometime between fireman and president of the United States. For the last three generations of American children dreaming of slipping the surly bonds of Earth, the only game in the galaxy has been a federal agency: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). But since NASA’s space shuttle program shuddered to a stop in July 2011 with the final flight of the Atlantis, those kids—and the adults they have become—have been forced to look outside of government for liftoff.

As luck would have it, there are quite a few men (and they are virtually all men) who would be more than happy to help. These 21st-century pioneers want to make spaceflight affordable, accessible, and commonplace, making a buck off your childhood fantasies in the process. They can’t offer the moon, yet. But they can supply various modes of travel and ways to achieve the astronaut experience, with or without Tang and freeze-dried ice cream. Click here. (1/23)

NOAA Satellites Aid in the Rescue of 207 People in 2011 (Source: NOAA)
In 2011, NOAA satellites were critical in the rescues of 207 people from life-threatening situations throughout the United States and its surrounding waters. The satellites picked up distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers, and relayed the information about their location to first responders on the ground.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, called COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons onboard aircraft and boats, and from smaller, handheld personal locator beacons called PLBs. (1/23)

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