January 3, 2012

"Heritage, We (May) Have a Problem" (Source: Collect Space)
The headline sale last November of Jim Lovell's Apollo 13 flown checklist for $388,375 has been halted because NASA is seeking proof of ownership. The space agency told Dallas-based Heritage Auctions that it wants the provenance for the checklist, as well as for three other flown artifacts including Rusty Schweickart's Apollo 9 ID plate and hand controller. Heritage is holding the artifacts until the dispute between NASA and the retired astronauts is settled. (1/3)

Impossible Crystals are 'From Space' (Source: BBC)
Examples of a crystal previously thought to be impossible in nature may have come from space, a study shows. Quasicrystals have an unusual structure - in between those of crystals and glasses. Until two years ago, quasicrystals had only been created in the lab - then geologists found them in rocks from Russia's Koryak mountains.

A team says the chemistry of the Russian crystals suggests they arrived in meteorites. Quasicrystals were first described in the 1980s by Israeli researcher Daniel Schechtman, who was awarded last year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. Schechtman's ideas were initially treated with doubt or scorn by some of his peers, who thought the structures were "impossible".

Quasicrystals break some of the rules of symmetry that apply to conventional crystalline structures. They also exhibit different physical and electrical properties. The mineral - an alloy of aluminium, copper, and iron - showed that quasicrystals could form and remain stable under natural conditions. But the natural process that created the structures remained an open question. (1/3)

ISS Sails Into Challenging 2012 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The International Space Station (ISS) has now entered what will be a challenging new year, which will see access to the station for both crews and cargo tested, in wake of last year’s retirement of the Space Shuttle, the start of new commercial resupply flights, and recent failures of Russian launch vehicles.

The year 2011 was a highly successful year in terms of cargo flights to the ISS, with January’s launch of Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-2 (HTV-2), February’s launch of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2), and the successful launches of Space Shuttle missions STS-133, STS-134 and STS-135, as well as numerous Russian Progress flights.

The delivery and installation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the ISS on STS-133 in February increased the amount of stowage space available on the station for cargo, which paved the way for STS-135 to deliver a massive stockpile of crew provisions to the station on the final Shuttle mission in July. (1/3)

Where the Candidates Stand on Space in 2012 (Source: Space Review)
The 2012 presidential campaign kicks into high gear on Tuesday with the Iowa caucuses, as seven major candidates vie for the Republican nomination. Jeff Foust reports on what those candidates have said -- and, more commonly, have not said -- about space policy in the campaign to date. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1999/1 to view the article. (1/3)

An Enduring Value Proposition for NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
In the final installment of her series on a value proposition for human spaceflight, Mary Lynne Dittmar makes the case for re-establishing something like the National Space Council to better coordinate and communicate the national security value of human spaceflight in an increasingly competitive global landscape. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1998/1 to view the article. (1/3)

Chasing Unicorns (Source: Space Review)
Even as the Space Shuttles were being retired, there was a final behind-the-scenes bid to try and keep flying them commercially. Mary Lynne Dittmar discusses some of the lessons learned from that effort. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1997/1 to view the article. (1/3)

2012 Pivotal for Private Spaceflight (Source: Space.com)
After the rise of private spaceflight continued step by step in 2011, the year ahead should be a pivotal one. Several leading space groups will take center stage to showcase their wares. Not only will their commercial spacecraft be tested, but so will the relationships that NASA has with the new and old guard of the private space industry. Click here. (1/3)

Risky Rescue for Crippled Air Force Satellite (Source: WIRED)
It was an epic space rescue that, in audacity and risk, echoed NASA’s campaign to save the astronauts aboard the doomed Apollo 13 moon mission. The biggest difference between the 1970 Apollo operation and the 14-month recovery of AEHF-1, an Air Force communications satellite, is that money was the only thing immediately at stake in the latter. Granted, it was quite a lot of money: around $2 billion. And the satellite’s loss would also set back the Pentagon’s efforts to revamp its communications infrastructure as battle becomes more bandwidth-intensive.

The details of AEHF-1′s rescue, completed in October this year, are only now becoming clear as members of the Air Force team speak out. Saving the pricey, long-in-development comms satellite — one of a planned six-craft constellation meant to relay data between military forces scattered across the globe — involved some bold decision-making, a lot of creative engineering, not a little bit of luck and a steady supply of pizzas delivered to the Space and Missile Systems Center where teams worked around the clock to plan the satellite’s recovery. Click here. (1/3)

NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program Enters the New Year Struggling (Source: Houston Chronicle)
GRAIL is thus far yet another triumph for the unmanned space program. If only we could say the same about the human spaceflight side of the equation. China, which in late December released a white paper on where it’s been in space, and where it’s going, plans to continue building its space station and making preparations for putting astronauts on the moon by developing a new generation of its Long March launch vehicle.

Meanwhile NASA, which now appears unlikely to have its own, privately developed human transport to orbit before 2017, must continue to watch and worry as Russia confronts difficulties with its own program. First there was the loss of a Russian Progress supply vehicle last August. Then Russia lost its Phobos-Grunt robotic mission due to a rocketry issue in November. Finally, during the holidays, another Soyuz rocket launch failed.

To be fair the Russians have yet to lose any astronauts while working with NASA, but the latest round of failures are definitely cause for concern. Thus as we enter the new year the fate of the American space program is in the hands of the not entirely reliant Russian rocket program. For the next five years. At least. (1/3)

A Real Trend in 2011: Selling Products with Space (Source: Commercial Space)
While space pundits pour over articles like the December 23rd, 2011 Mashable post "Top Space Stories of 2011" or the January 1st, 2012 Gizmodo story "The Best Space Stories of the Year" in order to discover whether or not the recent retirement of the US fleet of space shuttles is a more important story than the successful orbiting of the unmanned Chinese Tiangong-1 space lab, the real trend of 2011 seems to have gone almost entirely unnoticed.

What is the real space trend of 2011? That's simple. After a very long decline into seeming irrelevance, space and space focused activities are slowly starting to become cool again. This rising interest has been noticed by numerous commercial companies which have incorporated the space "meme" into a variety of marketing campaigns.

For example, take the recent viral marketing campaign for Natural Light beer, as described in the November 29th, 2011 Huffington Post article "Natural Light Is First Beer In Space, Launched By Brew's Facebook Fans." Click here. (1/3)

Brazil Sends Students to Study Rocketry in Ukraine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Brazil took a small, but significant, step last month in building up its domestic space capability by sending 10 aerospace engineering students to study in Ukraine. The two nations are working on a joint project to launch the Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rocket from Brazil’s Alcantara spaceport. The foreign exchange program is part of a much larger national program, Science Without Borders, that aims to educate scientists, engineers, technicians and others overseas to build up Brazil’s technical capabilities and competitiveness. (12/31)

China Sets Up State-Level Aerospace Research Institute (Source: Space Daily)
A research institute focusing on the development of the country's aerospace engineering technologies was jointly founded by the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) on Saturday. The institute, which will study and provide consultative services regarding aerospace engineering development strategies and national special aerospace programs, marks the country's first state-level strategic research and consultative organization in this area. (1/3)

Will China Shame the US Back to Strong Space Program? (Sourece: Vindy.com)
Many of today’s maturing baby boomers cling to fond childhood memories of elementary-school assemblies where they’d sit knee-to-knee on freshly waxed floors and peer intently onto small-screen black and white TV sets to witness the dawn of the American space age. During those exciting Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches in the 1960s and early ’70s, enthusiasm, adventure and national pride united them.

A sense of fierce competitiveness with the then Soviet Union also energized those children and most all Americans. After all, the Soviets, through their launch of Sputnik I in 1957, essentially shamed the United States into its massive, multi-trillion-dollar goal-oriented journey into outer space. When Ohioan Neil Armstong made his historic “small step for man” but “giant leap for mankind” onto the lunar surface in July 1969, America celebrated its come-from-behind victory with boundless elation and gratification.

Much has changed in the ensuing five decades. The Soviet Union has crumbled, its leading nation Russia has long lost its superpower lustre, China has emerged as a daunting global force and the government-sanctioned manned space program in the U.S. has become a mere shadow of its former robust and glorious self. So much so, in fact, that some may wonder whether history may repeat itself in the 21st century. This time, could it be China that will shame the United States back into a serious program of space exploration and conquest? (1/3)

Reaching Limits of Our Space (Source: Lompoc Record)
The twin Voyager spacecraft are going where no man has gone before — nor will he or she likely ever go there. OK, we’re being a little presumptuous. We’re only guessing that Earthlings from our distant past didn’t have the capacity for interstellar space travel. Discounting cave paintings, crop circles and other unexplained phenomena, just based on known evidence, there were no space travelers — at least from this planet — in our past.

Many of you may remember the promise of the two Voyagers, 1,500-pound packages loaded with scientific gear, launched in 1977 to examine our solar system and beyond. Well, Voyager 1 is approaching the “beyond” segment of the journey, and is now officially the farthest a man-made object has traveled from Earth. The original plan was to map our solar system, send the data back to the Mother Ship, and when the time came, maybe Voyager could send us a little info about what lies beyond our Sun’s sphere of influence. (1/3)

Virgin Galactic Ramping Up Activity (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Virgin Galactic recently relocated U.K.-based staff to Las Cruces, advertised some new hiring and announced it's leasing office space off Roadrunner Parkway - all signs of an operational ramp up in southern New Mexico that will continue throughout 2012. The moves are in preparation for the start of space tourism flights from Spaceport America just north of Do-a Ana County - possibly in 2013.

But they're also the most tangible signs of permanent, local job creation since Virgin Galactic - billed as the world's first commercial spaceline - first courted New Mexico with its suborbital spaceflight proposal seven years ago. A handful of Virgin Galactic employees have either moved to Las Cruces or are en route as part of the initial team to be based in the city, said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides on Friday. And there are more transfers - and hires - to come, he said.

At least two Las Cruces-related job postings appeared recently on virgingalactic.com - the best place to watch for openings, according to Whitesides. An IT manager job was based in Las Cruces, while a regulatory compliance manager position was set to start in Mojave, Calif., where the company's vehicles are being developed, and move to Las Cruces later, according to the postings. Both closed Dec. 31. (1/3)

AVIATR: An Airplane Mission for Titan (Source: Universe Today)
It has been said that the atmosphere on Titan is so dense that a person could strap a pair of wings on their back and soar through its skies. It’s a pretty fascinating thought. And Titan – Saturn’s largest moon – is a pretty fascinating place. After all, it’s the only other body in our solar system that has that type of atmosphere and evidence of liquid on its surface.

“As far as its scientific interest, Titan is the most interesting target in the Solar System,” said Dr. Jason W. Barnes. The goal of the plane concept – which according to Barnes can serve as a standalone mission or as part of a larger Titan-focused exploration program – is to study the moon’s geography (its mountains, dunes, lakes and seas), as well as its atmosphere (the wind, haze, clouds and rain. (1/3)

Editorial: From Decatur to the Moon (Source: Decatur Daily)
While the rest of us were celebrating New Year’s Eve, many at NASA were hard at work making sure a successful launch of a Decatur rocket did not go to waste. More than three months after a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket lifted a pair of satellites from Earth, those satellites approached the moon. The GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B spacecraft entered lunar orbit on New Year’s Day after a complex approach. (1/3)

Physicists Check Out Warp Speed (Source: Washington Post)
In theory, scientists say, it’s possible to construct a wormhole or warp bubble, which would shave a few millennia off of your travel time. But constructing it would take a lot of juice — whose source would be something called “the negative energy associated with a quantum field.” The problem is, to get enough energy to make a warp bubble big enough to hold a spaceship, you need negative mass “about 10 powers of 10 (i.e., 10 orders of magnitude) larger than the total mass of the entire visible universe!” (1/3)

Editorial: China is Overtaking America in New Space Race (Source: Washington Times)
China is pressing forward with plans to land a man on the moon. The United States, meanwhile, cannot even get an astronaut into space without hitching a ride. Last week, Beijing released a white paper titled “China’s Space Activities in 2011,” which outlines the People's Republic of China’s new five-year plan for space. Beijing seeks to “push forward the comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of China’s space industry,” one aspect of which is to conduct studies “on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.”

These will include launching unmanned craft into lunar orbit, practicing unmanned lunar landings, exploring the moon’s surface and bringing samples back to Earth. Beijing’s optimism for manned space flight contrasts with the sagging U.S. space program. In July, during the final space-shuttle mission, the Atlantis touched down on the 42nd anniversary of mankind’s first steps on the moon. American astronauts now have to buy seats on Russian rockets to reach the International Space Station. (1/3)

Editorial: Private Companies Need Taxpayer Money (Source: Florida Today)
Private companies cannot and will not make the commitment to explore space without massive government subsidies. Their business paradigm is making a profit, and space exploration is much too risky for a private company to invest the necessary resources. Unless of course, taxpayers will shoulder the cost and liability, leaving private companies to reap all of the profits.

Privatization of the space program will never work. Space exploration always has been about research, science and gaining knowledge for the betterment of mankind, not for profit at the expense of taxpayers. If private companies like SpaceX wish to conduct space exploration to make a profit, let them do it on their own dime. Why should taxpayers “give” them launch facilities we paid for, then pay them to launch government satellites? In a free market, SpaceX would shoulder all of the financial burden of providing a cheaper method of launching satellites into space.

Editor's Note: Private companies are not "exploring" space, they are developing it, as has been done for centuries after the government-sponsored exploration of new frontiers. And as for providing taxpayer-financed launch facilities to companies like SpaceX, this is no different than providing airport or seaport terminals, or other transportation infrastructure, to companies who use those tax-funded assets to transport people and cargo. (1/2)

A Trip to Outer Space ... Just Outside Montreal (Source: Metro)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel and live in space? Maybe the Cosmodome can help you explore the universe — minus the $35-million cost of being a space tourist. The space science centre, north of Montreal, has undergone an extensive overhaul aimed at giving visitors a taste of space exploration. Visitors have a choice of three virtual missions, each one lasting 60 minutes. A mission costs $15 per adult and also provides access to the museum's space exhibit, which includes artifacts and a tribute to Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. (1/2)

2011: Atlas and Delta Launch $20 Billion in Payloads (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
It was a flawless 2011 for United Launch Alliance's Atlas and Delta rocket families highlighted by deploying a $6 billion batch of big-name NASA missions and lending imperative space-lift support to U.S. national security. The Colorado-headquartered firm has carried out 56 launches in its first 60 months, all successfully, including 30 military flights, 17 NASA missions and 9 commercial ones.

"We consolidated from five major manufacturing sites down to two, consolidating all of our engineering program functions we relocated over 500 people, we reduced our footprint and employment levels by over 20 percent from the pre-consolidation point while increasing our output by nearly double at the same time," said Michael Gass. Faced with no sizable commercial market share to spread the costs, the government pushed for ULA's creation to keep both EELVs flying for assured access to space.

"I strongly believe that the decision to consolidate the Boeing and Lockheed rocket businesses was the right one for the companies, the right decision for the industry and the right decision for our nation. The Atlas and Delta EELV launch capabilities we have today, the size of the vehicles, the number and locations of launch sites, the production capacity, the launch rate capacity, range of mission-unique services, the level of reliability and mission assurance, (even the) size of the air conditioning systems are all fundamentally driven by the customer mission needs' tolerance for risk," said Gass. (1/2)

India Looking Forward to Success of Indigenous Cryogenic Stage (Source: Economic Times)
President Pratibha Patil said the country looks forward to the success of the indigenous cryogenic stage on board the GSLV rocket, likely to be launched in the second quarter of this year. The space agency had suffered a setback when Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3), launched using a home-grown cryogenic engine for the first time, failed and fell into the Bay of Bengal in April 2010.

"It is heartening that the Indian space program is entirely indigenous and has made much progress and achieved much since its inception," she said. Patil said every launch brought excitement and anxious moments to mission controllers and to every Indian and "this new complex will be a witness to all these emotions in the future too." (1/2)

No comments: