February 4, 2012

Santorum Joins in Criticism of Space (Source: Space Politics)
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized fellow candidate Newt Gingrich’s plans for lunar bases in a letter on the Romney campaign web site, even though space policy looked to be in the rearview mirror after the Florida primary earlier this week. Now another Republican candidate has joined in.

In a 60-second radio ad posted on its web site, the Rick Santorum campaign also criticized Gingrich’s plans as “fiscal insanity”. The ad starts with a discussion of the $15 trillion national debt, then asks, “what does Newt Gingrich suggest? Spending half a trillion dollars on a moon colony.” (As noted in the earlier Romney post, the $500-billion cost estimate appears to come from a single article; the Gingrich campaign never announced what it thought it would cost.) “Gingrich’s idea is fiscal insanity, and another reason true conservatives are uniting behind Rick Santorum.” (2/4)

Execs in Daytona to Discuss NextGen (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
When it comes to modernizing the air traffic control system, top aviation executives told Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students that it's similar to the building the interstate system or railways. Twenty-eight executives from various parts of the airline industry are in town as part of the NextGen Advisory Committee meeting today at the more than 10,000-square-foot Florida NextGen Test Bed facility at Daytona Beach International Airport, one of three facilities in the nation that are part of transforming the nation's air traffic control system. (2/4)

Burt Rutan Returns for Another Shot at Space Travel (Source: AIN Online)
The science-fiction pundits were wrong. The future of space travel doesn’t look like a Buck Rogers-style rocket poised to roar straight up into the twinkling heavens from a tinkerer’s backyard. What space travel will look like, according to a company called Stratolaunch Systems−-which includes board member and backyard tinkerer Burt Rutan−-is kind of unsurprising, more airplane-like, although no less fantastical. Click here. (2/4)

Space Voyages Shouldn't Become Politically Incorrect (Source: MSNBC)
It's the kind of question a presidential candidate might ask: "Why should we spend money on space programs and going to Mars, when we need dollars so desperately here on Earth?" “For thousands of highly-skilled jobs, and the knowledge to survive,” says Princeton physicist Gene McCall, former chief scientist of the Air Force Space Command and a fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“If we spread the costs among an international consortium with many member nations," McCall told me, “we can afford a better, healthier life, protect our planet from incoming asteroids and space debris, and outsmart our destiny to become extinct.”

The late, great TV news anchor Walter Cronkite used to say, “There’s not a single McDonald's on the moon or on Mars. Every space dollar stays in the pockets of those needing to eat on Earth." We see the benefits of the space program all around us in lives saved, in early detection of cancers, in NASA's discovery of the dangers of cholesterol coupled with stress, in early detection of most diseases, in improved surgery techniques needed for repairing failing hearts, in making a child’s small body whole, and in filling our stomachs with safe foods. Click here. (2/4)

Trial Lawyers Object to New Mexico Spaceport Liability Limits (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
Supporters of expanding liability protection for Spaceport America activities got a taste of the legislation’s opposition from testimony given by trial lawyers during a Senate committee hearing Monday, Jan. 30. With detailed legalities being debated, the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee eventually passed the legislation sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, so it could be debated by lawyers in the bill’s next stop before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last year, the Legislature passed a similar bill to provideprotection to launch-flight operators such as Virgin Galactic to limit lawsuits from passengers going to space. Barring gross negligence, passengers acknowledge in writing they are taking a risky ride into space. The law doesn’t extend that protection to companies providing supplies or services to the operators. Texas, Virginia and Florida have since passed liability protections to suppliers and Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson said support companies won’t relocate to New Mexico without that protection. (2/4)

A Machine For Printing Houses On The Moon (Source: Co.Design)
There is very little that’s easy about moon colonization. One of the bigger problems is setting up our hypothetical future colonists with living quarters. The issue is that it is very expensive to lift things off the ground and throw them into space. The more material you need to send up there, the more prohibitively expensive your problem is. As we’ve noted before this is why robots are surpassing humans in space exploration. But say you absolutely must build a moon colony (maybe you are President-Elect Gingrich). How do you do it?

First, you solve the material transport problem by making the moon base out of the moon itself. Second, you mitigate the "humans are expensive" problem by keeping them on the ground until the last minute--you use robots to build the base. Recently, USC Professors Behrokh Khoshnevis (Engineering), Anders Carlson (Architecture), Neil Leach (Architecture), and Madhu Thangavelu (Astronautics) completed their first research visualization for a system to do exactly that. Click here. (2/4)

Iran Launches Small Imaging Satellite (Source: SpaceToday.net)
Iranian officials announced Friday that they launched a small imaging satellite, the third satellite launched by the nation. A Safir-1 rocket lifted off from an Iranian base near Semnan, Iran, at shortly after 7 pm EST Thursday and placed the Navid-e Elm-o Sanat satellite into low Earth orbit. The satellite, weighing 50 kilograms, is primarily designed to take images of the Earth, but officials did not disclose the resolution or other attributes of the imagery it will take. The satellite is the third launched by Iran into orbit, after launches of smaller satellites in 2009 and 2011. (2/4)

Next-Gen Spacesuit: Slimmer with New Accessories (Source: Txchnologist)
Outer space is a hostile environment for humans, characterized by an airless vacuum, thermal extremes, ionizing radiation and speeding micrometeoroids. Less well-known are the dangers posed by long-term exposure to microgravity or zero-g conditions, which over time severely saps the strength of astronauts’ muscles and bones. Despite daily, rigorous exercise and resistance-training routines, astronauts find it exceedingly difficult to maintain their muscle and bone strength in space. In fact, the risk of skeletal fracture is considered by many experts to be the single most important limiting aspect of long-duration spaceflight.

Researchers are working to develop new spacesuit designs that could help counteract these threats as well as avoid some of the familiar drawbacks of current spacesuit models such as bulk, weight and rigidity. When future astronauts prepare for extravehicular activities (EVAs), for example, they may don spacesuits that are much lighter, less cumbersome and more flexible. Their protective outer wear, even their interior garb, may compensate for the negative effects of microgravity conditions, or even low or no atmospheric pressure, with body-compressing skin suits, or small, limb-mounted gyros that resist motion in certain directions. Click here. (2/4)

What Ails ISRO? An Insider's Report (Source: Rediff News)
The murky controversy raging over damning debar on former Indian Space Research Organization Chief and secretary of Department of Space G Madhavan Nair and three other scientists is blamed on its current chief Dr K Radhakrishnan for misleading the government in the Antrix-Devas deal probe for a sadistic revenge.

Many scientists have come out in protest at damning of the finest space scientists in this manner, while Dr R G Nadadur, a 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Karnataka cadre who got a voluntary retirement early last month, has brought out how Nair became a victim of the "massive witch-hunt" mounted by his successor Radhakrishnan who took over from him in 2009. Click here. (2/4)

Russians to Take a Giant Leap for the Space Program (Source: Russia Times)
Russia is planning to put a man on the Moon, and anyone can apply to join the crew. The Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, may have suffered some humiliating setbacks in recent months, but it’s hitting back by aiming even higher. “Man should return to the Moon. And not just like in 1969, to leave a mark. We can do important work there – such as building astrology labs and observing the Sun,” said Vladimir Popovkin, head of Roscosmos.

Popovkin’s plans are nothing if not ambitious with the first landing scheduled for 2020. regular flights planned within five years of that, culminating in a fully-functioning scientific base complete with giant telescopes by 2030. Roscosmos has called for volunteers, hoping that an X-factor style search will rekindle the public’s interest in space exploration. Among the requirements: a scientific or medical degree, knowledge of English and shoes no bigger than a UK size 11. (2/4)

Four Telescope Link-Up Creates World's Largest Mirror (Source: BBC)
Astronomers have created the world's largest virtual optical telescope linking four telescopes in Chile, so that they operate as a single device. The telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal observatory form a virtual mirror of 130 meters in diameter. A previous attempt to link the telescopes last March failed.

Thursday's link-up was the system's scientific verification - the final step before scientific work starts. Linking all four units of the VLT will give scientists a much more detailed look at the universe than previous experiments using just two or three telescopes to create a virtual mirror. The process that links separate telescopes together is known as interferometry. Click here. (2/4)

Small Moves in Commercial Space (Source: MSNBC)
Commercial spaceship companies are due to get some additional breathing space, thanks to legislation that would extend the current regulatory environment for reusable space vehicles for an additional three years, to October 2015. If the provision hadn't been worked out, things could have become much more difficult for space tourism companies. Right now, the companies that are building passenger spaceships are required to demonstrate to the FAA that they're taking sufficient measures to protect the uninvolved public from harm.

They're also required to disclose the risks of space trips to would-be passengers, and get their informed consent for flight. But beyond that, the FAA is restricted in its power to regulate crew or passenger safety. The reason for that goes back to 2004, when Congress passed a law setting up an eight-year moratorium for passenger spaceflight regulation. The idea was that those eight years would give the space tourism industry a chance to get off the ground, and give FAA a chance think through their regulatory approach. Should commercial spaceflight be regulated like air travel, for example, or more like deep-sea adventure diving?

The only problem is that no paying passengers have yet flown on commercial spacecraft, so it's not possible to do any sort of regulatory reality check. The three-year extension provides more time for companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace to get their rocket planes ready and build a track record. The current expectation is that passengers will start going into space on suborbital vehicles in the 2013-2014 time frame. Click here. (2/4)

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