February 6, 2012

China Publishes High-Resolution Full Moon Map (Source: Xinhua)
China on Monday published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by the country's second moon orbiter, the Chang'e-2. The map and images, released by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), are the highest-resolution photos of the entirety of the moon's surface to be published thus far, said Liu Dongkui. The images were photographed by a charge-coupled device (CCD) stereo camera on the Chang'e-2 from heights of 100 km and 15 km over the lunar surface between October 2010 and May 2011, according to a statement from SASTIND. (2/6)

Military Angles Assessed After New Iranian Booster/Satellite Mission (Source: America Space)
Before dawn on Feb. 3 Iran launched its new “Navid” imaging spacecraft into orbit using a Safir booster that can easily be converted into a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM). Israeli intelligence, the U.S. Strategic Command and CIA analysts are performing assessments of the rocket and satellite. The Navid liftoff came in darkness at 5:34 a.m. GMT as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and launch controllers chanted Islamic prayers during the last minutes of the countdown.

According to one Iranian source, the 110 lb. spacecraft has 400 meter imaging resolution. Two other Iranian sources, however, say it carries “high resolution” imaging capability. The launch comes at a time of high tension over Iranian nuclear capabilities. The U. S. and Israeli intelligence assessments of the satellite will determine its threat, if any, to revealing Israeli preparations for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear weapon’s capabilities. (2/6)

Ship That Hit Kentucky Bridge Has Precious Space Cargo (Source: UT San Diego)
The hulking cargo ship that tore through a western Kentucky bridge last month is carrying millions of dollars of Atlas-5 rocket components that will be used to launch a secure military satellite communications system, called the AEHF-2 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The Coast Guard on Monday allowed the Delta Mariner to move away from the damaged bridge so that debris, including twisted steel and asphalt, could be cleared from the boat's bow. The rocket parts had been sitting stranded on the ship for about 10 days until the Delta Mariner was moved on Monday. The Coast Guard says an investigation into the cause of the boat crash is ongoing. (2/6)

NASA and Industry Join Forces for Virginia Aerospace Day (Source: NASA)
Aerospace is a high-tech engine propelling Virginia's economy and creating high-paying jobs. NASA leaders from Langley Research Center in Hampton and Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore will join aerospace industry representatives statewide to bring this message to Virginia General Assembly members on AeroSpace Days 2012, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 8-9, in Richmond.

Over 300 aerospace firms in the Commonwealth contribute $7.6 billion to the Virginia economy and create more than 28,000 jobs with an average annual salary of nearly $100,000. NASA's two Virginia facilities bring in $1.2 billion and support nearly 11,000 jobs. Virginia's newest aerospace asset, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), is one of only four commercial spaceports licensed by the FAA to send rockets into orbit. (2/6)

GenCorp Reports 2011 Annual and Fourth Quarter Results (Source: GenCorp)
GenCorp Inc. reported results for the fiscal year and fourth quarter ended November 30, 2011. Net sales for 2011 totaled $918.1 million compared to $857.9 million for 2010. Net income for 2011 was $2.9 million, compared to net income of $6.8 million for 2010. Funded backlog as of November 30, 2011 was $902 million compared to $804 million as of November 30, 2010. (2/6)

Atlas 5 Rocket Topped with Navy's Newest Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Looking towards launch next week to begin dramatically improving the capacity for U.S. military mobile communications, a new breed of satellite was hauled to the towering Atlas 5 rocket assembly building today for mounting atop the powerful booster. The Navy's first Mobile User Objective System satellite, dubbed MUOS 1, is scheduled for blastoff next Thursday, Feb. 16, at sunset from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (2/6)

Astronaut Legends Glenn, Carpenter to Visit Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Legendary astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter will be on the Space Coast this month to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the nation’s first two orbital human spaceflights. The two Project Mercury astronauts will appear at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Feb. 18 along with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, KSC Director Robert Cabana and NASA astronaut Stephen Robinson. Robinson flew with Glenn on the STS-95 shuttle mission in 1998.

Glenn and Carpenter, the last two surviving members of the nation’s first seven Project Mercury astronauts, will appear at a 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 event dubbed “On The Shoulders of Giants.” Regular admission and entry into the event is $43 plus tax for adults and $33 plus tax for children aged 3-11. (2/6)

NASA's Push Toward Carbon-Neutral Airliners (Source: Aviation Week)
To achieve sustainable growth in air travel, future airliner designers face challenges never seen by their predecessors. New concepts will not only have to meet unprecedented performance goals, but they must do so while striving for carbon neutrality. NASA’s goal to solve this conundrum takes on new significance in coming weeks as researchers across the U.S. begin a series of landmark tests under the next stage of the agency’s subsonic fixed-wing program. Wide-ranging work will include refining a glider-like truss-braced wing and integrating it with a hybrid-electric propulsion system, wind tunnel tests of a multirole wing leading edge and evaluation of a protective outer skin that could enable lighter structures. (2/6)

The Complex, Challenging Problem of Orbital Debris (Source: Space Review)
Several recent satellite reentries have put a spotlight on the issue of orbital debris. Jeff Foust reports on a recent panel session that discussed how complex the problem is and how difficult it will be, technically and otherwise, to solve it. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2020/1 to view the article. (2/6)

Sharp as a Tack (Source: Space Review)
Last month a little-known pioneer of satellite reconnaissance passed away. Dwayne Day describes the unique insights Frank Buzard offered on the early history of American spy satellite efforts. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2019/1 to view the article. (2/6)

Congressional Opposition to a Code of Conduct for Space (Source: Space Review)
Although the Obama Administration has now proposed the development of an international "Code of Conduct" for outer space activities versus adopting a European version, some in Congress remain concerned. Michael Listner discusses their potential opposition to an international code and what they could do to block it. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2018/1 to view the article. (2/6)

Russian Scientists Reach 'Alien' Antarctic Lake (Source: Global Post)
Russian scientists have successfully drilled to Lake Vostok, buried over two miles — or 13,000 feet — beneath the great Antarctic ice sheet. It is one of the world's largest lakes. However, it hasn't been exposed in more than 20 million years. The team from Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) drilled for weeks to reach the isolated, subglacial water, part of a network of more than 200 subglacial lakes in Antarctica.

Vostok is thought to harbor conditions similar to those of Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus, and the discovery of life in the lake's inky depths would significantly strengthen the prospect of discovering life on either of these icy bodies. the scientists were "enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there." Their main concern was contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, "and the potentially explosive 'de-gassing' of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen."

They are using a special technique to minimise the risk of contaminating Vostok's previously untouched waters, PhysOrg.com explained: "When the drill reaches the lake, the water pressure will 'push the working body and drilling fluid upwards in the borehole,' where it will freeze. The researchers will then return during the next Antarctic summer to remove the frozen water for analysis." (2/6)

Augmented Reality Promises Astronauts Instant Medical Knowhow (Source: ESA)
A new augmented reality unit developed by ESA can provide just-in-time medical expertise to astronauts. All they need to do is put on a head-mounted display for 3D guidance in diagnosing problems or even performing surgery. The Computer Assisted Medical Diagnosis and Surgery System, CAMDASS, is a wearable augmented reality prototype. Augmented reality merges actual and virtual reality by precisely combining computer-generated graphics with the wearer’s view. Click here. (2/6)

McCain Cites Conflict in EELV Block Buy Plan (Source: Space News)
A senior U.S. lawmaker and leading critic of the U.S. Air Force’s primary satellite launching program questioned the service’s plan to rely on the prime contractor’s cost estimates to determine how many rockets to buy over what time period, saying the data are unreliable and represent a conflict of interest for the company.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Air Force Secretary Michael Donley Jan. 27 to reiterate his concerns with the service’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) block buy strategy. In response to a Government Accountability Office report last year criticizing its plans to buy eight booster cores per year over five years, the Air Force said it would choose from a matrix of priced options ranging from six to 10 booster cores annually over a period of three to five years.

Because EELV prime contractor United Launch Alliance (ULA) stands to benefit from large orders, relying on the company for data that could affect the size and timeframe of the block buy “gives rise to a conflict of interest,” McCain said in his letter. “In my view, the government should develop price estimates based on certified data provided by ULA and its subcontractors and conduct its own analysis to find the ‘sweet spot’ that most furthers the taxpayers’ interests.” Click here. (2/6)

Gingrich Holds Ground on Space Policy (Source: Space Politics)
While Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has been the subject of criticism and even satire for his comments about establishing a permanent lunar base, he doesn’t appear to be backing down from those statements. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Gingrich was asked if those topics “ultimately hurt your seriousness” in the campaign. Gingrich disagreed. “Every serious analyst understands that the Chinese are going all out to dominate space, the Russians today have the only man-rated vehicle available to the United States in space,” he said.

“I didn’t propose any additional federal spending, I proposed a fundamental reform of NASA to engage the private sector in very bold and very dramatic ventures... I think every American should wonder why we’ve spent billions ... on NASA and currently have no vehicle to put human beings into space,” he said. “I believe it’s possible to unleash the American people, to inspire the private sector, to encourage entrepreneurs and to have a dramatically better space program than we have today.” He specifically said he doesn’t desire a massive new government program: “I’m not for a gigantic federal tax-paid program, I’m for a dramatic reform of the current program.” (2/6)

Santorum Hits Again at Gingrich Space Policy (Source: Space Politics)
In an op-ed released by his campaign Sunday, Rick Santorum argued that an expensive big-government space program is exactly what Gingrich was proposing. “Building a federally-funded moon colony would inevitably cost—at the very least—billions of dollars,” Santorum writes. “In addition to our current overspending, this would ultimately saddle our children with the price tag for another one of Speaker Gingrich’s grandiose ideas.”

Santorum’s op-ed accuses Gingrich of “pandering” to voters on Florida’s Space Coast (which, if it was, didn’t turn out to be very successful) and proposing something unrealistic and wasteful. “[I]t takes away from the more immediate, important, and realistic goals of the space program; encouraging partnerships between the space program and private businesses to grow the technology, engineering, and manufacturing sectors of our economy,” he writes. He doesn’t offer more details about how he envisions the public-private cooperation beyond that it “puts the focus on where we need it now, stimulating our economy and putting people back to work.” (2/6)

Mars Surface an Unlikely Place for Life After 600-Million-Year Drought (Source: Science Daily)
Mars may have been arid for more than 600 million years, making it too hostile for any life to survive on the planet's surface, according to researchers who have been carrying out the painstaking task of analysing individual particles of Martian soil. Researchers have spent three years analysing data on Martian soil that was collected during the 2008 NASA Phoenix mission to Mars. Phoenix touched down in the northern arctic region of the planet to search for signs that it was habitable and to analyse ice and soil on the surface.

The results of the soil analysis at the Phoenix site suggest the surface of Mars has been arid for hundreds of millions of years, despite the presence of ice and the fact that previous research has shown that Mars may have had a warmer and wetter period in its earlier history more than three billion years ago. The team also estimated that the soil on Mars had been exposed to liquid water for at most 5,000 years since its formation billions of years ago. They also found that Martian and Moon soil is being formed under the same extremely dry conditions. (2/3)

ExoMars Cooperation Between NASA and ESA Near Collapse (Source: BBC)
NASA looks set to pull the plug on its joint missions to Mars with the European Space Agency. NASA has told ESA it is now highly unlikely it will be able to contribute to the endeavours, which envision an orbiting satellite and a big roving robot being sent to the Red Planet. The US has yet to make a formal statement on the matter but budget woes are thought to lie behind its decision. Europe is now banking on a Russian partnership to keep the missions alive. (2/6)

High Planetary Tilt Lowers Odds for Life? (Source: Astrobiology)
If you think summer is too hot or winter unbearably cold, take solace that in the distant past seasons on our planet might have been much harsher. However, the advent of milder seasons did more than offer comfort, some scientists suggest. Subdued seasonality might be linked to the emergence of complex life on Earth around 600 million years ago. On alien worlds, extreme seasonal spikes and plunges in temperature could likewise determine whether life teems, scrapes by, or dies.

Seasons arise when the axis of a planet's spin is tilted relative to the plane of the planet's orbit. Recent research has suggested that a loss of axial tilt and its attendant seasonality, which helps moderate global temperatures, could doom extraterrestrial creatures. Scientists are also considering the opposite case: worlds where blazing summers and devastatingly frigid winters make the development of life with any complexity a long shot. (2/6)

How Can You Prepare to See Earth From Space? (Source: Txchnologist)
Within the next few years, the next generation of “space tourists” will begin up-down sorties into space from an American spaceport. Among the unearthly delights will be minutes of weightlessness and a window view that’s literally “out of this world.” But the vista spread out below them may be perceived as little more than a tumult of brilliant colors and half a sky of pitch black, barely recognizable as their home planet. \\

Just as Alan Shepard could only stutter, “Oh, what a beautiful view,” when he first saw the Earth from space half a century ago, these new space visitors will recall being overwhelmed by the sight and scattered details – but perhaps, very little else. Virtually every space traveler to date has reported been overloaded by new sensations: they all lacked what might be termed “space sight.” Future astronauts and tourists can prepare themselves, with a lot of preflight practice. The need for it – and the value of doing it right – are as yet poorly recognized in the spaceflight training programs currently available. Click here. (2/6)

Earth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World (Source: The Atlantic)
The Jamesburg Earth Station is a massive satellite receiver in a remote valley in California. It played a central role in satellite communications for three decades, but had been forgotten until the current owner put it up for sale, promoting it as a great place to spend the apocalypse. It stands feet from a trailer park and down the road from a Buddhist retreat. This is the story of one of the old, weird ties between Earth and space. Click here. (2/6)

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