February 9, 2012

Japan to Build on Past Success for Future Exploration Goals (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As NASA continues to struggle with gaining a clear direction for the future of human space exploration, the U.S. space agency’s international counterparts are wasting no time setting exploration goals for themselves. Specifically, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is aiming to capitalize off past success to enable further human and robotic exploration of the solar system in the coming decades. Click here. (2/9)

Uneven Funding Partially Responsible for Phobos-Grunt Failure (Source: Interfax-AVN)
Insufficient funding of the Phobos-Grunt project at the initial stage might have had an effect on its plight, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute Academician Lev Zelyony said. "If we draw a chart of the project funding by years, we shall see that there was absolutely no money in 2007-2008. Allocations were made approximately a year before the scheduled launch date. As a result, the plans to launch Phobos-Grunt in 2009 were thwarted," he said. "It is impossible to make new instruments within five months even if the funding is unlimited," Zelyony said. (2/9)

Return to Moon Base Gingrich (Source: The Economist)
Despite receiving a round kicking, Newt Gingrich is not giving up on his moon base. To support his cause, Mr Gingrich has invoked the two animating forces of a previous space age: John F. Kennedy's vision of sending a man to the moon and the threat of some other nation getting there first. This is standard fare in any argument in favor of human space exploration. It's also based on a flawed reading of history.

Kennedy's great moon venture was a politically motivated ploy that may have turned out differently had he lived. For a while, the strategy seemed crucial in proving the inferiority of communism. But behind the scenes the president admitted to being "not that interested in space", and by 1963 he had begun a major rethink of the program because of its "fantastic expenditures".

At the United Nations that year he asked whether America and the Soviet Union ought to be involved in such "duplications of research and construction", and proposed a joint lunar program. After a cool reaction from the Soviets, Kennedy was assassinated a few months later and the moon race became his legacy. But it was not a lone dash that Kennedy had envisioned as much as a joint venture. Click here. (2/9)

Next NASA Future Forum with John Glenn at Ohio State Feb. 20-21 (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Sen. John Glenn will discuss NASA's past, present and future during a NASA Future Forum at Ohio State University in Columbus on Feb. 20-21. The forum coincides with the 50th anniversary of Glenn's historic Friendship 7 space flight. (2/9)

Ed Weiler Says He Quit NASA Over Cuts to Mars Program (Source: Science)
Next week, President Barack Obama will propose a $300 million cut in NASA's planetary science programs as part of his 2013 request for the agency, ScienceInsider has learned. If adopted by Congress, the 20% cut in planetary science would in all likelihood shelve NASA's ability to participate in two Mars missions to be carried out in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). And the former head of NASA's science mission says that the targeting of the ExoMars program by White House budget officials was the final straw leading to his resignation last fall. (2/9)

Birthday Cake for X-37B (Source: Space Daily)
It's almost time to light a candle for one of the world's most intriguing spacecraft. No, I don't mean ignite the rocket for launch. The second mission of the X-37B robot spaceplane is approaching the one-year mark on its mission. On March 5, it will celebrate this milestone, assuming that the spacecraft is still in orbit. (2/9)

Nike Looks to Space for NBA Star Sneakers at Orlando Game (Source: CollectSpace)
Three icons of professional basketball will don special space-themed sneakers when they take the court for the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando later this month. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant will wear special edition Nike shoes styled after NASA spacesuits and inspired by astronauts. (2/9)

U.S. Squeezes French-led Satellite Maker Over China (Source: Reuters)
The United States has threatened action that could disrupt a French-led satellite maker's supply chain, spurred by suspicion that it illegally used U.S. know-how or parts in spacecraft launched by Chinese rockets. The State Department last month quietly warned the company, Thales Alenia Space, that export licenses needed by its U.S. suppliers might be denied, absent greater cooperation in an investigation of the matter.

License refusals could crimp the 2 billion euros ($2.65 billion) in worldwide civil and military sales that the company, known as TAS, posted in 2010. They also could force a costly product-line revamp and strain U.S. ties with France. The threat escalates the United States' multi-year push for details on the design and components of a watershed telecommunications satellite that TAS has labeled as free of U.S. parts and therefore exempt from U.S. export controls. (2/9)

AIA: Aerospace Industry Sales Will Drop in 2012 (Source: AIA)
Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, says 2011 proved to be a good year for the aerospace industry. However, 2012 will not provide as rosy an outlook due to defense budget cuts. "Unfortunately, we're predicting that 2012 will be a much different year," Blakey said. "We expect aerospace sales to decrease by about half a billion dollars." (2/9)

Mica, Adams Could Compete in Primary for New District (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
After weeks of silence, U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park said Wednesday that he plans to run for re-election in a redrawn congressional district centered on Seminole County — setting up a potentially bruising primary with fellow Republican Sandy Adams of Orlando. Mica's decision comes as the state Legislature nears the end of the once-a-decade process of redrawing congressional lines, a process that inevitably leads to jockeying among incumbents seeking the best districts to defend. Editor's Note: The new district does not include KSC, as Adams' current district does, but it would be home to many space industry workers. (2/9)

France, Germany Working Group To Resolve Ariane 5 Differences (Source: Space News)
France and Germany have agreed to establish two working groups to resolve their differences over the future of the Ariane 5 rocket and Europe’s role in the international space station. Both groups are scheduled to reach their conclusions by June 30, in time to inform French and German positions before a November conference of ministers from the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA). The conference, held every three or four years, sets Europe’s medium-term space budget and policy direction. (2/9)

JAXA: Mitsubishi Scandal Could Affect Launch to ISS (Source: Daily Mainichi)
A scandal involving Mitsubishi Electric Corp. concerning inflated defense contracts could affect the scheduled launch this summer of a logistics vehicle to transport food and other supplies to the International Space Station, the Japanese space agency said Thursday. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency suspended Mitsubishi Electric from submitting competitive bids related to satellite development following the revelation late last month that the company had padded bills in connection with contracts for the Defense Ministry and the space agency, known as JAXA.

The launch schedule could be changed as JAXA may have to sign an additional contract with the company on the development of the Konotori3 vehicle before its launch from Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, according to JAXA President Keiji Tachikawa. The agency, which is now looking into the scandal, plans to decide how long the company should remain suspended once the probe is concluded. (2/9)

Russia’s Rockot To Launch Two ESA Sentinel Craft (Source: Space News)
The German-Russian Eurockot Launch Services joint venture on Feb. 9 announced it will launch two European environment-monitoring satellites aboard Russian Rockot vehicles under contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA). The launches, from northern Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, will carry the Sentinel 2A and Sentinel 3A satellites into polar low Earth orbit, with the first of the two launches to occur no earlier than late 2013. (2/9)

Europe Defers Start on New Polar-orbit Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
Europe’s meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat, has again been unable to secure its member governments’ full support to start work on a next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite system and will try anew in July, Eumetsat officials said. The 27-nation Eumetsat said it has nonetheless increased the guaranteed contributions to the program, to 83 percent of the total compared to 55 percent previously. (2/9)

Obama’s Budget Would Cut Mars Program, Solar System Exploration (Source: Washington Post)
The budget coming Monday from the Obama administration will send the NASA division that launches rovers to Mars and probes to Jupiter crashing back to Earth. Scientists briefed on the proposed budget said that the president’s plan drops funding for planetary science at NASA from $1.5 billion this year to $1.2 billion next year, with further cuts continuing through 2017.

It would eat at NASA’s Mars exploration program, which, after two high-profile failures in 1999, has successfully sent three probes into Martian orbit and landed three more on the planet’s surface. A congressional champion of space exploration said that the budget slashing “absolutely will not fly” with the House committee that oversees NASA. “You don’t cut spending for critical scientific research endeavors that have immeasurable benefit to the nation and inspire the human spirit of exploration we all have,” Rep. John Abney Culberson (R-TX) said. (2/9)

Amazing Views of Earth from the Space Station (Source: Mirror)
The view’s awesome but the atmosphere’s not much to write home about. These latest picture postcards were taken from the International Space Station as it soared overhead. Skywatchers regularly see the space station streaking across the night sky as it whizzes round the planet But as we watch from the ground the astronauts on board are looking down on us and taking their own detailed pictures. Some are just fascinating landscapes, others detailed photographs to gain scientific insight into the earth and how it works. Click here. (2/9)

Tidal Forces Could Squeeze Out Planetary Water (Source: Astrobiology)
Alien planets might experience tidal forces powerful enough to remove all their water, leaving behind hot, dry worlds like Venus, researchers said. These findings might significantly affect searches for habitable exoplanets, scientists explained. Although some planets might dwell in regions around their star friendly enough for life as we know it, they could actually be lifelessly dry worlds.

The tides that we experience on Earth are caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun. Our tides are nothing compared to what we see elsewhere in the solar system — the gravitational pull Europa experiences from Jupiter leads to tidal forces roughly 1,000 times stronger than what Earth feels from our moon, flexing and heating Europa. (2/9)

What Was Up at SpaceUp San Diego (Source: San Diego City Beat)
The future of mankind in space is dark. I don’t mean dark as in the absence of light, though that’s obviously true. Nor do I mean dark in the sense that space exploration won’t move forward—it will. Slowly but surely, the human race will extend into space. The darkness is in the socio-political implications of a space race that could mirror the colonization of the Americas, with all the death and exploitation that came with it. Indentured servitude. Corporate rulers. Space cults.

At least, that’s the impression I took away after attending the “Future of Astronauts (Colonization)” panel at SpaceUp San Diego, an “unconference” on space exploration held at the Ansir Innovation Center in Kearny Mesa over the weekend. Rather than a formal agenda, the unconference format is designed to inspire innovation and improvisation through an open-ended schedule. (2/9)

NASA PIT Crews Assist Commercial Spacecraft Developers (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Just as every race car driver has a pit crew to keep them on track on the way to a victory quickly and safely, the seven aerospace companies that have teamed up with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program have their own PIT Crews, called Partner Integration Teams, to help guide them in their race to space.

They’re not packing an arsenal of air compressors, fuel, or even spare tires, though. Instead, NASA PIT Crews are equipped with the intimate knowledge of what is takes to design, develop, manufacture, process and launch space transportation systems. Lately, those teams have been making significant progress under Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2). Click here. (2/9)

Spaceport Visitors Center to Offer Behind-the-Scenes Tours (Las Cruces Sun-News)
The on-site visitors center at Spaceport America will offer specially developed behind-the-scenes tours, according to plans as well as the chance to visit the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors reviewed plans Tuesday to design, build and program the Spaceport America Visitor Experience.

The plan includes two off-site welcome centers located in Hatch and in Truth or Consequences, as well as the on-site visitors center. Officials expect more than 200,000 people will visit annually. Officials say the goal is to immerse visitors in the excitement of the world's first commercial spaceport built specifically for launching people and payloads into space. The initial visitor experience program is expected to begin operating in 2013, about the time Virgin Galactic plans to begin commercial operations at Spaceport America. (2/9)

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