March 19, 2012

NASA Joins Campaign to Encourage Next Generation of Engineers and Innovators (Source: White House)
Last week I (Charles Bolden) was in Atlanta, on the campus of Georgia Tech for a “Day of Engineering” Facebook pep rally to kick off the President’s new Stay With It campaign devoted to recruiting, retaining and graduating 10,000 engineers each year to maintain America’s competitive edge. Corporate leaders, educators and students have gathered for dialog and panel discussions on the dire need to increase the number of American engineers.

Fourteen universities from across the nation are participating via Facebook viewing parties. Spearheaded by Intel President & CEO, Paul Otellini, who is also a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the Stay With It campaign will provide mentors and other supports to increase the number of American engineering graduates which has fallen woefully behind other surging economies and has led to a shortage of skilled workers for American jobs. Click here. (3/19)

Suborbital Gets Serious (Source: Space Review)
For some time, commercial suborbital spaceflight has been associated most closely with space tourism. Now, Jeff Foust finds, as interest grows in using these vehicles for research, scientists and vehicle developers alike are trying to emphasize those applications over tourism. Visit to view the article. (3/19)

The Moon Treaty: It Isn't Dead Yet (Source: Space Review)
Many consider the Moon Treaty to be dead since major spacefaring countries like the US have not acceded to it. Michael Listner points out several recent development that suggest the controversial treaty may still have some life to it. Visit to view the article. (3/19)

Towards a European Multitask Space Vehicle (Source: Space Review)
What is the next step in European space transportation vehicles beyond the ATV? Paul de Brem reports on a new concept under study by the French space agency that could do far more than ferry cargo to the ISS. Visit to view the article. (3/19)

Bringing Space Exhibits Down to Earth (Source: Space Review)
Space museums are typically thought of as large facilities associated with the Smithsonian or NASA centers. Jeff Foust examines how smaller facilities, including one located in a suburban storefront, can help make space more accessible to the general public. Visit to view the article. (3/19)

Challenger Learning Centers: Opening Young Minds to Space (Source: America Space)
“Inspiring Kids. Inspire people to dream and achieve. Explore beyond the known and familiar. Learn as we go and help others to learn with us.” Such is the mission of forty eight Challenger Centers for Space Science Education who are touching the lives of 400,000 children a year at over 40 centers in the USA, Canada, South Korea, and England. Born out of the despair of the tragic flight of Challenger, the dreams and aspirations of those seven astronauts has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.

Just 150 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center is a typical such Challenger Center located at Kirby Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. Led by Shereé Kearns, Senior Flight Director together with Mission Specialist Julie Aderhold Roach, and a team of 8th grade interns, the center has conducted 2,000 missions since the school was founded in 1997. Approximately 140,000 students have gone through this out of world experience. Recently a TV station, FOX 30, named the CLC as a “cool school.” Click here. (3/19)

Space-Flown Buzz Lightyear Toy is Smithsonian-Bound (Source: Collect Space)
The final chapter in a Buzz Lightyear toy's story will play out later this month at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. On March 29, a 12-inch (30.5-centimeter) action figure of the space ranger made famous in the Disney-Pixar "Toy Story" franchise will be donated to the national aerospace archive. The "not a flying toy" figure was earlier flown to the real International Space Station (ISS), where it stayed for 467 days orbiting the Earth. (3/19)

Mars on a Shoestring (Source: Space Daily)
It's no secret that Mars exploration is in trouble at NASA. Budgetary axes have swung, creating a potentially bleak future for missions and results. After the Curiosity rover mission (currently in flight) and the MAVEN atmospheric orbiter, set to be launched next year, NASA has no missions confirmed for flight. Plans for joint missions with the European Space Agency seem to be in serious trouble, and face cancellation. This has scuttled plans for advanced rovers and other missions that would eventually lead to a sample-return mission. (3/19)

Cosmic Rays Alter Chemistry Of Lunar Ice (Source: UNH)
Space scientists from the University of New Hampshire and multi-institutional colleagues report they have quantified levels of radiation on the moon’s surface from galactic cosmic ray (GCR) bombardment that over time causes chemical changes in water ice and can create complex carbon chains similar to those that help form the foundations of biological structures. In addition, the radiation process causes the lunar soil, or regolith, to darken over time, which is important in understanding the geologic history of the moon. (3/19)

India's Budget Plan Disappoints Scientists, Despite New Mission to Mars (Source: Science)
The announcement of India's maiden mission to Mars is doing little to cheer Indian scientists disappointed with proposed spending increases for research in a new government budget plan. The annual budget proposal presented to India's parliament on 16 March by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee calls for the operating budgets for science to rise, on average, by about 5% in 2012-2013—-less than what many scientists had expected. (3/19)

Scientist Nozette Called Brilliant, Greedy Traitor (Source: Secrecy News)
Scientist Stewart Nozette, who pleaded guilty to attempted espionage after offering to sell classified information to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Israeli intelligence officer, will be sentenced this month to a likely term of 156 months incarceration. In a dismal sentencing memorandum this week, the government portrayed Nozette as both gifted and twisted.

“Defendant’s experience in the space arena was diverse and impressive. His related accomplishments in the field were matched by few, if anyone else, on the planet.” But “despite his exceedingly comfortable lifestyle in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he had expensive tastes which stretched him financially. He thus chose to supplement his income unlawfully... Defendant all too eagerly agreed to be a traitor to the United States and did so with obvious glee and with no apparent remorse or hesitation,” the memo said.

As a condition of his plea agreement, which lowered his sentence recommendation from 262 months to 156 months, Nozette was debriefed by law enforcement and intelligence officials. But “the value of these debriefings was limited. Defendant provided no actionable information. Nozette’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 21 in DC District Court. (3/19)

Why Giant Alien Planets Like Some Orbits More than Others (Source:
Some zones encircling baby stars are far more popular than others, drawing crowds of giant planets while the other potential paths for orbits remain empty.Now computer simulations may reveal why, scientists say. When astronomers began discovering giant alien planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn outside our solar system, they noticed that the orbits of these giants weren't spread out in regular intervals from baby stars. Instead, certain orbital distances seemed strangely attractive to these giants. Click here. (3/19)

Musk to Armstrong: Give Private Space Travel a Chance (Source:
Private space pioneer Elon Musk is laying the foundation for a spaceflight revolution, and he says he could use some support from his hero Neil Armstrong — the first man on the moon — to make it happen. In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes", Musk opened up about his personal goal of helping humanity become a multi-planet species. And he said public criticism of commercial spaceflight by Armstrong and fellow former NASA astronaut Gene Cernan — the first and last people ever to walk on the moon, respectively — isn't advancing that cause. (3/19)

Aston Kutcher Set for Space Trip (Source: MSNBC)
Virgin Galactic says uber-celebrity Ashton Kutcher is the company's 500th customer to sign up for a suborbital trip into outer space. "I gave Ashton a quick call to congratulate and welcome him," Virgin Galactic's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, said today in a blog post announcing that Kutcher was coming on board. "He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space for himself." (3/19)

Russia's Express-AM4 Satellite to Fall in Northern Pacific Ocean (Source: Interfax)
Russia's Express-AM4 telecommunications satellite that hit a wrong orbit last August will fall into the northern Pacific Ocean on March 25-26. "To provide for Express-4AM's controlled de-orbiting, an area in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean will be closed to ships and aircraft for two hours from 5:00 p.m. till 7:00 p.m. Moscow time on March 25 and 26," a source in the Russian space rocket industry said. (3/19)

Certification Work Continues on New Missile Warning Satellite (Source:
The lead spacecraft in the U.S. military's new generation of missile early-warning satellites is delivering better-than-expected results as exhaustive testing continues 22,300 miles above the planet. The Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous-1 satellite, SBIRS GEO 1 for short, was launched into space atop a ULA Atlas 5 rocket on May 7, 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Within weeks, the craft maneuvered itself into the proper orbital position, deployed various appendages and commenced a rigorous checkout period that remains in work today to prove its capabilities before the satellite is entrusted for missile-launch detection. (3/19)

Electric Propulsion Could Launch New Commercial Trend (Source:
Boeing's announcement last week of a contract to build up to four communications spacecraft with all-electric propulsion for Asian and Mexican customers could shift the commercial satellite industry's trend for larger, heftier platforms requiring powerful rockets to launch them into orbit, officials said. Each of the Boeing-built satellites will weigh less than 4,000 pounds -- less than 2 metric tons -- and still offer the power and communications throughput of heavier spacecraft. (3/19)

Prosecutors: ‘Brilliant’ U.S. Space Scientist ‘Eagerly Agreed To Be a Traitor’ (Source: Space News)
Stewart Nozette was a “brilliant scientist” whose “accomplishments in the field were matched by few, if anyone else, on the planet” — making his attempt to sell classified information “especially troubling,” according to a sentencing memorandum from U.S. prosecutors reported on the Secrecy News blog.

Nozette, who had high-level security clearances during decades of government work on science and space projects at NASA, the Energy Department and the National Space Council, likely faces 13 years in prison after admitting he offered to sell secrets to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Israeli intelligence officer. His sentencing hearing is set for March 21 in U.S. District Court in Washington.

“His statement to the undercover FBI agent that anything ‘that the U.S. has done in space I’ve seen’ was not hyperbole,” the memo states. But Nozette “chose to supplement his income unlawfully. … Defendant all too eagerly agreed to be a traitor to the United States and did so with obvious glee and with no apparent remorse or hesitation.” (3/19)

Record Set in 2011 for Number of Aerospace, Defense Mergers (Source: AFP)
Last year's mergers and acquisitions activity in defense and aerospace totaled $43.7 billion, a record, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study shows. And the trend is likely to continue. "While we may not see the record for the largest deal in sector history broken for some time, the weight of evidence suggests that 2012 will be another robust year," PricewaterhouseCoopers says. (3/19)

Russia May Sink Satellite Salvage Plan For Antarctic Internet Connection (Source: Space Daily)
A modern, state of the art communications satellite stranded last August in a useless orbit will constitute a double failure if Russian officials de-orbit the spacecraft as planned, according to an expert from the team hoping to salvage the spacecraft. The Russian Express-AM4 satellite, built by Astrium, was designed for geosynchronous orbit, but stranded in a six hour elliptical orbit at an inclination of 51 deg by a Proton Briz-M upper stage failure last August. (3/19)

North Korea to Invite Observers to Satellite Launch (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea said Saturday it would invite foreign experts and journalists to observe a satellite launch which has sparked widespread condemnation and US threats that it could jeopardize food aid. The Korean Committee for Space Technology "will invite experienced foreign experts on space science and technology and journalists" to observe the blast-off next month, the official news agency said. (3/19)

N. Korean Rocket to Use 'Safe' Flight Path (Source: AFP)
A rocket that Pyongyang plans to launch next month will take a "safer" flight path compared to previous launches that strayed into Japanese airspace, a North Korean scientist said. Pyongyang announced Friday it would launch the rocket between April 12-16 to put a satellite into orbit, just 16 days after it agreed to suspend long-range missile tests in return for US food aid. The new flight orbit showcased the country's advancing "technological prowess" and "economic power", Professor Ko Yong-Hae from the Kim Il-Sung University wrote in the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

"This means that we've already resolved the thorniest scientific and technical problems that arise in putting satellites in orbit. No matter which directions we launch our rockets, we are able to put them precisely in orbit." In 2009, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket over Japan in what it claimed at the time was an attempt to get a satellite into orbit. Tokyo and its allies said it was a ballistic missile test. (3/19)

Zhukov: Innovation in the Final Frontier (Source: CNBC)
Space, the final frontier. Those famous words launched every episode of the American classic television series “Star Trek” in the 1960s, and while the TV series was celebrated for its forward-looking technology innovations (those flip communicators would eventually become the prototype to Motorola’s wildly popular StarTAC flip phones 30 years later!), the show should really be remembered for something else; something so futuristic that only now could it hold the solution to space exploration itself.

I’m talking about the notion of global collaboration. Think about it: Captain Kirk was joined on his bridge by Pavel Chekhov, Hikaru Sulu, Scotty, Uhura and “Bones” McCoy, and that eclectic, international collective were just the folks from Earth. Spock was from a completely different planet. And yet that was a model, albeit a fictional, hopeful one, of collaboration and cooperation.

Which brings us to today. Space exploration around the world is in dire straits thanks to the global economic meltdown. Budget money for space missions is drying up. Just a few weeks ago, President Obama proposed a 33% cut in funding for NASA’s Mars Exploration project. And while private initiatives from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Paul Allen, and others, enjoy momentum, and private sector pace, nothing can match the innovation capabilities of an integrated, public/private partnership that includes governments, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors from countries all over the world. (3/19)

Engineers Preparing Atlantis and Endeavour for End of T&R Ops (Source:
With Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery buttoned up in the Vehicle Assembly Building ahead of her flight to her retirement home, and with Enterprise ready to make way for Discovery and head to her new display site, the Shuttle team at KSC is focused on finishing Transition and Retirement (T&R) work for Atlantis and Endeavour. Atlantis and Endeavour are back in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) after a series of moves back and forth between the OPF and VAB since they returned from their final delivery missions to the International Space Station (ISS) last year. (3/19)

An Atmospheric Flip-Flop (Source: Science)
About 2.45 billion years ago, Earth might have been confused for Titan. Research published today in Nature Geoscience suggests that our planet had the same hazy, methane-rich atmosphere as Saturn's largest moon. Scientists analyzed 2.65-billion- to 2.5-billion-year-old sediments from South Africa in order to reconstruct past ocean and atmosphere chemistry. They were surprised to find that, rather than a single, consistent past atmospheric state, Earth flip-flopped between "organic haze," or hydrocarbon smog, and "haze-free" conditions.

Methane-producing microbes in the ocean, the researchers say, drove these cycles. Some oxygen was being produced by other seafaring microbes, but little of it reached the atmosphere. It was not until about 100 million years later that photosynthetic organisms known as cyanobacteria dominated the seas and injected massive amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere, creating conditions similar to those we enjoy today. (3/19)

Four Shuttles, Four Scenes: Each Site Will Tell Different Story (Source: Florida Today)
Some shuttle exhibits won’t be finished for years, but plans call for each orbiter to be displayed in a different way. Endeavour will look like it’s on a launch pad with a tank and boosters, Atlantis as if it’s flying in space and Discovery as though it just landed. Enterprise will appear to be approaching for a landing test, with a tail cone attached. “You get a flavor of one in one site, you’re going to want to go see the others,” said Stephanie Stilson, the NASA manager delivering the retired orbiters to museums. (3/19)

Astrium: New Private Communications Services for French Troops (Source: Astrium)
Astrium Services has been awarded a new private telecommunications contract by the “Economat des Armées” (the French Ministry of Defence’s Joint Logistics and Supply Agency). The contract will deliver new and more comprehensive telecommunications services to French troops on overseas operations. Astrium Services also provides equivalent services to British (WelComE), German (Connect-D) and Belgian (BMSP) troops. (3/19)

Astrium and Air Liquide Create EuroCryospace (Source: Astrium)
Astrium and Air Liquide have announced the creation of a European strategic partnership called EuroCryospace. It is an extension of Cryospace, which was set up 25 years ago to develop and manufacture Ariane cryogenic fuel tanks. EuroCryospace will be focused on the development and manufacture of cryogenic fuel tanks, in particular the cryogenic fuel tank for the upper stage of the Ariane 5 ME. (3/12)

Hopkins Launches New Space Science Minor for Undergraduates (Source: Baltimore Sun)
What lies at the center of that giant ball of gas we call Jupiter? When you cut through the incredibly dense atmosphere of Venus, what's happening on the planet surface? These are the questions that dance in the mind of Johns Hopkins University student Jessica Noviello. For her, they are not the idle musings of a child but a calling, pulling her life's path into space.

"To think of being part of a mission that might answer things people have been wondering about for decades, that's very alluring," says Noviello, a sophomore from Smithtown, N.Y. Hopkins professors say this curiosity makes Noviello the perfect trailblazer for the university's new minor in space science and engineering. The university carries a long tradition of space research, but the nascent minor, now up to five students, is Hopkins' first formal attempt to help undergraduates pursue careers in the space industry. (3/19)

NASA on the Block (Source: Toledo Blade)
Mars has given NASA a platform to demonstrate what it does right in the field of unmanned planetary exploration. Spurred by the success of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the space agency has entered a golden age of planetary robotics. But because of budgetary restrictions, NASA’s success may be short-lived. President Obama’s 2013 budget plan slashes robotic space exploration by 20 percent, leaving NASA with $1.2 billion to divide among fiercely competing missions.

Fortunately, the next Mars rover, Curiosity, won’t be affected. It’s already on its way to the Red Planet and should roll across its surface this summer. Maven, a suborbital probe that will study Mars’ upper atmosphere, is scheduled for launch next year. Assuming they operate as designed, Maven and Curiosity will provide many years of data on Earth’s neighbor. Click here. (3/19)

Globalstar Returns to Profitability (Source: Globalstar)
Globalstar has posted its financial results for the three-month and twelve-month periods ended December 31, 2011. For the first time in four years, the Company reported positive quarterly Adjusted EBITDA. Globalstar revenue increased 5 percent to $17.4 million in the fourth quarter 2011 compared to $16.5 million in the fourth quarter 2010. Revenue for 2011 increased 7 percent to $72.8 million compared to $67.9 million in 2010. During the fourth quarter of 2011, Adjusted EBITDA was $1.6 million compared with negative Adjusted EBITDA of $4.3 million during the same period in 2010. (3/19)

Belgian Company to Develop Satellite for Vietnam (Source: Spacebel)
It is on March 13th 2012, in the frame of a princely trade mission, that SPACEBEL will sign the contractual pre-agreements with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) for the supply of an Earth observation mini-satellite to be launched in 2017. After several years of negotiations, the SPACEBEL consortium was selected in July 2011 on the basis of their technical proposal and thanks to the continuous support of the Belgian Government, both at Federal and regional levels.

With this 100% Belgian satellite named VNREDSat-1b (Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment & Disaster Monitoring satellite) Vietnam will be able to monitor independently its territory and environment. Weighing 130 kg, the small spacecraft will play an important role, amongst others, in the field of natural resources management (agriculture, forests), will ensure a better follow-up of climate changes, detect pollution in the seas, help to minimize the impact of natural disasters, etc. (3/19)

Russian Rocket with Two European Satellites to Lift Off From Kourou in October (Source: Kyiv Post)
A Russian Soyuz-ST launch vehicle is expected to take off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou in the fourth quarter of 2012 to place two more European Galileo navigation system satellites into orbit. "The launch of a Soyuz-ST-B rocket equipped with a Fregat-MT upper stage has been set for October 2012," a Russian space rocket industry source said. (3/19)

Dish Seen Avoiding Interference That Hurt Falcone in Probe (Source: Bloomberg)
Dish Network, the satellite- TV company seeking government approval for mobile-phone service, will probably avoid the interference concerns that thwarted a similar plan by LightSquared Inc., executives and analysts said. Charlie Ergen, chairman of the second-largest U.S. satellite-TV company, is seeking FCC clearance to offer wireless service in competition with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless. He wants to convert satellite airwaves to provide voice and data service over land- based towers, a strategy similar to LightSquared, which was shot down by the FCC amid opposition from GPS providers. (3/19)

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