March 4, 2012

Community College Scholars Selected to Design Robotic Rovers (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Community college students will have the chance to design robotic rovers in cooperation with NASA. Ninety-two students from schools in 24 states have been selected to travel to a NASA center to develop rovers through the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program. The initiative provides hands-on opportunities to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Editor's Note: Six of the students are from Florida colleges, including Jonathan Carelli from St. Petersburg College, Max Michel from Palm Beach State College, Matthew North from Northwest Florida State College, LaNiece O'Steen and Van Gregory from Santa Fe College (Gainesville), and Dustin Pessatore from Seminole State College. (3/3)

'John Carter' Unveils Astronomy's Vanished View of Mars (Source: USA Today)
And it will soon be in movie theaters, when John Carteropens this week. It marks a return to the swashbuckling view of Mars popularized a century ago by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. All of it is based on once cutting-edge astronomy looking at our planetary neighbor. "The entire concept of the film is extrapolated from ideas astronomers had about canals on Mars," says John Carter director Andrew Stanton. "There was a certain romanticism in the early 1900's that made some willing to accept what we now know are misconceptions," Stanton says. "So we decided to just run with it in the film." (3/4)

Space Wasn't Final Frontier for California Astronaut-Turned-Candidate (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Though he was born in California, Jose Hernandez didn't master English until he was 13. His parents were Mexican immigrants who picked fruits and vegetables in the San Joaquin Valley for nine months of the year before returning to their hometown for the winter. But Hernandez was a dreamer. He wanted to be an astronaut after watching the Apollo moon landings as a little boy. After one launch, he raced out to the fields, stretched out on the ground and stared up at the stars. He envisioned himself among them, and eventually became an astronaut.

Now, Hernandez is chasing another dream. He is running for Congress in the newly configured 10th District, which encompasses Modesto, near where he was born in French Camp. "I want people to have the same opportunity at the dream that I did," Hernandez said. His challenges are no less daunting than they were when he set his sights on the stars. He has never run for political office before. Because he's lived in Houston for the last decade, working for NASA, he will surely be branded as a carpet bagger. And since he is spending eight hours a day on the phone fundraising, he hasn't had time to fully outline his positions. (3/4)

Rocket Testing Business Growing at Stennis (Source: St. Tammany News)
According to the administration of the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the rocket testing business is good and getting better. So is the business of testing jet engines. Thursday at the Director’s Community Breakfast at Stennis, it was announced that Rolls-Royce, which tests jet engines at the facility, will be building a second test stand, which will cost $50 million and create 45 high-tech jobs. Rolls-Royce, which is no longer in the luxury car business, has been manufacturing airplane and jet engines almost as long as they have manufactured cars.

The private sector is also getting into the space business, and the center is getting the business, as it is the only rocket engine testing facility in the country. Scheuermann said currently almost half of $17.7 billion NASA budget is being used at the center, and with the money earned from vendors, the facility is doing very well economically. The facility has almost finished its latest test stand, the A-3, which is 300 feet tall and costs $350 million. It will be the only rocket testing stand that can simulate conditions in low orbital space, which will help engineers develop better engines. (3/4)

NASA Enterprise Orbiter Sset to Arrive in New York Next Month (Source: WFUV)
The Space Shuttle Enterprise takes off for its new home aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum next month. On April 23rd, the NASA orbiter, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, will arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport atop the space agency’s shuttle carrier aircraft.

“Introducing Enterprise to New York is a landmark occasion and marks the beginning of Enterprise’s next mission, which is to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and researchers and serve as a reminder that anything is possible.” While Enterprise never logged any miles in space, it did pave the way for NASA’s 30 year shuttle program.

Enterprise will spend two months at the airport before being loaded onto a barge and shipped up the Hudson River to its new home in June. Along the way it’ll sail past the Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center site. The shuttle will go on display in a temporary, climate controlled tent until a permanent home can be built. (3/4)

We Should All cheer SpaceX Success (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX took another step this week toward flying the first-ever private spacecraft to the International Space Station. The countdown rehearsal at the company’s launch complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was a big deal. It didn’t get a ton of news media attention. There was some buzz in the aerospace industry about it. Every step toward the flights of the half-dozen or so new space transportation systems under development by private companies and NASA is a big deal. These are turning points in human space exploration.

Am I rooting for SpaceX to succeed in launching its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station? You bet and, honestly, the rest of the space industry ought to be, too. Yes, the companies that are working to develop these new systems in some ways ought to be competitive. That will drive innovation and the kinds of time and cost savings that will advance space travel. (3/4)

Orbiting Cosmonauts Vote for New Russian President (Source: RIA Novosti)
Three Russian cosmonauts cast their ballots for the Russian presidential elections on Sunday from the international space station, Russia’s Mission Control said on Sunday. Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Oleg Kononenko voted during a special communications session through their proxy while the world’s sole orbiter was flying over the Hawaiian Islands, Mission Control said. (3/4)

Tornadoes Threaten U. S., But Are Bigger on Mars and Gigantic on Sun (Source: America Space)
The deadly tornadoes prowling the Midwest and South are one of the planet’s most powerful type of storm. But tornadoes are far larger on Mars and so gigantic on the Sun that a dozen Earths could stack inside them (video above). Remarkably, magnetic tornadoes also soar above the planet Mercury.

The most powerful EF-5 tornadoes on Earth can produce mile wide 300 mph winds. They normally extend up 1,000 ft. or more and form out of mid level circulations at about 20,000 ft. The super cell mesocyclones that spawn major tornado outbreaks can reach 50,000 ft. in altitude.

About 93 million mi. away on the Sun, colossal tornadoes are as wide as Africa and reach several hundred thousand miles in height–taller than the 240,000 mile distance from the Earth to the Moon. They have super hot 15,000 deg. F winds rotating at 300,000 mph. In the image below note the scale of Earth inserted for reference next to the solar tornado imaged by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (3/4)

Orion’s Development Achieving Numerous Successes and Firsts (Source:
This year is already marking a significant ramp up in achievements for the Orion Program, as several test articles are put through their paces – ranging from testing at Lockheed Martin’s Denver facility, to the successful parachute test in Arizona – all at the same time as the Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) Orion sees the opening salvo of backshell tiles rolling off the production line. Click here. (3/4)

Alabama GOP Candidates Express Commercial Space Concerns (Source: Space Politics)
In 2008, Parker Griffith won the election for Alabama’s 5th Congressional district-—which includes Huntsville and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center—-as a Democrat, succeeding longtime member Bud Cramer. In late 2009, though, Griffith switched parties, citing a perceived lack of support among other Congressional Democrats for NASA as one of the reasons for joining the Republicans. Griffith, though, lost in the GOP primary in June 2010 to Mo Brooks, who won the general election in November.

Griffith is back, though, running in the Republican primary for that House seat as the major challenger to Brooks. Saturday night the two squared off in a televised debate in advance of the primary election a week from Tuesday. While the two disagreed on a number of issues in the debate, on space—-specifically, whether there should be a greater role for commercial providers in the space program—-the two were largely in agreement.

“Should the nation start to privatize more of the space effort or keep it primarily as a government-controlled endeavor under NASA?” asked one of the moderators. Griffith was the first to respond, citing what he considered to be the national security importance of NASA and human spaceflight. “Space exploration is now a matter of national defense,” he said. “And although I’m a free market, private enterprise kind of guy, I really believe that we have to be careful about how much we do allow our commercial space effort to supplant what we’re going to need for national security.” Click here. (3/4)

ISS National Laboratory Group (CASIS) Chief Resigns (Source: NASA Watch)
"As a result of undue and onerous political pressures exerted over the almost six months of existence of CASIS, business operations have been difficult in standing up this brand new organization. Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally but also on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS."

"The fact is that ProOrbis was recruited and paid by NASA to write the ISS National Lab Reference Model, which became the basis for the NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice soliciting for a nonprofit organization to manage ISS National Lab. Space Florida contracted ProOrbis to write the CASIS proposal submitted in response to this Cooperative Agreement Notice. What remains difficult to rationalize is the fact that the interim board admittedly identified inurement and excess benefit issues even as the CASIS proposal was developed."

"To be clear, ProOrbis, a paid grant writer for Space Florida, not only wrote the bylaws and selection protocol for establishing the CASIS permanent board of directors (thereby directing assembly of the highest governing body for CASIS), ProOrbis also wrote themselves into the proposal as the prime source for CASIS organizational oversight and integration; this was recognized by Space Florida as an issue that the CASIS management team would have to deal with, should the proposal be selected." Click here. (3/4)

ProOrbis Statement on CASIS Director Resignation (Source: SpaceRef)
"As is a matter of public record, Dr. Becker was included in the CASIS proposal as its Executive Director. In her commitment letter submitted with the original proposal, she stated "I am supportive of the management concepts as presented in the CASIS proposal being submitted." However, since taking on this role, she has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated."

"Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed in the Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts. Dr. Becker's concerns about a non-profit organization working with a private company were addressed by legal counsel, which determined that they would not in any way prevent CASIS from engaging ProOrbis or executing the proposal." (3/4)

Community Leaders Reminded of What Stennis Has to Offer (Source: Picayune Item)
Members of communities in Mississippi and Louisiana that surround Stennis Space Center gathered Thursday morning at the space center to hear a presentation on the future of Stennis. Stennis has a strong presence in the business of space travel and boasts the largest testing facility under NASA’s umbrella, said Stennis Director Patrick Scheuermann. He said the future of the testing facility is assured for at least the next 50 years by projects at the facility and others coming to it. (3/3)

Senator Says He Didn't Vote on Issue He is On record Voting For (Source: Alamagordo Daily News)
Legislative records show that state Sen. George Munoz voted for a bill to shield companies from lawsuits by space travelers. "That's impossible. I wasn't even in the room when that vote was taken," Munoz said in an interview. Munoz, D-Gallup, said the tally sheet on a bill relating to Spaceport America was manipulated by a clerk in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. Munoz said he did not attend the hearing on the Spaceport legislation in late January because he was presenting a bill of his own in a different committee. (3/3)

Burt, Adair Differ on Spaceport Issue (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
Space travel, America's new frontier for the rich, also is a political battleground in New Mexico. Legislative records show that state Sen. Bill Burt voted against a bill to shield manufacturing and supply companies from lawsuits by space travelers. Burt, R-Alamogordo, said he supports extra legal protections for Spaceport America. He considers the listing of the vote he cast to be accurate but misleading.

Burt faces a primary election this spring against another incumbent, Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell. Redistricting threw the two Republicans into competition for one seat. Adair said he wanted to approve a law to block negligence lawsuits against companies at Spaceport America. But Adair never voted on the Spaceport bill, which was a killed by a bloc of Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee. (3/3)

Lockheed Martin Selects Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex To Support Athena III (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin has chosen Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) as its dedicated West Coast launch facility for Athena rocket launches. The company’s decision will enable Alaska Aerospace Corporation to move ahead with plans to expand its space launch capabilities. Lockheed Martin has been working with the state of Alaska and Alaska Aerospace Corporation on expansion plans for the new medium–lift launch pad to support potential Athena III launches.

Last year, Lockheed Martin announced its intent to offer Athena II services with a ride-share launch from Kodiak in late 2013. The company is positioned to expand the Athena II program as it continues to evaluate the business case for Athena III launches from Alaska. The Athena III would be capable of launching satellites weighing 4,600 kg (10,150 lbs) from the West Coast and 5,900 kg (13, 000 lbs) from the East Coast. (3/3)

Colorado Blasts Off To The Future With Space Travel Plans (Source: Denver CBS4)
Space travel is no longer for astronauts and Colorado may soon have its very own spaceport. Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Federal Aviation Administration to make Front Range Airport a designated spaceport. The airport is located in the small community of Watkins, six miles southeast of Denver International Airport. “When this concept first came to us last August that was my take on it, ‘Are you kidding me? Come on,’” said Front Range Airport Director of Aviation Dennis Heap. Heap is now a believer. He said the airport is uniquely positioned to become a spaceport. (3/3)

Kodiak Spaceport Could Receive $125 Million Upgrade for 200-Foot Rockets (Source: Juneau Empire)
Like many good space adventures, it is when all hope is lost that the hero saves the day. Lockheed Martin may be the Kodiak spaceport’s rocket-propelled savior. On Friday, Lockheed Martin announced it has signed a contract with Kodiak Launch to be the aerospace engineering firm’s medium lift facility on the west coast.

Without a steady customer with large pockets, Kodiak’s future was uncertain. On Monday, House Majority Leader Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, said the spaceport in his home district would begin talks of closing if a proposed $8 million appropriation is not kept in the fiscal year 2013 budget. Later Senate President Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, called the statement “premature” and the CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp. said the representative did not speak for the major parties involved. Austerman sits on Alaska Aerospace’s board of directors. (3/3)

Aspiring Jacksonville Astronaut has Renewed Hope at 59 (Source: Florida Times-Union)
Ever since he was a boy, John Roberts has dreamed of soaring into the heavens. He went so far as to write a letter to NASA, volunteering to be the first “boy astronaut.” When astronaut Wally Schirra wrote back to him, telling him the agency had no plans for any “boy astronauts,” he was devastated. The aspiring “boy astronaut” is now 59, but he may finally have his chance to fly.

The Jacksonville resident is one of 20 semifinalists in the Space Needle Space Race. The owners of the Seattle landmark are holding the competition as part of the structure’s 50th anniversary celebration. It attracted more than 50,000 applicants from around the country. Through March 18, people can watch videos from the semifinalists and vote on the Space Needle’s Facebook page to determine which five will move on to a physical competition in Seattle. (3/3)

Hawaii Space Lectures Planned Next Week (Source:
“‘Ohana Roots to Rocket Science,” a project of UH Mānoa’s McNair Student Achievement Program, presents a week of events focused on space science and diversity. For the first time ever on the same stage, Carl McNair and Claude Onizuka will celebrate the heroic legacies of their respective brothers, Ronald McNair and Ellison Onizuka, NASA astronauts who perished in the 1986 Challenger mission.

To kick off the week of events, McNair and Onizuka will also visit two schools on Tuesday, March 6. McNair will visit with grade school students at Kamehameha Schools, where curriculum has included Ron’s Big Mission, the children’s book about Ron McNair’s coming of age in the segregated South of the 1960’s. Onizuka will visit the Challenger Center Hawai‘i located at Barbers Point Elementary. Established by the families of astronauts lost in the Challenger disaster, the center hosts a NASA learning center with a spaceflight simulator for children. (3/3)

Florida Senate Passes Cecil Field Spaceport Bill (Source:
The Senate Friday signed-of on a bill that would allow companies involved in "spaceport activities" at Cecil Field eligible for tax exemptions. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Stephen Wise, R – Jacksonville, adds Cecil Field to the state’s list of certified spaceports. In 2010, the federal government made Cecil Field the nation’s eighth licensed spaceport, which allows launch vehicles to make horizontal takeoff and landings. They needed the state designation to be eligible for the tax breaks. The tax break specifically applies to equipment purchases. The House has already passed their version of the bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Lake Ray, R – Jacksonville. (3/3)

Demoted for Views, NASA Specialist Going to Court (Source:
A trial is starting in just days on a claim by a space scientist that he was demoted for expressing his views on intelligent design, the theory that the universe and life are too complex to have randomly erupted from a puddle of sludge on some prehistoric landscape. The case is a response to a punishment handed down to David Coppedge, a worker at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, which sent the unmanned spacecraft Galileo to Jupiter and dispatched a ship named Dawn to orbit asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

The case will be tried starting Wednesday in Los Angeles, where the Superior Court of California earlier refused to rule in favor of the lab without a trial. The court determined there is sufficient evidence for a jury to consider. The court then found “there are triable issues of fact as to whether plaintiff’s demotion, written warning, negative performance evaluations, and ultimate termination were adverse employment actions... While the written warning or negative performance evaluations may not be actionable in isolation, a trier of fact would be entitled to consider them as a part of a generalized discriminatory response to plaintiff’s religious views or protected activities.” (3/3)

Spacecraft's 'Candidate' Planet Count Hits 2,300 (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Astronomers hunting for planets orbiting distant stars in the Milky Way reported Friday that their Kepler spacecraft has now detected more than 2,300 "candidate" planets since the search began three years ago. Although final identification of the planets needs further confirmation, the Kepler team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View said 46 of the probable "exoplanets" are orbiting their stars in what astronomers call the "habitable zone," where conditions are benign enough for liquid water to exist on their surfaces. (3/3)

Did the Big One Hit the Red Planet? (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Scientists have discovered evidence that an avalanche of giant boulders once tumbled down the rock-strewn face of a Martian cliff, offering the first strong hint that earthquakes have shaken the planet in relatively recent times. If the quakes did occur, they were probably caused by volcanic eruptions that heated parts of the frigid planet and melted ice that scientists believe may have lain just beneath the surface - yet another implication that water and possibly life may have existed on Mars more recently than scientists have thought. (3/3)

Long March 7 Rocket to Lift Off in Five Years (Source: Xinhua)
The Long March 7 carrier rocket, one of China's latest generation of rockets, is expected to make its first voyage within the next five years, an official with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology said Saturday. Fuelled by an environmentally-friendly propellant, the Long March 7 is expected to have a launch capacity of 13.5 tons in low-Earth orbit and 5.5 tons in Sun-synchronous orbit, said Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the academy, which is affiliated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. (3/3)

China Hopes to Send Long March-5 Rocket Into Space in 2014 (Source: Xinhua)
China has made key technological progress in developing Long March-5 large-thrust carrier rocket and it is hopeful that the new generation rocket will make its maiden flight in 2014. Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, spoke to Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, which opened Saturday afternoon. The academy designs and manufactures a series of rockets for China's space projects. (3/3)

China to Launch 12 Meteorological Satellites Before 2020 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch 12 meteorological satellites before 2020 to further boost the country's weather monitoring capabilities, a senior meteorological official said Saturday. The orbiters are among 14 meteorological satellites that are scheduled to be launched as part of a 10-year plan created by the China Meteorological Administration, said Zheng Guoguang, director of the administration. (3/3)

Dark Matter's Odd Behavior Baffles Astronomers (Source: UC Davis)
New results from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope confirm that, contrary to predictions, dark matter -- the invisible substance that makes up much of our universe -- and galaxies parted ways in the collision of two galaxy clusters 2.4 billion light-years away. Now, astronomers are left trying to explain dark matter's seemingly oddball behavior in the Abell 520 merging galaxy cluster.

"This result is a puzzle," said astronomer James Jee, project scientist in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Davis, who led the Hubble study. "Dark matter is not behaving as predicted, and it's not obviously clear what is going on. Theories of galaxy formation and dark matter must explain what we are seeing."

During the collision of galaxy clusters that formed Abell 520, the dark matter collected into a "dark core" containing far fewer galaxies than would be expected if the dark matter and galaxies hung together. Most of the galaxies apparently have sailed far away from the collision. (3/3)

Hackers Penetrated NASA Computers 13 Times Last Year (Source: USA Today)
Hackers penetrated NASA's computers 13 times last year, including one China-based breach that gained total access to and control of crucial systems and employee accounts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the space agency's inspector general told Congress this week. Another security failure occurred in March 2011, when an unencrypted NASA notebook computer was stolen. It contained algorithms to command and control the International Space Station. NASA said, however, the station was never in any jeopardy. All told, NASA reported more than 5,400 incidents of malicious software or unauthorized access of its computers between Oct. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011, (3/3)

ATV-3 Launch Slipped to Late March Due to Cargo Issue (Source:
ESA is set to announce a new launch date for ATV-3′s launch to the International Space Station (ISS) – expected to be around March 22-23 – after it was determined engineers will have to gain access to the spacecraft to reconnect a loose strap which has become disconnected from its internal cargo. ATV-3 was scheduled to launch atop of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle on March 9. (3/3)

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