April 4, 2012

Remembering Project Gemini (Source: The Atlantic)
Fifty years ago, NASA began a program called Project Gemini, developing deep space travel techniques and equipment to prepare for the upcoming Apollo program. Two unmanned and ten manned missions were flown, and astronauts and engineers accomplished hundreds of goals, including the first American spacewalk, a 14-day endurance test in orbit, space docking, and the highest-ever manned orbit at 1,369 km (850 mi). After the project ended in 1966, many Gemini astronauts brought their experiences with them as they went on to fly Apollo missions to the Moon. Collected here are remarkable images of Project Gemini half a century ago -- some beautiful, some technical, and a few surprisingly intimate. Click here. (4/4)

San Diego: Project PoGo Kickoff (Source: SD Space)
Project PoGo kicks off with our first planning meeting to build our very own reusable suborbital payload based on the CanSat / CubeSat format. The suborbital payload will be flown to the edge of space on a reusable rocket. This will allow data sample collection to be taken repeatedly and as well as adjustments and improvements to be made to the payload instrumentation. Our goal is to fly twice before the end of 2012. (4/4)

Giant Magellan Telescope Tells NSF "No Thanks" (Source: Science)
The organization behind the $700 million Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has decided not to seek any financial help from the U.S. government to build its 24.5-meter telescope. Its decision leaves the $1 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project as the sole contender for federal support, should the government be able to afford it in the future.

Although each team has raised a significant share of the needed funds from private sources and international partners, both had also been counting on a large contribution from the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, in late December, NSF announced that it did not anticipate having money to fund either project until sometime in the next decade. At the same time, NSF said it would offer $1.25 million over 5 years for the development of a public-private partnership plan that might lead to the building of a large telescope, if NSF were to ever have funds available. (4/4)

Joe the Plumber, Meet Mike the (Ex) Florida Space Worker (Source: Sunshine State News)
Mike Carpenter, a former space program worker, called out Barack Obama on "60 Minutes" Sunday night. In the segment, reporter Scott Pelly said Florida's Space Coast work force was "encouraged when candidate Barack Obama came to Brevard County in 2008, three months before the election.” Memorialized on tape recorded at the time, Obama pledged: “I’m going to ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the shuttle goes out of service by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired because we can’t afford to lose their expertise.”

Carpenter's response today? “Well, we were lied to when Obama came through. Gave us a lot of hope and supposedly a lot of change. Well, I’ve got change in my pocket but the hope is gone," he told Pelly. Republicans jumped on the spatial disconnect Monday. “After being sold a bill of goods by then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008, Florida voters aren’t going to be fooled again in 2012," said Republican National Committee spokesman Matt Connelly.

"Voters want a president who sticks to his word and actually follows through on his promises. Unfortunately, Florida’s space industry workers now know that President Obama is not that president.” Republicans also noted that Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., "himself promised that more jobs would come to Brevard County." Industry officials predict that up to 28,000 Floridians could lose their jobs due to discontinuation of the shuttle program," said Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. (4/2)

Kepler Planet-Hunting Mission Extended Until 2016 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA's Kepler telescope will scan the sky searching for planets beyond the solar system through 2016 after the space agency extended the mission on the advice of the astrophysics research community. Kepler's primary mission was due to end in November 2012, but an independent panel of senior scientists gather every two years study NASA's operating research missions, issuing recommendations on whether the projects should continue to receive funding. The senior review recommended Kepler be continued through 2016. (4/4)

IBM and Astron Support Square Kilometer Array (Source: CBS)
IBM and Astron, a Netherlands-based astronomy organization, plan to develop an exascale computer system that will form the backbone of the largest and most sensitive radio telescope. This exascale system will be designed for low-power usage and plug into the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA). SKA will be built out with the help of astronomers from more than 20 countries. The telescope will have millions of antennas and have a collection area of about one square kilometer. SKA will also be able to scan the width of the continental United States. (4/4)

Smaller, Quicker, Secret, Robotic: Inside America’s New Space Force (Source: WIRED)
The past and future of America’s space arsenal intersected, briefly, in the summer of 2011. For two weeks in July, NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis roughly shared its Earth orbit with the Air Force’s X-37B, a 29-foot-long, highly maneuverable robotic spacecraft that entered service in early 2010 and has been cloaked in secrecy ever since. The X-37 was around 80 miles higher than the Shuttle, so it’s doubtful the four-person Atlantis crew, conducting the 135th and last Shuttle mission, ever saw the robotic craft. The X-37′s small size — barely a quarter the length of Atlantis — made a sighting even less likely.

Equally striking was the difference in cost between Atlantis and its tiny robotic compatriot. Atlantis cost more than $10 billion to design and build and around $500 million to launch on that one mission. The Boeing-built X-37 mini-shuttle set the taxpayers back an estimated $1 billion for development and construction and just $180 million to send into space. (All cost figures in this story are in today’s dollars.) Click here. (4/4)

Why Space Exploration Is a Job for Humans (Source: The Atlantic)
When the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stop in July 2011, NASA bid farewell to the nation's symbol of manned spaceflight. The Obama administration has scrapped NASA's plan to return humans to the Moon by 2020, which was behind schedule because of technical and budgetary problems. As financial constraints threaten the possibility of future ventures into outer space, many in the astronomical community are advocating for the increased use of unmanned robotic space. The next giant leap, then, will be taken with robotic feet.

Dr. Ian A. Crawford thinks it should be otherwise. A professor of planetary sciences at Birkbeck College, London, Crawford makes the case for human space exploration in a new paper entitled Dispelling the myth of robotic efficiency: why human space exploration will tell us more about the Solar System than will robotic exploration alone, published recently in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics. Click here. (4/4)

ESO Expands Headquarters in Germany (Source: ESO)
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has contracted architects Auer+Weber to design an extension to its Headquarters at Garching bei M√ľnchen, Germany. The innovatively styled new office building will help to house the growing number of Garching staff, and be the cradle of the technological innovations needed for ESO’s ambitious projects such as the European Extremely Large Telescope. With construction expected to be completed by the end of 2013, the expanded ESO Headquarters will contribute greatly to the development of the Garching research campus. (4/4)

Yuri's Night Recording Hop Planned in Titusville on April 12 (Source: NSSFL)
You are invited to join us at the Yuri's Night Recording Hop on Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 PM at Stonefire Art Studios And Gallery in Titusville! There is no cost to attend. It isn't a record hop because no one has records any more. Bring your favorite space song recordings on a thumb drive in MP3 or WAV file format and we'll launch them on our computer. Enjoy the art gallery, and the company of fellow space enthusiasts in the community of the Kennedy Space Center as we travel the musical memory lane. Retired space-workers are certain to attend if you want to hear some old stories.

National Space Society Plans Presence at Annual KSC Picnic (Source: NSSFL)
The Central Florida chapter of the National Space Society will be hosting a table at the annual KSC All-American Picnic on April 14 at KARS Park on Merritt Island. Click here for information. (4/4)

Free Lecture at NASA Goddard: Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Source: NASA)
The public is invited to a free talk to called "Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," by Dr. Daniel P. Glavin, a NASA Astrobiologist. The talk is part of the Gerald Soffen Lecture Series and will be held at the Visitor's Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on April 12, 2012 at 7 p.m. EDT. The free talk is about one hour and will be accompanied by satellite image and end with a question and answer session. (4/4)

NASA: Leave Space Transport, Moon Colonies to Private Sector (Source: News.com.au)
If mankind ends up colonizing the moon, it is likely to be led by a commercial enterprise rather than a government. So says NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who believes nations will no longer venture into space alone, but in collaboration with each other and with private industry. "We have now got to the point where NASA should have nothing to do with it (access to space)," he said in an address today at Sydney University. "We have run the tests, we have been flying for 50 years, we know basically how to get humans off the planet and into low-earth orbit.

"Our private industry partners have built every single space craft we have ever flown. "NASA has never built a single human-rated space craft." Maj-Gen Bolden says private industry will build, own and operate space craft from now on, and NASA will buy their service. Click here. (4/4)

Parachutes for Boeing Crew Capsule Tested Over Nevada (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Boeing dropped a mock-up of its CST-100 commercial crew capsule over the Nevada desert Tuesday, successfully testing the craft's three main landing parachutes, the first in a series of demonstrations to prove the design of the vehicle's landing system. An Erickson Sky Crane helicopter hoisted the capsule to an altitude of about 11,000 feet and released it. The drop test occurred at the Delamar Dry Lake near Alamo, Nevada.

"The event was the first drop test of the fully combined vehicle landing system, including all elements." Crewed flights of the CST-100 will initially return to Earth at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. (4/4)

Feeling Down About Spaceflight? Lift Your Spirits with Yuri's Night (Source: MSNBC)
Yuri's Night has been celebrating space odysseys since 2001, on the 40th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's history-making launch into orbit — but it's much more challenging to find cause for celebration this year. First of all, it's been just a year since the huge golden anniversary of the first human spaceflight, in 2011. To mark the occasion, Yuri's Night put on more than 600 events in 75 countries, and that's a hard act for anyone to follow. Perhaps more importantly, this year marks the first Yuri's Night since NASA retired the space shuttle fleet. (4/4)

Could Ancient Aliens Live on Methuselah Planets? (Source: Discovery)
The announcement of a pair of planets orbiting a 12.5 billion-year old star flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the earliest stars to be born in the Universe shouldn't possess planets at all. 12.5 billion years ago, the primeval universe was just beginning to make heavier elements beyond hydrogen and helium, in the fusion furnace cores of the first stars. It follows that there was very little if any material for fabricating terrestrial worlds or the rocky seed cores of gas giant planets. Click here. (4/4)

How Some Comets Survive Solar Death Dive (Source: Discovery)
Consider a tale of two comets. Last July, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite was on hand to witness what happened when the comet SOHO (a.k.a. C/2011 N3) passed just 100,000 kilometers above the Sun's photosphere. Poor SOHO was utterly destroyed by the encounter. Five months later, in December, comet Lovejoy (a.k.a. C/2011 W3) also passed through the Sun's "comet kill zone," roughly 140,000 kilometers above the photosphere -- but Lovejoy survived, although it did lose a lot of mass in the process.

Why did Lovejoy survive, and SOHO perish? Astronomers have puzzled over this phenomenon since the 1980s, and now a team of astronomers think they have the answer to why some comets make it through this solar trial by fire, and others don't. They presented their findings March 30 at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester. Click here. (4/4)

Embry-Riddle President Joins Council on Competitiveness (Source: ERAU)
At the invitation of the Council on Competitiveness, Embry-Riddle President and CEO John P. Johnson has joined that group’s U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative (USMCI) Steering Committee. Founded in 1986 and based in Washington, D.C., the Council on Competitiveness is an organization of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders who set an action agenda to drive U.S. productivity and leadership in world markets and to raise the standard of living for all Americans. (4/4)

Launch Countdown on For Huge Space Party in Downtown Hampton (Source: NASA)
Space enthusiasts are counting down the days until the 2012 Yuri's Night celebration, to be held Sat., April 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight, at the Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) in downtown Hampton. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in outer space. Twenty years later, April 12, 1981, marked the launch of the first U.S. space shuttle. Yuri's Night celebrates these out-of-this-world accomplishments at hundreds of parties. Last year's total included 567 officially recognized events in 75 countries on all seven continents. This year Yuri's Night Hampton Roads will also mark the 20th anniversary of the VASC and the 95th anniversary of one of the Virginia Air & Space Center's founders, NASA's Langley Research Center. (4/4)

SpaceX Mission to ISS Faces a Big Day on April 16 (Source: Huntsville Times)
Mark down Monday, April 16, as a big day in the history of Space Exploration Technologies' plans to become the first commercial company to service the International Space Station. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk certainly has made note. Musk has announced plans to be in Houston for a press conference following a crucial pre-flight hurdle. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into space April 30 with an unmanned Dragon capsule on top. (4/4)

Obama Camp, Dems Swipe at Mitt Romney Over Space Policy (Source: Miami Herald)
After 60 Minutes took President Obama to task over his broken promises regarding the space program, the Republican National Committee piled on. Today, Obama's campaign hit back, pointing out that Republican Mitt Romney would be worse for the space program. From a transcript of a call with Obama supporter and Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake said:

“Florida is a unique state. It is a place that turns curiosity into discovery... the President continues to support space exploration by requesting higher funding for NASA and supporting the development of a new vehicle for human space flight. We don’t just defend programs like NASA because of our commitment to exploration in Florida, but because of how important the space industry is to Florida’s economy. Click here. (4/4)

Estimates Fall for Preparing Shuttles for Museums (Source: Florida Today)
The museums awarded retired space shuttle orbiters got a relative bargain. NASA in late 2008 estimated institutions would have to pay $42.8 million to cover the costs to prepare and transport each orbiter for public display, but the actual cost is now expected to be roughly a quarter of that. What happened? First, NASA agreed to pay to decommission the vehicles after their final flights, dropping the price to $28.8 million. Then the space agency got a clearer picture of the additional work necessary and how much contractors would charge to do it.

New cost estimates range from $9.6 million to deliver Enterprise to $13.7 million for Endeavour, with the cost for Atlantis still under negotiation. NASA will pay the $11.1 million tab for Discovery, which is scheduled to be ferried April 17 from Kennedy Space Center to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. The lower numbers are good news for the four sites expecting to receive orbiters this year, including KSC Visitor Complex, but raise a question of whether, in hindsight, more museums could have secured the funding necessary to submit competitive bids. (4/4)

Are GOP Politicians Socialists on Space Issues? (Source: Daily Caller)
During a Jan. 26 presidential debate, Romney also lampooned the idea of using private entities to fund a lunar colony, saying, “The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there — it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea.” Simberg sees this as pure presidential politics, noting that Romney has the backing of Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator in the younger Bush’s administration, as well as former aides to Bush’s father who were supporters of space exploration and commercialization.

“I have to wonder how cynical he [Romney] is about this,” Simberg said... The Washington establishment seems disinterested in commercial space for now, preferring to explore plans to build a new launch vehicle to replace the retired space shuttle fleet rather than let private entrepreneurs take over the whole endeavor. This may be to build pork barrel funding projects in states that have historically had government contracts for space projects, such as Florida, Alabama, Texas and Utah, Simberg said.

“Congress wants to keep pork barrel spending going,” he said. “It costs $500 billion for us to launch 500 astronauts into space. Do the math: That’s $1 billion per astronaut. That’s a lot of work for government contractors. Those Republican politicians who call themselves conservatives from Utah and Alabama and Florida and Texas are socialists when it comes to space.” Click here. (4/4)

Romney Moves Closer to Nomination, Obama Hammers Romney on Space (Source: LA Times)
Mitt Romney is eager to turn nominee-status perception into reality after months of lurching between victories and losses in often-messy party contests scattered across the country. Helping him, oddly enough, is Obama. The president started airing a TV ad attacking Romney this week in six fall battleground states, underlining Obama’s conclusion that his rival in November would be the former Massachusetts governor. (Obama’s team also took on Romney in the perennial general-election powerhouse of Florida on Tuesday, organizing a call with reporters to hammer Romney’s plans for NASA as something that “would devastate Florida’s Space Coast economy.”) Click here. (4/4)

IMAX Cameras Land at the Smithsonian (Source: Smithsonian)
From 1984 to 1998, two-dimensional IMAX cameras accompanied astronauts on 17 space shuttle missions. These 70-mm large format cameras, operated by astronauts, captured a visually stunning view of our planet from space and offered an up-close look at what it is like to live and work in a weightless environment. The result--a series of six giant screen films, including The Dream is Alive, Blue Planet, and Mission to Mir. Two of these cameras are now becoming part of the Smithsonian collection. (4/4)

India Bags Rs 100 Cr Deal to Launch French Satellite (Source: Outlook India)
The Indian Space Research Organization has signed a deal, believed to be valued at around Rs 100 crore, to launch an 800 kg satellite of ASTRIUM SAS, a Company under EADS, France. ISRO said in a statement a commercial launch services agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited (ANTRIX), its commercial arm, and ASTRIUM SAS, has been inked but gave no financial details of the deal. But sources in the Bangalore-headquartered space agency told PTI here the contract was worth around Rs 100 crore. (4/4)

Retired Air Force Officer to Lead Texas Space Alliance (Source: Hobby Space)
The Texas Space Alliance announced Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Robert Lancaster is assuming the role of President of the organization today. The group worked last year with commercial spaceflight operators, such as Blue Origin, to pass the first space liability protection law in Texas history, and is preparing for a new set of initiatives it will be introducing in the next legislative session.

“Col. Lancaster is stepping in at exactly the right moment to help lead what we believe will be a historic charge into the future for Texas and space,” said Rick Tumlinson. The leadership announcement comes as TXA is developing a Texas space initiative that will transform Texas into the world’s leader in space development and commerce, strengthen its role as home to a major NASA space center and support STEM education and research. Tumlinson will remain as the Chairman of the Board with Wayne Rast assuming the role of Policy Director. (4/4)

Delta 4 Rocket Successfully Lofts Surveillance Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Delta 4 rocket made a thunderous departure from California on Tuesday afternoon, only to slip into a news blackout minutes later while it deployed a classified spy satellite, a milestone that was confirmed by hobbyist observers. The ULA-made booster roared away from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a southwesterly course to reach a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees relative to the equator. Editor's Note: ULA deploys a launch team made up primarily of Space Coast workers to California to support missions from Vandenberg. (4/4)

Boeing Plans to Build Research, Technology Center in Brazil (Source: Seattle Times)
Boeing plans to build an aerospace research and technology center in Brazil. Boeing Research & Technology-Brazil in Sao Paulo will focus on aviation biofuels, among other technologies. Boeing said the center is slated to open this year. (4/4)

Supersonic Business Jets are On the Horizon, NASA Says (Source: Aviation Daily)
NASA said it has reached a breakthrough in the design of supersonic business jets. "It's the first time we have taken a design representative of a small supersonic airliner and shown we can change the configuration in a way that is compatible with high efficiency and have a sonic signature" that isn't a boom, said Peter Coen of NASA. (4/4)

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