June 22, 2012

Analysis: DoD Needs to Slice Budget With or Without Sequestration (Source: Federal News Radio)
Few agree that sequestration is the best way to cut the Defense Department budget. But at least one observer thinks the total dollars that would be reduced from sequestration, about $55 billion, could easily be achieved . The problem with sequestration isn't the size of the cut, but rather the method, said Benjamin Friedman, a CATO Institute research fellow. Sequestration requires reductions "across the board in all accounts. So, it makes you do it dumbly and it's rather sudden," he said.

"Ideally, you'd do it somewhat more gradually to allow for adjustment." Friedman said with the vast amount of money being thrown around, a way to reduce it must exist. "In terms of the absolute amount we spend on defense we spend still just an enormous amount," he said. "More, I think, than we did at the height of the Reagan buildup or at most points during the Cold War." Even if lawmakers figure out how to reduce the federal budget without sequestration, Congress shouldn't let DoD off the hook for major spending reductions, Friedman said. (6/22)

June 28 Delta IV-Heavy Rocket Launch Viewing Available (Source: DNCINC)
Launch viewing of a Delta IV-Heavy NROL–15 rocket will be available from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Thursday, June 28, 2012. The launch window is scheduled between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Delta IV-Heavy rocket will be carrying secret satellite cargo for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open one hour before the scheduled launch time. Launch viewing is included with admission. (6/22)

Space, The Mining Frontier (Source: Daily Maverick)
Earth doesn’t have an infinite supply of precious metals and rare commodities. Environmental challenges are making these increasingly more costly and difficult to excavate. But there’s an infinite supply of gold, platinum and other valuable resources in space, and the race is now on to get to them first. Click here for an article detailing the rise of Planetary Resources. (6/22)

That Big Asteroid Was Even Bigger (Source: MSNBC)
The bad news about the asteroid 2012 LZ1, which zipped past Earth last week, is that it's actually twice as wide and a lot deadlier than we thought — a kilometer (0.6 miles) wide in its largest dimension, rather than 500 meters. The good news is that we have at least seven centuries to figure out how to fight that particular space rock.

That's the verdict from astronomers using the 1,000-foot-wide (300-meter-wide) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the world's biggest single radio dish. "The sensitivity of our radar has permitted us to measure this asteroid's properties and determine that it will not impact the earth at least in the next 750 years," Mike Nolan, the observatory's director of planetary radar sciences, said. (6/22)

Ups and Downs for Higgs Boson Buzz (Source: MSNBC)
A week ago, sources started passing the word that physicists were "fired up" about further evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, the last undiscovered particle predicted by the Standard Model and the main quarry for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider. That blaze of buzz reached a high point this week, when Columbia mathematician Peter Woit reported "reliable rumors" that the confidence level for a detection of the Higgs' signature in the mass range of around 125 billion electron-volts, or 125 GeV, was increasing.

"CERN will soon have to decide how to spin this: will they announce discovery of the Higgs, or will they wait for some overwhelmingly convincing standard to be met, such as 5 sigma in at least one channel of one experiment?" Woit wrote. "Sigma" refers to the statistical confidence that a given result is more than a fluke, with 5 sigma serving as the gold standard for a discovery. If you're a Higgs-watcher, you'll be hearing a lot about sigma in the next couple of weeks. (6/22)

Harris Wins $47 Million for Satellite Terminals (Source: FLDC)
Florida-based Harris was awarded a $47 million U.S. Army contract for sustainment and support services for the AN/GSC-52 modernization program’s family of satellite communications earth terminals and associated equipment. Work will be performed in Palm Bay, Flaorida, with an estimated completion date of March 11, 2014. (6/21)

Space-Based Solar Power (Source: Energy Digital)
Solar energy has always been a popular renewable source of power with the greatest potential. As the industry has developed over the years, the market has rapidly evolved and become more economically viable. Even space-based solar power (SBSP) is now an approaching reality, and one to start paying close attention to. Traditionally, in a solar market dominated by heavy silicone-based photovoltaics, solar panels have been too heavy to launch into space to be profitable.

With the advent of ultra-thin film photovoltaic panels, however, weight requirements have dramatically decreased. Launch costs in the commercial industry are also declining and the amount of R&D in the next generation of space travel has enabled orbit-based technologies that didn't exist a few years ago. While many of today's most depended on resources on Earth are finite, the sun is not. But unlike ground-based renewables like solar and wind power, SBSP is not subject to the intermitencies involved with weather conditions. Click here. (6/12)

New Search Feature on SPACErePORT Blog (Source: SPACErePORT)
The FLORIDA SPACErePORT newsletter is distributed weekly to over 1,500 email subscribers. In addition to this weekly resource, daily news items are posted at the FLORIDA SPACErePORT blog, and to over 1,000 followers on Twitter. The large volume of posts on the blog make it a valuable archive for space news and recent space history. Access to this archive is now enhanced by the addition of a new easy-to-use search feature on the blog. Click here. (6/22)

As LeMieux Exits Florida Senate Race, Does Mack Like Space? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Former U.S. Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) has dropped out of the race to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), leaving frontrunner Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL) and longshot (and former Congressman) Dave Weldon (R-FL) to duke it out in the Aug. 14 primary. While serving in the Senate in 2010 (in the seat now occupied by Marco Rubio), LeMieux filed legislation to block the cancelation of Constellation.

More recently, as a candidate, he had this to say about space: "We should let the private sector do what it is doing...in pursuing low-Earth orbit. I think you're going to see these people reach the International Space Station on a regular basis. We should be proud of it. But going to the moon or Mars or an asteroid, that has to be NASA. I want to see some leadership to say we're going to a certain place by a certain time. And then we need to go and fund it."

Weldon has historically been a strong supporter of space issues, but Mack has said next to nothing about the space industry during the current campaign. But while serving in the House, Mack was the only Florida member who voted against the 2010 NASA Authorization Bill to provide increased funding for NASA ($19 billion). The bill extended ISS utilization through 2020; promoted commercial crew and cargo; added an additional 2011 Shuttle launch; and authorized 21st Century Spaceport Infrastructure funding for KSC. (6/22)

GeoEye Expands Presence in Europe to Meet Increased Demand (Source: GeoEye)
GeoEye has expanded its office in the Amsterdam World Trade Center to meet rapidly growing demand in western and eastern Europe for the world's highest resolution commercial satellite imagery. The expansion comes just five months after GeoEye successfully established its European sales and customer service operation. (6/22)

Red Moon Rising (Source: Foreign Policy)
For all the talk of the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia, what if the flash point for U.S.-China conflict in the 21st century isn't the energy-rich atolls of the South China Sea, but about 200,000 miles from Earth? Control over the moon isn't really on the radar screen for most U.S. military planners. It has been 40 years since the U.S. last put a man on the lunar surface; in 2010, President Obama canceled plans for a manned mission to the moon. When Newt Gingrich suggested a lunar settlement, he was virtually laughed out of the Republican primaries.

But China certainly isn't shy about its heavenly ambitions. In 2011, Beijing announced plans to put a man on the moon by 2020, and its space agency has publicly suggested establishing a base on the moon. Still, Washington has given little thought to the possibility that once a permanent settlement is established, Beijing might seek to assert extraterrestrial territorial sovereignty, effectively declaring part of the moon's surface Chinese territory.

The idea isn't as wild as it sounds. During the Cold War, the possibility of countries claiming territory on the moon or other planets was considered realistic enough that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty was enacted to prevent it. Washington is wearing blinders, though, if it thinks this piece of paper will prevent a Chinese lunar land grab. If China is tempted to seize some territory, such a move would surely be a game-changer for international security. (6/22)

ASAP Insist on NASA Certification Amid Praise for SpaceX Success (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) wrote to Administrator Charles Bolden with their latest overview from their recent quarterly meeting, praising the success of SpaceX’s C2+ mission with Dragon, before noting “a few successes” should not detract from pushing commercial companies through NASA’s strict certification requirements for upcoming crewed missions. (6/22)

Why NASA Grows Space Sunflowers (Source: Popular Mechanics)
An unexpected passenger aboard the International Space Station is sick and could die. "I am afraid that if something is not done we are going to lose Sunflower," U.S. astronaut and ISS resident Don Pettit wrote on his blog on May 5. "Our spacecraft is designed for animals so life can be a struggle for plants." The sunflower in question, which Pettit has been trying to grow in the ISS, is afflicted with a fungal blight that has spotted its leaves.

This ailment has afflicted other sunflowers grown in space: In 1982 in preparation for a space experiment called HEFLEX, space sunflowers suffered a similar blight. Back then NASA adopted sterilization techniques, and the fungus did not reappear when the experiment flew in 1983. Pettit brought sunflower seeds to grow on his own time so the sunflower was seemingly not protected by the sterilization. "Treating Sunflower with a disinfectant wipe that has an antibacterial agent called benzalkonium chloride. We do not know if this is going to work." The latest news from orbit is that the antibacterial wipes are helping. (6/22)

McCain Says Sequestration Could be Avoided with Revenue Hike (Source: Bloomberg)
Revenue increases, such as the elimination of ethanol tax breaks, could stave off sequestration cuts to defense, says Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Experts warn that defense firms and the military will be forced to send out layoff notices soon if the defense cuts aren't halted. (6/21)

Beyond Astronaut Ice Cream (Source: Slate)
Whereas early astronaut cuisine was limited to freeze-dried liquids and bite-size cubes, by 2002 it was possible to enjoy a burger in space. Click here to see photos of space food. (6/21)

Celestis Set Deadline for Next Cremains Launch Opportunity (Source: Celestis)
Now's the time to sign up for Celestis' next memorial spaceflight -- an October 8 Earth Rise launch from Spaceport America, New Mexico. The Earth Rise missions fly a symbolic portion of your loved one's cremated remains into space and return them to Earth. You get to keep the part of the spacecraft in which your loved one flew, with the cremated remains still inside! We provide you the flown capsule or module in a beautiful memorial plaque as a keepsake. Click here. (6/21)

NASA Administrator Receives Excellence in Public Service Award (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was presented the Excellence in Public Service Award Thursday by former Senator and astronaut John Glenn on behalf of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. The Excellence in Public Service Award honors a person who demonstrates outstanding dedication to public service. (6/21)

Boeing and NASA Hit Major Milestones for Super-Heavy Launch Vehicle (Source: Flight Global)
Boeing and NASA have completed the system requirements review (SRR) and system definition review (SDR) for the cryogenic stages of Space Launch System (SLS), the super-heavy launch vehicle designed to launch crewed flights into deep space. Completing the reviews allows designers to finalise blueprints for the launch vehicle's components, after which fabrication will begin. (6/21)

Extensive Water in Mars Interior (Source: Carnegie Institution)
Until now, Earth was the only planet known to have vast reservoirs of water in its interior. Scientists analyzed the water content of two Martian meteorites originating from inside the Red Planet. They found that the amount of water in places of the Martian mantle is vastly larger than previous estimates and is similar to that of Earth’s. The results not only affect what we know about the geologic history of Mars, but also have implications for how water got to the Martian surface. The data raise the possibility that Mars could have sustained life.

The scientists analyzed what are called shergottite meteorites. These are fairly young meteorites that originated by partial melting of the Martian mantle—the layer under the crust—and crystallized in the shallow subsurface and on the surface. They came to Earth when ejected from Mars approximately 2.5 million years ago. Meteorite geochemistry tells scientists a lot about the geological processes the planet underwent.

Based on the mineral’s water content, the scientists estimated that the Martian mantle source from which the rocks were derived contained between 70 and 300 parts per million (ppm) water. For comparison, the upper mantle on Earth contains approximately 50-300 ppm water. (6/21)

Encasing Enterprise: Space Shuttle Shelter Inflated on Intrepid's Deck (Source: Collect Space)
Two weeks after "landing" on top of the aircraft carrier-turned-Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, NASA's prototype space shuttle Enterprise is now underneath the inflatable canopy that will house its public display. Enterprise was covered by the opaque-white fabric shelter on Tuesday (June 19) to protect it from exposure to the elements and to meet NASA's display requirements for a climate-controlled facility. The shuttle was hoisted up onto the Intrepid's flight deck by crane on June 6. (6/21)

Downey Will Relocate Wooden Space Shuttle (Source: Los Angeles Wave)
A space shuttle designed and built at the former NASA site here will soon blast off, but it won’t be going very far. The City Council June 12 approved plans to move the space shuttle mock-up from its current storage place on the Downey Movie Studio site, 12214 Lakewood Blvd., to a temporary structure to be erected on the studio parking lot across from the Columbia Memorial Space Center, 12400 Columbia Way.

City Manager Gil Livas said the city hopes to find funding for a permanent structure for the wooden shuttle at the Space Center. Estimated cost is $2 million. Construction on the temporary structure is expected to start by the end of the month and relocation is required by July 1 when studio owners IRG plan to demolish the current storage building, said Brian Saeki, director of community development. (6/21)

Russia, Ireland Sign Space Cooperation Memorandum (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and Ireland’s National Space Center have signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation in space exploration. “The memorandum reaffirms the strive of both countries to promote the development of bilateral cooperation in the area of space exploration in the framework of 1967 Outer Space Treaty and other international treaties on peaceful space exploration,” Roscosmos said in a statement. (6/21)

A ‘Super Earth’ Near a ‘Hot Neptune’ in Space (Source: ABC)
Not very long ago, space scientists expected that if other stars had solar systems, they’d be much like our own — small, rocky planets (like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) orbiting close to their host star, with gas giants (think of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) farther out. There were good reasons for this, not the least of which was that any self-respecting star would tear a Jupiter-sized planet apart if it were too close. Everything made sense. So much for that.

Since the 1990s, astrophysicists report they have identified at least 600 stars with planets circling them and found that solar systems like ours are a rarity. Take Kepler 36, reported today in the journal Science. It’s a solar system about 1,200 light-years from our own, with two very different planets right on top of each other. One is a rocky “super Earth,” about 1.5 times as large as our world. The other is a gaseous “hot Neptune,” about 3.7 times as large. (6/21)

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