June 4, 2012

Groups Launch Low-Cost Water Purifier, Based on NASA Technology (Source: Economic Times)
Bringing space technology to the masses is a grand ambition that very few can live up to. But last month, one such technology made it to the consumer market as a result of a tie-up between a thirty-year-old water purification company from India and Water Security Corporation, an American start-up. After working together for nearly three years, the Shapoorji & Pallonji group-owned Eureka Forbes entered into a partnership and licensing agreement with Water Security Corporation (WSC), to launch a new, low-cost water purifier based on the start-up's technology originally developed to be used by NASA. (5/29)

Intelsat 19 Satellite Update (Source: SpaceRef)
Intelsat S.A., the world's leading provider of satellite services, reported a delay in deploying one of the two solar arrays on the Intelsat 19 satellite, which was launched by Sea Launch on June 1. Intelsat and Loral, the manufacturer of the satellite, are investigating the cause and are pursuing corrective actions. The spacecraft is secure at this time in geostationary transfer orbit. Intelsat 19 is the planned replacement for Intelsat 8, which serves customers in the north and southwest Pacific region. Intelsat 8 is currently expected to remain in service through the end of 2019, and no customer services are immediately affected by the delay. The satellite and launch are fully insured. (6/1)

NASA Glenn Test Chamber Mimics Venus' Harsh Conditions (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Venus, the black speck of a planet that observers will see scooting across the sun's face Tuesday in a rare transit, is a hellish world, with a host of secrets. Its sky is choked with clouds of sulfuric acid that drizzle a constant, corrosive rain. The surface temperature is a balmy 932 degrees, hot enough to reduce lead to a molten puddle. The pressure of Venus's dense, toxic carbon dioxide atmosphere is a crushing 92 times that of Earth's. Less than a dozen robotic spacecraft – all from the former Soviet Union – managed to touch down on Venus's menacing surface between 1970 and 1984. None survived more than 127 minutes. Click here. (6/4)

No Coming Home From This Mission to Mars (Source: Courier Mail)
A Dutch ompany has announced it wants to colonize Mars and plans to send four astronauts to the red planet to start operations by 2022. MarsOne, founded by a Dutch energy entrepreneur, plans to send a communications satellite to Mars by 2016 and a rover to traverse the planet by 2018. By 2020 all the infrastructure needed to host a colony would be built ready for the astronauts to leave Earth by September 14, 2022.

The company has not released any information about breeding programs, but MarsOne plans to add astronauts to the colony every two years. The astronauts must be committed to the project - because they will never be able to leave. Entrepreneur Bas Landsdorp said he planned to fund the venture via "media spectacle" - whatever that means. (6/4)

Pentagon Warns Of China Failure Risks, As Chinese Woman Astro Set For Launch (Source: America Space)
China’s aggressive satellite production and launch pace is threatening launch vehicle failures and the malfunction in orbit of important spacecraft, according to a largely classified Defense Dept. report to Congress. The report comes as China is poised for an extremely high profile mission, the launch into space of China’s first woman astronaut as early as mid June.

Examples of failures stemming from the growing risk factors are cited in an unclassified summary of the 2012 Pentagon report titled “Military and Security Developments of the People’s Republic of China”. The U. S., Russia and Japan have all at times experienced a run of launch and spacecraft failures as a result of too ambitious development and scheduling. The Pentagon sees something similar happening now in China. (6/4)

Science Stars to Shine as Space U Program Opens Today at FIT (Source: Florida Today)
The biggest threat to the International Space Station and other spacecraft in low-Earth orbit: catastrophic hits from space debris. Space junk is colliding with space junk — and creating even more space junk — faster than natural forces can pull the debris back through the atmosphere. Leading experts predict that a cascade of collisions could make low-Earth orbit impassible within the next 20 to 50 years. What to do?

Gather some of the best minds in aerospace and tackle the problem. And while you’re at it, take up some other challenges, from planning a next-generation space station to building refueling depots in orbit. Today, rising stars from 30 different nations will start doing just that at the opening of a prestigious International Space University program — the 25th Space Studies Program — being co-hosted by Florida Institute of Technology and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (6/4)

$1.5 Million NASA Rover Contest Set for Robo-Showdown in June (Source: MSNBC)
Mark June 16 on your calendar, interplanetary robot fans: That’s when autonomous rovers will face off in NASA's $1.5 million Sample Return Robot Challenge at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. The challenge, one of several that NASA is sponsoring, was announced back in July 2010 — but a purpose-built autonomous robot isn't a simple thing to create, so it has taken nearly two years to collect and vet the entrants. (5/11)

European Earth Observation Satellites Face Delays at Three Launch Sites (Source: Space News)
Three European Earth observation missions that had been scheduled for launch this summer are now facing delays of undetermined length because of unrelated issues at three different launch sites, European government officials said. The latest delay is to the European Space Agency (ESA) Swarm mission to study Earth’s magnetic field. The three Swarm satellites were scheduled for launch in June aboard a Russian Rockot vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

Russia’s Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow announced June 1 that the Rockot would return to flight in early July with the launch of two Russian satellites, the Gonets-M and Mir. A Rockot launch of another Russian government payload will follow that, and only then will Swarm be launched. (6/4)

NASA Gets Two Military Spy Telescopes for Astronomy (Source: Washington Post)
The U.S. government’s secret space program has decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens. They have 2.4-meter (7.9 feet) mirrors, just like the Hubble. They also have an additional feature that the civilian space telescopes lack: A maneuverable secondary mirror that makes it possible to obtain more focused images. These telescopes will have 100 times the field of view of the Hubble. (6/4)

Hollywood Aliens Are Our Own Projections (Source: Discovery)
In retiring after three decades of searching for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations, Jill Tarter recently said: "We should look at movies like 'Men in Black III,' 'Prometheus' and 'Battleship' as great entertainment and metaphors for our own fears, but we should not consider them harbingers of alien visitation." For melodrama Hollywood writers swing either toward showing benevolent or evil space aliens.

At the two extremes of the spectrum is the mawkish big-eye little alien in "E.T." (1980) and the nightmarish creature of artist H.R. Giger's imagination in the film "Alien" (1979) and its sequels. Among the lamest aliens to show up in our nation's capitol was space-humanoid Michael Rennie in the 1951 classic "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Backed by his Cyclops muscle-robot, Gort, he scolds humans about not being peace-loving. Good luck! (NOTE: Don't waste you popcorn money on the sappy save-the-squirrels theme in 2008 remake of this classic with Keanu Reeves). Click here. (6/4)

Are We Really Surprised When Private Companies Do Great Things? (Source: Forbes)
When things have been done a particular way for a long time, it is often difficult to imagine them being done any other way. This was evident in the apparent amazement that a private company might be capable of successfully launching a spacecraft capable of docking with the International Space Station. SpaceX, has now done just that. This is a great achievement for any organization, even for government agencies, which until now had an apparent monopoly on such missions. Clearly the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, Elon Musk, was able to imagine that things could be different. He also had the wherewithal and the will to succeed. (6/4)

Bova on Space Exploration (Source: Naples News)
I believe it is important — vital — that we use the opportunities and the resources that space offers us. The expansion of the human race beyond the limits of Earth is more than an adventure, more than satisfying scientific curiosity. We must expand into space for one overwhelmingly powerful reason: survival. There are 7 billion people on Earth today. Each day, another quarter-million babies are born. Each of them needs food, clothing, shelter, education.

The needs of our growing human population are stressing this planet's natural resources, but even more so, they are stressing the social systems we have built to develop and utilize those resources. The wars, terrorism, tensions that afflict us can all be traced to one major cause: we are arguing over who gets how big a share of this planet's resources, and at what price. (6/4)

New Mexico’s Spaceport May Enhance Wellness (Source: Examiner)
New Mexico’s new $209 million Spaceport America will be open for business in the not-too-distant future, with many pronouncements like “Virgin Galactic Now Hiring in Southern N.M” making many people in that state wondering how it might benefit or hurt their state of wellness. Because the best way to stay well is prevention based on information, let’s examine how the Spaceport might affect our wellness.

Wellness-based Research: Virgin Galactic is signing contracts to fly scientists into space (328,000 feet above the Earth) to conduct scientific research experiments. Southwest Research Institute, for example, signed such an agreement to conduct biological, climate, biomedical monitoring, atmospheric imaging, microgravity planetary regolith experiments, and astronomy research. Click here for more. (6/4)

Should Cyprus Reclaim its Piece of the Moon? (Source: Cyprus Mail)
Cyprus is taking the backseat in reclaiming a gift of a rather otherworldly nature. For when it comes to the island’s very own piece of the moon, the government has made little effort to get back its lunar morsel now that it has turned up decades after it first vanished. Back in the 1970s, nearly 270 moon rocks were scooped up by US astronauts and then given to countries around the world and their representative governments by the Nixon administration out of an act of goodwill. Each rock, encased in acrylic, was proudly mounted on a plaque with the intended recipient’s flag.

But little did they know just how much controversy these little fragments of rock would provoke. Over time, many of them mysteriously disappeared, some stolen in hope of big bucks on the black market; others were lost in the aftermath of political turmoil. Many of them have been returned to their rightful countries over the course of time, with much media attention now having been placed on the return of the Nicaragua Apollo 11 moon rock which was found in the hands of a Las Vegas casino mogul. Amidst all this, the Cyprus Apollo 17 Goodwill rock still remains far away across the Atlantic despite being in NASA’s possession since May 2010. (6/4)

India Plans To Launch First Military Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
Indian forces are ready to launch the nation’s first military satellite, the Times of India reported on Monday. The satellite is designed for naval intelligence and communications, according to the newspaper, which added that the device is ready and its launch is expected in about a month, quoting an unnamed government source. The satellite, which will be on orbit over the Indian Ocean, will transfer high speed data, and link all Indian naval ships, submarines, airplanes and control centers on the shore into a single information network. (6/4)

Mysterious Radiation Burst Recorded in Tree Rings (Source: Nature)
Just over 1,200 years ago, the planet was hit by an extremely intense burst of high-energy radiation of unknown cause, scientists studying tree-ring data have found. The radiation burst, which seems to have hit between ad 774 and ad 775, was detected by looking at the amounts of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in tree rings that formed during the ad 775 growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. The increase in 14C levels is so clear that the scientists, led by Fusa Miyake, a cosmic-ray physicist from Nagoya University in Japan, conclude that the atmospheric level of 14C must have jumped by 1.2% over the course of no longer than a year, about 20 times more than the normal rate of variation. (6/4)

Who Owns Asteroids or the Moon? (Source: New Scientist)
Should asteroids rich in precious metals be regarded, in legal terms, like the fish in the sea? That is one approach the United Nations could take as it struggles to come to terms with mining plans announced by Planetary Resources, a start-up company based in Seattle. It all sounds mind-bogglingly expensive and complicated, and it is. But those planning the operations have more earthly concerns to deal with, too. Mining asteroids or the moon appears to violate many of the tenets of international space law.

The most important of these is the UN's Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which in rather pompous language states that "the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind". It also specifically prohibits states from making territorial claims in space. "States cannot claim rights over an asteroid," says Joanne Wheeler, a lawyer at London legal practice CMS Cameron McKenna and a UK government adviser on the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

"The Outer Space Treaty says the moon and celestial bodies such as asteroids are not subject to national appropriation. Whether that means no one owns the asteroids, or we all do under some common heritage, what's clear here is there is no state sovereignty over them." What applies to sovereign states probably also applies to private companies. "It is not possible for Planetary Resources to say it owns all of an asteroid even if they are the first there," says Wheeler. (6/4)

Russian Space Agency to Retain its Status (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Federal Space Agency will retain its status, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin supervising the defense and aerospace sectors said. "Roscosmos will retain the federal agency status. Reforms should not start with refurbishing,” he wrote. The vice-premier said earlier that the Federal Space Agency was due to present its work plan by the middle of summer. Then personnel may be reshuffled and decisions concerning the agency’s future will be made. (6/4)

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