July 15, 2012

Moon Patterns Explained (Source: Science News)
Scientists have charged up an old moon mystery. New research suggests that swirling designs on the dusty lunar surface might be the product of electric fields generated by pockets of magnetic bubbles. “People have been looking at these strange, mysterious structures since the invention of the telescope,” says physicist Ruth Bamford of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, England. “Now we know exactly how they are made.”

The milky patterns stand out like pale flesh against darkly tanned skin. It’s as if you used sunblock to paint whorls on your arm and then spent the day outside, says planetary geologist Georgiana Kramer of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. The sun would color everything but the protected skin, leaving the whorls white.

Scientists have long suspected that weak magnetic fields near the moon’s surface might shape the looping patterns. The moon doesn’t have a dynamo-driven magnetic field like Earth’s, but researchers have found patchy magnetic bubbles scattered across the lunar crust. (7/11)

NASA Should Consider Closing Sites to Save Space (Source: Florida Today)
Maintaining NASA centers from sea to sea is no longer necessary and closing some of them, and consolidating work, is about to get a long overdue look from a study demanded by Congress. Quietly meeting in recent months, the National Research Council’s “Committee on NASA’s Strategic Direction” is getting a push from influential members of Congress, which ordered up the study, to consider whether NASA’s far-flung centers and facilities are necessary, among other questions that could fundamentally change the way the agency works.

And, NASA is not necessarily raising a stink in response. In fact, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the committee that it would be dishonest for the agency to argue that it needs all the facilities it currently has across the U.S. “I urge you to take a close look at the agency’s structure and facilities,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee that sets the budgets of NASA and other federal government agencies, in a letter to the committee’s chair.

“If NASA were being established today, how would it be structured and what would its priority programs be for the 21st century?” Based on Wolf’s statements and the questioning the committee has done thus far with NASA officials, it’s clear that the review will include some recommendations about NASA centers. Internal NASA documents and outside reviews indicate hundreds of NASA facilities that are being maintained but not used. Hallways full of offices sit empty in some buildings. Test facilities that haven’t been used for five, 10 or more years are being maintained and kept available in case they’re someday needed, audits indicate. Click here. (7/15)

ISU Students' Rockets Soar Near Apollo 11's Pad 39A (Source: Florida Today)
Students in the International Space University's Space Studies Program tested their design skills Saturday in a rocket launch competition at Launch Pad 39A. The Phoenix team, which included Hidemasa Fujita, 25 of Japan and Eric Dawson, 26, New York won the performance points competition after their model rocket reached an altitude of more than 700 feet. The annual rocket launch competition is an activity within the Space Systems Engineering Department of the Space Studies Program. (7/15)

Spaceport License Next Step in Bringing XCOR Operations to Midland (Source: MyWestTexas.com)
After the announcement last week of XCOR Aerospace’s move into the Permian Basin, Midland International Airport staff now are working toward receiving a spaceport designation. The step is necessary for XCOR to begin operating its full research and development facility from Midland as it would allow the company to test its reusable winged launch vehicle, the Lynx.

President and CEO Jeff Greason said Midland is an ideal spot for a spaceport and they don’t expect any issues for Midland International Airport in completing the licensing process with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We wouldn’t be here if we anticipated any difficulty,” Greason said, speaking after the announcement was made that XCOR would sign a $10 million incentive deal with the Midland Development Corp.

Editor's Note: So now we have at least four existing and planned spaceports in Texas, including Blue Origin's site, SpaceX's proposed site, Ellington Field (hear JSC and Houston), and Midland. Florida, by comparison, has the same number, including Jacksonville's Cecil Spaceport, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (composed of KSC and CCAFS), Titusville's Space Coast Regional Airport, and a proposed site in Miami-Dade County. Also, Georgia is pursuing a spaceport license for an airport near St. Mary's, just north of the Florida/Georgia border. (7/15)

Russian Rocket Launches New Crew to Space (Source: Space Daily)
A Soyuz rocket blasted off with an international crew of three toward the International Space Station on Sunday in a mission testing the reliability of Russia's crisis-prone space program. NASA's Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide and Yury Malenchenko of Russia started their journey on top of the Soyuz-FG under the open skies of the Kazakh steppe. (7/15)

Russia to Start Testing New Soyuz Rocket by Yearend (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Space Forces will begin test launches of an advanced light-class Soyuz-2.1V launch vehicle from the Plesetsk space center in northwestern Russia, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday. The new carrier rocket features a powerful NK-33-1 engine and will be able to deliver up to 2.8 tons of payload into low Earth orbit. "We are planning to start test launches of the Soyuz-2.1V light-class carrier rocket at the Plesetsk facility by the end of 2012 and complete them in 2014,” said Col. Alexey Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
Zolotukhin said the testing will comprise a total of five launches. (7/15)

Japanese Museum Chronicles Space History (Source: Japan Times)
An exhibition on the history of space exploration as reported by newspapers opened Saturday at the Japan Newspaper Museum in Yokohama. The events covered by newspaper extras and photos from the period include the first manned space flight by the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin, feats by Japanese astronauts and the 2010 return to Earth of the Hayabusa space probe. Also on display are model rockets, spacesuits and space rations. This year marks the centennial of the birth of Hideo Itokawa, considered the father of Japanese rocket development. An asteroid examined by the Hayabusa probe was named after Itokawa, who died in 1999. (7/15)

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