August 10, 2012

NASA Announces Flight Opportunities for Technology Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc))
The NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) Flight Opportunities Program intends to mature towards flight readiness status new crosscutting technologies that advance or enable multiple future space missions.To facilitate this goal, NASA is providing access to certain flight opportunities available to the Agency, on a no-­‐exchange-­‐of funds basis, to entities that have technology payloads meeting specified criteria.

The Flight Opportunities Program combines the FY 2010 Facilitated Access to the Space environment for Technology (FAST) and Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) efforts previously managed by the Innovative Partnership Program Office. The integration of these efforts provides the technology community with access to relevant near-­space environments via a broad range of platforms. Click here. (8/10)

NASA Space Biology Program Awards Research Grants (4 From Florida) (Source: NASA)
NASA selected 15 experiments to be funded through its most recent research announcement for opportunities in space biology research. Ten of these experiments will be conducted aboard the International Space Station in the near future. Five others will be ground-based studies. NASA's Space Biology Program will fund the proposals to investigate how cells, plants and animals respond to microgravity.

Space biology scientists will examine and discover underlying mechanisms of adaptation to changes resulting from the spaceflight environment. This research will help determine how cells and organisms regulate and sustain growth, metabolism, reproduction and development. These studies could provide a foundation upon which other NASA researchers and engineers can build approaches and countermeasures to the problems confronting human exploration of space. It also could lead to new biological tools or applications on Earth.

The selected proposals are from 12 institutions in 10 states and will receive a total of about $4 million during a one- to three-year period. Editor's Note: Four are for research at the University of Florida or by UF researchers at Space Florida's Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy Space Center. Click here. (8/10)

Army Corps: Wallops Island’s Beach Complete, Infrastructure Protected (Source: Dredging Today)
More than 3 million cubic yards of newly deposited sand is protecting the launch pads and critical infrastructure at the Wallops Island NASA flight facility. Three dredges from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock created the buffer between the structures on the island and the Atlantic Ocean. According to Paul Bull, a NASA project manager, the buffer is needed to ensure the Atlantic Ocean didn’t wash away this critical piece of land.

“Anytime we would have a moderate storm, we would get a lot of overwash and it would result in a lot of maintenance work to get everything in working order so we can continue the mission at Wallops,” Bull said. NASA Wallops Island, one of the oldest launch sites in the world, is located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore near the mouth of the Chincoteague Inlet in an area where their shoreline erodes in two different directions. “Wallops has historically lost sand, and their launch ranges were right there at the spot where this nodal point exists,” said Gregg Williams, Norfolk District geospatial section chief. (8/10)

Editorial: With Space Exploration, We Push Our Mortal Limits (Source: Edmonton Journal)
Watching the footage of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars, I was reminded of a recent New York Times article by astrophysicist Adam Frank on the limits of human space travel. Frank pointed out that, for the foreseeable future, we are stuck within the confines of our own solar system. He was correct to point out that this is not something to fear, or to be resigned to, but something to embrace. Whatever the limits of our interstellar travel, our capabilities within this solar system are exciting and awe-inspiring. Click here. (8/10)

Smokey Bear in Space for 68th Birthday (Source: PRWEB)
A personal relationship between a Southeast Alaska U.S. Forest Service employee and astronaut Joe Acaba, current flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, is responsible for Smokey Bear spending today, his 68th birthday, in space. Forest Service Alaska Region Partnership and Outreach Program Leader Jeff Miller met, and established a friendship with Acaba several years ago when both of them served with the Peace Corps in the Caribbean.

Acaba visited Miller in Juneau on a vacation to get away from the stress of his pre-flight training in preparation for his mission to the International Space Station. While in Juneau, Miller loaned Acaba a stocking cap with a Smokey Bear patch sewn to the front for an overnight trip to St. James Bay in Southeast Alaska. Later, a seed of an idea grew in Miller’s mind... why not use Smokey Bear as an educational tool to teach people about the cooperation between the U.S. Forest Service and NASA in relation to fire imagery, weather data, and imagery depicting forest health.

That seed grew into a full blown memorandum of understanding between the two agencies. As part of the campaign, Acaba nominated a Smokey Bear to be the talisman/zero gravity indicator (a Russian tradition) for his Soyuz launch May 15, 2012, and his two Russian fellow astronauts agreed. The launch kicked off the multi-faceted outreach campaign. The campaign allows the Forest Service to increase visibility of Smokey Bear and wildfire prevention messaging, as well as heighten awareness of the agency’s work in conservation, forestry and climate change. (8/10)

Going Private, Space Industry Eyes State’s Open Spaces (Source: New York Times)
When XCOR Aerospace, a private California rocket-building company, was looking for a wide-open place to test rocket engines and space planes, it found an ideal site in Midland Texas. “There’s nothing in the desert for hundreds of miles,” said Mike Massee, a spokesman for the company. XCOR plans to set up facilities in an existing Midland hangar next year and could eventually invest $12 million a year in payroll there, Mr. Massee said. “That’s something that’s very desirable.”

As home to the NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas has been central to the field of space exploration for decades. But XCOR’s announcement is only the latest indication of many that the state could be on its way to becoming a hub for a new space economy — one based in the private sector. Texas’ location and business-friendly policies make it appealing, industry experts say, and if the private space industry takes root, it could inject millions of dollars into the state economy.

SpaceX, another California-based company, which recently sent an unmanned capsule to and from the International Space Station, is evaluating a location near Brownsville for a launchpad and expanding a rocket-testing facility in McGregor. Blue Origin, a Washington-based company headed by Jeff Bezos, the founder of, has a launchpad in West Texas. (8/10)

Caves as Space Analogue (Source: Scintilena)
To train, astronauts cannot move to the Moon: they need simulators and terrestrial analogues with similarities to space. When it comes to simulating the space environment submarine habitats, hot deserts and Antarctic stations are in the list. One of the best terrestrial analogue to a planetary setting is definitely the cave environment. Darkness, constant temperature, limited field of view, physical obstacles, strict safety rules for personal and team safety, isolation, loss of time awareness, limited resupply, need to work as a team. If you add to all that also exploration, documentation of the explored areas (mapping and photography), scientific experiments and sampling procedures, the similarities with a space mission becomes very realistic. Click here. (8/10)

Exploring the Planets Enriches Us at Home (Source: New York Times)
It could easily seem that planetary exploration is in the full bloom of vigorous good health under American leadership, thank you very much. There’s little doubt that during the last decade the genre of robotic space exploration has reached an apex of achievement. Unfortunately, an apex already implies a fall, and the Obama administration’s proposed NASA budget for 2013 seemingly wants to make that fall as immediate as possible, chopping $300 million from planetary science — a 20 percent cut from 2012.

If such an evisceration is allowed to stand, the most cost-effective and successful division of NASA — the very part of the agency that is actually exploring space with relatively economical robots, rather than flying astronauts expensively in the endless circularity of low Earth orbit — will be reduced to a ghost of its former self. Curiosity could well be a swan song: NASA’s final flagship interplanetary mission.

Such cuts will also assure the demise of a fully elaborated and streamlined national infrastructure, one that knits together engineering talent, scientific expertise, technological innovation, spaceflight management, and communications systems that span the entire Solar System. This apparatus took five decades to build and constitutes one of the great achievements of our time. If it is allowed to come crashing down, it will be virtually impossible to replace. (8/10)

Alaska's Moon Rocks Back in NASA's Hands (Source: Juneau Empire)
Alaska’s historic moon rocks, collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, are back in NASA’s custody. Now, Alaska State Museums Curator Bob Banghart says he’d like to see them back in an Alaska museum. "They belong to the state of Alaska, and they belong in the museum’s collection,” said Banghart, who has been following the case of the moon rocks for years.

The moon rocks were a gift to Alaska by President Richard Nixon just after Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. They’ve been missing for decades, before surfacing in an unusual way recently. Coleman Anderson sued the state, claiming he owned the rocks and wanted to be declared the legitimate owner. The Alaska Attorney General’s Office, representing the museum, is disputing the claim.

It is not clear where Anderson, once an Alaska resident, now lives. He is represented by a Seattle attorney who was unavailable for comment Thursday. The rocks were in the Alaska Transportation Museum in Anchorage in 1973 when the museum burned and the rocks went missing. That museum no longer exists. Neil Slotnick said that Anderson’s claim of how he came to possess the moon rocks did not convey ownership of the rocks. “He claimed that after the fire he found the plaque in the rubble and debris at the museum site, and that he saved it from destruction,” Slotnick said. (8/10)

NASA About to Perform the Ultimate Software Upgrade... on Mars (Source: Houston Chronicle)
If you’ve owned a computer for any length of time, you probably know the anxiety associated with upgrading the operating system. Stepping up to the latest version of Windows or OS X is never trivial, which is why you’re urged to back up your important documents, make sure your hardware is in good shape and your general life karma is in order before your proceed.

At least when you do it, the computer you’re upgrading is on your desk (or your lap) and you’re there to monitor developments. Be grateful you’re not NASA,and the hardware you’re trying to upgrade isn’t millions of miles away – on Mars. Starting Saturday, the space geeks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will begin the process of replacing the operating system on the Curiosity rover. Upgrading your PC or Mac may take a couple of hours at most – it’s going to take these guys four days. (8/10)

Saving Space Science – Do You Uwingu? (Source: Discover)
Space science is in a tight spot today. Much of it is funded by NASA and NSF, and both are facing very large cuts in the 2013 US budget. So what’s a space and science enthusiast to do? If you’re Alan Stern – head honcho of the Pluto New Horizons probe and longtime scientific researcher- you start a new company that’ll fund space science by engaging the public.

So he did. The company is called Uwingu – Swahili for "sky" – and the team includes several top-notch scientists like Geoff Marcy, Andy Chaikin, Emily CoBabe-Ammann, Pamela Gay, Mark Sykes, and many others. The idea is to create space-related products the public will like such as games, software, and merchandise. They’ll then sell them and use the profits to fund scientific research. People will be able to submit proposals for the funding, which will be peer reviewed to ensure high-quality work. And it’s not just research: they hope to fund space-based projects, education, and other science-supporting ventures. (8/10)

Globalstar in Payment Dispute with Arianespace (Source: Space News)
Launch service provider Arianespace has notified customer Globalstar that the mobile satellite services company is in default on payments due from three launches in 2010 and 2011 and must pay by late August or risk suspension of a fourth and final Globalstar launch late this year. Globalstar, which is working to restore its two-way voice service with a second-generation constellation of 24 satellites, faces a termination of the six-satellite launch if payment is not made within 60 days.

A contract termination would trigger a default on Globalstar’s principal loan facility, which is guaranteed by France’s export-credit agency, Coface. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Globalstar said it disputes Arianespace’s claims and is negotiating with the Evry, France-based company on a mutually acceptable agreement. Arianespace delivered its payment-default notification in early August. It sets in motion a 15-day grace period after which Arianespace may suspend preparations for the next launch. (8/10)

Profit Drops Sharply Even as Revenue Rises (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturer Loral reported a 9 percent increase in revenue but a sharp drop in operating profit for the six months ending June 30 and said it could lose up to $8 million in orbital incentives if a review blames Loral, and not Sea Launch, for the solar-array failure on the Intelsat 19 telecommunications satellite. Loral, which is being sold to Canada’s MDA Corp. for $875 million, said Intelsat owes it $18 million in orbital incentive payments that are paid out during a satellite’s service life. (8/10)

Range Problems Delay Atlas 5 Launch Again at California Spaceport (Source: Space Country VAFB)
A glitch with Western Range equipment has postponed the departure of an Atlas 5 rocket and its classified payload from Vandenberg Air Force Base again, delaying liftoff another two weeks. The new launch date has not been set, but the blastoff isn’t expected to occur any earlier than Aug. 30. The team came within minutes of liftoff early Aug. 2, but had to scrub the countdown because of a glitch involving Western Range equipment deemed critical for the mission.

“They’re still working the issue at this point,” Lt. Austin Fallin, a base spokesman. The problem was billed initially as a 24-hour delay, pushing the mission to Aug. 3, and then another announcement said it would slip to Aug. 4. However, officials ruled the evening of Aug. 2 that they needed nearly two more weeks to resolve it. They had been targeting Aug. 14, but decided this week to scrap those plans so that Western Range crews would have more time. (8/10)

Capitalism in Space (Source: National Review)
Ever since the Obama administration’s rollout of its space policy two and a half years ago, conventional ideological wisdom has been turned on its head. An administration that had seemed eager to increase government involvement in everything from auto companies to health care proposed a more competitive, privatized approach to spaceflight, and people claiming to be conservatives blasted it, demanding that the traditional (and failing) NASA monopoly continue.

Jim Muncy, a former aide on space policy to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), put it cleverly: “Democrats don’t think that capitalism works within the atmosphere, and Republicans apparently don’t think it works above it.” How did this happen? The resistance suggests three primary motives: visceral distaste for anything that emanates from this White House; nostalgia for the “good old days,” when America had big goals and really big rockets and unlimited budgets; and, in the case of many politicians, pure rent-seeking for their states and districts. Click here. (8/10)

Extraterrestrial Origin: Bizarre Crystal Zipped Here From Outer Space (Source:
A sample of a bizarre crystal once considered unnatural may have arrived on Earth 15,000 years ago, having hitched a ride on a meteorite, a new study suggests. The research strengthens the evidence that this strange "quasicrystal" is extraterrestrial in origin. The pattern of atoms in a quasicrystal falls short of the perfectly regular arrangement found in crystals. Until January, all known quasicrystals were man-made. "Many thought it had to be that way, because they thought quasicrystals are too delicate, too prone to crystallization, to form naturally." Click here. (8/10)

Astronauts Memorial Foundation Picks Thad Altman as President and CEO (Sources: AMF, SPACErePORT)
The Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) – a Florida-based non-profit that receives funding from the sale of space-themed auto license plates – has selected Thad Altman as its incoming AMF President and CEO. Altman will provide overall vision and leadership functions, work with staff to develop new educational and memorial programs, seek new fundraising and partnership opportunities, recommend budgets, serve as a liason between the AMF and NASA, and manage human resources.

Altman is a state senator representing much of Florida's Spacce Coast in Tallahassee. He has served as chairman of a space and defense-focused Senate Committee and has served as a legislative appointee to Space Florida's board of directors. AMF is headquartered at the KSC Visitor Complex, where it manages a "Space Mirror" that features the names of fallen astronauts, and owns and manages the Center for Space Education where Space Florida is headquartered and NASA operates its Educator Resource Center. (8/10)

Obama Campaign Visits Florida for Aerospace Roundtable (Source: SPACErePORT)
Former OSTP Chief of Staff Jim Kohlenberger visited Florida's Space Coast on Friday to discuss aerospace policy issues with about a dozen industry, university and government officials who discussed their concerns about the aerospace industry's future. "Aerospace Roundtables" like this one have been organized locally for multiple candidates, including Gov. Mitt Romney during the 2008 campaign. The 2012 Romney campaign has not yet held such an event.

Kohlenberger discussed the reasoning behind Constellation's cancellation, the dangers of sequestration budget cuts, the need for focused R&D investments, and NASA's recent successes on Mars and with its strategy for commercial launches. He spoke about the importance of the FAA's growing role in space transportation, and STEM education. He cautioned that Gov. Romney has not established clear positions on space policy, aside from pledging to "fire" anyone proposing audacious space goals (like a lunar base) and supporting a proposed GOP budget that would dramatically reduce government investments in NASA, education programs, and science and technology development. Click here. (8/10)

Florida Aerospace Industry Braces for Layoffs (Source: WPTV)
Florida's aerospace companies fear that possible sequestration cuts may mean job losses and reductions in investments and programs, this feature says. For small firms, the situation may be worse. "A lot of these small companies don't have the cash reserves to survive significant reductions in spending," said Dan Stohr, a spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association. "So, they'll shut their businesses or move elsewhere if they have to." (8/10)

Defense Industry Has Cut Jobs for Several Years, Study Shows (Source: Government Executive)
A new report that researchers say calls into question how tightly linked sequestration and defense layoffs may be shows that even in good times, contractors have been cutting jobs. The Project on Government Oversight found that the five largest defense firms cut jobs over the past five years despite receiving more government spending. (8/10)

Fuel Pipe to Blame for Proton Launch Failure (Source: RIA Novosti)
Monday's failed satellite launch was caused by a fault in a fuel pipe, Kommersant daily reported on Thursday, citing a source in the government inquiry. The source said telemetry showed that pressure in the Briz-M upper stage fell sharply following the vehicle's second burn, causing the Proton-M rocket, carrying two communications satellites, to spin out of control. The launch was scheduled to utilize four burns of the Briz-M to put Indonesia's Telkom-3 and Russia's Express MD2 satellites into orbit. The Briz-M's fuel pipe might have been "mechanically damaged" or held some foreign objects, the inquiry source said. (8/9)

New NASA Mission Ready to Brave Earth's Radiation Belts (Source: NASA)
NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission will send two spacecraft into the harsh environment of our planet's radiation belts. Final preparations have begun for launch on Thursday, Aug. 23, from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The RBSP spacecraft are designed to fly and operate in the heart of the most hazardous regions of near-Earth space to collect crucial data. The data will help researchers develop an understanding of the Van Allen radiation belts, two rings of very high energy electrons and protons that can pose hazards to human and robotic explorers. (8/9)

Astronomers Release the Largest Ever Three-Dimensional Map of the Sky (Source: Space Daily)
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has released the largest three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes ever created. The new map pinpoints the locations and distances of over a million galaxies. It covers a total volume equivalent to that of a cube four billion light-years on a side. (8/9)

Wayward Satellites to Orbit for Months (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Briz-M upper stage booster, which failed to put two satellites into their target orbit, is likely to keep flying in space for up to five months before sinking into the thicker layers of the atmosphere, a rocket industry source said. Russia launched a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M booster carrying the Telkom-3 and the Express MD2 satellites on Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. However, the booster and the two satellites failed to reach the designated orbit due to a possible engine mishap. (8/9)

Europe's Spaceport Moves Into Action for Arianespace's Next Soyuz Mission (Source: Space Daily)
The first of two Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) navigation satellites for Arianespace's next Soyuz mission from the Spaceport has arrived in French Guiana, stepping up the activity involving this mission - which is scheduled in the second half of 2012. Delivered by a chartered Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner, the Galileo FM3 (Flight Model #3) spacecraft arrived this week at Felix Eboue International Airport near the capital city of Cayenne and was transferred by road to the Spaceport's S1B payload preparation building.

he two Galileo satellites to be orbited on the next Soyuz mission will join another pair lofted by Arianespace on this medium-lift launcher's maiden flight from French Guiana in October 2011. Together, the four spacecraft are to form the minimum coverage required for satellite-based navigation - providing latitude, longitude and altitude data, while also checking ranging accuracy. (8/9)

How the DIY Space Capsule Test Could Fail (Source: WIRED)
In 1 day and 14 hours we will launch our space capsule Tycho Deep Space. Space flight or rocketry is a special discipline where all your long hours of work are put to a final test of complete destruction or success. This test is no different. We intend to launch the 500 kg capsule using the Launch Escape System, an 80 kN engine capable of “pulling” the capsule to a height of approx. 1.4 km, releasing it for drogue — and main parachute deployment and finally a splashdown on water.

As the Flight Director I have the privilege of not only controlling the operation at sea but also operating all flight events. So, I may also be the cause of complete failure if I manage to mess up the flight events. The factor of human error is huge in this mission. In space flight, only one thing is certain: no matter the result, it always looks cool! Click here. (8/9)

Poet Laureates of Mars: Meet the NASA Team Behind Curiosity’s Twitter (Source: New Republic)
Early Monday morning, NASA’s half-ton, nuclear powered Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars. Minutes later, the rover tweeted, “GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!” The Robot’s outburst prompted a retort from Stephen Colbert. “I don’t know who this Gale is, but gentlemen don’t kiss and tell,” he admonished on his Tuesday show. But Colbert had his facts wrong—Curiosity is no gentleman.

I discovered as much when I contacted NASA to find out who exactly is responsible for Curiosity’s sassy and flamboyant personality on Twitter, which has already managed to attract 900,000 followers. “She’s a robot with cameras, a drill, and a rock-vaporizing laser, powered by plutonium 238,” Veronica McGregor, Media Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told me. “She’s the biggest, baddest rover we’ve ever had, and she knows it. She’s got confidence.”

McGregor leads a team of three women who run Twitter feeds for a variety of NASA rovers, landers, and probes, all in the first-person. Before NASA, she worked as a producer at CNN for fifteen years, where she covered space exploration and other topics. She has been at the forefront of NASA’s social media presence since 2006, when the space agency first entered the interactive online arena. Stephanie Smith, a former print and online journalist, brings humor to the team. “My interests include theater and improv comedy,” she told me. (8/9)

UCLA Scientist Discovers Plate Tectonics on Mars (Source: UCLA)
For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars. "Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth," said An Yin.

Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from a NASA spacecraft known as THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) and from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He analyzed about 100 satellite images — approximately a dozen were revealing of plate tectonics. Yin has conducted geologic research in the Himalayas and Tibet, where two of the Earth's seven major plates divide. (8/9)

Plenty of Dark Matter Near the Sun (Source: University of Zurich)
Astronomers at the University of Zürich and the ETH Zürich, together with other international researchers, have found large amounts of invisible "dark matter" near the Sun. Their results are consistent with the theory that the Milky Way Galaxy is surrounded by a massive "halo" of dark matter, but this is the first study of its kind to use a method rigorously tested against mock data from high quality simulations. The authors also find tantalising hints of a new dark matter component in our Galaxy. (8/9)

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