August 19, 2012

So You Want to Build a Universe (Source: Boston Globe)
First the bad news: A mysterious force called dark energy is tearing the universe apart. In as little as 17 billion years, our beloved universe could be shredded to its atomic bits. Now the good news: You can flex some real artistic muscle and take on the project to end all projects. Physicists think it’s at least conceivable that new universes can bud off in very tiny spaces. Perhaps you could build a new universe. Think of the possibilities: a whole cosmos under your control. The following tips ought to keep you on track. Remember, nobody wants to see a half-built universe. Click here. (8/19)

Former Astronaut to Speak on National Aviation Day (Source: Reflector)
A former NASA astronaut is making a presentation to help mark National Aviation Day at the birthplace of flight. Don Thomas is scheduled to speak at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills on Sunday. The national observance day marks the 141st birthday of Orville Wright, the first person to fly. Thomas' noon presentation is being hosted by the First Flight Society and the National Park Service. (8/19)

Editorial: Space Exploration has Changed Life on Earth (Source: Prescott Daily Courier)
As we view the images Curiosity has beamed back from Mars, one cannot help but wonder what the billions of dollars spent on space exploration has done for us. What is the benefit? One website,, takes a somewhat liberal approach, listing five things: promoting science education, advancing NASA's environmental research, eliminating Earth's overpopulation, looking for more natural resources, and "putting ourselves in perspective."

In fact, we appreciate the more tangible advances, like satellite TV broadcasts; meteorology; fuel cells; medical health; robotics; and materials. The three advances - good and bad - that most of us can relate to are laptops; weapons; and cellphones. The next time you use a cordless power tool, drive on radial tires, drink a bottle of purified water or find your way thanks to a global positioning satellite, thank NASA.

Consider all of the things we would not have, had Americans not accepted space exploration as a priority in the 1960s. Through the Apollo and shuttle programs, the demands on NASA and its contractors required advanced technologies. But it also has meant NASA had to receive what it needed. Many people - and politicians - view NASA as a multi-billion dollar budget item we do not need. They chime in, "Put the money into social programs," or "Use the money to create jobs." Haste would bite the hand that feeds us - and, as demonstrated, technology does create jobs. (8/19)

Boulder Researcher Spearheads Effort to Privately Fund Space Science (Source: Boulder Daily Camera)
Historically, U.S. space exploration has depended almost solely on NASA for funding, which left missions -- and the researchers behind them -- at the whim of the Congressional budgetary process. Boulder planetary scientist Alan Stern said he's tired of weathering the federal funding storm -- the 2013 budget proposed by President Barack Obama would cut funding for planetary sciences by 20 percent -- and he's guessing he's not alone.

Stern is now spearheading an effort to supplement government funding for space exploration, research and education with privately raised money through a new company dubbed Uwingu, which is Swahili for "sky." will take us? We do, too - and it is exciting to imagine. The plan is to sell "space-related products" -- the exact nature of which have not yet been unveiled -- and to use the proceeds to fund grants for space science. Click here. (8/19)

Curiosity's Wheels Aren't the Only Ones Making Tracks on Mars (Source: Florida Today)
Don't forget about Opportunity. Earlier this week, in delivering the latest news about NASA's rover on Mars, the following question popped up: which rover? Oh, yeah, that's right. It's easy to forget that NASA has two working rovers on Mars. As amazing as that might be, Curiosity is not the U.S.'s only robotic scientist exploring Mars. Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that landed on Mars in 2004 with a planned life of months, continues roving more than eight years later. (8/19)

Editorial: Mars Doesn't Spark My Curiosity (Source: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
America has been fascinated lately by that amazing technological wonder, that miraculous assemblage of wires and circuits, that brilliantly designed outer space robot that costs millions to run. Yes, that Mitt Romney is a fascinating guy. But today I'd rather talk about that Mars rover thingy, Curiosity. A lot of folks are excited about that thing crawling around Mars. And I admit I'm amazed that we can send that thing millions of miles past any decent rest stops and safely land it on some desolate planet where life cannot exist.

But, then again, I'm still amazed by microwave ovens, Google Earth and that people think Tyler Perry's funny, so it doesn't take much to amaze me. But why are we so hell-bent on exploring Mars? Is it because we think we might discover life was once on Mars? We do get a thrill out of discovering stuff the way Christopher Columbus discovered America... I don't need NASA to discover anything on Mars. I already know it's cold, desolate and unpopulated. We could've saved money and just discovered Barrow, Alaska.

If NASA wants to sink its money into having Curiosity discovering stuff, discover something Ill be excited about. Discover an electric car battery that can power a car for thousands of miles on a single charge. Discover a cure for cancer and other diseases. (8/19)

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has Hazmat Scare (Source: KABC)
Los Angeles County firefighters responded to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge after reports of a hazardous chemical leak. The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. There were reports that a gas called arsine was leaking at one of the buildings. Firefighters and security guards at JPL told Eyewitness News they didn't find anything dangerous. (8/19)

Bobak Ferdowsi (Source: New York Times)
Bobak Ferdowsi is a flight director for NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity. Widely known as “Mohawk Guy,” he’s become an Internet sensation since Curiosity’s successful landing last week, prompting President Obama to joke that he’s considering getting a mohawk himself. Click here for a quick profile. (8/19)

Russia Launches U.S. Satellite From Floating Pad (Source: Xinhua)
A Russian Zenit-3SL rocket carrying a U.S. communications satellite was launched Sunday by Sea Launch from a seaborne launch platform in the Pacific Ocean. The Intelsat-21 satellite was launched at 10:55 a.m. Moscow time (0655 GMT) from the Odyssey floating platform. The 6,000-kg satellite is designed to operate for 15 years. The satellite will replace the Intelsat-9 to provide telecoms services to people in Latin America. (8/18)

Supporting Warfighters From Space (Source: AFSPC)
Air Force Space Command Vice Commander Lt. Gen. John Hyten recently discussed how the American way of war has fundamentally changed thanks to space. He used historical examples to illustrate his point and contrasted those with support provided in more recent conflicts like operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Hyten highlighted the importance of knowledge and communication in warfare, emphasizing how critical it is for warfighters of today to know the lay of the land.

"It's really simple," the general said addressing the audience of space professionals. "My job, and the job of most people in this room, is to ensure no American warfighter, no American Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine ever has to worry again about what's over that hill or what's around the next corner. No American in combat should ever again lack the ability to communicate."

The situational awareness space assets provide has grown vastly since 1991 and Operation Desert Storm, which is largely regarded as America's first space war, the general said. He explained GPS was not integrated into systems like it is today and that troops supplemented the few military grade receivers they had with commercial ones duct taped to their vehicles. Today you'd be hard pressed to find a tactical unit that doesn't use real-time global positioning, navigation and timing capabilities, but the contributions of GPS go beyond just military application, he continued. (8/17)

First Lynx Flight Delayed to Early 2013 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The first flight of XCOR’s Lynx prototype will most likely be delayed from the end of this year into early 2013. XCOR test engineer Geoffrey Licciardello revealed the slip in a Q&A session during the LA SpaceUp event on Saturday. He said it is taking longer to build the two-person vehicle than expected and that there have been delays in getting components from suppliers.

The first few flights will be short hops off the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Lynx Mark I prototype will reach an altitude of 62 kilometers (203,000 feet). Based on test flights, XCOR will build an advanced Lynx Mark II capable of reaching 100 kilometers (330,000 feet). The Lynx Mark II will have a dorsal pod that will carry a rocket to launch micro-satellites. (8/18)

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