August 20, 2012

JPL to Guide New Vehicle to Mars in 2016 (Source: Pasadena Sun)
Having just landed a craft on Mars, Jet Propulsion Laboratory will undertake a new mission to Mars in 2016, NASA announced Thursday. The 2016 mission – dubbed InSight – will explore the interior of the planet, finding out what makes up Mars’ core and why Mars does not have tectonic plates similar to those under the Earth’s crust. W. Bruce Banerdt, a geophysicist at JPL who has worked on Mars exploration for two decades, will lead the mission. The project will include teams of scientists from France and Germany.

InSight is expected to spend two years on Mars, landing in September 2016. NASA executives selected InSight over two other proposed planetary missions, one to Saturn’s moon Titan and the other to a comet. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said the mission will answer key questions about Mars and continue the work of planetary scientists at JPL. “By announcing this new mission soon after the landing of Curiosity, NASA will help to preserve the entry, descent and landing capabilities that were so spectacularly demonstrated by the scientists at JPL, whose talents will be crucial to future planetary exploration,” he said. (8/20)

Energia to Bid for Moon-Rocket Contract (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Energia space corporation will take part in a tender for development of a new heavy-class carrier rocket, the company said on Monday. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos recently announced a tender for design of a carrier rocket capable of delivering a large variety of spacecraft to low- and high-orbits, including sending manned spacecraft to a Lunar orbit.

“Energia has the most technical and design solutions ready to carry out this project,” Energia's president and general constructor Vitaly Lopota told reporters in Moscow. The tender calls for the draft of the rocket’s design to be ready by May 31, 2013. The new rocket, based on the Angara carrier rocket design, will have two-stage and three-stage variants. Launches of the new rocket will be carried out from the Vostochny space center currently under construction in the country's Far East. (8/20)

Russia Buries Space Freighter in Pacific (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Progress M-15M cargo spacecraft was sunk in a remote area in southern Pacific on Monday after a three-week scientific experiment in space, the Mission Control said. “Fragments of the space freighter drowned at about 08.12 p.m. Moscow time in a remote area 3,000 kilometers to the east of New Zealand," a spokesman said. Progress M-15M arrived with supplies at the International Space Station (ISS) in April. The freighter undocked from the ISS on July 23 to test an upgraded Russian automated rendezvous system. (8/20)

Akin Serves on Space Subcommittee (Source: LeftAction)
Todd Akin (R-MO), the congressman who made recent controversial and untrue statements about "legitimate rape" and its consequences for pregnancy during a television interview, is a member of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee and serves on that committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Based on his comments, there now is a petition by a Democratic group calling on Speaker John Boehner to remove Akin from the committee. Click here.

Said one blogger: It makes sense that Akin's asinine comment has its roots in the ignorance of mid-eighteenth-century thinking. After all, his House website slogan is "Timeless Principles for Today's Challenges." Instead of retaining fixed, timeless views, perhaps Mr. Akin should consider updating them as knowledge from science accumulates. Isn't that his job, on the House Science Committee of the world's leading science nation? (8/20)

Gov. Brown To Visit JPL (Source: CBS)
Gov. Jerry Brown is planning to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists responsible for the successful mission to land the rover Curiosity on Mars. Brown’s office said he will visit the NASA laboratory in Pasadena on Wednesday to praise the science and innovation behind the $2.5 billion project. The Democratic governor will tour the operations center, meet the lab operating team and view a full-scale model of Curiosity, which was built at JPL headquarters. It landed Aug. 5 in the Gale Crater and is starting to explore the planet’s surface. (8/20)

Sen. Carper Visits ILC Dover (Source: Delaware Online)
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is touring a company near Frederica that makes space suits for NASA. Carper says he is visiting ILC Dover today to see how a state partnership has helped the company. The Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a non-profit economic development organization that helps Delaware manufacturers and small businesses. In addition to NASA space suits, ILC makes blimps for advertising and military surveillance, high tech inflatable devices, gas masks for military and civilian use and other products. (8/20)

Alien Planet Haul: NASA Space Telescope Spots 41 New Exoplanets (Source:
Astronomers have discovered 41 new alien planets in one sweep by analyzing how each world gravitationally yanks on its neighbors. The newly confirmed exoplanets were spotted by NASA's prolific Kepler space telescope, which has detected more than 2,300 potential alien worlds since its March 2009 launch. The new finds, announced in two separate papers, bring the number of verified Kepler worlds to 115 and the total exoplanet tally to nearly 800.

"Typically planets are announced one or two at a time — it's quite exceptional to have 27 announced in a single paper, or 41 in two," said Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist at the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics in Batavia, Ill. Steffen is lead author of one of the studies. Kepler flags exoplanet candidates via the transit method, which looks for dips in a star's brightness caused by a planet crossing in front of it. Confirming these candidates can be a tricky and laborious process, however, requiring follow-up observations by ground-based instruments or further analysis of Kepler's data. (8/20)

'Solid Smoke' Material Aerogel Gets Added Strength (Source: BBC)
Recent improvements to a type of material known as aerogel could lead to a new generation of highly insulating clothing. Aerogels have been around for a long time, and have been described as "solid smoke" because they are so light. But these traditional types - made from silica - are fragile and brittle. By altering the composition and structure of these materials, scientists have now produced aerogels that are hundreds of times stronger.

The new varieties are made by altering the innermost architecture of traditional silica aerogels. Scientists use polymers, a plastic-like material, to reinforce the networks of silica that extend throughout an aerogel's structure. Another way is to make them from polyimide, an incredibly strong and heat-resistant polymer, then insert brace-like cross-links to add further strength to the structure.

"The new aerogels are up to 500 times stronger than their silica counterparts," said Mary Ann Meador from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio. "A thick piece actually can support the weight of a car. And they can be produced in a thin form, a film so flexible that a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses are possible." NASA is exploring use of a heat shield made from flexible aerogel that would inflate like a balloon when spacecraft enter a planetary atmosphere. (8/20)

Cosmonauts Toss Satellite Overboard in ISS Spacewalk (Source:
Two Russian cosmonauts merged orbital construction with zero gravity sports in a spacewalk Monday (Aug. 20), when they moved a space station crane and — with a mighty throw — tossed a big steel ball into orbit. Veteran spacewalkers Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko spent nearly six hours working outside the International Space Station to upgrade the orbiting lab during Monday's spacewalk, which began at 11:37 a.m. EDT (1337 GMT).

The spacewalk's main goal was to move the space station's Strela-2 crane from a Russian-built Pirs docking port to the station's Zarya control module. To move the Strela-2, Padalka rode at the end of different crane, and took time to enjoy a fabulous view of the Earth far below. The 20-pound (9-kilogram) Spherical Satellite was tossed into orbit as part of a Russian space tracking experiment for monitoring space junk and how it re-enters Earth's atmosphere. (8/20)

NanoRacks Seeks Partners for NanoLabs Development (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks plans to designate and promote up to five companies that would design and re-sell "NanoLabs" for use in
NanoRacks hardware now on the ISS and on suborbital platforms. NanoRacks hopes to create a robust, standardized ecosystem that makes use of the NanoRacks research platforms now permanently onboard the ISS-based U.S. National Lab as well as for possible use in other environments, such as onboard the Virgin Galactic suborbital SpaceShipTwo research racks.

We believe that hardware that can be used on the space station that is low-cost and standardized allows researchers to focus their budget and time on the payload itself. It is our hope that this further lowers the barriers to microgravity utilization. Those companies whose NanoLab designs are selected by NanoRacks will receive $2,000 as an honorarium for each chosen NanoLab, promotion of their NanoLab to NanoRacks’ customers including students, educators and researchers for space station and suborbital utilization.

To date, customers using NanoLabs have had to build the hardware each time from scratch. We have considered creating our own family of NanoLabs, but have come to believe it is better for the community to have a marketplace with differing NanoLab vendors for researchers and students. This video shows the NanoLabs and our NanoRacks Platform-1 being handled by astronaut Scott Kelley. (8/20)

CASIS Announces Solicitation in Materials Science and Earth Observational Science (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, will soon announce two upcoming solicitations for ISS research proposals. Both solicitations will be made available for commercial, governmental, and academic researchers over the next month.

The two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will be in the fields of Materials Science and Earth Observational Science. The RFPs will open various facilities onboard the ISS to research communities, offering an innovative, quick path for scientists to benefit from the Station’s on orbit capabilities. Both solicitations are aimed to return data as quickly as possible. In the case of the Earth Observational Science RFP, results will be in researchers’ hands as early as spring 2013. For additional information about both RFPs, including instructions and resources regarding Materials Science and Earth Observational Science, continue to check the CASIS solicitations site: (8/20)

Atlas V Launch Delayed at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Brevard Times)
The Atlas V launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, targeted for 4:08 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 23, 2012 has been delayed until 4:07 a.m. EDT on Friday August 24, 2012. There is a 20-minute launch window. United Launch Alliance says that an anomalous engine condition was identified during testing of another Atlas vehicle in Decatur, Georgia. The 24-hour delay will allow engineers to determine whether a similar condition exists with the Atlas engine in Florida. (8/20)

Florida Aerospace Workers Call on Lawmakers to Prevent Sequestration (Source: Reuters)
The uncertainty over automatic cuts in U.S. defense spending to be triggered in January because of congressional inaction has spread to the engineers and project managers in South Florida's aerospace industry. Employees at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne here say that both personal and corporate planning is on hold, with any new ideas of spending being reined in. Fernando Diaz, 37, deputy program manager for Pratt's RL-10 rocket engine, said he and his wife of two years wanted to start a family. But now they aren't sure if the time is right.

James Larkin, 51, a jet engineer at Pratt, has been through several boom-and-bust cycles, but describes automatic cuts as "a ticking time bomb" for him. With two teenagers at home, Larkin is worrying about how he will pay for college tuition if the cuts come. He's recruiting fellow employees to raise awareness and write to Congress. (8/20)

Congressional Deal on Sequestration is Unlikely, Former Treasury Official Says (Source: The Hill)
Democrats and Republicans are too polarized to compromise on sequestration cuts, says former Treasury Department official Neil Barofsky. Barofsky warned that automatic spending cuts would damage the economic recovery. (8/20)

Paul Ryan Talks NASA in Florida (Source: WPTV)
Countering critics who perceived him and Romney as weak on national security and foreign policy, Paul Ryan said Romney would propose to strengthen defense spending if elected. Ryan, who voted against the 2008 and 2010 NASA Authorization Acts, said he believed in a “robust space program.” He said the space agency, which has shed thousands of jobs after the retirement of the space shuttle and the cancelation of its Constellation program, was an "invaluable asset to our national security."

"President Obama has advanced what we think are devastating and irresponsible cuts to defense programs. We want to restore that because we believe in peace through strength. We believe in scientific research. We obviously believe that a robust space program is in the vital national security interests of America," he said. "Mitt Romney has committed to restoring our national defense which we see as a national security issue including our space programs." He declined to say which role, if any, commercial space companies like SpaceX would have under a Romney-Ryan administration. (8/20)

NASA Probes to Help Understand Sun’s Impact (Source: CFnews13)
NASA is preparing to launch a rocket this week to help better understand how the sun can wreak havoc on everything from cell phones to our health. Originally planned for Thursday, United Launch Alliance announced a 24-hour delay due to a problem found during testing of another Atlas vehicle in Alabama that scientists want to make sure isn't present in the launch vehicle. The launch window is now scheduled to begin at 4:07 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24.

At 93 million miles away, the sun’s powerful rays can still cause damage, from cancer to communication failure. That includes disruptions to cell phone service. “It’s extremely frustrating, especially when you go to dial back and it says network busy or network problems, especially if it’s something important, like did you feed the dog?” said Mark Campbell of Palm Bay. Scientists said solar storms can throw off cell phone satellites orbiting Earth. (8/20)

A McDonald's on Mars? Not if Heritage Experts Get Their Way! (Source:
The space landing was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. Reaching Mars represented the next evolution in space exploration. But if space colonists plan to bulldoze over the dusty landing sites and build a string of intergalactic McDonald's, they’d best think again. Enter Doctor Alice Gorman, the Australian whose task it is to heritage-list space sites before humans set up shop there and ruin everything.

"We aren't valuing space science legacy," Dr Gorman said. "It's about recognizing things that are important to people and giving it a framework for it to be applied." Heritage listing doesn't just apply to the moon, or Mars - it also applies to satellites and debris that has been orbiting throughout the solar system for decades. The team leader of archaeology at heritage firm, Australian Cultural Heritage Management, Dr Gorman is one of only a handful of people in the world trying to protect the cultural heritage of space exploration. (8/20)

Editorial: Curb Your Otherworldly Curiosity (Source: Iowa State Daily)
What benefits float in space? What radical ideals or solutions in that vast vacuum await discovery not already here on Earth? It is with much regret that I type these next remarks, for I am captivated by the stars, the beauty of the beyond, and the possibility to pull back the curtain of the unknown. Countless books of both nonfiction and fiction — mainly science fiction — have been created upon the subject of exploring space, the consequences good and bad of exploration, and what dreams of the future will bring, and I am no stranger to these.

But many more important matters require attention than the possibility of life or the history of an arid planet. Earth has realms still not breached by humanity’s yearning eye, yet we have pressed on into the most vast frontier. There are plenty of places here that’ll quench anyone’s thirst for adventure. The Krubera Cave in the country of Georgia, the deepest known cave in the world, has been left partially unexplored due to inhospitable conditions as well cracks that permit no human being to pass through. Gangkhar Puensum is the highest mountain in Bhutan, the 40th highest mountain in the world, and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

Perhaps there are justifications to go into space — finding life, satisfying our question of purpose, etc. — but they are outweighed by issues unattended to here on Earth. Curiosity’s mission cost an estimated $2.5 billion; that money could’ve gone toward cancer research, genetics, the repair of roads and bridges, and scholarships. Divided, every American would be $8 richer. (8/20)

Super-Heavy Russian Rocket Could be Created Jointly with Ukraine, Kazakhstan (Source: RIA Novosti)
The space rocket corporation Energia, based in Korolyov near Moscow, has proposed a plan to create a super-heavy carrier rocket, Commonwealth, for long-distance space missions, jointly with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, Energia President and General Designer Vitaly Lopota said.

"Energia is proposing that a carrier rocket, Commonwealth, be created in cooperation with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, with the use of the Energia-Buran know-how," he said. "The Energia-Buran project includes the launch system, which is still viable. At least it can be brought back to life. It also includes the "A" rocket units, used in the Zenit carrier rocket, and also engines made today. We proposed using oxygen-kerosene engines instead of the hydrogen central part, and make the first and second stages of five units," he said.

"Concerning the carrying capacity, it's difficult to speculate, but it could be up to 70 tons, which is sufficient to circle the Moon," Lopota said. "If ambitions and political will are there, this project could be accomplished in a few years without falling behind our American colleagues," Lopota added. Click here. (8/20)

Wallops Rocket to Carry University Experiments (Source: Virginian Pilot)
A rocket that's set to launch from Wallops Island in Virginia will carry experiments by students at four universities. The launch is set for Thursday morning and four university experiments are being flown as part of an educational project called RockSat-X, which is designed to provide students hands-on experience in designing, fabricating, testing and conducting experiments for space flight. The rocket will soar to an altitude of 98 miles. After a 15-minute flight, the payload will splash down in the Atlantic ocean about 66 miles off the Virginia coast. (8/20)

The Human Colonization of Space (Source: California Aggie)
Will newly designed space rockets and vehicles be used only for exploration, travel and tourism in the coming decades, or will humans take the first major steps toward establishing multi-generational “colonies” of people in space? Professors and students at UC Davis involved with Professor Steve Robinson’s upcoming research center on campus for the study of human/vehicle interaction will be debating such topics in the coming academic year. Students who take his “Introduction to Spacecraft” class in the spring will also participate.

“I think we’re a long ways from really putting colonies of people out there that would live their whole lives in space,” said former NASA astronaut John Glenn. Robert W. Phillips, a former chief scientist of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) program, agreed: “You don’t want to get too carried away with living someplace else until you’ve at least gone to visit and explored it to determine what’s there.”

Phillips, who graduated from UC Davis in 1965 with a Ph.D. in physiology and nutrition, trained as an astronaut in the 1980s. While much of the debate about space colonies in the 1970s focused on the idea of creating space habitats in the “free space” between the Solar System’s planets, many experts today say establishing colonies on the surface of a planet (like Mars) or on the surface of a planetary body (like the Moon) would be much more feasible. (8/20)

Delta 4 Rocket Rolls Out to Bolster GPS Constellation (Source:
The Delta 4 rocket that will launch in October for the direct benefit of the world's population using the Global Positioning System was stacked on its Cape Canaveral pad last week. The United Launch Alliance-made vehicle is targeting an Oct. 4 blastoff to deploy the GPS 2F-3 navigation satellite, replacing a 19-year-old craft in the orbiting constellation that serves billions of military and civilan users across the planet.

Liftoff will be possible during a morning launch window extending from 8:10 to 8:29 a.m. EDT (1210-1229 GMT). Riding horizontal aboard a 36-wheel, diesel-powered transporter, the bright orange and white rocket, stretching 170 feet long, emerged from the assembly hangar and took the brief trip down the road and up the pad's ramp to the Florida spaceport's Complex 37. (8/20)

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