August 26, 2012

Curiosity Arrival on Mars Revives Interest in Space Innovation (Source: Washington Post)
The computer selected to power Curiosity — the Mars rover hailed as proof America can still make big technological strides — wasn’t the cutting-edge device one might expect. In fact, it was more of a workhorse, a single-board computer that dates back to 2000, traveled on its first mission in 2005 and now runs some 30 satellites. Another 50 will be carrying the technology within about two years.

Yet the RAD750, built in Manassas by BAE Systems, is precisely the sort of component that allowed Washington’s government contracting community to do what it does best: turn tried-and-true technology into a sophisticated explorer that will now spend the next two years on the Red Planet conducting groundbreaking experiments. The innovation is in the integration.

The RAD750, measuring just 3.5-by-6 inches across its face, is the kind of part that makes the sum all the more powerful. NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory “selected a standard, known, solid design that they could count on,” said Vic Scuderi, manager of satellite electronics at BAE. “You don’t want a $2.5 billion mission suddenly dependent on ... some new fancy technique.” (8/26)

As We Say Goodbye to Neil Armstrong, Should We Also Let Go of Our Space Fantasies? (Source: Scientific American)
The death of Neil Armstrong arouses memories and mixed emotions. In the summer of 1969, my family and I spent a month on Nantucket Island. Our cottage lacked a television, so on the night of July 20 we walked to the house of a neighbor. I lay on the floor of the crowded living room, my head propped up on a pillow, and watched a flickering, black-and-white image of Armstrong stepping off the Eagle module and onto the Moon.

I remember thinking Science fiction is coming true! Next stop Mars! Stars! Galaxies! [But] even before the recent recession, I began questioning the morality of taxpayer-funded manned-space programs. Early in his tenure Barack Obama paid lip service to the goals of returning to the moon and visiting Mars, but Obama didn’t give NASA nearly enough money to achieve these goals in the foreseeable future. Nor should he have, when so many people here on earth lack adequate health care, housing, education and other necessities?

Given all our terrestrial troubles, our infatuation with space seems more than ever like escapism. I’m thrilled by the success of the Mars rover Curiosity, and I wish entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk all the best as they try to create a private space-travel industry. Some day, maybe, my kids, or their kids, will get to walk on the Moon, like Neil Armstrong, or look down at Earth from an orbiting space hotel. Some dreams are worth holding on to, even if we’re not sure that they will—or should–come true. (8/26)

Neil Armstrong's Death Should be a Wake-Up Call for the World (Source: Guardian)
Nobody born after 1935 has walked on the moon. Nobody since the nineteen thirties. The children of eight decades since have still not made it back there, or reached further to touch the red dust of Mars. Neil Armstrong's death means that the first man on the Moon will never meet the first man on Mars. It is a chilling reminder that we are unlikely to reach another planet in the lifetimes of any of the surviving Apollo astronauts.

It may not happen in my parents' lifetimes. I'm beginning to lose faith that it will even happen in my lifetime. How have we allowed this to happen? Sometimes I think about how far I've traveled compared to my distant ancestors. In the last twelve months alone I've flown around 25,000 miles – once around the Earth – covering more ground in a single year than most of the humans who have ever lived did in their lifetimes, scurrying around their local villages and regions. I've always assumed that my travels would seem similarly unimpressive to my star-hopping descendants.

I don't give a damn if robotic probes make more sense. I don't give a damn about the views of academic committees or health and safety. I don't give a damn about the supposed costs – money spent on space exploration is invested in science and technology right here on Earth, and has paid for itself many times over. There's no point having a great civilization if all we do is sit on our little rock and just survive. Neil Armstrong's death is a wake-up call, a challenge to our generation. We can go to Mars, and it doesn't need a miracle: we just need to decide to go. (8/26)

Rubio Comments on Armstrong's Passing (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed his condolences in a statement while taking a bigger-picture view. “America, the space community and the entire world have lost a courageous pioneer. One needs to look no further than the various foreign currencies in the donation box at Washington’s National Air and Space Museum to understand what our space program means not only for our country but for all of humanity.” (8/26)

Five Ways Neil Armstrong Likely Changed Your Life (source: Boise Weekly)
With space legend Neil Armstrong's death on Saturday, everyone's talking about his historic moon landing—which of course was pretty epic, but Armstrong's accomplishments also changed popular subconscious in ways we may not even realize. Here's five ways his life possibly changed yours. Click here. (8/26)

Lack of Funding May Scrub Launch Technology (Source: Florida Today)
It's been 10 years since the first launch of the current breed of big U.S. rockets, dubbed Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. After 10 years of near perfection in the delivery of important science, military and spy satellites to orbit, the program is a reliable workhorse now operated by United Launch Alliance. In the relatively short history of the country's space launch industry, a decade is a long time to go without the development of new rocket technology.

Yet a series of reports coming out of various entities within and outside the Defense Department is raising concerns that new rocket technology development has stalled, at best. NASA is developing a new rocket, but not one based on breakthroughs in propulsion technology. Between it and the Defense Department, there are some modest (although promising) technology development projects going on. But the amounts of money and the people invested are not even one tenth of what experts say is needed.

While the national space policy and strategy documents outline a strong need for ongoing research and development in the launch technology area, the DOD says it is not a priority and increased funding is unlikely. Right now, just $8 million of the $1.7 billion dedicated to the EELV program by the government is spent on technology. None is planned to be spent in 2014, according to multiple government reviews. Click here. (8/26)

Man on the Moon: Moment of Greatness that Defined the American Century (Source: Guardian)
The moon landing capped a tumultuous American decade - the Vietnam war, Kennedy's death, civil rights - and helped assert the country's global dominance. It was a moment that still defines what many have come to call the American century. Amid all the turmoil and horror of that most bloody 100-year stretch, the sight of the first human being to walk on the moon, transmitted on television screens all over the world, was a sublime vision, the power of which was not marred by the blurry images that brought it back to a breathlessly awaiting Earth.

This was the moment that Neil Armstrong stepped on to the lunar surface on 20 July 1969, and said the immortal words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The fact Armstrong seemed to fluff his lines, omitting the vital, modest "a" before "man", did not matter a jot. Humanity had finally broken the bonds of earth and put one of the species on another planet. The rhetoric was universal, but it was really a wholeheartedly American triumph. The flag planted on the moon was an American flag. (8/26)

Space Shuttle Endeavour Ready For California Next Month (Source: America Space)
In three weeks, space shuttle Endeavour will depart NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on her final flight – piggybacking atop a modified NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) on a one-way trip to Los Angeles, CA. Her transition and retirement processing work is now complete, and Endeavour currently waits for a September 17 departure date inside KSC’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building. The next time OV-105 (Endeavour’s official NASA designation) moves, it will be to the Shuttle Landing Facility for mating to the 747, a process which usually takes two days to complete.

The ferry flight will take three days to make the cross-country trip from Florida to southern California. Details of the flight path over the Los Angeles area will not be released until days before the departure, but it is expected that Endeavour will announce her arrival with a series of dramatic fly-overs such as was seen when Discovery and Enterprise arrived at their new homes in Washington D.C. and New York City earlier this year. (8/26)

New Online Portal Launched for Astronomical Heritage Protection (Source: Xinhua)
A new web portal dedicated to protecting astronomical heritage sites has been launched during the 28th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The site, at www.astronomical, is the latest achievement in the collaborative work between IAU and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), according to Clive Ruggles, chair of the IAU's Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group. Collaboration between IAU and UNESCO started four years ago,

The site will work as a publicly accessible database, discussion forum and document repository on astronomical heritage sites throughout the world, said Ruggles, emeritus professor of archaeoastronomy with the University of Leicester, in Britain. (8/26)

Scientists Looking for Site for Giant Solar Telescope (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese scientists are looking for a site for a giant solar telescope, which will be the world's largest in the next two decades with data helping to understand solar activities. The Chinese Giant Solar Telescope (CGST), or one of "the next-generation ground-based solar telescopes," will lead a field of solar observation in 20 years, if the construction is approved and starts in 2016. The national project with a budget of about 90-million U.S. dollars was proposed by the entire solar community of China. (8/26)

Moscow Region to Open Satellite Making Plant (Source: Itar-Tass)
A satellite making plant will be built in the Moscow region, regional Governor Sergei Shoigu said. The governor ordered land to be allocated for the project in Shchelkovo and plans for connecting the plant to power mains to be prepared by December 15, 2012. “We would like it [the plant] not just to be here but to work comfortably. These questions have to be solved by December 15,” Shoigu said at a meeting with Gazprom Space Systems officials.

The plant will make six satellites a year, which will allow Russia to reinforce its space capabilities in orbit. Shoigu ordered a town with all infrastructure, including a kindergarten and a school, to be built for the plant personnel. (8/26)

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