August 29, 2012

Private Mars Mission Group Gets First Funding (Source: Space Industry News)
Mars One is pleased to announce receipt of initial funding through sponsorship revenue, a major step towards sending a manned mission to Mars. Mars One is a private Dutch organization whose intent is to land the first humans on Mars in 2023. Following a fully robotic construction of a habitable outpost between 2016 and 2020, subsequent crew arrivals will occur every two years. The existing technical plan of Mars One is unique in that it requires incorporation of only readily available technologies developed by major, established aerospace companies from around the world.

As such, Mars One is a non-political integrator capable of delivering humans to Mars with less overhead, less total risk, and faster than any other existing organization. Self-funded for the prior eighteen months, conceptual development and initial technical development is complete. In the latter half of 2012 and early 2013 Mars One will move to enable growth of its technical and management staff. From mid 2013 forward, funding will largely be generated through a growing, global media event built around the selection and training of astronauts for the manned mission.

Mars One corporate sponsorship funds will be used primarily to finance the conceptual design studies provided by the aerospace suppliers. These design studies demand 500 to 2500 man-hours each, a comprehensive technical design of the various components of the Mission to Mars. Conceptual design studies will be completed for all components of the mission, from robotic construction of the outpost to the arrival of the first humans. (8/29)

NASA's WISE Survey Uncovers Millions of Black Holes (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has led to a bonanza of newfound supermassive black holes and extreme galaxies called hot DOGs, or dust-obscured galaxies. Images from the telescope have revealed millions of dusty black hole candidates across the universe and about 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. These powerful galaxies that burn brightly with infrared light are nicknamed hot DOGs.

"WISE has exposed a menagerie of hidden objects," said Hashima Hasan, WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We've found an asteroid dancing ahead of Earth in its orbit, the coldest star-like orbs known and now, supermassive black holes and galaxies hiding behind cloaks of dust."

WISE scanned the whole sky twice in infrared light, completing its survey in early 2011. Like night-vision goggles probing the dark, the telescope captured millions of images of the sky. All the data from the mission have been released publicly, allowing astronomers to dig in and make new discoveries. (8/29)

NASA Completes Maximum Parachute Test For Orion Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA Tuesday successfully completed another parachute test of its Orion spacecraft high above the skies of the U.S. Yuma Army Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona. The test examined the maximum pressure Orion's parachutes might face when returning from exploration missions.

During the test, a C-130 airplane dropped a dart-shaped test vehicle with a simulated Orion parachute compartment from an altitude of 25,000 feet. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed at approximately 20,000 feet, followed by small pilot chutes, which then deployed the three main parachutes. Each of the main parachutes is 116 feet wide and weighs more than 300 pounds. (8/29)

President Obama Takes Space Question on Reddit (Source: Reddit)
The popular website hosted a 30-minute "ask me anything" session with President Obama on Wednesday. This is how he answered the following space-related question: Q: Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?

Answer: "Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level - so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight." (8/29)

Nuclear-Powered Craft Not Picked in Latest Competition (Source:
NASA officials last week passed up a chance to test an advanced nuclear generator in space, likely delaying the first flight demonstration of the plutonium power source until after 2020. The nuclear power units, called ASRGs, use less plutonium than existing generators. NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy face a shortage of plutonium-238 nuclear fuel for robotic spacecraft, causing officials to turn to more efficient power generators.

NASA managers say the plutonium shortage is a crisis for the future of planetary exploration, particularly for missions bound for comets, Jupiter, Saturn, and the other outer planets. Large Mars rovers like Curiosity, which is powered by a traditional nuclear generator, also require plutonium. NASA announced last Monday the selection of the InSight mission to Mars for launch in 2016, beating out probes to a comet and Saturn's moon Titan in a competition to be the agency's next Discovery-class planetary science project. (8/28)

Let's Not Wait for Utopia Before We Send Humans to Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
As we celebrate the success of the Curiosity rover on Mars and reflect on the remarkable life of Neil Armstrong, it's not hard to imagine what amazing achievements in space exploration can be accomplished/attained in the next few decades. However, not everyone is supportive of exploring space. Skeptics are often heard saying: "How can we explore space when there is so much poverty in the world?"

Although poverty unquestionably is a problem in this nation and around the world, stopping our exploration of space is unlikely to reduce poverty. On the contrary, it would almost certainly be counterproductive to the worldwide poverty issue. It is important to realize that the NASA budget represents less than half of one percent of the federal budget. By comparison, social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and other similar programs, account for over fifty percent of the budget. In other words, the annual budget for U.S. social programs is are more than 100 times greater than what NASA receives.

To say that curtailing missions like Curiosity will solve our poverty problems is therefore false and hopelessly misguided. Even if we eliminated NASA completely, it would have a negligible impact on the total budget. It would be a drop on the budgetary bucket as NASA's budgets equals approximately two days of federal spending. This is still a lot of money, but far removed from what would be necessary to eliminate poverty even for a short time. (8/29)

Sweet Molecule Glycolaldehyde Discovered In Stellar Gas Cloud (Source: Huffington Post)
Astronomers say that, for the first time, they have discovered one of the ingredients of life – sugar – in a gas cloud surrounding a young star. The team of European and American astronomers says it spotted a simple sugar molecule called glycolaldehyde near a 10,000-year-old star similar to the sun. Glycolaldehyde is needed to form ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is similar in function to DNA. The glycolaldehyde was likely formed by radiation from the star hitting even simpler molecules floating through space. (8/29)

2012 Republican Platform Includes Space (Source:
"The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results.

"The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.

"Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate—-and surpass-—NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs." (8/28)

Space Frontier Foundation: Republicans the Party of Big Government Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Republican Party released its 2012 platform, which included a provision entitled “America’s Future in Space: Continuing This Quest.” The non-partisan Space Frontier Foundation issued the following statement in response:

NASA seems to be one Big Government program many Republicans love. The GOP platform criticizes the federal government as “bloated, antiquated and unresponsive to taxpayers” but has nothing but hackneyed praise for NASA, and doesn’t even mention the increasing role of the private sector. The authors of this platform must imagine they still live in the Cold War of the 1960s, when only governments launched payloads and people into space.

The platform committee declares it “isn’t enough to merely downsize government, having a smaller version of the same failed systems,” that we need to “do things in a dramatically different way”-yet says nothing about the need to reform NASA or to streamline regulation of the emerging NewSpace sector. Republicans call themselves the Great Opportunity Party. Yet their Platform presumes “space” is a (government) program, instead of a frontier to be opened to the American people–the greatest “opportunity” since the West was settled. (8/29)

GOP Platform's Space Plank Avoids Issues (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Republican Party Platform for 2012 includes a plank on "America's Future in Space" that covers exploration, science, national security, big rockets, and jobs. But while "better understand[ing] our universe" is highlighted, there is no mention of better understanding our own planet, which could be interpreted as a swipe at NASA's earth science and climate change programs. Also, while the section talks about our aerospace industrial base, it avoids talk of commercial space enterprise, which appears to be one of the focus areas of President Obama's current space policy. (8/29)

FAA Discusses Commercial Space Safety with Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
The FAA might not be prepared to craft safety regulations with the burgeoning commercial space industry, but it is reaching out to industry leaders for their views. The regulatory agency’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee recently held the first of three teleconferences with industry representatives on the topic. Industry members were resistant to rules for safety that would be so high that they would block development of the marketplace at this early stage in its development.

“We cannot develop a successful commercial industry by maintaining our past practices in safety,” said Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace. “We have to do something better.” He recommends that the FAA stick to identifying areas of risk and deciding whether and how industry could develop standards to mitigate those risks. Greason added that an “informed-consent regime” should be adopted to let customers decide whether certain missions could tolerate a certain type of risk. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18 to tackle the question: “What should FAA oversight look like?” (8/29)

Crowdsourced Funding Sought for Nano-Sat Launch Team (Source:
The OpenLuna team seeks Crowdfunding for their project to compete in a nano-satellite launch contest, with a multi-million dollar prize offered by NASA and Space Florida. They need a bit of funds to get their proverbial ducks in a row to organize the effort. The Nano-Satellite Launch contest is one of the latest NASA Centennial Challenge contests designed to rapidly advance the state of space flight technology. The contest objective is to launch two small satellite into Earth's Orbit within a week.

The nano satellite design is still in progress but will include, instead of radio beeping, an audio broadcast to prove the satellite makes it all the way around the globe. Supporters' voices will make up part of the audio stream in what we call a space broadcast shout-out. For a mere $100 contribution your voice could be included. Click here. (8/29)

Iowa View: Will America Again Pursue New Frontiers? (Source: DesMoines Register)
The near future in space exploration, it seems, has always been a decade away. Nowadays, it may be more. It would be charitable to say that Americans’ thoughts have turned to more earthly matters. The day Armstrong died, the History Channel aired 19 straight hours of “Swamp People” and “Pawn Stars.” The loudest noises in the presidential race are not about the lack of jobs or our standing in the world, but on abortions for victims of rape and incest and how rich the Republican candidates are. We are too busy being divided by class, gender, race and religion to unite and look to the stars.

It was one thing to both adequately fund an advancing space program and begin the Great Society in the 1960s. It is quite another to do the same when the baby boomers are preparing to break the entitlement bank. Today, NASA’s yearly budget would pay for two weeks of Medicare. [And] no matter how many rovers or probes go out, they will not capture the attention and imagination of a manned landing.

To paraphrase President Kennedy, why not the moon again? Why not Mars? Why, a decade ago, did we give up on supersonic jets across the Atlantic? We do not choose to go to the moon. We do not choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because it is not a challenge we are willing to accept and are all too willing to postpone. Because it would require both money and long-term planning. Because that goal would require a radical shift in national priorities that this nation appears no longer capable of doing. (8/29)

Hubbard: A Next Decade Mars Program (Source: Huffington Post)
The Curiosity rover on Mars has re-energized discussion about the exploration of the Red Planet -- and what is planned next. Currently there are two small missions planned: a Mars orbiter called MAVEN in 2013 and a lander called InSight in 2016. These projects are good science but do not advance the strategic research recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. For that science there is nothing yet in the pipeline. This sad state of affairs is the result of a 40% cut in the Mars budget proposed in the president's FY2013 budget.

Speculation about the reason for the cut has been widespread. Based on public statements by representatives of both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) it would appear that the decision was largely motivated by fear that the next decade program -- a campaign to understand the possibility of past life by returning samples from Mars -- will balloon in cost and threaten NASA's other missions.

It is my strong conviction that such fears by OMB, OSTP and some members of Congress are quite unwarranted. This last decade was no haphazard collection of missions. Rather, the Program was designed as an interrelated set of projects aimed at understanding Mars as a system and particularly the potential for past life on Mars. The summary organizing principle was "Follow the Water." However, as was planned, the missions were also intentionally crafted to prepare for a Mars Sample Return in the following Decade. Click here. (8/29)

India Aims to Crack 'Methane Mystery' With Mars Mission (Source: Outlook India)
India’s proposed mission to Mars in November next year will attempt to crack the "methane mystery", a veteran space scientist has hinted. Former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization, Prof U R Rao served on the selection committee which finalized experiments to be conducted vis-à-vis the Mars orbiter mission. He said: "We have selected very good experiments. One of the experiments is essentially to look for methane...Where the methane comes from (what could be producing methane gas detected in the Martian atmosphere)." (8/29)

Astrium Delivers Galileo Satellites to ESA (Source: SpaceRef)
Following the successful acceptance review, Astrium, Europe's leading space company, has brought the third and fourth Galileo IOV (In-Orbit Validation) satellites to the European Space Agency (ESA) in Kourou, French Guiana. The arrival of the two satellites in Kourou on the 7th and 17th of August 2012 represents an important step for the European flagship program. The two satellites are to be launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. They will join the two Astrium IOV satellites already in space to complete the Galileo IOV (In Orbit Validation) configuration. (8/29)

Space Inspiration (Source:
Neil Armstrong resurfaced a couple of years to ago to decry the cancellation of NASA’s program to send astronauts back to the moon and express skepticism that relying on commercial companies would be a winning strategy. Last September, he told a U.S. House committee that NASA “must find ways of restoring hope and confidence to a confused and disconsolate work force.”

Perhaps it isn’t a prudent choice right now for America to commit the financial resources necessary to renew manned spaceflight. It may not have been a practical choice in the 1960s, but the accomplishments of that era were a “giant leap for mankind” and an inspiration to the nation that seems to be sorely lacking today. (8/29)

ULA Experience to Build a Culture of Atlas V Crew Safety (Source:
With the two of the three Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) funding initiatives awarded to vehicles that will ride on the Atlas V rocket, ULA is preparing to return to human launch activities, with a focus on utilizing the mission safety they already provide for their launches of multi-million dollar spacecraft. The Atlas has a rich history ranging back to the early days of US space flight.

It was an Atlas booster that launched John Glenn into space inside Friendship 7 in 1962, sending the first American into orbit around the planet. “One of the challenges facing ULA as we get into human spaceflight is building a culture of safety to the same level of rigor we currently treat mission success,” said ULA's George Sowers. “We are in the process of establishing an internal safety organization with independent reporting, but more important is to instil the idea that safety is everyone’s responsibility." (8/29)

Space-Warping White Dwarfs Produce Gravitational Waves (Source: SpaceRef)
Gravitational waves, much like the recently discovered Higgs boson, are notoriously difficult to observe. Scientists first detected these ripples in the fabric of space-time indirectly, using radio signals from a pulsar-neutron star binary system. The find, which required exquisitely accurate timing of the radio signals, garnered its discoverers a Nobel Prize. Now a team of astronomers has detected the same effect at optical wavelengths, in light from a pair of eclipsing white dwarf stars.

"This result marks one of the cleanest and strongest detections of the effect of gravitational waves," said team member Warren Brown. The team discovered the white dwarf pair last year. (White dwarfs are the remnant cores of stars like our Sun.) The system contains two white dwarf stars so close together -- one-third of the Earth-moon distance -- that they make a complete orbit in less than 13 minutes.

Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that moving objects create subtle ripples in the fabric of space-time, called gravitational waves. Gravitational waves should carry away energy, causing the stars to inch closer together and orbit each other faster and faster. The team was able to detect this effect. (8/29)

Bigelow's Inflatable Space Stations (Source: SEN)
Space travel is changing as commercial enterprise develops transport for both crew and cargo. Boeing is building its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 space capsule to take humans into orbit. As reported by Sen, the recent drop tests of Boeing's CST-100 were carried out with help from another commercial space business, Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow Aerospace plans to use the CST-100 to ferry customers to and from its planned Bigelow Orbiting Space Complex, an inflatable space station.

Bigelow Aerospace's mission is “to provide affordable options for spaceflight to national space agencies and corporate clients” - and they plan to do it, not with multi-billion pound rockets but with large inflatable space stations!

Formed in 1999, Bigelow Aerospace was the brainchild of Robert T Bigelow who wanted to revolutionise space commerce with the development of affordable, reliable, and robust expandable space habitats. His dream became reality in July 2006 with the launch of Genesis I, the company’s prototype expandable space habitat. Its second prototype, Genesis II, was launched June 2007. Both still orbit Earth. (8/29)

Smallsats Provide Another New Space Market (Source: Aviation Week)
Creating an off-world economy in low Earth orbit is one of the goals of U.S. space policy. It is clear that there is more to it than funding commercial vehicles to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Enthusiastic young university engineers are cutting their teeth on tiny cubesats and have already made their presence felt in space with the increasingly sophisticated spacecraft they have invented.

The innovation that goes into stuffing all the elements of spacecraft buses and scientific payloads into a few cubes 10 cm (3.9 in.) on a side, and the willingness to take risks to give their handiwork a spaceflight checkout, is right in line with the New Space philosophy rooted in Mojave and Hawthorne, Calif., and in garages around the country. An early glimmer of the potential symbiosis between the human-spaceflight enterprises such as SpaceX and the cubesat community came at a workshop on getting cubesats to orbit.

Joseph Carroll says regular flights to the ISS envisioned for Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus and SpaceX's Dragon are perfect for launching CubeSats. “The goal is to look beyond what makes secondary payload launches possible to what makes them attractive,” says Carroll, who has launched secondary payloads on Delta II rockets carrying GPS satellites. Relatively frequent launches on commercial cargo vehicles would give flexibility to cubesat launching, he says, a real advantage when the spacecraft suppliers are students or startups. (8/29)

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