September 15, 2012

Space Suit: 1949 (Source: WIRED)
The British Interplanetary Society (BIS), founded by Phillip Cleator in Liverpool in 1933, is the world’s oldest existing organization devoted to the promotion of spaceflight. In 1936, the BIS moved its headquarters to London and launched a Technical Committee, which soon began to design a Lunar Spaceship. The Society published results of its Lunar Spaceship study in its journal in 1939, then suspended its activities for the duration of the Second World War.

A decade later, on 19 November 1949, the reconstituted and always prescient BIS hosted the Symposium of Medical Problems Associated with Space-Flight. The third paper presented at the Symposium was a collaboration between self-taught engineer H. E. Ross and artist R. A. Smith, two men instrumental in the pre-war Lunar Spaceship study. It focused on the problems of designing a space suit for lunar surface exploration. Click here. (9/15)

The Three Rocketeers (Source: BBC)
For his entire life, one man has nursed the dream of putting mankind into space. Inspired by the Dan Dare comic strip, Alan Bond first started building rockets as a teenager in his back garden. He started his career working on Britain's Blue Streak rocket, then HOTOL - the world's first attempt to build a 'single-stage-to-orbit'. Click here. (9/15)

Space Attractions Down To Earth In California (Source: Gadling)
Visitors to Los Angeles can see a variety of historical and futuristic space exhibitions and attractions within driving distance from LAX. California residents and visitors alike are rediscovering the state's rich space-oriented past along with current places of interest that are helping charge the U.S. space program of tomorrow. Let's take a look at what California has to offer travelers interested in space-themed points of interest. Click here. (9/15)

Jacksonville Naval Station Supports Neil Armstrong Burial At Sea (Source: flickr)
The USS Philippine Sea departed from Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, carrying the ashes of Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the surface of the Moon. The at-sea burial was conducted on Sep. 14 off the U.S. East Coast. Here are the photos. (9/15)
Petition to Provide Survivor Benefits to Sally Ride's Partner (Source:
Sally Ride, a National Hero, has taken every risk in the name of scientific advancement and exploration. After she passed away, and her partner of 27 years cannot claim any survivor benefits due to the sexuality of the partnership. Here's a petition seeking to allow survivorship benefits for Dr. Ride's same-sex partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy. (9/15)

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy (Source: Jewish Press)
Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants. China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program, meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the U.S. In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities. If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles: 1) respect the U.S. Constitution; 2) set clear goals; and 3) reform the way NASA does business. It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact. (9/15)

Two 'Hot Jupiters' Found in Star Cluster (Source: AFP)
US scientists have for the first time found proof that planets can form and survive around sun-like stars within dense star clusters, NASA said Friday. Astronomers have spotted two Jupiter-like orbs in the Beehive Cluster, a collection of around 1,000 stars that appear to be swarming around a common center. "This has been a big puzzle for planet hunters," said Sam Quinn, a graduate student in astronomy at Georgia State University in Atlanta and the lead author of the paper describing the results. (9/15)

Investor Sues Art Dula, Excalibur Almaz for Alleged Fraud (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Donna Beck sued Houston attorney Arthur Dula, his Excalibur Almaz corporate entities, and Excalibur directors J. Buckner Hightower and Christopher Stott. “Dula defrauded Beck by inducing her and her husband (since deceased) to advance $300,000, and later purchase an investment in Excalibur Exploration Ltd, one of the Excalibur entities, with the fundamental false representation that the company had the technical expertise and associations to develop a business to fly the first commercial prospecting space flight to an asteroid,” the complaint states.

“Dula bolstered his lies by representing that his other companies had the spacecraft to accomplish the job, as well as associations with other necessary contractors. “In fact, the entire operation was a sham and never accomplished anything of substance. “Dula spent Beck’s money even before Excalibur Exploration Ltd was formed to pay for a project that Dula and his associates had previously earmarked as an expense for another related company, until they got lucky and got Beck’s check and switched the obligation to her.” Click here. (9/15)

Sequestration Could Cut Science Over 8 Percent, Including $1.4B for NASA (Source: Nature)
A long-anticipated analysis of potential, obligatory U.S. budget cuts shows that every science-related government agency would be impacted. Unless Congress finds another way to shrink budget deficits, the federal government must make broad, across-the-board spending cuts in January 2013. Today, the Office of Management and Budget described the carnage across federal departments including those that fund science.

While neither side of Congress wants this mixture of cuts to actually take place, no one believes that politicians can negotiate a better deal until after November’s election. By that point, they will have a scant few weeks to figure out a better plan. Cuts in defense function spending are set at $54.7 billion or 9.4%. Cuts in nondefense spending at the agencies are 8.2%. NASA would lose $417 million from its science budget, $346 for space operations, $309 for exploration, $246 for cross agency support, among other cuts. (9/14)

What NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' Means for the Future of Space Exploration (Source:
NASA's celebrity flight director, Bobak Ferdowsi, would represent a rare breed even without the patriotic mohawk hairstyle that earned him fame as "Mohawk Guy" during the landing of the Curiosity Mars rover. At the age of 32, Ferdowsi is one of the younger people in NASA's aging workforce at a time when the U.S. aerospace industry worries about holding onto young engineering talent.

"Mohawk Guy" didn't attend the Space 2012 conference held here this week by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, but experts repeatedly invoked him as a representative of young aerospace engineers during a talk on Tuesday (Sept. 11). They fretted about how the aerospace industry could attract young hearts and minds at a time when budget cuts and a shift from design to production has put emphasis on squeezing the most out of existing space technology, rather than pushing the boundaries. (9/14)

Why Humanity Needs to Travel to Other Stars (Source:
Launching a mission to another star could teach us not just about space, but about Earth as well, experts argued here today at the 100 Year Starship Symposium. "I believe space exploration is a human imperative," said Mae Jemison, the first female African American astronaut. "It didn’t begin in 1957 with Sputnik, it's been a part of us" all along.

Because the nearest star is more than 4 light-years away, the fastest spacecraft ever built, Voyager 1, would take 75,000 years to get there. A realistic mission to another star system will require novel propulsion methods, as well as new life support, habitat technology and social structures to support what could be multiple generations of astronauts making the journey.

The payoff of such a mission could be felt not just in space but on the ground, she said. For example, one of the leading ideas for how to power a starship is nuclear fusion propulsion. Since fusion is also a potential way to create energy on Earth, the process of inventing such a technology for spaceflight could have applications for our planet, too. "Just the mere idea of going might transform life on Earth right now," Jemison said. (9/15)

Heavy Photons are Too Light to be Behind Dark Matter (Source: New Scientist)
Sadly, dark matter is not made of light. That may sound obvious, but many physicists were hoping that photons - particles of light - could help us to piece together the nature of the mysterious stuff thought to make up 85 per cent of the universe's matter. Instead, readings from Vitor Cardoso of the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal and colleagues seem to have quashed this idea.

Some theories had hinted that "heavy photons", hypothetical versions of the more familiar massless particles, might be dark matter. According to that idea, the heavy photon would have a small amount of mass and might carry an unknown fundamental force that allows it to interact only with ordinary photons - effectively hiding it from the visible world. In that case, heavy photons passing close to black holes would have noticeable effects, says Cardoso.

When most particles with mass get too near to a black hole, they fall in, never to be seen again. Photons with no mass can skirt past danger if they are on the right trajectory. But a photon with a very tiny "in between" mass can enter into an orbit of the spinning black hole and steal some of its angular momentum. If conditions are right, this process can continue until orbiting particles slow the hole down so much that it stops spinning. (9/15)

Supply Chain Seen Slowing NASA Capsule, Rocket Development (Source: Aviation Week)
Prime contractors on NASA’s next-generation human space exploration vehicles are finding it unusually difficult to obtain the space-qualified electronics and other components they need to stay on schedule, a situation they say will likely get worse if there is instability in the space agency’s out-year funding for the projects.

Testifying before the House Science space and aeronautics subcommittee, Lockheed Martin Vice President and Orion Program Manager Cleon Lacefield said today that the lead times for radiation-hardened electronic parts and other specialized hardware is a major challenge for meeting schedule. (9/15)

NASA Weighs Early Deep-Space Tests With Orion (Source: Aviation Week)
Planners in NASA’s human exploration and operations (HEO) missions directorate are studying whether it would be possible and worthwhile to expand the first three planned tests of the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, including the first flight with a crew, to evaluate the capsule’s performance beyond low Earth orbit.

Architecture studies of potential deep-space missions using Orion also are being used to consider ways to use the big capsule to collect data on how it would perform beyond low Earth orbit, in lunar flyaround like the Apollo 8 mission, and perhaps early flights to the Earth-Moon lagrangian points under discussion as destinations where human explorers could prepare for missions to asteroids and eventually Mars and its moons, according to HEO Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier.

“Could we go around a lagrangian point, and maybe transition from one lagrangian point to another?” Gerstenmaier asked in an interview with Aviation Week. “What’s the advantage to us to do that? Does that help us with anything? So we’re starting to flesh out now are there other objectives that we can add to those flights." (9/13)

Shuttle Runway Name Change Contemplated (Source: Florida Today)
A black granite plaque marks the spot where space shuttle Endeavour rolled to a stop to end its final mission on June 1 last year, 9,641 feet from the northwest end of Kennedy Space Center’s runway. The runway will remain, but NASA doesn’t want to pay to operate and maintain it anymore. The agency recently requested proposals, due Sept. 24, from government or commercial partners that could take over the facility within a year.

NASA envisions commercial space planes launching and landing on the runway, taking people or payloads on suborbital and orbital flights. With its shuttle days over, Center Director Bob Cabana is mulling a name change. Riquelme said one option was Space Landing Facility, which would preserve the original acronym but fails to capture the anticipated horizontal launches. The top contenders now are the Space Launch and Landing Facility or Horizontal Launch and Landing Facility. (9/15)

The Astronomical Unit Gets Fixed (Source: Nature)
Without fanfare, astronomers have redefined one of the most important distances in the Solar System. The astronomical unit (au) — the rough distance from the Earth to the Sun — has been transformed from a confusing calculation into a single number. The new standard, adopted in August by unanimous vote at the International Astronomical Union's meeting in Beijing, China, is now 149,597,870,700 meters — no more, no less.

The effect on our planet’s inhabitants will be limited. The Earth will continue to twirl around the Sun, and in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn will soon arrive. But for astronomers, the change means more precise measurements and fewer headaches from explaining the au to their students.

The first precise measurement was made in 1672 by the famed astronomer Giovanni Cassini, who observed Mars from Paris, France, while his colleague Jean Richer observed the planet from French Guiana in South America. Taking the parallax, or angular difference, between the two observations, the astronomers calculated the distance from Earth to Mars and used that to find the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Their answer was 140 million kilometres — not far off from today’s value. (9/15)

Florida IHMC Avatar Exploration Project Among NASA Robotics Grant Winners (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected eight advanced robotics projects that will enable the agency's future missions while supporting the Obama administration's National Robotics Initiative. The projects, ranging from technologies for improving robotic planetary rovers to humanoid robotic systems, will support the development and use of robots for space exploration, as well as by manufacturers and businesses in the United States.

Robots can work beside, or cooperatively, with people to enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety in space as well as here on Earth. Co-robotics, where robots work cooperatively with people to enhance their individual human capabilities, performance and safety, is a valuable tool for maintaining American leadership in aerospace technology and advanced manufacturing.

Among the eight projects selected is one by the Pensacola-based Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), focused on "Human Avatar Robots for Co-Exploration of Hazardous Environments." Click here for a full list and more information about the winning projects. (9/14)

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