September 25, 2012

Latest Embry-Riddle Jet Dragster Coming in November (Source: ERAU)
Larsen Motorsports of Daytona Beach will unveil the new Embry-Riddle Jet Dragster at a celebration scheduled for Nov. 23 at the Daytona International Speedway. Rookie Marisha Falk, who will drive the new car in the 2013 season, and fellow race car driver and team co-owner Elaine Larsen will be on hand for the unveiling, as well as several Embry-Riddle student interns who apply their specialized skills on a daily basis at the Larsen High Performance Vehicles Research & Development Center in Daytona Beach. (9/25)

Obama has Broken Promises on NASA, Says GOP VP Nominee (Source: RawStory)
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. has relinquished its leadership role in space exploration, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said during a recent campaign visit in Florida. "This is one of those other broken promises," he said. "We have presided over a dismantling of the space program over the last four years." Ryan warned the crowd that China could soon overtake the U.S. in space. "China may some day be looking down on us from the moon," he said. "That's unacceptable." (9/23)

Building a Starship's Foundation (Source: Space Review)
Developing a starship, even over the course of a century, sounds like a wild thing to do given the challenges of spaceflight today, but DARPA awarded a $500,000 grant earlier this year to an organization led by a former astronaut to do just that. Jeff Foust checks out the status of the 100 Year Starship as discussed at a recent symposium. Visit to view the article. (9/25)

Shedding a Little More Light on Space Policy (Source: Space Review)
With six weeks until the election, the space community is increasingly interested in the policy positions of the two major presidential candidates on space. Jeff Foust reports on some recent developments that offer some more insights on their stances, while leaving many questions still unanswered. Visit to view the article. (9/25)

Olson Plan Brings ‘Some Certainty’ to JSC (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
A bill that would dramatically change how NASA operates, from the top down, has been introduced in Congress. If the “Neil Armstrong Space Leadership Act” becomes law, it would create a 10-year term for the NASA Administrator and also (the sponsors hope), “...provide crucial stability of the leadership structure at NASA so that decisions are made based on science and are removed from the politics of changing administrations.”

Texas Congressmen Pete Olson, John Culberson and Lamar Smith were joined by Congressmen Frank Wolf of Virginia, Bill Posey of Florida and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin introducing the bill. Olson’s current district includes the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake. In a statement accompanying the bill, the six agreed, “The last 30 years have been marked by canceled programs due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration.

The cancellation of the Constellation project by President Obama is the most glaring, recent example of waste, Olson said. “That was $10 billion spent with no end result,” Olson said. “By doing so, without any sort of replacement, he’s relegated us to being ‘space hitchhikers.’ We have to put our thumb out to go to the International Space Station with the Russians,” added Olson. (9/25)

First Two Webb Telescope Flight Mirrors Delivered to NASA (Source: NASA)
The first two of the 18 primary mirrors to fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope arrived at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The mirrors are going through receiving and inspection and will then be stored in the Goddard cleanroom until engineers are ready to assemble them onto the telescope's backplane structure that will support them. (9/25)

Russia to Send All-Novice Crew to ISS (Source: Xinhua)
A crew of three all-novice members would be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in October, Russia's Cosmonauts Training Center said Tuesday. The crew, consisting of Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Yevgeny Tarelkin and U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford, is expected to stay at the ISS for five months. It is rare to see that none of the three crew members have real experience in piloting the Soyuz spacecraft, nor have they ever participated in ISS missions.

For the two Russian cosmonauts, the upcoming mission will be their first space flight, while Ford has flown to space once for a 14-day expedition in 2009. The launch of the next manned spacecraft Soyuz TMA-06M to the ISS was slated for Oct. 23 at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The launch was postponed from an initial date of Oct. 15 due to technical problems. (9/25)

We Are Here to Build a NewSpace Industry (Source: Huffington Post)
It is sad to see the amazing revolution that is the birth of a new U.S. commercial space industry ignored or, worse, trivialized and undercut by those who should be its champions. The iconic example of this occurred months ago, when the congressman in charge of approving NASA's budget said (paraphrasing), "We are not here to build a spaceflight industry. We are here to get NASA a launch system ASAP" -- as tens of millions of dollars were cut from programs to invest in commercial space, and millions were allowed to be wasted on the Senate Launch System and other dead-end state-run space transportation programs.

We are here to build a new commercial space industry, or at least we should be, not just because it will free up NASA to focus on exploration and inspiring new missions like the recent Mars landing; not just because we may be able to retake the beach of the Moon and this time hold it; not just because by doing so we can begin an upwards and self-growing employment spiral that means hundreds of thousands of jobs a few years downstream...

Not just because by doing so we will be in a position to deal with global warming when the time comes for mega solutions; but also because it will assure that we never again find ourselves in the pathetic position of having to buy rides into space from another nation for our government employees, and instead will be selling rides to the citizens of other nations on our ships. (9/25)

UCF Space Expert Weighs in on Paul Ryan's Saturday Speech (Source: WMFE)
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan talked about space policy at a stump speech at the University of Central Florida Saturday. It was the first time the Romney-Ryan campaign brought up the topic on the campaign trail, and the address left UCF's resident space expert with a few questions.

Dale Ketcham, Director of the Spaceport Research and Technology Institute at UCF, says Ryan's speech could find itself characterized as a bit short on details. And, he says, there's a possibility the proposal may cost more Space Coast jobs. “His primary goal is to form a committee and reassess and come forward with a bold new vision in 2013 or 2014, whenever the committee issues its report,” says Ketcham. “And that’s not really what this area needs in terms of the workforce, is to plan on changing course in a year or two.”

Ketcham says the Romney-Ryan plan resembles the one President Obama implemented when he took office. Central Florida space workers were surprised when the president’s committee prompted him to scrap NASA’s Constellation program in favor of private spaceflight development, and jobs were lost in the process. “On the plus side, he has stepped up, provided some additional detail - not a lot, but some...[T]his community is going to ...try and get them both competing for the space vote here on the I-4 corridor." (9/25)

The Fleeting Fame of Commercial Space Travel (Source: Smart Planet)
The era of commercial space travel is upon us, and if NASA’s Apollo missions are any precedent, it will likely become routine as the initial excitement fades. Interest in space will wax and wane. You couldn’t escape the hubbub when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft launched in May - my colleagues at SmartPlanet fired off a steady succession of articles. A commercial spacecraft linking up with the International Space Station (ISS) is absolutely novel in the wake of the space race and U.S. shuttle’s renowned run of service.

Government contracts sustain commercial space travel for the time being, but a key difference is that NASA has had the Federal government’s checkbook and wherewithal to stick it out for decades. We’ll mine the poles bare before we harvest asteroids or take other commercial activity into space and off the drawing board. Will private investors be as patient if business goals fall much closer down to Earth? Probably not - unless there’s suddenly a sustained sense of urgency to back it all up. (9/25)

Romney-Ryan Space Plan Could Mean Big Changes (Source: WKMG)
Mitt Romney announced Saturday that he wants to make America the leader in space, by “Rebuilding NASA, restoring U.S. leadership, and creating new opportunities for space commerce,” according to a campaign press release. After Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan spoke at the University of Central Florida on Saturday Erik von Ancken had a chance to ask him about space:

Von Ancken asked, “Orion, the capsule, is being built at Kennedy Space Center as we speak, you have Space X that launches from KSC, are these practical and sustainable missions? Will they be part of your plan going forward?” Ryan answered: “That's why we want to have a stakeholders meeting. We want to engage with NASA, commercial technology, the private sector, and our national security to come up with a space program mission.” 

"It sounds like that could mean the SLS, and servicing the ISS could be on the chopping block?” asked von Ancken. Ryan responded: “No I'm not suggesting any of that. I think we need to have a reassessment, to put together a mission-critical space program; that's not what we have right now." “And possibly cut those programs?” asked von Ancken. “I don't know the answer to that,” said Ryan. (9/25)

Space Policy Needs a Reset Too (Source: AOL Defense)
The Secretary of Defense recently appointed a new acting deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for space policy, and, assuming he keeps the job beyond January, he (or his replacement) might consider shifting his attention to some of the very difficult challenges facing space programs in the Defense Department. First among those would be efforts to build military space systems that better serve the joint fight. We have long known that our dependence on space ensures that adversaries will try to negate its advantages.

Russia and China have been exploring various ways to do so, and India has announced that it, too, perhaps for other reasons, is interested in developing anti-satellite capabilities. Making sure that military missions depending on space will be assured is one of the loud imperatives in the current US National Space Policy.

The more important question is what those missions might be--what is it that space systems should do in the emerging joint fight? To date, answers have nearly always taken the form of incremental enhancements to legacy systems. But for many of those legacy systems, military users were secondary customers, and users received space-based data in ways far removed from today's "publish and subscribe" aspirations. Click here. (9/25)

Obama, Romney Spar Over Space Exploration (Source: US News)
The presidential race headed to a new frontier over the weekend, with President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney sparring over the final frontier. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan accused Obama of "dismantling" the space program over his first term, and an accompanying policy paper released by the Romney campaign said America's space program is "befitting [of] a President who rejects American exceptionalism, apologizes for America, and believes we should be just another nation with a flag."

Romney also hammered Obama for not having a clear plan in place beyond the Space Shuttle program, which was retired last year, requiring American astronauts to "hitch rides into space on Russian spacecraft." The next manned NASA mission is planned for 2021. Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a nonpartisan organization, says it's difficult to pin that one on Obama. "I think the rumors of NASA's demise are greatly exaggerated," he said.

Newt Gingrich had some criticism of his own for Romney on Sunday: He said Romney's plan isn't "robust" enough. From his policy paper, it's unclear how Romney's plan would differ much from Obama's, Lopez-Alegria says. "Obama has shown good support for the commercial space sector, and it's gratifying to learn that Romney is also leaning in that direction, too," he says. "For the Democratic party to take something away from the government and give it to the private sector is a bold idea that's right in the Republicans' wheelhouse." (9/24)

Space: The Next GOP Foreign-Policy Frontier (Source: Foreign Policy)
Over the weekend, without much fanfare, the Romney campaign opened up a new front in its foreign-policy attacks on Barack Obama: space exploration. During a stop at the University of Central Florida, roughly an hour away from the Kennedy Space Center, Paul Ryan blasted the president for scrapping NASA's moon and space shuttle programs (the Obama administration has suggested sending NASA astronauts to an asteroid and Mars, and encouraged private companies to assume some of the agency's past responsibilities).

What's odd about the earnest (if still vague) plan is that Romney ridiculed Gingrich's moon colony plan during the primary ("If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, 'You're fired'"), while Ryan voted against the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Neither has discussed space exploration much on the campaign trail until now. Perhaps Romney and Ryan have had a change of heart. Or they've decided that if they're going to portray Obama as weak and declinist, they better go all out. (9/24)

House Republicans Propose New Board to Oversee NASA (Source: Science)
Congressional Republicans don't like the Obama Administration's policy on space exploration. With less than 6 weeks to go for the U.S. presidential elections, some of those lawmakers have translated their criticisms into a bill that would create a new management structure to govern NASA.

The Space Leadership Act is co-sponsored by six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that is responsible for NASA's budget. The bill proposes an 11-member board—selected by both houses of Congress and the president—that would prepare a draft budget for the space agency to be submitted simultaneously to the legislative and executive branches. (9/24)

Beyond-the-Moon Base Stirs Up Buzz (Source: NBC)
A concept that calls for building a deep-space outpost beyond the moon's orbit has stirred up some positive buzz from space pioneers — including Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. The Orlando Sentinel reported that top NASA officials have chosen the construction of a space exploration platform at a gravitational balance point known as EML-2, or Earth-moon Lagrange point 2, as the agency's next major mission. The outpost would be held in an orbit 277,000 miles away from Earth, and 38,000 miles beyond the moon.

The outpost at EML-2 has been cast as an "exploration gateway platform" — a potential stopping point on the way to those farther-out destinations, as well as a potential staging area for lunar missions. Aldrin has long urged NASA to set up a similar "floating launching pad" at a different balance point between Earth and the moon, called EML-1 or L1, and this weekend he said that platforms at L1 or L2, plus fueling depots for spaceships, would serve as appropriate "intermediate steps" for voyages to Mars and other worlds.

The eventual goal would be to have a human-tended station on the Martian moon Phobos, directing robots to build facilities for permanent residents on the Red Planet. And then? "We make a commitment to permanence," Aldrin explained. "It's like the Pilgrims on the Mayflower... There's one thing that doesn't exist: leadership. ... We need a presidential decision," Aldrin said. His suggestion? Lay the groundwork for exploration beyond Earth orbit, and get ready for a future president to make a JFK-style "We Choose to Go to Mars" announcement on July 20, 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. (9/24)

Another Success Story at Wallops (Source: DelMarVaNow)
The mission at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility has evolved over the years and includes a wealth of success stories. Since its first launch on July 4, 1945, Wallops has lofted more than 14,000 rockets into space. Its philosophy always has been providing fast, low-cost, flexible services to scientists and the aerospace community. In recent weeks, the mission and investment at Wallops has grown even more with a $30 million project that uses unmanned aircraft to study hurricanes. The initiative is based at Wallops and is the only time the aircraft have been flown from the East Coast.

It’s just one of a number of current Wallops missions that, like the huge Antares rocket program soon launching from the Virginia Shore to resupply the International Space Station, shows the importance and versatility of the flight facility. While it has long been an important link to space, Wallops — with its 250 NASA employees and roughly 1,000 contract workers — continues to be a driving economic force in our region. The new Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel Mission brings a staff of 28 to be based at Wallops.

Although it now operates from two trailers outfitted with the high-tech equipment used by pilots and a team of 14 scientists, NASA is building a permanent, $2 million operations center at Wallops for the project, with construction slated to begin in late October. NASA looked at several facilities including Kennedy Space Center for the mission, but settled on Wallops because as a smaller facility it could provide the flexibility and support needed and because Wallops already had a hangar that could accommodate the aircraft’s 116-foot wingspan. (9/23)

East Coast Weather Satellite Fails, Spare Used (Source: AP)
The U.S. weather satellite that tracks the East Coast and Atlantic hurricanes is broken. Meteorologists are scrambling to fill in lost data for forecasters with a spare satellite and help from a European satellite. NOAA said engineers shut down the East Coast satellite on Sunday because of vibrations. They're still trying to diagnose the problem, and there may be a slight decrease in the accuracy of weather forecasts. NOAA is checking to see if it will affect hurricane forecasting. The $500 million satellite was launched in 2006, but it wasn't used regularly to monitor weather until 2010. (9/24)

Satellites Trace Sea Level Change (Source: BBC)
A major reassessment of 18 years of satellite observations has provided a new, more detailed view of sea-level change around the world. Incorporating the data from a number of spacecraft, the study re-affirms that ocean waters globally are rising by just over 3mm/yr. But that figure, according to the reassessment, hides some very big regional differences - up and down. The Philippine Sea, for example, has seen increases in excess of 10mm/yr.

Part of that signal reflects the great fluctuation in winds and sea-surface temperature across the Pacific Ocean known as the El Nino/La Nina-Southern Oscillation. Paolo Cipollini from the UK's National Oceanography Centre added: "Many of the features in the trend map indicate changes in heat storage and correspond to long-term variations in the ocean currents."

A key quest is to identify to what extent sea-level rise may be accelerating and to pull out any long-term oscillations in ocean behavior that could confuse that signal. Scientists use a Jason satellite radar altimeter, which constantly bounces microwave pulses off the sea surface. To get a full picture, Jason's data needs to be tied into that from satellites which view parts of the world it cannot see, and also mapped on to tide gauge information. Although these coastal stations cannot provide the same global view as space-borne instruments, they capture much longer trends. (9/24)

North Korea Halts Launch Pad (Source: AP)
New satellite imagery obtained by the Associated Press reveals that North Korea has halted construction on a launch pad that could be used for intercontinental-range rocket testing, pushing back the completion of the planned project for up to two years. Heavy rains could be to blame for the delay. An existing launch pad at the same Pyongyang complex is being renovated for use in possible future rocket tests. While North Korea has conducted nuclear tests twice in the past six years, experts say that the country has yet to develop the technology needed to shrink nuclear weapons to the size needed for long-range missiles. (9/24)

You, A Rocket Scientist? (Source: Fast Company)
About four years ago, Ariel Waldman was home watching a documentary called When We Left Earth, about the early days of NASA. It was a revelation: “When they were forming NASA, there were all these people working there who really had no idea what they were doing. They had no idea how to make a satellite; they didn’t know how orbits worked.” They reminded her of the hackers she had befriended in San Francisco. They reminded her, actually, of herself. “I thought, I don’t know anything! I want to work at NASA!”

Waldman, who had spent eight years working as a graphic designer in Kansas City before moving to San Francisco and joining the short-lived social network Pounce, mentioned her NASA fantasy to a friend, who happened to know someone at the space agency. Waldman sent an email, and found herself in a newly created job as part of an initiative called NASA CoLab. “It was weird,” says Waldman. “The job description was like my entire career. They wanted someone who didn’t work at NASA, who was coming in from outside, who had experience in design and marketing and understood the San Francisco startup scene.” Click here. (9/24)

Embry-Riddle Plans Fire Science Program for Safety Professionals (Source: ERAU)
This October, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Worldwide Campus unveils its completely online Bachelor of Science Fire Science program. The program provides students with the theoretical foundations for leadership and administration of fire and emergency service organizations associated with today’s public safety professionals. This degree is accredited by the National Fire Academy’s Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The program offers two specializations: Aviation Emergency Management and Fire and Emergency Services. (9/24)

Grasshopper Takes First Hop (Source: SpaceX)
On Sep. 21, SpaceX’s Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL) took its first test flight hop from the company’s rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas. The short hop of approximately 6 feet is the first major milestone for Grasshopper, and a critical step toward a reusable first stage for SpaceX’s proven Falcon 9 rocket.

Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 first stage, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. SpaceX is working to develop vehicles that are fully and rapidly reusable, a key element to radically reducing cost and increasing the efficiency of spaceflight. Testing of Grasshopper continues, with the next big milestone – a hover at roughly 100 feet -- expected in the next several months. (9/24)

Mercury's Surface Resembles Rare Meteorites, NASA 'Messenger' Reveals (Source:
Mercury has a surface unlike any other planet's in the solar system, instead resembling a rare type of meteorite, researchers say. The finding, based on an analysis of data from NASA's Messenger probe, sheds new light on the formation and history of the mysterious innermost planet, scientists add.

Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system, is also one of the least understood, having received much less attention from scientific missions than Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. NASA set out to change that when it launched the Messenger probe a little more than eight years ago. Messenger became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

Past research based on Messenger data suggested a vast part of Mercury is covered with hardened lava, enough to bury the state of Texas under 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) of once-molten rock, scientists said. All in all, these mammoth floods of lava cover 6 percent of the planet's surface, an area equal to nearly 60 percent of the continental United States. (9/24)

Fly Over the Moon With New High-Res 3D Images (Source: WIRED)
Soar over canyons, mountains, and craters on the moon in amazing high-resolution 3D with these new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The spacecraft, currently in its extended science mission, has taken hundreds of stereo pairs of images to produce digital elevation models. Unfortunately, such maps require a lot of painstaking computer processing to make.

Generating these simpler 3D maps, on the other hand, “doesn’t require a lot of man-hours and computational time,” said Sarah Mattson from the University of Arizona, a member of the LRO team responsible for making the elevation models. Plus, the 3D images are fun. “I’m really excited to see more and more of them,” she added. (9/24)

Justice Dept. Requests Additional Info on DigitalGlobe/GeoEye Merger (Source: SpaceRef)
DigitalGlobe, Inc.has received a request for additional information ("Second Request") from the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with the Company's proposed combination with GeoEye, Inc. GeoEye also received a Second Request from the DOJ on the same date. The DOJ's requests, which are a standard aspect of the regulatory process, extend the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, during which the parties may not close the transaction until 30 days after DigitalGlobe and GeoEye have substantially complied with the Second Requests. (9/24)

Ocean on Jupiter's Moon Europa Likely Deep Underground (Source:
Missions hoping to explore the huge subsurface ocean thought to exist on Jupiter's moon Europa may have to dig deep — really deep. Water stays in a liquid state near Europa's surface for just a few tens of thousands of years or so, new research suggests. That's a blink of an eye in geological terms, since our solar system is more than 4.5 billion years old.

Many researchers think Europa, which is about 1,900 miles (3,100 km) wide, harbors an enormous global ocean beneath its shell of ice. While Europa's surface is frigid, heat generated in the moon's interior by Jupiter's gravitational pull keeps this ocean — which may be 60 miles (100 km) deep — from freezing solid. Here on Earth, life thrives wherever liquid water is found. So Europa is an intriguing target for future missions seeking signs of life elsewhere in the solar system. (9/24)

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