September 4, 2012

New Mission Plan Proposed to Search for Life on Europa (Source: Examiner)
Jupiter's moon Europa has long been regarded as one of the most likely places in the solar system where some form of life could exist outside of Earth. Evidence from visiting spacecraft has shown that it almost certainly has a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface. That water is also thought to be similar to that in Earth's salty oceans and rich in oxygen.

Obtaining any answers to the life question however will require further missions to be sent there, and that is the tricky part. The costs involved have pushed back such missions; the current mission proposal, the Europa Jupiter System Mission, would launch sometime within this decade. Europe would then follow with its own mission to Ganymede, another Jupiter moon thought to have a subsurface ocean.

The estimated cost of EJSM would be about $4.7 billion, not easy in this time of planetary budget cuts. There is now, however, another proposal being offered - split the costly single-spacecraft mission into three smaller missions. The idea was put forward by astrobiologist Pabulo Henrique Rampelotto at the Federal University of Pampa in Brazil. Click here. (8/29)

NASA Dropped ATK’s Commercial Crew Proposal over Technical Concerns (Source: Space News)
A design by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) was dropped from NASA’s shortlist of potential space station crew taxis because the company did not present a technically sound plan for combining existing rocket and spacecraft designs into a single transportation system, according to a NASA source selection document released Sept. 4.

“I had some significant concerns about the lack of detail in some areas of ATK’s technical approach,” William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, wrote in the document. “Basically, the proposal lacked enough detail to determine if a safe crew transportation system could be developed in a timely and cost effective manner out of the heritage components ATK selected for this concept.”

Gerstenmaier’s comments appeared in a July 31 source selection document detailing his reasons for passing over ATK and three less-known firms to pick Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Sierra Nevada Space Systems for Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards totaling $1.1 billion. (9/4)

NASA Simulates Asteroid Mission for Potential 2025 Flight (Source:
NASA’s plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 moved 10 days closer to being a reality this week, even though the target of that mission has yet to be found in space. The agency’s Research and Technology Studies’ (RATS) 10-day simulated asteroid mission, which ended Wednesday (Aug. 29), involved scientists and flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston evaluating new operations and exploration techniques for how astronauts might work above and on the surface of one of the small, rocky, solar system bodies. (9/4)

Name That Asteroid! (Source: NASA)
OSIRIS-REx is going to fly to an asteroid and bring back some pieces. Right now, the asteroid's name is 1999 RQ36, but we think students can do better! The Planetary Society, MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, and the University of Arizona are asking students around the world to suggest better names for the asteroid. Enter by December 2, 2012 to have a chance to name a piece of the solar system! The contest is open to kids under the age of 18. To enter, parents or teachers must fill out an online entry form with the proposed name and a short explanation of why that name is a good choice. Click here. (9/4)

NASA Proves Humans Can Do Amazing Things (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Cool landing: In the early morning of Aug. 6 the 8,400 pound Mars rover Curiosity made a spectacular landing on the surface of the red planet. In what I can only describe as “Star Wars” technology, NASA engineers pulled off a one-for-the-books feat. NASA engineers have once again proven humans can do amazing, positive things with technology and deserve a great big “Job well done.” (9/4)

The Next Best Thing (Source: Space Review)
Is there a way for humans to be on a surface of another planet without actually physically being there? Dan Lester argues that, thanks to the increasing capabilities of robotics and related technologies, telepresence can be the next best thing to actually being there, at considerably less cost and risk. Visit to view the article. (9/4)

Space Policy in the Campaign Shadows (Source: Space Review)
With only about two months until Election Day, space enthusiasts are increasingly curious as to the space policy positions of the presidential candidates. Jeff Foust reports that, despite a few minor developments last week, space has not been a high priority for the campaigns, particularly when compared to four years ago. Visit to view the article. (9/4)

Preserving Tranquility Base and Other Historic Sites on the Moon (Source: Space Review)
After last month's passing of Neil Armstrong, some have suggested that the US government seek to make the Apollo 11 landing site an official historic landmark. Michael Listner describes why that suggestion faces a number of legal obstacles. Visit to view the article. (9/4)

Lonely Giant (Source: Space Review)
Most people with an interest in space are familiar with the Saturn V rockets on display in Florida, Alabama, and Texas. However, Dwayne Day points out there's another Saturn V first stage on display, and exposed to the elements, in Louisiana. Visit to view the article. (9/4)

CASIS Issues Solicitation for Materials Testing Projects (Source: SpaceRef)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, issued a solicitation for proposals in Materials Testing in the Extreme Environment of Space. The RFP seeks to identify projects within the field of Materials Science, which CASIS will support through grant funding, facilitation of service provider partnerships, and flight coordination to and from the ISS.

This RFP will focus on research in Materials Science that can be exposed to the extreme conditions of space in order to understand and make use of the physical and chemical properties influenced by microgravity, atomic oxygen, low pressure and/or vast temperature variations. This RFP will utilize the NanoRacks External Platform. Last month, CASIS closed its first solicitation for proposals; Advancing Protein Crystallization in Microgravity. In the coming weeks, CASIS plans to announce a request for proposals in Earth Observational Science. (9/4)

Embry-Riddle Researcher of the Year Public Space Lecture on Sep. 11 (Source: ERAU)
Dr. Sathya Gangadharan of Embry-Riddle's Mechanical Engineering department has been selected for the Outstanding Researcher award for the university's Daytona Beach campus. To celebrate the award, Dr. Gangadharan will provide an Honors Program public lecture at 7:00 p.m. on Sep. 11 at the Daytona Beach campus auditorium. The lecture will focus on "Propellant Slosh and On-Orbit Propellant Storage/Transfer Research Related to Spacecraft and Launch Vehicles." Click here. (9/4)

Democratic National Platform Includes Single Sentence on Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
"President Obama has charted a new mission for NASA to lead us to a future that builds on America's legacy of innovation and exploration." That's the single-sentence reference to space in the new Democratic National Platform, which is ready for approval during the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina. Perhaps the Democrats can be forgiven for the brevity because the Obama Administration already is implementing a space policy. However, in contrast to the Republican National Platform's space section (which also was criticized for its lack of information), the Democrats' version seems rather thin. (9/4)

Candidates Answer "Science Debate" Space Question (Source: SPACErePORT)
President Obama and Gov. Romney both provided answers to 14 "top American science questions" posed by a collection of science organizations. Question #12 asked about U.S. goals in space, and the steps the U.S. government should take to achieve them. President Obama's response restates his goal for a human asteroid mission by 2025, followed by Mars in the 2030s.

Obama mentions Orion's planned test flight in 2014, extension of the ISS, capabilities for Earth observation, R&D leadership, STEM education, and growth of the commercial space industry. There's nothing that hasn't been shared several times before by the President and NASA. Meanwhile, Gov. Romney's response included a lot of new information, including his thoughts on space as a national security issue, the need for increased foreign sales of space goods, and a more-focused (not better-funded) NASA.

Romney's response takes aim at President Obama for space program goals that are "difficult to determine". Although he blamed Obama for a lack of clarity on goals, and committed himself to a more-focused mission for NASA, Romney's response offered no specifics on NASA's mission, aside from ensuring that they are "practical and sustainable". After reviewing both responses, my sense is that President Obama's response was 'phoned-in' while Gov. Romney's shows that his campaign is finally putting some serious thought into the issues. Click here. (9/4)

Putin Dismisses Khrunichev General Director Amid Plans for Deeper Reforms (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russian Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has dismissed Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center General Director Vladimir Nesterov in the wake of last month’s failed launch of a Proton rocket, which stranded two communications satellites in useless orbits. Russia has experienced seven launch failures over the past two years, several of which can be tied to failures of Khrunichev produced upper stages. Media reports said that Nesterov tendered his resignation a week after the Aug. 7 launch failure. However, a statement from Khrunichev said Nesterov remained on the job and could only be dismissed by Putin. (9/4)

Attorneys Checking Ownership of Land for SpaceX Texas Spaceport (Source: Brownsville Herald)
As SpaceX and Cameron County leaders await the results of a federal environmental impact study that will determine whether construction of a rocket launch site is plausible at Boca Chica Beach, land requirements, and ownership, continue to be assessed behind the scenes. There are several land areas under consideration. The first is the main site, consisting of about 50 acres on the flats behind the dunes. This would be the launch site.

Within those 50 acres, some 8 acres would comprise the core launch site, where the actual vertical launches would take place. The second area needed would be where the “brain,” or command center, would be, and is located from two to 10 miles west of the vertical launch area. Boca Chica Village, once known as Kopernick Shores and home to a founding Polish community, is within the two- to 10-mile radius. Cameron County also owns property within the two- to 10-mile area, and Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos said attorneys are in the process of ensuring that the county has clear title to them. (9/4)

Texas' Cameron County Part of United Front to Attract SpaceX (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Cameron County stands on the cusp of a significant economic development opportunity. As international entrepreneur Elon Musk eyes Boca Chica Beach as a possible launch site for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. rockets, the potential looms for a capital investment of up to $80 million.

“It would just change the whole perception of this area. We would no longer be that county on the border,” said Gilbert Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council. “Now we would be the county that launches rockets into outer space.” The launch site under consideration is off State Highway 4, about a quarter-mile from Boca Chica Beach, and about 3 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The site is about 5 miles south of Port Isabel and South Padre Island. (9/4)

Editorial: Manned Space Flight is Not Scientifically Valuable (Source: Oklahoma Daily)
The recent death of Neil Armstrong as the American icon for manned space flight hammers another nail into the coffin of human space exploration. Within the last years of his life, the rather reticent Armstrong fulminated against the Obama administration's budget cuts in NASA’s human space-flight program. With the current economic downturn, many American’s fear the U.S. no longer is at the forefront of scientific discovery.

The equivocation of human space exploration with scientific advancement is outlandish. Originally, NASA space flight was predicated upon the fear of Sputnik and Russia dominating the skies — not the advancement of scientific discovery. Once the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union collapsed, manned moon missions were aborted.

Space enthusiasts insist the technology gained by manned missions produces technological and scientific advancement. The technological benefit gained by unmanned satellites, ranging from GPS to computer programs, far exceeds the technological benefit invested in astronauts scavenging for moon rocks. Indeed, the greatest astronomical breakthroughs of the last century, such as confirmation of the Big Bang and the existence of black holes, have required technology extending the confinements of the five senses. (9/4)

SLS Program Pressing Forward with Engine Heat Shield Design Change (Source:
The Space Launch System (SLS) heat shields around its RS-25 engines will not follow the heritage of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), following a decision to move away from the “eyelid and dome” style design. Instead, SLS will have a lighter flexible blanket installed, similar to that used on other vehicles and on the aft skirt of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs).

NASA’s new Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) remains on track for its debut on Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) to the Moon in 2017, after successfully transitioning from the joint System Requirements Review (SRR) and System Definition Review (SDR) to the key PDR stage of development. While the overall visible design of the vehicle remains intact, a large amount of fine-tuning is taking place, via the NASA and contractor engineering teams at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). (9/4)

1D Want to Sell Songs in Space (Source: UKPA)
One Direction have jokingly revealed that they want to sell their records in space. The boyband has achieved global success since appearing on The X Factor in 2010, but it seems they won't be completely satisfied until they can get aliens to pick up their records. Niall Horan said: "I think our goal for 10 years down the line should be to sell a single in outer space and be the first band to do so. Editor's Note: I guess an astronaut on the ISS could purchase a single online from their laptop. Would that count? Maybe it's already been done! (9/4)

Editorial: Americans Believe in ‘Curiosity’ (Source: Daily Beacon)
At first, I didn't think much of it. Hearing about NASA's landing of a rover on another planet was an event that sounded as if it was only for particular groups of people — science fiction aficionados, for example. However, I decided to give it a chance and see what made the event so popular, as my Facebook wall was strewn with nothing but comments of NASA's live feed about the mission. My next few moments were spent watching a simulation video of the rover's landing sequence, and at that point I was hooked. (9/4)

Tree Removal for Space Shuttle Arrival Tempers Excitement (Source: LA Times)
Space shuttle Endeavour's final 12-mile journey through the streets of South Los Angeles already promises to be a meticulously planned spectacle: a two-day parade, an overnight slumber party in Inglewood and enough hoopla to create a giant traffic mess. But for some residents in South L.A., the excitement of the shuttle rumbling through their neighborhoods quickly faded when they learned that 400 trees will be chopped down to make room for the behemoth. (9/4)

Russia Delays 2012 Military Launches After Satellite Failure (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will delay launches of military spacecraft this year because of a failed satellite launch last month, a top defense official said on Tuesday. The delays will be "insignificant," Russian Space Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko said. Ostapenko said the launches will be put on hold until the findings of a government probe into the incident are fully looked into, as the Briz-M upper stages are also used to hoist military spacecraft into orbit. (9/4)

Moon's Magnetic Umbrellas May Shield Future Spaceships (Source: New Scientist)
Lunar watchers have been crying over spilt milk for decades. But now the mystery of milky splotches on the moon's surface might finally be solved: sections of soil are being protected by weak but effective magnetic bubbles. The work could help spaceship builders devise magnetic shielding to protect astronauts on future missions from harmful radiation. Unlike Earth, the moon has no global magnetic field to shield it from the solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles from the sun. These particles interact with lunar soil, darkening it over thousands of years. (9/4)

No comments: