October 13, 2012

Undue Blame for the Obama Administration and CRS (Source: Space Politics)
An article published by the Washington Examiner attempts to tie the flawed-but-successful Falcon-9 mission to Elon Musk’s political contributions to the Obama campaign. The article makes some odd claims (including suggesting that because the Falcon lost an engine it “only delivered 882 of the promised 1,800 pounds of resupply cargo for the space station”; Dragon delivered all 400 kilograms of cargo it was loaded with to the ISS) and then goes on mention Musk’s contributions to the Obama campaign and perceived flaws in the use of Space Act Agreements (“a carte blanche handover of public money without litmus tests”) to support such efforts.

The problem is that the Dragon and Falcon-9 were developed under a COTS award made in 2006, during the Bush Administration. That, too, was a Space Act Agreement, which makes former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin’s criticism of such agreements, mentioned in the Examiner article, look odd. In addition, the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, which this Dragon mission is the first of twelve, was awarded by NASA to SpaceX in December 2008, a month before President Obama took office. (10/12)

NASA Signs Agreement to Develop Nasal Spray for Motion Sickness (Source: NASA Watch)
Under the Space Act Agreement, Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. Scopolamine is effective and can be administered as a tablet or injected. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form. (10/12)

New Government Travel Restrictions Force AAS to Cancel Conference (Source: Space Policy Online)
The American Astronautical Society (AAS) announced today that it must cancel its annual National Conference in November because new travel restrictions for government employees caused all of the high level NASA officials who were scheduled to speak at the conference to withdraw. The decision does not affect next week's AAS Von Braun symposium in Huntsville which will proceed as scheduled. (10/11)

Favorites Emerge in the Google Moon Race (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Twenty-five teams are officially in the running for the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), the $30 million prize for soft-landing a privately funded unmanned spacecraft on the moon. As the 2015 deadline approaches, however, it has become clear which teams are the early leaders in the chase to pull off a feat achieved only by two world superpowers, and not since the 1970s.

Moon Express is building a lander that will fire up its descent and landing rockets to "hop" (rather than roll) the required 500 meters across the lunar surface to qualify for the GLXP win. Another top competitor is Astrobotic Technology, based at Carnegie Mellon University. They have a launch contract with SpaceX for a ride on the Falcon 9 rocket. And this week, Astrobotic announced that it had completed a fully working prototype for its Polaris moon rover.

Of the 23 other teams in the competition, only one other group claims to have made launch arrangements. The Barcelona Moon Team said in August that it had secured a launch aboard a Chinese Long March 2C rocket. Editor's Note: Earthrise Space says they are in negotiations for a launch opportunity, with an announcement possible soon. (10/13)

How a Martian Meteorite Rocked the World (Source: Space.com)
On July 18, 2011, at 2 a.m. local time, nomads living in a desert valley in southern Morocco near the Algerian border reported seeing a fireball light up the sky followed by two sonic booms. This was a truly rare event, not just the arrival of a Martian meteorite, but a meteorite fall that had witnesses.

Since this meteorite, later dubbed Tissint, landed, even the smallest fragments have been scooped up and distributed among collectors, museums and research institutions around the world. Researchers have begun examining them for clues about their home planet. And sales of the Mars rocks continue, with two pieces of Tissint going up for sale on Sunday (Oct. 14) during a public auction based in Manhattan. (10/13)

Bill Nye Needs Your Help to Restore NASA’s Space Exploration Budget (Source: Beta Beat)
Millennial icon Bill Nye the Science Guy, whom this reporter once had the immense pleasure of interviewing, currently serves as the CEO of the Planetary Society. There, he’s worked to raise awareness about the Curiosity Rover’s mission to Mars, as well as advised Elon Musk on what the space research community needs out of a commercial space program. (“We need cheap access to orbit,” Mr. Nye told us in an interview. “It’s the key first step. Getting to orbit right now is too expensive.”)

Mr. Nye is working to raise awareness about NASA’s gutted space exploration budget. Yesterday, his team published a YouTube video of Mr. Nye urging viewers to send a letter to the President, asking him to restore the budget. “Even if you don’t like the president, we’d like you to write to him because he’s the guy that can make that last thing happen to make sure that the budget for planetary science gets restored,” Mr. Nye says. (10/13)

Endeavour Rolls Through Los Angeles (Source: New York Times)
The space shuttle Endeavour rolled out of Los Angeles International Airport around 2 a.m. Friday for what has been named Mission 26: the two-day crawl through urban streets to retirement at the California Science Center 12 miles away. Actually, crawling might have been faster. Traveling aboard a specially designed 80-wheel transporter and stopping frequently while it maneuvered carefully between streetlights and waiting for overhanging tree branches to be felled, the shuttle took hours to cover just its first couple of miles.

But the slow progress only facilitated the paradelike atmosphere that followed the spaceship. By the time the sun was up Friday morning, thousands had gathered in the parking lot where the Endeavour had pulled in for a rest. “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” said Lealind Vitello, 7, who stood, gaping, outside her elementary school across the street. “It’s parked just in front of the school. I go to that school!” (10/12)

Architect Sees Big Things Ahead for KSC (Source: Florida Today)
For Nick Gigante, building a retirement home for shuttle Atlantis simply marks a transition for the space industry in Brevard County. The director of architecture for Melbourne-based BRPH Architects-Engineers Inc. is excited about being the engineer of record for the new structure at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which will permanently house the retired orbiter. He’s also excited about what’s happening within the gates at KSC.

“There is a lot going on,” said Gigante, who lives on north Merritt Island. “NASA has looked at what they have, and they are getting ready to improve a lot of those facilities for the future.” He said BRPH has been fortunate to be part of projects that are looking toward the future. BRPH specializes in aerospace, aviation and education facilities. The company has been involved in other launch facilities in Virginia, Alaska and California, but Gigante says KSC holds more potential. (10/13)

Builder Hopes to See New Projects at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
In his teens, Kevin Ivey began working at the space center for the construction company his father started in 1973. Now, as president and owner of Merritt Island-based Ivey’s Construction Inc., he is helping move Atlantis to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where the orbiter will go on display. He hopes this marks a new period of activity in the space industry.

“We are waiting for that next big program to start up,” said Ivey, whose company’s work includes modifications to launch complexes. Work has slowed for Ivey since the end of the shuttle program and cancellation of the Ares return-to-the-moon program. The future is uncertain for Ivey and his company. “We are anxious to see where it goes as far as the new programs starting up,” Ivey said. (10/13)

USA Lays Off 304 More KSC Workers (Source: Florida Today)
United Space Alliance announced layoffs of 304 Kenndy Space Center workers on Friday in Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services. A total of 344 workers will be terminated in Florida and Houston between Dec. 7 and Jan. 4, said USA spokeswoman Ilene Walsh in Houston. With these cuts, the former prime shuttle contractor will reduce its workforce to 773 in Florida and 1,154 in Texas. Additional workforce reductions are tentatively scheduled for March or April, Walsh said. (10/13)

No comments: