October 21, 2012

Bill Nye Visits Space Coast for STEM Roundtable and Obama Events (Source: SPACErePORT)
Bill Nye, known for his TV show as “The Science Guy,” will travel to Brevard County for events in support of President Obama’s reelection. After a tour of Dynamic Systems, Controls and Mechatronics at FIT, Mr. Nye will participate at a STEM roundtable on Tuesday morning at FIT. The visit will take place on Oct. 23 from 10am-12pm at the Florida Institute of Technology, Gleason Performing Arts Center. (10/21)

Venter Proposes Gene Sequencer on Mars (Source: LA Times)
Apparently, there just aren’t enough genomes for Craig Venter to sequence here on Earth, so he’s making plans to send a DNA sequencer to Mars. “There will be life forms there,” Venter said, with his usual confidence, at a Wired Health conference this week in New York. If he can build a machine to find it, the next steps would be to decode its DNA, beam it back to Earth, put those genetic instructions into a cell and then boot up a Martian life form in a biosecure lab. (10/21)

Swing State Papers Flock to Obama With Endorsements (Source: Politicus USA)
Swing state papers in Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, and Arizona (yes, Arizona is turning out to be a 2012 surprise of a swing state) endorsed President Obama this weekend. They write that Romney has no core conviction other than thinking he should be president, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Akron Beacon Journal writes that Romney’s comments about the 47% render him unworthy of the presidency. Editor's Note: Colorado, Ohio and Arizona could be considered "space states." (10/21)

Obama-Romney Tie in Florida, Newspaper Endorsements Split (Source: Bloomberg)
Among Florida’s likely voters, a CNN poll finds 49 percent support Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent President Barack Obama, with a four-point margin of error. The two will meet for their final debate, in Boca Raton, Florida, Monday at 9 pm EDT. The biggest of all swing states, Florida backed President Obama in 2008, Presidents George W. Bush twice, Bill Clinton once, George H.W. Bush twice, Ronald Reagan twice and Jimmy Carter once. Two big newspaper editorial endorsements in Florida also have split: the Orlando Sentinel endorsing Romney, the Tampa Bay Times Obama. (10/20)

Houston Chronicle Endorses Romney (Source: Houston Chronicle)
We do not believe four more years on the same plodding course toward economic recovery is the best path forward for Texas or the nation. And so we endorse the Republican team, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, in the belief that they can do better by Texas and the nation. Starting with energy and continuing with NASA.

There is a launching pad to reignite the national economy: It is the abundance of affordable domestic energy that has revealed itself so dramatically over the past several years. We refer primarily to the resources of natural gas and oil from shale rock that have become available through the technologies of horizontal drilling and fracturing. The other launch pad ignored by President Obama is the literal one - NASA, and specifically the Johnson Space Center.

It has been an insult to the memory of American heroes like Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride to allow manned spaceflight to languish in the country that put men on the moon. The notion of paying $50 million a seat to Russia for commercial taxi service to the International Space Station is galling. Obama has failed to articulate a bold vision of his own for the agency. That failure forsakes a legacy of scientific achievement that has showered benefits on the nation. (10/21)

The Houston Chronicle Endorsement is Wrong on NASA (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The space policy “rationale” for the Houston Chronicle’s endorsement of Mitt Romney is, frankly, insulting to all of us here in Houston that continue to support the national space program. All of their points are either misinformed or flat-out ignorant of the facts. The Chronicle ignores that the Shuttle retirement process began years before Obama was elected and that former Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale has stated that the outcome of the 2008 election would not have changed its inevitability.

The selection of Orbiter museum sites was determined by a NASA panel that prioritized the strength of the bid and the maximum exposure to taxpayers. I’ve personally seen the Space Center Houston bid and it was woefully lacking on both counts. Even the overview of the KSC Visitors Center’s $100-million, privately-financed proposal was better crafted. Does the Houston Chronicle honestly expect that the White House was supposed to deny Orbiters to other cities that worked harder and did a better job just to make Houston feel better?

As regards using the Soyuz flights to the ISS and relying on Russian vehicles for crew access, the Chronicle editorial staff is apparently unaware that the Soyuz has always been the primary crew transfer vehicle and lifeboat for the Station, in no small part because Congress cancelled the US lifeboat in the 1990s. The Chronicle also ignores that the so-called “gap” was a direct consequence of the Bush Administration’s Constellation Program that was slipping year-for-year because of failures to control cost, scope, and schedule. (10/21)

Britain on Mission to Tap Moon Water (Source: Telegraph)
A mission to land Europe’s first spacecraft on the Moon is to search for water that could be used to help astronauts survive during future manned visits to the lunar surface. It could be the plot of a science fiction novel: a mission to find water on the moon, paving the way for man to settle on its surface. But by 2018 a mission which includes British technology hopes to have landed a robot probe on the surface of the Moon to find out if it has ice present under the surface.

Finding ice would upend scientific orthodoxy and the results of previous lunar missions, which suggested that the Moon was dry. The £500 million voyage, scheduled for 2018, is being planned by the European Space Agency, of which Britain is a leading member. It will also be man’s first attempt at landing an object on the south pole of the Moon. (10/21)

Brazil, Ukraine Set Satellite Launch for 2014 (Source: Latin American Herald Tribune)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Ukrainian counterpart Victor Yanukovich agreed Friday on a plan to launch a jointly developed satellite from the South American nation in 2014. The two leaders spoke by telephone for 20 minutes about their countries’ “strategic” partnership in the aerospace sector, spokespeople in Rousseff’s office told Efe. The first launch from Alcantara was initially scheduled for next year, but financial problems forced a postponement.

That partnership dates from 2003, when Brazil and Ukraine embarked on the Cyclone 4 Alcantara project, which involves developing a launch vehicle to put satellites into orbit from the Alcantara base in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhao. The $588 million venture is part of Brazil’s drive to join the club of countries capable of launching satellites, now limited to the United States, Russia, China, France, India, Israel, Japan and Ukraine. (10/21)

Florida Fifth Grader Excited to Speak with Astronauts on Space Station (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Fifth-grader Khiarra Carter will get to do something few others will have the chance to do: talk to astronauts aboard the NASA International Space Station. Carter, a student at Gove Elementary in Belle Glade, was chosen along with 10 other Palm Beach County students to get a chance to ask the crew members questions as the space station orbits over Florida the week of Oct. 29.

The 11 students had to submit a 250-word essay to a contest run by the South Florida Science Museum in order to win this opportunity. The topic: “Why is space exploration important and what does it mean to me?” After schools determined the winning essay from their respective campuses, a panel of judges — including local media, astronomers, HAM radio operators and school district administrators — decided on the final winners. Click here. (10/21)

Solar Plasma Wave Larger Than Earth Erupted October 19 (Source: Space.com)
A giant wave of super-hot solar plasma larger than the Earth erupted from the sun on Friday (Oct. 19) in a spectacular display captured by a NASA spacecraft. The huge solar prominence occurred at 4:15 a.m. EDT and was recorded in amazing detail by the high-definition cameras aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory before escaping the sun. (10/21)

SpaceX Has Competition for Deliveries to Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is getting the headlines because its already delivering cargo to the International Space Station, but there is a second company and transport system in the NASA program to privatize routine resupply runs to the outpost. Orbital Sciences is not as far along as SpaceX, which has now completed two trips to the space station, but the company is stepping toward a launch from Virginia of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft.

The company has tested and activated its new complex at Wallops Island. The Orbital team rolled the Antares to the pad, ahead of planned ground tests, including several wet dress rehearsals involving fueling and then emptying the rocket to test ground systems at the new launch complex. The first two Cygnus spacecraft are finishing their testing regimen. Early next year, the Cygnus are to be delivered to the NASA site in Virginia for final launch preparations. Orbital holds a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA for the resupply effort. (10/21)

Exploring Space: Why’s It So Important? (Source: CNN)
Carol Beckles isn't buying into all the space exploration hype. She’s a single, middle-class mother of three living in a modest, cozy three-bedroom home in Atlanta’s suburbs. She foots the college bill of her oldest daughter Tiffany, who – like her mom – wishes she got more government help to pay for tuition. “It’s definitely hard. From the time that I was a senior (in high school) I had to start figuring out how I was going to pay for this,” said Tiffany who sits close beside her mom.

A mere mention of taxpayers’ dollars going to NASA makes Carol cringe. “I don’t see the use. What are we going out there to do?” she asked. CNN commenters often share these sentiments; one recently identified himself/herself as "waste of tax dollars." It’s been asked since space exploration began in the late 1950s. Some people argue that some –- if not all –- funding for space exploration could be used to revitalize the economy, fix the education system, or solve undersea mysteries, among other Earth-related issues.

According to a 2010 CNN/ORC poll, 50% of Americans agreed that the money spent for the space shuttle program - which ended last year - should be spent elsewhere. And in a 2009 Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who believe the U.S. space program should be scrapped jumped four points: From 4% to 8% in an 11-year period (1998-2009). (10/20)

Life and Soul of the Mars Party (Source: BBC)
The community of Glenelg in the Scottish Highlands has twinned itself with Glenelg on Mars. BBC News Scotland online sampled Saturday's party atmosphere. It was only a matter of time before someone asked the question. "Are there any aliens on Mars?" said a boy somewhere in the crowded marquee erected on a small football pitch in Glenelg.

Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars exploration program, smiled before answering. "Well, that's what we hope to find out: that Mars was once able to support life." McCuistion, who had hoped to be in the west Highland community of about 280 people in person, addressed the gathering via a satellite link from the US. Many of the 500 folk who had bought tickets for the celebrations had got into the spirit of things. They wore alien antenna hair bands. Glitter from the sparkly balls wobbling above their heads soon covered hair and clothes like fallen stars. (10/21)

Soyuz Craft Readied for Space Station Mission (Source: AP)
A Russian-made Soyuz rocket was erected into place Sunday, ahead of the start of a mission to take a three-man crew to the International Space Station. For the first time since 1984, the manned launch will take place from Baikonur cosmodrome launch pad 31, while the pad that is normally used, from which Yury Gagarin began his landmark space mission, is undergoing modernization.

The Soyuz craft remains the only means for international astronauts to reach the space station since the decommissioning of the U.S. Shuttle fleet in 2011. NASA's Kevin Ford and Russian astronauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin will blast off Tuesday from the Russian-leased facility in southern Kazakhstan and will spend around six months on the orbiting laboratory. (10/21)

Euro Ministerial Space Confab 2012 to be Biggest Yet (Source: Parabolic Arc)
ESA’s throwing a party next month, and everybody — and I mean EVERYBODY — is invited. Well, maybe not a party per se. (Although there probably will be a few during the evening.) But, the next ESA Ministerial Council meeting in Caserta, Italy on November 20-21 will be the biggest one yet, featuring anyone in Europe with any interest in space whether they’ve joined the agency or not. And it will be crucial meet for Europe’s future in space. Click here. (10/20)

Space Florida ISS Research Competition Deadline Nears (Source: Space Florida)
The closing date for applications for the ISS Research Competition is Wednesday October 31 at 5pm EST. Space Florida and partner NanoRacks are expecting a most diverse and multi-disciplined crop of research proposals to arrive at their doorstep. Completed applications should be e-mailed to: info@spaceflorida.gov. Full details including Rules and Regulations are available at this site: http://www.spaceflorida.gov/iss-research-competition. (10/20)

Paul Ryan Talks Space Policy at Ocala Campaign Stop (Source: WMFE)
Ryan accused the Obama administration of leaving NASA without a plan after scrapping President George W. Bush’s Constellation program, which would have returned astronauts to the moon. Ryan said Obama misunderstands the role NASA plays in national security. “If we want to send astronauts to the Space Station we got to pay the Russians to take them. I mean, think about that for a moment.”

He told the crowd what an administration led by Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would do. “Our plan is to put together a plan for NASA, so that they have a plan,” said Ryan. “Bring the stakeholders in – the private sector, the Pentagon, NASA – and, like the last administration, put together a plan for NASA, and that plan is part of our vital national security interests.”

Under the Obama administration, NASA has been charged with building a heavy-lift vehicle with the eventual aim of taking astronauts into deeper space and potentially to Mars. Meanwhile, commercial space companies are developing rockets to launch astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, and Russian Soyuz capsules are filling the gap. Editor's Note: Under Constellation, we would also be paying Russia to carry our astronauts, likely for a longer period than currently will be required. (10/18)

SpaceShipTwo on Track for Powered Flight This Year (Source: WIRED)
The team at Scaled Composites have installed SpaceShipTwo’s oxidizer tank, a key component that puts Virgin Galactic on track to make the spacecraft’s first powered flight by the end of the year. Spacecraft like SpaceShipTwo need an oxidizer tank because there isn’t enough oxygen at the upper reaches of the atmosphere and basically none in space to allow for combustion in its rocket motor. Like the internal combustion engine in your car, SS2′s solid fuel engine rocket engine need oxygen to burn the fuel it carries. So if you want some oxygen for combustion in space, it’s BYOO.

Scaled Composites has been hard at work in recent months. The team ran into delays last year after a glide flight by SpaceShipTwo in September uncovered an aerodynamic problem with the tail surfaces. Soon after being released from its mothership, the pilot experienced a “downward pitch rate that caused a stall of the tails.” The SS2 crew followed the procedure for such an event, selecting the spacecraft’s unique “feather mode” that allows the pilot to regain control and land safely. Click here. (10/19)

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