December 12, 2012

Hacker Activists Post Stolen DOD, NASA Data (Source:
Members of the Anonymous-affiliated Team GhostShell hacking collective have published what they claim is stolen information for 1.6 million accounts linked to government agencies, including the Pentagon, NASA and the Federal Reserve. The hackers appear to have breached the database with a malicious SQL code injection, ZDNet reported, stealing passwords and corresponding email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses and notes from defense tests.

North Korean Satellite 'Tumbling Out of Control' (Source: NBC)
The object that North Korea sent into space early Thursday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials said. They still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do. In a statement, the White House said the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions. The United Nations Security Council on Thursday condemned the launch, calling it a "clear violation" of U.N. resolutions.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores" the launch. North Korea is banned from conducting missile and nuclear tests, under the terms of U.N. sanctions imposed after a series of nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. The rocket was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launch Center on the secretive country's west coast, and that the Kwangmyongsong weather satellite went into orbit as planned. (12/12)

Florida 2012 Launch Manifest Remains Flat, Could Grow in 2013  (Source: SPACErePORT)
Tuesday's Atlas-5 launch was the last of 2012 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The 2012 launch manifest included 10 missions, the same as in 2011, but less than the 11 in 2010 and 17 in 2009. Five of this year's launches were Atlas-5, three were Delta-4, and two were Falcon-9. Seven were military missions and three were for NASA. None featured commercial satellites as the primary payload.

An early look at the 2013 manifest shows 11 missions, including five Atlas-5, two Delta-4, and four Falcon-9 launches. Six will be military missions and three will be for NASA. Two will be commercial satellites, both atop Falcon-9 rockets. (SpaceX's website shows as many as six missions that could be launched in 2013, three for NASA and three for commercial satellite customers.) (12/12)

Schmitt Calls for Lunar Return (Source: FOX News)
If NASA wants to get to Mars, the fastest way to get there is by returning to the moon -- according to one of the last men to walk on the lunar surface. “The moon is going to be an extraordinary resource for future generations as they go deeper into space and as they begin to settle the moon and eventually Mars,” said Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the Apollo 17 lunar module pilot. Schmitt said he believes the moon holds many of the answers we need to safely travel to other planets such as Mars.

“There are many aspects of the Mars mission that need the moon and the Earth’s upper atmosphere as places to train, and to simulate and test the equipment that’s going to be needed on Mars,” he said. “The moon’s resources include a light isotope of helium that is an ideal fuel for fusion power reactors here on Earth, as well as for interplanetary spacecraft.” (12/12)

Lubchenco to Leave NOAA Helm (Source: Science)
Marine scientist Jane Lubchenco, the head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced today that she will leave that job at the end of February. She plans to "return to my family and academia" in Oregon, she said in a message to NOAA staff members. Lubchenco was one of President Obama's first scientific appointments, and her joint Senate confirmation hearing with presidential science adviser John Holdren gave the position an unusually high profile. (12/12)

Cities, States Offer Bigger, Bolder Incentives to Plane-Makers (Source: Wall Street Journal)
State and local governments are increasingly designating higher amounts of funding as incentives for passenger-jet manufacturers. Advocates say the perks of aerospace factories are tremendous and that politicians should go to great lengths to attract manufacturers. The trend has accelerated since the recession, with states providing at least $1 billion in various incentives since 2008 to draw aerospace investments.

That includes at least $450 million to attract Boeing Co. BA -0.20% to South Carolina, $158 million from Alabama for European rival Airbus and $57 million from Virginia to draw engine-maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC. Existing aerospace hubs are fighting to protect their turf from newcomers. Christine Gregoire, Washington's Democratic governor, has trekked to the Farnborough trade show for seven straight years trying to drum up new business. "You will fail if you don't go," she said.

For manufacturers, the benefits go beyond the tax breaks, infrastructure assistance and worker-training packages that local governments provide. Spreading their operations out can also be a way to gain political influence in an industry where government plays an important role both as regulator and customer. (12/11)

SpaceX Discovers, But Won't Share, Cause of Falcon 9 Engine Failure (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has discovered the root cause of a premature engine shutdown during the company’s first paid cargo flight to the international space station in October, but the company does not plan to make the results of its months-long investigation public, a company executive said.

“We’re doing one of the final out briefs on the most probable cause for the engine issue with [NASA international space station program manager Michael Suffredini] later this week,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said. “We’re not going to release what we found but I think we’ve got a good most probable cause identified. The data supports that.” One of the nine first-stage engines on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket shut down prematurely 79 seconds after liftoff Oct. 7. (12/12)

Canada Vows Swift Action on Space Agency Reboot (Source: Space News)
Christian Paradis, Canada's Industry Minister Credit: Official Canadian Government photo
The Canadian government is promising quick action on a new report that calls on it to reboot its space program and provide industry with a long-term space plan to show where the country is moving in that sector. Industry Minister Christian Paradis said there is an understanding about not only the challenges the country’s space industry faces but, also the sector’s importance to the economy and security of the nation. (12/12)

Dueling Visions Stall NASA (Source: Nature)
Once again, NASA’s human space-flight program is looking for a destination. It happened in the early 1970s, after US astronauts had left the Moon for the last time; then in the 1990s, after the collapse of a costly vision of sending astronauts to Mars; and again in 2010, when President Obama abandoned a plan to return humans to the Moon because he did not consider it ambitious enough.

He suggested visiting a near-Earth asteroid instead, but a report released on 5 December by the National Academies says that this plan, too, has misfired. Part of the tug of war over destinations is political. The administration’s choice of an asteroid is a volte-face from the ‘Moon-first’ doctrine espoused during the presidency of George W. Bush. By many accounts, Obama had not garnered much support for the new policy before springing it on NASA and Congress nearly three years ago.

NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, has been left to negotiate the rocky ground between a suspicious Congress and an administration that has largely neglected the space agency. Some say that Bolden — who was not the administration’s first choice when he was appointed in 2009 — may face replacement as Obama heads into his second term. “It’s not a happy situation,” says a senior astrophysicist. “Names are being discussed.” (12/12)

Life Lessons in Space (Source: BBC)
If you think Russia and the US have put the Cold War behind them, think again. Onboard the International Space Station (ISS), hundreds of miles above the Earth, you only need to answer the call of nature to find it is alive and well. “You have to have permission for the Russian guys to use this toilet and the US guys to use the Russian one,” explains Kathryn Bolt, chief training officer for the ISS and my guide to the world’s only full-sized model of the space station.

The two toilets on the ISS consist of a combination of a nozzle, tubes and vacuum pumps. When one breaks down, as happened in 2009, it can lead to a major diplomatic incident. It is just one of the quirks of sharing a flat 350km (220 miles) above the Earth that American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko will face when they begin a year-long stint onboard the craft in 2015. Their marathon mission is designed to help us understand the effects of long duration space flight – essential before any future expedition to Mars.

But just spending an hour inside the ISS mock-up in Houston gives me a sense of how big a challenge communal living in space really is. Anyone who’s ever shared a house with friends will know it’s not long before petty squabbles break out over who’s left the washing up or stolen your milk. On Earth, you can step outside until things cool down. On the ISS, the options to “get away from it all” are limited. (12/12)

Mystery Gullies Discovered on Asteroid Vesta (Source: America Space)
The Dawn spacecraft left behind the giant asteroid Vesta last September, and is now en route to the even bigger dwarf planet Ceres, but scientists are still busy studying all of the data that was sent back to Earth while it was orbiting Vesta for over a year. And as often happens while exploring these new worlds, they have made a surprising discovery: long, sinuous gullies on the walls of geologically younger craters.

Actually, there are two types of gullies that have been seen so far – ones that are straighter, wider and shorter and other ones that are more sinuous, narrower and longer, which end in lobe-shaped deposits. The straighter ones aren’t as much of a surprise, as they resemble others seen elsewhere, such as on the Moon for example, and are thought to be caused by dry material flowing down the sides of craters. The sinuous, curvy ones though are different, and look more like ones formed by water on Earth and possibly Mars. (12/12)

Cassini Spots Mini Nile River on Saturn Moon (Source: ESA)
The international Cassini mission has spotted what appears to be a miniature extraterrestrial version of the Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 400 km from its ‘headwaters’ to a large sea. It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere beyond Earth. Scientists deduce that the river is filled with liquid because it appears dark along its entire extent in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface. (12/12)

NORAD Confirms Orbit for North Korean Launch (Source: Space Policy Online)
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed December 11 that North Korea successfully placed at least one object into Earth orbit. The launch comes despite recent North Korean statements that the launch would be delayed, and amid international condemnation that it would launch anything. (12/12)

Virgin Galactic: Commercial Trips to Space by 2014 (Source: BBC)
Tourists making trips to space sounds like the stuff of science fiction movies but Virgin say they could be taking commercial flights outside of the earth's atmosphere by 2014. With tickets costing more than £100,000 it is still out of reach for most. David Mackay, who is a pilot with Virgin Galactic, explained what you would experience for your money. Click here. (12/11)

Insurer Partners with Space Expedition Corporation for (Missed) Lynx Flights (Source: Insurance Daily)
Aon Risk Solutions has formed a partnership with Space Expedition Corporation (SEC), the Netherlands-based space tourism company. The two have designed an insurance policy providing customised protection for space tourists regarding losses related to flight cancellation, postponement or temporary interruption. Based upon regular non-appearance cancellation cover, the policy also includes additional supplemental coverage.

SEC will begin to operate daily commercial flights to space in 2014, for private citizens who can complete a mandatory training program and pass medical testing. Flights will be performed in the Lynx suborbital spaceplane designed and built by XCOR Aerospace. (12/12)

NPO, JAXA Join Hands in Guarding Satellites (Source: Japan Times)
Every day, observers at the Japan Spaceguard Association stare 36,000 km above the equator to guard Japanese satellites from colliding with space junk and debris. "Due to gravity, the sky above the Indian Ocean is the 'grave' where satellites that have completed their missions gather," explained Noritsugu Takahashi. "In the case of an approaching old satellite possibly headed for collision with a Japanese satellite along the path, we will reposition the Japanese satellite."

But Takahashi's group was founded in 1996 on a different premise — surveilling the skies to discover threats to Earth, such as an asteroid or comet. While such events are believed to occur only once every 100 million years, should an asteroid or comet hit Earth it would have a grave impact on all living beings — including the possible extinction of the human race. (12/12)

Nye Says Don’t Forget the ’Final Frontier’ (Source: Politico)
For planetary science fans, NASA has no substitute. “No other agency can do what those guys do,” said Bill Nye. “No other space agency can land sophisticated instruments on Mars with the ability to look for signs of water and life. Nobody else can do that. So to lose that ability would be a tragedy, not just for the United States, but for mankind. If those people are compelled to find other jobs in other industries, you’ll never find them again.”

Budget negotiations taking place on Capitol Hill will most likely have a financial impact on a myriad of sectors of American life, and Nye is imploring Congress to spare the world of scientific research. Nye, who serves as chief executive officer of The Planetary Society, told POLITICO, “It’s not clear that space exploration, especially planetary exploration, is as high a priority as I feel it should be.” (12/12)

NASA Ames Wind Tunnel Marks Quarter Century (Source: NBC)
NASA celebrated the 25th anniversary Wednesday for one of the largest and most distinctive structures in the Bay Area. We are talking about the iconic wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center on Moffett Field.  It's a massive square structure on the air base next to Hangar One. It's official name is the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) located at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The wind tunnel was dedicated Dec. 11, 1987. (12/11)

Mogul Wars in Mojave? SpaceX Invades Virgin Territory (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At noontime on Monday, workers from the Mojave Air and Space Port who ventured into town to frequent Stoken’ Donuts and other popular lunch spots saw quite a startling sight. A truck was driving through downtown pulling a large billboard advertising jobs at SpaceX, which is located about 100 miles to the south in Hawthorne.

Elon Musk’s rocket company took it to the streets — literally — in an effort to lure away workers from the bustling desert spaceport, which is home to such companies as Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, XCOR, Masten Space Systems and Firestar Engineering. Apparently heeding some friendly advice, the driver reportedly stayed in town and did not enter the grounds of the airport.

The mobile recruitment campaign has Mojave buzzing. The simplest — and most logical — explanation is that SpaceX is growing rapidly and needs to recruit qualified workers. And Mojave is certainly a good place to accomplish that task. Another school of thought is that SpaceX is striking back at Virgin Galactic, which has hired a number of former SpaceX employees. (I like this theory a whole lot better. Mogul vs. Mogul. Clash of the egos. Battle of the billionauts.) (12/12)

Russia to Stop Feeding Kazakhstan - Could U.S. Enter Baikonur? (Source: Pravda)
The head of Kazkosmos, (Space Agency of Kazakhstan), Talgat Musabayev, told reporters that the leadership of the republic was considering an opportunity to transfer Baikonur spaceport under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to him, Kazakhstan is also in talks with Russia about step-by-step changes of the terms of the lease agreement for Baikonur space complex. Musabayev is a high-ranking official, but he is not the head of state. Does he put the cart before the horse?

According to the Kommersant, Moscow's position on the matter is as follows: there should not be any surprises or ultimatums. Musabayev only wanted to show his importance to deputies and prove that he had nothing to do with the existing problems at Kazkosmos.

A number of Russian publications said that the end of the Baikonur lease was supposedly very profitable for the U.S. If Russia leaves, the U.S. will take its place in Kazakhstan. However, this is a view of only one expert. All others believe that the United States will not take Russia's place at Baikonur should the lease agreement be stopped. (12/12)

What Does Space Travel Do to Your Mind? NASA’s Resident Psychiatrist Reveals All (Source: io9)
Space travel is tough on the human body. But what does it do to the human mind? Gary Beven, a space psychiatrist at NASA, answers our questions about how humans adapt to space, and what we have to do to go to Mars. Doctor Gary Beven has to have one of the most surprising careers in science. As he puts it, he's "the fifth full-time NASA civil servant psychiatrist since the beginning of the human space program, the first being hired in the 1980s at the onset of the Space Shuttle Program."

Becoming an astronaut is a mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding job that's done at high risk around insanely expensive equipment. It pays to see how this job can be made psychologically easier for everyone involved. But how does one even start out as a space psychiatrist? I asked Doctor Beven. Click here. (12/12)

When the Dyna-Soar Went Extinct (Source: Discovery)
The U.S. Air Force’s Dyna-Soar, a precursor to the space shuttle, was wiped out by bureaucracy and bad timing. Dyna-Soar was a hypersonic glider. A flat, triangular base with flicked up wing tips and a one-man crew cabin on top, it was designed to launch on a Titan missile, orbit the Earth, then land unpowered on a runway. The Air Force described this gliding landing style as dynamic soaring, hence the name Dyna-Soar.

And while the concept was initially conceived in WWII Germany as a way to bomb America from Europe, the U.S. Air Force adopted it as a weapon to possibly bomb the Soviets. The program metaphorically took off in 1958. The Air Force invited the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the NACA, NASA’s predecessor) to participate in what it was calling the ‘multipurpose manned bomber’ program. Click here. (12/12)

Japan Says North Korea's Rocket Debris Fell Into Waters Off Philippines (Source: Yonhap)
The Japanese government said Wednesday that a debris of North Korea's long-range rocket fell into waters off the Philippines at 10:05 a.m. after passing over Okinawa. Pyongyang fired off the rocket at 9:51 a.m., Seoul's defense ministry said earlier in the day. Japan didn't order its military to intercept the North Korean rocket, according to officials. (12/12)

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