December 14, 2012

NASA, Got Space Exploration? Get Goals, Get Funding and Get Uhura (Source: Forbes)
There is a summary lack of confidence in NASA’s ability to explore outer space these days. There are three main challenges at this time in NASA’s history. The first is to clearly voice a renewed commitment to the broader mission and goals of U.S. cooperative space exploration, not just deploy technical capabilities and, somewhere along the way, rekindle taxpayer support. The first task then is to refocus on the greater mission of space exploration and how to achieve this goal, instead of deploying projects with short-term capabilities.

The second challenge is to secure adequate funding to set this fresh commitment to space exploration in motion. The third challenge is to recruit more (wo)men to do the required work on the ground and in missions. Then NASA will need a major change of perspective in its goals, the funds to secure the longevity of the U.S. space exploration program and much more (wo)man power to fill the suits of future astronauts. In these faithless times, NASA, perhaps most important of all, needs a star spangle on its red, white and blue banner to evangelize its purpose to the world with gusto. (12/14)

Property Rights in Space (Source: New Atlantis)
Ever since space travel began in the 1950s, space enthusiasts have dreamed that the exploration of space would lead to the colonization of space by human beings. From Arthur C. Clarke’s visions of colonies on the Moon to the plans of the Mars Society today, the goal of human settlements on celestial bodies has inspired scientists and science fiction writers, and to a lesser extent politicians and entrepreneurs. But progress toward a permanent human presence in space has stalled.

Scientific research conducted by people in orbiting labs like the International Space Station has contributed modestly to our knowledge of living in space. Unmanned satellites for telecommunications, defense, weather monitoring, scientific research, and other applications have proliferated over the last half-century. However, practical, economic development of space — treating it not as a mere borderland of Earth, but a new frontier in its own right — has not materialized.

Still, the promise is as great as it ever was, and, contrary to popular opinion, is eminently achievable — but only if the current legal framework and attitude toward space can be shifted toward seeing it as a realm not just of human exploration, but also of human enterprise. Click here. (12/14)

Researchers Propose New Way to Look at the Dawn of Life (Source: Space Daily)
One of the great mysteries of life is how it began. What physical process transformed a nonliving mix of chemicals into something as complex as a living cell? For more than a century, scientists have struggled to reconstruct the key first steps on the road to life. Until recently, their focus has been trained on how the simple building blocks of life might have been synthesized on the early Earth, or perhaps in space. But because it happened so long ago, all chemical traces have long been obliterated.

Now, a novel approach to the question of life's origin, proposed by two Arizona State University scientists, attempts to dramatically redefine the problem. The researchers shift attention from the "hardware" - the chemical basis of life - to the "software" - its information content. To use a computer analogy, chemistry explains the material substance of the machine, but it won't function without a program and data. They suggest that the crucial distinction between non-life and life is the way that living organisms manage the information flowing through the system. (12/14)

Life Search: NASA Eyes Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa (Source:
Though NASA is devoting many of its exploration resources to Mars these days, the agency still has its eye on an icy moon of Jupiter that may be capable of supporting life as we know it. NASA is thinking about ways to investigate the possible habitability of Europa, Jupiter's fourth-largest moon. One concept that may be gaining traction is a so-called "clipper" probe that would make multiple flybys of the moon, studying its icy shell and suspected subsurface ocean as it zooms past.

The $2 billion unmanned Europa Clipper, which could be ready to launch by 2021 or so, would also do vital reconnaissance work for a potential lander mission in the future. Astrobiologists regard Europa, which is about 1,900 miles (3,100 kilometers) wide, as one of the best bets in our solar system to host life beyond Earth.

The moon is believed to harbor a large ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Further, this ocean is likely in direct contact with Europa's rocky mantle, raising the possibility of all sorts of interesting chemical reactions. The irradiation of Europa's surface and tidal heating of its interior also mean the moon likely has ample energy sources — another key requirement for life as we know it. (12/14)

NASA Glenn Research Center Readying Changeover to New Director (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
A reorganization plan intended to stabilize Cleveland's NASA Glenn Research Center and focus its 1,700 scientists and engineers on four "core" technology areas is moving forward, even as the center's leadership changes. "The sooner we can get there, the better," said Glenn deputy director James Free who, with the impending retirement of director Ray Lugo, will take over the center's top post January 4.

Though the reorganization plan's details are still being refined and await headquarters approval, Free said he expects a go-ahead within the next year. The back-to-basics plan will emphasize work on space power, propulsion and communication systems, and advanced materials.

The outgoing and incoming Glenn directors discussed the center's status and future during a wide-ranging media briefing Wednesday. Free, his left arm in a sling from a hockey-coaching injury, and Lugo, sporting a red wristband iPod, represent a generational shift at Glenn. Lugo, 55, is one of the last senior NASA executives who worked on the Apollo moon-landing program, while Free, 44, cut his teeth on satellites and spacecraft that are still flying. (12/12)

Doctors Told to Prepare for Space Race (Source: MSN)
Patients will soon be asking their doctors whether they are healthy enough to make one giant leap into space as cosmic tourism takes off. GPs could be asked to give their patients medical advice for space flights as outer space travel opportunities become increasingly available to the general public, experts said. Doctors must consider that with more opportunities for space tourism, an increasing number of less healthy individuals can be expected to fly.

"As access to space travel for personal or employment reasons increases, clinicians may be faced with new medical challenges and questions in their daily practice," the authors wrote in the BMJ Christmas edition. "Of course, all physicians will not be expected to be experts in space medicine, just as they are currently not experts in the physiology of airplane flight, but they will have to understand how it affects their patients." (12/14)

ISRO Planning 10 Space Missions in 2013 (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to accomplish 10 space missions in the next one year, parliament was informed on Wednesday. Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy said eight of these are planned by September 2013 and the remaining two by 2013-end. The missions are three polar satellite launch vehicles, one geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle, two communication satellites, one earth observation (ocean) satellite, one meteorological satellite, one navigation satellite and Mars orbiter. (12/14)

No Plans of Sending an Indian on Moon (Source: IANS)
India has no plans to put an astronaut on the moon, as of now. Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday said this. The minister also said that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had no plans in the immediate future to launch space labs and manned spaceships or set up space stations.

"However, ISRO has undertaken the development critical technologies required for manned missions in the Earth's orbit," he said in a written statement. ISRO has also initiated studied on Near Earth Objects and deflection strategies for Near Earth Astroids, he added. (12/13)

Beating Heart of J-2X Engine Finishes Year of Testing (Source: NASA)
NASA on Thursday took another step toward human exploration of new destinations in the solar system. At the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, engineers conducted the final test-firing of the J-2X powerpack assembly, an important component of America's next heavy-lift rocket.

The J-2X engine is the first human-rated liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engine developed in the United States in decades. Designed and built by NASA and industry partner Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the engine will power the upper stage of NASA's 143-ton (130-metric-ton) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The powerpack is a system of components on top of the engine that feeds propellants to the bell nozzle of the engine to produce thrust. (12/13)

Posey Secures Appointment to House Science, Space and Technology Committee (Source: Rep. Posey)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) has been appointed to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee which has jurisdiction over NASA, space exploration, aerospace, energy research and development, and marine research. Posey's newly redrawn Congressional District 8 now includes the Kennedy Space Center and is home to the many of the nation's leading aerospace firms and research facilities.

"Space Coast residents will continue to have a strong advocate in Congress for human space flight, space exploration and technological innovation," said Congressman Posey. "I'm looking forward to working with incoming Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and all the members of the House Science Committee to ensure America remains the world's leader in space and scientific discovery."

As a young man, Bill Posey worked on the nation's Apollo Space Program until being laid-off with thousands of other space workers following the successful Moon landing in 1969. Having lived much of his childhood and all of his adult life in Brevard County, Posey has remained an active leader in space policy for many years serving as a member of the Florida Space Authority Board of Supervisors, the Florida Commercial Space Finance Corporation and as a member of the Board of Directors for Space Florida. (12/14)

Six Satellites for Globalstar Soyuz Mission Ready for Launch (Source: Space Daily)
The remaining two Globalstar satellites for next February's Arianespace/Starsem Soyuz mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome are now at the Kazakhstan launch site, joining four other spacecraft for checkout and the subsequent integration on their medium-lift vehicle. (12/14)

Orion is Three Milestones Closer to Launch (Soure: America Space)
Things are looking good for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The agency announced yesterday the program has passed a number of significant milestones recently. The tools that will mate the pieces of Orion’s heat shield, the adapters that will connect the spacecraft to its launch vehicle, as well as the launch and recovery crews based at Kennedy all have a green light to move forward towards 2014’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1).

One vital piece of hardware that needs to work before Orion can fly is a tool that will allow technicians to mate the spacecraft’s heat shield’s titanium skeleton to its carbon fiber skin. At the Denver facility of prime contractor Lockheed Martin, workers can begin assembling the heat shield, a job that means installing some 3,000 bolts while the piece sits in a special stand that keeps the skin and the skeleton aligned.

The mating should be done sometime in January at which point the heat shield will be shipped to Textron Defense Systems near Boston where it will gain a layer of ablative material. The completed heat shield should be ready and at NASA’s facilities at KSC next summer. The heat shield is, of course, the star of the EFT-1 mission; it’s the main system to be tested on the flight. (12/14)

Kennedy Space Center Celebrates 'Holidays in Space' (Source: America Space)
Santa and Mrs. Claus have stopped by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex located in Florida. This marks the second year that the duo have used hypergolic-fueled reindeer to travel from the North Pole to the new home of space shuttle Atlantis. The operators of the Visitor Complex invited Mr. and Mrs. Claus to greet guests and to host “Holidays in Space,” which includes a broad array of events and activities honoring this festive time of year. (12/14)

The More They Stay the Same (Source: Space KSC)
Earlier this week, the House Science Committee held a hearing to review a National Academies report on the future of NASA. The hearing was eerily similar to the presentation made in September 2009 by Norm Augustine, chair of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, on their report titled Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation. Both documents warned that NASA was tasked by Congress to perform too many tasks that were underfunded.

But if you watch both hearings, the members present shifted responsibility and blame to the White House to solve the problem. It's just more evidence that Congress has no interest in a robust space program beyond protecting jobs and contractors in the states and districts they represent. Perhaps the most bizarre moment in Wednesday's hearing was Rep. Hansen Clarke pandering for NASA jobs to be sent to Detroit.

The Space Launch System is a classic example of Congress ignoring funding realities. Derided by some as the Senate Launch System because it originated with the Senate's space subcommittee in 2010, Congress mandated that NASA use existing Space Shuttle and Constellation contractors to build SLS. An independent analysis released in August 2011 found that SLS would cost much more than Congress was authorizing for future years' budgets. Click here. (12/14)

Gravity Never Sleeps, and Other Lessons Nations Learn From Space Programs (Source: NPR)
Sputnik 1 just beeped. China's first satellite--a decade later--simply radioed a communist anthem. So far, North Korea's first satellite appears to be less accomplished. And that shouldn't be a surprise. Given the history of first orbital space shots, North Korea's apparent struggle is fairly typical, says David Akin. "You generally don't have high aspirations for either the longevity or the scientific return of a first satellite," he says.

There are conflicting reports about whether the satellite, launched Wednesday, is safely circling Earth. U.S. officials have been quoted as saying Kwangmyongsong-3 is "tumbling out of control," while South Korea's Defense Ministry says it's too soon to tell if the craft is functioning properly. Not being able to control the satellite in orbit is just one of many things that can go wrong, says Akin.

Just getting into orbit is a precise maneuver. "The problem with launching a satellite is that you have to get to the right altitude, going at the right speed and in the right direction," he says. "If you miss any one of those, you're not going to be in the orbit you want to be in."

As DC Dithers, Florida Defense Businesses and Workers Face Uncertainty (Source: FLDC)
Florida defense businesses and workers face a most unique set of circumstances. While they deal with understanding the impact of new regulations, laws, and taxes, like other industries, they must try to understand and navigate the consequences of inaction and confusion in Washington DC. Draw down of the wars, sequestration, and the fiscal cliff all add additional uncertainty to their business outlooks.

Why should Floridians care? Defense businesses provide thousands of jobs throughout the state - the kind of high-tech, high-wage, 21st century STEM jobs we all say we want here - and bring billions of federal procurement dollars into our state's economy.

Overall, the economic impact of military and defense in Florida is over $60 billion a year, and defense contractors contribute at least $13 billion to that figure. Due to Florida's unique geography, great quality of life, and generally business-friendly environment, thousands of small, medium, and large defense businesses call Florida home or have operations here. But all that is in jeopardy. (12/14)

America Demands: Obama, Build Us a Death Star (Source: WIRED)
A petition demanding the Obama administration build a Death Star like the one in Star Wars reached 25,000-plus signatures Thursday, a threshold requiring the government to respond whether it will build the fictional weapon capable of annihilating planets with its super laser. The petition on the White House website’s “We the People” page demands the Death Star project begin by 2016.

“By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense,” the petition says. The administration promises it will publicly respond to petitions if they get 25,000 signatures in a month’s time. (12/14)

New Knowledge About the Remarkable Properties of Black Holes (Source: Space Daily)
Black holes are surrounded by many mysteries, but now researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have come up with new groundbreaking theories that can explain several of their properties. The research shows that black holes have properties that resemble the dynamics of both solids and liquids. They explain that you can look at a black hole like a particle. A particle has in principle no dimensions.

It is a point. If you give a particle an extra dimension, it becomes a string. If you give the string an extra dimension, it becomes a plane. Physicists call such a plane a 'brane' (the word 'brane' is related to 'membrane' from the biological world). "In string theory, you can have different branes, including planes that behave like black holes, which we call black branes. The black branes are thermal, that is to say, they have a temperature and are dynamical objects. (12/13)

Sequestration Budget Cuts to Cost Houston More than 5,000 NASA Jobs (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Houston should prepare to brace itself for a large round of NASA job cuts come Jan. 2 if new federal tax hikes and spending cuts — commonly referred to as the fiscal cliff — go into effect. A report from the Aerospace Industries Association found that if the 8.2 percent cut to NASA’s budget goes through, 5,610 jobs would be lost at Houston’s Johnson Space Center next year. This would have a direct impact of more than $320 million.

According to the report, Houston would be the hardest city hit from NASA cuts, and all lost jobs would be from the private sector. All other cities and states would experience fewer job cuts. After Texas, California would see the second-largest impact — 4,586 jobs and an economic impact of more than $293 million. A total of more than 20,500 jobs are expected to be lost across the nation, a direct impact of more than $1 trillion. (12/13)

A Preflight Checkup for Future Space Tourists (Source: Science)
A future boom in space tourism will increasingly expose members of the public to a panoply of ailments that so far, for the most part, only superbly healthy astronauts have encountered. In a new analysis, researchers surveyed previous studies of space medicine and compiled the list to alert doctors to the myriad ways that spaceflight might aggravate preexisting conditions among their patients, either during short suborbital flights, weeklong jaunts to the ISS, or monthlong stints building or working at orbiting hotels or commercial research labs.

Almost no bodily function is spared, but most ailments could be managed with drugs or with appropriate amounts and types of exercise in orbit, the researchers suggest. Besides the motion sickness, headaches, and sinus congestion possibly triggered by short flights, long-term flights might exacerbate osteoporosis, back pain, acid reflux, and certain types of cancer, as well as increase the risk of infections and kidney stones, the researchers report.

The new compilation isn't just an abstract exercise, the researchers say: Previous studies suggest that once fleets of space-capable vehicles are available, commercial launch companies together might expect as many as 13,000 space tourists during their first decade of operation. (12/13)

Lockheed Well-Placed Amid Global Insecurities, CEO Says (Source: Reuters)
North Korea's launch this week of a long-range rocket may have sparked an outcry across much of the globe but the anxieties it has provoked could mean more business for Lockheed Martin Corp, the world's largest arms maker. Lockheed, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, makes a wider range of missile shields that have been successfully tested than "anybody else on this planet," said Robert Stevens, the company's chief executive.

Stevens, who hands over the CEO job next month to Lockheed President and Chief Operating Officer Hewson, said the company was poised to benefit from a rebalancing of U.S. forces toward the Pacific announced by President Obama a year ago, after a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lockheed expects this so-called "pivot" to Asia to rely largely on air, naval and space assets, more than on ground forces, dovetailing with Lockheed's top product lines, he said. These include satellites as well as systems used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, situational awareness, naval and air power, and missile defense. (12/14)

New NASA-Funded Tool For Predicting Oceanic Storms (Source: Aviation Week)
A new, satellite-based, 8-hr. weather forecast prototype covering remote areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is available as a research tool from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The tool, developed by NCAR with funding from NASA, uses satellite data from NOAA’s East and West Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), along with computer weather models, to produce animated maps of storms over much of the world’s oceans. The forecasts are updated every 3 hr.

With additional funding, NCAR says the prototype could become an operational weather product for airlines either through certification with the U.S. FAA or the World Area Forecast Center, says Cathy Kessinger, NCAR’s lead researcher on the project. Similar products developed by NCAR are used by the FAA to alert pilots and air traffic controllers about storms, turbulence and lightning over the continental U.S. (12/13)

North Korean Leader Urges More Rocket Launches (Source: Yonhap)
Apparently buoyed by the successful launch of a rocket earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for his regime to continue its space program, according to Pyongyang's state media. The North's latest launch has demonstrated at home and abroad the country's "unshakable stand to exercise the country's legitimate right to use space for peaceful purposes and to develop the country's science, technology and economy," Kim was quoted as saying. (12/14)

South Korea Retrieves North Korean Rocket Debris (Source: Yonhap)
The Navy has retrieved the debris of North Korea's long-range rocket launched earlier this week, the defense ministry said Friday, which would give a glimpse of the communist state's rocket technology. Less than two hours after Wednesday's liftoff, a South Korean Aegis destroyer deployed in the Yellow Sea discovered an object, believed to be part of a fuel container from the first stage of the rocket, near the trajectory announced by the North. (12/14)

Thousands Would Lose Jobs from NASA, NOAA Budget Cuts (Source: Govt. Executive)
Federal scientific agencies stand to lose thousands of jobs from sequestration, an industry report predicted Thursday. The Aerospace Industries Association found in its study that the automatic cuts set to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013, unless there is a deficit reduction deal would cost 20,500 NASA contractors their jobs in 2013, while NOAA could shed more than 2,500, largely in satellite building and operation.

AIA based its estimates on the Office of Management and Budget’s guidelines that sequestration would slash both agencies’ budgets by 8.2 percent. “Such a deep and reckless cut to these agencies would senselessly jeopardize U.S. space leadership and stifle exactly the kind of investment in innovation that our economy needs,” the group wrote in its report. (12/13)

NASA Morale High? (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has been taking quite a beating lately from professional groups, industry experts, Washington cognoscenti and even some of the same lawmakers who have helped create a muddied agenda for the renowned space and aeronautics agency. You might think that with so much atmospheric hand-wringing, NASA's employees are as unhappy as foot soldiers in a WWI trench. Right? Apparently, NASA workers didn't get the memo.

According to the latest Partnership for Public Service rankings, NASA is rated by its own employees as the best, large federal agency at which to work. Moreover, according to quotes in a Washington Post article, it's because NASA's workers generally feel they have more clarity over their mission now than before. (12/13)

Kim Jong Un's Big Gamble (Source: Huffington Post)
A triumphant North Korea staged a mass rally of soldiers and civilians Friday to glorify the country's young ruler, who took a big gamble this week in sending a satellite into orbit in defiance of international warnings. Wednesday's rocket launch came just eight months after a similar attempt ended in an embarrassing public failure, and just under a year after Kim Jong Un inherited power following his father's death.

The surprising success of the launch may have earned Kim global condemnation, but at home, the gamble paid off, at least in the short term. To his people, it made the 20-something Kim appear powerful, capable and determined in the face of foreign adversaries. Workers' Party Secretary Kim Ki Nam told the crowd, bundled up against a winter chill in the heart of the capital, that "hostile forces" had dubbed the launch a missile test. He denied the claim and called on North Koreans to stand their ground against the "cunning" critics. (12/14)

1,300 Aerospace Jobs At Risk in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
More than 1,300 aerospace jobs will be at risk in Huntsville in 2013 if the national budget goes over the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to an aerospace industry study released Thursday. None of those jobs would be NASA civil servants, who are protected by federal law from layoffs in 2013, the study's sponsors said. Civil servants might, however, face furloughs. Instead, the job losses would be borne by contractors, sub-contractors and businesses providing goods and services to the Marshall Space Flight Center and its employees, according to an AIA study. (12/14)

How To Decide If Space Tourists Are Fit To Fly (Source: NPR)
Childhood dreams of being an astronaut are easy. Actually blasting off is a little harder. But now people who have longed to go into space can buy a ticket, if they've got the cash. Are they healthy enough to make the voyage, though? That's becoming a pressing question as the options for leaving Earth multiply. "If space tourism starts, everyone who can afford to will be able to fly," says S. Marlene Grenon, a vascular surgeon at the University of California. "That raises the question of how we can make it possible for anyone to fly into space if that's their dream."

With costs ranging from $200,000 to $750 million per flyer, space isn't likely to rival Disneyland for tourists anytime soon. But thousands of people could soon be headed up into space. "All that's required by the FAA is informed consent," Grenon says. "It's up to the operators to decide" who's fit to fly.

Depending on the rules that those operators institute, physicians could be faced with clearing their patients for flight. So Grenon gathered a group of aerospace medical professionals, including astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, to provide some advice. Click here. (12/13)

1970s Project Offered Visions of Space Colonization (Source: NY Daily News)
Is living life amongst the stars still a far-fetched dream? Perhaps. But in 1975, Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill brought together scientists, engineers, students, and artists from across the country and asked them to envision a future where man had actually colonized the final frontier.

Those stargazers rallied under O’Neill, who was teaching freshman physics at Princeton at the time. Captivated by the idea of building colonies in space where people could live, work, and die, he began doing the math. His calculations told him living in free space was not too crazy of a dream. These amazing renderings came from O'Neill's 1975 workshop, held at NASA's Ames Research Center. Artists used engineers’ calculations to turn abstract ideas about our future in space into a vivid reality. Click here. (12/14)

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