January 12, 2013

White House Responds to Death Star Petition (Source: White House)
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons: 1) The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. 2) We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it. 3) The Administration does not support blowing up planets. 4) Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc.

We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet. Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade. Click here. (1/11)

Doomed Spacecraft Captures Awesome Close-Up Video of the Moon (Source: WIRED)
Three days before the moon-orbiting Ebb spacecraft collided with a lunar mountain, its on-board cameras captured some striking images of the pockmarked moon’s northern hemisphere — from just six miles up. On Jan. 10, NASA released what look like scenes from a science fiction movie: two probe’s-eye views of the lunar farside, made from Ebb’s stitched-together images. The clips are played six times faster than the spacecraft’s flyover actually occurred. The first was shot by the forward-facing MoonKAM, and the second was taken by a rear-facing camera. Click here. (1/11)

NASA Considers Adding Bigelow to International Space Station (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has announced a deal with Bigelow Aerospace to explore adding one of Bigelow's inflatable modules to the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is the world's only continually-habitated space station, maintained by a coalition of several nations. While the modules are mainly aimed at nations without their own space stations - those who do not participate in the ISS programme - NASA has long held an interest in a relatively inexpensive addition to the ISS.

Bigelow has been building and testing inflatable space modules, which can be linked together into a habitable space station. The company has launched two prototype habitats, in which nobody has yet set foot. Bigelow has signed a number of agreements with established launch providers, including Boeing and SpaceX. Neither NASA nor Bigelow were available for immediate comment. (1/11)

Flight Director's Family Gets Back Down to Earth After Life on Mars Time (Source: NBC)
A California family's journey on Mars time had its ups and downs, but NASA flight director David Oh says he's glad he took his wife and kids on the ride. "My kids loved it, I loved it, and I think it served to bring the family together," Oh said. Oh is one of the flight directors for NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, which sent the Curiosity rover on a two-year quest to determine whether the Red Planet ever had the chemical ingredients required for life as we know it.

Each Martian day, or sol, is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than an Earth day. So, to stay in sync with the mission's initial phase, the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was put on a Martian schedule for the first 90 sols. That meant that Oh's workday quickly fell out of sync with Earth time. To make it easier on himself, and on his wife and three children, the Oh family decided to spend 30 sols on Mars time. (1/12)

Let's Put An Asteroid In Orbit Around the Moon (Source: Discovery)
In 2010, President Obama set a sky-high goal for NASA: to send a team of astronauts to visit a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) by 2025. But rather then propelling humans on a dangerously long journey into interplanetary space, why not bring the asteroid here? This is the ultimate rock collector’s dream — plop a 500-ton space rock into orbit about the moon. Bruce Willis couldn’t go walking around the on target asteroid, however. It would be only 20-feet across, small enough to fit in a backyard. NASA would not require something as exotic as a Star Trek tractor beam to tow the space rock back here.

A robotic spacecraft would, literally, put the asteroid in a giant shopping bag and tote it home. This far-out proposal comes from a workshop sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies to investigate the feasibility of identifying, autonomously capturing, and returning a NEO to Earth. They say that this could be done before then end of the next decade. They estimate that the cost would be less than the price tag of sending another Mars Science Lab class rover to the Red Planet. (1/12)

Largest Structure in Universe Discovered (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have discovered the largest known structure in the universe, a clump of active galactic cores that stretches 4 billion light-years from end to end. The structure is a large quasar group (LQG), a collection of extremely luminous galactic nuclei powered by supermassive central black holes. This particular group is so large that it challenges modern cosmological theory, researchers said.

"While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe," lead author Roger Clowes, of the University of Central Lancashire in England, said in a statement. "This is hugely exciting, not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe." (1/11)

TDRS K Spacecraft Readied for Launch From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The first spacecraft in NASA's third generation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites has been tested and fueled in preparation for its trek to orbit Jan. 29. Reporters and photographers got to see the craft Friday in the cleanroom facilities at the Astrotech complex in Titusville, Florida. Technicians will mount the satellite atop the short pedestal-like adapter mechanism on Monday. The two halves of the rocket's nose cone, emblazoned with the hand-painted TDRS K and NASA logos, will encapsulate the satellite on Wednesday and Thursday in a two-day operation.
After being loaded aboard a transporter, the payload will be hauled across the river to Complex 41 next Saturday, Jan. 19 for hoisting into the Vertical Integration Facility and mating to the Atlas 5 rocket. A thorough test of the combined systems between the Atlas and TDRS will follow, then technicians will finish closing out compartments and buttoning up the vehicle for flight. (1/12)

Superconducting Magnets Could Block Space Radiation (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronauts on deep-space missions may one day deploy protective magnetic fields similar to those that shelter us from deadly space radiation on Earth, just as they will carry the necessary food and atmosphere. A promising approach would use coils that “inflate” with their own magnetism to deflect solar-flare protons and galactic cosmic rays that otherwise would restrict human travel time in space.

“The concept of shielding astronauts with magnetic fields has been studied for over 40 years, and it remains an intractable engineering problem,” says Shayne Westover of Johnson Space Center (JSC). “Superconducting magnet technology has made great strides in the past decade.” Westover is principal investigator on a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant to study high-temperature superconductor technology as an approach to active radiation shielding for astronauts.

Under the grant, JSC is working with a company that has expertise in superconducting magnets to gain some definition on just how effective they can be in protecting spaceflight crews. “Radiation shielding, if it is not at the top of the list, is No. 2,” says Palm Bay, Fla.-based Advanced Magnet Lab President Mark Senti. “They have propulsion figured out, and I'm not trivializing anything. They have solar protection and energy, but if you don't solve radiation shielding, there's no sense in doing engineering everywhere else.” (1/12)

America's Spaceport (Source: Space KSC)
One month after Kennedy Space Center bus tours began from the interim Visitor Information Center on July 22, 1966, more than 50,000 guests had toured KSC. Many of them also toured the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. According to the August 18, 1966 Spaceport News, “On two different days this month over 2,300 visitors purchased tickets for the bus tours. This is the highest single-day attendance figure since the tours were initiated on July 22.” Click here. (1/12)

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