January 2, 2013

A Stray Planet (Source: Space.com)
Some time ago, scientists discovered that there are planets that do not rotate around any star, like the Earth rotates around the Sun, but "travel" in the universe all alone. Till now, scientists have discovered only less than 10 such planets, but recently, astronomers in Hawaii noticed a hardly visible blue point which they believe to be another such planet. Later, the object was more thoroughly examined with the help of a more powerful telescope in Chili.

Scientists suppose that this is probably the closest free-floating celestial body to us a euros " the distance between it and the Earth is only 100 light years, which is not far from the point of view of cosmic distances. If this planet was formed in a star system, why has it left it? The recently discovered object looks like a small blue point on photographs. The blue color speaks of the fact that the object has an atmosphere rich with methane, scientists say. (1/1)

Michael Huerta is Confirmed as FAA Chief (Source: Politico)
The Senate has confirmed Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, as the chief of the agency. Huerta began his tenure as acting administrator in 2011 after Randy Babbitt's departure. Huerta, whose nomination had been blocked for several months by then-Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., will serve a five-year term. (1/1)

Curiosity Rover to Begin Trek to Mount Sharp in February (Source: AP)
The Mars Curiosity rover will conquer new terrain in 2013, with NASA planning for the rover to head toward Mount Sharp in February. The journey is expected to last at least nine months. "I expect public interest will rise as the rover gets closer to its destination," said Howard McCurdy, a space-policy expert at American University. (12/29)

NASA to Launch Communications 'Nanosats' (Source: EE Times)
An Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket will launch three PhoneSat spacecraft into low Earth orbit in 2013 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. The 4-inch "nanosatellites" weigh three pounds each and are dubbed Alexander, Graham, and Bell. Two PhoneSat 1.0 spacecraft use of Nexus One smartphone technology from HTC Corp. and Google's Android operating system. The third spacecraft is a beta version of PhoneSat 2.0 built around an updated Samsung Nexus S smartphone running Android OS.

PhoneSat 2.0 includes solar panels to enable long-duration missions and a GPS receiver. It also has magnetorquer coils, electromagnets that interact with Earth's magnetic field, along with reaction wheels used to control satellite orientation in space. The three satellites will be "inserted into a spring-loaded dispenser attached to the launch vehicle. They're stacked in there like a toaster," said Jim Cockrell, NASA's PhoneSat 1.0 project manager. (1/2)

Solar Eruption On New Year's Eve Seen By Sun-Gazing NASA Satellite (Source: Huffington Post)
As people around the world  rang in the New Year to celebrate Earth's latest trip around the sun Monday night, our closest star marked the occasion with some fireworks of its own — a dazzling solar eruption. The space fireworks occurred on New Year's Eve (Dec. 31) during a four-hour eruption on the sun. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video of the solar event. The video shows a bright plume of super-magnetic plasma erupting from the sun's surface. (1/2)

NASA to White House: May I Bring My Asteroid Home? (Source: Space Safety)
Not long after the US Presidential administration flatly denied approving a mission to establish a space station in the second Earth-Moon Lagrange point that NASA sources had been talking up, rumor has it that the White House is considering an even more outlandish-sounding mission: bagging an asteroid and dragging it into lunar orbit.

The weeks since the US presidential election have been somewhat bruising for NASA. Instead of a calm continuance of the known following reelection of President Barack Obama as could’ve been reasonably expected with the election of an incumbent, the agency has faced sharp criticism and appeared to have a public misunderstanding with the administration over its next steps.

In a move that would appear to bolster the administration’s goal of asteroid travel over the abandoned lunar travel of Constellation, the White House is said to be considering a plan worked out in the spring of 2012 to visit an asteroid, encase it in a drawstring bag, and drag it to lunar orbit for leisurely study. (1/2)

U.S. Space Programs Get Reprieve From Budget Cuts (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA and U.S. military space programs, along with all other government agencies, were granted a two-month reprieve from massive budget cuts when Congress passed a bill Tuesday to put off the across-the-board spending reductions and extend current tax rates for most Americans. The automatic budget cuts were due to take effect Jan. 2, slashing 8.2 percent from non-defense government agencies and 9.4 percent from military programs.

Congress voted Tuesday to extend the deadline until March 1, giving lawmakers and the White House another two months to come up with an alternative plan to identify $1 trillion in savings from the overall federal budget. The bill, which was passed by the Senate in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and approved by the House on Tuesday night, extended current tax rates for most Americans and averted the so-called fiscal cliff. (1/2)

The Luna 1 Hoax Hoax (Source: Air & Space)
On this day in 1959, the Soviet Union launched a 4-foot-diameter metal ball — a close copy of the Sputnik satellite that had kicked off the space age two years earlier — in the direction of the moon. On January 4 Luna 1, also known as “Mechta” or Dream,  passed within 6,000 kilometers of the lunar surface. The Soviets had meant for it to hit the moon, and had loaded commemorative “pennants” on board that were meant to scatter in every direction at the moment of impact.

But a faulty rocket burn caused the probe to miss its target. Fifty-three years later, Luna 1, the first object to escape Earth’s gravity, is still in orbit around the sun. In 1959, such a demonstration of Soviet rocket power didn’t sit well with American notions of technological superiority, and there was much fretting in the Western press. LIFE magazine editorialized about “The Warning of Mechta,” and pointed fingers at the politicians and bureaucrats. One writer claimed in an article titled “The Big Red Lie” that the Soviets had made up the whole story about Luna 1.

Alarmed by the article's claims, a Congressional fact-finding committee heard different from people who actually knew what they were talking about. JPL chief William Pickering told the committee that the Goldstone tracking antenna had detected signals from a spacecraft moving away from the moon on Jan. 4. (1/2)

Europe Tackling Big Space Projects in 2013 (Source: Space.com)
The European Space Agency has some ambitious resolutions for the New Year. The year 2013 will include the agency’s first spaceflight for its newest class of astronauts, the launch of its latest robot cargo ship Albert Einstein, and the development of new rockets and spacecraft, including a reusable space plane and work on NASA’s new Orion capsule.

January and February should see agreements and contracts signed for the new rockets, Ariane 5 Mid-Life Evolution (ME) and Ariane 6, and for ESA’s participation in NASA’sOrion space capsule. ESA is providing the service module for the Orion capsule, which NASA plans to use to fly astronauts on future deep-space missions. Click here. (1/1)

Billion-Ton Comet Buzzed Earth in 1883 (Source: Space Safety)
On Aug. 12 1883 at 8:00 a.m., Mexico’s Zacatecas Observatory’s boss Jose A. Bonilla was preparing to study the Sun’s corona when he observed an amazing phenomenon. He saw several distant objects that were close together and crossing the solar disc. In the space of two hours, while the sky was clear and he was able to observe, he counted up to 283 bodies that crossed in the angular field of view of the projection lens.

Between 8:00 a.m. on August 12 and 8:40 a.m. on Aug. 13, 1883, Bonilla counted a total of 447 objects in the course of 3 hours 25 minutes of clear sky observation windows. That is an average of 131 objects per hour, meaning a total of 3275 objects must have passed the solar disk within 25 hours.

It was more than a hundred years later that scientists figured out what probably happened. A recent reanalysis of the observations by Hector Javier Durand-Manterola and two others at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City show the event was a low-probability/high-risk event. They think the objects Bonilla recorded were fragments of a billion-ton comet that had recently been broken up in an approach almost flush with the Earth’s surface. (1/2)

100 Billion Alien Planets Fill Our Milky Way Galaxy (Source: Space.com)
Our Milky Way galaxy is home to at least 100 billion alien planets, and possibly many more, a new study suggests. It's a staggering number, if you think about it," lead author Jonathan Swift, of Caltech in Pasadena, said in a statement. "Basically there's one of these planets per star." Swift and his colleagues arrived at their estimate after studying a five-planet system called Kepler-32, which lies about 915 light-years from Earth. (1/2)

Florida Pursues Studies for New Launch Complex, NASA Considers Transfer (Source: Florida Today)
The state is pressing forward with studies related to the commercial launch complex it has proposed establishing at the north end of Kennedy Space Center, while awaiting word on whether NASA will make the property available. Space Florida recently asked interested companies to describe launch and recovery operations they might pursue at the proposed “Shiloh” complex, named for the citrus community located there before NASA seized the land to support Apollo program moon missions.

That information will inform environmental studies of impacts to roughly 150 acres that fall within the Merritt Island Wildlife National Refuge near the the Brevard-Volusia county line. “We’ll initiate our environmental assessments around the kind of operating launch profiles, the concepts of operations that we receive back from industry,” Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. The state requested title to the land from NASA last September, citing demand for a launch complex that operated near but independently from existing Cape facilities controlled by NASA and the Air Force’s Eastern Range.

NASA has said it is reviewing the proposal. The state’s request for information, released Dec. 14, adds some detail to what has previously been outlined about the Shiloh site. It is expected to house launch and processing facilities “for one, and potentially two, commercial launch providers operating dedicated pad areas independently.” The complex would serve “existing and emerging” rockets with only liquid-fueled primary boosters, in the class of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy; United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta IV Heavy; and Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares. Click here. (1/2)

India Appoints New Space Center Directors (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Three centers of ISRO, viz., Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC), with campuses in Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Mahendragiri and Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, have new Directors (Mr. S. Ramakrishnan, Mr. M. Chandradathan and Dr. M.Y.S. Prasad respectively) from January 1, 2013. (1/2)

Earth Is Closest to the Sun for 2013 (Source: Space.com)
If the sun looked a little larger than usual on Jan. 2, you weren't seeing things. Jan. 2 marked the time when the Earth is at perihelion, the point in its orbit at which it is closest to the sun. During perihelion, the Earth is exactly 91,402,560 miles from the sun. In actuality, you most likely can't see any difference between the apparent size of the sun and its appearance at aphelion (when the Earth will be farthest from the star). The difference is only 3.4 percent, too small to be detected with the naked eye. (1/2)

2013: New year in Space Exploration History (Source: Collect Space)
"Spaceship" Earth has completed another revolution around the sun, and has set off on another 365 day, 583 million mile (940 million kilometer) journey across time and space. Over the past year, humankind's efforts to push further out into the solar system have resulted in launching the first commercial spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station, landing a car-size rover on Mars, docking the first Chinese manned spacecraft and sending 18 people to live and work off the planet. Click here. (1/2)

Aerospace 2013: Launch Vehicles (Source: Aviation Week)
A new era in commercial space transportation is open. Watch the video to see what projects are under development for the next space launches. Click here. (12/31)

North Carolina Man Accused of Stealing Meteorites (Source: AP)
Authorities in southern North Carolina have made one arrest following the theft of 100 meteorites from a science education center and are searching for a second suspect. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that 29-year-old Brian Koontz of Balsam Grove is charged with breaking and entering, larceny and injury to personal property. He's being held at the Transylvania County jail. Video surveillance shows two thieves breaking into the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Rosman around 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The thieves took meteorites that were on loan to the institute. (12/31)

NASA Seeking to Lease or Sell Space-Shuttle Facilities (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Does anyone need a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships? Or a parachute-packing plant? An array of aerospace tracking antennas? A launchpad? Make us an offer, says NASA, which is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the facilities used by its space-shuttle program.

The last shuttle flight ended in July 2011, when Atlantis made its final touchdown. That orbiter, like its sisters Discovery and Endeavour, is now a museum piece. As soon as some remaining cleanup and wind-down are finished at Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle program will be history. That has prompted NASA to advertise a long list of KSC facilities and equipment as available for use, lease or, in some cases, outright purchase by the right business.

Among them: Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property. Click here. (1/1)

2013 to See Several Launches From Space Coast (Source: CFLnews13)
Space will be a big destination once again in 2013. Both NASA and commercial companies are preparing for several launches in the new year, many originating from the Cape. There will be no manned missions launching from U.S. soil in 2013, but work will continue to make that a reality once again. Click here. (1/2)

Thorium Could Help Alien Life Emerge (Source: Physics World)
Rocky exoplanets orbiting some Sun-like stars in the Milky Way galaxy could be hotter and more geologically active than Earth and its solar-system companions, according to researchers in the US. The team looked at the abundance of radioactive elements such as thorium, which heat the interior of planets as they decay and thereby play an important role in how planets evolve. The team concluded that planets that are richer in thorium than Earth could be good candidates for the development of life – making them targets for study by astrobiologists and exoplanet hunters. (1/2)

SpaceX, Orbcomm Renegotiate Launch Contract (Source: SpacceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX and Orbcomm Inc. have agreed to new contract terms for the launch of 18 data communications satellites beginning in mid-2013, according to a filing with a U.S. regulatory agency. The $42.6 million contract covers the launch of 18 second-generation Orbcomm satellites on two Falcon 9 rockets between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014, Orbcomm wrote in a Dec. 27 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Orbcomm's second-generation, or OG2, satellites will improve the company's messaging service with faster transmission speeds and increased throughput. Sierra Nevada Corp. is building the satellites. Eight OG2 satellites will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-2013. Another Falcon 9 launch in 2014 will launch the other 10 satellites. Orbcomm's previous launch contract with SpaceX, signed in August 2009, provided for satellite launches on an enhanced version of the company's smaller Falcon 1 booster. SpaceX has since discontinued production of the Falcon 1 launcher.

With the future of the Falcon 1 in doubt, officials with both companies planned to move the Orbcomm OG2 satellites to a Falcon 9 booster. The firms reached a deal Dec. 21, according to the SEC filing. The value of the Falcon 1 contract was $46.6 million, according to Orbcomm. The new contract affirms Orbcomm's commitment to SpaceX after a Falcon 9 rocket put one of its prototype second-generation satellite in the wrong orbit in October. (1/1)

Is 2013 the Year Private Spacecflight Lifts Off? (Source: Daily Mail)
For fans of all things astronomical, 2013 could mark the year when their dreams of traveling to space become a reality. Pioneering companies championing 'space tourism' are planning to send their spaceships into the skies and fine tune their equipment over the next 12 months. Companies, including Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, are seeking to send ordinary members of the public into space for the very first time.

Suborbital flights could see passengers taken to beyond the earth's atmosphere, providing views only ever experienced in person by trained astronauts. Virgin Galactic - billed as the world's first commercial 'spaceline' - has carried out successful test flights on its ship SpaceShipTwo, but it is yet to fly any tourists into space. Hundreds of keen adventures have already paid a refundable deposit to secure their place on the $200,000 flight. (1/1)

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