January 24, 2013

NSS Movie Campaign Picks Up Over 150 Backers in First Day (Source: Kickstarter)
The National Space Society's crowd-sourced campaign to finance a new pro-space movie project has raised over $9,000 from 153 people in its first day on Kickstarter. As of this writing, the campaign has 22 more days to reach its total goal of $35,000. Click here for information. (1/24)

Rep. Fattah Thanks NASA for Assisting Boeing with 787 Dreamliner Battery Problem (Source: SpaceRef)
Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02) today applauded NASA's outreach to provide technical expertise to Boeing and the FAA to help resolve battery problems that have grounded the 787 Dreamliner fleet. Fattah, the leading House Democratic Appropriator for NASA, had written to the space agency's administrator on Jan.17 "asking that NASA lend its expert knowledge to Boeing ... to address the technical problems related to the Dreamliner's lithium battery leakage." Fattah cited NASA's earlier success working with Toyota on an automotive acceleration problem. (1/24)

Noteworthy NASA Art Exhibit to open at MOAS in Daytona Beach (Source: MOAS)
A noteworthy collaboration Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) includes over forty paintings from the heart of the NASA collection which exemplify the history of American spaceflight from the Mercury program (1958) all the way through the recent conclusion of the Space Shuttle era.  Florida Celebrates Space opens on January 19, 2013 and runs through April 28, 2013. Click here. (1/20)

Dwarf Planet Eris May Reveal Quantum Gravity (Source: New Scientist)
Killing Pluto was only the beginning. The dwarf planet Eris could also bring down the most popular explanations for dark matter and dark energy. Many galaxies appear to have stronger gravity - and thus more mass - than can be explained by their visible matter alone. Overly massive galaxies are most often attributed to dark matter, an invisible substance that interacts with matter through gravity. To date, though, no one has directly detected dark matter particles.

But a well-established notion in physics could hold another explanation for their size. This says that empty space is really a frothy, turbulent sea full of virtual particles - matter and antimatter that spring in and out of existence so fast that we can't see them. To test whether quantum-scale gravity is at work, Hajdukovic plans to borrow a trick from Einstein. Hajdukovic's quantum gravity might create a similar discrepancy with more distant orbiting bodies, he says - which is where Eris and its moon Dysnomia come in. Click here. (1/24)

Mishandling On Earth Could Impede Mars Rover (Source: Aviation Week)
An apparent lack of rigor in maintaining cleanliness on the Curiosity rover while it was being assembled may one day force a hiatus in its use to explore Mars, if its instruments detect the possibility that life-supporting water exists nearby. NASA's planetary protection officer, the scientist in charge of ensuring U.S. terrestrial probes do not contaminate celestial bodies, certified Curiosity for landing only because it was targeted on an equatorial crater that is unlikely to harbor subsurface water.

Had planetary scientists chosen another landing site, mishandling of the rover's wheels and drill bits on Earth might have forced a two-year slip in launching until the next planetary window. NASA officials, including Planetary Protection Officer Catharine Conley, stress that Curiosity is “fully compliant” with international protocols dating back to the Viking missions. Those standards were designed to ensure that any life found on Mars originated there, and did not arrive on the lander that found it or an earlier robotic visitor from Earth.

However, if Curiosity turns up evidence of contemporary water or ice as it explores Gale Crater, it may be commanded to back off from the potentially life-sustaining area while astrobiologists and planetary scientists ponder whether the rover could “forward contaminate” Mars. The problem is a little more acute now that the science team selected an area of flat-lying rock for the first use of its drill to collect subsurface samples. The drill bit is one of the items that was exposed to possible contamination during the rover's assembly, requiring Conley to accept the lower cleanliness standard. (1/21)

Is There Life on Mars? (Source: Voice of Russia)
Scientists believe that a large crater, which has been discovered on Mars, might have been a lake several billion years ago. A space vehicle, which NASA sent to explore Mars, has discovered layers of clay and carbonate minerals in the walls of this crater. These substances may form in the ground only after the contact with water. This crater, which has received the name of McLaughlin, is one of Mars’s largest craters.

It is 92 kms wide and 2 kms deep. The space vehicle discovered no traces of washouts on the crater’s walls, which means that, most likely, no water has ever come into the crater from outside. If the crater really was once full of water, this water has most likely penetrated from underground. Scientists believe that a large crater, which has been discovered on Mars, might have been a lake several billion years ago. A space vehicle, which NASA sent to explore Mars, has discovered layers of clay and carbonate minerals in the walls of this crater.

These substances may form in the ground only after the contact with water. This crater, which has received the name of McLaughlin, is one of Mars’s largest craters. It is 92 kms wide and 2 kms deep. The space vehicle discovered no traces of washouts on the crater’s walls, which means that, most likely, no water has ever come into the crater from outside. If the crater really was once full of water, this water has most likely penetrated from underground. (1/24)

Why Giant Space Balloons May Prove to be the Right Stuff (Source: National Post)
Most of us probably wouldn’t want to live inside a balloon. For space explorers, however, expandable habitats may soon prove worth the long wait — NASA recently announced an agreement with Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace to deploy a small “expandable” module to the International Space Station (ISS). If successfully fielded, this technology could change the face of space exploration.

Work on expandable (preferred to the flimsier sounding “inflatable”) habitats began in the 1990s, driven by a basic reality of space travel: Rockets are skinny. Objects headed into space must not only be light enough to be lifted by the rocket, but capable of squeezing into narrow cargo holds. The now-retired space shuttles, for instance, could carry payloads up to 59 feet long, but only 15 feet wide. Click here. (1/24)

Dung Beetles Follow the Milky Way (Source: EurekAlert)
You might expect dung beetles to keep their "noses to the ground," but they are actually incredibly attuned to the sky. A report published online on January 24 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, shows that even on the darkest of nights, African ball-rolling insects are guided by the soft glow of the Milky Way.

While birds and humans are known to navigate by the stars, the discovery is the first convincing evidence for such abilities in insects, the researchers say. It is also the first known example of any animal getting around by the Milky Way as opposed to the stars.

Dacke and her colleagues found that dung beetles do transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose the ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles stayed on track equally well under a full starlit sky and one showing only the diffuse streak of the Milky Way. That makes sense, the researchers explain, because the night sky is sprinkled with stars, but the vast majority of those stars should be too dim for the beetles' tiny compound eyes to see. (1/24)

Sun Shoots Out 2 Coronal Mass Ejections (Source: NASA)
On Jan. 23, 2013, at 9:55 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, or CME. Experimental NASA research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, show that the CME left the sun at speeds of around 375 miles per second, which is a fairly typical speed for CMEs. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later. (1/24)

First FSDC Meeting Features 'Space Locals' Discussion (Source: FSDC)
The inaugural meeting of the Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) will be held on February 2 in Cocoa Beach and will feature a 'Space Locals' discussion on county, regional and state-level efforts to expand the state's space industry. The meeting's featured guest will be Robert Salonen, a director responsible for aerospace-focused business expansion and retention with the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast.

"Over the past several years, Central Florida's economy has suffered major disruptions with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, the consolidation of our unmanned launch capabilities, and a lack of focused investment to renew our nation's leadership in space exploration," said FSDC President Laura Seward. "With the potential for growth from new commercial space ventures, the efforts of state and local agencies have become much more important."

The February 2 meeting, which is free and open to FSDC members and non-members, will be held at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach at 2:00 p.m. Click here. (1/24)

Hypersonic 'SpaceLiner' Aims to Fly Passengers in 2050 (Source: Space.com)
A hypersonic "SpaceLiner" would whisk up to 50 passengers from Europe to Australia in 90 minutes. The futuristic vehicle would do so by riding a rocket into Earth's upper atmosphere, reaching 24 times the speed of sound before gliding in for a landing. Many challenges still remain, including finding the right shape for the vehicle, said Martin Sippel, project coordinator for SpaceLiner at the German Aerospace Center.

But he suggested the project could make enough progress to begin attracting private funding in another 10 years and aim for full operations by 2050. The current concept includes a rocket booster stage for launch and a separate orbiter stage to carry passengers halfway around the world without ever making it to space. Flight times between the U.S. and Europe could fall to just over an hour if the SpaceLiner takes off — that is, if passengers don't mind paying the equivalent of space tourism prices around several hundred thousand dollars. (1/24)

United Technologies' Q4 Revenue Up, Earnings Down (Source: Washington Post)
Aerospace investments helped propel United Technologies' fourth-quarter revenue higher, even as the company saw earnings slip 26% due to one-time expenses such as its cost of buying Goodrich. United Technologies earned $945 million, or $1.04 per share, in net income from continuing operations. Business was up in aerospace units, with UTC Aerospace Systems, Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky Aircraft posting strong sales gains. (1/23)

General Dynamics sees $2.1B Q4 Loss on Lower Spending (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon spending slowdown was responsible for a $2.1 billion fourth-quarter loss at General Dynamics, compared with $603 million in earnings during the same period a year earlier, but the company said it has a healthy backlog of work for future quarters. General Dynamics' information technology business was hit particularly hard in the fourth quarter, but that unit group "repositioned," says Chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic. (1/23)

Monument to Shuttle Coming to Space View Park in Titusville (Source: Florida Today)
A monument to the space shuttle program is on schedule to be completed this fall at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida. It will join displays that honor the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and the people who worked on them. The project to preserve the space industry’s history on the Space Coast continues, despite hard economic times due in part from the end of the shuttle program. (1/24)

NASA Joins ESA's 'Dark Universe' Mission (Source: ESA)
NASA has officially joined ESA’s Euclid mission, a space telescope designed to investigate the mysterious natures of dark matter and dark energy. To be launched in 2020, Euclid’s 1.2 m-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments will map the shape, brightness and 3D distribution of two billion galaxies covering more than a third of the whole sky and looking back over three-quarters of the history of the Universe. (1/24)

Russia Presented Kazakhstan with Ultimatum Over Baikonur (Source: Tengri News)
Russian Interior Ministry has delivered an official note to Kazakhstan regarding the situation around the use of Baikonur cosmodrome. The document contains a list of measures that Moscow is ready to take if Kazakhstan does not reconsider its restrictions on rocket launch from Baikonur in 2013, Izvestiya newspaper writes.

In response to restriction of the number of Proton carrier rocket launches (from 14 to 12) and other decrees of Kazakhstan government, Russian has threatened Kazakhstan with suspension of cooperation in all joint space projects. “In this situation Russia will be forced to reconsider its position in regards to expediency of continuing the bilateral cooperation in joint projects, including in Dnepr program and Baiterek joint project, considering the plans of switching it to Zenit carrier rocket, as well as other projects,” the document states. (1/24)

South Korea Sets Date for 3rd Rocket Launch Attempt (Source: Xinhua)
South Korea will make a third attempt to launch its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also known as Naro, on January 30. The vehicle, with a Russian-built first stage and a South Korean-developed second stage, is scheduled to take off from the Naro Space Center, 480 kilometers south of Seoul, on the afternoon of January 30, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said in a statement. (1/24)

Legend of the Sea Dragon (Source: Citizens in Space)
The history of the space launch is replete with rockets that never left the drawing board. One of the most famous of these unbuilt rockets is the Sea Dragon, a true giant which dwarfed even the mighty Saturn rockets of its day. The Sea Dragon was the brain child of the US Navy’s rocket pioneer Captain Robert Truax (by then retired), who played a key role in projects such as the Polaris missile, Viking sounding rocket, and Thor IRBM.

Working at Aerojet General, Truax led a design study of the concept under a NASA in the early 1960′s. A final report was presented in January 1963. Truax proposed a rocket that was capable of placing 1.1 million pounds (550 metric tons) into a 306 nautical-mile circular orbit — about four times the payload of a Saturn V. With a gross liftoff weight of 40 million pounds, Sea Dragon was so large that it could not be launched on land but would have to be towed out to sea. Click here. (1/24)

Workers to Add Structural Braces to Orion Spacecraft (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Engineers plan to beef up the structure of the first space-bound Orion spacecraft after discovering cracks in testing last year, but officials say the extra work should not delay preparations for the capsule's first orbital test flight in 2014. Technicians will install a brace over the cracked area in parallel with normal work on the spacecraft, according to Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion program manager. (1/23)

Japan Launching Spy Satellite to Monitor North Korea (Source: Space Daily)
Japan is to launch a new spy satellite on Sunday to strengthen its monitoring capabilities amid concern that North Korea may carry out more missile and nuclear tests. A rocket carrying a radar-equipped satellite is scheduled to blast off from a space center at Tanegashima in the southwest, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has announced. (1/23)

North Korea Says Plans More Launches, Nuclear Test Aimed at US (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea said Thursday it planned to carry out a third nuclear test and more rocket launches aimed at its "arch-enemy" the United States in response to tightened UN sanctions, but offered no timeframe. "We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets we will continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will proceed with, are aimed at our arch-enemy the United States," the National Defence Commission said.

"Settling accounts with the US needs to be done with force, not with words," it added. The mention of the test came towards the end of a commission statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. It did not specify when the test might be carried out, saying only that it would be part of an "upcoming all-out action" that would mark a "new phase" of the country's anti-US struggle. (1/24)

UN to Sanction North Korea Space Agency (Source: Space Daily)
The UN Security Council will order sanctions against North Korea's space agency in a resolution to be passed this week condemning the secretive state's ballistic launch, a diplomat said. The resolution, which also targets other government entities and individuals linked to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, could be passed by the 15-member council as early as Wednesday.

The United States and China have been negotiating the new measures since North Korea staged its missile launch on December 12. Despite near universal condemnation of the launch, China has sought to shield its ally against major new action. The United States, supported by South Korea and Japan, had sought tough new punishment of the North Korean government. (1/22)

US Envoy: North Korea Faces 'Steep Price' for Defiance (Source: AFP)
North Korea will pay "an increasingly steep price" if it chooses confrontation with the international community after being condemned for its rocket launch, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Tuesday. Rice told reporters after the UN Security Council ordered new sanctions against North Korea that the unanimous vote was an important message to Pyongyang that it will face "consequences for its flagrant violations". (1/22)

U.S. Complacency in Space? (Source: Space Daily)
"The United States has become complacent about military space, depending heavily on a few small satellite constellations that are increasingly vulnerable to attack or accidental loss but for which there are no backups. The nation must build some resiliency into its space systems, even as it searches for innovative and affordable ways to lower costs while expanding its overall space capabilities." That's the opening paragraph from an Air Force magazine article.

Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General spoke about possible satellite capacity shortages in the Pacific should the DoD focus shift to that region. She said "Intelsat provides the lion's share, by far, of the satellite communications that allow the Global Hawk to fly and gather information. A step up in use of Global Hawk in the Pacific theater will require a commensurate increase in satellite coverage of the area, she said.

Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force and Air Force Space Command chief General William Shelton are quoted at length about our increased vulnerability in space. The Air Force invests 20 percent of its annual funding in space, but unlike aircraft and other equipment the concept of "battlefield attrition" is not addressed. Click here. (1/22)

Exelis Wins Air Force Contract to Research Low-cost GPS Alternatives (Source: SpaceRef)
ITT Exelis (XLS) has been awarded a $2.15 million contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to research the development of a small satellite navigation payload to augment the current Global Positioning System (GPS) program. The GPS NAVSAT (Navigation Satellite) program seeks to provide affordable capabilities to aid end-users located in tough-to-reach environments.

The goal of the 18-month initial study is to identify innovative ways to increase affordability and sustainment of the GPS program through payload weight reduction, size and power. The GPS NAVSAT will maintain similar performance capability to the existing GPS system, but will aid GPS end-users in signal-constrained environments, located in urban or mountainous terrain. (1/23)

House Sets Science, Space, and Technology Committee Assignments (Source: SpaceRef)
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held an Organizational Meeting today to approve the Committee rules, oversight plan, and subcommittee rosters. Florida member assignments include Democrats Frederica Wilson on the Space Subcommittee and the Technology Subcommittee; Alan Grayson on the Energy Subcommittee and the Environment Subcommittee; and Republican Bill Posey on the Oversight Subcommittee and the Space Subcommittee. (1/23)

Virgin Galactic and State of New Mexico Agree on Liability Issues (Source: SpaceRef)
Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association have agreed on liability issues that will form the basis of legislation that Senator Mary Kay Papen will introduce and which is expected to have broad bipartisan support. (1/23)

NASA Awards Protective Services Contract for Goddard, Wallops (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has awarded a protective services contract to Alutiiq Pacific LLC of Alaska, which consolidates services at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and three affiliated facilities. The ~$65 million contract sets a firm fixed-price for core services and includes an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity component for additional services as needed. The phase-in period begins Feb. 1 and full performance begins April 1 for Goddard; NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.; and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. (1/23)

How NASA Revealed Sun's Hottest Secret in 5-Minute Spaceflight (Source: Space.com)
While many NASA space telescopes soar in orbit for years, the agency's diminutive Hi-C telescope tasted space for just 300 seconds, but it was enough time to see through the sun's secretive atmosphere. Designed to observe the hottest part of the sun — its corona — the small High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) launched on a suborbital rocket that fell back to Earth without circling the planet even once. The experiment revealed never-before-seen "magnetic braids" of plasma roiling in the sun's outer layers.

"300 seconds of data may not seem like a lot to some, but it's actually a fair amount of data, in particular for an active region" of the sun, Jonathan Cirtain said. The solar telescope snapped a total of 165 photos during its mission, which lasted 10 minutes from launch to its parachute landing. Hi-C launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico atop a sounding rocket in July 2012. (1/23)

Why Everyone Is Suddenly Rushing to Mine Asteroids in Outer Space (Source: Slate)
Next year, look for a startup backed by no one at all to announce plans to cure all of humanity’s problems instantaneously and forever via robotic solar-powered 3-D printed outer-space panacea-bots. Just kidding. But the ambition behind Deep Space Industries’ plans is striking for a company that admits it is still looking for more investors.

Intrigued but skeptical, I spoke with DSI’s chief executive, David Gump, whose previous claims to fame include co-founding the space-tech company Astrobotic Technology and producing for RadioShack the first TV commercial to be shot aboard the International Space Station. Click here. (1/22)

Pentagon Looks to Conserve Cash (Source: Politico)
The looming threat of sequestration has spurred Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to issue an order stating that all potential research and development contracts over $500 million must get special clearance before they can be approved. Some insiders interpret the order to mean that the Pentagon doesn't plan to sign any large contracts in the near future. (1/22)

Wyoming Town May Further Develop 'Intergalactic Spaceport' (Source: Aviation Pros)
As intergalactic spaceports go, this is more of a dirt strip, but that may soon change. The City Council of Green River, Wyo., has voted to form a task force to study the feasibility of building facilities at Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport, which for years has welcomed hunters, mosquito sprayers, and any aliens willing to brave 5,800 feet of dirt runway. Beyond the somewhat-less-than-flat runway (which gets graded occasionally) and a parking area, there’s not much else around.

There’s certainly no avgas, or other types of fuel (Jet A, mogas, or whatever it is that fuels alien spacecraft). Establishing the task force is the first step toward securing FAA grants that could cover 90 percent or more of the cost of improvements, and a step that local officials hope will one day translate into millions of dollars in economic benefit, reports the Green River Star.

A 2009 study by the Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division calculated that the state’s nine smallest airports collectively generate $14.5 million in economic activity each year, ranging as high as $3.5 million for Pine Bluffs Municipal Airport. The state is now working on an update of that study, though Green River officials, to their credit, required no additional convincing. (1/22)

White House Petition to Build Starship Enterprise Fizzles (Source: NBC)
If the Death Star went up against the Starship Enterprise, who would win? When it comes to White House petition drives, it's the Death Star. While the petition calling on the federal government to build a fully operational "Star Wars" battle station attracted more than 34,000 signatures, forcing the White House to issue a hilarious response, a similar petition supporting a real-life version of Captain James T. Kirk's favorite ride fell far short of the 25,000-signature requirement when the one-month deadline passed on Monday.

At last count, the Enterprise petition had 7,200 signatures, according to its creator, a Trek fan known publicly as BTE-Dan. "I’m disappointed that it didn't reach 25,000, because I would have genuinely liked to have seen the Obama administration respond to it," Dan told NBC News in an email. Dan is the webmaster behind the "Build the Enterprise" website — and he says he's serious about wanting NASA to do a feasibility study for an Enterprise-like spaceship. (1/23)

Disaster at Xichang (Source: Air & Space)
In October 1994, Bruce Campbell, a safety specialist with Astrotech Space Operations, based near Cape Canaveral, Florida, boarded an airliner in the Chinese city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. He was heading south to the town of Xichang, in the remote mountainous region of the country bordering Burma and Vietnam. Along with a small group of American engineers, Campbell was there to help prepare for the launch, still more than a year away, of an American-built Intelsat satellite on a Chinese rocket.

In the 1990s, U.S. satellite operators were still scrambling to buy rides on European and Chinese launchers in the wake of the 1986 Challenger accident. The Chinese government, determined to succeed in a competitive business, offered Western customers prices they could not refuse. But the Westerners who visited Xichang were concerned about the lax Chinese attitude toward launch safety. Members of the U.S. team witnessed or heard from other colleagues about several close calls and accidents.

Editor's Note: This article doesn't mention it, but it was this Chinese launch environment that gave birth to ITAR. In support of a launch failure like the ones described here, U.S. satellite contractors unwisely shared a failure analysis with the Chinese. This allowed the Chinese to fix their rocket problems, and led the U.S. to establish highly restrictive ITAR regulations to prevent future tech transfer. (1/23)

Galileo's Search & Rescue System Passes Test (Source: ESA)
The first switch-on of a Galileo search and rescue package shows it to be working well. Its activation begins a major expansion of the space-based Cospas–Sarsat network, which brings help to air and sea vessels in distress. The second pair of Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites – launched together on 12 October last year – are the first of the constellation to host SAR search and rescue repeaters. These can pick up UHF signals from emergency beacons aboard ships and aircraft or carried by individuals, then pass them on to local authorities for rescue. (1/23)

Atlas V Launch Pushed Back One Day at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: CFnews13)
An Atlas V rocket launch originally scheduled for next Tuesday has been pushed back to Wednesday, Jan. 30. The rocket is carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-K (TDRS-K). NASA has delayed the launch to allow technicians additional time to replace an Ordnance Remote Control Assembly (ORCA), which gives an anomalous signal indication before planned ordnance connections. (1/23)

Marathon Space Mission Research Targets Human Issues (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. and Russian medical experts will draw from seven broad areas as they establish a research agenda in early 2013 for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) flown by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, test cosmonaut from RSC Energia. The ISS veterans were selected in late November by the U.S. and Russian space agencies to train for the long flight expected to launch in March 2015 and potentially reveal health or performance concerns for deep-space exploration by humans.

The flight, the first of its kind since cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev returned from a 380-day mission to what was Russia's Mir space station in August 1999, will serve as a “checkpoint” for the studies now carried out on the multinational crews that spend 4-7 months aboard the six-person ISS, according to Julie Robinson, NASA's ISS program scientist, and Igor Ushakov, director of the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow.

Kelly, 48, and Kornienko, 52, will be monitored closely for the emergence of health issues not seen in their previous shorter-duration missions—impairments that could influence discussions over expeditions to the Moon, a near-Earth asteroid and Mars. An expedition to Mars, the most challenging of those destinations, would require 2-3 years roundtrip, using current propulsion technologies. (1/21)

Iran Manufacturing Hi-Tech Spacesuits (Source: FNA)
Iran's Space Agency officials announced that they have launched production of spacesuits along with their attempts to produce spacecrafts. Head of Aerospace Research Institute (ARI) of Iran Mohammad Ebrahimi said Iran has plans to send human to outer space, and that technology for spacesuit production is hi-tech, attainment of which is very expensive and needs high knowledge as well.

"Iran has moved into this technology recently, joining few countries in the field," he added. Ebrahimi also asserted that sanctions have not held back Iran from progress in aerospace, and Iran has embarked on the project for production of these critical facilities and remaining in the space competitions. "By the next 8 years, Iran will gain the technical knowledge of spacesuit design and development. The technology is highly expensive, the production cost of it being tantamount to the price of one kilogram of gold," he explained.

Fazeli said the country plans to first send big animals, including chimpanzees, into the space in the near future and then send human beings aboard a bio-capsule to a specific altitude into the outer space and return them within less than 30 minutes. "The plan for sending and returning humans to and from the space will be carried out by the next four years and the plan for sending a human being into the space and putting him into the earth's orbit will be launched in the next 10 years," Fazeli added. (1/23)

Sex in Space Won't Ensure Conception (Source: Forbes)
Couples hoping to avoid in vitro fertilization in favor of natural conception at future space hotels are going to be sadly disappointed, says a former NASA flight surgeon. Contrary to what long-term in vitro candidates might be thinking, low gravity physics isn’t going to be the panacea that ensures an individual male sperm makes it through the birth canal to successfully fertilize a single female egg. Microgravity could even make conception more difficult.

“When you think about the sexual act itself, you realize that gravity actually facilitates the process,” said James Logan, a physician and the former Chief of Medical Operations at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. “People get excited thinking about intercourse in microgravity, but given the physics involved, I think the fantasy will be better than reality.” Click here. (1/23)

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