February 11, 2013

NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' Will Sit with First Lady at State of the Union (Source: Space.com)
Life is good for NASA's "Mohawk Guy." He became world famous after helping NASA's huge Curiosity rover make a dramatic landing on Mars, and now he'll sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union address. The Iranian-American Mohawk Guy — whose name is Bobak Ferdowsi — will sit in the first lady's box to highlight President Barack Obama's call for more visas for skilled immigrants in the fields of math, science and engineering. (2/11)

Russian Supply Ship Takes Off on Station Resupply Flight (Source: CBS)
An unmanned Russian Progress supply ship loaded with 2.9 tons of supplies and equipment blasted off Monday and rocketed into orbit, flying a fast-track trajectory to an automated docking with the International Space Station just six hours later. The Progress M-18M spacecraft's Soyuz booster roared to life at 9:41:46 a.m. EST and quickly climbed away from its launch pad through a cold, clear sky at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The space station was just 870 miles downrange from the launch site at the moment of liftoff, giving the crew a ringside seat for the fiery nighttime climb to space. "The cameras on the International Space Station (were) pointed ... to look at the launch as the station passed off to the northeast and in fact Kevin Ford, the commander of Expedition 34, did report he was able to see first stage separation, which occurred about two minutes after launch," said NASA commentator Kyle Herring. (2/11)

US Launches Earth Observation Satellite From California Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
The United States launched its latest Earth observation satellite Monday, enhancing an array of orbiting eyes that help with every from climate-change study to urban planning. The satellite was launched into space atop an Atlas rocket fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA said. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or Landsat 8, was the latest in a line of satellites used since 1972 to continuously gather imagery from space of the Earth's land surface, coastal areas and coral reefs. (2/11)

71 Percent of U.S. See Humans On Mars By 2033 (Source: Discovery)
In the wake of the wildly successful landing of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Aug. 6, 2012, it may come as no surprise that the American public are currently feeling rather enthusiastic about exploring Mars. This sentiment has now been bolstered by a recent poll carried out for the non-profit corporation Explore Mars by the global communications company Phillips & Company. After surveying 1,101 people, 71 percent of the participants said they feel confident the U.S. will land a human on Mars within the next two decades.

On average, the same sample said they believed the U.S. government spends 2.4 percent (with a standard deviation of 1.68 percent) of the federal budget on NASA after they were told the agency currently has two operational rovers on the Martian surface. This, sadly, is woefully overoptimistic. The current allocation for NASA is a skinflint 0.5 percent ($17.7 billion) of the 2013 federal budget. By comparison, the average federal budget allocated to NASA during the Apollo Program in the 1960s and early 70s represented 2.8 percent. Click here. (2/11)

NASA Releases Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has released its strategic space technology investment plan. The plan, outlined in a 92 page document, is meant to be a comprehensive strategic plan prioritizing technologies for NASA to achieve its mission. The following six principles guide NASA's space technology investment strategy and portfolio execution, with the objectives of optimizing investments, maintaining a balanced portfolio, using developed technologies, and providing transparency to the American public:

1) Balance investments across all 14 Space Technology Areas in the Roadmaps; 2) Balance investments across all levels of technology readiness; 3) Ensure developed technologies are infused into Agency missions; 4) Develop technologies through partnerships and ensure they are infused throughout the domestic space enterprise; 5) Use a systems engineering approach when planning technology investments; and 6) Reach out to the public and share information about its technology investments. Click here. (2/11)

93 Years Till the Next End of the World (Source: Space Daily)
Less than a month ago NASA announced that the Earth is in fact safe from the infamous asteroid, Apophis, which was expected to collide with our planet in 2036. It is now reported that the chances of impact are lower than one in a million. Despite that good news, it turns out that any celebrations might be a little premature. Two weeks ago Russian astronomers Andrey Oreshko and Timur Kryachko discovered yet another asteroid, with the catchy name of 2012 YQ1, which will, in all likelihood, crash into Earth, but not until 2106. (2/11)

NASA Awards Program Integration Contract for Orion (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected ARES Technical Services Corp. of California for its program integration contract for Orion. The cost-plus-fixed-fee services contract has a potential value of $49 million, including options. The contract begins April 1 with a base performance period of two-and-a-half years followed by two one-year options and includes indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity task orders.

ARES will provide products, professional services, and systems engineering and integration services to NASA's Orion Program, which is developing a spacecraft that will send humans farther into space than ever before. ARES will support the program's planning and control, vehicle integration and crew and service module. Additional services include education outreach, and test and verification functions. (2/11)

Aerojet Parent Company Announces Quarterly Results (Source: GenCorp)
GenCorp net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 totaled $298.2 million compared to $252.2 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. Net income for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 was $2.8 million, compared to a net income of $0.5 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. Funded backlog was $1,018 million as of November 30, 2012 compared to $902 million as of November 30, 2011. (2/11)

Space Georgia Plans Feb. 23 Meeting in Atlanta (Source: Space Georgia)
"Space Georgia" is the new name of the Georgia Space Society, a chapter of the National Space Society. The first meeting of Space Georgia will be held on Feb. 23 in downtown Atlanta. We will be talking about plans for the year including DragonCon, Yuri’s Night, Atlanta Space Startup Night, Atlanta Space Apps Challenge. Click here. (2/10)

Athena Rising? (Source: Space Review)
Lockheed Martin is making a new attempt to revive the Athena launch vehicle, getting endorsements, but as yet no contracts, from government agencies. Dwayne Day examines the long, and often rocky history, of this small launcher. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2234/1 to view the article. (2/11)

Future In-Space Operations (FISO): A Working Group and Community Engagement (Source: Space Review)
A series of telecons, little known outside of a small part of the space community, have been actively discussing a variety of topics for future activities beyond Earth orbit. Harley Thronson and Dan Lester describe the origins and current activities of the Future In-Space Operations group. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2233/1 to view the article. (2/11)

NASA Satellite Will Conduct 40-Year Earth Study (Source: Space.com)
The newly launched Landsat satellite will conduct an acre-by-acre study of the surface of Earth -- a study that is scheduled to last 40 years and which will provide information on changes to landscape, development and weather. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission was created by NASA and the United States Geological Survey. (2/11)

Asking the Big Questions for the Next Ten Years (Source: Space Review)
The Space Review started ten years ago seeking to take on the big issues facing spaceflight then. Today, Jeff Foust describes another set of big questions, some new and some familiar, facing government and commercial space endeavors for the next decade. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2239/1 to view the article. (2/11)

Ten Years Back, Ten Years Forward (Source: Space Review)
The future of human spaceflight is a key issue for the comping decade. Louis Friedman warns that we run the risk of ceding space exploration entirely to robots if we're not able to inspire people today with human spaceflight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2238/1 to view the article. (2/11)

Can Elon Musk Retire on Mars in 2023? (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk has indicated in media reports his long-term ambition is to retire on Mars. Can he do it? Sam Dinkin looks ahead a decade and crunches the numbers. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2237/1 to view the article. (2/11)

Proliferating Military Space Power in 2013 and Beyond (Source: Space Review)
A lot has changed in military space over the last decade, as more countries gain military space capabilities. Taylor Dinerman argues that this brings with it new risks over the next decade as well. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2236/1 to view the article. (2/11)

A Ten-Year Experiment (Source: Space Review)
The Space Review started as an experiment: would people be interested in long-form articles on space issues? Jeff Foust says that experiment is still in progress, ten years later. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2235/1 to view the article. (2/11)

Pentagon Will Submit 2014 Budget on March 25 (Source: Defense News)
The Defense Department will put forward its proposed fiscal 2014 budget on March 25, though some parts of its budget -- spending for intelligence and information technology -- will come in April. The Pentagon budget won't take into account sequestration cuts, and if the cuts go through, the budget date may change. (2/10)

National Space Society: Organizational Inertia and Term Limits (Source: Rocket Forge)
As the current president of the Georgia Space Society and a National Space Society member I was dismayed to hear that my friend Paul Damphouse resigned as NSS Executive Director and Board member. What I'm going to say here is in no way meant to disparage any of the volunteers personally or to suggest that anyone is acting in bad faith. But when people like Paul leave after one year, membership is dropping, and financial problems persist year after year, it indicates that something somewhere is badly broken.

Check out the NSS organizational chart, here. From rumor and legend one of the reasons the NSS is structured this way is because of remnants of the National Space Institute and L5 merger that created it. Another is that in such a marginal volunteer run organization you want to reward initiative with responsibility. Anyone willing to do something gets a leadership role. The other may be an inability to implement term limits.

Organizations like this should remove the temptation to reward past service by leaving people in stagnant roles by creating rules that require roles to rejustify themselves every two years. Can the National Space Society be fixed? Organizational behavior suggests that it won't fix itself without some outside forcing process. It may need professional help. Let's hope it can survive. (2/10)

Palace Intrigue at NSS (Source: SpaceKSC)
Just my opinion, but the NSS Kickstarter movie project strikes me as a colossal waste of money. The NSS home page says the video will be “inspiring” but that's the same argument we get from people who naively think that Congress will spend billions of dollars on an Apollo rerun just to “inspire” American youth. That's not the real world — not in the 1960s, and not today. It strikes me as a fundamental misread of how American space politics work. The members of Congress fund space programs primarily to protect jobs in their states and districts. NSS should be running as far away from Congress as possible, trying to accelerate commercial development which would take Congress out of the equation.

Our local NSS chapter seems to have figured that out, recently changing its name to the Florida Space Development Council: "The Florida Space Coast Chapter of the National Space Society (NSS) has changed its name to the Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) to better reflect the group's focus on assisting the development of a robust space-related economy in the state. The FSDC will remain an active chapter of the NSS, working with other Florida chapters to support the NSS mission to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth." (2/11)

Planetary Resources Is Looking For A Few Good Asteroid Miners (Source: WIRED)
Have you ever been reading an epic science fiction space saga and wished you could be out there on the high frontier, mining asteroids for the material to build the next phase of human civilizations? Well, now you can start making that dream come true, thanks to space start-up Planetary Resources.

Last April the company revealed itself to the world after three years of covert R&D. Though it may sound far-fetched, co-founders Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis bring credibility from their previous successes at the X PRIZE Foundation, the International Space University, Space Adventures, and the Zero Gravity Corp. Add to that team a couple of former NASA engineers with experience developing Mars rovers, advisors including director James Cameron, and investments from the Google guys. This crazy idea just might work. Click here. (2/11)

Astronomers Ask Public to Help name Pluto's New Moons (Source: SpaceRef)
The discoverers of Pluto's two tiniest moons are inviting the public to help select names for the new moons. By tradition, the moons of Pluto have names associated with Hades and the underworld. Beginning today, people can vote by clicking here. (2/11)

"The Greeks were great storytellers and they have given us a colorful cast of characters to work with," said Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. He and the teams of astronomers who made the discoveries will select two names based on the outcome of the voting.

Editorial: Don’t Be a Sucker Just to Grab Business (Source: New Mexico Watchdog)
There’s no point in rehashing the criticisms of taxpayers putting up all the money to construct Spaceport America out in the vast expanses of southern New Mexico. The bottom line is, the money’s been spent and the facility has been built and and even critics who questioned the wisdom of spending public money on the project support legislation to grant “limited liability” protection for manufacturers and spaceport’s anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic. Without the liability bill, Virgin had made not-so-veiled threats that it will pull up stakes.

It’s off-putting to say the least and when you get right down to it, it is a form of blackmail but that’s what happens when you (the state, the taxpayers) build something with your own money first, in the hopes of attracting clients. Taxpayers forked over $209 million for Spaceport and according to the terms of the lease signed when Richardson was in office, the clawback provisions are exceedingly flimsy. The range of dollars Virgin would have to pay, should it break its lease varies between $1.5 million and $2 million.

The situation is similar to instances seen in big-time sports, when unscrupulous owners threaten to move their teams if taxpayers don’t fully or partially pay for their new stadiums. I’m afraid that’s what’s happened at the spaceport, and it’s what I fear will be a recurring theme for years to come. I recently interviewed one of Virgin Galactic’s executives ago who said the company is committed to New Mexico.” But when I asked him if Virgin would consider offers from other states, he said, “We’re a business. We’re always going to look at other deals.” (2/11)

Air Force Space Command Hunkers Down for Sequestration (Source: SatNews)
As a consequence of the pending sequestration, Air Force Space Command conducted detailed planning and is now readying for significant cuts and reductions. "This budget situation is unprecedented in my 36 years of service," said General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command. "With no appropriation bill for fiscal year 2013, our ability to plan for FY14 and 15 is even more uncertain."

"What I am absolutely certain of, however," said General Shelton, "is that the foundational capabilities space and cyber bring to the defense of this Nation must be protected. Not only protected, but as Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter said recently, to support our new strategy, we must also enhance those areas, making substantial advances and investments in space and cyber." (2/11)

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