February 13, 2013

Cabana to Receive Debus Award (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana has been named the 2013 recipient of the National Space Club Florida Committee’s Debus Award for significant achievements and contributions made in Florida to American aerospace efforts. A four-time shuttle flyer, Cabana is the 10th director of KSC, where he manages a workforce of roughly 8,000 civil servants and contractors. (2/13)

The Space Station Is The Final Frontier Of Biological Research (Source: Forbes)
The frontier of biomedical research is inside an unassuming green box with a black-and-white touchscreen mounted on a rack in the International Space Station. Within that green box is a microplate reader, a workhorse appliance in labs on Earth but the first of its kind to work in the near-zero gravity at 250 miles up. A microplate reader screens hundreds of liquid samples at once for drug candidates or infectious disease, but fluids at zero Gs can float around or settle in unwanted ways.

This barred scientists from using microplates in space, where researchers prize the absence of gravity for its insights into how crystals, bacteria and drug agents behave. Solving that problem was one small step for a tiny company called NanoRacks, which has carved out an unusual niche (and a monopoly, for now) adapting lab gear to the U.S. National Lab on the ISS. Since 2010 it has designed and built all 36 of the modular labs there. Click here. (2/13)

CASIS and MassChallenge Partner to Send Research to the ISS (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, will provide up to $100,000 in grant funding for qualified research projects as part of its partnership with the “MassChallenge Startup Accelerator.”
MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs without taking any equity. Its four-month program offers world-class mentorship, free office space, $1 million in cash awards, and up to $10 million through in-kind support. To date, MassChallenge alumni have collectively raised over $360 million in outside funding, generated nearly $100 million in revenue, and created nearly 3,000 jobs since 2010. (2/13)

Kennedy Space Center to Act on Aging Facilities (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center will take steps to mothball, abandon or demolish unneeded shuttle facilities unless new tenants are found by next month, according to an audit report released Tuesday. The report by NASA’s Inspector General, an internal watchdog office, reviewed NASA’s progress reducing a vast and aging property footprint as the agency’s missions change and budgets tighten.

It identified eight Kennedy facilities among at least 33 that NASA “was not fully utilizing or for which Agency managers could not identify a future mission use.” They include launch pad 39A, two unoccupied shuttle processing hangars, the former shuttle runway, a parachute refurbishment facility and several involved in the recovery and refurbishment of solid rocket boosters.

Their annual operations and maintenance costs total $30.4 million, including $21.4 million for pad 39A, the audit shows. In partnership with Space Florida, NASA has been negotiating with potential commercial or other government users for many KSC facilities left “underutilized” after the shuttle’s retirement in 2011. The center has said it plans to transfer the runway to a new operator this year. March is a key time because that’s when NASA’s shuttle Transition and Retirement program will stop paying to maintain former shuttle facilities. Click here. (2/13)

Nelson and Cruz to Head Space Subcommittee, But Heated Exchange Yesterday Points to Rift (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will continue to chair the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the current Congress. Newly-elected Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will be the top Republican ("Ranking Member") on the subcommittee, replacing John Boozman (R-AK) who was Ranking Member last Congress.

What type of working relationship Nelson and Cruz will have is uncertain following a heated exchange between the two yesterday during markup of Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense. Although the subcommittee can recommend funding levels for agencies like NASA, only the appropriations committee can establish/appropriate actual funding amounts.

Cruz's appointment as Ranking Member of the Science and Space Subcommittee will keep Texas in a strong position to affect Senate policy on NASA, though a freshman Senator cannot hope to have the same level of influence as his predecessor, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Now retired, Hutchison was the Ranking Member of the full Senate Commerce Committee as well as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations CJS subcommittee, putting her in a uniquely powerful position on NASA issues. (2/13)

CSF President to Lead Space Coast Panel Discussion on Space Transport (Source: SEDC)
The Space Coast Economic Development Commission (SEDC) is pleased to announce that the President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Michael Lopez-Alegria will host a panel discussion on Commercial Spaceflight for its annual winter luncheon program. The panel discussion will provide an overview of the commercial space industry, its key players and how the area can prepare itself to embrace and capitalize on this exciting emerging-market. The event will be held on Feb. 20 in Titusville. Click here. (2/13)

Spaceport Designation Backed in House for Space Coast Airport (Source: Sunshine State News)
With officials on the Space Coast searching for private firms to help bridge the gap between the now retired space shuttle program and rollout of the Space Launch System, a bill designed to expand where space-related incentives can be obtained by the private sector cleared its first hurdle in the state House. Members of the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee on Wednesday backed House Bill 135 sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, which would designate the Space Coast Regional Airport and Industrial Park in Titusville as spaceport territory.

New and expanding businesses involved in aerospace activities within set “spaceports” are eligible for tax exemptions on machinery and equipment. The Titusville facility would join areas within Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Eglin Air Force Base, Cecil Airport and Cecil Commerce Center among Florida’s spaceports.

Editor's Note: The Space Coast Regional Airport will soon be home to RocketCrafters Inc. (a company focused on point-to-point commercial space transport) and has submitted a bid to NASA to take over operations at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). Space Florida also seeks to take over the SLF. The airport could be renamed the "Neil Armstrong International Air & Space Center." (2/13)

Israeli Space Cadets Say Moon Shot is No Fantasy (Source: Times of Israel)
If the idea of an Israeli spaceship on the moon sounds risible to you, you’re actually not alone, said Enon Landenberg, the head of commercial marketing at SpaceIL. “People did think it was a joke when we started two years ago, and even now we get that to some extent,” Landenberg said. “But SpaceIL is not only not a joke, it will set the agenda for science education and research in Israel in the future, we believe.”

It seems that the SpaceIL project has more believers every day; in fact on Monday, Bezeq — Israel’s biggest communications company — officially announced that it, too, believed in Israel’s space future, as put forth by SpaceIL. Bezeq has signed on as the project’s first major corporate sponsor and, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, described how it would provide infrastructure, manpower, and financial support to the project that many people hope will be the biggest scientific achievement in Israel’s young history.

The inspiration for the project actually came from a contest being run by Google, called LunarX, which promises to award $30 million to a team that can land an unmanned, robotic craft on the moon and carry out several missions, such as taking a high-definition video and beaming it back to earth; and exploring the surface of the moon by moving 500 meters along the moon’s surface or, alternatively, sending out a vehicle that will traverse that distance. (2/12)

Shooting Gallery of Asteroids Prompts Former Astronauts’ Venture (Source: Bloomberrg)
The asteroid that will hurtle past Earth this week at eight times the speed of a bullet is being viewed by a group of former astronauts as more than a celestial curiosity. It’s a warning shot from the heavens. Former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart said, “This asteroid is a reminder that we live in a shooting gallery.”

The asteroid, DA14, was discovered by a Spanish dental surgeon and space enthusiast using a high-end camera. The rock will pass within 17,000 miles (27,300 kilometers) of Earth on Feb. 15, closer than the moon and many orbiting satellites. It is half the size of a U.S. football field and represents the closest recorded approach of an object of its size.

Schweickart is a founder of a non-profit group called B612 that is trying to raise $400 million to launch a telescope into Venus’ orbit to find space objects that could collide with Earth. So far, B612 has teamed with NASA and raised “several million dollars” from donors such as Steve Krausz, a general partner at U.S. Venture Partners; James Leszczenski, engineering manager for Facebook Inc.; and Shervin Pishevar, managing partner of Menlo Partners. (2/13)

Companies Say War Between 'Old Space' and 'New Space' is Over (Source: Huntsville Times)
The war between "old space" and "new space" forces that broke out when President Obama killed most of NASA's post-space shuttle launch plan has cooled off, experts said at a space conference in Huntsville Tuesday, but the peace that followed has left two cash-needy programs, not just one. "Hostilities have declined," Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Space Federation, told a panel discussion. He added, "Neither side can afford to shoot at each other. We need each other."

The two sides were NASA and its legacy contractors, representing the long history of government-managed, contractor-built rocket systems like Apollo and the shuttle (old space), and the new companies such as SpaceX promising cheaper access to space (new space). The challenge for some key commercial companies is that they still need government funding to get to space. "We say it's commercial, but it's really just another way NASA is contracting for services," said Peter McGrath, director of business development and space exploration for Boeing. (2/12)

The Myths and Truths of Death by Space Radiation (Source: Astrowright)
There are persistent groves of misinformation taking root about the lethality of radiation doses for astronauts, particularly for those who are bound for the Moon and/or Near-Earth-Objects, (such as asteroids for research or mining). Most people are unprepared to distinguish technically-compelling pseudoscientific fluff from interpretations of actual data.

After nearly a half-century of dedicated research, it has been found that there is no detectable increase in the incidence of cancer (the primary threat of penetrating gamma-ray radiation exposure) for people who receive an annual radiation dose of 5,000 millirem (5 rem) or less. You would also need to receive 1,000 chest x-ray scans before worrying about definitely having increased your risk of developing cancer later in life by a single percentage point.

The time the Apollo astronauts spent traveling through the highest radiation zone of the inner Van Allen belt (at a screaming 11,000+ miles per hour) was fractional – their doses averaged 120 millirem per day. So, it is clear that the Apollo astronauts’ radiation doses in this case were much less than a common CT scan and far less than what a modern astronaut on the International Space Station receives during a 6-month tour (~7,000 millirem). Hence, simply passing through the Van Allen Belts is anything but lethal. Click here. (2/13)

Posey to Deliver Keynote to Space Coast Chapter of Women In Defense Forum (Source: Rep. Posey)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) will deliver the keynote address to the next meeting of the Space Coast Chapter of Women In Defense (WID), a National Security Organization and affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association. The event will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 5:30 PM at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach. (2/13)

Navy Uses Raytheon SM-3 and Space Sensor to Destroy Missile Target (Source: Raytheon)
In a first-of-its-kind test, a Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IA fired from the USS Lake Erie destroyed a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target using a remote cue from a satellite sensor system. The test marks the 22nd successful intercept for the SM-3 program. (2/11)

Golden Spike Launches Lunar Exploration Crowdfunding Campaign (Source: Golden Spike)
Golden Spike, a private company led by former NASA executives offering human expeditions to the Moon for nations, corporations, and individuals, has kicked off a 10-week Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $240,000 (representing each mile on the way to the Moon) to help fund Golden Spike’s Lunar expedition studies and other activities.
The drive aims to raise awareness about Golden Spike, accelerate Golden Spike’s plans for innovative public participation in its activities, and give the global community of space enthusiasts and the general public a chance to help fuel Golden Spike’s human Lunar exploration mission. Indiegogo contributions will allow Golden Spike to create interactive media products, apps, and an Olympics Movement-style membership program for children and adults to take part in Golden Spike activities as insiders. Click here. (2/13)

Kazakhstan, Russia Compromise on New Spaceport (Source: RIA Novosti)
The new Kazakh-Russian space launch facility, Baiterek, will be modified for the launch of Zenit carrier rockets, This is the result of a compromise that the two sides have reached on the project. Russia and Kazakhstan are building Baiterek at the Baikonur spaceport, originally designed to launch Angara carrier rockets capable of delivering up to 40 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbits. Russia intends to eventually leave Baikonur and conduct its launches from the Vostochny space center in the Far East.

Kazcosmos said in January it will pull out of the project if Russia goes ahead with its plans to build a launch facility for Angara rockets at Vostochny, which will make it a direct competitor to Baiterek. Musabayev earlier said Kazakhstan would have to abandon the Angara project due to rising costs, which have reached almost $2 billion − more than seven times the original estimate.

Baikonur has 15 launch pads for launching both manned and unmanned space vehicles and supports several generations of Russian spacecraft including the Soyuz, Proton, Tsyklon, Dnepr and Zenit. It was the site of the first launch into orbit of a spacecraft in 1957, when Sputnik was launched, and also Yury Gagarin's first manned space flight in 1961. (2/13)

Report on NASA's Efforts to Reduce Unneeded Infrastructure and Facilities (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has released a report evaluating its efforts to reduce unneeded Agency infrastructure. NASA is the ninth largest Federal real property holder, with over 124,000 acres and 4,900 buildings and other structures that have a replacement value of more than $30 billion. Primarily located at 10 Centers in Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, this property includes such technical facilities as wind tunnels, rocket test stands, and launch complexes and such non-technical facilities as office buildings, roads, fences, and utility systems.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified 33 facilities - wind tunnels, test stands, thermal vacuum chambers, airfields, and launch-related infrastructure - that NASA was not fully utilizing or for which Agency managers could not identify a future mission use. The need for these facilities, which cost the Agency more than $43 million to maintain in fiscal year 2011, has declined as a result of changes in NASA's mission focus, the condition of some of the facilities, and the advent of alternative testing methods using supercomputers.

The OIG found that NASA's efforts to manage and reduce the number of underutilized facilities in its portfolio have been hindered by several longstanding and interrelated challenges: 1) fluctuating and uncertain strategic requirements; 2) Agency culture and business practices; 3) political pressure; and 4) inadequate funding. To its credit, NASA has underway a series of initiatives the OIG views as positive steps toward "rightsizing" its real property footprint. Click here. (2/12)

A Long March Into Space (Source: Cairo Review)
In the mid-1980s China began to open its theretofore closed space program internationally, offering commercial launches and seeking opportunities for cooperative programs, even though it still had a steep learning curve to climb in terms of its capabilities. China already had the foundations of a launch vehicle family, the Long March (LM), itself based on the Dong Feng ballistic missile first launched in 1964.

Long March launched China’s satellite, East is Red, in 1970 but the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution between 1966−1976 devastated the scientific and engineering communities, dramatically slowing satellite and launcher development. Qian Xuesen, considered the father of the Chinese space program, was actually educated in America and employed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before being caught up in McCarthyism. He was deported in 1955 and thereafter, was unsurprisingly bereft of warm feelings toward the United States. Click here. (2/13)

Spaceport Field Guide Provides Details on Launch Sites (Source: FastForward)
The Spaceport Field Guide (SpFG) is a KMZ data file for Google Earth originally developed by SpaceWorks Commercial that identifies worldwide launch sites and associated facilities. The tool offers information about global spaceports including location, current and potential facilities, current and potential launch vehicles, and a rating of operational readiness (as defined by a Spaceport Readiness Level or SpRL). Click here. (2/13)

Third Accelerated Progress Docking Sets Stage For Soyuz (Source: Aviation Week)
A Russian Progress cargo capsule carried out a flawless accelerated launch and docking with the six-man International Space Station on Feb. 11, setting the stage for the first same-day launch and docking of a human crew on March 28. The Soyuz TMA-08M crew, led by veteran cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, includes NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian Alexander Misurkin.

The Progress flight marked the third successive accelerated four-orbit, or 6 hr., transit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan within the last seven months. Prior to this, trips typically took place over a 32-33 orbit, 50-hr. timeline. The unpiloted 50 Progress, carrying nearly 3 tons of propellant, research gear, spare parts, water, compressed air and other supplies, successfully executed an automated docking with the station’s Russian segment Pirs docking port at 3:35 p.m. EST.

The fast-track Soyuz crew missions would lessen considerably the time station astronauts must spend in the cramped Soyuz capsules and eliminate the discomfort some fliers report with the “barbecue roll,” or rotations of the spacecraft as a thermal control measure. However, the faster missions may require Soyuz crews to spend the entire transit in their restrictive Russian pressure suits. (2/12)

Earth-Buzzing Asteroid Could Be Worth $195 Billion if We Could Catch It (Source: Network World)
The asteroid NASA say is about the half the size of a football field that will blow past Earth on Feb 15 could be worth up to $195 billion in metals and propellant. That's what the scientists at Deep Space Industries, a company that wants to mine these flashing hunks of space materials, thinks the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is worth - if they could catch it.

The lack of a rocket and spacecraft that could actually catch such as asteroid of course is a big problem. There are a few other major issues as well. The path of asteroid 2012 DA14 is tilted relative to Earth, requiring too much energy to chase it down for mining. Deep Space believes there are thousands of near Earth asteroids that will be easier to chase down than this one. (2/12)

Cryosat Reveals Major Loss of Arctic Sea Ice (Source: ESA)
An international team of scientists using new measurements from ESA’s ice mission has discovered that the volume of Arctic sea ice has declined by 36% during autumn and 9% during winter between 2003 and 2012. Satellite records show a constant downward trend in the area covered by Arctic sea ice during all seasons, but in particular in summer. The past six years have seen the lowest summer ice extent in three decades, reaching the lowest last September at about 3.61 million sq km.

A team of scientists led by University College London has now generated estimates of the sea-ice volume for the 2010–11 and 2011–12 winters over the Arctic basin using data from ESA’s CryoSat satellite. This study has confirmed, for the first time, that the decline in sea ice coverage in the polar region has been accompanied by a substantial decline in ice volume. (2/13)

New Mexico County Balks at Plan for Southern Spaceport Road (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
More problems surrounding a proposed southern road to reach Spaceport America from Las Cruces could boost the cost or delay its completion, county officials heard in a Tuesday meeting. At issue is that Sierra County officials are concerned about the recently released road design, and that once built, it would be too expensive to maintain.

Spaceport officials have said a paved, 23.7-mile road is needed for Doña Ana County businesses and workers to benefit from Spaceport America, the proposed launch site for space tourists in southern Sierra County. Now, the only paved access is from Truth or Consequences. Specifically, Sierra County wants the elevation for the proposed road to be raised, spaceport officials said. But doing that would add an another $6 million, at least, to the pricetag of the project, county officials estimated.

That's on top of an extra $3 million that's already being sought from legislators for recent unexpected costs. After hearing about the new problems, Doña Ana County commissioners voted Tuesday 5-0 to direct county staff to go back to the table and sort out possible options, based on information presented Tuesday. They asked for the item to be placed on a late February Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners agenda for a final decision about how to proceed. (2/12)

Quebec Group Preparing to Compete with Virgin Galactic for Would-Be Astronauts (Source: MacLeans)
Canadians who dream of going to the final frontier will soon be able to find cheaper flights. Last week, Quebec tourism agency Uniktour announced it will be collaborating with Space Expedition Corp. and XCOR Aerospace to offer private space travel by 2014. Uniktour will be selling two different space packages, for $95,000 and $100,000, which includes hotel stays and astronaut training. That’s about half the price of the flights offered by main rival Virgin Galactic.

Trips booked via Uniktour will blast off from California’s Mojave desert and the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Unlike Virgin, which plans to take six tourists into space once a day, Space Expedition will be taking one tourist into space four times a day. Because the shuttle is so small, the tourist will be seated like a co-pilot. The flights will last about an hour, with several minutes spent at the edge of space, 100 km up: just long enough for passengers to experience weightlessness while admiring the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth. (2/12)

NASA Accused of Unlawful Technology Transfers (Source: Washington Times)
One of NASA’s renowned research centers has been under a four-year FBI investigation for the possible transfer of secret weapon-system technology to foreign countries, including China, two Republican congressmen have disclosed. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Lamar Smith of Texas are citing unnamed sources to accuse employees at the NASA’s Ames Research Center of possibly violating International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern California wants to bring criminal charges against NASA employees, but has been blocked by the Justice Department in Washington, the congressmen say. Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, denies that her office had sought an indictment.

“I am aware of allegations our office sought authority from [the Justice Department] in Washington, D.C., to bring charges in a particular matter and that our request was denied,” Ms. Haag said. “Those allegations are untrue. No such request was made, and no such denial was received.” (2/13)

FSDC Membership Tops 50 (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC), a recently renamed chapter of the National Space Society, now has exceeded 50 members, both individual and corporate. The FSDC's president and vice president will both be featured on WMMB Radio's Space Talk program on Feb. 16, where they will discuss the group's programs and priorities. Membership for individuals is $5 per year, and $50 for corporations. Click here. (2/13)

FAA Space Transportation Research Group Expands Membership (Source: FAA)
The FAA's Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE-CST) aims to address current and future challenges for commercial space transportation. To fully develop the network of organizations from academia and industry with similar and complementary interests in the research conducted under the COE CST, the FAA invites organizations to join the COE as Affiliate University or Affiliate Industry Members.

An Affiliate University Member or Affiliate Industry Member (generally referred to as an Affiliate Member) is distinguished by bringing their own self-funded, unique research activities to the COE CST network. Affiliate Members are defined as a public or private organization that conducts research or educational activities that fall within the four COE CST research areas. (2/10)

Astrobotic Wins NASA Work on Robotic Exploration (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astrobotic will lead a NASA-funded study to figure out how robots, such as the Mars rover Curiosity, can avoid becoming stuck by sinking in loose sand or similarly hard to distinguish terrain hazards. The study is one of eight advanced robotics projects funded by NASA as part of the Obama administration’s National Robotics Initiative.  Astrobotic is partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to develop this technology over three years. (2/11)

Brazil Chases ISU Back to France (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The International Space University has decided to shift its summer session from Brazil to its main campus in Strasbourg, France, due to a sudden and unexpected increase in hotel costs. The university was to have held the event at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE) campus in São José dos Campos, Brazil, beginning on June 17.  (More like a winter session, actually, if I understand the Earth’s rotation around the sun.)

The hotel that had been booked for participants decided to raise its rate significantly, according to a message sent out by ISU. There isn’t sufficient time to raise the money needed to hold the session there, officials said. It’s a shame because of the ISU SSP is a great program, and it would have brought much to Brazil’s emerging space program. But, they can always host in the future. (2/12)

Super Telescope Costs Inflate (Source: Space Daily)
The estimated cost of the first construction phase of the world's largest radio telescope has jumped to 400 million euros ($530 million). The increase of 50 million euros takes six years of accumulated inflation into account, and the figure could escalate further once additional costs of splitting the project between Africa and Australia are factored in.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, with thousands of receptors spread over an area of a square kilometre (0.4 square miles). The project's original cost estimate, 1.5 billion euros in total for phases one and two, was made in 2007, and "we decided we should update the numbers to 2013 euros", said Philip Diamond.

Members of the SKA decided last May to split the project between South Africa and Australia, which had both been bidding to be the host. The decision has additional cost implications, which Diamond declined to specify but said was "not a significant increase". Construction of Phase 1, which has yet to be approved, should start by 2016. (2/12)

Microbes Survive a Mixed Bag of Mars ‘Biocidals’ (Source: Astrobiology)
For the first time, scientists find that microbes from Earth can survive and grow even in the mix of drastically low pressure, freezing temperatures and oxygen-starved conditions seen on Mars. In recent years, scientists have discovered many life forms on Earth capable of surviving extremes of heat, cold, radiation, dryness, acidity and numerous other trying conditions. These "extremophiles" raise the possibility that alien life might dwell in similarly harsh environments on distant worlds. Click here. (2/12)

NASA's New Spaceship Tech Could Help Take Astronauts to Mars (Source: Space.com)
The new spaceflight technology behind NASA's new deep-space capsule could one day take astronauts to Mars, space agency officials say. NASA showcased its new deep-space exploration technology in a recent tour at its Kennedy Space Center spaceport here Florida to present the first prototype of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). This capsule is due to launch on its maiden test flight in 2014, paving the way for flights in the future that could take astronauts back to the moon, and on to asteroids and Mars. (2/12)

NASA'S Orion Lands Safely on Two of Three Parachutes in Test (Source: NASA)
NASA engineers have demonstrated the agency's Orion spacecraft can land safely if one of its three main parachutes fails to inflate during deployment. The test was conducted Tuesday in Yuma, Ariz., with the parachutes attached to a test article. Engineers rigged the parachutes so only two would inflate, leaving the third to flag behind, when the test capsule was dropped from a plane 25,000 feet above the Arizona desert. (2/12)

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