February 20, 2013

National Tribute to Sally Ride (Source: NASA)
On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space as a crew member on Space Shuttle Challenger for STS-7.  After a distinguished career with NASA, she was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001 that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls.

Until her death on July 23, 2012, Dr. Ride had a major impact on America as an inspirational role model, as a space exploration advocate, as an activist for improved science education, as a corporate leader, and as a champion for social change and equity in STEM.  This May 20 event in Washington DC will be a joyous tribute to Dr. Sally Ride. (2/20)

NASA Releases Glory Taurus XL Launch Failure Report Summary (Source: NASA)
NASA has released a summary report on findings from a panel that investigated the unsuccessful 2011 launch of the agency's Glory spacecraft. The satellite, designed to improve our understanding of Earth's climate, was lost March 4, 2011, when it failed to reach orbit after launch aboard an Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

A mishap investigation board led by Bradley C. Flick, director of the Research and Engineering Directorate at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., determined the Taurus launch vehicle's fairing system failed to open fully and caused the mishap. The fairing is a clamshell nosecone that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.

The mishap investigation board was not able to identify the definitive cause for the fairing system failure, but it did recommend ways to prevent future problems associated with the joint system that makes up the fairing. NASA and Orbital are continuing to investigate the fairing system. (2/20)

Kepler Spacecraft Helps Astronomers Find Tiny Exoplanet (Source: SpaceRef)
An international team of astronomers has used nearly three years of high precision data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft to make the first observations of a planet outside our solar system that's smaller than Mercury, the smallest planet orbiting our sun. The planet is about the size of the Earth's moon. It is one of three planets orbiting a star designated Kepler-37 in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way. (2/20)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Best Public Viewing of March 1 Falcon-9 Launch (Source: KSCVC)
Watch the powerful sights and sounds of the thunderous roaring engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it bursts into the sky on Friday, March 1, 2013. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests can enjoy a front row view along the NASA Causeway. The launch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.  (2/20)

Aerospace, Telecom Firms High on the List for Hackers (Source: Space News)
Aerospace and telecommunications companies, including satellite firms, have been frequent targets of a group of hackers believed to have backing from the Chinese military, according to a report by a top cybersecurity firm. Mandiant of Alexandria, Va., investigated intrusions at more than 140 companies over seven years and found many of the security breaches showed characteristics of a prolific group they referred to as APT1, short for Advanced Persistent Threat.

Ranking second on the list of frequent targets — information technology companies ranked No. 1 — were aerospace companies, 15 of which were hacked during the period, according to the report. Telecommunications firms, a subset of which utilize or produce satellite-related technology, were fourth on the list, with more than 10 reported intrusions, the report said. (2/20)

Automatic U.S. Budget Cuts Would Benefit Russia (Source: Florida Today)
Automatic federal spending cuts set to take effect next week are harsh and ultimately add hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1 billion the U.S. already is paying Russia to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station. That’s the gist of what a record-setting U.S. astronaut told dozens of people today at a Space Coast Economic Development Commission luncheon. (2/20)

Space Tourist to Announce Daring Manned Mars Voyage for 2018 (Source: WIRED)
The world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito is planning to launch a manned mission to Mars in January 2018 on a round-trip journey lasting 501 days. Tito, who paid about $20 million to visit the Space Station in 2001, has founded a new nonprofit company called the Inspiration Mars Foundation. The manned mission is intended to “generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration,” according press materials.

The company will hold a press conference on Feb. 27 to provide details of the mission and answer any questions, of which there are numerous. In particular, how the mission intends to keep its participants safe and healthy during the journey will be a key issue.

In attendance at the conference will be Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter of Paragon Space Development Corp., which creates life-support systems for space. MacCullum and Poynter were members of the Biosphere-2 project that attempted to build a completely isolated environment inside a giant structure in the 1990s. The briefing also mentions Jonathan Clark, a medical researcher at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, who will probably address the dangers from potentially lethal radiation to humans in deep space. (2/20)

Stratolaunch Systems Opens Hangar in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stratolaunch Systems completed work on its large hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port last Wednesday, opening it up for employees to begin to occupy, spaceport CEO Stu Witt said on Tuesday. The hangar is designed to accommodate the rocket company’s carrier aircraft, which will have a wingspan of 385 feet. The aircraft will air-launch rockets that will place satellites into orbit.

Stratolaunch Systems opened an 88,000 square foot production building adjacent to the hangar in October. The facility is being used to construct the composite sections of the aircraft’s wings and fuselage. Editor's Note: Stratolaunch is also working toward establishing operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and would need a similar sized hangar adjacent to the Shuttle Landing Facility. (2/20)

The Art of Space Law (Source: The Independent)
As the only artist attending International Space University last summer, I suddenly found myself with a deep and profound connection to Elle Woods (of Legally Blonde) – excepting the blondeness. Seated among of some of the brightest up-and-coming minds in the space industry for my first lecture on space law, I felt a combination of elation and terror. How could I possibly comprehend this subject, despite their promises that it would be accessible to all disciplines? I comforted myself with the fact that unlike Elle, I had read the textbook in advance. I was determined to find my way into the material, on a mission to discover what the arts could contribute to space law and policy. Click here. (2/20)

Russia to Spend Billions on Asteroid Defense (Source: Russia Times)
Moscow believes an operable national defense against threats from outer space can be built within 10 years’ time. The 500-kiloton explosion of a space bolide above the Urals region has sped-up allocation of some $2 billion to prevent future threats. Russian scientists have presented a federal program designed to counteract space threats. Elaborated by the Institute of Astronomy at Russia’s Academy of Sciences and the Central Engineering Research Institute, the program has already been approved by Roskosmos, the national space agency.

The system will consist of a network of robotic telescopes monitoring space around our planet, some of them delivered to orbit, others operating from the surface. Destruction of an asteroid in emergency cases may be performed by a rocket with a powerful megaton-class thermonuclear warhead. If the threat is detected early, more advanced means of changing an asteroid’s orbit may be considered. (2/19)

France Reducing its Space Station Contributions (Source: Space News)
France is reducing its contributions to the international space station following an assessment that its current payments are much higher than the station-related contracts received by French industry, the French space agency, CNES, said. The agency says it confronted substantial resistance from Germany when it insisted on payment reductions during the late-November conference of European Space Agency (ESA) government ministers.

“This posed big problems for our German friends and constituted the major sticking point of the negotiations” during the ministerial conference, the agency says. “But we were able to achieve our objectives, cutting our contribution by 82 million euros ($111 million), with our percentage share dropping to 20.8 percent from 27.1 percent.” (2/20)

New Satellite Data Confirms Major Arctic Ice Loss (Source: Eco Watch)
The stunning loss of Arctic sea ice extent in recent years is undeniable—satellite measurements have conclusively shown that half of the Arctic sea ice went missing in September 2012, compared to the average September during 1979 – 2000. But the extent of ice cover is not the best measure of how the fire raging in Earth’s attic is affecting sea ice—the total volume of the ice is more important.

But up until 2010, we didn’t have the measurements needed to say how the total volume of ice in the Arctic might be changing. Scientists relied on the University of Washington PIOMAS model, which suggested that the loss of Arctic sea ice volume during September might be approaching 75 to 80 percent. The model results were widely criticized by climate change skeptics as being unrealistic. (2/19)

Out-of-Control Spaceship? Nope: It's Asteroid 2012 DA14, Seen on Radar (Source: NBC)
A pixelated profile from NASA's Goldstone radar dish makes the passing asteroid 2012 DA14 look a bit like an out-of-control Viper space fighter from "Battlestar Galactica." But the real-life asteroid is almost five times as big, and might well pack a bigger wallop if it ever hit our planet. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Tuesday released a movie combining 73 radar images of 2012 DA14, captured over the course of eight hours on the night of Feb. 15-16. The image resolution is 13 feet (4 meters) per pixel. Click here. (2/19)

Can Commercial Space Rescue NASA From Deadly Public Indifference? (Source: Forbes)
Space suddenly became a topic of urgent public attention on October 4, 1957 when a tiny Soviet satellite chirped alarming evidence of technological superiority. Then in 1961, a young cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin leant his human face to a new extraterrestrial space era that threatened to leave the U.S. behind. America immediately upped the ante. Within only 11 years after that we safely delivered 12 of our citizens to the lunar surface and back, along with 6 orbital companions.

Dramatic erosion of public interest began soon after presidential and congressional politics turned the Apollo space program into a jobs program. The sad truth is that while most of us take great pride in the amazing things NASA has accomplished, we are now pretty much clueless about where the space program is going. I happen to hang out with lots of aerospace folks, and they don’t really know either. In short, everyone is waiting for a sign from “on high”.

In February 2010, President Obama announced a plan to make technology innovation and commercial space travel the centerpiece of his space strategy. He proposed to cancel NASA’s programs to build government-designed rockets, leaving that role to the private sector. Obama attempted to cancel the government-designed Ares 1 and Ares V super-heavy-lift rocket programs. However, Congress, responding to pressure from affected states such as Florida and Alabama, didn’t go along with killing Ares V, and it was then reestablished as the “Space Launch System” (SLS). Click here. (2/19)

Mission Control 'Houston' Gives Launch to New Nike Basketball Sneakers (Source: CollectSpace)
Houston, you've got a space shoe. Nike has introduced a new set of colors and designs for its line of basketball sneakers sparked by the Texas city's space lineage. Specifically, the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center — widely known by its radio call sign "Houston" — provided the sportswear company with the "creative inspiration" for a collection of shoes for NBA all-stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant. Click here. (2/19)

Lawsuits Leave Lunar Bibles in Limbo: Legal Battle Over Space-Flown Scriptures (Source: CollectSpace)
Miniature bibles that flew to the moon more than 40 years ago are now at the center of a custody dispute between the author who wrote about their history and the state caring for the reverend who was behind their creation. The two-year legal battle, which became public on Feb. 17, began in 2010 when the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) intervened in a Dallas auction to prevent Oklahoma Christian author Carol Mersch from selling one of the so-called "lunar bibles" at auction.

At issue was how Mersch received the bible. According to court records obtained by the newspaper, the author got the space-flown scripture from former NASA chaplain and scientist John Stout. Mersch's 2010 book, "The Apostles of Apollo," recounts Stout's founding of the Apollo Prayer League and how hundreds of the microfilmed King James Bibles were flown the moon. Click here. (2/18)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Exec Interns at Mojave SpacePort (Source: Parabolic Arc)
John W. Kelly, program manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, began a one-year executive internship at the Mojave Air and Space Port last week. Kelly will be focusing on access to space initiatives as well as the research potential of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Kelly also will help to build a closer working relationship between the spaceport and the nearby NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where he is employed.

Last week, the FAA solicited proposals from state and local governments, eligible university and other public entities to develop six UAS research and test sites around the country. Mojave spaceport officials are considering submitting a proposal for designation as an UAS research and test site. So, Kelly’s expertise would be valuable if the spaceport goes forward with a proposal. Designation as one of the six UAS sites would bring new companies and many new jobs to the spaceport, which is located in California’s High Desert. (2/19)

Cassini Sheds Light on Cosmic Particle Accelerators (Source NASA JPL)
During a chance encounter with what appears to be an unusually strong blast of solar wind at Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected particles being accelerated to ultra-high energies. This is similar to the acceleration that takes place around distant supernovas.

Since we can't travel out to the far-off stellar explosions right now, the shockwave that forms from the flow of solar wind around Saturn's magnetic field provides a rare laboratory for scientists with the Cassini mission -- a partnership involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency -- to observe this phenomenon up-close. The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Physics, confirm that certain kinds of shocks can become considerably more effective electron accelerators than previously thought. (2/19)

Congress to Consider Better Asteroid Detection (Source: US News)
Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith said Friday that Congress would soon look into ways NASA could improve its asteroid detecting abilities. "Fifty years ago, we would have had no way of seeing an asteroid like this coming. Now, thanks to the discoveries NASA has made in its short history, we have known about 2012 DA14 for about a year. As the world leader in space exploration, America has made great progress for mankind. But our work is not done," he said in a statement.

"Developing technology and research that enable us to track objects like Asteroid 2012 DA14 is critical to our future. We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids and develop contingencies, if needed, to change the course of an asteroid headed toward Earth." (2/19)

2010 Meteor Over Wisconsin Investigated (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Mifflin meteorite was much smaller than the object that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Siberia last week, injuring an estimated 1,200, but it was still visible some 50 miles away in Madison. About 8 pounds of fragments were recovered from the meteor, which is the subject of a forthcoming article in the journal Meteorics and Planetary Science. Before impact the Mifflin meteor is estimated to have weighed a few tons.

"It was a gold rush for about a week, like the Wild West, as residents and meteorite hunters from around the world scoured the area," said John Valley. "Many Wisconsinites were generous enough to donate and allow us to analyze the samples they collected." The meteorite has been identified as an L5 chondrite, one of the most common types of meteorite.

All L5 chondrites are believed to have descended from one astronomical body that formed about 4.56 billion years ago, making it older than the Earth. The parent asteroid for the L5 chondrites was destroyed about 470 million years ago "probably by a large impact with another body," Valley said. (2/19)

Crater Found in Iowa Points to Asteroid Break-Up 470 Million Years Ago (Source: Washigton Post)
An asteroid as big as a city block smashed into what is now northern Iowa about 470 million years ago, says a Smithsonian geologist, supporting a theory that a giant space rock broke up and bombarded Earth just as early life began flourishing in the oceans. The impact dug a crater nearly four miles wide that now lies beneath the town of Decorah, said Bevan French, one of the world’s foremost crater hunters and an adjunct scientist at the National Museum of Natural History. (2/19)

Space Tours Los Angeles Offers Visits to Historic Space Sites (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Come see the emerging private companies and innovative government organizations that are defining the future of space travel and exploration! Spacce Tours Los Angeles will include visits to Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Mojave Space Center, NASA JPL, Space Shuttle Endeavour, Edwards AFB, Columbia Memorial Space Center, Griffith Park Observatory, Disneyland Star Tours, and other attractions. Click here. (2/19)

Spaceflight Approaches Its Henry Ford Era (Source: Citizens in Space)
The Model T was not the first automobile, and in many ways it was not the best, but it represented a turning point. As many historians have noted, the Model T was the first automobile cheap enough that the workers who built it could afford to buy one. In that respect, the XCOR Lynx may represent the Ford Model T of space and the start of the Henry Ford era of spaceflight. XCOR has a company policy that every employee will fly on the vehicle. We haven’t heard whether Virgin Galactic has a similar policy for SpaceShip Two, but it wouldn’t surprise us. Click here. (2/19)

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