February 5, 2013

Death Star Response Inspiring Future Explorers? (Source: NASA)
The White House response to a petition on building a Death Star (and the resulting media attention) led to some pretty interesting data here at NASA.gov. While the petitioners wanted to focus on a big project done a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the response led to thousands of Americans finding out about projects NASA is currently working on right here on Earth and in our Solar System.

One example is a reference to NASA’s Spot the Station tool, which helps direct people to where and when to see the International Space Station in the night sky. Over 10,000 people signed up for the tool on Jan. 12, the day after the blog response was posted. Compared to similar periods, NASA saw a 1,400% increase in Spot the Station site usage. Click here. (2/5)

FSDC Plans Participation in Florida Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC), a chapter of the National Space Society, will participate in Florida Space Day 2013, an annual space policy advocacy event held in Tallahassee during the Florida Legislative Session. This year's Space Day is planned on March 6 and will feature dozens of space industry representatives from around the state. FSDC President Laura Seward will participate on behalf of the chapter.

During meetings and other events with state legislators, Ms. Seward will discuss a list of policy objectives approved by the Space Day Steering Committee and aimed at accelerating the state's space-related economic development and diversification. FSDC plans to establish its own list of member-approved policy priorities that will be shared with state elected officials before the end of the Legislative Session. Legislative agendas for multiple organizations are posted on FSDC's website here. (2/5)

NSS Flexes Toward Higher Kickstarter Goal for Movie Production (Source: NSS)
I'm pleased to announce that the Society's first Kickstarter project, to produce the cutting-edge video "Our Future in Space", is going very well.  The video, designed to explain the importance of space exploration and development to the general public, is a tool that our Society desperately needs to facilitate all of our educational efforts. 
We're now in the middle of our 24-day Kickstarter campaign and we've already raised over 95% of the funds required to meet our threshold goal of $35,000.  But that is only the beginning. In order to do everything we want to do with this project, we need to reach our stretch goals of $45K, $55K - or better yet, $100K! To do that, we need your support NOW!

There's no limit to how far we can go...if you are with us. Join our Kickstarter campaign right away at www.bit.ly/321NSS or through the NSS web site at www.nss.org! You can be a Backer for as little as $10 - BUT, if you have the means, please consider generously backing at a higher level. We have some really cool things listed on the web site which we'll give you to show our appreciation. (2/5)

Roscosmos to Report on Zenit Rocket Failure Inquiry on Feb. 6 (Source: Interfax)
The Russian government's Military-Industrial Commission will hear a Russian Federal Space Agency report on Wednesday outlining the preliminary results of an inquiry into an accident last week, when a Zenit launch vehicle carrying the U.S. Intelsat-27 satellite fell back into the Pacific Ocean shortly after takeoff as part of the Sea Launch program, commission first deputy chairman Ivan Kharchenko told journalists.

"Roscosmos has been instructed to present its report at a weekly session of the Military-Industrial Commission tomorrow. We will hear the preliminary results of the telemetry analysis. Certain tentative theories have already been formulated," he said. The final results of the investigation will be announced later, he said. (2/5)

Asteroid Raining Meteors at Earth; NASA Plans to Lasso One (Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
We’ve heard a lot about private companies that want to mine asteroids, but NASA is upping the ante by wanting to lasso one of those buggers and drag it back into orbit around the Earth, essentially lassoing in to the moon. The agency has also identified the asteroid responsible for a lot of the meteors that strike Earth. Turns out it is.

You can’t get two pages through NASA’s budget plans for this year without running into asteroids. The space agency is amassing the technology, skills and information to land on one in the next decade and maybe later drag back to Earth. A study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, part of California Institute of Technology, “to investigate the feasibility of identifying, robotically capturing, and returning an entire Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) to the vicinity of the Earth by the middle of the next decade” found that it can be done. Click here. (2/5)

California Aerospace Week Set for March 12-13 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A multiple day event at the California State Capitol intended to educate and stimulate state lawmakers on the crucial California aerospace industry. Beginning Tuesday, 12 March, at 0900 hrs, AIAA will host a breakfast panel discussion in the Governor’s Council’s Chambers for members and staff of the California state government. Followed over the next several days with meetings with individual offices, and special events to be announced. For more information on this event contact Ross B. Garelick Bell at rossb@aiaa.org. (2/5)

Russian Soyuz Set to Launch 6 U.S. Globalstar Satellites from Baikonur (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Soyuz rocket is now scheduled for launch Wednesday with six communications satellites for Globalstar, a U.S.-based firm which operates a fleet of spacecraft to link mobile customers with voice and data messaging services. Tuesday's launch of the fourth and final batch of 24 second-generation satellites for Globalstar Inc. will keep the Louisiana-based company's communications services active through the 2020s.

The launch follows three successful Soyuz flights with the new-generation Globalstar satellites in 2010 and 2011, each of which sent six spacecraft into orbit. The launch was arranged through a contract with Starsem, which oversees commercial Soyuz flights from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Starsem is partly-owned by Arianespace, a market-leading launch services firm based in France. The launch was scheduled for Tuesday but was delayed due to wind conditions above the launch site. (2/5)

13-Year-Old Girl Sends Hello Kitty to the Edge of Space (Source: CBC)
13-year-old Lauren Rojas is the toast of Twitter today for boldly sending her Hello Kitty doll where no Hello Kitty doll has gone before – 28,537 metres into the stratosphere. In a video posted to YouTube last month, the Grade 7 student is seen building a small silver spaceship and weather balloon contraption, complete with an altimeter, thermometer, GPS tracker and several cameras to capture what inevitably becomes the sub orbital flight of Hello Kitty. (2/5)

Asteroids May Be Tougher Target Than Mars for Manned Missions (Source: Space.com)
Though asteroids are viewed as stepping stones in NASA's manned march to Mars, sending humans to a space rock may actually be a bigger challenge than putting boots on the Red Planet. Mars is farther away than any near-Earth asteroid that NASA would target, but this disadvantage may be outweighed by the greater knowledge scientists have gained of the Red Planet thanks to the many Mars missions that have launched over the years, experts say. Further, mapping out an asteroid mission is nearly impossible at this point, since NASA does not yet know where it's going.

"There are still no good asteroid targets for such a mission, a necessary prerequisite for determining mission length and details such as the astronauts’ exposure to radiation and the consumables required," states a December 2012 report from the U.S. National Research Council (NRC). The new "asteroid-next" plan has not been enthusiastically embraced by NASA or the broader space community, the NRC report concluded.

"Despite isolated pockets of support for a human asteroid mission, the committee did not detect broad support for an asteroid mission inside NASA, in the nation as a whole or from the international community," write the authors of the report, which is called "NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus." (2/5)

North Korea Missile Display Contradicts Claim of Rocket Launch (Source: Missile Threat)
North Korea internally describes the object it launched in December as a long-range ballistic missile, contradicting its claims to the outside world that it was a rocket used for peaceful purposes, sources said. Pyongyang said it launched an Unha-3 rocket to send a No. 2 Kwangmyongsong-3 Earth observation satellite into orbit.

But the explanation is different at the strategic rocket pavilion, a dome-shaped hall that opened in April last year in Pyongyang to display various ballistic missiles. It is part of the Exhibition of Arms and Equipment. The body of a long, cylindrical object with the words “Hwasong-13” painted against a white background is on display at the center of the hall. Hwasong-13 is the name of a North Korean long-range ballistic missile.

A guide at the pavilion said this is the same model as the ones launched in April and December last year, according to the sources. The guide said the object’s diameter is 2.4 meters and the length is 26 meters. The uppermost stage of the missile was removed because of the height of the ceiling, the sources quoted the guide as saying. (2/5)

Congrats, Earthlings, You're Safe ... For Now (Source: LA Times)
Mayan apocalypse? Avoided. Y2K anarchy? Suppressed. Gigantic asteroid hurled by the sun’s gravity toward Earth? Well... Close but no cigar. Better go to Vegas, Earthlings, you’re on a winning streak of avoiding disaster. In what NASA officials are calling the closest near-Earth fly-by in at least a generation, Asteroid 2012 DA14, is expected to buzz by our blue marble on Feb. 15. The 150-foot space rock will cross from south to north in the afternoon, coming within 22,200 miles of Earth. That’s closer than communication and GPS satellites in geostationary orbit.

Despite its close proximity, NASA says there’s nothing for anyone to worry about. Asteroids this size come close to Earth every 40 years, officials said. In fact, this asteroid passed by Earth last year — although it was much farther away. Scientists spotted it in February and have been tracking its orbit around the sun ever since. Click here. (2/4)

Bigelow Offering Private Space Station at a Fraction of ISS Cost (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Hailing what it calls a “sea change” in space costs, Bigelow Aerospace has unveiled pricing information for governments, companies and individuals interested in using its planned private Alpha Space Station. Transportation costs to the station begin at $26.25 million per seat for a 60-day visit. Leases for exclusive use and control over part of the space station begin at $25 million. Naming rights for the entire station will cost an additional $25 million per year.

Bigelow has selected SpaceX and Boeing as its transportation providers. SpaceX is selling seats on its seven-seat Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for $26.25 million, or $183.75 million per vehicle. A seat on Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft, launched by the Atlas V, will cost $36.75 million, or $257.25 million for all seven places.

“In stark contrast to the short stays of a week or so aboard the ISS that we have seen wealthy individuals pay as much as $40 million for, astronauts visiting the Bigelow station will enjoy 10 – 60 days in orbit,” the company says on its website. Bigelow is also offering clients the opportunity to lease 110 cubic meter blocks of the space station for 60 days at a cost of $25 million. The blocks will be roughly the same volume as a module on the International Space Station. (2/4)

Commercial Satellite Companies Push for Pentagon Attention (Source: Washington Post)
Top executives at several commercial satellite firms have banded together to push the Pentagon to do a better job of buying their services. The letter, signed by Tip Osterthaler of McLean-based SES Government Solutions, Philip Harlow of Herndon-based XTAR and Kay Sears of Bethesda-based Intelsat General, among others, calls for the Defense Department to take a more analytical approach to comparing the costs of government-owned satellites with those operated by commercial providers.

Among its other recommendations are that the Pentagon figure out what level of commercial satellite communications infrastructure it needs and budget for it, and that the Defense Department use a single office to handle commercial and military satellite capabilities. Osterthaler said the budget pressures should encourage officials to reconsider what they’re spending on government-owned satellites and whether they could save money with commercial versions. (2/3)

Rocket Launches By North Korea, Iran Not Immediate US Threat, Experts Say (Source: Space.com)
The recent rocket launch successes claimed by Iran and North Korea signal significant advances in the two nations’ missile programs, but they do not suggest that either country is yet capable of mounting a serious attack on the United States, experts say. North Korea lofted a satellite into Earth orbit in December, while Iran said last week that it had sent a monkey to suborbital space and recovered the animal unharmed (a claim that Western intelligence officials have yet to verify).

The widely condemned launches show that North Korea and Iran are making strides in their pursuit of long-range missile technology, but the liftoffs aren't cause for panic in the United States or the wider world at this point, experts say. "Neither of them is evidence of an increased immiment threat to the United States," said Joan Johnson-Freese, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. (2/4)

NASA's Super-Tiger Balloon Breaks Records While Collecting Data (Source: NASA)
A large NASA science balloon has broken two flight duration records while flying over Antarctica carrying an instrument that detected 50 million cosmic rays. The Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (Super-TIGER) balloon launched at 3:45 p.m. EST, Dec. 8 from the Long Duration Balloon site near McMurdo Station.

It spent 55 days, 1 hour, and 34 minutes aloft at 127,000 feet, more than four times the altitude of most commercial airliners, and was brought down to end the mission on Friday. Washington University of St. Louis managed the mission. On Jan. 24, the Super-TIGER team broke the record for longest flight by a balloon of its size, flying for 46 days. The team broke another record Friday after landing by becoming the longest flight of any heavy-lift scientific balloon, including NASA's Long Duration Balloons. (2/4)

Super Bowl Ads: Sexy Astronauts and Space Babies (Source: Discovery)
Ah, the Super Bowl. You know, the sporting event that interrupts the much-anticipated Super Bowl half-time ads. And this year — in keeping with Discovery News’ tradition of tracking any space references in Super Bowl ads — we have another couple of “spaced-out” ads inspired by “sexy” astronauts and space babies. Click here. (2/4)

The Apollo 1 Conspiracy Theory (Source: Discovery)
Just days after Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a pre-launch fire, NASA began the arduous process of figuring out just what had happened. If Apollo was going to land a man on the moon by 1970, the agency had to fix the problem and move forward. But as the investigation unfolded, the accident took on a sinister tone with allegations that the crew were responsible for their own deaths or were victims of murder.

While a NASA-appointed committee investigated the physical capsule for evidence of the fire’s cause, Congress investigated NASA. Many representatives accused the agency of unnecessarily racing to the moon. A consequence of this race, they said, was an unrealistic schedule that saw money thrown at compounding problems without ever getting to the root of the issue.

NASA, then, had deliberately and knowingly put the Apollo 1 astronauts in danger. NASA knew the risks of oxygen fires – multiple military experiments in oxygen environments ended with loss of life — but didn’t push for a two gas system in the spacecraft. Some accused the agency of criminal negligence. Click here. (2/4)

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