March 23, 2013

The Universe Is 13.82 Billion Years Old (Source: Slate)
The Universe is a wee bit older than we thought. Not only that, but turns out the ingredients are a little bit different, too. And not only that, but the way they’re mixed isn’t quite what we expected, either. And not only that, but there are hints and whispers of something much grander going on as well. So what’s going on?

ESA’s Planck mission is what’s going on. Planck has been scanning the entire sky, over and over, peering at the radio and microwaves pouring out of the Universe. Some of this light comes from stars, some from cold clumps of dust, some from exploding stars and galaxies. But a portion of it comes from farther away...much farther away. Billions of light years, in fact, all the way from the edge of the observable Universe.

This light was first emitted when the Universe was very young, about 380,000 years old. It was blindingly bright, but in its eons-long travel to us has dimmed and reddened. Fighting the expansion of the Universe itself, the light has had its wavelength stretched out until it gets to us in the form of microwaves. Planck gathered that light for over 15 months, using instruments far more sensitive than ever before. (3/23)

Astronaut Abby's Soyuz Space Launch Adventure (Source: RocketHub)
Hi, I'm Astronaut Abby, a 15 year old high school student who is aspiring to be the first astronaut to Mars. My journey to become the first astronaut to Mars has led me on many great adventures over the past 5 years giving me opportunities to meet and learn from many scientists, engineers and astronauts! My next adventure will take me to a different part of the world and give me an opportunity to do something that is rarely experienced by anyone…even adults: Travel to Russia, share an inside look at the Russian Federal Space Agency, and experience a legendary Soyuz space launch. Click here to help. (3/22)

Business Tour Spotlights Post-Shuttle Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
The message that struck visitors attending a tour of Brevard County’s economic highlights was as important as it was simple: Far from dead, the local economy is thriving. Indications are the message was getting through. “Man, I thought you were toast after NASA left,” said Bob Leak, a site-selection manager from Raleigh, N.C., and tour participant. “It’s amazing how well this area has turned it around, so we came here to see how you did it.”

The four-day business media tour, offered by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast to showcase the area wraps up today with a helicopter tour of the area and a possible ride on the Zero G Experience “weightlessness” flight. In panel discussions over the last two days, local aerospace, manufacturing and defense industry representatives focused on the benefits of doing business on the Space Coast.

Along with the natural environment, such as the beaches, river and the weather, they emphasized a talented, high-tech workforce. “The space program sets us apart, but it also limits people to think we’re just space,” said Lynda Weatherman, the EDC’s president and chief executive officer. “But we’re far more diversified than that.” (3/22)

Brazilian Engineering Company Eager to Land at Melbourne Airport (Source: Florida Today)
A subsidiary of a Brazilian aviation company has plans to come to Melbourne International Airport, a project expected to create at least 50 jobs during the next three years. The investment by Archo Solutions Engineering USA Corp. could also lead to at least 36 spinoff jobs, representing a total annual payroll of $3.87 million. Archo is a subsidiary of Solutions Designs & Engineering of São Paolo, Brazil.

Archo provides engineering and other support services to aviation companies. Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer with a plant at the airport, is one of Archo’s biggest clients. “Melbourne is a major aviation and aerospace cluster that will grow over the next 10 years, and we will grow with them,” said Ivan Avila, Archo’s chief operations officer. Archo was in Brevard last week to sign the initial agreement with airport officials.

Research park executives began courting Archo in May at the Expo Aero Brasil 2012. Archo worked primarily with John Thomas, Florida Tech’s assistant vice president for economic development and community affairs. “We are working diligently to build a world-class, international aviation-aerospace community at the research park, and Archo clearly exemplifies the type of tenant we desire,” Thomas said. (3/19)

'Angry Birds' Arrive at Kennedy Space Center (Source: CFL13)
Excited children tried out the newest attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Angry Birds Space Encounter opened Friday. The Complex partnered with the game's creator, Rovio Entertainment, to bring the characters to life. There are six interactive stations as the birds follow their kidnapped eggs into an intergalactic wormhole and face off against space pigs. Visitors can even create their own Angry Bird and print it out as a keepsake. They can also square off against other guests by launching mini birds through slingshots. (3/22)

Lone Indian in Google Lunar X Prize Fighting to Raise Resources (Source: Times of India)
There comes an age in everybody's life when you must lock up your childhood fantasies. Rahul Narayan is well past that age. He has a family to feed. He is 39. He has neither rich parents, nor indulgent benefactors. He has sunk all his savings and nearly two years into a hobbyist project. He needs upwards of $20 million to see it through. When he meets potential funders with his plan, it elicits looks of amusement.

Some people laugh, asking if his whole project is just an elaborate con. For a year and a half now, Narayan has neglected the IT company he runs with partners — some are classmates from IIT-Delhi — to set up a ragtag team of dreamy graduates fresh out of engineering college, trying to do what only big governments with classified budgets have done before — land a spacecraft on the moon. Narayan is the leader of Team Indus, a Delhi-based startup that is the lone entrant from India in the Google Lunar X Prize competition. (3/23)

India, US Agree for Future Cooperation in Moon, Mars Missions (Source: Deccan Herald)
India and the US have agreed to cooperate on future missions to the Moon and Mars after successful collaboration in Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission. "Building on NASA's collaboration in India's highly successful Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission in 2008, NASA and ISRO agreed to explore further cooperative space exploration work, including future missions to the Moon and Mars.

"To this end the working group agreed to continue discussions in planetary science and Heliophysics to identify areas of potential cooperation," Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and NASA said in a joint statement. Existing cooperation, in the use of US and Indian earth observation satellite data, has produced information yielding a broad range of societal benefits including improved weather and monsoon forecasting, disaster management and response, improved agricultural and natural resource use and better understanding of climate change. (3/23)

Texas Space Week - We Have an Out-of-This-World Opportunity (Source: Austin Business Journal)
Representatives from NASA’s Johnson Space Center and private companies involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program were at the Capitol March 19 as part of 2013 Space Week Texas, which highlighted how NASA is seeking strategic partnerships with the private sector to enable the commercialization of technology, support space exploration programs and build stronger ties across the industry.

Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are developing orbital transport vehicles to compete for a contract to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station; space travel is already commercialized in that NASA is paying Russia to ferry astronauts to the station. NASA already has consortium relationships with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, Greater Houston Partnership,

Houston Technology Center and the Bay Area Houston Advanced Technology Consortium — all of which are providing it with better insights into potential opportunities and synergies with other industries. Texas lawmakers are doing their best to attract and encourage the private sector to start their space adventures in Texas. (3/22)

NASA Plum Brook Vacuum Chamber is World's Largest, Despite Texas Claim (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The press release from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston contains an exciting media offer: “The world’s largest thermal-vacuum chamber will be open to news media at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday, April 4.” Problem is, the world’s largest vacuum chamber is not in Houston. It’s in Sandusky at NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook facility.

Local NASA supporters want to suck the air out of Johnson’s Texas-sized boast. “Everything is bigger in Texas. At least in the eyes of the people who live there,” said Kurt Landefeld of Huron, who is a member of “Friends of Plum Brook.” The vacuum chamber at Plum Brook, called the Space Power Facility, measures 863,000 cubic feet. The one at Johnson, called Chamber A, is 400,000 cubic feet. (3/22)

Congressman Joe Kennedy III Visits Astronaut Program  (Source: Sharon Patch)
Sharon's "Train Like an Astronaut" program was presented to elementary school students at the Heights Elementary School on Friday, March 22. The program has spanned the entire school district in Sharon and all the classes congregated in the gymnasium to watch, listen and learn about NASA on Friday. Special Guest speaker Congressman Joseph Kennedy III spoke with the students about the importance of NASA and what it does for our country, before going live with NASA. (3/23)

Rumors Wrong About NASA Socials Cancellation (Source: America Space)
A re-post of a NASA memo that appeared on NASA Watch, SpaceRef, and later Universe Today suggested NASA will not be creating new versions of the highly-popular social media events known as “Socials.” This created a bit of an uproar from fans of these events. The belief that “Sequestration will Cancel NASA Socials” – is, at best, at least somewhat, inaccurate. In an effort to clarify the fate of NASA’s Socials, AmericaSpace reached out to NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications Bob Jacobs for clarifications regarding the posts.

“We expect socials to continue as usual. The suspension of outreach activities gives us time to assess the complete suite of communications efforts across NASA. Nothing has been canceled. The fiscal realities of the sequester and our budget require us to focus on mission critical work and to review resources across the agency... It is important to remember that the fiscal year budget is more than $1 billion less than originally requested. We are being financially responsible with the reviews underway as a result of sequestration,” Jacobs said.

Seeking to confirm that NASA won’t be cancelling any established events and will be hosting new ones, we pressed Jacobs if this was, in fact, what would actually be taking place. We have registrations open for more events, and we expect those to go forward as planned,” Jacobs reiterated. Editor's Note: Now there's a "We The People" White House petition for this. Click here. (3/23)

Russia Extends Space Cooperation With US (Source: RIA Novosti)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree set to extend the U.S.-Russia agreement on cooperation in the use and exploration of outer space till 2020, the government reported on Saturday. “The agreement extention corresponds with Russia’s interests and will help promote effective implementation of its space programs as well as joint U.S.-Russian space projects, including exploration of the Moon and Mars,” the government said in a statement on its official web site.

Originally signed on June 17, 1992, the U.S.-Russian space cooperation agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency was later extended in 1997, 2002 and 2007. The agreement extension is embodied with an exchange of notes between the two states. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already received the U.S. note, while Medvedev's dercee has approved Russia's note draft. (3/23)

Senate Passes $3.7 Trillion Budget, Setting Up Contentious Negotiations (Source: New York Times)
After an all-night debate that ended just before 5 a.m., the Senate on Saturday adopted its first budget in four years, a $3.7 trillion blueprint for 2014 that would provide a fast track for passage of tax increases, trim spending modestly and leave the government still deeply in the red a decade from now. No Republicans voted for the Senate plan, and four Democrats opposed it, all from red states and are up for re-election in 2014. (3/23)

Film by Franklin Institute Explores Benefits of Exploring Space (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
A giant blinking eye appears on the screen, followed by a close-up of how optic nerves are connected to the brain. Before long, viewers are whizzing through space. The computer-rendered graphics are worthy of any science-fiction film, but this is a movie about science facts. Called To Space & Back, coproduced by the Franklin Institute and a New Hampshire company called Sky-Scan Inc., the film explores the benefits of space exploration.

The half-hour movie was shot at an eye-popping 60 frames per second - at least double what you usually see at a movie theater - allowing for quick lateral movement without blurring. It is a full-dome show, meaning it covers the entire round screen in the Fels Planetarium, so be prepared for an eyeful. Two projectors beam high-resolution images from opposite sides of the dome, each channeling the output of four computers. All of it is seamlessly stitched together, along with the audio, said the Franklin Institute's chief astronomer, Derrick Pitts, one of the producers. Editor's Note: Here's another pro-space/science video gaining popularity on the Internets. (3/23)

Moog Conducts More Than 7,900 Hot Fire Tests on 400 Engines in 2012 (Source: SatNews)
In the past year, Moog ISP, part of Moog Inc.'s Space and Defense Group, successfully conducted more than 7,900 hot fire tests on 400 engines for at least 14 different customers. Along with testing engines and a variety of propellants and propulsion systems, Moog ISP manufactures liquid rocket engines, tanks and propulsion systems for satellites and launch vehicles.

Moog ISP conducts hot fire tests at its Niagara Falls, N.Y. facility. The Moog facility includes four vacuum-capable rocket test cells and one sea-level-capable rocket test cell. In 2012, Moog performed hot fire tests on engines (ranging in thrust levels from approximately 250 lbf to less than 1 lbf) for commercial and military clients, including Sandia and MELCO. (3/22)

NASA Extends Hubble Space Telescope Science Operations Contract (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA is extending its contract with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy for the agency's Hubble Space Telescope Science Operations activities at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., for 36 months. The option the agency chose to exercise has a total estimated value of $76 million and extends the period of performance through April 30, 2016. (3/22)

NASA Suspends All Education and Public Outreach (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA Internal Memo: Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.

The scope comprises activities intended to communicate, connect with, and engage a wide and diverse set of audiences to raise awareness and involvement in NASA, its goals, missions and programs, and to develop an appreciation for, exposure to, and involvement in STEM. Audiences include employees, partners, educators, students, and members of the general public.

The scope encompasses, but is not limited to: programs, events, and workshops; permanent and traveling exhibits, signage, and other materials; speeches, presentations, and appearances, with the exception of technical presentations by researchers at scientific and technical symposia; video and multimedia products in development (and renewal of existing products); Web and social media sites in development (excludes operational sites); certain external and internal publications; and any other activity whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities. (3/22)

NASA: Outreach Suspension a Temporary Adjustment (Source: NASA)
After NASA Watch posted news of NASA's decision to halt education and public outreach activities, NASA responded with a couple of clarifying tweets: "Heard that NASA communications & outreach is shutting down? We're not going anywhere. Given the budget climate, we're reviewing outreach to ensure we’re communicating smartly - priority on mission critical activities." (3/22)

Arianespace Reaffirms its North American Market Presence (Source: SpaceRef)
The value, reliability and on-time delivery of Arianespace's services have resulted in multiple payload launch contracts from all major U.S.-based television broadcast and telecommunications providers - including the latest agreement with Intelsat announced this week. In addition to Intelsat's new accord for the orbiting of three satellites on Ariane 5 missions through 2017, three other U.S. operators that have endorsed Arianespace with key agreements are DIRECTV, EchoStar Corp. and O3b Networks Limited.

The launch services industry's track record validates Arianespace's philosophy that "quality has a price." The company's Ariane 5 is the industry's undisputed heavy-lift workhorse, with 54 consecutive successes from the Spaceport in French Guiana; its medium-lift Soyuz has performed flawlessly in 26 commercial flights from Baikonur Cosmodrome and the four missions performed to date from French Guiana; while the new lightweight Vega began its career with a successful introductory launch at the Spaceport. (3/22)

Ongoing Science as Crew Counts Down to Dragon Departure, New Trio (Source: NASA)
Science was the main focus aboard the International Space Station while preparations continued for the Dragon spacecraft release, now set for Tuesday, and Thursday’s launch and docking of three new Expedition 35 crew members. After their lunch hour, the current Expedition 35 trio conducted an emergency drill simulating a pressure loss.

More than three weeks after arriving at the station, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is ready for the trip back to Earth, now scheduled for March 26. Dragon's return date, originally scheduled for March 25, was postponed due to inclement weather developing near its targeted splashdown site in the Pacific Ocean. The additional day spent attached to the orbiting laboratory will not affect science samples scheduled to return aboard the spacecraft. (3/22)

Bolden Reaffirms Asteroid Mission Plans (Source: Space Policy Online)
In response to a criticism that has been made since the goal was announced that the specific destination asteroid has not been named, Bolden said that when President Kennedy announced men would land on the Moon before the end of the decade, he did not say they would land on the Sea of Tranquility.  “I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025,” Bolden asserted. (3/22)

Dragon Will Stay in Space One Day Longer (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will spend an extra day in space, after a forecast of poor weather near its Pacific Ocean splashdown site caused a 24-hour delay in its scheduled return home. NASA said Friday that the capsule will instead depart the International Space Station early Tuesday morning instead of Monday. (3/22)

Where Will Bezos' Saturn Engines Land? (Source: Smithsonian)
The team had plenty of underwater pieces to choose from; 13 F-1-powered Apollo rocket ships with five engines each blasted into orbit from Florida’s John F. Kennedy space center between 1967 to 1973, dropping the spent engines into the ocean during their ascent. In a blog post this week, Bezos called the remains “an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines.” Without serial numbers, the team must now rely on restoration efforts to find clues to the engines’ former spacecraft. There is no public timetable as to when it will be determined which mission these engines were a part of.

Bezos has stated that he hopes the restored engines will make their way to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, but Ceruzzi says that parts of the engines also could end up in the Air and Space Museum. The murkiness of the laws governing international waters, and the artifacts discovered within them, will likely delay such a decision for a while. ”It remains a possibility,” he explains, “but we won’t know until their ownership is settled, until we find out whether or not they are from Apollo 11 and of course until NASA offers them to us.” (3/22)

Missile Defense Today Bears Little Resemblance to ‘Star Wars’ (Source: Space News)
When President Ronald Reagan called for an ambitious national effort to develop technology to intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles, he warned of the challenges ahead. “This will be a formidable technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of the century,” Reagan said in a 1983 speech. Thirty years later, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency continues to wrestle with technical challenges, but also to demonstrate significant accomplishments, particularly in halting short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

The current missile defense architecture bears little resemblance to the initial plan proposed by Reagan and his administration to deploy thousands of ballistic missile sensors and interceptors on land, ships and aircraft and in space to counter a full-scale Soviet attack. Much of that change is due to the changing nature of the threat. Click here. (3/22)

NASA Pulls Technical Database Offline During Spy Investigation (Source:
NASA has taken its huge database of technical reports offline in response to the arrest last weekend of a former contractor suspected of spying for China. The space agency decided to shut down the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) as part of a broad security review. "I’ve closed down the NASA Technical Reports database while we review whether there’s a risk," NASA chief Charles Bolden told the House Appropriations Committee. (3/22)

Sequester, Spending Bill Chop NASA Funding (Source: Federal Times)
Congress sent a fiscal 2013 spending bill to President Obama on Thursday that will leave NASA with about $1.2 billion less this year than it received last year. Thanks to the sequester budget cuts already in effect, NASA was bracing for a cut of about $900 million from the roughly $17.8 billion it received in fiscal 2012. But the space agency is facing about $300 million in additional cuts as part of the broad spending bill the House passed Thursday. The bill finances government operations through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The House vote sends the bill to the president, who is expected to sign it, averting a threatened government shutdown. Six months into fiscal 2013, NASA now knows what it will receive for the entire year: $16.65 billion. Charles Bolden was already fretting about the sequester, even before the additional cuts. He warned lawmakers that the cuts will push back modernization of key facilities integral to development of NASA’s deep-space manned mission to Mars.

The cuts will affect some of NASA’s most important installations teaming up on the program, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Texas and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Six technology projects would be canceled, as well as several flight demonstration projects. Click here. (3/22)

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