March 27, 2013

Sequestration Spurs Mars Conference Postponement (Source: SpaceRef)
The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15-19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014. (3/27)

Astronaut's Home Videos Show How to Cook in Space (Source:
It's not all peanut butter and honey sandwiches at the International Space Station. Astronauts have to eat their veggies, too, and one space man has created a zero gravity cooking video guide to show how it's done. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the charismatic commander of the space station, has made a point of showing just what living in space is like by posting amazing photos, videos and even sounds of his work in orbit online for the public to enjoy. Click here. (3/27)

Start-Up Offers Software Developer Chance to Win Space Flight (Source: LA Times)
Tech start-ups often have to go out of their way to attract new software developers, typically by offering such perks as signing bonuses or the promise of free food and beer. Santa Monica company PaeDae, an advertising monetization platform for online and mobile apps, is aiming a bit higher. In an effort to land a top-notch developer, the start-up is offering a $5,000 cash signing bonus, a charitable donation to a nonprofit -- and the chance to win a trip to space.

But there's a catch (well, a couple). First, the developer will be under a three-month probationary period, after which time he or she will be eligible for the Space Flight Challenge. The challenge involves one hand of single-deck blackjack, with the new employee being dealt two random cards. If a blackjack is hit, he or she will win a trip to space or $200,000, which is the current cost of the trip. (3/26)

Apollo 13 Souvenir Rakes In $84,100 in Space History Auction (Source:
A keepsake from NASA's nearly disastrous Apollo 13 moon mission of 1970 nabbed top spot in an auction Monday (March 25) of more than 300 artifacts from the early years of the U.S. space program. The space history artifacts  — sold by Bonhams — included an engine burn note detailing how the crew can return to Earth annotated by astronaut Jim Lovell during the Apollo 13 mission that went for $84,100 and various items from the space agency's first mission to the moon. (3/27)

Mini-Supernovas Discovered (Source:
Astronomers have discovered a new kind of supernova, a star explosion so weak that scientists dubbed it a miniature stellar blast. Supernovas represent the deaths of stars, which collapse in powerful explosions. They generally are classified into two main types; the new class, called Type Iax, "is essentially a mini-supernova," said lead researcher Ryan Foley. (3/27)

Chinese Citizen Sentenced in Military Data-Theft Case (Source: Washington Post)
Measured in millimeters, the tiny device was designed to allow drones, missiles and rockets to hit targets without satellite guidance. An advanced version was being developed secretly for the U.S. military by a small company and L-3 Communications, a major defense contractor. On Monday, Sixing Liu, a Chinese citizen who worked at L-3’s space and navigation division, was sentenced in federal court here to five years and 10 months for taking thousands of files about the device, called a disk resonator gyroscope, and other defense systems to China in violation of a U.S. arms embargo.

The case illustrates what the FBI calls a growing “insider threat” that hasn’t drawn as much attention as Chinese cyber operations. But U.S. authorities warned that this type of espionage can be just as damaging to national security and American business. (3/26)

Chinese Observatory Inactive Due to Light Pollution (Source: Xinhua)
China's oldest observatory is no longer suitable for nighttime use due to increasingly severe light pollution, scientists clarified on Tuesday. Media coverage regarding the Zijinshan Observatory in east China's Jiangsu Province suggested that air pollution may be responsible for the observatory's inability to see the stars. However, experts at the observatory said urban lighting has hampered observation.

The observatory is located in the eastern suburbs of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province. Zhang Yang, a staff member at the observatory, said the environment near the observatory has not met observation requirements since the 1980s. He added that other observatories set up in suburban areas, including the Shanghai Observatory and National Astronomical Observatories of China, face the same problem. Editor's Note: I believe air pollution can exacerbate the diffusion of light in the areas surrounding these observatories. (3/26)

Hangman's Noose Found at Wallops Flight Facility Construction Site (Source: SpaceRef)
The American Federation of Government Employees is working to address recent indications of racial harassment at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). Last week, AFGE has learned of a hangman's noose being placed at a construction site on the Wallops Main Base. It has also been brought to our attention that this is not the first demonstration of racial animus and an intention to intimidate and to create a fearful atmosphere.

Moreover, we are without any substantive indications that the fostering of such an environment will cease. Nor have we received any meaningful indications that such conduct will not be tolerated by management having responsibility. As the Courts have stated, "the presence of a hangman's noose evokes an image, particularly among African Americans, of extreme racial violence and a direct threat to life". Tootle v. Department of the Navy, EEOC Appeal No. 07A40127 (Feb. 21, 2006). "Even a single incident involving a hangman's noose is severe enough to alter the terms and conditions of one's employment and to create an abusive work environment". (3/26)

Moon Landing Jump Starts General's Space Legacy (Source: USAF)
When Neil Armstrong made history with man's first footsteps on the moon, Susan Helms needed a little nudging from her mom to get excited. And get excited she did. She realized that there would never be another first step on the moon, and even as a young 11-year-old, knew the feat was something special. Little did she know that a little more than two decades later, then Maj. Helms would be the first woman military astronaut to fly in space.

"I would read books on science, the planets, the universe and nature," Helms said. "I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book." That interest in science would lead to graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1980, as a member of that first graduating class of women cadets. Click here. (3/26)

Planck Cosmos and LHC's Higgs: Hurray for Big Science (Source: New Scientist)
For physics fans, the past few months have been an extravaganza. First came the discovery of a Higgs boson – now officially confirmed – by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Then came the much-anticipated results from the European Space Agency's Planck telescope, which has mapped the reverberations of the big bang in astonishing detail. Though the LHC and Planck interrogate the universe on vastly different scales, there are curious parallels between the two.

Both are a ringing endorsement of big, expensive science. The discoveries each has made go a long way to confirming the mainstream theory in their respective fields (both, confusingly, called the standard model, one of particle physics and the other of cosmology). And both also leave big questions unanswered, though not in the same way. (3/26)

How the Higgs Boson Might Spell Doom for the Universe (Source: Scientific American)
Physicists recently confirmed that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, had indeed found a Higgs boson last July, marking a culmination of one of the longest and most expensive searches in science. The finding also means that our universe could be doomed to fall apart. "If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it is bad news," says Joseph Lykken, a FERMI theorist. "It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable." Click here. (3/26)

Russia May Build Own Space Station From New Modules (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia may use future modules of its segment of the International Space Station (ISS) to build its own orbital station, a senior space industry official said. Russia is planning to launch four new ISS modules – a multirole laboratory module (MLM), a node module and two science-power modules – by 2020, when the time comes to de-orbit the existing international outpost in space.

“If the need arises, we could undock the new modules [from the ISS], starting with the MLM, and they will serve as a foundation for a new generation Russian space station,” Alexander Derechin, deputy chief designer for Russia’s space corporation RKK Energia, told a scientific forum in Moscow. (3/26)

Dragon Returns To Earth With 'Space Fish,' Toothpaste Research (Source: Forbes)
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully returned from its mission to the International Space Station on Wednesday, delivering 1,200 pounds of supplies and returning with more than 2,300 pounds of cargo, including “space fish” and an experiment meant to help improve the shelf life of toothpaste. After docking on March 3rd, the craft spent three weeks attached to the ISS while astronauts unloaded crew supplies and scientific materials for 160 different experiments, and then refilled the vehicle with an assortment of cargo. (3/26)

Space Launch System Truths and Misconceptions (Source: America Space)
NASA's Dan Dumbacher spoke with AmericaSpace about SLS and Orion, as well as the driving forces that were behind how the agency has been managing its newest human-rated launch vehicle and the spacecraft that will ride atop it. Question: There are some folks who feel that SLS does not have a specific destination. Is this perception valid? Answer: Sending humans to Mars is the goal that we are working toward... Some of the destinations that we are looking at between here and Mars are, obviously, the Moon, the area around the Moon, and of course some asteroids. Click here to read the interview. (3/26)

Proctor & Gamble Touts NASA ISS Research Partnership (Source: P&G)
Throughout our 175-year history, we’ve gone to great lengths to innovate and develop products that make your everyday routines just a little bit better. You can find our products in homes all around the world. But you might be surprised to learn that we’ve even taken our thirst for innovation, well …out of this world… thanks to a partnership with NASA that allows us to study the properties of some of our products in space, with experiments currently being conducted at the International Space Station.

Our partnership with NASA dates back more than three years. And while the details of the experiments are highly technical, they’re expected to yield results that we will all benefit from in everyday life: improved shelf life, enhanced product quality and reduced product development time. Click here. (3/26)

World’s First Commercial Space Operations Degree OK’d for Liftoff (Source: ERAU)
This fall, Embry-Riddle students can take their place at the forefront of one of the nation’s fastest growing industries following the university’s approval of the world’s first degree program in Commercial Space Operations. Offered by the world’s largest accredited aerospace academic institution, the program will supply the spaceflight industry with skilled graduates in the areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification, as well as space flight safety, and space program training, management and planning.

Plans for the program were first announced Feb. 6 at the 16th FAA Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington by Embry-Riddle Chief Academic Officer Richard Heist, program coordinator Lance Erickson and student researcher Rebecca Zgorski. It was approved by Embry-Riddle’s Board of Trustees on March 22 and will begin in the fall. College of Aviation Dean Tim Brady said “It is also gratifying to have had tremendous help and support of the space industry.” He singled out NASA KSC Director Robert Cabana for his role in articulating the need for the new Embry-Riddle degree and helping to develop it.

Graduates will have the qualifications needed to fill jobs in management, training and education, policy, safety, program and project planning, human factors, regulation, flight planning and operations. The program links Embry-Riddle’s expertise in aerospace education with the needs of space companies and regulatory agencies. “When we were planning this degree, our advisers from the commercial space industry, including SpaceX, said they couldn’t wait to hire our graduates,” Erickson said. (3/26)

Skybox Gets Creative To Raise Capital from Wary Investors (Source: Space News)
Startup satellite Earth imaging company Skybox Imaging has been able to raise more than $90 million in equity from an otherwise sheepish market by crafting a business model that permits capital investment to be spent in increments as the project proves itself, Skybox CEO Tom Ingersoll said. That has allowed investors to buy into the project on a piecemeal basis, waiting for initial market adoption before more money is needed, he said.

This runs contrary to the usual space project business model, wherein a large commitment to capital spending is needed long before cash flow begins. Ingersoll also credited SpaceX and Elon Musk with helping to create an environment in which commercial space spending has become acceptable in Silicon Valley. (3/26)

North Korea Says Missiles Prepped For Strike on U.S. (Source: NTI)
The North Korean military leadership on Tuesday said it had ordered its artillery and long-range missile units to go on "the highest alert" for possible retaliatory strikes on South Korea, Guam, Hawaii, and even the continental United States, the New York Times reported.

The country's strategic weaponry is "assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zone in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity," the North Korean People's Army Supreme Command said in a statement carried by official media. (3/26)

Moonbuggy Race Dodges NASA Sequestration Cut (Source: Huntsville Times)
The 20th annual Great Moonbuggy Race will go on in April despite earlier indications that NASA belt-tightening for sequestration might stop it this year. The annual Great Moonbuggy Race draws competing high school and college teams from many states and several foreign countries to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville each spring.

This year's event is from April 25-27. In the engineering competition, student teams design and build a human-powered vehicle and race it on an obstacle course. The race is popular and streamed live on NASA-TV each year. The race will go on, but the exemption approved by NASA's associate administrator for education does not automatically clear any NASA employee to participate. Race support team members must still get the green light from their supervisors to take part. (3/26)

Workshop on Lunar Superconductor Applications Planned in Cocoa Beach (Source: LSA)
Come join us for our third interactive and collaborative workshop to help shape the future of Lunar and planetary science and exploration in the coming decade. This workshop (LSA 3) will explore opportunities for new science, new technologies, and new business opportunities at the Lunar poles. Click here. (3/26)

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