April 7, 2013

Unarmed Combat in Zero G (Source: Transhumanity)
As far as I know, nobody so far has actually experimentally investigated martial arts in a weightless environment, other than under water. This article concerns constraints and opportunities presented by unarmed combat in zero-G environments without a spacesuit being involved. If one includes a spacesuit, then we are in a situation analogous to knights in armor, where the only realistic option is a weapon, probably a reactionless pistol based on the Gyrojet. What is not an option are the “space axes” of the 1940s SF writer E. E. “Doc” Smith!

While some insights can be gained by practicing in a swimming pool, many crucial features of true freefall are missing, most notably the lack of resistance to movement and the importance of bodily inertia. Apart from the space station, the only other place where this could be practiced is in an aircraft flying a parabolic trajectory – the so-called “Vomit Comet”, which can provide up to thirty seconds of weightlessness. Click here. (4/7)

Yuri's Night Star Party at Shiloh Site (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Kennedy Space Center Amateur Astronomers (KSCAA) Yuri's Night Star Party will be held at the dark viewing site at Shiloh (just north of Kennedy Space Center) in the middle of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. A star party is simply a gathering of amateur astronomers to view the sky through our telescopes. The public is welcome to come out an join us. Click here. (4/7)

First Meteorite from Mercury Found? (Source: Washington University)
Early in 2012, someone in Southern Morocco picked up 35 greenish stones, including the one shown above. Purchased by a dealer in Erfoud, Morocco, it was then resold to Stefan Ralew, a meteorite collector from Berlin. The dealer was demanding a high price, and Ralew may have hesitated. But the wrinkled glassy coating on one face of the rock was clearly a fusion crust, a kind of glaze that forms when a meteorite is heated as it passes through the atmosphere.

Looking at other faces he would have recognized it as a type of meteorite called an achondrite, says Randy Korotev. That meant it was an exceptional stone. Most meteorites are stony, he explains, and of the stony meteorites, almost all (90 percent) are what are called ordinary chondrites. Achondrites, on the other hand are pieces of large asteroids or planets, ones at least 200 kilometers in diameter. These produced enough internal heat early in their history to partially melt and segregate into a metal core surrounded by a rocky exterior.

So already this find was looking very interesting. Where might it be from? About half of the achondrites come from the large asteroid 4 Vesta. Others come from Mars, the moon, or other asteroids. The stone, now officially designated Northwest Africa 7325 (NWA 7325), had highly unusual chemistry. What’s more, the chemistry was suspiciously similar to that measured by NASA’s Messenger probe, which is currently surveying the surface of Mercury from orbit. Click here. (4/7)

Tech for Mars Colony Finds Applications in Alaska (Source: Juneau Empire)
A winter in an Arctic village is not for the weary. Northern Alaska is subject to some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Negative 40 degree weather isn’t uncommon, and strong winds make it even more dangerous to go outside. The winter darkness can enhance feelings of isolation, but the summer sun is almost as unforgiving — at one point it doesn’t set for about 80 days.

While most would shy away from these conditions, NASA’s Ames research center sees Alaska’s Arctic locale as fertile ground for testing technologies that would be needed to establish a self-sustainable colony in space. Over the last 20 years, NASA has developed a symbiotic relationship with Alaska’s villages, public sector and scientific community, by which Alaskans can implement useful technologies while giving researchers the chance to run some preliminary testing. (4/7)

NASA is Using its New Space Tool to Make Sense of the Universe (Source: Huntsville Times)
The universe is full of charged particles called cosmic rays, but until very recently, scientists say their information about those rays was "a mere anthill." Now, a device on the International Space Station is turning that anthill into "an Everest-sized mountain" of facts, NASA says. Here's how the device is generating that mountain and why it's important.

Both the Big Bang theory and current astronomical models say things about the universe that scientists haven't yet captured the data to prove. The universe should have more mass than we've yet observed, for example, and there should be equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Trying to prove or disprove the models from here on Earth hasn't worked very well, because the atmosphere blocks most cosmic rays. Click here. (4/6)

NASA Planners Slip First ISS Commercial Crew Mission to Late 2017 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The first NASA crew to ride to the International Space Station on a commercial spacecraft may have to wait until at least the end of 2017, after NASA’s planning group realigned the US Crew Vehicle -1 (USCV-1) mission to a launch date of November 30, 2017. The new schedule includes the Russian Soyuz manifested as a back-up option, through to at least 2019.

It is likely that only one of NASA's current three Commercial Crew contenders will be selected to win the long-term NASA contract to carry out the role of ferrying NASA crews to the ISS. The current favorite is understood to be SpaceX, who have already conducted three successful Falcon-9/Dragon missions to the ISS. Both Boeing's CST-100 and Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser will use the hugely reliable Atlas V as their launch vehicle of choice.

All three CCiCAP companies have confirmed they are targeting a crewed test of their spacecraft sometime in the 2016 time frame – with SpaceX hinting they may be ready by 2015. Notably, the crews will be selected internally, from within the company roster, as opposed to using NASA astronauts. (4/5)

Embry-Riddle Human Factors Conference Features Student Space Research (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on April 5 hosted a Human Factors & Applied Psychology conference at their Daytona Beach campus. The conference, billed as being "for students, by students" included students and faculty from Embry-Riddle, UCF, USF, Flagler College, Valencia College, Stetson University, the University of Texas, and the University of Wisconsin.

Four of the papers--all by Embry-Riddle students--were focused on space, specifically on human factors issues for future Mars missions. Topics included horticultural activity and crew stress, music and crew stress, the effect of game-playing on crew anxiety and tension, and behavioral research at a simulated Mars habitat. (4/6)

Emergencies Ministry Denies Meteor Fall in North-West Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry rejected media reports on Sunday that a new meteorite had crashed in the country’s northwest. Some media reports said on Sunday eye-witnesses saw the fall of an unidentified flying object near the town of Tosno in the Leningrad Region. “No facts of the fall of a meteorite have been confirmed,” the ministry’s spokeswoman said. (4/7)

Rocket Moved to Pad at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Virginian Pilot)
A rocket headed to the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore is one step closer to its inaugural flight. Space technology company Orbital Sciences rolled out the first fully integrated Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad early Saturday. (4/6)

Aldrin Wants a Human Colony on Mars by the 2030s (Source: Telegraph)
"We need the next generation to be our Mars generation. I'm very passionate about getting man to Mars and starting a colony there. I've outlined my plan of how to get us there in my new book, Mission to Mars coming out by National Geographic in May of this year." Mr Aldrin is also promoting a competition that will give Australians the chance to take a once-in-a-lifetime journey into space.

One Australian will be granted a seat aboard the Lynx spacecraft to be taken more than 100km into space, the winner going where only a select few have gone before, gaining some pretty good bragging rights in the wash-up. With such a journey sure to excite those with a penchant to be lost in space, we caught up with Buzz. Click here for the interview. (4/7)

NASA Gets Budget Boost (Source: Pasadena Sun)
NASA's planetary science division — responsible for sending the rover Curiosity to Mars — will get an unexpected budget hike of $123 million for the rest of 2013. These additional funds will be used to continue planetary exploration, officials said. As part of a temporary spending bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday, Congress approved a budget of roughly $1.41 billion for the planetary science division, compared to about $1.19 billion in Obama's requested budget.

After accounting for cuts required by the mandatory federal spending cut known as the "sequester" and a budget give-back passed by Congress in January, the division will ultimately receive $1.315 billion for 2013. Green said the extra funding will go toward existing studies of a possible mission to Jupiter's ice-covered moon Europa, thought to be a possible candidate for simple life forms, as well as continuing the agency's Mars mission. (4/7)

Failure to Launch: Aldrin, Liu Sound Off on NASA's Outreach Cuts (Source: Montclair Times)
The American space program has undergone some radical changes in recent years from the discontinuing of the shuttle program in 2011 to the immediate suspension of all of NASA's educational and public outreach activities, as detailed in a recent internal memo published by multiple news outlets. Such cuts are as of a result of the national sequester.

Asked for a reaction to the suspension, Buzz Aldrin indicated that he was not worried about where tomorrow's astronauts will come from, but rather the space program's support within Congress, saying that NASA has long been underfunded. "My concern is the shortsighted political influence that [focuses on getting] reelected instead of what's best for the nation in the long term," he said. He was critical of the previous administration, calling America's dependence on other nations to send astronauts to the Space Station a "travesty of American leadership" and NASA's plans not to launch manned missions in its newest crew vehicle, Orion, until 2021 "deplorable."

Though trusting that the federal government is coming from the right place with sequester cuts, Montclair resident Charles Liu, an associate at The Hayden Planetarium, questioned the long-term wisdom of tightening NASA's budget and called the suspension of public outreach activities "unfortunate." (4/6)

Editorial: Glenn and Plum Brook Need Relentless Community Backing (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Top officials at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and its Plum Brook Station annex in Sandusky insist they are not terribly worried about an inspector general's report that labeled five testing facilities in Northeast Ohio as underused and potential candidates to close. The NASA officials say that in this age of austerity, it's only proper that the space agency continually reassess its needs and assets. That includes the roles for each of NASA's 10 research centers.

This has always been the culture at Glenn: Do your work. Do it very well. Don't toot your own horn or worry about what you can't control. It's a Midwestern ethic applied to the frontiers of science, exploration and discovery. But as honorable a way to live and work as that may be, it hasn't always benefited Glenn -- neither within NASA nor on Capitol Hill, where a little preening can go a long way, especially when combined with political clout.

That's why it is so important for the political, civic and business leaders in Greater Cleveland and the entire state of Ohio to redouble their efforts to support Glenn and Plum Brook. As a national laboratory with 3,300 employees and an annual budget of $1.2 billion, Glenn is an important economic engine for the region. But because of the uncommon talent of those employees, its footprint is much larger. (4/7)

Up-Close Look at Shuttles Provides Unique Experiences (Source: Florida Today)
In 2011, the space shuttle Discovery returned from space for the last time. In 2012, the spaceship flew out of its longtime Brevard County home base for the last time. In 2013, not even two years after visiting the space station, Discovery rests in a museum. I got my first chance to see Discovery on display in its retirement home this week, squeezing a visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in between some business in the Washington area.

The spaceship is parked, as it would look upon landing, in the cavernous hangar at the museum’s annex near Washington’s Dulles airport. Just a couple years ago, I saw the test orbiter Enterprise parked in the exact same spot inside the museum. Enterprise was neat to look at, for its own unique role in space history, but Discovery was altogether different. I’ve seen four of the shuttle orbiters up close, including the lost Columbia, but every time is special and offers some new discovery.

NASA and the Smithsonian have done a great job of leaving the orbiter as it was on its final return. The heat-shielding tiles on the orbiter’s belly and thermal blankets covering most of the air frame bear the scars of space flight and atmospheric re-entry. In the Smithsonian display, visitors can walk up to almost within arm’s reach of the orbiter. (4/7)

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