May 15, 2013

Pentagon Reduces Furlough Days for Civilian Employees (Source: The Hill)
The Department of Defense is reducing the number of furlough days for civilian employees from 14 days to 11 days for 2013. The furlough days were prompted by sequestration, and civilian employees will be required to take the furlough days between June and September. (5/14)

Kepler Spacecraft in Jeopardy After Malfunction (Source: New York Times)
NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has been crippled by the failure of one of the reaction wheels that keep it pointed, the space agency is announcing this afternoon, according to astronomers close to the situation.
If engineers cannot restore the wheel or find some other way to keep the spacecraft’s telescope pointed, it could spell a premature end to one of the most romantic and successful of NASA’s missions: the search for Earth-like planets in habitable orbits around other stars.

Just last month, astronomers reported that Kepler had found two planets only slightly larger than Earth orbiting in the “Goldilocks” zone, where liquid water is possible, of a star 1,200 light-years from here. More planet candidates, even smaller and closer to being Earth-like, lurk in the pipeline, astronomers say, but they have not yet been confirmed. (5/15)

Space Is Now a Reality TV Show (Source: The Atlantic)
"Why are people so fascinated with @Cmdr_Hadfield?" the tweeter asked. "Can someone enlighten me?" The answers were swift and sharp and unsurprising. "Dude, he's a frigging astronaut!" one replied. "Um, he's an astronaut?" another offered. "What else do you need?" Someone else explained things with a little more detail: "He's inspiring a generation of kids (my kids!) to grow up to be scientists & astronauts and not the Kardashians."

Chris Hadfield -- nom de tweet: @cmdr_hadfield -- has been doing more than inspiring people, though. He has also been entertaining them. And delighting them. He has chatted with Captain Kirk. He has covered Bowie. He has written his own music, and performed it. He has publicly celebrated Valentine's Day, and Easter, and St. Patrick's Day, and April Fool's. He has done a mind-boggling number of live chats and Q&As and video explainers. (5/15)

NASA Internships Open to All Nationalities Studying in UAE Universities (Source: Zawya)
The Arab Youth Venture Foundation announces that for the first time, NASA Research Fellowship opportunities will be available to students of all nationalities studying science or engineering at UAE universities. Priority will be given to qualified UAE nationals, however for 2013 mission team internships at NASA, all eligible students who meet the competitive selection criteria will be considered for the limited position openings.

All foreign students interning at NASA must be financially sponsored and corporations interested in supporting young talent and a branding opportunity in perpetuity are encouraged to contact AYVF for details on joining the premier group of benefactors that include Mubadala Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Mubadala ICT/Yahsat, Boeing Int'l Corp, the Euro-American Space Education Investment Corp., and Carnegie Ventures. (5/15)

Hadfield Cult Shows How Shrivelled Our Space-Conquering Ambitions Have Become (Source: Telegraph)
Remember when space travel was about breaking free of our planet and exploring other worlds? In the words of that most famous of split infinitives, as first spoken by the characters on the optimism-fuelled Sixties TV show Star Trek, the aim of getting into a rocket was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Or as the non-fictional Neil Armstrong brilliantly put it, venturing into space was a “demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet… and that our opportunities are unlimited”. That was then.

Today, if the cult of Chris Hadfield is anything to go by, space travel is all about remaining chained to this planet; it’s all about staring at this planet from on high and marvelling at how insignificant it is in the scheme of things and how speck-like and unimportant its inhabitants are. Where space travel was once about expanding humanity’s horizons, now it seems more obsessed with reminding humanity of how infinitesimal it is. (5/15)

Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell Joins Golden Spike’s Advisory Board (Source: Golden Spike)
Golden Spike, the first company planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries and corporations around the world, announced today that legendary astronaut and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell has joined its Board of Advisors. Capt. Lovell, a former Naval aviator and test pilot, is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Lovell is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, was the first of only three people to fly to the Moon twice, and was the first person to fly in space four times. (5/15)

Climate Change Has Shifted the Locations of Earth's North and South Poles (Source: Scientific American)
Global warming is changing the location of Earth’s geographic poles, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Texas report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. “There was a big change,” says lead author Jianli Chen, a geophysicist.

From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast toward northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about roughly 6 centimeters per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east toward Greenland at a faster rate. Scientists have long known that the locations of Earth’s geographic poles aren’t fixed. Over the course of the year, they shift seasonally as the Earth’s distributions of snow, rain, and humidity change. “Usually [the shift] is circular, with a wobble,” says Chen.

But underlying the seasonal motion is a yearly motion that is thought to be driven in part by continental drift. It was the change in that motion that caught the attention of Chen and his colleagues, who used data collected by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to determine whether ice loss had shifted and accelerated the yearly polar drift. (5/15)

Imagine a life on Mars at the Desert Research Station (Source: KSAZ)
Since NASA retired the space shuttle, manned space exploration for Americans is on hold. We can't even get to the international space station without asking the Russians for a ride. And when it comes to a mission to Mars, are we falling even further behind? Just ask the Russians. People are experiencing life on Mars -- sort of -- at the Mars Desert Research Station just outside of Hanksville, Utah. Outside, this part of the Utah desert sure looks like Mars. Click here. (5/14)

Bob Cabana Supports KSC Evolution, Shiloh Launch Site (Source: Florida Today)
KSC Director Bob Cabana argued forcefully that the center is changing to attract commercial operations, possibly including the development of a state-run launch complex on NASA property that SpaceX is eyeing. NASA will not prevent Space Florida from establishing a commercial spaceport at the center’s northern end if environmental studies and other support fall into place, Cabana told an audience of several hundred. “If it works out that that’s the right thing to do, we’ll make sure that the land is available for them to do that,” he said.

Meanwhile, NASA is also trying to interest companies in its two pads at Launch Complex 39, one of which is mothballed and the other being readied for NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket. “The goal here is to bring commercial companies to the Cape in the best way possible,” Cabana said. “And I will do whatever is required to get those companies utilizing assets, what we have here, to make commercial operations a reality at the Cape.”

But asked what the center’s greatest weakness was as it works to become a multi-user spaceport, he said it was a willingness to change. “I mean, we’re still talking about Apollo, you know?” he said. “It’s been 40 years. Give me a break. It’s the future. Let’s move on. Folks got to accept change, alright?” The crowd applauded. “We have tremendous history, and we can’t lose that,” Cabana continued. “If we’re going to survive and succeed, we have to be willing to change and look at things differently and move forward.” (5/14)

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Would Eliminate Space Tax Incentive (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia 2008 "ZeroGravity, ZeroTax" providing state income tax incentives to locate and headquarter commercial space flight launch and training business operations in Virginia may be in jeopardy in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign. Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli pledged to eliminate what he calls "crony capitalism" of tax credits and tax exemptions provided to business interests, among them economic development incentives to lure commercial space launch providers to Virginia's commercial spaceport.

A sweeping state tax exemption repeal would eliminate any benefit the state now provides Orbital Sciences Corporation under the provision "any gain recognized as a result of resupply services contracts for delivering payload, as defined in 49 U.S.C. § 70102, entered into with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or other space flight entity, as defined in § 8.01-227.8, and launched from an airport or spaceport in Virginia."

Meanwhile, business entrepreneur Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2013, has featured the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in his transportation plan unveiled in a statewide tour last week. "We must continue to look to the future and provide strong support to our spaceport at Wallops Island. There will be a few states that capture the emerging commercial space industry, and we must ensure that the Commonwealth helps lead the way on this new industry," noted McAuliffe. (5/12)

Students Blast Off in Egg Payload Rocket Contest (Source: CNet)
Big rockets have been in the news lately, but those are a little out of reach for the average student. That's why the Aerospace Industries Association's Team America Rocketry Challenge exists. It fans the maker flames by challenging kids to design, build, and launch model rockets. The rocket challenge finals took place over the weekend. It was a record year for the competition's turnout, with 725 teams battling through the initial rounds. The top 100 teams participated in the final fly-off in Virginia, representing 29 states with teams from schools, 4-H clubs, and even a team made up of Civil Air Patrol volunteers.

The competition was open to students in grades 7 through 12. All the teams had one goal: build the best model rocket. The challenge was to fly an egg to 750 feet up in the air, and then parachute it back to the ground with no damage. That's even harder than it sounds. There were plenty of rules in place to govern the contest. Rockets could be any size, but they couldn't weigh more than 23 ounces. They all had to use a commercially available model rocket motors. The parachute had to be 15 inches in diameter.

This year's contest winner was the Georgetown 4-H team from Georgetown, Texas. Editor's Note: Finalists from Florida included three teams from Plantation High School and one from Western High School in Davie, Florida. (5/13)

NASA Challenges College Students to Develop Technology for Future (Source: NASA)
Watch as 50 college teams from across the globe gather at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, May 20-24, to compete in NASA’s fourth annual Lunabotics Mining Competition, a university-level competition designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Lunabotics Mining competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate program that challenges teams to design and build remote controlled or autonomous robots that can excavate simulated lunar dirt.

Eighty-one judges and hundreds of spectators will be present to watch the teams’ designs, known as lunabots, go head-to-head to determine whose machine can collect and deposit the most simulated lunar dust within a specific amount of time. The competition provides an opportunity for student engineers to develop innovative ideas and solutions that could potentially be applied to future NASA missions.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests can also participate in NASA’s STEM College Recruitment Fair on Friday, May 24 from 1–4 p.m. The fair is for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in STEM education opportunities available at top colleges and universities across the nation. For more information on the 2013 Lunabotics Mining Competition or to purchase tickets, call 877-313-2610 and visit or (5/13)

Space Coast Braces for Two Launches in One Week (Source: America Space)
Florida’s Space Coast is poised to host near back-to-back launches in the coming days. Two different launch vehicles are slated to roar off of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is planning to launch an Atlas V 401 rocket Wednesday, May 15 at 5:38 p.m. EDT. Seven days later, on May 22, ULA is planning to launch a Delta IV Medium rocket.

ULA completed the Atlas’ Launch Readiness Review Monday, May 13, and currently everything is proceeding on schedule with weather providing an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch. The rocket’s payload is the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS IIF-4) satellite. It is hoped the 18-minute launch window will provide sufficient time to have the rocket liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41.

A week later, on May 22, from a different launch pad, Space Launch Complex 37, a Delta IV Medium is scheduled to launch the WGS-5 spacecraft. The launch window is scheduled to open at 8:26 p.m. EDT. This is the first launch of a Delta IV since the flight data anomaly that occurred on the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-3 launch, which took place Oct. 4, 2012. (5/14)

Russia Launches Proton-M with French Telecoms Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Proton-M rocket carrying a European telecommunications satellite blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, a spokesman for Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said. Tuesday’s launch was the 386th of a Proton rocket and the third Proton launch this year. “The launch took place as scheduled, at 20:02 Moscow time,” the Roscosmos spokesman said. (5/14)

Air Launch Systems Begin to Come of Age (Source: Flight Global)
An ageing Airbus A300, currently used to train astronauts in zero-g flight, is about to find another use as the first stage of a new air-launched space vehicle. The brainchild of Swiss Space Systems, the plan is for the jetliner to be capable of carrying a Dassault-designed reusable space plane called Soar on its back. On release, the vehicle will climb into suborbital space and launch a third orbital stage with a satellite payload of up to 250kg (550lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO) before gliding back to earth for a runway landing.

The project is just one of a number of new air launch concepts under development. Whether dropped from below, released from above, or dragged from the inside of a large transport aircraft or bomber, air-launched launch vehicles have many technical and operational advantages over their ground-launched brethren. For example, flying shallow trajectories at altitude (sometimes using wings) can minimize drag and gravity losses. Launching at altitude lessens the compromise on a rocket's nozzle design and expansion ratio, improving its overall efficiency. Click here. (5/14)

Public Invited to See Amazon CEO's Moon Engines in Kansas (Source: Collect Space)
The massive moon rocket engines that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos salvaged from the ocean floor are now undergoing conversation in Kansas and the public is invited to come see. The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center will open its new SpaceWorks Observation Gallery on Friday, May 24, where visitors can get a clear view of the conservators as they preserve the parts for two mammoth Apollo Saturn V F-1 rocket engines that powered Americans to the moon. Some of the recovered engine artifacts at the Hutchinson museum weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms), while others are as small as a dime. (5/14)

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