May 17, 2013

KSC Seeks Commercial Operator for Former Shuttle/Saturn V Launch Pad (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA KSC is seeking a qualified lessee who is capable of taking responsibility for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of Launch Complex 39, Pad A (LC-39A) as a commercial launch facility. LC-39A is a potentially useful, historically significant, launch platform for a commercial company or consortium, or other U.S. domestic entity, including state agencies, to use to support commercial launch activities while assuming financial and technical responsibility for O&M. Such commercial use will protect LC-39A from deterioration resulting from non-use. Click here.

Editor's Note: OK, who might step up to this challenge? ATK, SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA? Space Florida? SpaceX will convert LC-40 for Falcon-Heavy and Falcon-9 human missions, and--like Blue Origin--might prefer to wait and see what happens with Shiloh for its other needs. ULA is committed to its existing launch pads for Atlas and Delta. ATK has been largely silent on its plans for Liberty and Athena-3. Space Florida might appropriately play its "spaceport authority" role in taking over the facility, but can they afford to do it without a committed user? This will be interesting to watch. (5/17)

Commercial Space Advocates Want Bigger Role in Exploration as NASA Budget Shrinks (Source: Space News)
Commercial space advocates here said the private sector should have a larger role in U.S. space exploration plans, even as a legislative aide warned that NASA — still the critical anchor customer for such companies — is in line for yet another difficult budget year. “As we look toward the future, commercial space does not stop at low Earth orbit,” Mike Gold, director of Washington operations for Bigelow Aerospace and chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), said at that group’s annual spring meeting May 15.

Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nev., has a pair of Space Act Agreements with NASA, including a nearly $20 million pact awarded in December to fly one of the company’s inflatable space modules aboard the international space station in 2015. “I find it a bit of a false debate that occurs in this town the whole notion that somehow it’s commercial space versus NASA leading our exploration effort,” Steve Isakowitz, vice president and chief technology officer for New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, said at the COMSTAC meeting.

NASA’s stance, which Administrator Charles Bolden repeated at the COMSTAC meeting, is that using privately owned spacecraft such as those being developed by Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Sierra Nevada under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, can free up agency resources for exploration beyond Earth. “NASA does not belong ... in access to low Earth orbit,” Bolden said. “There are still things to be learned there, but those things can be learned by industry as well as they can by NASA.” (5/17)

How Orbital's Falling Satellite Sparked a UFO Mystery in South America (Source: NBC)
When Orbital Sciences' test spacecraft fell from orbit last week, the company saw the fiery blaze as a cause for celebration — but it was also the cause of a UFO mystery, at least for a little while. The spacecraft was a dummy payload, which was launched into orbit on April 21 aboard Orbital's newly developed Antares booster during its maiden flight. The satellite's primary purpose was to simulate the mass of the company's Cygnus cargo capsule.

Orbital never intended the Cygnus Mass Simulator to stay in space. Its orbit gradually decayed over the course of more than two weeks, and on the night of May 9-10 it finally made its descent through the atmosphere. As it fell, aerodynamic forces heated it up, and tore it apart. It broke into several dozen flaming fireballs, streaking together from horizon to horizon across the evening skies of Chile and Argentina. (5/17)

Tech Company CEOs Arrested in Glonass Embezzlement Case (Source: RIA Novosti)
The previous and current general directors of high-tech company Synertech have been arrested on suspicion of embezzling funds from the federal program for the Glonass satellite navigation system. The current chief executive officer was taken into custody, and the former CEO was placed under house arrest after Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court granted the investigators' warrant request on May 16, the same day that Moscow police reported another major embezzlement from Glonass, saying that Synertech management has stolen at least 85 million rubles ($2.7 million) “supposedly as payment” for conducting a research project. (5/17)

NASA: New Pump Resolves Big Space Station Leak (Source: AP)
An impromptu spacewalk over the weekend seems to have fixed a big ammonia leak at the International Space Station, NASA said Thursday. The "gusher" erupted a week ago, prompting the hastiest repair job ever by residents of the orbiting lab. Spacewalking astronauts replaced a suspect ammonia pump on Saturday, just two days after the trouble arose.

NASA is now calling the old, removed pump "Mr. Leaky," said flight controller Anthony Vareha. "Right now, we're feeling pretty good. We definitely got the big leak," Vareha said in a NASA broadcast from Mission Control in Houston. Vareha said engineers don't know whether the pump replacement also took care of a smaller leak that has plagued the system for years. It will take at least a couple months of monitoring to know the full status. (5/17)

Georgia NDIA Chapter to Discuss Spaceport (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Space industry, education, and business development speakers will discuss Georgia’s current status, and why Georgia has been described by International commercial Space companies as “the best location on the US east coast for Launch” and the proposed Camden County Spaceport site as “a goldmine for GA.” Georgia’s geographic location. The former Thiokol rocket test area is ideal for launches to the east over water and is convenient for shipping to other Spaceports in FL or VA. Click here. (5/17)

Buzz Aldrin's Cryptic Advice to 'Finish School' Raises Questions (Source: Huffington Post)
The other day, I took my nine-year-old son to see a true American hero: Buzz Aldrin, the second human to set foot on the Moon. Mr. Aldrin was signing his new book, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, at the local Barnes and Noble. After we waited patiently in line for a couple hours with a jovial crowd of space enthusiasts, Buzz signed his book for us and we asked if he had any advice for my son if he wanted to be an astronaut. Buzz looked slightly puzzled at first, then stared deep into my boy's eyes: "Finish school."

That's it. "Finish school." And then he was signing the next book, and continued signing for probably two more hours judging by the size of the crowd. Excellent advice for the youth of today. My son -- who in my mind has barely started school -- took it to heart that he should spend years in school, study hard and finish with a PhD like Buzz. But like Benjamin Braddock contemplating the true meaning of "plastics," we swirled Buzz's simple declarative in our minds searching for some greater cosmic meaning. Click here. (5/16)

SpaceX Tests 5.2 Meter Fairing Separation (Source: SpaceRef)
SpaceX released this separation test video of their in-house designed 5.2m fairing which is undergoing testing at NASA Glenn Research Center Plum Brook Station. Click here. (5/17)

DARPA Cancels Formation-flying Satellite Demo (Source: Space News)
DARPA has canceled a planned formation-flying satellite demonstration in which it has invested more than $200 million, but a senior agency official said DARPA remains committed to space. Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, confirmed the decision to terminate the Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated Free-flying Spacecraft United by Information Exchange, or System F6, experiment, which had a notional 2015 launch date.

Tousley cited a number of factors including the lack of an overall integrator to pull the mission together, and said the project’s cancellation is in no way a signal that DARPA, the Pentagon’s advanced technology development arm, is shying away from space projects. Other DARPA space projects, including one aimed at developing a low-cost satellite launcher and another to demonstrate satellite salvaging, are proceeding apace, Tousley said. (5/17)

Danish Space Venture Ready for Lift Off (Source: Space Daily)
Aquaporin A/S and Danish Aerospace Company ApS have created a new promising Joint Venture company in the space sector under the name Aquaporin Space Alliance (ASA). The new company will commercialize the "Aquaporin Inside" technology in space applications and space programs together with European and US-based entities.

Aquaporin Inside membranes offer a broad field of applications within the European and US space programs primarily in Manned Space programs such as those of ESA and NASA and within the new growing private sector space. The membranes use aquaporin molecules for transport of water across a membrane. Aquaporins are Nature's own water filter and facilitate rapid, highly selective water transport in nature. The physiological importance of the aquaporin in human is perhaps most conspicuous in the kidney, where approximately 150-200 liters of water are reabsorbed from the primary urine each day.

Examples of potential space business areas for Aquaporin Inside membranes are: Drinking water in space suits, in space capsules and on space stations, clean technical water for specific use e.g. cooling of space suits and spacecraft systems, water for humidity control, batteries and other applications, and water purification of local sources on foreign celestial bodies for future exploration. (5/15)

Human Mars Lander Must Break New Ground (Source: Aviation Week)
For all the attention focused on how hard it will be to keep astronauts alive while they fly from Earth to Mars, the challenge of setting them safely down on the Martian surface will be just as difficult. To land a house-sized cargo carrier or human habitat on Mars, Steltzner says, it probably will be necessary to go directly from hypersonic speeds to propulsive deceleration—essentially firing some kind of rocket to slow down enough to land. And that, the experts say, will be as difficult to accomplish as developing efficient radiation protection, the traditional long pole in the tent for a human trip to Mars.

Kendall Brown, an EDL expert in the Exploration and Mission Systems Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, said a cross-agency study using then-current design reference missions (DRMs) took parachutes entirely out of the landing sequence for a human expedition. Instead, either a rigid or inflatable aerodynamic decelerator would slow the entry vehicles from hypersonic speeds to supersonic speed in the Mach 2.5-3 range. At that point, the EDL system would shift to rocket propulsion for the remainder of the landing.

“The rocket engine nozzles are going into a flow field that's supersonic, so you're going to set up shock fields, pressures behind the shock that the engine has to start against,” says Brown. “Those don't look like they're going to be insurmountable, but it's going to be a highly dynamic event.” For human-sized landers, says Brown, “the most efficient trajectory is one that waits until almost the last minute, fires a very high thrust, and then you touch down. But you . . . have very little ability to throttle the engines to provide precision landing. And we want to start working the precision landing problem as soon as we enter the atmosphere.” (5/17)

Mars Icebreaker Life Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Missions to Mars have only scratched its surface. To go deeper, scientists are proposing a spacecraft that can drill into the Red Planet to potentially find signs of life. The driving goal for exploring Mars is finding signs of life, said planetary scientist Christopher McKay at NASA's Ames Research Center. There are mountains of evidence that Mars was once home to liquid water on its surface, and virtually wherever there is water on Earth, there is life.

The spacecraft would drill up to about 3 feet (1 meter) down and scan ice shavings for organic biomarkers - molecules that would be conclusive evidence of life, ones too complex to be produced non-biologically. An ideal region for the Icebreaker Life mission to drill would actually be the area where Phoenix landed in 2008. The ice-cemented ground in the northern plains of Mars are the most recently habitable places currently known on Mars - the atmospheric pressure there is high enough to keep water from automatically boiling away. (5/17)

New Method of Finding Planets Scores its First Discovery (Source: Space Daily)
Detecting alien worlds presents a significant challenge since they are small, faint, and close to their stars. The two most prolific techniques for finding exoplanets are radial velocity (looking for wobbling stars) and transits (looking for dimming stars). A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity.

Although Kepler was designed to find transiting planets, this planet was not identified using the transit method. The new method looks for three small effects that occur simultaneously as a planet orbits the star. Einstein's "beaming" effect causes the star to brighten as it moves toward us, tugged by the planet, and dim as it moves away. The brightening results from photons "piling up" in energy, as well as light getting focused in the direction of the star's motion due to relativistic effects. (5/16)

NASA's Asteroid Sample Return Mission Moves into Development (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's first mission to sample an asteroid is moving ahead into development and testing in preparation for its launch in 2016. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) passed a confirmation review Wednesday called Key Decision Point (KDP)-C. NASA officials reviewed a series of detailed project assessments and authorized the spacecraft's continuation into the development phase.

OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023. "Successfully passing KDP-C is a major milestone for the project," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "This means NASA believes we have an executable plan to return a sample from Bennu. It now falls on the project and its development team members to execute that plan." (5/17)

What if Neil Armstrong had an iPhone… (Source: Typhone)
In our spare time people really like to philosophize. Just like NASA recently did when they wondered if smartphones could be send to space to take pictures. People also often wonder how it would be if women or the internet didn’t exist. We on the other hand wondered how it would be if Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, had a smartphone during his legendary Apollo 11 mission. Nowadays a smartphone is way more technically advanced than the Saturn V rocket and the Lunar module combined. That same impressive trip to the moon now would probably look a whole lot different. Click here. (5/13)

Lockheed Martin to Build Two More GOES Weather Satellites (Source:
NOAA has ordered two more GOES geostationary weather satellites from Lockheed Martin Corp. for launch in 2019 and 2024, officials said Wednesday. The GOES-T and GOES-U satellites will be nearly identical to the GOES-R and GOES-S satellites now under construction by Lockheed Martin.

The satellites will continue GOES weather observations through 2036, taking real-time images and piping data to weather forecasters, news organizations and the public. Meteorologists use the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system in tracking severe storms, hurricanes and other weather systems to help develop short-term forecasts. (5/16)

Boeing Selected to Build ViaSat-2 Satellite (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has a new satellite customer under a contract to design and deliver one Boeing 702HP high-power spacecraft to ViaSat Inc. in 2016. The satellite, ViaSat-2, will provide high-speed satellite broadband services to subscribers of the ViaSat Exede Internet service, as well as address its growing mobile broadband businesses. The companies also will cooperatively offer the system to other satellite providers. Contract value is not being disclosed. (5/16)

ViaSat-2's "First of its Kind" Design Will Enable Broad Geographic Reach (Source: Space News)
The $625 million ViaSat-2 Ka-band satellite system will employ a design that has never been seen before. It will not just be a more-powerful version of the 140-gigabit-per-second ViaSat-1, which is ViaSat’s principal source of consumer satellite broadband revenue.

In addition to a much broader coverage area including the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe, and a capacity that ViaSat said will be equivalent to 2.5 times ViaSat-1, the new satellite apparently does away with the classic Ka-band spot-beam design. “Ours is an everywhere satellite that offers an orders-of-magnitude improvement” over existing designs. “It’s the first of its kind in terms of capacity and geographic coverage. It’s just never been done before.” (5/17)

ViaSat's Record $1.1 Billion in Revenues and $1.4 Billion in Awards for FY-2013 (Source: ViaSat)
ViaSat Inc., an innovator in satellite and other wireless networking systems and services, announced financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2013. The fiscal fourth quarter results include new contract awards of $227.1 million, and a 28% growth in revenues to $308.7 million compared to the same period last year. (5/16)

Private Spaceship Tests Underway in Virginia, California (Source: Bloomberg)
A Colorado company developing a spaceship to take astronauts to the International Space Station is having elements of its spacecraft undergo landing-related tests at NASA facilities in Virginia and California. NASA wants private firms to ferry astronauts into low-Earth orbit so it can focus on deep-space exploration and send crews to a nearby asteroid and eventually Mars.

Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser vehicle is being tested at a Dryden runway to validate the performance of the craft's nose strut, brakes and tires. A free-flight test later this year will measure Dream Chaser's aerodynamics through landing. Meanwhile, astronauts are using a flight simulator at Langley to simulate what it would be like to land the Dream Chaser at Edwards Air Force Base. in a variety of atmospheric conditions. The tests are scheduled to last through Friday and will also include evaluations of the spacecraft's guidance and navigation performance. The simulation involves the final 10,000 feet and 60 seconds of a future Dream Chaser flight. (5/16)

Japan to Develop New Large Successor Rocket to H2-A (Source: Global Post)
Japan plans to develop a large successor rocket to its current mainstay H-2A launch vehicle, government sources said Friday. The government's seven-member advisory body on space policy, called the Committee on National Space Policy, plans to make an official decision on the development of the new rocket by the end of this month, the sources said.

If the plan is adopted, it would be the first document of a mainstay rocket since 1996 when Japan started development of the H-2A rocket. The panel is considering asking Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to develop the new rocket, the sources said. Mitsubishi Heavy developed the H-2A rocket, together with the now-defunct National Space Development Agency of Japan and its successor, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. (5/17)

NASA Official Puts Focus on Private Sector Partnership (Source: The Blade)
NASA’s second-in-command toured the space agency’s Northern Ohio research facilities Thursday in an effort to cast attention on the capabilities they have and the work they’re doing with private sector companies whose dreams lie beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Though recent reports have called NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and its Plum Brook Station outside Sandusky underused, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver came with a message that the scope of research possible at the two facilities is critical. Click here. (5/17)

India to Launch First Navigational Satellite on June 12 (Source: Economic Times)
India proposes to launch its first navigational satellite, which will provide terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation services and help in disaster and fleet management, on June 12. The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-1A is slated to be launched on board home-grown rocket, PSLV-C22 XL at 1.01 am from Sriharikota spaceport on June 12. (5/17)

Why The Sequester Could Be Bad For Johnson Space Center Employees (Source: KUHF)
Charles Bolden says the proposed NASA budget of $17.7 billion would advance the strategic plan the space agency has put together. At the same time, Bolden says, he’s concerned about possible effects the automatic spending cuts, better known as the sequester, could have on the NASA budget. If the agency has to operate under the sequester next year, its current $16.8 billion budget will go down instead of up, he says.

“At the $16.8 billion level, there’s no way in the world they can continue to operate a center like JSC at the level of employment they have right now. So not only will our contractors feel it the way they are now, but we’ll have to probably begin to furlough civil servants. So, I feel good about the budget proposal. I wish I felt better about the Congress’ ability to see the seriousness of the problem and solve sequester.” (5/17)

Is NASA About Jobs, or Actually Accomplishing Something? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden had a rare (and welcome) availability with Houston area media on Thursday, and while he generally stuck to talking points, citing the space agency’s rosy future, moments of frustration slipped through the cracks. These slips are illuminating as they point out a central weakness and strength of NASA — its 10 centers spread across eight states.

The diversity of these centers, including sites in populous states like Texas, California, Florida and Ohio, ensures political clout for the agency in both houses of Congress. At the same time, NASA has to continually spread work around all of these centers and keep senators and representatives from the homes of each of the 10 happy. Which is to say, first and foremost, saving jobs.

"I always have to caution people, if your concern is jobs... you want to make sure that every center has something going that’s going to guarantee that every year we can do a new program or project that assures jobs, that’s nice. But we’ve also got to be accomplishing something that we can tell the American taxpayer 'this is worth the money we’re spending,' said Bolden. "The strategy that we have right now... we feel is a balanced portfolio that provides support across the agency for all 10 centers, keeps our workforce vibrant and viable working on things they really know and the nation needs." (5/17)

F-1 Project Tests Kansas Team's Mettle (Source: Hutchison News)
Crumpled-up chunks of metal rest in two large water-retention bins at the SpaceWorks division of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. The impact of each massive 18,000-pound engine falling more than 40 miles to the Atlantic Ocean crushed it like an aluminum can. Never mind that they were the most powerful single-nozzle, liquid-fueled rocket engines ever developed - they were still smashed. Each engine had 1.5 million pounds of thrust, which is more than three space-shuttle main engines combined, according to NASA.

They also are made of "some of the strongest metal alloys known to man," according to Jim Remar, president and COO of the Cosmosphere. In January, the Cosmosphere found out SpaceWorks would have an integral part in conserving the engines, pulled from the ocean by Amazon's Jeff Bezos. SpaceWorks is known for its artifact preservation, replication and exhibit design. It has completed more than 100 projects, including Apollo 13 and the Liberty Bell 7.

The Cosmosphere is working with NASA to determine exactly which missions the engines are from. Each engine piece has a serial number, but the impact into the ocean and years below water make those tough to find. The corrosion level on each of the components varies, Remar said. But the Cosmosphere is working to document how the engines look now. "The impact violently ripped the engines apart," said Remar. "Now we want to preserve it how they are - halt the corrosive process. We want to preserve them for generations to come." (5/17)

Space Florida Secures Bionetics as New Tenant at Space Life Sciences Lab (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development organization and spaceport authority, today announced that Bionetics Corp., a diversified engineering and applied sciences company, is the newest tenant of the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) at the Kennedy Space Center. Bionetics, headquartered in Yorktown, Va., enhances spaceflight systems through the development of unique LED lighting and enables microgravity-based life sciences research. (5/17)

Crew of ULA Rocket Ship Cited by NTSB in Kentucky Bridge Accident (Source:
The Delta Mariner’s wheelhouse crew failed “to use all available navigation tools” to avoid hitting the poorly lit Eggner’s Ferry Bridge over the Tennessee River in Kentucky, federal investigators concluded. The Jan. 26, 2012, nighttime collision tore away a 322-foot span of the bridge including a portion of U.S. Highway 68 near Aurora, Ky.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tuesday that the crew of Foss Maritime Co.’s five-story high, 312' cargo ship and the contract pilot focused on the bridge’s few lights “while ignoring readily available electronic charting system displays, which could have provided critical information about the vessel’s position.”

An NTSB synopsis of its report also said Foss’ safety management system “was not effectively implemented … Due to the vessel’s good safety record and the company’s reliance on proactive safety measures and a crew of well-trained, experienced deep-sea mariners to provide a high level of safety, the company became complacent regarding the safety of the vessel’s operations.”

Nelson: Universities Booking Flights to Space (Source: Sen. Bill Nelson)
“It’s realistically going to get to the point where universities can buy a seat to send their students to space,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the Senate’s Science and Space Subcommittee and co-author of the legislative plan that helps get private space ventures started in consort with NASA. You might send your class to the edge of space, go Mach 3, couple minutes of Zero-G, and then come back,” Nelson said. “That’s pretty exciting.” Click here. (5/17)

Scientists Agree (Again): Climate Change Is Happening (Source: Huffington Post)
Public opinion on the topic of climate change is notoriously fickle, changing -- quite literally sometimes -- with the weather. The latest bit of evidence on this: Yale's April 2013 climate change survey, which found, among other things, that Americans' conviction that global warming is happening had dropped by seven points, to 63 percent, over the preceding six months. The decline, the authors surmised, was most likely due to "the cold winter of 2012-13 and an unusually cold March just before the survey was conducted."

A far smaller percentage -- 49 percent -- understood that human activities are contributing to the problem. People and surveys being what they are, these numbers tend to jump around a bit from year to year. At the same time, 49 percent is nearly half the country, so it wouldn't be excessively cheerful (would it?) to note that half of the American public is more or less in harmony with basic science -- at least as it relates to climate change and the role carbon dioxide emissions play in exacerbating things. Given that roughly the same number of Americans flatly reject evolution, the climate numbers represent a comparative bounty of enlightenment. (5/16)

Orbcomm Ready To Ship 8 Satellites for Fall Launch on Upgraded Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
Satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging service provider Orbcomm said the launch of the first eight of its second-generation satellites is likely to occur this fall after its launch services provider, SpaceX, conducts the first two flights of the new Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, which has been delayed repeatedly, will better position Orbcomm in the competition with exactEarth, majority-owned by Canada’s Com Dev, to line up customers for a global automatic identification system (AIS) maritime surveillance service for coastal authorities. (5/16)

McAlister Discusses Commercial Crew Certification (Source:
Phil McAlister, Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Development discussed the next steps that will be necessary for commercial crew providers to be certified to begin transportation of commercial crew to the International Space Station in 2017. Click here. (5/16)

CASIS Funds Protein Crystallization Research (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced an additional research grant award totaling approximately $200,000 for advancing protein crystallization in microgravity. In November 2012, CASIS announced grant awards totaling $1.2 million for three initial projects advancing protein crystallization in microgravity. In March 2013, two additional projects were awarded funding, totaling approximately $600,000, and now a sixth project will join this group of pioneering CASIS-awarded projects.

Dr. Constance Schall, from the University of Toledo, is the newest investigator to have a protein crystal growth proposal funded by CASIS. Dr. Schall seeks to use the space environment to grow crystals of sufficient size for neutron diffraction (a type of crystal analysis)—examining the effects of various experimental conditions on three proteins to optimize growth of quality crystals. (5/16)

Water Trapped For 1.5 Billion Years Could Hold Ancient Life (Source: NPR)
Scientists have discovered water that has been trapped in rock for more than a billion years. The water might contain microbes that evolved independently from the surface world, and it's a finding that gives new hope to the search for life on other planets. A team of scientists approached the miners in Ontario and asked them for fluid from newly drilled boreholes.

Greg Holland, a geochemist at Lancaster University in England, and his colleagues wanted to know just how long that fluid had been trapped in the rock. So they looked at the decay of radioactive atoms found in the water and calculated that it had been bottled up for a long time — at least 1.5 billion years. "That is the lower limit for the age," Holland says. It could be a billion years older. That means the water was sealed in the rock before humans evolved, before pterosaurs flew and before multicellular life.

As Holland announced this week in the journal Nature, this is the oldest cache of water ever found. But how did it end up underneath that gold mine in northeastern Canada? Where did it come from? "The fluids that we see now are actually preservations of ancient oceans," Holland says. Click here. (5/16)

Russia to Send ‘Stress-Relief’ Software to Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
A flash drive with stress-relief software for crew members of the Space Station will be taken to space by Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin soon. The software was designed by the Russian Union of Nature Photographers, with the assistance of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. According to Oleg Panteleyev, who along with other members of the upper chamber assisted the project, said the software is, in fact, a slideshow of thousands of photographs of the nature, accompanied by relaxing music. (5/16)

Wallops Noose Incident Update (Source: NASA Watch)
"The IG conducted an independent investigation into the circumstances of how and why the noose was placed at the Bldg. F-5 construction site. The IG's findings corroborated the results of the previous investigations conducted separately by the Office of Protective Services and the contractor. While the incident itself remains disturbing, it's important to note that none of the three investigations found evidence of criminal wrongdoing." 5/16)

California Officials: Guard Aerospace Innovators' Freedom to Create (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Last Congress, the House extended the Federal Aviation Administration learning period for spaceflight regulation through 2015. As a part of the FAA's reauthorization bill, this key provision granting regulatory certainty to the commercial spaceflight industry serves to allow for several years of flight testing and early commercial operation of new human spaceflight vehicles.

Last year, the California Legislature passed the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law, assisting space tourism firms by providing limited indemnification. The California Senate is now considering Senate Bill 415 to extend the liability limitation to manufacturers and suppliers, which is critical to ensure that California stays competitive with states such as New Mexico and Texas.

If we are truly committed to economic prosperity, we need to continue to reduce over-regulation and over-litigation. As Californians, rather than allowing California's unfriendly business climate to restrict opportunity and increase costs that stifle future innovation, we must instead champion solutions that create a new business climate that preserves the California Dream, where an individual can still dream big, take risks and make the impossible a reality. (5/16)

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