May 24, 2013

Minuteman Launched From California Spaceport (Source: Launch Alert)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 6:27 a.m. here Wednesday from Launch Facility-4 on north Vandenberg. The launch, originally slated for 3:01 to 9:01 a.m. Tuesday, was rescheduled due to a range safety instrumentation issue. (5/23)

NASA's JPL to 'Lasso' an Asteroid (Source: Pasadena Sun)
A proposed mission to capture an asteroid and bring it into orbit in the Earth-moon system is a stepping stone to sending humans to Mars, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said Thursday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Bolden visited the La CaƱada Flintridge facility to visit with asteroid experts and see an ion thruster — which could potentially nudge an asteroid — in action at the lab.

The public's interest in asteroids was heightened recently after JPL tracked a near-Earth object last year on the same day a fireball exploded over Russia, injuring hundreds and scattering meteorites across the region. But JPL has been working on identifying and tracking asteroids for years, as well as on the ion propulsion system that can move objects. (5/23)

Russian Spacecraft Manufacturer to Make 4 Sea Launches in 2014 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation will make four launches next year from the Pacific Ocean-based Odyssey platform under the Sea Launch program, corporation president Vitaly Lopota said. After 2014, Energia will be able to make five or more launches a year, he said, adding that “a great deal here will depend on our partners." (5/23)

Commercial Human Ventures Planned for the Moon (Source: Reuters)
Corporate researchers may be living on the moon by the time NASA astronauts head off to visit an asteroid in the 2020s, a study of future human missions unveiled on Thursday shows. The study by Bigelow Aerospace, commissioned by NASA, shows "a lot of excitement and interest from various companies" for such ventures, said Robert Bigelow, founder and president of the Las Vegas-based firm.

While NASA intends to focus on asteroid and Mars missions, companies like Bigelow Aerospace, have more interest in the moon itself, Bigelow . William Gerstenmaier, NASA's head of space operations, said on the call "it's important for us to know that there's some interest in moon activity and lunar surface activity... We can take advantage of what the private sector is doing" in areas such as space transportation, life support systems and other technologies needed for travel beyond the space station's 250 mile high orbit, he noted.

NASA typically completes its mission planning before looking at what partnerships and collaborations may be possible, Gerstenmaier added. "We thought that this time we would kind of turn that around a little bit, that we would ask industry first what they're interested in ... where they see human presence that makes sense, where they see potential commercial markets." (5/23)

Student Teams Compete in NASA's Lunabotics Competition (Source: Florida Today)
More than 700 college students representing 50 universities and eight countries came to KSC Visitor Complex this week to face off in the fourth-annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event brought some of the brightest young minds together for a common purpose: to discover a way to mine oxygen and water from soil found on celestial bodies.

Competing teams build lunar excavator robots, or lunabots, that dig regolith simulate, a material very similar to lunar dust that is found in waste material from road construction rock. NASA, which organizes the event, purchases the material from the Arizona Department of Transportation directly so there really is no way teams can practice before arriving at the Visitor Complex. (5/23)

Soyuz-2 Maiden Launch from Vostochny Due in November 2015 (Source: Interfax)
A Soyuz-2 light rocket will blast off from Vostochny in the end of 2015, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "The works are being done on time and there are no disruptions. We plan to launch a Soyuz-2 light rocket from the first launch site in the end of 2015, in November," he said. A new town, Tsiolkovsky, is under construction at the Vostochny space center. It will have more than 20,000 residents eventually, Rogozin said. (5/23)

New Technique Could Probe Rocky Alien Planet Surfaces (Source: Space News)
Numerous rocky, Earth-like worlds have been discovered by transit surveys such as NASA's Kepler mission. For those familiar with the transit of Venus last year, exoplanet transits are the same idea — an exoplanet crosses the face of its parent star as perceived by observers on or near Earth. By comparing the amount of starlight the transiting planet blocks and the total starlight emitted by the host star, astronomers can determine the radius of a transiting planet.

In order to better understand the composition of terrestrial exoplanets, researchers from MIT and Caltech have proposed a method to identify unique chemical signatures from various surface materials by studying exoplanets in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. A better understanding of exoplanet surface compositions will help researchers determine how prevalent Earth-like planets are in our galaxy, they say. (5/24)

Mars One CEO: Don't Have Babies on Mars (Source:
A Martian colony would be too hazardous a place for children, warns Bas Lansdorp, the leader of an effort to establish a colony on the Red Planet in 2023. It's not clear if pregnancy would be possible on the planet or what effect high radiation levels would have on an unborn child, scientists say. "We are not in the business of telling people what to do, but astronauts are very responsible people. When they realize they are living in a dangerous place, they will know what to do, that it's not right," said Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of the Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One. (5/22)

Merritt Island Businessman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding on NASA Contracts (Source: Florida Today)
Michael Dunkel, 59, of Merritt Island, pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $4.4 million in government contract payments that should have gone to disadvantaged small businesses. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and will be sentenced Oct. 4. As part of his plea agreement, Dunkel has agreed to forfeit $2.9 million.

According to court documents, Dunkel admitted that he agreed to pay Security Assistance Corporation (SAC), an Arlington, Va.-based security service consulting company, a fee in exchange for SAC allowing Dunkel to use its 8(a) status to obtain NASA and other U.S. government contracts. The Small Business Administration Section 8(a) program enables small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses. (5/23)

New Parabolic Flight Opportunity in Europe (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Bookings are now open for January 30th, 2014 with airZeroG, Spaceport Sweden is a reseller of the sensational flights of airZeroG. This is not only the single opportunity to fly in Europe, it is also the largest aircraft in the world license to perform this advanced flying. During a full day you will be prepared and learn about simulating weightlessness in an Airbus A300, highlight it with the 2.5 hours experience of 12 parabolas in no gravity. (5/23)

Affordable 21st-Century Space Program Needed (Source: Florida Today)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) and his colleagues blasted the Obama administration for proposing an asteroid retrieval and rendezvous mission. Posey called it “unexciting.” He and his colleagues want to do the Apollo program again. None of these representatives said how they would pay for their Apollo rerun. In current dollars, Apollo would have cost about $150 billion. The program took place during an era that didn’t have trillion-dollar annual federal deficits.

Only Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, had the courage to tell the truth. He said there was no “tooth fairy” who would magically deliver the money. He challenged those present to explain where the money would come from. No one did. Mr. Posey, maybe you don’t find the asteroid mission exciting, but I do. We would develop new robotic technology and new ion propulsion systems, and give birth to an asteroid mining industry that could be based on the Space Coast. Apollo was 50 years ago. We need an affordable 21st-century space program. Your constituents are still waiting for you to deliver one. (5/23)

OldSpace in Check (Source: Space KSC)
SLS was dictated by Congress in 2010 to assure that Space Shuttle and Constellation contractors continued to receive NASA dollars. The law didn't allow NASA to put SLS out for bid or competition. NASA was required to use those contractors. Three years later, Congress still hasn't told NASA what it's supposed to do with SLS. NASA is to build the rocket, keeping those workers employed and the contractors compensated. Once it's built ... who knows.

Last month, NASA tried to answer that question itself. On April 10, NASA submitted the asteroid initiative to Congress. The idea is to use new ion propulsion systems and robotic technology to divert an asteroid into a lunar parking orbit, while simultaneously certifying SLS for human space flight. In 2021, a crew of four would use SLS to rendezvous with the asteroid, to study mining and other operations around this difficult target. Click here. (5/24)

Kennedy and the Apollo Commitment: A Unique Moment in Time (Source: Roger Lanius' Blog)
Tomorrow will be the 52nd anniversary of President John F. Kennedy announcing the decision to pursue a Moon landing by the end of the decade of the 1960s. On May 25, 1961, he stood before a joint session of Congress and a television audience to speak about what he termed “Urgent National Needs.” That announcement, and especially its realization with the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, has left an indelible mark on public perceptions of spaceflight and American culture. While it was an enormous achievement, Apollo left a divided legacy for NASA and the aerospace community.

The perceived “golden age” of Apollo created for the agency an expectation that the direction of any major space goal from the president would always bring NASA a broad consensus of support and provide it with the resources and license to dispense them as it saw fit. Something most of us in the spaceflight community have failed to appreciate is the exceptionally unique situation that drove the Kennedy administration to make this decision. Click here. (5/24)

Ecuador Pegasus Satellite Fears Over Debris Crash (Source: BBC)
The Ecuadorean space agency (EXA) is trying to pick up signals from its satellite after it crashed in space into debris from an old rocket. The nano-satellite, called Pegasus, was launched from the Jiuquan spaceport in China less than a month ago. It is Ecuador's first and only satellite in orbit. Experts said Pegasus had collided with debris from a Soviet rocket but was still in orbit. It is not yet clear if it has been damaged.

The US-based Joint Space Operations Center, which monitors all artificial Earth-orbiting objects, said there had been no direct crash but that their "data indicated a lateral collision with particles" of the Soviet rocket. EXA chief Ronnie Nader tweeted that Pegasus remained in orbit. "Ecuador still has its satellite, the people still have Pegasus," he announced. (5/23)

Fly to Space With Leo (Source: New York Post)
One lucky Cannes Film Festival-goer will get to go into outer space with Leonardo DiCaprio. Page Six has exclusively learned one of the auction prizes at tonight’s amfAR gala at Cannes will be a trip on Virgin Galactic’s space flight with “The Great Gatsby” star. Seats on the world’s first commercial space flight cost $200,000, but sources say this auction item was “priceless” because the highest bidder will be personally escorted by DiCaprio. (5/23)

Experts Cast Doubt on Mars Mission Plans (Source: Washington Times)
NASA faces a financial crisis and does not have the technological means or funding to follow through with its goal of landing astronauts on Mars by mid-2030s, a leading astronomer told lawmakers this week. Steven M. Squyers, an astronomy professor at Cornell, said Congress should not dictate new milestones for space exploration without first supplementing the space agency’s shrinking budget.

“NASA is being asked to do too much with too little,” Mr. Squyers said, pointing to international partnerships as a possible solution to NASA’s limited funding. Mr. Squyres was among several scientists and space experts who gathered before the Science, Space and Technology House Committee Tuesday afternoon to discuss possible next steps on a possible manned mission to Mars. (5/22)

Nobel Peace Prize for the ISS? (Source: Galveston Daily News)
One of the more intriguing pitches being made during the Citizens for Space Exploration's trip to D.C. comes from a college student. Erik Lopez, a Los Angeles native who goes to the University of Illinois, would like to nominate the International Space Station for a Nobel Peace Prize. Lopez touted his idea on Capitol Hill Tuesday and had a lot of positive responses. He said that since the space station relies on so much international cooperation — United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe — it has done a lot to promote better world understanding for one common goal. (5/23)

How Does Copyright Work in Space (Source: Economist)
Chris Hadfield's ISS rendition of Bowie's Space Oddity featured the astronaut's clear voice and capable guitar-playing. But when the man fell to Earth in a neat and safe descent a few days ago, after a five-month stay in orbit, should he have been greeted by copyright police? Commander Hadfield was only 250 miles (400 km) up, so he was still subject to terrestrial intellectual-property regimes, which would have applied even if he had flown the "100,000 miles" mentioned in the song's lyrics, or millions of kilometres to Mars. His five-minute video had the potential to create a tangled web of intellectual-property issues. How does copyright work in space?

The song "Space Oddity" is under copyright protection in most countries, and the rights to it belong to Mr Bowie. But compulsory-licensing rights in many nations mean that any composition that has been released to the public (free or commercially) as an audio recording may be recorded again and sold by others for a statutorily defined fee, although it must be substantively the same music and lyrics as the original. But with the ISS circling the globe, which jurisdiction was Commander Hadfield in when he recorded the song and video? Click here. (5/23)

NASA Escalates Research on Space Station (Source: Galveston Daily News)
It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for crew members of expeditions 36 and 37 on board the International Space Station, who are on track to conduct more than 300 research investigations before the end of the year. In a news conference Wednesday, NASA officials said upcoming projects will dive into biology, human research, biotechnology, physical sciences, technology demonstrations and more, producing research that will directly benefit future space exploration and work being done here on Earth. (5/23)

Lightfoot Defends Asteroid Mission in Alabama Visit (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot knows about the debate over where America should go next in space while it develops the technologies needed for a Mars landing. Should astronauts go back to the moon and build a base there,  visit an asteroid, or simply go somewhere else in the space between Earth and the moon? On a visit to Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center to see Orion space capsule hardware in development, Lightfoot nodded when asked if he was familiar with the debate over destinations held during a congressional hearing Tuesday afternoon.

But Lightfoot didn't hesitate when asked why NASA likes the asteroid mission it proposed this year. In that mission, the agency would find a suitable asteroid, send a robot probe to capture and move it into orbit around the moon and visit it with astronauts riding Orion and the new rocket now being built at Marshall and other NASA centers. Here's why Lightfoot likes the idea.

1) It uses the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft already being built. It gives that system something important to do while waiting for Mars; 2) It uses work NASA is already doing in its Space Technology Directorate with solar electric propulsion; and 3) It uses and gives a boost to NASA's Near Earth Observation (NEO) program to identify asteroids that might approach or hit Earth. (5/23)

Bigelow to Announce Space Deal (Source: KLAS)
A Las Vegas space entrepreneur has signed a deal with NASA that sets the tone for the future of space exploration, including possible bases on the moon. Back in January, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace announced along with NASA that one of the expandable modules built at his plant in North Las Vegas would be added to the International Space Station. In March, the I-Team reported that an even bigger deal was in the works.

On Thursday, Bigelow and NASA will make a formal announcement in Washington, D.C. The deal calls for Bigelow Aerospace to be the centerpiece of an ambitious series of private space projects, including possible bases on the moon and Mars, plus Bigelow's own private space station. The company will act as a clearinghouse for other commercial firms which want a stake in the next space race. (5/22)

JPL Begins Work on Two New Missions to Mars (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
Less than a year after the rover Curiosity's successful landing on Mars, scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are at work on two new missions to the Red Planet. The space agency last year announced that a new lander and rover would join Curiosity and fellow rover Opportunity on Mars. The InSight mission will launch a lander in 2016 that will explore the planet's core, while a new rover, which will be similar to Curiosity both in look and design, is set to launch in 2020. (5/22)

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