May 4, 2013

Lunar Real Estate Agent Has 'Sold' 7.5% of Moon (Source:
The lack of a clear law on space property rights hasn't stopped one man from selling real estate on the moon — and the other solar system bodies as well. Entrepreneur Dennis Hope of Gardnerville, Nev., has sold millions of acres of property on the moon, Mars, and other heavenly worlds through his company Lunar Embassy Corp. Yet many legal experts question whether such deeds would ever hold up in court.

"As far as title goes, it's a gray area," international lawyer and space-law expert Timothy Nelson, who works for the firm Skadden in New York City. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids countries from claiming territorial sovereignty over the moon or other celestial bodies. It doesn't, however, expressly forbid private companies from staking claims, Hope points out. Whether that argument would hold up to legal scrutiny is unclear, but the uncertainty hasn't stopped Hope from selling space land parcels since 1968.

An acre on the moon goes for $19.99, while the same size plot on Mars will set you back $22.49, plus tax and shipping and handling. Hope claims to have sold 7.5 percent of the moon so far, so other lunar land grabbers might want to hurry up, before there's no more room for moon McMansions. (5/3)

Robert Bigelow Plans a Real Estate Empire in Space (Source: Bloomberg)
Unlike traditional spacecraft and space stations, which are restricted in size by the outer dimensions of the rockets used to deliver them into orbit, Bigelow’s vessels are expandable. Using the same principle as a football or a car tire, these habitats are housed within an inner airtight bladder surrounded by a protective cocoon built from layers of foam and bullet-resistant Vectran fabric; in the center is a metal core containing electronics and equipment.

The soft envelope of the habitat is folded tightly into the trunk of a rocket for launch and then released on arrival in orbit, where it’s inflated with a breathable atmosphere, taking the shape of a giant watermelon. Internal pressure then makes the hull rigid to the touch, and the layers of protective material—up to 40 inches thick—make it safer than conventional aluminum modules yet, by volume, around 50 percent cheaper to launch. So far, Bigelow has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on the project, all of it from his own pocket. (5/2)

Send Your Haiku To Mars! NASA Seeks Poets (Source: NPR)
Galactic poet? Here's how to become famous. Send your work to Mars! NASA is raising awareness for its upcoming launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft with its Going to Mars project. The MAVEN spacecraft is scheduled for launch this November, to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere; the craft will examine why Mars lost its atmosphere, and how that catastrophe affected the history of water there.

But to liven things up, the mission managers have invited the public to submit literary messages that could be tucked into a DVD that will go with the craft. Three lucky poets will get the chance to include their haiku, specifically written for the occasion — and everybody who submits something will have their name included on the DVD. (5/3)

A Satellite to Save Australia? (Source: Science Alert)
Does Australia need space capabilities? Well, as Senator Kate Lundy said this month when announcing the government’s new space policy: “Australians, whether they know it or not, rely on satellites every day.” While this importance is indeed reflected in the policy, now is the time for specifics: to assess national space needs and develop programs to meet them. I want to argue that our most pressing national need is for data on water. (5/3)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Summer Camp (Source: KSCVC)
Camp Kennedy Space Center: For parents wanting to keep their kids entertained and engaged during summer break, Camp Kennedy Space Center day camp provides young people with an inspiring week of fun and enriching space activities. Camp KSC launches kids into a galaxy of fun as campers are encouraged to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through exciting educational activities.

Participants have a blast by experiencing, imagining and interacting through space shuttle mission simulations, tours of Kennedy Space Center and the chance to witness firsthand the excitement and everyday challenges faced by astronauts. Camps run weekly from June 10 through Aug. 5. Click here. (5/3)

Do Cosmic Rays Grease Lightning? (Source: Science)
Nobody knows exactly what triggers lightning bolts. Now, two Russian researchers say that these discharges of a billion volts or more could be caused by the interaction of cosmic rays—high-energy particles from outer space—-with water droplets in thunderclouds. Cosmic rays are created deep in space by powerful events such as star collisions, gamma ray bursts, and supernovae. These cataclysms accelerate charged particles—-mostly protons-—to very high energies. The rays zoom across space, and those that strike the upper atmosphere of Earth generate invisible but highly energetic air showers of ionized particles and electromagnetic radiation. (5/3)

NASA's Spacesuits Through the Years (Source: Discovery)
With the end of the space shuttle program, NASA began working on a spacesuit that astronauts could wear for forays Nothing says "astronaut" quite like a spacesuit. Whether it's the shiny aluminized nylon flight suits worn by the original Mercury Seven, or the pressurized bright orange "pumpkin suits" work by Space Shuttle crews, the clothes do make the man or the woman. Click here. (5/3)

Winds Postpone Vega’s Mission From Kourou Spaceport (Source: Arianespace)
High-altitude winds over the Spaceport in French Guiana have resulted in the decision by Arianespace and the European Space Agency to postpone tonight’s Vega mission with three satellite payloads. This postponement was based on strict safety conditions applied for Arianespace launch operations. The Vega vehicle and its three spacecraft passengers – Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 – remain in a safe, standby mode at the Spaceport’s SLV launch site. (5/3)

US Path to Mars and Beyond Coming Through Mississippi (Source: Biloxi Sun Herald)
After of decade of inactivity, the B-2 test stand, part of the largest propulsion-testing facility in the world, is being reconfigured in preparation for the rockets that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver toured Stennis on Friday as part of a series of meetings with NASA directors at the center. She received updates and discussed the most recent federal budget request made in April. The president has requested $17.7 billion for NASA, 0.5 percent of the federal budget.

"I am here to convey the support this team has in Washington D.C.," Garver said. "Your country's elected leadership supports the space program." Mississippi's Steven Palazzo, who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, joined Garver on the tour. He said the space program is one area that receives strong bipartisan support, a political rarity. "It is extremely important to maintain American leadership in space," Palazzo said. (5/3)

Turn Your SatNav Idea Into Business (Source: ESA)
Ready to take the next step with your satnav idea? ESA’s business incubation centres are offering help through this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition. For the tenth time, the competition is calling for services, products and business innovations that use satellite-based navigation to improve everyday life. (5/3)

First Joint Meeting on Space Cooperation Between Japan and Canada (Source: CSA)
Longueuil, Quebec, May 1, 2013 – Today, Japan and Canada held the first Joint Meeting on Space Cooperation. This Joint Meeting is based on the Memorandum for Promotion of Space Cooperation between Japan and Canada that was signed on the margins of Prime Minister Harper's visit and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Business Development Mission to Japan in March 2012.

The objective of the Memorandum is to promote and organize cooperative activities between the Agencies in the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, reinforce scientific and technological development, and strengthen our ties at the government, industrial and academic levels. This Memorandum provides a framework for heightened cooperation guided by clearly defined objectives. (5/1)

NASA Partners With Utah State University's Space Dynamics Lab (Source: NASA)
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Innovative Partnerships Office in Greenbelt, Md., has entered into a Space Act Agreement with Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), North Logan, Utah, to develop a high-resolution optical encoder. The partnership, funded by SDL through a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement, allows for the joint development of a high-resolution cryogenic optical encoder – an angular position sensor – to be used in conjunction with the laboratory's large, evacuated Thermal and Optical Research (THOR) chamber. (5/3)

Orion Capsule Lands Safely in Test with Engineered Parachute Failures (Source: Huntsville Times)
When your new spacecraft is going back to the future with water, not runway, landings, your parachutes need to be marvels of, as NASA puts it, "redundancy and reliability." Along with gravity, they have to help slow the craft from 20,000 miles per hour on re-entry to a safe speed to hit the ocean. On the plus side, NASA has done this before with Apollo. And Orion will re-enter the atmosphere going slower than the Apollo capsules.

But it's a bigger capsule, so the challenge is real. To meet it, NASA has designed an intricate system of drogue and main parachutes. The drogues slow and reorient Orion, while the main parachutes deploy in three separate stages. It is the largest parachute system ever built for a human spacecraft with main chutes whose three canopies would cover a football field.

NASA has been subjecting this system to a series of increasingly difficult tests -- the latest Wednesday, May 1 -- designed to test the design. Wednesday's test outside Yuma dropped an Orion mockup from a plane flying at 25,000 feet. One of the drogue parachutes was rigged not to deploy, and one of the three main parachutes was rigged to skip its first stage of inflation. The result? NASA says the Orion still landed safely. (5/3)

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