June 1, 2013

Attention Readers: I'll be on holiday for the next week and therefore my updates to the SPACErePORT will be sporadic.

Black Hole Bonanza Possible as Immense Gas Cloud Passes (Source: BBC)
A vast and hidden field of small black holes predicted to be near the centre of our galaxy could be revealed as a giant gas cloud passes by. The G2 cloud is as large as our Solar System, and bound for a "supermassive" black hole at the Milky Way's core. On the way, it should encounter many black holes just tens of km across. A report in Physical Review Letters suggests they will spin and heat the gas, which will emit a spray of X-ray light that telescopes could see.

The cloud of gas - three times larger than Pluto's orbit but with a total mass just three times that of the Earth - was first spotted on its course toward the galaxy's center in 2011. Researchers have been gearing up for the cloud's approach to the galaxy's enormous central black hole, with its closest approach in September. The idea is that as the cloud speeds past these small black holes - some slightly more massive than our Sun but just a few tens of km across - gas will spiral around them faster and faster, heating up to millions of degrees and emitting X-ray light.

It is a bit like allowing a giant sink to empty through thousands of tiny drains and looking for any evidence of swirling water. Keeping an eye out for these X-rays may also confirm the existence of what are called "intermediate mass" black holes - a few thousand times the mass of our Sun. (5/31)

Space Grant Consortium and Space Florida Team for Internships at KSC (Source: Space Florida)
The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) and Space Florida are jointly hosting a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) paid Internship Program at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) in Exploration Park at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in summer 2013.

As part of this year’s inaugural program, four interns from Florida universities will work for 10 weeks (from 6/3/13 – 8/9/13) under the guidance of mentors at organizations housed in the SLSL. Interns will work on projects bound for the International Space Station (ISS) within the coming year. The purpose of this internship program is to train and recruit Florida-based students focused on careers in science and engineering into Florida’s aerospace workforce. (5/30)

Thermal Limit for Animal Life Redefined With Deep-Sea Vent Worms (Source: Space Daily)
Forty-two may or may not be the answer to everything, but it likely defines the temperature limit where animal life thrives, according to the first laboratory study of heat-loving Pompeii worms from deep-sea vents, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Bruce Shillito and colleagues from the University Pierre and Marie Curie, France.

The worms, named Alvinella pompejana, colonize black smoker chimney walls at deep-sea vents, thrive at extremes of temperature and pressure, and have thus far eluded scientists' attempts to bring them to the surface alive for further research. Many previous studies conducted at these sites has suggested the worms may be able to thrive at temperatures of 60 C (140 F) or higher. (5/30)

White House Briefing Question of the Day, Asteroid Edition (Source: Politico)
During a White House briefing by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday, reporters peppered him with questions you might expect. On Syria, on the I.R.S. controversy and on the president's push on student loans. Then there was the one about the asteroid.

Reporter: "Your web site says you're hosting a discussion this afternoon about this asteroid that’s going to be passing fairly close to earth today. Has the president been briefed about the asteroid?" Earnest: "It’s my understanding that scientists have concluded that the asteroid poses no threat to planet Earth. Never, never really thought I'd be standing up here saying that, but I guess I am. So again, since it doesn’t pose a threat to planet Earth, I'm not sure it necessitated a briefing to the president."

The discussion was actually a Google+ chat with Bill Nye "the science guy" and representatives from NASA, Planetary Resources and others, organized around the passage by Earth of the aforementioned asteroid. The White House web site does say they will be talking about "asteroid identification, characterization, resource utilization, and hazard mitigation." It goes on to say that the president's budget includes increased funding for NASA efforts to "detect and mitigate potentially hazardous asteroids." (5/31)

Boeing completes wind tunnel tests for CST-100 and Atlas V (Source: Flight Global)
Boeing has completed two additional milestones under the commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, earning the company nearly $60 million. Boeing completed wind tunnel testing of the CST-100 crew capsule while attached to its launch vehicle, a Lockheed Martin Atlas V. CST-100 and its service module rely wholly on the Atlas V and its Centaur upper stage for propulsion into suitable orbit, where it will dock with the International Space Station (ISS). (5/31)

Boeing and SpaceX Reach Commercial Crew Milestones (Source: Space News)
Boeing Space Exploration and SpaceX said they have cleared key milestones on their funded Space Act Agreements with NASA, part of the agency’s plan to get at least one crew-carrying vehicle launching to the international space station from U.S. soil by 2017.

Boeing in May completed a series of wind tunnel tests it began in March at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., Boeing and NASA said in May 31 press releases. Boeing tested a scale model of its CST-100 spacecraft mated to a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Meanwhile, SpaceX, which like Boeing is working on a capsule-based system, finished up a review of its human certification plan with NASA. (5/31)

Radiation Shields, New Engines Mandatory for Mars (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A detector on NASA's Curiosity rover has confirmed previous research findings on the hazards of space radiation on the way to Mars, and future astronauts making the trip will need protection from the danger. The Mars rover's radiation-detecting instrument, called RAD, collected data on the mission's eight-month cruise to the red planet in 2011 and 2012, verifying computer models predicting radiation levels on the way to Mars are several hundred times higher than the dose humans receive on Earth.

Meanwhile, according to NASA, advanced propulsion systems must be developed to make more speedy journeys possible because the type of shielding necessary to protect against cosmic radiation - several meters thick, Semones said - is impractical due to the size and mass limitations of spacecraft and launch vehicles. (5/31)

Funding Uncertainty Could Hobble U.S.-Taiwan Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
A U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) effort to keep a $420 million weather satellite project with Taiwan on track using disaster relief money approved in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has run aground in the U.S. Senate.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and her Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, rejected NOAA’s proposal to reprogram $13.7 million of the $326 million the agency received under the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act — also known as the Sandy Supplemental — to cover its share this year of COSMIC-2, a constellation of 12 small satellites designed to observe the bending of GPS signals passing through the atmosphere to obtain highly detailed temperature and humidity soundings. (5/31)

Endeavour's Toyota Tow Truck Gives California Science Center a Lift (Source: Collect Space)
The pickup truck that last year helped to tow a retired space shuttle to its museum display is now part of an interactive exhibit designed to demonstrate how to pick up large things. The California Science Center in Los Angeles, which now displays the space shuttle Endeavour, debuted its newly-upgraded "Giant Lever" exhibit Friday morning (May 31), featuring the silver Toyota Tundra pickup truck that helped deliver the massive orbiter to the museum last October. (5/31)

Can Humans Survive Mass Extinction? (Source: Scientific American)
Threats that could wipe out the bulk of life on earth abound. Planetary catastrophe could come in the form of a killer asteroid impact, the eruption of massive supervolcanoes, a nearby gamma ray burst that sterilizes the earth, or by human-driven environmental collapse.

Yet life will endure, says Annalee Newitz, and so will humanity.  In her new book, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, Newitz surveys billions of years of history and five previous mass extinctions to draw lessons about how catastrophe comes and how – and why – life abides. Click here. (5/31)

Sequestration Impacts Astronomy, Space Science (Source: Sky & Telescope)
In early May, a brief announcement appeared on the website of NASA’s Kepler mission. It read, in full: “The Kepler Science Conference originally scheduled for fall 2013 has been cancelled.” Left unsaid was the reason why, which could have been even briefer: “Due to sequestration.”

Astronomers took to Twitter to voice their dismay as word spread. “Arguably one of NASA’s most successful recent missions finding Earth-sized planets, and scientists can’t get together to discuss,” tweeted Caltech’s Peter Plavchan. The conference would have brought hundreds of astronomers to NASA’s Ames Research Center in California to present and discuss the satellite’s most recent results. Instead, it became the latest sign of how U.S. astronomy and space science will suffer from the federal sequestration cuts.

The abrupt, mandatory reductions fall against the backdrop of an already turbulent fiscal scenario, and unless it is lifted, it will turn the budget screws even tighter on the two largest U.S. government funding agencies for astronomy: the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. If left unchecked, scientists and administrators warn of dire consequences for the nation’s scientific and economic competitiveness. (5/31)

Spudis: Return to Moon Will Better Advance Planetary Missions (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A human mission to Mars is routinely described as the "ultimate objective" for the U.S. space program, but it is too distant in time and too costly to serve as a guide for near-term, manned space activities. Currently, we continue to use and learn from missions to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit.

But what steps should be taken beyond this level? In recent years, without a clearly stated, strategic direction for our civil space program, we've watched it flounder and our space workforce depart. After the Obama administration terminated NASA's Constellation program, which would have returned U.S. astronauts to the moon, the space agency has proposed a human mission to an asteroid — a small body independently orbiting the Sun in the vicinity of Earth — as a substitute to help gain deep-space mission experience. Click here. (5/31)

Russia to Launch New Spy Satellite in June (Source: RIA Novosti)
 The Russian military will launch a new reconnaissance satellite from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia on June 8, a space industry source said. According to previous reports, the satellite is the second in the new Persona series of electro-optical reconnaissance satellites based on the Resurs DK remote sensing satellite. (5/31)

Rocket Engine Maker Proton-PM to Invest in New Products (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian rocket engine maker Proton-Permskiye Motory plans to spend 39 million rubles ($1.2 million) on modernizing production of engines for the new super-heavy class Angara carrier rocket, the company’s shareholders said on Friday. The company has decided not to pay dividends from its 41.3 million rubles ($1.3 million) of corporate profits for 2012, but will spend most of the sum on “technical re-equipping” for serial production of RD-191 engines for the new Angara rocket family. (5/31)

Russians Propose Space Billiards for Planetary Defense (Source: RIA Novosti)
The meteorite that blew up over Russia’s Urals in mid-February, leaving 1,500 injured, came as a striking reminder of how vulnerable we are on our small, blue planet. It was suddenly palpably clear that we have no way of preventing celestial bodies from slamming into Earth. The way out just might be to hit dangerous asteroids with other asteroids, Russian scientists say.

Several near-Earth asteroids can be towed into the vicinity of the planet to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, said Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences. “I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,” Eismont, one of the project’s authors. (5/31)

Asteroid 1998 QE2 Has a Big Moon, Radar Shows (Source: NBC)
When astronomers analyzed radar readings to create their first maps of 1998 QE2, the big asteroid that's due to sail past Earth on Friday, they were surprised to find that it has a moon twice as big as an ocean liner. 1998 QE2 itself is way bigger: The latest readings from NASA's Deep Space Network are consistent with earlier estimates that the asteroid is about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers wide). But the moon is hefty as well. Astronomers estimate its diameter at 2,000 feet (600 meters). That's big enough to wipe out an area of the size of Virginia if it were to strike land. (5/30)

NASA's GRAIL Mission Solves Mystery of Moon's Surface Gravity (Source: NASA)
NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon's gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft. Because of GRAIL's findings, spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision in the future.

GRAIL's twin spacecraft studied the internal structure and composition of the moon in unprecedented detail for nine months. They pinpointed the locations of large, dense regions called mass concentrations, or mascons, which are characterized by strong gravitational pull. Mascons lurk beneath the lunar surface and cannot be seen by normal optical cameras. (5/30)

Radiation Makes a Manned Trip to Mars Impossible with Current Tech (Source: Gizmodo)
Though Curiosity the rover can explore and see Mars up close, curious men and women of Earth will have to wait a bit longer. NASA reports that a manned trip to Mars is likely impossible with current technology because of radiation. Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) was able to measure the radiation of Mars from inside the spacecraft and found data that makes NASA reconsider the effectiveness of current radiation shielding.

Two forms of radiation pose potential health risks to astronauts in deep space. One is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), particles caused by supernova explosions and other high-energy events outside the solar system. The other is solar energetic particles (SEPs) associated with solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun.

Right now, spacecrafts do a better job at shielding against SEPs than they do GCRs. GCRs are highly energetic and penetrate the shielding on current spacecrafts. In order to protect astronauts from being exposed to radiation, NASA might have to invent better shielding. Or invent better something. (5/30)

Roskosmos Plans to Launch Two Satellites in June (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) next month plans to launch two Earth remote sensing satellites. "According to the plan of spacecraft launches for 2013, in June it is planned to carry out two launches - of the SES-6 communications satellite with the Proton-M carrier rocket and the Briz-M upper stage and the Resurs-P Earth remote sensing satellite (Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket).” Both launches will be carried out from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (5/30)

Europe Urged To Halt Work on ‘Dead End' Ariane 6 Design (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Air & Space Academy says the French and European space agencies are moving in the wrong direction on the future Ariane 6 rocket and should delay development in favor of a redesign that provides more growth potential. The academy is urging the agencies to stop work on the Ariane 6 they approved in November with a view to beginning full development in 2014. The academy-favored rocket would use liquid propulsion instead of solid, and would face four more years of preparatory work before moving to full development in 2018.

In the meantime, the academy says, Europe should focus on an upgraded heavy-lift Ariane 5 that would fly for a decade before both it and the Europeanized version of Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz rocket are replaced by the all-liquid Ariane 6 in 2027. This rocket, called Ariane 5 ME, has been in design for several years. Continued work on it was approved, alongside Ariane 6, at the November meeting of European Space Agency (ESA) governments.

Further modifications of the Ariane 5 ME could be made to assure it is capable of maintaining Europe’s place in the global market to launch commercial telecommunications satellites. The academy suggests that the Ariane 5 ME’s promise of de-orbiting its upper stage to remove orbital debris could be suspended, when necessary, to give the vehicle the requisite payload-lift capability. (5/30)

Sri Lanka Paying China $215M To Build, Launch SupremeSAT-2 (Source: Space News)
Sri Lanka’s new government-backed telecommunications satellite operator, SupremeSAT, on May 30 said it had signed a $215 million contract with China’s commercial satellite and rocket sales organization for the construction and launch of the SupremeSAT-2 satellite in mid-2016.

In a response to SpaceNews inquiries, Colombo-based SupremeSAT declined to specify the orbital slot to be used for SupremeSAT-2, which will be Sri Lanka’s first fully owned satellite. Sri Lankan government officials in the past have said it would be located at 50 degrees east. Sri Lanka owns rights to what it calls SupremeSAT-1, which was launched in November aboard a Chinese Long March rocket and which China calls Chinasat 12. The satellite operates from 87.5 degrees east. (5/30)

White or Brown Dwarf Planets Not Likely to Host Life (Source: Astrobiology)
The dead and failed stars known as white dwarfs and brown dwarfs can give off heat that can warm up worlds, but their cooling natures and harsh light makes it unlikely they can host life, researchers say. Stars generally burn hydrogen to give off light and heat up nearby worlds. However, there are other bodies in space that can shine light as well, such as the failed stars known as brown dwarfs and the dead stars known as white dwarfs.

White dwarfs are remnants of normal stars that have burned all the hydrogen in their cores. Still, they can remain hot enough to warm nearby planets for billions of years. Planets around white dwarfs might include the rocky cores of worlds that were in orbit before the star that became the white dwarf perished; new planets might also emerge from envelopes of gas and dust around white dwarfs. (5/30)

Why We Can’t Send Humans to Mars Yet (And How We’ll Fix That) (Source: WIRED)
While humans have dreamed about going to Mars practically since it was discovered, an actual mission in the foreseeable future is finally starting to feel like a real possibility. But how real is it? There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there.

“I’ve said repeatedly I’ll know when we’re serious about sending humans to the Mars surface when they start making significant technology investments in particular areas,” engineer Bobby Braun, former NASA chief technologist, told Wired. The good news is that there’s nothing technologically impossible about a manned Mars mission. It's just a matter of deciding it's a priority and putting the time and money into developing the necessary tools. Click here. (5/30)

Virginia, California, Texas See Most DOD Furloughs (Source: Bloomberg)
Pentagon furloughs will take their hardest toll on the workforces of Virginia, California and Texas, and the private sector will feel the effects as personal spending slows, one economist said. The Pentagon says furloughs, which begin in July, will affect 72,000 in Virginia, 57,000 in California and 45,000 in Texas. (5/30)

Meteor Collision May Have Hurt NOAA Satellite (Source: Aviation Week)
A recent disruption in data flowing from a weather satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may have been caused by the satellite smacking into a micrometeroid, NOAA says. The Boeing-made satellite has stopped sending images and is now in safe mode. "Boeing and NOAA engineers are working to resolve the issue in an attempt to restore service as quickly as possible," says Boeing spokeswoman Jenna McMullin. (5/30)

Space Tourism Industry Seeks New Heights (Source: Daily Breeze)
Are you looking for an experience that's fun, different and a little out of this world? Do you have some extra cash to play with? Maybe a suborbital flight to the edge of space is in the cards for you. XCOR Aerospace is offering short jaunts about 200,000 feet up, well into micro-gravity territory, starting late next year. The Mojave company is part of a budding space tourism industry drawing on new aerospace technologies to give thrill seekers experiences they can't find on terra firma.

"It's a pinnacle life event. Become an astronaut. Wooh!" said Andrew Nelson, XCOR's chief operating officer, in a recent interview at a space industry conference in Long Beach. The 30-minute trip will put you back $95,000. That is a relative bargain compared to the reported $20 million to $35 million that seven wealthy tourists have paid since 2001 for multiday trips to the International Space Station via Russia's space agency.

The company that arranged those trips, Virginia-based Space Adventures, plans to offer tourist trips around the moon for about $150 million a pop. The company says one passenger already has signed up. Another is needed to go ahead with the mission. "Now we are at the place where it is all happening and it is a robust industry," said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures' chairman and CEO. "It is a very different time than just 15, 16 years ago." (5/28)

What’s Next from Elon Musk? Warp Drives, and Colonizing Mars (Source: VentureBeat)
One thing about Elon Musk: He doesn’t entertain small ideas. Today he talked about reinventing the automobile, exploring space, reinventing high speed rail, the possibility of inventing a warp drive, and putting a permanent human colony on Mars. This is not just the pot-fueled speculations of your college roommate, either: Musk is making actual progress toward every one of these goals. (Well, maybe not the warp drive.) He laid out some of his dreams and projects here at D11, a tech conference put on by All Things D. Click here. (5/29)

Homing In on Threat Posed by Near-Earth Objects (Source: Flight Global)
While awareness that a cataclysmic meteor strike could end life on Earth as we know it is hardly new, events this year have rung alarm bells and flagged up the gap between our detection capabilities and the astonishing number of threats lurking in space. However, significant new resources are being mustered to search the night sky for hazards, and experts are remarkably optimistic that, given warning, large objects could be deflected from collision paths with Earth. Click here. (5/30)

Virgin Galactic, XCOR Race To Be Coolest In Space (Source: Investors.com)
The space race is back. But this time it's not a battle between the USA and the USSR but rather a race between private companies to become the coolest brand in space travel. On Friday, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic auctioned off the chance to sit with "The Great Gatsby" actor Leonardo DiCaprio aboard a space flight. The winning bidder paid $1.5 million for a seat on the spacecraft that has yet to make its first commercial flight.

"We wouldn't be as creative on branding if Virgin wasn't in the market," XCOR Aerospace's Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson said at last week's Space Tech Conference. Earlier this year Unilever (UN) bought 22 flights on XCOR's Lynx spacecraft for its Axe Apollo brand body spray promotion. According to Nelson, XCOR and Virgin have about 100 customers that plan to fly on both vehicles, because each ride offers slightly different experiences. Click here. (5/29)

Celestis Plans June 21 Cremains Flight (Source: Celestis)
You are invited to join us for the launch of our next memorial spaceflight, the Centennial Flight.  Liftoff is scheduled for June 21 from Spaceport America, New Mexico.  This will be an Earth Rise Service mission where each participant's cremated remains -- sealed in a personal capsule -- flies to space and returns to Earth. Each capsule, still containing the cremated remains, is then returned to the participant's family as a flown keepsake.

We are trying something new with this mission: providing live webcasts of both the liftoff and the memorial service that will be held the day prior to launch.  Assuming we're successful in making the necessary arrangements, we will post a link to the webcasts on our homepage. Click here. (5/30)

XPRIZE After Earth Challenge with Jaden & Will Smith (Source: XPrize Foundation)
Jaden and Will Smith joined XPRIZE at the Miami Science Museum in support of the XPRIZE After Earth Challenge; a robotics competition open to 13-17 year olds. The top ten teams will receive LEGO MINDSTORMS kits and Sony HandyCams, and the Grand Prize winning team will be featured on the Blu-ray release of the Sony film, After Earth.  Registration closes June 7th. Click here. (5/30)

New Word on SpaceX Testing in Texas (Source: Waco Tribune)
"SpaceX is planning to run a test at our rocket development facility in McGregor that will be much louder than the typical tests we run daily, and this test could run from 30-seconds in duration to up to several minutes. This test could occur as early as Friday, May 31st. Given that the test could run for several minutes, it’s important that the community know this is coming. If not Friday, in the near future." (5/29)

SpaceX Chief Says Reusable First Stage Will Slash Launch Costs (Source: Space News)
SpaceX Chairman Elon Musk said the company’s Dragon capasule, now used to ferry cargo to the international space station, should be ready to carry astronauts to and from space within two or three years, and that he is more optimistic than ever that a partially reusable rocket will accelerate the reduction in launch costs that SpaceX has already caused with its Falcon 9. Musk said his ultimate goal with SpaceX has not changed since he founded the company: placing humans on Mars to start a permanent colony there.

For now, Musk said SpaceX’s success in building and launching rockets less expensively than established launch service suppliers is “an incremental, not a revolutionary” breakthrough. “Our aspiration is to have a revolutionary breakthrough,” he said. Musk reiterated the origin of the SpaceX production model, saying fuel is only 0.3 percent of the total cost of a rocket, with construction materials accounting for no more than 2 percent of the total cost, which for the Falcon 9 is about $60 million.

Given that the rocket’s constituent materials are such a small part of the total vehicle cost, he said: “Clearly people were doing something silly in how they put those materials together. By eliminating those foolish things, we were able to make a rocket for much less.” Musk said that a rocket’s first stage accounts for three-quarters of its total price tag, so a vehicle with a reusable first stage can be produced at far less cost — assuming the hardware is fully and rapidly reusable. (5/31)

'Space Warriors' Hallmark Movie Features Space Camp Training (Source: Space.com)
Space Camp — the dream summer vacation of science-minded kids everywhere — is the star of a new movie from the Hallmark Channel. Since 1982, Space Camp has provided a place for kids to train as Mission Controllers and spaceflyers on simulated shuttle millions. Now, it's the setting for a science-fiction film about teenagers who help NASA save the International Space Station.

"I got to do a lot of my own stunts and really interact with the space center itself," Grayson Russell, a 15-year-old who plays Rusty Riggs in the movie, told SPACE.com. "We got to do a lot of astronaut training on a smaller scale. My favorite part is that we got to scuba dive." (5/30)

New Mathematical Model Links Space-Time Theories (Source: U. of Southampton)
Researchers at the University of Southampton have taken a significant step in a project to unravel the secrets of the structure of our Universe. Professor Kostas Skenderis, Chair in Mathematical Physics at the University, comments: “One of the main recent advances in theoretical physics is the holographic principle. According to this idea, our Universe may be thought of as a hologram and we would like to understand how to formulate the laws of physics for such a holographic Universe.” (5/30)

Space-Diving Suit in Development (Source: Space.com)
A futuristic space-suit being developed will take the high altitude adventurer of tomorrow from the total vacuum of outer space, through the searing heat of atmospheric reentry, then down to the surface of the planet earth for a pinpoint landing that even Elon Musk would be envious of and one that Tony Stark, the “Iron Man” himself, would be totally familiar with. Click here. (5/30)

Bobak “Mohawk Guy” Ferdowsi’s Most Accurate Space Movies (Source: Fan TV)
This week, we’re starting a brand new series where we ask an expert in a field to pick their most accurate films. What better way to start than with Bobak “Mohawk Guy” Ferdowsi, a member of the Engineering Operations Team on of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Check out his picks for the most accurate films about space. Head over to NASA.gov for more info on all the projects in the works. Click here. (5/29)

The Awesome Explanation for the Moon’s Extra Gravity (Source: TIME)
In 1968, just a year before the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing, NASA scientists discovered something that could have sent astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins plunging to their deaths: an unexpected gravitational force—one so strong it caused the unmanned Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to violently shake up and down as it orbited Earth’s neighbor.

The cause, NASA determined, was the presence of “mascons,” or mass concentrations of especially dense rock just below the surface of the Moon, with much stronger pulls than the rock that surrounds them. Scientists adjusted accordingly to land the Apollo. But for decades, a pressing question lingered: how could these mascons—not found anywhere on Earth—even exist in the first place? Today, we finally have an answer. In short: blame the asteroids—and the make-up of the Moon itself.

Mascons are always found within impact basins, the huge, roughly circular depressions created when asteroids smashed into the Moon billions of years ago. Since the depressions are lower than the surrounding surface, and therefore hold less rock, you’d naturally expect less gravity in these locations. But there’s actually more. Click here. (5/30)

NASA Chief Repeats Warnings On Commercial Crew Delays (Source: Aviation Week)
The already delayed NASA Commercial Crew Program remains under threat of further hold-ups because of short-sighted congressional budget cuts in 2014, warns agency Administrator Charles Bolden. The program is developing a U.S launch system to get astronauts to low Earth orbit, and was originally targeted at initial capability in 2015. However, reduced budgets over the past three years have pushed this back to 2017, forcing NASA to keep on extending its contract with Russian space agency Roscosmos to transport crews to the International Space Station (ISS) using Soyuz.

Now, as NASA faces additional funding shortfalls for fiscal 2014, in addition to the wider effects of sequestration, even this target could slide. This could make it harder for the companies competing for the Commercial Crew Program to develop solid business plans given the current schedule to phase out the ISS around 2020. Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX are developing competing proposals under the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCAP) phase of the program. (5/31)

EROS Takes Control Of Landsat 8 (Source: KDLT)
he NASA launch this February signified the beginning of Landsat 8's journey. NASA monitored the satellite as it began to orbit the earth once every 90 minutes. Now, the data collection center north of Sioux Falls will take control of the information and pictures captured by Landsat 8. “NASA, less than an hour ago has formally transferred that Landsat Continuity Mission to the USGS EROS operation center for operational execution,” announced EROS Director, Frank Kelly. (5/30)

What Made the Perfect NASA Astronaut in 1959 (Source: DVice)
On April 9, 1959, the world met America’s first astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The so-called "Mercury Seven." These men were all cut from the same mold, in excellent physical shape and of incredibly sound mind. They were all vying to be the first man in space, but none of them could predict exactly what NASA was looking for. Click here. (5/30)

NASA seeks bids for Hangar One, Moffett Airfield (Source: San Francisco Business Times)
Got a great idea for filling Hangar One? Or how about the whole, 1,000-acre Moffett Federal Airfield? Now's the time to pitch your plan to the Feds. NASA and the General Services Administration have formally issued a request for proposals for the historic, high-profile site near Mountain View.

The opportunity is especially notable because it could provide the mechanism to reskin Hangar One, the enormous former blimp garage whose toxic siding was stripped last year -- without any mechanism to cover it back up. The Feds are entertaining two lease options, both of which would require the lessee to rehabilitate Hangar One. (5/30)

The Future of the Spacesuit (Source: The Atlantic)
NASA's first spacewalk, during the Gemini IV mission of 1965, came uncomfortably close to losing an astronaut. Ed White, stepping out into the abyss, found himself overcome with the joy that is sometimes referred to, fittingly, as "space euphoria." Floating in space was "the most natural feeling," he enthused to James McDivitt, the mission commander who was orchestrating White's walk from inside the Gemini capsule. White felt "just like a million dollars," he continued. "I've ... it's just tremendous."

The scariest moment of Ed White's life, however, likely came within the next half hour. Because it ended up taking him 25 minutes to get back into the Gemini capsule. The craft's hatch experienced mechanical problems that made the door difficult to open and latch. And White's bulky spacesuit, all the while, was quickly losing its ability to protect its frail occupant from the surrounding void. Click here. (5/31)

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