July 13, 2013

NSS Chapters Plan Regional Workshop on Space Coast (Source: NSS)
With the rebranding of the NSS Florida Space Coast chapter as Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) and start of the Georgia Space Society, four Southeastern U.S. NSS chapters have decided to host the 2013 NSS Southeast Regional Workshop (SERW) on October 12 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The 2013 NSS SERW organizing committee has agreed that FSDC will take the leading role in this workshop, with HAL5 of Alabama, NSS of North Texas and Georgia Space Society supporting the event. (7/13)

FLDC Plans Defense Industry networking Event in St. Petersburg (Source: FLDC)
Florida League of Defense Contractors is hosting a July 16 networking mixer for professionals in the defense industry after a free open house BANDIT (Bay Area National Defense & Intelligence Team) tour (separate registration required). Attend either event, or both! Click here. (7/10)

Houston Airport Plan Calls for Spaceport at Ellington Field (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Houston Airport System sees the potential for the city to be a leading player in commercial spaceflight and presented plans to build a spaceport at Ellington Field. The Director of Aviation at the Houston Airport System presented a plan that details unique advantages Houston has over other emerging spaceport cities and outlines which types of spacecraft could be launched from populated areas.

Councilwoman Ellen Cohen's chief of staff Brooke Boyett said Cohen found the presentation and prospect of a Houston spaceport "exciting." According to the spaceport presentation, Ellington could host orbital, sub-orbital, and point-to-point launches. There would be no vertical launches at Ellington. They are also reportedly working on an FAA/AST Spaceport License, collaborations with Johnson Space Center, and partnerships with local universities are also being forged. (7/12)

NASA's OPALS to Beam Data From Space Via Laser (Source: Space Daily)
NASA will use the International Space Station to test a new communications technology that could dramatically improve spacecraft communications, enhance commercial missions and strengthen transmission of scientific data. The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) could improve NASA's data rates for communications with future spacecraft by a factor of 10 to 100. OPALS has arrived at Kennedy Space Center and is scheduled to launch to the space station later this year aboard a SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply capsule. (7/12)

Get Ready to Rent Your Own Research Satellite (Source: The Verge)
Space exploration and research have mostly been the domain of nation-states and a few very well-funded companies. But the emergence of the cube satellite — a small, standardized vessel that can be modified with off-the-shelf parts and improved on by a community of open source builders — has dramatically lowered the cost of putting a research-capable craft into space.

One of the companies trying to take advantage of this new platform is NanoSatisfi, which is launching its first cube satellite on August 4. For $250 a week, anyone from an elementary school to a curious hobbyist can rent time on the satellite and conduct their own experiments. NanoSatisfi began as a Kickstarter project, raising $106,330 from backers. That success generated enough interest for the company to raise $1.2 million in seed funding from a group of angel investors, and additional $300,000 from the Russian billionaire Dmitry Grishin, who has a fund devoted to consumer robotics. (7/11)

First Antares Launch to Space Station Set for September (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
An Antares rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in mid-September, according to the latest update from Orbital Sciences. Orbital teams preparing the rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft for the demonstration mission to the International Space Station are “well along in preparations,” the release said. (7/11)

FAA Space Office Fares Better in Senate, House Cut Would be "Crippling" (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees completed action on the FY2014 funding bill that includes the FAA.  The two took opposite approaches to funding the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). While the House's substantial budget cut would be "crippling," the Senate committee recommended more than was requested by the agency.

On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, making no change to the almost 12 percent cut to AST recommended by its T-HUD subcommittee: $14.16 million instead of the $16.01 million requested.  That is roughly 8 percent less than its current funding level. At the same time, across Capitol Hill the Senate Appropriations Committee was approving its version of the bill, providing an increase above the request: $17.011 million.

Whether the House or Senate number, or a figure somewhere in between, prevails at the end of the day remains an open question. The House-passed budget resolution holds non-defense discretionary spending to levels below what is required by the sequester, while the Senate's version assumes the sequester will be replaced with a different method of deficit reduction. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) anticipates no deals will be made on budget matters -- or other economic issues -- until Congress is forced to make a decision on raising the debt limit, probably at the very end of 2013. (7/10)

Pentagon Begins Furloughs of Civilian Employees (Source: Bloomberg)
The Pentagon started furloughs of its civilian employees this week because of sequestration cuts. The Department of Defense said that 85% of its civilian employees will be subject to rolling furloughs. “Make no mistake about it: We’re in a rough period,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, who will also be furloughed once a week. (7/9)

Ad Astra Seeks Crowdfunding for VASIMR Work (Source: HobbySpace)
The Ad Astra Rocket Company has opened a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort to fund a high quality animation of their VASIMR plasma propulsion system. Ad Astra Rocket was started in 2005 when a group of NASA scientists decided to pursue the commercial development of a revolutionary propulsion system that will dramatically change space transportation and exploration. Using Kickstarter funding, Ad Astra hopes to produce a documentary and distribute it through colleges and universities around the world. Click here. (7/12)

First Testing of Orion Launch Abort System Flight Hardware (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA engineers and contractors have begun tests on NASA’s Launch Abort System (LAS) Fairing Assembly, flight hardware that will be used to cover and protect the Orion crew module during Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), scheduled for September 2014. Similar to the material of a graphite tennis racquet, the LAS fairing is a lightweight composite structure weighing 3,000 pounds that protects the capsule from the environment around it, whether it’s heat, wind or acoustics. (7/13)

Second Generation Space Worker Helps Lead the Way to Commercial Crew Era (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Henry May grew up on Florida’s Space Coast. From his home he watched rockets lift off from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At the time, his father helped launch astronauts to the moon as part of the Apollo Program. May now is a member of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), a team that is developing new ways for the next generation of space explorers to travel to low-Earth orbit.

May, the Launch Vehicle Systems lead for Boeing, is working in an effort to design transportation for astronauts to the International Space Station. His job focuses on ensuring the partner’s spacecraft will integrate with the designated launch vehicle. “I started at Kennedy fresh out of high school,” he said. “I was 18 years old and was hired as a tile technician working for Rockwell International. I did that for about seven years.”

When Columbia rolled out to the launch pad at the end of 1980, May was selected for a special honor. “I bonded the last tile on Columbia before it flew the first time,” he said. In his new role, May worked with a team that was laying the groundwork to decommission the shuttles and transfer them to be exhibited at museums. When the CCP office was established a few years later, May was assigned to work in their Launch Vehicle Systems Office. Click here. (7/11)

Rohrabacher Pushes Back on House Plan to Limit Commercial Crew Contracts (Source: Parabolic Arc)
This year, Congress is working to re-authorize NASA, which includes re-visiting the funding authorization and overall strategy. As part of that, the House space subcommittee produced a draft bill that authorized $700 Million for Commercial Crew.  However, the subcommittee put ISS acces in danger by requiring the program to be run using a cost contract, rather than a commercial fixed-price contract, or even better — a Space Act Agreement. Fortunately, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who is Vice Chair of the full Science Committee, is pushing back.

Quoting the Congressman, “Forcing Commercial Crew into a ‘cost-type’ contract, as Section 215 would do, would undermine all of the benefits the program is designed to bring. That would result in rising prices, delayed availability, and subjecting the systems to potentially unending ‘requirements creep’ which is something that we all want to avoid.” The Space Frontier Foundation wants to give a big “Huzzah!” to Congressman Rohrabacher, for helping to ensure that Commercial Crew can be successful. (7/10)

Palazzo Vision: House Eviscerates NASA Space Act Agreements (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The House Subcommittee on Space met under Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) to mark up NASA’s budget for FY 2014 and 2015. The $16.6 billion measure not only cuts the Obama Administration’s request by $1.1 billion, it includes a number of provisions designed to tie the hands of the NASA Administrator, protect key projects favored by Congress, and shift power away from the Administration.

In this edition of “Palazzo Vision: The Road to Pork,” we take a closer look at what the chairman and his merry band of government hating, pork loving comrades want to do to NASA’s Space Act Agreements. The budget markup requires that future rounds of NASA commercial crew program be conducted under “cost-type” contracts, which are much more burdensome and costly than the Space Act Agreements that the program has been operating under to date. Although this was approved by the subcommittee, not all of Palazzo’s Republican colleagues agree with this approach.

The committee wasn’t satisfied, however, with just preventing the Commercial Crew Program from using Space Act Agreements. Instead, the funding measure puts a whole range of restrictions on the future use of these agreements. This would significantly reign in NASA’s use of Space Act Agreements by narrowing the scope of what could be done under them, and by requiring public comment for smaller agreements and Congressional approval for ones over $50 million. NASA would lose a fair amount of its flexibility in contracting, and its ability to pursue innovative partnerships would be crimped. (7/10)

Air Force Plans Discussion on Transition of Cape Canaveral AFS (Source: AFSPC)
Air Force Space Command will hold a public forum to discuss a potential future concept to convert the Eastern Range (in part or whole) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from an Air Force managed range to an FAA-licensed commercial launch site (i.e., a spaceport). The concept explores an approach where launch programs (U.S, commercial, civil, and national security space sector launch and test and evaluation (T&E) programs) contract for support services as needed for their missions from an FAA-licensed commercial launch site operator that manages the transportation and utility infrastructure, support services, and range capabilities as a business.

This effort is directed by AFSPC Commander as part of a larger Range Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA). This concept paper provides a brief summary of the key assumptions, functions, and responsibilities of the spaceport. HQ AFSPC/A5R will request feedback from commercial industry on their thoughts/opinions on this concept NLT 15 Aug 2013. The Colorado Springs meetings will be held on July 18-19. Click here. (7/12)

50th Space Wing Changes Command (Source: AFSPC)
The 50th Space Wing welcomed new leadership during a change-of-command ceremony on July 11. Col. William J. Liquori took over the wing's reigns from previous commander, Col. James P. Ross. (7/12)

Johnson’s Deputy Director Leaves NASA for New SGT Subsidiary (Source: Space News)
Steve Altemus left his position as deputy director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and will be replaced by Kirk Shireman, who had been deputy manager for the international space station program. Altemus, who had been with the agency since 2006, will head up a new Houston-based subsidiary of Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT) Inc. called Intuitive Machines. (7/12)

What Treaty? Politicians Want Apollo National Parks (Source: Discovery)
What do you get when you have a group of well-meaning House Democrats (with a little too much time on their hands) who want to protect the historic Apollo landing sites? A National Park on the moon! Sadly, this “National Park” could neither be “National” or a “Park,” at least in the traditional sense. In fact, even in a non-traditional sense, this “Park” cannot be fully ratified, at least in the near future.

In a “perfect” universe, where NASA had a blank check and had the international authority to extend American law into outer space, this bill would make a lot of sense. Sadly, as pointed out by Mark Whittington, this bill flies in the face of a pretty huge treaty that the U.S. is bound to obey. “Since the U.S. has foresworn any sovereign claims on the moon, thanks to having signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty, there does not seem to be any legal basis to declare any part of the lunar surface a national park, not to mention attempting to enforce such a declaration,” writes Whittington.

Editor's Note: I like the fact that this bill will at least move the Federal Government's discussion of the need for space treaty adjustments somewhere closer to the front burner. Treaty changes will be necessary not only to address the protection of Apollo artifacts, but also to enable the kind of achievable commercial space development activities now being pursued by U.S. companies. (7/12)

No Contest for Pad 39A? SpaceX Appears To Be Only Bidder (Source: Space News)
SpaceX appears to be the only company that put in a proposal to NASA to take over one of the space shuttle’s mothballed launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A.

United Launch Alliance, which flies the Delta and Atlas rockets, and ATK, which has been developing a shuttle-derived launcher called Liberty, said they passed on the Pad 39A solicitation. Orbital Sciences Corp., which this year completed the first test flight of its new Antares rocket to fly cargo to the international space station, launches from Virginia. Company spokesman Barry Beneski said he did not know of any plans to expand to Florida.

Likewise passing is Space Florida, the state-backed economic development agency that has been selected to take over operations and develop the shuttle’s runway for commercial operations. NASA is looking for a commercial partner to lease Pad 39A, and intends to keep the second shuttle launch pad, 39B, for its heavy-lift Space Launch System. The design for 39B also would accommodate commercial users. (7/12)

Rogozin Denies Human Factor is Behind the Proton Crash (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin has denied that human factor was behind the Proton carrier rocket’s crash at Baikonur space launch site. According to one version, a technical worker had allegedly connected wrong wires (mixed up “minus” with the “plus”). "A version that someone has mixed up the “plus” with “minus” is annoying and makes experts shrug their shoulders,” the vice-premier told journalists.

He explained that the technology of making such systems is “meant for fools”. “First, one has to be color-blind to make a mistake in connecting the wires because the wires which need to be connected have one color,” Rogozin said.  “Second, one of the wires is short in order to have access to a connection. The second wire is long in order to have access to another tab,” Rogozin said. He added that the technology had been tested for decades. (7/12)

Garneau Says We Need Risk-Ready Deep Pockets To Fund Space Innovation (Source: Tech Crunch)
Space: The final frontier for startups. Or if not final, at least a huge one that’s ripe for exploration. Canadian astronaut and politician Marc Garneau took the stage at Startup Festival to talk about innovation, Canada, space and startups. Canada has been at the forefront of some key innovations in the space industry, but we need to do more, Garneau says, and we need to find people with deep pockets who aren’t afraid of risk to make that happen.

Garneau gave credit to the few brave individuals who are funnelling money into space innovation without necessarily seeing the possibility of immediate reward. Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are all examples of people helping push this market forward, Garneau said, but they don’t have Canadian equivalents, and there aren’t enough people contributing to these efforts around the world in general. Click here. (7/12)

MapBox Plans to Bring You Super-Fresh Satellite Imagery (Source: WIRED)
I really love both maps and images of Earth from space, so when I learned this week of MapBox’s plan to deliver satellite imagery that is just hours old from all over the planet, I thought they must have done this just for me. They didn’t, but I am really excited about this. Here’s why: A major barrier between the average person and satellite data is the ability to process that data and turn it into a usable image. MapBox intends to remove that barrier. Yesterday I talked to two of the folks behind what they are calling MapBox Satellite Live. Click here. (7/12)

Development of U.S. Closed-loop Kerolox Engine Stuck in 2nd Gear (Source: Space News)
In the past decade and a half, every U.S. agency that operates spacecraft has come to depend on one particular style of Russian-designed, kerosene-fueled rocket engine, made by former Soviet design bureaus and sold to U.S. companies for use on American rockets. This international supply chain, forged in the late 1990s to bring NPO Energomash’s RD-180 to U.S. shores for Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3, has bridged gaps between former Cold War rivals and produced rockets so reliable that the U.S. military buys them in bulk.

The buy-international model works so well that even an executive with the company working on an American alternative to the RD-180 does not see much urgency on anyone’s part to bring such an engine to market. “We don’t see a good business case for a pure commercial development of one of these engines,” an Aerojet Rocketdyne official said. “Not today.”

Nor is the government in a hurry to put up the funds, Van Kleeck said. But it was, once. In 2010, the Obama administration said it wanted to make development of a 1 million pound-thrust, closed-loop kerosene-fueled engine a national priority. However, Congress preferred a new rocket based on shuttle-derived systems, and the White House had to compromise. Editor's Note: As I understand it, Aerojet Rocketdyne owns enough RD-180 IP to manufacture identical engines in the U.S., but the cost would be too high as long as Russian supplied versions are available. (7/12)

NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne Test 3D Printed Rocket Engine Component (Source: America Space)
NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne have recently completed a series of “hot-fire” tests on a rocket engine that utilized additive manufacturing  or “3D printing” parts. The component in question, a liquid-oxygen, gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly was carried out at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC). It is hoped that with the successful completion of these tests that this emerging technology can seize a more pivotal role in space flight.

The tests were conducted under a Space Act Agreement designed to develop and validate the various elements and procedures required to begin use of what is known as Selective Laser Melting or “SLM.” As this process could lead to the production of crucial engine components, the requirements are stringent. Those working on the project feel that the technology could prove vital for space exploration efforts. (7/12)

NASA, National Space Grant Foundation Tap Six for 2014 X-Hab Challenge (Source: America Space)
NASA, in collaboration with the National Space Grant Foundation, has revealed the six universities selected for the 2014 Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. For the upcoming school year, teams from University of Colorado at Boulder; Rice University; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; University of South Alabama, Mobile; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and University of Maryland, College Park will meet challenges in design, manufacturing, and assembly, and will test their systems and concepts for future deep-space habitats. (7/12)

The History of Urinating in Space (Source: ABC News)
"Do it in the suit." According to Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff," that's what mission control said to Alan Shepard during Mercury-Redstone 3, when the astronaut said he needed to urinate. Shepard did as he was told. The first American to reach the stars did so in a soggy space suit. Hunter Hollins, a historian at the National Air and Space Museum, was rereading Wolfe's book and was especially stunned by this incident. "I was really amazed and kind of incredulous that they let him urinate in his space suit," he told ABC News.

His bewilderment led him to search the NASA archives, looking for any mention of astronauts needing to relieve themselves. The results of his search are published in the current issue of Advances in Physiology Education. "It's this fascinating little window of history," said Hollins.

A couple of months before Shepard's 1961 journey to outer space, a student named Brenda Kemmerer wrote to NASA, asking where the first man in space would use the toilet. Freeman H. Quimby, from the Office of Life Science Programs at NASA, wrote back. "The first space man is not expected to have 'to go,'" he replied. (7/12)

Ecologist: Booting Russia from Baikonur Would Be Unwise (Source: Tingri Bews)
Head of Kazakhstan's Tabigat ecological union Mels Yeleussizov is against closure of Baikonur cosmodrome, Tengrinews.kz reports. However, the ecologist believes that scientists should resume the work on development of environmentally-friendly hydrogen fuel for rockets.

Rockets using different types of fuel are launched from Baikonur, he said. Heptyl-containing fuel is the most toxic of all the rocket fuels. This is the fuel used in Proton-M carrier rocket that crashed right after the take off at Kazakhstan-based Baikonur cosmodrome on July 2. The ecologist confirmed that heptyl is an extremely toxic substance: one gram can pollute 1 cubic kilometer of air and soil. (7/12)

Colorado's Golden Spike Being Courted by Florida, Texas (Source: Denver Post)
The small but ambitious Golden Spike Co. may not have a space vehicle, manufacturing plant or large payroll yet, but both Texas and Florida are courting the Boulder-based startup with the aim of stealing its headquarters away from Colorado. The company stands as a stark example of how aerospace-reliant states are beginning to focus on startup space companies at a time when budget constraints have made large government contracts less reliable. It also highlights what some say is a weakness on Colorado's part when it comes to "new space" business.

Golden Spike, which hopes to send privately funded human expeditions to the moon by 2020, has created a high level of buzz that seems disproportionate to its size. But both Texas and Florida — two of Colorado's primary aerospace competitors — see long-term potential and are actively pursuing the company. "I would say (Texas and Florida) are night and day aggressive, in a positive sense, in the way they are courting us," said Alan Stern. "Whereas, I don't know anyone in Colorado who has contacted anyone on our board. It is as if we don't exist in Colorado."

According to Stern, Florida began supporting Golden Spike in several ways late last year, including monetary investment, and Texas has invited the company into relocation talks. "Golden Spike is not going to be generating a lot of jobs this year or next year, but it is more of the long-term investment," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances at Space Florida. "They may or may not succeed, but there is a certain level of risk capital involved in the process and much of that is based upon the concepts and Alan Stern, who has a high level of credibility." (7/12)

Intelsat’s DalBello In Line for White House Job (Source: Space News)
Richard DalBello, vice president of legal and government affairs for Intelsat General Corp., is under consideration to fill a vacancy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), according to government and industry sources.

DalBello, an attorney who joined the government services subsidiary of satellite fleet operator Intelsat in 2005, has worked for OSTP before. From 1993 to 1997, he was OSTP’s assistant director for aeronautics and space. Multiple sources familiar with the matter said it is that position — vacant since NASA’s John Olson left government June 7 to join Sierra Nevada Corp. — that DalBello would hold again if he returns to the White House. Reached by phone, however, DalBello said he has “no plans to go anywhere.” (7/12)

SNC's Dream Chaser Prepared For Testing (Source: SpaceRef)
This time-lapse video shows Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) team attaching the wings and tail of the company's Dream Chaser flight vehicle May 18. The crew prepared the vehicle for ground and free-flight tests, which are scheduled throughout 2013. SNC is one of only three companies working with NASA to develop space transportation systems capable of flying astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station later this decade.

The work completed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center will demonstrate the winged vehicle's ability to safely land an astronaut crew on a runway. Editor's Note: Sierra Nevada presumably will be one of Space Florida's clients operating at the Shuttle Landing Facility, now that the state agency is supposed to take-on responsibilities as a spaceport authority for the runway. (7/12)

Astronomers Make Landmark Planet Color Discovery (Source: AP)
Astronomers have for the first time managed to determine the color of a planet outside the solar system, a blue gas giant around 63 light years away. An international team of astronomers working with the Hubble Telescope made the discovery observing HD 189733B, one of Earth's nearest planets outside the solar system. "Measuring the planet's color is a real first — we have never managed it before with a planet outside our own solar system."

While Earth looks blue from space because of its oceans, the astronomers claim the gas giants' color was created by a hazy turbulent atmosphere of silicate particles that scatter blue light. To ascertain the planet's color, the astronomers measured the amount of light reflected off its surface as it eclipsed its host star. The planet has an atmosphere temperature of around 1,000 C (1,832 F), causing rocks to evaporate and glass to rain sideways in howling 4,500 mph (about 7,250 kph) winds. (7/12)

House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986 (Source: Planetary Society)
The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986. The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While Space News reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation. (7/12)

Russian Entrepreneur Bets on US Rent-a-Satellite Company (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian investor and Internet entrepreneur Dmitry Grishin has invested $300,000 in a new company manufacturing innovative research satellites for use by private individuals, the technology news website The Verge said. California-based NanoSatisfi will launch its first “cube satellite,” described as “a small, standardized vessel that can be modified with off-the-shelf parts and improved on by a community of open source builders” August 4. The satellite will be available to rent for personal research for $250 a week. (7/12)

Missile Defense Needs Re-Test, Investment, Lawmakers Say (Source: Reuters)
Following a failed test last week of the U.S. missile intercept system, several lawmakers say they want a re-test and are urging investment in a new system, as well. Republican members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saying that threats from Iran and North Korea demand that the U.S. bolster its missile defense and add an East Coast intercept system.

Editor's Note: Amid all the other budget problems we face, Congress chooses to spend billions and billions to develop missile defense systems that are unlikely to work against an unlikely threat. This is an imperfect solution in search of a real problem, and an excuse for pouring money into an already bloated defense budget. (7/11)

NASA Spacecraft Photographs Pluto's Largest Moon Charon (Source: Space.com)
A NASA spacecraft bound for Pluto has captured its first photo of the dwarf planet's largest moon Charon, a cosmic snapshot snapped from nearly 550 million miles away. The new Charon photo was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which is closing in on Pluto and due to fly by the icy world in July 2015. The black-and-white image shows Charon as a dim object that is near, but clearly separate from, the brighter object that is Pluto. Click here. (7/11)

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