July 21, 2013

World’s First Mission to the Moon’s South Pole Announced (Source: Moon and Back)
The world’s first mission to the South Pole of the Moon was announced today by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express, Inc. The private enterprise mission will be both scientific and commercial, and will deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) to the Moon’s South Pole aboard a Moon Express robotic lander, establishing permanent astrophysical observations and lunar commercial communications systems for professional and amateur researchers.

Moon Express will also utilize the mission to explore the Moon’s South Pole for mineral resources and water. Lunar probes have provided compelling evidence of mineral and volatile deposits in the Moon’s southern polar region where energy and resources may be abundant. The ILO, with its 2-meter dish antenna, will be the world’s first instrument to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface, providing scientific research, commercial broadcasting and enabling Galaxy 21st Century education and “citizen science” on the Moon. (7/20)

NASA Releases Draft Request for Commercial Crew Proposals (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has released a draft request for proposal (RFP) for commercial crew transportation to the International Space Station (ISS), including certification requirements and at least one flight. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) builds on the ongoing Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program, a series of milestone-based awards going to three companies - Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada.

Contrary to previous rounds of commercial crew funding - CCiCap and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev1 & 2), the contracts will be based on Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), in which the government is able to set specific requirements and define approaches, with certain exceptions allowing contractors to retain property. Several involved companies have spoken out against the shift to FAR-based contracts, and the change was subject to contentious negotiations between NASA, the White House and members of Congress.

Previous contracts were Space Act Agreements, which allow much greater leeway for contractors to design and build spacecraft. CCtCap contracts will be milestone based, like their predecessors, releasing designated funds only upon the contractor's demonstration of achieving a series of checkpoints. (7/19)

Frequency, Efficiency Crucial to 39A Choice (Florida Today)
It’s interesting how fast roles evolve. SpaceX, once the upstart fighting to get inside the lucrative government space contracting business, is becoming part of the establishment. And, it’s new companies, like Blue Origin, that are playing the role of maverick in the ever-changing landscape of privatized space flight. Blue Origin is a Washington-based company backed by Amazon chief executive officer and founder Jeff Bezos.

One member of Congress is openly trying to block any exclusive deal. The rationale for SpaceX, one would suppose, is that the company needs to be able to know it has use of the facillities on KSC whenever it needs them. With the expected flight loads that SpaceX continues projecting, it seems as though capacity is an issue for the company and that is a good thing for the space launch business and the Space Coast.

Blue Origin, for its part, is proposing that Pad 39A become a versatile multi-use facility that could be the embarkation point for all kinds of rockets. That would include SpaceX’s vehicles, those of the United Launch Alliance and, of course, Blue Origin’s own missions. United Launch Alliance, which didn’t vie for use of the pad, did write Blue Origin a letter of support for its multi-use concept. Blue Origin plans suborbital flights by 2015 and orbital flights by 2018. Click here. (7/20)

Could Mars Have Supported Life After Loss of Thick Atmosphere? (Source: LA Times)
Mars' protective magnetic field probably faded early in its history, leaving it exposed to the sun. The late heavy bombardment that hammered the planets with debris roughly 4 billion years ago would have also stripped the atmosphere, said Paul Mahaffy, lead scientist on the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument in Curiosity’s belly.

Still, it’s possible that life could have developed earlier in Mars' history, with a thicker atmosphere – and then the hardiest of microbes could have roughed it with the water and organic molecules still available, even after the air grew thin. Curiosity is finding plenty of evidence that there were habitable environments with organic chemicals and running water about 3.5 billion years ago, Mahaffy said. (7/20)

Forget an Apollo 11 National Park on the Moon, Let's Focus on Next Big Mission (Source: Guardian)
Despite the lingering criticism of the space program, we cannot abandon a future in space. The query, "is it worth the cost?" is simply a misguided perception when one looks at the fact that the money spent on space program is less than one percent of US federal spending since 1993.

Not surprisingly, when the moonwalkers returned to earth, many earthlings asked this very same question. Obviously, the lunar rocks and dust the astronauts brought back do not justify the cost. Such criticisms are not unique or limited to any country or culture. When India's much celebrated moon mission Chandrayan-1 led to the detection of water on the moon, people wondered, understandably, how come many in India walk miles each day in search of water? However, such contradictions are not to be mistaken as excuses to belie the explorations of other worlds. (7/20)

Mars Needs Workers! Space Startups Desperate for Talent (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Hardware, software, mobile apps, product development. The list of potential jobs for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) talent goes on. As a result, bagging that talent is no small feat for employers, in particular small companies and startups. Case in point: The growing private space industry. Elon Musk's space transportation startup SpaceX is currently looking for about 200 employees, including highly technical roles in engineering and manufacturing.

“We’re hiring,” said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of asteroid mining company Planetary Resources. “We take software developers of all disciplines.” The company — which currently has about 40 employees ranging from NASA alums like Lewicki to high school interns — is also in the market for individuals well-versed in embedded hardware applications. Click here. (7/19)

One Small Step For Man, One Giant Lunar Park For The U.S.? (Source: NPR)
What countries can and cannot do on the moon is dictated by a body of international treaties, says Dr. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. He tells NPR's Jacki Lyden that most of those agreements were negotiated during the "space race" with the Russians in the 1960s.

"Probably the most important one is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty," Pace says. "Nations cannot claim sovereignty over celestial bodies. So you can't plant a flag on the moon and claim it for the United States." So, Pace says, it doesn't look like there will be a U.S. national park on the moon any time soon because the legislation appears to contradict international law.

"There are a number of historical sites on the moon that I think people would feel strongly about — not only American sites, but also Soviet and Russian sites. And arguably there will be other people there in the future." In order to make way for these kinds of celestial memorials, countries would have to agree to new rules. (7/20)

Mars Mission Not for Pride, We Mean Business, says ISRO (Source: DNA)
As India prepares to launch its Rs 450 crore mission to Mars this year, a top space official says the country's first martian odyssey--that has attracted some criticism--is not just for pride but for undertaking "meaningful research". ISRO says the primary objectives are to demonstrate India's technological capability to send a satellite to orbit around Mars and conduct meaningful experiments such as looking for signs of life. (7/21)

Democratic Club Plans Shiloh Discussion at Titusville Meeting (Source: SPACErePORT)
The North Brevard Democratic Club is holding it's monthly meeting on Monday, July 22 at Dixie Crossroads Restaurant in Titusville. They are having two speakers discussing the proposed Shiloh launch site, one in favor, the other against. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. (7/21)

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