July 7, 2013

Atlantis Exhibit Smooth Flying So Far (Source: Florida Today)
So far, so good, for the opening of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. One week into the opening of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s museum honoring the space shuttle era, the centerpiece of which is a suspended orbiter Atlantis with its cargo bay doors open wide and nearly within arm’s reach of guests.

Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, the private company that operates the tourist complex just outside the gates of KSC, does not publicly release a detailed accounting of its attendance figures because it considers the information proprietary. However, company officials said the early days’ returns are exceeding their expectations.

nd, that’s heading into an extended Independence Day holiday weekend that tends to draw a larger than usual number of vacationers and day-trippers. Last weekend, the exhibit opened to astronauts, dignitaries and the die-hards who waited in line to be among the first to see. (7/6)

Russian Rocket Explosion Reminds us that Vigilance is Key (Source: Florida Today)
The Proton crash site was a remote area near the launch complex. But, people on the Space Coast, veterans in an unforgiving industry, watch warily knowing that, but for extreme diligence and good luck, it could have happened here. The fiery loss prompted conversation here about the small margins in which the space-launch industry operates, about the run of launch successes that we’ve experienced at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in this millenium, and about an ever-present need to remain vigilant.

But, more than anything, the accident this week is a sobering reminder that space is hard and it requires a special kind of attention to detail unseen in most industries. Hats off to the men and women who keep our rockets flying safely. May they remain ever vigilant. (7/6)

Florida Teacher Over the Moon About Space Academy Experience (Source: Tampa Tribune)
Fox Hollow Elementary teacher Jeffrey DeSantis counted on a challenge when he signed up for the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program, so he was undaunted when it came time to board the academy's Multi-Axis Trainer, which creates the sensation of being aboard a tumbling aircraft. Ten teachers eyed the machine and opted out. DeSantis opted in.

"That was a little bit tough," DeSantis said. "You were spinning around upside down and all over the place for about a minute." Not to worry. He was assured he could abort the mission if necessary. DeSantis, who teaches third-grade at Fox Hollow, is now eager to return to school this fall and share with his students the math and science lessons he picked up while participating in the academy, which was held last month at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Honeywell International Inc. is concerned about school budget cuts and data that show American students falling behind young people in other countries when it comes to the STEM disciplines. Honeywell is trying to fill the gap by creating a pipeline of talented young people who will become future scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Part of that effort is training teachers at the Space Academy, which has graduated 1,756 teachers since the program began in 2004. (7/7)

Nonprofit is Near Liftoff to Commercialize NASA Glenn Technology (Source: Crains Cleveland)
Ryan Loftus thought he had signed up for a typical chemical engineering co-op, but officials at Alphaport Inc. had bigger plans for him. A few of the Cleveland company's leaders are in the process of forming a nonprofit that would work to commercialize a steady stream of technologies developed at NASA Glenn Research Center, which during the last few years has been trying to turn more of its inventions into products.

The nonprofit would recruit students tasked with finding profitable ways to use NASA Glenn technologies on Earth, according to executives at Alphaport, a provider of training and engineering services that is a contractor at NASA Glenn. The students, from local colleges and perhaps even high schools, would work alongside current and retired technical experts at NASA Glenn.

The Alphaport executives eventually plan to form a for-profit business that would create spinoff companies to license those technologies from NASA and bring them to market. Mr. Loftus is the first student going through the process. As he heads into his junior year at the University of Akron, he's working with Bruce Banks, who works at NASA Glenn on a contract basis, to conduct research on atomic oxygen — and to figure out how to create a product based on the highly corrosive element. NASA already has used atomic oxygen, which can be brutal on spacecraft, to clean damaged paintings. (7/7)

Is the US Spending Enough on Space Exploration? (Source: America Space)
With the United States in a transition phase in space exploration, there has recently been lively debate in Congress regarding NASA’s 2014 budget (though massively overshadowed by Benghazi, the IRS, and the George Zimmerman trial).  The budget was released in April as part of the Administration’s overall 2014 budget request to Congress. Is it enough?

Consider today’s environment, in which on one hand American astronauts suddenly have to humbly thumb rides on old-technology Soyuz rockets to get to the International Space Station (ISS) that the U.S. spearheaded … while on the other hand, many Americans continue to reel from the continuing economic slump. So is the United States spending enough or too much on space exploration? Click here. (7/7)

Russian Space Industry Disastrously Ill (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian space industry is gravely ill, as a long string of failed satellite launches and the findings of ensuing probes unmistakably indicate. A wide variety of remedies have been offered, but one thing is pretty clear - only drastic measures will help. The Audit Chamber has ruled that the management of the Russian space industry is extremely ineffective and uncompetitive. This conclusion following a routine inspection is contained in a report the Audit Chamber published on its website on Thursday.

The report points to a “system of collective irresponsibility” in the space industry. While spending on space soars, the effectiveness of how the money is used dwindles. The federal space program for 2010 was fulfilled 40%, for 2011, 67%, and for 2012, 73%, while the costs of its implementation over the past few years skyrocketed 150%. Besides, the number of space satellites, put in orbit in 2010-2012, was less than half of the expected amount (47%). Also, these satellites are four times more costly than their foreign counterparts, and their quality, far inferior. (7/7)

SpaceX Shows Off New Nav Gear with Latest Grasshopper Test (Source: Endagadget)
We've been watching as the SpaceX Grasshopper's leap has grown higher and higher with each successive launch (and landing!), and the rocket's flights never fail to impress. The reusable spacecraft's latest test is no exception: this time, the 'hopper sailed past its previous 840 feet record, stopping at 1,066 feet. According to the company, the launch had a "more precise" landing thanks to new sensors that measure distance between the ground and the vessel. It shows. The touch-down is both noticeably smoother than previous efforts and drama free compared to Russia's explosive incident in Kazakhstan. (7/7)

Antarctic Lake Vostok Buried Under Two Miles of Ice Found to Teem with Life (Source: Telegraph)
Analysis of ice cores obtained from the basin of Lake Vostok, the subglacial lake that Russian scientists drilled down to in 2012, have revealed DNA from an estimated 3,507 organisms. While the majority were found to be bacteria, many of which were new to science, there were also other single celled organisms and multicellular organisms found, including from fungi.

The diversity of life from the lake has surprised scientists as many had thought the lake would be sterile due to the extreme conditions. Lake Vostok was first covered by ice more than 15 million years ago and is now buried 12,000 feet beneath the surface, creating huge pressures. Few nutrients were expected to be found. (7/7)

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