August 29, 2013

Snapshot: Spaceships in Florida (Source: Florida Trend)
NASA retired the shuttles and with it manned space flight from Florida, but over the next year, other space milestones are on the Canaveral schedule. Click here. (8/28)

'We Are All Martians': Chemist's Otherworldly Claim Stirs Debate (Source: NBC)
Are we all Martians? A controversial hypothesis contends that life on our planet had to get its start somewhere else — most likely on Mars — because the chemistry on early Earth couldn't have provided the required molecular machinery.

"The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock," Steven Benner, a chemist at the Florida-based Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, said in a news release. What's more, recent studies suggest that the conditions suitable for the origin of life "may still exist on Mars," he said.

"Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn into tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting," Benner said. Such minerals can't form easily in the presence of water, but the early Earth was thought to have been covered with water. Click here. (8/28)

Google Street View Captures a Space Shuttle Flyover (Source: Gizmodo)
When Google's army of Street View vehicles takes to the streets, there's no telling what those wandering eyes will see. Still it's hard to believe that a Google Street View camera captured a space shuttle flying over the New Jersey Turnpike towards New York City. Click here. (8/28)

Editorial: NASA Lacks Vision (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s budget and manned space plans are going in the wrong direction. The space agency’s programs for manned space do not have concrete, high-payoff missions. NASA is spending about 44 percent of its $17.7 billion budget on manned space. Why is it spending all this money on three manned capsules and several Space Launch System (SLS) rocket designs?

So far, these missions include two trips around the moon and one to a local asteroid. There seems to be no real vision to NASA’s near- and long-range plans. In 2009, President Barack Obama set up the Augustine commission for manned space. The panel proposed that NASA’s main vision should be directed toward Mars, but it should first gain more exploration experience on the moon. The commission also proposed other flexible, beyond Earth missions. But it seems NASA only wants to go grab an asteroid. This is shortsighted and misguided.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Space Science Committee, said an asteroid trip is “costly and uninspiring,” and we need a “new vision” plan for the space program. Congressman Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, agrees. We need a new “Affordable Space Act” that includes high payoffs at low cost. I recently discussed this with Congressman Posey in his office. First, we should not go to Mars without going to the moon first (it has highest benefit-to-cost ratio), and second, we should exclude going to any asteroids or moons of planets (has low benefit-to-cost ratio). (8/29)

'Space Tourism' Added to Oxford Dictionary (Source: CollectSpace)
"Space tourism" is now "buzzworthy," at least according to one prominent dictionary. Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) added "space tourism" (and "buzzworthy") to the more than 350,000 entries that it defines, the Oxford University Press released Wednesday. The newly-added entry describes "space tourism" as "the practice of traveling into space for recreational purposes." (8/29)

Shelton on Space Fence Closure and the Road Ahead (Source: Space News)
Gen. William Shelton, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, sent SpaceNews a detailed, 1,100 word email Aug. 22 as a response to questions about the service’s space surveillance plans.  Shelton explained his decision to close the current Space Fence, a line of very high frequency radars stretching across the southern United States, and described what a delay the contract award for the next-generation space-object tracking system means. Click here. (8/28)

France Seeks Wider European Union Role in Imaging, Space Surveillance Programs (Source: Space News)
The European Union should become a customer for France’s next-generation optical reconnaissance satellite program to permit a third satellite to be built, and should manage a European space situational awareness program that would include French military assets, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. (8/28)

China to Launch Lunar Probe for Landing Mission (Source: Xinhua)
China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe is scheduled to be launched at the end of this year for a moon landing mission, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced on Wednesday. "Chang'e-3 has officially entered its launch stage, following its research and manufacture period," said a statement released by the administration. The mission will see a Chinese space probe land on a celestial body for the first time.

The Chang'e-3 mission is the second phase of China's lunar program which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth, following the successes of the Chang'e-2 missions, which include plotting a high-resolution, full-coverage lunar map. Chang'e-3's carrier rocket has successfully gone through its first test while the launch pad, control and ground application systems are ready for the mission. (8/28)

Space Laser To Prove Increased Broadband Possible (Source: NASA)
When NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) begins operation aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission, it will attempt to show two-way laser communication beyond Earth is possible, expanding the possibility of transmitting huge amounts of data. This new ability could one day allow for 3-D High Definition video transmissions in deep space to become routine. (8/28)

Curiosity Can Now Drive Itself Across The Martian Surface (Source: Forbes)
Over the past year, the Mars rover Curiosity has covered a lot of ground on the Martian surface. But during that time, its been controlled from back on Earth, by human drivers. That’s now changed. Yesterday, NASA announced that Curiosity has been updated with the capability for autonomous driving. The software was adapted from that used by Curiosity‘s cousin, Opportunity, to autonomously drive elsewhere on Mars. (8/28)

Japanese Astronaut to Command Space Station in March (Source: Reuters)
The first Japanese astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station is preparing for a return flight, this time to serve as commander, officials said on Wednesday. Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, is due to leave in November with a pair of veteran astronauts from the United States and Russia. (8/28)

Bolden: Indo-U.S. Space Ties Ready for Take-Off (Source: The Hindu)
Once “estranged democracies,” India and America are now seeking to leap together into the next big frontier of space exploration. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of America, the world’s foremost space exploration agency, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are today engaged in an intense dialogue to explore space. Click here. (8/29)

Apstar 7 Propels Revenue, Earnings for APT Satellite Holdings (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong reported spectacular increases in revenue and profit for the six months ending June 30, saying its planned expansion beyond its home region is showing results. APT’s financial performance was particularly helped by the entry into service of the Apstar 7 satellite in June 2012 at 76.5 degrees east. As of June 30, Apstar 7 was 75.1 percent full. (8/29)

Atlantis is the Star Feature at a New KSC Attraction (Source: Florida Trend)
NASA’s space shuttle program has ended, but Brevard County’s economy is getting a boost from the retired shuttle Atlantis, which has begun a new career as the centerpiece of a $100-million attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operator of the visitor complex since 1995, has filled the 90,000-sq.-ft. attraction with more than 60 interactive exhibits and simulators combining elements of modern theme park technology with historic NASA photos, artifacts and film footage. The attraction is included in the price of general admission for the KSC Visitors Center, $50 plus tax for adults, $40 plus tax for ages 3-11. (8/28)

NASA Enlists UF Faculty to Develop Small Satellite Technology (Source: UF)
Mechanical and aerospace engineering and astronomy faculty members at the University of Florida have been selected to work with NASA’s Langley Research Center on navigation and guiding systems for small satellites. Norman Fitz-Coy, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the instruments developed for this project are based on some of the oldest navigation tools used throughout history.

“‘Attitude’ is the knowledge of your orientation,” Fitz-Coy said. “On a spacecraft, you need to be able to identify your attitude accurately, and you need to be able to change it. So we’re developing two things: a system for gaining attitude knowledge – we call it a ‘star tracker,’ it’s really a modern version of a sextant, like those used by sailors – and a gyroscope to give you the ability to control or reorient your attitude.” (8/28)

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