September 26, 2013

Space Travel on a Budget is Coming to Vancouver (Source: Metro)
If you ever thought about buying one of the first ever space tourism flights from Virgin Galactic but thought the $250,000-price tag was just a wee bit steep, fear not: Budget space travel for less than half the price is coming to Vancouver. After three Canadians from out east booked their $109,000 tickets to launch into space in 2014 with The Adventure Travel Company (ATC), the Toronto–based company set its sights on the west.

It will be hosting an info session for prospective B.C. astronauts on Thursday night at the Vanlawn Tennis Club. ATC is the Canadian agent for the Amsterdam-based Space Expedition Corporation (SXE), which has “spaceports” in California’s Mojave Desert and on the Caribbean island of Curacao. The company has developed a two-person suborbital vehicle called Lynx that is expected to take its first commercial flight next August. (9/26)

Falcon 9 Aiming for Sunday Debut (Source: Lompoc Record)
The highly anticipated Falcon 9 rocket’s West Coast debut is planned for Sunday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it could become the third blastoff in eight days. Air Force officials confirmed the Falcon 9 rocket, developed by SpaceX, is scheduled to launch during a window opening at 9 a.m. Sunday. Other sources have said the launch window will remain open until noon. (9/26)

West Virginia Site Receives NASA Contract (Source: Charleston Daily Mail)
NASA says it has selected West Virginia University Research Corp. of Morgantown to provide operations and maintenance services at the agency's Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont. The total value of the five-year contract is $40 million. (9/26)

Space? It’s Just a Commute (Source: TIME)
It took just under six hours for Soyuz TMA-10M to reach the International Space Station on Thursday, making it the third time a manned vehicle has completed the journey in under 24 hours. Before March, the trip usually took two days, which is long enough for the crew inside the ship’s cramped interior to become uncomfortable and make space sickness symptoms worse (and just in case you weren’t sure, barfing in space is somewhat more complicated than on earth). (9/26)

Who Owns the Moon? Time to Call In the 'Space Lawyers' (Source: The Telegraph)
Before NASA, or anybody else, starts mining on Bennu, the Moon, or any other celestial body, a few questions need to be answered. Does anyone actually have the right to profit from space rocks? And if something should go wrong up there, far from Earth-bound laws, who is responsible? This is where “space lawyers” come in. Click here. (9/26)

Ocean vs. Space: Which Is the True Final Frontier? (Source: Mashable)
Space may be called "the final frontier," but anyone who has seen a picture of a goblin shark or a vampire squid will agree that the ocean can be downright alien. Both realms are ripe for exploration, offer extensive potential benefits and come at a hefty price.

So which wins in a battle between the two for the title of the final frontier? Which area of exploration will result in the greater good for humanity? Dr. Paul Bunje, senior director of prize development and ocean health at the XPRIZE Foundation, and Alexandra Hall, senior director of Google Lunar XPRIZE, met on the Social Good Summit stage to duke it out on Tuesday. Click here. (9/26)

Sony Pictures TV Sets Space Travel Series As Space Heats Up As Reality Frontier (Source: Deadline)
Sony Pictures Television will introduce a new reality series — Milky Way Mission — which will send celebrities into space. Milky Way Mission, created by Tuvalu Media and Simpel Media, features 10 celebrities living in a special bootcamp where they undergo a rigorous and intensive training program in preparation to become an astronaut. SPT’s agreement is with Netherlands-based Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), which is launching a space travel program for civilians in 2014.

The news comes as Survivor and The Voice producer Mark Burnett is pitching another unscripted series where the prize is flying into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. The Mark Burnett series is said to feature non-celebrity contestants. The new TV space race comes a decade after space first became a hot reality destination with several projects, neither of which took off the ground, including Burnett’s Destination Mir and Destination Space. (9/25)

US-Russian Crew Arrives at Space Station After 6-Hour Flight (Source:
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts linked up with the International Space Station late Wednesday, doubling the orbiting lab's crew size after an express trip to orbit. They arrived at the station less than six hours after launching into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The two spacecraft were sailing 261 miles (420 kilometers) over the southern Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Peru, during their rendezvous. (9/25)

Minuteman Test Succeeds With California Launch (Source: Launch Alert)
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 3:33 a.m. (PDT) today from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., marking the second successful Minuteman test launch this week. (9/26)

SpaceShipTwo Trial Run Scrubbed (Source: Discovery)
About 300 Virgin Galactic customers gathering in Mojave, Calif., on Wednesday to watch a test flight of SpaceShipTwo can chalk up their first real astronaut experience — the flight was scrubbed. “We really wanted to do a special spaceship flight for you today,” said Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides. ”We gave it our all, but in the end weather just didn’t cooperate.”

“The decision that we made today symbolic of our general attitude, which is that … we will work our guts out for you, but if there’s anything that gives us concern about safety we’re not going fly.” SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot air-launched suborbital vehicle, so far has made several glide flight and two test flights of its rocket engine. (9/25)

Virgin Galactic: The Hour is Nigh For Tourists in Space (Source: TIME)
The astronauts ate muffins in the Mojave Desert this morning. They needed a whole lot of muffins, mostly because there were a whole lot of astronauts, 300 or so. They were here to see their spacecraft, known by the prosaic name SpaceShipTwo, and hear from the man who dreamed it up--Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, a company built from the ground up for the principle purpose of democratizing space.

The crowd that gathered to listen to Branson was an eclectic group: There was John Graves of Bethesda, a 59-year old grandfather and the CEO of Netcom, who wants to go into space for the famed “overview effect". Also here were were longtime friends Tom Reuter and John Gardenhire of Denver, both 34, who admit that taking the risk of going to space—especially for a suborbital experience that will last only 15 minutes and set them back a cool $250,000—is not something they can justify rationally, and so they don’t try. (9/25)

Planet Hunter Sara Seager Wins $625,000 'Genius Grant' (Source:
MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager has won a $625,000 "genius grant," the MacArthur Foundation announced today (Sept. 25). Seager is one of 24 awardees, who represent a diverse group of scientists, artists, writers, academics and activists. Seager, 42, was selected for her groundbreaking exoplanet research, which has led to ever-better models of the atmospheres and interiors of alien worlds. (9/25)

Was Ancient Earth Like Jupiter's Super-Volcanic Moon Io? (Source:
Anybody wondering what Earth was like 4 billion years ago should cast an eye toward Jupiter's hypervolcanic moon Io, a new study suggests. Io is the most volcanically active object in the solar system, dissipating its massive stores of internal heat via intense eruptions that cover the entire moon with about 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) of lava every year. Earth probably went through a similar phase in its youth, back before the planet cooled enough for plate tectonics to start up, researchers say. (9/25)

NASA Selects Early Stage Innovation Proposals from 10 Universities (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 10 university-led proposals for study of innovative, early stage space technologies that address high priority technical needs America's space program must master to enable future missions. The one-year grants from NASA's Space Technology Research Grants Program are worth about $250,000 each, with an additional year of research possible.

Selected proposals address technology challenges that may improve astrophysics scientific instruments, oxygen recovery for space life support systems, cryogenic propellant storage for long-duration space exploration, our identification, characterization and protection from near-Earth asteroids. Editor's Note: UF was the only Florida university selected, for "Bio-inspired broadband antireflection coatings at long wavelengths for space applications". (9/25)

China Expects to Complete Space Station by 2023 (Source: GB Times)
China will complete its first space station within 10 years and be able to send crews of up to six people for short-term missions, the announced at the 64th International Astronautical Congress. China released a host of details about its space station to around 3,600 delegates from all over the world. "Room in the station will be no less than 60 square meters, which is enough for astronauts to move freely," said Xu Dazhe, general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, at the five-day event that began on Monday in Beijing. (9/25)

New Technology Could Make for Smarter Planet Rovers (Source: Mars Daily)
The Curiosity rover exploring Mars boasts impressive technology but future rovers will need more smarts to explore more distant worlds, U.S. scientists say. While the unmanned Curiosity mission has made major strides in landing on and finding its own way on a distant planet, new and better technology is needed if future rover missions are to make discoveries further out in the solar system, they said.

One step under way is the development of a new camera that can do more than just take pictures of alien rocks, researchers said; it also thinks about what the pictures signify so the rover can decide on its own whether to keep exploring a particular site or move on. (9/9)

ISS Extension to 2028 Could Cost $24 Billion. Inflatable Stations a Better Option (Source: Next Big Future)
Three years ago, Congress extended funding for the station through 2020, and NASA’s international partners — Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency — have made a similar commitment. But behind the scenes, NASA officials are working to persuade the White House to make a decision, pronto, to keep the orbital laboratory flying after 2020. The alternative is to crash the massive structure into the South Pacific.

Russia is talking of starting a second-generation space station on its own. China has launched two crews to its first space laboratory module, Tiangong 1, and plans to construct a 60-ton space station by 2020. The odds are heavily against the continuation of the station post 2020. Japan or Europe are unlikely to contribute money for the ISS after 2020. Assuming no new additional costs extending the space from 2020 to 2028 would cost $24 billion.

I think that a larger inflatable space station should be built. Bigelow Aerospace has launched some smaller scale demonstration inflatable space stations. They have a design for an 84 persons resupply Depot. It would have 8300 cubic meters of space. $24 billion could be used to buy and operate three 84 person resupply depots. (9/15)

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