September 8, 2013

NASA Fixes Moon Probe Glitch After Amazing Launch (Source:
Engineers have fixed a technical glitch on NASA's newest robotic moon explorer, bringing the spacecraft back up to full health one day after a spectacular nighttime launch Friday. Just hours after the 11:27 p.m. EDT liftoff, NASA officials reported that the spacecraft's reaction wheels — which spin to position and stabilize LADEE in space without using precious thruster fuel — unexpectedly shut down. (9/8)

Shooting for the Moon (Source: The National)
Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the Moon in December 1972. But a drawing he made while orbiting Earth's only natural satellite is back in the news, after it sparked a scientific mystery that may well be solved by the end of the year. Mr Cernan sketched the strange streams of light he saw coming from the Moon's dark side, which always faces away from Earth.

On the weekend, NASA launched its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (Ladee), a spacecraft that, according to the agency's website, will "address long-standing unknowns". In other words, it's designed to find out what causes this phenomenon by orbiting the Moon and closely examining its thin atmosphere for 100 days before a controlled crash landing on the surface. (9/8)

The Changing Face of Space: No Longer a Race (Source:
The character of space exploration is changing. When humans first began going into space, more than half a century ago, astronauts were mostly test pilots, chosen for their experience in dealing with high-flying aircraft. Now many of the explorers are researchers, engineers, and even inventors (though many of them are still pilots.)

For instance, Karen Nyberg, now onboard the International Space Station (ISS), earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering while working for NASA at Johnson Space Center. She has received a patent on robot assembly. Space travel has become less exciting to the average person over the years. Far from being the most thrilling event of the year, the launch of a space vehicle is seldom reported in the media unless it's a new project, and even then it won't be on the front page. (9/8)

Space Exploration on UK's West Wittering Beach (Source: Chichester Observer)
Experts in robotics are set to use the unique conditions on West Wittering beach to test their new space rovers. The loose sand and dunes of the beach emulate the terrain of planets like Mars making it an ideal place to field test the prototype.

Scientists from the University of Surrey’s Space Center will use the MART (Surrey Technology for Autonomous systems and Robotics) rover during the trials. Professor of Space Autonomous Systems, Yang Gao, is running the trial. "These field trials will directly enhance the UK contribution to various on-going European research and missions,” said Proff Gao. (9/8)

Blue Origin Protests Potential LC-39A Lease to SpaceX (Source: Florida Today)
A dispute over control of a mothballed Kennedy Space Center launch pad is now in lawyers’ hands while political pressure on the process grows. Blue Origin last week filed a formal bid protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office regarding NASA’s plans to lease pad 39A for commercial use.

NASA has not announced a lease agreement but was known to be considering an exclusive deal with SpaceX. Also last week, five U.S. senators wrote to NASA urging Administrator Charlie Bolden not to pursue such an exclusive arrangement for even the minimum five-year duration. “An exclusive lease would provide a major advantage to one company in bidding for international launches,” reads the letter.

Blue Origin had proposed to take over and modify pad 39A to support launches by multiple rocket companies, though its own orbital launch vehicle won’t be ready until 2018. The protest could impact who ultimately uses the pad, but at a minimum will delay any lease award until the GAO reaches a decision, expected by mid-December. (9/8)

Iran to Send Second Living Creature into Space in October (Source: FARS)
Head of Iran's Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli Saturday announced that his agency plans to send the second living creature into the space in a couple of months on the back of a liquid-engine explorer rocket. "In a new initiative, Iran's Aviation Agency will send another living creature to the space by mid-October through a liquid-fuel explorer which has less acceleration and is equipped with control and monitor system. It leads to a return of the living creature with high precession," Fazeli said.

Fazeli also expressed the hope that the living creature would be received again in the earth safe and sound. Fazeli highlighted that Iran successfully sent the first living animal into space by a solid-fuel capsule in the last Iranian calendar year (ended March 20, 2013). Sending liquid-fuel capsule into space has many advantages including the high precision and better navigational and controlling systems, he added.

Late in January, the Iranian Defense Ministry's Aerospace Industries Organization announced that it has sent a monkey into the space on the back of Pishgam (Pioneer) explorer rocket, and that it has brought back and recovered the living cargo. The Aerospace Industries Organization said it had sent the living creature into space aboard an indigenous biocapsule as a prelude to sending humans into space. (9/7)

Businessman Goes on Shooting Spree at Plesetsk Spaceport (Source: Interfax)
A businessman fired a shotgun at an administrative building of the Plesetsk space center in the Arkhangelsk region; no one was injured. "A local businessman broke into the administration building and started firing a shotgun at the doors of officials' rooms at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday," an administration source said. Police detained the shooter, and an investigation is under way. (9/6)

LADEE Post-Launch Glitch Being Addressed (Source:
Though the launch was picture-perfect, LADEE ran into a bit of trouble shortly after separating from the Minotaur V. The probe's onboard computer shut down LADEE's orientation-maintaining reaction wheels after noticing that they were drawing too much current. Mission engineers are now trying to work through the LADEE glitch, and NASA officials expressed confidence that the spacecraft will be OK. (9/6)

New NASA Rocket Faces Delays (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The debut launch of NASA's next big rocket — now slated for 2017 — likely will be delayed a year or two because the agency simply does not have the money to finish the rocket and its accompanying crew capsule on time, a top NASA official said Friday. Lori Garver said NASA and Congress long have oversold the agency's ability to build the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and its Orion capsule on an annual budget of roughly $3 billion.

"It's very clear that we could have slips of a year or two," said Garver, referring to both the 2017 launch — which won't have a crew — and the first planned flight of NASA astronauts aboard the SLS rocket in 2021. "People are more optimistic than … reality," she said. (9/6)

ISRO to Unveil Mars Orbitor Mission Next Week (Source: Deccan Herald)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will unveil the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Wednesday, kick-starting its much-anticipated mission to Mars. Mom is scheduled to be launched during October 21-November 19 using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C25 (PSLV-C25) and will carry five payloads.

An official note issued here on Friday said: “The spacecraft, with all the payloads, has completed the Thermo-Vacuum Test that extensively tests the spacecraft under simulated environment space. At the same time, PSLV-C25 launch campaign has also commenced at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota and the first stage with the strap-ons has been assembled.” (9/8)

Ellington Spaceport: If You Build It, Will They Come? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
If Houston wants to enjoy a second half of a century as Space City USA it must capture a piece of the growing commercial aerospace market. But will the Ellington Airport/Spaceport proposal fly? The main issue is one of funding. It’s true that Houston already has the land — sprawling Ellington Airport is only about one-third occupied and there’s plenty of room for development. It’s good land, near a large body of water with good access to freeways.

However during a news conference Diaz was circumspect about the spaceport’s costs, and said funds would come from both private and public sources. For bold dreams to be realized they need to have concrete funding. We’ll have to see whether the numbers, if they’re put to paper, work. (9/6)

A Quick Primer On America's Spaceports (Source: Popular Science)
Going to space is getting easier all the time. For anyone willing to trade giant piles of ephemeral cash for a few short minutes outside the atmosphere, here is a handy map of all American spaceports, released in February by the FAA. While there are more spaceports proposed, the ones that exist at present are in three rough clusters, which I've helpfully named: Pacific Fringe, South by Southwest, and Central and South Atlantic. Here's what you need to know about these portals to space. Click here. (9/7)

Death Spiral: Why the Universe is Producing Fewer Stars (Source: CS Monitor)
Why isn't the universe producing as many stars as it once did, even though it still holds a respectable amount of hydrogen gas, the raw material for stars? Researchers have pointed to enormous black holes in the centers of galaxies and dense collections of massive, hot young stars as accomplices in the relentless decline, which has been underway during the last 10 billion years.

The processes are thought to propel massive galaxies like the Milky Way on an inevitable evolutionary journey from hotbeds of star formation early in the universe's history to galactic geezers – giant elliptical galaxies whose stars are ancient with no new ones in sight. Now, two teams of astronomers have taken cosmic snapshots of these processes at work in unprecedented detail, opening important windows on the mechanisms contributing to the decline of star formation rates in galaxies. (9/5)

Date Set for Olympic Torch Spacewalk (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Olympic torch will go for its first-ever spacewalk November 9 after its launch schedule was confirmed by a Russian cosmonaut Friday. As part of the torch relay for next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, an unlit torch will be carried to the International Space Station on November 7 and venture into space two days later before heading back to Earth on a return flight. (9/6)

New ISS Crew Mascot Will Be Black Toy Cat (Source: RIA Novosti)
A toy black cat will be the new good-luck charm for the next crew on board the International Space Station (ISS), a cosmonaut said on Friday. There’s a tradition amongst Russian cosmonauts to take a small toy with them to hang inside the “Soyuz” capsule on trips to outer space. (9/6)

How Real is the Possibility of a Houston Spaceport? (Source: Houston Business Journal)
To many people outside of NASA, the idea of commercial spaceflight may seem like too much science fiction thinking without enough roots in reality. If this were the case, it wouldn’t make that much sense for the city of Houston to invest in a spaceport. However, space experts insist that commercial spaceflight is right around the corner.

When the Houston Airport System unveiled renderings of its proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport, it also hosted a panel discussion from commercial spaceflight experts led by Michael Lopez-Alegria, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The panel spoke about the progress of commercial spaceflight.

These experts, who were all former astronauts, now work for companies that are developing commercial space vehicles, such as Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corp. They insisted that their companies are working on space vehicles that will be ready in a number of months, not decades. (9/6)

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