October 7, 2013

The Need for Synergies Between Science and Exploration (Source: Space Review)
The 2013 Global Exploration Roadmap (GER), published in August, paints a dim picture for the long-term future of space astrophysics. As the astrophysics community continues their indifference to the future of the NASA human spaceflight program, this train and its resources is leaving the station without them. Click here. (10/7)

Government Shutdown Knocks US Radio Telescopes Offline (Source: Space.com)
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) suspended its United States operations Friday (Oct. 4) after the government shutdown forced the large astronomy organization to temporarily close its doors. The NRAO has closed three telescopes: the Very Large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, and the Green Bank Telescope. (10/8)

The Return of the X-Vehicle (Source: Space Review)
It turns out the government hasn’t yet given up on RLV X-vehicles. Last month, DARPA announced a new initiative called Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1, that seeks to develop a reusable lower stage that, combined with an expendable upper stage, could place payloads weighing up to a couple thousand kilograms into low Earth orbit. XS-1, in DARPA’s vision, would be able to launch such payloads more frequently and less expensively than existing expendable launch vehicles. Click here. (10/7)

Enter the Space Lawyers (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
In October 2018, a 488-meter-wide asteroid named Bennu will pass Earth, close enough for NASA to land a spacecraft on it. Five years later, the craft will return to Earth carrying rock samples that could tell us exactly how planets are formed. But the mission, dubbed OSIRIS-REx, has another purpose: to lay the groundwork for the development of an asteroid-mining industry.

NASA has competition, though. Last year, a group of private investors (among them Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt) formed a company called Planetary Resources, with the intention of mining asteroids for valuable minerals. But 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. (10/4)

Jupiter-Bound NASA Spacecraft Swings By Earth Wednesday (Source: Space.com)
A NASA probe will zip by Earth Wednesday (Oct. 9) in a slingshot-like manuever around our planet to build up speed for the long trip to Jupiter. NASA's 8,000-pound (3,267 kilograms) Juno spacecraft will skim just 350 miles (560 kilometers) above Earth's surface on Wednesday, getting a critical gravity assist more than two years after launching on a circuitous path to the solar system's largest planet. (10/7)

How to Use 'Shells' to Terraform a Planet (Source: Space.com)
One day, humans could re-make a world in Earth's image. Engineering an inhospitable world into a livable one, a process known as terraforming, could be a successful way to colonize another world after a long, interstellar journey, said Ken Roy, an engineer and presenter at last week's Starship Congress in Dallas. Roy's terraforming vision hinges upon what he calls "shell worlds." Upon arrival at an ideal planet, humans would literally encase the alien world inside of a protective shell made from Kevlar, dirt and steel. Click here. (10/7)

Conflicting Claims About China, NASA, and Cooperation (Source: Space Politics)
Does NASA want to find ways to cooperate more with China in space, despite current legislative restrictions? Or is NASA using those restrictions to blunt the free flow of information among scientists? Both, depending on what you read. NASA administrator Charles Bolden met with the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences last week when Bolden was in China for the International Astronautical Congress. The two “exchanged frank opinions on pragmatic co-operation in relevant fields in the future,” a paper said, quoting a statement by the academy.

Bolden reportedly said he was “highly serious” about greater cooperation with China, particularly in the area of earth observation. One obstacle to that cooperation, though, is law that has been in place for over two years prohibiting NASA (along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy) from using any funds for bilateral programs with China or to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities. Click here. (10/5)

Shutdown Effects Percolate Through the Space Community (Source: Space Politics)
As the federal government shutdown enters its second week, the focus of the space-related impacts of the lapse in appropriations has been on NASA, who was forced to furlough about 97 percent of its employees. The effects of the shutdown, though, go beyond shuttered websites and furloughed workers at NASA. Several conferences and meetings were forced to scramble after NASA and other federal employees were unable to attend because of the shutdown. Click here. (10/7)

DOD to Recall Furloughed Civilian Workers (Source: Washington Post)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon will recall the majority of its civilian furloughed workers. The Defense Department had placed 350,000 civilians on furloughs after the government shut down last week. "Ultimately, the surest way to end these damaging and irresponsible furloughs, and to enable us to fulfill our mission as a Department, is for Congress to pass a budget and restore funds for the entire federal government," Hagel said in a statement. (10/5)

Asteroid Near-Miss Reported by Russian Scientists (Source: Space Daily)
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Oct 07, 2013 - A 15-meter asteroid, similar to the object that exploded above Russia in February, moving at a speed of 16km per second, was detected hours before it narrowly missed Earth over the weekend, according to Russian scientists. "[The asteroid] was discovered on Friday night by our station near Lake Baikal and nine hours later it flew within 11,300km of the Earth's surface. (10/7)

NASA Technology Used to Rescue Disaster Victims on Earth (Source: Space Safety)
A revolutionary radar device that can detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of disaster victims trapped under rubble has been developed by NASA in conjunction with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Aptly named Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), the radar technology has the ability to locate individuals buried as deep as 9 meters and from a distance of 30 meters, according to NASA. Click here. (10/7)

Lockheed Reduces Number of Furloughed Workers (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin, the No. 1 U.S. government contractor and the Pentagon's biggest supplier, on Monday scaled back the number of its workers facing furloughs after DOD Secretary Chuck Hagel recalled most civilian defense employees. Lockheed said about 2,400 of its workers would still be unable to return to work because the government facilities where they work are closed due to the U.S. government shutdown, or the company had received a stop-work order on their program.

Of the 2,400 affected Lockheed workers in 27 states, about 2,100 worked on programs for civilian agencies, with the remainder working on military programs, the company said, noting that most of the workers were based in Washington. Lockheed Martin had announced on Friday that it would furlough about 3,000 workers on Monday because of the shutdown. (10/7)

Virgin Galactic Plans Space Hotels, Day Trips to the Moon (Source: Scientific American)
Fancy a day’s outing skimming above the moon’s surface in a private two-person spaceship? If you’re staying at a future space hotel planned by Virgin Galactic, that may be an option. Richard Branson, outlined these plans and more for the future of his commercial space fleet. “Using small, purpose-built, two-man spaceships based at space hotels our guests will be able to take breathtaking day trips programmed to fly a couple of hundred feet above of the moon’s surface,” Branson said.

“They will be able to take in with their own eyes awe-inspiring views of mountains, craters and vast dry seas below.” The plans are certainly audacious for a company that has yet to fly a customer to space. “Where is he going to get the funding—and more importantly, how is he going to get to orbit?” asks space policy expert Roger Handberg of the University of Central Florida. “I think Branson is a dreamer and they need those still, but I don’t know that his dream is built on any realistic plan.”

If Virgin Galactic can find an affordable way to reach orbit, the rest of its plans are feasible, experts say. “Getting something from orbit to the moon or from orbit to another orbit is a relatively simple problem once you solve that initial problem,” says former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry group. Click here. (10/7) 

Florida Space Day Plans Underway for Mar. 12 in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Space Day is a milestone event that presents an opportunity to educate and bring awareness to Florida legislators on the significance of the aerospace industry and its impact on Florida's economy. The aerospace industry represents billions of dollars in annual economic impact and employs thousands of residents in the state's 67 counties. The 2014 Space Day is planned for Mar. 12 during the state's Legislative Session. (10/7)

Virginia's 9th Annual "Aerospace Day" Planned on Feb. 5 in Richmond (Source: AIAA)
Aerospace industry leaders will converge on Richmond during the state's General Assembly to increase awareness of how vital NASA and the aerospace industry are to the economic well-being and future of the Commonwealth. (10/7)

Taxpayer Subsidies Helped Elon Musk, So Why Does He Slam Them? (Source: Mother Jones)
Could Musk's companies have taken flight without subsidies? "You can make the case that SpaceX is the ultimate in libertarian thought," a former PayPal exec told me. The libertarians in Musk's fan club seem willing to overlook his chummy relationship with Uncle Sam. At last year's Atlas Summit, a conference for libertarian devotees of Ayn Rand, a panel on "SpaceX and the future of space flight" inspired breathless comparisons between Musk and John Galt, Rand's persecuted inventor, who retires to a secret mountain hideaway dubbed Galt's Gulch.

Libertarians see outer space as a sort of Galt's Gulch sans pareil—so long as getting there doesn't mean ceding any control (or profit) to the federal government. "You can make the case that SpaceX is the ultimate in libertarian thought," a former PayPal exec told me, "because although they are doing work with the government, they are also kind of taking away NASA's monopoly."

"Elon is now looking at it from the point of view of a winner, and he doesn't want to see other people win because they get government money." Of course, if SpaceX colonizes Mars on its own, it could very well become the government. Like the characters in the sci-fi novels he read as a child, Musk has a strong impulse to build his own city-state in the sky. He intends to lead the pilgrimage, and even has expressed his desire to die on the red planet—"just not on impact." (10/7)

Perhaps the Private Aerospace Community Can Step Into the Gap (Source: Examiner)
Using the NASA long-term, large-scale central planning model, human expeditions outside LEO have been considered prohibitively expensive. Constellation was cancelled when it became clear that the US did not have the capability to fund the $500 billion project. Currently, NASA cannot even take Americans to the ISS. In the present government shutdown, NASA has the highest % of employees furloughed as non-essential.

The consensus was clear: the US government can’t do this now. However, perhaps the private aerospace community can step into the gap. Meanwhile, space buffs demand manned flights and plans for colonies and resource recovery throughout the inner solar system. With severely limited resources, interest groups compete for limited missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids and suggest the limited funds should be used on less expensive robotics missions. (10/6)

Golden Spike Asks Planetary Scientists What Humans Could Do on the Moon (Source: Examiner)
 Golden Spike Company (GSC) asked a group of over 30 distinguished planetary scientists and aerospace engineers to present their views on the justification for manned missions. Can a human really do things that modern, advanced robotics can’t accomplish? Can repeat human lunar missions be completed safely at a reasonable cost? Last week, James Lovell joined the GSC board, convinced the dream is again possible.

Workshop participants agreed. Manned spaceflight is not easy, but this can be done. Now, can it be sold? While Mars may be the ultimate destination, the moon is the ideal testing location for low gravity (not zero-g) processes and equipment. Clive Neal and Bill McKinnon provided an overview of what we've already learned from Apollo landings and the questions still remaining. (10/6)

Space Travel: Just Out of this World (Source: Dominion Post)
As Marsha Ivins is about be launched 400 kilometers into space, a few things cross her mind. "Our trip had been cancelled twice because of weather, so I'm thinking, ‘Gee, I hope we can launch today.' " Strapped into Shuttle Columbia, she hears the countdown . . . 10, 9, 8 . . . "So then I'm thinking, ‘Gee, I hope the vehicle doesn't have a problem.'

"Then you start shaking and rattling and rolling and you leave the launch pad and you think, ‘Gee, I hope the engines keep running.' "And the engines keep running for 8 minutes and they finally shut off when you reach orbit. And then you look around and there are no alarms and you think, ‘I'm not in Kansas anymore, Toto'."

That was Ivins' first mission from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, in January 1990. The 62-year-old astronaut from Pennsylvania has completed five shuttle missions - two of them on the later doomed Columbia. Each time she felt an overwhelming sense of what she was doing and where she was going. (10/7)

Profit in the Stars (Source: Toledo Blade)
Private companies such as Orbital Sciences and SpaceX are making trips to the International Space Station look as easy as using Federal Express. The commercial space rivals are jockeying to be the firm NASA turns to when it must put satellites and other material into space fast. Last week, Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft, carrying scientific experiments, food, clothes, and other supplies, docked with the state station after a software glitch had temporarily sidelined it.

The same day, SpaceX launched its powerful Falcon 9 into space, in a demonstration it hopes will provide an edge when contracts are awarded to build the next generation of heavy-lift rockets. Eventually, it will have to go head-to-head with the aerospace partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to complete eight cargo missions to the space station. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion agreement to ferry supplies to the station. SpaceX could fly higher if it wins a race with Sierra Nevada and Boeing to get the contract to carry astronauts into space. (10/7)

3D Printing Is Key to the Final Frontier (Source: Bloomberg)
3D printing is about to take off-Literally. NASA is going to launch a zero-gravity 3D printer into space for the first time next year. And as Bloomberg’s Paul Allen reports, it will cut down on the enormous expense of long-distance space travel. Click here for the video. (10/7)

Climate Puzzle Over Origins of Life on Earth (Source: Manchester)
Scientists at the CRPG-CNRS University of Lorraine, The University of Manchester and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris have ruled out a theory as to why the planet was warm enough to sustain the planet’s earliest life forms when the Sun’s energy was roughly three-quarters the strength it is today. “During the Archean the solar energy received at the surface of the Earth was about 20 to 25 % lower than present,” said study author, Dr Ray Burgess.

“If the greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere was comparable to current levels then the Earth should have been permanently glaciated but geological evidence suggests there were no global glaciations before the end of the Archean and that liquid water was widespread.” (10/4)

Astrobiology in the Folds (Source: Astrobiology)
Astrobiology is often associated with the search for life on planets like Mars, or the hunt for Earth-like worlds around distant stars. However, a great deal of the research that goes into understanding life’s potential in the Universe takes place much closer to home. For now, Earth is our only example of a habitable planet, and before we can identify life as we know it among the stars, we first have to figure out exactly what we’re looking for.

This is why many astrobiologists are busy studying the fundamental ways in which living cells function, evolve and survive. Their work is an essential step in defining how life began on our planet, and in locating other places in the Universe where life could gain a foothold. Sometimes, searching for life in the vast reaches of space begins by looking inward to the microscopic complexity all around (and inside) of us. Click here. (10/7)

Leadership to be Replaced in Russia’s Space Industry (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia has identified candidates for the posts of the heads of the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and the Unified Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK). The first post of is to be taken by Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Ostapenko, the second - by Director of the AvtoVAZ plant Igor Komarov. He will take charge of the country’s entire rocket and space industry and it is the ORKK head that will play a key role in the sector’s development.

The current head of the Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin, who insists on a different version of the Roskosmos reform, will be relieved of his duties. The sense of the reform is the factual division of Roskosmos into two parts: the agency will be responsible for the state policy in the space sphere and act as the state customer, and the corporation will unite the majority of the industry’s enterprises, assuming the functions of the general contractor. (10/7)

No More Glonass-M Satellite Launches Planned Before End of Year (Source: Space Daily)
The 2013 program of Roscosmos does not include any more satellite launches as part of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) project this year. "The GLONASS orbiting group is functioning normally. All 24 satellites are operating. All the areas are covered. There is no need to conduct new launches before the end of the year," a source said. (10/4)

A Dangerous Game of Cosmic Roulette (Source: 60 Minutes)
For a long time, astronomers saw the asteroids and comets that come close to Earth as useless debris -- space rocks that blocked our view of distant galaxies. Not anymore. They're now viewed as scientifically important and potentially very dangerous if they were to collide with our planet. The odds of that happening on any given day are remote, but over millions of years scientists believe there have been lots of impacts, and few doubt there are more to come. A former astronaut told us it's like a game of "cosmic roulette," and one mankind cannot afford to lose. Click here. (10/7)

Aerospace Company Develops Drone That Can Fly Continuously For 5 Years (Source: CBS)
An aerospace company has presented its design “atmospheric satellites” that fly at 65,000 feet and provide drone-like services such as live-mapping and monitoring narcotics trafficking. Titan Aerospace recently offered the Solara series of such drones: which can fly continuously for nearly five years, charging its own battery high above commercial aircraft through the use of solar power. The larger Solara will be 60 meters wide and have the ability to carry about 250 pounds. (10/7)

University Students Successfully Test 3D-Printed Engine (Source: SpaceRef)
A group of students forming the UC San Diego chapter of the organization known as Students for the Exploration and Development of Space represented the Jacobs School of Engineering when they conducted a hot fire test for a 3D-printed metal rocket engine that they, themselves designed. The rocket engine, aptly named Tri-D, was tested at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry launch site in the Mojave Desert. (10/7)

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