November 16, 2013

Astronaut Criteria – A Brief History (Source: ETC NASTAR)
When the United States and Soviet Union began manned space flights and chose their first groups of space pilots, this was a largely unknown field. At this early stage (ca. 1959) differing philosophies emerged regarding the role of the pilot, which affected selection criteria. Click here. (11/15)

NASA Just Cancelled its Advanced Spacecraft Power Program (Source: Planetary Society)
The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator was to use less Plutonium for cheaper missions. In a stunning announcement, NASA's Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green announced that work on the Advanced Radioisotope Stirling Generator would cease due to budget cuts.

"With an adequate supply of Pu-238, and considering the current budget-constrained environment, NASA has decided to discontinue procurement of ASRG flight hardware. We have given direction to the Department of Energy, which manages the flight procurement, to end work on the flight units. The hardware procured under this activity will be transferred to the Glenn Research Center to continue development and testing of the Stirling technology." (11/15)

Astronomers Surprised by Large Space Rock Less Dense Than Water (Source: Nature)
A planetary scientist has identified the largest-known solid object in the Solar System that could float in a bathtub. The rock-and-ice body, which circles well outside the orbits of the planets, is less dense than water — although a bathtub big enough to hold it would stretch from London to Frankfurt.

The body, dubbed 2002 UX25, lies in the Kuiper belt, a reservoir of dwarf planets, comets and smaller frozen bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. The object's low density and size — it is 650 kilometres wide — seem to conflict with a leading model for the formation of large solid bodies in the Kuiper belt and throughout the Solar System. (11/13)

Russian Space Agency Requests Ban on Buying Satellites Abroad (Source: RIA Novosti)
The new head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos has requested that the country no longer buy telecommunications satellites from abroad because that money should go to the domestic industry. Roscosmos head Oleg Ostapenko, appointed to the position last month, wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin proposing that the Russian company Information Satellite Systems should become a monopoly supplier of civilian telecom satellites for domestic needs. (11/15)

Senate Intelligence Urges Looser Satellite Imagery Restrictions (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation that recommends allowing U.S. firms to sell higher-resolution satellite imagery on the open market, a move welcomed by DigitalGlobe and other companies that have suggested changes. The relaxed imagery-resolution restrictions were recommended in a report the committee released Nov. 13 detailing the unclassified provisions of the intelligence authorization bill it approved Nov. 5. (11/15)

Inspector Feynman: 'Challenger Disaster' Stars Scientist-Sleuth (Source: NBC)
Don't expect to see tributes to fallen space heroes in "The Challenger Disaster," the Science Channel's first-ever docudrama. Instead, you should think of the show as a detective story in the "Law and Order" mold, starring one of history's geekiest sleuths ever: Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman, played by William Hurt. (11/16)

Ask a Grown-Up: Why Can't We Send People to Mars? (Source: Guardian)
We actually can send people to Mars. So why haven't we? First, with today's technology, it would be very expensive. We would need to use a lot of fuel to get there. And, once we arrived, unless we left again fairly soon, we would need to stay for nearly two years until the alignment of the planets allowed us the shortest journey back.

It also wouldn't be safe now. Space is hazardous because of radiation coming from the sun and galactic cosmic rays, which make us ill. We need to build a spaceship that can protect us from that. On top of that, without gravity, your heart muscle shrinks and your bone density and muscle mass reduce. Today, it would take eight months to get to Mars, enough time to damage your body, so we need to work out how to get there faster and protect the crew. (11/16)

Discontent with Dish Network Chairman Detailed (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Two Dish Network Corp. directors in charge of evaluating a potential Dish bid for a telecommunications firm took issue with how their committee was treated by Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who stands to profit personally from the deal, according to new documents filed in a lawsuit against Dish. Steven Goodbarn and Gary Howard, selected to serve on a Dish special committee earlier this year, conditionally recommended Dish's $2.22 billion bid for LightSquared Inc. in July. (11/15)

Galileo Contractor Expects No Trouble Finding Profit Amid New Delays (Source: Space News)
The prime contractor of Europe’s 22 Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites said it is likely to retain its planned profit on the program despite delays that have caused European Commission officials to threaten penalties. Satellite builder OHB AG said it had completed development of the first satellites earlier than planned, and that this will compensate for the late start in testing and later-than-planned delivery to its customer, the European Space Agency (ESA). The net result will be no material change to the program’s profitability. (11/15)

North American Business on the Mend, Globalstar Looks Abroad (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar on Nov. 13 said that with its North American business on the mend and a full set of second-generation satellites in service, it will now begin to focus on international markets, starting with Latin America. The company also said it is introducing a new set of products including a low-cost satellite phone for the mass consumer market and an asset-tracking device, also for the consumer market. (11/15)

EchoStar Reports Quarterly Gain of 72,000 Subscribers (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband provider EchoStar said its HughesNet consumer broadband service added 72,000 net subscribers in the three months ending Sept. 30, bringing the total to 807,000 subscribers in a performance that far outpaced rival ViaSat Inc.’s Exede similar service. (11/15)

President Kennedy Visited Florida Spaceport Six Days Before Death (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center as we know it was just getting off the ground when President John F. Kennedy visited Cape Canaveral for the last time, 50 years ago today. Inside the Launch Complex 37 blockhouse, scale models arranged on a table previewed what the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pad 39A and Saturn V rockets would look like.

There, pointing to the models and charts propped on easels, NASA leaders briefed the president on progress developing the facilities and rockets that would support moon shots by his end-of-the-decade goal. Kennedy appears in a picture to be listening intently, one hand held to his chin.

“So this was Kennedy preparing to make a decision on whether to continue with the Apollo program or not,” said historian John Logsdon, author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon.” “And I think this visit rekindled his enthusiasm for the program.” (11/16)

Ames to Pitch NASA on Value of 'New' Kepler Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Managers in charge of the Kepler telescope have identified a way of salvaging the crippled observatory for a modified, less-sensitive cosmic survey for alien worlds, but NASA may not have the money to pay for the mission. Since Kepler was knocked offline in May, officials at NASA's Ames Research Center in California have considered and analyzed new missions for the telescope.

They think they have found a concept that is both feasible and scientifically intriguing. The new mission scenario, dubbed "K2," calls for pointing Kepler across a swath of sky known as the ecliptic plane, or the plane where all the solar system's planets orbit the sun. If approved, Kepler would begin observing smaller, cooler stars that may harbor rocky planets close in, meaning they would be easier to detect. (11/16)

Science Minister Says Moray Base Could Become First UK Spaceport (Source: Scotland Herald)
A FORMER RAF base in Moray could become the country's first spaceport within five years, a UK minister has predicted. David Willetts, the ­Universities and Science Minister, said the UK Government was keen to aid that ambition. Ministers want to ensure the UK claims its share of what could be a £400 billion space industry,

Industry insiders also believe that establishing a spaceport in the UK would cut the cost of launching satellites and also help to bring broadband to the most remote parts of the country. But Mr Willetts also signalled his belief in the potential for the UK to benefit from space tourism. He hopes to attract Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which plans to run commercial space flights, to the UK. (11/16)

Officials Say Spaceport Could Bring Big Bucks to Colorado (Source: Aurora Sentinel)
Proponents of a Colorado spaceport told an aerospace and aviation task force at the Adams County Economic Development office in Westminster on Thursday that as airports grow, so does the economy. The Colorado Spaceport, based at Front Range Airport, aims to change the way people travel by offering suborbital flights and creating a new hub for the aerospace industry and space tourism in the state.

Dave Gordon, director of aeronautics for The Colorado Department of Transportation, presented a study showing airports pumped $36.7 billion into the state’s economy in 2013, an increase of $4.5 billion from 2008. The study was conducted by CDOT and the Colorado Aeronautics Division. The study showed that Front Range Airport had an economic impact of $75,527,117 for 2013. Front Range Airport is expected to receive its license to become a spaceport in 2014, according to the Colorado Space Coalition. (11/16)

Virgin Galactic Isn’t the Future of the UK Space Industry (Source: The Engineer)
The common conception of the commercial space industry is of companies run by charismatic, ambitious billionaires carrying out launches on NASA’s behalf or running an attention-grabbing tourist flight or Mars-colonising service. But while the likes of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic generate the headlines, a much larger industry is operating quietly in the background and with a much more important role in most people’s lives.

Despite not having a prominent national science and exploration program, the UK space industry has double the country’s average global market share (6 percent compared to 3 percent) and is one of the few sectors to have enjoyed strong growth throughout the recent recession. And all this without most British people probably realizing the country even has a space industry.

A spaceport that brought the world’s eyes to the UK would be a welcome addition to our infrastructure. But more importantly it would provide greater access to space at a time when availability of cheap Eastern European launch vehicles is shrinking, potentially increasing the number of low-cost satellites we can launch and opening use of satellite data to a whole new audience. It might not be as glamorous as sending Lady Gaga into space, but ultimately it will be a lot more useful and probably far more profitable. (11/16)

Space Sector Could Give Boost to UK's Economic Recovery (Source: Daily Mail)
Andy Green, head of UK Space, described Britain’s space industry as a tremendous opportunity, adding that while the UK already punches above its weight in the global space business, there is much room for growth. Companies like EADS-owned Astrium are already major players. Astrium has a UK plant developing a rover vehicle for the 2018 ExoMars mission, for example.  

The interim target is to grow the UK space industry to £19billion turnover by 2020 and create billions of pounds of new exports, up to 100,000 skilled jobs and trickle the benefits down to small and medium-sized firms in the supply chain.  With rival economies like India and China now engaged in a new space race, Britain has powerful potential trading partners with which to work.

The European Space Agency has also seen a 33 percent increase in funding, increasing British industry’s work and influence. It is clear that momentum is building. But perhaps one of the most important benefits of boosting the space industry is to help inspire young people to study so-called STEM subjects. Today Britain has a golden opportunity to inspire a new generation of space explorers. But importantly, as a sector space could give a valuable boost to the nascent economic recovery. (11/16)

Success of 'New Space' Era Hinges on Public's Interest (Source: ASU)
Capturing the public’s interest is a key component for “New Space,” where commercial companies are filling in some of the roles that had been traditionally played by NASA, and education has an important role to play, said Ariel Anbar, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. This new role for academia is “a deeper, more authentic relationship than providing training and science majors” to industry, he said. Educating non-science majors is also important.

“Investors in space companies primarily are not going to be science majors,” Anbar said. “They are business majors, philosophy majors, history majors. These are the people who need to have a good understanding of what is done out there and how it affects us down here.” (11/15)

Mars, a Battleground for Earthlings? (Source: New Straits Times)
In two decades, would man land on Mars? Perhaps yes, and to stay there if there is life and water to sustain life. Could that be a multinational mission, result of cooperation in space exploration, with footprints of an American, a Russian, someone from the European Union and perhaps, an Indian, falling on the Red Planet? Not impossible, but having landed there, what would they do -- fight to guard their "national interests?"

As Ray Bradbury, the American science fiction writer famous for Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, put it: "We are all... children of this universe. And, if we are interested in Mars at all, it is only because we wonder over our past and worry terribly about our possible future... However, it's not going to do any good to land on Mars if we're stupid." (11/16)

Philanthropist Makes Six-Figure Investment in Moon Express (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Klee Irwin, the Southern California-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder/director of Quantum Gravity Research today provided a look into his recent six-figure investment in Moon Express. Moon Express is a privately funded lunar resource company created to establish new avenues for private space activity beyond near-Earth-orbit. The company is a leading contender for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize and hopes to become the first private team to land a robot on the Moon.

Irwin commented,  "I invested less for financial payoff and more to fund space science and assist in the expansion of Earth-based life and technology into the vast regions beyond Earth." Moon Express already won a $10 million contract from NASA in 2010, as the agency's policy is to outsource more activities to private industry.

Irwin's investment in Moon Express is part of a larger strategy he initiated a few years ago, according to his comment, "I am directing my resources – both financial and creative – toward initiatives that help create a more harmonious future for humanity." (11/15)

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