November 7, 2013

Multiple Missions Will Get China Moving On Mars (Source: Space Daily)
In early December, China will land its first robot spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. Shortly after landing, the Chang'e-3 lander will release a six-wheeled rover that will trundle across the regolith. While most Chinese media coverage has focused on this first lander, it's worthwhile remembering that China roughly three years ago made signs in its state-run media that it has two Moon rovers in the pipeline.

This fits in with a trend that China seems to be following with its lunar program. Each type of mission has two essentially identical spacecraft built for it. The first spacecraft is placed in the spotlight and given the prime mission. The Chang'e-3 mission is China's first lunar landing spacecraft, but it will not be an isolated mission. More advanced Chinese lunar plans will be carried out in the decade ahead. The technology and landing systems demonstrated on this first landing will be critical to achieving these feats. (11/6)

Shutdown and Potential Sequester Mean “Everything is in Flux” (Source: Space Politics)
As NASA and the NSF’s astrophysics programs try to get back on track after a government shutdown lasting more than two weeks, those agencies are dealing with uncertain future budgets that are complicating planning for current and future programs. “Almost everything is in flux,” advised Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

In the near term, Hertz said his division was dealing with the effects of the government shutdown. That included the cancellation of plans to fly high-altitude long-duration balloons carrying astronomy experiments above Antartica for the 2013-14 season because of the late start to the overall Antarctic field season caused by the shutdown. Nine flights by the SOFIA airborne observatory were also cancelled by the shutdown, while an x-ray instrument being developed by NASA for Japan’s Astro-H mission has been delayed for as much as five weeks.

The big concern now is the state of the fiscal year 2014 budget. NASA is currently operating under a continuing resolution that funds the astrophysics program at a rate corresponding to an annualized level of $607 million, slightly below the $617 million is received post-sequester for 2013. (JWST is funded under a separate account, and is being protected from cuts because it is deemed an agency priority.) (11/6)

Why The Moon Should Be An International Park (Source: Popular Science)
The thought of a robot laying tracks over Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s footprints just seems wrong. And the risk is greater than you might think. Private spaceflight is flourishing, and even the Google Lunar XPRIZE for moon rovers includes a sub-prize of up to $4 million for “a Mooncast showing the Apollo artifacts in HD.”

Humans have a tendency to tromp all over things we haven’t yet assigned a specific value, even when we’re trying to be careful. But an increased sense of conscience about the Apollo sites recently spawned a bill to preserve them. The proposal, put before Congress this past summer, is to eventually nominate them as UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s not perfect. First, under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, accepted by 101 countries, no nation can claim the moon as sovereign territory, an official prerequisite for nomination.

Instead of passing piecemeal bills, let’s go all the way. The moon was part of Earth until about 4.5 billion years ago, according to current models. It could answer key questions about the history of our planet and therefore needs to be protected. The entire moon should be an international history and science preserve—an Off-World Heritage site, if you will. (11/6)

India Capable of Sending Rocket to Mars and Fighting Poverty at Same Time (Source: Quartz)
The secret to India’s low-budget space program is a simple one: operating within constraints and without luxuries. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) adapts what technology it can, strips out costs wherever it can and is staffed with modestly-paid yet incredibly hard-working scientists. It is willing to take more risks, for example by building just one physical model of its craft compared to the three employed by NASA in case one fails. And it sets tight schedules to reduce costs even further.

India’s space research and other advanced technological efforts are what birthed its technology industry. Bangalore did not become a tech hub simply because of its pleasant weather and lovely gardens. It is the home of ISRO, the Defence Research and Development Organization, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, and other high-tech industries that created an environment for and pool of engineers.

Moreover, the $73 million India spent on Mangalyaan is hardly snatching food from the mouths of starving babies. Two months ago, the government signed into law the Food Security Bill, which will provide roughly 800 million Indians with subsidized food and cost just under an estimated $20 billion every year. Questioning a poor country’s decision to launch a space program also implicitly ignores the fact that rich countries have poor people too. (11/6)

Is ISRO an All-Male World? (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
Dr K. Radhakrishnan was non-plussed when a reporter suspected gender bias at ISRO. The reporter was referring to the absence of women among a host of ISRO scientists at the media conference after the successful launch of Mars Orbiter Mission on Tuesday. Dr Ra­dha­krishnan said there were 22 women among senior scientists, directors and deputy directors in ISRO.

He pointed to the presence of several women executing important maneuvers at the Mission Control Center. He said that the movement of the GSLV to the launch pad — the rocket is scheduled for a December launch — was being handled by a young woman scientist. (11/6)

Inmarsat and ORBCOMM to Form Strategic Alliance (Source: Space Daily)
Inmarsat and ORBCOMM have announced a strategic alliance to collaborate on joint product development and distribution to address the needs of the rapidly growing satellite M2M market. In addition, they will investigate opportunities for future satellite network expansion and integration. (11/6)

Physicist Discovers Black Holes in Globular Star Clusters (Source: Science Daily)
Researchers that discovered the first examples of black holes in globular star clusters in our own galaxy, upsetting 40 years of theories against their possible existence. The team detected the existence of the black holes by using an array of radio telescopes to pick up a certain type of radio frequency released by these black holes as they eat a star next to them. (11/4)

Kepler Could Rise From the Dead (Source: Discovery)
In an interesting twist to the story of NASA’s ace planet-hunting telescope Kepler, mission managers have announced their intention to bring the mission back online despite suffering a crippling blow in May. The proposed extended mission, called simply “K2,” could see the orbiting space telescope scan huge swathes of sky, focusing on smaller stars that possess planets with very compact orbits. (11/6)

New Crew Launches From Kazakhstan to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Russian Soyuz booster roared to life late Wednesday and rocketed away from Kazakhstan carrying a crew of three and an Olympic torch bound for the International Space Station, the centerpiece of an out-of-this-world photo op to herald the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. (11/6)

No comments: