December 19, 2013

Aerospace Down for Year, But 2014 Looks Brighter (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. aerospace industry's 2013 sales slid a little less than 1% in 2013, to $220.1 billion from the previous year's $222 billion, and employment in the field dropped 2%. Next year, however, commercial sales are expected to buoy the industry, growing overall sales by 5%, the Aerospace Industries Association says. (12/18)

Editorial: Manned Missions the True Future of Space (Source: The Conversation)
Much can be learned about our extraterrestrial neighbors via robotic probes, but manned missions will be key "as an adventure, and as a step towards the stars," writes Lord Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. It may be China that first puts humans on Mars, he writes, given the resources such a mission demands. (12/18)

NASA Rigs Up Snorkel in Spacesuit After Risky Water Leak (Source: Space Daily)
Washington (AFP) Dec 18, 2013 - Snorkels in space? NASA dreamed up the idea as a quick fix to a dangerous spacesuit problem so astronauts can step out to repair an equipment breakdown at the International Space Station. One of the two US astronauts preparing to embark on a series of spacewalks later this week and next will be wearing an American-made suit that had a helmet leak in July. (12/18)

Europe Launches Satellite on Russian Rocket to Map 1 Billion Stars (Source: ABC News)
The European Space Agency launched its star-surveying satellite Gaia into space Thursday, hoping to produce the most accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way and to better understand the evolution of our galaxy. The satellite was lifted into space from French Guiana at 6:12 a.m. aboard a Russian-made Soyuz rocket, the agency said. (12/19)

NASA Extends Contract on Using Russian Soyuz (Source: Interfax)
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and NASA have reached preliminary agreements on delivering foreign astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on board Russian Soyuz spacecraft after 2016, chief of Roscosmos's manned spaceflight programs Alexei Krasnov said. NASA expects that commercial manned spacecraft will carry out one or two test flights to the ISS at the end of 2017, Krasnov said. (12/19)

Russian ISS Segment Unaffected by Cooling System Problems (Source: Itar-Tass)
Problems in the cooling system of the International Space Station (ISS) have not affected the ISS Russian segment, program manager Michael Suffredini said. He stressed, in particular, that all the systems responsible for the energy supply of the Russian segment were operational.

According to Suffredini, efforts were made to adjust the power supply and reduce the load on the stations electricity supply system. However, the Russian segment receives all the power needed for the work. He also noted that US astronauts planned to cope with technical malfunctions as soon as possible, so as not to interfere with the plans of the Russian colleagues’ spacewalk. (12/19)

What Space Mission Would a Mega Millions Win Buy? (Source: Discovery)
Today, it was announced that there are two winners of the second largest jackpot of the U.S. Mega Millions lottery. The lucky tickets were bought in California and Georgia. At the time the winning numbers were picked, the jackpot totaled $636 million, but CNN reports that number will likely rise closer to $648 million.

Starting out with NASA’s big planetary mission of the year, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter (that was launched in November and set to arrive at Mars in September 2014), the cost of the spacecraft, launch and operations comes to a grand total of $671 million. In fact, in a rare twist, MAVEN is expected to come in under its $671 million budget.

How about the moon? Well, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) that recently entered moon orbit to unravel the moon’s dusty exosphere mysteries has a total project cost of $280 million. Of course, these recent space missions are only a tiny sampling of planetary missions that NASA, Europe and other space agencies are currently operating and many are a lot more expensive. (12/19)

The Moon is Terrifying, and That's Why I Love It (Source: Boing Boing)
The moon is insane. The climate is harsh and the days are long. Even the very soil makes establishing a human presence there difficult. Our eyes have turned towards Mars for exploration and even colonization. But I feel we’re poorer for skipping over the moon. It’s easy to dismiss China's triumph in landing a hi-tech modern rover there, something the United States has not yet done. Click here. (12/19)

SpaceX Satellite Launch Set for Dec. 31 (Source: Waco Tribune)
SpaceX's next Falcon 9 rocket flight, launching a Thai communications satellite into orbit, is now set for Dec. 31, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force's Eastern Range launch support team. The window for the launch from SpaceX's complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, would begin at 4:57 p.m. CST. (12/18)

How Earth May Have Seeded Life on Other Solar System Bodies (Source: Universe Today)
With the recent discovery that Europa has geysers, and therefore definitive proof of a liquid ocean, there’s a lot of talk about the possibility of life in the outer solar system. According to a new study, there is a high probably that life spread from Earth to other planets and moons during the period of the late heavy bombardment — an era about 4.1 billion to 3.8 billion years ago — when untold numbers of asteroids and comets pummeled the Earth.

Rock fragments from the Earth would have been ejected after a large meteoroid impact, and may have carried the basic ingredients for life to other solar system bodies. These findings, from Pennsylvania State University, strongly support lithopanspermia: the idea that basic life forms can be distributed throughout the solar system via rock fragments cast forth by meteoroid impacts. (12/17)

Gaia Space Telescope's Billion Pixel Camera to Map Milky Way (Source: CNN)
What do you need to map a billion stars? A billion-pixel camera certainly helps. Scientists hope to glean more clues about the origin and evolution of the universe, and in particular our own galaxy, when a camera of this incredible scale -- fitted to the Gaia space telescope -- is launched Thursday. Gaia, which is due to lift off from French Guyana, has been tasked with mapping the Milky Way in greater detail than ever before.

Designed and built by Astrium for the European Space Agency (ESA), the makers say the telescope is so sensitive that it could measure a person's thumbnail from the Moon, or to put it another way, detect the width of a human hair from 1,000km (620 miles) away. (12/18)

Space Club Wraps Up 11th Annual Space Week at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The 11th Anniversary of Brevard Space Week wrapped up Monday after 10 days at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. More than 5,000 sixth-graders participated in the program. Students stand under space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Click here for photos. (12/18)

Generation Orbit to Pitch to Space Angels Network Members (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Space Frontier Foundation announced on October 25th that Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. was awarded the $100,000 first-­place prize of the 2013 NewSpace Business Plan Competition held at Stanford University. As a Sponsor of the competition, Space Angels Network members contributed to the screening, coaching and judging of the business plans.

As the winner of the competition, Generation Orbit will now have the opportunity to present to the members of Space Angels Network in December to build on the company’s success and potentially attract new investors. Editor's Note: Generation Orbit initially plans to operate from the Cecil Field spaceport near Jacksonville, Florida. (12/18)

Coburn Includes Several NASA Programs in Annual “Wastebook” (Source: Space Politics)
On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released his annual “Wastebook,” a document that identifies programs (typically small, obscure ones) that he concludes are “wasteful and low-priority” and thus could be cut. And as was the case with last year’s report, several NASA programs caught his attention.

Coburn’s report singled out NASA’s bed rest studies, where test subjects spend months in bed simulating some of the effects of long-duration weightlessness. Coburn is less critical of the science behind such studies as their current need. “No manned space missions to Mars—or anywhere else—are planned, scheduled or even possible in the foreseeable future, however, and NASA no longer has an active manned space program,” the report states.

The report also flags a $3-million program by NASA to conduct annual week-long seminars over the next several years for its employees to explain how Congress works. Coburn’s criticism is actually directed more at Congress itself and its lack of productivity than NASA itself. “NASA would be far better off looking for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.” (12/18)

Brazil, China to Make New Satellite Launch in 2014 (Source: Space Daily)
Brazil and China will launch a new joint environmental monitoring satellite next year to replace one which failed to enter orbit earlier this month, Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo said. "What happened was a tragedy...But there is another satellite already built and ready. It was in the budget for the project, planned for launch in 2015," Bernardo said. "Now we are looking at the possibility of launching it in 2014," he added. (12/18)

White House to Nominate Sen. Max Baucus as Ambassador to China (Source: New York Times)
President Obama plans to nominate Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, as his next ambassador to China, according to three officials familiar with the pending announcement. (12/18)

Europa Beckons. Could a CubeSat with an Ion Drive Do? (Source: CS Monitor)
Evidence that watery geysers are erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa has renewed calls to send robotic missions to the Jovian companion as quickly as possible. The current flight schedule is a bit lean, however. NASA's JUNO orbiter is en route and expected to arrive in July 2016, but it will orbit Jupiter to study the planet's atmosphere; it will not visit Europa.

The European Space Agency is planning to launch a mission to Jupiter's icy moons in 2022, but it won't arrive until 2030. Budgets for big missions are even leaner. Researchers have another idea: Send CubeSats – small satellites built up from cube-shaped modules about 4 inches on a side. Click here. (12/18)

Virginia Air & Space Center Wins NASA Grant (Source: Daily Press)
The Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton is one of 10 educational institutions across the country chosen to share in $7.7 million in NASA grants to attract students to science and engineering careers. NASA announced the Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers grant winners on Wednesday. Individual awards range from about $500,000 to $1 million for projects expected to last from one to five years. (12/18)

It's a Deal! Senate Passes Ryan-Murray Budget (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate passed the Ryan-Murray budget today in a 64-36 bipartisan vote. The budget sets top line spending levels for FY2014 and FY2015, allowing House and Senate appropriators to finalize the FY2014 appropriations bills that actually fund the government. It sets FY2014 government spending at $1.012 trillion, halfway between what the House wanted and what the Senate wanted. It also provides $63 billion in sequester relief split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. (12/18)

SLS Chief Engineer Driven by 'Challenge' of Building Next Great Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
During the Saturn V days, a 10-year-old boy came to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., with his dad and uncle for an open house. There to shake that young boy's hand was Wernher von Braun, the first center director of Marshall who would later be hailed as one of the all-time champions of space exploration.

That day, as S1 stage engines ignited every hour in the test stand, something ignited in that little boy, as well -- a dream to one day work "at one of the coolest places" he'd ever been. Today, he's living that dream. That boy was Garry Lyles, now responsible for the overall system design of the most powerful rocket in history -- NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). Click here. (12/19)

Nepal Uses Satellite to Track Rare Snow Leopard (Source: Space Daily)
Wildlife experts in Nepal are tracking a rare snow leopard by using a collar with a satellite link to discover how climate change and human encroachment are affecting its habitat, officials said Wednesday. The male cat was captured in a snare at the base of Mount Kangchenjunga on the Nepal-India border last month and fitted with the collar which uses a GPS tracking system. (12/18)

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