December 2, 2013

NASA Challenges Students to Design Rover (Source: Red Orbit)
NASA has issued an engineering challenge for high school and college students to design and build a human-powered rover. "The obstacles around the course will mimic some of the real terrain challenges of solar system exploration, so students must design robust and durable rovers with the traction to scale obstacles and meet other challenges," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the academic affairs office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. (11/30)

As China Goes to the Moon, Prize Teams Stay in the Race (Source: Space Review)
The launch Sunday of China's first lunar lander mission is a setback for the private teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, who hoped they, and not China, would be the next to land a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. Jeff Foust reports on how some teams are taking different approaches to continue their efforts to win the prize, as the rules for winning the prize are tweaked again. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

Red Moon, Blue Moon (Source: Space Review)
As China sends its first lander and rover to the Moon, NASA has no firm plans to carry out a similar mission, although there is no shortage of mission concepts. Dwayne Day examines some of the proposals for networks of landers and sample return missions that are seeking funding from the space agency. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

Aligning Forces to Reawaken the American Dream (Source: Space Review)
Political gridlock and tight budgets in a tough economy have made it difficult for NASA and other research agencies of the government to win additional funding for their programs. Eric Hedman argues for a combined effort by space advocates and others to win increased R&D funding for NASA and others that, in the long run, will help the economy and national standing. Visit to view the article. (12/3)

SpaceX Pushes Falcon-9 Launch to Tuesday (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX will launch the Orbital Sciences-built SES-8 commercial satellite atop a Falcon-9 rocket on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch window opens at 5:41 p.m. and extends to 6:47 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, is reserved as a back-up date. (12/2)

GPM Satellite Delivered to Japan After Shutdown Delay (Source:
An international satellite built to extend and expand precipitation measurements from space has arrived at its Japanese launch site after a trans-Pacific flight from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. After a delay of several weeks caused by a cessation of work during the U.S. federal government shutdown in October, NASA shipped the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory to Japan last week inside a U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy transport plane. (12/1)

Hands Off Our Lunar Landing Sites? Not So Fast (Source: TIME)
Last summer the House of Representatives drafted legislation that would create the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park to safeguard artifacts from the heroic early years of the Space Age. It’s a noble idea, says Henry Hertzfeld, but there’s one glaring problem. “If the bill were to become law,” he says, “it would be very easy for other nations to say the U.S. is aggressively declaring sovereignty over parts the Moon”—something explicitly prohibited by the U.N.-sponsored Outer Space Treaty created in 1967.

Indeed, the new American law would violate not merely the spirit of that 46-year international one, but the letter of it too since all national parks fall under the jurisdiction  of the National Park Service, whose charter is to manage its assets “for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States.” That sounds an awful lot like a declaration of sovereignty, worries Hertzfeld. It might be possible instead to have the Apollo sites and other places with remnants of unmanned landers declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites—but again, says Hertzfeld, “all of those sites are on sovereign territory,” raising that tricky question again.

A better route, he and Pace argue, might be to create a new international treaty through the U.N. That, however, could take many years to push through, and with a new Moon rush about to begin, the diplomatic pace might not keep up with the exploratory one, leaving the historic sites vulnerable to damage. The most efficient solution, Hertzfeld and Pace say, is to approach Russia directly, and, as of next month, China as well. “We should engage with those nations, despite some obvious political issues, and make a multilateral agreement that simply says ‘you leave our stuff alone, we’ll leave your stuff alone.’” (11/27)

Space Wardrobe Design: Chinese Spacesuit Analysis and Inspiration (Source: Space Safety)
Spacesuit design varies with each spacefaring nation that ventures into space. In order to optimize design, it is important to discuss these differences so that areas of improvement are addressed and proven features are maintained. The Chinese space program has developed the Feitian spacesuit which possesses characteristics that are comparable to both the US Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) and the Russian Orlan spacesuits. Click here. (12/1)

United Launch Alliance Celebrates Centaur’s 50th Anniversary (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On November 22nd, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Centaur upper stage’s first successful flight. Developed during the pioneering years of spaceflight, Centaur has been and still is a workhorse of America’s space program. Originally flying on Atlas rockets in the 1960s, Centaur was the very first high-energy cryogenic upper rocket stage. (12/2)

Turbulent Ocean Could Explain Europa's Chaotic Ice (Source: Science News)
Europa, the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter, is covered with icy chunks that have been cracked and crunched into chaotic patterns. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what processes form and shape the patterns. But new computer simulations show turbulent global ocean currents that move Europa’s internal heat to the surface most effectively in regions closest to the moon’s equator.

That varied heat distribution pattern could allow more changes to the ice features and could explain the formation of the chaotic ice patterns at the moon’s lower latitude. It’s not yet clear whether the model, scaled up from laboratory experiments and simulations, fully captures the moon’s dynamics. But, without a space mission to Europa, the model provide scientists with the best understanding to date of the moon’s ice and ocean. (12/2)

The State of Super Earths (Source: Astrobiology)
Our solar system hosts a cornucopia of worlds, from the hellfire of Venus to the frozen plains of Mars to the mighty winds of Uranus. In that range, the Earth stands alone, with no planet coming close to its life-friendly position near the Sun. Outside our solar system, however, it's a different story. Observations using space-based and ground-based telescopes have indicated that a new class of objects dubbed super-Earths – worlds that are about two to 10 times our planet's mass and up to two times its radius – could be among the most common type of planets orbiting other stars. (12/2)

Europa's Choppy Ocean Looks Friendly to Life (Source: New Scientist)
As moons go, Europa is doing pretty well in the looks department. While other wrinkled and pockmarked planetary bodies look their age, Jupiter's moon, despite being billions of years old, is one of the smoothest objects in our solar system. However, this moon is far from flawless. Europa is suspected to have a perpetually dark, liquid water ocean enclosed beneath a thick shell of water ice – around 40 percent of which is covered with long, dark scratches and scars.

The prospect of liquid water places Europa near the top of the list of places in our solar system that might host alien life. However, it is hard to know what's actually going on in the sub-surface ocean. Does it teem with alien microbes – perhaps even bigger creatures – or is it a vast, inky, sterile wasteland? Click here. (12/2)

DARPA Targets Lower Launch Costs With XS-1 Spaceplane (Source: Aviation Week)
Never deterred by past failures, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) once again wants to develop a reusable-spaceplane launch vehicle to reduce dramatically the cost and time required to orbit satellites. This time, the agency's goal with its new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program is to demonstrate a reusable capability that can transition to industry for low-cost military and commercial satellite launches as well as hypersonic technology testing. Click here. (12/2)

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