December 26, 2013

Poll Reveals Gender, Racial, and Other Gaps in Support for Funding NASA (Source: Space Politcs)
The polling group YouGov released the results of a recent poll on space issues, covering a hodgepodge of topics, from reasons for supporting NASA to whether the poll respondent would be interested in flying in space “free of costs.” One question of interest was on NASA funding. The overall poll results indicate that the majority believe NASA is getting about the right amount of funding or too little.

However, YouGov also provides detailed poll results, which break down the overall numbers (based on a survey of 1,170 adults in late November; margins of error are not included) into various categories based on the poll respondents’ ages, genders, location, and other factors. Those breakdowns reveal some interesting, but perhaps not that surprising, gaps in support.

One such gap is between men and women. Nearly half of men polled thought NASA funding was too low, while women were split almost equally between thinking NASA was getting too much or too little. Another gap is on race: 44% those who identified themselves as white said NASA’s budget was too low, versus 22% who thought it was too high. However, responses among blacks were almost the reverse: 34% thought NASA’s budget was too high, versus 14% who thought it too low. Hispanics, meanwhile, were more evenly split. Click here. (12/26)

To Go Boldly (and On Budget) (Source: Washington Post)
The Cassini spacecraft is in splendid shape as it circles Saturn. Conceived in the 1980s, launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at the gas-giant planet in 2004 and has continued to deliver stunning images of the jewel of the solar system. NASA now hopes to send the spacecraft diving inside the majestic rings of Saturn to study their composition. This extended mission would cost about $60 million a year. But that money has not materialized in the NASA budget. If there is no funding, NASA will have to end the Cassini mission next year.

For robotic spacecraft, the greatest hazard in the solar system turns out to be the NASA budget. NASA cannot simply abandon Cassini, because it could crash someday into Enceladus and could contaminate the hypothetical biosphere with Earth microbes that are lurking aboard it. Instead, the navigators at JPL would be forced to aim the $3.5 billion spacecraft directly at Saturn, which is presumably lifeless, and let it disintegrate as it enters the atmosphere.

The Obama administration and Congress will probably find a way to keep Cassini flying, and to extend the operation of Curiosity on Mars. But earlier this month, NASA's Charles Bolden said there will be no new flagship-class missions. The mere possibility that such luxury-class missions could be shut down reveals the budgetary stress at NASA and calls into question whether it will be able to go forward with some of the big, ambitious exploratory programs that scientists have made their top priority. (12/26)

NASA's New Direction: Commercial Space Race Off and Running (Source: Florida Today)
What do President Ronald Reagan, the two Presidents Bush and President Obama have in common? They all directed NASA to commercialize access to space. As a result, Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that NASA seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.

NewSpace now has ventures beyond NASA, such as suborbital adventure tourism and asteroid mining. A commercial lunar company, Golden Spike, is led by former NASA executives. Apollo-era astronaut Jim Lovell recently joined its board of advisers.

NewSpace works best when NASA acts as an adviser or partner, freeing the private sector to innovate. Within a decade, we may see a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket launch a commercial lunar mission from pad 39A — long before Constellation’s lunar timeline. NASA is finally on the right side of history. Click here. (12/26)

NASA Centennial Challenges Program Seeks New Prize Ideas (Source: Citizens in Space)
NASA’s Centennial Challenges prize program is seeking new ideas for prizes and new partner organizations. The question remains whether Congress provide allocate money for new challenges. Funding has been hit or miss (mostly miss) for the last decade. Current information about Centennial Challenges is available at The new Notice of Opportunity is available here. (12/25)

Space Shuttle Endeavour to be Featured in Flowers on Rose Parade Float (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's retired space shuttle Endeavour is again to take to the streets of Los Angeles, this time as the leading feature on a flower-covered float as part of the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade. A smaller version of the iconic black and white orbiter will soar from the front of the City of Los Angeles' 2014 float as it joins 44 other floral display platforms moving through Pasadena, California on New Year's Day. (12/26)

Law Professor Explains How China Could Claim Parts of the Moon (Source:
In the wake of China’s successful landing of the Chang’e 3/Jade Rabbit on the lunar surface, law professor Glenn Reynolds speculated in a Dec. 16 editorial how China might actually make a territorial claim of parts of the moon. Since China is engaged in that very thing in the East China Sea and South China Sea, that is not an unlikely scenario.

The Outer Space Treaty, to which China is a signatory, prohibits claims of national sovereignty. However Reynolds sees a way around the treaty. “First, the treaty only prohibits "national appropriation." If a Chinese company, instead of the Chinese government, were to stake a claim, it wouldn't apply. And, at any rate, China -- which didn't even join the treaty until 1983 -- can, like any other nation, withdraw at any time. All that's required under the treaty is to give a year's notice.”

Ordinarily claims by private entities are enforced by national governments using their sovereign authority, something that might tend to run counter to the Outer Space Treaty. But China may not care about such niceties. Reynolds thinks that if China, even through a state run company, were to make a land grab on the moon, the move would light a fire under the United States and other countries and start a new space race to develop the resources of the moon. (12/17)

Iran to Send Astronaut into Space in 2024 (Source: FARS)
Head of Iran's Space System Research Center Mohammad Ebrahimi underscored the countries' rapid growth in aerospace industries, and said that Iran plans to launch an explorer which can carry astronomers to suborbital altitude in four years. "If we can send 2-ton satellites to geo-orbit by next 12 years, we can be able to send 2-ton aerospace into space carrying astronomer as well," Ebrahimi said.

The official added that Iran will be able to produce appropriate capsule with high safety and large dimensions equipped with emergency escape system to send astronomer into space to suborbital flight in next 3-4 years. Earlier this month, Iran announced that it has sent the second monkey into the space on the back of an explorer rocket, and that it has brought back and recovered the living cargo. (12/25)

JAXA Plans to Test New Large Rocket in 2020 (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch a new large-scale test rocket in fiscal 2020 and another the following year. The rocket, provisionally dubbed H-III, is a successor to JAXA’s H-IIA launch vehicle. According to JAXA’s plan, reported to a science ministry panel Tuesday, the H-III will basically have two engines in its first stage and have no solid-fuel boosters. (12/25)

Russian Rokot Lofts Three Rodnik Satellites (Source:
A Russian Rokot launch vehicle with a Briz-KM Upper Stage has successfully launched from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, carrying the three Rodnik satellites. Launch took place at 00:31 UTC (04:31 Moscow time) on Wednesday, the first of potentially two launches from Plesetsk in the space of 12 hours. This Russian launch system is tailored to payloads requiring a performance of at least 1,950 kg for launches into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The three-stage liquid fuelled rocket has dedicated launch facilities at Plesetsk Cosmodrome under the control of Eurockot. Rokot – also referred to as “Rockot” – is a fully operational, three stage, liquid propellant Russian launch vehicle which is being offered commercially by Eurockot Launch Services for launches into low earth orbit. The German-Russian joint venture company was formed specifically to offer this vehicle commercially. (12/24)

Russia Delays Soyuz-2-1v Debut (Source:
Russia postponed the debut their new Soyuz-2-1v rocket that was set to launch on Wednesday. The secretive launch of the new Soyuz – that does not sport any of the boosters familiar to the other members of the Soyuz family – was set to loft the Aist satellite and two SKRL-756 calibration spheres on Christmas Day from launch pad 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The launch is delayed until the new year due to unknown issues during the countdown. (12/25)

Satellite of Russia's Early Warning Constellation Burns in Reentry (Source: Space Daily)
The Kosmos-2393 satellite integrated in the Oko system, the space component of Russia's early warning system ceased to exist Saturday night. "According to our knowledge, the satellite disintegrated entering the atmosphere somewhere above the Southern Hemisphere last night. Its debris could have reached the Earth in the Indian Ocean," a spokesperson said. (12/23)

DIY Spacesuit Development (Source: Roman Mars)
Cameron Smith is building a space suit in his apartment. He's not an astronaut. He's not even an engineer. Cameron Smith is an archaeologist--on faculty in the anthropology department at Portland State University in Oregon. But Cameron is an explorer by nature. He’s been diving in Puget Sound, survived arctic winters in Iceland and Alaska and summited Oregon’s Mount Hood more times than he can count.

Now he wants to take on outer space. And since Cameron doesn't have an entire space program behind him, that means doing it on the cheap. His homemade space suite costs $2,000. A standard issue suit from NASA runs about $12 million. The space suit has been a 3 years in the making. Eventually, Cameron will put on the suit and step into a gondola and a balloon (also homemade) will take him up 50,000 feet in the air. At that point, he'll be depending on his own craftiness to keep himself alive. Click here. (12/3)

No comments: