March 30, 2014

US-Russian Relations and the International Space Station (Source: Huffington Post)
The current troubles with Crimea, and the souring of the relations between the United States and Russia, has led to a series of actions by NATO countries sure to drive Russia's political reactions to ever more troubling extremes. Could the International Space Station become another casualty? It was originally conceived as Space Station Freedom by NASA and the European Space Agency in 1984, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1993 Russia joined the international community in constructing and supporting the ISS at a cost of over $100 billion.

The good news is that during its 13 years of existence the ISS has weathered many international fire storms. In a recent article (March 24, 2014) Bolden said he was convinced the current US-Russia tensions will not affect this unique partnership. "I don't think it's an insignificant fact that we're starting to see a number of people with the idea that the International Space Station be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize."

The bottom line is that Russia has no politically prestigious, manned space program without access to the ISS. They would probably not want to jeopardize access to, or damaging, this truly international platform! (3/30)

Giving Everyone the Chance to See What it's Like to Go Into Space (Source: 96.4 Eagle)
A new project from the Surrey Space Center will allow all of us to see the stars up close. A weather balloon is being released into space with video cameras onboard. On the ground we will be able to see the images it captures in a virtual reality world. Former University of Surrey student Thomas Hull tells Eagle what people will see: "Eventually things will become very quiet as the atmosphere becomes very thin indeed. "Eventually you'll start the see the curvature of the earth if you look down, which I think will be quite stunning."

"And if you look up you will see the stars. The project really came about because of a perceived need to be able to deliver space travel to the general public. The problem is, there aren't that many people who have been able to go to space."
The project is being funded through crowd-funding platform Kickstarter." (3/30)

Zero Gravity for $250,000 (Source: Orange County Register)
When Frank Kavanaugh was a boy, he marveled at the Apollo launches, devoured science fiction and guzzled orange-hued Tang. “The astronauts drank Tang,” he recalls, “and I wanted to be an astronaut.” For Kavanaugh and other children of the 1960s, “the space race was in the fabric of our lives,” he said. “It was the cool place where people were innovating, exploring, dreaming.” Today, at age 53, the Aliso Viejo private equity executive is ready to relive the dream – up close.

Kavanaugh, who made a fortune manufacturing explosive-resistant trucks during the Iraq War, is among more than a dozen Orange County residents and nearly 100 Californians who have reserved places on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline. Tickets cost $250,000 (raised last year from $200,000). “My kids say, ‘Dad, you’re totally not an astronaut,’ ” Kavanaugh said with a boyish grin. “But in my little brain I am. I believe space is an important part of our future.” (3/30)

Privatize Outer Space! (Source: Right Side News)
“The Planetary Society” is trying to whip up public action in the United States to pressure the federal government to restore spending programs for NASA. The website tells the reader, “For decades, Jupiter’s moon Europa has cried out for exploration. Its large ocean may be one of the most habitable places in the solar system.” In the sample email that the visitor to the site is encouraged to send to policymakers, one of the specific items it requests is: “Restore NASA’s Planetary Science Division to its historical level of $1.5 billion per year..."

Yet the best way to promote space exploration and genuinely beneficial scientific research is to privatize the whole enterprise. As a first pass, note that we must always consider the opportunity cost of resources devoted to space travel. It is probably true that private investors never would have financed the Apollo moon shot in the 1960s, but that’s because it represented an inefficient use of resources (given the policy backdrop and state of the economy).

I claim that if the government would simply get out of the way and remove legal and regulatory roadblocks to private space efforts, then humans will reach other planets in a much more sensible and sustainable fashion. Think of it this way: Yes, the United States government was able to put a flag on the moon and collect a few rocks, decades before a private venture would have done so. But after the photo ops, what came of it? The moon’s potential will be realized only when companies operating in the private sector find ways of profitably sending people there. (3/30)

FOX News Hosts Debate on Space (Source: Spudis Lunar Resources Blog)
Last night Fox News ran a one-hour special report entitled Surrendering America. The inclusion of space as a concern drew my attention, as it is not usually viewed by the public as in decline (in large part because media coverage reflects their own lack of understanding and narrow knowledge of the subject).  So I was encouraged that the show’s producers viewed space as vital to U.S. national interests and watched to see how they perceived this surrender.

Space advocates should take sober notice that the panelists – all well-read, highly regarded Beltway pundits (from both ends of the political spectrum) – appear to be fairly uninformed about many of the space policy issues. But consider: they are representative of the intelligent general public, to whom we wish to convince of the value and importance of space.

The sense of the panel seemed to be that our civil space program exists primarily as a symbol of national technical means and greatness – a trivialization of the nation’s space program by both sides of the ideological spectrum (from the left because “we can’t afford it” and from the right because its value is primarily “symbolic”). Click here. (3/29)

Space Program Remains a Source of Inspiration (Source: Mountain Press)
Maybe space exploration is too expensive. Maybe, in a time of constrained budgets, the government shouldn’t be spending money on spaceships. But let me tell you about something I saw on a recent trip. A few days before I went to Udvar-Hazy, I visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the Washington Mall. Important artifacts from the U.S. space program are displayed there, including the Apollo 11 Command Module, which carried the first men who walked on the moon.

On a weekday afternoon in late winter, the place was packed. It was uncomfortably crowded. The museum was full of people who were hungry to learn about American space exploration. It was amazing to see. People are still inspired by the space program. I am too. (3/30)

Retired Astronaut Orbits Into Daytona Beach (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Not many days go by when Capt. Robert Crippen isn’t asked what happened to the space program. “I would like to point out that NASA is still in business,” the former astronaut said Saturday in Daytona Beach. Crippen, a U.S. Navy veteran, was the man of the hour Saturday evening in a reception held by the Halifax Historical Society at the Halifax Historical Museum on South Beach Street.

“What you’re about to see and who you’re about to meet are nothing short of mankind’s greatest achievement,” society board member Preston Root said before playing footage of Crippen’s trips to space for an audience of about 30 people. "There’s nothing like it,” Crippen said about blasting off into space. “You get a nice kick in the pants, and you know you’re headed someplace.” (3/30)

Daytona, We've Got a Problem: NASCAR Team Tests With Help of NASA (Source: FOX Sports)
When it comes to testing, many NASCAR teams head to places such as Road America, Nashville, or a variety of other racing facilities sprinkled across the country. Yet for one team, they took their test session to a whole new level -- space. On March 11, an unidentified NASCAR team tested the 3.2-mile Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

According to the NASA release, on the same day, the space agency tested the experimental Morpheus lander, Starfighters Aerospace tested "modified jet fighters through their afterburner evaluations, and medical evacuation helicopters conducting safety checks and procedure tests." This flurry of activity was taking place at the same time the facility was under construction.

The uniqueness of the March 11 test day was that the runway was used by a multitude of people for a variety of reasons. Prior to March 11, the facility made famous by rocket launches and space shuttle landings was used by only one group at a time. While this particular test was the first to mention a NASCAR team, the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility has hosted "car tests" in the past. (3/29)

FSU Law School Students Win International Space Law Moot Court Competition (Source: IISL)
The international Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Washington DC was won this week by a team from Florida State University. FSU has established a popular new course in space law. Click here for a copy of the case the various teams tackled. (3/30)

Facebook Deal Not Likely to Revive Armadillo (Source: Twitter)
Amid speculation that Facebook's multi-billion dollar purchase of Oculus VR might allow Oculus CTO John Carmack to reinvest in his dormant Armadillo Aerospace venture, Carmack had this to say via Twitter: "The FB deal probably will get me to take another swing at aerospace, but not for several years. I have divided my focus too much in the past." (3/30)

Team Works to Preserve Moon-Rocket Engines (Source: Florida Today)
It's been a year since a salvage ship steamed into Port Canaveral carrying the remains of Saturn V rocket engines that helped launch astronauts from KSC to the moon. The recovery effort was run by Bezos Expeditions, led by and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. After sitting on the ocean floor for four decades, the more than 25,000 pounds of F-1 engine components are submerged again — now in about 20 treatment tanks at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

There, a six-person conservation team is trying to stop severe corrosion, identify the parts and ready them for museum display. That work is expected to take another year. "The F-1s themselves represent an incredible engineering feat that helped propel man to the moon," said Jim Remar, chief operating officer of the the Cosmosphere. "To be able to work on something so historically significant is quite an honor."

In addition, he said, some of the Rocketdyne engines' exotic alloys have never undergone conservation treatment before, so the team is setting the standards for how to handle them. Not long after the conservation project began, a technician discovered an intact, stenciled serial number (No. 2044) that proved a thrust chamber, liquid oxygen dome and injector plate belonged to Engine No. 5 flown on Apollo 11, the first moon landing mission. (3/30)

Space Tech Expo Lands in California Next Week (Source:
stronauts, rocket-makers and other space leaders will descend on Southern California next week for the Space Tech Expo and Conference 2014. Now in its third year, the three-day trade show will take place from Tuesday to Thursday (April 1 to 3) at the Long Beach Convention Center in the city of Long Beach. It will bring together scientists, engineers, executives, government agencies and policymakers for conversations on the key challenges and opportunities in civil and commercial space, the organizers say. (3/30)

Astronauts' Hearts Become More Spherical in Space (Source: ACC)
New findings from a study of 12 astronauts show the heart becomes more spherical when exposed to long periods of microgravity in space, a change that could lead to cardiac problems, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session. With implications for an eventual manned mission to Mars, the findings represent an important step toward understanding how a spaceflight of 18 months or more could affect astronauts' heart health.

"The heart doesn't work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of muscle mass," said James Thomas, M.D., Moore Chair of Cardiovascular Imaging and Lead Scientist for Ultrasound at NASA, and senior author of the study. "That can have serious consequences after the return to Earth, so we're looking into whether there are measures that can be taken to prevent or counteract that loss." The researchers say that knowing the amount and type of exercise astronauts need to perform to keep the heart healthy is going to be very important to guarantee their safety on a long flight like a mission to Mars. (3/29)

Pegasus Winged Rocket to Return to Cape Canaveral Spaceport for NASA Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission. CYGNSS will launch in October 2016 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard a Pegasus XL rocket from Orbital's "Stargazer" L-1011 aircraft. This is a firm-fixed price launch-service task order contract worth approximately $55 million. Contract services include spacecraft processing, the launch service payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry, and other launch support requirements. (3/28)

Powerful Flare Erupts on the Sun (Source: NBC)
It's fitting that a powerful solar flare created a bright X-shaped pattern in this extreme ultraviolet view of the sun's disk, captured Saturday by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The blast rates as an X-class flare, which puts it in the most serious category of solar flares.

Saturday's outburst comes after a series of M-class outbursts from the same sunspot region, known as AR 2017. The SolarHam website reports that the X1 flare caused a brief radio blackout. It also sent out a storm of electrically charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection. However, SolarHam said the brunt of the storm was apparently "directed to the north and away from Earth." (3/29)

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