June 20, 2014

Defense Spending in Florida Down 20 Percent Since 2010 (Source: Tampa Tribune)
"With the war in Iraq over, the war in Afghanistan winding down, and downward spending pressures on the Pentagon, the Florida defense industry is feeling the squeeze. Defense spending in Florida dropped by about $3 billion over three years, according to the Florida Defense Contractors Association. That represents about a 20 percent cut since 2010, when more than $14 billion in military contracts were awarded." (6/20)

Cosmosphere Launches Liberty Bell 7 on Overseas Mission (Source: Hutchison News)
Liberty Bell 7 flew again on Wednesday, even though it barely reached five feet above street level at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. A crane from Belger Cartage lifted the Mercury space capsule out of a 15-foot-deep freight well at the southeast corner of the Cosmosphere and gently set it back down on a trailer for the first leg of its journey to Germany, where it will be on loan for an exhibit titled “Outer Space: The Space Between Art and Science,” in Bonn. (6/18)

Commercial Spacelift Industry Launched in Arizona (Source: Inside Tucson)
On June 18, Arizona passed milestone legislation to lay the foundation for future commercial spaceflight operations within the state. Bill HB2163 will be signed into law by Gov.Jan Brewer, during her tour of Paragon Space Development Corporation, setting the necessary legal foundations and preconditions for commercial spaceflight activities.

With the passing of the bill into law, Arizona will join an elite group of states fostering the burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry. Several states, including Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Virginia and Florida, have already passed similar legislation. Last year, with the backing of several major investors, Tucson-based Paragon formed World View Enterprises, a transformative space travel experience launching in 2016. Paragon and World View supported this legislation as it enables their home base of Arizona to become one of several launch sites for future World View operations. (6/19)

Russians Complete Successful Spacewalk (Source: CBS)
Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev conducted an extended seven-hour 23-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station Thursday, installing a telemetry antenna, repositioning an experiment and jettisoning a mounting fixture after moving another experiment to a recently installed payload boom. "We had fun today," one of the cosmonauts said from inside the Pirs airlock. (6/19)

Headline-Grabbing Study of Cosmos Gets a Caveat (Source: ABC)
Scientists who made headlines in March with their research on the early universe are now acknowledging that they may have been mistaken. In a paper published Thursday, the researchers stood by their initial conclusion — that they had found long-sought evidence for a rapid ballooning of the universe a split-second after its birth.

But they said they could not rule out the possibility that a crucial signal they believe came from deep in the cosmos was actually caused by dust in the Milky Way galaxy. If true, their claim for detecting the evidence of so-called cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang would evaporate. (6/19)

NASA Selects Deep Space Industries for Two Asteroid Contracts (Source: DSI)
NASA today awarded two contracts to Deep Space Industries Inc. to accelerate the agency's plans to partner with private industry on asteroid prospecting and harvesting. One will analyze commercial approaches to NASA's asteroid goals and how an industry-led asteroid economy can make crewed Mars missions safer, sooner, and less expensive. The second will examine several small asteroid-prospecting payloads that can be launched as hitchhikers on NASA missions. (6/19)

Cosmic Impacts May Help Create Suitable Habitat for Life (Source: Astrobiology)
Cosmic impacts are known to trigger mass extinctions on Earth. However, a new study adds to evidence that asteroid and cometary bombardment can also shelter life by generating pores in rocks that shelter microbes from damaging radiation. These new findings could reveal good places for scientists to look for life on distant planets, the researchers added.

For the last 2.5 billion years, life on Earth has been protected from damaging ultraviolet radiation by the ozone layer. When ultraviolet rays split normal oxygen molecules (O2) apart, the oxygen atoms can recombine to form ozone (O3). However, life on Earth has existed for at least 3.5 billion years — a full billion years before there was enough oxygen in the atmosphere to create an ozone layer.

Oxygen built up in the Earth’s atmosphere with the evolution of oxygen-emitting microbes. The early absence of an ozone layer means that life prior to the rise in oxygen would receive a dose of ultraviolet radiation a thousand times more damaging to DNA than today. (6/19)

Burp! Goes the Supermassive Black Hole (Source: Science)
A supermassive black hole has managed to cast a curious shadow upon the not-too-distant galaxy in which it resides. The typical large galaxy contains a jumbo black hole, and the one at the center of galaxy NGC 5548 weighs 40 million times more than the sun. Hot gas circling the monster shines so brightly that astronomers classify NGC 5548 as a Seyfert, a type of galaxy with a particularly brilliant nucleus. Click here. (6/19)

Extreme Space Weather Event Detected at Mercury (Source: Discovery)
A vast and powerful space weather event has been observed at the solar system’s innermost planet for the first time. NASA’s Messenger satellite, which has been in Mercurian orbit since 2011, detected what is known as a hot flow anomaly (HFA) emanating from the tiny world’s bow shock. HFAs are common at Earth’s bow shock and they have also been detected at Mars, Venus and Saturn, but to detect the phenomenon around Mercury is a space weather boon for scientists. (6/19)

Canada-Russia Relations Cast Pall Over Space Launch (Source: Globe & Mail)
Two Canadian satellites, each the size of a toaster, were launched on Thursday to probe the inner workings of some of the brightest stars in the sky. But in a time of roiling political tension over the situation in Ukraine, the Canadian Space Agency has made no prior public mention of the launch aboard a Russian rocket. In a release issued following a successful launch, the agency congratulates the scientists and engineers behind the mission, but makes no mention of the launch site, a military base in Yasny, Russia. (6/19)

NASA Identifies Third Valid Candidate for Asteroid Capture (Source: Xinhua)
U.S. space agency NASA said Thursday it has identified an "odd, tiny asteroid" as a third valid candidate for its ambitious asteroid-capture mission. Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope measured the size of the asteroid, called 2011 MD, for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which seeks to drag a space rock into orbit around the moon for future visitation by astronauts, NASA said.

"The near-Earth asteroid ... was found to be roughly 20 feet (6 meters) in size, and its structure appears to contain a lot of empty space, perhaps resembling a pile of rubble," it said in a statement. "The Spitzer results confirm that asteroid 2011 MD has characteristics suitable for the ARM proposal, elevating it to the 'valid candidate' level." (6/19)

The Technology Taking NASA to Mars (Source: FCW)
Whether mankind returns to Mars by 2030 is more of a political than technological question at this point -- the politics may be far from settled, but the technology is subject to significantly less debate. "We have the technology, we have the capability," said Christina Richey, a contract program officer at NASA. "We just have to have the will." Click here. (6/19)

Astronaut Sally Ride and the Burden of Being “The First” (Source: American Prospect)
When one of Sally Ride’s college friends inquired about her astrophysics major, Ride replied simply, “It’s about space.” Yet she claimed she didn’t always aspire to be an astronaut. The space program was still a closed-door club—inaccessible to her—when she went through school in the early 1970s. Ride was content to pursue an academic career until NASA undertook a nationwide effort to recruit women and let them know the club had room for more than white male fighter pilots. Then and only then did she start itching for orbit. Click here. (6/19)

Where Dreams Are Launched is Launched (Source: SPACErePORT)
“Where Dreams are Launched is dedicated to making you a part of the evolution of Space Tourism in the state of Florida. As the future of space travel unfolds, those eager to venture beyond Earth’s atmosphere will launch their dreams from right here.” That’s from the new website devoted to promoting Florida’s space tourism industry.

Space Florida has received $3 million over two years to boost space tourism, which includes visits to space-themed attractions as well as human spaceflight for well-heeled space tourist astronauts. This website is one of the initiatives funded under the program. (6/19)

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