June 28, 2014

Research Scientist Organizes NASA's First Official Gay Pride Contingent (Source: Huffington Post)
San Francisco's LGBT Pride parade will welcome astronauts and other NASA employees among its many revelers this year. Ved Chirayath, who is currently enrolled at Stanford in an aeronautics and astronautics graduate program, received permission from NASA to have their first official contingent in San Francisco's parade, which takes place June 29. Chirayath, who works at NASA's Ames Research Center's Earth Science Division, said over 100 of his colleagues and their friends and family members will also join the parade. Vehicles pulling a satellite and a test model of a supersonic jet will also be on hand. (6/28)

China Stakes its Claims on Mars with Rover Bound for Red Planet in 2020 (Source: Independent)
Sovereignty in outer space is always a tricky subject, but out of all the lifeless rocks in the solar system it’s safe to say that Mars is more American than most. It may not have a US flag crumpled in mid-wave on the surface, but every robot that’s ever crawled successfully on the planet’s surface has been made in the US. Not for much longer.

Last week China announced that it was planning send a rover to Mars by 2020 and bring back samples from the Red Planet just 10 years later. Ouyang Ziyuan, the Chinese scientist who oversaw the country’s successful Moon rover mission in December last year, said that this would be just the first step in the country’s plans to explore the solar system – with further plans involving sending probes to the Sun. (6/28)

NASA to Try Again on Climate Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
It's been more than five years since a somber Kennedy Space Center-led launch team confirmed a NASA climate satellite had failed to reach orbit after blasting off from California. The payload fairing on an Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus XL rocket did not separate, and its extra weight dragged the $275 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory to an impact in the ocean near Antarctica on Feb. 24, 2009.

The program hopes to heal that five-year-old wound early Tuesday, when a replacement satellite called Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg at 5:56 a.m. EDT — this time atop United Launch Alliance's workhorse Delta II rocket. (6/28)

Hawaii Board Advances $1B Telescope Pending Review (Source: ABC)
Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved a sublease for a $1.3 billion telescope that would be one of the world's largest, but the approval is on hold until the board hears objections in a separate review process. The board met Friday to discuss issues raised previously about a plan to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (6/27)

Space Tourism: Still for the Future, New Mexico Learns (Source: Marketplace)
Money's everywhere. And then sometimes… suddenly… it's not. Down in the Southern New Mexico desert four years ago, there was a kind of birthday. Richard Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, christened Virgin Galactic and promised tourists a two and a half hour flight to space for $250,000 per trip. The operation set up shop outside Las Cruces at a place called Spaceport America.

Except, it hasn't happened yet. There have been no Virgin Galactic space flights in 2012. Or 2013. There were construction delays. Haggles with regulators. Insurance problems. Political fights. "There was some concern at one point about Virgin Galactic's future in New Mexico, and it had to do with the legislation that was being proposed at the state level to give liability protection for the folks who do the launches, build the equipment for the spaceport." Click here. (6/28)

Delta 2 Poised to Launch NASA Carbon Hunting Satellite (Source: SEN)
A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket, one of four remaining medium-class Delta rockets, is being prepared for a July 1 liftoff at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to put a long-awaited NASA Orbiting Carbon Obsevatory-2 into orbit from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 2, which was last used two and a half years ago.

United Launch Alliance has three more Delta 2 missions on its manifest, all for NASA and all flying from Vandenberg. "The market forecast for launch services in the Delta 2 medium-class dropped off dramatically,” United Launch Alliance spokeswoman Jessica Rye said. (6/27)

How to Cash In on Cheap Earth-Watching Satellites (Source: New Scientist)
There are some big plans brewing for small satellites. With hordes of cheap orbiters filling the skies, researchers and start-ups are promising a powerful new perspective on earthly activities that range from global commerce to perfecting the art of mining landfills for recyclable materials. Click here. (6/27)

Europe Plans to Launch Giant X-Ray Space Telescope (Source: Science)
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today that it has chosen an instrument that will scan the universe for x-ray emissions from massive black holes and other celestial objects as its next large space science mission. The Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics (Athena), scheduled for launch in 2028, would be the largest x-ray space telescope ever built. ESA’s large missions typically cost around €1 billion. (6/27)

Pollution on Other Worlds May Reveal Advanced Alien Life (Source: New Scientist)
Life is messy. So to find aliens, why not look for their pollution? As part of its mission, NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to look at starlight filtered through the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets and search for signs of life. Most proposed plans involve hunting for highly reactive gases such as oxygen that usually need a living source to replenish them. But these methods might only hint at relatively simple life such as plants and microbes.

Henry Lin at Harvard University thinks we could find more advanced civilisations if we look instead for industrial pollution. His team calculates that JWST should be able to spot two kinds of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), complex carbon-based gases used in solvents and aerosols. "Their production requires a network of chemical reactions that are only known to be produced artificially on Earth," says team member Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (6/27)

Home Is Where the Water Is (Source: The Economist)
Thanks to a recent scientific study, one thing appears certain: if aliens do exist, there are more places for them to live than previously thought. Findings from a computer simulation created by astrophysicists, orbital dynamicists and climate scientists show that space may have twice as many habitable planets as once thought. This is because the habitable zone, the area around a star that could contain planets with liquid water on their surface, could be 10-20% larger than past investigations have suggested. (6/27)

Putin Demands Explanation for Angara Launch Abort (Source: RIA Novosti)
Friday’s test launch of Russia’s new eco-friendly Angara rocket was automatically terminated, according to the commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces, Major-General Alexander Golovko. “An automated cancellation of the launch took place. It is being analyzed. After the analysis, the report will be submitted in due order,” Golovko reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Technical reasons” are blamed for the incident, according to the commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces. (6/27)

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