August 1, 2014

Celestis Offers Rides for Pet Cremains (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Celestis announces the opportunity to honor your special animal companion with a final journey among the stars on board the world’s first pet memorial spaceflight service. Celestis Pets places a symbolic portion of cremated remains into Earth orbit, deep space, and onto the lunar surface. Missions that return the cremated remains to Earth are available as part of our Earth Rise service. Your best friend will venture into space as part of a real mission, riding alongside selected commercial and scientific satellites. Click here. (8/1)

Consensus on What? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The debate is raging again on our nation's space exploration goals. Should we return to the moon? Should we trek to Mars? Should we visit asteroids and other intermediate locations? Is the ISS a necessary element? Should we go alone or with international partners? Can we afford any of these things? In my view, there are some underlying questions that are not asked enough: Do we want another first-to-achieve race for national prestige, or do we want to a sustainable, long-term human presence beyond low Earth orbit?

The distinction is key. The Apollo program was intended to be the start of a sustainable human exploration program, but politics and budgets turned it primarily into a plant-the-flag contest to beat the USSR. Many politicians seem happy to continue this approach, with either a replay of Apollo's lunar program (this time to beat China), or a race to put bootprints on Mars. NASA, it seems, is more interesed in a sustainable effort to push our boundaries outward, one relatively affordable step at a time.

The agency's present asteroid program might be misguided or insufficiently ambitious, but it has a long-range focus on Mars and recognizes foreseeable budget limitations. What is missing from the raging debate is an attempt to reach consensus on our real goals, to determine what it really means to be the world leader in space exploration. Do we want to be first among competing nations, planting flags for national pride, or do we want to commit to a sustained presence on the moon, Mars, or somewhere inbetween? (8/1)

Vomiting, Anxiety, Blackouts. Are YouSure You Want to Go Into Space? (Source: WIRED)
"Rocket stability is still a pretty big deal," says Brian Binnie, five minutes after landing SpaceShip One in 2004. "How the vibration of that motor translates into the crew cabin, the effect on the ability to read the instruments, control the vehicle and the ergonomic effect on the passengers."

That last part is an acknowledgment of the bone-rattling, nerve-battering, adrenaline-pumping sensations that a violently shaking metal tube, breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1.4, will inflict on untrained civilians riding it into space. "If you are not used to the g-forces it can really mess with you," says Binnie, who has since left Virgin Galactic for XCOR. "There's this overwhelming power that sweeps through the cabin. Your senses get pegged out. You're looking for comfort or safety but you won't find any. All you can do is keep breathing." Click here. (7/29)

US Aerospace Firm Outlines New Zealand-Based Space Program (Source: Space Daily)
A U.S. aerospace company is aiming to make New Zealand one of the exclusive group of countries with a space program by promising a revolutionary new satellite-carrying rocket for a fraction of the current satellite launch costs. Rocket Lab has developed a lightweight carbon-composite rocket named Electron at its Auckland plant and hopes to offer small satellite launches for less than $5 million, compared with a current average price of $133 million.

The company, which has received research and development funding from the government, was being backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, Rocket Lab founder and New Zealander Peter Beck said in a statement. The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite would be cut from years to just weeks and the company already had commercial commitments for 30 launches, said Beck.

Editor's Note: If Rocket Lab is a U.S. firm hoping to launch from New Zealand, are there any ITAR or Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) issues that might prevent launch operations outside the U.S.? (7/31)

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payloads (Source: NASA)
The next rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 will carry seven carefully-selected instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet. NASA announced the selected Mars 2020 rover instruments, picked out of 58 proposals received in January from researchers and engineers worldwide.

Proposals received were twice the usual number submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past. This is an indicator of the extraordinary interest by the science community in the exploration of the Mars. The selected proposals have a total value of approximately $130 million for development of the instruments. Click here. (7/31)

Navy Days Event Features Orion Recovery Tests (Source: NASA)
A test version of NASA's new Orion spacecraft will be at the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 6, following testing with the U.S. Navy. A combined NASA and Navy team is practicing recovering Orion from the ocean, as they will do in December following the spacecraft's first trip to space during Exploration Flight Test-1. After traveling 3,600 miles above Earth -- farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years -- Orion will return at speeds near 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean where a Navy ship will pick it up and return it to shore.

Following the recovery tests, which take place Aug. 1-4 off the coast of San Diego, the test version of Orion will be transported to Navy Days–Los Angeles. Editor's Note: I heard that the Navy recovery approach was being re-thought, after earlier tests showed it to be more difficult and dangerous than anticipated to bring Orion into the vessel, especially if the ocean is not completely calm during the recovery. (7/31)

Mock Mars Mission Tests Crew Cohesion (Source: U. of Hawaii)
They emerged from their habitat one after the other—and stood as a crew one last time. The five crew members felt the sun and breeze on their faces for the first time in four months. And they indulged in all the fresh food they could eat. The crew members spent 120 days in this dome-shaped habitat on Mauna Loa on the Big Island—8,200 feet above sea level—simulating a base on Mars.

“We were essentially strangers getting here. So when we were placed into the habitat in such a confined space you kind of learned everybody’s personality and their likes and dislikes,” said Anne Caraccio, crew member and chief engineer. “Luckily, this crew was outstanding in the fact that they were very hard workers. They all wanted to perform well on the mission and help each other out as a team.”

“We couldn’t escape from it, so you have to learn to adapt. You adjust your schedules to other people, you adjust the way you react to things” said HI-SEAS Commander Casey Stedman. “You learn about other people and you learn about compromise.” NASA has committed $1.2 million for three HI-SEAS missions. The focus of these missions is crew cohesion, where crew members examined their moods, relationships, cognitive skills and behavioral changes. (7/29)

Potential Deals with SpaceX Advance (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Cameron County Commissioners Court on Thursday voted to proceed on the terms and conditions discussed behind closed doors regarding incentives and an economic development agreement with SpaceX toward development of a spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. The court unanimously voted to proceed, following an executive session during Thursday’s regular meeting. Details of the proposed incentives and agreement could not be revealed at this time.

Commissioners Court Chief Legal Counsel Bruce Hodge told the Star during a short break that the agreements have not been finalized yet. This is among developments regarding Elon Musk’s proposal to develop the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex in Cameron County near Brownsville.

Already, SpaceX, through companies called Dogleg Park LLC and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, has purchased approximately 100 acres of land at Boca Chica. The Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), which also has been assisting SpaceX in the endeavor, has been purchasing properties adjacent to SpaceX properties, too, the Star found. (7/31)

House Report Calls for Slowdown in NRO Satellite Orders (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is buying intelligence satellites at a faster rate than necessary and could save billions of dollars in the next decade by scaling back orders, according to a study released by the agency’s congressional overseers.

Following a broad, 18-month examination of intelligence community acquisition, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report recommending that the NRO consider purchasing some spy satellites on an as-needed basis. The House panel delivered the mostly classified report to the NRO July 31, and released a statement along with a brief unclassified summary of the report to media.

Primarily, the report said, the NRO is buying satellites at an accelerated pace because it believes it needs to provide stability to the industrial base, particularly component suppliers. But it is not clear whether that belief is grounded in reality, the report said. (7/31)

Strange Supernova Casts Doubt On Star Explosion Theories (Source: Huffington Post)
Light from a radioactive metal forged inside a supernova blast could prompt a rethink of how some star explosions occur. The supernova SN 2014J is located 11.4 million light-years from Earth in the galaxy M82. Astronomers used ESA's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) spacecraft to view the star explosion's light spectrum in the gamma-ray bands and saw elements that shouldn't have been there — suggesting that widely accepted models of how such events happen might be incomplete. (8/1)

Eric Stallmer Named President of Spaceflight Federation (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Eric Stallmer has been named as its next President. Stallmer will join CSF staff in September and will assume the position of President following the departure of Michael Lopez-Alegria. Stallmer comes to CSF from serving as Vice President of Government Relations at Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) in Washington, DC. (7/31)

NASA’s Asteroid Mission Takes a Beating (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA can’t afford to send humans to Mars. With its current plans to build a large rocket, the Space Launch System, NASA can’t even afford to go back to the moon. What NASA can afford to do, in about a decade, is bring a small asteroid to a location near the moon, and then send astronauts to fly in formation with the rock. This is known as the Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM.

There is little love for the ARM in Congress. “I don’t think there’s a clear consensus on a lot of things in Congress, but we all agree that pushing a rock around in space is a waste of taxpayer dollars that we don’t have to spare,” John Culberson, a Houston Republican, told me. On Wednesday, at two separate space policy meetings, the mission was also savaged. At one, a meeting to prioritize asteroid and other non-planetary targets in the solar system for NASA to explore, MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel characterized the asteroid mission as a farce. (7/31)

Debris of Russian Progress M-23M Drowned in Pacific Ocean (Source: RIA Novosti)
The unburned in dense atmosphere debris of cargo spacecraft Progress M-23M, which was undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on July 22, fell into the Pacific Ocean, a representative of the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. (8/1)

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