August 17, 2014

Activity Surrounds Impending Texas Launch Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Mounds of dark gravel dot the last 15.1-mile stretch of State Highway 4 that leads to the Gulf of Mexico, awaiting construction crews for a needed facelift. The road repairs will run from the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint to the eastern end of the roadway, which abuts Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County. The repairs, while long in the works, are significant because this is the main — in fact, the only — thoroughfare to the much anticipated SpaceX launch site. Click here. (8/17)

Life on the [UK] Edge (Source: Western Morning News)
Lucy Edge took maths and physics at A Level “because it was easy”. The sporty Home Counties schoolgirl was more interested in athletics than the high-flying career in the space industry which awaited her. “I found physics and maths easy and quick to do,” she says. “I was far more interested in athletics so I wanted to study subjects that I could do the homework for most quickly.

She won’t publicize her age, but it’s surprisingly young to be director of satellite operations at Avanti Communications and general manager of Avanti’s site at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station near Helston on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. Avanti puts the satellites up and keeps them there, selling broadband bandwidth to the telecoms companies which in turn sell on the services to you and I. (8/17)

Branson Still Hoping for First Flight This Year (Source: USA Today)
Q: What is your timing in terms of this program taking off? A: I'll be bitterly disappointed if I'm not into space by the end of the year. The rockets have now tested successfully. We've got three more rocket tests and then we should be up, up and away by the end of the year. That should be the start of the program. The space port's ready. We are now in the last few weeks before finally embarking on the space program. (8/17)

Editorial: Get Creative to Keep Spaceport Tax Money Here (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We're not convinced that county commissioners have found the right solution to save the portion of spaceport tax funds now going to local schools, but we do agree that a solution needs to be found. And that's unfortunate. Because there was certainly no indication in 2007 when the tax was passed that it would put us in violation of New Mexico school funding laws. Then-Gov. Bill Richardson himself was down here leading the effort, twisting arms and insisting that the spaceport project would not go forward without local support. Click here. (8/16)

Rainfall Research Satellite Begins Descent from Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A long-lived satellite launched in 1997 to measure rainfall in the tropics has run out of fuel and will probably fall back to Earth within the next three years, NASA officials said this week. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission -- a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency -- has outlived its original three-year life expectancy, and officials say the satellite will continue collecting science data until early 2016, when the craft's instruments will be switched off to prepare for re-entry.

Pressure readings from the TRMM satellite's fuel tank July 8 indicated the satellite was at the end of its fuel, according to an update posted Tuesday on the mission's website. "As a result, NASA has ceased station keeping maneuvers and TRMM has begun its drift downward from its operating altitude of 402 kilometers (250 miles)," the update said. (8/15)

Martians in Houston: Do We Have a Problem? (Source: Huffington Post)
Last week 100 or more hopefuls looking for a way to Mars converged at the South Shore Harbor Resort in League City, Texas, just outside Houston, for the annual convention of the Mars Society: engineers working on intricate ways to get us there, "aspiring Martians" chatting up Mars One leader Bas Lansdorp, and fresh-faced university students designing take-alongs for Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars, along with a few naysayers convinced it'll never happen, at least not in the next 10 years, as the big poster hanging in the aptly named "Crystal Ballroom" meeting room predicted. Click here. (8/15)

1996 Plan to Use NASA’s Oldest Orbiter to Make Money on the Moon (Source: WIRED)
In an April 1996 paper presented at the 33rd Space Congress in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Carey McCleskey of the Vehicle Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center proposed using the oldest Orbiter’s excess mission capacity “to ignite a billion dollar, sustained enterprise on the Moon.” Specifically, he advocated using Columbia as a joint NASA/private sector Earth-orbital launch platform for rocket stages bearing small lunar landers. Columbia would remain in space for only a few hours during each of its lunar lander deployment missions. Click here

Editor's Note: Hundreds of technical papers from over 40 years of Space Congress events are now digitized and available online, under an arrangement between the Canaveral Council of Technical Societies and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Click here. (8/16)

Editorial: Should We Reach Out to China? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Chinese space program is well and consistently funded, something to which NASA cannot always lay claim. If we want to dream big, we may be in for a rude awakening if we leave China behind. Ultimately, it comes down to one question. Is partnership in space a means to build cooperation, or a means to reward it?

Leroy Chiao is an advocate for the former. His argument is supported by pragmatism and a career working with international partners, including Russia. Congressman Wolf represents the other end of the spectrum, the belief that cooperating with China would be tantamount to endorsing the regime’s poor history on human rights. Both are right. Whether one is more right than the other is not as easy to discern. (8/17)

An Astronaut's Faith Often Rides Along Into Space (Source: Statesman Journal)
Sometime in the future, a man — or woman — may step onto the arid, red surface of Mars and, for a moment, set aside science before staring off into the distance of space to say a prayer. But will it be a lilting public call to prayer or a personal meditation recognizing God as the creator of an expansive universe necklaced with unexplored planets and galaxies? "People take their faith wherever they go, be it Earth or to the furthest corner of the universe," said Winston Scott, a former astronaut. "I don't think a person could abandon their faith, it's a part of who you are.

"It's a very personal thing. When I was in space, I didn't stop to have formal prayer, but my spirituality is expressed 24/7. On my flights, probably most of us prayed internally, but had you taken us and had us out there for six months, then it probably would be different," said Scott, who took three spacewalks 200 miles above the Earth. Since the dawn of the space age —— from missions to the moon to space shuttle flights and extended stays on the International Space Station — faith and religion have played a role in humanity's exploration of the universe. (8/16)

Manx Stamps Reach for the Stars (Source: IOM Today)
The clear skies of the Isle of Man are being celebrated with a set of stamps. The island now has a total of 26 ‘dark sky’ sites, which is by far the greatest concentration of such sites in Europe. 19 sites were recognized in January 2014, which were in addition to the seven that were similarly granted this status by the Dark Sky Discovery Network (DSDN) based at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh during October 2012.

Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut and wife of Manxman Chris Stott gave her full support to the application for the original seven sites. She said then: "I tried on many occasions to identify the Isle of Man from orbit, but I had great difficulty because it is so dark! I eventually captured an image and it shows how wonderful the night skies in the Island are. The Manx skies are fantastic for astronomy."

The stamp issue has been produced following consultation with Howard Parkin FRAS of AstroManx and the pictures used on the stamps show spectacular images of the Manx night skies and feature some of the constellations clearly visible throughout the year from the island’s darker skies. (8/17)

Can Congress Grant Private Companies The Right To Mine Asteroids? (Source: io9)
U.S. companies are eyeing asteroids as the next frontier in lucrative mining ventures. But, they say, their plans are stymied by the vague status of private ownership in space. Earlier this summer, members of Congress introduced a bill to protect property rights for commercial exploitation of asteroids. Is that legal?

The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), is called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act. The two congressmen, both members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, declared in a joint statement that the bill would not only create more jobs but also safeguard America's economic security:

Congressmen Posey and Kilmer, however, say their legislation is not espousing a unilateral, U.S. land-grab. A spokesman for Posey's office told Space Policy Online that the bill repeatedly states that it should be implemented in a manner "consistent with international obligations" and does not confer ownership rights to asteroids. It only "allows those companies that mine the asteroid to keep what they bring back." And the bill affects only U.S. companies engaged in such activities. (8/14)

Brad Paisley Launches Song From Florida Launch Pad (Source: Collect Space)
Country music star Brad Paisley traveled to NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Saturday (Aug. 16) to launch his new space-themed song, "American Flag on the Moon." "I'm at NASA's Apollo launch pad in [Florida], leaking my new song," Paisley wrote on Twitter, sharing a photograph of him standing on the agency's historic Pad 39B. (8/16)

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