September 1, 2014

Spitzer Telescope Witnesses Asteroid Smashup (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets. Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

“We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona. While dusty aftermaths of suspected asteroid collisions have been observed by Spitzer before, this is the first time scientists have collected data before and after a planetary system smashup. The viewing offers a glimpse into the violent process of making rocky planets like ours. (8/31)

Why One West Virginia Town Has Banned Cell Phones (Source: National Journal)
Only four hours west of Washington, there is a town where cell phones and wireless Internet are outlawed. Commercial radios are banned, and microwaves aren't welcome either. Green Bank might sound like a Luddite's dreamscape, but the West Virginia hamlet's self-imposed blackout is being done all in the name of science: Green Bank is home to the world's largest radio telescope, a 100-meters-in-diameter dish that is the crown jewel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Click here. (8/30)

For Jaded Traveler with $125k to Spare (Source: Asia One)
For $100,000 (S$124,900), an American company is offering the chance to boldly go where no Singaporean has gone before: space. XCOR Space Expeditions, which develops commercial space shuttles, will take travellers to the final frontier from late next year.

A model of the shuttle to be used, the XCOR Lynx Mark II, is now on display outside Shaw House in Orchard Road as part of a roadshow for Swiss watch company Luminox. More than 300 people worldwide, from countries including China and Britain, have bought tickets for the space flight, but so far only three from Singapore have expressed an interest.

One is lawyer Simon Tan, 49, who has dreamt of going into space since he was six. He said: "It has been a fantasy of mine because of characters like Astro Boy and Ultraman. It is not a matter of money but of opportunity and ability. I would do it even if it meant collateralising my investments and mortgaging my house." (9/1)

Space Tourism Set to Take Off? (Source: Asia One)
With the emergence of the XCOR Lynx Mark II space shuttle, the notion of commercial space travel may not seem so far-fetched. This shuttle has the ability to take two people - a pilot and a passenger - on an hour-long sub-orbital flight to as high as 103km above sea level before safely gliding back down and landing. The shuttle was developed by XCOR Space Expeditions, a rocket engine and space-flight development company based in the US. The first space flights are set to be launched by the end of next year. (9/1)

Retired USAF Officer Picked for Simulated Mission to Mars (Source: USAF)
An Air Force Institute of Technology alumnus and retired Air Force officer was selected by NASA and the University of Hawaii as one of nine team members to participate in an upcoming simulated mission to Mars. Edward Fix, who earned a Master of Science in electrical engineering from AFIT, will participate in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission. This eight-month mission begins in October. It is the third in a series for NASA; the first two missions were each four months long, and the fourth will be 12 months.

During this mission, the team will be engaged in a broad variety of research, exploration, engineering, and outreach activities, as well as exercising and carrying out routine housekeeping chores. The research is being conducted for NASA by the University of Hawaii, using a 1,000-square-foot, domed habitat at 8,000 feet elevation in an abandoned quarry on the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The crew will reside there for the duration of the mission. (8/29)

Geckos, Fruit Flies Land Safely in Russia After Space Flight (Source: RIA Novosti)
A biological capsule with geckos, fruit flies and silkworm eggs has returned to Earth, landing on Monday in the Orenburg Region, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced on Twitter. “Foton-M [the biological capsule] and its joyful crew are back on Earth,” Rogozin said in a tweet.

“In a short time the little space travelers will be removed from the capsule and then the scientists will be able to see how they dealt with the burden of the space flight,” a representative from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said. The biological mission of Foton-M included eight experiments that involved monitoring the reproductive activity of geckos in space. (9/1)

Dream Chaser's SUV-Like Flexibility and Runway Landing Offer Advantages (Source: America Space)
The winged Dream Chaser’s “SUV-like” flexibility to act as both a crew transporter and “specialized research laboratory,” combined with a global “runway landing capability,” offer significant competitive advantages in terms of science and safety in the “new space race” to quickly develop a cost-effective “space taxi” for NASA, Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, told AmericaSpace in concluding Part 5 of our exclusive, one-on-one interview series.

Dream Chaser’s spacious and flexible interior design allows a multitude of practical research benefits such as flying a uniquely specialized science lab in orbit for studies that can’t be done inside the International Space Station (ISS), for technical as well as safety factors. The ISS’s entire reason for existence is to benefit science and expand our exploration of the cosmos in ways not otherwise possible. Click here. (9/1)

NASA and Partners Accelerate 3D Rocket Testing (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As NASA prepares the materials and machines to send humans to destinations far beyond the gravitational influence of Earth, the space agency is turning its attention on new game-changing technologies to help them in their efforts. The company’s that enable NASA to accomplish its objectives are also taking an active role in developing new methods to facilitate space exploration initiatives. One technology in particular, additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has come into its own and is being increasingly used to produce rocket engine components. Click here. (9/1)

Asteroid Paper to be Retracted Because of Faulty Analysis (Source: Science)
JAXA is asking Science to withdraw one of the 2006 papers that resulted from the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission because of an error in the data analysis. The retraction won't affect scientists' understanding of the asteroid, however, since other papers have confirmed the study's key conclusions. The Japanese-led team published a collection of 7 papers in a special issue of Science on 2 June 2006 based on observations by 4 instruments as the Hayabusa spacecraft circled asteroid Itokawa in the fall off 2005.

 The paper being retracted, by Tatsuaki Okada and colleagues, presents an analysis of X-ray spectra to determine the elements on the asteroid's surface. The authors concluded "that Itokawa has a composition consistent with that of ordinary chondrites." Chondrites are a type of stony asteroid. For various reasons, the authors felt they could not rely on the calibration of the instrument done on Earth before the spacecraft was launched. Click here. (9/1)

JAXA Hopes to Repeat Asteroid Success with Hayabusa2 (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency unveiled the new asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 to the press over the weekend as it looks to outdo the particle-collecting feat achieved by its predecessor in 2010. “I’m grateful because the new asteroid probe is now nearly complete,” said professor Hitoshi Kuninaka, leader of the Hayabusa2 project team. The agency, he said, is ready to redouble its efforts “for a new voyage.”

The Hayabusa2 succeeds the Hayabusa, which completed a seven-year voyage in June 2010 by bringing particle samples from the asteroid Itokawa back to Earth. Hayabusa2 is slated to be launched later this year from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. Its target is asteroid 1999 JU3, which, unlike Itokawa, contains carbon and water. JAXA hopes particles and other samples from the asteroid will provide clues on the origin of life and how the solar system was formed. (9/1)

What Will It Take to Reignite U.S. Interest in Space? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Few would dispute that NASA has been in turmoil since President Obama canceled the Constellation Program in 2010, or at least in a state of declining activity. Faced with a vague and undefined mission, inadequate funding, poor leadership, and mounting political tension with Russia, the future for NASA looks bleak.

It takes a long time to build a space program, and when the next administration comes along, it’s likely things will change course yet again. In 2003 the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) pointed out that NASA’s consistently low budget, the lack of interest from the Presidents and Congresses since the Apollo Program coupled with the lack of a coherent mission had severely limited the agency’s ability. Click here. (9/1)

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