September 3, 2014

Decadal Survey Is Best Budget Lever, NASA Chief Scientist Says (Source: Space News)
The so-called decadal surveys that set priorities for NASA’s $5 billion-per-year science portfolio are the science community’s best chance to influence the internal White House budget negotiations affecting specific missions, NASA’s chief scientist told a National Research Council panel here Aug. 26.

Annual budget negotiations between the White House and NASA are conducted in secret, and the results released publicly — and to Congress — only after the tough calls have been made. Outsiders are not consulted, even when falling budgets precipitate major changes, as happened in 2012 when the White House took NASA off the international ExoMars sample-caching mission that addressed a top planetary science objective.

However dramatic the trades NASA is considering, “we can’t come back to you and be honest about the trade space we’re working with,” Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, told the NRC-chartered Survey of Surveys Aug. 26. “We’re not allowed to, that’s the way it is.” For that reason, Stoffan said, scientists need to “give NASA ... a flexible path to use the decadals.” (9/1)

NASA Ames Opens Campus Gates, Hosts First Public Open House in 17 Years (Source: NASA)
For the first time since 1997, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will open its gates and share its world-class space and aeronautics research campus with surrounding communities on Oct. 18, 2014. Starting today, free general admission tickets are available for the event. (9/2)

Soyuz’s Galileo Launch Failure Spawns Three Investigations (Source: Space News)
 A government-industry board of inquiry into the Aug. 22 failure of a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket to correctly orbit two European Galileo navigation satellites is scheduled to present its initial results Sept. 8 after a 12-day investigation.

The eight-member committee, established by the European Space Agency and launch service provider Arianespace, is one of three separate analyses — the others are by the European Commission and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos — into why the Soyuz rocket’s Fregat upper stage completed an apparently flawless mission by releasing the satellites so far off target.

As of Aug. 29, government and industry officials said, the two Galileo satellites had deployed their solar arrays and were in good health. But in such an elliptical orbit, with an inclination relative to the equator that is likewise off target, officials said it is likely that the satellites will not be able to be maneuvered into their correct positions with sufficient fuel to conduct operations. (9/1)

Galileo Satellites Likely Cannot Be Salvaged (Source: Space News)
One European government official said Aug. 29 that there is no real work going on to salvage the mission given the fuel needed to bring the satellites into a correct orbit. “We would need something like [1,000 kilograms] of fuel and we have something like 80 kilograms,” this official said. “The focus of the inquiry is on the cause of the failure. The satellites themselves are lost.” (9/1)

Editorial: Amateur Hour at Space and Missile Defense Symposium (Source: Space News)
Organizers of the recent 17th annual Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, were appropriately embarrassed and apologetic after reporters there were, according to numerous accounts, treated more like intruders than guests by overzealous security personnel.

During the conference, at least one reporter was physically blocked when attempting to approach U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, the Missile Defense Agency’s director, following a keynote address. Other reporters were asked to delete photos they had taken of slide presentations — they refused — and security personnel later parked themselves among media. Even a Washington-based consultant who had paid to attend the conference was hassled by the guards.

Ironies abound, beginning with the fact that freedom of the press is one of the supposedly cherished constitutional principles that the U.S. military, and by extension its contractors, is sworn to protect. The SMD conference is one of the few opportunities for media to interact directly with missile defense officials both in government and industry. That in itself is a problem, the MDA spends billions of taxpayer dollars annually and needs more public accountability. (9/1)

Editorial: Let’s Continue the Progress on SLS (Source: Space News)
NASA’s report on the state of the Space Launch System, reflecting its completed preliminary design review, is a clear indication that the NASA/industry program team is on track to deliver a deep-space exploration capability for the future.

What is not immediately apparent in the announcement is that the schedule set forth by NASA is based on a version of the future budget that is inconsistent with higher historic funding levels passed by Congress since the SLS program began. NASA’s commitment to SLS includes an evaluation of all identified program and technical risks in calculating a conservative statistical program schedule estimate.

The fact that a budget has not been passed for fiscal year 2015 forces NASA to work under a continuing resolution (CR), causing a pessimistic budget and schedule perspective. In my experience, under a 2015 CR, NASA can spend $1.6 billion, which is the lowest amount between the 2014 budget appropriation and 2015 House or Senate budget marks. However, the programs will likely receive conservative budget allocations defined by the president’s 2015 budget request of $1.38 billion. Click here. (9/1)

Editorial: Why I Like Dream Chaser (Source: Space News)
The space shuttle was the face of NASA to most of the world for 30 years before it was finally retired in 2011. Twenty or 50 or 100 years from today, the shuttle will be remembered as an extremely useful vehicle and a technical marvel. Nothing can compare to its functional abilities, serving as a launch vehicle, cargo carrier (both up and down), human transporter, on-orbit living quarters, construction shack, space station builder, satellite launcher and retriever, satellite servicer, and research lab in itself.

Of course, Dream Chaser cannot do all that the original shuttle did, but it can perform the shuttle’s single most important task of transporting crews to the ISS and returning them to a safe and dry landing on a runway in full view of the public. The two other candidates for future U.S. human transportation to the ISS are both capsules resembling those from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs of the 1960s. The proposed new capsules also resemble the Russian Soyuz capsule.

Developers of the capsules will be attempting to develop ground landing systems, with ocean landing as a contingency. They will need to develop both methods. Reliable ground landing of a capsule using propulsion will be difficult with poor downward crew visibility and limited maneuvering capability. Click here. (9/1)

NASA's New Orion Spaceship Makes a Splash in Ocean Tests (Source:
NASA's next spaceship, the Orion capsule, has had a wet summer. For a full week in August, NASA engineers and the U.S. Navy worked side by side to practice retrieving the new spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean after a water splashdown like the one that will end the capsule's upcoming test flight in December.

USS Anchorage Pin It The recovery tests for Orion were conducted from the USS Anchorage, seen here in port in San Pedro, Los Angeles. The USS Anchorage is a U.S. Navy amphibious transport ship that first sailed in 2013.  The tests were based from the USS Anchorage, an amphibious Navy transport that was temporarily assigned to NASA's Orion recovery exercises. Another round of sea trials is scheduled for September. (9/2)

Putin: Vostochny Spaceport Has Twice Less Builders Than Necessary (Source: Interfax)
The construction of the Vostochny space center in the Amur region is still 30 to 55 days late, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. "I have to say there is still a lag in the construction of main launch and technological facilities. This is a lag of 30-55 days," Putin said at a conference dedicated to the Vostochny space center project on Tuesday. He urged the audience "to pay attention to that fact."

Slightly more than 6,000 workers are daily building the space center, "but we need 12,000 to 15,000, and this is confirmed by Roscosmos," he said. The president ordered to verify construction schedules and the efficiency of their fulfillment. Vostochny is tasked to be ready for unmanned space missions powered by Soyuz-2 medium-lift launch vehicles in 2015 and manned programs starting from 2018, he noted.

He said the space center's capacities would grow in the future to support heavy-lift and super-heavy-lift launches for studying the Moon, Mars and other space objects. (9/2)

Hefty $1.5 Billion to be Invested in Vostochny Spaceport in 2015 (Source: Itar-Tass)
A hefty 50 billion roubles (roughly an equivalent of $1.5 billion) will be invested in the construction of the Vostochny space site in 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin told an on-site conference devoted to the space port’s development prospects. “We are investing huge funds into its construction. Since 2011 more than 100 billion roubles has been spent for the purpose and another 50 billion roubles are to be disbursed next year,” he said.

Putin called for strict compliance with all deadlines and construction phases. “It is essential to rule out any delays and disruptions in its financing. Also, financing must remain under strict control. There should be no groundless overspending,” he said. (9/2)

Two Launch Pads for Angara Rocket Enough (Source: Itar-Tass)
The number of launch pads for the heavy space rocket Angara may be reduced from the original four to two and the funds saved in that way invested in creating a new super-heavy rocket, the chief of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, has said. He addressed this proposal to President Vladimir Putin while inspecting the Vostochny space port construction site in the Amur Region on Tuesday.

“We are building two launch pads for Angara here and another two in Plesetsk. I believe that four launch pads for the heavy rocket are not very rational. Two launch pads will be enough - one in Plesetsk and another here,” Ostapenko said. He recalled that rockets launched from Vostochny, which was far closer to the equator, would be able to put in space 20% greater payloads. (9/2)

Russian, US Scientists to Prepare Astronauts for Extreme Situations in Space (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian and American scientists are starting a large-scale study into the cognitive psychology of astronauts to develop new technologies to adjust them for operations in extreme conditions, said Tomsk State University (TSU) head Edward Galazhinsky. “This is a search for patterns and the development of new mechanisms to adjust the actions of the astronauts, which would allow them to make correct decisions in extreme situations, when there is a huge number of unforeseen situations," he said.

"The human factor is not excluded. Together we are working on technologies that would allow the astronauts to accomplish safe spacecraft docking,” Galazhinsky said. According to him, the university has set up a laboratory for cognitive space research. The project involves the Institute of Strength Physics and Materials Science of Siberian Branch at Russian Academy of Sciences’ Siberian branch in Tomsk, Rocket and Space Corporation Energia in Korolev, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Sergei Krikalev. (9/2)

Biologists Reluctant to Continue Gecko Experiments Till Space Hardware is Reliable (Source: Interfax)
There will be no more experiments with geckos in outer space because technical flaws endanger the geckos' lives, said gecko experiment supervisor Sergei Savelyev, researcher from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences' Human Morphology Institute. "What was the cause of their death? We are still trying to find that out because the material was supplied just last night. But it seems to be a technical error in the life-sustenance equipment."

"Judging by what the animals look like, it was some technical mistake, some glitch but we do not know exactly what it was. We can tell by the geckos' condition, the paradoxical causes of their death that it was a technical error which occurred at least several days ago. I suspect the real cause will never been disclosed," he said. Most probably, the geckos died from a sharp change of pressure or temperature but, anyway, it was some technical failure of the life-sustenance system, Savelyev said. (9/2)

Sex Geckos Died in Orbit, Probably Didn't Have Sex (Source: Discovery)
This weekend, the capsule containing the gecko experiment returned to Earth after a controlled reentry over Russia and scientists were able to access the geckos. Sadly, all space passengers were dead. So dead in fact that the five little guys may not have even had the chance to enjoy orbit, let alone try to copulate. “According to preliminary data, it becomes clear that the geckos (froze to death),” said an agency spokesperson (translated from Russian). “(I)t was due to the failure of the equipment, ensure the necessary temperature in the box with the animals.” (9/2)

The Science Behind Gecko Sex: How Will Humans Reproduce in Space? (Source: NBC)
"Reproduction in space is a long-term goal that people would want to meet," said Ruth Globus, rodent research project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center,. "Even if people were to say, 'We don't care about the long term, we only care about now,' it's important to understand what's happening to the ovaries and the testes [in the space environment], and the subsequent changes that may occur."

Globus' project is due to mark a milestone as early as this month, when the first Rodent Research Facility makes its way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. Up to 10 mice will spend a month in the cage system, which builds on shorter-term experiments conducted during space shuttle missions.

The initial experiment serves primarily to validate the system, with a side study focusing on muscle-wasting in zero-G. At the end of their service, the mice will be euthanized, and tissue samples will be returned to Earth for study, Globus said. Eventually, researchers will be studying the effects of zero-G on the reproductive systems of female rodents. (9/2)

Texas Space Foundation Promotes Industry (Source: TSF)
The Texas Space Foundation is a not for profit organization whose goal is to use education and outreach to turn Texas into the world’s center for space activities of all kinds, from science and research to commerce and human spaceflight. Search the Texas Space Directory for businesses, non-profits and schools. Or use our Map Search to locate space entities near you. Check our Events Calendar to learn about space-related events all over Texas. Click here. (9/2)

'Space Whisky' to Return After Space Station Voyage (Source: Discovery)
Do space and alcohol mix? We already know that beer has a cozy relationship with space culture, but now it’s time to raise an orbital dram. In an alcoholic first, small samples of whisky will return to Earth this month after a three-year stay on the International Space Station. As one of the experiments installed in the station’s NanoRacks system, the samples were sent into space by the scotch whisky company Ardbeg to see how the spirit matured in microgravity when compared with samples that matured on Earth.

According to the company website, “The vials contained a class of compounds known as ‘terpenes.’ Ardbeg was invited by U.S.-based space research company NanoRacks LLC to take part in testing these micro organic compounds in a maturation experiment (the interaction of these compounds with charred oak) between normal gravity on Earth and micro-gravity i.e. space.” This experiment is one of many industry-driven interests to see how the microgravity environment impacts chemical processes, but this is the first to focus on the maturation process in whisky. (9/2)

NASA Invites Public to Submit Messages for Asteroid Mission Time Capsule (Source: NASA)
NASA is inviting the worldwide public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft launching to an asteroid in 2016. Called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), the spacecraft will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2019, collect a sample and return the cache in a capsule to Earth in 2023 for detailed study.

The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid and return a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams) of its surface material. Topics for submissions by the public should be about solar system exploration in 2014 and predictions for space exploration activities in 2023. The mission team will choose 50 tweets and 50 images to be placed in the capsule. Messages can be submitted Sept. 2 - 30. (9/2)

Land Rover Offers Space Rides (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Today Land Rover unveiled the 2015 Discovery Sport, the brand’s new premium compact SUV and first of the new Discovery family of vehicles, in a video hosted on The new Discovery Sport debut video, shot at Spaceport America, New Mexico, was released in conjunction with the announcement of the Land Rover “Galactic Discovery” competition, offering groups of aspiring astronauts a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to space with three friends for the ultimate adventure.

Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover Group Marketing Director, said, “Only Land Rover could offer this incredible opportunity: the chance to win the most spectacular group journey of a lifetime. Our heritage is rooted in adventure, exploration and a desire to go above and beyond, and nothing embodies this spirit of discovery more than a trip to space.” (9/2)

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