October 10, 2014

Why Do We Love Leaving Our Mark in Space? (Source: CS Monitor)
Humans have often used names to try to leave their mark on the solar system and beyond. The International Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature has dubbed numerous asteroids, besides 23990 Springsteen, names that pay homage to celebrities, including each Monty Python member, Kurt Vonnegut, and the Beatles. There are a number of stars that honor the individuals who discovered them. Barnard's Star, a small red dwarf, is named after its discoverer E.E. Barnard.

For several decades, people have been able to name stars after their best buds or significant others in exchange for a few ten-dollar bills. And while the names are not officially recognized by astronomers, the International Star Registry has sold over two million "Name a Star" certificates, according to the company's Facebook page.

Since Neil Armstrong's first step on the lunar surface, leaving behind footprints, literal and otherwise, has gone hand-in-hand with space exploration. "When we set foot on the Red Planet, we'll be exploring for all of humanity," said Mark Geyer, Orion Program Manager, in a release. "Flying these names will enable people to be part of our journey." (10/9)

It's Time to Take the Science Out of Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Establishing the priorities of the science budget will inevitably be bad for space exploration. There are far more bangs per buck to be had from unmanned space expeditions, or earthbound science, than manned missions. It is pretty well impossible to justify the risk and cost of putting humans into space for scientific purposes. However, there is something else, something bigger. Going into space is not really a scientific endeavor at all. It may be done for any or all of political, commercial, sociological -- even spiritual -- purposes, but it isn't too much about science.

We need to separate our thinking here. Spaceflight is related closer to defense spending than science -- it is about doing something that is at the heart of keeping our civilization safe. By making it thriving and fresh. Much as I love science, I have come to realize how little it has to do with space exploration. Scientists inevitably overvalue the scientific component of any activity, but in reality there is more to life -- and in the case of manned space exploration, there is more to making life worth living. (10/9)

We Must Keep Exploring Space to Answer Big Questions (Source: The Conversation)
Space exploration is a challenge to human ingenuity, and celebrations this week, under the guise of World Space Week, are an ode to it. Spacecraft have to be kept warm against the cold of space, but cool against the heat of the Sun – think of travelling from Antarctica to Africa without taking your coat off. They have to make electricity for themselves. They have to be able to work out what way they are facing.

They need to be able to communicate with Earth – but even traveling at the speed of light it takes a radio signal about 40 minutes to get from Jupiter to Earth, so robotic spacecraft have to survive on their own. A simple reason why space exploration is valuable is that in developing spacecraft to explore distant worlds, we get better at building spacecraft for more practical purposes. Engineers and space scientists today have their work cut out to meet these challenges, but they follow in the footsteps of the early engineers and scientists who pioneer space exploration. Click here. (10/9)

Report Reveals Continued Growth of UK Space Sector (Source: Gov.UK)
‘The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry’ reveals that the sector continues to soar and is currently worth £11.3 billion to the UK economy, growing at over 7% per year, employing over 34,000 people and supporting a further 65,000 jobs in other sectors. Click here. (10/9)

UK Science Museum Denies Exhibition Postponement is Due to British-Russian Tensions (Source: Independent)
The Science Museum has denied that the postponement of its “Cosmonauts” exhibition of Russian spacecraft was caused by political tensions between Britain and Russia. Due to open next month, the “Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age” was described by the Museum as “the most significant collection of space artefacts ever to leave Russia” and “the principal attraction of the UK-Russia Year of Culture”. But the Museum confirmed that the exhibition has been delayed, with a new opening date expected next year. (10/9)

Spaceport Could be 'Turning Point' for Georgia (Source: Tribune & Georgian).
Camden County residents could see the first ever launch from a local spaceport as soon as 2018. But that's only if the community can stay focused on the process of bringing a spaceport to the area, according to county administrator Steve Howard. The idea that two years ago seemed outlandish to some is quickly gaining momentum as Howard and other county leaders work toward a purchase agreement with the two landowners who currently hold the proposed 11,000-acre site at the east end of Harrietts Bluff Road.

On Tuesday morning, Howard and Georgia Tech professor and space expert Dr. Robert Braun addressed the Camden Roundtable, a non-partisan citizens group dedicated to furthering community discussion and participation. Braun said Georgia could leverage the skills of its already-thriving aeronautics industry to aid the setup of a spaceport in Camden. "You laugh, but there are companies that are looking at doing this," he said. "The space race used to be between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. With the retirement of the space shuttle ... that created a new space race."

Other advantages for Camden include its available trajectories over the Atlantic Ocean, which allow spacecraft to launch without having to fly over a significant population of people. Another burgeoning site in Brownsville, Texas, has a similar advantage, but launches from that site must "thread the needle," Braun said, between the southern tip of Florida and Cuba, which complicates some missions. Click here. (10/9)

The Reason Mars One Colonists Could Die Will Surprise You (Source: C/Net)
There's a battle of the brains under way online about just how long the first human colonists to set up a new home on Mars will last on the Red Planet. A group of MIT students have challenged the viability of Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit's plan to set up a permanent colony on Mars with hearty volunteer astronauts who get a one-way ticket to both the fourth planet from the sun and history.

While those who sign up and are selected for Mars One's mission fully understand they'll be living out the rest of their days on Mars, presumably they'll be hoping that those days will number into the thousands. However, the MIT students' analysis (PDF) by Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens and Olivier de Weck estimates that the first fatality on Mars will come at around day 68 of the mission. "This would be a result of suffocation from too low an oxygen partial pressure within the environment," their paper reads.

The problem, according to the study, is basically that growing a bunch of crops inside the same structure as living quarters -- as the mission design calls for -- will raise the oxygen in the air to an unsafe level, requiring that extra O2 to be vented outside. However, the MIT students claim that since technology is not available that could exclusively vent oxygen while holding on to the needed levels of nitrogen to ensure enough air pressure for the crew to actually breathe, things start to get really uncomfortable after the imported nitrogen tanks run out on day 66. (10/9)

Kazakhstan: Space-Launch Tourism Not Blasting Off as Promised (Source: EurasiaNet)
Kazakhstan has long talked of turning Baikonur into a tourist destination. But visitors hoping to see rockets blast off from the historic cosmodrome are in for a crapshoot, and any serious expansion of tourism still faces significant hurdles. Melnikov and Rhodes enlisted the help of a Moscow-based tour operator with close ties to Roscosmos, Vegitel Tour, which says it charges $5,400 per person, including transport from Moscow on "special Roscosmos charters" and accommodations in a four-star hotel.

“We’ve been really impressed with the access,” said Rhodes. She will “never forget” watching astronauts launch from the same pad Gagarin used when he became the first man in space in 1961, or attending the private sendoff ceremonies. “Unless you’re a member of the [astronauts’] families, you can’t do better.” The Doigs, however, booked through Baikonur-based Tour Service, which charges $800 per person ($500 for citizens of Russia or Kazakhstan). That price does not cover transportation, but does include a room and three hearty heaps of mystery meat daily at the aging Tsentralnaya Hotel.
Missing the launch left the Doigs “gutted,” said Susan, a schoolteacher from Melbourne. She stressed, though, that Tour Service told them permission to enter the heavily guarded cosmodrome was not guaranteed...  Local Kazakhs and Russians use bitter ethnic stereotypes to complain about each other. For now, Russian police hunker down at a police station surrounded by barbed wire. Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, controls access to the town. (10/9)

KSC Public Affairs Chief to Join UF for the Month as Fellow (Source: Independent Alligator)
For the next month, the NASA director of Public Affairs will visit UF and share her expertise with students. Lisa Malone has worked with NASA for more than 25 years, dealing with social media, news, communication and web content. Malone will now work under the Bob Graham Center for Public Service as the third Knight Fellow-in-Residence.

The Knight Fellow-in-Residence program is a three-year program funded by a $3 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The program allows the Graham Center to invite leaders to work with faculty and students, wrote Shelby Taylor, communications director for the center. Malone will meet with faculty and staff in the College of Journalism and Communications and guest lecture in some of the classes in the college, as well as teach Public Relations Strategy with professor Juan-Carlos Molleda. (10/10)

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