December 4, 2014

Traces of Possible Martian Biological Activity Inside a Meteorite (Source: Space Daily)
Did Mars ever have life? Does it still? A meteorite from Mars has reignited the old debate. An international team that includes scientists from EPFL has published a paper in the scientific journal Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences, showing that martian life is more probable than previously thought.

"So far, there is no other theory that we find more compelling," says Philippe Gillet, director of EPFL's Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory. He and his colleagues from China, Japan and Germany performed a detailed analysis of organic carbon traces from a Martian meteorite, and have concluded that they have a very probable biological origin.

The scientists argue that carbon could have been deposited into the fissures of the rock when it was still on Mars by the infiltration of fluid that was rich in organic matter. Ejected from Mars after an asteroid crashed on its surface, the meteorite, named Tissint, fell on the Moroccan desert on July 18, 2011, in view of several eyewitnesses. Upon examination, the alien rock was found to have small fissures that were filled with carbon-containing matter. Several research teams have already shown that this component is organic in nature. (12/3)

New Mexico Struggles Despite Federal Largess (Source: San Francisco Chornicle)
Unless New Mexico can attract new industries, workers will have to settle for whatever lower-paying government jobs are available or for low-wage work in the service industry, according to political leaders and experts on the state's economy. "The rest of the nation is subsidizing New Mexico," said Jake Arnold, a political consultant and longtime New Mexican. "It's like the Third World. ... All these people are fighting over crumbs." But so far, large-scale job-creation efforts have faltered.

Then there's Spaceport America in southern Sierra County, the venture of entrepreneur Richard Branson that was supposed to lure both jobs and tourism dollars. Instead, like much of New Mexico, Sierra County is losing rather than gaining private-sector jobs, according to data from the state Labor Department. The futuristic building and runway sit nearly empty, waiting for Virgin Galactic to make good on what have been annual projections since 2010 to launch its $250,000-per-person space tourism flights "by the end of the year."

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has said that the company could resume test flights as early as next summer if it can finish building a replacement craft. "I think we gave up on all that a long time ago," said Stephanie Ontiveros, who works at the Butte General Store and Marine in Sierra County, which raised its taxes to help support Spaceport. (12/3)

Pop Culture Artifacts Aboard Orion Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
NASA will launch its Orion spacecraft Thursday, and a collection of space-oriented pop culture artifacts, including a Captain Kirk action figure, will be aboard. Mementos of Planet Earth's interest in space exploration are part of the payload on the test flight of the craft, which will eventually carry a crew of humans father than ever before, to asteroids and to Mars, NASA said.

A Captain Kirk action figure, supplied by Star Trek actor William Shatner, will be aboard, as will other memorabilia from science-oriented films and television shows including Back to the Future and The Big Bang Theory. Marvel Comics' Iron Man will be represented, as will Sesame Street's Oscar, Grover, Slimey the Worm and Ernie, whose rubber ducky will make the flight. (12/3)

The Impact of Long Duration Spaceflights on Brain Function (Source: Space Daily)
Space is one of the most demanding and unforgiving environments. Human exploration of space requires astronauts to maintain consistently high levels of cognitive performance to ensure mission safety and success, and prevent potential errors and accidents. Despite the importance of cognitive performance for mission success, little is known about how cognition is affected by prolonged spaceflight, and what aspects of cognition are primarily affected.

Now, Penn Medicine researchers are poised to help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) close this knowledge gap. They have developed a cognitive test battery, known as Cognition, for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to measure the impact of typical spaceflight stressors (like microgravity, radiation, confinement and isolation, exposure to elevated levels of CO2, and sleep loss) on cognitive performance. (12/3)

Sticky Valves Delay Orion Launch to Friday (Source: NPR)
NASA's Orion spacecraft, which could one day send astronauts to Mars, is stuck on terra firma for at least another day after the space agency's mission control was unable to satisfactorily resolve a number of issues before a 9:45 a.m. ET launch window closed.

The unmanned vehicle is awaiting its first test in Earth orbit. But after multiple delays for high winds and a stuck liquid-oxygen drain valve on one or more of the Delta IV Heavy rocket's booster engines, NASA didn't have time to get the rocket off the pad. It will try again Friday morning. (12/4)

Proton Launch of Astra 2G Slips to Dec. 28 (Source: Aviation Week)
We're still awaiting official word on a new launch date for the SES Astra 2G satellite, which was expected to liftoff atop a commercial Proton Nov. 28. Managed by International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., the launch of Astra 2G was postponed owing to a balky gyro unit in the rocket's Briz-M upper stage.

Russian space agency Roscosmos says it is preparing to launch a Russian telecom satellite atop another Proton-M/Briz-M Dec. 16, and an industry source here says liftoff of the Astra 2G spacecraft isn't expected before Dec. 18, though ILS hasn't confirmed a new date. On Tuesday Roscosmos spokeswoman Irina Zubareva said Astra 2G will launch Dec. 28, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS. (12/4)

Russia Plans 11 Proton-M Launches in 2015 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia plans 11 launches of the Proton-M carrier rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2015, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Thursday. “The launch of the Inmarsat-5F2 communications satellite is to be the first — on January 30,” he said. The next launch may be carried out in February: a military satellite is to be placed into orbit. (12/4)

World's Biggest Telescope Could Face Start-Up Delay on Funding Slip (Source: Reuters)
A telescope that will be the world's largest when completed could face a delay to start-up as its European backers wait for Brazil to commit to the funding needed for it to be fully operational. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will have a primary mirror 39 meters (43 yards) in diameter, allowing it to gather around 15 times more light than the largest optical telescopes now functioning.

The tip of a mountain high in the Chilean desert was removed in June so site clearance could get under way, with the telescope slated to reach "first light" in 2024. But that could now be delayed until 2026, said its operators the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Thursday. Full funding of construction is dependent on Brazil becoming the first non-European country to join the ESO, but that has not yet happened. (12/4)

Space Startups Aim to Get Rich on Emerging Commercial Space Industry (Source: Al Jazeera)
Today the first company that comes to mind when you think of commercial space is SpaceX, which has multibillion dollar contracts with NASA. But there are many other companies in the emerging space economy. Scrappy startups with big visions and ideas that could revolutionize the commercial industry. As launches get cheaper and technology gets smaller, it’s now possible to get in on an industry that was once reserved for superpowers with superbudgets.

Today tech billionaires and venture capitalists are pumping money into these startups, many of which are in Silicon Valley. While some of these big visions may seem out there, the companies could be big money makers. “As an investor, what you really want to look for is things that are pushing boundaries,” said Chad Anderson, managing director for the Space Angels Network, a company that represents an investors’ group that seeds fledgling space companies. Click here. (12/3) 

Space Exploration Faces Future Funding Hurdles (Source: Michigan Daily)
Gabriel Rothblatt, a Florida politician, gave a presentation Wednesday night in the Bob and Betty Beyster building that discussed widening space exploration opportunities for average Americans. The talk, given to a handful of students, was hosted by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. Rothblatt’s main talking points included the privatization of the space industry, commonly known as NewSpace, and galvanizing public interest in the space industry from a more human perspective.

In last month’s midterm elections, he ran as a Democrat in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, and lost to Bill Posey (R). His primary campaign platform was space exploration. Rothblatt argued that the problem with the space industry is not one of funding, but of incentive. One of his primary points was the idea of settlement as the main goal of space exploration.

“As long as we focus on cheap, it’ll never be cheap enough,” he said. “If we put everything on the Mayflower and took it back and forth, it would never have been profitable to colonize the Americas. It was only profitable to buy a ticket and come here once we established cities. Let’s make settlement the goal, and then cheap access becomes a necessity.” Click here. (12/4)

Space Travel is a Bit Safer Than Expected (Source: IFJ)
Analysis of data from the MATROSHKA experiment, the first comprehensive measurements of long-term exposure of astronauts to cosmic radiation, has now been completed. This experiment, carried out on board and outside of the International Space Station, showed that the cosmos may be less hostile to space travellers than expected. Click here. (12/3)

Orion Launch Hoped to Herald Revitalized Cape (Source: News 4 Jax)
Thursday's scheduled blast off of NASA's Orion Spacecraft has more hinging it on than just America's future exploration into deep space. If all goes as planned, the launch could be the first of many for Orion, which would mean more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center, where things have been real sleepy since the shuttles were retired. Click here. (12/3)

NSS: Hayabusa Supports Future Space Settlement (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society congratulates the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the successful launch of Hayabusa 2on the Japanese H-IIA booster. Hayabusa 2 is planned to arrive at asteroid 1999 JU3 in July 2018, gather samples for over a year, and return those samples to the Earth in 2020. The first Hayabusa craft gathered samples from the Asteroid Itokawa in September 2006 and returned them to Earth in 2010. Hayabusa 2 sports many improvements over the first probe, and carries a MASCOT Lander and three MINERVA Rovers.
Asteroid Itokawa is an S-type asteroid, meaning that it was of stony composition. A sample return from Asteroid 1999 JU3, a C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid, represents a major advance in our understanding of the availability and distribution of resources in the solar system. C-type asteroids are dark relative to other asteroids, and are believed to contain sources of water. Water can be used both to sustain human life in space, as well as to provide rocket fuel and store energy for later generation of electricity via fuel cells.
The utilization of asteroidal resources is a key step toward space settlement as described in the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement which can be found at: The success of the Hayabusa 2 will represent a significant step toward the realization of the NSS Roadmap, and will help allow asteroid mining companies such as Planetary Resources ( and Deep Space Industries ( to advance their plans more quickly. (12/3)

Brian May Is the Champion of the Universe (Source: Newsweek)
The guitarist, songwriter and founding member of British rock band Queen is also an astrophysicist. On Wednesday, Brian May joined scientists and astronauts in a joint press conference in San Francisco and London to present the 100x Asteroid Declaration and to announce Asteroid Day. The former calls for an acceleration of the detection and monitoring of near-Earth asteroids, while the latter will take place on June 30, 2015, to raise awareness for planetary defense. Click here. (12/3)

Sierra Nevada Completes Another Dream Chaser NASA Milestone (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Colorado-based Sierra Nevada Corp. was not selected to continue forward under NASA’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the agency’s effort to send crews to orbit via private companies. However, SNC is still completing milestones under earlier phases of the Commercial Crew Program.

One of these, Milestone 15a, was recently completed and in so doing helped validate the Reaction Control System (RCS) propulsion risk reduction for the company’s Dream Chaser space plane. Milestone 15a is the twelfth of 13 milestones under the Commercial Crew integrated Capability or “CCiCap.” The company has received 96 percent of the award amount under CCiCap. The compact prototype of the thruster, was successfully tested in a vacuum chamber, simulating what the thruster would encounter on orbit. (12/3)

Antares Will Launch Again 2 Years After Explosion (Source: WAVY)
The unmanned rocket that exploded within seconds of launching on Wallops Island will return to space in 2016. The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority announced Tuesday that Antares will undergo a “hot fire” test in 2015 and then head out on its maiden voyage the following year. It was Oct. 28 when the rocket owned by Orbital Sciences Corp. burst into flames just moments after it lifted off for the International Space Station. (12/3)

Is NASA Going to Let Hubble Burn Up? (Source: Popular Science)
Last month, six astronauts convened in New York City to discuss the 2009 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. As it approached its 20th birthday, the telescope was in desperate need of an upgrade. The orbital optics, batteries, and other equipment had slowly deteriorated due to sun exposure and age.

Hubble is coming up on 25 years old, and NASA doesn’t have any official plans for upgrading the telescope, meaning its hardware will grow old and out-of-date in the coming years. Without assistance, Hubble can’t maintain its orbit forever, and eventually Earth's gravity will pull the telescope to a fiery death. Click here. (12/3)

Republican-Majority Congress, Senate Could Stop NASA Testing (Source: Sandusky Register)
Space equipment destined for the Red Planet could get blacklisted by Republicans. Come Jan. 1, and because of a political agenda, some fear a GOP-majority Senate and House could ground many space activities, including testing at the local NASA Plum Brook Station.

Among the more notable projects at risk of being delayed or halted altogether: The Orion mission. Meanwhile, local Plum Brook supporters downplayed threats of tests being interrupted. "I don't believe there is any significant sentiment in (Washington, D.C.) to defund any major NASA programs like Orion," said Tom Kueterman, a member of the Friends of NASA Plum Brook, a local volunteer group advocating for the station. (12/3)

Orion Capsule Means Jobs for 300 Floridians (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's Orion is the first space capsule manufactured primarily in Florida, a project that employs some 300 workers, according to Lockheed Martin. "We aren't tracking any major issues with the capsule," said senior manager Jules Schneider. "It's a real testament to the people who are working out here on this." (12/2)

US, British Data Show 2014 Could be Hottest Year on Record (Source: GMA Network)
This year may eclipse 2010 as the hottest since records began in the 19th century, a sign long-term global warming is being stoked by rising greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said. The period of January to October 2014 is already among the warmest ever recorded, and a warm ending to the year could easily make it top, according to US and British data.
Sceptics who doubt the necessity of a shift away from fossil fuels to stop the Earth's climate from heating up point out that world average temperatures have not risen much since 1998, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions. "It probably is a bit premature to say 2014 will be the warmest year on record," said Michael Cabbage, spokesman for NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The British data place 2014 third, fractionally behind 2010 and 1998, which both cooled towards the end of the year. (11/27)

Soyuz: The Soviet Space Survivor (Source: BBC)
"It’s much too small and tight,” complains Dutch European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andre Kuipers of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. “Especially the left and right seats where the tall Europeans and Americans sit.” First launched in 1967, the cramped Soyuz capsule is still used to carry trios of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

“The very first time I went into the Soyuz training capsule, I saw my American colleague taking painkillers,” says Kuipers. “I asked him why he did that, and he said ‘you’ll find out!’ and indeed I had a lot of problems with my knees – it’s very uncomfortable.”

But if launching in a Soyuz is unpleasant then landing is even worse. “It’s a huge car crash at best, very violent,” says Italian Esa astronautPaolo Nespoli. “You look at some of the hardware in the capsule and think, ‘Wow, we’re back in the ‘50s!’” (12/2)

Are You Fit for Space Tourism? (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Space tourists may soon be plunking down six figures and buying passage to a low-earth orbit - but they should know there are likely to be health risks, experts say. Both coming and going, spaceflight can threaten tourists’ health, with potential dangers from higher gravitational forces during acceleration, and space motion sickness that strikes some people in low and zero-gravity.

Outside of the Earth’s protective magnetosphere, space radiation might also pose a risk, possibly to implanted medical devices. And a hidden threat might be the unpredictable ways people act while confined in a ship in this new situation. But the experts’ bottom-line message? There’s too little information now to definitively answer the question of who is fit for this kind of travel. Click here. (12/2)

India's Own Navigation Satellites by Next Year (Source: The Hindu)
ISRO has said that the country would have its own set of navigation satellites by next year. The country would complete the navigation satellite project by 2015 so that India was independent and self-reliant for its navigation needs. The satellites, classified second class of satellites based on weight, would be placed at the 36,000-km altitude mark.

For the public it means that they could use home-developed satellites for finding directions. At present they used the U.S.-built global positioning system satellites. (12/3)

Exploring the New Commercial Space Economy (Source: Al Jazeera)
Today space innovation is increasingly driven by private industry. It’s an economy that’s growing quickly: 4 percent in 2013, to a record $314 billion. Billionaires, venture capitalists and even NASA are contributing to the soaring growth. Growth that’s tempting more entrepreneurs to get in early on an industry that is expected to double in the next 10 years.

“Space is about two things. It’s about exploration, and it’s about how do you go out and exploit it and profit off of it,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, a company building a lander to carry cargo to the moon. Click here. (12/2)

Hayabusa 2 Launches After Weather Delay (Source: Asahi Shumbun)
After two previous delays due to weather, the Hayabusa 2 probe finally lifted off on Dec. 3 on a round-trip mission to an asteroid that scientists hope will provide clues to the origins of life. The Hayabusa 2 was launched into orbit by the 26th H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center run by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

JAXA said the probe separated from the rocket over the Pacific Ocean at about 3 p.m. when it reached an orbit of 900 kilometers. A light drizzle fell on Tanegashima island during the morning, but the weather cleared and sunlight broke through the clouds allowing for the launch. (12/3)

Space: the Aggie Frontier (Source: The Battalion)
AggieSat Lab takes A&M one step closer to space with its development of AggieSat4, a small satellite slotted to be submitted Feb. 22 to NASA for acceptance testing. Helen Reed, faculty advisor for AggieSat Lab and aerospace engineering professor, said AggieSat4 is designed to interact with a satellite in development at the University of Texas at Austin. (12/3)

Milestone for UAE Space Agency (Source: The National)
The UAE space agency has officially launched its social media platforms on the occasion of the country’s 43rd National Day. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google + will be used regularly by the agency to keep followers and public informed about the UAE’s space exploration programs.

Director general of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi, said: “The UAE Space Agency is proud to launch its social media platforms on this special day, recognising the importance of communication, dialogue and cooperation in realising our dreams.Our projects have begun and we want to keep the public and the youth updated on the progress that is being made.”

The UAE Space Agency was established by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in July. Once the agency was established the Mission to Mars was announced, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation. (12/2)

Orion, Dragons and Dream Chasers: What’s Behind Modern Spaceship Design? (Source: Reuters)
As NASA prepares for the debut test flight of the first spaceship in more than 40 years to carry astronauts beyond Earth, a fleet of privately owned vehicles is in development to take over transportation services to and from orbits closer to home.

Whether heading to the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles above the planet, or other destinations, the journeys begin with rocket rides that have enough muscle to counteract Earth’s gravity and get their cargo traveling at speeds of at least 17,500 mph to achieve orbit.

NASA, for example, is using the biggest booster in the U.S. fleet, a Delta 4 Heavy, to shoot its Orion deep-space capsule as far as 3,600 miles from Earth during a test flight scheduled for Thursday. The key point of the test is to get Orion moving at about 20,000 mph before it slams into Earth’s atmosphere to test its heat shield. Click here. (12/2)

Asteroid Sample Return Still on Track Despite Loss of Hardware in Fire (Source: Space News)
A massive fire at a contractor’s shop in Los Angeles destroyed flight hardware for NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample-return probe this summer, but the mission remains on track for launch in 2016, according to a recent report from the agency’s inspector general.

The July fire at Highland Plating Company destroyed a metal box that was supposed to house the optics and electronics for the Osiris-Rex Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) that NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is building for the $800 million mission, which is designed to return a sample of the carbonaceous asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2023.

The fire also destroyed a spare optics box, according to NASA spokeswoman Nancy Jones. Local media reported in July that the fire caused $1.8 million in damage and took 130 firefighters two hours to extinguish. Highland Plating, a Goddard subcontractor, did not make the boxes; the company was applying protective coating to the hardware to reduce the amount of stray sunlight that will reach OVIRS’s detectors when the instrument is in space. (12/3)

Google Vs. Norad: Which Santa Tracker is Best? (Source: Space News)
Santa Claus may be coming to town, but how are you going to know when? Turns out there's not one, but two prominent trackers for jolly old St. Nick's progress on this upcoming Christmas Eve: one from Google, and a second from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). But with two competing Santa trackers, how do you know where to go to get the most up-to-date information about Father Christmas? Click here. (12/2)

Defense Bill Threatens Rocket Plans (Source: Nasdaq)
Boeing and Lockheed Martin face the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars if U.S. lawmakers succeed in a push to ban future purchases of Russian-made rocket engines used by the companies to launch Pentagon satellites.

The compromise defense bill published late Tuesday would block the use of the rocket engines by the companies' United Launch Alliance joint venture unless they were bought before Russia's annexation of Crimea this year. (12/3)

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