January 11, 2015

Pilot Killed in Small Plane Crash Was NASA Scientist (Source: ABC)
The pilot of a small plane that crashed at a Los Angeles intersection was a NASA and Jet Propulsion Labs researcher who helped determine that there was once water on the surface of Mars, his colleagues said. Alberto Behar, 47, of Scottsdale, Arizona, died instantly when his single-engine plane nosedived shortly after takeoff Friday from Van Nuys Airport. (1/10)

China Plan for Unmanned Moon Landing, Earth Return Advances (Source: ABC)
China's bold plan to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth has moved another step forward with a test craft shifting into lunar orbit to conduct further tests, state media reported Sunday. The service module of a lunar orbiter that flew back to Earth in November had been sitting in a position that brought in into sync with Earth's orbit, known as the second Lagrange point. It had separated from the orbiter in November.

The craft, loaded with support systems for operating a spaceship, will collect further data to aid planning of the 2017 Chang'e 5 mission, state broadcaster China Central Television said. Chang'e 5 is being designed to make a soft landing on the moon and collect at least 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of rock and soil samples before returning to Earth. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to meet such a challenge. (1/11)

Lightly Funded Oklahoma Space Agency May Go Dark (Source: Muskogee Phoenix)
Bill Khourie’s passion for his small government agency is such a labor of love that he often spends weekends in the summer mowing grass at its 2,700­acre property. Also, the Oklahoma Space Industry and Development Authority isn’t budgeted a groundskeeper. Khourie, the agency’s longtime director, says he labors for free to keep up the land surrounding a 3­mile runway in Burns Flat because he believes in the future of the agency and its mission to build Oklahoma’s space and aviation industry.

The authority that competes with neighboring states to lure aerospace companies has facilities — namely a runway long enough to qualify as a “spaceport” 105 miles west of Oklahoma City — if not deep pockets. But its future is uncertain as lawmakers debate whether the agency actually contributes to aerospace development or is just a financial drain. The authority’s supporters argue that because it doesn't get many pennies, cutting it hardly helps a multibillion­dollar budget. This year the authority received the fourth­smallest state appropriation of just $372,432. (1/10)

Food for Mars (Source: Guardian)
The race is on to colonize Mars with national agencies and private companies setting their sights upon its terrain. But if getting pioneers to the red planet is a mission, feeding them is another. Now, some students are aiming to investigate the possibility of growing a sustainable food source on Mars. Team “Seed” has won the chance to send a type of cress on board an unmanned mission to the planet. Click here. (1/11)

Why Humans Shouldn’t go to Mars (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Mars has been in the news a lot lately. Just recently, studies have shown that the red planet “belches” methane, harbors organic molecules and once was warmer and wetter than previously believed — all possible indicators of past, and maybe even present, simple life there.

The space agency calls a future human mission to Mars its “next giant leap.” Actually, attempting to eventually send humans to Mars is a pricey, risky leap. And a poor use of a great deal of money. There are, of course, good reasons for exploring Mars. But there are many reasons not to send people to another planet.
Mars, as close as it is, is a planet too far. Click here. (1/10)

Beefed-Up Budget is Big Development for NASA Glenn (Source: Crain's Cleveland Business)
NASA Glenn Research Center received an outpouring of support from Ohio's Congressional delegation as the federal government was setting NASA's 2015 budget. For the most part, they got what they wanted: A budget that plays to NASA Glenn's strengths, giving the center a good chance to compete for funding.

After a few years of cost-cutting, the federal government increased NASA's budget for the current fiscal year. And our local NASA center just so happens to specialize in a few areas that are slated to get more funding. In some cases, it's a lot more. (1/11)

Despite Botched Landing, A Lot Went Right with SpaceX’s Booster Flyback (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster accomplished a delicate maneuver after a glowing predawn launch from Cape Canaveral on Saturday, turning around at hypersonic speeds and autonomously navigating its way to a modified barge the size of a football field hidden in darkness beneath a blanket of low clouds, before it crashed — and presumably broke up — on the ship.

The pencil-shaped Falcon 9 rocket stage slowed down from a top speed of nearly 3,000 mph at the edge of space and descended toward SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship — a specially-outfitted cargo barge — in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive, said on Twitter that the Falcon 9 booster made it to the drone ship but had a hard landing. A later tweet implied the rocket broke apart on impact. At least the first two of the descent burns had to go nearly perfectly for the first stage to reach the drone ship. SpaceX officials did not release any more details or imagery of the landing. (1/10)

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