January 2, 2015

High-Tech Airships Could Be NASA's Next Challenge (Source: Space.com)
One of NASA's new citizen science endeavors could involve high-tech, record-breaking airships designed to aid scientific research projects. NASA has proposed a challenge that calls for airship designs that can fly higher and longer than existing airships. At the moment, no airship — blimp-like devices — can maintain an altitude of 65,000 feet (20 kilometers) for more than 8 hours. Weather balloons can soar to that height, but the balloons are difficult to control and vulnerable to winds. (12/31)

Transportation Hurdles Ahead In 2015 For Congress (Source: Roll Call)
In the New Year, Congress faces far-reaching policy and spending choices that will put members under both time and political pressure. Will there be enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done, or will decisions be postponed in favor of short-term expedients? Here are some of the issues that are likely to be contentious in 2015. (12/31)

Make a New Year's Resolution to Celebrate Yuri's Night 2015! (Source: Yuri's Night)
Our small team at Yuri's Night hopes that you have had a great year in 2014. Hopefully you were able to share your interest in space with others by hosting a Yuri's Night event or attending one of the 200+ events registered on yurisnight.net in 48 countries during 2014.

It's time for you to start thinking about where you will be on April 12, 2015. We want to help you have a great time again this year, and we've been working to set up a brand Yuri's Night New Websitenew website that is more mobile-friendly where you can find and register Yuri's Night events so that others can join in the fun. Click here. (12/31)

5,200 Days in Space (Source: The Atlantic)
When humans move to space, we are the aliens, the extraterrestrials. And so, living in space, the oddness never quite goes away. Consider something as elemental as sleep. In 2009, with the expansive International Space Station nearing completion after more than a decade of orbital construction, astronauts finally installed some staterooms on the U.S. side—four private cubicles about the size of airplane lavatories.

That’s where the NASA astronauts sleep, in a space where they can close a folding door and have a few hours of privacy and quiet, a few hours away from the radio, the video cameras, the instructions from Mission Control. Each cabin is upholstered in white quilted material and equipped with a sleeping bag tethered to an inside wall. When an astronaut is ready to sleep, he climbs into the sleeping bag.

“The biggest thing with falling asleep in space,” says Mike Hopkins, who returned from a six-month tour on the Space Station last March, “is kind of a mental thing. On Earth, when I’ve had a long day, when I’m mentally and physically tired—when you first lie down on your bed, there’s a sense of relief. You get a load off your feet. There’s an immediate sense of relaxation. In space, you never feel that. Click here. (1/1)

Wearable Skins For Space Travel (Source: Jewish Business News)
MIT professor Neri Oxman has joined a team that is designing clothing to enable humans to live on other planets. The old fashioned space suit with only oxygen and waste disposal is passe. The thing of the future will be 3D suits that provide nourishment and oxygen and are even stylish to boot. Neri Oxman teamed up with German engineers Christolph Bader and Dominik Kolb to create 3D suits which are like an added layer of skin.

Each suit is geared toward a unique planetary environment and enables human beings to survive conditions in each location. 3D printing company Stratasys teamed up with the scientists to create the wearable biosystems. The series is called “The Wanderers: An Astrobiological Exploration.” The garments act as second skins and have algae which feed off sunlight and produce substances humans need to survive in hostile environments. (12/30)

Over-Budget Project for an Already Cancelled Program (Source: Rep. Rob Portman)
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today released the latest example in a monthly series highlighting Washington’s wasteful spending during a time of record debt: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it's wasteful to spend money building a facility that will never be used. It does take Washington to fund the construction anyway.

Last June, NASA marked completion of a $350 million tower (“A-3”) built to test a cutting-edge rocket engine (“J-2X”) that would help send astronauts to the International Space Station, the moon, and even Mars. As part of President George W. Bush’s Constellation program in 2004, the J-2X engine would power the Ares I and Ares V rockets that would transport astronauts and cargo separately to their destinations.

The project was originally projected to cost $119 million and be finished by 2010. But in 2010, A-3 was well over-budget and behind schedule. After President Obama proposed abandoning the Constellation program, Congress ended funding for the Ares rockets and the J-2X engine – yet inexplicably reauthorized the final $100 million to complete A-3 despite no longer developing rockets that could use it. (12/30)

AirAsia Disappearance Fuels Calls for Real-Time Tracking (Source: Space Daily)
After the baffling disappearance in March of Flight MH370, critics accused the aviation industry of "dithering" over equipping jets with real-time tracking systems. Now, with another passenger plane lost, the call for action is becoming more insistent.

Members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) -- the UN's aviation body -- agreed in the aftermath of the incident to mandate real-time tracking. But they did not set a timeline as airlines mulled the additional costs involved. Many carriers have been losing money for years. Now, with the apparent loss of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on Sunday off Indonesia, the calls for immediate changes have returned with vehemence. (12/30)

Russia to Debate US Discrimination of Glonass in U.N. (Source: Space Daily)
Moscow intends to bring the issue of alleged discrimination against Russia's navigation satellite system GLONASS by the United States to the United Nations. Earlier in December the US Federal Communications Commission stated it would introduce a compulsory licensing procedure of the navigation signal and certification of user devices.

"This is the first-ever case of introduction of licensing and certification of navigation systems. If the United States decides to license providers of the global navigation satellite systems, certify multisystem receivers, and impose restrictive measures against GLONASS... a danger of discrimination against using GLONASS will be created," Gurko said, as quoted by Izvesitya.

According to Gurko, if the US regulates the use of GLONASS, the largest manufacturers of navigation receivers may abandon using GLONASS in their systems, which would narrow the market. "A number of countries could follow the US example, introducing the procedure of signal licensing and device certification," Gurko added. (12/29)

NASA Has Big Plans for Tiny CubeSats (Source: Space Daily)
Tiny CubeSats could soon play a big role in space exploration. For example, NASA is set to launch one of these miniature satellites — the "IceCube" craft, which is the size of a loaf of bread —  in 2016 to test technology for a future mission. The result could be big savings in development costs down the road, IceCube team members say.

But CubeSats aren't the answer for every mission, NASA officials caution. While mobile phone technology, for example, has shrunk the power requirements for these tiny satellites, they don't have the juice to run some of NASA's more powerful instruments.

By their nature, however, CubeSats are considered almost disposable technology. These small and relatively cheap spacecraft can be launched in bunches rather than as single missions. This means that multiple copies of an instrument can be tested at a low cost, or that scientists can collect data from several satellites instead of just one. (12/30)

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