March 5, 2015

Titan’s Atmosphere Created As Gases Escaped Core (Source: Astrobiology)
A decade ago, the Huygens probe descended into the soupy atmosphere of Titan. We are only now starting to understand how the atmosphere of Titan formed, mostly based on what Huygens observed. The data could help settle a debate about how Titan got its atmosphere, said Christopher Glein.

One scenario, more popular before Huygens reached the surface, suggested that the moon nabbed nitrogen, methane and noble gases that were floating in the Solar System during formation. Another theory, and one that Glein supports, holds that the atmosphere was generated within Titan as a consequence of hydrothermal activity. (3/4)

Astronauts Filming IMAX Movie Deliver New Images from Space (Source: Collect Space)
Astronauts on the Space Station are about a third of the way through filming scenes for a new IMAX documentary to be released next year. IMAX and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures announced two years ago that they were collaborating with NASA to produce a movie that would "offer breathtaking, illuminating views of our home planet from space." Click here. (3/4)

Buzz Aldrin and His Vision for the Future (Source: CU Independent)
Buzz Aldrin, the living, breathing embodiment of mankind’s most heroic achievement, was greeted with a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute. He opened with a joke about how he’s never given a talk with glasses on before, and the audience was reminded that this man that has set foot in another world is still, in fact, human.

Many came to visit the moon vicariously through him, but Aldrin’s lecture only lightly addressed his time on the moon. To him, thats old news. Now, he wants to get Mars. “To some it may sound like science fiction, but that’s what people thought when Kennedy made that commitment to go to the moon.”

Aldrin boldly argued for the necessity of colonization on Mars.  He said that the mission could be put into motion by 2019, a fitting date, the 50th anniversary of his trip to the moon. If everything goes according to plan, he said, humans could start taking up permanent Martian residency as soon as 2040. (3/4)

Orion Spacecraft Borrows Basic Design From Apollo Program (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
The Orion spacecraft may look like its 40-plus-year-old Apollo predecessor, but — like a modified car — its innards have been stripped and replaced with modern technology that will enable NASA’s newest space mobile to send humans further than ever before, experts said Wednesday.

“The physics are the same of going out and coming back at higher speeds,” Mike Hawes said. “The technology is all totally different. The computers are dozens of times faster than the (International Space Station). They’re thousands of times faster than Apollo. Apollo actually flew on 8K memory machines and, I think, it was 1 megahertz.” (3/4)

France, Germany Find Key to Cooperation in Optical Recon (Source: Space News)
Just when it appeared as though European countries, despite all good intentions, were incapable of collaborating more closely on operational satellite programs, along comes word that Germany is buying into France’s next-generation optical satellite reconnaissance system. Under an agreement disclosed Feb. 9, Germany will make a substantial investment in a third satellite for France’s Optical Space Component (CSO) in return for access to the full system. (3/4)

US Wary of China, Seeks Deeper Ties With India in Space Sector (Source: Outlook)
Expressing concern over China developing "disruptive and destructive" counter-space capabilities, the US seeks deeper cooperation with India ahead of the first Indo-US Space Security Dialogue. Underlining that threats to space services are increasing as potential adversaries pursue disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities Frank Rose, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said his country has a comprehensive strategy to deal with it.

Rose, who is here for the first India-US Space Security Dialogue on Monday, said that given the threat and risks, he believes that one of the most obvious and most beneficial areas of cooperation between the two countries is in the establishment of rules of the road for outer-space activities. He said that the US and India are strong believers in transparency and rules-based on international laws and customs. (3/4)

India To Fly RLV Tech Demo by June (Source: Space News)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will conduct its long-delayed initial test flight of a reusable launcher technology demonstrator by midyear, a senior government official said. The Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Technology Demonstration Program, involving a series of experimental missions, was conceived by ISRO in 2009 as a first step toward a fully reusable, two-stage-to-orbit launcher. (3/4)

India's Mars Orbiter Mission makes big breakthrough (Source: SEN)
India’s $71 million Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) to the Red Planet, which entered Martian orbit on Sept. 24, 2014, has made an important breakthrough. For the first time an instrument on board the spacecraft, the Methane Sensor For Mars, has recorded radiation on the surface of Mars which in turn reflected the Sun’s radiation back into space. The process is known as albedo, and it is the measure of the reflectivity of Mars’ surface. (3/4)

NASA Picks Prime Target for 2016 InSight Mars Lander (Source: NBC)
NASA says it's zeroing in on the Martian touchdown site for its InSight lander, which is scheduled to blast off one year from now. The top-rated landing site is in a flat, equatorial region known as Elysium Planitia. "This is wondrous terrain, exactly what we want to land on because it is smooth, flat, with very few rocks in the highest-resolution images," said InSight's site selection leader, Matt Golombek. (3/4)

DMSP 13 Failure Raises Space Oversight Questions (Source: Aviation Week)
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) took nearly a month to openly acknowledge to the press that one of the country’s oldest satellites fragmented into 43 pieces in orbit last month, creating a debris field. This is viewed by some as too slow and underscores an argument that the military is the wrong place for oversight and management of space traffic. Click here. (3/4)

ESA Assesses Risk From Exploded US Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
After studying the recent explosive break-up of a US satellite, ESA space debris experts have concluded this event does not increase the collision risk to nearby ESA missions in any meaningful way. The US Air Force's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-13) broke up into some 40 pieces on 3 February. The military weather satellite was in a low-Earth orbit - commonly used by Earth observation missions and some communication satellites - at more than 800 km altitude.

Based at ESA's ESOC space operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, the Space Debris Office receives space debris data from the US Joint Space Operations Center and performs analyses and simulations of the present and future debris environment, as well as working with missions to prepare 'collision avoidance maneuvers'. (3/4)

Psychologist: Mars One Could Change the World (Source. St. Louis Public Radio)
The world is sitting at the intersection of science fiction and science fact, in large part because of sci-fi devotees. “People who are actively aware of what could be possible are psychologically more flexible than people who aren’t,” psychologist Michael Mahon told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh. Mahonl was trained as a clinical psychologist but now works as a licensed professional counselor.

Sci-fi fans, Mahon said, are better able to suspend disbelief and ask what if. People who aren’t into sci-fi are able to ask the same questions, but they don’t regularly engage in it, he said. That’s why it’s the sci-fi fan who is not only thinking about the future, but also is creating the foundation for that future. And that’s where science fiction becomes science fact. The Mars One mission is one example. “The idea is science fact,” Mahon said. “The actual ability to go to Mars may or may not be science fact.” (3/4)

Leosat Plans Constellation of LEO Satellites (Source: Talk Satellite)
Leosat, LLC, a company developing a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide worldwide coverage that sets new standards in satellite performance, has appointed Vern Fotheringham as CEO. Founded by former Schlumberger executives Cliff Anders and Phil Marlar, Leosat has been developing its network architecture, spectrum planning, and satellite payload since 2013.

This work has been done in conjunction with several leading global aerospace engineering contractors and satellite equipment manufacturers and has created a solid foundation upon which to build the company’s global operations and market reach. The company’s vision is to deliver cost-effective, extremely high-speed, low-latency, highly secured data network service offerings to address the unmet needs of business and government markets. (3/4)

Nation of Explorers Must Return to the Final Frontier (Source: Collegiate Times)
The recent passing of Leonard Nimoy seems to have brought forth the nerds. "Star Trek" started in 1966, just five years after the Soviet Union sent a man to space. President John F. Kennedy announced that "(America) should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth."

Within a year of this announcement, we had sent John Glenn to orbit the earth three times before safely returning to Earth. A month after "Star Trek: The Original Series ended in June 1969", Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first ever men to walk on the moon. In 1969, NASA comprised 4.5 percent of America's total budget. By 2012, it was down to only 0.5 percent. We launched our last space shuttle in 2011; America has given up on space.

We were once the nation that sought to boldly go where no man had gone before. Now, the only time you hear about NASA is when its budget is cut or when a launch at the International Space Station is delayed. We’ve spent billions on war in the past decade, yet we can't be bothered to consider funding the agency that ushered in a new era of human exploration. We’ve given up on an organization that brought us clean energy technologies, water filtration and purification systems, power drills, CAT scans, scratch resistant lenses and cell phone cameras. (3/4)

Private Spaceflight Gets New Boost From Silicon Valley (Source: Fast Company)
One of Silicon Valley’s best-known venture capital companies is making a big bet on outer space. Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), which manages more than $4 billion in capital and primarily invests in cybersecurity and enterprise technology firms, announced a new aerospace investment practice this week.

The launch coincides with the appointment of satellite industry veteran Scott Smith as a part-time partner and an undisclosed Series B funding round in New Zealand firm Rocket Lab, which produces low-cost rockets designed to send miniature satellites into space.

David Cowan of BVP told Fast Company that Rocket Lab’s founder, Peter Beck, is a "modern-day Henry Ford" who will eventually create a weekly launch schedule for satellites. "We are going to offer a weekly launch capability that's going to change everything. The United States, the largest colonizer of space, launched 19 rockets last year. (3/4)

Curiosity Rover Stops for Testing After Short Circuit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Curiosity rover has stopped driving and science operations for  several days so that engineers can analyze a possible short circuit. On Feb. 27, Curiosity's fault protection systems halted the transfer of material from one device on the rover's robotic arm to another. (3/4)

The Balloons That Could Fly Tourists to the Edge of Space (Source: CNN)
Instead of rocket-powered sub-orbital flights like those of Virgin Galactic, could high-altitude ballooning become the most viable way of letting paying tourists experience space -- or at least something thrillingly close to it? Ballooning is already tried and tested technology -- "It's the origin of space travel," explains Annelie Schoenmaker of Zero2infinity.

Zero2infinity, a Spanish company, is one of two organizations hoping to use pressurized capsules suspended beneath helium balloons as a way to take tourists into near space. Because balloons can spend a relatively large amount of time in the stratosphere, this "gives increased observation and experiment runs," explains Jane Poynter, CEO of World View, which will offer near-space ballooning trips for $75,000. (3/4)

NASA's Chief Confirms It: Without Russia, Space Station Lost (Source: Houston Chronicle)
If Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the U.S., lacking a backup plan, would have no choice but to abandon the multibillion dollar outpost to its own fate, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday. "We would make an orderly evacuation," Bolden said during a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Because both countries are dependent upon one another - NASA funds most station operations, and provides electricity and other services, while Russia provides transport and propulsion - the $140 billion station would be lost. It was a frank admission from Bolden, who has sought to sidestep the question during the last year as diplomatic relations between the U.S. and its partner in space have deteriorated over Russian aggression in Ukraine. (3/4)

SpaceX Gets “Partial Win” in Blue Origin Patent Dispute for Barge Landings (Source: Space News)
A patent board offered SpaceX a split decision on its protest of a reusable launch vehicle patent held by Blue Origin, approving a review of some, but not all, claims of that patent. In separate decisions issued March 3, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board approved a SpaceX petition for an “inter partes” review of 13 of the 15 claims in a patent governing the landing of reusable launch vehicle stages on ships or other platforms in bodies of water. Click here. (3/4)

Pressure is On to Find the Cause for Vision Changes in Space (Source: NASA)
A change in your vision is great when referring to sparking a creative idea or a new approach to a challenge. When it refers to potential problems with sight, however, the cause and possible solutions need to be identified. The human body is approximately 60 percent fluids. During spaceflight, these fluids shift to the upper body and move across blood vessel and cell membranes differently than they normally do on Earth.

One of the goals of the Fluid Shifts investigation, launching to the International Space Station this spring, is to test the relationship between those fluid shifts and a pattern NASA calls visual impairment and intracranial pressure syndrome, or VIIP. It involves changes in vision and the structure of the eyes and indirect signs of increased pressure in the brain, and investigators say more than half of American astronauts have experienced it during long spaceflights. (3/2)

Generation Orbit Tests Engine in Georgia (Source: Generation Orbit)
After a long week of travel, test site build up, testing, and more testing, we successfully completed a full duration, full pressure hot fire test of the GO Transfer Stage Engineering Development Unit. Testing was conducted at the Heart of Georgia Regional Airport in Eastman, GA. Many thanks to the folks at the airport, as well as Middle Georgia State College’s Aviation Campus for helping get the test site identified and set up. Click here. (3/4)

Editorial: A Waste Of Space (Source: Scientific American)
In late March astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will take off in a Soyuz rocket from the steppes of Kazakhstan, heading to the International Space Station (ISS) for a yearlong stay. NASA bills their mission as a crucial stepping-stone toward sending humans on a multiyear trip to Mars. That interplanetary voyage, part of our human drive for new frontiers, is the greatest dream of the space age. Yet rather than making that dream a reality, this mission seems to be a distracting detour.

During their orbital sojourn Kelly and Kornienko will undergo rigorous medical testing designed to show researchers what long-term spaceflight does to human beings, particularly how prolonged weightlessness and radiation exposure cause harm. The results, NASA says, could lead to medical breakthroughs that make interplanetary hauls safer.

Could—but it likely won’t make them safe enough. More likely, Kelly’s and Kornienko’s tests will just confirm in greater detail what we already know from several previous long-duration missions: Our current space habitats are not adequate for voyages to other worlds. The lack of money to build these habitats, more than any lack of medical knowledge, is what keeps humans from Mars and other off-world destinations. (3/4)

Air Safety Company Expands to Pensacola (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
Aero Sekur, a specialist in helicopter lift-raft and flotation systems, has announced a relocation and expansion of its U.S. subsidiary from Parsippany, N.J., to larger premises in Pensacola, according to the Community Economic Development Association of Pensacola & Escambia County.

The move provides the aviation safety and protection systems designer with a larger facility and closer geographic links to many of the US helicopter operators in the Gulf of Mexico. At 8,000 sq. ft., the company's new American administration offices, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) and spare parts buildings are three times the size of its previous premises. (3/4)

Why Isn’t the Universe as Bright as it Should Be? (Source: MIT)
A handful of new stars are born each year in the Milky Way, while many more blink on across the universe. But astronomers have observed that galaxies should be churning out millions more stars, based on the amount of interstellar gas available.

Now researchers from MIT, Columbia University, and Michigan State University have pieced together a theory describing how clusters of galaxies may regulate star formation. They describe their framework this week in the journal Nature.

When intracluster gas cools rapidly, it condenses, then collapses to form new stars. Scientists have long thought that something must be keeping the gas from cooling enough to generate more stars — but exactly what has remained a mystery. Click here. (3/4)

NASA's Chief Confirms It: Without Russia, Space Station Lost (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden acknowledged Wednesday there is no back-up plan for reaching the International Space Station and it would be abandoned to its own fate if Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the multi-billion dollar outpost. (3/4)

Ohio City Wants to Land NASA Water Treatment Facility (Source: Sandusky Register)
Sandusky officials aren't quite reaching for the stars to acquire a federal building. Though what was considered hard to do years ago could soon become a reality. Here's a brief primer on a proposed transaction in which NASA could deed a building to Sandusky. The city could acquire the almost 3,800-square-foot building NASA no longer deems vital for operations.

After filing title paperwork, transferring ownership from NASA to Sandusky, the process could take anywhere from nine months to one year from now and could cost nothing to the city. Debuting in 1940, this NASA building helped deliver up to 1 million gallons per day of raw water to two reservoirs at the NASA Plum Brook Station. The city could use the building for material and equipment storage, or for future water treatment. (3/4)

Indiana State Park to Mark Grissom's Gemini 3 Flight (Source: Journal Gazette)
A southern Indiana state park that's located in NASA astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom's hometown is marking the 50th anniversary of the Gemini 3 space mission he co-piloted. Spring Mill State Park will celebrate the Gemini 3's flight with daily guided tours March 21 to 23 of the park's Grissom Memorial.

Grissom and fellow astronaut John W. Young piloted the March 23, 1965, mission. The pair orbited the Earth during their nearly five-hour mission aboard a capsule nicknamed "Molly Brown." The Molly Brown is part of the Grissom Memorial at the park in Mitchell, about 30 miles south of Bloomington. (3/4)

Massive Exoplanet Evolved in Extreme 4-Star System (Source: Discovery)
For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought.

“About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving,” said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. (3/4)

Former Delta II Control Center Converted for Multi-Vehicle Support at Cape (Source: Florida Today)
The former Delta II launch control center sat dormant for two years, no longer needed after that rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the last time in 2011. But in recent months, Air Force personnel have gathered there to monitor systems on the newest rocket on the block, SpaceX's Falcon 9, looking at the same displays as SpaceX's launch team down the road.

The 45th Space Wing on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its new Multi Vehicle Launch Support Center, which overhauled the former Delta II facility with a six-month, roughly $500,000 renovation completed in December. The center on the second floor of the Wing's Headquarters building on the Cape features 30 computers, 60 monitors, six projection screens and countdown clocks to provide video and data during countdowns. (3/4)

Aldrin Lays Out Plan for Mars Colonization in Talk at CU-Boulder (Source: Daily Camera)
Just like President John F. Kennedy challenged America to land on the moon before the end of the 1960s, so too can some new leader inspire the future of space exploration on Mars, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin believes. Aldrin, 85, spoke before a packed house Tuesday at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus.

"America must be the world leader in human space flight," he said. "There is no other area that clearly demonstrates American innovation and enterprise than human space flight." In a speech that was humorous, but also deeply technical, Aldrin outlined his "unified space vision" for American exploration—and the colonization—of Mars.

Aldrin said the country needs a bipartisan Congress and a presidential administration that's reinvigorated about space research. He wants to establish a permanent residence on Mars by 2040, but the process could begin as early as 2018. The plan, outlined in this 2013 book "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration," is based on a concept known as "The Cycler," a spacecraft system that makes perpetual orbits between Earth and Mars. (3/4)

This Mach 5 Future Jet Can Fly Anywhere in the World in 4 Hours (Source: Popular Mechanics)
British firm Reaction Engines is building a plane that can zip almost anywhere in the world within four hours, cool itself by 1000 degrees Celsius in a fraction of a second, and even go into space. The European Space Agency is interested in the futuristic plane as a way to lower the cost of future launches. Reaction calls the aircraft the Skylon, and it imagines the plane carrying 300 passengers at mach 5.

It's powered by SABRE, which sounds like a villainous spy organization but actually stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine. Those engines could be cooled to -160 degrees Celsius using compressed helium. The $1.1 billion plane would be 276 feet long—40 feet longer than a Boeing 747.

Armed with liquid oxygen engines, the Skylon could even enter Earth orbit; ceramic composites would prevent damage from re-entry. The plane could be hitting runways in just five years, making for some of the most fascinating passenger voyages possible. (3/4)

Florida Tech ISS Experiment, Sponsored by Space Florida and Nanoracks, Tackles Alzheimers (Source: NASA)
Researchers working with astronauts on the International Space Station are embarking on a mission to discover the origin of Alzheimer’s. Although the details are still a little fuzzy, researchers believe that Alzheimer’s and similar diseases advance when certain proteins in the brain assemble themselves into long fibers that accumulate and ultimately strangle nerve cells in the brain.

“They're sort of like the crankcase sludge of the human body," explains Dan Woodard at Kennedy Space Center. "The fibers are not active, so they'll be around forever because your body doesn't have any way to get rid of them." These fibers take decades to form and accumulate—hence the link between Alzheimer's and aging. On the space station, accumulated fibers do not collapse under their own weight, which makes the station an even better place to study them.

A four-inch cube containing the experiment, which was selected in an ISS research contest by Space Florida and Nanoracks, and built at the Florida Institute of Technology, blasted off to the International Space Station onboard in January. The experiment itself, SABOL, or Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life: A Study into Alzheimer's, will be fully automated. Click here. (3/4)

Israel Uses Military Expertise to Join Commercial Space Race (Source: Reuters)
Israel is embarking on a five-year mission to stake its claim on a crowded new frontier, the $250 billion a year commercial space market. Using the expertise of a defense industry that created technology such as the "Iron Dome" missile interceptor, Israel plans to move beyond its current focus on spy and military communications satellites into producing civilian devices, some small enough to fit in your hand.

"The idea was that we have a well-developed space infrastructure for our defense needs, and without a big financial investment, we can use it to grab a few percentage points of the commercial market as well," said Issac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency. Ben-Israel hopes the country will capture at least a three percent market share. (3/4)

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