March 7, 2015

Does Orlando Have What it Takes to Become the Next Silicon Valley? (Source: New York Times)
“I think what Orlando has is a combination of the space stuff and the Disney stuff,” Richard Florida said. “It’s not trivial, those things taken together, but it’s hard to see how you put them together.” Local officials point to one way they might. Orlando is a center for modeling and simulation technology, because flight simulators and theme park rides can rely on a lot of the same technology. Click here. (3/6)

If We Discover a Planet With Alien Life, How Will We Know? (Source: Boston Globe)
In the 1960s, scientists began writing papers about what must have seemed like pure science fiction to many: how to detect life on other planets. What gases in the atmosphere would be the tell-tale signs of alien life? Was it blindly Earth-centric of us to limit our search to life as we know it when probing exterrestrial terra incognita?

Rather suddenly, what seemed like a fun, though extremely speculative, thought experiment is becoming a nitty-gritty practical challenge for astronomers searching the galaxy for Earth-like worlds. The hunt for habitable planets has gone into turbo since the first exoplanet — a planet circling other stars — was detected two decades ago. The list of confirmed exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope numbers more than 1,000 at last count; more than 4,000 others are still being evaluated. Click here. (3/6)

A First Time for Everything: Blitzing Congress for Space (Source: Planetary Society)
There is a first time for everything. Riding a bike, stargazing, and yes, even lobbying Congress. For us, Jack and Mike, we had our first Legislative Blitz on Capitol Hill last week. While Jack has had experience working in politics, seeing as how he goes to school here, this was Mike's first time in DC since childhood. Although we each had an understanding of how Congress works, and the various functions that it serves, viewing the policy process through the eyes of an advocate was a brand new experience for both of us. Click here. (3/6)

Wallops Island Spaceport Positioned for a Leading Role in 'NewSpace' (Source: DelMarVa Now)
The emergence of entrepreneurial space enterprises presents opportunities for NASA's Wallops Flight Facility that could attract new businesses to Virginia. "NewSpace," as this new entrepreneurial industry is often called, is founded on rapid innovation, dramatically declining costs and creation of new products and services.

American NewSpace entrepreneurs are leading the world in space development with everything from commercial space taxis to small satellite services. The Antares rocket that launches cargo to the International Space Station from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is part of this new industry. Click here. (3/6)

Dealing with Asteroid Threats: UN Completes First Planning Phase (Source:
A special United Nations team on hazardous asteroids has been dissolved after completing its task of setting up organizations to deal with planet-threatening space rocks. The UN's Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space formally dissolved its Action Team 14, in recognition of the group's successful completion of its mandate to coordinate international mitigation efforts for near-Earth object (NEO) threats, officials announced last month. (3/6)

UK and Italy Wrestle Over Mega-Telescope's Hub (Source: Nature)
The world's largest radio telescope will be built in Australia and South Africa, and managed from somewhere in Europe. But just as the site of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA)'s dishes and antennas was a matter of intense political negotiation three years ago, so the placement of its headquarters is now stirring up disagreement mong the project's 11 member countries.

The SKA's provisional headquarters is at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, UK. Italy has offered instead to host it in a medieval castle known as Castello Carrarese, currently under restoration in Padua's city center. A meeting of the SKA's board of directors this week was expected to endorse the Italian site, after a report from an expert panel judged their bid superior. But the meeting failed to reach a decision. The UK instead convinced the SKA board that additional criteria need to be taken into account. (3/6)

"Known Unknowns" --The Strange Dark Side of the Universe (Source: Daily Galaxy)
Our current cosmological standard model assumes that general relativity and the standard model of particle physics have been a good description of the basic physics of the universe throughout its history. It assumes that the large-scale geometry of the universe is flat: The total energy of the universe is zero.

This implies that Euclidean geometry, the mathematics taught to most of us in middle school, is valid on the scale of the universe. Although the geometry of the universe is simple, its composition is strange: The universe is composed not just of atoms (mostly hydrogen and helium), but also dark matter and dark energy. Click here. (3/6)

Diamandis: The First Trillionaire is Going to be Made in Space (Source: Business Insider)
Peter Diamandis is a space-obsessed entrepreneur who has founded companies, like Space Adventures and Planetary Resources, that are in the process of opening the space frontier. Diamandis, who just authored a new book called "Bold," explains how outer space will create the first trillionaire and why it's so important for humans to explore space. Click here. (3/2)

The Interstellar Tourist’s Guide to Exoplanets (Source: Science Friday)
With more than a thousand exoplanets now in our sights, PRI’s The Takeaway asks: “What would it be like to visit them?” Host John Hockenberry joins Ira to share some of the educated guesses that astronomers Sarah Ballard and Natalie Batalha have made about what it might be like to vacation on Kepler-438b or KOI 314.02. Click here. (3/6)

Mars Colonization Edges Closer Thanks to MIT's Oxygen Factory (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology are building an instrument, which will turn carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen, with NASA planning to use it on their 2020 mission to Mars. MOXIE (the Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment), turns carbon dioxide into oxygen in a number of stages. Firstly, it gathers carbon dioxide from its surroundings and isolates the oxygen atoms, combining them to make O2. Then the gases are diffused back into the air together with the by-product of carbon monoxide. (3/6)

Commercial Crew Companies Continue To Compete After Contracts (Source: Space News)
Nearly six months after winning high-profile NASA contracts, the two companies developing commercial crew transportation systems are still in some sense competing with each other, playing up their strengths and highlighting the other’s perceived weaknesses.

At a U.S. House Science space subcommittee hearing on NASA’s commercial crew program Feb. 27, representatives of Boeing and SpaceX politely sparred with each other about which company was in the best position to meet NASA’s goal of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2017. (3/6)

Bond Lowered for NASA Agent Accused of Assaulting Officer (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Awoken by University of Dayton police in a woman's off-campus apartment a week ago, NASA special agent David Hawbecker allegedly told officers they were making a mistake. “He, at one point, stated that we are going to regret this,” UD police officer Christopher Ware testified Friday in Dayton Municipal Court. “A couple seconds later, he balled his fist and went to go swing at myself.”

Hawbecker, 34, had his bond lowered from $500,000 to a $50,000 cash or surety bond and was ordered to wear electronic monitoring, not have any contact with alleged victims and is barred from the UD campus area. Ware and other officers responded to a Feb. 27 early-morning complaint of a person who would not leave a Fairground Avenue residence. Hawbecker is accused of aggravated burglary and assault of a peace officer. His case is bound over to a grand jury to consider charges.

Ware testified that two women in the apartment were armed with field hockey sticks and had locked Hawbecker in a bedroom where he was asleep — fully clothed — on the floor next to a bed. Hawbecker’s lawyer said Hawbecker was in Dayton to serve federal warrants related to his job as a Special Agent at the NASA Office of Inspector General’s Computer Crimes Division. (3/6)

Bermuda-Based Satellite Firm Makes History (Source: Royal Gazette)
A Bermuda-based firm has created space history with the blast off of the first all-electric satellites. A communications satellite owned by Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) joined a twin satellite from French-based Eutelsat Communications in the SpaceX launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport last week. (3/6)

Search for Alien Life Should Consider All Possibilities (Source:
The hunt for signs of life on planets beyond our solar system should cast as wide a net as possible, some researchers stress. Scientists scanning the atmospheres of exoplanets for gases produced by alien life should look for more than just oxygen, methane and the other familiar biosignatures that swirl about in Earth's air, wrote Sara Seager and William Bain, both of MIT. (3/6)

Mikulski’s Powerful Advocacy Will Be Missed Across NASA (Source: Space News)
The surprise decision by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), one of the strongest advocates for NASA in Congress, not to run for re-election in 2016 triggered an outpouring of praise for her work but also concern about the effect her departure will have on the space agency’s funding.

“This has been a hard decision to make,” the 78-year-old Mikulski said. She said she wanted to spend the next two years working in the Senate, rather than devoting time to fundraising and campaigning. She added that her decision was not based on any health issues or frustration with the Senate itself. (3/6)

Higher-speed Globalstar Service To Roll Out This Year in North America (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar said its upgraded ground segment, which allows customers to take full advantage of its second-generation satellite constellation, should be in service late this year in North Amercia, with Brazil and Europe to follow. (3/6)

2015 Fireball Run Pits Astronauts in Race to the Space Coast (Source: SPACErePORT)
On Sep. 25 - Oct 3, international teams featuring several astronauts will start their engines in Hartford, Connecticut for an eight-day trek that will finish with a massive city-wide parade in Cocoa Beach, Florida. "FIREBALL RUN Space Race" includes the participation of four international astronauts; Team USA, featuring Captain Jon McBride; Team India, featuring Commander Rakesh Sharma; Team Brazil, featuring Colonel Marcos Pontes; and Team France, featuring General Jean-Loup Chretien. Click here. (3/5)

Mars Colonization Edges Closer Thanks to MIT's Oxygen Factory (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are building an instrument, which will turn carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen, with NASA planning to use it on their 2020 mission to Mars, according to information provided by the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

MOXIE (the Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment), turns carbon dioxide into oxygen in a number of stages. Firstly, it gathers carbon dioxide from its surroundings and isolates the oxygen atoms, combining them to make O2. Then the gases are diffused back into the air together with the by-product of carbon monoxide. The instrument is planned to be taken to the red planet along with a new rover in 2020. (3/6)

Scientists Report Breakthrough in Detecting Methane (Source: Space Daily)
Methane is one hot gas. It's a prominent component of natural gas, an important atmospheric gas, and a product of both biology and chemical reactions. Its presence was recently confirmed in the atmosphere of Mars by NASA's Curiosity Rover and it has made the news both as a critical greenhouse gas and as a groundwater contaminant resulting from fracking.

Yet, while methane seems to be everywhere, many questions remain about the reactions that produce and consume this high-energy compound. "Deciphering the many pathways by which methane is produced is one of the holy grails of organic geochemistry," said University of Toronto's Barbara Sherwood Lollar.

The new approach adds Tunable Infrared Laser Direct Adsorption Spectroscopy (TILDAS) to the set of instruments that can help identify the temperature at which methane is formed as well as provide details on the environment in which methane-producing microbes thrive. (3/6)

Gazprom Space Systems to Scrub Contracts with French Satellite Providers (Source: Space Daily)
French manufacturers of satellite equipment are beginning to lose business, as Russian satellite operator Gazprom has decided to evaluate its business relationships in light of changes in economic circumstances. Satellite communications operator Gazprom Space Systems [GSS] is reevaluating its contracts with foreign suppliers of satellite equipment, in favor of handing contracts to Russian providers, reports Izvestia.

In January 2014 it was announced that French multinational Thales Alenia Space had won the contract to build the Yamal-601 telecommunications satellite for GSS, and as the prime contractor for the program, would be in charge of design, production, testing and delivery of the satellite, as well as providing the associated facilities on the ground necessary for satellite control and the handling of its data. (3/6)

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