May 6, 2015

Five Reasons that "Mars Matters" (Source: Business Insider)
On May 5 NASA Administrator Charles Bolden asked those at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C., to repeat after him: "Mars matters." So, why does Mars matter to Bolden? Several reasons. Here are a few of the ones he mentioned on Tuesday. Click here. (5/6)

Boeing Seeks Judgment In $350M Suit Over Satellite Joint Venture (Source: Law360)
Boeing urged a California federal judge to grant it judgment Monday on its claims that its Russian and Ukrainian partners in a satellite-launching company skipped out on $350 million owed to the aerospace giant after the joint venture went bankrupt in 2009. (5/5)

Air Force May Revisit Rocket Plan if Firms Don't Respond (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force may have to revisit its strategy to develop a new U.S.-fueled launch vehicle aimed at ending American reliance on Russian rocket engines if U.S. companies fail to bid to build prototypes for the government, a senior general said Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, the Air Force's top military acquisition official, said she had received positive feedback from some companies about a draft request for proposals on the Air Force's approach, but other companies were "not so happy". She declined to name the firms. (5/5)

Crew Dragon Completes Pad Abort Test at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceX)
Just after 9am on Wednesday, SpaceX completed the first key flight test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, a vehicle designed to carry astronauts to and from space. The successful Pad Abort Test was the first flight test of SpaceX’s revolutionary launch abort system, and the data captured here will be critical in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017.

Lasting less than two minutes, the test simulated how Dragon would carry astronauts to safety if an emergency occurred on the launch pad. Crew Dragon’s abort system is powered by eight SuperDraco engines, each of which produces about 15,000 pounds of thrust. The engines are integrated directly into the sides of the vehicle rather than carried on top of the vehicle as with previous launch abort systems.

This configuration provides astronauts escape capability from the launch pad all the way to orbit and allows the spacecraft to use the same thrusters to land propulsively on land at the end of a mission. The eight SuperDracos ignited simultaneously and reached maximum thrust, propelling the spacecraft off the pad. (5/6)

University of North Florida Students Shoot for Mars (Source: WJXT)
A group of UNF engineering students hope to leave their mark on Mars. They're building a mining robot for an upcoming NASA competition at Kennedy space center. Click here. (5/6)

Space Coast Baseball Team Dons Space Uniforms (Source:
Minor league baseball's Brevard County (Florida's "Space Coast") Manatees, who play their home games at Space Coast Stadium, will celebrate nearby Kennedy Space Center with some out-of-this-world uniforms. The team will change its name to the "Space Explorers", wearing jerseys that feature both distant galaxies and comet ISON, and a hat patterned after Jupiter. Game-worn jerseys will be auctioned after the series, and some hats are available for sale now. (5/6)

NASA Test Materials to Fly on Air Force Space Plane (Source: NASA)
Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.

By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013. (5/6)

Mars One Could Set Space Exploration Back Decades (Source:
A human mission to Mars has long been the subject of science fiction, but there's a Dutch company that's determined to make it a reality. Seven Australians have been shortlisted from more than 200,000 applicants worldwide for the one-way mission to Mars in 2026. The Mars Society of Australia is warning this project could set space exploration back by decades, because it lacks the technology and funding to get people to Mars, let alone keep them alive in space. (5/5)

All-New European Zero-G Set to Restart Science Flights (Source: Flightglobal)
One of the world’s most demanding flight programs is set to resume on Tuesday, 5 May, when Bordeaux Mérignac-based Novespace resumes microgravity flying in its new “Zero-G” Airbus A310. The aircraft replaces an A300 worn out by flying more than 18 years of service during which it undertook more than 13,000 high-stress parabolic maneuvers, each giving onboard scientists and astronauts in training about 20sec of valuable time in microgravity.

Wednesday’s sortie over the Bay of Biscay will involve 31 such maneuvers, with 40 scientists from the European Space Agency, the French space agency (CNES) and Germany’s DLR aerospace research agency on board. Each parabola involves pulling up to 1.8g in a steep climb that gains some 8,200ft (2,500m) in altitude in 30s, then cruising over the hump and diving back down to resume level flight.

Spaceport America Spending Skyrockets, Complex Mostly Vacant (Source: KRQE)
Spaceport America was built with the idea to make New Mexico a leader in the aerospace industry by offering unique access to the heavens. The spaceport would be home to the world’s first commercial passenger space launch facility. Spaceport officials constructed a runway, launch pads, a terminal building and mission control. They promised to send astronauts into sub-orbit, create jobs, boost tourism, lift the economy and earn a ton of money.

The grand opening was celebrated in 2011. However, the promises made years ago turned out to be sky high. Today, other than a few dozen vertical rocket launches the spaceport sits mostly vacant. The Spaceport cost $219,000,000 to build. It now loses about $500,000 each year. Due to a slew of delays and technical setbacks, Spaceport America depends on taxpayers to keep its operation afloat. (5/6)

Report Criticizes Funding Cuts for India’s Space Program (Source: Live Mint)
Funding cuts in the revised estimate for the space department’s key polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) projects has drawn criticism from Parliament’s standing committee on science, technology, environment and forests.

In a report released on Tuesday, the panel also pulled up the department for delays in implementing projects, including astronomy satellite Astrosat and a proposed human space flight program. The report identified technical hurdles and project delays as the reasons for India lagging behind China in many areas of space science. (5/6)

Kitchen Microwaves Baffle Australian Space Scientists (Source: BBC)
After 17 years of fruitlessly searching the galaxy, Australian scientists have discovered the source of mysterious radio signals hitting a telescope. It turns out the source was their own kitchen microwaves. PhD student Emily Petroff made the discovery at the Parkes telescope, after noticing that the signals were only received during business hours.

The rays, known as "perytons", were emitted when impatient staff opened the microwave door prematurely. Although discovered in January the revelation has only come to light after Ms Petroff published her paper, "Identifying the source of perytons at the Parkes radio telescope." (5/5)

Editorial: NASA’s Aging and Idle Infrastructure (Source: Space News)
A recent NASA inspector general’s report is the latest reminder that NASA’s longstanding issue with excess infrastructure, much of it built decades ago as part of the agency’s mobilization to land astronauts on the moon, isn’t going away. The report focused on the large testing facilities at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, a part of Lewis Research Center.

These aging facilities cost money to maintain yet some have fallen into such disrepair that millions of dollars will be required for restoration. These costs will have to be borne by NASA or some future customer. The problem is not unique to Plum Brook. There is unused or underutilized infrastructure across NASA’s sprawling complex of centers, all of which continually fight for a share of a civil space program that simply isn’t big enough to go around.

NASA is well aware of this, but also knows that attempts to eliminate excess infrastructure are bound to invite the wrath of politicians whose perspectives rarely extend much beyond their home districts or states. Actually closing a center or associated facility is generally viewed as a political nonstarter and hasn’t been attempted in years. Recent facility disposition successes at KSC and Ames are, for the most part, small victories that together barely make a dent in the overall problem. Click here. (5/5)

Zubrin: Misdirection on Mars (Source: Space News)
In the history of warfare, it has sometimes been the practice of armies to dress themselves in the uniforms of their adversaries and then commit atrocities in order to discredit the other side. Alternatively, such falsely uniformed war criminals have placed themselves among opposing forces, so that, posing as friends, they could misdirect them to their doom.

It is in this tradition that O. Glenn Smith and Paul Spudis, two die-hard opponents of Mars exploration, recently chose to costume themselves as advocates in their Commentary “Mars for Only $1.5 Trillion," which is designed to make a feasible enterprise appear utterly unfeasible. Click here. (5/5)

NASA Wants Your Ideas for Improving Everyday Life on Mars (Source: NBC)
Do you have a great idea for how to make astronauts' lives on Mars more livable or efficient? NASA wants to hear about it — and may even pay you, if it's good enough. The agency has issued a challenge to the public to come up with "elements that support the logistics and capabilities required for a sustainable permanent human presence beyond Earth's vicinity."

In other words, stuff to make the Journey to Mars more comfortable and independent. Whether that's a better air filter, a more resilient wheel design for rovers, or a way to keep bored Martians entertained during multi-year stays in a barn-sized habitat is up to you and your considerable ingenuity. Click here. (5/5)

Editorial: Canadian Commitment Builds Momentum for Space Station Extension (Source: Space News)
Canada’s pledge to participate in the International Space Station for four more years, to 2024, is a welcome development that hopefully will encourage Europe and Japan to follow suit. With its April 21 announcement, Canada becomes the first of the original space station partners to join the United States in committing to an extended mission. Russia, a relative latecomer but an indispensable station partner, said in February that it would stick around for four more years. (5/4)

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