July 19, 2015

US Looks to Work With India in Deep Space Exploration (Source: Indian Express)
An Indo-US deep space exploration mission is in the offing. The unthinkable is already happening in space, India and America are together planning to explore the last unknown frontier. Until recently India was an untouchable.

Venus, Mars, and an asteroid all could be the next big destinations that India will be exploring. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now embarking on a new planet-hunting endeavour. There are indications that the United States of America will be working with India in this `deep space exploration'. (7/19)

Life on Mars: When will Humans Live on the Red Planet? (Source: The Telegraph)
The human race was able to view the furthest reaches of the solar system in high-definition glory this week, as Nasa’s New Horizons space probe sent images back from Pluto, 3.5 billion miles away. The extraordinary pictures of icy mountain tops and deep ravines astounded scientists, and allowed ordinary laymen to dream of life on another piece of rock floating in space.

For Stephen Petranek, these are not idle dreams, but firm predictions. The award-winning science writer, whose TED talk on the end of the world has been seen by 1.5 million people, believes that humans will not just visit, but actually live, on another planet within the next generation: Mars. Compared with Pluto, Mars is practically short-haul, just 250 million miles away, and could sustain the human race if an asteroid hit our planet, or a nuclear war wiped out most of Earth. Click here. (7/19)

Space Cuts Nix Ocean Bouys Off Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Residents in the Cape Canaveral area fear a decision by the federal government to remove two buoys will hurt hurricane forecasting and fishing reports. The buoys, stationed about 120 nautical miles east of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will be taken offline this spring. They are part of NOAA's National Data Buoy Center and provide information including wind direction, wind speed, air and water temperature, wave heights and barometric pressure.

The buoys had been had been funded by both NASA and the Air Force and were used to help recover booster rockets from the space shuttle. Government officials say the buoy program is a victim of shuttle-related funding cuts. Editor's Note: These bouys have also been used extensively to forecast wave height and swell conditions for Central Florida surfers. (7/18)

India Eyes Possible Mission to Venus (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Encouraged by their successful Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) and the recent launch of five British satellites into space, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) mulls next possible space exploration destinations. According to ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar, one of the considered missions would visit Earth’s “sister” planet – Venus.

“Besides the second Mars mission, we are looking at Venus and even an asteroid for exploration. A project has to be formulated for this before we chart out a proper roadmap for the explorations.  Venus is our neighbor and has many scientific challenges and aspects that need to be studied. Exploring an asteroid is also challenging task,” Kumar said. ISRO is planning to issue a 10-year road map for planetary exploration in which it will lay out the proposed missions. (7/19)

Experts Bat for Space Law (Source: The Hindu)
Fifty years after it started the space programme and later entered the global market with products and satellite launches, India does not have a space law to protect sovereign, public or commercial interests, according to legal and space industry experts. Click here. (7/19)

Science Advocates Hope New Horizons Spurs Investment in Space Exploration (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Minutes after receiving word that the New Horizons spacecraft had survived its historic encounter with Pluto last week, someone in the crowd at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel asked mission leaders what's next. Alan Stern, the principal investigator, answered: to explore other bodies at the edge of the solar system, "and to get funded to do exactly that."

John Grunsfeld, head of NASA's science branch and Stern's boss, responded: "To go where no New Horizons spacecraft has gone before." But he conspicuously dodged addressing the mission budget.

The uncomfortable exchange underscored the uncertainty scientists face as they look to future missions. Though many believe NASA will approve an extended New Horizons mission to explore bodies beyond Pluto, the fiscal pressures that have chipped away at the space agency's budget mean increased scrutiny for any new projects. (7/18)

Texas Firm Stuck Above the Clouds (Source: Denton Record-Chronicle)
Marshall Culpepper has seen space, but not just from NASA images of Pluto or even the cinematography of Hollywood. He’s actually seen space a few times in the past year through the lens of nanosatellites carried high over Denton and into the stratosphere by high-altitude balloons. Culpepper, along with co-founders Tyler Browder and Jesse Hamner, brought an aerospace startup called Kubos to life last fall.

Now, the burgeoning company is taking part in an accelerator program put on by California-based space company LightSpeed Innovations in the hopes of expanding its reach in the aerospace industry. “One of the coolest things the software industry has done is made technology ubiquitous. It has made it easy to use, easy to access and cheap,” Culpepper said.

“That’s what Kubos is trying to do for space. We want to make it easier for regular developers to get in there so that we can bring technology industry to bear on the problem of space.” Kubos was one of four companies selected for the 12-week accelerator program that will offer mentorship, networking and investment opportunities to startups in various departments of aerospace technology. Other fields include plasma propulsion, asteroid mining and space tourism. (7/18)

Report Finds Lots of Valuable Mineral Resources in Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A study released today by the International Academy of Astronautics found that space mineral resources (SMR) can benefit humanity and serve as an economic “game changer,” especially in developing countries.
The study, the most comprehensive to date, examined the latest technologies, economics, law and policy related to SMR opportunities and included several recommendations to space agencies and analysis of options to advance this exploration.

“This study is not about how to leverage space mineral resources, but rather how best to leverage them,” according to Art Dula, co-editor of the study and a faculty member of the Houston Law School where he teaches space law. Dula is also Trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust, one of the organizations participating in the study. “Improving the world we know today will be possible by leveraging the phenomenal resources available in our solar system,” he said. (7/18)

Rare View of Black Hole Caught in 'Bull's-Eye' Eruption (Source: Space.com)
Rings of X-ray light flare and fade around an active black hole in a stunning new set of observations by NASA's Swift space telescope. The bull's-eye structure around the erupting black hole results from the jostling and reflection of X-ray light by dust, which creates a series of "echoes" that are visible in this video. Click here. (7/18)

New Horizons Won't Be The Only Spacecraft At Our Solar System's Edge (Source: Huffington Post)
Now that it's sailed beyond Pluto, what comes next for NASA' s New Horizons spacecraft? NASA says the probe will continue its mission into the Kuiper Belt, the vast region of primordial debris that encircles our solar system. It will be lonely out there for sure. But maybe not as lonely as you might imagine; it will be joining four other unmanned spacecraft that are already speeding their way out of the solar system: Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2. (7/19)

Musk Talks Launch Failure at Conference (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Elon Musk sat down for a “fireside chat” with NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager, Michael Suffredini, during the 2015 International Space Station Research Development Conference (ISSRDC 2015 ) to review various aspects of the NewSpace company’s efforts. During the roughly hour-long presentation Musk discussed the June 28, 2015 accident which saw the complete loss of a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft that it carried.

“Obviously it’s a huge blow to SpaceX, we take these missions incredibly seriously. Everyone that can be engaged in the investigation into the accident is focused on that. In this case, the data does appear to be quite difficult to interpret. What happened is not just a simple, straightforward sort of thing.

“We want to spend as much time as possible just reviewing the data, obviously going over it with NASA, the FAA and our other customers and seeing what sort of feedback they have based on their prior experience. [We want] to see if we can get to what the root cause is. We’ll take a look at what most likely happened and anything that’s a close call and try to address all of those things to maximize the probability of success on future missions.” (7/18)

LeBlanc Draws Buzz to the Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
It's been crazy busy for Linn LeBlanc these past few weeks, given that the launch party for Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation, for which she is executive director, was a sellout almost from the start. Held July 18 at Kennedy Space Center's Apollo Saturn V Center in conjunction with the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the black tie gala drew a star-studded guest list from around the world.

"We have people coming from as far as Indonesia to attend," the Cape Canaveral resident said before the event. Along with Aldrin and fellow astronauts Sam Durrance, Fred Gregory, Winston Scott and Robert Cabana, celebrities included John Travolta, moderator Seth Green and his actress wife, Clare, and The Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn.

Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation was established late last year and by February we were starting to fulfill our mission. So far, the results have been amazing! By collaborating with some great partners, such as Destination Imagination and the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists, and by executing some of our own educational visits and programs, we have already reached almost 20,000 students nationwide, and we hope to double that number by the end of this year. (7/19)

U.S. National Security Cannot Depend on Putin (Source: NR Today)
International policy decisions that once seemed reasonable can look ill-advised as facts change and relations evolve. Those relations can devolve into outright hostility, as is the case with the United States and Russia. Why, when the United States is squaring off with Vladimir Putin over his international misdeeds, would our government fund Putin’s regime with American taxpayer dollars by buying legacy Russian rocket engines known as RD-180s?

Fortunately, lawmakers now have an opportunity to correct this national-security mistake. Michael V. Hayden, a four-star Air Force general and former head of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency explained, “It’s clear now that relying on Russia for rocket engines was a policy based on hope, not good judgment.’’

Our arrangement with Russia is putting taxpayer money in the pockets of corrupt Russian officials and their cronies. The engines are made by NP Energomash, a mostly government-owned operation. Sen. John McCain said Americans “... are paying millions of dollars to companies that have done no work but merely served as a ‘pass-through’ to corrupt Russian businessmen connected with Vladimir Putin.’’ (7/16)

Lockheed Martin Lab in Colorado will Test NASA's Orion Spacecraft (Source: Denver Post)
The idea is to make as many mistakes as possible on land to prevent them from happening in space. And, in case something bad does happen in space, procedures should be in place to quickly fix the problem. That is why Littleton-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems created the Orion Test Lab with a full-scale copy of the actual Orion crew module and adapter, which they revealed this week.

Orion is NASA's vehicle for a manned voyage to Mars slated for 2021. Several test trips to space are planned before then, including Exploration Mission-1 scheduled for 2018. The capsule prototype will allow engineers to configure the harnessing, electrical power, sensors, avionics and flight software needed to support EM-1. (7/17)

First Close-Up of Pluto Moon Charon (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A day after revealing mind-boggling ice mountains on Pluto, researchers from NASA’s New Horizons mission on Thursday released a detailed view of its companion Charon, showing a frozen, lightly-cratered world with an intriguing landform scientists have dubbed a ‘mountain in a moat.’

The long-range imager aboard New Horizons recorded the view of Charon near the moon’s day-night terminator about 90 minutes before Tuesday’s flyby of Pluto. New Horizons was about 49,000 miles (79,000 kilometers) away when it captured the photo. Click here. (7/17)

NASA Sets Sights on Robot-Built Moon Colony (Source: Space Daily)
It may not be quite Earth-like enough to be habitable, but the Moon is our closest planetary body, and that proximity would make it ideal for an extraplanetary base of operations. NASA is now seriously considering that option, and may send robots to terraform a crater on the lunar South Pole.

Yesterday, the space agency announced it was investing in a new project to colonize Shackleton Crater, a 130-square-mile stretch of lunar real estate encircled by 14,000-foot peaks. While that specific crater was chosen due to the presence of water, there's still a major problem: that water is frozen, and that crater is cold.

Minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise, due to its location on the Moon's South Pole. To melt that ice, NASA is considering installing a series of large, adjustable, solar reflectors which would travel along the crater's rim and beam sunlight down into the darkness. (7/17)

UK Reveals Vision for Human Spaceflight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Last week, the United Kingdom released a strategy that covered a range of scientific and technical disciplines, giving a coherent picture of activities which use the space environment – from fundamental physics and novel materials, to healthcare technologies and space science. The document, entitled “National Strategy: Space Environments and Human Spaceflight” sets out also the country’s vision for human spaceflight, ahead of British astronaut Tim Peake’s maiden trip to space.

The UK Space Agency hopes this strategy will help ensure that existing investment in space activities is well-targeted; it will serve as a guide for future investment decisions, providing a framework for further activities. The goals outlined in the document include attracting investors for the UK space industry and prepare the country for possible future commercial human spaceflight endeavors. It could be achieved by providing a regulatory environment that encourages commercial spaceflight in the UK. (7/17)

Would You Pay $35m to Live like a Cosmonaut for 10 Days? (Source: CNN)
They've trained years for this moment -- learning complex engineering, subjecting their bodies to bone-rattling simulations, and mentally preparing for the worst. Now in the final hours before blast-off, the trio of cosmonauts must undergo one last rite of passage. A blessing from a Russian Orthodox Priest.

Located in the remote steppes of Kazakhstan, Baikonur Cosmodrome occupies a unique space between tradition and cutting edge technology; where awesome rockets continue to launch humans 220 miles above the Earth in much the same way they have done for 50 years. Indeed, this is where Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly into space in 1961. And for a mere $35 million you could follow in his galactic footsteps, quite literally blasting off from the very same launchpad. Click here. (7/18)

Russian Training Center in Crimea fo Crews from Russia, NASA, Europe (Source: Tass)
Yury Lonchakov said Russian astronauts will resume training in Crimea from 2016 for flights to the International Space Station (ISS). He said the crews should train jointly with other crew members from NASA or the European Space Agency. In future the training program in Crimea will include special exercises in the mountains and lifting of the crew to a helicopter from the water surface, he said. (7/18)

Commercial Space Industry Takes Flight (Source: Epoch Times)
Professor Howard McCurdy, a space history expert at American University, firmly believes the private sector can do a better job than NASA at bringing down costs as the number of launches scales up. Private firms are simply better at running businesses than government agencies.

“NASA isn’t good at running airlines. They’re very good at innovation,” he said. So the current logic is that NASA’s role is to help seed the industry, as it did with the airline industry, by awarding contracts for launches and resupply missions, to share the financial burden as the private sector matures. (7/18)

Arianespace and EUMETSAT Launch Contract for Three MTG Satellites (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace and EUMETSAT announced the signature of a contract entrusting Arianespace with the first launch services for the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) series of geostationary satellites. The contract comprises two firm launches, for MTG-I1 and MTG-S1, and one option for MTG- I2. Using Ariane 5 ECA launchers from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the launches are scheduled in the 2019-2023 timeframe.

The Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program will expand into the 2020-2040 timeframe and massively improve the services currently delivered by the Meteosat Second Generation series in support of nowcasting and very short-range forecasting of high impact weather over Europe and Africa. MTG will be the most complex and innovative operational geostationary Earth observation system ever built, comprising two separate lines of imaging and sounding satellites operated simultaneously. (7/18)

Space Rock Worth $5.4 Trillion is Flying by Earth This Weekend (Source: Business Insider)
Asteroids might not look like much on the outside, but you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Underneath the surface of some asteroids is a treasure trove of a type of mineral, called platinum, that is rare on Earth but extremely lucrative — 1,000 cubic centimeters of platinum is worth close to $1 million. And asteroids have a lot more than that in addition to other rare and precious materials.

One of these platinum-loaded asteroids will be flying by Earth on Sunday, July 19. And this particular one, called asteroid 2011 UW-158, is thought to harbor anyhwere from $300 billion to $5.4 trillion worth of platinum and other precious metals and materials. Astronomers can estimate this by studying the object's size as well as its general composition with instruments called spectrometers that measure the intesntiy of light from an object.

Although asteroid mining is a goal for near-future for space exploration, we don't have the technology right now to mine one. What's more, even at it's closest approach, the asteroid will still be 1.5 million miles from Earth — that's about 6 times farther than the Moon. Luckily, the online observatory, Slooh, will be using their team of telescopes in the Canary Islands to spot the asteroid as it flies by, and they will be broadcasting the views online. (7/18)

New Launch Pad will Enable Smaller Rockets to Launch at KSC (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida took another step forward in its transformation to a 21st Century multi-user spaceport with the completion of the new Small Class Vehicle Launch Pad, designated 39C, in the Launch Pad 39B area. An aerial view of Pad 39C within the perimeter of Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This designated pad to test smaller rockets will make it more affordable for smaller aerospace companies to develop and launch from the center, and to break into the commercial spaceflight market. Kennedy Director Bob Cabana and representatives from the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program and the Center Planning and Development (CPD) and Engineering Directorates marked the completion of the new pad during a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 17. (7/17)

Airbus To Build ESA’s Jupiter-Bound Juice Orbiter (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency on July 16 selected Airbus Defence and Space to build Europe’s Juice orbiter, to be launched in 2022 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket and to arrive at the Jupiter system in 2030. The contract, for 350.8 million euros ($389 million) was approved by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee and will be signed by ESA and Airbus in September. The Ariane 5 launch will be contracted separately by ESA. (7/17)

Did Ancient Mars Have Continents? (Source: Space.com)
With the help of a rock-zapping laser, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has detected Red Planet rocks similar to Earth's oldest continental crust, researchers say. This discovery suggests that ancient Mars may have been more similar to ancient Earth than previously thought. Earth is currently the only known planet whose surface is divided into continents and oceans. The continents are composed of a thick, buoyant crust rich in silica, whereas the seafloor is made up of comparatively thin, dense crust rich in silica-poor basaltic rock.

Previously, scientists had suggested that the continental crust may be unique to Earth. The silica-rich rock, the idea goes, resulted from complex activity in the planet's interior potentially related to the onset of plate tectonics — when the plates of rock making up Earth's exterior began drifting over the planet's mantle layer.

In contrast, analyses of images snapped by Mars-orbiting spacecraft and studies of meteorites from the Red Planet previously suggested that the Martian crust was made up primarily of basaltic rock. Now researchers have found that silica-rich rock much like the continental crust on Earth may be widespread at the site where Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012. (7/17)

Delta IV Prepped for Wednesday Launch at Florida Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
On the heels of a successful Atlas V launch this week, United Launch Alliance is preparing a Delta IV rocket to blast a military communications satellite into orbit Wednesday evening. The 217-foot rocket is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 37 at 8:07 p.m., the opening of a 39-minute window extending to 8:46 p.m.

Atop the rocket is the seventh in a series of the military’s highest-bandwidth communications satellites, known as Wideband Global SATCOM. Boeing built the satellite called WGS-7, valued at $445 million. (7/18)

Jeff Bezos Wins Again (Source: Parabolic Arc)
And it’s another win for the man who already has everything, billionaire Jeff Bezos. Thirty-nine percent of voters (252 votes) selected the Bezos’ New Shepard as the spacecraft they would most like to fly into suborbital space. The Blue Origin vehicle had its first un-crewed flight test earlier this year.

XCOR’s Lynx, which is expected to take to the sky within the next year, came in a distant second with 25 percent. The two-person space plane received 161 votes. Twenty one percent of voters (137 votes) selected “Are you crazy? I’m not getting on any of them!” This was a surprisingly high result given this website’s pro-commercial space audience. Virgin Galactic came in last, with only 16 percent of voters choosing its SpaceShipTwo vehicle for their ride to space. (7/18)

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