August 12, 2015

KSC Visitor Complex to introduce ‘Cosmic Quest’ (Source: Florida Today)
Young people will earn badges for designing rockets and a holographic Mars colony in a new, scavenger hunt-like experience the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex plans to introduce in January, Chief Operating Officer Therrin Protze announced Tuesday. The “Cosmic Quest” adventure and a planned new education center focused on Mars exploration and spacewalking are the latest additions in a multiyear Visitor Complex makeover that Protze said would be “transformational.” (8/11)

Lake May Have Held Last Signs of Life on Mars (Source: CBS)
The last vestiges of life on Mars may have occurred in a slightly salty lake about 3.6 million years ago. The findings, published in the journal Geology, came out of an examination of an 18-square-mile chloride salt deposit in the Meridiani region near the Mars Opportunity rover's landing site. As seen on Earth in locations such as Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, large-scale salt deposits are considered to be evidence of evaporated bodies of water.

What surprised Brian Hynek, a research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study, was just how young the 11.5-square-mile lake appears to have been. The researchers used digital terrain mapping and mineralogical analysis of the features surrounding the deposit to date the lake. (8/11)

NASA Opens New CubeSat Opportunities for Low-Cost Space Exploration (Source: NASA)
Space enthusiasts have an opportunity to contribute to NASA’s exploration goals through the next round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. Applicants must submit their proposals electronically by 4:30 p.m. EST, Nov. 24. The CubeSat Launch Initiative provides access to space for CubeSats developed by NASA centers, accredited educational institutions and non-profit organizations, giving CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations consistent with NASA's Strategic Plan. NASA does not provide funding for the development of the small satellites. (8/10)

How Much Contamination is Okay on Mars 2020 Rover? (Source: Astrobiology)
When the Mars 2020 rover arrives on the Red Planet, one of its primary mission goals will be to select and preserve samples that would eventually make it back to Earth for scientific study. Rather than seeking to eliminate contamination of these samples completely, essentially an impossible task, a panel of scientists and engineers met to assess the levels at which significant science could still occur.

“The whole point of going [to Mars] and returning samples is that we don’t know what’s there and we want to find out,” Alex Sessions, of the California Institute of Technology, told Astrobiology Magazine. “This makes knowing how much contamination is acceptable a rather ambiguous task.”

“We want it [contamination] to be low enough to give us a good shot at seeing what we think could be there, without being overly conservative, which could cause the mission to be so expensive the whole thing gets scrapped.” Scientists and engineers have discussed this throughout the history of space exploration. Since there are remnants of microbial life, both dead and alive, everywhere on Earth, it is impossible to build spacecraft within the Earth’s biosphere that are strictly biologically clean. (8/10)

The Satellite That Took This Incredible Photo Almost Didn’t Leave Earth (Source: WIRED)
DSCOVR stands for Deep Space Climate Observatory and it’s a joint mission between NASA and NOAA. Back in the late 1990s, NASA had to put the satellite (then called Triana) on hold because the Bush Administration and members of Congress started questioning its scientific worth. The controversy surrounded the EPIC imager, which measures ozone and UV rays for climate science, and also takes pictures in the visible light spectrum.

After the Bush ages, NOAA succeeded in getting the thing out of mothballs because it needed a replacement for the aging deep space probe responsible for measuring solar wind. DSCOVR was already built and paid for ($100 million), and it already had the tools for measuring solar wind. What’s more, getting rid of the EPIC imager would have made the mission more expensive, because the satellite would have to be re-balanced and wired. “The cheapest way to send it was to not change anything, so that kept the Earth science imager on it,” says Adam Szabo. Which is how the rest of us got this awesome GIF of the moon passing in front of the Earth. (8/10)

NASA Floats Changes To Contractor Safety Reporting Measure (Source: Law360)
NASA said Tuesday that it will propose narrowing safety and health reporting requirements for contractors, amending a clause in its Federal Acquisition Regulation supplement to only require reports for solicitations above the simplified action threshold when the work takes place at federal facilities. (8/11)

GAO Warns Air Force To Use Caution Altering Launch Program (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday warning the Air Force to take baby steps as it transitions away from exclusively using United Launch Alliance for military and intelligence satellite launches and begins to allow competitors to jockey for the role. (8/11)

Orbital ATK Orders Second Atlas 5, Leaves Door Open for More (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK has purchased a second Atlas 5 rocket to launch NASA cargo to the International Space Station and could buy a third. Orbital ATK’s latest Atlas 5 booking is for a mission slated to launch in early 2016. The company has already bought one Atlas 5 to launch its Cygnus cargo tug to ISS from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in early December. Both Atlas 5-launched Cygnus tugs will carry their maximum load of  3,500 kilograms of pressurized cargo, said Frank Culbertson.

Besides the mission to be announced Aug. 12, Orbital ATK will conduct “at least three more CRS missions” in 2016, one of which could be launched by a third Atlas 5, the company said. The new Antares, which features two RD-181 engines, will be ready for launch from Virginia “in early 2016.” (8/12)

Editorial: Space Shouldn't Be Hard (Source: Space News)
The SpaceX, Orbital and Russian failures gave the media the perfect opportunity to trot out the cliché phrase, “Space is hard.” While space is hard, so was commercial flying. There have been over 20,000 aircraft accidents since 1918. There have been only about 3,000 fewer accidents (17,000) when the timeframe is restricted from 1942 — the year the first rocket (Germany’s V2) could reach space — to today. Click here. (8/12)

UH Community College Students Prepare for NASA Launch (Source: University of Hawaii)
Community college students from the University of Hawaii got to see the rocket that will carry their Project Imua scientific payload into space on the launchpad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Their tour of NASA on August 10 also included stops at the balloon research and development laboratory, a facility for rocket fabrication and mission control. (8/11)

How a Cartoon Beagle Rejuvenated NASA's Safety Program (Source: Mashable)
The Flying Ace, a.k.a. Snoopy the beloved beagle from Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts, didn't just fly planes. He also flew to the moon. In January 1967, NASA experienced its first major space age tragedy: astronauts Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee were killed when their Apollo 1 command module caught fire during a ground test.

After the fire, NASA was tasked to create a new safety program, called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Manned Flight Awareness Program for all of its employees not only to help prevent incidents in the future, but also to raise awareness. At the time, Peanuts, and especially Snoopy, was a household name, and the little cartoon beagle turned out to be the perfect mascot. (8/10)

Meet the Woman Who Has Spent 200 Days in Space (Source: TIME)
There’s no such thing as a women’s league in space. The U.S. may just have won the Women’s World Cup, and basketball may have the WNBA, but there’s never been a WNASA or a women’s space station. The boys’ club that was space travel has long since become a co-ed enterprise. But that doesn’t mean female astronauts and cosmonauts don’t deserve to be recognized. With crews still predominantly male, there remains a glass ceiling between Earth and orbit, and it is the women, not the men, who must smash it. Click here. (8/11)

Editorial: Russia's Aerospace Forces Will Never Take Off (Source: Moscow Times)
An extremely significant milestone in the history of the Russian armed forces has surprisingly passed almost without notice. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently announced that a new branch of the military was now ready for combat duty: the Aerospace Forces. The air force has been combined with the space forces.

The defense minister explained that, first, this allows the ministry to put in "one set of hands" all the responsibility for the formation of military and technical policy for the development of forces acting in the aerospace sphere; second, these forces will be used more effectively due to this close integration; third, it will ensure the progressive development of the country's aerospace defenses.

Several years ago, watching the Russian government attempt to solve serious structural issues through multiple reorganization efforts, I came up with the following law of administrative stupidity. This law states that the more senseless the plan, the greater the likelihood that it will be implemented. The creation of an Aerospace Defense Forces is a perfect illustration. (8/11)

LightSail Nominated for SmallSat Mission of the Year (Source: Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft has been nominated for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Small Satellite Technical Committee Mission of the Year 2015 award. The nomination was revealed at the annual Small Satellite Conference, SmallSat, in Logan, Utah. Voting lasts through Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 11:59 p.m. MST. Anyone can submit a ballot—cast yours at (8/11)

The US Rocket Program has Veered Off Course Yet Again (Source: Quartz)
Remember when NASA decided to hire Boeing and SpaceX fly commercial astronauts to that agrarian orbital paradise, the International Space Station? Well, that idea has taken another beating: NASA now says that because Congress has underfunded the scheme by some $1 billion over the last five years, the development programs for SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and Boeing’s CST-100 may run out of money by the summer of 2016. (8/11)

Political Analysis: Ige on Mauna Kea (Source: Big Island Now)
Will Gov. David Ige’s actions during the Mauna Kea controversy impact him later? Neal Milner, political analyst and retired University of Hawai’i political science professor, said he doubts it. Referring to Ige he said, “it’s extraordinarily difficult for an incumbent to lose. Gov. Abercrombie did, but it almost never happens. He can make a lot of mistakes, get a lot of people angry and still win.” Click here. (8/11)

Astronomers Discover New Planet Orbiting Two Stars (Source: SFSU)
A team of astronomers has discovered a new planet orbiting a pair of stars, the 10th "circumbinary" planet discovered by NASA's Kepler Mission and a milestone for the 6-year-old spacecraft. The planet, known as Kepler-453b, is located within its host stars' "habitable zone," the area around the stars in which life could potentially exist. And the somewhat fortuitous nature of its discovery indicate there could be more like it than previously believed. (8/10)

War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever (Source: Scientific American)
The world’s most worrisome military flashpoint is arguably not in the Strait of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any map of Earth, even though it is very easy to find. To see it, just look up into a clear sky, to the no-man’s-land of Earth orbit, where a conflict is unfolding that is an arms race in all but name. Click here. (8/10)

No comments: