August 6, 2015

Overselling NASA (Source: Space Daily)
Let me give you another Earth. Yup, a whole new planet. Of course, there are conditions. We don't really know what the atmosphere is like. We're not totally sure about temperatures. Don't ask about the geology or oceans. As for it being inhabited or inhabitable, we can't really say.

That's the scenario that played out in July this year when NASA announced the discovery of Kepler 452b, a planet that has some measurable properties consistent with our own. Media reports around the world advertised it as Earth 2.0. Soon after the story broke, this analyst was taking questions from reporters on a prominent news channel. What was life like on this planet? The anchorwoman was stunned when it was explained that we didn't even know if the planet could support life, let alone know of any life that was there. (8/5)

Space Collectibles Show and Sale Coming to Spaceport (Source: USAFSMMF)
Space related memorabilia including unique and historic pins, patches, models, toys, postal covers, artwork and so much more from Space Coast collectors and entrepreneurs will be featured at a Space Collectibles Show & Sale on Aug. 15. The free event is open to the public and will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. EDT at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum History Center located just outside the south gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the north side of Port Canaveral In addition to the space collectibles inside, several food trucks will be on hand too. (8/3)

NASA: Seats on Russian Rockets Will Cost us $490 Million (Source: Chicago Tribune)
NASA told Congress on Wednesday that it will have to spend half a billion dollars to pay Russia to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sent a letter to Congress saying the agency would need to pay $490 million to Russia for six seats on Soyuz rockets for U.S. astronauts to fly through 2017. That comes to nearly $82 million a seat, up from $71 million a seat.

Bolden blamed Congress for needing the extra money for seats. In his letter, Bolden said that because Congress didn't add enough to the commercial space program, launches from U.S. soil had to be pushed back two years, requiring more Russian rides. NASA wanted the money to help private space companies Space X and Boeing pay for new rockets and capsules that would launch from the U.S. (8/6)

China's Space Station Gets a 'Super Eye' (Source: Popular Science)
China's space quest is leading it in new and interesting directions: scientists have built a charged couple device (CCD) imaging optical sensor for docking space stations. Chinese Academy of Science and Technology (CAST) scientists call this optical sensor a "super eye", stating that it can help dock spaceships moving at "eight times the speed of a bullet" (Mach 28). CCD imaging optical sensors function by converting the impact of photons on the sensor into electron movements, forming the basis for technologies from smartphone cameras to modern spy satellites. Click here. (6/25)

Suffredini Retiring as NASA's ISS Chief (Source: CBS)
NASA's space station program manager is leaving the agency. NASA announced Wednesday that Michael Suffredini, who had been ISS program manager since 2005, is leaving to take a position in industry. Suffredini led the program through its final years of assembly, and supported development of commercial cargo and crew vehicles. Kirk Shireman, deputy director of the Johnson Space Center and a former deputy program manager for ISS, will take over as program manager. (8/5)

Virginia Renegotiates Spaceport Deal with Orbital ATK at Wallops Island (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the commonwealth has renegotiated its deal with Orbital ATK for its use of the state-owned spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. It calls for Orbital to insure the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for damage from any subsequent private launches it makes there, and to cover one-third of the cost for the $15 million in damage caused when one of its rockets exploded moments after liftoff Oct. 28. (8/5)

'Mars is Good for Rocket Fuel But it's Not Suited for Life' (Source: Times of India)
At a time when there's a lot of talk about colonizing Mars and activity directed towards it, with different global missions, including private endeavours trying to land on the Red Planet, Breakthrough Prize Foundation chairman Simon Pete Worden says it may not be a 'great idea'.

"There is enough evidence to prove that Mars has extremely high content of perchlorates (salts derived from perchloric acid) that's good for rocket fuel, but is very bad for life," Worden said, as he explained the various Nasa missions that tried finding signs of life there. Perchlorates, whose properties may boost chances of microbial life, is considered harmful, even perilous to human health. (8/6)

The Sunspot Decline Continues (Source: Behind the Black)
On Monday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in July.  Sunspot counts continue to decline at a rate faster than predicted or is usual during ramp down from solar maximum. Normally the ramp down is slow and steady. This time it has so far been more precipitous. (8/6)

Sierra Club: TMT Challenges Environmental Integrity (Source: Big Island Now)
As the controversy over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea continues, the Sierra Club of Hawai’i has chimed in to express its issues with the construction, which lies in the integrity of Hawai’i’s environmental laws. Marti Townsend, Director of the Sierra Clubof Hawai’i,  says that the environmental organization has raised long-withstanding questions regarding the practice of allowing major industrial installations to be built on Mauna Kea. (8/5)

Time to Adopt New Space Law in New Zealand (Source: Voxy)
New Zealand needs to develop its own domestic space law as more and more companies enter the realm of space for commercial purposes around the world, Christchurch legal space expert Dr Maria Pozza says. Dr Pozza, an international space law specialist and consultant lawyer on New Zealand law at Helmore Ayers lawyers says the realm of outer space is governed by a series of international multilateral treaties. The treaties pertain to activities undertaken by nations in outer space and they hold nations accountable for activities which are prohibited under international law. (8/6)

Enabling 'The Martian' (Source: Huffington Post)
Three years ago this week, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, touched down on the surface of Mars. It did so only after the now famous "7 Minutes of Terror," a harrowing journey through the Martian atmosphere, utilizing a revolutionary entry, descent, and landing technique never before attempted.

Curiosity's successful landing was one of the greatest engineering achievements in history, and it generated a tremendous level of excitement in the general public about space exploration that has not been seen for a very long time. Curiosity then began an epic mission of exploration and science, one that has transformed and is continuing to transform our understanding of the red planet. Click here. (8/5)

Ted Cruz Gets a Bill Passed (Source: Bloomberg)
Senator Ted Cruz, known more for clashing with Republican leaders and assailing Obama administration initiatives than getting bills passed, can chalk one up in the latter category. A measure that would authorize NASA to extend the operation of the International Space Station through at least 2024 this week became the first measure sponsored by the Republican White House hopeful to win the Senate's approval in the current session of Congress.

The Senate passed S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which would also give more flexibility to private firms seeking launch licenses from the Department of Transportation. Perhaps most surprising, given the Texan's preference for drama and contention (last month he took to the Senate floor to accuse his own party's Senate leader of lying to him), the measure passed by unanimous consent at the end of Tuesday’s session in the largely empty chamber that Cruz had once used to stage a 21-hour, 19-minute talk-a-thon to protest Obama’s health-care law. (8/5)

Moon Photobombs Earth in Amazing Video from DSCOVR Satellite (Source: GeekWire)
The Deep Space Climate Observatory, better known as DSCOVR, is designed to provide full-disk, sunlit views of our home planet from a vantage point a million miles away. But every so often, the moon crosses through the frame. Today, NASA released the first amazing photobomb sequence. Click here. (8/5)

Let's Go to Mars! The Future of Space Travel (Source: C/Net)
I. Love. Space. As a Space Camp alum with the astronaut wings to prove it, I've been devouring books on astronomy, manned spaceflight and NASA for as long as I can remember. I was born almost two decades too late to watch the moon landings live, but thankfully we're gaining enough momentum to reach the next major milestone in space travel: getting humans to the surface of Mars. Click here. (8/6)

Inflatable Space Elevator Gets a Lift (Source: C/Net)
Technically speaking, getting to space hasn't become any easier over the past half century or so. It still requires using huge rockets to create a massive enough amount of force to push a payload beyond the grip of Earth's gravity. Enter the concept of the space elevator, which uses much simpler gravity-defying technologies to access space.

So far, most space elevator concepts have been the stuff of sci-fi, and any plans to actually build one have remained on the rather distant horizon. But "push button" access to space took a step toward reality in late July when the US Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to a Canadian company for its invention of an inflatable space elevator tower. Click here. (8/5)

Meet Diana Trujillo: Colombian Behind NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Functions (Source: Latin Times)
Since her days as a high-school student in Cali, Colombia, Diana Trujillo dreamt of becoming an Aerospace Engineer. According to Trujillo, it was he math teacher who encouraged her to follow her dreams in the U.S. After finishing her studies at CaƱaverales International School, she obtained her student Visa and traveled to Florida, where she studied Space Science at the Miami Dade Community College. She later attended the University of Maryland, where she graduated as an Aerospace Engineer in 2007. (8/5)

Quest to Trace Origin of Earth’s Water is ‘a Complete Mess’ (Source: Science News)
When it comes to wringing out the origins of Earth’s water, planetary scientist Karen Meech has some bad news. Not only do researchers have bad intel on where water-bearing bodies in the solar system formed, our own oceans might be sending them down the wrong path.

“It looks like a complete mess,” says Meech, of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. There are two big problems, she says. The bulk of Earth’s water, hidden deep underground, has a slightly different composition from that of ocean water. Yet for decades, researchers have used seawater to compare the makeup of Earth’s water against that of icy asteroids and comets in the solar system. To complicate matters, the chemical marker that researchers rely on for tracking water might not even be that useful, Meech says. (8/5)

Mini Moons May Zip Around Earth (Source: Science News)
Earth most likely has groupies. A revolving door of tiny space rocks, or “mini moons,” might flit around our planet, and Robert Jedicke is determined to find them. “Only one is known,” Jedicke said August 3 at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union. “It’s not fictional.”

With just one temporary tagalong in hand, though, researchers have relied on computer simulations to learn about these visitors from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The one discovered in 2006 —roughly 3 meters wide (enormous by presumed mini moon standards) — orbited Earth for about a year. These elusive satellites are tantalizing targets for scoping out asteroids without having to go too far from home. If only researchers could find more. (8/5)

Will Future Astronauts Dine on Zero-G Zucchini? (Source: CSM)
If humans are to explore other worlds, they will need to be able to grow their own food. Astronauts on the International Space Station are tilling new ground with their Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) program, which explores the prospect of growing vegetables and plants in space and on other planets.

The Veggie, a container used for growing plants on the ISS, “is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation,” NASA explains.

Besides providing food and psychological diversion for the astronauts, growing crops in space would also help solve one of the biggest issues in space travel: the price of eating. “It costs about $10,000 to send one pound of food from Earth to the space station,” Mashabale reported. The program was commissioned in 2013, after astronaut Don Pettit successfully grew a zucchini while staying on the space station. (8/5)

NASA to Congress: Want to Stop Using Russian Capsules to Get to Space? Let Us Work. (Source: Washington Post)
Ever since we mothballed our last space shuttle in 2011, we've been relying on Russian spacecraft to help put U.S. astronauts into space. It's not a little embarrassing, as it basically means renting seats on Soyuz capsules like you're a budget passenger on some Greyhound bus to low-Earth orbit. And now, NASA says, we're about to throw even more money at the Kremlin because Congress is holding back a program aimed at replacing the space shuttle.

In a letter to lawmakers Wednesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said his agency is extending a contract with the Russian government to the tune of $490 million. The contract pays for the transportation of crew and supplies to the International Space Station and back, among other missions. (8/5)

Robotic Maker System to Build Biggest Composite Rocket Parts Ever Made (Source: Space Daily)
A titan now resides at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This titan is no Greek god, but one of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America, and it will help NASA build the biggest, lightweight composite parts ever made for space vehicles.

It takes a myriad of different materials to build a space vehicle like NASA's new Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket designed to take explorers on deep space missions. The lighter the rocket, the more payload--crew, science instruments, food, equipment, and habitats--the rocket can carry to space.

Lightweight composites have the potential to increase the amount of payload that can be carried by a rocket along with lowering its total production cost. NASA is conducting composites manufacturing technology development and demonstration projects to determine whether composites can be part of the evolved Space Launch System and other exploration spacecraft, such as landers, rovers, and habitats. (8/5)

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