August 9, 2015

Aldrin to Teach at Florida Tech (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is in negotiations with the Florida Institute of Technology to start a teaching position in Melbourne. Aldrin will be a professor of aeronautics, FIT President Anthony Catanese said. The school is also planning to establish the Buzz Aldrin Institute. FIT is about 40 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center, where the Apollo 11 mission blasted off from in July 1969. No details were released about when Aldrin's position could start at FIT. (8/6)

Embry-Riddle Telescope Opens Up Space for Research, Recruitment (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Underneath an open dome, high atop a classroom building, a $2 million research telescope — the largest of its kind in Florida — tilts its head toward the night sky. But sometimes, stars on the ground turn a curious gaze upward toward the machine that is used to track Pluto, research the lifespan of stars and act as a recruiting magnet for potential students.

In February, days before the start of the Daytona 500, NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, preparing for the start of his last season before retirement, placed a call to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “I pick up and he (Gordon) says: 'Does that dome over there have a telescope in it?' " recalled Terry Oswalt, dean of the department of physical sciences. " 'Can I come over and have a look?' " (8/8)

Mauna Kea Plays Spiritual, Celestial Role (Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, where some Native Hawaiians have been peacefully protesting the construction of what would be one of the world’s largest telescopes, astronomers have spent the past 40 years observing our universe and helping make some of the most significant discoveries in their field.

If the highly contested Thirty Meter Telescope is constructed on the site, scientists say they will be able to explore more of the universe’s unsolved mysteries. Many Native Hawaiians, however, consider the land sacred. Astronomers on Mauna Kea continue to peer into the most distant reaches of our early universe, allowing them to see the time immediately following the cosmic dark ages and the Big Bang. Here’s a look at what makes Mauna Kea such a valuable place for both science and the Hawaiian culture. Click here. (8/9)

DARPA Awards $20 Million for Continued Development of a Military Space Plane (Source: Defense Update)
Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems have won additional funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to continue developing their concepts for the United States military’s XS-1 robotic space plane under the program’s second phase (Phase 1B).

The current phase funds the “development of the XS-1 demonstration concept, substantiating identified core component technologies, mitigating risk, developing a Technology Maturation Plan (TMP), and performing several demonstration tasks,” DARPA said. Completion of Phase 1B is expected by August 2016. All three companies had received money in the summer of 2014 for initial “Phase 1″ design work. The first XS-1 orbital mission could take place as early as 2018, DARPA said. (8/8)

Trump Joins Scottish Space Race (Source: Sunday Times)
Could it be Hairforce One? The Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is famous for his comb-over hairstyle, wants to help the wealthy blast into space from a Scottish airport. The tycoon is backing calls for Prestwick airport in Ayrshire to be chosen as the launchpad for commercial space flights and will offer VIP packages for passengers at his nearby Turnberry golf resort if it is.

In its bid, a consortium will unveil Trump as the exclusive hotel partner for rich space tourists jetting into the region from across the globe. Tailor-made packages will include castle tours, visits to distilleries and island-hopping in the Hebrides. Those rumoured to have signed up to become astronaut tourists include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Stephen Hawking and Kate Winslet. (8/9)

New Aerospace Program to Help El Segundo Start-Ups (Source: LA Times)
A European program specializing in aerospace innovation has chosen the city of El Segundo, next to LAX, to be its first U.S. location. Starburst Accelerator, based in Paris, has been helping European aerospace start-ups get off the ground since 2012, and now it's adding Southern California to its focus. There are currently more than 40 start-ups in the European program, with each receiving an average of $893,000 in start-up funding.

The Los Angeles area was chosen because of its prominent aerospace background, said co-founder Vandad Espahbodi, who is setting up the new program. The region has long been a major location for many leaders in the industry including Northrop Grumman Corp., Boeing Co., Aerospace Corp. and Lockheed Martin. (8/8)

Even NASA Hears About Illinois Space Jam (Source: News-Gazette)
Word of mouth about the annual Boy Scout Space Jam event is spread in a variety of ways. Even NASA is getting into the act. Denny Anderson, Space Jam event coordinator, said people who enter Space Center Houston view a 15-minute film on the anniversary of the International Space Center. One segment of the film is about the Boy Scout event held every August in Rantoul.

It focuses on a former Scout who attended a Space Jam event and how it turned him on to technology. The Scout is now "doing important programming stuff" in Silicon Valley, according to Anderson, ahead of this week's event. Each year Space Jam has been held — this year marks the ninth — Scouts have been able to talk to one of the astronauts aboard the space station. This year they will do so just before noon today.

The philosophy is to expose the Scouts to as many different merit badge opportunities as possible. About 350 volunteers will help with the event, which has grown from less than 100 scouts the first year to more than 1,000 in recent years. The name wasn't taken from the Michael Jordan movie of the same name. It is a shortened version of "Space Jamboree." Some of the new offerings this year include 3D printing, quadrocopters (little drones) that are part of the robotics program "where the kids assemble them and remote control fly them," the event coordinator said. "The drones will be flying most of the day." (8/9)

Potential Landing Sites for Mars 2020 Rover Narrowed Down to Eight Locations (Source: America Space)
NASA’s next Mars rover is due to launch in July or August 2020, and the number of potential landing sites has now been narrowed down by scientists to eight locations. Out of an initial list of 21 targets, eight sites have been chosen as candidate landing sites for the Mars 2020 Rover. Due to land on Mars in February 2021, the rover will search for rocks which could hold possible evidence of past life on the planet.

The sites were chosen by a vote at the end of a three-day workshop. The top contenders are locations where there are ancient river deltas and hot springs—ideal places to search for evidence of past microbial life on Mars. At the top of the list is Jezero crater, where one of the old river deltas is located. “The appeal is twofold,” sais Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary scientist. “Not only is there a delta, but the rocks upstream are varied and diverse.” A river delta is a place where organic material could have been concentrated and preserved in the rocks, just like on Earth. (8/8)

Take a Ride Around Mars with NASA’s New Rover Simulator (Source: Quartz)
For space buffs who are chomping at the bit for future tourist trips to Mars, there’s now a virtual way to get a head start. NASA just launched a new feature that allows users to virtually control the US space agency’s Mars Curiosity rover. So while it may be another 20 years or more before humans reach our closest neighbor, those still here on Earth can at least experience what the Red Planet feels like.

The interactive lets people navigate a simulated version of the rover, guiding the wheeled contraption around an enclosed area from their personal computer. Meanwhile, users can flip through the different camera angles to see different views of the planet. NASA made public the interactive on August 5th, the third anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s real-life landing on the planet. Click here. (8/9)

Astronomers Spot Huge Lava Lake at Volcano Loki on Io (Source: Sci-News)
Scientists analyzing high-resolution images from the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in Arizona have discovered an enormous lava lake on Io, the fifth of Jupiter’s moons and the third largest. Io is only slightly bigger than our own Moon, but is the most geologically active body in our Solar System. Hundreds of volcanic areas dot its surface, which is mostly covered with sulfur and sulfur dioxide.

The largest of these volcanic features, named Loki after the Norse god often associated with fire and chaos, is a volcanic depression called patera in which the denser lava crust solidifying on top of a lava lake episodically sinks in the lake, yielding a raise in the thermal emission which has been regularly observed from Earth. Loki, only 200 km in diameter, was, up to recently, too small to be looked at in details from any ground based telescope. (8/8)

Cruise Over Ceres in New Video (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A prominent mountain with bright streaks on its steep slopes is especially fascinating to scientists. The peak’s shape has been likened to a cone or a pyramid. It appears to be about 4 miles (6 kilometers) high, with respect to the surface around it, according to the latest estimates. This means the mountain has about the same elevation as Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska, the highest point in North America.

Also puzzling is the famous Occator (oh-KAH-tor) crater, home to Ceres’ brightest spots. A new animation simulates the experience of a close flyover of this area. The crater takes its name from the Roman agriculture deity of harrowing, a method of pulverizing and smoothing soil.

In examining the way Occator’s bright spots reflect light at different wavelengths, the Dawn science team has not found evidence that is consistent with ice. The spots’ albedo -­ a measure of the amount of light reflected -­ is also lower than predictions for concentrations of ice at the surface. Click here. (8/9)

Space Groups Plan "Home District Blitz" to Promote Space Issues to Congress (Source: NSS & SFF)
The August Home Blitz is a way for NSS and SFF members to conveniently visit with their Congresspersons without having to travel to Washington DC. Every August, Congress recesses and members return to their home districts for work there. Visiting your Congressperson is the first step towards establishing a personal relationship. The talking points are being finalized so they are fresh, but they are expected to include topics like support for full Commercial Crew funding, the SEDS Act, and Planetary Defense. Click here. (8/7)

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