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Monday, December 24, 2007

Moon and Mars Dazzle the Sky

Except for a fat full moon, Mars will be the biggest and brightest object in the sky Monday night. It won't be so large or luminous again until 2016, and it won't take as high a path across the sky until 2040.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

FAA/AST Grants Mojave Space Port a License Amendment

The Mojave Air and Space Port has gained an amended license from the Federal Aviation Administration /AST the past week saving the air and space facility from the risk of revocation of the spaceport license, according to the Antelope Valley Press quoting General Manager Stu Witt.

The license amendment has been distributed to the spaceport's commercial launch tenants for comment and subsequent review of the operational changes to be made under the amended FAA spaceport license.

Accidents during the course of the summer of 2007 resulted in the FAA/AST taking a regulatory review of the spaceport license.

Many Spaceflights Planned in 08

The global array of spaceports will witness a challenging year ahead with nearly 100 civil, military, and commercial space launches planned for 2008 by several nations and at least one private firm - SpaceX.

The space shuttle fleet may fly six times during the course of the 2008 calendar year while commercial launch firm SpaceX seeks to boost two Falcon-1 flights (including space burial) and begin testing the Falcon-9 for a subsequent ISS resupply in 2009 or 2010.

India and the United States will boost two more orbiters around the moon in 2008 joining the Japanese and Chinese platforms already in operation. The Chinese may also conduct their first human spacewalk by fall 2008.

Flight International has a take on the 2008 space launch forecast as a "record breaker" or a bust.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

India Moon Campaign in Spring

The Indian Space Research Organization [ISRO] is expected to launch its planning lunar probe in April 2008 called Chandrayaan joing Japan and China with orbiting lunar remote sensing probes. The spacecraft carries eleven payloads of which five are from India and six payloads from USA, Europe and Bulgaria. Chandrayaan – 1 spacecraft will be launched onboard India`s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The Chandrayaan-1 will orbit the moon at an altitude of 100 km for two years mapping the topography and the mineralogical content of the lunar soil. Chandrayaan-1 will also carry a Moon Impact Probe payload for demonstrating the technology needed towards accurate landing on the Moon`s surface.

India and Russia have signed an agreement a joint lunar mission involving a lunar orbiting spacecraft and a lander/rover on the Moon`s surface called Chandrayaan-2 in a 2011 or 2012 launch timeline.

2008 Big Year for the Ariane 5

The European Ariane 5 booster is set to boost the 20-tonne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) or Jules Verne, the new supply vessel, to the International Space Station in early 2008. On a later Arianne 5 flight, two new space telescopes known as Planck and Herschel [Video 1 and 2] will be lofted. The Ariane launched six flights in 2007 and the ESA hopes to gain seven or eight flights of the proven booster in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Asteroid Impact on Mars Jan. 30 Has Significant 1 in 75 Chance

On January 30, 2008, Mars may have a close encounter or impact with a Tunguska Event-sized space object known as 2007 WD5 asteroid now estimated at 160 feet in diameter. A Red Planet impact would leave a crater nearly a mile wide and would be similar to the well-known Meteor Crater in Arizona, according to the Russian Pravda. Chances are about 1 in 75 of a Mars impact say scientific sources, [VIDEO SIM of Mars impact]. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has provided a PodCast.

Planetary scientists and astronomers, nonetheless, are excited and giddy by the possible "scientific bonanza." The United States and European Mars orbiting spacecraft and the two US Mars Exploration Rovers are ready to document what would be a most surreal event. Impact would not be visable with the naked eye from Earth and it may be a challenging image to caputure even by the best ground-based telescopes. The Los Angeles Times has more detail along with CNN.

Asteroid 2007 WD5 was first discovered on Nov. 20, 2007, by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey and put on a "watch list" because its orbit passes near Earth. Further observations from both the NASA-funded Spacewatch at Kitt Peak, Ariz., and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory in New Mexico gave scientists enough data to determine that the asteroid was not a danger to Earth.

The only similar planetary impact event of this scale witnessed by humans is the Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 Impact upon Jupiter in July 1994 [impact images].

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Astronaut Bad News Form: Give a Moment for Dan Tani

International Space Station Expedition 16 NASA astronaut Dan Tani completd a bad news form prior to his flight denoting that if anything major event happened to a family member or close loved one he wanted to be notfied while on-orbit. And, NASA made it so .... he was informed about the death of his mother - Rose Tani.

Perhaps the tragic loss of Ms. Tani will provide insights on human reaction to loss of life while in a long duration spaceflight. But for now, readers may only offer a moment of good thoughts for the well-being of Dan Tani, Rose's Space Hero.

Va. Spaceport Workers Strike

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2552, based out of Wallops Island, held a vote Monday to go on strike January 1, 2008 over increased health care coverage costs.

The soon-to-be striking 76 workers conduct the heating, electrical and wastewater services for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility under a labor contract with Georgia-based employer, VT Griffin Services.

About 300 workers at Wallops are members of IAM2552, but they work under nearly 10 different contracts such as security and Near-Earth Network data services. It is unclear how the service workers strike may impact the balance of the union workers and facilities.

Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council Adds Voice of Support to 'ZeroG, ZeroTax' Measure

The Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council Wednesday added its voice of support to the so-called 'ZeroG, ZeroTax' measure giving it more legislative momentum for adoption by the 2008 Virginia General Assembly.

The Virginia legislation would provide a tax break to those using the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for ISS re-supply, space tourism, and space tourist training. The bill received favorable action from the Virginia Joint Commission on Science and Technology (JCOTS) on December 10.

The tax measure will be patroned by Del. John Cosgrove when the Virginia General Assembly convenes in Richmond on 9 January 2008.

RpK Challenge May Cause Congress to Pull-the-Plug on $175 Million COTS Pot is reporting that the Omnibus Bill adopted December 17 by the U.S. House of Representatives could stop the competition among 17 commercial space launch firms for the $175-million money pot remaining in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program.

The Congressional action could hinder development of new commercial re-supply and re-crew missions to the International Space Station if NASA must wait until a final court resolution of the RpK COTS award.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is reportedly teamed with several of the contenders as a potential test and/or launch site.

Tunguska Event Revisited

New Sandia National Laboratories supercomputer simulations suggest that the asteroid impacting Tunguska, Russia nearly a century ago may be much smaller than first thought and thereby raising the concern about the potential damage that could be caused Earth by smaller near-earth objects.

The asteroid that caused the extensive damage was much smaller than we had thought,” says Sandia principal investigator Mark Boslough of the impact that occurred June 30, 1908. “That such a small object can do this kind of destruction suggests that smaller asteroids are something to consider. Their smaller size indicates such collisions are not as improbable as we had believed.

The link to Sandia in New Mexico has eight impact movie sims to the right side.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mars Makes Close Approach

Mars will be closest to Earth on December 18, at 11:45 p.m. Universal Time (6:45 p.m. EST). The photo above was taken when the planet was just 55 million miles – 88 million kilometers – away by the Hubble Space Telescope. To sky-watchers the Red Planet shpuld appear as the brightest object in the eastern skies after sunset. Mars will not be this close to Earth again until 2016.

Monday, December 17, 2007

NASA's Global Solar Power Map

NASA has located the world's sunniest spots by studying maps compiled from two decades of digital data from U.S. and European satellites. The space agency is releasing a color-coded map of the entire planet’s solar exposure. The sunniest spots show up as bright red and are primary possible locations of solar power collectors according to a recent report by Alister Doyle published around-the-globe.

Ministers and officials from over 100 governments and international organizations assembled in Cape Town, South Africa from 28 to 30 November 2007 to advance an internationally agreed plan for building a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturn's moon Enceladus Stirs Debate

Enceladus, a body within the Saturn moon system, has stirred considerable debate among planetary scientists seeking to interpret data from the Cassini space probe and spectral data analysis obtained by the Keck Telescope at a gathering of American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco the past week.

At stake may be a proposed dedicated spacecraft mission to the moon Enceladus to investigate the fountains of water vapor spewing from its surface and into space. The water may be cause to search for life. NASA is now studying four missions concepts to Enceladus, Titan, Europa and a Jupiter System Orbiter [JSO]. The flagship mission selected will launch no sooner than 2015.

According to one study, chemical analysis of the moon failed to detect sodium - an element that should be present in an ocean-like body of water that has had billions of years of contact with rock. The result lead Dr. Nick Schneider of the University of Colorado to conclude that the water vapor leaking into space is "very, very pure water."

Dr. Carolyn Porco, the Imaging Team leader on the Cassini spacecraft, noted that Schneider may have not detected sodium but that the water vapor first detected by the Cassini spacecraft could still be linked to a subsurface ocean. The Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to fly close to the water vapor jets on 12 March of 2008.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Remembering Dr. Carl E. Sagan

Eleven years ago this month the famed astrophysist Carl Sagan died but, today in Bali, his spirit may well have survived as delegates from 187 nations gathered to discuss the future of the Pale Blue Dot [video].

While the United States may be in a domestic policy dispute over the data of climate change, global warming and solar dimming, the message of Dr. Sagan lives on in hope.

"We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself." - The late Carl Sagan [1934 1996].

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cosmic Vision: They Sailed from Plymouth to New Worlds

The space exploration projects that will be launched in the coming decades are in the process of being selected. The European Space Agency's Cosmic Vision [video] competition calls together proposals from across Europe. ESA Director of Science David Southwood talks about the future of space exploration, and his sources of inspiration.

ISS Astronauts to Inspect Solar Power Joints Next Week

International Space Station Commander Peggy A. Whitson and flight engineer Daniel M. Tani will conduct a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk next week to examine malfunctioning joints that turn a set of solar power panels.

Dr. Whitson and Mr. Tani will do a detailed inspection of the station’s starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, or SARJ that impacts the power supply of the orbiting station. The spacewalk was to be conducted by space shuttle Atlantis astronauts but its launch delay resulted in a NASA decision to direct the two ISS astronuats to proceed with the 100th ISS-related spacewalk.

Meanwhile, the Atlantis space shuttle, on mission STS-122, now has a target launch date of 10 January 2008.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

LIVE from Baikonur Cosmodrome

Starsem will launch the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite onboard a Soyuz/ST booster Friday, December 14, 2007 at 8:17 AM EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Readers may follow the launch LIVE here or here. Coverage will begin at 7:15 AM.

Air Quality Forecasting from Space Coming in Few Years

NASA satellites are now providing the first-ever daily, direct global measurements of low altitude or tropospheric ozone and many other pollutants that affect our air quality with researchers working to broaden daily forecasts to include predictions of air quality, according to NASA.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, United Kingdom has been modeling air quality forecasting prototypes for some time in a project known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security [GMES].

Some scientists predict that an operational system of routine, global forecasts of air pollution near the ground, where it affects human health, is only a few years away. Such a system could prove useful in efforts to improve air quality, assess the effectiveness of environmental regulations and address the challenge of climate change. Advances in air quality monitoring and forecasts are being discussed this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Audio report by John N. McHenry, Baron Advanced Meteorological Systems, Raleigh, North Carolina.

EPOXI Enroute to Comet Hartley

NASA has approved the retargeting of the EPOXI spacecraft to a new target in a flyby the small half-mile-wide Comet Hartley 2 on Oct. 11, 2010. Epoxi is an acronym for two other acronyms ((Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EpOCh) and Deep Impact eXtended Investigation (DIXI)).

In addition to investigating comet Hartley 2, the spacecraft will point the larger of its two telescopes at nearby previously discovered extrasolar planetary systems in late January 2008. It will study the physical properties of giant planets and search for rings, moons and planets as small as three Earth masses. It also will look at Earth as though it were an extrasolar planet to provide data that could become the standard for characterizing these types of planets.

The spacecraft will employ the same suite of two science instruments the Deep Impact spacecraft used during its prime mission to guide an impactor into comet Tempel 1 in July 2005.

NASA Lunar Lander Named Altair

The name "Altaïr" is Arabic for "the Flying Eagle" but it is now the moniker for the new NASA lunar landing vehicle, [Lunar Surface Access Module], being designed to land humans back on the surface of the Moon for the first time in half-a-century.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Orion Landing Choice: Water, Land or Both? NASA Decision Expected in 2008

The new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV] spacecraft being designed for post-space shuttle flights in a period after 2014 but planners have yet to decide if the capsule will return on-land or splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The costs associated with a landing Orion in Utah or a splash in the water are comparable according to NASA officials. A final decision is expected to come in 2008.

NASA originally explored multiple options for landing in both water and land. After initial studies, the first assessment by NASA and the contractor for the CEV, Lockheed Martin, was that landing on land was preferred in terms of total life cycle costs for the vehicles. But now a splashdown in water seems to be favored, according to Universe Today.

Lockheed Martin won the $3.5 billion NASA contract last August to build Orion.

Magnetic Ropes Link Earth-Sun

The NASA Themis satellites [vid] have revealed new insights into the forces that cause the Aurora Borealis [vid] or Nothern Lights [vid] to be giant magnetic "ropes" between Earth and the sun long suspected but not confimred until recently.

"The satellites have found evidence of magnetic 'ropes' connecting Earth's upper atmosphere directly to the sun," said David Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

These ropes could serve as conduits for waves of charged particles from the sun called solar wind with Sibeck adding, "We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras."

Virgin Galactic is reviewing the possibility of human spaceflight through the Aurora Borealis from Spaceport Sweden in 2012 or so. There is discussion of flights into the Northern Lights from Poker Flat, Alaska in the future too.

President Hu Jintao Hails Chinese Capability

China's President Hu Jintao hailed his nation's capability to launch and support deep space exploration in remarks made at the Great Hall of the People earlier today in Beijing to celebrate the first-phase lunar probe project's success.

China's successful lunar orbiter mission Chang'e-1 is a symbolic result of China's efforts to enhance self-innovation and build an innovative nation and a historical stride the nation made in its way toward world's peak of science and technology, the Chinese President said.

"We should adhere to self-innovation with Chinese characteristics and make full use of the socialist system's advantages in centralizing various forces to do a big feat," Hu said.

1st Artist for Space Selected

New Zealand photographer, painter and environmental artist Makoure Scott plans to create a work while on his weighltess Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flight. He may well become the first professional artist in space in 2009.

Scott often works in situ responding directly to a specific environment creating unusual and very creative pieces of art. He paints using materials such as sand, stone and tree gums from the area to emphasize his organic connection to the land. But the artist is hoping to draw and sktech while weightless.

"It's about two and a half thousand miles an hour so that's a bit of momentum. Not sure if I can hold a pencil that steady," Scott said. "Being an artist, it's always good to gather inspiration in other ways."

Among the other private "astronauts" to earn berths on early Virgin Galactic flights are Branson, his son Sam, James Lovelock, the scientist behind Gaia theory and a man who earned his spot by cashing in his Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer points.

Spirit Fighting for Life on Mars

Spirit is so covered in Mars dust that is appears camouflaged.
The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit is fighting for life working to position its very dusty solar panels on a north-facing slope to gain more sun at the northern edge of a plateau known as Home Plate [vid] in Gusev Crater. The rover is so dust covered that it can now only travel one hour per day before having to spend another day charging its batteries via the particle-covered solar panels.

Spirit recently uncovered a a patch of nearly pure silica in the Martian soil. Leaving scientists believe the silica is either a hot spring deposit or the result of acidic steam rising through cracks. On Earth, both settings teem with microbial life. Mission investigators want to use Spirit to explore for similar silica finds if it survives the challenes of Mars winter.

Spirit, and its sister Opportunity, landed on Mars nearly four years ago with a life design of 90-days. Opportunity has recently entered Victoria Crater. The Mars Exploration Rovers are among the greatest scientific instruments of our time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sir Arthur C. Clarke: 90th Birthday Reflections Video

Sir Arthur C Clarke [video], a renowned and globally-known British science-fiction author, inventor, and futurist, will celebarte his 90th orbit around the sun on the 16th day of December 2007. Clark takes time to reflect on his life and his wishes in a YouTube video. A significant birthday party is being planned for Clark by the Sri Lanka Government, according to the Asian Tribune.
  • Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
  • Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas: Every revolutionary idea – in science, politics, art, or whatever – seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases:
    (1) "It's completely impossible – don't waste my time"; (2) "It's possible, but it's not worth doing"; (3) "I said it was a good idea all along."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Electricity from Orbit?

Martin I. Hoffert, Professor Emeritus of Physics and former Chair of the Department of Applied Science at New York University, discusses the cost-effective space solar power (SSP) -- the beaming abundant high-intensity solar power from space though atmospheric windows at laser or microwave frequencies for electric power at the surface and into a grid. The talk was released the past week as a part of the Google Tech Talks [video].

Dr. Hoffert's talk is based upon the Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security by National Security Space Office Interim Assessment Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study, October 10, 2007 [Audio].

For more see the Space Power Association.

Virginia Technology Alliance Endorses ZeroG, ZeroTax Bill

With the leadership of the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Technology Alliance will offer legislative support to the 'ZeroG, ZeroTax' proposal [see pgs. 7, 22 and 23] that is on Monday's agenda for the Virginia Joint Commission for Technology and Science meeting at the state capitol in Richmond.

The state legislation would exempt state taxation on gross income earned from commercial spaceflight launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and income gained from spaceflight training activies from a Virginia airport or spaceport.

Delegate John A. Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake, Va.) is expected to be the primary patron of the measure provided it is endorsed, as expected, by the full JCOTS panel Monday morning. A number of legislators have agreed to back the proposal including the House of Delegates Democratic and Republican Caucus Chairs, members of the House Finance Committee, and members of the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council.

Republican Caucus Chairman Terry G. Kilgore sponsored the Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act signed into law by Virginia Democratic Governor Tim Kaine in 2007. Kilgore had much of the gross income exemption launguage in the 2007 bill but it was dropped to focus on the spaceflight immunity and liability issues.

Upon initial introduction of the 'ZeroG, ZeroTax' bill, the Speaker of the House, William Howell, is expected to refer the bill to the House Finance Committee for a hearing and an initial committee vote in late January 2008.

Virginia-based Space Adventures, Transformational Space, and Orbital Sciences Corporation may well be keeping an eye on the progress of this measure in the New Year. Perhaps the federal government should too!

Commercial Space Tourists Train at Pennsylvania's NASTAR Center

The Pennsylvania-based National Aerospace Training & Research Center or NASTAR provided training to Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson and others the past week as the British commercial space launch firm advances to its first flights slated for 2009/2010 aboard SpaceShip2 [video here with Jenna Wolfe].

Having provided spaceflight training [vid] for Anousheh Ansari and Greg Olsen for their respective Soyuz rides to the International Space Station, Virgin Galactic announced the past summer that NASTAR would serve as its official spaceflight training provider [vid] for suborbital rides to space.

Hundreds have booked Virgin spaceflights [vid] and will train at the NASTAR Center [vid] beginning in the summer of 2008.


The launch service tower was rolled back at the Kennedy Spaceport to enable a hopeful Sunday mid-afternoon lift-off of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station but the faulty fuel sensors stoped the launch campaign, again.

Atlantis will not get the European Columbus lab to ISS this calendar year. A new launch date will be reset no earlier than January 2, 2008. The new launch mainfest now shows a backlog of five shuttle launches planned in the first nine months of 2008.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lunar X-Prize Global Contestants Unfold

Odyssey Moon from the Isle of Man was the first to formally enter the Google Lunar X Prize the past week with its chairman Ramin Khadem stepping-up to pay the $10,000 registration fee.

Khadem, who is also chairman of the International Space University, said, "The moon is the eighth continent and we need to exploit it in a responsible way. We want to win the Google prize and, if we do, that will be gravy. But either way we are going to the moon."

Odyssey Moon is based in the Isle of Man and is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Richards, according to the BBC.

A second international team has formed called InterPlanetary Ventures to also compete inthe Google Lunar X Prize race to the moon, which includes $30,000,000 in prizes for competition winners.

The InterPlanetary Ventures team includes working groups in Sweden, India, Sri Lanka and the United States, and individuals in several other countries, promoting international cooperation in space exploration and development.

A third team, Astrobotic Technology, Inc will work with Raytheon Company to develop next-generation of high-precision, propellant-efficient lunar landing technologies. Dr. William L. “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic’s Chief Technology Officer announced his intention to seek the Google Lunar X Prize in September.

More teams are expected to enter the contest. But all entries in the contest must be at least 90 percent privately funded and meet a strict 31 December 2014 deadline to win.

COSMO SkyMed-2 Launched!

A Delta II rocket carrying Italy's COSMO SkyMed-2 or Constellation Of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation Earth imaging satellite is launched from Vandenberg AFB TONIGHT!

The launch of the Delta II COSMO SkyMed-2 mission was been rescheduled for Dec. 8 at 9:31 p.m. EST.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It is the 21st Century! So where is my promised flying car?

Where are the flying cars?![vid1] They promised me flying cars! [vid2] I don't see flying cars. Why? Why!?”

Moller International, Inc. may not be providing flying skycars [vid] for the 21st Century but it will not be because they did not try after over $200-million [vid]. The Davis, California-based firm, lead by Dr. Paul Moller [vid], has recently filed notice with the Securties and Exchange Commission [PDF] noting that it has run up more than $40.5 million in accumulated deficits and is concerned whether it will have enough money to continue development [vid] of its vertical-takeoff and landing Skycar and its Rotapower engines [vid].

Moller has been inventing and developing Skycars since 1962, when he built the first prototype for a VTOL vehicle, named the XM-2 Skycar. The M400 Skycar [vid] is the latest in a series of innovative Skycars developed by his company. A previous model is the two-passenger M200X Skycar [vid], which has successfully completed over 200 test flights since 1989.

An alternative vehicle may be on the 2009 horizon known as the PALV Europe BV (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) or autogyro-copter. The PALV is a concept vehicle designed to solve the increasing congestion on our highways. John Bakker, a Dutch entrepreneur, is developing the PALV.

On the ground, the slimline, aerodynamic 3-wheel vehicle is as comfortable as a car, yet has the agility of a motorbike, thanks to its patented cutting-edge 'tilting' system. The single rotor and propeller are folded away until the PALV is ready to fly. Once airborne, the PALV flies under the 4,000 feet floor of commercial air space.

Then there is Rafi Yoeli, the Israeli conceptualist behind the X-Hawk urban rescue vehicle. The Urban Aeronautics [vid] vehicle is estimated to cost $1.5 million and be available in 2010.

Oh well, George Jetson NOT [vid] but perhaps some time this century! [PPT]

And, this Onion link [vid] from a reader! :-)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

FAA Looks at Mojave Air and Spaceport for Regulatory Action

UPDATE FROM SPACE LAW PROBE. --- The Federal Aviation Administration is taking regulatory action at the Mojave Air and Space Port resulting from two explosions at the spaceport earlier this year. One of the explosions killed two people working with the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo commercial space program development by Scaled Composites, according to the Mojave Desert News.

Stu Witt, General Manager of the Spaceport, indicated to the newspaper that the FAA/AST is considering suspension of the space launch license until certain fuel storage information is provided the federal regulatory agency along with compliance procedures with the National Fire Code. Leonard David provides more details here.

SMART-1 Data Looks at Lunar Base Sites at the North Pole

A new map obtained with SMART-1 data shows the geography and illumination of the lunar north pole. Such maps will be of great use for future lunar explorers. The mosaic of the lunar north pole was obtained with images taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board European Space Agency's SMART-1.

The lunar poles are very interesting for future science and exploration of the Moon mainly because of their exposure to sunlight. They display areas of quasi-eternal light, have a stable thermal environment and are close to dark areas that could host water ice – potential future lunar base sites. [VIDEO]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ask the Presidential Candidates about Space Policy in 2008

The Mars Society is enabling space advocates to send a PDF e-mail to the 2008 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates as critical state primary dates approach to narrow the field of viable candidates.

Space exploration should not be a partisan issue. The Mars Society hopes that all of the candidates realize the importance of the space program to our nation as well as all of humanity. A strong space program can be one of the greatest assets to science and engineering education and will help guarantee our technological leadership in the 21st century.

New Mexico and Virginia Space Groups to Meet in Dec 2007

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Chairwoman, Economic Development Deputy Secretary Kelly O’Donnell, has called a Regular Meeting of the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors at 10:00AM, Thursday, December 6, 2007, New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamogordo, New Mexico. An agenda may be obtained at least 24 hours before the meeting at the New Mexico Spaceport Authority office at 301 S. Church Street, Suite G., Las Cruces, NM. Contact the New Mexico Spaceport Authority at (505) 521-3407 for details.

The first organizational meeting of the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council is set for December 19, 2007 from 1-3pm at the Cabinet Conference Room which is on the 3rd floor of the Patrick Henry Building in Capitol Square- 1111 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA. Directions are here. An agenda will be available soon.

NASA Considers Electro-Hypersonic Jet Boosters

NASA is reportedly considering an electro-hypersonic jet booster as a means to advance a re-usable space launch vehicle reports The Register. The story first broke with Flight International that NASA is taking a fresh look at MHD ramjet/scramjet technology, with the idea of using it in a "two-stage-to-orbit" reusable launcher configuration.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Countdown Begins Monday; Atlantis Launch Thursday

Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to begin a formal countdown Monday in the last phase of the launch campaign for STS-122. An 11-day mission ia set to begin with a Thursday 4:31 PM EST lift-off from the Kennedy Spaceport with the Columbus space lab onboard.

A multinational crew of seven astronauts will latch the European Space Agency's lab to the Harmony gateway compartment that was delivered by the Discovery's crew last month. Three spacewalks are now planned with a fourth possible to inspect a damaged rotational mechanism that turns outstretched solar panels on the station's right side.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

$1.5 Billion Instrument Grounded by NASA?

The Washington Post Sunday has identified the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) as “the most expensive scientific experiments ever built" and originally planned to be added to the orbiting International Space Station. But the AMS may now be destined for storage space instead of outer space and without ever having the chance to search the universe for antimatter.

A team of 500 scientists from 16 countries has spent the past decade building the space experiment to help solve a celestial puzzle --- how the cosmos has evolved since shortly after the big bang, more than 13 billion years ago.

Questions are being asked on Capitol Hill and within the scientific community as to whether or not there is room for the instrument in the remaing flight manifest of the space shuttle fleet. Congress could add money to fly the instrument in 2010 via a last minute shuttle.

NASA COTS Reprogrammed Funds Draws Competition

SpaceDev, PlanetSpace, t/Space, Spacehab, and SpaceX will vie for the $174.7 million in NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services [COTS] Project with the applications deadline last week with a February NASA decision looming.

SpaceX was previous awarded $278-million. Rocketplane-Kistler [RpK] expended $32.1-million of its initial award of $207-million prior to its COTS contract termination by NASA.

SpaceDev and t/Space have video demos of their resepctive proposals. Alan Boyle has more on the Cosmic Log.