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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Endeavour Lands in California

Space Shuttle Endeavour has landed [video] at Edwards Air Force Base in California this afternoon at 4:25 pm ET completing a successful STS-126 mission but only after flight controllers waived the spacecraft off a Florida Space Coast landing due to inclement weather.

The Endeavour crew conducted spacewalks and extensive remodeling of the space station in preperation of the first six-member International Space Station crew. The six ISS crew mebers are expected in May of next year aboard Soyuz spacecraft vehicles.

The next space shuttle flight is now expected on February 12, 2009 when STS-119 Discovery and her crew will place the fourth starboard truss segment and the fourth set of solar arrays and batteries as part of the final construction steps of the $100-billion International Space Station.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Iran Launches Kavoshgar 2

Iran launched a second domestically-built Kavoshgar 2 (Explorer 2) rocket into space in line with its efforts to advance its space program last Wednesday according to Iranian state television. The booster appears to be a military Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is 56 feet long.

On February 4, Iran announced the launch of the first Kavoshgar and said afterwards that the rocket had reached an altitude of 125 miles before returning to earth. There were conflicting reports as to the mission's goals and success rate.

Transition Poses Questions to NASA

President-elect Barack Obama's NASA transition team has posed five-pages of questions to NASA with regard to the Ares-1 and Ares-V boosters, according to Space News.

John Logsdon, a space policy expert at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, cautioned against reading too much into the transition team's questions.

Lori Garver [pictured], a space consultant and former NASA associate administrator who is leading the Obama NASA transition team, declined comment on the questionnaire, according to the Space News report.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Night Sky Delight Underway

The planets Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction along with a slice of Moon in the post-dusk night sky for the Thanksgiving Holiday, notes the Norwich Bulletin. On Saturday night, Nov. 29, the planets will appear the closest, with Jupiter only 2.4 degrees above Venus. A low view of the southwest of horizon is essential with the Moon joining the picture boldly on Monday evening December 1st. NASA provides more viewing insight. Videos 1*****, and 2 and 3 provide deeper explanation. Enjoy the view!

Europe Invests Billions in Space Tech

Concluding a meeting in the Hague, the 18-member states of the European Space Agency have agreed to a nearly $13-Billion dollar space exploration budget over the next three to five years with ministers noting that the investment in space would help European industry pull through the current economic downturn, according to the BBC.

The Europeans are planning to send new spacecraft through the solar system including ExoMars; contribute to the on-going operation of the International Space Station; and, create an Earth satellite system to monitor climate change. The ESA's Ariane 5 rocket will also be upgraded to boost larger spacecraft.

Longer term, the ESA is planning a human-rated spacecraft perhaps just prior to the end of the next decade.

The European Ministerial Council concluding press conference video at the ESA-member states gathering in The Hague is linked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving on Orbit

What's on the Thanksgiving Day menu for the astronauts in outer space? Smoked turkey, cornbread stuffing, green beans with mushrooms, candied yams, and for dessert, cranberries and apples.
On this Thanksgiving Holiday, Laurie Naismith, Director Government Relations & Public Affairs Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority & Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, notes in an e-mail message that the Virginia spaceport "may, in just two years, be delivering Thanksgiving Dinner and other supplies to the International Space Station!," in sharing this AP report.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama NASA Transition Now Five

President-elect Obama has named four former National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials and the current Executive Director of the National Space Society (and Virgin Galactic advisor) to the NASA Transition Team to plan for the next pro-space administration.

Alan Ladwig [pictured] and Lori Garver, both former NASA associate administrators for policy in the Clinton Administration; Ed Heffernan, then-NASA Administrator Dan Goldin's chief of staff; Roderick Young, Goldin's one-time press secretary; and, and George Whitesides, executive director of the National Space Society and senior adviser to Virgin Galactic make-up the named members of the NASA Transition Team. More from ParabolicArc.

Tom Wheeler is spearheading the Obama-Biden Transition Project Agency Review Working Group for science, space, technology and arts agencies. This working group includes former Virginia Lt. Governor Donald Beyer, Jr.

Report Praises New Ares Boosters

A new 160-page report entiled "Science Opportunities Provided by NASA's Constellation System" report has high praise for the Constellation program and the developing ARES-booster rockets. The full report is available now for download from the National Academies Press authorized by the National Research Board. The report commends the potential of exploring an asteroid.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Space as an economic stimulus?

President-elect Barack Obama's planned economic stimulus may total $500 Billion to $1 Tillion in what will be the most significant financial jolt to the national economy since the New Deal, reports The Washington Post.

Space infrastructure creates high-tech jobs, enhances innovation, advances modern science, and increases human knowledge investment. Should civil and commercial space infrastructure be a part of the Obama economic stimulus plan?

Comments? Please offer-up your rational civil and/or commercial space infrastructure wish list! Secondly, call, e-mail, snail-mail and see your Congressman with it.

Juno Given 'GO' for Planet Juipter

NASA, America's federal space agency, announced Monday that it is officially moving forward on a mission to conduct an unprecedented, in-depth study of Jupiter called Juno. The Juno mission will placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit around the giant planet to understand its formation, evolution and structure in 2016, [video].

The Juno spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in August 2011, reaching Jupiter in 2016 [video]. The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter 32 times, skimming about 3,000 miles over the planet's cloud tops for approximately one year. The mission will be the first solar powered spacecraft designed to operate despite the great distance from the sun.

The contractor for Juno is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Juno is the second spacecraft designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The first was the Pluto New Horizons mission, launched in January 2006 is now past Juipter. It is scheduled to reach Pluto’s moon Charon in 2015.

Astronaut Shares Aurora Borealis

Astronaut Don Pettit created an astounding video using a sequence of still images he shot of the Aurora Borealis from the International Space Station. The Aurora Borealis was referenced in The New York Times, Science, Dot Earth this month. Pettit, an STS-126 crew member, is currently aboard ISS in orbit. MORE video from this BLOG.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

UK Gives Green to MoonLITE

The British government is expected to give the OK to the MoonLITE program for launch a lunar orbiter with the capability to study the mysterious Moonquakes which vibrate through the lunar rock.

According to The Telegraph, the United Kingdom's lunar probe will fire a series projectile probes [vid] into the Moon's surface to study Moonquakes. Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecommunications Experiment [MoonLITE] is expcted to launch between 2012 and 2014.

Dr. Ian Crawford, at Birkbeck College, University of London, was one of the first scientists to propose the British lunar probe. Crawford will be the Project Scientist for the proposed UK-led MoonLITE mission to the Moon. NASA will cooperate with MoonLITE.

Great Britian would be among the United States, the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, India and Germany with either past, active, or planned lunar research probes. An international agreement forged this year enables selenologists to collaborate.

SpaceX Engines Rattle Central Texas

A SpaceX rocket engine test lit up the night sky in McGregor, Texas sending a shock wave felt all across Central Texas. The explosion was actually a success from an extremely powerful nine-engine rocket known as the Falcon 9. The 177-second-long, nine-engine “mission duty cycle” was a complete success reports SpaceX and The Waco Tribune Herald [w/vid]. Here is a nice eyewitness video *****report and a Texas Blogger reaction [funny].

The full mission duration test firing of the Falcon 9 first stage lasting nearly 3 minutes. The nine Merlin engines produced 855,000 lbs. of thrust and consumed over half a million pounds of liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene during the test. SpaceX has added video of the test.

The Falcon-9 is a NASA COTS contender for re-supply services to the International Space Station in late 2010.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NASA Chief Ponders Prez Transition

NASA Watch today pointed to an Irene Klotz interview for Discovery with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin about the future of the civil space program under a Barack Obama Administration and his tenure as the head of NASA.

Meanwhile, Leonard David reports for Space.com that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is being vetted for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The potential Obama Cabinet choices leads one to ponder how Bill Richardson and would-be U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will balance the commercial space sector interests involving ITAR.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama's Challenge on the Final Frontier: What to do with NASA?

National Public Radio [NPR] has an audio report in All Things Considered on the status of the American space program capabilities. Now in transition to a new president, the story is a part of a series entitled "Memo to the President."

The story provides some focus to the space policy issues faced by President-elect Barack Obama as he enters the White House on January 20, 2009

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twenty Years Ago Another Space Shuttle Took to a Launch Pad


The Soviet Space Shuttle Buran or "Snowstorm" was first launched twenty years ago this month in 1988 [vid] but after a very promising start, the Soviet Space Shuttle program was halted and exiled to museums [vid]. The Soyuz has remained the work horse of the Russian space program to this day.

Astronauts Pimp-Out Space Station on 10th Anniversary of First Launch

ISS transits the Moon. Credit: Xin Li of the Beijing Planetarium
The seven astronauts of STS-126 Endeavour and the three crew members of the International Space Station have installed a toilet, a kitchen, two small bedrooms, exercise equipment and the water system and will start a second spacewalk today to continue outside repairs despite the loss of one equipment bag.

Today's spacewalk [NASA TV] will involve cleaning and relocation a railcar used on the space station's exterior rail track, and lubricate the end of the station's robotic arm by two astronauts lead by astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper.

The single most important goal of STS-126 is to equip the orbital lab with sufficient accomadations to double the station's crew size from three to six in the spring of next year.

To see the Space Shuttle and the Space Station in orbit from your location on Earth, go to Space Weather's Satellite Tracker. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the first launch to build the International Space Station.

Only eight of the now remaining nine space shuttle flights are dedicated to the International Space Station construction according to the official flight manifest. President-elect Obama has advocated an additional space shuttle flight in 2010 to boost the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to orbit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NASA Inspector General Cites 'Most Serious' Challenges for Agency

NASA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today released a report [PDF] outlining the federal space agency's 'most serious' challenges. Topping the list is the transition to the next generation of space vehicles. The report comes immediately after the GAO noted the importance of President-elect Obama's "urgent" decision needs assessment of the space program. SEE this week's Time magazine for more on the American space program.

Schmitt Drives Moon or Mars Debate

Apollo 17 scientist moonwalker Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt resigned from The Planetary Society space advocacy group in protest of the new position favoring a human mission to Mars over human colonization of the Moon.

Schmitt noted on the LunarListserv: "Having been deeply involved in this issue for many years, and having led several objective studies related to it, it is clear to me, and many other knowledgeable people, that returning to the Moon is the fastest and most cost effective path to Mars for the following reasons:"

1. We need generations of engineers to relearn how to operate in deep space at and for long durations on a location that is more accessible than a trajectory to Mars or on Mars itself.

2. We have no clear technology approach for landing large payloads (40MT+) on Mars. Developing entry, descent and landing (EDL) concepts and testing those concepts in the Earth's upper atmosphere will be a major program in and of itself with uncertain cost and duration.

3. Knowing whether 1/6th g triggers human re-adaptation from the adverse consequences of 0g is critical to the design and mass of both Mars transportation systems and Mars surface operations.

4. Many concepts that will be required for operations on Mars need testing in a real-world deep space environment before committing to using those concepts in Mars exploration, including autonomous crew operations during entry, decent, landing and real-time exploration without communications support from Earth.

5. We need a heavy lift launch infrastructure that can support the assembly of large interplanetary spacecraft in Earth orbit, and the requirements to return to the Moon support the development of that infrastructure.

6. We need to develop an interplanetary propulsion system that allows continuous acceleration and deceleration so the travel time to Mars can be cut significantly. That also constitutes a program of uncertain duration and cost.

7. Depending on future understanding of several unknowns already mentioned above, access to lunar-derived consumables after leaving Earth-orbit may be necessary to reduce the launch mass of an interplanetary spacecraft to a feasible amount.

8. We need to certify sample collection and protection protocols on the Moon with exposure to lunar dust and polar volatiles as surrogates for micro-organisms or the planetary protection lobby will make sample return from Mars impossible.

9. We need to use robotic drilling and definitive testing on Mars to penetrate what is probably the only potential biogenesis and evolutionary environment on Mars that has been stable for >3.8 billion years, namely, the cryosphere-hydrosphere interface below the surface.

10. Extremely strong scientific reasons for further lunar exploration exist as have been documented by a large fraction of the lunar and planetary research community at the NASA Advisory Council's 2007 Tempe Workshop and by the National Research Council's recent study.

11. Returning to the Moon has a far better chance of sustained political support than does a far, far more costly, start from scratch Mars program.
Absent sustained and increased budgetary support for the Vision for Space Exploration by the incoming Administration and Congress, any deep space initiative will be in doubt.

12. Finally, becoming a deep space-faring nation again constitutes a mult-generational endeavor, particularly if Mars is in the mix. Unfortunately, the government-run, politicized K-12 school system will not currently support such an endeavor. It has totally failed several generations of young people, not just in STEM subjects but in history, language and economics. This problem has to be solve first. The people requirements for a return to the Moon should help jump start that process, although it will take a much more grassroots effort to be successful.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

STS-126 Launch Parts Pad Cloud

The linked video above [best viewed full screen] was shot from the Kennedy Space Center Friday night beginning a few minutes prior to the STS-126 Endeavour launch to the International Space Station. The YouTube video captures an extremely unique visualization of the shuttle roaring through the night sky parting an above launch pad cloud leaving the hot rocket booster backlighting the vapor mositure as if it were a significant series of smoke rings emanating from the shuttle [3-minutes into the above vid]. The cloud waves were similar to those caused by a rock hitting a pond of water.

The entire launch sequence was perfect to see under a warm Florida full moon. Fellow NASA guests Dr. David Livingston, host of The Space Show, and would-be space tourist Reda Anderson were among those witnessing the unique launch visual from the NASA VIP seating section.

Dr. Livingston has a special on The Space Show with a description of what its like to see a Space Shuttle launch including how one can get VIP tickets to see the launch plus other viewing options beginning Monday, November 17, 2008, 5 PM ET. See SpaceflightNow for current mission coverage.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NASA Objects to 'Drill Baby Drill!' Offshore Virginia Near Wallops

The NASA Wallops Flight Facility, one of the oldest civil spaceports in the nation with thousands of suborbital and orbital launches to its credit, is objecting to a proposal for offshore oil and natural gas drilling near the FAA-AST commercially licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

The space agency notes that offshore oil and natural gas development would interfere with rockets' flight patterns. NASA fears that giant platforms would interfere with low-altitude suborbital rockets or make missile launchings from its Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. much more difficult, Keith Koehler, a NASA spokesman. DoD may also have an interest since the Navy uses the area for military training.

"Costs associated with commercial space launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport could soar if there are a number of oil rigs in the commercial launch vehicle flight path requiring the production to be temporarily shutdown and oil workers removed from the ocean platforms for a countdown," notes Jack Kennedy, a member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Map of proposed drilling.

On Wednesday, the U.S Minerals Management Service kicked off a 45-day comment-seeking period, an early step toward a proposed lease sale of waters 50 miles off the coast of Virginia. The area could hold 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, MMS Director Randall Luthi said during a conference call Wednesday morning. The sale could take place as early as 2011, according to the Dow Jones Newswire.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he could support drilling as part of a more comprehensive energy plan. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has expressed support for natural-gas exploration off the shores of the state, a view shared by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb and Mark Warner, a Democrat who last week won the state's other Senate seat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama Transition of Science, Technology and Space Advances

Tom Wheeler is a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project's Agency Review Working Group responsible for the science, technology, space and arts agencies taking leave from his work Core Capital Partners, where he's a managing partner. The job before the group is outlined by Center for American Progress' Senior Fellow Rick Weiss' thought-provoking post on the subject at the science blog Science Progress. See Tom Wheeler on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obamanaut Co-Chair on Radio

Planetary Radio [audio] is conducting a two-week look-see into the 'Baracket Science' of the Obama Administration beginning with an interview of space activist and Obamanaut Tim Bailey. Next week, the new Roadmap to Space with Planetary Society Executive Director Dr. Lou Friedman.

Shuttle 60% Chance for GO Friday

NASA Space Shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said there was a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions at the 7:55 p.m. liftoff time for STS-126 Endeavour Friday and only a 40 percent chance on Saturday. Forecast.

A cold front approaching the Eastern United States is bringing dark clouds and rain. The best opportunity will be an on-time launch with the final countdown beginning tonight at 10 PM ET.

Endeavour launched in a cloud cover on a spring 2008 orbital mission providing spectators an unusual launch view. Mission planners will be consulting launch weather to ensure that winds and lightening pose no threat to the spacecraft during the climb to orbit.

FAA Recommends UN Commercial Space Flight Regime Development

The United Nations should be engaged to develop a commercial spaceflight safety regime recommends the Federal Aviation Administration proposing a model and following inital discussion with space and economic development officials in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Singapore, reports Flight International.

"It is too early for international safety standards on human space flight. Too early for an 'International Civil Aviation Organisation for space.' We recommend bringing the international issues into the United Nations process," says the FAA's John Sloan.

The FAA views this international approach as a basis for suborbital point-to-point transport, while the ICAO for space proposal it rejects would see a new commercial spaceflight department for the aviation regulatory body, according to Flight International.

Suborbital point-to-point spaceflight has a growing constituency (including the Virginia Legislature) within the United States and around the world.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander Deemed Dead

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ceased communications after operating for more than five months. As anticipated, seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments. Twitter has the probes dying words: "01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000," said the Mars robot on deathbed - - binary for "triumph".

Mission engineers last received a signal from the lander on Nov. 2. Phoenix, in addition to shorter daylight, has encountered a dustier sky, more clouds and colder temperatures as the northern Mars summer approaches autumn. The mission exceeded its planned operational life of three months to conduct and return science data. NPR Audio report.

Launched Aug. 4, 2007, Phoenix landed May 25, 2008, farther north than any previous spacecraft to land on the Martian surface. The lander dug, scooped, baked, sniffed and tasted the Red Planet's soil. Among early results, it verified the presence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, which NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter first detected remotely in 2002. Phoenix's cameras also returned more than 25,000 pictures from sweeping vistas to near the atomic level using the first atomic force microscope ever used outside Earth.

Direct From The Moon to Air Monday Nov. 17 9 PM on National Geographic


The National Geographic Channel will air "Direct From The Moon" [vid preview] as a part of the first annual Expedition Week airing on Monday, November 17, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The program will feature high-definition video of the moon's surface is being beamed directly back from just above the moon from Kaguya, according to an e-Mail from Minjae Ormes. Click the YouTube preview featuring Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and a preview of of the stunning HD video. "Direct From The Moon" is a feature not to be missed.

Kaguya Goes Into Extended Mode

The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft, in lunar orbit since last October, is now on an extended mission with four phases that will lead to an end of mission crash in August 2009 if all goes to JAXA plan (in Japanese), and provided by Junya Terazono.

Phase 1...100 km circular orbit* period: from Nov 2008 to mid-March 2009* operation: continue observation from 100 km circular orbit* mission: observation of elements distribution by Gamma-ray spcecrometer;

Phase 2...50 km circular orbit (lower orbit)* period: from mid-March 2009 to late April* operation: 50 km circular orbit* mission: acquisition of the magnetic field of lunar surface using magnetometer and plasma observation system. More detailed observation using HDTV (optional)and observation of other instruments within instruments' mechanical limit (optional);

Phase 3...elliptical orbit* Period: May 2009* operation: elliptical orbit, 20 km (perilune) at south pole and 100 km(apolune) at north pole* mission: same as phase 2. Additionally, topography and mineral distribution will be acquiredin the north pole in summer; and,

Phase 4...crash* Period: before August 2009* operation: controlled crash to the specified point in the nearside.* mission: observation campaingn.

STS-126 Countdown Starts Tuesday

Countdown to liftoff officially begins for STS-126 Tuesday Nov. 11 at 10 p.m. for NASA’s 27th space shuttle flight to the international space station as the seven astronauts make final training preperations with arrival at the Kennedy Space Center Tuesday at 4 p.m. A eye must be kept on weather conditions.

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, 45, [pictured above] is the first woman assigned as the lead spacewalker on a shuttle flight. Lift off of STS-126 Endeavour is scheduled for at 7:55 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 14 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. [video of crew] [video of launch thunder!]

India Prepares for Human Spaceflight

India is advancing its human spaceflight program with the construction of an 100 acre Astronaut Training Center near Bangalore now set for completion in 2012 to serve the nation's planned first human spaceflight in 2015, according to Flight International.

India would be the fourth nation behind Russia, the United States and China to place humans in low earth orbit (LEO). The Indian leadership is advancing space technologies rapidly to keep pace with the three human orbital missions conducted by the neighboring Chinese in Asia. More from WebIndia.

Indian astronauts may fly sooner to orbit however.

India and Russia have a proposal, dormant for sometime, for sending two Indians to the International Space Station before 2015. In fact, one of the sources said the flight could be as early as 2012.

India's spaceflight officials are considering a human mission to the Moon as a follow-on to their effort with Chandrayaan-I now in lunar orbit.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

NASA's Shana Dale on Presidential Transition at the Space Agency

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale has posted to the NASA BLOG about the President-elect Barack Obama's transition work at the federal space agency. More from The Hunstville Times.

"While NASA usually does not factor as a near-term decision for incoming Administrations, this year the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted Shuttle retirement as one of its top 13 urgent issues across the government," Ms. Dale said in the blog post. [Shana Dale Vid]

The GAO has urged the Obama administration to move quickly to nominate and fill key leadership positions within NASA because the decision on whether to retire or continue operating the Space Shuttle will need to be made soon. NPR provides a report on the transition including using Reagan's rise to power as a model.

Jeff Foust has more on the presidential transition in The Space Review.

Chandrayaan-1 Orbits the Moon!

India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has achieved lunar orbit today with a mission design to gather extensive data on the lunar surface including mineral mapping and a 3-D topography map according to the mission profile.

The Chandrayaan-1 is the third probe now in orbit around the moon with the Japanese and Chinese probes gathering lunar science data.

Future lunar missions will be sent to the moon by an array of nations to gather data for future human landing sites [vid] and outpost missions.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama Transition Rumors Abound

The appointment of an Obama Administration Secretary of Transportation has six names being mentioned now in the national media: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; Jane Garvey, former head of Federal Aviation Administration; Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of House transportation committee; Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; and, Mortimer Downey, former deputy transportation secretary. See Newsweek for more.

NewSpace bloggers have expressed concern with the mention of Rep. James Oberstar because of the potential of more commercial space flight regulation. However the Minnesota Congressman has told reporters that it would be "unlikely" that he would accept appointment as Secretary of Transportation.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine would be a GREAT choice with his demonstrated support for a state Spaceflight Liability & Immunity Act; ZeroGravity-ZeroTax Act and a multi-million dollar bond issue to build a new launch pad at the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport - a Pro-Space record! Kaine in an Obama cabinet mix brings about interesting scenarios.

Follow the Obama-Biden Transition Project here. The first presidential cabinet appointments are expected next week. The benchmark goal is to name the Cabinet members by Inauguration Day and 50 sub-Cabinet members in a month after Jan. 20.

Satellites to Monitor Carbon Emissions

While a space-based satellite system to effectively monitor Greenhouse Gases [GHGs] with pin point accuracy is said to be at least a decade away, research is underway to monitor emissions from space by the Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite in 2009 and the Japanese Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) this year.

Satellites may play a larger role in reduced carbon emissions by industries around the globe in the future using the data for regulatory monitoring in the post-Kyoto world. A new multinational treaty is expected to be adopted next year in which the United States will probably be a signatory.

Project Vulcan is a collaboration between Purdue University, The Department of Energy and NASA to map the extent of the United States' carbon emissions North American Carbon Program (NACP) to quantify North American fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at space and time scales much finer than has been achieved in the past using GIS maps [vid].

The purpose of Project Vulcan is to aid in quantification of the North American carbon budget, to support inverse estimation of carbon sources and sinks, and to support the demands posed by the launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO) scheduled for early 2009. Linked is a state-by-state profile of CO2 emissions. The project may be the forerunner of a more extensive satellite system to gain compliance with international treaty obligations and domestic laws.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

President-Elect Obama: A Space Fan?

President-Elect Barack Obama is a space fan, and a troubled NASA is counting on that, notes an Associated Press story. The Obama-Biden Transition Project will provide early indications of the nation's civil space program direction. The transition is spearheaded by John Podesta.

NASA doesn't have enough money to do all it has planned and is facing key decisions about its embryonic return-to-the-moon program, new rocketship and about-to-retire space shuttle program. The current NASA plan would have the space shuttle end in 2010 and astronauts not ready to fly in a new moon rocket until 2015. In the five years in between, America would have to rely on the Russians to take astronauts to the mostly U.S.-funded international space station. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has identified this as one of 13 critical issues awaiting presidential decision.

But the more significant issues will be who President Obama names as NASA Administrator; the re-establishment of the National Space Council; the funding requests to the Congress to boost the civil space program; and, the measures sought to boost the commercial space sector. More from the GAO Report.

The Obama campaign said it supports a "robust" program of robotic probes and space-based telescopes and satellites. It also emphasized education and NASA's role in climate change research.

MSNBC notes the loss of NASA Congressional supports on the House Science Committee in last Tuesday's election. More from the Space Politics Blog.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

SpaceX Introduces DragonLabTM

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is introducing a new commercial product called DragonLab™, a free-flying, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space. DragonLab will launch to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

DragonLab provides a platform for in-space experimentation, including recovery of pressurized and some unpressurized payloads, as well as deployment of small spacecraft. As a complete system, DragonLab provides for all aspects of operation: propulsion, power, thermal control, environmental control, avionics, communications, thermal protection, flight software, guidance, navigation and control, entry, descent and landing and recovery.

SpaceX will host a DragonLab Users Workshop on November 6, 2008. This workshop will be an opportunity for potential customers to fully explore DragonLab's capabilities, as well as present customer-specific interests and requirements. The workshop agenda includes an overview of the Dragon spacecraft, concept of operations, payload accommodations and cost parameters.

"Just as importantly," said Max Vozoff, Product Manager for Dragon and DragonLab and host of the Users Workshop, "we will hear from potential users about their applications, requirements, and concerns, as well as discuss contracting mechanisms. We will also include a tour of our 550,000 square foot SpaceX manufacturing facility where we design and build all major systems for SpaceX launch vehicles and spacecraft.

"SpaceX is currently manufacturing the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle to provide the U.S. with cargo services to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. The maiden flight of Dragon/Falcon 9 is currently scheduled for June 2009 from SpaceX's Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two subsequent flights will be completed by 2010, culminating with Dragon berthing with the ISS.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Worldwide Telescope Adds Features

The WorldWide Telescope has enabled several new features the past week brought about by Microsoft Research. These new features bring an even richer visualization environment to the more than 1 million current WorldWide Telescope users and those who have yet to download the free application at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/.

The new features include:
  1. Three-Dimensional Solar System. View the entire solar system in 3Dwith light and shadows created from the sun. You can also watchplanets orbit around the sun and moons orbit around planets.
  2. 1,000 New Images. More than 1,000 new panoramas and surveys from the Hubble, Spitzer, Mars and other earth and space-based telescopeshave been added.
  3. WorldWide Telescope Wallpaper. Easily create your own Windows desktop wallpaper from views of any object in WorldWide Telescope.
  4. Localized Content. WorldWide Telescope now offers a fully functioning simplified Chinese version. (Other languages will be added, but that plan in still in development).

Astronauts Push Obama; One Demurs

Former Apollo 9 astronaut and international plantary defense advocate Russell "Rusty" Schweickart has endorsed the Democratic presidential campaign Barack Obama by launching a door-to-door effort in the swing state of Florida this weekend.

"This is the best thing since JFK," Schweickart said. "He put me in, Obama is taking us back."

Schweickart, who was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997, was the Lunar Module pilot on the first NASA mission to test the moon landing vehicle in space; and, he is the founder and past president of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE).

Schweickart is among several astronauts to have endorsed the presidential bid of Barack Obama among them Dr. Sally Ride, Dr. Kathy Thornton, Dr. Don Barry, John Glenn and Bill Nelson. [Audio]

Over the weekend however, Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham toured cities around Florida to help promote Republican hopeful Sen. John McCain’s campaign by backing the candidate and his space platform. McCain is pushing hard to close the Electoral College gap.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

2009 Solar Eclipse Coming July 22

Astronomers and solar eclipse enthusiasts are now looking to the coastal villages of China near Shanghai and Hangzhou for the best viewing locations [map] on Earth as the Wednesday 22 July 2009 6-minute Total Solar Eclipse known as Great Saros 136 comes.

Six minutes is an eternity to an eclipse junkie! The Saros 136 solar eclipse is the longest total solar eclipse that will occur in the twenty-first century, and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13, 2132! Many are planning travel to China now reports USA Today. Video of University of North Dakota group at the 2008 Total Solar Eclipse in China.