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Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama Makes NASA Interim Appointments

The Obama Administration has announced several interim leadership changes for NASA, which became effective Monday.

Christopher Scolese, NASA's associate administrator, will serve as acting administrator until a successor to Michael Griffin has been nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Ronald Spoehel, NASA's chief financial officer and a political appointee from the previous Administration, has been asked tocontinue in his present position. Several other posts usually held by political appointees will have acting leaders until the positions are filled by the Administration.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NASA HALTS SPACE STATION CARGO CONTRACTS AMID PROTEST AT GAO

Irene Klotz is reporting that NASA has suspended work on space station commercial cargo contracts awarded to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation after PlanetSpace filed a formal contract award protest with the General Accountability Office (GAO). More from MSNBC and FloridaToday.

The protest may slow work at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia as it prepares to host the launch of the first Taurus-2 booster to serve as one of the boosters to loft space station supplies to low earth orbit in late 2010.

SpaceX will use the Falcon-9 and plans to launch from Cape Canveral, Florida in 2009.

Methane on Mars May Lead to Bacteria

Methane plumes on Mars first discovered in 2003 may be from microbe life underground or unforeseen volcanic vents according to NASA scientists. Scientists seek to determine if the gas is the product of an interaction between rock and ice or if is released by microbial life. More from The Washington Post, The SUN, The Times of London, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and the BBC. [NASA Mars Press Conference Vid 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

NASA Press Conference on Mars Atmosphere: life or geologic activity?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will hold a science update at 2 p.m. EST, Thursday, Jan. 15, to discuss analysis of the Martian atmosphere that raises the possibility of life or geologic activity. The briefing will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St., S.W., Washington, and carried live on NASA Television.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Spacecraft Pitched to Obama

A replacement for the Ares I and Ares V is being 'pitched' by a group of rouge NASA rocket scientists reports Popular Mechanics. The new spacecraft designs are known as the Jupiter 120 and Jupiter 232 or the more commonly known by the moniker "Jupiter Direct" or DIRECT or Direct v2.0.

Earth-to-Mars in Three Days!?

Earth-to-Mars in three days! OK? Tell me more.

That is what the Magnetic and Electrostatic Nuclear Fusion Reactor, or simply CrossFire Fusor, apparatus designed by 40 year old Brazilian Moacir L. Ferreira Jr. for confining and fusing light atomic nucleus at expressive rates releasing a tremendous amount of energy intended mainly for thrusting a spacecraft promises [patent pending]!

To better understand fusion see the Fusion 2100 vid.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Buckle-up: The Wait is Over!

Many-a-child of Apollo were taken by the missions of Captain James T. Kirk of the StarShip Enterprise. On 05.08.09 the Star Trek wait will be over. Buckle-up!

Roving From the Moon to Obama!

President Barack Obama's Washington, D.C. inauguration parade will include the newly designed pressurized lunar rover [video-1] the afternoon of Wednesday, January 20, 2009 [video-2]. Recent questions posed: 1] "Any information on how much of a solar storm this design could weather without serious health risk to the crew?" 2] "Will it be necessary to restrict its range [on the moon] under solar radiation considerations?"

Comet Lulin to be Naked-Eye Visable

SpaceWeather reports that Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3), discovered in 2007 by a collaborative team of Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers, is swinging around the sun and approaching Earth. The photogenic comet has a bright tail and an "anti-tail" visible in mid-sized backyard telescopes. At closest approach in February, Comet Lulin is expected to brighten to naked-eye visibility [video].

Comet Lulin is expected to reach peak brightness around the time of closest approach, on February 23/24 along side Saturn in the sky. On that date, it will lie approximately 0.41 AU from Earth and shine around 5th magnitude, which would be visible to the unaided eye from a dark site. But it may grow brighter than this, and the good news is it is already sporting a tail - two, to be precise.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Asteroid Survey Continues to 2012

Kitt Peak National Observatory in southern Arizona.

NASA has awarded a grant in the amount of $3.16 million to the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey for the purpose of continuing to search the nearby solar system for potential Earth threatening asteroids through Apirl 2012 [More from The Arizona Daily Star].

Managed by Dr. Stephen M. Larson of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the survey has discovered about 70 percent of all NEOs found in past thirty-six months with a tally of 565 NEO discoveries in 2008, which broke its record-setting number of 460 NEO discoveries in 2007 [CNN].

The primary target of the search are Near Earth Objects, about the size of 10 football fields, traveling through space that have come or are predicted to come within 130 million miles of Earths sun, making them a risk to hit Earth.

Spacewatch (also at the University of Arizona and Kitt Peak National Observatory) is also associated with the ongoing detection program started in 1998. NASA has been charged with finding threatening asteroids and some within the space agency have worked on a pro-active defense.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bolden New NASA Administrator?

President-elect Barack Obama is said to be considering former NASA astronaut and retired Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., USMC, as the new NASA administrator according to long-time space correspondent Jay Barbree of NBC.

However, Space News Examiner's Patricia Phillips reports that she has contacted Bolden who reportedly said: "I'm incredibly honored my name would be floated around. But nobody's talked to me, no one in an official capacity. And I haven't been contacted by the transition team." [video]

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Bolden's name "has been shopped around by Obama transition team members to various space industry leaders in recent days to gauge their reaction" and that Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is acting as the "champion" of the former astronaut to be the next NASA administrator.

The current head of Obama’s transition team, Lori Garver, is hoping to be deputy administrator, according to one report.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Europe to Launch IXV in 2012


The European Space Agency will launch the IXV [Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle] onboard a new Vega booster rocket [Vega info] from the Kourou, French Guiana spaceport in 2012. The mission is essential to development of critical technologies for future robotic or manned spacecraft by testing brand-new European atmospheric re-entry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases [Audio/Video by ESA*****]. ESA is also planning a human rated ATV [video].

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mining the Moon on Discovery Channel

When Humankind returns to the Moon, this time the plan is to mine its surface for hidden resources. Elements like hydrogen and oxygen, trapped in the lunar soil, are the keys to a permanent colony and for future missions to Mars and beyond. The Discovery Channel will explore Mining the Moon TV-G on Jan 21, 10:00 pm and again Jan 22, 2:00 am with a 60-minute program, according to Charles F. Radley. See Video 1 and Video 2 for lunar astronauts 'Jack' Schmitt (Apollo 17) and Ed Mitchell (Apollo 14) commentary on Mining the Moon.

The Battle for Planet Pluto Redux

Entrance to the Lowell Observatory.
Mark V. Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, hopes to get the 2006 ruling by the the International Astronomical Union (IAU) meeting in Prague overturned at the next general assembly meeting of the group to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August reports The Indpendent, UK [video] and [Sykes commentary]. This debate will certainly be one of the most significant planetary battles of 2009.

First discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona by young astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto was officially named and labeled as the ninth planet by the International Astronomical Union in 1930. Its name was based on the Roman god of the underworld, Hades and also rumored to be the initials of the man who carved the path to discovery: Percival Lowell (P.L.uto).

The NASA New Horizons mission is enroute to Pluto with a flyby set for July 2015 [Video Mission Update].

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Five Years on Mars: Rovers Still Going

The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is today now five years and going on the surface of Mars and the robots work still ongoing along with the twin rover Opportunity. The rover Spirit landed January 3, 2004, with Opportunity touching down 21 days later. More from the Arizona Republic, MSNBC, BBC and CNN.

PlanetSpace May Contest NASA Award to Orbital Sciences Corporation

Chicago-based PlanetSpace may contest the $1.9 billion dollar NASA contract award to Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation to provide re-supply to the International Space Station from a Virginia commercial spaceport, The Wall Street Jorunal reports.

Both Virginia and Maryland are expecting significant economic development benefits from the NASA contract to Orbital Sciences Corporation. Virginia is investing $26-million in a new spaceport launch pad and related infrastructure and waiving state income tax on the NASA COTS contract this year. The Virginia and Maryland Congressional delegations are now paying much more attention to the NASA contract deal which may cause pause among Boeing, LockMart, and ATK in the end as how to proceed from here.

Orbital Sciences will launch the new Taurus-2 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located on Wallops Island, VA. with the first test flight tentatively set for late 2010.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Obama To Consider NASA-Pentagon Links to Advance Lunar Program?

"President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China," writes Demian McLean for Bloomberg News.

China is planning to have its own space station in the next few years as follow-on to its new three member crew and spacewalking capability. A Chinese spacecraft went into lunar orbit in late in 2007 marking the first of several lunar missions being planned including perhaps a human mission by 2020 by the world's most populated nation.

Meanwhile, an ad hoc space policy group at MIT has urged President-elect Obama to seek greater space cooperation with China.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Falcon 9 Assembled at the Cape

The SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket booster has been assembled at Cape Canaveral December 31, 2008; and, it is set to be errected and set vertical for launch later this year from Launch Complex 40 [launch sim video and Elon Musk Cape Tour video]. The Falcon 9 and the Taurus 2 of Orbital Sciences Corporation are expected to provide re-supply services for the International Space Station under NASA COTS contract beginning 2010/2011. The Japanese and European space agencies have their own re-supply vehicles.

Next Space Shuttle Launch Feb. 12

The last space shuttle of 2008 was an awesome sight (and last night launch of the program) under a full moon.

The next space shuttle flight is STS-119 Discovery set to begin February 12, 2009 [the 125th space shuttle flight) to continue with the final phases of the International Space Station construction. STS-119 will be one of the last remaining nine flights of the space transportation system first launched in 1981. The shuttle could fly an additional time but only if extended by the Obama Administration this year.

Japan HTV to Launch in Late 2009

The Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle [video] is slated to launch [simulation] in September 2009 by a H2B rocket to carry supplies to the International Space Station.

The H-2 Transfer Vehicle will join the resupply effort now being conducted by Russian-made Progress spacecraft and the European Automated Transfer Vehicle.

American private launch firms Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX are building resupply vehicles for test launches in the months ahead under contract with NASA.

Europeans to Launch Largest Space Telescope in February

The Herschel and Planck Space Observatories are slated for launch next month aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Centre at near Kourou in French Guiana South America.

Herschel, the largest telescope ever launched, will study objects within and outside our Galaxy. It will be able to peer through clouds of gas and dust and observe stars as they form to see new worlds as never seen before.

Unlike Herschel, Planck will rotate continuously about its axis, scanning the whole sky to compile the most detailed and complete map ever of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. This CMB radiation is the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, which occurred about 14 thousand million years ago.

The Herschel and Planck Space Observatories will provide sensational results for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. [music video]