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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Manber Asks 'Where are we going?"

Ex-MirCorp president Jeff Manber talks Ares 1-x with Russia Today and the so-called 'gap' in American human spaceflight and what President Obama may do with the future of civil space launch capability and development.

Ex-MirCorp Chief Talks Space Future

RT's Dina Gusovsky speaks to space expert Jeff Manber.

Fast Forward: The Case Builds for P2P

The thought-provoking White Paper: GETTING FASTER: A Case for High Speed Point-to-Point Flight as a Logical Transition Between Suborbital Space Tourism and Low-Cost, Reusable Space Access was released at the 2009 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight being held October 21st in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is worthy of the read.

The FastForward study group is an ad-hoc study group consisting of major aerospace contractors, emerging new space companies, spaceports, key federal government agencies, and academic representatives. It is an all-volunteer effort formed in August 2008 currently consisting of more than 20 invited organizations and hosted by SpaceWorks Commercial (Atlanta, GA). Derek Webber is among the participants. He conducted a recent GoogleTalks about the progress and referencing a now-defunct but ahead-of-the-curve effort in Virginia.

The focus of the group is on pre-competitive analysis and assessment of future global high speed point-to-point (PTP) passenger and cargo services. The study group produces technical papers and white papers on topics of PTP transportation for use by our members and the community at-large Members meet regularly by telecon, support a range of conference and panels, and use virtual collaboration tools to conduct business and exchange ideas.

Innovation: The Key to Prosperity

BOOK REVIEW: The very recently published book INNOVATION: The key to prosperity by Aris Melissaratos and N.L. Slabbert is quite the interesting and nugget packed book. Taken aback, this Blogger was, by the advocacy of MagLev train technology as a means to spark a transport revolution in America at the start of the book.

Maybe it was from the experience riding the Shanghi MagLev the past July; or, perhaps, it is my SiFi-thing of utilization of MagLev trains on the Moon to boost payload to orbit, I don't know. But this Blogger was impressed by the notion that MagLev technology should be pushed by the nation as a new alternative for rapid transport.

At one point the book caused me to have some anxiety from the realization that we are mindfully neglecting innovation in this nation and living largely upon the innovations of the World War II generation. Nothing is new only modern forms of prior inventions. It made me uncomfortable while reading those passages.

Aris Melissaratos is an interesting fellow within the Mid-Atlantic Region and appears to have been a major contributor to innovation-thought. But American East-West and North-South MagLev trains, such as those in Japan is advocated. This blogger accepted the premise proposed by the authors that now is the time for America to take the lead in this technology - among others. A MagLev train could go from New York City to Atlanta in 4 hrs. FOUR HOURS!

The author impressed me right from the start with his historic discussion of Abe Lincoln. In Lincoln's day "the transcontinental railroad, which in those days was as new-fangled an idea as you could get." But "Lincoln was a railroad lawyer, representing and supporting the leaders of technological change. Putting a railroad advocate in the mid-19th Century White House was like electing an ardent magnetic levitation, artificial intelliegnce, nanotechnology, or Mars colonization proponent today." WOW! Changed my view and historic outlook of Old Abe indeed.

This book is much more than advocacy of MagLev, it attempts to reach the essence of why America needs to be an innovation nation again.

Technoeconomy vs. Technocracy dichotomies is the nugget in Gangale's Book

BOOK REVIEW: Thomas Gangale's recent 2009 book entitled The Development of Outer Space: Sovereignty and Property Rights in International Space Law is a unique niche interest work worth the read for those who are fascinated by the prospects of multiple nations settling human outposts on celestial bodies' off-Earth.

Gangale provides critical yet constructive analysis of other international legal commentators on property rights in space. The primary thesis is focused on the premise that technology development is the barrier to outer space development, not the current state of international space law and treaties.

The book writer reviews the Moon Treaty at length discussing various aspects of property rights and the theory of "the common heritage of mankind." He takes a critical look of the writings of others in this legal niche and enables the reader to consider an alternative view to other commentators. Gangale is specifically critical of The Space Settlement Prize which seeks to propose American federal legislation requiring the recognition of extraterrestrial real property claims as flawed.

Gangale advocates inclusion of China in international space regimes so as to further embed the nation into current space operational legal regimes. He advocates an interplanetary political economy based upon market forces and advocates the adoption of the so-called Regency of United Societies in Space. The author notes that "we have yet to become a true spacefaring civilization; we are merely a space-capable civilization."

There is an acceptance of the technocratic model for initial development of outer space. He notes the need for balance between the "technoeconomy-technocracy" dichotomies associated with a push-pull relationship of space development that this reader found an extremely interesting insight on the rapidly growing national space program efforts around the world and within the American civil and commercial space sectors.

While this book is not for everyone, it certainly is worth the read for anyone having a strong interest in space law and the economic development regimes of the nascent space economy coming rapidly in the 21st Century. To those with the niche interest, I say buy this book. It will make you think.

Friday, October 30, 2009

WINNER? Masten Space Systems in the Running for the NASA Million Dollar Prize

The Masten Space Systems team took the controversial lead in the million-dollar prize from NASA for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge's Level 2 contest. Here is more from Alan Boyles. More details from the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, a team called Unreasonable Rocket is trying to fly a rocket in a lower level of the competition; and, on its first attempt the rocket skittered across the pad and tipped over. On the second try it simply depressurized, blasting gas skyward like a teakettle.

Russian President Medvedev Backs New Nuclear-Powered Spaceship for 2021

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is said to be backing the design and construction of a new nuclear-powered spaceship for prospective human missions into the solar system according to Anatoly Perminov, the Russian federal space chief.

Perminov indicated that a megawatt-class nuclear reactor design could be completed by 2012 with the first test flights of a Russian-made nuclear-propulsion spaceship by 2021. Noting the challenging aspects of the high-energy, high-tech system, Perminov says that there is considerable Soviet and Russian research in the field on which to build such a human spacecraft.

"The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs, including a manned mission to Mars, interplanetary travel, the creation and operation of planetary outposts," Perminov's Web statement said and as being reported by Associated Press.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: The United States should embark into deep space with an Ares-V heavy-lift booster to get a real propulsion system into low Earth orbit. The American test for the near-term space future may well be in the propulsion system designs for long-term competitive deep space operations in the now rapidly globalizing human space launch capability.

NASA's Constellation program does have a mission beyond LEO and Cislunar while ceding yet subsidizing the rapidly developing commercial space launch market into LEO and lunar activities. The American way is to explore and build market economies at the same time.

India: $3 Billion for Human Launch Program

India is developing a human-rated launch system and expects it to be ready by 2016 to ferry gaganauts to Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) in a three-person crew space capsule. The human crew will be boosted to space atop of a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII rocket. India's space aganecy awaits expected year-end approval of a $3-billion budget to puruse the human launch program.

India' human space launch team is working with Russia's Federal Space Agency, which helped China with its manned space program, in the development of a training and human space flight regime.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SRB of Ares 1-x Suffers Dent on Splashdown

The Ares 1-x sustained some damage upon splashdown 120-miles off the coast of the Kennedy Space Center when it first-stage parachute recovery system failed to operate as designed.

"Only one parachute deployed properly. One parachute failed and wrapped around the third partially deployed parachute," according to an e-mail status report obtained by Florida Today. William Harwood writes for CBS News about the parachute system failure. NASA Watch looks at a stagging issue as well.

Ares 1 x Off the Pad

Amid the large crowd at the Banana Creek VIP site, dominated by firststage workers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, other NASA space agency officials and invited onlookers, the Ares 1-x demonstrator took roaring to the sky over Kennedy Space Center this week. Here is the official NASA video of "testing concepts for [a] new rocket design."

Credit must be given to the Ares 1x launch team for keeping the booster green for launch for the 4-hr. each, two-day window waiting the right upper atmospheric conditions with the count holding at 4-minutes time and again while astronauts flew jets checking the conditions high above the launch pad. There was some crowd frustration with the busy flight weather officer as the dynamic conditions made weather a green and red again situation over and over again numerous times nearly 7.5 hours of the combined 8-hours. But finally, in the last thirty minutes of the last window of the two-day opportunity, the Ares 1x flew [music].

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kilgore to Seek to Remove Human Space Flight Liability and Immunity Sunset Clause

Virginia, the first state to adopt a human space flight liability and immunity statute, may review the 2007 law to remove a July 1, 2013 sunset provision to conform the state law with those subsequently enacted in Florida in 2008 and Texas in 2009 if State Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Gate City, VA) proceeds with the bill as now planned.

Kilgore patroned the original law enacted by the legislature in 2007. The 2010 Virginia General Assembly will convene in Richmond next January with a new governor. State Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott County, VA), chair of the civil law subcommittee, plans to offer legislation to remove the sunset provision now a part of the Space Flight Liability and Immunity law.

Kilgore's space flight legislation has the backing of space advocates in his district including the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council. Three public school teachers from his district this month flew on ZeroGravity flights to promote STEM education in rural southwestern Virginia. The flights were sponsored by the regional technology council, the Big Stone Gap Masonic Lodge No. 208, and Northrop Grumman Corporation. More ZeroGravity flights are being planned from among his teacher and student constituents in 2010.

Space politics has raised to a new level in Virginia with both Robert McDonnell and Creigh Deeds, candidates for governor in the November election, offering levels of support for the fledgling commercial space industry and the commercial spaceport along Virginia's coast.

NASA Centennial Challenges Won in 2009

NASA prize monies are being won in 2009 with the Regolith Excavation Challenge yielding $750,000 and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge on the cusp of handing out over one million more in prize dollars leaving NASA seeking new prize challenges in technology to explore in 2010. The Economist has an article discussing the NASA lunar prize entitled "Space hopper" looking at the prize incentives from a government agency. The video above is of the first qualifying flight of the Masten Space Systems vehicle 'Xombie' in the 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lagrange Points, Space Truckers and NASA

National Public Radio released two stories today entitled: "NASA's New Space Race Needs Life Support;" and another story on the nature of commercial crew launch developments entitled "Space Truckers Arn't Science Fiction Anymore." A third NPRA story is entitled "To The Moon ... And Lagrange Points?" Each are avialble in audio.

Spaceport Seeks New Deputy Director in VA

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority panel will begin to review applications for the deputy director position next month in northern Virginia from among the several applicants. The selection, expected before year end, will mark growth in the utlilization of the FAA-licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia with numerous launches now building in the manifest.

Among the planned orbital launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island include several commercial cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station and a NASA civil lunar orbiter mission. New launches will begin March 31, 2011 on Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Science Corporation-made boosters.

While there was discussion of the NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program among the authority members and the commercial and civil space policy decisions to be made in Washington, the authority did not take a formal position. NASA is expected to sign initial agreements next month for start-up of commercial crew launch development.

Weather Watch: Ares 1 x Demo Ready

The now controversial NASA Ares 1x demonstrator has passed flight readiness review and rests on the Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39-B awaiting a Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8 AM launch signal, if weather cooperates.

In other words, there are no technical reasons why the unmanned rocket can not fly Tuesday as planned.

Nonetheless, scattered thunderstorms are predicted for the Cape Canaveral, Fla., area on launch day. Because it's the first flight of the new Ares demonstrator rocket, NASA engineers are being extra cautious, not only because of the craft's tall, slender shape but also because of the need to have ideal conditions in which to collect data about its stability and flight characteristics. There is a 40% chance of acceptable conditions Tuesday but it only needs a 10-minute launch window in the four hour opportunity.

This will be NASA's first test flight for a new crew launch vehicle since the first space shuttle was launched in 1981. It will be a historic moment in the New Space Age.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Full Human Space Flight Report Released

The full report of the Review of the Human Space Flight Plans Committee has been released today. Exceeding 150-pages, the report has nine chapters worthy of reading if the reader is to be properly armed to engage in the space policy debate ahead.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Augustine Full Report Coming Thursday; Salvo Comes from Alabama Sen. Shelby

UPDATE: On the eve of the full report of Human Space Flight Review Committee, Alabama United States Senator Richard Shelby attacked the committee's full report as "worthless" in a speech on the Senate floor earlier today [video] in what many observers deem as a warning to the White House about the space politics ahead.

Meanwhile, Human Space Flight Review Committee Chairman Norman Augustine will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. EDT, on Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, in Washington. NASA-TV will webcast the press conference.

Augustine will be accompanied by committee member Ed Crawley. Printed copies of the committee's final report will be available during the press conference and an electronic copy of the report will be posted to the committee's Web site at the start of the briefing.

President Obama is expected to study the full report with the presidential science advisor and the NASA Administrator to formulate federal budget plans for the civil space program. Indications from the NASA administrator and unamed White House sources point to the United States building a new Ares V-like heavy-lift booster and cede to the commercial sector launches to Low Earth Orbit for the so-called 'Dash Out' option.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Regolith Excavation Challenge Has Winners!

Three Moon-bot teams won $750,000 in NASA prizes the past Sunday in the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge, designed to foster innovation in the development of robots capable of digging up lunar soil at some point in the near-term future.

The California Space Authority-sponsored event held at NASA Ames gave the first-place prize of $500,000 to Paul's Robotics of Worcester, Mass;. Terra Engineering of Gardena, Calif., second-place prize of $150,000; and Team Braundo of Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., won $100,000 for its third-place showing. MORE from MSNBC and NASA Watch.

Space Science Astronomy Has Impact

[2 hr video] Astronomy, one of the worlds oldest sciences, has benefited greatly since the advent of space science fifty years ago. Space science allows an ever expanding horizon for astronomy as evidenced by current and future telescopes based in space (Hubble, James Webb, etc.). This plenary, organised by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), covered related topics including an overview of astronomy from space at the IAC2009 held in South Korea last week.

Space Adventures to Use Private Soyuz in 2014 for Two Paying Orbital Passengers

Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd. may not gain access to a privately contracted Soyuz tourist launch until 2014 Russian Space Agency Alexey Krasnov told Flightglobal's Rob Coppinger in South Korea for the the International Astronautical Congress last week.

Krasnov explained that enabling a private Soyuz flight would take four or five years because the vehicle's operations have to change and the pilot's training regime has to be altered. This is because there would be one pilot and two tourists and not one other cosmonaut and one passenger in remarks to Coppinger.

Space Adventures has been touting the possibilities of working with the Russians for private tourist flights utilizing extra Soyuz boosters. India's space officials have also been in contact with the Russian space agency requesting assistance and to use the Soyuz for space tourist flights. Russians, however, are apt to adapt favorably to any changing condition that would open the market to extra seats for the private sector.

Ares 1-X Now on Pad 39-B at KSC

The Ares 1-X demonstrator text flight hardware is now at launch pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center making an overnight trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the pad. Launch is now set between 8 AM and 12:00 PM on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. It will be an unmanned test of a newly configured first stage. The Ares-1 rocket's future will be much debated over the next few weeks. Here are some of the Ares 1-X rollout videos - one, two and three.

Monday, October 19, 2009

32 Exo-Planets Found: Total Over 400

Ares 1-X to Roll to Launch Pad 39-B Tonight

UPDATE: The Ares 1-X is scheduled to roll to Launch Pad 39-B (vid tour) TUESDAY beginning at 12:01 AM for a new dawn of spaceflight. The rocket will be televised on the seven-hour roll-out and launch on NASA-TV. More from Reuters.

The launch control team at the NASA Kennedy Space Center will commence the final launch campaign preperations with the mobile crawler literally rolling out the new Ares I-X rocket on October 20 at midnight from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to launch pad 39B for the countdown to a Tuesday, October 27 launch between 8:00 – 12:00 EDT.

The Ares 1-x flight may help determine the next program of human spaceflight that the American space industry will be asked to undertake by President Barrack Obama and Washington Congressional policymakers.

If the Ares booster continues to have the space agency leadership support, it may well boost the Orion crew capsule that will carry the next American astronauts to orbit around the Moon. The United States first put humans in orbit around the Moon in 1968 and has not returned them to lunar orbit in more than thirty-seven years. No other nation has placed humans around the Moon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Global Space Agency Heads Address the IAC

The space agency heads from around the world provided a rapid overview on their current respective national and international programs and insight into future plans, giving views on actual developments and potential international opportunities among the spacefaring nations.

Among the participants in the approximately 90-minute session, in order of presentations, were: Joo-Jin Lee, President, Korea Aerospace Research Institute; Charles Bolden, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, European Space Agency (ESA); Anatoly Perminov, Head, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos); G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); Keiji Tachikawa, President, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA); and Steve MacLean, President, Canadian Space Agency.

The presentations and subsequent discussion provides the observer insights as to the capabilities of two (Russia and America) of the three primary (China not included here) and many of the secondary second-level space technology players on the world scene. The clear signal was made that India will become the fourth human space flight team. China and India have repeatedly signaled the desire to become part of the international space station partnership.

The Russian Roscosmos seemed to stress plans to lower the cost of spaceflight and be competitve in the space launch markets with a focus on the heavy-lift capability during the questioning session. The Russians indicated the desire to continue a strong play in human space flight.

NASA Administrator Bolden noted that enhanced international cooperation is deemed vital and that the United States would focus on a heavy-lift capability pointing to the development of the Ares-V booster to dash out of low earth orbit. The agency chief also noted that the American commercial sector will be supported. Routine spaceflight costs must be driven down by changes in propulsion systems. Presidential science advisor John Holdren and Bolden will meet with the President Obama very soon to discuss future American space policy.

In summary, there appears to be a robust civil space program globaly especially evident when one views the clarity of intent of the Chinese and the probable intent of the United States to build the largest heavy-lift capacity in the world over the next decade with commercial firms playing a larger role in LEO access.

China Provides Clarity of Space Intent at IAC

The 60th International Astronautical Congress held in Daejeon, South Korea, Thursday 15 October 2009 Late Breaking News session concerned the Chinese space program which included plans for the future including human space flights, space labs and the lunar exploration program. It was noted that the Chinese are studying a Mars orbiter in 2013. The Congress drew some 3,000 delegates from more than 70 countries for the five-day [Oct. 12-16] IAC held at the Daejeon Convention Center.

The Times of London reviews the Chinese space effort in a piece by Michael Sheridan.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brazil-Ukraine to Take Cyclone-4 Commercial

The Ukrainian-made Tsyklon-4 (Cyclone-4) will launch from the space complex at Brazil's Alcantara Space Center prior to the end of 2010. The Alcântara Cyclone Space Binational company, ACS, is responsible for the commercialization and operation of launch services using the Cyclone-4 launch vehicle from its launch site in Alcântara.

There are also plans to launch several international rockets from Alcântara. In addition to the launch of the Ukrainian Tsyklon-4, the Israeli Shavit rockets, the Russian Proton rocket and the Chinese Long March 4 are said to be in the works for Brazil's favorable equatorial launch pads. Exactly how much of the commercial orbital space launch business will be conducted from Brazil is yet to be seen since the launch history has been sounding rockets.

LCROSS to Earth: "Da Plume! Da Plume!"

NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) did capture digital images of each phase of the impact sequence: the impact flash, the ejecta plume, and the creation of the Centaur crater. More from, NASA, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Times. The image above shows a mile-high plume of lunar debris from the Cabeus crater shortly after the space agency's Centaur rocket struck Oct. 9.

Required to Leave Earth: Where to go?

American spacecraft have largely provided an unique remote sensing survey of a very significant moons among the plants in our solar system. Missions are now ongoing to major asteroids and far flung Pluto. But should you desire to do a quick survey look at the video Alien Moons. You might find a second choice to Earth if required to depart to a new world, and that is exactly what one professor has studied.

The University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has provided a quantitative evaluation of habitability to identify the potential habitats in our solar system if humans were forced to leave the Earth. It is known as the "Quantitative Habitability Theory" (QH theory).

"Interestingly, Enceladus resulted as the object with the highest subsurface habitability in the solar system, but too deep for direct exploration. Mars and Europa resulted as the best compromise between habitability and accessibility, " says biophysicist Abel Mendez who produced the study of alien moon world human habitability as reported in Universe Today.

The Technology of 'Space Wars' Displayed

President Barack Obama has American space policy under review from civil and commercial space exploration to the future prospects of the military space war fighter. The History Channel produced a wonderful program entitled The Universe: 'SpaceWars' zooming out to the end of the 21st Century and back with space warfare technology now under development and possible deployment. Don't miss this video.

'Tank on the Moon' Will Rise Again?

'Back to the USSR' and the too little told story of the success of the first lunar robotic rover is told. In the nearly one-hour video entitled: 'Tank on the Moon,' the story is told about the Lunokhod project remaining the only lunar robot rovers operated on the Moon beginning in the 1960's.

Soon in the 21st Century Space Age future, India, Russia, and China will be about the now better known and mapped lunar surface resources. Geological resources mapped and identified by European, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and American lunar orbital spacecraft over the past several months and continuing through this very day may prove to be a treasurer trove upon reflective analysis.

Nonetheless, the 1960's Soviet technology associated with the Lunokhod project is worthy of review by any nation or private sector group endevoring to operate on the surface of the Moon. Google Lunar X-Prize robot rovers built in the global commercial environment may well be roaming the Moon too (2.0).

IBEX Science: Our Place in the Galaxy

New physics!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Human Space Flight Report Due Next Week

NASA and White House officials are said to be coalescing around the idea of sending astronauts on deep space missions to near-Earth objects and potentially the moons of Mars, reports Space News. White House sources are saying that sending astronauts on asteroid rendezvous and Mars flyby missions - called the the critical path exploration option by the presidential review panel - appears to be favored. The single most important element revolves around the federal outlay required for the federal space agency.

Sources both within the administration and close to it say an increase along the lines suggested by the Augustine panel is being weighed. Such an increase would add almost $1 billion to the space exploration budget in 2011, ramping up to about $3 billion annually by 2014.

If President Obama adopts the so-called "critcal path" as his own, an American human lunar landing in the next decade may be an option left open to a future presidential administration or an international civil effort or a commercial lunar endeavor. Ramping-up American human spaceflight is critical to innovation and the American economy. Perhaps President Obama realizes high-technology is the nation's economic innovation solution.

NPR: Moon Investigated; Solar Bubble Found

Paul D. Spudis, a Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, was on National Public Radio Talk of the Nation Next Stop: the Moon, today with Ira Flatow. Spudis is author of the blog 'The Once and Future Moon.'

NPR's Science Friday host Ira Flatow also reported today on the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft last year to investigate the edges of the heliosphere — the insulating bubble the sun creates around the solar system. IBEX principal investigator David McComas tells radio listeners on the first surprising results. More about this story in video one and two.

Commercial Spaceflight: All Systems Go

NASA should push the frontiers. The private sector can handle the business of low Earth orbit.

Pulished in The Wall Street Journal, the following is by astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Ken Bowersox, Jake Garn, Robert Gibson, Hank Hartsfield, John Herrington, Byron Lichtenberg, John Lounge, Rick Searfoss, Norman Thagard, Kathryn Thornton, Jim Voss and Charles Walker:

As crew members who have flown aboard spacecraft such as America's Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, we know that exploring space is a worthwhile and challenging endeavor. Increased use of public-private partnerships—where commercial companies assume a larger role in developing the systems to be used for space transportation—is one promising path to strengthen our nation's space exploration programs. Public-private partnerships can leverage the agility and efficiency of the commercial sector while maintaining access to the skilled workers, technologies and facilities only available in the government.

The best place to exercise and grow these space-exploration partnerships is in low Earth orbit, where humans have the most experience and where economic incentives exist to make space travel routine. While it's completely appropriate for NASA to continue developing systems and the new technologies necessary to take crews farther out into our solar system, we believe that the commercial sector is fully capable of safely handling the critical task of low-Earth-orbit human transportation.

So we firmly support the findings of the Augustine Committee, a presidential blue ribbon panel that has endorsed commercial human spaceflight. Sally Ride, one of America's most well-known astronauts and a member of the committee, put it best when she said, "We would like to be able to get NASA out of the business of getting people to low Earth orbit."

We wholeheartedly agree. NASA should put its unique resources into pushing back the final frontier and not in repaving the earth-to-orbit road it cleared a half century ago. Commercial human spaceflight is not competitive with NASA. It is complementary. Indeed, a strong partnership between NASA and the commercial sector is nothing new. NASA already relies on commercial rockets to launch multibillion-dollar science payloads and NASA is well along in its plans to turn over space station cargo resupply duties to the private sector. The time has come for NASA to build on these successes and embrace commercial crew transportation as well.

As astronauts, we know that safety is important. We are fully confident that the commercial spaceflight sector can provide a level of safety equal to that offered by the venerable Russian Soyuz system, which has flown safely for the last 38 years, and exceeding that of the Space Shuttle. Commercial transportation systems using boosters such as the Atlas V, Taurus II, or Falcon 9 will have the advantage of multiple unmanned flights to build a track record of safe operations prior to carrying humans. These vehicles are already set to fly over 40 flights to orbit in the next four years.

Commercial human spaceflight will also benefit America's economic competitiveness. The aerospace industry has long been one of the few American industries with a positive trade surplus. Strengthening this industry through investment in commercial development will improve the ability of the American aerospace industry to compete with foreign companies. This will result in more dollars spent on aerospace here in America, and more in hi-tech aerospace jobs.

We enthusiastically endorse this robust vision for the future of human spaceflight—a vision in which NASA is free to concentrate on the challenges of exploration beyond low Earth orbit while private commerce enables increased activity in Earth orbit. We strongly agree with the Augustine Committee's endorsement of commercial human spaceflight, and we encourage the White House and Congress to embrace this positive vision for our nation's future in space.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 1st European Union-European Space Agency International Conference on Human Space Exploration opens in Prague on Friday, October 23, 2009 and it shall set the stage of a European Union policy decision in 2010 as to whether or not Europe will act to proceed with a human-rated spacecraft indpendent of other spacefaring nations, FlightGlobal journalist Rob Coppinger reports.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fusion: The Holy Grail for Space Propulsion Systems and Earth Energy Independence

The documentation associated with the theories for CrossFire Fusor spaceship.

'Wild card' energy technology may prove to be humanity's 'game-changer' if nuclear scientists can accomplish small-scale fusion 'star in a jar' during the first half of the 21st Century enabling high energy fusion reactors to be deployed for robotic and human spacecraft [video] and Earth-based electric grids.

The late Dr. Robert W. Bussard (2007 audio interview w/Thomas A. Ligon Jr.) was among the strongest advocates of the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Polywell with the ongoing research now being funded by the US Navy at the rate of $10-million this year. Bussard appeared on GoogleTalks prior to his death and stirred great interest [PDF].

Meanwhile, the US Navy hopes to use IEC Fusion initially on ships. The Navy tests should be complete in less than two years to validate initial results for energy applications most likely to be highly classified. Two noted physicists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Rick Nebel and Jaeyoung Park are among the physics community that may seize the Polywell IEC fusion energy helm with promise.

University of Illinois Professor George H. Miley is yet another leading American pursuing IEC Fusion research. Miley and Dr. Bill Gough have discussed the Fusion Torch on YouTube videos one and two. In addition to Miley's ongoing research work into IEC fusion, the President of the Focus Fusion Society, Dr. Eric J. Lerner, has also been engaged in the research at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. and has discussed the work at GoogleTalks in late 2007.

The estimated timeline for IEC fusion energy development is between 10-to-20 years for commercial utilization based upon the experts. But there have been may hopes dashed in fusion research over the past two decades as noted in a BBC 4 Horizon documentary film [best viewed Full Screen].

Many now have faith that it is a matter of "when" rather than "if" fusion power becomes a commercial reality with a safe 'star in a jar' or 'sun in a bottle' that will be the ultimate breakthrough for mankind on Earth and the human adventure into the stars by 2050. The low-level federal investment in fusion energy as Alt. Energy may yield supreme results or just another Cold Fusion-like flop. Bottomline: humanity must learn atomic fusion to solve many problems.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Soyuz Landing A-OK

Soyuz TMA-14 Commander Gennady Padalka, Flight Engineer Michael Barratt and Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte landed this morning in Kazakhstan after departing the International Space Station. [video]. A six-member crew remain aboard the orbiting laboratory. The next scheduled flight to ISS orbit is the STS-129 Space Shuttle Atlantis on November 12, 2009.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Galilean Nights Set Oct. 22-24

"Galilean Nights" are set to begin Thursday, October 22nd; Friday, October 23rd, and Saturday, October 24th this 2009 International Year of Astronomy. So find some star music and go view planet Juipter in a respectable telescope. Then when looking ... think of the water that may be ever-so-deep on the moon Europa. New worlds await the next generation of space explorers.

ISS Show to be Repeated Saturday & Sunday

"Moving Stars and Earth for Water," will took place in 14 cities across five continents tonight from the Web site of spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte's ONE DROP foundation at: NASA Television will re-air the entire broadcast beginning Saturday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. with encore broadcasts Oct. 11 and 12. For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit:

Constellation Manager Defends Safety, Program; Meanwhile, On w/ the Space Show

Space.Ref has posted an e-Mail from Constellation manager Jeff Hanley to JSC Center Director Mike Coats that defends the lunar policy program. It is a quite interesting read.

Meanwhile, CBC Canada laudes billionaire capitalist Guy Laliberté noting that he's got a 95 per cent stake in the multibillion-dollar Cirque du Soleil franchise that has human acrobats twirling all over the world — and now out of it. Don Pitts notes in a humor column that "Our Space Clown is nothing less than a creative super capitalist. Guy Laliberté is returning to earth shortly. It will be good to have him back."

IMPACT on the Moon

MISSION STATUS: NASA spacecraft hit the lunar target this morning at 7:30 AM [see video]. Stay tuned for more data about water on the Moon will be shared in the days ahead from images and instruments. A more complete scientific analysis is expected in December.

Meanwhile, scientist L. Riofrio writes on his BLOG "Until recently the Moon was thought to have only a small amount of water, which arrived via the solar wind. Astrophysicist Arlin Crotts of Columbia University has been working for years on a theory that the Moon has abundant water, and it comes from within. Crotts theorises that water forms deep beneath the surface and slowly wells upward. His theory would explain the recent discoveries of water. Crotts has submitted a paper with his student Cameron Hummels. We hope that their paper is accepted soon so that more scientists can read it. New ideas, even controversial ones, deserve to see the light of day."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

T-Minus One to Boom-Boom on the Moon

Associated Press, USA Today, and others tell of the day that the Earth attacks the Moon.

Space Flight Plans TeleCon Set for Thursday

The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold a public teleconference on Thursday, Oct. 8, from approximately 1 to 2 p.m. EDT. The only topic for discussion will be finalization of scoring of options the committee presented in their summary report on Sept. 8. This meeting will be held by teleconference only. The teleconference will be open to the public. The service limit is approximately 300 dial-in callers. Public participants will be in a listen-only mode.The following numbers are available to hear the teleconference:Toll-free number: 1-888-373-5705; Other number: 1-719-457-3840; and Participant Passcode: 190078

Countdown to Impact on the Moon Oct. 9

LCROSS will crash on the Moon at the site near the one pictured above on the morning of Friday, October 9, 2009. The science goal is to search for water ice on the Moon. The spacecraft will make two impacts into a lunar crater named Cabeus the lunar South Pole. Cabeus is permanently shadowed, so ice lying inside the crater could be protected from the Sun's harsh rays. LCROSS will send the upper stage Centaur rocket crashing into Cabeus, and a shepherd spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust generated and measure its properties before making a second impact with the lunar surface. Astronomers will seek to observe the impact using ground and space-based telescopes.

If you have a 10-inch telescope and reside in the western United States, now may be the time to start setting-up for observation of the LCROSS impact. And, a touch of mood music.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

GET READY: A Busy Space Week Ahead!

Talk about space and astronomy this week with co-workers, friends and family- there is a lot going in orbit and on the Moon from circus shows and clowns to live CRASH video from the lunar surface. The video preview is here. Be sure to stay tuned Thursday to Washington at 1 PM to hear the president's human space flight committee of experts [via NASA-TV]; and, Friday morning tune-in to the Moon about 7 AM [via NASA-TV] and then, at 8 PM evening tune-into One Drop for the ISS on-orbit show. There should be lots of space-related action to celebrate, enjoy and ponder.

New Large Ring Discovered Around Saturn

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn — by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings. The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material. More from NASA JPL, the BBC, The New Scientist, and Science News.

Book Review: Chinese Space Policy

Roger Handberg and Zhen Li have created a gem in the writing of Chinese Space Policy: A Study in Domestic and International Politics (2007). This excellent book is worthy of the price. Nonetheless, it would be even better in a paperback, updated 2nd edition accompanied by an audio CD option each priced at under $50 so more people will benefit from the understanding of what these two authors provide in placing the contemporary Chinese space program in proper context. And moreover, this book hits the mark in placing the now equal and capable Chinese human space power in the correct policy analysis. It is worthy of a lower priced second edition and the well-read audio edition.

The flowing 173-page text would be made even more the worthy product with ten-to-20 pages of glossy photographs to assist the reader in visualizing the written word. Yet those with some international media awareness will get the mental picture from the excellent description of historic and cotemporary Chinese space and technology policy development.

This would be one of the books that I would hope that my US Congressman and two US Senators would read prior to voting on space policy issues. It is a book that I would also hope the President’s Science and National Security Advisors would have read in the first month of publisher print.

Every modern civil, commercial and military space launch leader should know of this book and elect to read it. Handberg and Li have unique insight based upon their well researched, referenced and footnoted book. Every American space industry leader needs to fully digest the text. In my judgment, Chinese Space Policy: A Study in Domestic and International Politics, is an essential reading guide to all-levels of American decision makers facing complex future policy decisions that must be made correctly. Emphasis is on 'made correctly' and not only for America’s sake but for the hope that may be afforded all mankind in this - the Second Space Age.

India Seeks Use of Russian Soyuz for Tourists

India is looking at the space toruist launch business in a serious way by utilization of an idea of Virginia-based Space Adventures: buy a Soyuz booster and spacecraft and launch tourists. It has been reported today that a deal is being hammered together between the Russian space agency Roskosmos and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

"Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has applied for acquiring a spaceship for sending space tourists," Russian space agency spokesman Alexei Krasnov said adding that "It depends on the route and duration of the flight, which are yet to be finalised."

During President Dmitry Medvedev's maiden India visit last year Moscow and New Delhi inked a space accord, under which Russia will help ISRO in training Indian astronauts and provide know-how for building indigenous spaceship for the national programme of space flights.

It appears that India is going to use the same development model employed by the Chinese with the Russians a few years ago: reverse engineer and improve and wah-lah: a new and improved Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft.

What impact the India-Russia space contract may have on the efforts of Space Adventures, Ltd. commercial launch contracts with Roskosmos to fly future space tourists is not known - save that the demand for the Soyuz is going UP and UP. Seven space flight participants have flown to the International Space Station by means of a Soyuz brokered through Space Adventures in Virginia since mid-2001. More.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"Star Party" Planned for White House Lawn

President Obama and the First Lady will host a historic first "Star Party" on the White House lawn Wednesday evening (Oct. 7)as a part of the World Space Week with celebrations in over 50 nations. The United Nations-declared World Space Week, October 4-10, is the largest annual space event on Earth. The UN also declared International Year of Astronomy 2009 [video].

The White House event for middle-school students will "highlight the President's commitment to science, engineering and math education as the foundation of this nation's global technological and economic leadership, and to express his support for astronomy in particular – for its capacity to promote a greater awareness of our place in the universe, expand human knowledge, and inspire the next generation by showing them the beauty and mysteries of the night sky," according to a White House statement.

"The event will include 20 telescopes on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations; and hands-on activities including scale models of the Solar System," the White House said. More from Sky and Tel.

Tumlinson Interviewed on The Space Show

UPDATE: INTERVIEW AUDIO HERE --- Rick Tumlinson was the featured guest on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston Sunday. He is is the co-Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and a consultant to Accomack County, Virginia boosting the FAA-licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.

A commercial space launch aficionado, Tumlinson told journalist Leondard David this week that within the next few months the first commercial space launch companies will begin flights and within two years the first paying customers will be flying. Within three years the first commercial facilities will be overhead and within five years you will be able to fly commercially to orbit on a private spaceship.

Tumlinson's goal is that in 10 to 20 years the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport "is really a port to space" -- including offerings like 60-minute flights to Europe as well as being a launch site for companies to take both cargo and wealthy tourists into space.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Space Show to Review Augustine Panel Report: Re-Set for Monday, Oct. 5th

UPDATE! AUDIO COMING--- Jim Muncy, Doc Horowitz, John Klineberg, Frank Culbertson, and Elliott Pullman were the guests of Dr. David Livingston on The Space Show, Monday, October 5, to discuss the Augustine Panel report set to be made public mid-month.

The full report of the The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee (a/k/a/ "Augustine Commission) was expected to be released by the White House prior to the upcoming radio program but Dr. Livingston has decided to proceed with the radio show. This will be a program not to be missed by those interested in the future of space exploration by both the civil and commercial sectors.

ESAcast Celebrates Hubble: 'Lift me up!'

This European Space Agency Webcast celebrates the successes past, present, and future of the Hubble Space Telescope to the Moby tune 'Lift me up' in response to a recent HubbleCast. Space astonomers and astronomy enthusiasts will celebrate Hubble Space Telescope for years yet to come! It is recommended to click on the video to open into HD full screen.

Following a 2014 launch campaign aboard an ESA Ariane 5 from the Centre Spatial Guyanais near Kourou in French Guiana, The James Webb Space Telescope will build on the HST science with 3x greater image clarity at new wave lengths following deployment.

Iran Studies Human Space Program!

UPDATE HERE --- Iran plans to send a faza navard (astronaut) into space and the Persian nation is currently conducting the relevant studies, Iraian Communications and Information Technology Minister Reza Taqipour announced on Saturday, the Mehr News Agency and Tehran Times have reported. The Iranian government made a similar announcement about one year ago. "This project is currently under study and… (we) hope to be able to implement the project in the near future," Taqipour said at a ceremony held to inaugurate World Space Week. It has been estimated that Iran will attempt a human space program in 2021 but such a program would require significant national investment in space technology and launch infrastructure. Space observers indicate that Iran is advancing in rocket technology. Anousheh Ansari has the first Iranian-American (female) launched into space aboard a Russian-made Soyuz as a commercial space flight participant in September 2006. She was in no way authorized by the Iranian government.