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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

OH MY GOODNESS: human spaceflight tests

ATK Tests 5-Segment Booster in Utah

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and NASA conducted a successful ground test earlier today of the second Ares five-segment Development Motor (DM-2). The successful test is a milestone in the development of what will probably be the cancelled Ares-1 and Ares-V. There is ongoing Congressional debate on the booster to be used by NASA in the future and how American astronuts will get to low earth orbit (LEO). More from BBC, SpaceRef and NASASpaceflight.

Armadillo & Masten Gain NASA $upport

Commercial space companies Armadillo Aerospace of Texas and Masten Space Systems of California have been awarded nearly one-half million dollars to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space. The award is part of NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR), which seeks to develop commercial reusable transportation to near space for frequent, low-cost trips to near-space for small payloads.

The CRuSR awards will fund two flights this fall and one this winter of Armadillo's Super-Mod vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first two flights will be to an altitude of approximately nine miles and the third to approximately 25 miles.

The Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle will make four flights this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two flights will reach an altitude of approximately three miles and two others will be to approximately 18 miles, with an engine shutdown during flight.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Schrödinger Geologic Map Paints Crater

This detailed geologic map of Schrödinger basin, which formed when a huge object struck the moon, reveals a patchwork of lunar material, including the peak ring (inner brown ring), recent volcanic activity (red), cratering (yellow) and plains material (dark green and kelly green). Credit: NASA/Scott Mest

Schrödinger is a huge lunar impact crater located near the south lunar pole on the far side of the Moon, and can only be viewed from lunar orbit. A new geologic map of the moon's Schrodinger basin paints an instant, camouflage-colored portrait of what a mash-up the moon's surface is after eons of violent events. The geologic record at Schrödinger is still relatively fresh because the basin is only about 3.8 billion years old; this makes it the moon's second-youngest large basin (it's roughly 320 kilometers, or 200 miles, in diameter).

Elizabeth Zubritsky at NASA Goddard Space tells more about the new geologic lunar map created by Scott Mest and his associates at the Planetary Science Institute, [video].

VASIMR: An alternative to chemical rocket?

Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA have a Space Act Agreement to launch a flight version of the VASIMR, the VF-200, on the International Space Station in as early as 2014. The VASIMR will utilize a trickle-charged battery system allowing for 15 min pulses of thrust. If successful, the new propulsion system could cut the costs of orbital re-boosting of the ISS five-fold. Other new propulsion systems are also being reviewed by NASA now.

5-Segment Booster Set for Tuesday Test

THE FULLY ASSEMBLED NASA's five-segment solid rocket development motor in its test stand at ATK in Promontory, Utah. The New York Times reports on the test of the booster set for Tuesday in Utah amid an uncertain future in civil space policy on Capitol Hill.

India Preparing Astronaut Food

When a nation opts to have a human space program, the astronauts must have food. India's space sector is now preparing space food.

Japan pushes space-based solar power

The Japanese JAXA space agency is taking the lead on the development of the technology while the United States struggles in taking-up the challenge. Wiki provides a premier on the history of the developing space-based solar power technology.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Number of Asteroids Discovered Grows!

This incredible video by Scott Manley/Armagh Observatory graphically provides 20-years of observation leading humanity to have a map of the asteroids in a number that appears to be growing by the day with the work of the WISE. [Above vid best viewed FULL SCREEN, look bottom left for data.]

Linked is more from UniverseToday and an important PSA message RTvid from one of the leaders of the Space Frontier Foundation.

Space, Propulsion and Energy Sciences Conference Set at U of Md, March 2011

The Integrity Research Institute (iRi), under the direction of President Thomas Valone, is teaming up with the prestigious Institute for Advanced Studies in the Space, Propulsion and Energy Sciences (IASSPES) from Madison AL to host a joint conference under the umbrella of Space, Propulsion & Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF) to be held 15-17 March 2011 on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Russian Far East Home to New Spaceport

Russia will launch its spacecraft from its very own cosmodrome by 2018. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the ambitious project that will help mobilise Russia's intellectual resources and industrial potential. During a trip to Russia's Far East, Putin officially launched the scheme as he paid a visit to the site of the future cosmodrome. Russia will continue to use the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on which it has a lease until 2050.

China has a fourth spaceport, the second human-rated capable, under construction now. The United States has only Kennedy Space Center rated for human space launch travel. Wallops Island, Va. could be a second in the near future but it will largely rest with the wishes of the good US Senator from Maryland.

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Readied

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer leaves CERN to embark on a USAF plane, on its journey to Cape Canaveral, and then Space. The AMS will be installed on the International Space Station next year, where it will look for antimatter in Space. It is now at the Kennedy Space Center's space station processing facility. More from ESA 6-min video about the AMS.

Expedition 23: Six Months on the ISS

NASA Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer's voyage on the International Space Station is featured from his launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft in December 2009, to his landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan in June of 2010. "15 nations = 1 international space station; together is the future."

Multiple Asteroid Impact Theory Advanced

The end-Cretaceous mass extinction has been attributed by most to a single asteroid impact at Chicxulub on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The discovery of a second smaller crater with a similar age at Boltysh in the Ukraine has raised the possibility that a shower of asteroids or comets impacted Earth close to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, according to a new study lead by David Jolly from the Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology, Kings's College, Aberdeen University. More form the BBC and UPI. The multiple impact theory has been raised a number of times in this decade.

This Week in Space Video Report

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Space Generation Congress Draws Near

Two of the 20 member US delegation to the 2010 Space Generation Congress will come from the Central Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, with newcomer David Brundage and veteran Starla Jo Kiser joining the event with global organizers in Prague late next month.

Brundage, a Wise, Va. native, is a University of Tennessee at Knoxville aerospace major with interests in hypersonics and nuclear fusion space-based propulsion systems. He completed his first NASA Langley internship in the summer of 2010.

Kiser, a Coeburn, Va. native, is a finishing medical and government student at Harvard University with interests in space medicine and astrobiology. An 'Advocate' of the Space Frontier Foundation, she has been involved with the Space Generation Congress since attending her first international space confab at Vancouver, Canada in 2005, while an undergraduate at East Tennessee State University, where she won the university's annual science award for three consecutive years.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mars crater formation a mystery, says ESA

Orcus Patera is an enigmatic elliptical depression near Mars's equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet. Located between the volcanoes of Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, its formation remains a mystery. More today from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Mars Atmosphere to be Investigated

One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere [vid].

The joint European-American mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, will seek faint gaseous clues about possible life on Mars. This instrument, called the ExoMars Climate Sounder, will supply crucial context with its daily profiling of the atmosphere's changing structure.

The European Space Agency and NASA have selected five instruments for ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The European Space Agency will provide one instrument and the spacecraft. NASA will provide four instruments, including ExoMars Climate Sounder, which is coming from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. More from NASA.

"But where are the Martians?" [new video]

Space Launch News Video Report

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mulit-Planet System Confirmed; 700 More Planets Awaiting Peer Review Confirmation

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star. The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

In June 2010, Kepler mission scientists submitted findings for peer review that identified more than 700 planet candidates in the first 43 days of Kepler data. The data included five additional candidate systems that appear to exhibit more than one transiting planet. The Kepler team recently identified a sixth target exhibiting multiple transits and accumulated enough followup data to confirm this multi-planet system. More from NASA Ames.

The Kepler Space Telescope, and others, should find hundreds of more planets, [video].

Corbyn: Magnetic Cycle of Sun, Modulated by the Moon, Impacts Earth Weather

Corbyn is a man worthy of hearing? Perhaps so.

Earth-like planets to be announced today

Scientists Talk Earth-like Worlds

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Most detailed image of a sunspot released

The Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) located in Big Bear Lake, California high in the San Bernardino Mountains, has achieved "first light" using a deformable mirror in what is called adaptive optics at BBSO. "This photo of a sunspot is now the most detailed ever obtained in visible light," according to Ciel et l'Espace. In September, the publication, a popular astronomy magazine, will publish several more photos of the Sun taken with BBSO's new adaptive optics system. More from the BBSO.

Alan Boyle Makes "The Case for Pluto"

Alan Boyle talks about his late 2009 book "The Case for Pluto."

Sneak Peek @ BAD UNIVERSE: Sunday

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How many exoplanets will there be Friday?

NASA PLANET QUEST: The exoplanet missions are currently underway with more planned. The number of known exoplanets are expected to more than double by weekend. There will be a new count of exoplanets come Friday morning newspapers following a round-up of recent astronomical announcements.

The Kepler data is expected to confirm the existence of 1,160 planets, most in the 'like-Earth' and 'like-Neptune' category. With such a large sample size, now the Copernican model is correct and that smaller planets are more likely to occur throughout the universe than gas giants. This means the potential for life is better than what thought as little as six months ago.

"The statistical result is loud and clear … planets like our own Earth are out there. The galaxy is rich in these kinds of planets," noted Dimitar Sasselov in a recent TED event. More details Thursday afternoon and Friday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kepler Space Telescope Announcement Set

NASA is expected to make an announcement Thursday on the progress of its Kepler spacecraft, which has been staring at one patch of space for evidence of other worlds including the "discovery of an intriguing planetary system," reports

In the video above, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov preempted the NASA announcement that the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about 140 candidate worlds orbiting other stars that are "like Earth." More from ABC News and Discovery News.

Hill staffer says NASA is 'run by idiots'

NASA WATCH's Keith Cowing puts a spotlight on House staffer Keith Monroe's recent 'Tweet' comments saying, NASA is "Run By Idiots." In Mornoe's posts, the Senate-passed NASA Authorization Act of 2010 is also trashed.

According to the report and LinkedIn, "Monroe is a professional staff member of the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and a principal advisor to the ranking member of the Science and Technology Committee, specializing in legislation and oversight of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the space-related activities of the Departments of Transportation and Commerce. Mr. Monroe also advises the ranking member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on technical, funding and policy issues."

The Keith Cowing post may help explain the House Science and Technology Committee's recommended NASA Authorization Act of 2010, as well as the many objections raised to it by several members of the Congress. The House authorization policy debate may resume next month with floor amendments.

Caterpillar sponsors Tranquility Trek robotic expedition to the Moon in late 2012

Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spin-off company, has announced that Caterpillar, Inc. [CAT] will sponsor its first robotic expedition to the lunar surface for the Tranquility Trek mission in late 2012.

Caterpillar's experience in autonomous mining and construction machinery also will assist with learning how to "live off the land" using lunar resources. For example, polar ice deposits can be transformed into propellant to refuel spacecraft for their return to Earth, doubling their productivity, reports Moon Daily.

Lunar Boulder Trails? It is a Moon Zoo!

Universe Today has more on this interesting video story. Plus, learn how the Moon Zoo enlists the help of amauter lunar image scientists to find and define how "Tumbling Boulders Leave Trails on the Moon."

2nd Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition Set for May at the Kennedy Space Center

NASA's Second Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition has been set for May 23-28, 2011 at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, according to a press release from the federal space agency. Part 2 and 3 of the video above.

Trans-Neptunian objects: how many more?

Trans-Neptunian objects are out there in the darkness and distance of space known more commonly among astronomers as "the third zone" in the solar system. Beyond the orbit of Neptune and towards the Kuiper belt there are thousands of big objects, almost like another asteroid belt but larger ones that they could be called dwarf planet. Even planet Pluto is now considered to be one of these objects, as unfortunately its not recognised as a planet, [10minVid]. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is in route to Pluto for July 2015 encounter and on into "the third zone" thereafter.

New Impact Flash Fireball on Jupiter

This may be a very common event after all: another optical flash has been observed on Jupiter, again from an observer far east of the Greenwich meridian, though it was not Anthony Wesley (for once). This time it was Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Tachikawa who was pointing a video camera-equipped telescope at Jupiter and who was fortunate to capture an optical flash as it happened, blogs Emily Lakdawalla for The Planetary Society. More from SpaceWeather. The sighting by Tachikawa has now been confirmed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Analysis of Human Missions to NEA's

Human missions to asteroids have recently gained great interest due to scientific, exploration, planetary defense and outreach reasons. Scientists Jesus Gil-Fernandez, Raul Cadenas, and Mariella Graziano provide an analysis of human missions to near earth asteroids (NEA's).

This month, NASA has winnowed down a list of a possible 44 asteroids down to meet NASA’s current criteria for a human exploration including that the duration be no longer than 180 days round trip, and that any object visited be larger than 50 meters (164 ft.) across.

Out of the 44 reachable asteroids, 27 are too small, and only 15 have orbits that could be reached sometime from 2020 to 2050. The 180-day mission constraint further cuts the list to three—the 60-meter-dia. 2009 OS5, for which a mission could be launched in March 2020 or March 2036; the 50-meter 1999 AO10, with a prospective launch date in September 2025; and the 100-meter 2003 SM84, with a possible launch in 2046, reports Aviation Week.

Copenhagen Suborbitals to Launch the Tycho Brahe in Late August from the Baltic Sea

Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish firm, plans a space adventure this year that may result in the world’s first ever amateur-built rocket for manned space travel outside of the United States, Russia, and China, [video].

Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen are the two ambitious men behind Copenhagen Suborbitals planning to place Madsen into space in a single passenger capsule, reports the METRO. The booster has been test-fired and the scheduled first flight is set for late August 2010 with the unmanned micro-spacecraft Tycho Brahe attached. The government-approved launch site is near Bornholm, Denmark on the Baltic Sea, [9min. video].

The first flight by Madsen may still be years away, however.

Curiosity being readied for Mars in 2012

The Curiosity rover, (the Mars Science Laboratory), is coming together for launch to the Red Planet. This past week, Bill Harwood described how the rover will land on Mars. Continuing analysis of the geometry and communications options for the arrival at Mars have led planners for the Mars Science Laboratory to choose an Earth-to-Mars trajectory that schedules launch between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. Landing will take place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2012.

In the nearly 50-years of exploring Mars, humans have gained significant knowledge on which to build future missions by the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese and the Europeans.

Thirty-five years ago the first landing probes launched for Mars from Cape Canaveral. The Viking missions reached for the surface of Mars for the first time with 'lift-off'. The science data from the two 1976 landing site missions remain a hot science topic to this day as the Mars science community continues to seek knowledge of the neighboring planet.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Purr-Fect: Cat got your tongue?

"A cat's eyes are windows enabling us to see into another world," so goes the Irish Legend. Linked is the history of cats in spaceflight since dogs get most of the spacelight!

State of Play from the Space Access Society

The State of Play from the Space Access Society: The House NASA Authorization bill, HR.5781 was up for full House consideration, but was pulled back at the last second when it became clear there was considerable lack of consensus on major provisions. The Senate NASA Authorization, S.3729, meanwhile has been approved by the full Senate. Both House and Senate are now on recess till the week of September 13th.

The Senate version is not great, but is livable, with $3.9 billion overall Exploration funding split as follows: $1.6 billion for NASA development of a new in-line Shuttle-derived heavy-lift launcher, $1.1 billion for continuation of the Orion capsule, and $1.1 billion for the rest of Exploration. That last $1.1 billion includes reduced but still substantial funding for the Commercial Crew, Commercial Cargo, and other new space technology/exploration precursors we support. (S.3729 also fully funds Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research, under another account.) Close to a billion dollars of NASA exploration funding directed toward useful things is hugely better than we would have hoped for coming into this year.

The House version is extremely bad. HR.5781 is essentially a blueprint for the destruction of NASA human space exploration in the name of saving it.

- Out of a total $4.5 billion Exploration funding, it devotes $4.2 billion to development of a new in-house NASA heavy booster (to be based on existing Ares work) plus a government-owned Station transportation system based on the Orion capsule.
- It makes drastic cuts in funding for developing US Commercial Crew and Cargo to Station capabilities, to a small fraction of NASA's request.
- It imposes "poison pill" requirements on potential US commercial crew services that neither NASA nor existing Russian crew service providers have to meet.
- It zeroes Exploration Technology and Robotic Precursor Missions funding.

What's Next: Our understanding is that they'll try to pass HR.5781 again right after Congress returns from this recess. There will be three opportunities to fix it: In negotiated modifications before it's reintroduced to the House, by amendment on the House floor, or by negotiations in the House-Senate conference committee that will reconcile the two versions. The process may move very quickly once Congress is back. We need to prepare the ground now.

The Space Access Society Recommends: Contact your Representative and both your Senators, and ask them to support the Senate version of the NASA Authorization bill, because the House version is unacceptably bad. Members of Congress are in recess until September 13 and many are back in their respective districts. Go see them; attend town meetings; and call their offices now.

STS-133 Launch Date: November 1, 2010

STS-133 is the next planned mission of the Space Shuttle Program. The mission, currently scheduled for launch 1 November 2010, will be to the International Space Station. The mission will transport the Pressurized Multipurpose Module and the fourth ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the ISS. Discovery will carry Robonaut2, marking a milestone in the use of humanoid robotics on orbit. The mission will be the 39th and final flight of Discovery and the 133rd and penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle program, which began on 12 April 1981. You may submit your picture or favorite music to fly on STS-133 or STS-134 now (more from Telegraph).

Clock Ticks for Space Shuttle: STS-135?

Atlantis has gained one final mission, flying STS-135 to the International Space Station (ISS), with a launch date targeting June 28, 2011. Pending required funding allocation, Atlantis will carry a packed Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC), on a 11+1+2 mission with a four person crew, reports NASA The current assignment of Atlantis is STS-335 - Launch On Need (LON) for STS-134.

NASA Marshall to Lead Heavy-Lift Booster

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said Friday that she believes the Washington stalemate over NASA's future is over, and Marshall Space Flight Center will lead development of NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, in an interview with The Hunstville Times.

What NASA wants now is "robust" work on a new heavy-lift rocket starting next year, Garver said. If Congress agrees with that priority, Marshall will lead the program.

Garver showed a detailed knowledge of the spending plans making their ways through the Senate and House. The Senate version accelerates heavy-lift rocket work to next year and sends more money to the commercial sector than the House version, would preserve more of the current Constellation program.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Final Space Shuttle Wake-Up Music Songs!

You can now help pick the final songs to be heard on orbit from the last two space shuttle flights. Click here or just vote! Of course, my preference is not listed, but it is above. Nonetheless, I do have a recommendation for Kennedy Space Center's pre-launch.

Tweeted from the ISS: Solar-Wind Aurora!

NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock took the picture from the International Space Station and quickly tweeted it down to Earth, captioned by lyrics from the Don McLean ballad "Vincent" (aka "Starry Starry Night"), so wonderfully notes SpaceWeather today.

Government Space vs. Commercial Space

The government space capsule drop test of the Orion in July 2008.

The commercial space capsule drop test of the Dragon this month.

Questions? Comments? Policy?

Asteroid Vesta Encounter Less Than 1-Year

Let the countdown begin. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is less than 1-year away from giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn is slated to enter orbit around Vesta in late July 2011 where it will remain for a year.

Previous missions have shown us a handful of asteroids, but none as large as this hulking relic of the early solar system. Measuring 350 miles across and containing almost 10% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt, Vesta is a world unto itself, advises a recent NASA audio report.

The Dawn spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in September 2007. After orbiting Vesta for a year, the Dawn spacecraft will execute a course change for a voyage to the asteroid Ceres where it will orbit in 2015. Scientists hope to expand their knowledge of asteroids and the asteroid belt between Mars and Juipter.

As Washington debates the 2010 NASA authorization bills, there is growing interest within the epistemic community for asteroid science. The new destination policy of the White House raises greater interest in asteroids.

Solar Wind to Reach Earth August 24, 2010

SpaceWeather is reporting a solar coronal hole is turning to face Earth in the coming weekend. Coronal holes are places in the sun's atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on or about August 24th. There is no report on the strength. More from SpaceWeather.

Earth and Moon from Over 100-Million Miles

Photo taken by the NASA Messenger spacecraft of Earth and Moon from 114-million miles gives a unique view of our worlds - (including the moon).

'Dark Matter' Expansion of the Universe Seen

An international team of astronomers using gravitational lensing observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken an important step forward in the quest to solve the riddle of dark energy, a phenomenon which mysteriously appears to power the Universe's accelerating expansion. Their results appear in the 20 August 2010 issue of the journal Science, reports popular media outlets BBC, Science Daily, Wired, and Sky&Tel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Electrodynamic Space Thruster Concept 2010

Moacir Lorena Ferreira Jr. recently released a paper and and video [above] on the conceptual Electrodynamic Space Thruster produce an astonishing designed to propulsive force in deep space, using a sequenced pattern of phase-shifted electric oscillations, in theory. Reader comments are encouraged.


The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to launch 8 September 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail.

Scientists will use the gravity field information from the two satellites to X-ray the moon from crust to core to reveal the moon's subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history, according to mission scientists at MIT.

Following GRAIL, NASA will launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), a NASA mission that will orbit the Moon with the main objective to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment. It is now scheduled for launch January 15, 2013 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on a a Minotaur V launch vehicle.

The Earth's Moon is Shrinking !!!

Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon's recent geologic and tectonic evolution, suggests a NASA study released today. The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic News, The Guardian, and UPI has more.

The Dogs of Space: The K9 Cosmonauts

Belka and Strelka were two dogs who were onboard the Sputnik-5 spacecraft when it broke into orbit on August 19, 1960, circled the Earth 17 times and returned home, reports Russia Today, commemorating the launch 50 years ago to this day.

The space travelers became instant stars, enjoying media support and later quiet and happy lives. One of Strelka’s pups was sent as a present to the family of US President John Kennedy by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Fifty years later, the Russian space dogs have become movie stars.

Mars Magnetic Fields May Be Landing Targets

Mars does not have a single unified magnetic field like Earth; it has smaller, more fractured magnetic fields which cover the planet and have different intensities and polarities. It will be these regions where the greatest shielding of solar radiation, and thus will be the safest landing spots for the first human missions to Mars, according to early landing site studies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AMS-02 being readied for launch to ISS

As a unique state-of-the-art particle physics detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) will search for signs of antimatter and dark matter in Space. Designed to operate as an external module on the International Space Station following its deployment scheduled next February with STS-134, the over $1.5-billion instrument with aid in undertsanding the physics of the Universe. More from the ESA.

ESA Looks at the Ingredients of Life

The European Space Agency (ESA) analyses the main ingredients for life on earth and what it takes to replicate them in space in this video.

US Space Defense Topic of Huntsville Confab

China's Chang´e Lunar Program May Change

With China Chang´e-2 lunar spacecraft in a launch campaign for October 2010; it is seeking to duplicate previous success and pave the way to an evolving Moon exploration program with two landers and two sample returns vehicles sooner this decade.

Morris Jones, writing from Australia in Moon Daily, indicates there is reason to believe, China may equip the Chang´e-3 and Chang´e-4 lunar vehicles each with two surface lunar rovers and two sample-return boosters, suggesting a more rapid leap in lunar exploration technologies.

Chinese media statements have previously suggested that there would be one of each type of lander, with the rover mission scheduled for around 2013 and the sample-return mission for around 2017. A final decision will probably be made by the Chinese based upon the success rate of the Chang´e-2 lunar orbiter.

New Mexico Selected to be the Hub of Center of Excellence for Commercial Space

Spaceport America and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) congratulate Dr. Pat Hynes and the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University (NMSU) for being selected as the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE-CST). Winning the nationwide competition to host the COE-CST now enables NMSU to serve as the hub of a minimum $5 million, five-year research coalition addressing key challenges in the development of the commercial space industry.

"We commend Dr. Pat Hynes and her team, and are excited to work with her innovative consortium from New Mexico, Florida, Texas, Colorado and California, as well as companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and other members of the NMSU COE-CST industry advisory board," said Spaceport America Executive Director Rick Homans.

ISPCS Set for Oct. 19-21 in Las Cruces, NM

International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) - held at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum October 20-21 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The symposium brings together the community involved in all aspects of personal and commercial spaceflight to help grow the industry. ISPCS continues to grow because there is a need to bring companies and leaders together to grow this industry. The symposium is the response to this need, focusing on the salient technical, financial, and global topics driving the commercial and personal spaceflight industry. The ISPCS Public Forum is held at the Pan American Center on October 19. It is a free forum which will provide an update from mayors, (Florida and local) about the space industry’s effect on their city.

Neptune Makes 1st Orbit of Sun Since 1846

The planet Neptune will be in opposition on August 20, 2010 returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery. Coincidentally opposition in 1846 also fell on Aug. 20, although the planet wasn't actually spotted until over a month later, on Sept. 23, 1846, reports

Nuke Reduction and Verification?

The debate on Capitol Hill will be growing as the US Senate begins to take-up the New Start Treaty for nuclear arms reduction and verification between the United States and the Russian Federation.

Nelson Seeks Tax Breaks for Commercial Rocket Investments Made in Five Zones

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has proposed a set of tax breaks to encourage investment in the commercial space industry as a way to cushion the blow from recent cutbacks in the space program in five of the qualifying states of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Utah and perhaps a few others.

Nelson’s bill, known as the Commercial Space Jobs and Investment Act of 2010, would amend the Tax Code to encourage investment in commercial space flight facilities and equipment, research and job training, and other purposes. However, the measure appears to do nothing for the Virginia commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the potential commercial launch site competitor to Cape Canaveral.

The Nelson bill would create up to five regional business enterprise zones around the country as “magnets” for commercial space ventures, which in turn would attract jobs to areas where there are lots of scientists and engineers that may be impacted by a reduction in the NASA Constellation program.

Specifically, the bill would allow space-related businesses — situated around places like the Kennedy Space Center — to qualify for major tax breaks and other incentives. Investors would be able to write off 20 percent of their investments in commercial space companies that operate in the five regional business enterprise zones. Other provisions include a Commercial Space Research Credit of 30 percent and a special depreciation allowance for commercial space property equal to 50 percent of the adjusted basis of the qualified commercial space property.

Nelson may have a legislative strategy to include the tax measure provisions in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, either as House floor amendment or in the House-Senate conference, with bipartisan votes from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Utah.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Russian Fires: NASA Global Animation

The smog from peat and forest fires covered Russia the past month (including Star City). NASA has created this animation of the severity of the Eurasia fires and the amounts of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere from July 18, 2010 to August 10, 2010. The model was created utilizing data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder on the Aqua satellite.

Boeing/Bigelow Crew Space Transport 2014?

Easter Island View of the 2010 TSE

The excitement is infectious. You gotta love the eclipse chasers!

IF you want that Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) experience, (many do and do it well), here is the schedule and the places to be over the next decade:

November 13, 2012Australia and the Pacific Ocean
November 3, 2013 – Atlantic Ocean and central Africa
March 20, 2015 – North Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian Sea, Svalbard and the Faroe Islands
March 9, 2016 – Indonesia including Sumatra, Borneo, and the north Pacific Ocean
August 21, 2017United States from Oregon to South Carolina
July 2, 2019 – South Pacific Ocean, Chile and Argentina
December 14, 2020 – Chile and Argentina

The December 4, 2021 eclipse is in Antarctica.

Future Scenario: Beyond Earth