Search This Blog


Sunday, October 31, 2010

'CALL TO STATIONS' -Countdown Begins!

The launch of space shuttle Discovery is now targeted for 3:52 p.m. EDT Wednesday, after technicians worked overnight to repair helium and nitrogen leaks in Discovery's right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System pod. This will be the final launch of space shuttle Discovery. Flight Status. The launch will be webcast on NASA-TV.

More from CBS, Central Florida News, Florida Today,, and AP.

What is up in November? Take a Look

Catch two meteor showers in November while you're out spotting the gas giants. And don't miss the opening act from Venus in the morning hours.

The interesting case of 'buckyballs'

It was just three months ago that scientists first announced they'd found the 60-packs of carbon molecules, known as buckminsterfullerens, in a planetary nebula, the death shroud of an exploded star, according to findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

This week, astronomers report four more sightings of buckyballs in planetary nebula, including one located beyond the Milky Way in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy about 210,000 light-years away, writes Irene Klotz for Discovery News.

Deep Dark Science: The Neutrinos

Dr. Arthur B. McDonald, Queen's University, gives a one hour lecture at Berkeley on the current status of neutrino experiments, the role of neutrinos in basic physics and astrophysics and future measurements made possible by the low radioactivity experimental environment. Neutrinos have also become a valuable cosmic messenger, providing unique information from the core of the Sun and from the deepest reaches of the Universe.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life on Mars!

Halloween: Nazis on the Moon in 1945

IRON SKY: As World War II comes to an end in 1945, Hans Kammler and other German scientists make a breakthrough in anti-gravity research. From a secret base in the Antarctic, Nazi spaceships are sent to the "dark side" of the Moon to establish the military base "Schwarze Sonne" (Black Sun). Their plan is to build a powerful fleet and return to conquer Earth. The film is set in the year 2018 when their descendants finally return.

The dark science fiction comedy film has commenced production in Frankfurt, Germany this month. Produced in collaboration with an on-line community of film enthusiasts, that are creating a new kind of participatory cinema with a release expected in late 2011.

In similar science fiction horror genre, The Cosmonaut is being produced in Spain.

The Cosmonaut film follows the misadventures of the soviet cosmonaut chosen to be the first soviet cosmonaut to land on the moon. During the journey, his ship disappears, and his childhood friend Andrei, the director of the mission searches for him for the next seven months. Seven months after the accident, the ship reappears, without a trace of Stan. At the same time, a series of eerie radio transmissions supposedly broadcast by Stan claim that he has actually come back home and that he found the Earth completely empty.

US drifting from China in space

In light of this space-related gridlock involving the US and China, Joan Johnson-Freese, professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island, labeled Bolden's trip as little more than a gesture.

"The good news is that Bolden went to China and the Obama administration is far more open to working with China than the [George W] Bush administration was; the bad news is that I do not think the US is any closer to substantively working with China on space than it was during the Bush administration," said Johnson-Freese.

"The problems are twofold: the entire US civil space program is still in an upheaval since [the Constellation program] was canceled - a cancellation likely inevitable due to the goals-resources mismatch - and there are still a large number of legislators who do not want to work with China on much of anything. So regardless of good intentions, the visit seemed more of a gesture than a step forward," writes Peter J. Brown in The Asia Times.

The Brown article provides insight on the drift in space between China and the United States. The article is complimented by another offered by Gunjan Singh at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis. Reposted here is this Blogger's view. My 2009 Christmas wish may be the only viable diplomatic route.

Launch Date Re-Set to Wednesday

NASA launch managers have re-set the launch date for the space shuttle Discovery to Wednesday for 3:52 pm EDT Wednesday, with a 70-percent chance of acceptable weather. The launch had been previously delayed from Monday to Tuesday due to a pressure leak.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Overview of a Decade of ISS Cooperation

There is no better example of cooperation between the US and Russia than what is going on in space exploration. NASA and the Russian program rely on one another and work together. Soon, the US will be completely dependent on Russian shuttles to go back and forth to the International Space Station (ISS) when the US shuttles are retired. Jeffrey Manber. managing director of NanoRacks LLC, gives an overview of the "technological marvel."

An $8-Billion One Way Trip to Mars?

NASA has begun exploring the possibility of sending humans to Mars. There's just one catch - it would be a one-way journey. Sky News reporter Paul Harrison reports the details. No launch date has been set! A second British TV report provides discussion of a Mars mission by scientists.

Dr. Wernher von Braun 1972: "The Religious Implications of Space Exploration" lecture

The video provides a small audio excerpt of Dr. Wernher von Braun's lecture at Taylor University on February 12, 1972, entitled "The Religious Implications of Space Exploration." Braun gave the lecture's without the benefit of a script. Taylor University is looking for people who were in the audience for the two von Braun lectures at the university in 1972.

Robonaut 2 Packed, Ready to Go!

Robonaut 2 gets packed for the trip to space in this time-lapse video awaiting launch on space shuttle Discovery now set for Tuesday afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center. R2 will subsequently be unpacked aboard the International Space Station to join future ISS crews at work. NASA released a new testimonial tribute to space shuttle Discovery.

Discovery Launch to Space Delayed by 1-Day

NASA ordered a minimum one-day postponement on Friday after failing to plug a small helium gas leak aboard Discovery. A nitrogen gas leak also was detected. The problems are unrelated to a fuel leak that cropped up a few weeks ago. Discovery's launch to the International Space Station is now scheduled for Tuesday afternoon — Election Day, Nov. 2, at 4:17 p.m. EDT. Engineers are working the problem with launch managers expected to announce the time later today to commence the countdown clock. Flight Status.

Orbital Paths of U.S., China Set to Diverge

President Barack Obama's early initiative to explore joint manned space missions with China appears to have been stalled by the changing political winds on Capitol Hill—even as Beijing details ambitious plans to complete its first manned space station within the decade, according to The Wall Street Jorunal.

An apparent lack of concrete progress in talks on the subject last week suggests the U.S. could miss out on potential benefits, such as cheaper flights to the International Space Station, while China presses ahead with its space program and expands cooperation with Europe, Russia and others to get the technology and experience it needs.

Gen. Charles Bolden became the first head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to tour China's highly sensitive manned space flight facilities during his visit last week—access that both sides might have portrayed as a major breakthrough in a different climate. More from The Wall Street Journal.

'Envoys of Mankind' deserve the benefits of the Astronaut Rescue Treaty with China

Envoys of Mankind were the essential words used to describe humans in space by international law adopted over forty years ago. Humans from around the world are now going to space as the "envoys of mankind," a legal moniker adopted in the Outer Space Treaty and the Rescue of Astronauts regime by members of the United Nations.

The importance of this international law is growing everyday as commercial space launch capability expands to place more and more non-government 'envoys of mankind' into space in this decade. It is probable, if not likely, that there will be a commercial Apollo-13-like mishap on orbit with a micrometeorite piercing the hull, an electrical shutdown, on-board fire, or some other now unknown event that causes the call for help to go forth to others in space.

This new ocean of space is to be sailed with ships of many nations. It is almost certain that the Chinese, Russians, Indians and Americans will be sailing the ocean of space in the years ahead. One, if not all, will face their own human space crisis. The spirit and the letter of decades old international law demands that nations be prepared to offer one another assistance in orbit of Earth or the moon.

Several members of Congress appear not to be willing to obligate, or to receive, assistance from Chinese-made space vehicles or their human crews despite the international law. Mostly notably, Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf questions cooperation with the Chinese in space, citing human rights violations or military technology transfer concerns. The Congressman has legitimate concerns with the Chinese. The question is whether this is the correct venue to seek to enforce it. Space may not be the proper venue when it comes to astronaut rescue.

Sino-American relations are not perfect but most analysts have characterized US-China foreign policy as complex and multi-faceted. The People's Republic of China and the United States are neither allies nor enemies. The American military establishment does view China as an enemy, but as a competitor in some areas and a partner in ours. The United States must decide if China is a competitor or partner is space affairs. In either case, international law obligates both nations to cooperate when the lives of "envoys of mankind'" are at stake.

American commercial space launch firms plan to place more humans in space in this decade than the number all nations have over the past fifty years. It would be an error not to have a bona fide protocol to provide one another assistance in space if the situation demands. Like Nixon, it may be that Congressman Wolf is the more appropriate person to open this door to the future in Chinese-American space relations and to suggest some space détente rescue pact among American, Chinese, Indian and Russian space agencies.

Cooperation does not have to be difficult. Human spacefaring nations need cooperation on ship-to-ship communication protocols, docking ports, oxygen and water hose sizes, and the like to save the lives by those opting to spaceflight in the decades ahead. The United States need not transfer the designs of our booster rockets or the next spacecraft design to visit an asteroid to accomplish a mutual rescue in space plan.

The United States need not wait the siren call of a Titanic-like space mishap to determine if we have measured-up to the spirit of international space law. We need not determine the ethnicity of envoys of humanity to determine their worth of a space rescue. Whether or not they are Chinese, Indian, Russian, American NASA astronaut or a private American space tourist, Americans need to lead in the development of protocol and etiquette in providing assistance in space emergencies.

There will be another Apollo 13, Challenger or Columbia mishap in space by Americans. Equally, there will be life-threatening problems in space for the Chinese, Russians and Indians. We need not adopt domestic policy that demeans the international law to save the lives of fellow envoys of humankind. Quite the contrary, America needs men like Congressman Wolf leading the way ensuring domestic codification of the international astronaut rescue agreement for 21st century spaceflight.
Those who attack NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's trek to China need to think about this content.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

History of Discovery: Nov. 1 Final Launch

A NASA-produced video history of OV-104, NASA's oldest space shuttle orbiter. Discovery is scheduled to blast off on November 1, 2010 on its 39th and final mission before being retired. The spacecraft provided significant moments in space history. The flight of the humanoid R2 will be a fitting finale for Discovery and the 180 people to fly aboard her. The STS-133 crew arrived at the Kennedy Space Center today for the final flight of Discovery. Flight Status.

Falcon 9 Dragon Launch Set Nov. 18, 2010

Scott Henderson, SpaceX Director of Mission Assurance, provides a tour of Space Launch Complex 40, the company's launch pad for its Falcon 9 rocket. The tour starts with Henderson's introduction driving onto the complex and tour the launch pad. The tour was part of Air Force Week media day events, hosted by the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB in Florida. The Falcon 9 with the Dragon space capsule is set for launch from Cape Canaveral on Thursday, November 18, 2010.

Virgin Galactic - Milestones to Space

Virgin Galactic shares highlights with Sir Richard Branson . A short film showcasing where we are now and the huge milestones reached over the past year. [Hat Tip to SFF Advocate Cathy Harper along The New Mexico Space Trail! ]

Vintage Virginia Spaceport Wine Released

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Holly Grove Vineyards are pleased to announce ‘Genesis’, a new Virginia wine, with a very unique wine label celebrating the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and Virginia’s return to space. Billie Reed, the Space Authority’s Executive Director will give ‘Genesis’ to his NASA hosts when he attends the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in Florida, scheduled for November 1, 2010.

Jonathan Bess, the owner and vintner at Holly Grove Vineyards on Virginia’s Eastern Shore discussed this idea with Spaceport officials while attending a presentation by Bigelow Aerospace, another company investigating launching its rockets from MARS.

“I know Wallops is where our nation’s space program was started,” Bess said. “NASA Wallops and NASA Langley tested rockets and trained astronauts before Kennedy or Johnson Space Centers were created. I’m really excited about the Taurus II launches. This is going to have a positive impact here on the Shore and on our nation. I wanted to be a part of making history so I suggested a special wine label in celebration of America’s first space coast’s return to space!”

The fine Virginia spaceport wine make for wonderful holiday gifts for space enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs. The Genesis wine is a special Bordeau blend of 33% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Petit Verdot. UPDATE HERE.

Spaceports blog has over 1-million views

The Spaceports blog has be honored to have over 1-million views by readers in countries on every continent of the globe since the count started 31 December 2006. Many of the blog readers interact via Linked-In, Twitter, e-mail, cellular call, post comments, participation in polls, or more often, follow or subscribe to the daily space science information flow.

English philosopher John Locke said it best. "The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others." Locke's statement is apropos. The endeavor here is to learn by applied journalism; secondly, to share the quest for humanity to become spacefaring.

A simple 'thank you' for coming along seems so inadequate.

Humanoid R2 has long-term mission plans

The future is R2: "to go where no humanoid robot has gone before!"

R2 will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the International Space Station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth after its launch aboard space shuttle Discovery on Monday, November 1, 2010. R2 will be deployed aboard the station in 2011.

See Project M: Humanoid Robot on the Moon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ARTEMIS Lunar Probes to Study Moon

Launched in 2007, NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft have now successfully completed their 2 year mission to determine the cause of geomagnetic substorms. Because they are continuing to work perfectly, NASA is re-directing the outermost two spacecraft to special orbits at and around the Moon. This new mission, which is called ARTEMIS, uses some very complex maneuvers over two years (2009-2010) to get both spacecraft into position.

As the Moon orbits the Earth, it passes in and out of the Earth's magnetic field and the million-mile per hour stream of particles emitted by the Sun known as the solar wind. While in these regions, the two ARTEMIS spacecraft will seek evidence for turbulence, particle acceleration, and magnetic reconnection, three fundamental phenomena that control the nature of the solar wind's interaction with the Earth's magnetosphere.

Employing their full complement of instruments and unique two-point vantage points, the spacecraft will study the vacuum the Moon carves out in the solar wind, and the processes that eventually fill this lunar wake. Nearer the Moon, they will observe the effects of surface electric fields, ions sputtered off the lunar surface, and determine the internal structure of the Moon from transient variations in its magnetic field induced by external changes.

After six months at the Lagrange points, ARTEMIS will move in closer to the moon, at first only 100 kilometers from the surface, but eventually even closer. From point-blank range, the spacecraft will look to see what the solar wind does to a rocky world when there is no magnetic field to protect it.

ARTEMIS will work in tandem with current missions, such as NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer to launch from Wallops Island, VA) and Grail (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory), and Chang'e 2, a Chinese unmanned probe, to prepare the ground for increased robotic exploration of the moon by future U.S. missions, including the international lunar network.

Russia Launches Soyuz Progress M-08M

The Russian cargo transport carrier Progress M-08M launched on Wednesday from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. The vehicle has reached the orbit for its approach to the International Space Station with docking scheduled for Saturday. This was announced by a representative of Roscosmos. Progress will deliver food, fresh fruit and vegetables, water, fuel, ISS equipment, parcels from family and festive gifts for the Space Station crew.

Meanwhile, the STS-133 space shuttle Discovery is in a final launch campaign to commence Monday, November 1, 2010 bound to the orbiting laboratory.

International Space Station to Mark Decade of Constant Human Habitation in Space

As the International Space Station Program completes 10 years of continuous human presence, administrators and former crewmembers discuss its past, present and future. The first residents, astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko came aboard the ISS on Nov. 2, 2000 on Expedition 1.

Tuesday, November 2 will mark an event of more long-term historic significance than mid-term Election Day results. The International Space Station (ISS) will have made nearly 60,000 orbits and traveled nearly 2-billion miles above us Tuesday, marking the 10th anniversary of the first American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts taking-up residency aboard the orbiting laboratory, hurdling 220-miles above our heads at the speed of 17,500 mph.

Despite the impending grounding of the space shuttle, the International Space Station will continue human operations until at least 2020, periodically growing a little brighter from expansion. The Russians, Europeans and Japanese will be sending cargo ships there. For the first time next year, a capsule launch from Virginia will arrive with water, food, and scientific experiments for the orbiting six-member crews.

In NASA parlance, there is a study underway for an international effort to build a human spaceship at the ISS to orbit the moon in this decade. There is also discussion of disassembly of a few modules of the ISS to use as crew quarters for a lengthier human mission to one of the many near-earth-asteroids. These concepts are more than power point charts: flash forward to the future, these studies and plans will become our reality as humans again break the bonds of Earth gravity to journey 240,000 miles to the moon or one million or more to an asteroid.

Space entrepreneurs are now building space vehicles to fly near the space station with privately owned inflatable habitats expanding the space neighborhood with more humans. This new breed space resident will launch to space from Virginia, as well as Florida, with men and women working on it every day now. In the decade ahead, the space station will serve as the orbiting location point where humanity will leave for the moon, the asteroids, and in the next two decades even to Mars.

NASA Future Human Missions Discussed

Dr. David Korsmeyer, Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center, shares his 1-hour lecture on the so-called The Flexible Path architecture for human spaceflight. The plan calls for incrementally more aggressive human missions out into the inner solar system. Dr. Korsmeyer reviewed the study and where it now stands.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NASA's EPOXI Closes on Hartley 2 Comet

NASA's EPOXI mission continues to close in on its target, comet Hartley 2, at a rate of 12.5 kilometers (7.8 miles) per second. On Nov. 4 at about 10:01 a.m. EDT (7:01 a.m. PDT) the spacecraft will make its closest approach to the comet at a distance of about 700 kilometers (434 miles). It will be the fifth time that a comet has been imaged close-up and the first time in history that two comets have been imaged with the same instruments and same spatial resolution.

The mission's encounter phase begins the evening of Nov. 3, when the spacecraft is about 18 hours from the time of closest approach to the comet's nucleus. At that time the spacecraft will stop transmitting through its large high-gain antenna and reorient itself so its two visible-light and one infrared imager maintain lock on the comet for the next 24 hours-plus.

The hours surrounding comet encounter will be especially challenging for the mission team as they are commanding a recycled spacecraft that was not designed for this comet flyby. The spacecraft was designed and employed successfully for NASA's Deep Impact encounter of comet Tempel 1 back on July 4, 2005. By recycling Deep Impact's already built, tested and in-flight spacecraft, the EPOXI mission provided savings on the order of 90% that of a hypothetical mission with similar goals, starting from the ground up.

NASA Seeks Commercial Crew Proposals

NASA has issued an announcement seeking proposals from U.S. industry to further advance commercial crew space transportation concepts and mature the design and development of system elements, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft. Awards will result in funded Space Act Agreements.

Multiple awards are expected to be announced by March 2011 for terms of up to 14 months. Approximately $200 million total is expected to be available for awards under this announcement, but funding is dependent on the 2011 fiscal year appropriations from Congress. The deadline for submitting proposals for CCVEV2 is Dec. 13, 2010.

The agreements are expected to generate significant progress toward maturing the design and development of commercial crew systems elements that also ensure crew and passenger safety. The overall objective is to accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities and reduce the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability. Through this activity, NASA also may be able to spur economic growth as potential new space markets are created. Once developed, crew transportation capabilities could become available to commercial and government customers.

White House Science Advisor Sends Letters to Congressional Leaders about Asteroids

In separate 10-page letters to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy outlines plans for "(A) protecting the United States from a near-Earth object (asteroids and comets) that is expected to collide with Earth; and (B) implementing a deflection campaign, in consultation with international bodies, should one be necessary." Dr. Holdren's letter to each committee is linked above herein.

Russell Schweickart, a former astronaut and former co-chairman of the Task Force on Planetary Defense of the NASA Advisory Council, wrote a OpEd in The New York Times published Oct. 25, 2010.

University of Kentucky to Launch CubeSat

University of Kentucky engineering students have been preparing a 'CubeSat' for launch into orbit in February 2011.

KYSat-1 will travel to California Polytechnic State University on Monday to be integrated into a standardized satellite launcher and to undergo final flight qualification vibration testing,” according to electrical and computer engineering Professor Dr. James Lumpp. “From there it will travel to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will be integrated onto a Taurus-XL rocket for a Feb. 22, 2011 launch.”

“The satellite, Kentucky Satellite-1, is the first free-flying, orbital satellite the lab has developed and is the result of a state-wide collaboration among Kentucky universities, coordinated by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, a non-profit corporation focused on high-technology and innovation in Kentucky,” Lumpp said.

White House Science Fair for Students Held

More from the White House Blog.

Monday, October 25, 2010

OFFICIAL: STS-133 Launch Set for Nov. 1

Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to begin an 11-day mission to the International Space Station with a launch at 4:40 p.m. EDT on Monday, Nov. 1, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-133 mission is Discovery's final scheduled flight.

Discovery's launch date was announced Monday at the conclusion of a flight readiness review at Kennedy. During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle and station's equipment, support systems and personnel are ready.

FutureForward: Back to the Moon

"Back to the moon" with private enterprise was published in The Daily Progress in Charlotesville, Va. Sunday, after first appearing in The Kingsport Times-News (print edition only) on Saturday, October 9, 2010. Hope you recommend it on FaceBook or Twitter.

With the evdience of water and silver on the lunar surface, the facts only point more in the direction of commercial lunar efforts in the near-term future.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Future of Space Travel

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson discuss the future of Spaceport America and human spaceflight.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lori Garver Speaks in New Mexico

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver speaks at Spaceport America's runway dedication in Upham, NM on Oct. 22, 2010. Also attending the event were Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Apollo lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Harrison ' Jack' Schmitt. Garver touted the new partnership emerging between the civil and commercial space sectors. [Hap tip to Doug Messier]

SpaceShip2 Visits Land of Enchantment

Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and prospective astronauts gathered in the southern New Mexico desert Friday to celebrate the completion of the runway at the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport [AP and raw video]

The VSS Enterprise spacecraft made a celebratory flight over the New Mexico facility, where Sir Richard Branson told crowds the first commercial flights could take place within nine months [BBC News video]. Branson said that Virgin Galactic will build a spaceship for low earth orbit in the near-term future [SS3].

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rich Silvery Moon with Water-Ice Confirmed

Lunar soil is richer than previously thought, with traces of silver among the complex mix of elements and compounds found within one of the moon's craters, according to a new study.

Researchers at Brown University who analyzed particles of lunar dust kicked up by a NASA-engineered collision last year found a surprisingly rich mixture that, in addition to the silver, included water and compounds like hydroxyl, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and free sodium.

The LRO impact data confirmed a splash of sorts --- results revealing lots of water in a crater where the sun never shines — 41 gallons of ice and vapor — were measured. More from NASA, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and Science Friday.

DEVELOP Collaborates with GEO and CEOS

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) invited project proposals that focused on the application of Earth observations for improved decision making and showcase the value and societal benefits of Earth observations. DEVELOP submitted a proposal, and was selected to conduct a project in collaboration with GEO on October 1, 2010.

Established in 1984, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) coordinates civil space-borne observations of the Earth. Participating agencies strive to enhance international coordination and data exchange and to optimize societal benefit. Currently 28 space agencies along with 20 other national and international organizations participate in CEOS planning and activities.

Virtual Visit to the UDFy-38135539 Galaxy

A European team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has measured the distance to the most remote galaxy so far. By carefully analysing the very faint glow of the galaxy they have found that they are seeing it when the Universe was only about 600 million years old (a redshift of 8.6). These are the first confirmed observations of a galaxy whose light is clearing the opaque hydrogen fog that filled the cosmos at this early time. The one-minute music version of the above video - nice. This video uses images from the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field to visualize a zoom towards UDFy-38135539.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NASA-DARPA Invest $1.1 Million in Starship

Speaking at a conference in San Francisco on Saturday, NASA Ames Center director Simon "Pete" Worden said his division of the space agency had started a project with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called the "Hundred Year Starship -- a collaboration for a Star Trek-esque exploration spaceship.

"Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds,” retired Air Force General Worden said, adding that he hoped to "inveigle some billionaires" such as Google founder Larry Page to help with further funding for the project.

“(Google cofounder) Larry Page asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion, and his response was, ‘Can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion?’ So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price,” Worden said.

First stop, Worden said, was the moons of Mars, from where the planet itself can be explored using telerobotics. “I think we’ll be on the moons of Mars by 2030 or so," he said.

NOTE: "What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve," once said famed motivational writer Napoleon Hill.

Russians Launch Globalstar-2

Russia's upgraded Soyuz-2.1a space carrier placed six U.S. Globalstar-2 communications satellites into orbit on Tuesday. Globalstar is a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite-based telecommunications system founded by U.S.-based Loral Corporation and Qualcomm Inc. It provides high-quality satellite voice and data services across North America, and to over 120 countries worldwide.

Commercial launches of Soyuz carrier rockets are managed by Starsem, a European-Russian joint venture, which comprises EADS SPACE, Arianespace, the Russian Federal Space Agency, and the Samara-based Progress design and production center.

Halfway to Pluto for 2015 Rendezvous

Launched in January 2006, the New Horizons satellite has been hurtling toward Pluto at about 50,000 mph. Even at that rate the 1,054lb satellite will get it close to the dwarf planet sometime around July 2015.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

James Oberg Lecture on Russian Space

Jim Oberg had the unique opportunity to visit a top secret Russian military base where a converted military missile was used to orbit the Genesis-2 inflatable habitat prototype for Bigelow Aerospace. He describes his experiences at the southwestern Siberian base called 'Yasniy' (known to the CIA as the Dombarovskiy ICBM base) watching a 'Dnepr' launch vehicle blast off from an underground silo normally used for nuclear-armed 'Satan' ICBMs in this March 2010 video [1 hr].

Europeans Seek Common Space Policy

Space exploration is a major global issue and Europe wants to be in the driving seat. It therefore needs to develop a global vision and a strategic action plan. The development of a European space vision will be begin in Brussels, Belgium October 26 and 27, 2010 with the European Parliament presidential leadership.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Next Golden Age of Human Space Flight Conference Set for April 11-15, 2011

Space researchers, physicians, astronauts, and operations experts from around the world will gather April 11-15, 2011, in Houston to discuss the next chapter in human spaceflight at the 18th International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Humans in Space Symposium.

Hosted by NASA and the University of Houston (UH), the theme of the international scientific symposium is "Integration and Cooperation in the Next Golden Age of Human Space Flight." The program will emphasize the search for synergies between the traditional biomedical disciplines to provide new insights for the next generation of investigators, spacecraft designers, mission planners and space explorers.

The event will be held at the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston. The focus of the symposium will be on the concept that integration across cultures, nations, agencies, disciplines and objectives will be essential to the next chapter of the humans-in-space story. Highlights will include special sessions devoted to the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first spaceflight on April 12, 1961 and the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle mission, whose maiden flight occurred on April 12, 1981.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Future Missileers' of America!

Impressive is the SHAC JAM Sam Houston Area Council Centennial Celebration (2010) event. They do things BIG in Texas!

Guest Taikonaut Flyers in the Near Future?

While much commentary noise is being made about NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's trek to China this week to discuss space with Chinese space engineers and scientists, Dr. Morris Jones, an Australian space analyst, writer and lecturer, has a very interesting take in an article titled: "International Crews for Shenzhou."

Dr. Jones suggests that the Chinese may offer Guest Taikonaut flights to foreign nationals. He speculates that China may launch foreign taikonauts from Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, Taiwan, Pakistan or, more likely, European.

It would be politically interesting if Bolden returns with an offer to fly an American NASA astronaut on a Shenzhou space mission in the next few years. If offered, America should accept it for a multitude of reasons.

Salute to Space Shuttle Discovery!

The Space Shuttle Discovery is being prepared for its final flight set to launch the afternoon of Monday, November 1, 2010. The above 10-minute video provides an overview of the planned flight to the International Space Station.

SpaceX Prepares for NeXt Falcon 9 Launch

The second flight of the Falcon 9 with the Dragon capsule is being set at Cape Canaveral, Florida for next month subsequent to the STS-133 Discovery launch.

The first Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demo requires SpaceX to show that Dragon can complete as many as four orbits around Earth, transmit telemetry data, receive commands, maneuver, reenter the atmosphere and make a safe water landing and recovery.

Dragon will initially be used to transport cargo to the International Space Station, under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, with flights slated to begin next year. Meanwhile, a crew-carrying Dragon spacecraft are also under development and designed to carry up to seven astronauts.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation will also launch the new Taurus-2 to space for the first time next year from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Which of the two private space launch firms will actually place cargo on the ISS first is yet to be determined.

ESA Science Looks at the Moon and Titan

This episode of the Science@ESA vodcast takes a look at the Earth's Moon and Titan, two very different natural satellites in our Solar System, and finds out about the two ESA missions that have explored them. Several missions to the moon are underway or planned in this decade. The Part-2 video about Titan from ESA.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


COMET 103P/HARTLEY AT ITS BEST: For backyard stargazers, the next few nights are the best time to see green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 as it approaches Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Set your alarm for the dark hours before dawn, go outside, and look straight up. You will find Hartley 2 not far from the bright star Capella. Although the comet is barely visible to the unaided eye, it is easy to locate using binoculars and looks great through a backyard telescope. Sky maps and more information may be found at .

This Week @ NASA

Last Discovery Launch Campaign Proceeds

The six-member crew of the next space shuttle mission spoke with reporters on Oct. 14 at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts for shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission are at Kennedy to participate in a full launch dress rehearsal, known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, and related training. The test provides an opportunity for the crew and ground teams to participate in various simulated countdown activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency escape training.

Discovery is targeted to launch Nov. 1 on its final scheduled flight. During its 11-day mission, astronauts will deliver and install the Permanent Multipurpose Module, critical spare components for the station, and the Express Logistics Carrier 4, an external platform that holds large equipment. Discovery also will deliver Robonaut 2, or R2, to become a permanent resident of the station as the first human-like robot in space.

ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft Advances to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko for 2014 landing

The European Space Agency's Rosetta comet chaser is on its way to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko for a rendezvous in 2014 - ten years after launch. This immense journey will take it to the orbit of Jupiter where it will rendezvous with the comet and follow it back towards the Sun. It will also place a lander on the comet's surface to sample the composition. That is not all: Rosetta has been taking a look at some other asteroids along the way. More from MSNBC.

Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Contracts Awarded by NASA to Six Private Firms

NASA has awarded Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contracts to six companies for the purchase of technical data resulting from industry efforts to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions. The data from these contracts will inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems.

The ILDD Broad Agency Announcement resulted in multiple award firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value of up to $30.1 million over a period of up to five years. For each selected contractor, the minimum government purchase is $10,000, and the maximum government purchase is $10.01 million.

The contracts were awarded to: Astrobotic Technology Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.; The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., Cambridge, Mass.; Dynetics Inc., Huntsville, Ala.; Earthrise Space Inc., Orlando, Fla.; Moon Express Inc., San Francisco, Calif.; and, Team FREDNET, The Open Space Society, Inc., Huntsville, Ala.

Friday, October 15, 2010

SS2 to Utilize Kennedy Space Center?

Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire, said this week his Virgin Galactic spaceflight subsidiary "would seriously consider" Central Florida for an East Coast spaceport within the next decade, reports The Orlando Sentinel. More from VirginGalactic.

UN Space Affairs Director: how to cope with discovery of extraterrestrial life

We Earthlings are poorly prepared to respond should there be contact from aliens, according to the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). "Statistically, extraterrestrial life is a possibility," Malaysian astrophysicist, Mazlan Othman, told journalists in New York, where she is attending a General Assembly meeting on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space, reports Fox News. More from the UN News Center.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hubble Captures Asteroid Collision

The aftermath of a huge collision between two asteroids from the same batch of space rocks which wiped out the dinosaurs has been captured by NASA scientists. They slammed into each other at about 11,000mph - creating an explosion as powerful as a small atomic bomb - 90 million miles away from earth. The cosmic pile-up between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is the first ever witnessed and could lead to new ways of preventing another asteroid slamming into our planet, reports The Daily Mail. More from The Los Angeles Times.

Chang'E-2 Post-Mission Options Waiting

China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2, is expected to have enough fuel to fly back to earth, Zhou Jianliang, the vice chief-designer of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said this week.

Zhou said there are three possible "fates" for Chang'e-2 after it finishes its six-month mission: landing on the moon; flying to outer space; or returning to earth. The fate of Chang'e-2 will be decided according to its condition when the mission is complete, expected in the spring of 2011.

A deep space mission or a return to Earth would be a Chinese space first. A controlled lunar crash would be a repeat and therefore an unlikely scenario.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Asteroid 2010 TD54 Makes Close Encounter

ASTEROID FLYBY:: Newly-discovered asteroid 2010 TD54 flew by Earth on Tuesday, Oct. 12th, about 46,000 km above Earth's surface. Astronomers are studying the asteroid to determine if there was a change in the asteroid's trajectory from the close encounter. Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins photographed the flyby using a 14-inch Celestron telescope.

A WISE Hunt for Threatening Asteroids

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sen. Jim Webb Visits Virginia Spaceport

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (center) on Tuesday made his first official visit to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. Orbital Sciences Corporation is slated to launch the first Taurus-2 rocket to orbit from the commercial spaceport next summer. Thereafter, the Taurus-2 will launch about every six months carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Webb was joined by his chief-of-staff Paul Reagan.

Construction of a new launch pad on Wallops Island is proceeding with completion targeted for spring 2011 and the first launch in summer 2011 following the first in-place test firing of the orbital booster.

Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace continues to review the site as a potential future launch site for the UAL Atlas-V to carry humans to a Bigelow private space station around mid-decade, according to attorney Mike Gold.

Monday, October 11, 2010

President Signs NASA Authorization Today

President Barack Obama codified a new course for NASA today when he signed into law a plan for the agency that ends NASA’s aims of returning to the moon and instead puts the agency on a course to one day put astronauts on an asteroid, according to reports from the White House, NASA, and the Orlando Sentinel. Next on the agenda, appropriations.

India Readies Lunar Surface Rover for 2011

Asia is on the move to the Moon with India now making ready the Chandrayaan-2 for launch in August 2011 as a follow-up to its first probe to orbit gathing remote sensing data of the lunar surface. Chandrayaan 2 actually includes three vehicles: an orbiter, lander and rover unlike the first that merely orbited the Moon.

With a measure of assistance from Russia, India will seek to leap from the Chinese lunar program next year. The Chandrayaan 2's lunar rover will have two payloads, both of them spectroscopes. Using these instruments, the rover will analyze the elemental composition of the moon's surface near its landing site. It will land with the assistance of a Russian-made lunar lander aftering being sent to the moon aboard an Indian-made booster. Stay-tuned to the Asian space race!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SpaceShipTwo Flys Free for 1st Time!

Alan Boyle has an account of the SpaceShipTwo flying free in the sky for the very first time with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation feting the milestone of placing more humans in space - on this the anniversery of the UN Outer Space Treaty. More from Virgin Galactic on the first manned free flight earlier today. Above is a nearly 8-minute preview video from Virgin Galactic and National Geographic's upcoming documentary about the development of SpaceShipTwo 'Enterprise' and its mother ship, Eve. NEW flight video from BBC.

Space is not just rocket science!

A movie done by the Outreach Working Group at the Space Generation Congress 2010 in Prague, Czech Republic to illustrate that everyone can find a place in the space sector, not only scientists or engineers. Credits: Marian Šuch and Petr Pulc/SGAC.

Outer Space Treaty 43-Years Old Today

The Outer Space Treaty, formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law, and entered into force on October 10, 1967. The forty-three year old international treaty has been signed by 125 countries and ratified by 98 nations of the Earth. Some love the treaty, some hate it, but let us all discuss it today to recognize the existence of the Outer Space Treaty. [Space Law]

As the number of "envoys of mankind" will soon to be expanding into low earth orbit and the 250,000 miles between the Earth and the Moon, perhaps the diplomats, politicans, businessmen and would-be astronauts of spacefaring nations need to give serious consideration to the treaty and its true meaning.

Three Cheers to the Outer Space Treaty!

Russian mixologist Bek Narzi shows how to make, and enjoy, a "cosmic sling" for a very happy Outer Space Treaty anniversary day. The vodka and champaign has a real kick-boost!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Wonders of the Solar System Published

Wonders of the Solar System: Professor Brian Cox, OBE is a particle physicist, a Royal Society research fellow, and a professor at the University of Manchester as well as researcher on one of the most ambitious experiments on Earth, the ATLAS experiment on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. He is best known to the public as a science broadcaster and presenter of the highly popular BBC2 series Wonders of the Solar System - now available as a book and DVD. He was also the keyboard player in the UK pop band D:Ream in the 1990s.