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Monday, February 28, 2011

STS-133 Daily Mission Recap - Flight Day 4

A video recap of flight day 4 of the STS-133 mission of space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station.

Grappling With a MAD Space Future

The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region, provides an article by Richard Weitz, "Its new space strategy calls for the US to reach out to allies in Asia. But will differences with China undermine progress?" The Weitz article is worthy of time inasmuch as it sets forth the policy issues the United States faces in building international partnerships in military, civil and commercial space.

New Mexico Gov Appoints Christine Anderson Executive Director of Spaceport Authority

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced today that the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors has named Christine Anderson as Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. Anderson previously served for 30 years in civilian positions with the United States Air Force, including several years at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base.

Upon making the announcement, Governor Martinez commented, “I am pleased that the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors has chosen an exceptionally qualified individual to oversee operations at the Spaceport. With proper management and the right approach, the Spaceport project has the potential to create jobs, spur economic development, and make New Mexico a leader in space travel. My administration is committed to working closely with Ms. Anderson and the Board of Directors to attract private investment and see the project through to its full potential.”

Before retiring from the Air Force, Anderson was a member of the Senior Executive Service, the civilian equivalent of the military rank of General officer. Anderson was the founding Director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. She also served as the Director of the Space Technology Directorate at the Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland, and as the Director of the Military Satellite Communications Joint Program Office at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles where she directed the development, acquisition and execution of a $50 billion portfolio. She is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Anderson earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Maryland, and completed the National Security Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University and the Senior Management in Government Program at Harvard University.

After hearing of the Board of Directors’ decision, Anderson remarked, “I am excited for the opportunity to lead a project that has such a high potential for success. I look forward to working with Governor Martinez and the Board of Directors to ensure that the Spaceport is developed into an economic engine that can drive development and job creation in New Mexico.”

Anderson replaces Rick Homans as the Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. More from The Las Cruces Sun-News.

Asteroid Defense: What are the possibilities?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Haleakala telescope locates 19 asteroids

On the night of Jan. 29, the astronomers at the Pan-STARRS PS1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System)telescope atop Haleakala decided to "run it flat out" in killer-asteroid hunting mode, and despite uncooperative weather, they bagged a record 19 "near-Earth objects" in one night, reports The Maui News in Hawaii. noted, Pan-STARRS astronomers picked up 30 potential asteroids on the night of Jan. 29. They sent their discoveries to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., which collects and distributes data about asteroids and comets, allowing other astronomers to re-observe the objects.

Scientists at the Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope on Haleakala, Maui, said the record demonstration of the year-old telescope's capabilities was made possible by recent software improvements and refinements in observational techniques, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

While the chance of near-Earth asteroids actually colliding with Earth is remote, roughly a 1-in-1,000 chance, knowing their whereabouts will allow governments to act should the unlikely actually develop into a real threat.

STS-133 and Expedition 26 Crews Interviewed by TV-Stations

Aboard the International Space Station, the STS-133 and Expedition 26 crews, in a joint event, speak with reporters from the Weather Channel, WBZ Boston, WSB Atlanta and WTVE Tampa about their missions and the Monday and Wednesday spacewalks.

Alyssa Rhoden Cracks the Ice of Europa

Europa's surface records a complex history of geologic activity including fracture systems driven by tidal stress, which varies daily as Europa executes its eccentric orbit around Jupiter. Obliquity, physical libration, and non-synchronous rotation would also contribute to the pattern of tidal stress on Europa. Hence, we can use observed fracture systems to constrain these rotational parameters. Using cycloids and strike-slip faults, Dr. Rhoden has been able to probe Europa's rotation state and uncover the first geologic evidence of non-negligible obliquity. Dr. Rhoden will present this case for obliquity and physical libration and implications for non-synchronous rotation and polar wander. In addition, she will present a model she has developed for a fault's response to tidal stress that accurately predicts the slip direction of 75% of strike-slip faults identified in an extensive survey of Europa imagery.

Robopocalypse in Space Begins with R-2?

STS-133 Day 3 Highlights at ISS

A video recap of flight day 3 of the STS-133 mission of space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. The recap shows the inspection of the shuttle, docking, hatch opening of the ISS and shuttle, transfer of equipment for spacewalks Monday and Wednesday and operation of the robotic arms.

Robonaut-1: Balloon pop and recovery!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Solar Flares Contiune Toward Maximum

This composite movie shows hot solar plasma in red (1.5 million Kelvin, observed in Fe XII 19.3 nm) and green (~1 million Kelvin, Fe IX 17.1 nm) and "cool" solar plasma (60,000-80,000 K, He II 30.4 nm) in blue, all observed with the AIA instrument on SDO on Feb 24, 2010. The real time step between frames is 36 sec, and the movie plays at 25 frames/sec. The duration is 4 1/2 hours, from 06:00 UT - 10:30 UT.

Discovery Docks with International Space Station for The Final Time

At 4:16 p.m. EST Saturday, February 26, 2011, the hatches were opened between the International Space Station and space shuttle Discovery, beginning the joint phase of the STS-133 mission. The STS-133 crew were greeted and welcomed aboard the orbiting complex by members of Expedition 26.

Aerial Views of STS-133 Launch Revealed

Cosmic Log has revealed unique views of the STS-133 Discovery launch from a commercial airliner flying from Orlando, Florida and the first images captured by a high-altitude balloon flight conducted by Quest for Stars and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Amazing!

"Blue Sky" Wins NASA Wake-Up Song Contest

Following months of public voting, NASA announced the two winners of the "Top 40 Song Contest," which will awaken space shuttle crew members during their ongoing mission. The agency also released the final tally of submissions to the Space Shuttle Program's "Face in Space" campaign. Participants cast almost 2.5 million votes for the song contest and submitted more than 292,000 photographs for the Face in Space campaign.

"Blue Sky" by Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the most requested song to wake up shuttle Discovery's crew during the STS-133 mission, collected 722,659 votes. The song received 29.3 percent of the total votes. Finishing second was the "Theme from Star Trek" (original series), which also will serve as a wake up song. It received 671,133 votes, or 27.2 percent of the votes. To see the results for all 40 songs, visit:

There were 2,463,521 votes cast during the contest that ran from Aug. 20, 2010, through Nov. 1. Participants voted from a list of 40 songs that have previously awakened shuttle crews.

Hawaii Looks at New Spaceport License

The Hawaii Senate is considering a bill that would authorize the state to pursue a Federal Aviation Administration spaceport license that could launch the state into the multibillion-dollar space exploration and tourism business, [KHON].

Senate Bill 112 would enable the state’s Office of Aerospace Development to conduct the environmental and safety assessments that are required for the license, said Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa Beach-Waipahu, author of the bill. A similar measure was passed by the Legislature in 2009, but funds were not released by then-Gov. Linda Lingle.

A presentation on a Hawaii spaceport was made by Rocketplane Global's Chuck Lauer in 2009.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Robonaut-1 Returns to Earth on High-Altitude Balloon Mission of Discovery

QUEST FOR STARS: After a flight to the edge of space and capturing the last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-133), Robonaut-1 falls to earth by parachute following the balloon ride through the atmosphere over Florida. The team retrieved and opened it live on camera. The digital pictures and videos are now being downloaded by the project managers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery Foam Strike !

Linked above is a foam strike to space shuttle Discovery several just under 4-minutes after it launched. The vehicle will be exaimed carefully after it reaches the International Space Station for any potential vehicle damage.

Discovery makes orbit on way to the ISS

Johannes Kepler ATV Docks with ISS

The "Johannes Kepler" Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 docked to the International Space Station on Feb. 24, eight days after its launch from Courou, French Guiana. ATV-2 is delivering more than seven tons of experiments, fuel, water, food and other supplies to the space station.

No Issues, Weather Good for 4:50 PM Launch

Quest for Stars to Look for STS-133 Today!

If all goes according to plan later this afternoon, a high-altitude balloon with a student-oriented payload will photograph Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbs into space from an altitude of 100,000 feet. There will also be live streaming video from the balloon itself during the mission - sent back by two regular smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost.

A helium-filled balloon carrying the "Robonaut-1" payload will be launched from a location in Florida some distance away from Kennedy Space Center. The time and location of launch will be determined by weather conditions. With a currently planned STS-133 launch time of 4:50 p.m. EST the balloon will be launched between 3:00 - 3:50 p.m. EST so as to be in position for Discovery's supersonic transit of the stratosphere. If there is a delay in the launch of Discovery the team is ready to try again - several times - on subsequent days.

The balloon will rise at a rate of 800-1,000 feet per minute to an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet. After accomplishing its mission the payload will be released and descend by parachute. After the payload descends for 15-30 minutes, a trained recovery team will retrieve the payload and download its data and imagery.

Onboard Robonaut-1 is a HD Camera Phone Satellite (PHONESAT) that will attempt to capture images of Space Shuttle Discovery as it leaves Earth for space. Multiple cameras and an on-board computer system will ensure that Discovery launch images will be captured during its ascent. Some of those photos will include logos for Quest For Stars, STS-133, Challenger Center, and Motorola. In addition, the payload contains a Motorola i290 mobile phone and a Garmin eTrex GPS system that is connected to a ham radio transmitter. The payload is designed to have multiple means of communication for backup purposes.

Live video of mission activities will also be streamed during the mission. This webcast can be watched at or or . Live video from the Robonaut-1 itself during flight will be available at

Updates during the mission including live tracking information during ascent and descent can be obtained by following or on Facebook at

Students Get Microgravity Opportunities

Details Emerge on 216 Kleopatra Asteroid

The video above provides an anamation of the moons AlexHelios (outer) and CleoSelene (inner) orbiting the parent dog-boned shape asteroid, (216) Kleopatra, over a period of three days in the main asteroid belt. The video animation is based on mutual orbits from Keck AO observations (Descamps et. al. 2011) and radar observations (Ostro et al. 2000). Credit: Franck Marchis and Pascal Descamps. NatGeo, MSNBC and SpaceRef provide current details.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All Remains 'GO' for STS-133 Launch

Space Shuttle Discovery's final mission (STS-133) includes delivery of "Leonardo", the Italian Space Agency's storage module aka PMM (Permanent Multipurpose Module) to the ISS. Credit: ESA

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weather, Systems a 'GO' for Discovery

In this Feb. 21 news briefing held at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space shuttle launch team reports that preparations continue for Discovery's last flight into orbit on STS-133. The mission is scheduled to begin with a liftoff Thursday at 4:50 p.m. EST. The current forecast calling for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

Garagin Soyuz to Launch March 20, 2011

The launch of the Russian Soyuz TMA-21, set for Sunday, March 20, 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan , is to be devoted to the 50th anniversary of the first space mission by Yuri Gagarin. The spacecraft, called the Yuri Garagin, will transport three members of the Expedition 27 crew to the International Space Station.

Significant celebrations are planned at the International Space Station to recognize the first space flights of Yuri Garagin and Alan Shepard during the Expedition 27 crew stay on-orbit. The Russians have declared 2011 The Year of the Cosmonaut.

The Soyuz TMA-21 flight patch uses a drawing by a French boy, Marciel Santos Kayle, 12, who lives in French Guiana, not far away from the new launch pad for Russian Soyuz rockets later this year. Marciel's sketch was chosen for the crew emblem because it depicts Gagarin and his spacecraft, Vostok. The patch will be worn by the Soyuz prime crew - Russians Alexander Samokutyayev, Andrei Borisenko and American Ron Garan.

Messenger to Orbit Mercury March 18, 2011

NASA MESSENGER spacecraft's planned orbit about Mercury will be highly elliptical (egg-shaped), 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface at the lowest point and more than 15,193 kilometers (9,420 miles) at the highest. The spacecraft will enter orbit on March 18, 2011.

At the outset of the orbital phase of the mission, the plane of the spacecraft's orbit is inclined 82.5° to Mercury's equator, and the low point in the orbit is reached at a latitude of 60° North.

About 31% of the spacecraft's propellant is required for Mercury orbit insertion -- the process of placing the spacecraft into its primary science orbit around Mercury. MESSENGER's thrusters must slow the spacecraft by just over 0.86 kilometers (0.53 miles) per second. As the spacecraft approaches Mercury, the largest thruster must be pointed close to the forward velocity direction of the spacecraft.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

STS-133 Astronauts Arrive at Kennedy

The six astronauts for the next space shuttle mission arrived at the shuttle landing facility at 3:32 p.m. EST on Feb. 20 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for their prelaunch preparations in NASA T-38 jets.

Liftoff of shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. on Feb. 24. Discovery's crew members are Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Crew members made brief comments to media upon arrival. This is Discovery's last scheduled mission before the Space Shuttle Program retires this year.

Aurora Borealis Active from Solar Flares

A blast of plasma from the sun hit the Earth Feb. 18th, creating a brilliant display of lights across the skies of Northern Canada. The lights were the result of a geomagnetic storm caused by three solar flares that blasted toward Earth from the sun between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15, including what NASA called the largest solar flare in four years. The three apparently merged before their arrival, reported the Space Weather Prediction Center run by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA reported one limited blackout of radio communication in the past 24 hours as a result of geomagnetic activity.

NOAA: Earth Ozone Hole Appears Stable

Much of life on Earth requires oxygen - not only for metabolism, but also for protection. Oxygen, in its many forms, occurs throughout the atmosphere. At 21%, molecular oxygen (O2) is the second most common gas in our atmosphere. At 0.0001%, ozone (O3) is hardly common, but its impact is enormous. Near the ground, in the stratosphere, ozone acts as a pollutant. In the upper atmosphere (troposphere), it acts as a shield, blocking harmful ultraviolet energy from the sun. Much attention has been made to the human-caused deterioration of the ozone layer, and the infamous "holes" that form over the Antarctic each year. The term "hole" is a bit of a misnomer, as an actual hole does not form, the ozone layer just becomes much thinner.

NOAA is one of the global leaders in monitoring and analyzing the ozone layer, and has co-authored the most recent analysis describing the state of the ozone layer . The Scientific Assessment Panel of the U.N. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has found that The Montreal Protocol (enacted in 1987) has been effective in reducing mankind's impact on the ozone layer, but climate change may also begin to show signs of impacting the ozone layer, especially in the Arctic, where climate-induced circulation patterns may become more severe.

This animation uses data from NOAA's satellites to show the annual changes in the size of the Antarctic ozone hole, along with daily fluctuations in global ozone concentration. As pointed out in the report, the size of the Antarctic ozone hole appears to have reached a turnaround point, whereby the hole is not getting worse each year, but at the same time it is not decreasing. It is expected that a return to "normal", pre-1980 levels of ozone will occur later in this century -- that is, if the ban on ozone-destroying chemicals stays in place.

Subsurface Ocean on Saturn's moon Titan?

Whether or not Saturn moon's Titan currently possesses a subsurface ocean is crucial for understanding its long-term evolution. In this talk Prof. Francis Nimmo presents two lines of evidence suggesting the existence of a subsurface ocean, probably ammonia-rich.

A word to the WISE: Crunch the Data!

The WISE Spacecraft transmitter was turned off for the final time at 12:00 noon PST Feb 17th. WISE Principal Investigator Ned Wright sent the last command. The Spacecraft will remain in hibernation without ground contacts awaiting possible future use.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is there a 'Brown Dwarf' in our solar system?

A look at strange exoplanets around a brown dwarf star that a number of scientists say may be a orbiting companion to our solar system to the music of Pink Floyd's echoes. Is there a 'Brown Dwarf' in our solar system? Comments.

Extraordinary International Space Portrait?

The international space station (ISS) partners are currently discussing a possibility to stage an extraordinary photo opportunity in March that would yield photo and video images of the space station with all current U.S., Russian, European and Japanese spacecraft docked at the outpost, the press service of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said.

If all goes well and space shuttle Discovery arrives at the International Space Station in late February, there will be a distinctive configuration: all of the international partners will have a vehicle docked to the completed ISS.

NASA advanced a proposal to put three astronauts in one of the Russia's Soyuz capsules that are docked to the station, have them undock and fly around to take pictures of the entire complex. Station skipper Scott Kelly and Russian flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka would climb aboard their Soyuz spacecraft and then back away to a vantage point where they could capture images of the entire outpost.

The photo shooting would be carried out only if all higher-priority work is completed by the arrival of Discovery shuttle, reports RIA Novosti. Readers may follow space station sightings here.

This remarkable photo was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the ISS on 16 February 2011, just minutes after ATV Johannes Kepler lifted off on board an Ariane 5 from Kourou at 22:50 UTC. It shows the rising exhaust trail of Ariane, still in its initial vertical trajectory. The trail can be seen as a thin streak framed just beneath the Station's remote manipulator arm. Credits: ESA/ NASA

Dr. Feng Hsu Assessing Private Space Flight

With more than 90 books published and worldwide recognition for his expertise as technical advisor and leading expert of Risk and Safety Assessment and Management at several NASA centers and Brookhaven National Lab, Dr. Feng Hsu recently shared his assessment of the risks in getting the new civilian space travel industry off to a safe, successful liftoff.

"The time of this futuristic business is not quite here yet, and it could be another year or two. Even if SpaceShipTwo and Lynx tests of their spacecrafts will be on schedule successfully in the summer of 2011, there could still be some tough challenges ahead from a profitable commercial operation since there are far too many risk factors that must be overcome," Hsu said. "A single system anomaly or mishap during test flights or even in private space flights could potentially kill the entire industry in its infancy. It is not so much of the real system risk or failure, it is all about the public's perceived high risk of space travel."

A Byzantine Vibe: Politics in Space

"Politics in Space" sounds like a weird interplanetary march conducted by opera-singing aliens -high praise, by the way. Stripped down, it's just a smart young woman and her equally smart male partner wondering whether there's any possibility of political action available to her generation, or if all public spirit has been exhausted during the grim slide of recent history. Which is, in its way, just as complicated as a big arrangement. Miller-Heidke even throws in a bit of opera to keep you on your toes, so watch out, kids, suggests reviewer Tris McCall.

Secret Mission: Bible on the Moon

Secret Mission: Bible on the Moon:

Apollo 18 Movie Lands in Theaters 4.22.2011

BepiColombo to Mercury Planned for 2014

ESA's Bepi Colombo, the dual spacecraft mission to Mercury, conducted in partnership with Japan, is one of the most challenging ever decided. It is due to be launched by Ariane in 2014. The programme has just passed a significant milestone with the completion of the first crucial thermal tests at ESA's technical & research centre in the Netherlands. ESA's planetary missions can go from one extreme to another: whilst the Rosetta comet probe pursues its journey in the cold depths of deep space, its solar panels having to retain the weak rays of our distant Sun, BepiColombo will be braving the infernal heat around the innermost planet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Unrestricted Dream Space" - The Mojave Air and Space Port, California 2011

This Week @NASA: February 18, 2011

STS-133 Discovery with Crew & Robonaut-2 Set for Feb. 24, 2011, 4:50 PM Launch

When Robonaut 2 (R2) arrives it will be the first humanoid robot in space. Once R2 is unpacked, likely several months after it arrives, it will be initially operated inside the Destiny laboratory for operational testing, but over time, both its territory and its applications could expand to spacewalks. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth and it may be joined by a Japanese Robonaut in 2013.

Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to begin an 11-day mission to the International Space Station with a launch at 4:50 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 24, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-133 mission is Discovery's final scheduled flight.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE Images

X-class solar flare mass ejection observed

Dr. Chris Davis, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, discusses how a recent X-class solar flare and its associated mass ejection was monitored by scientists utilizing the SOHO spacecraft.

Stardust NExT Science 1000% Successful

NASA scientists compare the sounds of particles hitting the Stardust NExT spacecraft on its Comet Tempel 1 approach to World War II B-17 Bombers flying through flack. Also, insight on some of the data received from the encounter. Credit: NASA

Adam Sanders to be with R2 at Launch Site

Next week, the space shuttle is scheduled to launch. In its payload is Robonaut or "R-2" a human-looking robot bound for the International Space Station to help astronauts with mundane, repetitive tasks, reports UVA Today.

Behind Robonaut is a team of NASA and General Motors engineers, the youngest of whom is Adam Sanders, who graduated from U.Va. in 2006 with a B.S. in computer engineering. (That’s Adam with Robonaut in the picture.) Sanders will be at the Kennedy Space Center for the sendoff of his creation to the international space station aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.

Sanders, a Powell Valley High School graduate in Wise Wise County, Va., works for GM and is the lead architect for the human-machine interface and task programming language. He is the principal engineer for the power distribution monitoring and control hardware, firmware, and software for the robot.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

R-2 Robonaut May Get Japanese Girlfriend

Japan's space agency JAXA announced this week that it is looking at a plan to send a humanoid robot to the space station in 2013 that could communicate with the ground through Twitter -- primarily feeding photos, rather than original ideas -- and provide astronauts with "comfort and companionship," reports Associated Press.

Following up on NASA's "Robonaut" R-2 program, which is set for launch on the Discovery shuttle next week, Japan's space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the International Space Station to watch the mission while astronauts are asleep, monitor their health and stress levels and communicate to Earth through the microblogging site Twitter.

Project M

New North Korean Space Launch Site Appears Virtually Completed

New satellite imagery obtained by VOA News shows North Korea has completed a launch tower at its second missile launch facility in the country's northwest. Intelligence analysts in the United States and South Korea are keeping a close eye on the new facility near the town of Tongchang-dong. As VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Seoul, the site is seen as a critical element in Pyongyang's quest to build a missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon across the Pacific.

Alabama commercial space launch firm says it will to test 2-seat hardware in 2012

Space Operations, Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama announced plans today to build a two-seat manned orbital spacecraft for commercial and government use. The company plans a test launch on February 20, 2012, with a regular flight schedule beginning in late 2012 or early 2013, if it gains the necessary capital investors.

The Eclipse spacecraft will utilize the highly successful legacy Gemini technology that was developed by NASA to allow SOI to bring this product to market in a very short time frame. The company will also seek to utilize the services of other commercial rocket manufacturers to launch the spacecraft.

The company spokesman says it will use the spacecraft to service different sectors in the orbital space market including satellite servicing and repair; satellite deployment; space tourism, including space walks; new space station construction/re-supply; and space debris de-orbit.

Glory spacecraft to study atmospheric aerosols and impact on climate change

This segment provides an introduction to aerosols -- their varied sources, brief lifetimes, and erratic behavior. Glory's APS will help researchers determine the global distribution of aerosol particles. This unique instrument will unravel the microphysical properties of aerosols, and will shed light on the chemical composition of natural and anthropogenic aerosols and clouds.

Total solar irradiance impacts climate change

Total solar irradiance (TSI) is the dominant driver of the Earth's climate. The global temperature of the Earth is almost completely determined by the balance between the intensity of the incident solar radiation and the response of the Earth's atmosphere via absorption, reflection, and re-radiation. Roughly 30 percent of the TSI that strikes the Earth is reflected back into space by clouds, atmospheric aerosols, snow, ice, desert sand, rooftops, and even ocean surf. The remaining 70 percent of the TSI is absorbed by the land, ocean, and atmosphere. In addition, different layers of the Earth's atmosphere absorb different wavelengths of light. Changes in either the TSI or in the composition of the atmosphere can cause climate change.

Discovery Readied for Last Mission to ISS

Space shuttle Discovery’s target launch date might move from Feb. 24. NASA managers will discuss the options and decide Discovery’s official launch date during Friday’s STS-133 Flight Readiness Review. At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, teams continue preparations for next week's launch attempt. It will be the last launch of space shuttle Discovery - the first of the planned final three flights scheduled this year.

ESA's ATV Provides Critical Support to ISS

ATV, ESA and ISS: role and importance of Automated Transfer Vehicle for ESA in its participation in the ISS.

Google Lunar X PRIZE Garners 29 Teams

The final roster of Google Lunar X PRIZE teams has been announced: 29 teams from 17 countries are racing to the moon for $30 Million in prizes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Virginia Commercial Human Space Flight Revenue Measure Passes House 89 to 8

On a vote of 89 to 8, the Virginia House of Delegates, followed the Senate (40 to 0), in sending to Governor Robert McDonnell a measure to earmark any human space flight or human space flight training generated state income tax revenue to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Gov. McDonnell offered administration support to the bill in the House following Vienna, Va.-based Space Adventures support in the Senate [SB 1447 -Wampler].

The measure, upon signature of the governor, is expected to become effective July 1, 2011 for tax years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Space Adventures is expected to resume commercial space flights on the Soyuz to the ISS in 2013-2014 and, perhaps, enlist two lunar space tourists for a $300-million flight around the Moon in 2015. The income tax paid by Space Adventures to Virginia would be promptly directed to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for spaceport infrastructure. The Virginia corporate tax rate is 6%.

The measure with mark the 10th anniversary of American multimillionaire Dennis Tito's first space tourist flight in April of 2001. Tito booked his trip with Space Adventures, Ltd., a Virginia-based company with offices in Moscow. Tito launched into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and visited the International Space Station. A total of eight tourist flights have been sold by Space Adventures between 2001 and 2009.

ESA: Searching for the origins

The universe was born 13.7 billion years ago with the Big Bang. But what is the Big Bang and what was there before? Scientists are starting to get an answer thanks to the time-travelling Planck mission.

Cosmonauts Conduct ISS Spacewalk

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka conducted their second spacewalk in less than four weeks Feb. 16, 2011, to install and retrieve scientific equipment on the Russian segment of the orbital laboratory. The cosmonauts also launched an orbital Ham Radio satellite. The spacewalk was staged out of the Pirs Docking Compartment airlock. It was the second spacewalk in Kondratyev's career, and the third for Skripochka as well as the 153rd spacewalk performed in support of station assembly and maintenance.

KySat-1 Set to Launch Feb. 23, 2011

This is a video showing orbital simulations of KySat-1. KySat-1 is Kentucky's first orbital satellite. KySat-1 was built by Kentucky Space a consortium of the public universities in the state of Kentucky as well as several industry partners. We would like to thank AGI for supplying us with STK to make these simulations possible. Stay tuned to our account for updates on the mission. Launch Date: February 23, 2011.

Solar Flare Erruptions Mark New Cycle 24

ESA ATV-2 Launched by Ariane 5

From a jungle launch pad at Kourou, French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, a European Space Agency/Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket blasted off on Feb. 16, 2011, carrying the "Johannes Kepler" Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo craft to orbit. This starts an eight-day flight that will culminate in a automatic docking to the aft end of the International Space Station's Zvezda Service Module. This is the second of ESA's resupply vehicles, and is loaded with about seven tons of supplies and propellant for use by the six crew members on the complex.

Stardust-NExT News Conference Held

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Comet Close Encounter by Stardust-NExT

NASA's Stardust-NExT spacecraft whizzed within 181 km of comet Tempel 1 on February 15th 2011, allowing scientists to see changes in the comet's nucleus since it was visited by NASA's Deep Impact mission in July of 2005.

NASA Chief Technologist Calls on Students

Braun invites college student applications for NASA's new Space Technology Graduate Fellowships program. "We want you to be part of NASA, and we want NASA to help you fulfill your dreams. Join us as a Space Technology Fellow and help develop solutions to NASA's Space Technology Grand Challenges."

Space Technology Graduate Fellowships applications are due by Feb. 23, 2011. For details, visit:

NanoSail-D May Give Sky Watching Flash

High overhead, out of the darkness, a bright light surges into view. For 5 to 10 seconds it outshines the brightest stars in the sky, mimicking a supernova, perhaps even casting faint shadows at your feet. The silence is broken by your own excited shouts. Could this happen to you? It could, if you happen to be outside when NanoSail-D flies by.

Sex in Space Concerns Scientists

ATV Johannes Kepler Launch Rescheduled

LAUNCH 3:50 PM EST Wednesday: ATV Johannes Kepler, the second European spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), is ready for launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 16 February 2011. The launch was halted because of anomoly Tuesday.

Johannes Kepler is the first production unit of the Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV) series after the first ATV, Jules Verne, demonstrating ATV's capabilities in 2008.After the retirement of the US Space Shuttle, ATV will become the largest vehicle supplying the ISS. ATV is also the largest and heaviest payload ever launched by Europe.

ATV is Europe's key asset in the ISS logistics; this video explains the role of ATV for the ISS and its importance for the whole ISS partnership, from the perspective of the ESA's Human Spaceflight programme. It includes an interview with Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight.'

Stardust-NExT Makes Flyby of Temple-1

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission completed its Valentine's Day "date with a comet" with its flyby of comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14. The spacecraft's closest approach came at approximately 11:40 p.m. EST on Feb. 14.

An imaging sequence of about eight minutes is expected to yield 72 high-resolution images around the time of closest approach for best-resolution coverage of Tempel 1's nucleus. At the time of closest encounter, the spacecraft was expected to be approximately 124 miles from the comet's nucleus.

Scientists hope to see any changes on the comet's surface since it was visited by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. Since then, Tempel 1 has completed one orbit of the sun, and scientists are looking forward to discovering any differences in the comet.

NASA's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request

'NASA announced an $18.7 billion budget request for fiscal year 2012 that supports a reinvigorated path of innovation, technological development and scientific discovery. The budget supports all elements of NASA's 2010 Authorization Act, which was passed by a strong bipartisan majority of Congress and signed into law by President Obama.'

Mars Simulation on Surface Underway

Almost nine months of isolation, training and preparation have finally paid off, as cosmonauts have 'set foot' on the Red Planet for the first time. Italy's Diego Urbina and Russia's Aleksandr Smoleevsky have made their first steps on the Martian surface -- at least virtually.

They have taken samples of Martian soil and measured the magnetic field, as well as planted the flags of China, Russia and the European Space Agency. Mars 500 may be a simulated mission, with the planet's surface modeled in the Moscow Region, but the 'space walk' was monitored by Russia's real mission control.

The experiment is nearing its mid-point. After the volunteers spent more than 200 days simulating the flight to the Red Planet, they have been divided into two groups -- one staying on board a module which is simulating a flight in Martian orbit, and another one sent to land on 'the planet's surface'. Three volunteers are going to stay 'on the planet' for a month, during which they will conduct three 'Martian spacewalks'.

After this part of the experiment is over in 30 days, the three will be reunited with the rest of the group and begin their journey 'back home' which will take another 200 days or so. The 500-day experiment, which started last June, is designed to monitor the physical and psychological demands of deep space travel.

1955 Movie: Conquest of Space

Sci-fi movie, must see for all "Space Odyssey" fans as a team of American astronauts leave their space station on the first mission to Mars, but the captain's religious beliefs may get in the way. Released April 19, 1955.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stardust-NExT on Approach to Temple-1

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission spacecraft will be on closest approach to Temple-1 is expected tonight at approximately 8:40 p.m. PST (11:40 p.m. EST). Live coverage on NASA TV and via the Internet begins at 8:30 p.m. PST (11:30 p.m. EST) from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Coverage also will include segments from the Lockheed Martin Space System's mission support area in Denver. A post-flyby news conference is planned on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST).

For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: . The live coverage and news conference will also be carried on one of JPL's Ustream channels. During events, viewers can take part in a real-time chat and submit questions to the Stardust-NExT team at: .

President Obama Boosts $4.25 Billion for Commercial Space Launch for Under CCDEV

NASA would spend $4.25 billion on its Commercial Crew Development (CCDEV) program during the next five years under President Barack Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget plan. The Administration has proposed spending $850 annually for FY2012-2016 on the program, which is designed to field commercial rockets and spacecraft to carry crew and cargo to and from Earth orbit.

During that same period, NASA would spend $14.051 billion on its Orion capsule and a heavy-lift vehicle. The plan is spend $2.81 billion annually on those programs, which are designed to give NASA the capability to perform orbital and deep-space missions.

The Administration’s CCDev plan was praised by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in a press release this morning, reports Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc, The Washington Post, MSNBC, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says more about the space agency budget.

Virginia House Committee Advances Spaceport Revenue Measure 20-to-2 Today

The Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee advanced Senate Bill 1447 to dedicate any state income tax revenue from human spaceflights or spaceflight training derived by private firms in Virginia to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority's operation of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (SpaceRef). The vote was 20 to 2 to recommend to the floor.

The measure passed the Senate 40-to-0 on Feb. 7, 2011. The legislation is now expected to pass the 100-member House of Delegates later this week. Upon House passage, the Senate bill will be sent to Gov. Robert McDonnell for signature or amendment. The governor supports the measure offered by State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr. (R-Bristol, Va.).

In 2008, Wampler obtained passenger of the Virginia "Zero-Gravity, Zero-Tax" exempting Virginia income taxes earned on cargo and passengers to space from Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The law was deemed pivotal in the location of the Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus-2 launch vehicle to service the orbiting ISS in Virginia by the FAA.

Arianespace to Launch ATV Tuesday

THE LAUNCH READINESS REVIEW (RAL) took place in Kourou on Sunday, February 13 and authorized count-down operations for the ATV-2 “Johannes Kepler” launch set for 4:13 PM EST, Tuesday, February 15, 2011, [video]. Readers may watch the launch LIVE here.

For its first mission of the year, Arianespace will launch the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), dubbed “Johannes Kepler”, for the European Space Agency (ESA). Right from this first launch, the ATV will play a vital role in bringing supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nine Planets: One Bigger Than Jupiter?

If you grew up thinking there were nine planets and were shocked when Pluto was demoted five years ago, get ready for another surprise. There may be nine after all, and Jupiter may not be the largest.

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth's, and 375 times farther than Pluto's, which is why it hasn't been seen so far.

But scientists now believe the proof of its existence has already been gathered by a NASA space telescope, WISE, and is just waiting to be analysed, reports Paul Rodgers of the The Independent.

The WISE science team is now sifting through the telescope's two million images to spot objects that no astronomer has ever seen before. WISE's most intriguing finds will include mysterious objects called brown dwarfs, blacker-than-coal asteroids, and the Universe's brightest galaxies. All told, WISE's data will yield a new picture of the Universe, from our local region to the remotest reaches, and from the distant past to the present.

MESSENGER to Orbit Mercury in March 2011

The MESSENGER orbiter's January 2008 flyby of the planet Mercury was historic. The last time a spacecraft visited was 1975, and it only mapped half the planet. MESSENGER is now sending back a complete picture of Mercury, shedding light on its geological history. But the ongoing mission will return much more than images. Its data on the planet's core, magnetic field, composition, and other attributes will help scientists answer pressing questions about the evolution of the terrestrial planets and even the Solar System itself. MESSENGER goes into orbit around the planet Mecury next month.

Stardust-NExT Ready for Comet Encounter

Two hundred million miles from Earth, the Stardust-NExT spacecraft is expected to fly within 125 miles of comet Tempel 1 on Valentine's night - just prior to midnight EST. The cameras on the exploring NExT spacecraft should take the first-ever digital high resolution images of a 2005 impact made on the surface of the comet by the Deep Impact mission.

House Seeks to Ban NASA from China Ties

In a long-running fight between the Obama administration and Congressman Frank Wolf, a critic of China on human rights, national security and economic ties with the United States, the Virginia Republican seeks to ban NASA from having any relationship with the Chinese space program, reports POLITICO.

“None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division,” the bill’s drafters wrote.

The chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the United States space program, Wolf's subcommittee added language in the House “continuing resolution” that forbids NASA from providing for visits by Chinese dignitaries.

Universe expanding at an ever-faster rate

In 1998, two independent teams of astrophysicists discovered a baffling phenomenon: the Universe is expanding at an ever-faster rate. The current understanding of gravity can't explain this cosmic acceleration. Scientists think that either a mysterious force called dark energy is to blame—or a reworking of gravitational theory is in order. Travel to the University of California's Lick Observatory to learn how astrophysicists use distant stellar explosions to observe the expansion of space. Then watch a team at Fermilab assemble the Dark Energy Camera, a new device researchers hope will find compelling evidence of what's propelling the Universe to expand at an increasing pace.

Alan Stern Talks Pluto Mission w/SETI

In 2006 NASA launched a sophisticated robotic explorer to make the first reconnaissance of planet Pluto and its moons, three billion miles from the Sun. That spacecraft is called New Horizons. The principal investigator of New Horizons, Dr. Alan Stern, will describe the mission, it's full objectives, and will describe the new class of planets that Pluto represents.

Friday, February 11, 2011

NASA Seeks Help from Congress ...

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to introduce a spending bill for the remainder of 2011 that would reduce NASA’s budget by more than $100 million compared with 2010, a senior agency official asked lawmakers for legislative relief from a measure that he says is impeding NASA as it seeks to carry out a congressional directive to build a heavy-lift rocket and crew exploration capsule.

At issue is a 2010 prohibition on canceling contracts associated with the Constellation program, a space shuttle replacement and lunar exploration initiative that U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to abandon. Although one lawmaker said the forthcoming 2011 spending bill could provide the relief NASA is seeking, opinions on Capitol Hill differ as to whether the space agency’s hands are truly tied, reports Space News.

ARISSat-1 to be deployed by cosmonauts

The ARISSat-1, also known as Radioskaf-V, will be deployed by two Russian cosmonauts in a Wednesday, February 16, 2011 spacewalk at the orbiting International Space Station to the delight of hundreds of amateur ham radio operators.

Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka are scheduled to float outside the Pirs airlock at 8:15 a.m. EST Wednesday to begin the five-and-a-half-hour excursion wearing Russian Orlan-MK spacesuits. Among their many tasks will be to launch into space the ARISSat-1.

ARISSat-1is the first of a series of educational satellites being developed in a partnership with the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. (AMSAT), the NASA Office of Education ISS National Lab Project, the Amateur Radio on ISS (ARISS) working group and RSC-Energia. The satellite was rocketed to orbit January 28, 2011 aboard Progress-41.

ARISSat satellites can carry up to five student experiments and the data from these experiments will be transmitted to the ground via an amateur radio link. In addition, ARISSat will transmit still-frame video Earth views from four onboard cameras, commemorative greetings in native languages from students around the world, and a Morse code tracking beacon [Twitter].

ARISSat also will function as a worldwide space communications utility for use by amateur radio operators. ARISSat-1 is expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere within three to six months after its deployment.

Virginia Space Policy and Budget Advances

Over the past decade, the Virginia General Assembly has been forging an advancing commercial space policy. Space advocates are working for enhancement of the FAA-licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. Commercial space advocates seek to provision the facility to launch civil and commercial cargo and commercial crews to orbit. Four new space measures are moving closer to law in the New Dominion.

1] Senate Bill 1447 – Senator William Wampler, Jr. – Passed Senate 40-0; Passed House Finance Subcommittee #1 1o-to-1 –Most likely On Full Committee Docket for 2-14-2011 Corporate tax revenues generated by commercial spaceflight; Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Credits to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority the portion of corporate income tax collected from corporations attributable to the sale of commercial human spaceflights and spaceflight training. The credit to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority begins on July 1, 2011, and lasts through fiscal year 2015. The measure is backed by Vienna, Va-based Space Adventures and the McDonnell Gubernatorial Administration.

2] Senate Bill 1337 – Senator Herring – Passed Senate 40-0 – Now in House General Laws Sub #2 -Freedom of Information Act; Commercial Space Flight Authority. Creates an exemption from the mandatory disclosure requirements of FOIA for (i) records relating to rate structures or charges for using the facilities of the Commercial Space Flight Authority and (ii) records provided by a private entity to the Commercial Space Flight Authority, to the extent that such records contain (a) trade secrets of the private entity as defined in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.); (b) financial records of the private entity, including balance sheets and financial statements, that are not generally available to the public through regulatory disclosure or otherwise; or (c) other information submitted by the private entity, where, if the records were made public, the financial interest or bargaining position of the Authority or private entity would be adversely affected. The bill also contains a meeting exemption for the discussion of the above records. The bill contains a technical amendment.

3] Senate Bill 965 Senator Ralph Northam – Passed Senate 39-0 Now in House Finance Sub #2 will be heard in Subcommittee on Wed. Feb. 16th. -- Retail sales and use tax exemption for spaceport activities. Eliminates the sunset date of the sales and use tax exemption for personal property involved in spaceport activities. The sales and use tax exemption is set to expire on July 1, 2011.

4] House Budget $1,379,095 vs. Senate Budget, $2 millionBudget Conferees in negotiations to be complete by February 22nd. Budget conference report available 12 noon on Feb. 24th. Final budget vote, Feb. 26th, Adjourn Sine Die Sat., Feb 26th, 2011.

Space Tourists as Viewed by Russians

ATK Liberty Launch Vehicle Promo

ATK and Astrium collaborate to unveil the Liberty Launch Vehicle, the safest, most reliable configuration available. The simple and highly reliable design was created with international cooperation, advancing US national space policy.

Johannes Kepler ATV Readied for Launch

An unmanned Ariane rocket is scheduled to launch the Johannes Kepler ATV cargo vessel into orbit on Tuesday in Europe's second mission to carry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The modified Ariane launcher will lift off at 7.08p.m. (2208 GMT) from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America, carrying a 20 ton cargo module, the heaviest payload ever launched on an Ariane rocket.

This Week@ NASA: February 11, 2011

"The Real Space Age," according to Whittle

Monday, February 07, 2011

Here comes the sun!

'Launched in October 2006, STEREO traces the flow of energy and matter from the sun to Earth. It also provides unique and revolutionary views of the sun-Earth system. The mission observed the sun in 3-D for the first time in 2007. In 2009, the twin spacecraft revealed the 3-D structure of coronal mass ejections which are violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt communications, navigation, satellites and power grids on Earth.

Seeing the whole sun front and back simultaneously will enable significant advances in space weather forecasting for Earth and for planning for future robotic and manned spacecraft missions throughout the solar system.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Don Green on The Space Show Feb. 7, 2011

Don Green, the CEO of The Napoleon Hill Foundation, will spend 90-minutes with Dr. David Livingston of The Space Show on Monday, February 7, 2011 to discuss how the motivational works of the late Napoleon Hill may serve and be applied to the commercial space industry of the 21st century.

"Space and the mind are the two greatest areas for exploration," Green noted after seeking to inspire Appalachian coalfield students to successfully pursue their dreams of becoming aerospace engineers and architects recently.

"Don Green is a new global social entrepreneur. He has become one of the leading evangelists of entrepreneurial self-help through the proper utilization of Mr. Hill's Keys to Success and Think and Grow Rich. He is accepting of nontraditional ideas, change, and foresight tempered and bounded only by positive action. He is a realist with visionary outlook," states one of the reviews of his works.

Green has co-authored and published Napoleon Hill's Daily Inspiration for Everyday Men, You Can: A Collection of Brief Talks on the Most Important Topic in the World -- Your Success, and Your Greatest Power. In addition, Green has lead the NapHill Foundation in translating Napoloen Hill books to over 20 languages with worldwide distribution contracts.

A financial management expert and former successful banker, Green holds a Master of Science in Banking, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He serves on the boards of The University of Virginia's College at Wise, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, and the Appalachian America Energy Research Center.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to Launch LADEE Moon Mission in mid-2013

Rick Elphic, NASA Ames, discusses the first planetary mission to be flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. in May 2013 aboard a Minotaur-V booster rocket provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Nearly 40 years have passed since the last Apollo missions investigated the mysteries of the lunar atmosphere and the question of levitated lunar dust. The most important questions remain: what is the composition, structure and variability of the tenuous lunar exosphere? What are its origins, transport mechanisms, and loss processes? Is lofted lunar dust the cause of the horizon glow observed by the Surveyor missions and Apollo astronauts? How does such levitated dust arise and move, what is its density, and what is its ultimate fate?

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a small spacecraft mission being developed and led by Ames Research Center. It is equipped with a neutral mass spectrometer, a dust detector and an ultraviolet/visible spectrometer. It's goal: to assess the compositional makeup and variability of the Moon's thin atmosphere, and to establish once and for all if a mysterious dust lofting phenomenon occurs.

Rocket City Space Pioneers to the Moon

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is igniting a new era of lunar exploration by offering the largest international incentive prize of all time. A total of 30 million dollars is available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the Moon, travel 500 Meters and send High Definition Video back to Earth. The Rocket City Space Pioneers are one of the 19 contestants.

Astrobotic Tech-SpaceX Team for Moon

Astrobotic Technology Inc. today announced it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9. The expedition will search for water and deliver payloads, with the robot narrating its adventure while sending 3D video. The mission could launch as soon as December 2013.

The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon. Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing. The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars. The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights. The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

“The mission is the first of a serial campaign,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology and founder of the university’s Field Robotics Center. “Astrobotic’s missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets. Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X-Prize, this is a perfect storm for new exploration.”

“The moon has economic and scientific treasures that went undiscovered during the Apollo era, and our robot explorers will spearhead this new lunar frontier,” said David Gump, president of Astrobotic Technology. “The initial mission will bank up to $24 million in Google’s Lunar X-Prize, Florida’s $2 million launch bonus, and NASA’s $10 million landing contract while delivering 240 pounds of payload for space agencies and corporate marketers.” [MORE]