Search This Blog


Sunday, July 31, 2011

MoonExpress: Pioneering the NewSpace Frontier with Bob Richards @SETI

The health of our home planet and the survival of our species will only be secured through the use of space resources and the expansion of Earth's economic sphere to the Moon and beyond. Creating an off-Earth economy and multi-planet civilization will safeguard the long term prospects of humanity.

Bob Richards is Co-Founder and CEO of Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition and awarded a lunar services contact by NASA worth up to $10M, Bob has seen both sides of the private-public space question, being front and centre on a number of NewSpace initiatives and having played a key role in the NASA Mars Phoenix Lander mission.

In this talk Bob Richards outlines how a carefully planned private Moon mission could set in motion the technological, political, legal and regulatory precedents that will allow humanity to rationally and peacefully embrace and develop the Moon as the world's eighth continent.

Space Act Agreement to Human-Rate Atlas-V May Provide New Launch Opportunities

The Atlas rocket has been around from the onset of the American space progarm with many adcvances through multiple missions over the years. Earlier this month, however, United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced a Space Act Agreement with NASA to seek human-rating for the Atlas-V to boost astronauts to low earth orbit.There have been papers presented on the innovations associated with the Atlas-V and Delta IV and the human-rating the Atlas-V and Delta-IV. [Video]

SpaceX Looks to Mars with 'Red Dragon'

The so-called "Red Dragon" mission, which could be ready to launch by 2018, would carry a cost of about $400 million or less, researchers told

NASA is working with private spaceflight firm Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to plan a mission that would search for evidence of life buried in the Martian dirt. The NASA science hardware would fly to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station. More from and Alan Boyle's interview with Elon Musk.

Constance Adams Talks Space Architecture

Constance Adams is a specialist in high-performance architecture and design innovation, particularly in the area of architecture for human spaceflight. She provides an 18-minute talk at TedXTalks Houston recently.

'Earth Rise' Photograph's Meaning Discussed

Bill Anders, a retired NASA astronaut who was part of the first US mission to the Moon and took a celebrated photograph of a rising Earth told RT the picture started the environmental movement and explained why the Americans flew to the moon. Anders told RT he was proud to have been lucky enough to take the picture that defined the start of the environmental movement. "It has influenced a lot of people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

40 Years Ago: First Lunar Rover for Astronauts

Forty years ago today, the Apollo 15 astronauts drove the first Lunar Rover, allowing them to travel much farther from the Lunar Module lander than had previously been possible with Apollo 11, 12 and 14 moonwalking astronauts.

THOUGHT: The three moon buggies used 40-years ago were total electric.. IF we, as a nation, had continued to go to the moon and perfected the technology to place electric cars into production 30 years ago on Earth, think of dollars saved in foreign oil.  Americans could have had a hellva space program and American consumers unfathomable electric car technology today - saving TRILLIONS in foreign oil with profoundly positive impact on export trade and the federal budget! NIXON, darn his hide!

India Advancing New Space Workforce for Lunar Robotic Rover and Human Missions

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the primary body for space research under the control of the Government of India, and one of the big six advanced space research organizations that dominate space (others being NASA (U.S), RKA (Russia), CNSA (China), ESA (Europe) and JAXA (Japan).

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Russia, the two nations are jointly working together to launch build the spacecraft for the Indian manned mission, perhaps by 2016. Recent reports, however, indicate that India is undecided on the final option.

The Hindu recently reported that India has slowed the pace of development of a human-rated rocket booster. Nonetheless,  Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation K. Radhakrishnan said, "we have to decide whether GSLV—MK II or MK III that we will do this human rating."

India's space technology build-up will require a skilled space science workforce for the balance of the decade if the nation is to place its astronauts into space from India's soil and to continue with more advanced robtic lunar missions.

Progress has been achieved in realising the orbiter, lander and rover of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, slated to take place in 2014. While India would make the orbiter and the rover, Russia would contribute the lander.

United States GPS independance sought by China, Russia, Europe and India with Japan

China's plans to compete with the U.S.-operated GPS system took a step forward this week with the launch of this Long March rocket from a spaceport in China's Sichuan province. Replacing or supplementing the American GPS is a goal of several countries. China is advancing the Beidou or Compass  system, Europe is pushing Galileo system, Russia the  GLONASS system and Japan and India new systems.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Opportunities Increasing for Engagement & Dialogue with China on New Space Policy

The United States and Europe face barriers to effectively engage with China on space policy matters, but recent changes within the Chinese government and industry present an opportunity for dialogue and possible technical cooperation, a panel of experts agreed Thursday, July 28, 2011 in Washington, reports Space News.

Among Washington space policy circles it is often said the motives behind Chinese space policies and actions are, at best, not transparent and, at worst, nefarious. These sentiments are in many cases inaccurate and reflective of a failure to communicate between both sides, three academic and policy experts said at an event here hosted by the Secure World Foundation.

The Secure World Foundation and Chinese Academy of Sciences in May held a conference in Beijing to discuss Asian space policies within the context of the larger multilateral environment that included government and industry officials from China, India and Japan. A wide variety of technical and policy issues were discussed, and it was clear there is an increasing willingness among these nations to engage with the United States and Europe on space policies and processes, said Ben Baseley-Walker, an adviser on security policy and international law at the Secure World Foundation,  MORE.

This Blogger wrote on this topic for Inside Northern Virginia last November 2010.

JAXA Astronaut Talks with Japanese Students

Aboard the International Space Station, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, flight engineer on Expedition 28, answers questions posed by undergraduates from his country's Akita University.

Scientific American Visits Astrobotic

Michael Belfiore, author, journalist and speaker on innovation, talks about his visit to Astrobotic for Scientific American. He has written about game-changing technologies for the New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian, Air & Space, Financial Times, and other outlets. He is an International Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award nominee.

Michael’s Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space is the first book to chronicle the birth of the commercial space age and show how innovative companies are radically changing how we reach space and creating potentially vast new markets in the process.

His book The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs is the first book to go behind the scenes at the Pentagon agency that gave us the Internet, the first satellite positioning system, and many other game-changing innovations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home on the Lagrange: Trojan Asteroid Found

Turns out the moon's not the Earth's only traveling companion. Space scientists (Nature) have discovered an asteroid that's been following our fair planet for thousands of years, at least — and there may be many more where it came from, according to a recent study, reports The Los Angeles Times.

The Guardian notes that the unusal asteroid actually orbits ahead of the Earth. The Trojan asteroid companion, the as-yet-unnamed 2010 TK7, has an orbit linked to two of Earth's Lagrangian points, (L3 and L4), as Ars Technica explains. NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) exposed the asteroid near the Earth, notes Discover.

The asteroid may become a prime candidate for one of the first human asteroid missions and perhaps home to the solar system's first asteroid mining effort.

Mining the Moon for Power?

More from the HuffPost.

China Launches 9th Beidou Satellite

China has successfully launched an orbiter into space, as a part of its indigenous satellite navigation and positioning network known as the Beidou, or Compass system.

The orbiter, the 9th of its kind in the Beidou system, was launched early Wednesday morning from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan Province. It was boosted by a Long March-3A carrier rocket. More from GPS World, Spaceflight Now and UPI.

Next Space Station Crew Meet the Media

Members of the Expedition 29/30 crew that'll reside aboard the International Space Station brief media about their upcoming mission at a Johnson Space Center news conference held in Houston on July 27, 2011. The astronaut and two cosmonauts will fly aboard Soyuz TMA-22 in 30 September 2011. The crew discusses the American commercial cargo vehicles expected to dock with ISS during their stay at the space station.

Spaceport America awards visitor experience contract with operational capacity in 2013

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) announced the selection of Integrity Arts & Technology, Inc., d/b/a/ IDEAS as the contractor to develop the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. The company was awarded a two- phase contract of a not-to-exceed value of $7.5 million. IDEAS and their team will oversee the design and development of the Visitor Experience and facilities at Spaceport America, as well as the design, fabrication and installation of all exhibits and attractions for visitors to the spaceport. The company will also conduct market research, enhance the spaceport branding and marketing, and facilitate alliance and sponsorship development opportunities. IDEAS will also provide construction administration during the building phase of the Visitor Experience facilities.

Bob Allen, Chairman and Chief Storytelling Officer of IDEAS, said “It's a dream come true to create the Visitor Experience for Spaceport America. The next step in human space exploration is the most exciting story we can imagine and will require a completely fresh approach. Our goal is to create as authentic and participatory an experience as possible for spaceport visitors and to delight and inspire future generations of New Mexicans and our guests from around the world to pursue emerging opportunities in science and technology."

The initial Spaceport America Visitor Experience is expected to reach operational capacity in the first half of 2013, about the time Virgin Galactic is hoping to be ready to begin their operations from Spaceport America. The recently-begun Spaceport America Preview Tours will provide visitors a taste of the project until the full Visitor Experience is ready.

NASA's Juno spacecraft at launch pad

NASA's Juno spacecraft at launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the launch period for Juno opening Aug. 5, 2011, and extending through Aug. 26. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 11:34 a.m. EDT (8:34 a.m. PDT) and remains open through 12:43 p.m. EDT (9:43 a.m. PDT).
Juno will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016 and orbit its poles 33 times to learn more about the gas giant's interior, atmosphere and aurora.

Robert Williams: Astronomy is in Golden Age

As the imminent end of the Space Shuttle program has set a landmark for space exploration, RT talks to astronomer Robert Williams, one of those behind the Hubble Space Telescope, who says his field of science is experiencing its golden age. The former director of the Hubble's operating center spoke about the public image of the space observatory, the importance of taking risks in science and his high hopes for astronomy despite financial cuts.

The uncertain road ahead for innovation

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Moon Is Me" Video Launched

'The Moon Is Me' is a composition by Zach Perry, commissioned by Moon Express and first premiered at the company's 'Fly ME to the Moon' gala launch celebration on July 21, 2011 in Silicon Valley, California.

'The Moon is Me' campaign is designed to foster public awareness and support of lunar exploration as vital to life on Earth and a positive future for humanity.

Volcanoes Discovered on 'Dark Side' of Moon

A rare complex of dormant volcanoes has been located on the surface of the moon is offer tantalising clues to the moon’s thermal history. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) made the discovery on the so-called 'Dark Side' of the moon (video).

The volcanic complex, 25 to 35 km across, is leading scientists think the newly-discovered volcanic province is comparatively young due to its lack of craters (formed from asteroid impacts), which may suggest that volcanic activities on the moon, at least on the far side, occurred for longer than previously thought.

Russian Soyuz in the Year of the Cosmonaut

Russian rockets from the 1960s are the only way to send crews to the International Space Station now that the United States' space shuttle program has ended. Some Russians believe that the United States will innovate and provide easier access to space in this decade however.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

NASA DEVELOP Holds Open House at UVA-Wise

NASA DEVELOP Team in Wise, left to right front row: Yanina Colon (Puerto Rico), Heather Lee (USA), Delores Hayes (USA), Pedro Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), Rebecca Tate (USA), Brittney Barns (USA) and Giovanni Colberg (Puerto Rico). Second row, left to right: Jack Kennedy, Zhaohui Chi (China), Adrienne Sluss (USA), Yushen Wei (China), John Cavanagh (USA), Austin Stidham (USA), Sujith Balaram Mahanti (India), Jennifer Welder (USA) and Kaitlyn Collins (USA).

Students in the NASA DEVELOP program aren’t just studying information — they’re looking for ways to help solve serious, often deadly, problems.

DEVELOP is a science training and development program, through which students ranging in education from high school to doctoral degrees work with National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists on research projects, then share their results.

Some DEVELOP scholars work at NASA space centers in California, Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi and Hampton, Va., while others work in regional offices in Chicago; Birmingham, Ala.; Mobile, Ala.; and Wise.

Jack Kennedy serves as the local DEVELOP “mentor,” with Giovanni Colberg and Yanina Colon, both natives of Puerto Rico, serving as project managers. During eight- to 10-week sessions each spring, summer and fall, a cohort of students, both local and from other states and countries, work together on high-level research projects in a downstairs office at the Wise County courthouse, often offering presentations at meetings of local government or civic groups.

The local DEVELOP program has gone on for 10 years, but expanded to accept international students last year. Kennedy noted via e-mail that, so far, 10 local students have earned DEVELOP internships at NASA centers, and 150 local high school, college and university students have participated in the program while conducting outreach to hundreds of others.

So what are they doing? One group is using satellite data to track the location and timing of outbreaks of Dengue fever in Mexico. The mosquito-borne disease, which is much like the West Nile virus here in the states, can prove fatal, especially to young children or the elderly.

Another group working during this summer’s term is tracking air pollution in Monterrey, Mexico, and the area that surrounds it, mapping out how wind and rain cause harmful elements to spread from the tightly populated city, where many vehicles have no emissions control systems. They’re also looking at how pollution coming from other nearby cities might make the situation in Monterrey worse.

Yet another group is tackling pollution levels in Mexico’s Lerma River, along with water shortages some areas are experiencing because of agricultural and industrial activities happening upstream from them. Water-borne diseases plague the area, and uneven water distribution due to poor irrigation tactics, along with deforestation, are affecting rainfall.

The students aren’t using satellites to shine light on a magic bullet to solve the problems. They’re collecting data to create a big-picture view for decision-makers in the Mexican government, so they have all of the tools necessary to choose wisely when making plans for the future. NASA satellites are collecting data constantly, but that doesn’t mean it comes out in a format that would be easy for a city planner or a politician to understand.

This summer’s term is nearly over, wrapping up Aug. 12. Between now and then, students will travel to NASA’s Langley space center to work with scientists there, to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island for tours and to Highland County for a high-powered model rocket-launching work. Some students will end their term with a presentation at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.  [Credit The Coalfield Progress, July 22, 2011]

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moon Express: "Moon is Me" Campaign Starts

Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced Saturday, July 23, 2011 that it has launched a public education and outreach campaign called "The Moon is Me", designed to foster public awareness and support of lunar exploration as vital to life on Earth and a positive future for humanity. The "Moon is Me" campaign will use inspirational branding and social networking techniques to connect the common person to the Moon and why it is relevant to them and Earth's future.

Choosing the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11 to herald a new era of space exploration, Moon Express founders predict a change in public perception about the Moon over the coming decade. "Every person has a vested interest in the exploration of the Moon for improving life on Earth," said Moon Express Co-Founder and Chairman Naveen Jain. "I grew up in the Apollo era, when I felt the Moon was 'them'. I want kids today to feel, 'The Moon is Me!'"

Moon Express Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards sees "The Moon is Me" campaign as instigating a new social consciousness of the Moon as Earth's partner in a two-world system. "The Moon likely evolved from the Earth and has certainly played an intimate role in the evolution of our planet and we humans as a species," he said. "We need to connect the Moon and Earth in people's minds. We want the new ME generation to have a social consciousness that embraces the Moon as an extension of themselves."

Dr. Barney Pell, Moon Express Co-Founder, vice-chairman and Chief Technology Officer, is another highly successful internet entrepreneur who believes strongly in the need to appeal to people on an emotional level. "We want people to realize the very deep connection we all have with the Moon," he explained. "It's the most obvious frontier yet to be conquered in a way that can bring lasting benefits to everyone on Earth. We can all be a part of that."

As part of the "Moon is Me" campaign, a celestial music composition has been written by Zach Perry for Moon Express. The composition song and video can be downloaded from the company's website:

GRAIL prepares for lunar orbit launch

The launch of the twin lunar-bound Gravity Recovery and Interior Library or GRAIL spacecraft aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is set 8:37 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.

The two GRAIL spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field, from its crust to core, in unprecedented detail. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about the moon and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

GRAIL will go into orbit on New Year's Day 2012 to study lunar science throughout the year.

Americans Back Private Space Entrepreneurs

According to a national survey released Thursday, July 21, 2011 by CNN, half of all Americans say that the end of the space shuttle program is bad for the country but a majority back private space entrepreneurs to resume human access to space.

The poll indicates that most of the public wants to see the United States develop a new spacecraft that will send astronauts into space. A majority say they would prefer to see private enterprise rather than a government program achieve that goal.

Only 38 percent of those polled think the nation should rely on the government to run the country’s manned space missions in the future, while 54 percent say private companies should take the wheel. This amounts to good news for SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, XCOR and others embarked upon fledgling multi-milion dollar space commerce ventures.

Future of NASA with Neil deGrasse Tyson

What NASA Means to America's Future? Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us. The powerful advocacy suggests that NASA move deeper into the NewSpace Frontier leaving low earth orbit, perhaps the moon, to space commerce firms - with market assistance from government.

Will the Next Man on the Moon Be Chinese?

Now that the space shuttle era is over, how will the US service its satellites? Will America have to depend on other nations like Russia and China to get to space in the future? Author and space expert Jerry Pournelle wonders whether America might be losing some strategically important high ground with law professor Glenn Reynolds.

China´s Tiangong-1 space station readied

A Long March II-F carrier rocket, the launch vehicle for China's first module of a planned space station, arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province on Saturday, July 23, 2011. This marks the gathering of all personnel and facilities needed for the launch of the Tiangong-1 at the launch center, said a statement issued by the center.

The Long March II-F carrier rocket will carry the Tiangong-1, the unmanned space module designed to serve as a platform for China's future spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with, in space. China plans to launch Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in the latter half of this year, and they will perform the country's first space docking.

Russia plans the first binmen in space

The Russians are building a spaceship to collect space junk. The Russian rocket company, Energia proposes that they would complete the cleaning satellite assembly by 2020 and test the device no later than in 2023. The cleaning satellite would work on nuclear power and be operational for about 15 years.

Yuri Gagarin statue stands in London

A statue has been unveiled in London to celebrate the first spaceman - Yuri Gagarin, reports the Guardian, the BBC, and The Telegraph, (English video), last week.

Hardship for Space-Shuttle Workers

The end of the space shuttle means layoffs and other economic distress for Florida's Space Coast as a new chapter in American space history begins. "It is just time to move on," says Robert Jordan, a former space shuttle engineer.

This Week @ NASA: July 22, 2011

The iconic space shuttle flys no more. A new era set to begin with the commercial space launch, if the certifications permit (Parabolic Arc).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Taurus 2 Debut Delayed Two Months

Peter B. de Selding, reporting from Paris for SpaceNews reported today that the inaugural flight of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 rocket will be delayed by about two months, to December, 2011 to allow time for the completion and certification of rocket propellant and pressurization facilities at the vehicle’s Wallops Island, Va., launch site, Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson.

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital still intends to demonstrate its space station cargo vehicle on the second Taurus 2 flight about two months after the first successful liftoff, meaning that mission, in which the Cygnus capsule will approach the international space station, will be delayed to February, 2012 Thompson said.

The Cygnus capsule, meanwhile, will be transported to the Wallops Island, Va. launch site with the Antonov An-225 Mriya designed to airlift the Energia's boosters and the Buran space shuttle for the Soviet Space program. Cygnus will carry cargo to the International Space Station after being boosted to orbit by the Taurus-2.

NASA set briefing on JUNO Jupiter Mission

NASA will hold a news briefing at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT) on Wednesday, July 27, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to discuss preparations for the upcoming Juno mission to Jupiter. The briefing will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website.

Juno, scheduled to launch Aug. 5, will improve our understanding of our solar system's beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Juno will get closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft and will provide images and the first detailed glimpse of its poles.

Briefing participants are: Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington; Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas; Jan Chodas, Juno project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Steve Levin, Juno project scientist, JPL, Pasadena, Calif.; and, Kaelyn Badura, Pine Ridge High School, Deltona, Fla.; high school student, Juno Education program participant and Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Project participant.

Mars Science Laboratory Site: Gale crater

Soar over the Gale crater on Mars that will be the landing site for NASA's Curiosity rover in 2012. The down select of sites has been underway for months.  More from CNN, The Washington Post, National Geographic,  MSNBC, and the BBC Science.

Where is the new American spaceship?

As NASA retreats from an ambitious human spaceflight program for the foreseeable future, foreign countries are moving ahead with multibillion-dollar plans to go to the moon, build space stations and even take the long voyage to Mars, Los Angeles Times writers W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian penned.

Although most of the world still lags far behind the United States in space technology and engineering know-how, other nations are engaging in a new space race and building space research centers, rockets, satellites and lunar rovers. Their ambitions are a declaration of their economic and technological arrival, the article continues.

On a more cynical note, Chris Friend writes in NewsMax of the lack of American capability to launch astronauts to space now. "Despite landing on the Moon just 66 years after the Wright brothers’ flight, we haven’t been back in nearly four decades. Dark side of the Moon? Unexplored. Manned missions to Mars and Jupiter’s moons, which hold the promise of life? Off the table. (And it’s not for lack of money, as we spend on everything else under the sun)."  More.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last Space Shuttle Crew Reflects on Future

Back on the ground, STS-135 crew members discuss the roles they played in this final chapter of space shuttle history with the media and the tears that flowed on the runway. Over 13 days, the four-member crew of Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim packed the space laboratory with enough supplies and spare parts to support the ISS for one year.


Moonrush: Extended Trailer from deepspeed media on Vimeo.
This past Saturday, Jonathan Minard and Michael Pisano of Deepspeed media, a production team making a documentary about Astrobotic, accepted the first Botsker Award in the category of Visionary Futures at the first annual Robot Film Festival, notes the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Race to the Moon Heats Up for Private Firms

Now that the last space shuttle has landed back on Earth, a new generation of space entrepreneurs would like to whip up excitement about the prospect of returning to the Moon, writes Kenneth Chang at The New York Times, pointing to the $30-million Google Lunar X-Prize.

NASA should fund the 1,000-day Project-M to ignite the power of imagination and carry American dreams back to the moon and the two-world system.

NOW: The United States is in "The Gap!"

ESA Astronauts Salute Space Shuttle

'Space Shuttle is perhaps the most complex technological system ever built. In 30 years, it has flown 135 times and helped humankind to dispatch and partially even return many satellites and deep-space probes, to build the International Space Station and to conduct out-of-this-world science. The Shuttle has transported also 24 European astronauts to Earth orbit on 25 missions. The last space shuttle mission landed at the Kennedy Space Center July 21, 2011 after 30-years of service.

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis Lands

Double-sonic booms announced the coming landing of the final space shuttle mission at the Kennedy Space Center as Atlantis touched down on the runway for the very last time.

Fourth Moon Found Orbiting Pluto

The discovery of a new moon around Pluto hints that a NASA spacecraft streaking toward the dwarf planet could uncover more surprises when it finally gets there, hails The Christian Science Monitor.

"This is a fantastic discovery," New Horizons' principal investigator Alan Stern said in a statement. "Now that we know there's another moon in the Pluto system, we can plan close-up observations of it during our flyby," reported by NPR Radio.

"Pluto's satellite system is truly knocking our socks off with surprises — it's magnificently complex, and getting more crowded all the time. I can't wait till we get there to see what other surprises this planet and its moons have in store for us!"- Stern told MSNBC's Alan Boyle.

The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km) says NASA.

The discovery gives NASA’s New Horizons mission, scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in July 2015, another tempting scientific target and then go beyond.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Mission ARTEMIS: Studying the Moon

Two small NASA probes that had been used to study space weather now are orbiting the moon to study its interior and surface composition. The spacecraft, called Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun (ARTEMIS), began their journey away from Earth's orbit in July 2009. The first spacecraft entered lunar orbit on June 27, and the second on July 17, 2011.

The probes will now approach the moon's surface to within sixty miles once per orbit. The data will provide scientists with new information about the moon's internal structure for the next seven to 10 years.

Both spacecraft were previously in areas called the Lagrangian points, areas on either side of the moon, where the moon and Earth's gravity balance perfectly. These locations were ideal spots to study Earth's distant magnetic field and how the solar wind, made up of ionized gas known as plasma, flows past the moon and tries to fill in the vacuum on the other side.

The ARTEMIS mission was made possible by repurposing two spacecraft that would otherwise have ceased operations in 2010. The spacecraft were part of NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission launched in 2007.

Upon Tranquility We Shall Stand

"Apollo's Children" is a poem written in the future to the Heroes of Apollo, both those who went to the Moon, those who made it happen, and those who who will go again. Read by Space Frontier Foundation Co-Founder Rick Tumlinson.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SpaceX chief sets his sights on Mars

Don't expect to hear any nostalgia about the soon-to-end space shuttle era from Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of Space Exploration Technologies. Musk isn't prone to look to the past, but rather to the future — to a "new era of spaceflight" that eventually leads to Mars, writes Alan Boyle for the MSNBC Cosmic Log.

The 40-year-old engineer-entrepreneur told Boyle in the interview that the company's Dragon capsule could take on a robotic mission to Mars as early as 2016. And he's already said it'd be theoretically possible to send humans to Mars in the next 10 to 20 years — bettering NASA's target timeframe of the mid-2030s.

SpaceX is working with NASA's Ames Research Center in California on an interplanetary mission concept that could theoretically be put into effect for a launch "five or six years from now," Musk said.

The absolute goal of SpaceX is to develop the technologies to make life multiplanetary, which means being able to transport huge volumes of people and cargo to Mars. So we'll do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal, Musk told Boyle.

A Salute to the Final Space Shuttle Ascent

Space shuttle Atlantis and the STS-135 crew begin the journey to the International Space Station on July 8, 2011. On Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, just prior to 6 AM, the final, the last mission, lands and the NewSpace Era begins.

Spirit Mars Rover Highlights

Some of Spirit's most memorable snapshots from Mars. These views are just a small sampling from the 124,000 images returned by the Mars Exploration Rover [NASA JPL].  One day someone will bring the Spirit Rover back to Earth.

Atlas-V as an astronaut carrier in 2015?

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) and NASA Space Act Agreement announced Monday, July 18, 2011 is caputuring the space community interest throughout the United States. NASA will make a flight certification decision in 2012.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NASA to Hold Commercial Crew Forum

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present a status of the Commercial Crew Program strategy on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. The Forum will be held at the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Program Forum's key topics will include:

* Background of NASA's Commercial Crew Strategy
* Key Program Attributes
* Potential Commercial Crew Program Strategy
* Short Q&A session

The agenda consists of a 30-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute Question and Answer period.

NASA will broadcast the Program Forum online via webcast. Remote viewers will have the ability to submit online questions and comments during the forum. Pre-registration is not required for webcast participation. Interested parties are encouraged to participate via webcast.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is investing in the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable, and cost effective access to and return from low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS). The objective is to foster the development of a certified end-to-end Crew Transportation System (CTS) for use in LEO.

Through this development and certification process, NASA will help lay the foundation for future commercial transportation capabilities, upon which the Commercial Partners can market transportation services to the U.S. Government and other customers. Once a transportation capability is certified for NASA use and services are available, NASA could purchase transportation services to meet its ISS crew rotation and emergency return obligations.

Next Mars Rover Landing Site Selected

NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will host a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 22 to announce the selected landing site for the agency's latest Mars rover. NASA Television and the agency's website will provide live coverage of the event that will be held at the museum's Moving Beyond Earth Gallery. In addition, the event will be carried live on Ustream, with a live chat available, at .  More from NASA.

STS-135 Crew Farewell Ceremony

The STS-135 and Expedition 28 crews hold a farewell ceremony and close the hatches between the International Space Station and space shuttle Atlantis. The hatches between the spacecraft were open for seven days, 21 hours and 41 minutes. Atlantis is set to land Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to conclude the space shuttle program. The CBS video report below outlines what is next in the commercial space effort to return the American flag to Earth.

Europeans Look to ATV Future in Orbit

The European Space Agency (ESA) examines the different ways that ATV developments and artificial intelligence could be used in future spacecraft during this decade.

Russia space capability irreplaceable ...

Possessing the biggest-yet space telescope, just launched into orbit, and the only manned spaceship that can take cosmonauts to the ISS, Russia's role in world space programs is irreplaceable, the country's space chief Vladimir Popovkin explains [12min].

Zenith-3M launcher with Fregat-SB upper stage and Russian astrophysical observatory Spectrum-R lifted off from Baikonur's pad 45 on July 18, at 6.31 a.m. MSK. Separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage which is to deliver Spectrum-R into the targeted orbit is expected at about 10 a.m. Spectrum-R, developed under Radioastron project in the framework of Russian Federal Space Program, is intended to study the Universe.

Atlas-V considered for human-rating by NASA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) offering-up the Atlas-V for human rated booster rocket is essential to getting the United States and commercial astronauts back into space, (SpaceRef). NASA and ULA announced a Space Act Agreement in Flordia today (MSNBC, BBC, and SpaceNews.

The advocacy of the NewSpace community to the US House of Representatives is essential if there are to be enough federal monies for NASA to afford innovation investment. If not, more money for the Russian Soyuz taxi rides to orbit.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Emerging Space Industry ...

WeAreSpace: The Emerging Space Industry from Spacevidcast on Vimeo.

India Successfully Launches PSLV-C17

India on Friday, July 15, 2011, successfully launched its latest communication satellite GSAT-12 onboard a powerful variant of homegrown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C17, from the Sriharikota spaceport. In a textbook launch, Indian Space Research Organisation's workhorse PSLV lifted off from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 4.48 pm at the end of the 53-hour countdown and placed the 1,410 kg GSAT-12 into orbit about 20 minutes later. GSAT-12 was injected into an elliptical Transfer Orbit of 284 km perigee (closest point to Earth) and 21,000 km apogee (farthest point to Earth). Subsequently, the onboard Liquid Apogee Motor would be used to place the satellite in a circular orbit.

2011 Lunabotics Mining Competition

Some doubt the future of mining the moon but teams in competition at the 2011 Lunabotics Mining Competition don't think of it as science fiction. These teams think of it as a new generation of innovation. Bigelow Aerospace is ready to start providing the mining colony habitats.

Bigelow Aerospace Model the Future in Space

Bigelow Aerospace is the only company in the world which is building space habitats, inflatable modules, that one day soon could be attached to the International Space Station to provide more space in space. Inside the North Las Vegas, Nevada plant are detailed models of the three main designs the company will begin producing in the near future and more ambitious longer term plans such as bases on the moon.

The Summer of Innovation: Students Talk to Shuttle Shuttle Atlantis on Final Voyage

The STS-135 crew of the final space shuttle mission talk with the members of the next generation of explorers from a NASA Explorer school in "The Summer of Innovation."

Tumlinson Launches Texas Space Alliance Seeking to Create a Multistate 'Tipping Point'

On a cold, blustery day in a not-so-sunny Arizona, Rick Tumlinson talks about the Texas Space Alliance, a book that's in the works, and the need for a vision to guide humankind's move into space filmed by MoonandbackMedia. In the second video, Rick speaks of his consulting work at Wallops Island, Va. to bring NewSpace to the state.

Dawn spacecraft orbits Vetsa

Dawn spacecraft on Saturday became the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study the asteroid, named Vesta, for a year before departing for a second destination, a dwarf planet named Ceres, in July 2012. Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data also will help pave the way for future human space missions.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Near-Earth Asteroid - Mission Animation

This artist's concept animation depicts a mission to a near-Earth asteroid. In this animation, astronauts in the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) dock with an asteroid, perform a spacewalk, and return to the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for the journey back to Earth.

President Obama to Commercial Astronauts: Capture the Flag and Bring it Back to Earth

President Barack Obama spoke with astronauts about the legacy of the Space Shuttle and his commitment to Humanity's future in space. This call comes against a background of turmoil between NASA and the US Congress. The President, nonetheless, suggests a "capture the flag" to US commercial astronauts of the near-term future.

The STS-135 crew provided a recorded message as a tribute to Atlantis, the entire Space Shuttle Program and team. In the message, Ferguson spoke about the U.S. flag displayed behind them that was flown on the first space shuttle mission, STS-1. It was flown on this mission to be presented to the space station crew and it will remain displayed aboard the station until the next crew launched from the U.S. retrieves it for return to Earth. It will fly from Earth again, with the next crew that launches from the U.S. on a journey of exploration beyond Earth orbit.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Future of Human Space Flight

NASA will develop new technologies and capabilities that'll build a flexible path to multiple destinations beyond low Earth orbit for future generations of explorers.

The Lunar GRAIL Mission Overview

Scheduled to launch in late 2011, the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission will create the most accurate gravitational map of the Moon to date, improving our knowledge of near-side gravity by 100 times and of far-side gravity by 1000 times. The high-resolution gravitational field, especially when combined with a comparable-resolution topographical field, will enable scientists to deduce the Moon's interior structure and composition, and to gain insights into its thermal evolution--that is, the history of the Moon's heating and cooling, which opens the door to understanding its origin and development.

Accurate knowledge of the gravity will also be an invaluable navigational aid to future lunar spacecraft. Ultimately, the information contributed by the GRAIL mission will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.