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Monday, November 28, 2011

Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers Readies for Six Months on International Space Station

Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers is about to make his second and ESA's fourth long-duration mission to the International Space Station. Lifting off in a Soyuz module from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, he'll be spending six months in orbit as flight engineer. His roles onboard include performing an intensive series of microgravity experiments and overseeing the docking of ESA's ATV, or Automated Transfer Vehicle, to the station.

Come home to Virginia 'Dream Chaser'

A spacecraft of the future could have its roots in a "space taxi" concept called the HL-20, developed at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Sierra Nevada, the company designing the Dream Chaser as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development program, this past summer thanked the engineers who came up with the HL-20 and studied it 20 years ago - before the project was canceled.

The Virginia-based vision vehicle, the Dream Chaser should be mated to an Atlas-V and launched from Wallops Island, Va. in this decade. That is the best way to salute the Virginians at NASA Langley who worked the vehicle from concept to model for today's engineers to complete and fly.

Ron Garan: 99 seconds for the future

Half of 2011 NASA Astronaut Ron Garan worked as a flight engineer on board of the International Space Station. In his "99 seconds for the future" he talks about the sovereign contradiction he faced when he looked at our planet earth from space. It is worthy of a 99-second listen. Are you ready to solve some of the problems today?

Symphony of Science - Onward to the Edge!

A musical celebration of the importance and inspirational qualities of space exploration (human and robotic), as well as a look at some of the amazing worlds in our solar system. Featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Europeans to put 22 lbs. of cheese on-orbit

Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers will have a special treat waiting for him in orbit when he arrives st the International Space Station next month: twenty-two pounds (22lbs) of Amsterdam's finest cheese.
The 53-year-old Kuipers is due to blast off on board a Soyuz rocket on December 21 with two other astronauts for a five-month-mission on board the International Space Station.

"Andre is a big fan of our cheese and asked us in a letter to arrange with space authorities to see if we could send up some of his favourite Old Amsterdam," the cheesemaker's spokeswoman Henriette Westland told AFP "After numerous emails to NASA and the European Space Agency, they agreed to send up around 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds)," she added.

She said the Dutch traditional snack had to be specially cut and wrapped before being shipped to Houston and then to Kazakhstan, where five kilogrammes were blasted off on board a cargo rocket to the ISS at the end of October. Another five kilogrammes are expected to go up on another freight rocket from the Baikonur launching site by the end of January, Westland added.

Old Amsterdam cheese is one of the Westland company's best-known export brands and sold in some 70 countries. It is interesting to note that commercial space launch carrier SpaceX first payload to orbit was none other than --- cheese. Elon Musk apparently has payload demand insight. An ISS cheese shoppe may be in the works for 2012.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wavin' Flag Celebration of Atlas-V Launch!

Mars or Bust!  This is the heart of American science, exploration and commercial space launch innovation. More from NASA.

Curiosity on Earth Departure Course to Mars

NASA Mars Nuclear Rover Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory, MSL) launch was near perfect from Cape Canaveral with the spacecraft now on an Earth departure course for the millions of miles course to Mars where it will land in August 2012.

View and sound of the Atlas-V launch from Cape Canaveral as if you were there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saturday 10 AM Launch to Mars in long flight from Cape Canaveral to Gale Carter

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover rolled out to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around 8 a.m. EST Friday. Launch is set for 10:02 a.m. Saturday. It may be watched on NASA-TV.

The launch team continues working towards liftoff of the Atlas V on Saturday, Nov. 26. No significant launch vehicle or spacecraft issues are being worked on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket or the MSL spacecraft, which includes the rover Curiosity.

Launch day weather remains favorable, with only a 30 percent chance of conditions prohibiting liftoff. Godspeed Curiosity!

How to become an astronaut?

NASA is looking for the NeXtGen astronaut flying orbital commercial spacecraft, testing NASA-designed spacecraft, flying to the International Space Station, to an asteroid, to the Moon and beyond within this and the next decade. The NASA astronaut ranks need to be replinished. Make it so.

'How do I become an astronaut?' is a question that Frank Danesy has been asked many, many times. In this video Frank talks about the qualities needed to become an astronaut, the selection campaigns and the rigorous training involved for the lucky few who are eventually chosen.

NASA has lost astronauts by the dozens and it is now looking for new astronauts for the space station and the NewSpace commercial space future.

NASA astronaut applications are pouring in by the thousands but only the few will carry the moniker of NASA astronaut, many more with carry the moniker of commercial astronaut in this decade.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mars' Radiation to be Measured by MSL

Mars' thin atmosphere -- and lack of magnetic field -- lets many charged and neutral particles through. Curiosity rover's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument will check to see if astronauts could work there. Credit: Southwest Research Institute, [VideoFromSpace].

Terrifying Auroras on Aliens World Explained

A distant world is being hit by solar storms so ferocious, the entire planet is probably enveloped in auroras. Researchers speculate that the display is probably as beautiful as it is terrifying using CoRoT.

Speakers-UP: "Einstein and the Neutrinos"

Corrigan Brothers And Pete Creighton... The Neutrino Song

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving in Space for New ISS Commander

Aboard the International Space Station, the new Commander of the complex, NASA's Dan Burbank, discuss the start of his four months on the orbital laboratory, and how he and his crewmates are spending Thanksgiving in an in-flight interview November 23, 2011 with reporters from CBS News.

ISS Commander Burbank will connect with hundreds of students on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at the University of Virginia's College at Wise to answer multiple student questions and to share the experience of living and working in space on an extended stay.  Students expect to make inquiry as to the commercial cargo missions set to get underway from Wallops Island, VA to the space station in the weeks ahead.

In addition to talking with American and European astronauts, the students are expected to learn more about the humanoid Robonaut-2 now on-board the International Space Station as a part of the Expedition XXX crew. A full-scale 525lb mock-up of R2 will be at the Wise, VA In-Flight Downlink event. The event is expected to draw over 3,000 public school students from multiple school districts.

The Virginia Education Association is urging its membership to use the NASA-TV downlink and participate  virtually through hundreds of classrooms throughout Virginia. Plans are underway to enhance the remote experience. The VEA electronic newsletter will provide teacher-student participation details.

University of Virginia's College at Wise students are undertaking two essay competitions: $1,000 prize for the best essay of a minimum of 2,000 words on a space commerce plan for the decade ahead sponsored by the Business & Economics Department; and, a $200 prize plus a question to the astronauts for the best essay on lunar science in the 21st century.

Beyond Planet Earth Expo a Glimpse into the Future Now Open in New York City

A new exhibition called "Beyond Planet Earth" gets underway at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The Expo showcases ideas on the future of space exploration. It opened Nov. 19, 2011.

CERN Reconfirms Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Experiment Re-rocks the Science Community

A discovery that rocked the physics community a few months back -- is re-rocking it -- with a re-confirmation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Virginia spaceport competitiveness study released to position for future growth

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell today[Nov. 22, 2011]  released a study on the economic competitiveness of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). The study, commissioned in response to the 2011 Virginia Appropriation Act, reviewed the governance, organization and competitive landscape for the VCSFA in order to identify the necessary steps to make the Mid Atlantic Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, the best commercial space launch facility in the country. The study was conducted by KPMG Corporate Finance, [Virginia Business].

Speaking about the report, Governor McDonnell said “As home to one of only four facilities licensed by the FAA to send rockets into orbit, the Wallops Flight Facility at MARS has the potential to become the leading commercial space flight facility in the United State, all while creating much needed jobs and economic development in all corners of the Commonwealth. With our tremendous educational institutions, manufacturing capabilities, workforce, and ranking as the number one state in the nation in which to do business, the recommendations contained in this report will help Virginia seize a growing portion of this critical sector. Opportunities abound for Virginia in today’s commercial space flight industry, ” [The Virginian-Pilot and FairfaxNews].

The report identifies a number of findings related to the VCSFA and makes seven key        recommendations designed to enhance the economic competitiveness of Virginia’s commercial space flight industry.

· Make the capital investment necessary to turn MARS into a multi-use facility and attract new customers.

· The VCSFA should develop market-based usage cost rates that reflect the infrastructure, site, facilities, and range equipment at MARS.

· The VCSFA must focus on a long range strategy for MARS.

· The Board of Directors should be restructured to reflect the mission, purpose and size of the VCSFA.

· The VCSFA should reevaluate and refresh agreements with other entities.

· The VCSFA staff and organizational structure should reflect the strategic direction.

“Virginia’s space industry currently contributes $7.6 billion in annual direct economic output and supports over 28,000 jobs,” Governor McDonnell continued. “Given the job creation and economic development potential surrounding MARS, I will be submitting a promotion bill this session of the General Assembly to implement the report’s recommendations. The VCSFA has the potential to become a major economic force in the Commonwealth. We must take the steps to ensure that this occurs.”

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority was created in 1995 by the General Assembly to oversee the development of the commercial space flight industry in the Commonwealth. In 1997, The Federal Aviation Administration granted the VCSFA one of only four licenses to launch rockets into Earth orbit. In the years following its creation, the VCSFA has worked closely with the General Assembly to enact a number of policies that lead the FAA to recognize Virginia as “the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to supporting commercial space.”

“Since the VCSFA’s creation, Virginia has become a leader in commercial space flight,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. “We look forward to working with the General Assembly this session to implement the initiatives recommended in KPMG’s report and take the steps necessary to ensure the continued success of the commercial space industry in Virginia.”

Copies of the report can be found at:

A second report on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport by the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University is to be released in the next few days as well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Expedition 30: Downlink Set 26 January 2012

The International Space Station Expedition 30 American and European crew will conduct a live two-way audio-video downlink with over 3,000 middle, high school and college students from throughout far southwestern Virginia at the University of Virginia's College Wise convocation center on Thursday morning, 26 January 2012.

In a rare and unique event, organizers expect a full-scale mock-up of Roboanut-2, an ISS spacesuit, and a host of NASA and commercial space exhibits. Apollo-era Moon rock will be on display and the audience expects to hear from an astronaut and leaders of the commercial space flight authority spearheading launch pad efforts for the commercial cargo re-supply from Virginia. The human-machine interface software programmer for R2 will also attend the downlink.

Students will ask between 15-to-20 questions of the astronauts. University of Virginia's College at Wise students will have competitive essays on 21st century lunar science and space development business efforts.

Soyuz TMA-02M Lands in Kazakhstan

The Soyuz TMA-02M Spacecraft re-entering Earth's atmosphere is seen here in this video as the capsule hurtles towards it's landing target in Kazakhstan.

ISS Expedition 29 Departs on Soyuz: then there were three again and Expedition 30

The spacecraft carrying Expedition 29 members Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov undocks from the International Space Station as it begins its return to Earth.

Space Solar Power Press Conference - International Assessment

National Space Society and SPACE Canada present the First International Assessment of Space Solar Power. Main speaker is John Mankins, editor of the study report. For copy of the report, slides for this video, and more details go to

Sunday, November 20, 2011

FLASHBACK: John F. Kennedy Nov. 21, 1963

ET Math: How different could it be?

SETI TALKS: We like to think that intelligent aliens would have the same basic ideas about numbers and geometry as us, but, even if they do, they might express those ideas very differently. To illustrate what different forms a concept can take, John Stillwell, PhD will show how differently the law ab=ba has been interpreted at different times in human mathematical culture. This seemingly basic law has several different origins -- in geometry, number theory, and set theory -- some of which seem alien even to experienced mathematicians.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Global Topographic Map of Moon Released

Using elevation and image data returned by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this animation takes the viewer on a virtual tour of the Moon. It was completed October 20, 2011. More image data at Arizona State University.

Apollo Digital Elevation Models Now On-Line

The "Apollo Zone" Digital Image Mosaic (DIM) and Digital Elevation Model (DEM) have been released to the public. These maps cover approximately 18% of the Lunar surface at a resolution of 1024 pixels per degree (approx 30 m/pixel), says Dr. Terry Fong, Director, Intelligent Robotics Group, NASA Ames Research Center in California.

"The maps are the result of 3 years worth of work by the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) to align and process more than 4,000 images from the Apollo Metric Camera (AMC), which flew aboard Apollo 15, 16, and 17. The AMC images were provided by the Apollo Image Archive at Arizona State University," Fong wrote on the LUNAR LISTSERV.

To preview the "Apollo Zone" maps, download the following "KML" file for viewing in Google Earth (

Once you open that file in Google Earth you will have options to view these "Apollo Zone" maps overlaid on Google Earth's "Moon mode". The full maps (in GeoTIFF format with complete metadata) have also been uploaded to the Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project (LMMP) portal ( and will soon be available for visualization and download via that site.

The "Apollo Zone" maps cover the following sites of interest: Apollo 15, Apollo 16, Alphonsus Crater, Rima Prinz, Aristarchus Plateau-2, Ina D Caldera, Sulpicius Gallus, Mare Crisium, Mare Smythii, King Crater, Tsiolkovskiy Crater, Aitken Crater, and half of Van de Graaf Crater.

The terrain model has an average vertical accuracy of 40 m/pixel and standard deviation of 37 m (compared to LOLA laser altimetry tracks). Over 46% of the covered surface has vertical errors lower than 25 m.

This Week @ NASA: November 19, 2011

Blue Origin spacecraft flight video from 2011

Private spaceship builder Jeff Bezos's vertical rocket take a short hop during a 2011 test flight by his company Blue Origin in Texas (the ONLY private spaceport in the United States).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

China's Shenzhou-8 spacecraft lands safely in Mongolia for "a complete success"

China´s unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 landed in north China Thursday evening, after completing the country´s first-ever space docking mission. More from The Hindu and Reuters video report in English. The Chinese plan to launch two taikonaut space crews to the space lab in 2012.

MastenSpace Zombie Takes Flight

Here's a video from a camera on Xombie looking down at the ground during a pad-to-pad flight Wednesday, November 16, 2011, that is almost identical to the flight path flown during the Lunar Lander Challenge. In this case, Masten Space had about 60 lbs of payload at the top of the vehicle and  handled it with ease!

Space Station Astronauts Talk to Media

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineer Dan Burbank talk to KHOU-TV in Houston about life and work aboard the space station during an in-flight interview. Burbank will assume command of the ISS Expedition 30.
A live audio-video downlink is being planned for the University of Virginia's College at Wise convocation center between ISS Expedition 30 crew (inc. R2) and 3,000 students from Southwestern Virginia. There will also be discussion of the planned 2012 commercial cargo launch from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. There is a $1,000 student contest for a commercial space enterprise business plan essay and a $200 prize for the best 21st century lunar science essay.

Solid Gold SuperHeros from the Moon!

NASA astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin were presented with the Gold Medal, Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions on Novemember 16, 2011.

SuperCommittee Heros: Will they cut commercial crew or force other reductions?

The most powerful forces of frustration have gathered together. Find out what the SuperCommittee is up to! Learn about taxes, austerity and drowning government in a bathtub with this Mark Fiore animation. It all makes one wonder what will happen with the NASA budget and commercial crew as a result of the work of the SuperHeros on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mystery of the Lunar Ionosphere Explored

How can a world without air have an ionosphere? Somehow the Moon has done it. Lunar researchers have been struggling with this mystery for years, and they may have finally found a solution.

The lunar ionosphere paper in 2011 is based on line-of-sight dust column concentrations inferred from the lunar horizon glow detected in Apollo 15 coronal photographs (McCoy, 1976). "No quantitative estimates of the uncertainties were provide in the McCoy (1976) analysis, but the Apollo 15 measurements should clearly be regarded as order-of-magnitude estimates."

The subject lunar ionosphere paper does not mention dust cohesive forces. It rests on McCoy (1976) and "Horizon Glow".

Yet since 1976 many publications developed theories and models of electric fields particularly at the terminators to help explain Horizon Glow, lifting individual particles of dust to high altitudes, thought to cause much more dense dusty exospheres from the feedstock of the lunar surface than possible
from lunar dust ejecta from sporadic impacts of micrometeorites or cosmic dust.

Such a dusty exosphere is thought sufficient to be measured directly by instruments on the LADEE spacecraft in 2013 at an altitude up to perhaps 50km. LADEE will launch from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island.

Soyuz TMA-22 Crew Dock with Space Station

The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin docked to the International Space Station's Poisk mini-research module at 12:24 a.m. EST Wednesday. After the hatches between Soyuz and station were opened at 2:39 a.m., Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov welcomed the new flight engineers aboard for their four-month stay on the orbiting complex.

Europa: A Jovian moon with 'Great Lakes'

Credit: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin
In a significant finding in the search for life beyond Earth, scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have discovered what appears to be a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa.

The water could represent a potential habitat for life, and many more such lakes might exist throughout the shallow regions of Europa's shell, lead author Britney Schmidt, a postdoctoral fellow at the university's Institute for Geophysics, writes in the journal Nature.

In this video animation of a cutaway view of Europa's icy shell, we see how vast lakes form below the surface.

Further increasing the potential for life, the newly discovered lake is covered by floating ice shelves that seem to be collapsing, providing a mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy between the surface and a vast ocean already inferred to exist below the thick ice shell.

"This new understanding of processes on Europa would not have been possible without the foundation of the last 20 years of observations over Earth's ice sheets and floating ice shelves," said Don Blankenship, a co-author and senior research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics, where he leads airborne radar studies of Earth's ice sheets.  MORE from NASA.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This Week @ NASA: Nov. 14, 2011

Astronaut Dan Burbank and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivinishin and Anton Shkaplerov are scheduled to hook up with fellow Expedition 29 crew members Mike Fossum, Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa aboard the International Space Station on Nov. 16 following their Soyuz spacecraft's launch on Nov. 13, Eastern. Also, students and the Commander; MSL ready; new tests for Orion spacecraft, J2-X engine; asteroid flyby; and more.

Soyuz TMA-22 Crew Now in Earth Orbit

A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a spacecraft carrying three new ISS crewmembers early Monday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from a snowy Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:14 pm EST Sunday (0414 GMT, 10:14 am local time Monday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft into orbit. On board the spacecraft is American astronaut Dan Burbank and Russia cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin.

The Soyuz is slated to dock with the ISS at 11:33 pm EST Tuesday (0433 GMT Wednesday). The launch had originally been scheduled for September, but was postponed after a failure of a similar Soyuz rocket carrying a Progress cargo spacecraft in August. The three new ISS crewmembers will briefly share the station with the current crew of Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, and Sergei Volkov, who will return to Earth next week. More from NASA.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Soyuz TMA-22 Crew Cleared for Launch Tonight from Baikonur, Kazakhstan

Expedition 29 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA Flight Engineer Dan Burbank and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin appeared before the Russian State Commission on November 12, 2011, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The commission gave its final approval for their launch. The crew also conducted a final pre-launch news conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters and prepared for liftoff on November 14, Baikonur time, (Nov. 13, 11:14 PM EST) in the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft. The trio will begin a five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

Mining the Moon for Water Post-2020

This a conceptual vision of Shackleton Energy Company's goal to mine the Moon for water and open the world's first fuel depots in space selling water-derived propellants commercially at prices significantly below anything launched from Earth. Successful operations will open the NewSpace frontier to all mankind and create untold new business opportunities in science, security and commerce, [Hat Tip to Parabolic Arc]. More about Shackleton Energy Company from RocketHub.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Russians Prepare Soyuz for Next ISS Crew

The Russians have now placed the next human-rated Soyuz on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Desert Steppe of Kazakhstan to launch the next crew to the Interntaional Space Station on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 11:14 p.m. EST. NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier sets forth the launch calendar in the linked video.

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are scheduled to lift off from the Baikonour Cosmodrome 0415 GMT Nov. 14. More from

Meanwhile, the Progress M 13M  docked earlier this month with the International Space Station bringing new cargo and supplies (video).  It will undock from Pirs Nadir port on 25 January 2012, releasing the Chibis-M satellite which was produced by the Institute of Space Research Institute and the Lebedev Physical Institute (LPI) prior to de-orbiting.

The 40 kg small Chibis-M satellite is designed to study gamma radiation in atmospheric lightning. Previously, other spacecrafts have found that high-altitude thunderstorm are accompanied by powerful pulses of gamma-and X-ray and radio pulses of ultrahigh power. More from The New York Times.

Mars Science Laboratory Status Update

Scientists and engineers on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team provide a comprehensive status update of NASA's latest robotic mission to the Red Planet. The MSL's Curiosity rover is slated to be sent into space on Nov. 25, 2011 at 10:25 AM from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NASA DEVELOP Teams Compete in Virtual Poster Session for Comments and Cash Prizes

Earthzine is hosting its third Virtual Poster Session, featuring 11 projects from high school and university students involved in NASA’s DEVELOP National Program.

Sixty-seven students from across the nation worked on 15 different research projects at DEVELOP’s 11 locations during the 2011 Fall term. Project teams researched topics ranging from wildfire predictive mapping to air quality monitoring, highlighting the capabilities of NASA Earth observations to address local policy issues and enhance decision-making.

Showcased here are the research results from 11 of these teams. Each project includes an abstract and video presentation on the research. The Wise DEVELOP Teams One, Two and  Three are featured based upon their international team's inclusion of Mexico and the United States.

Earthzine is offering a cash prize to the team that generates the best overall discussion via questions and comments at the end of each article. The quality of the discussion will be judged by a panel of scientists. Hope you will review the Wise DEVELOP Team 1, 2 and 3 and pose questions.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Southwestern Virginia Technology Council Supports Human Spaceflight at Wallops Island

The Southwestern Virginia Technology Council continues to help advance the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport by voicing support for the NASA commercial crew program later in this decade. The council communicates to federal and state legislators, to the general public via Op-Eds, and to the next generation through STEM-education within its service footprint.

Today, former council president Donald Purdie has an OpEd published in The Roanoke Times praising Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell for his ongoing support for human spaceflight from Wallops Island. The spaceport has recently been subject of efforts to nix human spaceflight infrastructure development by SpaceFlorida.

Russians Seek Resolution to Phobos-Grunt

Russians seek to determine if the Phobos-Grunt probe now in Earth orbit suffers from a software glitch or a major hardware failure. If the spacecraft software upload solves the problem, the mission may yet continue. If a hardware problem, the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will re-enter the atmosphere of Earth burning-up prior to a potential crash.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

2005 YU55 Comes Very Close to Earth

This six-frame movie of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data obtained by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar on Nov. 7, 2011, [Scientific American]. The asteroid is larger than a modern day American aircraft carrier.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 captured at the Starhoo Observatory. YU55 is a near earth object. On November 8, 2011, it passed by Earth. The asteroid came .8 LD of Earth (inside the Moon's orbit), [BBC].

Phobos-Grunt Mars Probe Stuck in Earth Orbit

Russia's first planetary mission in 15 years faces potentially fatal problem almost immediately after entering its initial Earth orbit. A two-stage Zenith rocket lifted off from Site 45 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Nov. 9, 2011, at 00:16:02.871 Moscow Time. Nevertheless, the Phobos-Grunt Mars moon probe appears to be stuck in low earth orbit, [BBC, Time and Atlanta Journal Constitution].

Russian space agency, Roskosmos, limited its 'coverage' of the mission's initial phase by two sentences about the successful launch, however provided no updates on the status of orbital maneuvers in time for critical engine burns. During the entire night of November 8 and early morning of November 9, a web site of NPO Lavochkin, the spacecraft's prime developer, featured 'news' about the preparation of the mission. Russia Today reports that the spacecraft could be lost if engineers do not find a way to start the probes engines to depart Earth's orbit.

Virginia Space Shuttle Astronaut Among Spaceflyers Backing Commercial Crew Program

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) and Congressman Frank Wolf, (R-Va)received a letter from twenty-three former NASA astronauts, including the University of Virginia's Kathy Thornton (STS-33, STS-49, STS-61, STS-73) backing $500-million funding for the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

"We urge continued support for the Commercial Crew Program and for America's growing commercial spaceflight sector. Because Commercial Crew is so important for NASA's future, we believe it should be fully funded and kept as one of NASA's top near-term priorities. Funding Commercial Crew at least at the Authorization Act level of $500 million will mean less reliance on Russia and a stronger space program here at home, and funding Commercial Crew at NASA's requested level of $850 million will enable these commercial vehicles to be developed on an even more expeditious basis. More robust funding for Commercial Crew will ensure that we get more use out of the Space Station, by getting Americans back up into space faster," the group urged the two funding leaders of the Congress. More from SpaceRef.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Virginia Delegation Closing Ranks to Support Commercial Crew to Send Humans to Space

Southwestern Virginia Congressman H. Morgan Griffith last week joined a growing number within the Virginia Congressional delegation supporting commercial space launch from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

"The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport" is a "sensible location to launch the Atlas-V," the Congressman communicated in a Nov. 2, 2011 letter to a constituent after noting that the Boeing CTS-100 commercial crew vehicle would fly atop the Atlas booster rocket.

Griffith, a freshman serving on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, joins Congressman Frank Wolf (R-10 Va) and Virginia US Senator Mark R. Warner in making recent remarks favorable to Virginia engaging in commercial crew flights in this decade.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has the potential capability of being on par with, or perhaps better than, Cape Canaveral (video) to launch commercial crew and cargo to the International Space Station using the Atlas-V 402. The spaceport will commence launching commercial cargo to the ISS early next year and an unmanned moon exploration mission in 2013.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Phobos-Grunt Readied for Mars Launch

A Russian State Commission overseeing the launch of the Phobos-Grunt, the Chinese Yinghuo-1 micro-satellite and the Planetary Society Phobos-LIFE, held a meeting on November 5, during which space officials gave a green light to the Nov. 6 rollout of the launch vehicle with the spacecrafts to the launch pad. A railway transporter with the Zenit-2SB rocket, the Phobos-Grunt probe and Chinese YH-1 micro-satellite were rolled to the pad are now being readied for launch. The unique Mars mission is scheduled to begin 12:16 AM Moscow time Wednesday, November 9, 2011 (2016 GMT Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011).

Friday, November 04, 2011

Curiosity at Launch Pad Set for Mars

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, a $2.5 billion rover designed to assess that planet's suitability for life, arrived at its Florida launch pad on Thursday in preparation for a planned Friday, November 25, 2011 liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

With its 10 science instruments, including two tools that can chemically analyze pulverized rock, the rover named Curiosity is designed to determine if the landing site, known as Gale Crater, has or ever had the organics necessary for life.

Russia and China are boosting Mars spacecraft to Mars this month too.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sen. Warner Speaks Out for Commercial Crew

United States Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) placed comments into the Congressional Record October 20, 2011 regarding the NASA commercial crew funding and development at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Over the past month, there have been communications between space advocates from Florida and Virginia over commercial crew program and human spaceflight on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

"One very important agency funded by the fiscal year 2012 Commerce-Justice-Science bill that has not been getting much attention in the debate this week is NASA. Senators Nelson, Hutchison, Rockefeller, and others worked incredibly hard to get a balanced reauthorization bill passed last year, and I commend them for their hard work in getting it signed into law. One aspect of that bill that I worked particularly hard on was ensuring that we are doing what we can to advance NASA's mission while also promoting the development of the commercial space sector. In negotiations on that authorization bill, Senator NELSON and I arrived at what I believe is a fair compromise that will allow us to pursue advances in the commercial cargo and commercial crew fields and harness the innovation and cost savings that the private sector can provide," Senator Warner placed into the record.

"In the current fiscal climate, it is imperative that we partner with commercial companies to pursue the cost-effective innovation that can only be achieved through the competition that exists in the private sector. Supporting development of the commercial space industry will also help create steady, well-paying jobs and spur economic growth--not only in urban tech corridors, but also in more rural areas where launch facilities are located such as the Wallops Island facility in my home State of Virginia," the member of the Senate Commerce Committee noted.

Virginia's Senator Warner went on to include: "Moving forward with the CCDEV program will also result in additional opportunities for development at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. I have supported the Wallops facilities in Virginia since my time as Governor, and from my recent visits, I can attest that they are making tremendous progress in developing their launch infrastructure. Providing funding for the CCDEV program at authorized levels, as we have done in this bill, will help us drive competition in the commercial space industry and will provide opportunities for facilities such as Wallops to further develop their launch infrastructure and provide steady, high-wage employment in areas that sorely need it."

Last Man on Moon Worries About China

Former Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon almost 40 years ago, is worried China will beat other nations back to the shiny orb.

“There’s no question in my mind at all that they are going to develop the capability to go to the moon and probably establish colonies there to take advantage of some of the resources that are on the moon,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Cernan said China is “eight or 10 years away” from landing on the moon and when they get there they are going to literally almost own it because no other countries have any plans to go there.

“The Chinese have a long-term plan that’s going to leave the rest of us behind quite frankly and I’m worried about it,” Cernan said. If China assumes a position of leadership in space, “it’s going to have significant negative effects on western civilization, particularly the United States – for many years to come.”

Last month commercial space businessman Robert Bigelow expressed similar concerns about the Chinese gaining access to the Moon and suggested that China might withdraw from the UN Outer Space Treaty to claim the moon as their national property.

Mars500 - 520 days in 15 minutes

After 18 months in isolation, 'cosmonauts' emerge from simulated space flight to Mars Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, The Telegraph, Wired, and Russia Today reports.

The endurance test, called Mars 500, will end at two o’clock local time this Friday in the car park of a drab scientific institute in Moscow when the hatch on the men’s mock spaceship is finally opened and they get to see daylight for the first time in 520 days. Watch the hatch opening here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Shenzhou 8 and Tiangong-1 Dock in Space

China has joined two spacecraft together in orbit for the first time.

The unmanned *Shenzhou 8 spacecraft*, launched earlier this week, made contact with the Tiangong-1 space lab at 1729 GMT. The union occurred over China itself, reports the BBC.

China launched its own space station program after being turned away in its repeated attempts to join the 16-nation International Space Station. That was largely on objections from the United States, which is wary of the Chinese space program’s military links, notes the Washington Post (AP).

Chinese leaders including Premier Wen Jiabao were at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center to watch a live broadcast of the docking, while President Hu Jintao, who is in France for the G20 summit, sent a congratulatory message, The Australian media reported.

"Breakthroughs in and acquisition of space docking technologies are vital to the three-phase development strategy of our manned space program," Hu said. More from ChinaDaily.

China Advancing Space Tech Investments

R-2 Readied for Work at Space Station

The first movement of Robonaut 2 on the International Space Station during one of the initial checkout tests with Astronaut Mike Fossum. Recorded on October 13th, 2011.

Soyuz Progress 45 Docks at ISS

An unmanned resupply craft docked with the International Space Station early Wednesday, the first such rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory since the final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July.

The Russian space agency's Progress 45P spacecraft arrived at the ISS at 7:41 a.m. ET after launching Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz rocket.

The supply ship brought 2.8 tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the space station. Including in the cargo was a pair of Apple iPads, according to reports.

Tractor Beams May Empower Spacecraft

'Tractor beams' -- the ability to trap and move objects using laser light -- are the stuff of science fiction, but a team of NASA scientists has won funding to study the concept for remotely capturing planetary or atmospheric particles and delivering them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis, according to WIRED. This animation shows how a hypothetical future mission might eventually employ tractor beam technology.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Russia to Orbit More Glonass Nav-Sats

Three Glonass-M satellites will be launched on November 4 aboard a Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Thursday, November 3, 2011. Glonass is a Russian-made navigation system similar to the American GIS, the European Galileo and the Chinese Beidou/Compass systems.

Tonight's Sky: November 2011 Highlights

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." In November, Pisces swims across the night sky and the Leonid meteor shower makes an appearance.