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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Only Two Women Set for Space in 2013

As the global space programs look to close the gender gap both at the International Space Station and the Chinese space laboratory, there appears to be only two women set to go to low earth orbit in 2013 - one American and the other Chinese.
Taikonaut Wang Yaping
Shenzhou 10 is a planned manned spaceflight of China's Shenzhou program that is scheduled for launch in 2013 in the final mission to Tiangong 1. Among the crew of three is expected to be female taikonaut Wang Yaping. The female taikonaut is expected to spend 10-to-14 days in space next year.
Wang Yaping was among he back-up crew for the Shenzhou 9 mission which carried the first female taikonaut to space this passed summer (2012) - taikonaut Liu Yang.
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg
NASA astronaut Karen LuJean Nyberg, has been assigned to the Expedition 36 crew as a flight engineer and is scheduled to fly to the ISS aboard Soyuz TMA-09M in May 2013.
Dr. Nyberg will be the only female astronaut or cosmonaut to fly to the International Space Station in 2013. Nonetheless, the female crew corps at the orbiting labortory is expected to change in 2014 with the addition of Russian cosmonaut Yelena Serova and ESA astronaut Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti having long duration stays of nearly 6-months each.
1st Woman Valentina Tereshkova
Only two female NASA astronauts -  Peggy Whitson (2007-2008) and Sunita Williams (currently and only female at the ISS in 2012) - have served as International Space Station commanders during the 11-year program.

The 21st century space effort of all nations should begin to close to the male-female ratio on orbit. If humanity is to become a true spacefaring species, both sexes should have near equality.  

Russians Seek to Shake-Up Space Industry to Gain Better Quality and Remain Competitive

 Popovkin (RIA Novosti/Grigory Sysoev)
Russia’s space sector needs to carry out sweeping reform in order to remain competitive, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin speaking at Moscow State University to science and technology students, the evening of September 27, 2012.
Russian satellites could end up priced out of the market because per-capita productivity in the aerospace sectors of competing countries is two to four times higher, he warned. “If nothing changes, we won’t be able to sell [Russian space technology] in 2015, because Western equipment will be priced 33 to 50 percent lower,” Popovkin was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Russian Proton rocket
Popovkin went on to say that in order to raise productivity, Roscosmos ought to be converted into a space industry holding company that is not under direct state control. The new structure would be able to optimize headcounts at enterprises in the sector and better compete to hire the best people.
"If nothing changes, we won't be able to sell [Russian space technology] in 2015, because Western equipment will be priced 33 to 50 percent lower," Popovkin said in a reference to Space X, notes space expert James Oberg, in an excellent analysis of the Russian space sector also published Thursday. In recent months, the Chinese space officials have also expressed concern by the competitive pricing of the SpaceX Falcons.
Russia experienced a number of unsuccessful space launches in the past 12 months, losing several commercial satellites and the Phobos-Grunt Mars mission ended in failure. This past August, a Proton-M rocket carrier with a Briz-M booster failed to bring two satellites into the target orbit.
RSA Cosmonaut Yelena Serova
Nonetheless, Roscosmos is continuing to train Cosmonaut Yelena Serova, the first female cosmonaut of the post-Soviet era, for a mission of up to 170-days at the International Space Station in 2014. ESA Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti may join Serova on the ISS mission.

There have been no Russian female cosmonaut launched in nearly three decades, despite launching American, Japanese and South Korean women on the Soyuz in recent years. The Russian media is likely to take interest in Serova's flight experience.
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
The Americans have placed several female astronauts into orbit the past three decades. The Chinese recently included a female taikonaut among their space crews and are expected to continue to do so. The Russians may seek to reshape the image of their space program through wider inclusion of female cosmonauts in the 21st century.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

SpaceX Tests Engines for October 7 Launch

On September 29, 2012, SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin engines at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During this test, SpaceX engineers ran through all countdown processes as if it were launch day. All nine engines fired at full power for two seconds while the rocket was held down to the pad. This is the last major all systems test in preparation for Falcon 9 and Dragon's next mission to the space station, targeted for October 7, 2012. More from SpaceflightNow, NBC's Alan Boyle, and

Ariane 5 Roars to Life in French Guiana

The fifth Ariane 5 mission of 2012 delivered a pair of telecommunications spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit late Friday afternoon, September 26, 2012, marking the 65th launch to date for Arianespace's heavy-lift workhorse from Guiana Space Centre near near Kourou in French Guiana, [SpaceFellowship and ESA].

Friday, September 28, 2012

International Space Station Crew Bide Farewell to European Cargo Ship

The European Space Agency's "Edoardo Amaldi" Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 cargo ship undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at the International Space Station on Sept. 28, 2012 and backed away to a safe distance from the complex for its deorbit and plunge back into the Earth's atmosphere.
Having arrived at the complex in late March to deliver several tons of supplies and experiments for the station residents and now loaded with trash, the resupply craft will be commanded to deorbit Oct. 2, 2012 for a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean.

Dragon Awaits on This Week @NASA

October 7, 2012 is the launch date for SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. This will be the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services contract and will restore an American capability to transport cargo to and from the orbiting laboratory. Also, Curiosity Finds Streambed; New ISS Crew; Endeavour in L.A.; Extreme Hubble; Webb's Mirrors; Milky Way's Halo; and more!

NASA Commercial Crew CCiCap Partners

NASA's Commercial Crew Program and its newest Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) partners are embracing the American spirit as they advance their integrated rocket and spacecraft designs for the future of human spaceflight.

Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Readies ISS Cargo Launches from Wallops

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has handed over the newly constructed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to Orbital Sciences Corporation for the new Antares rocket booster. The new rocket is set to commence commercial cargo launches with the new Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station from Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Orbital Sciences "tweeted" that it now expects to roll the new Antares booster to the launch pad on Monday, October 1, 2012. The commercial space launch firm expects to hold a "hot fire" hold down test in October, the first test launch of the booster in November and the demonstration launch with the Cygnus spacecraft in December 2012 or January 2013, if the flow continues as now anticipated.  SpaceNews provides more details.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) will be launching at least eight resupply missions to the International Space Station under terms of a newly-announced agreement with Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences. The NASA moon mission, known as LADEE, will launch from the spaceport in the summer of 2013.
Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority said: “Our partnership with Orbital not only expands our launch capabilities, but demonstrates to the entire space community that Virginia is a leader in the commercial aerospace industry.”
Antares to pad Saturday Sept. 30, 2012
SpaceX, meanwhile, is proceeding with its launch campaign for the first of its commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station following a May 2012 successful demonstration mission.  SpaceX will launch cargo missions to the space station from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Virginia, Florida, Alaska and California have the only launch-to-orbit capable space infrastructure within the United States. Virginia is now developing a strategic business plan to position itself within the emerging commercial space market. Florida has strongly opposed the spaceport's entry into commercial human space activity opposing the competition.

Locally, The Bristol Herald Courier reports, the first Virginia student teams in Russell and Wise County school districts (in the Virginia coalfields) are preparing scientific experiments and artistic spaceflight patches for the upcoming Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ISS in October 2012 (Cape Canaveral) and April 2013 (Wallops Island), respectively.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Curiosity Rover Finds Old Streambed on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has discovered what appears to be an ancient streambed, the first evidence to suggest water once flowed on the red planet. More evidence is expected to emerge.
NASA's newest Mars rover has found evidence that a stream once ran vigorously across the area on the Red Planet where the rover is now driving. The finding is a different type of evidence for water on Mars than ever found before. Scientists are studying Curiosity's images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock are clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow. More from NASA JPL and Alan Boyle.

CubeSat Launch Capability Added to ISS

NASACommentator Pat Ryan interviews Dr. Victor Cooley, Expedition 33/34 Lead Increment Scientist, about the JAXA Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) demonstration. The longer-term plan is to launch CubeSats from the International Space Station on a regular basis.

The SSOD was launched to the International Space Station aboard the Kounotori3 H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-3, in July, 2012.

During the SSOD demonstration, five small satellites will be launched into orbit using the station's robotic arm. The satellites are initially housed inside of the station and then loaded into the SSOD by Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide. Hoshide will then put the SSOD into an airlock, which is depressurized and exposed to the vacuum of space via an automatic door. Flight controllers will then use the robotic arm to grapple the SSOD in the airlock and move it out away from the station so the satellites can be deployed.

NanoRacks, LLC plans to enable 3-pound CubeSat launches from the International Space Station supplementing a growing arrary of commercial-education science education activities. NanoRacks is the first company to have navigated the safety systems of NASA and JAXA for deployment of small satellites.

Mars Soil Sample Return Mission Advanced

The next steps for NASA at Mars should be a soil sample return a internal Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) suggests in a report released by the space agency this week.
The strategy should build toward returning Martian rocks and dirt to Earth to search for signs of past life by laying out a series of options that NASA could employ to get pieces of the Red Planet in scientists' hands here on Earth. The space agency is now mulling those options and could announce its chosen path by early next year, when the White House releases its proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.
Possible Mars soil sample return
NASA also hopes to establish a "gateway spacecraft" at the far side of the moon, that will serves as a staging area for manned missions beyond Earth's orbit, the Orlando Sentinel reported recently, citing internal NASA documents.

NASA put together the Mars study team in the wake of budget cuts recently made to the Mars robotic exploration program and in consideration the  priorities laid out by the U.S. National Research Council's Planetary Decadal Survey in 2011 which included a Mars soil sample return among the highest priorities. The space agency also took into consideration President Barack Obama's April 2010 directive to get astronauts to the  Mars or its moons by the mid-2030s.
Humans could even be involved in the sample-return process, according to the MPPG report. Astronauts aboard NASA's Orion capsule, which is currently under development, could intercept the Martian sample in deep space, secure it in a contained environment, and bring it safely down to Earth.

Exactly when a Martian sample could come down to Earth remains uncertain. But NASA is considering launching the first enabling mission along this path in 2018, or perhaps 2020. A complicating factor is that NASA has just $800 million or so to work with for the project through 2018.
Orion astronauts at Mars?
The MPPG report discusses lofting the single-shot mission as early as 2024, aboard NASA's huge Space Launch System rocket. NASA wants the SLS to make its first test flight by 2017 and to be ready to carry crews by 2021. Popular Science explains a robot-to-human hand-off in space of a Martain soil sample.

NASA will launch a robotic explorer that will analyze the Martian atmosphere next year. In 2016, the agency will launch a small lander that will analyze the Martian interior. But deep budget cuts have forced NASA to bail out of more ambitious joint Mars missions with the European Space Agency in 2016 and 2018.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Singer Sarah Brightman Expected to Undertake Soyuz to Space Station Flight

Brightman Facebook
British singer Sarah Brightman may join a tourist flight to the International Space Station with an official announcement expected in Moscow Wednesday, October 10, 2012. Eric Anderson, Chairman of Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd., will participate in the press event.
In three years, the 52-year-old singer is reportedly planning to fly into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. The world renowned Phantom of the Opera singer is expected to spend 10-days on the space mission.
Ansari aboard ISS in 2006.
US businessman Dennis Tito was the first space tourist in the history of the International Space Station in April 2001. Since then, seven people (six men and one woman) have visited the station. The first self-funded woman to fly into space was Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari.
At present, the last paying customer to have flown into space is Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte from Canada. He arrived on the International Space Station on October 11, 2009.

Space Adventures is now seeking to fill a second seat for a circum-lunar flight with tickets @ $150 million apiece. Anderson has indicated that the first of two seats has been booked. The moon flight is set to take place by early 2017.

Baumgartner Space Dive Set for October 8

Felix Baumgartner will attempt the record breaking dive from the edge of space on October 8th, 2012. This breathtaking animation shows the dive in spectacular resolution. Baumgartner expects to reach a top speed of 690 mph and break the sound barrier with only his body. This will be one to watch! More from ITN and NPR.

Mars Curiosity: "Go-Go Gadget Arm!"

NASA's rover tested its robotic arm and several of its instruments on a rock named for a NASA engineer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Musk on Mars: "It's a fixer-upper of a planet"

Elon Musk, 41, joined "CBS This Morning" to talk with Charlie Rose about the future of private space exploration, including his long-term goal for SpaceX to "develop the technology necessary to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars, ultimately with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining civilization on Mars," noted Julia Steers for CBS.
"I know it's possible," he said before adding the caveat, "I know it's within the realm of possible."
The seemingly self-assured Musk admitted that he wasn't quite so sure until more recently. "I didn't know that until two years ago," he told Rose, saying only that at that point, "the calculations worked out."
In terms of sustaining human life on Mars, Musk explained, "You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on. ... So it's a fixer-upper of a planet."

Meanwhile, The Brownsville Hearld reported Saturday, September 22, 2012 that a SpaceX-related company is acquiring real estate in Cameron County, Texas. The space launch firm is advancing the idea of a new dedicated commercial spaceport on the gulf coast three miles north of Mexico.

Mitt Romney Offers Space Policy White Paper

Mitt Romney releases space white paper
Republican presidential candidate  Mitt Romney on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012,  released a "White Paper" plan for space exploration that said remaining the global leader in that arena is vital for the nation’s economic and security needs while vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan was in Orlando, Florida artculated the Romey plan through a comparsion to President Obama's space policies.
The Romney campaign’s plan cited four priorities – giving NASA focus, working with the international community, increasing the nation’s capacity to defend its assets in space and easing trade limits on foreign sales of American “space goods.” Romney did not suggest increased space spending — his budget plan would force cuts in domestic programs, including space — but on increased reliance on commercial firms to get Americans and their goods into space. That mirrors the Obama administration’s plan, noted The Los Angeles Times.
November 6, 2012 election
“Today we have a space program befitting a president who rejects American exceptionalism, apologizes for America, and believes we should be just another nation with a flag. We have been put on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space,” the Romney plan argues. “The Russians are leading in human spaceflight right now. The Chinese may someday look down at us from the moon.”
The Obama campaign reacted by noting that Romney's vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan voted against NASA funding twice in the 2008 and 2010 NASA Authorization Acts, and pointing a critique Romney gave to Newt Gingrich in the primary when he campaigned on the space coast and famously pledged to build a colony on the moon.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NASA Wallops Rockets Boost to Space

Credit: NASA
NASA successfully tested a new suborbital sounding rocket today, Sept. 22, 2012 from the agency’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Launched at 7 a.m. EDT, the three stage Talos-Terrier-Oriole flew to an altitude of 167.4 miles and then reentered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Wallops Island following a ten minute climb to space. The payload was not planned to be recovered. This was the first flight of the 65-foot tall Talos-Terrier-Oriole that is being developed to support high-altitude space science research, [NASA].
The Talos-Terrier-Oriole launch followed the successfully flight of four university experiments on Friday morning, September 21, 2012, on a Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket. Launched at 7:16 a.m., the rocket lofted the four experiments to an altitude of 95.4 miles. The experiments were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean and delivered to the university teams at Wallops.
The participating schools for this year’s RockSat-X launch are from Baylor University in Waco, Texas; University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of Puerto Rico; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Va.
NASA Wallops Flight Facilty and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
The next launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is expected to be the new Antares booster test flight by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

SpaceX 'Grasshopper' Hops in First Test

First hop of the SpaceX reusable launch vehicle suborbital testbed "Grasshopper" at McGregor Texas Friday, September 21, 2012 marks the hot fire start of the reusable booster development effort.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted out a brief eight-second video of another setup it's testing, the "Grasshopper" reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing rocket. While the first hop would've been shamed in any interstellar dunk contest, future tests will range in height from a few hundred feet to two miles. The goal is to eventually create a reusable first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, able to land safely instead of crashing into the sea and damaged beyond repair.

California Commercial Space Boosted as Endeavour Goes to Los Angeles Museum

Just before the space shuttle Endeavour flew by the state Capitol on Friday, September 21, 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure that gives the commercial space travel industry a future boost in the state. Space shuttle fans can visit Endeavour at the California Science Center near Downtown Los Angeles beginning Oct. 30, 2012.

Friday, September 21, 2012

California Sixth State to Adopt Informed Consent Human Spaceflight Regime

Gov. Brown signs 'informed consent'
California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today (September 21, 2012) signed a bill to boost the commercial space-travel sector in California. Assembly Bill 2243 (Knight) limits liability for space-flight companies, notes ParabolicArc's Doug Messier.

“California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company are blazing a path to the stars with commercial space travel,” said Governor Brown. “This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability.”
SpaceShipTwo test flight in 2012
California has long been known as a place that breaks down barriers and fosters innovation – from social movements like environmentalism to the start-up culture of Silicon Valley,” said Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson. “The teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company are forging entirely new paths in travel, science and exploration, and this legislation will ensure that California continues to be a place that looks forward – and not back.”
California follows Virginia (2007), Florida (2008), New Mexico, Texas and Colorado in adopting an "informed consent" regime. The six aerospace states are in a commercial spaceport competition to draw new private investment for space launch infrastructure and human spaceflight expected to grow over the balance of the decade. Alabama and Hawaii may consider a similar measure in the future.

Soyuz TMA-06M Readied for Oct. 23 Launch

International Space Station Expedition 33/34 Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA Flight Engineer Kevin Ford conducted qualification training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Sept. 20 and 21, 2012 in advance of their final approval for launch to the International Space Station.
Novitskiy, Ford and Tarelkin are scheduled to fly to the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Oct. 2 to prepare for their Oct. 23, 2012 liftoff in the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft. Also featured in the footage are backup crew members Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin and NASA's Chris Cassidy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SpaceX Plans ISS Launch Oct. 7, 8:34 PM

Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX
NASA managers, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) officials and international partner representatives have announced Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 8:34 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. A back up launch opportunity is available on Oct. 8, 2012.
Dragon will be filled with about 1,000 pounds of supplies. This includes critical materials to support the 166 investigations planned for the station's Expedition 33 crew, including 63 new investigations.
Among the science experiments the SpaceX booster will carry to orbit is one from Lebanon High School in the rural coalfields of Virginia. During the spaceflight, the student scientist team will conduct two identical experiments - one on the International Space Station and one in their classroom - to see how long does it take copper and iron to rust in a non-gravity situation, according to WCYB-TV.  
With its successful demonstration mission last May (2012), SpaceX is a leading contender to carry astronauts for NASA one day. Company officials say the $1.6-billion contract to haul cargo in 12 flights will yield valuable flight experience toward accomplishing this goal by 2015.

Hydrogen Hot Spots on Vesta Studied

The animation from NASA's Dawn mission shows abundances of hydrogen in a wide swath around the equator of the giant asteroid Vesta. The hydrogen probably exists in the form of hydroxyl or water bound to minerals in Vesta’s surface.

Red indicates the greatest abundances of hydrogen and gray the lowest, as measured by Dawn's gamma ray and neutron detector. The hydrogen data were superimposed on a mosaic of images and 3-D model of Vesta created from Dawn framing camera data, [NASA].

Why the Mars Curiosity Matters

A former rock-n-roller turned NASA engineer explains why he thinks Curiosity--both the Mars rover and the human desire to learn new things--matters to ordinary people on Earth.

NASA's Curiosity heads to rock target "Jake," named in honor of Mars Science Laboratory engineer Jacob Matijevic who passed away shortly after the landing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Will Fusion Propulsion for Exploration of the Solar System Occur in Our Future?

Dr. Jason Cassibry, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Alabama in Huntsville, discusses his research in the experimental and theoretical application of fluid mechanics, magnetohydrodynamics, and thermodynamics in the study of plasmas with application to plasma acceleration, implosions, in-space propulsion, and fusion energy science recently at TedXHuntsville.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NASA Scientist Says Warp Drive is Doable

New experiments are underway to determine whether warp drive like in Star Trek could become a reality. A Star Trek experience in our life time?

Three Ways Save Earth from an Asteroid

Hank gives us the skinny on three plans NASA scientists have come up with to save Earth from an asteroid impact. Hopefully we'll never have to use any of them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Elon Musk, the 21st Century Industrialist

Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson for BusinessWeek

Elon Musk "produces a superior product for less, creates opportunities for others, is dissatisfied with 'good enough' or status quo, and uses his wealth for production," writes Ashlee Vance for BusinessWeek. She provides a review of the 21st century industrialist spinning innovations in energy and transportation left and right.

SpaceX Prepares 'Grasshopper' Test Flights

Credit: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr Photos
The innovations being brought to the market place by SpaceX are jolting the space launch sector worldwide. Nonetheless, the most bold of the SpaceX plans is reusable launch vehicle technology - now underdevelopment in Texas.
SpaceX is an innovator in commercial space launch capability within the United States and around the globe having recently completed the first private sector cargo flight to the Iternational Space Station and preparing yet another next month. The 'Grasshopper' is designed to radically change the cost per pound to low earth orbit.

9/11/2012 Photo of test site.
Flight tests will occur in three phases, at maximum flight altitudes of 670 to 11,500 feet (200 to 3,500 m), for durations of 45 to 160 seconds (0.75 to 2.7 min) Testing is expected to take up to three years and the 2011 FAA permit allows up to 70 suborbital launches per year. SpaceX has "constructed a half-acre concrete launch facility" to support the test flight program.
“Very soon we’re going to be a couple of little mini hops. Then we’ll do hops up to 1,000 feet, some hovers, maybe even higher.” The higher flights are pending approval of the FAA, which has given clearance for the initial, lower-altitude tests," SpaceX’s Brian Bjelde told the AIAA Space 2012 conference in Pasadena, California, last week.

SpaceX is developing a reusable orbital launch system that will bring a first stage back to the launch site in minutes — and a second stage back to the launch pad, following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry, in up to 24 hours — with both stages designed to be available for reuse within "single-digit hours" after return.

Last year, Elon Musk told the National Press Club in Washington about the goal of the reusable Grasshopper rocket: a 100-fold reduction in launch costs.

Google Lunar X PRIZE 2012 Hardware Reel

Twenty-five (25) teams from around the world are currently building robots, rockets, and lunar landers to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. Every year, GLXP collects hardware video clips from the teams and showcase their progress.
This year shows some impressive advancements in the rover designs, propulsion and avionics technology. Teams are stepping it up as the competition thickens and with all the recent headlining developments, the Moon does not seem so far away.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

ISS Helm's Handoff to Suni Williams

Command of the International Space Station was passed from Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to NASA's Suni Williams during a ceremony on the orbital outpost Sept. 15, 2012.

Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Roscosmos arrived at the station May 17, 2012 and will make a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan on Sept. 17, 2012 in their Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft.

Williams, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko will be joined Oct. 17 by oncoming Expedition 33/34 crew members Kevin Ford of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin of Roscosmos.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Japan's HTV3 Re-Enters Atmosphere

Japan's space agency says its unmanned cargo spacecraft Kounotori 3 successfully re-entered the earth's atmosphere on Friday, September 14, 2012. The agency says the most of the vehicle burned up prior to impact in the South Pacific Ocean.
The craft, Kounotori 3 or HTV3, was launched on July 21, 2012 from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency space center in southern Japan to bring supplies to the International Space Station. The transport ship carrying about 2 tons of waste from the space station separated from it on Thursday, September 13, 2012.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

US to Return Humans to the Moon by 2021?

Forty years after the last human mission to the moon and on the day of Neil Armstrong's service in Washington, the No. 2 NASA deputy administrator outlined a plan for a return to the lunar surface mission and a longer-term lunar base where operations would be conducted for months on end.
"We're going back to the moon, attempting a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid and actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told the the AIAA 2012 Space Conference in Pasadena, California.
NASA confirmed its planned 2017 moon mission will be unmanned, but agency officials also emphasized that they anticipate a follow-up trip for astronauts to orbit the moon by 2021. But NASA said that at this point, it hasn't developed firm plans for a lunar outpost as reported by the Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor.
Garver's comments and the recent report constitute NASA's most detailed description of its goals for manned exploration of deeper space for the next two decades. In addition to sending men to the moon, the agency had previously said it wants to land astronauts on an asteroid around 2025 and on Mars around 2035.
The 2010 NASA Authorization Act, Section 301, was signed into law by President Obama states: "The extension of the human presence from low-Earth orbit to other regions of space beyond low-Earth orbit will enable missions to the surface of the Moon and missions to deep space destinations such as near-Earth asteroids and Mars."
NASA is now operating the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Grail-A and Grail-B lunar gravity mapping probes in orbit of the moon. Next year the federal space agency is planning to launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to orbit the moon from Wallops Island, Va.

The Moscow Times reported this week that “Russia’s renewed focus on the moon may reflect a scaling back of ambition following a string of space failures.” It also “comes as other countries — notably China — are eyeing the moon with greater ambition.” Should the Chinese government also announce plans for a moon base, it would be interesting to see whether the three countries decide to collaborate in the mode of recent shuttle and Soyuz missions, and send humanity back to the moon together. Or, they could establish three bases — a model more like how Antarctica is divided among national initiatives.
Thirty-nine years ago, President John F. Kennedy suggested international cooperation in human treks to the Moon. Perhaps the time is coming for joint efforts among Earth's spacefaring nations to return to the moon in peace for all mankind to stay.

Perhaps in the third decade of the 21st century, humanity will be more internationally united to undertake human missions to the moon, asteriods, and Mars with astronauts, cosmonauts, and taikonauts joining together.

First Man Neil Armstrong Remembered Today

NASA's tribute to Apollo 11 First Man Neil Armstrong. [13-min]

The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, spoke of the great example Neil left behind in his actions; reflecting a credo to 'selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves'. [5:30 min.]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NASA's New Space Launch System Advancing

The Space Launch System, or SLS, is a Space Shuttle-derived heavy launch vehicle is being powered ahead by NASA after one-year of its announcement by the space agency.

With the addition of an integrated upper Earth Departure Stage and a fifth engine, the total lift capability is to be 130 metric tons which would make it the most powerful rocket ever created.

The giant rocket and the capsule it will loft — known as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — are not a replacement for the space shuttle. That space-taxi role will be filled by private American spaceships, which NASA is grooming to be ready to carry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit by 2017.

SLS is to take astronauts and hardware to such destinations as near-Earth objects like asteroids, Lagrange points, the Moon, and Mars.The SLS Program is integrated with NASA's Orion Program, providing a multipurpose crew vehicle. SLS will use the ground operations and launch facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, ScienceDaily notes.
The first flight of the system is set for December 17, 2017 on unmanned trip around the Moon. NASA hopes the rocket will begin lofting astronauts in 2021. A dash to asteroid is being considered for 2025 and a human mission to Mars in the 2030's.
SLS program has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017, with $10B for the SLS rocket, $6B for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2B for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center. Total cost is expected to be $30 billion. It is estimated that the crewed vehicle will cost $500-million for each flight. Members of Congress are concerned with costs, reports Florida Today.

If the time line holds, a manned test flight of the Space Launch System and Orion capsule will take place in 2021. If that's successful, an asteroid landing would be feasible by 2025, followed by a landing on Mars sometime in the 2030s, reports USA Today.

On September 12, 2012, The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing titled, "Examining NASA's Development of the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule."  A summery of the hearing is provided by

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled "From Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Mars." The only Senators who attended were Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutcheson (R-TX).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

China-Europe Joint Human Space Missions?

China-EU space cooperation
The Chinese and Europeans are discussing joint space missions before the end of the current decade by  bartering  for seats aboard Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft in the same way it has long done with Russia and the United States, AP reports.
"I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship," said Thomas Reiter, a German ESA astronaut and veteran of Russian Soyuz and American space shuttle flights, logging just over 350 days in space, the most by any non-American or non-Russian.
Long March w/Shenzhou
Reiter, the head of ESA's human spaceflight division said his agency is exploring the possibility of joint space missions with China as part of a wider cooperation with the country. ESA is planning to slowly deepen cooperation with its Chinese counterpart and could aim for joint missions in "the second half of this decade."
The 19-nation European Space Agency (EAS) plans to hold a series of meetings with its Chinese counterpart, the China National Space Administration, to explore closer cooperation in the areas of astronaut training, spacecraft docking and developing life support systems.

European taikonauts in works?
"In fact, some of our astronauts have started Chinese language training," Reiter told the media in Berlin. "As I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship it would be of course a very, very powerful political sign to have China on board the ISS," said Reiter.
The Europeans have had no human-rated spacecraft with none in the development pipeline. The Europeans, a partner in the ISS, have been taking Russian and American space taxis. Now the Europeans look to the Chinese as a future space access ride alongside taikonauts.

The United States policy has been to reject any proposal to include China in the international space technology collaboration at the $100-billion space station orbiting the Earth for more than a decade despite calls to do otherwise.

Keith Cowing Interviews Astronaut Suni Williams Aboard International Space Station

SpaceRef's Keith Cowing Interviews Flight Engineer Astronaut Suni Williams on the International Space Station.

Mars MAVEN spacecraft to study atmosphere

When you take a look at Mars, you probably wouldn't think that it looks like a nice place to live. It's dry, it's dusty, and there's practically no atmosphere. But some scientists think that Mars may have once looked like a much nicer place to live, with a thicker atmosphere, cloudy skies, and possibly even liquid water flowing over the surface. So how do you go from something like this--to something like this?

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will give us a clearer idea of how Mars lost its atmosphere, and scientists think that several processes have had an impact. Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) is a planned space exploration mission to send a space probe to orbit Mars and study its atmosphere.

MAVEN will be launched in late 2013 and is planned to enter Mars orbit during the fall of 2014. More from Phys.Org.

Jemison Leads the Starship Planning Group

Russ Capper visits with Dr. Mae Jemison, physician, engineer, former NASA astronaut and the world's first woman of color to go into space, and they discuss the DARPA program's selection of Jemison to head the 100-Year Starship initiative, an effort to facilitate the technical developments needed to foster human interstellar travel within 100 years.

Scientists, visionaries, entertainers and the public will gather in Houston this week for the 100-Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss space travel to another star, reports

Plans Underway for Return to the Moon

Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards is a space entrepreneur and futurist. He is a Co-Founder of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor Moon Express, Inc., where he currently serves as CEO. Kidela provides this Skype interview placed on the MoonExpress YouTube Channel.

"We choose to go to the Moon"-JFK 1962

United States President John F. Kennedy delivers a speech at Rice University fifty years ago, known today as "We choose to go to the moon." It is the defining moment of Kennedy's promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. [Transcript

David C. Gore provided insight into the presidential speech in this 2009 piece, "A Brief Critical Reading of John F. Kennedy's Moon Speech/Rhetoric."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Comes in 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness is slated to beam into theaters on May 17, 2013 as Trekker fans around the globe, including Google, marked the 46th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” TV series — which debuted Sept. 8, 1966.
The new film, by J. J. Abrams, will star Chris Pine as "Capt. Kirk", Zachary Quinto as "Spock", Zoe Saldana as "Uhura", Karl Urban as "Bones", John Cho as "Sulu", Bruce Greenwood ("Capt. Pike", Simon Pegg as "Scotty", Anton Yelchin as "Chekov", Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, Alice Eve and Peter Weller with a screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof and that it will hit theaters in 2D, 3D theaters and IMAX 3D versions.
The 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise grossed $257.7 million domestically, and added $128 million worldwide - just shy of $400-million.

In The Light of a Watery Moon

"In The Light of a Watery Moon" by Dr. Timothy Livengood was presented at the second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Student Science @the Space Station Begins

The second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments conducted on the International Space Station.
The student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments conducted on the International Space Station. The conference included a "Poster Session" held in the Space Race gallery in which student researchers were given the opportunity to present their work to the public.
Russell and Wise County schools, in the rural Central Appalachian mountain coalfields, will become the first and second public school districts in Virginia to have students participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, in cooperation with commercial space firm Nanoracks, LLC under a NASA Space Act Agreement (SAA), placing science experiments on the International Space Station. Russell County students will fly an experiment in October 2012 (Mission-2) and Wise County students will fly in the spring of 2013 (Mission-3).

"Milestones of Flight" by Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, SSEP National Program Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) kicked-off the second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Goldstein gives the students an overview of air and space history while looking to the future with commercial spaceflight.

Overview of the Coming Spacecation Options

Hank takes on the role of our personal space travel agent, giving us the dirt on the various ways in which the exceptionally wealthy will be able to travel to space in the months and years ahead. 

Carl Sagan's Widow Talks of Cosmos Redux

Ann Druyan is a writer (A Famous Broken Heart; Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors) and the CEO of Cosmos Studios, a production company based out of Ithaca, N.Y. Ms. Druyan is also the widow of Carl Sagan, whom she collaborated with on both the Voyager Golden Record and the epic series, Cosmos. She describes the new 13- eposide Cosmos series coming to the Fox Channel and NatGeo and set to be broadcast around the globe. The Cosmos redux is set for broadcast in the spring of 2014.
Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is set to host the sequel entitled 'Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey'.  Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, voice actor, director and writing, is co-producing the new Cosmos series. MacFarlane explained his role and motivation to participate in the Cosmos project through his interaction with Dr. Tyson in 2009.

“We’re obsessed with angels and vampires and whatnot,” Mr. MacFarlane, 37, said in a telephone interview, “when there are many more exciting and very real and much more spectacular things to be excited about, that are right in our own planetary backyard,” told The New York Times August 5, 2012. "I noticed a pattern in our culture of lethargy,” MacFarlane said. “We got to the Moon, and then we just stopped.”

India is SPOT-on with PSLV Rocket Launch

An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India today, 9th September 2012, at 04:24 UTC. The rocket carried the French SPOT 6 Earth Observation Satellite as well as the Japanese micro-sat PROITERES. This was the 22nd launch of a PSLV rocket.
Besides buttressing its technological mastery, Indian Space Research Organization, with its latest launch, has cemented its place in among the space-faring nations as a sought-after commercial launcher. ISRO's commercial arm Antrix Corporation has received several requests from foreign countries to launch their satellites for a price.
Antrix Corporation Limited, incorporated as a private limited company owned by Government of India in September 1992 as a Marketing arm of ISRO, offers complete commercial booster rocket services through the operational launch vehicles (PSLV and GSLV) and a wide array of space services, including satellite remote sensing.

India is planning the launch of the Mangalyaan mission in November 2013 to orbit the planet Mars beginning in September 2014.  If this mission would become successful, India will become the third nation in the world to reach Mars before Asian powers China and Japan which earlier had failed attempts.

India is also planning Chandrayaan-2, a second lunar orbiter and two landing rovers built domestically and another by Russia. The second Indian moon mission, however, appears delayed until 2016 because of the Russian-made moon landing craft. The Chandrayaan-1,  a lunar orbiter and an impactor, operated for less than 1-year between October 2008 and August 2009 but provided a major boost to India's space program and national technological pride.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

India's Commercial PSLV Readied to Launch French and Japanese Satellites to Orbit

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21)/SPOT-6/PROITERES mission, will lsunch to orbit from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota is cleared the launch of (PSLV-C21)/SPOT-6/PROITERES mission at 09:51 hrs (IST) on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012.

The wholly commercial launch will be the Indian Space Research Organization's 100th mission in 49 years. ISRO started commercial launches mopre than a decade ago.  So far it has built 62 satellites and flown 37 launch vehicles in total, reported TechPuffs.  The commercial PSLV-C21 will inject the French SPOT-6 and the Japanese PROITERES satellites into an orbit of 655 km altitude at an inclination of 98.23o.
Inida's PM Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will witness the mission, in which 720—kg SPOT—6 remote sensing satellite from France (built by ASTRIUM SAS) and a 15—kg Japanese spacecraft PROITERES would be placed in orbit by ISRO’s PSLV C—21, notes The Hindu. The 51-hour countdown commenced Sept. 7, 2012.
During the Countdown, propellant-filling operations of the liquid propellant second stage (PS2) and fourth stage (PS4) of the launch vehicle will be carried out. Besides, mandatory checks on the launch vehicle and spacecraft will be carried out. Also, charging of batteries and pressurisation of propellant tanks onboard the satellite will be performed. Readiness of various ground systems such as tracking radar systems and communication networks will also be ascertained. More at NASASpaceflight.

Firing Line: Reloaded Civil vs Commercial

"Firing Line: RELOADED": - A student public affairs show discusses the future role of the US government and the international community on space exploration and NASA, as well as the outlook of private sector commercial space flight in the first 17-minutes. The group concludes with a discussion of 2012 presidential politics.

Friday, September 07, 2012

New Visions for Humans in Space

New Visions for Humans in Space Panel Discussion, from Planetfest 2012 last month (August 5, 2012).  The panel provides an overview of the efforts to put more humans in space this decade than the number in the last 50-years!

Astronauts Developing Alien Exploration Procedures for Caves, Caverns, Lava Tubes

An international team of astronauts have started exploring as a part of the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills (CAVES) study. The  study prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively and solve problems as a multicultural team while exploring uncharted areas following space procedures.
Future astronauts, cosmonauts, and taikonauts will likely explore caverns, caves, and lava tubes on the moon and Mars in the years to come. Planetary geology suggests that many caves, caverns, and lava tubes exist on Mars sparking greater interest for exploration. The effort is also sparking interest in remote sensing technologies to identify cave locations.