Exploration: June 2013 Archives

Voyagers in the Heliosheath [Download Larger Version], NASA

"This artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun. After more than 35 years of travel, the two Voyager spacecraft will soon reach interstellar space, which is the space between stars."


NASA Launches Satellite to Study How Sun's Atmosphere is Energized [Watch],NASA

The IRIS launch was successful after a 13-minute ride into orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket. The launch was at 7:27:44 p.m. PDT. Although there were a few tense moments at launch time with the fins, the problem was quickly resolved. A loss signal due to a problem on the DC 8 plane was also experienced but NASA's in orbit TDRS satellite picked up telemetry and commands were sent to IRIS successful. At this time everything looks nominal.

"NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn reports that the mission team has made initial contact with the IRIS spacecraft through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and received good data in return. The telescope is right on track and its solar arrays are deploying. "We've got a very happy spacecraft on orbit and a thrilled launch team on the ground," Dunn said."

NASA's IRIS mission will focus a precise telescope on the sun to find out how energy moves and changes from the surface to the corona.

NASA Google+ Hangout Answering Questions about the Asteroid RFI [Watch], NASA

"NASA invites all interested parties to participate in a Google+ Hangout on June 27 at 2 p.m. EDT. During the session, NASA experts will answer your questions about the recently released Asteroid Initiative Request for Information (RFI)."

The Space Frontier Foundation Announces 2013's NewSpace Business Plan Competition Prizes, SpaceRef Business

'With $135,000 in prizes, more industry support than ever before, and a new location and date, the Space Frontier Foundation today announced the details of the largest, richest and most exciting NewSpace Business Plan Competition to date.

- $100,000 Grand prize sponsored by NASA
- $25,000 2nd prize sponsored by ATK
- $5,000 3rd prize sponsored by NASA
- $5,000 Market Sector prize sponsored by ATK'

Marc's note: An excellent opportunity for a start-up to get some initial funding.


NASA's Voyager 1 Explores Final Frontier of Our 'Solar Bubble', NASA JPL

"Data from Voyager 1, now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun, suggest the spacecraft is closer to becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space."

Related (Previous):
- Voyager 1 Has Left Our Solar System
- Has Voyager 1 Left The Solar System?

PayPal Galactic Initiative to Tackle Payments in Space, Paypal Forward

"The time has now come for us to start planning for the future; a future where we aren't just talking about global payments. Today, we are expanding our vision off Earth into space.

What we once deemed to be science fiction has become a reality. Space travel is opening up for "the rest of us" thanks to Virgin Galactic, Space X and a host of other space tourism programs including the Space Hotel that hopes to be in orbit by 2016. The enabling infrastructure pieces are starting to come together, and as we start planning to inhabit other planets, the practical realities of life still need to be addressed."

Marc's update: PayPal Launches PayPal Galactic but We're Not Sure Why [Watch], SpaceRef

"In what can only be described as a bizarre news conference today, PayPal President David Marcus introduced PayPal Galactic. What is PayPal Galactic? According to Marcus, it's a visionary program being spearheaded by PayPal to bring together the leaders in the space industry to work on the "big questions" related to the commercialization of space."

Bacteria Sent Into Space Behave in Mysterious Ways, NASA

"Colonies of bacteria grown aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis behaved in ways never before observed on Earth, according to a new NASA-funded study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. Recent findings provide important evidence of spaceflight's effect on the behavior of bacterial communities, and represent a key step toward understanding and mitigating the risk these bacteria may pose to astronauts during long-term space missions.

The research team, led by Rensselaer faculty member Cynthia Collins, sent the experiment into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis missions STS-132 on May 16, 2010 and STS-135 on July 8, 2011. Samples of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured for three days in artificial urine. The space-grown communities of bacteria, called biofilms, formed a "column-and-canopy" structure not previously observed on Earth. Additionally, biofilms grown during spaceflight had a greater number of live cells, more biomass, and were thicker than control biofilms grown under normal gravity conditions."

3D Systems and Planetary Resources Announce Investment and Collaboration, SpaceRef Business

"3D Systems and Planetary Resources, Inc. today announced that 3D Systems has joined Planetary Resources' core group of investors and will be a collaborative partner in assisting Planetary Resources to develop and manufacture components of its ARKYD Series of spacecraft using its advanced 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions."

"We are excited to work very closely with Planetary Resources' engineering team to use advanced 3D printing and manufacturing technologies to increase functionality while decreasing the cost of their ARKYD spacecraft," said Avi Reichental, Chief Executive Officer, 3D Systems. "In success, we will create the smartphone of spacecraft and transform what has been an old-style, labor-intensive process, into something very scalable and affordable that will democratize access to space, the data collected from space and off-Earth resources for scientists and the public. We are delighted to join the Planetary Resources team."

Marc's note: This is a good news for Planetary Resources. They get an undisclosed investment and collaboration with an industry leader.

Joan A. Singer Named Manager of Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at NASA's Marshall Center, NASA

"Joan A. "Jody" Singer, a native of Hartselle, Ala., has been named manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

In her new position, Singer is responsible for overall management and direction of the office, including an annual budget of $108 million and a combined workforce of more than 500 civil servants and contractors. She oversees the work of the Marshall Center in the areas of human exploration projects and tasks; flight mission programs and projects; and International Space Station hardware integration and operations. The office also is tasked with creating and maintaining value-added partnerships with other government agencies and international and commercial partners that will help achieve NASA's vision. "

Space Station Live: Women in Science and Spaceflight [Watch], NASA

"Dr. Camille Wardrop Alleyne, Assistant ISS Program Scientist, joins NASA Public Affairs Officer Josh Byerly in the International Space Station Flight Control Room for a discussion of women in science and spaceflight. Alleyne also provides an overview of some of her favorite experiments taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory."


Marc's note: Although scheduled for launch this December, the Russian Nauka (FGB-2) module, also known as the Multi-Purpose Module (MLM), will most likely fly in early 2014. It will replace the PIRS module which will be de-orbited.

With the addition of the Nauka (meaning science) module, yet another piece of the global orbiting laboratory will be in place. But what happens beyond 2020. While some ISS member nations have expressed an interest in using the station beyond 2020, other's are reluctant to consider it, yet.

Perhaps this is an opportunity to expand the membership of the ISS community to include other nations and commercial customers. By that time SpaceX, Boeing or Sierra Nevada will have commercial crew vehicles already flying to the ISS on government contracts. How about letting them send private astronauts working for commercial interests to use this one of a kind laboratory? In this way the ISS can be transitioned from a government sponsored entity to a public private endeavour potentially defraying some costs otherwise paid by the public. After all, the space station is there, it cost a lot, why not keep using it?

Space Exploration Dollars Dwarf Ocean Spending, National Geographic

"In fiscal year 2013 NASA's annual exploration budget was roughly $3.8 billion. That same year, total funding for everything NOAA does--fishery management, weather and climate forecasting, ocean research and management, among many other programs--was about $5 billion, and NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research received just $23.7 million. Something is wrong with this picture. Space travel is certainly expensive. But as Cameron proved with his dive that cost approximately $8 million, deep-sea exploration is pricey as well. And that's not the only similarity between space and ocean travel: Both are dark, cold, and completely inhospitable to human life. ... This imbalance in pop culture is illustrative of what plays out in real life. We rejoiced along with the NASA mission-control room when the Mars rover landed on the red planet late last year. One particularly exuberant scientist, known as "Mohawk Guy" for his audacious hairdo, became a minor celebrity and even fielded his share of spontaneous marriage proposals. But when Cameron bottomed out in the Challenger Deep more than 36,000 feet below the surface of the sea, it was met with resounding indifference from all but the dorkiest of ocean nerds such as myself."

Sylvia Earle: Exploring the World's Oceans, Ensia

"We understand why it's important to reach for the stars, to look at ourselves in perspective of the universe, ask big questions such as where did we come from, how is it that we're here in this blue speck in space, and where are we going? And we've devoted a great amount of time and resources to moving forward, but meanwhile we've neglected understanding how this part of the solar system - our home - our life support system - how this really functions."

NASA and Italian Space Agency Sign Agreement on Exploration of Mercury, NASA

"At a meeting in Rome Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Enrico Saggese signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the European Space Agency- (ESA) led BepiColombo mission to Mercury, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation between NASA and ASI in planetary exploration."

ARKYD: A Space Telescope for Everyone, Planetary Resources

Marc's note: After appearing to stall late last week, the Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million for the E/PO ARKYD telescope has achieved its initial goal and was pushed over the top overnight.

Now with 10 days left they will try and reach their stretch goal of $2 million which they'll "invest the additional funds to enhance the ARKYD space telescope technology to enable it to search for alien planets!"

Moon, Mars, or Asteroids, Which is the Best Destination for Solar System Development?, Dennis Wingo

"The Moon!, no Mars!, no Asteroids! Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and in the NASA, space advocacy, and commercial space worlds one of these three destinations are being touted (largely to the exclusion of others) for their value to science, human exploration, and economic development, but which one of them is the most valuable, the most deserving, of our attention?

This argument is taking place today in the vacuum of space policy that we currently live in without any unifying principles or policy to inform our decisions. Without a guiding policy and sense of purpose that encompasses more than narrow interests and singular destinations it is exceedingly likely that the human exploration and development of the solar system will continue to be an expensive and futile exercise. We must develop a firm moral, technological, and fiscal foundation for this outward move that will attract capital investment, spur technology development, and encourage innovation in a manner that people can understand, believe in, and thus financially support."


Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover, NASA JPL

"A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.

The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route."

Marc's update: It seems folks at JSC can't access NASA's own the Billion-Pixel View of Mars web page due to an automated program which has deemed the page "non-job related" viewing and is blocking access to. Now there's an algorithm that needs updating.

NASA's Space Launch System Program Kicks Off Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA is beginning a preliminary design review for its Space Launch System (SLS). This major program assessment will allow development of the agency's new heavy-lift rocket to move from concept to initial design.

The preliminary design review process includes meticulous, detailed analyses of the entire launch vehicle. Representatives from NASA, its contractor partners and experts from across the aerospace industry validate elements of the rocket to ensure they can be safely and successfully integrated.

... We are on track and meeting all the milestones necessary to fly in 2017."

Draft House NASA Authorization Bill Would Create 6-Year Term for NASA Administrator, No Funds for ARM, Space Policy Online

"The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). A hearing on the draft bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

- Authorizes $16,825,200,000, which is "consistent with the Budget Control Act and FY2013 appropriations." If Congress replaces or repeals the Budget Control Act (which created the sequester) then funding would be added for the International Space Station (ISS), Space Launch System (SLS), and Commercial Crew.

Human Spaceflight - Makes clear that missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the Moon, and Mars are NASA's human spaceflight goals.

- No funding for the Asteroid Rendezvous Mission [alternately called the Asteroid Return Mission or Asteroid Retrieval Mission]
- NASA to study feasibility of extending ISS beyond 2020
- OSTP to lead a strategic plan for ISS utilization by "all science agencies"
- Continued commitment to SLS/Orion; reiterates that Orion is a backup to commercial crew for ISS
"

Marc's note: This is a draft only. NASA is moving forward with the Asteroid Initiative at the direction of the White House. The final bill will assuredly look different.

NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA

"NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. The challenge is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA's recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it."

"NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop."

- Statement by Ed Lu - CEO, B612 Foundation

Live on SpaceRef Business - NASA's Asteroid Initiative Industry & Partner Day

Event: NASA's Asteroid Initiative Industry & Partner Day
Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. EDT

This morning "NASA will host an event in which experts will provide details about NASA's asteroid initiative, including the observation campaign, the orbital tracking, robotic components, the human elements, and enhanced focus on planetary defense. We will describe our upcoming planning timeline and clearly identify opportunities and processes for providing input into our planning. During this public forum, NASA will also release a Request for Information (RFI) to seek new ideas for mission elements and describe the process for submitting your ideas to NASA so that NASA teams may consider your innovative solutions and/or participation."

Marc's note: We'll be broadcasting this event on SpaceRef Business starting at 9:30 with video feed courtesy NASA. Some in Congress would like to see the Asteroid initiative shelved. This is your chance to see what NASA has planned and how industry will be involved. As well, tomorrow is the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 hearing of the Subcommittee on Space. This should be an interesting few days.

- NASA Asteroid Inititiave Request for Information

- Video: NASA Asteroid Redirect Initiative

Presentations:

- Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (6 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot (800 KB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik (2.5 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier (2.5 MB PDF)
- Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld (2.5 MB PDF)
- Jason Kessler, Office of the Chief Technologist (1.9 MB PDF)

John Kelly: In space, Chinese are still far behind, Florida Today

"But, don't let yourself get caught up in the idea that the Chinese are somehow gaining ground and soon to pass the United States, Russia or their partners in the International Space Station project. Also, don't get too concerned that the Chinese have their own system to launch an astronaut crew to space and the U.S. does not.

The Chinese achievements are interesting to watch, but they're decades behind veteran space-faring nations like the U.S. and Russia. Their flight is not to some sprawling orbiting laboratory like the ISS. Rather, they docked their 60s-era Shenzou spacecraft to a tiny, one-module space station that is a little over one-tenth of the size of the U.S. Skylab and Russian Salyut stations of decades past."

Mars'c note: The Chinese are definitely behind but those supposed "60's era Shenzhou" aren't using 60's era computers. I think Mr. Kelly went a little too far to make his point. One of those layered questions that still remains to be answered is, though some would argue that it has already been answered, will China be an international exploration partner for the moon and Mars going forward? Or go it alone?

Marc's update: Paul Spudis offers a counterpoint. While I don't agree with all of Paul's points he does offer some thoughts worth considering.

"It appears Kelly wants us to reach out and cooperate with the Chinese in space, even though they have not shown any particular desire for such a path. Kelly, the geopolitical sophisticate, seems to think that we should woo China with promises of space cooperation, like we won the hearts of the Russians. Yes, the Soviets were our one-time rivals, but I seem to recall that aside from one public relations "d├ętente" mission in the 1970s (Apollo-Soyuz), real cooperation with Russia in space began after the fall of communism there in the early 1990s."

Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)

"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.

This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."

Marc's note:Well worth reading.

NASA Invites Media to View Space Launch System Progress, NASA

"NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier and other agency officials will debut a new machine for manufacturing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and check on development progress with the heavy-lift rocket at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans Friday, June 21.

NASA is inviting media representatives to attend a 9:15 a.m. CDT ribbon-cutting ceremony for the vertical weld center, where friction-stir weld tooling will be used to assemble the SLS core stage, then join officials on a tour of the SLS assembly area and work in support of NASA's Orion spacecraft."

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers [Watch], NASA

"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.

Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."

- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.

Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.

New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto, JHUAPL

"Unless significant new hazards are found, expect NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to stay on its original course past Pluto and its moons, after mission managers concluded that the danger posed by dust and debris in the Pluto system is less than they once feared."


Commercial Partners Working to Launch U.S. Astronauts from Space Coast, NASA

"The three commercial space companies working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) may have very different spacecraft and rocket designs, but they all agreed on the need for the United States to have its own domestic capability to launch astronauts.

'Today, there are nine humans on orbit,' said Ed Mango, CCP's program manager, at a National Space Club meeting June 11 in Cape Canaveral, Florida 'All of those folks got there on a vehicle that did not have a U.S. flag on it. We, and the people in this room, and the people at this table, need to fix that.'"

Northrop Grumman, ATK Complete Backbone of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman Corporation and teammate ATK have completed manufacturing of the backplane support frame (BSF) for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman is under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the design and development of the Webb Telescope's optics, sunshield and spacecraft."

The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times

"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."

"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."

"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "

Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?

The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.

Beyond the Politics: Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration, Eileen M. Collins and Nick Lampson for the Huffington Post

"As a nation, we must put politics aside to ensure that expanding the space frontier occupies a prominent place on our national agenda. We need strategic, adequately funded and aggressively paced programs to keep America at the summits of technical innovation and exploration."

"... Unfortunately, we've begun to pull back, as though the nation can prosper without the kinds of strategic commitments that have historically assured us economic as well as intellectual return."

Marc's note: There's nothing new in what Collins and Lampson write. Will Congress pay attention? Will this appeal to the public and cause some action? Call me cynical, but I don't think Congress or the public are paying attention.

United Launch Alliance Completes Dual Engine Centaur Preliminary Design Review and Development Testing in Support of Commercial Crew Program, ULA

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and initial round of development testing for the Dual Engine Centaur in support of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Under Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funding, ULA is re-establishing the Dual Engine Centaur (DEC) configuration for performance and human space flight safety. Atlas V is capable of flying both a single and dual engine on the Centaur second stage, but most satellite missions require only a single engine due to the powerful capability of the Atlas V booster to loft the payload into orbit."

NASA's Orion Program First Fairing Separation Test Provides Data To Validate Design, NASA

"NASA is carrying out a series of tests to ensure the agency's Orion spacecraft can successfully jettison its protective fairings, or covers, during its ride to space. During the first of these tests, two of the three fairing panels separated as planned, but a third didn't."

NASA, Partner Collaborate on Key Piece of Orion Hardware, OnOrbit

"Technicians from Janicki Industries in Hamilton, Wash., work in collaboration with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to build part of the Space Launch System, NASA's next-generation launch vehicle."

"They are specifically working on a diaphragm for the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle Stage Adapter (MSA). Joint efforts between NASA and Janicki Industries enable engineers to verify proper functioning of this part of the SLS vehicle with the Orion spacecraft during its first mission -- Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) -- scheduled to launch in 2014."

Planetary Resources Needs YOUR Help to Hunt for Alien Planets, Planetary Resources

"Alien planets are out there and Planetary Resources needs your help to find them! That's right, the same high-powered telescope technology being used by Planetary Resources to identify near-Earth asteroids can also be used to hunt for what scientists call extrasolar planets or "exoplanets" - which are very much alien worlds. For the first-time ever, this capability will be placed directly into the hands of students, researchers and citizen scientists."

Marc's note: For the last few days the Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign appears to have stalled.With 19 days to go they're $145K short of their goal. And with Kickstarter, it's all or nothing. You reach your goal, you get the funds, you don't, you get nothing. Now to encourage that next wave of donors Planetary Resources has sent out an email blast saying if we make it to $2 million we'll "enhance" ARKYD to hunt for Exoplanets.

With Kepler costing approximately around $600 million for its lifecyle, the ARKYD is quite a deal though they are clear to say they won't rival Kepler. They plan on adding "exoplanet transit detection capability by enhancing the telescope's stability systems and dedicating time to monitor candidate star systems." Among the many questions is how good a detector could ARKYD be. Also, how does hunting for Exoplanets fit into the companies mission statement? Sure it's E/PO, but is it just a gimmick to get over the initial E/PO funding goal?

Opinion: The Future Now

The Myopia Problem, Space News

"It is the year 3013, one thousand years into the future. Looking up into the night sky, you see a crescent Moon that is crisscrossed by a sparkling web of city lights. Millions of people are routinely working, living, and playing on the Moon. Billions live on Mars.

Many would agree that such a bright, promising future is probable. Some would contend that it is inevitable. What cannot be argued is that it is impossible, for we have already slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

The question is "when," rather than "if."

We don't need to wait a millennium in order to get started. Fundamental new breakthroughs in physics are not required. Just as the hang glider and sailplane could have been developed and refined hundreds or thousands of years ago, we already have the needed technology to begin pioneering exploration of the Moon and Mars."

NASA to Host June 7 Mars Rover Opportunity Teleconference, NASA

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) on Friday, June 7, to provide an update about the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The 10th anniversary of this rover's launch is next month.

The briefing participants will be:
-- John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
-- Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
-- Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

Live Chat: Mission to Mars--With Special Guest Buzz Aldrin, Science

"Join us on Thursday, 6 June, at 3 p.m. EDT on this page for a live Google Hangout when we address these issues and take your questions. We'll be joined by three experts, including renowned astronaut Buzz Aldrin."

The other guests are Leonard David and James Garvin.

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Proves Sound Under Pressure, NASA

"After a month of being poked, prodded and pressurized in ways that mimicked the stresses of spaceflight, NASA's Orion crew module successfully passed its static loads tests on Wednesday.

When Orion launches on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), which is targeted for September 2014, it will travel farther from Earth than any spacecraft built for humans in more than 40 years. The spacecraft will fly about 3,600 miles above Earth's surface and return at speeds of approximately 25,000 mph. During the test, Orion will experience an array of stresses, or loads, including launch and reentry, the vacuum of space, and several dynamic events that will jettison hardware away from the spacecraft and deploy parachutes."

Mercury 100% Coverage, NASA

"At the very end of 2012, MESSENGER obtained the final image needed to view 100% of Mercury's surface under daylight conditions. The mosaics shown here cover all of Mercury's surface and were produced by using the monochrome mosaic released by NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS) on March 8, 2013, as the base. The full resolution mosaics are available for download on MESSENGER's Global Mosaics webpage."

Related: SpaceRef Mercury news.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Nears Turning Point, NASA

"NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is approaching its biggest turning point since landing its rover, Curiosity, inside Mars' Gale Crater last summer.

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base Mount Sharp."

Smooth Sailing: Dawn Spacecraft Passes Endurance Test, NASA

"The stalwart adventurer has recently completed its longest uninterrupted ion thrust period yet. As part of the campaign to conserve precious hydrazine propellant, Dawn now suspends thrusting once every four weeks to point its main antenna to Earth. (In contrast, spacecraft with conventional chemical propulsion spend the vast majority of time coasting.)"

NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs Input, NRC

"The National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs is looking for input from communities interested in human exploration. The deadline for submissions is July 9."

"What are the important benefits provided to the United States and other countries by human spaceflight endeavors?

What are the greatest challenges to sustaining a U.S. government program in human spaceflight?

What are the ramifications and what would the nation and world lose if the United States terminated NASA's human spaceflight program?"

Mars Express 10 Years of Highlights (Video), ESA

"The journey of the European Space Agency's Mars Express, from drawing board through launch, to its key science highlights during ten years of operations.

With its suite of seven instruments, Mars Express has studied the subsurface of the Red Planet to the upper atmosphere and beyond to the two tiny moons Phobos and Deimos, providing an in depth analysis of the planet's history and returning stunning 3D images."

- Also released today: Mars Mineral Globe (video), ESA

Marc's note: Congratulations to ESA and its partners for 10 years of great science by Mars Express.


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