News: August 2010 Archives

NASA Selects Two Firms for Experimental Space Vehicle Test Flights, NASA (with video)

"NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.

The flights will demonstrate the capabilities of new vehicles to provide recoverable launch and testing of small payloads going to "near-space," the region of Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates Initial Winning Launch Providers in NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) Program

"The commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to congratulate two of its member companies, Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, for winning an initial NASA test flight contract as part of the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) Program. The first round of the program, an open competition for small businesses, was formally kicked off by NASA earlier this year with a Request for Quotations for commercial reusable suborbital flight services."

India Announces Instrument Suite for Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter, Lander and Rover, SpaceRef

"The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) today announced the suite of instruments for its second mission to the moon after it's first orbiter Chandrayaan-1 was successful in its mission. The second mission is scheduled to be launched on India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in 2013."

NASA, Internet Archive and Flickr Launch Historic Image Collection, NASA

"Visitors to NASA on The Commons can help tell the photos' story by adding tags, or keywords, to the images to identify objects and people. In addition, viewers can communicate with other visitors by sharing comments. These contributions will help make the images easier to find online and add insight about NASA's history."

Marc's note: This is cool way to share some great historical pictures and get the public involved.

NASA TV Airs Interview Excerpts About Assistance to Trapped Miners in Chile

"NASA has been asked by the Chilean government through the U.S. Department of State to provide technical advice that might assist the trapped miners at the San Jose gold and copper mine near Copiapo, Chile."

NASA to treat trapped Chilean miners, PressTV

"It's an opportunity to us to bring the space-flight experience back down to the ground," said Duncan, CNN reported. The NASA team includes two physicians and a psychologist. Despite fears of mental cracks, the miners have been told for the first time they have to wait at least four months before they can be recued."

How can NASA help Chile miners trapped a half-mile underground?, Christian Science Monitor

"Among the advice space and other experts are already providing the Chilean government: Have the miners develop a routine, including work, exercise, recreation, and rest; take steps to help the men maintain some sense of time and the passing of night and day; and foster their sense of connection to the world they've left behind by encouraging written, verbal, and video contact with families and by communicating the triumphs and defeats of favorite sports teams."

How Astronauts' Experience Could Help Trapped Chilean Miners, Gizmodo

"Jack Stuster of Anacapa Sciences in Santa Barbara, California, carried out a systematic analysis of diaries that were kept for this purpose by astronauts during their six-month ISS expeditions. Each of more than 4000 diary entries were categorised as positive, negative or neutral in tone. Stuster found the strongest overall negative tone in the third quarter of expeditions, a period that has also been said to affect scientists on long stays in the Antarctic. Communications with management deteriorated in the third quarter too, and the frequency of interpersonal problems rose by a fifth."

Keith's note: According to a letter released by PeTA, Paul McCartney writes:

"Dear Mr. Bolden: I recently learned from my friends at PETA that NASA plans to fund an experiment in which squirrel monkeys will be exposed to dangerous doses of radiation and then caged for years to study the effects on them, which are likely to be cancer, brain tumours, and early death.

As a supporter of NASA's mission and continued space exploration, I have had the pleasure to work with NASA on multiple occasions. In 2005, I performed for the crew of STS-114 as they flew over 200 miles above the Earth. More recently I worked with NASA to beam Beatles music into space.

I believe NASA has the ingenuity to investigate the health effects of space travel without confining and experimenting on animals as was done in the old days. It would be terribly disappointing if in our zeal to explore new frontiers and to learn about the fascinating universe where we live we began to regress in our treatment of the animals with whom we share this planet. May I appeal to you to cancel this experiment?

Sincerely, Paul McCartney"

Spaceflight Set the Stage for a Story by Sir Paul, earlier post, NASA

"A sea of thousands of concert-goers threw its hands high, clapped and cheered while many chimed in with Sir Paul McCartney. On stage, a story began to unfold. It was a story of human pursuit and success, and spaceflight was at the heart of it."

Perhaps PeTA could get Sir Paul to write a song about this issue and then people can vote for it as a NASA Wake-up song for the last shuttle crews as part of the contest currently underway ...

Former NASA chief of staff pleads guilty to conspiracy charge, Government Executive

"Courtney Stadd of Bethesda, Md., pleaded guilty on Aug. 18 to one count of conspiracy in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Nov. 18. ... Former deputy chief engineer [Liam] Sarsfield, who was paid more than $87,000 by Capitol Solutions through the subcontract, pleaded guilty in November to one count of committing an act affecting his personal financial interest. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 27."

Details Emerge on Criminal Activity by Courtney Stadd and Liam Sarsfield, earlier post

NASA's Ultimate Spinoff?

NASA Seeks Innovative Ideas About Human Health Challenges

"NASA's interest in technology development and problem solving in the area of human health issues makes hosting this discussion among innovators and thought leaders a natural fit," NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "Solutions to health issues here on Earth have the potential to benefit space explorers of the future, as well as humankind overall."

USAID Partners With NASA, NIKE and State Department to Address Global Health Challenges

"Proposals will be accepted until September 13, 2010 when the challenge will close and the winners will be selected. Those who are selected will be invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Oct. 30-31 where the LAUNCH: Health forum will take place."

NASA Announcement of Opportunity To Participate in NASA's LAUNCH: Health Project

"NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE joined together to host LAUNCH in an effort to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges through a series of forums. LAUNCH searches for visionaries, whose world-class ideas, technologies or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society. Through the next LAUNCH series, up to ten innovators and 40 thought leaders will come together to address an issue that affects every human: health."

Aerospace and Defense Companies Hiring, But Face Challenges Retaining Young Pros, Says AVIATION WEEK Workforce Study

"AVIATION WEEK has released results from its 2010 Workforce and Young Professionals/Student Study, a mainstay for aerospace and defense (A&D) planning and trend analysis since 1997, which show that A&D companies plan to hire 15,500 professionals this year. However, retaining younger employees continues to be a challenge -- the voluntary attrition rate (employees choosing to leave) for young professionals rose to 21%, and 41% admit to looking for new jobs. The study also reviewed industry retirement rates and ranked the top universities for A&D alumni hires, with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, at number one."

Citizen Scientists Discover Rotating Pulsar, NSF

"Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project"

Sean and Kevin O'Keefe Recovery (Facebook Group)

(Paul Pastorek) "Have talked with Laura today as she cruises from one part of the hospital to the other to check on "her boys". She is very upbeat and confident about her boys, but saddened about Sen. Stevens and others onboard. Many of you have contacted me and sent good wishes to Sean and his family. We are grateful, but please pray for the recovery of the other survivors and for those who perished. God Bless You all!"

Communication Problems May Have Delayed Search Following Alaska Plane Crash, NY Times

"The conditions of two of the survivors improved on Thursday, as a spokeswoman for the hospital said that James Morhard and Kevin O'Keefe were upgraded from serious to fair condition. Kevin O'Keefe's father, Sean O'Keefe, the former NASA administrator, is still in critical condition. William Phillips, 13, is still in good condition. His father, William, died in the crash."

Lawyers get 90 days to review documents in NASA scientist's spy trial, CNN

"A federal judge overseeing the case of a NASA scientist accused of trying to sell secrets to Israel has granted lawyers 90 days to review classified documents admitted as evidence. No trial start date has been set for Stewart David Nozette, who has been jailed since October on allegations of attempted espionage. Nozette, who appeared in leg shackles in U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman's courtroom, is accused of offering sensitive intelligence information to undercover agents he thought were from Israel."

Earlier stories on Stu Nozette

NASA's chief technologist seeks to develop transformative programs, SJ Mercury News

"Ames has specialized in recent years in building closer ties with technology companies such as Google and Microsoft, and Braun said his office is exploring whether NASA can adapt another aspect of Silicon Valley, perhaps working with venture capitalists to develop some of those high-risk, high-reward technologies. "Venture capitalists, angel investors, they know how to take risks, and there is a lot that we can learn from them, and there is a lot that we can leverage," he said. Braun also said that NASA's future may not be about building bigger, more powerful rockets, but about building tiny satellites with the flexibility to accomplish a wide variety of missions in space -- somewhat like the 10-cubic centimeter "Cubesats" that were originally developed at Stanford and other universities."


NASA and Israel Space Agency Sign Statement of Intent for Future Cooperation

"During a meeting Tuesday at NASA Headquarters in Washington, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Israel Space Agency Director General Zvi Kaplan signed a joint statement of intent to expand the agencies' cooperation in civil space activities. The signing followed a meeting between Bolden, Kaplan and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, Israel's minister of Science and Technology. It advanced discussions that began when Bolden visited Israel in January."

Keith's note: One of the participants in this evening's reception in Washington, DC after the NEO conference was a NASA field center director. Given that he recently had some foot surgery and is not supposed to travel, he used an avatar instead. The center director? Why ARC's Pete Worden, of course. His avatar of choice was an "Anybot" droid. I have seen this little wonder in action in NASA CTO Chris Kemp's office at NASA ARC and will be reporting on it in the near future. This droid is currently on loan by the manufacturer to NASA for evaluation.

This droid is very cool. You can see what is going on and talk to people and they can talk to you. It is totally web browser controlled and has navigation software and obstacle avoidance hardware (and LIDAR) on board. You can inhabit not only your avatar but also other ones in remote locations - just like Cylons downloading into new bodies. Actually it is more like "Serge" the butler droid in the new prequel series "Caprica". Do not be surprised if you see one roaming around NASA HQ in the near future.

Keith's 2:22 PM EDT update: According to a family source both Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin survived the plane crash - but they are both rather banged up. In an earlier post I stated that his son Jonathan was on the plane. He was not.

5 believed dead in crash of plane carrying Stevens, O'Keefe, Anchorage Daily News

"Rescuers from the Alaska Air National Guard were able to reach the crash site by helicopter this morning and are "currently providing medical support to the crash victims at the scene. ... Hayes said five people had reached the scene overnight to help the crash victims. It was unclear how they reached the site. A second U.S. government official in Washington said Tuesday that the National Guard in Alaska reported a private medical team was dropped near the crash site by commercial helicopter Tuesday morning. Four of nine people aboard the plane survived, the official said. Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said the agency has a plane flying over the crash scene, scouting it to make sure it's safe for helicopters to come into the area with pararescuers."

Keith's 30 July note: In case you haven't noticed Charlie Bolden has been invisible for several weeks after the Muslim outrech media storm. No one in the media has interviewed him. He hasn't been quoted. He's just been, well, invisible. He surfaced yesterday at a stealth visit to GSFC. NASA only admitted this via Twitter a few minutes ago. No doubt he will disappear again. You can tell if he is arriving (or departing) stealthily if you hear this noise. This way he can avoid the media more easily.

Keith's 5 Aug note: Charlie Bolden emerges! Photo at a NAC meeting: "And here's the @NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presenting award to NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Chair Ken Ford"

Keith's note: GSFC PAO has taken to bragging a bit. This little gem is posted at the bottom of some photo captions on their Flickr account: "NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe."

Is this accurate? I'm not exactly certain that it is. The words they use are not exactly defined i.e. "organization". Perhaps GSFC PAO could provide the statistics upon which they make this claim.

Wayne Hale's New Job

N. Wayne Hale, Jr. Joins Special Aerospace Services

"Special Aerospace Services (SAS) of Boulder, Colorado, is pleased to announce that N. Wayne Hale, Jr. has joined SAS as Director of Human Spaceflight Programs. Mr. Hale brings comprehensive experience in the field of human spaceflight following a career of more than 30 years with NASA. As one of his many instrumental assignments at NASA, Mr. Hale served as Program Manager for NASA's Space Shuttle Program during the critical period following the Columbia accident, where his leadership significantly contributed to the return of the space shuttle to flight operations. Prior to that, Mr. Hale served as a Space Shuttle Flight Director for 40 missions during 15 years. Most recently Mr. Hale served as NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Strategic Partnerships in Space Operations."

Cape Canaveral reverberated with the effects of politics this week. One of the Republican candidates for Florida governor stumped around the area as space contractor giant United Space Alliance (USA) laid off another 900 employees.

This however did not dissuade Kennedy Space Center Director from predicting a bright future for the space center.



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