Archive for February, 2015

Left to right: Mike Massimino, Walt Cunningham, Senator Ted Cruz, and Buzz Aldrin.

Left to right: Mike Massimino, Walt Cunningham, Senator Ted Cruz, and Buzz Aldrin.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the new chairman of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness subcommittee.

Cruz hosted last week astronauts and space experts to address the committee and discuss the need to renew our space exploration programs.

“Space exploration has produced greater knowledge of the universe beyond and greater security of our interests at home, and I am committed to refocusing NASA on its core mission to do just that,” the lawmaker noted on his Senate website.

“America has always led the way on innovation and security, and we must reclaim that leadership,” Cruz said.

Critical time

Last Tuesday, Senator Cruz hosted a hearing with former astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, and Mike Massimino, and space experts John Elbon, Scott Pace, and Eric Stallmer.

“Just over a half century ago, President John F. Kennedy laid down a marker in my home city of Houston, Texas and made the commitment that like the great pioneers that came before us that we too would set sail on a new sea and send man to the moon. We embarked upon that endeavor as a nation because the opening vistas of space promised high costs and hardships, as well as high reward. Today we find ourselves at a similar crossroad. 2015 is just as critical of a time for our national and commercial space programs as was the case in 1962,” Sen. Cruz said.

To view the opening statement of Senator Cruz, go to:

http://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=video&id=2202

Pioneering SpaceShipOne on display at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Credit: NASM/Eric Long

Pioneering SpaceShipOne on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Credit: NASM/Eric Long

A new story from me up today on Space.com:

 

 

NASA Probe Bound for Pluto Carries Piece of Pioneering SpaceShipOne
by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
February 27, 2015 07:00am ET

 

Go to:

http://www.space.com/28679-new-horizons-pluto-spaceshipone.html

 

Engineers installed part of SpaceShipOne just before closing out spacecraft panels for the flight of the New Horizons probe to distant Pluto.  Credit: APL

Engineers installed part of SpaceShipOne just before closing out spacecraft panels for the flight of the New Horizons probe to distant Pluto.
Credit: APL

Artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto's largest moon, Charon, in July 2015. Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in July 2015.
Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Frank Drake with cosmic equation to gauge the presence of intelligent life in the cosmos. The Drake Equation identifies specific factors believed to play a role in the development of civilizations in our galaxy. Credit: SETI Institute

Frank Drake with cosmic equation to gauge the presence of intelligent life in the cosmos. The Drake Equation identifies specific factors believed to play a role in the development of civilizations in our galaxy.
Credit: SETI Institute

 

 

Here’s a new story of mine up on SPACE.com today:

The Father of SETI: Q&A with Astronomer Frank Drake

by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist

February 26, 2015 01:50pm ET

 

Go to:

http://www.space.com/28665-seti-astronomer-frank-drake-interview.html

Frank Drake, center, with his colleagues, Optical SETI (OSETI) Principal Investigator Shelley Wright and Rem Stone with the 40-inch Nickel telescope at Lick Observatory in California. Outfitted with the OSETI instrument, the silver rectangular instrument package protrudes from the bottom of the telescope, plus computers, etc.  Credit: Laurie Hatch Photography, used with permission

Frank Drake, center, with his colleagues, Optical SETI (OSETI) Principal Investigator Shelley Wright and Rem Stone with the 40-inch Nickel telescope at Lick Observatory in California. Outfitted with the OSETI instrument, the silver rectangular instrument package protrudes from the bottom of the telescope, plus computers, etc.
Credit: Laurie Hatch Photography, used with permission

This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the 'Mojave' site, where its drill collected the mission's second taste of Mount Sharp. The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover's robotic arm. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the ‘Mojave’ site, where its drill collected the mission’s second taste of Mount Sharp. The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has drilled into a rock target called “Telegraph Peak.” The hole has a diameter slightly smaller than a U.S. dime.

This new hole is the third drilling site in outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp – an outcrop the mission has been investigating for five months.

By inspecting layers of this mountain, scientists expect the data to reveal records of how ancient wet environments on Mars evolved into drier environments.

Curiosity’s Mastcam: Right image taken by Curiosity on Sol 908 (2015-02-25).   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mastcam: Right image taken by Curiosity on Sol 908 (2015-02-25).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The sample-collection drilling at Telegraph Peak was the first in Curiosity’s 30 months on Mars to be conducted without a preliminary “mini drill” test of the rock’s suitability for drilling. The rover used a low-percussion-level drilling technique.

The rock-powder sample from Telegraph Peak goes to the rover’s internal Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument for identification of minerals. After that analysis, the team may also choose to deliver sample material to Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of laboratory instruments, according to a statement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, took this image on February 25, 2015, Sol 908. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, took this image on February 25, 2015, Sol 908.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover’s next major move is to wheel through a narrow valley called “Artist’s Drive,” which will lead the robot along a strategically planned route higher on the basal layer of Mount Sharp.

Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, convened a hearing on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

The hearing was entitled “U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness.”

Former NASA astronauts included Walt Cunningham, Buzz Aldrin, Mike Massimino, and leaders in the commercial space industry testified.

The hearing was called to provide the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee and the American people “a great opportunity to reflect on the past, analyze the present, and examine the future of space travel in the United States,” said Cruz in calling the hearing.

Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

“We will look to ensure that NASA and commercial space have clear and consistent mission objectives and can continue to work alongside our international partners, but not be dependent on them. America should once again lead the way for the world in space exploration,” Cruz said in a pre-hearing statement.

The hearing examined the United States’ goals in human space exploration, including the role of the commercial space industry and its contributions to U.S. global competitiveness.

Among other issues, the hearing was called to discuss the importance of a sound exploration strategy that involves NASA, partnerships with international allies, and innovation and competitiveness in the U.S. commercial space sector.

Exploration and commercial space witnesses took part in Senate Hearing. Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

Exploration and commercial space witnesses took part in Senate Hearing.
Credit: Ted Cruz Twitter

The hearing examined whether updates are needed to the Commercial Space Launch Act.

 

Check out this C-Span video link of the hearing at:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?324519-1/hearing-future-us-space-exploration

 

 

 

To read the prepared testimony of each witness, go to these links:

Witness Panel 1

1)

Col. Walt Cunningham (USMC, Ret.)

Former Astronaut and Apollo 7 Pilot

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=fcb15c53-c53c-4c08-bbe0-cd7b67f5c5ee

2)

Col. Buzz Aldrin (USAF, Ret.)

Former NASA Astronaut and Apollo 11 Pilot

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=5dd98aa0-32bb-4762-a978-c17cebfd82bb

3)

Mr. Michael Massimino

Former NASA Astronaut and Mission Specialist for Space Shuttle Program

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=0ca0f7ef-4da7-4f24-b67d-bf0881e70e6a

 

Witness Panel 2

4)

Mr. John Elbon

Vice President and General Manager

Boeing Space Exploration

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7db287a-6c45-4b62-a3e4-106e918af072

5)

Dr. Scott Pace

Director, Space Policy Institute

Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=8e97c713-8642-4e75-b999-48ee31751b51

6)

Mr. Eric Stallmer

President

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=215804c5-33c3-4c29-9eed-638eff02f8ef

A new story from me up on SPACE.com:

Moon Space Law: Legal Debate Swirls Around Private Lunar Ventures

by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist

February 24, 2015 02:00pm ET

Go to:

http://www.space.com/28645-moon-space-law-lunar-legal-debate.html

Space entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow (left) explains company's plans for commercial operations on the Moon. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace/Leonard David Archives

Credit: American Meteor Society

Credit: American Meteor Society

Incredible view here last night in Colorado of a giant fireball that moved slowly taking at least five seconds before it went behind the Continental Divide while still visible at 10:54 PM on Monday, February 23, 2015.

Among the observers of this spectacular skyshow, the event was witnessed by Leonard David and Barbara David from their vantage point at 9,000 feet in the Colorado mountains between Boulder and Golden.

Both are active members of the Coal Creek Canyon SkyWatchers organization.

This reentry is confirmed here by the American Meteor Society:

http://www.amsmeteors.org/…/satellite-re-entry-over-wester…/

One posted video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JSzeozkAvM

According to space trackers, the fireball and associated fragments were caused by the reentry of a Chinese CZ-4B rocket body.

The Aerospace Corporation carried this prediction:

http://www.aerospace.org/…/upcoming-reentries-2-2/2014-088b/

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

That’s among the hundred-plus NASA audio files from historic spaceflights, current missions and even sounds of the future…sounds that you can easily download to your phone.

You can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch, snippets of President Kennedy’s declaration to reach for the Moon, or Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” every time you get a phone call. Or, you can hear those anxious words from Apollo 13, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,’ every time you make an error on your computer.

NASA has made available MP3 and M4R (iPhone) sound files to download. The M4R files must be downloaded and imported via iTunes. They will not play in your browser.

Check out the menu of NASA sounds available for download to phones, tablets, and computers.

Go to:

http://www.nasa.gov/connect/sounds/#.VONiKC6fXdX

New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit: Spaceport America

New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Credit: Spaceport America

A lawmaker in the Land of Enchantment is disenchanted with the state’s Spaceport America.

For one, the complex would be home for the commercial operations of Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space tourism business.

A Senate bill to sell New Mexico’s Spaceport America facility moved on to the Senate Finance (SFC) with a bipartisan no-recommendation last Thursday.

After a brief debate, the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee (SCORC) voted to move along Senate Bill 267 (SB267), “Sale of Spaceport America,” sponsored by Senator George K. Muñoz (D-4-Cibola, McKinley & San Juan).

A hearing date in the SFC has not yet been scheduled.

The Senate bill can be found here at:

http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislation.aspx?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=267&year=15

Empty facility

According to Senator Muñoz, among a number of complaints: “There was a lot of hoopla before that if ‘we build it…they will come,’ but it has been several years now and nobody’s shown up yet. New Mexican taxpayers are continuing to foot the bill for a $250 million empty facility that is providing the Legislature shaky operational information at best.”

In response, Christine Anderson, New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s Executive Director, said:

“I think some legislators are impatient to have the commercial space industry literally take off! As others have said, space is hard and taking commercial passengers to space requires a great deal of due diligence.”

Credit: Spaceport America

Credit: Spaceport America

End game

Anderson is responsible for the development and operation of the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport, Spaceport America.

“In the end, the spaceport is doing fine,” Anderson said, as “it generated just over $1.6 million in income last year, and everyone needs to not lose sight of the end game,” she said.

“The sentiment to ‘sell the spaceport’ is not widely embraced,” Anderson said. There were many who spoke against the bill, she said.

BTW: Check out my good friend, Bob Martin’s TV report – a reporter for KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque – regarding the recent “fly-in” at Spaceport America:

Go to:

http://krqe.com/2015/02/14/pilots-passengers-get-special-spaceport-tour-at-fly-in/

Also, check out the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board’s view of the topic:

http://www.abqjournal.com/544492/opinion/hold-the-countdown-on-sale-of-spaceport.html

 

 

 

Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) reentry as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/NASA

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) reentry as seen from the International Space Station.
Credit: ESA/NASA

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle — Georges Lemaître — was purposely dumped over the South Pacific on February 15.

The large cargo ferry craft was outfitted with an internal camera in the hopes of imaging from inside the reentry process.

While the ATV-mounted Break-Up Camera did produce images (nearly 6,000), those were lost in radio relay from an ATV-carried SatCom heatshield-protected sphere to Iridium telecom satellites as the hardware plummeted back to Earth.

ESA’s Break-Up Camera and data-storing SatCom – the white sphere – is seen installed aboard ATV-5 before Europe's space truck left the International Space Station. The ATV burnt up on reentry. The SatCom survived the ATV break-up to return data to Earth that shows pictures were taken, but none made it back to ground.  Credit: ESA/NASA

ESA’s Break-Up Camera and data-storing SatCom – the white sphere – is seen installed aboard ATV-5 before Europe’s space truck left the International Space Station. The ATV burnt up on reentry. The SatCom survived the ATV break-up to return data to Earth that shows pictures were taken, but none made it back to ground.
Credit: ESA/NASA

Pictures were taken, but sadly none made it back to ground, according to an ESA statement. A team of researchers is investigating why further data packets didn’t make it through.

ATV’s death throes were recorded by other instruments, data that was returned successfully to the ground.

This “blackbox” system is part of ESA’s continuing research into reentry dynamics – information that is to help understand the projected outcome from reentering the multi-module International Space Station.

Griffith Observatory Event