Archive for July, 2014

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA


Here’s a new one from me up this morning on – I hope you find it of interest. This topic is ripe for discussion!






Mining the Moon? Space Property Rights Still Unclear, Experts Say

By Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist

July 25, 2014 07:25am ET





Forecasting Freeman Dyson. Credit: IEEE Spectrum

Forecasting Freeman Dyson.
Credit: IEEE Spectrum

Video of famous physicist Freeman Dyson tackles finding ET, what next for space exploration, and other topics – forecasting the next 50 years.Thanks to IEEE Spectrum, the renowned physicist muses about extraterrestrial life, the future of space exploration, and what might become of our efforts to better understand the human brain.

This video was produced on the occasion of IEEE Spectrum’s 50th anniversary (and Dyson’s 90th birthday).

The interactive video lets you skip to the topics you find most thought provoking.

Go to: See More


China's Chang'e 3 Moon lander and Yutu rover. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander and Yutu rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, moon rover is apparently still “alive” entering into its eighth “working day” – a period of time equal to roughly 14 Earth days.

However, the overall health of the robotic rover is not good. Yutu suffered a mechanical control problem in late January. Its antenna and solar panels could not fold to assist the robot in fully surviving the plunging cold temperatures during the 14 day lunar night.

Still, the automaton has outlived its designed lifespan of three months since it reached the Moon in mid-December 2013, Chinese space officials point out.

The lunar explorer now sits about 65 feet (20 meters) from the Chang’e-3 lander that deployed Yutu onto the lunar landscape.

According to China Daily, in an interview with Zhang Yuhua, deputy head of Yutu’s design team, experts now believe that the robot was likely damaged by large rocks when it was moving. Zhang said the landing site’s environment was even worse than scientists had expected.

“Experts’ initial judgment for the abnormality of Yutu was that the rover was ‘wounded’ by colliding with stones while moving,” she said in a Xinhua news story. “Yutu has ‘over-served’ its time on the Moon and sent lots of data back to Earth. We hope it can continue to work miracles,” Zhang said.

Drawing of Chang'e 5 lunar sample return craft. Credit: CNSA

Drawing of Chang’e 5 lunar sample return craft.
Credit: CNSA

Return samples of the moon

Meanwhile, Chinese scientists and engineers are working on the third phase of China’s lunar exploration venture – robotically landing on the Moon and rocketing back to Earth samples extracted from the lunar surface.

A Chang’e 5 mission to accomplish this feat is to be carried out in 2017, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program in a recent Xinhua story.

Work is apparently underway to conduct a high-speed re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere as a precursor test for the Chang’e 5 sample return mission. That test flight seemingly has hardware flung outward to the Moon on a circumlunar trajectory – with the re-entry capsule screaming back into the Earth’s atmosphere at high-speed and recovered.


Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, seated left, Buzz Aldrin, Carol Armstrong, widow of Apollo 11 commander, Neil Armstrong, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Patricia “Pat” Falcone, OSTP Associate Director for National Security & International Affairs, far right, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, during the 45th anniversary week of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Afterwards, this statement by President Obama:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

July 22, 2014

Statement by the President on Meeting with the Crew and Family of Apollo 11

Forty-five years ago, while the world watched as one, the United States of America set foot on the moon. It was a seminal moment not just in our country’s history, but the history of all humankind.

The three brave astronauts of Apollo 11 –Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins – took the first small steps of our giant leap into the future. And for all the years since, they and their families have served as testaments to American ingenuity and human achievement. Today, I was honored to welcome Buzz, Michael, and Neil’s wife, Carol, to the White House to mark this historic anniversary – and to thank them for serving as advocates, role models, and educators who’ve inspired generations of Americans – myself included – to dream bigger and reach higher.

Today, under Administrator Bolden’s leadership, the men and women of NASA are building on that proud legacy by preparing for the next giant leap in human exploration — including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars — all while partnering with America’s pioneering commercial space industry in new and innovative ways.

The United States of America is stronger today thanks to the vision of President Kennedy, who set us on a course for the moon, the courage of Neil, Buzz, and Michael, who made the journey, and the spirit of service of all who’ve worked not only on the Apollo program, but who’ve dared to push the very boundaries of space and scientific discovery for all humankind.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

That’s one small step for shoemankind!

The Nike LunarGlide 6 is off and running, launched just in time to spotlight the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the Moon.

According to Nike, the shoe whose namesake cushioning “was inspired by astronauts bounding weightlessly on the moon is more stable than ever.”

Credit: Nike

Credit: Nike

The LunarGlide 6 uses lightweight “Nike Lunarlon” cushioning that “delivers a plush, responsive ride that runners love.”

Cost: $110

Rob Williams, Senior Footwear Designer, said in a Nike press statement: “We took a holistic approach to enhancing stability in the LunarGlide 6, and Lunarlon offers lightweight, soft and responsive cushioning. It’s the best of both worlds for runners – lightweight cushioning and amazing support.”

Credit: Nike

Credit: Nike

For more information, go to:

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

A new free NASA monograph is available that uses case studies to show government support for commercial activities.

This intriguing monograph is titled: Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce.

With the rise of a range of private-sector entrepreneurial firms interested in pursuing space commerce, the process whereby their efforts might be incubated, fostered, and expanded comes to the fore as an important public policy concern in a way never before present in the Space Age.

Roger Launius, associate director for collections and curatorial affairs at the National Air and Space Museum, explores how to apply more effectively already-tested models of government support for commercial activities, as well as the interactions of both the public and private spheres in a new opportunity zone in space.

In each case, a summation yields a range of key points.

In the United States there is a convergence of several powerful economic forces, including the need to restore American capability to reach low-Earth orbit for the servicing of the International Space Station and the rise of a hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry interested in space.

This publication is available for free in PDF format, for Kindle readers and other eBook readers.

Go to:

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

A fascinating collection of declassified U.S. documents reflect the covert side of lunar programs, made available as a National Security Archive electronic briefing book.

This special posting today marks the 45th anniversary of the first humans to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Called “Soldiers, Spies and the Moon: Secret U.S. and Soviet Plans from the 1950s and 1960s,” the collection is edited by Jeffrey Richelson of the National Security Archive.

The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 was the first spacecraft in February 1966 to achieve a lunar soft landing and to transmit photographic data from the Moon's surface to Earth. Credit: NASA/GSFC

The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 was the first spacecraft in February 1966 to achieve a lunar soft landing and to transmit photographic data from the Moon’s surface to Earth.

Among the documents:– Army and Air Force studies from 1959 – 1961 on the creation of a military lunar base, with possible uses as a surveillance platform (for targets on earth and space) and the Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System.

— A study on the detonation of a nuclear device on or in the vicinity of the moon.

— The use of the lunar surface to relay signals from Washington to Hawaii and from U.S. spy ships.

— Collection of Soviet radar signals after they bounced off the moon — a technique known as Moon Bounce ELINT.

— The U.S. theft and return of a Soviet space capsule during an exhibition tour.

— A 1965 estimate of Soviet intentions with regard to a manned moon landing.

— Several analyses of the Soviet Union’s Luna missions, including Luna 9 — the first mission to result in a soft landing on the moon.

For access to these and other documents, put on your spy shades and go to:

Plant space.  Credit: Makoto Azuma

Plant space.
Credit: Makoto Azuma

The site is the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.On July 15, California-based JP Aerospace lofted the artwork of Makoto Azuma, a “flower artist,” via high-altitude balloons.

The mission carried a bonsai and a flower arrangement for the Japanese artist to the edge of space for a photo shoot. Ten on board HD cameras captured the botanicals in flight.

From the artist’s AMKK website, the effort is among many “to increase the existential value of plants by finding out the most mysterious figure only owned by flowers and plants and converting it to the artistic expression.”

Liftoff - JP Aerospace balloon ascends. Credit: Makoto Azuma

Liftoff – JP Aerospace balloon ascends.
Credit: Makoto Azuma


In detailing the artwork called Exobiotanica – Botanical Space Flight – the site explains:

Plants on the earth rooted in the soil, under the command of gravity.

Roots, soil and gravity – by giving up the links to life, what kind of “beauty” shall be born?

Within the harsh “nature”, at an attitude of 30,000 meters and minus 50 degrees Celsius, the plants evolve into EXBIOTA (extraterrestrial life).

A pine tree confronting the ridge line of the Earth.

A bouquet of flowers marching towards the sun hit by the intense wind.

Freed from everything, the plants shall head to the space.

Credit: Makoto Azuma

Credit: Makoto Azuma

Credit: Makoto Azuma

Credit: Makoto Azuma


A National Research Council report has suggested that the benefits of 3-D printing for space missions are today undetermined.

Advocates of 3-D printing have suggested the technology could enable in-orbit manufacture of replacement parts and reduce launch logistical requirements.

The specific benefits and potential scope of the technology’s use remain undetermined, the NRC report contends.

“Many of the claims made in the popular press about this technology have been exaggerated,” said Robert Latiff, chair of the 14-person committee that wrote the NRC report issued today.

“For in-space use, the technology may provide new capabilities, but it will serve as one more tool in the toolbox, not a magic solution to tough space operations and manufacturing problems,” Latiff said.

Space station work

However, right now NASA and the Air Force have a tremendous resource in the form of the International Space Station, Latiff added. “Perfecting this technology in space will require human interaction,” he said in an NRC press statement, “and the Space Station already provides the infrastructure and the skilled personnel who can enable that to happen.”

Although additive manufacturing is a fairly mature technology for components that can be manufactured on the ground, its application in space is not feasible today, except for very limited and experimental purposes, the report says.

The committee said, however, that actual production costs should not be the sole criterion for evaluating the benefits of in-space additive manufacturing.

Furthermore, consideration should be given to the value of creating structures and functionalities not feasible without the technology. For instance, additive manufacturing might enable the construction of large structures in space, structures too big or fragile to be launched on top of a rocket.


The committee believes that in-space additive manufacturing is an area where cooperation between civil agencies and the military can and should occur.  The Air Force should establish a roadmap with short- and longer-term goals for evaluating the possible advantages of additive manufacturing in space.  The Air Force and NASA should also consider additional investments in the education and training of both materials scientists with specific expertise in additive manufacturing and spacecraft designers and engineers with deep knowledge of the use and development of 3-D printing systems.

Finally, the Air Force should make every effort to cooperate with NASA on in-space additive manufacturing technology development including, but not limited to, conducting research on the International Space Station, jointly sharing the costs of research, and sharing data.

The study was sponsored by NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Take a look at the full report by going to:


Revealing look at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP and IDA

Revealing look at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet mission is closing in on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

New photos taken by the spacecraft’s camera system now show that the comet is a contact binary, consisting of two parts in close contact.

“This shape is most surprising,” says comet researcher Ekkehard Kührt from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

Rosetta’s Philae lander is scheduled to descend to the comet’s surface this coming November. The effect of the comet’s unusual shape on the landing cannot be estimated yet.

Compositional difference?

The fact that two clearly distinguishable parts make up Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a surprise.

“The two blocks likely formed 4.5 billion years ago, collided at low speed, stuck to each other and have since been moving together,” says Kührt. “Scientifically, it is now of course very interesting to find out whether the two components differ in their composition.”

Indeed, if the two parts are from different regions, their structure might also differ.

Looking for a landing spot

“For the landing, it is especially important to have a detailed view of the comet and understand how the two parts are connected,” says Koen Geurts, an engineer at the Lander Control Centre at DLR in Cologne.

“So far, it looks as though there are large flat regions on the comet,” Geurts said in a DLR press statement.

The lander needs to touchdown on a reasonably flat terrain. Furthermore, the landing site should also have a day-night cycle so that the Philae lander can cool down out of the sunlight and so that scientific research can be carried out under different conditions.

Lastly, regular communication with the Rosetta spacecraft is necessary for the lander team to send the recorded data to Earth and empty the data storage. “These aspects are currently still hard to assess,” Geurts said.

NOTE: Take a look at this impressive movie made by combining and interpolated 36 images that were acquired by the OSIRIS camera on July 14th at intervals of 20 minutes, clearly showing that the comet consists of two interconnected parts.

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