Front Page


Editor: Veronica Pierce
OpEd: Dan Schrimpsher
Reporter: Dan Schrimpsher
Finance: Veronica Pierce
Contact Us Alternative Contact
space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Space Review, June 30, 2008

A skeptic’s guide to space exploration
What drives humans to pursue space exploration? Jeff Foust reports on a recent speech by Neil deGrasse Tyson where the astrophysicist took on that question, as well as some widely-held beliefs of space advocates.Monday, June 30, 2008

Cry havoc
Is NASA a “fascist” organization? And what exactly does that mean? Dwayne Day critiques some of the more extreme rhetoric about the space agency that has emerged from the blogosphere.Monday, June 30, 2008

How to know when an engineering project is failing
Glitches in the development of the Orion spacecraft and Ares 1 problem have raised questions in some quarters about whether there are more serious problems with those efforts. Eric Hedman says that open and frequent communications for any major project are key to both their progress and their perception by outsiders.Monday, June 30, 2008

Review: Space on the Mall
This week NASA is taking part in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, while another exhibit on the future of space exploration finds a temporary home at the National Air and Space Museum. Jeff Foust offers a review of both.Monday, June 30, 2008

Astronaut Barbara Morgan to Leave NASA

( - HOUSTON -- Veteran space shuttle astronaut Barbara R. Morgan will leave NASA in August to become an educator at Idaho's Boise State University.

NASA's first educator astronaut, Morgan logged more than 305 hours in space aboard shuttle Endeavour's STS-118 assembly mission to the International Space Station in August 2007. She operated the shuttle and station robotic arms to install hardware, inspect the orbiter and support spacewalks. Morgan also served as loadmaster for the transfer of supplies between the shuttle and station, taught lessons from space to schoolchildren on Earth and served on the flight deck during re-entry and landing.

"Barbara has served NASA and the Astronaut Office with distinction over the course of her career," Astronaut Office chief Steve Lindsey said. "From the Teacher in Space Program to her current position as a fully qualified astronaut, she has set a superb example and been a consistent role model for both teachers and students. She will be missed."

Morgan previously served as the backup to payload specialist Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in Space Program. McAuliffe and six fellow astronauts lost their lives in the Challenger accident on Jan. 28, 1986. Morgan, who was an elementary schoolteacher in McCall, Idaho, before being selected as McAuliffe's backup, returned to teaching after the accident. She was selected to train as a mission specialist in 1998 and named to the STS-118 crew in 2002.

"It is really tough to leave NASA," Morgan said. "It is a great organization with great people doing great things. We're going back to the moon and on to Mars. I'm especially proud that we have three other teachers who are astronauts, and there will be others in the future. I'm very excited to go to work for Boise State University. I like everything about it, and it's going to be wonderful helping exploration by working full time for education."

Three other educator mission specialists, Richard Arnold, Joseph Acaba and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, are training for future spaceflights. Arnold and Acaba are assigned to fly on the STS-119 space shuttle mission to the station in 2009.

Morgan will serve as Distinguished Educator in Residence at Boise State, providing vision and leadership to the state of Idaho on science, technology, engineering and math education.

Highlights of Morgan's NASA career will be available on NASA Television's video file. For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

For more biographical information about Morgan, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Canada to Monitor Neart Earth Asteroids

Canada is launch the Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) in 2010. Its job is to monitor asteroids that could impact the Earth and kill us all.

Good luck, aye!

Mars Soil Can Support Plant Life

According to NASA scientists, Phoenix has finished its first soil sample shows Mars' soil could grow vegetables, like a asparagus. Samuel Kounaves, the project's lead chemist said, "The soil you have there is the type of soil you have in your backyard[.]"

With CO2, ice, and good soil, does some form of plant life exists on Mars presently? I am of the opinion that life is resilient and will continue if there is any way possible. Seems to be a way possible to me...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Over 8000 Apply for New ESA Astronaut Corp

Over 8,000 European Union citizens, including 850 Brits, have applied for the newly opened positions in the European Space Agency Astronaut Corp.

Mars has the Largest Impact Crater in the Solar System

Apparently the entire northern basis of Mars (about 40% of Mars' surface) is a single impact crater. I wonder what effect a massive blast like that had on Mars' evolution?

NASA Beefs Up Ares V

NASA revelled yesterday that the Ares V would be bigger and more powerful than originally planned. The rocket will carry 15,600 lbs more payload than was first thought.

You know what, paper is paper, show me the rocket. The Ares V work won't actually begin until 2010 when the shuttle is retired.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Senate Recommends More Money for the Moon

The Senate has recommend $2.6 billion for NASA in 2009 to accelerate the planned return to the Moon. They also want to keep the shuttle flying until 2015, just in case. However, NASA is not allowed to use the Moon money to fund the shuttle.

Chinese Space Agency Joins CCSDS

The Chinese National Space Agency has joined Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS). The CCSDS is an international group pushing for common data interfaces and communications in space.

STS-125 Slip Moves all NASA Shuttle Launches Out

The slip of STS-125 to October reported in April will apparently cause a delay in all future shuttle launches through 2010.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Former NFL Player Ken Harvey Teams Up With Challenger Center and Richard Garriott

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Can you play sports in space? Challenger Center and Richard Garriott, the next civilian to fly into space, teams up with former NFL player and four time pro bowler, Ken Harvey and his company JAKA Consulting group to promote a series of fitness activities that students can do here on earth. Students can then send in a YouTube video with a prediction about what will happen when Richard Garriott performs them in space. Richard, son of Dr. Owen Garriott, a NASA <> astronaut who flew on the Skylab in the 1970's, plans to record a series of educational videos for students while on orbit to help demonstrate some of the basic physics that help astronauts live and work in the weightlessness of space. Ken Harvey has recorded a series of video clips for the Challenger Center's national website <> to show kids some basic moves like throwing, catching, blocking, jumping and kicking that Richard will replicate on orbit this October aboard the International Space Station.

Harvey stated, "With this activity, that we call, Space Sportilization, we hope to combine sports and space together to help students learn what science principles are at work when we play sports. Kids will help me work on a set of football drills that we will give to Richard Garriott to practice as he travels among the stars." Challenger Center for Space Science Education has developed a series of science <> challenges that serve as a launch pad to learning around the upcoming Garriott mission to the International Space station. Before, during and after Richard's flight, students can learn the science behind common sports activities as they are played on Earth and then predict what will happen when Richard plays sports in space! Punt, pass and click your way to the Garriott Science Challenge at

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education was founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts of the space shuttle Challenger 51-L mission. Challenger Center programs raise student's expectations of success by fostering a long-term interest in science, mathematics, technology <> and engineering, motivating them to pursue a career in these fields. The network of 50 Challenger Learning Centers across the U.S. train more than 25,000 teachers annually to incorporate project-based learning and use the theme of space exploration to engage students in critical thinking, decision-making, communication and teamwork. To learn more about Challenger Center for Space Science Education, visit: <>.

JAKA Consulting Group is minority-owned company offering a strategic process that incorporates sports to accomplish business goals for its partners. JAKA engages the client and their constituencies through integrating athletes, events and other sports platforms into the company's strategic plans and business goals. This process is called Sportilization. For more information about JAKA Consulting group please visit: .

Military Moves SpaceX Falcon Launch Back

The US Military has informed SpaceX that the necessary support will not be available for the launch of a Falcon 1 flight until early August.

It All Comes Full Circle

Irony of ironies, with Russia backing away from space tourism, wealthy Russians are buying tickets on Virgin Galactic.

China's Upcoming Spacewalk

Leonard David has an in-dept look at China's upcoming spacewalk in October and how they got there.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Geologist and IAU Disagree on What is a Planet

Apparently, geologists have their own (better, in my opinion) definition of a planet.

They define a "planet" as a natural object in space that is massive enough for gravity to make it approximately spherical, but not so massive that it has generated energy by internal nuclear fusion.

One problem they have with the IAU's definition of planets, dwarf planets, and plutoids, is that if Earth was beyond Neptune, it would not be a planet, since it is two small to sweep out the Kepler objects around it.

I would also ask, if we found a planet the size of Mars floating by itself in space, would it be a planet?

Definitions based on solar system geography and a bias towards eight planets, along with condescending comments made by IAU officials do not a planet make.

Direct 2.0 Rocket

Robert Block talks about Direct 2.0, or Jupiter 120 rocket, that on paper out performed Ares and why NASA stop the study.

Russia Dropped the Ball with Space Tourism

Russian commentator, Andrei Kislyakov, thinks that Russia should have done more with space tourism when it was the only game in town. Now with the ISS crew going to six and Virgin Galactic booking thousands of people for (relatively) cheap sub-orbital flights, space tourism is moving towards the western world.

"Much to our regret, mass space tourism is leaving Russia. We could have kept it if Roskosmos had supported a project of the Myasishchev design bureau to develop a tourist spaceship on the basis of the high-altitude M-55 aircraft. But it remained on paper."

Space Review June 23, 2008

The Space Review is out for this week:

Long waves and space development
The early, hyperactive years of the Space Age benefited from the superpower competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, Nader Elhefnawy argues, long-term economic cycles also played a role, and can also explain the sluggish progress since then.Monday, June 23, 2008

Paper dragon: the Pentagon’s unreliable statements on the Chinese space program
For years the US Defense Department has issued annual reports on China’s military efforts, some of which have included claims about space weapons technology of dubious validity. Dwayne Day reviews those claims and suggests that these are signs that the Pentagon does not put a high priority on producing these reports.Monday, June 23, 2008

Financial risk analysis and the space industry revisited
Entrepreneurial space companies offer the potential for tremendous payoffs if their innovative technologies achieve a market breakthrough, but also carry high risks of failure. Taylor Dinerman examines how the challenge of assessing financial risks of these companies may be as difficult as the technology itself.Monday, June 23, 2008

In defense of the knights
Stephen Ashworth responds to a recent essay critical of space solar power, arguing that developments in areas like low-cost space access will make the technology economically feasible in time.Monday, June 23, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

SpaceShipOne Turns Four

It is hard to believe it has been four years since SpaceShipOne's first trip to space. June 21, 2004, Burt Rutan sent Mike Melvill rocketing into space and history. Congratulations to everyone involved and we hope you continue to amaze us in the next four years.

Sneek Peak at SpaceShipTwo

Flight Global has, what appears to be, the cockpit section of SpaceShipTwo at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California.

Phoenix has Offically Found Water Ice Below the Surface of Mars

NASA's newest Mars lander, Phoenix, has found conclusive evidence of water-ice below the surface of Mars. This is the first direct evidence of water on Mars.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three New Super Earths Found

Science have found three new "super Earths." The new planets have been discovered HARPS instrument on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile. The star HD 40307, contains all three. The smallest of the trio weighs in at 4.2 Earth masses and orbits HD 40307 every 4.3 Earth days, while the largest, with a mass 9.4 times that of Earth, has a 20.4-day orbit. The middleweight is 6.7 Earth masses and has a 9.6-day trek around the star.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Phoenix Finds Ice

The Phoenix Mars lander has scrapped the soil it landed on and found a young layer of ice (less than 100,000 years).

Space Review This Week

This weeks Space Review is out:

The Vision for Space Exploration and the retirement of the Baby Boomers (part 3)
Everyone agrees on the importance of low-cost space access, but previous efforts to achieve it, from the space shuttle to the X-33, have failed. Charles Miller and Jeff Foust argue that the right approach is to focus on the broader industry, not a specific program.Monday, June 16, 2008

Financial risk analysis for the space industry
Parts of the space industry are mature enough that investors and insurers know what they’re getting into. However, as Taylor Dinerman notes, new ventures and new markets are much harder to understand, requiring a different kind of risk mindset.Monday, June 16, 2008

University students prove they are up to the challenge
Earlier this month several teams of college students descended on a remote region of Utah to test their designs for Mars rovers. Kevin Sloan and Alex Kirk report on how the teams and their rovers fared.Monday, June 16, 2008

Nothing ever happens on the Moon
While some space-related sci-fi series strive for realism, they can fall short in areas like plot and characters. Dwayne Day encounters this in his review of the latest installments of the Japanese anime series Moonlight Mile.Monday, June 16, 2008

Review: SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History
Four years ago this week, SpaceShipOne soared into the history books as the first non-governmental manned spacecraft to reach space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers new details about the development and testing of this vehicle.Monday, June 16, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Carnival of space #58

Fraser Cain at Universe Today hosts the latest Carnival of Space

JPL Gets Mars Funding

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies gave NASA and specifically JPL $75 million more than the President requested for 2009. The programs that got help are:

  • $78.1 million for exoplanet research for the proposed 2010 Space Interferometry Mission
  • Continue funding Rovers Spirit and Opportunity for 4 1/2 more years
  • $101.1 million would go to NASA's Outer Planets Program

Thursday, June 12, 2008

IAU Continues Stupidity on Pluto

In an effort to try to make everyone happy (and therefore make no one happy), the IAU has decided to call all spherical objects beyond Pluto "plutiods". This of course has no physical meaning and could not be easily expanded to other solar systems. And spherical objects inside of Neptune, such as Ceres, are still called "dwarf planets."

Would somebody please create a planet definition that makes sense? Geography of the solar system doesn't cut it for me. And the current definition doesn't include Jupiter as far as I can tell.

The official definition of a plutoid is

A body that has sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared [their orbits of debris]. [Outside of Neptune that is -dsj]

The definition of a planet is:

  • is in orbit around the Sun,
  • has sufficient mass so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape,
  • has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit.

I am not sure what "cleared the neighbourhood" means, but Jupiter has two large bodies of asteroids in its orbits. So is it a planet?

I don't mind having 13 or 14 planets, but I do mind these asinine definitions the IAU seems to be constructing.

Be scientists please.

China's Next Manned Flight in October

According to Chinese officials, the next manned mission for China will launch in October. This flight will have three taikonauts and will include one space walk.

Discovery Readies To Come Home as Gamma Ray Telesscope Launches

Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the ISS in order to prepare to come home on Saturday. At the same time, NASA's Gamma Ray Telescope, known as GLAST, launched yesterday to begin its research into massive black holes as well as neutron stars.

New Virgin Credit Card Can Take You to Space!

SOUTH NORWALK, Conn., June 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Virgin Atlantic Airways,
one of the leading long-haul airlines, today launched a new credit card,
the Virgin Atlantic American Express Card(R) from Bank of America, which
not only enables Cardmembers to earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on Virgin
Atlantic purchases -- one of the most rewarding major international airline
Credit Cards in the market today -- but also offers Cardmembers the
opportunity to redeem points for exclusive rewards such as a trip into

Chris Rossi, Senior Vice President of North America, Virgin Atlantic,
stated, "The new Virgin Atlantic Card offers a way to earn Flying Club
miles, can get you into space and earns access to the award-winning Virgin
Atlantic products and services both in the air and on the ground. This
hat-trick of generous miles and benefits is like no other."

There are two versions of the new Virgin Atlantic American Express
Card(R) by Bank of America -- black and white. The Virgin Atlantic White
Card, which has a lower fee, offers one mile for every dollar in purchases.
The Virgin Atlantic Black Card enables Cardmembers to earn more miles by
offering 1.5 miles per dollar spent in purchases and more opportunities to
earn bonus miles.

Competitive Benefits and Features of Virgin Atlantic Black Card:

-- Fly more with Virgin Atlantic? Earn 3 Flying Club miles for every
dollar spent on purchases directly with Virgin Atlantic
-- Enjoy your morning cup of coffee? Earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent
on everyday purchases
-- Bonus miles, you ask? Earn 20,000 bonus miles after first purchase,
plus up to 15,000 annual bonus miles when you spend $25,000 and up to
5,000 bonus miles for additional cards
-- Interested in Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold Member status? Earn one
tier point for every $2,500 in purchases and additional tier points
when flying Virgin Atlantic toward Flying Club status
-- Hop the pond in style? Earn 10 percent off published Virgin Atlantic
Premium Economy fares through December 31, 2008
-- Want more? Earn exclusive travel and lifestyle offers from
participating American Express merchants
-- Want even more? Earn VIP access to dining, hotels and events through
personal Bank of America concierge service

Cardmember rewards include travel on Virgin Atlantic or one of our 14
airline partners that fly from and around the USA, cabin upgrades, car
rentals, hotels, or a trip into space on Virgin Galactic. In fact, from now
through the end of January 2009, for every $10,000 a Cardmember spends, he
or she is automatically entered for a chance to win a trip into space on
Virgin Galactic -- without cashing in any of their miles.

"The Virgin Atlantic American Express Card(R) from Bank of America
offers one of the richest rewards platforms in the U.S., with the
exceptional benefits and services customers have come to expect from these
three leading companies," said Janey Whiteside, Vice President and Group
General Manager, American Express Global Network Services. "By combining
Virgin Atlantic's superior onboard experience and amenities, Bank of
America's commitment to outstanding customer service, and the premium value
of American Express and its world-renowned travel services, we're
delivering a best in class product that's a first in this market."

James Sebo, Senior Vice President, Bank of America Card Services,
stated, "The Virgin Atlantic American Express Card(R) from Bank of America
combines the unique innovations of Virgin Atlantic Airways with the rich
American Express global presence and reputation for outstanding Cardmember

Feel the Earn:
The Virgin Atlantic American Express Card(R) from Bank of America is now
available at:

About Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic is one of the world's leading long-haul airlines,
currently operating over 240 flights a week from Heathrow to a range of
long-haul destinations worldwide. Founded in 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways
now offers service from 10 U.S. cities to London. The airline operates long
haul services to 30 destinations worldwide from its main base in London
Heathrow and Gatwick with service as far apart as Las Vegas, Tokyo, Delhi,
Boston and Shanghai, with recent growth to Nairobi and Chicago. There are
38 aircraft in the Virgin Atlantic fleet, comprising 747-400s, A346 and
A343. Sir Richard Branson is the President of Virgin Atlantic; Steve
Ridgway is the Chief Executive. In 2007, Virgin Atlantic carried around 6
million passengers, and even with Virgin Atlantic's continued growth, the
service still remains customer driven with an emphasis on value for money,
quality, fun and innovation, ensuring flying Virgin Atlantic is always an

About Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions,
serving individual consumers, small and middle market businesses and large
corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and
other financial and risk-management products and services. The company
provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving more than 59
million consumer and small business relationships with more than 6,100
retail banking offices, nearly 18,500 ATMs and award-winning online banking
with nearly 25 million active users. Bank of America is the No. 1 overall
Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in the United States and the No.
1 SBA lender to minority-owned small businesses. The company serves clients
in more than 150 countries and has relationships with 99 percent of the
U.S. Fortune 500 companies and 83 percent of the Fortune Global 500. Bank
of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones
Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

About American Express

American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial
and network services company, founded in 1850. It is a world leader in
charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, and business services.
Since 1996 American Express has been aggressively pursuing a strategy of
opening its merchant network and card product portfolio to third party
issuers around the world. By leveraging its global infrastructure and the
powerful appeal of the brand, American Express has gained even broader
reach for its network worldwide. American Express has now established more
than 115 card-issuing partnership arrangements in 125 markets.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Space Adventures to Buy Their Own Flights on Soyuz, Google Co-Founder in First Seat

Space Adventure has announced this morning at a news conference, that beginning in 2011, they will be buy their own rides aboard the Soyuz, instead of piggy backing on an ISS mission. That means they will get two of the three seats on the Rocket.

The first seat is going to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Virgin Galactic to Launch from UAE

In an interview this morning, Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said they plans to build a spaceport in the UAE and launch from it two years after operations begin in New Mexico.

WhiteKnightTwo to Fly in September

I had reported earlier that WhiteKnightTwo would be unveiled next month, but now Virgin Galactic is saying that it will begin flying in September.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Lunar Lander Challange Dates Updated

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge website has the dates for the event this year.

What Does Mars Methane Mean

In Astrobiology Magazine, David Tenenbaum discusses what methane on Mars means.

The Space Review is Out

This weeks Space Review is out:

Knights in shining armor
Interest in space solar power has grown in the last year, in large part because of a study of the concept performed by a Defense Department office. Dwayne Day argues, however, that this enthusiasm is largely misplaced, given the lack of clout possessed by this office as well as the significant technical challenges space solar power still faces.Monday, June 9, 2008

Space policy questions and decisions facing a new administration
The next president will face a number of major issues related to space policy upon taking office next January. Eligar Sadeh examines those issues as discussed at a forum earlier this year.Monday, June 9, 2008

Senator Schumer and the European missile defense sites
How important are European missile defense sites given Iranian missile and weapons development? Taylor Dinerman draws historical analogies to the early Space Age to make his case.Monday, June 9, 2008

When we stayed at home to leave Earth
The Discovery Channel kicked off this week a six-hour documentary about the space program featuring “never before seen footage”. Robert Pearlman notes that while that description is not entirely accurate, “When We Left Earth” does offer footage like you’ve never seen before.Monday, June 9, 2008

Review: The Universe in a Mirror
The Hubble Space Telescope has survived a long series of technical and programmatic challenges to become perhaps the most revered telescope or spacecraft in history. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a new history of the space telescope and its place in astronomy.Monday, June 9, 2008

Russia Should Learn From NASA

RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov, thinks that Russia should learn from the US on space funding.

However, the Russian space program revolves almost completely around the
ISS. According to Vitaly Lopota, CEO of the Rocket and Space Corporation
Energia, the project annually receives $600 million, or 50% of the national
space budget.

According to Kislyokov, while the US is planning long range manned space missions:
NASA, which receives 14-fold greater state funding than Roscosmos, is still
in no hurry to finance manned and interplanetary missions, preferring to
implement cost-effective projects instead. Consequently, we could learn
something from the experience of our U.S. partner.

What do I take from that? If Russia wants to be a space powerhouse again, they need to spend more money.

Shed Added to Kibo Space Lab

The newest addition to the ISS got a little bigger. Astronauts have added a "storage shed" to the outside of the Japanese Kibo Science Lab.

NASA is Looking for Lunar Science Proposals

NASA is requesting projects for the NASA Lunar Science Institute to perform on the Moon. NASA expects to make $8 million to $10 million available for the research, and anticipates making five to seven awards, including one focused on exploration objectives.

China to Luanch Satellite Tomorrow

China is set to launch a French built communications satellite today. The satellite is said to be for live broadcast television.

Mars Soil Not Recognized by Phoenix

Soil from Mars was dropped on the Phoenix instrument bay but was not registered. NASA thinks the soil may be to lumpy for the robot to process.

Space Adventures to Annouce New Orbital Opportunity

Space Adventures' CEO Eric Anderson, commercial space pioneer Peter H. Diamandis and spaceflight participant Richard Garriott to announce new orbital spaceflight opportunity, unveil identity of future orbital client and lay out a vision for the next decade. The announcement will take place at a press conference on June 11, 2008 (Wednesday) at 10:00pm EDT (9:00 CDT).

WhiteKnightTwo Roll-out at AirVenture 2008

The EAA has confirmed with The Aero-News Network that the roll-out of WhiteKnightTwo in July will be part of AirVenture 2008 both in real-time and throughout the week.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Scientist Discover Smallest Exoplanet Yet!

Scientist have discovered a new planet only 3.3 times the mass of Earth. MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb orbits the star MOA-2007-BLG-192L which is ~3000 light years from Earth. MOA-2007-BLG-192L is also the smallest star known to have a planet.

An atlas view of MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb.

WhiteKnightTwo to Be Unveiled in July

Virgin Galactic president, Will Whitehorn, said in an interview with that the carrier plane f0r the anticipated sub-orbital tourist spaceship, SpaceShipTwo, will be unveiled at Mojave Airport and Spaceport next month.

WhiteKnightTwo, as the plane is called, is, according to Whitehorn,

"the world's most advanced payload carrier. It has the best fuel efficiency of any aircraft ever built in history. It is the world's first 100 percent carbon composite aircraft"

Sadly, SpaceShipTwo will not be unveiled until early next year, when extensive flight testing begins. 254 people have already put their money down for a flight on the next big thing in tourism. According to Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic has $36 million in ticket sales already. The expect to fly 500 - 600 passengers in the first year of operation. Tickets are $200,000 (US).

Highest Resolution View Ever From Mars Comes From NASA Lander

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A microscope on NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander has taken images of dust and sand particles with the greatest resolution ever returned from another planet.

The mission's Optical Microscope observed particles that had fallen onto an exposed surface, revealing grains as small as one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

"We have images showing the diversity of mineralogy on Mars at a scale that is unprecedented in planetary exploration," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. He is the lead scientist for Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument suite.

Meanwhile, Phoenix received commands Thursday to collect its first soil sample to be delivered to a laboratory instrument on the lander deck. Commands for that same activity sent on Wednesday did not reach Phoenix because the orbiter intended for relaying the transmission, NASA's Mars Odyssey, had put itself into a safe standby mode shortly before the commands would have reached Odyssey.

On Wednesday, the lander completed a back-up plan of activities that had been sent previously, reported JPL's Chris Lewicki, mission manager for Phoenix surface operations on the lander's 11th Martian day. That plan included weather monitoring and additional imaging for a high-resolution color panorama of the site.

The Optical Microscope images were taken June 3 of particles that had collected on a sticky surface exposed during the Phoenix landing and for five days after landing. "It's a first quick look," Hecht said. "This experiment was partly an insurance policy for something to observe with the microscope before getting a soil sample delivered by the arm, and partly a characterization of the Optical Microscope. All the tools are working well."

Some of the particles might have come from inside the spacecraft during the forceful events of landing, but many match expectations for Martian particles. "We will be using future observations of soil samples delivered by the Robotic Arm to confirm whether the types of particles in this dustfall sample are also seen in samples we can be certain are Martian in origin," Hecht said.

The particles show a range of shapes and colors.

"You can see the amount of variety there is in what appears otherwise to be just reddish brown soil," said Tom Pike, Phoenix science team member from Imperial College London. He noted that one translucent particle resembles a grain of salt, but that it is too early to say for sure.

Thursday's commands were relayed to Phoenix via NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The relay radio on that orbiter has been working well in recent days, after intermittently turning itself off last week. Phoenix will continue to do relays via Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter until Odyssey returns to full functioning, and then Phoenix will use both orbiters.

"We are currently bringing the Odyssey spacecraft back into nominal operations, and we will resume relay service with Odyssey in the next day or two," said JPL's Chad Edwards, chief telecommunications engineer for the JPL Mars Exploration Program.

"We think Odyssey went into safe mode because of a single event that affected computer memory," Edwards said. "Yesterday's safe mode event appears to be very similar to events that have caused Odyssey to go into safe mode two or three times earlier during its long operation around Mars." Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001.

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver. International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. For more about Phoenix, visit: and

McCain Supports Continuing the Shuttle Past 2010 And Men on Mars

John McCain, GOP presidential candidate, says he will support continuing the shuttle past 2010. He is concerned about "keeping the space program competitive with countries like Russia and China." You had to know this was coming, right?

[update] McCain also said to questions while in Florida that, "Yes, I'd be willing to spend more taxpayers dollars [on NASA]" and "I'm intrigued by a man on Mars. I think it would excite the imagination of the American people ... Americans would be very willing to do that."

Wrapup of ISDC 2008

Tulsa Today has a wrap-up of of the ISDC 2008, held annually by the National Space Society, from last month. I am still amazed that main stream America can talk about "emerging commercial space sector" with so little giggle factor. It is to the point that is it almost a given that private space is going to happen.

Makes me smile.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Space Carnival #57

Space Carnival #57 is up and is being hosted by Ken Murphy.

The Women of Our Space Future

Dr. Griffin Backs European Manned Spacecraft

NASA Chief, Dr. Michael Griffin, is supporting a plan by EADS to convert the ESA's ATV to a craft that would carry three crew members to the ISS. The ATV is an autonomous craft built by EADS that successfully docked with the ISS earlier this year.

His support is at least partially due to the retirement of the shuttle in 2010 when NASA will not have a manned craft able to access to the space station. ESA's manned ship could be a risk mitigation along with COTS and the Russian Soyuz.

Kibo is Up and Running

The Japanese science lab, Kibo, is connected and open for business on the ISS.

SpaceX to Work With NASA on Space-To-Space Communications

NASA and SpaceX have signed an agreement to work with "space-to-space communications directly between Dragon and ISS."

[hat tip to RLV and Space Transport News]

Video of the SpaceX Rocket Test

There are two videos of the recent SpaceX Engine:

The Falcon 9 should be delivered to Cape Canaveral and ready for flight the end of the year.

Space Business Forum: New York to Address Government Space Acquisition

Colorado Springs, Colo. (June 3, 2008) U.S. Government spending on space accounts for one-quarter of the $251 billion global space economy. Current and anticipated government spending on space will be the focus of a panel at the upcoming Space Business Forum: New York. “Government Acquisitions – Where Space Dollars are Flowing in Aerospace” will feature senior officials from across space sectors in a discussion about the existing and potential areas of investment in government space programs. The inaugural Space Business Forum: New York is designed for Wall Street analysts, investment bankers, institutional advisors, and high-risk insurers to engage in meaningful dialogue with industry leaders. This one-day, exclusive event is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18 at the Hilton New York Hotel in New York City.

Government Acquisitions panelists include Mr. Philip McAlister, acting director, studies and analysis, office of program assessment and evaluation, NASA; Mr. Gary E. Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force, United States Air Force Headquarters; and Mr. Damon Wells, senior policy analyst, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President. Mr. Elliot G. Pulham, president and chief executive officer, Space Foundation, will moderate the panel, which will take place at 11:25 a.m.

Other forum panels span the diverse financial and business aspects of the space industry including “Sector Performance, Trends, and Expectations: Space, Aerospace, Defense, and Defense Electronics;” “Hedgefunds and Private Equity;” “Climate Change and Green Energy: Meeting the Challenges with Space Technology;” “Converged Media – A Natural for Space;” and "On the Record - CEOs and CFOs Talk Business."

Recently confirmed panelists include Mr. C.J. Brucato, partner, ABRY Partners, LLC; Mr. Mike Cook, senior vice president, Hughes Network Systems; and Mr. Matthew M. O’Connell, chief executive officer, president, and director, GeoEye.

Featured speakers include The Honorable Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives and chairman of the Gingrich Group; Ms. Joanne M. Maguire, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company; Francois Auque, chief executive officer, EADS Astrium; Mr. Eric C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer, Space Adventures, Ltd; and Mr. David L. Ryan, sector vice president and general manager of the Civil Systems Division, Northrop Grumman Space Technology.

Forum underwriters include Corporate Underwriter Northrop Grumman and Underwriters Arianespace, Boeing, ISDR Consulting, SpaceVest, and Wyle. AVIATION WEEK, The BRIDGE Media Group, and The New York Times are the media sponsors. A full list of confirmed speakers, a preliminary agenda, and online registration are available at Note that seats are limited.

About the Space Foundation
Founded in 1983 and celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Space Foundation is an international nonprofit organization advancing space-related endeavors to inspire, enable,, and propel humanity. A leader in space awareness activities, major industry events, and educational enterprises that bring space into the classroom, the Space Foundation is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo. It conducts research and analysis and government affairs activities from its Washington, D.C., office, and has field representatives in Houston, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Fla. Along with partnering organizations, the Space Foundation conducts Strategic Space and Defense 2008, from 6-8 October in Omaha, Neb. The 25th National Space Symposium, the premier annual gathering of the global space community, will take place March 30 – April 2, 2009, at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. For more information, visit

New President at Scaled Composites

Doug Shane is moving up from VP to President of Scaled Composites. Burt Rutan, famed plane and spaceship designer, is the new Chief Technology Officer and chairman emeritus so he can focus on talent development at the company.

Scaled Composites developed the X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne and is working on the SpaceShipTwo to carry passengers to space for Virgin Galactic next year.

China Could Beat Us Back to the Moon

NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems, Rick Gilbreth, said Wednesday that China is on a path that could beat the US back to the Moon by 2 or 3 years. NASA plans to return to the Moon by 2020, but based on current projections China could be there by 2017.

Of course the US has been there already and NASA is not looking for a long term base to be built, which contributes to the longer time frame.

Still, it is not a pleasant thought.

China vs. the US in Space

The Asian Times has a good history of the struggle for space superiority that the United States and China have found themselves in. It is definitely biased toward China, but the story is still an interesting read.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Launch Pad Damaged

When Discovery took off last Saturday, launch pad 39a, was damaged. It could cause delays to the Hubble repair mission in October, since both pads are needed in cause there needs to be a rescue mission.

Bigelow's Genesis 1 Passes 10,000 Orbits

Genesis 1, the inflatable module developed and launched by Bigelow Aerospace, has completed its 10,000 loop around the Earth. All in all, it has held up very well.

Venture Captial in Space Tourism

Glenn Reynolds reports on 2008 ISDC and the influx of new money into space tourism.

Venture Captial in Space

Monday, June 02, 2008

Discovery Astronauts Preparing to Deliver Japanese Module

Discovery astronauts are checking everything on the shuttle in preparation to deliver the Kibo space laboratory to the ISS. Kibo is the largest module to be integrated in to the ISS to date. Discovery took off from Florida on Saturday.

SpaceX Tests Rocket Engine

SpaceX tested 5 Merlin rocket for 15 seconds in Texas last Thursday. Everything appeared to go well.

Phoenix Arm is Up

The Mars lander Phoenix has completely released its arm and taken a panoramic picture of its surroundings.

It may also be on a layer of ice.

NSS to Select Space Ambassador to Fly on Virgin Galactic

The National Space Society (NSS) plans to select an ambassador who will get to fly on a Virgin Galactic suborbital flight. Candidates will need to demonstrate a passion for space and the ability to share it with the public. You can sign up at the NSS website.