Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fwd: Human Spaceflight News - August 20, 2013 and JSC Today



Sent from my iPad

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Moon, Larry J. (JSC-EA411)" <larry.j.moon@nasa.gov>
Date: August 20, 2013 6:16:42 AM GMT-06:00
To: "Moon, Larry J. (JSC-EA411)" <larry.j.moon@nasa.gov>
Subject: FW: Human Spaceflight News - August 20, 2013 and JSC Today

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    JSC TODAY CATEGORIES

  1. Headlines
    Two Groups/Two Start Times: NASA Honor Awards
  2. Organizations/Social
    JSC Systems Engineering Forum - Mark Biamonte
    Parenting Series: Children's Emotional Health
    Autographed Copies of Endeavour's Long Journey
    Parent's Night Out at Starport - This Friday
    Starport Massage August Special $55 for 60 (M-Th)
    Beginners Ballroom Dance - Registration Ends Today
    Society of Reliability Engineers (SRE) Luncheon
  3. Jobs and Training
    History of Underwater Neutral Buoyancy for EVA
    Extended TDY FedTraveler Live Lab - Aug. 21
    August RLLS Portal Education Series WebEx Training

 

 

   Headlines

  1. Two Groups/Two Start Times: NASA Honor Awards

Today's NASA Honor Awards Ceremony will be split into two groups (2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.) to accommodate the number of awardees to be recognized and the expected attendance. This will help to ensure all guests and co-workers are able to attend, alleviating the wait time between awards.

    • 2 p.m. Ceremony opens with the presentation of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Exceptional Service and Public Service Medals, NASA Exceptional Achievement and Public Achievement Medals, and NASA Early Career Achievement Medal.
    • 3:15 p.m. Break and reception for the first round of recipients.
    • 3:30 p.m. Presentation of remaining awards: NASA Outstanding Leadership and Public Leadership Medals, NASA Technology Achievement Medal, NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, NASA Equal Employment Opportunity Medal, NASA Exceptional Administrative Achievement Medal, and the NASA Group Achievement Awards. Followed by second reception.

See the awards listing on the JSC Announcements page.

Event Date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013   Event Start Time:2:00 PM   Event End Time:4:30 PM
Event Location: Buiding 2 - Teague Auditorium

Add to Calendar

Jessica Ocampo
281-792-7804

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   Organizations/Social

  1. JSC Systems Engineering Forum - Mark Biamonte

The next JSC Systems Engineering Forum meeting will be today, Aug. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Building 1, Room 966. Mark Biamonte, chief of systems engineering for UTAS Space Systems & Defense in Windsor Locks, Conn. (a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation Aerospace Systems), will present an overview of three systems engineering initiatives that enhanced his team's systems architecture, requirements development and management, as well as analysis model development and management processes through a combination of lean principles, software automation and creative implementations of knowledge capture an access.

This is a NASA-only forum session. Please email Cinda Chullen or Rose Sowell for WebEx and teleconference information.

Event Date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013   Event Start Time:11:30 AM   Event End Time:1:00 PM
Event Location: Building 1 Room 966

Add to Calendar

Cinda Chullen
x38334

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  1. Parenting Series: Children's Emotional Health

Do you know the one essential gift required to promote your child's emotional development? Did you know a child's emotional development lays the foundation for academic performance? A child's emotional health also impacts their mental health and ability to establish successful relationships. Emotional health is one of the most critical predictors in shaping a child's overall success. We will learn how to cultivate your child's emotional health and also what not to do. We will be providing you resources for learning more about yourself as a parent and how vital your impact is to your child's ongoing emotional growth. Please join JSC Employee Assistance Program counselor Anika Isaac, LPC, LMFT, NCC, LCDC, CEAP, as she presents "Children's Emotional Health," the fourth topic in the monthly parenting series on Aug. 20 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the Building 30 Auditorium.

Event Date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013   Event Start Time:12:00 PM   Event End Time:1:00 PM
Event Location: Building 30 Auditorium

Add to Calendar

Lorrie Bennett, Employee Assistance Program, Occupational Health Branch
x36130

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  1. Autographed Copies of Endeavour's Long Journey

Endeavour's Long Journey, hardcover and autographed by astronaut and author Danny Olivas, is still available in the Buildings 3 and 11 Starport Gift Shops for $19.95 (or online). This wonderfully illustrated story about a young boy who finds himself on a journey through space as the retired space shuttle describes her missions and the people involved is the first in a series of children's books by Olivas. Don't miss your chance to collect the entire series, starting with Endeavour's Long Journey. Available for a limited time only - unsold books will be returned to the publisher. No discounts apply for special purchase items.

Cyndi Kibby x35352 http://starport.jsc.nasa.gov/

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  1. Parent's Night Out at Starport - This Friday

Enjoy a night out on the town while your kids enjoy a night with Starport! We will entertain your children with a night of games, crafts, a bounce house, pizza, a movie, dessert and loads of fun.

When: Friday, Aug. 23, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Where: Gilruth Center

Ages: 5 to 12

Cost: $20/first child and $10/each additional sibling if registered by the Wednesday prior to event. If registered after Wednesday, the fee is $25/first child and $15/additional sibling.

Register at the Gilruth Center front desk. Click here for more information.

Event Date: Friday, August 23, 2013   Event Start Time:6:00 PM   Event End Time:10:00 PM
Event Location: Gilruth Center

Add to Calendar

Shericka Phillips
x35563 http://starport.jsc.nasa.gov/

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  1. Starport Massage August Special $55 for 60 (M-Th)

Starport is offering another amazing massage special to the JSC community! Any one-hour massage booked online in August will be $55 when scheduled on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Starport Massage - $55 for 60 | Monday through Thursday

    • $55 for a 60-minute massage
    • Must be booked Monday through Thursday
    • Must be booked online in August
    • Massage must be physically scheduled between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30

Starport's Massage Therapists

-- Marj Moore, LMT

    • Tuesdays and Thursdays | 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Every other Saturday | 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Click here to book with Marj

-- Anette Lemon, LMT

    • Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays | 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Every other Saturday | 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Click here to book with Anette

Book your massage today!

Steve Schade x30304 http://www.innerspaceclearlake.com/massage.php

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  1. Beginners Ballroom Dance - Registration Ends Today

Do you feel like you have two left feet?

Well, Starport has the perfect spring program for you: Beginners Ballroom Dance!

This eight-week class introduces you to the various types of ballroom dance. Students will learn the secrets of a good lead and following, as well as the ability to identify the beat of the music. This class is easy, and we have fun as we learn. JSC friends and family are welcome.

Regular registration:

    • $110 per couple (ends today, Aug. 20)

Two class sessions available:

    • Tuesdays from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. -- Starting Aug. 20
    • Thursdays from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. -- Starting Aug. 22

All classes are taught in the Gilruth Center's dance studio.

Steve Schade x30304 http://starport.jsc.nasa.gov/Fitness/RecreationClasses/RecreationProgram...

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  1. Society of Reliability Engineers (SRE) Luncheon

The Greater Houston Chapter of SRE will hold a general membership meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anyone is welcome to come and hear a presentation by Bob Graber on "Accelerated Life Testing Applications and Methods." We will also be transitioning officers as a result of the recent election. The meeting will be held at Perry's Steakhouse and Grille (487 Bay Area Blvd., Houston). Each attendee is responsible for his or her own meal. For more information about the Greater Houston Area SRE Chapter, please visit the link.

Robert Graber 281-335-2305

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   Jobs and Training

  1. History of Underwater Neutral Buoyancy for EVA

U.S. Spacesuit Knowledge Capture presents "Origins and Early History of Underwater Neutral Buoyancy Simulation of Weightlessness for EVA Procedures Development and Training - Part 1" on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Dr. John Charles will recount major accomplishments by Environmental Research Associates (ERA), a company that contracted with NASA Langley in the 1960s on several early studies of astronaut underwater capabilities. ERA's work will be considered within the context of contemporary efforts to simulate weightlessness and the widespread development of neutral buoyancy facilities after ERA's successful demonstration for Gemini 12.

When: Aug. 21 from 11 a.m. to noon

Location: 5S, Room 3102 (corner of Gamma Link/5th Street/third floor)

Registration: In SATERN (Any issues locating the class on SATERN - search using keyword "spacesuit" and select the offering for Aug. 21).

For questions, contact Vladenka Oliva (281-461-5681) or Cinda Chullen (x38384).

Event Date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013   Event Start Time:11:00 AM   Event End Time:12:00 PM
Event Location: Bldg 5S, Room 3102

Add to Calendar

Vladenka Oliva
281-461-5681

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  1. Extended TDY FedTraveler Live Lab - Aug. 21

Do you need some hands-on, personal help with FedTraveler.com? Join the Business Systems and Process Improvement Office for an Extended TDY FedTraveler Live Lab tomorrow, Aug. 21, any time between 9 a.m. and noon in Building 12, Room 142. Our help desk representatives will be available to help you work through Extended TDY travel processes and learn more about using FedTraveler during this informal workshop. Bring your current travel documents or specific questions that you have about the system and join us for some hands-on, in-person help with FedTraveler. If you'd like to sign up for this Extended TDY FedTraveler Live Lab, please log into SATERN and register. For additional information, please contact Judy Seier at x32771. To register in SATERN, please click on this SATERN direct link: https://satern.nasa.gov/learning/user/deeplink_redirect.jsp?linkId=SCHEDULED_...

Gina Clenney x39851

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  1. August RLLS Portal Education Series WebEx Training

The August weekly RLLS Portal Education Series:

    • Aug. 21 - Transportation Request at 2 p.m. CDT
    • Aug. 22 - Telecon Support Training at 2p.m. CDT
    • Aug. 28 and 29 - International Shipping at 7:30 a.m.; Cell Phone Request at 2 p.m. CDT

The 30-minute training sessions are computer-based WebEx sessions, offering individuals the convenience to join from their own workstation. The training will cover the following:

    • System login
    • Locating support modules
    • Locating downloadable instructions
    • Creating support requests
    • Submittal requirements
    • Submitting on behalf of another
    • Adding attachments
    • Selecting special requirements
    • Submitting a request
    • Status of a request

Ending each session there will be an opportunity for questions and answers. Please remember that TTI will no longer accept requests for U.S.-performed services unless they are submitted through the RLLS Portal.

Email or call 281-335-8565 to sign up.

James Welty 281-335-8565 https://www.tti-portal.com

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JSC Today is compiled periodically as a service to JSC employees on an as-submitted basis. Any JSC organization or employee may submit articles.

Disclaimer: Accuracy and content of these notes are the responsibility of the submitters.

 

 

 

 

 

NASA TV:

·         8:40 am Central (9:40 EDT) – E36's Chris Cassidy w/Military Times & Boston's WBUR Radio

·         10 am Central (11 EDT) – Astronaut class press briefing & introductory event w/Charlie Bolden

 

Human Spaceflight News

Tuesday – August 20, 2013

 

Astronaut Briefing: Charlie Bolden & Ellen Ochoa "fit check" Boeing's CST-100 with Chris Ferguson

 

HEADLINES AND LEADS

 

NASA Still Aims High in Asteroid Capture Mission

 

PBS NewsHour

 

The U.S. has explored space with telescopes, robotic rovers and its shuttle. Now facing budget cuts and reduced resources, NASA has had to reassess its ambitions while heeding the call for new discovery. Judy Woodruff talks to Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post about a new program that aims to capture a small asteroid. (NO FURTHER TEXT)

 

3 KSC mobile launch platforms not needed

NASA seeks uses for structures from shuttle, moon eras

 

James Dean - Florida Today

 

Commercial rocket launcher? Museum exhibit? Artificial reef? All are potential uses for three historic mobile launch platforms from which NASA's moon rockets and space shuttles leapt toward space, but which now sit idle. If those don't pan out, the two-story, 8.2 million-pound structures could be bound for the scrap heap.

 

Astronaut spots UFO outside space station — but then it's identified

 

Alan Boyle - NBCNews.com

 

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy alerted ground controllers on Monday to an unidentified flying object floating near the International Space Station — but this was no alien spacecraft. Instead, it was a piece of the station itself: Russian ground controllers identified it as an antenna cover from the Zvezda service module, one of the oldest parts of the station. The sighting merited just a brief mention in NASA's latest space station status report, plus a short clip on NASA's YouTube channel.

 

University of Illinois alum heading into space

 

Naomi Nix - Chicago Tribune

 

More than 20 years ago, friends could often find Michael Hopkins in the library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying for his aerospace engineering degree, hoping to one day land in space. Now that dream has become a reality. Hopkins is one of six astronauts assigned to Expedition 37, and he will head into space next month to assist in research for more than 200 scientific experiments. "I'm very excited for waking up one morning and realizing, 'Holy smokes I'm in space,'" Hopkins told reporters earlier this year in Houston.

 

Exit Interview

Lori Garver on NASA's Controversial Plan to Move an Asteroid

 

Corey Powell - Discover Magazine

 

A conversation with NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver is always livelier than her title would suggest. Her enthusiasm for all things space is immediately evident, and she always seems on the verge of speaking more candidly than her position supposedly allows. She's not entirely immune to the carefully crafted talking points typically served up by high-level government officials, but the punctuations in her speech—"wow" when excited, "frankly" when frustrated—strips away the veneer. Lately, Garver has been using plenty of both words as she drums up support for NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, a proposal to send a robotic spacecraft to a small near-Earth asteroid, tow it back to a location near the moon, and send astronauts to study it. I questioned Garver at length about the mission, and why it has sparked such diverse reactions. A few days later, I found out that our conversation was actually something of an exit interview...

 

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser receives $15 million more from NASA

 

Kristen Leigh Painter - Denver Post

 

NASA has added two more milestones to Louisville-based Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems' Dream Chaser program, totaling $15 million additional dollars for its development. SNC's Space Act Agreement under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative was amended last week, bringing the Dream Chaser program's value to $227.5 million.

 

Private Space Plane Passes Runway Tests

 

Denise Chow - Space.com

 

A privately built space plane successfully completed a series of key tests earlier this month, as part of an ongoing effort to judge the winged vehicle's ability to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station one day. The Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser space plane underwent several "ground tow tests" on Aug. 2 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. These tests are designed to assess the spacecraft's braking and runway landing systems, according to NASA officials. "We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada's space systems senior director of programs and a former NASA astronaut, said in a statement.

 

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Visits Social Media Followers on Its Way to Space

 

Devon Glenn - SocialTimes.com

 

It may be decades before men and women walk on Mars, but America's space agency is giving the public a glimpse of the future through its innovative social media program, NASA Social. On Thursday, August 15, NASA and U.S. Navy personnel hauled a bus full of 30 civilians armed with smartphones and tablets into Naval Station Norfolk to document the NASA Orion Stationary Recovery Test: the latest in a series of tests to see if the Orion spacecraft, like its predecessor Apollo, can safely carry astronauts into deep space. Selected at random from a pool of applicants who follow NASA on social media, these self-proclaimed "Space Tweeps" — who were a mix of school teachers, social media marketers, bloggers, one meteorologist, and other space enthusiasts — had followed NASA to Virginia on their own dime to witness a moment in the history of space travel and share it with their followers.

 

Months of "life on Mars" for astronauts

What does it mean for food safety on Earth?

 

Fiona Barry - FoodQualityNews.com

 

Astronauts have lived for four months in a simulation of a Mars space station to explore food possibilities for space exploration. Six researchers spent months camped in isolation on a Hawaiian volcano, recreating life on a NASA base and wearing space suits every time they stepped outside. They finished the experiments on August 13. The mission compared two ways of eating for astronauts: pre-prepared meals versus food cooked by the crew. Past space missions have favored dried food which needed only added water and heat.

 

'Iron Man' Exoskeleton Could Give Astronauts Superhuman Strength

 

Elizabeth Howell - Space.com

 

 

Astronauts could one day get a power surge from hi-tech robotic suits, like real-life versions of "Iron Man" hero Tony Stark. That's not to suggest that spaceflyers will soon become superheroes; most of Iron Man's abilities will long remain in the realm of science fiction. But the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton, which NASA is co-developing along with several partners, could give superhuman strength to people on long-duration space missions to an asteroid or Mars, or act as a "resistive device" for exercising, agency officials say. The 57-pound (26 kilograms) X1 fits over an astronaut's legs, with a harness that goes across the back and shoulders. The exoskeleton has motorized joints at the knees and hips, as well as six passive joints that allow the person wearing it to turn, flex and sidestep as needed.

 

Meet the NASA scientist devising a starship warp drive

 

Anne-Marie Corley - New Scientist

 

To pave the way for rapid interstellar travel, NASA propulsion researcher Harold "Sonny" White plans to manipulate space-time in the lab…

 

DC-X rocket remembered:

'Sputnik of Commercial Space' joins Space Hall of Fame

 

Megan Gannon - Space.com

 

Twenty years ago, long before SpaceX and Virgin Galactic entered the commercial space scene, a towering rocket that looked like a parking cone held the promise of opening up the heavens for the masses. The experimental rocket itself was never intended to reach space and the program was killed before it ever led to an operational vehicle. But in a series of test flights in the early 1990s, the Delta Clipper Experimental, or DC-X for short, demonstrated that a low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit craft could potentially be used to launch routine payloads and perhaps people into low-Earth orbit. This past weekend, the DC-X team was honored for its accomplishments at a 20th anniversary celebration and conference in New Mexico. The events kicked off Friday (Aug. 16) at Spaceport America and ended in Alamogordo, where the DC-X crew was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.

 

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?

 

Jeff Foust – The Space Review

 

One of the key memories in the history of the DC-X program was the storm the night before the vehicle's first flight. The summer monsoon hit the DC-X launch site at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, flooding parts of it. The team came together, bailing water out of trenches to get the launch site ready for the flight. And that effort paid off: on the afternoon of August 18, 1993, the DC-X lifted off the ground for the first time, demonstrating how a rocket-powered vehicle could take off vertically, hover, move horizontally, and land vertically. It was fitting, then, that on Saturday night, exactly 20 years after that storm the night before the DC-X launch, thunderstorms popped up over Alamogordo, New Mexico, as members of the DC-X team gathered for induction into the International Space Hall of Fame, run by the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

 

New class of astronauts signals optimism

 

Charlie Bolden - Houston Chronicle (Opinion)

 

(Bolden is NASA Administrator)

 

In Houston this week, America's next generation of space explorers begin training for missions that will take our nation farther into space than ever before. Eight highly accomplished astronaut candidates have been selected from an applicant pool of more than 6,000 to earn an opportunity to carry America's hopes, dreams and curiosity, first to an asteroid and one day on to Mars. These candidates - half of whom are women - join an elite group of Americans who have carried out missions to the moon, deployed space telescopes and built an orbiting laboratory where U.S. astronauts have continuously lived and conducted research for more than a dozen years. They will carry on this extraordinary legacy and ensure the United States remains the world's leader in exploration and scientific discovery.

__________

 

COMPLETE STORIES

 

3 KSC mobile launch platforms not needed

NASA seeks uses for structures from shuttle, moon eras

 

James Dean - Florida Today

 

Commercial rocket launcher? Museum exhibit? Artificial reef?

 

All are potential uses for three historic mobile launch platforms from which NASA's moon rockets and space shuttles leapt toward space, but which now sit idle.

 

If those don't pan out, the two-story, 8.2 million-pound structures could be bound for the scrap heap.

 

"NASA does not currently have a need for the Mobile Launch Platforms to support current and future mission activities," said Tracy Young, a Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman. "Because of this factor, we are seeking information and concepts for traditional and non-traditional potential use of the structures as well as potential disposal options."

 

The "MLPs" are the latest shuttle program remnants NASA is trying to repurpose or get rid of, since it can't afford to store and maintain them indefinitely.

 

The shuttles themselves are now on display around the country, including Atlantis at the KSC Visitor Complex.

 

One of Kennedy's two launch pads, the shuttle runway and orbiter hangars are among other former shuttle facilities seeking new tenants.

 

The steel, battleship gray platforms served as bases atop which Saturn rockets and later shuttles were stacked and bolted for rollout atop massive crawler-transporters and placement on launch pad pedestals.

 

They provided power and umbilical connections to the rockets and holes for flame and exhaust to flow through.

 

Each hollow structure, big enough to hold a baseball infield, features "an elaborate maze of pathways, compartments, plumbing, and electrical cabling," according to a NASA description.

Now the mothballed platforms are parked in the Vehicle Assembly Building, in a nearby lot and at launch pad 39A.

 

NASA hopes private companies will claim one or more of them as bases for commercial rocket launches, either borrowing the equipment as needed or buying it at auction. Potential costs were not disclosed.

 

Those proposals will get the greatest consideration, but the agency also is collecting information from companies that could demolish MLPs for recycling and disposal, like the shuttle service towers that were dismantled at pad 39B.

 

A third option invites "alternative and innovative solutions for divestment," uses that might not be space-related but could benefit the public.

 

Examples: a museum exhibit, artificial reef or oil rig structure.

 

NASA says it has no money available for any of the options, but wants to better understand their potential costs and risks. Proposals are due by Sept. 6.

 

Any modification or deconstruction plan will require special approval, because the three mobile launch platforms are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for their service to the shuttle program.

 

NASA is building a new base and tower for its next heavy-lift exploration rocket, the Space Launch System. It is modifying a mobile launcher originally designed for the canceled Ares I rocket.

 

Astronaut spots UFO outside space station — but then it's identified

 

Alan Boyle - NBCNews.com

 

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy alerted ground controllers on Monday to an unidentified flying object floating near the International Space Station — but this was no alien spacecraft.

 

Instead, it was a piece of the station itself: Russian ground controllers identified it as an antenna cover from the Zvezda service module, one of the oldest parts of the station.

 

The sighting merited just a brief mention in NASA's latest space station status report, plus a short clip on NASA's YouTube channel. Because the antenna cover's speed in relation to the rest of the station was so low, it didn't pose that much of a collision hazard. But controllers were glad to see the debris fade off into the distance, heading for what they expected would be a brief, fiery re-entry in the atmosphere.

 

This wasn't the first station debris to cause a UFO stir: Back in 1998, during the shuttle Endeavour's mission to hook the U.S.-built Unity connecting node to the Russian-made Zvezda module, astronauts spotted a blobby object floating away from the scene. NASA determined that the object was a discarded thermal cover, but that didn't stop UFO fans from working the material into their tale of a mysterious "Black Knight" satellite that has been circling our planet for millennia.

 

University of Illinois alum heading into space

 

Naomi Nix - Chicago Tribune

 

More than 20 years ago, friends could often find Michael Hopkins in the library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying for his aerospace engineering degree, hoping to one day land in space.

 

Now that dream has become a reality. Hopkins is one of six astronauts assigned to Expedition 37, and he will head into space next month to assist in research for more than 200 scientific experiments.

 

"I'm very excited for waking up one morning and realizing, 'Holy smokes I'm in space,'" Hopkins told reporters earlier this year in Houston.

 

Hopkins and two other astronauts will leave the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Sept. 25 and dock with the International Space Station, where they will live during the mission. He is scheduled to return to Earth on March 12.

 

At the space station, Hopkins will help with biological research, including studying cells and protein growth. "There's a possibility while we're up there that we could be having some ants come on board, so that could be very exciting to have some pets for a little while," Hopkins said.

 

Because astronauts in space can experience a weakening of bones and muscle loss, Hopkins will exercise for about two hours a day using a treadmill and stationary bicycle, he said.

 

His routines will be documented and posted on Twitter and a Facebook page. "Fitness has been a very big part of my life," he said at the news conference, adding that he hopes to show his "passion for fitness to everyone around the world."

 

The Missouri native played defensive back and was a team captain at the U. of I. He graduated in 1991. He also was a member of the ROTC and a social fraternity.

 

After Illinois, Hopkins received a master's at Stanford University. In 1992 he entered the Air Force, where he worked on space system technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M.

 

Hopkins will be the first of NASA's astronaut class of 2009 to head into space, a distinction for which he said he has trained for about 21/2 years.

 

"It feels amazing, but in many respects sometimes it doesn't feel real," he said. "It's easy to lose sight at the end of this, you are actually going to be up in space."

 

Exit Interview

Lori Garver on NASA's Controversial Plan to Move an Asteroid

 

Corey Powell - Discover Magazine

 

A conversation with NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver is always livelier than her title would suggest. Her enthusiasm for all things space is immediately evident, and she always seems on the verge of speaking more candidly than her position supposedly allows. She's not entirely immune to the carefully crafted talking points typically served up by high-level government officials, but the punctuations in her speech—"wow" when excited, "frankly" when frustrated—strips away the veneer.

 

Lately, Garver has been using plenty of both words as she drums up support for NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, a proposal to send a robotic spacecraft to a small near-Earth asteroid (perhaps about 15-20 feet wide), tow it back to a location near the moon, and send astronauts to study it. The concept has sparked a lot of public excitement, but also a fair bit of skepticism on Capital Hill, where the House Science Committee voted to block funding for the program.

 

I questioned Garver at length about the mission, and why it has sparked such diverse reactions. A few days later, I found out that our conversation, shared here, was actually something of an exit interview: On September 6, Graver announced, she will be leaving NASA to take over as the head of the Air Line Pilots Association. I will miss her role at NASA, as I imagine will many inside the agency.

 

Why grab an asteroid and move it? How does that fit in with NASA's larger strategy?

 

To us asteroids have been scientifically fascinating celestial objects for a long time. We know they've been critical to our planet and life on it in the past. They are a potential resource for longer-term space development. And they serve as a destination on our way for human expiration of Mars and beyond. For all these reasons, when we outlined a strategy for human space development, asteroids were a natural target.

 

As we were developing that strategy, we were looking at ways to advance all our objectives. The Asteroid Redirect Mission gets us a much bigger asteroid sample sooner than we'd be able to otherwise, lets us enhance our observational capability, gives us a destination to leverage already existing investments in Orion/SLS [the new NASA space capsule and Space Launch System rockets] and solar-electric propulsion [an extremely efficient, low-thrust way to accelerate a spacecraft]. Being able to separate the robotic aspect of this mission from the human part, from a risk perspective, is also a very elegant solution.

 

So when this mission formulation was brought to us we were very excited to take it forward. It is extremely well-aligned with our overall scientific, technological, and human space flight objectives. It's just a natural for us.

 

This basic concept emerged from a 2012 study by the Keck Institute for Space Studies. How did it come to your attention and become a NASA priority?

 

The first time I heard of it was about a year and a half ago from the folks working on Keck. The human space flight program folks here were looking for how we could formulate a mission to go to an asteroid. Then we heard about this configuration, and the human space flight people were asking, "Well, can we do this? Will this fulfill what we're trying to do?" I said, "Are you kidding? You can demonstrate we can move an asteroid? Yeah. That works." It was a very exciting time.

 

The long-pull intent was for astronauts to go to an asteroid for some hundreds-of-days mission, but the medical community is not prepared to allow astronauts to do that yet. The Asteroid Redirect Mission allows us to make progress [by bringing the asteroid into near-Earth space, where it would be only a few days away]. This mission has the added benefit of utilizing solar electric propulsion. We were already doing a solar electric propulsion demonstrator. Instead of just demonstrating it why not go somewhere? [The mission would use solar-electric propulsion as the engine for moving the asteroid into an orbit around the moon.]

 

How much is this mission about testing technologies for asteroid deflection—at least implicitly, even if that isn't the overt goal?

 

The primary aspect is human exploration. We're spending $3 billion a year on SLS/Orion; they're going to L2 [an equilibrium point about 930,000 miles from Earth]. This mission is a first, very worthwhile thing for them to do while they're there. That's sort of the core rationale. Then you look at it scientifically, and we can advance the time when we can have big asteroid samples. That is huge, both for studying the origins of the solar system as well as how asteroids might be utilized for space resource development.

 

And then you get to the idea—wow—as we understand these near-Earth asteroids better we'll know how to manipulate them potentially for the future. No question, if you were just going about doing that you wouldn't necessarily send humans. But if you already have a human mission, you can learn a lot more about asteroids, which ultimately will be beneficial for learning to manipulate them.

 

What do you make of the Congressional resistance to the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and how do you think you can get past that?

 

I'm optimistic that we will eventually be able to do that. Frankly, I'm also disappointed that we have not seen the support yet. The fact that a science committee of Congress who had, I think, two of their first three hearings focused on detecting asteroids and the importance of that to citizens of this planet does not see that the Asteroid Redirect Mission is a valuable thing to do is a little disconcerting. We have had full, very detailed briefings with our top human space flight, technology, and science people on Capitol Hill these past few months explaining the mission and how it ties into our plans. I think there are just, right now, some things that because of the partisan nature of this Congress we are not going to be able to convince them.

 

This is going to be a debate that goes on over the next few months as the NASA budget goes to the Senate on the authorizing side, as it goes to the appropriators in both the House and Senate. We will continue to give as much information as we can about the importance of asteroids, and about how this mission ties in with so many of the things we're doing, to have the greatest possible return from our taxpayer investment in space exploration.

 

NASA had no trouble getting support for OSIRIS-REx, which will collect a sample from asteroid Bennu around 2019. Why is the Asteroid Redirect Mission so controversial?

 

It's a partly, as I said, a reflection of the partisan nature of where we are now. But keep in mind that OSIRIS-REx is a competed mission, part of the Discovery Program. NASA created Discovery 20 years ago to address issues like we're having now with this asteroid mission: The political nature of getting funding through is not conducive to selecting which type of mission should be done. We were able to take politics out of the process by saying, "Okay, you acknowledge that we should be doing this cadence of missions, at these levels of funding, over this period of time. Now we are going to competitively select them with peer review." For science that has worked extremely well.

 

Human space flight doesn't have that peer review process, so human spaceflight programs get a level of scrutiny—which, frankly, they deserve, because they're more money and they are based on more geopolitical concerns and so forth. But in this case, SLS and Orion are already approved. You're spending the $3 billion already and you're really saying you don't want to spend the extra $200, $300 hundred million a year it would take for a few years to do this valuable thing [the Asteroid Redirect Mission] with those? That's what I find challenging. Let's be honest about the debate and what this mission will accomplish within what we're already doing.

 

What about the support within the scientific community? What's the reaction been like there?

 

I hear some scientists saying, "Uh-oh. Here's this, what looks like it could be a science mission and we didn't get to peer review it." So you have some of those concerns, too. And I'm saying, "Well wait a minute. This isn't coming out of science budget. This is a human space flight mission." The Asteroid Redirect Mission doesn't have a natural constituency, other than asteroid detection folks. And let's face it—that's a $20 million community at this point. But one of the things I like to tell the scientists or ask them is, "Okay, so if you were a lunar scientist in 1961, were you excited—did you benefit from Apollo?" We weren't going to get the funding for Apollo just from science, but here we got this incredible understanding of the moon based on human space flight. I think the same will happen with the asteroid mission.

 

What is the mood toward the Asteroid Redirect Mission within NASA itself?

 

The excitement that the NASA team has had over this last six months as this came together, I have not felt in all my time at NASA. It's very exciting. It runs across mission directorates, and in a different way than I've seen before.

 

How much do you project this mission would cost? Early reports indicated a target of $1 billion; the Keck study suggested more like $2.5 billion. Can you pin that number down?

 

One of our main areas of focus over the next few months is mission formulation and budget preparation, because we absolutely need to do that. I'd argue that the two numbers aren't that much different in the sense that normally a human space flight mission would be in the tens of billions. If we're saying that this is a $1 billion to $2.5 billion framework, that's probably doable over the number of years we're talking about. If it's going to be twice that, maybe it's something we won't propose going forward.

 

We certainly have science missions that cost more; MSL [the Mars Science Lander, now better known as the Curiosity rover] was more. But a human space flight mission that returns this kind of science, that returns these kind of assets, in the $1 to $2 billion range is pretty incredible. If we can formulate a mission that sticks to that budget we will be able to do it in a reasonable timeframe. Wow, if it's $1 billion, we can certainly handle that and keep to the schedule. If it's more than that it might take another couple of years.

 

The 2014 request—the one under consideration right now—includes $105 million to get started. Where does the money go?

 

About $38 million is for solar-electric propulsion technology, $40 million for robotic capability–so that's inhuman space flight—and $20 million in science for enhanced detection, basically doubling our asteroid-detection budget. The extra $7 million is what we have focused on an "asteroid grand challenge," which is not just detection but creative partnerships and ways to do this that will be leveraged with non-NASA innovative ideas.

 

How does the grand challenge work? Are you inviting anyone to approach NASA and suggest ways to find and move asteroids?

 

The asteroid grand challenge is really all encompassing. This piece of the grand challenge is to find all asteroid threats to human populations and figure out what to do about them. And our framing for that as part of these White House grand challenges is to be able to partner with other U.S. government agencies, private sector partners, as well as international. For asteroid detection there's a lot of other agency participation as well as international, and we're getting more and more private sector interest. There's B612, and also Planetary Resources. Then you look at are there things that they might want to do beyond just detection for the mission.

 

We put out the RFI [Request for Information] because we had folks coming in with really creative ideas for how they might incorporate some of their planning into the mission. It's been exciting to see how many folks are interested in this. And not just from this country. We've had a number of discussions with non-U.S. space agencies. The Japanese were in last week and they said their own aerospace industry, within Japan, is interested.

 

There are still competing concepts for the Asteroid Redirect Mission—grabbing a small, free-floating asteroid or collecting a boulder off a larger object. When and how will you resolve that?

 

All of that to be finalized for what will be our budget request for '15. So this fall we will have, I think, a determination of more of the details of the mission. There are some interesting things about going to a larger asteroid that would allow it to align better both with asteroid detection programs, as well as potential mitigation technology. We're looking at launching the robotic portion, the solar electric propulsion portion, in 2018 at the earliest. And making EM2—Exploration Mission 2, the one that was going to go to L2—having that in 2021 be when the astronauts visit the asteroid. All that presupposes that you were able to detect a target asteroid that you could get to with the 2018 launch and be moved by 2021. Those are all notional. Again, we'll be formulating the budgets and see how that all aligns.

 

What about the most difficult aspect of the mission: capturing and maneuvering an asteroid to a new location? What are the next tech steps there?

 

Well we have the Keck work, and JPL is working on with another four or five of our NASA centers to get their technologies. Goddard has an incredibly robust capability for robotic servicing that started when we were going to do the unmanned Hubble rescue mission [which was scrubbed in favor of servicing by astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis in May, 2009]. We were at the Glenn Research Center not too long ago and they are just so energized because they've been working on solar electric propulsion, trying to get it up to about 40 kilowatts, and this mission gives it a real purpose.

 

There is a lot of capability out there that is exciting to draw together for this purpose. It will be fascinating to see the new technologies involved and the kind of capability they gives. It's relevant not only for potential asteroid mitigation in the future, but I've heard people say they are very excited about us driving new technologies for dealing with orbital debris [otherwise known as "space junk"].

 

The idea of grabbing a 1,000-ton spinning space rock, getting a hold on it, stopping it, and moving it…that seems pretty wild to me.

 

Yeah. And that's one of the reasons we're looking at getting a boulder off a larger asteroid. It might be easier because they're not spinning as fast, the scientists tell me.

 

Is NASA directly exploring any asteroid-deflection concepts using the same kinds of technology?

 

NASA's asteroid grand challenge could come back with some specific proposals in that regard. But for NASA itself, other than capturing an asteroid to tow it to trans-lunar space, we don't have specific deflection proposals yet.

 

Is asteroid deflection even a clear part of NASA's mandate? Is it something the agency would be allowed to do, politically?

 

The national space policy of 2010 laid out NASA's role. We're not the operational ones, but we can drive the technology to do these things. Until now we didn't have the missions and budget to do it, so we hadn't been doing it. The Asteroid Redirect Mission allows us to do that so that others agencies, when they need it, can potentially use that technology in the future. We're not saying, "Oh my gosh, it's like in the movies when the president calls NASA because an asteroid is headed for New York City (since they always are)." I love those kind of movies because I can go, "Oh, that wouldn't happen." My kids are all, "Oh, mom." But really, our role is not operational, it's to advance the technology that can be utilized.

 

So if a high-risk asteroid showed up, NASA would require special legal authorization to become the lead agency in deflecting it?

 

Yeah. We do not have that laid out. There's a United Nations committee on the peaceful uses of outer space and there are—depending on timing—all kinds of scenarios for governance relating to these decisions. Obviously the countries and organizations that have the capability would be the ones called on. I've always felt it would be an international effort and we would just be one voice in a lot.

 

It seems like there's a huge disconnect between the popular fascination with asteroids and the modest efforts NASA has been authorized to undertake. What do you make of that?

 

Frankly I think that we need to catch up with public culture. NASA's used to being defined by exploration. And we look at Apollo as our shining time, when we were the pop culture. We were the best brand in the world. With this Asteroid Redirect Mission, we have an opportunity to align again with the public's views, to show them, wow, NASA has envisioned what people on this planet should be prepared to do in order to protect civilization.

 

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser receives $15 million more from NASA

 

Kristen Leigh Painter - Denver Post

 

NASA has added two more milestones to Louisville-based Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems' Dream Chaser program, totaling $15 million additional dollars for its development.

 

SNC's Space Act Agreement under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative was amended last week, bringing the Dream Chaser program's value to $227.5 million.

 

"SNC is pleased to be awarded this new NASA investment and we will make valuable use of the additional $15 million in funding," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC's Space Systems, in a news release. "The addition of these two funded milestones will allow our team to continue the advancement of the Dream Chaser Space System."

 

These optional milestones extend SNC's period of performance from May 2014 to August 2014, specifically funding the Critical Design Review (CDR) for the vehicle and extra testing on the reaction control system.

 

Sierra Nevada is one of three companies still receiving funding under the CCiCap initiative, which is designed to help U.S. companies develop spacecraft and rocket combinations capable of launching from U.S. soil. The Louisville company is the only one building a resusable, lifting body vehicle that can land on a runway.

 

Private Space Plane Passes Runway Tests

 

Denise Chow - Space.com

 

A privately built space plane successfully completed a series of key tests earlier this month, as part of an ongoing effort to judge the winged vehicle's ability to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station one day.

 

The Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser space plane underwent several "ground tow tests" on Aug. 2 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. These tests are designed to assess the spacecraft's braking and runway landing systems, according to NASA officials.

 

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada's space systems senior director of programs and a former NASA astronaut, said in a statement.

 

The results of the ground exercises will help Sierra Nevada prepare for future Dream Chaser flight tests, officials said.

 

"The dedicated Dream Chaser team has been putting the test spacecraft through comprehensive integrated testing on the runway, ramps and hangar of the historic California site, finding issues on the ground and addressing them in preparation for upcoming free flights," Cheryl McPhillips, a NASA official working with Sierra Nevada as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program, said in a statement.

 

During the tests at Dryden, a pickup truck pulled the space plane across the runway at four different speeds: 10 mph (16 km/h), 20 mph (32 km/h), 40 mph (64 km/h) and 60 mph (97 km/h).

 

Engineers also monitored Dream Chaser's flight computer and software, its instrumentation — including guidance, navigation and control systems — and the spacecraft's braking, steering and landing gear.

 

"Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team," Lindsey said. "We are another step closer to restoring America's capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

 

Dream Chaser is one of three spacecraft receiving funding from NASA's CCiCap program, which aims to encourage the development of new American-built spacecraft to fill the void left by the retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet in 2011. NASA wants at least one such private vehicle to be up and running by 2017.

 

"I look forward to seeing this bird land on the old shuttle runway this fall," McPhillips said. "SNC and our other partners are working diligently to enable this country to safely fly crew from and back to the U.S."

 

SpaceX and Boeing are also building next-generation spaceships as part of NASA's CCiCap program. Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX is developing a manned version of its Dragon space capsule, which is already providing NASA-contracted robotic cargo flights to the space station. Boeing is working on a capsule called CST-100 that is designed to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit.

 

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Visits Social Media Followers on Its Way to Space

 

Devon Glenn - SocialTimes.com

 

It may be decades before men and women walk on Mars, but America's space agency is giving the public a glimpse of the future through its innovative social media program, NASA Social.

 

On Thursday, August 15, NASA and U.S. Navy personnel hauled a bus full of 30 civilians armed with smartphones and tablets into Naval Station Norfolk to document the NASA Orion Stationary Recovery Test: the latest in a series of tests to see if the Orion spacecraft, like its predecessor Apollo, can safely carry astronauts into deep space.

 

Selected at random from a pool of applicants who follow NASA on social media, these self-proclaimed "Space Tweeps" — who were a mix of school teachers, social media marketers, bloggers, one meteorologist, and other space enthusiasts — had followed NASA to Virginia on their own dime to witness a moment in the history of space travel and share it with their followers. For the last several years, NASA has been hosting these Socials, which used to be called Tweetups, in an effort to bring the excitement of space travel of the 1960's into the 21st century.

 

In this case, we were there to witness a simulation of Exploration Flight Test-1: an uncrewed mission scheduled for 2014 that will take Orion 3,600 miles above Earth (the farthest of any human spacecraft in more than 40 years) before dropping the part of the spaceship that would normally contain the crew back into Earth's atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour for a water landing in the Pacific Ocean. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will one day carry actual crew members to visit asteroids, the Moon, and maybe even Mars.

 

We had to imagine the big splash, as this test only covered the recovery of the crew module. When we arrived, the vessel was spinning benignly in the protected area of the harbor with its bags inflated as though it had already landed.

 

We watched from a set of folding chairs under a tent as the crew circled the floating capsule in smaller boats. Underneath, divers would attach tending lines to hold the capsule in place. From there, the crew coaxed Orion into the belly of the USS Arlington: a great ship that was docked at the Naval base. Navy personnel who were standing one level above the well deck tugged at the lines until the vessel was safely inside.

 

NASA manager of production operations Scott Wilson, who held a Q&A for the assembled group of television reporters and bloggers, explained that NASA had conducted the recovery of the crew module in calm waters to see how effective the equipment and procedures were before they repeated the process at sea, where wind and waves would make the process more challenging.

 

Asked about the splash, NASA director of recovery Louie Garcia said he didn't know how long it would take for the capsule to resurface after splashdown or how big the ripple effect would be once it hit the water. When the real thing happens, he said, the crew members in boats will be waiting between 15 – 30 minutes away from the target, ready to ride in after the astronauts inside the vessel have made sure that no hazardous materials have leaked.

 

While the bloggers flooded the internet with their comments and pictures, NASA's communications team moderated the #NASASocial hashtag to curate the best reactions as well catch all of the insightful questions that poured in from people who were following the test on Twitter. They might not have been rocket scientists themselves, but the Space Tweeps were actually given a more thorough briefing than most of the news reporters.

 

Before we ever set foot on the Naval base, all of the participants took a tour of the NASA Langley Research facility in Hampton, where the rest of the research and testing for this project and many others had taken place. Over the course of two days, we had visited the Virginia Air and Space Center, where an Orion crew module was on display next to an Apollo crew module; the National Transonic Facility, where we learned how a supersonic wind tunnel can provide aeronautical data on commercial as well as military projects; the Hydro Impact Basin where the Orion test article was dropped; and the Structures and Materials Lab, which was filled filled with space habitats and robotic cranes that will help extend life on Earth to other planets. After all that preparation, if we didn't go into the simulation knowing exactly what we were looking at, we were probably dummies.

 

The knowledge we gained was both exciting and sobering: although Americans could theoretically see an outer space colony within our lifetime, that doesn't mean we will. For one thing, people who go into deep space are likely to come back with cancer, which is why the Structures and Materials Lab held a number of prototypes for radiation-blocking suits and sleeping compartments. Even under perfect conditions, missions can fail and entire programs can be scrapped when government budgets are tight. In that sense, NASA operates in a gift economy.

 

But NASA personnel seem to understand something that policymakers may overlook: people are profoundly fascinated with the idea of putting on a space helmet and going to Mars. They would happily climb into that little capsule and fly to the Red Planet even if it does take two-and-a-half years to get there and back; some would do it even do it even if coming back wasn't an option.

 

In-person meetups give regular people the chance to match these fantasies with the reality of modern science: a long process of trial and error that can take humankind to great distances, but one step at a time. Through its social media efforts, NASA has put a human face on space exploration that is, in many ways, the most important step in putting humans into space.

 

Months of "life on Mars" for astronauts

What does it mean for food safety on Earth?

 

Fiona Barry – FoodQualityNews.com

 

Astronauts have lived for four months in a simulation of a Mars space station to explore food possibilities for space exploration.

 

Six researchers spent months camped in isolation on a Hawaiian volcano, recreating life on a NASA base and wearing space suits every time they stepped outside. They finished the experiments on August 13.

 

The scientists lived in a two-storey dome at an 8,000 ft altitude on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth.

 

The surrounding landscape is barren of vegetation and wildlife, mimicking the surface of the red planet.

 

Sushi in space

 

The program, Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), is funded by NASA in collaboration with scientists Jean Hunter of Cornell University and Kim Binsted of University of Hawaii.

 

The mission compared two ways of eating for astronauts: pre-prepared meals versus food cooked by the crew.

 

Past space missions have favored dried food which needed only added water and heat.

 

Since there is gravity on Mars, researchers were able to try dishes like fresh bread and sushi, although on a real mission these would require transporting kitchen equipment and washing-up water to another planet.

 

Sian Proctor, a crew member, said the study addressed the "menu fatigue" that can arise from monotonous meals on long missions.

 

Dull food is a problem on space trips because astronauts may under-eat and become malnourished. At the start of the exercise crew members aimed to assess whether making their own food would lead to higher morale and productivity.

 

Mealtimes on space journeys are a way to "take away some of that boredom" and "express yourself," Proctor said just after leaving the Mars habitat.

 

"But you also want some of the efficiency that comes along with those days that you are really busy and you just want to make something quick," she added.

 

Members of the public sent space-appropriate recipes to the "Mars" colony, winning a competition with dishes including Moroccan Beef Tagine and Spam Fried Rice.

 

HACCP invented for Apollo program

 

On emerging from the dome, crew members were optimistic about the usefulness of the study's findings.

 

"I really think we proved that by offering people shelf-stable ingredients and the possibility to cook meals with that, that is a really good strategy to keep people enthusiastic about the food they eat.

 

"But on the other hand the data still has to be analysed," said Angelo Vermeulen, one of the team.

 

The implications of the Mars experiment could go far beyond NASA's work. Technology invented for past space missions has transformed food hygiene and quality back on Earth.

 

HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), the food industry's safety system, was invented by NASA and the Pillsbury company to keep astronauts safe when they were first sent into space in the 1960s.

 

Paul Lachance was NASA's flight and food coordinator during the first manned space missions. Aware of the potential disaster if contaminants like botulism or Salmonella made their way into astronauts' food, he developed protocols for keeping food free of microbes.

 

Space travel was the first time in history that zero pathogens in foods was required, said Lachance in a 2007 interview with Jennifer Ross-Nazzal for NASA's Johnson Space Center Oral History Project.

 

HACCP was "a systematic way of advancing safety. It involves identification, evaluation, and control of the hazard," he said. These protocols were adopted for terrestrial use by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1972.

 

'Iron Man' Exoskeleton Could Give Astronauts Superhuman Strength

 

Elizabeth Howell - Space.com

 

 

Astronauts could one day get a power surge from hi-tech robotic suits, like real-life versions of "Iron Man" hero Tony Stark.

 

That's not to suggest that spaceflyers will soon become superheroes; most of Iron Man's abilities will long remain in the realm of science fiction. But the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton, which NASA is co-developing along with several partners, could give superhuman strength to people on long-duration space missions to an asteroid or Mars, or act as a "resistive device" for exercising, agency officials say.

 

The 57-pound (26 kilograms) X1 fits over an astronaut's legs, with a harness that goes across the back and shoulders. The exoskeleton has motorized joints at the knees and hips, as well as six passive joints that allow the person wearing it to turn, flex and sidestep as needed.

 

In the short term, astronauts could use the device to add resistive force in microgravity to improve exercising on the International Space Station, NASA officials say. X1 can record information on each session and stream the data back to Earth, where doctors can monitor an astronaut's progress.

 

But NASA aims to send astronauts farther afield — to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, then on to the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s — and X1 could really shine in deep space.

 

The suit "could provide a robotic power boost to astronauts as they work on the surface of distant planetary bodies," NASA officials wrote in a description of the technology earlier this month.

 

"Coupled with a spacesuit, X1 could provide additional force when needed during surface exploration, improving the ability to walk in a reduced gravity environment, providing even more bang for its small bulk."

 

While the device has otherworldly applications, X1 could also be used closer to home, officials said. The exoskeleton shows promise as an assistive walking device, so it may eventually provide a valuable service to people who have trouble getting around here on Earth.

 

"X1 has the potential to produce high torques to allow for assisted walking over varied terrain, as well as stair climbing," NASA officials said, adding that preliminary studies into this possible use are underway.

 

NASA is working on the X1 in collaboration with The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IMHC), and Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston. The technology is based on NASA's humanoid Robonaut 2, which is currently on board the space station, and IHMC's Mina exoskeleton.

 

X1 is still under development, and it's unclear when the technology might be available for astronauts or others to use.

 

Meet the NASA scientist devising a starship warp drive

 

Anne-Marie Corley - New Scientist

 

To pave the way for rapid interstellar travel, NASA propulsion researcher Harold "Sonny" White plans to manipulate space-time in the lab.

 

The idea that nothing can exceed the speed of light limits our interstellar ambitions. How do we get round this?

Within general relativity, there are two loopholes that allow you to go somewhere very quickly, overcoming the restriction of the speed of light. One is a wormhole and the other is a space warp.

 

What is a space warp and how can it help?

A space warp works on the principle that you can expand and contract space at any speed. Take a terrestrial analogy. In airports we have moving walkways that help you cover distance quicker than you would otherwise. You are walking along at 3 miles an hour, and then you step onto the walkway. You are still walking at 3 miles an hour, but you are covering the distance much more quickly relative to somebody who isn't on the belt.

 

What would a starship with warp drive be like?

Imagine an American football, for simplicity, that has a toroidal ring around it attached with pylons. The football is where the crew and robotic systems would be, while the ring would contain exotic matter called negative vacuum energy, a consequence of quantum mechanics. The presence of this toroidal ring of negative vacuum energy is what's required from the math and physics to be able to use the warp trick.

 

What would it be like to travel at warp speed?

You would have an initial velocity as you set off, and then when you turn on the ring of negative vacuum energy it augments your velocity. Space would contract in front of the spacecraft and expand behind it, sending you sliding through warped space-time and covering the distance at a much quicker rate. It would be like watching a film in fast forward.

 

Even if travelling at warp speed is theoretically possible, don't the huge energy requirements make it unlikely?

When the idea was first proposed mathematically in 1994 it required a vast amount of negative vacuum energy which made the idea seem impossible. I did some work in 2011 and 2012 as part of the 100 Year Starship symposium and discovered ways to reduce the energy requirements by many orders of magnitude, so for a 10-metre diameter spacecraft with a velocity of 10 times light speed, I can reduce the negative energy needed.

 

How close are you to making this a reality?

We are very much in the science rather than the technology phase. We have got some very specific and controlled steps to take to create a proof of concept, to show we have properly understood and applied the math and physics. To that end we will try to generate a microscopic instance of a warp bubble in the lab and measure it.

 

If successful is the next stop Alpha Centauri?

We don't just go from the lab to an interstellar mission. There will be intermediate steps, other things we would do with this long before we get to some of the romantic pictures of a captain on the bridge telling the helmsman to engage warp drive.

 

DC-X rocket remembered:

'Sputnik of Commercial Space' joins Space Hall of Fame

 

Megan Gannon - Space.com

 

Twenty years ago, long before SpaceX and Virgin Galactic entered the commercial space scene, a towering rocket that looked like a parking cone held the promise of opening up the heavens for the masses.

 

The experimental rocket itself was never intended to reach space and the program was killed before it ever led to an operational vehicle. But in a series of test flights in the early 1990s, the Delta Clipper Experimental, or DC-X for short, demonstrated that a low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit craft could potentially be used to launch routine payloads and perhaps people into low-Earth orbit. (Single-stage-to-orbit, or SSTO, vehicles blast into space directly from the ground, without needing to get rid of any expendable rocket boosters.)

 

This past weekend, the DC-X team was honored for its accomplishments at a 20th anniversary celebration and conference in New Mexico. The events kicked off Friday (Aug. 16) at Spaceport America and ended in Alamogordo, where the DC-X crew was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.

 

The DC-X reusable rocket was built was built by McDonnell Douglas, a company that later became part of Boeing, but the rocket experiment wasn't entirely a commercial project, as it was carried out under the U.S. military and later NASA. Nonetheless, DC-X has taken on a legendary status in the burgeoning private space community because it accomplished a feat that still proves challenging today — showing that a reusable launch vehicle could be prototyped on a relatively low budget and flown over and over again.

 

Recent wet weather has made this southern part of the state unusually green, a reminder of the downpour that struck ahead of DC-X's first flight on Aug. 18, 1993.

 

The storm flooded the launch site at nearby White Sands Missile Range, but instead of postponing the test flight, the team, led by former Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad, decided to press ahead, DC-X veterans recalled.

 

"Pete Conrad was out there with the rest of us digging it out and getting it dry," said Bill Gaubatz, the program's manager at McDonnell Douglas.

 

That afternoon, with Conrad at the controls, the DC-X rocket launched just a few hundred feet the air and glided sideways before landing on its four struts. That rocket-powered touchdown was a feat the Apollo lunar lander accomplished on the moon more than two decades earlier, but it was a first on Earth, program leaders here said.

 

"We were the first to land on Earth with a rocket system," Don Steinmeyer, the program's chief engineer, told SPACE.com. "That was the big issue — whether you could physically do that or not — and that's what we accomplished."

 

The DC-X crew nicknamed themselves the "hoodlum team" after a snub rumored to have been lodged at them by a NASA official at the time, Steinmeyer said. They scrounged largely existing technology to build their prototype and had it flying just 24 months after McDonnell Douglas won a $60 million contract to build the launch vehicle from the Department of Defense's Strategic Defense Initiative — a Reagan-era precursor to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization that was looking into space-based defenses at the time.

 

In 11 more flights, DC-X and an advanced iteration of the vehicle called DC-XA demonstrated that a quickly built, low-cost reusable launch vehicle could possibly deliver payloads into space without being carried there by a rocket that would be cast off and burned up in the atmosphere after doing its job.

 

"It is the Sputnik of the commercial space race," Chris Rosander, who was the senior marketing manager of the Delta Clipper program, told the group here.

 

DC-XA toppled over and exploded during its last flight due to a landing gear failure and was left heavily damage beyond repair. By then, the reusable launch vehicle program was in the hands of NASA. Though a planned, scaled-up prototype of the vehicle dubbed DC-Y would have been capable of reaching orbit, the space agency abandoned the project efforts in favor of X-33, a Lockheed Martin concept that never ended up flying.

 

Years later, DC-X still serves as an inspiration for private spaceflight companies that are still trying to meet that goal of low-cost reusable spacecraft, like entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX.

 

The anniversary of DC-X's first flight came just days after SpaceX's prototype Grasshopper rocket — a 10-story vertical takeoff and landing vehicle — completed a test leap in Texas that looked uncannily similar to DC-X's maiden flight. The Grasshopper rocket launched high into the air above its McGregor, Texas proving grounds and flew sideways for the first time on Aug. 13.

 

On Saturday (Aug. 17), hours before dozens of the DC-X team members were inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, Jess Sponable, an Air Force program manager for DC-X, showed the group an email he received from Musk. In response to congratulations on Grasshopper's latest milestone, Musk wrote, "Thanks, Just continuing the great work of the DC-X program!"

 

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?

 

Jeff Foust – The Space Review

 

One of the key memories in the history of the DC-X program was the storm the night before the vehicle's first flight. The summer monsoon hit the DC-X launch site at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, flooding parts of it. The team came together, bailing water out of trenches to get the launch site ready for the flight. And that effort paid off: on the afternoon of August 18, 1993, the DC-X lifted off the ground for the first time, demonstrating how a rocket-powered vehicle could take off vertically, hover, move horizontally, and land vertically.

 

It was fitting, then, that on Saturday night, exactly 20 years after that storm the night before the DC-X launch, thunderstorms popped up over Alamogordo, New Mexico, as members of the DC-X team gathered for induction into the International Space Hall of Fame, run by the New Mexico Museum of Space History. As the ceremonies wound down at the induction dinner, peals of thunder echoed through the building on the campus of New Mexico State University Alamogordo, and, outside, lightning illuminated the night, as if nature was also recognizing, and celebrating, the anniversary.

 

The 20th anniversary of the DC-X is, for many, a bittersweet milestone. It's an opportunity to remember the technical and programmatic accomplishments of that experimental vehicle, developed as a first step towards what's long been the ultimate goal for many space enthusiasts: a single stage to orbit (SSTO) reusable launch vehicle (RLV). However, there have been very few steps—and plenty of missteps—along the way since then, illustrated by the lack of RLVs, SSTO or otherwise, flying today. Is it possible, and desirable, to do something like DC-X again today? Can lightning strike twice?

 

Many attending the anniversary event, which included conference sessions on the DC-X and the future of RLVs, certainly hoped so, singing the praises of the program and expressing a desire to do more such experimental vehicles. "DC-X was government R&D at its finest," said former NASA administrator Michael Griffin in a speech at the induction dinner. Griffin, who previously served as deputy director of technology for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), the Defense Department office that funded the development of DC-X, cited several reasons for DC-X's excellence, from a balance of control and delegation by SDIO to the selection of the right requirements for the program.

 

In a speech the following day at the conference, Griffin said that X-vehicles in general can do several key things essential in aerospace development, including proving out technologies before getting locked into vehicle configurations, determining what the requirements should be for future vehicles, and demonstrating systems engineering. He lamented, though, the lack of X-vehicle development today. "It is a lapse of government science and technology policy at the very top levels that has caused our aggressive pursuit of X-vehicle programs to lapse," he said. "I would do anything to bring it back to the forefront of public thinking."

 

Government acquisition regulations also make it harder to do X-vehicles today. "Why can't we do another vehicle like this, or another set of vehicles, that could pave the way for future launch systems?" asked Gary Payton, the former deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space who also was at SDIO during the DC-X program. His answer was a single-page viewchart that crammed the entire defense acquisitions process onto the screen, a "horse blanket" of multicolored boxes and lines that was unintelligible to the audience—and deliberately so.

 

"This stuff consumes more money than we had, and takes more time than we had," Payton said. "So that's why nobody in the Defense Department is doing something like DC-X again." The situation was fundamentally the same at NASA, he added.

 

Constrained federal budgets would seem to make this problem even worse, but Griffin suggested it also provided an opportunity. "I would like us to be going back to the Moon and establishing a lunar base. I would like us to be seriously going to Mars, not just talking about going to Mars," he said. "But if our fiscal constraints don't allow us to do some of the things I would like to do, then I think the opportunity is there to put in place much lower cost, high leverage value future X-vehicle programs."

 

"An X-plane can answer a lot of things if it is set up and managed properly," said Jess Sponable, a program manager at DARPA who, as an Air Force major 20 years ago, was the SDIO program manager for DC-X. That means developing a focused set of requirements that can be achieved within a modest budget. "You're not going to get billions of dollars for X-planes, so figure out what you can do for an affordable sum, which to me is $100–200 million."

 

What specific technological and operational challenges X-vehicles should be answering, though, is up for debate. Discussions about the "right" approach to RLV development have, in the space community, had the fervor of arguments over religion, politics, and sports rivalries. That's included debates over single-stage versus two-stage approaches, horizontal versus vertical takeoff and landing, and selection of engines and propellants for those vehicles; all issues that remain open today.

 

At the DC-X conference Sunday, attendees broke up into several working groups for a couple hours to examine what a new generation of X-vehicles could do to support development of RLVs. Five groups examines various engineering issues, from propulsion to structures, while a sixth examined policy issues involved in winning political support for an X-vehicle program. The results, briefed Sunday afternoon at the end of the conference, offered suggestions ranging from goals for technology development to advice to how to run a program and manage a team of engineers.

 

Those working group sessions were designed "to try and bring the thinking towards focusing on what can we do next in X-planes to recreate a DC-X-type of atmosphere," William Gaubatz, the former McDonnell Douglas DC-X manager, said at the end of the conference. He added he and other organizers would examine how to summarize the work done on Sunday to move the effort ahead.

 

One major difference between 2013 and 1993, though, is that today there are a number of companies pursuing RLVs commercially. Most of these efforts are suborbital: Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace are all actively developing such reusable vehicles, but have concepts for orbital versions as well. SpaceX, meanwhile, is testing technologies for a reusable version of its Falcon 9 rocket with its Grasshopper demonstrator.

 

"Most technology demonstration efforts aimed for orbit are, in my opinion, pushing on a string," Greason said. "If the government is going to do something, it should focus first and foremost on lowering perceived market risk."

At the conference, some pinned their hopes on the future RLV development on those companies. "Our future in space launch, our future in space, is not so much based on what the federal government is going to do," said Payton. "Rather, it's the entrepreneurs and the innovators, working with local governments where needed, pushing forward to increase our capacity and improve our capabilities while reducing our costs."

 

Sponable, though, argued that commercial RLVs, while promising, are not pushing the limits of technology enough. "They're doing great things, but when I look at the technologies most of them are employing today, they are inferior to the technologies that we flew 20 years ago on DC-X," he said. "The more technology that we can transition to them, the better off the whole industry's going to be."

 

XCOR Aerospace CEO Jeff Greason argued that the lack of cutting-edge technologies on his company's and others' vehicles was, in essence, a feature, not a bug. "When you're in the commercial sector, it's not about proving your technological manhood. It's about making money," he said. "Being told that this system is or is not technologically superior isn't relevant."

 

Greason argued that a focus on technology may be ill-advised for government-funded programs. "Most technology demonstration efforts aimed for orbit are, in my opinion, pushing on a string. You're trying to lower the perceived technical risk of something most people believe we can build," he said. "If the government is going to do something, it should focus first and foremost on lowering perceived market risk." That can be done by stimulating demand for launch services, he suggested, like NASA has done for commercial cargo and crew transportation to the International Space Station.

 

Relying on the commercial sector for RLV develop carries risks, as well. The 1990s saw the rise of a number of companies that sought to develop RLVs to serve what was then forecasted to be a burgeoning market for low Earth orbit satellites for companies like Globalstar, Iridium, and Teledesic. Those RLV companies sputtered out for technical and financial reasons, the latter linked to the bankruptcy of multiple satellite companies. A visitor to Mojave Air and Space Port, home to several current RLV companies, is greeted by a monument of sorts to that previous generation: the conical Roton ATV vehicle, developed by Rotary Rocket Company in the late 1990s before it went under.

 

That message was brought home earlier this month when John Carmack, the founder of Armadillo Aerospace, announced the company was in "hibernation" for the time being because of a lack of money after its latest reusable sounding rocket crashed at Spaceport America in New Mexico in January. "The situation that we're at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode," he said. "I did spin down most of the development work for this year" after the crash.

 

Carmack, discussing Armadillo briefly during a much longer talk at the QuakeCon computer gaming conference in Dallas on August 1, said work had gone slower than he expected at Armadillo, and blamed it, among other things, on a failure to build multiple versions of each of its STIG rockets and "creeping professionalism" that sought to optimize designs rather than a more rapid cycle of development and test that the company used earlier in its history. "This is chapter and verse some of the errors that NASA has done over the years, and it's heartbreaking for me to see my own team following some of these problems," he said.

 

Armadillo could come back to life, Carmack said, if he finds an outside investor. He had been funding Armadillo at a rate of "something north of a million dollars a year" out his own pocket, using "crazy money" he had set aside from his primary work as a computer games developer. "But I've basically expended my crazy money on Armadillo, so I don't expect to see any rockets in the real near future unless we do wind up raising some investment money on it."

 

But even if Armadillo doesn't revive from its current hibernation, and efforts to restore X-vehicle development by government agencies falter, there's still some promise for the future of RLVs. Just a few days before the anniversary, SpaceX flew its Grasshopper vehicle—a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, like the DC-X—to an altitude of 250 meters, and, for the first tine, moving it to the side 100 meters before making a precision landing.

 

At the conference, Sponable said he and Gaubatz sent a short email to SpaceX CEO and CTO Elon Musk, congratulating him on the successful flight. Musk's response: "Thanks. Just continuing the great work of the DC-X project!" Perhaps the DC-X lightning will strike again.

 

New class of astronauts signals optimism

 

Charlie Bolden - Houston Chronicle (Opinion)

 

(Bolden is NASA Administrator)

 

In Houston this week, America's next generation of space explorers begin training for missions that will take our nation farther into space than ever before. Eight highly accomplished astronaut candidates have been selected from an applicant pool of more than 6,000 to earn an opportunity to carry America's hopes, dreams and curiosity, first to an asteroid and one day on to Mars.

 

These candidates - half of whom are women - join an elite group of Americans who have carried out missions to the moon, deployed space telescopes and built an orbiting laboratory where U.S. astronauts have continuously lived and conducted research for more than a dozen years. They will carry on this extraordinary legacy and ensure the United States remains the world's leader in exploration and scientific discovery.

 

However, as we prepare to explore farther into our solar system, we have to do things differently. That's why we're partnering with American companies to conduct routine flights to the International Space Station, so that NASA can focus on developing the spacecraft and technology to carry out deep space missions. And it's why we've worked so hard to create a vision of shared exploration objectives with our international partners.

 

Today, we'll issue a Global Exploration Roadmap reflecting the work of 12 space agencies that makes clear the U.S. and its international space partners share a common interest in pursuing ambitious exploration goals. The roadmap represents the global community working together on a unified deep-space exploration plan, with robotic and human missions to destinations that include near-Earth asteroids, the moon and Mars. The roadmap highlights the space station's critical role in preparing for deep-space exploration and demonstrates the important role of NASA's asteroid mission in advancing capabilities for exploring Mars and the economic and societal values generated by exploration.

 

We support our commercial and international partners as they chart their own paths to the moon. After all, NASA has explored the moon since our earliest days with missions like Ranger and the lunar orbiters - and the United States remains the only nation to ever land humans on the moon's surface. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter continues to map the moon in incredible detail. Our latest mission to the moon is set to launch Sept. 6 to provide unprecedented information about the moon's evolution and give scientists a better understanding of other planetary bodies.

 

But as we plan for the wisest use of our limited resources, NASA chooses to do something new, as it always has. With bipartisan support from the president and Congress, we're implementing a strategic plan that invests in technology development, exploration missions and cutting-edge science.

 

NASA is committed to launching our astronauts on American spacecraft from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and our commercial partners are making great progress toward this goal. We will continue to work with the Congress to advance a balanced portfolio for NASA, including the president's budget request for our commercial crew program. We are driven by the commitment to spur economic growth here on Earth while maintaining American pre-eminence in space exploration.

 

We welcome this new class of astronaut candidates even as we celebrate a year with the Curiosity rover on Mars and a growing science portfolio. We're making breakthroughs in technologies such as solar electric propulsion and cryogenic propellant storage that are essential for future deep space missions even as the Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule continue to reach design and technical milestones.

 

All of these accomplishments are expanding our reach as well as our human and technical capabilities. These new astronauts will join a dynamic space program that has secured a special place at the heart of our national life and will continue to reach for the stars.

 

END

 

 

 

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