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 Exploration News of the last two weeks - 10 February 2011

a nice photo from space
Photo: Durrat Al Bahrain, Bahrain As Seen From Orbit

09 February 2011
Astrobotic Technology Annouces Lunar Mission On SpaceX Falcon 9
Astrobotic Technology has announced it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic's robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9. The expedition will search for water and deliver payloads, with the robot narrating its adventure while sending 3D video. The mission could launch as soon as December 2013. "Astrobotic's missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets. Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X-Prize, this is a perfect storm for new exploration." said Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology.

08 February 2011
Medvedev calls for Russian space exploration program
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday Russia should develop its own space exploration program.
"I believe this is a very important topic, even in terms of our scientific ambitions," Medvedev said. "If we do not do this, we will fall behind."

08 February 2011
House Group Proposes Shifting Earth Science Funds to Manned Spaceflight

07 February 2011
NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Resumes Training For STS-134 Mission

07 February 2011
International Partners Discuss ISS Operations
The International Space Station partner agencies met Thursday, Feb. 3, by videoconference to discuss coordinating the increased use of the space station as a research laboratory. The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) reaffirmed its commitment to reduce operational costs, develop an integrated transportation plan and maximize return by increasing research aboard the station while developing techniques for future exploration outside Earth's orbit.

07 February 2011
Proposed Mission To Jupiter System Achieves Milestone
With input from scientists around the world, American and European scientists working on the potential next new mission to the Jupiter system have articulated their joint vision for the Europa Jupiter System Mission. The mission is a proposed partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency. The scientists on the joint NASA-ESA definition team agreed that the overarching science theme for the Europa Jupiter System Mission will be "the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants."

04 February 2011
Lifting To Space
NASA began flight-testing experimental lifting bodies at Edwards in the 1960s, following evolution of the concept earlier in the 1950s. A lifting body is a fuselage that generates lift at the expense of higher drag. It uses a modification of the "blunt body" principle developed by H. Julian Allen at NASA's Ames Research Center.

03 February 2011
Mars500 Arrives In Orbit Around Mars
The first full-duration simulation of a manned voyage to Mars has reached a major milestone: the 'spacecraft' yesterday 'arrived' at Mars after 244 days of virtual interplanetary flight. Three crewmembers will 'land' on Mars on 12 February and make three sorties onto simulated martian terrain.

02 February 2011
Maiden flight of Russia's Soyuz-ST carrier rocket set for Aug. 31
The first flight of Russia's Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket from the European space center in French Guiana has been scheduled for August 31, 2011, the Progress design bureau said on Wednesday. "The new schedule of work under the program of Soyuz launches from Guiana envisages the first launch of the Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket on August 31, 2011," the design bureau's press service said. The rocket will carry two Galileo navigation satellites that are the equivalent of the U.S.'s Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's Glonass.

31 January 2011
NASA Testing Of Commercial Engine Flies High
You see a lot of smiles around the E-1 Test Stand at John C. Stennis Space Center these days. Engineers involved in testing Aerojet's AJ26 rocket engine for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II space launch vehicle have good reason to smile. In fact, they have several good reasons given that the partnership between NASA, Orbital and Aerojet is off to such an impressive start. Two successful tests of an AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital's Taurus II rocket recently wrapped up at Stennis.

31 January 2011
Kerala Travel Agency Eyes Space Tourism
Kerala Travels has many firsts to its credit. Billed as the first travel agency in Kerala, it was the first to come out with a tourism brochure, offer Antarctica-Arctic packages and now is working on an ambitious plan to send children to space. "This is the first stage of space tourism where 30 children would be sent to a space camp at the Singapore Space Centre (SSC) where they would be given a through understanding of space by experts from NASA. Then there would be the next stages that are being planned," K.C. Chandrahasan, managing director of Kerala Travels, told mediapersons here Friday.

31 January 2011
US Hoping To Become 'Close Partner' Of India In Space Exploration
The removal of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) from the Commerce Department's Entity List is an indication that Washington will no longer treat India's space program as a target, but as a close partner in space exploration, said Robert O. Blake, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

28 January 2011
Major exhibit of NASA material opens in Stockholm
A major exhibit of more than 400 space-related objects, from engines to space suits to food rations, opened in Stockholm Friday in the largest gathering of NASA objects outside of the US. The show premiered at Stockholm's Technical Museum where it will stay until November before moving on to still undetermined European destinations and then on to the United States.

27 January 2011
NASA marks 25 years after Challenger disaster
The United States on Thursday marked a day of remembrance for astronauts who have died in the line of duty, particularly the victims in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger 25 years ago.


08 February 2011
US and Europe join forces on an astronaut rocket - The Liberty rocket and the 'genetics' of human spaceflight
I wondered how long it would take before we saw Europe's biggest space company, Astrium, step into the race to develop a follow-on to the soon-to-be retired space shuttle. It needs a US partner to get involved in the Nasa commercial crew development programme, of course, and in ATK it has one of the key companies in human spaceflight rocketry. The firms' proposed Liberty rocket would mesh elements from the shuttle launch system with Europe's Ariane 5. The new vehicle would incorporate a shuttle-derived, five-segment, solid-fuelled booster provided by ATK as the first stage, with an Ariane 5 cryogenic-core-stage and Vulcain-2 engine from Astrium making up the second stage (Vulcains are produced by French firm Snecma).

07 February 2011
Merging human spaceflight and science at NASA
Space science and human spaceflight, long foes in the battle for funding, are going in opposite directions at NASA. Lou Friedman argues it’s time to unite the two under a common mission of exploration.

07 February 2011
The flight of the Big Bird (part 2)
Dwayne Day continues his examination of the history of the KH-9 HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite program by looking at its development, including budget battles that threatened the program with cancellation.

07 February 2011
Buy this satellite?
Recent events have demonstrated the importance, but also the fragility, of Internet access. Jeff Foust reports on one group making a long-shot bid to buy a satellite to improve Internet access in underserved parts of the world.

07 February 2011
Patent rights and flags of convenience in outer space
The effective commercialization of space requires a legal regime that, among other things, protects the intellectual property rights of companies doing work there. Matthew J. Kleiman describes a potential loophole in international space law that could undermine that legal protection.

07 February 2011
Review: From Jars to the Stars
Building a satellite to perform a mission never before attempted can be a challenging, uncertain project. Jeff Foust reviews a book that chronicles the work by one company with an unlikely heritage to build a unique planetary science mission for NASA.

04 February 2011
European space prepares to make a really big decision
More than 300 of Europe's leading space scientists gathered in Paris this week to discuss how to spend more than a billion euros. The options? Well, try to choose between these three:
(1) a 20m-long telescope called IXO that could see the very "edge" of a black hole; or (2) a trio of satellites collectively known as LISA which might be able to detect the ripples in space-time left by the moment of creation itself; or (3) a pair of spacecraft that would visit two of the most promising locations for life beyond Earth in our Solar System. This is called EJSM/Laplace.

04 February 2011
German Showcase Missions Figure in DLR Space Plan
The German government is pursuing development of a national telecommunications satellite to carry civil and military payloads and also is investing in a system designed to remove dead satellites from orbit, the head of Germany’s space agency said. For 2011, Germany’s contribution to ESA is expected to be 713.8 million euros ($971 million), a 14 percent increase over 2010 that reflects major German commitments at a late-2008 ESA conference that decided future programs. Germany has agreed with France that Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium should receive additional government financial support once a series of financial audits of Arianespace and its suppliers is completed in March.

31 January 2011
Memorials and malaise
This time of year is traditionally a somber one at NASA, as the agency recognizes those who lost their lives on missions. Jeff Foust examines a deeper angst that is evident today as well, given the continued uncertainty about NASA’s future human spaceflight plans and budgets.

31 January 2011
All space politics is local
In the new Congress, as in previous ones, the leadership of key space-related committees is dominated by people from states with major NASA facilities. Lou Friedman discusses the importance of broadening NASA’s appeal to win more support, and funding, in the future.

31 January 2011
Launch failures: the “Oops!” factor
Launch vehicles are complex machines that sometimes can be felled by simple failures. Wayne Eleazer describes several such failures of rockets, and how a simple “oops”, compounded by other problems, caused them.

31 January 2011
Review: Launch On Need
Had the damage to the shuttle Columbia had been understood early enough in its fateful final mission eight years ago, it would have been possible, if just barely, to mount a rescue mission. Jeff Foust reviews a novel that explores that alternate history.

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