CSExtra – Thursday, April 12, 2012
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Thursday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities under way around the world. Today marks the 51st anniversary of the first human spaceflight, the April 12, 1961 orbit of the Earth by Russia’s Yuri Gagarin. Celebrations are underway. Some leading scientists have begun to see evidence Mars may not have had a warmer, wetter past with conditions more favorable for life. North Korea remains poised for a controversial rocket launch, possibly today. SpaceX founder Elon Musk finds a late night TV audience for his commercial spaceflight efforts. Orbital Sciences Corp’s space station commercial cargo plans reach a launch pad milestone. NASA seeks ideas from students for future astronaut habitats. A space experiment could improve the taste of Scotch whiskey.
1. From Space.com: Today is a special day in space history. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin achieved the first human spaceflight on April 12, 1961. The U. S. has reason to celebrate at well: NASA’s first shuttle mission launched on April 12, 1981. Around the world, many will celebrate Yuri’s Night to mark the anniversary. Aboard the International Space Station, the U. S., Russian and European crew will slow the pace of activities as well and celebrate with special meals.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: “Yuri’s Night,” an global recognition of Gagarin’s achievement, will be marked tonight with celebrations in major cities around the world. Here’s a list of places.
2. From Nature.com: An ancient Mars swimming in water? Perhaps, not. Scientists are beginning to challenge the belief and embrace a new model: Mars has always been dominated by the cold, dry conditions evidenced today — possibly interspersed with brief bursts of wet conditions. Recent satellite discoveries of surface clay on Mars, a mineral that forms in water on the Earth, are failing to show they are abundant enough to support the water assumption.
A. From Spaceflightnow.com: Russia’s space agency signals it will sign a formal agreement with the European Space Agency by the end of this year outlining participation in ESA’s Exo-Mars missions scheduled for launches in 2016 and 2018. These are the missions NASA retreated from to deal with budget constraints.
3. From the Los Angeles Times: In North Korea, the controversial launch of a rocket to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the nation’s founder appeared imminent early Thursday. Neighboring nations and the United States have urged North Korea to cancel the flight of what they allege is a veiled test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. “We don’t really care about the opinions from the outside. This is critical in order to develop our national economy,” said one North Korean official. Efforts in 1998, 2006 and 2009 by North Korea to carry out a rocket launch either failed entirely or were unsuccessful in the final stage.
4. From Space.com: SpaceX founder Elon Musk strikes a late night TV cord this week with an appearance on The Daily Show to discuss the upcoming Falcon 9/Dragon mission. Tentatively set for an April 30 lift off, Dragon could become the first commercial supply craft to reach the six person International Space Station.
A. From the Huntsville Times: At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, an official acknowledges the “differences” that the agency’s spacecraft designers and those from the private sector share over human safety requirements. Gene Goldman, Marshal’s acting director, notes the differences in luncheon remarks this week.
5. From Spaceflightnow.com: At the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Orbital Sciences rolls the first stage of its Antares rocket to a launch pad for fit checks. Like SpaceX, Orbital has signed agreements with NASA to deliver cargo to the six person International Space Station. A demonstration flight is planned later this year.
6. From The Washington Post: NASA challenges university students to participate in the design of planetary habitats for astronauts. The 2013 Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is part of an initiative to create interest in math and the sciences.
7. From MSNBC and The Cosmic Log: In Scotland, brewers look to a small experiment underway aboard the International Space Station to improve the quality of their Scotch whiskey. The experiment, which arrived on the station last year, has received some publicity recently.
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