CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, September 27
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Friday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Early Martian soil studies by NASA’s Curiosity rover reveal water but little evidence of organics. James Webb Space Telescope nears critical pre-launch tests under management and cost reforms. NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. look to Sunday for a possible next attempt to rendezvous and berth the Cygnus resupply capsule with the International Space Station. Astronomers close in on 1,000th alien planet discovery. France increases space spending. Intriguing inscriptions aboard the International Space Station. NASA addresses funding issues to foster U. S. commercial crew launch capabilities. Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter recovers from stroke. Director Alfonso Cuaron actress Sandra Bullock discuss soon to open film, Gravity.
1. From Time Magazine: Martian soil has small but significant amounts of water, according to a flurry of research papers published in the journal Science Thursday and Friday. Missing, though, is evidence of organic molecules that make up the precursors of biological activity.
A. From NASA: Findings that Martian soil is 2 percent water by mass at the Curiosity rover’s landing site suggests the chemically bound water is distributed across the red planet in similar ratios.
B. From Space.com: Curiosity rover finds water in the Martian soil, about 2 percent by weight. “For me, that was a big ‘wow’ moment,” Laurie Leshin, the scientist who led a round of research investigations, told SPACE.com. “I was really happy when we saw that there’s easily accessible water here in the dirt beneath your feet. And it’s probably true anywhere you go on Mars.”
C. From CBS News: Water and other soil elements examined by NASA’s Curiosity rover in October/November could be important to sustaining life on the red planet.
D. From Science News: Scientists report the first in depth analysis of Martian dirt by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Scientists also describe a Martian rock that resembles a rare form of lava rock on Earth.
E. From the Los Angeles Times: NASA’s Curiosity rover finds more complexity in the Martian geology than many experts anticipated.
2. From Spaceflightnow.com: The James Webb Space Telescope, designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is coming together under new NASA management and cost controls. Major pre-launch testing and assessments unfold in 2014. Launch of the observatory whose costs are estimated at $10 billion from all partners is scheduled for a late 2018 lift off.
3. From the Huntsville Times: Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus resupply capsule lines up for a possible rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. Launched Sept. 18 and initially expected to rendezvous with the space station on Sept. 22, Cygnus loitered in orbit while ground control teams addressed a software issue and waited for a Russian Soyuz crew transport to deliver three new astronauts to the orbiting science laboratory.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: NASA and Orbital Sciences look to early Sunday for a possible rendezvous of the Cygnus re-supply capsule with the International Space Station.
B. From Florida Today: NASA will review preparations for a Cygnus rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday before authorizing a final approach and grapple by astronauts.
4. From Space.com: Astronomers are closing in on the 1000th alien planet discovery since the first announcement in 1992, according to an assessment by the website. NASA’s Kepler space telescope has produced 3,588 exo-planet candidates so far and 151 confirmations. Data from Kepler, which was hobbled by pointing system problems in May, remains a rich source of new discovery.
A. From the Los Angeles Times: An announcement on Nobel Prize winners is coming Oct. 7. Might NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope exo-planet mission scientists be among them?
5. From Space News: The French Research Ministry will increase space spending through the European Space Agency, according to an announcement Thursday. Much of the effort will go to the development of the Ariane 6 rocket.
6. From Universe Today: Astronauts, engineers inscribe pieces of the International Space Station with signatures, messages. “Nothing is as important as what you are doing right now,” reads one memorable missive, according to Tom Marshburn, a former space station astronaut.
7. From Aviation Week & Space Technology: Despite funding issues, NASA pushes ahead with the latest round of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contract phase. The space agency would like to award service contracts in mid-2014, kick off astronaut launches to the International Space Station in 2017.
8. From NBC News.com: Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter is hospitalized in Denver this week after suffering a stroke, NBC News reports. Carpenter, became the second American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
9. From Collectspace.com: The film Gravity, billed as a major cinematic look at the risks of life in space, opens Oct. 4. Director Alfonso Cuaron and actress Sandra Bullock discuss the themes.
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