CSExtra – Tuesday, February 7, 2012
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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers a collection of the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. Faced with budget constraints, NASA may have to step away from a European partnership focused on the robotic exploration of Mars. Russia may step in. Politics aside, there may be plenty of economic reason for human activity on the moon. The 50th anniversary of America’s first orbital Mercury mission nears. Two essays assess the growing hazards from orbital debris and domestic sentiments for a global space Code of Conduct. Preparations for a record breaking skydive resume. Twenty-six years ago today, two NASA astronauts embarked on the first un-tethered spacewalks.
1. From The BBC: NASA, faced with a constrained budget, is ready to pull back from a possible partnership with the European Space Agency for the future exploration of Mars, according to the British news service and sources in Europe. Prospective joint projects included an orbiter and a larger rover. The orbiter ExoMars is slated for a 2016 launch. After reaching the red planet, ExoMars would scan the Martian atmosphere for methane, a gas that suggests the possibility of microbial life. The rover would follow in 2018 and drill below the Martian surface to explore. Russia may replace NASA as ESA’s partner. http://bbc.in/yGEVnY
A. From Space.com: The European Mars Express mission detects sedimentary evidence for an ancient ocean on the northern plains of Mars. Supporting data was gathered over the past two years with a ground penetrating radar instrument aboard the spacecraft. http://bit.ly/wHBgx6
B. From Discovery.com: Russian investigators conclude that computer programming errors doomed the Phobos-Grunt mission. The spacecraft, which was to travel to the Martian moon Phobos and return to Earth with soil samples, was stranded in Earth orbit after it launched in early November. At one point, some Russian space officials pointed to U. S. radar signals as the cause of the loss. A formal report is to be presented to Russia’s deputy prime minister today, according to Discovery and Ria Novosti. http://bit.ly/zGLRUy
2. From the Washington Post: Politics of the moon aside, where to find gadolinium, terbium and other rare Earth elements used in the production of modern televisions and the car batteries placed in hybrid automobiles? It could be the moon. China, India and Japan as well as the U. S. are surveying the lunar terrain with orbital spacecraft and planning robotic lander missions to assess just what is there and where the valuable resources are concentrated. http://wapo.st/wOBkLZ
3. From Florida Today: The Cape Canaveral area prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the nation’s first human orbital mission, a five hour flight by John Glenn. Glenn’s Mercury capsule, Friendship 7, lifted off on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn and fellow Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter will mark the occasion in Florida on Feb. 18. http://on.flatoday.com/wDRPjE
4. Two essays from Monday’s The Space Review consider the challenges of dealing with orbital debris and establishing a meaningful global Code of Conduct for space.
A. Recent headlines have warned of derelict satellites in Earth orbit and their uncontrolled re-entries. In “The complex, challenging problem of orbital debris,” TSR editor Jeff Foust quickly identifies the real issue, the accumulation of man made debris over a half century of space operations. The pile up poses a collision hazard to human and unmanned satellites alike. The problem is made all the more complex by natural forces also at work and the division of working spacecraft in geosynchronous as well as low Earth orbit. However, a few operational guidelines and efforts to de-orbit five objects a year might improve the landscape. http://bit.ly/wxTMTA
B. In “Congressional opposition to a Code of Conduct for space,” attorney Michael Listner finds strong political opposition to the concept — even a non binding agreement among nations intended to prevent one country’s actions from interfering with another’s. http://bit.ly/A9Q9iR
5. From Space.com: After a legal challenge, extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner is preparing for a record skydive in August near Roswell, N. M., as part of the Red Bull Stratos project. He plans to leap from a balloon at 120,000 feet, breaking the sound barrier as he falls back to Earth. The current record for such a skydive was established in 1960 by U. S. Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger, who leaped from 102,800 feet. Medical experts will study Baumgartner as he leaps. http://bit.ly/xOVppQ
6. From The New York Times, the Learning Network: On this date in 1984, NASA astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart conducted the first un-tethered spacewalk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit. They floated from the shuttle Challenger. The MMUS were used on two subsequent missions for satellite repairs. Further use was suspended for safety reasons. http://nyti.ms/ymt771
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