CSExtra – Tuesday, June 4, 2013
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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers the latest news and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. China schedules its next crew visit to the Tiangong-1 space station for mid-June. In the U. S., the National Research Council looks to “interested party” input on the significance of human space exploration. Europe’s Mars Express mission marks a decade around the red planet. Recent characterizations of the elusive Higgs Bosons toss physicists for a loop. Going to the moon? NASA will tag along. Crowd sourcing finds a promising formula, while a former U. S. spy satellite gains a possible new mission in the search for alien planets. The European Southern Observatory snaps a rare direct image of an exo-planet. Stratolaunch selects a rocket builder. Space solar power finds an influential enthusiast. The International Space Station rolls out the welcome mat for a 3-D printer. Russia launches a European communications satellite. What’s in an accent? Summer film blockbusters spell doom for planet Earth.
1. From The New York Times: China looks to mid-June for the launching of three astronauts to the country’s Tiangong-1 tended Earth orbiting space station. The mission plan includes the broadcast of a lesson plan to Chinese school students.
2. From Spacepolicyonline.com: The National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight seeks ideas from interested parties on the role of human exploration. Submissions, due July 9, should consider the benefits, challenges and potential losses if NASA’s human spaceflight program was terminated. The committee was established by Congress through legislation in 2010.
3. From The BBC: The European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission marks a decade of success in its orbital scrutiny of the red planet. Signatures of surface minerals altered by water, were recently confirmed by NASA’s Curiosity surface rover.
4. From Scientific American: As celebrations over the characterization of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe last year subside, physicists began to re-examine some fundamental assumptions about the nature of the universe, including whether it’s an aberration.
5. From Space News: Though NASA does not plan to lead a human expedition to the moon’s surface, the agency is open to lending U. S. expertise to a foreign mission in exchange for a seat for an American astronaut, NASA administrator Charles Bolden told a National Academy of Sciences medical panel in Florida last week.
6. Essays from this week’s The Space Review notes a crowd sourcing success and a windfall for astrophysics in the search for exo-planets.
A. In “Planetary Resources makes a giant leap in space crowd funding,” TSR editor Jeff Foust examines the call last week from the asteroid prospecting company for crowd sourcing support. The call sent the Seattle based enterprise quickly on its way toward a goal of $1 million by the end of June. Why the impressive success, where others have not done so well? The formula includes an emotional connection to the objective, writes Foust, plus a creative number of contribution points. For $25, contributors are promised a photograph of themselves with the Earth as a back drop as snapped by the company’s first asteroid seeking space telescope.
B. In “Exo-planet capabilities of WFIRST-2.4,” Philip Horenza, a planetary geologist, looks at a potential upswing for astrophysicists, as NASA explores what it might do with a pair of National Reconnaissance Satellites that came its way in 2011. Subsequent studies suggest one of the former spy satellites could become a prolific alien planet hunter if equipped with a chronograph. Outfitted as WFIRST, the observatory would study the closest stars in search of planets with conditions favorable for life.
7. From Space.com: The European Southern Observatory in Chile snaps a rare direct image of a nearby exo-planet. HD 95086b, a gas giant, is estimated to be four to five times the size of Jupiter and 300 light years from the Earth. The host star appears to be quite young, making the planet discovery all the more intriguing.
8. From Flight Global: The emerging U. S. commercial launch service Stratolaunch selects Orbital Sciences Corp. to build its air-launched rocket. Scaled composites will develop the large carrier aircraft for the project.
9. From Aviation Week & Space Technology: Former Indian president Abdul Kalam outlines plans for a global solar power grid. At least 10 nations are expected to enlist in a World Space Knowledge Platform to generate support for the initiative.
10. From The Wall Street Journal: Researchers look to the International Space Station as a test bed for 3-D printers. The prospects include printers that produce spare parts, even food for space station crews. A test device could be on the ISS next year.
11. From Spaceflightnow.com: A Russian Proton rocket successfully launches a European commercial communications satellite.
12. From Collectspace.com: Can regional accents shape history? Neil Armstrong’s famous comments as he stepped to the surface of the moon in 1969 suggest it’s so.
13. From The New York Times: Brace yourself for some dire assessments of the future in this summer’s crop of promising science fiction feature films.
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