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Archive for the ‘Final Frontier’ Category

Senate Approves JWST Funding

From Universetoday.com-

This afternoon the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 2112, a FY 2012 bill from Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski that would fund the James Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2018. This is another step forward for the next-generation space telescope, which many have called the successor to Hubble… all that now remains is for the House to reconcile.

“We are creating the building blocks that we need for a smarter America. Our nation is in an amazing race – the race for discovery and new knowledge, the race to remain competitive,” Chairwoman Mikulski said. ”This bill includes full funding of the James Webb Telescope to achieve a 2018 launch. The Webb Telescope supports 1,200 jobs and will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great. It will inspire America’s next generation of scientists and innovators that will have the new ideas that lead to new products and new jobs…”

Full story…

This is still not a done deal. A Bill in the House that cuts NASA funding more than the Senate version (including less for commercial crew) doesn’t fund JWST.


NYT Picked Up on the Fuel Depot Option

Those folks at the New York Times are on the ball. They just noticed that fuel depots are an option-

From NYT-

By considering a proposal to put filling stations in the sky, NASA is looking to accelerate plans to send astronauts to distant destinations.

The filling stations — NASA calls them propellant depots — would refuel a spacecraft in orbit before it headed out to the moon, an asteroid or eventually Mars. Currently, all of the fuel needed for a mission is carried up with the rocket, and the weight of the fuel limits the size of the spacecraft.

Next month, engineers will meet at NASA headquarters in Washington to discuss how propellant depots could be used to reach farther into space and make possible more ambitious missions using the heavy-lift rocketthat NASA is planning to build. The discussions grow out of a six-month NASA study of propellant depots, completed in July.

However, the space agency has rejected the study’s most radical conclusion: that NASA could forgo the heavy-lift and use existing smaller rockets, combined with fuel depots, to reach its targets more quickly and less expensively. Those targets, for the next two decades at least, include a return to the moon or a visit to an asteroid. (A trip to Mars is unlikely until at least the 2030s.)…

Full story…


Nasa Flip-Flops on SLS vs Fuel Depots? Well, Maybe

Nasawatch has a headline that says “NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS.” Well, yes, and no. Click on the article and it takes you to Spaceref where we learn that this comes from a press release by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher! Yeah great source. Like we should really care what a politician says.

The Nasa source is supposedly a real fuel depot study, linked here, dated last July 21. This looks like an updated version of some of the same study charts that showed SLS to be the best choice over a year ago. You can actually do things cheaper with fuel depots, but the flip side is you actually have to develop and own some fuel depots, and you still have the logistics and manufacturing turntimes to build more vehicles if you have no SLS. Click the link and read to the end where it talks about the necessary conditions to use depots. (and don’t pay attention to politicians!)


NASA Isn’t Really Planning on Some Big Space Settlement Thing

Photo source…

Space settlements are fun topics for movies. There are a lot of space advocates thinking about how to do it, and looking to NASA to take the lead. It’s fun to think about, but it’s not happening.

From Spacepolitics-

Some people in the space advocacy community have a long term goal that goes beyond going back to the Moon or sending human expeditions to Mars: they want to see people working and living—permanently—in space. From the early visions of space colonies by the L-5 Society to the modern-day desire of Mars Society members to establish an outpost of human civilization on the Red Planet, these people want to do more than explore space; they want to see people making it their home. Should that vision be part of national space policy—or is it already?

Over the last 18 months advocates of space settlement have been getting mixed messages from the White House and NASA leadership on this topic. In his speech at the Kennedy Space Center in April 2010, President Obama appeared to endorse, albeit indirectly, the concept of space settlement: “Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.” Obama never used the “s-word”—settlement—but the idea of living and working in space in “indefinite” ways certainly sounds like it.

But at a town hall meeting at the Johnson Space Center in late September, NASA administrator Charles Bolden seemed to suggest space settlement was not part of the agency’s vision. “Bolden says we’re not looking for other places to live, [we're] going to explore to better understand our place in universe and life on Earth…”

Full story…


Take a Leak for Space Travel

MSNBC is having too much fun with this story…starting with the title-

“Can urine whiz rockets to Mars?”

The idea of using urine to whiz rockets to the moon and beyond is once again leaking into the realm of possibility.
That’s because scientists have begun to crack the code of how bacteria that live without the aid of oxygen convert ammonium — a key chemical in urine — into hydrazine, which is a type of rocket fuel…

Read the full tinkle…


Senate Saves the James Webb Space Telescope

From Universetoday-

The 2012 fiscal year appropriation bill, marked up today by the Senate, allows for continued funding of the James Webb Space Telescope and support up to a launch in 2018! Yes, it looks like this bird is going to fly.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. JWST will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror…

Full story…


Pic of Saturn

Click the photo for a killer full screen version…

This pic popped up on a HuffPo News feed…

This is a direct link to the same pic re-sized to make a cool iPad background…


Happy 45th, Priceline.com Guy

This was online last week, but it deserves a look. Last week marked the 45th anniversary of Star Trek, the original that had the Priceline.com guy in his previous job.

Click here to get the full graphic from Space.com-


A rationale for human spaceflight

This entry at Thespacereview.com argues for continued human spaceflight-

The retirement of the space shuttle has sparked a debate about the value of human spaceflight. Some see it as a waste of resources. Robots are better, cheaper alternatives, they say—and robotic missions don’t risk human lives. Others see the ability to fly humans into space as being tied up with national prestige, influence, and soft power. Some argue a reliance on private companies to get Americans into space is ultimately a healthy development. Still others say the only reason to put people in space is to ensure the survival of the species should something happen to Earth—and, in the fullness of time, something will. In short, viewpoints are all over the place.

NASA’s Mars rovers have been a remarkable success story. Designed to cover less than half a mile in 90 days, for example, Opportunity is still going strong after more than seven years and 30 kilometers. The fact is, though, that a human expedition could cover 30 kilometers on Mars—and do so more efficiently—in a day. Robots will become more capable, of course, but if we want to see wide-ranging, thorough explorations of Mars anytime soon, dedicated scientists who accept the dangers will have to go there…

Full story…


If You Can’t Go Anywhere, Might as Well Write About it Correctly

According to Scientific American, Goddard is hosting a workshop in November to help writers do “hard Sci-Fi,” writing about space that is technically correct. This is so sci-fi doesn’t focus too much on magic or stuff that is impossible.

This sounds cool and makes sense. Besides, of you can’t make up your mind or get the money to go anywhere, you might as well encourage people to write about it correctly!

Full story…