Forecast for Titan: Cloudy With a 90 Percent Chance of T-Storms

University of Granada Press Release

Physicists of the University of Granada and the University of Valencia (Spain) have developed a proceeding to analyse specific data sent by the Huygens probe from Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, proving “in an unequivocal way” that there is natural electric activity in its atmosphere.

The scientific community thinks that there is a higher probability that organic molecules precursors to life could form in those planets or satellites which have an atmosphere with electric storms.


Plans for New Russian Spaceport in Amur Progressing

Russia IC has a brief report about plans for the country’s new launch facility:

“This November RosCosmos sent the reconnaissance commission to the Amur Region in order to specify location of the construction site for new Russian launching site “Vostochny”….Engineers will study terms of construction for first stage objects of future spaceport, aimed at preparation and launch for space crafts of scientific, social and economic, double and commercial purpose.”

Hypersonic Transports Eyed for Military Deployments

Pentagon envisions spaceship troops
USA Today

“The Pentagon wants to rocket troops through space to hot spots anywhere on the globe within two hours, and planners spent two days last month discussing how to do it, military documents show.”

“Some critics are skeptical. The concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish in enemy territory, said John Pike, a military analyst who runs ‘This isn’t even science fiction,’ Pike said. ‘It’s fantasy.’

“Private rocket pioneer Burt Rutan says the plan is technologically possible. ‘This has never been done,’ Rutan said in an e-mail. ‘However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.'”

NCsoft to Shut Down Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa in February

Less than two weeks after Richard Garriott said he was leaving  struggling NCsoft, the gaming company announced that they will be shutting down the millionaut’s MMO game Tabula Rasa.

“Last November we launched what we hoped would be a ground breaking sci-fi MMO. In many ways, we think we’ve achieved that goal. Tabula Rasa has some unique features that make it fun and very different from every other MMO out there. Unfortunately, the fact is that the game hasn’t performed as expected. The development team has worked hard to improve the game since launch, but the game never achieved the player population we hoped for,” according to a note on the website. “So it is with regret that we must announce that Tabula Rasa will end live service on February 28, 2009.”


NASA, ESA Consider Joint Mission to Search for Life on Jupiter’s Moons

Hoping for Europa
Astrobiology Magazine

“There is an ocean beneath the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Strange creatures could be swimming in these alien waters, but so far no missions have been sent there to investigate this possibility…”

“The Europa-Jupiter System Mission (EJSM) calls for one spacecraft to orbit Europa and another to orbit Ganymede, another large moon of Jupiter that also may have a liquid ocean locked beneath an icy outer layer.

“EJSM would be a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, with ESA in charge of the Ganymede orbiter and NASA directing the Europa orbiter. Working together, the two spacecraft also would be able to conduct limited studies of the large moons Io and Callisto, as well as the planet Jupiter.”

Q&A: Ex-Astronaut Garneau Seeks to Guide Science, Space Policies from Parliament

Garneau’s next mission: bring science to politics
CBC News

“Even before Liberal member of Parliament Marc Garneau won his riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie, the former astronaut was no stranger to politics, having served as head of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 until 2006 and then losing a bid to win a seat in the House of Commons in the 2006 federal election.

“Now Garneau, who for years distinguished himself as a scientist and Canada’s first man in space, finds himself in an unusual position of trying to bring science and technology issues to the forefront, not as an administrator, but as a critic.

“Garneau, the Liberal party science and technology critic, will be asked to weigh in on the Conservative government’s policies on familiar topics such as space and research funding, but also, alongside new industry critic Gerrard Kennedy, on areas such as internet neutrality and copyright reform.”

Canada Makes Investment in ESA Program as it Defines New Space Policy Direction

Canada contributes $16M to keep foothold in European space plan
CBC News

“Canada’s space agency is hoping a relatively small investment in the next European space budget will reap big rewards down the road as it tries to navigate a new direction for its satellite and space industry.

“Canada’s commitment of funds — about 10 million euros, or $15.8 million — is a tiny portion of the total sum committed, said Gilles Leclerc, the director general of space technologies at the Canadian Space Agency. But he said that contribution allows Canada to contribute to the direction of the agency and share in the resources.

“‘It’s a very modest contribution, and so the industrial return is limited, but it does give us access to a wealth of information, much of it in the form of satellite data and imagery,’ said Leclerc on Friday, a day after returning from the conference.”

Canada Looking to Make Bionic Contributions to Future Moon Flights

Canadian-built eyes could guide lunar rovers

“When NASA returns to the moon, Canadian-built eyes could show its lunar rovers where to drive.

“A team from Ottawa’s Neptec Design Group, a NASA prime contractor, has just returned from two weeks of testing its new guidance system in Hawaii.

So far, the news is good. Neptec’s laser system steered a lunar rover around the barren slopes and sharp rocks 275 metres up the side of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.”

Robotics might be Canada’s ticket to moon

A new super-Canadarm that’s already on the drawing board could be some lucky Canadian astronaut’s ticket for a ride to the moon.


Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars Probe to Carry Chinese Instruments

Hong Kong PolyU Press Release

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is working closely with the well-established Russian Space Agency in designing a state-of-the-art space tool which will be carried onboard a Russian spacecraft for the Red Planet in the 2009 Sino-Russian Space Mission – the first strategic interplanetary collaboration between China and Russia.


Moon Could Get Crowded Within 11 Years

India’s manned Moon mission by 2020

“India will be able to send a manned mission to moon by the year 2020 if everything goes as planned, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair said today.

“Nair was here to deliver the 4th lecture on leadership title ‘Indian Space Mission-Recent Achievement and Challenges Ahead’ at a function organised by the Ahmedabad Management Association.

“‘Space is going to be the next frontier for the future generation, and India cannot afford to lag behind,’ Nair said. ‘If everything goes as per the plan we will be ready to send a man to moon by 2020’, he added.”

SpaceX Update: First Falcon 9 Being Assembled

An update from the SpaceX website:

“Today we fitted the F9 skirt to the fuel tank end of the 1st stage. Also had movement on the erector, with the upper aluminum truss just coming back from being painted. Activity on the floor is constant and will remain so throughout the week and weekend as we prepare the F9 structures for shipping to Texas for testing before they head to the Cape.”

Science Journalist to Take Ride of a Lifetime to Space

Cosmos Magazine has a story describing the training that Australian science journalist Wilson da Silva is undergoing for an upcoming Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceflight.

Space: where no editor has gone before
Cosmos Magazine

“It’s like being shot straight out of a cannon and then ricocheting upwards and massive speeds,” da Silva says. “The display inside the cabin looks real, your senses tell you it’s real, and there’s no way to really restrain your composure.

“While I knew I was inside a centrifuge, my brain and body were screaming – ‘You’re blasting off! You’re in space! You’re re-entering! Aaargh’,” he says of the two days of simulated space launches and re-entries he experienced. “It’s amazing how realistic it all felt.”

British Space Program Advances with Space Center, ExoMars and Moonlite

The British space program got a major boost this week when European space ministers approved the establishment of the agency’s first research center in the UK. The facility on the Harwell innovation campus in Oxfordshire will focus on climate change and space robotics research.

“It’s important. It shows renewed interest for Britain to be part of ESA, to be involved in space activity; and we welcome that,” Senior ESA executive Daniel Sacotte told BBC News. “It’s a new development in our relationship with this very important member state.”

Meanwhile, British scientists will be going interplanetary with missions to the moon and Mars.


Indian Lunar Probe Experience Heating Problems

Indian Moon probe feels the heat
New Scientist

“India’s first uncrewed lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, is experiencing the hottest temperatures it has yet faced and is taking a ‘summer break’ – using its instruments sparingly until mid-January to get through the hot patch.

“Chandrayaan is currently over the sunlit side of the moon, a place where spacecraft are expected to heat up because they receive energy directly from the Sun as well as infrared radiation given off by the Moon. The Moon radiates heat because it also receives energy from the Sun…

“‘The thermal environment is very demanding. I think it somewhat surprised ISRO,’ observes Paul Spudis, scientist at the Houston-based Lunar and Planetary Institute. He adds that ‘they have ways to mitigate the issue, so I do not see this as a big problem.'”