Mercury: Bleak as it Ever Was…

mercury_northpole

NASA MISSION UPDATE

During MESSENGER’s approach to Mercury yesterday, the NAC acquired a high-resolution, 62-image mosaic of the sunlit crescent planet. Many of these images show portions of Mercury’s surface not previously seen by spacecraft, including the NAC image shown here. In this image, Mercury’s northern horizon cuts a crisp line against the blackness of space. The surface in the lower right corner of the image is near Mercury’s terminator, the line between the light dayside and dark night side of the planet. Looking toward the horizon, smooth plains extend for large distances, similar to volcanic plains seen nearby during MESSENGER’s second flyby of Mercury.  (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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CSF to Congress: Fund Program for Spaceport Improvements

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is calling upon Congress and the Obama Administration to provide federal funding to the nation’s spaceports under an unfunded 1993 law:

Unlike airports, commercial spaceports currently have no opportunity to apply for federal matching dollars for infrastructure to support operations and protect public safety. In the 1993 NASA Authorization Act (Public Law No. 102-588), Congress authorized a new program to support commercial space transportation facilities, but no funding has been appropriated to date.

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NASA Scientist Pleads Guilty to Conflict of Interest

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PRESS RELEASE

Mark Schoeberl, age 60, of Silver Spring, Maryland, a senior manager and scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), pleaded guilty today to a felony conflict of interest charge in connection with his participation in NASA contracts given to his wife’s company, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

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Possible Partnership Between Bigelow and Virgin Galactic

Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II
Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II

A brief report from a site called City A.M. about a possible partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace:

“It is early days and no formal talks have happened yet, but we have an ambition of later taking people to space hotels in the second phase of Galactic’s growth,” says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn. “Bigelow have a fantastic inflatable technology which may be the answer, not just in orbit, but also in future on the moon…”

All this is some ways off. Virgin has to even flight test its suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle, much less produce a successor capable of reaching orbit. Bigelow has launched two sub-scale prototype space stations, but it is still awaiting an affordable transport to shuttle passengers to its planned full-scale Sundancer facility.

Billionaut Laliberte, Crewmates Now In Orbit

guylaliberte

A Soyuz rocket carrying Canadian space tourist Guy Laliberte, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and American astronaut Jeffrey Williams lifted off at 1:14 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The crew is now in orbit aboard a Soyuz spacecraft headed for a Friday rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Russian Instrument on LRO Finds High Hydrogen Concentrations in Unexpected Areas

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

PRESS RELEASE
(Via Roskosmos based on RAS Institute of Space Reseach press statement)

Russian LEND — Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector – installed on NASA`s LRO -Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – was switched into active mode on Sept. 15, after LRO reached Lunar 50-km polar orbit, which is to be the operational orbit for the initial stage of the mission.

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JAXA Aims to Lead World in Lunar Frontier Medicine

mukaiThe JAXA website has a lengthy interview with astronaut Chiaki Mukai, who is manager of the agency’s Space Biomedical Research Office.  She talks in depth about the current state of Japanese space medical research, how it will use the newly installed Kibo module aboard the International Space Station, and her nation’s aim to be the leader in the area of lunar frontier medicine. (more…)

U2, Gore, Hayek and McConaughey to Headline Laliberte’s Global Water Event

Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL PRESS RELEASE

Guy Laliberte announces confirmed participation of additional world-renowned celebrities and musicians in his Poetic Social Mission, as he prepares for the Expedition 21 launch. A 120-minute global event featuring musical performances by major international artists and the reading of a poetic tale by well-known celebrities, the Poetic Social Mission seeks to raise awareness through artistic illustration of the humanitarian struggles and solutions associated with water.

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Northrop Grumman Sends More Teachers on Parabolic Flights

As the plane flew over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, teachers conducted a range of experiments, including soaring like Superman, as they experienced lunar, Martian and zero gravity. Pictured: James Janski, Wells Road Intermediate School, Granby, CT (top row, left); Geoffrey Bergen, Whisconier Middle School, Brookfield, CT (top row, right); Michael Gary, J. A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington, CT (second row, right); Nina Rooks Cast, Cooley Health, Science, Technology High School, Providence, RI (second row, left), and Brian Katz, Keansburg High School, Keansburg, NJ (bottom row, left).
As the plane flew over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, teachers conducted a range of experiments, including soaring like Superman, as they experienced lunar, Martian and zero gravity. Pictured: James Janski, Wells Road Intermediate School, Granby, CT (top row, left); Geoffrey Bergen, Whisconier Middle School, Brookfield, CT (top row, right); Michael Gary, J. A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington, CT (second row, right); Nina Rooks Cast, Cooley Health, Science, Technology High School, Providence, RI (second row, left), and Brian Katz, Keansburg High School, Keansburg, NJ (bottom row, left).

NORTHROP GRUMMAN FOUNDATION PROGRAM UPDATE
September 24, 2009

The Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) Foundation launched 29 teachers into weightlessness today as part of the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery Program. The goal: To inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers — critical areas where the U.S. has fallen behind globally.

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New Lunar Water Find Scrambles Extraction Efforts

earthrise

Lunar Water Means New Challenges
Aviation Week

The unequivocal and unexpected discovery of widespread water in the uppermost layer of the moon’s surface means a whole new set of challenges for engineers working on methods for future astronauts to extract lunar resources.

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NASA Opens Up Channels With China

shenzhou1

Aviation Week reports that NASA and China are exploring how to deepen ties on the space front:

As a former deputy NASA administrator and the head of China’s Manned Space Engineering Office held back-channel talks, human spaceflight officials here offered an unprecedented opportunity to examine the Tiangong-1 docking target and the next in its series of Shenzhou human spacecraft, as well as previously off-limits space facilities.

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SpaceX to Conduct New Engine Test This Week

An artist's conception of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida.
An artist's conception of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida.

SpaceX preparing for next rocket engine test in October
Temple Daily Telegram

The rocket company in McGregor that is known for rattling windows around town is keeping quiet about the exact time it next fires up its rocket engines.

SpaceX spokeswoman Cassie Kloberdanz said the California-based company would conduct two separate tests of its Falcon 9 rocket engine assembly at the McGregor site “no earlier than Oct. 1.”

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