18 March 2014

The Planetary Society Announces Its Largest Single Donor Gift A $4.2 Million Donation Re-affirming Its Leadership Role In Planetary Science, Space Exploration and Public Involvement

http://www.planetary.org/press-room/releases/2014/largest-single-donor-gift.html
The Planetary Society, co-founded by Carl Sagan and today the world’s leading space interest group, has announced a donation of $4.2 million, the largest single donation in its history. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a member of the Society.
“This remarkable gift from a Planetary Society Member will enable us to further carry out our mission: We advance space science and exploration for the betterment of humankind,” said Bill Nye, The Science Guy and Planetary Society CEO. “We want everyone everywhere to understand the cosmos and our place within it. This gift will have a major impact on getting us there. I share our donor’s confidence that this gift will spur others to give, knowing their donations will go even further.”
The Planetary Society plans to use this generous donation to aggressively expand its unique portfolio of technology, research, advocacy, and education programs, including:
  • The LightSail® solar sail mission, which is developing two cubesat spacecraft with revolutionary new solar sail technology, allowing them to maneuver in space using pure sunlight. This gift will ensure the continued refinement of the LightSail hardware, educational and public outreach programs, and new ways to move this technology forward to enable a new generation of low-cost small cubesat missions.
  • Planetary Defense. The Planetary Society runs the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Objects Grant program that provides needed funding to highly skilled amateur astronomers to discover, track, and characterize near-Earth objects. With funding from the Shoemaker grant program, an amateur observer discovered asteroid 2012DA14, which in February 2013 buzzed by the Earth at a distance closer than our communications satellites. To date, The Planetary Society has given over $300,000 in grants to astronomers around the world.
This $4.2 Million gift will also continue the support of the Society’s Laser Bees project, an asteroid deflection concept using a swarm of small spacecraft to emit laser bursts to vaporize portions of an asteroid’s surface to push the asteroid slowly out of harm’s way. Developed by scientists at the University of Strathclyde, laboratory tests are happening now in Scotland.
  • Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The Society has partnered with Harvard professor Dr. Paul Horowitz to search the skies for bursts of high-intensity light that could be the signature of intelligent civilizations. This novel approach complements past and present radio-based searches. The Society recently helped to fund upgrade to the Planetary Society All-Sky Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, MA, to better remove false-detections caused by natural phenomena.
  • Exoplanet Detection. The Society is supporting Yale-researcher Debra Fischer and her team to search for exoplanets around our nearest stellar companions at Alpha Centauri.
  • Space Advocacy. The Planetary Society plays a critical role in the education and empowerment of the public to participate in the political decisions of space exploration and this new additional funding will expand those opportunities.
  • Education and Outreach. This gift will support expansion of The Planetary Society’s education materials, including the Society’s ad-free website, www.planetary.org; the newly created Bruce Murray Space Image Library; the highly informative full-color quarterly magazine, The Planetary Report, that will benefit from expanded student sections and interactive content; and the weekly podcast and public radio series, Planetary Radio, now in its 11th year.
  • The Carl Sagan Fund for the Future. Named in honor of the Society’s co-founder Carl Sagan, this growing reserve fund ensures the long-term financial health of the Society.
The Planetary Society will also use the newly donated funds to increase staff in crucial areas, including education and outreach, marketing, and development, which will help to grow membership and position the organization for continued expansion.
Bill Nye noted that the gift coincides with The Planetary Society’s strategic planning process. “The timing of this amazing gift is terrific, because our President Jim Bell just spearheaded a survey of our Members on where their Planetary Society should be heading. The additional funding enables us to think big and integrate our Members’ insights and recommendations.”
“This is a defining moment for The Planetary Society,” said Board Chair Daniel T. Geraci, “We now have the opportunity to make the kind of impactful decisions that will truly 'change the world'.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Diane Murphy (dianewmurphy@gmail.com)

17 March 2014

Rapid-fire Comet Collisions Create Planetary System With The Potential For Life

From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridaineparnell/2014/03/07/rapid-fire-comet-collisions-create-planetary-system-with-the-potential-for-life/?utm_campaign=forbestwittersf&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

"The disc of debris around the young star Beta Pictoris shows a potentially life-supporting system in the making, a hidden exoplanet and icy comets colliding at a rate of one every five minutes."


25 November 2013

Philip Lubin: A space-based array for planetary defense

See Video at: http://spie.org/x104781.xml
Philip Lubin is a professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose primary research has been focused on studies of the early universe in the millimeter wavelengths bands. His group has designed, developed and fielded more than two dozen ground-based and balloon-borne missions and helped develop two major cosmology satellites. Among other accomplishments his group first detected the horizon-scale fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background from both their South Pole and balloon-borne systems 20 years ago. Their latest results, along with international teams of ESA and NASA researchers, are from the Planck cosmology mission, which mapped in exquisite detail the structures of the early universe, released in March 2013.
Lubin's proposed DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroid and exploration) system is a modular phased array of lasers to raise the surface spot temperature of an object, allowing direct evaporation of all known substances. The system will heat the surface of an asteroid and eject evaporated material, which would create a large reaction force to alter the asteroid's orbit. With many other potential functions including the cleanup of "space junk," the DE-STAR's modular design allows for incremental development, test, and initial deployment.
Lubin received his PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. He is co-recipient of the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology along with the COBE science team for their groundbreaking work in cosmology. He has published more than 200 articles.

28 October 2013

Go Japan!

from: http://www.sen.com/news/japan-aims-to-beam-solar-energy-down-from-orbit Japan aims to beam solar energy down from orbit By Paul Sutherland | 28 September 2013 (Sen) - The Japanese space agency JAXA is developing a revolutionary concept to put “power stations” in orbit to capture sunlight and beam it to Earth. The country has been looking for new power sources following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011, that destroyed much of the north-east of the country and caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Many of the country’s nuclear reactors were closed due to stricter safety regulations after the emergency. Now JAXA is aiming to set up a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) by 2030. An array of mirrors would sit in geostationary orbit to collect solar energy and then transmits it to a power plant on the ground via microwaves or laser beams. There it could be used to generate electricity and hydrogen. Proponents of the technology say that it would provide continuous energy without any worry that resources would be depleted. It would be unaffected by the time of day or weather and would provide environmentally friendly, clean energy. Interestingly, the idea is not a new one. An American, Dr Peter Glaser, designed a similar concept in 1968 to deploy large solar panels in space to generate power and convert it into microwaves to transmit to the ground. Following studies by NASA and the US Department of Energy, the project was deemed too costly and it was never developed. Similar studies have been carried out in Europe. The idea is also reminiscent of a Russian plan in the 1990s to use mirrors to beam sunlight to the ground at night. This had astronomers and environmentalists up in arms because of the light pollution it would have caused. The Japanese concept is different because there would be no stray light emitted from the beam. Yasuyuki Fukumuro is leading research and planning for SSPS. He says: “We have not yet decided whether to use microwaves or laser beams with SSPS, or whether we will somehow combine them. We are currently conducting ground-based experiments to find the most efficient way to transmit energy. “Regardless of which transmission technology we use, when we collect sunlight from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, we can get a continuous supply of it, with almost no influence from the weather, the seasons, or time of day, allowing very efficient collection of solar energy. “And since the energy source is the Sun, it’s an endlessly renewable resource - it won’t run out as long as the Sun is there. Also, because the power is generated in space and carbon dioxide is emitted only at the receiving site, emissions within the Earth’s atmosphere can be greatly reduced, which makes this technology very friendly to the environment.” Fukumuro admits the system has its challenges. He says: “When transmitting power by microwaves, a significant technological challenge is how to control the direction, and transmit it with pinpoint accuracy from a geostationary orbit to a receiving site on the ground. Transmitting microwaves from an altitude of 36,000 km to a flat surface 3 km in diameter will be like threading a needle.” Fukumuro suggests the technology will also be useful in disaster situations. In the event of a blackout, a collecting dish could be unfolded and deployed to receive microwaves from space for conversion into electrical energy. JAXA is working with a collective of machining and engineering companies called Kyoto Shisaku Net to develop the array of reflectors that would be lifted into orbit by reusable shuttle-like spacecraft and then assemble themselves. JAXA Engineer and Senior Researcher Katsuto Kisara says: “The biggest problem we’ve encountered with the project is developing solar mirrors that are incredibly lightweight. I think that there is certainly a way to do it, but it has presented quite the challenge.”

25 August 2013

Lt Col Garretson addresses Starship Congress on a Billion Year Plan


Planetary defense: Which strategy will Russia choose?

From: http://rbth.ru/science_and_tech/2013/08/22/planetary_defense_which_strategy_will_russia_choose_29117.html


Planetary defense: Which strategy will Russia choose?

August 22, 2013 Andrei Kislyakov, special to RBTH

Russian researchers have been developing systems to gather data on the most dangerous threats to the Earth — and to destroy them, if need be. Yet a specific strategy for neutralizing space threats has yet to be developed.

The latest news from space is depressing: The threat of space objects hitting the Earth is rising by the year. According to NASA, 16,602 man-made objects were orbiting the Earth as of July 3, 2013.

Only 3,612 of those were active satellites. The rest were space junk of one kind or another. To make matters worse, the Earth has been increasingly under attack by aliens from remote corners of space — asteroids.

“It used to be believed that fragments such as those from the Tunguska meteorite could hit the Earth once in 700–900 years, but now the theory is that such events might occur much more frequently — every 90–100 years,” says Yuri Zaitsev, an academic adviser at the Academy of Engineering Sciences.

More:  Moscow envisions national asteroid-defense system

More asteroids have been discovered over the past decade than in the previous two centuries. “Impacts are all but inevitable — it’s just a matter of time,” the scientist says.

Detect and destroy

According to the general director of the Planetary Defense Center, Anatoly Zaitsev, the “Citadel” International Planetary Defense System — a project presented in March 2013 — should incorporate two or three observer spaceships, reconnaissance satellites to identify asteroid parameters and trajectories, and interceptor satellites capable of destroying an asteroid or changing its trajectory.

The designers estimate it would take around five or six years to create the system, at a cost of around $2 billion.

The leading Russian space corporations have come up with projects of their own. The Energiya Rocket & Space Corporation is prepared to develop a heavy-duty, nuclear-powered carrier to deploy anti-asteroid ammunition in space by 2020 or 2030.

The Lavochkin NPO has developed a sketch of a module designed to land on an asteroid to install a radio transmitter, which would help calculate the space object’s trajectory with more precision.


Initial observations in 2004 indicated a probability thatApophis would strike the Earth in 2029. Additional observations eliminated this possibility. Yet the possibility remained that, during a close encounter with the Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole between 6.5 and 1,970 feet wide, making a future impact inevitable.

Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin has stated repeatedly that the choice of defenses should depend on the size, weight, composition and specifications of the dangerous object.

Russian experts tend to believe that nuclear charges should be used to destroy dangerous asteroids and comets. It remains to be seen, however, which space threat neutralization method Russia will eventually chose.

Meanwhile, putting nuclear ammunition in space to counter the asteroid threat might create some international military and political complications. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated as much in late February 2013. He believes that certain foreign countries might put nuclear weapons into space for military purposes, in the guise of anti-asteroid weapons.

Reduce the chances of a catastrophe to zero

Physical destruction of asteroids is a matter of the future. Currently, it is most important to gather information on the most dangerous space objects approaching the Earth, such as the asteroid called Apophis.

Although NASA refined its observations in January 2013 and almost excluded the risk of Apophis impacting the Earth during the decades ahead, the risk will not disappear and preparations should start now, the director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute, Lev Zelyony, believes.

“I think that the most effective way would be to soft-land a spacecraft on such a threatening object and try to change its trajectory over time, using electric thrusters,” says Zelyony.

Related topic: Space

The technology could be perfected by a joint Russian-American project to capture a small asteroid and tug it closer to the moon’s orbit.

“We are talking about pulling a 50- to 65-foot asteroid into the moon’s orbit using a space tractor, and starting to work with it—perhaps send a manned mission to it, or study it using automatic vehicles,” Vladimir Popovkin said in April. The total project cost could come to $2.65 billion.

20 August 2013

Orbits of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids

From: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130812.html Explanation: Are asteroids dangerous? Some are, but the likelihood of a dangerous asteroid striking the Earth during any given year is low. Because some past mass extinction events have been linked to asteroid impacts, however, humanity has made it a priority to find and catalog those asteroids that may one day affect life on Earth. Pictured above are the orbits of the over 1,000 known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). These documented tumbling boulders of rock and ice are over 140 meters across and will pass within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth -- about 20 times the distance to the Moon. Although none of them will strike the Earth in the next 100 years -- not all PHAs have been discovered, and past 100 years, many orbits become hard to predict. Were an asteroid of this size to impact the Earth, it could raise dangerous tsunamis, for example. Of course rocks and ice bits of much smaller size strike the Earth every day, usually pose no danger, and sometimes creating memorable fireball and meteor displays.

More than 100,000 want to go to Mars: Prospective Martians apply for one-way trip to red planet

From: http://www.clickorlando.com/lifestyle/technology/More-than-100-000-want-to-go-to-Mars/-/2242398/21404096/-/vmqh3az/-/index.html (CNN) - More than 100,000 people are eager to make themselves at home on another planet. They've applied for a one-way trip to Mars, hoping to be chosen to spend the rest of their lives on uncharted territory, according to an organization planning the manned missions. The Mars One project wants to colonize the red planet, beginning in 2022. There are financial and practical questions about this venture that haven't been clarified. Will there be enough money? Will people really be able to survive on Mars? But these haven't stopped some 30,000 Americans from signing up. You can see some of the candidates on the project's website, but they're not the only ones who have applied, said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder. "There is also a very large number of people who are still working on their profile, so either they have decided not to pay the application fee, or they are still making their video or they're still filling out the questionnaire or their resume. So the people that you can see online are only the ones that have finished and who have set their profiles as public," Lansdorp said. The entrepreneur did not specify how many have paid the fees, completed their profiles and configured them as private. The application process Anyone 18 or older may apply, but the fee depends on a user's nationality. For Americans, it's $38. The company said it sets the price based on the gross domestic product per capita of each nation. "We wanted it to be high enough for people to have to really think about it and low enough for anyone to be able to afford it," Lansdorp said. For the first crew, the Mars One mission will cost $6 billion, Lansdorp said. The idea is for it to be funded by sponsors and media that will pay for broadcasting rights of shows and movies documenting everything from the astronauts' training on Earth to their deployment and colonization of Mars. Out of the applicants, Mars One said it will select a multicontinental group of 40 astronauts this year. Four of them -- two men and two women -- are set to leave for Mars in September 2022, landing in April 2023. Another multicontinental group of four will be deployed two years later, according to the Mars One plan. None of them will return to Earth. The astronauts will undergo a required eight-year training in a secluded location. According to the project site, they will learn how to repair habitat structures, grow vegetables in confined spaces and address "both routine and serious medical issues such as dental upkeep, muscle tears and bone fractures." "What we want to do is tell the story to the world," Lansdorp said, "when humans go to Mars, when they settle on Mars and build a new Earth, a new planet. This is one of the most exciting things that ever happened, and we want to share the story with the entire world." How will Mars be colonized? Each lander that Mars One sends will be able to carry about 5,511 pounds of "useful load" to Mars, he said. After eight missions, more than 44,000 pounds of supplies and people are expected to have arrived. The capsules themselves, whose weight is not included in that number, will become part of the habitat. Food and solar panels will go in the capsules. Earth won't be sending much water or oxygen though -- those will be manufactured on Mars, Lansdorp said. Astronauts will filter Martian water from the Martian soil. "We will evaporate it and condense it back into its liquid state," he said. "From the water we can make hydrogen and oxygen, and we will use the oxygen for a breathing atmosphere inside the habitat. This will be prepared by the rovers autonomously before the humans arrive." It sounds like terraforming, a process in which the conditions of a planet are modified to make it habitable, but Lansdorp said it isn't. "We will create an atmosphere that looks like the atmosphere on Earth, so you could say that we are terraforming the habitat. But to terraform the entire planet, that's a project that will take hundreds and hundreds of years," he added. A dangerous mission In spite of the risks of space travel, the Mars One founder said he is convinced of the viability of the project. However, some space travel experts have said the risks are far too high to carry out these manned missions to Mars, a distance that humans have never traveled. Radiation is a big concern. NASA does not allow their astronauts to expose themselves to radiation levels that could increase their risk of developing cancer by more than 3%. To maintain the radiation exposure standards that NASA requires, the maximum time an astronaut can spend in space "is anywhere from about 300 days to about 360 days for the solar minimum activity. For solar maximum, in ranges anywhere from about 275 days to 500 days," said Eddie Semones, NASA spaceflight radiation officer. A round-trip journey to Mars could expose astronauts to the maximum amount of radiation allowed in a career under current NASA standards, according to a recent study by scientists at the space agency. Mars One is planning a one-way journey, which doesn't negate the problem, and being on Mars could expose astronauts to even more radiation, depending on how long they stay and what the shielding conditions are like. Radiation damages cells' DNA, which can lead to cell death or permanent changes that may result in cancer. However, "there's no convincing human evidence for excess abnormalities in offspring of radiation-exposed adults," Semones said. While orbiting the Earth, astronauts get exposed to greater concentrations of cosmic background radiation than here on Earth in addition to charged particles trapped in the upper atmosphere and from the sun, said Robert J. Reynolds, epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center. As a spacecraft moves into deep space, the people on board would be exposed to even more cosmic radiation and solar particles, which is "fairly dangerous," Reynolds said. Interestingly, according to Reynolds, astronauts' risk of dying of cancer is lower than that of the general public because they tend to be in shape, eat well, don't smoke and receive careful monitoring from doctors. Of course, none of them have been to Mars. Semones emphasized that NASA does not study the health effects of Mars colonization and that it's focusing on shorter recognition missions of the surface of Mars. "We're not looking at colonization of Mars or anything. We're not focusing our research on those kinds of questions." Can it be done? Mars One isn't the only group hoping to make history by sending people to the red planet. The Inspiration Mars Foundation wants to launch two people -- a man and a woman -- on a 501-day, round-trip journey to Mars and back in 2018 without ever touching down. At this time there is no technology that can protect astronauts from an excess of space radiation. "The maximum number of days to stay with our standards is on the order of 500 days. So any mission that would exceed 500 days would not be doable," Semones said. Reynolds agreed: "At this point it's completely infeasible to try to send someone to Mars unless we can get there faster or we develop better shielding for a spacecraft." NASA is working on engines intended to cut the travel time to Mars by the 2030s, but those systems won't be ready for many years, Chris Moore, NASA's deputy director of advanced exploration systems, told CNN this year. In the meantime, Moore said engineers could try to limit travelers' exposures by designing a spacecraft in such a way that it provides more protection. But Mars One founder Lansdorp insisted his group will get people landing on Mars by 2023. "The risks of space travel in general are already very high, so radiation is really not our biggest concern," he said. If that all sounds good, you can still sign up. But remember: You can never go home again.

Papers and policy recommendations from the 2013 Planetary Defense Conference in Flagstaff are now available on-line

From: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=44482 Planetary Defense Conference 2013 AIAA White Paper from the PDC is available at http://doctorlinda.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/2013-pdc-white-paper.pdf Here is the web link for Conference papers, posters and presentations. https://www.wuala.com/IAAbackup/Big%20Files%20Flagstaff/?key=G6FttSjkXG9T Summary and Recommendations Over 200 experts from around the world participated in the 2013 IAA Planetary Defense Conference; a meeting that concluded with a tabletop exercise exposed participants to a realistic asteroid warning and impact scenario and asked that they develop responses to the threat from multiple perspectives. Recommendations arising from this experience are below. Discovery: Discovery remains the most critical aspect of planetary defense. We have discovered only a small percentage of the objects that could destroy a city or cause severe regional destruction, and such an object could enter our atmosphere today with little or no warning. Necessary tools that include space-based survey systems such as that proposed by the B612 Foundation, enhanced ground-based systems such as Pan-STARRS, and upgrades to radars that will improve precise tracking and measurements of an object’s size, rotation, and other factors that inform the design and execution of deflection efforts. UN efforts to formalize cooperative interactions among nations to improve observation and discovery capability should be supported. Characterization: Research is increasing our understanding of the types of structures and materials that might be encountered by deflection/disruption missions and the responses to kinetic impact and other deflection/disruption efforts. This work will increase confidence in the success of deflection/disruption missions and potentially limit the number of launches required to achieve the desired result. Verification of our ability to move an asteroid: Missions are being proposed that would use kinetic impactors to move an asteroid, and the impact and motion away from the original path would be verified by observer spacecraft. Designing these missions and developing the necessary tools and payloads for these types of actions would verify model predictions and build confidence in our abilities to deal with an actual threat. Disaster mitigation: Tabletop exercises for limited audiences are demonstrating the effectiveness of these exercises in making people aware of the unique aspects of asteroid threats and where work needs to be done. Exercises involving disaster response agencies at the local, state, national and international level would help these agencies be prepared for disasters that might be caused by asteroid impacts. Being Prepared: Atmospheric entries of NEOs of sufficient size to cause serious damage are rare on human time scales, but the need for an active deflection/disruption response could occur at any time. The challenge is to develop response plans and to put cost effective procedures in place to preserve technologies and capabilities necessary for a response. For example, algorithms that can guide a spacecraft moving at 10s of km/sec relative to an approaching asteroid must be made available and tested prior to when they are needed, as must the thruster and other hardware necessary to execute the algorithms’ commands. Procedures should be developed that will maintain a catalog of necessary equipment and tools and assure that these capabilities are tested and verified as part of other missions. Similarly, current procedures for launching spacecraft should be examined to see what can be done to make it possible to reprogram an existing launch vehicle and mount and launch a new payload quickly. Potentially, a low level build-up of an effective planetary defense capability over time could be done with modest sustained annual investment. Public education and outreach programs also contribute to readiness and preparedness for NEO threats. International efforts: Planetary defense is an international responsibility and current efforts at the United Nations to provide opportunities for space agencies to begin to plan for shared responsibilities and coordinated actions should be supported. Bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements will also be necessary as part of the overall coordination of resources and capability. Communications: The Planetary Defense Conference exercise and the exercise recently conducted by NASA and FEMA helped solidify the importance of developing and moving forward on an overall coordination and communication plan for planetary defense related topics. Information on the nature of a NEO threat, possible deflection/disruption options, the evolution of a threat scenario, risk and uncertainty, and credible tools for simple deflection mission design should be added to currently available authoritative web pages. NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.

NASA's Bolden downplays planetary defense, science benefits of asteroid mission

From: http://www.examiner.com/article/nasa-s-bolden-downplays-planetary-defense-science-benefits-of-asteroid-mission August 10, 2013 post in the Space Politics blog relates how NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a remarkable admission about the planned asteroid mission that the space agency is contemplating. Not only will it not advance the cause of planetary defense against asteroid strike but will have no significant scientific benefit. Instead Bolden defended the asteroid mission, which would involve the capture of a small asteroid and its diversion to lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts, as an engineering exercise. It would test a number of technologies that is hoped would be applicable for an eventual crewed mission to Mars, such as solar electric propulsion. Bolden also seemed to admit that the choice of an asteroid mission is largely budget driven, since he stated that there is not enough money to return to the moon, something desired by many in Congress as well as by experts both inside and outside of NASA. The space agency also seemed to suggest that the planned 2021 date for the crewed part of the mission was likely to slip, mainly because of the difficulty of finding a target asteroid of the right size, orbit, and mass. “Previously, NASA had talked about redirecting an asteroid to provide a destination for the first crewed SLS/Orion mission, designated Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), planned for launch in 2021. One challenge has been, though, finding a target that, even in the most optimistic scenarios for the development of the robotic ARM spacecraft, could be put into the designed distant retrograde orbit by 2021. In a briefing about the initiative at the NAC meeting, NASA’s Michele Gates said ‘our current concepts are looking at either EM-3 or EM-4’ for the Orion mission to the asteroid. That would likely push out the mission into the mid-2020s, given the expected cadence of at least two years between SLS/Orion flights.” There is no word about what the first one or two crewed SLS/Orion flights would accomplish.

07 August 2013

Terrific article on Elysium and Space Colonies (lots of cool pictures!)

We need a lot more of these!
http://www.space.com/22229-space-station-colony-futuristic-technology.html Incredible Technology: How to Build a Space Station Colony by Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer | August 05, 2013 12:42pm ET From the article: While a self-sustaining space station colony might be a long way off, scientists are still working to design and perhaps even build a space station that goes beyond low-Earth orbit. "It extends the capability of humans to be out in space away from Earth," Paul Bookout, project manager of the concept demonstrator for Deep Space Habitat at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said of building a space station in deep space. "For example if you could go to a near-Earth asteroid and you had a habitat out there, you could stay extended periods of time … and do research on the asteroid, bring samples back in, continuing work out there instead of trying to bring small samples back to Earth." "The premise is totally believable to me," Mark Uhran, a former assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, said of the movie. "When I took a look at the Elysium station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable within this millennium." "It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion," Uhran told SPACE.com. "We learned an Incredible Technology: How to Build a Space Station Colonyby Miriam Kramer, SPACE.com Staff Writer | August 05, 2013 12:42pm ET 78 45 11 Share15 An artist’s depiction showing the exterior of Bernal Spheres space colony from space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. The Bernal Sphere is a point design with a spherical living area for a population of 10,000. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Rick Guidice View full size image Life in a space colony would be different from life on Earth. Gravity might be a thing of the past, everyone could drink distilled urine, and a whole generation of Earthlings may grow up without ever having set foot on the surface of the planet. At the moment, those ideas are still firmly set in the realm of science fiction, but in the next 1,000 years, new technologies could be developed that would enable humanity to colonize space. While a self-sustaining space station colony might be a long way off, scientists are still working to design and perhaps even build a space station that goes beyond low-Earth orbit. [See Photos of NASA Space Colony Designs from the 1970s] "It extends the capability of humans to be out in space away from Earth," Paul Bookout, project manager of the concept demonstrator for Deep Space Habitat at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said of building a space station in deep space. "For example if you could go to a near-Earth asteroid and you had a habitat out there, you could stay extended periods of time … and do research on the asteroid, bring samples back in, continuing work out there instead of trying to bring small samples back to Earth." An artist’s depiction of a construction crew at work on the Bernal Spheres colony from space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Don DavisView full size image"Elysium" — a new science fiction film about a world in which only the rich and powerful can live in a seemingly utopic space station orbiting Earth — is the newest in a long line of movies dealing with the science of space living. "The premise is totally believable to me," Mark Uhran, a former assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, said of the movie. "When I took a look at the Elysium station, I thought to myself, that's certainly achievable within this millennium." How to build a station Engineers and researchers need to overcome a few major obstacles before a sustainable space station colony is a viable possibility, Uhran said. "It's clear that the number-one challenge is chemical propulsion," Uhran told SPACE.com. "We learned an incredible amount with [the International Space Station] and we demonstrated that we have the technology to assemble large structures in space. What we need are rockets that can get material out of the Earth's gravity well and deliver it to whatever location the future space station is assembled." The supplies needed to create the space station don't necessarily have to come from Earth, Uhran said. Asteroids and other planetary bodies like the moon could provide elements needed to build the station. However, moving the heavy supplies to their proper place in orbit from any cosmic hub would still be a challenge for current propulsion systems. Engineers will also need to create a closed-loop life-support system that can recycle most of the materials used in the colony to make the space station sustainable indefinitely. Currently, the International Space Station operates at about a 70 to 80 percent closed loop system for water.

Departing Earth from Messenger

01 July 2013

56,000 MPH Space Rock Hits Moon, Explosion Seen | Video

Video:
A NASA moon monitoring telescope captured the blast, which could be seen by the naked eye on Earth, on March 17th, 2013. The object was the size of a small boulder and may be part of a meteor swarm that also flew past Earth.

LRO may image on its next pass!

30 June 2013

Russians want 'Satan' missile shield to save us from asteroids

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a5E2PDNy_M
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/24/russians-want-satan-missile-shield-to-save-us-from-asteroids/#ixzz2XlFEguHY

An old ballistic missile system should be modified to defend Earth from asteroids, a Russian scientist says, citing a major explosion over the Urals earlier this year.
The Soviet-era SS-18 "Satan" heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles are ideal for conversion into a rapid-reaction anti-asteroid system, said senior rocket researcher Sabit Saitgarayev over the weekend.
Saitgarayev of the State Rocket Design Center pointed to the destructive power of the meteor which burst over the Russian Ural Mountains on February 15. The sonic boom of the airburst blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk.
About 1,200 people were injured. Some 50 were hospitalized.
NASA believed the space rock to have been some 15 meters in diameter.
Saitgarayev said the old 1960s-era Soviet "Satan" missiles were ideally suited to such an interception role as they could be held ready for launch for up to 10 years.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/24/russians-want-satan-missile-shield-to-save-us-from-asteroids/#ixzz2XlFPpOdK


AN OLD ballistic missile system should be modified to defend Earth from asteroids, a Russian scientist says, citing a major explosion over the Urals earlier this year.
The Soviet-era SS-18 "Satan" heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles were ideal for conversion into a rapid-reaction anti-asteroid system, said senior rocket researcher Sabit Saitgarayev at the weekend.
Mr Saitgarayev, of the State Rocket Design Centre, pointed to the destructive power of the meteor which burst over the Russian Ural Mountains on February 15. The sonic boom of the airburst blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk.
About 1200 people were injured. Some 50 were hospitalised.
NASA believed the space rock to have been some 15 metres in diameter.
Mr Saitgarayev said the old 1960s-era Soviet "Satan" missiles were ideally suited to such an interception role as they could be held ready for launch for up to 10 years.
C09FFA4C-DC6A-11E2-A2A7-BA3B27A8768F

Source: Supplied
"Carrier rockets created on the basis of intercontinental ballistic missiles like (Satan), which use standard liquid fuel based on hydrazine, are well-suited for fighting suddenly discovered small objects," he said.
"They can stay in the condition of their readiness for launch for ten and more years, after some re-equipping."
This would enable "Satan" to be launched against an inbound asteroid with only 20 minutes warning.
Most modern missile systems need several days to fuel, and this is usually done before a scheduled launch.
Saitgarayev said giving the "Satan" an upgrade including a third stage booster would enable it to target - and destroy - asteroids some five to six hours before they would strike the Earth.


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/sci-tech/old-8216satan8217-ballistic-missiles-should-be-converted-into-an-antiasteroid-defence-system-says-russian-scientist/story-fn5fsgyc-1226668703183#ixzz2XlFfiYws

Planetary Resources Calls on Citizens of Earth to Aid in Planetary Defense: Company Announces New Crowdfunding Goal to Create "Asteroid Zoo" for Public to Search for Dangerous Near-Earth Asteroids

From: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/planetary-resources-calls-on-citizens-of-earth-to-aid-in-planetary-defense-213357051.html

BELLEVUE, Wash., June 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has announced a collaboration with Zooniverse that will empower citizen scientists to aid in the search for dangerous near Earth asteroids (NEAs) and support planetary defense.
Planetary Resources is in the final stretch of its Kickstarter campaign, ARKYD – the world's first crowdfunded space telescope for the public, which has generated nearly 15,000 supporters and US$1.2M in pledges. If pledges reach US$1.7 million in the three remaining days of the campaign, Planetary Resources and Zooniverse will create Asteroid Zoo, a program to allow students, citizen scientists and space enthusiasts to find potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) at home and help train computers to better find them in the future.
Visit Planetary Resources' Kickstarter Page to Help Reach this Goal: http://bit.ly/ARKYD-100
"Planetary Resources values the power of the connected mind; when working together, we can accomplish much more than any of us can do alone," said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc. "We're creating this program to harness the public's interest in space and asteroid detection, while providing a very real benefit to our planet."
Chris Lintott, astronomer at the University of Oxford and Zooniverse Principal Investigator said, "Zooniverse volunteers have already inspected more than a million galaxies, discovered planets and kept an eye on solar storms. We're looking forward to working with Planetary Resources to make sure citizen scientists everywhere can make a real contribution to spotting asteroids, too."
It's been 66 million years since scientists believe a 10-kilometer asteroid slammed into the Earth, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today, there are approximately 620,000 objects that are actively tracked in our Solar System, which represents merely one percent of the 60 million asteroids estimated to orbit the Sun. The NEA population of 1 km+ asteroids is approximately 860, over 90 percent of which are known and 155 of which might be described as extinction-level/dinosaur-killing PHAs. It is currently estimated that less than one percent of smaller asteroids (less than 100m) have been found. None of these currently pose a threat to Earth, and while many of these asteroids are small, they are capable of regional disaster, such as massive damage to a metro city.
Modeled after Zooniverse's popular Galaxy Zoo and other astronomy projects, Asteroid Zoo will allow the public to search through terabytes of data collected by Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) for undiscovered asteroids in a fun, game-like process from their personal computers. The public's findings will be used by scientists to develop advanced asteroid-searching technology for telescopes on Earth and in space, including the ARKYD. Of all the asteroids ever discovered, 93 percent were found in the last 15 years and nearly half of the near-Earth asteroids were discovered by CSS.
Eric Christensen, Principal Investigator for the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey stated, "We're excited to open our archive of more than three-million images to citizen scientists around the world, and look forward to seeing what surprises are hiding in the data set. The results of this effort will provide invaluable feedback that we can use to make CSS a better survey."
Defending our planet from PHAs is also a top priority for NASA, which recently announced a new grand challenge of "finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them."
About Planetary Resources
Planetary Resources, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. Our vision is to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the Solar System within humanity's economic sphere of influence. The company will conduct low-cost robotic space exploration beginning with the Arkyd Series of space missions that will identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids. These initial missions will assist the company in enabling the retrieval of raw materials from these select asteroids, including water, precious metals and more.
Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google's CEO Larry Page & Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt; and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group; who are committed to expanding the world's resource base so humanity can continue to grow and prosper for centuries to come. Some of the company's partners and advisors include the Bechtel Corporation; film maker and explorer James Cameron; former Chief of Staff, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. Members of the company's technical staff have worked on every recent U.S. Mars lander including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, and include other key non-aerospace and safety-critical disciplines. For more information, please visit www.planetaryresources.com.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for all the latest updates!
SOURCE Planetary Resources


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Asteroid 1998 QE2 flies past Eart

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22736709

An asteroid that measures nearly 2.7km (1.7 miles) across has flown past the Earth.

The space rock, which is called 1998 QE2, is so large that it is orbited by its own moon.

It made its closest approach to our planet at 20:59 GMT (21:59 BST), but scientists had said there would be no chance it would hit.

Instead it kept a safe distance - at closest, about 5,800,000 km (3,600,000 miles).

That is about 200 times more distant than the asteroid "near-miss" that occurred in February - but Friday's passing space rock is more than 50,000 times larger.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast, said: "It's a big one. And there are very few of these objects known - there are probably only about 600 or so of this size or larger in near-Earth space.

"And importantly, if something this size did hit us one day in the future, it is extremely likely it would cause global environmental devastation, so it is important to try and understand these objects."

Dark visitor
This fly-by gave astronomers the chance to study the rocky mass in detail.

Using radar telescopes, they were due to record a series of high-resolution images.

They want to find out what it is made of, and exactly where in the Solar System it came from.

Prof Fitzsimmons said: "We already know from the radar measurements, coupled with its brightness, that it appears to be a relatively dark asteroid - that it's come from the outer part of the asteroid belt."

Early analysis has already revealed that the asteroid has its own moon: it is being orbited by another smaller piece of rock that is about 600m (2000ft) across.

About 15% of asteroids that are large are "binary" systems like this.

This celestial event was not visible to the naked eye, but space enthusiasts with even a modest telescope might be able to witness the pass.

After this, asteroid 1998 QE2 will hurtle back out into deep space; Friday's visit will be its closest approach for at least two centuries.

Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in potential hazards in space.

So far they have counted more than 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, and they spot another 800 new space rocks on average each year.

NASA Seeks Private-Sector Posse to Hunt Asteroids

From: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-18/nasa-seeks-private-sector-posse-to-hunt-asteroids

Forget sentient glasses and self-driving cars, “asteroid transportation” may be the hottest thing in engineering.

NASA summoned captains of industry to Washington this morning to pitch its plan to harness earthbound asteroids with spacecraft. The briefing, along with a request for information from potential private-sector partners, is part of the government’s “enhanced focus on planetary defense.” In other words, the government needs help saving the world. NASA hopes to be able to snare a small asteroid by 2025. In addition to an Armageddon-style rendezvous, the agency aims to double its capacity to spot potentially hazardous objects zipping through space, or in NASA terminology: “near-earth objects.”

At any given time there are several dozen asteroids and comets for which “future earth impact cannot be ruled out,” according to the space agency. (To induce a light existential crisis, feel free to check the agency’s list of rogue space rocks.) “The average person is oblivious to the threat,” NASA chief Charles Bolden told Bloomberg News today. “Unlike other natural disasters, we can avert this. It allows us to avoid becoming like the dinosaurs.”

NASA already has its eyes on three asteroids—each about 10 meters wide—that are likely candidates for redirection. In theory, NASA and its private-sector partners would use solar-powered spacecraft to drag the asteroids away from earth and into orbit with the moon. Saving the planet aside, there’s also some money in it for potential partners. Of NASA’s $18 billion proposed budget for 2014, it hopes to set aside $105 million for asteroid goaltending.

NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown said today’s meeting was “packed.” Even though the space agency says it didn’t have a sign-in sheet to collect names at today’s event, several private-sector companies are already working on relevant space products, often in concert with NASA. Here’s a look:

B612 Foundation: A Silicon Valley-based nonprofit planning to launch a space telescope by July 2018 to find and track threatening asteroids.

Blue Origin: A Washington-based company focused on building reusable rockets and spacecraft designed to both take off and land vertically.

Boeing (BA): The aeronautics giant already has an agreement to help NASA with commercial space flight, and its Houston-based space exploration unit has more than 3,000 employees.

Google (GOOG): The tech giant, led by known space enthusiasts, has its engineers mapping planets and is offering $20 million to any group that can land a robot on the moon.

Moon Express: A Bay Area aerospace startup that designs lunar landers in hopes of one day mining the moon.

Planetary Resources: A startup backed by Google founders that hopes to mine asteroids for precious metals.

Paragon Space Development: A Tucson (Ariz.)-based company that works on NASA life-support systems.

Sierra Nevada: A Nevada-based NASA partner specializing in high-tech manufacturing and electronics.

Space Exploration Technologies: Founded by Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, SpaceX is already shooting supplies to the International Space Station.

Virgin Galactic: Richard Branson’s space tourism company, which is already selling
tickets for $250,000 a seat.

White House, NASA want help hunting asteroids

From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/white-house-nasa-want-help-hunting-asteroids/2013/06/17/8de0fdcc-d765-11e2-a9f2-42ee3912ae0e_story.html

The White House and NASA on Tuesday will ask the public for help finding asteroids that potentially could slam into the Earth with catastrophic consequences.

Citing planetary defense, the administration has decided that the search for killer rocks in space should be the latest in a series of “Grand Challenges,” in which the government sets an ambitious goal, helps create public-private partnerships and sometimes offers prize money for innovative ideas.

Asteroids, comets, meteors and the movies: Asteroids are a popular go-to in the disaster and sci-fi movie genre. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable ones.

“This is really a call to action to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said Monday. She said the asteroid hunt would help prove that “we’re smarter than the dinosaurs.”

There is a second, overlapping agenda at work here: The NASA human spaceflight program needs to find a target rock for what is now being called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (formerly the Asteroid Retrieval Mission), or ARM.

The proposed mission, which is early in the planning stages, would send astronauts to visit an asteroid that had been redirected into a high lunar orbit. But first a robotic spacecraft would have to rendezvous with the asteroid and capture it. And even before that, scientists would have to find the right asteroid.

The target rock has to be moving at a leisurely pace relative to the Earth, and ideally would come close to the Earth-moon system sometime in the early 2020s. At present, NASA has a short list of possible targets, but all need further scrutiny to see if they have the size, shape, spin rate and composition that the asteroid mission would require.

Two recent feasibility studies used as their reference a rock discovered in 2009, but NASA scientists aren’t sure that it will meet the mission requirements. For one thing, it might turn out to be too small. They plan to study it this fall with the Spitzer Space Telescope.

But NASA scientists are clearly eager to speed up the rate of discovery of small asteroids, and thus expand the pool of candidate rocks for the ARM mission.

The Earth coexists with a swarm of asteroids of varying sizes. Thanks to a number of asteroid searches in the past 15 years, some funded by NASA, about 95 percent of the near-Earth objects (NEOs) larger than 1 kilometer (about three-fifths of a mile) in diameter have already been detected, and their trajectories calculated. None poses a significant threat of striking the Earth in the foreseeable future.

The science is clear: Cat­astrophic impacts, such as the one implicated in the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, are very rare, and no one needs to panic about killer rocks.

But as one goes down the size scale, these objects become more numerous and harder to detect. Congress in 2005 charged NASA with finding all the asteroids greater than 140 meters (459 feet) in diameter. Asteroids that size are generally regarded as large enough to take out a city.

According to NASA, there are also probably about 25,000 near-Earth asteroids that are 100 meters (328 feet) or larger. Only 25 percent of those have been detected, many through NASA’s Near Earth Object Program. The administration is asking Congress to double the budget for asteroid detection, to $40 million, Garver said.

But the Grand Challenge would elicit help from academics, international partners and backyard astronomers. The search for NEOs took on greater urgency on Feb. 15, when, on the very day that a previously detected asteroid was about to make a close pass of the Earth, an unknown 50-foot-diameter rock came out of the glare of the sun and fireballed through the atmosphere above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

The asteroid’s disintegration caused a shock wave that shattered windows and caused hundreds of injuries and major property damage. It was the first recorded instance of an asteroid causing human casualties. (In 1908 an asteroid exploded over Siberia and flattened trees in a vast, unpopulated area.)

“Even though these smaller asteroids don’t pose a threat to human civilization, they can still cause major damages and casualties on a regional level,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The administration’s Grand Challenges include efforts to understand the human brain and cure brain disorders, make solar energy cost-competitive by the decade’s end, and make electric cars as affordable as gasoline-powered vehicles.



KinetX Aerospace Joins Russian National Research University Higher School of Economics to Research Planetary Defense Joint efforts will help track potentially dangerous asteroids and explore other interplanetary space projects

From: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kinetx-aerospace-joins-russian-national-research-university-higher-school-of-economics-to-research-planetary-defense-2013-06-17

TEMPE, Ariz., Jun 17, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- KinetX Aerospace and the world-renowned Russian National Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE) are teaming on research efforts to detect and deflect potentially harmful asteroids from colliding with Earth. The Chelyabinsk asteroid event in Russia earlier this year highlighted the destructive power of smaller asteroids (it was only 17 meters across) that are not currently tracked.

A recently signed Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) solidifies a new phase of the ongoing relationship between KinetX and NRU HSE and the success these organizations achieved over the past year on a MegaGrant contract.

The initial focus of the joint team under this MOC was planetary defense. The KinetX / NRU HSE team presented initial approaches to tracking potentially dangerous asteroids not currently being tracked as well as how the risk might be mitigated at the International Academy of Astronautics Conference, "Gathering for Impact!", held in April in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Further work outlined in the MOC includes interplanetary space projects that advance space education, international space missions and commercial ventures.

The initial MegaGrant contract from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, teaming with the Moscow State Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (technical university) (MIEM; now merged with NRU HSE), was won by Dr. David Dunham of KinetX in October 2011. Under the MegaGrant, the teams researched space missions to detect and classify asteroids and comets passing near the Earth. This grant also covered work to develop the means to modify orbits of space objects to prevent collisions with our planet, as well as to develop optimal trajectories to extend human exploration to interplanetary destinations.

"The next steps in space will be done via international and commercial cooperation, not by individual countries trying to shoulder the entire expense," said Dr. Dunham. "Relationships like ours that team the research prowess of NRU HSE with the deep space exploration experience KinetX personnel have in landing a spacecraft on an asteroid, and soon with OSIRIS-REx, are a solid foundation for mutually beneficial advancements."

"This MOC unites us in a common goal of developing international space missions between Russia and the US, and promoting the exploration of commercial space ideas and projects," said Professor Vladimir Kulagin. "Our focus on science transcends geopolitical concerns as we work together to design business models and creative solutions that leverage the combined talent and knowledge of our teams for the good of mankind."

The MOC will provide an opportunity for NRU HSE to utilize the newly-developed Laboratory of Space Research, Technologies, Systems and Processes that was started during the execution of the MegaGrant contract. This laboratory focus is on the development of world-class space research and to provide students and post-graduates an opportunity to develop and work on actual space missions.

The MOC requires the same strict adherence to all International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which the KinetX / NRU HSE team have followed during MegaGrant contract, operating under a Technical Assistance Agreement that was approved by the U.S. State Department.

For more information on KinetX Aerospace's Systems Engineering solutions for aerospace, defense, and communications systems or its Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics (SNAFD) team that specializes in the navigation of earth orbiting and deep space missions, please visit: www.kinetx.com or call us at 480.829.6600.

About National Research University Higher School Of Economics

For more information about NRU HSE, please visit http://www.hse.ru/en/. For information about the Laboratory of Space Research please visit http://astro.miem.hse.ru/en/.

About KinetX Aerospace

KinetX Aerospace is an innovative engineering, technology and business consulting firm providing complete systems solutions for commercial and government markets. Specializing in aerospace systems, its engineers have an established track record of problem solving utilizing techniques that border on the forefront of technology. With a well-earned reputation for applying and integrating business applications, KinetX Aerospace has consistently increased client revenue, reduced costs and accelerated timelines. KinetX Aerospace is AS9100 REV. C, ISO9001:2008 and CMMI Level 3 certified. KinetX Aerospace also maintains a DCAA compliant cost accounting system.

KinetX Aerospace is the first commercial entity to provide spacecraft navigation services for NASA interplanetary missions and is currently providing similar mission design and navigation services for three NASA missions: the MESSENGER mission that is currently orbiting the planet Mercury, the New Horizons mission that is on its way to fly past Pluto in 2015, and the newly selected OSIRIS-REx mission that will return to Earth a sample from asteroid 1999 RQ36.

KinetX Aerospace is a privately held company headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., with additional offices in Simi Valley, Calif., and other employees located in Colorado, Maryland, and Virginia. It continues to build on the original goal of being a flexible, innovative company focused on what it does best - solving engineering challenges.

http://cts.businesswire.com/ct/CT?id=bwnews&sty=20130617005412r1&sid=cmtx6&distro=nx

SOURCE: KinetX Aerospace

Russians Propose Space Billiards for Planetary Defense

From: http://en.ria.ru/analysis/20130531/181439126/Russians-Propose-Space-Billiards-for-Planetary-Defense.html

MOSCOW, May 31 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – The meteorite that blew up over Russia’s Urals in mid-February, leaving 1,500 injured, came as a striking reminder of how vulnerable we are on our small, blue planet. It was suddenly palpably clear that we have no way of preventing celestial bodies from slamming into Earth.

The way out just might be to hit dangerous asteroids with other asteroids, Russian scientists say.

Several near-Earth asteroids can be towed into the vicinity of the planet to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, said Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences.

“I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,” Eismont, one of the project’s authors, told RIA Novosti in a recent interview.

The orbiting asteroids can be “lined up” so that one passes 100,000 to 200,000 kilometers from Earth every few weeks or months, ready to be used against non-catalogued and hazardous asteroids, recent research by the Space Research Institute and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow suggests.

There are currently more than 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, or asteroids whose orbits bring them within 1 astronomical unit (149 million km or 92 million miles) of the Sun, and thus relatively close to the Earth as well. But this figure could be as little as 1 or 2 percent of their total number, Eismont said. New asteroids are discovered every day.



© RIA Novosti.

Asteroids That Buzz Planet Earth


Most suitable asteroids have elliptical orbits that bring them close to Earth at certain points, while the rest of the time they are several astronomical units away.

It is currently possible to send an unmannedProton rocket – a staple of the Russian space program –to land on an asteroid, carrying with it up to 2 tons of rocket fuel, Eismont said. Properly anchored, the rocket fuel would then ignite at a designated time, tweaking the asteroid’s orbit.

Space rocks best suited for planetary defense weigh 1,500-2,000 tons and are 10 to 15 meters in diameter – smaller than the meteorite that blew up over the Urals, which measured 17 meters across and weighed over 9,000 tons. The 99942 Apophis – which was considered a potential hazard until updated calculations rolled in earlier this year – is estimated to be 325 meters in diameter and weigh 40 megatons.

Asteroids the size of Apophis hit Earth about once every 63,000 years, experts say, but the casualties from this kind of event could reach 10 million, and that warrants some caution.

Meteorites such as the one that blew up over the Urals hit once every 50 to 80 years, Eismont said.

The asteroid 1998 QE2, which is 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) in diameter, will zip past Earth at a distance of 5.8 million km (3.6 million miles) – or 15 lunar distances – at 20:59 universal time Friday (0:59 Saturday, Moscow time.)

The program costs about $1 billion per Proton launch, and the equipment needed to maneuver an asteroid into position can be developed within 10 to 12 years, Eismont said.

This whopping price tag may suggest that the plan is doomed to the realm of sci-fi. But in fact, NASA is already doing something similar with its Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization project, which proposes to rope in a 500-ton asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit, where it can be studied by manned missions starting in 2025. The White House has supported a plan to allot $105 million in 2014 for the first stage of the NASA project, which has a total price tag of $2.6 billion.

The Russian project saw money from a state “megagrant” of 150 million rubles ($4.8 million) plowed into it, but so far remains purely on paper.

Commenting shortly after the meteorite incident in the Urals last winter, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that planetary defense is a priority for Russia’s space industry. But the Russian government has so far not expressed any interest in the asteroid-ramming project.

The approach may counter some classes of celestial hazard, said Donald Yeomans, who heads the search for near-Earth objects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena – a job that landed him on Time magazine’s 2013 list of 100 most influential people in the world.

“If the asteroid that was predicted to strike Earth was fairly large and massive, its deflection as a result of a controlled impact by a small asteroid might make some sense,” Yeomans told RIA Novosti.

However, smaller asteroids, though still dangerous, are better intercepted by ramming them with more maneuverable spacecraft, not other asteroids, he told RIA Novosti.

The Russian project raises a lot of technical problems, such as developing the asteroid-maneuvering equipment and anchoring it to the asteroid, said Vladimir Surdin of Moscow State University’s Sternberg Astronomical Institute.

“There are other problems too, but nothing fatal. The method needs work, [but] it should be in the planetary defense arsenal,” Surdin said.

And mankind needs just such an arsenal, given that, at least in Eismont’s view, some kind of “attack” from space is inevitable.

“Nobody can tell you when the next asteroid will come, but everyone would tell you that come it will,” Eismont said.



(Updated with correct date, May 31 instead of June 31, correct size of the asteroid 1998 QE2, and a revised definition of near-Earth asteroids.)

US State Department Arms Contro lHead in the Sand on Asteroid Defense "a slightly artificial issue"



From: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=109845

The United States plans to collaborate with Russia on missile issues and Afghanistan, but not planetary defense from space threats, a senior US diplomat said Saturday.

Building a joint asteroid defense system is not a “real proposal” until the project has funding, which is not on the cards with either country, said US Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller.

The meteorite issue became a global topic after a celestial body exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in mid-February, injuring 1,500.

Meanwhile, Washington hopes to convince Russia to continue slashing strategic nuclear arms, Gottemoeller said on Ekho Moskvy radio, speaking in Russian.

The New START nuclear arms treaty, signed by Russia and the United States in 2010, limits deployed nuclear missiles and bombers capable of carrying nuclear weaponry for each country to 700.

Russia would consider further cuts to its nuclear arsenal if it gets guarantees that US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe pose no threat to Russia’s strategic parity with the United States, Chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said Thursday.

The missile defense shield is a “slightly artificial” issue that Washington hopes to resolve, Gottemoeller said on Ekho Moskvy. She reiterated earlier this week the official US position that the shield would not affect Russia’s nuclear capabilities.

Washington also hopes to draw on Moscow’s vast experience concerning Afghanistan ahead of the US troops’ pullout of the country in 2014, Gottemoeller said.

Bob Zubrin Gets it Wrong

This is a classic case of someone who get's it wrong on the fundamentals, failing to perceive what are really the key and important technological vectors.

From: http://www.spacenews.com/article/opinion/35405nasa%E2%80%99s-asteroid-absurdity#.UdDU5jusiSo

NASA’s Asteroid Absurdity

NASA recently announced that it has embraced the idea of an asteroid retrieval mission as the central goal of its human spaceflight program for the next decade or two. According to the agency’s leadership, this mission will accomplish a number of important objectives, including delivering a science bonanza, demonstrating a technology useful for planetary defense, creating a large cache of materials in space that can provide in situ resources to support space exploration activities and achieving the president’s goal of flying a mission to a near-Earth asteroid as a way of breaking out of geocentric space and demonstrating human deep-space capabilities necessary for subsequent missions to Mars. 
Since this initiative will cost many billions of dollars and, by diverting the entire multibillion-dollar human spaceflight program for decades, impose an opportunity cost amounting to many tens of billions of dollars, it is imperative that these claims be examined critically to see if any of them are true. 
Let us therefore consider each of them in order.
There is no doubt that the “asteroid” mission, which involves using an electric propulsion spacecraft with a power supply half that of the international space station to push a 3.5-meter-radius object (i.e., a rock, not an asteroid) to a lunar-like orbit, and then visiting it with astronauts flying sorties in the Orion capsule sometime in the third decade of the 21st century, would eventually return some science. However, vastly more science could be achieved, much sooner, at much lower cost and risk, simply by sending a flotilla of small robotic spacecraft to collect kilogram-sized samples from multiple real asteroids and return them all the way to Earth.
While the electric propulsion system proposed for the so-called asteroid mission can be used over a period of several years of continuous thrusting to alter the trajectory of 3.5-meter rocks, objects representing planetary threats have masses thousands to millions of times greater, and it would not even be practical to despin them to allow continuous thrusting to begin, let alone deliver to them sufficient propellant or power to change their trajectories. There are tens of thousands of asteroids with radii over 100 meters, each with a mass of over 15 million tons. Assuming that such an object is in an Earth-like orbit, it would require a velocity change of about 1 meter per second to move the periapsis of its orbit by a distance equal to the diameter of Earth, and thus have a chance at turning a direct hit into a near-miss. Using electric propulsion, about 500 tons of propellant would be required, and the 40-kilowatt system employed by the asteroid mission would need to thrust continuously for 250 years to deliver the necessary push. A much more practical approach would be to send a missile armed with a conventional or nuclear warhead (depending upon the size of the object) to give the asteroid a sudden solid shove by blasting a small portion of its mass off its side. Unfortunately, in order to preserve a false rationale for the asteroid mission’s electric propulsion system, such more potent approaches to planetary protection are being neglected.
The 3.5-meter rock moved to near-lunar orbit in the asteroid mission would have a mass of about 500 tons, which is about 20 times the mass of the system that would need to be launched to low Earth orbit to move it. This might appear to be a good trade, but the rock would likely be only about 5 percent water by weight, so in terms of potentially useful mass delivered to space it would only be a match. However, hydrogen and oxygen launched to low Earth orbit are already in useful form as pure cryogenic propellants, whereas the water in the rock would have to be extracted by processing 3 meters depth of rock, then collected, electrolyzed and cryogenically liquefied, all of which would require a system of considerable power and complexity. Furthermore, in its proposed near-lunar retrograde orbit, the propellant produced from the rock would be in the wrong place to support useful space exploration activity. In fact, the delta-V needed to leave low Earth orbit to reach the rock propellant depot would be about the same as the delta-V needed to leave low Earth orbit and fly directly to Mars. Therefore, even if the rock propellant depot were there today, ready to provide propellant for free to any Mars-bound mission willing to stop by to refuel, it would not make any sense to go there. 
In situ resource utilization is a key technology to space exploration, but the resources to be used need to be located at the destination of interest, not somewhere else. Martian missions need to use resources located on Mars. Lunar missions need to use resources located on the Moon. A rock in a retrograde lunar orbit is of no resource utilization interest to anyone.
As to the claim that the asteroid retrieval mission achieves the goal set by President Barack Obama in 2010 of breaking out of geocentric space, that is simply untrue. In point of fact, aside from potentially providing a fat contract to an excessively influential electric propulsion company (see my op-ed “The VASIMR Hoax,” SpaceNews, July 13, 2011), the entire purpose of the initiative is to find a way to shirk the challenge of human interplanetary flight.
The asteroid retrieval mission is not a competent way to advance science, planetary defense, in situ resource utilization or human interplanetary flight. It thus represents an enormous waste of time and money that could prevent NASA’s human spaceflight program from achieving anything worthwhile for decades. Congress must not accept this. Hearings need to be held, with the NASA administrator required to defend his plan in the presence of technically qualified critics. If the plan is found to be irrational, then lawmakers need to insist that it be replaced with a space agency strategy that actually makes sense. 
The American people want and deserve a human spaceflight program that really explores new worlds. It is past time that NASA stepped up to the plate and accepted that challenge.
Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and the Mars Society and author of “The Case for Mars.” His latest work, “Mars Direct: Space Exploration, the Red Planet, and the Human Future,” was recently published by Penguin.

Lizards Appear to Be Hardier Astronauts Than Mice

From: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/lizards-appear-to-be-hardier-astronauts-than-mice/#.UZt9227tajA.email

a Russian experiment concluded yesterday when a space capsule containing live mice, lizards, crayfish and fish was recovered around 750 miles south of Moscow, the Associated Press reports.

The capsule spent a month traveling 375 miles above the planet’s surface. That’s higher than the International Space Station’s orbit. The Russian scientists say that this experiment represents that longest period animals have ever spent alone in space and been recovered alive. In 2007, AP writes, the last research capsule to carry live animals into space spent only 12 days in orbit.

Not all of the research subjects made it, however.

Fewer than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher.

Sychov said this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. All 15 of the lizards survived, he said.



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Blog of the Planetary Defense Conference

Buzz Aldrin Get's it Wrong

From: http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2013/05/buzz-aldrin-says-space-exploration-more-important-than-planetary-defense/

Buzz Aldrin Says Space Exploration More Important Than Planetary Defense
“Bringing an asteroid back to Earth? What’s that have to do with space exploration?” Aldrin asked delegates at the summit.

Instead, the 83 year old shared his plan to “cycle” spacecraft to Mars and to continually launch trajectories between Earth and Mars to develop and expand a colony on the Red Planet.

Aldrin also promotes using Phobos, a moon of Mars, as a home base for landings.