Saturday, January 31, 2009

Strangling Innovation at NASA

Wayne Hale, former flight director of the Space Shuttle program, in the days of the Shuttle's second return to flight, has been contributing to a very interesting Blog under the NASA label and offering to an outsider a rare insider's view of how NASA functions (and dysfunctions) and how a bureaucracy tends to fumble - when self-maintenance inevitably wins out as the higher priority over the program's "reason for being."

In what was for him an "astounding" revelation, Hale's most recent entry coincided with the release of a report and what is both an entertaining and disturbing video developed by younger NASA employees, based on their real experiences. If you want to understand the dreadful inertia of huge orthodox bureaucracies, we're spotlighting the video recommended by Mr. Hale, with a link to the White Paper, immediately after the teaser for his Blog entry on this important topic.

I've got a video that you need to watch, but first I need to explain why you need to watch it and what lesson I hope you will take away.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board said that NASA - and specifically the Space Shuttle Program - stifled dissenting opinions which might have prevented the accident. Particularly the action was pointed toward the Mission Management Team. As the new Deputy Program Manager, I was assigned the task of restructuring the MMT and providing means for listening to dissent. Somewhere along the way I acquired the informal title of 'culture change leader'. I took this to heart and changing the culture to be more welcoming to alternate or dissenting opinions was a task that took a lot of my time and attention.

I have been out of the Shuttle Program manager job for almost a year now and a trusted coworker just a week ago told me that people in his organization had been prevented from giving me important alternative choices for some program choices that occurred a couple of years ago. This was staggering. Astounding.

The Inclusion and Innovation Council was to propose ways to improve innovation at NASA. Various teams reported out, including one team of young employees who has the task to talk about the barriers to innovation at NASA -- specifically at JSC.

Inclusion & Innovation Enhancement Initiative, Barrier Analysis Team, White Paper, January 2009, NASA JSC, PDF

The video attached was their result.

Contract protests: a growing cancer on the space industry

As mentioned here January 16, the contracting review process has stopped the innovative award to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation of 20 cargo supply missions to the ISS right in its tracks. "PlanetSpace," a collaborative subcontracting spin off of two aerospace giants are game to use their experience working the halls of Congress and the Pentagon to game the system in their favor.

Demonstrating why it is essential to keep up with the sober voices of The Space Review, Taylor Dinerman wrote a great backgrounder on this situation three days later. We wanted to flag it now as essential reading.

Last week’s announcement by PlanetSpace that it plans to protest the ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) awards made last month to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences is bad news for the space industry. Over at the Defense Department these protests have become a way of life, and are slowly but surely wrecking the defense industry, turing it from an collection of firms whose purpose was to build hardware into a giant jobs program for contract lawyers, litigators, and lobbyists.

A NASA technical analysis reportedly gave PlanetSpace’s proposal a higher mark than that of Orbital Sciences. However, based on their experience and on the record of firms that rely too heavily on subcontractors, the leadership at the space agency choose to go with Orbital: a pragmatic decision derived from the history of the space industry rather than from the legalistic details of the federal contracting process.

As Dan Quayle once said, “There’s something wrong with an economy that employs 70 percent of the world’s lawyers.” Our government procurement system is so big and so complex that, for a program such as CRS, not to mention a larger one, any competent team of lawyers can find flaws in the tens of thousands of documents, emails, and other evidence. It now seems that once a contract has been awarded its fulfillment relies on the goodwill or a calculated decision by the loser not to contest. This effective veto power will eventually strangle the entire system and force through a set of reforms—possibly on an emergency basis—and the results will not be pretty.

Read and comment on the entire story HERE.

Feb. 9 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse prompts Spring Tide alert for Sumatra

They still have not arrived at a definitive count of the dead from the Boxing Day earthquake and tidal wave of December 26, 2004 in Banda Ache, the semi-autonomous province on the northern-most part of Sumatra in the Indonesian archipelago.

Observational evidence does not show any direct link between the tidal forces of the Earth-Moon system on tectonics or earthquake activity, though the barycenter of the Earth-Moon system is not at the center of Earth or in Space between the two bodies but rolls along roughly one third of the way from the outer crust to Earth's core. There's plenty of magma, essentially a liquid with far more density and, therefore, inertia than the saltwater covering the outer 70 percent of our planet.

On the disaster-created islands of greater Indonesia, however, hundreds of millions live with daily reminders of the dynamic nature of the Earth's outer layer.

Tidal lock holds the heavier Near Side of our Moon facing Earth and the Moon pulls back, constantly, most directly seen in the tides.

Tomorrow's Jakarta Post echoes warnings from the West Sumatra Natural Disaster Coordinating Unit to "fishermen and sea travel operators" that "the Lunar Eclipse of February 9 could summon violent waves up to five meters high. Unit head Ade Edward said Saturday that the gravitational effect of the eclipse would be accompanied by strong wind from the Indian Ocean heading towards seashores in Sumatra, creating beach abrasion and flood. “We have issued warnings for violent waves, flood, landslide and abrasion to all regency and cities in West Sumatra, so that they will be prepared for the extreme weather conditions which will peak in February,” Ade said. He also said fishermen were urged to watch over the sky before going to the sea, “if the clouds are dark, they better not go to sea."

The February 9 Lunar Eclipse will be prenumbral, meaning the Moon will only skirt Earth's shadow at the extreme southern edge, just before astronomical Full Moon. Unlike the Annual Solar Eclipse in January or the Total Eclipse of July 22, visible in Indonesia as respectable annular and partial eclipses of the Sun in the same area of the Far East, the February 9 "eclipse" barely rates a mention.

The combination of Moon and Sun overhead should cause a strong Spring Tide, heaping up waters largely during the time immediately after the Moon skirts Earth's shadow.

And, as Ade warns, the same effects should occur the day before and after, without much noticable difference, so his warning is accurate up to that point.

But what about those strong winds, landslides and the dark clouds being signs to stay ashore?

Perhaps there is some effect upon a heaping Indian Ocean on the sea breezes during February's Spring Tides near the equator, but I doubt it.

Landslides? Not unless you think erosion by high tides might be in store, again near the shore.

And "Dark clouds?"

Whether or not there are Dark Clouds in the sky, a Spring Tide in February is going to occur, and if you were a fisherman or a coastal dweller, still a little shell-shocked from the tidal wave and massive earthquake of late 2004, dark clouds are not going to mean that the Spring Tide in February will be any better or worse.

Perhaps this report loses something in the translation from Malay into English, but perhaps authorities would prefer the Sumatrans stay ashore, in and around February 9.

Aerospace Giants targeting competition through Florida Legislature?

Democrats did not take over state government in Florida. Republicans retain a super majority in both the state House and Senate, 75-44 and 26-14 respectively, maintaining GOP control of the legislature and the Governor's Mansion.

The reported problems legislative-appointed auditors are having with Space Florida, a 2006 creation of the legislature, cannot immediately be traced to any Party vendetta or witch hunt. Whether some intra-party changeover in Tallahassee is involved, a change in legislative committee chairmanships or staff is not immediately clear on first glance.

Nevertheless, politicians in Tallahassee may be going after Space Florida at the bidding of industry giants with deep pockets who may or may not have legitimate problems with launch facility design at KSC but whose real problem may be with having SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation and competitors for NASA plums.

Instead a report in preparation by Tom Roth of the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, the "Florida Monitor," is listed as having as a project underway, "an analysis of Space Florida's performance the requirements of the Space Florida Act of 2006."

From SmartBrief we read, "State auditors are urging Florida lawmakers to freeze funding for Space Florida until the agency can show it has a clear mission and master plan. After completing only one-quarter of its economic development agenda since 2006, Space Florida's "efforts to promote Florida's space industry are hindered by its failure to develop a comprehensive master plan," according to the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability." Lawmakers appropriated $14.5 million to rebuild Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but no commercial companies have yet signed on to use the facility. Orlando Sentinel (Fla.) (01/30)

Space Florida president Steve Kohler seems to have read a different report a day earlier, releasing a statement on the Space Florida website

Space Florida president Steve Kohler released a statement one day earlier saying he was "satisfied" with the "Government Accountability Review."

"We were happy to support this requested review of how Space Florida is tracking in its responsibilities with the numerous statutory requirements," Kohler wrote. "Space Florida concurs with OPPAGA's findings as it supports the actions and decisions we have pursued. We thank the OPAGGA team for their very thorough and professional review of Space Florida's operations and processes. From the beginning, Space Florida's goals and strategic activities have been designed around creating and establishing the competitive edge for the State of Florida and Space Florida."

"As part of our statutory requirements, Space Florida completed Phase I of the Spaceport Master Plan update. At that time, Space Florida did not have the LC-36 assignment, and Spaceport planning was being undertaken by he 45th Space Wing for the Eastern Range, and separately by NASA/KSC. It made sense to suspend further development of a Spaceport Master Plan update in isolation of the work being done by the other entities involved in civil, military and commercial launch."

"Space Florida does not see these recommendations affecting its current timeline for the construction of Launch Complex 36. The architectural and design and associated environmental studies are underway and no construction can begin until those are completed," Space Florida reports. "In the meantime, the Spaceport Master Plan updates will be integrated into the Space Florida Spaceport Master Plan and Space Florida's strategic business plan and all will be published upon completion."

From the January 30 report in the Orlando Sentinel "several legislators saw the report as damning -- and an indication that the $14.5 million they appropriated to rebuild Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was in danger of being wasted."

"It's essential that we get to the bottom of this," said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, a budget writer who is in line to be Senate president in 2010. "If they can't improve it, we need to figure out some way to do it better."

"Money for a rebuilt launchpad, intended to lure commercial ventures, has failed to attract a company willing to launch there. And the study found "there is some disagreement over the feasibility" of plans to have one pad serve different rockets."

"For example, United Launch Alliance, jointly owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., uses four pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for its three types of rockets that launch military, NASA and commercial satellites. Its Delta II-class rockets use separate pads because one is bigger and heavier than the other."

"Rocket-company executives also worry about potential conflicts with other users of a shared pad. That's one reason that Space X, the largest new commercial spaceflight company launching in Florida, uses a pad it leases directly from the Air Force."

"And Orbital Sciences Corp., which is developing a rocket to resupply the international space station, last year chose to launch from Virginia instead of the Cape."

"But Space Florida defended its plan last week, writing to the Legislature's analysis and accountability office that the multiuse pad "not only can be done, it has been done." And Space Florida spokeswoman Deborah Spicer said Thursday her agency has "a number of potential customers" interested in launching rockets as well as putting payloads on any spacecraft that take off from Launch Complex 36.

In (his) statement, Space Florida President Steve Kohler said the agency has begun work on a more detailed master plan. The agency wrote to the analysis and accountability office last week that it might even enlist the help of visiting Yale University architecture students "to assist us in our on-going planning needs, particularly during these very difficult financial cutbacks." The agency said it planned to have the plan finalized by December.

ISRO, ESA & NASA meet, talk of Lunar volatiles

Lunar Prospector (1998-1999) analysis of scattered
secondary epithermal Neutrons, indicative of
Hydrogen deposits at the Lunar Poles, most of it,
Dr. Harrison Schmitt points out, well outside the
few permanently shadowed craters

It has been an eventful 100 days for Chandrayaan-I: the lunar orbiter has, yet again, confirmed the presence of iron and picked up X-ray from the Hypatia and the western region of Mare Tranquillitatis during a brief solar flare, and while doing so showed one of its experiments 20 times more sensitive than designers had hoped.

Launched October 22 from Sriharikota, Chandrayaan-I carries 11 science instruments, and of these, five were developed in India while the others were developed by European, American and Bulgarian groups.

Scientists gathered in Bangalore, this week, and asked the question mission planners everywhere are hoping to answer: Do the permanently shadowed polar regions of the Moon contain water-ice?

A group of 70 scientists — from ISRO, NASA and ESA hoped to resolve at a two-day meeting that began in Bangalore Thursday. The meeting held at the ISRO Satellite Centre marked the 100th day since the launch of Chandrayaan-I will discuss data that platform has gathered since arriving in Polar orbit to begin its mission.

The scientists are now focused on identifying “areas of interest” on the lunar terrain for further study, including exploration of the possibility of water-ice, according to ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair.

“We will now identify areas on the Moon which need to be looked at closer for substances like water-ice. These areas will then be studied with a range of instruments such as the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Mini Synthetic Aperture Radar and Hyper-spectral Imager,” he said.

The ISRO chief added: “We had an assessment of all the 10 instruments on board the space craft (one of the instruments — the Moon Impact Probe — was designed to crash-land near the poles) and ISRO has confirmed their performance has been excellent so far.” The quality of the images was high, he said.

Before 1994, and the hint of Hydrogen that was first detected at the Lunar Poles by the NASA-DOD mission Clementine, later confirmed by Lunar Prospector, the presence of volatiles had been believed unlikely. Speculation has persisted nevertheless, and from long before Apollo, permanently shadowed craters or valleys at the Lunar Poles were hoped to harbor water ice, most likely of cometary origin.

Sample returns from Apollo and Luna demonstrated the Moon was bone dry, and though this came as no surprise, scientists still had hopes that some sample, however small, might contain a hint of ancient volatiles. Amd yet, very recently, some sample studies have hinted at a memory of water.

Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt, Geologist, former U.S. Senator and Apollo 17 lunar module pilot wrote of the same "gunpowder smell" that he and the other eleven moon walkers detected removing Moon suits after their trips out on the surface. Later, while working at the materials receiving lab in Houston Schmitt reported none of the samples retained that distinct odor. Even those collected and placed in vacuum bottles and sealed on the surface failed, damaged in transit Schmitt speculated or, perhaps because of abrasions on the seals from what is now recognized fully as the pervasive caustic sub-micron dust.

Schmitt speculates that volatiles, reaching the Moon from a variety of sources for billions of years reacted with the Earth's atmosphere, with Oxygen, especially, and dissipated rapidly.

Though some samples have yet to be opened, even after four decades, none of the samples examined so far has escaped exposure.

Schmitt also downplays the likelihood of great abundances of water at the Poles. Even deeply shadowed craters, he says, often are indirectly exposed to sunlight from brightly lit opposing rims and can't escape exposure to more patient cosmic rays.

The mapped data showing the relative abundance of Hydrogen, gathered from Lunar Prospector Schmitt points out show highest concentration at the Poles, without question, and Hydrogen alone would be all that would be needed to obtain Oxygen and perhaps water from Regolith. If Hydrogen, the most abundant element known in the Cosmos, is all that is found at the lunar poles, that importance should not be discounted.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Anticipation builds for LCROSS impact

New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory in 2007

Hoping to observe a brief but hopefully distinctive plume of superheated formally fossilized water lifted up by a ton of spacecraft hitting the inside of a permanently shadowed lunar crater at 1700 meters per second is bringing together a lot of people.

Eileen Ryan, science director at New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory, says she feels like "one of the big boys."

Tech's 2.4 meter optical telescope is the smallest of 11 officially funded facilities that will monitor the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) 1 ton impactor scheduled to accompany the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on the same booster into polar orbit of the Moon as soon as April.

The Socorro, New Mexico college received $30,000 to collect, analyze and interpret data from the planned impact of LCROSS. A small army of amateur and semi-amateur astronomers are actively preparing to watch the polar regions of the Moon from locations 400,000 kilometers away. The impact of the LCROSS impactor is designed to repeat, by orders of magnitude, the highly speculative final impact of the productive Lunar Prospector mission, in a permanently shadowed crater near the South Pole of the Moon in 1999.

The time and place of impact will be set to take advantage of the Moon's maximum libration, when the Moon's polar regions are alternatively turned for more favorable observation.

Not far from Socorro, the Apache Point Observatory (site of the APOLLO lunar laser ranging program) will also monitor the impact, as will other observatories around the world; five in Hawaii, one in Arizona and three in Earth orbit.

From lunar orbit, LCROSS itself will monitor it's own final moments of descent and from overhead the impact will be observed by the LRO orbiter as it begins its far longer mission.

Roskosmos seeks orbital construction platform

Moscow (PTI): Russia is mulling a project to build an orbital station to serve as an assembly platform and springboard for the future manned missions to the Moon and Mars, a top official of the Federal Space Agency said on Thursday.

"We will soon propose to our government a project to construct a low-orbit complex, which could serve as a foundation for the implementation of the Lunar programme and later on — the Mars programme," the Director of space agency Roskosmos' Manned Flight Programmes, Alexei Krasnov announced.

Krasnov said the proposed low-orbit complex would also be used to assemble spacecraft for interplanetary manned flights, as it would be very expensive and technically complicated task to directly launch them from the Earth.

Addressing a press conference here, Krasnov said that like many other nations Russia is viewing the Moon as a destination in a mid-term perspective, and would want not only to go there, but to establish a lunar base, which would allow it to start exploring Mars in the future.

"These are our intentions, but we are working hard to ensure that these plans get adequate financial and legislative support from the Government," Krasnov said, expressing hope that the project could materialised by 2020.

Russia, a pioneer in automated lunar research, intends to partner with ISRO in Chandrayan-2 project of unmanned flight to the Moon, which would also include a lunar orbiter.

The ex-Soviet Union abandoned its lunar exploration programme after the losing the lunar race to U.S. in manned Moon missions in the mid-1970s.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More background on CU Bolder NLSI Team

As you stroll along Innovation Drive on the CU campus in Boulder, don’t be alarmed if you hear loud popping noises coming from the LASP Space Technology Research Center building. January has been another banner month for the CU aerospace program, and the champagne corks continue to fly.

Recent NASA contract awards have fueled a decade-long winning streak at the University of Colorado. Since 2004, CU has received more NASA research funding than any other public university in the United States. More recently, NASA tapped LASP in May 2008 to build a $34 million instrument package for an upcoming solar probe, and again in September to lead a $485 million Mars orbiter mission.

Four new wins in January may seem modest in monetary terms, but each has the potential to build scientific expertise at CU, ensuring its dominance well into the next decade.

Read the story HERE.

Lunar Pioneer close to announcement

I want to express my thanks and those of the Lunar Pioneer Research group to Mark Tillotson of the blog Today in Astronomy for his compliments and inspiring attention to our this, our humble Society blog, devoted to all-thing-Lunar.

The Pioneers ( have associated together since we each shared mutual astonishment at the federal budget of FY 1971. (The Cancellation of Apollo 18, 19 & 20.

We now hope to inspire some renewed focus in those younger than ourselves in "our unfinished business on the Moon." We welcome in fellowship all who share our abiding interest in what we together must learn of the Moon and of ourselves in fulfilling the mere beginning of a compelling vision of the future.

It happens the Pioneers are embarked on a new project that fairly astonishes me in its ambition. I am also of a mind to think they will actually be able to pull it off since they are used to thinking in a long-term manner.

Further, they are often heard to say, "you can do anything, as long as you don't care who get's the credit."

NASA Seeks Concept Proposals for Lunar Lander

From Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, an "expression of surprise," we found surprising.


Even before the Obama administration has laid out its priorities for the country's manned space program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has asked U.S. industry to devise a plan for a lunar lander capable of carrying four astronauts to the moon.

The request for proposals on a concept for the vehicle was issued Wednesday. The process began to work its way through NASA's bureaucracy long before the November elections, and is based on the agency's current plans to develop a fleet of rockets and a new-generation spacecraft to transport astronauts to the moon after 2020. The lander, dubbed Altair, is intended to take astronauts from a capsule orbiting the moon to the moon surface, provide safe accommodations for an initial week-long stay and then return them to the capsule for the ride back home. The agency didn't immediately provide any cost estimate or timetable for finalizing lander concepts.

But even with appointment of a new NASA Administrator potentially weeks away and both the White House and Congress reviewing existing spending plans and priorities for space, NASA is apparently pressing ahead with its intention of awarding a number of contracts by the spring of 2009.

President Barack Obama and his advisers on space issues have expressed support for NASA's manned exploration efforts. In some instances, the President has advocated significant funding increases to accelerate manned programs.

NASA is proceeding despite the fact that it is not clear what rockets will eventually be used to enable astronauts to make a moon landing. Pentagon brass and Obama transition officials have been mulling the notion of rewriting the agency's strategic plans by possibly switching to use modified versions of current military rockets to reach the orbiting International Space Station, and perhaps further into space. Large contractors including Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. are waiting to see what direction the new administration intends to take NASA, while lawmakers are maneuvering to protect local jobs in case a major shift occurs.

The latest move comes less than two months after NASA asked industry for initial ideas about the proposed heavy-lift Ares V civilian rocket that would blast astronauts toward the moon. Those proposals are due the second week of February.

Write to Andy Pasztor at

House Democrats leave NASA out of "Stimulus"

NASA and its supporters certainly hope so.

The House on Wednesday rejected pleas from pro-NASA lawmakers to include up to $2 billion for space exploration and accelerated construction of the next generation of manned spacecraft. The measure, approved by a vote of 244 to 188, allotted just $50 million to NASA to repair Houston-area facilities damaged by Hurricane Ike, along with a half-billion dollars for non-space activities.

NASA’s prospects seem much brighter in the Senate, where astronaut-senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., succeeded in inserting $1.5 billion in the Senate’s version of the measure, including $500 million for the manned space program to shorten the five-year gap between the shuttle’s retirement and the initial flight of its successor.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Captain Dick Scobee
Mike Smith
Ron McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Greg Jarvis
Judy Reznik
and Mrs. Christa McAuliffe

Twenty three years ago this morning, January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle CHALLENGER exploded at the beginning of its tenth flight in less than three years. Seven extraordinary people died after all the remaining liquid Hydrogen and Oxygen in the External Tank combined instantly rather than in the efficient columns which had propelled the vehicle 10 miles up in only 91 seconds. This accident was caused by flight managers who ignored Emailed concerning the effect freezing weather might have had on certain O-ring seals. The hard lesson purchased, again with real lives, is that Nature's laws don't bend to political pressure.

"It's up to us," Bean says

In celebration of Lyndon B. Johnson’s 100th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the LBJ Library hosted a discussion on the past, present and future of space exploration at UT Austin.

The panel of guest speakers, headlined by retired astronaut and UT graduate Alan Bean, detailed the challenges facing NASA in their quest to revisit the moon, Mars and beyond.

“If we’re going to get anything done in our corner of the universe, it’s up to us,” Bean said. “Hopefully many people in this room will see us go back to the moon and to Mars.”

Bean, the fourth man to set foot on the moon, said NASA plans to have a sustained presence on the moon to serve as a launching pad for Mars visits.

“We want to make everything we do on the surface [of the moon] be related to Mars exploration,” said Matthew Leonard, deputy manager of the Lunar Surface System Project.

Read the story in The Daily Texan HERE

Lunar Lander Demonstrator Validates Critical Capabilities

NASA's new Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine for the lunar lander gets icicles
on its rim while burning at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The CECE—developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and NASA—is fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. All the engine components are super-cooled, so when vapor comes out of the burning of the oxygen and the hydrogen and touches the rim of the cryogenic engine, it transforms into ice instantly.

West Palm - Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine (CECE) has successfully demonstrated critical capabilities required for NASA’s Altair lunar lander. The engine performed with stable operation at the widest throttle range of any known high performance cryogenic engine in December during its third series of ground tests at the company’s West Palm Beach, Fla., test facility. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company.

While accumulating nearly 3,000 seconds of operation during 11 hot fire tests, the CECE achieved a throttling range from 104 percent down to 8 percent of its maximum power of 13,800 pounds of thrust. The engine is fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. It is validating propulsion technologies to support NASA’s Constellation Program.

Read more HERE &
at Universe Today
Video of a 'very cool' hot engine

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CU-Boulder, SpaceDev launch space nonprofit

— The University of Colorado and SpaceDev Inc., which has a 130-person site in Louisville, on Monday announced the formation of a nonprofit organization to further entrepreneurship and work force development in the space industry.

With initial funding of more than $1 million, eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship is designed to be multi-faceted in reach — serving as an incubator for startup aerospace businesses, funding new technology development on the university level and providing grants to high school graduates and community college students as a way to spur job growth.

It’s “an organization that would help people who were interested in starting space companies overcome the obstacles they had,” such as lack of infrastructure and equipment to access to funding, said Diane Dimeff, director of the organization.

ESpace’s primary funding came from the Metro Denver Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Develop initiative (WIRED), the Colorado Office of Economic Development, the University of Colorado, SpaceDev and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The five startups expected to participate in the program will each receive $20,000 grants and have access to some of the office and technical space at SpaceDev’s facility in Louisville. SpaceDev was acquired last year by electronic systems company Sierra Nevada Corp.

ESpace also will give a $90,000 grant to CU’s aerospace engineering sciences department to fund an eSpace Venture Design program. The initial round of eSpace-funded technologies will include an experiment to develop nanosatellites to improve the prediction of solar storms and their effects on Earth; a “mini jet engine” for unmanned aerial vehicles; and an unmanned aerial system to measure micro-weather effects of storms and wildfires, officials said.

Don Hervig 1910 - 2009, Saturn QC at Huntsville

Don Hervig, 98 who helped the United States reach the moon as a senior engineer during the Apollo Era has passed away in Bradenton, Florida, where he and his wife retired in 1988.

Chief of calibration at the Army Missile Defense in Huntsville during the 1960's and early '70s, he helped Man-Rate the Saturn V designed by Wernher Von Braun at Marshall Space Flight Center. Before retiring in 1974 Hervig also witnessed the last launch of the super-booster as it carried the 100-ton Skylab Space Station into orbit.

Hervig, who died of natural causes January 14, was "very humbled," his family said, to have had a role in the historic missions. Autographed photos of several astronauts were a perk of his 33-years of civil service, interrupted by World War II when he served as a radioman in the U.S. Army.

Born December 30, 1910 in Fairmont, MN, Hervig was a champion diver in his youth and competed for Northwestern University where he studied civil and electrical engineering. He showcased his diving skills at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair and later helped coach Springboard Diver Miller Anderson who later went on to win the Silver in the 1948 Olympics in London and the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ESA reports C1XS on-board Chandrayaan more sensitive than expected.

The ISRO/ESA C1XS X-ray instrument on-board Chandrayaan, as reported last week, detected the presence of magnesium, aluminium and silicon in an area between the ancient mare floor landing site of Apollo 11 and the more Al rich anorthosite Descartes Southern Highlands landing site of Apollo 16 during a small solar flare.

C1XS recorded the X-ray signal from the region, December 12, and the detection is a key step in further mapping the mineralogical composition of the lunar surface. The X-ray camera collected 3 minutes of data just as the flare started.

The solar flare that caused the X-ray fluorescence was 20 times weaker than the minimum C1XS was designed to detect.

“The instrument has exceeded expectations as to its sensitivity and has proven by its performance that it is the most sensitive X-ray spectrometer of its kind in history,” said Ms. Shyama Narendranath, Instrument Operations Scientist at ISRO.

Administration seeks space weapons ban

Andrea Shalal-Esa - Analysis - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's pledge to seek a worldwide ban on weapons in space marks a dramatic shift in U.S. policy while posing the tricky issue of defining whether a satellite can be a weapon.

Moments after Obama's inauguration last week, the White House website was updated to include policy statements on a range of issues, including a pledge to restore U.S. leadership on space issues and seek a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites.

It also promised to look at threats to U.S. satellites, contingency plans to keep information flowing from them, and what steps are needed to protect spacecraft against attack.

Read the story HERE.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

At the cost of the lives of seventeen extraordinarily brave and courageous astronauts

Alamogordo Daily News
By Michael Shinabery
New Mexico Museum of Space History

The tragedies that killed three Apollo astronauts and two space shuttle crews have anniversaries during less than one week's time: Apollo 1 on Jan. 27, 1967; Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986; and Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003.

Apollo 1

Commander Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were 5 1/2 hours into a simulated countdown at the Kennedy Space Center when White cried, "Fire!"

Chafee shouted, "We're burning up."

In the oxygen-saturated cabin 218 feet in the air atop the Saturn IB rocket at Pad 34, White's hand was seen trying to blow the hatch.

"If Ed couldn't get that hatch off, no one could," Robert Zimmerman quotes astronaut Frank Borman in "Genesis" (Four Walls Eight Windows/1998).

Astronauts and their loved ones were in shock.

"Test pilots died while in the air, which was what all the astronauts and their families braced themselves for. No one at NASA had prepared them for an accident on the ground," Zimmerman wrote.

In "Moon Shot" (Turner Publishing/1994), Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton attributed a chafed wire underneath Grissom's seat as sparking the inferno. Newsweek (Feb. 6, 1967) reported: "With a great whoosh, like the sound of an oven being lit, the pure O2 in the cabin made every combustible item in the ship burn with super intensity. At the same time, no O2 was left to breathe."

"The three astronauts were trapped in their melted suit material, fused with the charred nylon from the inside of the spacecraft," Buzz Aldrin and Malcolm McConnell wrote in "Men From Earth" (Bantam/1989). To remove the hatch, the Web site,, states five men struggled in thick smoke, "each forced to make several trips in order to reach breathable air."
Borman, a member of the investigating team, listened to the tape of his friends' screams and crawled into what he called the "fire-blackened charnel house," Zimmerman said. "Borman felt himself getting increasingly angry. Everywhere he and the rest of the investigation committee looked, they found sloppy workmanship by both the contractor and by NASA. Borman decided that he was going to do whatever it took to make sure the Apollo spacecraft flew again. And when it did, it would be the safest spacecraft ever built."

As a result, NASA abandoned the oxygen-rich atmosphere and, Zimmerman cited, "more than 2,500 different items were removed, replaced with nonflammable materials." Engineers redesigned the hatch to open in 10 seconds. The old hatch, according to Zimmerman, took 90 seconds to remove and involved "laboriously unscrewing some lug nuts."

Borman, in his book "Countdown," (Silver Arrow Books/1988), described each NASA staff member who suffered depression, guilt or a breakdown as a "victim of Pad 34."

One man during a meeting suddenly drew an organizational chart of Heaven on a blackboard.

He flew home in a straitjacket. A "NASA official drove onto a Houston expressway and raced his car at speeds of more than 100 mph until the engine caught fire," Borman wrote. "He explained later that he'd seen a metaphysical connection between the pad fire and the one that destroyed his automobile."

The final "victim," Borman said, was White's wife. She "committed suicide" in 1984.

Read the story HERE.

Frustrating shortage of explanatory detail in Chandrayaan images echoed by Wood

Latest Release of 5m/p Res image from Terrain Mapping
Camera on-board Chandrayaan is not identified as to 
location and very unrealistic. Still, its little better than
nothing. ISRO, CNSA and JAXA could learn a few hard-
earned lessons from NASA on public relations.

Following literally months of near-silence from JAXA (and NHK), after what had been monthly mere dribbles of data, usually year old HDTV stills and the occassional Terrain Camera spectaculars from lunar orbiter Kaguya, things seemed to change, at least for a while, when India's Chandrayaan arrived nearby. Suddenly, a reportedly damaged Kaguya Image Gallery was revamped, though most of the experiments still pointed only to more than year-old "first light" results from several of Kaguya's on-board experiments.

At least JAXA's return to its regular dribble was accompanied with identifying information, and the results, not least among them the TC virtual fly-overs of Tycho, Taurus-Littrow and the Alpine Valley, were stunning.

Now Chuck Wood, through LPOD, has used the latest incomprehensible image releases from ISRO's Chandrayaan as an excellent illustration of the same frustration we expressed last year.

"This problem is not limited to India," Chuck writes. "China has stopped issuing press releases about the success of its Chang'e lunar orbiter, and ESA had a confused and limited release of data from the SMART-1 mission that ended more than two years ago. Apparently, it is easier to build a spacecraft than it is to know what to do with it."

Naturally, he summed up the situation better than we did, though I can't help but mention two things he left out.

All the experimenters have papers and results, embargoed of course, awaiting release at up-coming conferences, and we've been patient. Nevertheless, the comparison between the daily release on the web of even the most trivial raw images from Cassini and the MROs by their domestic handlers with the public relations habits of ISRO, JAXA and especially CNSA are striking. 

The United Nations Outer Space Treaty binds its signatory nations to timely release of data from robotic sensing. Then, soon after the appearance of another selection of information related to the subjects of coming conference papers in the years ahead, much of it will be locked behind expensive firewalls, the world's scientists having learned the joys of capitalism only too well.

Because Chuck Wood has set the case before us so well, especially the habit the justifiably proud ISRO of releasing images without any identifying coordinates, we'll just recommend you read what he had to say for yourselves. We've ranted about this before, here and in direct Email, and the ambiguity of being both grateful and complaining is too much of strain on our fellowship at the moment.
Read Chuck Wood's take on all this HERE.

Samples on display at Connecticut Library

NEW MIILFORD -- The small chip of rock looked like nothing much. But Michael Raffaele, seeing it under a microscope, discovered something new.

"It's like a beehive,'' Raffaele said. "It was this crumbled-up kind of thing, but the holes in it look like a beehive.''

Read the story HERE.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Space-tourism deal spurs state investigation

Aaron Deslatte and Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel Staff Writers

TALLAHASSEE - Last year, Brice Harris, an employee in Gov. Charlie Crist's tourism and economic-development office, shepherded a deal to give a Panhandle sports-medicine clinic a $500,000 contract to train tourists for the rigors of spaceflight.

E-mails and other documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show he was involved even in the minutiae of the negotiations, down to the design of the logos and shoulder patches the would-be space tourists would wear.

Then in August, shortly after the project had been provisionally approved by agencies that included Brevard-based Space Florida, Harris resigned his $70,000-a-year state job -- to take a job overseeing the project for the company he had helped get it.

State ethics laws prohibit government employees from taking a job with a company if they were involved in any way with negotiating a contract with the company. After Harris quit, a high-ranking member of the governor's staff wrote that his involvement with the company would lead to a "disaster" if exposed.

An Orlando Sentinel Exclusive: EXPOSED HERE

Looks like President Obama enjoyed the LER

Reporters, not in trance, given closer look at Constellation's Lunar Rover before Inauguration Parade

It didn't draw much of a crowd, not as much as the Guest of Honor certainly, at the festivities in Washington, January 20, for President Obama. CNN went to commercial when it finally came into view as they were covering the Inaugural Parade, where the crew of STS-118 made up the rear, coming up dead last. But for those reporters who heeded the call, and those lucky enough to have chosen the particular Starbucks behind it's sidewalk station in downtown N.W. Washington City, NASA entertained those interested in taking a look at the Lunar Electric Rover.

There was plenty of ink ahead of its appearance, and a little after, but engadget got pictures, inside and out, though the context, curbside in DC, made it about as impressive as a Chevy S-10, which was really an injustice. Or like some kind of street fair or museum exhibit, of future glory or possibly a forgotten vision of something that never got off the ground. Yes, "we can" decide the level of irony in this sideshow, from the beginning of the new administration and new president who has apparently not bothered to decide who will run NASA after Michael Griffin.

The burden of proof is on those who inexplicably believe the new administration heralds a new Age of Reason. NASA and Commercial Space exploration has, as a matter of history, had no better friend than the former president. Space Exploration as national policy has had its friends in the White House, famously Democrat John Kennedy, of course, and both before and after the Kennedy Administration, Lyndon Johnson.

Republican Richard Nixon and a Democrat-controlled Congress in 1971 grounded Apollos 18, 19 & 20, of course. No one planned the Gap that, aside from Apollo-Soyuz and the impromptu though admittedly useful Skylab missions, put all America's Space Eggs into the single Space Shuttle basket that was supposed to get off the ground in 1976. Columbia would launch with John Young at the helm in April 1981.

Time passes. History awaits, pen at the ready.

For more on NASA's Lunar Electric Rover, visit HERE.

Friday, January 23, 2009

House Science and Technology Committee Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairs elected by Democrat Caucus

Hat Tip to SatNews:

The Democratic Caucus of the Committee on Science and Technology met to elect Subcommittee Chairs and select Subcommittee assignments. The selections will be official after they are approved by the full Committee at the Organizational Meeting on Wednesday, January 28th. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was elected Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

And the full House Committee on Science and Technology confirms Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) has been named Ranking Member on the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, "making him the top Republican in the House on Space and NASA issues," according to SatNews and Olson's Washington office.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Apollo 11 Anniversary Omega Speedmaster

Omega Watches has released a nifty 40th Anniversary of speedmaster to commemorate the first "Moonwatch." Sporting an engraved section of the Apollo 11 mission patch, we doubt it is guaranteed in a lunar vacuum or up to eight gees, but it "makes a statement."

Wearing the commemorative Speedmaster might, at least, guarantee that it will insure your place in history and perhaps your place in the next Inaugural Parade.

Mn, Al & Si detailed by Chandrayaan 1

Lunar Prospector Al Elemental Abundance Map 1998

Magnesium, Aluminium & Silicon have been further detailed as elemental materials present on the Moon by the Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS), an European Space Agency compliment among the eleven international experiments on board India's ISRO Chandrayann 1, the first Indian mission to the Moon that arrived in Lunar Polar Orbit in November.

Chandrayann added a third polar orbiter to the present fleet, along with China's Chang'E 1 and Japan's Kaguya, both exploring the Moon since 2007. Running a few months late, NASA's double launch of it Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and LCROSS impactor probles now scheduled for launch in April at the earliest.

While the presence of all three of these basic elements have been previously detected and mapped by NASA/DOT Clementine, Galileo on its way past the Moon on the way to Jupiter and Luanr Prospector. And while these same elements were also found in abundance in highland anorthosite by Apollo and Lunokhod sampling, the best global maps spliced together from Lunar Prospector and Clementine datasets, the best resolution maps from these concept probes appears to have been no better than 5 kilometer resolution.

ISRO's ESA C1XS on-board Chandrayaan are reportedly the result of more sensitive than expected data from this latest mission dispatched by India in November.

According to K.S. Rajgopal, of The Hindu, C1XS uses an advanced version of conventional CCD sensors, called swept charge devices C1XS swept charge devices operate well at around -15 degrees C.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Background: LPI Teams with NLSI

The virtual NLSI, NASA's Lunar Science Institute, and the January 10 announcement naming the first of seven teams collaborating on the October 2011 LADEE lunar dust explorer has been followed up by a flurry of institutional press releases. The vital and essential Lunar and Planetary Institute, on the verge of celebrating its 40th anniversary, is no exception.

COLUMBIA, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is proud to announce NASA's recent selection of a team of scientists from USRA's Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to be one of seven initial members of NASA's Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). The NLSI, a new organization managed by NASA Ames Research Center and designed to supplement and extend existing NASA lunar science programs, is modeled on NASA's Astrobiology Institute and features teams across the US working to help lead research activities related to lunar exploration goals.

The LPI/JSC team is lead by Dr. David Kring, visiting scientist for the Lunar Exploration Initiative at the LPI and recognized expert in the planetary sciences. The team will use the latest technology to determine if a storm of bombarding asteroids and comets resurfaced the Earth and moon 3.5 to 4 billion years ago and will investigate whether any bombardment may have affected the origin and early evolution of life on Earth. The LPI/JSC efforts have a strong university component as faculty and students at the University of Houston, University of Arizona, University of Maryland, The University of Notre Dame and Rice University will be directly involved in the scientific research and the team has organized a consortium of 12 universities throughout Texas to provide educational opportunities for their students.

"NASA has created a unique opportunity for our team to integrate lunar science with the human exploration program," said Kring. "Our program will help drive the growth of our nation's technical capabilities, while simultaneously creating paths of opportunity for students interested in cutting-edge space science."

Most of the LPI/JSC team's work at JSC will be conducted by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate, which will be integrated with the Office for Lunar and Planetary Exploration in the Constellation Systems Program Office. "I am delighted with the opportunity to be part of one the initial member teams of the agency's Lunar Science Institute," said Eileen Stansbery, director of Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science at JSC. "The NLSI is a very important initiative for NASA's future. Our research effort builds on our respective institution's lunar science capabilities and will provide important input for the Constellation Program."

About the LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of the Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary research.

About USRA

The Universities Space Research Association, established in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences, is a private, nonprofit consortium of 102 universities offering advanced degrees in space- and aeronautics-related disciplines. USRA's mission is to conduct leading-edge research, develop innovative technologies, promote education and policy across the breadth of space science, and operate premier science and technology facilities by involving universities, private industry and government.

Hacking the X-Prize?

From the Ticker:

"Hacker News"
Any way to "hack" the Google Lunar X Prize?

"I've recently become interested in the Google Lunar X Prize and started looking at the teams who are competing. While these teams are probably going to accomplish some amazing things, I suspect they're going to do it on the back of tens...

(Basically, out space cadet is unreasonably certain there's got to be an easier way, without knowing either how easy nor as simple as "the scale of the problem" can be.)

No More Space Tourists After 2009

MOSCOW — Russia's space chief says there won't be any more tourists headed to the international space station after this year.

Anatoly Perminov tells the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta there will be no room for paying tourists because the space station's crew is expanding from three members to six.

Perminov says in the interview published Wednesday that "there won't be any possibility for making tourist flights to the station after 2009."

Since 2001, six private "spaceflight participants" have paid $20 million and up for trips to the orbiting station aboard Russian-built craft.

U.S. software designer Charles Simonyi is scheduled to be last such space tourist — and the first to make to two flights — when he blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in March.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OASIS space infrastructure plan; More lunar base studies

Hat Tip: Hobbyspace

In a comment to my previous posting on the Human Lunar Return (HLR) study, Dennis Wingo points to a study from earlier in this decade called OASIS (Orbital Aggregation &Space Infrastructure System), which envisioned an exploration architecture based on an in-space infrastructure involving fully reusable systems. See details in:
/-- 1992: First Lunar Outpost (FLO)
/-- 1993: LUNOX
/-- 1993: Early Lunar Access (ELA)
/-- 1994: LANTR

Team Frednet conceives 2-wheeler for GLXP

In a departure from conventional planetary rover design strategies, Team Frednet is developing a 2-wheel robotic rover that may help lower weight and cost of future automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Named Just Another Lunar Robot (JALURO), the prototype is one of two designs the team is developing to compete for the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Team Frednet comprises three key systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of open source developers, engineers, and scientists. The team says its goal (besides winning the Google Lunar X Prize), is to bring the same successful approach used in developing major software systems (such as the Internet, and Linux) to bear on the problems associated with space exploration and research. In so doing, they plan to establish an Open Space Foundation that provides incentives, education, and funding to future individuals and organizations seeking opportunities in this final frontier.

“We hope to foster greater public interest in space exploration and research,” says team organizer and leader Fred J. Bourgeois, III, “as well as educate the public at large on the past, present, and future importance of these discoveries, while simultaneously (through our open-source initiative) giving individual contributors the opportunity to have a very real impact on the world around us all.”

Read more HERE.

"Snow Storm" Revived to "save NASA?"

Buran rescued from the children's park, the One Orbit Wonder, returns, to fill the Gap left by the retirement of the Space Shuttle?

So says Russia Today. One of the Soviet's mini-shuttle test pilots goes on the claim the vessel was built to salvage the remains of Skylab, though the dates don't exactly add up.

Two decades ago the Soviet space shuttle Buran blasted off on its first and only orbital flight. Just a few years later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the programme was shelved.

The Buran was the Soviet Union's answer to NASA’s space shuttle programme. On November 15, 1988, the shuttle was propelled out of the Earth’s atmosphere by the specially designed Energia booster rocket from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

Pavel Sharov from Cosmonauts News Magazine explains the advantages the Soviets had over their rivals in the U.S.

“The USSR surpassed the Americans in technology - U.S. shuttles can only be landed by humans, while the Buran lands automatically,” Sharov said.

Magomet Talboev was one of the pilots who test-flew the shuttle without going into orbit. He said the Soviet authorities had high hopes for the multi-billion dollar spacecraft.

“The Energia-Buran programme was started to get the capability to attack the United States, just like the shuttle was able to attack the USSR. We also wanted to take the Skylab space station from orbit. Buran was supposed to put it in its cargo bay and deliver it back to Earth for studies,” Tolboev said.

But the project was scrapped before these plans could be fulfilled. They sank aalong with the Soviet regime. The Energia-Buran became one of the Soviet Union's last super-projects. Billions of dollars were invested and more than a 1.5 million people worked to design and build it. Nevertheless, the Buran went into orbit only once before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The rest of the story HERE.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fireball Over Sweden

Post from

Just when we thought it was getting quiet, a fireball exploded over Scandinavia last night. What’s more, there is outstanding video footage of the event over the skies of Sweden (above). There are a huge number of sightings from Sweden, Denmark and Holland which is good, there’s a better chance of finding any debris that way in fact, if you saw something, contact the International Meteor Organization).

The fireball occured on January 17th at 19:09 UT. It was a spectacular sight. Duration: 3 or 4 seconds, colours: yellow to green, fragmentation yes, brightness -10 or maybe brighter. I’m a meteor observer active since 1978 and I have observed almost 60 000 meteors since that time.” - Koen Miskotte, Ermelo, Netherlands.

For more, check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy article and

The Moon still beckons

"Sometime after January 20, Russia plans to launch a remote-sensing spacecraft for studying the Moon's inner structure."

Andrei Kislyakov
RIA Novosti Opinion & Analysis
Russian News and Information Agency

Like 50 years ago, the Moon continues to attract the world's leading space agencies. In 2009, an impatient NASA will move to reinstate its Saturn V moon-rocket launch facility in order to repeat the triumphant July 1969 lunar landing.

Objectively speaking, the Soviet Union was the first country to launch an automated probe called Mechta (Dream) on January 2, 1959. The probe flew 6,000 km above the lunar surface. On January 4, Mechta overcame terrestrial gravity and later became the first man-made spacecraft to circle the Sun. It also attained escape velocity for the first time in history and provided data on terrestrial and cosmic radiation belts.

In September 1959, the U.S.S.R. launched its second lunar probe that delivered pennants with the Soviet state emblem to the Moon. A month later, the Luna-3 carrying a 500-kg instrument module relayed photos showing 50% of the lunar surface.

After scoring initial successes in the field of lunar research, Moscow strove to accomplish even more ambitious objectives. Unfortunately, the Soviet lunar program later faced major setbacks.

Moscow and Washington were divided on the significance of Yury Gagarin's trailblazing April 12, 1961 space flight. The United States realized that it had to implement a truly ambitious space program in order to uphold its waning superiority.

On April 20, 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy asked his Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson whether the United States was capable of defeating the U.S.S.R. in the Space Race in the foreseeable future.

Wernher von Braun, the father of the United States space program, told Vice President Johnson that the U.S.S.R. had superior launch vehicles, and that the United States could not hope to develop the first manned orbiter in history.

Von Braun said the United States could exert every effort in order to successfully vie with Moscow in the field of lunar programs, and that its astronauts could try and fly around the Moon and land on its surface in 1967-1968.

However, Gagarin's epic flight persuaded Moscow that the Soviet space program stipulating preparations for a manned lunar expedition was far from perfect. In 1962, the design bureau of Sergei Korolyov (1906-1966), then the main Soviet rocket engineer and designer, proposed its own concept to explore the Moon.

The concept which was a response to the U.S. Apollo lunar program called for developing a system of three spacecraft for orbiting the Moon and landing on its surface.

The project seemed a mind-boggling task because the U.S.S.R. had so far failed to launch a single spacecraft with several cosmonauts onboard and to streamline orbital docking systems.

Vladimir Chelomei (1914-1984), another leading Soviet rocket engineer, proposed launching a lunar mission atop a three-stage Proton-K rocket.

In 1964, the United States successfully tested its legendary Saturn V moon rocket after von Braun was placed in charge of the U.S. lunar program. In response, the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee issued a special resolution stipulating a manned lunar mission not later than in 1968.

This document virtually forced Korolyov and Chelomei to work separately. Korolyov dealt with the lunar fly-by program, while Chelomei began to develop the heavy N-1 rocket for launching the lunar module. As it turned out the split did not facilitate success.

The N-1 lunar rocket never became operational. Many analysts explain this by Korolyov's untimely death during surgery in early 1966 and by the mistakes of his successor, Vasily Mishin. The human factor notwithstanding, the N-1 had a number of technical drawbacks.

The N-1's four abortive test launches were caused by its defective first stage. In May 1974, the Soviet lunar program and N-1 project were scrapped, and the remaining two rockets destroyed.

The Soyuz spacecraft was initially developed for the Soviet lunar program. However, the first three unmanned Soyuz spacecraft were plagued by numerous problems. In December 1966, fire started prior to the launch of the second unmanned Soyuz, nearly destroying the entire launch facility.

Despite the aborted unmanned spacecraft tests, Soviet leaders decided to launch two manned Soyuz spacecraft in April 1967 and to dock them in orbit. Vladimir Komarov (1927-1967) who flew Soyuz-1 with a malfunctioning attitude-control system was killed during re-entry when its parachute failed to open.

A decision not to launch Soyuz-2 with Valery Bykovsky, Alexei Yeliseyev and Yevgeny Khrunov onboard saved their lives because the three men were to have docked with Komarov's spacecraft for subsequent re-entry.

Nonetheless, several cosmonauts wrote a letter to the Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee, requesting permission to fly to the Moon insisting that a manned spacecraft would prove dependable. However, Soviet leaders decided not to risk it.

Although the Soviet manned mission program fell behind that of the United States, Moscow compensated for all the setbacks by launching unmanned lunar probes. In February 1966, the Luna-9 became the first probe to achieve a soft landing on another planetary body, namely, the Moon. In all, 24 lunar probes gathered unique scientific data and delivered nearly 200 kg of lunar soil to the Earth.

It appears that the long-term Russian space program will continue to stake its progress on heavy-duty automated lunar probes. Sometime after January 20, Russia plans to launch a remote-sensing spacecraft for studying the Moon's inner structure. The probe will also search for mineral deposits. Under a Russian-Indian project, a new generation Moon exploration vehicle weighing 400 kg is scheduled to be launched in 2011.

The Moon continues to beckon as before.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti (nor those of the Lunar Pioneers).

Respiratory Toxicity of Lunar Highland Dust

John T. James, NASA Johnson Space Center; Chiu-wing Lam, Wyle Life Sciences, Inc.; William T. Wallace, Universities Space Research Association

International Conference on Environmental Systems of Materials in Oxygen-Enriched Atmospheres, Savannah, July 13-16, 2009

Lunar dust exposures occurred during the Apollo missions while the crew was on the lunar surface and especially when microgravity conditions were attained during rendezvous in lunar orbit. Crews reported that the dust was irritating to the eyes and in some cases respiratory symptoms were elicited. NASA s vision for lunar exploration includes stays of 6 months on the lunar surface hence the health effects of periodic exposure to lunar dust need to be assessed. NASA has performed this assessment with a series of in vitro and in vivo tests on authentic lunar dust.

Our approach is to "calibrate" the intrinsic toxicity of lunar dust by comparison to a nontoxic dust (TiO2) and a highly toxic dust (quartz) using intratrachael instillation of the dusts in mice. A battery of indices of toxicity is assessed at various time points after the instillations. Cultures of selected cells are exposed to test dusts to assess the adverse effects on the cells. Finally, chemical systems are used to assess the nature of the reactivity of various dusts and to determine the persistence of reactivity under various environmental conditions that are relevant to a space habitat. Similar systems are used to assess the dissolution of the dust.

From these studies we will be able to set a defensible inhalation exposure standard for aged dust and predict whether we need a separate standard for reactive dust. Presently-available data suggest that aged lunar highland dust is slightly toxic, that it can adversely affect cultured cells, and that the surface reactivity induced by grinding the dust persists for a few hours after activation.