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Thursday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. In orbit, the European ATV-3 space freighter docks with the International Space Station. In Washington, a House hearing raises questions about the future of U. S. commercial cargo missions to support research aboard the station. Billionaire and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announces plans to recover Apollo 11 mission Saturn 5 rocket engines from the depths of the Atlantic. China’s space ambitions threaten to eclipse those of the U. S., according to a Texas congressman. European astronomers suggest the Milky Way holds a bounty of red dwarf stars with planets lurking in their habitable zones. An ancient galactic pileup offers new clues about dark matter. Robonaut 2, R2, finds a staring film role.
1. From Spaceflightnow.com: Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle docks successfully with the International Space Station late Wednesday. The linkup brings just over seven tons of propellant, research gear and other supplies to the orbiting science lab and its six person crew.
2. From Space News: The research potential of the NASA led International Space Station depends on the success of the agency’s transition from the shuttle to U. S. commercial cargo re-suppliers, experts caution a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Wednesday.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: In all, three Congressional hearings examined space issues on Wednesday, a Senate appropriations panel session on NASA’s budget; a House session on NOAA and its weather forecasting mission; as well as a House meeting focused on the research potential of the International Space Station.
3. From Collectspace.com: Billionaire Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos outlines an expedition to recover the Saturn V rocket engines used to launch the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission that placed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface.
A. From The Los Angeles Times: Bezos’ team found the engines using state of the art sonar in 14,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. He acknowledges the power plants are NASA property. If the engines are raised, he will provide the historic equipment to NASA in the hope it goes to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and/or the Museum of Flight in Seattle for public viewing.
B. From The Washington Post: Movie maker James Cameron’s weekend descent to the depths of the Pacific Ocean last weekend may signal a new era of commercially motivated exploration.
4. From The Hill: China is pursing a vibrant space future, while U. S. ambitions are bogged down in uncertainty and malaise, writes U. S. Rep. Pete Olson, whose Texas congressional district includes NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Olson urges more focus on NASA’s Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System to re-establish a commitment to leadership.
A. From Rianovosti of Russia: Russia will develop a space nuclear reactor to propel human interplanetary missions, according to the head of a Russian foundation. The effort, intended to keep Russia on the cutting edge of space exploration, has government financial backing.
5. From Discovery.com: European scientists estimate that 40 percent of the Milky Way Galaxy’s 160 billion red dwarf stars have plus sized Earth planets circling at just the right distance for liquid water to exist on the surface. Eight in 10 stars in the Milky Way are red dwarfs, raising the prospect for habitable planets to the tens of billions, according to the science team. The studies are based on observations made with NASA’s Kepler space telescope.
A. From Space.com: The Milky Way galaxy shines one billion stars bright in a new image of the cosmos collected by a team of astronomers.
6. From Sky and Telescope Magazine: An ancient train wreck of galaxies created massive Abell 520, some 2.6 billion light years from the Earth. Today, astronomers, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, are attempting to unsort the collision. The findings promise to reveal more about mysterious dark matter.
7. From the Houston Chronicle: Robonaut 2, the humanoid collaboration between NASA and General Motors, will star in a new student produced film, Dare to Explore, that opens Thursday in Houston. In the futuristic drama, R2 allies with a team of youngsters to colonize Mars. R2 was launched to the space station in early 2011 as a technology demonstrator.
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