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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space-related activities from across the globe. Astronauts on long duration space missions face a new health obstacle. A mild winter fades to spring. Virgin Galactic adds actor Ashton Kutcher to its passenger list. Essays examine new ties between researchers and commercial suborbital space travel and a French proposal to replace Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle. A once acclaimed U.S. space scientist faces prison for espionage. The moon’s changing chemistry. The AIAA visits the Hill. In Virginia, a skirmish over the future of federal land near a NASA launch site. Buzz Lightyear retires to the National Air and Space Museum.
1. From the New York Times: NASA confronts a new health obstacle for its astronauts, as the agency prepares for future long duration missions to deep space destinations. Blurred vision and deformation of the eyeball join bone and muscle loss as the ills among astronauts that need countermeasures. The Times reports on a study outlining the ailment in this month’s issue of the journal Radiation. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/science/space/astronauts-eyeballs-are-deformed-by-long-missions-in-space.html?scp=3&sq=NASA&st=cse
A. From the Houston Chronicle: Houston has quietly established itself as a world leader in space medicine, top NASA and regional medical experts note Monday, as they mark the official opening of a new National Science Biomedical Research Institute adjacent to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. Efforts to keep astronauts healthy during long duration missions are also paying dividends for terrestrial medicine through the NASA funded NSBRI. http://www.chron.com/default/article/Area-researchers-work-to-keep-astronauts-in-space-3419230.php
2. From Space.com: A mild winter gave way to spring early today. The Spring Equinox came and went at 1:14 a.m., EST. http://www.exploredeepspace.com/14951-spring-equinox-early-arrival-2012.html
3. From Discovery.com: Popular actor Ashton Kutcher will become Virgin Galactic’s 500th SpaceFlightTwo passenger, the suborbital passenger space company announces. Virgin Galactic plans to complete test missions in time to begin passenger service from Spaceport America in New Mexico in 2013. The six-passenger winged spacecraft carries a crew of two. http://news.discovery.com/space/dude-wheres-my-spaceship-ashton-kutcher-to-launch-120320.html
4. Two essays from Monday’s The Space Review examine the prospects for research as a market for suborbital rocket companies and choices facing the European Space Agency over a prospective replacement for the Automated Transfer Vehicle.
A. In “Suborbital Gets Serous,” TSR editor Jeff Foust spots a promising but struggling trend to merge scientists with commercial suborbital spaceflight. NASA is underwriting early flights for experiments, but the industry will need scientists with funding from other sources to secure the industry. Doubters say wealthy space tourists are the chief market. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2048/1
B. In “Toward a European Multitask Space Vehicle,” Paul de Brem, a journalist, examines a French proposal to replace the European Space Agency’s unpiloted ATV with the Advanced Platform for Exploration. Backers see a more versatile unpiloted spacecraft in APEX, one that could re-fuel satellites; collect orbital debris or place the junk in a grave yard orbit; and participate in a Mars sample return mission as well as deliver supplies to the International Space Station. However, the development appears to rely on a diversion of ESA funds owed to NASA. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2046/1
5. From Secrecy News via Space News: Steward Nozette, an acclaimed scientist for NASA, the Department of Energy and the National Space Council, faces a 13-year prison sentence for his willingness to sell classified information to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer. Sentencing is set for U. S. District Court in Washington D. C. on Wednesday. http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2012/03/nozette_sentence.html
6. From Space.com: Studies using NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter suggest cosmic rays striking the moon change the chemistry of the surface. Oxygen, liberated from water molecules, for instance, is free to merge with carbon to form pre-biotic molecules. http://www.exploredeepspace.com/14955-cosmic-rays-moon-space-radiation.html
7. From Spacepolitics.com: The AIAA makes the rounds of Congressional offices this week to urge support for assured cost effective U. S. human access to space — among other issues. http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/03/19/aiaa-members-to-lobby-for-human-spaceflight-and-other-issues-this-week/
8. From The Washington Post: A 32 acre parcel of land next to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has become the focal point of a political batter over its future — perhaps as a space related research park. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/eastern-shore-land-battle-comes-to-capitol-hill/2012/03/19/gIQAZK3xNS_story.html
9. From Collectspace.com: Buzz Lightyear heads for the Air and Space Museum and to stay, commemorating the 12-inch action figure’s stay aboard the International Space Station. http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-031912a.html
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