CSExtra – Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18th, 2012

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Wednesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U. S. will coordinate efforts to develop a space code of conduct to enrich global communications, security, navigation and commerce. Montana 4th graders triumph in a NASA contest to name a pair of moon probes. A piece of Mars fell on Morocco last summer, say scientists. How do galaxies grow? China’s annual launch rate to climb. The rise of the atomic clock. More debate swirls around claims in Russia that a Mars probe failed at the hands of a foreign power. U. S. commercial space transportation ventures face tall odds finding customers beyond NASA and the military, writes one analyst. A European study suggests Russia’s Soyuz is unlikely to launch passengers from South America. Scientists devise a harpoon to grab samples from the interior of a comet.

1. From Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday committed the United States to working with Europe and other global space powers to develop a space code of conduct. Just last week, State department officials rejected a European code as too restrictive for U. S. national security interests. The growing accumulation of space debris is among the driving forces for protecting space for common interests. Active satellites comprise only 1,000 of the 22,000 man made objects in Earth orbit currently tracked by the U. S. military.

2. From The fourth grade winners of a NASA-sponsored contest proposed “Ebb and Flow” as the names for the U. S. Grail mission spacecraft that maneuvered into orbit around the moon over the New Year’s weekend.  More than 11,000 students from 900 classrooms in 45 states proposed names. The winners came from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont. The Grail spacecraft were designed to reveal new information about the moons interior.

A. From Time Magazine: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter confirms suspicions that north and south pole craters on the moon are repositories for ice. The watery resource was delivered by comet bombardments during the solar system’s earliest days.

3. From the Washington Post: Scientists this week confirm that a meteor that fell over Morocco in July originated from Mars. The find marks only the fifth time known debris from the red planet reached the Earth. In all 15 pounds of Mars struck the African continent.

A. From Much about the Martian meteorite find remains a mystery, including the age of the material and whether it contains evidence of organics, the building blocks for life. But the new Mars rocks have a collective name, Tissint, and an intrinsic worth that exceeds the value of gold.

4. From the Boston Globe: How do galaxies grow? From the inside out, it appears. Emerald Bresnahan, a 17-year-old Boston area student has proposed an experiment to test the notion that involves making snowflakes aboard the International Space Station. Her proposal is among hundreds of ideas suggested by students as part of a YouTube Space Lab competition.

5. From Rianovisti of Russia: China forecasts an ambitious 21 rocket launches with 30 satellites in 2012, up from 20 launches and 25 satellites in 2011. The total activity will rival Russia’s own vigorous launch planning.

6. From the Christian Science Monitor: The rise of the atomic clock. The International Telecommunications Union’s Radio Communications Assembly may vote to put aside the “leap second” a way to adjust for the Earth’s rotation as a convenient global timekeeper. Instead, time keeping may be left to the precision of the atomic clock.

7. From the Washington Post: More claims of U. S. radar  interference arise as Russia delves into the loss of the Phobos-Grunt mission. Launched in early November, the spacecraft failed to move beyond Earth orbit towards its intended destination, a Martian moon. Part of a probe spear headed by Russia’s deputy prime minister will assess the influence of radar pulses on a model of the spacecraft as part of the inquiry. NASA says it was not the involved.

A. From the New York Times: Other Russian experts suggest the Mars mission was a victim of a foreign anti-satellite weapon. Others suggest the cause was a lapse in Russia’s industrial base.

8. From In an op-ed, Larry Bell, a Forbes contributor and expert in space architecture, assesses the future of U. S. human spaceflight, both commercial and government sponsored. Bell sees the U. S. potentially relying on Russia for human space transportation needs for the long haul. Commercial hopefuls may find little market beyond NASA and the U. S. military, he writes.

9.  From Launches of Russian Soyuz spacecraft with humans from the European Spaceport in French Guiana are unlikely, the website reports. Launch aborts would force the capsules and their passengers into the Atlantic Ocean. Highly reliable, the Soyuz was nonetheless, developed to descend onto land, not the sea.

10. From NASA scientists develop a harpoon that could be used aboard a future mission to extract a sample from the interior of a comet.

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One Response

  1. Rini says:

    I rlaecl that the first space station concepts were going to be massive, nuclear powered, axially rotating wheel-like plaforms which could generate artificial gravity for longer-termed projects. To build robust structures like that would take a lot mass, and a lot of fuel, which is prohbitively expensive unless we had a cheaper way to send heavy payloads. That would be unlikely as long as we were sending both human payloads and massive stuff like fuel and shielding up there by perching them atop man-rated balistic missiles.What else could we do once we abandonned the idea of using nuclear bombs to propell gigantic heavy lifting structure into orbit? Well we could have developed a parallel launch system for fuel and other heavy stuff like the sea dragon rocket’ but with the singular objective of going to the moon being the thing, the use of dual purposed balistic missiles was the only viable bet at the time.Then we forgot about the Sea Dragon which could have gotten fuel up there for a lot less and now NASA feels overwhelmed and underfunded and its budget has become a congressional pork barrel for their districts.I think Obama might be thinking out of the box and is looking at alternates and a greater involvement by industry with incentives of service contracts for the space taxi to get astronauts up there and something like the ocean launched SeaDragon or Quicklaunch such as the sytem described in last December’s Google tech talk which is now making the rounds. It’s on youtube, of course, and popping up on a lot of tech forums. It’s worth looking at for sure. When fuel costs only a couple of hundred dollars a pound instead of $20K we’ll see a lot more demand from indusry and a greater likelihood of the larger rotating, well stocked, well fuelled and well shielded stations beyond LEO as originally imagined and from there we can launch both the research programs and resource and energy extraction industries that will make it pay.I just wish we’d done it 20 years ago.