Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gingrich touts moon base, Mars travel in Florida

moon base
Newt Gingrich told numerous thousand people today there will be a "permanent base on the moon" and other ground-breaking space-focused programs by the end of his second term as president.

The GOP presidential candidate said he had "a romantic belief it is really part of our destiny," adding that the current state of the space program is a "tragedy."

Gingrich, a former House speaker, said there will also be a "continuous propulsion system" that would allow travel to Mars in a shorter span of time.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has mocked Gingrich for his proposal for a colony on the moon -- comments that Gingrich said showed the difference between a "romantic" and "so-called practical people."

Gingrich said the idea that people could one day live on the moon or easily explore space would inspire children and future innovators to make dreams like that happen.

The speech was a departure from Gingrich's message in South Carolina, where he focused mainly on the economy and health care.

Jane Sheahan, 70, a retired federal accountant from Pinellas County, recently voted for Gingrich by absentee ballot and made more than 500 calls for his campaign over the past few days.

The reactions, she said, were mixed.

"There's just a lot of indecision," she said, adding that many people were tired of "terrible" ads that ran everyday on television by super PACs supporting other candidates.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Nasa launches vital new mission to recover its stolen moon rocks

moon rocks
The American space agency, Nasa, is not as busy as it once was sending astronauts into orbit aboard its freshly retired shuttle convoy, which means it has time to attend to other pressing business, like trying to track down countless samples of moon rock it has handed out over the years that have gone missing.

A new internal report depicts an agency that has generously distributed extra-terrestrial flotsam, including moon rock, to government leaders and scientific institutions promising to use them for research. But it has also been peculiarly lax about monitoring the whereabouts of the moon rock and ensuring the bits on loan were returned.

According to the report, signed by Paul Martin, the Inspector General of Nasa, 517 moon rocks and other so-called "astromaterial" samples loaned out by the agency between 1970 – when Apollo missions began to collect them – and 2010 have gone missing or have been stolen.

The job of retrieval is partly being undertaken by Joseph R. Gutheinz Jr., a Texas lawyer who once was an undercover Nasa agent intercepting attempts by private citizens trying to sell moon rock they had nefariously acquired on the open market for millions. Now he tries to find lost rocks wherever he can find them, which is as likely to be in a shoebox as in a vault.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NASA moon probes renamed as Ebb and Flow

A pair of unmanned NASA spacecraft that are orbiting the Moon were renamed Ebb and Flow on Wednesday by a middle school class in Montana, the US space agency announced.

The original names for the twin probes Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) -- A and B -- were not very inspired, admitted principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

NASA moon probes renamed as Ebb and Flow
"We were so busy in the design and getting these two spacecraft launched on time that when we gave them names, we gave them names of A and B, and that isn't too creative. So we asked the youth of America to assist us," she said.

More than 11,000 students took part in the contest to rename the twin craft which aim to map the Moon's surface, determine its gravity field and reveal the contents of its inner core.

NASA moon probes renamed as Ebb and Flow
The winners were a fourth grade classroom of nine- and 10-year-olds at Emily Dickinson School in Bozeman, Montana.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Underfunding doomed Russian Mars probe

Mars has claimed many a spacecraft as victim, and the latest one, a Russian space probe, looks likely to tumble to Earth very soon.

Russia's Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is Russian for ground or soil) mission aimed for a first landing of a probe on the Martian moon Phobos. Launched Nov. 8, the spacecraft reached Earth orbit but failed to fire the rocket that would send it on an eight-month interplanetary trip to Mars. It's likely to fall to Earth around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry concluded, the victim of a steadily dropping orbit.

"Way too ambitious and way too underfunded to reach its goal," space law attorney Michael Listner says.

The $163 million spacecraft carried a piggybacked Chinese Mars orbiter added late to the mission.

After weeks of attempts to re-establish radio communication by European Space Agency and NASA transmitters and fleeting hints of contact, Russian space agency officials declared the craft a loss last month.

Mars has claimed overly thrifty probes before. NASA's Mars Polar Lander, a $120 million spacecraft, was judged about 30% underfunded by an accident panel after its calamitous crash in 1999. Testing shortfalls probably played a role in the craft's landing rockets malfunctioning.

"The Phobos science team would like to repeat the mission using experience that we got working on this mission," said an e-mail from mission scientist Alexander Zakharov of the Space Research Institute in Moscow

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