NASA Gives Private Space Industry a $10 Million Boost

NASA has given seven different private space firms contracts worth a combined $10 million, signaling the growing importance of private firms capable of supporting NASA's efforts in the post-shuttle era

Each of the seven companies will receive two-year contracts to transport unspecified payloads into sub-orbit, saying only that the materials aboard the reusable capsules would address "the agency [NASA]'s research and technology needs." The move is the latest instance of NASA nurturing the burgeoning private space industry, recognizing that the government may increasingly rely upon private contractors.

"Through this catalog approach, NASA is moving toward the goal of making frequent, low-cost access to near-space available to a wide range of engineers, scientists and technologists," NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun said in a statement. "The government's ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation of the new technologies and capabilities needed for NASA's future missions in space."

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Visionary Ideas Could Transform Future NASA Missions

Nasa mission
NASA, the U.S. space agency, has awarded $3 million in grants for 30 proposals which explore new ideas for America’s next generation space program.

The proposals reflect wide-ranging visions of new spacecraft designs, new propulsion systems and an expanded human presence in space. They each receive a first-year development grant of $100,000 to prove their worth.

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) received hundreds of proposals representing almost every aspect of the agency's mission.

“Just looking down the list, there are some that are related to humans trying to operate in space, some that are related to spacecraft trying to operate safely or protecting people from radiation," program executive Jay Falker says, "some that are improved propulsion concepts, some that are improved structures and some that would maybe enable us to do the kinds of missions we’ve done before, a space station or a space telescope, but much, much more efficiently.”

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NASA astronaut in the pipeline for Prince Harry?

Why shouldn’t princes be thrown off to space? Why shouldn’t they be in the majestic vanguard of information wellness and science, just as they are in the center of attention of OK magazine and Us Weekly?

You’ll forward to attention and salute when we tell you that a report has emerged that Prince Harry, he of the red hair and one of the well known British Royal Family, would like to be a NASA astronaut.

Indeed, it is been reported that Prince Harry’s brother, the recently married with Kate Middleton, actually confronted News International about its alleged hacking of his aides’ cell phones.

So please pay more attention when I tell you that Prince Harry is been said to be a big Trekkie and is “obsessed with space.”

He is currently on duty with the British Army Air Corps in Afghanistan.

The Sun, though, quotes a royal source as whispering through still lips: “Harry has already completed his studies of Land and Sea Surveillance and Oceanology–part of Astro training–and can’t wait to get into one of NASA’s T38 training jets.”

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Endeavour Crew Talks With Hopkins Crowd

Endeavour Crew
The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour gathered at Johns Hopkins University on Thursday to talk about their experiences on one of NASA's final missions.

Endeavour lifted off for the International Space Station in May for the last time. It was the second to last flight for the space shuttle program.

Commander Mark Kelly, the husband of injured Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, led the talk with the panel of astronauts in front of a packed house.

"It's dark. It gets dark every 45 minutes," Kelly told the crowd. "We're really hopeful that we're going deliver some incredible discoveries to the American public and the people of the world, and it's going to prove to be a very valuable thing that we did in space."

"I think it's important, especially for my youngest son to understand that we really did go to space, and it was an important program," said mother Jennifer Leonard.

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NASA Kennedy Space Center is a toxic hell

The Nitrogen Tetroxide Scrubber (above) at the Oxidizer Farm for Launch Pad 39A. Image courtesy Kennedy Space Center.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Rockets use all sorts of chemicals to fuel their flight. NASA has been using Cape Kennedy since the sixties to loft these wonders, and — at least back then — ecology and pollution weren’t top-of-mind considerations.

That’s too bad, because now that the Shuttle program has come to an end, we’re discovering that there’s more to the NASA legacy than national pride.

There’s toxic waste. Enough that it’ll take about a billion dollars to clean up.

Rosaly Santos-Ebaugh has a messy job on her hands. She’s KSC’s Remediation Program Manager, the person who heads up all cleanup efforts on the Cape. She describes the problem: “In the past, back in Apollo, the normal disposal of the solvent cleaning was down the drain … out the back door.”

Unfortunately, an awful lot went down the drain and has found its way as far as 90 feet deep into the soil under the various launch pads and production facilities at both Kennedy Space Center and the lesser-known Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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NASA Closes Historic Antenna Station That Tracked Every Space Shuttle Launch

With no more radio signals to relay from space shuttles in flight, NASA parked a radio dish used to track launching and landing orbiters for the last time.

The antenna is one of two steerable 30-foot dish antennas at NASA's Merritt Island Launch Annex, or MILA, tracking and data station at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its final reorientation from the horizontal to the vertical on Thursday (July 28) came as part of a ceremony to close the station after 45 years of service.

With that final move, the MILA station — which was first established for the Apollo program and was responsible for tracking radio transmissions from every shuttle launch for 30 year

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