Indian Man Could be First Recorded Human Fatality Due to a Meteorite

Indian officials say a meteorite struck the campus of a private engineering college on Saturday, killing one person. If scientists confirm the explosion was due to a meteorite, it would be the first recorded human fatality due to a falling space rock.

According to local reports, a bus driver was killed on Saturday when a meteorite landed in the area where he was walking, damaging the window panes of nearby buses and buildings. Three other people were injured.On Sunday, various Indian publications, including The Hindu, reported that the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa, issued a statement confirming the death: “A mishap occurred yesterday when a meteorite fell in the campus of a private engineering college in Vellore district’s K Pantharappalli village.” Tamil Nadu is located in southern India, and has a population of more than 70 million people.

Read more at: ArsTechnica

Photos Show Aftermath of Chinese Rocket Debris Impact

Photos emerged on the Internet of the aftermath of this week’s successful launch of a Long March 3C rocket carrying China’s next Beidou-3 third-generation navigation satellite to orbit. Shown in the images is the scenery immediately following the impact of the twin boosters of the Long March rocket with a large cloud of toxic propellant residuals rising from the wreckage of the spent boosters.

Spectacular photos were captured in Panxian County, about 370 Kilometers downrange from the launch site, where the boosters impacted. The photos, published via the Chinese social media service Weibo, show the aftermath of the booster’s return to Earth in the form of a very large cloud of residual, unburnt propellant released upon impact of the boosters. The orange-brown color is caused by Nitrogen Tetroxide, used as oxidizer on the boosters, first and second stage of the Long March 3C rocket. Nitrogen Tetroxide, as well as the Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine fuel, are toxic substances and their release can be harmful to humans and the environment.

Read more at: SpaceFlight 101

Russia’s Chief Research Institute Doubts Effectiveness of Reusable Rockets

The chief research institute under the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, TsNIIMash, doubts the economic effectiveness of using reusable launch systems, such as Falcon 9 from SpaceX.

“The economic feasibility of reusable launch systems is not obvious. First and foremost it will depend on how often launches will be made. At the moment it is hard to forecast which way the market of launch services will go when reusable space rockets become available. The designers are still to demonstrate the real costs of production and of making reusable stages for re-launching,” a TsNIIMash spokesman said.

Read more at: TASS

Tiangong-2: Video Shows Docking System for China’s New Space Lab

This year China will launch its second space lab, Tiangong-2, as the country gears up for constructing its first space station.

Tiangong-2 is expected to be orbited sometime in the first half of the year by a Long March 2F/G rocket, and will test life support, docking and refuelling technologies crucial to the Chinese space station plans.

These capabilities and technologies will be tested whenthree Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft and a Tianzhou cargo vessel visit Tiangong-2 in exciting separate following missions.

Read more at: GbTimes

NZ’s Space-weather Team to Investigate Power-grid Solar-storm Risk

Scientists at the University of Otago are trying to forecast “space weather” to investigate how explosions from the Sun could affect New Zealand’s power grid.

The Otago Space Physics project team study the nature of the near-Earth atmosphere, the magnetic field and the upper atmosphere, known as the magnetosphere. Current projects include a ground-breaking piece of research, the first of its kind in New Zealand, to interrogate 12 years of data relating to solar wind and how this affects, for example, satellites, telecommunications and power supplies.

Read more at: Stuff Nz

100-Foot Asteroid to Buzz Earth Next Month

An asteroid as long as a basketball court will give Earth a close shave next month — though scientists aren’t sure just how close.

The near-Earth asteroid 2013 TX68, which is thought to be about 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter, will zoom past our planet on March 5. The space rock could come as close as 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) — less than 5 percent of the distance from Earth to the moon — or stay up to 9 million miles (14.5 million km) away during the flyby, NASA officials said.

Read more at: Space.com

Russians Go Spacewalking to Collect Experiments, Test Glue

Two Russians,  Cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenkoand Sergey Volkov, are taking a spacewalk to install fresh experiments outside the International Space Station and gather old ones.

Their first task is to release a container with a flash drive that has videos and messages pertaining to the 70th anniversary of Russia’s Victory Day last year.

NASA says the container will pose no hazard to the orbiting lab. The spacewalkers will retrieve biological samples that have been outdoors for seven years. They will also test a new glue that might prove useful in years to come.

Read more at: Zee News

Russian Spacewalk Marks End of ESA’s Exposed Space Chemistry

ESA’s Expose facility was retrieved today from outside the International Space Station by cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Volkov, who were completing a spacewalk to place new experiments on the outpost’s hull.

Expose is a series of chemistry laboratories that place samples in the harsh environment of space unprotected. Subjected to vacuum, radiation, temperature differences and the full blast of our Sun’s energy, 46 species of small organisms and over 150 organic compounds have returned after spending 18 months bolted to the Zvezda module.

Read more at: ESA

Scientists Try to Grow Peruvian Potatoes on “Mars”

The potato, whether fried, roasted or mashed, is one of the most popular foods in the world—not only is it delicious and versatile, it also needs little water and adapts well, thriving in extreme environments where other vegetables are hard-pressed to grow. And then there is its nutritional value. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consuming a single russet-type potato can add nearly 10 percent of the daily recommended caloric load, providing four grams of fiber, five of protein and only two of sugar.

This data has motivated a group of scientists from NASA to team up with the International Potato Center, or CIP (Spanish abbreviation), in Peru to conduct an experiment growing potatoes in conditions similar to Mars, with the hope of generating food for possible future manned missions to the Red Planet.

Read more at: Scientific American

Asteroid Mining Could be Space’s New Frontier: The Problem is Doing it Legally

When Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong hoisted the Stars and Stripes on the moon, the act was purely symbolic. Two years earlier, mindful of Cold War animosity, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) had decreed that outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, “is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty”.

In other words no country, not even the US, could own the moon or any other part of space, regardless of how many flags they erected there. Half a century on, though, the OST could prove the biggest obstacle to one of the most exciting new frontiers of space exploration: asteroid mining.

The reason lawyers could soon be poring over that 48-year-old document is that space mining could become a reality within a couple of decades.

Read more at: Guardian

Subcommittee Stresses the Need for a Solid Plan for Getting Humans to Mars

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled, “Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on Human Exploration Proposals.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the possible options for various architectures and intermediate steps to develop the capabilities and skills necessary to land humans on Mars while maintaining constancy of purpose through the next presidential administration.  Testifying before the Subcommittee were Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Director, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA; Former President and Chief Operating Officer, Martin Marietta Corporation; Dr. John Sommerer, Principal of Talitha Ventures and Panel Member of the National Academies Committee on Human Spaceflight and Chair of the Technical Panel; and Dr. Paul Spudis, Senior Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Members on both sides of the aisle and witnesses stressed the need for a credible plan for achieving the consensus goal of landing humans on Mars.

Read more at: House Committee on Space, Science & Technology

New NASA Spacecraft will Be Propelled By Light

In 2018, a small space probe will unfurl a sail and begin a journey to a distant asteroid. It’s the first NASA spacecraft that will venture beyond Earth’s orbit propelled entirely by sunlight. This technology could enable inexpensive exploration of the solar system and, eventually, interstellar space.

The $16 million probe, called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, is one of the 13 science payloads that NASA announced Tuesday. They will hitch a ride on the inaugural flight of the Space Launch System—the megarocket designed to replace the space shuttle and, one day, send the Orion spacecraft to Mars.

It will take 2.5 years for the NEA Scout to reach its destination, a smallish asteroid named 1991 VG. But it won’t be a leisurely cruise. The continuous thrust provided by sunlight hitting the solar sail will accelerate the probe to an impressive 63,975 mph (28.6 km/s) relative to the sun.

Read more at: National Geographic

Consistency of Earth’s Magnetic Field History Surprises Scientists

Earth’s magnetic field is generated by the motion of liquid iron in the planet’s core. This “geodynamo” occasionally reverses its polarity – the magnetic north and south poles swap places. The switch occurs over a few thousand years, and the time between reversals can vary from some tens of thousands to tens of millions of years.

When magnetic polarity remains stable in one orientation for more than 10 million years the interval is dubbed a “superchron.” Within the last 540 million years – the time when animals have roamed the Earth’s land and seas – there are three known superchron periods, occurring about once every 200 million years.

The question of how frequently reversals and superchrons occurred over a longer segment of Earth’s history is important for understanding the long-term evolution of the internal and surface conditions of our planet. But so far, such information has only been pieced together by fragmentary evidence.

Read more at: Space Daily

Apollo Astronaut Edgar Mitchell Dies at Age 85

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, passed away Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the eve of the 45thanniversary of his lunar landing.

Mitchell joined Apollo 14 commander Alan Shephard, Jr., the first American in space, in the lunar module Antares, which touched down Feb. 5, 1971, in the Fra Mauro highlands. Shepard and Mitchell were assigned to traverse the lunar surface to deploy scientific instruments and perform a communications test on the surface, as well as photograph the lunar surface and any deep space phenomena. It was Mitchell’s only spaceflight.

Read more at: NASA

Columbia Space Shuttle Remains Arrive in Israel

In a special ceremony attended by Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis (Likud), US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, and Ramon Foundation head Rona Ramon, pieces of the Columbia space shuttle which carried Ilan Ramon as well as five other astronauts before it exploded 13 years ago were unveiled to the Israeli public. The pieces of the space shuttle are on loan from NASA and were provided at the request of Rona Ramon.

The unveiling took place on Tuesday, as part of the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, which was sponsored by the Israel Space Agency, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Fischer Institute. The Conference took at the Air Force House in Herziliya.

Read more at: Israel National News

Engineer who Refused to OK Challenger Launch Report Donates Papers to Chapman University

Thirty years ago, Allan McDonald faced one of the toughest decisions of his life.

As an engineer in charge of building rocket boosters for NASA, McDonald knew that the plan to launch the Challenger space shuttle on Jan. 28, 1986, was flawed because one of the pieces wouldn’t hold up in the cold temperatures predicted for that day.

McDonald and other scientists explained this to NASA the night before launch, but their objections were disregarded. He then refused to sign off on the required launch recommendation report, even knowing that his career could be on the line.

Read more at: LA Times

Buzz Aldrin: The Next Giant Leap for Space Exploration

For many years, the United States has been spending billions of dollars on human spaceflight exploration. However, we have lacked a clear commitment to a program to break the pattern of humans simply circling Earth. It’s time to sojourn outward and have America soar beyond low Earth orbit.

When I peer into the future, I see Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars — a comprehensive and immediate plan for human spaceflight. The overall objectives of this plan are to sequentially evolve international contributions of shared exploration beyond low Earth orbit and toward international crew landings on Mars by 2040. This plan can grow to enable a permanent settlement on the Red Planet to be up and operating in the following years and decades.

Read more at: Washington Post

U.S., Other Nations Condemn North Korean Launch of Long-range Rocket

North Korea has successfully launched a satellite into space, its state-run TV said, an action immediately condemned by the United States as “destabilizing and provocative.”

Carrier rocket Kwangmyongsong blasted off from the Sohae Space Center at 9 a.m Sunday local time, state news agency KCNA confirmed. The Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite entered orbit nine minutes and 46 seconds after the liftoff, an operation “great leader Kim Jong Un personally ordered and directed,” the TV announcer said.

Though North Korea said the launch was for scientific, “peaceful purposes”, adding it plans to launch more satellites, it was viewed by other nations, such as Japan and South Korea, as a front for a ballistic missile test, especially coming on the heels of North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test last month.

Read more at: KITV

US Drone Crashes in Turkey

A US military predator drone crashed Wednesday in southern Turkey, Turkish authorities said.

They said the drone crashed in a field after taking off from the Incirlik Air Base in Adana. The MQ-1 Predator drone crashed in the Dogankent neighborhood of Yuregir district about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the base.

Security officials made the first examination at the scene of the crash, implementing heavy security measures. Two trailer trucks were brought in to transport the drone back to base. In an official statement on its website, the 39th Comptroller Squadron announced that the Predator crashed at 1:40 a.m. due to a “mechanical breakdown.”

Read more at: Defense News

CRS2 Source Selection Statement Released

The Source Selection Statement for the ISS Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) Contract has been released by NASA.

Read more at: NASA