Thursday, August 30, 2012

Exploratorium: Press Information: | Mars and Beyond – October 27, 2012

Exploratorium: Press Information: | Mars and Beyond – October 27, 2012:

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Real Tricorder To Be Tested On ISS

Ron Clatworthy 
1:38 PM (15 hours ago)
to undisclosed recipients

"Real-life tricorder" to be tested on International Space Station

The MicroFlow is a toaster-sized flow cytometer for medical diagnosis that will be tested ...
The MicroFlow is a toaster-sized flow cytometer for medical diagnosis that will be tested on the ISS 
While still impressive, the capabilities of early "tricorders," such as the Scanadu and Dr Jansen's tricorder, fall well short of the Star Trek device that inspired them. But new technology to be tested on the International Space Station (ISS) brings the age of instant diagnosis of medical conditions using a portable device a step closer. The Microflow could also make its way into doctor’s offices here on Earth where it might help cut down on the number of follow up visits required after waiting to get results back from the lab.
The Microflow is a miniaturized version of a flow cytometer, which analyzes cells suspended in a stream of fluid as they pass single-file in front of a laser. As the suspended particle passes through the beam, various detectors positioned where the stream meets the laser can analyze the physical and chemical properties of the molecules or cells in the stream. Because they work in real-time, flow cytometers offer diagnosis in just 10 minutes of everything from infections, to stress, blood cells and cancer markers. They can also identify bacterial pathogens in food or water.
Despite the technology first being proposed in the 1950s and their forerunners appearing in the 1960s, modern flow cytometers are generally still only found in labs because they are bulky and can weigh hundreds of pounds – until now.
With the Micoflow, researchers at Canada’s National Optics Institute (INO) have managed to shrink the flow cytometer down to device the size of a toaster that weighs less than 10 kg (22 lb). Tasked with developing a portable technology that worked in space, the INO team needed to find a way to keep the fluid stream from becoming unfocused in the weightlessness of space.
The answer was to suspend a tiny amount of liquid containing the particles to be analyzed inside a small fiber-optic structure that is permanently focused. After the device detects the particles, the collected data is transferred to a USB key for analysis.
A Microflow technology demonstrator will be carried to the ISS by Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Chris Hadfield in December, 2012. If it functions in space as expected, it will provide astronauts with the ability to diagnose and treat themselves on long-duration missions without having to send samples back to Earth for analysis.
The technology also has obvious applications back on Earth, with the rapid testing of remote communities and disaster sites for infectious and other diseases providing an increased level of care while reducing costs. The INO says the technology could also be used for on-site quality-control inspections and tests in food and agricultural processing plants.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New High-Definition Mars Pictures Released From Curiosity Rover (PHOTOS)

New High-Definition Mars Pictures Released From Curiosity Rover (PHOTOS):

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Latin American Space Programs

Latin America’s space programs in 2012

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In 2008, I wrote a report for my organization, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, titled “Space Technology Comes to Latin America: Part of the Hemisphere’s Road to Autonomy.” In the article, I discussed the space programs currently being carried out by a number of Latin American states, including Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. I also highlighted how extra-hemispheric powers, such as China and Russia, as well as some European states, were helping Latin American countries pursue their space dreams.
While these states are still (light) years from being space competitors to the US, Russia, Europe, or China, it is clear that Latin America’s space interests and ambitions are here to stay.
Fast forward to 2012, when NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover scored a major achievement by successfully landing in Gale Crater on August 6. This was an amazing accomplishment for NASA, but it was also source of pride for Peru, as a native of the Andean nation, Melissa Soriano, works in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The role of Soriano can be added to other recent developments that exemplify how Latin American governments and their citizens are becoming increasingly more interested in space. While these states are still (light) years from being space competitors to the US, Russia, Europe, or China, it is clear that Latin America’s space interests and ambitions are here to stay.

Latin American astronauts

Besides Latin American technicians working for NASA, such as the aforementioned Soriano, there is a small but growing number of Latin American astronauts who have gone to space. For example, the Cuban Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez holds the distinction of being the first Latin American to fly in space via the Soyuz 38 spaceship in 1980, which was launched by the Soviet Union.
Other Latin cosmonauts include the Mexican Rodolfo Neri Vela, who participated in STS-61-B in 1985; Franklin Chang-Diaz, an American of Costa Rican descent; and Ellen Ochoa, the first female Hispanic astronaut. In recent years there have also been a number of other “firsts.” For example, Carlos Noriega became the first Peruvian-born astronaut, who flew in 1997’s STS-84. Noriega’s accomplishments are a source of pride for Peru as exemplified by a biography in a Peruvian radio website that explains that “he is an American citizen […] but his sentiments are Peruvian. He displays the red and white colors of our national flag.” Years later, Joseph Acaba became the first individual of Puerto Rican descent to fly to space onboard STS-119 in 2009.

Space research as a regional integration mechanism

An important development that confirms Latin America’s space aspirations occurred during a meeting of the defense ministers of the Union of South American Nations (Union the Naciones Suramericanas – UNASUR) that took place in Lima in November 2011. One of the agreements that came out of the summit was that the representatives collectively deemed it a priority to create a South American space agency. Argentine defense minister Arturo Pucelli declared that collaboration through UNASUR would reduce costs among participating nations, and allow them to share information and carry out multinational projects such as placing satellites in orbit. Before the meeting, the Argentine official had stated that, “the idea of a space agency is not an imitation of Europe but rather for our defense, [where] we will have much more to defend and control from space.”

International aid

A critical issue for the future of Latin America’s space programs is international aid, which comes from either foreign governments or private companies that already possess space technology and are willing to provide it to Latin American states for the right price. For example, Chile successfully deployed a satellite called FASAT-Charlie on December 2011, which is expected to operate until 2018. The satellite can take 2D and 3D photographs of Chilean territory with a particular emphasis on the country’s topography, such as glaciers and volcanoes. The satellite was built as a joint partnership between the Chilean Air Force and the UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
Besides private companies, governments are also providing Latin American states with aid to pursue their space dreams. For example, Peru is preparing its second satellite, known as “Chasqui II,” which Lima aims to launch by 2014. Peru’s Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria (National Engineering University) and the renowned Russian South West State University are reportedly collaborating on the project; once it is ready, Russia will launch it. The satellite will monitor deforestation from natural disasters and study Peru’s ocean territory out to 200 miles. Moscow and Lima have a long history of partnerships, not just on space exploration but also on other ventures, such as Peru being a traditional importer of Russian military equipment like helicopters.
One of the agreements that came out of the November 2011 summit was that the representatives collectively deemed it a priority to create a South American space agency.
Furthermore, China has provided aid to a number of South American states with their space-related plans. For example, Venezuela’s Venesat 1, also known as “Simon Bolivar,” was successfully launched from the Xichang Space Centre in China on October 2008. Furthermore, this past June, China Daily published an articleannouncing a new Sino-Venezuelan cooperation to launch a second Venezuelan satellite this year. The second satellite will be known as “Miranda” and will help monitor natural phenomena such as earthquakes and flooding, in addition to manmade issues like illegal mining. The Chinese newspaper argued that, “by successfully putting the satellite into orbit, Venezuela has taken a step toward technological independence, entering into stiff competition with 62 other countries that are active in space.” It is unsurprising that Beijing is praising Caracas’ attempts at independence as greater inter-state cooperation does not occur in a geopolitical vacuum. Since Hugo Chavez’s election to the presidency, Venezuela has sought new allies, such as China and Russia, instead of maintaining ties with Washington. In fact, Beijing and Caracas have already signed deals worth billions of dollars for oil exploration. Hence, greater space-related relations can be regarded as another way to improve Beijing-Caracas relations.
In addition, China also began developing a communications satellite in conjunction with Bolivia in 2011. The satellite, known as Tupac Katari, is scheduled to be completed by 2013–2014 and will be built between Bolivia’s state-run agency and the China Great Wall Industry Corporation, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC). “It [will] benefit Bolivia in areas such as education, medicine and communication,” Bolivia's deputy science and technology minister Pedro Crespo explained. Besides the satellite, reports appeared this past July that up to 74 Bolivian space scientists will be trained in China in order to be ready for the satellite’s launch. The satellite will cost around $300 million. “About $45 million would come from the Bolivian government and the other $250 million comes through a loan from China's Development Bank,” the Chinese Global Times reported.
A critical factor for Latin America’s space aspirations is that several space-states, such as the US and China, are actively helping regional states with their domestic programs.
Finally, it is important to note that NASA has shown interest in improving cooperation with Latin America. Back in 2009, NASA provided technological aid to Argentina with its SAC-D satellite, which was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Furthermore, on September 2010, the agency hosted a revealing symposium about its relationship with Latin America. According to a NASA press release:
The participants discussed some of NASA's ongoing work in Latin America, including the NASA and U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Regional Visualization and Monitoring System. The satellite system provides information from Earth observations to help local decision makers respond to natural disasters, and environmental threats, such as air pollution and fires.
The document also highlighted how NASA has signed more than 30 agreements with 20 Latin American countries. The issues covered by said agreements include Earth and space science as well as space-related education themes.

Brazil: still Latin America’s space poster child

While Bolivia’s, Chile’s, and Peru’s accomplishments and future plans are significant, Brazil, with its growing economy, remains the major case study of a government pushing its own domestic space program. The giant South American nation has the necessary financial resources to undertake such projects. For example, Brasilia has stated its interest in placing a satellite in orbit by 2014 for civilian and defense purposes. According to reports, the construction, launch, and control of the satellite will cost close to 700 million reales ($390 million USD). The Brazilian ministry of defense is particularly interested in a homemade satellite as it will facilitate better communication across defense systems, such as between border troops and naval units, including submarines. Another positive aspect of the satellite will be that it will allow the Brazilian air force to better monitor the country’s air space.
A 2010 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Latin America’s space programs pays particular attention to Brazil’s space ambitions and puts them in a geopolitical context. The report explains that:
Civil space exploration is still a requirement for achieving great power status. This lesson has not been lost on Brazil […] The need for [independent access to space] is something that Brazil has made a priority, as evidenced by the focus on space in its 2008 National Defense Strategy report. Brazil not only wants to develop greater launch capacity, but it also wants to build satellites for earth observation and enhanced communication capacity. [ CSIS report, P. 5]
Sadly, just like other countries with emerging space programs, Brazil has suffered its share of fatalities in the name of space exploration. In August 2003, an explosion at a VLS-3 rocket in the Alcantara Launch Center killed 21 people, mostly civilian technicians, and destroyed two research satellites.


While the space programs of several Latin American states have existed for some time, they are still in their most primitive stages as compared to “Global North” countries like the US, Europe, and Russia. Certainly, it should be noted that Latin American states (with Brazil as the lone exception) will not be capable of launching their own manned satellites or other spacecraft anytime in the near future, which, as CSIS argues, is a critical component to space independency. Nevertheless, there have been some significant advances in the past few years. The launch of home-built satellites by countries like Argentina and Venezuela (even with international aid) exemplifies that these countries possess a rudimentary knowledge that is only going to grow. The fact that we now see even more astronauts of Latin American origin, alongside the strong presence of Latin Americans in NASA’s pool of engineer experts, is a promising development.
Finally, a critical factor for Latin America’s space aspirations is that several space-states, such as the US and China, are actively helping regional states with their domestic programs. At one point in the future this may spark some debate, as Earth-bound geopolitical and security issues continue to spill over to space, particularly as governments currently characterized by anti-Washington sentiments, such as Caracas and La Paz, are receiving technological space-related aid from countries like China. In any case, while not yet a participant in the space race, it seems clear that Latin America as a whole is looking to the skies with ambitious eyes.

Greg Zsidisin's avatar
Greg Zsidisin· 1 day ago
Very surprising that there's no mention of Brazil's partnership with Ukraine to develop the Alcantara site into a commercial satellite launch facility, using a upgraded version of Ukraine's venerable Tsyklon (Cyclone) rocket. While not an entirely indigenous program, Brazil is nevertheless half of the partnership, making use of its near-Equatorial site. The program has been on a slow burn for a decade, but current projections have the first flight in 2013-14. There has also been discussion of bringing Russia's Angara launcher family to Brazil, which the author does mention in his cited 2008 article). Just last year, TSR ran a brief article by Doug Messier focused on these launcher developments: See also: And finally: (Love the little one-upmanship in the last sentence...)
I was surprised by the lack of discussion of Brazil's launcher ambitions. Construction of the Cyclone-4 launch facilities at Alcantara has been on-going for months. Brazil is moving ahead with development of VLS-1 for small satellite launches. And a family of Angara-derived launchers remain a future possibility. 

If they actually bring these projects to fruition and South America does create a space agency, then Alcantara could become a formidable rival to Kourou. It's got an equatorial location going for it.
Nico's avatar
Nico· 1 day ago
Brazil builds its own rockets. The NDX-1 space suit tested by Nasa was designed by the Argentine aerospace engineer Pablo de Leon. Also, Argentina is developing satallite launching capability and it was the 4th country in the world to send an animal to space.
hmmmWell's avatar
hmmmWell· 1 day ago
This was the market that SpaceX's Elon Musk had in mind when he talked about using his soon to be man-rated Dragon Capsule as space transport for other countries trying to develope a manned space program.
Alejandro Chavarri's avatar
Alejandro Chavarri· 9 hours ago
It is a good article in general, but it barely has information regarding space programs in Mexico and Central America. Regarding Mexico the author could have mentioned the MEXSAT satellite program as well as the newly created Mexican Space Agency. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The National Space Society Mourns The Loss Of Neil Armstrong

NSS Mourns Neil Armstrong - Calls for Renewed Emphasis on Human Space Exploration

Washington, DC - August 26, 2012: In the wake of Neil Armstrong's passing on Saturday, August 25, National Space Society members worldwide are remembering the Apollo missions that put first Armstrong, then Buzz Aldrin and ultimately 10 other Americans on the surface of the Moon.

NSS leaders emphasized the importance of Armstrong's place in history. Hugh Downs, former host of ABC's 20/20 and Chairman of NSS's Board of Governors stated, "News of Neil Armstrong's passing is so shocking that there is no way it can be absorbed right away as reality. His position in history is deeper than that of any known discoverer or explorer in the history of this planet. As the first human to land on any world outside the Earth, and probably the first living creature of any sort to come from the Earth and reach the Moon, his legacy will be safe as long as intelligent life survives in this corner of the cosmos."

In addition, Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong's Apollo 11 crewmate, second man on the Moon and member of NSS's Board of Governors said about the Apollo 11 mission and his memories of Neil, "I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, and space exploration companion, Neil Armstrong, today. As Neil, Mike Collins and I trained together for our historic Apollo 11 mission, we understood the many technical challenges we faced, as well as the importance and profound implications of this historic journey. We will now always be connected as the crew of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, yet for the many millions who witnessed that remarkable achievement for humankind, we were not alone.

"Whenever I look at the Moon I am reminded of that precious moment, over four decades ago, when Neil and I stood on the desolate, barren, yet beautiful, Sea of Tranquility, looking back at our brilliant blue planet Earth suspended in the darkness of space, I realized that even though we were farther away from Earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone. Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a historic moment in human history."

As we remember the historic achievement and heroic stature of Neil Armstrong, NSS calls on its members, NASA, the US government and nations around the world to not let his singular achievement remain singular. "Humanity will one day become a truly space-faring species and millions of people will venture beyond the Earth. But Neil Armstrong will always be the first among us to set foot on another world," said Paul E. Damphousse, NSS Executive Director. "Today we mark his passing and celebrate his place in history. He was one of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand, and we will honor his legacy by continuing our efforts to move humanity into the cosmos."

According to our vision of human beings living and working in space and utilizing the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity, NSS is committed to ensuring that Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" will be followed up by the next important steps: returning to the Moon, and moving on to asteroids, Mars, and beyond.
About the National Space Society: The National Space Society is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization.  Membership and participation are open to all who share our vision and wish to build a positive future for humanity. Founded when the National Space Institute and the L5 Society merged in 1987, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen's voice on space.  NSS has over 10,000 members and supporters, and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world.  The society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. If you would like to join NSS or, for more information, please visit

For more information on the National Space Society, please contact Paul Damphousse by email atpaul.damphousse(a) or by phone at             202-429-1600      .