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Friday’s CSExtra presents the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. It’s time to elevate space exploration as a serious presidential election issue, writes a long time veteran of Washington policy making circles. The reported likely discovery of the long sought Higgs boson this week may unravel the mystery surrounding dark matter, say scientists. A European Ariane 5 successfully launches U. S. commercial Internet and European weather satellites. A French/German working group backs a European propulsion module for NASA’s Orion deep space crew transport. Solar activity rages this week. A “middle weight” class of black holes emerges. Gazing at the Milky Way. NASA commemorates the spot at which the final space shuttle mission came to rest. The case of a disappearing solar system in the making.
1. From The New York Times: It’s time for the nation’s presidential contenders to elevate space exploration as a serious issue, writes Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to the former U. S. Sen. Bob Dole. China is claiming the mantle once clutched by the United States, he writes in an op-ed. China’s intentions are military advantage, according to MacKinnon. A series of administrations have unraveled President John Kennedy’s efforts to achieve space leadership, he writes.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: China’s recent Shenzhou 9 mission is not an indication of a new space race between China and the United States, according to a collection of expert opinions summarized by the Washington website. The three member Shenzhou crew carried out successful automated and manual dockings with China’s Tiangong-1 space lab. But China does not have the confidence to be a leader in the space arena, summed up one expert.
2. From Space.com: Physicists observed an important milestone this week, the potential discovery of the Higgs boson, a long sought sub atomic particle that may have imparted mass to the cosmos. The finding may also help to unravel the mystery of dark matter, the material that appears to make up most of the universe.
3. From Space.com: A European Ariane 5 booster places two satellites in orbit from French Guiana on Thursday, the EchoStar 17 for U.S. based Hughes Network Systems and Europe’s third Meteosat Second Generation weather satellite. The first will provide satellite Internet access to North America. MSG-3 will facilitate accurate weather forecasting for Europe and Africa.
4. From Space News: A French/German working group favors the European Space Agency development of a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion deep space crew transport. The two countries provide about half of ESA’s annual budget. The development would serve as a barter for ESA’s portion of International Space Station operations between 2017-20. Questions remain about the cost of the propulsion development as well as the role it may play in NASA plans for the four person Orion spacecraft.
5. From Space.com: An intense round of solar activity this week has not subsided. That means the eruption of another powerful solar flare and temporary radio interference on the Earth. A dozen major flares have been unleashed this week. Standby for more. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is recording the action.
6. From National Geographic: Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Space Telescope and Swift space observatory confirm a new “middle weight” class of black hole. The new breed joins the “small” stellar class and super massive varieties of black holes. The middle weights may date to the earliest epoch of the universe.
7. From Discovery.com and space.com: Mid-July offers the best opportunity to view the sweep of the Milky Way galaxy across the night sky. Plan on a drive away from the city lights and about 20 minutes for the eyes to adjust to the darkness.
8. From Collectspace.com: A commemorative plaque now marks “wheels stop,” the braking point for NASA’s final shuttle mission. Atlantis touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, following NASA’s 135th shuttle flight.
9. From the Los Angeles Times: So, where is it? In 1983, NASA’s Infrared Astronomical Observatory recorded a planet forming disk around the star TYC 82412652, the nucleus of a 10 million year old solar system in the making and 450 million light years from Earth. When checked again in 2008, the disc was still visible to a ground observatory, however; it’s missing in a 2009 observation made with NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer. Explanations abound, including the rapid transformation into planets too small to see.
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