Monday, March 31, 2008

NASA: Can You Handle The Phoenix? (Video)

It looks as if another NASA video has surfaced, this time highlighting the Phoenix Mars Mission in order to determine whether or not life existed on the red planet's north pole.

While the overall purpose of this mission is focused on the evidence of life frozen beneath the frosty surface, this stationary "rover" could help scientists determine the exact composition of Martian soil.

This could enlighten humanity as to whether Martian soil is potentially fertile or extremely barren (if the latter, we may have to "manufacture" our own fertilizer, which will not make many people happy).

Rotifers To Radiation: Resistance Is Possible

(Image: The bdelloid rotifer Philodina roseola (ca 400 microns), Credit: Harvard, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology)

Researchers have discovered an interesting organism that seems to have an ability to withstand large doses of radiation that would normally kill most plants and animals.

(Astrobiology Magazine) "Bdelloid rotifers are far more resistant to ionizing radiation than any of the hundreds of other animal species for which radiation resistance has been examined," says Meselson, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "They are able to recover and resume normal reproduction after receiving a dose of radiation that shatters their genomes, causing hundreds of DNA double-strand breaks which they are nevertheless able to repair." [...]

Such radiation resistance appears not to be the result of any special protection of DNA itself against breakage, the researchers say, but instead reflects bdelloid rotifers' extraordinary ability to protect their DNA-repairing machinery from radiation damage.

According to the article these little creatures were able to withstand up to five times the dosage of regular organisms, and still come out "unscathed." If scientists can figure out how to replicate their feature within various plant and animal species, we may be able to raise crop on radiation soaked worlds such as Mars and Ganymede.

Carnival Of The Space Geeks! (Round 47)

Last weeks Carnival of Space was hosted by The Martian Chronicles (which I have just recently subscribed to), a group blog authored by Briony Horgan, Melissa Rice and Ryan Anderson.

Articles ranged from Martian rovers surviving the NASA knife, potential off world oceans within our solar system, black holes with lasers (oh my!), and familiar faces (and unfamiliar explosions) from a galaxy far, far away.

Some interesting articles included:

Also worthy of mention (although it did not make the Carnival) was Henry Cate (from Why Homeschool) who blogged about the Space Access Summit (which he was fortunate enough to attend).

Note: For those of you who do not know, it was Henry who initiated the original Carnival of Space, until it was handed over to Fraser of Universe Today.

Thanks for reading, and if you are interested in adding your article to the latest space carnival, all you have to do is visit the Carnival of Space page for more details on how you can sign up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Artificial Gravity Via Bigelow Space Stations?

No matter where you go, you can not escape it. Understood by infants, "math-matized" by Newton, you can not forsake the effects of gravity, no matter what your "lying eyes" may be telling you.

You may never be able to escape the effects of gravity (in its entirety), but you can reduce it, freeing yourself from the stress of lifting objects of greater density than yourself.

One of the best places to do this is by launching yourself beyond the sky in order to get a glimpse of the heavens above. But staying there for long periods could have harmful effects upon your health, hurting not only your heart, bones, and immune system, but also aiding the deadly bacteria trying to kill you.

Currently scientists are trying to find ways to combat this issue, using everything from drugs to brain surgery. Although these options may eventually liberate us from the side effects of microgravity, it may be "less messy" to find a technological solution (as it may have less side effects).

While futuristic technologies such as plasma rockets and space elevator stations may hold much promise for our young race (gravity wise), we may be better off constructing orbital space stations--with a Bigelow twist.

Bigelow Aerospace, a space corporation focusing on creating inflatable space stations may be the key towards solving our gravitational woes.

Having already successfully launched two inflatable space stations (with a third one planned for human habitation), Bigelow plans on launching these inflatable modules, and connecting them together to form a space station that may rival the ISS.

(Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

But what if Bigelow Aerospace could alter the design of their inflatable modules to make several of them connect in a circle? They could then slowly rotate the entire structure (note: which may be an engineer's nightmare) in order to simulate artificial gravity via centrifugal force.

While some may prefer to have an orbital space station enclosed with a "hardier" shell, doing so may not be as feasible due to the rising cost of rocket launches (hat tip:

Bigelow's modules on the other hand, may not only be cheaper to launch into space, but may be safer as well, as its thick outer skin may be able to take "a greater punch" than its metallic rivals.

These inflatable modules may also more expendable than their more rigid cousins, as it would be much easier to replace a module or two (like a Pontoon bridge), than an entire section of a more traditional space station.

Whether or not Bigelow eventually decides to move in this direction, only time will reveal. But if so, Bigelow could ultimately allow us to safely venture out into the blackness of space, without the fear of losing our health in the process.

Editors Note (3/31): Ken Talton of the Brickmuppet Blog points out that the engineering/math to rotate Bigelow's inflatable space stations in order to simulate gravity has already been figured out, and can be seen over here (pdf).

Update (3/31): The space stations are not exactly like Bigelow, but they do provide some "hard science" towards the idea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Video: Lunar Bull Dozing

If landing on the Moon is "easy," then living upon it may be "slightly difficult"--especially if one has to find ways of creating a viable transportation system, which could involve lunar railroads and subways.

But before we begin dreaming up future metropolis connecting to each other across the moonscape, we may have to find ways of digging through lunar soil first.

(New Scientist Space) Chariot, a two-tonne "truck" with a top speed of 20 kilometres per hour, has been tearing up the Lunar Yard, a test bed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, since engineers there completed construction of the vehicle in September of 2007. [...]

Independent steering on each of its six pairs of wheels allows the vehicle to spin on the spot, zigzag up steep crater walls, and manoeuvre into tight spaces with ease.

The Chariot – so named because the current model has no seats, windows, or doors, and can be driven from the rear – can also lower its chassis to the ground making it easier for astronauts in bulky spacesuits to climb aboard.

Hopefully this new design (coupled with a plow) will enable colonists to clear out land in order to tame the Moon's rugged surface. While more testing has to be done in order to make the robotic vehicles robust enough, future prototypes like these may enable us to actually build homes on lunar side, instead of dreaming about it from hundreds of thousands of kilometers away.

SpaceDev To Create Seals To Protect Lunar Hardware

(Hat Tip: Space Fellowship)

Whoever said that the Moon was a harsh Mistress had a very good idea about what they were talking about.

Harboring dust that is both fatal to humans and irritating (at best) to mechanical life, colonizing the Moon is going to going to be "moderately daunting," if not extremely difficult.

Despite this threat from the surface of Earth's nearest neighbor, one company is working on ways of solving the dust dilemma, which may lead towards our species inhabiting that tiny world.

(SpaceDev) SpaceDev, Inc. [...] announced that it has been awarded a contract for the development of next-generation seal technologies for instrument covers. The Phase 1 Small Business Innovative Research contract is scheduled for a 6-month period, during which SpaceDev plans to perform feasibility studies for seals capable of repetitive use while maintaining integrity even in the presence of severe abrasive environments such as lunar dust. These seal technologies are intended to enhance performance and enable increased mission capabilities for future lunar operations such as rovers, robotic systems, on site resource utilization and science experiments.

"This contract builds upon our heritage developing cover systems and seals for important spacecraft such as the Chandra and Spitzer space telescopes," said Mark N. Sirangelo, SpaceDev's Chairman and CEO. "Once developed, they are expected to provide a key solution set to harsh environments that presented significant operational issues during the Apollo missions. Although our initial efforts are focused on NASA's lunar requirements, we expect these products to translate over to future Mars and terrestrial applications as well."

Even though this might look like a minor issue, these seals could easily determine not only who visits the Moon, but also how many. If successful, SpaceDev could help our species to live comfortably off world, without the worry about breathing in a substance that smells like gunpowder.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (45 And 46)

It looks like the Carnival of Space is up, although I (unfortunately) forgot to mention last week's Carnival of Space, so I'll do a quick recap here of some of the interesting highlights before proceeding to this weeks Carnival.


Last week's Carnival of Space was hosted over at Observations from Missy's Window and included everything from extraterrestrials hiding out by Pluto (note: silly humans) to take a ride to the stars "for free" to even witnessing exploding super nova's.

Some of the best posts featured included (but not limited to):

Those were some of the interesting articles posted on last weeks Carnival, and here are a "few" more from this weeks Carnival of Space, which was hosted by Bill Dunford of Riding With Robots.

Posts here ranged from impolite extraterrestrials to reaction over the death of Arthur C. Clarke (RIP). A few interesting articles included:


Thanks for reading, and if you ever get the urge to voice your opinion from your corner of the universe, you might consider not only joining our growing ranks, but declare your message to the world by enlisting in the next Carnival of Space. The fine print can be found over at Universe Today.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Aquarium Homes For Mars (And Other Radiation Worlds)

(Article inspired by Clark Lindsey of Hobby Space)

Imagine waking up every morning, excited by the mere fact that you are living a hundred million miles away from your home planet, Earth. You slowly ease out of bed, being very careful not to jump too high lest you bump your head against the ceiling (a minor setback of living within reduced gravity).

After briefly enjoying a few hops in a third of your weight, you slip on your gravity suit (due to doctors orders), feed the pigs and dream about someday actually seeing a Martian sunrise from your underground outpost, instead of going above ground at night due to radiation.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the awe inspiring red planet.

Despite the fact that this potential reality may not look too exciting, it is one many governments on Earth would be content with, as they would rather have their astronauts bored to death than "microwaved" via solar radiation.

While some may argue that anti-radiation drugs and portable magnetic shields would allow us to roam the red planet at will (as well as any other radiation safe world), both of these items may increase the overall cost of solar outposts, which may encourage tax payers to grumble about the price tag.

Instead of reducing astronauts into future cave dwellers, why not enclose these future space homes within thick layers of glass and liquid water?

Of the many materials used to protect humans from radiation exposure, lead, aluminum and water are probably the "easiest ways" shield our fragile bodies from the wrath of the Universe.

Even though most colonists would probably prefer a "wall of lead" (or even aluminum) around them, launching the material from Earth (or mining via the asteroid belt) may prove to be very costly, especially when one adds taxes to the final bill.

Water ice on the other hand seems to have placed its finger prints on every solar world save four (Mercury, Venus, Luna aka Earth's moon and Io) and would provide a far cheaper means of securing our foothold upon these semi-hostile worlds.

Although using water as a cheaper alternative may sound reasonable to some people, using glass may not. After all, would it not be easier to simply use thick, translucent plastics instead of heavy glass?

While plastic does have its advantages over its older friend, it may be easier to create glass off world, mainly due to the fact that silica, one of the main ingredients of of sand (or quartz if you live on Earth) can be used to "easily" create glass on other worlds.

On Mars silica is present within the soil, while on other worlds such as Callisto, and Ganymede, silicon is contained within the crust, respectively. This may be true of the other worlds orbiting Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, although NASA will have to confirm this with future probes (and hopefully rovers).

While water and glass may help provide an inexpensive way of shielding colonists from harmful rays, scientists could also grow radiation eating fungi within the watery walls. This would provide further protection, especially if a lunar colony operates within its host planet's radiation belt.

Even though it would probably be wise for off world settlers to also carry portable magnetic fields and anti-radiation drugs with them, they would only have to seriously consider using them if they were going to travel well outside the protection of their base, or if they received warning of an impending solar storm.

Aquarium homes may not be the "end all" solution for us dwelling in the heavens, but they could allow humans to actually raise their kids upon the surface of other worlds (beholding their beauty), instead of below it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

iPhone Assimilates Colony Worlds

Tired of lugging around the PC in order to view the latest highlights about conquering your solar neighborhood?

Are you unable to view your space news because the boss only dreams in charts and graphs, and not about raising pigs on Mars?

Did your brand new Dell computer catch on fire, leaving you to face the work day all alone worrying about Earthen problems?

Have no need to fear, Colony Worlds for the iPhone is here! Simply point your browser towards and you will enjoy your favorite space content literally at the tip of your fingers.

Don't have an iPhone you say? You can still view Colony Worlds on your mobile device! All you have to do is visit and you too can join in on the fun!

Editor's note: For those of you wondering, the mobile version of Colony Worlds is powered by, who for a hefty $3 per month will convert your space faring site for the enjoyment of ordinary and extra terrestrials alike! ;-)

NASA To Starve Mars, Feed Outer Planet Missions

(Hat Tip: Space Pragmatism)

After having successfully launched (and landed) two rovers on Mars, with a third on the way, NASA is readjusting priorities and focusing on the outer gas planets.

(Red Orbit) However, Griffin referred to a recent evaluation from the US National Research Council which gave NASA an "A" for its ventures to Mars, while it received a "D" for outer planets and a "C" for research and analysis.

He announced that a major robotic mission to the outer planets was in the works. "We've rebalanced our planetary science portfolio accordingly," Dr Griffin told the conference.

"As I discussed elsewhere, we've learned more, and had more questions to answer, about the many other planets and moons in our Solar System.

"So after Mars Science Lab - the current planetary sciences flagship - we are now planning in earnest for an outer planets flagship to Europa, Titan or Ganymede."

Even though news like this will not make the Mars Society very happy, NASA's new direction will probably help out Jovian scientists who have been patiently waiting to launch their own probes (and perhaps rovers) to the outer planets.

While Europa and Io are too radioactive for human settlement, Jupiter's other siblings (Ganymede and Callisto) may hold much promise for our future species, along with Saturn's Titan (which may rival Earth in beauty).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Water Plus Moon Dust Equals Hardy Bacteria Snack?

(Image Credit: NSF, via New Scientist Space)

Despite the fact that lunar dust is hostile to most earthen plant life, it looks as if one bacteria does not mind taking "a bite" out of the white stuff.

(New Scientist Space) A hardy life form called cyanobacteria can grow in otherwise inhospitable lunar soil, new experiments suggest. Future colonists on the Moon might be able to use the cyanobacteria to extract resources from the soil that could be used to make rocket fuel and fertiliser for crops. [...]

When put in a container with water and simulated lunar soil, the cyanobacteria were found to produce acids that are amazingly good at breaking down tough minerals, including ilmenite.

They use the nutrients freed up this way to grow and reproduce. "This is unbelievable," Brown told New Scientist. Breaking down the same minerals artificially would require heating them to very high temperatures, which uses enormous amounts of energy, he says. Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, use only sunlight for energy, though they do their extraction work more slowly than heating the soil artificially.

While the Cyanobacteria will not help us grow food directly upon lunar soil, they could enable us to easily mine the surface without resorting to shovels and drills. Future colonists could then simply use lunar vacuum cleaners to collect the moon dust, and let these hardy bacteria do the rest.

Since water is probably scarce on the moon, lunar residents will probably have to either choose to import H2O for both themselves and their microscopic friends, or simply modify the bacteria genetically to survive on human urine.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Could Hydrogen Fuel Replace Solar Power?

(Hat tip: IsraGood, Image Credit: Jerusalem Post)

With the supply of nuclear fuel limited (especially for Americans), future space colonies will probably need to look towards the Sun as their source of energy.

While this may benefit colonies located within the inner solar system, beyond the asteroid belt solar power is practically useless.

In order to get around their energy dilemma's, future colonists may have to rely upon hydrogen fuel in order to keep the lights on.

(Israel 21st Century) Most hydrogen vehicles on the road use a liquid form of the material, which requires a super strong and super heavy storage tank. Liquid hydrogen is unstable and needs to be insulated from the excess shocks of bumps and potholes that are a part of everyday driving, so the tanks themselves are large and heavy, and hold at most 20 liters of fuel - enough for barely 250 kilometers of driving. [...]

The difference? C.En's tank uses hydrogen gas, collected from the environment (i.e. not produced from fossil fuels) and enclosed in a thin but leak proof glass container. The best part: You'll be able to buy your "gas" at automotive or discount stores, fueling up every 600 kilometers or so.

"We can build a 60-liter tank that can travel up to 600 km. and weighs no more than 50 kg.," Stern said, unlike tanks currently used for liquid hydrogen that weigh hundreds of kilos.

"Our company's breakthrough is in accumulating hydrogen in a glass material that is very small, only a few microns," said Stern, who is also president of waste treatment company Environmental Energy Resources (EER).["]

If humanity ever decides to settle upon Ganymede and Callisto, future residents could simply extract the hydrogen from the ice water and power their homes without having to haul around a nuclear reactor.

Other icy moons around Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would also be able to benefit from this, as would help cut down the cost of maintaining these outposts (which may convince Earthen governments of their value in supporting them in the first place).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moon Society: What About Lunar, Martian Railroads?

Probably one of the few organizations out there that may live to see their world conquered within "its lifetime," the Moon Society is proposing that future Lunar (and Martian) transportation might have revisit the same technology that helped America conquer the wild west.

(Moon Society Blog) On the Moon and Mars, we aren't going to find building materials that we can "throw together" to provide shelter from the cosmic elements. We will need pressurized structures. Pressurized modules made in a first quickly industrializing settlement can be shipped by the railroads to points along the route to provide the nucleus of new settlements. Pressurized modules have to be handled with care. Try to haul them overland on unimproved roads and the stresses of bouncing around are going to compromise seals and maybe open cracks. Rails on the other hand will provide a smooth low-friction ride to a prepared siding complex where they can be dropped off and docked with one another to provide an instant starter outpost. [...]

Why take the train when we can fly on Mars? I do believe that we can, but I also think that aviation on Mars will be uncomfortably pushing the envelop and that because of that, it may be risky for some time. [...]

Another thing I have never heard a Mars aviation fan (other than myself) concede is that the equivalent of 125,000 feet on Earth only describes the situation in spring and fall when much of the polar carbon dioxide snow over both polar caps is vaporized. As we go into either summer or winter, a significant part of the atmosphere, as much as 30%, will freeze out over one or the other poles. If Mars flight is possible only seasonally, it will not become the backbone of transportation on Mars.

Rails may provide a more "realistic solution" to conquering both the red planet (as well as the Moon), although they will probably have to be enclosed (or underground like a subway) in order to keep Martian and Lunar dust from setting on the rails via static electricity.

While there are many space organizations promoting their "topic of concern," the Moon Society is one of the few that actively promotes and/or includes ideals from other groups, even when it is not within their total best interest.

Note: Currently the Moon Society is looking for a "few good space geeks" to help them work out the nuts and bolts (no pun intended) of building these off world rails. Interested users can join their Google Group forum in order to submit their ideas.

Florida Offering $40 Million Prize To Space Industry?

(Image Credit: Earth Ethics Institute)

Despite the fact the Sunshine State has already "cornered the space market," Florida is looking to attract even more space companies in order to secure its dominance as the space titan of America.

(Spaceports Blog) Two Florida state legislators have offered identical Senate and House bills to create a "Resuable Space Industry Prize Program" funded by a proposed $40-million dollar prize "to the firm or individual in the private space sector providing the most significant advancements within the reusable space vehicle industry during the period beginning January 1, 2009 and ending January 1, 2014."

Although other states such as Virginia and New Mexico are also actively courting the space industry, few may be able to match Florida's offer.

With the space shuttle scheduled to retire in a few years, Floridian politicians are probably trying to find ways to keep their engineers, scientists and astronauts from considering migrating towards greener pastures.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (When Mars Attacks)

Phil from Bad Astronomy hosted yesterday's Carnival of Space, which oddly had many articles mention our favorite red planet, Mars.

Several posts ranged from Martian avalanches to women on Mars (or at least driving rovers) to even whether or not water actually existed on Mars in liquid form in the past.

A few articles did catch this authors attention, such as:

While not mentioned in the Carnival, I would like to inform readers that Dan Schrimpsher of Space Pragmatism has a new domain over at (background story over here) so be sure to update your bookmarks and share the link love.

For those of you wishing to join in on the space based carnival fun, you can visit Universe Today for more details, as we are always looking for more writers to add to our ranks.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Radiation Safe Worlds

Of the 83 colony worlds that dance and prance around our golden star, only six worlds (excluding our home planet) hold the potential of being future homes, nine if you include Mercury, Pluto and Charon.

Despite the fact that future technology could eventually open up all of these worlds for human habitation, only a few of them may attract "the masses" after the first person sets foot upon their dusty soil due to the "evil R word"--radiation.

Contrary to the various rumors, taking heavy doses of radiation does not turn one into the Hulk, one of the members of the Fantastic Four or Spider Man via a radioactive spider bite.

Radiation, whether cosmic or solar has the potential of seriously roasting you alive, if not turning one into a vegetable.

Even though humans can tolerate "various degrees" of radiation, our bodies seem to be quite content with the level of background radiation our species receives on planet Earth, which is about 0.35 REM's (aka Roentgen Equivalent Man) a year.

Higher doses of radiation can prove to be fatal towards future colonies, and some researchers do not recommend levels above 50 REM within a year or 25 REM during a 30 day period as it can lead towards some serious side affects (as highlighted in the chart below).

While radiation can be countered by using water, lead and aluminum, parents may be hesitant to breed upon foreign planets and moons (let alone raise kids upon them) if it will result in their children acquiring serious birth defects.

In order to determine which worlds are "family friendly," one only has to look at how much radiation a world receives to determine whether or not it is suitable for large populations or should be left alone for industrial space companies.

Starting out with Mars, one often dreams about metropolises dotting the surface of that crimson sphere. While Mars may hold much promise for future colonies, its annual dose of 15-20 REM may give some settlers second thoughts.

While future Martians may be able to combat the threat of radiation by building cities within its lumpy magnetic field, the red planet as a whole may not spawn dense cities until a globe sized artificial magnetic field can be constructed.

Moving outward to the Jovian system future space settlers may find more fortune living on Jupiter's moon Callisto. Orbiting just outside of its angry parents radiation belt, Callisto receives approximately 0.01 REM a day (or about 3.65 REM a year).

Coupled with its prime location in the outer solar system, Callisto may outpace its Martian rivals population wise, and may be second only to Earth as far as future inhabitants go.

Unfortunately Jupiter's other lunar daughters do not fare as well as Callisto, with all three of these worlds (Ganymede, Europe, Io) bathed in Jupiter's harsh radiation belt, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their much colder, "uglier" sister.

Traveling further outward towards Saturn, one may find it strange that humans may call the smog world of Titan home sweet home. While its surface may be hidden from the human eye, its atmosphere may be thick enough to protect residents from both solar rays as well as Saturn's radiation belts.

Even though there are other worlds such as Luna (aka Earth's moon), Ceres, and even Ganymede that may eventually be civilized by our ever growing race, these worlds may not conquered right away due to the "invisible killer" lurking in the shadows.

While it would not be surprising to see scientists and industrial corporations setting up shop on these hostile worlds, the bulk of humanity may choose to remain on these radiation safe worlds until over population forces them to conquer these overlooked spheres roaming silently among the stars.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Video: Why Romania May Win The Google Lunar X-Prize

With almost a dozen teams competing for Google's Lunar X-Prize, one would probably expect a team located within a major space power to dominate this international space race.

While a few teams are presenting innovative ways of landing on the Moon, most have yet to figure out how to leave their home planet without going broke.

Ironically their seems to be only one team that has created an inexpensive way of sending their "little rover" beyond our sky--and the fact that this team is located in Romania may humble competing teams in both the US and Canada.

(Arca Space) HAAS is an innovative air-launched, 3 stages orbital rocket, preliminary designed in 2006 using the technology developed at ARCA during The Ansari X Prize Competition and The European Private Manned Space Program. The rocket was named after Conrad Haas* (1509-1579) Austrian-Romanian medieval rocket pioneer, the first creator of multiple stages rockets. [...]

The HAAS rocket will be lifted at 18.000m altitude with the help of a 2.000.000 m3 Solar Montgolfier balloon.

While this "balloon rocket launch" may not be fit for humans, it may enable colonists to cheaply send supplies to the surface of the Moon, ensuring that our future lunar citizens do not starve to death.

Note: Even though the "solar volley ball" may not be suitable for lunar colonists in the future, it will probably have enough fuel to win the $30 million prize from Google, not to mention securing Romania's place in the history books.

Senate Uneasy About NASA Outsourcing To Russians

With the space shuttle retirement on the horizon, NASA has shifted its focus on not only returning to the Moon, but also on delegating transportation to and from the International Space Station (or ISS) to the Russians.

Unfortunately it seems that many Senators are not as comfortable with working with their former foe, especially with tensions heating up between the US and the former Soviet Union.

(Government Executive) Senate Commerce Space Subcommittee Chairman Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., trained their sights on what they portrayed as a high-risk reliance on a partner whose ambitions might run counter to U.S. foreign policy goals. [...]

In the meantime, Nelson said, "there is a realistic political monkey wrench" that could complicate any deal. He said current law forbids any U.S. contract payments to Russia if it continues to support the Iranian nuclear development program, unless the White House requests a waiver and Congress grants it.

Even though NASA is confident in its relationship with the Russians, they need to develop a "plan B" just in case America chooses not to issue future waivers (which would hurt NASA, or at least cripple the ISS).

While NASA has made serious attempts at courting the private sector (especially SpaceX), they may need to take more aggressive measures if they want to convince congress of their future relevance.

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (43rd Edition)

Ethan Siegel hosted the 43rd carnival of space over at Starts With A Bang! which featured over 20 excellent posts with an Oscar theme twist.

Entertaining articles included solar flares, finding exo-solar rocky worlds, a man who wants to fund his own lunar trip and a play about Galileo and his daughter?

A few interesting articles that stood out were:

Next weeks Carnival of Space is quickly coming up, and if would like to see your article highlighted across the blogosphere (or at least within the space community) then you might want to check out Universe Today for details on how you can join in on the fun.