June Scobee Rogers, founding chairman of the Challenger Centers for Space Science Education, intends to become a teacher in space flying on one of the new suborbital spacecraft.

Dr. Rogers revealed her plans at the 2012 Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, California.

Update: Dr Alan Stern has revealed that Challenger has taken two of the six flights which the Suborbital Application Researchers Group purchased on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two. In addition to June Scobee Rogers, Challenger will pick one participant and one backup through a contest among the 48 Challenger Centers.

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Written by Astro1 on February 27th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Virgin Galactic

NASA has a new video showing the commercial vehicles now being developed to take NASA crew to the International Space Station. These vehicles will also enable citizen space explorers to go to ISS and other destinations in Low Earth Orbit, including new space stations built by companies like Bigelow Aerospace.

Thanks to RLV News for pointing this out.

Written by Astro1 on February 25th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General), Space Exploration (General)

Rocket City Space Pioneers and its partner Spaceflight Services are offering a unique opportunity for small payload developers: a chance to share a ride to the Moon. Or at least, to lunar orbit.

Rideshare payload stack

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Written by Astro1 on February 22nd, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Innovation, Nanosatellites Tags:

The NASA Flight Opportunities program and Game Changing Development Program are soliciting proposals for the development of onboard research facilities and other enhancements to suborbital spacecraft. The goal of the joint solicitation is to to increase the number of research and technology payloads that can be carried by commercial suborbital spacecraft.

NASA desires proposals for enhancements and research facilities that support more than one user or can be carried by more than one spacecraft. If cost-effective, the proposed systems may make use of Shuttle- or ISS-heritage systems or other spacecraft standards (such as CubeSat).

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Written by Astro1 on February 21st, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Space Exploration (General)

The NASA Flight Opportunities program and Game Changing Development Program are soliciting proposals to develop specific technologies for future NASA space missions by flight-testing on commercial suborbital spacecraft. Entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, instrument builders, research managers, vehicle developers, and vehicle operators are encouraged to propose.

The solicitation focuses on a limited number of technology areas selected from those defined in NASA’s draft Space Technology Roadmaps.

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Written by Astro1 on February 21st, 2012 , Space Exploration (General)

L5 is an episodic video production being released on the Internet.  The first episode looks very good. This appears to be “hard” science fiction – no violation of the laws of physics  – and the equipment looks very believable. Even the acting is well done. It’s especially impressive considering the episode was produced on a shoestring budget of $15,000.

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Written by Astro1 on February 21st, 2012 , Space Exploration (General), Space Settlement

Dr. Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute Department of Space Science puts the risk of asteroid impacts in perspective:

The average American’s chances of dying as a result of an asteroid impact is about the same as an average American’s chances of dying in a tornado….  the chances of death and destruction by cosmic impact are on the same order for Americans as death by airliner crash, flood, tornado, and other hazards society takes seriously, it is reasonable that the impact hazard be taken seriously. In fact, an asteroid impact is a much more serious hazard, statistically speaking, than many other hazards we have experienced in the last few decades, including death by terrorism, by nuclear power plant accident, by shark attacks, etc. And cosmic impacts – if large enough – are nearly unique (along with nuclear war and perhaps some “Andromeda Strain” pandemic) of having the possibility of sending civilization back into a Dark Age or even exterminating our species…

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Written by Astro1 on February 20th, 2012 , Planetary Defense Tags:

On February 18, 1930, Pluto was discovered by amateur astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Tombaugh was a citizen scientist – an amateur astronomer and telescope maker  – who was hired by Lowell Observatory to search for a predicted but undiscovered planet beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Although Pluto’s planet status was controversially revoked by the International Astronomical Union in 2006, the discovery of Pluto remains a powerful and convincing argument for the value of citizen science in training researchers.

One way to honor Pluto’s birthday is to watch “The Pluto Files,” a PBS documentary with Neil deGrasse Tyson. You can buy the DVD or watch for free online at www.pbs.org. Better yet, you can joint IceHunters and help search for Kuiper-belt objects like Pluto in images taken by the 8-meter Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii and the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope in Chile.

Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2012 , Astronomy, Citizen Science (General) Tags:

Red Bull is sponsoring a parachute jump from a high-altitude balloon at the edge of space – 120,000 feet. The project is called Stratos.

In the early days of the Space Age, the US Air Force conducted high-altitude manned balloon experiments in Project Man High and Project Excelsior. In Project Excelsior, Colonel Joe Kittinger set a world’s record for the highest parachute jump, which the Stratos project seeks to break.

Even though this is not a rocket flight, it is helping to pave the way for citizen space exploration by testing spacesuit and life-support systems. When Felix Baumgartner walks out of the Stratos balloon gondola at 120,000 feet, it will be “one small step for a citizen explorer, one giant leap for citizen science.”

Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Medicine and Safety

The Space Hardware Club is a group of students at the University of Huntsville who are building a nanosatellite, one of 33 selected by NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative as candidates to fly within the next two years. (See NASA selects CubeSat candidates.)

The student-built satellite, called Charger-1, is an engineering project designed to test power and communication systems.  The satellite is being built as an extracurricular project with no class credit – a shining example of citizen science.

Paul Gattis of the Huntstville Times has more information here.

Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2012 , Citizen Science (General), Nanosatellites

Kyle Godin, a graduate student at Stevens Institute of Technology, has demonstrating a new solid-state thruster for low-cost satellites. His work has now been recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which awarded Godin the Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Aeronautics. This development will be of potential interest to citizen scientists, as the press release notes:

Thanks to the development of microsatellites, universities and independents can now launch research craft for tens of thousands of dollars, rather than the multi-million dollar price tags of traditional launches. This new class of satellite is democratizing outer space exploration and offering NASA new opportunities to study little-known regions of the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2012 , Citizen Science (General), Innovation, Nanosatellites

These images, taken from the International Space Station, show the sort of views that citizen space explorers can expect.

Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration

Will citizen space explorers beat NASA back to the Moon?

Space Adventures is pushing the boundaries of citizen exploration by offering a privately funded circumlunar mission. The proposed flight would use Russian Soyuz hardware.

The Soviet Union flew two Zond (modified Soyuz) capsules around the Moon in 1968. Those unmanned test flights used a free-return trajectory – the same sort of trajectory famously used by Apollo 13. The circumlunar flight proposed by Space Adventures would use a similar trajectory.

Space Adventures says it already has a customer for one of the two seats it needs to fill. When it finds another customer, the flight will be booked and a launch date announced.

The seats are going for about $100 million, so finding another citizen explorer for the second seat may take a while. It’s too bad NASA doesn’t have the foresight to take advantage of this opportunity.

Written by Astro1 on February 18th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General), Space Adventures Tags:

So says Nature, the international weekly journal of science.

With endeavours ranging from air-pollution assessments in Europe to chimpanzee counting in Tanzania, the next generation of citizen science attempts to make communities active stakeholders in research that affects them, and use their work to push forward policy changes.

Written by Astro1 on February 18th, 2012 , Citizen Science (General)

Armadillo Aerospace is a Texas-based company founded by video-game pioneer John Carmac. Armadillo won the first Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge and built the Project Morpheus lander for NASA. The company is currently working on a number of projects, including a suborbital rocket for Space Adventures.

Armadillo’s concept is a vertical-takeoff vertical-landing vehicle that bears an interest visual similarity to the Gemini capsule. Space Adventures has posted a Youtube video.

Written by Astro1 on February 17th, 2012 , Armadillo Aerospace, Citizen Exploration, Commercial Space (General), Space Adventures Tags:

NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 33 small satellites (nanosatellites) as candidates to fly as secondary payloads on NASA-sponsored launches in 2013 and 2014.

The CubeSat is an international standard for small payloads. The small size of CubeSat payloads makes the form factor ideally suited for citizen-science missions. Most of the 33 candidates came from established research organizations such as universities and other NASA centers. One, however, came from a citizen-science organization: the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, better known as Amsat.

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Written by Astro1 on February 17th, 2012 , Citizen Science (General)

Draper Laboratories tested its GENIE guidance system (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) on a recent flight of Masten Space System’s Xombie vehicle. Draper has now posted a Youtube video of the test flight.

Written by Astro1 on February 16th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Masten Space Systems, Space Exploration (General)

Space Adventures is best known for offering trips to the International Space Station. With Soyuz flights currently going for $35 million a seat, not many people can afford that. Space Adventures does have some more affordable offerings for citizen explorers, though. They are working with Armadillo Aerospace to offer low-cost suborbital flights in the future. Right now, they are offering some very exciting tours of Russian space facilities, including the chance to watch a launch.

Written by Astro1 on February 16th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Space Adventures

Space Safety is a new magazine. The pilot issue and the first two regular issues are now available as free downloads. Click here to view the download page.

Written by Astro1 on February 16th, 2012 , Books and Resources, Space Medicine and Safety

Geekwire reports that the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule has been delivered to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Soyuz TMA-14 is historic because the capsule carried two citizen space explorers.

On launch, Soyuz TMA-14 carried former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi on his second trip to the International Space Station. For the landing, Simonyi was replaced by another citizen explorer, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. Simonyi returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 capsule.

The Soyuz TMA-14 capsule is on long-term loan to the museum from Simonyi, who now owns it. It will be on display in the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.

Next time you’re in Seattle, stop in at the Museum of Flight and check it out.

Written by Astro1 on February 13th, 2012 , Citizen Exploration, Museums, Space Adventures

Space Center Houston (Feb. 2, 2012) — The United States Rocket Academy made a special announcement at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which began here today.

“Teachers in Space is now Citizens In Space,” said Edward Wright, chairman of the United States Rocket Academy and project manager of Teachers in Space. “The focus of our program is growing beyond the public school system. We are creating a more inclusive program that will enable teachers, students, museum educators, and others to become citizen scientists and space explorers.”

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Written by Astro1 on February 1st, 2012 , Citizens in Space