A team of NASA exobiology researchers revealed today organic chemicals that play a crucial role in the chemistry of life are common in space.

“Our work shows a class of compounds that is critical to biochemistry is prevalent throughout the universe,” said Douglas Hudgins, an astronomer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. He is principal author of a study detailing the team’s findings that appears in the Oct. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
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NASA announced its intent to collaborate with the X PRIZE Foundation on two planned Centennial Challenges prize competitions.

Implementation of the collaboration is contingent upon NASA obtaining necessary statutory authority for prizes; inclusion of necessary resources in the Centennial Challenges budget to fund the purses; final negotiation and execution of an agreement between the agency and the Foundation.

The prize competitions from the collaboration will be related to suborbital launch vehicle technology development. The prizes are envisioned to be greater than $250,000 each. The Foundation will administer and execute the competitions at no cost to NASA, with the agency providing prize funding to the winning contestants.
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Wetlands Satellite Mapping

Earth’s wetlands are havens for wildlife and vital to the water cycle, but they are also under threat. An ESA-led initiative aims to develop a global wetland information service based on Earth Observation for conservation efforts. The Globwetland project has now entered a new phase, with prototype products being developed based on sites across four continents.

More at:


NASA honored former Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham as an “Ambassador of Exploration.” The award provides special recognition for the astronauts of America’s early space programs: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

Cunningham was presented with a moon rock at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas to acknowledge his pioneering service as a NASA astronaut. He is donating the rock to the museum, which is temporarily displaying the Apollo 7 Command Module.

NASA astronaut Charles Hobaugh represented the agency at the event and presented Cunningham with the award. Hobaugh is assigned to space shuttle crew STS-118.

He read Cunningham a letter from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin: “Congratulations on receiving NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award. What a great honor for you to share with your family and the many friends and supporters of the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

“The purpose of these awards is to recognize the tremendous contributions America’s first generation of astronauts made to space exploration and to help inspire a new generation to carry the torch of exploration throughout the solar system.

“Your outstanding service on the Apollo 7 mission and your continued strong advocacy for a bold, boundary pushing space program have demonstrated the essence of what our Ambassador of Exploration Awards are all about.

“The men and women of NASA are engaged in the work that will enable our Nation to return humans to the moon, send robotic explorers and, ultimately, human pioneers to Mars, and other destinations in our solar system.

“In taking on this challenge, we welcome the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those heroic astronauts who blazed our first pathway beyond Earth. In this regard, we owe you a great debt of gratitude.”

Cunningham served during the Apollo 7 mission in October 1968. He logged 263 hours in space during the 11-day, 163-orbit flight. The Apollo 7 crew was the first to beam live telecasts from orbit, giving millions of people around the world their first views of space.

For the full text of Administrator Griffin’s letter to Cunningham on the Web, visit:


NASA exobiology researchers confirmed Earth’s oceans were once rich in sulfides that would prevent advanced life forms, such as fish and mammals, from thriving. The research was funded in part by NASA’s exobiology program.

A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, working with colleagues from Australia and the United Kingdom, analyzed the fossilized remains of photosynthetic pigments preserved in 1.6 billion-year-old rocks from the McArthur Basin in Northern Australia.

They found evidence of photosynthetic bacteria that require sulfides and sunlight to live. Known as purple and green sulfur bacteria because of their respective pigment colorations, these single-celled microbes can only live in environments where they simultaneously have access to sulfides and sunlight.
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With the graceful flight of hawks and eagles in mind, NASA aerospace engineer Michael Allen recently hand-launched a 15-pound motorized model sailplane over the Southern California desert. He was hoping it would catch plumes of rising air called thermals.

The sailplane did just that several times without human intervention during a series of research flights at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Calif. The tests validated Allen’s premise that using thermal lift could significantly extend the range and flight endurance of small unmanned air vehicles. Thermal lift increases vehicle endurance and saves fuel. This is significant, as small vehicle flight duration is often restricted by limited fuel capacity.

Allen and his team of engineers and technicians flew the remote-controlled RnR Products sailplane 17 times from July through mid-September. The sailplane was modified by Dryden aerospace technicians to incorporate a small electric motor and an autopilot programmed to detect thermals.
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Scaled Experimental Supersonic Transport (SST)

The scaled experimental SST, launched at 7:06 (a.m.) on 10 October, 2005 local time, at the Woomera Test Range, Australia, flew and landed normally. Flight condition planned to acquire the technical telemetry data was achieved.

Total flight time was 15 minutes and 22 seconds, test altitude and speed were 12 km – 19 km and Mach 1.9 – 2.

JAXA expresses our profound gratitude to all parties concerned for cooperation in operating this flight trial of the scaled experimental SST.

Flight Analysis (PDF 77KB)


Engineers cheered as electricity coursed through Space Shuttle Endeavour today for the first time in two years. The powering of Endeavour signaled the end of the orbiter’s major modification period at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

“Having three operational vehicles in the fleet affords the shuttle program great schedule flexibility, as we move toward flying safely and completing the international space station,” said Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale.

Engineers and technicians spent 900,000 hours performing 124 modifications to the vehicle. These included recommended return to flight safety modifications, bonding more than 1,000 thermal protection system tiles and inspecting more than 150 miles of wiring. Eighty five of the modifications are complete and 39 are still underway.
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With the click of a mouse, the public can go to a local OfficeMax to pick up printed and collated copies of NASA mission and program data, pictures and other space-related information.

NASA and OfficeMax, Incorporated, Itasca, Ill., have partnered to get agency printed materials into the hands of students, educators and the public quickly and easily. Educators and NASA enthusiasts, who download documents from the agency’s Web site, can have the large files printed at the closest OfficeMax store. OfficeMax Print and Document Services facilities are offering savings of up to 50 percent on all materials printed from the NASA Web site.
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