NASA Rover Rescued from Scrapheap?

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The rumors of a moon rover’s demise were exaggerated. A 1960s-era lunar rover prototype, sold to a scrapyard last year, was in fact salvaged by the yard’s owner, who asked to remain anonymous. The scrapyard owner said he put the rover in storage after he received it, realizing its historical value. NASA was aware he had the rover, and claimed the agency “offered me everything but cash” for it. [Motherboard]

The discarded rover appears to be the same prototype shown in this NASA photo.
The discarded rover appears to be the same prototype shown in this NASA photo.

 

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The longtime director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will retire next year. JPL announced Wednesday that Charles Elachi, who has been director of the lab since May 2001, will retire at the end of June 2016. Elachi has worked at JPL since 1970 and is also a professor of planetary science and electrical engineering at Caltech, which runs JPL for NASA. [NASA/JPL]

A low-key military launch that was scheduled for Thursday night has been postponed. No new date has been set for the launch of a Super Strypi rocket from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. The launch is the first orbital mission for the rail-guided rocket. It will fly the ORS-4 mission for the Operationally Responsive Space office and carry a small satellite built by the Univ. of Hawaii. The planned launch, which has received little publicity, was originally scheduled for 2013. [Twitter @Gruss_SN]

Astronauts went into overtime Wednesday to complete a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren spent 7 hours and 16 minutes outside the station, nearly an hour longer than planned, to complete maintenance work there. The two completed most of the planned tasks of the spacewalk, but lubrication of the station’s robotic arm took longer than planned, so they deferred one minor task to a future spacewalk. The duo will make another spacewalk Nov. 6. [CBS]


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Eutelsat is buying a satellite from Thales Alenia Space to serve Africa. The high-throughput satellite, scheduled to enter service in 2019, will provide Ka-band broadband access for sub-Saharan Africa. Eutelsat said it doesn’t have customers for the satellite yet, but believes there is enough demand to justify it. The deal comes after Eutelsat and Facebook agreed to lease capacity on the upcoming Amos-6 satellite to provide Internet access for Africa. [SpaceNews]

OneWeb is facing criticism from geostationary satellite operators about potential interference. Thomas Choi, president of ABS, said that he believes OneWeb’s constellation of low Earth orbit communication satellites will interfere with satellites in GEO at Ku-band, particularly around the equator. That conclusion is based on a technical assessment of OneWeb’s satellite system presented at a conference this week. An executive with satellite operator SES confirmed that his company is “extremely concerned about the interference scenario.” [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK says it’s seeing lower prices for Atlas launches. Orbital purchased two Atlas 5 launches for its Cygnus cargo spacecraft, and company CEO David W. Thompson said it saw evidence of price reductions for the Atlas 5 when it bought its second Atlas 5. Orbital bought the Atlas launches to continue sending cargo to the ISS under a NASA contract while it upgrades its Antares launch vehicle. Using the Atlas 5 has not changed the overall profitability of that NASA cargo contract for Orbital. [SpaceNews]


Journey to … Pluto?

“Imagine what the marvels would have been had New Horizons been followed in trail by a human mission that had the new information about Pluto: the mountains, the water, the atmosphere with perhaps vapor in it and stuff like that. Imagine what we would have discovered in a quick journey of humans around the planet.”

– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the Center for American Progress Wednesday about the need for a “happy balance” between human and robotic exploration.


 

NASA’s administrator warns that the agency could be “doomed” if the next administration changes course again. Charles Bolden, speaking Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, said that he believed the agency was on the right path to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. “If we change our minds at any time in the next three or four years, which always is a risk when you go through a government transition, my belief is that we’re doomed,” he said. Bolden used the speech to provide a general overview of NASA’s “Journey to Mars” strategy, which it also summarized in a document published earlier this month. [SpaceNews]

Scientists have detected molecular oxygen for the first time on the comet ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft is orbiting. Rosetta detected the oxygen spewing from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for several months, and believe it came from inside the comet, rather than being formed in chemical reactions triggered as the comet approaches the sun in its orbit. That oxygen likely dates back to the formation of the solar system, or possibly even earlier. [New Scientist]

A former aerospace executive may be taking on a new challenge: running Washington’s much-maligned subway system. Neal Cohen, who was executive vice president and chief financial officer of ATK from 2012 until it completed its merger with Orbital Sciences Corp., is the leading candidate to become the next general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro. If Cohen and Metro’s board reach an agreement, he’ll take the top job as the system is facing increased scrutiny of its safety and performance. [Washington Post]

The rumors of a moon rover’s demise were exaggerated. A 1960s-era lunar rover prototype, sold to a scrapyard last year, was in fact salvaged by the yard’s owner, who asked to remain anonymous. The scrapyard owner said he put the rover in storage after he received it, realizing its historical value. NASA was aware he had the rover, and claimed the agency “offered me everything but cash” for it. [Motherboard]