Archive for June, 2013

Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Turns Down Free Space Trip

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Buzz Aldrin walking on the MoonMOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Buzz Aldrin may be a strong supporter of private spaceflight, but the famed Apollo 11 moonwalker apparently has no desire to make a trip himself — at least not to suborbital space.

When a commercial suborbital spaceflight company offered Aldrin — the second human ever to walk on the moon — a free seat aboard one of its spaceships, Aldrin politely declined, the moonwalker said Thursday (June 27) during a press conference announcing the new space-commerce initiative PayPal Galactic. The former astronaut and fighter pilot did not name the company, but major contenders could be Virgin Galactic or XCOR Aerospace, both of which aim to start flying customers in the next year or so.

“Who’s going to get the publicity out of me flying in your spacecraft? And who’s taking the risk? I don’t quite see where there’s a payoff in there,” Aldrin, 83, said here at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, which is collaborating with PayPal on the PayPal Galactic project. “Besides, I’ve been there before,” Aldrin added, and laughter filled the room.

Buzz Aldrin speaks at the SETI Institute

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

PayPal, SETI Institiute, Buzz Aldrin and Space Leaders Launch PayPal Galactic

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

SETI INSTITUTE — PayPal today announced the launch of PayPal Galactic, an initiative that addresses the issues to help make universal space payments a reality. PayPal Galactic brings together leaders in the scientific community, including the SETI Institute and Space Tourism Society, to prepare and support the future of space commerce.

The announcement with PayPal President David Marcus and astronaut and author Buzz Aldrin will take place June 27 at 9am PDT at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. The event will be live streamed at and will be available on demand at 4pm PDT the same day on the site. A video explaining the initiative is available in HD and standard definition for downloading and sharing immediately at

“As space tourism programs are opening space travel to ‘the rest of us’, this drives questions about the commercialization of space. We are launching PayPal Galactic, in conjunction with leaders in the scientific community, to increase public awareness of the important questions that need to be addressed,” said David Marcus, PayPal’s President. “We may not answer these questions today or even this year, but one thing is clear, we won’t be using cash in space. PayPal has already pushed payments onto the Internet, onto mobile phones and across terrestrial borders. We now look forward to pushing payments from our world to the next, and beyond.”

“Trips to Mars, the moon, even orbit will require we provide astronauts and astro-tourists with as many comforts from home as possible, including how to pay each other,” said astronaut and author Buzz Aldrin. “Whether it’s paying a bill, or even helping a family member on Earth, we’ll need access to money. I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime. When that happens I won’t be surprised if people use PayPal Galactic for the little things and the big ones.”

This visionary program, spearheaded by PayPal, working with the SETI Institute, aims to bring together leaders in the space industry to work on the big questions around the commercialization of space. These include:
• What will our standard currency look like in a truly cash-free interplanetary society?
• How will the banking systems have to adapt?
• How will risk and fraud management systems need to evolve?
• What regulations will we have to conform with?
• How will our customer support need to develop?

To support the SETI Institute and its mission to improving the understanding of life on Earth, and the search for life beyond it, PayPal is launching a crowdfunding campaign powered by FundRazr. The SETI Institute’s scientists play an active role in some of the world’s most advanced scientific ventures, including groundbreaking studies in astrobiology and radio astronomical research with the Allen Telescope Array. Donations to support SETI Institute and the science of space can be made at

“PayPal and the SETI Institute are well-matched to work on PayPal Galactic because together we can create a recipe for innovation,” said Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for the SETI Institute. “PayPal envisions exploring possibilities in space the way that we do, breaking boundaries to make real progress. When the SETI Institute succeeds in its exploration of the universe, and as we find our place among the stars, PayPal will be there to facilitate commerce, so people can get what they need, and want, to live outside of our planet.”

Already the need for a galactic payment system exists. Astronauts inhabiting space stations still need to pay for life’s necessities—from their bills back on Earth to their entertainment, like music and e-books, while in space.

“Within five to ten years the earliest types of ‘space hotels’ and orbital and lunar commerce will be operational and in need of a payment system,” said John Spencer, founder and president of the Space Tourism Society.

The launch of PayPal Galactic is in conjunction with the celebration of PayPal’s 15th anniversary. Founded in 1998, the company has since grown its service of a faster, safer way to pay and get paid online to more than 128 million active accounts in 193 markets.

Video of the press conference, the 90-second PKG, and the PKG script can be found at

Follow us on Twitter at @PayPal and via hashtag #paypalgalactic.

Buzz Aldrin on Nerdist Podcast #374

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Click here to download the Nerdist Podcast #374 w/ Guest Buzz Aldrin

You can also listen to it HERE

NASA Emphasizes Planetary Protection For Asteroid Capture

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Faced with congressional recalcitrance over its plan to capture a small asteroid and nudge it into lunar orbit for hands-on study, NASA is emphasizing the link between finding a target and cataloging near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could devastate the planet if they hit.
Faced with congressional recalcitrance over its plan to capture a small asteroid and nudge it into lunar orbit for hands-on study, NASA is emphasizing the link between finding a target and cataloging near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could devastate the planet if they hit.

As a bonus, top agency managers say the mission could advance human-exploration capabilities even it does not catch a space rock. The first flight of the Orion capsule with a crew on board will be to the high retrograde lunar orbit planned for a captured asteroid, they say, because of the lessons it can teach or future missions deeper into the Solar System.

“Even if there isn’t an asteroid there, there are certainly opportunities to test all the systems that we’ve got,” says Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “There are all sorts of things that we are going to test for the first time.”

Lightfoot, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and the agency’s top four mission directors briefed industry on the asteroid-capture plan June 18, announcing a broad-brush “grand challenge” to “find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them.”

Central to that effort is a request for information (RFI) released during the industry workshop seeking ideas from any source in the U.S. and abroad that could help detect NEOs that might hit Earth some day, and help develop the asteroid-capture mission included in the agency’s fiscal 2014 budget request (AW&ST April 29, p. 36) as a step toward avoiding a collision.

The RFI seeks suggestions in six areas—observing asteroids from the ground and space; concepts for “redirecting” asteroids weighing as much as 1,000 tons into translunar space; demonstrating ways to deflect asteroids large enough to do significant damage to Earth in a collision; systems for capturing a small asteroid; crew systems for exploring an asteroid, including suits and translation aids such as the Russian Strela boom used on the International Space Station (ISS) (see illustration); and partnerships for accomplishing the work.

“NASA is interested in ideas and concepts for potential partnerships to support both aspects of the Asteroid Initiative: enhancements to planetary defense activities and the Asteroid Redirect Mission,” the RFI states.

Responses to that RFI, due July 18, will be factored into the agency’s asteroid-capture mission formulation later that month, which ultimately will feed the fiscal 2015 NASA budget request, Lightfoot says. But that presumes Congress will fund the mission in the budget request currently under review, which carries a $105-million line item to get the asteroid-capture mission off the ground.

Included in that figure is an extra $20 million for the agency’s ongoing effort to spot potentially dangerous asteroids. That account already was funded at $20 million, and doubling it could boost improvements to the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System for full-sky surveys, and perhaps allow a restart of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (Wise) spacecraft, which ran out of hydrogen coolant in 2010 but has some residual capability to locate NEOs.

Increased emphasis on finding and cataloging threatening NEOs plays into the agenda advanced by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has held two hearings on the asteroid threat. But in the first draft of its NASA reauthorization bill, the panel’s Republican leadership included language forbidding NASA from spending any money to capture an asteroid and it vows to work with GOP appropriators to kill the mission. Instead, they call for a return to the lunar surface as part of a comprehensive plan to land humans on Mars.

William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations, says an asteroid-capture mission is probably the best NASA can afford at current funding levels to advance human space travel beyond the ISS. Like Lightfoot, he sees the deep retrograde lunar orbit as a place where systems on Orion and the heavy-lift Space Launch System can be flight-tested in the kind of environment they would face on trips to more distant destinations, including main-belt asteroids and Mars. High-power Hall thrusters and other advanced in-space propulsion systems already in development would also get a technology “pull” from an asteroid mission, and the scientific haul from a primordial piece of the Solar System would be invaluable. That synergy among existing NASA efforts, and with the congressional desire to protect Earth from asteroid impacts, may help boost the chances the program ultimately will win funding on Capitol Hill, says Garver.

“I think aligning the mission better with the protecting-the-planet aspects of it could be beneficial, but we understand that they have a difference of opinion on the next human destination,” she says. “I think what will help us the most is being able to explain. . . how great the alignment of this is with what we are currently doing, and the very small investment it would take to have an asteroid be there at the same time that we would be going there anyway.”