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The Space Review September 26th, 2011

Charles Rector's Weblog; Oct. 2, 2011; By Charles Rector
Type: News

Welcome to this week's issue of The Space Review:

Planetary exploration's radioactive decay
NASA's exploration of the outer solar system has been enabled by the use of plutonium-powered RTGs that generate electricity where solar panels would be ineffective. Jeff Foust reports how declining stocks of a plutonium isotope, and policy battles regarding how to fund its production, jeopardize future planetary missions.

Defending Apollo
The recent movie "Apollo 18" has been panned by many critics, including in the pages of this publication. Dwayne Day argues that this movie does has some redeeming qualities, though, that should not be overlooked.

Michael J. Drake: A remembrance
Last week Michael Drake, the director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, passed away. Andre Bormanis recalls how Drake played a role in shaping his career when he was an undergraduate at Arizona.

Knocking on Heaven's Door
Dwayne Day interviews author Michael Cassutt about his new book, a science fiction novel about human expeditions to a near Earth object that turns out to be something quite different.

Review: Soviet Robots in the Solar System
During the 1970s the Soviet Union carried out an impressive series of robotic planetary missions, but those achievements are largely forgotten today, even in Russia. Lou Friedman reviews a new book that explains in detail what those Soviet missions to the Moon, Mars, and Venus accomplished.

If you missed it, here's what we published in our previous issue:

A monster rocket, or just a monster?
Last Wednesday, with only a few hours' notice, NASA unveiled its design for the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket.  Jeff Foust reports on the technical and political issues associated with the SLS design and the concerns some have about the program's future.

Big Black throws a party
Last Saturday the NRO held a celebration marking its 50th anniversary and, as part of it, declassified two Cold War-era reconnaissance satellite programs. Dwayne Day describes the NRO's big party and what it had to show off.

UARS: A potential opportunity to bolster international space law
Later this week a 20-year-old NASA satellite will reenter the Earth's atmosphere, posing a very small risk to the public from falling debris. Michael Listner argues that the US can use this reentry as an opportunity to shore up elements of international space law.

Euphemistically speaking
Space agencies and companies often come up with interesting euphemisms for describing launch failures. Dwayne Day wonders if it's time to come with an entirely new word to describe when a rocket has a bad day.

Review: Fifty Years on the Space Frontier
Many spacecraft missions today take advantage of Lagrange points and complex trajectories, but it took considerable effort to get missions to make use of them. Jeff Foust reviews a memoir by one of the pioneers of those techniques who played a key role in a number of NASA missions.

We appreciate any feedback you may have about these articles as well as
any other questions, comments, or suggestions about The Space Review.
We're also actively soliciting articles to publish in future issues, so
if you have an article or article idea that you think would be of
interest, please email me.

Until next week,

Jeff Foust
Editor, The Space Review

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