March 29 News Items

Legendary Commander Tells Story of Shuttle's Close Call (Source:
The exhaustive attention NASA now devotes to making sure shuttle heat shields are damage-free and safe for re-entry is a direct result of the 2003 Columbia disaster. But a blacked-out military flight 21 years ago still stands out as a warning to astronauts, engineers and managers, a frightening "close call" that had the potential to bring the shuttle program to an early end. It was that close.

"I will never forget, we hung the (robot) arm over the right wing, we panned it to the (damage) location and took a look and I said to myself, 'we are going to die,'" recalled legendary shuttle commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson. "There was so much damage. I looked at that stuff and I said, 'oh, holy smokes, this looks horrible, this looks awful.'" Click here to view the article. (3/27)

Lawmaker Says Jobs Issue Could Spur ITAR Reform (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the U.S. congressional committee that is planning hearings on U.S. satellite export restrictions said the potential loss of jobs among U.S. satellite-component providers is one argument in favor of relaxing at least some elements of the current licensing regime. (3/29)

Gates: U.S. Not Prepared to Respond to North Korea Missile Launch (Source: Fox)
The U.S. can do nothing to stop North Korea from breaking international law in the next 10 days by firing a missile that is unlikely to be shot down by the U.S. or its allies, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. Gates said North Korea "probably will" fire the missile, prompting a news-show host to ask: "And there's nothing we can do about it?" "No," Gates answered, adding, "I would say we're not prepared to do anything about it." Last week, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. is "fully prepared" to shoot down the missile. But Gates said such a response is unlikely. (3/29)

Next New Mexico Launch to Carry Human Remains in Memorial Flight (Source: Celestis)
The eighth Celestis Memorial Spaceflight - The Discovery Flight - will launch on Apr. 25 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Launch services will be provided by UP Aerospace aboard a SpaceLoft XL rocket. Among the "discoverers" honored aboard this mission will be Ralph White, fabled undersea explorer/cinematographer and, in 1985, co-discoverer of the wreckage of the RMS Titanic. Reservations for The Discovery Flight remain open, but time is limited. Click here for information. (3/29)

Atlas V Launch Delayed For Valve Analyses (Source: Florida Today)
The planned launch Tuesday of an Atlas V rocket and a military communications satellite is being delayed at least three days to give engineers more time to analyze valve trouble that forced a launch scrub earlier this month. The 192-foot-tall Atlas V and its payload -- a Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft -- now is slated to fly no earlier than Friday night. The launch window that night would extend from 8:31 p.m. to 9:33 p.m. (3/29)

Space Adventures Anticipates Continued Russian Space Tourism Flights (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Eric Anderson, president of Virginia-based Space Adventures, suggests that a dedicated tourist Soyuz space mission is in-the-works with the Russians. "The objective would be a tourist mission...The mission would be paid for entirely by Space Adventures for the purposes of tourism." Such dedicated Soyuz tourist flights would be piloted by one professional cosmonaut and carry two paying passengers and would not begin until 2011 or 2012, if then. Many expect the tourist seats will also go up more in price well beyond the current $35-million as the supply diminshes and the demand increases. MORE from AFP. NASA may even find itself in the bidding with Space Adventures if Orbital Sciences Corp. and SpaceX fail to achieve human-rated flight status by 2013 and the new NASA Orion capsule and Ares-1 booster are slowed for whatever reason. (3/29)

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