June 11 News Items

Congressional Field Trip for Shuttle Launch (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
At least nine members of the U.S. House are expected to watch Saturday’s launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, organized the trip to help build congressional support for NASA’s human spaceflight program. The expected participants are Kosmas (D-FL); Mike Conaway (R-TX); Jim Costa (D-CA); Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ); Parker Griffith (D-AL); Ralph Hall (R-TX); Randy Neugebauer (R-TX); Pete Olson (R-TX); and Aaron Schock (R-IL). (6/11)

JPL Employees Hope Privacy Judgement Will Stand (Source: Pasadena Weekly)
Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists will not be forced to choose between losing their jobs and consenting to secret government investigations of their medical, financial and sexual histories, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. The decision upholds the court’s October 2007 injunction against implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, a 2004 executive order by the Bush administration that required all workers in government-owned facilities — including JPL scientists employed by Caltech at the NASA facility — to consent to sweeping background checks. Led by Senior Research Scientist Robert Nelson, 28 JPL employees had filed a lawsuit objecting to the wide net cast by the mandatory search program, which according to government documents evaluated employability by everything from medical and financial records to adultery and homosexual activity, which were listed as potential security issues.

“Our great fear was the information revealed in these background checks could be used to shape or misrepresent scientific findings to suit the views of those in authority,” said Nelson. The ruling upholding the injunction will stand unless appealed to the Supreme Court by Attorney General Eric Holder, an option that dissenting 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski seemed to be calling for in his opinion, which questioned how much legal precedent affirms broad rights to informational privacy. (6/11)

Washington Lawmakers Try to Rescue NASA Money (Source: Huntsville Times)
A bi-partisan movement by members of Congress is trying to restore cuts made to the proposed 2010 NASA budget by the U.S. House subcommittee that holds sway over the space agency checkbook. Most of the group is composed of elected officials from Florida and Texas, but Alabama lawmakers U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R- Tuscaloosa, and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, have told The Times they will make sure Marshall Space Flight Center programs, like the Ares rocket development program intended to replace the space shuttle, are fully funded. (6/11)

Japanese Lunar Orbiter Crashes as Planned on Moon's Surface (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Japan's $500 million Kaguya moon mission ended with a suicidal plunge into the lunar surface at 2:25 p.m. EDT Wednesday, an impact that may have been visible through large telescopes in Asia and Australia. (6/10)

NASA Plans Jun. 20 Virginia Launch of Orion Alternate Escape System (Source: NASA)
NASA is preparing to demonstrate an alternate escape system to explore different technological approaches to the same task. The alternate escape system, called Max Launch Abort System (MLAS), is a risk mitigation effort on behalf of Orion. MLAS was named after Maxime (Max) Faget, a Mercury-era pioneer. Faget was the designer of the Project Mercury Capsule and holder of the patent for the “Aerial Capsule Emergency Separation Device,” which is commonly known as the escape tower. The MLAS test vehicle is scheduled for launch no earlier than June 20 from NASA's Wallops Island spaceport. Click here for information. (6/11)

Hutchison: Proposed Cuts to NASA 'Destructive' (Source: The Hill)
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) blasted the House's reductions to President Obama's NASA budget proposal, warning that they could hurt U.S. security and the economy. Hutchison said that the reductions, which total $650.6 million, were "destructive." The biggest proposed reduction made by the House Appropriations Committee is a $566.5 million cut from Obama's request for space exploration funding. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) said that appropriators want to see the results of a study on manned space travel before they provide the funding Obama wants.

But Hutchison said that waiting to fund the NASA program would lead to layoffs and hurt one of the country's advantages over other countries. "Having people in space is how we have come so far and have really been able to dominate space," she said. She said that U.S. manned space travel has helped national security, led to scientific breakthroughs that have helped the economy and improved relations with other countries, whose own space programs have worked with NASA. (6/10)

NASA States Going Ballistic Over Cash Cuts (Source: The Hill)
A bipartisan group of Texas and Florida lawmakers is pressuring House appropriators to restore hundreds of millions of dollars for space travel, warning that cutting NASA’s budget next year could hurt the economy and national security. House members from the two states that house NASA’s major space centers met Wednesday to discuss ways to restore the funding, while Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) blasted the proposed reductions as “destructive.” The issue has brought together about a dozen lawmakers — including some who are typically on the opposite sides of most political debates on Capitol Hill. Yet they all have a vested interest in seeing the nation’s manned space programs continue at full speed.

NASA's spending bill has yet to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the subcommittee that will mark up the bill, said last month that she was concerned lawmakers wouldn’t see the results of the independent review before senators consider the agency’s funding. “This review is timely and necessary,” she said during a hearing on NASA’s budget. “There will be a five-year gap between shuttle retirement and initial operation of Orion and Ares.” A group of about a dozen House members who oppose the reductions met Wednesday with NASA contractors who help build the agency’s vehicles. The group included Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), and others. (6/10)

Trackers of Orbiting Junk Sound Warning (Source: Defense News)
Space is a mess. There are 19,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. They travel at about 17,000 miles per hour, fast enough for a relatively small piece of junk to destroy a satellite or even the space shuttle. There are 300,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger, according to Paul Graziani, chief executive of Analytical Graphics, Exton, Pa., a maker of software for the space and defense industries. There are 3,000 "payloads" in space - sensors, transponders and other equipment used by the communications industry, the military, scientists and others, Graziani said. And 1,400 times each week, a payload comes within three miles of a piece of debris that could damage or kill it. (6/10)

ILS Announces Three Launches for Proton Rockets (Source: ILS)
International Launch Services (ILS) announces a second contract for two new firm launches and one optional launch for Intelsat of Bermuda, the world’s largest satellite operator. This comes on the heels of the March 23 announcement for the launch of the Intelsat 16 satellite on an ILS Proton. Contract terms and mission assignments for these awards were not disclosed. Russian-made Proton rockets are launched from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. (6/10)

First Extragalactic Exoplanet May Have Been Found (Source: New Scientist)
We could find planets in other galaxies using today's technology, according to a new simulation. The study gives credence to a tentative detection of a planet in Andromeda, our nearest large galactic neighbour. The idea is to use gravitational microlensing, in which a distant source star is briefly magnified by the gravity of an object passing in front of it. This technique has already found several planets in our galaxy, out to distances of thousands of light years. Extending the method from thousands to millions of light years won't be easy, says Philippe Jetzer of the University of Z├╝rich in Switzerland, but it should be possible.

Jetzer was part of a group that spotted an uneven microlensing event from Andromeda using the Isaac Newton Telescope on the Spanish island of La Palma. When they reported it in 2004, they suggested that the lens could be a binary star, but according to the new simulation, the lensing pattern fits a star with a smaller companion weighing just 6 or 7 times the mass of Jupiter. (6/10)

Industry and Govt Leaders to Explore Future of Commercial Space Transportation for Crew and Cargo (Source: AIAA)
Industry and government leaders will meet on Jun. 18 to explore the promising future of commercial space transportation -- of humans as well as cargo -- in meeting government and private sector needs in low Earth orbit. The special half-day event, "Innovations in Orbit: An Exploration of Commercial Crew and Cargo Transportation," will feature panelists and speakers from NASA, the FAA, and the private sector, discussing a broad array of innovative commercial space transportation concepts. Organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the discussion is free and open to the public. Click here for information. (6/10)

California Professor Leads NASA Mission's Effort to Map Moon's Surface Temperatures (Source: UCLA)
When NASA launches the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a yearlong unmanned mission to comprehensively map the entire moon, later this month, UCLA's David Paige will be leading its Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, which will perform the first global survey of the temperature of the lunar surface as the spacecraft orbits some 31 miles above the moon. "The more we learn about the moon, the better scientific problems we can pose and the better locations we can find for future lunar landings for robotic and human explorers. By getting a comprehensive view, NASA can tailor future landing sites to specific goals." (6/11)

Report: Planets Will Collide in 5 Billion Years (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
From chaos we all began, and to chaos we'll all return, but not for a very, very long time - 5 billion years or so, more or less. Two French scientists, using arcane mathematical models, predict that in the distant future, the Earth and planet after planet will collide with each other as an inevitable part of the solar system's long-term evolution. For many millennia, the scientists say, the orbits of the solar system's eight planets will remain stable, just as they are today, but eventually small eccentricities in their flight paths around the sun could cause Mercury, Mars, Venus and Earth to smash into each other, either one at a time or all at once - the ultimate chaotic disaster. (6/11)

Japanese Probe Crashes Into Moon (Source: BBC)
Japan's Kaguya probe has ended its mission at the Moon by crashing into the lunar surface. The spacecraft, which has been studying Earth's satellite for the past 19 months, was commanded to make the impact on Thursday. Japan's space agency (Jaxa) hopes Earth telescopes will have been able to see a flash or dust plume from the crash. The probe carried out a global survey of the Moon, mapping its 3D topography, its gravity and its magnetic field. (6/11)

Editorial: Panel Should Look Under Every Rock on Ares-Orion Spacecraft (Source: Florida Today)
Things aren't going so well with development of NASA’s Ares 1 rocket and manned Orion moonships, the vehicles that are supposed to replace the shuttle fleet. Their problems appear to be mounting with potentially dire consequences as NASA’s moon program undergoes a complete review by a blue-ribbon presidential panel that could decide its fate. Troubles have raised the project’s price from $28 billion to about $40 billion to reach the first manned flight in 2015, a launch target that many say NASA will never meet.

All of which could lead the review panel, led by Norman Augustine, to recommend scrapping the configuration and replacing it with redesigned rockets now used to launch satellites. The abort system controversy shows again why the panel should look under every rock and come to cold, clear-eyed conclusions about Ares-Orion and the best course of action to take. The future of NASA’s human spaceflight program hangs in the balance along with the future of Kennedy Space Center and thousands of jobs that are crucial to the Brevard County and Florida economies. The real score on Ares-Orion — in terms of feasibility, performance, meeting development and launch deadlines, and the ultimate cost — must be known. (6/11)

India Must Address Issues of Space Security (Source: The Hindu)
India needs to address the issue of space security as weapon systems deployed there could target civilian satellites, a former ISRO chief said. "We need to address the issue of space security at the earliest as India has already put many satellites in space even as we are developing many. There are weapons system which could target even civilian satellites. So we have to develop systems to safeguard our satellites from any kind of threat," Kasturirangan told reporters at an inauguration function of a school at Vallancherry near Chennai. (6/11)

NASA Reopens Launch Services Solicitation (Source: NASA)
NASA plans to issue Revision D to the NASA Launch Services (NLS) Request for Proposal (RFP) on or around July 10 to extend the NLS contract ordering period an additional ten years from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2020. Changes are expected to be incorporated into the NLS contract to increase potential maximum contract value; require one successful launch prior to LSTO proposal submission; decrease number of on-ramp periods per year; grant Authority to Proceed via task order award; redefine criteria for determination of partial mission success; and adjust other elements of the program. Click here for information. (6/11)

Broken Dwarf Planet May Have Scarred the Moon (Source: New Scientist)
The shattered remnants of a dwarf planet may have bombarded the inner planets in the early solar system, suggests a new analysis of craters on the moon. Several large impact scars on the moon appear to be around 3.9 billion years old, suggesting that the Earth and other objects of the inner solar system were heavily pounded at that time. Most astronomers believe that the bombardment was caused by shifts in the orbits of the giant planets, which destabilised the asteroid belt, hurling giant rocks our way. (6/10)

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