July 7 News Items

Obama and Medvedev Add Space Cooperation to Bilateral Commission Plan (Source: Hyperbola)
During President Obama's visit to Russia on July 6 included the creation of a bilateral Presidential commission that includes a space cooperation working group. The working group is to be led by the head of Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov, and the NASA administrator. The first meeting could be in September. (7/7)

Europe Targets Manned Spaceship (Source: BBC)
Europe has taken the first step towards building its own manned spaceship. The European Space Agency has asked industry to work out the requirements of the craft and its likely cost. Known as the Advanced Re-Entry Vehicle, it would be developed in phases - first as an unmanned vessel to carry cargo, and then as an astronaut crew ship. At the moment, Europe has no independent capability to transport humans into space and must hitch rides on American or Russian systems. Tuesday's announcement is just the start of a very long process, and there is no guarantee either ARV variant will be built. ESA member states will want to see industry's report before approving any development on the spaceship. (7/7)

Satellite Shows Big Thinning of Old Arctic Sea Ice (Source: AP)
New NASA satellite measurements show that sea ice in the Arctic is more than just shrinking in area, it is dramatically thinning. The volume of older crucial sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk by 57 percent from the winter of 2004 to 2008. That's losing more volume of ice than water in Lake Michigan. NASA scientist Jay Zwally said global warming is to blame. He said rapidly shrinking sea ice in the Arctic warms the rest of the globe indirectly. Older ice is more important in the Arctic because it is thicker, surviving the heat of summer and building over time. (7/7)

Astrium to Begin Designing Cargo-Return ATV (Source: Space News)
Astrium GmbH of Germany will begin design work on an unmanned vehicle to shuttle cargo to and from the international space station under a contract signed July 7 and valued at 21 million euros ($29.2 million), Astrium and the German space agency, DLR, announced. (7/7)

Humanity's Itch (Source: Eureka Times-Standard)
Civilizations before us had pyramids. They had so-called manifest destiny beckoning them to cross vast continental spaces to plant Western flags where American Indians had lived for millennia. They had walls crossing the breadth of their nation to keep hordes at bay, and coliseums and aqueducts to improve their quality of life and distinguish themselves from all that came before and much of what came after. Every civilization searches for its noteworthy achievement, the monument it will leave to subsequent generations as a high-water mark. We were here, and with our minds and hands, this is what we were able to do. This is a fundamental attribute of human society, and today we are no different.

Our noteworthy achievement, the one that advances that marker of human civilization and will be recorded -- we can hope -- for thousands of years in the future is our ability to break free of the gravitational bonds that anchor us to this planet and achieve space travel. And it's an achievement roughly 40 years ago that remains the pinnacle -- the Apollo moon landing. Truthfully, there's no shortage of innovation in this era, and many achievements could be hailed as our greatest contribution to the evolution of the species -- from nanotechnology and nuclear energy to genetics and Chicago-style pizza.

But it is no exaggeration to say that the survival of the human species depends on our success in reaching and ultimately settling other planets. Any clear-eyed examination of our own planet's history -- the 4.5 billion-year story -- shows that the only constant is change. Where one species is dominant in a given moment, another will surely rise to take its place as soon as the inevitable happens -- that is, extinction. (7/7)

What Are the Real Costs for Constellation? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
At the end of the day, space travel now is all about money – or lack of it. Getting astronauts back to the moon affordably is the key in these tight times. And making sure that a human exploration program fits within Obama White House budget constraints is a central guideline for the presidentially-appointed Augustine Panel. NASA officials told the panel on June 17 that Constellation's cost up to first flight of the Ares/Orion in 2015 would be $35 billion. But that is a new number and it clashes with other numbers that have been released by top NASA officials in recent months.

After the Orlando Sentinel did a story based on the work of Constellation Program budget analysts which put the real cost of the first crewed launch of Ares I and Orion to the international space station at well over $40 billion and rising, NASA pushed back. NASA's Doug Cooke on Apr.7 wrote: “The cost of this initial operating capability of hardware and systems is still at $36 billion.” But a day later on a NASA blog, NASA's Jeff Hanley wrote: “The development cost for achieving the first crewed flight today is roughly $30 billion, far short of estimates which have been recently bandied about.”

Yet just two months later, the figure given to the Augustine Panel was $35 billion, one billion less than what Cooke said and five billion more than Hanley’s estimate. Now, it is possible that as NASA cuts out tests for Ares and Orion and scales back the project like cutting down the number of seats in Orion from six to four, that money is being saved. But at the same time, according to NASA’s own study of ways to speed up the development of Ares and Orion, the program is at least $1.9 billion in the hole. Whatever the cost, sources close to the Augustine committee, say panel members have serious doubts about the $35 billion figure now being used by agency officials. (7/7)

Congress Moving to Loosen Restrictions on U.S. Satellite Exports (Source: AIA)
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are moving to ease limits on technology transfers that have stymied U.S. satellite makers for more than a decade. The efforts have the support of President Barack Obama, who said during the campaign that "outdated restrictions have cost billions of dollars to American satellite and space hardware manufacturers as customers have decided to purchase equipment from European suppliers." U.S. satellite makers have seen their share of the $120 billion market drop from 73% to 27% as a result of the export restrictions, and other countries have stepped up their own R&D efforts to make up for the lack of American products, according to Aerospace Industries Association VP Cord Sterling. (7/7)

States & Counties Poised to Battle for Virginia Spaceport Businesses (Source: DelMarVaNow)
It appears competition between Accomack County in Virginia and its northern neighbor, Worcester County, Md., is heating up in an effort to attract business associated with Orbital Science’s Taurus II rocket program and other growth at Wallops Island. Despite talk of cooperation between Maryland and Virginia at a groundbreaking for the project last week at Wallops, Accomack County officials Wednesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting appeared ready to fight Worcester for economic development dollars.

“We’ve got to be quick on our feet ... We’re not going to have another bite of the apple,” said Accomack Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Mallette, in response to remarks U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski made last week during a meeting with Worcester County, Md. commissioners. She urged Worcester County officials to rename the Pocomoke City Industrial Park to “something more 21st century” to better reflect technological upgrades and other amenities that are being added to the park in an effort to attract commerce associated with activities at Wallops. She said construction of a launch facility for Taurus II will create almost 300 new jobs now and bring another 400 high-tech jobs to the Wallops area by 2010. (7/7)

U.S. Space Program Should Align With Broader National Goals (Source: National Academies)
The U.S. civil space program should be aligned with widely acknowledged national challenges, says a new report from the National Research Council's Committee on Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program. Aligning the program with pressing issues – environmental, economic, and strategic – is a national imperative, and will continue to grow in importance. Coordination across federal agencies, combined with a competent technical workforce, effective infrastructure, and investment in technology and innovation, would lay the foundation for a purposeful, strategic U.S. space program that would serve national interests. Click here to view the report's recommendations. Editor's Note: This committee includes two members of the Augustine Panel, Lester Lyles and Wanda Austin. (7/7)

Moon-Landing Debunkers Won't Fade Away (Source: Florida Today)
Did NASA secretly stage history’s biggest scam by filming fake lunar landings — complete with phony astronauts and pseudo-moon rocks — on some Hollywood soundstage? Or, are the skeptics who believe these moon-hoax theories a collection of conspiracy theorists, money-grubbers and the perpetually paranoid? The debate continues. July 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, er, “alleged” moon landing. NASA has trumpeted the purported touchdown of the Eagle lunar module as the human race’s “single greatest technological achievement of all time.” However, try this Google Web search: “Apollo moon hoax.” You’ll get nearly 3 million results.

And perhaps the nation’s foremost moon-mission doubter — who was famously punched in the face by astronaut Buzz Aldrin during a combative 2002 interview — still argues that NASA archive video and photographs reveal that the mission was rigged. “The fact is, this footage is them faking being halfway to the moon. I’m a filmmaker, and it’s my job to make fake things look real,” said Nashville media producer Bart Sibrel, who publicized his theories in the documentary “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon.” Sibrel said he is planning unspecified activities for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, but he declined to provide details, saying they are “still in the works.” (7/7)

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