September 13 News Items

Columbia Disaster Astronaut's Son Dies in F-16 Crash (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
An Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber has crashed in the West Bank, killing its pilot, the son of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon who died in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. The single-seat warplane crashed in a remote hilly region south of the city of Hebron on Sunday, the military said, adding that it was not immediately clear what had caused the accident. Military officials named the pilot as Lieutenant Assaf Ramon, 21, the eldest son of Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli fighter pilot who became the Jewish state's first and only astronaut. (9/13)

Apollo Moon Rocks Lost in Space? No, Lost on Earth (Source: AP)
Attention, countries of the world: Do you know where your moon rocks are? The discovery of a fake moon rock in the Netherlands' national museum should be a wake-up call for more than 130 countries that received gifts of lunar rubble from both the Apollo 11 flight in 1969 and Apollo 17 three years later. Nearly 270 rocks scooped up by U.S. astronauts were given to foreign countries by the Nixon administration. But according to experts and research by The Associated Press, the whereabouts of some of the small rocks are unknown.

"There is no doubt in my mind that many moon rocks are lost or stolen and now sitting in private collections," said Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Arizona instructor and former U.S. government investigator who has made a project of tracking down the lunar treasures. The Rijksmuseum, more noted as a repository for 17th century Dutch paintings, announced last month it had had its plum-sized "moon" rock tested, only to discover it was a piece of petrified wood, possibly from Arizona. The museum said it inherited the rock from the estate of a former prime minister. The real Dutch moon rocks are in a natural history museum. But the misidentification raised questions about how well countries have safeguarded their presents from Washington. (9/13)

NASA Ames Joins Forces with Students (Source: KLIV)
Researchers from NASA Ames at Moffett Field will be in the Arizona desert soon to test out the equipment that might join humans in future moon exploration. Many students will work alongside the scientists to find the answers. It's called Research and Technology Studies, or R.A.T.S. The operation is two-fold, one aspect of the experiments is to see how some early versions of moon rovers, robots and space modules work off the beaten track in the desolate Arizona landscape. The other part is for students, who will learn the practical application of science, tech, math and engineering skills, critical for space exploration. NASA Ames joins several other agencies in the annual event that begins this week. (9/13)

Astronaut Flight Cost: $20 Million vs. $51 Million (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Elon Musk says that the Falcon-9 / Dragon crew configuration can beat the Russians cost per astronaut to the Space Station by about $32-million per astronaut if his commercial space launch operation is succcessful in proving the viability of the booster and spacecraft in the coming few years. "At Space X we feel pretty confident in being able to do it for $20 million per seat," Musk told a recent conference call with reporters. That is about 40% of what it costs to contract astronaut launches with the Russian Space Agency, he said. The Space-X benchmark price is based upon flying four Dragon crew capsules per year with seven astronauts each. The Russian space agency Roscosmos last May raised the charge to NASA to fly American astronauts at the rate of $51-million per seat to the Space Station beginning in 2012. Virginia-based Space Adventures notes that there may be a significant potential price difference due to Russian "training and language requirements." (9/13)

Orlando Sentinel Endorses "Flexible Path" Option (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Of the Augustine Panel's options for exploration, we prefer the one that calls for NASA to aim beyond the moon to successively more distant locations, including asteroids and Martian moons, in preparation for ultimately landing on the Red Planet. A focus on reaching new destinations is more likely to lead to technological breakthroughs, and far more likely to engage the public.

We agree with the commission that the United States could reduce its costs and strengthen its international relationships by enlisting other countries in this mission, as it has with the international space station. We also agree that the life of the station — which won't even be complete before next year — needs to be extended past 2016 to at least 2020. And we concur that the job of carrying cargo, and eventually astronauts, to the station should be turned over as soon as reasonably possible to commercial space companies. (9/13)

Space Advocates Bracing for Legislative Fight for Billions More in Funding (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA supporters are bracing for an uphill battle to get the extra funding needed to take on missions more ambitious than visits to the space station. The Augustine Panel said last week that the space program needs an infusion of about $3 billion more a year by 2014. That may be a tough sell, even though the amount could be considered spare change in a fast-spending capital where the White House and Congress are on track to dole out nearly $4 trillion this year to finance federal operations, including bailouts for Wall Street firms, banks and automakers.

“The congressional agenda over the next year is going to be focused on cutting programs, not adding to them,” said Scott Lilly, a scholar at the Center for American Progress. Adding resources to the nation's $18.7 billion-a-year space program would require cuts in other areas, said Lilly, who doesn't think lawmakers are willing to make those trades. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex), the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NASA, said wrangling the additional $3 billion a year would be “an enormous challenge — but one I am prepared to win.” Added Olson, whose district includes Johnson Space Center: “NASA doesn't require bailout funds — it needs the promised level of investment that previous Congresses have endorsed.” (9/13)

San Diegan Lands Space Shuttle In California (Source: NBC San Diego)
Two men with San Diego ties are among seven astronauts back on Earth after the space shuttle Discovery made a safe landing in California Friday night. As it landed, Mission Control said, "Discovery rolling out on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base, California, wrapping up a 5.7 million mile mission to resupply and fortify the International Space Station." Commander Rick Sturkow, who is a native of Lakeside, and Flight Engineer Jose Hernandez, who has family in Escondido were onboard. (9/12)

Armadillo Aerospace Qualifies for Lunar Lander Challenge Prize (Source:
Armadillo Aerospace successfully flew a Level 2 flight profile for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Armadillo flew its "Super Mod" vehicle, named Scorpius, on two three-minute flights between pads 60 meters apart, one of which made into a mock lunar landscape of rocks and craters. Armadillo will have to wait until the end of the competition season at the end of next month to know if they won the prize; they will win the $1 million if no other team makes a Level 2 flight, or if Armadillo's landing accuracy is better than another team that does. Two other teams, Masten Space Systems and Unreasonable Rocket, have announced plans to make Level 1 and Level 2 flights this year. The competition is run by the X PRIZE Foundation with prize money provided by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. (9/13)

Readers Weigh In on Future of Space Exploration (Source: Florida Today)
The United States should once again send American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and keep the moon as the next target. That's one of the key results of an unscientific online poll conducted by FLORIDA TODAY over the past week. More than 1,600 people participated. Other things on the wish-list: Increase NASA's budget, keep the International Space Station operating at least through 2020 and the U.S. shuttle fleet flying through 2015. (9/13)

Presidential Panel Urges Global Space Effort (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
The Augustine Panel urged stronger cooperation between the U.S. and other nations trying to make advances in human spaceflight. Industry experts and many lawmakers responded by extolling the benefits of increased collaboration. But some worry that such efforts — particularly involving certain nations — would increase the outsourcing of American jobs and heighten security risks. U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said the U.S. may have no choice but to work more closely with other nations, especially on expensive projects involving space exploration. "In the current economic environment, it just makes sense to pool funds for common good. Otherwise, we may end up with nothing," he said.

But U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, a Space Coast Republican whose district includes thousands of Kennedy Space Center employees, said the prospect of increased international cooperation makes him nervous. "Right away, you're talking outsourcing jobs to foreign countries. I'm a little bit prejudiced about that," he said. Posey said he supports extending the life of the space station because it continues to provide useful research, particularly in the medical field. He's also open to outreach efforts with European nations, Japan and "countries that foster goodwill." Posey said he won't budge, however, when it comes to China. (9/13)

Nelson and Kosmas Respond to Augustine Panel Push for International Cooperation (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla) backs the "first among equals" approach that the Augustine Panel recommends in its report, said his spokesman, Bryan Gulley. "We have proven methods from our partnership on the International Space Station. And what better way to capture the imagination and attention of the world's youth and future scientists than an international mission of brave men and women rocketing to Mars?" Gulley said. "That being said, there are national security and other concerns that require that the U.S. maintain a vigorous, independent and leading role in space, science and technology."

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla), whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, said the lead the U.S. took with the space station shows that "great successes in science and international cooperation can be achieved when sharing responsibilities and costs...However, America must continue to be the world leader in space, which means choosing a vision for the future of human space exploration and providing adequate funding to make that vision a reality," she said. (9/13)

2009 Manifest Shrinks as Launches Slip Into 2010 (Source: SPACErePORT)
After only seven launches in 2008 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, the initial published manifest for 2009 included a whopping 22 missions. However, the annual launch schedule is subject to frequent changes and rarely ends up meeting its initial targets. With 12 missions launched thus far (3 Atlas-5, 3 Delta-2, 2 Delta-4, 4 Space Shuttle), one published manifest now shows only five missions remaining through the end of the year (1 Atlas-5, 1 Delta-2, 1 Delta-4, 1 Space Shuttle, 1 Ares-1X), for a total of 17 for the year. (9/13)

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