October 26 News Items

Scientist Pleaded Guilty to Overbilling NASA, DOD (Source: AP)
A former government scientist accused of attempted espionage pleaded guilty to overbilling NASA and the Department of Defense more than $265,000 for contracting work, according to newly unsealed court records. The plea in January by Stewart Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., was done in secret because Nozette was cooperating in government corruption investigations, according to court papers unsealed last week following his arrest in an FBI sting operation.

The unsealed court documents state that Nozette admitted to overbilling NASA and the Defense Department between 2000 and 2006 to satisfy debts on real estate mortgages, auto loans and credit cards and to maintain a home swimming pool, pay medical bills and buy clothing. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the U.S. government. He faces sentencing Nov. 18 in that case. Separately, Nozette was arrested last week and accused of trying to sell classified information on U.S. defense secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer. Nozette faces a court appearance in that case on Thursday on two counts of attempted espionage. (10/26)

Hard Times: NASA Faces Tough Fight for Funds (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It's a time-honored NASA tradition to give every new astronaut class a derogatory nickname, chosen by the class that preceded it. The latest group goes by "The Chumps" — a name that may prove prescient. As it stands, when the 14 rookies graduate about the end of 2011, they will be the first class in a generation without a U.S. spacecraft. Worse, the future of NASA's human space-exploration program is uncertain at best.

"It's not beyond the pale that NASA could have to stand down [from human spaceflight] for a number of years," said space historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Already, the White House and Congress are balking at the idea of giving NASA more money. And any change to NASA's structure — from its workforce to its rockets — will meet fierce resistance from politicians who protect hometown jobs and aerospace companies that guard lucrative contracts. The result is an uncertain future for both the Chumps and the future of U.S. human spaceflight. (10/26)

North Carolina: Getting Serious About NewSpace (Source: News Observer)
Early this year I asked in an opinion piece on this page, "Is North Carolina losing the commercial space race?" The answer was an unequivocal "Yes." Now, thanks to the visionary leadership of Dr. J. Anthony Sharp, director of aviation science at Elizabeth City State University, and Bill Greuling, vice president of the North Carolina Aerospace Alliance, our state has taken an important step toward getting in the race.

Why is this important? Consider this snapshot from the North Carolina Department of Commerce's 2009 Aerospace and Aviation report. The state has: 26,000 people are employed in engineering fields; 180+ aerospace manufacturing companies; 135+ aviation service companies; A solid aerospace supply chain; Five military installations; and Aerospace and aviation programs at universities and community colleges.

Combine these assets with the emerging entrepreneurial/commercial space industry (NewSpace) and you have a recipe for new business for existing companies, an exciting field for entrepreneurs, and job growth and economic development that can be tied to targeted industry clusters and regions across the state. In addition, demand for aerospace and aviation education feeds workforce development. Finally, an emerging space industry offers support for Governor Perdue's All-American Defense Initiative (the Air Force and Marines have demonstrated tremendous interest in the NewSpace industry). (10/26)

Opinion: Without Cash and Leadership, NASA is Set Adrift (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Four-time shuttle astronaut Tom Jones urges NASA to speed development of the Ares I rocket while pursuing the "flexible path" outlined by the Augustine Commission. "Stretching our space legs millions of miles beyond our Apollo footprints, we will use the asteroids as steppingstones to that ultimate scientific destination, Mars," Jones writes, arguing that an ambitious NASA agenda would still cost many times less than the federal stimulus package. The alternative, he writes, "would return NASA to flying on autopilot, the same paralyzing drift that led to the deaths of Columbia's crew six years ago." (10/26)

Lunar Lander Challenge Reaches Endgame (Source: MSNBC)
Five days from now, a bunch of no-longer-amateur rocketeers are going to be at least $1.15 million richer, thanks to a NASA-backed contest for lunar lander prototypes. But the identity of the winners is still up in the air. You need a scorecard to keep track of what's happening in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, which ends this year's launch season on Saturday. Click here for a roundup that touches upon the four - oops, make that three - teams in the competition. (10/26)

How President Obama Can Keep His Space Promises (Source: Florida Today)
The presidential panel studying NASA's future covered a lot of ground, with decades of implications for the nation's space program and for our community. They did not recommend a plan for space. Instead, they gave President Barack Obama the exhaustive analysis he needed to make a long list of important decisions.

The choices are not clear-cut. Every choice affects another. It's complicated. But there is a good space plan in there, if the president picks and chooses cafeteria-style from all the options spelled out in the report. Click here to read the article. (10/26)

And Now We Wait (Source: Space Review)
For months the space community had been waiting for it, and on Thursday they finally got it: the final report of the Augustine committee. Jeff Foust reports on the reaction and how the report is the next step, but not the last step, in crafting a new space policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1499/1 to view the article. (10/26)

Saddam's Space Program (Source: Space Review)
Before the first Gulf War, Iraq was actively developing a launch vehicle for placing a satellite into orbit -- and perhaps other purposes. Dwayne Day looks at what's known about this effort from a United Nations report. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1498/1 to view the article. (10/26)

Is the RLV Industry Emerging from Hibernation? (Source: Space Review)
The development of reusable launch vehicles has been left almost entirely to entrepreneurial space companies for nearly a decade. Taylor Dinerman sees some encouraging signs that big companies and the government are taking a renewed interest in the field. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1497/1 to view the article. (10/26)

Clinical Immortality and Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
New research shows that babies born in 2007 will have a median lifespan of 104 years. Sam Dinkin looks at how further improvements in morbidity can make space settlement imminent. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1496/1 to view the article. (10/26)

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