October 4 News Items

Ben Bova: Investing in Space Would Stimulate Earthbound Economy (Source: Naples News)
The old adage says, “You pay your money and you take your choice.” But when it comes to the space program, Washington most often makes its choice first, and then cheaps out on paying the money for it. This is the major point of the report recently issued by the Augustine Panel. In typical Norm Augustine fashion, the report starts with a bang: “The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.”

President Barack Obama says he wants to support NASA’s plans for returning humans to the moon by 2020 and building permanent bases there, then going on to send human explorers to Mars, goals that were established by the previous administration. But there’s another old adage that applies here: “Put your money where your mouth is.” The Augustine committee has found that NASA’s planned budgets can’t support such an ambitious program. To get us back to the moon means developing new rocket launchers to replace the space shuttle and new spacecraft that can carry people and cargo beyond Earth orbit. (10/4)

Space Ttourism Slow to Blast Off (Source: Torrance Daily Breeze)
When a private spaceship soared over California to claim a $10 million prize, daredevil venture capitalist Alan Walton was 68 and thought he'd soon be on a rocket ride of his own. Walton plunked down $200,000 to be among the first space tourists to make a suborbital thrill-ride high above the Earth aboard a Virgin Galactic spaceship. Now he intends to ask for his deposit back if there's no fixed launch date by his 74th birthday next April.

"This was going to be the highlight of my old age," he said. It has been five years since SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed manned spacecraft, captured the Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004, by demonstrating that a reusable rocket capable of carrying passengers could fly more than 62 miles high twice within two weeks - showing reliability and commercial viability. It seemed that anyone who had the money would soon be experiencing what SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie called "literally a rush - you light that motor off and the world wakes up around you." And then the sensation of weightlessness and the sight of the world far below.

Turning the dream into reality has taken longer than many expected in those days, and spaceflight remains the realm of government astronauts and a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people who have paid millions for rides on Russian rockets to the International Space Station. X Prize founder Peter Diamandis says, however, that things have not been at a standstill. More than $1 billion has been invested in the industry, regulatory roadblocks have been addressed and as many as three different passenger spaceships will emerge in the next 18 to 24 months and begin flying, he said. (10/4)

India Seeks Russian Ride for Manned Flight (Source: The Hindu)
As part of its ambitious manned space flights program, India has sought a Russian spaceship for sending “space tourists” into orbit, an official said. “Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has applied for acquiring a spaceship for sending space tourists,” Russian space agency “Roskosmos” spokesman Alexei Krasnov said. He said the deal would be commercial and two space travellers could fly in the non-reusable ‘Soyuz TMA’ ship to be piloted by a Russian cosmonaut. Krasnov, however, did not provide for the details about the deal or the value of the contract. (10/4)

14 Questions for Space Florida's Chief (Source: Florida Today)
Florida today has published a 14-question with Space Florida President Frank Question #1 - The Brevard space industry faces the loss of 7,000 jobs as the shuttle program winds down. Is it time to panic? What’s the proper course of action? Click here to view the article. (10/4)

Editorial: Fueling JPL's Missions to Space (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
Escaping from the Earth's surface and then from orbit makes for a lot of gravity to leave behind. Even in the vastness of space, a billion miles is a long way. Plus it's nice to be able to maneuver when you get there. That gas tank would be awfully large. In searching for a weight-efficient fuel, rocket scientists figured out the best use yet for plutonium, beating the pants off your average nuclear bomb. It's plutonium-238 - not the 239 that exploded over Nagasaki - that makes very deep-space travel possible. A marshmallow-size pellet of the fuel can take a very large spacecraft a very long way.

The stuff is nasty-dangerous, of course, if exposed to humans. But the robots that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Ca ada Flintridge sends careening through the solar system don't mind the radiation at all. Plutonium-238 has powered the Voyager probes, the orbiting of Jupiter by Galileo, Cassini out there at Saturn's rings sending back photos that every day tell us more about our universe. The problem is, we're running out of plutonium-238, and we haven't produced any new product in over two decades. We used to buy it from Russia, but that nation is running out as well.

That's why the administration at NASA's urging included a $30 million Department of Energy request in next year's budget to restart plutonium-238 production. Mysteriously, the Senate axed the line item entirely, and the House cut its offer to just $10 million, which won't do the trick. (10/4)

President Obama Joins 50 Nations in Celebrating Space and Astronomy (Source: NASA Watch)
World Space Week began Sunday with celebrations in over 50 nations and an announcement that President Obama hosts a "Star Party" on the White House lawn Wednesday evening. The White House event for middle-school students will "highlight the President's commitment to science, engineering and math education as the foundation of this nation's global technological and economic leadership," according to a White House statement. "The event will include 20 telescopes on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations; and hands-on activities including scale models of the Solar System," the White House said. (10/4)

5 Years After SpaceShipOne: Commercial Spaceflight Ready for 'Go' (Source: Space.com)
It has been five years since SpaceShipOne screamed its way into the history books as the first privately built and financed manned craft to reach space. While that roar from the ship's rocket engine has long since dissipated, the aftershocks from its suborbital space shots are still being felt. Roaring upward over the Mojave, Calif., desert on repeat flights, pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie individually controlled the craft to the suborbital heights - and within the span of a 14-day period. In doing so, on Oct. 4, 2004, the $10 million Ansari X Prize was won - and the vision of non-governmental spaceflight became sharply focused.

Designed by Mojave-based Burt Rutan - the lead out-of-the-box thinker of Scaled Composites and his team - and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the barrier-breaking vehicle earned its stripes. Its victory was hailed by the banner: "SpaceShipOne, Government Zero." ... While SpaceShipOne's snaring of the X Prize showcased the possible, as well as what was attainable, hubris shouldn't be the propellant for pushing forward. (10/4)

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