November 15 News Items

President Must Decide Whether Human Space Exploration is Worth the Expense (Source: San Diego Union Tribune)
We explore space because of precious intangibles. At its best, NASA exemplifies the best of America; our optimism, our curiosity, our ingenuity, our courage. It communicates values to the American public and to the world at large. It leads young people to the study of science and engineering. We explore space because human space flight connects with the global public, and NASA’s leadership in space promotes American leadership in the world.

The International Space Station has proved that many nations can learn how to work together toward a distant and difficult goal...Human society is ready to begin exploring the solar system for real. Should we start now or later? Is landing on the Moon the first thing we should do? Haven’t we already been there, done that? Should we settle on the Moon because of its own value, or as a steppingstone to Mars? If we are really setting the stage for humanity’s expansion beyond the Earth, don’t we also need to go elsewhere in the coming century? How about surveying asteroids for their useful minerals, and getting to know them better, in case one should threaten to hit Earth? Can’t we visit the moons of Mars more easily than landing on Mars?

We have to put things in perspective. Deep space exploration cannot overshadow the preservation of the planet most important to us: Earth. Leadership in using Earth-observing satellites to diagnose climate change will be as or more important than human space flight in fostering a fundamental belief among nations in America’s benevolent purpose. Each president since Eisenhower has had to decide for his time and place how space fits into the nation’s priorities. The decisions President Obama will make are especially momentous. NASA has not been at such a critical turning point since the end of the Apollo program. (11/15)

Twitter Fans Flock to Space Shuttle Launch (Source:
NASA is about to open space shuttle launches to a whole new audience. About 100 lucky followers of NASA's Twitter feed are descending on the agency's Cape Canaveral, Fla., spaceport to get a front row seat to the planned Monday launch of space shuttle Atlantis. The gathering is the first time NASA has held an event for Twitterers to view a shuttle liftoff in person. NASA gave tickets to the two-day event to the first 100 "Space Tweeps" to register. "I'm certain it will be one of those 'top moments' of my life," said Adam Fast of Lawrence, Kan. Fast, a pilot, said he thinks it's important to educate the public more about NASA's activities and how they could impact everyday lives. (11/15)

Shuttle Workers Fear Job Outlook (Source: Florida Today)
Half of NASA's shuttle workers are worried about their future after next year's fleet retirement. Sixty percent are dissatisfied with information they are receiving about the shutdown and NASA's future. Three of four might leave for the right opportunity. But only 5 percent are actively seeking new jobs. In fact, 80 percent are likely to stay through the six remaining missions. And most supervisors believe they'll have the right people with the right skills to finish the program safely. The findings -- outlined in NASA employee surveys -- illuminate a major safety issue.

Losing critically skilled workers is a top risk for the $3 billion-a-year shuttle program, ranking right up there with potential rocket booster or engine failures. An exodus would raise the chances of catastrophe as NASA aims to complete the International Space Station. "I can't think of anything more important," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, which was created by Congress after the 1967 Apollo 1 launch pad fire. (11/15)

India: Mars Exploration by 2030 (Source: The Hindu)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan has said exploration of Mars will take a tangible shape by 2030. He called it the “next logical frontier in space” after Chandrayaan-II, which will be put in place by 2013 with robots and rovers to study the surface of the moon. (11/15)

Goddard Team Develops New Carriers for Space Station (Source: NASA)
In a partnership that exemplifies One NASA, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. teamed up with engineers at NASA's Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers to design, build, and test five new ExPRESS Logistics Carriers, or ELCs, which will be delivered to the International Space Station. "ExPRESS" stands for Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station.

The ELCs will provide scientists with a platform and infrastructure to deploy experiments in the vacuum of space without requiring a separate dedicated Earth-orbiting satellite, and will also serve as parking fixtures for spare International Space Station (ISS) hardware which can be retrieved robotically long after the shuttle retires. (11/15)

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Awards Roads Contract (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority board on Friday awarded a $3 million contract to a company that will build roads at Spaceport America. The contract entails building four miles of paved road and three miles of gravel roads, as well as paving a parking lot at the spaceport site, located southeast of Truth or Consequences. The contract was awarded to CMC Construction of Truth or Consequences. Bidding will open up soon on the next construction package, the terminal-hangar facility. The spaceport authority also approved an amendment to its agreement with Sierra Electric Cooperative about constructing underground electricity infrastructure to reach the spaceport site. (11/15)

Langley: Battle Over the Future of NASA Hits Home (Source: Hampton Roads Daily Press)
Without the extra $3 billion NASA would lose thousands of jobs along the space coast from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Houston, and the implications to Langley are totally unknown. All this in a recessionary economy with massive federal budget deficits. So, the battle lines are drawn. Congressional delegations from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas are already fighting for the $3 billion or, failing that, some compromise that saves jobs in their states at the expense of other NASA programs and installations.

These delegations have membership on key congressional committees that appropriate NASA's funds. While Langley's major roles in NASA are in those parts of the agency "that aren't critical to the exploration strategy," Virginia's congressional delegation is not well positioned in this fight as it has no membership on NASA appropriating committees. Langley is indeed a pawn in the battle.

What's at stake for Hampton Roads? NASA Langley is a high-tech laboratory with more than 3,500 civil-service and contractor jobs, many of which are high-paying technical and managerial positions, and an annual budget of $700 million. This translates into an annual economic impact on Hampton Roads of $900 million and 10,000 jobs. Losing Langley would have an impact at least as great as losing an aircraft carrier, so it is critical that Hampton Roads leadership and the Virginia congressional delegation engage fully in the battle over the future of NASA. (11/15)

Much Media Coverage for Cirque du Soleil Founder’s Space Trip (Source: CanWest)
It seems Cirque du soleil founder Guy Laliberte created a media circus when he went into space last month. The Montreal billionaire’s trip to the International Space Station as a tourist received 23 times more international media attention than Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, according to recently released data. Influence Communication says it was hired by Cirque du soleil to do an analysis of the media coverage of Laliberte’s trip. The company placed the value of the advertising generated by the 50-year-old’s nearly two-week space odyssey at more than $592 million. (11/15)

Editorial: Space Travel to Save the Environment Makes Sense (Source: San Diego Union Tribune)
Now that human-induced climate change is on us, all our ideas and behaviors have to be re-examined...So what about space, which used to be the very emblem of our future? What is it we think we’re doing up there? And does it still make sense in the age of climate crisis? If you ask me, some of it never made sense. All that talk about our cosmic destiny, or the need “not to have all our eggs in one basket,” implied that we were somehow capable of living without this planet.

But Earth is not our cradle, and we are not meant to go to the stars. Earth is our permanent home, for good or ill. We need to stabilize its biosphere and our presence in it for our own good. We have to become global systems managers before we know how to do it, so at this point we are in emergency mode. It’s in this context that a particular kind of space travel makes sense and indeed is an excellent idea. We should explore our own solar system...because the climate crisis is very much a matter of interactions we have altered between our planet and our sun.

Another good reason for a space program is the immense potential of space-based solar power. Of course, constructing such a system would require a big fleet of reliable heavy lifters, but we have built such spacecraft before. And only with that kind of robust space program can we think about deflecting asteroids that otherwise might devastate us, another good reason for inhabiting local space. (11/15)

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