December 18 News Items

Editorial: Find Money to Fund Road to Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Many of the once pie-in-the-sky dreams regarding a spaceport in New Mexico are edging closer and closer to hard reality. But a decidedly non-pie-in-the-sky project vital to the spaceport could potentially get snagged in the web of the state's spidery budget woes. For more than three years now, the construction of a road has been authorized by the state legislature. Unfortunately, it has yet to be included in a budget bill, so its funding has not been appropriated. And, oh yeah, it's got a price tag of $7.5 million. (12/17)

Kosmas Responds to Pelosi on NASA (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach came to NASA’s defense on Friday, days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wasn’t a “big fan” of human spaceflight (story here) and that NASA faced tough “competition for the dollar in future federal budgets. The freshman Democrat, who represents Kennedy Space Center, wrote a polite letter to Pelosi that argued in favor of manned spaceflight for job creation. KSC faces thousands of job losses once the space shuttle is retired in 2010 and a replacement is years away.

That means KSC job losses could remain vacant for much of the next decade. The prospect has Florida lawmakers and other NASA allies scrambling to either get more money for NASA’s next vehicle or find another program that could utilize the center’s ability to launch crewed spacecraft. “I urge you to keep in mind both the tangible and intangible benefits provided by investing in NASA and our nation’s human space flight program,” wrote Kosmas. “There is no question that increased funding for NASA … will help to create and retain highly-skilled, high-paying jobs across the country, including up to 7,000 direct jobs currently at risk in Florida.” (12/18)

Editorial: Pelosi Flat-Out Wrong on NASA's Job-Creation Role (Source: Florida Today)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,when it comes to space, clearly doesn’t get it. In a session with reporters, she said she’s “not been a big fan of manned expeditions to outer space” and doubted NASA’s ability to create jobs at a time when Congress is looking for new ways to attack high unemployment. To that end, the California Democrat said the $3 billion boost in funding the Augustine panel says NASA needs will be weighed against other spending requests “as to what it does in terms of job creation.” Pelosi is flat-out wrong in her skepticism about NASA’s job creation power.

Pelosi should read the letter recently sent to President Obama from the NASA House Action team, a bipartisan group of 82 lawmakers that’s co-chaired by Democratic Space Coast Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas. The letter told the president he has a “significant and fleeting opportunity” to ensure the U.S. maintains its global leadership in space and he should seize the day by making it “a national priority through presidential leadership.”

It also said NASA’s work is vital to the economy in maintaining the industrial and technological base, boosting global competitiveness and strengthening national security. They get it, and Pelosi should wake up and do the same. (12/18)

Report That Obama Decided on Space Policy May be Premature (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A report by Science Insider that said President Barack Obama has decided on a new space policy for NASA may be premature, according to Write Stuff sources. The report quoted unnamed sources saying the president decided to add an extra $1 billion to NASA’s budget. According to the report, the money would go toward developing a simple heavy launch vehicle to ferry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. It would also bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft. It said Obama would ask international partners to start work on “a lunar lander and modules for a moon base, saving the U.S. several billion dollars.”

However, nobody inside the White House or NASA would confirm that Obama has made a final call on space policy yet, though there has been a preference among many administration officials to get rid of Ares I, fund a new heavy launch vehicle and increase the involvement of commercial space companies and international partners. (12/18)

ESA Signs New Contracts Worth Over 500 Million Euros (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has reopened its payment spigot after a three-week moratorium, signing well over 500 million euros ($720 million) in new contracts in the week ending Dec. 18 for three Earth observation satellites and work on a new upper stage for the Ariane 5 rocket and a winged space-plane demonstrator, according to ESA and European industry officials. The flurry of year-end activity followed an assessment by ESA’s finance directorate that the agency’s cash deficit, which had been estimated at up to 400 million euros by late 2010, is likely to be much less severe. ESA officials have concluded that they do not need to take out a loan to cover the shortfall and that if the agency faces liquidity issues next year, they can be handled by less-drastic means as they arise. (12/18)

Arianespace Launches HELIOS Satellite (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace has successfully launched the HELIOS 2B observation satellite. Following a flight lasting 59 minutes and 20 seconds, the Ariane 5 launch vehicle precisely injected the HELIOS 2B satellite into its sun-synchronous polar orbit. This was the 49th Ariane 5 launch, the 7th Ariane 5 launch in 2009, and Arianespace's 35th success in a row. (12/18)

NASA Names New Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration (Source: NASA)
Laurie Leshin has been named the new deputy associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, effective in January. Leshin previously served as the deputy center director for science and technology at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. She has led the formulation of strategy and the start of new missions since 2008 as Goddard's senior scientist, while providing extensive scientific guidance to lunar architecture and other human spaceflight planning activities. (12/18)

Reports: NASA Looks at New Rocket, May Leave Ares I Behind (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's plans to send astronauts to the moon are under review. The space agency has been working to develop new launch vehicles - like an Earth Departure Stage pictured above - to return to the moon or go to Mars. According to online reports late Thursday, NASA will shift its focus to a heavy lift rocket launcher, akin to a Saturn V vehicle, after a meeting between NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and President Barack Obama Wednesday. ScienceInsider and NASAWatch have reported that the space agency will be redirected next year to develop another launch vehicle, effectively cancelling the Ares I rocket, in order to take human missions to an asteroid, the moon or Mars. (12/18)

Interorbital Plans Launch in December 2010 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
California-based Interorbital (IOS) currently has 7 TubeSats and 1 CubeSat on its launch manifest for a December 2010 orbital mission, with 20 additional sales pending. Suborbital launches of the IOS Common Propulsion Module (CPM) are also planned. These test launches are precursors to the orbital delivery of several NPS TubeSats by the NEPTUNE 30 in late 2010. (12/18)

CSA: SpaceShipTwo Shows Power of California Innovation (Source: CSA)
California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson were both present at Virgin Galactic's recent unveiling ceremony for SpaceShipTwo, each extolling the significant impact space tourism will have on the economy of his state. California remains the space enterprise community’s research, development and manufacturing leader, while New Mexico will host the inland spaceport from which SpaceShipTwo will operate under the corporate banner of Virgin Galactic.

“We gathered tonight for another of California’s many industry firsts,” extolled Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA). “The technology showcased tonight will change the course of travel and space access. It’s exciting to know that California is at the forefront of the commercial space age.”

Enthusiasts look forward to the day when spaceports can be found worldwide. Methods of travel, weightless research, and increased services from space technologies will ultimately drive access costs down and, in turn, stimulate further expansion. (12/18)

Ohio Lawmakers Pushing to Keep NASA Glenn Research Center Relevant (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
With the nation's space exploration program at a major crossroads, Ohio lawmakers are pressing NASA to preserve jobs and work at Cleveland's Glenn Research Center. On Thursday, all 20 members of Ohio's congressional delegation asked to meet with new NASA administrator Charles Bolden to discuss the Glenn center's prospects. Glenn and its satellite facility, Plum Brook Station, have a yearly economic impact of more than $1.2 billion, sparking jobs and innovations that "extend to every corner of Ohio," said the letter initiated by Sen. George Voinovich and signed by the state's Republican and Democratic Congress members.

"With the [space] agency going through a thorough and necessary evaluation of the human space flight program, we would like to take this opportunity to speak with you about Ohio's future in America's space program," the letter said. Voinovich spokeswoman Garrette Silverman said the senator is confident he and his colleagues can convince Bolden that Glenn is "an irreplaceable piece of NASA's vision and future." (12/18)

Kraken Mare: a Reflecting Surface of a Lake on Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: DLR)
There are more and more signs that lakes exist on Saturn's moon Titan, filled with liquid hydrocarbons. Scientists from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have made another important discovery. With a spectrometer onboard the planetary space probe Cassini, they found glints that have their origin in reflections of the Sun's radiation from the surface of a large lake near Titan's North Pole. (12/18)

At a Mine’s Bottom, Hints of Dark Matter (Source: New York Times)
An international team of physicists working in the bottom of an old iron mine in Minnesota said Thursday that they might have registered the first faint hints of a ghostly sea of subatomic particles known as dark matter long thought to permeate the cosmos. The particles showed as two tiny pulses of heat deposited over the course of two years in chunks of germanium and silicon that had been cooled to a temperature near absolute zero. But, the scientists said, there was more than a 20 percent chance that the pulses were caused by fluctuations in the background radioactivity of their cavern, so the results were tantalizing, but not definitive. (12/18)

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