December 19 News Items

Astronauts Set for Christmas Space Mission (Source: AP)
Three astronauts from the United States, Japan and Russia received the go-ahead Saturday for a holiday season rocket launch to the International Space Station from Russia's remote space complex in southern Kazakhstan. Their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft has been hoisted into place at the Baikonur center for a mission that will boost the number of crew at the orbital laboratory to five members. NASA's Timothy J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Soichi Noguchi of Japan will blast off at 4:52 p.m. EST Sunday in the first-ever launch of a Soyuz spaceship on a winter night. (12/19)

University Leaders Meet at Florida Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida President Frank DiBello and State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan last week hosted a meeting of university leaders at the state-owned Space Life Sciences Lab at KSC. Embry-Riddle, Florida Tech, FSU, UCF, and UF were represented, along with the Space Transportation Research & Development Institute (STRDI), Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), and the Florida Center for Advanced Aerospace Propulsion (FCAAP). The meeting focused on options for expanding the state’s involvement in space R&D. Follow-up actions will likely be discussed at a February summit with Gov. Charlie Crist. (12/18)

NASA Versus the Deficit (Source: Space Politics)
A likely battle in Congress in 2010 will revolve around the budget deficit and attempts to reduce it, given the massive deficit accumulated in FY2009. At the same time it appears that Congressional space supporters, and perhaps the White House, will be seeking additional funding for NASA in FY-2011. Are these two efforts on a collision course? Cutting NASA alone doesn’t do much for deficit relief. However, if Congress does get serious in 2010 about deficit reduction, any program that’s proposed to get an increase is likely going to come under special scrutiny. Are the agency’s supporters in Congress—-particularly those who also cast themselves as fiscal conservatives-—prepared to respond?

Congressman Parker Griffith (D-AL) mentioned both NASA and deficit reduction as priorities. Asked at the end of the interview about what his priorities were in 2010, he said, “It’s the continuing funding of Ares 1 and Ares 5, pushing our job creation here, but, most important, America needs to reduce its deficit and retain and maintain its dominance in space and in our military.” Griffith isn’t the only space supporter also positioning himself as a deficit hawk. In an op-ed in The Hill earlier this week, Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX) complained about the willingness of the White House and Congressional leadership to spend. “In a recession with extremely limited resources, Congress has gone on a spending spree writing costly checks that taxpayers simply cannot afford to cash,” he wrote. And Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) introduced legislation in October to require a balanced budget. (12/19)

New Mexico Petition Seeks University Aerospace Funding (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
Technology-oriented professionals are spearheading an effort to petition the Legislature to restore funding to New Mexico State University’s new aerospace engineering program. Funding for the degree program that has enjoyed robust enrollment since its inception in 2003 has been cut by 38 percent as part of the state’s efforts to shore up the budget deficit, according to Thomas Burton, department head. At a recent meeting of the High TechConsortium of Southern New Mexico, Julie Seton, a founding member of the group, distributed a petition to urge lawmakers to restore funding to the program. (12/19)

Enceladus Plume is Half Ice (Source: Nature)
Researchers have upped their estimates of the proportion of ice in Enceladus's plume. As much as 50% of the plume shooting out of geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus could be ice, a researcher revealed yesterday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Previously, scientists had thought that only 10–20% of the plume was made up of ice, with the rest being water vapor. Some researchers think that the study backs the idea that the plumes are caused by a sub-surface lake boiling off into space rather than the product of colder processes such as sublimation. (12/19)

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