December 21 News Items

Soviet 'Monkey Nursery' Now Wants To Send An Ape To Mars (Source: Popular Science)
Some rivalries die hard. Ham the American chimpanzee stirred up some Cold War ire when he became the first hominid in space in early 1961; now, scientists at the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, the pride of early Soviet space science, want to send one of their 350 apes on a mission to Mars -- with a robot overseer, naturally. The institute resides in Sukhumi in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia (remember that brief military tangle last year when Russia rolled through its former Soviet satellite?), where it once churned out medical research, as well as two rhesus monkeys that traveled into space in 1987. When the Soviet Union collapsed so did the institute's benefactor, but a renewed relationship with Russia since seceding from Georgia has rekindled Abkhaz-Russian relations, as well as the prospect for sending one of the institute's many surviving apes into space. (12/21)

NASA Ponders Post-Shuttle Reorganization (Source: Aviation Week)
Managers across NASA are looking for an "innovative and inspirational" way to deal with budget realities facing the agency, and are working on a plan to merge the spaceflight and exploration mission directorates into a single unit as the shuttle era draws to a close. Headquarters mission-directorate chiefs and field center directors met behind closed doors to ponder organizational adjustments that likely will be necessary once President Barack Obama issues his long-awaited space policy, probably early next year. The spaceflight/exploration merger was one topic of discussion. (12/21)

Africa Establishes New Space Partnerships (Source: Space Daily)
The use of space-based technologies can help achieve sustainable development in Africa, a capacity recently bolstered in that continent by creation of two regional space partnerships. The third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development was held on December 7-9 in Algiers. The conference was hosted by the Algerian Space Agency. (12/21)

Deficits Hamper European Space Spending (Source: Forbes)
Cash-strapped member states are reluctant to increase E.U. space funding. Before the Lisbon Treaty, the European Space Agency and E.U. were in effect separate organizations. The ESA had a different set of members and was prohibited from developing explicit military- or security-related programs. The E.U. is a policy-making body, the ESA the executive arm for European space activities. Non-E.U. ESA states have now agreed to alter this relationship, and the E.U. and ESA may now develop a more dual-technology approach to key programs such as the satellite navigation and positioning system Galileo and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) network.

The E.U. spends some 700 million euros ($1.05 billion) per year on space, which is a small proportion of the 6 billion euros the ESA and European states--predominantly France, Germany and Italy--spend. Compared to the U.S. space budget and other competitors such as China, even this is small. The division between the E.U. and ESA and the lack of an appropriate policy framework were partly responsible for incoherent European space policies, but differing procurement and managerial approaches to Europe's largest programs played their part too. (12/21)

The Commercial Space Race Heats Up (Source: True Slant)
Although the Augustine Commission did not offer up “recommendations” – it is clear they want NASA to focus on moving beyond low earth orbit – creating some space – if you will – for entrepreneurs to boldly go where only the government has gone before. The man in the vanguard of this push is one Elon Musk – the PayPal multimillionaire – who now heads SpaceX. The California company won the NASA contract to build rockets that will deliver cargo to the International Space Station – but Musk hopes to do more than that – one day offering a ride to orbit for human beings. Click here to view an interview with SpaceX's Ken Bowersox. (12/21)

ESA Signs Contract for Ariane 5 Rocket Enhancements (Source:
The European Space Agency has awarded a contract to the maker of the Ariane 5 rocket for early development of a new upper stage to increase the launcher's capacity. The contract covers the development of a more powerful version of the rocket with a new upper stage and upgraded avionics and software. The enhancements are part of the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution program. Astrium says the contract is worth more than $200 million over the next two years. (12/21)

World Awaits U.S. Decision on Space Exploration (Source: Florida Today)
Don’t let the political jawboning fool you. America is not falling behind, because there is no space race. Indeed, the rest of the world is waiting for the U.S. to decide humankind’s next great adventure in space exploration. They’re waiting to follow. Yes, the Russians and the Chinese can fly people to space. Yes, they have grand ambitions. The Russians propose a nuclear-powered spaceship to take cosmonauts to Mars, yet they’ve barely got the funding necessary to operate their portion of the International Space Station. The Chinese say they will build their own space station, yet they’re talking behind the scenes with U.S. and Russian officials to break down remaining barriers to joining the International Space Station project. Click here to view the article. (12/21)

Space Activism's Obsession with Technological and Ideological Saviors (Source: Space Review)
Many space activists have pinned their hopes for humanity's future in space on specific technologies or ideologies. Dwayne Day describes why such "fetishism" is doomed to fail. Visit to view the article. (12/21)

Britain's New Space Agency: a Provincial Subcommittee or a National Asset? (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month the British government announced that, at long last, it would create a standalone space agency. Taylor Dinerman examines the impact this new agency could have and the importance of keeping civil and military space efforts separate. Visit to view the article. (12/21)

Why Should Humans go to Mars? (Source: Space Review)
Mars is widely seen as the long-term goal for human space exploration, even among those who don't favor near-term missions there, but why go to Mars at all? Frank Stratford argues that exploring Mars is all about preserving, and challenging, humanity. Visit to view the article. (12/21)

South Korea Prepares for Second Space Launch (Source: Yonhap News)
South Korea will prepare for the second launch of a locally assembled space rocket and try to secure export deals for its research reactors in 2010, the government said Monday. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said in its annual policy report to President Lee Myung-bak that it is currently examining the cause behind the "half-successful" firing of the first Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) on Aug. 25. It said based on the review of the first KSLV-1 launch, engineers will take all possible steps to make certain that the second launch scheduled for the first half of next year is successful. (12/21)

New Course for Space Exploration Promotes Private Firms (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Obama administration appears set to chart a new course for U.S. space exploration by promoting the use of private companies to ferry astronauts into orbit, according to people familiar with the matter. The controversial plan would mark a trailblazing departure for the nation's space program by allowing a group of closely held start-up companies, for the first time, to compete for a central role in an arena previously dominated by much larger, publicly traded contractors with long track records working for NASA. The initiative is part of a broader realignment of goals for an agency suffering from low morale and chronic budget shortfalls that also has been whipsawed by changing priorities in successive administrations. (12/21)

Engage the X Drive: Ten Ways to Traverse Deep Space (Source: New Scientist)
In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to reach outer space. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made it to the surface of the moon. And that is as far as any of us has ventured. Apart from the mundane problems of budgets and political will, the major roadblock is that our dominant space-flight technology – chemically fuelled rockets – just isn't up to the distances involved. We can send robot probes to the outer planets, but they take years to get there. Click here to review 10 intriguing alternatives for space propulsion. (12/21)

Moon Mission Gets Help in Congress (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Fearful that the White House might scale back manned space exploration, a bipartisan group of lawmakers slipped a provision into a massive government spending package last week that would force President Barack Obama to seek congressional approval for any changes to the ambitious Bush-era, back-to-the-moon program.

The little-noticed legislative maneuver could yield massive payoffs for the Houston area, which has tens of thousands of jobs tied to manned space exploration. The congressional action hands NASA supporters additional leverage in their behind-the-scenes campaign to persuade Obama to budget an extra $3 billion a year to finance the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 rather than revamping — and cutting — the manned space effort. “Congress' commitment to our nation's human spaceflight program is unwavering with respect to the path we have already charted,” says Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, whose congressional district includes Johnson Space Center. “The debate should not be if we are moving forward, but how we are going to pay for it.” (12/21)

Column: NASA Needs to Launch Early, Often (Source: New York Times)
To reach its goals for human spaceflight, NASA needs to learn from Silicon Valley and be innovative and take risks to avoid getting stuck in old technology and shifting political scenarios, according to this opinion piece from Edward Lu, a former astronaut and program manager for advanced projects at Google. NASA needs to speed up its rate of rocket launches and launch early and often because only a few launches a year will hinder the innovation needed for a long-term program. (12/21)

Conflict of Interest? Congresswoman Staunchly Backs Constellation -- and is Wed to Astronaut (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
For nearly two hours last September, members of a House science committee hammered Norm Augustine, the head of a White House panel reviewing NASA's space plans. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., led the charge, attacking the panel's suggestion that the agency ditch its Constellation moon-rocket program. "I don't see the logic of scrapping what the nation has spent years and billions of dollars to develop," complained Giffords. Backed by fellow House science committee members from Texas and California, states with big NASA centers, she blamed Augustine's group for "losing ground" and accused him of providing Congress with recommendations that "look almost like cartoons."

Finally, the roasting became too much for U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich. "I'm not from Texas, California or Florida, and I'm not married to an astronaut, so I can try to be as objective as possible," he told Augustine. "They have given you a rough time, which I don't think you deserve." It was an uncomfortable reminder of a fact that deeply disturbs critics of NASA's Constellation program: Giffords, 39, the chairwoman of the House space subcommittee, is married to a NASA astronaut, a man who until recently worked on the agency's beleaguered Constellation program.

In the two years since her Arizona wedding to Mark Kelly, Giffords has become a key champion of Constellation — even as a growing number of critics have attacked its Ares I rocket as too expensive and behind schedule and as President Barack Obama considers sweeping changes to NASA's manned-space program. Her unflinching support for Constellation has made her a standard bearer for both Democrats and Republicans who are opposed to Obama shaking up NASA. And as oversight subcommittee chairwoman, she already has called hearings to criticize proposals for more international cooperation and a greater use of commercial rockets. Click here to view the article. (12/20)

No comments: