January 30, 2010

Canada Supports Lunar Power Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Canadian Space Agency has entered into a contract with Hydrogenics Corporation, a leading developer and manufacturer of hydrogen generation and fuel cell products, for the development of a next generation power system to be used for surface mobility applications on the moon. The scope of the contract includes an electrolyzer that produces both hydrogen and oxygen using solar power and a fuel cell system to be used for mobility, auxiliary, and life support systems. (1/30)

NTSB Seeks Authority To Probe Commercial Space Accidents (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The National Transportation Safety Board, which currently probes plane, train, ship and highway crashes, wants to expand its purview to cover the final frontier: investigating commercial spacecraft mishaps and accidents. This week, the safety board for the first time asked Congress to explicitly give it primary investigative authority over accidents involving commercial space vehicles.

As part of the request submitted to the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation, Deborah Hersman, the board’s chairman, also reiterated that lawmakers should clarify that the board is authorized to investigate incidents involving civilian unmanned aircraft. But to avoid the prospect of signing separate agreements with each company or commercial entity that might launch humans into space, the board wants Congress, from the beginning, to designate it as the lead agency responsible for accident investigations in this arena. (1/30)

Rocket May Not Find Space in Budget (Source: Marketplace)
The White House is set to release its FY 2011 budget plan bright and early Monday morning. Obviously, various and sundry government agencies are hoping to protect their particular piece of turf. NASA is worried about the skies. The president is expected to kill the plan his predecessor came up with to put Americans back on the moon. Thousands of high-tech jobs hang in the balance, as does the business model for U.S. space policy. So far, NASA has sunk about $3.5 billion into Ares. Thousands of NASA employees and private contractors work on the rocket in states like Florida, Ohio and California.

Commenting on a proposed shift to commercial launch services, Jeff Greason said: "When NASA tries to be an operator of transportation services, they're not playing to their strengths. We are opening up or should be opening up new frontiers for humanity. And you don't do that going around and around in lower orbit. That's not the same as exploration." Utah Congressman Rob Bishop hopes Obama's budget doesn't signal the final frontier just yet. Any shift in NASA's mission is likely to face stiff opposition from Congress. Click here to hear the radio story. (1/30)

To California, Moon Junk Is State Treasure (Source: New York Times)
In one small step for preservation and one giant leap of logic, the official historical commission of California voted Friday to protect two small urine collection devices, four space-sickness bags and dozens of other pieces of detritus, all currently residing nearly a quarter of a million miles from the state. Saying it wanted to raise awareness of both the state’s cosmic contribution to the Apollo 11 moon mission and the potential threats from lunar interlopers, the California State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to designate more than 100 pieces of space trash, scientific apparatus and commemorative tokens to its list of protected resources.

Milford Wayne Donaldson, the state historic preservation officer, said the reasoning behind the first-of-its-kind designation was simple: Scores of California companies worked on the Apollo mission, and much of their handiwork remains of major historical value to the state, regardless of where it is now or what it was for used for then. There is also a collection of artifacts of historical note and emotion: Mr. Armstrong’s footprint, for example, and an American flag. Apollo 11 also left behind a mission patch from Apollo 1, in which three astronauts died in a fire, and a message from world leaders.

And while some of the garbage might seem like, well, garbage, California is just one of several states seeking protection for the items in the face of possible lunar missions by other nations as well as a budding space tourism industry. In New Mexico, home to early Apollo test sites like the White Sands Missile Range, a similar measure is expected to be considered by the state’s cultural properties review committee in April. Click here to view the article. (1/30)

Apollo Astronaut Slams Obama Space Shift at IHMC Opening (Source: Ocala Star Banner)
The day after the White House leaked plans to cancel NASA's return mission to the moon, the last man to step foot on the moon called the decision "a colossal mistake." Harrison Schmitt, who was the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 17 mission, said the moon holds the keys to understanding Earth's origins, and it is the logical place to prepare for any future manned mission to Mars. "I think it is extremely important, for geopolitical reasons, that the U.S. be the leader in manned space exploration," Schmitt said at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala.

Schmitt was in town to help christen IHMC, a research center that delves deeply into the science of artificial intelligence and counts NASA among its clients. The dedication drew more than 100 local, state and federal dignitaries, including representatives from Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. (1/30)

Keep Humans Out of Space (Source: Institute for Policy Studies)
President Obama deserves credit for ordering a new study of NASA. The findings of his Augustine Panel review of human spaceflight are impressive as well. We needed to seriously question our financial will to send humans to Mars. The title of the panel’s report: “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation,” suggests the dilemma. With our sundry wars, economic meltdown, health-care woes, and rogue banking system, Americans are already concerned that we may not be quite as great a nation as we once thought. Larding onto those self-doubts, a pullback in human space exploration might be too big a pill for our national psyche to swallow.

Unfortunately the facts are stark. We’ve been in space a long time now, on both manned and unmanned missions, but the results have been slim. The dollar costs, conversely, have been enormous. Meanwhile, heroes and heroines have emerged, martyrs have died, and thousand of PR flacks have made a comfortable living. In addition, the Smithsonian has gained splendid exhibits while tens of thousands of young people have been inspired to achieve. These are indeed major successes. And now there’s a good new niche business of carting very rich people into orbit and back.

The problem is that all this investment and hype has produced bupkis, in terms of return on investment. No minerals are flowing in from the moon, no resorts have blossomed, and the Augustine Commission seems pretty well agreed that Mars is out of reach for any amount of money that we seem likely to spend. True, the booming satellite industry has exploded at the same time, but that was all done from Earth. We didn’t need to send up warm bodies to create it. (1/30)

Michoud Ready for Shuttle-Derived Heavy-Lift Support (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Michoud Assembly Facility has confirmed they have almost enough External Tank resources to allow for one ET-sized “In Line” Shuttle Derived Heavy Launch Vehicle (SD HLV) test flight and up to three Block I SD HLVs. The news comes as NASA managers insist the workforce should wait for official news, and not to be distracted by reports on Ares’ demise. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will make the most important speech of his short tenure thus far on Monday, with the first clues on what will be a new direction for the Agency set to be revealed – based on the agency’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

Ares I and Ares V’s battle to cling on to life – an uphill battle since 2008, when the internal schedules started to dramatically slip via funding and technical issues – was coming to an end, along with an obvious omission of a lunar program in NASA’s own interpretations of the Augustine Committee-driven Flexible Path plan. A few days later, some of the mass media – led by the Orlando Sentinel – took the news a stage further, citing “insiders” as claiming the aforementioned were being officially cut from NASA’s future. The media reports caused Constellation managers to act, informing the workforce on their official position. (1/30)

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