February 21, 2010

Russians Close to Reaching Lake Vostok (Source: St. Petersburg Times)
Russian scientists have 100 meters of ice left to drill in order to reach the waters of the unique subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The scientists expect to reach the lake in 2010-2011. To make future research more effective, they have made a three-dimensional map of the shore and bottom of the lake, said Valery Lukin, head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition.

The scientists have also developed new equipment to ensure that their entrance into the lake’s sterile waters will not result in external contamination, which has been a source of concern among the international scientific society, Lukin said. “The new borehole is currently 3,650 meters deep, and the total depth of ice above the lake is 3,750 meters,” Lukin said.

Lukin said the scientists hope to find live organisms in the waters of the lake, particularly near to the bottom. “It’s very possible that we could find microorganisms that we’ve never known existed, those that lived in the waters of the lake millions of years ago,” he said. Scientists say the lake may turn out to be similar to the subglacial water reservoirs on Jupiter’s satellite Europa. (2/21)

Shuttle's Extension in Works (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas said a bipartisan plan is in the works in Congress that would call for extending the shuttle program another five years. The plan would require adding another $200 million to the NASA budget for 2010 and $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year starting in the 2011-12 budget year. The goal would be one to two shuttle flights a year through 2015, if it could be done safely. (2/19)

Ben Bova: With Private Sector Push, Space Tourism Will Come (Source: Naples News)
There is opposition, both in NASA and Congress, to the “outsourcing” of launch services. NASA is a government agency and, like all government agencies, it automatically moves to protect its turf. Politicians worry that lucrative NASA contracts will be canceled, causing unemployment in their states.

I’m sure that canal men and stagecoach operators opposed the coming of the railroads, and farsighted railroad magnates dreaded the development of commercial airlines, too. But as Mark Twain famously said, “When it’s steamboat time, you steam.”

As the fledgling space-tourism companies begin to prove their vehicles are safe and reliable, more customers will come. Profits will grow. Those tickets won’t always cost $200,000 apiece. Space tourism is on the way. (2/21)

Don't Be Blinded by the Moon (Source: Tampa Tribune)
The silvery lure of the moon and the golden wages of thousands of research jobs are strong motivators to support NASA's space-exploration program and its significant annual investment in Florida. Yet seen from a national perspective, it is hard to justify the price. President Obama plans to junk the moon project and focus instead on other missions, research, and partnerships with private spaceflight companies.

It's a more conservative approach with the potential to prove more productive. The challenge for Florida is that many space jobs will be up for grabs. Gov. Charlie Crist is smart to begin positioning the state to win a big share. Throwing vast amounts of federal tax money at space is no guarantee this frontier will ever open in a profitable way. But tapping deeper into the profit motive, as Obama proposes, could inspire entrepreneurial imaginations.

Jobs will be created, but they will be different jobs, possibly in different places. Crist has gone to work exploring ways to keep Florida a leader in the aerospace industry. Chancellor Frank T. Brogan is urging the university system to form partnerships with space companies and to coordinate research. That sort of leadership and welcoming attitude, along with flight-friendly sunshine, will help Florida remain America's primary launch pad to other worlds. (2/21)

Space Station Hit by Multiple Computer Glitches (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Multiple computer glitches aboard the International Space Station triggered intermittent communications blackouts early Sunday, and while the three command and control computers seem to be working, engineers do not yet understand what has caused the machines to repeatedly transition from one to the other. The station's command and control software was updated before the shuttle Endeavour's flight to account for the new Tranquility module and it's possible the computer failures, or transitions, are software related. (2/21)

Shuttle Landing Forecast No-Go (Source: Florida Today)
Endeavour's astronauts face a daunting weather forecast for a planned landing at Kennedy Space Center tonight. The shuttle and its six astronauts remain scheduled to land at KSC at 10:20 p.m. tonight and would have a second opportunity at 11:55 p.m. NASA is staffing a back-up site at Edwards Air Force Base in California and there are two opportunities to land at the Mojave desert military base: 1:25 a.m. EST and 3 a.m. EST. (2/21)

Editorial: Florida Summit Just What the Doctor Ordered (Source: Florida Today)
The summit was a blunt, no-holds-barred discussion on the uncertain future of space in Florida. There were entrepreneurs who said President Obama’s plan to shift manned launches to commercial rockets was correct, and Florida had to pull itself out of denial fast and get with the new program or be left in the dust.

There also were state officials and members of Congress who offered proposals on what might be done in Tallahassee and Washington to mitigate the coming loss of about 7,000 jobs at Kennedy Space Center. Gov. Crist deserves credit for calling the session and starting the search for solutions that can be implemented quickly.

He threw his support behind two we believe are essential: Increasing funds for Space Florida, the state’s space recruiting arm, to nearly $33 million to help attract business; and Spending as much as another $25 million a year to help new or expanding aerospace business in a bill that state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and state Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, are sponsoring. (2/21)

US Lunar Pull-Out Leaves China Shooting for Moon (Source: AFP)
China aims to land its first astronauts on the moon within a decade at the dawn of a new era of manned space exploration -- a race it now leads thanks to the US decision to drop its lunar program. China has a fast-growing human spaceflight project that has notched one success after another, including a spacewalk by astronauts in 2008, with plans for a manned lunar mission by around 2020.

"The real concern is the trend: China's capacities are increasing while the US, despite spending billions of dollars, appears to be stuck in a rut." China also has pursued its space ambitions efficiently. NASA's Constellation program had already cost 10 billion dollars, or nearly 10 times more than the entire Chinese space program, according to official data. (2/21)

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