February 24, 2010

Huntsville Mayor Tweets Live Updates from Senate Hearing (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is providing live updates via Twitter on a U.S. Senate subcommittee meeting that could determine the future of the Constellation program and work at Marshall Space Flight Center. Today's hearing takes a closer look at NASA's 2011 budget, which scraps the Huntsville-developed Ares rockets to make way for a new investment in commercial rockets. (2/24)

Senators Vow to Fight NASA Outsource Plan (Source; Wall Street Journal)
Members of a Senate science subcommittee vowed to fight the Obama administration's plan to outsource transportation of NASA astronauts to private firms. Calling the plans a "radical" departure from past NASA budgets, lawmakers expressed bipartisan opposition to the White House initiative.

They also complained that NASA and the White House failed to lay out clear-cut goals for the agency and that the U.S. was in danger of losing its leadership in space exploration. "You don't accomplish great things without a clearly defined mission, and this budget has no clearly defined mission," said Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. (2/24)

Bringing Back Mars Life (Source: MSNBC)
Fifty years after NASA began grappling with the idea of life beyond our planet, it's in the midst of planning missions to bring potential traces of Martian life back to Earth ... again. NASA's goal of looking for extraterrestrial life is almost as old as the space agency itself: In 1960, a bioscience advisory committee recommended that NASA should get involved in exobiology as well as space medicine, and in that same year the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was authorized to start figuring out what kind of spacecraft would be needed to search for life on Mars.

Over the past couple of years, scientists have been closing in on a new Mars sample return concept - and the radical shift in NASA's space vision, announced just this month, could conceivably bring the plan for bringing back Mars life into sharp focus. (2/24)

Senators Grill NASA Chief on Moon Shift, Mars (Source: Florida Today)
Sen. Bill Nelson urged President Obama and NASA to set a goal of getting to Mars as senators lashed the agency chief for proposing to end the Constellation program that aimed to return to the moon. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Senators that he and the White House agreed that Mars is “the ultimate destination.” But Bolden said he couldn’t set a date for that goal because research funded in the budget needs to find better propulsion and research longer-term space travel on people. "We want to go to Mars," Bolden said. "We can't get there because we don’t have the technology." (2/24)

Germany Takes Step Toward In-Orbit Servicing Demo (Source: Space News)
OHB Technology will be system prime contractor for a German government program to demonstrate in-orbit servicing and de-orbiting of satellites and other hardware. The German space agency, DLR, has awarded contracts for five components of its DEOS system, an acronym for German Orbital Servicing Mission, which is expected to cost up to 200 million euros ($272 million) once the decision is made to build a flight demonstrator. (2/24)

Space Pioneer Burt Rutan Blasts NASA Plan (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Commercial space pioneer Burt Rutan has sharply criticized Obama administration proposals to outsource key portions of NASA's manned space program to private firms. In a letter addressed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, says he is "fearful that the commercial guys will fail" to deliver on the promises to get beyond low earth orbit, and that the policy risks setting back the nation's space program.

"That would be a very big mistake for America to make," according to the letter sent to lawmakers that is expected to be released Wednesday during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Such comments are unexpected from a maverick engineer long identified with pushing the boundaries of commercial space projects, and the man who designed the first commercial suborbital rocketship.

"From my past comments on NASA's" lack of direction and success, "an observer might think that I would applaud the decision to turn this important responsibility over to commercial developers," the letter says. However, he adds, that's "wrong." (2/24)

Editorial: A Better Way to Go Where No One Has Gone Before (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Skeptics say that commercial vehicles will be less safe, more costly or slower to develop than Ares. Such statements are grossly misleading. The new Ares vehicles have yet to fly even once, while one of the potential commercial rockets, the Atlas V, has flown 19 times with a near 100 percent success rate. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, with SpaceX, have energized the launch industry.

Some complain that the plan concedes the moon to the Chinese. This is nonsense. The United States landed on the moon six times more than 40 years ago. As Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has pointed out, it is far more logical to partner with the Chinese on the exceedingly expensive trip to the moon. In the meantime, many of us have identified the "flexible path" as a way of moving human exploration ever more deeply into space beyond low-Earth orbit, while keeping Mars as the ultimate goal. (2/24)

Editorial: Obama Budget Restores Bush Cuts (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Part of the Bush-era cost-cutting strategy to pay for Constellation was: Removing $3 billion over five years from the NASA science budget; Reducing NASA's technology program to near zero; Eliminating most of the U.S. use of the International Space Station; and Cutting the aeronautics budget to bare bones.

The Obama budget reverses virtually all of these cuts and replaces them with an exciting science and technology program that will put NASA back in the front ranks of innovation. As a card-carrying member of Silicon Valley society, I firmly believe that it is innovation that will lead America out of our current financial and political malaise. (2/24)

Spaceport America Progressing Quickly (Source: KFOX)
About 40 mile north of Las Cruces is a runway 24 inches above the ground, 200 feet wide and 10,000 feet long that is soon to be complete. “We're building a city essentially out here in the middle of the desert,” said Chad Rabon of Spaceport America. Tuesday dust was everywhere, but even in the high winds there's no day off at Spaceport America. The first thing that will be complete is the runway. (2/24)

Safety Approvals Holding Up Falcon-9 Debut (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Before a new launch vehicle is cleared for liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, federal regulators and Air Force officials meticulously go over the rocket's safety systems to verify the mission will pose no danger to the public. The process is in motion again as SpaceX prepares to launch its first Falcon-9 rocket, a thoroughly-tested but unproven launcher that could blast off as early as next month.

The Air Force 45th Space Wing and the FAA are still reviewing paperwork on the new rocket, which is currently on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral for several days of ground tests. Because of the continuing safety checks, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says the earliest launch could occur is around March 22, although the 154-foot-tall rocket could be ready before then. (2/24)

Can Life Exist in Alternate Universes? (Source: Discovery)
Although it's pure speculation, there's something appealing about considering multiple universes (a scenario known as the "multiverse") where anything -- and I mean anything -- is possible. But just because an alternate universe is possible, it doesn't mean life can exist there.

Now scientists from MIT -- obviously not content with searching for life within our own cosmos -- have shown that alternate universes could nurture life even if the fundamental nature of these universes is totally different from our own. Click here to view the article. (2/24)

Obama Space Plan Burns Powerful Aerospace Workers' Union (Source: Florida Today)
A major union that endorsed and campaigned for President Obama here in Florida apparently has turned on him, blasting his plans (or lack thereof) for U.S. space exploration. In a letter dated Feb. 4, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers -- a strong group on the Space Coast -- criticized Obama's scrapping of the shuttle and Constellation programs, with only vague plans to privatize rocket launches.

The letter signed by international union President R. Thomas Buffenbarger begins: "At a time when the U.S. economy is mired in the worst recession in 70 years and is in desperate need of a jobs creation program your Administration's proposal to have NASA rely on the private sector to develop and operate manned space craft will contribute to the loss of several thousand well paid domestics jobs." (2/24)

SLC-6 Houses Monstrous Delta-4 (Source: Lompoc Record)
Space Launch Complex-6, a pad with a huge history at Vandenberg Air Force Base, now has a monstrous resident to match its behemoth background. The site of two canceled manned flight programs is now housing the Delta 4-Heavy rocket after another round of modifications to the storied facility.

“To actually see the rocket out here, the excitement level has dramatically increased for the team, both on the 30th Space Wing side as well as on United Launch Alliance,” said Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander. The excitement about the unmanned rocket’s arrival has made SLC-6 a popular stop for select military and government groups, prompting a joke that it’s become “Tours R Us.” Tours soon will end as the classified spy satellite moves to SLC-6 for its scheduled Dec. 1 blastoff. (2/24)

NASA Changes Could Impact New Mexico (Source: KFOX)
Under the Obama administration, NASA will be shifting its strategy for human space flight. The old strategy was to set a destination to explore and then build the technology needed for NASA to get there. The new strategy would spend billions on technology that would be beneficial to the country’s goal of space exploration and the commercial industry, as well.

“NASA's new approach is really going to pay tribute to the commercial space and these new folks like Virgin Galactic,” said Steve Landeene, the executive director of Spaceport America. "It's dramatically going to lower the cost in the future from scientific experimentation to new medicines and national security,” said Landeene. (2/24)

Nelson Leads New Look Deeper Into Obama’s NASA Plan (Source: CFL13)
News 13 sat down with Nelson last week to talk about space, the future of manned exploration and the Obama plan. "The question is what to do now, and NASA is in a period of uncertainty,” Nelson said. “I think the Obama administration has laid out a good plan, but they sold it in the worst PR job I’ve ever seen. They have given the impression that they are killing the manned space program.” Nelson said that is not the case, but perception has a way of becoming reality in Washington. (2/24)

Thales Alenia Picked to Build Jason-3 Oceanographic Satellite (Source: Thales)
Thales Alenia Space announced to have signed with French Space Agency (CNES), the contract to build the Jason-3 satellite. The Jason-3 operational oceanographic mission involves a quadripartite collaboration between the two meteorological organizations Eumetsat and NOAA, acting as the leaders of the program, and CNES and its American counterpart NASA. (2/24)

No comments: