February 7, 2010

Atlas V On Deck, Waiting For Shuttle To Launch (Source: CFL13)
Sunday morning’s launch scrub of space shuttle Endeavour has also impacted another upcoming launch. The Air Force was set to send an Atlas V rocket carrying a new solar observatory into space Tuesday. Officials said they need two days between the launches of Endeavour and the Atlas V to get everything ready. The shuttle delay means the Atlas launch will happen no earlier than Wednesday. That launch window would run from 10:26 a.m. to 11:26 a.m. Watch it LIVE on News 13 when it happens.

Editor's Note: The Eastern Range's two-day turnaround time between launches is one thing that NASA's proposed new investments at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is supposed to improve.

China Space Program Shoots for Moon (Source: Washington Times)
In November, Chinese air force commander Gen. Xu Qiliang observed that "competition between military forces is now turning toward the realm of space, [and] military modernization is ceaselessly expanding into space." But during his visit to Beijing a few days later, President Obama talked about "cooperation" rather than competition. In a joint statement with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the two leaders called for "a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit."

China's aerospace industry firms - which for decades have supplied dangerous missile technologies and equipment to Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, and which have been sanctioned ceaselessly by four successive U.S. presidents for their transgressions - will find the United States in a new suppliant posture. The atrophying U.S. space program suggests that America will be forced to cooperate with China in space, or else cede the high frontier of space to China altogether. (2/7)

Moon Base Alpha: If Not U.S., Then Who? (Source: Fox News)
Forty years ago the U.S. raced to plant the first foot on the moon. Now, as India, Russia, South Korea and China compete to return for further exploration, the U.S has all but dropped out -- and even Buzz Aldrin thinks that may be okay. Aldrin says the next step for NASA should be to create a long-term plan for more ambitious efforts -- visiting Mars or a nearby asteroid -- aided by robotics and astronauts from other countries. "It's much better to take our experience and aid other countries in conducting their races," says Aldrin.

But many argue that letting other countries win the race to return is akin to admitting failure. Beyond inspiring millions with the magnitude of what Americans are capable of, the race to the moon was viewed as essential to proving scientific competition for the country. According to Jeff Manber: "Space policy of the last several decades has been a failure. We'll be dependent on Russia for the next 5 to 7 years to fly to and from the International Space Station. And we got here because we stayed too long with the space shuttle program." (2/7)

ULA Analyst Keeps Close Eye on Atlas Numbers (Source: Florida Today)
Some imposing numbers accompany this week's planned Atlas V launch: the rocket's 191-foot height, 746,000-pound weight and 863,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff. Behind the scenes at United Launch Alliance, financial analyst Shawntel Williams focuses on a different set of figures, large and small: the thousands of dollars spent on rocket fuel, a few bucks for some bolts or tape, and costs tied to hundreds of other parts or services needed for a successful launch.

"Behind every rocket and behind what every engineer does, there's money," said Williams, 29, of Rockledge. NASA and ULA would not disclose the launch's cost, but Williams is one member of a local team who will scrutinize the countdown to make sure it stays on budget and quickly analyze the cost of any delays. In the current fiscal year, she's budgeted orders ranging from $1 to $170,000, tracking nearly 700 separate line items. (2/7)

NASA Chief Hopes Space Work Can Stay In Brevard (Source: CFL13)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said NASA workers should not have been surprised by the announcement, and insisted the decision did not mean the end of human spaceflight. He said he hoped much of the space program’s future work will stay in Brevard County, even if it was being run by private companies. "Come here to the Space Coast. At least see what we have to offer, and then work with us to find ways we can modify it for your needs, so we can use what's here,” Bolden said. “We can get to where we want to be a lot quicker if we use what’s here, rather than build all new.”

Editor's Note: Florida space advocates are hopeful that corporate site-selection decisions for commercial space operations will be less influenced by political factors than by cost. Florida is a low-cost state for business, with a skilled workforce and proximity to launch/landing sites. Under government-funded space programs, the value of these attributes has been marginalized by the need spread spending and jobs among multiple states and Congressional districts. (2/7)

Editorial: Politics and Reality Drive Moon Program (Source: Decatur Daily)
The Marshall Space Flight Center has 2,500 people working to send people back to the moon. So when President Barack Obama said he intends to scrap that program, he raised many concerns in this area about what these people would continue to do for NASA. Constellation is a $100 billion project that former President Bush proposed for returning to the moon. But that plan created concerns that it was too costly and the president wasn’t looking far enough into the future and was basing the project on existing technologies.

Obama hasn’t revealed details of his plans to outsource much of what NASA does now. Those details will create more concerns. But was the criticism of the Constellation program legitimate? Is it the wrong program using the wrong technology? None of us wishes to see NASA’s role de-emphasized, but the president is right to question our approach. All presidents like to put their brand on NASA. In this case, Obama can’t kill Constellation without approval from Congress. Still, any time there is talk of major changes in the space program, we get nervous here in the Tennessee Valley and re-evaluate our political connections and influence in Washington. (2/7)

Shuttle Launch Rescheduled to Monday after Weather Scrub (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Unacceptable launch weather conditions scrubbed Sunday morning’s planned launch of Endeavour's STS-130 mission to the Space Station. NASA will make a second attempt on Monday morning at 4:14 a.m. (2/7)

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