March 23, 2010

Louisiana Workers Prep For Final NASA Missions At Michoud (Source: WDSU)
Hundreds of workers have been laid off at Michoud over the past two years. Lockheed Martin was contracted between 1973 and 2008 to do $10.7 billion in work for the federal government. With federal funding for NASA in question, the 1,426 people who still work there wonder what is next for the agency and for themselves.

Lockheed Martin, one of the largest employers in Louisiana, has a payroll totaling $174.6 million. The company has laid off more than 1,300 workers at Michoud in the past two years, and with even more cuts to NASA expected in the president's next budget, everyone is nervous. NASA has hired an outside company to oversee site operations at Michoud with a goal of leasing out space on the 800-acre facility. (3/23)

NASA Glenn Begins Public Tours of Premier Research Facilities (Source: NASA)
NASA's Glenn Research Center invites the general public to tour its laboratory and testing facilities on the first and third Saturday of each month, beginning April 3. Tours are free to all ages and available to U.S. citizens. Reservations are required and can be made up to 30 days in advance but must be made at least one day in advance of the actual tour.

"We are expanding our tour program to allow more people to experience what goes on at Glenn and taking information out into the community about NASA, science and the benefits of careers in math, science and engineering," said Linda Dukes-Campbell, chief of the Community and Media Relations Office. "The ultimate goal is to share with the public our cutting-edge technologies in aeronautics and space." (3/23)

India to Start Building Space Capsule for Manned Mission (Source: Live Mint)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will begin building a space capsule to carry two astronauts on its maiden manned mission, scheduled to take place by 2016. ISRO will fabricate the three-member capsule using anthropometric data, or information on physical attributes peculiar to Indians. The center will also bridge the gap in developing key restricted technologies and help plan for future missions to the moon. Unlike the US space shuttles that glide in from space to land on a runway on their return, India will follow the Russian and Chinese method of recovering the space capsule after it drops into the ocean. (3/23)

Bolden Sticking by Cancellation of Constellation (Source: Florida Today)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden insisted Tuesday that the Constellation program was too expensive to pursue, as he faced another House grilling about the agency's budget. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on science, asked Bolden why the administration would discard the Constellation program of returning to the moon after spending $9 billion on it. "Why is this drastic step proposed?" Mollohan asked.

But Bolden said Constellation wouldn't have reached the moon before 2030. Even then, he said the Ares rocket and Orion capsule wouldn't have had a way to return from the moon’s surface because that facet of the program hasn’t been budgeted. "I just couldn't in good conscience recommend that to the president," Bolden said.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., asked Bolden to reply to a congressional request for alternatives to keep American access to the International Space Station, rather than relying on Russian rockets after the retirement of the shuttle this year. "We are unable to do that," Bolden said. In terms of compromising on a budget, Bolden said, "There is no alternative budget. There is no plan B." (3/23)

NASA Shutters Constellation Program Even as Lawmakers Fight Closure (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Delicately but deliberately, NASA is closing down the agency's once-vaunted Constellation program. President Obama wants to cancel Constellation, but Congress has not agreed and says Constellation cannot be legally scrapped without its OK. That leaves NASA caught in a tug of war, putting the agency in the difficult position of trying to meet White House orders for a dramatic shift while pacifying lawmakers favoring the status quo.

As a result, engineers are building pieces of Constellation while at the same time NASA is turning off parts of the program that it never officially started with contracts. In recent weeks, the agency has pulled the plug on bidding to run ground operations for the program at Kennedy Space Center and decided not to award contracts for alternative designs of the Altair lander, which one day astronauts were to ride down to the moon's surface.

Nearly two weeks ago, it took another step, advising contractors that "there will be no further evaluation of their proposals nor will there be an award" to develop the first phase of the Ares V cargo lifter. But as NASA slows down in some areas of Constellation, it is pressing ahead in others. It is conducting studies for more test flights at KSC of the behind-schedule and over-budget Ares I rocket. Click here to view the article. (3/23)

South Africa Wants to be Regional Space Hub (Source: DefenceWeb)
Science & Technology minister Naledi Pandor says South Africa has ambitions to be a regional satellite launch hub and will re-activate apartheid-era ace rocket launch sites to fast-track a national space program. Pandor last week reportedly told the Sunday Times SA had two sites, the Overberg Test Range (OTB) outside Bredasdorp, and Houwteq near Grabouw. Pandor said the Houwteq site already had a "launch integration building" where a launch vehicle had been assembled by apartheid-era engineers. She said the facilities could be used to kick-start a space program that would focus on human development rather than on defense, the paper said. (3/23)

Can a Person Own the Moon? (Source: Mother Nature Network)
At times, it seems the super wealthy own the heavens. Now a wealthy video game developer has laid claim to just that. American entrepreneur and space aficionado Richard Garriott purchased the former Soviet Union's Luna 21 lander and the Lunokhod 2 rover for $68,000 at a Sotheby’s space auction in 1993. He is trying to determine if owning these devices on the moon entitles him to ownership of the property they rest on. Last week, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter located the Lunokhod 2, sitting clearly on the planet’s surface. It had originally landed on the moon’s surface in January 1973, and it was thought to have crashed into a lunar wall and left covered by moon dirt. Not so, according to the new images from NASA.

Editor's Note: This is a very gray area. If the laws of the high seas apply, this hardware might be treated like a sunken ship. Can the owner of the ship sell salvage rights to anyone, or does the ship become salvageable by anyone who is capable? (3/23)

UK Space Agency Launched in London (Source: Telegraph)
Britain's own space agency has been launched, represented by the Union Flag morphed into a soaring arrow. The UK Space Agency, as it is officially named, took off with the help of British astronaut Major Timothy Peake. But the accent at the launch in London was on the dry realities of economics rather than Dan Dare.

Lord Mandelson was on hand to keep proceedings firmly grounded, despite the Science Minister Lord Drayson confessing that he would "like to see human beings living on Mars". The Business Secretary said: ''I think it is important to remember that although it is cutting edge, this stuff is not sci-fi. It may start in space, but it comes down to Earth very quickly and is directly relevant to all our daily lives." Britain's mini-version of Nasa will take overall responsibility for UK space activities, replacing the soon-to-be defunct British National Space Centre (BNSC). (3/23)

Noted Physicist Jim Gates to Speak on Supergravity at Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
World-renowned physicist Dr. Jim Gates will deliver the ninth annual Elston Memorial Lecture at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on April 10. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Willie Miller Instructional Center at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus, 600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd.

In his lecture, titled “Supergravity: The Quest for Unification,” Gates will explain how the concept of a single, unifying theory describing the entire universe has determined much of the direction of modern physics, from electricity and magnets to the concept of supergravity. He is well known for his groundbreaking work in both supergravity and supersymmetry, areas that are closely related to string theory, and is the co-author of the book Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry, a standard text in the field. Click here for info. (3/23)

AIA Product Support Conference Planned in Clearwater on May 3-5 (Source: AIA)
The AIA product support conference is set for May 3-5 and examines the principal topics from the 2009 Product Support Assessment Report. Up for discussion are the current and future state of product support and strategies industry and government can adopt to meet the enduring product support needs of our warfighter. Click here for details. (3/23)

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