March 7, 2010

President Obama Plans Space Summit in Florida (Source: Florida Today)
President Obama will visit Florida on April 15 to discuss the country's future in space exploration, the White House announced Saturday. The president, top government officials and other space leaders will discuss the course the White House is charting for NASA and human spaceflight. The conference will come as Congress weighs the White House's 2011 budget proposal, which has been criticized for shutting down the Constellation program that was to replace the soon-to-retire shuttles.

Specific participants of the conference and the location weren't announced, though Sen. Bill Nelson said he assumed it would happen at or near Kennedy Space Center. Nelson said the conference is an opportunity for Obama to definitively set a Mars landing as a goal and to establish a timetable to develop a powerful new rocket capable of making flights to Mars or elsewhere beyond low Earth orbit.

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, referring to a campaign stop Obama made to the Space Coast, said the president should simply honor his commitment to Brevard County. U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, said. "I am hopeful that he will articulate a clear vision for protecting the Space Coast's highly skilled work force and for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration." (3/7)

Florida, Alaska, New Mexico Join California's Space Week Events in Washington (Source: SPACErePORT)
California Space Week will begin on Mar. 8 in the capitol offices of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this year's event will include participation from other space states, including Florida, New Mexico and Alaska. Participants will meet privately with key executive branch officials from agencies including the White House, Department of State, NASA, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, and Department of Commerce, followed by a Capitol Hill reception. (3/7)

Obama Summit Conflicts with Space Symposium (Source: Space Politics)
President Obama's space summit could cause some angst in Colorado Springs, home of the Space Foundation. April 15 happens to be the last day of the National Space Symposium, one of the major annual space conferences in the US. A competing space event with a presidential imprimatur, depending on the specifics of that event, could wreak havoc on attendance and the conference’s agenda. For example, NASA administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to speak on the afternoon of the 15th according to the latest agenda; that seems unlikely if there’s a space conference featuring the president in Florida at the same time. Editor's Note: Perhaps the Space Foundation can simulcast President Obama's event for viewers in Colorado. (3/7)

Four Experts Discuss Future of Space (Source: Florida Today)
A former astronaut (Winston Scott), a former congressman (Dave Weldon), a union representative (Daniel Raymond) and a space consultant (Marsh Heard) all seem to agree about President Barack Obama's proposed space budget. They see it as a leap backward that could relinquish leadership in space to other nations such as Russia and China, and put too much faith in companies far from ready to deliver safe rides on low-orbit missions. The four space experts take the stage Tuesday at Brevard Community College's Cocoa campus to discuss the federal budget's potential impact on the Space Coast and the nation.

The event will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bernard Simpkins Fine Arts Center at Brevard Community College's Cocoa campus, 1519 Clearlake Road. The public is encouraged to attend. The forum will be streamed live on and will be taped and aired several times on WBCC-TV. (3/7)

First Contact: The Man Who'll Welcome Aliens (Source: Guardian)
If we are ever contacted by aliens, the man I'm having lunch with will be one of the first humans to know. His name is Paul Davies and he's chair of the Seti (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Post-Detection Task Group. They're a group of the world's most eminent scientists and will be, come the big day, the planet's alien welcome committee. His is an awesome responsibility, and one he doesn't take lightly. Click here to view the article. (3/7)

Editorial: Will KSC Become Another McCoy Air Force Base? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Few people notice the old B-52 on display behind the trees at the entrance to Orlando International Airport, nor do they understand why MCO is the airport's three-letter code. The reason is because Orlando International was formerly McCoy Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command bomber base. In 1975, McCoy transitioned into a civilian airport and has since become one of the busiest and most efficient airports in the world. With his decision to invest billions to turn KSC into a 21st Century Launch Facility, and to expand NASA's reliance on commercial launch services, President Obama may have set in motion a similar long-term transition at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Of course, Central Floridians back in 1975 were probably terrified about the economic impacts when the 306th Bombardment Wing removed its B-52 aircraft from the base. But who today would argue that the transition wasn't a good idea in the long term? Also, the military mission at Orlando International never fully disappeared. The west side of the airport continued to host military activities decades after McCoy changed hands. What's missing in Obama's current pan is a near-term heavy-lift rocket program that allows NASA to advance our nation's leadership in space exploration beyond low Earth orbit. (3/7)

Its Space Jobs in Jeopardy, Alabama Comes A-Courtin' to Mikulski (Source: Baltimore Sun)
What the Maryland senator thinks about NASA's new space plan might well affect hundreds of aerospace firms from Florida to Utah that feed off the NASA program, including more than two dozen companies in northern Alabama, where NASA's new moon rocket is being developed. "She's incredibly important," said Shar Hendrick, a leader of Huntsville's aerospace community and former congressional liaison at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center there. "We're looking for signs."

Mikulski's carefully worded reaction to Obama's proposed new direction for America's space program may point the way to a compromise that preserves portions of the program under different names. Then again, maybe not. Few communities are fighting harder to keep the money flowing than Huntsville. And Mikulski's campaign fundraising shows that the ties between Huntsville and the Maryland senator are stronger than might be expected. Mikulski says that her positions on the space program, like other issues, are decided on the merits and are not influenced by campaign contributions.

According to FEC records, more than three-quarters of the Alabamians who gave to Mikulski's 2010 re-election last fall have also given to Sen. Richard Shelby and include some of his biggest donors. Like Mikulski, Shelby, 75, is renowned for delivering federal money to constituents. As the senior Republican on Mikulski's committee, he works to protect the NASA center in Huntsville the way Mikulski uses her clout on behalf of the Goddard Space Flight Center, which is in line for a budget increase under Obama's plan. (3/7)

Alabama Tries to Influence Mikulski with Campaign Cash (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski's coffers are swelling with Huntsville-area cash. Only days after the Augustine Panel gave Congress its report, Alabama leaders were able to convey their concerns directly to Mikulski. She was the guest of honor at a Huntsville fundraising breakfast for her 2010 re-election campaign. People with knowledge of the fundraiser say that one of Alabama's most powerful politicians, Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby, worked behind the scenes to make sure the event was a success, which would be an extremely unusual example of fundraising cooperation across party lines.

Tom Young, who served as Shelby's top Senate aide for a dozen years, was one of the leaders in arranging the event, according to several of those involved, including former Rep. "Bud" Cramer, one of the hosts, who introduced Mikulski to the audience. Young, president of Kord Technologies, a NASA contractor in Huntsville and a member of a local task force now lobbying Congress to keep the rocket program alive, declined to discuss his involvement. He terminated a phone interview by saying he didn't feel comfortable talking to a reporter.

The Huntsville metro area ranks fourth, after Baltimore, Washington and New York, as a source of contributions for Mikulski's re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Overall, Alabamians have given more money to Mikulski's 2010 campaign than residents of any state except Maryland, according to the Center. The mutually advantageous working relationship between Mikulski and Shelby appears to have deepened over the past five years, when they've held the top posts on their appropriations subcommittee. (3/7)

Shelby's NASA: Northern Alabama Space Administration (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Though he began his career as a Democrat, switching parties in 1994, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby has come under attack for what Democrats portray as extreme partisanship. He tied up the Senate to highlight his concern over parochial interests - funding for an Air Force jet contract and a counterterrorism center in his home state - by single-handedly blocking confirmation of more than 70 Obama nominees.

His work with Mikulski represents a very different dynamic, one that seldom makes the news: a nonpartisan devotion to spending federal dollars. From the Alabama space community, Mikulski received $14,400 from Francisco J. Collazo of COLSA Corp., a contractor on NASA's moon rocket program, and five members of his family, FEC records show. Collazo has also contributed more than $400,000 to Shelby campaigns and committees over the years. Shelby reportedly has steered at least $50 million in government earmarks to COLSA.

Four members of the 25-member Huntsville task force personally directed $7,300 in contributions to Mikulski's re-election. Three others work for aerospace contractors that have given $14,000 through their political action committees, records show. Of the $1.5 million that Mikulski collected in 2009, according to FEC records, at least $88,610 came from Huntsville-area donors in the last four months of the year. Most, if not all, who gave owned or were employed by NASA contractors or relied on the space agency for business. Her latest Dixie haul was considerably larger, however. Almost twice as much Alabama money flowed into her campaign in the final months of 2009 than in the previous 18 years combined, according to Center for Responsive Politics and FEC data. (3/7)

Leak Stops India's Long-Duration Test of Heavy-Lift Rocket Engine (Source: Brahmand)
The long-duration static test of liquid core stage (L110) for a new-generation heavy rocket being developed by Indian Space Research Organization has failed, sources in the space agency said. The test conducted at ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) was originally targeted for 200 seconds but aborted at around 150 seconds following "some minor leakage in the command system", the sources said. They termed it as a "very minor problem" wherein there was a small leak in the command line that was detected by computer, which automatically stopped the test. "There is absolutely no problem in the engine". (3/7)

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