April 21, 2010

Senate Leaders Make Move for More NASA Money (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Senate leaders took a step toward saving a component of the back-to-the-moon program by adding $1 billion to NASA's proposed budget for continued testing of the heavy-lift rocket motor that would be used for deep-space exploration. Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. unveiled the Democrats' version, a resolution that would increase NASA's current $18.7 billion budget by 5.3 percent to provide uninterrupted testing of the Ares I-X rocket motor. The committee must debate and vote on the proposal before it goes to the Senate floor. (4/21)

Kosmas Bill Would Help Unemployed Space Workers Teach (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) on Monday moved to lessen the impact of the retirement of the space shuttle on the Florida workforce with a bill that would make it possible for space workers to teach science, math, engineering and technology to kids. Modeled on the successful Troops to Teachers program, the Space to Schools Act would encourage displaced aerospace professionals, including scientists, engineers, and technicians, to pursue careers as elementary, secondary, or vocational school teachers. The goal is to give former NASA workers the chance to inspire children with their first-hand experience in the space program.

The bill would provide eligible participants with up to $5,000 cash to be used towards obtaining a teaching license or certificate. Participants who commit to working in a high need school for at least three years will be eligible for a $5,000 bonus. An Advisory Board will be created under the direction of the Secretary of Education to collect, consider and disseminate feedback on the success of the program. (4/21)

Europe Keeping Increasingly Capable Eye on Orbital Debris (Source: Space News)
Germany’s five SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites in 2009 faced more than 800 close encounters with orbital junk or other operating satellites, including 32 passes at less than one kilometer from another SAR-Lupe spacecraft and one that required a collision-avoidance maneuver, the head of the new German Space Situational Awareness Center (GSSAC) said. The vulnerability of SAR-Lupe is one reason why the German army created the space-surveillance unit in Uedem, a facility that is expected to be expanded in the next three years as Germany and other nations in Europe create their own space-monitoring capability. (4/21)

Obama’s Space Program: More Conservative than Bush’s (Source: National Review)
America has never had a space policy more visionary or more friendly to private enterprise. I find the current debate over President Obama’s new space policy mind-bendingly ironic. We have a radical president bent on socializing and nationalizing everything from the auto industry to hospitals, but when he comes up with a policy that actually harnesses free enterprise, we hear from conservatives nothing but complaints. Robert Costa, like many, seems to continue to view the space program through Apollo-colored glasses, 40 years on.

There is no recognition in his or any other criticism of just what a programmatic disaster Constellation has become (I write “become,” but it has been this way since its inception five years ago — it only became clearly recognizable to most in the past year or so, its failure accentuated by the report of the Augustine panel last fall). Barack Obama was not responsible for that. As for Costa’s concern about the loss of jobs at Kennedy Space Center, he must be unaware that the shutdown of the space-shuttle program, with nothing to replace it immediately, was a Bush administration policy laid down more than six years ago. Never mind that the space program should not be a jobs program, although, unfortunately, it long ago became one. Where were the complaints then?

The reality is that Obama’s new space policy is more conservative than George W. Bush’s was, as I noted two-and-a-half months ago when the new budget was first released. Don’t take my word for it — ask Newt Gingrich or Bob Walker, or Dana Rohrabacher, conservatives who follow space policy closely and aren’t swept up in nostalgia for a Space Age that never really was, at least not in terms of making human spaceflight affordable or sustainable. (4/21)

Japanese Craft to Deliver Space Rock to Outback (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
A Japanese spacecraft will land in Australia in June, bringing with it samples from an asteroid found 300 million kilometers from Earth. The unmanned Hayabusa spacecraft, launched in May 2003, will become the first spacecraft to bring asteroid material to Earth when it lands in Woomera, South Australia, later this year. The spacecraft will land within the 130,000 square kilometer Woomera Prohibited Area, the largest land-based test range in the world. "Australia is proud to support Japan in this world-first expedition," Senator Carr said. (4/21)

NASA May Push Back Final Shuttle Mission (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is re-evaluating dates for the final two shuttle missions and could push the final one, which had been planned for mid-September, closer to the end of the year. A science instrument scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in July won't be ready on time, prompting the schedule changes. "We're still looking to finish out this calendar year, at the end of 2010," said Mike Moses, NASA's shuttle launch integration manager. It wasn't immediately clear how any flight delays would affect the shuttle workforce, which was anticipating thousands of layoffs around October under the original flight schedule. (4/21)

Alaska Spaceport Readies for Quick-Launch Capability (Source: Aviation Week)
The nation's northernmost spaceport is a state-of-the-art facility with a perfect 14-mission record and two more missions planned this year. The facility is ideal for polar launch operations, and is gearing up to establish a capability for launching satellites within 24 hours of mission go-ahead. Click here to see the video. (4/21)

Fox Article on NASA Plans Stokes Cold War Fears with False Experts (Source: Columbia Journalism Review)
Obama’s proposal marks a dramatic shift in the U.S. program for space exploration, worthy of debate. It’s unfortunate, then, but unfortunately not surprising, that some news outlets have turned questions of serious policy into political spaceballs. One week before Obama’s speech, a science reporter at FoxNews.com, who frequently provides a platform for climate change skeptics, zeroed in on long-standing plans to retire the deteriorating space shuttle this fall, a cost-saving (and perhaps life-saving) move that will force NASA to depend on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for transportation to and from the space station.

Citing “experts,” Fox’s Gene J. Koprowski endeavors to re-stoke Cold War fears, writing that the policy “could hold America’s astronauts in orbit hostage to the whims of the Kremlin.” To back up the claim, Koprowski quotes Jane Orient, described as a science policy expert and professor at the University of Arizona. “The U.S. has surrendered its advantage in space, conceding the high ground to others who are probably our enemies,” Orient is quoted as saying. “We are apparently leaving seven astronauts in space as hostages. Their loss would be a tragedy, but only a small part of the total disaster. It would symbolize the lack of respect that America has for its pioneers.”

First, a comment on sourcing: Orient is neither a science policy expert nor a professor at Arizona, although she has been a clinical lecturer in the university’s College of Medicine, according to the director of the public affairs office. She’s an internist and executive director of the fringe-conservative American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, who last appeared in the news filing suit against the recent health policy legislation. Click here to read the article. (4/21)

NASA Unveils World's Largest Airborne Observatory in California (Source: AIA)
An enormous German-made infrared telescope that would represent the world's largest airborne observatory was unveiled on Tuesday at a NASA hangar in Palmdale, Calif. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, features a 40,000-pound telescope mounted to the rear of a former Pan Am jetliner, a NASA Boeing 747, and the system is expected to capture its first infrared images in flight in six to eight weeks. (4/21)

Embry-Riddle President Supports Obama Space Vision (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
I was pleased to be at Cape Canaveral last week for President Barack Obama's speech outlining his vision for NASA and our nation's agenda for the future exploration of deep space. I welcomed his commitment to strengthening both NASA and the future of manned space exploration. Although not without controversy, his plan should be welcomed by all who want the U.S. to continue to lead the world in aerospace research and space exploration.

This is exciting stuff for Embry-Riddle and our students who are pursuing their dreams, including many who wish to join other ERAU alumni as astronauts. Our university is committed to expanding its involvement in space transportation and exploration programs in collaboration with NASA, the FAA, the Air Force, and industry leaders.

The challenges of President Obama's space plan will be tackled with an increase to NASA's budget of $6 billion over the next five years. Much of this money will find its way to Florida, where the space industry workforce will be hardest hit by the space shuttle's retirement. The president pledged that the new vision would generate at least 2,500 Central Florida jobs by 2012, and a $40 million multiagency initiative to help transform our local economy. Click here to read the editorial. (4/21)

Virginia: Spaceport Merits State Budget Support (Source: Times Dispatch)
Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell has been consistent in his vision to make Virginia's commercial spaceport the best in the nation, most notably with his recent budget amendment to increase the operations budget for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. The 2010 General Assembly would be wise to follow the governor's spaceport budget lead today in unflappable bipartisanship.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is now being readied for commercial space launches to haul supplies and cargo to the International Space Station beginning next year, following the aging space shuttle's retirement. The first launch of the yet-to-be-tested Taurus-2 booster with the Cygnus spacecraft will mark not only the beginning of a new era in Virginia but the dawn of the commercial space age in America.

Recently, Mike Gold, a representative from Bigelow Aerospace, visited Wallops Island and suggested that the Virginia spaceport is a prime candidate for launch of Atlas V boosters to private space stations enabling microgravity international commercial research in orbit. Without the unwavering state budget support of the spaceport in these austere times, the multibillion-dollar space launch business of Orbital Sciences Corp., and the would-be space business of Bigelow Aerospace would be most certainly lost to the now-hungry commercial spaceports of Florida. (4/21)

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