May 12, 2010

New Hole In Space Spotted By Herschel Telescope (Source: Huffington Post)
The Herschel telescope has discovered what the European Space Agency describes as a "hole" in space. Herschel's imagery revealed details about the spot, which indicates that it is actually a hole that "has been blown in the side of NGC 1999 by the jets and winds of gas from the young stellar objects in this region of space," according to the ESA.

The discovery offers new insight into how starts are formed. "No one has ever seen a hole like this," said a member of the study team, Tom Megeath, of the University of Toledo in Ohio. "It's as surprising as knowing you have worms tunneling under your lawn, but finding one morning that they have created a huge, yawning pit." Click here to read the article. (5/12)

Changing Congress Could Shift NASA Fortunes (Sources: Space Politics, NASA Watch)
The chair of the House appropriations subcommittee with oversight of NASA’s budget lost his reelection bid on Tuesday. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) lost in the Democratic primary to Mike Oliverio, a state senator, 56 to 44 percent. Oliverio capitalized on ethics problems Mollohan had faced, although the congressman was never charged with any wrongdoing. Mollohan serves as chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. In a March hearing by his subcommittee on the NASA FY11 budget proposal, Mollohan appeared to be generally supportive of it.

Meanwhile, other influential members are also leaving the House and Senate, including Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT). Both of these elected officials have had considerable influence over NASA programs. Mollohan and Obey are both appropriators who oversee NASA's budget. (5/12)

NASA Planning Robotic Landing In 2014 (Source: Aviation Week)
Managers at NASA headquarters are “pursuing” a robotic landing on the Moon or “other planetary body” within about four years to test precision landing and perhaps other technologies that will be needed to enable deep space exploration under the Obama administration’s emerging space policy. Before that, they will use vehicles developed for the Centennial Challenges lunar lander contest as flying testbeds for the technology, according to the official in charge of the effort. (5/12)

Rebounding Economy Boosts Orbcomm’s Fortunes (Source: Space News)
Satellite two-way messaging service provider Orbcomm said its core markets of commercial truck fleets and heavy-equipment vehicles are rebounding with the broader economy and that its new maritime vessel-identification and tracking service — which the company views as a major growth opportunity — is also gaining traction. The company, which operates a constellation of 29 satellites, said it has sufficient cash on hand to fund the construction and launch of its 18 second-generation satellites, to be placed into low Earth orbit starting in early 2011. (5/12)

Tampa-Area Company Planning Space-Themed Attraction Near KSC (Source: WFTS)
Joe Palaia dreams big. "I want to be part of opening up the future," Palaia said. "My dream is to settle the Red Planet in my lifetime." Palaia is an engineer with a degree from Harvard. But instead of working with a private company after school, he joined other engineers in their own. The company is called 4Frontiers and is based in New Port Richey. The company's goal is simple: to one day settle Mars.

When Palaia talks about the endeavor, he describes cities and neighborhoods on Mars, comparing it to the settlement of the West. "You're going to see the development of mining towns, other outposts, the development of trade, people going back and forth and people settling there," Palaia said.

4Frontiers needs money to support the research they need to jump the remaining hurdles standing in the way of Mars colonization. To get that money, 4Frontiers plans to open a space-based theme park in Titusville called 'Inter-Space.' They will break ground on the theme park later this year and hope to open in 2012. Click here to read the article. (5/12)

'Zombie' Satellite Threatens Cable Programming (Source: Huffington Post)
A TV communications satellite is drifting out of control thousands of miles above the Earth, threatening to wander into another satellite's orbit and interfere with cable programming across the United States, the satellites' owners said. Intelsat said it lost control of the Galaxy 15 satellite on April 5, possibly because the satellite's systems were knocked out by a solar storm. Intelsat cannot remotely steer the satellite to remain in its orbit, so Galaxy 15 is creeping toward the adjacent path of another TV communications satellite that serves U.S. cable companies.

Galaxy 15 continues to receive and transmit satellite signals, and they will probably overlap and interfere with signals from the second satellite, known as AMC 11, if Galaxy 15 drifts into its orbit as expected around May 23, according to the two satellite companies. (5/12)

Decline Is Seen in NASA’s Research Side (Source: New York Times)
The decline of basic research at NASA jeopardizes the agency’s ability to study and explore the cosmos, a review panel of scientists and engineers said. The findings could bolster the arguments of the Obama administration that NASA’s current effort to send astronauts back to the Moon is too expensive and is siphoning too much money from other programs. The president’s $19 billion budget for NASA would focus on the development of technologies intended to achieve a cheaper, more sustainable approach for sending people into space. (5/12)

Contractors Face Shutdown Costs as NASA Space Program Morphs (Source: Wall Street Journal)
If the Obama administration gets its way in revamping U.S. manned space-exploration efforts, two of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's largest contractors could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in program-shutdown costs.

Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems are waging a behind-the-scenes dispute with NASA's leadership over who will cover possibly more than $1 billion in such expenses. The controversy has raised the financial and political stakes over NASA's direction, with the Senate Commerce Committee expected on Wednesday to delve into thorny termination-liability issues. (5/12)

NASA Chief Defends Obama’s Space Plan at MIT (Source: MIT)
In a lecture on Monday at MIT, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. defended President Obama’s controversial plans for the agency’s future and touted the president’s plan to invest billions of dollars in basic science research. Some in Congress have criticized Obama’s proposal to cancel the Constellation program, which would have sent humans to the moon by 2020, saying such a move will effectively cede U.S. space leadership to other nations.

But Bolden noted that the White House’s plan would also invest an additional $6 billion in NASA over the next five years, including a 60-percent increase in earth sciences research funding, as well as a 20-percent increase in planetary sciences research. Such an expansion could revitalize NASA’s ties with institutions like MIT, which has played an instrumental role in the agency since NASA was founded in 1958. (5/12)

NASA Panel Rejects Extending WISE Infrared Telescope Mission (Source: Space News)
A NASA advisory panel is recommending that the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission end in October as originally planned instead of continuing to search for comets, asteroids and stars during a three month extended phase. NASA’s 2010 Astrophysics Senior Review Committee said there was not adequate scientific justification to continue the mission once the spacecraft depletes its supply of hydrogen used to cool the onboard telescope and detectors. (5/12)

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