May 27, 2010

FAA Awards More Than $4 Billion in NextGen Contracts (Source: AIA)
The FAA on Wednesday announced one of its largest-ever contract awards, earmarking up to $4.4 billion for early-stage implementation of the NextGen air traffic control system. The 10-year contracts with Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp. and ITT Corp. include large-scale demonstration projects to show how GPS navigation will be integrated with the current radar-based system, plus advanced weather imaging technology for pilots and controllers. (5/27)

Shuttle Atlantis Back on Earth After Final Space Voyage (Source: AIA)
Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) May 26, 2010 - The shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth Wednesday from the final space flight of its 25-year career, marking the beginning of a bittersweet end for NASA's storied space shuttle program. Shuttle commander Ken Ham touched the spacecraft down at 8:48 am (1248 GMT), completing a flawless landing on the runway at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. (5/27)

Editorial: Gates Must Win Battle to Curb Pentagon Spending (Source: AIA)
It is essential that Defense Secretary Robert Gates succeed in his battle to reduce Pentagon spending, according to this editorial. Gates isn't looking for radical change, but he faces big challenges in Congress, illustrated by the House Armed Services Committee vote just this month to approve funding for a second F-35 fighter engine that the Pentagon says it doesn't need and can't afford. (5/27)

Official: Export Control Reform Needed to Keep U.S. Space Industry Competitive (Source: AIA)
While the U.S. has long been the dominant force in the space industry, European and Asian firms threaten to overtake it, and as their technology advances, the U.S. will become less competitive, said the Pentagon's industrial policy chief at a recent forum. Export control to allow U.S. firms to more easily sell products abroad is needed to help boost the U.S. industry, said Brett Lambert. (5/27)

Delta Launch Delays Push Falcon-9 Mission Back (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX says the delay of the Delta IV GPS satellite launch has taken up a lot of resources at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and in turn pushed the first test launch of Falcon 9 from May 28/29 to no earlier than June 2/3. (5/27)

NASA Spacecraft Penetrates Mysteries of Martian Ice Cap (Source: NASA)
Data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have helped scientists solve a pair of mysteries dating back four decades and provided new information about climate change on the Red Planet. The Shallow Radar, or SHARAD, instrument aboard MRO revealed subsurface geology allowing scientists to reconstruct the formation of a large chasm and a series of spiral troughs on the northern ice cap of Mars.

On Earth, large ice sheets are shaped mainly by ice flow. According to this latest research, other forces have shaped, and continue to shape, polar ice caps on Mars. The northern ice cap is a stack of ice and dust layers up to two miles deep, covering an area slightly larger than Texas. Analyzing radar data on a computer, scientists can peel back the layers like an onion to reveal how the ice cap evolved over time.

Data from Mars now points to both the canyon and spiral troughs being created and shaped primarily by wind. Rather than being cut into existing ice very recently, the features formed over millions of years as the ice sheet grew. By influencing wind patterns, the shape of underlying, older ice controlled where and how the features grew. (5/27)

Congressional Hearings Are Orchestrated Ambushes for Bolden (Source: NASA Watch)
It is becoming increasingly apparent that every hearing on the topic of President Obama's space policy - especially when Charlie Bolden is in the hot seat - is designed to be an ambush announced in advance. The witness panel is usually stacked numerically with opponents. In this case this hearing is a blatant attempt to pick up the food fight where it left off last week on the other side of the Hill. Since it is fair game to repeatedly have Apollo astronauts testify who are publicly against the plan, why not have a few Apollo vets testify who are publicly for it - like Buzz Aldrin and Rusty Schweickart?

And by the way, with all due respect for the accomplishments of all of these who have or will testify, but when is Congress going to call upon people to testify who will actually spend their future career living and working in the space program that is being discussed? Why is it that we only seem to hear from 60-,70-, 80-year olds talking about someone else's future? (5/25)

Hanley Rallies Constellation Backers Within NASA (Source: NASA Watch)
Members of the Constellation community are saying that they have been told that contract termination letters for Constellation work will be sent out on/around 1 June. Moreover, Jeff Hanley has reportedly been telling his troops not to worry about these contract-related letters since the "Plan B" sorts of work that he has been directing them to do (with Mike Coats' and Charlie Bolden's backing) are really to set the stage for things that "the next Administration" will be doing. Stay tuned. (5/26)

Nelson Begins Formal Push for Additional Shuttle Flight (Source: NASA Watch)
"As we begin work on the NASA reauthorization bill for fiscal year 2011, I write to inform you of my intention to include language authorizing an additional space shuttle flight... this new mission. STS-135, would be flown with a minimum crew of four astronauts and would provide critical spare parts and logistics for long-term ISS operations" (5/26)

NASA Vision Gets Another Battering (Source: MSNBC)
For the second time this month, NASA's chief faced tough talk on Capitol Hill from lawmakers - as well as from Apollo moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, plus longtime aerospace executive Tom Young. Both astronauts told members of Congress that returning humans to the moon was not only desirable, but necessary for future exploration - even though NASA says it's no longer a priority. "By now you probably have figured out that this committee is not with you," Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., told Bolden. The administrator said he was getting that message.

The main themes of the criticism are that NASA should keep going with the Constellation program and not rely on buying launch services from commercial providers. Constellation calls for the development of new NASA rockets, starting with the solid-fueled Ares 1, to service the International Space Station and eventually return to the moon.

The White House's budget proposal calls for the cancellation of Constellation, while going ahead with the development of some of the hardware, such as a scaled-down Orion crew capsule for emergency rescue and a heavy-lift rocket for trips beyond Earthorbit. The Obama administration sided with an independent panel's report concluding that the original Constellation budget and timeline were wildly unrealistic. (5/26)

NASA Ousts Outspoken Constellation Chief (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA ousted the outspoken head of its Constellation moon program on Wednesday, prompting an immediate protest from congressional lawmakers who again accused the White House of taking steps to kill the project. Word that Constellation Manager Jeff Hanley was moved to a deputy position at Johnson Space Center reached Congress just as the House science committee was meeting with NASA chief Charlie Bolden to debate White House plans to replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets.

Bolden had little response at the hearing, but said afterward that Hanley lost his job because he was “conflicted” and had become a lightning rod for controversy. For example, one day after president Barack Obama visited Kennedy Space Center to lay out his reasons for canceling Constellation, Hanley told his team to pour all its efforts into designing a test launch program for Constellation’s Ares I rocket. (5/26)

Race is On for Museums to Host Retired Space Shuttles (Source: AFP)
US museums are wasting no time in jostling to showcase the three retiring space shuttles after Atlantis touched down on Earth this week, capping the last scheduled mission of its 25-year career. "No doubt the competition is fierce," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. His institution is among some 21 others competing to preserve and exhibit the Atlantis, Discovery or Endeavour space shuttles. (5/27)

Why NASA Keeps A Close Eye On Sun's Irradiance (Source: Space Daily)
For more than two centuries, scientists have wondered how much heat and light the sun expels, and whether this energy varies enough to change Earth's climate. In the absence of a good method for measuring the sun's output, the scientific conversation was often heavy with speculation. (5/27)

No comments: