June 16, 2010

Editorial: Destinations in Rhetoric (Source: Space News)
Since releasing its fiscal year 2011 budget, the Obama Administration has muddied the water over the ultimate purpose for its proposed changes to NASA’s exploration program. The destination changes depending on the audience and the context in which Administration officials are speaking. The White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) budget documents were generally silent on the destinations associated with the administration’s revamped plan. But, at the budget rollout in February, NASA’s Administrator listed a range of destinations one could imagine reaching as a result of the administration’s budget.

Many in Congress did not look favorably on such an unfocused program. Perhaps they recalled any number of commissions, studies, and analytical reports that recommended giving NASA a focus. Perhaps they remembered the agency’s historical drift when its constituent parts pursued their own, separate interests (a drift the President criticized in 2008 as a candidate). Perhaps they had reflected on the years-long debates over destinations the country had already gone though and the efforts it took to build a bipartisan, bicameral political consensus around a focused destination which called for developing the moon as a stepping stone to Mars.

The Administrator attempted to put a finer point on the administration’s purposes during his Congressional testimony in March, asserting that Mars was the ultimate goal. But, his comments came largely in response to continued Congressional prodding and still were not reflected in the prepared budget material. As such, they had the feel of someone throwing out destinations in order to fend off pointed political attacks. It was not clear that they reflected anything more than the Administrator’s personal preference. (6/16)

NASTAR Parent Wins $38 Million for Air Force Altitude Chambers (Source: NASTAR)
Environmental Tectonics Corp. has won a $38 million Air Force contract to provide a suite of four altitude chambers for the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The chambers will support research activities to investigate and develop solutions for current and future DoD aviation and space operations, including physiological issues associated with exposure to medium and high altitudes in extreme environments, equipment development, qualification and human rating. The company's NASTAR subsidiary uses such chambers in coordination with a centrifuge and other equipment to train spaceflight participants. (6/16)

What's Wrong with the Sun? (Source: New Scientist)
Sunspots come and go, but recently they have mostly gone. For centuries, astronomers have recorded when these dark blemishes on the solar surface emerge, only for them to fade away again after a few days, weeks or months. Thanks to their efforts, we know that sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting about 11 years. But for the past two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged for nearly a hundred years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise.

The sun is under scrutiny as never before thanks to an armada of space telescopes. The results they beam back are portraying our nearest star, and its influence on Earth, in a new light. Sunspots and other clues indicate that the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing, and that the sun may even be shrinking. Together the results hint that something profound is happening inside the sun. The big question is what?

The stakes have never been higher. Groups of sunspots forewarn of gigantic solar storms that can unleash a billion times more energy than an atomic bomb. Fears that these giant solar eruptions could create havoc on EarthMovie Camera, and disputes over the sun's role in climate change, are adding urgency to these studies. When NASA and the European Space Agency launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory almost 15 years ago, "understanding the solar cycle was not one of its scientific objectives", says Bernhard Fleck, the mission's project scientist. "Now it is one of the key questions." (6/16)

WEBCAST: NASA’s New Direction, An Update from the Top (Source: CSA)
June 22, 2:30pm EDT. Limited free registrations. A new webcast from Space News Online Newsmaker Forum with NASA’s deputy administrator Lori Garver. With the recent report from the White House Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, sweeping changes are evident for NASA. A new path to the moon may mean choosing between a "moon first" and a "flexible path" of exploration. Join Space News deputy editor Brian Berger at your computer for a lively half-hour conversation with NASA’s second-in-command, deputy administrator Lori Garver as they discuss the policy, programs and politics defining the U.S. space agency’s bold new direction. As a webcast participant you will have the chance to submit questions before and during the FREE live event. You can also submit questions before the event by emailing them to wiresuggestion@spacenews.com. Click here for information and registration. (6/17)

Southern California Center Receives Secretary of Defense Environmental Award (Source: CSA)
The Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, California, has won the Sustainability – Industrial Installation Award. Each year since 1962, the Secretary of Defense has honored individuals, teams, and installations for their outstanding achievements to conserve and sustain the natural and cultural resources entrusted to the Department of Defense. Click here for more. (6/17)

Spotlight on Engineering (Source: EIC)
The Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), through its Entertainment and Media Communication Institute, has joined with the Boeing Company to launch the Ready on the S.E.T. and...ACTION! project, a nationwide initiative to elevate the importance of science, engineering and technology (S.E.T) in the eyes of the public in order to encourage future generations to pursue careers in these fields. Click here for more. (6/17)

CSA Works with NASA to Bring Space Exploration Learning to Remote Students (Source: NASA)
Last month, the distance between two continents was narrowed when space enthusiasts from the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa, participated in a rover exercise with NASA’s Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Although the two organizations are more than 10,000 miles and nine time zones apart, space enthusiasts in Cape Town were able to pilot the robotic rovers located in California via the Internet with only a joystick and a laptop. The rovers are in CSA's lunar regolith simulant testbed located at NASA Ames. Click here for more. (6/17)

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