July 1, 2010

Aircraft Makers, NASA Take Another Look at Supersonic Jets (Source: WIRED)
NASA has released artists' concepts of what next-generation supersonic aircraft might look like. Boeing and Lockheed Martin submitted designs intended to reduce or eliminate the sonic boom that prevented the Concorde from making supersonic flights across the U.S. The goal is to allow supersonic planes to "fly over populated areas without bothering the people below." Click here to see the artist renderings. (7/1)

SpaceCenter Houston's Rocket Park Fills In A Missing Piece (Source: Houston Press)
​Last week, with little fanfare, a truck rolled up to the Johnson Space Center with a unique cargo. It was a replica of a Gemini-Titan rocket with capsule, and it means SpaceCenter's Rocket Park will fill in a missing piece of JSC history. JSC had been missing a Gemini-Titan, the rocket used for 10 manned pre-Apollo missions, some of them the most thrilling of the 1960s.

JSC was able to get the rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida because they came across a better version, including parts that were headed to the scrapyard. They had taken down their Gemini-Titan for refurbishing, but instead sent it on to Texas. (7/1)

Editorial: The End of the Apollo Era – Finally? (Source: Space News)
Sending 12 astronauts to the lunar surface was a great achievement and will forever be a proud part of American history. But in my judgment, while Apollo’s impacts on subsequent U.S. human spaceflight activities have been lasting, they have been on balance negative. The reasons why are relevant to the current heated space debate. I interpret the new space strategy set out by the White House Feb. 1 to be at its foundation a proposal to move from the 20th century, Apollo-era approach to human spaceflight to a new approach consistent with 21st century national and international realities and future exploration and other strategic space objectives. It is not surprising that those with positive memories of Apollo and with vested interests in continuing the space status quo have been so strong in their opposition to the new approach; they are defending a space effort that to date has served them well.

These critics have been met with a — literally — incoherent defense of the new strategy by its advocates inside and outside of the government. U.S. President Barack Obama confused the situation even further in his April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center. The result has been a polarized debate unprecedented in my more than four decades of close observation of space policymaking. I am an optimist by nature, and so I hope that we will see emerging over this summer an approach that accepts the main tenets of the new strategy and allows NASA to start implementing them. But that outcome is far from assured, and the alternative is distressing to contemplate.

Apollo was aimed at beating the Russians to the Moon; it was not propelled by a long-term vision of space exploration... Pursuing an “Apollo on steroids” approach to the Constellation program was an understandable sequel to those programs, once again trying to employ the heritage left by Apollo. But this, like the hardware developed for Apollo and then abandoned, is ultimately a dead-end approach. (7/1)

Zero-G Responds to OIG Report (Source: NASA Watch)
"It is important to note that the report highlights that the cost-effectiveness of maintaining the operations-ready status of the C-9 and currency of its crew has never been assessed. Since the primary threat to ZERO-G's service continuity to NASA is its own insufficient demand, NASA may be a contributor to this risk and should assess the benefit of continuing to invest in the C-9 versus restructuring the current contract with ZERO-G. To date, ZERO-G has invested over $1.5 million to improve its baseline commercial capability to meet NASA's requirements. Total net revenue from the past two years has not allowed ZERO-G to recoup its initial investment." (7/1)

NASA Updates Shuttle Target Launch Dates For Final Two Flights (Source: NASA)
NASA is targeting approximately 4:33 p.m. EDT on Nov. 1 for the launch of space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission and 4:19 p.m. EST on Feb. 26, 2011, for the liftoff of shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The target dates were adjusted because critical payload hardware for STS-133 will not be ready in time to support the previously planned Sept. 16 launch. With STS-133 moving to November, STS-134 cannot fly as planned, so the next available launch window is in February 2011. (7/1)

Robert Cabana: KSC's Future Looks Bright (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is prepared to aggressively execute President Obama's plan to develop commercial space taxis and turn Kennedy Space Center into a 21st-century spaceport, officials said Wednesday. Contracts to develop private-sector spaceships could be issued as early as next summer, and U.S. astronauts could be flying them on round trips to the International Space Station by 2014 or 2015. Center Director Robert Cabana noted that the plan calls for fundamental changes at KSC. After 50 years, NASA would relinquish to commercial companies the responsibility for designing, developing and operating the spacecraft flown by U.S. astronauts.

But Cabana, a former shuttle pilot and mission commander, said the KSC work force is up to the job. "I know this transition is going to be hard. It's going to be extremely difficult, and it's going to be sad. But we will get through it, and we will have a good future once we get there," Cabana said. (7/1)

GOP Members Use Classic Democrat Arguments to Defend NASA Spending in Their Districts (Source: Daily Caller)
In response to the Obama administration’s decision to end a space exploration program intended to send humans back to the Moon and to Mars, Alabama Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt introduced a bill this week urging the president and NASA to keep the program afloat. President Obama eliminated the budget for NASA’s Constellation Program in February, calling the multi-billion dollar initiative “over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation.” With Aderholt leading the charge, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have come out in opposition to the president’s decision, arguing that ending the program will cost American jobs.

“President Obama has been saying for years that the goal of his administration is to save or create American jobs,” Aderholt wrote in an op-ed Wednesday defending his bill. “With the president’s new proposal for NASA, he is doing just the opposite.” Not everyone is buying his line of reasoning. According to Tad DeHaven, budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, Aderholt is making the same argument that Obama made in defense of the stimulus, a massive spending bill passed earlier this year. Many of the Republican co-sponsors were critical of the president’s suggestion that the government should spend to create jobs, and now they are adopting the same tactic to defend their own program, DeHaven said. “That’s a slam dunk example of hypocrisy,” DeHaven said. (7/1)

NASA Boosts Efforts to Spot Earth-Smashing Asteroids (Source: AOL News)
Killer asteroids, beware. NASA is watching. Astronomers have long worried that a large space rock would remain undetected until it was about to smash into Earth, in what might be called the "Armageddon" scenario. In that 1998 blockbuster starring Bruce Willis, the rock in question is described as "the size of Texas." The truth is that even a boulder measuring 200 feet across -- as wide as a soccer field -- could kill thousands. Now, however, the odds of an apocalypse-by-asteroid are shrinking. The effort to find and study space rocks is entering a golden age, and that effort could grow even more if the Obama administration has its way. (7/1)

Canadians Soar No More (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
I did an access to information request asking the Canadian Space Agency for any information it has about how the loss of Constellation will affect Canada, and Canadian astronauts. After all, we just hired two new ones, and Canadians have usually ridden along with NASA. The CSA has only issued a "media line" (pre-packaged statement approved by the minister's office) that "the Canadian Space Agency has been a strong partner with NASA and will continue its productive collaboration."

Huh? That's dodging an important question. Papers released under my access request show the CSA did try to say a bit more -- for instance, that it's encouraged by Obama's renewed spending on Earth observation, a Canadian strength. But Industry Canada formally refused permission to CSA president Steve MacLean to say even this much. It's a pretty classic muzzling, once again, of government science by the political masters. (7/1)

Progress Cargo Craft to be Dumped into Pacific Ocean (Source: Itar-Tass)
A Progress cargo craft that has spent about a month-and-a-half on the earth orbit as a scientific laboratory will be on Thursday dumped into a special dump section of the Pacific Ocean, Russian Mission Control Centre’s spokesman Valery Lyndin said on Thursday. He said at 17:53 the craft will begin deorbiting, and 47 minutes later its unburnt sections will reach the ocean. (7/1)

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