July 23, 2010

NASA Spacecraft Camera Yields Best Mars Map Ever (Source: NASA)
A camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has helped develop the most accurate global Martian map ever. Researchers and the public can access the map via several websites and explore and survey the entire surface of the Red Planet. The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS, a multi-band infrared camera on Odyssey. Researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began eight years ago.

The pictures have been smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically controlled to make a giant mosaic. Users can pan around images and zoom into them. At full zoom, the smallest surface details are 330 feet wide. While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher resolution, this map provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet. The new map is available here. (7/23)

Pressure to Cut Military Spending Grows (Source: AIA)
The "first serious debate" on reductions in military spending since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is looming as the budget deficit grows, the war in Iraq winds down and President Barack Obama moves to fulfill his pledge to begin pulling troops from Afghanistan next year, write Thom Shanker and Christopher Drew. Democrats in Congress are moving more quickly in cutting the military budget for next year, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing for more efficiency from the Pentagon in its weapons programs in order to use the savings to maintain fighting forces. (7/23)

Honeywell Profit up 4%; 2010 View Surpasses Estimates (Source: MarketWatch)
Honeywell's second-quarter net income rose 4% as the industrial group cited traction in the global economic recovery and said its 2010 profit would beat Wall Street's expectations. Net sales increased 7.9% to $8.16 billion from $7.57 billion. For the full year, Honeywell expects $32.4 billion to $32.9 billion in sales, higher than the $32.27 billion forecast. (7/23)

SpaceTEC Partners Meet in Orlando (Source: SPACErePORT)
Partners from the dozen colleges and universities nationwide who make up the SpaceTEC consortium for aerospace technical training will meet on Monday in Orlando to discuss their continued development of a national certification program for space industry technicians. The concept is not unlike the A&P training certification that the FAA requires for technicians who service commercial aircraft. They believe a common training certification will do much to ensure the safety of the commercial spaceflight industry by reducing the likelihood of human error during the development and processing of vehicles and components.

SpaceTEC is based at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and has received support from the National Science Foundation as a Center of Excellence, and from the FAA, NASA, the Air Force and the Navy. The annual meeting of SpaceTEC partners is being held in conjunction with the HI-TEC conference in Orlando. Click here for more on SpaceTEC. (7/23)

California Reps Support White House Space Plan (Source: NASA Watch)
California House members sent a joint letter to Rep. Bart Gordon regarding NASA's FY 2011 budget: "The President's NASA budget replaces an over-budget and behind-schedule Constellation Program with a sustainable architecture that will take the Agency in a new direction enabling NASA to explore more of our universe. It offers a serious plan to reduce the cost of access to the International Space Station, without exporting that responsibility to other nations. We believe this new direction is good for the country and that California's NASA centers and those across the country can help take NASA to new and exciting destinations. We hope to work with you as you move this important legislation forward." Click here. (7/23)

What Will Inspire Tomorrow's Rocket Scientists? (Source: CNN)
Chris Ferguson remembers being 9 years old, watching astronaut Neil Armstrong take man's first steps on the moon on July 20, 1969. Like thousands in his American generation, Ferguson dreamed in his childhood of becoming an astronaut. "I was very interested in the space program," Ferguson. "It was something that gripped the world, something that all of the world was talking about." And unlike all but a very, very few in his generation, he realized his childhood goal.

Teresa Gomez, assistant manager for NASA's Astronaut Selection Office, said that most applicants who make it to the interview rounds have been grooming themselves their entire lives for the job. And many number-crunchers and rocket builders in the space exploration field also say they were space junkies in their younger years.

In addition to fretting about funding and jobs, space workers wonder if the government is losing an initiative that engages the next generation of engineers and mathematicians. "If we aren't doing things that inspire them, we'll suffer from the creative standpoint," he said. (7/23)

Which "Compromise" Will Prevail? (Source: NASA Watch)
There may come a point where the White House says that they cannot support this "compromise". It all seems to hinge on whether the "compromise" that the White House got with the Senate prevails over the "compromise" that the House wants - one that the White House has been silent about thus far. Either way, Congress has thrown the original White House proposal back in OMB/OSTP's face in a form that more or less brings Constellation back to life (minus the name) albeit without Ares 1 or Altair. Ares V simply has a new name. And the commerical aspirations inherent in the White House plans? They are reduced (depending on which "compromise" you look at) to the point of being window dressing - if not outright irrelevant. (7/22)

Boeing, Bigelow Team Up on Commercial Space Endeavors (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Boeing executives pulled back the curtain on their concept for a commercial human space capsule this week at the Farnborough International Airshow, saying the CST-100 spacecraft could be ready for operational space station flights by 2015 if NASA awards contract money next year.

The aerospace giant is teaming with Bigelow Aerospace to develop a market for commercial human space transportation. Boeing's CST-100 capsule could service Bigelow's planned private space stations, but NASA's commitment to commercial crew initiatives "closes the business case" for the transport system, said a Boeing official. (7/22)

Honeywell Says It Has Identified Satellite Component Issue (Source: Space News)
Honeywell Aerospace has isolated the cause of a suspected defect in its reaction-wheel assemblies that has delayed the launch of two satellites and has proposed to customers a straightforward fix, a Honeywell official said. The defect is a contaminant in a shipment of specialty grease supplied to Honeywell for use with ball bearings that are part of the reaction wheel assembly systems. (7/23)

Bills to Save Manned Spaceflight, Utah ATK Jobs Progress (Source: Deseret News)
The new House and Senate bills for NASA have given Utah's congressional delegation optimism that the Beehive State can remain on the forefront of solid rocket motor construction. Utah-based ATK Aerospace Systems builds such rocket motors, which have propelled space shuttles skyward for decades.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's approval of solid rocket motors means that NASA's new launch vehicle will be produced in Utah, potentially protecting thousands of jobs that were expected to be lost with the impending retirement of the space shuttle, said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, in a news release. (7/23)

KSC Bid for Orbiter Hits Snag in House (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center's pitch for a retired shuttle orbiter ran into turbulence Thursday. Communities with a "historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations or processing" of shuttles shouldn't have an edge in the competition to get one of the retired orbiters for use as an educational or tourist attraction, the House science committee decided. It voted 18-14 to remove the language from legislation on NASA policy for 2011. The language was seen as giving Florida and Texas -- home to Kennedy Space Center and Houston's Johnson Space Center, respectively -- an advantage over other communities. (7/23)

Ohio Museum Could Still Land Space Shuttle (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Two Ohio congressional Democrats on Thursday blocked a plan that would have likely sent two of the retired space shuttles to Florida or Texas. The amendment was crucial to Dayton officials who hope to permanently display one of the retired shuttles at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson. Dayton's Air Force museum is one of 21 institutions vying for the three shuttles. (The Air Force museum would prefer an "operational" shuttle, meaning not Enterprise.). (7/23)

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