July 26, 2010

GAO: NASA's Constellation Plans Didn't Violate Law (Source: Florida Today)
NASA has not violated federal law or congressional guidance by taking actions to prematurely shut down the Constellation program, according to a legal opinion released today by the government's watchdog agency. NASA is spending as much money as ever on the human spaceflight program that President Obama wants to cancel, Government Accountability Office attorneys found. And its assertion that contractors must set aside money to pay for the potential termination of contracts -- a cost recently estimated at nearly $1 billion -- does not violate federal law. (7/26)

Iran Has Human Spaceflight Ambitions (Source: BBC)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told state media outlets that the Islamic Republic intends to put a man into space by 2019, the BBC News reports. "Mr Ahmadinejad said he had brought the date forward in response to pressure from Western powers over Iran's nuclear program." Iran has demonstrated a space launch capability and claims to have placed small animals into orbit, but astronauts are a different story. Then again, Amadinejad apparently didn't say anything about bringing them home safely. (7/26)

Organizations Respond to Proposed Conflict-of-Interest Rules (Source: AIA)
Organizations affected by new draft rules from the Defense Department that govern organizational conflicts of interest say the rules have various flaws. The Council of Defense and Space Industry Associations believes the rules are too broad and lay the burden of identifying conflict on contractors, while TASC, the systems engineering firm that Northrop Grumman divested last year because of concerns about conflict of interest, says the rules should be more strict. (7/26)

GPS Infrastructure to be Complete by 2012, ITT Says (Source: AIA)
The firm responsible for building out a GPS-based aircraft tracking system says the infrastructure will be in place by 2012, though individual airplanes may not be plugged into the system until 2020. "The roll-out of the system and the capability which ITT Corporation is responsible for will occur between now and early 2012," ITT senior vice president David Melcher said at last week's Farnborough International Airshow. (7/26)

Rep. Gordon Takes One Last Crack At Molding NASA’s Future (Source: WPLN)
Lawmakers are saying “no” to President Obama’s plans for NASA and the future of human space flight. And one of the many lawmakers standing in the President’s way is Tennessee Democrat Bart Gordon. Gordon chairs the House Science and Technology Committee. That means any NASA plan has to go through him. The President said NASA was on a flawed path, especially in tough economic times. Gordon says the President’s plan is flawed too.

Gordon hasn’t gotten his way yet. The Senate Commerce and Science Committee came up with a compromise of its own brokered by the likes of Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Either way, his footprint will likely end up in the development of American space exploration for years to come. (7/26)

No Need for Manned Spaceflight, Says Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (Source: Guardian)
Forget manned moon bases, forget a Mars colony – most future space travellers will be robots, according to astronomer royal Martin Rees. Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, thinks sending people into space is a waste of money, given recent advances in unmanned space technology. He said European space scientists should focus on miniaturization and robotics to remain competitive in a space sector dominated by Russia and the US. (7/26)

Kepler Likely to Confirm Milky Way Hosts 100 Million Habitable Planets (Source: News.com.au)
Scientists are celebrating the discovery of more than 700 suspected new planets - including up to 140 similar in size to Earth - in just six weeks of using a powerful new space observatory. Early results from NASA’s Kepler Mission, a small satellite observing deep space, suggested planets like Earth were far more common than previously thought.

Past discoveries suggested most planets outside our solar system were gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn - but the new evidence tipped the balance in favour of solid worlds. Astronomers said the discovery meant the chances of eventually finding truly Earth-like planets capable of sustaining life rose sharply. (7/26)

SAIC Awarded $80 Million Subcontract to Support Goddard Space Flight Center (Source: SAIC)
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has been awarded a subcontract by Primus Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of ASRC Federal Holding Company, to support the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) with information technology (IT) services. The five-year subcontract is valued at more than $80 million. Work will be performed at the GSFC in Greenbelt, Md. (7/26)

Astrotech Shares Up on NASA Contract (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Astrotech Corp. shares shot up as high as 43 percent in early Monday on the news that the commercial aerospace company inked a NASA contract valued at $9.5 million. Shares of Houston-based Astrotech went as high as $1.93 per share, up from its open at $1.39, before settling down to the $1.80-range for much of the day. The company’s space operations business unit secured a new contract for payload processing services for expendable launch vehicles and evolved expendable launch vehicles from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. As part of the contract, the multi-mission contract services are targeted to begin in fiscal year 2011 running through 2013. (7/26)

Zombiesat has Three More Satellites in its Crosshairs (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The out-of-control Galaxy 15 spacecraft will pass near three more orbiting broadcast platforms before it loses power in late August or early September, putting an end to the zombie satellite's menacing tour of the geostationary arc. Galaxy 15 stopped responding to commands from ground controllers in April, most likely due to a solar flare that zapped the satellite's electronics. But engineers are still analyzing the cause. (7/26)

Should Environmental Protection Extend to the Planets? (Source: Discovery)
Is the solar system a frontier to conquer or a wilderness to preserve? This question really hit the fan last October. NASA crashed an empty rocket booster into the moon to see if water-ice crystals were at the south pole. Water on the moon would make establishing human bases more feasible. What really hit the fan was the public outcry that the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) experiment was despoiling the pristine lunar environment. Never mind that the moon gets hammered with space junk all the time. This was a direct attack from Earth.

One indignant English teacher e-mailed me with a simple one-liner: “Stop ******* with the moon!” In a subsequent e-mail he went on to explain, “I found the standard, mundane argument [for LCROSS] in favor of arrogant disrespect of the universe, ... Such logic has brought our world to the brink of nuclear and environmental holocaust. Who gave you or anyone else the privilege to intentionally inflict damage upon anything?” This episode addresses a looming challenge our civilization faces when boldly going out to other worlds. Do we have an ethical duty to respect and preserve the natural environments of neighboring planets and their moons?

Some scientists have proposed that we should establish “conservation parks” on worlds like Mars where geologically awesome regions (like the giant volcano Olympus Mons) would be treated with the sanctity of earthly wonders like the Grand Canyon. Others have said that all of Mars should be protected as a wildlife preserve where we do everything possible to avoid contamination; on the assumption Martian microbes could exist. (7/26)

Debate Heats Up Over Meteor's Role in Ice Age (Source: Space.com)
Some scientists have thought that the Earth's Ice Age conditions 12,900 years ago were triggered by a meteor or comet. But a recent study suggests that the evidence pointing to the ancient impact is nothing more than fungus and other matter. According to the impact theory, the event could have caused the extinction of North American mammoths and other species, and killed the early human hunters that occupied North America at the time. Yet the new study concludes that sediment samples taken as evidence of the impact are nothing more than common fossilized balls of fungus and fecal matter - not exactly signs of a space rock crashing into Earth. (7/26)

No comments: