September 23, 2010

Advocacy Groups Oppose Revised House Bill (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Access Society and the Space Frontier Foundation are both urging their members to call Congress to express their opposition to HR-5781, the House's revised NASA Reauthorization Act. The revised bill, described as a bipartisan compromise by Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), moves closer to the Senate's version in several ways, including a funding increase for "Commercial Crew" and provisions for a heavy-lift rocket. The advocacy groups opposed to the bill say it places crippling restrictions on Commercial Crew, and waters down the Senate's heavy-lift approach such that NASA could continue to develop Ares-1 "in a desperate ploy to continue the unsustainable Constellation program as-is." (9/23)

House Releases Compromise NASA Authorization Bill (Source: Space Politics)
The House Science and Technology Committee announced Thursday morning the release of “compromise legislative language” for a NASA authorization bill, presumably (although not explicitly stated) after negotiations with the Senate. The new bill calls for the development of a “Space Launch System” similar to what the Senate proposed; $2.67 billion for space technology development ($1.19 billion for exploration technology); $1.212 billion for commercial crew (far more than the $150 million in the previous version); $150 million for exploration robotic precursor missions; and language formally authorizing the flight of the “launch-on-need” shuttle mission (STS-135) no earlier than June 1, 2011. Click here for a comparison. (9/23)

Republican Pledge Could Cut NASA Budget (Source: Space Politics)
Is a budget cut in NASA’s future? House Republican leaders unveiled a “Pledge to America”, their platform of policy changes they seek to enact if the GOP wins a majority in the House in November’s elections. While not directly addressing space policy, the Pledge does suggest that NASA will find it difficult to retain recent budget increases, let alone get additional funding down the road. One provision of the draft platform states:

"Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future."

With NASA not falling into any of the listed “common-sense” exceptions, that would suggest the agency would be vulnerable to at least a modest budget cut. In FY 2009 NASA got just under $17.8 billion (plus $1 billion in stimulus funding enacted later in the year). The agency’s proposed FY11 budget is $19 billion, a topline figure that has been accepted virtually without debate in Congress, at least up to now. (9/23)

National Academies Warns Again About Science Competitiveness (Source: Space Policy Online)
Few reports from the National Academies have had as much impact as the 2005 "Rising Above the Gathering Storm." A clarion call to the country about the waning U.S. ability to compete globally because of inadequate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and federal funding for basic research, the report catalyzed action from both the White House and Congress. On Thursday the National Academies released a report assessing what has happened in the intervening 5 years.

The new report concludes that America's ability to compete has deteriorated since the original report was released. Editor's Note: Apparently, matters could get worse with a new crop of "anti-science" candidates seeking election to Congress. Says one blog: "The threat in November to science-based policy is very real, as a Republican surge of conspiracy theorists, polluter apologists, and anti-medicine activists plan to take back the House and the Senate."

Microscopic Hope for US-China Space Ties (Source: Asia Times)
As the summer of 2010 comes to an end, the need in China for a greater emphasis on developing basic science, and fostering scientific research in general is becoming a growing topic of interest to both senior Chinese politicians and China's scientific community as a whole. In mid-September, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao added fuel to this debate in when he told a group of entrepreneurs attending at the 4th Summer Davos forum in Tianjin - the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2010 - that China must start shifting away from "made in China" to "created in China".

Things are steadily improving, and when it comes to funding scientific research, China has now advanced to fifth position overall among all nations in the world. One recent student-led space-focused research China/U.S./Italy collaboration provides an example that can perhaps be expanded upon. Click here to read the article. (9/23)

Space-age Device to Deliver More Efficient Health Care on Earth and Above (Source: NSBRI)
On an exploration mission, an astronaut has an accident and appears to have serious injuries as the spacecraft speeds to its destination. The ensuing scene is hectic as the other crew members try to get a grasp on the situation and provide appropriate treatment. Efficient use of time and resources may be the difference between life and death.

Engineers funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing a system that will provide an accurate patient history, assist in treatment, and help astronauts be more efficient when providing medical care. Even though the integrated system is being developed for use in space, it can be used in many different locations, such as the emergency room, on the battlefield or at an accident scene. (9/23)

Gemini-Titan Joins 7 Others in Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden (Source: Florida Today)
A 109-foot Gemini-Titan rocket took its place Wednesday among the giants of the past at KSC's Visitor Complex. Another Gemini-Titan had called the garden home, but officials discovered in 2004 that it needed more structural work than anticipated. So the search began for a replacement. The rocket raised Wednesday came from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, a special Air Force storage facility in Tuscon, Ariz. (9/23)

Soyuz to Ferry Three Station Residents Back to Earth (Source:
Outgoing Expedition 24 commander Alexander Skvortsov handed over control of the International Space Station to Douglas Wheelock Wednesday in a change-of-command ceremony that sets the stage for the departure and return to Earth of Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson early Friday aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. (9/23)

Cal State Fullertun Alumna Astronaut Returns to Earth (Source: Daily Titan)
Tracy Caldwell Dyson is returning today from her 5-month trip on the International Space Station. Caldwell Dyson, a Cal State Fullerton alumna, graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After graduating from CSUF she went on to study at UC Davis where she earned a doctorate degree in chemistry. When Caldwell Dyson attended CSUF, she participated in the track and field program as a sprinter and a long jumper. (9/23)

Pope's Astronomer Would Baptize Aliens (Source: Fox News)
One of the pope’s astronomers would happily baptize an alien if asked -- “no matter how many tentacles it has.” Guy Consolmagno, a trained astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican’s observatory, discussed a slew of topics at the British Science Festival last weekend, noting that the Vatican was more up to date with the latest scientific developments than most realized.

“You’d be surprised,” he told the Guardian. An avid science-fiction reader, Consolmagno reproached the historical treatment of Galileo, the man who discovered that the Earth indeed travels around the sun. He even complimented Stephen Hawking -- despite Hawking’s recent comments asserting that physics effectively replaced the need for God. Consolmagno called Hawking a “brilliant physicist.” Intelligent design, he also noted, was a useless compromise that’s another form of “the God of the gaps,” calling it pseudoscience and “bad theology.” (9/23)

NASA Won't Get Any New Money in Funding Resolution, Senator Says (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Senate sources say Congress will adjourn next week without passing a new budget for NASA, and that could mean no new money for the Constellation program in Huntsville. It would also leave a stalemate between the Senate and House over NASA's future to be settled in a lame-duck session after the November mid-term elections. A so-called continuing resolution (CR) to fund NASA until a new budget passes has been expected for some time. (9/23)

Astronauts4Hire to Sample First Space Beers (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astronauts4Hire’s inaugural mission as a contracted flight researcher will be testing the world’s first beer to be certified for drinking in space. The beer, produced as a joint venture between Saber Astronautics Australia and the 4-Pines Brewing Company (under the name Vostok Pty Ltd), is a recipe designed for easy drinking in both in microgravity and on Earth. It is intended to meet anticipated demand from the nascent space tourism market.

An Astronauts4Hire flight member has been hired as the primary flight operator for the non-profit organization’s first employment opportunity. Sampling the beer during weightless parabolas, the flight researcher will record both qualitative data on beverage taste and drinkability and biometric data on body temperature, heart rate, and blood alcohol content. Editor's Note: Publicity stunt, or real research? And who will "certify" this for drinking in space? (9/23)

HCI-Aero Conference Planned at Cape Canaveral on Nov. 3-5 (Source: IHMC)
The methods for description, development and evaluation of Human-Computer systems are evolving as new aeronautics and spaceflight technologies are introduced. The goal of HCI-Aero 2010 is to focus on sharing lessons learned across industry, government and academia, and the development of new methods that allow us to continue the current, unprecedented safety observed in aviation operations. Click here for information. (9/23)

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