September 25, 2010

Local Schools to Help Parents after NASA Layoffs (Source: KTRK)
Hundreds of layoffs in the Clear Lake area are expected to begin October 1, and an area school district is doing its best to make affected students continue their days at school without interruption. To meet the increased demand of students' needs, the district is getting the word out about its care program as more layoffs hit. Under Clear Creek ISD's care program, lunches are subsidized as well as extracurricular activities. For any parents who must move out of the district because of mortgage problems, an exemption will be made to still attend their school within the district. It's already helped some Space Center Intermediate students. (9/25)

KSC Family Day Scheduled to Accommodate Departing Workforce (Source: SPACErePORT)
Thousands of KSC workers, their family members and guests visited the spaceport on Saturday for a "Family Day" open house. Not quite an annual event, I was told that KSC leaders scheduled this year's event prior to the October workforce layoffs, to allow the workers to share the experience with their families and friends before they lose access to the spaceport. (9/25)

Russian Spacecraft From ISS Lands Safely (Source: AFP)
A Russian Soyuz capsule with three crew landed safely back on Earth from the International Space Station on Saturday after unprecedented problems undocking kept astronauts an extra day in orbit. "The landing was without incident. The crew feels normal," said a spokesman. Russia's space agency said the craft carrying US astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko had landed on time of 9:23 am (0523 GMT) and exactly at the planned site in the Kazakh steppes. (9/25)

Dear Mr. President: I'm Writing to Volunteer My Services (Source: What's New)
Boeing announced that it’s going into the space-tourism business with Space Adventures to take astronauts, who seem to have little else to do, to the ISS along with tourists who have way too much disposable income. The story in the NYT said this would "bolster the Obama vision for NASA." That part of the story must be wrong Mr. President, your vision is grander than that. Since the space race is long over, you may be worrying about what to do with the astronaut corps, as well as that goofy pile of hardware we put in low-Earth orbit for reasons now forgotten.

To help, I skipped lunch today to make you a things-to-do list: 1) send DSCOVER to the L1 point, it's way past time; 2) drop the ISS in the Philippine trench before someone else gets hurt; 3) commit a number of large telescopes to identifying potentially Earth-crossing objects and to refining their trajectories; 4) forbid astronauts to go near Mars, although a robotic sample-return mission would be nice; 5) install a sonar on Europa to look beneath its frozen ocean; 6) start putting together a giant segmented telescope at the L2 point to study extrasolar planets. (9/25)

Rep. Olson: Congress Must Fulfill Duty to Clarify NASA’s Future (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Russia, China and now India and Japan know that the future is still in human space flight. The mission of NASA must ensure that the U.S. remains the global leader. To that end, Congress has a duty to ultimately provide the necessary resources for NASA to accomplish this mission. The last two Congresses — one controlled by Republicans, the other by Democrats - endorsed NASA's current path. Unfortunately, they failed to provide the necessary funding. This Congress must meet our commitment to NASA.

President Barack Obama rejected this path and instead offered a budget that would walk away from the $9 billion we've invested in the next generation exploration vehicle system known as Constellation. He would divert $6 billion in taxpayer dollars, much to companies that have no track record of putting a human in space, let alone ferrying cargo. That is not only wasteful, but potentially reckless. NASA has a nearly 50-year record of human space endeavor.

Editor's Note: This doesn't make much sense. Companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin--as NASA contractors--have decades of experience putting humans in space. And they have even more experience sending cargo into space. Why do some in Congress continue to dismiss the capability of U.S. companies in favor of continuing to fund Russian contractors to do this job, until a hugely expensive U.S. government-operated system is developed. Let NASA focus on bigger things! (9/25)

Roscosmos to Send Two Space Tourists to ISS After 2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos plans to send Soyuz spacecraft with two space tourists to the International Space station (ISS) after 2013. Two tourists will be joined by a Russian professional space crew commander. Russia stopped sending tourists to space last year because the Space Station crew has increased from three to six, and all the places on board the spacecraft have been reserved for Russian and foreign astronauts.

Russia's RSC Energia corporation recently said it had the capacity to build five Soyuz spacecraft per year instead of four, meaning that at least one Soyuz spacecraft could be used for space tourism purposes in the future. (9/25)

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