October 14, 2010

NASA at Issue in Florida's 24th District (Source: AP)
There are three simple words Republican congressional candidate Sandy Adams delivers at almost every public appearance: refund, repeal and replace. She's referring to the health care bill, of course. But the same vocabulary could describe Adams' stance on almost every issue in her bid against first-term Democrat Suzanne Kosmas. Florida's 24th District is a clear GOP target as the party tries to regain a U.S. House majority. It's a swing district in a swing corridor in a swing state.

The district, which encompasses Kennedy Space Center also has more registered Republicans than Democrats. Kosmas opposed Obama's initial plan to dismantle NASA's Constellation program. She pushed for an extra shuttle launch next year, helped extend the life of the International Space Station an extra five years to 2020 and was instrumental in pumping $40 million of federal funding into the region to retrain workers and boost businesses once the shuttle program ends.

Richard Foglesong at Rollins College said many aerospace industry workers facing massive job losses and the ripple effect in the region are upset with Obama's space plan and could take their frustrations out on Kosmas. "It's such an ironic district. It's a moderate-to-conservative district that depends so much on federal dollars with NASA, but on everything else, it doesn't like government spending." (10/14)

Kosmas Opponent Opposes Big Government, Likes Big NASA (Source: AP)
Sandy Adams, 53, is clear that she's for reducing the size of government although she's perfectly fine with federal funds on NASA and less taxes. And she offers no clear alternative to her opposition of the health care bill. Nor does she say what direction NASA should take regarding human space flight, other than to say she wants "a true vision" and "something that is not caught up in all the bureaucracy." In a season where Democrats seem especially vulnerable, simply being in opposition might be enough. (10/14)

Post-Election Appropriation Process Could Challenge Florida's Delegation (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's proposed budget is a bit tight to accomplish everything the agency has been asked to do. This is familiar territory for NASA, and although the potential funding shortfall is arguably smaller than under the Constellation program, elected officials will have a difficult time making ends meet between what has been authorized and what will be appropriated. Florida's post-election congressional delegation may be particularly challenged as they attempt to protect the billions sought by President Obama for Florida-based activities.

Funding for spaceport modernization at KSC; a new KSC role in "Flagship Technology" programs; KSC leadership of NASA's new Commercial Crew office; and continued Orion assembly/manufacturing at KSC are all potentially at risk. If control of the House changes, there may be significant pressure to cancel some of these investments to reduce NASA's budget and/or revive elements of Constellation that were to be canceled under the recent NASA Authorization Bill. (10/14)

Mica Poised for Space Leadership Role if House Shifts to Right (Source: SPACErePORT)
Republican incumbent John Mica is projected to easily win re-election to represent Florida's 7th Congressional District. Mica's district includes Daytona Beach (and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University). Mica has been serving as the Republican Leader of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, giving him a seat on all six of the committee's subcommittees. He also formerly chaired the Subcommittee on Aviation. If he is re-elected, and if the Republicans win leadership of the House of Representatives, there's a good chance that Congressman Mica will chair the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, or at least re-gain chairmanship of the Aviation Subcommittee. This would put him in a key position to support for the FAA's evolving role in commercial space transportation. (10/14)

Posey Poised for Space Role if House Shifts to Right (Source: SPACErePORT)
Republican incumbent Bill Posey is projected to easily win re-election to represent Florida's 15th Congressional District. Posey's district includes the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, home to the military and commercial launch facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. As a freshman, Posey currently serves on only one committee, the Committee on Financial Services. If he is re-elected, and if the Republicans win leadership of the House of Representatives, there's a good chance that Congressman Posey will be added to another committee. Given his longstanding interest in space issues, he'll probably be inclined to seek membership on a committee with oversight of space policy or funding. (10/14)

Alcohol in Space? Da! (Source: MSNBC)
A retired cosmonaut says Russian doctors have sent alcoholic beverages along with spacefliers for years to keep them "in tone" and neutralize tension. This week's comments from Alexander Lazutkin, who lived aboard Russia's Mir space station during one of the tensest episodes in space history, confirm what most observers have long known about Moscow's space effort. The Russians have looser standards than NASA when it comes to drinking alcohol in orbit — and if there's cognac or vodka aboard the International Space Station, they've been able to hide it pretty well.

It was a different story on Mir, however. There, the Americans were guests, and stood by while their Russian colleagues imbibed the occasional stress-reliever or New Year's toast. "During prolonged space missions, especially at the beginning of the Space Age, we had alcoholic drinks in the cosmonauts' rations," a cosmonaut said. "This was cognac, which the doctors recommended for use. We used it to stimulate our immune system and on the whole to keep our organisms in tone." Later, a type of ginseng liqueur was occasionally consumed, he said. (10/14)

Let's Build an Interplanetary Space Station (Source: Discovery)
The 2011 NASA budget indefinitely delays a manned trip back to the moon. A lunar return was central to the former Bush administration’s "Vision for Exploration." The plan was to use the moon as an outpost for testing out the technologies needed to send humans to Mars. But there are alternatives for reaching the same goal. We could establish an interplanetary space station.

We could simply claim squatter’s rights on a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) asteroid and do some renovation. The Obama administration has directed NASA to send a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025. This is attractive because very little fuel is needed to land on an asteroid, and the journey is shorter than a trip to Mars. But rather than simply visiting a co-orbital asteroid, the mission could be used as a step toward the ultimate goal of space colonization.

A carefully selected asteroid with the right density and strength could be hollowed out for an underground base to be established. This would provide a stable temperature, and shielding from micrometeorites and solar radiation. Solar power would be plentiful. This kind of engineering was talked about for a moon colony, but the freight costs to land people and equipment on an asteroid are much lower. (10/14)

Russia Launches SIRIUS XM Radio Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
International Launch Services (ILS) have launched the SIRIUS XM-5 telecommunications satellite via their veteran Proton-M launch vehicle and Breeze-M upper stage on Thursday. Lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was on schedule at 18:53 GMT, ahead of over nine hours of flight until the spacecraft is successfully placed into orbit. (10/14)

NASA Expects a Gap in Commercial Crew Funding (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Some companies could see a gap in funding between the first and second rounds of NASA's procurement to help develop commercial crew transportation services for low Earth orbit, according to the agency's top exploration official. NASA plans to release a request to industry for proposals in a second round of the commercial crew development, or CCDev, program on or about Oct. 25. Payments to the firms under the current CCDev procurement cycle are based on milestones. That means money from the last fiscal year, which concluded Sept. 30, will remain available through December, when the final milestones are scheduled, according to NASA's Doug Cooke.

But the Oct. 1 notice of a second CCDev contest indicates the next awards will not come until March 2011. Proposals will be due approximately 45 days after the solicitation, according to NASA. "There may be a little bit of a gap before we get more money out to industry," Cooke said. Only companies receiving awards in both rounds of CCDev funding would see a gap. The new competition will be open to all companies, not just firms already collecting money from NASA. (10/14)

China Has No Desire for New Space Race (Source: Global Times)
Is there a new space race? Why are so many countries keen on lunar exploration? What benefits can the quest for space bring? Global Times reporter Yu Jincui (GT) talked to Ouyang Ziyuan (Ouyang), a senior consultant at China's lunar exploration program, on these issues. Ouyang: "If China doesn't explore the moon, we will have no say in international lunar exploration and can't safeguard our proper rights and interests..."

"The contribution of the Apollo project of the US is amazing. According to one calculation, the input-output ratio is 1:14. It drove the development of high-tech worldwide and made the US a leader in the high-tech field for almost 20 years. China's lunar exploration program is nowhere near as big as Apollo project in size, but it could also make great contributions in promoting technological improvements, scientific progress and talents cultivation."

"I am strongly against seeing lunar exploration as a race. The second round of lunar exploration is quite different from the first one conducted by the US and the former Soviet Union, which was a struggle for hegemony in space. Every competent country will certainly take part in space exploration out of self-development and for technological and scientific progress. These countries are working together to contribute to the sum of human knowledge and development. (10/14)

NASA Chief to Visit China (Source: Global Times)
A NASA spokesman said Wednesday that Charles Bolden, chief of the US space agency, will pay an official visit to China to discuss possible cooperation between Beijing and Washington in human space flights. The trip is to follow up on an agreement reached by Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama during their meeting in Beijing last year, when they issued a joint statement calling for talks on cooperation in human space flights.

The report of Bolden's visit to China came on the heels of Obama's signing of the NASA Space Exploration Act into law. The new act will end moon-oriented goals of NASA and paves way for a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025. Bolden said, "My visit is intended to be introductory in nature and will not include consideration of any specific proposals for human space-flight cooperation or new cooperation in any other areas of NASA's activities." (10/14)

NASA Extends Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Contract for Continued Space Shuttle Support (Source: PWR)
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne received a $60.3 million contract from NASA to provide continued Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) pre-launch, launch and post-launch support through March 31, 2011. The contract is an extension to the current space shuttle program flight manifest launch schedule, which shifted the last two scheduled launch dates for missions STS-133 and STS-134 to fiscal year 2011. (10/14)

US Midterm Elections: Policy Row Launches NASA Into Limbo (Source: Nature)
NASA is caught between President Barack Obama and Congress, and Republican gains in the midterm elections could prolong the agony. In February, Obama called for an end to the Constellation program to take astronauts to the Moon and Mars after a review called it underfunded and overambitious. The administration wants to invest in new technology and private spaceflight. Congress balked, passing an act requesting funds for projects initiated under Constellation and granting less than half of the administration's request for private spaceflight. With Congress now in recess and unable to allocate funds, NASA is funded at current levels and cannot change course.

If the Democrats retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives, they will probably quickly pass an appropriations bill to allocate the money, says John Logsdon. But if the Republicans prevail, they may defer negotiations until January, when they would take over the appropriations subcommittee. Appropriators must also find $500 million for an extra flight for the retiring space shuttle. The money could come from NASA's science allocation, but the administration would object to that, says Logsdon. (10/13)

Is the World Ready for Asteroid Threat? Apollo’s Schweickart Pushes for Action (Source: Universe Today)
If we discover an asteroid heading directly toward Earth, are we ready to deal with the challenges of either deflection strategies or an evacuation prior to impact? Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart has spent years championing the need for the human race to prepare for what will certainly happen one day: an asteroid threat to Earth.

Schweickart is Chairman of the Board of the B612 Foundation, a non-profit private foundation that supports the development and testing of a spaceflight concept to protect the Earth from future asteroid impacts, and he says we have the technology today to deal with it, but nothing has been verified or tested. “We need to mobilize that technology and achieve an international consensus on what actions should be taken,” he said. (10/14)

Is Earth Unique or Is Life Common Across the Universe? (Source: Space.com)
The discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet orbiting in the habitable zone of its parent star, has added new fuel to the debate over the uniqueness of Earth and whether life exists elsewhere in our universe. "Any planet is unique in its details, but what we're really asking is: are the general properties of Earth something we can expect to be common in the galaxy, or rare?" said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Click here to view the article. (10/14)

Intelsat, HBO Downplay Impact of 3D Television on Bandwidth Demand (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat and U.S television broadcaster HBO said the market adoption of 3D television will not produce a major spike in demand for bandwidth compared with high-definition and standard-definition television. Image compression technologies and other means of reducing bandwidth demands will compensate for the extra bandwidth associated with 3D TV. (10/14)

NASA Technology May Aid Interpretation Of Medical Imagery (Source: NASA)
NASA software used to enhance Earth science imagery could help interpret medical imagery. The new MED-SEG system, developed by Bartron Medical Imaging Inc., relies on an innovative software program developed at NASA to help doctors analyze mammograms, ultrasounds, digital X-rays and other medical imaging tests. The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared the system for trained professionals to process images. These images can be used in radiologists' reports and communications, but the processed images should not be used for primary diagnosis. (10/14)

Speculation Mounts as White House Mulls Bolden Replacement (Source: NASA Watch)
According to a Houston Chronicle article: "Even as President Barack Obama signed off Monday on plans to steer the nation's space program toward Mars, Senate staffers on Capitol Hill reported growing speculation that the White House was preparing to replace NASA administrator Charles Bolden. Bolden, a former astronaut, has the reputation of being a can-do leader known for sometimes ignoring bureaucratic constraints. However, top administration officials have eased him into the background as the midterm congressional elections approach."

NASA Watch Note: The White House is very dissatisfied with Mr. Bolden's performance of late. Departure and replacement choices are topics of frequent discussion in the White House and on Capitol Hill. This will all pick up once the mid-term elections, STS-133, and Thanksgiving holiday approach. (10/14)

DIRECT Leaders Feel Their Work is Complete (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The DIRECT movement-–a group of professionals and non-professional engineers that created an architecture alternative to Constellation’s Ares vehicles-–are ready to transition their movement, following the redirection of NASA’s future by lawmakers, which calls for a Shuttle-derived Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV), which they feel justifies their four years of work.

“I was not the first person to recognize this vehicle configuration’s benefits. Thiokol had proposed such a vehicle as early as 1978 – three years before the first Shuttle flew. So when I came up with this... I was suddenly inundated with private messages and e-mails telling me that I was on to the right thing,” noted Ross Tierney. "I was amazed at how many professionals wrote to say such things as (and I quote): ‘you are on the right path’ and ‘this is the direction NASA should be going in’, not to mention that almost every one of them also said that ‘ESAS is going to cost too much and will be canceled’ – prophetic words indeed.”

However, most of those engineers and space professionals – especially ones working for NASA – would never be able to reveal themselves, given the risk involved with either appearing to be working on a non-official project, or seeming to disagree with the then-current architecture they were tasked – and paid – to work on (Ares). Click here to read the article. (10/14)

When is a Comet Not a Comet? Rosetta Finds Out (Source: ESA)
It was a case of celestial hit and run. Two asteroids, both in the wrong place at the wrong time. The result: one big trail of debris and a case of mistaken identity. Now, however, ESA’s comet-chaser Rosetta has unravelled the truth. Using its OSIRIS camera, Rosetta made the breakthrough because it is far from Earth and so it could look at mystery object ‘P/2010 A2’ from a unique perspective. This showed that instead of being a comet, as first suspected, we are seeing the debris from a pair of colliding asteroids. (10/13)

Massive Asteroid Collision 90 Million Miles from Earth Caught on Camera (Source Daily Mail)
The aftermath of a huge collision between two asteroids from the same batch of space rocks which wiped out the dinosaurs has been captured by NASA scientists. They slammed into each other at about 11,000 mph - creating an explosion as powerful as an atomic bomb - 90 million miles away from earth. The cosmic pile-up between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is the first ever witnessed and could lead to new ways of preventing another asteroid slamming into our planet.

Astronomer David Jewitt, of the University of California at Los Angeles, said the Hubble images suggest the encounter happened in February or March 2009 and are the first snapshots of the aftermath of an asteroid smash. The main rock, dubbed P/2010 A2, was believed to be a comet when it was first discovered, complete with tail, in January 2010. But new research confirms suggestions it is really an asteroid which were prompted by its 'headless' appearance. (10/14)

Chile Miners: NASA to the Rescue (Source: ABC)
The vastness of space is very different from the claustrophobic darkness of a Chilean mine. But when 33 men became trapped in the earth, Chile's government asked for help from NASA, an organization whose specialty is leaving the earth. The Chile experience has been a ray of light for NASA, whose people may feel they sometimes are trapped in darkness themselves. While the agency has expertise that helped in the mining drama -- for instance, how to take care of people in confined places (like astronauts) -- its primary mission (where to send those astronauts next) has been muddled, the subject of acrimonious debate between the Obama administration and members of Congress.

The space agency provided Chile with two doctors, a psychologist and a team of engineers who provided advice on how to design the miners' escape capsule -- the cramped tube, nicknamed "Phoenix," that was used to pull the men, one by one, from the ground. Clinton Cragg, a former Navy submarine commander who now heads a NASA troubleshooting team, went to the mine site, returned to NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia, and assembled a team to draw up safety guidelines for Phoenix. (10/14)

Astronaut Corps Shrinks As Shuttles Retire (Source: Aviation Week)
With the final crews in training for NASA’s last three space shuttle missions, the number of astronauts in the corps is down to 65 – a 25% drop since last year. NASA plans to keep its roster of astronauts at 65 to support spaces station operations and other programs, including the development of the agency’s Orion deep space capsule and planned commercial crew vehicles, said Jerry Ross, a seven-time shuttle veteran who heads the agency’s Vehicle Integration Test Office, an engineering support team for the Astronaut Office.

The 65-member corps does not include nine astronaut-candidates selected last year who are still in training. Those newcomers, however, may not fully offset the number of astronauts like Ross who plan to leave NASA upon the shuttle program’s completion next year. Ross personally does not like the idea of turning to commercial providers to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Acknowledging commercial firms’ financial motivations to be safe and successful, Ross said using outside providers means they could go out of business if problems become too expensive to solve. (10/14)

Space Debris' Enviromental Impact (Source: Space Daily)
For the past 50+ years space-faring nations of the world have been trashing the near-Earth space without regard to future effects on our environment. Almost every satellite launched into Earth orbit has resulted in multiple objects that have become RSOs (resident space objects), otherwise known as space debris. Current estimates place the total number of trackable RSOs at about 22,500 with most of these in an altitude band of approximately 700 km to 1200 km.

In addition, there are thought to be millions of debris objects that are too small to track. While it is true that operational spacecraft in this altitude band are at risk of colliding with debris, space is still "big" and collision probabilities are still low. However, the continued growth of debris appears unstoppable. It took just over 50 years before the first satellite-to-satellite encounter took place. The next one will surely occur in much less than that time. Concern regarding space debris is definitely moving from irritant to concern to a call for action. (10/14)

Arianespace Soyuz Will Launch Globalstar Satellites in Kazakhstan (Source: Space Daily)
Final launcher integration is now underway for next week's Soyuz 2 mission, which will orbit six Globalstar second-generation satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The October 19 mission will be performed on behalf of Arianespace by its Starsem affiliate, and is the first of four flights to orbit 24 of Globalstar's second-generation spacecraft - ensuring continuity for the company's mobile satellite voice and data services that are provided to businesses, governments and consumers. (10/14)

Central Florida "Very Likely Location" for Virgin Spaceflights — Someday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
San Francisco and Los Angeles may not be the only destinations from Orlando for Richard Branson's Virgin-brand aircraft. Outer space could be in the flight plans eventually. Branson, the British billionaire, said this week his Virgin Galactic spaceflight subsidiary "would seriously consider" Central Florida for an East Coast spaceport within the next decade.

Branson, who was in town Wednesday to inaugurate domestic air service to Orlando by his Virgin America affiliate, noted that space travel, thanks to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, is a big part of the region's history, making the area "a very likely location" for Virgin Galactic once a state-owned spaceport in New Mexico is up and running. (10/14)

Annual NASA KSC Sponsored Business Expo Set For Oct. 19 (Source: NASA)
Business leaders interested in learning more about government contracting and what local and national vendors have to offer should attend the "Business Opportunities Expo 2010" on Oct. 19. The expo runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Cruise Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral. Admission is free and open to the public. The annual trade show is sponsored by NASA Kennedy Space Center's Prime Contractor Board and the 45th Space Wing and Canaveral Port Authority. It will feature about 175 business and government exhibitors from across the nation and Brevard County. For more information, visit the expo website at: http://expo.ksc.nasa.gov/. (10/14)

U.N. and Aliens (Source: FOX News)
We Earthlings are poorly prepared to respond should there be contact from aliens, according to the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). "Statistically, extraterrestrial life is a possibility," Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman said during a General Assembly meeting on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.

Othman says solar systems of planets around stars are constantly being discovered and when considering the billions of stars in space, "we could find life," though when discussing extraterrestrial life, it is "not always green aliens with large lovely eyes, but most likely bacteria." The UNOOSA chief categorically denied recent press reports that she had been appointed as Earth's ambassador for aliens should they appear, asking "take me to your leader." (10/14)

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