November 3, 2010

Does GOP Control Of House Jeopardize NASA's Future? (Source: WFTV)
Is NASA's future is in jeopardy now that Republicans have control of the House. The Republicans ran their election campaigns promising to cut government spending and that puts the extra shuttle mission, and much of NASA's future in question. Congress still has to approve billions for NASA. It gave its OK to fly Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis one more time, but it hasn't provided funding for that last extra Atlantis mission. In fact, NASA could be fighting just to keep what it has under the new Congress.

There's a chance the change in power in Congress could not only keep Atlantis from making that extra trip, it could cut into NASA's future. "NASA is going to have to decide which of its children it chooses to protect," said Dale Ketcham, Spaceport Research and Tech Institute. Ketcham says Congress could still cut NASA's budget despite the President's proposal to increase it by $1 billion. That would also affect plans to invest in commercial rockets and a new, so-called, heavy-lift spacecraft.

"There is definitely not going to be enough money for all of them to thrive," Ketcham said. "There's no question the shuttle launch will be put into jeopardy, because they are going to have to get the money from somewhere," Ketcham said. (11/3)

How Politics Will Spin Science (Source: MSNBC)
Political shifts will produce a fresh set of skirmishes over science issues ranging from stem cells to spaceflight. And when it comes to climate change, the skirmishes could well escalate into a war over science. Here are the top issues: climate change, energy policy, stem cells, human spaceflight, and research funding. Click here to read the article. (11/3)

Did Earth Encounter Pieces of an Alien Visitor Last Night? (Source: Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)
Did Earth encounter pieces of an alien visitor last night? Apparently so! It appears tiny pieces of Comet Hartley 2 may have presented a spectacular and startling sky show across the country yesterday. NASA meteor experts had predicted it was a long shot, but the evenings of November 2nd and 3rd might display a meteor shower from dust which puffed off this visiting comet as it passed within twelve million miles of Earth. And indeed, the Center for Astrophysics has collected several sightings of bright meteors called fireballs, which result when comet dust burns up in Earth's atmosphere. (11/3)

Galileo's Send-Off (Source: Nature)
At an aerospace facility in Denver, engineers are busy attaching scientific instruments to NASA's next mission to Jupiter, set for launch in less than a year. Team members on the billion-dollar Juno mission are quietly talking about slipping something extra onto the spacecraft — a tiny fragment of bone from Galileo Galilei. The idea of sending a piece of the famed astronomer to orbit the giant planet, in the company of the moons that he discovered, has charmed some of the US participants in the mission. Officials at the Italian Space Agency, which is providing two instruments, seem to be less enthusiastic. But the plan should move forward. (11/3)

Craig Venter to NASA: Think About Engineering Your Astronauts (Source: Sign On San Diego)
What is the right genetic profile for an astronaut-—someone who’s going to spend months living on the moon, or years traveling to an asteroid or Mars? Craig Venter has an answer. The biologist told a group of scientists at NASA Ames on Saturday that NASA already does genetic selection when it picks astronauts. He just suggests that the space agency get even more systematic about its process.

“Inner ear changes could allow people to escape motion sickness,” Venter said. “(You could have genes for) bone regeneration, DNA repair from radiation, a strong immune system, small stature, high energy utilization, a low risk of genetic disease, smell receptors, a lack of hair, slow skin turnover, dental decay and so on. If people are traveling in space for their whole lives, they may want to engineer genetic traits for other purposes.” Click here to read the article. (11/3)

Purdue Unveils 'Impact: Earth!' Asteroid Impact Effects Calculator (Source: Purdue)
Purdue University on Wednesday unveiled ''Impact: Earth!'' a new website that allows anyone to calculate the potential damage a comet or asteroid would cause if it hit the Earth. The interactive website is scientifically accurate enough to be used by homeland security and NASA, but user-friendly and visual enough for elementary school students, said Jay Melosh, the distinguished professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and physics at Purdue who led the creation of the impact effects calculator. Click here to see it. (11/3)

DigitalGlobe Warns on U.S. Budget Climate (Source: Space News)
Earth imagery provider DigitalGlobe on Nov. 2 warned investors that downward pressure on the U.S. government defense and intelligence budgets could reduce the amount of revenue it receives under a keystone 10-year, $3.55 billion contract that took effect in September. (11/3)

Google Sky Adds Galaxy Clusters (Source: WIRED)
Using Google Earth in Sky mode is a fun and interactive way to explore the universe. By importing images from space telescopes like Hubble and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Google Sky lets you fly deep into the visible universe for close-ups with planets, galaxies and star clusters. But something’s been missing, say astronomers at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Google Sky’s view of galaxy clusters is fuzzy and incomplete because the program uses low-resolution pictures to speed up image transfer over the web.

To have higher resolution images, you need to add in better pictures yourself. Luckily, the Fermi astronomers have made this easy. They’ve loaded about 100 scans from one strip of the sky onto a public server at Fermilab, and made them available for web browsers. If you already have Google Earth, the whole thing takes a remarkably simple one-click download. (11/3)

New Rock Type Found on Moon (Source: Science News)
For the first time in decades, astronomers have identified a new rock type on the moon. Tucked away on the lunar farside, unseen until a space probe spotted its odd mineralogy, are a few deposits of what is probably ancient material that originated deep inside the moon. Pieters has dubbed the new rock type OOS, because it is rich in the minerals orthopyroxene, olivine and spinel. Lunar scientists are particularly intrigued by the amount of spinel in the rock; every other part of the moon has only trace amounts. On Earth, in larger chunks, spinel is a gemstone prized in such collections as the British crown jewels. (11/3)

GOP Win in House Expected to Boost Defense Companies (Source: AIA)
Manufacturers of submarines and sea-based anti-missile systems, as well as other defense contractors, may benefit from the turnover in the House to Republican control, as the GOP pushes for a more aggressive approach to China. While Congress faces continued pressure to pull in the Pentagon's budget, many companies -- including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman -- could get a boost. (11/2)

Congress to Face Tough Decisions (Source: AIA)
The 112th Congress will face difficult decisions on the size of the defense budget and arms control, with pressure expected from "tea party" activists to reel in out-of-control debt. Democrats are expected to bring the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, to vote in the upcoming lame-duck session, but Republicans are expected to oppose the treaty. (11/3)

Shortage of Skilled Engineers Plagues Aerospace Industry (Source: AIA)
The long-term solution for the serious shortage of high-quality aerospace engineers is to convince schools to include aerospace in their curriculum. But in the short term, many companies are forced to poach engineers to ease the stress on existing engineers. "This industry is 24/7 and has a harsh demand on a person's time," Alex Choo, assistant honorary secretary of the Singapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers, said yesterday at Aviation Week's MRO Asia conference and exhibition in Singapore. (11/3)

Post Shuttle Economic Adjustment Threatened by Election Results? (Source: SPACErePORT)
President Obama has requested the transfer of $100 million from NASA's FY-2011 budget to fund programs in Florida and other states to mitigate the economic impacts of the Space Shuttle program's retirement. $40 million would come to Central Florida for an FAA space transportation tech center at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and for Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants under a Regional Innovation Clusters program. The other $60 million will be distributed in other states (Texas, Alabama, etc.) impacted by the Shuttle's retirement.

With a new mandate for cost cutting, the GOP-led House of Representatives is likely to take a hard look at NASA for potential reductions. Whether this $100 million program is implemented may depend on whether NASA's appropriation bill is passed before or after the next Congress is sworn-in in January. (11/3)

Can the Lame Duck Congress Pass a NASA Appropriation? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Although Congress recently passed a NASA Authorization Bill that provides programmatic policy direction for the agency, the funding bill required to implement the policy is awaiting Congressional action. NASA is currently operating under a budgetary "continuing resolution" that keeps the agency operating at a level consistent with last year's budget, and without clear authority to change previously funded projects.

To avoid another prolonged Congressional debate on NASA's funding and programs, the current "lame duck" congress could conceivably pass an FY-2011 appropriation bill that would finally allow NASA to proceed with its authorized programs. However, this is unlikely to happen without the support of a strong majority of members from both parties. (11/3)

Election Brings Change to Florida Space Policy Outlook (Source: SPACErePORT)
Tuesday's election results include losses for two incumbent Florida Democrats (Rep. Suzanne Kosmas and Rep. Alan Grayson) who serve on the House subcommittee in charge of NASA oversight. Republican incumbent Rep. Bill Posey was re-elected. Rep. Kosmas will be replaced by Sandy Adams, a veteran state legislator who favors extending the Space Shuttle program. Another Tallahassee legislative veteran, Daniel Webster, defeated Rep. Grayson, but his campaign platform included no space policy statements.

Veteran state legislator Marco Rubio will be Florida's next U.S. Senator. Like Sandy Adams, Rubio has spent time with Space Coast space industry leaders to learn about space policy issues. And Florida's next governor will be political newcomer Rick Scott, with veteran state legislator Jennifer Carroll serving as Lt. Governor. Scott and Carroll also met recently with space industry leaders, and Carroll will likely serve as the chair of Space Florida's board of directors.

With the House changing hands in Washington, Republicans will shuffle the membership and leadership of the committees and subcommittees that oversee space-related programs and spending. Expect Posey and Adams to pursue seats on the relevant subcommittees. It will be interesting to see whether their support for NASA can overcome what appears to be a House mandate for major reductions in spending. (11/3)

Election Brings New Leadership to NASA Oversight Committees (Source: Space News)
The Nov. 2 elections will put Republicans in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives, likely elevating to leadership positions two vocal critics of President Obama’s new direction for NASA. Republican leaders pledged to curtail U.S. federal spending, which also could have implications for NASA.

Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Ralph Hall (R-Texas), who both won re-election and are expected to assume leadership of key NASA oversight committees, have criticized Obama’s plans to cancel the nation’s Moon program and outsource crew transit to and from low Earth orbit. Wolf is expected to assume an appropriations chairmanship. A staunch critic of the Obama plan, Wolf, who is entering his 16th term in Congress, has said the president’s vision effectively would cede U.S. leadership in space. (11/3)

STS-133 Launch Delayed to At Least Thursday (Source:
Shuttle managers late Tuesday decided to postpone the launch of the shuttle Discovery to at least Thursday to check an issue with a main engine controller. The launch, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, is now planned for no earlier than 3:29 pm EDT Thursday. Engineers noticed an electrical transient in a controller in one of the shuttle's three main engines when the system was powered up Tuesday. Weather is less favorable for Thursday, with only a 30-percent chance of acceptable launch conditions. NASA has until Sunday to launch Discovery or stand down to the beginning of December. (11/3)

Clapper Seeks To Phase in Intelligence Spending Cuts (Source: Space News)
The United States will soon begin pulling back spending on intelligence activities, and a strategy has been initiated to gradually phase in targeted budget cuts over the next two to three years, said U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. He will start by eliminating staff positions in his office and shifting those responsibilities elsewhere within the intelligence community. Clapper did not specify any other areas that will be targeted for reductions. (11/3)

NGA Looking at Amazon and Apple for Imagery Distribution Ideas (Source: Space News)
The chief of the U.S. agency that provides commercial satellite imagery to the nation’s defense and intelligence community on Nov. 2 said the agency will adopt the practices of online retailers and smartphone application developers to make itself more user-friendly. Letitia A. Long, director of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), also said her organization needs to expand its expertise from analyzing what is happening toward anticipating what is likely to happen.

Long promised that NGA would be doing more to transform itself into a provider of online, on-demand geospatial information services whose data is available without laborious intervention by NGA personnel. She said NGA’s distribution of data in the wake of the Haiti earthquake in January was exemplary, but too draining on NGA resources. (11/3)

India Plans Two Rocket Launches Next Month (Source: PTI)
India is planning two rocket launches next month that would carry on board home-made communication and remote sensing satellites, along with a Russian payload and a Singaporean micro spacecraft. The first to go up would be a geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV), carrying the GSAT-5 Prime communications satellite. Preparations are also in full swing for the launch of the PSLV-C16 which would carry on board India''s advanced remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2 and auxiliary spacecraft of Youthsat and X-sat, expected towards the end of December. (11/3)

Russian Military Payload Launched on Soyuz Rocket (Source:
A Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage successfully launched a Russian military communications satellite Tuesday to a high-altitude orbit above Earth. The venerable expendable booster, upgraded with digital control systems and improved engines, blasted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. (11/3)

JPL Probe Set for Close Encounter with Comet (Source: Los Angeles Times)
Thursday morning at 7:01 a.m., a Jet Propulsion Laboratory probe will sweep within 434 miles of comet Hartley 2 and take its picture, only the fifth time a spacecraft will have captured images of a comet up close. Each of those previous encounters has surprised scientists, painting a diverse picture of the makeup of comets, which were once thought to be little more than "dirty snowballs." Hartley 2 has already startled researchers by spewing cyanide for eight days in early October. (11/3)

Obama Hails 'Important Milestone' in Space Exploration (Source: AFP)
President Obama hailed the 10th anniversary of crews aboard the International Space Station as an "important milestone" in the history of human space exploration. His statement came ahead of the fourth and final US shuttle flight of the year to the orbiting ISS, scheduled for Thursday. "Today marks an important milestone in the history of human exploration," Obama said in a statement. "Truly an international endeavor, the space station has brought disparate nations together for a common purpose -- to better our lives on Earth." (11/3)

A Decade on the Fly: Building the International Space Station (Source: Scientific American)
On November 2, 2000, a Russian Soyuz capsule docked with the fledgling International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft carried on Expedition 1 two Russians and an American—Sergei Krikalev, Yuri Gidzenko and Bill Shepherd—the three of whom would spend more than four months on the station as its first crew. Ten years on, the ISS is now the longest continually manned orbiting outpost in spaceflight history, having remained occupied with replacement crews since Krikalev, Gidzenko and Shepherd first arrived. Click here to view a slideshow of the ISS assembly. (11/3)

California Delta-2 Launch Scrubbed for Fourth Time (Source: Lompoc Record)
A last-minute warning alarm forced crews to abort the launch of a Delta 2 rocket Tuesday night, the third delay in as many days for the team at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The mission to launch an Italian earth-observation satellite from Space Launch Complex-2 is now rescheduled for 7:20 p.m. Thursday. (11/3)

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