December 21, 2010

Senate Approves Stopgap Spending Bill (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Senate adopted a temporary spending bill Dec. 21 that would keep the government funded at 2010 levels through March 4. The stopgap appropriation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration before the current continuing resolution under which the government is operating expires at midnight. The Senate bill, approved 79-16, was offered in the form of an amendment to H.R. 3082, a House-approved measure that would have funded the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and which would have increased NASA spending by $186 million over 2010 levels. (12/21)

Spending Bill Holds No Extra Money for NASA (Source: Florida Today)
NASA wouldn't receive the extra funding anticipated for the first year of its new policy, under a spending bill awaiting approval in Congress. But Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the space agency should be able to accomplish its goals of launching a third shuttle mission in 2011 and supporting commercial rocket development, despite losing the extra funding, at least temporarily.

The Senate was expected to consider today a spending bill that largely holds funding steady for most agencies until March 4. The House would then rubber-stamp that measure, leaving major spending decisions for the next Congress. NASA would receive $18.7 billion for the year that started Oct. 1, which is a couple of hundred million dollars less than anticipated for the year.

President Barack Obama had proposed $19 billion for the space agency, as it shifted to boost commercial rockets to ferry people to the International Space Station. Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate separately approved $18.9 billion for NASA. But Senate Republicans scuttled the full-year spending bills because of complaints about other spending provisions. (12/21)

Senate Omnibus Funding Bill Would Have Provided $8M Earmark for Patrick AFB Improvement (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Senate's failed attempt at a lame-duck omnibus funding bill included $8 million for relocation of the main gate at Patrick Air Force Base (PAFB) on Florida's Space Coast. PAFB is the home of the 45th Space Wing, which manages the Eastern Range and supports government and commercial launches at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Whether the funds will be included by the 112th Congress in their next DOD appropriation bill remains unknown, but appears unlikely as the Congress tries to ban such earmarks. (12/21)

Engineer Hopes to Buy Satellite to Provide Free Internet (Source:
One man's bankrupt satellite company is another man's opportunity to spread free Internet across the world. That's the hope of Kosta Grammatis, CEO and founder of, who sees having an Internet connection as a basic necessity — in fact, a human right — for every global citizen.

Grammatis is raising $150,000 to create a business plan for buying a communications satellite and moving it to a new orbital slot to provide free Internet service to developing countries. He has his sights set on the TerreStar-1 satellite: a spacecraft the size of a school bus that launched in 2009 and is owned by a company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. (12/21)

NASA Seeks Proposals For Suborbital Tech Flight Demos and Flight Services (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is seeking proposals from researchers interested in testing new technologies during suborbital flights. The agency also is requesting information from commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle providers and commercial payload integrators about carrying the technology payloads. The selected payloads will fly on aircraft that provide parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles capable of flying to altitudes above 62 miles. The flights will expose the payloads to reduced gravity and near-zero gravity environments. (12/21)

Information for Prospective Space Station Investigators (Source: NASA)
Flying experiments on the International Space Station is a unique opportunity to eliminate gravity as a variable, to provide exposure to vacuum and radiation, and to have a clear view of both the Earth and universe beyond. If you have an idea for a space flight experiment and want to learn how to have it operated on ISS, this is where to begin. (12/21)

NASA Selects United Negro College Fund To Help Build Science Careers (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund to administer a $1 million career development and educational program designed to address the critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and engineering fields. The NASA Astrobiology Institute's (NAI) Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) program is providing the funding for the four-year effort. The program will provide opportunities for up to four faculty members and eight students from minority-serving institutions to partner with astrobiology investigators. (12/21)

NASA Might Merge Human Spaceflight, Operations Directorates (Source: Space News)
NASA is considering a plan to merge its space operations and human spaceflight mission directorates to better align with the U.S. space agency’s manned spaceflight goals, according to NASA officials. The heads of NASA’s Exploration Systems and Space Operations mission directorates said they had been tasked by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to formulate a plan for combining the two organizations and report back to the agency chief in early 2011. (12/21)

Prediction: Expect Earths Twin Planet in 2011 (Source: New Scientist)
Like meeting an estranged twin you didn't know you had, Earthlings will thrill at finding their planetary double. To predict the timing of this momentous occasion, we turned to a measure of "Earth-like-ness." This "habitability index" is based on estimates of a planet's average temperature and size. "Hot Jupiters", searingly hot worlds that orbit their hosts in just days, score close to zero, while one with similar properties to Earth would get a value of 1.

In September, plotting the index of each planet against the date of its discovery and extrapolating the resulting curves predicted that an Earth-like planet would be found by May 2011. Two weeks later, such a planet - Gliese 581 g - was spotted although the detection is awaiting further confirmation. Now we've taken the same curves, adapted them to include Gliese 581 g's habitability index of 0.4, and come up with a fresh prediction. Our figures suggest there is an 82 percent chance that we will find a true doppelgänger for Earth by the close of 2011. (12/21)

Strange New World (Source: Cosmos)
Saturn's enigmatic moon Titan has turned out to be an unexpected treasure trove of Earth-like landscapes and bizarre weather systems – and there are even tantalising hints of a vast and warm underground sea sloshing inside. Europe's Huygens space probe took 10 years to construct and required a further eight years to reach its target: Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. Click here to read the article. (12/21)

Space Rock Surprise (Source: Science News)
Planetary scientists have found amino acids, building blocks of life, in an unexpected place: a meteorite whose parent asteroid formed at temperatures so high that such fragile organic compounds should have been destroyed. One explanation for the surprising discovery is that some amino acids might form through a mechanism that does not require the presence of water, upping the chances of finding life beyond the solar system, says Daniel Glavin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (12/21)

NASA-NSF Scientific Balloon Launches From Antarctica (Source: NASA)
NASA and the National Science Foundation launched a scientific balloon on Monday, Dec. 20, to study the effects of cosmic rays on Earth. It was the first of five scientific balloons scheduled to launch from Antarctica in December. The Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM VI) experiment was designed and built at the University of Maryland. CREAM VI is investigating high-energy cosmic-ray particles that originated from distant supernovae explosions in the Milky Way and reached Earth. Currently, CREAM VI is floating at 126,000 feet above Antarctica with nominal science operations. (12/21)

Alien Planet May Be in Habitable Zone After All (Source:
The alien planet Gliese 581g has been getting a lot of attention recently as a possibly habitable world, but a case is building for its next-door neighbor as a good candidate for extraterrestrial life, too. Gliese 581d, another planet discovered around the star Gliese 581, may well lie in the "habitable zone" of the star — that just-right distance range that can allow liquid water to exist — new atmospheric-modeling research suggests. The finding follows closely on the heels of a similar study, published earlier this year, that reached the same provisional conclusion. (12/21)

Site for Colorado's Space Act Research Park Could be Picked Next Month (Source: Colorado Daily)
The location of a 200-acre research campus resulting from Colorado's recent Space Act agreement with NASA -- a broad program estimated to result in the creation of 10,000 jobs statewide -- could be determined as early as mid-January. The aerospace and clean energy research park is one aspect of a multi-faceted five-year agreement between the space agency and the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology, designed to create a public-private "regional innovation cluster" in Colorado; increase manufacturing capabilities; and bring technologies to market in a speedier fashion. (12/21)

Russia Raises Space Station Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Mission Control is preparing to adjust the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday by raising it 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles). The readjustment is necessary to ensure the best conditions for the docking of Russia's Progress M-09M space freighter and the U.S. Discovery's final mission to the orbital station before the veteran space shuttle is removed from future service. (12/21)

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