March 27, 2011

'India Pre-Eminent in Space Research' (Source: Times of India)
Planning Commission member and former chief of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) K Kasturirangan said on Saturday that India had achieved a pre-eminent position in space research as a result of extraordinary teamwork leading to some spectacular achievements in the most complex area of science and technology. He was speaking at the 12th convocation of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University (BVDU).

Citing an example of India's achievements in space research, Kasturirangan said, "Building the experimental remote sensing satellite, Bhaskara, was a big challenge, but our engineers came up with unique strategies including innovative solutions for optics, pioneering the use of new state-of-the-art sensors and designing and developing of some of the most difficult technologies for the spacecraft." (3/27)

Russia, Israel Agree on Cooperation in Outer Space (Source: RIA Novosti)
The space agencies of Russia and Israel have signed an agreement on cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space, the press office of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos said. The document aims to create a legal and organizational framework for the development of mutually advantageous Russian-Israeli cooperation in outer space, including the use of space technologies for peaceful purposes, the press office said. (3/27)

Spotlight on Shuttle Missions is Intensifying (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is trying as hard as it can to keep the focus of the next two shuttle flights on the missions, and their important science and engineering goals. The effort may prove futile and perhaps even counter-productive. The frustration of the effort showed multiple times last week, most notably when the space agency yanked commander Mark Kelly from a round of media interviews that precede every shuttle mission.

Kelly did show up for his crew news conference, which he began with a short statement about his wife before asking journalists to "respect the fact that this is about STS-134," referring to his upcoming mission. He said that's why the more in-depth interviews with him were called off. NASA's tiring of so many questions about the dramatic personal challenges facing Kelly's family. The Kelly-Giffords story line is dominating the coverage of the upcoming shuttle mission, the second to last in the 30-year old program. (3/27)

Museums Vying for NASA Shuttles to Meet in Dayton (Source: Dayton Daily News)
A conference that annually brings together the leaders of prominent air and space museums will convene in Dayton next month, just as NASA’s top executive is to announce whether some of those museums will be awarded a retired space shuttle for permanent display. Among those to be represented at the Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums Conference are the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, the Seattle-based Museum of Flight, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum from New York City.

“On the day of the shuttle announcement, Dayton will be the center of the universe with respect to the museums who want, and may get, a shuttle,” said Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, a Dayton-based organization lobbying for assignment of a shuttle to the Air Force Museum. “It will add extraordinary drama to the announcement,” said Michael Gessel, vice president of federal programs for the Dayton Development Coalition. (3/27)

Editorial: Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View (Source: New York Times)
After millenniums of musings and a century of failed attempts, astronomers first detected an exoplanet, a planet orbiting a normal star other than the Sun, in 1995. Now they are finding hundreds of such worlds each year. Last month, NASA announced that 1,235 new possible planets had been observed by Kepler, a telescope on a space satellite. Six of the planets that Kepler found circle one star, and the orbits of five of them would fit within that of Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun.

By timing the passages of these five planets across their sun's visage - which provides confirmation of their planetary nature - we can witness their graceful dance with one another, choreographed by gravity. These discoveries remind us that nature is often richer and more wondrous than our imagination. The diversity of alien worlds has surprised us and challenged our preconceptions many times over. It is quite a change from merely 20 years ago, when we knew for sure of just one planetary system: ours. The pace of discovery, supported by new instruments and missions and innovative strategies by planet seekers, has been astounding. Click here. (3/27)

Florida Celebrations Planned for Yuri’s Night (Source: SPACErePORT)
Check out for a worldwide map of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight. As of Mar. 27 there were six parties shown in Florida on various days during the week of Apr. 9-16, in Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Harmony, Miami, and Aventura. The interactive map gives some details on each party. Sadly, nothing is yet posted for the Space Coast, though spaceport-area astronomers say they are planning to participate in the Harmony-based Dark Sky Festival on Apr. 9. Other party plans are brewing, including a Yuri’s Night pub crawl in Cocoa Beach on Apr. 9. (3/26)

Hiassen: This Senator is Lost in Space (Source: Miami Herald)
Recent polls show that Americans are already disenchanted with the new Congress, which is so collectively inept that it can’t even pass a budget. Public sentiment is not likely to improve with the news that lawmakers are forcing NASA to spend $1.4 million a day on a troubled space project that was officially scrapped last year. It’s a lesson in the politics of waste, as practiced by those who pretend to be crusaders for thrift.

When President Obama submitted his 2011 budget plan to Congress, he cancelled funding for the space agency’s Constellation program, the primary mission of which was to return astronauts to the moon. The decision wasn’t a surprise. “The truth is, we were not on a sustainable path to get back to the moon’s surface,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Some lawmakers were irate, none more than Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama. This would be the same Richard Shelby who every year introduces a balanced-budget amendment; the same Richard Shelby who piously rails about runaway government spending, and trashes TARP, and frets about the terrible deficit. But wait. Some of the work on the Ares rockets was taking place at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Shelby’s home state, which meant that jobs would be lost. Click here to read the article. (3/26)

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