March 13, 2011

Arianespace Moves To New Launcher Designation For Ariane, Soyuz And Vega (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace is targeting six Ariane 5 missions in 2011, along with the first two launches of the medium-lift Soyuz and the lightweight Vega's maiden flight - all from the Spaceport in French Guiana; as well as three Soyuz missions from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As Arianespace prepares for the expansion of its launcher family with the introduction of Soyuz and Vega at the Spaceport, the company has adopted a new numbering system to identify its missions with these three vehicles.

Ariane 5 flights will carry the "VA" designation, followed by the flight number. The "V" is for "vol," the French word for "flight," while the "A" represents the use of an Ariane launch vehicle. As a result, the mid-May mission with ST-2 and GSAT-8 will carry the "VA202" reference, for the 202nd launch of an Ariane since this family of vehicles began operations in 1979. With the introduction of Soyuz at the Spaceport, Arianespace missions from South America with the launcher will be designated "VS," while flights with the lightweight Vega vehicle are to be referenced as "VV." (3/13)

Next CR Cuts NASA Earmarks, Keeps Constellation Provision (Source: Space Politics)
House appropriators released details of their next planned continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded for three more weeks after the current CR expires on a week from Friday. The CR includes $6 billion of spending cuts, including $63 million from NASA’s Cross Agency Support account. The CR specifically targets what NASA calls “Congressionally directed items”, better known as earmarks; the FY10 appropriations bill contained $63 million of them, which carried over into FY11 under the ongoing series of CRs.

The text of the proposed new CR contains no other NASA-related provisions. That means that current language from the FY10 appropriations bill that prevents NASA from terminating Constellation programs will remain in force under the new CR, which extends to April 8. Last week, members of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the appropriations committee told NASA administrator Charles Bolden that they would get the agency “some immediate clarification” on that provision, but the new CR is silent on the subject. (3/11)

Editorial: Invest in NASA, Not High-Speed Train (Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Awe and wonder. That's what I felt two weeks ago as I watched the Space Shuttle Discovery lift off from the Kennedy Space Center for its final mission. I had a ringside seat by the countdown clock, about 31/2 miles from the launch site. I marveled at the ability of humankind to capture and control such awesome power. I also felt a deep sense of pride as a citizen of a country that could achieve such an engineering feat.

The curtailment of manned space flight already has had a severe impact on Florida's economy. The Obama administration apparently thinks it's more important to spend billions of dollars on money-losing high-speed trains manufactured overseas than on manned space exploration using cutting-edge vehicles made in America. Already, thousands of space program workers in the Cocoa Beach area have been laid off, and thousands more soon will be. How's that for economic stimulus? (3/13)

Is Water Flowing on Mars? (Source: Sky & Telescope)
More than a century ago, telescopic observers often reported seeing a "wave of darkening" that spread toward the Martian equator from its polar regions during local spring and summer. This changeover, they assumed, resulted from the annual green-up of alien vegetation as the icy polar caps melted, and the notion of a seasonally verdant Red Planet persisted well into the 1960s, until spacecraft images showed us otherwise.

There's water on Mars, to be sure. Billions of years ago torrents of water flooded parts of the surface and gouged huge, nasty-looking flood channels in the landscape. But all that water now lies frozen in thick polar slabs or buried out of sight. There's new indications that liquid water is indeed flowing in small amounts during the Martian summer. The evidence comes from the super-resolving HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has seen dark rivulets form, grow, and then fade in the planet's southern hemisphere. (3/13)

Accessibility is Key in Space (Source: Florida Today)
Here's a philosophical dilemma concerning the future of the U.S. space launch industry: Is it the government's job to steer contracts to certain private launch companies to help keep them in business? Or, ought NASA and other agencies just buy the launch system that costs taxpayers the least (as long as that system is proven reliable)? Circumstances are conspiring to force government officials to make just that decision -- perhaps repeatedly -- during the next few years, and the implications could be big for Florida's Space Coast. Click here to read the article. (3/13)

Protest to Reinstate Pluto as a Planet (Source: Seattle PI)
In Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood there was a small protest of cosmic proportions. A couple dozen children, their parents and staff of 826 Seattle marched along Greenwood Avenue North, demanding that the farthest known sphere from our Sun — which formerly met most criteria to be considered a planet — be reinstated as a member of our solar system. Sunday is the 81st anniversary of the former planet’s discovery. (3/13)

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