April 10, 2011

Senate NASA FY12 Budget Hearing Monday (Source: Space Politics)
The Senate Appropriations Committee has moved up its once-delayed hearing on NASA’s FY12 budget proposal. The Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the NASA budget proposal this Monday at 4 pm. The hearing had been originally scheduled for March 31, but was postponed. At the time of the postponement the hearing had been rescheduled for May 5, but has since been moved up to Monday afternoon. NASA administrator Charles Bolden is the only announced witness. (4/10)

Do We Need a New 'Space Race?' (Source: American Thinker)
The last American manned space flight for possibly many years will take place in June when the Shuttle makes its last launch to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. It was just 50 years ago this Tuesday - a blink of an eye in historical terms - that the Soviet Union beat America to the goal of putting a man in space - a feat that galvanized the American space program, urging it to greater efforts in seeking to win the ultimate race - man on the moon. Does America need such lofty goals again in order to reach out and touch the stars?

"Floundering" is an apt description of NASA for the past 40 years. There have only been short term goals, which has led us nowhere. The Shuttle was outdated even before it was first launched, taking 11 years from design to getting off the ground. The $100 billion space station (ISS) is a turkey that has never - and will never - fulfill its promise. The plans to go back to the moon have been scrapped, along with the heavy lift rocket and capsule crew vehicle that was supposed to be our next generation manned system. This, after spending $3 billion in taxpayer money.

We won't need another ruinously expensive space race to win the future. Americans are in the forefront of the commercial space industry and can be even more competitive if NASA would lend a bigger hand in getting these companies off the ground and making money. NASA's budget would not have to be increased to accomplish this - just a change in policy. (4/10)

Pasadena Woman Stages Global Celebration Honoring Gagarin (Source: LA Times)
In her Pasadena living room, Loretta Whitesides is making last-minute preparations for a global bash that by all appearances has gone viral. Partiers by the hundreds Tuesday will pour into the Griffith Observatory and about 300 other sites, from Saudi Arabia to France and Argentina to Nepal. On the Las Vegas Strip, about 800 revelers are expected at Caesars Palace.

The sprawling party is known as Yuri's Night, the kind of event that during the Cold War might have merited an FBI visit to Whitesides' home. But nothing seditious is going on. Whitesides, 36, calls her event "something hip that young people would think is cool." As an astrobiology student at Stanford University and later at Caltech, Whitesides was absorbed with the idea of space. She learned that Gagarin's flight occurred on her birthday, as did the first space shuttle flight in 1981. (4/10)

Russia Releases Gagarin's Secret Last Words (Source: AFP)
One of the last things Yuri Gagarin did before making his pioneering voyage into space 50 years ago was make sure he had enough sausage to last him on the trip back home to Moscow. This tidbit was among more than 700 pages of once-secret material linked to the life and times of the world's first spaceman that were released by Russia ahead of the April 12 anniversary.

Making the biggest news among Russians this weekend were files revealing the conversation Gagarin had while strapped into his capsule with chief rocket designer Sergei Korolyov. Gagarin is best remembered by a generation of Russian for pronouncing "Poyekhali!" as his Vostok spacecraft lifted off the ground. The phrase can be translated as either "Let's Go!" or "We're Off!" and is now a regular part of the Russian lexicon. But the Russian Internet was abuzz with what Gagarin said moments before his famous catchphrase.

"There in the flap you have dinner, supper and breakfast," the father of the Soviet rocket programme told Gagarin by radio as the clock ticked down. "Got it," Gagarin replied. "You've got sausage, candy and jam to go with the tea," Korolyov went on. "Sixty-three pieces -- you'll get fat! When you get back today, eat everything right away." Gagarin joked back: "The main thing is that there is sausage -- to go with the moonshine." (4/10)

Delta II, ULA’s Smallest Rocket, Not Dead Yet (Source: Decatur Daily)
Aerospace experts have been singing the final song for United Launch Alliance’s smallest rocket, the Delta II, for years. The song is premature, said Phil Marshall, ULA’s vice president of production and recurring operations. The issue, Marshall said last week, is whether NASA will continue to use the rocket for science missions.

“Our focus is we’ve had a highly successful vehicle with the Delta II,” Marshall said. “We’re hopeful NASA is going to see a compelling reason to use it.” The Delta II, first launched in 1989, has almost 150 launches and a near-perfect success rate. Three Delta II launches are planned this year.

“We could do another five beyond that if we find interested parties,” said Marshall, who headed Delta II production Colorado, before operations moved to Decatur. Marshall said ULA’s Decatur plant is maintaining the ability to build more Delta II rockets in case orders come in. “We are holding on to all that infrastructure. The tooling is in place,” Marshall said. “Essentially, all we’re doing is going to a gap of about six months until we (decide) whether we can continue or not.” (4/10)

Asia's Star Burns Ever Brighter in Space (Source: AFP)
Asia's extraterrestrial ambitions have rocketed from nowhere in the 50 years since the first human space flight, with China shooting for the moon while India and Japan fuel up their own programs. Since China in 2003 became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently, after the United States and Russia, its manned space flight program has earned worldwide attention. Editor's Note: And let's not forget South Korea, with its new spaceport and launch program. (4/10)

Stagnation Fears Haunt Russian Space Program (Source: Reuters
Fifty years after Yuri Gagarin blasted into orbit, descendants of the Soviet craft that carried him still generate pride and profit for Russia, but critics say the nation's space program has slid into stagnation. As it celebrates the pioneering flight on April 12, 1961 that made Gagarin the first man in space, Russia nears another milestone: with the retirement of the U.S. shuttle program this year, it will be the only nation fit to provide rides to the International Space Station.

It is a distinction for a country with a history of space firsts, beginning with the 1957 launch of the satellite Sputnik. But half a century after Gagarin's 108-minute voyage put the Soviet Union ahead in the Cold War space race, critics charge that reliance on Soviet designs as cash cows has stunted innovation, and that Russia has irretrievably lost its edge. (4/10)

UAE Looks to Research Lab in Space (Source: The National)
Microgravity has long been a fertile field in which to conduct experiments on plants and animals that could lead to vaccines and medical breakthroughs. Now, the Emirates has plans to conduct its own in-orbit R&D. In its latest discussions with an international spaceflight company for human flight, the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) said it intended to incorporate a commercial laboratory for in-orbit research and development.

And officials say a lab focusing on advanced biotechnology could help subsidize the cost of flying "tourists" into space. EIAST signed a memorandum of understanding with the American space technology company Bigelow Aerospace in January. Virgin Galactic, which has plans to build a spaceport in Abu Dhabi, has said its in-progress SpaceShipTwo will be a platform for microgravity research. However, experiments on its flights would have to be conducted within a matter of minutes. (4/10)

Astro-Lung: Jethro Tull Musician Plans Duet with ISS Astronaut (Source: AOL News)
Jethro Tull lead singer and flutist Ian Anderson has made some out-of-this-world music, but his upcoming collaboration could be his spaciest concert yet. That's because part of it will be from space itself: The International Space Station, to be specific. On April 12, Anderson will be taking part in a duet with U.S. astronaut Col. Catherine Coleman, also a flutist, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin's first manned space flight in 1961. (4/10)

Government Shutdown Averted (Source: LA Times)
Just because a government shutdown was averted at the last minute doesn’t mean that the all of the political and economic issues that swirl around the budget process are resolved. Both the House and the Senate overnight passed short-term spending measures that keep the government running until next Friday. Passage followed a negotiated agreement between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-run Senate on a longer-term spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year. That plan is expected to be voted on next week after the agreement is turned into legal language and works its way through the legislative process. (4/9)

The agreement cuts about $38 billion in spending for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, a decrease that the parties call the biggest annual spending cut in history. Even so, it is just a fraction compared to the budget deficit, which is expected to run more than $1.6 trillion this year. Can the deal be derailed? In theory yes, but in reality, it's very unlikely. The leaders seem to have the votes to pass the compromise, but there is sure to be some drama in order to make political points. (4/9)

Edmontonians Want a Ride on Branson’s Space Ship (Source: Edmonton Journal)
More Albertans have signed up for a flight into the ionosphere with commercial space travel company Virgin Galactic than the rest of Canada combined. Two Edmontonians and seven Calgarians have put their names down for a $200,000 ticket to ride one of British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s spacecraft. There are expressions of interest from another four or five Albertans. (4/9)

China Kicks Off Their Big 2011 Push with BeiDou-2 Launch (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The first Chinese launch in 2011 took place on Apr. 9, as their Chang Zheng-3A (Long March 3A) launch vehicle orbited the third BeiDou-2 a navigation satellite, following lift-off from the Xi Chang Satellite Launch Center, in Sichuan Province. China is planning around 20 missions in 2011. The Compass Navigation Satellite System (CNSS) is China’s second-generation satellite navigation system capable of providing continuous, real-time passive 3D geo-spatial positioning and speed measurement. (4/9)

Space Access: Federal Update by Jim Muncy (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Jim Muncy provided an update on federal issues related to ongoing commercial space transportation efforts, notably: The FAA moratorium on new spaceflight regulations expires in 2012, though there is some interest in keeping the moratorium in place, since the industry hasn't advanced as quickly as was expected. One approach would be to re-schedule the moratorium to end at some point (8 years?) after the first FAA-licensed human spaceflight.

Muncy is astounded that Congressional Republicans are rejecting President Obama's plans to privatize access to space, preferring a "public option" instead. He thinks a government-developed Shuttle-derived heavy-lift rocket is not needed for beyond-Earth orbit exploration, but NASA's bureaucracy is rejecting this view because it wants the rocket. He says a powerful Senator is trying to remove NASA's commercial crew funding from the new Continuing Resolution, and he believes Senator Shelby's restrictive Constellation language will be removed from the CR. (4/9)

Indian Launch Scheduled for April 20 (Source: The Hindu)
The launch of remote-sensing satellite the ResourceSat-2 has been tentatively scheduled for 10.12 a.m., April 20, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C16) will launch the 1,206-kg satellite along with two other satellites — YouthSat and X-Sat — from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. ResourceSat-2, built by ISRO, is an advanced remote sensing satellite and designed for the study and management of natural resources. (4/10)

Gagarin: In Space, Nice Guys Finish First (Source: New York Times)
Soviet sculpture renders all its subjects larger than life, but few more so than Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in space on April 12, 1961, nearly 50 years ago. A gleaming, 125-foot-tall titanium statue of the world’s most famous cosmonaut stands at the nexus of three freeways in Moscow, arms outstretched like a cold war superhero. Gagarin’s achievement, and the Soviet playbook that shaped it, made him the most celebrated Soviet hero since Lenin

His deification set the “right stuff” tone that NASA would follow with its own astronauts: the lumbering icons in their puffy, complicated suits, incapable of error or weakness or even, it sometimes seemed, emotion. In reality, Gagarin was 5 feet 2 inches tall and nice as heck. He was chosen because of his willingness to follow orders, to be a small part of the technological immensity of the Soviet space program. It is this quality, rather than courage or bravado, that makes him, in a sense, a most modern spacefarer.

But for all his precocious talent, the space program’s chief designer, Sergey Korolev, is reported to have chosen Gagarin for the history-making mission partly because he was the only one of the original cosmonaut squad to remove his shoes before stepping inside a model of the Vostok I capsule in which he would travel into space. Gagarin’s affable willingness to go with the program made him perfect for a mission in which he was, essentially, human cargo. Beyond coming down alive, his only assignment was to write down his observations (which he mostly failed to do, because he inadvertently let go of his pencil in orbit, and it floated out of sight). (4/9)

Georgians Rallying to Bring Space Shuttle "ATLANTIS To Atlanta!" (Source: The Weekly)
Civic, government and business leaders of metro-Atlanta and the State of Georgia are invited to gather with members from Atlanta: City of Peace, Inc. (ACP), a 501c3 nonprofit, and to speak in support of NASA awarding the retired Space Shuttle ATLANTIS to Atlanta. ACP founder John R. Naugle states, "This US National Treasure can serve as a dynamic cornerstone exhibit in the future Global Peace Museum (GPM). City and state leaders are called to boldly join with us as official co-founders, and to unequivocally convince NASA, before their April 12 announcement, that the Global Peace Museum & Atlanta offer THE best use, and destination for ATLANTIS!" (4/9)

ULA Set to Add 50 Workers, Increase Output (Source: Decatur Daily)
With help from Calhoun Community College, United Launch Alliance is adding 50 employees as it prepares to increase rocket production by 50 percent. The Decatur plant received 1,000 applications for the 50 technician positions, said Phil Marshall, vice president of production and recurring operations. While ULA is still processing applications, many are graduates of Calhoun’s Aerospace Training Center. The two-year program provides students with an associate’s degree in applied technology with a major in aerospace technology.

ULA’s hiring is to facilitate a 50 percent jump in its build rate for fiscal 2012. Chris Chavez, a spokesman based at ULA’s Denver headquarters, said the increase applies both to the Delta IV and the Atlas V. The intent is to "increase our build rate from four to six boosters for both our Atlas and Delta launch vehicles." The increase comes entirely from governmental customers — mainly the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Organization and NASA. “We have a very limited amount of commercial business,” Marshall said. “That’s not our playing field.” (4/9)

Plenty Still on Dryden's Plate Post-Shuttle (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
The folks at Edwards Air Force Base, the southeastern Kern County home of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, will be watching with more than their usual high level of interest as the Shuttle program ends. Shuttle history is their history, too; the first tests of the shuttle orbiter took place at Edwards in the late 1970s, and after Columbia was launched on the program's maiden voyage 30 years ago this week, it returned to Edwards for landing.

Fifty-four of the program's 131 landings have taken place on the Air Force base's immense lake bed -- most of them because weather conditions favored California over NASA's preferred site in Florida. But the end of the space shuttle program is not to be mistaken for the end of Dryden's relevance in this challenging new era for NASA. Far from it. NASA's SOFIA high-altitude aircraft, the world's only operational airborne observatory, is based at Dryden's nearby Palmdale facility.

Dryden also supports NASA's Global Hawk UAS program. NASA's SOFIA high-altitude aircraft, the world's only operational airborne observatory, was flying high above the central and western United States. Further down the line, Dryden is testing blended-wing body aircraft -- flying stingrays, some have called them -- capable of speeds of Mach 0.9 -- with fuel savings of 20 percent to 40 percent over today's commercial passenger jets. (4/10)

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