May 25, 2011

Apollo Astronauts Attack Obama (Source: SpaceKSC Blog)
In a joint opinion column, Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan attack the Obama administration's human space flight policies. It's a shameful spin of disinformation that distorts the history behind how President Kennedy came to propose the Moon program, falsely claims that all was well with Constellation until it "fell behind schedule" due to "congressionally authorized funding falling victim to Office of Management and Budget cuts, earmarks and other unexpected financial diversions," and overlooks that Congress approved cancellation of Constellation.

They claim Obama’s advisers, in searching for a new and different NASA strategy with which the president could be favorably identified, ignored NASA’s operational mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy’s vision and the will of the American people. So what?! Kennedy's "vision" was to put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s and return him safely to the Earth. Mission accomplished.

Why should we be shackled to an obsolete "vision" that has no relevance in the modern era where we collaborate with our former Russian rivals? And as for "the will of the American people," time and again polls have shown that national "will" is quite tepid for a government human space flight program, with many preferring it be privatized. I'm grateful to these three astronauts for their service to our country. But such lies and distortions only tarnish their legacy in my mind. (5/25)

JFK Library Releases Tape of JFK-Webb Meeting in 1963 (Source: Space Policy Online)
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library chose today, the 50th anniversary of JFK's speech to Congress that initiated the Apollo program, to finally release a 1963 tape of a meeting between the President and then NASA Administrator James Webb. During the September 18, 1963 meeting, President Kennedy expresses reservations about the Apollo program, especially that if it was not linked to military purposes it would look like a "stunt."

He also asks what part of it would be accomplished while he was President assuming he was reelected (his second term would have ended on January 2, 1969 if he had lived and been reelected). Administrator Webb tells him that the landing on the Moon would not be accomplished by then, though a fly by would be, but something very important to the nation would be achieved during Kennedy's presidency.

"But I will tell you what will be accomplished while we're President and it will be one of the most important things that's been done in this nation. A basic need to use technology for total national power. That's going to come out of the space program more than any single thing," says Webb. Kennedy asks if the same thing could be accomplised less expensively using "instruments." Webb replies no, adding later: "And I predict you are not going to be sorry, no Sir, that you did this." (5/25)

NASA to Launch Asteroid Sample-Return Mission in 2016 (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA announced this afternoon that it will launch a sample-return mission to an asteroid in 2016 as the next in its New Frontiers series of planetary exploration spacecraft. Charles Bolden said the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS Rex) is a "critical step" in meeting President Obama's objective to "extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit." Robotic missions will "pave the way for future human space missions," he added.

OSIRIS-ReX will take four years to reach its destination, a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) designated 1999 RQ36. After mapping the surface of the 1,900 foot diameter asteroid to determine the best spot from which to extract samples, a robotic arm will reach out to collect two ounces of material. The sample will return to Earth in 2023 in a container similar to what was used for NASA's Stardust mission that returned samples of a comet. It will land at Utah's Test and Training Range and then be taken to Johnson Space Center.

The mission is expected to cost $800 million, not including launch costs. During a media teleconference this afternoon, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said that he will not know the cost of the launch vehicle until closer to the launch date, but he anticipates that the total mission cost will be about $1 billion. Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the principal investigator for the mission, which will be managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The spacecraft will be built by Lockheed Martin. (5/25)

Hollywood, We Have Liftoff (Source: TripAlertz)
Could Lady Gaga get to wow the cosmos with her wardrobe? Will Team Conan or Team Fallon reign supreme? Is space the place for Charlie Sheen to cool his jets? It's the public votes that determine who will win an "Epic Journey into Space" with collective buying travel site, which vows to blast off voters' chosen celebrity thanks to a space travel partnership with XCOR Aerospace.

Those who cast their ballot will be automatically entered to win an all-expense paid trip to Orlando, Fla., including VIP tickets to Kennedy Space Center, a three-night premium hotel stay, meals and airfare. What's more, those who vote in the next month will be entered to win the same star treatment as the winning celebrity - an "out of this world" trip through the ozone themselves. Click here for information. (5/25)

Miami-Dade Group Meets with Air Force to Win OK for Aerospace Show (Source: Miami Today)
The Beacon Council says it's confident it will get the go-ahead from the military for a massive commercial air show slated to be held near Homestead Air Reserve Base in 2012. The county's economic development agency this month sent staff and board members to Washington to meet with Florida lawmakers and Air Force leadership for permission to use 54 acres adjacent to the base and its runway during the show.

The military's nod is crucial in order for the Beacon Council to receive the $7.5 million that Miami-Dade commissioners recently voted to use to fund improvements on the show's site. The Beacon Council has pitched the show, to be held in summer 2012, as a five-day event that could pull in about 200,000 public attendees, house more than 800 exhibitors and generate up to $100 million in hotel reservations, day pass sales and parking. (5/25)

Behind the Scenes at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility (Source: WTKR)
Click here to view a WTKR television news segment highlighting work ongoing at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) to accommodate commercial cargo launches to the International Space Station. (5/25)

Europe Positioned To Order Additional Galileo Satellites Soon (Source: Space News)
European governments expect to be able to finance additional Galileo navigation and timing satellites in short order as they seek to spend the full 3.4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) they have been given for the overbudget program through 2013. The exact number of additional satellites will depend on final negotiations for two Galileo ground-infrastructure contracts, expected to be signed in mid-June. Only then will the commission know how much uncommitted money it has left in the current Galileo budget. (5/25)

U.S. Army Wants Tiny Satellites as Orbital Spies (Source:
The United States Army is making a serious push to launch swarms of tiny, inexpensive spy satellites, which would serve as eyes and ears for soldiers on the ground. The move is an attempt to adapt to the changing nature of warfare, which increasingly requires small bands of American soldiers to hunt down elusive targets in rough, isolated terrain. The first of these nanosatellites launched in December 2010, marking the first time an Army-built satellite made it to orbit since 1960. And many more could be coming soon, Army officials said. (5/25)

Orion Will Slow Down For Heavy-lift Launcher (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA will continue its contract with Lockheed Martin for development of the George W. Bush-era Orion crew exploration vehicle, rechristened the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) by Congress, but it will stretch out the contract while it figures out how to build a heavy-lift “Space Launch System” (SLS) to carry it beyond low Earth orbit. NASA has spent about $5 billion on Orion since it was started as the shuttle follow-on under the Constellation program. Now that it is being “phased” with the SLS, managers don’t know yet what it will cost to complete the development. (5/25)

Comet Chunk Slams Into Earth's Atmosphere (Source: Discovery)
Residents of Atlanta, Ga., were treated to a rare event on Friday night: a 2-meter wide chunk of cometary material entered the atmosphere right above their heads. The result? Nothing short of spectacular. The fireball exploded and disintegrated like the dying embers of a firework, once-icy debris lighting up the sky, outshining the moon. The fascinating thing about this piece of comet is that it had a rather special orbit. (5/25)

Solar System's Big Bbully Leaves Others Looking Flat (Source: New Scientist)
Exoplanet systems around other stars are surprisingly flat compared with our own. The discovery means that the solar system must have had a far more colourful history than many of its counterparts and is forcing astronomers to rethink their ideas about the way planetary systems form. The new findings come from NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which has spent the past two years looking for the telltale dimming of nearby stars as planets pass in front of them. So far it has looked at 155,000 stars and found 1000 with signs of planets. (5/25)

'Sex on the Moon' Chronicles an Out-Of-This-World Heist (Source: USA Today)
Ben Mezrich writes about a NASA trainee who stole 17 pounds of moon rocks to impress a girl in his new book Sex on the Moon. Why it's hot: Movie rights have been bought by Sony. The studio also turned Mezrich's last book, The Accidental Billionaires, about the origins of Facebook, into the hit film The Social Network. A taste: "He had promised her the moon. The difference was, Thad Roberts was the first man who was actually going to keep that promise." (5/25)

New Mars Rover to Probe the Secrets of the Red Planet (Source: Telegraph)
NASA is giving up on recovering the Mars rover Spirit, which believes has fallen victim to the planet's frigid winter after seven years of work. Instead, it is sending a new rover to Mars to tackle the question of whether the planet has or ever had the chemistry to support life. The rover, which is yet to be named, is under construction and is slated for launch in November.

Part of the spacecraft's launch preparations were put on hold, however, after a crane accident which involved part of the protective aeroshell cover for the $2 billion Mars Science Laboratory. The rover must be launched between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18 when Earth and Mars are optimally aligned for the nine-month journey to Mars or face a two-year delay. (5/25)

Bigelow Presentation Reveals Details on Company's Space Station Plans (Source: OnOrbit)
Robert Bigelow presented a series of charts at the recent International Space Development Conference which outline his company's interesting product line of inflatable/expandable modular spacecraft. The charts are posted online here. (5/25)

New Mexico Launch Carries Cremated Human Remains and Science Experiments (Source:
The UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket launched to the edge of space and returned late last week. The unmanned rocket was packed with science experiments, cremated human remains, wedding rings and other items. "These missions create enthusiasm and interest in science and technology," said Pat Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. (5/25)

Spacewalking Astronaut Gets Stinging Soap in Eye (Source: AP)
A spacewalking astronaut got soap in his eye and almost had to retreat into the safety of the International Space Station on Wednesday. Andrew Feustel said it stung "like crazy." But several minutes later, he said he was feeling better and the third spacewalk of shuttle Endeavour's final voyage continued as planned for about seven hours. The incident came as the spacewalk hit the five-hour mark. Feustel and Mike Fincke had just finished running power cables from the U.S. side of the orbiting house to the Russian half. (5/25)

Egypt Finds 17 Lost Pyramids with NASA Help (Source: Global Post)
A new satellite survey of Egypt reportedly found 17 lost pyramids along with more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements. The survey used infra-red images to detect underground buildings, the BBC reports. Satellites above the earth were equipped with cameras that could pin-point objects on the earth's surface. The infra-red imaging then highlighted different materials under the surface, it states. The work was done by a NASA-sponsored laboratory in Birmingham, Alabama. Editor's Note: More Muslim outreach for NASA? (5/25)

Stuck Solar Array Threatens Telesat’s South America Push (Source: Space News)
The Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul 2 telecommunications satellite launched May 21 has failed to deploy one of its two solar arrays, a defect that, if permanent, will curtail owner Telesat Canada’s growth plans in South America. The satellite’s south array has fully deployed and is providing power, but the north array has not. Telesat said that if the situation is not corrected, Telstar 14R will be able to provide “at a minimum” the same level of service of the satellite it is replacing. (5/25)

SpaceX Responds Angrily to Critical Article in Forbes Magazine (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX is used to sometimes fawning praise from the media. But when the company was criticized in a long piece on the website of financial magazine Forbes, the firm responded angrily. On Monday, Loren Thompson, a prominent aerospace and defense industry analyst from the Lexington Institute think tank, quested why NASA was giving so much money to SpaceX.

SpaceX Vice President of Corporate Communications Robert Block accused Thompson of a "transparent agenda to discredit commercial space providers." Block said that Thompson had a conflict of interest because he is a paid consultant for Lockheed Martin Corp., "which competes with SpaceX in various space ventures." In an interview Tuesday, Thompson said he stood by his "thoroughly researched" Forbes piece. He added that he could have expanded further on SpaceX's "cost problems, their scheduling delays, their launch failures." Thompson also confirmed his work for Lockheed as well as other aerospace firms. (5/25)

Armstrong, Lovell, Cernan Ask: Is Obama Grounding JFK's Space Legacy? (Source: Florida Today)
Was President Kennedy a dreamer, a visionary, or simply politically astute? We may never know, but he had the courage to make that bold proposal 50 years ago. President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget did not include funds for Constellation, essentially canceling the program. It sent shock waves throughout NASA, the Congress and the American people. Nearly $10 billion had been invested in design and development of the program.

Many respected experts and members of Congress voiced concern about the president’s proposal. Some supported the president’s plan, but most were critical. The supporters’ biases were often evident, particularly when there was a vested or economic interest in the outcome. Obama’s advisers, in searching for a new and different NASA strategy with which the president could be favorably identified, ignored NASA’s operational mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy’s vision and the will of the American people.

Kennedy launched America on that new ocean. For 50 years, we explored the waters to become the leader in space exploration. Today, under the announced objectives, the voyage is over. John F. Kennedy would have been sorely disappointed. Editor's Note: The authors say Obama's supporters are biased because they have vested economic interests in the outcome of his policy. They ignore that Constellation's supporters had much greater vested interests. (5/25)

Editorial: Speaking of Political Bias (Source: Florida Today)
I'm sure Obama would love to be the person who put a man on Mars or even just back to the moon, but seeing as how half the country is holding a knife to his throat and screaming, make cuts, make cuts, make cuts, how can we turn around and kvetch that he does just that? It's the EXACT same suggestion, privatizing Space, that Conservative think tanks have pushed for a long time. Here's the Heritage Foundation back in 1988 applauding Reagan for the idea. And here's the Intellectual Conservative praising the Bush Administration for the same thing in 1995.

But now that Obama is advancing the policy, it's the worst thing we could do according to conservatives? If that's not the biggest case of political bias, I don't what is. Please explain to me why it was a fantastic idea during EVERY one of the last conservative administrations but not during Obama's? I beg you, explain that one to me. (5/25)
Northrop Nabs $429M Contract Mod for New Defense Weather Sats (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles was awarded a $429.9 million contract modification to allow it to begin working toward new military requirements for the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) that was being designed to provide both military and civilian weather information. (5/25)

Congressional Reaction to NASA's Orion/MPCV Decision (Source: Space Politics)
“This is a good thing,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said. The decision “shows real progress towards the goal of exploring deep space” and also helps Florida, he added, since hundreds will be employed at KSC to process the MPCV for launch. NASA administrator Charles Bolden called Nelson personally to inform him of the decision. In that call, Bolden told the senator that soon “NASA will be making further decisions with regard to the ‘transportation architecture’ of a big deep space rocket.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also supported the decision. “After more than a year of uncertainty and delay, NASA has come to the same conclusion that it reached years ago — Orion is the vehicle that will advance our human exploration in space,” she said. She reminded NASA, though, that it “must continue to follow law” and announce plans for the SLS. “NASA needs to follow this important step by quickly finalizing and announcing the heavy lift launch vehicle configuration so that work can accelerate and the requirements of the law can be met.”

“This was the only fiscally and technologically prudent decision that NASA could make,” Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) said in a statement. “With this decision NASA can continue to build on current projects and investments rather than further delay with unnecessary procurements.” (5/25)

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