July 20, 2011

Hawaii Pursues Development of International Lunar Research Park (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Frank Schewengerdt of the International Lunar Research Park presented a three phase, public-private partnership to develop a lunar settlement. The steps include: a) conducting terrestrial testing at a high-fidelity prototype on the Big Island of Hawaii; b) establishing a “lunar robotic village” that would use advance robotics and tele-operations to construct infrastructure and capabilities; and c) building out the International Lunar Research Park for human habitation.

Schewengerdt said the facility would be operated by an international consortia of governments, private companies, academic institutes and non-profit organizations. He compared it to the numerous research parks that have been established on Earth. According to the organization’s website, the effort has been in the works since late last year. In late May, NASA Ames and the state of Hawaii signed a two-year agreement that covered a broad range of work on human and robotic exploration in space. Click here. (7/20)

NASA Slapped With FOIA Request (Source: Tea Party in Space)
Today NASA acknowledged the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request targets the $11 billion dollar earmark and bailout for the new Space Launch System (SLS) championed by Senators Nelson and Hutchison. Fiscal responsibility is non-partisan. As more people begin to take notice of SLS the better. TPIS congratulates POGO for taking the initiative to look into SLS. (7/20)

Official Overarching Messages Regarding Shuttle Retirement (Source: NASA Watch)
"The Bush Administration in 2004 made the decision to end the Space Shuttle program. President Obama extended the program's life by adding two Space Shuttle launches to the manifest: STS-134, which was funded in the President's FY 2010 Budget Request; and STS-135 which was funded as part of the agreement that the President reached with Congress for FY 2011 funding."

"An independent commission found that the previous Administration's plan for human spaceflight in the post-Shuttle era was not viable under any feasible budget scenario. Among other challenges, it would have left NASA without the ability to get to the International Space Station until after it was de-orbited in 2016, and weakened other important NASA priorities including science, aeronautics, and technology development." (7/20)

Pristine Forecast For Last Shuttle Landing (Source: Florida Today)
NASA forecasters are calling for Chamber-of-Commerce weather for the planned landing early Thursday of the nation's 135th and final shuttle flight -- an operation that is slated to end with touch down at Kennedy Space Center about 40 minutes before sunrise. The four astronauts flying Atlantis are scheduled to glide onto Runway 15 at 5:56 a.m. Thursday. (7/20)

Editorial: U.S. Set to Take One Small Step Into Mess of its Own Making (Source: National Post)
There is no program in place to immediately take over for the space shuttles. NASA, along with commercial partners, is working to develop “space taxis” which would be run by the private sector and capable of sending astronauts and cargo into low-Earth orbit. Such flights would be used to resupply the space station, or conduct whatever other missions that might require a short-range vessel capable of flying into space, but not breaking free of the Earth’s gravity.

NASA, meanwhile, hopes to focus its effort on developing technologies, rockets and manned vessels that would operate well beyond Earth’s orbit, including proposed missions to asteroids and Mars. If successful, that would be a logical division of labor. If NASA could focus on deep space exploration, it could unleash a new era of exploration, perhaps the greatest the world has ever known.

But it’s too early to take any of this for granted. Commercial flights to the space station are years away at best. And NASA’s plans for its new super-booster and manned capsule, while promising, could easily fall victim to the U.S. budgetary crisis. That would be a tragedy, if it happened. It would be a great disappointment if the U.S. became so enfeebled by its own worst fiscal impulses that it was forced to turn inward and abandon exploration of the final frontier to grapple with partisan politics and a legacy of reckless spending at home. (7/20)

Congressional Support Impacts How NASA Spends (Source: NPR)
As the shuttle Atlantis makes its final orbits of the Earth Wednesday night, it's carrying four astronauts, some trash from the space station and a load of congressional politics. Capitol Hill has always been deeply involved in NASA's activities — and sometimes seems to regard NASA as a jobs program as well as a space program. Click here to listen to the story. (7/20)

Mark Kelly Not Ruling Out Politics (Source: Bakersfield Now)
Former astronaut Mark Kelly is planning his life post-NASA, keeping an open mind about running for political office while traveling the country for speaking engagements, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Kelly said he will be paid to speak at various events beginning in the next couple of months. Kelly said a career in politics is "not the plan right now" but added, "I've learned over a lot of years that you should never rule anything out."

Kelly has been mentioned as a potential candidate for office in Arizona, particularly for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. Kelly has previously said that Giffords "is the politician in the family" and that he found speculation about his plans interesting, saying it must be a slow summer. Kelly said he was attracted to speaking nationwide because it offers him flexibility. (7/20)

How To Keep NASA Talent In Houston (Source: KUHF)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she's concerned about the brain drain that could happen if Johnson Space Center employees take jobs elsewhere. "NASA has spent literally millions of dollars over the decades of the buildup of the space program assembling some of the finest scientists and engineers here in Houston, in Florida, in Alabama, to work on various aspects of our space program. And I don't want to see those great skills broken up and drift away."

Parker says Houston has the capacity to absorb many of those employees into the energy and medical industries. But she's also trying to make Houston the hub for privatized space jobs. "If we're going to go to the private sector, it absolutely makes sense to try to bring as much of those competitive processes here into the Houston where you already have the people who can do the work."

"It's an uphill battle. We're working with Bay Area Economic Partnership, the Greater Houston Partnership, we're working with our congressional delegation. We have an investment by the U.S. taxpayers, an investment that's very important to the residents and taxpayers of this area, let's try to bring those companies here and utilize the resources here." (7/20)

Hubble Points to Pluto's Fourth Moon (Source: USA Today)
Hubble space telescope images reveal that Pluto has a fourth moon, perhaps as small as 8 miles wide, astronomers reported Wednesday. Dubbed P4 for now, the moonlet joins Pluto's other satellites, Charon, some 648 miles across, Hydra and Nix, smaller objects perhaps only 20 miles wide themselves. (7/20)

Michael Griffin a Candidate for UAH Presidency (Source: Huntsville Times)
Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has emerged as a candidate to become president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Griffin is the first candidate to publicly acknowledge his interest in the job as a search committee seeks a replacement for David Williams, who resigned in March to become engineering dean at Ohio State University. (7/20)

Obama Administration Defends Delay Approving New Heavy-Lift Plan (Source: Huntsville Times)
The Obama administration is defending its delay approving a plan to build a NASA heavy-lift rocket Congress has ordered. Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center is scheduled to lead development of the new rocket, which would carry astronauts on deep space missions.

NASA has submitted an operational plan for the rocket work, but it is under review by the Office of Management and Budget. NASA has told Congress it has no idea when OMB will give the go-ahead. Any delay now is worth it to make sure NASA's plan is viable in the current budget environment, an OMB spokeswoman said. "Space exploration remains a commitment of this administration," spokeswoman Meg Reilly said.

"But as we take a critical eye to every aspect of the federal budget, we must ensure that every dollar spent in this area is used effectively and efficiently." Reilly said OMB is "working with NASA now to better understand the costs of this approach to ensure that a final plan is practicable and sustainable over the long term." It would be "reckless to make a final determination before the results of NASA's independent cost assessment are in," Reilly said. (7/20)

'Skinless' Shuttle Also Soon to Retire (Source: Discovery)
Unlike famous sibling spaceships -- Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- the little-known space shuttle inside Building 16 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston never got a name. It's known only by the manufacturer's designation Orbiter Vehicle 95, or OV-95, though it has "flown" all 135 space shuttle missions -- at least 15 times apiece -- plus dozens of precursor test flights by the prototype shuttle Enterprise. (7/20)

Shuttle Workers Grapple with Reinventing Themselves (Source: CNN)
Once Atlantis lands, 2,300 shuttle workers are expected to be laid off later this week. In August, another 1,000 will get their pink slips. About 8,000 shuttle workers, in total, who live in the area of the Kennedy Space Center will be unemployed due to the end of the shuttle program. For Billy McClure, his next chapter may be retirement. "I want to do something I want to do," he said.

Ray Zink is the runway move director. He's trying to be positive. At the shuttle landing facility, he and his team are prepping their vehicles to meet Atlantis. He's already thinking about his next life adventure. "We all have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge and we'd love to pass it on to another generation," he told CNN.

"I want to open a business where we have labs and hands-on experiments and places where we can go into schools and talk to kids ... and just sort of inspire kids," he said. Bill Bender doesn't know what his next destination is. He was laid off five months ago. He has found far too many people vying for far too few jobs. (7/20)

Kottkamp: As Shuttle Ends, Space Program Needs a New Beginning (Source: Sunshine State News)
Last year President Barack Obama came to Florida and announced what he called a “bold new vision” for our nation’s space program. While his proposal (which was revised after his initial proposal received significant push-back) saved some of the jobs that will otherwise be lost when the space shuttle is retired, calling his plans for our space program “bold,” or using the word “vision” to describe the proposal, is a stretch.

Today we need a renewed commitment to our nation’s space exploration program. It is time to give America another challenge, another purpose, a mission with a defined timeline: to Mars by 2020. Americans rise to the occasion every time we are challenged. Now is the time for us to take on the next great challenge in space exploration, not to retreat from our history... An investment in the space program is an investment in the future of our nation.

Editor's Note: Jeff Kottkamp is a former Republican Lt. Governor under Gov. Charlie Crist. He also served as the chairman of Space Florida's board of directors. (7/20)

Obama Pulls the Plug on a Great Run in Space (Source: Pajamas Media)
Obama’s termination of NASA’s manned space capabilities may carry political consequences. In 2012, thousands of unemployed aerospace workers along Florida’s Space Coast and I-4 corridor are unlikely to forget who aborted the program. There are also military consequences to the Obama policy. Allowing so much unemployed aerospace engineering talent to scatter to the wind affects America’s military capabilities. Relying on Russia to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station is only the most visible example of other countries surpassing America in space. (7/20)

New Space Race May Boost U.S. Industrial Base (Source: National Defense)
With NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the Defense Department is seeking to re-energize the nation’s industrial base. To that end, officials are implementing a new national security space strategy that emphasizes international collaboration and global partnerships to augment, protect and operate satellite systems.

U.S. military forces are dependent upon space-based technologies, including GPS and commercial communication satellites, to conduct operations. But as demand soars for more satellite-enabled capabilities, there are growing challenges that could hinder attempts to field systems. Budgetary constraints are complicating progress in an increasingly competitive market.

Greg Schulte said the Pentagon wants to energize the industrial base. The Defense Department has proposed to Congress a new acquisition approach called EASE, or evolutionary acquisition for space efficiency. It promotes block buys of space systems, technology insertion and advanced procurement to provide more stability to satellite acquisition programs. (7/20)

SpaceX Station Cargo Mission Planned (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says. Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting.

The plan depends on how SpaceX intends to manage the deployment of two small satellites during the flight that could pose an impact hazard to the station. “I think we will find a way to sort that out,” Suffredini says.

The strategy combines the second and third Dragon demonstration missions outlined in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program agreement. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk proposed as much following the company’s Dec. 8 initial demonstration flight. (7/20)

Is SpaceX the New NASA? (Source: CBS News)
Erica Hill speaks with SpaceX program manager, Garrett Reisman, about the commercial company's plans regarding space travel and exploration. Click here to see the news segment. (7/20)

Editorial: Obama on Right Track in Space (Source: Decatur Daily)
President Barack Obama, we are told, is an enemy of capitalism and an enemy of spaceflight. The rest of the nation may be able to accept the rhetoric, but in Decatur we should know better. Politicians who normally trumpet the private sector over government lambasted him for reducing NASA’s role in servicing the International Space Station. With carefully managed partnerships between NASA and proven companies, he would hand over more control to the private sector. He would let NASA instead focus more resources on missions like traveling to Mars.

We should know better than to criticize his space strategy because we see, close up, a company that likely will participate in the missions that NASA has perfected in recent decades. United Launch Alliance builds the best rockets in the world, right here in Decatur. Its success rate has no equal in the world, and lives routinely depend on the success of its missions.

The President's plan balances the efficiencies of a competitive private sector with the strict oversight of NASA experts. It also leaves the NASA engineers at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and elsewhere to focus not on continuing missions they have mastered through the shuttle program, but on untried goals that demand their expertise. Obama’s detractors would prevent NASA from focusing on extraordinary goals, and would bar the private sector from participating in tasks which it can handle. (7/20)

Maryland Space Science is Preparing for Liftoff (Source: Baltimore City Paper)
Maryland boasts the highest concentration of astronomers in the country, 11 times the national average, and the second highest concentration of physicists. It’s home to an exhaustive list of long-running and successful organizations and businesses, government-funded and private, that contribute directly or indirectly to space and Earth science.

In addition to STScI and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the state boasts the Goddard Space Flight Center, which has sent instruments to every planet in the solar system. Maryland’s space sector is currently contracted at $1.4 billion a year from NASA; it employs 15,061 people, totaling more than $1.6 billion in wages. (7/20)

Commercial Astronaut: Shuttle's End Is 'Sad Day' (Source: KJCT)
Ever since NASA's space shuttle had its final launch earlier this month, there have been questions about the future of our nation's space program. One man with direct ties to those efforts is also unsure. Mike Melvill, best known as the world's first commercial astronaut in space (he accomplished that feat in 2004) said the final shuttle launch was a 'sad day.' As much as he would like to see more launches down the road, Melvill worries that America is moving away from that.

"I think that it's a big mistake because what will happen is the politicians will realize they're now saving money and there will be no way to get money to build a new system," he commented. "We'll be relying on the Russians forever because of this mistake." Despite Melvill's opinion, President Obama has vowed a responsible return to space. He hopes NASA will have developed a new vehicle ready to take Americans into the final frontier by 2015.

Melvill says that thinking is backwards. He criticizes the plan saying NASA should have had a replacement before they retired the shuttle program. (7/20)

Merritt Island High Team May Launch Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
After working with NASA engineering mentors last school year, Merritt Island High students were selected as the second high school group in the nation to build and potentially launch a small satellite, called a CubeSat, from a NASA rocket. The activity is an extra-curricular activity for the students, whose numbers vary from eight to a dozen.

Teachers Alison Fetig and Julie White and Kennedy Space Center mentors worked with the students to meet requirements and pass the first of several reviews. The students designed their satellite, which they named StangSat, to communicate with a university satellite about launch data.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University serves on the advisory board for the school's da Vinci Academy for aerospace studies. (7/20)

We're Looking for a Few Good Astronauts (Source: Discover)
Until recently NASA was the only game in town for aspiring astronauts like Brian Shiro. But for the first time in the history of manned spaceflight, astronauts will soon be able to reach the final frontier in vehicles neither designed nor operated by a government space agency. Once NASA completes its last shuttle mission, its manned exploration arm will become little more than a deep-pocketed customer.

For seats on private space vehicles, each of which will require trained pilots and crew. That shift could open up outer space to a new class of astronaut, trained and employed more like airline pilots than Apollo explorers. “These changes create the potential for the first-ever privately trained astronauts,” says Ken Bowersox, a vice president at SpaceX and a former NASA astronaut. Last year, aiming to get some fresh blood into the pipeline, Shiro cofounded Astronauts4Hire (A4H).

A4H is a Florida-based nonprofit that he says will train the first generation of commercial spaceflight crews. Beginning this summer, 5 to 10 of the group’s members will experience crushing g-forces in a giant rotating centrifuge and may even confront weightlessness on parabolic jet flights. Astronauts­4Hire’s initial program, which lasts a few weeks and runs $10,000 per person, is a far cry from the two years of grueling training given to NASA recruits, but Shiro hopes it will give participants a jump on the competition. (7/20)

Should We End Space Exploration? (Source: Guardian)
The ultimate dream of a manned mission to Mars seems as distant as ever, and in this time of recession the expense of space travel seems hard to justify to the public. Is it time to accept that we have gone as far as we can with space exploration? Or should mankind remember the words of HG Wells – "Life, for ever dying to be born afresh, for ever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars." (7/20)

Arianespace: Russian Soyuz Rockets Have Bright Future (Source: Itar-Tass)
A new phase of France-Russia cooperation will start with the launch of a Soyuz rocket from the European Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, according to Arianespace President Jean-Yves le Gall. He said the future of the Soyuz Kourou program would be clear in two or three years.

The launch of a Soyuz rocket costs twice less than the launch of a European Ariane-5, but Soyuz rockets will not become rivals of Arianes, because they have different missions, le Gall said. The prospective Soyuz Kourou launches will provide a broad range of space delivery vehicles to Europe, among them the heavy Ariane rocket capable of delivering 9.5 tons of payload, the medium Soyuz with the payload of up to three tons, and the light Vega with the payload capacity of up to 1.5 tons. (7/20)

The Shuttle's Successors (Source: BBC)
After three decades, the shuttle era is all but over and the United States no longer has the means to send astronauts into space. Nasa is looking to the private sector to provide a new generation of space vehicles to take on the work of delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. We detail five of the possible successors to the shuttle. Click here to see the graphic. (7/19)

Brazilian Space Agency Overhaul Raises Union Hackles (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President Marcus Antonio Raupp’s bold effort to overhaul and consolidate the nation’s fractured space effort is meeting opposition from a key union worried that the change will outsource their jobs to private industry. The proposal provides for the merger of AEB with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and thus creating a new body to run the program.

Perhaps the union's biggest worry is the introduction of a “main contractor” for the Brazilian space program. This company or institution would be responsible for carrying out a project from beginning to end, setting deadlines and other subcontracting companies. In view of the union, the company – which is said to be Embraer – takes over the functions now performed by the space agency and its union workers. (7/19)

Cape Canaveral Job Fair On July 26 (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Brevard Workforce are partnering to host a job fair with private sector companies and federal employers from across the country on July 26. The Space Coast Job Fair and Hands-on Training Event will be held at 11 a.m. EDT at the Radisson Resort at the Port, 8701 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, Fla.

More than 45 employers are expected to take part in the event. NASA has been working with local, state and federal officials to provide future planning support and placement for non-civil servant contractors who work to support the Space Shuttle Program, which will end next month. In addition to this event, NASA's Human Resources Office has hosted workshops, seminars and other events to help prepare employees for future opportunities. For more on KSC's workforce support efforts, visit http://kscvoice.com. (7/19)

NASA Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson On Why We Should Send People To Space (Source: Huffington Post)
The 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster, which killed all seven crew members on board just 73 seconds into the flight, convinced Tracy Caldwell Dyson, then age 16, to become an astronaut. As a teen passionate about science and close with her teachers, Dyson said she could relate to the high school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who was on board the shuttle, and the buzzed-about launch piqued her interest in NASA. Her desire to become an astronaut only intensified following the explosion, which left her with the sense that a great deal was at stake for the agency.

“It felt like something was taken away from us and I didn’t want to see it destroyed,” she said of NASA’s space program. “I felt even more motivated to be a part of NASA and help rebuild it, even though I was only 16 at the time.” Twenty-five years later, Dyson has been a NASA astronaut for more than a decade, logging nearly 200 days in space, including three spacewalks and six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). She joined NASA after receiving a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of California,

In an exclusive interview for The Huffington Post’s Women in Tech series, Dyson shared her perspective on traveling to space, NASA’s future, the challenges of being a female astronaut, and more. Click here to read the interview. (7/20)

Urine: The Astronaut's Sports Drink (Source: MIT Technology Review)
One of the four astronauts on Atlantis tested a device that Wired calls "a textbook-sized kit that can convert urine into drinkable water." (The astronaut actually ran an "experimental fluid," not his or her urine, through the device.) The device works using a process called forward osmosis, by which the drinkable bits of urine slowly pass from an outer bag into an inner one.

A special electrolyte solution gets injected into a semi-permeable inner bag. Dirty fluid is then added to an outer bag. The fact that the electrolyte solution has a much greater osmotic pressure drives it to draw (cleanish) water molecules out of the dirty fluid and into the inner part of the bag. The whole process takes four to six hours, at the end of which you have your own jug of UrineAde. (7/20)

Rep. Lamar Smith: America Deserves a Better Space Program (Source: Space News)
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, two out of three Americans believe our country is on the wrong track and nearly six in 10 say that the economy has not even started to recover. Under President Obama, 20 million Americans are out of work, underemployed, or given up looking for a job. Another recent poll found that a majority of Americans believe that the United States should “continue to be a world leader in manned space exploration.”

These two polls — one about Americans’ sense of our country being on the wrong track and the other about American leadership in space — have more in common than you might think. America’s space program is on the wrong track. NASA’s industry partners have recently announced massive layoffs of many thousands of highly-skilled engineers and technicians who previously worked on the space shuttle as it now retires and on NASA’s canceled Constellation program.

We are on the wrong track because these layoffs are due to the Obama administration diverting nearly $3 billion per year out of NASA’s manned spaceflight budget from what was planned under President Bush’s budget projection. It is troubling to see what the Obama administration is doing to America’s manned spaceflight program. At a time when our nation seeks to inspire students to study math, science, and engineering, they only see NASA’s industry partners laying off thousands of aerospace engineers and technicians across the country. (7/20)

Pentagon Worries About Space Industry With End of Shuttle Program (Source: National Journal)
As the space-shuttle era draws to a close and budget pressures threaten to constrain spending, a senior Defense Department official said on Tuesday that the government needs to take steps to protect the aerospace industrial base and to preserve the United States’ technological edge in space. The Defense Department has not been involved in the shuttle program since the 1980s, but NASA and the military’s own space operations remain inextricably linked.

“While we don’t share the shuttle, we do share the industrial base,” Gregory Schulte, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space policy, told reporters at a breakfast on Tuesday morning. “And so anything that NASA does is important to us in terms of the industrial base. And anything that we do is important to NASA as well.” (7/20)

DOD Space Program Broadens Industry, Foreign Partnerships (Source: DOD)
The Defense Department is expanding partnerships with spacefaring companies and nations to maintain the strategic advantage it gains in space, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy said today. Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte said NASA’s final space shuttle flight this week represents “a time of transition” for the civil and military space programs. “Space,” Schulte said, “is increasingly congested, contested and competitive.” (7/20)

U.S. Wants to Talk Outer Space with China (Source: Reuters)
The United States wants to open a regular dialogue with China on outer space in an effort to create "rules for the road" and reduce the risk of misunderstandings, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday. China is making major investments in space and, unlike in the United States, distinguishing between China's civil and military space sectors is difficult because "the two are essentially one," Gregory Schulte, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said.

The United States recognizes that China is a "major space-faring country," he said. China is developing a broader range of space-borne capabilities to ward off adversaries, including jammers and lasers, which provides added incentive for the United States to open a channel for talks. "We've actually proposed to establish a regular dialogue with China on space," Schulte said. (7/20)

Interest in Space Memorabilia Soars as Shuttle Era Ends (Source: USA Today)
The day after the space shuttle Atlantis launched on its final journey, space memorabilia collectors flooded the website of Goldberg's Auctions in Los Angeles for a shot at nabbing a piece of NASA history. "It's the end of an era," says CEO Ira Goldberg. "These items will become historical treasure pieces."

Since the dawn of the space program in the 1950s , collectors have longed for a physical connection to the cosmos, from astronaut autographs to moon rocks. Now space shuttle relics are surging in price and popularity as NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program ends with the landing of Atlantis, scheduled for Thursday at Kennedy Space Center. (7/20)

European Commission Wants Individual Nations To Fund GMES (Source: Space News)
The European Commission, in a surprise move, is proposing that its satellite-based Earth observation program be removed from its seven-year budget starting in 2014 and instead be funded by voluntary contributions from individual European governments. The decision to take the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) effort off the commission’s books just as it begins operations drew immediate criticism from a group representing European geo-information companies.

Up to now, it had been assumed that GMES and the Galileo satellite navigation project — the two so-called “flagship” European Union space programs — would secure long-term funding for the commission’s next budget cycle, which covers the period from 2014 through 2020. The proposed budget is by no means the last word. Nearly two years of negotiations with the parliament and with individual governments still lie ahead. (7/20)

Lockheed Looks For More Job Cuts (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. is making voluntary-layoff offers to 6,500 U.S. employees at its corporate headquarters and in its enterprise-business-services segment. Lockheed eliminated about 3,300 positions in its aeronautics, space systems and other segments earlier this year. (7/20)

Congressman Green Pitches NASA Workers To Interior Department (Source: KUHF)
The Interior Department is looking to hire hundreds of inspectors for offshore oil and gas rigs. It’s part of the effort to both improve safety and speed production in the wake of last year’s Gulf oil spill. Houston Congressman Gene Green is petitioning the department to hire Johnson Space Center employees and contractors that are being let go with the end of the shuttle program.

“Those folks could be trained very quickly, because they have a technical background, to also inspect vessels and oil and gas rigs, cause frankly, if they were inspecting the Shuttle and things going into space, they know some of the quality requirements that you have to have, and I want the same thing in our offshore drilling platforms.”

Green says hiring idled NASA workers would solve two problems: Interior’s difficulty finding skilled workers and the Houston area’s ability to hold onto the ones it has now. Fourteen members of Congress have signed Green’s letter to Interior, including the entire Houston delegation. (7/20)

The Lost Dream of Trippy '70s Space Colonies (Source: The Atlantic)
"We have put men on the Moon. Can people live in space? Can permanent communities be built and inhabited off the Earth? Not long ago these questions would have been dismissed as science fiction, as fantasy or, at best as the wishful thinking of men ahead of their times," a 1975 NASA design study begins. "Now they are asked seriously not only out of human curiosity, but also because circumstances of the times stimulate the thought that space colonization offers large potential benefits and hopes to an increasingly enclosed and circumscribed humanity."

In the wake of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, the dwindling resources of the Earth were on the minds of many. The solution, for a particular kind of Big Engineering adherent, wasn't to reduce the human footprint on this planet, but to extend it beyond the blue marble. The space colony movement probably marks the apex of nominally realistic ambitious thinking about off-world living. The goal was to build a 10,000-person orbiting community with materials and technologies available to people in the 1970s. Click here. (7/20)

Is Commercial Space & Building Spaceports the Next Step? (Source: WMFE)
NASA and the US space manned space program are betting that commercial ventures will pick up where the Space Shuttle leaves off at the end of this week. Mark Simpson talks with George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic about how close the company is to realizing its vision of bringing tourists into space from the New Mexico desert. Representing the industry side of things, Craig Steidle, president of the Commercial Space Flight Federation discusses how politicians in Washington DC view spaceports. Click here for the audio. (7/20)

After Shuttle Lands, Mission Control to Go Quiet (Source: AP)
In the geeky world of space engineering, this large, high-ceilinged room is close to holy. Inside, people speak in hushed tones and observe time-honored traditions. The place is Mission Control. Beginning moments after launch, flight controllers here choreograph everything astronauts do, from waking up and eating to walking in space. "That building, we think of it as a cathedral of spaceflight," said John McCullough, head of NASA's flight director office. Flight controllers are "the keepers and enforcers of traditions" that date back to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo days.

When Atlantis lands Thursday, the famous room will seem even more ghostly. After 30 years and 135 missions, shuttles will no longer need controlling. NASA plans to turn the space into a training venue, mostly for astronauts going to the International Space Station and flight controllers working with the station. Over the next couple of months, 800 or 900 people in the mission operations division will be laid off, said Paul Hill, head of that division and a former flight director himself. (7/20)

AIA Applauds Obama Move to Ease Export Restrictions (Source: AIA)
The Obama administration has proposed modernizing some of the controls on exported products that are not a security risk. The Aerospace Industries Association applauded the proposal. "For years the U.S. export control system has created confusion and delay in exporting defense equipment to our allies and driven up compliance costs across the industrial base," said AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey. "These reforms are common-sense ways of supporting our military partners and our export competitiveness." (7/20)

Lawmakers' Quarrel Could Lead to Shutdown of FAA (Source: CNBC)
The House and the Senate continue to disagree over a labor provision in legislation that would extend long-term funding to the Federal Aviation Administration. The dispute could lead to a shutdown of the FAA, whose operating authority expires this week. If that happens, air traffic controllers would still continue to work because they are considered essential employees, Republican lawmakers said. (7/20)

Astronauts4Hire Members Complete Suborbital Scientist Training (Source: A4H)
Eight Astronauts4Hire members have successfully completed the Suborbital Scientist Training Program at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Astronauts4Hire and NASTAR will collaborate to refine and further develop curricula to prepare future scientist crews. (7/20)

Money Facts: The Space Shuttle Program (Source: SFGate.com)
The space shuttle program costs each taxpayer $93 each year. (Adjusted for inflation and averaged). If that seems like a small price to pay in the name of science and adventure, you are most likely sad to see the space shuttle program retired. If it's money that you could spend on more important items, then the farewell to the most visible piece of NASA is probably a welcome sight.

The Space Shuttle program has fallen victim to a lack of funding. As that is largely unpopular among Washington politicians, it still remains a source of national pride. A recent survey found that 55% of Americans believe that the shuttle program was money well spent, while 58% feel that it is essential that the United States remain leaders in the space travel and exploration. Exactly what are the costs that America has incurred and what costs will we incur when the program is gone? Click here. (7/20)

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