July 8, 2011

Statement by the President on the Launch of Atlantis (Source: White House)
Today, Americans across the country watched with pride as four of our fellow citizens blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and America reached for the heavens once more. Behind Atlantis and her crew of brave astronauts stand thousands of dedicated workers who have poured their hearts and souls into America’s Space Shuttle program over the past three decades. To them and all of NASA’s incredible workforce, I want to express my sincere gratitude. You helped our country lead the space age, and you continue to inspire us each day.

Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth. And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it.

Congratulations to Atlantis, her astronauts, and the people of America's space program on a picture-perfect launch, and good luck on the rest of your mission to the International Space Station, and for a safe return home. I know the American people share my pride at what we have accomplished as a nation, and my excitement about the next chapter of our preeminence in space. (7/8)

NASA Foresees Astronaut Hiring Post-Shuttle (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson, who supervises a much-diminished corps of U.S. space explorers, envisions some modest recruiting in the post-shuttle era to keep the International Space Station adequately staffed with Americans and support the development of NASA’s Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The agency also will offer the assistance of members of the astronaut corps to developers of new commercial orbital transportation services – if they want NASA’s help. (7/6)

SpaceDiver, Armadillo Aerospace Planning Joint Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Imagine taking a rocket up into space, jumping out, and then free falling back to Earth. Sound terrifying? Exciting? A little crazy? Well, it’s exactly what Rick Tumlinson’s company, SpaceDiver Inc., and Armadillo Aerospace are working to make possible for thrill seeking adventurers. Tumlinson met with the suborbital spacecraft developer last month in Texas to discuss using Armadillo’s suborbital systems to jump start a brand new sport, space diving. A series of projects are in the works that will likely be announced later this year, Tumlinson says.

“I began working on SpaceDiver back in 2005, and spoke to a couple of flight firms including Armadillo, but the time was too early,” Tumlinson told me in an email. “Given our plan is to use rocket-based platforms we needed the industry to mature a bit. It has, and now we are ready to begin moving ahead again. There are lots of challenges ahead, from engineering to funding, but we will do this, and more. (7/8)

AIA Seeks Rocketry Challenge Sponsors (Source: AIA)
The Aerospace Industries Association’s Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2012. Thanks to the participation of more than 50,000 and several dozen companies, an event that started out as a celebration of the centennial of flight has in one decade blossomed into the world's largest rocket contest and one of the biggest Science Technology Engineering and Math student competitions.

We urge you to consider sponsoring the Team America Rocketry Challenge for its 10th anniversary season, which we intend to make our largest and best competition yet. Sponsoring TARC is an excellent way for your company to gain exposure, network with other AIA member companies, and educate students, their parents, guidance counselors and teachers about careers in aerospace. Contact Anne Ward for information. (7/8)

Air Force to Launch Another GPS Satellite from Florida on July 14 (Source: Aerospace Daily)
The Air Force will launch the second Boeing GPS IIF satellite via two solid-rocket motor strap-on boosters on July 14. The satellite will travel 11,000 miles before entering a circular orbit, said Jim Sponnick, vice president of mission operations at United Launch Alliance. (7/8)

A New Era in Space (Source: Energy Collective)
I've been seeing a number of articles on the general theme of an era ending. This week's Economist went so far as to suggest it marks the "End of the Space Age." I sincerely hope they are wrong, because of my primary focus on energy. Most of the resources of the solar system, including most of its energy resources, lie outside the earth's atmosphere. Space solar power (SSP) might not contribute significantly for decades, but it still looks like an important option for ensuring that energy limits don't constrain our long-term prosperity after the ages of oil and coal wind down.

One presentation that I still recall vividly from the many meetings involved in the economic review of NASA's "Fresh Look" approach to SSP in the 1990s, and from my time on NASA's oversight committee for SSP, dealt with the crucial role of a low-cost, high-frequency launch system in putting the components of solar power satellites into orbit affordably. Even then, it was clear that the current shuttle was not that system. It was equally clear that the traditional alternative of disposable rockets couldn't come close to the $ per pound-on-orbit threshold required.

I have a hunch that a goal of obtaining non-polluting energy from space would go a lot farther towards galvanizing the necessary public support for NASA than the next planetary mission--which incidentally might be easier to construct with the capabilities that a more nuts-and-bolts effort might create. Click here to read the article. (7/8)

Exploring the Heavens, Christian Astronauts Reflect (Source: Houston Chronicle)
“They say there’s no atheists in foxholes, but there’s probably no atheists in rockets,” said Catholic astronaut Col. Mike Good, who believes his faith in God was solidified by the awe-inspiring views he saw from space. From the famous astronauts who pioneered space exploration to the crews on the final space shuttle missions, faith has been a driving force in NASA history.

NASA employees fill pews in churches surrounding Johnson Space Center, including Webster Presbyterian Church, called the “church of the astronauts” when John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Jerry Carr, Charlie Bassett and Roger Chaffee were active members of the congregation. Later this month, the church will honor the anniversary of Aldrin’s Holy Communion on the moon, the first meal ever eaten on its surface.

Although NASA does not provide spiritual resources, religious objects—crosses, Bibles, icons, prayer cards—are among the most common personal items taken into space, said Johnson Space Center spokesman James Hartsfield. Mike Massimino, who traveled on two spaceflights, carried a small Vatican flag and a Mass card with Benedict’s photo, which he later presented to the pope. (7/8)

Senator: Leave No Stone Unturned for Shuttle Replacement (Source: The Hill)
The United States has become a leader in space exploration and I am committed to maintaining this position. The Congress provided a balanced and responsible means of securing that leadership in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Although we have yet to see the final, formal architecture for the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA assures us that it will move forward with that development on a timely basis and has begun steps to expedite development of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), using existing contracts and previous investments to the maximum extent.

NASA’s January report to the Senate Commerce Committee on the SLS heavy lift rocket and MPCV capsule was incomplete and inconclusive. Despite the fact that they had already studied more than 2,000 vehicle design concepts in recent years, some at NASA felt compelled to undertake yet more studies in the months since that report, only to find that the basic concept outlined in the 2010 Act is, in fact, the best path forward, as has been made more and more clear in recent briefings on their progress in filling in the blanks from their January report.

There is clearly an immediate need for the deliberate, expedient development of future U.S.-based space vehicles to maintain our commitment to the International Space Station. This will protect our massive investment in developing that remarkable facility and in ensuring that we can make maximum use of its tremendous research potential. I will continue to work to ensure we leave no stone unturned in realizing those goals. (7/8)

Up to 1 Million See Final Atlantis Launch (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Brevard County to witness Friday the final launch of Atlantis and the end of NASA's space shuttle era. "Oh my gosh, it was so cool!" exclaimed Talya Stauber, 8, who was with her dad, Marshall, at Space View Park along the Indian River. They had come up to the Space Coast from the South Florida city of Hollywood. Thousands at the park let out a cheer and clapped as Atlantis took advantage of a late break in the cloudy skies that had threatened the launch all morning long. Officials said they expected up to 1 million spectators. (7/8)

NASA Takes New Route in Space Leadership (Source: CNBC)
President Obama is an outspoken booster of the space program and supports a 2011 NASA budget close to its 2010 level; he has challenged NASA to duplicate past glory and prowess by exploring deep space and reaching Mars by the 2030s. Current U.S. space spending, including the proposed $19 billion NASA budget, dwarfs that of other countries. At the same time, however, existing and potential rivals such as Russia, China, India and the U.K. are ratcheting up spending as America's budget flattens. That disparity is causing concern in some quarters, as is other countries' willingness to share technology and an over-reliance on the privatization strategy.

NASA's position on the space station transportation issue is simply that the U.S. needs to stop "outsourcing this work to foreign governments," says NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz. Contracts between NASA and private companies are already in place. Obama says the competition between corporations will drive safety standards, innovations and lower transportation costs. Again, critics disagree. (7/8)

Space Jobs Scarce for Laid-Off Shuttle Workers (Source: WMFE)
It's been more than seven years since President Bush announced the end of the Shuttle program. Since then, local leaders have been able to lure about 1,600 new aerospace jobs to help absorb some of the displaced shuttle workforce. But the total number of shuttle layoffs is expected to approach 9,000. The gap between those two numbers has some people questioning the future of the space industry on the Space Coast.

“We’ve known that the termination of the shuttle program has been coming for a long time,” says Space Florida's Frank DiBello, “and I think the area has been preparing for it.” But has it been doing enough? Even as the shuttle’s retirement loomed large, state funding for Space Florida fell from $7 million in 2007 to $3.8 million in 2009. (7/8)

DiBello: Stop Relying on Federal Programs (Source: WMFE)
Since the Shuttle retirement was announced, Florida space boosters were spending more of their time and energy lobbying NASA to speed up its plan to replace the shuttle than working on the commercial side of the area’s space industry.

Space Policy Analyst Edward Ellegood with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University says state lawmakers were no different. “They’re seeing the same information that Space Florida and others are, that there are other programs that the federal government has in the pipeline that could replace the shuttle and take on the workforce there,” Ellegood says.

Space Florida’s Frank DiBello thinks the Space Coast needs to stop relying so much on federal space policy and focus more on private industry. “I believe that this area has too long identified itself solely with what NASA was doing,”DiBello says. “That’s what I’ve tried to break from Day One.” Space Florida says it’s close to announcing deals that could bring another 4,000 jobs to the area over the next three years. (7/8)

Arianespace Rethinking Dual-Launch Strategy (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium will encourage customers to seek financing from France’s export-credit agency as a way of mitigating the effects of foreign exchange fluctuations and returning the company’s financial accounts to break-even status. Arianespace also says that the company’s business model of launching two satellites at a time aboard the heavy-lift Ariane-5 may no longer be well adapted to the evolution of the global commercial launch market.

The Evry, France-based company is already having trouble pairing two satellites for Ariane 5 liftoffs. Small increases in Ariane 5’s liftoff power will make it easier to find two satellites that are ready to launch at the same time and can be fitted on board. But the bifurcation of the market into heavy and light spacecraft will continue to make finding suitable pairs a challenge, the report says. (7/8)

Tom Wolfe: Congress Lost Interest in Space Program on 7/20/69 (Source: CNN)
Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, said: "You know when Congress lost interest in the space program? It was on July 20, 1969, the moment Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. O.K., we did that, we beat the Russians. Now let's use all that money for...hmmm...other things." (7/8)

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