January 27, 2012

Romney: I Will Restore America's Space Program (Source: Mitt Romney)
"The U.S. space program is a strategic national asset, which makes critical contributions to our scientific knowledge, technological innovation, economic competitiveness, national security, and international leadership. We have watched with dismay as President Obama dismantled the structure that was guiding both the government and commercial space sectors, while providing no purpose or vision or mission. This failure of leadership has thrust the space program into disarray and triggered a dangerous erosion of our technical workforce and capabilities. In short, we have a space program unworthy of a great nation."

"Restoring the U.S. space program to greatness will require the leadership, management skill, and commitment to American exceptionalism possessed by only one candidate in this race: Mitt Romney. We support Mitt’s candidacy and believe that his approach to space policy will produce results instead of empty promises. As his long record of success in both the private and public sectors attests, Mitt will do more than provide our space program with an inspiring vision and mission of exploration. He will also set aggressive yet achievable goals, adhere to realistic budgets, and execute on a carefully drawn plan."

"As president, Mitt Romney will facilitate close collaboration not only within the government’s civil and national security space sectors, but also with the private sector and with research institutions. He will create conditions for a strong and competitive commercial space industry that can contribute greatly to our national capabilities and goals. And he will ensure that NASA returns its focus to the project of manned space exploration that uniquely affirms American strength and values around the globe. Under his leadership, America will once again lead the world in space." Click here. (1/27)

Teens Send Lego Toy Toward Space (Source: MSNBC)
It's very cool that two 17-year-old Canadians sent a flag-toting Lego figurine into the sky on a weather balloon, as part of a weekend project that cost less than $500. It's cooler still that they got back some fantastic video of the toy silhouetted against the backdrop of a curving Earth beneath a black sky. But let's not call it putting a "Lego man in space." Even though the balloon ascended to around 80,000 feet, that's only a quarter of the way to the boundary of outer space. Click here. (1/27)

Former Astronauts and Administrator Endorse Romney (Source: Space Politics)
In advance of his appearance Friday afternoon in Cape Canaveral, the Mitt Romney campaign released a letter from several key figures in the American space community endorsing him, calling him someone who “will restore America’s space program”. They repeat earlier comments by Romney that he would bring together the civil, commercial, and military space sectors to find common ground and perhaps share resources.

Among the letters signatories are former astronauts Bob Crippen and Gene Cernan; the latter has been one the most vocal ex-astronaut critics of the Obama Administration’s space policy. Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin is also a signatory, along with several other former space officials: Scott Pace (now head of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute), Mark Albrecht, and Peter Marquez. (Albrecht has been critical of NASA’s evolution into a “risk-averse feudal empire”.) The commercial side is represented by Eric Anderson of Space Adventures. (1/27)

Vermont's Reach Into Space (Source: VPR)
On some clear nights, you can step outside, stare into the Vermont sky and catch a glimpse of the International Space Station. There are several Vermonters who are involved with the project. We hear from former NASA Astronaut Colonel Jerry Carr and Jennifer Kimball, who is a Flight Controller for the International Space Station. They provide their perspective on space exploration and look at what future there is for NASA. Click here. (1/27)

Want to Be an Astronaut? Apply Today (Source: ABC News)
Tonight is the deadline for applications for the next astronaut class. It’s a leap of faith because there is no great space race anymore and Newt Gingrich is the only candidate who even mentions a future in space for the U.S. Nevertheless, NASA said that as of midday today, it had received 5,100 applications, more than ever before. Only about a dozen new astronauts will be chosen. (1/27)

Russia Launches Astronaut Recruitment Drive (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos has launched a cosmonaut selection competition. Candidates should apply with the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. A lucky few will be selected for cosmonaut training by a commission made up of representatives of the training center, rocket and space corporation Energia and the Institute of Biomedical Problems. The Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center also held a recruitment contest for potential cosmonauts last year. The contest targeted a broad spectrum of people, but mainly those employed in the rocket and space industry. (1/27)

Ukraine, Russia to Launch Two Dnepr Rockets in 2012 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Ukraine and Russia will carry out two rocket launches under the joint Dnepr space program, head of the National Space Agency of Ukraine Yuri Alekseyev said. Moscow has recently decided to continue the implementation of the joint Russian-Ukrainian program to use decommissioned RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in commercial space launches under the Dnepr program. “We are planning to carry out two launches [this year],” Yuri Alekseyev said. “The first, with a Korean KOMPSAT-5 satellite, is tentatively scheduled for April-May…and probably in September or October we will have a launch with a large number of Arab satellites,” he said. (1/27)

Ukraine Delays Launch of First Telecom Satellite Until Next Year (Source: Itar Tass)
Ukraine has once again delayed the launch of its first telecom satellite Lybid until next year, Ukrainian State Space Agency head Yuri Alexeyev said. He said Ukraine failed to confirm the orbital slot of Lybid in due time and a French satellite took that place. “It took us six months to coordinate the new orbital slot. It was previously located at 38 degrees East, now it is 48 degrees East,” he said. “The new orbital slot will broaden the area covered by the Ukrainian satellite. It will fully cover Ukraine, its neighbors, North Africa and some of Asia.” (1/27)

NASA Welcomes Our Surgical Robot Overlords (Source: Discovery)
Near-Earth orbit is packed with satellites, essential to communication and navigation back on Earth. But many of those satellites are aging, so what happens when they break down, or need refueling? Simply ditching the satellites would be wasteful -- it costs many millions of dollars to build and launch a satellite -- and then there's the fact that it's getting pretty crowded up there. The obvious solution is to send astronauts up to make the necessary repairs, thereby extending the lifetime of an ailing satellite, but this is expensive and risky (especially for the astronauts).

In the case of more distant satellites, it might not even be feasible. So NASA is funding research on developing remotely operated robotic systems that might be up to the challenge. Enter the engineers of Johns Hopkins University, who helped pioneer medical robotic surgeries with the invention of the Da Vinci console that enables surgeons to steer surgical robots through complicated surgical procedures. Click here. (1/27)

Gingrich Moon Base: Inspired Idea Would Reverse America's Enfeeblement (Source: Telegraph)
I’m never been sure about Newt Gingrich. He’s giving us Right-wing nuts a bad name. Plus he’s almost certain to lose to Obama, who I wouldn’t say is the worst US president ever, but is certainly in the bottom one. On the other hand Chuck Norris has given his endorsement to Gingrich, and now he’s come out with a genuinely inspiring idea: an American moon base.

The suggestion has been widely ridiculed, and on the face of it there are many problems. But space has that rare ability to inspire; advocates of space travel argue that the Mercury and Apollo missions of the 1960s led to a huge increase in children studying science, with obvious benefits for society as a whole. Sadly, though, like the British before them, Americans have lost interest in doing things and become more interested in being things, and indulging in self-gratification.

Space has a further, very important benefit – the power to unite humanity like nothing else. Our species are, by their very nature, tribalistic and doomed to remain so; yet after the 1969 moon landings, wherever Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins went on earth, they were fĂȘted not as representatives of the United States but of all humanity. (1/27)

Launch Vehicle Competition Increases (Source: Aviation Week)
Launch industry managers worldwide will go after government markets as the industry continues its recovery from a downturn that has brought a reduction in the number of competitors in the market and forced the remaining players to restructure. While the reduction of launch vehicle operators and an increase in launch opportunities is driving recovery for the survivors, an expected decline in satellite purchases and rise in the number of launch vehicle operators down the road could fuel greater competition in coming years.

The downturn meant many players could not afford to stay in business. Forced to restructure under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009, Sea Launch Co. conducted no launches between April 2009 and mid-2011. Other players, such as the United Launch Alliance (ULA), pulled out of the commercial market to focus almost entirely on government contracts. Launch operators in India, China and Japan, and many in Russia, also rely almost exclusively on government contracts. Click here. (1/27)

Pentagon Recommends More Military Base Closures (Source: FL-DC)
Florida is bracing for another round of military base closures planned as part of a sweeping Pentagon move to cut spending by $487 billion over the next decade. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday the closures are part of the Pentagon’s strategy to reshape its mission to favor quick-strike capabilities over conventional, land-based operations while meeting congressionally mandated spending reductions. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Panhandle Republican and Florida’s most senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, was “disappointed” in the administration plan. (1/27)

Diamandis: Rocket Man (Source: Forbes)
Peter Diamandis' $10 million X Prize bounty sparked a boom in commercial tourism. You won't believe what he wants to do next. According to the fast-talking, hand-chopping impresario of the tech and space worlds: “The system is broken, access to health care is inconvenient, inefficient, bureaucratic—at worst, it’s even inaccurate,” he intones, striding on the stage in the standard tech mogul uniform—white shirt, blue jacket and jeans—as MRI-like images dance behind him on a gigantic screen. Stats roll off his tongue: an average 21-day wait for a doctor’s appointment; the 2-hour delay in the office; a coming shortage of 91,000 doctors. That’s just in America.

The crowd listens keenly, less for Diamandis’ subject matter—a deadly topic, even at an electronics show—or his matter-of-fact style than this track record and his cash. Diamandis is launching his latest payload: a $10 million X Prize, his seventh contest, to whoever develops the first medical tricorder—yes, that all-purpose handheld that was standard equipment among Star Trek medics. Click here. (1/27)

Romney to Moon Base Executive: You're Fired! (Source: Politico)
Gingrich is willing to spend more on certain important priorities, extravagant though they may seem, while Mitt Romney reinforced his conservative bona-fides by arguing that moon travel isn’t worth the cost. “I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired,’” Romney quipped.

“The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea,” Romney added. “We’ve seen politicians — and Newt, you’ve been part of this — go from state to state and promise exactly what that state wants to hear. The Speaker comes here to Florida, wants to spend untold amount of money having a colony on the moon. I know it’s very exciting on the Space Coast.”

In a line that got loud applause, he added: “Look, this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that’s what got us into the trouble we’re in now. We’ve got to say no to this kind of spending.” Gingrich shot back by arguing that local issues should actually be important to a president. “First, I thought we were a country where one of the purposes of candidates going around was to actually learn about the states they campaigned in and actually be responsive to the needs of the states they campaign in,” he said. (1/27)

Clarification: Will Grandiose-Class Prizes Work? (Source: SPACErePORT)
In response to a question about Newt Gingrich's idea for mega-prizes for mega-space achievements (like a habitable lunar base), I was quoted in the Washington Post saying "Prizes at that scale don't work very well." I was actually recounting to the Post reporter a conversation I had prior to the interview, with someone who was of that opinion. My own opinion is somewhat different. Having been involved in a couple of NASA prize projects, I think they're a great way to stimulate innovation and private sector investment. I'm ambivalent about whether it is prudent to scale them up to the level of a lunar base.

With the other prize projects I've supported, the devil is in the details of how they're structured. Every rule raises a dozen questions and requirements for clarification. Keeping it simple is key, but that isn't always possible when the sponsor wants to truly advance the state-of-the-art. And it can be very difficult to scope a prize purse that is large enough and achievable enough to entice multiple private competitors into a high-risk, high-cost race. If not achievable in a reasonable amount of time, the prize challenge might encumber for years billions of tax dollars that might be more expeditiously invested elsewhere.

So could a "grandiose-class" prize for a habitable lunar base or a private Mars landing work? I think it can, but I'm not sure if it would be good public policy. As was discussed during Thursday's debate, perhaps more private sector money could fund such things. Remember that the Orteig Prize (which Charles Lindbergh won) and those prizes sponsored by the X-Prize Foundation were/are funded by private investors. (1/27)

Titan: Mile-Wide Dunes on Earth's Frozen Twin Intrigue Scientists (Source: CS Monitor)
The discovery of intriguing differences among vast fields of sand dunes on Saturn's moon Titan is opening a window on the haze-shrouded satellite's geology and climate, researchers say. Radar images from NASA's Cassini orbiter reveal that the size and spacing of the dunes change depending on the latitude of the dune fields and the elevation of the land on which they sit. The findings may help uncover the distribution of winds on the moon and yield clues to help resolve a long-standing debate over how and where the sand itself formed. Click here. (1/27)

Raytheon Profit Rises (Source: Bloomberg)
Improved performance at Raytheon Co.'s missile and space units drove a rise in fourth-quarter profits of 9.4%, the company says, although the 2012 outlook fell on lower anticipated sales. CEO Bill Swanson is focusing "on wringing costs out of programs to improve profitability," this feature notes. "We know as a company, if we weren’t taking costs out, somebody would be replacing us," Swanson said. (1/27)

Senate Approves Short-Term FAA Funding Extension (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Senate again approved a funding extension for the Federal Aviation Administration. The measure will extend funding through Feb. 17. House and Senate negotiators are negotiating a final bill for long-term funding for the FAA. (1/27)

NASA Should Improve Escape Plan from Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
A safety group cautioned that there is a more than 30% chance astronauts will need to abandon the International Space Station by 2020. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel urged NASA to improve its escape plan. "While this possibility has been known for some time, NASA has not yet shared with the panel an explicit plan to deal with this situation," the panel said. (1/27)

Russian Proton Launch With Dutch Satellite Postponed (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with a Dutch telecommunication satellite onboard scheduled for Friday has been postponed indefinitely for technical reasons, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Friday. This is the second delay in the rocket’s launch, which was initially scheduled for December 26, but then postponed for technical reasons.

“Today we are planning to carry out operations to dismount the Proton-M rocket from the launch pad…and transport it to the integration building,” a statement on the Roscosmos website said. “The date and time of the launch will be established after all registered problems are fixed and additional tests are held,” the statement read. (1/27)

Delta Mariner Damages Bridge in Kentucky, En Route to Florida Spaceport (Source: WTVF)
State officials have begun inspecting what's left of a southwestern Kentucky bridge that collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship carrying rocket parts to Cape Canaveral. Inspectors began the in-depth review of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at daylight Friday.

The three-story-high Motor Vessel Delta Mariner struck span "E" of the bridge around 8:10 p.m. Thursday. That span of bridge is 322 feet long. Officials with Marshal County said the parts of the bridge collapsed into water and also became attached to the ship. Four vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collision. No one was hurt. Click here. (1/27)

ULA Statement on Delta Mariner Accident (Source: SpaceRef)
The 312-foot vessel was carrying vehicle components for an upcoming United Launch Alliance launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There are no injuries on the Mariner or the bridge. Initial inspections have shown that the flight hardware being transported was not damaged. The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation. The Delta Mariner was commissioned in 2002 to transport flight hardware from the United Launch Alliance factory in Decatur, Ala., to launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (1/27)

Asteroid Passes Close to Earth (Source: CNN)
An asteroid about the size of a school bus will pass close to Earth today, but it poses no danger to the planet, NASA astronomers say. The huge rock, called Asteroid 2012 BX34, will close to within about 36,750 miles of Earth, or about .17 times the distance between the Earth and the moon, according to Asteroid Watch, which is operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near Earth Object Office. "It wouldn't get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try," an Asteroid Watch tweet says of the 37-foot diameter rock. (1/27)

Russia 'to Postpone Next Manned Space Launches' (Source: AFP)
Russia is set to pospone the next two manned launches for the International Space Station (ISS) for several weeks due to technical problems with the Soyuz spaceship. A source told Interfax that the Soyuz TMA-04M vessel had not withstood tests to its pressure chamber ahead of the planned mission on March 30 and the first flight would be postponed to mid-April or the first half of May.

"This re-entry capsule now cannot be used for manned spaceflight," the source said. That mission would fly with the re-entry capsule that was due to go up on the next mission on May 30 and as a result that mission would also likely be postponed to the middle or end of June. The re-entry capsule goes inside the spacecraft and is the portion that eventually returns the astronauts to Earth when the mission is over. (1/27)

Kepler Scientists Find 26 More Exoplanets (Source: SpaceToday.net)
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft announced Thursday the discovery of 26 more extrasolar planets orbiting 11 stars. None of the planets appear similar to the Earth in size and orbit: their masses range from 1.5 times the Earth to larger than Jupiter, while all orbit closer to their stars than Venus orbits the Earth. One of the systems, Kepler-33, has five planets, while several other stars have pairs if planets in orbital resonances. Scientists said the findings help demonstrate that planets around stars are relatively common in the galaxy. (1/27)

Poll: Who Has the Best Space Plan? (Source: Mashable)
Forget about presidential politics for a moment. Forget left and right, Republican and Democrat. Forget the GOP primaries and the same tired old debates that have filled the opinion pages for the last four years. Instead, to determine the next occupant of the White House, try this question on for size: Would you rather build a moon base or start mining the asteroid belt? Or do you think space exploration should be de-emphasized, and that NASA should be run with the help of the business community? Click here to take the poll. Editor's Note: Here's another poll from Tea Party in Space (TPIS). (1/27)

Third Rock Radio Serves Target Space Audience (Source: Navigator)
Yesterday, Mars moved into its retrograde cycle, and recent solar flares from the sun made the news in what astronomers are calling the biggest space storm in seven years. Such science and tech news is catered toward a niche demographic, and while there’s no shortage of media outlets that realize this, a new Internet radio station has been created for NASA that combines science and space news with an indie, new rock, and alternative music format.

Third Rock Radio: America’s Space Station, has been streaming online for just over a month and has quickly gained a global, targeted audience. “The reception has been everything we hoped for and more,” said Pat Fant, co-founder of Third Rock. “We have listeners in over 40 different countries, and we kind of stopped counting.”

Fant, along with fellow co-founder who simply goes by Cruze, started RFC Media about three years ago and have built radio stations on the Web for brands and businesses. After a number of clients, they were able to start a new project for NASA. “When we first starting talking to NASA about the idea, everybody liked it, but wasn’t sure exactly what sort of form it would take,” Cruze said. (1/27)

NASA Selects 2 Deltona Teachers for Astronomy Research Flights (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Two Deltona teachers have been selected to participate in research flights aboard NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. Mike Cimino of Heritage Middle School and John Clark of Deltona High School are among 26 educators from around the nation chosen for the program. As Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors, they'll work with professional astronomers for scientific observations this year and next. The observatory is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch diameter telescope based in Palmdale, California. (1/27)

No comments: