January 28, 2012

Ron Paul Voices Little Support for Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
GOP hopeful Ron Paul did not campaign for the Florida Primary, because it is a winner-take-all state and he had little hope of coming out on top. But he did participate in two Florida-based debates and revealed his opinions on space exploration during one of them. Paul indicated support only for military space capabilities, ands was dismissive of Newt Gingrich's ideas. He did, however, suggest that a healthier economy would enable greater commercial investment in space. (1/28)

Editorial: Why I Endorsed Newt Gingrich (Source: Daily Kos)
Gingrich's space vision is one that I share, a message I can believe in despite the messenger. What this is about ultimately, isn’t a moonbase – it’s about space settlement. It’s about using space to help people, help the earth and grow humanity to become better. Yes, believe it – we can use space to help people right now. Now, let me compare it to Romney’s “plan” for space. He said he would’ve fired the person who came to him, suggesting that they spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build a moonbase.

Then, the very next day, THE VERY NEXT DAY, Romney’s campaign announced that the people advising him on space are almost entirely the same people who developed George Bush’s plan to go back to the moon. Just to return – to repeat Apollo – not to build a base. And that would have cost--wait for it--about $200 billion. So Romney has hired people who have done the exact thing he says he’d fire people for (arguably even worse). Yes, the Romney Reversal can be done in 24 hours, and if your head is spinning, don’t worry… you didn’t magically teleport into orbit.

President Obama rightly choose not to retain Dr. Griffin, and his Constellation cronies, despite active lobbying (including an email campaign started by Griffin’s wife) to retain not just Constellation, but Griffin and the core Constellation Team. In effect, President Obama fired the people Romney said he would fire. Now these same people are working for... Mitt Romney. Real progress in space doesn’t require a huge budget increase, despite Romney’s complaint. It requires vision and a willingness to reform NASA. And this is why I’ve endorsed Newt. And, its why, come November, I’ll be voting to re-elect President Obama. Click here. (1/28)

Progress Docks with ISS (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A Progress cargo spacecraft carrying nearly three tons of supplies successfully docked with the International Space Station on Friday evening. The Progress M-14M spacecraft (designated Progress 46 by NASA) docked to the Pirs module of the ISS at 7:09 pm EST Friday, two days after launch from Baikonur. The ship is carrying 2.9 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the station's six-person crew. (1/28)

Edison Program Will Seek Proposals for Small Satellite Demos (Source: NASA)
The Edison Program plans to release a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) requesting proposals for low-cost, flight demonstrations of small satellite technology on January 23, 2012. The topic areas of interest in this solicitation will be limited to demonstrations of communications systems for small satellites, proximity operations with small satellites and propulsion systems for Cubesat-scale spacecraft. Other technology and application demonstrations will be addressed in future solicitations. Further details will be provided when the solicitation is released. The synopsis of the BAA for Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Missions is posted here. (1/28)

Crashed Ship Was Carrying Atlas-5 Rocket (Source: Space.com)
When it crashed into (and partially tore down) a Kentucky bridge, the Delta Mariner was carrying an Atlas 5 rocket and other components from the ULA factory in Alabama to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The flight hardware will be used for two upcoming launches from the Cape, including one slated to blast off April 27. The rocket parts seem to have survived the accident intact. "There's no damage to the cargo," said Sam Sacco, spokesman for Foss Marine, the company that owns and operates the Delta Mariner. "Based on what we know right now, there's no real damage to the vessel itself, either." (1/28)

China To See Heavy 2012 Space Activity (Source: Aviation Week)
China’s plan to launch 12 more Compass navigation satellites and inaugurate their operational use this year is only one of several key satellite activities planned for 2012. With eight satellites of the Compass constellation in orbit, the goal is to add a dozen more and then, by year’s end, begin regional service in the Asia-Pacific region, ESA's Karl Bergquist said. Compass is envisioned as 35 spacecraft — 30 in near Earth orbit and five in geosynchronous orbit — around 2020 for global service.

As part of 20 launches expected in 2012 in China, the country will likely orbit a civilian synthetic aperture radar (SAR) remote sensing spacecraft. It may become the first opportunity for Western countries to gauge the performance of Chinese SAR spacecraft, since little is known about the six military versions in operation. The spacecraft is being billed as intended for environmental monitoring. Also due this year is the launch of Cbers-3, the latest remote sensing satellite in the partnership with Brazil. Cbers-4 would follow in 2014. Click here. (1/28)

Romney Seeks Space Reboot (Source: SPACErePORT)
To the chagrin of many space advocates who feel the issue has been studied enough, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney pledged to initiate another national discussion to determine NASA's overarching mission. Blaming President Obama for failing to define a national space program, Romney pulled together a somewhat controversial group of space industry experts who endorsed his candidacy and would presumably contribute to the development of a new space vision. One response: "Nothing says 'vision' like geriatric astronauts and the people who gave us the Constellation disaster." (1/28)

Romney Declines to Outline Plan for the Future of the Space Program (Source: ABC News)
Mitt Romney said today that he believes creating a “mission” for the space program is “integral,” but declined to outline any specifics of that mission, saying he rejects the idea of making promises to voters on the so-called Space Coast until he’s studied the program, seeming to make reference to GOP rival Newt Gingrich who did just that earlier this week.

“I’m not going to come here today and tell you precisely what the mission will be,” said Romney, speaking at Astrotech Space Operations, a commercial space company that sends satellites and cargo into space, that is stationed just steps away from the Kennedy Space Center. “I’m going to tell you how I’m going to get there.” (1/28)

Hyperactive Sun Helping to Clear Out Space Junk (Source: National Geographic)
In the latest issue of NASA's Orbital Debris Quarterly News, agency scientist Nicholas Johnson notes that an increased influx of solar heat is causing Earth's upper atmosphere—specifically, a layer known as the thermosphere—to swell. In turn, the puffed-up thermosphere has accelerated the rate at which space debris is being removed from Earth's orbit, Johnson found.

In general, "the increase in solar activity causes more energy to be deposited into the atmosphere, which in turn is heated and expands," explained Johnson, chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This increases atmospheric density at a given altitude, thereby increasing drag. This causes [orbiting space junk] to lose energy and fall into a lower orbit," where the debris eventually reenters the atmosphere, Johnson said. (1/28)

The GOP Candidates are Talking About Space (Source: CNN)
Newt Gingrich got a lot of mileage out of his comments on building a moon colony by 2020. Whether you think that should get him a one-way ticket to the moon on the first flight or you believe his vision is an inspiration, he did accomplish one big thing. Gingrich got the conversation started. What kind of space program do we want? What kind can we afford? Had Gingrich not said what he said, the space program might have been totally ignored, as it has been so often in the past.

Folks at NASA say they can’t afford to hit the restart button again. “That’s a very real worry,” says John Matson, associate editor for Scientific American. “If every administration has a different vision and direction then nothing is gonna happen.” That is pretty much exactly what’s happened in recent decades. For a while, both Bush presidents talked of getting humans back to the moon and on to Mars. Of course, that went away, as it was deemed way too costly.

Now, there is a supposed flexible path that this administration is following that maybe sends astronauts to an asteroid and eventually Mars using a new heavy lift rocket yet to be designed or built. So, when you say NASA is “wandering in the desert of space,” as Cernan told me once, it’s not all on the agency. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Matson says that one big criticism of the Obama space plan is “the flexible path doesn’t carry firm timelines. A lot of people worry we’re not gonna get anywhere.” (1/28)

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