January 29, 2012

Anderson: Romney Would be “Advocate” of Commercial Space (Source: Space Politics)
Eric Anderson said he was contacted a few months ago by the Romney campaign to serve on a space working group, whose members are those who signed Friday’s letter; he added he’s met Romney several times and talked to him “one-on-one” on commercial space in particular. “He had not thought a lot about commercial space,” Anderson admitted, but in those personal conversations, Romney indicated to Anderson his enthusiasm for the private sector’s recent developments in human space flight capabilities. Anderson believes that if Romney won the presidency he would be an advocate of commercial space.

“You must remember, Mitt Romney is a very experienced businessman. People in business of course believe in private industry! They know that if you can find goods and services in the private sector then clearly those would be preferable to the government recreating that capability.” Anderson suggested that the Obama administration should have done more since rolling out its plans two years ago. “In terms of commercial support, the current policy is not a bad one at all,” he said. “However, the execution of that policy and its support evaporated after that initial period... [There is] the general sense that the White House didn’t really back the plan up.”

Anderson said there was also “good and bad ideas” in Newt Gingrich’s plans to use billion-dollar prizes to incentivize the private sector to go to the Moon and Mars. Prizes, he noted, have been effective on smaller scales when carefully tailored, citing the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE in particular, but he’s not sure that they would work on the much larger scale proposed by Gingrich. “It has to be realistic,” he said. “NASA has been kicked around like a pinball. We can’t keep stopping and starting,” he said. A new plan “can’t break the bank like Constellation, and it can’t be directionless... [Romney] would take decisive action on what NASA’s mission should be.” (1/29)

Why Newt's Moon Base Will Remain an Impossible Dream (Source: Guardian)
In the latest tell-people-what-they-want-to-hear speech on the endless election circuit, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich made a remarkable promise: he wants a moon base. My response was, hell, don't we all? Ahead of next week's primary, Newt "grandiose is my middle name" Gingrich told an audience on Florida's Space Coast that, by the end of his second term in the Oval Office America would have a permanent base on the moon, used for science, tourism and manufacturing. Bear in mind Gingrich is not the first Republican in recent times to propose a gargantuan new space dream for America.

In 2004, President George Bush called for a return to the moon, followed by Mars expeditions. NASA duly came up with the Constellation program. Two years later, the space agency unveiled plans to build a permanent moon base within 20 years, which could be used as a launch site for future missions to Mars. There are good scientific reasons for such a base. NASA's plan was that, by 2020, four-person crews would make week-long trips while power supplies, rovers and living quarters were being built on the lunar surface.

In the mid-2020s, when the base was fully-built, people would stay for up to six months at a time to prepare for longer journeys to Mars. By the end of the decade pressurised roving vehicles could take people on long exploratory trips across the lunar surface. Bush never matched his words with cash, however. Over the years that the Constellation program was being designed and discussed, NASA's budget did not increase in any commensurate way to develop the required technology. Technology will not be the problem. With the right investment, America's scientists and engineers could easily get the job done. The major issue today is the same as it was in 2004: where will the money come from? (1/29)

Newt’s Lunar Colony Plans are Loony, But His Advocacy for NASA is Right On (Source: American Prospect)
"People are looking at [prizes] as a panacea," lunar scientist Paul Spudis saud. "But they're not that. They're a tool." As of yet, there have been no commercial trips to space, and the largest available jackpot-—a $50 million award offered by Robert Bigelow for building a reusable space capsule—-went unclaimed after six years. No one had come close to reaching the goal, and no test flights were even attempted.

While it has struggled to get off the ground, there are still many who believe a boom in private space companies could be right around the corner. "It is a very credible path for [NASA] to do far more than they are doing now without massive budget increases by making more effective use of the private sector," said Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace and a member of Obama's space commission in 2009. "Prizes are good, yes, and if used correctly can stimulate markets. Prizes have an upper limit to the scope of project they can entail."

Where Obama and Gingrich diverge is on the scope of projects that can be entrusted to the nongovernment entities. Gingrich's proposed prize pool is larger than anything previously offered to private individuals, but he is also tasking companies to complete unprecedented projects while guaranteeing hard deadlines for success. President Obama also hinted at a new path for space on the campaign trail in 2008. As Ryan Lizza notes in this week's New Yorker, Obama had to scale back his ambitions once he entered office and faced the realities of a crumbling economy. (1/29)

Is There Anything We Need on the Moon? (Source: Foreign Policy)
Newt Gingrich has been the target of a lot of mockery for his space policy speech. The idea may seem a bit out of place in a campaign that has been overwhelmingly focused on the more terrestrial concerns of a struggling U.S. economy, but it isn't actually that novel a concept. NASA had plans for the construction of a moon base during the George W. Bush presidency which have since been scrapped. China, Japan, and Russia all have moon base plans at various stages of development.

But beyond nationalist bravado, pure scientific research, or the fun of space tourism, is there any reason for people to be on the moon? Is there anything we want there? Are there really lunar riches waiting to be scooped up? Well, perhaps. But not as many as you might think. Click here. (1/29)

Mitt Romney Would Have Fired Mike Griffin (Source: Space Frontier Foundation)
During last night’s Republican presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney stated that “a moonbase would be an enormous expense,” and later stated that if someone had come to him saying they had wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, he would’ve said “You’re fired.” Today, it was revealed that former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is member of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group. This is the same NASA Administrator who was the chief architect of an unaffordable and unsustainable plan to return humans to the Moon that would have cost about $200 Billion. (1/29)

Space Station Orbit Raised to Avoid Space Junk (Source: RIA Novosti)
Specialists of Russia’s Mission Control Center raised the orbit altitude of the International Space Station (ISS) in the early hours of Sunday to prevent a possible collision with a Chinese satellite fragment, a spokesman for the Center said. “The maneuver was performed using Zvezda service module engines,” the spokesman said. The altitude of the ISS orbit was raised by 1.7 kilometers to 391.6 kilometers, he said, adding that the maneuver lasted 64 seconds. (1/29)

Russia Must Be Ready for Space, Cyber Wars (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia must be ready for wars in space and in networks, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Nikolai Makarov said. "As you see, warfare center has moved to aerospace and information spheres, including cyber security, from traditional war theaters on land and sea. Concepts of network-centric war have made great progress," Makarov told an Academy of Military Sciences meeting. "We appraise how ... this question is being solved in Western leading countries." (1/29)

Space Weather Center to Add World's First 'Ensemble Forecasting' Capability (Source: SpaceRef.com)
After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it's fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability. Goddard's Space Weather Laboratory recently received support under NASA's Space Technology Program Game Changing Program to implement "ensemble forecasting," a computer technique already used by meteorologists to track potential paths and impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather events. (1/29)

Mojave: The Race to Send Civilians to Space (Source: KGET)
Ground has already been broken at the Mojave Spaceport on a huge hanger, funded by Paul Allen of Microsoft and X-Prize fame. Congressman Kevin McCarthy toured the site Friday, right next door to where SpaceShip One made history. This huge space vehicle is being built by Mojave-based Scaled Composites, also of X-Prize fame. Paul Allen's new company, "Stratolaunch Systems" says this new vehicle will be the biggest aircraft ever flown, using six of the biggest aircraft engines in use today, and its being built right here in Kern County.

Stratolaunch, in the eyes of Paul Allen and Burt Rutan, represents a quantum leap for civilian space flight. There are renderings of the envisioned launch vehicle that will carry the next generation of spaceships into the sky before they rocket in to orbit. "Kevin Mickey (Scaled Composites) said standing on the dirt, he has 100 job openings right now at Scaled Composites, 60 technicians,40 engineers for one project, that's just one company." said Stuart Witt.

The Federal Aviation Administration regulates the fledgling commercial space flight industry. But, some fear the government may interfere with the development of space tourism, pushing new regulations that could hinder research. McCarthy wants to impose an eight-year "learning period" for the FAA before it considers new regulations on commercial space flight. Stuart Witt says in the last ten years the Air and Spaceport has spawned more than 2,000 jobs and the innovations sparked here will carry generations of civilian astronauts into the heavens for years to come. (1/29)

Mojave, New Mexico Spaceports Find Complementary Roles (Source: Bakersfield.com)
Spaceport America, billed as the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, shares thousands of square miles of restricted air space with neighboring White Sands Missile Range. That close proximity to a restricted military facility is yet another parallel with Mojave's space port, which has close neighbors in Edwards Air Force Base and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. In the future, launches at the New Mexico facility may occur on a daily basis, possibly multiple times per day, Wilson says.

Such a role is not in Mojave's immediate future, but Mojave Air & Space Port General Manager Stu Witt contends that the east Kern site has the potential to become a busy center of commercial spaceflight. "Easily doable if the requirement arises," Witt says. The New Mexico facility is capable of both horizontal and vertical launches, and the spaceport's high desert elevation of close to 4,600 feet places rockets that much closer to their destination. (1/29)

Mojave Becoming Aerospace Epicenter (Source: Bakersfield.com)
Aerospace types love this rural desert location for its clear, dry weather, its sparse population and its comfortable distance from major news outlets. But Dave Masten, CEO of Masten Space Systems, says there's another reason his company stays in Mojave. "The neighbors don't complain," Masten says with a grin. "Even if you're testing a rocket engine," he says. "And rocket tests can be very loud."

"Mojave is the premier place for civilian flight research and testing in the United States," says Jeff Greason, chief executive of XCOR Aerospace, a Mojave-based company focused on the research, development and production of reusable launch vehicles and rocket propulsion systems. Greason calls Mojave "the Silicon Valley of the private space industry."

When Stuart Witt came to Mojave nearly 10 years ago, the airport had about 14 business tenants generating a few hundred jobs. Today there are more than 65 tenants and close to 2,500 jobs, with more coming. But there's a wariness beneath the surface, a concern that forces beyond his control could stick a pin in the balloon. "Every facility is filled, and we're building more," Witt says of the airport's 100 percent occupancy. "It's a good-news story but it could change overnight." Click here. (1/29)

India: Space War (Source: Indian Express)
On June 1, 2011, shortly after the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security to annul the Antrix-Devas deal, three of ISRO's chairmen—-past and present—-sat together in the company of former president A P J Kalam. To the undiscerning eye, it looked like business as usual—past chairmen still associated in some form or the other with the country’s premier space science agency, rarely touched by controversy, continuing a guru-shishya relationship with their successors.

On the face of one of the former chairmen, G Madhavan Nair, who already stood accused of not following procedures in a major business deal during his tenure, there was, however, a great deal of unhappiness. In colloquial Malayalam—the language spoken in Kerala, the state where all ISRO chairmen since 1994 came from—the look is sometimes described as like that of a simian who has bitten on a piece of ginger.

In ISRO circles, there has always been talk of a deep-running, though never openly discussed, feud between Malayali scientists and Tamil scientists, since the organisation is largely dominated by people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but it has never blown out in public like the current feud between Nair and Radhakrishnan. Over the years, ISRO has fostered a management style where a strong chairman commands full authority and allegiance and steers the space agency and its programs. Click here. (1/29)

Morale of Indian Space Scientists Hit (Source: The Hindu)
Eminent space scientist and the former Chairman of ISRO, U.R. Rao, on Saturday described as “sad” the Center's action in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal barring four space scientists from holding government posts and the developments thereafter. Dr. Rao was referring to the January 13 order in which the Department of Space sought exclusion of the former ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, and three other space scientists from re-employment, committee roles or any other important role under the government. (1/29)

UF Astronomers Contribute to NASA’s Planet Discoveries (Source: UF)
NASA announced the discovery of 11 new “solar systems” hosting at least 26 planets found with data from NASA’s Kepler Mission. The discovery nearly doubles the number of verified Kepler planets so far. It also triples the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits – or passes in front of — its host star. Such systems are particularly valuable for the clues they provide about how planets form.

Eric B. Ford, associate professor of the astronomy department at the University of Florida, is part of the Kepler Mission science team. Ford’s research group at UF, including graduate student Robert Morehead and postdoctoral associate Althea Moorhead, has contributed to several previous Kepler discoveries. Ford is lead author of the paper describing Kepler-23 and Kepler-24, two of the 11 systems announced today. (1/29)

Expensive NASA Rocket Draws Skepticism (Source Houston Chronicle)
Depending on one's perspective, it's either the best of times or worst of times for NASA's human spaceflight program. Citing gains made in 2011, agency Administrator Charles Bolden said the new year "truly marks the beginning of a new era in the human exploration of our solar system." Contrast that with Paul Spudis, a scientist at Houston's Lunar and Planetary Institute, who described NASA's just-completed 2011 as an "annus horribilis."

At issue is whether, by choosing to build an expensive new rocket over the next decade, NASA is laying the groundwork for human exploration beyond the moon, or laying a gravestone for American human spaceflight. As engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama begin designing a rocket that would eventually be capable of blasting 130 metric tons into orbit, many spaceflight experts are questioning why NASA chose what could be the most expensive and riskiest approach to expanding the human spaceflight program beyond low-Earth orbit.

"I'm very skeptical about the heavy-lift rocket," said Chris Kraft, NASA's first manned spaceflight director and the director of flight operations during the Apollo 11 mission. "I believe everybody at NASA, except those at the top level, thinks that's the case. The people at the division and branch level all believe there are better ways to get going." Editor's Note: Let's remember that President Obama wanted to wait until 2016 to decide on a heavy-lift rocket approach. Congress forced NASA to move forward immediately with the heavy-lift rocket. (1/29)

Editorial: Newt's Awesome Space Plan Shields a Bad Candidate (Source: Florida Today)
Newt Gingrich was running late for his rally at the Holiday Inn, giving me an extra hour in a muggy, standing-room-only banquet room to reminisce about his record. Amid the din of his fans, I recalled how Gingrich all but invented today’s dysfunctional Congress, where parties vote in lock step, minority members accomplish nothing and politicians treat each other to focus-group-tested insults.

How Gingrich became the first U.S. speaker to be reprimanded for wrongdoing by the House after taking improper cash and gifts and giving false information to the ethics committee. How Gingrich led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 for lying about an affair — even as Gingrich had cheated on his wife for six years. I despised Gingrich by the time he took the stage in Cocoa on Wednesday.

Then, Newt seduced me with one of the best speeches on space I’ve ever heard. Just as the Wright Brothers tried and failed, just as Abraham Lincoln called for a Transcontinental Railroad, Gingrich would try the untried as president. We would launch, fail, learn and discover. Gingrich would dream big and deliver for the Space Coast and NASA where President Barack Obama has made a “total mess.” Brevard could ask for little more. (1/29)

Editorial: Candidates Short-Sighted on Space (Source: Florida Today)
Florida's early primary gambit pays off. The good news: Presidential candidates are paying attention to space as they campaign in Florida. The bad news? The candidates who have plans are short on details. Some consider space exploration a luxury we can’t afford. Most, and maybe all, of the candidates don’t have even a loose grasp on United States space policy. Let’s hope nobody is casting their vote for president based solely on space issues. (1/29)

Space Coast Economy Moves On From Shuttle's End (Source: Florida Today)
The shuttle program was ending and the economic forecast was dire: Unemployment would hit 16 or even 17 percent as up to 8,000 space workers entered unemployment. Foreclosures would cascade through the housing market. Home sales would erode. And indeed, during the past three years as the Great Recession rolled across the country, dishing out its own punishment, the shuttle program hosted its final mission and those thousands of workers fell into joblessness. The housing market continued its post-bubble slump, with sale prices falling to decade-old lows.

Unemployment peaked at 12.8 percent in January 2010, the highest it has been since the Apollo era (but well short of the predictions). Foreclosure filings approached 10,000 in 2010, by far the highest total ever in Brevard County. The trends were all headed the wrong way. Now, with another full year of economic data added to the picture, a different trend is emerging: improvement.

Brevard, it seems, has absorbed the economic blow from the end of the shuttle program, and residents can expect the economy to improve, gradually. That means a net gain of jobs, more spending and more positive impact from economic development. In several key facets of the Brevard economy, 2011 was better than 2010, which indicates that, in many aspects, 2010 was the low point for the county since the recession began in late 2007. (1/29)

New Mexico Spaceport Board to Meet on Feb. 7 (Source: NMSA)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors will meet at 10:30 am, on Feb. 7 at the Civic Center, 400 W. Fourth Street, in Truth or Consequences. Agendas may be obtained at least 24 hours before the meeting at the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Office at 901 E. University Ave., 965L, Las Cruces, NM 88001. Click here. (1/28)

Armadillo Aerospace Launches Suborbital Rocket From Spaceport America (Source: @Jeff_Foust)
According to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, Armadillo Aerospace launched another STIG-A suborbital rocket from Spaceport America. The mission was not a complete success. After takeoff, the rocket reached an altitude of 137,000 feet, but its recovery system malfunctioned. The vehicle was recovered downrange after a "hard landing". (1/28)

Tea Party Group Rips Griffin Testimony on Delta-4 Versus Chinese Rocket (Source: TPIS)
Tea Party in Space (TPIS), one of multiple groups critical of NASA's planned development of a new heavy-lift rocket, has posted a video where former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin testifies that China's new Long-March-5 could be used for manned lunar missions, while the U.S. would not be able to conduct such missions without a new heavy-lift rocket. Interestingly, in the same testimony he describes that the U.S. Delta-4 has an equivalent lift capability to the Long-March-5, yet never suggests that it could be used for the same type of lunar missions.

TPIS says Dr. Griffin, if given the chance, would "bring back the Big Government NASA Bureaucracy" that wasted billions of dollars on the Constellation program, building new redundant launch capabilities instead of using existing U.S. vehicles. Click here. (1/28)

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