January 5, 2012

Editorial: China's JFK Moment (Source: Washington Examiner)
President Obama's decision in 2010 to cut NASA's budget and abandon the Constellation program, established by the Bush administration, which was charged with returning Americans to the moon by 2020 and creating an "extended human presence on the moon," has created a vacuum, which China will attempt to fill. China has announced an ambitious five-year plan that includes the launch of space laboratories, a manned spaceship to the moon and the creation of its own global satellite navigation system that will almost certainly be used for military purposes.

The announcement comes six months after the U.S. ended the Space Shuttle program, leaving Russia and China as the only countries now capable of sending humans into space. Who doubts that China will use trips to the moon to build a permanent colony and will operate that colony, at least in part, to further its military goals? China certainly will have the capability through its own GPS system to jam or make mischief with America's global positioning system network. Does anyone think a nation that hacks into U.S. government computers, stealing secrets, would not use a moon base to advance its interests?

Editor's Note: Here's another idiotic rant on the moon's value as a military high ground. Plus the columnist (Cal Thomas) erroneously blames President Obama for cutting NASA's budget in 2011. Jeff Foust points out that the President's FY-11 budget proposal sought a budget increase for NASA. (1/4)

China’s Going to the Moon — And That’s Good for Everyone (Source: TIME)
The shift in political winds that leads to all the U.S. backing and forthing on space is one that all participatory democracies face — and one a locked-down, one-party system like China’s doesn’t. The political bosses who make policy today will still be in power many tomorrows hence, and that old stalwart of the communist system — the five-year plan — offers a time horizon that’s well-suited to the long-term commitment a space program requires.

None of this is to say it would be worth trading a Constitutional democracy for a one-party dictatorship. It is to say that until we get our Apollo-era mojo back, we could do worse than rooting for China to go the places we won’t. If the next flag on the moon or the first one on Mars turns out to be American, great. But the odds of that are not good. Someone’s got to carry the even higher banner of spacefaring homo sapiens — which is a broader category and a more primal affiliation than nation. We once chose to carry it for the world. Now we choose not to. So, er, go China — and here’s hoping we follow your lead. (1/4)

Asia and a Space Code (Source: The Diplomat)
Establishing international norms for space has gradually started to become a priority in recent months, with two codes – the EU Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities and the Stimson Center’s Model Code of Conduct – being the subject of much international debate. And while the Stimson Code has been perceived as less controversial, the EU Code has come in for significant flak, particularly in Asia.

Asian concerns are important because future challenges to space cooperation may well come from Asia, not least because so many of the new space powers are emerging from this region. One key mistake the European Union made was not engaging India, one of the oldest space faring powers, earlier in the process. India is interested in instituting norms to guide the behavior of others in the space arena, but it’s also interested in being acknowledged as one of the major space powers.

But even as the European Union is making fresh efforts in reaching out to countries to gain support for the code, nations such as China have already made their positions clear. One EU official speaking at a conference in Paris, for example, described the Chinese as being opposed to space debris being a major item in the code. This suggests that China has plans to carry out more anti-satellite tests, something that has raised a red flag in New Delhi. (1/4)

GeoEye Wins Russian Property Mapping Contract (Source: Space News)
Earth imagery provider GeoEye on Jan. 4 said it signed a new multimillion-dollar agreement with Russia’s ScanEx company to complete a national map of Russian land properties. Under the contract, GeoEye will provide Moscow-based ScanEx with imagery from GeoEye’s archive of data taken by the GeoEye-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite. In the second phase in what GeoEye said is a multiyear agreement, GeoEye starting in 2012 will provide ScanEx with new imagery of Russian territory to support the creation of a nationwide map of land properties. (1/4)

Sat Comm, The New Way to Go (Source: The Nation)
One of the first things Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that shook the United States (US) in 2005 did was knock out communications systems as it swept inland through Louisiana and Mississippi. People were without communications for days. There was no land line telephone service or cellphone service in much of the southern regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Businesses could not communicate with employees, vendors or customers. Family members could not communicate with one another.

Then Chairman, of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Kevin Martin told members of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation: “If we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot rely solely on terrestrial communications. When radio towers are knocked down, satellite communications are, in some instances, the most effective means of communicating.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked him: “So we should consider satellite communications as a part of our overall solution in response to disasters?” “That’s correct,” he said. Since the middle of the 20th century, satellites have evolved from being technical marvels to essential components of industrialised societies. Satellites are used for a diverse range of applications including telecommunications, navigation, weather prediction, military intelligence, space exploration and scientific studies. (1/4)

Space Junk Flies at You in New 3D Film on Debris Threat (Source: Space.com)
"Space Junk 3D" is set to open Jan. 13, an IMAX 3D movie crafted to spotlight the threat from human-made orbital rubbish. The film hopes to raise awareness of the increasingly worrisome debris dilemma — an educational step to help ensure the future of space exploration and satellite communications. Blending scientific information with state-of-the-art, 3D visualizations, "Space Junk 3D" takes the viewer from the depths of Meteor Crater in Arizona to the growing spread of Earth-orbiting debris — a troubling legacy of more than five decades of multiple nations lofting space hardware. Click here. (1/4)

First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered (Source: Discover)
Only four days into the New Year and the first four exoplanets of 2012 have been spotted orbiting four distant stars. All four alien worlds are known as "hot Jupiters" -- large gas giant planets orbiting very close to their stars. Their orbits are aligned just right with the Earth so that when they pass in front of their parent stars, they slightly dim the starlight from view.

As exoplanets pass in front of their stars, a small dip in star brightness may be detected. This detection method is known as the "transit method." This is in addition to the "radial velocity method," when the gravitational pull of an exoplanet causes its parent star to wobble slightly. However, this most recent discovery doesn't come from NASA's Kepler space telescope team or any other space telescope, it comes from a ground-based telescope system maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (1/4)

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