October 31, 2012

Bolden: President Obama Wanted NASA to be a Technology Program (Source: NASA Watch)
Charlie Bolden held his SES summit the other day. This time it was done virtually so as to save travel funds. 400-500 people were on the telecon from across the agency. At one point Bolden was asked a question about the election and what he thought as a political appointee. Bolden replied "I do not see myself as a Democratic political appointee." He talked about how he often did not agree with what the White House wanted him to do at NASA and how he had brokered some political deals with republicans. He added "if I had done what the President had wanted then NASA would just be a technology program".

Bolden offered this paraphrased clarification: "I'm appointed by the president. I work for have the utmost respect for the president. My job, however, is to advise the president on what the agency should be. I like our priorities because I think we help develop them, so that's where I'm trying to keep the agency aligned. I don't view them as democratic or Republican priorities. I emphasize that they represent significant compromises. If the president had gotten his way, the number 1 priority for the agency probably would have been something like technology development. That is something about which he is passionate. But it is the underpinning of everything we do."

Editor's Note: When President Obama visited KSC in April 2010, he conveyed a near-term vision for NASA to focus on developing the technologies, scientific rationale, and infrastructure that are prerequisite for future human exploration beyond Earth orbit. He envisioned commercial launchers servicing the International Space Station, and the deferral of a heavy-lift rocket decision until 2016. Congress (mainly the Senate) pushed for a nearer-term heavy-lift rocket program, which is one of the political deals Bolden was referring to. (10/31)

Aloha, Mars: Curiosity Rover Finds Soil Like Hawaii's (Source: Reuters)
NASA scientists say the Mars rover has found soil on Mars that resembles that of Hawaii, with grains of sand that look like volcanic soil. A study of the soil can reveal clues to Mars' past, said Curiosity scientist David Vaniman. "The mineralogy of Mars' soil has been a source of conjecture until now," he said. (10/30)

Newsflash: George Bush Made U.S. Dependent on Russia (Source: NASA Watch)
With all due respect to Gene Cernan: when George Bush decided to shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2004, there was a blatant and openly admitted gap in American human access to space that no American spacecraft - Constellation or otherwise - would have met under even the most optimistic scenarios until 2014-2018 (that date constantly slipped).

Your good friend and ghostwriter Mike Griffin openly admitted that repeatedly. George Bush set us on the path to paying Russia to gain access to the ISS - regardless of what timeline you chose to refer to. He then proceeded to underfund Constellation and did not push Congress for funding so as to make it incapable of achieving its avowed goals. Under the plans now in place for NASA's commercial crew programs, there will likely be indigenous American access to space sooner than Mike Griffin would ever have achieved with his bloated, underfunded, and oft-delayed Constellation program. (10/31)

Thursday Spacewalk to Isolate Station Coolant Leak (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA engineers are putting the finishing touches on plans for a spacewalk Nov. 1 to isolate a small leak in the ammonia cooling system used to carry away heat generated by the electrical gear that stores and distributes power from one of the International Space Station's eight huge solar panels. The leak is tiny, the equivalent to a hole about the diameter of a human hair. But if it is not bypassed or repaired, the coolant in the channel 2B solar array will drop below safety margins over the next few months, taking down a critical power channel. (10/31)

21st Century Launch Complex - Development and Planning (Source: KSCVC)
Two NASA organizations, the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the Center Planning and Development Program, at Kennedy Space Center are modernizing its facilities for multiple commercial and government rocket launches. The programs will focus on launching the Space Launch System (SLS) and its human spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The conversion will allow commercial users to take advantage of unique Kennedy facilities, including the Shuttle Landing Facility, Orbiter Processing Facilities, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and Launch Complex 39. (10/31)

Gene Cernan's Failed Space Policy Advice (Source: Hobby Space)
Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan does Romney no service by including the candidate in another of his op-eds on space policy that is full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations. The Shuttle program was set for shutdown during the Bush administration and it was always recognized that there would be a gap in US ability to get to the ISS and that this would be filled by buying rides on the Soyuz. The overruns and delays in the Constellation program would have extended this gap to at least 2017 and probably longer. Cernan also fails to point out the successes in the commercial space transportation program and how this is revitalizing US spaceflight capabilities. (10/31)

Trident II D5 Missile Achieves 143 Successful Test Flights (Source: SpaceRef)
The U.S. Navy supported the Oct. 23 launch of a U.K. Royal Navy Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) built by Lockheed Martin (LMT). The unarmed missile was launched from the submerged Royal Navy submarine HMS Vigilant in the Atlantic Ocean. The test marked the 143rd successful test flight of the Trident II D5 missile since design completion in 1989 - a reliability record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle.

Editor's Note: These submarine-based Trident launches are typically conducted off the coast of Florida and are supported by the Eastern Range. The missiles and submarines are serviced at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport by the Naval Ordnance Test Unit (NOTU). Space Florida is working with NOTU to expand the Navy's missile testing at the Cape. Click here. (10/31)

Meet ESA, The Space Agency for Europe (Source: ESA)
You, together with your 500 million fellow citizens from ESA’s 20 European member nations, are the collective owners of one of the world’s leading space agencies. The European Space Agency is an intergovernmental organization, a cooperative coming together of its Member States in their national interest and common good. With Europe’s space ministers meeting on 20-21 November to decide the Agency’s future course, this new video offers a quick introduction: Europe, meet ESA. Click here. (10/31)

Voyager 1 Detects Weirdness at Solar System Edge (Source: Discovery)
Voyager 1 is the most distant man-made object and is thought to have recently escaped the sun's sphere of influence. The probe, launched 35 years ago, is therefore mankind's first interstellar vehicle careening into the vast expanse of space between the stars.

Needless to say, as one of two deep space probes launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has explored previously unknown regions of the solar system, making groundbreaking discoveries as it went. Now, in a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists analyzing data streaming from the spacecraft have uncovered a small mystery right at the solar system's magnetic boundary with the interstellar medium. She may be old, but you can't keep a good probe down. Click here.

Editor's Note: It doesn't seem right to call Voyager 1 "interstellar". Let me suggest "extrastellar" or maybe "extrasolar". "Interstellar" suggests (to me) that Voyager is traveling to another star, while "extrastellar" means it is beyond the influence of our own star. (10/31)

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to Host Fifth-Annual Autograph Show (Source: America Space)
Every year for the past five years the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) hosts its annual autograph show. This year is no different. Held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Nov. 1-3 this year’s show will include 33 space flyers.

The astronauts and special guests include Moonwalkers Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Edgar Mitchell and David Scott. Astronauts will also be available to pose for photos and there will be lectures as well as an auction. The highlight of the event will be the arrival of space shuttle to her new home at the Visitor Complex. Atlantis will take the 9.8 mile journey to the Visitor Complex on Oct. 2. (10/31)

How Orbital Sciences Got More Awesome Last Quarter (Source: Motley Fool)
Margins matter. The more Orbital Sciences keeps of each buck it earns in revenue, the more money it has to invest in growth, fund new strategic plans, or (gasp!) distribute to shareholders. Healthy margins often separate pretenders from the best stocks in the market. I'm looking for the absolute numbers, so I can compare them to current and potential competitors, and any trend that may tell me how strong Orbital Sciences's competitive position could be.

Here's the current margin snapshot for Orbital Sciences over the trailing 12 months: Gross margin is 23.4%, while operating margin is 7.3% and net margin is 4.5%. Unfortunately, a look at the most recent numbers doesn't tell us much about where Orbital Sciences has been, or where it's going. Over the past five years, gross margin peaked at 22.2% and averaged 19.7%. Operating margin peaked at 7.9% and averaged 6.3%. Net margin peaked at 5.2% and averaged 4.4%.

TTM gross margin is 23.4%, 370 basis points better than the five-year average. TTM operating margin is 7.3%, 100 basis points better than the five-year average. TTM net margin is 4.5%, 10 basis points better than the five-year average. With recent TTM operating margins exceeding historical averages, Orbital Sciences looks like it is doing fine. (10/31)

Former Gov. Richardson to Lobby for California Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who championed the development of New Mexico's spaceport, is going to work for California's space center. Richardson has been hired as a consultant for Mojave Air and Space Port. Mojave spaceport executive director Stuart Witt said Richardson is being hired to help get so-called informed consent legislation passed by the California Legislature.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been trying for two years to get similar legislation passed in New Mexico but has been blocked by trial lawyers in the Legislature. The law would exempt spacecraft parts suppliers from most civil lawsuits. California and New Mexico already have laws exempting spacecraft operators, but not suppliers. Other states like Florida, Texas, Colorado and Virginia have extended the exemption to parts suppliers. Spaceport America says New Mexico needs the exemption to attract more business to the $209 million spaceport near Las Cruces. (10/31)

Space shuttle Endeavour Goes on Public Display in California (Source: Las Vegas Sun)
The final home of space shuttle Endeavour is opening its doors to the public. Astronauts and schoolkids will be on hand Tuesday at the California Science Center in Los Angeles at the grand opening of its new shuttle display. Visitors to the free display can't go inside Endeavour but they can use virtual exhibits, including touch-screen computer displays with information about the shuttle's flight deck. Also on display is Endeavour's zero-gravity toilet.

Thousands of people watched as the giant spacecraft made its final journey through the streets of Los Angeles and Inglewood two weeks ago. The shuttle will be on display in a special 18,000-square-foot building until the downtown museum builds a new air and space wing that should open in about five years. (10/31)

Editorial: SpaceX Could Lead SoCal Back to the Future (Source: Long Beach Post-Telegram)
The deal struck Tuesday to keep SpaceX in Hawthorne for another decade wasn't just smart, but could potentially launch a new era for Southern California's rich history in the aerospace industry. With NASA's space shuttle program shuttered, the emerging company technically known as Space Exploration Technologies is helping to develop the next set of plans aimed at jetting people into space. This could only raise the profile -- and economy -- of the entire region.

SpaceX was created just 10 years ago by entrepreneur Elon Musk and has since grown to about 2,000 employees, with hundreds more likely to be hired over the next few years thanks to a lucrative contract with NASA. Knowing full well that cities in Florida and Texas were trying to lure SpaceX away from its 1-million-square-foot headquarters in Hawthorne, the City Council intelligently agreed to cut current taxes and also reduce building fees if the company expands its facilities. (10/31)

Cernan: Obama Failed Space Program; Romney Would Revitalize It (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
"We now leave as we once came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind." With these words, I left the moon on Dec. 14, 1972, completing the final manned mission in the Apollo space program. Those words still resonate in my heart four decades later. But in light of the abdication of leadership over the past four years under President Obama, I'm concerned that the peace and hope the crew of Apollo XVII expressed are more elusive than ever.

The U.S. space program has long been the envy of nations. Since it all began in the 1950s, the United States had become the unchallenged leader in space exploration. Apollo XI's historic mission to the moon united our country, not only because it was — as my friend Neil Armstrong said — "One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind," but because it represented our nation's triumph over our adversaries.

Even in the midst of "the terrible '60s," when our nation was shackled by civil strife, campus unrest and the beginning of an unpopular war, we banded together and accepted the bold challenge of President John F. Kennedy and once again demonstrated America's collective exceptionalism. Unfortunately, our nation's space program is today in disarray. Not only did Obama cancel long-held plans for NASA's Constellation program, breaking his earlier promise to fund and implement it, but he has failed to put in place any clear goals about our nation's space programs moving forward. (10/31)

Russian Spacecraft Lifts Off for Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian Progress class space freighter has reached transitional orbit on its six-hour journey to the International Space Station, after blasting off atop a Soyuz-U rocket, a spokesman for Mission Control outside Moscow said on Wednesday. The Soyuz-U rocket carrying the Progress-M-17M cargo spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan at 11:41 a.m. Moscow time.

“The spacecraft is scheduled to dock automatically with the ISS at 5:40 p.m. on Wednesday,” the spokesman said.
Progress-M-17M is delivering just under 2.4 metric tons of supplies, including fuel components, oxygen, food, water and scientific equipment, to the crew of six aboard the orbital station. (10/31)

Curiosity Completes First Studies of Martian Soil (Source: RIA Novosti)
Initial experiments completed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity show that the mineral composition of the Martian soil is similar to that in weathered volcanic-origin basaltic soils in Hawaii, NASA reported. Curiosity recently ingested the first sample of the Red Planet’s soil. The rover used its Chemistry and Mineralogy tool (CheMin) to study the sample. The results obtained “provide refined and in some cases new identifications of the minerals in this first X-ray diffraction analysis on Mars,” a NASA researcher said.

“Our team is elated with these first results from our instrument,” David Blake of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said. Identification of minerals in rocks and soil is a key activity for the mission to assess past environmental conditions on Mars, NASA said. During the rover's two-year mission, researchers will use its 10 science instruments to assess if the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever had environmental conditions suitable for microbial life. (10/31)

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