February 12, 2014

Asteroid Mining Could Be Useful to Space Travel (Source: Michigan Daily)
Earth is more than just our home planet — it's is a giant spaceship with a finite amount of materials. Strain on Earth is resources grows in proportion to the human population, and the planet is already running out of important materials such as the rare earth metals that make our electronics work. However, some University researchers are embarking on an effort to lessen the stress on the mother ship: the endeavor of asteroid mining.

One purpose of asteroid mining would be to utilize materials in space exploration. Engineering Prof. Alec Gallimore said asteroid mining would be a valuable contribution to expanded space programs. With a current cost of about $10,000 per pound to send something into orbit, the possibility of using materials found in space, as opposed to bringing all supplies from Earth, would be the most cost- and energy-effective option available. (2/12)

Spaceport Sweden Presents Concept Study to Strengthen Kiruna (Source: Spaceport Sweden)
Spaceport Sweden, is proud to announce, together with Kiruna Lapland, the completion of a feasibility and concept study by IDEAS, a world leading media and experience-design studio, for the development of a Space Visitor & Science Center to further strengthen the development of Kiruna a leading space destination. Click here. (2/12)

Telenor Revenue Down Slightly for Second Consecutive Year (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway on Feb. 12 reported a 1 percent decline in revenue and gross profit for 2013, a performance the Oslo-based company said was in line with its expectations. Revenue and profit suffered early in 2013 when the Thor 2 satellite, whose in-orbit life had been extended with a short-term lease to operator SES of Luxembourg, was retired. (2/12)

What Is NASA For? Enthusiasts Fight For Agency’s Reputation On Twitter (Source: Universe Today)
A week ago today, Slate published an article asking “What Is NASA for?” After the author opened the article comparing the United States’ space agency to a panda, he described a sort of loss of direction that fell upon NASA after the moon landings concluded in 1972. He then cited a litany of concerns he has about the agency, including human spaceflight scientific results not appearing in top journals, and the cost of the International Space Station. Click here. (2/12)

“Super Dust” and Other Materials Could Reduce the Cost of Air and Space Travel (Source: Washington Post)
Whether researching stronger, lighter materials for use in planes and spaceships or keeping squashed insects from sticking to airplane wings, Mia Siochi’s work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia has the potential to improve aviation and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Siochi, a research materials engineer, leads a NASA team that is seeking to tap the potential of nanotechnology to reduce the weight of space launch vehicles by up to 30 percent, or about 200,000 pounds. With launch costs being about $10,000 per pound, lightening the load leads to significantly lower costs. Click here. (2/12)

California Legislature Guts Knight’s Informed Consent Law (Source: Parabolic Arc)
An effort by State Sen. Steve Knight to extend liability protections to spaceflight providers and spacecraft manufacturers, equipment suppliers, and service providers is failing in the California Legislature. The Senate has removed language from the measure that would have required that a spaceflight provider to enter into “a reciprocal waiver of claims with its contractors, subcontractors, customers, participants, and contractors and subcontractors of the customers or participants, as specified.”

The reciprocal waiver language was a substitute for an original provision in the bill that would have expanded the definition of a spaceflight entity to include “a manufacturer or supplier of components, services, or vehicles.” The Senate had earlier removed that language from the measure.

The intent of Knight’s measure was to provide broad liability protections to spaceflight providers and their suppliers from being sued if passengers were injured or killed during spaceflights. The industry says it needs this protection so companies won’t be sued out of existence in what is inherently a dangerous undertaking. (2/11)

NASA Contractors Prepare for 2014 Orion Launch, First SLS Flight in 2017 (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
This year could mark a turning point for NASA’s human space flight program. Several important milestones in the development of NASA’s next-generation deep space efforts are scheduled for 2014. This includes Orion’s first test flight, Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1). Meanwhile the space agency’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System or “SLS” has undergone engine firing and booster testing a well as the opening of the SLS’ Vertical Assembly Center (VAC).

NASA recently met with the four prime contractors for SLS and Orion (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne) to discuss progress and preparations for the 2014 and 2017 launches. While the tests for SLS show that the booster is getting closer to launching missions into the deep black, 2014 is the year of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). This was a fact driven home by representatives working on NASA’s next crewed spacecraft. (2/11)

Helms Departs Vandenberg After Blocked Promotion and Amid Controversy (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
Four-time space shuttle veteran and the current commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space located at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California (and a former 45th Space Wing commander in Florida) applied for retirement on November 8 of last year with more than 33 years of service. She had been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the vice commander of Space Command.

However, the nomination was blocked by prominent Democratic lawmaker Sen. Claire McCaskill. The reason for McCaskill’s efforts stems from a sexual assault conviction which Helms overturned in February of 2012. Helms overturned the sexual assault conviction of Capt. Matthew Herrera at VAFB. Herrera was punished and dismissed from the U.S. Air Force this past December despite the conviction being overturned. Helms decided not to approve the conviction due to the fact that she was not convinced “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” that the burden of proof had been met.

“McCaskill has said Helms’ decision made it more difficult for victims of sexual assault to seek justice. She was also outraged earlier this year when a three-star general overturned the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, the former inspector general for Aviano Air Base, Italy.” (2/11)

Is it Time to Lift Alcohol Ban in Space? (Source: Space Daily)
Russians were not only the first to travel to space. They were also the first to secretly carry a bottle of brandy aboard a spaceship, while researchers were still uncertain as to whether to include alcohol into cosmonauts' menu. To ban or not to ban alcohol in space - the issue has been debated since the era of space exploration began. The effects of long-term weightlessness are fatigue, muscle atrophy, a loss of bone mass, loss of appetite, a weakening of the immune system, insomnia and anxiety.

So, moderate doses of alcohol were proposed to help ease part of those symptoms. More than just a stimulator, alcohol is also a supplier of energy and microelements. Yet, it has its minuses: an astronaut relaxed by alcohol might press the wrong button and trigger an emergency. So, ultimately, the fears prevailed resulting in both the USSR and the USA prohibiting alcohol in space. (2/12)

Ohio Company to Hire 65 Workers with $112M NASA Contract (Source: Dayton Business Journal)
Peerless Technologies Corp.'s new contract to support NASA — which could be worth as much as $112 million over five years — is a big win for the company and the Dayton region. Peerless will add 65 workers to its staff as a result. Company officials say it also will allow Peerless to facilitate regional cooperation between Glenn Research Center and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base community. (2/11)

NASA’s Morpheus Lander Notches Seventh Untethered Flight (Source: Space News)
In the program’s seventh untethered flight, NASA’s Morpheus rocket-powered test lander touched down safely amid rough terrain Feb. 10 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The lander, built by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, launched 142 meters into the air, then flew about 194 meters laterally over a simulated boulder field before descending for what the project team, on its Twitter account, called a “spot on landing.”

All seven untethered flights under NASA’s Project Morpheus program have been carried out by the vehicle that flew Feb. 10, dubbed Bravo. The first Morpheus test vehicle to attempt a free flight — Alpha Vehicle — was destroyed in August 2012. The project team said faulty hardware was to blame. Since the accident, Morpheus Bravo Vehicle has flown more or less without incident. (2/11)

The Strange, Deadly Effects Mars Would Have on Your Body (Source: WIRED)
We’ve imagined sending people to Mars since well before Gagarin’s first spaceflight. Wernher von Braun, principal architect of the Saturn V launcher that delivered Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, envisaged 1965 as the date on which the first humans might arrive at Mars. Since then, more than a thousand different technical studies have been conducted, most of them making the assumption that Mars lay little more than 20 years in the future.

Mars, however, presents a challenge of a different scale and character: It’s more a marathon than a sprint. Here the absence of gravitational load takes on a new dimension, transforming from a novelty into a creeping threat, because life on Earth has evolved over the past three and a half billion years in an unchanging gravitational field. In that context, it shouldn’t be a surprise that so much of our physiology appears to be defined by — or dependent upon — gravity. Take gravity away, and our bodies become virtual strangers to us. Click here. (2/11)

Professor: Boost Space Industry: Front & Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With NASA concentrating on deep-space exploration and interest growing in space tourism, the commercial space industry looks ready for takeoff in the United States. Florida, still the nation's No. 1 spaceport, is well positioned to benefit. But legal problems could stall the industry's ascent in the U.S., says University of Nebraska law professor Matthew Schaefer. He says Congress needs to change laws to prevent the U.S. from losing business to competitors abroad. Click here. (2/11)

Kona Airport Could Become State’s First Spaceport (Source: Bloomberg)
Tourists already come to West Hawaii for the beaches, surf and sunshine. But what about a trip to space? As early as next year, the Kona International Airport could become the state’s first certified spaceport, making it Hawaii’s launching pad for the commercial space industry.

Jim Crisafulli, state Office of Aerospace Development director, said the airport has been selected among 27 potential locations across the islands as the best home for space tourism. The industry, which is in its infancy, is currently focused on taking wealthy customers into suborbital space flight but could expand to other commercial applications, such as long-distance flights across Earth or the launching of satellites from aircraft, he said. (2/12)

Google Plans Aerospace and Robotics Projects for Hangar One (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
If you were Google, what would you do with a 350,000-square-foot hangar that was originally built to house helium airships for the U.S. Navy? How about using its cavernous interior for building and testing new robots, planetary rovers and other space or aviation technology?

A NASA spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that those plans are part of the proposal submitted by a subsidiary of the giant Internet company, along with restoring the outside of the landmark structure known as Hangar One at Moffett Federal Airfield. Officials said this week they will negotiate a long-term lease with Google for a significant portion of the former naval base, including three historic hangars, two runways and some adjacent land and buildings. (2/12)

States Competing for SpaceX by Offering Financial Breaks (Source: Bloomberg)
In a glass-walled conference room at the California headquarters of SpaceX, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told Texas officials he was interested in building the world’s first commercial rocket launchpad in their state -- if the state could compete. In the months after the 2011 meeting, state and local officials gave Musk, a billionaire, what he and his lobbyists sought: about $20 million of financial incentives, laws changed to close a public beach during launches and legal protection from noise complaints.

SpaceX hasn’t said whether the Texas site, near Brownsville, the poorest metropolitan area in the nation, will be selected over locations in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico. Three years of discussions among Texas officials and SpaceX representatives culminated with the incentive offers, according to interviews. SpaceX hired lobbyists and flew a key lawmaker to its offices. Musk gave about $12,000 in campaign contributions. Click here. (2/12)

Spaceport Hearing Draws Crowd to New Smyrna Beach (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A crowd of almost 500 people filled the bleachers in half of the New Smyrna Beach High School gym Tuesday night as business and civic leaders, fishermen, hunters and environmentalists turned out to a FAA meeting on the Shiloh project. The meeting began with an informational session, where the FAA, its consultant, Space Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service presented displays and answered questions.

Space Florida wants to develop a commercial spaceport on 200 acres owned by NASA but managed as the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at the Volusia/Brevard county line. The New Smyrna Beach meeting was the first step in what is expected to be up to an 18-month process for the FAA and its consultant to evaluate all the potential impacts of licensing a spaceport in that location.

It was clear from the remarks presented during a two-hour public comment period that the agency will have much to consider. Given three minutes each, about three dozen people spoke to the crowd before the time ended at 8:15 p.m. Supporters, wearing red, ranged from students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a provost at Bethune-Cookman University to officials with several area chambers, the Volusia Manufacturing Association and the city of Edgewater. (2/11)

Langley Could Support Composite Industry Growth in Virginia (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner popped two yellow foam plugs in his ears and stared at a giant spool of tough, gray composite material gripped in a giant vise. He was observing a "destructive test" conducted by structural engineers at NASA Langley Research Center on Monday to see just how tough that composite shell was — how much pressure it could take before it began to buckle and, ultimately, disintegrate.

Finding that sweet spot of collapse for composite materials — the kind used to build airplanes, for instance, or spacecraft or automobiles — and thus learn to build even better ones is a niche NASA Langley wants to carve out for itself. Warner shares that vision. The FY2014 omnibus spending bill passed last month includes $25 million to fund composites research — half of what NASA originally requested, but officials say they want to leverage it into matching investments from industry partners as well as alliances with Virginia research universities. (2/11)

Russia-Kazakhstan Working Group to Report on Proton Launches (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russia-Kazakhstan working group will finalize its recommendations this week on the frequency of launches of the Proton rocket. A spokesperson for the Kazakh presidential administration said the bilateral working group will meet this week for the third time to consider ways to minimize the environmental impact of Proton launches. Citing environmental concerns, Kazakhstan has repeatedly urged Russia to phase out launches of the rocket, which uses a highly-toxic fuel called UDMH and is launched from the country’s Baikonur spaceport. (2/11)

Bristol Spaceplanes Joins Tourism Race (Source: Financial Times)
Bristol Spaceplanes, a small UK company, has entered the galactic race by trying to develop a spaceplane aimed at making space tourism an affordable reality. The spaceplane will have a pilot, will use wings to take off from a conventional runway and rocket engines to ascend into space. Unlike today’s one-use launchers it can be reused and advocates of the spaceplane say that will cut the cost of space travel by 1,000 times.

Founded by veteran aviation engineer David Ashford in 1991, Bristol Spaceplanes has run successful tests of the engines in the Mojave Desert, with a partner that manufactured the engines and provided the funding. Mr Ashford predicts that within 15 years £20,000 could buy a seat into orbit, compared with about £20m at present. (2/10)

Houston Tries to Sell Itself as Spaceport on Trade Mission (Source: Houston Business Jounal)
Houston Airport System Aviation Director Mario Diaz, part of a city trade mission to South Africa, outlined  the city’s plan for a commercial spaceport  to more than 20 executives representing commercial airlines, airport operators and aircraft manufacturing. “Houston will play a lead role in commercial space operations in the 21st century,” Mayor Annise Parker said during the trade mission.

“We have the necessary facilities, the required educated workforce and the dynamic economy needed to sustain these types of operations. All of this is in addition to the fact that the name Houston is virtually synonymous with space exploration activity.” Houston  has proposed locating what would be the ninth licensed commercial spaceport in the U.S. at Ellington Airport, a joint-use airport facility owned and operated by the city through the Houston Airport System.

If approved by the FAA’s Office of Space Transportation, a Houston Spaceport would support horizontal launches designed to accommodate a host of various activities, including zero-gravity experiments, the launching of micro satellites, astronaut training and eventually space tourism, the city said in a press release. (2/10)

NASA Tries to Rewrite the Book on Science Fiction (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In William Forstchen's new science fiction novel, "Pillar to the Sky," there are no evil cyborgs, alien invasions or time travel calamities. The threat to humanity is far more pedestrian: tightfisted bureaucrats who have slashed NASA's budget.

The novel is the first in a new series of "NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction," which grew out of a collaboration between NASA and science fiction publisher Tor. The partnership pairs up novelists with NASA scientists and engineers, who help writers develop scientifically plausible story lines and spot-check manuscripts for technical errors. (2/11)

A Survival Guide to Mars (Source: Wall Street Journal)
What if you were the last person on Mars? That is the dizzying premise of Andy Weir's meticulously researched debut novel, "The Martian." The novel, which began as a self-published science-fiction serial, is shaping up to be an international hit, with publication rights sold in 21 countries and a movie in the works.

The story opens as astronaut Mark Watney, the lowest-ranking crew member of NASA's third manned mission to Mars, wakes, aching and fuzzy headed, from an unconscious stupor in his space suit. He is stranded on Mars, after his crew got hit with an unexpectedly powerful sand storm six days into their monthlong mission. He was presumed dead and left behind when the crew evacuated. Satellite radio communications with NASA blew out.

The next scheduled Mars mission is four years away, and Watney only has enough food to last 300 days. Watney hatches a plan to grow his own food by converting the floor of the research station into a field and using sprouts from potatoes the astronauts brought along for a special Thanksgiving meal. NASA eventually learns he's alive when they see his activity on satellite images, but the chances of reaching him in time are slim. Click here. (2/11)

NASA Experts Continue to Engage UN on NASA's Asteroid Initiative (Source: SpaceRef)
In June of last year, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden spoke to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and shared with the international community what NASA is doing to detect and track asteroids. He also engaged the United Nation’s support for NASA’s mission to find, capture and redirect an asteroid to lunar orbit, and then send humans to explore it by 2025.

Following Bolden’s presentation, Mazlan Othman, director of the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs, offered support for NASA’s asteroid initiative and noted that near-Earth objects (NEO) have long been a concern for COPUOS. This week at the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) in Vienna, Austria, two NASA experts provided an update about additional efforts NASA is taking to support the global effort to find, characterize, and monitor near-Earth asteroids. (2/11)

NASA Report: How to Defend Planet From Asteroids (Source: Space.com)
The results of a workshop to find the best ways to find, track and deflect asteroids headed for Earth were released by NASA on Feb. 7. NASA's Asteroid Initiative, started in 2013, includes a mission to capture a small near-Earth asteroid and drag it into a stable orbit around the moon, and a challenge to devise the best ideas for detecting and defending against potentially dangerous asteroids.

The agency put out a request for information to refine the objectives of the Asteroid Initiative, to generate other mission concepts and increase participation in the mission and planetary defense. NASA received an enthusiastic response, including from the general public. The agency evaluated the ideas it received and chose 96 of them to explore further at a two-part workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston last year. (2/11)

New US Military Space Plane Aims for 2017 Liftoff (Source: Space.com)
The United States military is making progress toward developing a new unmanned space plane, which it aims to begin flight-testing in 2017. DARPA plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year. (2/11)

Arianespace To ESA: We Need Help (Source: Aviation Week)
A combination of new competition from U.S.-based SpaceX and an unfavorable euro-dollar exchange rate means European governments may need to increase subsidies for operations of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle at Europe’s Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana.

Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stephane Israel said the Evry, France-based company already is taking steps to remain competitive against SpaceX, which launched its first two commercial missions to geosynchronous transfer orbit on a new, more powerful version of its Falcon 9 rocket in December and January. Israel said that since 2005 Arianespace has improved its competitiveness to the extent that some €200 million ($273 million) in annual subsidies from the 20-nation ESA have been halved.

In addition, the reliability of the Ariane 5, which has seen 58 consecutive successes since 2002, has allowed the company to increase launch prices. The company also has reduced costs with a recent bulk buy of 18 Ariane 5 rockets that saved Arianespace 5%. Nevertheless, Israel said the arrival of the medium-lift Falcon 9, with prices substantially lower than what Arianespace charges for Ariane 5, means the company may be forced to ask ESA governments to increase price supports beyond the current €100 million per year. (2/11)

Russia Expects to Launch Over Dozen Spacecraft Before May (Source: Space Daily)
Russia expects to launch 17 spacecraft from four space centers within the next three months, a source from the rocket and space industry told Interfax news agency on Wednesday. "Two Russian space launches are due in February, six in March and five in April. They will be conducted from Baikonur, Plesetsk and Kourou space centers and the floating platform in the Pacific. Seventeen spacecraft will be put into orbit," the source said. (2/10)

Baiterek Launch Facility in Kazakhstan Faces More Delays (Source: Space Daily)
Russia is holding up the transfer of a space launch facility currently under construction to Kazakhstan, the head of the Central Asian nation's space program said. Baiterek, which is being built at the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, is central to Kazakhstan's ambitions to become a space power, but progession on its completion has been marred by disagreement on how to develop the project.

Kazcosmos space agency chief Talgat Musabayev said Thursday that Baiterek was being considered by Russian federal agencies and had resultantly been delayed. Musabayev last year announced a revision to plans agreed in 2004 to develop Baiterek as a launch pad for Russia's modular Angara rocket. The facility will be converted to a launch platform for the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket, Musabayev said. Angara, which is still under development, is instead to be launched from the Vostochny spaceport in Russia's Far East. (2/10)

NASA Welcomes University Participants to Develop Science Payloads (Source: NASA)
Registration is open for NASA's seventh annual RockOn! workshop to be held June 14-19 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island. This workshop, offered in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, engages university and community college students and faculty interested in learning how to develop science payloads for spaceflight. (2/11)

RS-25 Second Life: SLS Core Stage Engine Set for Summer Testing (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The RS-25 – the engine that enjoyed a hugely successful career with the Space Shuttle fleet – is set to begin its new life with the Space Launch System (SLS) this summer. Testing at the Stennis Space Center will initially focus on a new Main Engine Controller (MEC) and the ability to accommodate the full range of propellant conditions in its new configuration with the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV). (2/11)

European Auditors Question Plan To Phase Out Europeanized Soyuz (Source: Space News)
A French government-spending watchdog warned that replacing Russia’s Soyuz rocket at Europe’s spaceport in the next decade with a new-generation Ariane vehicle could deal a financial blow to Arianespace. Arianespace has taken on debt totaling 171 million euros ($231 million) to finance the purchase of Russian Soyuz rockets and related ground installations, and is amortizing its investment over 20 years starting in 2011, the French Accounting Court said.

Phasing out Soyuz in favor of the proposed Ariane 6 rocket before 2031, the court said, could damage Arianespace’s already fragile financial accounts. Arianespace officials have said the company’s Soyuz investment-cost amortization period could be adjusted depending on market conditions. Beyond its investment of 171 million euros, including a 121 million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank guaranteed by France, Arianespace pays a fee of 4.6 million euros per year to operate Soyuz at the spaceport. (2/11)

Let's Be Cautiously Optimistic About NASA's Troubled New Telescope (Source: Popular Mechanics)
They call it the successor to Hubble. But the James Webb Space Telescope is something more than the next great observatory to provide breathtaking views of nebulae and new insights to our place in the cosmos. It is also nearly all of NASA's eggs in one basket, one that appears to be perpetually near the brink of disaster. But things are looking up. Relatively speaking. Click here. (2/11)

Russian Progress M-22M Docks with ISS Following Fast Rendezvous (Source: Space Daily)
A  Russian Progress resupply ship launched on a fast-rendezvous mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday. Progress M-22M was launched by a Soyuz-U launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 4:23pm UTC, ahead of docking, just six hours later. (2/10)

Straight From the Panda's Mouth: What NASA Thinks it's For (Source: Charles Seife)
Last week, in Slate, I argued that NASA, like a panda, was maladapted and was flirting with extinction as a result. The argument triggered outrage. Within hours, fueled by social media, the defense of NASA echoed around the nation, even reaching the White House. It was the anger of a panda -- and contrary to what NASA aficionados believe, their response confirms just how screwed up the agency really is.

The fundamental problem isn't terribly hard to understand. The lion's share of NASA's budget -- and reputation -- is for launching people into space. This was sustainable when we were in a no-holds-barred race with the Soviets, but the moment Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, that race was over. Any human spaceflight beyond that is anticlimax. So it will remain until a manned Mars mission becomes technologically and budgetarily feasible.

This left NASA with a dilemma. What NASA does really well -- remote missions -- at best attract some passing attention from the public (and from Congress) and quickly fade from public consciousness, even though they've resulted in fundamental advances in planetary science, astronomy, cosmology, physics, and earth science. NASA's glory and continued success, on the other hand, comes almost entirely from the hurling-people-in-tin-cans-into-the-void trick, which hasn't had any real purpose since the early 1970s. (2/11)

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