Exploration: April 2007 Archives

Human Needs: Sustaining Life During Exploration, NASA

"Human needs have not changed for centuries. As the world's first explorers set off to discover new lands and map uncharted territories, they had to make sure that basic survival requirements were met."

Editor's note: In this NASA story a large picture of a closed environmental growth chamber is shown. Looks impressive. It was. I stood in it many times - nearly two decades ago. Friends of mine ran this research. Indeed, this picture looks like one used in a NASA Spinoff article I helped write in the late 1980s. Alas, virtually none of this research is going on at NASA anymore. Yes, this research provided clear value to the future human exploration of space and is worth mentioning. But to put such an image up and not also mention that this is decades old research and that all such research has been utterly erased from NASA's portfolio is very misleading impression to give visitors to this NASA web page. The "take home message"? NASA no longer sees the value in funding such research. Someone at NASA is trying to get one last use of an old picture they obviously do not understand.

Oh yes, and then there is this marvelous building at KSC that was supposed to support all of the amazing science we'd be doing on ISS - science that has all but disappeared. They are still trying to figure out what to do with this building: NASA KSC Modification to a Previous Notice Space Life Science Laboratory Sub-lease

Congress Restores Funds for NASA Robotic Landers, Science (subscription)

"Angry U.S. lawmakers have come to the rescue of NASA's robotic lunar lander program. NASA chief Michael Griffin had pledged to shut down the program to save money, but after strong pressure from both House and Senate members, the space agency has granted it a reprieve. The reversal, although welcomed by lunar researchers, puts more pressure on Griffin to pare other missions or win additional funding from Congress."

Editor's note: Word has it that they are celebrating at MSFC and that Tony Lavoie is being seen in public once again. When Congress (I.e. Sen. Shelby) starts to micromanage NASA to this extent, they totally compromise their credibility when they question why NASA manages other programs the way it does.

Aderholt worries NASA work at risk, Huntsville Times

"This situation is a disaster," said George Whitesides, executive director of the National Space Society in Washington, D.C. "Griffin has been forced to cut a whole range of very valuable efforts. It's not the NASA administrator's fault. Griffin is just working with what he has been given." Whitesides and other space experts fear that lack of money will mean future lunar exploration missions will take place over a few years, and not create a transportation network of rockets and bases that would allow continued trips to the moon."

Editor's note: Take the time to look at this new promotional animation from ESMD. Play it on a big screen nice and loud so that you can get the full effect of the Indiana Jones-inspired music. The editing style includes some of those slightly jerky camera adjustments seen on Battlestar Galactica.

Whoever does these videos is getting to be rather good at it.

Someone also posted the video on YouTube (link below).

Editor's note: If you check the Constellation Program Work Locations page at ESMD, you'll see that "The Constellation Program work is being performed at a variety of NASA Centers, Prime Contractors and Subcontractors located around the country. This work includes the Orion Crew Vehicle and Ares I Launch Vehicle and the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Partners."

If you scroll down you will see that NASA has mapped ESMD contracts against the nation's congressional districts and the individuals who represent those states and districts in Congress. There is also a fancy flash animation (see this chart) of a U.S. map that lets you see who gets the money. The animation even goes down to civil service and contractor head counts and budgets for each field center. Just the sort of thing you need to put in a letter to your Congressman or Senator to remind them to support NASA.

To be certain, this is interesting information - but why is NASA posting this? The obvious answer (to me at least) is that NASA wants people to know who to contact on Capitol Hill about NASA. Of course, this also serves to show Congress just how well/widely NASA has spread the work across the U.S.

I also find it of interest to note that there is no mention of this exhaustive page of congressional information on the Office of Legislative Affairs page - nor is there any link from this ESMD page back to Legislative Affairs. I would think that the Legislative Affairs folks would like to promote this page - or is it that they had nothing to do with it?

Also - shouldn't NASA show earmarks as well - after all these pet projects are another way that Congress sends money back home. And what about all the other programs NASA distributes across the U.S. ?

It is good that NASA tries to explain how broadly based participation in space exploration is across the U.S. - but isn't this just a little too close to NASA facilitating public lobbying - on behalf of NASA? This might be a more appropriate (and useful) thing for the Coalition for Space Exploration to put on their SpaceAdvocates.com website.

Robotics office still open for now, Huntsville Times

"Another problem with the lunar robotics office is that the probe had been expanded beyond its original mission, said Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who now runs the agency watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com. "Part of this issue has always been massive cost growth," Cowing said. "It's ballooned from a $300 million to $400 million program to double. It's something around $1 billion now." Cowing said a simple lunar lander, similar to the ones put on the moon during the Apollo missions "has grown from a simple design to a battleship. It has more requirements and mission responsibility than originally planned."

Editor's note: I was referring specifically to the Surveyor series of robotic landers which were used to do in situ analysis of the lunar surface in preparation for Apollo landings a few years later.

SSTL Welcomes Government Agreement on Lunar Exploration

US and UK pledge to work on new space exploration initiative

"NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) have signed a historic agreement to jointly study how the two space agencies might work together on future planetary explorations to the Moon and beyond. A joint team is to be established to conduct a study into specific areas of US-UK potential collaboration involving lunar science and exploration."

President of India Addresses Boston University Symposium on the Future of Space Exploration Through Video Conference

Surviving and Thriving in the Next 50 Years of Space Exploration: Leading scholars gather on 50th anniversary of Sputnik 1, Space Generation Advisory Council

" ... the three-day conference featured discussions led by noted researchers, including Dr. John C. Mather, 2006 Nobel Prize Winner in physics, and a keynote address by Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society. Opening remarks were made by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam of India who stated that, "the best thing space can do is enhance the quality of life of those on Earth," and that in the long-term, humanity has to "build the way for an alternative habitat in our galaxy."

Bringing Home The Bacon

Senators vow to back NASA, Huntsville Times

"Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, said Tuesday that he is frustrated with NASA's plans to shut down the lunar robotics office. "We've fought for the NASA budget at the highest levels," Cramer told the chamber leaders. "Now, to hear from headquarters that they want to unplug the lunar robotics office at Marshall is awfully frustrating."

Editor's note: Perhaps Rep. Cramer should look into the details of the rising cost of all that the robotics folks wanted to do at MSFC - and the role that played in this decision. Then again, more money equals more jobs - regardless of where the money comes from - and its Cramer's job to bring home the bacon.

Editor's note: According to the official FMARS blog for the Mars Society's latest exploits on Devon Island, the non-Canadian team members show a paper to immigration authorities upon entering Canada which states that the project is a "joint venture" of NASA and the CSA. (see image of actual immigration form - "CSA" is blacked out in this image) Neither CSA or NASA has issued any press releases about this stating that they officially collaborate on this project. Indeed, the blog posting notes that CSA hasn't even cleared this statement yet. Stay tuned.

Editor's update: Well, the Mars Society guy (James Harris) who made this post is trying to run away from what he wrote - but he's doing it on another blog - and in so doing he's trying to take NASA funding of one effort in the U.S. and apply it to his project in the arctic as if NASA has endorsed it as well as a "joint venture". Sorry - it just does not work that way. If there was a press release, I must have missed it. The link he offers up as some sort of excuse makes no mention of anything happening on Devon Island - past, present, or future.

Shelby: Don't shut robotics office, Huntsville Times

"U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and key Democrats in Congress are pressuring the NASA administrator to reverse a plan to shut down a lunar robotics office at Marshall Space Flight Center. Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, worked with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., to write a letter directing NASA to restore $20 million for the Lunar Precursor and Robotics Program office. Mikulski and Mollohan chair subcommittees that oversee NASA's budget."

China's Moon Rover

Engineers unveil China moon rover, BBC

"Chinese scientists have shown off a prototype Moon rover that could lead to the country's first unmanned mission to the lunar surface in 2012. The 1.5m (5ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface."



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