Exploration: December 2007 Archives

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, White House

"Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration."

Lunar Orbiter Launch Date At Risk, Aviation Week

"NASA has reserved time for a later launch in case it can't meet its Oct. 28, 2008 target date to send the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to the moon."

Editor's note: Gee Mike, if you miss the 2008 time frame mandated by the White House, what does this say about the need to adhere to the 2010 shuttle retirement date? If you are going to invoke White House direction in terms of what you do - and when - then you can't ignore one deadline and enforce the other - and expect people to take your rationale seriously.

Brits To The Moon

Nasa 'to support UK Moon mission', BBC

"The proposal to send a unmanned mission called Moonlite into orbit around the Moon has the backing of those planning Nasa's own return to the Moon. The US space agency's administrator, Dr Michael Griffin, has said that he is keen to use UK expertise to carry out scientific studies."

Altair To The Moon

At a Lunar Lander Project Office Industry Day NASA announced that the name of the new human lunar lander project's LSAM (Lunar Surface Access Module) will be "Altair".

A logo was also unveiled.

More to follow.

Dr. William 'Red' Whittaker and Raytheon Company Collaborate to Pursue Google Lunar X Prize, Astrobotic Technology

"Astrobotic is planning for Raytheon to begin work on a contract basis with the scope of Raytheon's work to be expanded upon completion of certain financing goals by Astrobotic. It is anticipated that 15 or more professional engineers from Raytheon will be devoted to the Astrobotic lunar program. Dr. Whittaker is the Fredkin Professor of Robotics, Director of the Field Robotics Center, and founder of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium, all at Carnegie Mellon University."

Editor's note: Word has it that the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is looking to partner with Carnegie-Mellon and Raytheon in a Google Lunar X-Prize bid. Word to proceed with planning awaits the approval of the University's upper management in the next few weeks. A final decision to proceed with the project would be made in late March 2008.

Taking it to the Streets (Space That is): Problems with NASA's Return to the Moon Plan, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"This past week has given me confirmation of something that has been a growing dread and suspicion by many of us in the space community regarding our latest return to the Moon effort. The Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) is being suffocated. It is literally having the life choked out of it. ...

... For all of these signals of patient ill health, the worst was articulated this week at a panel discussion as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1958 International Geophysical Year. The statement was that the VSE has failed to connect to the American people. That single sentence goes to the heart of the problem, one that is far larger than missed schedules, delayed milestones and a dearth of funding. Despite the fact that year in and year out, Americans typically support the space program by a two-to-one margin, often the rhetoric, like perception, becomes reality."

Practice run before Mars suggested, Huntsville Times

"Before going to Mars, NASA may need to perform a dry-run by sending astronauts on a shorter voyage to orbit a near-Earth asteroid, a former space agency scientist said Friday during a lecture in Huntsville.

The mission would be similar to the Christmas 1968 Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon that taught NASA men could be sent safely to lunar orbit and return to the Earth, said Dr. Wes Huntress, a former NASA associate administrator for science."

History Making Mission For Google Lunar X PRIZE Competition Unveiled by Odyssey Moon

"San Jose, CA, December 6th, 2007 - The first team to complete registration for the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE unveiled its plans today at the Space Investment Summit in San Jose, California. Representatives of Odyssey Moon announced their plans to make history with the first private robotic mission to the surface of the Moon and their intent to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. Odyssey Moon's inaugural mission will involve a unique small robotic lander designed to deliver scientific, exploration and commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon."

Editor's note: Multiple sources also report that Mike Griffin (with the prompting of his special helper Marcia Ivins) was not at all happy with what he was told about Orion and Ares 1 progress as discussed at the Integrated Stack Technical Interchange Meeting last month - especially with regard to the path Skip Hatfield was taking things. So, in the time honored NASA tradition of shooting the messenger, Hatfield was reassigned to that new "Special Assistant job" i.e. Mike Griffin had him fired from his Orion job. NASA ESMD PAO has not responded to any of the questions I have sent them on this topic. Stay tuned.

Constellation Management Changes, earlier post

Editor's note: Last week I began to receive mutliple reports from NASA sources that the Constellation program has baselined a water landing for the Orion spacecraft. After multiple requests, NASA ESMD PAO replied to me a few moments ago.

From ESMD PAO's Melissa Motichek: "I can tell you that there has not been a final decision on the nominal landing mode (land vs water). The point of departure architecture assumes a nominal water landing to begin the analysis cycle. We will re-address this issue as analysis of contingency water and land landing progresses."

To which I replied: "You have simply confused me further. The "point of departure architecture" used to call for a land landing. Now you say it is a water landing - yet you say that the final decision has not been made."

In August 2007 both Doug Cooke and Doc Horowitz told me that this decision had not been made (contrary to other reports) and that studies were still underway.

It is quite obvious that ESMD PAO (and therefore ESMD) is incapable of making simple 'yes' or 'no' answers to simple questions.

Let me try this again: has NASA decided to land Orion spacecraft in the water as its basic plan of flight operations?

Editor's update: A NASA Watch reader noted that the 3 Dec Space News quotes Jeff Hanley as follows:

"Q. How did Orion manage to lose the weight?

A. In their recent weight scrub effort, the Orion team settled on a targeted water-based landing off the California coast as the nominal landing mode, which the program has accepted."

This really has me perplexed. Jeff Hanley says it that Orion is now landing in water yet ESMD PAO at NASA HQ (who says only what their management tells them to say) informs me that no decision has been made. Small wonder people have their doubts about ESMD and their spacecraft designs. One hand clearly does not know what the other is doing - or saying.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from December 2007.

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