Exploration: March 2010 Archives

Keith's note: As is usually the case at times like this rumors abound in and around NASA. Many are of the sort that spread because you hope that they are true. Having the ring of logic helps too. In this case, the rumor or viral meme that I keep encountering is that the President will visit KSC - not just to try and woo people with his prose mixed with logic and compassion - but rather that he will augment his comments with the announcement of a compromise of sorts. He'd announce it after describing the problem and discussing the options he has available to him.

The question lingering in the minds of folks inside and outside NASA - as well as inside and outside the Beltway is why political strategists in the White House would knowingly send their boss into the proverbial lion's den with nothing but words as a defense. There are a lot of angry people at KSC who will be unemployed through no fault of their own in a short period of time - in a region where there is not another space program to go work for. As such, whether it is an anguished and angry outburst in a town hall meeting or pickets along the road, folks down there have little to lose - and their elected officials are almost as desperate. Opinions will be brutal and frank. Lots of potential YouTube moments.

House panel vows to save Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"To emphasize its doubt, the subcommittee asked Thomas Young, a former Lockheed Martin executive, to testify. He flatly told the committee that the White House plan was untenable and said that NASA should not rely on commercial rockets to transport astronauts. "In my view, this is a risk too high and not a responsible course. The commercial crew option should not be approved," he said, adding that the best policy would continue a longstanding partnership between NASA and the aerospace industry because the U.S. needs NASA's space expertise."

Keith's note: As I Twittered yesterday: "Tom Young has his gaze firmly affixed on the past not the future and thinks of ways of how not to do things rather than how to do them. FAIL"

- House Science and Technology Cmte Space and Aeronautics Subcmte Hearing: Proposed Changes to NASA's Exploration Program, 24 March: ESMD AA Douglas Cooke and Tom Young testify at 2 pm EST.

- Hearing Charter
- live webcast
- Presentation by Doug Cooke
- Testimony by Tom Young

- Opening Statement By Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords, Hearing on NASA's FY 2011 Budget Request and Exploration

"Over the past few months we have held many hearings to address safety concerns for human spaceflight, the competition of international space programs, and the impact of NASA's programs on the skilled aerospace workforce and industrial base. We have also heard from the Government Accountability Office and NASA's Inspector General. And just last month NASA Administrator, General Charlie Bolden testified on the FY2011 budget request. Unfortunately, the NASA Administrator was unable to satisfy many of the members of this committee. Today we are going to continue to take a closer look at the elements of the proposed plan and try to get additional information--to the extent that such information exists."

Robert White

Robert M. White dies at 85; pilot made history with 1962 test flight into space, LA Times

"Robert M. White was a 38-year-old U.S. Air Force major and record-setting test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in 1962 when he joined the elite ranks of America's four astronauts. But Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter went into space seated atop ballistic missiles and returned in capsules that parachuted onto the ocean."

Robert White, a pilot in 'The Right Stuff,' dies, SF Chronicle

"After his space flight, he was featured on the cover of Life magazine next to the quote, "Boy, That Was a Ride."

A Mission to Nowhere

Space: The pull of gravity, Financial Times

"Three elderly American heroes have been touring US military bases in Europe and Asia this month, telling inspiring tales of space adventures that took place before most people in the audience were born. But the Apollo astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell - were not just living on past glories. They looked at the future of manned space flight and lamented President Barack Obama's decision last month to cancel the Constellation programme under which Nasa would have taken Americans back to the moon by 2020. "We will go back to the moon, notwithstanding our president and his outlook for the future of space," said Mr Cernan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The man who in 1972 was the last to walk on the lunar surface added: "Under the president's proposed budget, it is a mission to nowhere."

Keith's note: There was a press conference today on Capitol Hill at which a number of members of Congress spoke out in opposition to President Obama's recently announced space policy. For the most part nothing new was said. However, Rep. Gene Green (D-TX-29) made some odd comments.

At [0:53] in this video he says "We have had some discussion on the House floor about English-only in our own country. I do agree that we should have English-only on the moon." Then at 2:57 he says "Every year, we take an astronaut with us and go to middle schools. I have a majority Hispanic district in Houston Texas and east Harris County. And to see those students, middle-school kids, sixth, seventh and eighth-graders, they won't pay attention to me or even Hispanic business folks that go in and talk about what they need to do to be successful. But when you take an astronaut there, whether Hispanic or Anglo and they go in their jumpsuit and they talk about space, they talk about their experiences or their science effort. Those sixth, seventh and eighth-graders, particularly in minority schools, pay attention. I don't want to lose that hope."

First of all, his comment about "English only" on the Moon is just plain silly. Who is he to say who can go to the Moon and what they say when they get there? Secondly, Green is apparently not well versed in how space is explored these days. NASA has prided itself on its international cooperation. The ISS is multi-national and multi-lingual and the very program he seeks to retain, the VSE, openly sought international participation. Lastly, given his overt reference to his large hispanic constituency and education, what sort of message is Green sending to those kids when he says that they won't be allowed to speak the language of their parents and their ancestors on the Moon? I guess Rep. Green never read the Twitter posting by Jose Hernandez from space en Espaol.

US lawmakers urge Obama to save NASA moon program, AFP

"I am concerned that the Russians and the Chinese will get ahead of us... that English won't be the dominant language in space," Republican Representative Michael McCaul from Texas told a House hearing."

Video clips of comments by: Rep. Olson, Rep. Wolf, Rep. Bishop , Rep. McCaul , Rep. Culberson, Rep. Posey, and Rep. Green

What's next for NASA?, Mario Livio, Baltimore Sun

"In recent days, some of those criticizing NASA's proposed budget have tried to paint a picture of an agency without a vision. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. NASA's far-reaching ambitions in space science have been, and will continue to be, truly inspiring"

Keith's note: While Livio does make a number of cogent points about space science, I find it a little odd that he can make statements about the agency's overall "vision" while making zero mention of human spaceflight. If some members of Congress have their way, NASA will need to find more money somewhere - and that somewhere may well be space science. Perhaps then he'll take the time to look at the other things that NASA does. I am rather certain that Livio was in the audience last night at the Air and Space Museum for the premiere of Hubble IMAX 3D - a movie that was equally balanced between human and robotic spaceflight. I guess he missed all of those space suited astronauts working on the gem of his institute's research - one of whom works down the hall from him at STScI ...

Texas' NASA fight soars even as state's clout fades, Houston Chronicle

"And although thousands of Houston-area jobs are at stake, Texans in 2008 did nothing to help usher Barack Obama into the White House. Furthermore, history shows previous lobbying efforts to salvage massive NASA projects have never succeeded. "There's not a single case where a major cancellation in the space program has been overturned by external lobbying," says space historian John Logsdon, former director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. "Congress defers to presidents on space because you can't run a space program from Capitol Hill."

Preserving space jobs big focus for Shelby, Huntsville Times

"Shelby has accused the Obama administration of beginning "the death march for NASA" and has told Bolden he is "out of step with Congress." Shelby described last Thursday's meeting with Bolden as "to the point." "I believe some of us have fundamental disagreements on how the administration wants to go," Shelby said. Shelby has vowed to fight the changes, he said."

Shelby has frank discussion with NASA Administrator, WAFF

"A frank discussion took place on Capitol Hill Thursday between Senator Richard Shelby and NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. It took place behind closed doors in Senator Shelby's office. Bolden and Shelby are very far apart on NASA's vision and therefore NASA's budget. In fact, many in Congress don't even see a vision for the space agency if there is no government owned and operated human space flight program , namely Constellation, once the shuttle retires."

A Strategic Retreat From Leadership, Rep. Mike Coffman, Huffington Post

"Seeking to put his stamp on America's storied adventures in rocketry and robotics, the president could have gone boldly in new directions, using past achievements as a springboard to new destinations. But his proposed budget for space exploration describes an approach that is both reckless and nave."

New NASA plans developing in Congress and, reportedly, inside NASA itself, Huntsville Times

"Bolden said in a statement later Thursday that NASA isn't undercutting the White House plan. "The president's budget for NASA is my budget. I strongly support the priorities and the direction for NASA that he has put forward," Bolden said. "I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the president's plan and budget."

Aderholt "Extremely Pleased" NASA May Be Planning Alternatives To Ending Constellation

"I am extremely pleased that NASA may be considering a Plan B option to the President's proposal to cancel human space flight. Since the President announced his Budget last month, I and many of my Republican and Democrat colleagues have expressed our disapproval of the plan, along with our desire in continuing with Constellation. But the fight is not over. I will continue to work on this because I believe that human spaceflight and exploration beyond earth is the very reason for NASA's existence."

Massive Fight Under Way To Keep Shuttle Program, WESH

"On Thursday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said he still supports the president's plan to end U.S. human spaceflight. However, when he meets with members of Congress, he is expected to at least discuss Plan B."

New hope for Ares, ATK / NASA may be considering compromise, standard.net

"Bishop, R-Utah, cited a news story in the Wall Street Journal that says a memo by a member of Bolden's staff is telling NASA officials to plan out "what a potential compromise might look like" to satisfy Obama administration critics of the Constellation program. Bishop said Thursday that congressional delegations from Utah, Alabama, Florida and Texas are joining forces to work with NASA to keep Constellation alive. He said the memo is a hint that NASA is starting to listen."

NASA Administrator Reaffirms Support for 2011 Budget, NASA

"I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the President's plan and budget."

Opinion: Mars Is Within Our Reach -- Here's How, Buzz Aldrin, AOL

"Many in Congress and elsewhere have expressed their concern that under the Obama plan, NASA will no longer be in the human spaceflight business, having turned over space transportation services to commercial firms. Under my plan, commercial carriers would fly our astronauts and cargo up to the space station, but NASA would stay in the human spaceflight business by designing and building the Exploration Module, or XM."

More Water on the Moon

NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon's North Pole; Additional Evidence of Water Activity on Moon

"Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 1.3 million pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice."

Reader note: A few days ago I again saw the "Step Forward" commercial that was run a lot after Obama was elected with its notable quote "Where's my moon" on TV. The commercial indicates we are to go to USAService.org I did so in hopes of obtaining some inspiration. I wound up at http://www.inauguralstore.com/. I could only laugh! Try it for yourself.


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