Exploration: April 2012 Archives

Lighting a rocket is easy; tough part is controlling it, making parts work together, AP

"Anybody can make something go boom. Controlling it is hard," said former NASA associate administrator Scott Pace, director of space policy at George Washington University. ... "In many ways, the worst enemy of NASA is `Star Trek'," Pace said. "Captain Picard says `engage' and the ship moves. And people think `How hard can this be?'"

Keith's note: This is an odd thing for Scott Pace to say given that he's a very smart guy. If anything, Star Trek is often NASA's best friend. For several generations it has been Star Trek and other popular TV shows and movies that have so totally embedded the value and need to explore space within the minds of the citizens whose taxes keep NASA going. When cuts are proposed for NASA, what memes do supporters and energized taxpayers cite? Of course they use lines and themes about exploration and inspiration that you hear Star Trek characters saying.

When everything goes right, NASA loves to bask in the glowing PR and does not deter people from lofty comparisons to Star Trek. But when something goes wrong (or might go wrong) they like to lower expectations and say "Rocket science is hard". And yet, NASA seems to do it right nearly all the time, leading one to logically ask 'so how hard can this be'? This is the problem with NASA. They want to have it both ways.

U.S. Budget Cuts Threaten to Sink Undersea Research Fleet, Science

"Last week, researchers began to plead their case, asking lawmakers to reject an Obama Administration plan to eliminate the $4 million National Undersea Research Program (NURP), which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). ... The program also funds investigators to work at NOAA's Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater laboratory that sits in 18 meters of water 5.5 kilometers off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. ... It is less clear what will happen to NURP-funded assets if the program is defunded, although NOAA officials say they plan to get rid of Aquarius Reef Base, the Pisces V submersible, and other vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2013."

NASA Solicitation: NASA Extreme Environment Missions Operations (NEEMO) Support Vessel

"The ship must be on location for nine calendar days from June 11th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. EST until June 19th, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST. The ship will need to mob/demob the Deep Worker submersibles at a nearby port the day before (on June 10, 2012) and the day after (June 20, 2012)."

Mars can wait. Oceans can't, CNN

"While space travel still gets a lot of attention, not enough attention has been accorded to a major new expedition to the deepest point in the ocean, some 7 miles deep -- the recent journey by James Cameron, on behalf of National Geographic. The cover story of the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs lays out the "Case for Space." "60 Minutes" recently ran a story about the dire effects on Florida's space industry of scaling back our extraterrestrial endeavors. Newt Gingrich gained attention earlier this year by calling for building a permanent base on the moon. And President Obama has talked of preparing to eventually send Americans into orbit around Mars. Actually, there are very good reasons to stop spending billions of dollars on manned space missions, to explore space in ways that are safer and much less costly, and to grant much higher priority to other scientific and engineering mega-projects, the oceans in particular."

Keith's note: Is exploration a zero sum game - one wherein we must do one thing well (Earth) but not another (space)? Or can we do both? Should we do both? If the current (traditional) way of funding exploration via government funding is running out of steam, what other ways (i.e. Jim Cameron's recent private expedition) should be considered?

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars"



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from April 2012.

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