Space & Planetary Science: April 2006 Archives

Artwork from Saturn

Epimetheus, Saturn's Rings, and Titan

"This image was taken on April 28, 2006 and received on Earth April 28, 2006. The camera was pointing toward Epimetheus at approximately 667,385 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2007."

Report from MEPAG, Planetary Society

"Both Bruce Betts and Lou Friedman from the Society have been attending MEPAG over the last couple of days, and Bruce just sent me an email with some notes about what's been going on."

Editor's Update: It would seem that the Planetary Society's Blog editor, Emily Stewart Lakdawalla is a little confused about how MEPAG meetings have been run in the past. In a post to another website she says "As for that inexplicable NASAwatch comment about "finally allowing taxpayer insight," Lou and Bruce have been going to MEPAG for years. I'll be going to both OPAG and VEXAG."

Well, Emily, if, for example, you look at the circular for the February 2005 MEPAG meeting it was rather explicit about media attendace: "Who should attend? Participation is open to all scientists/engineers involved in Mars exploration, including international colleagues. Since this is a 'working' meeting, it is not open to members of the press, however, if there is interest we can make people available for interviews afterwards." When I asked NASA PAO if I could attend this February 2005 meeting (and a previous MEPAG meeting) and report on what was discussed I was told that I would not be allowed to attend.

As such, my comments below are hardly "inexplicable", Emily.

Scientists Polled on Solar System Exploration Program Priorities, University of Arizona

"The Planetary Science Institute (PSI), in collaboration with the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of The University of Arizona, the SETI Institute and the Space Science Institute, has conducted a survey of U.S.-based planetary scientists to prioritize NASA solar system exploration programs across spending categories in the face of an uncertain future for NASA space science in general."

Editor's update: The authors have revised their abstract so as to remove their "embargo" claim.

Editor's note: I was scanning through today's publicly available abstracts at If you go to this abstract "The Carbon-Rich Gas in the Beta Pictoris Circumstellar Disk" published online on 19 April 2006 at, you see the notice "Accepted for publication in Nature. The paper is under press embargo until publication." Click on the PDF link and you will see the paper online with the note "Scientists may reference this paper, but the contents may not be reported in the media before the embargo ends." Fine. I won't report the contents - but you can all read the paper.

Mars Scout AO Released

NASA Solicitation: Announcement of Opportunity: Mars Scout 2006 and Missions of Opportunity

"NASA SMD is releasing an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for Mars Scout 2006 and Missions of Opportunity. NASA intends to select a Scout mission to launch by January 31, 2012. Missions of Opportunity may also be selected."

NASA Won't Release DART Mission Report, AP

"Saying the information is too sensitive, NASA announced Friday that it will not release its report on the failed docking of two spacecraft in what would have been the first such rendezvous without human intervention."

Editor's note:Uh Alica, NASA did not "announce" anything about DART today. However NASA Watch posted something - yesterday.

Editor's 13 April 5:30 pm EDT note: The following NASA internal email reveals why we haven't heard anything about the DART Mishap Investigation Board's report.

According to the email below: "NASA HQ has determined that the report is "Sensitive, but Unclassified," due to certain ITAR considerations that HQ identified. As I understand it, this effectively means that NASA will only be releasing the report to those US organizations with a "need to know."

NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees Planning Conference

"The Planning Conference will feature plenary session information briefings by NASA officials on science program status and plans and the NASA FY 2007 budget proposal. The plenary session will subsequently breakout into meetings of the Astrophysics Subcommittee, Earth Science Subcommittee, Heliophysics Subcommittee, and Planetary Sciences Subcommittee. The breakout sessions will focus on: (1) Research and Analysis plans and program mix options, and (2) science community involvement in preparing the NASA Science Plan."

"Thirty minutes will be set aside for verbal comment by members of the general public, not to exceed three minutes per speaker, at 8 a.m. on May 4, 2006."

Editor's note: Wow. Three minutes per person.

Comments by NASA's Andrew Dantzler Regarding Recent Dawn Mission Reviews, SpaceRef

Editor's note: The following comments regarding the Dawn mission were made by Andrew Dantzler, Division Director of Planetary Sciences at the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, this morning at a NASA workshop titled "Lesson Learned Workshop for PI-Led Planetary Science Missions".

Space agency's 2020 vision shortsighted, say campus astronomers, UC Berkeley News

"No shuttles have been launched since the Columbia disintegrated while returning to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard."

Editor's note: Barry Bergman (the author) at UC Berkeley Public Affairs is not exactly up to date on everything...

"[Geoffrey Marcy] adds that the cuts will have "a devastating impact" on astronomy research, and particularly on what he calls the "two remarkable quests" to have emerged in the past decade: "the cause of the accelerating expansion of the universe, and the existence of habitable worlds." NASA, he believes, "has backed away from the two most philosophically compelling questions to face modern physical science: 'What is the history and destiny of the universe?' and 'Are we alone?'"

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

"Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey."

Participants at AIAA Capitol Hill Forum Call for Congress to Appropriately Fund NASA Space Life Science Research

"The event closed with a call to action during which the panel participants and attendees called for Congress to provide level funding for NASA life science research, with a top level increase to the NASA budget of $38 million over the President's budget submission."

AIAA Information Paper: Restore and Sustain Our National Space Life Sciences Research Capability

"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is deeply concerned about the potential destruction of the U.S. space life sciences research community. The human exploration element within the administration's Vision for Space Exploration is dependent on this community to extend a human presence, as proposed, beyond Earth orbit."

Click on image to enlarge. This graphic showing Asteroid Itokawa and the ISS - to scale - illustrates two things: how big a small asteroid is in comparision to the ISS, and how large the ISS is in comparison to a small asteroid. Given the size of NEOs that may threaten Earth, this graphic also serves to show how much hardware one might have to put into space to deter such an object were it deemed to be an imminent threat to Earth. Asteroid 99942 (Apophis), the object of great interest to the B612 Foundation as a potential impactor, has an estimated diameter of 320 meters - somewhat smaller than Itokawa.

Historic Japanese Asteroid Data Amaze Researchers, Aviation Week

"As an Earth-crossing asteroid, Itokawa has a reasonably high statistical chance of striking Earth in a million or more years from now, JAXA says."

NASA Announces DART Mishap Investigation Board Members

"NASA selected the mishap investigation board to determine why the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) spacecraft did not complete its mission on April 15."

Editor's note: In 2 weeks it will have been a year since DART's mission. Why hasn't there been any word as to when the DART Mishap Investigation Board will issue its findings? The results of the investigation have actually been known by NASA for quite some time. Yet another thing they'd rather just sit on.

Making Up for Lost Time in Space, NY Times

"While the on-again, off-again nature of the project hasn't affected the [Dawn] spacecraft itself it sits half-built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., it has put many of the lab's workers on a roller coaster ride. Two-thirds of the people working on Dawn had been assigned to other projects; they will now be moved back to the mission, said D. C. Agle, a spokesman at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

Is NASA in Outer Space? Not After a Surprise Round of Budget Cuts, Washington Post

"Something's broken at NASA if such important and forward-looking goals as studying Europa's ocean and searching for planets with signs of liquid water elsewhere in our galaxy are canceled in favor of programs that are clearly on their way out. Congress should direct the agency to restore its science programs, and it should establish a firewall protecting them from the fiscal demands of crewed spaceflight."

VOYAGER 1 received by AMSAT-DL group - Space probe VOYAGER 1 successfully received

"On March 31st, 2006 an AMSAT-DL / IUZ team received the American space probe VOYAGER 1 with the 20m antenna in Bochum. The distance was 14.7 billion km. This is a new record for AMSAT-DL and IUZ Bochum."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from April 2006.

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