Space & Planetary Science: June 2006 Archives

Editor's 26 June note : Several sources report that Andy Dantzler has resigned his position as Director of the Science Mission Directorate's Solar System Division at NASA HQ. No word as to who will replace him.

Editor's 30 June note : Dantzler is going to APL to become the Program Manager for "Living With A Star".

Hubble Update

NASA Issues Hubble Space Telescope Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope: Update on Suspension of ACS Operations, STSCI

"At this point, the ACS is in a safe configuration, and analysis of engineering data at the time of the suspension is ongoing. Initial indications are that there is a problem with one set of electronics used to provide power to the CCDs. A review board is meeting June 29 to determine the best course of action."

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Marks Mission Halfway Point, NASA

"As the Cassini spacecraft reaches the halfway mark in its four-year tour of the Saturn system, discoveries made during the first half of the mission have scientists revved up to find out what's in store for the second act."

Nine new moons for Saturn, Planetary Society

"If you're keeping score, Jupiter is still in the lead with 63 moons, but Saturn is running a close second now with 56. Uranus has 27 known moons and Neptune has 13, but both of those planets almost certainly have a lot more than anyone has spotted yet."

NASA's Science Mission Aborted, Technology Review

"Although the International Space Station remains a budgetary priority, some scientists feel that its usefulness for carrying out scientific research has already been diminished, by, for example, the cancellation of a large centrifuge seen as essential for biological research. That cancellation, says Keith Cowing of the watchdog website NASA Watch, will "set back the ability" to develop ways to prevent the loss of muscle and bone by astronauts in prolonged weightlessness. And yet, he says, President Bush's exploration initiative is supposed to be leading toward trips to "Mars and beyond," where such measures will be essential."

U of M study examines kidney stone prevention in astronauts

"At least 14 American crew members have developed kidney stones in the last 5 years, and as missions become longer, the number is likely to grow. While astronauts have exercised in space to attempt to combat bone loss, the lack of gravity makes it difficult to achieve enough resistance to maintain their pre-flight fitness levels."

Planetary Society: Congress Committee Hears Your S.O.S.!

"The Planetary Society's Save Our Science campaign has made a huge impact in Washington, D.C. We -- all of us -- made a difference. The petitions you signed, the newspaper ads and the congressional presentation you helped fund, and your tremendous support have been all important in influencing a favorable consideration by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee."

2007 NASA BUDGET: Space Scientists Score a Modest Victory in House Spending Bill, Science

"After months of fretting, arguing, and lobbying, earth and space scientists got some good news last week. The House panel that funds NASA proposed adding $75 million--mostly for research grants--to the agency's science programs next year. That is less than half of what the National Research Council (NRC) urged in a May report, but it demonstrates that researchers have the political muscle to battle the Administration's campaign to replace the space shuttle and return humans to the moon at the expense of several scientific projects."

Pluto's Twins Get Their Names, Science Now

"Pluto's baby twin moons, formerly known as S/2005 P 1 and S/2005 P 2, have been christened Nix and Hydra. The objects, discovered last year by the Hubble Space Telescope, received their names from the International Astronomical Union (IAU). A formal announcement will be issued this Friday, 23 June."

Editor's note: Paul Hertz, Chief Scientist for Science Mission Directorate, told a NAS meeting this morning that NASA's Lunar Exploration program "is not science driven". He said this three times. Yet a chart he presented said "It is essential that NASA adopt the very strongest science program possible for the Moon right from the outset because advocated weak science would be questioned and could jeopardize the entire lunar program". The NAS panel repeatedly questioned Hertz on this seeming inconsistency i.e. that while the lunar program is not driven by science NASA seems to want to get the science community to support it because of its science content. This of course reflects the problems Mike Griffin has with reconciling science and exploration.

What Mike Griffin *Really* Thinks About NRC's Space Station Report

"The next step out is the Moon. We're going to get, and probably already are getting, the same criticisms as for ISS. This is the "why go to the Moon?" theme. We've got the architecture in place and generally accepted. That's the "interstate highway" analogy I've made. So now, we need to start talking about those exit ramps I've referred to. What ARE we going to do on the Moon? To what end? And with whom? I have ideas, of course. (I ALWAYS have ideas; it's a given.) But my ideas don't matter. Now is the time to start working with our own science community and with the Internationals to define the program of lunar activity that makes the most sense to the most people. I keep saying -- because it's true -- that it's not the trip that matters, it's the destination, and what we do there. We got to get started on this."

NASA Cutbacks Cause Uncertainty Among Space Researchers, Science Careers

"NASA's space science program is at risk, according to a recent report from a National Research Council (NRC) panel. The panel, which was tasked with assessing the impact of the proposed FY 2007 NASA budget, concluded that the budget provides the agency with insufficient funds to allow it to meet all of its mandates while remaining strong in science. "NASA is being asked to accomplish too much with too little," says the report."

NASA To Announce Answer To Black Hole Paradox

"Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory for research are hosting a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 21, to explain how black holes light up the universe."

The magnetic nature of disk accretion onto black holes

"... accepted for publication in Nature ... Here we report that an X-ray-absorbing wind discovered in an observation of the stellar-mass black hole binary GRO J1655-40 must be powered by a magnetic process that can also drive accretion through the disk. Detailed spectral analysis and modeling of the wind shows that it can only be powered by pressure generated by magnetic viscosity internal to the disk or magnetocentrifugal forces. This result demonstrates that disk accretion onto black holes is a fundamentally magnetic process."

NASA Genesis Mishap Report - Executive Summary

"Faster, Better, Cheaper Philosophy - As demonstrated by several failures, NASA's use of the Faster, Better, Cheaper philosophy encouraged increased risk taking by the Projects to reduce costs. Although NASA Headquarters had solicited and selected Genesis under the Faster, Better, Cheaper paradigm, the way JPL chose to implement the Genesis Mission substantially reduced their insight of the technical progress of the project. This precluded them from ensuring that the Project was executed within the range of previously successful mission implementation practices, thereby adding additional risk. The Discovery Program Office accepted these arrangements implicitly by way of the selection and subsequent management review processes.

The potential pitfalls of this approach became clear when the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander missions failed."

A Sight to Behold - Saturn and Titan

"Cassini's "eyes" -- its powerful imaging cameras -- bear witness to the majestic and spectacular sights of the Saturn system, as this views attests. Here, the probe gazes upon Titan (5,150 kilometers, or 3,200 miles across) in the distance beyond Saturn and its dark and graceful rings. This view was taken from above the ringplane and looks toward the unlit side of the rings."

Space Science Update

NRC Report: An Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs

"Astrobiology provides the intellectual connections between otherwise disparate enterprises. NASA's astrobiology program creates an integrated whole and supports the basic interdisciplinary nature of the field. Further, the Vision is, at its heart, largely an astrobiology vision with regard to the science emphasis"

NASA Scientists Find Infant Solar System Awash in Carbon

"Scientists using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have discovered abundant amounts of carbon gas in a dusty disk surrounding a well-studied young star named Beta Pictoris."

The Carbon-Rich Gas in the Beta Pictoris Circumstellar Disk

"Here we report the detection of singly and doubly ionized carbon (CII, CIII) and neutral atomic oxygen (OI) gas in the Beta Pic disk; measurement of these abundant volatile species permits a much more complete gas inventory. Carbon is extremely overabundant relative to every other measured element.[Accepted for publication in Nature]."

Association of American Universities Letter to Rep. Wolf Regarding FY 2007 Funding for NASA Science and Aeronautics

"As president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), representing 60 leading U.S. public and private research universities, I respectfully request that, as you develop the FY07 Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriation Act, you strive to appropriate no less than $5.5 billion and $959 million in federal funding for NASA's science and aeronautics mission directorates respectively."

NASA Cassini Image: Titan's Atmosphere and Saturn's Rings

"This image was taken on June 02, 2006 and received on Earth June 03, 2006. The camera was pointing toward Titan at approximately 2,338,094 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."

Space Science Update

NASA's Science Programs Threatened by Missions to Put Humans in Space, Newhouse News Service

"NASA's science programs, the impetus for profound discoveries about the nature of our universe and the restless planet we call home, are in deep trouble. With marching orders from President Bush to reach the moon and Mars, and with spiraling costs to keep the aging shuttle fleet flying and to finish the International Space Station, NASA administrator Mike Griffin is doing what he vowed last fall would not happen. The space agency is making sharp and long-lasting cuts in its science budgets in order to pay for human spaceflight projects."

NASA's Reverse Thrust, Scientific American

"The NASA budget announced in February mows down a scarily long list of science missions, from a Europa orbiter to a space-based gravitational-wave observatory. Research grants to individual scientists, traditionally kept safe from high-level budget machinations, have taken a 15 percent hit, retroactive to last fall; hundreds have already received "termination letters" canceling their projects."

The Goldin Days of Space Exploration, Space Foundation

"By the late 1990s, Goldin had inherited a flawed and discredited Mars exploration architecture that had produced a string of embarrassing disasters."

Editor's note: Elliot Pulham makes some very good points - and people should pause to recall how we got to where we are. The only major item I differ with Elliot on is the paragraph above. While Dan Goldin did "inherit a flawed and discredited Mars exploration architecture", he also created one in response to what he was given. By the time MPL and MCO crashed he had been administrator for 6 years - well within the responsibility zone. These spacecraft were the agency's response (under his leadership) to the Mars Observer failure. However, the American spacecraft orbiting and roving Mars today are an example of learning from one's mistakes inasmuch as they represent how Goldin got the agency to overcome mistakes he (in part) led it to make in the Faster-Better-Cheaper era.


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

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