Space & Planetary Science: September 2007 Archives

NASA To Accelerate Space Nuclear Power, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"NASA will accelerate missions featuring space nuclear power, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports in its Oct. 1 issue. The decision marks a major milestone for robotic exploration, but is a controversial move among groups that oppose space nuclear power because of launch safety concerns. NASA's objective will be to use nuclear power much more frequently to open previously isolated areas of the solar system for robotic exploration as early as 2013, Aviation Week reports. NASA is moving quickly to make space nuclear power, and eventually nuclear propulsion, an inherent design element in near term, medium cost planetary missions."

Amendment to the NASA Research Announcement Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences, NASA HQ

"This amendment establishes a new program element in Appendix C.26 of ROSES-2007 entitled "Discovery and Scout Mission Capabilities Expansion." This new program element solicits mission concept proposals for small planetary missions that require a nuclear power source, such as the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) currently under development by NASA."

Editor's note: This ROSES-2007 amendment only concerns nuclear power generation (electricity etc.) not nuclear propulsion.

Advanced Stirling Technology Development at NASA Glenn Research Center (PDF 5.5 mb)

Presented at the NASA Science Technology Conference, Session D2 Space Power on June 18, 2007 by Richard K. Shaltens Chief, Thermal Energy Conversion Branch and Wayne A. Wong ASC Project Manager.

Editor's note: I got this from a reader tonight. I give up. We're talking about a 15 year old spacecraft - one which was destroyed years ago - of which high resolution images are readily available - and have been in the public domain for decades. And the drawings are ITAR-controlled?

Oh yea I forgot - we did attack the planet Jupiter with Galileo in 1997. OK. My bad. I guess that makes it a weapon.

Still, I wonder what would happen if more people made the same FOIA request. Here's where you can do it yourself online.

The following response is the result of a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request sent to NASA JPL several months ago:

Dear Mr. Brotherton:

Your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for release of information from the files of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was received in FOIA processing at the NASA Management Office-Jet Propulsion Laboratory on July 16, 2007. You requested the following:

"...scale outline drawings of the Galileo spacecraft ... ... I would like to get a view from all six axis, X, -X, Y, -Y, Z and -Z.. . "

The records you requested contains International Traffic in Arms regulated information on design parameters, requirements and mission operational information consistent with that described in 22 CFR 120.10(a)(l), and is exempt from release under Title 5, USC, Section 552, Exemptions (b)(2) High and (b)(3) of the FOIA, to wit: Information, other than software as defined in 120.10(4), which is required for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly... operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of defense articles. This includes information in the form of blueprints. drawings, photographs, plans, instructions and documentation. However, you may access instructions to make a Galileo 1/45th scale model that includes drawings and pictures cleared for public release from the following website:

You may appeal this initial determination to the NASA Administrator...

Editor's note: "Comment from Scott Brotherton: I have recently be told that my name and information was used in a slanted article at your site. The article by Keith Cowing on Thursday, September 27, 2007 named "NASA Blocks Release Of Galileo Jovian Spacecraft Drawings on ITAR Grounds". I would probably not mine my name being used if the article had told the whole truth of the matter. I was granted my request, and did receive the drawings I requested. However, due to Mr. Cowing's blatant half truth of the matter, it looks like NASA is the bad guy. Mr. Cowing has tried to make a story out of nothing, as the premise of his title is not even accurate."

Editor's response: I am pleased, of course, to see that some common sense prevailed at NASA. But yes, Mr. Brotherton, since you phrased it this way, someone at NASA was indeed "the bad guy" for making this nonsensical refusal of your initial request in the first place. Why else did you post this letter, I wonder?

Dawn Is On Its Way

NASA Dawn Mission to Vesta and Ceres Launched

"A four-year, 1.8 billion-mile flight to asteroid Vesta started with the rumble and roar of a Delta II rocket Sept. 27 that hurtled the Dawn spacecraft off a launch pad in Florida and into space."

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches Dawn Mission for NASA, ULA

"Following a nominal one hour and two minute flight, the rocket deployed the spacecraft on its eight-year mission to study Ceres and Vesta, two asteroids residing in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Gloomy News for Arecibo

NSF Dear Colleague on the Senior Review: Arecibo, AAS

"Nonetheless, in order to plan responsibly, and weigh the various options, we have to understand the cost of closure to be weighed against other options. As recommended by the Senior Review, NSF is also engaging an engineering firm to carry out a study of the cost of decommissioning the observatory facility. The study will explore a variety of possible endpoints, ranging from complete deconstruction and restoration of the site to its natural state to securely 'mothballing' the facility. The results of this study will be available in December 2007 and will serve as critical input to our planning for the long-term future of the observatory. This is part of responsible lifecycle costing, and should not be regarded as indicating that any final decisions have been made."

Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee Meeting

"October 11-12, 2007 .. Contact Person: Dr. G. Wayne Van Citters, Director, Division of Astronomical Sciences .... Purpose of Meeting: To provide advice and recommendations to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on issues within the field of astronomy and astrophysics that are of mutual interest and concern to the agencies."

Reader note: I sent the following message today, shortly after receiving the AAS message: "Wayne Van Citters -- In your letter to the community, you spent more words (a whole paragraph) discussing the planetary radar capability of Arecibo than in the entire Senior Review (not even one sentence).

It is patently clear that the Senior Review did not even seriously evaluate this jewel in the crown of American astronomy. And the participants in that review process were not knowledgeable about active (as distinct from passive) astronomy. Your statement that NASA "terminated" planetary radar falsely implies that NASA found planetary radar to be unworthy of funding, rather than that the NSF undertook responsibility as part of a complex interagency agreement.

Your continued failure to fairly evaluate this unique facility is doing an awful disservice to science. I hope that you will reconsider and invoke a multi-agency, interdisciplinary review to reconsider this matter that was simply ignored in the Senior Review.- Clark Chapman, Senior Scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder CO"

Dawn Is Ready To Go

NASA Dawn Spacecraft is a 'Go' for Asteroid Belt

"Launch and flight teams are in final preparations for the planned Sept. 27 liftoff from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., of NASA's Dawn mission. The Dawn spacecraft will venture into the heart of the asteroid belt, where it will document in exceptional detail the mammoth rocky asteroid Vesta, and then, the even bigger icy dwarf planet Ceres."

Dawn Launch Slip

Editor's note: According to KSC PAO "Dawn's launch day has been delayed 24 hours to Sept. 27. Weather prevented techinicians from completing the loading of fuel on the Delta rocket's second stage."

New chance for Beagle as Nasa favours mission to the moon, The Guardian

"Nasa has given preliminary approval for a successor to the British-based Beagle 2 space mission that crash-landed on Mars on Christmas Day 2003. The Beagle to the Moon mission would search for water supplies on the surface that could support astronauts living on a future moon base. It would reuse many of the designs for instruments that flew on the ill-fated Mars mission. Nasa has given the go-ahead for a study into adapting Beagle 2 for a moon landing. If it formally approves the mission next year, it could launch in 2012."

NASA gives Beagle 2 another shot at glory, The Register

"Now it seems the space agency has relented and agreed to give Beagle and Pillinger another chance. It has okayed a feasibility study that would work out how to adapt the lander for lunar exploration. The hope is that Beagle 2 could dig into the lunar surface and find water ice."

Editor's note: According to NASA sources there is no truth to this story.

Beagle 3 on MSL?, earlier post (2004)

Editor's note: Now I have seen everything. For years Colin Pillinger dumped on the U.S. and the way it builds spacecraft. Then he crashes his spacecraft on Mars - most likely because he cut too many corners - and his country loses faith in him. Now he tries to get a ride on a U.S. Mars mission due to lack of enthusiasm back home. What a hypocrite.

Push Back on MSL Cuts

Budget Axe Falls on Mars Science Laboratory -- Science Plans for the Mission Cut, Planetary Society

"The loss to science on MSL seems out of proportion," said Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and member of the Society's Board of Directors. "The goal of MSL is to conduct science, and to throw out so much of the mission science objectives for less than 4 percent of the mission cost, and for assurance costs that have net yet been realized, seems penny-wise and pound-foolish," he added."

Editor's note: OK Wes: where's the additional money supposed to come from? This is a zero sum game. To write a check for a mission that is out of the cost box means taking something away from another mission that planned ahead. Isn't it about time to instill some cost realism - and responsibility - into this process?

Reader comments - send them to Your comments thus far:

Bringing NuSTAR Back To Life

NASA Restarts Telescope Mission to Detect Black Holes

"NASA has made a decision to restart an astronomy mission that will have greater capability than any existing instrument for detecting black holes in the local universe. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, will expand our understanding of the origins and destinies of stars and galaxies. NASA had stopped the study effort on the NuSTAR mission in 2006 due to funding pressures within the Science Mission Directorate."

Reader note: "Among the short features being repeated this morning on NASA TV is a brief story about NASA's 50th anniversary logo which incorporates a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of "a galaxy 12 million miles away." That's a little too close for comfort."

Editor's note: I am sure glad NASA is going to go fix Hubble so we know about more things like this. A galaxy that close - Who knew! Thank you Hubble Space Telescope!

Reader update: "You must be quite a burr under the saddle of NASA. This afternoon's edition of "Video Files" deleted the story of the NASA 50th anniversary logo and its mention of the misplaced "twelve-million-miles-away" galaxy. Keep it up!"

NASA to Launch Gammy-Ray Telescope, AP

"A new NASA space telescope will give scientists a peek at some of the most energetic objects and events in the universe..."

Editor's note: "Gammy-Ray"? What's that? Sounds like the nickname a little kid might give to a grandparent ... either that or this is a technical term from the official redneck science dictionary.

Editor's note: It took them 12 hours but they finally fixed their typo.

Focusing MSL To Ensure Success

Mars Science Laboratory Project Changes Respond to Cost Increases, Keep Mars Program On Track

"Because the success of MSL is of course of high importance to NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), SMD, working with the MSL Project and Mars Program at JPL, concluded that the MSL project required some focused and prudent reductions in scope in order to better ensure project success. Furthermore, because all of the funds MSL requested were not available in the Mars Exploration Program reserves pool, and because SMD did not want to impact other current or future science missions to fund these new costs, the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters has been working closely with the MSL project and the science community to identify mission scope reductions to minimize the project's need for funds, while minimizing both technical risk and impacts to the mission's science return."

Japan Heads For The moon

Selene Lunar Mission Launched, JAXA

"Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Lunar Orbit Explorer "KAGUYA" (SELENE) by the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 13 (H-IIA F13) at 10:31:01 a.m. on September 14, 2007 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center."

USRA Feature

Editor's note: According to NASA sources the Opportunity Mars rover successfully drove in and then out of Victoria Crater. This was accomplished on on Sol 1291. Photos taken by the rover show that it made a 4 meter drive down into Victoria - and then backed out.

New SMD AO Released

NASA HQ Announcement of Opportunity for the Explorer Program: Small Explorers and Missions of Opportunity

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing a NASA Announcement of Opportunity (NNH07ZDA003O), for the Explorer Program: Small Explorers (SMEX) and Missions of Opportunity. NASA expects to select up to three SMEX missions to proceed into Phase B and subsequent mission phases."

Joint Dark Energy Mission A Top Priority for NASA, Says NRC

"The National Research Council's Beyond Einstein Program Assessment Committee has recommended that the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), jointly supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Energy, be the first of NASA's Beyond Einstein cosmology missions to be developed and launched."

Stunning Image: Roving Again

(Originally published in the 3 Sept 2007 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. Reprinted with permission):

"The NASA/JPL Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are driving again on Mars after surviving electrical power shortages, caused by global dust storms that have swept the planet since July. Opportunity drove dozens of feet back to the rim of Victoria crater last week. The rover took this false color mosaic that preserves details, but sharply distorts elevation to make it falsely appear that the rover is on a hill. The mosaic [Below], prepared exclusively for Aviation Week & Space Technology, was taken by a front black-and- white hazard camera and colorized using earlier Pancam data."

Rovers begin new observations on changing Martian atmosphere, University of Chicago

Spirit Slowly Emerges from Blanket of Dust

"Spirit remains healthy as the rover slowly picks up more solar energy. The dust storms appear to be over, at least for now, and the skies are slowly clearing. Unfortunately, what energy Spirit has gained from cleaner skies has been offset by losses to dustier solar arrays. Still, Spirit has the energy, about 325 watt-hours, to finally be roving again."



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