Space & Planetary Science: November 2009 Archives

New Study Adds to Finding of Ancient Life Signs In Mars Meteorite, NASA

"Using more advanced analytical instruments now available, a Johnson Space Center research team has reexamined the 1996 finding that a meteorite contains strong evidence that life may have existed on ancient Mars."

More Mars Meteorite ALH84001 Discoveries Published, earlier post

Keith's note: This is interesting news. Yet I see no mention that NASA HQ issued the release - or makes mention of it on, at SMD, or on its Mars page but JSC's website mentions it. Yet the one places where you'd most expect to find mention, NASA's main Astrobiology website and the NASA Astrobiology Institute website, have no mention of this press release or featured publications. Oh yes - it was published three weeks ago.

Curiously, NASA's Astrobiology program emerged back in 1996/1997 as a direct result of the announcement of the initial ALH84001 research results. How odd that the same topic gets such little attention today. Then again, the JSC press release does not bother to offer a link to - or mention of - NASA's Astrobiology program. Similarly odd.

Inevitably, if you dig deep enough you will see that this is all about turf - who funded what (or who did not fund it or who used to fund it but no longer does ad nauseum) and the buzz word(s) associated with that money. In my mind, as far as this research goes, "astrobiology" = "exobiology" = "life on Mars". NASA funded this research - not a subunit or fiefdom thereof. What are all of you stove pipe polishers going to do when all of the pending new White House-driven educational projects are launched at NASA? Are you going to be hindered by these self-imposed semantic and budgetary sandboxes when you try to explain topics to students?

Features musical contribution from Gorkha. Captioned and spotlight images from HiRISE, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Highly explosive. See for more.

Keith's note: The Mars Science Laboratory Readiness to Proceed Review is underway and will last from 18-20 November.

"OBJECTIVES: The review board reviews the projects current technical and programmatic status in light of the progress made since the Re- Baseline Review, and is able to conclude that:

- The project's revised technical baseline & implementation approach for the 2011 opportunity remains viable, and adequate plans exist for closure of open items;
- The project's technical and programmatic risks are understood, have been credibly assessed, and plans and adequate resources exist for managing these risks to levels that are acceptable;
- The current cost to go is credible, and the programmatic resources, including the schedule margin, scope margin, and budget reserve, are adequate to complete the project within constraints with acceptable risk; and
- The Project is prepared to restart ATLO operations in February 2010, or has adequate plans and resources to complete preparations."

The Human Moon, Editorial, NY Times

"Perhaps the wistfulness is caused by the sense of simple grandeur in those Apollo missions. Perhaps, too, it's a reminder of the risk we all felt after the Eagle had landed -- the possibility that it might be unable to lift off again and the astronauts would be stranded on the Moon. But it may also be that a photograph like this one is as close as we're able to come to looking directly back into the human past. There the lunar module sits, parked just where it landed 40 years ago, as if it still really were 40 years ago and all the time since merely imaginary."

The Moon View, editorial, New York Times (18 Nov 2008)

"What is most evocative is the awareness that this is our planet in 1966, which feels like a very long time ago. A train of thought immediately presents itself. If scientists can recover extensive new information from old electronic data, shouldn't there be some way to peer beneath those clouds, back in time, and see how this planet looked when it had only half its current population?"

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Promoting The Flexible Path

President must decide whether sending humans beyond earth's orbit is worth the expense, Charles Kennel, San Diego Union-Tribune

"Human society is ready to begin exploring the solar system for real. Should we start now or later? Is landing on the Moon the first thing we should do? Haven't we already been there, done that? Should we settle on the Moon because of its own value, or as a steppingstone to Mars? If we are really setting the stage for humanity's expansion beyond the Earth, don't we also need to go elsewhere in the coming century? How about surveying asteroids for their useful minerals, and getting to know them better, in case one should threaten to hit Earth? Can't we visit the moons of Mars more easily than landing on Mars?"

"The LOIRP Project has reached a major milestone of having two Ampex FR-900 Instrumentation Tape Drives operational at once. This will allow us to accelerate the production of images. This is probably the first time in 30 years that two FR-900s have been operational in the same room at the same time."

LOIRP Works To Bring Second FR-900 Tape Drive Online, MoonViews

Nasa and Esa sign Mars agreement, BBC

"The agreement, which was penned in Washington DC, gives the green light to scientists and engineers to begin the joint planning of Red Planet missions. The union will start with a European-led orbiter in 2016, and continue with surface rovers in 2018, and then perhaps a network of landers in 2018. The ultimate aim is a mission to return Mars rock and soils to Earth labs."

NASA/ESA Mars Initiative, earlier post from 28 Jul 2009

Keith's 9 Nov note: Why is it that NASA has not issued a press release on this topic? Or the earlier item from July? When will NASA post the text of the agreement?

Keith's 10 Nov update: I asked NASA PAO for a copy of the MOU and they provided it to me this morning. I find it rather bizarre that NASA SMD did not releases this on their own.

Statement of Intent for Potential Joint Robotic Exploration of Mars 5 November 2009

Analyzing LCROSS' Plume

Strange Brew at LCROSS's Crash Site, Sky & Telescope

"All this speculation is intriguing -- but "Where's the beef?" you might ask. Colaprete assures me that all the instruments in the shepherding spacecraft got great results, and that the delay in revealing the compositional analyses stems from having lots of spectral signatures to sort through and categorize. Colaprete says some of these findings will be made public in a couple of weeks. (Don't be surprised if he announces that one of the spectrometers did, indeed, detect water in the plume.)"

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Implementation of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Education and Public Outreach Plan

"NASA/MSFC has a requirement for assistance and services in the implementation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Education and Public Outreach (EPO) plan for the Lunar Quest Program Office. This procurement is for the seamless transition of LRO EPO effort from the pre-launch/commissioning mission phase and the post-launch/post-commissioning phase of the LRO mission. This effort will include the draft of a new LRO EPO Implementation Plan as well as the evaluation and recommendation of continuance of existing LRO Instrument EPO Plans. NASA/MSFC intends to purchase the items from Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Competition is impractical because SSAI having provided EPO support to the LPRP program is very familiar with the LRO project and can provide continued effective and timely support during this transition without any gap or duplication of cost and effort."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from November 2009.

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