Space & Planetary Science: July 2011 Archives

NASA'S Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto

"The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km)."

Keith's note: If you had a chance to name this new moon what would you name it - and why did you pick that name? Oh yea, the IAU claims to have a monopoly on naming objects and features in our solar system - and beyond. But there is nothing legally binding to the names they decide to use. Everyone just goes along with them because ... well ... because. And who gave them this role anyways? Answer: they appoint themselves. So why can't the rest of us have a say in naming the things in our universe? The IAU is so 20th century. Its time to change this process.

What Should We Name Pluto's New Moon?, Space.com

"It's called P4 for the time being," said Trent Perrotto, public affairs officer at NASA headquarters. "It'll get a name, but it's not up to NASA to decide on it." As usual with newly discovered astronomical objects, he explained, P4's name will be subject to a tough selection process overseen by an organization called the International Astronomical Union."

Keith's note: Hmmm... then why do the Mars rover people name all the surface features that they encounter along the way? Why bother if IAU is just going to ignore the names and change them? Why not let the actual discoverers - and the people who pay for these missions - have a chance to name things - and not some self-appointed group whihc answers only to itself?

What Should We Call Pluto's New Moon?, Facebook Poll

Future asteroid mission: Mission impossible?, CBS

"At the moment, there are only a handful of asteroid options and they all have names like 1999AO10 or 2009OS5. NASA deputy exploration chief Laurie Leshin figures NASA will have to come up with, not just more targets, but better names."

Exobiology 2010 Update #4

"As you know, federal spending is under intense scrutiny. In addition, the timing of the federal budget review and approval process has been less than ideal. These developments have affected our ability to manage Astrobiology Program funds as effectively as we would like. Over the past decade, the proposal due date for the Exobiology Program has moved from June to August, then to September, and, finally, to October. This shift has moved starting dates for new grants later into the federal fiscal year and thus placed greater budget pressure on the Astrobiology Program."

Attempts to Save Webb?

Recent Policy Activity on James Webb Space Telescope and Pu-238, AAS

"Rep. Wolf and Rep. Fattah are highly likely to work out a deal to restore JWST funding before the bill goes to the House floor, perhaps involving enhanced language spelling out detailed project oversight requirements. The AAS is pursuing a strategy to directly encourage a solution in the House during floor debate by working with key individual legislators and to secure support from the Senate to restore funding in the Senate version of the FY2012 appropriations."

Space Research: Content and Coordination of Space Science and Technology Strategy Need to Be More Robust, GAO

"... the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together with the intelligence community, conduct a significant amount of space S&T. Although NASA and NOAA participation is not required, DOD may have missed an opportunity to leverage these agencies' activities and optimize its own S&T spending by involving them in strategy development. GAO was also required to evaluate the effectiveness of the coordination mechanisms planned to implement the strategy."

NASA Announcing Landing Site For New Mars Rover

"NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will host a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 22 to announce the selected landing site for the agency's latest Mars rover. The event will be in the museum's Moving Beyond Earth Gallery. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the event."

Keith's note: As one rather prominent space/science to journalist just noted to me: "And in service to the media, there's no accessibility for off-site reporters. Brilliant!"

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Saturday became the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Keith's note: The last image to be publicly released was taken on 9 July - more than a week ago. Yet Cassini, Opportunity, and other missions send back dozens of new images every day - images that are quickly posted online for all to see. What is going on here? Why is NASA refusing to release Dawn imagery?

Keith's update: I spoke (a little) too soon. That said, the Dawn folks have been exceptionally stingy when it comes to releasing images.

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Asteroid Vesta

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

NASA: Extra money needed to launch JWST this decade, SpaceflightNow

"Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for science, called the Obama administration's flat budget for JWST a "road to nowhere." "You'll get to launch, but our grandchildren will have to use it," Weiler said."

Keith's note: It is not uncommon in situations such as this where a senior federal agency official publicy breaks with (and openly insults) Administration policy to announce that they are departing the agency to "spend more time with their family. etc." Stay tuned.

Webb: Just Send Money

NASA: Extra money needed to launch JWST this decade, Sapceflightnow

"Rick Howard, NASA's JWST program director, said the agency determined the observatory could launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket as soon as October 2018, but it would require fresh funding. And with the federal government focused on wrangling in debt, a budget increase for the troubled JWST project is unlikely. NASA officials were speaking to the agency's astrophysics advisory council, a board of senior researchers chartered to provide advice and input in major scientific and programmatic decisions. "To get to [launch] in 2018, it's going to take a significant amount of new funds," Howard said."

Schiff Amendment to Provide FY 2012 Funding for James Webb Space Telescope Rejected

"The full House Appropriations Committee had been meeting for almost 3 1/2 hours yesterday when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) rose to offer an amendment to provide $200 million for the James Webb Space Telescope in the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. A vote was pending on the House floor, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) was ready to take a final vote to pass the bill. After brief comments by Schiff and Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) a voice vote was called, and the amendment was rejected. Schiff's amendment would have moved $200 million from NASA's Cross Agency Support budget, for which the bill allocated approximately $3 billion. This amendment was one of several that sought to transfer money from this budget category to other programs. All were rejected."

Prox Ops at Vesta

Dawn Spacecraft to Enter Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta on July 15

"On July 15, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will begin a prolonged encounter with the asteroid Vesta, making the mission the first to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.
The main asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for one year, and observations will help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system's history."

American Astronomical Society Statement on Proposed Cancellation of Webb Space Telescope

"The American Astronomical Society calls upon all members of Congress to support JWST to its completion and to provide strong oversight on the path to this goal. Too many taxpayer dollars have already been spent to cancel the mission now; its benefits far outweigh the remaining costs. We must see the mission through. We are a great nation and we do great things. JWST represents our highest aspirations and will be one of our most significant accomplishments."

AURA Reaction to Proposed Cancellation of JWST, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

"In commenting on the proposed cancellation, Dr. William S. Smith, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy said "Against a backdrop of widespread discussion over the future of NASA and the human spaceflight program, it is tragic that the Congress is also proposing to curtail NASA's science program. JWST is NASA's premier science facility, unsurpassed by any other telescope now or in the future."

Keith's note: Hmm ... no mention of the large JWST contract that AURA has with Space Telescope Science Institute is made in this AURA statement ...

Keith's 1 July update: According to NASA SMD: this is what SMD paid for the reception: "Planetary Program costs: $37.5K, which included the NASM facility rental, rental for chairs/stage/tables/etc, a/v, music, lighting and rigging, delivery, taxes." That's $37,500 that could have been spent on science. Instead, Ed Weiler spends it on a party.

Keith's 30 June update: According to the AAS: "AAS handled the reception, the costs of which were covered by the corporate sponsors. Over 250 people attended, and the cost per person for food was approximately $48." AAS did not handle rental for the facility, travel costs, media or any of the other things associated with this event. Rental of the floor space alone is in the range of $25,000 - even when discounted for NASA by NASM. NASA clearly wrote some large checks - and the money came from SMD - and that is money that was not available to be spent on actual EPO - or science. Yet last night at the reception SMD people were telling attendees (in response to my Twitter posts) that "no SMD money was used". I am waiting for SMD to tell me what the cost to NASA was. Stay tuned.

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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from July 2011.

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