Space & Planetary Science: August 2011 Archives

DARPA's 100 Year Starship

DARPA 100 Year Starship Solicitation Announcement

"The 100 Year StarshipTM (100YSSTM) is a project seeded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with NASA Ames Research Center as executing agent, to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable. The goal is to develop an investment vehicle--with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries--which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change."

Another Earth?

Is There A Habitable Planet Circling HD 85512?

"Aims: In this study we assess the habitability of HD85512b, a 3.6M_Earth planet orbiting a K5V star. The radial velocity data and orbital parameters for HD 85512 b have just been published, based on data from the dedicated HARPS-upgrade GTO program. Methods: This paper outlines a simple approach to evaluate habitability of rocky planets from radial velocity (RV) searches by using atmospheric models of rocky planets with H2O/CO2/N2 atmospheres, like Earth. We focus our analysis on HD 85512 b."

NASA Money Sponge Update

NASA's smaller programs could be at risk, Orlando Sentinel

"The trend has alarmed astronomers and others, who are concerned that less-visible projects -- such as robotic Mars missions and various space probes -- will be sacrificed. "So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs," wrote Keith Cowing in a recent post on his influential blog NASA Watch."

JWST and SLS: Dueling Giant Money Sponges, earlier post

Webb Telescope Delayed, Costs Rise to $8 Billion, Science

"The new $8 billion price tag doesn't include operating costs of about $780 million for the far-seeing infrared observatory's first 5 years in space. Under the revised NASA plan, Webb would not only cost 23% more but would launch in the fall of 2018, 2 years later than the date the agency had suggested only months ago. NASA is withholding details of its new cost estimates because the so-called "replan" is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Those details may not be available until the president submits his 2013 budget request to Congress in February. But leaders in the astronomy community are hoping that the White House will endorse both the higher number and the cost-sharing plan."

NASA: James Webb Space Telescope to Now Cost $8.7 Billion, Space.com

"What we have advocated is that the scale of the problem and the prominence of James Webb for the agency was such that it should be considered an agency-wide solution," William Smith, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, told Space News Friday (Aug. 26)."

Hubble's successor: doomed or saved?, Bad Astronomy - Discover Magazine

"Just as importantly, it will once again reinvigorate the American public about science. This cannot be stressed enough. Hubble was also over budget and behind schedule, and the history of getting that eye in the sky is loaded with political games and NASA difficulties that would sound very familiar to those hearing the tales of JWST. Yet Hubble triumphed. Today, people don't even think about the malfunctioning mirror embarrassment that made headlines for weeks; they just see the stunning images and profound scientific insights provided by the telescope. And they want more."

Keith's note: The House wants to cancel James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) outright. We haven't heard anything specific from the Senate - yet. Every time NASA mentions a cost for JWST it is higher than the previous cost. Now NASA wants to take human spaceflight funds to help pay for JWST which means less money available to build the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA's internal SLS report casts significant doubt on NASA's internal budget numbers and cost projections - which almost always means that NASA will need more money than it thinks it will need in order to build the SLS.

But NASA does not really want to build the SLS (nor does the White House) since it is simply a re-imagined variant of Ares V - a rocket that NASA already halted. The Senate is forcing the SLS down NASA's throat. Yet Congress has given no indication what level of funding it will guarantee for NASA so as to build and fly the SLS and has given no hint whatsoever of funding for the payloads that such a hugh rocket will be designed to carry. And, oh yes, OMB is telling agencies to come up with budgets for FY 2013 that include cuts of up to 10%.

So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs. It will also pit these money sponges' ever-growing chronic need for dollars against the other's similar insatiable appetite. And all of this will happen while the Federal budget is almost certainly going to be constrained - regardless of who wins the 2012 election.

So, will someone explain to me how NASA is going to build and launch both JWST and SLS and have money left over to do all of the other things that it is both chartered to do - and directed to do - by Congress?

Keith's note: 45 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics. The following links provide background on the image, its restoration, and reactions to its release.

- Newly Restored Lunar Orbiter Image of Earth and Moon (Detail)
- How the Photo Was Taken
- House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
- Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966
- Dumpster Diving for Science, Science Magazine
- What Lunar Orbiter 1 Was Seeing on 23 August 1966

NASA to share telescope cost, Nature

"The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is perilously overbudget and under threat of cancellation, but Nature has learned that it may be offered a financial lifeline. The flagship observatory is currently funded entirely through NASA's science division; now NASA is requesting that more than US$1 billion in extra costs be shared 50:50 with the rest of the agency. The request reflects administrator Charles Bolden's view, expressed earlier this month, that the telescope is a priority not only for the science programme, but for the entire agency. NASA expects that the total cost of getting the 6.5-metre telescope to the launch pad by 2018 will be about $8 billion, around $1.5 billion more and three years later than an independent panel predicted in November 2010."

Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966

"To date some of the images taken by Nimbus II have been enhanced and mapped into Google Earth. One date in particular was of interest to the LOIRP - 23 August 1966. As the images were enhanced and dropped into Google Earth it became clear that we have imagery that overlapped in time to show the weather on that late August day as evening crept up on Africa and Europe.

In New York City, just at the Earth's limb as seen from lunar orbit, the Beatles were preparing to play at Shea Stadium ..."

NASA Estimates $8.7 Billion To Fly Webb, Aviation Week

"Managers at NASA replanning the James Webb Space Telescope program after an independent cost analysis found it over budget and behind schedule have concluded it will cost about $8.7 billion to finish the telescope in time for a launch in 2018 and operate it at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point for five years. An agency spokesman said Monday the revised figure -- an increase of $3.6 billion over NASA's most recent life-cycle-cost estimate for the big infrared space observatory -- includes all development, launch operations and science costs."

Internal NASA GSFC Report: Weekly Input May 14, 2011- May 21, 2011 Submitted to Code 550, earlier post

"JWST ISIM - Davila and Mehalick/551: The JWST Standing Review Board (SRB) outbrief to the project was held last Friday. The SRB heard from the project regarding the new baseline plan (including budget and schedule) for a launch date of fy18. The SRB reported that the new baseline plan for JWST was not viable due to lack of sufficient funding in fy11 and fy12, rapid ramp-up of support planned for fy13 and marginal reserves for the years fy13 fy18. The SRB was very complimentary of the new OTIS testing structure, and systems engineering take-over by GSFC."

Earlier postings

Images: Opportunity Arrives At Endeavour Crater

"Opportunity had arrived at the western rim of 13-mile-diameter (21-kilometer-diameter) Endeavour crater four days earlier. A portion of the northeastern rim of Endeavour forms the distant horizon in this view. A crater about 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter is on the Endeavour rim near Opportunity's arrival point. From a position south of Odyssey, this view is dominated by a rock informally named "Ridout" on the northeastern rim of Odyssey. The rock is roughly the same size as the rover, which is 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) long."

Keith's note: It has been a long tradition among planetary scientists to name prominent features that their missions discover - if for no other reason than to make navigation easier. According to Mars rover principal investigator Steve Squyres: "None of these names are 'official' in any sense. Selecting the official names of features like craters on other planets is the purview of the International Astronomical Union. None of our names -- including the names of the craters -- are official IAU names. They are simply names that we have chosen out of necessity for use within the team during the mission. Unless you have some names to use for the things you're looking at and driving by, things get pretty confusing."

Why shouldn't these names be "official"? People have been naming places on Earth since people started to speak. Terrestrial exploration has a rich tradition of allowing the discoverers to name the things that they discover. There are lots of things that appear in these pictures that have yet to be named. Why can't everyone have a shot at naming things - including the taxpayers who paid for the missions? Why should naming things on other worlds be the "purview" of an elite group like the IAU - one that answers only to itself?

Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists, The Guardian

"Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control - and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain. This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by scientists at Nasa and Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future. Shawn Domagal-Goldman of Nasa's Planetary Science Division and his colleagues compiled a list of plausible outcomes that could unfold in the aftermath of a close encounter, to help humanity "prepare for actual contact".

Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis, (full paper) Acta Astronautica, 2011 via arXiv.org (PDF)

The Drudge Report Drives More Top News Traffic than Twitter or Facebook, Study Finds, PBS NewsHour

Keith's 18 Aug 10 pm EDT note: (Sigh) This article is prominently featured on the Drudge Report with the title of "NASA REPORT: Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilizations...". This is not a "NASA report". Nor does the Guardian article accurately describe the paper's content and conclusions. Alas, NASA will probably just allow this latest misperception/mischaracterization to linger (along with all the other urban myths, faulty analyses, etc) with no response - at least none until it is too late to really make any difference. Oh yes, Drudge Report got 32,697,733 visits in the past 24 hours.

Shawn Domagal-Goldman note: Some important points of clarification, PaleBlueBlog

"But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and anaiveone... but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as "NASA Headquarters." I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has. I'm deeply sorry for that, but it was a mistake born our of carelessness and inexperience and nothing more. I will do what I can to rectify this, including distributing this post to the Guardian, Drudge, and NASA Watch. Please help me spread this post to the other places you may see the article inaccurately attributed to NASA."

Keith's 19 Aug 6:50 am EDT update: Personally I think it is an interesting paper and well worth the effort on the part of the authors. My issue is with the way that the agency lets misperceptions made by news aggretators and UK tabloids linger in front of millions of people, the media, decision makers, without making any attempt to set the record straight. NASA has an online line presence of some considerable reach (see "Choir Practice With Bullhorns at NASA") - why not use that to counter these erroneous online claims? Hats off to Shawn Domagal-Goldman for being open and honest and attempting to do so. Gee, maybe PAO could help a little too? If done properly this could also serve as an opportunity for NASA to talk about a topic that a lot of people find interesting - and maybe educate and excite a few people along the way. This is an opportunity to teach and inform, not one to hide and wait for things to blow over. And maybe NASA could have a little fun with it too - if it can stage photo ops with Chris Ferguson and Elmo (a TV show puppet)...

Alas, the inevitable evil ET feeding frenzy via "NASA report" misinformation is now spreading - CNET, International Business Times, the Spokane Examiner, Daily Mail, and even Discovery News simply repeat the very same mistakes that the Guardian made (with the Guardian as their source) in their original article with out doing any fact checking themselves. This is NOT a NASA report, folks. Did anyone actually contact the authors?

Keith's 19 Aug 8:09 am EDT update: @NASA just twittered: Yes, @drudge & @guardiannews are mistaken about an "alien" report. It's not NASA research. Ask the report's author http://go.nasa.gov/nRI8Lf

Keith's 19 Aug 8:29 am EDT update: The Guardian has quietly (without admitting any error on its part) modified its article to read "warns a report."

Today's Cool Space Pix

Comet Elenin Poses No Threat to Earth, NASA

"Often, comets are portrayed as harbingers of gloom and doom in movies and on television, but most pose no threat to Earth. Comet Elenin, the latest comet to visit our inner solar system, is no exception. Elenin will pass about 22 million miles (35 million kilometers) from Earth during its closest approach on Oct. 16, 2011."

Keith's note: But if you visit buzzroom.nasa.gov you will see that NASA allows people to openly engage in conspiracy mongering on a nasa.gov page - including claims that the agency has been covering up the real story behind comet Elenin. Go figure.

NOAA SEC Space Weather Bulletin #11- 1: Geomagnetic Storm Expected

"NOAA Region 1261, very active over the past few days, produced the third of a sequence of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and Solar Radio Blackout Events early today. The net effect of that activity is convergent CMEs expected to disturb the geomagnetic field in the early hours, Universal Time (UTC) of August 5. G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm conditions are likely as well as a distinct chance of S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm levels being surpassed. NOAA 1261 is still in a prime position, relative to Earth, for more geoeffective activity in the next few days."

Space Weather Message Code: WARK07 WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater (G3 or greater)

"WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater expected
Valid From: 2011 Aug 05 2200 UTC
Valid To: 2011 Aug 06 0300 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset
NOAA Scale: G3 or greater - Strong to Extreme"

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 5 August 2011

"IIB. Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to reach minor to major storm levels with a chance for severe storm periods on 06 August. Heightened activity is expected due to continued effects from the CMEs of 02, 03, and 04 August. Activity is expected to decrease to unsettled to active levels on 07 August. Quiet to unsettled conditions are expected on 08 August."

Marc's Note: Follow SpaceRef's SpaceWeather Twitter account for updates (http://twitter.com/SpaceWeather).

Juno has left Earth and is on a 5 year cruise to Jupiter. It will arrive in Jovian space in July 2016. Juno will orbit Jupiter for about one year. Juno will study how much water is in Jupiter's atmosphere; look deep into Jupiter's atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties; map Jupiter's magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet's deep structure; and study Jupiter's magnetosphere near the planet's poles, especially the auroras - Jupiter's northern and southern lights - providing new insights about how the planet's enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars

"Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars. "NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration." Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere."

Keith's note: NASA's Webb Space Telescope Twitter account is promoting AURA JWST lobbying materials:

"We've just added a link on our site to this page from AURA which has a collection of statements of support for JWST: bit.ly/okj0Cr"


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

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

Space & Planetary Science: July 2011 is the previous archive.

Space & Planetary Science: September 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.