Space & Planetary Science: May 2012 Archives

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

"NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon."

Iconic Lunar Orbiter Image of Copernicus Re-released, LOIRP

"Today an iconic image from the initial exploration of the Moon is being re-released showing detail that could not have been seen using technology available at the time the photo was taken. This image features a dramatic view inside the majestic crater Copernicus - a view that left millions in awe when it was first released. This image is being announced at the First Global Space Exploration Conference, co-sponsored by the AIAA and IAF, in Washington, DC."

NASA Lends Galaxy Evolution Explorer to Caltech

"NASA is lending the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, where the spacecraft will continue its exploration of the cosmos. In a first-of-a-kind move for NASA, a Space Act Agreement was signed May 14 so the university soon can resume spacecraft operations and data management for the mission using private funds."

Keith's note: Wow. Is NASA going to adopt this approach for the reuse of other spacecraft? This could be very interesting.

NASA Will Not Fly Next Mars Rover Until 2020, Aviation Week

"But the fact remains that "the train has left the station," as NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green said when asked if more funding would allow NASA to resume joint Mars exploration work with the European Space Agency. ESA has shifted to partnering with Russia for Mars exploration after NASA's bailout. [Orlando] Figueroa, heading the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) as it drafts a downscoped, go-it-alone Mars exploration program, told planetary scientists on the NASA Advisory Council May 8 the $700-800 million that will be available for robotic Mars exploration by 2018 under the new NASA budget request will not support a rover. "A stationary lander may be possible in 2018," Figueroa says. "A mobile lander, a rover, doesn't fit the budget we have available, so we need to jump one opportunity to generate enough funds to be able to do it."

Keith's note: Well, it sounds like the career NASA SMD bureaucrats have already made up their minds as to what they want NASA to do, what they want you think NASA cannot do, and who cares what anyone else thinks. So why bother going through the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) proceess? Let's face it: people like Figueroa, Green et al are fresh out of ideas, focused simply on lowering expectations, and content upon doing routine Powerpoint presentations for meetings where nothing of importance is ever decided.

Poor NASA. It has already forgotten how to do low-cost, out-of-the-box Mars missions like Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers. Very depressing. Is this any way to explore the solar system?

- NASA's Out of Date Search for Life on Mars, earlier post
- NASA's Mars Program Planning Group: Same Old Answers or Open To New Ideas?, earlier post

NASA Administrator Announces Webb Telescope Management Change

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced today that Geoff Yoder will assume leadership responsibilities for the James Webb Space Telescope, serving as program director at the agency's headquarters in Washington, effective June 30, 2012. He succeeds Rick Howard, who retires on that date."

Figueroa Rules Out Another NASA Mars Rover Before 2020, Space News

"Figueroa reiterated previous statements that his team will consider only missions that contribute in some way to an eventual Mars sample-return mission, which is the U.S. planetary science community's top priority for flagship-class Mars exploration endeavors."

Keith's note: This is a mindset ripe with old thinking. Even without the budget cuts, the costs for a Mars sample return mission have steadily increased over the decades that NASA has planned for it. NASA needs to head down a new path (or series of paths) wherein basic questions regarding the presence of current or previous life on Mars are addressed through more advanced and focused technologies - ones that can be used in situ. Instead, Figueroa et al are simply tied to old ways of thinking that make answering these questions move further into the future rather than making them move closer - all because the sample return mantra is etched into their brains from decades of repeating it among themselves.

It has been nearly 40 years since the twin Viking landers were sent to Mars. This is the last time NASA tried to do in situ testing for the presence of life on Mars. It is rather embarassing that NASA has not tried to do this again in the ensuing four decades or that it apparently won't try to do in the coming decade.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from May 2012.

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