Marc Boucher: April 2009 Archives

Atlantis cleared for launch; shuttle layoffs to begin, Spaceflight Now

"With retirement of the space shuttle program expected next year after just nine more flights, NASA's managers Thursday announced the first major round of job losses, saying 160 contractor workers would face layoffs Friday, the first of up to 900 jobs that will be lost between now and the end of the fiscal year."

NASA Ames offers buyouts to hundreds of employees, Mountain View Voice

"A source at NASA Ames has emailed the Voice a list of over 400 employees who have been offered buyouts worth up to $25,000 in exchange for leaving their jobs."

Editor's note: We've received the following internal memo and PDF. The memo is similar to the one circulated in November last year. The PDF lists 454 eligible positions for buyout or early out.

NASA Ames Internal Memo: FY2009 Buyout/Early Out Opportunity Now Open, NASA Ames

NASA Ames List of Eligible Positions for buyout/early out (PDF)

NASA ARC Internal Memo: FY2009 Buyout/Early Out Opportunity Now Open, November 9, 2008

Space Florida docked (for now) $2 million for lobbying "misuse", Orlando Sentinel

"An upset Sen. Mike Fasano on Wednesday announced he wanted to cut the $4 million state appropriation for Space Florida in half after learning that the space economic development agency had spent nearly $300,000 on contract lobbying last year."

Dems: Space Florida a symbol of Gov. Crist's "House of Cards", Orlando Sentinel


Committee slashed Space Florida budget in half
, Herald Tribune

"The agency spent nearly $300,000 of its $4 million state allocation last year on lobbyists, including $195,000 to a Pennsylvania firm with ties to Space Florida's president."

Previous:
- Space Florida Is Under Increased Scrutiny (Updated)

- Small Wonder Space Florida Is Having Problems

Editor's Update: Looks like they dodged another bullet.

Space Florida keeps its full $3.8M budget
, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Mike Fasano backed off his threat to strip Space Florida of nearly half its $3.8million state appropriation Thursday, saying he thought the agency understood his opposition to the nearly $300,000 it spent on lobbyists last year."


NASA Gives 'Go' for Space Shuttle Launch on May 11, NASA

"NASA managers completed a review Thursday of space shuttle Atlantis' readiness for flight and selected an official launch date for the STS-125 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Commander Scott Altman and his six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 2:01 p.m. EDT, May 11, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Editor's note: The World Health Organization has increased its alert level to 5 which suggests that the Swine Flu outbreak is very serious. At this point it sees no reason to raise it to the next level which is a pandemic. On April 27 NASA wisely released a NASA Occupational Health - Health Alert. Today NASA Ames director released a statement on the Ames Pandemic Plan in part based on Governor Schwarzenegger declaring a state of emergency for California.

This weekend however it appears that JPL still plans on holding its open house which traditionally attracts a large audience including bus loads of tourists from Mexico. Although most cases of the Swine Flu have been mild is it still wise to go ahead with this popular event?

Editor's Update: From the Huntsville Times: Marshall Space Flight Center closes child center; employees allowed liberal leave Thursday and Friday

"Marshall Space Flight Center will close its child care center over the next two days, and employees are encouraged to take liberal leave today and Friday because of area school closings due to concerns over swine flu."

STS-125 Readiness Review Under Way at Kennedy, NASA

The Flight Readiness Review for space shuttle Atlantis STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope began at 8 a.m. EDT this morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Managers will hold a news conference on NASA TV following the review to announce the official launch date. The briefing is expected to begin no earlier than 5 p.m. EDT.

Editor's note: The press conference has been moved up to 5 p.m. EDT from the earlier announced 6 p.m.

As well for the first time the review meeting is Twittering live status updates periodically on NASA's News Twitter feed during the meeting. They just broke for lunch but will resume afterward and start off with the Orbiter Project's section.

NASA may abandon plans for moon base, New Scientist

"NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned, the agency's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid."

"Under Scolese's predecessor, Mike Griffin, the agency held firm to its moon base plans. But the comments by Scolese, who will lead NASA until President Barack Obama nominates the next administrator, suggest a shift in the agency's direction. He spoke to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations."

Editor's note: According to the New Scientist both Chris Scolese and Doug Cooke were vague on certain answers. If a shift is coming we'll have more details on May 6 when the 2010 budget is due.

Editor's Update: While I don't have Scolese's testimony at this time Rob Coppinger was Twittering the testimony. Here are the tweets with respect to a question on what impact the FY2010 budget would have on moon planning:

"- We are still looking at what we mean by Moon, is that an outpost that is very expensive or is it an Apollo

- Return to the Moon could just be extended sorties

- Scolese says return to Moon could be less than an outpost"


And here is the opening statement by Chairmain Alan B. Mollohan

- Opening Statement of Chairman Alan B. Mollohan

Editor's Update: Here's the testimony by Chris Scolese:

- Chris Scolese Written Statement
- Chris Scolese Oral Statement

Constellation versus everything else in NASA, O. Glenn Smith for the Orlando Sentinel

"It is time to reconsider whether we want to go ahead with the Constellation program to place a base on the moon. Many of us in the space community would be eager to recreate the thrill of Apollo. However, from the public's standpoint, going back to the moon in 2020 would not invoke the same sense of awe and inspiration it did 51 years earlier when it was a seemingly impossible task."

House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, U.S. House of Representatives

"Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Madam Speaker, I rise to commend the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project and all those who have contributed their time and effort to ensure that historic images and vital data from the Lunar Orbiter missions of the 1960s are not lost to future generations."

"Fortunately, Evans efforts caught the attention of Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing, both of whom have been focused on space exploration for many years. They arranged to move the tapes and drives to NASAs Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Ames director, Peter Worden, arranged for them to store the equipment in an old abandoned McDonalds, which they jokingly referred to as McMoons. Wingo and Cowing began working with Ken Zin, an army veteran, to get the drives up and running."

Resolution would end shuttle deadline, Florida Today

"Supporters say the resolution -- which is expected to be up for a final vote this week -- could help avert the type of schedule pressure that led to the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia accidents."


NASA Shuttle Retirement Postponed ... Maybe
, Washington Post

"There is wide concern that a hard end date could jeopardize the safety of the eight remaining Shuttle missions and the thousands of government and private-sector jobs tied to NASA. Without FY 2011 funding, NASA would be unable to continue any missions that did not launch in time."

On NASA Watch yesterday:

Congresswoman Kosmas Wins Key Battle to Eliminate Hard Deadline for Shuttle Retirement

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) announced that the House and Senate conference agreement on the budget resolution (S.Con.Res 13) reflects her request to include a provision that removes the hard deadline for Shuttle retirement. The final budget resolution provides an additional $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2011 for the Shuttle program, giving NASA the flexibility it needs to fly the current manifest beyond 2010."

Editor's Update: One hurdle cleared for those seeking to prolong the life of the shuttle. The Senate vote is next week.

The House lawmakers in Washington vote to extend NASA space shuttle program, The Huntsville Time

"The budget resolution passed the U.S. House of Representatives today, it included money to extend the shuttle, and is expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate this week."

Lyles takes name out of running for NASA's top job, Dayton Daily News

"Retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles said Wednesday, April 29, that the White House indicated he was the top candidate to become the next NASA administrator, but that he has taken his name out of consideration."

Editor's note: Since the White House seems incapable of actually finding a nominee perhaps it's time the public submitted a lit of top 5 candidates that are worthy and have not already said no or otherwise been politically torpedoed.

COTS D - Commercial Human Spaceflight to get at least $80m, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA and the White House have agreed for the first time to release money to the human spaceflight option in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS program.

Under an agreement hammered out with the White House, NASA announced today on Capitol Hill that it will provide $150 million of the $400 million given to NASA under President Barack Obama's stimulus plan to the COTS program."

Orion Slims Down

NASA slashes Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle crew size to four, The Huntsville Times

"NASA is slimming down its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle by removing two seats and cutting its crew size from six people to four, a space agency spokesman confirmed late Monday."

"NASA made the crew size change "in order to improve schedule and cost confidence by minimizing multiple configurations under simultaneous development during the Program's early phases," Hautaluoma said. "While a four-person crew would save some mass, the issue of mass savings was not a major factor in the decision-making process. "

Editor's note: Weight was not a major factor, hmmm.

Editor's note (Keith Cowing): It is rather sad that Mike Griffin's grand design for Ares I can no longer meet even its most basic, high level requirements. So much for "Apollo on Steroids". What's next - a two-person lunar lander? If weight was "not an issue" then I suppose that Steve "the next von Braun" Cook won't need to be using any of the saved weight to solve Ares 1 upmass issues - since the rocket is perfectly designed as-is --- right?

Today the House Science and Technology Committee held it's first ever hearing on Keeping the Space Environment Safe for Civil and Commercial Users.

Below are links to the witness testimony and additional material.

Witness Testimony

- Lt. Gen. Larry D. James
- Mr. Nicholas Johnson (** Briefing Charts)
- Mr. Richard DalBello
- Mr. Scott Pace

Press Releases

Committee Examines Ways to Make the Space Environment Safer for Civil and Commercial Users, House Science and Technology Committee

Space-Faring Nations Must Better Monitor and Mitigate Space Debris, Witnesses Say, House Science Committee Republicans

Investment Needed to Combat Debris Threats to U.S. Space Assets, Aerospace Industries Association

"Space debris is a current and growing threat to U.S. exploration activities, and leaders must make situational awareness a top national priority, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said in congressional testimony Tuesday."

Editor's Update: Pentagon may reach satellite analysis goal early, Reuters

"The U.S. military may reach its goal of doing collision analysis on 800 maneuverable satellites before October, and is examining the possibility of tracking 500 more satellites that cannot be maneuvered, a top Air Force general said on Tuesday."

STS-125 Mission Update - April 28 2009, NASA

"On NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, radiator dents, caused by a falling socket in Atlantis' payload bay during payload installation operations last week, were photographed yesterday and a crack was observed. During an inspection last week, personnel noted a crease, but did not observe a crack in the dented radiator panel. Managers and engineers are reviewing the data and evaluating the repair options that may include adding a doubler or stop drilling to prevent the crack from spreading. Any repair necessary is not expected to delay the targeted May 11 launch."


Whos the boss?, Obama should speed up nomination of new NASA chief, Houston Chronicle

"A congressional mandate to delay action on the shuttles future expires on Thursday. At that point NASA officials will be free to start the phase-out of the fleet if they so choose. Presidential science adviser John Holdren has said, however, that no decisions will be made on the fate of the shuttle and the development of a replacement vehicle until a new administrator is in place."

Editor's note: So who's running NASA? Is it acting Administrator Christopher Scolese or Presidential science adviser John Holdren? With NASA set to to resume shutting down the Shuttle program next month this appears to go contrary to what Holdren is saying. I have an idea, why not nominate an administrator??

Here's a thought, by all accounts Christopher Scolese is doing a good job, heck why not take away the acting title? After all, that would be better than the current situation.

For a different viewpoint on the need for appointing a new administrator have a look at Miles O'Brien new blog posting "First Dog trumps Final Frontier?"

"There is a lot of hand-wringing in the space community these days about the Obama Administrations inability to fill the corner office on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters.

The incredulous refrain among space cadets: they picked the First Dog before they selected a NASA administrator!?

Editor's Update: This just in: Congresswoman Kosmas Wins Key Battle to Eliminate Hard Deadline for Shuttle Retirement

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) announced that the House and Senate conference agreement on the budget resolution (S.Con.Res 13) reflects her request to include a provision that removes the hard deadline for Shuttle retirement. The final budget resolution provides an additional $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2011 for the Shuttle program, giving NASA the flexibility it needs to fly the current manifest beyond 2010."

"The conferees agreed with Kosmas and the conference agreement explanatory statement contains the following language explicitly providing funding for the Shuttle program beyond 2010:"

The conference agreement recognizes the scientific and technological contributions of our nation's manned and unmanned space program and the strategic importance of uninterrupted human access to space, and supports efforts to reduce the impending gap in US human spaceflight. The conference agreement matches the President's request for NASA in 2010 (while acknowledging that an additional $400 million was appropriated for NASA exploration in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and provides $2.5 billion above the President's request in 2011. The additional funding is provided in 2011 in anticipation that the funding is needed for the remaining eight space shuttle missions to safely fly and to complete the construction and equipping of the international space station.

We'll see how this plays out and if this passes.

Ames Wins 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award, NASA

"NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has been named the recipient of the 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award. Ames won the award for developing a High Speed Three-Dimensional Laser scanner with Real Time Processing."

NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton Roads, Va., won the 2008 NASA Commercial Invention of the Year Award for developing Composition of and Method for Making High Performance Resins for Infusion and Transfer Molding Processes. "

Keeping the Space Environment Safe for Civil and Commercial Users

Tuesday, April 28
2:00 p.m. 4:00p.m.

Editor's Update: I got the time wrong, it's still at 2:00 p.m.

Witnesses:

- Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, Commander, 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command, and Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command

- Mr. Nicholas Johnson, Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

- Mr. Richard DalBello, Vice President of Government Relations, Intelsat General Corporation

- Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

2318 Rayburn House Office Building (WEBCAST)

NASA Occupational Health - Health Alert - April 27, 2009, NASA

"Within the past week human cases of a potentially new strain of the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the U.S. and Mexico. As of April 27, there are now confirmed cases in five states (California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio, New York). Internationally, human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in Mexico and Spain, with testing of ill travelers from Mexico being conducted in New Zealand. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling this a public health emergency of international concern. The current phase of the WHO Global Influenza Preparedness is Level 3 Pandemic alert: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans. The WHO Emergency Committee is reportedly scheduled to meet later today to consider raising the pandemic alert level."

Obama pledges 3 percent of GDP for research, Infoworld

"Obama repeatedly used the early U.S. space program as a framing device for his remarks, calling that period "the high water mark" of government investment in research and development."

"It sparked a wide range of scientific innovation with benefits that went far beyond the historic Apollo missions, such as advancements in building materials and fire-resistant fabrics, he said."

Editor's note: The speech which includes $150 billion in R&D spending over 10 years did little for NASA other than offer some funding for climate change. Some highlights:

"...it supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate."

- He announced a Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
- The new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E modeled after DARPA
- Triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships.
- Also announced was an initiative to " inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy."
- There was some positive efforts for of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs

- Comments and transcript
- The Speech (MP3)

Editor's Update: Statement by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, Chairman Gordon Comments on Presidents Address Highlighting the Importance of Science

"Another important subject the president highlighted was the work being done at NASA in helping us to understand climate change. We cannot make a commitment to addressing climate change without being committed to NASA. NASAs work, along with the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be key to our efforts to monitor and understand the potential impacts of climate change, including shifting weather patterns, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and other phenomena."

Space University Report Offers Ways To Avoid Further Satellite Collisions, International Space University

"Prepared by a team of 30 students from 17 countries during ISUs Space Studies Program in summer 2007, the study took a hard look at the status of traffic management in earth orbit and focused on space traffic rules that would reduce the probability of debris causing collisions."

Editor's note: The 90 page report which might not have been widely viewed should be seen by a wider audience.

- Full Report

Related: Debris Precautions Set For Hubble Mission, Aviation Week

"The space shuttle Atlantis will drop to a lower orbit as soon as it releases the Hubble Space Telescope to reduce the risk from orbital debris on the upcoming mission to service the orbiting observatory."

Editor's note: I thought I would pass on that A.C. Charania, President of SpaceWorks Commercial is blogging the three day 2009 IAA Planetary Defense Conference from Granada, Spain. Updates seem to be comprehensive.

New NASA Admin Rumors

Editor's note: There are more rumors making their rounds again as to who will be nominated as NASA administrator including one suggesting that Lori Garver, head of Obama's NASA transition team, would be the nominee. However our sources indicate that we should not put too much faith in recent rumors. So we'll just have to wait and see.

Even if a new administrator is nominated this week we know that acting administrator Christopher Scolese faces some tough decisions including resuming phased shutdown of shuttle operations on May 1. Once that process is started it will be difficult to add additional flights.


One man's quest to honor America's Saturn V rocket, Rocketry Planet

"On April 25, 2009, history will be made. At Higgs Farm in Price, Maryland, Steve Eves will enter the history books as the person who flew the largest model rocket in history. The rocket will weigh over 1,600 pounds, it will stand over 36 feet tall and it will be powered by a massive array of nine motors: eight 13,000ns N-Class motors and a 77,000ns P-Class motor. The estimated altitude of this single stage effort will be between 3,000 and 4,000 feet and the project will be recovered at apogee."

Editor's note: This is a great story and well worth read. Steve Eves has accomplished something great here and for the record books. If someone gets the video of the launch please let me know and I'll post it for everyone to see.

Editor's Update: I've added a YouTube video from Steve Eves explaining what they are going to do and a link to some blog posts and images.

Editor's Update: Steve Eves has successfully launched and recovered his Saturn V replica. We have several videos for you to watch, this was really impressive, well done Steve! At launch you can see the rocket lift-off in Steve's glasses in the image to the left.

As some of you may know NASA Watch founder and editor Keith Cowing is trekking to Everest base camp in support of an education and public outreach effort for former astronaut Scott Parazynski's attempted ascent of Mt. Everest. So I thought I would bring to your attention some of the creative writing and stunning images Keith has been posting to Everest OnOrbit.

Keith is resting as I write this as it's late in the evening in Nepal but he should have reached Gorak Shep today, a frozen lake bed covered with sand that sits at 5,164m or approximately 17,000 vertical feet and is the final acclimatization stop before he reaches Everest base camp on Monday.

International Mountain Guides meanwhile is reporting that Scott Parazynski is one of six people who have now setup at Everest Camp 3.

You can follow Scott's progress and Keith's adventure at Everest OnOrbit.

Here's Keith's updates, I think you'll like them.

- April 13: Heading to Everest, Waking Up Over Iraq
- April 14: On The Road to Kathmandu
- April 16: Goodbye Kathmandu, Hello Khumbu
- April 17: Climbing Up To Namche
- April 18: Awestruck in Namche
- April 19: Messages Across Time
- April 20: Webcasting from a Foggy Buddhist Monastery
- April 22: Utterly Improbable Terrain and Stealth Yaks in the Darkness


Mars Institute "Moon-1" Humvee Rover Successfully Completes 500 km Drive Along Northwest Passage, Mars Institute

"An international team of researchers led by Mars Institute scientist Dr. Pascal Lee successfully reached the arctic community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada on Friday, 17 April, after an 8-day, 500 km vehicular trek on sea-ice along the fabled Northwest Passage. The team of five departed Kugluktuk, Nunavut on 10 April aboard the Mars Institutes Moon-1 Humvee Rover and two snowmobiles, and logged a record-breaking total of 494 km, the longest distance ever driven on sea-ice in a road vehicle."

- Expedition Images
- Google Earth KMZ file of Trek

Editor's note: Ok, full disclosure, one of the other hats I wear is that of President/CEO of the Mars Institute. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the expedition and what an adventure it has been.

Marc Boucher

Another Long NOMAD Outage


NOMAD OutReach - Weekend E-mail Outage (45 Hours), NASA

"Facilities maintenance is necessary to support mission critical systems at Marshall Space Flight Center to avoid placing NASAs critical Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) systems at an unacceptable risk. During the 45-hour maintenance period, e-mail will not be available."

Editor's note: NASA issued the following procurement notice on April 16th which was then modified yesterday. What should we make of this in that the number of minimum seats has been dropped from 18 to 3? Does this have anything to do with PlanetSpace losing their protest the day before and COTS-D moving forward?

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos, Federal Business Opportunities

NASA/JSC intends to contract with Roscosmos for these services on a sole source basis for a minimum of 18 Soyuz seats up to a maximum of 24 seats beginning in the Spring of 2012.The maximum number of 24 seats may be procured using multiple modifications in incrementsof 3 seats, to complete the entire effort.

Modification:

"The purpose of this modification is to revise the minimum number of Soyuz seats which maybe procured from a minimum of 18 seats to a minimum of 3 seats. NASA is still accepting capability statements from interested organizations documenting their ability to provide Crew Transportation and Rescue Services requirements identified in the synopsis"


Scientists, Astronauts, and Lawyers Combat Asteroid Threat, Science

"An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. Should we try to nudge it off course, or blow it to smithereens? Should we evacuate the projected impact zone? Who will make these decisionsand who will pay for the countermeasures?

Scientists, astronauts, and space law specialists are gathering today and tomorrow at the first ever conference to hash out a legal framework for guiding nations on how to deal with an impending cosmic collision. The meeting at University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln is taking up the gauntlet laid down by a report last September from the Association of Space Explorers calling for a global response to the threat of Near Earth Objects, also known as NEO's."

Experts to Dicsuss Dangers, Legal Issues of Thwarting Threatening Near-Earth Objects, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

"Near-Earth Objects are an increasing area of concern among the worlds space scientists. Experts believe that over the next 15 years, advances in technology will lead to the detection of more than 500,000 NEOs -- and of those, several dozen will likely pose an uncomfortably high risk of striking Earth and inflicting local or regional damage.

Taking part in the two-day program are members of a multinational committee who made recommendations last fall to the United Nations on establishing global framework to respond to NEO threats. That committee was commissioned by the ASE and chaired by former Apollo astronaut, Rusty Schweickart."

PlanetSpace, a partnership set up by Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Alliant Techsystems Inc has had its protest denied by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Wednesday.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp can now resume work on contracts worth up to $3.5 billion. The contracts call for a total of 20 flights to the space station to deliver cargo after the space shuttles are retired in 2010.

From the GAO Docket:

PlanetSpace, Inc. (NNJ08ZBG001R)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Outcome: Denied Date Decided: April 22, 2009

Previous: PlanetSpace Has Filed With the GAO a Protest to the Selection Decision of NASA Under the ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) Competition

"After a careful review of all the facts and in consideration of all of the source selection documentation provided to date, PlanetSpace has filed a protest to NASA's award of the ISS Commercial Resupply Services Contract. PlanetSpace offered a superior proposal. It received a higher Mission Suitability score, from NASA's Source Evaluation Board (SEB), and was lower in Cost than one of the two proposals selected by NASA. Thus, the PlanetSpace proposal represented better value to the Government. We believe that the GAO will find that flaws in the procurement justify award to PlanetSpace. We look forward to the GAO's review of this case."

NASA faces deadline for tough decisions on shuttle, Forbes via AP

"NASA is facing a critical deadline to make its biggest decision in a generation: whether to go forward with plans to retire the space shuttle fleet and replace it with a new mode of space travel. But the agency still has no chief to make the $230 billion call."

NASA seems so far off the White House radar, said one presidential expert, that it might as well be on Pluto.

"I think that tells you something," said New York University public policy professor Paul Light, an expert in presidential appointments. "The lack of announced appointees is a sign of its priority within the administration."

Editor's note: Ouch, hmmm makes you wonder about the Administrations' commitment to NASA.

Editor's Update: And the news gets better.

NASA moon landing could be delayed, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are quietly being revised and are in danger of slipping past 2020.

In meetings over the last few weeks at Kennedy Space Center, agency managers have told employees and contractors that they are delaying the first lunar launch of the Ares V rocket -- a cargo hauler slated to be the most powerful rocket ever built -- by two years."

Frank's note: How much worse does it have to get before we as a community of spacers come together to call for support for human spaceflight from our political "leaders"? Go to the President's web site at whitehouse.gov and urge him to put his money-and his mouth-behind the civil space program-before there isn't anything left to rally around. The hour is grave-isn't it a time for a call to action from us all?

Editor's Update: The lack of a NASA administrator now causing real harm, Houston Chronicle

"UPDATE: Here are some comments made this morning by deputy space shuttle program manager LeRoy Cain on the effects of uncertainty on the space shuttle:

We're at a pivotal point. ... As we move forward in time it becomes more difficult from a funding standpoint because what we're doing is shaping the workforce and shaping the content of work for a completion of the shuttle mission in Sept. 2010. As we get closer and closer to the end it becomes more and more difficult, it requires more and more money to turn that around.

Since last Fall we have been asked through legislation to maintain the ability to continue and extend the shuttle through "Do Not Preclude" language through April of this year. We are coming to the end of that timeline.

In other words, April 30 looms as a very significant date."

GAO Says Costs and Schedule for NOAA's New Geostationary Weather Satellite Program Present Ongoing Risks, House Science and Technology Committee

"Recent events have raised doubts about the feasibility of the GOES-R launch date. Specifically, after the spacecraft segment Page 6 GAO-09-596T Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites contract was awarded and then protested in December 2008, NASA decided to re-evaluate the proposals. NASA now plans to re-award the contract in May 2009. Because NASA has agreed to a 72-month development cycle for the spacecraft segment (from contract award date to launch readiness), the launch date of GOES-R will likely be delayed until at least May 2015."

"Any delays in the launch of the first GOES-R satellite run counter to NOAAs policy of having a backup satellite in orbit at all times and could lead to gaps in satellite coverage. This policy proved useful in December 2008, when NOAA lost communication with GOES-12, but was able to use GOES-13 as an operational satellite until communication was restored. However, beginning in November 2014, NOAA expects to have two operational satellites in orbit (O and P), but it will not have a backup satellite in place until GOES-R is launched."

GAO Report (PDF)


The Soyuz Launch Site Receives its Muscle, Arianespace (Photo Report)

"The launch infrastructure at Soyuz' new operating base in French Guiana has literally risen from the pad as the system of two umbilical masts and four primary support arms has now been installed.

This marks another key step in preparations of the world's newest launch facility for the medium-lift Soyuz, which will join Arianespaces heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the future lightweight Vega in operations at the Spaceport."

Related: SpaceX Reaches Milestone as Draco Thurster Successfully Completes Qualification Testing, SpaceX

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed a rigorous qualification of its new Draco spacecraft thruster and Draco propulsion tank at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor, Texas."

Mission to Save Hubble Could Launch a Day Early, Space.com

"NASA is hoping to launch the space shuttle Atlantis on the last service call to the Hubble Space Telescope a day earlier than planned to avoid schedule conflicts near its Florida launch site, agency officials said Thursday.

The long-delayed Hubble repair flight, which mission managers have now found to be less risky than initially thought, would lift off on May 11 at 2:01 p.m. EDT (1801 GMT) if the earlier target is approved next week."

Public Service in the 21st Century: An Examination of the State of the Federal Workforce,
Testimony of Gregory J. Junemann, President
, IFPTE (PDF)

"The consequences for NASAs long-term health are dire; NASA must reverse course in President Obamas first term or key intellectual capabilities will be lost and not replaced."

"Between 1993 and 2009, despite the fact that NASAs overall budget and responsibilities increased, NASA lost 6,787 civil-servant employees under the age of 40, who were never replaced (see purple oval for missing cohort). Without a course correction, the demographic distribution will become even more skewed with the proportion of NASA employees who are 50-59 increasing to nearly half the entire civil-service workforce by the 2014."




Editor's note: With an aging workforce not being replaced, an Obama administration that doesn't seem to think NASA is worth much attention these days, Constellation over budget and behind schedule, the news could hardly be worse.

Editor's note:

For those of you who didn't know, Astronaut Mike Massimino, a mission specialist for STS-125 to the service the Hubble Telescope, has been Twittering his personal accounts of training at http://twitter.com/Astro_Mike. Mike also hopes to Twitter from space.

Mike has now broken the 100,000 follower mark and at last check was at 107,152 followers. That ranks him at number 110 with the most followers on Twitter. Getting that many followers is another fantastic PR coup for NASA. And for those of you who may think Twitter is just a fad I would point out that NASA Watch in the last month received 6% of it's referral traffic from Twitter and that this number is growing each month. It's a social medium worth paying attention to.

Here's a list of some of the NASA Watch, SpaceRef Twitter accounts you can follow:

NASAWatch
Keith Cowing, Editor
Marc Boucher, Editor
SpaceRef
Space Weather
Space Shuttle and Space Station
Mars Today
Moon Today
Astrobiology
Space Commerce
Space Education
SPOTScott

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Updated Web feature Shows How NASA Technologies Improve Lives, NASA

"NASA has launched an expanded version of an interactive online program that allows users to discover some of the many NASA technologies that positively impact everyday life. The interactive "NASA at Home" and "NASA City" sites are enhanced with many new features, including green-related information to coincide with Earth Day 2009."

Editor's note: The NASA City site is well worth a look especially for its education usefulness.

Entrepreneurial Space and Export Control: Red Tape in the Final Frontier, AIAA

"A half-day event exploring the impact of Americas export control regime on the job growth, competitiveness, and capabilities of domestic entrepreneurial space entities."

"Opening Keynote Spearker: The Honorable C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Subcommittee on Technology and Tactical Intelligence."

Download meeting flyer with RSVP information( PDF)


Editor's Update: It would seem there is some positive movement on the ITAR issue.

Freedom to fly - A small company wins an important legal challenge to Americas space-technology export-control regime The Economist

"In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to Americas rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the governments claim that foreign passengers travelling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-controls regime."

Reaction from Mike Gold, Director, Washington Office, Bigelow Aerospace

"Entrepreneurial firms arent just going to create new technologies, but they will also transform the legal and regulatory world around them. We require a paradigm shift both technologically and from a policy perspective. At Bigelow Aerospace, were not just about creating better technology, but creating a better future. When humanity goes to the stars we should leave our petty bigotries, biases and disputes aside, and move forward in peace for all of humanity. This ruling brings us one small step closer to achieving that dream."

Editor's Update: More reaction from the community.

Breaking news on US export control, Natasha Loder (Economist Writer)

"George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation within the Federal Aviation Authority "We have not yet seen the commodity jurisdiction ruling, nor was the FAA involved in the review, so I really can't be very specific about what it says or what it will mean for Bigelow Aerospace.

However, to the extent that the U.S. government may now be willing to revise some of its export control restrictions to enable U.S. firms to be more competitive in their efforts to sell aerospace products and services globally, that would be very good news indeed"

Editor's Update: Interview with Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace, Economist (Audio)

The Ares Launch Vehicles, The Futures Channel

"Imagine a rocket the size of a small skyscraper. Now imagine shooting it into the air with so much force that it goes from zero to a thousand miles an hour in less than a minute. What kind of engines can generate that much thrust? And why is that rocket built in stages? Go inside Marshall Space Flight Center to meet members of the Ares Rocket team who can answer those questions and more."

Editor's note: Whether you are pro-Ares or just wish it would go away this 9+ minute provides a good profile on Ares.
Frank's note: How many readers think we will ever see an Ares V built and launched?

NASA Sets Briefings to Provide Update About Hubble Shuttle Mission, NASA

"NASA will hold news briefings April 23 to update reporters about the space shuttle's fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the briefings from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Shuttle Atlantis' 11-day flight, designated STS-125, is targeted for launch May 12 and will include five spacewalks to refurbish and upgrade the telescope with state-of-the-art science instruments. As a result, Hubble's capabilities will be expanded and its operational lifespan extended through at least 2014."

Former astronaut: Man not alone in universe, CNN

"Earth Day may fall later this week, but as far as former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell and other UFO enthusiasts are concerned, the real story is happening elsewhere.

Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments."

First Moon Images No Longer Lost in Space, AP

"Mankind's first up-close photos of the lunar landscape have been rescued from four decades of dusty storage. As AP's Haven Daley reports, they've been restored to such a high quality that they rival anything taken by modern cameras."


Discovered After 40 Years: Moon Dust Hazard Influenced by Sun's Elevation, AGU


"But it wasnt until late 2006, when O'Brien learned from NASAs website that the space agency had misplaced data tapes from its dust-detecting experiments, that he decided to revisit his own set of 173 tapes. NASA had sent him these tapes one by one in 1969 and 1970, when he was working at the Department of Physics at University of Sydney. He took them with him when, in 1971, he moved to Perth for a new job. O'Brien's tapes are now the only known record of data from those vintage experiments.

Working alone and self-funded, the 75-year-old scientist dedicated two years to analyzing paper charts printed out in 1969 and 1970 from the magnetic tapes, which contain 6 million measurements, most of them yet to be analyzed. "

Physicist Stephen Hawking very ill and in hospital, Reuters

Physicist Stephen Hawking, the author of "A Brief History of Time" who is almost completely paralyzed by motor neurone disease, has been urgently admitted to hospital, Cambridge University said on Monday.

Hawking, 67, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital in Cambridge, where he teaches as a professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

"Professor Hawking is very ill and has been taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital," the university said.

Editor's note: NASA Watch has obtained the following NASA presentations that offer an alternative to Ares, Orion and Altair. It wasn't meant for the public to see. We'll let you decide what you think of them.

Editor's Update: I think what needs to be noted here is the continuing discontent within NASA with the Constellation program. And in the absence of leadership the discontent will continue to fester. Isn't time the Obama administration appoint a new Administrator? Someone who has leadership credentials?

The Onion Strikes

NASA Embarks On Epic Delay, The Onion

"Delays of this magnitude were once the stuff of science fiction," Scolese told reporters during a noon press conference Monday that actually started around 3:15 p.m. "But now, thanks to a number of long-overdue technological advances, this historic delay will stretch the very limits of what humankind can push back indefinitely."


NASA Celebrates Earth Day Across the Country, NASA

"NASA centers across the nation invite journalists and the public to see and hear about the agency's efforts and contributions to understanding and protecting Earth.

Begun in 1970, Earth Day is the annual celebration of the environment and a time to assess work still needed to protect the natural resources of our planet. The agency maintains the largest contingent of dedicated Earth scientists and engineers in leading and assisting other agencies in preserving the planet's environment. "

Editor's note: A list of events at each center is included in the press release.


Save Mercury Mission Control

Senator John Glenn reflects on anniversary of Project Mercury, Zanesville TimeRecorder

"NASA was officially created on Oct. 1, 1958, but this month marks the 50th anniversary of how the space program started with Project Mercury. NASA selected the Mercury Seven on April 1, 1959, and they were introduced to the world on April 9, 1959."

Slowly Crumbling, NASA Landmarks May Face the Bulldozer, New York Times

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, National Historic Landmarks Program

Editor's note: It's come to my attention that the historic Mercury Mission Control Center is now scheduled to be demolished in early May. Shouldn't this historic landmark be restored and kept as a museum to inspire our youth?

Frank's Note: I'm sorry to offend but I agree with those readers who suggest it's time to let this artifact go to the dumpsters. Much of the important artifacts of the early Space Age have in fact been preserved. We spacers, for a relatively young history, spend too much time, IMHO, living in the past. Look at the time, money and energy spent on commemorations of the Apollo 11 landing. And what do we wind up doing every five years or so? Photo ops and grand speechifying. Heaven forbid that much needed funds be pumped into these faltering programs-that would be putting the $$ where the mouths of politicians are.
What makes people think that young people today will be "inspired" to dedicate their lives to space exploration and research by this hulking junk yard? You want to inspire them/ Give them a place in the space agency not fouled by bureaucratic mentality and meetings after meetings. Why is SpaceX so popular? Because instead of speeches about how important history is, they are making some new history of their own. What's past is past. Let's move on into the future!

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report, NASA HQ

"Proposed Extension of the Space Shuttle Program

To maximize safety, minimize wasted effort, and bolster employee morale, any further debate regarding the future of the Shuttle should be undertaken immediately and completed without further delay. From a safety standpoint, the ASAP strongly endorses the NASA position on not extending Shuttle operations beyond successful execution of the December 2008 manifest, completing the ISS. Continuing to fly the Shuttle not only would increase the risk to crews, but also could jeopardize the future U.S. Exploration program by squeezing available resources (and, in the worst case, support) for the Constellation program."

Editor's note: Download report (PDF)

The Budgetary Implications of NASAs Current Plans for Space Exploration (PDF), Congressional Budget Office

"In response to a directive in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has updated its 2004 report analyzing the budgetary implications of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations (NASAs) vision for the nations space exploration program."

"According to NASA, its current plans will require an average of $19.1 billion of funding annually from 2010 through 2025, with the Constellation program accounting for about half of the total by 2017. Under its current plans, the agency also intends to conduct 79 new robotic science missions through 2025, requiring funding of $4.7 billion annually, and to perform aeronautics research, at a cost of about $460 million annually."

Editor's note: The COB looked at 4 scenarios. No matter how you look at it, at current spending levels, NASA will continue to have program slips and will have to make cuts to other programs to keep Constellation anywhere near on schedule. COTS-D doesn't seem to have entered the COB equation:

Editor's Update: A couple more stories and commentary related to this.

Lawmakers Pressure NASA to Delay Shuttle's Retirement, Wall Street Journal

Budget report: NASA facing shortfalls, launch delays, USA Today

Former NASA chief moves on--NASA not so much, Scientific American

CBO costs out various NASA budget options, Space Politics

Scenario 1: Keep Funding Fixed and Allow Schedules to Slip

"By CBOs projections, with such cost growth and fixed annual budgets for the Constellation program, the initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion would be delayed from March 2015 to late 2016, and the first mission to return humans to the moon would be delayed from 2020 to 2023"
Finally, for this scenario, CBO assumed that NASA would forgo any missions on the space shuttles launch manifest that did not occur by the September 30, 2010.

Let's Talk ITAR

Space Florida Joins the California Space Authority in Washington D.C. to Promote Federal Space Reform, Space Florida

"Topics to Include ITAR Reform and ISS National Lab Utilization

Space Florida will join California Space Authority (CSA) officials next week in Washington D.C. to spend four days meeting with federal officials regarding vital space policy issues. Topics to be discussed include sustaining America's leadership in space, addressing export control restrictions, space commercialization issues and FAA licensing processes, in addition to the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. "

NASA's Green Idea


NASA Leads Team in Establishing a Renewable Hydrogen Fueling Station, NASA Glenn

"NASA's Glenn Research Center is leading a team of industry and university partners in demonstrating a prototype of a commercial hydrogen fueling station that uses wind and solar power to produce hydrogen from water. This initial installation will produce hydrogen from Lake Erie water to fuel a mass transit bus powered by fuel cells.

The demonstration, featuring a unique, high-capacity electrolyzer that separates water into its elemental components of hydrogen and oxygen, is part of an economic development program in the Cleveland area. Local workers will design and build the electrolyzer using commercially available components."

Last Chance Photo Op

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Holds Unique Media Event, NASA KSC

"Following rollout of space shuttle Endeavour from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B on Friday, April 17, two shuttles will be on the launch pads at the same time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for what is expected to be the last time. "

SpaceX Falcon 1 Flight 5 Update, SpaceX

"SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 1 on it's 5th flight with a primary payload of Malaysia's RazakSAT as early as April 20 as everything reportedly remains on schedule."

Editor's Update: SpaceX Signs Argentina's Space Agency for Two Falcon 9 Launches, SpaceX

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has signed an agreement with CONAE, Argentina's National Commission on Space Activity, for two launches aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 medium-to-heavy lift vehicle. The flights will send the SAOCOM 1A and 1B Earth observation satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, where they will provide imagery for natural resources monitoring, as well as emergency and disaster management."

Editor's Update: RazakSAT Launch Delayed, The New Straits Times

"Abdul Hanan said SpaceX will be doing the repairs which will take at least six weeks."

Editor's Update: RAZAKSAT Launch Postponed, SpaceX

Griffin set to return to class, The Huntsville Times

"An excited crowd of students, educators and Huntsville business leaders filled the entrance hall of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology to meet the man they believe can make UAH "the Cal Tech of the South, a great aerospace university."

"We're here because we want to be here," he said. "The offer extended to me by the (UA system) trustees was not the highest I received; it wasn't even the fifth highest that I received, and that's just a fact."

Frank's Note: Maybe an enterprising student will ask Mikey why Marsha Ivins was able to dominate human spaceflight development during his tenure at NASA HQ. I mean, inquiring minds and all that...

MEPAG Chair's letter on Mars Inputs to the Decadal Survey, NASA MEPAG

"A significant part of the discussion at the townhall meeting related to the kinds of inputs the Decadal Survey panels need or could benefit from to achieve their purpose, and the timing required in order for those inputs to be useful. As stated on Slide #9 of the presentation cited above, "broad community input is a defining feature of a decadal survey". For Mars, we can see two classes of written inputs to the process: 1). White papers prepared by MEPAG on behalf of the entire community, and 2). White papers prepared by subsets of the Mars community on topical areas of interest. "

Editor's note: Here's Steve Squyres presentation for you to download.

There's a special note about Mars in the presentation: "Mars missions will be considered on an equal basis with all other missions. No set aside for Mars exploration will be assumed a priori."

With the Mars Science Laboratory significantly over budget and with the launch delayed one wonders what's to become of the Mars program over the next decade. When will the coveted Mars Sample Return mission be slotted in?

House Panel Raises Conflict of Interest Concern at NASA, Congressional Quarterly

"The House Science Committee is taking aim at NASA over a recent contract award that its chairman says wasnt scrutinized enough for possible conflicts of interest.

The contract in question, worth $1.2 billion over five years, is for managing and operating NASAs system of space-to-ground receivers and transmitters that allow the agency to communicate with its spacecraft, including astronauts in orbit"

NASA names treadmill after Colbert, AP (Via San Francisco Chronicle)

"On Tuesday's "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, astronaut Sunita Williams announced that NASA which always maintained it had the right to choose an appropriate name would not name the node after Colbert.

Instead, Node 3 will henceforth be called Tranquility, the eighth most popular response submitted by respondents in the poll. The node's name alludes to where Apollo 11 landed on the moon the Sea of Tranquility.

NASA and Colbert compromised by naming a treadmill used for exercising in space after Colbert. NASA, itself an acronym (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), often names things so they spell out something fun. And that's what they did with the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT)."

Editor's note: A compromise that saved NASA some embarrassment and provided some comic relief and lots of PR.

Kudo's to Robert Pearlman of CollectSpace for the early tip.

NASA names space module for moon base ...not Colbert

"Tranquility was the eighth most popular name written-in by visitors to NASA's website between February 19 and March 20 of this year. Though its impossible to know why so many chose that name, its relation to one of the most notable events in NASA's 50 year history is clear.

"Tranquility" is also defined as a calm state, or serenity."

Editor's note: Here's the press release from NASA.

NASA New Space Station Module Name Honors Apollo 11 Anniversary, NASA HQ

Editor's note: For those who didn't see the show we now have the video available.

Shuttle Shutdown Coming

Countdown to shuttle's end resumes, Orlando Sentinel

"A top NASA official said Monday that the agency plans to resume shutting down the space-shuttle program next month despite calls from Florida lawmakers to fly the orbiter beyond its planned retirement in 2010.

Congress barred NASA last year from taking any steps that would prevent shuttle flights beyond 2010. But that ban expires April 30, and NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency must begin dismantling the program or risk running out of money before the shuttle completes its final eight or nine flights into low-Earth orbit."

Wayne Hale
NASA and Education, Wayne Hale NASA Blog

"Education is one of the most important topics to Americans. As a nation we devote huge resources to educating our children, local school boards and state government last year spent over $800 billion on education. At the federal level, the Department of Educations budget last year was just over $57 billion. This represents substantially more money than the nation spent on national defense in all its aspects including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, national intelligence, and the department of homeland security."

"Yet, by all objective measures, American students are significantly lagging in almost every area to their foreign counterparts. Math, Science, even language testing scores lag significantly behind other modern industrialized nations."

Editor's note: Wayne Hale has responded to some of the comments.

"It is certainly far from my intention to denigrate teachers. For example, my daughter is a passionate high school English teacher who inspires her students daily. Teacher preparation and passion are key to motivating students. Certainly I was motivated by interesting, passionate, well prepared teachers during my formative years.

My thesis was not that NASA can solely transform education, but rather that space exploration does interest many students and can provide motivation for more to pursue careers in science, engineering, and mathematics.

Finally, on a different note, my NASA blog is open to the public and I am completely comfortable with excerpts or the entirety of any post appearing in other places on the internet as long as there is proper attribution.

Wayne Hale"

Mike Griffin
Former NASA chief Mike Griffin being considered for UAH posting, The Huntsville Times

"Griffin, who was NASA administrator from April 2005-January 2009, is being considered for employment as an "eminent scholar and tenured professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at" UAH. "

"Griffin is the only item on the committee's 10 a.m. "

Editor's note: I wonder what the folks at Marshall think about this?

Editor's Update: It's official, Griffin will join the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

NASA Administrator Dr. Mike Griffin will join the University of Alabama in Huntsville as an eminent scholar, The Huntsville Times

Editor's Update: I just got heard from Keith in Katmandu and he had this comment on Mike's new job; "Keith Cowing suggests that this will give him a front row seat as the Ares program is redesigned."

Editor's Update: Here's the press release about Griffin's appointment.

NASA's Michael Griffin appointed eminent scholar, professor at University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Alabama-Huntsville

Editor's Update: Looks like Mike's salary will be a nice $350K

Boldly Going Nowhere, New York Times OpEd by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

"The pace of improvement in rocketry is languid. It will be a decade before NASAs new Orion spacecraft allows humans to revisit the Moon, a short cosmic hop. And while todays launching vehicles are more powerful than their predecessors, the speeds are hardly impressive. The New Horizons probe cleared the pad at a clip barely twice that of the Atlas rocket that hoisted John Glenn into orbit at the dawn of the space age.

So while theres little doubt that humanity will soon explore and eventually colonize the Moon, Mars and the satellites and asteroids of the outer solar system, sending humans beyond that is impractical for the foreseeable future.

But theres another technology thats developing at a breakneck clip, and with which our grandchildren could make virtual trips to other solar systems. Its called telepresence a collection of technologies that extends vision, hearing and touch far beyond the corporeal confines of our nervous system."

Frank's Note: I guess the NYT never heard of the VASIMR rocket....

A NASA Earth Day Poll

Online Poll for NASA's Greatest Hits for Earth Begins Today, NASA HQ

"NASA is inviting the public to vote online for the most important contribution the space agency has made to exploring Earth and improving the way we live on our home planet. NASA is conducting the survey as part of its celebration of Earth Day, April 22. Voting begins today, and closes on April 21. Poll results will be announced on NASA's Web site on Earth Day."

Editor's Note: On the day NASA will announce the Colbert Node, oops, I mean the new name of Node 3, NASA announces a new poll aiming for your vote. To note, Colbert is not an option.

Space Solar Power: The Next Frontier?, PG&E

"As part of PG&E's commitment to providing more renewable energy to its customers, the utility has supported a wide range of technologies, including wind, geothermal, biomass, wave and tidal, and at least a half dozen types of solar thermal and photovoltaic power.

Now PG&E is extending that approach to tap renewable energy at an entirely new level: solar power in space.

PG&E is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren Corp., a Southern California company that has contracted to deliver 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period."

Frank's observation: For less than half the cost of a single Space Shuttle mission, a solar power space demo could be conducted to verify this technology once and for all. Readers: why do you think that such a potentially revolutionary power capability remains marooned on Earth?

NASA Spirit Rover
Computer Reboots Raise Concerns About Mars Rover Spirit, NASA JPL

"The team operating NASAs Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is examining data received from Spirit in recent days to diagnose why the rover apparently rebooted its computer at least twice over the April 11-12 weekend."

"We are aware of the reality that we have an aging rover, and there may be age-related effects here," Callas said. "

Editor's note: Old age may be setting in but this is one mission that's done NASA proud.

NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee Meeting, Federal Register

"Five seats will be reserved for members of the press. The purpose of the meeting is to assess NASA and Roscosmos plans to support a six-person crew aboard the International Space Station, including transportation, crew rotation, training, and micro meteoroid and orbital debris shielding."

Senator Shelby Speaks

Senator Richard Shelby, America can't afford space shuttle, station and Ares rockets, The Huntsville Times

"The Tuscaloosa Republican told members of The Huntsville Times editorial board this morning that America probably could not afford to continue flying the space shuttle past its set September 2010 retirement date, continue supporting the $100 billion space station past 2015 and build the shuttle's intended successor - the Ares I."

Editor's note: Video available.

NASA Constellation logo

Where Things Stand with Constellation, NASA Blog Contributed by Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program Manager

"First, some facts: NASAs commitment has been and continues to be to achieve the first human launch of Orion by March 2015. We see that as eminently achievable, but its not a guarantee there is no such thing in any large scale development program and especially for one where the available funding is never known more than one year in advance."

"NASAs Constellation Program is rejuvenating an agency and an industry."


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries written by Marc Boucher in April 2009.

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