Marc Boucher: February 2013 Archives

Rethinking NASA

Review of the Space Leadership Preservation Act (Video and statements), SpaceRef Business

"On February 27, 2013, the House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing to review a bill proposed by six Republican members of the House that would take away governance of NASA from the President and give it to a board appointed by the President and members of Congress."

Subcommittee Discusses Need for Stability of Vision for NASA Human Spaceflight

"Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Today, a question exists about NASA's vision, namely, whether there is one. But we must also recognize that even a vision, without a means to achieve it, can be fruitless and frustrating. NASA too often is hampered by short term decisions that have a long term negative impact. We must step back, look at the Agency as a whole, and work to put it on the long term path to achieve worthy and inspirational goals on behalf of our nation."

Subcommittee Democrats Discuss Ways to Restore Stability and Direction to NASA

"Ranking Member Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) said of the proposals, "While today we consider legislation that seeks to stabilize NASA's direction, the sad truth is, we in the Congress have and are continuing to contribute to the agency's funding instability and a mismatch of resources with expectations. Year after year, NASA has had to redirect scarce resources and time to replan programs and projects, not because of instability at the top of the agency, but because of the uncertainties caused by flat or decreased funding for the agency, continuing resolutions, and, now the threat of sequestration."

Testing for Mars Organics

CuriousMars: Rover Poised to Test For Organics Where Habitability Potential is High, SpaceRef

"The Mars rover Curiosity's team is beginning to amass enough diverse science data to actively consider whether the area around its first drilling site was potentially habitable.

At the same time the science team is readying the rover's most powerful instruments to search for organic carbon and minerals supportive to life in its first sample of gray powdered subsurface rock."

CuriousMars: Scientists Disagree on Timing of Departure from Drilling Site, SpaceRef

"The $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover is beginning detailed analysis of the first subsurface rock sample acquired on another planet, keeping researchers on "pins and needles" about whether Curiosity has struck Martian paydirt 216 million miles (348 million km) from Earth."

"Preliminary examination of the greenish, mudstone-like sample is peaking interest and debate about whether the flat rocks under Curiosity's wheels could be a type that perhaps preserved organic carbon relevant to potential past life on Mars, JPL geologist Robert C. Anderson told CuriousMars."

Inspiring: Space Jam of Is Somebody Singing (Music Video), SpaceRef Canada

"What happens when you get Chris Hadfield, the Wexford Gleeks Choir, Ed Robertson and the Barenaked Ladies together? An inspirational song titled I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), pun intended."

Marc's update: CBC Music released this music video today and I personally think it's great. A great collaboration from space and on Earth. You can follow Hadfield's mission on SpaceRef Canada's feature on his mission.

Orbital Antares Hot-Fire Set

Orbital Schedules Antares Engine Test for February 12th, SpaceRef Business

"Orbital announced today that on Tuesday, February 12th they will perform a hot-fire test at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad-0A for their new Antares rocket. The window for the engine test is 6-9 p.m. EST. NASA's Wallops Flight Facility will provide launch range support."

Marc's update: The hot-fire has moved to Wednesday though weather is moving in and could delay the test further. The test window will remain the same. Orbital informed me this morning that no live video of the test will be available. However, results of the test will be posted to their web site as soon as possible including "hopefully" good images and video. We'll get it as soon as we can.

NASA Set for New Round Of J-2X Testing at Stennis Space Center, NASA

"NASA's progress toward a return to deep space missions continues with a new round of upcoming tests on the next-generation J-2X rocket engine, which will help power the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) to new destinations in the solar system.

Beginning this month, engineers will conduct a series of tests on the second J-2X development engine, designated number 10002, on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand to undergo a series of gimbal, or pivot, tests for the first time."

71 Percent of U.S. See Humans On Mars By 2033

"In the wake of the wildly successful landing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Aug. 6, 2012, it may come as no surprise that the American public are currently feeling rather enthusiastic about exploring Mars. This sentiment has now been bolstered by a recent poll carried out for the non-profit corporation Explore Mars by the global communications company Phillips & Company. After surveying 1,101 people, 71 percent of the participants said they feel confident the U.S. will land a human on Mars within the next two decades."

"On average, the same sample said they believed the U.S. government spends 2.4 percent (with a standard deviation of 1.68 percent) of the federal budget on NASA after they were told the agency currently has two operational rovers on the Martian surface. This, sadly, is woefully overoptimistic."

Related: Americans Confident Humans Will Walk on Mars Within Two Decades, Explore Mars

NASA Releases Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan<br />
NASA Releases Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan, SpaceRef Business

"NASA today released its strategic space technology investment plan. The plan, outlined in a 92 page document, is meant to be a comprehensive strategic plan prioritizing technologies for NASA to achieve its mission."

"Technology enables discovery and advancement," NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck said. "We look forward to working with our stakeholders to grow our technological base and take the journey to expand scientific understanding, explore the universe, and make a positive impact on the lives of all."

NASA Launches New Earth Observation Satellite to Continue 40-Year Legacy, SpaceRef

"NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) roared into space at 1:02 p.m. EST (10:02 a.m. PST) Monday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The LDCM spacecraft separated from the rocket 79 minutes after launch and the first signal was received 3 minutes later at a ground station in Svalbard, Norway. The solar arrays deployed 86 minutes after launch, and the spacecraft is generating power from them. LDCM is on course to reach its operational, sun-synchronous, polar orbit 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth within two months."


- VIDEO: An Atlas V Launches NASA's Newest Landsat Satellite
- VIDEO: Landsat Data Continuity Mission Spacecraft Separation
- VIDEO: Press Briefing: New Landsat Satellite Set for Launch
- VIDEO: Press Briefing: Landsat Data Continuity Mission Science Goals
- VIDEO: Landsat Launch a NASA Social Occasion
- SpaceRef Earth

Landsat 5 Sets Guinness World Record for Longest Operating Earth Observation Satellite, NASA Goddard

"Landsat 5 successfully set the new Guinness World Records title for 'Longest-operating Earth observation satellite' as stated in an e-mail from Guinness World Records sent to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Outliving its three-year design life, Landsat 5 delivered high-quality, global data of Earth's land surface for 28 years and 10 months."

Name Pluto's Moons P4 and P5

Here's Your Chance to Name Two of Pluto's Moons, SpaceRef

"It was seven months ago that Mark Showalter and a team of researchers at the SETI Institute discovered two new moon around Pluto. Named P4 and P5 the astronomers decided that the formal names should be open to public selection through a contest."

First Hole Drilled on Mars

NASA Curiosity Rover Drills Hole into Martian Surface, NASA

"NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.

The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill."

Steve Isakowitz on the Spaceport America Lease, SpaceShipTwo Testing and Safety Lessons Learned from Boeing, Forbes

"This fueled speculation in the press on Virgin Galactic's future plans regarding their lease agreement with Spaceport America. I turned to Steve Isakowitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Galactic for an updated statement on the lease matter."

2nd Annual ISS Reseach and Development Conference2nd Annual ISS Reseach and Development Conference Call for Papers Deadline is February 18th, American Astronautical Society

"This conference will focus on ISS Research and Development--research results and future opportunities in physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and spacecraft technology development. Plenary sessions will highlight major results and pathways to future opportunities."

International Space StationNASA Hosts Its First Google+ Hangout Connecting with Space Station, NASA

"NASA will host its first Google+ Hangout live with the International Space Station from 11 a.m. to noon EST, Friday, Feb. 22. This event will connect NASA's social media followers with astronauts on the ground and living and working aboard the laboratory orbiting 240 miles above Earth."

Marc's note:While Google+ Hangout's are not new, this first from the space station is a milestone worth noting as it wasn't long ago that this type of interactivity via the Internet from space was not possible.

GAO Releases Report on Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide, SpaceRef Business

The GAO found that "while potential new entrants stated that they are generally satisfied with the Air Force's efforts to implement the Guide, they identified several challenges to certification, as well as perceived advantages afforded to the incumbent launch provider."

Marc's note: The guide was designed for new entrants in the EELV marketplace including: SpaceX Falcon 9 and Heavy, Orbital Antares and ATK Liberty II.

CuriousMars: Drilling For Martian Secrets, SpaceRef

"Two powerful laboratories inside the Mars rover Curiosity are being readied to process the first powdered samples of subsurface Martian rock obtained by the rover's drill during the most complex series of Curiosity operations since its Sky Crane landing last August."

Marc's note: This is the latest in-depth story about Mars exploration from Craig Covault. This weekly update is part of the CuriousMars series of stories Craig is writing for SpaceRef.

Sequestration and Planetary Exploration, Future Planetary Exploration (Van Kane)

"I'd hoped that I'd never need to write this post. The latest news in the United States is that a poison pill known as the Sequester is looking increasingly likely. If it happens, it will be a body blow to NASA's planetary science program."

Sequestration: A Primer for the Perplexed, Science

"On 1 March, an $85-billion across-the-board cut in federal spending--the first step in a mandatory $1.2 trillion reduction over 10 years--will go into effect unless all sides agree to delay it or substitute something else. Indeed, when the Budget Control Act that created sequestration was enacted in August 2011, both sides expected to have an alternative in place by now. That didn't happen."

Earth-like Planets Are Right Next Door, SpaceRef

"Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that six percent of red dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets. Since red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, the closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away."

Six Percent of Red Dwarf Stars Have Earth-sized Planets

"Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water."

James Webb Telescope Makes Progress But at What Cost?, SpaceRef

"NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center released the following list of highlights for the James Webb Telescope for 2012 marking the progress of the project. However while the project is making progress, it has created budgetary problems for NASA and will launch several years later than planned."

Death Star Response Inspiring Future Explorers?, NASA

"The White House response to a petition on building a Death Star (and the resulting media attention) led to some pretty interesting data here at While the petitioners wanted to focus on a big project done a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the response led to thousands of Americans finding out about projects NASA is currently working on right here on Earth and in our Solar System."

White House Deletes Death Star Funds from NASA's FY2014 Budget, Earlier post
Hey - Let's Make NASA Build a Deathstar! (Update), Earlier post

Marc's note: Jim Wilson points out the upside of the failed petition, increased awareness.

Kickstarter Open Source Death Star

"In November 2012 the people asked for a death star. The government said NO! In light of continuing threats we should build it ourselves."


President Barack Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance, NASA

"Ten years ago, seven brave astronauts gave their lives in the name of exploration when America's first flight-ready space shuttle, Columbia, failed to return safely to Earth. Each year, on NASA's Day of Remembrance, we honor the crew of that Columbia flight, as well as those of Challenger and Apollo 1, and all the members of the NASA family who gave their lives in the pursuit of expanding our Nation's horizons in space-a cause worthy of their sacrifice and one we must never forget."

Challenger Center and NASA Day of Remembrance, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"As we honor the memories of those lost in the Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1 tragedies, we cannot help but to feel immensely grateful for the sacrifice each one of these individuals made when they chose to commit their lives to exploration and discovery. This sacrifice inspires us to strengthen the impact we make in the lives of students so they, in turn, will have the knowledge and interest to pursue meaningful and exciting STEM careers and become the next generation of inspirational leaders."

Coalition for Space Exploration Remembers Fallen NASA Astronauts, Coalition for Space Exploration

"Today, the Coalition for Space Exploration joins NASA in observing a Day of Remembrance as the world pays tribute to the men and women who lost their lives while pursuing the development and exploration of space. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster, which resulted in the untimely deaths of seven brave astronauts. We remember their sacrifice and mourn the devastating loss of these crew members, along with the fallen heroes who were aboard Apollo 1, Challenger, and other NASA endeavors. While we grieve because their lives were taken too soon, we are also inspired by their passion and dedication to this commendable program. Their legacy will continue to touch the lives of generations to come, encouraging the exploration of uncharted territory."

VIDEO: Fallen NASA Astronauts Remembered at Space Mirror Memorial, NASA



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