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Santorum Cancels Space Coast Visit, but Romney Still On--UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Jan-2012 (Updated: 26-Jan-2012 07:21 PM)

UPDATE (Jan. 26, 2012, 7:20 pm ET):    Edward Ellegood @FLspacereport tweets that the Romney visit to Astrotech will now be at 4:45 pm ET tomorrow instead of 3:00. 

ORIGINAL STORY:  Rick Santorum, one of Newt Gingrich's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, has canceled his scheduled appearance on Saturday at the Space Coast Tiger Bay luncheon according to Florida Today.  Another rival, Mitt Romney, still plans to visit Cape Canaveral tomorrow, however.

Gingrich visited the area yesterday and laid out his bold plans for the future of the space program.  He and Romney had previewed their visions for space activities during the Republican primary debate on Monday.  Santorum and Ron Paul, the fourth candidate remaining in the contest, were not asked about space during that debate, but Santorum had been expected to share his views at Saturday's event.     Florida Today quotes a Santorum campaign volunteer as saying only that she was notifed Santorum would be out of town and unable to attend the luncheon.

Meanwhile, Romney will visit Astrotech in Cape Canaveral at 3:00 pm ET tomorrow, Florida Today reports.  The event is open to the public. 

Another Republican presidential primary debate is scheduled for tonight in Jacksonville, FL at 8:00 pm ET.  It will be carried on CNN.  The Florida Republican primary will be held on January 31.

Remembering the Nation's Fallen Astronauts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Jan-2012 (Updated: 26-Jan-2012 12:05 PM)

Today is NASA's Day of Remembrance, honoring the astronauts who lost their lives in the cause of space exploration.

The nation's three human spaceflight tragedies occurred years apart, but on days very close to each other.  NASA commemorates all three on a single day.

On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 204 fire took the lives of the first Apollo crew.  Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed when fire swept through the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere of their Apollo capsule during a ground test.  The origin of the spark that started the fire was never definitively determined, but was thought to be from electrical arcing.  If launched, it would have been called Apollo 1, but is more commonly referred to as Apollo 204.

On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of space shuttle Challenger (STS 51-L) were killed when an O-ring in one of the solid rocket boosters failed and caused a catastrophic explosion 73 seconds after launch.   NASA astronauts Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ron McNair, together with "teacher in space" Christa McAuliffe and Hughes Aircraft payload specialist Greg Jarvis, died.

On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrated as it returned from a two-week mission in space as the orbiter was torn apart by aerodynamic forces after superheated air (plasma) entered one of its wings through a hole and deformed it.   The hole was created by debris falling from the External Tank during launch.  NASA astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark, along with Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon, were killed.  

Today, President Obama issued a statement saying that "it is our duty to honor them the way they would have wanted to be honored -- by focusing our sights on the next horizon."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, himself a former space shuttle astronaut, released a video message and paid tribute to the crews at memorials to them at Arlington National Cemetery.  A wreath-laying ceremony also took place at Kennedy Space Center.

Gingrich Wants Moon Base by 2020, Mars Colony, New Propulsion, Prizes-UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2012 (Updated: 26-Jan-2012 12:16 PM)

UPDATE: has posted a video of Gingrich's remarks, which begin at 1:56 into the recording.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich delivered a speech on Wednesday in Cocoa, FL about his plans for the space program.   It laid out bold goals with an emphasis on using prizes to entice private investment in space activities.

He promised a permanent base on the Moon by the "end of my second term" as president, which would be 2020.  He envisions commercial near-earth activiities including tourism, science, and manufacturing.  By the end of 2020, he said, human trips to Mars could be accomplished using "continuous propulsion" that could make the trip in a "remarkably short time because I am sick of being told we have to be timid and ... we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old."   He wants 10 percent of the NASA budget set aside for funding prizes that would spur private investment, specifically suggesting a $10 billion prize for sending people to Mars.

Gingrich cited Abraham Lincoln and the transcontinental railroad, the Wright Brothers and the development of airplanes, and John F. Kennedy and the Apollo program as models of what can be accomplished if people have the determination and vision to move forward.    

Needling one of his opponents for the Republican nomination, Gingrich said that Mitt Romney had "made fun of me for having bold ideas" about the space program, but that his "weirdest" idea -- that Romney's team had yet to uncover -- is a "Northwest Ordinance for space." Gingrich said the idea is that once there are 13,000 Americans living on the Moon they could petition for statehood.  He vowed to pursue the idea again if he is President as a "marker" that America wants a bold future.

Failure should be an option, in his view, telling a story of missile defense legend Gen. Bernie Schriever criticizing his successor for having 17 successful launches in a row because that meant he was not trying -- if he was trying he would be making mistakes. 

The current situation where the United States must rely on Russia for sending people to the space station, and, in his view, China is surpassing us, is an "embarassment," he said.

Other than suggesting the use of prizes to encourage the private sector to invest in space, Gingrich did not address how such a program would be funded, especially his goal to establish a lunar base in eight years.  He made no mention of international cooperation and, in fact, emphasized that the lunar base he wants by 2020 would be "American."

ESA Confirms Phobos-Grunt Reentry Location

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2012 (Updated: 25-Jan-2012 05:52 PM)

The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed today that Russia's Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-soil) Mars mission reentered off the South American coastline on January 15 as earlier reported.

ESA coordinated the activities of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) that coordinates activities related to monitoring space debris.  Members include ESA and the space agencies of individual European countries, Russia, the United States, China, Canada, Japan, Ukraine and India.   ESA said today that --

"Following the 15 January Phobos–Grunt reentry, the US Strategic Command confirmed a reentry time of 17:46 GMT, referring to an altitude of 80 km at 46°S and 87°W, near the South American coastline. This corresponds to a pass at 10 km altitude about seven minutes later – very close to ESA’s prediction.

“'While this was an uncontrolled reentry, the location of the potential impact area was largely over ocean, with a correspondingly low probability of any detrimental effects,' said Prof. Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA’s Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany."

Phobos-Grunt was intended to go to Mars and return to Earth a sample of its moon Phobos.   The spacecraft successfully reached Earth orbit after launch on November 8, 2011 (Eastern Standard Time), but its engines never fired to send it on its way to Mars.   It reentered Earth's atmosphere on January 15, 2012.   Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, predicted it would reenter over the Atlantic, but Russia's defense ministry reported that it came down in the Pacific west of Chile.  Confirmation of the time and location of reentry has been eagerly awaited by many in the space community since then and the delay in the announcement led to various rumors.

Russia established a commission to investigate the Phobos-Grunt failure chaired by Yuri Koptev.   It was scheduled to make its report to Roscosmos earlier this week and the results to be made public tomorrow (January 26).

NPP Satellite Gets New Name

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2012 (Updated: 25-Jan-2012 04:18 PM)

NASA has renamed its NPP earth observing satellite in honor of the father of satellite meteorology, Verner Suomi. 

Until now "NPP" has stood for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project.   The tri-agency NPOESS project for which it was preparing, however, was cancelled in 2010.

Launched in October 2011, NPP is being repurposed to not only test new sensors for environmental monitoring of the Earth as originally planned, but to serve as an operational component of the nation's civilian weather satellite system.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates that system.

The new name, Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP -- honors Dr. Suomi as well as the partnership among NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, the private sector, and academic researchers according to NASA's Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich. 

Dr. Suomi founded the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1965 and received the National Medal of Science in 1977.  He died in 1995 and is remembered as a pioneer in using polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites for weather observations.

Watch Gingrich's Space-Related Campaign Stops Live This Afternoon--UPDATE 2

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2012 (Updated: 25-Jan-2012 04:26 PM)

UPDATE 2 (4:25 pm ET):  C-Span is now showing that it will air Gingrich's space policy town hall meeting at 5:00 pm instead of 4:45 pm.

UPDATE:   Edward Ellegood @FLspacereport tweets that the roundtable has been postponed until after the speech at 4:45.

ORIGINAL STORY:  Newt Gingrich will hold two meetings this afternoon in Cocoa, FL, where he is expected to make a major space policy speech.

From 3:30-4:15, Gingrich is scheduled to meet with aerospace industry leaders for a roundtable discussion at Brevard Community College.  The event is invitation-only, but Florida Today's Flame Trench blog says that it will provide a live stream.  The agenda is also posted there.  A story on the Florida Today site at 2:48 this afternoon indicates that the event may be delayed until closer to 4:00.

At 4:45 pm, C-Span will broadcast the second event, a "Town Hall Meeting on Space Policy" with Gingrich.  The meeting itself is scheduled from 4:30 - 5:30 pm.

Romney and Santorum Also to Visit Space Coast

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2012 (Updated: 25-Jan-2012 10:12 AM)

Newt Gingrich is not the only Republican presidential hopeful who will visit the Space Coast in advance of the Florida Republican primary on January 31.  Florida Today reports that Mitt Romney will visit on Friday and Rick Santorum on Saturday.

Gingrich is scheduled to hold two meetings in Cocoa, FL this afternoon.   Florida Today says that Romney will be in Titusville at 4:35 pm on Friday, and Santorum will speak at a "Space Coast Tiger Bay" luncheon in Viera on Saturday.

The appearances skip over tomorrow, January 26, probably because it is the date of the next Republican primary debate in Jacksonville.   However, it also is NASA's "Day of Remembrance" in honor of those who lost their lives in the country's three human spaceflight tragedies:  the Apollo fire on January 27, 1967 and the two space shuttle tragedies  -- Challenger, January 28, 1986, and Columbia, Feb. 1, 2003.   A wreath-laying ceremony will be held at Kennedy Space Center at 10:30 am tomorrow.

Gingrich and Romney shared their views on the space program at Monday night's Repubican primary debate.   Santorum was not asked about the space program and did not volunteer any views.   Neither did Ron Paul, the fourth candidate still in the race.  There is no indication on Paul's campaign  website that he plans to visit the Space Coast.


Gingrich to Hold Two Space Meetings in Florida Tomorrow

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Jan-2012 (Updated: 24-Jan-2012 04:01 PM)

On Sunday, Newt Gingrich announced that he would make a major speech about the space program this week as part of his campaign to win the Republican nomination for President.   His website lists two events tomorrow in Cocoa, FL that are focused on the space program.

From 3:30 - 4:15 PM EST, he will hold a "Space Coast-Space Industry Roundtable" at Brevard Community College and from 4:30 - 5:30 pm EST a "Space Coast Town Hall Meeting," according to his campaign website.

Gingrich gave a preview of his views on the space program during the primary debate last night.    He wants to expand the use of prizes to incentivize private investors around the world to find "very romantic and exciting futures" in space.

Campaign Promises Versus Reality: Obama and the Space Program

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Jan-2012 (Updated: 24-Jan-2012 03:50 PM)

As two of the candidates for the Republican nomination for President spelled out their plans for the space program last night, the New Yorker published an article explaining what happened to the promises presidential candidate Barack Obama made in 2008.

The article by Ryan Lizza is based on hundreds of pages of internal White House memos released by the Obama Administration from the President's first years in office.  Lizza uses the promises Obama made about space exploration as one example of how much changed after he won the Oval Office.

In August 2008, presidential candidate Obama gave a rousing speech in Florida about the future of the space program.   Criticizing the Bush Administration for giving NASA a vision but not the money to achieve it, Obama asserted "We cannot cede our leadership in space." He vowed to "close the gap" between when the space shuttle program ended and a new system was available and ensure the people of Florida who worked in the space industry did not lose their jobs when the shuttle ended.  "We need a real vision," Obama proclaimed, and announced he would reestablish a White House National Aeronautics and Space Council to formulate it.   "Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again," he said then, and "grow the economy" in Florida.

After his election budget realities set in, Lizza writes.  Obama was told by advisers to cancel the Constellation program because it "was behind schedule, over budget, and 'unachievable.'"  Obama agreed as he wrestled with the need to cut other favorite programs as well.  Later, he received a letter from a woman in Virginia who had voted for him even though she usually voted for Republican candidates, expressing her disappointment in him as President.  She asked how he could have cancelled the Ares program, on which her husband worked.  After requesting information from aides about "how Ares fit [sic] in with our long term NASA strategy," he directed them to draft a letter to the woman "answering her primary concern -- her husband's career -- for me to send."  Lizza writes that the woman's letter "captured the fraught choices that have plagued Obama's past three years."

The article’s primary focus is Obama’s growing realization that the post-partisan political world he believed in as a presidential candidate and his initial months in office bears little resemblance to Washington reality.   For its readers, the article is another lesson in the folly of believing what presidential candidates say during campaigns versus what they can deliver if they win.

During the Republican presidential primary debate last night, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich explained their ideas about the future of the space program.  Both want to rely more on the private sector -- Gingrich more so than Romney.  Gingrich called for using prizes to stimulate private investment in space and a "leaner NASA," while Romney suggested that NASA be funded not only by the government, but by "commercial enterprises."  Gingrich said on Sunday he would make a major speech about the space program this week and is scheduled to hold a "Space Industry Roundtable" and a "Space Coast Town Hall Meeting" tomorrow in Cocoa, FL.

Romney, Gingrich Talk Space

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Jan-2012 (Updated: 24-Jan-2012 03:07 PM)

At last night's Republican presidential primary debate, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich shared their views on the future of the space program.  Not surprisingly, both criticized the Obama Administration's program, but perhaps unknowingly supported one of its key elements -- greater reliance on the private sector.

Gingrich went further than Romney, focusing on the use of prizes to stimulate private sector investment in visionary space activities while calling for "a leaner NASA."   Prizes are part of the Obama strategy, too, but Gingrich seems intent on making them the cornerstone of the future space exploration program he would design.

Romney complained that President Obama "does not have a vision or a mission for NASA" and as a result Florida and especially its Space Coast are suffering.  He believes space is important for science, commercial development and the military and that a vision should be established by bringing together representatives of all of those sectors.  He added that NASA should be funded not only by the government "but also by commercial enterprises. Have some of the research done in our universities."   Exciting young people and leading the world were other goals he espoused.

A substantial amount of NASA's research is already done by universities, of course, but the concept of commercial enterprises funding NASA instead of the reverse -- as is true now -- would certainly be a change.   U.S. leadership and inspiring youth are long-standing goals of politicians of both parties.

Gingrich, who plans a major speech about the space program this week, perhaps tomorrow, extolled the use of prizes to encourage "the private sector into very aggressive experimentation" -- with less spent at NASA.  "I don't think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there," he said.   Instead he believes a "lot of folks in this country and around the world ... would put up an amazing amount of money and would make the space coast literally hum with activity" in order to win the prizes.  Going back to the Moon and on to Mars, building more space stations and developing commercial space, he said, could be done by "leapfrogging into a world where you're incentivizing people who are visionaries and people in the private sector to invest very large amounts of money in finding very romantic and exciting futures."

The two were responding to questions from Beth Reinhard of the National Journal, one of the moderators of the debate.  The other two candidates, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, were not asked questions about the space program.

A video of the portion of the debate devoted to the space program is on YouTube and the Washington Post has a transcript.

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