Latest News

APL's Faulconer Starts New Consulting Business

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 07-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

J. Walter ("Walt") Faulconer, the Applied Physics Laboratory's (APL's) business area executive for civilian space, is leaving May 14 to start a consulting business, Strategic Space Solutions, with his wife, Cindy. After 26 years at Lockheed Martin, Mr. Faulconer joined APL five years ago to take charge of APL's work for NASA and NOAA. He successfully led APL's civil space business through somewhat tumultuous times. Today, the civil space business area has a host of missions on the books, including Solar Probe Plus. The Faulconers' new company will focus on effective strategic planning, business development, systems engineering and management.

Next Shuttle Launch Set for May 14; Hutchison and Kosmas Defend Human Spaceflight

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Following a Flight Readiness Review today, NASA set May 14 as the launch date for the next shuttle mission, STS-132. Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 2:20 pm EDT on a 12-day flight to the International Space Station to deliver the Russian Mini Research Module-1 and other equipment and supplies.

Only two more missions remain on the shuttle manifest after this flight: STS-133 scheduled for September and STS-134 now expected in November carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). That flight date is very tentative depending on progress in changing the magnet on the AMS.

Meanwhile, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Representative Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) co-authored a Letter to the Editor published in today's Washington Post. They challenged the Post's assertion in an April 23 editorial that human spaceflight wins political support because of its "romantic attraction." The two politicians argued that "We send humans into space to advance science and technology, not for vanity," and criticized the current plan to end the space shuttle program and the Constellation program because of the risk it poses to the health of the International Space Station. They say that --

"One problem in the president's proposal is that it does not address the risk to the station that will result from retiring the space shuttle and canceling the Constellation replacement program at the same time. A healthy and viable space station is critical to the emergence of the commercial space industry that the president's proposal relies on. If the space station is lost, the primary reason to send humans into space in the next decade will be lost."

Hutchison and Kosmas have each introduced legislation (S. 3068/H.R. 4804) to tie the date for retiring the shuttle to the availability of a government or commercial alternative.

Giffords Seeking Compromise on Human Space Flight Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, believes that there is a "third way" to resolve the dispute between the President's plan for human space flight and the current program. In an op-ed for The Hill, a newspaper focused on happenings on Capitol Hill, Rep. Giffords continued her opposition to the Obama plan, but signaled that she is searching for a compromise not just retaining the Constellation program intact.

Saying that the modified proposal set forth in the President's April 15 speech "seems unworkable within the budget without crippling NASA's other missions," she concludes that "We cannot continue to argue between the president's plan and the status quo. There must be a third way."

What is that third way? Rep. Giffords says that she and her staff are working on it, and it is a challenging task. In her view the basic components must include: American leadership in space, clear timelines and destinations aligned to realistic budget expectations, assured access to the International Space Station on U.S. spacecraft, continued commitment to the aerospace workforce, and encouraging a commercial space sector that will take over spaceflight to low Earth orbit when it is sufficiently mature.

SSB to Look at Grand Philosophical Questions Addressed by NASA; Public Invited

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 05-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The National Research Council's (NRC's) Space Studies Board (SSB) is planning a two-and-a-half day workshop in November to look at how NASA addresses the "grand philosophical questions people care about." Writing in the most recent edition of the SSB newsletter, SSB chair Charlie Kennel invites all who are interested to come to the workshop at the NRC's Beckman Center in Irvine, CA on November 8-10, 2010.

"Originally, we thought we would look at how effectively NASA is using both old and new media in getting its story across to the general public. As time passed, we came to realize that NASA's most convincing story is how its accomplishments speak to the grand philosophical questions people care about: .... We will look back 50 years and look ahead 50 years. We will invite prominent space scientists to take a broad look at these questions. We will invite panels of media professionals to tell us how they would express the same questions and answers. We will allow plenty of time for dialogue with the audience."

Among the grand philosophical questions --

  • Are we alone?
  • How did the universe begin and how are we evolving?
  • Will the earth remain a hospitable home for humanity?
  • What does the future hold for human exploration of space?
  • Do nations aspiring to become great need space programs?

Dr. Kennel was a member of the Augustine Committee on the future of the human space flight program and also spoke to the current controversy in Congress over the President's proposed new path for NASA that stemmed, in part, from that committee's report.

Noting the increase in earth science funding and other parts of NASA included in the FY2011 budget request, Dr. Kennel said he hoped the "dispute can be settled soon lest the other good things in the NASA budget languish." He conceded that he had not anticipated the "firestorm" in Congress, which he attributed to members whose districts are affected by the loss of the space shuttle and Constellation programs. Actually a number of members whose districts could benefit from the new NASA plan, such as Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), and those whose constituents would not be directly affected, such as Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, also have raised objections to the new plan. The issues are quite complex and not easily divided into political constituencies.

House Appropriations Chair Obey To Retire

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 05-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Representative David Obey (D-WI) will announce this afternoon that he will retire at the end of this session of Congress according to Congress Daily (subscription required). Obey is one of the most powerful men in Congress as chair of the House Appropriations Committee. A liberal, he is not viewed as a fan of NASA space programs, but it is far too early to tell how much of a difference it might make to the agency to have someone else in that position. No rumors yet on who it will be, and, of course, the November elections first must determine whether Democrats retain control of the House.

President Establishes Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

President Obama today created a Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development for Florida's Space Coast as promised in his April 15 speech at Kennedy Space Center, FL.

According to the presidential memorandum establishing the task force, it will "develop, in collaboration with local stakeholders, an interagency action plan to facilitate economic development strategies and plans along the Space Coast and to provide training and other opportunities for affected aerospace workers so they are equipped to contribute to new developments in America's space program and related industries."

The Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of NASA will co-chair the task force. Other members are the Secretaries of Defense, Labor, Housing and Urban Devleopment, Transportation and Education; the Director of National Intelligence; the Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and a number of White House officials.

The Task Force has until August 15, 2010 to submit a plan to the President on how to best invest the $40 million the President promised in his April speech to help Florida's aerospace workforce.

Events of Interest: Week of May 3-7, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. Check our calendar on the right menu for more information or click the links below. Congressional hearings and markups are subject to change; check the committee's website for up to date information.

Wednesday, May 5, Austin, TX

Thursday, May 6, Washington, DC

  • Senate Commerce Committee Hearing "America Wins When America Competes: Building a High-Tech Workforce," 10:00 am, 253 Russell Senate Office Building
  • Senate Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 3237, to create a new section 51 of the U.S. Code entitled National and Commercial Space Programs, 10:00 am, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Radzanowski Replaces Whitesides as NASA Chief of Staff

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

NASA announced this afternoon that Dave Radzanowski will replace George Whitesides as NASA's Chief of Staff. In addition, James Stofan was named acting Associate Administration for Education. The announcement follows:


Administrator Charlie Bolden on Friday announced two changes in his leadership team at Headquarters in Washington. David Radzanowski was selected as the agency's new chief of staff, and James Stofan was named as the acting associate administrator for Education.

Radzanowski, who was NASA's deputy associate administrator for Program Integration in the Space Operations Mission Directorate, succeeds George Whitesides, who is returning to private industry. Whitesides was selected chief of staff after serving on the NASA transition team for the incoming administration of President Barack Obama in November 2008. Radzanowski's new position will be effective May 10, 2010.

"We are deeply grateful to George for his service to the agency and his leadership, and I know the entire NASA family joins me in wishing him the best in the new challenges and successes that await him," Bolden said. "David has been a valued member of the agency's senior leadership team during this critical time of transition, and we are looking forward to his continued contributions as we move forward on this new course in human and scientific exploration."

Radzanowski received a bachelor's degree in astronomy-physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1988, and a master's in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in 1990.

Stofan was Education's deputy associate administrator before being named as the acting head of the office. He succeeds Dr. Joyce Winterton, who will move to the Suborbital and Special Orbital Projects Directorate as a senior advisor developing student flight programs and other education initiatives.

"I want to thank Joyce for her ongoing contributions to NASA's education efforts, helping us inspire new generations of students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," added Bolden. "We have a lot of important work ahead of us to ensure our investments in education support the needs of our nation. I know Jim's energy and focus will help us not only meet but exceed our objectives to help educate the engineers and scientists of the future."

Stofan graduated in 1989 from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, with a bachelor's degree in behavioral biology and sociology, and in 1994 earned a master's degree in instructional technology from the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Huntress: Constellation Neither Inspirational Nor Challenging, New Plan is "Sensible"

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

In an interview with Jim Oberg for IEEE Spectrum, Wes Huntress praised President Obama's new plan for human spaceflight. The Constellation program, he said, was "neither inspirational nor sufficiently challenging for a space program as storied as America's" since it was focused on doing what we already did 40 years ago. As for future human exploration of the Moon, he added: "Others may go there and follow in our footsteps of long ago. Best of luck to them."

Huntress is a highly respected space scientist who served as NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science in the early-mid 1990s and later was Director of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory. He has been involved in a number of efforts to articulate a vision for the future of the space program both domestically and internationally. In the interview, he noted the similarity between the new plan and two studies in which he was involved: "The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space," published by the International Academy of Astronautics in early 2004, and a 2008 Planetary Society report "Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration in the 21st Century."

Saying he and others who advocated a step-by-step approach to Mars were "gratified" when the President announced it, arguing that it is "the most sensible option even if it is not the easiest option politically, given Constellation's entrenchment." He did allow, however, regarding commercial crew, that "perhaps we need a government option as well as a commercial one to reduce risk and have backup options...." He also did not rule out an eventual American return to the Moon, as long as it is not "diversionary" from the primary goal of sending humans to Mars.

CSIS Seeks Input -- Quickly -- on National Security and Commercial Space

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a draft report today and is seeking input from the space community before finalizing its findings and recommendations. "National Security and the Commercial Space Sector" looks at the reliance of the national security space sector on commercial satellites and asks whether U.S. space policy should explicitly include commercial satellites in its "assured access to space" provisions.

This is the first time CSIS has issued a draft report soliciting input from the outside community according to CSIS President John Hamre. CSIS is on a tight schedule, though. Comments are needed in May (which begins tomorrow) so the final report can be released in June. For instructions on how to submit questions or comments, visit CSIS's website.

Events of Interest    

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


Subscribe to Email Updates:

Enter your email address: