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Three members of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 25 crew are getting ready to return home tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. Soyuz TMA-19 is scheduled to undock from the ISS at 8:23 pm EST and land in Kazakhstan at 11:46 pm EST (10:46 am November 26 at the landing site).
NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker will be aboard, along with Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, who will be commander of the Soyuz during descent. One American, Scott Kelly, and two Russians, Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, will remain on the ISS and be joined by three new colleagues in mid-December. That crew, which will launch from Kazakhstan on December 15 EST (December 16 in Kazakhstan), is composed of Russian Dmitry Kondratyev, American Cady Coleman, and Italian Paolo Nespoli, representing the European Space Agency.
The rest of us may be busy getting ready for Thanksgiving, but NASA is hard at work. The agency has scheduled a press conference for 2:00 pm CST (3:00 EST) this afternoon to update everyone on the launch of Discovery.
The press conference will follow a space shuttle program requirements review control board meeting to discuss the progress of repairs associated with two cracks in "stringers" on Discovery's external tank. The press conference will be shown on NASA TV. Bill Gerstenmaier and John Shannon are the briefing participants.
For anyone who won't be preparing Thanksgiving dinner or watching the Macy's Day parade tomorrow at 16:00 European time (10:00 am EST), the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Union (EU) will be webstreaming a press conference about their seventh Space Council meeting. The meeting of ESA and EU ministers in charge of space activities will take place that day in Brussels, Belgium.
According to ESA's press release, the theme of the meeting is "Global Challenges: Taking Full Benefit of European Space Systems." ESA says the theme "reflects the important synergies that can be created to benefit Europe's citizens when placing the technical expertise provided by ESA at the service of a range of EU policies."
Space shuttle managers feel that more analysis is needed before they can clear space shuttle Discovery for its final launch. The launch was scrubbed twice in November and slipped to no earlier than December 3. Shuttle program manager John Shannon said at a press conference today that it will not be ready for the December 3-7 window at all. The next window, December 17-20, is an option, but he is not sure they will be ready by then either. If not, the launch will have to wait untl February.
Two cracks were found in "stringers" on Discovery's external tank after the tank was filled and emptied several times during the previous launch attempts. NASA needs time to do additional analysis to ensure that cracks do not develop during ascent and cause foam to be shed. Damage to the space shuttle Columbia orbiter from external tank foam shedding caused Columbia to disintegrate during reentry in 2003, killing all seven aboard.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted the first commercial reentry license to SpaceX, which plans to use its Dragon spacecraft not only to take cargo and crew to the International Space Station, but back to Earth as well. A test to demonstrate that capability is planned for next month.
The FAA was given regulatory authority over commercial reentry, in addition to its existing authority to regulate launches, in the 1998 Commercial Space Act (P.L. 105-303) At the time, Lockheed Martin was developing a commercial single-stage-to-orbit vehicle called Venturestar as a successor to the space shuttle. NASA partnered with Lockheed Martin on the program, agreeing to invest about $1 billion in research and development (the NASA program was designated X-33). Technical hurdles proved difficult to overcome and Lockheed Martin declined to contine funding the program on its own once the NASA cap was reached. The exact amount Lockheed Martin paid into the program is unclear.
A National Research Council (NRC) report that assesses impediments to collaboration on space and earth science missions recommends that unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, agencies should not partner on them. The report was released today.
The committee that wrote the report was co-chaired by Dr. James Baker, former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Dr. Daniel Baker, Director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). Dan Baker also is a member of the NRC's Space Studies Board and co-chair of the ongoing NRC Decadal Survey on solar and space physics.
Women in Aerospace (WIA) held a panel discussion on Thursday, November 18, 2010, about the The Future of Human Spaceflight: Prospects, Programs and Educating the Pipeline. Read a SpacePolicyOnline.com summary of the meeting by looking on our left menu under Our Meeting Summaries, or simply by clicking here.
The space policy community, like everyone else in the United States, is celebrating Thanksgiving this week. There are no space policy-related events to list. Hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving!!
Last week, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had an "all hands" meeting with Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) employees. Among the topics was a brief summary of his recent trip to China. Other than a brief press release after the trip, few details have publicly emerged until now.
Traveling there with Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Flight, and Peggy Whitson, Chief of the Astronaut Office, Bolden said "we got an opportunity to see everything." That is in contrast to the 2006 trip by then-NASA Administrator Michael Griffin where the NASA group reportedly was provided little access to Chinese space facilities. Gerstenmaier and astronaut Shannon Lucid were part of the 2006 delegation.
The Space Show's interview with SpacePolicyOnline.com correspondent Laura M. Delgado is now available on the Space Show's website.
For those of you who couldn't listen live yesterday, here is your chance to hear this really interesting discussion about how corporations are portrayed in science fiction movies and whether that could influence public perception of space commercialization efforts. On that home page, scroll down to the list of shows and select the one for November 19. It takes a while to download -- please be patient.
Events of Interestl