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Women in Aerospace (WIA) will honor its 2009 award winners at a banquet at the National Press Club on October 27, 2009. Details are on WIA's website. The seven outstanding women who are being recognized for their contributions to the aerospace profession are listed below. Congratulations to all!
- Linda Billings (George Washington University), Lifetime Achievement Award
- Eleanor Aldrich (AIAA), Aerospace Awareness Award
- Lynn Cline (NASA), Outstanding Member Award
- Valerie Neal (National Air and Space Museum), Aerospace Educator Award
- Rebecca Emerle (Ball Aerospace), Achievement Award
- Melinda Ann Burkhart Tate (Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs), International Achievement Award
- Beverly Seay (SAIC), Leadership Award
A meeting last week between U.S. former astronauts, Chinese astronauts, and others, sponsored by the Space Foundation, opened a new channel of communications according to Aviation Week and Space Technology.
The U.S. visitors were shown the Shenzhou 8 orbital module and reentry capsule and a Tiangong 1 orbital target with which the Shenzhou 8 crew will practice orbital operations, according to the magazine. They also reportedly were shown the Change-2 robotic lunar orbiter scheduled for launch in 2010.
The group included former U.S. astronauts Tom Henricks, now president of Aviation Week, and Fred Gregory, former Deputy Administrator of NASA, as well as five of the six Chinese astronauts who have flown in space, according to the magazine. It also reported that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, a former astronaut himself, plans to visit China "before the end of the year."
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced the names of its195 new Associate Fellows in the United States and abroad. Washington, D.C. is part of AIAA's National Capital Section, which welcomes 18 individuals to the prestigious rank of Associate Fellow. Among them are three who are particularly well known in space policy circles: Clay Mowry of Arianespace, Vincent Sabathier of CSIS, and Merrie Scott of AIAA (and President of Women in Aerospace). Congratulations to all!
The following presentations were made to the first meeting of the Primitive Bodies panel of the National Research Council's (NRC's) Planetary Science Decadal Survey. The meeting was held on September 9-11, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Titles of the presentations are from the agenda for the meeting. Adobe 8.0 or higher is needed to open most of these files. Some are quite large and may take a few moments to load; please be patient. If a presentation is missing from this list, it was unavailable or too large to post.
- Lessons Learned from the 2003 Decadal Survey, Dale Cruikshank, NASA Ames
- Charge to the Decadal Survey, James Green and Lindley Johnson, NASA HQ
- NSF's Support for the Planetary Sciences, Vernon Pankonin, NSF
- SBAG's Goals and Priorities, Mark Sykes, Planetary Science Institute
- Asteroid Science Goals 1, Faith Vilas, Director, MMT Observatory
- Asteroid Science Goals 2, Erik Asphaug, Univ. of Calif. Santa Cruz
- Comet Science Goals 1, Jessica Sunshine, University of Maryland
- Comet Science Goals 2, Donald Brownlee, University of Washington
- Meteorite Science Goals 1, Timothy McCoy, Smithsonian
- Meteorite Science Goals 2, Mark Sephton, Imperial College
- Kuiper Belt Science Goals 1, Michael Brown, CalTech
- Kuiper Belt Science Goals 2, Marc Buie, Southwest Research Institute
- Rosetta Status Report, Rita Schulz, European Space Agency
- EPOXI Status Report, Michael A'Hearn, University of Maryland
- Hayabusa Status Report, Donald Yeomans, JPL
- Dawn Status Report, Harry Y. McSween, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Stardust-NEXT Status Report, Joseph Veverka, Cornell
Images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of new impact sites on Mars reveal frozen water just under the surface, NASA reports. Team members from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, held a media teleconference on Thursday discussing the findings. Although water-ice has been detected on Mars previously, most recently by the Phoenix lander, scientists were surprised by the location and purity of the recently discovered ice.
For the past few months, the team has been studying images captured by instruments aboard the MRO, including the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which showed evidence of a material at the bottom of several new craters that "looked a lot like ice," said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona, member of the HiRISE team. At one of these sites, situated between the northern pole and the equator, they found a larger area of bright material and used the MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) to determine its composition. "We saw a beautiful water ice spectral signature; no doubt about it: it was water ice," said Selby Cull, from the Washington University of St. Louis and part of the CRISM team. During further observations, the ice dissipated at a faster rate than expected, leading them to conclude that the ice was about 99 percent pure, a fact that also took them by surprise. Previously, NASA's Phoenix Lander had uncovered two kinds of ice with varying purity further north, leading scientists to expect dirtier ice as the norm.
The finding was taken to be a "relic of a previously wetter climate," said Byrne and sheds light on the more recent changes of the Martian climate, which could point to further understanding of climate change on Earth. Scientists noted that NASA's Viking 2 spacecraft - one of the earliest successful Mars lander programs - landed about 360 miles from the observed area in 1976. If the soil sampling arm on Viking had been able to dig down just 4 inches deeper it might have hit upon the ice as well. "We would have liked to have had that information about Mars in the last 30 years," said Selby.
The team found ice exposed within a total of five new craters of depths varying between 1.5 feet and 8 feet. The findings are reported today in the journal Science (subscription required).
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report today concluding that the cost and schedule for NASA's Constellation program will remain uncertain "until a sound business case is established." It reported that NASA's cost estimate for Ares 1 and Orion is "up to $49 billion of the over $97 billion" to be spent on Constellation through 2020, though the agency will not know the program's ultimate cost until technical and design challenges have been addressed.
The report was requested by the House Science and Technology Committee, which issued a press release in which Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said it was clear NASA had not been given adequate resources to implement the Constellation program and therefore the GAO findings should come as no surprise, adding: "GAO's report provides a sobering indication of the negative impact that funding shortfalls can have on complex and technically difficult space flight programs like Constellation, no matter how dedicated and skillful the program's workforce is."
Among GAO's findings are the following:
"NASA is still struggling to develop a solid business case-including firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time-needed to justify moving the Constellation program forward into the implementation phase."
"NASA estimates that Ares I and Orion represent up to $49 billion of the over $97 billion estimated to be spent on the Constellation program through 2020. While the agency has already obligated more than $10 billion in contracts, at this point NASA does not know how much Ares I and Orion will ultimately cost, and will not know until technical and design challenges have been addressed."
The Senate completed action on the Interior-Environment bill today and turned its attention to the DOD appropriations bill (H.R. 3326). No votes are scheduled tomorrow (Friday) and Monday is Yom Kippur and the Senate will not be in session.
Meanwhile, House and Senate conferees on the FY2010 Legislative Branch appropriations bill (H.R. 2918) agreed to add a one-month Continuing Resolution (CR) for the rest of the government to that bill instead of moving a separate measure. The "Leg Branch" bill is expected to be approved before the new fiscal year starts next Thursday (October 1). The House is expected to take it up tomorrow.
According to Congress Daily (subscription required), the CR --
- funds most government programs at FY09 levels through the end of October, with a few exceptions such as veterans' health care and the Census Bureau;
- includes a provision barring federal funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN);
- includes language to help cover a budget shortfall by allowing the Postal Service to reduce
payments designed to prefund retiree health benefits; and
- extends various authorizations, including surface and aviation transportation programs.
A NASA briefing is scheduled today at 2:00 EDT to discuss recent scientific findings from lunar probes, but the news already has made headlines in many media sources: not only is there water on the Moon, but it is pervasive.
Planetary scientists apparently are as surprised as anyone. Some had theorized that water could have collected from comet impacts over the eons and remained bound up in soil and rocks in permanently shadowed areas of the lunar poles.
Now, data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (MMM) sensor on India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiting spacecraft reportedly show that water is widespread on the lunar surface. To confirm their findings, MMM scientists looked at data from the Cassini spacecraft that flew past the Moon a decade ago on its way to Saturn, and the Deep Impact spacecraft that went on to study comets. That data confirmed what the MMM sensor detected. The New York Times quotes Lawrence Taylor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as saying that analysis of the lunar rocks returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts four decades ago "did show signs of water" but that Dr. Taylor and others "dismissed the readings as contamination from humid Houston air." Dr. Taylor is quoted as saying that he was one of the scientists back in the Apollo era who was "firmly against lunar water" but now says "I've eaten my shorts."
According to the New York Times, the new results suggest that water is "being created when protons from the solar wind slam into the lunar surface. The collisions may free oxygen atoms in the minerals and allow them to recombine with protons and electrons to form water."
The presence of water on the Moon could make it easier for astronauts to live and work there, though it would have to be extricated from the soil. What, if any, impact these findings will have on the current debate about the future of human space flight and whether astronauts should return to the Moon remains to be seen.
NASA will hold a pair of science briefings tomorrow (Thursday) to debut new findings about the Moon and Mars.
- 2:00 pm EDT, NASA Headquarters. Briefing on findings from international and national lunar probes, especially the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a NASA instrument on India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter. This event will be shown on NASA Television.
- 3:00 pm EDT (noon PDT), JPL. Briefing on new findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is audio only. To listen to the audio, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.
In other space science news, the Messenger spacecraft is poised to make its third and final loop around Mercury on September 29. The pass will provide a "gravity assist" to the spacecraft, positioning it to enter orbit around Mercury in 2011. This will be the first spacecraft to orbit that planet, which is closest to the Sun.
Congressional action is focused on health care and appropriations bills this week, with no hearings announced thus far of significance to the space program.
On the appropriations front, the Senate is hoping to bring up the DOD appropriations bill (H.R. 3326) as early as today (Wednesday) once it completes action on the Interior-Environment appropriations bill.
Conferees may meet this week on the Department of Energy (DOE) appropriations bill (H.R. 3183). An important space issue in the DOE bill is whether DOE should be given the $30 million it requested to restart production facilities to make plutonium-238, which is needed for NASA's lunar surface and deep space probes. As reported earlier on SpacePolicyOnline.com, the Senate zeroed the request; the House cut $20 million.
The House plans to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) this week to keep the government operating past September 30, the end of FY2009. The bill is still being written, but reportedly will cover through the end of October. None of the 12 appropriations bills has been enacted yet.
Events of Interest
- Lunabotics Mining Competition 2013, May 20-24, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- International Space Development Conference (ISDC), May 23-27, 2013, San Diego, CA
- Soyuz TMA-09M Launch and Docking with ISS, May 28, 2013, launch from Kazakhstan at 4:31 pm ET, docking at ISS at 10:17 pm ET (watch on NASA TV)
- Planetary Resources Inc. Press Conference, May 29, 2013, Seattle, WA, 10:00 am PT (1:00 pm ET)
- IPEWG, May 29-31, 2013, Nice, France
Full calendar with filters »
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