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Representative John Murtha (D-PA), the powerful chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, has died according to the Associated Press. He had been hospitalized because of complications following gall bladder surgery.
UPDATE: NASA will try again tomorrow (Monday) morning at 4:14 am to launch Endeavour.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden held a press conference yesterday (Saturday) at Cape Canaveral in advance of the shuttle Endeavour launch (now rescheduled for tomorrow morning at 4:14 am). General Bolden apologized to the NASA workforce and members of Congress on Capitol Hill for not better preparing them for the dramatic changes announced in the NASA FY2011 budget. He said it was "screwed up" because he did not listen to his advisers about how to roll out the news, and consequently he learned a hard lesson. In answer to a question, he said that his hope is to have a heavy lift launch vehicle in the next couple of decades, preferably in the 2020-2030 time frame. A video of the press conference is available on NASA's YouTube channel.
National Public Radio's Science Friday had a segment on NASA's new plan for human space flight today. First was a segment on other aspects of the science budget. The NASA part begins at about minute 30:00.
Host: Ira Flatow
UPDATE: Congress Daily reported on Monday, February 8, that Senator Shelby has released his hold because he has gotten the attention he wanted on the two issues.
Senator Shelby, ranking member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, is one of the strongest supporters of NASA's Constellation Program, which would be terminated in the FY2011 NASA budget request. He issued a press release calling the FY2011 request a "death march for U.S. human space flight." However, NASA is not cited by Congress Daily as one of reasons that he placed holds on all Obama nominations -- meaning that they cannot proceed to the Senate floor for confirmation without 60 votes, which is more difficult for Democrats now that Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown has been sworn into office. The reasons cited in the Congress Daily account concern debate over the Air Force's competition for an aerial refueling contract, and frustration that the Obama Administration does not plan to fund an FBI center to analyze improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Alabama that was included as a congressionally-directed spending item ("earmark") in the FY2008 omnibus appropriations bill.
Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-130) is on track for launch at 4:39 am EST on Sunday, February 7. This will be the last night launch of the space shuttle and should be visible from many locations along the East Coast, weather permitting. NASA Administrator Bolden will hold a press conference at Kennedy Space Center at 10:00 am EST tomorrow (Saturday) that will be carried on NASA TV to talk about STS-130 and other NASA programs.
STS-130 will deliver the Tranquility module (also known as Node 3) and its Cupola to the International Space Station. After this flight, four more shuttle missions remain before the program is terminated. The remaining four flights and their currently scheduled launch dates are:
According to NASASpaceflight.com, the option of an additional logistics mission, STS-135 (or STS 335), has been abandoned by NASA.
Key Issues and Challenges Facing NASA: Views of the Agency's WatchDogs is a SpacePoiicyOnline.com summary of a February 3, 2010 hearing by the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee. It is availabile on the left menu under "Our Hearing Summaries" or by clicking here.
Several members of the House committee that authorizes NASA activities made it clear that they are not happy with NASA's plans to terminate the Constellation program and replace it with a commercial alternative. At a hearing this morning, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), ranking member of the full House Science and Technology Committee, called the plan "alarming."
Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft that is part of Project Constellation, issued a press release today expressing its disappointment with the decision to kill the Constellation program. Earlier rumors had been that one or both of the Ares launch vehicles would be canceled, but not the Orion crew capsule. However, the FY2011 budget request announced on Monday would terminate the entire Constellation program. Lockheed Martin noted that "nearly 4,000 people at more than 500 commercial companies and hundreds of small business suppliers" work on Orion.
Georgia Tech's Bobby Braun has agreed to serve as NASA's Chief Technologist, and Woodrow Whitlow will move to Headquarters from Glenn Research Center to be the first Associate Administrator for Mission Support, according to NASA announcements today.
Both are NASA veterans and both have PhD's in aerospace engineering (Braun) or aeronautics and astronautics (Whitlow). Braun worked at NASA-Langley before Georgia Tech. HIs expertise is systems aspects of robotic spacecraft, especially Mars probes. Recently he was co-chair of a National Research Council review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Technology (NIAC), which was terminated in FY2007. The report recommended creation of a "NIAC-2," which Braun may well have a chance to do in his new role.
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