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Global Economic Woes Mean More International Space Cooperation, Should Include China, Say International Space Reps
Representatives of Japanese and European space agencies told a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) audience yesterday about the difficult economic conditions facing their space programs, like that here in the United States, and how international cooperation is key to moving forward -- and China should be part of it.
Norimitsu Kamimori, head of the Washington office of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) explained the constrained funding for his civil space agency, pointing out that some plans, like future robotic lunar exploration, have been put on hold. And while Japan would like to cooperate more with the United States on earth science missions, funding shortfalls make that difficult.
Andreas Diekmann, Juergen Drescher, and Emmanuel di Lipkowski, the Washington representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA), Germany's space agency, DLR, and France's space agency, CNES, respectively, sounded a similar theme about the outlook for funding for their space activities. They are hopeful that the European Union (EU) will provide more funding for space activities now that it has an official role in space policy thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, which went into force in December 2009. They believe that space programs will benefit from the higher-level political attention accorded to EU activities.
International cooperation will be essential to realizing future plans, they said, especially in human exploration. Mr. di Lipkowski said that "None of us question the need for American leadership in space." In response to a question about China's role in future international space activities, all four endorsed the idea. Mr. Kamimori pointed out that China is Japan's neighbor and they already have established a cooperative relationship, especially through the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF), created in 1993 after the 1992 International Space Year. Mr. Diekmann added that ESA has had cooperative programs with China in space science and that China participates in the International Space Exploration Coordination (ISEC) working group of countries discussing future human space exploration. Mr. Drescher said that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden's ongoing trip to China is an "important cornerstone to keep stability and understand where we are." Mr. di Lipkowski added that China, with its population and economy, cannot be ignored and "we have to bring them into the tent to see how we do things."
The four were members of a panel organized by CSIS's Ashley Bander to discuss "The Year Ahead in Space." All four praised the International Space Station (ISS), but emphasized that it is essential that the facility be put to good use now that so much has been spent on building it. Mr. Drescher and Mr. di Lipkowski warned that potential users may be lost because they do not want to deal with the layers of bureaucracy or lengthy time frames for getting an experiment on orbit. "We have to prove that this laboratory can deliver and not be a white elephant," Mr. di Lipkowski asserted. Mr. Drescher added that "we have to rewrite" the book of "how to access ISS and give it to the scientists." Mr. Diekmann, however, said he would not "paint such a dark picture" of ISS utilization given that assembly has just been completed and a full crew complement only recently became available to conduct science experiments. ESA, he said, has a strong utilization plan and user community for ISS.
As to whether ISS is a good model for future international space projects, Mr. di Lipkowski noted that the ISS cooperative framework was developed during the Cold War and a new model will be needed for the current era of international relationships. Offering an impassioned defense of human spaceflight activities, he stressed that "We are living in terrible economic times. We can't do what Apollo did. My message is that we have to cooperate." Ruing the fact that younger people today are not very interested in space activities even though it is one of the few sources of "positive" news, he emphasized that what is needed is new governance and export control models and a vision "or we will go nowhere." "We have to sell us, the space community, to the political community and not think that everything we do is marvelous and brilliant." He added that people need to understand that space is not expensive in the overall scheme of things, that in the United States, for example, NASA is only 0.6 percent of the federal budget. Mr. Diekmann said that space applications are the top priority in Europe exactly because the benefits are more visible to the public.
The panel also emphasized the need for balance between robotic and human spaceflight, and among exploration, space science, and "managing Earth" using earth science satellites.
Closer collaboration with the United States on new space transportation systems was another theme. "That doesn't mean we have to build a common launcher," Mr. Diekmann said, "but we need common interfaces for a more intelligent combination of capabilities," that is, a "common space transportation policy."
The cloud of debris from the 2007 Chinese antisatellite test now numbers 3,037 pieces according to the latest issue of NASA's Orbital Debris Quarterly News. China launched a kinetic kill attack against one of its own satellites in January 2007. The action was globally condemned less for its militaristic nature than for the massive amount of orbital debris it created, imperiling other satellites.
The NASA publication reports that 97 percent of the debris is still in orbit three and a half years after the event "posing distinct hazards to hundreds of operational satellites." The debris from that one event represents 22 percent of all catalogued space objects in low Earth orbit according to NASA. Debris can generate more debris by collisions within the cloud.
The record-breaking attempt by Felix Baumgartner to become the first human to break the speed of sound in free-fall has been halted by a lawsuit, Universe Today reported yesterday. According to the article, promoter Daniel Hogan has filed suit against the Red Bull Stratos Initiative team claiming he originally pitched the idea in 2004 and that, after a year of conversations where important details were discussed, Red Bull told him they were not interested. Hogan was then surprised when Red Bull announced the project last January without acknowledging his idea or seeking permission to use the confidential information he provided.
As quoted in the article, Red Bull issued the following statement:
When House Science and Technology Commitee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) agreed to bring the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill to the House floor for a vote instead of his own version of the bill, he said that he would continue to work with the appropriators to make changes in what the Senate decided. He and other members of the committee's bipartisan leadership have now written to the House and Senate appropriators outlining those changes.
As Rep. Gordon has said on several occasions, the key points that he and other committee members feel are critical for the appropriators to consider are the following:
Geodesy is the science of measuring the Earth's shape, orientation in space, and gravity field, and how they change over time, and the space- and ground-based systems that provide those critical measurements need renewed investment says the National Research Council (NRC).
NASA and DOD satellites and NSF radio telescopes are among the U.S. facilities used to provide geodetic data. The report summary lists elevation maps, navigation systems, precision agriculture, and early warning for hazards as some of the beneficiaries of geodetic data. The authors state that:
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is headed to China October 16-21. Aviation Week & Space Technology first publicly reported on the trip two weeks ago, noting that it would include discussions about potential U.S.-China cooperation in human spaceflight. In an exchange of letters with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the top Republican on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, Bolden confirmed the dates of the trip and assured the Congressman that the talks are only introductory in nature.
Rep. Wolf has made it clear year after year that he opposes human spaceflight cooperation with China. He wrote a letter to Mr. Bolden on October 5 asking for details on the China visit and reminded the agency that Congress has not approved any such cooperation. Rep. Wolf said in the letter:
Mr. Bolden replied on October 8, assuring Rep. Wolf that the talks on human spaceflight are introductory only "and will not include consideration of any specific proposals for human space flight cooperation or new cooperation in any other areas of NASA's activities." Mr. Bolden went on to say that a reciprocal visit "by Chinese Government officials to NASA facilities" is being planned and such plans "will be guided by the degree of transparency and openness that is displayed during my visit." Finally, the NASA Administrator added that:
UPDATE: A new version of the agenda shows the starting time for the astrobiology anniversary event on Thursday has been moved forward to 8:00 am from 9:00 am. However, introductory remarks start at 8:45 and the keynote address is at 9:00 (instead of 9:10). Also, the ending time now is 5:00 pm. Click on the link below for more details. Also note that while the event is open to the public you MUST RSVP by tomorrow, October 13, if you plan to attend.
Wednesday, October 13
Wednesday-Friday, October 13-15
Thursday, October 14
Thursday-Friday, October 14-15
Friday, October 15
At 10:52 this morning NASA sent out a press release announcing a media teleconference at 11:00 am on the anticipated signing of the NASA authorization bill later today. Listen to the audio of the teleconference at:
President Obama signed the NASA authorization bill into law today.
Based on a transcript provided by NASA, in response to a question about whether the bill sufficiently funds a new heavy lift launch vehicle, he replied:
Soyuz TMA-01M successfully docked with the International Space Station at 8:01 pm EDT tonight.
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