Latest News

WIA Panel on the Future of Human Spaceflight

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 22-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

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 summary of the meeting by looking on our left menu under Our Meeting Summaries, or simply by clicking here.

Events of Interest: Thanksgiving Week, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

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!!

Bolden Summarizes Recent Trip to China

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

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.

Bolden reported that his NASA delegation started in Beijing and visited "most of their facilities where they produced the Long March" rocket, and also traveled to the Gobi Desert. China launches its human spaceflight missions from the Jiuquan launch center there. It is the original Chinese space launch site (now there are two more and a fourth under construction) and is the site for launching many Chinese satellites destined for high inclination orbits, including those that support military space missions.

He said that he stressed to the Chinese that if they are seeking to cooperate with the United States in space that "they will have to demonstrate to us that they could be transparent in all dealings," "demonstrate that they were willing to exercise reciprocity," and the cooperation "had to be mutually beneficial to both nations." He also emphasized that he went there to listen, not "to propose or to make any deals or anything." The latter was a matter of controversy before the trip. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and others in Congress insisted that Bolden assure them before the trip that he would not broker any deals on human spaceflight cooperation while he was in China.

During the MSFC meeting, Bolden observed that the Chinese were "struggling right now with how they split up responsibility for programs," and that the head of their human spaceflight program is also in charge of the Chinese anti-satellite program, which he found ironic. He did not name the individual, but said that his host started the conversation by saying that China does not need the United States and vice versa, but that if the two worked together "the incredible," according to Bolden's account.

Many other topics, mostly domestic, were also discussed. A transcript provided to by NASA is available here. Space News, which first revealed the existence of the transcript in a story posted Friday, reported that the meeting was held on November 16. NASA provided the transcript to upon request. It does not appear to be posted on any of NASA's websites as of this moment.

The Space Show's Interview with Laura Delgado Now Online

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Space Show's interview with 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.

Space Agency Heads Endorse Declaration for More International Cooperation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Representatives of 28 space agencies from around the world endorsed a declaration calling for increased international cooperation at a "summit" sponsored by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) on November 17.

The declaration makes recommendations from IAA to the world's space agencies in four areas: human spaceflight, robotic planetary exploration, climate change, and disaster management. It concludes that a "consensus widely recognized is that many global challenges to come can better be solved by countries working together." A larger circle of partners is needed, it says, but "confidence, trust, transparence [sic] and best practice sharing will have to be the key points for reducing impediments while promoting a safe and responsible use of space." The IAA unveiled studies written by IAA members in each of the four areas at the summit.

Read a summary of the meeting by looking under "Our Meeting Summaries" on the left menu or simply by clicking here.

Outlook for FY2011 Appropriations Remains Murky

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The U.S. government is operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on December 3. Congress must do something to keep the government operating after that date, but what it will do remains unclear: pass another short-term CR, pass a CR for the rest of FY2011, or pass an omnibus appropriations bill that funds all government agencies. The total price of the omnibus bill is about $1.1 trillion.

On Thursday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that voters made clear that they do not want Congress "passing massive trillion dollar bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors" and he will not support such a measure. Senate Democrats need 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor. There are 57 Democrats, two Independents, and 41 Republicans currently in the Senate.

Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, nonetheless is hopeful that he will be able to get some Republican votes now that his committee has agreed with Republicans to cap the omnibus bill at $1.108 trillion instead of the $1.114 trillion Democrats wanted, according to the National Journal (subscription required).

Senator McConnell also recently came out against earmarks, which he previously supported. The publication quoted Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, reacting to the McConnell statements: "[he] 'was for an omnibus before he was against an omnibus,' she quipped. 'He supported earmarks before he was against earmarks.'"

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), outgoing chairman of the House CJS subcommittee, told a Space Transportation Association (STA) audience Thursday morning that NASA would face difficult challenges if it must operate under a CR for an extended period of time. Agencies are not supposed to start new programs under a CR, meaning that the new direction adopted in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act would be delayed, Mollohan pointed out. He added that the additional funds for NASA's earth science program also would be at risk.

Politico said the Democrats "have only themselves to blame ... after failing to pass a budget this year or any of the dozen annual appropriations" bills. Apparently anticipating that an omnibus bill cannot be passed, the White House wants a year-long CR according to Politico, because a short-term CR would mean that the budget would have to be taken up again early next year when Republicans have control of the House giving them "a powerful vehicle to advance not just their budget agenda but also health care riders early in the next Congress."

Mollohan Uncertain About Appropriations, Skeptical on Earmark Ban, Proud of EOS and Hubble

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), outgoing chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, which funds NASA, spoke to the Space Transportation Association on November 18, 2010. He said he did not know whether Congress would pass another Continuing Resolution (CR) or an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government after December 3, and was skeptical than the earmark ban called for by many Republicans would be a permanent ban. He praised, in particular, NASA's Earth Observing System and Hubble Space Telescope programs as highlights of his involvement with NASA over the 28 years he has been in Congress. Read a summary of his remarks.

Senate Hearing on NASA Authorization Act Postponed to December 1

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Senate Commerce Committee's hearing on implementation of the NASA authorization act has been postponed to December 1 according to the committee's website.

It's Snowing in Space!

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

It's snowing at Comet Hartley 2! NASA's EPOXI spacecraft flew by the comet on November 4 and discovered that the comet is ejecting what is essentially snowballs into space.

Fluffy particles of water ice ranging in size from golf balls to basketballs are being released through the ends of the comet via carbon dioxide jets said EPOXI scientists at a NASA press conference today. Stereo images from the spacecraft show that the snowballs are behind and in front of the comet's nucleus "making it look like a scene in one of those crystal snow globes," said Brown University's Pete Schultz. At least nine of the snowballs hit the spacecraft, but did not damage it.

The rocky ends of the comet where the snowballs are escaping is quite different from the mid-section, which is smooth and releases water through a different process. There water ice turns into water vapor, which is similar to what was observed at Comet Tempel 1 when it was visited by this same spacecraft in 2005. At that time it was named Deep Impact. EPOXI principal investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland said they looked for ice particles at Tempel 1, but did not find any.

NASA and space agencies in other countries have been sending spacecraft to study comets for 25 years. Scientists believe they hold clues to understanding the formation of the solar system.

NASA's next spacecraft encounter with a comet is only three months away. On February 14, 2011, Stardust-NExT will reach Temple 1 to study the comet five years after Deep Impact was there. It will try to image the crater created by Deep Impact and study other features both to compare with the images taken by Deep Impact and look at other areas not yet observed. Like Deep Impact, which was given a second assignment after successfully completing its primary mission, Stardust-NExT is an extended mission for the Stardust spacecraft.

Discovery Will Launch No Earlier Than December 3

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Engineers need more time to analyze and repair space shuttle Discovery and the launch date for the orbiter's last mission will be no earlier than December 3, 2010 NASA decided today.

A news conference that was scheduled for November 22 has been cancelled.

Program managers will meet on November 29 to assess the progress of the repairs. If December 3 is the chosen launch date, it will be a night launch at 2:52 am EST.

Events of Interest

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