Latest News

Bolden and Beggs to Discuss Past and Future of Human Spaceflight

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Mar-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and former NASA Administrator James Beggs will discuss the past 30 years of the space shuttle program and what lies ahead for human spaceflight at the State of the Agency meeting at NASA Headquarters on Friday. The meeting is sponsored by the NASA Alumni League and several other space organizations. Mr. Beggs, who was NASA Administrator from 1981-1986, is chairman of the NASA Alumni League.

Mr. Beggs was the driving force behind what is now known as the International Space Station (ISS) program, convincing President Ronald Reagan to back the program despite a lack of enthusiasm from just about everyone in his Cabinet. President Reagan announced that he was directing NASA to build a space station, and to invite other countries to join us, in his 1984 State of the Union address. The goal was to complete it within a decade. Beggs's next hurdle was to convince Congress, which agreed to authorize the program in NASA's FY1985 authorization act.

The space station program has survived myriad challenges since that time, with construction completed only now -- a decade and a half late. For most people, the space station's travails are just memories, if that. Attention today is consumed by what the future holds for human spaceflight with the shuttle program ending just as the ISS is hitting its stride and the next step in human spaceflight a work in progress.

Administrator Bolden is, of course, a veteran space shuttle pilot and commander, who now is charged with bringing that program to a conclusion and initiating both government and private sector replacements for it in a highly constrained budget environment.

The Bolden-Beggs discussion will cap a day-long event that features NASA associate administrators or their designees discussing the details of the FY2012 budget request. The meeting is open to the public, but an RSVP is required. See the announcement for details.

UPDATE: Events of Interest: Week of February 28-March 4, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: A link to the agenda for Friday's "State of the Agency" meeting at NASA Headquarters has been added.

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change; check the relevant committee's website for up to date information.

During the Week

Hopefully the House and Senate will reach agreement on at least a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating past midnight on March 4 when the current CR expires. Check back throughout the week for our continuing coverage of this issue, critical to the nation as well as the space program.

Monday-Wednesday, February 28-March 2

Tuesday, March 1

  • NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Planetary Science Subcommittee, Virtual (via telephone and WebEx -- see Federal Register notice on how to participate), 1:00 - 3:00 pm EST

Tuesday-Thursday, March 1-3

Wednesday, March 2

  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on NASA's FY2012 budget request, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST
  • House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on FY2012 DOD budget request, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST

Wednesday-Friday, March 2-4

  • NRC Commiittee on the Origins and Evolution of Life(COEL), Keck Center, Washington, DC. Some sessions are closed; see agenda for details.

Thursday, March 3

  • House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee hearing on NASA's FY2012 budget request, 2362A Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST

Thursday-Friday, March 3-4

  • NAC Science Committee, NASA Headquarters, Washington DC
    • Thursday, March 3, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm EST, room 9H40
    • Friday, March 4, 8:30 am - 2:00 pm EST, room 3H46

Friday, March 4

Planetary Science Decadal Survey To Be Released March 7

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The National Research Council's (NRC's) Decadal Survey for planetary science will be released on March 7, 2011. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Space Studies Board.

Decadal Surveys are studies conducted by the NRC on behalf of NASA and other space science agencies. The NRC committees that write the reports use a consensus-based approach to determinig priorities for scientific research in various disciplines. The surveys are conducted about every 10 years -- a decade -- looking forward to the next decadal of research, hence their name. The most recent Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics was released last year. The NRC is currently conducting another one for the field of solar and space physics (heliophysics).

The agencies that sponsor the Decadal Survey, in this case NASA and the National Science Foundation, typically tell the NRC's study committee how much money they expect to be able to devote to new missions and research in the upcoming decade. The Decadal Survey committee then is asked to create and prioritize a list of research missions that need to be undertaken to answer the most compelling scientific questions in that discipline.

Prognosticating future budgets is always problematical, especially so today. The planetary science community has been expectantly awaiting the release of the Decadal to see what their community has determined to be the most compelling research priorities. The report will be released in conjunction with the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference being held in The Woodlands, TX, outside Houston, from March 7-11.

Updated Fact Sheet on Status of NASA's FY2011 Funding

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

An updated version of our fact sheet on NASA's FY2011 Appropriations: The Debate Continues in the 112th Congress is now available. It reflects House action on H.R. 1. An amendment was adopted during floor debate reducing NASA's budget by an additional $298 million below the House Appropriations Committee's recommendation for the Cross Agency Support line.

UPDATE: Glory Launch Postponed to March 4

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: The launch has been rescheduled for March 4.

ORIGINAL STORY: The launch of NASA's Glory earth observation satellite has been postponed again, this time until March. Engineers still have not determined why the Vehicle Interface Control Console (VICC) sent a "hold-fire" command to the Taurus XL rocket 15 minutes before its intended launch early yesterday morning.

NASA reports that the VICC is located in a mobile launch support van a few miles from the launch pad. More time is needed to determine the cause of and remedy the problem. NASA now is looking at launch dates in early to mid-March.

Shuttle in Planned Hold, But Range Is Red

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Space Shuttle Discovery is in its final planned hold waiting to pick up the count at T-9 minutes (9 minutes before launch). Everything was going well until moments ago when the range went red because of a problem with the range safety command system.

That's a computer, and what all this means is the subject of considerable discussion to which one can listen on NASA TV or The NASA launch director, Mike Leinbach, has decided to take the countdown all the way down to T-5 (5 minutes before launch) before deciding whether to launch today. So apparently they will pick up the count at T-9 hoping that the problem can resolved quickly.

Shuttle Holding at T-5 Minutes Hoping Range Issue Can Be Resolved

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The countdown for STS-133 is down to the T-5 minute mark and holding. Minutes ago a problem developed with the Air Force's range safety computer system display. There is very little flexibility in the launch window today, but everyone has their fingers crossed it can be resolved in time.

Shuttle Countdown Resumes; Launch Imminent

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Air Force resolved their computer problem and the countdown has resumed. T-4 minutes and counting.

House and Senate Leaders Crafting Short-Term CRs

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Amid rampant rhetoric about a possible government shutdown replete with each side blaming the other, House and Senate leaders reportedly are crafting competing short-term Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that could avoid that situation while they negotiate on a CR for the rest for FY2011. FY2011 began on October 1, but Congress has not passed any of the 12 regular appropriations bills to fund government departments and agencies. Instead it has passed a series of CRs that keep the government operating at last year's (FY2010's) level. The current CR expires on March 4.

As House and Senate members spend this week in their districts and states judging the mood of the voters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is said to be developing a one-month CR to keep the government funded at current (FY2010) levels while Congress decides what it wants to do for the rest of FY2011. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), meanwhile, is working on one that would last only two weeks and would contain funding reductions from the FY2010 level.

How the chickens are counted is key to how much Republicans and Democrats are proposing to cut. Top Senate Democrats assert that keeping spending at FY2010 levels is a $41 billion cut. That is in comparison to what President Obama requested for FY2011. Tea Party Republicans in the House want a $100 billion cut, but that is measured against the FY2010 funding level not the FY2011 request, a much deeper reduction. The "full-year" CR passed by the House last week covering the rest of FY2011 would cut $100 billion compared to the FY2011 request or about $60 billion compared to the FY2010 level.

In a statement today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cited an analysis by Goldman Sachs of the House-passed CR as proving that it would cause a "double-dip recession." Press reports say that Schumer and Reid indicated that they are willing to cut more than the $41 billion represented by keeping funding at current levels, but not as much as the House. Boehner also is drafting a short-term CR, but it would be for only two weeks and would include cuts to the current spending level. A Reid aide called it a "two-week version of the same reckless measure" already passed by the House. Thus, even the short-term CRs will be quite different, so a shutdown remains a possibility.

For more on what happens if the government shuts down for lack of appropriations, see this report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). According to that report, most government employees are furloughed during a shutdown and placed in a non-pay status, although in the 1995-1996 shutdowns they were paid retroactively. Some government employees are not subject to the furlough and must continue to work in non-pay status. CRS identifies them as Members of Congress, the President, presidential appointees, certain legislative branch employees, and federal employees who are "excepted." Excepted federal employees include those "(1) performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, (2) involved in the orderly suspension of agency operations, or (3) performing other functions exempted from the furlough," according to CRS. Some of the examples listed in the report are employees who provide for the national security, provide for benefit payments, or conduct essential activities such as -- medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care, continuance of air traffic control, care of prisoners, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, and activities to preserve the financial system, power production, and protection of research property.

ATV Docks with ISS; Shuttle Still on Schedule for This Afternoon

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 16:08 GMT (11:08 am EST) today, clearing the way for the space shuttle to lift off as scheduled at 4:50 pm EST this afternoon. Had the docking gone awry, the shuttle launch might have been postponed to provide an opportunity to troubleshoot that docking before the shuttle arrives at the ISS on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the six person STS-133 crew is suiting up. Steve Lindsey, Eric Boe, Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott will soon board Discovery for its final trip into orbit. Bowen replaced Tim Kopra at the last minute after Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen also was a member of the last space shuttle mission (STS-132), making him the first astronaut to fly on consecutive flights. His spacewalking skills earned him the additional mission. He is rated as a "lead" spacewalker as is Kopra and the complexity of the spacewalks on this mission required that expertise.

Events of Interest

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


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