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South Korea's Science Minister told reporters that the KSLV-1 rocket launched today apparently exploded after liftoff. "An inboard camera detected a bright flash of light at 137 seconds into the flight, which coincides exactly with the loss of communication with the two stage rocket," Yonhap News Service quoted the Minister, Ahn Byong-man, as saying. The camera was on the second stage. The first stage of the rocket was built by Russia, the second stage by South Korea.
South Korea will try again to launch its KSLV-1 (Naro-1) launch vehicle on Thursday according to the Yonhap News Service. The launch was scheduled for today, but had to be postponed when the launch pad fire extinguisher system accidentally activated three hours before the planned launch. The weather for Thursday is a little iffy, however.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, issued a press release today taking NASA to task for the actions outlined in Administrator Bolden's June 9 letter to Members of Congress. That letter describes NASA's plans to scale back Constellation program activities because of funding shortfalls in FY2010. It also informs Congress that the agency reminded Constellation contractors of their obligations to absorb termination costs if the program is cancelled as President Obama proposes, with potential layoffs of 2,500-5,000 workers before the end of the fiscal year.
"The leadership of the world's preeminent space agency has strained its credibility to the breaking point and something has to change," she said. Among her complaints is the timing of NASA's action. She points out that a bill (the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations bill, H.R. 4899) recently passed the Senate that "clearly affirms Congressional direction that work [on Constellation] should continue." The language in the Senate version of H.R. 4899 states that funds made available for Constellation in FY2010 and prior years "shall be available to fund continued performance of Constellation contracts" and NASA may not terminate those contracts "for convenience." The FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117) already prohibits NASA from spending funds to cancel Constellation or initiate a new program until directed to do so by Congress in a subsequent appropriations act.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) announced today that Ralph Semmel will be the new APL Director, replacing Ralph Roca. Dr. Semmel has been with APL for 23 years, and for the past five headed the Applied Information Sciences Department. He is the eighth director in the Lab's 68-year history.
Space News and the Orlando Sentinel are reporting that NASA notified Congress today that it had sent letters to contractors on the Constellation program telling them to immediately reduce spending on the program to avoid violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. The reports say that the cutbacks could mean a loss of 2,500-5,000 jobs. The Orlando Sentinel says that ATK will be hardest hit, but Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Boeing also will be affected.
Japan's robotic asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa, will return to Earth around midnight on Sunday, June 13, with a sample of the asteroid Itokawa. The final trajectory maneuver was successfully accomplished yesterday, placing the spacecraft on track for landing at Australia's Woomera Test Range in the southern part of that country.
The spacecraft, also called Muses-C, was launched seven years ago from Japan's Uchinoura launch site and has traveled approximately six billion kilometers. It landed on -- and took off from -- asteroid Itokawa in November 2005 and has been on its return trip ever since. A softball-sized target marker that guided the spacecraft to its landing with the names of 880,000 "little prices and princesses" engraved on it remains on the asteroid.
Roger Tetrault, a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) that determined the causes of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003, warns against forgetting the lessons of Columbia in a letter to Representative Pete Olson (R-TX). Rep. Olson distributed the letter in a "Dear Colleague" missive to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives (the yellow highlighting in the Tetrault letter is in the Dear Colleague version).
Two other members of CAIB have publicly weighed in on the Obama plan and both support it. Former astronaut Sally Ride, who also was a member of the 2009 Augustine committee, participated in the NASA telecon when the FY2011 budget was released on February 1. George Washington University Professor Emeritus John Logsdon expressed his support in an op-ed for Space News in March.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel issued a memo today directing federal agencies to identify low priority programs that could be cut to reduce their funding by 5 percent for FY2012. National security-related agencies (e.g. the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security) are exempt.
The memo says in part:
Quoting Woody Allen's famous line -- "One path leads to despair, the other to destruction. Let's hope we choose wisely." -- Dan Baker wrapped up a one-day symposium on how the scientific community and the federal government are dealing with the potentially catastrophic effects of a major space weather event. Dr. Baker heads the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder and will head the new National Research Council (NRC) Decadal Survey on Solar and Space Physics.
The comment pretty much captured the mood at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research. Speaker after speaker emphasized the challenge of getting the attention of the public and policymakers to the potentially catastrophic impacts of such a low probability event.
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