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Armadillo Aerospace succeeded yesterday in completing the necessary flights to qualify for a $1 million prize in NASA's Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge according to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
Two other companies plan to compete for the prize before the October 31 deadline, so Armadillo has not yet officially won. Nonetheless, its Scorpius launch vehicle did what was needed to qualify as a winner: ascend to a height of 50 meters, translate to a pad 50 meters away, land safely on a rocky surface after at least 180 seconds of flight time, and then repeat the flight. The prize is part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program and is managed by the X-Prize Foundation.
We have just updated three of our fact sheets to reflect recent congressional and other actions:
All are available from our left menu under "Our Fact Sheets and Reports."
NPR's Science Friday interviewed Lawrence Krauss yesterday. He is the author of the provocative New York Times op-ed arguing for sending astronauts on one-way trips to Mars. His premise is that historically people traveled to new lands with no expectation of returning home and this should be no different. It would save money and one need not worry about their surviving the damaging health effects of cosmic radiation. Dr. Krauss is author of The Physics of "Star Trek," and Director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University.
The following events may be of interest next week. See our calendar for more information. Note: dates, times and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change. Check the committee's website for up-to-date information.
AIAA Space 2009 Conference and Exposition
Hearings on the Augustine Committee Report
Mark-up of the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act (possible)
Note: The committee has a markup session scheduled on Wednesday (time and location not listed). Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that it will include markup of the Judiciary Committee's version of the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act, however it is not currently included on the list of items for consideration on the committee's website.
Bad weather in Florida led NASA to decide to land space shuttle Discovery at Edwards Air Force Base, California today instead of Kennedy Space Center. The landing is set for 8:53 pm EDT.
The House Science and Technology Committee has just updated its witness list for the hearing on Tuesday about the Augustine Committee report. Apparently NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden no longer will be there. Instead, it will be Norm Augustine, chair of the Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee, followed by a two-person panel: former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and the chair of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), Joe Dyer. The hearing is still scheduled for September 15 from 2:00-4:00 pm in 2318 Rayburn.
The first landing attempt for space shuttle Discovery has been waived off due to weather. A second opportunity to land at 8:40 EDT also seems iffy, but has not been ruled out.
NASA has published a report compiling the results of scientific experiments conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) during the past 8 years. Although the program has focused on assembling the ISS during this time rather than utilizing it, more than 100 scientific experiments and technology demonstrations have been conducted.
The report, International Space Station Science Research Accomplishments During the Assembly Years: An Analysis Of Results from 2000-2008, is being released as Washington policy makers debate the future of the ISS. Under current budget guidance, U.S. participation in the ISS program will end in 2015. The recently released summary of the Augustine committee report on the future of the human space flight program argues that it should be extended until 2020 to enhance the country's return on its investment in building the facility.
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, told The Hill newspaper that the Augustine committee report "confirms his concerns that 'the emperor has no clothes'" and called on NASA to better explain its human space flight plans. He added that he will work with the Obama Administration and fellow Members of Congress "as we determine the best way to align resources with NASA's human spaceflight mission" according to the newspaper.
Rep. Mollohan's Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) subcommittee held NASA's budget for Constellation to its FY2009 level when it marked up the FY2010 appropriations bill, instead of approving the substantial increase that had been requested. The subcommittee's position was upheld by the full Appropriations Committee and the House (see our previous article).
Japan's H-IIB launch vehicle appears to have performed as planned. The HTV spacecraft has separated from the launch vehicle and is in its preliminary orbit. The HTV will perform on-orbit tests for the next several days. It is scheduled to arrive at the ISS a week from today, September 17. Unlike other spacecraft, it will not dock with the ISS. Instead it will be berthed -- ISS crewmembers will use one of the robotic arms on the ISS to reach out and grapple the HTV and pull it into the docking port.
Events of Interest