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President Obama announced today that National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones will leave his post by the end of the month. Some news reports say that while the resignation had been anticipated for some time, it was accelerated because of White House unhappiness at comments Jones made to Bob Woodward for his recent book Obama's Wars. Jones' deputy, Tom Donilon, will be the new National Security Adviser.
Soyuz TMA-01M is set for launch tonight at 7:10 pm EDT. This new version of the Soyuz spacecraft will bring three new crewmembers to the International Space Station (ISS): NASA's Scott Kelly and Russia's Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. Two days later, they will join the three crew who are already aboard ISS: Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker, and Fyodor Yurchikhin.
The new Soyuz features a digital upgrade, with new guidance, navigation and control devices, a new data processing device, and an improved avionics cooling system according to a graphic on NASA's website.
I have just returned from Brussels and an excellent conference sponsored by the Institut Fran ais des Relations Internationales (IFRI) and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) on "The Continuing Story of Europe and Space Security." I was delighted to be invited to be the keynote speaker on the topic of "U.S. Space Policy: What Has Changed." For anyone who's interested, a copy of my remarks can be found on our left menu under "Marcia S. Smith's Biography and Recent Publications" or simply by clicking here. Hopefully other speakers will provide their remarks for posting on the IFRI or SWF websites and a conference summary -- under Chatham House rules -- will be available on IFRI's website soon.
Today the George C. Marshall Institute and the Space Enterprise Council convened a roundtable titled "National Security Space: Policy and Program Development." Jeff Kueter, President of the Institute, explained the event was meant to ensure that the military and intelligence side of space would not be "shoved under the radar" in discussions following the release of the National Space Policy (NSP). During a lively discussion, experts focused on the array of challenges officials will face in implementing the national security directions in the NSP, at the heart of which is a broad paradigm shift needed in the government's approach to space.
The interdependence between sectors and the increasingly contested, congested, and competitive space environment have produced a number of shared challenges, as one panelist put it. Increased space situational awareness data sharing, the development of rules for responsible behavior in space, and the reinvigoration of the industrial space sector to support these goals, are just some of the challenges that will require changes in how the United States structures its space activities: internally - between government agencies and with industry - and externally, with international partners.
Victoria Samson, Director of the Washington Office of the Secure World Foundation (SWF), has published an analysis of the Obama National Space Policy from SWF's viewpoint. As the analysis says,
"Secure World Foundation (SWF) has long supported building an increased understanding of how to best protect the space environment and improve space security for the United States and other space actors. Moreover, SWF focuses on three key areas: sustainability, internationalengagement, and stability in outer space. The new NSP places a heavy emphasis on these objectives, recognizing the extent that space activities have penetrated the economic, political and military framework of today's world."
The following events may of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. With Congress in recess for the next six weeks, we expect things to be a little slow on the meetings front, but we will publish an events list as long as there are enough other activities to make it worthwhile.
Monday-Tuesday, October 4-5
Wednesday, October 6
Wednesday-Thursday, October 6-7
Thursday, October 7
Thursday-Friday, October 7-8
At a Congressional Robotics Caucus briefing held today, presenters discussed innovative ways to use robotics not only to solve problems here on Earth, but also to transform the way humans explore the Solar System and beyond.
Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA), co-chair of the caucus, mentioned yesterday's vote on the NASA Authorization bill and said he anticipates robotics to be a "key component" in the agency's future. He also congratulated the NASA-supported Carlton J. Kell High School Robotics Team, which has used the knowledge gained through the FIRST Robotics Competition to solve real-world problems. Team members talked about their designs, including an oil-recovery and capture robot called Orca, and other initiatives they are involved with to increase science literary and put science, technology, engineering, animation, and mathematics skills (or STEAM) at the service of the community.
Questioning the assumption that robotic and human exploration should be separate affairs, Dr. Fong described ways in which robotic exploration can enhance and complement human exploration - before, during, and after crew involvement in the mission. He described how robots, like NASA Ames' K10 robot, could be remotely operated to perform reconnaissance and scouting to support a human expedition on a planetary surface and deliver detailed terrain data before the crew arrived at a specific location to be explored. This would help the astronauts prepare for what they will encounter and save their time by pre-identifying locations for them to explore. Although robotic probes perform a similar function in orbit, robots that can land and actually move in the terrain can provide richer data. The idea is to coordinate both human and robotic components at every stage of a mission so that robots take care of crucial tasks that are "unproductive" for humans to perform. An issue still to be resolved is the limited amount of data that can be transmitted back to Earth. For the time being, "we just never have enough bandwidth," said Dr. Fong.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) gave NOAA credit for progress it has made recently on the next generation of geostationary weather satellites, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R or GOES-R, in a new report, but warns that the program is not out of the woods yet and NOAA does not have "plans, processes, procedures and resources" in place in case there is a gap in coverage.
Delays in the GOES-R program mean that NOAA "may not be able to meet its policy of having a backup satellite in orbit at all times, which could lead to a gap in coverage if GOES-14 or GOES-15 fails prematurely," according to the report.
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will hold a media teleconference at 1:30 pm EDT today to answer question from reporters about the newly passed NASA authorization bill. The event will be streamed live at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.
Events of Interest