Latest News

Water, Water Everywhere ... on the Moon

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

A NASA radar that orbited the Moon on India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe has provided more evidence that there is water at the lunar poles. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument (also known as Mini-RF), a lighweight synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters at the Moon's north pole that have water ice, according to NASA.

The data are in addition to readings made at the Moon's south pole in 2009 by NASA's LCROSS probe, and data from another NASA instrument on Chandrayaan-1, the Moon Mineraology Mapper, that showed that there are trace amounts of water all over the lunar surface.

India's Chandrayaan-1 probe carried 11 scientific instruments from India and several other countries including the United States. The probe entered lunar orbit in November 2008 and was intended to send back data for two years. However, India lost contact with it in August 2009. Fortunately it had already had collected and transmitted back a substantial amount of data. Summary of House NASA Authorization Hearing Now Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

A summary of the Feb. 25, 2010 House Science and Technology Committee's hearing on the NASA's FY2011 budget request is now available. Find it on our left menu under "Our Hearing Summaries" or simply click here.

Senate Passes Extension to Satellite TV Act and Other Expiring Legislation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) relented late on Tuesday and allowed the Senate to proceed to vote on legislation that would extend until the end of this month a number of expiring laws that affected everything from unemployment benefits to satellite television signals. The Senate voted 78-19 to pass the bill (H.R. 4691). The House already has passed it and the President is expected to sign it quickly. The Senate still must deal with longer term extensions of each of those laws or a similar situation could arise as March 31 approaches.

Hutchison Introduces Bill to Reduce the Gap in Human Spaceflight

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has introduced legislation to "close the gap in U.S. spaceflight." A press release on the committee's website explains that the bill would continue space shuttle launches as work on a new system continues. The bill's key points as stated in the press release are:

  • Make shuttle retirement dependent on the availability of replacement capabilities for comparable size crew and cargo delivery, whether government-owned or commercial, (assuming a rate of 2 missions a year), or until it is conclusively demonstrated that it is the space shuttle cargo capabilities are not needed to ensure space station viability;
  • Require International Space Station (ISS) operations and full utilization through at least 2020, and further establish the ISS National Laboratory operating mechanisms and procedures;
  • Provide for the acceleration of a government-owned human space flight capability to as close to 2015 as possible;
  • Expand support for Commercial Orbital Space Transportation (COTS) to support ISS -- both for cargo and for eventual crew launch capability;
  • Reaffirm long-term goal of moving beyond low-Earth orbit whether to the Moon, Mars or alternative destinations;
  • Provide for the near-term evaluation of heavy-lift rocket launcher design options, including shuttle-derived options, to enable the expansion beyond low-earth orbit and accelerate the start of vehicle design activity; and
  • Authorize top-level funding for all of NASA's mission activities, but would only address the human space flight policy issues.

Presentations to the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Steering Committee, Feb. 22-23, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The following presentations were made to the Survey Committee of the National Research Council's Planetary Science Decadal Survey during its meeting on Feb. 22-23, 2010 in Irvine, CA. Titles are from the agenda for the meeting. The slides from some of the presentations are not yet available and will be added later if possible. Some of the presentations are large and take a moment or two to load; please be patient.

NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Presentations From Feb 22-23 Survey Committee Meeting Now Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The presentations from most of the speakers to the Feb. 22-23 meeting of the National Research Council's (NRC's) Planetary Science Decadal Survey in Irvine, CA are now available at See our "National Research Council" category on our left menu and scroll down to the Planetary Science Decadal Survey or click here.

WSJ Says Bolden "Surprised" At Congressional Anger

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

Andy Pasztor in today's Wall Street Journal says that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden "was surprised at the anger evident" at last week's congressional hearings before a Senate Commerce subcommittee and the House Science and Technology Committee. The article asserts that Mr. Bolden's "policies as well as his management style are under increasing attack," but also quotes an unnamed NASA spokesman as saying that he has not "'seen any evidence of [Mr. Bolden] being concerned about his ability' to effectively lead the agency."

Two Million Satellite TV Subscribers Could Lose Access to Broadcast TV

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Senate's failure to pass the temporary extension to satellite TV legislation (H.R. 4691) last week could mean that 2 million satellite TV subscribers will lose access to broadcast network television programming according to Congress Daily (subscription required). It also has significant ramifications in other sectors of the economy.

Transportation Secretary LaHood said that 2,000 federal workers will have to be furloughed immediately because surface transportation programs were not extended, along with implications for Medicare payments to physicians, COBRA insurance benefits, etc. Senate Jim Bunning (R-TX) is refusing to agree to a unanimous request to pass the bill because it does not pay for itself.

On the satellite TV front, Congress Daily reported that the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees -- which have jurisdiction over this aspect of the satellite TV legislation -- sent a letter to DirecTV and other satellite TV providers asking them to continue providing service to those subscribers while Congress tries to solve the problem.

SkyReport, a daily newsletter about the commercial satellite business, bitterly asked "is there anyone, anywhere who has any respect left for the U.S. Congress?...This isn't brain surgery. Or health care legislation. Or even a particularly tough crossword puzzle. This is basic, BASIC stuff and they can't get it passed." Summary of Senate Authorization Hearing Now Available

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 01-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on NASA's FY2011 budget request on February 24, 2010. A summary of the hearing is now available. Look on our left menu under "Our Hearing Summaries" or simply click here.

NRC Calls for Reinvigoration of NASA's Suborbital Research Program

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 28-Feb-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

In 2008, Congress directed NASA to ask the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a review of NASA's suborbital activities, including balloons, sounding rockets, aircraft, and suborbital reusable rockets. The NRC released its report - Revitalizing NASA's Suborbital Program: Advancing Science, Driving Innovation, and Developing Workforce - on Friday, championing a reinvigoration of the program.

It wasn't so long ago that suborbital space-related research seemed to be on the verge of extinction. For decades, the space and earth science communities considered suborbital research such a fundamental aspect of NASA's science programs that little effort was made to explain or defend the money spent for it. The abrupt cutbacks in NASA's research and analysis (R&A) funding, which includes suborbital programs, proposed in the FY2007 budget set off alarm bells not only for the scientists who rely on the suborbital program for flying experiments but for others who recognize the role of the suborbital program as a training ground for future scientists, systems engineers, and project and program managers. Although NASA began to change course soon thereafter, the interest in justifying and reinvigorating the program took hold.

The NRC's study committee, chaired by Steven Bohlen of Texas A&M, made five recommendations:

  • restore the suborbital program by reordering its priorities and increasing funding;
  • assign a "program lead" reporting to the head of the Science Mission Directorate to coordinate the suborbital program;
  • use the suborbital program as an integral part of on-the-job training and career development for engineers, experimental scientists, systems engineers, and project managers;
  • invest in stabilizing and advancing suborbital capabilities, including the development of ultra-long-duration super-pressure balloons; and
  • continue to monitor commercial suborbital space developments.

NASA's current leadership seems particularly keen on the prospects for purchasing commercial flight services through its Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said on February 18 that NASA is planning to spend $2.5 million in FY2010 for those services and is requesting $15 million per year for FY2011-2014.

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