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NASA to Purchase Industry Lunar Tech Data, Imagery

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA wants to buy data from industry on lunar landing technology demonstrations and imagery. The agency is issuing a "Broad Agency Announcement" (BAA) for multiple small firm fixed price contracts with a total value of up to $30.1 million through 2012.

Privately funded entities, like those participating in the Google Lunar X-Prize, could sell NASA data and information "related to landing using a human mission profile; identification of hazards during landing; precision landing; and imagery and long-duration surface operations."

Twenty-one teams are currently competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize competition, which has its own purse of $30 million for the first privately funded group to land a robot on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and return video, images and data back to Earth. One of those teams, Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, immediately said that it would take NASA up on the challenge.

Astro2010 Decadal Survey To Be Released Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The National Research Council (NRC) will release the Astro2010 Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics at a public briefing on Friday, August 13, at 11:00 am. Roger Blandford, a Stanford professor and chairman of the NRC study committee that wrote the report, will lead the briefing along with several other members of the committee. The report prioritizes ground- and space-based research in astronomy and astrophysics for the next decade. The briefing will be at the NRC's Keck Center, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC.

Recalcitrant Fitting Frustrates Spacewalkers

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Spacewalkers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson set a new record for the length of an International Space Station (ISS) spacewalk yesterday, but their efforts were stymied by a "quick disconnect" (QD) fitting that wouldn't cooperate. The 8 hour 3 minute spacewalk may be only the first of three, rather than two, needed to replace a failed pump that is part of the ISS cooling system.

Four ammonia coolant lines and five electrical lines need to be disconnected in order to replace the pump. The QD fittings worked properly on the other coolant lines, but on the so-called M3 line, ammonia began leaking out. Eventually Wheelock was able to secure the line and install a "spool positioning device" to maintain proper pressure in the ammonia line until NASA can determine how to proceed.

The second spacewalk is currently scheduled for Wednesday, but NASA is evaluating the situation and detemining the best path forward. Check back here or go to NASA's ISS website for updates.

UPDATE: Senate Passes FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill

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

UPDATE, AUGUST 10: The House did not take up this bill during its one day return according to Congress Daily (subscription required). The publication stated that House Speaker Pelosi remains dissatisfied with the provisions in the bill regarding who in Congress should be briefed on highly classified intelligence matters. Congress Daily says that this was the last best chance for the bill to be passed by the House this year, and the lack of action dooms the bill.

ORIGINAL STORY: Fiscal Year 2010 may almost be over, but the Senate yesterday passed the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization bill. Agreement on the bill has been stymied since last summer over provisions regarding who in Congress should be briefed on the most highly sensitive intelligence matters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been adamant that all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees be briefed rather than only the chairs and ranking members (plus four other congressional leaders -- the so-called "gang of eight") as is current practice, which the White House does not want to change. Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that the Senate-passed bill reflects agreement with the White House, but that although Speaker Pelosi has not yet endorsed it, she may be pressured to bring the bill up for a vote next week when the House reconvenes to pass the state aid bill to pay for teachers and Medicaid.

Station Repair Spacewalks Rescheduled

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

NASA has delayed the two spacewalks needed to repair one of the two cooling loops on the International Space Station (ISS). They now will take place on Saturday and Wednesday instead of Friday and Monday as earlier reported. The extra time is needed for preparations on the ground and on the ISS. Both spacewalks are still expected to begin at 5:55 am Central Time (6:55 am EDT) and will be covered on NASA TV.

NASA Authorization Bill Passes Senate

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

The defense authorization bill may have hit a snag in the Senate, but the NASA authorization bill sailed through yesterday. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) praised passage of the legislation and called on the House to "take up this crucial bill in order to get NASA on track to continue its proud heritage of innovation and exploration."

Defense Authorization Blll Hits Roadblock in Senate

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) wants to bring the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill to the floor of the Senate when the Senate returns from its August break, but SASC ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) strenuously objected yesterday.

Sen. Levin was attempting to get a unanimous consent (UC) agreement to bring the bill to the floor in September, but Sen. McCain blocked the UC because he opposes some of the bill's provisions, especially repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Sen. McCain wants to wait on that issue until a promised survey is done of the morale of men and women in the military on that issue. He argues that the Democrats are trying to push a "social agenda on legislation ... intended to ensure the nation's security." Sen. Levin replied that the issue should be debated on the Senate floor and the committee's bill requires that the survey be done.

The video of the exchange is available on YouTube.

The Senate has a full agenda when it returns in September and is expected to be in session for only three weeks before adjourning again so Senators can prepare for the mid-term elections.

Will the House Reconvene - Briefly - Next Week?

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

The Hill newspaper reports that the House may interrupt its summer recess and reconvene briefly, perhaps early next week, to pass a bill that would provide funds to states to avoid teacher layoffs.

With schools around the nation set to begin classes before the House is currently scheduled to return on September 14, there is pressure for the House to come back into session to deal with this issue. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, having succeeded in voting to end debate earlier today according to The Hill. The bill gives states $10 billion for teachers as well as $16 billion in Medicaid funding.

Previous efforts to pass it as part of larger measures have failed because of opposition to legislation that would increase the deficit. The Hill quotes an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner as opposing the bill and the idea of the House returning to pass it, saying that Democrats should listen to their constitutents' concerns about jobs and not "vote for more tax hikes and special-interest bailouts." The vote in the Senate to end debate was 61-38, with all Democrats and two Republicans (Maine's Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins) voting in favor. The Hill reports that the two Republican votes were secured after the bill's sponsors found offsets for the full cost of the bill.

Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced via Twitter that she will indeed call the House back into session next week "to save teachers' jobs and help seniors and children."

Editor's Note: This story is not directly related to space policy, but we thought you would be interested to know about this breaking development anyway.

Applying Lessons Learned from the U.S.-Canadian NORAD to Multinational Space Situational Awareness

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

A new report sponsored by the Secure World Foundation (SWF) and published by George Washington University's Space Policy Institute provides an interesting comparison of the formation and operation of the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and today's need for multinational Space Situational Awareness (SSA).

The similarities and differences between the motivation behind NORAD at the beginning of the missile age and for SSA in this maturing space age were drawn from interviews with U.S. and Canadian military pesonnel who served in NORAD as well as a literature search. The report offers the following insights:

"Although the study found many areas of commonality, there are three critical differences between the NORAD experience and SSA data sharing which should also be kept in mind. The first, and most significant, is that the rationale behind the formation of NORAD was the specter of nuclear war, as powerful a driving force as any in the history of humanity. No motivation of that magnitude is currently foreseen for SSA. The second major difference is that NORAD involved cooperation between two States that had a lengthy (albeit not always peaceful) history. Unlike NORAD, SSA data sharing is very likely to involve a large number of States, some of whom may not have any past experience in sharing data of a security nature or cooperating in general. The third difference is that NORAD is a military organization performing a military mission. Future SSA data sharing and warning efforts are likely to contain a mix of military and non-military organizations and provide data in support of both civil and military missions."

The report's author, James C. Bennett, offers a series of observations and conclusions that are captured in the report's Executive Summary. Of particular note is his conclusion that: "The vast majority of political controversy and tension is likely to arise over decisions based on analyzed data; thus, data sharing agreements should focus on data collection and analysis and leave decision making and responses to the individual participating States."

NASA to Host Workshop On "Objectives" for Exploration NEO Missions, August 10-11, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA announced yesterday that it will host a workshop in Washington, DC next week to "identify objectives for exploration missions to near-Earth objects." The workshop is August 10-11 at the Renaissance Mayflower hotel.

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