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President Obama will make a major space policy address and meet privately with Members of Congress at the space conference he has scheduled for April 15 at Kennedy Space Center. Those are the first formal public tidbits about what will happen that day, revealed by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden during a media teleconference this afternoon. He said that the event will be by invitation only, but will be broadcast on NASA TV. It will also feature four panel sessions where NASA hopes to obtain input from a variety of individuals, though who they are was not announced. Gen. Bolden said that he was not in charge of the invitation list. He said that NASA would rely on the media to get the word out about what transpires at the meeting, but it remains unclear as to who from the media will be allowed in.
NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) announced yesterday that it is adding a new task to its contract with Wyle Integrated Science & Engineering Group. The action procures technical expertise for JSC's Space Life Sciences Directorate "to provide updates to an initial set of Commercial Human Systems Integration Requirements, to deliver a Commercial Medical Operations Requirements Document for use in commercial crew transportation services, and to deliver a set of design processes to provide guidance for commercial spacecraft designers." The work apparently will be funded with Recovery Act (i.e., stimulus bill) money.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will hold a media teleconference at 2:00 pm EDT today (Thursday) "about the next steps in implementing the agency's new exploration initiatives outlined in the new fiscal year 2011 budget." Joining them will be the four Mission Directorate Associate Administrators (Bill Gerstenmaier, Doug Cooke, Ed Weiler and Jaiwon Shin) and Chief Technologist Bobby Braun. Information on how news media representatives can call in is provided in the NASA press release.
The Ku-band antenna on Space Shuttle Discovery is not working, according to NASA. Among other things, the antenna is used to downlink high data rate communications, including television. That means images being taken today of Discovery's thermal protection system (TPS) will have to be recorded and transmitted back to Mission Control after the shuttle docks with the International Space Station (ISS) using the ISS antenna. Imaging the TPS to check for damage is a routine precaution since the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Spaceflightnow.com reports that the antenna also is used as a radar dish during rendezvous operations, but that the crew has other instruments it can use and the loss of the antenna should not be a major problem.
UPDATE: Discovery is off on its mission to the International Space Station with a successful launch at 6:21 am..
The space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission remains on schedule for launch tomorrow (Monday) morning, April 5, at 6:21 am EDT. NASA TV will begin live launch coverage at 1:15 am. Spaceflightnow.com will have live webcast coverage beginning at 2:00 am hosted by Miles O'Brien, David Waters and Leroy Chiao.
In a visit to Caracas, Venezuela, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a series of nuclear energy deals with President Hugo Chavez and agreed to help Venezuela build a space industry, the BBC reported.
The article quoted President Chavez saying: "we could install a satellite launcher here and a factory. We are already doing so with China, but Russia is offering to support Venezuela build its own [space] industry."
Who will be invited to President Obama's space "conference" in Florida on April 15 and what will happen there remains a mystery, but at least we know it's not the only reason he'll be in Florida. Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics.com notes that the President will be attending two fundraisers in Miami that day, one at the home of rock singer Gloria Estefan and her husband for $30,400 a couple.
And while not a mystery, there had been some anticipation that SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch might take place about that time as a demonstration of the potential of commercial crew. However, SpaceX has announced that the first flight of Falcon 9 will occur no earlier than May 8. In an emailed message very late on April 2, company spokeswoman Emily Shanklin said that Space X was working with the supplier of key components of the Falcon 9's flight termination system to supply final data to SpaceX and the Air Force for "review and acceptance."
With Congress still in recess and most people in Washington out enjoying the stunning beauty of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, it will be another quiet week for space policy aficionados. The only event we have on our calendar is a NAC subcommittee meeting at the end of the week.
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