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NASA Invites Nominations for Advisory Committees

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA is inviting members of the public to nominate themselves or others to serve on one of NASA's federal advisory committees.

The Federal Register notice sets a deadline of September 20, 2011 for submitting nominations to fill "intermittent vacancies" that occur throughout the year. NASA selects people based on their expertise, knowledge and contribution to the relevant subject area. Procedures for nominating yourself or someone else are in the notice. NASA's federal advisory committees, as listed in the notice, are the following:

  • NASA Advisory Council
  • Aerospace Safety Advisory Council
  • International Space Station Advisory Committee
  • International Space Station National Laboratory Advisory Committee
  • National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board

NASA FY2011 Initial Operating Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Elon Musk Interview on Science Friday Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX, will be interviewed on National Public Radio's Science Friday program today.

The program airs on NPR stations and on the web from 2:00-4:00 pm EDT. According to the show's program listing, Musk will be the final interview at the end of the second hour.

NASA To Announce Tech Demo Mission Winners

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA will announce on Monday the winners in the agency's Technology Demonstration Mission program.

NASA's Office of Chief Technologist is selecting proposals for crosscutting technology demonstrations with the potential to infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA's future space operations missions.

The media teleconference, on August 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm EDT, will be streamed live at

Heritage: China Threatens U.S. Space Superiority

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

China's space program is threatening U.S. space superiority according to a new report from the Heritage Foundation.

A 2010 Chinese test involving two ballistic missile launches that resulted in a deliberate collision, and a 2010 mission where two Chinese satellites "engaged in orbital maneuvers that appears to include 'bumping' into each other" that could be useful for "practicing docking maneuvers or anti-satellite operations" are examples of Chinese activities that cause concern according to the report's author, Dean Cheng.

"The U.S. government needs to take steps to ensure that it maintains the ability to secure space superiority. Such a position of strength is necessary for the Sino-American space relationship to develop along the oft-touted lines of mutual respect and mutual benefit," he continues.

Cheng recommends that the United States must maintain a "robust" military space capability; increase alternatives to space systems to reduce our reliance on them; and increase knowledge of Chinese space capabilities by expanding the pool of people able to analyze China's space capabilities "in the original language." To that latter end, interaction between U.S. and Chinese space experts is "probably both inevitable and necessary" in his view. These interactions should not be "guided by the hope that American openness will be reciprocated," but instead "predicated on efforts at mutual, equitable interaction." Congress therefore should specify the areas where the Department of Defense, NASA and NOAA can and cannot interact with the Chinese, he advised.

DARPA Wants To Head for the Stars

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The two flights of its Falcon HTV-2 hypersonic test vehicle may not have turned out as planned, but that isn't stopping the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from working on plans to travel to another star.

Writing in the New York Times today, Dennis Overbye recaps DARPA's 100-year Starship Study through which DARPA will award $500,000 in seed money to an organization to study what it would take "organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically" to send people on an interstellar voyage. NASA's Ames Research Center is partnering with DARPA on the project. David Neyland, director of technical technology at DARPA, is quoted as saying that the agency is not trying to design an interstellar craft itself, but instead wants to find an organization that will carry the concept forward for the next 100 years with private sector, not government, funding.

The idea is that new technologies would be developed over the decades as the effort unfolds that will be useful to the Department of Defense and NASA. DARPA's announcement of the project last year said that the study "looks to develop the business case for an enduring organization designed to incentivize breakthroughs enabling future spaceflight."

A three-day symposium will be held in Orlando, FL September 30-October 2 to discuss the responses to DARPA's request for information. The meeting is free and open to the public.

STS-135 Crew on Colbert Report Tonight

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

The crew of the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, will be on the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report tonight at 11:30 pm EDT.

The show's star, Stephen Colbert, is a fan of the space program, but mostly a comedian. He mounted a write-in campaign to have the last U.S. space station module named after him when NASA had a naming contest. He won, but NASA overrode the vote and named it Tranquillity. Instead, they named a piece of exercise equipment on the space station after him, the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).

Senators Complain to Obama About Slow Progress on SLS

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

Five Senators from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana wrote a letter to President Obama on Monday complaining about how NASA is using its FY2011 funding for the Space Launch System (SLS).

The Hunstville Times published the letter, which takes issue with how NASA plans to spend FY2011 funds and for not providing a report required by section 309 of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. NASA submitted a preliminary version of that "section 309" report in January, but has repeatedly delayed sending the final version. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told a House committee in July that it may be fall before NASA is ready to officially announce its plans for the new heavy lift launch vehicle required by Congress.

The SLS is meant to be paired with a crew capsule -- the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) -- to take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and to serve as a backup to commercial crew systems that NASA is helping the private sector develop to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is expected to be the lead NASA center working on the SLS.

The letter complains that NASA's FY2011 operating plan shows the agency moving forward with MPCV and commercial crew, but not expeditiously working on the SLS. Saying that the "misallocation" of SLS funds suggests that the Administration "has no intention of properly using appropriated funds," the Senators "insist" that the section 309 report be submitted immediately.

Cabinet Secretaries Warn on Spending Cuts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta yesterday in warning about the impact on national security if the "congressional supercommittee" does not reach agreement.

Panetta, a former congressman and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as well as former Director of Central Intelligence, made his views clear two weeks ago. He and Clinton, a former Senator, are concerned about the poison pill that was included in the debt limit/deficit reduction deal reached earlier this month. The two spoke at National Defense University yesterday.

The deal implemented approximately $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years immediately and directed that a 12-person congressional panel -- three Democratic Senators and three Democratic Representatives plus three Republican Senators and three Republican Representatives -- be established to find another $1.2-1.5 trillion in spending cuts by Thanksgiving. The panel has been dubbed a "supercommittee" in the media. Congress is then supposed to have an up or down vote (i.e., no amendments would be permitted) on the supercommittee's recommendations by Christmas.

As an incentive for the group to reach agreement, draconian cuts to discretionary spending would automatically take effect if it does not or if Congress fails to pass whatever it recommends. DOD already is shouldering $350 billion of the initial $1 trillion in cuts. It would have to absorb another $500 billion over 10 years if the supercommittee process fails. The remaining cuts would come from other departments and agencies categorized as discretionary spending, including the State Department -- and NASA and NOAA.

The two cabinet secretaries emphasized the need for the supercommittee to look at all government spending, including entitlement programs, as well as tax increases, rather than cutting only discretionary spending.

The 12 members of the supercommittee have been named. Political observers in Washington are split on whether those 12 individuals are likely to be able to reach a compromise or not, but many express concern about the tight time schedule they must meet. Legislative committees are due to give their recommendations to the supercommittee by October 14. The supercommittee then must make its recommendations by November 23, with voting completed in the House and Senate by December 23.

NASA's Doug Cooke to Retire

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Aug-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA announced today that Doug Cooke, Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, will retire on October 3.

Cooke had said several months ago that he would retire after his organization merged with the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). NASA announced the merger of those two headquarters components last week.

Cooke's career at NASA spans 38 years. He worked on the space shuttle, International Space Station, and exploration programs. Bill Gerstenmaier, who headed SOMD, will be in charge of the new combined Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate.

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