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Japanese scientists are in the process of opening the sample return capsule from the Hayabusa asteroid mission that completed its journey on June 13. The capsule was flown from its landing site in Australia to Japan and is now at a special curation facility at the Sagamihara Campus. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it began opening the capsule today and the process will take one week.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is considering a follow-on mission dubbed Hayabusa-2 that would visit a different kind of asteroid. Hayabusa landed on an "S-Type" asteroid while the new mission would visit a "C-Type" asteroid designated 1999 JU3. (For more on the different types of asteroids, visit The Planetary Society's website.) The proposed Hayabusa-2 would include an impactor.
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced yesterday that Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is hosting an event for Senators and their staff today that is open to the media. It features Norm Augustine, chair of last year's Augustine Committee that provided options for the future of human spaceflight. Other participants are Ken Bowersox, SpaceX; George Sowers, United Launch Alliance; William Claybaugh, Orbital Sciences Corp.; and Mark Sirangelo, Sierra Nevada. It will be in room 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building from 10:30-12:00.
Officials from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will meet with European Commission members on July 7 to discuss options for developing a joint anti-asteroid defense program, RIA Novosti reported today. The initiative comes after Anatoly Perminov, head of the agency, expressed interest to lead an international effort to deal with the risk of a near-Earth object (NEO) collision last December.
According to the article the meeting will include the input of scientists and engineers from Roscosmos, as well as experts from the Russian Academy of Sciences and other institutions. Scientists from the Astronomy Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences have reportedly detected a total of 6,690 NEOs as of April, the majority of which measure between 100 and 1,000 meters in diameter. This is part of what Perminov described as growing international awareness on the threat of NEOs. He was quoted as saying that "in recent years, the attention of scientists, technicians, politicians and the military has become increasingly focused on the asteroid and comet hazard, namely the threat of the Earth's collision with large space bodies."
Recent rumors were that the President's new national space policy would be released in June, but Air Force Secretary Michael Donley used wording yesterday that indicates it is not that imminent. In response to a question at a National Defense University Foundation breakfast yesterday about when it would be released, he answered in rapid succession "this summer," "soon," and "in the next couple of weeks."
As to what the major differences will be compared with the 2006 Bush Administration policy, Secretary Donley said that the new document would "recognize the changes" in the space "domain" over the last 10-20 years. Using what has become familiar wording in the national security space community, he said that space has become "congested" and "in some cases, contested" and emphasized the need for better space situation awareness and collaboration with industry and allies. He added that the new policy will "reinforce our collective understanding" of the increased economic and strategic importance of space.
The House Science and Technology Committee's Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on "Setting New Courses for Polar Weather Satellites and Earth Observations" for next Tuesday, June 29, at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. Witnesses are: Shere Abbot, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Mary Glackin, NOAA; Christopher Scolese, NASA; Gil Klinger, DOD; and David Powner, GAO.
The House is expected to approve a budget enforcement resolution today to set limits for FY2011 discretionary spending in lieu of the 5-year budget resolution that is normally passed.
The budget enforcement resolution will cut $7 billion from the President's request of $1.121 trillion for discretionary spending according to Congress Daily (subscription required). No word yet on where the $7 billion in reductions will be taken. About 63 percent of discretionary spending is for security (Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security). DOD's request for unclassified space programs is $9.9 billion. NASA's FY2011 budget request is $19 billion, and NOAA's request for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, & Information Service (NESDIS) is $2.2 billion.
UPDATE: A typed list of the signatories has been added to this article since some of the signatures are a bit hard to decipher.
The letter calls for a human mission beyond low Earth orbit in the coming 10 years and immediate development of a heavy lift launch vehicle, saying "we see no need to prolong a decision that will result in the loss of a highly-experienced and motivated workforce." The Members say they look forward to working with the President "to make the necessary changes to support an exploration program that continues our elite astronaut corps, preserves an irreplaceable workforce, protects our defense industrial base and ensures that the U.S. will leave low-Earth orbt within the decade."
There is news about the federal budget today from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
From the White House end, it is that Peter Orszag is leaving as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). News reports pointed out that budget directors usually have a short tenure - about two years - though Orszag will not even meet that benchmark. Apparently he wants his replacement on the job as the FY2012 budget is being developed, which begins in earnest at OMB in September. That's the same month Orszag is getting married, perhaps another factor in the timing of his departure. The change in command at the top of OMB is not likely to affect the FY2011 budget requests for NASA, NOAA or DOD.
Another open letter about President Obama's plan for NASA has been sent to Congress signed by another set of space luminaries including former astronauts, former NASA and other government officials, scientists, industry leaders -- mostly the "new space" industry, and others.
This one supports the President's plan as long as it not only facilitates the emergence of commercial crew, but includes"acceleration of exploration beyond low Earth orbit" that is "clearly defined." The letter says these should be the two "highest priorities" of the human spaceflight program and are "both essential," with emphasis on "both." It is not obvious whether the clearly defined, accelerated exploration program they are seeking is different from what the President is currently proposing.
NASA will hold a "NASA Day on the Hill" tomorrow in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building. NASA says the event is open to the public. It will feature Earth and space science programs, aeronautics research, and human space flight. Astronauts Jose Hernandez, Anna Fisher and Pat Forrester will be there. A reception will be held from 5:00-7:00 pm.
Events of Interest