Latest News

Obama Promises Continued Leadership in Space

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Kennedy Space Center, FL - President Obama told an invitation-only audience at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) today that his plan for NASA will assure U.S. leadership in space is stronger in the 21st Century than it was in the last century. Saying that no one is more committed to NASA's human space flight program than he is, the President said humans will land on Mars and "I expect to be around to see it."

The President made no retreat from his conviction that the future of human space flight - at least to and from low Earth orbit - should be in the hands of the private sector. Instead, during his short visit, he found time to pop over to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (adjacent to KSC) to visit SpaceX's Falcon 9 sitting on its launch pad.

Obama reviewed the basics of his plan, which are essentially the same as what was announced in the FY2011 budget request. As presaged in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy press release on Tuesday, however, there is some fine tuning that may ameliorate some of his critics. While Orion is not really continued, the President said that NASA will develop a space station rescue craft using the technology developed in the Orion program.

The President's plan has been heavily criticized for not having a destination or timetable. The President offered some timelines today, but they are not in the near term. He said "early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit" and new spacecraft for human missions beyond the Moon would be ready by 2025. As for a destination, he explicitly identified a human mission to an asteroid as the next step. Evoking President John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 speech calling on the nation to send a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth within a decade, President Obama said that "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it." He eschewed the Moon, saying "We've been there before.... There's a lot more of space to explore."

As expected, he also said that a decision would be made by 2015 on what new heavy lift launch vehicle to develop, which he said was two years earlier than under the previous plan.

Noting that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas keeps reminding him that he promised to help with jobs in the transition from Shuttle to Constellation, he announced that he is proposing a $40 million initiative to develop a plan for regional economic growth and job creation along Florida's Space Coast. The plan is due by August 15. Separately he said that his proposal would add 2,500 more jobs in the next two years in the area than the previous plan, and that 10,000 jobs could be created nationwide over the next few years as companies compete to be part of the "new space transportation industry."

The speech does little to change the nature of the program revealed in February, but indicates that the White House is willing to respond to some of the criticism it has encountered. For those who firmly believe that new spacecraft and launch vehicles should be developed under the traditional government-private sector relationship that has defined the space program for the past 50 years, the speech probably did little to ease their concerns. Nor would those whose worry mostly about jobs be assuaged, since there were few details about how new jobs would be created. But for anyone who wanted to know where the human space flight program is headed and on what schedule, the President offered some answers today and his personal enthusiasm for the human space flight program. The ball is back in Congress' court to decide whether to embrace the President's plan for the future, try to keep the Constellation program in spite of the significant budget implications of that choice, or come up with something else.

Editor's note: The President said that before he went on stage someone told him that the space program was more than Tang and he replied that he really likes Tang. Regrettably that comment may reinforce the urban myth that Tang came out of the space program. It did not. Nor did Velcro or Teflon even though those are the three products that most people seem to think are space program spin-offs.

Schools in Germany, Puerto Rico Win NASA Moonbuggy Contest

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 14-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The International Space Education Institute of Leipzig, Germany and the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao claimed first place of their respective divisions in the 17th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race, NASA announced Saturday.

More than 70 student teams from around the world competed to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies that tackle many of the same engineering challenges NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) encountered in developing the Apollo lunar rover in the 1960s.

The winners are selected based on vehicle assembly and race times in each division. The International Space Education Institute, also known as "Team Germany," won first place in the high school division after finishing the half-mile course that simulates the lunar surface in 3 minutes 37 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao won the college division, completing the course in 4 minutes and 18 seconds.

Tammy Rowan, manager of MSFC's Academic Affairs Office, was quoted by NASA as saying: "it's our goal to augment and enrich the classroom experience, and inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and explorers to carry on NASA's mission of discovery throughout our solar system and deliver untold benefits back home on Earth."

The race, organized by MSFC, took place on April 9-10, 2010 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. For more information on these and other winning teams, see the press release or visit

All Eyes on Florida As Obama Space Conference Nears

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Anticipation continues to mount as April 15 and President Obama's major space policy address nears. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA each have issued fact sheets that are available on OSTP's website. According to NASA's instructions to the media, the President will land at Kennedy Space Center at 1:30 pm EDT, and the program will begin at 2:45 pm. Air Force One and the President will depart at 3:45 pm. The conference includes "breakout groups" after the President's address and then a closing ceremony, but details are scarce. The entire event will be streamed on NASA TV.

Tweets from the National Space Symposium: Bolden, Kehler Speak; Space Industry Has Forgotten Past

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

How did we ever get along without Twitter? And Tweeters like Jeff Foust from, Miles O'Brien from This Week in Space, and NASA's own Wayne Hale? Their tweets from the Space Foundation's National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs makes it seem like being there yourself! Here are a few samples from today's events featuring NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, Commander of Air Force Space Command Gen. Robert Kehler, and a space investment industry panel. Check Twitter or these guys' blogs for more of their news and views.

jeff_foust: Bolden: this is a big week for space. More people will be thinking about it than perhaps ever before

jeff_foust: Bolden: the new plan features incremental, measured progress based on heritage and building upon milestones

jeff_foust: Bolden: can't express just how passionate Obama and I are about education, why it's an impt part of the plan

jeff_foust: Bolden ends with call to work together to fully realize NASA's goals. Leaves without taking any questions

jeff_foust: Gen. Kehler: in plans we used to put a big red circle around launch day. Now we put it around the day that capability enters service

jeff_foust: Kehler: we're using the same strategy for milspace programs as we did in Cold War. Have to realize that 1 strategy doesn't fit all.

jeff_foust: Next panel as #nss10 features Wall St analysts talking about space industry. Mass exodus from the room

jeff_foust: Good news for the space industry: investors have short memories and have forgotten the disasters of a decade ago

this_week_in_space: At the space syposium in CO - Charlie Bolden trying to sell skeptical/angry crowd on Obama space plan. Tough crowd

wayne_hale: At the NSS, Gen Kahler is giving a great, thoughtful, heartfelt speech that clearly explains goals and issues. We could learn from him.

wayne_hale: Listening to Charlie Bolden at the National Space Symposium. He's doing his best to make the case.

Griffin and Other Former NASA Officials and Astronauts Say 30,000 Could Lose Jobs Due to Obama Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and a long list of former astronauts and retired NASA officials penned an open letter to President Obama warning that his new plan for NASA could "force as many as 30,000 irreplaceable engineers and managers out of the space industry."

Calling the plan "a terrible decision," the letter urges the President "to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human exploration...." The full text of the letter appears below. President Obama is scheduled to speak at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday in what many are calling a "space summit" to further elucidate his vision for NASA, whose outlines were revealed in NASA's FY2011 budget request on February 1.

Here is the text of the open letter to the President.

Dear President Obama;

America is faced with the near-simultaneous ending of the Shuttle program and your recent budget proposal to cancel the Constellation program. This is wrong for our country for many reasons. We are very concerned about America ceding its hard earned global leadership in space technology to other nations. We are stunned that, in a time of economic crisis, this move will force as many as 30,000 irreplaceable engineers and managers out of the space industry. We see our human exploration program, one of the most inspirational tools to promote science, technology, engineering and math to our young people, being reduced to mediocrity. NASA's human space program has inspired awe and wonder in all ages by pursuing the American tradition of exploring the unknown. We strongly urge you to drop this misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.

For those of us who have accepted the risk and dedicated a portion of our lives to the exploration of outer space, this is a terrible decision. Our experiences were made possible by the efforts of thousands who were similarly dedicated to the exploration of the last frontier. Success in this great national adventure was predicated on well defined programs, an unwavering national commitment, and an ambitious challenge. We understand there are risks involved in human space flight, but they are calculated risks for worthy goals, whose benefits greatly exceed those risks.

America's greatness lies in her people: she will always have men and women willing to ride rockets into the heavens. America's challenge is to match their bravery and acceptance of risk with specific plans and goals worthy of their commitment. NASA must continue at the frontiers of human space exploration in order to develop the technology and set the standards of excellence that will enable commercial space ventures to eventually succeed. Canceling NASA's human space operations, after 50 years of unparalleled achievement, makes that objective impossible.

One of the greatest fears of any generation is not leaving things better for the young people of the next. In the area of human space flight, we are about to realize that fear; your NASA budget proposal raises more questions about our future in space than it answers.

Too many men and women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to achieve America's preeminence in space, only to see that effort needlessly thrown away. We urge you to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human space exploration with ambitious goals and the proper resources to see them through. This is not the time to abandon the promise of the space frontier for a lack of will or an unwillingness to pay the price.

Sincerely, in hopes of continued American leadership in human space exploration.

Walter Cunningham
Apollo 7

Chris Kraft
Past Director JSC

Jack Lousma
Skylab 3, STS 3

Vance Brand
Apollo-Soyuz, STS-5,
STS-41B, STS-35

Bob Crippen
STS-1, STS-7,
STS-41C, STS-41G
Past Director KSC

Michael D. Griffin
Past NASA Administrator

Ed Gibson
Skylab 4

Jim Kennedy
Past Director KSC

Alan Bean
Apollo 12, Skylab 3

Alfred M. Worden
Apollo 15

Scott Carpenter
Mercury Astronaut

Glynn Lunney
Gemini-Apollo Flight Director

Jim McDivitt
Gemini 4, Apollo 9
Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager

Gene Kranz
Gemini-Apollo Flight Director
Past Director NASA Mission Ops.

Joe Kerwin
Skylab 2

Fred Haise
Apollo 13,
Shuttle Landing Tests

Gerald Carr
Skylab 4

Jim Lovell
Gemini 7, Gemini 12,
Apollo 8, Apollo 13

Jake Garn
U.S. Senator

Charlie Duke
Apollo 16

Bruce McCandless
STS-41B, STS-31

Frank Borman
Gemini 7, Apollo 8

Paul Weitz
Skylab 2, STS-6

George Mueller
Past Associate Administrator
For Manned Space Flight

Harrison Schmitt
Apollo 17,
U.S. Senator

Gene Cernan
Gemini 9, Apollo 10,
Apollo 17

Dick Gordon
Gemini 11, Apollo 12

Today in Space History: First Human Space Flight

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 12-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to fly into space. His one orbit of the Earth in Vostok 1 catalyzed the new John F. Kennedy Administration to boldly announced just six weeks later the goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. In the intervening weeks, Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to reach the limits of space, though his flight was suborbital (John Glenn was the first astronaut to orbit the Earth, in February 1962). Gagarin died in 1968 in a military aircraft accident in circumstances that remain unclear even today.

Events of Interest: Week of April 12-16, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click on the links below. Times, dates, and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change; check with the relevant committee for up to date information.

The BIG event, of course, is President Obama's space conference at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL on Thursday. The few details that have been made public so far are that the President will make a major space policy address and meet privately with some Members of Congress, and there will be four panel sessions on various topics. will post further information as it becomes available. According to NASA Administrator Bolden, the event will be broadcast on NASA TV. Florida Today reports that the President will arrive at KSC at 1:45 pm, speak at 3:00 pm, and depart at 3:45 pm.

Monday-Thursday, April 12-15

Monday, April 12

Tuesday, April 13

Wednesday, April 14

Thursday, April 15

  • President Obama's Space Conference, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL. Florida Today reports that the President will arrive at KSC at 1:45 pm. speak at 3:00 pm, and depart at 3:45 pm.

Thursday-Friday, April 15-16

Workforce Breakdown for NASA's New Plan Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

NASA officials are currently conducting a media briefing on "workforce breakdowns" for each NASA center for the new NASA program announced in the FY2011 budget request. Documents have been posted on NASA's budget website with much of the information being briefed. So far, there is lots of information about how many dollars will be spent at the centers, but not the number of people needed to accomplish the tasks.

Obama Space Conference Outline Emerges

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

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 JSC Preparing for Commercial Crew

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Apr-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

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.

Events of Interest   

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


Subscribe to Email Updates:

Enter your email address: