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NASA has set Friday, August 6, as the day for the first of two spacewalks to fix a broken ammonia pump for one of the two International Space Station's cooling loops. As reported earlier, the pump blew a circuit breaker on the station Saturday night and it could not be reset. Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were preparing for a spacewalk on Thursday already for an unrelated task and now will shift their attention to solving this problem instead.
A second spacewalk will take place on Monday, August 9, to complete the repairs. The pump is located on the exterior of the space station, on the S1 truss, and spare pumps are stored there. NASA stresses that space station systems are stable and the crew is in no danger.
NASA will hold a press conference tomorrow, August 2, at 4:00 pm EDT from Johnson Space Center to discuss plans for two spacewalks to fix a cooling pump that failed on Saturday. A circuit breaker tripped Saturday night resulting in "the failure of the Pump Module for [cooling] loop A that feeds ammonia to maintain the proper cooling for systems and avionics," according to NASA's ISS website. NASA says the crew is not in danger and the ISS is in a "stable configuration."
Astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were already preparing for a spacewalk on Thursday. Their task will now change to replace the failed pump, which is on the exterior of the station -- on the S1 truss. Two spare pumps are stowed on the truss.
The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Congressional hearings are subject to change; check the committee's website for up to date information.
Tuesday - Wednesday, August 3-4
Wednesday-Thursday, August 4-5
Thursday-Friday, August 5-6
The Astro2010 astronomy and astrophysics Decadal Survey will be released on August 13, 2010 according to the National Research Council (NRC). Astro2010 is a joint effort of the NRC's Board on Physics and Astronomy and Space Studies Board. It prioritizes ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics missions for the next 10 years.
The urgent need for the Department of Energy (DOE) to restart production of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) to fuel some of NASA's planetary spacecraft missions was detailed in a 2009 report from the National Research Council. Congress, however, remains unconvinced, at least as to why DOE should pay for it.
Under the Atomic Energy Act, DOE is responsible for the nation's nuclear materials and facilities, so last year the full request of $30 million to restart Pu-238 production was included in the DOE budget request. Congress declined to provide the funding because the Administration had not demonstrated why DOE should pay for it instead of NASA.
In case you missed it, here's a link to the funny and delightful interview of Elon Musk by comedian Stephen Colbert.
Congress passed the FY2010 supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899) and sent it to the President yesterday. The final version is the same as that which passed the Senate on May 27 according to documents posted on the House Appropriations Committee's website. That version includes further direction to NASA to continue the Constellation program in FY2010.
The primary purpose of the bill is to fund war operations. Secretary of Defense Gates has been anxious that Congress complete action on the bill, but passage was slowed by debate over whether it should fund other "emergencies" such as keeping teachers employed. The House added such funding, but the Senate rejected it. House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-WI) cast a "no" vote saying he believed the bill would serve only as a "recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill" and called it a bill that is "a good indication of the tensions and false choices that we face," funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while neglecting domestic emergencies in education and border security.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, argued passionately today that the United States must be the world's leader in space and not cooperate with China. His remarks were made at a luncheon sponsored by the Space Transportation Association.
"I oppose cooperation with China, " he said, citing numerous reasons such as its imprisonment of Catholic and Protestant leaders, its actions in Tibet, and its espionage in the United States. Conceding that "I may be a minority in my own party" in his convictions about China, he urged the audience to "see what they're doing." He criticized President Obama's NASA proposal because he believes it would cede space leadership to China or Russia. Though he declined to state specifically whether he favored the House Science and Technology Committee's alternative to the Obama plan versus the one in the Senate, or predict how it will all turn out, he called on companies represented at the luncheon to "make the case" for the bipartisan effort put into crafting a compromise to ensure that "America is number one" in space.
The Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council (NRC) will hold a workshop at the NRC's Beckman Center in Irvine, CA in November to look at "Grand Questions" of space science and exploration and how to share the "adventure" with the public.
From November 8-10, 2010 at a meeting that is free and open to the public, the SSB workshop will explore the relationships between the five Grand Questions and the space research program and "how ro convey the value and excitement to the public." The questions are:
For more on the workshop and other SSB news, see the latest (April-June 2010) issue of the SSB newsletter.
National Public Radio (NPR) ran an interesting piece on July 24 about the space shuttle program as it closes in on its last flights.
Events of Interest