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No Reciprocal China Visit Planned, JWST Still Under Review, Bolden Tells AvWeek

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

A reciprocal visit from Chinese space officials to NASA is not yet being planned according to an interview Aviation Week & Space Technology's Frank Mooring conducted with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden on November 23. Bolden visited China last month.

Morring quotes Bolden as saying: "There is not a delegation coming next month as far as I know.... A reciprocal visit is something we continue to work with the interagency organizations ... trying to figure out the timing on that.... I wouldn't even say there is a reciprocal visit planned. I think everyone would like to see one, but everybody's still in conversations."

Ideas put forward for cooperation by Russian space agency head Anatoly Perminov in November similarly are "going nowhere fast," according to the magazine.

Regarding the $1.5 billion cost growth on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) recently revealed by an independent panel, Bolden is quoted by Aviation Week as saying that the panel's study was "only 'back of the envelope'" and the issue is now being studied more thoroughly by a new management team. The goal is to enable the agency to "present a creditable story to the science community as well as all of our stakeholders" next year. As reported earlier by, the NAC astrophysics subcommittee will get an update on JWST on December 22 and a town hall meeting is scheduled for January 10, 2011 at the AAS annual meeting in Seattle.

NAC Astrophysics Subcommittee to Get Update on JWST

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be the focus of a December 22 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's astrophysics subcommittee. An independent review recently concluded that JWST will cost an additional $1.4 billion, raising its pricetag to $6.5 billion and slipping its launch date another year, to 2015.

The impact of that cost increase on other astrophysics programs is a matter of considerable concern to the space astrophysics community. In today's constrained federal budget environment, it is not likely that the agency will be given additional funds to make up the difference, meaning that other astrophysics programs probably will be delayed or not started.

The National Research Council (NRC) recently laid out plans for the next 10 years of ground- and space-based astrophysics research in the New Worlds New Horizons Decadal Survey. Whether those recommendations are affordable under these circumstances and, if not, what the road ahead portends will be a major topic of discussion not only at this subcommittee meeting, but at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle. A special "town hall" meeting on JWST is scheduled for the evening of January 10.

UPDATE: Events of Interest: Week of November 29-December 3, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 29-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: Two events are added for December 2.

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

Wednesday, December 1

Thursday, December 2

Friday, December 3

European Space Ministers Emphasize Space-Based Infrastructure, Exploration

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 27-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The space ministers of the European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA) met on November 25 in Brussels, Belgium for the seventh time since the two organizations signed a framework agreement in 2004. The two groups have overlapping, but not identical, memberships. The EU is a political body, while ESA is technical. The two have worked together on the European Galileo navigation satellite system and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program for several years.

The Space Council meeting took place as part of a meeting of the Council of the European Union on "Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space)." A press release from the EU said that the Council "endorsed a resolution on the orientations to be taken so that Europe can continue to develop world-class space infrastructures and applications, and to rely on efficient space systems to serve its citizens." The Galileo and GMES programs were given special emphasis.

Among its many points, the resolution itself "ACKNOWLEDGES the increasing dependence of the European economy and policies ... on space assets and the critical nature of space infrastructures for autonomous European decision making...." It also "NOTES the EU's proposal for a Code of Conduct in Outer Space" and "RECOGNISES the need for a future Space Situational Awareness (SSA) capability as an activity at European level..."

Article 189 of the Lisbon Treaty, which went into force in December 2009, gives the EU an explicit role not only in European space applications like Galileo and GMES, but also in space exploration. The resolution issued yesterday "CONSIDERS" that Europe's robotic and human space exploration program should be undertaken "within a worldwide programme" developed by building upon existing international partnerships. The International Space Station (ISS) is specifically cited as an example. The resolution "TAKES NOTE" of the decision by some ISS partners to extend operations of the ISS until at least 2020 and stresses the need to effectively utilize the facility.

Regarding space exploration, the resolution "STRESSES the strong common interest of Member States in Mars exploration" and "CALLS UPON the European Commission and ESA [Director General], jointly, to develop and propose a European exploration strategy..."

ESA issued its own press release, quoting Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain as saying that the Lisbon Treaty with its Article 189 is "good news for space, good news for Europe and good news for ESA. It allows us not to do the same thing differently, but to do more, together."

UPDATE: ISS Crew Members Land Safely

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: NASA TV showed the egress of the crew live and a version of the video is available on the NASA TV YouTube channel:


Three members of the International Space Station crew landed safely in Kazakhstan as scheduled.

Nifty Pics Posted by Ready-to-Return Astronaut

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

CORRECTION: The Twitter URL has been corrected. It is an underscore rather than a hyphen in astro_wheels.

NASA Astronaut Doug Wheelock will return home tonight aboard a Soyuz spacecraft and is spending his final hours sending back photos from the International Space Station (ISS). You can link to them from his Twitter account at

A particularly nifty one is a photo of him in the cupola looking down at Earth. Another shows the Soyuz capsule that will bring him and colleagues Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin home, with Earth in the background. Undocking remains scheduled for 8:23 pm EST, with landing in Kazakhstan at 11:46 pm EST.

NASA TV has begun live coverage already.

Three ISS Crew Members Set to Return Home Tomorrow

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Three members of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 25 crew are getting ready to return home tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. Soyuz TMA-19 is scheduled to undock from the ISS at 8:23 pm EST and land in Kazakhstan at 11:46 pm EST (10:46 am November 26 at the landing site).

NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker will be aboard, along with Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, who will be commander of the Soyuz during descent. One American, Scott Kelly, and two Russians, Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, will remain on the ISS and be joined by three new colleagues in mid-December. That crew, which will launch from Kazakhstan on December 15 EST (December 16 in Kazakhstan), is composed of Russian Dmitry Kondratyev, American Cady Coleman, and Italian Paolo Nespoli, representing the European Space Agency.

For more on ISS crew comings and goings, check NASA's ISS website.

Shuttle Press Conference Today at 3:00 pm EST

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The rest of us may be busy getting ready for Thanksgiving, but NASA is hard at work. The agency has scheduled a press conference for 2:00 pm CST (3:00 EST) this afternoon to update everyone on the launch of Discovery.

The press conference will follow a space shuttle program requirements review control board meeting to discuss the progress of repairs associated with two cracks in "stringers" on Discovery's external tank. The press conference will be shown on NASA TV. Bill Gerstenmaier and John Shannon are the briefing participants.

European Space Council Press Briefing Tomorrow

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

For anyone who won't be preparing Thanksgiving dinner or watching the Macy's Day parade tomorrow at 16:00 European time (10:00 am EST), the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Union (EU) will be webstreaming a press conference about their seventh Space Council meeting. The meeting of ESA and EU ministers in charge of space activities will take place that day in Brussels, Belgium.

According to ESA's press release, the theme of the meeting is "Global Challenges: Taking Full Benefit of European Space Systems." ESA says the theme "reflects the important synergies that can be created to benefit Europe's citizens when placing the technical expertise provided by ESA at the service of a range of EU policies."

Discovery Launch Delayed Indefinitely

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Space shuttle managers feel that more analysis is needed before they can clear space shuttle Discovery for its final launch. The launch was scrubbed twice in November and slipped to no earlier than December 3. Shuttle program manager John Shannon said at a press conference today that it will not be ready for the December 3-7 window at all. The next window, December 17-20, is an option, but he is not sure they will be ready by then either. If not, the launch will have to wait untl February.

Two cracks were found in "stringers" on Discovery's external tank after the tank was filled and emptied several times during the previous launch attempts. NASA needs time to do additional analysis to ensure that cracks do not develop during ascent and cause foam to be shed. Damage to the space shuttle Columbia orbiter from external tank foam shedding caused Columbia to disintegrate during reentry in 2003, killing all seven aboard.

Shannon said repeatedly today that NASA needs to understand its risk exposure better before commiting to launch. The shuttle is still on the launch pad and engineers have access to only one side of the tank. Rolling it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building so they can study the opposite side is one option they are considering, but no decisions have been finalized.

Events of Interest

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


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