CSExtra – Monday, April 8, 2013
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Monday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe, plus a roundup from the weekend. Multiple reports, among them one with White House confirmation, suggests President Obama’s 2014 budget request will include a new initiative to capture an asteroid and place it around the moon for human exploration. The National Space Symposium convenes this week in Colorado Springs without travel restricted NASA representation. NASA’s 2013 planetary sciences budget receives a boost. NASA selects a Kepler space telescope successor. Orbital Sciences Corp moves its Antares rocket to a Virginia launch pad for an April 17 test flight. SpaceShipTwo nears powered test flight? Orbiter Discovery impresses, even in retirement. NASA upgrades an Apollo-era thermal vacuum chamber for a key James Webb Space Telescope test. The complexion of Jupiter’s volcanically active moon puzzles. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory turns its gaze to the tropics with Synthetic Aperture Radar. A look at major space activities planned for the week ahead.
1. From The New York Times, April 5: U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, reveals NASA’s plans to robotically retrieve a small asteroid and park it in orbit around the moon, where it would be accessible to astronauts as early at 2021 using the Space Launch System and the Orion crew capsule. Nelson’s remarks follow a White House briefing on the proposed 2014 budget, which President Obama plans to release on April 10. The proposed mission was also outlined earlier by Aviation Week & Space Technology.
A. From NBC News.com, April 6: An Obama administration official confirms the asteroid capture strategy as part of President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget, NBC reports. The report notes the robotic/human mission strategy would fulfill President Obama’s directive to NASA in 2010 that the agency reach an asteroid with human explorers by 2025.
B. From Florida Today, April 5: The proposed mission timeline includes the selection of an appropriate asteroid; a 2019 asteroid capture; followed by lunar orbit release in 2021. The timescale corresponds with the first planned human flight of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion crew module. In 2010, President Obama tasked NASA with reaching an asteroid with astronauts by 2025 — the first stop in the eventual human exploration of Mars.
C. From The Orlando Sentinel, April 5: Initial funding for the asteroid initiative includes $78 million to initiate design studies for a robotic mission, and $27 million to find a suitable asteroid for capture, the Sentinel reports, based on materials briefed to Congress. “If the American people are excited about it, they [lawmakers] will be, too,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, tells The Sentinel.
D. From The Associated Press via The Huffington Post, April 5: Proposed asteroid mission draws mixed reviews.
E. From Spacepolitics.com, April 5: Enthusiasm within the U. S. and NASA itself for a human asteroid mission is waning, according to UCLA’s Al Carnesale, who led a National Research Council study of NASA’s future direction that was released in late 2012. The moon may draw more interest. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, however, said the space agency remains focused on leading human missions to an asteroid and Mars, not the moon. The comments surfaced last Thursday at a joint meeting of the NRC’s Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington, the website reports.
2. From Space.com, April 7: The 29th annual National Space Symposium opens in Colorado Springs on Monday. The session will bring together leaders from the commercial space industry, military and international space community. U. S. budget restrictions will limit participation from NASA. A speaking engagement by Administrator Charles Bolden disappears from the agenda. The symposium is expected to draw about 9,000.
3. From The Pasadena Sun, of California, April 7: NASA’s planetary sciences program receives an additional $123 million for its planetary sciences work in the extended 2013 budget continuing resolution for 2013. President Obama’s request for the 2013 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013 was $1.19 billion, the new annual figure is $1.41 billion. However, after the impacts of sequestration and a rescission NASA’s planetary sciences line will ultimately receive $1.31 billion.
4. From Discovery.com, April 7: NASA selects a $200 million mission to succeed the Kepler space telescope’s search for exo-planets. The Transiting Exo-planet Survey Satellite (TESS), is scheduled for a 2017 launch. Searching only a small part of the sky, Kepler has spotted 2,740 exo-planetary candidates, Discovery reports.
5. From Spaceflightnow.com, April 6: Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket reaches its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad on Saturday, enhancing the prospects for an April 17 test flight. Orbital expects to join SpaceX this year as NASA’s second International Space Station commercial resupply services provider.
6. From Parabolic Arc, April 6. SpaceShipTwo could move to powered flight in California’s Mojave Desert this month.
7. From Florida Today, April 6: A visit to shuttle Discovery, on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum Annex, at Dulles International Airport, leaves a strong impression with columnist John Kelly. “NASA and the Smithsonian have done a great job of leaving the orbiter as it was on its final return,” he writes. “The heat-shielding tiles on the orbiter’s belly and thermal blankets covering most of the air frame bear the scars of space flight and atmospheric re-entry. In the Smithsonian display, visitors can walk up to almost within arm’s reach of the orbiter.
8. From Space.com, April 5: At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers ready an Apollo-era thermal vacuum chamber for a pivotal 2017 test of the James Webb Space Telescope before a late 2018 launching. JWST is headed for a sun-Earth Lagrange point one million miles away. The lengthy exposure to vacuum and cold temperatures in Chamber A will prepare the Hubble Space Telescope’s designated replacement for departure and a rigorous mission.
9. From The Los Angeles Times, April 5: New studies of Jupiter’s volcanically active moon raise questions about the internal and external forces at work.
10. From The Los Angeles Times: April 5: At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, is enabling scientists to study changing landforms in the tropics. Airborne UAVSAR peers through clouds and leaf cover.
11. From Spacepolicyonline.com, April 7: A look at major space policy events scheduled for the week ahead. President Obama’s 2014 budget request appears headed for a Wednesday presentation to Congress. The Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium convenes in Colorado Springs. The House hosts a second hearing on the collision threat posed by Near Earth Objects.
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