CSExtra – Monday, August 6, 2012
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Monday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory lands on target, following a successful descent into Gale Crater early Monday. NASA selects Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative, or third phase of a competitive orbital space transportation system. NASA climate scientist James Hansen links recent drought and global hot spells to global warming. NASA looks to 2015 for the selection of its next “flagship” astrophysics mission. Astronomers follow the black hole destruction of a star. A look at major space policy events scheduled for the week ahead.
1. From The New York Times, Aug. 6: Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupt triumphantly as the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover touches down intact on Mars at 1:32 a.m., EDT.
A. From the Associated Press via Yahoo.com, Aug. 6: NASA’s Curiosity rover achieves an unprecedented feat of technology, President Obama says in a statement. American preeminence “depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world,” he adds. http://news.yahoo.com/obama-praises-nasa-mars-landing-063203642.html
B. From The Washington Post, Aug. 6: Curiosity’s picture perfect descent starts what promises to be the most ambitious planetary mission in history. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nasa-mission-to-mars-rover-curiosity-touches-down/2012/08/06/e10e7bf2-df89-11e1-8fc5-a7dcf1fc161d_story.html?hpid=z1
C. From The Los Angeles Times, Aug. 5: In an editorial, The Times backs NASA’s efforts to learn more about Mars and the solar system — even in lean times. “… the United States can’t afford to risk its technological leadership in space exploration, or squander the gains that could come from firsthand knowledge of Mars,” the Times writes of pending spending cuts for planetary science. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-ed-mars-curiosity-nasa-budget-20120805,0,4706057.story
D. From The New York Times, Aug. 3: In a pre-encounter op-ed, John Grotzinger, the project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, characterizes the step NASA is making with the rover, “The step forward we are about to take is remarkable. We are going to be flying in a sort of time machine, created to reconstruct what the surface of Mars looked like billions of years ago,” he writes. “The earliest history of Mars is better preserved than it is on Earth, and so we have a chance to gain insight into the development of our own planet through studying Mars.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/04/opinion/grotzinger-boldly-opening-a-new-window-onto-mars.html?_r=2&smid=tw-share
E. From The Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 5: In an op-ed, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden paraphrases John Kennedy when he asks and answers, Why do we choose to go to Mars, with MSL? “This mission is a precursor to sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s, a goal set forth by another young President, Barack Obama,” writes Bolden. It was a half century ago that JFK posed the same question as he challenged the nation to send the Apollo explorers to the moon. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-05/opinion/os-ed-nasa-mars-curiosity-mission-080512-20120803_1_mars-science-laboratory-mission-deputy-administrator-lori-garver-orion-spacecraft
F. From The Daily Beast, Aug. 5: With NASA’s MSL mission in the home stretch of its encounter with the red planet, U.S. leadership in the exploration of Mars is oddly in peril, writes Taylor Dinerman in an op-ed. He finds a combination of budget stress, over-regulation and political clumsiness to blame. The author notes the U. S. is the only nation to successfully reach the Martian surface with robotic explorers. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/05/mission-to-mars-will-america-lose-the-next-frontier.html
G. From The Huffington Post, Aug. 3: NASA’s MSL/Curiosity mission, like the Olympic Games in London, represents something humanity could use more off, inspirational achievement, writes Rick Tumlinson, a founder of the Space Frontier Foundation. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-tumlinson/the-red-the-gold-and-the-_b_1733936.html
H. From the BBC of London, Aug. 3: India’s cabinet approves a Mars mission. The Mars orbiter, scheduled for launching in November 2013, will study the red planet’s climate and geology. It builds on India’s successful Chandrayaan mission to the moon in 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-19110039
2. From CBS News via Spaceflightnow.com, Aug. 3: NASA moves forward with the third phase of the agency’s commercial crew space transportation development, with selection of Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. NASA plans to fund up to $1.1 billion in development activity under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative, or CCiCap. The plan, subject to Congressional budgeting deliberations, is to have the companies flying astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017. Some of the companies are looking to an earlier date. Boeing can look to $460 million in NASA funding for work on the seven person CST-100, SpaceX, $440 million for work on the seven-person CST-100; Sierra Nevada will receive up to $212.5 million for Dream Chaser, a seven-person, winged lifting body. http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1208/03ccicap/story.html
A. From Space News, Aug. 3: The latest round of development, if the milestones are met, would advance Boeing and SpaceX to the critical design phase. Sierra Nevada has more technical risk to address but could move forward if Boeing or SpaceX experienced a setback. Boeing and Sierra Nevada are looking to the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 to launch their spacecraft. http://www.spacenews.com/civil/120803-boeing-spacex-sierra-ccicap.html
B. From Spacepolitics.com, Aug. 3: Congress expresses early bi-partisan support for NASA’s Commercial Crew selections, Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. Utah’s delegation, however, expresses disappointment over the exclusion of ATK’s Liberty initiative. http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/08/03/warm-reactions-mostly-from-politicians-to-ccicap-awards/
C. From Florida Today, Aug. 3: NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative, headquartered at the Kennedy Space Center, promises to bring new jobs to Central Florida, but the ramp up will be gradual. The region lost thousands of jobs as the space shuttle program drew to a close in 2011. The latest contract awards represent “important progress toward ending the outsourcing of American aerospace jobs and bringing them right back here to Florida, and other states all across this country,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said at Kennedy Space Center. http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20120804/SPACE/308040013/NASA-bucks-push-3-closer-flight?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Space%20News
3. From the Associated Press via Politico, Aug. 4: Recent high temperatures across the globe can be attributed to climate change, asserts James Hansen, the scientist who leads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. His study, published over the weekend in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, includes the Texas/Oklahoma drought of last year, the 2010 heat wave in Russia and the Middle East, and the 2003 heat wave in Europe, but not the summer of 2012. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79378.html
4. From Space News, Aug. 3: NASA will look to 2015 to select and announce its next flagship astrophysics mission, officials announce. The timing will permit the agency to complete development of the $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The observatory’s launch date is late 2018. http://www.spacenews.com/civil/120803-propose-astronomy-flagship-2015.html
5. From The Los Angeles Times, Aug 3: Astronomers detect the destruction of a star by a massive black hole. The black hole, Swift 1644+57 lies 3.9 billion light years from Earth. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-shredded-star-cry-20120803,0,2245446.story
6. From Spacepolicyonline.com, Aug. 4: A look at major space policy related activities scheduled for the next two weeks. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission figures prominently on the agenda. Also on Wednesday, NASA plans a forum at the Kennedy Space Center to update the agency’s commercial crew development plans.
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