CSExtra – Thursday, March 22, 2012
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Thursday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. In Washington, House appropriators express their displeasure over proposed cuts to planetary science programs to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a hearing on the agency’s 2013 budget. In Russia, tensions rise among the leaders of the country’s troubled space program. In California, the Center for SETI Research gets a boost from citizen astronomers. NASA’s MESSENGER and Dawn missions to the planet Mercury and the large asteroid Vesta provide scientists with some puzzling results. In India, Mars tops astronauts as a space priority. NASA engineers say the agency’s Space Launch System, a heavy lift rocket for future human deep space missions, is meeting early milestones for a 2011 unpiloted test flight. Destination Mankind: the Apollo mission that never was.
1. From Spacepolicyonline.com: The House appropriations panel with jurisdiction over NASA joins scientists in their displeasure with the agency’s proposed 2013 budget and its significant reduction in spending on planetary science. In a heated exchange with appropriators, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden insists he was responsible for the funding priorities, not the White House. http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/house-appropriators-fight-for-planetary-science
A. From USA Today: Cuts to NASA’s Mars program, outlined in the agency’s proposed 2013 budget, arouse concerns in Arizona, where experts on the Red Planet are clustered at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the Planetary Science Institute. Jobs as well as research opportunities are at stake, say scientists. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-03-21/arizona-scientists-mars-research-cuts/53681672/1
2. From Interfax News of Russia: The head of Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, is urged to step aside by the head of the state funded OAO Russian Space Systems. Earlier, Popovkin suggested possible embezzlement by OAO RSS in the administration of the country’s Glonass satellite navigation program. http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?pg=2&id=318261
A. From RiaNovosti of Russia: Russia’s Deputy prime minister for defense and space, Dmitry Rogozin, condemns the two organizations, Roscosmos and RSS, for their public spat. Earlier this month, Popovkin was hospitalized, reportedly for exhaustion from his efforts to address a series of space program problems, including launch failures, over the past year. http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120322/172314555.html
B. From The Moscow Times: Has Russia’s once vaunted cosmonaut corps lost its luster. Low pay and lack of attention could be factors, as just over 100 in the country apply for five to six openings in the nation’s small cadre of space pioneers. One applicant claimed the job was appealing because it represented work close to his home. A woman cosmonaut has not been launched in years. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/nebulous-future-weighs-down-space-program/455292.html
3. From The New York Times: In December, the Center for SETI Research re-activated its impressive antenna array after a funding lapse prevented astronomers from sweeping the skies in search of signals from a far off alien civilization. However, the center’s mission has reason for new optimism. Recently, 40,000 members of the public signed up in just two weeks to help out in the signal search using a web based software tool called SETILive. NASA’s popular Kepler Mission, launched three years ago to search or Earth-like planets, is furnishing new targets. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/science/in-search-for-alien-life-researchers-enlist-human-minds.html?_r=2&ref=science
4. From National Public Radio, NASA’s MESSENGER mission, launched to the planet Mercury in 2004, yields some surprises. The planet appears to have been geologically active much longer than previously believed. The surface is much more layered that it appears and pushed outward, apparently by tectonic processes. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/21/149071361/messenger-probe-sends-back-new-data-from-mercury
A. From Discovery.com: Little Mercury’s iron core is out sized, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft findings reveal. The finding suggests Mercury’s surface is being shaped by internal process not yet understood. The latest details come as MESSENGER completes its primary mission and begins an extended period of study. http://news.discovery.com/space/mercury-messenger-planet-swelling-mystery-120321.html
5. From The Coalition for Space Exploration: Planetary scientists offer an explanation for the blotchy appearance of the large asteroid Vesta. The bright material appears to be regions of the planetary body exposed by meteor impacts. The composition of the bright stuff is a mystery, but the observations made by NASA’s Dawn mission suggest its been around since the planetary body formed about four billion years ago. http://spacecoalition.com/blog/giant-asteroid-vesta-%e2%80%93-unexpected-details
6. From Spacepolitics.com: In India, the space budget places a Mars mission probe ahead of spending on human space flight – a surprise to those in the West who included India among developing countries prepared to challenge U. S. leadership. http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/03/21/india-prioritizes-mars-over-human-spaceflight/
7. From The Huntsville Times: Todd May, who oversees development of the Space Launch System at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, says the complex project’s early development supports an unpiloted test flight in 2017. http://www.al.com/42/index.ssf/2012/03/may_says_sls_program_on_schedu.html
8. From Wired News: Destination Mankind was an Apollo mission that never flew. Launched in 1972, it would have permitted the U.S. to postpone Apollo 17, the final lunar mission, until the U. S. Bicentennial in 1976. Destination’s destination would have been geosynchronous orbit. The crew’s mission would have been largely educational — to inform the world’s population of the benefits of Earth orbital space. Space historian David Portree tells the story. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/destination-mankind-1972/
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