CSExtra – Tuesday, February 28, 2012
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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the globe. In Washington, NASA establishes a Mars Planning Group to prepare a budget compatible mission to the red planet in time for a 2018 lift off. The House Science Committee calls a March 7 hearing on NASA’s proposed 2013 budget. Russia’s interest in human lunar missions is questioned. Warmer temperatures claim Mount Everett snow pack, say veteran climbers. Astronomers alert the U. N. to a 2040 asteroid impact threat. Commentaries suggest a lack of transparency in Russia’s investigation of a recent Mars mission failure and find that NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program has reached a crucial point. A flurry of solar eruptions pump up the Northern Lights. A range of investigations unveil Chinese espionage activities aimed a U. S. space technology.
1. From Spacepolicyonline.com: John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, creates a Mars Program Planning Group to devise an affordable Mars mission for 2018. The move is in response to proposed 2013 spending constraints. Grunsfeld says the mission will be responsive to the National Research Council’s decadal survey for planetary exploration. However, one expert says the mission will not comply unless it contributes to a future Martian soil sample return mission. http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/nasa-starts-planning-for-smaller-mars-mission-in-2018
A. From the Associated Press via The Washington Post: NASA informs planetary scientists it will prepare a budget compatible mission to Mars for a 2018 launch. However, John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, says a longer range mission to retrieve soil and rock samples from Mars is currently unaffordable. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/nasas-20-year-focus-on-mars-looking-fuzzier-as-space-agency-changes-course-axes-flights/2012/02/27/gIQAsCGOdR_story.html
2. From Space Politics.com: The House Science Committee sets March 7 for a hearing on NASA’s proposed 2013 budget. http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/02/27/house-science-committee-schedules-nasa-budget-hearing/
3. From Aviation Week & Space Technology: Recent indications from the chief of Russia’s federal space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, that Russia was evaluating prospects for human missions to the moon seem unlikely to garner the support of the central government, according to his predecessor, Anatoly Perminov. http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/asd/2012/02/27/04.xml&headline=Manned%20Russian%20Moon%20Missions%20Unlikely
4. From Discovery.com: Mt. Everest appears to be losing high altitude snow in response to rising temperatures, according to a veteran climber. A continuation could lead to rockfalls that would make the summit unreachable. http://news.discovery.com/adventure/sherpa-climate-change-mount-everest-unclimbable-120227.html#mkcpgn=rssnws1.
5. From Space.com: Working with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, astronomers have identified an asteroid that may pose a collision threat to the Earth in 2040. The 460 foot wide object, 2011 AG5, deserves additional study of its composition and tracking to accurately establish its course. http://www.space.com./14683-big-asteroid-2011-ag5-threat-earth.html
6. From The Space Review of Monday. Two essays challenge Russia’s openness in the investigation of a recent Mars mission loss and spotlight 2012 as a milestone year for NASA’s efforts to initiate commercial re-supply missions to the International Space Station:
A. In “Open issues with the official Phobos-Grunt accident report,” James Oberg, author and flight controller, takes Russia to task for its lack of openness in the conclusions investigators reached in the loss of a Mars mission launched in November, including the absence of an English translation. The spacecraft plummeted to Earth after being stranded in orbit for several weeks. The aftermath could hinder efforts by Russia to collaborate with other nations on future missions, Oberg writes. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2035/1
B. In “The critical year for commercial cargo and crew,” TSR editor Jeff Foust finds 2012 a milestone year for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program and its partners SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. SpaceX is now looking at a late April launch for its first commercial re-supply mission to the International Space Station with the Falcon 9/Dragon. Orbital is looking at a third quarter launch for the Antares/Cygnus demonstration. The outcomes will influence NASA’s efforts to lower the cost of orbital crew and cargo flights in order to invest in future deep space exploration. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2034/1
7. From Space.com: The northern lights are beaming in response to surprising five solar eruptions in two days. http://www.space.com/14693-sun-video-5-solar-eruptions-2-days.html
8. From AmericaSpace: Chinese espionage activities focus on the acquisition of U. S. space hardware, including the acquisition of radiation shielding computer chips. The success of the effort depends on a network of agents and other contacts. http://www.americaspace.org/?p=14543
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