CSExtra – Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity rover is barreling toward a landing on the red planet early Monday. The ambitious venture, its scientific promise and the price tag already have experts debating the mission’s merits. The U. S. House expects to consider legislation this week clearing up the ownership rights of Apollo era astronauts to memorabilia from their missions. Is U. S. commercial spaceflight approaching a Netscape moment? An active sun unleashes a solar flare headed toward a glancing blow with the Earth. A blue moon is upon us.
1. From The New York Times: NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, full of promise for addressing long standing questions about the habitability of the Martian environment, is racing toward an Aug. 6 landing in Gale Crater. “With tightening budgets, it is the last big hurrah for NASA’s planetary program for quite a few years,” the Times reports. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/science/space/curiosity-nasa-rover-ready-for-mars-landing.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
A. From The Associated Press via the Washington Post and others: Can NASA’s most ambitious planetary mission, mounted to the most capable surface rover survive a dynamic landing? http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nasas-newest-mars-rover-is-smartest-most-expensive-yet-will-it-nail-the-landing-sunday/2012/07/30/gJQAeARhKX_story.html
B. From The Los Angeles Times: At $2.5 million, is NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission a good buy? The White House would like to trim NASA’s planetary exploration spending back. Proponents say Mars and the other planets will add to our understanding of the Earth’s history, excite children about science, add to U. S. prestige and address questions about the extent of life in the universe. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-mars-science-cost-20120730,0,7854004.story
2. From Collectspace.com: This week, the U. S. House is expected to consider legislation, HR 4158, intended to clear up the ownership rights of Apollo era astronauts to artifacts from their missions. Questions arose recently when some astronauts attempted to auction space flown equipment informally given to them by space agency managers without documentation. http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-073012a.html
3. Two essays from Monday’s The Space Review examine the current status of U. S. Mars exploration and the promise of commercial spaceflight.
A. In “MSL and the NASA Mars Exploration Program: Where we have been, where we’re going,” Adrian Brown, a Mars planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, joins a growing list of experts attempting to size up the stakes, as the $2.5 billion rover mission heads for a landing in Gale Crater early Aug. 6 (1:31 a.m., EDT). “This program is a sublime human technical achievement that generates public excitement and engagement that NASA desperately needs,” notes Brown, who finds the program as much at risk from stark budget reductions as the dynamic landing strategy. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2129/1
B. In “Is commercial spaceflight’s ‘Netscape’ moment near?” TSR editor Jeff Foust concludes it may be — thanks in part to the successful SpaceX Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station and the prospect for falling launch costs. Netscape’s August 1995 IPO is credited with igniting the “dot.com” rush of the late 1990s. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2128/1
4. From Space.com: A medium sized solar flare, unleashed Sunday, is expected to give the Earth a glancing blow on Tuesday. Minimal interference is anticipated. http://www.space.com/16818-solar-flare-geomagnetic-storm-forecast.html
5. From Discovery.com: Once in a blue moon? That’s August. http://news.discovery.com/space/august-blue-moon-120730.html
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