CSExtra – Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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Wednesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. NASA unveils a new Mars exploration strategy in response to budget restrictions. The new plan includes the 2020 launching of a second Curiosity-class rover. In the latest in a flurry of post U. S. election reports this week offering advice on NASA’s future direction, the Space Foundation urges stronger leadership and clearly defined missions to underpin long term support. A second report, this one from the Secure World Foundations, finds restricted budgets and a determined China as factors in future global space activities. NASA’s talk of a future human lunar orbital base lacks White House standing, according to a an administration source. NASA’s Opportunity rover, active on Mars since 2004, finds conditions supportive of past Martian life at Endeavor crater.
1. From Spaceflightnow.com and CBS News: NASA unveils a new Mars exploration strategy on Tuesday that responds to a proposed 20 percent reduction in the agency’s planetary sciences budget. The strategy features the 2020 launching of a Mars Curiosity-like rover for a yet to be defined surface mission. The new strategy was unveiled at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Cuts in the planetary sciences line, most of them from NASA’s Mars program, prompted the agency to withdraw from an ambitious European Space Agency collaboration that was to lay the groundwork for an effort to collect samples of Martian soil and return them to Earth. New NASA missions, like the 2020 rover, will rely on spare parts and design concepts from past Martian missions to lower costs.
A. From The New York Times: NASA’s new Mars strategy includes new but limited participation in European Space Agency missions targeted for launches in 2016 and 2018. Earlier this year, NASA formally withdrew from the European led Exo-Mars initiative. Exo-Mars was to lead to an eventual effort to gather soil and rock from Mars and return the samples to Earth for analysis.
2. From The Coalition for Space Exploration: Time Magazine suggests that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover may be the publication’s “Person of the Year.” The public may vote on the proposition through Dec. 12. Curiosity landed in Gale Crater on Mars in early August, initiating a two year mission to determine whether the Martian environment was ever suitable for microbial life.
3. From Space.com: NASA’s programs are in need of strong direction, a report assessing the agency’s future and compiled by the Space Foundation, concludes. A series of course changes have slowed the momentum that emerged after the Apollo missions of nearly four decades ago, the nonprofit group reports. NASA should operate as a pioneering force with fewer political shackles, the foundation recommends.
A. From USA Today: NASA has been tasked with too much and too little support, according to a new Space Foundation report.
4. From Spacepolitics.com: A look at the Secure World Foundation’s space policy forecast from Monday: tight budgets will force tough choices on priorities; China’s influence will rise; the world’s space faring nations lack a shared code of conduct to address issues like manmade orbital space debris.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: In its assessment, the Secure World Foundation finds that trust on many levels must be restored as the U. S. steps forward into space. Improved relations between the White House and Congress and the U. S. and its global partners, and in particular, the European Space Agency, are among the challenges.
5. From Space.com: Recent talk of a NASA initiative involving a human outpost in lunar orbit has not gathered administration support, the website reports.
6. From Wired.com: While NASA’s Curiosity rover generates speculation about life on Mars, the older Opportunity rover at Endeavor crater on Mars has found clay deposits. The clay structures likely formed in water of low acidity, conditions that would also have been favorable for microbial life at some point in the Martian past. Opportunity reached Mars in early 2004.
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