CSExtra – Wednesday, September 26, 2012
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Wednesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group unveiled the summary of a much anticipated internal report on future missions options developed in response to budget cuts in the agency’s planetary science program announced earlier this year. Plans to undock Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle unpiloted re-supply craft are halted in response to a command post computer problem. In Europe, space policy makers may clash when they gather in November over future programs. Could 2013 emerge as the year of the bright comet? Red Bull’s Felix Baumgartner looks to Oct. 8 for a parachute jump from record altitude. Turner Classic Movies’ Science Fiction classic Forbidden Planet is coming to an International Space Station near you. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center gets a new director. Essays reflect on the 100 Year Starship Project and space policy as a presidential campaign issue. Russia approves an Oct. 23 lift off for new International Space Station crew members. The agency’s inspector general offers a generally favorable audit of NASA’s plans for a mobile launch platform to support the envisioned Space Launch System.
1. From The Associated Press via Yahoo.com: One of the more intriguing options outlined by NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group would have astronauts rendezvous somewhere in space with a probe carrying a cache of soil and rock samples gathered from Mars with a robotic probe and re-launched toward Earth. The human crew would shepherd the samples to Earth, ensuring they were sterilized to prevent the possible introduction of Martian microbes.
A. From Spacepolicyonline.com: The Mars Program Planning Group strived to advance both planetary science and human exploration with the four mission options it outlined for the period of 2018 to 2024. A more detailed report from the team will be available to NASA internally by October so findings can be factored into future agency budgets. However, merging the interests of NASA’s science and human exploration programs will be difficult under constrained budgets.
B. From Space.com: The direction policy makers settle on in response to the options outlined by the Mars Program Planning Group may not be clear until President Obama presents his proposed 2014 budget to Congress in February.
C. From Space News: Returning rock and soil from Mars to determine whether the red planet once hosted some form of life remains high on the list of priorities presented by NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group.
2. From Ria Novosti of Russia: Mission Control teams in Russia and France call off plans to undock the European Space Agency’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle from the International Space Station late Tuesday. A computer display problem in the station’s Russian segment was to blame. The unpiloted supply capsule’s departure was postponed until further troubleshooting.
3. From Space News: Key members of the European Space Agency express individual differences over policy as they look to a November ministerial conference. The key issues include support for future International Space Station operations.
4. From Astronomy Now: 2013 is shaping up as the year of the bright comet. The latest addition, C/2012/S1 (ISON), may outshine the full moon late in the year. March, too, may bring a bright comet, Comet-Pan-STARRS.
5. From Spacepolicyonline.com: Felix Baumgartner looks to Oct. 8 for an attempt to set an altitude record with a parachute leap from the edge of space. Red Bull is sponsoring.
6. From The New York Times: Turner Classic Movies will air the 1956 Sci-Fi classic Forbidden Planet, with Robby the Robot among the cast, on Oct. 13 as part of the network’s Road to Hollywood series. The showing will be transmitted to the International Space Station, where Robonaut 2, the first space humanoid, has been a crew member since 2011.
7. From The Huntsville Times: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center gets a new director, Patrick Scheuermann. Scheuermann moves over from the Stennis Space Center, where he was director. In other moves, Robert Lightfood, who had been serving as NASA’s acting associate administrator, is named to the post permanently. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announces the changes.
8. Two from The Space Review look at the future of the 100-Year Starship project and space policy as a presidential campaign topic.
A. In “Building a starship’s foundation,” TSR editor Jeff Foust reflects on the 100-year Starship Symposium that gathered in Houston in mid-September to contemplate the challenges of mounting a human interstellar mission. Propulsion was a strong theme, with presentations on warp and anti-matter drive for such an ambitious mission. Mae Jemison, the former NASA astronaut, led a three day symposium after the foundation she leads was selected in May by DARPA for a $500,000 grant to further the project. Near term challenges include public engagement and fundraising.
B. In “Shedding a little more light on space policy,” TSR editor Jeff Foust finds space policy gaining attention in the presidential campaign. Both presidential candidates have addressed the topic, primarily in the battle ground state of Florida. Both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney stress U. S. leadership in the field, but offer few details. For big changes, voters might look to a bill from Republican house members that would wrest much of the White House’s authority over space policy away.
9. From Ria Novosti of Russia: A state commission approves cosmonauts Oleg Novisky and Yevgeny Tarelkin and U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford for launching aboard the next Soyuz mission to the International Space Station. Their launch, once set for Oct. 15, has been moved to Oct. 23 to accommodate some troubleshooting aboard their capsule.
10. From Florida Today: NASA’s inspector general supports the agency’s plans for a mobile launch platform for the Space Launch System, the mega rocket designated to start humans on future missions to deep space destinations.
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