CSExtra – Thursday, April 5, 2012
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Thursday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. NASA’s popular Kepler exo-planet hunting mission, how three years old, receives a four-year extension. Sunday’s CBS News 60 minutes segment on the post-shuttle Kennedy Space Center and Central Florida stirs political debate over who is to blame for the economic difficulties. Flat budgets do not mean NASA has been restricted from initiating expensive new “flag ship” science missions, says the White House OMB. Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft successfully demonstrates its parachute and airbag landing system this week. Humans, not robots, make the best space explorers, argues one British scientist. Finding tiny Mercury in the April pre-dawn sky.
1. From Spaceflightnow.com: NASA’s popular Kepler space telescope mission, launched in 2009, receives an extension through 2016. Kepler has identified hundreds of extra-solar planet candidates. But the mission’s promise lies in the number of Earth-like planets it can identify. The extension will cost about $18 million annually. Though still going strong and originally priced at $600 million, the Kepler mission was due to end in November. http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1204/04kepler/
A. From Space.com: “We are grateful and ecstatic,” tweet Kepler astronomers over news of the mission extension. So far, the Kepler telescope has identified 2,300 exo-planet candidates, 61 of them confirmed. Because of the mission’s three transit criteria, the extension is expected to produce and confirm planet candidates that orbit at further distances from their stars. http://www.space.com/15160-alien-planet-kepler-mission-2016.html
2. From Spacepolitics.com: On Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a segment on Central Florida’s employment and economic challenges in the wake of the retirement of NASA’s shuttle program in 2011. Many are still struggling to find a professional foothold, 60 Minutes reported. In the aftermath, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden responded with a blog, challenging some of the news magazine’s assertions about who is to blame, the Bush Administration or President Obama’s policy makers. http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/04/04/60-minutes-segment-becomes-a-political-football/
A. From Central Florida News: Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana expresses confidence in the future of the NASA launch complex before Brevard County commissioners. He expects employment to stabilize at about 10,000 workers in the aftermath of the shuttle’s retirement. Growth will come as KSC transitions into a multi-user spaceport. http://www.cfnews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2012/4/4/cabana_believes_futu
3. From Spacepolicyonline.com: In remarks before the National Research Council, staff from the White House Office of Management and Budget say NASA is not prohibited from embarking on new “flagship” science missions, programs that are generally complex and with a price tag exceeding $1 billion. The topic has been a factor in the deliberations over NASA’s flat budget request for 2013 and planetary science cuts. http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/no-prohibition-against-science-flagship-missions-omb-tells-nrc
4. From the Coalition for Space Exploration: Boeing’s seven person CST-100 space capsule, in development as part of NASA Commercial Crew Development program, successfully demonstrates a parachute and air bag soft landing system at a Nevada test facility this week. Boeing is one of four companies currently partnered with NASA to develop a commercial system for the transportation of passengers to low Earth orbit destinations, including the International Space Station. http://spacecoalition.com/blog/landing-test-boeing%e2%80%99s-commercial-crew-capsule-for-space-station
5. From The Atlantic: The magazine lends Ian Crawford, planetary scientist at Birbeck College, London, a voice in the ongoing debate over whether humans or robots are best suited to space exploration. Humans, argues Crawford. Humans are faster and more versatile when it comes to geological field work, he contends. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/why-space-exploration-is-a-job-for-humans/255341/
6. From Space.com: Planet Mercury becomes visible in the pre-dawn sky in April http://www.space.com/15158-mercury-skywatching-morning-sky.html
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