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Support for NASA spending depends on perception of size of space agency budget

MarkWhittington The text reads .5 percent. (2 comments)

That's about $17.5 billion

about a year ago

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Culberson as chair of NASA fundng subcommittee makes Europa mission more likely

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  2 days ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science.. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson’s enthusiasm for space exploration goes far and beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative.

Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson’s elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur."

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Lunar Mission One proposes to take core sample, plant time capsule on the moon

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  4 days ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The United States may have foresworn the moon, the venue of its greatest space triumph during the Apollo program, by presidential directive, but that does not mean that other countries and even private organizations are uninterested. The latest proposal for a private moon landing is a British effort called Lunar Mission One, according to a Wednesday story in the New Scientist. Its goal is twofold. The undertaking proposes to drill a 20 meter core sample below the lunar surface for analysis. Lunar Mission One will also deploy the first moon based time capsule. A Kickstarter effort has begun for initial funding."
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Whither NASA space policy under Ted Cruz?

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about two weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "One of the byproducts of the Republican takeover of the United States Senate will be the likely appointment of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to the chairmanship of the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee. A Tuesday story in Scientific America looks upon this prospect with some trepidation. However, insofar as NASA is concerned, that fear may be misplaced. Cruz has expressed support for American leadership in space in the past as well as increased involvement of the private sector in space exploration.

Cruz, as ranking member of the subcommittee, has largely deferred to the current chairman, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. The only clash that Cruz and Nelson had was when the former objected to the latter’s desire to increase the space agency’s authorization level. Cruz pointed out that the move would be meaningless since sequestration had already constrained NASA funding.

What course will space policy take now that Cruz is likely to be chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee? A massive change that requires a large increase in NASA funding is likely not in the cards before the election of a new president. However, there are a number of things that can be done around the edges, which includes cancelling the Asteroid Redirect Mission and putting money into the Lunar CATALYST program to build commercial lunar landers,"

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MIT professor advocates ending Asteroid Redirect Mission to fund asteroid survey

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about three weeks ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Professor Richard Binzel published a commentary in the journal Nature that called for two things. He proposed that NASA cancel the Asteroid Redirect Mission currently planned for the early 2020s. Instead, he would like the asteroid survey mandated by the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act of 2005, part of the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, funded at $200 million a year. Currently NASA funds the survey at $20 million a year, considered inadequate to complete the identification of 90 percent of hazardous near-Earth objects 140 meters or greater by 2020 as mandated by the law."
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Tom Coburn slams International Space Station, other NASA programs as wasteful

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 1 month ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, has released his 2014 “Wastebook” of what he regards as wasteful spending. Tucked inside the examples of monkey gambling studies and Swedish massages for rabbits, are several NASA programs the senator finds off-putting.

One example is a full-throated attack against the International Space Station, a facility that was started by President Ronald Reagan and has been in full operation for the past several years. “ISS is one of the greatest achievements in manned spaceflight. It is also the ‘single most expensive object ever created.’ And some scientists question if the space station’s out of this world costs can continue to be justified.” Coburn strongly implies that the ISS be immediately scrapped, and the money spent on what he regards as more productive research."

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White House wants ideas for 'bootstrapping a solar system civilization'

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for “bootstrapping a solar system civilization.” Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose.

The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts."

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An Asteroid Redirect Mission hab module could support a lunar return

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month and a half ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Space News reported on Wednesday that NASA is mulling a hab module as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The inclusion of the hab module would extend the mission from 28 days to as long as 60 days. The module would provide enough consumables such as food, water, and oxygen and other support to sustain the crew of astronauts for weeks while examining a small asteroid in orbit around the moon. The module might also support a return to the lunar surface, given certain modifications."
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MIT study finds fault with Mars One colony concept

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month and a half ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The Mars One project created a great deal of fanfare when it was first announced in 2012. The project, based in Holland, aspires to build a colony on Mars with the first uncrewed flight taking place in 2018 and the first colonists setting forth around 2024. The idea is that the colonists would go to Mars to stay, slowly building up the colony in four-person increments every 26-month launch window. However, Space Policy Online on Tuesday reported that an independent study conducted by MIT has poured cold water on the Mars colony idea.

The MIT team consisting of engineering students had to make a number of assumptions based on public sources since the Mars One concept lacks a great many technical details. The study made the bottom line conclusion that the Mars One project is overly optimistic at best and unworkable at worst. The concept is “unsustainable” given the current state of technology and the aggressive schedule that the Mars One project has presented."

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How President Nixon saved/wrecked the American space program

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about a month and a half ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "John Callahan posted an account of a talk given by space historian John Logsdon on the Planetary Society blog in which he described how President Richard Nixon changed space policy. The talk covered the subject of an upcoming book, After Apollo: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program. Logsdon argued that Nixon had a far more lasting effect on NASA and the American space program than did President Kennedy, most famous for starting the Apollo project that landed men on the moon.

Nixon came to office just in time to preside over the Apollo 11 lunar mission. At that time, the space program was a national priority due to the Kennedy goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. However by the time Neil Armstrong made that first footstep, public support for large-scale space projects had diminished. Nixon, therefore, made a number of policy decisions that redound to this very day."

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China is keen to send its own mission to Mars in the wake of India's Mangalyaan

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The recent arrival into Mars orbit of both NASA’s MAVEN and India’s Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission has not escaped the notice of China, according to a Thursday story in Xinhua. The achievement of its Asian rival has especially proven galling to the Chinese. China has yet to successfully send a space probe beyond the moon. The development has elicited calls in Beijing to accelerate China’s Mars program.

China currently plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, perhaps, do a Mars sample return mission in 2030. However, it feels that India, which China regards as its rival in an Asian space race, has stolen a march and has left the Chinese behind. China is now keen to try to play catchup with its own Mars mission.

One of the hold ups for a Chinese interplanetary exploration program is the delays surrounding the development of the Long March 5 rocket, which will be roughly the equivalent of the America Delta IV in its capabilities. The Chinese launch vehicle has slipped to at least 2015 because of the technological challenges it faces. The Long March 5 is also needed to launch the 20 ton modules of the Chinese space station, currently planned for later this decade."

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SpaceX's Elon Musk hints first person on Mars may go via Brownsville spaceport

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "If SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has his way, the first astronaut to set foot on Mars may begin his or her journey from the new commercial spaceport being built at Boca Chica Beach, just outside Brownsville, Texas. The Texas Tribune reported on Monday that Musk made the suggestion at the ground breaking ceremony of the commercial spaceport. The ceremony was also attended by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and various other Texas politicians and dignitaries, Musk’s desire to establish a Mars colony and even retire to the Red Planet himself is not a secret."
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Newt Gingrich slams NASA commercial space decision

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich slammed the commercial crew decision reached by NASA in an article published on the CNN website on Wednesday. He objected to Boeing, an old line aerospace company, getting the bulk of the $6.8 billion contract that would create government funded, commercially run space taxis. SpaceX also made the cut to start shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station in 2017. Gingrich also, curiously, took a shot at the Orion/Space Launch System even though that space craft is designed for space exploration and would not be involved in servicing the ISS."
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Boeing to take space tourists on its CST-100 spacecraft to the ISS

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 2 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Thursday story in Investment Business Daily, Boeing, whose CST-100 spacecraft was one of the two winners of NASA’s commercial crew competition, will reserve one seat per flight for a paying tourist. For a price comparable to what space tourists now pay for trips on the Russian Soyuz, anyone will be able to take a jaunt to the International Space Station. The move places Boeing in direct competition with the Russians, who are working through a company called Space Adventures for their tourist space jaunts."
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Fans accuse Discovery Channel of gender, racial bias in 'Mythbusters' firings

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "At the end of the final episode of the last season of “Mythbusters,” the long running Discovery Channel science show, it was announced that the three of the program’s stars, Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara were being let go. Henceforth the show would feature exclusively the two main hosts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. However, as the Hollywood Reporter noted on Friday, fans of the show have reacted negatively to the move, even going so far as to suggest gender and racial bias."
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DARPA XS-1 space plane could allow rapid deployment of satellites, fuel depots

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "According to a Monday story on Space.com. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is having another go at developing a space plane that can deliver a payload to low Earth orbit, land, and then be rapidly turned around to do it again. The dream is as old as the original space shuttle program, but has thus far eluded researchers. If the goal can finally be achieved, it will allow for not only the rapid deployment of satellites, but for the topping off of orbiting fuel depots, a scheme favored by many as an alternative to launching deep space missions on a heavy lift rocket such as the Space Launch System,"
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Report suggests that robot sex partners will be common by 2025

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 3 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "A Thursday story in Extreme Tech suggests that “robot sex partners” are going to be pretty common by 2025, just over a decade away. Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are combining to make possible any kind of sexual experience one could desire, without actually having to deal with an actual human being with feelings and desires of their own. The potential for disruption for society and human relations will be profound. Imagine the demise of the world's oldest profession and even a decline in human to human sexual relations as even the unattractive and unappealing can have their deepest desires satisfied with no strings or consequence."
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Breitbart California slams SpaceX decision to build space port in Texas

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "SpaceX’s Elon Musk’s decision to build a space port on the Texas Gulf Coast has been met with near universal acclaim, albeit perhaps muted from Florida, which lost out on the hunt for a commercial launch facility. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand, tweeted, “Congrats to Texas & @SpaceX for their commitment to a commercial launch facility in Cameron county!” However a writer for Breitbart California took a much dimmer view of the deal in a Wednesday article.

The article, while taking issue with the incentives the state of Texas used to attract the commercial space port, when riven with numerous factual errors concerning the incentives, the other reasons Texas was chosen, and SpaceX''s plans for its California facilities."

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SpaceX executive calls for $22-25 billion NASA budget

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called “The US Space Enterprise Partnership” at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA’s budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online’s Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency’s limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics’ Jeff Foust added a tweet, “Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s.” The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

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Asterioid mining bill introduced in Congress to protect private property rights

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida announced on Thursday that he was introducing a bill along with Rep, Derek Kilmer, D-WA called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014. The act is designed to protect the private property rights for entities mining asteroids and to otherwise encourage asteroid mining. The bill is in apparent reaction to efforts by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to locate and mine Earth approaching asteroids for their resources.

The crucial part of the short piece of legislation states that the resources mined from an asteroid would be the property of the entity undertaking the operation. This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that states that states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a perquisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something that the treaty does not mention. This is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however."

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Buzz Aldrin wants President Obama to announce new space exploration initiative

MarkWhittington MarkWhittington writes  |  about 4 months ago

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While he has initiated the social media campaign, #Apollo45, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also using the occasion to campaign for an expansion of American space exploration. According to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post, Aldrin has expressed the wish that President Obama make some sort of announcement along those lines this July 20. The idea has a certain aspect of déjà vu.

Aldrin believes that the American civil space program is adrift and that some new space exploration, he prefers to Mars, would be just the thing to set it back on course. There is only one problem, however. President Obama has already made the big space exploration announcement. Aldrin knows this because he was there.

President Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, with Aldrin accompanying as a photo op prop, and made the announcement that America would no longer be headed back to the moon, as was the plan under his predecessor George W. Bush. Instead American astronauts would visit an Earth approaching asteroid and then, decades hence, would land on Mars."

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