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+ - Can Rep. John Culberson save NASA's space exploration program?->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "The Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger has published the seventh in his series of articles about the American space program and what ails it. The piece focuses on Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who has two fascinating aspects. The first is that he is taking over the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. The second is that he has a keen appreciation for the benefits of space exploration for its own sake and not just for his Houston area district.

Culberson wants to save NASA and the space program from his fellow politicians and return it to its true glory. He favors sending American astronauts back to the moon and a robotic space probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa. He would like to enact budget reforms that take funding decisions away from the Office of Management and Budget and gives them solely to Congress. He favors a steady increase in NASA funding to pay for a proper program of space exploration. To say the least, he has his work cut out for him."

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+ - Neil deGrasse Tyson causes social media firestorm with tweet on aliens & hum->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Twitchy, a site that monitors interesting traffic on Twitter, took note on Sunday of a tweet by the celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson over how aliens might regard humans. He tweeted, “Aliens, seeing Humans kill over land, politics, religion, & skin color, would surely ask, ‘What the f*%k is wrong with you?’” As far as can be determined, Tyson is not personally in contact with aliens and does not have any basis to suggest that they are appalled at human behavior or that they used salty language. However, his views on morally superior aliens looking down on humans seem to track with those of C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist."
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+ - Culberson as chair of NASA fundng subcommittee makes Europa mission more likely->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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?->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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'->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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 ->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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-> 2

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
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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