NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following a thorough evaluation, NASA has extended the planetary science missions of eight of its spacecraft due to their scientific productivity and potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The missions – Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, OSIRIS-REx, and New Horizons – have been selected for continuation, assuming their spacecraft remain healthy. Most of the missions will be extended for three years; however, OSIRIS-REx will be continued for nine years in order to reach a new destination, and InSight will be continued until the end of 2022, unless the spacecraft’s electrical power allows for longer operations.

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European Science Launches to Space Station Aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy for the company’s 24th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. (Credits: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The next SpaceX resupply vehicle is packed with European science, ready for delivery to the International Space Station just in time for Christmas.

The Dragon spacecraft was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, at 11:06 CET (10:06 GMT) Tuesday 21 December. We take a quick peek at some of the European cargo it carries.

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More on NASA’s Science Program Woes…

Space.com interviews Alan Stern about problems at NASA. Meanwhile, Taylor Dinerman analyzes the problems from a different perspective in The Space Review.

Delays and Cost Overruns Epidemic at NASA, Former Official Charges
Space.com

“NASA’s announcement yesterday to delay the planned October 2009 launch of its car-sized Mars Science Laboratory rover until 2011 is the latest example of a pervasive problem within the space agency to bail out missions that go over budget at the expense of other projects, one former NASA official says.”

“‘It has gotten to be epidemic this decade’ among NASA missions, said S. Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and the former associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (from 2007 to 2008).”
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Planetary Society Statements on Mars Science Lab Delays

Statement from Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society:

“Mars exploration has always had its ups and downs, but if history has taught us one thing it is that every setback has been ultimately followed by astounding new accomplishments. MSL will be worth waiting for.”

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Alan Stern to NASA: Bah Humbug!

Former NASA science chief Alan Stern has kicked off the holidays in style with a couple of op-ed pieces that added one more item to the growing list that recession-wracked Americans can’t feel thankful for: namely, a coherent, well-managed space program.

Stern kicked things off Thanksgiving week with a Sunday op-ed piece in The New York Times titled NASA’s Black Hole Budgets:

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