Clock is Ticking on NASA Human Deep Space Program

Lamar Smith

It seems that nothing so becomes a politician’s public life like the announcement that he or she is leaving it.

George Washington’s decision in 1796 to not seek a third term as president is widely hailed as the ultimate example of a small-r republican virtue of restraint the general demonstrated throughout his public life. Americans trusted Washington with power because they knew he would exercise it wisely and, that when the time came, he would walk away. Voluntarily.

In an age when many kings claimed a hereditary right to rule for life with absolute authority, relinquishing power was an astounding act. But Washington, a master of exits in war and peace, knew it was time to go. In so doing, he set a two-term precedent for the presidency that would stand for 144 years.

More recently, we’ve seen another result of what happens when politicians decide they’ve had enough: candor. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) both launched fiery broadsides at the current occupant of Washington’s old office — and a member of their own party, no less — upon announcing they would not seek re-election next year.

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Antares to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket on Saturday morning will be the first of four launches planned over the next five days.

The Antares will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station. It is the second flight of the re-engineered Antares booster, which includes two Russian-made RD-181 engines in its first stage. Launch time is set for 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) from Wallops Island in Virginia. NASA TV will provide launch coverage.

ULA’s Delta II booster will launch NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) weather satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The launch window extends from 1:47:03 to 1:48:05 a.m. PST (4:47:03-4:48:05 a.m. EST or 0947:03-0948:05 GMT).  NASA TV will provide launch coverage. It will be the penultimate flight of the venerable Delta II rocket.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government, there are no other details about the spacecraft. The launch window extends from 8:00 to 10 p.m. EST (0100-0300 GMT on Nov. 16). It’s not clear whether SpaceX will webcast the flight.

China will launch the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit aboard a Long March 4C booster from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The launch window is not known.

NASA Completes Review of First SLS, Orion Deep Space Exploration Mission

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is providing an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft after completing a comprehensive review of the launch schedule.

This uncrewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is a critical flight test for the agency’s human deep space exploration goals. EM-1 lays the foundation for the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, as well as a regular cadence of missions thereafter near the Moon and beyond.
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Senate Committee Approves Bridenstine Nomination by Party Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA administrator by a party-line vote of 14-13 this morning.

Republicans voted for Bridenstine while Democrats opposed him. The nomination now goes to the full Senate where Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage at a date to be determined.

During a contentious hearing last Wednesday, Democrats had criticized the former fighter pilot turned politician as lacking the scientific and technical expertise to lead the space agency. They also questioned whether the deeply conservative Republican was too partisan to lead NASA. Democrats were critical of his positions on climate change and LGBT rights.

Republicans praised Bridenstine’s service in the House, where he had become one of Congress’s leading policy wonks. The Congressman has the support of a number of space organizations as well as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The position of administrator is one of two positions at NASA that require Senate approval. The Trump Administration has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

NASA Opens $2 Million Third Phase of 3D-Printed Habitat Competition

HUNTVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will require innovative options to shelter our explorers, and we won’t be able to carry all of the materials with us from Earth. NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition, seeks ways to create or develop the technologies needed to create such habitats on-site, and challenges citizen inventors to lead the way. Today, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, announce the opening of Phase 3 of the competition for team registration.

“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult. But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve.”

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We’re Losing Our Apollo Astronauts

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon with Charles “Pete” Conrad before their Gemini 10 mission. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died on Monday at the age of 88, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year and the second who was involved in a lunar mission.

Gordon was command module pilot for Apollo 12, which saw Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walk on the moon in November 1969. Gordon stayed in orbit aboard aboard the command service module Yankee Clipper while his colleagues explored the lunar surface. It was the second and final spaceflight for Gordon, who flew aboard Gemini 10 with Conrad three years earlier.

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Walking on Coals: Bridenstine Dances Around Hot Climate Change Issues

The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Nominee Kinda Sorta Doesn’t Really
Walk Back Position on Global Warming

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Friday, the U.S. government released a long-in-the-making report on climate change that contained a stark assessment of what humans are doing to planet Earth.

“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report states. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

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Scientists Asks Public to Name New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target

One artist’s concept of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons mission. This binary concept is based on telescope observations made at Patagonia, Argentina on July 17, 2017 when MU69 passed in front of a star. New Horizons theorize that it could be a single body with a large chunk taken out of it, or two bodies that are close together or even touching. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

LAUREL, Md. (JHUAPL PR) — NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is looking for your ideas on what to informally name its next flyby destination, a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) past Pluto.

On New Year’s Day 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt, at the outer edge of our solar system. The target Kuiper Belt object (KBO) currently goes by the official designation “(486958) 2014 MU69.” NASA and the New Horizons team are asking the public for help in giving “MU69” a nickname to use for this exploration target.

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Orbital ATK’s S.S. Gene Cernan to Deliver Supplies to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for November 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station.

The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.
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NASA Selects New Technologies to Flight Test on Parabolic Aircraft, Balloons & Suborbital Rockets


EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies to test on low-gravity-simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital rockets. The opportunity to fly on these vehicles helps advance technologies closer to practical use by taking them from a laboratory environment to a real-world environment. The selections were made by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which conducts a competition approximately twice per year for funding to fly payloads using flight providers selected by the proposers. These space technologies are being tested using relatively low-cost flights that simulate spaceflight or just reach the “edge” of space.

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JPSS-1 to Provide More Accurate Environmental Forecasts

This illustration depicts the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft designed to provide forecasters with crucial environmental science data to provide a better understanding of changes in the Earth’s weather, oceans and climate. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA is preparing to launch the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, satellite on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide essential data for timely and accurate weather forecasts and for tracking environmental events such as forest fires and droughts.

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Next Mars Rover Will Have 23 ‘Eyes’

A selection of the 23 cameras on NASA’s 2020 Mars rover. Many are improved versions of the cameras on the Curiosity rover, with a few new additions as well. UPDATED AT 4:15 p.m. PDT to correct the number of EDL cameras shown in the image. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When NASA’s Mars Pathfinder touched down in 1997, it had five cameras: two on a mast that popped up from the lander, and three on NASA’s first rover, Sojourner.

Since then, camera technology has taken a quantum leap. Photo sensors that were improved by the space program have become commercially ubiquitous. Cameras have shrunk in size, increased in quality and are now carried in every cellphone and laptop.

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Lamar Smith Leaving Congress

Lamar Smith

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the controversial chairman of the House Science Committee, has announced that he will not seek election to another two-year term next year.

“At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.

“With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast,” Smith added.

Smith, who has represented Texas’ 21st District since 1987, has been a leader in the GOP fight against efforts to address global warming, which the majority of Republicans in Congress do not believe is a serious threat. His committee also oversees NASA and other science agencies.

NASA Extends Lunar CATALYST Agreements with Astrobotic, Masten & Moon Express

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA will continue its partnerships with three U.S. companies that are advancing technologies to deliver cargo payloads to the lunar surface. The partners—Astrobotic Technology, Inc., of Pittsburgh, Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, and Moon Express of Cape Canaveral, Florida—began work in 2014 under NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative. The original three-year agreements were amended to extend the work for another two years.

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