UK Report Recommends Deeper Involvement in Space Exploration

UK_space_agencyA new advisory report recommends the United Kingdom maximize its engagement in an on-going international effort to explore space that includes robotic missions to the moon and Mars.

“The UK Space Exploration Working Group recommends that the United Kingdom takes maximum advantage of the unique opportunities presented by the Global Exploration Strategy. It should play a full and active role in these programmes and the endeavours that will define space exploration in this century.

“Involvement in both robotic and human elements of space exploration should be strategically targeted to develop new capabilities by building on existing UK strengths. Such activities will generate scientific knowledge and return value to the UK economy through technological challenges, innovations and new commercial ventures. Furthermore they will engage British society in the full excitement of space exploration and help to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.

Hawaii, NASA Sign Deal on Space Cooperation

The Big Island of Hawaii

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — NASA and Hawaii have agreed to collaborate on a wide range of activities to promote America’s human and robotic exploration of space. The partnership also will contribute to the development of education programs and foster economic opportunities including new, high-tech jobs.

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie and NASA Associate Deputy Administrator Rebecca Keiser signed a two-year non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement Annex during a ceremony today in Honolulu. The ceremony was held on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic announcement committing the country to land an American on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade.


IAA Summit Declaration Focuses on HSF, Robotic Exploration, Climate Change and Disaster Management

The heads of 30 space agencies met in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 17 to discuss joint policies and programs. (Credit: International Academy of Astronautics)

IAA Summit Declaration

IAA Introductory Remarks

On November 17, 2010, leaders of 30 space agencies from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International Academy of Astronautics’ (IAA) Heads of Space Agencies Summit. In preparation for the Summit, the IAA received inputs from Academicians, other experts and space agency representatives on the subject of enhancing global collaboration in the following four areas: human spaceflight, planetary robotic exploration, climate change and disaster management. Based upon these inputs the IAA sets forth below its findings and recommendations that were welcomed by the heads of space agencies.


NASA Mars Program Becomes Victim of Its Own Success

NASA’s Mars Program in Disarray
Leonard David

“The NASA Mars program is at a turning point,” [Chris] McKay argues in the April edition of The Mars Quarterly, a Mars Society newsletter. A trio of factors are converging that should prompt a reset of the space agency’s pinball wizard of a red planet exploration program, he writes:


Space Agencies Meet in Japan to Plan Out Joint Space Exploration Efforts

Report of the 3rd Meeting of
International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG)

Yokohama, Japan, March 10-12, 2009

Representatives of ten space agencies from around the world met under the banner of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG)1. They adopted for further study three scenarios for conducting internationally coordinated robotic and human exploration activities on the Moon.


Japan Removes Independent Human Spaceflight Ban

Gov’t reverses policy against independent manned space missions
The Mainichi Daily News

The government has decided to reverse the nation’s policy against independent manned space missions and moon exploration, it has been learned.


More on NASA’s Science Program Woes… 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

“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).”

Odyssey Moon Names Clementine Veteran Paul Spudis as Chief Scientist


Dr. Paul D. Spudis has been named Chief Scientist of Odyssey Moon Limited, the first official contender for the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE. Dr. Spudis is a prominent scientist in the international lunar community and served as deputy science team leader for the highly successful Clementine lunar mission and is the Principal Investigator of the Mini-SAR imaging radar experiment on the forthcoming Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon.

Dr. Spudis is an outspoken advocate of the Moon as a focus of scientific exploration and human settlement and has served on numerous advisory committees, including the US Presidential Commission on the Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. The announcement was made during a NASA Lunar Science Institute conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

A geologist and Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, Dr. Spudis has an extensive background in geology and planetary science, including interpretation of remote-sensing and image data. Dr. Spudis will be applying his combined passions for science and lunar development to help Odyssey Moon deliver a valuable scientific mission while pursuing the $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE and an ongoing commercial lunar enterprise.

“Evidence indicates that abundant energy and material resources exist on the Moon, including deposits of ice within craters at the poles,” he said. “Returning to the Moon will teach us the skills we need to live and work productively on other worlds.”


Space Agencies Meet in Montreal to Coordinate Space Exploration Plans

JAXA Press Release

Representatives of 11 space agencies from around the world gathered in Montreal, Canada July 10 – 12 to continue the coordination of programs to extend human and robotic presence throughout the Solar System.

In May 2007, multilateral space agency discussions resulted in the release of “The Global Exploration Strategy – The Framework for Coordination.” This “framework document” – the product of a shared vision of space exploration focused on solar system destinations where humans may someday live and work – represented an important first step in coordinating space exploration efforts toward common goals. The Framework Document envisioned a coordination mechanism to facilitate international planning, leading to the establishment of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG).

During the Montreal ISECG meeting which was hosted by the Canadian Space Agency, the participating agencies made significant progress in a number of areas that will facilitate cooperation. Among accomplishments were the establishment of an ISECG secretariat, that will be initially hosted by ESA, plans for conducting effective public engagement, and development of tools for sharing information on exploration capabilities and mission plans across agencies.


iMARS Working Group Issues Mission Design Report on Sample Return

Credit: ESA

ESA News Release

The first robotic mission to return samples to Earth from Mars took a further step toward realisation with the recent publication of a mission design report by the iMARS Working Group. The report, defines key elements of the future internationally-funded mission involving the cooperation of ESA, NASA and other national agencies.

iMARS, which stands for the International Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples is a committee of the International Mars Exploration Working Group made up of scientists, engineers, strategic planners, and managers. The report, which comes after months of deliberation, outlines the scientific and engineering requirements of such an international mission to be undertaken in the timeframe 2020-2022.

The Mars Sample Return mission is an essential step with respect to future exploration goals and the prospect of establishing a future human mission to Mars. Returned samples will increase the knowledge of the properties of Martian soil and contribute significantly to answering questions about the possibility of life on the Red Planet. This mission will improve our understanding of the Mars environment to support planning for the future human exploration.

Phoenix Tests Methods to Get Icy Sample

8 July 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s science and engineering teams are testing methods to get an icy sample into the Robotic Arm scoop for delivery to the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA).

Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, Phoenix’s “dig czar,” said the hard Martian surface that Phoenix has reached proved to be a difficult target, comparing the process to scraping a sidewalk.

“We have three tools on the scoop to help access ice and icy soil,” Arvidson said. “We can scoop material with the backhoe using the front titanium blade; we can scrape the surface with the tungsten carbide secondary blade on the bottom of the scoop; and we can use a high-speed rasp that comes out of a slot at the back of the scoop.”

“We expected ice and icy soil to be very strong because of the cold temperatures. It certainly looks like this is the case and we are getting ready to use the rasp to generate the fine icy soil and ice particles needed for delivery to TEGA,” he said.


Phoenix Update: Scientists OD on Chemical Data

26 June 2008

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander performed its first wet chemistry experiment on Martian soil flawlessly yesterday, returning a wealth of data that for Phoenix scientists was like winning the lottery.

“We are awash in chemistry data,” said Michael Hecht of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, instrument on Phoenix. “We’re trying to understand what is the chemistry of wet soil on Mars, what’s dissolved in it, how acidic or alkaline it is. With the results we received from Phoenix yesterday, we could begin to tell what aspects of the soil might support life.”

“This is the first wet-chemical analysis ever done on Mars or any planet, other than Earth,” said Phoenix co-investigator Sam Kounaves of Tufts University, science lead for the wet chemistry investigation.

About 80 percent of Phoenix’s first, two-day wet chemistry experiment is now complete. Phoenix has three more wet-chemistry cells for use later in the mission.


Mars Update: Phoenix Joins Alice in “Wonderland”


NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander began digging in an area called “Wonderland” early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature within the “national park” region that mission scientists have been preserving for science.

The lander’s Robotic Arm created the new test trench called “Snow White” on June 17, the 22nd Martian day, or sol, after the Phoenix spacecraft landed on May 25. Newly planned science activities will resume no earlier than Sol 24 as engineers look into how the spacecraft is handling larger than expected amounts of data.

During Tuesday’s dig, the arm didn’t reach the hard white material, possibly ice, that Phoenix exposed previously in the first trench it dug into the Martian soil.


Former NASA AA Alan Stern Joins Google Lunar X Prize Team Odyssey Moon


Washington, DC – Odyssey Moon, a commercial lunar enterprise, announced today that former NASA Associate Administrator Dr. Alan Stern has accepted a role with the Isle of Man-based company. Dr. Stern was a recognized engine of change and innovation as chief of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, championing new science programs while being a stalwart advocate of cost and value control when he served at NASA.

Dr. Stern has joined the Odyssey Moon executive team on an exclusive part time consulting basis as the company’s Science Mission Director, part of a new diversified career focus spanning many of his lifelong interests and activities. He expects that his blended understanding of science and business will help Odyssey Moon establish a commercial lunar business while pursuing the $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE. “I am a fan of public-private partnerships and building bridges to new markets,” he said. “I believe we are on the verge of a whole new era of space exploration and that the private sector can provide reliable cost effective services that can increase the value and leverage government space budgets.”

A veteran of space exploration with over 25 year experience, Stern’s alliance with the private space sector comes at a critical time when NASA and other space agencies are looking carefully at the value proposition in partnering with the commercial sector for space activities.