The state of NASA’s commercial crew program

The state of NASA’s commercial crew program. Key quote:

The Obama administration requested $3.3 billion for commercial crew services over the next three years, but a so-called compromise bill forged in the Senate slashed the proposal in half. After months of heated contention, the House of Representatives finally agreed to the Senate authorization bill in late September, calling for $1.6 billion for the commercial program.

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Obama signs the NASA authorization bill

Obama signed the NASA authorization bill today.

Update and bumped: This Spaceflight Now article includes this quote from Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida):

“What is in this bill is $11.5 billion over the next six years, anticipated, even though it’s a three-year authorization, for development and testing of a heavy lift rocket. Now if we can’t develop a new rocket for $11.5 billion, building on a lot of the technologies that were already developed in spending $9 billion (on the Constellation program’s Ares rockets), if we can’t do it for that, then we ought to question whether or not we can build a rocket.”

Based on NASA’s track record in trying to build a replacement to the shuttle, I remain very skeptical indeed whether NASA can build this rocket. I do hope, however, that my skepticism is proven wrong.

Note also that the funding for this authorization bill is as yet not appropriated. Plans to do so during the lame duck session of Congress after the elections remain fraught with problems.

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Physicist resigns for American Physical Society over climategate

Physicist resigns from the American Physical Society over climategate. Key quote:

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

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Asteroids of note

At today’s press conference at the 42nd meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences, the topic was asteroids, including one which holds the possibility of hitting the Earth.

  • 65 Cybele has been found to have water ice and organic molecules on its surface, the second such asteroid so found. Key quote from the abstract:

    We conclude that 65 Cybele is covered by fine anhydrous silicate grains, with a small amount of water-ice and complex organic solids. This is similar to comets where non-equilibrium phases coexist, e.g. water-ice and anhydrous silicates; thus we conclude that this is a very primitive object.

    According to Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida, this combination of water and organics could become hospitable to life should some form of energy be added, such as an impact to the asteroid.

  • The origin of the asteroid Phaethon, cause of the Geminids meteor shower, has been traced to the Pallas family of asteroids, a family created by the debris thrown out during a crater impact on the large asteroid Pallas. Campins also noted that this proves Phaethon is an asteroid and not a comet, a question that astronomers had been debating beforehand. Read the abstract here.
  • Asteroid 1999 RQ36, which has a 1 in a 1000 chance hitting the Earth in 2182 and is also the prime target of a proposed NASA sample return mission, has now been determined to be a member of the Polana family of asteroids. This makes 1999 RQ36 a very primitive asteroid from the very beginnings of the solar system. Moreover, this suggests that the Polana family could be the “most important” source of many near Earth asteroids. The abstract can be found here.
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