A Senate committee vote this afternoon should keep the Space Shuttle Program alive for at least one more mission and grant NASA the leeway it wants to continue developing a heavy-lift rocket capable of carrying crews into deep space. The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the authorization bill earlier this afternoon, sending it up to the full Senate for review sometime in the near future.
The space shuttle program ain't over till Congress says it's over. A Senate committee is working on a bill that would add an extra shuttle flight next year, as well as defy some of President Obama's scaled-down NASA plans, the New York Times reports today.
Cleaning up space junk, conducting climate research and forging international celestial harmony are the hallmarks of President Obama's new National Space Policy (PDF), unveiled Monday. Parts of the plan had been expected for months, but NASA-philes were still holding out hope for a grand vision of human exploration.
But there were no Kennedy-esque calls to action, neither for the purpose of scientific exploration nor for national prestige. NASA's exploration role is fairly vague -- sure, there's a call for expanded robotics and human spaceflight programs, but there's no specific location or time frame.
With a budget battle looming and its Ares I rocket program all but dead, today NASA test-fired its $220 million Orion crew capsule, which it is currently repurposing into an escape vehicle, per President Obama's new vision for NASA. Conducted at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the launch came off without a hitch, launching Orion more than a mile skyward before deploying parachutes and drifting back to the desert floor a mile from the launch site.
"Wow, that went like clockwork from what I can see," said Jay Estes, NASA's deputy manager of the Orion project office. "That's an amazing test."
In a speech to NASA employees and the nation on April 15, President Obama unveiled a vision for U.S. space exploration that didn't include Constellation or development of its Ares I rocket. The next day, Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley issued his response to Obama: Not so fast.
This year, the White House is asking you to send more than just your taxes to the government on April 15th. They also want you to send your ideas on which grand, unsolved scientific challenge of the 21st century you think the US should tackle first. They're thinking big here. Landing-on-Mars, cure-for-HIV, cold-fusion big. And Uncle Sam wants you to help them direct the research.
After months of deliberation and 150 meetings, the Obama Administration finally released its new guidelines for nuclear weapons policy. In a sharp break from previous administrations, Obama's Nuclear Posture Review released today dictates the U.S. halt development of any new nuclear weapons and cease to consider nuclear retaliation against non-nuclear nations, even in response to a biological or chemical attack.
In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about the need to upgrade our country's infrastructure, from power plants to railroads, both to create jobs and to improve efficiency. He wasn't kidding: We lose an average of seven billion gallons of water a day to leaks in the system. Power interruptions cost the economy about $79 billion annually. And we all remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but up to a quarter of all the bridges in the country are in need of attention.
Bad news on the Constellation front this morning: the Orlando Sentinel reports this morning that sources inside the Obama administration say the budget proposal to be released Monday contains no money for the Constellation program or the Ares I rocket that was supposed to replace the space shuttle as America’s means to shuttle humans to space. Also axed: the Ares V cargo rocket intended to ferry fuel and supplies necessary for America’s return to the moon.