Search results for: NASA +budget

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NASA Starts Planning Robotic Mission To Europa

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2010One of my favorite films, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me is partly a cautionary tale about what happens when curiosity gets the better of someone, and is direct in its depiction of a seemingly innocent journey nearly ruined time and time again. Science fiction is full of these kinds of stories, where would-be pioneers meet their instant doom due to unforeseen circumstances, but science just keeps on trying to make all that shit happen. NASA‘s Next Big Plan is an unmanned mission to Europa, Jupiter’s most interesting moon in terms of Earthly similarities. It’ll be a while before the car is packed and gassed up though, so don’t go writing any alien conspiracy theories just yet.

For their fiscal year 2015 Budget Proposal, NASA plans to spend $17.5 billion in various ways, including putting more money into the Sunjammer Solar Sail energy source, climate change studies, and hopefully major developments in getting humans into deep space travels and hibernation. But they’re also setting aside $15 million for “pre-formulation work for a potential mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.” Elizabeth Robinson, NASA’s chief financial officer, said the potential mission would launch in the mid-2020s, which means this thing could either become a highly-promoted and well-embraced challenge, or it could get swept under the space rug when the next U.S. President enters the oval office.

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NASA Program Aims To Put Commercial Landers On The Moon, Stirs Property Rights Debate

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moon miningNASA recently announced a new initiative called Lunar CATALYST (Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown) and is seeking proposals to join forces with commercial companies who can develop and deliver robotic lunar landers. The way the partnership works is that participants have free access to NASA scientists, equipment, laboratories, software, and research in exchange for giving NASA the rights to any lander designed during the partnership. While the initiative reflects the growing collaboration between the private and public sectors, some believe that the program penalizes foreign teams and may give rise to property rights disputes when it comes to who owns or regulates what happens on the moon.

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Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s Superhero Robot

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ValkyrieWe’ve done lots of posts here on GFR about NASA, many of which bemoan the state and the budget of the beleaguered agency. Now NASA has something that just may solve all of its problems — a superhero robot.

Valkyrie, who shares a name with female characters from Norse mythology who decide which soldiers die and which live, but who looks more like Iron Man, has the stature of a superhero at 6 feet tall and 275 pounds — it even sports a glowing NASA logo on its front. Engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston built Valkyrie in just nine months as part of this month’s DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. This means Valkyrie will have to prove its disaster-thwarting meddle by driving vehicles, clearing debris, cutting through obstructions, climbing ladders, turning valves and knobs, and other physical tasks that any life-saving superhero needs to be able to perform.

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NASA Funds Ten Space Tech Proposals

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asteroid capture

asteroid capture

It’s good to see that even though NASA isn’t swimming (or flying) in dough, it’s still able to fund space enterprises. NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants Program, which was founded with monies requested and allocated by Obama in 2011, recently awarded $250,000 grants to ten university projects in an attempt to jumpstart the development of technologies necessary for long-term spaceflights and other missions.

Here are the ten grant award winners and descriptions of their projects:

Johns Hopkins University proposes a plan for using on-board image analysis to detect, track, and identify asteroids, which could help track asteroids that might pose a threat to earth, or be potential candidates for mining. The University of Colorado, Boulder is also interested in asteroids and is working on a comprehensive model that demonstrates the effects of techniques used to mitigate potentially hazardous asteroids.

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NASA Probe Provides Beautiful Look At The Surface Of Mercury

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The innermost planet in our solar system, Mercury has been something of a mystery. Its proximity to the Sun made getting a close look at the planet tricky, but now NASA has released a new video from the MESSENGER probe that shows us a detailed view of Mercury’s surface.

Earlier this year, NASA had released a single false-color image of Mercury’s surface, and this video expands on that. The many images taken by MESSENGER provide the first close-up look at the planet since the single Mariner flyby back in 1975. MESSENGER stands for “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging,” proving that budget cutbacks clearly haven’t hit NASA’s Department of Acronyms.

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The First Battle Of Planetary Science Budget Cuts Begins!

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europaI’m pretty sure some of you guys out there are fans of Sid Meier’s Civilization series of PC strategy games, and perhaps you’ll agree with me that one of the easiest ways to win the game is to quickly develop as many of your technologies as possible, so that building military units and city buildings is quick and cheap. Because science and knowledge are the building blocks for all aspects of society. And what’s the simplest way to destroy a society? You take away its exit plan.

2013 has already been a solid year for space research, but that won’t last beyond December 31, unless the Planetary Scientists’ Rally Cry forces the government’s money hand. Earlier this month, the Obama administration released its 2014 budget, and NASA’s proposed funding is set for $17.7 billion, which is $50 million less they received in 2012. Planetary science, specifically, would be looking at $1.217 billion, which is about $268 million less funding than it received in 2013. Granted, some of that money is going into producing plutonium-238, which just started up again this year but has had its funding already shifted from the Department of Energy to NASA. There is also around $20 million going towards a manned asteroid research mission, but that’s still around $190 million of programs and research that might hit the cutting room floor, including a future robotic mission to Europa and the current Cassini and Messenger programs.

“Without immediate investment in technology and mission development — not possible under the FY14 proposal — the United States will go ‘radio dark’ in almost all regions of the solar system by the end of the decade,” wrote advocates for the Planetary Society in a testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. And then we just become the creepy hermit nation with the mountain man beard.