Search results for: NASA +budget

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A Year After The Last Shuttle Launch, NASA Promises A New Golden Age In Space Flight

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Believe it or not, it has been a year since shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the last flight of the program’s 31 year history and 135 launches. While the shuttle didn’t take us anyplace new, it was responsible for building the International Space Station and the launch and repair of one of the most well known NASA projects in the last several decades, the Hubble space telescope. NASA (and most notablyKennedySpaceCenter) doesn’t want you to think its best years are behind it though. They might not be building huge rockets these days, but they are definitely putting a lot of effort into maintaining their PR machine.

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Penny4NASA: The White House Responds With Politics As Usual

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Born after Neil deGrass Tyson’s powerful testimony in front of the US Senate Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation, the penny4NASA campaign has picked up a lot of steam. The call to action centered around a statement that Tyson made in which he said the entire budget for NASA amounted to about half of a penny on the U.S. tax dollar. He surmised that if the United States were to double the budget to be just one penny on the dollar, that NASA could easily return to the powerhouse of wonder and creativity it was in the 1960’s and have the added benefit of stimulating the economy.

It is a popular idea. It spread over Twitter, was blogged about at almost every science friendly blog on the internet, and eventually penny4NASA.org put forth a petition to the White House to double NASA’s budget. The petition soared through the 25,000 signature threshold and was received at the White House.

Before anyone gets their hopes up that this actually had an effect on anything, you need to understand what the “We The People” petition system on WhiteHouse.gov is. The petition only gets read if it reaches whatever the current signature threshold is, right now that threshold is set at 25,000. Once it reaches 25,000 signatures is it read by the president? No. It gets filtered though White House staff (read gov’t interns) to the appropriate policy expert, who then issues a response. So the petition never really had a chance to do anything tangible, but what was the official response?

Phil Larson, the Communications and Space Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, first thanks us and then tells us what a great job the president is already doing…

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NASA May Use A Probe Fleet To Search Mars For Extraterrestrial Life In 2018

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MarsThe search for extraterrestrial life has been and always will be one of mankind’s greatest journeys. Into the depths of space we’ve sent many probes that have returned nothing but our own bleeps and bloops that have been lost in the ever-expanding cosmos. But maybe we’ve been looking too far away.

Mars is our closest celestial neighbor, after our moon of course, and we may not find Marvin the Martian puttering about on its surface, but Washington State Universtiy’s Dirk Schulze-Makuch thinks that with a small effort we may uncover early forms of life just beneath the red planet’s harsh surface. In an interview with Space.com, Schulze-Makuch outlined his idea to send six probes to the martian surface that once landed will dig four to eight inches into the soil and begin a series of tests that will reveal whether or not microscopic life exists.

These sorts of missions have largely been overlooked since the first hunt for life on Mars, 1975’s Viking mission, returned didley squat. However, Schulze-Makuch’s proposed mission will only cost an estimated $300 million, which sounds a lot to you and me, but in NASA’s world this is peanuts.

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That Awkward Moment When Congress Thinks They Know What’s Best For NASA But Don’t

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Sad news this morning as further budget cuts are heading NASA’s way from a Congress that somehow thinks they know what’s best for the US space program. Before you government advocates get all up in arms (just kidding, I know there’s no such thing as a government advocate), recognize that we do understand that the US budget is limited and that in this day and age the cuts have to come from somewhere so Republicans don’t lose their shit. However, taking money from what this nerd considers one of the most important government programs doesn’t strike me as the best idea.

In a long and mildly confusing article at Ars Technica, details of the House and Senate opinions on where NASA’s cuts should be made are explained in detail, but I’ll try to simplify it a little. Currently there are four companies producing vehicles for the Commercial Crew program, whose goal is to provide cost effective access to low Earth orbit as well as the ISS. Each of the companies, Boeing, Space X, Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin, are each being subsidized by NASA’s dwindling budget.

To solve this glut of spending, the Senate has suggested a “leader-follower paradigm” in which NASA selects a winner to receive a larger subsidy, and a secondary company to receive a smaller cash injection as back up, leaving the other companies in the space dust. This sounds like a great idea as a simple way to cut costs. Sure competition breeds innovation, but this kind of competition is much too costly and is hindering progress. Cutting two large costs will help NASA make the most of their budget, and allow them to focus on one or two producers instead of four. The frontrunner for the leader position has reportedly been Boeing, but that is not yet official.

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Obama Killing What’s Left Of NASA, Shutting Down Planetary Exploration?

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Earlier this week I opined the death of NASA, and a lot of you responded by insisting that even though they were no longer well funded enough to do manned space exploration, their new mandate of exploration of the solar system’s planets by robot was as good or better than anything they could have done with manned missions. Bad news: That may be dead too.

The Washington Times reports that the Obama administration plans to end all planetary exploration by NASA and the United States of America, by the year 2013. Worse, word is that they plan to position the space astronomy program for destruction too. American won’t just stop exploring outer space, we aren’t even going to look at it anymore.

The story published in the Washington Times doesn’t cite any sources and merely says that this “leaked out” in the Obama administration’s budget, so we’ll need more details before we can call this a done deal. But, this move isn’t entirely unexpected, and seems pretty much in keeping with the Obama administration’s overall attitude towards space exploration in recent years.

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Growing Plants On Mars May Be A Realistic Possibility

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mars plantsWork is underway to figure out methods of growing produce in space, which is especially vital for eventual Mars colonists. Space food leaves a lot to be desired, so scientists are working on getting more variety into astronauts’ diets. They’re also working on ways to create sustainable agricultural practices, given that resupplying Earthly goods will bend, if not break, the budget. But that will require astronauts growing their own food, which raises the question of how suitable an environment is Mars (or the moon) is for growing plants. According to a study recently published in PLoS One, both Mars and the moon may be much better suited for agriculture than previously thought.

Dutch researchers planted fourteen different species of plants in soil similar in composition to that on Mars and the moon—the same soil NASA uses for simulations. The control group in the study used Earth soil from an area without many nutrients. Scientists planted mustard, tomatoes, rye, carrots, wheat, and cress into 840 different pots—20 replicas of each kind of plant species in each of the three types of soil. From there, all the subjects were kept under the same greenhouse conditions with 16 hours of light each day and temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers let them grow for 50 days.