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Friday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. SpaceX founder Elon Musk assembles an independent safety panel. U. S. Senate appropriators express concerns about NASA’s pursuit of commercial space transportation services. Recovering the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket engines could be challenging for billionaire Jeff Bezos. NASA’s MSL/Curiosity mission is headed toward an Aug. 6 landing on Mars. The landing site includes a peak that was named Mt. Sharp this week. Disney action figure Buzz Lightyear enters the Air and Space Museum. Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin denies rumors he was hospitalized for wounds received in brawl. Jose Hernandez, a former NASA shuttle astronaut, may include the title “astronaut” on the ballot in his bid to represent California in the U. S. House. The seeds for life — not so far away. Spaceport America to get a longer New Mexico runway. A rocket scientist with a surprising message for aspiring deep space explorers.
1. From the Los Angeles Times: Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and the company’s chief designer, selects a panel of independent experts to advise the company on the safety of its Falcon9/Dragon entrants in NASA’s commercial crew development initiative. The panel includes former NASA astronauts. SpaceX has partnered with NASA to develop commercially operated crew and cargo services for the International Space Station.
2. From Space News: The chair of NASA’s U. S. Senate appropriations panel questions the wisdom of NASA’s reliance on commercial crew and cargo companies to underpin the operation of the International Space Station. NASA intends to initiate commercial cargo deliveries this year, astronaut transportation by 2017. “I think it’s bold, I think it’s promising, but I’m concerned that it’s behind schedule,” U. S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the panel chair, told NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a Mar. 28 hearing.
A. From Spacepolitics.com: Mikulski’s concerns were backed by the panel’s Republicans as well. U. S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, “This administration, I believe, seems to think that NASA’s job is to use taxpayer money as venture capital to support speculative commercial companies.”
B. From the Huntsville Times: If faced with a budget sequester, NASA will attempt to protect its top priorities — the International Space Station, including commercial crew development; the James Webb Space Telescope; and the Space Launch System, agency administrator Charles Bolden tells a Senate appropriations panel. Other NASA programs would be adjusted if Congress cannot settle on a budget plan this year, according to the Times.
3. From Collectspace.com: Raising the rocket engines of the Saturn V that launched the historic NASA Apollo 11 mission from the Atlantic Ocean will be a challenge, say experts. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced plans to recover at least one of the engines earlier this week.
4. From Space.com: NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission is barreling toward a landing on Mars at Gale Crater in early August. In the midst of this wide crater is a mountain peak with stratified layers of soil and rock that likely hold significant clues to the planet’s environmental history. On Wednesday, the peak received a name, Mount Sharp.
5. From Collectspace.com: The Disney action figure Buzz Lightyear, who spent 15 months aboard the International Space Station, entered the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum on Thursday. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was among those at the museum for an accompanying ceremony.
6. From Rianovosti of Russia: Vladimir Popovkin denies rumors he was hospitalized in early March from wounds received in a brawl. Officially, his staff said Popovkin was admitted for treatment from exhaustion linked to his demanding schedule.
7. From the Stockton Record of California: Jose Hernandez, a former NASA engineer and astronaut who seeks a seat in the U. S. House from California may use the title “astronaut” on the ballot, a Sacramento Superior Court judge rules on Thursday. An opponent had challenged the candidate’s use of the title on the grounds Hernandez is no longer involved in the profession.
8. From Science News: The seeds for life on Earth — complex organic molecules — may sprout much closer to home than once thought. High energy photons may provided the spark that causes the molecular structures to form.
9. From the Associated Press via MSNBC: The New Mexico Spaceport Authority agrees to a 2,000 foot extension of the runway at Spaceport America. The extension will be needed for Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo operations.
10. From the Orlando Sentinel: Wally Nelson is an 88-year-old retired rocket scientist. A new documentary on Nelson, Wally’s Mission on Mars, carries an unexpected message: The journey to the red planet is too dangerous for humans.
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