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Monday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe, plus a roundup of weekend activities. Historically accustomed to bipartisan support, NASA finds itself confronting a changing political realm. Russian cosmonauts set new spacewalk endurance record during excursion outside the International Space Station. NASA’s hobbled Kepler space telescope leaves fertile ground for alien planet discoveries. New observations suggest hope for ISON’s “comet of the century” status dimming. NASA’s Ames Research Center, catalyst for innovation. NASA propulsion expert updates warp drive research. Radiation, an obstacle to human exploration of Mars. NASA astronaut twins Scott and Mark Kelly to assist in space genetics research. The CIA reveals more about Area 51 in Nevada, but nothing of UFOs.
1. From The Washington Post, Aug. 17: A critique of NASA’s status and the political, financial feasibility of the proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission. The report finds NASA in troubled waters. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2013/08/17/nasas-mission-improbable/
A. From the Houston Chronicle, Aug. 18: NASA is caught in a political crossfire over budgets and future destinations for human space explorers, according to a Chronicle assessment. At stake is a three-year-old bipartisan consensus forged by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the retired U.S. senator from Texas, which supported a shuttle successor for human deep space missions and new commercial vehicles for orbital flight. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/article/Destinations-spending-threaten-future-of-NASA-4740823.php
B. From The New York Times, Aug. 18: Budget sequestration leaves much of the U.S. government, including NASA, unable to fly its executives. The space agency’s presence at the annual Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium earlier this year was scaled back significantly. “We talk about being a leader in space exploration,” said Elliot H. Pulham, the chief executive of the Space Foundation, which sponsored the NASA-free symposium in Colorado. “But it’s hard to be a leader if you don’t show up.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/us/us-workers-are-grounded-by-deep-cuts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
C. From the Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 18: SpaceX and Blue Origin compete to lease former shuttle launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX proposes exclusive use, while Blue Origin proposes a multiple-user facility. Some in Congress are urging NASA to slow down its deliberations for a deeper look at the consequences. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-fight-over-ksc-launchpad-20130818,0,3040073.story
2. From CBS News and Spaceflight Now, Aug. 16: Cosmonauts set new endurance mark in Friday spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin extend solar power and Ethernet cables for arrival of future Russian research module. The excursion runs to 7 hours, 29 minutes. http://www.spaceflightnow.com/station/exp36/130816eva/#.UhHtoNIcfxA
3. From Time Magazine, Aug. 16: NASA’s Kepler team acknowledged disappointment last week when their hobbled exo-planet searching space telescope was pronounced unrecoverable. However, a trove of data from the four-year-old mission awaits assessment. The first two years produced more than 3,500 alien planet candidates, 135 of them confirmed so far. Astronomers are still sifting through the second two years of data, and “we’re convinced the most exciting discoveries are still to come,” noted William Borucki, the Kepler project scientist and founding force behind the mission. http://science.time.com/2013/08/16/the-kepler-space-telescope-may-be-dead-but-its-planet-hunting-mission-continues/?iid=sci-main-lead
4. From Space.com, Aug. 16: New observations suggest comet ISON is not growing as bright as necessary to reach “comet of the century” status. Perhaps ISON will disintegrate before skimming close to the sun on Thanksgiving Day. http://www.space.com/22405-comet-ison-lackluster-brightness-predictions.html
5. From the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 18: NASA’s Ames Research Center is a catalyst for innovation, whether it’s converting smart phone technology into small satellites or examining new ways to recycle water in space. The space agency can count more than 1,800 new technologies it’s introduced to U.S. markets. http://www.sfgate.com/technology/dotcommentary/article/How-NASA-has-furthered-innovation-4740787.php#photo-5055204
6. From New Scientist, Aug. 19: NASA propulsion researcher Harold “Sonny” White explains his theoretical efforts to devise a spacecraft capable of warp drive. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929300.300-meet-the-nasa-scientist-devising-a-starship-warp-drive.html#.UhHqadIcfxB
7. From Spacepolicyonline, Aug. 17: NASA must address radiation exposure obstacles if the U.S. is to launch astronauts to Mars, Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Dr. Ashwin Vasavada tells an audience at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last week. http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/vasavada-radiation-is-problem-nasa-needs-to-solve-for-human-missions
8. Space.com, Aug. 18: Astronaut twins Scott and Mark Kelly intend to help NASA medical researchers sort out possible genetic changes during spaceflight. Scott is training with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko to lift off on a yearlong mission to the International Space Station in March 2015. Mark, now a retired NASA shuttle commander, will serve as a ground base subject. http://www.space.com/22345-nasa-astronaut-twins-spaceflight-experiments.html
9. From Discovery.com, Aug. 17: No evidence of UFOs at Area 51 in Nevada, according to recently declassified U.S. CIA documents. http://news.discovery.com/space/alien-life-exoplanets/cia-admits-area-51-no-ufos-130817.htm
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