CSExtra – Top Space News for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23rd, 2014

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden opens Human to Mars Summit in Washington with defense of plans for human exploration of asteroids as step towards red planet. Critics question costs, say NASA should limit its missions to finding life’s origins, understanding its future. Students contribute to design of radiation shielding on Orion crew capsule. NASA considers changes to radiation exposure policies. Destructive asteroids striking Earth more frequently than previous assumptions, according to planetary defenders. Anxious scientists await budget driven NASA decisions on planetary mission extensions. U.S. astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Steve Swanson to embark on spacewalk outside the International Space Station. U.S., Russian cooperation in space prevails despite tensions over Ukraine. Earth Day prompts new perspectives of home planet. SpaceX joins with NASA to open methane rocket test facility in Mississippi. Proposed California tax exemptions for aerospace companies’ triggers editorial ire.

Human Deep Space Exploration

NASA Chief tells the critics of exploration plan: ‘Get over it’

NBC News (4/22): NASA Administrator Charles Bolden staunchly defends plans to reach an asteroid with astronauts as a stepping stone to Mars. Critics who prefer the agency leave the asteroid to others and step first to the moon, need to “get over it,” Bolden tells the opening day of the Human to Mars Summit in Washington. Reaching Mars by the 2030s will help humans become a multi-planet species, according to the former astronaut.

A Mars mission for budget travelers

National Geographic (4/22): The human exploration of Mars is an affordable objective, say experts who are attempting to knock down the cost myth of a $1 trillion price tag this week at the Humans To Mars Summit in Washington.  The mission can be funded from NASA’s current budget, with allowances for inflation, along with contributions from other countries, say advocates.

NASA’s lofty goal of a manned Mars mission doesn’t match budget reality

The Washington Post (4/22): U.S. budget realities do not support human exploration of Mars, writes columnist Dana Milbank, who cites a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. The writer was among those attending the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington this week. Robots can handle the risky work. Humans have billions of years before a dying sun forces them to re-settle, he writes.

NASA’s confused mission apparent from Earth Day talk about Mars (4/22): NASA’s mission is not to explore Mars. It’s to explore life’s origins and its future, according to a report from the Human to Mars Summit. NASA’s first order of business should be to embed in classrooms the idea of Earth as a habitable planet.

On Earth Day, asteroids and human trips to Mars get the attention (4/22): Somehow, talk of threats from asteroid collisions and the human exploration of Mars on Earth Day all makes sense. That’s what happened in U.S. space policy circles on Tuesday, the Washington website reports.

Students design radiation shield for NASA’s Orion spacecraft (4/22): Since March 2013, 125,000 students from more than 80 countries have sought to help NASA develop shielding for the Orion spacecraft to protect astronauts from space radiation. NASA is developing Orion to transport U.S. explorers on future missions of deep space exploration.

Scientists consider relaxing radiation rules for Mars journey

Florida Today (4/22): Radiation threat to humans on trips to Mars becomes a topic of Human to Mars Summit in Washington this week. Some scientists believe it could be appropriate to relax current rules. Institute of Medicine recently urged NASA to keep standards but consider exceptions.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Powerful asteroids strike Earth with surprising frequency (video) (4/22): Nonprofit B612 Foundation illustrates latest findings on threat to Earth from asteroid impacts. Twenty six random high altitude impacts previously not witnessed logged by Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization sound wave sensors. The nonprofit plans a satellite mission of its own in 2018 to find hundreds of thousands of small space rocks now considered a threat in the aftermath of the 2013 Chelyabinsk explosion over Russia.

Video: Earth has had 26 powerful asteroid explosions in 13 years

Los Angeles Times (4/22): Earth’s atmosphere provides an effective shield for many unnoticed asteroid impacts with the Earth.

Surprise: Earth is hit by a lot more asteroids than you thought

Universe Today (4/22): “Blind luck” only force preventing more damage to Earth from asteroid impacts, say former astronauts, advocates of private mission to detect and track small asteroids that could destroy a major city.

NASA’s extended science missions in peril

Air and Space Museum Magazine (4/22): When it comes to keeping spacecraft going, when is enough, enough? Planetary scientists grow weary as NASA senior managers consider mission extensions for the Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions. “There are so many places to go, so much to do and so little money to spread around; new missions are waiting their turn,” notes author and scientist Paul Spudis.

Low Earth Orbit

Expedition 39 spacewalkers ready for critical EVA-26 tomorrow (4/22): NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson will set out early Wednesday on a short but critical spacewalk to replace a failed computer controller outside the six person International Space Station.

Crew set to conduct spacewalk and release cargo ship

NASA (4/22): International Space Station astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson set for short spacewalk on Wednesday to replace an external computer control box. Russia undocks Progress re-supply capsule for belated test of automated rendezvous software updates.

No official confirmation of NASA severing ties with Russian Space Agency

Ria Novosti, of Russia (4/23): So far, the U.S. and Russia are maintaining working ties despite tensions over Ukraine, according to Russian space agency chief  Oleg Ostapenko on Wednesday.

NASA’s relationship with Russia mostly unchanged (4/22): In spite of an announced curtailment of cooperation in space earlier this month, the U.S. and Russia continue to cooperate on a range of space projects. The International Space Station was exempted from the U.S. space response to tensions in Ukraine.

Earth Day 2014: Gorgeous, humbling views of our planet, from space

Washington Post (4/22): Tuesday was Earth Day. In recognition, the publication assembled compelling views of the Earth taken from Mercury to Saturn.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Rocket testing program launched at Stennis Space Center

New Orleans Times Picayune (4/22): SpaceX introduces program at Stennis Space Center for tests of a methane fueled rocket engine.

WSJ editorial criticizes California tax break bill that benefits SpaceX (4/22): Wall Street Journal editorial finds proposed California property tax exemptions tailored for SpaceX unfair, though others among the state’s aerospace industry would likely benefit as well.

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