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Tuesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. Policy makers are attempting to come to grips with NASA’s proposed 2013 budget on several fronts, from cuts to the Mars program to commercial spaceflight initiatives. Astronauts face a new health challenge by long term spaceflight, vision problems, and NASA says it is giving the issue priority. China settles on a new rocket propulsion strategy that includes configurations to reach the moon. Russia’s space program deals with mismanagement, possibly corruption. Legendary NASA flight director Gene Kranz is honored with a hall of fame induction.
1. From the New York Times: Just as NASA seems to be closing in on an answer to the life on Mars question, funding for the agency’s planetary exploration program drops, forcing the cancellation of two key missions with the European Space Agency as a partner. The Times takes a look at NASA’s proposed 2013 budget and what reductions in planetary science means. All of the agency’s major projects seem to be slipping into the future, the newspaper reports. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/science/space/life-on-mars-funds-for-nasa-to-find-the-answer-fade.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=NASA&st=cse
A. From the Washington Post: NASA’s Mars exploration program was reeling from two avoidable failures in 1999, when agency administrator Dan Goldin looked to Scott Hubbard for a recovery strategy. Hubbard explains how the agency managed the turn around in a new book, Exploring Mars, and why the challenge of unraveling the red planet’s past is still a challenge. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/space-scientist-at-nasa-helped-get-the-us-back-on-the-road-to-mars/2011/12/21/gIQAVJgx7R_story.html
B. From Space.com: Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists determine that Mars possesses little of the mud and clay around what appear to be ancient lake beds — materials that would preserve fossil records of past life. http://exploredeepspace.com/14870-mars-water-mud-signs-life.html
2. From Spaceflightnow.com: A look at the urgency surrounding NASA’s commercial crew and cargo spaceflight initiatives. The outcome of a SpaceX cargo demonstration mission to the International Space Station, tentatively set for late April, could have repercussions on Congressional deliberations over the commercial crew initiative, which is already attempting to adjust to a reduced 2012 budget appropriation, say some involved in the programs. http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1203/12commercialcrew/
A. From Space News: Astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria is leaving NASA to lead the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. He leaves the space agency with the record for the longest spaceflight by an American, 215 days, and most spacewalks time, 67 hours over 10 excursions. Lopez-Alegria will serve as the organization’s chief Washington liaison. http://www.spacenews.com/venture_space/031212-nasa-astronaut-leaves-agency-run-commercial-spaceflight-federation.html
3. From Space.com: A new study adds vision problems to the list of health risks faced by astronauts on long duration spaceflight. The list includes bone and muscle loss. The study, published in the journal Radiology, examines the effects of spaceflight on 27 astronauts following an average of 108 days in orbit. Changes measured with MRI resembled conditions associated with intracranial hypertension. NASA has placed the issue high on its list of human spaceflight risks. http://exploredeepspace.com/14876-astronaut-spaceflight-vision-problems.html
4. From Aviation Week & Space Technology: In China, propulsion engineers settle on a strategy for a new family of Long March rockets, one with the muscle for future human lunar missions. http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/awst/2012/03/12/AW_03_12_2012_p32-433971.xml&headline=China Sets Plan For Moon Rocket Engine
A. From The Space Review: In “Competition for the future of the EELV program,” Stewart Money, a Georgia historian, examines NASA’s choice of future launch vehicles and finds several trends that could drive prices up for science as well as commercial crew missions. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2042/2
5. From National Public Radio: Russia’s space program is wobbling from mismanagement, even theft, NPR reports. Roscosmos has sustained half a dozen significant mission failures in the past year, including the loss of a Mars mission probe. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/12/148247197/for-russias-troubled-space-program-mishaps-mount
6. From the Alamagordo Daily News of New Mexico: Gene Kranz, among the legends of NASA’s Apollo-era Mission Control, was inducted over the weekend into the International Space Hall of Fame. http://www.alamogordonews.com/ci_20149069/we-must-be-perfect
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