CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, June 12, 2015

June 12th, 2015

Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday failed to back an amendment that would have restored 2016 funding for NASA’s commercial crew program to the White House request. Without the full $1.244 billion request, NASA will be unable to end its reliance on Russia for astronaut launches by the end of 2017, say supporters. The U.S. can likely develop the technologies to reach Mars with humans. But can it sustain the political support?  NASA test fires a Space Launch System first stage rocket engine. Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin urges space cooperation with China. Texas musters new political support for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. NASA alum Jack King, the “voice of Apollo” and a major early agency public affairs figure, passed away Thursday. A British teen has become the youngest person to discover an alien planet. Can the Earth’s nations fend off the threat of an impact from a large asteroid? The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft may have spied the missing Philae comet lander. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is revealing Pluto’s complexity. NASA’s Terry Virts, the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforett and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov returned to Earth early Thursday after nearly 200 days aboard the International Space Station.

NASA’s 2016 Budget

Commercial Crew Bears Brunt of Senate’s NASA Cut

Space News (6/11): The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a 2016 NASA spending bill that totaled $239 million less than the White House request. At $18.29 billion, however, the Senate measure equals $280 million more than the agency received in 2015. The House version for 2016 totals $18.529 billion. However, the House version shifts some White House favored spending from commercial crew and space technology to the Space Launch System exploration rocket and planetary science.

Panel rejects full funding for shuttle replacement program

USA Today (6/11): An amendment that would have raised 2016 spending on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program from $900 million to $1.2 billion failed by a 16-14 vote among members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The full House approved $1 billion. Without the White House request for $1.24 billion for the program in 2016, NASA says it will be unable to introduce competing U.S. commercial launch services capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station by late 2017. Instead, the U.S. will continue to purchase the transportation from Russia.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Think Tank Turns Its Attention to Mars As 2016 Election Looms 

Space News (6/11): In Washington, the Center for American Progress, a think tank, addressed the challenges faced by NASA in achieving its aspirations of reaching Mars with humans. Meeting the technical challenge is one thing. The larger challenge may be forging a plan that can survive changing political administrations.

NASA and Aerojet Fire Up Stennis with Full Duration SLS Engine Test Fire #3

AmericaSpace (6/11): NASA’s prototype rocket engine for the first stage of the Space Launch System exploration rocket fired for the third time in a series of ground tests at the Stennis Space Center. During the test firings, engineers are sizing up changes to generate more power from the RS-25 development engines, rockets that once powered the space shuttle.

Buzz Aldrin: Why the U.S. Should Partner with China in Space

Time (6/11): Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin urges an end to a U.S. ban on cooperation with China in space. Future cooperation, exhibited first at the U.S. led, 15 nation International Space Station, would enhance science and safety as a global partnership expands into cis-lunar space and the human exploration of Mars, he writes. Currently, China plans to embark on the assembly of its own space station, Tiangong-2, between 2016 and 2022.

Babin becomes Johnson Space Center’s third new ally in Congress

Houston Chronicle (6/11): Texas has assembled new political clout for NASA and its Johnson Space Center in Houston, the agency installation responsible for developing U.S. human spacecraft and managing their operations. Congressman Brian Babin, an East Texas dentist, was recently appointed chairman of the U.S. House subcommittee on space. John Culberson, a Houston congressman, recently became chair of the House appropriations panel responsible for NASA’s budget. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, of Houston, ascended to the chairmanship of the Senate panel responsible for space legislation. “Things have definitely improved for the Johnson Space Center,” noted Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Jack King, NASA’s ‘Voice of Apollo,’ dies at 84

Florida Today (6/11): Jack King, a veteran of NASA public affairs in the agency’s early years, described the countdown and historic launch of Apollo 11, the first mission to place humans on the moon. The Boston native and one time Associated Press news reporter went on to become known as the “Voice of Apollo” and a key public affairs force with United Space Alliance, which shouldered the day to day operations of NASA’s space shuttle program.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

High School Student Discovers Alien Planet (6/11): England’s Tom Wagg, 15, has been recognized as the youngest person to discover an alien planet. WASP-142b, a hot Jupiter, lies 1,000 light years from Earth.

We Can Save Ourselves from Earth-Killing Asteroids, but Someone Has to Pay

Newsweek (6/11):  The tracking and the technologies to warn of and fend off an impact have matured in recent decades. The question is not whether the Earth will face an impact threat, it’s whether nations can join together to take action when it does.

Images Show Our Favorite Little Lander on Its Comet Maybe (6/11): New photos from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft may reveal the location of the Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Philae bounded to a landing on the comet in early November, then went missing and silent — perhaps because its solar panels were covered in darkness. There is hope among scientists that Philae will awaken as the comet moves closer to the sun.

NASA Probe Reveals More Detail in Pluto’s Complex Surface (6/11): NASA’s New Horizons mission spacecraft is bearing down on a July 14 flyby of distant Pluto. The images from New Horizons reveal a “rich and complex little word,” according to the report.

Low Earth Orbit

U.S.-Russian-Italian crew returns to Earth

Space News:  NASA’s Terry Virts, the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov descended safety to Earth in Kazakhstan early Thursday, ending nearly 200 days in orbit aboard the International Space Station. Their return to Earth was delayed for nearly a month by the failed April 28 launching of Russia’s Progress 59 resupply mission.