CSExtra – Top Space News for Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17th, 2015

Today's CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe.  The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee report on the 2016 budget adds money to the White House request for the Space Launch System and Orion, subtracts from Commercial Crew.  Former NASA officials urge development of the Space Launch System heavy lift rocket for future human and robotic deep space exploration. A U.S. House bill backs commemorative coins for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing.  European astronomers characterize the significance of the earliest stars in the formation of planets, life.  Methane traces in Martian meteorites suggests possible life on red planet. The Earth is revealing telltale signs of intelligent life to distant aliens. NASA's Dawn probe finds new mystery in Ceres' bright spots.  U.S./Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission satellites falls from orbit. International Space Station features new high definition optics. U.S. Department of Defense suggests a civilian agency take over responsibility for tracking orbital debris, preventing space collisions. NASA, French space agency forge deeper cooperation in preventing collisions between operational satellites and space debris. NASA's Kennedy Space Center looks to lease of Vertical Assembly Building space, old space shuttle mobile launch platforms.

NASA's 2016 Budget

Senate Appropriators Favor Earth Science, Exploration; Cut Space Technology, Commercial Crew (6/17): A 2016 budget recommendation from the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee would reduce the White House request of $18.529 billion for NASA by $240 million. Report recommendations would increase the White House requests for the Space Launch System exploration rocket and Orion crew exploration capsule by $543.5 million and $104 million respectively. Funding in the administration request for the Commercial Crew Program is reduced from $1.244 billion to $900 million, jeopardizing NASA's late 2017 target for the startup of competing U.S. commercial launch services capable of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. The report reflects Senate action to develop a 2016 spending plan with the U.S. House.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Griffin: Space Launch System holds future of U.S. space policy

Houston Chronicle (6/16):  NASA's pursuit of the Space Launch System exploration rocket is an essential part of future deep space human exploration and science missions, write Michael Griffin, a former NASA administrator, and Daniel Dumbacher, a former NASA deputy associate administrator, in an op-ed. The SLS brings safety and ultimate savings as well as an unmatched capability to place hardware in deep space, they write.

Lawmakers call for golden curved coins to mark Apollo 11 golden anniversary (6/16):  Legislation before the U.S. House, HR 2726, calls for the minting of gold, silver and half dollar coins commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Astronomers Report Finding Earliest Stars That Enriched Cosmos

New York Times (6/17):  European researchers report the discovery of CR7, a galaxy that formed early in the universe and with bright stars that forged elements heavier then hydrogen, helium and lithium. Later generations of stars then burned those materials to forge even heavier elements like carbon, oxygen and iron that are necessary for the formation of planets and the chemical foundation for life. The work, carried out with ground based observatories and described in the Astrophysics Journal, lays a foundation for future studies by the James Webb Space Telescope, according to the report.

Methane in Mars Meteorites Suggests Possibility of Life (6/16): Canadian researchers suggest that methane traces found in meteorites of Martian origin hold out the possibility the red planet has or does host life forms. Results were published online Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

What Possible Intelligent Life beyond Earth May Know About Us, NASA Official Explains

ABC News (6/16):  If there is intelligent life within 20 light years of the Earth, it knows we are here, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, tells scientists gathered for the Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago on Tuesday.  There are detectable telltale signs of our existence in the Earth's environment, according to Grunsfeld.

NASA's Dawn Probe Focuses on a Different Mystery Spot on Ceres

NBC News (6/16): "Spot 5" opens a new dimension to the deepening mystery over bright spots on the cratered surface of the large asteroid Ceres and under surveillance by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Low Earth Orbit

NASA Satellite Falls Out of Space, Burns Up Over Tropics (6/16): The joint U. S./Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite made an anticipated uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The satellite was launched in 1997 to improve climate change models by measuring rainfall in the Earth's tropics. TRMM was retired in April after the spacecraft's fuel supply was depleted.

A clearer view from the ISS (6/16): The International Space Station now supports 4K-Ultra High Definition video.

Strategic Command Envisions Civil Space Traffic Management 

Space News (6/16): A high ranking officer in the U.S. Strategic Command suggests a civilian agency take over the military's role in preventing collisions between objects in Earth orbit. Orbital debris poses a threat to functioning satellites.

U.S., France Agree To Closer Cooperation on Orbital Debris Warning

Aviation Week & Space Technology (6/16): The heads of NASA and the French Space Agency, CNES, agree to closer ties in the monitoring of orbital debris that collide with functioning spacecraft. Charles Bolden and Jean-Yves Le Gall signed the agreement, which builds on past efforts at protecting operational spacecraft from destruction through collisions with manmade rocket and satellite fragments, in Le Bourget, France on Tuesday.

Commercial to Orbit

Available to Rent: One VAB High Bay, three Mobile Launcher Platforms

AmericaSpace (6/16):  NASA's Kennedy Space Center, transitioning to a multi-user spaceport, is seeking commercial proposals for use of portions of the Vehicle Assembly Building and the mobile launch platforms once used by the agency's shuttle fleet.