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DailyTech's middle of the month International Space Update, March 2007 edition

NASA is headed for a "train wreck" if the U.S. space agency is unable to get better funding to help finish construction of the International Space Station, according to Bart Gordon, chairman of the U.S. House science committee.  NASA also is unable to secure proper funding to find killer asteroids by 2020.  Also happening today at the Capitol, other representatives attempted to give NASA a $1 billion budget raise.  NASA has a $17.3 billion tentative budget for 2008.  

"I think it's clear that we have a budgetry situation that bears little resemblance to the rosy projections offered by the administration... a vision that is now increasingly blurred," Gordon said.

NASA reported that the Cassini spacecraft has discovered what appears to be large lakes and seas on the surface of Titan, one of Saturn's moons.  The images were taken on Feb. 22, and reveal that the largest is around 39,000 square miles -- larger than any North American Great Lake.  Their minimum size is the only key feature because the radar on Cassini has only been able to observer a portion of the features.    

Astronomers initially believed the entire surface of Titan was a global ocean, but Cassini helped prove that wrong.  It is unknown if the seas contain liquid, but initial radar observations indicate that liquid is likely present.

Researchers studying information gathered by NASA's Spirit space rover are interested in some bright Martian soil that contains high amounts of sulfur and traces of water.  "This material could have been left behind by water that dissolved these minerals underground, then came to the surface and evaporated, or it could be a volcanic deposit formed around ancient gas vents," said Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis.  Arvisdon is the deputy principal investigator for the NASA's Spirit and Opportunity space rovers.

It will ultimately take some time before researchers are able to figure out which hypothesis is correct -- the discovery of the correct hypothesis, however, will give further insight into the Columbia Hills region of the Red Planet.


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RE: Demand more from NASA
By masher2 (blog) on 3/16/2007 3:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
> "most of [NASA's] domain experts are dead, retired, or have not had to think about that stuff for so long that they wouldn't remember it all anyway....They also lack the type of leadership, vision, and political prowess Von Braun provided..."

Which is exactly what I said. They lack effective leadership. The fact remains-- NASA did it the first time in 10 years. And that was with 1960s-era materials, computers, and technology...when they didn't have a clue what was required, before we'd even put a man in space before. Hell, we didn't even know what the properties of outer space were then. Half of that ten years was spent in just ensuring we could put a man in orbit safely.

How did they do it? By being a new, dynamic organization, with goals and vision. Not an entrenched bureaucracy, more interested in keeping the paychecks flowing than any real progress.

> "The manned program has goals. I suspect if you bothered to look around their site you'd find some...understanding long term exposure to microgravity, fixing Hubble, the numerous zero G experiments they are doing on the space station etc..."

As a active researcher these past 20 years, I know a good bit more about NASA than you might think. And I don't consider yet more in an endless stream of meaningless experiments about "effects of microgravity" as being worthwhile goals. They're excuses to perpetuate the program, nothing more. The NASA of the 1960s and early 1970s generated more advances and discoveries in a single year than the current bureaucracy has in the last 25 combined. Is that because there is less to discover, less advances to be made? Think again.

The manned space program is floundering, and has been since the Space Shuttle failed to live up to its promises. And everyone besides NASA leadership is more than ready to admit it.


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