Nearly a year has passed since President Obama’s controversial Augustine Committee’s report recommended a dramatic change in the future of NASA’s manned space flight program. However, it seems that little has changed on Capitol Hill. The recently-adopted NASA budget is approximately the same as previous appropriations—$19 billion for 2011—while dramatically reducing the amount to be spent on commercial space vehicles and accelerating development of a heavy launch vehicle which would be needed for manned flights to the Moon and eventually Mars.
Since the signing of the United Nations charter in 1945 the international institution which has grown since that day has made a point of proving itself invasive, irrelevant, meddlesome, and, when possible, oppressive. However, the UN’s actions fall into another category, on occasion.
President Obama’s proposed changes to NASA’s plans for manned space flight have implications for many aspects of the aerospace industry. Following the recommendations of the Augustine Committee, Obama decided to essentially terminate his predecessor’s plans for resuming manned flights to the Moon, and an eventual mission to Mars. Now his administration’s move toward privatizing space flight is drawing aerospace giant Boeing into the space tourism market.
When the year 2012 is mentioned, one usually assumes the worst. Dave Reneke, an Australian astronomy lecturer and columnist, may have just given reason to vindicate some fears — but not as bad as the movie 2012 would have one suspect.
A giant black hole is putting on a spectacular show and scientists at NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory have captured the action. The black hole, located in galaxy M87, is blasting gas outwards, causing scientists to compare what they are seeing in deep space to the eruption of a volcano.
After a day's delay in liftoff due to a malfunctioning fire extinguishing system on the launchpad, on June 10 at 5:01 p.m. South Korean time, the Naro-1 satellite launcher lifted off from the Naro Space Center at Goheung on the south coast. It then exploded about two and a half minutes later. This was the second failure in as many tries for the multistage rocket. Controllers who were at first cheering, were dismayed 137 seconds later at seeing a bright flash on their screens transmitted from the camera mounted on the tip of the rocket. At that time, the Naro-1 would have been about 43 miles above the earth. Ahn Byong-man, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, told reporters that officials assume the explosion took place at that point. It was during the first-stage ignition.
In the aftermath of President Obama’s decision to dramatically curtail NASA’s manned space program, many observers wondered what the future of America’s participation in the exploration of the heavens would look like. The successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on June 4 may give us a first look at that future.
As NASA’s manned space efforts falter in the face of the looming conclusion of the shuttle program and by a finding of the Augustine Committee that projects that government-funded space exploration will be significantly more expensive in coming years, private space ventures are soaring.