Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Exploration Versus Pioneering

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently drew a distinction between exploration and pioneering.  Exploration, he suggested, implies going out and coming right back, while pioneering means going out and staying permanently.  NASA, he declared, is in the pioneering business.

All that is fine, and even useful, but declaring is simple enough.  NASA and Congress need to put together a coherent, workable, long term manned spaceflight policy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NASA And Mars

NASA leadership says it is pursuing a plan aimed at putting humans on Mars in the 2030s, as tasked by President Obama in 2010.  Many people outside of NASA, however, including some members of Congress, argue NASA needs to lay out a detailed strategy showing how it intends to reach the Red Planet.

The agency is hosting a "Humans To Mars" conference this week in Washington, D. C.  Perhaps NASA will begin to fill in the blanks in its approach there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

LADEE Crashes Into Luna

NASA's LADEE probe was intentionally crashed into the far side of the Moon last Friday.

NASA plans to use its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to find the impact site.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dragon Flies Again

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket again yesterday, sending its Dragon cargo capsule on another supply mission to ISS.

The company is building an impressive launch record as manned Dragon flights approach, perhaps as soon as 2017.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kepler 186f

NASA announced yesterday that, using Kepler data, researchers have discovered an exoplanet only ten percent larger than Earth orbiting its red dwarf parent star in that star's habitable zone.  Those researchers believe it to be a rocky world that could have liquid water on its surface, which means it's a possible abode of life.

Kepler 186f is 500 light-years away, and, very likely, the first of many such worlds to be discovered.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pad 39A Goes Private

In a sign of the times, NASA has negotiated a twenty year lease with SpaceX, giving the company control of Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

Launch Pad 39A saw the launches of such historic missions as Apollo 8 and Apollo 11, plus 82 shuttle flights.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Volcanic Mercury

Scientists using data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft have found there were explosive volcanoes on Mercury for far longer than originally thought.

The standard view has been that Mercury lost most of its volatiles early in its history, but researchers have found pyroclastic ash-- evidence of volcanic eruptions-- in areas that suggest volcanism was active on Mercury for a billion years longer than thought.