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The NASA budget, and other space stuff

by Dan Burns on April 12, 2017 · 0 comments

marslandscapeIt so happens that the date of my birth, 4/12/61, is the same date on which Yuri Gagarin became the first human launched into space. So I’m doing one of my very occasional looks at the U.S. space program.
 
– This actually isn’t much of a surprise, though I too expected the NASA budget would be hit harder. Plenty of right-wingers in Congress have actually long tended to support solid funding, to show our technological superiority over the Soviets (To be clear, I typed “Soviets” on purpose, as that’s where many wingnut heads really are pretty much still at).
 

Make no mistake: the U.S. science community—particularly in the areas of health, energy, geology, and environmental research—will suffer if (Trump’s budget) is enacted.
 
But relative to the dismal news throughout the rest of government and the scientific community, NASA did well. The space program would still be cut, but the amount is much less than many other agencies. It stands to lose 0.8% relative to 2016, down about $200 million from $19.3 billion.
(The Planetary Society)

– This is the coolest space thing online that I’ve dealt with. It’s about the Apollo 11 landing. Takes 20 minutes or so, and works better with headphones.
 
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51 Years After the First Space Flight

by Dan Burns on April 12, 2012 · 4 comments

Today is the fifty-first anniversary of my birth.  April 12, 1961, was also the date on which Yuri Gagarin became the first human launched into space.  So I thought that I’d seek to distract myself from the cold, hard reality of marking another year’s nearer approach to the grave, by noting a few items about the current U.S. space program.  This is not a comprehensive effort.

–  NASA’s budget is likely to take something of a hit, though it’s a complicated thing.  This article, about the White House’s proposal, is worth looking at in full, if you’re at all interested.

The President’s FY13 budget for NASA is $17.7 billion in total. This is marginally less than last year. In most cases, the budget for science is stable, with a lot of missions getting modest increases. After perusing the individual budgets, it looks to me that most missions that are getting reductions are either ones that have been up a while and are winding down, ones near launch that are built and ready to go and therefore costs are smaller than during development, or ones that have had launch delays (due to tech issues with the launch systems).

More below the fold.
–  While, as noted in the article linked before, Mars exploration is scheduled to take a big budget hit, the next big mission is on its way.  The Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on the planet in August.  Fingers crossed.

A primary mission objective is to determine whether Mars is or has ever been able to support life, though it will not look for any specific type of life. Rather, it is intended to chemically analyze samples in various ways, including scooping up soil, drilling rocks, and using a laser and sensor system. Four major goals are to study Martian geology, study Martian climate, collect data for a human mission, and tackle the aforementioned life questions.

The Curiosity rover is about five times larger than the Spirit or Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers and carries more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments.

–  A lot of us space exploration buffs are plenty nervous about the proposed James Webb Space Telescope;  that is, we really hope that we’re wrong in regarding it as an effort to try to do too much, too soon, as far as getting it to deploy and function properly, that far away.  It’s also a prime target for cancellation.  Fingers and toes crossed.

Webb will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. Both the mirror and sunshade won’t fit onto the rocket fully open, so both will fold up and open once Webb is in outer space. Webb will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the Earth.

–  Efforts at privatized/commercialized/whatever space flight are almost certainly here to stay.  Whether any serious scientific work – the part that I care about – will be farmed out in that direction anytime soon (i.e. within the next decade or so) remains to be seen.  One thought about that, and I’m sorry that it’s a morbid one:  space flight is a dangerous business, and it is far from unlikely, that some of the first “space tourists” won’t make it back alive.  It will be interesting to see, whether that kills the industry, or whether the proof of grave risk only makes it all the more enticing, to some.

I figure that since I’m supposed to be celebrating, I can at least pass along some music.

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