sábado, 30 de agosto de 2008

Últimas notícias: Presidente da NASA pede para que se avalie a possibilidade de operar o Shuttle até 2015!

A NASA está a aproximar-se de uma situação crítica para o período entre 2010 e 2015. Está neste momento previsto que o Shuttle deixe de operar em 2010, e que o seu sucessor, a Orion, só entre em funcionamento em 2015 - se tudo correr bem, o que não está a acontecer. Durante esse período, os EUA dependerão totalmente da Rússia para colocar astronautas a bordo da Estação Espacial Internacional!

Com o azedar das relações entre os EUA e a Rússia, decorrente da recente guerra na Geórgia, é bem possível que os EUA se vejam afastados da ISS durante, pelo menos, esses 5 anos! E não nos esqueçamos que a ISS foi, em grande parte, construída pelos EUA!

Assim, e contrariando as afirmações recentes de Wayne Hale (ver último post), o presidente da NASA Michael Griffin veio agora pedir que se estude a viabilidade de manter o Space Shuttle em operações durante esse período de 5 anos.

Pessoalmente considero esta uma notícia de enorme importância, e extremamente positiva. Espero que dê tempo à NASA para reavaliar (cancelar?) o desastroso projecto Orion, e lhe permita criar um novo sistema de acesso ao Espaço que seja realmente inovador e económico.

Fonte: Orlando Sentinel

EXCLUSIVE: NASA to study extending shuttle era to 2015
posted by Mark Matthews on Aug 29, 2008 12:12:22 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has ordered his subordinates to study how the agency could fly the space shuttle beyond its planned retirement in 2010, according to an internal e-mail obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

The decision signals what could be a huge change in NASA policy. Griffin repeatedly has rejected the notion of extending the shuttle era beyond its 2010 retirement date, arguing it could cripple the fledgling Constellation program, a system of new rockets and capsules meant to replace the shuttle in 2015.

But Griffin has been under enormous external pressure. Sen. John McCain recently asked the White House to stop dismantling parts of the shuttle program for at least a year. At the same time, eroding relations with Russia have motivated lawmakers to find a way to fill the five-year gap between the shuttle's retirement and the maiden voyage of Constellation in 2015. The current plan calls for NASA to buy Russian spacecraft during the gap.

One NASA official said such "what-if studies" represent "prudent planning," especially in light of suggestions made by McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who would dictate the agency's future if he captures the White House.

But the email, sent on Wednesday, August 27, by John Coggeshall, manager of "Manifest and Schedules" at Johnson Space Center in Houston, suggested that the analysis was more than just a contingency study.

"We want to focus on helping bridge the gap of US vehicles travelling to the ISS as efficiently as possible," it said.

The upcoming study raised the idea of retiring one of the three remaining orbiters, possibly for spare parts. "(We) don't necessarily need all 3 orbiters either," said the email. "We have been encouraged not to focus on a certain set of assumptions or costs," said the email.

But cost has been the exact reason why Griffin has dismissed the idea of extending the shuttle era. To have enough money to build Constellation's Ares 1 rocket and Orion crew capsule, NASA must spending stop money on shuttle flights. At one point last year, he estimated that it would cost as much as $4 billion a year to fly the shuttle beyond 2010.

NASA' current budget is about $17 billion.

"Continuing to fly the Shuttle beyond 2010 does not enhance U.S. human spaceflight capability, but rather delays the time until a new capability exists and increases the total life cycle cost to bring the new capability on line," he told Congress in November.

Another worry: NASA already has begun unplugging parts of the shuttle system. It has already terminated many contracts with vendors who make shuttle parts and NASA facilities already have begun converting its systems to handle the new Constellation program.

Wayne Hale, a NASA deputy assistant administrator and until recently the shuttle-program manager, has said that this fall marks the point of no return. That's when NASA is supposed to start ripping out the giant welding equipment and other machinery at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which makes the shuttle's giant external fuel tank.

In a blog posted Thursday, Hale said that flying shuttle and building Constellation would strain NASA's budgets and overextend its workforce. "Hey, I am the biggest shuttle hugger there is. I think it is the best spacecraft ever built. But I also deal in the real world," he wrote.

"Where does the money come from? Where do the people -- who should be working on the moon rocket -- where do they come from? We started shutting down the shuttle four years ago. That horse has left the barn," he wrote.

Email referido no artigo acima:

From: Coggeshall, John C. (JSC-MA)
Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 4:23 PM
To: Larochelle, Joseph K. (JSC-OM); Fuller, Sean M. (JSC-OC); Gensler, Janejit T. (JSC-OM3); Feldman, Holly (JSC-OM); Overton, Thomas L. (KSC); Ford, Clark D. (KSC); Magendie, Brian (MAF-NASA_MAF)[Lockheed Martin Space Systems Com; Dwyer, Kenneth J. (JSC-MV6); Jackson, Melodie M. (KSC); 'Lemoine, Patrick K. (KSC)[USA]'; Davidson, Dennis R. (JSC-MM)

Cc: Lyons, Douglass E. (KSC); Phillips, Pepper (KSC); Wyche, Vanessa E. (JSC-ZD); Castle, Robert E. (JSC-ZD); Beck, Kelly B. (JSC-DA); Rasco, Dorothy S. (JSC-MM)

Subject: Shuttle extension assessment

The SSP program in conjunction with Cx and ISS have been asked by the administrator to put together some manifest options to assess extending shuttle flights to 2015. SSP would like to have some options developed for review by senior management by the end of September. The result of the review might be a formal budget assessment of a option(s).

We will start by using the manifest team to put together a option(s). I would like to start getting some initial thoughts next week. What I want to do is focus in on initially is what would make sense given the current conditions with ISS and Cx. We have been encouraged not to focus on a certain set of assumptions or costs. We will probably develop multiple options. In my initial discussions with John these are the things I would like to think about

- We cant just spread out the 10 flights to 2015, that does not support ISS requirements
- We will need some new ETs and that’s the long lead item so we may need a little "streching".
- We will have to put orbiters in OMDP
- We don’t want to get in the way of Cx development by holding on to facilities they need (HB3, MLP, Pad , Crawler, Engine Test stands etc)

- Flight rate is not given
- Don’t necessarily need all 3 orbiters either

We want to focus on helping bridge the gap of US vehicles traveling to the ISS as efficiently as possible.

Joe LaRochelle will have some preliminary ISS requirements for us next week, and Ken is going to work on OMDP thoughts.

Thanks, and this should actually be fun. Well as fun as anything gets if you’re a manifest dweeb.

John Coggeshall
JSC-MA / Manifest and Schedules

quinta-feira, 28 de agosto de 2008

Wayne Hale: o programa Shuttle está a ser desmantelado há 4 anos!

Uma grande alhada que se aproxima para a NASA e para os Estados Unidos. Há já alguns anos que a NASA se prepara para terminar o programa Space Shuttle em 2010, o que irá deixar os Estados Unidos dependentes da Rússia para colocar astronautas na Estação Espacial Internacional até que, por voltas de 2015, as cápsulas Orion estejam prontas a voar.

A alhada vem do seguinte: o desenvolvimento das Orion tem deparado com inúmeros problemas, que tem gradualmente levado o programa a reduzir a importância dos seus objectivos e a adiar a data provável da sua entrada em funcionamento.

Por outro lado, o agravamento das tensões entre o Ocidente e a Rússia vem pôr em dúvida a possibilidade dos EUA usarem as cápsulas russas Soyuz para levarem astronautas americanos até à ISS!

Ou seja, podemos vir a deparar com a situação caricata dos Estados Unidos estarem impossibilitados de tripular com astronautas americanos a Estação Espacial que eles próprios construiram!!!

Esta situação tem levado os actuais candidatos à Casa Branca a propôr o prolongamento das missões do Space Shuttle por mais um ou dois anos, por forma a minimizar este lapso de tempo.

Agora Wayne Hale, Director do Programa Space Shuttle, vem dizer que tal será impossível, ou pelo menos extremamente caro. Um reality check doloroso para a NASA! Leiam e chorem.

Fonte: Space Review

Shutting down the shuttle

I believe it was General Norman Schwartzkopf who said: "Arm chair generals study tactics; real generals study logistics".

One of the first lessons I learned in program and project management is that attention to the details of supplies, vendors, and parts manufacturers will determine success or failure more than anything else that management does. They are not glamorous, Hollywood does not make movies made about them, but logistics and supply chain are the unsung pillars on which every major project rests.

It is nice to have eloquent oratory and high flown philosophical statements, but the real way that real programs are really controlled is through the money. When the logistics and supply budget is stopped, the program is over. Momentum and warehoused supplies can carry on for a short period, but when those are exhausted, its time for the museum.

Starting four years ago, the shuttle program in its various projects made "lifetime buys". That is, we bought enough piece parts to fly all the flights on the manifest plus a prudent margin of reserves. Then we started sending out termination letters. About two years ago, we terminated 95% of the vendors for parts for the external tank project, for example. Smaller, but still significant, percentages of vendors for SSME, Orbiter, and RSRB have also been terminated.

A lot of things that go into the shuttle build up are specialty items. Electronics parts that nobody makes any more (1970's vintage stuff). Hey, if it works, why invest money in certifying new parts? Certifying new ones would be even more costly! Specialty alloys to meet the extraordinary demands of space flight, parts that are made by Mom and Pop shops mostly in the LA basin are norm rather than the exception. You might think that simple things like bolts and screws, wire, filters, and gaskets could be bought off the shelf some where, but that thinking would merely prove how little you know about the shuttle. The huge majority of supplies, consumable items, maintenance items, they are all specially made with unique and stringent processes and standards.

Our shuttle history tells us that when we try to cut corners, trouble results. Small, even apparently insignificant changes have caused big problems. For example, the unheralded end of production of a solvent caused enormous complications for the SRB folks a few years back when things started falling apart unexpectedly. It took a huge engineering detective effort to determine that small chemical changes in the new solvent were the culprit. Anything coming apart in the SRB is not good. There are hundreds of similar examples.

There is a long and arduous process to certify a vendor to produce the logistical parts for the shuttle. Not many companies do this work. Almost all of them are extraordinarily proud of the role they play in America's space program. A lot of them have been there from the beginnings in the middle 1970s. So when a Mom and Pop specialty shop gets a termination letter from the shuttle program after 35 years of production and they have other customers, guess what happens? Mom and Pop decide to close the shop, pension off their highly skilled workers, and then Mom and Pop move out of LA to their retirement cottage in the mountains or at the sea shore.

A lot of this has been happening over the last four years; most of it over two years ago.

So, just for the sake of argument, lets see what would happen if somehow we decided to fly the shuttle some more flights?

From time to time a vendor of specialty parts for the shuttle has gone out of business. Our experience then is that we have immense problems getting anybody to even bid on making replacement items. Sometimes, with hat in hand, we have to knock on doors. Always, we have to offer premium payments to get those exotic, small production run parts made.

Given time and money, anything is possible. But we are always short on time and money. Life seems to be like that.

To take one little example: if we started today to build another external tank at MAF, there are probably enough parts on the shelf. But very shortly we would exhaust supplies of some parts. Maybe on the second tank -- which we need to start in 3 months or so -- would have to get a new supply of specialty parts. Sometimes the old vendor is still there and could be persuaded to make more of the old parts. But in many cases, a new vendor would have to be found. Since the production run would be small, a premium price would have to be paid; and a certification effort requiring 6 to 12 months would start. Initial production likely would have a number of rejects as the workers learn the process. Hmm. In probably 15 to 18 months would would have the parts to build that second tank -- only a year or so later than we needed them. So a new gap would form. Not between shuttle and orion but between shuttle and shuttle.

And what would we get: even higher price per flight of an old technology which is not nearly as safe as we would like . . .

Hey, I am the biggest shuttle hugger there is. I think it is the best spacecraft ever built. But I also deal in the real world.

Where does the money come from? Where do the people -- who should be working on the moon rocket -- where do they come from?

We started shutting down the shuttle four years ago. That horse has left the barn.

sexta-feira, 15 de agosto de 2008

Lançamento de um Space Shuttle filmado de um avião

A missão é possivelmente a STS-124, e o lançamento foi filmado de um vôo da Air Canada.

Nota: Artigos no NASAWatch e noutros sites colocam em dúvida tratar-se de um lançamento de um Space Shuttle, apontando para a maior probabilidade de se tratar do lançamento de um satélite do sistema GPS, por um foguetão Delta.

sexta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2008

Os Caçadores de Mitos na Lua!

Vai haver um episódio dos 'Caçadores de Mitos' dedicado a desmentir a teoria da conspiração de que as missões à Lua foram uma fraude, e filmadas num estúdio secreto, algures. Fica aqui uma antevisão do episódio que irá para o ar em breve nos EUA. Espero que não demore muito a chegar a Portugal!

O Módulo Lunar parece-me espetacular!

domingo, 3 de agosto de 2008

Eclipse total do Sol de Sexta-Feira visto de um avião

Estas imagens espetaculares foram captadas de um avião e mostram com grande clareza o percurso da sombra do eclipse - prestem bem atenção, porque a sombra acompanha o percurso do eclipse!

sábado, 2 de agosto de 2008

Descoberta em Marte está a ser mantida em segredo

Ainda não se sabe o que é que a sonda Phoenix descobriu em Marte que seja tão importante que a NASA tenha decidido informar o Presidente Bush - mantendo a informação em segredo para o resto do Mundo. Mas em breve, talvez em meados do mês de Agosto, iremos saber.

Fonte: Universe Today

The White House is Briefed: Phoenix About to Announce "Potential For Life" on Mars
Written by Ian O'Neill

It would appear that the US President has been briefed by Phoenix scientists about the discovery of something more "provocative" than the discovery of water existing on the Martian surface. This news comes just as the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) confirmed experimental evidence for the existence of water in the Mars regolith on Thursday. Whilst NASA scientists are not claiming that life once existed on the Red Planet's surface, new data appears to indicate the "potential for life" more conclusively than the TEGA water results. Apparently these new results are being kept under wraps until further, more detailed analysis can be carried out, but we are assured that this announcement will be huge…

So why is there all this secrecy? According to scientists in communication with Aviation Week & Space Technology, the next big discovery will need to be mulled over for a while before it is announced to the world. In fact, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory science team for the MECA wet-chemistry instrument that made these undisclosed findings were kept out of the July 31st news conference (confirming water) so additional analysis could be carried out, avoiding any questions that may have revealed their preliminary results. They have also made the decision to discuss the results with the Bush Administration's Presidential Science Advisor's office before a press conference between mid-August and early September.

Although good news, Thursday's announcement of the discovery of water on Mars comes as no surprise to mission scientists and some are amused by the media's reaction to the TEGA results. "They have discovered water on Mars for the third or fourth time," one senior Mars scientist joked. These new MECA results are, according to the Phoenix team, a little more complex than the water "discovery." Scientists are keen to point out however, that this secretive news will in no way indicate the existence of life (past or present) on Mars; Phoenix simply is not equipped make this discovery. What it can do is test the Mars soil for compounds suitable to support life. The MECA instrument does have microscopes capable of resolving bacterial-scale life forms however, but this is not the focus of the forthcoming announcement, sources say.

This new MECA discovery, combined with TEGA data will probably expose something more compelling, completing another piece of the puzzle in the search for the correct conditions for life as we know it to survive on Mars. Critical to this search is to understand how the recently confirmed water and Mars regolith behave together under the Phoenix lander in the cold Martian arctic.

The MECA instrument had already made the landmark discovery that Mars "soil" was much like the soil more familiar on Earth. This finding prompted scientists to indicate that the minerals and pH levels in the regolith could support some terrestrial plants, indicating this would be useful for future Mars settlers.

What with the discovery of water, and the discovery that Mars soil is very much like the stuff we find on Earth, it is hard to guess as to what the MECA's second soil test has discovered. What ever it is, it sounds pretty significant, especially as NASA and the University of Arizona are taking extraordinary steps to avoid any more details being leaked to the outside world. I just hope were not getting excited over something benign…

Barack Obama promete apoiar o programa espacial da NASA

Entre outras promessas, Obama admite que haja mais uma missão do Space Shuttle, por forma a diminuir o espaço de tempo entre a última missão do Shuttle e a primeira do Projecto Orion.

Mmmm, ver para crer. No seu projecto de campanha, Obama já referiu fazer cortes no orçamento da NASA para aumentar as despesas com a educação. Embora concorde que nos EUA se deva gastar mais - e melhor - em educação, acho pessoalmente que os EUA não devam fazê-lo sacrificando precisamente o organismo que faz a ciência e a investigação andar para a frente - a NASA.

Leiam os dois artigos abaixo.


Obama vows support for NASA, additional shuttle flight
CBS Space News
Posted: 2:15 PM, 8/2/08
By William Harwood
CBS News Space Consultant

2:15 PM, 8/2/08, Update: Obama vows to support NASA; supports additional shuttle flight; will work to 'close the gap' between shuttle and its replacement

Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, held a town hall meeting near the Kennedy Space Center today and vowed strong support for NASA, saying he favors at least one shuttle flight beyond the 10 missions left on the agency's manifest. Obama also said he would work to close the gap between the end of shuttle operations in 2010 and the debut of the Orion spacecraft that will replace it and said earlier reports that he would divert money from NASA's next manned spacecraft to education were unfounded.

Obama was introduced to an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,300 at the Brevard Community College by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who flew as a payload specialist aboard the shuttle Columbia in 1986. In his opening remarks, Obama delivered his most detailed statement yet on space policy as NASA implements the Bush administration's drive to complete the space station and retire the shuttle fleet by the end of fiscal 2010.

NASA hopes to replace the shuttle with smaller Orion capsules and huge, unmanned cargo boosters, known collectively as the Constellation program. The goal is to use Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the station while developing the heavy-lift Ares 5 rocket that will help NASA establish a moon base around 2020.

Under the Bush administration's plan, the money to pay for the Constellation program primarily will come from funds that now go to the shuttle and space station programs. The Orion spacecraft and its Ares 1 booster are under development, but near-term funding shortfalls will result in a four- to five-year gap between the end of shuttle operations and the advent of routine operations with Orion. During that gap, U.S. astronauts will be forced to hitch rides to the station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

It has been widely reported in space circles that Obama earlier vowed to reduce spending for the Constellation program in favor of education initiatives. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, said in a statement last week marking NASA's 50th anniversary that "under current plans, the United States will retire the space shuttle in 2010 after its final mission to the international space station, and thus lose the capability to send on our own, an American to space."

"While my opponent seems content to retreating from American exploration of space for a decade, I am not," McCain said in the statement. "As president, I will act to make ensure our astronauts will continue to explore space, and not just by hitching a ride with someone else. I intend to make sure that the NASA Constellation program has the resources it needs so that we can begin a new era of human space exploration. A country that sent a man to the moon should expect no less."

Today, Obama said he supports the Constellation program and will work to narrow the gap between the end of shuttle operations and the advent of Orion.

"I know it's still being reported that we were talking about delaying some aspects of the Constellation program to pay for our early education program," he said. "I told my staff we're going to find an entirely different offset because we've got to make sure that the money that's going into NASA for basic research and development continues to go there. That has been a top priority for us. This is an administration that's been anti-science. Whether it's on stem cell research, whether it's on climate change, they have rejected science. I want to reverse that trend, I want us to be a science-based society and I want us to invest in science."

Obama expanded on that theme in his opening remarks today, saying "we've got to rebuild our economy in a much more fundamental way. We've got to secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen our economy for the 21st century."

"One of the areas where we're in danger of losing our competitive edge is in science and technology and nothing symbolizes that more than our space program," Obama said. "I've written about this in my book, I grew up in Hawaii and I still remember sitting on my grandfather's shoulders as some of the astronauts were brought in after their capsules had landed in the middle of the Pacific. I could just barely see them, I was waving, I had an American flag, and I remember my grandfather explaining to me this is what America's all about, we can do anything when we put our mind to it.

"And that was what the space program described, that sense of possibility and always reaching out to new frontiers. When I was growing up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we're still proud of. And today we have an administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA's had to cut back on research, trim their program, which means that after the space shuttle shuts down in 2010 we're going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.

"So let me be clear," he said. "We cannot cede our leadership in space. That's why I'm going to close the gap, ensure that our space program doesn't suffer when the shuttle goes out of service. We may extend an additional shuttle launch, we're going to work with Bill Nelson to add at least one more flight beyond 2010 by continuing to support NASA funding, by speeding the development of the shuttle's successor, by making sure that all those that work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired. Because we cannot afford to lose their expertise."

The additional shuttle flight presumably would be devoted to launching the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a major physics experiment that lost its ride to the space station in the push to finish the station and retire the shuttle by the end of fiscal 2010. Nelson and other NASA supporters in Congress favor the additional flight, but the Bush administration opposes the additional expense.

"But more broadly, we need a real vision for the next stage of space exploration," Obama continued. "And to help formulate this vision, I'm going to re-establish the national aeronautics and space council so we can develop a plan to explore the solar system, a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, enlist both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world in the long-term exploration of the moon and Mars and beyond, let's also tap NASA's ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change.

"Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again and make America stronger and it's going to help grow the economy right here in Brevard County and right here in Florida. That's what we're going to do. That's what this election's all about. It's about raising our sights, seizing the moment, reclaiming our destiny."

Obama: cut Constellation to pay for education
November 20, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama released today the education plan he would enact if elected. The full 15-page plan includes a variety of proposals, including reforming early education programs. The last section of the plan, titled “A Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility” explains how he would pay for these initiatives. The passage of relevance here: “The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years,” among other steps. According to MSNBC, Obama would leave in place $500 million/year for Constellation’s “manufacturing and technology base”, but would otherwise transfer the funding to the education effort. None of the campaign’s official statements or other media reports indicate any alternative measures the campaign would take to address what, on its face, would appear to be a five-year delay in the introduction of Ares 1, Orion, and the other main components of NASA’s current exploration architecture.

(A potentially ironic item, depending on your opinion on the importance of Constellation: one other section of the Obama education plan is titled “Make Math and Science Education a National Priority”.)

The Republican National Committee has criticized the move to delay Constellation, The Hill reports, quoting RNC spokesman Danny Diaz: “It is ironic that Barack Obama’s plan to help our children reach for the stars is financed in part by slashing a program that helps us learn about those very same stars.”