Carnival of Space 47: Artificial Gravity in Orbit, Rovers on Mars, and Life on Titan

The Martian Chronicles blog is hosting Carnival of Space 47, a collection of links to articles on a variety of space topics. The stories include:

  • An article by Darnell Clayton at Colony Worlds speculating about whether Bigelow Aerospace could alter the design of its planned space station to accommodate artificial gravity;
  • Animation of NASA’s Spirit rover scurrying around on the surface of Mars;
  • A summary of the science that would have been lost had NASA gone ahead with budget cuts in the Spirit and Opportunity programs;
  • Paul Gilster’s musings about possible life in an ocean below Titan’s frozen surface.

Stern Out, Weiler in at NASA Science Directorate; Mather Will Reportedly Leave

NASA’s Science group has seen an abrupt turnover in its top leadership. S. Alan Stern, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, announced his resignation on Wednesday. John Mather, the directorate’s chief scientist, is also reported to be heading back to his full-time position on the James Webb Space Telescope program.

“Alan has rendered invaluable service to NASA as the Principal Investigator for the Pluto/New Horizons mission, as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, and as the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate,” Administrator Mike Griffin said in a statement. “While I deeply regret his decision to leave NASA, I understand his reasons for doing so, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

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NASA: Tight Budget + Cost Overuns = Big Trouble

With its budget just keeping up with inflation and large costs overruns on key programs, NASA is facing some tough decisions. A roundup of news stories below:

Major NASA projects over budget
USA Today

Two-thirds of the agency’s new programs are over-budget or behind schedule.

“NASA’s nearly stagnant budget requires the agency to cut projects to make up for unexpected expenses, and cost overruns nearly shut down one of the rovers on Mars — until it got a reprieve Tuesday. They also threaten completion of a climate-change satellite called Glory,” the paper reports.

Mars Rovers Survive NASA’s Budget Crunch
Washington Post

NASA has rescinded a letter ordering the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to make deep cuts in the operating budgets of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are exploring Mars.

NASA holds off on budget cuts to Mars rover program
Los Angeles Times

“An order to trim $16 million from the popular missions is withdrawn. But even bigger reductions might be called for later,” the paper reports.

NASA has blamed James Green, head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, for not properly clearing his letter to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with Administrator Mike Griffin.

Mars Rover Update

NASA has apparently given a reprieve to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The Associated Press reports:

“NASA has no plans to turn off either of the healthy twin Mars rovers to make up for cost overruns faced by a big new rover slated to fly to the Red Planet next year, the space agency said.

“In a rare move, NASA said it rescinded a letter sent last week to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that directed budget cuts to the Mars exploration program, including a $4 million reduction from the rovers project.”

Read the full story.

NASA Orders Deep Cuts in Spirit and Opportunity Rover Budget

Space.com is reporting that NASA has ordered a 40 percent cut in the operating budgets for the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers over the next 18 months. The change involves a $4 million cut in the remaining FY 2008 budget and an $8 million reduction for FY 2009. It costs about $20 million annually to operate the two rovers.

NASA officials said there are no plans to “cancel” the mission of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, which have been on the Martian surface since 2004. An official told CNN that the cuts were being made to help balance overruns in the Mars Science Laboratory, which is set for launch next year. All three missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

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