October 01, 2005
Where to find $200 billion to pay for Katrina
The Christian Science Monitor
Postponing the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit for one year could save the US government $30 billion. Cutting controversial bridges and bikeways from the highway funding bill might reduce spending by $6 billion per year. In the science category, cancelling research on Project Prometheus, slated to develop nuclear reactors for use in space, could eliminate $5 billion over 10 years. As these examples show, it's easy to find potential cuts to offset Washington's spending on recovery from hurricane Katrina, as President Bush has vowed to do. A $2.6 trillion annual budget provides lots of targets. But actually making those cuts? That's another story. One person's unnecessary program is often vital to another. It's difficult to save big bucks without infuriating powerful constituencies, such as the elderly, farmers, or the Pentagon.
September 10, 2005
NASA grounds project at Knolls laboratory
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has pulled the plug on a $65 million nuclear propulsion research program at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, leaving 150 employees in limbo. "NASA and Naval Reactors have mutually agreed to terminate their partnership to work on Prometheus," as the program was called, a Knolls spokeswoman said Friday afternoon. "NASA has been changing its priorities. I don't have many details on this," she added.
June 05, 2005
Space travel at warp speed?
The Seattle Times
NASA scientists are developing a new ion-propulsion system that could enable spacecraft to reach unheard-of speeds and undertake long-term explorations of planets in the outer solar system. Dubbed "Herakles," the system would use an ion beam produced from xenon gas to propel the craft to speeds of 200,000 mph, 10 times faster than the top speed of the space shuttle.
May 28, 2005
Ion Thrusters Propel NASA into Future
We are a curious species with amazing capacities to imagine and dream. We wonder about what we cannot see, are fascinated by what we do not know and are driven to explore. In keeping with our continuous quest for knowledge, President George W. Bush announced a new plan for NASA in Jan. 2004. A renewed focus on space exploration, he explained, would strengthen our leadership in the world, improve our economy and enhance the quality of our lives. The Vision for Space Exploration calls for human and robotic missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. To realize these ambitious goals, we will need more powerful and efficient propulsion and power-generation systems -- systems that can thrust a spacecraft out of Earth's orbit to the far reaches of the Universe.
May 15, 2005
Shift in priorities by NASA hits JPL
Pasadena Star News
Several of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's future missions, including its next Mars rover, might be delayed or cut to compensate for other NASA priorities, the agency administrator said Thursday. Michael Griffin, NASA's new administrator, told a Senate subcommittee the space agency will have to revise its spending plan for the year in order to offset costs associated with the space shuttle's return to flight, possible human servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope and growth in upcoming missions.
April 19, 2005
Reaching for the Moon, Mars the Nuclear Way
The head of NASA's nuclear push says a scientific mission to the inner solar system -- perhaps to the moon, Mars or an asteroid -- will be used to demonstrate a new propulsion system in place of a mission to Jupiter's icy moons. But the Jupiter trip is only delayed, not canceled, Ray Taylor said. It could fly in 2017, a few years later than the demonstration mission. In the meantime, "we have a range of options being looked at in the analysis," he said. "They're all in the inner solar system . . . and they're all shorter mission duration."
April 12, 2005
Press Briefing To Be Held April 19 for Prometheus Nuclear Program
A Notice of Intent (NOI) for NASA's Prometheus Nuclear Systems and Technology program was released March 30 for public comment that ends May 31, 2005. A press briefing will be held at 10 a.m. EDT on April 19 at the NASA-KSC News Center to acquaint the media with the Prometheus program. NASA, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) regarding research and development activities associated with space nuclear reactors for electric power production on a robotic spacecraft for potential future civilian NASA missions.
April 06, 2005
NASA’s Prometheus: Fire, Smoke And Mirrors
NASA’s Prometheus program to employ nuclear reactors in space is a work in progress – viewed as a key building block of the space agency’s vision for space exploration. Shortly after the programmatic liftoff of Prometheus, NASA had its eyes on the Jupiter Icy Moon Mission (JIMO). This premier outing pushed by electric-propulsion engines would study three ice-covered Galilean moons -- Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – with JIMO relaying oodles of data about the moons’ origin, evolution, and to scope out any potential for faraway life. But JIMO has now been deferred. With a launch date of 2015 and a mission design life of 20 years, the flagship mission was lowered to half mast.
March 11, 2005
NASA juggles work force as it shifts focus to Mars
About one of every seven NASA workers nationwide will be transferred or paid to leave in the next 1 1/2 years as the space agency focuses on President Bush's moon-Mars exploration plan, officials said Thursday. However, many of those who depart likely will be replaced by new workers with skills more closely aligned with the new, deep space mission. NASA employs about 18,900 government workers.
February 07, 2005
NASA 2006 Budget Presented: Hubble, Nuclear Initiative Suffer
While NASA fared better than many federal agencies in U.S. President George W. Bush's 2006 budget request, the White House is not seeking as much money for the U.S. space agency as previously planned. The White House is seeking $16.45 billion for NASA in the 2006 budget. That's an increase of 2.4 percent over what the U.S. space agency has in its 2005 budget, but still about $500 million less than what the agency had been expecting.
December 09, 2004
Nuclear power O'Keefe priority
The Huntsville Times
The first problem NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe wants his newly minted Advisory Council to tackle is how to use nuclear technology in space - a project that heavily involves Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center. O'Keefe and other NASA officials outlined a new approach for the NASA Advisory Council Tuesday that would break the 20-member board into two groups - one for policy group and one for science and technology. Huntsville lawyer Mark McDaniel, who serves on the council, is lobbying to be placed in the policy group. The science group's members would focus on which missions NASA should or could tackle, while the policy group would tackle how the space agency could solve key problems.
September 22, 2004
NASA pumps $400m into nuclear space probe
NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman a $400m contract to co-design the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) space probe - slated for a rendevouz with Jovian moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede some time after 2012. The JIMO project has generated a certain amount of controversy due to its uranium-fuelled nuclear fission reactor - which creates electricity to drive the "nuclear electric propulsion (NEP)" system. In simple terms, NEP uses the electricity produced by the reactor to ionise propellant atoms which can then be ejected at high velocity from the vehicle's propulsion system by magnetic or electrified grids. NASA has already proven this "ion drive" technology aboard Deep Space 1, although electricity for the thrusters was in that case provided by solar panels.
September 04, 2004
Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom
Explosive growth has made the People's Republic of China the most power-hungry nation on earth. Get ready for the mass-produced, meltdown-proof future of nuclear energy.
August 20, 2004
"Great Civilizations Do Great Things"
August 11, 2004
Redesigning Rockets: NASA Space Propulsion Finds a New Home
While the exploration of the Moon and other planets in our solar system is exciting, the first task for astronauts and robots alike is to actually get to those destinations. To facilitate inter-solar system travel, NASA has committed itself to the study of a number of far-out propulsion methods. Researchers are hoping the space agency's new Propulsion Research Center will help scientists move at least some of those new methods from the theoretical to reality.
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