Orion is key to Lunar and deep space missions – only way to guarantee ISS transportation Gaudin 11 (Sharon, tech writer @ ComputerWorld, 5/24/11, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9217027/NASA_astronauts_to_fly_Orion_spacecraft_into_deep_space?source=rss_governmentindustries) JPG
NASA on Tuesday announced a plan to build a spacecraft that will fly astronauts into deep space, taking them as far as near asteroidsand even Mars. The new spacecraft, called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, will be based on an earlier concept for the Orion vehicle, a spacecraft originally intended to ferry astronauts to the moon, the space agency announced during a press conference. The new spacecraft, which will be built by Lockheed Martin, will be designed to carry four astronauts on 21-day missions. Douglas Cooke, NASA's associate administrator for exploration, said the agency plans to send the deep space vehicle to near asteroids and then to Mars. "We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy-lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track." Designed to be 10 times safer during liftoff and re-entry than its NASA predecessor, the space shuttle, the new spacecraft will have 316 cubic feet of habitable space. It also is expected to be able to land in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. Though Orion was born of a canceled moon mission, it seems to have several lives still to live. Orion was first conceived as part of NASA's Constellation program, which was geared to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. However, last year the Obama administration scrapped the overbudget and behind-schedule Constellation program, deciding instead to focus on sending astronauts to Mars and farther into the solar system. The Obama administration wants to turn NASA's attention to developing new engines, in-space fuel depots and robots that can venture out into space. In March, Lockheed Martin announced that it was developing a version of the Orion crew capsule for use as an emergency escape craft for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Once NASA retires the last of the space shuttle fleet this year, Orion may take on an important role in giving the space agency the ability to safely evacuate astronauts from the space station. Initially designed to ferry astronauts to the moon, Orion will be transformed into a vehicle that will carry astronauts into deep space, the area outside the Earth's orbit. "We made this choice based on progress that's already been made," Cooke said. "We looked at alternatives to some system designs that we're seeing in various proposals, looking for any advantages to this design. And we confirmed that the design and approach we've got is really the best." Orion is key to ISS missions Whittington 11 (Mark, author of The Last Moonwalker, contributes articles to major newspapers, 5/25/11, http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110525/sc_ac/8534339_nasas_mpcv_inadequate_for_asteroid_mars_mission_ideal_for_lunar_missions) JPG
Then to the MPCV is mentioned as a "backup" for the task of taking astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The heavy lift vehicle would be over powered for that kind of mission. Some have suggested an option of launching a MPCV of a modified Delta IV Heavy, rejected by NASA during the Constellation program. If the commercial crew program suffers delays or is cut back by a skeptical congress, that option may be revisited. If President Obama fails to win reelection in 2012, the next president will have some decisions to make about the future course of the US space program. The development of the MPCV and the accompanying heavy lift launch vehicle will give him or her some options going forward.
Orion ! – A2: Impact D
Orion can make long term deep space missions – its on path for 2016 launch Hondrogiannis 11 (Steven, writer @ GizMag, 3/24/11, http://www.gizmag.com/nasa-orion-spacecraft-update/18216/) JPG
While resembling its Apollo-era forerunners, Orion is designed to support long duration deep space missions of up to six months. It incorporates a crew module for crew and cargo transport, service module for propulsion, electrical power and fluids storage, spacecraft adapter for securing it to the launch vehicle, and a launch abort system that will significantly improve crew safety. In Denver, Orion will be unified with the heat shield and thermal protection layer and be subjected to environmental testing. The crew module will also perform a series of simulated landing procedures at NASA Langley Research Center's new Hydro Impact Basin to test water landings. "This is a significant milestone for the Orion project and puts us on the right path toward achieving the President's objective of Orion's first crewed mission by 2016," said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. "Orion's upcoming performance tests will demonstrate how the spacecraft meets the challenges of deep-space mission environments such as ascent, launch abort, on-orbit operations, high-speed return trajectory, parachute deployment, and water landings in a variety of sea states."
Climate Change and the NASA budget. Although the Space Shuttle program has been terminated, according to Sharon Kleyne, NASA Launch Services are not confined to the Space Shuttle and have not been cut. NASA's EOS (Earth Observation Satellite) program remains fully funded and one EOS satellite recently sent back its three billionth photograph of the Earth. Other countries and private interests now have the capacity to launch scientific satellites and NASA is providing money for private satellite launches. Sharon Kleyne believes that because these programs are so critical that the US government - the most influential entity on Earth - must take the long-term global lead in committing to, funding and implementing them. Failure to do this could doom the planet and everything on it that is good and worth preserving.
Satellites are on the chopping block – key to weather forecasting
Hamilton 6/17 (Jon, writer @ NPR, http://www.npr.org/2011/06/17/137251742/blind-eye-in-the-sky-weather-satellites-lose-funding?ps=cprs) JPG
Government officials are forecasting a turbulent future for the nation's weather satellite program. Federal budget cuts are threatening to leave the U.S. without some critical satellites, the officials say, and that could mean less accurate warnings about events like tornadoes and blizzards. In particular, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned about satellites that orbit over the earth's poles rather than remaining over a fixed spot along the equator. - Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Deputy Administrator These satellites are "the backbone" of any forecast beyond a couple of days, says Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and NOAA's deputy administrator. It was data from polar satellites that alerted forecasters to the risk of tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi back in April, Sullivan says. "With the polar satellites currently in place we were able to give those communities five days' heads up," she says. But that level of precision could diminish in the next few years, Sullivan says. One important NOAA satellite in a polar orbit will reach the end of its expected life around 2016. And its replacement has been delayed by a continuing resolution passed by Congress that limits the agency's ability to pursue its new Joint Polar Satellite System. Sullivan says that means there could be more than a year when the nation is lacking a crucial eye in the sky. "If we go blind, if there actually is a gap between the last satellite and this, it certainly will erode the reliability and accuracy of our forecasts," she says. To find out how bad the problem might be, the National Weather Service re-examined one of its great forecasting successes: the 2010 blizzard known as "Snowmageddon." The agency wanted to know what would happen if a similar blizzard arrived several years from now, when several satellites are likely to be out of commission, says National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes. "We were quite surprised at the finding that we would underestimate the amount of snowfall the Eastern Seaboard had, specifically in the Washington, D.C., area, by a factor of 2," Hayes says. In other words, areas where forecasts called for 15 inches would actually get 30 inches. Budget problems aren't the only reason NOAA's next polar satellite is behind schedule. A previous version of the program was scrapped, and NOAA has had trouble getting some of the new satellite's cutting-edge technology finished on time. But Hayes says this sort of technology is precisely what's made forecasting more accurate with each new generation of satellites. NASA officials are also concerned about the next generation of weather satellites. The agency will play an important role in building them and also supplements data from NOAA weather satellites with data from its own research satellites. "It used to be that weather was just something that happened," says Michael Freilich, who directs the earth science division at NASA. Now, he says, people and businesses make specific plans based on what forecasters say. "When they say that it's going to be hot and sunny, companies make economic decisions," he says. For example, he says, utilities decide how much electricity they need to produce, airlines decide whether to cancel flights, schools decide whether to close, and insurance companies anticipate damage claims from things like hurricanes and hailstorms. Other nations also fly polar satellites, and that can help fill the gap when U.S. units fail, officials say. But it's not enough, they say. "The United States, by virtue of our size, the mountains, the oceans on three sides, we have the widest array and greatest frequency of weather phenomena and severe weather phenomena of any country on the planet," Sullivan says. Some tweaks to NOAA's current budget could minimize delays to the polar satellite program, she says. Whether the agency is allowed to do that is up to Congress, which will also decide what happens to spending on polar satellites next year.