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8 March 2011

Planetary Decadal Survey

Last night Steve Squyres unveiled the results of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey. The decadal is a massive document used to chart the course of planetary science for the next ten years, and it drew a huge crowd here at the conference. This decadal was different from previous ones because it specifically was tasked with coming up with a list of missions that would be achievable with the funding available …

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1 February 2010

NASA's New Budget

The internet has been a whirlwind of wailing and gnashing of teeth, interspersed with the occasional optimistic or guarded response, as space advocates respond to Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request for NASA. In case you haven’t heard, the main points of the FY2011 budget are nicely summarized in this overview document: Increase of $6.0 billion over 5-years (FY 2011-15) compared to the FY 2010 Budget, for a total of …

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20 December 2009

AGU 2009: Day 3 – Astrobiology and Society

Wednesday was full of particularly interesting stuff: in between the Venus and moon talks there was also the Sagan lecture and an afternoon session about astrobiology and its implications in society. The Sagan lecture was given by Tori Hoehler, a scientist at NASA Ames. He discussed the fundamental thermodynamics behind life, and showed that even if alien life relies on completely different molecules, there are basic requirements, such as the …

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28 October 2009

Ares-1X Test Launch Successful!

In case you missed it, this morning NASA launched the Ares-1X test rocket from Cape Canaveral. It was originally supposed to launch yesterday morning, but was delayed due to: a stuck cable, a boat that got within the danger zone where the rocket was expected to splashdown, and my new favorite vocabulary word “triboelectrification”. Triboelectrification is the build-up of charge due to friction, and there was apparently some concern that …

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22 October 2009

NASA Human Spaceflight Review Final Report

Today, the “Augustine commission”, a group of aerospace and space exploration leaders tasked by president Obama to review NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, released their final report. It is available here, and I encourage you to read it. The set of recommendations in the report will form the foundation upon which the future of space exploration is built. I have not read the whole thing yet, but here is the concluding …

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1 June 2009

How to get Mars funding

On a related note, my fellowship, which involves vaporizing rocks with a high-powered laser, was renewed last month. (Click for the full comic)

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4 May 2009

We live in the future

I often say (or at least think to myself) that we live in the future. Especially when I’m traveling. It’s constantly amazing to me that I can get anywhere in the world in less than a day. I can make a routine trip out to California for a conference, when 150 years ago that would be the journey of a lifetime, and would involve diseases and caulking wagons to cross …

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6 February 2009

Science to be Cut from Stimulus?

I just heard some disturbing news: in an attempt to cut unnecessary spending from the stimulus package, Senators Ben Nelson and Susan Collins have put forward a proposal that would cut much of the money directed to agencies like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. Here’s a breakdown of the reductions in stimulus money: NASA exploration $750,000,000 = 50% NSF $1,402,000,000 = 100% NOAA $427,000,000 = …

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15 January 2009

Citizen's Briefing Book

Ever wish you could tell the president something? Now you can! change.gov has started a new feature called the citizen’s briefing book where people can submit their own ideas and give other ideas a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. The ideas that are voted up by the most people will be presented to President Obama once he takes office. There are some great ideas and some weird ones on the …

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20 December 2008

Obama's Weekly Address: Science!

Obama’s youtube address this week focused on his views on science in the US and his picks for his science advisors and administrators. I highly recommend watching the whole address – after the last 8 years, it’s therapeutic to hear the president elect talk about science as if it’s one of the US’s greatest assets and not just an institution standing in the way of political ambitions. Here’s my favorite …

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