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Astropolítica

"Se se pudessem interrogar as estrelas perguntar-lhes-ia se as maçam mais os astrónomos ou os poetas." Pitigrilli

Astropolítica

"Se se pudessem interrogar as estrelas perguntar-lhes-ia se as maçam mais os astrónomos ou os poetas." Pitigrilli

EUA não estão sozinhos na corrida à Lua

Abril 26, 2006

Vera Gomes

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 26 April 2006
07:03 am ET



An unprecedented salvo of international probes will soon shoot for the Moon, all equipped to signal that a new era of lunar exploration has begun.

If schedules hold, spacecraft from India, China and Japan will be moonbound before NASA’s own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter swings into action in 2008. Already on duty, the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 is wrapping up its survey work.

In the past, having the independent wherewithal to toss a satellite into Earth orbit was a form of space status.

That’s passé. Times have changed. Now the Moon is where the action is.

Great good fortune

"I find it both gratifying and exciting." said Paul Spudis, a space scientist at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

Most countries are flying these lunar missions to "get their feet wet" in planetary exploration, Spudis suggested, with the Moon being close and relatively easy to get to and operate around. "So that happenstance is great good fortune for lunar science," he said.

These new data are important to quantitatively analyze the nature and state of potential resources on the Moon, viewed by Spudis as "a critical enabler to permanent human presence."

Spudis said that a load of new, high-quality data about the Moon is in the offing. Earth’s next door neighbor will be globally mapped with a variety of sensors, including looks at it in wavelengths never before seen from orbit.

For instance, a U.S.-built imaging radar will be flown on India’s Chandrayaan-1. This APL/U.S. Navy radar experiment will map the scattering properties of the lunar poles, determining the presence and extent of polar ice there, possibly tucked away in sunlight-shy craters.

Multi-nation payload

India’s Chandrayaan-1 is planned for launch in late 2007-08 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center atop that country’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-XL. The satellite will be placed in orbit around the Moon and have a lifetime of two years.

Indian scientists and engineers have also designed a deep space antenna system for the country’s first spacecraft to Moon. The antenna is scheduled to be erected at a site near Bangalore in Karnataka by end of 2006. When completed, the antenna and related equipment are to represent a world class facility for deep space tracking applications.

Payloads for India’s lunar orbiter are being supplied by Indian experimenters, as well as from the European Space Agency (ESA), Bulgaria, and the United States. Also, a moon impact probe—which is conceived as a technology forerunner for a future lunar landing mission—is being incorporated.

The impactor would carry a high sensitive mass spectrometer, a video camera and a radar altimeter. This device will be released at the beginning of the mission, destined to hit within a predetermined location on the lunar surface. Apart from the video imaging of the landing site, the onboard mass spectrometer will try to detect possible presence of trace gases in the lunar exosphere.

Technology demonstration

Carle Pieters of the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is the principal investigator for the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) outfitted on Chandrayaan-1. This state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer is provided by NASA/JPL to map the mineral composition of the lunar surface.

Pieters is enthusiastic about how the international lunar exploration initiative is proceeding.

Although science data has been slow coming out of ESA’s SMART-1, "that little mission has kept the Moon in everyone’s thoughts," Pieters told SPACE.com. "It has certainly accomplished what it set out to do … namely, a successful initial technology demonstration at the Moon for ESA."

SMART-1 is headed for a controlled impact on the lunar surface in early September.

Healthy cross-calibration

Pieters said that everyone expects the serious remote sensing missions to begin within about a year, starting with Japan’s SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (SELENE).

India and China will follow. It is too early to know, Pieters noted, whether Chandrayaan-1 or China’s Chang’e I will launch first. The U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will be the fourth in the group, she said, now eyed for launch in late 2008.

"Each of these missions brings its own strength and there is sufficient overlap among instruments to allow healthy cross-calibration," Pieters advised. "Lunar science and exploration will finally have the foundation it needs as 10s…100s of terrabytes of data are returned from all of these missions over the next five years!"

Each of the participating nations should and will take pride in their lunar success, Pieters said.

"After the first blush of data return—and it has been determined whether water exists at the poles from multiple sources—more serious results will take years to harvest. Here’s where the actual competition begins. Those countries that invest most seriously in data analysis will be the real winners," Pieters emphasized.

First step

China’s bid to become an explorer of the Moon is tied to Chang’e I, a lunar orbiter being prepared for launch next year. According to Luo Ge, deputy director of the China National Space Administration during a recent visit to the United States, Chang’e I is the first step in an ambitious Moon program.

Luo stated that China also intends to land a rover on the Moon’s surface by 2012, followed by a robotic lunar sample return mission in 2017.

Chang’e I would roar skyward from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province. The Chinese lunar probe is based on the country’s Dongfanghong III satellite platform.

China’s premier lunar mission will obtain three-dimensional images of the Moon’s surface and analyze the content and distribution of useful elements there.

Ye Peijian, identified as the chief designer of the country’s first lunar orbiter, has been quoted in Chinese press reports that research and development of Chang’e I is moving forward smoothly. To be sent aloft by a Long March 3A rocket, the lunar orbiter is outfitted to perform a one-year mission mapping the moon’s surface.

Chang’e I reportedly will carry a stereo camera system to chart the lunar surface, an altimeter to measure the distance between the spacecraft and the lunar surface, a gamma/X-ray spectrometer to study the overall composition and radioactive components of the Moon, a microwave radiometer to map the thickness of the lunar regolith, and a system of space environment monitors to collect data on the solar wind and near-lunar region.

Space movies

The SELENE robotic mission to the Moon is tagged by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program.

As JAXA’s first large lunar explorer, SELENE will be dispatched from Japan’s Tanagashima launch site via the H-IIA rocket in the summer of 2007, nominally in August.

SELENE consists of a main orbiter and two small sub-satellites that are released in lunar orbit. Nominal observation of the Moon for one year will start after instrument performance checks that span some two months.

Making use of 14 science instruments onboard the SELENE satellite, the entire Moon will be surveyed for information on its elemental and mineralogical composition, its geography, its surface and sub-surface structure, the remnant of its magnetic field, and its gravity field.

Also being hauled to the Moon is a high definition television camera developed by NHK, tasked to image the Earth observed from the Moon and of the lunar surface. SELENE is to relay "space movies" such as the rising Earth on the lunar horizon.

Bee-hive of activity

If indeed the launchings of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese lunar probes are successful, the serene Moon will become a bee-hive of activity. Joining in on the action is NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

NASA’s Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP) has been formulated in response to the President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration. RLEP will execute a series of robotic missions that will pave the way for eventual permanent human presence on the Moon.

LRO is first in this series of RLEP missions. Current plans call for its launch in October 2008 and is designed for at least one year of operation. Set to launch with LRO is the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) a bare-bones suicide probe that utilizes cameras and spectrometers to witness its rocket booster’s upper stage slam into hydrogen-rich Shackleton Crater before plowing into the lunar landscape itself.

Filling in missing details

With all the robotic traffic hauling all that scientific gear to neighboring Luna over the next few years, could the Moon become, well, over-exposed?

"They are more complimentary than they are doubling-up," said Ben Bussey, a lunar expert at APL in Laurel, Maryland. Schedule slips, technical problems, data availability, even launch failures—there’s no control over these, he said.

"So, yes, maybe we end up with lots of pictures of the same place from different missions. But I think that’s better than getting none at all," Bussey told SPACE.com.

There’s also a central thing to remember, said James Head, professor of planetary geosciences at Brown University.

Even with the Apollo lunar samples trucked back from the Moon by astronauts long ago, the armada of robotic spacecraft being readied to rocket there now will be critical to filling in missing details, Head said.

"This new wave of spacecraft will be yielding tons of detail … a baseline for grasping how other planets work," Head said. "The Moon is a keystone to that understanding."

(in http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/060426_international_moon.html)

Is the Japanese-US missile defense program changing the Asian military balance?

Abril 15, 2006

Vera Gomes

by Taylor Dinerman
Monday, April 10, 2006

While the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, progress on the Bush Administration’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) continues almost unnoticed. The latest report from the Missile Defense Agency says that by early 2007 the US will have installed 20 or more GMD ground based mid-course interceptor missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. They will also have deployed 18 SM-3 sea-based missiles and will have stockpiled roughly 450 short-range PAC-3 Patriots. By January 2009, when the President leaves office, these numbers will probably have doubled.

An array of BMDS sensors are now deployed and integrated, including the DSP early warning satellites, a pair of upgraded radars in California and Alaska, and a ground-based X-band radar in Japan. The US Navy has modified a dozen or more Aegis cruisers and destroyers, making them part of the BMDS sensor network. More sensors will soon be integrated into the system including a sea-based X-band radar off the coast of Alaska and the old early warning radar at Flylingdales in the UK.

Other programs such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Airborne Laser (ABL) programs are moving ahead having, it seems, overcome most of their technological and engineering problems. The GMD missiles have not been fully tested and they are not expected to finish the testing and certification process for years to come. They do, along with the SM-3s, constitute a “rudimentary” national missile defense and this fact is an important change in the world balance of military power.

The US is no longer just researching missile defenses but, having built and deployed the first elements, it is now “thickening” them. The process could conceivably be reversed by a liberal Democratic President and Congress, but that is unlikely. Over the next decade or so a multilayered missile defense system will be built up and it will include hundreds of both ground- and sea-based mid-course interceptors. By 2010 THAAD will be deployed to provide at least some places in America with a terminal, last-ditch defense.

In Asia US missile defense programs, with increasing Japanese involvement, are changing the balance of power against North Korea and to a lesser extent against China. In 2001, if North Korea wanted to use its ballistic missiles against US bases in Japan or against purely Japanese targets, there was little, if anything, either nation could do about it. A small number of Patriot PAC 2s might have been available but these would have been of limited use.

Today, if the US were to deploy a substantial number of PAC-3s along with a few SM-3s, a North Korean attack involving all of its approximately 100 Nodong 1 and 2 missiles would result in losing as much as half, if not more, to the Patriots. Within a few more years, when Japan acquires its own PAC-3s and SM-3s, the threat of Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles will be reduced to insignificance. There is always a chance that a single nuclear-tipped missile could get through, and that would be a human and economic catastrophe, but as Japan thickens its national defenses that possibility becomes less and less likely.

This does not mean that the Japan and the US can completely ignore North Korea’s ravings, but it does mean that the irrationality that the Stalinist regime uses as part of its normal diplomatic procedures does not need to be taken as seriously as it once was. Due to increasingly effective defenses, the incentives to accommodate Pyongyang are now far fewer.

China is a different kind of problem. Its leadership shows few signs of the kind of extreme hostility to Japan and the US that we see from the North Koreans. Both nations in the alliance have strong economic relations with the People’s Republic and everyone involved has a stake in global growth and prosperity. This does not rule out a possible arms race or confrontation, but it makes them less likely.

In the most recent issue of the establishmentarian journal Foreign Affairs there is an article titled “The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy”. The authors describe how China’s force of 18 liquid-fueled ICBMs could be fairly easily destroyed by a US first strike. While they seem to think that the current “rudimentary” missile defense would be overwhelmed by the “cloud of warheads and decoys launched by Russia and China” (though it would seem pretty hard to launch such a “cloud” with only 18 missiles) they see the value of the missile defense system “as an adjunct to a US first-strike capability, not a stand alone shield.” True, perhaps, but as the system is improved and as new layers are added it becomes not only more and more credible as a “standalone shield” but it also could play a useful role against a “third strike” in a major nuclear conflict of the kind Herman Kahn used to write about.
China’s ability to strike the US homeland is diminishing every year the US continues to build up these defenses and the cost of reestablishing this capability will go on increasing. The effectiveness of the GMD and SM-3 interceptors will only grow, and as they are joined by THAAD and possibly by a “Son of Brilliant Pebbles” space-based system, China will find that it has lost most of its nuclear options against the US homeland and perhaps against Japan as well.

This does not rule out the chance of a war between the US-Japan alliance and China over the fate of Taiwan or North Korea, but it makes such conflicts far less likely. In particular it creates a strong incentive for China to cooperate in putting pressure on Pyongyang to modify its behavior. China cannot now hope to use North Korea to weaken the US and Japan; instead, North Korea’s behavior has had the effect of strengthening the US and Japan and thus reducing China’s overall relative strength. A less belligerent North Korea will cease to push the two Pacific democracies together and might allow the reemergence of their old commercial rivalries.

Japan does not want to take any chances and is now talking about building and launching their own national early warning satellites. It will be years before they can do this and in the meantime Japan will depend on the US DSPs and on SBIRS, if that program survives. However, no matter what Japan does to maintain their options for independent operations, they must realize that a joint, integrated US-Japan missile defense system such as the one now taking shape is far more effective when both nations’ assets are combined.
The increasingly effective US-Japanese missile defense system significantly affects the security interests of three other nations in the region. South Korea will benefit from the restraint put on its northern neighbor. Australia will also find that an increase in trans-Pacific security rebounds to its own advantage and will allow it to pursue relations with both the US and China. Most interestingly, India may find that the rhetoric from both New Delhi and Washington about the US not wanting to use India against China the way the Nixon administration used China against the USSR is not just diplomatic hot air, if China does not need to be “counterbalanced against” because of its declining nuclear capability. Then the US and India can pursue their relationship with only an occasional glance over the shoulder at China, and concentrate on the problems and dangers that exist to the west of the great subcontinent.

Taylor Dinerman is an author and journalist based in New York City.

China, competition, and cooperation

Abril 15, 2006

Vera Gomes

by Jeff Foust
Monday, April 10, 2006

On March 30th, the “Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies” subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing simply titled “National Aeronautics and Space Administration”, with NASA administrator Michael Griffin as the sole witness. By all appearances this looked to be a routine hearing where members of the subcommittee discussed issues regarding the fiscal year 2007 budget proposal with the administrator, a common early step in the overall appropriations process. As a result, the hearing—which, unlike many other congressional hearings today, was not webcast—got little attention in the press or the space community in general.

Those that did attend, though, got a surprise. Rather than quiz Griffin about budgetary issues, the subcommittee spent much of its time discussing a very different topic: China’s space program, and the threat it poses to NASA and the nation in general. In the eyes of at least some members of the subcommittee, the US and China are engaged in a new space race, one that America is in danger of losing. However, on closer examination, it appears that many of these concerns are based on misinterpreted or simply inaccurate information about China’s space program. Moreover, using the threat of Chinese space capabilities to increase NASA’s budget could have deleterious effects for the space agency in the longer term.

“A space race going on right now”

Because no one anticipated its off-topic content, the hearing got very little coverage in the media: an article in the March 31st edition of the newspaper Florida Today, and a full-page article in the April 3rd issue of the industry weekly Space News. Those accounts, though, indicated that the subcommittee spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour hearing tackling not the details of the NASA budget but instead the perceived threat posed by China’s space program.

“We have a space race going on right now and the American people are totally unaware of all this,” claimed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), who joined the subcommittee earlier this year after stepping down as House Majority Leader, Florida Today reported.

The belief—that the US and China are engaged in a space race, presumably to send people to the Moon, or back to the Moon in America’s case—was shared by several other committee members at the hearing. “If China beats us there, we will have lost the space program,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the subcommittee chairman, said, according to Space News. “They are basically, fundamentally in competition with us.”

Much of those statements seemed to be rooted in unsourced claims that China planned to send astronauts to the Moon by 2017, one year earlier than NASA’s current plans. Even Griffin seemed to acknowledge that claim, according to Space News. “They have announced that they intend to be on the Moon by 2017. People can choose to believe it or not,” he said. “The basic design of the Chinese Shenzhou, following as it does the Russian Soyuz, is capable of returning people safely from the Moon.”

Before the hearing ended, Griffin agreed to perform a 30-day unclassified study for the subcommittee on the capabilities of China’s space program. Wolf said he planned to hold a followup hearing to discuss the contents of the report and the overall state of China’s space capabilities.

The Chinese perspective

One of the problems with developing any report on China’s space program is the lack of detailed information about their efforts, particularly in English-language accounts. For example, the English version of the web site of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the national space agency, does not appear to have been updated in nearly six months (although the Chinese version does appear to be updated more frequently). Many of the reports about the Chinese space program from Chinese media, both state-run and (nominally) independent, are often contradictory, confusing, exaggerated, or just plain incorrect. (See “Mysterious dragon: myth and reality of the Chinese space program”, The Space Review, November 7, 2005.)

Fortunately for NASA, a primary source on China’s space program turned up in Washington last week, just a short taxi ride from NASA Headquarters. Luo Ge, vice administrator of CNSA, spoke at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event titled “Global Space Agenda: China” at a downtown Washington hotel on April 3. In his speech, he laid out a Chinese space program that has significant and growing capabilities, but one that not only poses no threat to the US, seems quite interested in cooperating with, not competing against, NASA.

Luo emphasized that the bulk of China’s space program was oriented towards practical applications. “Our focus is on national, social, economic development,” he said through an interpreter. “That is our basic principle.” That has generally involved the development of satellites in five areas—telecommunications, meteorology, remote sensing, science, and recoverable spacecraft—as well as the launch vehicles needed to put them in orbit.
Much of Luo’s talk focused on China’s future plans, which are primarily designed to continue efforts in those areas, as well as navigation and oceanography, two more recent areas of interest for the Chinese. However, what Luo described for the next five to ten years represented evolutionary, not revolutionary, developments that are no more advanced than what the US, Russia, or Europe are capable of today.

A case in point is the development of a new heavy-lift launch vehicle. The New Generation Launch Vehicle (which is sometimes referred to in the West as the Long March 5, although Luo said that no official name has been assigned to the vehicle yet) will feature a five-meter payload fairing and a modular design that will allow it to place as much as 25 tons into low Earth orbit and 14 tons into geosynchronous transfer orbit. That would make it comparable to the largest expendable vehicles in service today, like the Delta 4 Heavy and the Ariane 5. However, it is far smaller than the shuttle-derived heavy-lift launcher NASA is developing for future lunar exploration: that rocket will be able to place over 100 tons into LEO.

Likewise, the stated ambitions of its satellites would make them comparable, at best, to what other countries, and even companies, offer today. A series of remote sensing satellites, including three developed in cooperation with Brazil and a high-resolution stereo imaging satellite, would offer images with resolutions no better than about two meters per pixel. By comparison, US-based companies DigitalGlobe and GeoEye today sell imagery with resolutions as sharp as 60 centimeters a pixel, and both plan to launch satellites in the coming year capable of even higher-resolution images. Later this year China plans to launch SinoSat-2, its first “large” GEO communications satellite, with a mass at launch of 5,200 kilograms and the ability to generate up to 10 kilowatts of power. This is similar to what most of the major commercial communications satellite manufacturers have been building for nearly a decade. (Ironically, the commercial market has shown increased interest in recent years in smaller satellites.) And while China is interested in satellite navigation technologies, its focus is on regional systems, using satellites in GEO, rather than global systems that can compete with GPS; moreover, Luo noted China’s role in Europe’s Galileo system is focused on applications of that system, and not in any way on development of the space segment of Galileo itself.

For all the attention focused on China’s manned space program and perceived lunar ambitions, Luo said very little about either during his presentation. He devoted only one slide each to both the future of the Shenzhou program and its unmanned lunar exploration program at the end of a forty-slide presentation. Luo said that the long-term goal of the manned space program was to develop an orbiting “space lab” by 2015. In the meantime, China is focusing on developing EVA technology, with plans (not stated by Luo in his presentation but widely reported elsewhere) to conduct a spacewalk on its next manned mission, Shenzhou 7, now planned for 2008. Luo acknowledged, though, that they have a long way to go in that field. “This technology is very mature in the US,” said Luo, who earlier in the day visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and got a glimpse of preparations for the planned final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. “But to us it’s something new.”

And what about that lunar exploration program? Luo outlined China’s Chang’e lunar exploration program, which calls for an orbiter to be launched in 2007, a lander (perhaps featuring a rover, based on the illustration shown in the talk) in 2012, and a sample return mission in 2017. That timeline was something of a revelation for some in attendance at the CSIS presentation, although it was simply a reiteration of previous plans. And if to eliminate any uncertainty about that 2017 sample return mission, Luo added, “These are all unmanned missions.”

Competition, cooperation, prestige, and politics

After Luo’s talk, it was clear that China’s space program does not pose the threat to American space supremacy voiced several days earlier by some congressmen. Not only does China not have any stated plans to land humans on the Moon in 2017 (or at any time in the foreseeable future), China’s plans for the next five to ten years appear focused on trying to bring its space capabilities up to the level that the existing major space powers, including the US, have today. That does not mean that the US should become complacent regarding the Chinese, but it also means that there is no reason to fear them as well.
Some might argue that there’s no reason to take Luo at his word, and that China may yet be developing in secret advanced space capabilities, including manned lunar exploration. True, it is wise to be skeptical about pronouncements of government officials, regardless of country. However, such capabilities, which may require the development of even-larger launch vehicles and a new spaceport, cannot be developed in secret forever. (See “Red Moon. Dark Moon.”, The Space Review, October 11, 2005.) Moreover, working on such projects in secret could negate what is one of the major purposes of the Chinese space program: international prestige.

Some insight into that came during the question and answer session after Luo’s CSIS talk, when someone asked why China was pursuing both manned spaceflight and lunar exploration programs when he previously said the focus of Chinese space efforts was on practical applications. Luo argued that both programs fall into the space science and technology development aspects of China’s overall program. Moreover, in arguments not entirely unfamiliar to space advocates in the US, he said that the manned program also permitted research in biological and agricultural projects.

However, one can argue that the biggest benefits of both the Shenzhou and Chang’e programs are prestige: China is only the third country to launch humans into orbit, and sending a series of probes to the Moon would put it into a similarly elite group of nations. By putting itself generally in the same tier of space powers as the US, it not only helps establish its credentials as a world power, it also elevates itself above the other major countries in East and South Asia, including spacefaring nations like Japan and India.
Of course, one way for China to use space to make its mark as a world power is to race the US back to the Moon, as some in the US think China is doing. However, that would require a significant amount of money, which the Chinese program appears to be lacking. Asked about the size of the Chinese space budget, Luo said that Chinese budgets
were “very complicated” but estimated annual expenditures at about $500 million. That’s not only a small fraction of NASA’s $16.5-billion budget, it’s also smaller than what Russia—which, like China, benefits from low-cost labor—spends on its space program today. It may explain why some of the high-profile, but expensive, aspects of China’s space program, like Shenzhou, have proceeded at a relatively slow pace.

Given that modest budget, it’s no wonder that Luo emphasized cooperation, not competition, with the US in his talk. He noted that China is actively working with a number of other countries on various space ventures, and gently chided the US for not being nearly as open to cooperation with China as it was back in the 1980s. “I think one country, if it is open, it will have progress and prosperity, and if it is closed, then it is going to be left behind,” he said.

He even suggested that China might be willing to participate in some way with the International Space Station. “ISS cooperation, we have always been interested,” he said. “We don’t have the ticket yet.” In any case, any US-China cooperation in space would provide a big boost in regional and international prestige for China, since it would be perceived as being an equal, in some respects, of the US in space—and it would cost far less than a space race.

Others have previously pointed out that China does not appear competitive when it compares its space program with the American effort. Rep. Tom Feeney, who visited China earlier this year as part of the first Congressional delegation to go to the Chinese manned launch center in Jiuquan, told a Space Transportation Association breakfast in February that Chinese get “very humble” when the two programs are compared. “I think [that’s] partly because they do not want to be a threat and partly because they do not want to overly excite expectations that they cannot live up to,” he said.

Such cooperation raises a number of foreign policy issues for both countries, but at least some in the US believe it’s time to engage China on space, rather than try to contain it. “Somehow, our strategy of containment, if its goal is to prevent you [China] from becoming a spacefaring nation, isn’t working,” said John Hamre, president of CSIS and a former deputy secretary of defense during the Clinton Administration, in introductory remarks at the April 3 event.

Despite Luo’s statements, it’s likely some in Congress will continue to see China’s space program as a competitive threat to the US. According to the published accounts of the March 30 hearing, some used the perceived space race with China as proof that NASA needed more funding. According to Space News, Tom DeLay said that he would fight to get up to $5 billion added to NASA’s budgets in the coming years to accelerate development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, citing China’s program as the reason. “We had a 40-year lead in space and we’re giving it up. The US is quibbling over $3 billion to $5 billion. It’s amazing to me,” he said.

It is certainly tempting for space advocates to build up the threat of a space race with China—even if such a competition is highly unlikely—to help loosen Congressional purse strings and allow NASA to free itself from its current budget crunch. However, that short-term gain must be tempered by long-term risks: if a space race does not materialize, future Congresses and Administrations may revisit NASA’s budget and take away the funding it previously added. Worse, if the Vision for Space Exploration becomes associated, in the eyes of Congress or the public, as NASA’s instrument in a space race with China, the Vision itself could become threatened down the road when that race does not take shape.

However, such long-term planning is not necessarily Congress’s forte, and some members of Congress have even shorter time horizons: on April 4, DeLay announced that he would be resigning from Congress by June, late enough to still be around when NASA delivers its report on China’s space program, but not nearly long enough to shepherd through the additional funding he claims is needed for NASA to counter the Chinese threat.
There are signs, though, that cooperation may yet take hold between NASA and CNSA. After his CSIS speech, Luo flew to Colorado Springs to speak at the National Space Symposium. After his speech, he revealed to SPACE.com that he plans to invite Michael Griffin to come to China this fall. That may be the first step towards cooperation between the two nations’ space programs, or, at the very least, defuse any notions of a space race that, in the long run, could do NASA more harm than good.

Jeff Foust (jeff@thespacereview.com) is the editor and publisher of The Space Review. He also operates the Spacetoday.net web site and the Space Politics and Personal Spaceflight weblogs. Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not represent the official positions of any organization or company, including the Futron Corporation, the author’s employer.

Russia, Ukraine, launch US communications satellite

Abril 15, 2006

Vera Gomes

A Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL rocket blasted off from a Pacific Ocean platform early Thursday to launch into orbit a US JCSAT-9 communications satellite, the Interfax news agency reported.
The rocket, operated by US-based international consortium Sea Launch, took off at 03:30 am (2330 GMT Wednesday), a flight control official was quoted as saying.

It was scheduled to place the satellite into geostationary orbit about 90 minutes after launch.

The JCSAT-9 satellite, weighing 4.4 tonnes, is to provide communications and broadcasting services throughout Asia, Sea Launch said on its website.

Sea Launch is a US-Russian-Ukrainian-Norwegian consortium based in Long Beach, California.

in: http://www.spacedaily.com/2006/060413020206.slqrcc3h.html

Taiwan-US Satellite Array To Launch Friday

Abril 15, 2006

Vera Gomes

Taiwan and several U.S. agencies have teamed to launch an array of six satellites Friday that are designed to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change and enhance scientific understanding of space weather.
Called COSMIC - for Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate - in the United States and FORMOSAT-3 in Taiwan, the $100 million array of low-orbiting satellites will be the first to provide atmospheric data daily in real time over thousands of points on Earth for both research and operational weather forecasting. The satellites will measure the bending of radio waves from Global Positioning System satellites as their signals pass through Earth's atmosphere.

"The satellites will convert GPS measurements into a precise worldwide set of weather, climate, and space weather data," said Jay Fein, program director at the National Science Foundation's Division of Atmospheric Sciences, which funded COSMIC.

COSMIC relies on a technology known as radio occultation. Just as the water molecules in a glass change the path of visible light waves, molecules in the air bend GPS radio signals as they pass through the atmosphere. By measuring the amount of the bending, scientists can determine underlying atmospheric conditions, such as air density, temperature and moisture, and electron density.

"This is the first time the technique of radio occultation has been used on a large scale in real time to provide nearly continuous measurements of worldwide atmospheric conditions at all altitudes," said William Kuo, director of the UCAR COSMIC office, which provided the design for the array.

Orbiting at an altitude of 500 miles (800 kilometers), the COSMIC satellites will take approximately 2,500 measurements every 24 hours in a nearly uniform distribution around the globe. The system will provide independent data over vast stretches of the oceans where there are no weather balloon observations. The data's high vertical resolution will complement the high horizontal resolution of other weather satellite measurements.

Because the satellites' radio signals pierce thick cloud cover and precipitation, weather conditions will not interfere with data gathering, as is often the case for remote sensing platforms. The satellites will not need to be recalibrated and the instruments' accuracy and sensitivity will not change during the five-year mission--common problems with Earth-observing satellites over their lifetime. The data will be available to researchers and forecasters within a few hours of the observations.

COSMIC will derive temperature and water vapor profiles from GPS data, which should help meteorologists observe, research and forecast hurricanes, typhoons and other storm patterns over the oceans and improve many areas of weather prediction, atmospheric scientist said.

COSMIC's measurements also will improve analysis and forecasting of space weather - geomagnetic storms that can interrupt sensitive satellite and communications systems and affect power grids on the ground.

Several single-satellite systems have used GPS signals experimentally over the past decade, but COSMIC's six-satellite array is the first to provide the high-density global coverage required for both research and operational forecasting.

An Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur I rocket will lift the array at 5:10 p.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg. The Minotaur I to be used in the FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC launch includes previously decommissioned U.S. Air Force Minuteman rocket motors for the vehicle's first and second stages. The company obtained the Minuteman motors under a U.S. Air Force Orbital/Sub-orbital Program-2, or OSP-2, contract. The third and fourth stages, structures and payload fairing are common with Orbital's Pegasus rocket.

Taiwan's National Science Council and National Space Organization provided more than $80 million of the funding, with the National Science Foundation - lead agency for COSMIC's science activities - and its partners providing the remaining $20 million.

Other major partners include NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program and the Office of Naval Research. The Space and Missile Systems Center's Rocket Systems Launch Program of the U.S. Air Force provided logistical support.


in: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Taiwan_US_Satellite_Array_To_Launch_Friday.html

Viagem do astronauta brasileiro ajuda tecnologia do Brasil

Abril 11, 2006

Vera Gomes

A viagem do oficial da Força Aérea brasileira Marcos Pontes à Estação Espacial Internacional (ISS) dá visibilidade ao programa espacial desenvolvido pelo Brasil, favorecendo a sua entrada no mercado industrial do sector.
«Valeu a pena fazer parte desta missão», afirmou o primeiro astronauta brasileiro da História, após a aterragem da cápsula no deserto do Cazaquistão, na Ásia Central, às 00:48 de hoje (mesma hora em Lisboa).

O vaivém espacial Soyouz, que trouxe de volta à terra o primeiro astronauta brasileiro e os seus dois companheiros de viagem, o norte-americano William McArthur e o russo Valery Tolkarev, tinha partido da base de Baikonur, no Cazaquistão, a 30 de Março.

Tokarev foi o primeiro a sair da cápsula, seguido de Pontes e de MacArthur.

A operação respeitou todas as exigências técnicas e os programas estabelecidos, de acordo com o Centro de controlo espacial russo.

Os três viajantes beberam chá quente e foram embrulhados em cobertores e foram conduzidos a uma tenda médica para seus primeiros exames na Terra.

Quinze helicópteros e aviões do exército russo, assim como um avião-hospital e vários veículos todo-o-terreno, juntaram-se no local da aterragem, para prestar assistência aos astronautas, anunciou o general da aviação russa Vladimir Popov.

Numa localidade próxima do local de aterragem foi realizada uma cerimónia de boas-vindas.

Para além da emoção, esta missão abre às empresas brasileiras a possibilidade «de concluir paralelamente contratos de exportação, de forma a favorecer mais desenvolvimento tecnológico, um saldo positivo da balança comercial e mais empregos», explicou recentemente Marcos Pontes numa entrevista.

A viagem de um brasileiro à estação orbital estava a ser planeada desde 1997, após a assinatura de um acordo entre o Brasil e os Estados Unidos, nos termos do qual o Brasil, através da Agência Espacial brasileira, teria uma participação científica na ISS.

Pontes, oficial da Força Aérea brasileira treinado nos Estados Unidos, tinha programado voar à estação a bordo uma nave norte- americana, planos que foram afastados após a explosão do vaivém Columbia, em Fevereiro de 2003.

O Brasil e Rússia iniciaram então conversações para que Pontes pudesse viajar a bordo de um vaivém Soyuz.

Durante a sua permanência de oito dias a bordo da ISS, Marcos Pontes conduziu com sucesso oito experiências no domínio das biotecnologias, micro-electrónica, mecânica e biologia.

Pontes não teve problemas de adaptação durante a sua estada no espaço, de acordo com o ministério das Ciências e Tecnologias brasileiro.

O astronauta transportou para a ISS uma bandeira brasileira e uma camisola da selecção de futebol do seu país, para dar sorte à sua equipa no Mundial de Futebol Alemanha 2006, que se realiza no próximo Verão.

Levou ainda na sua bagagem uma réplica do chapéu de Santos Dumont, um dos primeiros aviadores brasileiros a quem dedicou a sua viagem.

A missão espacial brasileira foi criticada no Brasil, nomeadamente por cientistas, devido aos custos estimados em 10 milhões de dólares (cerca de 8.260.000 euros).

De acordo com o astrónomo Ronaldo Rogério de Freitas Mourão, autor mais de 40 obras sobre a astronomia e o espaço, a iniciativa «não valeu nada» e foi uma «decisão precipitada», porque o Brasil deveria ter começado por desenvolver primeiro a sua própria nave.

À chegada à Terra, por seu lado, o astronauta russo Tokarev disse à agência russa Anatoly estar muito orgulhoso por ter completado a sua missão no espaço próximo do 45º aniversário do voo de do cosmonauta soviético Yuri Gagarin, o primeiro ser humano a orbitar a Terra, que se celebra na quarta-feira.

McArthur e Tokarev foram substituídos na ISS pelo russo Pavel Vinogradov e pelo norte-americano Jeffrey Willians, que chegaram à estação com Pontes a 01 de Abril.

O programa espacial norte-americano depende dos russos para transporte de astronautas desde o desastre do Columbia.

Michael Griffin, administrador da NASA, disse hoje aos jornalistas no centro de controlo da missão russa que os Estados Unidos continuarão a contar com as naves espaciais russas para transporte de tripulação e carga, mas declinou dizer quanto os EUA pagam por este serviço.

«Os termos das nossas negociações são privadas», disse, salientando que os EUA trabalham para desenvolver uma nova nave espacial que «não estará pronta antes de 2010».

Diário Digital / Lusa

NASA prepara missão à Lua para encontrar água

Abril 11, 2006

Vera Gomes

A Agência espacial norte-americana (NASA) anunciou segunda-feira que pretende lançar em 2008 uma nave montada num satélite para alcançar o pólo sul lunar e encontrar água que possa servir como combustível em missões futuras.
A pequena nave viajará junto com o satélite «Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter» (LRO) num foguetão que partirá do Centro Espacial Kennedy, na Florida, com destino à Lua.

Quando chegar ao satélite natural da terra, a nave divide-se em duas partes, sendo que a parte superior é que fará o impacto com uma cratera na região do pólo sul lunar.

A restante parte da nave servirá para analisar a nuvem que levantará a explosão para determinar a existência de água e de outros compostos.

Segundo o engenheiro do Centro de Investigações da NASA Daniel Andrews, «isto dá à agência espacial uma excelente oportunidade para responder à pergunta sobre a existência de água congelada na Lua».

Por outro lado, de acordo com o director do Programa de Exploração Lunar Robótica e director-adjunto do Centro de Investigação, Marvin Christensen, «se encontrarem quantidades substanciais [de água], esta poderia ser utilizada pelos astronautas que visitassem a Lua para fabricar combustível para os foguetões».

A missão faz parte dos preparativos já iniciados pela NASA para o regresso dos seus astronautas à Lua na sequência de um plano anunciado há dois anos pelo presidente norte-americano, George W. Bush, que também inclui, em décadas futuras, a viagem de tripulações a Marte.

Diário Digital / Lusa

Russos estudam asteróides que ameaçam colisão com a Terra

Abril 03, 2006

Vera Gomes

Astrónomos russos e de outros países vão elaborar um catálogo detalhado de todos os asteróides que possam representar uma ameaça de colisão com a Terra, informou o Instituto de Astronomia Aplicada da Academia de Ciências da Rússia.

O catálogo, que deverá estar concluído em 2008, recolherá "toda a informação sobre cada asteróide e a descrição da sua órbita" para calcular se um dia poderá aproximar-se da Terra e a que distância, disse à imprensa o director do instituto, Andrei Filkenshtein.

"A Rússia, os Estados Unidos e o Japão começaram a elaborar programas contra a ameaça dos asteróides há cerca de dez anos. A criação de um catálogo é imprescindível para evitar a colisão de algum corpo espacial com a Terra", explicou o cientista.

Acrescentou que este trabalho permitirá "estudar as órbitas de todos os asteróides para as modificar em caso de perigo real", seja alvejando-os com mísseis nucleares ou enviando uma equipa de peritos para os perfurar e destruir com uma carga atómica, como faz a personagem de Bruce Willis no filme "Armageddon".

Segundo Filkenshtein, os mais perigosos são os asteróides da classe AC3, já que 66 por cento deles "representam uma ameaça por terem órbitas que se cruzam com a da Terra".

"Se um asteróide se aproximasse da Terra aconteceria uma catástrofe. O mais perigoso de todos é o N29075, com 1,1 quilómetros de diâmetro, que poderá colidir com a Terra em 2880", disse o especialista citado pela agência Interfax.

Afirmou ainda que a Rússia vai por em prática um programa federal dedicado à ameaça que os asteróides e cometas representam, em cooperação com a Agencia Espacial Russa, a Academia de Ciências, o Ministério da Defensa e empresas da indústria militar.

(in: http://sic.sapo.pt/online/noticias/vida/20060403+Russos+estudam+asteroides+que+ameacam+colisao+com+a+Terra.htm)

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