Friday Flybys (vol. 6)
And just in time, Google Answers meticulously calculates the cost of sending the EU constitution aloft. (Isn't this fun?)
Q&A on commercial space in The Times of India includes big cheers for asset-based financing of space assets. (Link via Curmudgeons Corner.)
Need a break from law practice? No doubt inspired by the Bush-Putin summit this week, NASA has posted a solicitation for translation and editing of key documents in Soviet space history. (Link via SpaceRef.) Say nostrovia to your clients and go for it.
Or, here's another option: I assume even lawyers are eligible to compete for the newly announced prize in space journalism. To start things off, a tough panel of judges will include the prize's sponsor, Sam Dinkin, along with Jeff Foust and Clark Lindsay. (And if
you want to win over Clark straight away, write something about the human exodus from Africa, or the Polynesian colonization of the Pacific islands as metaphor for space colonization. Ah, the poetry of it all.)
And yes, I will have fries with that. Rocket Jones' gives me a wicked jones for some space food recipes. Yummeroo.
L'Europe aime l'espace
After "nine days of ideas, exhibitions and events" that made up the European Union's well-hyped Earth & Space Week in Brussels, it's settled: Europe loves space; and one day, if all goes well, there'll be Europeans on Mars.
It's not news, Europe's Aurora programme originally planned for a manned Mars mission by 2033, but the EU admits that "Earth-bound politics since 2003 have already altered that timescale."
The races are on. Meanwhile, here is a juicy overview of European space policy, compiled from the EU's site by SpaceRef.
Earthlings Observing Earth
Interestingly, the summit, part of the European Commission's Earth & Space Week, was "timed to coincide with the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol." And while the U.S. loudly nixed Kyoto, the federal government is so excited about GEOSS it can hardly contain itself. "By linking existing Earth observing systems, GEOSS will aid in tracking environmental changes throughout the world and provide the science on which sound decision-making must be built," said a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spokesperson. And, according to NOAA, "over the next decade, a global Earth Observation System of Systems will revolutionize the understanding of the Earth and how it works."
NO, GEOSS is not legally binding. As the EC put it in a release, "GEOSS will provide the overall conceptual and organizational framework for global Earth observation to meet user needs. GEOSS will be a “system of systems”, existing and future, supplementing but not supplanting each system’s own mandates and governance arrangements."
The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations posts some interesting GEOSS docs, as does the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations.
And speaking of observing Earth, NOAA, which has been monitoring the Earth's environment for more than 30 years, offers a cool new Web service, NOAA's Observing System Architecture (NOSA), presenting geospatial information of more than 80 of its observing systems.
Friday Flybys (vol. 5)
Meanwhile, waste is one thing, but NASA should not be accused of fraud, at least when it comes to claims of extraterrestrial life, as the agency stepped up to debunk a report that it's scientists have found strong evidence of life on Mars. Uh-uh. But feel free to make what you will of those methane signatures and such.
The next space shuttle commander Eileen Collins gives an interview to NPR as NASA prepares for the first flight since the Columbia accident two years ago. Today NASA announced the shuttle Discovery will launch May 15, 2005.
What defines a planet? This is up to astronomers, not space lawyers. In any case, happy 75th anniversary of the discovery of the 9th planet in our solar system, Pluto (found Feb. 18, 1930 by amateur astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory). Even if Pluto is not a planet at all.
And thanks to fellow blawggers on Inter Alia, LawSites (hi Bob!), BoleyBlogs!, Direct Appeal and others for giving the Probe all kinds of honorable mention on our launch and first few months. We're happy to be in blogspace (and bLAWgspace) with you guys.
Space Lawyer Defends Women Cosmonauts
Over on MSNBC, U.S. space lawyer Arthur Dula jumped right in, telling James Oberg, "Discrimination against women would make his organization, and any organizations whose activities it controls, possibly including the Russian Federal Space Agency, ineligible to contract with or receive funds from the U.S. government or any U.S. government contractor."
The Probe agrees. (And preseumably, the first woman in space -- and 20 years before Sally Ride -- Russia's own Valentina Tereshkova, would too.)
On a more enlightened note, the Russians announced this week they are preparing to send 50 snails to the International Space Station. Maybe even female snails?
"Tombstone Mentality" and H.R. 656
Having opposed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, the congressman offered H.R. 656, a bill which would eliminate what he worried was "tombstone mentality" in the Act by essentially requiring the government not wait for a space accident before mandating safety requirements for suborbital spaceflight passengers. Here are Rep. Oberstar's comments on the House floor.
Sam ("Space supremacy is definitely worth dying for") Dinkin, has read the new legislation and wept. In his column in The Space Review, Sam speaks for freewheelin' pro-space pioneers everywhere when he turns the safety issue around and argues, "the space supremacy we won since Vietnam has saved millions of lives with GPS ordinance guidance, unit navigation, satellite communications, satellite data, satellite surveillance, and the unsung hero, satellite news." Space activities save lives.
Meanwhile, Rep. Oberstar, and those who agree with his efforts, continue to worry about risk, and discount the view that legislation like H.R. 656 may impair commercial space industry progress and hamper future innovation. The debate continues...
Commercial RLV Safety Guidelines
The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 requires the final regulations not later than June 23, 2006.
(By the way, if you prefer these documents in good ol' plain text as opposed to PDF, let me know and I'll e-mail the text right over to you.)
Friday Flybys (vol. 4)
Mo' Congressional space: SpaceRef graciously transcribes Congressman Ken Calvert's speech at the eighth annual AST Commercial Space Transportation Conference. Rep. Calvert (R-CA) last week took the helm at the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and already the new chair wins praise: Rand Simberg over at Transterrestrial Musings says Rep. Calvert will be "very good for the commercial space industry."
Also at the AST gathering, DOT Secretary Mineta announced draft space safety guidelines, but all I got is this silly press release, which promises, "detailed explanation of the guidelines later in the conference." I'll post 'em when I see 'em.
Could Miss Carly be the new Sean O'Keefe? Jeff Foust was clearly joking (or not?) when he noted today on Space Politics, "hey, I hear Carly Fiorina is looking for a new job, and she did serve on the Aldridge Commission…" Hmm... (Then again, Martha Stewart is getting out of the slammer shortly and she would just love to decorate neighboring planets...) Speculation about the identity of the new NASA chief continues...
Another top ten list: For aerospace industry buffs, lawyers and clients, the Aerospace Industry Association has identified Top Ten Aerospace Industry Issues for 2005. (My favorite: Promote Sustained National Support for a Next-Generation, Human-rated Space Vehicle and Robotic Space Exploration Program.)
In case you missed the multi-million dollar Superbowl ad starring the new Volvo XC90 V8 and Sir Richard Branson looking so natural in a cool spacesuit (and you also didn't see the ad during The West Wing, ER, or that e-verison of it on a zillion sites across Webspace), here's the deal: Volvo and Virgin Galactic have teamed up to hype the SUV and give away a sub-orbital ride on a spaceship. (Three days of pre-flight training included.) Enter the contest here. And fasten your safety harness. Winner will be announced March 24 at the New York International Auto Show.
And on Our Earth as Art, oogle spectacular images of the home planet taken by Landsat-7 and the Terra Satellite's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), courtesy of the USGS and NASA.
Happy Valentine's Weekend.
Meet the Personal Spaceflight Federation
Here on the Probe, we say, bring on the space standards. You bet. Standards are good for business, in any industry from railroads to automobiles to aviation to commercial space. (An old report, Voluntary Industry Standards and their Relationship to Government Programs, by the Department of Transportation's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, pre-FAA/AST but still interesting, applauds space industry standards while fondly recalling things like standardized threaded screws.) And the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-492), signed by President Bush in December 2004, calls for the establishment of industry standards covering the safety of passengers and crew on commercial vehicles.
An Alan Boyle article quotes Federation spokesman Gregg Maryniak, who is executive director of the X Prize Foundation, as saying, "This new legislation basically says that government and industry need to work together to come up with safety standards, and we believe very strongly that industry's going to have to come up with a product that's considerably safer than the current civil space program."
Well, we look forward to the work of the new Federation, and its Voluntary Personal Spaceflight Industry Consensus Standards Organization.
And today, over at the House, at 2:00pm, the Aviation Subcommittee of Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing on the future of commercial space transportation. Check the Committee's site for a live videocast. By the way, the press release for the hearing contains an interesting overview of the commercial space industry, which I don't mind posting:
Prior to the early 1980’s, there was no commercial space transportation industry – the United States launched commercial satellites on vehicles owned by the government. However, several events during the 1980’s prompted the development of this industry, including the creation of a European commercial launch services organization and the ban of commercial payloads (i.e. satellites) from flying aboard the Space Shuttle after the Challenger disaster.By the year 2002, U.S. commercial space transportation and the services and industries it enables accounted for more than $95 billion in economic activity, in addition to providing many benefits to public consumers (i.e. DirecTV and satellite radio).
In December 2004, Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-492), making a number of changes to the 1984 Act. Under the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, the FAA is authorized to regulate the industry primarily to protect the uninvolved public and the public interest. For the next eight years, the agency can regulate space vehicles to ensure crew and passenger safety only if the operation of those vehicles result in death, serious injury or a dangerous close call. After 2012, the FAA may regulate space vehicles as it sees fit. The Act passed in the House under suspension of the rules on November 20, 2004 (269 - 120).
New Canadian Space Law
An article on the bill in Space News points out that, in addition to advancing the commercial remote sensing industry in Canada and providing the government with some controversial authority over satellite operations ("shutter control"), C-25 would also fulfill Canada's obligations under the bilateral treaty with the U.S. signed in 2000, Agreement Concerning Operation of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Systems "that fosters broad private uses of commercial remote sensing satellite systems, while protecting common national security and foreign policy interests." (Anybody have a copy of this agreement? I don't have one handy so please send me a copy if you have it.)
We'll watch the progress of this legislation. And of course the big news on the next-generation radar imagery satellite front up in Canada is Radarsat-2, scheduled for launch late this year or in early 2006.
Good news and bad news. (What else?) Tucked into the $2.5 trillion budget blueprint... the request for NASA totals $16.45 billion, a 2.4 percent increase over 2005, but approximately $500 million less than expected.
And, as feared by Hubble lovers around the world, the NASA request includes no funding for a servicing mission to fix the beloved, aging space telescope which is expected to go dark by 2008.
Other highlights include trimming of Project Constellation (Crew Exploration Vehicle), and axing the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIM) mission planned to launch 2015. (Here's a quick overview of the NASA budget request by Space.com.)
Friday Flybys (vol. 3)
And as if to keep up with NASA's well-honed and ever-popular family friendly image, the European Space Agency now weighs in with its own Web site for kids.
But get serious grownups, especially grownup space lawyers, and dip into an archive of The European Centre for Space Law's Newsletter. (all in pdf)
And for free access to space surveillance data from the U.S. Government, troll the same data (with, presumably, the same latency) that has been provided for years by NASA Orbital Information Group's (OIG) site, now on Space-Track.org (where yes, the government says it is watching what you take. See, the warning: "You should have no expectation of privacy. By continuing, you consent to your keystrokes and data content being monitored." Fair enough.)
Now despite those incessant rumors, we still have no merger in the nation's daring young satellite radio industry. Of course, on Dec. 20 the nation's two satellite radio companies, XM and Sirius, earned listing on the NASDAQ 100 Index. Isn't two always better than one?
Indeed. Even Motley Fool is talking its silly hat off about space investing.(Thanks, MC.)
Finally, President Bush made no mention of space in his State of the Union address this week. A shame, because there was more of space to mention, now that NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered two huge intergalactic clouds of diffuse hot gas that may contain "the long-sought missing matter - about half of the atoms and ions in the Universe." (Not dark matter, just ordinary baryons, mind you.) Which naturally means more places to go and things to see this weekend. Ad astra!
GPS for dummies (like, lawyers)
For the rest of us, there's a GPS Primer, courtesy of The Aerospace Corporation.
Then, a legal backgrounder from Thelen Reid & Priest LLP covers GPS/Wireless: Legal Issues Related to Wireless Navigation and Location Systems (which appears to be from 2000, but still a useful overview).
And for an interesting (and somewhat scary) rundown on GPS-related privacy, surveillance and other issues, including GPS chips embedded in cellphones (uh oh), listen in on Your Cellphone is a Homing Device, from Legal Affairs. Now we know.
Meanwhile, lawyers do what lawyers do. We contemplate legal issues. Me, I took a few moments to review a Congressional Research Service report on Liability Issues Associated With the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, and another article on the same topic in Jurist by Richard C. Walters, FAA senior attorney and dispute resolution officer. And for good measure, an quick overview from collectSPACE on Stealing the Dream: The Consequences of Stealing Space Shuttle Columbia Debris. Feeling a bit better now.