Vacation Space

I'm off blogspace for an EVA of about 10 days or so. Returning to the Probe August 9th or thereabouts.

For now, space out and enjoy the summer (or whatever season it is where you logon from). Do a
perfect backflip like Commander Eileen Collins. (She makes it look so easy.) Take a swim in this amazing ice lake found on Mars. Explore a large new world (but is it a planet?) discovered beyond Pluto. Try out for Apollo 13 director Ron Howard's new space-reality TV show. . . . That sort of thing.
Oh, and for your space law book shopping convenience, here's a list of links to some books (sold on Amazon) that contain the reference Outer Space Treaty.

So hitch your starwagon to Space Law Probe. (And whatever you do, don't go running off with any other space blawggers when I'm away.)




Return to RTF?

Cut and run or stay the course? Sounds like the ongoing debate over what to do about the Iraq war, but this week, it's about the future of the nation's embattled space shuttle.

On the Newshour last night, NASA Watch's Keith Cowing (in his second Newshour appearance of the week) and NASA historian Prof. Alex Roland
squared off on what to do about the shuttle program now. (Their discussion also included a few points about the international treaties involved in the space station effort.)

And Jeff Foust reports on ongoing
negotiations in Congress on the shuttle retirement date in light of NASA's decision to ground the orbiters.

Jeff wonders if NASA's decision will "prompt more calls for an early retirement of the fleet, or be ammunition for those who believe there's no way the shuttle can be retired as early as 2010 and still get the ISS (mostly) assembled?"

And while we debate whether it's all worth the effort, here's a clip of Discovery's beautiful
backflip before docking with the station. (Viewing this spectacular feat makes me wonder: How did keeping the darn foam up on the tank turn out to be the hard part?)

Meanwhile, with the shuttle stuck again in groundspace, heads up, everyone: The high-flying duo of Richard Branson and Burt Rutan announced the launch of their
new spaceship company.


America, Russia and the ISS

In RIA Novosti today, political commentator Andrei Kislyakov assesses what he calls the "prospects for Russian-American ISS cooperation, despite the shuttle's vague future."

"The U.S. 2000 law on non-proliferation of missile technologies regarding Iran prohibits NASA from paying Russia's Federal Space Agency or bartering ISS goods and services, until the U.S. administration persuades Congress that there are no leaks of missile technologies from Russia to Iran.

The Americans seem to realize that their shuttles are unreliable, yet they continue to stick with the ISS. Griffin and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers in the middle of July with a request to amend the law.

If the requested amendments are introduced, Russian-American ISS cooperation will continue to develop on a commercial basis. The Russian space industry will be relieved of the extreme financial burden associated with the ISS after the Columbia crash.

If lawmakers reject the request, Russia will have to revise its plans for manned missions in space. But in any event Russia and the U.S. are doomed to cooperation as the two leading space powers."
(See also, Probe post on The Iran Nonproliferation Act issue.)


"Obviously we have more work to do."

Stand down, Atlantis.

The crew of Discovery may be safe (we hope), but the egos at NASA are down for the count. There was no nice way to put it, either. You didn't want to be standing in Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons' place when he had to make this announcement at a press briefing this afternoon (via SpaceRef):

"We had a debris event on the PAL ramp along the LOX field line - below the point where the LH2 ramp begins. Our expectation is that we would not have an unexpected debris event. The PAL ramp is one area we should have reviewed. We knew we would have to remove the PAL ramp. We did not have enough data to be safe and remove it. We had very few problems with it so we decided that it was safe to fly it as is. Clearly, with the event we had, we were wrong. We did not contact the orbiter at all. But it does give us pause to go back and look at what it is. Until it is closed we will not fly again. Might as well let that out now. Until we are ready we will not fly again. I do not know when that will be. This is a test flight. Obviously we have more work to do. This is a test flight. It did not perform as well as we would have liked it to. I cannot say what the impact is until we find out what happened. Obviously we cannot fly with PAL ramps coming off the way that this one did. We need to go off and fix it."

Japanese Space Policy Logic

"It is often said that Japanese space policy is incomprehensible."

So writes Kazuto Suzuki, author of
Administrative Reforms and the Policy Logics of Japanese Space Policy (Space Policy, Feb. 2005)

Of course, if you have Japanese clients, you have to make sense of it all. (Thank goodness I don't.) Gokouun o inorimasu. (Good luck.)


G o d s p e e e e e e e e d

(credit: NASA)

You go, girl.

(OK, so 36 years ago we first stepped foot on the Moon.
Today, we're just happy just to be heading back into LEO.)


Standby to Waive?

Is a space shuttle only safe as its faultiest sensor?

(One view about the difference between businesspeople and lawyers goes like this: For businesspeople, if on a project that consists of, say, 1000 items, 999 of the items work out perfectly, and one item goes wrong, the project is success. But for lawyers, that same outcome represents failure.)

Everyone knows risks have always been part of rocketry. Some folks are nervous about NASA's willingness to
waive its rule that would have required all four sensors to be functioning at the rescheduled Discovery launch tomorrow. Tonight, countdown is underway even though the agency still is mystified by the sensor problem. It remains to be seen if the strange glitch recurs.

But many folks agree with James Oberg who says NASA is
making the right decision. (And here is a dynamic chart of the things NASA did change on the orbiter since Challenger.)

In any case, the Probe says Godspeed to Commander Collins and her crew. (Of course,
lousy weather cannot be waived.)

Buzz from the Moon Conference

Over at RocketForge, Michael Mealling has been bloggin' the Return to the Moon VI conference. Check out his entries on day 1 and day 2. He even posted Brant Sponberg's slide of the Innovative Programs Office.

And Jeff Foust has an article on
NASA's implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration. "Just as important as the technological approach to returning humans to the Moon, though, is NASA’s realization, made clear at the conference, that the agency cannot return to the Moon without an unprecedented degree of commercialization."

Thanks, guys. Tough job but someone had to go to Vegas. (And, thankfully, no one was seen attempting to spend newly designed
NASA coins at the blackjack tables.)

Go for golf

Today is the registration deadline for the 5th Annual Women in Aerospace Golf Tournament, scheduled for Monday Aug. 8, 2005 at Andrews AFB Golf Course. (Although the invitation flyer neglects to specify "space lawyers welcome!," an afternoon of golf with the WIA ladies -- and gents -- should make a fine networking opp. . .)

(Too bad I play tennis.)


U p d a t e:
(Speaking of women in space) I just saw in this week's issue of The Space Review Anthony Young contemplates the first woman on the moon ; and he says of space shuttle Discovery's Commander Eileen Collins, "If NASA was currently flying missions to the Moon, no doubt the agency would select Collins." (Yes, but does she play golf?)


Friday Flybys (vol. 15)

That's right, RTF now means return to Florida. (Will NASA be ready to go on July 26? I bet yes. Nonetheless, this time I'll have to watch from the Web, not the press viewing area. But thanks Mike Reins at KSC's public affairs office for all the excellent updates.)

Meanwhile, here on the ground...

This afternoon the House "overwhelmingly" passed the NASA authorization bill (
H.R. 3070). And here's the House Science Committee's release.

* * *

I've already started saving my spare change to invest in those gold and silver commemorative coins to be minted in 2008 under the
NASA and JPL 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 68), introduced in January by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and 290 co-sponsors. The bill passed the House on July 12. (Read the bill for great descriptions of the shiny new money. And collectSPACE has a glittering article on the coins, which are to include actual gold, silver, copper and other metals from flown spacecraft.

* * *

If you can't get launch yourself into space, you can send your blog or blawg instead. MindComet's new, free service, BloginSpace.com will send blog content "into deep space via a powerful earth-based satellite broadcast." Thats right, Ted Murphy, President and CEO of MindComet wants bloggers to make contact with extraterrestrials. But are bloggers really the best envoys? (Sure I immediately registered the Probe. Typos and all.) Remember to heed the company (or perhaps, the company's intergalactic space lawyers): "We strongly urge our users to refrain from language or content designed to provoke our alien neighbors. We hope that our bloggers understand the importance of keeping our message positive." (We don't want E.T. to get the wrong impression of us.) (And no pirated Tom Cruise DVD's!)

* * *

Peter N. Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor writes about the Probe's favorite topic, Beyond NASA: The push to privatize spaceflight .

* * *

Friends of Futron reports for July. Cool beach reading.

* * *

Speaking of cool reading, Prof. Glenn Reynolds (our beloved Instapundit) mentions his "small contribution" to the summer's Chicago Journal of International Law (which, as I've reported here, includes a space law symposium that unfortunately does not appear on the Journal's Web site), but does he even offer up a snippet of his article? Noooo. (Come on Professor!)

* * *

That's all for now. Enjoy. And whatever you do, pay no attention to the five cosmic threats to life on earth.

Evoloterra week, everyone.


Vegas Moon

Up for a few hot days and nights at the Flamingo? If you're in Las Vegas this week, that's where the Space Frontier Foundation's conference, Return to the Moon VI, "Reality Check", is happening -- July 21st to 23rd.

Bottom line: "This time we stay." (On the moon, that is. Not in Vegas.)

And if you can't make the conference, at least read SFF's
lunar declaration.

But whatever you do, don't forget: what happens on the moon stays on the moon . . .


Wacky Patents

While awaiting a shuttle launch . . .

Not for space patent lawyers only, Bob Ambrogi discovers where on the Web we can find flying machine patents and more
wacky patents. (And yes, this is from last month's Law Technology News, I'm just catching up now . . . but don'tcha love summer?)


To Russia With Love

James Oberg takes the opportunity, on the 30th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz space linkup (July 17, 1975) and the 10th anniversary of the first shuttle-Mir docking (1995), to revise some "revisionist history" about international cooperation in space, in particular the US-Russian partnership.

(Speaking of Cold War history, July 17th also marked the
60th anniversary of the first atomic explosion.) (link courtesy of Rand Simberg)

By the way, last week Russia announced approval of a
10-year space program budget of approximately $10.5 billion (which is of course less than NASA's annual budget.)



Fridays Flybys (vol. 14)

(To quote Space Shuttle Deputy Program Manager Wayne Hale, "shucks.")

The launch scrubbed out, but the week went on. Here are some takeaways.

Former space scientist and recovering pro-space activist Jeffrey F. Bell rethinks space activism rooted in the 1970's and writes that
doom and gloom won't sell space. (Although he admits he does not know what the "new message" should be.)

Over at The Space Review Chris Carberry has visions of the next president and his or her impact on
space 2009.

More space shuttle launches, not fewer, will lower the risk, writes former chairman of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Richard D. Blomberg. (N.Y. Times reg. req'd)

I missed this last week, but in addition to the astrologer who is suing NASA in the wake of the Deep Impact comet success, apparently the
People of Ziquikcikty (also known as Comet Tempel-1) are seeking certification for their class action against Michael Griffin, George Bush, Karl Rove and others for damage to themselves and their home comet. (Note certification of service confirms delivery by "class V mindsend.") And we thought Earthlings were litigious. (Courtesy of George William Herbert, via Rand Simberg.)

This is a good week to pull out a few Glenn Reynolds columns on space, to keep perspective. For example, the famous space law book author and Instapundit himself offers some of his inimitable insight and perspective here and here.

AP is reporting it cost more than
$73,000 to fly 44 members of Congress to Cape Canaveral for the scrubbed launch of space shuttle Discovery. (And what did the scrub itself cost? According to NASA, $616,000 in fuel and labor.)

NASA hacker who was, admittedly, "smoking a lot of dope at the time," talks about computers systems and extra-terrestrial conspiracies.

Have a great, unscrubbed weekend. Don't worry too much about the
engine cutoff (ECO) sensors located in bottom of the external tank. (Instead, here are 50 things to do with an IPOD.)

Coming soon: peace and propulsion.


Meanwhile, back at the House...

Apparently House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Cape Canaveral to view yesterday's now-scrubbed launch of the space shuttle Discovery, made it back to Washington for his Committee's markup today of H.R. 3070 (the NASA Authorization Act of 2005).

(Money for new fuel tank sensors, anyone?) (Never mind.)

By the way, Rep. Boehlert called the launch cancellation "
a success story."


Life After Shuttles

Today may be the big day, but even as the shuttle Discovery sits on the launch pad awaiting blastoff, NASA works dilligently on its next big manned thing: The nation's ever-busy space agency announced yesterday that it awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and a team from Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. each a contract valued at about $28 million to develop designs for the much anticipated manned spacecraft to replace the nation's old fleet of space shuttles.

If it goes as planned, in eight months, NASA will select the winning design of a six-astronaut Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) -- the spacecraft that is to take earthlings beyond low-Earth orbit after the space shuttle is retired in 2010, and then to the moon, perhaps as soon as 2015 . . . The final CEV contract could be worth billion of dollars.

(Any bets on who the winning CEV contractor will be?)


Got Space Property?

Yes, space property rights is one of the smoking hot topics for 21st century space lawyers and their biz clients.

Here, Henry R. Hertzfeld and Frans G. von der Dunk present their views (not necessarily mine) on
Bringing Space Law into the Commercial World: Property Rights Without Sovereignty, from this summer's volume of the Chicago International Law Review -- and no, the Journal did not put this on the Web, rather, I found the article on BlackEnterprise.com, of all places. And who knows how long it'll remain there.

(Why don't more law journals put their own current, full text stuff on the Internet? For free or for pay, either way. It's 2005 and still many law journal Web sites offer little substance, just subscription info along with tables of contents. Uncool.)


Countdown to RTF

All eyes are on NASA this week as the world awaits the space shuttle's return to flight, scheduled for Wednesday July 13, at 3:50:47 p.m. EDT, 2½ years after the tragic loss of Columbia.

Hurricane Dennis blowing through the Gulf of Mexico this weekend fortuitously did not affect launch plans. And as we count the days, minutes and microsecondss to liftoff, naturally an endless stream of commentary and information is being printed, broadcast and blogged. According to a June 24 e-mail from Mike Rein, chief of media services for the Kennedy Space Center, NASA closed media accreditation for the launch at approximately 2,650 folks. This includes representatives of the world's major news organizations as well as your common variety space bloggers. (Yes, the Probe got a press badge, too.)

Of course, you don't have to be standing in the KSC press site to have an opinionn, or a view. A new
USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken a few weeks ago found that 40 percent of poll responders rated NASA's job performance "poor" or "only fair" while 53 percent rated it "excellent" or "good." At the same time, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said the shuttle program should continue; while only 21 percent said the shuttle program should end.

Meanwhile, many would agree with Craig Covault at Aviation Week & Space Technology who writes that the shuttle's
safe return is key to the space programs future (and you may have seen this article republished on Space.com).


Space Law Symposium

According to the blawg review, the Chicago Journal of International Law summer 2005 issue includes articles from a symposium on "Issues in Space Law." (I see the Journal has not updated its Web site to reflect this latest info, but I'm looking forward to seeing the roundup, especially the article, Nuclear Power Sources and Future Space Exploration, by Steven A. Mirmina and David J. Den Herder.)


Rights to Luna

Sam Dinkin kicked off an interesting analysis and discussion about the costs of launch vs. lack of lunar property rights as impediments to moon development (and along the way wondered if he could "get the US Supreme Court to void the Lunar property rights portion of the Outer Space Treaty as an unconstitutional taking?" Why not give it a try, Sam?)


Next Space Tourist Signs Contract

Looks like Dr. Gregory Olsen may finally get his shot into space. ITAR-TASS announced today that Russia's space agency has signed a contract with the 60-year old American millionaire scientist to fly Soyuz to the international space station in October.

I don't have a copy of the contract, (the Probe salutes the space lawyers who negotiated it,) but the much
talked about trip, (first announced last March by deal broker/space travel organizer Space Adventures), has been reported to be worth about $20 million.

If all goes as planned, Olsen of course, will be the third commercial rocket guy to travel to the ISS, after private space pioneers Dennis Tito (2001) and Mark Shuttleworth (2002).


Deep Impact Lawsuit

Congratulations to NASA on a smashing Deep Impact mission this Fourth of July, 2005.

And here's the space law angle (-- didn't think there'd be one, didja? Neither did I.): Reuters reports a
Russian astrologist is suing NASA for damages of $300 million for altering her horoscope when it crashed the Deep Impact spacecraft into the Tempel 1 comet.

And no comment from the Probe on that. (Technically, I'm off today.)

Happy Independence Day, America.


Space Lawyers at Billion Dollar Firms

The new Am Law 100 listing is out, along with editor Aric Press' accompanying commentary. (reg req'd)

(For Probe readers unfamiliar with this notorious nugget of legal media, each year The American Lawyer, my old stompin' ground, publishes a list of the 100 highest-grossing law firms. And yes, this list was a Steven Brill innovation, before he created Court TV, and all that other stuff.)

What's new in the world of law firm global domination? This year, five megafirms weighed in with more than a billion dollars in gross revenues (representing FY2004 grosses): Skadden, Baker & McKenzie, Latham & Watkins, Jones Day and Sidley Austin.

So congratulations to all space lawyers who are partners or soon-to-be partners at old as well as newly minted "Billion-Dollar Club" law firms. A rarefied bunch indeed.

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