Congress asks: Can NASA really get astronauts to Mars


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The United States has some soul searching to do about its ambitions for space exploration. And it better do it before a new and potentially space-unfriendly administration takes over the White House next year.

That was the gist of Wednesday’s hearing hosted by the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where members questioned NASA’s direction and pushed for a concrete plan either for sending humans to Mars, an exceptionally expensive and technically challenging endeavor, or for exploring the Moon, a more affordable option.

“We have continual debate as to whether our goal should be the Moon, Mars or both,” said Tom Young, a former NASA director who testified at the hearing. “It is clear that we cannot do both and there is a need to focus all attention, capabilities, and resources upon one option.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0204/Congress-asks-Can-NASA-really-get-astronauts-to-Mars

North Korea faked missile test footage: U.S. experts


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) watches a firing contest of the KPA artillery units at undisclosed location in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on January 5, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA

Related: WORLD, NORTH KOREA, AEROSPACE & DEFENSE

Footage released last week by North Korea purporting to show the firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) appears to be fake, according to studies by U.S. experts.

In defiance of a U.N. ban, North Korea has said it has ballistic missile technology which would allow it to launch a nuclear warhead from a submarine, though analysis of North Korean state media images casts doubt on the claim.

North Korea released the submarine launch footage after it separately conducted a fourth nuclear weapons test last Wednesday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missile-analysis-idUSKCN0UQ0CC20160112

U.S. says considering response to Iran ballistic missile test


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Related: WORLD, AEROSPACE & DEFENSE

The Obama administration is considering how to respond to an Iranian ballistic missile launch that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions, senior U.S. officials said on Thursday, as senators pressed for a strong reaction.

“We are now actively considering the appropriate consequences to that launch in October,” Stephen Mull, the State Department’s lead coordinator for implementing an international nuclear deal with Iran, told a Senate committee hearing.

Almost every Republican U.S. lawmaker, as well as several of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats, opposed the nuclear agreement announced in July, in which Iran agreed with major powers to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-congress-idUSKBN0U02CH20151217

Exclusive: Obama expected to move on Taiwan arms sales before year-end


Related: ELECTION 2016, POLITICS, CHINA, AEROSPACE & DEFENSE

U.S. President Barack Obama leaves with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (L) after delivering a statement on the counter-Islamic State campaign at the Pentagon in Washington, December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Obama administration is expected as soon as this week to authorize the sale of two guided missile frigates to Taiwan, U.S. congressional sources said on Monday, in spite of China’s opposition to the deal.

“We’re expecting an announcement as early as this week,” a Republican congressional aide said. Another congressional aide said the notification from the administration was expected “any time now”.

The sale would mark the first time in four years that the United States has shipped arms to Taiwan, the longest gap in such arms sales in nearly four decades.

It comes a year after Congress passed the Naval Transfer Act authorizing the sale of up to four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan in December 2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-taiwan-arms-idUSKBN0TX2JF20151215

NASA SCIENTISTS MAP PLUTO’S SPACE ENVIRONMENT


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Space isn’t empty. It’s full of particles. In our solar system, radiation from the sun is constantly streaming out toward the outer reaches of the solar system.

Aside from visible light, solar radiation comes mostly in the form of solar wind and coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. These clouds or streams of radiated particles come with their own miniature magnetic fields.

NASA scientists map Pluto’s space environment

Airplane debris arrives in France for Malaysia crash investigation


French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion

Airplane debris that washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion and may belong to a vanished Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 arrived in France on Saturday for investigators to study its origin.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/01/us-malaysia-airlines-crash-idUSKCN0Q62WN20150801

Related: WORLD, FRANCE, AEROSPACE & DEFENSE