Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Budgets, Carnivals, and Cryovolcanoes, Oh My!

Here are some short little news items that are hitting the interplanetary interwebs today:
  • Ian Musgrave's Astroblog is this week's host for the Carnival of Space, #142 of its name.  The Carnival of Space is a collection of links to the best space blog posts from the week that was.  In this edition, learn about the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the (then) ongoing STS-130 shuttle mission to install the Cupola at the International Space Station, and why the oxidation of iron creates a positive spectral slope in the visible (aka, "Why is rust red?").
  • Today, the Cassini Imaging and the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) teams released a series of images from the November 21 encounter with Enceladus, a cryovolcanically active moon of Saturn.  This set of images includes some awesome mosaics, including one showing a series of water-rich jets erupting from fractures within the moon's south polar region and another combined with CIRS data to show thermal emission from one of these fractures, Baghdad Sulcus.  Also don't forget to check out two mosaics of Enceladus' leading hemisphere, an area not seen at high-resolution previously, and an 3D anaglyph (don't forget your red-blue 3D glasses) of a portion of Baghdad Sulcus.
  • Yesterday, NASA released further details on its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, FY2011, including the breakdown for Planetary Science.  Overall, the next year will see budget increases for the Planetary program with out-years showing shallower increases, that according to Van Kane, would barely cover inflation, possibly decreasing the budget's purchasing power. The Mars program and precursor missions (mostly Lunar) will see major increases, with more modest increases over the five projected years for the Outer Planets Program (Cassini, EJSM, and ROSES, a research grant program).  Until FY2013, the budget is inline with the project needs of the Europa/Jupiter System Mission for its Phase Pre-A and A when studies will be conducted to mitigate the radiation risk further, instruments selected using an Announcement of Opportunity, and the preliminary concept design finalized.  Starting with Phase B in FY2014, the budget does start to deviate from what is required for JEO, staying in the $150 million range when it should closer to $300 million (or $425 million if one includes reserves) in FY2014 and $400 million (or $600 million if one includes reserves) in FY2015.  While a bit discouraging, keep in mind that budget projections for years so far out are...very sketchy.  I don't trust them any farther than I can throw them; who knows who could be in the White House at that point.
Link: Carnival of Space #142 [astroblogger.blogspot.com]
Link: Enceladus Rev121: Forest of Jets [ciclops.org]
Link: FY11 NASA Budget Proposal Details [futureplanets.blogspot.com]

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