A joint NASA-DOE effort to restart production of plutonium-238 has borne its first fruit: a 50 gram demonstration batch created at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Although this development comes as a relief to those concerned about the U.S.’ dwindling supply of plutonium-238 essential for powering deep space missions, some in Congress are still seeking details on potential ways to reduce demand for the material by using more efficient technologies such as advanced Stirling generators.

2 Feb 2016

The annual spending law for FY 2016 increases spending at NASA by 7.1 percent over FY 2015 levels and provides direction on matters including the James Webb Space Telescope, research aboard the International Space Station, and numerous scientific missions in development that will study the earth, sun, the rest of the solar system, and beyond.

21 Dec 2015

Former NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, known for calculating historic space launch trajectories by hand and shattering gender and racial barriers in science, received the nation’s highest civilian award.

11 Dec 2015

NASA released a unifying vision to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. While the goal has support in Congress and from the White House, securing adequate sustained funding through the next two decades and managing the inherent risks involved in human travel to deep space remain considerable barriers to NASA’s goal.

25 Nov 2015

A number of top science officials in the federal government took a moment today to recognize the milestone of fifteen years of continuous human presence in outer space aboard the International Space Station, as well as the scientific progress that presence is enabling

3 Nov 2015

A note to readers:  I will be retiring from the American Institute of Physics tomorrow.  Michael Henry will continue to write FYI.  I appreciate all of the support that AIP and FYI’s readers have provided during the last 26 years. – Richard Jones

A recurring theme of congressional hearings on NASA is the difficulty posed by constrained and uncertain budgets on the development of new programs.  This point was reiterated during an October 9 hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space.

15 Oct 2015

“A most enjoyable hearing” was how House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) characterized a hearing titled “Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade.”  Smith was not alone, with another committee member saying that the testimony of the four witnesses had “really been wonderful.”

8 Oct 2015

Two subcommittees of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology jointly held a hearing on September 10 to examine vulnerabilities in and threats to the nation’s electric grid. While some of the threats discussed, such as cybersecurity attacks, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks, and physical attacks, are manmade, much of the exchange between the members and witnesses focused on the natural threat of space weather caused by solar flares.

25 Sep 2015

A committee of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences recently completed a review of the four most recent decadal surveys in the space sciences. The committee's draft report praises the virtues of decadal surveys but also identifies lessons learned and best practices moving forward.

4 Sep 2015

The July 28 hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unfolded as a chorus of bipartisan and largely unchecked enthusiasm and support for NASA’s planetary sciences mission.

14 Aug 2015


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