NASA will be facing a difficult task with the retirement of its current space fleet, especially when there is nothing set in stone for the future of the space program.  At this point our concerns with the space shuttle program are irrelevant, as Tom Chivers reports because according to Dr. Richard Fished, NASA’s director of Heliophysics division predicts the world is doomed in 2013.  The concern in 2013 is projecting that the sun will reach the end of its 50 year old stage cycle where large events involving solar flares are expecting to occur.  A solar flare is a sudden and rapid release of bright light from the sun.  This means that magnetic energy gets built up for some time and without warning, gets released.

 However, this is nothing that should be recognized out of the ordinary, because a similar incident occurred in 1859, when a solar storm burned telegraph wires all across Europe and the United States.  Scientist are expecting things to be much worse with today’s technology, meaning that navigation systems will go wacky, causing planes to drop like birds and compasses will spin out of control, and phone signals may be interrupted.  Dr. Tony Phillips reports in Science News, that the Earth magnetic field is expected to increase, causing quite a stir something similar to the events in the popular movie The Day After Tomorrow

 NASA has been working diligently with Congress to help prevent such incidents from occurring if a major solar flare were to happen.  NASA does want to inform people of how dangerous and real these solar flares are, but are preventable if the proper steps are taken.  NASA is aware of when many solar flares take place, and have the ability to shut down satellites, and communication systems which are protected by shields to avoid high levels of electromagnetic activity.  While some day Earth may be doomed by solar flares or other catastrophic events, it would be considered out of the ordinary at this point. 

 What needs to be realized is these solar flares or catastrophic events, should never be overlooked.  Even though NASA, has a handful of problems to deal with including its scientific research, the International Space Station, our current shuttle program and satellite mission; its possible events like these NASA must be prepared for.  Yet, with no budget and overspending on projects that have yet to help our space program, NASA seems to be providing little help.  If NASA doesn’t react and come to its senses quick enough, Johnson Space Center will never live down its famous phrase, “Houston. . . We Have a Problem!”

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Four Museums were granted their ultimate wish on Tuesday (April 12, 2011) to be one of the select few to ever display a NASA space shuttle.   Kennedy Space Center, Florida; Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, in Washington D.C.; the California Science Center, Los Angeles;  and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York; were selected by NASA among a total of 21 museums around the country that placed a bid for a space shuttle to have a permanent home.  NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden announced the locations of the space shuttles, while being a bit emotional.  Yet, he reminded NASA and its selected museums to stay that the journey of our space shuttles are far from over.  Museums still need to build exibits, along with much planning and preperation to transport each shuttle.

Yet, the real question that remains, what about the other museums that were not granted a space shuttle?  NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce explains that some museums decided to take a gamble, for instance like Seattle’s Museum of Flight which had already began construction on its new space gallery and Chicago’s Adler Planetarium had architectural designs in the works. Both were hoping that these factors would help them retrieve a space shuttle to put on display in their museum, however, it didn’t help.

Yet, the big surprise that day was that no space shuttle would be in the state of Texas.  George Bush Presidential Library, The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, and not even Johnson Space Center (NASA Mission Control) received a space shuttle to put on display.  Fox News reported that this news release sent a ripple effect throughout the great state, leaving many people including NASA employees rather disappointed.  Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas expressed his disappointment in NASA’s decision because Johnson Space Center is a main priority when it comes to the human space flight program.  U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady was outraged by this decision and  believes that stupidity and politics lead to NASA’s decision, and once again they left Johnson Space Center out.

It was interesting to see how big of a deal the final resting locations would be for the NASA shuttles.  Even with America facing economic problems, museums were still willing to spend money and take a chance at acquiring a space shuttle.  While these space shuttles are a significant part of history it still seemed like quiet a gamble, that has led many museums unhappy.  From the standpoint of Texas, NASA has only betrayed one of its own agency’s.

Tuesday (April 12, 2011) is characterized as a memorable day in space innovation.  NASA officials have describe this day as one filled with much emotion and anticipation.  It was 30 years ago from this date that sparked our nation’s first shuttle launch into space and 50 years ago of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin journey to space.  However, the real historic moment of today’s news, was the press conference called by NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden to announce the retirement homes (museums) that would have the honor of displaying one of the four remaining space shuttles (Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor, and Enterprise). 

Bolden, revealed it was not an easy decision to determine the locations of these space shuttles.  This was a process that had started back in 2008 when over 21 museums were asked to state their pitch, with hopes that they may be lucky enough to get a space shuttle to put on display.  Bolden knew that today would be extremely exciting as four museums were granted their wish, but also extremely disappointing that NASA had to deny the other 17 museums request.  The Atlantis space shuttle will be displayed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida; the Discovery at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, in Washington D.C.; the Endeavor at the California Science Center, Los Angeles; and the Enterprise (the prototype that never flew in space) at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York. 

 CNN reported that while these four museums are thankful to have the honor of displaying a piece of space history; there also comes a big price tag of 28.8 million dollars.  This money is what museums must pay NASA in order to prepare and transport each particular shuttle as it will piggyback on NASA 747 jetliner to its proper destination.  NASA has also strictly enforced that each shuttle must remain indoors in its own climate controlled facility.  While  adding these space shuttles to these particular museums is expected to increase popularity and sales revenues,  the Kennedy Space Center is looking at bringing in an additional 15 million dollars once Atlantis is put on display and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York is estimating over 116 million dollars in revenue benefits.           

Though it may seem bitter sweet that NASA will be receiving  a grand total of 115.2 million dollars for its space shuttles, they have yet to reveal their plans after all shuttles are retired.  While NASA may simply be focused on completing its last several space missions this summer, and then shortly after preparing the shuttles for delivery; the rest of America and the world waits in the dark to figure out what happens next.  Many are baffled by this decision, especially when such a prestigious agency has always helped direct the world towards future space innovations.

Though it seems NASA is facing an undecided future with their International Space Station, along with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on rockets that will never fly and leaving the world in a blur about potential alien life forms;  the space program is once again building a positive repute with its latest mission.  MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) on March 17, 2011 reached its historic 4.9-billion- mile journey to orbit the planet Mercury.  MESSENGER Project Manager Peter Bedini of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) believes this is a defining moment and stepping stone in our countries history to be able to have a satellite orbit Mercury.   This accomplishment was achieved due to the tremendous amount of time, labor and expertice engineers put into navigating the satellite.  This was no easy task, especially since MESSENGER was launched nearly six and a half years ago.

Fox News became eager about this exploration mission and began to investigate by talking to NASA officials.  Fox News explains that while Jupiter might be known for its moons and Saturn for its rings, Mercury is probably the most bizarre planet in the solar system.  Since Mercury has no sustainable atmosphere temperatures can be a  frigid 280 degrees below zero, but also a scorching hot 800 degrees.  These drastic temperature changes may affect how the satellite will operate, which has caused these engineers to worry about the long awaited journey.                  

However, the real question about this mission is, why have a satellite orbit Mercury?  MESSENGER Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, believes that many people see Mercury as the forgotten planet.  This is a rare opportunity explore Mercury, and by doing so may reveal information never known about this planet.  Specific areas NASA would like to understand are the planet’s composition, core structure, and magnetic field because there may be clues to understanding the evolution of our solar system.