Earlier today The Researcher News (NASA Langely's newspaper) published a story featuring a tour the 2009 ASCAN Class took of facilities at the Langley Research Center. The class learned about Langley's work in aeronautics, atmospheric science, and flight test hardware at the National Transonic Facility and the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. They also visited the Rendezvous Docking Simulator, which is the only surviving docking training simulator from the Gemini and Apollo eras.

The announcement included a video (2 min 25 sec) from the tour and interviews with ASCANs Jack Fischer (who has previously been a guest author on this blog here and here) and Reid Wiseman. Near the end of the video, Wiseman sums up the ASCAN life:

It's awesome so far. Absolutely fantastic. Way better than I had imagined. - Reid Wiseman

Tucked away into the mountains of Hawaiʻi's Garden Isle is NASA's Kōkeʻe Park Geophysical Observatory. This radar station has had a long history tracking spacecraft and monitoring plate tectonic motion. I visited the observatory on official business back in 2006 and thought it would be fitting to report on it this week since I am vacationing in Kauaʻi with my family.

The past few days were busy for space news. Here are some of the interesting stories I've been following:

14-day Simulated Lunar EVA Ends (Sept. 14)

NASA's Desert RATS (Desert Research and Technology Studies) is a working group of researchers who conduct field tests of operations and technologies under planetary analog EVA conditions. This summer, they've been in the desert near Flagstaff AZ testing, among other things, the Lunar Electric Rover (LER) (the same one I blogged about previously). Astronaut Mike Gernhardt and geologist Brent Garry spent 14-days living in the LER conducting a simulated lunar mission. They drove the rover around, tested its new spacesuit docking ports, conducted geological EVAs, and even docked the rover to a simulated lunar habitat module. The 14-day simulated lunar mission drew to a close yesterday on September 14. OnOrbit broadcasted the crew emerging from the LER live on ustream, which is archived here.

A few days ago, the Augustine Commission released its Summary Report (pdf, html) reviewing the U.S. human spaceflight program. In a nutshell, they recommend that NASA needs $3 billion more annually to maintain its planned human space exploration program and that the gap in U.S. human launch capability will be at least seven years. The first two sentences of the 12-page document set the ominous mood:

The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.

With this bleak budget outlook and the reality that 19 new AsCans are now in training at NASA, CSA, ESA, and JAXA, the space agencies are not likely to be taking any additional recruits in the foreseeable future. What does this mean for Astronaut Hopefuls (AsHos) like you and me? First, let's review the report.

A month has passed since I returned to "Earth" from my FMARS adventure on Devon Island. I feel I now have sufficient perspective to reflect upon the experience. This post will summarize my impressions, lessons learned, and recommendations for the future. I am very grateful to The Mars Society for choosing me as a crewmember on this expedition. Taking part in the mission was an honor and privilege, and I hope this experience can lead to other opportunities in the future.

I will be Dr. David Livingston's guest on this Sunday's episode of The Space Show from 9:00am-10:30am Hawaii time (12:00pm Pacific, 1:00pm Mountain, 2:00pm Central, 3:00pm Eastern, ...). Our main topic of discussion will be the FMARS 2009 expedition. Listeners can talk to me or the host during the program by calling toll free 1-866-687-7223, sending email to drspace@thespaceshow.com (or dmlivings@yahoo.com, thespaceshow@gmail.com), or chatting on AIM/ICQ/CompuServe Chat using the screen name "spaceshowchat". You can listen to the show live via its website or RSS feed/podcast, which is also available in iTunes.

If you can't catch the show live, you can always listen to the archived mp3 version later or click below to listen to it from the convenience of this blog (after September 6). More information on my appearance is available on The Space Show website.

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