Leading the News
New Plan Could Have Astronauts Orbiting Mars By 2033.
Aviation Week (4/2, Morring) reports that a workshop hosted by The Planetary Society and chaired by Scott Hubbard and John Logsdon determined that with “inflation-adjusted funding levels comparable to what NASA is spending on its human-spaceflight effort today,” the US could afford to send astronauts into Mars orbit by 2033 and onto the surface by 2039. The article notes that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tasked The Aerospace Corporation to evaluate the cost of the proposal. The plan, would require no “dramatic advances in technology,” and would rely on NASA’s Orion and Space Launch System. It would also be funded by using the ISS’ current budget once the station was shut down in 2024. According to the article, Logsdon believes that by undertaking an orbital mission before a landing, NASA would gain public support and “international and commercial partners.”
SPACE (4/2, Cofield) notes that Hubbard called the proposal a “long-term, cost-constrained, executable humans-to-Mars program.” Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said that while the technical issues involved would be challenging, “the real problem” facing the proposal was politics. Hubbard added that the “major hurdles” NASA faced in the past, such as “biomedical, launch systems and so forth,” have been reduced to the point that they are less problematic than finding the necessary “political will.”
Ramos: Manned Mars Mission Will Be Challenging. The Hindu (IND) (4/2) reports that at the inauguration of Kongu Engineering College’s Edulaunch initiative earlier this week, Joe Ramos, a former NASA associate director, said that a manned Mars mission will be “challenging” because of the conditions at the planet. He also discussed how NASA was “useful to mankind.”
Blog Coverage. Morgan Rehnberg at Universe Today (4/2) considers the new Mars orbital plan “an exciting proposal by an organization with a credible history.” However, he does wonder whether starting with an orbital mission would adds unnecessary risks for astronauts.
Mark Whittington at the Examiner (4/2) blog comments that the proposal could be modified by the next Administration, “reversing some of the more controversial decisions made by the Obama administration.”
Michigan College Promoting Interest In Photonics, Laser Technician Careers.
MLive (4/3) reports that officials at Baker College in Flint, Michigan, are working to promote interest in studying to become photonics and laser technicians. The college has received a National Center for Optics and Photonics Education grant from the National Science Foundation “to encourage high school students to enroll in its photonics and laser technology associate degree program.”
Louisiana Reaches Record College Enrollment Rate.
The AP (4/3) reports that Louisiana recorded a 6 percent rise in the number of its public high school graduates entering college, and students from low-income families represented half of the growth. The state Education Superintendent John White attributed the “all-time high” to higher education expectations, better standards, and more focus on courses that offer college credit.
EdX Settles With DOJ Over Online Course Accessibility.
The New York Times (4/3, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports that EdX, an MIT and Harvard partnership, has agreed to settle with the Department of Justice over the accessibility of its 450 “massive” open online courses to disabled students. The settlement does not force EdX to admit to wrongdoing, and the company maintains that its courses are not covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, but the terms “underscore the government’s policy” of making online education as accessible as on-campus courses.
Research and Development
University Of Tennessee Installs Solar Panels For Teaching, Research.
The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (4/2) reports that the University of Tennessee Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has installed a solar panel array on top of a parking garage to “supply power to the campus electric grid as well as to vehicle charging stations in the garage” and to be available to “UT laboratories for teaching and research.” The tools will allow students and researchers to “use the real-time information to develop new solar technologies and test their ideas.”
Purdue Researchers Say Lunar Lava Tubes Could Hold Colonial Cities.
The Christian Science Monitor (4/2) reports that researchers from Purdue University have presented research indicating that “huge lava tubes” are common on Earth’s moon, and that the “features could be large enough to house structurally stable lunar cities for future colonists.” The structures could collect colonists from “cosmic radiation, meteorite impacts and the wild temperature swings of lunar day and night.”
NSF Grant To Fund Clemson Virtual Reality Factory Simulation.
The Greenville (SC) News (4/1) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Clemson University a $3 million grant to fund research into a virtual reality simulation to “help transform how students learn the skills they need to land technician jobs in automotive, aerospace and advanced manufacturing plants.” Principal grant investigator Anand Gramopadhye said that “South Carolina is the ideal place to develop a package of online and virtual reality lessons that could be used nationwide.”
University Of Memphis Receives Patent For Wound-Care Technology.
The Memphis (TN) Business Journal (4/3, Sheffield, Subscription Publication) reports that the University of Memphis Research Foundation has patented “a new wound care technology” called Sentrex BioSponge MPD. It was invented by two biomedical engineering professors “and Dr. Scott Noel of Bionova Medical, a privately held device company that will exclusively license the patent.” University president David Rudd said the patent “validates the real-world impact of the work of our researchers…and demonstrates the leading role played by the FedEx Institute in bridging the gap between the lab and the marketplace.”
Obama Promotes Job Training At Louisville Tech Firm.
The President visited the Louisville, KY tech firm Indatus on Thursday to promote funding for job training programs included in his 2016 budget. Obama also criticized the budget proposed by congressional Republicans, which he said will explode deficits while slashing funding for job training programs. Coverage of the visit generally casts the trip, which the AP (4/3, Superville) notes was delayed due to the Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland, as an effort by the President to tout the success of his TechHire program and promote his budget priorities.
The Washington Times (4/3, Boyer) says the President visited Louisville “to promote more than $2 billion in job-training programs in his fiscal 2016 budget and to contrast his proposals with Republicans’ spending plan.” The President “railed against a proposal by congressional Republicans to repeal the estate tax…saying it would explode budget deficits and rob middle-class families of needed spending on job training,” and Bloomberg Politics (4/2, Olorunnipa) reports that the President blasted “Republican tax and budget priorities as he makes the case for investing more money in worker training.”
The Louisville (KY) Business First (4/3, Aretakis, Subscription Publication) says the President “sprinkled in warnings that the upcoming budget debate with Congress could cut training programs for Americans,” and WAVE-TV Louisville, KY (4/2, 11:04 p.m. EDT) reported that the President “says Republicans in Congress want to slash the job training for thousands of Kentuckiains in favor of tax cuts for only a few.”
WLKY-TV Louisville, KY (4/3, 11:04 p.m. EDT) reported that the President “talked about his initiative to offer Federally-funded workforce training through a program called TechHire, which was modeled after a program born right here in Louisville.” Obama: “More than half a million openings are in tech, nearly two thousand are here in Louisville, alone. Technology jobs pay one and a half times the average private sector wage.” WHAS-TV Louisville, KY (4/3, 11:03 p.m. EDT) reported that the President said Kentucky “is an example for the country.” He “talked jobs, growing the economy, and finding bold new paths to make it all happen.”
The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (4/3, Hall) that while the President “praised job-training efforts at the technology company Indatus as a model for the nation,” he also used the visit to Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s home town “to urge the Republican Congress to put more money into job training, as he has requested in his budget.” While the President “said he has placed money in his budget proposal for the TechHire program,” McConnell’s office “claimed that Obama’s administration has actually cut worker training programs in choices it made in trying to live under existing spending caps.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Obama To Discuss Clean Energy In Utah.
After a visit to Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday, the President flew to Utah. The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (4/3) reports that during a Friday speech at Hill Air Force Base, the President “is expected to talk about clean energy, and the jobs that it can create.” The President is also expected to meet with Gov. Gary Herbert and LDS church officials.
In a separate story, the Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (4/3, Burr) reports that the President “has been traveling to GOP-dominated states since his State of the Union address in January in an effort to break through the Washington gridlock that has stymied many of his initiatives.” At Hill Air Force Base, the President will “hold a roundtable discussion at Hill with people who are working to train Utahns in the clean-energy sector. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Rob Bishop and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker are expected to join that discussion.”
In a piece for the Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (4/3, Burr), reporter Thomas Burr chronicles his flight to Utah on Air Force One.
Palm Beach State College Receives NSF Grant.
The Palm Beach (FL) Post (4/2, Doris) reports in its blog that Palm Beach State College received a grant from the National Science Foundation to bolster its associate degree programs in STEM subjects and promote STEM careers at nearby middle and elementary schools.
Southern California Schools To Race Electric Cars.
The Long Beach (CA) Gazette Newspapers (4/3, Saltzgaver) reports that nine teams from six high schools in southern California will compete in a School Series electric car racing event on Saturday in Long Beach. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who attended an event to build the cars, called the race “a fantastic opportunity” to allow students to work with technology.
Illinois Students Use, Study Vertical Wind Tunnel.
The Chicago Tribune (4/2) reports that a STEM event allowed students at Bremen Community High School in Midlothian, Illinois to use a vertical wind tunnel to skydive indoors. The wind tunnel builds off of students’ understanding of physics and chemistry, and accompanying work on tunnel design, forces involved with flight, and terminal velocity seeking to further connect the experience with theory.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Zachry Group Gives Texas A&M Engineering School $25 Million.