Today Tidbits: October 29, 2017

Today Tidbits: October 29, 2017

Here are our tidbits for October 29, 2017:  Gallaudet is now Acting NOAA Administrator; time’s running out to send your name to Mars; Russia makes progress on second launch from Vostochny.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Gallaudet Now is Acting  NOAA Administrator

RADM Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.), left, being sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, October 25, 2017. Photo courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography press release.

RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere on October 25, 2017, a position that also makes him Deputy Administrator of NOAA.

Since President Trump’s nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (and thus NOAA Administrator) Barry Myers is not confirmed yet, Gallaudet now is serving as Acting NOAA Administrator according to the Department of Commerce website.

The photo is from a press release put out by Scripps Institution of Oceanography [], where Gallaudet got his master’s and doctorate in oceanography.  We actually couldn’t find anything about the swearing in on the Department of Commerce’s website.  NOAA’s website hasn’t caught up with the news at all.  It still shows Ben Friedman as “performing the duties of….” that position.

Gallaudet will speak to the NOAA Science Advisory Board tomorrow (Monday).

[Fun fact: we’ve just learned that Rear Admiral is abbreviated RDML, not RADM, if it refers to someone in the Navy, Coast Guard or at NOAA.  RADM is used for a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. We’ve gone back and changed it in our earlier stories about Gallaudet.]

Time’s Running Out to Send Your Name to Mars!

November 1 at 11:59 pm ET is the last moment to tell NASA you want to send your name to Mars on its InSight lander, scheduled for launch in May 2018.  It was supposed to be launched last year, but there was a technical problem with one the instruments at the last minute. Launch opportunities between Earth and Mars happen only every 26 months due to celestial mechanics, so the launch had to be delayed for that long.  Nearly 827,000 people signed up to send their names to Mars on the one silicon microchip available when the spacecraft was getting ready for launch last time, but NASA has added a second microchip now so the rest of us have another chance.

Russia Getting Ready for Second Launch from Vostochny 

Russia’s new Vostochny launch site in Siberia may see its second launch soon. Russia’s space state corporation Roscosmos tweeted these photos yesterday of a Soyuz 2-1b rocket arriving at the spaceport.  It will be joined to a Fregat upper stage to launch the Meteor-M No. 2-1 weather satellite.  Roscosmos did not mention the launch date.

The first launch from Vostochny, which was successful on its second try, was in April 2016 using a different variant of the Soyuz rocket — a Soyuz 2-1a.

Vostochny has been under development since 2011 (or even longer if you count the related efforts at Svobodny), but has been plagued by technical problems and charges of corruption.  The goal is for it to replace the Baikonur Cosmodrome for many Russian launches. Baikonur was built when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, but when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Kazakhstan gained independence and now Russia must pay to lease the launch site.  For financial and national security reasons, it wants to be able to launch everything from its own territory.  Russia has a launch site on its own territory now, Plesetsk, near the Arctic Circle, but it is used primarily for polar orbit launches, not to lower inclinations like those accessible from Baikonur.

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