Thursday, July 31, 2008

LRO yields pad to X-37?

NASA managers have agreed to push back the anxiously anticipated launch of the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter (LRO) & LCROSS joint mission payload until a set of 18 favorable launch windows open at the end of February entending through March 2009.

Unofficially, Lockheed-Boeing launch contractors at KSC were under the from the U.S. Air Force for an equally unofficial launch window for the unofficial X-37 advanced Orbiter, overlapping with LRO-LCROSS.

The polar LOI will only alter LRO's long-term mission's timetable, but may require some fast thinking by LCROSS mission planners. The LCROSS impactor, long in preparation to repeat the 1999 last act of the tiny, mighty Lunar Prospector, hoping to succeed where that first polar crash landing failed, in actually scaring up a Deep Impact-class fountain of kenetic debris that robotic and human observers can then scan to see if aeons-old super ice will be instantly turned into steam.

The geometry of the mission may require the choice of another polar cold trap.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lunar Scenario for Flight Simulator 2004

Just after having tried, and failed, to start a serious discussion about simulation environments for would-be and arm-chair "Citizen Scientists," among serious competitors for a place in NASA's "new era of lunar exploration, TerraBuilder of Ontario announces a rudimentary Lunar Scenario for Microsoft's popular Flight Simulator platform.

Although I will most definitely purchase and download the program, if only to award TerraBuilder's thoughtfulness, I immediately found myself saying, "gee, I really could have used this, three years ago."

TerraBuilder's "LRV for TerraBuilder: Moon" is a long-overdue and essential sim for the hundreds of thousands of lunatics like me that, unfortunately, also comes with two heartbreaking drawbacks.

The mare, highland, rilles and mountain scenes are very welcome, don't get me wrong. Unfortunately, the hard-core Flight Simulator addicts long ago upgraded to Flight Simulator X, and this add-on is designed for Flight Simulator 2004.

Fortunately, however, for me, that's not a problem.

While others (like my great and good friend "Waccobird," in Florida) were spending hours perfecting Rocketplane instrument ratings on FSX, doing carrier landings with the skill of Alan Shepherd, I just never bothered to upgrade to FSX. Indeed, I never bothered to load even FS'04 on my seriously upgraded machine. In fact, this machine was seriously pumped primarily to fully experience Dr. Martin Schweiger's Orbiter Simulator 2006 (P2), which stole my heart away from Flight Simulator four years ago.

For nearly a decade, this Senior Fellow at London's University College London has quietly upgraded and then released, for free, to hundreds of thousands of his hungry followers what is probably the best Open Source and real time spaceflight simulator available to the public.

Being a serious lunatic, I've been disappointed with his Clementine based lunar albedo maps, but not with OrbiterSim's astonishingly grand orbital dynamics, and not for its Open Source and eager add-on developer community that's made possible for me countless rendezvous and dockings with ISS, at least eight dozen flights to the Moon and back, mastering re-entry and learning what one can and cannot do starting from a dead stop from the surface of Earth.

I've built a thousand scenarios, including the retrieval of Vanguard from it's more than 50 year- old perch, passing through the Van Allen Belts every 100 minutes since 1958.

With no apparent need of fanfare, Dr. Schweiger has done more to recreate the "feel" of real-time space travel for the lucky few who have taken the brief time necessary to learn, than NASA.

It's the reason I bought the Gateway HD display, the Nvidia 9800 graphics card, and why I partitioned my hard drives to run both Vista and XP.

The other drawback to TerraBuilder: Moon, is that the realistically diverse lunar scenery (which I fully expect to be included in Dr. Schweiger's next Orbiter Sim, hopefully soon, perhaps after Kaguya completes it's laser altimeter model) does not include actual features. At least when I land near the Apollo landing sites, or Reiner Gamma, the landscape, essentially a large photograph, is actually brighter.

Accomplishing a lunar landing using OrbiterSim just isn't as rewarding when the scenery is Clementine-correct albedo and color is also flat as a piece of paper. But, the combination of TerraBuilder: Moon and the otherwise exceptional and essential Orbiter Simulator, is at least a step in the right direction.

And so, if only for the well-done detail of its Apollo Lunar Rover, for the concept vehicles, and details and promise of more to come, I will dust off my metal can filled with Flight Simulator 2004 disks and finally bother to load it on this new system that has long outgrown it; to reward myself for another successfull navigation of the DeltaGliderIV from the Global TransPark in North Carolina, to refueling in LEO, through TLI, to LLO, to Terminal Descent and another satisfyingly precise 2 mps touchdown where Descartes C crater is supposed to be, to experience the look of a real moon on my HD display.

I want to reward TerraBuilder for, if belatedly, remembering the simulation of space travel is as close as some of us will ever get to walking and riding on Earth's Moon. They only have to work on the longitude and latitude and existing topography. The lame excuse that they are awaiting more details from LRO and Kaguya just doesn't fly. I want to land in Taurus-Littrow and see the South Massif, Tortilla Flats, and see the broad Cayley plain Charlie Duke and John Young could see from the Cinco craters up on Stone Mountain, and even measure that local magnetic anomaly while wondering over the expanse of South Ray Crater spread out below.

We have the technology.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NASA: 'Scientific Context' report moves international lunar science statement

Dwayne Brown
NASA Washington

Michael Mewhinney

MOFFETT FIELD -- NASA hosted a meeting of space agencies from nine countries last week to discuss the next steps in the ongoing scientific exploration of the moon. The meeting laid the groundwork for a new generation of lunar science.

Discussions, led by NASA Headquarters officials, were held at NASA's Lunar Science Institute, located at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California. Representatives from space agencies in Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States attended the meeting. During the meeting, attendees discussed cooperation on an international activity called the International Lunar Network (ILN). The network is designed to gradually place 6-8 fixed or mobile science stations on the lunar surface. The stations will form a second-generation robotic science network to replace hardware left by the Apollo Program to study the moon’s surface and interior.

NASA plans to place its first two ILN landers on the surface of the moon in 2013-14. The landers are being developed under the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The ILN is supported by NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. It was created in response to a 2007 report released by the National Research Council, which affirmed that the moon offers "profound scientific value" and "lunar activities apply to broad scientific and exploration concerns."

Representatives from space agencies considering participation in the ILN agreed on a Statement of Intent as a first step in planning. The statement marked an expression of interest by the agencies to study options for participating in a series of international lunar missions. The goal is to form a network of missions that will benefit scientists worldwide.

"We are tremendously excited by the enthusiasm shown for the ILN and lunar science more broadly," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. "This international activity will greatly extend scientific knowledge of the moon in a number of important areas."

The statement of intent does not completely define the ILN concept. The document leaves open the possibility for near and long-term evolution and implementation. Initially, participants intend to establish potential landing sites, interoperable spectrum and communications standards, and a set of scientifically equivalent core instrumentation to carry out specific measurements.

"We are in a new era of lunar exploration," said Jim Adams, deputy director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. "Scientific coordination of the international armada of missions being sent to the moon in the next decade will greatly leverage our scientific capabilities, and perhaps even more importantly, develop the next generation of lunar scientists."

International participation in specific ILN activities will be established by appropriate international agreements. Additional participants may join in the future when they are programmatically and financially ready. Participation in the ILN could include the contribution of landers, orbiters, instrumentation, or other significant infrastructure, such as ground segment elements or power supplies for surviving the lunar night.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

NASA and Internet Archive launch Image library

WASHINGTON -- NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday. Located at, the Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis. Over time, integration of with will become more seamless and comprehensive."

This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. "This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations."

Through a competitive process, NASA selected Internet Archive to manage the NASA Images Web site under a non-exclusive Space Act agreement, signed in July 2007. The five-year project is at no cost to the taxpayer and the images are free to the public. "NASA's media is an incredibly important and valuable national asset. It is a tremendous honor for the Internet Archive to be NASA's partner in this project," says Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive. "We are excited to mark this first step in a long-term collaboration to create a rich and growing public resource."

The content of the Web site covers all the diverse activities of America's space program, including imagery from the Apollo moon missions, Hubble Space Telescope views of the universe and experimental aircraft past and present. Keyword searching is available with easy-to-use resources for teachers and students.Internet Archive is developing the NASA Images project using software donated by Luna Imaging Inc. of Los Angeles and with the generous support of the Kahle-Austin Foundation of San Francisco.

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
For more information about Internet Archive, visit:

Destination: Moon

Ohio researchers help plot the first return trip since 1972 while keeping an eye on Mars

By Kevin Mayhood
CLEVELAND -- Before NASA astronauts rocket to Mars, they're supposed to return to the moon in a sweet new ride to test-drive everything from high-tech maps and buggies to new spacesuits and next-generation power sources.

"We're going to use the moon as a proving ground to go on to Mars and other destinations," said Stephen N. Simons, associate director of Lunar Systems at NASA Glenn Research Center, which is working on a host of projects with scientists from universities in Ohio and across the country.

"It's a lot easier to learn how to go to Mars when you're only three or four days away as opposed to being a year or more away."

In a speech four years ago, President Bush set a goal to land on the moon by 2020 before pushing on to Mars. Although there are critics of manned space exploration and its costs, NASA is carrying on with its mandate -- at least until the next commander in chief says otherwise.

For now, Ohio researchers join hundreds of others nationwide who are busy preparing for the first moon landing since 1972.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Final Slate of Shuttle Flights Posted

Final Manifest

Houston: July 8 - Following a detailed, integrated assessment, NASA selected target launch dates for the remaining eight space shuttle missions on the current manifest in 2009 and 2010. The manifest includes one flight to the Hubble Space Telescope, seven assembly flights to the International Space Station, and two station contingency flights, planned to be completed before (September 30, 2010).

The agency previously selected Oct. 8 and Nov. 10 as launch dates for Atlantis' STS-125 mission to service Hubble and Endeavour's STS-126 / ULF-2 mission to supply the space station and service both Solar Alpha Rotary Joints on the port and starboard end of its truss backbone that supports equipment and solar arrays.

The approved target dates are subject to change based on processing and other launch vehicle schedules. They reflect the agency's commitment to complete assembly of the station and to retire the shuttle fleet as transition continues to the new launch vehicles, including Ares and Orion.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Keepers of the Moon

In Stained-Glass Awe, the NYT finds fit to print NASA's Lunar Lab, Marks Moon's move to Mainstream.

(Are these the same people who ridiculed Dr. Goddard?)

Guy Gugliotta
The New York Times
HOUSTON — In the lab, the Moon rocks look nondescript — dark gray basalt, a whitish mineral called anorthosite and mixtures of the two with crystals thrown in. Yet nearly 40 years after the Apollo astronauts brought the first rocks back to Earth, these pieces of the Moon are still providing scientists with new secrets from another world.

“We call this one the ‘genesis’ rock, because it was formed close to the time the Moon solidified about 4.5 billion years ago,” said Carlton C. Allen, pointing to a light-colored stone about the size and shape of a large artist’s eraser, resting inside a glove box filled with inert nitrogen gas.

“We know the Big Bang happened about 14.5 billion years ago,” Mr. Allen said, “and this rock is a third that old. You will never see a solid piece of stuff in our solar system that is any older.”
Mr. Allen is the astromaterials curator at the Johnson Space Center, home of the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility, a secure repository opened in 1979 to house 842 pounds of Moon rocks and soil collected by astronauts in six visits.

The rocks on the lunar surface, lying virtually unchanged in a weatherless vacuum since their formation, offer opportunities to investigate the origin and evolution of the solar system available nowhere else, and the study deepens with each new generation of scientists and scientific instruments.

Each year an independent peer review panel evaluates new research proposals, and curators mail out about 400 lunar samples to 40 to 50 scientists worldwide. Almost all are less than one gram in size. “We don’t hand them out, we only loan them,” Mr. Allen said. “We’re not planning to run out any time soon.”

Over the years, the samples have provided uncounted insights into the nature of our closest celestial neighbor. Because of the samples, we have learned when the Moon was formed, probably (although it is still controversial) the result of a planetoid smashing into the young Earth, throwing a cloud of debris into space that subsequently came together in a sphere.

The samples have confirmed that asteroid and meteor impacts, not volcanism, created the vast majority of craters that define the Moon’s topography, while a constant barrage of meteorites, micrometeorites and radiation melted and pureed the bedrock to create the blanket of fine-grained soil and dust — known as regolith — that now cloaks the lunar surface.

And knowing the ages of Moon rocks, which can be computed to within 20 million years, has enabled scientists to establish a baseline that allows them to date geologic features throughout the solar system. The surface of the Earth, one of the solar system’s youngest topographies, is constantly changing, as it is faulted, folded, shaped and reshaped by eruptions, earthquakes and erosion. By contrast, the Moon is as old as it gets.

“It’s hard to wrap your mind around a place where nothing ever happens,” Mr. Allen said. “But the Moon is that place.”

In recent years the rocks have also helped researchers to answer practical questions that have emerged since President Bush’s 2004 proposal to return to the Moon by 2020 and set up a permanent outpost. Planners are using the rocks to study the pernicious effects of regolith on machinery and astronaut health. They are learning how to extract oxygen and other vital elements from lunar rocks and soil. And they need to understand how to shield living spaces from the deadly radiation that eternally pounds the lunar surface.

The samples — 2,200 of them — are kept in nitrogen-filled boxes in a stainless steel vault on the second floor of the 14,000-square-foot repository, and are transferred to other parts of the lab in airlocks. Technicians prepare shipments in glove boxes containing sterile tools and containers.
The samples are numbered and sorted by expedition. All of the Apollo landings, beginning with Apollo 11’s historic mission in 1969 and ending with Apollo 17 in December 1972, were at equatorial sites, but terrain differed each time and the samples reflect the differences. The genesis rock was collected by Apollo 15 astronauts near Hadley Rille at the border between a lowland “sea,” or mare, and the lunar highlands.

The arrival of the first Moon rocks in 1969 was eagerly anticipated by scientists. “We had no idea what the Moon was made of,” Mr. Allen recalled, and the first two decades of research focused on basic questions — the age and composition of the Moon rocks and the origin and evolution of the Moon’s geology and salient topographical features.

The early Moon developed as a mostly liquid ball of magma covered with a thin crust of lighter minerals. The crust became the white anorthosite, which floated atop the magma to form the lunar highlands. The basalt erupted later and subsequently solidified in the lowland marea.
The anorthosite and similar rock types in the highlands and basalt lavas in the marea are the Moon’s basic building blocks. Other rocks are breccias — crushed and broken rock fragments, fused by the heat from impact collisions and ejected from the resulting crater.

Researchers saw that the highlands had more craters than the marea. This meant they had been hit with more impacts so the highland rocks were relatively older. But once they had the rocks in hand, they could determine their absolute age in years.

This enabled them to make a template that could work anywhere in the solar system. The Moon showed that a site with rocks of a certain age would have a predictable number of craters of different sizes. And since the rate of impacts was presumably similar throughout the solar system, the lunar dates could be used as a benchmark to estimate the age of surfaces elsewhere.

“This was a key thing, that impact was a significant and fundamental phenomenon that affected not only the Moon and planets, but life itself,” said the planetary geologist Paul D. Spudis, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. “We had known that impacts occurred, but until the rocks, we had viewed them as a geological oddity.”

No longer. In the early 1980s, scientists were able to show that terrestrial mineral and crystal deposits 65 million years old were similar to those found routinely in lunar ejecta. This led to the now widely accepted theory that the consequences of an asteroid impact had wiped out the dinosaurs.

Lunar scientists now suspect this insight may have further implications. Analysis of the lunar samples and impact craters has shown that the Moon’s surface was solid 4.3 billion years ago, yet the oldest impact rocks among the samples are 3.9 billion years old.

Some researchers have suggested that impacts on the moon began to taper off 4.3 billion years ago, only to resume with a vengeance in a “cataclysm” 400 million years later. And if the cataclysm affected the Moon, it also affected the Earth — at a time when life was just beginning.

“This is very controversial,” said Charles Shearer, a lunar scientist at the University of New Mexico and the chairman of the lunar lab’s peer review committee. “It’s probably important to sample other terrains.”

This is part of the lure of Mr. Bush’s lunar initiative, which calls for a base near the South Pole and exploration of the Moon’s entire surface, including the far side. These possibilities, Mr. Allen said, “have the scientific community really jazzed.”
The Full Article HERE.

Lunar dust characterization by polarimetric signature

Negative polarization branch of sphere aggregates
of various porosities
Richard & Davis

In support of NASA’s exploration program and the return to the Moon, the polarimetric signature of dispersed individual Lunar regolith dust grains is studied to enable the characterization of the dust exopsheric environment by remote, in-situ, and standoff sensing.Aims. We explore the value of the negative polarization branch (NPB) as a signature for characterizing individual grains to determine if it can be used in the same way as for surfaces of planets and atmosphereless bodies.

Methods. The linear polarization phase curve for single spheres of silicate and for aggregates of spherical silicate grains of different porosity are computed using the discrete dipole approximation (DDA) for a range of grain sizes. Features in these curves are identified and their evolution explored as a function of grain size and aggregate porosity. We focus particularly on the so-called negative polarization branch that has been historically used to characterize planetary surfaces. Results. Calculations show that polarization phase curves for spherical grains exhibit a sharp transition over a narrow range of size parameter between two distinct regimes, one typical of Rayleigh scattering and another dominated by a large NPB.

The linear polarimetric signature observed for aggregates is a composite of a) the polarization induced by individual grains composing the aggregate and b) the polarization due to the aggregate as a whole dust grain. The weight of each component varies depending on the porosity of the aggregate. An NPB similar to the one observed for atmosphereless astronomical bodies is present for different ranges of the size parameter depending on the value of the porosity. It appears as a remnant of the negative branch exhibited by the single spherical grains. The sharper, narrow negative branch that is measured for some granular surfaces in the laboratory or seen in astronomical observations is not observed here.

Conclusions. These results suggest that the wide negative branch is due to the scattering by individual grains and single aggregates, while the narrow negative branch is more likely due to coherent backscattering or shadowing effects in bulk material. The shape and evolution of the NPB could be used to characterize spherical grains and to differentiate between aggregates with the same porosity but different sizes, but does not appear to be a practical candidate for univocally differentiating between aggregates of different porosity.
View the Paper HERE.

Cosmic Rays Spark a Renewed Interest in the distant Voyagers

Their data are spread upon an impossibly thin wavefront measured in trillionths of a watt and hardly detectable over the background cosmic fizz. But both Voyagers I & II nevertheless regularly and obediently acknowledge a receipt of commands in a two way communication taking more than a full day to complete, even at the speed of light and after 30 years of hurling away from Earth.

From their remote "outposts," now just barely beyond the electromagnetic dominance of the Sun, these two prides of Pasadena and Dr. Sagan dutifully download basic but increasingly important information about the larger interstellar space we still share.

The Voyager's minimally-funded space weather station reports had been thought to be little more than a novelty after their primary missions were completed and their cameras were powered down. But their renowned robotic patience may finally be drawing some fresh attention sparked by a renewed interest among those intrepid hominids who want to journey beyond Earth's Moon but are confronted with the harsh realities of hard and heavy interstellar radiation.

"Global warming" would probably be welcome relief from the cold of the Kuiper Belt. Back on Earth, however, scholarly studies of a possible role for the secondary particles of Cosmic Rays impacting Earth's atmosphere and possibly playing a role in cloud formation on Earth, affecting albedo and even climate, refuse to go away. Cosmic Rays bombardment had been thought to be constant, except where deflected by our nominally variable star's sunspot cycle.

Both Voyagers are healthy, out there beyond the Termination Shock of the Heliopause, where the interplanetary medium buffets the interstellar depths, and both vehicles continue to send home points of data allowing us an, as yet, under-appreciated, sustained glimpse of Deep Space.

Cosmic Ray have a swinging variability after all, beyond that part of its stream that is moderated by nearby Solar influence, particularly during solar flares and CMEs here in the inner solar system.

Perhaps those who make it their business to follow space weather should add these faithful reports from Voyager to their posts of things like sunspot counts and the speed of solar protons per cubic meter, etc.

Even during the present protracted solar minima, though, the incidence of nucleons out there where the Voyagers travel, heavy ions with punches greater than 50 million electron Volts seems to be at a slump, over the past few months, for example. Even in the long distant night, the Voyagers repeat the oldest message in their lesson books: For every answered question, two more to take its place. The Universe is more than we know.

Does this slight variation in the bombardment of "Galactic Cosmic Rays," or GCR's bring into disrepute beliefs most experts hold that the Cosmic Ray background is steady?

On Earth, the launch last month of GLAST, tuning up now to begin looking for deeper anisotropy to their infall, Cosmic Rays should be "peaking" at an unusually long Solar Minimum. GLAST is just getting started when the "seeing" should be good.

It could only be better out there beyond 100 A.U.'s "Billions and Billions" of kilometers out from under the garish sun.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Peep from Chang'E 1

With the drip, drip, drip of data and images coming in monthly from JAXA and Kaguya (Selene 1), first in Japanese and long afterward in English, we had nearly forgotten that the People's Republic also is rumored to have in orbit around Earth's Moon an orbiter of their own.

Chang'E 1, the People's Daily confidently reports from Beijing, is still in orbit and is soon to have completed its first map of the lunar surface. Without any images or data getting past the Middle Kingdom's Firewall since November, however, CNSA is unconcerned with continued rumors they lifted their few photographic releases from NASA, ran them through Photoshop, and hoped no one would notice that they haven't said a word about Chang'E 1 since.

We can hardly wait for the flood of data from their Rover, slated for 2014. Perhaps we'll get the first data from that future mission in the middle 2020's.

Read more HERE.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Implanted 3He Abundance in Lunar Regolith

Zheng, Ouyang & Brewett
Helium-3 (3He) is expected to be the cleanest fuel of choice for potential 21st century fusion reactors, because its reaction is efficient and produces low residual radioactivity. 3He is very rare on the Earth and much concentrated in the lunar regolith. It is possibly the most valuable resource on the Moon.

Read more HERE.

Japan's "Militarization of Space" Lost in Translation

Daily Yomiuri Online + AP

Keiko Chino / Yomiuri Shimbun
Senior Writers

"Space development needs room for manuver"

Following the passage of a basic space law, a space development strategy headquarters to be chaired by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is set to be established by the end of August. The headquarters' responsibilities are quite heavy.

With the space development system undergoing significant changes, the government, bureaucrats and the private sector also have jumped on the bandwagon.

On Tuesday, a council of lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan, which jointly proposed the law, held a meeting on the follow-up to the basic space law.

The meeting was held to hear a briefing by the Cabinet Secretariat, which is tasked with laying the groundwork for establishing the space development strategy headquarters.

The lawmakers stressed the need to reflect the wishes of those who passed the law, saying nothing could be accomplished if the task was entrusted to bureaucrats. The law serves as a national strategy to develop space, lift the ban on the military use of space, and use space development as a driving force in the promotion of industry.

The industrial sector has high hopes for the development project, as it was generally held that the conventional format in which research and technology development was conducted was incapable of expanding the industry.

The basic space plan to be mapped out by the headquarters is the key factor in realizing this expansion.

As the plan will be designed to carry out space development in a comprehensive and systematic way, the government, bureaucrats and the space industry are all attempting to ensure the measures are as favorable to them as possible.

The Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies--comprising space-related firms such as space machinery makers--has not only requested that its measures be included in the basic space plans, but also demanded that its proposals be incorporated in a space activity law, which must be passed as stipulated in the basic space law.

The society's major demand is that the government guarantees it a stable space market, replete with a long-term plan backed up with an about 10-year budget.

This reflects the fact that space companies will be able to invest systematically if the government indicates when its plans will be implemented, and what the plans will consist of.

A spokesman for the society said the government's previous long-term plans had never outlined budgets or explained when its plans would be carried out.

"The government's plans never mentioned a specific time frame for any projects, nor the amount of public funds to be invested," he said.

The society has suggested many other recommendations, such as a drastic increase in space development budgets and the promotion of domestic satellites and rockets. It also proposed the establishment of a think tank in the space development strategy headquarters.

The appointment of an office director tasked with running day-to-day business also is a major issue.

Lawmakers and space companies would have preferred a director drawn from the private sector, but since this raised concerns about conflicts of interest, lawmakers and space firms backpedaled, saying anyone who understands security issues and the promotion of the space industry from a broad perspective would be suitable--even if his or her career has not been confined to the private sector.

Against this backdrop, space-related companies are trying to dispatch employees to the office so they can sway policies once they are mapped out.

However, the high number of requests from the society has caused concern, prompting some companies to call for self-restraint.

Some observers say the requests indicate that space-related companies still rely too much on the government. Others have said the reasoning behind the establishment of the think tank should be spelled out, otherwise the entity might be seen as a front for certain quarters to do whatever they wish.

From the viewpoint of international competition, an official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said the space industry's frank demands would help the ministry understand problems related to space policies.

However, it would be difficult for the government to accept all of the society's proposals in light of the need for fiscal reconstruction.

There also are fears that high hopes for space development could mean that other factors are left unaddressed. For example, sections of the defense establishment and industry have a tendency to establish opaque modes of operation, citing confidentiality as a reason for their lack of transparency.

As such, it is crucial that the headquarters, which will have unprecedented power to devise space development policies, shows a sense of restraint, and be transparent and accountable.

The space industry's system also must meet the same stringent standards.

During May deliberations on the basic space bill at the House of Councillors Cabinet Committee, a DPJ lawmaker said the duties and responsibilities of space-related industries had not been included in the bill.

As taxpayers' money is used for space development, the government must not only promise a stable cash flow for space companies, but also establish a mechanism that would allow it to hold the industry responsible for space projects.

For example, if a company cannot complete a project as planned, the government should have the power to suspend the project or clarify the company's responsibility without allowing the firm to continue the project indefinitely.

The government has hitherto turned a blind eye to such companies, but correcting this kind of bad practice is crucial in improving international competitiveness.

The headquarters' abilities will be tested with its first job.