NASA: A crazy month of changes, challenges

NASA completes Ares launch, moon crashes and faces future review and a internal security exam

It’s hard to imagine NASA could face more challenges than the ones it stared at in October. On the good side, the space agency had a couple major successes first with the NASA LCROSS satellites successfully crashing into the moon looking for water and then the Ares X rocket launch that went off without a hitch at the end of the month.

On the cloudier side, the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plan Committee said NASA faces significant challenges in continuing the manned space flight program. Then the GAO said NASA network faces myriad security problems.

Here’s a look at those NASA stories and more from October:

NASA's future: Now the space battle begins

When it comes down to it, NASA is the most accomplished space organization in the world but its human spaceflight activities are at a tipping point, primarily due to a mismatch of goals and money. That was the conclusion of the Augustine Review of United States Human Space Flight Plan Committee report delivered to the White House today. The report's 157-pages worth of findings will now be debated and in the end, dictate the future of NASA and space flight operations.

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"Frickin fantastic" launch of NASA Ares X rocket NASA says

With a hiss and roar NASA's Ares X rocket blasted into the atmosphere this at about 11:33 am EST taking with it a variety of test equipment and sensors but also high hopes for the future of the US space agency. The short test flight -- about 2 minutes -- will provide NASA an early opportunity to look at hardware, models, facilities and ground operations associated with the mostly new Ares I launch vehicle.

NASA network security torched

While NASA may be focused on keeping its manned space flight plans intact, apparently it has seriously neglected the security of its networks. Watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office issued a 53-page report pretty much ripping the space agency's network security strategy stating that NASA has significant problems protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information and variety of networks supporting its mission centers.

NASA teams with Air Force to step up commercial space pace

As it looks to significantly reshape its future, NASA today said it would partner with the US Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a technology roadmap for use of reusable commercial spaceships. The study of reusable launch vehicle, or RLVs will focus on identifying technologies and assessing their potential use to accelerate the development of commercial reusable launch vehicles that have improved reliability, availability, launch turn-time, robustness and significantly lower costs than current launch systems, NASA stated. The study results will provide roadmaps with recommended government technology tasks and milestones for different vehicle categories.

NASA spacecraft crash into the moon

NASA' Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellites (LCROSS) took dead aim and crashed into the moon around 7:31 am ESD. Watching the results on NASA TV, scientists were pleased with the impact of the two satellites. The impact of the $80 million LCROSS satellites into the moon was to create what the space agency hopes is an ice-filled a debris plume that can be analyzed for water content.

NASA takes ice hunt Earth-bound

While NASA is crashing into the moon to look for ice, it's also looking for the frozen stuff here on Earth, only in a much more conventional way. The space agency said on Oct. 15 it will start a series of 17 flights to study changes to Antarctica's sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets. The flights are part of what NASA calls Operation Ice Bridge, a six-year project that is the largest airborne survey ever made of ice at Earth's polar regions.

NASA says 200-yard long asteroid will miss Earth

NASA scientists have recalculated the path of a large asteroid known as Apophis and now say it has only a very slim chance of banging into Earth. The Apophis asteroid is approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields and updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million, NASA stated.

NASA Ares rocket battles lightning strikes

NASA's Ares I-X test rocket has been delayed today in part because of the number of lightning strikes in the area - 154 since last evening, NASA said. While NASA can't control the weather, the Ares launch pad and surrounding area as well protected from lighting strikes as can be. That’s because NASA built an enormous lightning protection system at the Kennedy Space Center that will not only protect people and equipment but collects strike information for analysis by launch managers.

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