Appearing during the first three hours, historian and journalist Robert Zimmerman discussed space politics and history, including recent developments at NASA, space tourism, and the Hubble Space Telescope, "the telescope that will not die." The Obama administration may soon propose a study to decide whether to go forward on the Moon/Mars missions proposed by NASA, he reported. Meanwhile, Congress will be voting on whether to extend the life of the Shuttle, even though the technology is old and needs to replaced, he commented.
Zimmerman said the sun has been quiet for an unusually long cycle, with no sunspot activity. Should this continue on for a longer period, we could be faced with global cooling or even a "Little Ice Age."
After long delays, a Hubble service mission is scheduled for this month. The space telescope is not in good shape, and will benefit from camera and equipment replacements and adjustments, he said. Zimmerman noted that one of the legacies of Hubble is how it combined robotic operations with occasional human maintenance. Such combinations of humans and robots will be used to colonize space, he added.
He also gave an update on Virgin Galactic's plan for suborbital space tourism, and noted that such infrastructure may eventually be used for faster flights, flying across the American continent in just one hour, for instance.
US Census Concerns
In the last hour, consumer privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht shared an update on the current US census plan which incorporates tagging homes with GPS readings. Data collection is being done by some 140,000 workers for the 2010 census, and she expressed concern that some of the information they are gathering could be misused by the government.