The Future of Human Space Flight and Greenhouse Gases

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today enthralled astronomers gathered at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear without providing an iota of information about the agency's future plans or the fate of the human space flight program. Bolden didn't provide any direct answers to whether the agency would continue to send humans into space in the coming decade, as recommended by a report from a blue-ribbon panel last October. However, he promised that the program would not be paid for through cuts to the agency's science budget, which has been cannibalized in recent years to support space flights.

Air and ocean transport make up only 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But projections spelled out in a new report reviewing the issue by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change suggests that by 2050 the total amount of carbon pollution from these sources could increase 10-fold, depending on population, economics, and technology trends. Were that to happen, emissions would be as high as the entire transportation sector, which takes up 14% of global greenhouse emissions, currently dominated by pollution from cars and trucks.

As part of a 2010 spending bill passed in December, lawmakers have set a deadline for the three federal agencies that manage the $15 billion National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) to file a report to Congress laying out "an immediate and out-of-the-box solution" to the troubled program, which has suffered extensive delays, technical problems, and a skyrocketing budget. Two separate reports in June suggested that the program faced "almost certain failure," as Space News put it.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.