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Eye Opener: NASA in the News

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! More stormy weather may keep Space Shuttle Endeavour on the ground yet again today, but NASA plans to try for the fifth time to launch the shuttle into space, on a mission to the International Space Station.

NASA has until Tuesday, possibly Wednesday, to launch Endeavour with the final piece of Japan's space station lab. Otherwise, it will have to wait until the end of July because of a Russian supply ship that's awaiting liftoff, according to the AP.

After more than a decade of construction, the International Space Station is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year, notes The Post's Joel Achenbach.

But then, after all of those years of constructions and dozens of space missions, the station is set to come crashing down in the first quarter of 2016.

It'll be a controlled reentry, Achenbach notes, to ensure that it doesn't take out a major city. But it'll be destroyed as surely as a Lego palace obliterated by the sweeping arm of a suddenly bored kid.

This, at least, is NASA's plan, pending a change in policy. There's no long-term funding on the books for international space station operations beyond 2015. Some argue it's never had a clear mission. Even others suggest we should hand it off to the Chinese once we're done building it.

The cost of the station is both a liability and, paradoxically, a virtue. A figure commonly associated with the ISS is that it will ultimately cost the United States and its international partners about $100 billion. That may add to the political pressure to keep the space laboratory intact and in orbit rather than seeing it plunging back to Earth so soon after completion. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the couple at the center of that infamous NASA love triangle plans to wed: Colleen Shipman and former Discovery Shuttle Pilot William A. Oefelein have gotten engaged, but have not set a wedding date. The couple now lives in Alaska.

You'll recall their feelings first gained international attention when mission specialist Lisa Nowak, who had flown the space shuttle with Oefelein, was accused of trying to kidnap Shipman after driving from Houston to Orlando. She's charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault and also faces a misdemeanor battery charge. A trial is set for Dec. 7.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: Early morning, long days, late nights for the West Wing staff. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu arrive in China tomorrow to press country to join climate change talks. Adolfo Carrión Jr. and the White House Office of Urban Affairs today plan to launch a public conversation to create a national urban policy agenda. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, America's new top general in Afghanistan, wants more troops. HUD's number two Ron Sims vows to bike to his D.C. office everyday from Arlington. Questions for former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (due to testify before a House panel on Thursday). Robert McNamara apologized for Vietnam... will Donald Rumsfeld every apologize for Iraq? HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius nixes the Rangel health care reform plan.

Follow The Federal Eye on Twitter and send your news tips, comments and questions.

In other federal news...

New U.S. Attorneys Named: Late Friday the White House announced six nominees for U.S. attorneys. Most notable: Dennis Burke, nominated to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona. He's currently a senior adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and her former gubernatorial chief of staff. Also named: Private attorney and ex-Senate Judiciary Committee staffer Steven Dettelbach for the northern district of Ohio; private attorney and former South Dakota state prosecutor Brendan Johnson for South Dakota; Assistant U.S. Attorney and current interim Karen Loeffler for Alaska; Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence T. Nakakuni for Hawaii; and former assistant U.S. attorney Carter M. Stewart for the southern district of Ohio.

Bush Anti-Terror Policies Get Reluctant Revisit: Obama administration officials have begun to concede that they cannot leave the fight against terrorism unexhumed and are reluctantly moving to examine some of the most controversial and clandestine episodes.

More Families Are Becoming Homeless: The largest increases in 2008 came in rural and suburban areas, according to a HUD study.

White House Eyes Bailout Funds to Aid Small Firms: The administration wants to take money from the $700 billion rescue program for the banking system and make it available to millions of small businesses.

'Inappropriate' Secrecy Hurt Surveillance Effort, Report Says: A report by inspectors general from five intelligence agencies said the administration's tight control over who learned of the program also contributed to flawed legal arguments that nearly prompted mass resignations in the Justice Department five years ago.

DHS Alters Its Illegal Immigrant Program: The department will rein in a controversial program that deputizes state and local police agencies to enforce federal immigration laws by targeting illegal immigrants who commit major drug or violent crimes.

Senators Seek to Cut 23 Senior Pentagon Positions: Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee want to eliminate all but five of 28 deputy undersecretary of defense positions. Six new assistant secretary positions would be created to fill jobs now held by deputy undersecretaries.

Report: VA Putting Patients at Risk of Overdose: Two years after an Iraq war veteran overdosed on medication at a Veterans Affairs facility, the problems blamed in his death have not been corrected at many of the department's residential treatment sites, a government study found.

VA Struggles With Backlog of Disabilities: The department says its average time for processing claims is better than in at least eight years. But it does not deny that it has a major problem, with some claims languishing for many months in the department’s overtaxed bureaucracy.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 13, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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