Brief updates: Congress and shuttle, Eisele's election, and China commentary

Another member of Congress has added his voice to the limited Congressional reaction to Endeavour's launch on Monday. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee with oversight of NASA, issed a statement Tuesday cheering NASA on the successful launch. Fattah noted that he and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter called NASA administrator Charles Bolden after the launch to congratulate him on the launch; Bolden, in turn, invited both of them to attend the final shuttle launch in July. Fattah was not present himself at the launch of "Endeavor" (as the shuttle's name is misspelled in the statement), but says that his wife and sons were there. As noted here last week, one of the candidates in the special election for California's 36th congressional district is an executive with an entrepreneurial space company: Stephen Eisele, the head of sales for Excalibur Almaz. In Tuesday's election, though, Eisele's bid to be the newest member of Congress fell a bit short: according to official election returns late Tuesday night he finished in ninth place out of 16 candidates, getting 660 votes, a little over 1 percent of the overall ballots cast. In the last few weeks a provision tucked away in the final FY11 continuing resolution that prohibits NASA and OSTP from funding any cooperation with China or hosting visits from Chinese officials has gotten some attention, particularly after OSTP director John Holdren suggested that the administration might exploit a loophole in that ban, with a corresponding reaction from supporters of the ban like Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Yesterday the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua published an editorial expressing its disapproval of the so-called "Wolf Clause". That clause, it claims, forced NASA to revoke media credentials for Chinese journalists who planned to cover Endeavour's launch this week (its primary payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, features participation from Chinese scientists). The clause may also prevent UCLA scientists from hosting a meeting at JPL with Chinese counterparts to exchange data from US and Chinese lunar spacecraft, according to an article in the UCLA Daily Bruin. A review of the provision by University of California Office of the President, though, said that the provision "would not necessarily prohibit NASA from funding research projects by U.S. investigators that include collaborations with Chinese colleagues."

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