Buzz Aldrin called on the National Space Council to convince the president to "commit to a continued occupation of Mars with international crews." Credit: Wikicommons

Buzz Aldrin argues that NASA should drop a number of existing major programs to focus on Mars exploration.

In an op-ed, the Apollo 11 moonwalker said the International Space Station, Space Launch System and Orion were “eating up every piece of the NASA budget” and preventing the agency from doing anything serious about human Mars exploration.

“Again, we’re not going anywhere if we don’t do something about these issues,” he wrote.

He called on the National Space Council to convince the president to “commit to a continued occupation of Mars with international crews” on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing in 2019. [The Hill]

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A Vega rocket successfully launched two Israeli-built satellites Tuesday night. The Vega lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:58 p.m. and deployed the Optsat-3000 and Venµs spacecraft into their planned sun-synchronous orbits. Optsat-3000 is a high-resolution optical satellite that Israel Aerospace Industries built for the Italian government, while Venµs, a joint project of the French and Israeli space agencies, will provide multispectrial imagery of vegetation. [SpaceNews]

As Virgin Orbit takes delivery of its 747 aircraft, it expects its first LauncherOne mission next year. The 747, a former Virgin Atlantic jetliner that underwent extensive modifications, arrived in Long Beach, California, this week, where Virgin Orbit has its manufacturing facility. The aircraft will soon start a flight test program, and the company said the first LauncherOne launch is now slated for the first half of 2018. LauncherOne will be able to launch payloads of up to 300 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit. [SpaceNews]

Eutelsat said it is on track to resume revenue growth by 2019. The company announced that in its fiscal year ending June 30 revenue declined 2.2 percent, in line with predictions of a one to three percent reduction. The company said it is maintaining or raising its financial outlook across the board, and expects video services to remain a dependable source of revenue as it ramps up satellite broadband services. [SpaceNews]

India will launch a replacement navigation satellite this month. The IRNSS-1H satellite will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle by the end of this month to replace the IRNSS-1A satellite, which has suffered failures in its onboard atomic clocks. IRNSS-1A is one of seven satellites in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which provides navigation services in India and surrounding areas. [PTI]

The congressional supporters of a Space Corps within the Air Force argue that the organization could help solve space acquisition issues. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who successfully added language to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act mandating the creation of a Space Corps within the Air Force, said this week that the Corps could better manage space programs that have suffered cost and schedule overruns. They cited as one example recent reports about cost and schedule increases for the OCX ground system for the GPS 3 satellites. [Breaking Defense]

China will select a new class of astronauts later this year. Yang Liwei, China’s first person to travel into space and the deputy director of the country’s manned space engineering office, confirmed plans to select a third class of 10 to 12 astronauts by the end of this year. Those astronauts will likely fly on the space station China is developing and plans to have in operation by the early 2020s. [gbtimes]

As controversy surrounds one major observatory in Hawaii, another is being built with far fewer problems. The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakalā, on the island of Maui, will achieve a milestone this week with the arrival of its four-meter primary mirror. The telescope, the largest in the world devoted to observing the sun, is set to begin operations in 2019. Its development has progressed despite protests and controversy surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, which observers attribute to a variety of factors, from different approaches to public relations and management to the presence of a national park on Haleakalā that limits access to the summit. [Science]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...