NASA has named an interim director to lead the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

NASA officials say that Todd May has been named to the post after the retirement of former director Patrick Scheuermann.

May has served as the space center's deputy director since August and had managed the Space Launch System Program since 2011. Officials say May started his career with NASA in 1991 at the Materials and Processes lab at Marshall.

NASA’s new rocket program designed to eventually carry astronauts to Mars has a new   

  man at the helm. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

            John Honeycutt has been named the new manager of NASA’s Space Launch System program.

            The program is currently in development at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and aims to construct the largest rockets ever built.

House Committee approves tax hikes, NASA Smartwatch App

Sep 9, 2015

An Alabama budget committee has approved a cigarette tax increase and other revenue bills as lawmakers try to fill a budget shortfall.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 8-6 for a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. The increase would raise $66 million annually.

The committee also voted for bills to raise the car rental tax from 1.5 to 2 percent, increase the car title fee from $15 to $28, and adjusts the business privilege tax so smaller businesses pay less and larger ones pay more.

The civil rights trial of former Madison police officer Eric Parker was delayed for hours yesterday for a closed hearing involving the Madison police chief.

WHNT reports Police Chief Larry Muncey and other high-ranking members of the Madison Police Department were called into a closed hearing before the judge regarding allegations of improper contact between members of the department.

Muncey was asked to bring copies of all e-mails he sent regarding the trial. If the allegations are proven true, Muncey could face criminal contempt of court charges.

Huntsville Police Chief Lewis Morris says he's retiring on September first.

Morris made the announcement during a news conference this morning. Huntsville city officials say west precinct commander Capt. Mark McMurray will serve as interim police chief.

Morris has served as police chief since April 2012. The announcement comes a day after 48-year-old officer Brett Russell was convicted of federal excessive force and obstruction of justice charges for assaulting a suspect and filing a false report.

NASA Auburn
Auburn University

Auburn University has entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA to explore and advance the applications of additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing.

The act was signed yesterday by Dr. John Mason, Auburn's vice president for research and economic development, along with Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The agreement will allow Auburn students to engage in NASA's missions and opportunities, investigate and develop technologies and share NASA facilities and technical expertise.

Gulf Coast officials are worried that their communities won't get their fair share of Alabama's $2.3 billion portion of the BP oil spill settlement.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft says members of the Gulf Coast Recovery Council have some unanswered questions about the settlement.

The plan would give the council control over $599 million, but about half of that spending would still require federal approval.

VictoryLand Casino is asking the state of Alabama to return seized gambling machines and cash as the Macon County casino looks to reopen.

Lawyers for VictoryLand filed the motion yesterday after a judge ruled against the state's 2013 effort to close the casino.

Circuit Judge William Shashy ruled last month the state’s seizure violated the principle of equal protection since other electronic bingo operations remained in business in Alabama. Shashy dismissed the state's attempt to keep 1,615 machines and more than $260,000 seized in the raid.

Alabama workers are facing layoffs at the state’s Blue Bell Creameries facilities and at Walter Energy.

Blue Bell is trimming its workforce nationally due to the temporary closure over listeria concerns. Over 250 Blue Bell employees in the state will be temporarily furloughed, with another 45 losing their jobs entirely. Blue Bell recently stated that they’ll be cutting a third of their workforce nationwide.

Engineering students from Alabama are helping NASA design ways to dig for minerals on other planets. The agency’s Robotics Mining Competition begins this morning at the Kennedy Space Center.  Students from the University of Alabama and Shelton State Community College have built a robot digger for the competition.

Dr. Kenneth Ricks is an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.  He says this is robotics mining competition puts his team up against some of the best programs on the planet…

With only eight days left in the current legislative session, state lawmakers are running short on both time and options to patch a $200 million hole in the General Fund Budget.

The Alabama House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow on a budget draft totaling $1.6 billion for next year. That would cut around 200 million dollars from funding for a wide variety of state agencies. House Speaker Mike Hubbard says his aim is to get that budget onto the Senate floor, and then work with Senators on a possible solution to avoid those cuts.


The last known surviving member of the German engineering team that came to the United States and designed the rocket that took astronauts to the moon has died.

   Oscar Carl Holderer died Tuesday at age 95 in Huntsville. His son Michael Holderer says his father suffered a stroke last week and didn't recover.

   The German-born Holderer came to the United States in 1945 with a group of rocket engineers led by Wernher von Braun.


A federal judge will review an agreement to settle a desegregation case involving Huntsville city schools.

The school system and the Justice Department released the agreement on Monday. It's aimed at resolving disputes over the racial fairness of a student attendance plan devised last year.

The federal government objected to the plan arguing it didn't improve academic opportunities for black students.   The school system agrees to take several steps in the settlement, which follows mediation sessions.


The controversy over the end of the football team at the University of Alabama in Birmingham may enter its latest chapter today. APR student reporter Kristen Feyt has more…

The nation's first Hispanic female astronaut is visiting NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to observe Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ellen Ochoa will speak at the facility in Huntsville on Tuesday morning. The theme is "Hispanics: A legacy of history, a present of action and a future of success."

Ochoa became an astronaut in July 1991 and first flew aboard the space shuttle in 1993. The California native logged nearly 1,000 hours in space on that and three subsequent flights.

Ochoa is currently director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Three space station astronauts are back on Earth.

An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5½ months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA said everything appeared to go well.

NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and Russian crewmen Oleg Artemiev and Alexander Skvortsov flew to the orbiting outpost last March. Their departure leaves three men still up there: an American, Russian and German.

Alabama’s reputation as one of the leaders in the space industry is continuing to grow.  A private company building vehicles for space travel is expanding its work in Huntsville.  Sierra Nevada Company announced it’s teaming up with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and an engineering company.  Mark Sirangelo is Sierra Nevada’s corporate vice president.  He says they’re expanding in Huntsville to tap into the wealth of knowledge there.

A University of Alabama researcher and his team believe they’ve been able to observe a black hole destroying a star in a galaxy far, far away.   Peter Maksym led the study of data from NASA’s Chandra telescope that observed a large x-ray flare. 

Peter Maksym: “You have this tiny little galaxy that appears to have had a really huge x-ray flare.  This is really solid evidence that it’s got a massive black hole of some sort.”

Maksym says the flare was probably created when a star got too close to the black hole and was destroyed. 


NASA officials say brilliant lights and loud booms reported in Alabama and Georgia were a meteor that streaked across the South.

Officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville said a baseball-size fragment of a comet entered Earth's atmosphere above Alabama at 8:18 p.m. Central Time on Monday.

NASA officials say the meteor traveled at a speed of 76,000 mph. They say that just three seconds after hitting the atmosphere, it disintegrated 25 miles above the Alabama town of Woodstock, producing a flash of light. Woodstock is about 30 miles southwest of Woodstock.

Emmett Given/Marshall Space Flight Center

The head of NASA's next-generation rocket will be in Mobile to discuss the program with coastal residents.

   Todd May, who directs NASA's space launch system at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, will speak about the program at Battleship Memorial Park on Wednesday afternoon.

   The event is open to the public, and NASA astronaut and former space shuttle pilot Tony Antonelli will also be on hand.

   The space launch system will be the most powerful rocket ever built, and the first test flight is set for 2017.


The nation's space agency is tearing down a rocket test stand in Huntsville that was once used by engineers working to send astronauts to the moon.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says workers will use explosives to demolish the concrete towers of Test Stand 4696 at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville on Friday.

The 239-foot-tall tower was built in 1962 to test F-1 engines, which helped power Saturn V rockets to the moon. Documents show it hasn't been used since 1969, the year astronauts first landed on the lunar surface.


CINCINNATI (AP) — The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, says he has died at age 82. A statement from the family says he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It doesn't say where he died. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969. He radioed back to Earth the historic news of "one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA has received a flood of new black-and-white pictures from the Curiosity rover on Mars that it will stitch together to make a panorama. The photos began pouring in Wednesday morning after the nuclear-powered rover raised its mast that's equipped with the cameras. The raw images reveal portions of the rover's instrument deck, its shadow on the ground and the Martian horizon. Since touching down inside Gale Crater Sunday night, Curiosity has beamed home a steady stream of images, including the first color view from the landing site.


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A north Alabama company has won a contract worth as much $51.6 million for work at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The space agency says Analytical Services Inc. will provide strategic research and analysis at Marshall. It will also provide support services for communications at the NASA center. The one-year contract can be lengthened through extensions. ASI is based in Huntsville and has offices in Montgomery, Troy, Mich., and the Washington, D.C., region.


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA's Curiosity rover has beamed back its first color photo from the ancient crater where it landed. The view showed a pebbly landscape and the rim of Gale Crater off in the distance. Curiosity snapped the photo on the first day on the surface after touching down on Mars Sunday night. The rover took the shot with a camera at the end of its robotic arm, which remained stowed. The landscape looked fuzzy because the camera's removable cover was coated with dust that kicked up during the descent to the ground.


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on late Sunday after the robotic explorer Curiosity signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. The most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built touched down on the Martian surface inside of a giant crater after a tricky landing routine that included a series of braking tricks, a heat shield and a supersonic parachute.


MOSCOW (AP) — An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft (similar to the one pictured here) has redocked with the International Space Station after an aborted attempt five days earlier. The Progress cargo ship had separated from the station a week ago to perform engineering tests and try out a new docking system and had been due to reconnect with the station on Tuesday. But problems developed with the avionics in the docking system. The second attempt early Sunday was successful. Video streamed from Russian mission control reported no problems.

We now know that Pluto, the dwarf planet formerly known as a planet, has one more moon orbiting it. Using the Hubble Space telescope, astronomers have discovered Pluto's fifth moon.

NPR's Joe Palca filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The new moon is tiny, something between 6 and 15 miles across. It showed up in nine separate images the space telescope made in the last month. The latest image came earlier this week.