The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into this week’s aborted landing of First Lady Michelle Obama’s aircraft at JB Andrews, Md. The board will explore whether federal air traffic controllers were at fault in allowing the Air National Guard C-40 carrying Mrs. Obama to venture too close to the C-17 approaching Andrews before it, reported the Associated Press (via Forbes.com). Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, was also on board. The C-40 “compromised” the minimum five-mile separation with the C-17, according to NTSB’s release. Andrews controllers then ordered a “go-around” of the First Lady’s aircraft, a type of aborted landing, during Monday’s incident. While the First Lady was not in imminent danger, the high-profile abort came as another black eye for the Federal Aviation Administration, which has fired several controllers in recent days for getting caught sleeping on the job. (See also CNN report)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.