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Ad Astra Makes Visits With NASA

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2019 3:44 PM.

Ad Astra: A Conversation with Brad Pitt, James Gray and NASA Officials

"Join us for a special evening with Brad Pitt as he discusses his new film Ad Astra. He will be joined by writer and director James Gray as well as NASA officials, Dr. Sarah Noble and Lindsay Aitchison. Ad Astra is a science fiction, adventure film that was created with the intention of presenting "the most realistic depiction of space travel that's been put in a movie" to date. The filmmakers worked with experts to fully capture and convey the dynamism and power of the astronaut experience in outer space. The conversation will be moderated by Washington Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday."

Brad Pitt to Speak with NASA Astronaut on Space Station about Artemis Program

"Pitt's Earth-to-space call will air live at 11:35 a.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 16 on NASA Television and the agency's website. ... "We reviewed a script of Ad Astra early in production," said Bert Ulrich, the agency's liaison for film and TV collaborations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Although there was no NASA storyline, we provided some of the exciting images and footage for the film especially of the Moon and Mars. Sci-fi films like Ad Astra, the Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity take movie audiences out of this world incorporating some of NASA's most inspirational photography and footage."

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Is NASA Going To Have Two Centers Named "Armstrong"?

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2019 9:07 AM.

Ohio senators propose renaming NASA site for Neil Armstrong, AP

"Ohio's U.S. senators want Congress to rename a NASA research facility in Ohio after astronaut Neil Armstrong. Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown introduced legislation Thursday to honor the Ohio native by renaming the NASA Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. Portman says he raised the idea with Armstrong in 2012, a year before Armstrong's death. The senator says Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, wasn't comfortable with the attention it would bring. Portman says he has since spoken with NASA and Armstrong's family and they support renaming the facility."

Keith's note: Wait a minute we already have a NASA Facility named after Neil Armstrong - NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC). Don't these congressional staffers have Google to check this stuff out before running it up to their boss? Or is NASA going to have two centers/facilities named "Armstrong"? I wonder what the good people of Sandusky think about this? Besides much of this facility is no longer even used - parts of it have already been demolished and the reactor has been decommissioned. How many Orion and Service Module tests are going to be done there before GRC has to go out and find something new to do with the old buildings. If NASA is not done honoring Neil Armstrong then perhaps picking a quasi abandoned facility out in the woods is not the best way to do so. Maybe Jeff Bezos can name a rocket after him.

NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming, Earlier post (2014)

"Two generations of aerospace engineering excellence will come together March 1 when NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., is redesignated NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center."

Dakota Creek launches R/V Neil Armstrong , Earlier post (2014)

"Dakota Creek Industries (DCI) launched the oceanographic research ship R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) at its Anacortes, WA, shipyard on February 22nd, 2014. Construction of the  R/V Neil Armstrong and her sister vessel R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), also well under way at DCI, have progressed according to plan, meeting original schedule and cost baselines."

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More Q&A With Opifex Global About Their Astronaut Training Thing

By Keith Cowing on September 15, 2019 7:02 AM.

Keith's update: I got another response from Barton Bollfrass at Opifex Global and their commercial astronaut training company in response to questions I submitted after they contacted me about doing a possible story. (Posted below)

I really do not want to dump on the enthusiasm that these folks have for what they want to do. Everyone should have a chance to become an astronaut. There many paths to get there. I have had microgravity, centrifuge, remote contraction, and expeditionary training. These folks claim to often a different approach. I just think they need to do a little more home work on their curriculum an campus - based on what I can see in public view. Perhaps we will hear more from them in the future.

"Keith, Apologies for the delayed response. We are a small team at present and have been working to add content to our website. We listened to your suggestion and posted a new website today. Here are the responses to your second set of questions, and thanks for your continued interest in what we're doing. Below you will find the answers to the follow-up questions. "

Additional Questions and answers below

Continue reading: More Q&A With Opifex Global About Their Astronaut Training Thing.

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JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update)

By Keith Cowing on September 13, 2019 9:07 PM.

NASA: A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact, Texas Comptroller

"The Johnson Space Center (JSC) makes a $4.7 billion annual impact on the Texas economy and supports more than 52,000 jobs, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said today in a visit to the NASA facility as part of his Good for Texas Tour. JSC currently operates three facilities in Texas covering nearly 1,700 acres. It's the site of Mission Control, which manages manned space missions, including the International Space Station, and serves as training center for the agency's 38 active astronauts and 11 astronaut candidates."

Keith's note: Here is the Texas Comptroller's report on NASA's Economic Impact on Texas. You have to dig through their website to find it. Alas JSC does not provide a link to the report on its website.

Keith's update: It took a while but JSC added a link to the report. I just did a news search. The first two results are press releases I posted on SpaceRef and an article by Aviation Week. That's it. Otherwise no one else (as mentioned below) is paying attention.

NASA's Chief Financial Officer is the former State Treasurer of Arizona. You'd think that he'd want to tell people about this. He is not. Given all of the rah rah rhetoric coming from NASA and the National Space Council on the economic potential of space you'd think that NASA HQ would mention this report. They do not.

You'd think that the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation , the Aerospace Industries Association, etc. would mention it. They do not. Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Brian Babin, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson make no mention either.

JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update), earlier post

"This is silly. After the decision to put the Human Lander responsibility in Huntsville, NASA wants everyone to know how much of an impact NASA spending has in Texas. But unless you can make it to a room at JSC next Thursday you won't be able to hear what is said. Johnson PAO apparently does not know how - or does not care to provide a simple dial-in for media - or an audio or video feed for people elsewhere to listen/watch. One would think that NASA would understand that this sort of news, while pertaining to Texas, has applicability to the region and can also raise awareness in other states with regard to NASA's economic footprint. Given the sheer number of vendors for Artemis and other NASA programs, the entire country benefits."

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Saralyn Mark Responds To Marsha Ivins' Gender Diversity Op Ed

By Keith Cowing on September 12, 2019 5:12 PM.

Keith's note: Several weeks ago I posted some commentary "Marsha Ivins Opines On Gender Diversity At NASA: "Enough Already!" With regard to an opinion piece in Time magazine by former astronaut Marsha Ivins wherein she takes issue with comments by Dr. Saralyn Mark who testified before the National Space Council. Time magazine has declined to respond to her comments so I have offered to post them here.

Saralyn Mark: "As Ms. Ivins states in her TIME editorial ("I'm a Retired Female Astronaut and I Can't Understand the Obsession with 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews"), she did not fully listen to my 8/20/19 National Space Council testimony on sex/gender-inclusive design and innovation nor the related questions and comments from the Vice President and the Administrator which is unfortunate.

Please see the links to the actual C-SPAN coverage of this National Space Council meeting and to a Space.com article which accurately reflects my testimony. I've attached my written testimony (below) which had to be shortened in its delivery to 3 minutes due to time constraints.

Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that it is not about a "numbers" game when we discuss equity regarding women in professional positions. There is equity when everyone is given the tools, resources and opportunities to do their jobs well and safely on Earth and in space.

I hope that this discussion will continue in a constructive manner inspiring all of us to reach for our individual stars."

Continue reading: Saralyn Mark Responds To Marsha Ivins' Gender Diversity Op Ed.

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Selling The Space Force Thing With "Red Moon" Scare Tactics

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2019 9:35 PM.

Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space?, Op Ed, The Hill

"And that's a dangerous place to be. Nobody wants to be on record as having been the one who "lost space" and enabled a "red moon." If anything happens after November related to space that alarms the American people, the question to Inhofe, Reed, Shelby and Leahy, will be: Why didn't you act when you had the chance? It's becoming very clear that we are in a serious space race with China, and Beijing has begun a bold strategic initiative. When it becomes clear to the American people they are behind, they will ask why we weren't better prepared."

- Space Force Is Worried About Being Called Silly Names, earlier post
- DoD Seems To Be More Interested In Space Futures Than NASA Is, earlier post
- White House Wants Space Force To Be Armed Forces Sixth Branch, earlier post

Keith's 13 Sep update: Peter Garretson, the author of this op ed tweeted a link to this prepared statement by Dr. Namrata Goswami at a Hearing on "China in Space: A Strategic Competition?" held on 25 April 2019. It makes interesting reading. FWIW The phrase "Red Moon" is not mentioned.

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Bad News From Earth

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2019 5:52 AM.

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth, SpaceRef

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

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9-11: Old Flags, Sheer Terror, and Red Begonias

By Keith Cowing on September 11, 2019 12:00 AM.

Keith's note: I have lived in the Metro Washington DC area for 33 years - more than half my life. When I first moved to DC to work at NASA HQ I lived in Pentagon City directly across from the Pentagon in the River House III apartment building. The Pentagon was what I saw outside my window every single day. In the afternoons after work I often used to run on the road between the old heliport and the west side of the Pentagon - right where American Airlines Flight 77 struck. This image still makes me shudder. As I would run by I'd always note a window where the yellow crane is in the left side of the image. There was always a red begonia in the window. I could easily drag my fingers on the smooth limestone surface of the building as I ran by. There was simply no real security back then.

Had I still lived in my old apartment on 9-11 this horror would have unfolded outside my home's window. A friend of mine was driving to work and saw the plane come in. Others I knew were in the building and felt the impact. On a stunningly beautiful day we had been attacked in a brutal way by an unknown enemy.

I was home in Reston, Virginia near Dulles Airport desperately trying to post accurate info on NASAWatch. I was getting calls from NASA HQ about a plane circling the Mall and of another one coming up the Potomac. No one knew what was going on. American Airlines Flight 77 flew out of Dulles and almost certainly flew over my house. Later that day the skies went silent and jet fighters buzzed my house. One of my neighbors never came home.

One thing I'll never forget the flag someone had spontaneously draped across the railing atop the pedestrian bridge on Wiehle Avenue near my house the day after the attack. It was an old 48 star flag. It looked to have been folded in triangular fashion many, many years ago and had only been unfolded that day ...

I stayed away from downtown for several weeks since the Pentagon area was a mess. When I did eventually drive into town I saw that the State Route 110 exit sign from I-66 toward the Pentagon said "CLOSED". It all hit me again. A week or so later when I first saw the Pentagon from 110 when it reopened I almost hit another car since I was making the exit to Pentagon City. That scar on the building was overwhelming. A few minutes later I stood atop the Pentagon City parking garage and could see it in all of its gruesome glory. I was weak in the knees. I used to look out on this building for 3 years every single day. Now it bore a wound that defied belief.

Just the other day I was being driven into town to do a TV interview and the driver drove down the diverted path State Route 110 now takes around the Pentagon, I could still see the path it once took. I could also see places I used to run that are now behind fortified fencing. It is impossible to see that window on the other side of the Pentagon where the red begonias once bloomed due to fortifications that have since been built. A memorial now stands where I used to run.

The office with the flowers was devastated and has since been replaced. I'd like to think that the new occupants like begonias.

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JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update)

By Keith Cowing on September 9, 2019 6:19 PM.

Cruz's test: how to keep Houston central to space flight [Editorial]

"But the flesh-and-blood part of the techno-wizardry of the Space program has always run first through Houston. Not Huntsville, Cape Canaveral nor any of many NASA facilities around the country. Isn't the Texas congressional delegation disproportionately influential on this issue? It sure ought to be. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas chairs the Senate subcommittee on space. Rep. Brian Babin of Woodville is the ranking Republican on the House space subcommittee. Yet, a key part of one of the most ambitious plans in NASA history quietly walks out of Houston and ends up nearly 800 miles away. That dog don't hunt. Even before the announcement was made officially, Cruz, Babin and Texas' senior Sen. John Cornyn fired off a letter Aug. 15 demanding the pending decision be reconsidered."

NASA Invites Media to Economic Impact News Conference with Texas Comptroller's Office

"NASA will host officials of the Texas Comptroller's Office and news media on Thursday, Sept. 12 as the Lone Star state announces a special economic impact report for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The report, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact," highlights employment numbers, average wages, gross domestic product, and grants that NASA introduces to the state. The report also details the center and its workforce's influences on education, tourism and future growth, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. NASA's impact on Texas, and Johnson's position as the world leader in human spaceflight, remain strong as the agency moves toward human exploration of deep space with the Artemis program and a landing on the Moon by 2024, initiatives that include many key roles at Johnson. The news conference will begin at 11:15 a.m. CDT Sept. 12. Media wishing to participate in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11. Dial-in participation will not be available."

Keith's note: This is silly. After the decision to put the Human Lander responsibility in Huntsville, NASA wants everyone to know how much of an impact NASA spending has in Texas. But unless you can make it to a room at JSC next Thursday you won't be able to hear what is said. Johnson PAO apparently does not know how - or does not care to provide a simple dial-in for media - or an audio or video feed for people elsewhere to listen/watch. One would think that NASA would understand that this sort of news, while pertaining to Texas, has applicability to the region and can also raise awareness in other states with regard to NASA's economic footprint. Given the sheer number of vendors for Artemis and other NASA programs, the entire country benefits.

Oh yes the press release says "View the upcoming economic impact report and get more information on the Texas Comptroller's office at: https://www.comptroller.texas.gov/". There is no obvious mention of the report on that website. But if you search for "NASA" you get a link to this page where you see lots of pretty NASA pictures - but no link to the report. There is no mention of this event at the JSC home page. NASA HQ makes no mention of this press release on their press release page or the Artemis page. Nor is there any mention on the nasa.gov home page or its calendar of events.

Look at this Texas portion (larger image) of the list of companies that are suppliers to SLS/Orion/Artemis: "2019 Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Locations". These 182 companies are located all over Texas. I'll be willing to bet that nearly all of these companies have no idea that there is a NASA website that lists all of the small business that work on this project. The Texas Comptroller seems not to know about it. JSC does not mention it either. Why go through the time and expense of collecting this information if no one is told that it exists?

If you make it hard for people to find - or hear - your good news they may not find it. NASA has yet to figure out how to tell people about its good news. Meanwhile Jim Bridenstine has managed to learn how to livestream events from his cellphone. Baffling.

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DoD Seems To Be More Interested In Space Futures Than NASA Is

By Keith Cowing on September 9, 2019 10:45 AM.

Report: The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy: Report on the Space Futures Workshop, Air Force Space Command 5 September 2019

"Key conclusions reached were:

- The U.S. must recognize that in 2060, space will be a major engine of national political, economic, and military power for whichever nations best organize and operate to exploit that potential.
- The U.S. faces growing competition from allies, rivals, and adversaries for leadership in the exploration and exploitation of space.
- China is executing a long-term civil, commercial, and military strategy to explore and economically develop the cislunar domain with the explicit aim of displacing the U.S. as the leading space power. Other nations are developing similar national strategies.
- A failure to remain a leading space power will place U.S. national power at risk. To avert this, the U.S. coalition must promote and optimize the combined civil, military, and commercial exploitation of space to best serves the nation's interests.
- The U.S. military must define and execute its role in promoting, exploiting, and defending the expanded military, civil, and commercial U.S. activities and human presence in space."

Larger image

Hooray: Space Command / Space Force Is Here!, earlier post

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Rewriting Weather History With A Sharpie (Update)

By Keith Cowing on September 9, 2019 10:36 AM.

Statement from NOAA

"From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. This is clearly demonstrated in Hurricane Advisories #15 through #41, which can be viewed at the following link. The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."

Keith's note: Looks like the political hacks in NOAA PAO are taking their orders directly from the White House and not from NOAA's own scientists and weather experts. Let's hope NASA does not find itself in this situation.

NOAA staff warned in Sept. 1 directive against contradicting Trump, Washington Post

"Nearly a week before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly backed President Trump over its own scientists, a top NOAA official warned its staff against contradicting the president. In an agencywide directive sent Sept. 1 to National Weather Service personnel, hours after Trump asserted, with no evidence, that Alabama "would most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated," staff was told to "only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon."

NOAA's support of Trump over its own scientists provokes uproar in weather community, Washington Post

"Three former NOAA heads have expressed this concern. Kathryn Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who ran the agency under President Barack Obama, said that throughout NOAA's history, the agency -- including its political appointees -- has committed "to not let any political factors sway the scientific credibility and clarity of Weather Service forecasts and warnings." She stated: "The anonymous and disingenuous statement NOAA tweeted out is a major breach of scientific integrity that damages the NWS and stains the agency's leadership."

National Weather Service chief backs forecasters who contradicted Trump's Dorian claim, AP

"The head of the National Weather Service issued a strong public defense Monday of forecasters who contradicted President Donald Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama as it approached the United States. Director Louis Uccellini said forecasters in Birmingham did the right thing Sept. 1 when they tried to combat public panic and rumors that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. It was only later that they found out the source of the mistaken information, he said. Speaking at a meeting of the National Weather Association, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters "did what any office would do to protect the public." "They did that with one thing in mind: public safety," said Uccellini, who prompted a standing ovation from hundreds of forecasters by asking members of the Birmingham weather staff to stand."

Report: Wilbur Ross Threatened To Fire NOAA Employees After Birmingham Statement, TPM

"Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs from Greece to threaten him and top officials with termination if they didn't contradict a statement from the Birmingham, Alabama office undermining President Donald Trump's bogus Hurricane Dorian meteorology. According to the New York Times, Ross called Jacobs two days after Trump wielded his infamous Sharpie map to undergird his baseless conviction that Alabama was originally projected to be hit by Hurricane Dorian."

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Space Force Is Worried About Being Called Silly Names

By Keith Cowing on September 7, 2019 9:21 PM.

What will we call the men and women of the Space Force?, The Hill

"In the shorter term, Space Force personnel may conduct operations beyond Earth orbits in the near- to mid-term, so the nickname "orbiter" may unduly limit their potential. Defining Space Force personnel by motive power seems both limiting and premature. But "rocketeer" and "orbiter" have the obvious negatives of sounding a bit silly and not commanding respect. ... The main drawbacks of "trooper" might also sound silly because of pop culture references, and there is no clear understanding of what a space "trooper" does. Since the Space Force will probably not field anything resembling "Starship Troopers'" Mobile Infantry anytime soon (or for that matter, "Star Wars'" storm troopers), trooper may also be considered false advertising by the American public. In addition, it would not be a good idea to mirror image the Russians and copy their model when we are trying to create a separate and unique force of our own."

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NASAWatch on CGTN - Lunar Exploration

By Keith Cowing on September 7, 2019 8:50 PM.

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Insight Into SpaceX Starship Ops

By Keith Cowing on September 6, 2019 1:22 AM.

New documents reveal SpaceX's plans for launching Mars-rocket prototypes from South Texas, Business Insider

"New FAA documents sent to Business Insider provide a glimpse into SpaceX's plan to develop a disruptive new rocket system over the next two to three years. Every day at Boca Chica -- a hot, humid, narrow, and sandy strip of clay at the southernmost tip of Texas -- SpaceX workers toil over the rocket company's big project, called Starship. Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, envisions the vehicle as a shiny steel two-stage launch system that may stand nearly 400 feet tall and reduce the cost of access to space by 100- to 1,000-fold by having fully reusable hardware. It may be capable of sending massive payloads into orbit, humans to the moon and Mars, and scores of passengers around the world in half an hour."

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Technical Question Regarding A NASA Animation

By Keith Cowing on September 4, 2019 10:14 PM.

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More stories for September.

Global MilSatCom, November 5-7, 2019, London, UK
Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium September 10 - 12, 2019
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 5 September 2019 - Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft Departs

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 5 September 2019 - Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft Departs Video in Story

While flying about 260 miles above the border between northeastern China and southeastern Russia, an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft undocked and departed from the International Space Station at 2:14 p.m. EDT.

More updates...

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