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NASA Announces Lunar ISRU Selections

By Keith Cowing on December 3, 2020 2:13 PM.

NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations

"Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars."

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NSF Video Of The Collapse Of The Arecibo Observatory

By Keith Cowing on December 3, 2020 11:28 AM.

"This video, that starts with a view of the top of Tower 4, was taken from the vantage point of an Arecibo Observatory drone, utilized for monitoring the condition of Tower 4 support cables." More: Video Of The Collapse Of the Arecibo Observatory Categories:

Mars Ingenuity Makes Time's Best Inventions Of 2020 List

By Keith Cowing on December 2, 2020 3:39 PM.

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Orion Problems Threaten Artemis-1 Launch

By Keith Cowing on December 1, 2020 6:12 PM.

Update on Orion Final Assembly and Transfer, NASA

"While powering up the spacecraft to prepare for the pressurization of the crew module uprighting system, which ensures the capsule is oriented upward after splashdown, engineers identified an issue with a redundant channel in a power and data unit (PDU) on Orion's crew module adapter. The team is continuing with other closeout activities while troubleshooting the issue, including installation of temporary covers to ensure components are protected during ground processing and fit checks for bonded tile on the crew module side hatch."

Keith's note: It is likely that this fix will require months since the PDU is not all that easy to reach and things would need to be removed that are not designed to be removed once installed. It is rather unlikely that NASA would allow this Orion spacecraft to fly with this issue since the unit and its redundancy exist to meet some rather basic requirements set by NASA. The current plan (which is always on wheels) calls for the first full-up SLS/Orion launch (Artemis-1) to happen in November 2021. Add in delays caused by weather and the pandemic with the Green Run engine testing of the core stage, and it is becoming rather improbable that this launch will happen at any time in 2021.

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Chang'e-5 Has Landed On The Moon

By Keith Cowing on December 1, 2020 3:29 PM.

Keith's note: I will be on CGTN at 2:04 pm EST and on Deutsche Welle just after 3:00 pm EST today to talk about the successful landing of China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft on the Moon this morning.

CGTN


DW

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Arecibo Observatory Suffered More Damage Overnight

By Keith Cowing on December 1, 2020 10:01 AM.

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National Space Council Superspreader Series Finale (Update)

By Keith Cowing on November 30, 2020 5:22 PM.

Vice President Mike Pence to Convene Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council

"The Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 9th, 2020 at 12:30 PM EST. The meeting will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting will be livestreamed here on NASA TV, and additional details will be forthcoming. Following NASA's COVID-19 response protocols, the use of face coverings will be required for invited guests, and hand sanitizer stations will be available. Attendance will be limited to promote social distancing, and temperature screenings will be required prior to entry."

Keith's note: The event starts at 12:30 pm ET. According to the draft agenda there are 120 minutes of events to be discussed - 2 hours. That's it - all the security and physical arrangements and the whole Air Force Two thing - for a 2 hour meeting that could be done on Zoom. Gee, they could have just used a green screen on Zoom and inserted some shots of pretty rocket ships at KSC and it would look like they were actually there.

Right now the main topic of speculation is whether this event in Florida is just a victory lap for Mike Pence - or if the new National Space Policy that is finished and in the can will be announced. A "new National Space Policy" is listed as an agenda item (see below). But it only gets 10 minutes. Really? An entire, brand new national space policy only gets 10 minutes? Wow. What a rollout. Why bother. But this is all sort of pointless since any policy that is announced will be dead on arrival at the Biden Administration's doorstep.

Either way, staff involved in this physical event are not especially pleased to be called in to work a physical event during a worsening pandemic when a virtual event would suffice. And you can bet that most of the members are going to Zoom in anyway.

DRAFT Agenda: Meeting of the National Space Council Wednesday, December 09, 2020

"III. National Space Policy Update (10 minutes)
a. Dr. Scott Pace, Executive Secretary, National Space Council, provides summary of the new National Space Policy (public discussion on previously approved policy)"

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Review: Moonbase-8 Only Gets 2 Stars

By Keith Cowing on November 29, 2020 3:31 PM.

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The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act Turns 5 Today

By Keith Cowing on November 25, 2020 11:31 AM.

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Transition Team Activities At NASA Are GO.

By Keith Cowing on November 24, 2020 12:33 PM.

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Its Time For More Make Space Great Again Rants

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2020 9:20 PM.

Lucas Warns of Risk Posed by Chinese Launch to the Moon, Rep. Lucas

"The launch of Chang'e-5 is a significant step by China towards their goal of establishing a long-term presence on the Moon. The nation that leads in space will dictate the rules of the road for future technological development and exploration, and the influence of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the CCP's space program makes China a particularly irresponsible and dangerous candidate. Advancements by the CCP also jeopardize American international competitiveness in science and technology. We can no longer take America's leadership in space for granted and must continue supporting the men and women of the American space program aspiring to launch crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond."

Keith's note: And meanwhile back in the U.S. we have the Space Force whose leadership and fanboys have openly talked about sending soldiers into space and to the Moon. They stage military ceremonies and events on the civilian ISS. That certainly doesn't help to calm things down. As for China becoming more competitive with the U.S. in human and robotic space exploration, OK, they are. If we just got off our collective ass here in the U.S. and devoted the resources needed to deliberately stay ahead of the crowd then everyone else would be in our departure screens as we moved outward into the solar system. Unless, that is, we decide that thoughtful cooperation is better than blunt competition for the sake of competition.

This sort of paranoid rhetoric surfaced back in the 1990s when the notion of bringing the Russians into the space station program first surfaced. Everything the Russians did was evil. They could not be trusted. etc. Two decades later and the ISS is a stellar example of how nations can work together in a cooperative fashion in space. Indeed, the U.S. and Russia get along vastly better in space than they do on Earth. There is a powerful lesson there. If only we'd stop to understand it.

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Chang'e-5 Is On Its Way To The Moon

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2020 8:48 PM.

Keith's note: China has launched its Change'e-5 mission to return samples from the Moon. The launch aboard a Long March 5 rocket went off as planned and the spacecraft is now on its way out of Earth orbit and heading toward the Moon. Change'e-5 will land on 27 November, drill 2 meters into the lunar surface, and collect 2 kg of samples for return to Earth. The landing site is a volcanic feature in the Ocean of Storms. As such these samples could teach us how long the Moon was active after its formation, what its magnetic field was like, and what the interior may be like today. The samples are due to be returned to Earth on 16-17 December. Many nations are participating in the scientific analysis of the samples including U.S. researchers.

I am scheduled to be on Deutsche Welle TV at 4:00 and 6:00 pm and on CGTN at 8:30 Pm today to talk about this mission.


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If You Search For NASA Search Engines You Get NASA Pages That Do Not Search For Anything

By Keith Cowing on November 21, 2020 2:20 PM.

Keith's note: Do a Google search for "NASA search engine". The first search result that comes up is NASA Multimedia Search last updated on 26 February 2006. The second result that comes up is Tools for searching last updated on 21 July 2005. Look on the left hand side of either page. Click on simple search, category search, or Advanced search and you get "404 The cosmic object you are looking for has disappeared beyond the event horizon." Indeed the subsequent 5 or so Google search results point back to the same pages with broken links. But wait - use the search box in the upper right hand corner of either page and enter a term - any term. Guess what you get? "404 The cosmic object you are looking for has disappeared beyond the event horizon."

Summary: if you do a Google search for NASA Search engines you get a bunch of NASA pages with links to NASA search engine pages that are actually a collection of broken links and a search box that does not search. These pages have been sitting atop Google search results without any one at NASA noticing - and the pages were last updated 15 years ago.

Oh yes: go and Google "NASA CIO" and look at the top search result. According to Google Renee Wynn is stili the NASA CIO. This is because of a web page hosted by NASA. They could easily fix this - as I pointed out months ago. But the NASA CIO seems to be utterly uninterested in the accuracy of NASA's websites. But he is interested in making it harder for citizens to contact government employees at NASA.

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Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2020 7:32 PM.

Keith's note: Here we go again. Its presidential transition team season and all the space fans are lining up trying to get their ideas in front of the new Administration. As is usually the case someone starts a white paper and looks for supporters who invariably start to edit and nick pick and add wish lists. Space organizations such as the Space Foundation, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Satellite Industry Association, and the Aerospace Industries Association are supporting this particular white paper/position paper effort. There may be other organizations lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the AIAA are shunning the effort. For now. Other organizations have not been approached. Then there's swarm of space advocacy groups, pundits, and thought influencers, whose views will be all over the map. Welcome to the space community.

Eventually, since these efforts inevitably turn into a circular firing squad with everyone wanting everything they want - but not what anyone else wants, some early participants will walk out in a huff and badmouth the effort. In the end this will be yet another example of choir practice by the usual suspects in an echo chamber. Invariably, since only a subset of the usual suspects are involved, other efforts will pop up and the net result will be a inconsistent bunch of noise from the space community. Surprise surprise.

At one point the white paper says "It is imperative to fully fund the nation's space exploration enterprise in the face of competing policy priorities." Why is that at all imperative? Isn't defeating COVID-19 and bringing our economy back more of an imperative? Space fans seem to not be listening to President-elect Biden or reading the newspapers. It may well be that NASA's budget and the budgets of other agencies will need to take a hit to get us through this. Or maybe NASA can tweak what it does to be more of partner in a whole-of-government effort to solve pressing national challenges.

Oh and then there's the whole climate change issue that the Biden team has listed as one of its top 4 priorities. That is not even mentioned. Nor does this paper even reflect a cognizance of what the Biden team has been saying that it wants to do in other areas - and why it thinks that these things are important. Is NASA Independent of the national priorities that affect the rest of the government? Indeed the word "Biden" appears nowhere in this paper. Nor is there any mention of the pending issues affecting the new Congress. Cluelessness abounds within this paper that purports to represent the consensus of the space community. But space fans know more than the Biden folks do, I guess.

Meanwhile, the Biden Transition Team is having to work with zero cooperation from the Trump Administration while facing a raging pandemic and an economy that is spiraling downward. Yet space people seem to think that there is going to be a lot of interest by the Biden Transition Team in the self-serving wish list of all the space fans who think that all of their things are important because they think that these things are important. Read on and you will see every tired and worn justification for spending piles of money on space stuff in a shopping list meant to make everyone's Christmas stocking full.

And when the Biden Transition Team gives the space fans a look of bewilderment in reaction to a totally self-serving laundry list of "gimmies" the space community will turn and tell everyone that Biden is anti-space. Truth be known, the space community has lived in a little alternate reality bubble for far too long - a bubble inflated to near bursting with fairy dust and unicorns by the Trump Administration and its Make Space Great Again memes. Oh and then there's the Space Force waiting to beam everyone up.

The exploration and utilization of space offers to enable an incredible future full of promise, benefits, and adventure for both our nation and the rest of the world. Yet if we just leave it to the space community to call the shots then all we will get is a disjointed collection of more of the same - and less of the immense potential of what could otherwise come to be.

As such, here is the latest iteration of the space community wish list I have seen. Stay tuned. There will be more ...

"Leading the next generation in space - A vision for the 117th Congress"

"Space impacts every facet of 21st-century life. Business, governance, security, education, manufacturing, healthcare, communication, and many other sectors rely on space-based infrastructure and technologies. The nation's space exploration enterprise is facing unprecedented challenges and demands attention and action from policy makers.

To ensure that the United States continues to prosper and lead in outer space, the incoming 117th Congress will have to:"

Continue reading: Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again.

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NASA Public Affairs Is Bored With The Whole Space Station Thing

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2020 1:22 PM.

Keith's note: I was hoping to ask a space biology question to one of the ISS crew today. So, a few days ago I called the number listed in the NASA media release to get on the list but it kept giving me a "this number has been disconnected" message. So I sent an email to NASA PAO. They said that JSC PAO would send me the dial-in information for the media event. Two days later - nothing was ever sent. Last week NASA PAO pulled the same stunt on me at a Crew-1 briefing at KSC. And a few weeks prior they would not let me do a crew interview. Each time I ask why I get a lame excuse from PAO akin to "a dog ate my homework". I am the only actual space biologist (that I know of) who covers NASA. I just wanted to ask the space biologist in orbit an actual sciencey question or two since everyone else was asking about Baby Yoda and sleeping in space. Oh well. No one at NASA PAO takes the space station seriously any more - so why bother, I guess.

Keith's update: OK so JSC PAO says that their process broke down and that I was supposed to be a participant. The question I had planned to ask is being sent up to the ISS. This is what I was going to ask during the press event:

"Question for Kate Rubins: On your first stay on the ISS you became the first person to sequence genomes in space. On that expedition you used standard, known genomes as a proof of concept to test out the sequencing hardware. Now you're back to do more sequencing but this time you are going to do more extensive sampling and preparation activities. From one space biologist to another: Have you done any of this advanced sequencing yet and if so what species have you sequenced? Also - are you going to have the chance to exercise a biologist's inherent curiosity and swab the interior of ISS to see what you can find via sequencing? Follow-up question: Once upon a time NASA used to designate a "Science Officer" on the ISS. Now that you are there, arguably as the first space biologist/astrobiologist-astronaut, don't you think that it is time to resume that practice?"
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 1 December 2020 - Cargo Resupply Preparations

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