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VP Harris Gives Astronaut Glover A Call

By Keith Cowing on February 27, 2021 4:45 PM.

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls NASA Astronaut Victor Glover

"In celebration of Black History Month, NASA astronaut Victor Glover welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris to the International Space Station for avirtual chat. In the video recorded Feb. 24 and shared Saturday, the conversation ranged from the legacy of human spaceflight to observing Earth from the vantage of the space station, Glovers history-making stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, and preparing for missions from the Moon to Mars."

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Yet Another Mars Rover Shout Out From President Biden

By Keith Cowing on February 26, 2021 6:04 PM.

Excerpt from full text of comments made by President Biden

"But then, last week -- (applause) -- guess what? -- we also landed a rover on Mars. (Applause.) We -- led by a NASA team in Pasadena, California. A rover carries instruments developed by a team here in Houston that will be used in the mission of our time and our dreams. Imagine. We tell -- everybody has been so down the last number of years about what America -- what can we do? Who are -- we can do anything! America can do anything. (Applause.) And now we see the images that are truly stunning: battling COVID, beating cancer, going to Mars."

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What Actual Taxpayers Think About Space Priorities (In One Poll)

By Keith Cowing on February 26, 2021 11:17 AM.

Nearly Half the Public Wants the U.S. to Maintain Its Space Dominance. Appetite for Space Exploration Is a Different Story, Morning Consult

"Making space exploration a priority though, even during a pandemic, could bode well for Americans' morale, Logsdon said, such as what happened with the first moon landing in 1969 that came on the heels of a decade of domestic and international civil unrest. "It was a counter balance to the negativity of the time," Logsdon said. "If we do inspirational things in space -- go back to the moon or travel beyond land rovers on Mars -- that gives us a sense of future, a sense of positive achievement to counter the pervasive negativity." ."

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Yet Another OpEd On What We Can't Do In Space

By Keith Cowing on February 26, 2021 11:01 AM.

Opinion: The U.S. put a man on the moon. But it might be harder to do the same on Mars.Mitch Daniels, Washington Post

"If and when humankind reaches that next frontier, though, there are reasons to doubt that it will be a U.S. government space project that leads us there. Ironically, the society that put a man on the moon may be just the wrong one to succeed in this next great endeavor, at least through a grand national project like Apollo."

Keith's note: In his OpEd former OMB director Mitch Daniels spends 95% of his time explaining why NASA will probably never send humans to Mars - as if it were an indisputable future - one that is really not open to further discussion. His only bright light in terms of sending humans to Mars is a single paragraph punt to the private sector - with no real elaboration as to how it might happen. In other words government=bad, private sector=good. Details to to follow.

Daniels has had a chance to really get into the issues surrounding human spaceflight a decade ago. But his efforts were widely panned as being a flop. He mentions a report issued by a committee he chaired. Specifically it was the "Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight", issued by the NRC in response to a requirement in the NASA Authorization Act of 2014. NASA paid millions of dollars for this multi-year report generating effort.

As I wrote at the time: "NRC says NASA Is on the wrong path to Mars. That's about the only thing they took a clear position on in their report. In writing their report the committee dodged all of the big questions with the excuse that it was beyond their scope/charter. Trivial mention was made of commercial alternatives or whether the SLS-based model is the right way to get to Mars. In the briefing yesterday Mitch Daniels said that funding for all of this is "the secondary question". So there you go - yet another space policy report - one that cost $3.6 million and is being delivered more than 3 years after it was requested. The White House and NASA will ignore it. Congress will wave it around and then ignore it too. In the end we'll all be where we are now - with incomplete plans, no strategy, a big rocket with no payload, and nothing close to a budget to make any of it happen."

So ... here we are 7 years later and we are still trying to figure out where NASA is going to go - and why. Daniels et al had a chance to try and reset NASA's course but they shied away from a chance to do so - and they overtly told everyone that that they were not going to answer the big, obvious questions this report raised. Now its time for him to pop up and criticize what has/has not happend in the intervening 7 years. Like cicadas I guess we'll have to wait another 7 years for the next Daniels update.

As mentioned above, Daniels has found religion in commercial space. He found it but does not know what to do with it. Daniels is somewhat correct in stating that: "To do so, our commission concluded, would require making the goal a central, single-minded priority of the U.S. space program; a relentless, unswerving multi-decade commitment to a pre-agreed path to reach the goal; and constant investments in amounts well above the rate of inflation. American democracy is not very good at any of those things." Again, as I noted, Daniels et al listed the problems but had no idea what the solutions were. So why have a report if the report does not offer a solution to a problem? Oh wait: I almost forgot; this is Washington. Reports are solutions in and of themselves. Whether they offer anything useful is beside the point.

Daniels concludes his op ed by saying "The new Biden administration's overall agenda is bigger and more expensive than any before it, yet it appears to leave little or no space for space. With a micromanaging Congress resetting budgets on an annual basis, picking out a priority for NASA and sticking to it for 20 years or more is likely not in the cards; we've proved very poor at "perseverance." Plus, our legislators regularly carve out NASA dollars for favored non-exploratory causes such as environmental monitoring, and fiercely protect multiple space centers and resulting costly redundancies."

Again, Daniels does a nice job citing all of the problems and challenges and predicting a post mortem on things yet to come - things that he thinks are immutable and unable to be changed. In many instances he is right. But enough with the problems already.

So Mitch - is there ever going to be a solution forthcoming? The Biden/Harris team - at age 1 month - has already been prompted to respond to the space issue multiple times. Each and every response - many unprompted - has been one of support. Yes, words and empty promises are the prime commodity here in Washington. But at least the Biden/Harris team proceeds from a point of optimism and hope when it comes to space. No doubt the reality of governing post-pandemic America will dampen some of this - but at least they start from a good place. You? Not so much. People tend to accomplish more if they start out thinking that they can. There's a little hope. Let's run with it - while we can. Ad Astra Mitch.

- Why Does Space Policy Always Suck? (2013), earlier post
- Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight (2013), earlier post
- Space Studies Board is (Not Really) Interested In What You Think, (2013), earlier post
- NRC Says NASA Is On The Wrong Path to Mars , (2014), earlier post
- Hearing on NRC Human Spaceflight Report, (2014), earlier post

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Big Aerospace's Chief Apologist

By Keith Cowing on February 23, 2021 6:14 PM.

Scrap the Space Launch System, Bloomberg

"Perhaps predictably, the program has been plagued with problems from the start. A report last year from NASA's inspector general warned of "rising costs and delays," "shortcomings in quality control," "challenges with program management," "technical issues," "development issues," "infrastructure issues," "performance issues" and more. A watchdog report in December found "uncertain plans, unproven cost assumptions, and limited oversight."

Bloomberg Assails NASA Space Launch System With Misconceptions And Faulty Logic, Forbes

"The editorial board at Bloomberg News launched a nonsensical attack on NASA's human spaceflight program last week. It was full of dubious assertions about alternatives to the Space Launch System, the first deep-space rocket NASA has built for human transport since Saturn V lofted Apollo missions to the Moon half a century ago. I don't normally call attention to arguments that I think are wrong, but since Bloomberg's screed was explicitly aimed at the Biden administration, I thought it might be useful to rebut some of the questionable claims advanced by the editorial board."

Keith's note: Forbes is pretty desperate for "news" comment when they print these blatantly biased columns about aerospace companies by Loren Thompson whose think tank employer is funded by the very same companies who get zillions of dollars from NASA to build the SLS. Despite his claim that he's responding to someone else's inaccuracies, what he actually wrote is a collision of contradictory nonsense, self-licking ice cream cones, and recycled Big Aerospace lobbying points.

This is my favorite, by far: "The editorial board complains that SLS is "years behind schedule." If it had bothered to look, it would have realized that every major launch vehicle developed by NASA and by private industry ends up running years behind schedule." So in other words, its OK for NASA to propose schedules and then let the companies walk all over them and stick out their hands to say 'more money please' since everyone overruns. Who needs schedules or budgets, right? It is just taxpayer money anyway.

To be honest though. I'm not sure the Biden folks are giving either of these op eds a whole lot of attention since they are two sides of the same problem.

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Congress Inquires About NASA/Russia Soyuz Deals

By Keith Cowing on February 23, 2021 3:49 PM.

Letter From House Science Committee Republicans To NASA On Soyuz Flights

"NASA's recent solicitation for "International Space Station Seat Exchange," indicated that "NASA has no remaining crew seats on Soyuz." At the January 2018 Committee hearing, the NASA witness testified that "[t]he manufacturing time of a Soyuz of approximately 3 years will not allow additional Soyuz to be manufactured." Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place. In order for the Committee to better understand what NASA intends to use the aforementioned solicitation to procure, and more specifically, how it intends to procure those services, please facilitate a bipartisan briefing for Committee staff. If you have any questions related to this request, please contact Mr. Tom Hammond with the minority Committee staff."

NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American (Update), earlier post

"So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?"

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2021 Bill Nelson Wants To Be NASA Administrator - 2017 Bill Nelson Says He's Not Qualified

By Keith Cowing on February 23, 2021 1:18 PM.

Keith's note: Rumors are starting to bubble up. Bill Nelson wants you to know that he really, really wants to be the next NASA Administrator. There is one small problem however: according to his own previously established criteria for who should - or should not - be NASA administrator, he is not qualified. Oh yes: former NASA Adminstrator Charlie Bolden agreed with Nelson's qualification criteria. Just sayin'

Keith's update: there was mention of this topic at the daily White House Press briefing:

Reporter: There are reports that Presiden Biden is considering former Florida Senator Bill Nelson to be the NASA Administrator. Are those reports accurate? Is he under consideration? And when do you expect an announcement?
Psaki: I do not have any personnel announcements for you or any expectation as to when we will have an announcement on a NASA administrator - or a list of potential people. But that is an interesting one.

Will Bill Nelson be the next NASA administrator? Twitter raises that possibility, Florida Today

"If Joe Biden is elected. I will give a recommendation of a handful of people that I would recommend to be the head of NASA, and my recommendation would not include myself," Nelson explained in August."

A politician who said politicians shouldn't run NASA wants to run NASA, Ars Technica

"In 2017, Nelson also led the opposition to Jim Bridenstine becoming administrator of NASA. Then serving as the ranking member on the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which oversees NASA, Nelson said Bridenstine was too partisan and political to lead NASA. He also accused Bridenstine of not having the expertise to do so."

What Qualified Bill Nelson To Be An Astronaut? Politics, earlier post (2017)

"Nelson overtly used his political position to force NASA to fly him on a space shuttle mission. His only professional qualification? He was a lawyer."

Bill Nelson: Do As I Say Not As I Do, earlier post (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Mr. Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Friday."

Rubio, Nelson blast Trump's NASA pick, Politico (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO."

Trump's nominee for NASA administrator comes under fire at Senate hearing, Washington Post (2017)

"The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," said Nelson, who wields great influence over the space agency, in his written opening statement. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration."

Bolden Throws Bridenstine Some Shade, earlier post (2017)

"He would not have been my first choice because he's a politician. And he is the first person, to my knowledge, ever selected from political office to become the NASA administrator. I don't think it's healthy for the agency to have someone who's a partisan in that position. The position calls for somebody who can carry out the president's agenda to the best of his ability but do it in a nonpartisan way and be able to work across the aisle. And I think his history is such that he may find some difficulty in working across the aisle."

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NASAWatch on BBC: More Perseverance Images From Mars

By Keith Cowing on February 22, 2021 9:00 PM.

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Amazing Mars Imagery - And Sounds - Released

By Keith Cowing on February 22, 2021 2:52 PM.

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Biden Continues To Praise Perseverance

By Keith Cowing on February 20, 2021 10:11 AM.

NASA Mars Perseverance Excerpt: Remarks by President Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference

"I know we can do this. We've done it before. Just yesterday -- after a seven-month, 300-million mile journey -- NASA successfully landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. It's on a mission of exploration, with elements contributed by our European partners to seek evidence of the possibility of life beyond our planet and the mysteries of the universe.

Over the next few years -- "Percy" is (inaudible) call -- but Perseverance will range and collect samples from the Red Planet and pile them up so another mission and rover, envisioned as a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency, will retrieve this trove of scientific wonders and bring it home to all of us.

That's what we can do together. If our unbound capacity to carry us to Mars and back don't tell us anything else, they tell us we can meet any challenge we can face on Earth. We have everything we need. And I want you to know the United States will do -- we'll do our part. We'll stand with you. We'll fight for our shared values. We'll meet the challenges of this new moment in history.

America is back. So let's get together and demonstrate to our great, great grandchildren, when they read about us, that democracy -- democracy -- democracy functions and works, and together, there is nothing we can't do. So let's get working."


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More Insight Into Biden's Space Agenda

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2021 9:50 PM.

Space exploration more about collaboration than competition, says Nasa's Dr Bhavya Lal, Times of India

"Congratulations on your new appointment. What do you see as the major challenges for Nasa and its leadership over the next 10 years?

Climate change poses an existential threat not just to our environment but also to our health and well-being. Nasa will be expanding its climate change research. Another challenge we would be focussing on is to re-establish America's standing through global engagement and diplomacy. We want to engage not just with our traditional partners but also emerging spacefaring countries and adversaries, too. Not just collaborating on the science and technology but also to develop norms of behaviour to ensure that space remains safe and sustainable for future generations. Another issue we need to be working very hard on is to build a diverse STEM workforce and inspire future generations. Last but not least, there's a lot to be done to support the International Space Station (ISS) and then to return astronauts to the Moon and then prepare to go to Mars."

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NASAWatch on BBC: Perseverance Arrives At Mars

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2021 9:18 PM.

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NASAWatch on Deutsche Welle: Perseverance Arrives At Mars

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2021 6:00 PM.

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Biden And Harris Applaud Perseverance Landing

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2021 5:46 PM.

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Building Artemis Back Better

By Keith Cowing on February 18, 2021 11:54 AM.

Acting NASA chief says 2024 Moon landing no longer a "realistic" target, Ars Technica

"NASA's acting administrator said Wednesday evening that the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 no longer appears to be feasible. "The 2024 lunar landing goal may no longer be a realistic target due to the last two years of appropriations, which did not provide enough funding to make 2024 achievable," the acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, told Ars. "In light of this, we are reviewing the program for the most efficient path forward."

Keith's note: This is, of course true - but it is not the whole story. It was widely assumed within NASA that when Vice President Pence suddenly advanced the Artemis lunar landing date to 2024 that it would be rather hard to make that happen. But NASA had to accept that challenge - and they did and worked hard to make it happen. But it did not happen. The prime reason for the problems lay at the feet of the chronic delays and cost overruns for SLS and its associated ground support systems. Even when NASA got the money it needed it still fell behind year after year as both the GAO and OIG noted with consistent regularity.

Then, of course, there was the ever-changing Gateway which added and then discarded features faster than the NASA graphic artists could update the pretty website imagery. And the lunar lander grew larger and more complex every time NASA mentioned it. So ... Jurczyk is right - he is just not fessing up to the whole story. It is mea culpa time for NASA.

NASA is as much to blame for the Artemis quagmire as past Congresses and White House Administrations are. Now, a new Administration has thrown a hopeful lifeline to the Artemis program albeit a vague one. The pandemic, a crashing economy, exploding government debt, and dysfunctional politics is going to force every program - in every agency - to redouble its explanation as to why it needs to be done.

The Biden Administration's slogan "Build Back Better" should be something that everyone at NASA pays attention to. Artemis is going to change - and be fixed - for the "better". A reformatted Artemis may well accomplish much of its original intent - but NASA may also be directed to focus human spaceflight efforts elsewhere as well. But refocusing of human spaceflight at NASA - regardless of what that ends up being - is only going to work out well if NASA stops the whole smoke and mirrors, shift the blame, give-us-what-we-want-because-we-say-so, tactics and openly admits that it did things wrong with Artemis.

Moreover, instead of being an outlier when it comes to overall national priorities, NASA needs to start becoming more of a "whole of government" player. Otherwise it may just find itself standing there with an empty, outstretched hand. NASA is also going to have to learn to let go of some things and adopt other novel approaches in the process of building back Artemis better. As soon as the new TBD NASA Administrator arrives the agency needs to hit the ground running.

- Big Aerospace Still Wants Everything That Trump Promised, earlier post
- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- Surprise: SLS Will Cost 30% More Than The Last Big Cost Increase, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Surprise, Surprise: Orion Is Behind Schedule, Over Cost, And Lacks Transparency, earlier post
- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- previous SLS/Orion posts

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NASA Weekly ISS Space to Ground Report for 26 February, 2021

NASA Weekly ISS Space to Ground Report for 26 February, 2021 Video in Story

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

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