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USGS Director (Former NASA Astronaut) James Reilly Retaliated Against Whistleblower

By Keith Cowing on October 29, 2020 7:07 PM.

Top Interior official retaliated against whistleblower, watchdog says, The Hill

"The leader of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) retaliated against an employee who filed a complaint against him, according to an internal watchdog. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Interior Department said in a new report that [former NASA astronaut and] USGS Director James Reilly had agency personnel reassign someone who had complained about him to a different job and concluded that the reassignment "qualified as personnel action under the [Whistleblower Protection Act]."

Alleged Reprisal by USGS Director, USGS OIG

Keith's 28 October update: But wait, there's more:

- Trump official stalls polar bear study that could affect oil drilling in Alaska, Washington Post
- USGS chief: Coral killed by pineapples, goats (and climate), E&E News
- The Trump Team Has a Plan to Not Fight Climate Change, Wired
- Trump officials deleting mentions of 'climate change' from U.S. Geological Survey press releases, Science

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NASA Talks About The Artemis Generation And Then Ignores Their Interest

By Keith Cowing on October 29, 2020 12:49 PM.

Keith's note: Why does the NASA HQ STEM Engagement Office, NASA Wallops, and NASA Langley ignore this overtly space-themed activity that involves NASA employees - in Virginia? This 4-H activity is precisely the sort of new audience that NASA needs to be cultivating since they represent the "Artemis Generation" that NASA keeps talking about inspiring. I just asked Mike Kincaid, the AA at the STEM Engagement Office and HQ PAO NASA about this, FWIW.

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Kepler Provides An Estimate Of Eta_Earth*

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 11:31 PM.

The Occurrence of Rocky Habitable Zone Planets Around Solar-Like Stars from Kepler Data

"We present occurrence rates for rocky planets in the habitable zones (HZ) of main-sequence dwarf stars based on the Kepler DR25 planet candidate catalog and Gaia-based stellar properties. ... We estimate with 95% confidence that, on average, the nearest HZ planet around G and K dwarfs is about 6 pc away, and there are about 4 HZ rocky planets around G and K dwarfs within 10 pc of the Sun."

*"The term eta-Earth (also written as ZE) is defined as the mean number per star of rocky planets with between 1 and 1.5-2 Earth-radii that reside in the optimistic habitable zone (HZ) of their host star. Eta-Earth enters one formulation of the Drake equation, which endeavors to estimate the occurrence of intelligent life in the Galaxy; at the present time, it is usually calculated separately for each stellar spectral type. Thus, eta-Earth represents the occurrence rate of rocky planets in the optimistic HZ of different stars. The References present some values for eta Earth based on different statistical analyses of the data from the Kepler space telescope."

Source: Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

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Former NASA Chief Of Staff Erik Noble Purges NOAA Chief Scientist

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 10:15 PM.

As Election Nears, Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science, NY Times

"The Trump administration has recently removed the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation's premier scientific agency, installed new political staff who have questioned accepted facts about climate change and imposed stricter controls on communications at the agency. The moves threaten to stifle a major source of objective United States government information about climate change that underpins federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions and offer an indication of the direction the agency will take if President Trump wins re-election. An early sign of the shift came last month, when Erik Noble, a former White House policy adviser who had just been appointed NOAA's chief of staff, removed Craig McLean, the agency's acting chief scientist."

Top NOAA Scientist Fired After Asking Trump Appointees to Acknowledge Agency Scientific Integrity Policy, Daily Beast

"Noble responded the next day, "You no longer serve as the acting chief scientist for NOAA. Thank you for your service." In McLean's stead, Noble hired Ryan Maue, a former researcher for a libertarian think tank. Maue has previously said scientists have made overly dire predictions about climate change. Trump's administration has attempted to manipulate NOAA throughout his term."

- Chief of Staff Erik Noble Has Left NASA, Earlier post
- More Trump Staff Changes at NASA HQ (Update), Earlier post

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Yet Another Military Infomercial From ISS

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 8:19 PM.

NASA's Crew-1 commander to be sworn into U.S. Space Force from the International Space Station, Space News

"NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, a U.S. Air Force colonel and the commander of the upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, is transferring to the U.S. Space Force and is expected to be commissioned aboard the International Space Station. "If all goes well, we're looking to swear him into the Space Force from the International Space Station," said Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force."

Keith's note: Swearing in someone to get a new job elsewhere in the Federal government on the ISS may seem a little extreme - but why not. But wait: has anyone else's new job been announced like this from the ISS by the U.S.? Out of curiosity, since NASA is all about charging people for things being done on the ISS, who is paying for the crew times, comms, etc. involved in this announcement? That would make a fun FOIA request to file. NASA is supposed to be a civilian space agency. And I seem to recall from my days at NASA that Japan signed on to the ISS with the caveat that no military activities be conducted there. And yes, I know that many U.S. Astronauts still have military ties.

But since the Space Force came into existence, the once clear lines between civilian and military space seem to have become increasingly blurred - especially when the NASA Administrator makes repeated complimentary public statements about Space Force - with the ISS used as a backdrop for military recruiting commercials. Just sayin'

- Earlier Military space postings

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NASA Drops The Ball With Its Own "Exciting" News - Again (Update)

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 3:18 PM.

Keith's 28 October update: I posted the following question to Jim Bridenstine at the AAS von Braun Symposium today: "NASA announced the presence of water on sunlit portions of the Moon. To use it ISRU will be required. Why has NASA not been talking about its extensive ISRU technology research in the wake of this announcement?" Bridenstine replied "Keith is right on. We need to put a focus on that. We formed the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium and brought in expertise from outside NASA ... NASA may or may not have all the answers so we're bringing people in from outside." He then went through a long list of technologies needed to do ISRU on the lunar surface.

Keith's 27 October note: Last week NASA started to hype an "exciting" announcement about the Moon (that's the word they used). OK - so yesterday's news more or less passes the "exciting" threshold. So - what does NASA do to follow up on the importance of this discovery to "sustainable" lunar presence that Jim Bridenstine talks about? Nothing. They had a week to dig up follow-on stories and contributing research and present them so as to build upon this news. But nevermind - that would suggest that NASA has a consistent whole-agency strategy for this whole Artemis thing.

Lunar ISRU 2019: Developing a New Space Economy Through Lunar Resources and Their Utilization Workshop Report

"Background: The United States has an ambitious plan to get humans to the Moon to stay and to get humans to Mars. Technologies to extract and process lunar resources still need to be demonstrated but architectures that make use of these resources will lead to eventual sustainability, even if initially the "resources" need to be brought from Earth. Care must be taken to not accept architectures that preclude future use of ISRU resources in order to meet early mission goals."

- Looks Like The Moon Has Water All Over The Place, earlier post
- "Exciting" Moon News. More Water?, earlier post

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More Teasing By Space Droids UPDATE: False Alarm

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 12:14 PM.

Keith's note: False alarm. Nothing interesting. This is what the dead lander had to say: Philae's second touchdown site discovered at 'skull-top' ridge. FWIW teasing the media is the best way to have reporters start to ignore these please to pay attention to "news". Just sayin' Categories:

Elon Is Really Thinking Interplanetary

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2020 11:29 AM.

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About That Phosphine On Venus Discovery ...

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2020 10:11 PM.

No Phosphine In The Atmosphere Of Venus

"The detection of phosphine (PH3) has been recently reported in the atmosphere of Venus employing mm-wave radio observations (Greaves et at. 2020). We here demonstrate that the observed PH3 feature with JCMT can be fully explained employing plausible mesospheric SO2 abundances (~100 ppbv as per the SO2 profile given in their figure 9), while the identification of PH3 in the ALMA data should be considered invalid due to severe baseline calibration issues. We demonstrate this by independently calibrating and analyzing the ALMA data using different interferometric analysis tools, in which we observe no PH3 in all cases."

- Phosphine Detected In The Atmosphere of Venus - An Indicator of Possible Life?, earlier post
- Re-analysis Of The 267-GHz ALMA Observations of Venus: No Statistically Significant Detection Of Phosphine, earlier post
- A Stringent Upper Limit Of The PH3 (Phosphine) Abundance At The Cloud Top Of Venus , earlier post
- Hypothesis Perspectives: Might Active Volcanisms Today Contribute To The Presence Of Phosphine In Venus's Atmosphere?, earlier post
- Phosphine On Venus Cannot Be Explained By Conventional Processes, earlier post
- Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus, earlier post
- Possible Marker Of Life Spotted On Venus, earlier post

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OSTP Hypes Trump Administration Science & Tech Advances - Plus One Colossal Lie

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2020 5:59 PM.

Trump Administration Releases Science and Technology Accomplishments from First Term, OSTP

"RETURNING TO SPACE EXPLORATION: Since reviving the National Space Council, President Trump established a whole-of-government effort to lead again in human space exploration, safeguard the space environment, promote national security, and streamline regulations to foster commercial space activities."

Advancing America's Global Leadership in Science & Technology - Trump Administration Highlights: 2017-2020 (report)

Keith's note: But wait: while OSTP's Director Kelvin Droegemeier crows about accomplishments in various areas of science and technology, there is this glowing error that is wholly untrue - one which should, at a minimum - cause you to question the veracity of claims made by OSTP i.e. "ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC". The pandemic has not been ended. Not even close since it is entering its most harrowing phase. To even suggest otherwise is to spew demonstrably false propaganda.

White House science office takes credit for 'ending' pandemic as infections mount, Politico

"The White House's science policy office on Tuesday ranked "ending the Covid-19 pandemic" atop the list of President Donald Trump's top first-term accomplishments, even as the country registers record amounts of infections and hospitals fill up again."

Trump Administration Releases Science and Technology Accomplishments from First Term, OSTP

"Highlights include: ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Administration has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat, and defeat the disease."

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OIG On NASA Acquisition Workforce: More Improvement Needed

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2020 12:32 PM.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management Of Its Acquisition Workforce

"In addition, 95 percent of NASA's certified acquisition workforce met continuous learning requirements needed to maintain their certification in the reporting periods we evaluated. However, the Agency's migration to the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS), the official system of record for acquisition programs, is incomplete. As such, NASA relies on multiple systems and stakeholders to manage these certification programs, reducing the Agency's ability to fully validate the accuracy and completeness of workforce certification and training data."

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NASA And ESA Sign Gateway MOU

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2020 11:41 AM.

NASA, European Space Agency Formalize Artemis Gateway Partnership, NASA

"NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway. This agreement is an important element in a broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate technologies necessary for a future human mission to Mars. The agreement, signed Tuesday, marks NASA's first formal commitment to launch international crew members to the lunar vicinity as part of NASA's Artemis missions."

ESA and NASA Sign Gateway MOU, ESA

"The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway. It confirms ESA's commitment to delivering at least two European Service Modules that provide electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen to NASA's Orion spacecraft - with more to come. ESA will also receive three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on the Gateway."

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Looks Like The Moon Has Water All Over The Place

By Keith Cowing on October 26, 2020 4:28 PM.

NASA's SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon, NASA

"NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places. SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon's southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon's surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million - roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water - trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface."

Keith's note: I asked Jacob Bleacher: "Now that water seems to be a ubiquitous resource, one would think that the polar focus might pivot. Are you reconsidering landing sites as a result of this discovery? Up until now the Artemis program has put forth a persistent mantra about focusing human landings at the lunar south pole due to potential water resources. It has been polar, polar, polar." Bleacher replied that sunlight access more than half the time is also being sought in terms of power and you get that at the poles. "Water is one resource on the lunar resource but it is not the only resource - right now we are still focused on south polar region."

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"Exciting" Moon News. More Water?

By Keith Cowing on October 26, 2020 8:51 AM.

NASA to Announce New Science Results About Moon

"NASA will announce an exciting new discovery about the Moon from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at a media teleconference at 12 p.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 26. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website."

Keith's note: OK, let's use Google. Look what shows up if you search for some names, Moon, and SOFIA. Gee, I wonder if the "exciting" news has to do with water on the Moon.

INFRARED REMOTE SENSING OF VOLATILE COMPONENTS ON THE EARTH AND MOON, Casey I. Honniball, PhD Dissertation

"However, we developed a new approach to detect the actual water molecule on the Moon using observations at 6 µm, based on how geologists detect H2O in samples in the lab using infrared spectroscopy. Observations at 6 µm are only possible from an airborne infrared observatory, we were granted time on the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to collect data of the Moon. Using data from SOFIA we report the first direct detection of the water molecule on the illuminated lunar surface."

Lunar Observations from SOFIA: Recent Results and Next Plans

"Date: Monday, October 26, 2020 - 12:30pm PDT Speaker: Casey Honniball - Bill Reach Affiliation: NASA Goddard - SOFIA/USRA"

A Clearer Look at Lunar Surface Hydration, AGU

"Using the thermally corrected IRTF data, the authors confirm the temperature-dependent variation of hydration on the lunar surface. The surface appears less hydrated closer to local noon, at which time the surface reaches its maximum temperature. They also observe a latitudinal dependence, with more hydration appearing at higher latitudes, particularly in the southern hemisphere."

Of course, there is the ongoing issue of somewhat underwhelming support for SOFIA - and I guess they could use some good news - hence the hype. ARC, GSFC and USRA are really rolling out the red carpet for this "exciting" news. Stay tuned.

Continue reading: "Exciting" Moon News. More Water?.

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The Future Is Here, Y'all

By Keith Cowing on October 23, 2020 10:40 PM.

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NASA Weekly ISS Space to Ground Report for 23 October, 2020

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