Keith's note: The other day NASA sent out media advisories urging news media to cover NASA-sponsored and related events at the Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco from 9-13 December. But as is usually the case NASA cannot seem to coordinate among itself when more than one center is involved.
NASA HQ and NASA Ames put out media advisories that state "Briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. They will not be carried on NASA Television."
JPL put out the same media advisory but added detail:
"The briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. Some news conference will be available via live streaming at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2, as follows:
Monday, 9 a.m. PST- Curiosity Rover Update
Monday, 10:30 a.m. PST - Mapping Snowpack from the Sky
Tuesday, 9 a.m. PST - Improving Natural Hazard Warnings
Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. PST - News from Juno's Earth Flyby
Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. PST - Dynamic Mars Over Time
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. PST - New Results from Cassini Mission to Saturn
The briefings will not be carried on NASA Television."
While these events will not be sent out on NASA Television, most people who watch NASA Television on the web do so via NASA's UStream webstreaming accounts. So, why can't NASA's TV page link to these webcasts? Clearly there is some infrastructure in place whereby JPL is able to stream events over UStream. The events listed as being streamed are only JPL-associated events with JPL people involved. Why can't this web streaming hardware be left in place to stream other NASA events? AGU apparenly has a UStream system in place, why can't NASA tap that?
More importantly, why didn't JPL PAO tell ARC, HQ, and other NASA centers that this would be streamed so as to make sure that the media advisories that "NASA" sent out were all in synch? Curiously both the JPL and HQ media advisories list Stephen Cole from NASA HQ PAO on them - so there is some level of contact between JPL and HQ PAO - at least on paper. Coles's response to my inquiries on this matter: "confusing, I know, but such is the wonderful world of multimedia color we live in." In other words 'yea, so what'?
In addition to these AGU media advisories there is a separate NASA HQ advisory that was put out for a Mars Curiosity radiation briefing at AGU. MSL is a JPL mission. But wait, since no one on the panel is from JPL, JPL is not going to live stream it. But NASA HQ says they will provide an audio stream for news media and the public and JPL makes mo mention of the event or the audio streaming. And you wonder why the agency has 3 (or 4) official MSL websites?
Last week NASA SMD held an online Town Hall meeting with the planetary science community to discuss budget issues. Next week at AGU there will be many more of these official NASA-sanctioned events wherein NASA representatives tell attendees (taxpayers too) what the challengers are in the months and years ahead. There is no apparent way for NASA researchers to participate in these Town Hall meetings unless they pay the expense of going to a meeting operated by a third party.
AGU claims there is a virtual viewing option (which is confusing to use and tries to charge you $103 for "free" access) that offers free webstreaming but does not allow any interaction - which is odd since its rather simple to enable the chat function on these webstreaming events. I am now told someone is going to "fix" that. Meawhile, media has some access to online NASA press events but that assumes that the AGU decides that you warrant media accreditation. NASA has no input to that process.
In summary: instead of having all NASA AGU-related events in one place so as to best inform the news media, scientific community, and public as to what is happening and how to see/participate, NASA's directorates, centers, programs, and Headquarters all seem to be running in a different direction ignoring obvious overlaps, points of cooperation, and ways to utilize limited fiscal resources.Categories: Internet Policies
"Yesterday, one of the brightest stars ever to shine upon planet Earth departed our galaxy with the passing of former South African President, Nelson Mandela. A man of incomparable strength, wisdom, and compassion who has been a personal inspiration for me for many years, Mandela accomplished one of the most remarkable feats in human history when he emerged after 27 years as a political prisoner in 1990 to free South Africa from the clutches of apartheid and lead its peaceful transition to non-racial democracy."Categories: History
Wow. NASA is currently have a Town Hall meeting and essentially telling planetary scientists to look for new jobs. Wow.— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) December 3, 2013
"Jim Green, the head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, shook things up for planetary scientists this week by announcing a restructuring that will change how the division funds grant proposals. ... That's why some researchers--including Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona--have been railing against the restructuring on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Sykes says the change Green has made is ill-considered because it doesn't take into account the impact on the workforce. "There are many people whose research programs and salaries depend upon successfully proposing to several major programs in 2014," Sykes says. "They have just learned that there will be no opportunity for these programs until 2015. I have had several people tell me that if there is no regular ... call at the regular time in 2014, they will have to look for other employment in a year. There are postdocs whose positions are ending this next year, who would have applied to these programs to get started as independent planetary scientists. They need to find something else to do."
When it comes to planetary science will NASA soon stand for NADA?, Houston Chronicle
"Let's start with a town hall meeting (watch it here) that occurred on Tuesday during which NASA's $1.2 billion planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds research and analysis. Restructuring is a nice euphemism here. Due to budget cuts, in essence, NASA officials announced that it would not seek new research grant submissions in 2014."
"But at the town-hall meeting, NASA's Jonathan Rall said that funding proposals in this field are not likely to be due until February 2015. That was the last straw for many researchers who live from grant to grant, because most of their existing funding is likely to expire well before money becomes available for the new Solar System workings area. Outraged scientists vented their frustration in the comments section of the meeting website and on Twitter. "People are upset with not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, how they're going to pay the mortgage," says Schmidt."
"Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"Budget, Space & Planetary Science
Keith's note: This video was directed by Rajan Mehta, combining his footage of the aurora borealis with imagery from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Make sure to play it full screen with the sound cranked up.Categories: Videos
Are the Days of NASA's Science Flagship Missions Over?, Space Policy Online
"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had a tough message for the space science community today - forget about flagship missions, they're not affordable today. At the very same time on Capitol Hill, however, the chairman of one of NASA's key committees was expressing enthusiasm about a mission to Europa - unquestionably a flagship mission. The disconnect could not be more stark. Flagship missions are NASA's most expensive (over $1 billion) and risky space science missions, but offer exceptional scientific payoff."Categories: Space & Planetary Science
Keith's note: According to a release issued today: "The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved three bills with bipartisan support. ... Prior to debate on a fourth bill [H.R. 3625] offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), the Committee recessed subject to the call of the Chair. Chairman Smith indicated that he expects the Committee to reconvene to consider the bill next week."
Full Bill information (note the cosponsors).
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is going to join the party and will introduce an amendment to give the Webb Space Telescope the same protection against cancellation as SLS and Orion would get under this bill. Think of all the large contracts that will soon be voided and what this means for the way in which NASA engages in contracting for future programs - to say nothing of the contingencies that won't be in place in case a program runs into trouble - and the decreased flexibility the agency will have to manage its finances.
Rep. Brooks is submitting an amendment that says "Page 5, line 6, insert "If the Administration terminates a covered program for the convenience of the Government, then the Administration is responsible for payment of all termination liability costs." after "such prime contracts." In other words, the government accepts all the responsibility and lets the SLS and Orion prime contractors off the hook when it comes to termination costs. This bill only affects the prime contractors. None of the subcontractors get anything out of it i.e. ATK, Aerojet etc. Indeed, they are left holding the bag as far as their potential termination costs are concerned. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government.
If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. Here's an excerpt:Continue reading: Turning SLS and Orion into Entitlements (Update: Webb Too).
"The Planetary Science Division announces a virtual town hall presenting the Research and Analysis Program Restructuring. The town hall will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm (EST). A presentation by Jonathan Rall will be followed by a question/answer period. The town hall will be live-streamed with participation available to anyone having Internet access."
Keith's note: Follow comments on Twitter in real time here
Keith's note: From the comments section: "Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"
New also posted this: "Michael H. New: Do you want us to predict the number of funded PIs in FYxx? A very, very, rough estimate is to take your favorite R&A budget estimate and divde by $125,000 which is not a bad approximation for the overall average annual award size. This estimate, of course, ignores all year-to-year variations in the actual budget and how that propagates from year-to-year."
"The following is a statement from NASA's Planetary Director Jim Green on Tuesday's virtual town hall meeting with the planetary scientific community. During the afternoon call, he outlined and answered questions about the proposed agency restructuring plans to consolidate some of the supporting research and technology activities to ensure a balanced planetary science portfolio for the next decade."
"NASAWATCH: Is SMD management reading what the Twitterverse is saying about this Town Hall? Audience of followers exceeds 100,000 and includes journalists."Categories: Budget, Space & Planetary Science
"We stand on a great threshold in the human history of space exploration. On the one side of this threshold, we know with certainty that planets orbiting stars other than the Sun exist and are common. ... On the other side of this great threshold lies the robust identification of Earth-like exoplanets with habitable conditions, and with signs of life inferred by the detection of "biosignature gases" in exoplanetary atmospheres."
"Even today, children wonder, where did I come from? Astrobiology seeks to answer this enduring question."
"During my time as NASA Chief Historian, everywhere I went people of all ages wanted to know about life on other worlds. Astrobiology raises fundamental questions and evokes a sense of awe and wonder as we realize perhaps there is something new under our Sun, and the Suns of other worlds."Categories: Astrobiology, Congress
"Perhaps the biggest challenge NASA faced during the past year was managing its diverse exploration, science, and aeronautics portfolios in a time of diminishing and uncertain budgets. Along with the rest of the Federal Government, NASA began fiscal year (FY) 2013 under a 6-month continuing resolution that funded the Agency at the previous year's level. This was followed by a budget for the second half of FY 2013 that - after the sequestration reduction - provided NASA with $16.865 billion or $935 million less than the previous year. These financial pressures look to continue in FY 2014 with NASA shuttered at the start of the fiscal year and its long-term funding outlook clouded."Categories: Congress
Implementation of the Open Data policy, Public Private Sector
"This is a tracking tool setup to understand which federal agencies have deployed their data.json in compliance with Executive Order 13642 of May 9, 2013, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information and OMB Memorandum M-13-13 Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset."IT/Web
"SpaceX launched the SES-8 satellite this evening on a Falcon 9.1 rocket. Launch occured as the window opened at 5:41 pm ET. Second stage reignition and burn was a success. The SES-8 spacecraft is now in a nominal GEO transfer orbit. So far it seems that the flight was completely nominal."
Blue Origin Debuts the American-made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine (with video)
"Blue Origin reached a key milestone in the development of the liquid-fueled BE-3 engine by successfully demonstrating deep throttle, full power, long-duration and reliable restart all in a single-test sequence. The BE-3 is the first completely new liquid hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed for production in the U.S. since the RS-68 more than a decade ago."
"NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has been working with the company on several aspects of the engine's development. The program supported testing of the BE-3 under the agency's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative and continues to offer technical support. NASA and Blue Origin also are partnered in review and tests of the company's Space Vehicle design."Categories: Commercialization
"Photographer Shannon Bileski of Signature Exposures captured this beautiful photograph last Friday at Patricia Beach in Canada. It shows a bright meteor streaking through a sky filled with the green glow of the aurora borealis. Bileski tells us she was out at the beach attempting to witness and photograph the northern lights with others from a photography club and an astronomy club."Categories: Space & Planetary Science
"This interpretation responds to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding whether the space transportation regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would restrict NASA astronauts from performing operational functions during a commercial space launch or reentry under license from the FAA."