"The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is holding its 41st Scientific Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 30 to August 7, 2016. As with previous meetings of this biennial international conference, a significant number of NASA employees and contractors have made tentative plans to attend including representatives from your organization. However, based on current US. Department of State guidance regarding offical travel to Turkey, the Administrator has determined that the Agency will not sponsor or process travel for the 2016 COSPAR conference in Istanbul by NASA civil servants or contractors, including those at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory."
"You may have seen the NASA memo stating that, based on State Department warnings, official travel by NASA civil servants and contractors will not be sponsored or processed by the Agency. Thus, no NASA civil servants or NASA contractors will be going to COSPAR. However, this prohibition does not bind those who would travel on grants from NASA or cooperative agreements with NASA."
"At least 28 people were killed and 60 injured Tuesday in an attack at Ataturk International Airport by three suicide bombers who blew themselves up, Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin said."Categories: Policy
Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS, Popular Mechanics
"According to RKK Energia, the prime Russian contractor on the ISS, the new outpost would begin with the separation of the Nauka from the rest of the old station in mid-2020s. By that time, Nauka should have two even newer modules in tow. One would be the so-called Node Module, a tinker-toy-like component that could connect to six other modules, crew ships, cargo tankers, structural elements, you name it. The Node Module is already in RKK Energia's garage and ready to go within a few months after the Nauka. Next would be the new Science and Power Module (NEM) which, as it name implies, will finally give cosmonauts a state-of-the-art science lab and a pair of large solar arrays, making the Russian segment fully independent from the rest of the ISS in terms of power, communications, and other resources."Categories: ISS News, Russia
"... The most significant item lost during the SPX-7 mission was the first of two Docking Adapters necessary to support upcoming commercial crew missions. Although NASA had planned to have two Adapters installed on the Station before the first commercial crew demonstration mission scheduled for May 2017, it is now likely there will be only one installed in time for these missions.
... we also found that for the first seven cargo missions NASA did not fully utilize the unpressurized cargo space available in the Dragon 1 capsule's trunk, averaging 423 kg for SPX-3 through SPX-7 even though the trunk is capable of carrying more. The ISS Program noted that unpressurized payloads depend on manifest priority, payload availability, and mission risk, and acknowledged it struggled to fully utilize this space on early missions, but as of June 2016 the Agency's cargo manifests show full trunks on all future SpaceX cargo resupply missions.
... risk mitigation procedures are not consistently employed and the subjective launch ratings the Agency uses provide insufficient information to NASA management concerning actual launch risks. In addition, NASA does not have an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine the root cause of a launch failure and implement corrective actions."Categories: Commercialization
Keith's note: The next time you hear the space and planetary science communities complaining about budget cuts consider what their NASA mission PIs are paid at SwRI (2014 IRS Form, Part VII)
[Juno] Scott J Bolton $345,145 + 51,887
[New Horizons] Sol A Stern $370,522 + 52,435
SwRI is not at all shy about telling you how much money they earn - indeed they put this on their press releases. They are a non-profit, so this whole income thing should not be all that important - right? Just sayin'
"About SwRI: SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 2,800 employees and an annual research volume of $549 million."Categories: Budget, Space & Planetary Science
Keith's note: Brooke Owens has left the planet. Ad Astra.
A memorial service for Brooke Owens will be held at Clear Creek Community Church, in League City, TX, at 10:00am on Saturday July 9th. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Brooke's name to one of the three following organizations:
Friends Thru The Fight (FTTF), a local non-profit which supports breast cancer patients through their treatment and were present in loving on Brooke and her family over the past few months, by visiting friendsthruthefight.org.
AidChild, a non-profit organization that Brooke served with that supports orphans living with HIV/AIDS who do not have the support of extended families in Uganda, by visiting http://aidchild.org/.
Mercy's Village International, an organization that Brooke served with dedicated to fighting poverty through the education of children and the empowerment of girls and young women, by http://www.mercysvillage.org/.
If you have any photos, memories or things like poetry or songs of or by Brooke, please send them to dawnbrookeowensmemorial - at - gmail.comContinue reading: Dawn Brooke Owens.
"The resources and partnerships that UK-based companies rely on are now hanging in the balance as the vote moves forward. However, a UK exit from the EU should not affect the country's involvement with ESA. The ESA and EU are two separate entities with different goals and member states."
"In a May CNN interview from the ISS, Peake commented on how leaving the EU might impact the UK: "The UK will still be part of the European Space Agency, that won't change at all. The European Space Agency is still part of this international partnership here with the International Space Station." Peake added "it really cuts through all barriers, its such a strong partnership."
"UK and European science benefit from the free movement of people between countries, something that has allowed UK research to become world leading. Although for example membership of the European Space Agency and European Southern Observatory is not contingent on EU membership, these organizations depend on international recruitment made easier by straightforward migration between countries. We therefore urge the Government to ensure it remains straightforward for UK scientists to travel and work in EU countries, and for EU scientists to come to the UK."Categories: Exploration
Keith's note: This TV commercial is titled "Astronaut lachaar, khatam hua aachar". You have to watch the entire thing to figure out what it is selling. Its hilarious.Categories: Culture, Videos
Keith's note: While NASA pours money into its goofy R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist, controlled by a human, and is always broken, Boston Dynamics continues to make astonishing progress on autonomous robots. Imagine if you had something like this on Mars as part of a sample return mission. It would allow access to places that rovers cannot go and has dexterity unmatched by anything NASA has built. Wouldn't it be cool if that first SpaceX Red Dragon opened up and one of these droids walked out?Categories: Exploration, Videos
Keith's note: NASA is holding a Viking 40th Anniversary Symposium at NASA LaRC on 19 & 20 July. This event has quite a line up of speakers for something that ought to resonate with #JourneyToMars (their poster even uses the hashtag). So ... when are NASA LaRC or NASA HQ going to tell people about this? There is nothing online at NASA LaRC, on the NASA HQ Journey To Mars webpage, or at NASA.gov calendar. I only heard about this via a NIA email notice for the live webcast and agenda.
Keith's update: PAO tells me that they just got approval to start talking about this event.Categories: Space & Planetary Science
It's part of an ongoing effort to correct what Ortiz called "misperceptions" about the Army by the general public. "We constantly hear America talk about the Army in a very detrimental way, in that we are low-tech, we are low-skill, and for the most part, because of those first two, we are the institution of last resort," he said, adding that the responses from the public became so familiar that "two years ago, we stopped asking."Categories: Astrobiology, Videos
Rescuers succeed in evacuating sick workers at the South Pole, Washington Post
"For the third time ever, rescue workers have successfully evacuated someone from the South Pole during the brutal Antarctic winter, the National Science Foundation said. A plane carrying two sick workers from the Amundsen-Scott research station arrived on the Antarctic Coast early Wednesday afternoon, following a harrowing 10-hour flight across the continent. Both workers require medical attention not available at the station, prompting the rare rescue effort. ... Typically, none of the 50 or so people who overwinter at Amundsen-Scott can leave between February and October. One former worker described the South Pole as more inaccessible than the International Space Station."
"NSF determined that an evacuation was warranted and called on Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air Ltd., which has a U.S. government contract to fly in support of U.S. Antarctic Program science, to conduct this mission."
Keith's note: I have flown in Kenn Borek Twin Otter planes multiple times in the arctic. More than once my pilot was an antarctic veteran - in once case, a mid-winter medical rescue pilot. These folks really, really know their stuff.Categories: Exploration, Safety
Keith's 23 June update: A week ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy. It has been a week and NASA has still not gotten back to me with an answer. Either NASA refuses to answer or (more likely) they cannot answer - because their answer would reveal that they have no idea where their claims come from.
After 20 years I can totally understand that some people at NASA are loathe to respond to NASAWatch questions like this - especially ones with a high gotcha quotient. I get that. But you'd think that such a basic talking point - one repeatedly used by senior agency personnel to explain the purported value of NASA to our economy - would be one that is strongly grounded in research data - data that should be at everyone's finger tips. Guess again. If NASA is unable to answer such a simple, basic question about a commonly-used talking point, why should anyone take agency staff seriously when they start to talk about commerce, economics, and return on investment?
NASA has no idea what it is talking about when it comes to its economic value to our nation. So they just make stuff up and hope that no one asks any questions.
Keith's 16 June note: I was listening to a local NPR radio station, WAMU today at 1:15 pm EDT when NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan was being interviewed. At one point she said "there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". I have heard variations on this line from NASA - about NASA - for decades. Sometimes it is $6.00 - even $8.00. And there is always a "study" or "report" cited as the source of these return on investment (ROI) numbers. Yet unfailingly when you ask NASA for the actual report - or a valid citation or reference - they can't give you one. I have even had NASA respond by pointing to NASA reports that repeat the same claim but never cite an actual report with numbers, metrics, etc. As many of you know if you repeat an apocryphal number like this NASA ROI often enough it becomes a fact at NASA. So I just sent Dr. Stofan and NASA PAO a request for a report citation. I think I already know their answer - if they reply, that is.Continue reading: NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value.
"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."Commercialization, Congress
Keith's note: I just got this email from Carol Hively, Director, Public Relations & Team Communications telling me "NOTE TO MEDIA: Today, the Space Foundation will issue a press release announcing data from The Space Report 2016. In addition to the data found in the press release, an overview of the report is available free to media here. There will be a charge of $99 for media to access the complete pdf of The Space Report 2016, which includes more than 80 pages of data on global space activity during 2015. Go here to receive the discount code to order The Space Report 2016 pdf full report for the discounted media rate of $99."
I had to read that email more than once. Space Foundation charges immense fees for its member companies, puts on lavish events, and never does anything in an inexpensive way. Indeed, according to their 2014 Form 990 Space Foundation had over $7,000,000 in income. And yet they want the several dozen news media (those who pay attention to the Space Foundation that is) to pay $99 to read their self-congratulatory 80 page PDF file? Really? You'd think that the Space Foundation would best serve its membership by making the good news about space economy available to everyone who is interested.
Keith's update: According to their press release "The report can be purchased as a downloadable PDF for $399. A website subscription can be purchased for $3,500." So ... now the non-profit Space Foundation is in the commercial market forecasting business, I guess. Again, you'd think that this report should be out in the wild for anyone to read.
This must be what it was like when Rome was burning.Categories: Commercialization
A pair of Expedition 48 cosmonauts are getting a Progress cargo ship ready to undock and redock Friday morning before its ultimate departure Saturday night. The maneuver will test an upgraded telerobotically operated rendezvous system installed in the Zvezda service module after the Progress docked in December.