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Spitzer Space Telescope May Be Up For Grabs

By Keith Cowing on July 23, 2017 9:58 AM.

Keith's note: It would seem that the precedents set by GALEX and ISEE-3 Reboot have found resonance at NASA's Science Mission Directorate. I wonder how one might apply to take over Spitzer? Will there be a formal call for proposals, a NASA procurement notice, or some other formal mechanism to solicit ideas? If so, when? I sent a request to NASA. Stay tuned.

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NASA Administrator Apprentice Update

By Keith Cowing on July 21, 2017 6:14 PM.

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Commercial Crew Flights in 2018?

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2017 8:11 PM.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Flight Dates

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation mission. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly-releasable dates for both providers."

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TDRS-M Needs Repairs

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2017 6:27 PM.

NASA TDRS-M Status Update July 20, 2017

"NASA and Boeing are reviewing plans to safely replace an antenna on the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-M). The satellite's Omni S-band antenna was damaged during spacecraft closeout activities July 14 at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida. The TDRS team is also evaluating a possible electrostatic discharge event involving spacecraft mechanical ground support equipment at the launch site."

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CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2017 11:48 AM.

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."

LRRK2

"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

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CASIS Recycles NASA Hype In Its Quarterly Reports To NASA

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2017 9:54 AM.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

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Destroying History Is Never Smart, NASA

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2017 1:16 AM.

NASA Destroyed Hundreds of Mystery Tapes Found in a Dead Man's Basement, Motherboard

"NASA takes records retention matters very seriously, so upon receiving notice about these former NASA assets, NASA undertook a new inspection in 2015-2016," a NASA spokesperson told me on Monday. "NASA determined that the magnetic tapes were in all likelihood erased prior to their original disposition," they added. "In addition, the tapes were suffering from extensive mold contamination. Weighing these factors, the agency determined the magnetic tapes were of no intrinsic or informational value to the agency." But if the dates on the tapes are accurate, ranging from 1961 to 1974, they coincide with a time in NASA history when thousands of data reels were destroyed, abandoned, or repurposed. As a result, there are gaps in data from many of NASA's older missions."

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Target Sponsors CASIS ISS Cotton Challenge

By Marc Boucher on July 19, 2017 2:38 PM.

CASIS Announces Cotton Sustainability Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced a cotton sustainability challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, where researchers and innovators will have the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The challenge will leverage a broad range of disciplines to find breakthrough solutions that can be implemented affordably and benefit the cotton production community."

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Congressman Asks NASA About Those Secret Ancient Martians

By Keith Cowing on July 18, 2017 5:07 PM.

Congressman asks scientists if they've found ancient civilizations on Mars, Ars Technica

"The hearing was respectable, with on-point witnesses and mostly incisive questions. That is, until California Republican Dana Rohrabacher had his turn at the microphone. After asking a reasonable, if rambling, question about NASA's plans for a Mars sample return mission and the kind of fuel used by spacecraft, Rohrabacher got down to business. He asked, "You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago. Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?"

- Goofy Mars Conspiracies Part 2 (child slave colonies on Mars), earlier post

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Sour Grapes From Charlie Bolden

By Keith Cowing on July 18, 2017 8:14 AM.

Charles Bolden 'blunt' about Trump and space, says president 'talks a lot', AL.com

"The president had an opportunity after challenging NASA to show how we could put humans on the very first flight of SLS and Orion," Bolden said. He referred to the Trump administration's early request that NASA consider a crew on the first launch of the Space Launch System under development. NASA said, "It can be done, but it's got a healthy price tag, so we think we ought to stick with the plan we have now...," Bolden said. "The president could have very easily said, 'No, I want to do what I said.' We're going to put a crew on it. Go for it. I'm going to work with Congress and we're going to give you the money to do it.' That's the way we did Apollo."

Keith's note: Gee, if this crew on EM-1 thing was such a big deal for Bolden why didn't he say something like this at some point during his 8 years at NASA? Now it just sounds like sour grapes from the sidelines.

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Confusing Public Comments From the NASA ISS Director

By Keith Cowing on July 17, 2017 8:18 PM.

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

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Only Congress Likes That Space Corps Idea

By Keith Cowing on July 16, 2017 8:19 PM.

White House Opposes Space Corps, Space Policy Online

"The Trump Administration informed the House that it does not agree on the need for the Space Corps proposed in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) called the proposal premature because DOD is still in the process of studying potential organizational changes. The White House used stronger language to object to two other space provisions in the bill. The House began debate on the bill (H.R. 2810) this afternoon."

Government debates need for military Space Corps, The Hill

"The House moved forward with its plans to create a Space Corps this week when it passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But the proposal faces a long road before becoming reality. The administration, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, has come out strongly against the idea. And there's no equivalent proposal in the Senate, meaning the provision could be stripped out before the bill's final passage."

Congress Pushes To Create U.S. Space Corps, earlier post

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Fire at SpaceX Port Canaveral Facility

By Keith Cowing on July 16, 2017 8:07 PM.

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There Was A TDRS-M Incident During Closeout

By Keith Cowing on July 16, 2017 12:22 AM.

TDRS-M Status Update - July 15, 2017

"NASA and Boeing are reviewing an incident that occurred during final spacecraft closeout activities on the Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-M) mission at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, on July 14, involving the Omni S-band antenna. The mission team is developing a plan to assess flight acceptance and the schedule forward. These additional activities are under evaluation for a planned TDRS-M launch Aug. 3, 2017, on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."

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House Approves Apollo 1 Memorial At Arlington

By Keith Cowing on July 14, 2017 5:00 PM.

Keith's note: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that sets aside $50,000 stating "The Secretary of the Army shall, in consultation with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, construct at an appropriate place in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, a memorial marker honoring the three members of the crew of the Apollo I crew who died during a launch rehearsal test on January 27, 1967, in Cape Canaveral, Florida."

Ranking Member Johnson's Statement on House Vote to Establish Apollo 1 Memorial

"Today, the House of Representatives voted to establish a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the crew of the Apollo 1 mission, who perished in a spacecraft fire 50 years ago. It was included as an amendment by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in H.R. 2810, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018" (NDAA). The House approved NDAA this morning by a vote of 344-81."

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 21 July 2017 - Human Health and Performance Studies

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 21 July 2017 - Human Health and Performance Studies Video in Story

The crew of Expedition 52 wrapped up an intensive week of research on Friday, concentrating on studies in the field of human health and performance.

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