Proud to enable the first successful DNA amplification in space!https://t.co/if4DEQS32W— miniPCR (@miniPCR) May 25, 2016
"miniPCR announced the first successful DNA amplification on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a miniPCR thermal cycler, astronauts performed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on DNA samples on April 19th. Analysis performed today on Earth confirms that DNA amplification done in microgravity was successful, ushering in a new era in space exploration."
Keith's note: This is really cool news. But does CASIS make any mention of this major accomplishment on their website or @ISS_CASIS? Of course not.
Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online
"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."
"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."
SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider
"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."Categories: Commercialization, Congress
"A mysterious new website has popped up accusing billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk of cronyism and inappropriate ties to top political leaders. But who, exactly, is behind the site remains unclear, as its sponsors have taken steps to hide their identities. The focal point of WhoIsElonMusk.com is a slickly produced video, posted just days ago, that slams Musk as an "American Swindler" and a "foreign-born" businessman who got rich off U.S. tax dollars. ... The website appears to have been designed by Orange Hat, an Alexandria-based firm. The firm promises to "utilize the most effective digital resources to engage and mobilize your target audience and drive measurable results." Keith Cowing, of the blog NASA Watch, first uncovered the connection to Orange Hat. Randy Skoglund, Orange Hat's managing partner, declined to comment on the anti-Musk website when contacted by phone Wednesday, and then hung up. Brad Summey, the firm's chief Technology officer, did not respond to requests for comment."
Keith's update: Someone (or several people) are posting under anonymous names from the same IP at ULA today in Colorado reveling in the comments about Musk and SpaceX. This cloak and dagger stuff seems to play well outside the beltway as well.
Keith's note: I was reading an article on the The Hill tonight when this add popped up that sent me to http://whoiselonmusk.com/ which is an anonymous attack website dedicated to the notion that Elon Musk is the spawn of Satan or awful or something. At the bottom of the page the site says that it is paid for by "The Center for Business and Responsible Government (CBRG) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to highlighting cronyism and its effect on American taxpayers and policy. We believe public officials should establish an even playing field for all businesses to compete in the marketplace, not just those special interests who line their pockets." Of course no such group actually exists and and the domain registration information for whoiselonmusk.com is hidden.
So I did an old-fashioned "view Source" and looked around and found http://musk.sladedev.com/ near the bottom which redirects to http://whoiselonmusk.com/. But http://sladedev.com goes to a holding page for Slade Technologies. The domain registration for sladedev.com with a contact name of Brad Summey - firstname.lastname@example.org. If you go to the domain registration details for Savage Jerky there is a contact name of Kenneth Summey - email@example.com. Both domains list a contact address of Savage Jerky Co., LLC 2133 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd Suite 12-405 Suwanee Georgia 30043.
If you Google "Brad Summey" (picture on the right) you see a linked in page https://www.linkedin.com/in/kbsummey - "Kb" Summey - I guess that's where "Kenneth" and "Brad" comes from. Brad Summey is CTO for Orange Hat Group, LLC - http://www.OrangeHatGroup.com located at 950 N. Washington St #319 Alexandria, VA 22314. Looks like these guys do lots of political and issue-oriented stuff. Indeed if you go to this page at OpenSecrets.org you will see that Kline for Congress Cmte (Rep. Kline R-MN) paid them $11,550 in 2014 and Friends of Erik Paulsen (R-MN) paid them $101,650 in 2013/2014. Hmm ... two members of Congress - both from Minnesota.
Oh yes, if you go to If you go to http://www.orangehatgroup.com/news/ you will see that he retweets "RT @SavageJerky: Today's the day. We're giving a 6 month supply of jerky to a lucky follower on #SuperBowl Sunday. #jerky #giveaway http://@OrangeHatGroup 06:55pm, 01 Feb". So Orange Hat is into beef jerky too. You can also follow Brad on Twitter at @kbsummey.
So ... what does a guy who runs a beef jerky company in Georgia and is a CTO at an inside-the-beltway Internet/issues company (whose company does stuff for Minnesota republicans) have against Elon Musk? Maybe Brad will explain all of this to us - and who is paying for his website - because why not?
Keith's update: But wait there's more: These ads seem to be focused more on electric cars and green energy policy food fights people have with Elon Musk than they do on SpaceX per se. Its election time so, as they say, follow the money. By some coincidence, the Koch Industries (the Koch Brothers) gave Rep. Paulsen and Kline (the same two republican candidates from Minnesota that Orange Hat worked for in 2013-2014) $10,000 during the 2014 election cycle. FEC Form 3 statement) from Paulsen's campaign wherein Orange Hat was paid for ads and social media while the campaign mentions receiving $2,500 from Koch Industries PAC. Rightwing Watch noted that Conservative Ralph Reed's organization listed Jack St. Martin, Partner, Orange Hat Group as a speaker at a 2010 event.
There is an earlier, similarly-syled attack video posted on 8 December 2015 by Mike Ross that talks about "filthy hippies" buying solar panels in San Francisco and the oh-so-terrible Elon Musk "and his taxpayer subsidized companies." In this Huffington Post piece from 16 February 2016 "The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles" There has also been the little matter of the Koch brothers and their fight against Musk over electric cars.
Use Google and these things just reveal themselves to you.
"Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration. "We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary." Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law."China, Congress
Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office, Space Policy Online
"During markup of the FY2017 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill today, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to fully fund the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the requested level of $19.8 million. That is $1 million more than the T-HUD subcommittee recommended."
The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Applauds House NASA Funding Bill, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) Chairman John Culberson, Ranking Member Mike Honda and the entire Appropriations Committee for its exceptional support for NASA's human and science exploration programs in its FY 2017 Appropriations bill, which boosts NASA funding to $19.5 billion. Like their counterparts in the Senate, the CJS Subcommittee has worked across the aisle to produce a bipartisan bill that ensures our space program receives the necessary funding to continue America's leadership in space."Categories: Budget, Congress
NASA begins on Page 54. On page 61 the report says:
"Mission to Mars. While the Committee recognizes the benefits of some of the technology that is under development as part of the asteroid redirect and retrieval missions, namely advanced propulsion technology research, asteroid deflection, and grappling technologies, the Committee believes that neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute to the over-arching mission to Mars. Further, the long-term costs of launching a robotic craft to the asteroid, followed by a crewed mission, are unknown and will divert scarce resources away from developing technology and equipment necessary for missions to Mars, namely deep space habitats, accessing and utilizing space resources, and developing entry, descent, landing, and ascent technologies.
Toward that end, no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid. Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.
Further, the Committee is supportive of NASA's efforts to use the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct research necessary to enable long-term human spaceflight, or ''Earth-reliant'' technology development; cis-lunar space activities, or ''proving ground'' efforts such as Orion flights on SLS in the vicinity of the Moon, and deployment and testing of deep space habitation modules; and finally, NASA's ''Earth independent'' activities which include using cis-lunar space as a staging area, mapping potential human exploration zones and caching samples on Mars as part of the Mars Rover 2020 mission."
"As a result, the new analysis finds asteroid diameter and other physical properties that have large differences from published NEOWISE results, with greatly increased error estimates. NEOWISE results have a claimed ±10% accuracy for diameter estimates, but this is unsupported by any calculations and undermined by irregularities in the NEOWISE results. Diameter estimates from bootstrap calculations appears to be no more than ±29.5% accurate when compared to diameters from radar, stellar occultations and spacecraft. NEOWISE errors for parameters like visible band albedo pv and near-IR albedo pIR1 and pIR2 are even higher, calling into question their utility."
"Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator for NEOWISE at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, points out some of the specific goofs in Myhrvold's study. In one formula, he confuses diameter for radius, she said in a statement. "Our team has seen the paper in various versions for many months now, and we have tried to point out problems to the author," she states. "We have strongly encouraged that the paper be submitted to a journal and peer reviewed. Instead, he released it without peer review." Myhrvold retorts that he is fixing the errors, which he says are cosmetic and do not alter the thrust of his criticism. He says the NEOWISE scientists are defensive because many are involved in a proposal for a future asteroid-hunting telescope called NEOCam, one of five finalists in NASA's Discovery program. "They're up for this NEOCam thing and they're afraid it looks bad. And it does look bad," he says."Astronomy, Space & Planetary Science
"Representative John Culberson (R-TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA's budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday. In the report, Culberson's panel "encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light]." The report language doesn't mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year."Congress, Exploration
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Initiate Section 106 Consultation for Proposed Changes to Arecibo Observatory Operations, Arecibo, Puerto Rico and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings and Comment Period, NSF
"Through a series of academic community-based reviews, NSF has identified the need to divest several facilities from its portfolio in order to retain the balance of capabilities needed to deliver the best performance on the key science of the present decade and beyond. In 2012, NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences' (AST's) portfolio review committee recommended that ``continued AST involvement in Arecibo . . . be re-evaluated later in the decade in light of the science opportunities and budget forecasts at that time.'' In 2016, NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences' (AGS') portfolio review committee recommended significantly decreasing funding for the Space and Atmospheric Sciences portion of the Arecibo mission. In response to these evolving recommendations, in 2016, NSF completed a feasibility study to inform and define options for the observatory's future disposition that would involve significantly decreasing or eliminating NSF funding of Arecibo."
"China's gigantic Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is nearing completion in China's southwestern Guizhou Province and will soon begin searching the skies for phenomena including signs of extraterrestrial life. Construction of 500m diameter, 1.2 billion yuan (US$185mln) radio telescope began in 2011 and is on course to come online in September, when it will become the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope."Categories: Astronomy, China
"Why doesn't NASA promote the film more? It's impossible to come away from A Beautiful Planet without being impressed by the orbiting laboratory and the international collaboration that constructed it. But where is the audience? My home is Houston - Space City - where astronauts live and the space station program is managed. But when the movie played here, it did so in one theater, on one screen, for a single week. When I attended, just a few astronauts and their friends and families were in the audience. As of last Sunday, A Beautiful Planet had grossed less than $1 million in box office sales across the country."
Keith's note: NASA never even bothered to issue a media advisory here in Washington. NASM did not send out one either. The plan apparently seems to be that word of mouth is the preferred mode of advertising. That said, the film did cost NASA money. Camera upmass, crew time, etc. When you calculate cost per hour of crew time, upmass, downmass, etc. it is not insignificant. You'd think that someone would be mounting a much more intense PR campaign - especially one that enlisted NASA. As best I can tell they had invitation-only premiere parties with lots of blue-suited astronauts (pictures) a few hand-picked media - and that's it. This webpage for A Beautiful Planet has a CASIS logo at the bottom. But there is zero mention of this film on the CASIS website. Nor did CASIS even bother to issue any media advisories or press release. I used to be baffled by this indifference on the part of NASA when it came to things that were clearly worth promoting only to see them do little - or nothing. Now I'm used to seeing missed opportunities for NASA to be relevant and explanatory in terms of public events happening once a week. As for CASIS - they are just clueless - and always have been. So no surprise there.Categories: Earth Science, Education
"As part of the mission to Europa, Culberson would also like to send a lander to the surface of the heaving, ice-encrusted world. This would allow scientists to better characterize the oceans below and, if the lander touches down near a fissure, possibly even sample the ocean. However, there has been some concern that having both an orbital spacecraft and a lander in a single mission would prove too challenging for a single rocket to deliver. So as part of the new House bill, the Europa mission is broken into two parts: an orbiter and, two years later, a lander."
Keith's note: This looks like it would be something like a dual "flagship" mission. Each spacecraft will be on the order of, oh $500 million each, and then, knowing Culberson's preferences, each would require its own SLS launch at $500 million to $1 billion each. Unless NASA's budget is going to get a big plus up on top of what it already needs to do other things that is going to eat into the whole #JourneyToMars thing - an effort that is already utterly underfunded.Categories: Congress, Space & Planetary Science
"In his remarks, Aldrin said NASA should change the approach it has had in place since the 1960s, that of designing and managing development of its own rockets. He took direct aim at the SLS vehicle, which he reminded listeners was based on 1970s technology and the space shuttle rather than more modern concepts. "It competes with the private sector," Aldrin said. "I thought most of us were in the process of learning that the government shouldn't do that."
Bolden: one challenge of cubesats is they have no propulsion. Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne: we're working on that. #posttransformers— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 18, 2016
The Expedition 47 crew is getting a new module recently attached to the Tranquility module ready for expansion later this week. The International Space Station residents are also running experiments today exploring a wide variety of phenomena and checking station gear.