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NASA Announces a Challenge Before It Announces the Challenge

By Keith Cowing on November 24, 2014 11:21 AM.

Keith's note:NASA has posted Notice of Centennial Challenges Cube Quest Challenge in today's Federal Register. $5,000,000 to send a cubesat to the Moon. Very cool. The notice says "To register for or get additional information regarding the Cube Quest Challenge, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cubequestchallenge" If you visit that link you will get an error notice from NASA.gov.

I told NASA that the link was broken. Their response was "The link will not be live until the December 1 announcement.  CCP had planned to rollout the Challenge earlier this month, but HQ recommended to delay for two weeks.  The link will work once the site becomes active."

I replied "You really should tell people that in the notice that the link is not going to be active.  Now everyone will click on it and then lose interest after seeing that it is broken day after day. I am baffled as to why you put the notice out in the first place knowingly  including a link that does not work - without any notice to the public that the link is intentionally inactive until a future date.  Indeed the notice also says "The Cube Quest (CQ) Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to  compete may now register."  However the next sentence contradicts this statement by saying "Challenge registration opens December 2, 2014".  So which is it: "now register" or "opens December 2, 2014"?  What is especially baffling is why such a confusing and deliberately inaccurate Federal Register notice is posted when it concerns a rather substantial  $5,000,000 NASA Challenge. One would think that a little strategic and editorial thought would be given to such a significant announcement."

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More People Leave Earth for Space

By Keith Cowing on November 23, 2014 9:49 PM.

Expedition 42 Launches on Time to International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-15M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. EST (3:01 a.m. on Nov. 24 Baikonur time). Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency now are safely in orbit."

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More HSPD-12 Abuses at JPL

By Keith Cowing on November 21, 2014 2:33 PM.

A Question of Loyalty, Pasadena Weekly

"Over the past eight months, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Cate Heneghan said she has been dealing with what she considers to be an abuse of authority by NASA, which has been trying to force her to sign what amounts to a loyalty oath -- asking intrusive questions about her allegiance to the United States. Heneghan, who was born and raised in Bethesda, Md., studied at New Mexico State and USC and has dual citizenship with Ireland, argues that the questions do not conform to NASA guidelines. "How is it JPL is implementing these questions beyond the adjudicative standard, which is required in HSPD-12?" asked Heneghan, who does concept development design for NASA missions and has been at JPL for 26 years. "No one can answer that question."

Earlier HSPD-12 postings

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Goresat Gets Closer To Launch

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2014 12:41 PM.

DSCOVR Mission Passes Major Milestones

"NOAA will manage the DSCOVR mission, giving advanced warning of approaching solar storms. NASA, funded by NOAA, refurbished the DSCOVR satellite and instruments, which were in storage for several years. The U.S. Air Force is funding and overseeing the launch of DSCOVR, which will be aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket."

Keith's note: In storage for "several years"? It would be more accurate to say "for more than a decade".

- DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat Is Ready For Launch, earlier post
- Earlier DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat posts

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NASA's Plan For Mars Is To Have No Plan for Mars

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2014 9:49 AM.

How NASA Plans to Land Humans on Mars, Planetary Society

"On the surface, NASA's humans to Mars plans seem vague and disjointed. For instance, it's difficult to see how visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit fits into a bigger picture. But if you combine Gerst's speech with two days of symposium panels and a day of interviews at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the full breadth of what the agency is trying to do begins to makes sense. There is indeed a plan to put humans on Mars. Vague? Yes. Hard to see? Absolutely. But that's because Gerst and NASA are playing the long game. And right now, it may be the only game they can play."

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Fixing Wallops (Update)

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2014 7:53 PM.

State assessing damage, considering future of commercial spaceport, WDBJ7

"Virginia's Secretary of Transportation says it could take a year and up to $20 million to repair the commercial spaceport on Virginia's Eastern Shore, after a mishap damaged the launchpad last month. Aubrey Layne says he expects the flights to resume, but with additional protections for Virginia taxpayers. "We do need to have our launch partner and the federal government take responsibility with us in this particular incident," Layne told WDBJ7."

McAuliffe wants risks shared for future rocket launches at Wallops Island, Times Dispatch

"We're not going to have a repeat of this in the future," said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr., who is a board member of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. Layne confirmed Tuesday that the McAuliffe administration may seek to renegotiate the memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital that the state revised substantially in 2012 under the administration of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell."

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SLS Has a New Name: Boeing Space Launch System

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2014 12:34 PM.

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ATK and Orbital Still Plan To Tie The Knot

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2014 12:28 PM.

ATK and Orbital Continue to Support Plans for Merger

"Following this announcement on October 28, 2014, a failure occurred during Orbital's Antares launch.  Since the incident, the companies have conducted a thorough review and analysis of the launch failure and Orbital's proposed recovery plan and long-term competitive position.  Following this review, ATK's board of directors continues to support the strategic merits of the transaction and recommends that ATK stockholders vote to approve the issuance of shares to Orbital stockholders. Orbital's board of directors also continues to recommend that Orbital stockholders vote to approve the proposed transaction."

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The Little Comet Lander That Could

By Keith Cowing on November 17, 2014 9:43 AM.

Osiris Spots Philae Drifting Across Comet 67P/C

"These incredible images show the breathtaking journey of Rosetta's Philae lander as it approached and then rebounded from its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014."

Philae Spacecraft - robotic european space agency (ESA) lander, eBay

"Highly complex spacecraft with on-board laboratory, solar panels (requires sun), inter-stellar communications pack. Power system, Thermal control system, Landing gear, Anchoring system (faulty). Buyer must collect item from it's storage location on Comet 67P."

Why we all fell in love with Rosetta's Philae lander, Washington Post

"By Friday night, we knew it was coming to an end: That morning, Rosetta scientists had told the public that Philae's batteries were almost certainly going to die during their next communication link with the probe. And sure enough, Philae's Twitter account followed through until the end, tweeting out a series of messages about going to sleep that made many (myself included) express grief for - and immense pride in - the little lander that could."

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Caltech Employee Lawsuit Involves Her Cat and an Israeli Spy

By Keith Cowing on November 15, 2014 2:51 PM.

Caltech professor claims Israeli spy infiltrated JPL, Pasadena Star News

"Sandra Troian alleges Caltech administrators ignored the school's whistleblower policy and retaliated against her for the past four years because if they had documented her concern, they could have put an $8 billion contract with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at risk and put the school in a bad light. Troian said she is frightened for her career. ...

... "In a statement issued late Thursday, Caltech called Troian's lawsuit meritless and said the institution always abides by export control laws and ITAR. It also regularly cooperates with government agencies such as the FBI, the statement said. "The plaintiff, who was dissatisfied with the outcome of a recent internal campus investigation into her decision to list her cat as the author of a published abstract and omit recognition of a postdoctoral scholar who performed related research, suffered no retaliation and remains an active faculty member of the institution," the Caltech statement said."

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OIG: NASA Simply Does Not Have The Money to Do Everything

By Keith Cowing on November 14, 2014 10:12 AM.

NASA's 2014 Top Management and Performance Challenges

"NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) annual report discussing the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA. The underlying theme of this year's report is sustainability. Specifically, the OIG noted that NASA's ability to sustain its ambitious exploration, science, and aeronautics programs will be driven in large measure by whether the Agency is able to adequately fund such high-profile initiatives as its commercial cargo and crew programs, Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020 Rover, and associated personnel and infrastructure."

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Sean O'Keefe's New Gigs

By Keith Cowing on November 13, 2014 3:43 PM.

Sean O'Keefe Joins CSIS as Distinguished Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"CSIS has developed a stellar reputation as an important, objective catalyst to shape the public policy debate on a wide range of global security issues," Mr. O'Keefe said. "I am delighted to have the privilege to participate in the debate with the added benefit of drawing on the partnership expertise of my colleagues at the Syracuse University Maxwell School."

Sean O'Keefe Appointed University Professor, Phanstiel Chair, Syracuse University

"O'Keefe has also been named the Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs."

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Russia Says That China May Visit ISS

By Keith Cowing on November 13, 2014 2:36 PM.

Russians may visit China's orbital module, TASS

"Russian cosmonauts may in the future visit the Chinese orbiting module Tiangong-1, and their Chinese colleagues may visit the International Space Station (ISS), head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Oleg Ostapenko said on Wednesday. "As for the possible manned flight program projects, China has such an interest and they have expressed it in the negotiations we held today," Ostapenko said, answering reporters' questions at the Airshow China 2014 International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition."

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Planetary Society is Both For and Against Human Spaceflight

By Keith Cowing on November 13, 2014 12:05 PM.

Keith's note: Looks like the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla is not a fan of putting people in space - she endorsed this anti-human spaceflight tweet by a factor of "+100". This is kind of odd given that the Planetary Society pushed NASA and the White House to adopt the crewed Asteroid Retrieval Mission. Also, since she has endorsed this tweet, just what are the "highs and lows of the last week" ? SpaceShipTwo and Antares? What is the connection between an unrelated airplane control surface issue and a rocket engine malfunction with a ten year old robot landing on a comet? And how could any of this point to deciding factors as to whether its better to send humans or robots into space? Her follow up tweet is below. In essence it says we can send robots instead of humans because they are humans or we are them. Huh? We (they) are not - no more than your car or your cellphone is you.

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Phil Larson Departing OSTP

By Keith Cowing on November 12, 2014 7:52 PM.

Keith's note:This email from Phil Larson, Senior Advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been making the rounds here in Washington:

"After five extraordinary years, I wanted to let you know that I will be leaving the White House at the end of November. During a week in which the President forged a historic agreement to help combat climate change and continued his fight to maintain a free and open Internet, I couldn't be prouder to have been part of this Administration's science, technology, and innovation efforts. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to have served a President so intensely focused on cultivating the roots of American ingenuity and empowering people to change the world for the better. Whether it was helping launch and support a bold new era for NASA, ensuring our students have the tools they need to succeed in a 21st century economy, or lifting up a nation of geeks, I am deeply proud of what we've accomplished together and humbled to have been part of it. I look forward to connecting with each of you personally in the coming days, but let me just say how grateful I am to have worked with the greatest Science Advisor in history and the best OSTP team ever assembled. Still fired up."

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More stories for November.

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 23 November 2014

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 23 November 2014 Video in Story

Today: 41 Soyuz (41S) Launch and Dock: 41S launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:01pm CST today with Shkaplerov, Cristoforetti, and Virts onboard.

More updates...

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