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NASA Is Dark In Some Places

By Keith Cowing on November 21, 2017 12:04 AM.

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Waiting For Bridenstine

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2017 11:15 PM.

Is Trump's NASA Nominee Ready to Tackle Climate Change?, Wired

"[Tony] Busalacchi, who has twice testified before Bridenstine's House Subcommittee on Space, says he's had two phone calls with Bridenstine since his nomination became public September 1. "He told me he regrets his [2013 House floor] statement in the past, and that he believes CO2 is a greenhouse gas and is contributing to climate change and man is contributing to climate change," Busalacchi says. Is Bridenstine just saying that to get in office? Busalacchi says he's taking Bridenstine at his word. "I see him as pragmatic and not an ideologue," Busalacchi says. "As a congressman he has been standing up for his constituents. It's one thing to be a congressman from Tulsa, it's another to be working for the American people as NASA administrator."

Keith's note: FWIW I think people will be pleasantly surprised by Bridenstine, should he be confirmed as the next Administrator of NASA.

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Rendezvous With `Oumuamua

By Keith Cowing on November 20, 2017 10:52 PM.

Keith's note: Larger image. Objects are to scale. But the way that this thing rotates might dictate a more prudent station keeping distance.

First Interstellar Asteroid `Oumuamua is Like Nothing Seen Before, ESO

"Observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object."

First Known Interstellar Visitor Is an "Oddball"

"While study of 'Oumuamua's colors shows that this body shares characteristics with both Kuiper Belt objects and organic-rich comets and Trojan asteroids," says Meech, "its orbital path says it comes from far beyond."

An Interstellar Visitor Unmasked, IFA

"Originally denoted A/2017 U1 (with the A for "asteroid"), the body is now the first to receive an "I" (for interstellar) designation from the International Astronomical Union, which created the new category after the discovery. In addition, it has been officially given the name `Oumuamua."

Solar System's First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists, NASA

"The asteroid, named 'Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated--perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date."

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SETI vs METI Dispute: Lions and Tigers and Bears - Oh My

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2017 8:25 PM.

We just sent a message to try to talk to aliens on another world, New Scientist

"Ninety-eight percent of astronomers and SETI researchers, including myself, think that METI is potentially dangerous, and not a good idea," says Dan Werthimer, a SETI researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. "It's like shouting in a forest before you know if there are tigers, lions, and bears or other dangerous animals there."

Scientists Have Sent Messages to Advanced Civilizations, Newsweek

"[Douglas Vakoch, president of METI] Everyone engaged in SETI is already endorsing transmissions to extraterrestrials through their actions. If we detect a signal from aliens through a SETI program, there's no way to prevent a cacophony of responses from Earth. And these wouldn't be responses to a possibly habitable exoplanet, but to a star system where we know there is intelligent life. There's no way to enforce the SETI protocols that call for consultation before replying. Once the news gets out that we've detected extraterrestrials, anyone with a transmitter can say whatever they want."

Declaration of Principles Concerning the Conduct of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (2010 protocol), SETI Permanent Study Group of the International Academy of Astronautics

"8. Response to signals: In the case of the confirmed detection of a signal, signatories to this declaration will not respond without first seeking guidance and consent of a broadly representative international body, such as the United Nations."

Keith's note: This is all rather silly. SETI scientists like Werthimer would prefer not to transmit anything to anyone. But they want people to give them millions of dollars to listen for transmissions from other intelligent species. If alien intelligences are similar to us i.e. afraid of other letting civilizations know where they are then they are not going to be transmitting either. If that is true then Werthimer et al are wasting a lot of money listening for signals that are not going to be there - if you follow their self-canceling logic, that is.

Also, Wetheimer claims his statements are shared by "Ninety-eight percent of astronomers and SETI researchers". Really - he has polled all astronomers and SETI researchers - everywhere? Reference, please. We have been announcing our presence to alien civilizations in one form or another for nearly a century via radio. The bulk of these transmissions have not been done by governments. As such the 2010 statement by IAA (which is also utterly non-binding) would have little effect on stoping anyone with money and a big dish from saying "hello".

On the other hand, just because someone can do something does not mean that they should. This topic needs a broader airing - not just food fights in the news between dueling METI/SETI sandboxes. Both the SETI and METI tribes are myopic, and somewhat inbred, by definition. Their pronouncements from on high should not be the final say on the way that humanity deals with this topic. There are 6 billion other humans who should have a say.

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Its The End Of The World As We Know It Again

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2017 8:03 PM.

Please stop annoying this NASA scientist with your ridiculous Planet X doomsday theories

"David Morrison is a real NASA scientist who studies real planets and makes real discoveries about the real universe. Unfortunately for him, Morrison's duties also include debunking perennial Internet theories that a fake planet is about to destroy the Earth, which was supposed to happen in 2003, then 2012, then Sept. 23, then October - and now the world is supposed to end again some time Sunday. And the astronomer sounds like he's just about had it. "You're asking me for a logical explanation of a totally illogical idea," Morrison said on this week's SETI Institute podcast, after the hosts asked for his take on third scheduled apocalypse in three months. "There is no such planet, there never has been, and presumably there never will be - but it keeps popping up over and over."

Keith's note: Please let me know on Monday if the world ends on Sunday so I can update this post.

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NSF Decides Not To Shut Down Arecibo

By Keith Cowing on November 19, 2017 6:38 PM.

Statement on NSF Record of Decision on Arecibo Observatory, NSF

"On Nov. 15, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed its Record of Decision for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This important step concludes the agency's decision-making process with respect to the general path forward for facility operations in a budget-constrained environment and provides the basis for a future decision regarding a new collaborator."

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Hey NASA: These Are The Droids You Should Be Looking For

By Keith Cowing on November 16, 2017 9:07 PM.

Keith's 16 Nov update: Just the other day I posted some new video (below) of the latest cool droid from Boston Dynamics. Now they have simply outdone themselves. Compare NASA's tethered/hoisted R5 make stiff dance moves and then watch Boston Dynamics' untethered and nimble Atlas DOING A BACKFLIP. NASA really needs to put their own bot research on the shelf and see what the private sector can offer.

Keith's 14 Nov note: NASA poured lots of money into its R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist and controlled by a human. It is always broken. So they gave away these broken droids to several universities to see if the students could salvage something useful. Meanwhile, 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. This droid, equipped with other features that Boston Dynamics has mastered, would allow access to places that rovers cannot go and has dexterity unmatched by anything NASA has ever built. And I am sure you could buy a bunch of them for vastly less than it would take NASA to develop them.

- Does NASA Have A Robot That Can Do This?, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Continue reading: Hey NASA: These Are The Droids You Should Be Looking For.

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Doing Something Again For The First Time

By Keith Cowing on November 16, 2017 12:07 AM.

Keith's note: There is a lot of talk these days about yet another pivot in America's civilian space policy. This time it is "back" to the Moon. Mars is not off the agenda - but it is not moving forward either. Personally I think we have unfinished business on the Moon and that creating a vibrant cis-lunar space infrastructure is the best way to enable humans to go to many places in the solar system - including Mars. Regardless of your stance on this issue, a common refrain about going back to the Moon - starting with President Obama is that "We've been there before".

Humans first reached the South Pole by an overland route in 1911/1912. While we visited the pole by plane in the intervening years, no one traversed Antarctica's surface again until 1958. 46 years between Antarctic polar traverses. Why did we go back to do something - again - in a similar way - to a place "we've been [to] before" after 46 years? Because there was still something of interest there - something we'd only had a fleeting exposure to - and we had developed new ways to traverse polar environments. James Cameron revisited the Challenger Deep in 2012 - after a human absence of 52 years. Why? See above. It is understandable that explorers seek to explore new places and not redo what has been done before. There is only so much funding and there are still so many places yet to be explored. But it is also not uncommon for explorers to revisit old, previously visited locations with new tools - and new mindsets.

Look at the stunning imagery Juno is sending back of Jupiter. Compare that to what we got from Galileo - and Voyager - and Pioneer. Why send yet another mission to the same destination unless, well, you have better tools - tools that enable the pursuit of ever greater exploration goals.

I was 15 when humans first walked on the Moon. The generations who have followed mine have never seen humans land and walk on the Moon. Indeed a lot of them seem to think it never happened. But American space policy is made by Baby Boomers (and older) population cohorts so we just operate on our own biases i.e. been there, done that.

Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969.

Just sayin'

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/united-states-population-py.jpg
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NASA Likes Financial Report That Says Broken Things Are Still Broken

By Keith Cowing on November 15, 2017 9:53 PM.

NASA's Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Audit Result

"NASA has received an unmodified audit opinion on its Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 2017) financial statements, making this the seventh consecutive year of "clean" opinions. The agency released its FY 2017 Agency Financial Report (AFR) Wednesday, which provides details on its financial results and performance highlights."

NASA FY 2017 Financial Report

"NASA did not substantially address deficiencies in its vulnerability management program, which continued to inadequately address monitoring, detecting, and timely remediation of vulnerabilities associated with their financial application and general support systems. Additionally, management did not substantially address control failures at the Financial System Application layer. Therefore, the prior year Significant Deficiency 1 remains open and was renamed "Information Technology Management" in fiscal year 2017."

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SpaceX Is Launching Something Super Secret Called "Zuma"

By Keith Cowing on November 14, 2017 10:20 PM.

SpaceX will launch a secret government payload to orbit Wednesday, Mashable

"Very little is known about the Zuma mission, as no government or commercial entity has claimed it. Usually, even the National Reconnaissance Office - the branch of the government responsible for maintaining spy satellites - will say when a payload is theirs while keeping the mission details classified. But for some reason, whatever agency is behind Zuma isn't coming forward. All we know is that the aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman was asked by the government to procure a launch vehicle for the mission and it chose SpaceX, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman said via email. The spokesman also added that Zuma will be headed to low-Earth orbit, which is the region of space about 1,200 miles above the planet."

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Dream Chaser Completes A Free Flight Test

By Keith Cowing on November 13, 2017 4:54 PM.

Dream Chaser Completes Free Flight Test

"Completion of Dream Chaser's free flight test on Nov. 11, 2017, was a major milestone under a space act agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. NASA selected Sierra Nevada Corp., along with Orbital ATK and SpaceX, for the agency's second commercial resupply contracts to deliver critical science, research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024."

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S.S. Gene Cernan Reaches Orbit

By Keith Cowing on November 12, 2017 2:36 PM.

Orbital ATK Launches S.S. Gene Cernan To The International Space Station (with video)

"The Antares rocket launched the Cygnus spacecraft loaded with approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of cargo to the crew of six who are aboard the space station. Following an approximate nine-minute ascent, the "S.S. Gene Cernan" Cygnus spacecraft, named in honor of the late astronaut and the last man to leave the moon, was successfully deployed into orbit. Orbital ATK's engineering team confirmed reliable communications have been established and the vehicle's solar arrays are fully deployed, providing the necessary electrical power to operate the spacecraft."

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Strange Marketing Claims by SNC

By Keith Cowing on November 9, 2017 9:03 PM.


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That NASA Mars Child Slave Colony Is Actually On Europa

By Keith Cowing on November 9, 2017 5:03 PM.

In emails, NASA denies child slave ring on Mars, confirms politician-eating tentacle monster on Europa, Muckrock

"Back in July, (alleged) former Central Intelligence Agency officer and one-time Reform Party presidential nominee Robert David Steele appeared on Alex Jones' InfoWars to voice a pet canard: he claims that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a colony of child slaves on Mars. The Daily Beast reached out to NASA to respond. The agency confirmed with barely concealed irritation that it does not, in fact, have a colony of child slaves on Mars."

Goofy Mars Conspiracies Part 2 (Update), earlier post (July 2017)

Keith's note: I was just interviewed by BBC Live at Five about this nonsense. Audio below.

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Hearing on NASA Exploration

By Keith Cowing on November 9, 2017 9:31 AM.

Hearing on An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development

"The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled, An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development. The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of the Space Launch System, Orion Crew Vehicle and the associated ground systems."

- Chairman Babin Opening Statement
- Chairman Smith Opening Statement
- Ranking Member Johnson's Opening Statement
- Ranking Member Bera's Opening Statement
- Prepared Statement by William Gerstenmaier
- Prepared Statement by Sandra Magnus


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