August 2009 Archives

Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked, The Onion

"LEBANON, OHIO--Apollo 11 mission commander and famed astronaut Neil Armstrong shocked reporters at a press conference Monday, announcing he had been convinced that his historic first step on the moon was part of an elaborate hoax orchestrated by the United States government.

According to Armstrong, he was forced to reconsider every single detail of the monumental journey after watching a few persuasive YouTube videos, and reading several blog posts on conspiracy theorist Ralph Coleman's website."

Waiting for Norm (Update)

Augustine commission delays report release, Orlando Sentinel

"An independent space panel won't release its report on American human spaceflight today as expected. Instead the commission is shooting for a release in mid-September, said NASA's liaison to the 10-member panel, led by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine. The committee, however, aims to send a draft of their executive summary to NASA and the White House sometime in the next 36 hours, said NASA official Phil McAlister. He said the report won't contain any surprises and should correspond to four to seven options developed in hearings earlier this month."

Keith's note: I am told that the White House has already been at work for some time on their analysis and response based to the report based upon initial outbriefings and expected "options" (Shh! they are really recommendations. OSTP just likes the "options" spin better such that they are seen as making the decisions.) That said, when the report is formally delivered - and the White House officially responds - you can be certain that this will not be the final word.

Additional studies will be needed (playing one option off against another) and they will most certainly be done in parallel with development of NASA's FY 2011 budget. Hmm ... possible midcourse changes in NASA's human space flight policy and simultaneous preparation of a new budget - all in time for the traditional "pass back" of that budget by NASA to OMB at Thanksgiving. It is going to be a busy Fall.

Sources report that there were supposed to be congressional hearings of some sort with Holdren, Bolden et al on/around 15-16 September - but that was before the Augustine Committee decided to put more work into their report. Stay tuned.

Barack Obama Campaign Promise No. 345: Enhance earth mapping, PolitiFact.com

"In its Fiscal Year 2010 proposed budget, the Obama administration sought $120.6 million for LDCM through NASA accounts and $40.2 million through USGS accounts. Between July 14, 2009, and July 17, 2009, a preliminary design review was held in Linthicum, Md. NASA described the event as "successful" -- an early milestone for the program. LDCM won't be ready to launch for a few years, but the promise here was simply to "support" the program. The Obama administration has done that seeking funding for it. We consider it a Promise Kept."

Use the private sector to improve spaceflight: No action

Support human mission to moon by 2020: No action

Promises about Space on the Obameter, PolitiFact.com

JAXA's Lunar Jazz

Moonbell: Making The Moon Sing, OnOrbit

"According to this unusual website "Moonbell" that JAXA has set up "moonbell transforms the topography of the moon into sound". Once you click the open button, you see a small satellite or probe orbiting the Moon. As it passes over the varied topography of the moon (visualized in the upper right hand corner) music is played (also visualized - in the lower right hand corner). You can rotate the globe so as to focus your view on the probe's orbital path."

Keith's note: This is from a NASA Watch reader - and is a partial (unofficial) transcript of what NASA Administrator Bolden said at the Stennis All Hands meeting with regard to Ares. This was the last question asked:

"QUESTION: Ares 1-X is stacked and it's ready to go. Are we going to launch it?

BOLDEN: That's a good question - and that is a question that I know everyone is muddling over. How do we explain something that was not an option offered by the Augustine Committee. We have that vehicle and the opportunity to launch it and gain data and information from it that may be helpful to future programs ... I don't know the answer today - I wish I could tell you that I knew the answer - I don't."

Keith's note: These photos were sent in by a reader who works at JPL. You can clearly see how close the fire has gotten to JPL. You can see larger photos here.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Status for Monday, Aug. 31

"Fire conditions around JPL have continued to improve throughout the day, and the Lab is no longer threatened by the Station Fire. However, there has been heavy smoke in the area. To ensure acceptable air quality for the health and safety of employees, JPL will be closed to all except mission-critical personnel on Monday, Aug. 31."

Calif. fire to reach mountain's TV transmitters, AP

"Authorities say flames from a major wildfire north of Los Angeles are about to reach Mount Wilson, home to a historic observatory and transmitters for every major television and radio station in the area."

JPL Update August 30, 2009 9 a.m. "The fire situation around JPL has improved considerably. The lab is not in danger at present. However, JPL's Oak Grove site remains closed today except for essential personnel. Non-essential personnel are not allowed on-Lab. Facilities at the nearby Woodbury complex, buildings 600, 601, 602 and 605, are open. A decision will be made later today regarding whether employees should report to work on Monday. For updates, call (800) 303-4575 or (818) 354-8601, or visit this site, the JPL home page, at www.jpl.nasa.gov. Updates will also be communicated to JPL personnel by JPL e-mail; through the State of the Lab call-in numbers; and the Emergency Communication System. JPL employees who have been evacuated from their homes are asked to check in with Rick Roessler at 818-354-0805, 310-422-9853 or richard.m.roessler@jpl.nasa.gov. JPL staffers needing assistance are urged to call the Employee Assistance Program at 818-354-3680."

Live Webcam from Mt. Wilson

Keith's 29 Aug update: Thanks to Kevin Parkin, we now have a link on Google Maps that shows the extent of the fire. According to a JPL reader "at 12 noon PDT a report on the local NPR station now puts the hillside fire only about 500 m above JPL."

To the moon, NASA? Not on this budget, experts say, AP

"NASA has been like a star athlete that's broken world records back in the 1960s and is stuck in the bleachers ever since, unable to suit up for what it does best," said space scientist Alan Stern, who quit last year as NASA's associate administrator for science. But, as has been the case since about 1971, money is holding engineers back, Stern said. "Bush never delivered on his promise to up NASA's funding," Stern said. He added that the previous NASA administrator "tried cannibalizing NASA (to pay for exploration) but that wasn't enough."

NASA needs stability and resources, Houston Chronicle, opinion by NASA astronauts Jeff Ashby, Michael Bloomfield, Bob Crippen, Roger Crouch, Jan Davis, Brian Duffy, Jim Halsell, Steve Hawley, Rick Hieb, Scott Doc Horowitz, Bruce McCandless II, Don McMonagle, Pam Melroy, Charlie Precourt, Ken Reightler and Kent Rominger

"We believe that America's space exploration program has positively impacted the world perhaps more than any single national endeavor during the last half century. Our space leadership is a projection of this country's technical capability leveraged to foster peaceful cooperation among nations in a politically uncertain world. Each of us has been part of this great space legacy and continues to be committed to ensuring the safety, vitality, sustainability and excitement of the future space program. U.S. investment in space and technology generates tens of thousands of jobs, stimulates small businesses and entrepreneurship, drives innovation and inspires the next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers so critical to America's future."

NASA OIG: Final Memorandum on the Audit of the Reporting of NASA's National Security Systems (IG-09-024, August 28, 2009)

"We found that NASA did not comply with FISMA requirements for the reporting of national security systems for FYs 2007 and 2008 because NASA had not clearly assigned this responsibility to a specific NASA office. Further, NASA had not formally designated an entity with appropriate resources to complete the annual independent evaluations of its national security systems required by FISMA. We notified the Agency about this issue in February 2009, and NASA immediately assigned the responsibility to the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). In response to our draft report, NASA assigned the Office of Protective Services (OPS) to work with the OCIO to gather and compile the required information to report to OMB and stated that a formal agreement with an independent entity was being developed. We consider management's proposed actions to be responsive and will close the related recommendation after verifying that the Agency has established a formal agreement with an entity with the appropriate resources to conduct the annual independent evaluation of NASA's national security systems."

NASA Internal Memo From Jeff Hanley Regarding Steve Cook's Departure

"Steve's departure places a new challenge on all of you. That challenge is to support Teresa in the same manner as Steve has enjoyed, and to keep moving the ball down the field. The best way to honor Steve's service is to press forward with resolve. To those who wish to 'read something into' Steve's departure, I say this... The substance of Ares is dependent on no specific individual. It is what the integrated team HAS accomplished and WILL accomplish that matters. And it is in your hands - it remains true that the very BEST expression of the true heart of the Ares team will be the fortitude required to honor Steve's contribution and excel beyond it."

Ares chief leaving to rejoin ex-boss, Huntsville Times

"Cook has overseen previously canceled spacecraft and rockets. He was manager of the X-33 spaceplane - a $2 billion effort abandoned because of technical problems - the X-34 rocket engine development program and a reusable rocket program known as the Delta Clipper. Longtime NASA observer and critic Keith Cowing said Cook's departure seems "curious given where the Ares I program is." "I cannot imagine if things are truly going to get interesting with Ares, then why leave now?" said Cowing, who runs NASAwatch.com."

NASA MSFC Internal Memo: Steve Cook Resignation

"Effective Monday, August 31, Teresa Vanhooser will take over as Acting Manager, Ares Projects Office. Teresa will do a great job in leading the team toward accomplishing our near and long term milestones and my last request of you is to support her fully as you did me - your support kept me going."

Chandrayaan-I Spacecraft Loses Radio Contact, ISRO

"Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST). Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed."

India loses communication with lunar satellite, AP

"The agency's monitoring unit near the southern city of Bangalore is no longer receiving data from the spacecraft, spokesman S. Satish told The Associated Press by telephone from Bangalore. The spacecraft had completed 312 days in orbit and orbited the moon more than 3,400 times."

STS-128 Mission Underway

NASA STS-128 MCC Status Report #0111:30 p.m. CDT Friday, Aug. 28, 2009

"Space shuttle Discovery turned midnight into noon along the central Florida coast with launch at 10:59 p.m. CDT (11:59 p.m. EDT) beginning its 37th mission - a flight to deliver supplies and research facilities to the International Space Station and its six-person crew. Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Kevin Ford and Mission Specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Nicole Stott and Christer Fuglesang representing the European Space Agency reached orbit eight and a half minutes later as the space station flew 225 miles up, southwest of Tasmania."

Space Shuttle Discovery is in Orbit and is Chasing the Space Station

"After flying up on Discovery, Nicole Stott will trade places with station resident Tim Kopra, who went into space last month aboard Endeavour. Equipment and science racks for the orbiting laboratory are riding inside the Leonardo cargo module, which is secured tightly inside Discovery's payload bay."

More Shuttle and ISS news

The Future of NASA IT

NASA could outsource flights and insource IT, Next.gov

"Any outsourcing of NASA's human spaceflight program would not necessarily disrupt cloud computing advancements at the Silicon Valley-based Ames Research Center, said officials at NASA headquarters earlier this week. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at an Aug. 19 space and missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala., that the department will look to the commercial space sector that is capable of providing launch services and building satellites to help expand the frontier of space exploration. NASA reportedly is contemplating moving away from traditional parts of the space program, such as transporting people and materials into orbit, because of growing costs. But Ames' cloud computing initiative Nebula, aimed at remotely hosting Web services, data storage and IT equipment for other NASA agencies, could help contain those costs, said Ames Chief Information Officer Chris Kemp, who is leading the program and involved in the federal government's cloud computing working group."

Keith's note: NASA civil servant Nick Skytland has been twittering about his official activities at work today at @skytland but this taxpayer (me - @KeithCowing) is specifically blocked from following him on Twitter.

Ironically, Nick champions himself as an advocate ("NASA Catalyst") for an "Open NASA", pushes the use of social networking tools, etc. and was involved in a "Bar Camp" activity (see #SLSDbarcamp ) at JSC Life Sciences that seeks to improve how NASA does business and communicates.

FAIL

Keith's note: Word has it that Steve Cook has resigned from NASA and will be working for Dynetics in Huntsville. I am awaiting a formal NASA PAO response.

Keith's update: NASA PAO has confirmed Cook's departure.

NASA MSFC Internal Memo: Steve Cook Resignation

"The progress we have made clearly shows that the Ares team continues to deliver on the promises made 4 years ago - to develop the safest and most affordable launch system family we could field to enable the exploration of space while minimizing the gap in human space flight. We are building on the best of the last 50 years of space flight and marrying it with the most modern systems available today. It is with the backdrop of these accomplishments that I am writing to tell you that after long and prayerful consideration, I have decided to depart NASA after 19 years of service. I have wrestled with making this decision for the past year and the time has come for my transition."

Steve Cook Wants to Be The Next Deputy Center Director at Marshall, earlier post

Keith's note: Steve Cook departs NASA on 31 August. After that, unless he makes a point of getting himself in the news in a way that is related to NASA or has NASA-related responsibilities in his new job, he will not find himself on NASA Watch. That's how it works.

STS-128 Update

STS-128 Update: Mission Managers to Meet Today at Noon

"The testing of the liquid hydrogen fill and drain valve in shuttle Discovery's main propulsion system is complete. The valve and its position indicator both operated normally during yesterday's testing. And all leak checks were within specification. The evaluation of the low-level hydrogen leak detected in a tail service mast on the mobile launcher platform on Launch Pad 39A following Tuesday's launch scrub is complete, and no leaks were detected. All the test data will be brought to the mission management team for review at the noon EDT meeting. Mission managers also are scheduled to meet at 2:15 p.m. to give the "Go - No Go" for tanking."

Bolden Update

NASA Internal Memo: Message From the Administrator - Aug. 26, 2009 Update

"As has been our practice since assuming our duties as NASA administrator and deputy administrator, Lori and I are going to attempt to keep you informed and up to date on issues affecting all of us in the NASA family as best we can. ... Lori and I have now completed visits to seven of our ten centers and will complete the cycle at the end of this week with visits to JPL and Dryden on Thursday and Ames on Friday. A number of messages have come to us loud and clear in our visits to date."

Keith's note: Curiously, while many other NASA programs and projects are specifically mentioned in this update, Constellation, Ares, Orion, etc., are not. Given all of the things that are mentioned in the update, and the sheer size of Constellation (and the emphasis given it by NASA in previous years) this is rather curious. Add in the continuing reports that are being received with regard to what Bolden said about Ares during his MAF/Stennis trip, and a trend seems to be developing. Stay tuned.

Hydrogen valve in Discovery scrubs tonight's launch, SpaceflightNow

"Trouble with a critical hydrogen fill-and-drain valve in the shuttle Discovery's aft engine compartment forced NASA managers to call off an attempt to launch the orbiter early Wednesday on a space station resupply mission. It was the second delay in a row for Discovery following a weather scrub earlier Tuesday."

Live launch webcast coverage with Miles O'Brien, Leroy Chiao, and David Waters

New Ways To The Moon

Behind Moon Travel Goal, Big Talk and Little Money, NY Times

"Forty years after it first landed men on the Moon, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has little chance of repeating that accomplishment by the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Five years after NASA was given a goal of returning to the Moon by 2020, the agency is arriving at an uncomfortable realization -- that the American human spaceflight program might not accomplish anything new anytime soon. "Unless the president is willing to step up and take a bold step like President Kennedy did, the manned spaceflight program is going to go in the ditch," said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida."

South Korea Launches Satellite, NY Times

"South Korea launched the first rocket from its own territory on Tuesday, putting a satellite into orbit one week after its initial attempt was scrubbed at the last minute because of a technical malfunction. The Naro-1, measuring 33 meters, or 108 feet, was built jointly with the Khrunichev space production center in Russia at a cost of $400 million. It blasted off around 5 p.m. from the Naro Space Center, located in Goheung, a county in southern South Korea. Officials cheered and clapped when the command center announced that the rocket was aloft."

NASA Ames Bids Farewell to International University Students

"Students at the International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP) 2009 and Singularity University (SU) will share their last evening together at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., at their universities' closing ceremonies on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009.

Abridged ISU closing ceremony schedule .... 5:10 p.m.: Charles Bolden, Jr., NASA administrator"

Keith's update: Bolden will not be at ARC after all due to delays with the launch of STS-128.

Lightfoot To Head MSFC

Robert Lightfoot named Marshall Space Flight Center director, Huntsville Times

"Robert Lightfoot has been named the director of Marshall Space Flight Center, a NASA official told a group touring Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, this morning. As they were departing the International Space Station Center at Kennedy, the bus applauded the announcement. "We have some exciting news," announced senior NASA manager Pat Fuller. Lighfoot, a 20-year NASA veteran, has been the acting director since former Marshall Director Dave King stepped down in April. He will be the 11th permanent director of the center, which was created on July 1, 1960."

Keith's original 21 August note: Word has it that during a Q&A with MAF employees yesterday Charlie Bolden openly questioned whether it made sense to go ahead with the Ares 1-X launch. His rationale? The Augustine Committee is not going to recommend to the Obama Administration that it continue to proceed with "the program of record" i.e. ESAS/VSE. In other words, if there won't be an Ares 1, then why launch Ares 1-X. You've got to gve Bolden credit - he's talking logically.

Given that the hardware is in place, and the money has more or less been spent, it would seem to be a total waste to not finish things up and then fly the mission. Stay tuned.

Keith's update: Despite multiple reports I received from people who should be in a position to know, Bolden did not make any mention of Ares. According to NASA PAO, in response to my request for clarification last Friday, a review of a transcript of Bolden's remarks at MAF reveals that "there's no mention of Ares I-X whatsoever."

New Space Vs Old Space

Start-Ups Are Poised For Latest Space Race, Wall Street Journal

"In America's latest space race, a new breed of scrappy entrepreneurs could be facing off against some of the government's largest, long-established aerospace contractors. The Obama administration is leaning toward outsourcing major components of its space program, such as ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. The scale and nature of sending this type of work to private contractors, unheard of in the history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, could help the administration cope with an increasingly dire budget situation and fill crucial gaps in its program."

Waiting For Norm

Panel keeps NASA chief guessing, Huntsville Times

"What will a White House-appointed panel of experts suggest to President Barack Obama for NASA's future course? The space agency's new leader - former astronaut Charles Bolden - is privy to new plans about as much as the ordinary man on the street, he said. Bolden is asked, he said, about what the Augustine Commission recommendations might be quiet frequently and the standing answer is: "I don't know," Bolden told a gathering of defense and aerospace workers at the 2009 Space and Missile Defense Conference Wednesday. "I do know that I will be at the briefing table with those who will write the recommendations for the president," said Bolden, a former U.S. Marine general and test pilot who was confirmed as the space agency's new chief a month ago."

NASA Panel Faces the Facts, and Asteroids, Wired

"The 60s are over and no amount of artists' renderings are going to bring back the Apollo days if NASA's budget doesn't get a big boost. That's the key message from the independent panel chartered to rethink NASA's future. The Review of Human Space Flight Plans group also is looking at a variety of imaginative approaches to space exploration that could make NASA's future seem less like reheated Apollo leftovers."

Rocket Booster: Let The Private Sector Help NASA, Wired

"After leading the way in the human exploration of space for nearly 50 years, the future of U.S. manned space flight is in question. The space shuttle makes its last flight next year, and after that NASA must rely on the Russians to put astronauts in space. Unless it looks to the private sector. It may have to. A preliminary report from the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee (it even has a Facebook page) says current budget restraints are jeopardizing all future manned space flights even as NASA develops the Orion crew exploration vehicle that will replace the shuttle."

NASA May Outsource Amid Budget Woes, WS Journal

"For the first time since the advent of manned space exploration, the U.S. appears ready to outsource to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit. Proposals gaining momentum in Washington, according to federal officials, aerospace industry officials and others familiar with the discussions, call for contractors to build and run competing rockets and space capsule under commercial contracts."

Keith's note: According to a report "End of an Era?" on NASA's plan to send humans back to the Moon that aired on NBC News "all of that is in jeopardy". Jay Barbery says that NASA has "58,000 people employed through contractors and civil servants" and that cutting the moon mission "would cut this in half". John Logsdon referred to setting goals and then cutting funding in half saying "this is not a case study of excellence in aitonal leadership." Sally Ride and Mike Griffin are quoted as well.

NASA and NOAA's newest weather satellite, GOES-14, has captured some fascinating views of Hurricane Bill. This is a collection of a few quick movies put together by the GOES-14 team.

Video below

Keith's note: On 27 August there will be an invitation-only media briefing with Jaiwon Shin, NASA's Associate Administrator for Aeronautics who will give a progress report on activities undertaken in the past year and discuss what's ahead for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in fiscal 2010. Alas, you can only attend this event if you are invited and are physically present in Washington, DC. I have been invited but I will be on a train when this briefing occurs. Alas, there is no provision for a phone bridge (even though all the other directorates regularly use them). But they do have money to spend on refreshments.

Given that the actual aeronautics research being discussed is not done at NASA HQ but at various NASA field centers and in the private sector spread out across the U.S., one would think that such an update would be of considerable interest to media who are not physically present in Washington, DC. Given the looming changes that will come from the Augustine Committee and shuttle retirement, people are especially anxious as to understanding what the agency will be doing.

Again, as I have observed before, people in the aeronautics world regularly complain that there is not enough news coming out about aeronautics. This is why.

Another Stealth Launch From Wallops, earlier post

LOIRP and LRO Confirm That Humans Walked on the Moon, LOIRP (with much larger image)

"Yesterday the LRO team released a new image of the Apollo 14 landing site. You can clearly make out the paths that the crew walked as well as the location of the Apollo 14 Antares Lunar Module Descent Stage. In June 2009 LOIRP issued its own view and analysis of this landing site - as seen by Lunar Orbiter III back in 1967. Comparing our high resolution image of the site with that taken by LRO clearly shows no feature where Antares' Descent Stage now stands. While the resolution of the Lunar Orbiter image (0.8 meters/pixel) would probably not reveal astronaut tracks in great detail, we're rather certain that it would have seen an object the size of Antares' Descent Stage. As such, we're pretty certain that the Apollo 14 mission landed on the Moon!"

NASA Solicitation: Corporate Executive Board - Real Estate Executive Board

"NASA/HQ plans to issue a purchase order for a 1-year membership to participate on the Real Estate Executive Board (REEB), a program of the Corporate Executive Board. The membership in Corporate Executive Board provides full access rights to a wide range of government and senior business leaders to understand the business drivers relating to real property portfolio management. The unique cross-functional perspective allows members to lend a strategic perspective to real estate research that reflects enterprise-wide concerns. The REEB research methodology focuses on the case study approach, providing insights into proven practices from real estate leaders and highlighting actual results, key economic rationales, and business imperatives. Members obtain the latest insights to pressing issues and business challenges across the industry. Membership provides access to the REEB databases, which is a collection of industry metrics relating to real property portfolio management."

Keith's note: Is NASA thinking of running its field centers like commercial real estate properties? Fascinating.

What Is Open Innovation?

NASA JSC Solicitation Notice: Open Innovation Support Services

"NASA/Johnson Space Center (JSC) has a requirement for an Open Innovation Service Provider with an extensive external network that can be used to introduce collaboration opportunities to the public. Specifically, NASA JSC is looking for an offeror that supports a network of experts that can facilitate solutions to a vast array of issues and challenges facing the future of human health and performance in spaceflight. Challenges are of varied type and difficulty and could include technological, biological, or human modeling needs. The potential offeror will provide NASA JSC with the methodology and infrastructure to facilitate Open Innovation within the organization and for solutions to outsourced challenges or problems."

Keith's note: (Sigh) Typical NASAese. The JSC folks use a phrase "Open Innovation" - complete with uppercase letters as if it is the proper name of some sort of formal process or thing (like TQM, ISO 9000, etc.) - yet they never define what it is as they ask people to submit responses as to how they'd help JSC as an "Open Innovation Service Provider" and to do so "within the organization". Does "open" refer to "open" thinking within NASA - or does it refer to things being "open" to the public? And what constitutes "innovation"? Doing things differently (or better) than NASA currently does things? Doing things different (and better) than is done outside of NASA? And when all of that is cleared up, how much money is available to do this? Some times it costs more to be innovative.

Norm Augustine's Report on NASA's Bleak Future, ExecutiveBiz

"After just seven more missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Shuttle will retire without a replacement. Ex-Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, chair of the United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee review, has published his committee's findings, and NASA's budgetary future looks bleak. Augustine told PBS "the human space flight program really isn't executable with the money we have." Augustine has given the "White House a dilemma" of accepting the necessary increase in spending or continuing on a path that leads to severely constrained and delayed space exploration."

NASA administrator talks about space program's future, WAFF

"My answer always is the same - I don't know," he said. "A lot of people fear the Augustine report. I don't. I don't see a drastic change to how we approach [the space program.]"

NASA review panel options an unknown to space agency administrator, Huntsville Times

"The future has to include encouraging young people to become engineers and scientists. "When I would visit schools in the '80s and '90s," Bolden told the crowd of about 2,000 people, "I would ask students 'Who wants to be an astronaut?' Nearly every hand in the room would go up. Now, when I visit schools, maybe two or three hands go up. "We have to reach them. ... I want every hand in that room to go up."

First Meeting of Suborbital Researchers Group Focuses on Innovative Research & Education Missions

"This week, the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG), an advisory committee of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, met at the Boulder, Colorado campus of the Southwest Research Institute to discuss the research and education potential of the new generation of commercial suborbital vehicles. The multi-disciplinary committee discussed a variety of possible missions, ranging from fluid-mechanics experiments and atmospheric sampling to life sciences research and low-cost student-built payloads. SARG chair Dr. S. Alan Stern, who has previously held the top science position at NASA Headquarters, stated, "SARG recognizes as a committee of researchers across many scientific and engineering fields that the frequent, fast, and low cost access to space that the next-gen piloted suborbital capabilities offer, make these vehicles a true scientific game changer. Their potential for research, training, education, and public outreach from space is simply stunning."

Keith's original 19 Aug 9:42 am note: The rumor going around MSFC today is that former astronaut Jan Davis is in the running to be named the new Center Director at MSFC. Bolden and Davis flew together on STS-60. Charlie Bolden is visiting MSFC today. After the visit he will then speak at a missile defense conference and then fly off to MAF tonight.

NASA administrator talks about space program's future, WAFF

"It was Bolden's first official visit as NASA administrator, but he's been to Huntsville before. He spent a year in training for shuttle missions with his dear friend and former astronaut Dr. Jan Davis. They flew together on STS-60. On Wednesday,Davis confirmed to WAFF 48 News that she's a candidate for Marshall's top job-center director - a position opened when Dave King stepped down in March. When asked if he was nearing the finalization of picking Marshall's new director, Bolden said,"Close, very close."

Davis a candidate for Marshall post, Huntsville Times

"I am a candidate. There are several qualified candidates in the running for this position, and that is about all I can say," Davis told The Times while attending the 2009 Space and Missile Defense Conference and Exhibition at the Von Braun Center. Davis could not comment on whether she would take the position or not, she said."

Former NASA chief: U.S. needs to go to moon again

"In his talk before the Tuscaloosa Rotary Clubs regular meeting, Michael Griffin reiterated many points he originally brought up in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post published last month, saying that in the past 30 years, the U.S. has lost much of the momentum and vision that helped create the countrys space program in the first place."

Former NASA chief: U.S. needs to go to moon again, Tuscaloosa News

"[Griffin] said that NASA's focus on continuing the space shuttle program and developing the International Space Station in partnership with other countries was to the detriment of America's future in space. He noted that the shuttle is scheduled to be retired in another couple of years and there is no firm commitment to another space project on the scale of the moon landing."

The Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa

"The club has shown continued growth. From 147 members in July 2001, membership recently passed the 200 mark."

Keith's note: I think all NASA administrators (and former administrators for that matter) should speak more often before small, local organizations such as this - and do so all over America. I can think of no better way to connect with the real world outside of Washington. But, in so doing, they need to present a message that resonates with the daily realities that confront their audience - not imaginary issues filled with sour grapes, posturing, and rhetoric intended for the disinterested ears of a few policy wonks inside the beltway who might just be listening via the Internet.

Don't you have classes to teach, Mike? It's time for you to just shut up once and for all and let Charlie Bolden run NASA.

White House: Obama would go to moon for his goal, AP

"How far is President Barack Obama willing to go for a deal on overhauling the health care system? Try all the way to the moon. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joked Wednesday that Obama would orbit the moon if he thought it would help get a deal on a bill Congress can vote on after it returns from summer break."

Walter Jacobi

Original German Rocket Team member Walter Jacobi dies at 91, Huntsville Times

"Walter Jacobi, an original member of Dr. Wernher von Braun's rocket team that came to America at the end of World War II, died today. He was 91. Jacobi played an invaluable role in designing the structure and components of America's Cold War rockets that were developed by the Army on Redstone Arsenal and later NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center, close friends told The Times."

LOIRP Releases Restored Lunar Orbiter IV Image of the Lunar South Pole

"This image of the Moon's south pole was taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on 16 May 1967 at 16:00:08 GMT. This image is identified as Frame 4094,high resolution subframe h1. Large craters visible in this image include Shackleton, Amundsen, and Scott."

Technoarchaeology: Finding The Right Image in a Room Full of Tapes

"Here at the LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Process) project there are two different phases of the image retrieval process that are distinct from each other. The second phase, the production of the vast majority of all the of the Lunar Orbiter images, will simply involve putting tapes on the tape drive machines, acquiring the data, and processing them into images. However, we're still in the first phase of the project where we need to search through tapes in a painstaking fashion just to find the images we are interested in downloading. Once we find what we are looking for, downloading is a snap and can be done in a matter of hours. Finding the images using a jumbled nomenclature and labeling system last used more than 40 years ago is part of what we call "Technoarchaeology"."

Records regarding 36 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) closed investigations, 08-January-1991- 21-October-2008, Government Attic (PDF)

Keith's note: This compendium of closed NASA OIG investigations from Governmentattic.org, most of which have had material (names, numbers, etc.) redacted, makes fascinating reading.

One investigation in particular in June 2008 resulted from an anonymous hotline complaint alleging that Mike Griffin told Lockheed Martin not to bid on a ISS Service RFP.

In addition there are complaints that were investigated regarding shuttle parts being sold on eBay, conflicts of interest, over charging, stiffling of dissent by PAO, and improper use of NASA affiliation in complaints about textbook contents.

There was also a complaint and investigation about the quality of the Apollo 11 TV broadcast. Speaking of which, where is that report that Dick Nafzger at GSFC has been working on - the one he publicly stated was supposed to be released "within days"? It has been a month.

Table of contents listing below

Ares Needs a Death Panel, Space Frontier Foundation

"For over a decade, we've said that continuing to try and develop new government rockets costs too much and delays human exploration beyond Earth orbit," added co-Founder Rick Tumlinson. "Pouring more money into Ares now is the equivalent of giving a taxpayer-funded I.V. to a corpse. Instead, let's use those funds to give birth to a new and vibrant space transport industry that might actually make money and open the space frontier to everyone."

Flying on empty, Houston Chronicle

"The signals coming from a presidential commission compiling recommendations for the future of NASA's manned space program are alarming, particularly for communities like Houston that have a large economic stake riding on the outcome. At a public meeting in Washington last week in preparation for delivering its final report to the White House later this month, members of the 10-person Human Space Flight Plans Committee said the space agency lacks the financial fuel to support efforts to put astronauts on the moon and Mars in the relatively near future. As they whittled down the potential options for President Barack Obama, comments were grim."

Beyond Augustine, Dennis Wingo

"The Augustine commission, in its last public meeting in Washington delivered a stunning blow to NASA in finding that the program of record, (the current architecture) was not affordable, giving the FY2010 run out of the NASA budget. At first, this was a cause for consternation for many of us, thinking that a repeat of 1993 and the retreat from exploration is on the way. However, I don't think that this has to be the case as the president seems to be supportive of exploration beyond low earth orbit, just not overly generous with the checkbook. This is ok, and maybe this dose of reality from the commission can begin a new thought process for space exploration. In fact, it may be that the Augustine commission, by being this honest about the course that we are on may finally lead to some progress in exploration."

Excalibur Almaz Debuts

Excalibur Almaz to Pioneer Private Orbital Manned Space Flight In cooperation with NPOM of Russia

"Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA), an international space exploration company, today announced plans to open up a new era of private orbital space flight for commercial customers, using updated elements of the "Almaz" space system originally developed by JSC MIC NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia. Realization of EA's project with technical assistance from NPOM will allow regular access to and from space. This project joins Russian space technology expertise with an international private enterprise to create a commercial offering of orbital spaceflight services for global customers. EA plans to offer week-long orbital space flights beginning as early as 2013 - taking a big leap beyond the sub-orbital flight market targeted by most other private space companies. In addition to NPOM, other leading aerospace firms in the U.S., Europe and Japan will provide technical support for EA's space flight operations."

Beating swords into plough shares with Soviet Almaz, SpaceflightNow

"The previously top secret reusable reentry vehicle for the Soviet "Almaz" manned military space station will form the backbone of a major new U.S./Russian commercial venture to carry paying research crews on one week missions into Earth orbit by 2013. The reusable reentry vehicle (RRV) venture is being announced today at MAKS, the annual Moscow Air Show at Ramenskoye air base."

Astronaut is a mom on a mission to space, Houston Chronicle

"Astronauts always get the same question: How does it feel to blast into space and leave all your loved ones behind? But Nicole Passonno Stott, who's scheduled to lift off Monday for a four-month stint aboard the International Space Station, fields more of those "loved ones" queries than the other six crew members flying on NASA's STS-128 mission. Why? She's a mom, not a dad. And despite continuing shifts in women's roles, it's apparently still more compelling when a mother leaves a child. "My son just turned 7," Stott said to a group of reporters after a NASA press conference. That means she won't have to organize a birthday party from space. It also means her son has watched her prepare for this trip for as long as he can remember. "This has been his whole life," said Stott, 46, who wouldn't give her son's name but did say that he loves Star Wars and Star Trek. "One of the things about space-station training is, for over four years, 50 percent of my time has been spent out of the country."

Orion Has Other Uses

Dual Orion capsules studied for manned asteroid missions, SpaceflightNow

"A manned asteroid mission using two Orion spacecraft, docked nose-to-nose to form a 50-ton deep space vehicle, is being studied by Lockheed Martin Space Systems as an alternative to resumption of U.S. lunar landing missions. The Orion asteroid mission concept is being unveiled just as the Presidential committee reviewing U.S. human space flight is citing asteroid missions after 2020 as a less costly alternative to NASA's proposed lunar landing infrastructure."

Lockheed Martin video

Jim Harnage


ULA Delta II Completes 20 Year Era With Successful Air Force GPS IIR-21 Launch

"The 48th successful and final Air Force Delta II Global Positioning System satellite launch occurred today, ending one of the most successful space launch programs in American history. A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launched GPS IIR-21(M) into orbit from Space Launch Complex-17A at 6:35 a.m., EDT today."

Keith's note: Look at the sign on the launch tower.

Ali Safaeinili

Ali Safaeinili, 1964-2009

"Born in Sari, Iran, Safaeinili always wanted to pursue his higher education in science and engineering in the United States and enrolled at Iowa State University in 1985 to study electrical engineering and computer science. He completed his undergraduate studies in two-and-a-half years by testing out of all the required math classes and finished his post-doctorate work in 1995. At JPL for more than a decade, Safaeinili pursued radar as a means to study ice on Earth and the planets. An energetic and innovative scientist, he participated in the design, development, testing, and operation of the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) still operating on Mars Express."

Giffords on NASA 's Budget

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Statement on Threats to NASA's Budget

"The Augustine panel is telling us something we already knew -- that NASA's exploration program has been starved for funding and the good work being done by NASA's civil servants and contractors risks being undone by shortsighted bean-counting.

Congress has spoken with near unanimity over the past four years in support of a robust initiative to explore our solar system, including utilization of the International Space Station and a return to the Moon on our way to other destinations. To achieve this goal, however, we need a sustained national commitment, including adequate funding."

Why Is Mars So Hard?

Why is human Mars exploration so surprisingly hard?, Jim Oberg, Space Review

"As space policy experts mull over alternative strategies for astronaut exploration of the solar system, possibly including human flight to Mars, the recently-concluded fortieth anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing inspire one specific question: what's taken so long? In the heady days of the Apollo triumphs, even the "pessimistic" forecasts imagined it might take as long as twenty years to get astronauts to Mars. Optimistic schedules put the first footsteps on the Red Planet--another "giant leap for mankind"--as early as 1982."

Lockheed's space systems unit to cut jobs, Reuters

"Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday its space systems division plans to cut 800 jobs, or about 4.5 percent of the unit's workforce, in response to soft demand. Lockheed, based in Bethesda, Maryland, said the space systems job cuts would affect all levels and disciplines, including technical, managerial and administrative posts, mainly at facilities in Denver and Sunnyvale, California."

NASA Supervisory Historian, History Division, NASA HQ

"The position is located in the NASA Office of External Relations History Division. This position manages the NASA History Division to assure the establishment and integration of necessary planning, programming and coordination of the NASA History Program."

OMB Program Examiner NASA, NSF, Smithsonian

"Major Duties: Serves in the branch of OMB that has budget responsibilities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution and other federally-supported museums, small cultural agencies, and overall Federal research and development coordination. Serves as analyst for research and development activities including program areas for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (such as space station, space shuttle, exploration, aeronautics, and/or support functions and facilities), and/or Federal research and development policy including multi-agency programs in science and technology. Incumbent will analyze, evaluate, and develop creative and effective options and recommendations for policy, budget, legislative, and management issues pertaining to science and technology."

NASA Launches New Technology: An Inflatable Heat Shield

"A successful NASA flight test Monday demonstrated how a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds."

Keith's note: What a cool project. And the launch - it was one that was likely visible up and down the east coast of the U.S. Too bad NASA only started to tell people about it a few hours before the launch. The only NASA Aeronautics or WFF PAO release was after the fact. No media advisory was sent out in advance, no advance press release, no contact of metro area media - nothing. At a time when everyone seems to be in a quandry as to what value NASA provides to the public, you'd think that a little more PR would be in order - especially given the number of peopel vacationing on the shore who could have been tipped off to what was happening.

Although something is posted here dated 10 August, you'd have to be a regular visitor to the Aeronautics page to have seen it. To their credit the Wallops folks did Twitter about the launch but unless you just happend to check Twitter at 4:09 pm on 13 August before new Tweets rolled in, you would have never known there was going to be a launch until early today. If you were checking Twitter around 6 am EDT today you would have seen that a countdown was underway. Also, the Wallops PAO office is not exactly large 1-2 people on a good day. That said, Aeronautics PAO at NASA HQ could have been much more proactive in this regard. How much work does it take to issue a simple who/what/when/where media advisory for something like this? Too much, it would seem.

People in the aeronautics world are always complaining about a lack of visibility for what they do. Given this stealth launch today, I can understand why they feel this way. The same goes for Wallops - what do they do over there? Well, one look at their press release page would suggest that they have not done anything that is newsworthy since 6 May 2008.

Life After Ares-1

Future Marshall Space Flight Center work may be its past engines, Huntsville Times

"If Marshall Space Flight Center work is slashed on Ares I, then center employees could be put to work on Marshall's "bread and butter" efforts -- propulsion. The White House-appointed Augustine Commission last week continued its discussions regarding NASA's future, and much of the talk centered on stopping work on the Ares I rocket - after almost five years and $3 billion. space shuttle's large external tank and solid rocket boosters, transition to work on the larger Ares V heavy-lift vehicle, or developing a new 21st century large rocket like the Apollo-era Saturn V."

Today's Video: Bella Gaia

BELLA GAIA(TM) (Beautiful Earth) is a 'Living Atlas' journey of our world, expressing the deeply moving beauty of planet Earth as seen through the eyes of astronauts. Created by award winning director and classically trained violinist Kenji Williams, BELLA GAIA(TM) features live performances by Williams and world music artists against a large-screen backdrop of orbiting visualizations of Earth from space.

Video below

Augustine Committee Update

NASA's future gets bleaker: Obama faced with manned-space dilemma, Orlando Sentinel

"Shaping the future of America's space program began Friday, when members of the committee presented their preliminary findings to NASA chief Charlie Bolden and White House officials. Initial reports indicated the group agreed to retire the space shuttle in 2011, extend the space station until 2020 and use more commercial rockets. They also liked the idea of exploring deep space -- rather than landing on the moon. On Wednesday, the panel said that Constellation, NASA's current back-to-the-moon program, is running $50 billion over the current budget through 2020. But the alternatives presented Friday are almost as expensive, requiring $20-to-$30 billion more than the current budget through 2020. The outcome was not entirely unexpected."

Christopher Scolese Receives the NASA Distinguished Service Medal

"NASA Associate Administrator Christopher Scolese, left, receives the NASA Distinguished Service Medal from NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)"

ITAR Review Announced

U.S. business welcomes Obama export control review, Reuters

"U.S. high-technology exporters on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. export controls rooted in Cold War fears of the former Soviet Union.
"The economic and security challenges our country faces continue to grow more complex, and we must have a modern export control system that protects U.S. technology while allowing us to cooperate and trade with our close allies and partners," Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, said in statement."

Keith's note: Sources report that the LRO team has assembled a series of polar images into a mosaic but they are refusing to release these mosaics - or the images - to interested parties - or to the public.

Obama Review Panel Endorses Commercial Human Space Flight Options, Next Step in Space Coalition

"During what may be the last public meeting, the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, commissioned by President Obama to study current U.S. human space flight plans, there was a strong consensus for funding a robust commercial human space flight program to provide human space transportation to low Earth orbit (LEO). Included in virtually every option presented was providing $2.5 billion over four years starting in FY2011 to support development of commercial human space transport capabilities. The panel also discussed options that included commercially-provided heavy lift capabilities for space exploration beyond LEO."

White House Review Committee Expresses Strong Support for Commercial Spaceflight, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"During this week's hearing of the White House Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, members of the Committee expressed broad support for expanding the role of commercial spaceflight for delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station. MIT professor Ed Crawley, a member of the Committee, stated during the August 12th public hearing that there is a strong consensus among the Committee that the government should support a vigorous program of developing commercial crew transportation, in addition to the existing COTS program for commercial cargo to the Space Station."

Ares 1-X is Good to Go

NASA Completes Assembly of Ares I-X Test Rocket

"For the first time in more than a quarter-century a new space vehicle stands ready in NASA's Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building. The Ares I-X rocket, its simulated crew module and launch abort system are assembled on a mobile launch platform at Kennedy in preparation for launch this fall."

VSE: Just Send Money

NASA Panel Grapples With Cost of Space Plans, NY Times

"Unable to fit anything into the official budget, Dr. Ride and her colleagues tried to see how various programs would fit into an "unconstrained budget," which would be allowed to overshoot it by up to $3 billion a year, then grow with inflation. The best fit in that case was something called "Deep Space," which would involve flybys of asteroids, the Moon or Mars and other interesting places in deep space, but not necessarily landing on the Moon or Mars. Under that plan, Dr. Ride reported, there could be missions every other year in the 2020s past asteroids and Mars and even a landing on the Moon by 2029 or 2030."

NASA's Trajectory Unrealistic, Panel Says, Washington Post

"Moreover, the current strategy involves retiring the space shuttle in 2010 and replacing it with the new Ares I rocket and the Orion crew capsule, which NASA hopes would be ready to take astronauts to low Earth orbit in 2016. During the long gap in NASA's human spaceflight ability, American astronauts would have to hitch rides into space on Russian rockets. The awkward plan has been seen as a budgetary necessity, with shuttle program money flowing into the new Constellation program that features the new space hardware that could eventually put astronauts on the lunar surface. The committee has chewed over a basic paradox in the plan, which is that, even if everything went smoothly, the new rocket would not be able to get astronauts to low Earth orbit until just about the time that the space station would be fireballing its way back to Earth."

A New Look at an Old Image of The Moon's South Pole

"This image, LO-IV-179-H1, taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on May 24, 1967 at 16:19:23.809 GMT, shows a portion of the lunar south polar region.

The altitude of the spacecraft when this image was taken was 3,591.83 kilometers. The resolution of the image is 78.432 meters per pixel.

In addition to the Moon's south pole (shaded), craters visible in this image include Drygalski, Cabeus (with its two satellite craters Cabeus A and Cabeus B), Malapert, Haworth, and Shoemaker."

Germany may target the moon by 2015, UPI

"Such a mission would cost at least $2.2 billion, but Hintze said the money would be well-invested even as Germany is hit by the worst recession in decades. A mission to the moon would secure German aerospace and robotics expertise, create high-technology jobs and improve the country's scientific expertise, Hintze said. "The moon is of the highest importance when answering the question of how we guarantee the future of our own blue planet," he said, adding that a joint mission with other European nations or the United States would also be an option. In what seems to be a more visionary idea, the state secretary said the mission could help set up a base on the moon to thwart threats from space, for example an asteroid on a collision course with Earth."

Can't We All Get Along

Keith's note: As you may recall there was an aborted protest of sorts being mounted at the recent 5 August meeting of the Augustine Committee. According to this article placards/bumper stickers that said "Mars Direct - Cowards Return To The Moon" were found in several locations at the Carnegie Institute, the host of that day's meeting.

According to sources at NASA when staff supporting the Augustine Committee arrived at the Carnegie Institution to prepare for the meeting they found these bumper stickers already mounted on placards that had been placed all around the auditorium as well as at various other places in the building.The staff cleaned up as many as they could find - but apparently, not all of them.

A Mars Society member has admitted that he did this on his own volition and the Mars Society claims that they knew nothing about this. Regardless of what actually happened, one would hope that Mars Society members learned a lesson from this. Public protests are a good thing to do. Done properly and strategically, they can have a marked effect on the course of policy development. But you need to send a message that the recipients i.e. the people who might join your cause and/or are in a position to support or thwart your efforts, can do something with.

Space exploration is not exactly on the top of everyone's list here in Washington. As such, neither does this town's political radar easily register the interests of what are commonly called "space advocates". When space advocates do manage to gain the attention of presidential advisory committees in this fashion, there is collateral damage to the efforts of all space advocates since the message sent - and received - was "we can't even agree among ourselves".

Its not as if space advocates do not have a sympathetic ear at NASA. Just look at what the agency's Deputy Administrator and the Chief Of Staff have on their resumes. Give them something that they can work with. A groundswell of impassioned public support - voiced in a variety of fora - can be a tool that they and the Administrator can use to argue for a more expansive and inclusive space program.

But arguing against or for spending billions of dollars to visit a specific planet for reasons that boil down to "because I say so" is not going to have much effect when the news features daily public protests about the economy, health care, and wars in the Middle East. Space advocates need to find a reason why people - regular taxpayers and policy makers alike - should care about space when "we have so many problems here on Earth".

So far, I haven't seen one.

This is Why People Often Don't Take Space Advocates Seriously, earlier post

Welcome To The Recession, NASA, Free Space, Discovery Channel

"A tedious final public meeting of the board reviewing the country's human space program concluded with a sobering assessment of the future, at least for those wishing to see American flags on other bodies in the solar system. To put it bluntly: It ain't gonna happen in our lifetimes without a big boost in NASA's budget. That's not to say there's not a silver lining, a couple actually. First off, we're likely to make our international partners very happy because the only program that looks robust and viable for the foreseeable future is the International Space Station. For the most part, the Human Space Flight Review panel seems to favor extending its planned lifetime to at least 2020."

Exploration plan doesn't fit in current budget, panel says, Spaceflight Now

"A presidential panel wrapping up a review of options for future U.S. manned space flight operations delivered a grim assessment today, showing NASA's current plan to retire the shuttle, finish the space station and return to the moon by the early 2020s is not even remotely feasible without a significant restoration of previously cut funding. In the absence of a major spending increase, "our view is that it will be difficult with the current budget to do anything that's terribly inspiring in the human spaceflight area," said Norman Augustine, chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee."

NASA Budget Threatens Manned Missions, Group Says, Wall Street Journal

"Current budget constraints confronting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration make it virtually impossible to sustain manned missions to the Moon, Mars or further into space in coming decades, a blue-ribbon study group is expected to tell the White House. The findings mean the Obama administration, which created the commission, faces a stark test of its commitment to pursue expensive human space exploration efforts despite ballooning federal deficits."

Presidential panel says NASA's manned-space future is bleak, Orlando Sentinel

"We haven't found a scenario that includes exploration that's viable," said former astronaut Sally Ride, one of 10 committee members who have until Aug. 31 to present President Barack Obama with future options for NASA. Panel chairman Norm Augustine, the retired CEO of Lockheed Martin, said NASA is the victim of both budget cuts and technical problems with its Constellation program of new rockets and capsules that are supposed to return humans to the moon. "The money available has declined considerably since the program began," he said. "On the other hand, the Constellation program has proven to be more difficult than it was thought to be."

Rover Tracks and Dust Devils on Mars As Seen From Orbit

"The high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned a dramatic oblique view of the Martian crater that a rover explored for two years. The new view of Victoria Crater shows layers on steep crater walls, difficult to see from straight overhead, plus wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between September 2005 and August 2007. The orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera shot it at an angle comparable to looking at landscape from an airplane window. Some of the camera's earlier, less angled images of Victoria Crater aided the rover team in choosing safe routes for Opportunity and contributed to joint scientific studies."

Griffith Continues to Press Administration on Ares Program - Congressman stands firm on commitment to Constellation (includes Letter to President Obama)

"In September 2008, Ares I completed a key milestone with its Preliminary Design Review (PDR). PDR is the final step of the initial design process, and thereby a crucial milestone, during which the overall project verifies that the preliminary design can meet all requirements within acceptable risk limits and within cost and schedule constraints, and identifies technical and management challenges and addresses approaches for eliminating or mitigating them. Current plans call for Ares I to progress to the point of obtaining Agency approval by early 2010 to proceed to Critical Design Review."

Ares PDR Was Not As Smooth As NASA Says It Was, earlier post

"Too many people involved in the planning phase, meetings were too large"; "The integrated vechicle review did not present the element design issues (RIDs) so it was difficult to know if the parts added up to a rocket that will fly"; "The review occurred to close to the element PDRs, This did not allow for some of the element level rids to addressed or predeclared in documents"; "Much of the documentation presented for PDR was not mature enough for PDR. This limited an effective of these documents and left the impression that the PDR was rushed."; "The RID screening rules and procedures seemed to change from day to day, like we were making it up as we went along."; "Insufficient time was allotted to review the documents."; "Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes."

Keith's note: I wonder if Rep. Griffith's staff had any "help" from MSFC in the writing of this letter...

Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Meeting: Washington, DC

"The Aug. 12 meeting will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington. "

Watch on NASA TV

Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report

"The United States is currently the only country with an active, government-sponsored effort to detect and track potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs). At congressional direction, NASA funds several ground-based observatories primarily dedicated to conducting NEO surveys. Several new or proposed observatories with other non-NEO objectives can also contribute to the NEO survey task. Congress has mandated that NASA detect1 and track 90 percent of NEOs that are 1 kilometer in diameter or larger. These objects represent a great potential hazard to life on Earth and could cause global destruction. NASA is close to accomplishing this goal. Congress has more recently mandated that by 2020 NASA should detect and track 90 percent of NEOs that are 140 meters in diameter or larger, a category of objects that is generally recognized to represent a very significant threat to life on Earth if they strike in or near urban areas. Achieving this goal may require the building of one or more additional observatories, possibly including a space-based observatory."

IFPTE Letter to Norman Augustine

"It is an honor and privilege for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) to represent thousands of talented and dedicated NASA employees distributed across the country from the Washington D.C. area to California and from Ohio to Alabama. As NASA's largest federal employee Union, we focus on their broad concerns which range from nitty-gritty institutional personnel issues to national aerospace policy. NASA employees did not come to the Agency merely to collect a paycheck, but rather to work hard on challenging problems, to contribute to amazing collective human accomplishments larger than any individual accomplishment, and to communicate NASA's achievements to inspire young Americans into a science or engineering education and into aerospace careers. NASA civil servants care deeply about their Agency and its future, and thus want to assist your Committee in providing President Obama and Administrator Bolden with the best possible set of options. To that end, IFPTE would like to provide you with the following three recommendations."

Losing Sight of the Vision

Two Views of The Vision, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"Marburger described a split between NASA and the White House during formulation of the Vision. NASA (led by former Administrator Sean O'Keefe, Chief Scientist John Grunsfeld and an internal study group within the agency) wanted a manned Mars mission (as it has for the last 50 years) while the White House (led by Marburger, his OSTP colleagues and some members of the National Security Council) called for a new direction and orientation of the space program. They favored a return to the Moon with the "mission" of radically changing the rules of spaceflight."

Keith's note: Imagine what you could do with robots like this on the Moon or Mars ....

Video below

Southwest Research Institute organizes first NASTAR Suborbital Space Scientist Training course for future research astronauts

"Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), working with The National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center, is leading a program that will provide spaceflight physiology training for prospective scientist-astronauts wishing to fly on upcoming suborbital space missions. The SwRI-NASTAR Suborbital Space Scientist course, which is similar to training courses used by the space tourism industry, will be taught to a select set of a dozen scientists, graduate students and educators from U.S. research and educational institutions and is designed to acquaint and qualify individuals with the physiological rigors of suborbital human spaceflight. Before organizing the course, SwRI's Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Daniel Durda visited The NASTAR Center in June 2009 to survey its facilities; Stern then invited various leaders in the new field of human suborbital Research and Education Missions (REM) to participate."

Keith's note: According to the NRC: "In the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, Congress mandated that by 2020 NASA should be capable of detecting at least 90 percent of objects over 140 meters wide in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. NEAR-EARTH OBJECT SURVEYS AND HAZARD MITIGATION STRATEGIES, an interim report of a congressionally mandated study by the National Research Council, examines NASA's current ability to survey and detect these near-Earth objects. A final report will address hazard mitigation and make recommendations on ways to improve the program."

The report will be released on 12 August at 11 am EDT.

Lockheed Martin Donates Clean Room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"Lockheed Martin Corporation has donated the labor required to erect a class 10,000 clean room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). This clean room will help protect our refurbished 1960's era Ampex FR-900 tape drives from the environment inside NASA Ames Research Park Building 596 aka "McMoons", which was originally constructed to house a McDonalds restaurant. In the 1960's these tape drives were operated in an old style computer room, with raised floors ultra-clean air, and constant air conditioning. Since our building's air conditioning system was sized for the heat of the kitchen and lots of customers, we are able to maintain the temperature to near optimum conditions. However, dust and dirt are still a problem with the finely tuned machine."

Bringing Back NIAC

NRC: Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts

"Until August 2007, NIAC provided an independent open forum, a high-level point of entry to NASA for an external community of innovators, and an external capability for analysis and definition of advanced aeronautics and space concepts to complement the advanced concept activities conducted within NASA. Throughout its 9-year existence, NIAC inspired an atmosphere for innovation that stretched the imagination and encouraged creativity.

NIAC was featured in more than 40 general-interest publications, attracting mainstream media coverage for the agency and receiving more than 226,000 Google hits to its website. Originally conceived as reporting to the agency's chief technologist so that infusion across all NASA enterprises could be assured, NIAC operated in an environment of frequent NASA organizational changes. In 2004, NASA management of NIAC was transferred to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, where it was not well aligned with its sponsor's near-term mission objectives. NIAC was terminated in 2007."

Playing With Moon Rocks and Duct Tape at the Dinner Table

"This evening I was prowling through pictures taken during the current Expedition aboard the International Space Station when I came across a picture of astronauts and a Moon rock. The photo was taken on 21 July 2009 and shows portions of the combined Expedition 20 and STS-127 crews gathered around the dinner table while Mike Barratt holds a Moon rock. This was hauntingly familiar.

While Scott Parazynski was at Everest Base Camp in April he spoke with Barratt twice by satellite phone - once, on his birthday before I arrived, and a second time, the day after I arrived, when a group of JSC trekkers stopped by for a visit. Unbeknownst to the JSC trekkers (or the rest of Everest Base Camp and Mike Barratt for that matter) I had a piece of plastic containing four small Apollo 11 moon rocks in my chest pocket. By coincidence, Unbeknownst to Scott and I, Mike Barratt had another Apollo 11 Moon rock (albeit a bigger one) with him on the ISS, having been delivered by STS-119 only a few days before.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 8 August 2009

"Mike Barratt had ~1.5 hrs for taking special photographic shots with the D2X digital cameras for starting Photosynth mapping in the FGB, Lab, Node-1, Node-2, Airlock, Columbus, Kibo JPM and JLP. [Photosynth is a Microsoft-developed process to turn series of photos into 3-D panoramic vistas. Photosynth allows everyone (except Mac users) to create unique panoramas or "synths" using their own photos. Photosynth was already used by NASA last year for RPM (R-bar Pitch Maneuver) photography of the Orbiter underside. It is being used to create a 3-D rendering of the ISS's interior for training purposes, so astronauts familiarize themselves with their new home before they get there.]"

Keith's note: I wonder if they will put all of this online. They really should.

Keith's note: According to an email from NASA PAO: "ISS Photosynth models along with Photosynth models of the Mars rovers have been posted since May 7 (NASA Press Release). The Photosynth models can be accessed through the station webpage at http://www.nasa.gov/station. A model of the HST using imagery from STS-125 was added soon after servicing mission completion. The ISS Photosynth site is being maintained and periodically updated and improved."

Extrasolar Planet Collision Sends Vaporized Rock and Hot Lava Flying (with video)

"NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of a high-speed collision between two burgeoning planets around a young star. Astronomers say that two rocky bodies, one as least as big as our moon and the other at least as big as Mercury, slammed into each other within the last few thousand years or so -- not long ago by cosmic standards. The impact destroyed the smaller body, vaporizing huge amounts of rock and flinging massive plumes of hot lava into space. Spitzer's infrared detectors were able to pick up the signatures of the vaporized rock, along with pieces of refrozen lava, called tektites."

Found art, The Space Review

"On Wednesday, August 5, the Human Spaceflight Review Committee, popularly called the Augustine Commission, held a public meeting in Washington, DC. Robert Zubrin spoke to the committee. Somebody, probably a Mars Society member but probably not Zubrin himself, left several of these bumper-sticker-sized placards around the building. I found this one in the men's room."

Keith's note: Despite comments to the contrary by the Mars Society's Executive Director, their local DC chapter paints a somewhat different picture i.e. that these bumper stickers were distributed at the Mars Society convention in the DC metro area several days before: "Hi Folks, I picked one up at our Con on the last day or so, somewhere in the vicinity of the exhibit room, I think. I did not see any at the Auggies meeting, but having had lunch with Zubrin, I saw no evidence he was aware of them. C'est la vie. It is an amusing sentiment, but misplaced. The dangers of the moon far exceed those of Mars, so it could be argued that only the foolishly "brave" return to the moon. Cheers, Bob Terry"

LOIRP Releases Enhanced Restored Version of Lunar Orbiter "Image of the Century" Plus Additional Subframes of Crater Copernicus

"This is a re-release of Life Magazine's "Image of the Century" from 1966. The performance of our hardware and software image processing methods has been significantly enhanced to remove some of the banding artifacts that are derived from imperfections in the spacecraft image scanning hardware. This image of Copernicus crater was taken from a spacecraft altitude of 45 km (27.1 miles) and is approximately 207.7 km (~125 miles) to the center of the image. An interesting aspect to this image is that with this oblique view, recent impacts of small craters have much more brightness than older craters of the same size. This suggests the value of oblique photography in doing crater aging studies as well as multispectral remote sensing of excavated materials from the craters."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Creates Scientific Advisory Panel - Focused on Suborbital Research Applications

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the creation of the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG), composed of experienced scientists, researchers, and educators dedicated to furthering the research and education potential of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under development by the commercial spaceflight sector. The panel is chaired by Dr. S. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, a space scientist who previously served as head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. The members of the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) are aiming to increase awareness of commercial suborbital vehicles in the science and R&D communities, to work with policymakers to ensure that payloads can have easy access to these vehicles, and to further develop ideas for the uses of these vehicles for science, engineering, and education missions."

It's Time to Get Serious About Our 40 Year Old Dream

"It's time to find out if humans can permanently live and work in space, according to an article written by Mark Sykes and published today in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona's morning newspaper. "This has never been a part of U.S. space policy, despite a long history of public relations implying the opposite," Sykes says. Sykes, CEO and director of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, has a poster hanging in his office that shows astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon next to an American flag. The caption reads: "Remember your dreams THEN of NOW." When that photo was taken in 1969, Americans believed they would lead the way into space and by 2009 people would be working in well-established colonies on the Moon and Mars and even in space habitats, Sykes said. Instead, after hundreds of billions of dollars spent and the loss of many lives in our human space-flight endeavors, NASA has announced plans to abandon and de-orbit its only platform in space -- the International Space Station. The orbiting platform will be scuttled in 2016, only five years after its completion."

6 steps to cutting the cord with departing employees, Federal Computing Week

"Thus, when hypothetical employee J.P. Goddard, a network administrator with ten years at the agency, submits his resignation, NASA can effectively de-provision him within minutes, if necessary. But NASA and other large agencies have learned that its difficult to develop a single switch to flick and reliably block access to all the various systems that contain sensitive information. Just identifying all the accounts a long-term employee like Goddard may have isnt always easy. ... NASAs work consolidating Active Directory accounts used to authenticate Goddards privileges to the network and applications is helping to speed this step. Dubbed NCAD, for NASA Centralized Active Directory, the project is bringing individual directories created at various NASA locations under a single, centralized directory."

Sloppy NASA IT: Someone Needs To Update NED (update), earlier post

Keith's note: It has been two weeks since my initial post. NASA's new way of finding its employees still has problems with people who are no longer employed at the agency, some that were and have died, and in several cases, people who never worked there to begin with. According to people.nasa.gov, the NASA Enterprise Directory or "NED" former NASA Administrators Sean O'Keefe, Mike (and Rebecca) Griffin and Dick Truly still work at NASA as do a number of my dead friends and deceased members of Space Shuttle Columbia's crew Willie McCool and Ilan Ramon (and Ramon's non-NASA widow). In addition, former astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, Buzz Aldrin (and his non- NASA employee wife Lois) are in the employee directory even though they have not worked there for decades and there wasn't even email when they did.

This is getting to be somewhat pathetic. NASA cannot even purge its online phone book of dead and ex-employees - even when the names are pointed out to them for weeks - and yet NASA wants to be seen as being on the cutting edge of IT in the Federal government?

Keith's note: Now I know how NASA faked part of the Moon landings - especially the part where Neil and Buzz bounced around. Some French guy figured it out. Thanks @GreatDismal (author William Gibson)

Video below

NRC Weighs in on NIAC

Expert panel urges NASA to revive futuristic think tank, New Scientist

"NASA should revive its Institute for Advanced Concepts, a blue-skies idea mill that closed in 2007, says an expert panel - but it says the new incarnation should have its feet a little closer to the ground. NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) was founded in 1998 to harvest innovative ideas for spaceflight and aeronautics from outside the NASA community."

Panel Says NASA Should Reopen Innovation Institute, Science

"The panel, chaired by aerospace engineer Robert Braun of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, determined that NIAC's program was effective, that NASA has nothing comparable, and that the agency needs an organization to provide "visionary, far-reaching concepts." As a result, the panel urged NASA to create a next-generation NIAC that reports directly to the agency's chief. No comment yet from NASA. But the agency's new administrator, Charles Bolden, is likely to be sympathetic to the recommendation. He said at his confirmation hearing in the Senate last month that he would push to reinvigorate an ambitious technology program at the agency."

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is Closing, earlier post
Killing NIAC, earlier post
NIAC Rises From The Dead to Make Time's Best Inventions Of The Year, earlier post
Should NIAC be Revived?,

NASA NOMAD Internal Memo: Large File Transfer Pilot

"What Is Happening: The Office of the Chief Information Officer is launching a NOMAD pilot of Large File Transfer (LFT) capabilities. The service uses the Accellion appliance to allow NOMAD customers to safely share large files up to 10GB with other NOMAD users as well as those external to NASA. Use of this service is voluntary. Normally these files would be too large to send by email. Detailed outreach deployment of the new LFT capability will begin in August at Dryden Flight Research Center and the NASA Shared Services Center with other Centers to follow in a staggered approach.Center migration to NASA Consolidated Active Directory (NCAD) is a prerequisite to using this service. Further details including an outreach deployment schedule for LFT is available on the NOMAD LFT Information Web Page at http://nomadinternal.nasa.gov/nomad/lft.html. Please refer to it for future Center updates."

Stadd Found Guilty

Ex-top NASA official guilty of ethics violations, AP

"A former top NASA official has been found guilty of breaking ethics laws by steering nearly $10 million of the agency's funds to a consulting client. A jury found Courtney Stadd of Bethesda, Md., illegally benefited a private client while on the agency's payroll and lied to ethics officials. Stadd was NASA's chief of staff from 2001-2003. He left to start a consulting business, but came back temporarily in 2005 to help a new administrator reorganize the agency."

Jury Takes Up NASA Ethics Case, NY Times

"The case of a former top NASA official, accused of enriching himself and helping a consulting client get $9.6 million in grants, was headed to the jury Thursday. Courtney Stadd, NASA's former chief of staff and White House liaison, ''owed the public and taxpayers his undivided loyalty, but he betrayed that loyalty to line his and his client's pockets,'' said prosecutor Matthew Solomon in closing arguments. Defense attorney Dorrance Dickens said Stadd was following his boss' orders on where to send the grant money."

There's a new "Jobs After Shuttle" live chat today from 5:30p to 6:00p on launchnewcareers.com from the Aerospace Workforce Transition group which is set up to provide free help to aerospace workers. Free assessment, free training, whatever they can do to help soon to be laid off shuttle or aerospace workers find a job that works for them.

NASA's Kepler Mission Spies Changing Phases in a Distant World

"NASA's new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope's extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery will be published Friday, Aug. 7, in the journal Science. The find is based on a relatively short 10 days of test data collected before the official start of science operations. Kepler was launched March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and data analysis software were finished. "As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene," said Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!"

LOIRP Releases Recovered Lunar Orbiter V Image of "Full Earth"

"This image of Earth was taken on 8 August 1967 at 09:05:11 GMT by the Lunar Orbiter V spacecraft in orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 5,872.85 km. This image has been described as being the first image ever taken of a "full Earth" from space. Lunar Orbiter V was launched on 1 August 1967 arrived in a nearly polar orbit on 5 August at 12:48 p.m. EDT. Images were taken between 6-19 August and were sent back to Earth on 27 August 1967. It is easy to make out a number of geographic features in this image. In addition, you can see that the detail of the clouds - especially over the Indian Ocean is much greater in this image. Further processing of this image should yield even greater detail."

NASA Narrows Options for Post-Shuttle Future, NY Times

"Where to in space? A blue-ribbon panel charged by the Obama administration to review the United States' human spaceflight program has narrowed the options to seven. In three meetings last week, subcommittees of the panel presented possibilities for space flight after NASA retires its space shuttles, coming up with 864 permutations, said Edward F. Crawley, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a panel member."

Committee debates options for space program's future, SpaceflightNow

"The committee deliberating America's future in human spaceflight is beginning to narrow down an expansive list of alternatives to be presented to the White House at the end of this month. The panel discussed a preliminary list of seven paths for the space program, which included conservative, affordable scenarios and ambitious options that would put astronauts on Mars."

Augustine Commission considering options that delay -- or abandon -- NASA moon landing, Orlando Sentinel

"The presidential panel looking at NASA's human space program spent Wednesday narrowing nearly 900 exploration options into seven scenarios that will be refined for presentation to President Barack Obama later this month. They range from budget-busting plans to fly straight to Mars to more-affordable plans to just orbit the moon and nearby asteroids. Some would extend the life of the space shuttle, now due for retirement in 2010, and the international space station, now slated to close in 2015. There was no mention in any options of returning astronauts to the moon by 2020, which is NASA's current goal."

Pluto Politics Left Behind, MSNBC

"The IAU is not Holy Mother Church, speaking ex cathedra," Mark Sykes, director of the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute and an advocate for Pluto's planethood, said in an e-mail sent as I was writing up "The Case for Pluto." "Theissue continues to be debated," Sykes observed. "Scientists continue to write papers where Pluto and other such objects are referred to and treated as planets, because the science being discussed (e.g., atmospheric processes, mantle convection, differentiation) are shared with objects like the Earth." Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, turned down an invitation to speak at the IAU's Rio meeting. "I'm not there because the IAU seems to have become irrelevant," he told me today via e-mail."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Recovery Act - Commercial Crew Development

"NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program is applying Recovery Act funds to stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities. These efforts are intended to foster entrepreneurial activity leading to job growth in engineering, analysis, design, and research, and to economic growth as capabilities for new markets are created. By developing commercial crew service providers, NASA may be able to reduce the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability. All ARRA funded activities must comply with its provisions and will conclude no later than September 30, 2010. The program intends to solicit proposals from all interested U.S. industry participants to mature the design and development of commercial crew spaceflight concepts and associated enabling technologies and capabilities. NASA plans to use its Space Act authority to invest up to $50 million dollars in multiple competitively awarded, funded agreements. This activity is referred to as Commercial Crew Development, or CCDev."

Next Step or No Step, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"The Moon can be reached with existing launch assets; although NASA is currently bogged down in a debate about rocket development, the real issues are how you go back to the Moon and what you do there. The Moon offers the material and energy resources to develop the technology and skills necessary for sustained, long duration capability in space. ... Mars First advocates worry about getting "stuck on the Moon." In fact, it is their obsession for Mars that has kept us in low Earth orbit for the last 40 years. By relentlessly pushing for a space goal that is well out of our technical and fiscal reach, they have gotten an undesired (but not unexpected) result: stasis. There is no choice. You use the Moon or you get nothing. Right now, Mars is a bridge too far - we need the stepping-stone of our Moon to reach it."

New Members Join Next Step in Space Coalition

"The Next Step in Space Coalition, a group of businesses, organizations, and people working to ensure the future of US human spaceflight, announced today that its membership has grown to include a diverse set of businesses and organizations, including Google, Inc., Analytic Graphics Inc., the Space Coast Economic Development Commission and the National Space Society. With its new members, the Next Step in Space Coalition now includes large aerospace companies like Sierra Nevada Inc., Analytic Graphics and SpaceX, as well as smaller companies such as Odyssey Moon and Space Adventures. Also pledging their support are space related organizations including Space Florida and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation."

Constellation Update

NASA Internal memo: 8/1 Cx Update - Around the Program

"Regarding the Augustine panel's work, the program had opportunities during the panels visits to Houston, Huntsville, and Cocoa Beach to showcase just some of the substance of this program, the product of your labor of the last four years. We hope we did it justice given the time available. I want to thank all who contributed to the material that was presented, and to the presenters in all three locations. I feel we accomplished what we set out to accomplish - which was simply to make certain any options and recommendations from the panel are taken with as full an appreciation of the progress to date as possible.

Lastly, I would like to share the text of my closing remarks to the panel, as I believe it frames the primary choices that lay before our stakeholders, for whom we will execute whatever forward plan emerges..."

Final Memorandum on Review of Wheeling Jesuit University Cost Proposals

"We found that NASA inappropriately approved, obligated, and partially expended more than $4 million of facility and administrative (F&A) costs because NASA grant officers in charge of the WJU agreements did not adequately review WJU's cost proposals. Specifically, the grant officers failed to note that WJU had included F&A costs as direct costs in its cost proposals to NASA. During our interviews with NASA grant officers assigned to review the WJU agreements, they stated that they were not sufficiently familiar with the definitions and allocation of direct and F&A costs to adequately exercise due diligence to ensure proposal costs were allowable, allocable, and reasonable under the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21, "Cost Principles for Educational Institutions" (Revised August 8, 2000) (Circular A-21)."

NASA OIG on NextGen

NASA Could Improve Analyses and Coordination in Support of the Joint Planning and Development Office to Develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System

"Overall, we determined that NASA had taken some actions to work effectively with JPDO to accomplish NextGen development. NASA implemented an organizational structure to support JPDO R&D activities, assigning responsibility to accomplish NextGen R&D activities to ARMD. ARMD reformulated programs and projects to execute its NextGen responsibilities, developed program and project plans that support JPDO's plans, assigned responsibility and defined supervisory positions to support the accomplishment of those plans, and established project plan milestones and schedules to ensure progress toward NextGen objectives. However, concurrent with those actions in support of NextGen, when faced with impending budget reductions, ARMD eliminated or reduced three aeronautics research capabilities that JPDO and NRC had identified as critical for achieving NextGen goals."

Upcoming Debate: Returning to the Moon, Economist

"This house believes that NASA should not send humans back to the moon. This debate will happen online, and starts on August 4th 2009. You can sign up for email alerts to be notified when this debate begins."

- Defending the motion: Michael N. Gold, Director, Washington, D.C. Area Office, Bigelow Aerospace
- Against the motion: Gregg Maryniak, Director, James S. McDonnell Planetarium and VP, Energy and Aerospace, Saint Louis Science Centre

It's time for NASA to get back on track, editorial, Walt Cunningham, Houston Chronicle

"The so-called benefits of establishing an outpost on the moon are ephemeral and will be quite costly. Outposts on the moon are what I call "Mars Lite" -- going beyond earth orbit, while avoiding commitment to the next real milestone of human exploration -- Mars. Claims of mining Helium 3, prospecting for water, and rehearsing for Mars are not compelling reasons for returning to the moon. A lunar outpost diversion will cost at least $150 billion and carry with it the potential of becoming a financial swamp that could delay our exploration of Mars indefinitely."

Human Space Flight Review Committee Announces Meeting Agendas

"The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold public meetings Aug. 5 and 12. The meetings are open to the public and news media representatives. No registration is required, but seating is limited to the locations' capacity.

The Aug. 5 meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to noon EDT at the Carnegie Institution, located at 1530 P St. NW in Washington. No press conference is scheduled on Aug. 5. The Aug. 12 meeting will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington."

Twittering From Space

NASA Astronaut Sends First Tweets From Space Station

"NASA astronaut and U.S. Army Col. Tim Kopra has become the first International Space Station crew member to use the social media tool Twitter to discuss living and working in orbit. Kopra (@Astro_Tim) recently joined the Expedition 20 crew after arriving at the orbiting laboratory July 17 aboard space shuttle Endeavour. He is set to return to Earth on the STS-128 mission, which is targeted to launch Aug. 25. To follow Kopra on Twitter, visit: www.twitter.com/Astro_Tim Kopra will provide followers with a unique perspective as an Expedition 20 flight engineer and member of the Army. He is an Army aviator and West Point graduate."

Ex-NASA official goes on trial over steering money, AP

"A former high-ranking NASA official went on trial Monday on charges that he steered nearly $10 million to a consulting client and lied about it. Prosecutors told the jury during opening arguments they would prove Courtney Stadd abused the power of his government office to line his own pockets and mislead ethics officials. Stadd's lawyer insisted his client was only carrying out the orders of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin when he insisted in 2005 that $12 million of the money be spent in the state of Mississippi."

NASA Hacker Update

NASA Hacker Close To End Of Extradition Appeals, Digital Trends

"Friday saw so-called NASA hacker Gary McKinnon lose another in his bid to avoid extradition to the US to stand trial. McKinnon, from North London, was first indicted by the US Department of Justice in November 2002, charged with damaging a federal computer system, and breaking into a total of 97 computers belonging to the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, US Department of Defense and NASA. It's alleged he did $700,000 worth of damage to computer systems."

NASA Announces Briefing About Kepler's Early Science Results

"NASA will hold a media briefing on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. EDT, to discuss early science results of the Kepler mission. Kepler is the first spacecraft with the ability to find Earth-size planets orbiting stars like our sun in a zone where liquid water could exist. The televised briefing will be held in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., Washington."

Keith's note: According to multiple sources, Kepler has not found anything "new". However it has successfully detected at least one previously discovered substellar object circling another star. In other words, this amazing little spacecraft works! In addition, new candidate exoplanets have also been discovered but await confirmation by other telescopes. The results of Kepler's observations will appear in an article in this week's edition of Science magazine.

Horace Lamberth

NASA employee notes: "Horace had such a far reaching influence on so many people across not only the Kennedy Space Center but also across the NASA contractor team. To many of us, he was more than a boss, chief engineer or co-worker. He was the reason for much of the success we have today as individuals and as a team. Please pass on to those that had the pleasure to work with such a great man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

"Horace's family just called to say that he passed away this morning after losing a valiant battle to overcome both his cancer and the results of his chemo treatment. I can't say much more at this time except that he was a gracious man, a classic engineer and a respected friend who worked with us for so many years and contributed so much to this nation's space programs. We will all miss him - myself especially. Details on funeral services will be forthcoming."

Obituary

Smells In Space

China doctor reveals 100 rules for would-be spacemen, Reuters

"The selection process, which the paper said is for the second batch of Chinese astronauts, will disqualify those who have runny noses, ringworm, drug allergies or bad breath. "The bad smell would affect their fellow colleagues in a narrow space," said Shi Bing Bing, an official with the 454th hospital of People's Liberation Army air force based in Nanjing, one of the six astronaut health screening hospitals."

Astronaut doesn't change his undies for a month, CNet

"I know science thinks it can do everything. I know robots will soon be ordering us around like wait staff at the Ritz. But I am gravely concerned about an experiment that has been going on up there in space. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who returned to earth Friday, had been on the International Space Station since March. And, well, I don't know quite how I am to put this, but he didn't change his underwear for a month. I know what you're thinking. We're both thinking the same thing."

Mars Enthusiasts Gather at the University of Maryland

"Patricia Czarnik, director of membership for the society, said that about one-third of the group's 7,000 members are engineers or scientists, another third are students and the remaining third are "just everyday people who have a common interest in the exploration of Mars."

Keith's note: Someone from the Mars Society will make a presentation at the Augustine Committee's meeting here in Washington, DC on 5 August. No doubt they will claim that the Society has 7,000 members. If you look at the Society's 2008 filing (form 990 for 4-1-07 to 3-3-08) with the IRS they state that they received $25,200 from "Membership dues and assessments" and $175,259 from "Direct public support".

If the Society does indeed have 7,000 members who pay dues totalling $25,200 then they each seem to be paying $3.60 a year in dues. Yet the Mars Society states that its annual membership rates are $50/year ($25/year for students). As such, if they had 7,000 dues paying members paying the listed dues then they'd be reporting somewhere between $175,000 to $350,000 a year in "Membership dues and assessments"to the IRS.

The $25,200 stated to the IRS divided by $50 you get 504 members. If you assume that they all pay the student rate then you have as many as 1,008 members. Membership fees reported to the IRS for 2006: $23,067; 2005: $25,299; 2004: $11,706; 2003: $42,712 - so it does not seem as if they have had revenue to justify the 7,000 figure for quite some time - assuming that you need to pay dues in order to be a "member" that is.

According to the Society's bylaws . "II. Membership A. Requirements: Anyone can be a member of the Mars Society who supports its principles and projects and who pays the required annual dues." So, it would seem that you can only be a member if you pay "required annual dies."

As best I understand this, if you ever attended a Mars Society convention you are automatically a member - even if you never renew. If you were a past member (as I once was) you are still counted even if you no longer pay dues. Indeed, for a number of years I had two ID numbers and got double mailings until I made note of this on NASA Watch.

To be certain, how many members the Mars Society does or does not have means nothing in terms of the inherent logic of the policies they advocate - policies that many people support. Yet claims by the Mars Society that they are of a specific membership size, when made in public fora, do need to be accurate or at least clarified.

So, how many (dues paying) members does the Mars Society actually have at the present time?

Keith's update: Dave R (a tax attorney) explains why my math is right but that the numbers I use are not what the IRS is asking for. That said, $175,259 (from line 1e) divided by 7,000 = $25. So, are all members of the Mars Society student members? If all members paid full dues of $50 then $175,259 would only represent a membership of 3,505. So, either all members are students or the number of members is less than 7,000. Another explanation is that they count people who do not pay dues as being "members" which is in disagreement with the definition of "member" as set by their bylaws. The numbers still do not add up to match the claims made.

Keith's note: True to form the characters were talking about sex and dating before the first commercial aired. Before 30 minutes had elapsed they had pulled off their clothes. This was interwoven with a series of tired and worn out space movie cliche subplots and utterly implausible events. Based on what was spoken, in real life, half of the crew would not pass any reasonable psych exam. Other lines were just ignorant like "does anyone know if Hindus commit suicide?" Then there was the needless risk of a spacesuit with a person inside. And so on. Alas, the show looks gorgeous and they clearly spent a lot of money on sets and visuals. Some scenes were rather stunning. A small statue of Ganesha hitches a ride at the front of a ship bound for Venus was kind of interesting as was the unauthorized EVA that led up to it. With all the money the show's producers sent on the look and feel you'd think that they'd spent an equal amount on getting good writers. Oh well.

Eyal Podell Talks About New ABC Series 'Defying Gravity', Starpulse

"Eyal: No, we did not, but the producers went down to NASA. They spent a bunch of time talking with NASA; and I think NASA would have endorsed the show had they not had a little trepidation of the sort of, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives pedigree of the producers. They felt like, okay, well, we don't want our [space] program to be turned into a sex romp. And I can guarantee that's not exactly what it is. There are relationships but it's not like sex left and right. It's more psychological and nuanced. It's very well written and very human."

Video below

Keith's 21 July note: The NASA JSC Social Media Working Group has a Twitter online at http://twitter.com/JSC_SMWG .However, this Twitter is closed off such that only approved people can read what is posted there. I made multiple requests to follow it but JSC did not respond. So, I sent a series of FOIA requests to NASA JSC asking to see what NASA civil servants had posted there.

I got this response back today containing the contents of that Twitter. Not much. But now that its contents have been revealed, is the account open to the public? No. They say that it will take until possibly 31 July to do that i.e. 10 days. I guess they need to form a commitee to work this issue. Yet anyone not working at NASA can make that change in mere seconds.

In summary: I can read what is in this Twitter account via FOIA request (researched and answered at some expense to the government) but I, as a taxpayer, cannot just read it like I do other NASA Twitters for free - at least not for another week and a half. The fact that this Twitter account is meant to be used by the social media experts at JSC - and that it contains only one stale post - speaks volumes.

Keith's 2 August note: Well, we're past the 31 July date JSC PAO set but the http://twitter.com/JSC_SMWG Twitter is still closed to reading by non-members (taxpayers). Apparently the NASA JSC PAO committee that will decide how to make this Twitter account's contents public hasn't met yet or come up with an official NASA process whereby the settings are changed. Alas, a child in jr. high school could do it in seconds. Once again, the fact that this Twitter account is meant to be used by the social media experts at JSC - and that it contains only one stale post - and that none of the JSC social media experts seems to have the incentive or knowledge to adjust it so as to be transparent - speaks volumes.


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