September 2009 Archives

Distinguished Scientist Slated to Become Chairman of Lebanese American University's Board of Trustees

"Lebanese American University (LAU) will welcome Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), as the new chairman of its Board of Trustees later this year. A valued member of LAU's Board of Trustees for several years, Dr. Elachi will succeed Dr. George Faris, who has served meticulously as the chairman since 2006."

More Opinions on NASA's Value

Program brings us new technologies, Editorial by John Muratore, The Tennessean

"Imagine facing security threats without stealthy aircraft made possible by fly-by-wire computer technology developed by NASA for the space shuttle using Apollo moon mission hardware. Imagine sending our troops into battle without hyper-accurate maps produced by shuttle radar mapping missions. Imagine surviving personal health-care crises without advanced medical imaging that evolved from NASA imaging of the moon and other planets and without advanced implantable medical devices using NASA technology. Imagine trying to meet today's challenges without these things."

Apollo 11: Second look, LRO

"A month after LROC's first image of the Apollo 11 landing site was acquired, LRO passed over again providing LROC a new view of the historic site. This time the Sun was 28 degrees higher in the sky, making for smaller shadows and bringing out subtle brightness differences on the surface. The look and feel of the site has changed dramatically."

Keith's note: A press release? No. mention on No. A Twitter post? No. Why bother, eh?

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Washington Post

"Virginia Commercial Space Flight (VCSFA) seeks a skilled, entrepreneurial leader willing to join a small team and assume full responsibility for all ops. including construction, design, launch manifest, grants, personnel, bus. development financial mgmt and public affairs are produced, implemented and evaluated cost effectively and in accordance with all contract requirements, federal and state laws and regulations. The ability to work with Government and private sector Program Managers affiliates and subcontractors on time and cost results in a matrix management environment is vital. Deputy works with the Executive Director to establish the VCSFA as the East coast leader in commercial space flight support services."

Unseen Mercury Revealed

"Yesterday, as the spacecraft approached Mercury for the mission's third flyby of the Solar System's innermost planet, MESSENGER captured this striking view.

This WAC image shows portions of Mercury's surface that had remained unseen by spacecraft even after the three flybys by Mariner 10 in 1974-75 and MESSENGER's two earlier flybys in 2008.

In this image, just returned to Earth early this morning, the newly imaged terrain is located in a wide vertical strip near the limb of the planet (on the left side of Mercury's partially sunlit disk)."

Guilty Plea in Schoeberl Case

NASA Scientist Pleads Guilty to Participating in Award of Contracts To His Wife, DOJ

"Mark Schoeberl, age 60, of Silver Spring, Maryland, a senior manager and scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), pleaded guilty today to a felony conflict of interest charge in connection with his participation in NASA contracts given to his wife's company, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. When government officials direct business to themselves or their family members, other people are deprived of a fair chance to compete, said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. It is illegal for any federal employee to make an official decision that directly affects their financial interest, unless they disclose that conflict of interest and get approval from the government. Mark Schoeberl personally arranged for NASA contracts to be directed to a business owned by his wife, and he filed a financial disclosure form that failed to disclose that NASA had paid her more than $50,000 in 2007."

Expedition 21 Heads for ISS

Expedition 21 Crew Launches From Kazakhstan

"Flight Engineers Jeffrey Williams and Maxim Suraev of the 21st International Space Station crew launched in their Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:14 a.m. EDT Wednesday to begin a six-month stay in space. Less than 10 minutes after launch their spacecraft reached orbit, and its antennas and solar arrays were deployed shortly afterward. With Williams, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and Suraev, a colonel in the Russian Air Force, is spaceflight participant Guy Lalibert, flying under an agreement between the Russian Federal Space Agency and Space Adventures, Ltd."

Keith's note: I will be interviewed on CBC Radio this morning to talk about Guy Lalibert's flight. This is the schedule: 6:00 Sudbury, 6:20 am EDT Quebec City, 6:40 Thunder Bay, 7:00 Winnipeg, 7:10 Corner Brook, 7:30 Yellowknife, 7:50 Victoria, 8:15 Regina, 8:30 Kelowna, 8:40 Vancouver

NASA OIG: NASA Should Reconsider the Award Evaluation Process and Contract Type for the Operation of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Redacted)

"NASA can improve its management of the JPL contract:

- NASA's overall assessment of contractor performance may have been overstated because the Agency's performance evaluations for fiscal year (FY) 2007 were incomplete or did not otherwise comply with its guidance.
- The contractor's poor performance on a large, significant project was offset in NASA's assessment by higher performance on smaller projects because the Agency did not use proportional weighting in its evaluations.
- NASA's award of $16 million in fees and 27 months of contract term extensions, value at $3.375 billion, were unsupported because the Agency's performance evaluation factors did not include an assessment of required cost control measures.
- NASA does not have assurance that the existing contract still meets its needs or provides the best value for the taxpayer because the Agency did not fully comply with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements for a 5-year comprehensive review of the use and need for the FFRDC.
- NASA's use of a single CPAF contract for all aspects of the FFRDC creates a significant administrative and management burden for the Agency that is unnecessary given that there is a basis for the contracting officer to establish fair and reasonable prices for routine operations and maintenance of the facility."

NASA audit criticizes contract awarded to Caltech for the operation of JPL, Pasadena Star News

"Officials from JPL and Caltech declined to comment on the report."

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 20 Aug 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.

Keith's update: JSC has made two contract awards: one to Innocentive, Inc. and the other to Looking at their websites they do not seem to have any experience with NASA as a client. That is not necessarily a bad thing. As to whether JSC has something in specific in mind or is on an intellectual fishing expedition only time will tell. Again, as to what "open" means well, that is still unclear. Stay tuned.

NASA JSC Contract Award: Innovation Support Services - Innocentive Inc.
NASA JSC Contract Award: Innovation Support Services - Inc.

Selling NASA To The Skeptics

NASA veteran warns manned space program is a hard sell on Capitol Hill, Houston Chronicle

"Supporters of NASA have to prove to Congress and the American people that NASA is "an essential part" of the nation's scientific, educational and economic prowess, as well as milestone in U.S. history, [J.T.] Jezierski said. "A collection of mission patches may get you in the door (on Capitol Hill)," Jezierski said. "But the ability to share the NASA story, not just about what we did 40 years ago but what we are doing today" remains crucial to getting the message out "while conveying that through NASA we can promote innovation for our industrial base, create and secure jobs and inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists." Jezierski urged the audience to "rally around" the recommendation by a White House-appointed panel of space experts for Congress to boost NASA's budget by $3 billion a year by 2014 to underwrite a robust manned space program."

Save Our Jobs Update

Worried Space Coast officials appeal to Obama to save NASA jobs, Orlando Sentinel

"County officials are braced for as many as 28,000 direct and indirect job losses when the shuttle program ends either late next year or early in 2011. A presidential panel that recently looked at NASA said the agency's proposed successor, Ares I, won't fly before 2017 and that NASA can't afford a "viable" manned-space program without $3 billion more a year. On Monday, local organizers also announced a letter-writing campaign to remind Obama of his campaign pledge a year ago. Its Web site, website, called, is complete with letter templates, a copy of Obama's August 2008 speech in Titusville, a map of the counties affected by the space program and a list of participating organizations."

Keith's note: What I find to be really annoying is how these "save NASA" groups only appear and get active when there's a risk of budget cuts and layoffs. They regularly cite NASA's incredible value to the nation, all matter of spinoffs (real and imaginary), and the jobs that will be lost etc. etc. But when there is no looming threat, these groups - and the people they seek to motivate - couldn't be bothered with making any overt attempt to explain the value of space exploration to a wider audience. Only when jobs are threatened, it would seem, is NASA suddenly such a great value to society.

To be certain, real people are about to lose real jobs and there is no denying the impact this will have on those dedicated workers and the region. Perhaps if these groups and their supporters had kept a steady focus on public education and the value of what NASA does - and possible commercial alternatives (they hire people too) they would not be facing such a situation in the first place. Its not as if these Shuttle layoffs are any big surprise - they been very clearly known to be in the works for a number of years.

NASA's LCROSS Mission Changes Impact Crater

"NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission (LCROSS) based on new analysis of available lunar data, has shifted the target crater from Cabeus A to Cabeus (proper). The decision was based on continued evaluation of all available data and consultation/input from members of the LCROSS Science Team and the scientific community, including impact experts, ground and space based observers, and observations from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Prospector (LP), Chandrayaan-1 and JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft. This decision was prompted by the current best understanding of hydrogen concentrations in the Cabeus region, including cross-correlation between the latest LRO results and LP data sets."

NASA's LCROSS Mission Changes Impact Crater

"NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission (LCROSS) based on new analysis of available lunar data, has shifted the target crater from Cabeus A to Cabeus (proper). The decision was based on continued evaluation of all available data and consultation/input from members of the LCROSS Science Team and the scientific community, including impact experts, ground and space based observers, and observations from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Prospector (LP), Chandrayaan-1 and JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft. This decision was prompted by the current best understanding of hydrogen concentrations in the Cabeus region, including cross-correlation between the latest LRO results and LP data sets."

William Safire, Wall Street Journal

"In economic and foreign policy, as in fashion and music, the 1970s were largely a miserable decade. But out of that woeful time arose a generation of conservative giants in journalism and public life, among them the New York Times columnist William Safire, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 79."

In Event of Moon Disaster, WikiSource

"Presidential speech writer William Safire wrote a memo to White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman suggesting how the administration might react if Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stranded on the moon. The memo contained a draft speech intended to be read by President Richard Nixon.: "In Event of Moon Disaster"

Surface Restoration - Engineers restore high-resolution photos of the Moon, Technology Review (paid subscribers only)

"The images of the Moon's surface taken by five NASA Lunar Orbiter satellites in 1966 and 1967 are still among the most detailed ever made. The original analog data, beamed down to Earth to plan landing sites for the Apollo missions, was recorded on magentic tapes that collected dust for decades and were nearly discarded. Now a team of engineers at an abandoned McDonald's at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, CA is processing the data using restored and custom-built equipment, enabling a public that saw only snapshopts of these historic images to view them at their full resolution for the first time."

Another Save NASA Website

Help Save America's Human Space Exploration Program

Save Space is a movement started by people on the Space Coast to raise the awareness of the nation, the President, and other elected officials: Space needs to be a priority for America. As the clock ticks toward the end of the Space Shuttle program, as the President and his advisors review the Augustine Commission recommendations, as Florida's economic engine falters. it is imperative that we make our voices heard by writing letters to the President: Save Our Space Program!

Our Goal: 500,000 letters by October 31

Partners: Brevard County, Florida Today, Space Coast Association of Realtors, Space Florida

Domain Owner: John Sellers Brevard County

Keith's note: And of course the obligatory, yet mostly mythical, totally unsubstantiated, vaguely described, and often plain wrong NASA spinoff paragraph is included as well: "Satellite communications, microwaves, cellular phones, miniaturized computers, pacemakers, kidney dialysis, scratch-resistant lenses, medical and sports technology, adjustable smoke detectors, cordless tools, and water filters are just a few examples of the advances that have occurred through NASA space research. Not to mention the entrepreneurs, jobs, and commercial aspects of many space research spin-offs."

Microwave ovens were invented in the 1940s - before NASA. Modern kidney dialysis was also invented in the 1940s. Doesn't anyone ever research these claims?

Kosmas to Participate In Florida Space and Technology Forum

"Tomorrow, September 28, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) will participate in the Florida Space and Technology Forum. Congresswoman Kosmas will discuss her efforts to minimize the human spaceflight gap and protect Space Coast jobs. The Florida Space and Technology Forum brings together state and federal legislators and KSC and community leaders to craft a public policy agenda and identify space industry priorities for the 2010 state legislative session."

More on Moon Water

The Importance of Lunar Water, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"It has been a few days now since the public revelations concerning the results from Cassini, Deep Impact, and the Brown University Moon Mineralology Mapper (mcubed) hosted on the Indian Chandryaan lunar orbiter. There has been much discussion and debate, some of it heated, between those who think that these revelations change the arguments of lunar versus Martian exploration by humans. Those on the lunar side think that this will greatly lower the cost and increase the viability of lunar development, and those who think that the Moon is still a wasteland that should be bypassed on the road to Mars. Amusingly, in the same Science issue, an article about how much more water that there is on Mars was included and was seized upon as "proof" that Mars is a more compelling target of exploration. However, in this argument between the two camps, it seems that the most important point is being missed. If, after 40 years of off and on again remote sensing that is just now finding the magnitude and extent of the water, what else have we not found?"

Water, water everywhere..., Paul Spudis, AIr & Space

"The extreme dryness of the Moon is established scientific dogma. The study of Apollo rock and soil samples pretty much had convinced scientists that the Moon has no water. Because its surface is in a vacuum and experiences extreme temperature swings at the equator (from -150* to 100* C), the Moon was believed to have a bone dry surface. Moreover, minerals that make up the lunar rocks not only have no water, but crystallized in a very reducing, waterless environment, indicating no significant water at depth."

Patenting NASA

NASA Request for Information: No-cost Patent Marketing and Brokerage Services With Revenue Sharing Component Upon License Execution

"NASA's Goal: NASA wishes to maximize the benefit to the public from NASA's R&D investments yielding new technologies and patents. Seeking no-cost methods to further advance dissemination of NASA's patent investment will provide the best value to the public through the introduction of new and efficient licensing processes and tools. NASA recognizes that there are many business models in the U.S. for providing IP management services, such as patent brokering, using a variety of different transaction methods and platforms. NASA is issuing this request for information in an effort to better understand the range of possible models and services available for assisting NASA with the dissemination of NASA technology, at no additional cost to the taxpayer."

NASA Seeks Ideas for New Prize Challenges

"The Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington is offering an opportunity for the public to help shape the prize challenges the agency offers to America's future citizen-inventors. For the next six weeks, ideas for new Centennial Challenge prize competitions may be proposed for NASA's consideration. Creative ideas are sought from industry, colleges, universities, private organizations and the public. The ideas will be posted on the NASA Web site to stimulate additional creativity. Some selected proposals may be formulated into future prize competitions starting in 2010, pending availability of prize purse funding."

NASA OIG: NASA Should Reconsider the Award Evaluation Process and Contract Type for the Operation of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Redacted)

"NASA can improve its management of the JPL contract:

- NASA's overall assessment of contractor performance may have been overstated because the Agency's performance evaluations for fiscal year (FY) 2007 were incomplete or did not otherwise comply with its guidance.
- The contractor's poor performance on a large, significant project was offset in NASA's assessment by higher performance on smaller projects because the Agency did not use proportional weighting in its evaluations.
- NASA's award of $16 million in fees and 27 months of contract term extensions, value at $3.375 billion, were unsupported because the Agency's performance evaluation factors did not include an assessment of required cost control measures.
- NASA does not have assurance that the existing contract still meets its needs or provides the best value for the taxpayer because the Agency did not fully comply with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements for a 5-year comprehensive review of the use and need for the FFRDC.
- NASA's use of a single CPAF contract for all aspects of the FFRDC creates a significant administrative and management burden for the Agency that is unnecessary given that there is a basis for the contracting officer to establish fair and reasonable prices for routine operations and maintenance of the facility."

GAO Report Confirms that Funding Shortfalls Have Hurt NASA's Ability to Execute Its Constellation Program As Planned, House Science and Technology Committee

"Constellation has been underway for four years, and we have invested almost $8 billion in it to date. I am heartened that the review committee found the program to be sound and one that can be successfully implemented if given adequate resources in a timely manner. GAO's report provides a sobering indication of the negative impact that funding shortfalls can have on complex and technically difficult space flight programs like Constellation, no matter how dedicated and skillful the program's workforce is," added Gordon."

GAO Report: NASA Constellation Program Cost and Schedule Will Remain Uncertain Until a Sound Business Case Is Established

"NASA is still struggling to develop a solid business case--including firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time--needed to justify moving the Constellation program forward into the implementation phase. Gaps in the business case include

- significant technical and design challenges for the Orion and Ares I vehicles, such as limiting vibration during launch, eliminating the risk of hitting the launch tower during lift off, and reducing the mass of the Orion vehicle, represent considerable hurdles that must be overcome in order to meet safety and performance requirements; and

- a poorly phased funding plan that runs the risk of funding shortfalls in fiscal years 2009 through 2012, resulting in planned work not being completed to support schedules and milestones. This approach has limited NASA's ability to mitigate technical risks early in development and precludes the orderly ramp up of workforce and developmental activities."

GAO: NASA Faces Challenges Defining Scope and Costs of Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement, earlier post
GAO: Area I and Orion Project Risk and Key Indicators to Measure Progress, earlier post
GAO: Agency Has Taken Steps Toward Making Sound Investment Decisions for Ares I but Still Faces Challenging Knowledge Gaps, earlier post

First HD Camera At The Edge Of Space

"This is a clip of the VadoHD video camera at an altitude between 80,000 ft and 100,000 ft. The camera is attached to the payload of a research weather balloon. The balloon was launched from the lawn of the University of Houston and traveled approximately 20 miles East to Baytown TX before the balloon burst and the payload fell to Earth by parachute. The VadoHD survived ambient air pressures as low as 1/100th of an atmosphere, temperatures as low as -60C, and even survived being run over by an industrial lawn mower 1 week after falling to Earth. Incidentally we never would have found the payload if it hadn't been run over by this lawn mower. All of the data was intact on the camera and though a lawn mower blade destroyed the LCD screen, the VadoHD still takes great video!"

Today's Video: To The Edge of Space - For $148, earlier post

57 college presidents declare support for public access to publicly funded research in the US, Alliance for Taxpayer Access

"The Presidents of 57 liberal arts colleges in the U.S., representing 22 states, have declared their support for the Federal Research Public Access Act (S. 1373) in an Open Letter released today. The letter is the first from higher education administrators to be issued in support of the 2009 bill, and further reinforcement that support for the Act exists at the highest levels of the higher education community. The presidents' letter notes, "Adoption of the Federal Research Public Access Act will democratize access to research information funded by tax dollars. It will benefit of education, research, and the general public."

"If God wanted man to become a space-faring species, He would have given man a Moon." - Krafft Ehricke

There's News From Mars Too

NASA to Hold Teleconference to Discuss New Findings About Mars

"NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will host a media teleconference at noon PDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new research results from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter."

NASA Spacecraft Sees Ice on Mars Exposed by Meteor Impacts

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed frozen water hiding just below the surface of mid-latitude Mars. The spacecraft's observations were obtained from orbit after meteorites excavated fresh craters on the Red Planet. Scientists controlling instruments on the orbiter found bright ice exposed at five Martian sites with new craters that range in depth from approximately 1.5 feet to 8 feet. The craters did not exist in earlier images of the same sites. Some of the craters show a thin layer of bright ice atop darker underlying material. The bright patches darkened in the weeks following initial observations, as the freshly exposed ice vaporized into the thin Martian atmosphere. One of the new craters had a bright patch of material large enough for one of the orbiter's instruments to confirm it is water ice."

Telecon Notes

Green: 4.5 GYA something hit the Earth. As it cooled Earth lost most of its volatiles. Moon rocks 50 ppm water on Apollo returned moon rocks. If we extracted all the water form Apollo rocks it would fill a table soon. Based on our observations is that Moon is very dry. Lunar Prospector found Neutrons emitted by the moon due to cosmic rays hitting Moon surface and generating Neutrons. Over poles this flux dropped. Water is a known inhibitor of this. General thinking was that Moon is bone dry except for polar, shadowed regions. Today's announcement is a major advancement of our knowledge of water on surface of the Moon. Measurements from three spacecraft were critical to confirm the findings that we will discuss today.

More below

High-School Student Discovers Strange Astronomical Object

"A West Virginia high-school student analyzing data from a giant radio telescope has discovered a new astronomical object -- a strange type of neutron star called a rotating radio transient. Lucas Bolyard, a sophomore at South Harrison High School in Clarksburg, WV, made the discovery while participating in a project in which students are trained to scrutinize data from the National Science Foundation's giant Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope(GBT). The project, called the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC), is a joint project of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and West Virginia University (WVU), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Bolyard made the discovery in March, after he already had studied more than 2,000 data plots from the GBT and found nothing."

Go Boldly

Go Boldly: "The U.S. government is about to make critical decisions about the future of human spaceflight. Tell them how important space exploration is to you, the nation, and our future. Click Here. ....

About Us: We are a group of young professionals with a passion for space exploration. We hope you'll join us in showing your support for NASA and human spaceflight by sharing this website with your friends and family, and by contacting your elected representatives. Together, we can help ensure a strong future for NASA."

Moon Water News Stories

NASA Instruments Reveal Water Molecules on Lunar Surface

"NASA scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the moon. Instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small. Hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, also was found in the lunar soil. The findings were published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science."

New research shows water present across the moon's surface - It turns out the moon is a lot wetter than we ever thought, University of Tennessee Knoxville

"To some extent, we were fooled," said Taylor, a distinguished professor of earth and planetary sciences, who has studied the moon since the original Apollo missions. "Since the boxes leaked, we just assumed the water we found was from contamination with terrestrial air."

Brown Scientists Announce Finding of Water on the Moon

"Brown University scientists have made a major discovery: The moon has distinct signatures of water. The discovery came from a paper published in Science detailing findings from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA instrument aboard the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1. Carle Pieters, professor of geological sciences at Brown, is the principal investigator of the M3 instrument and the lead author of the Science paper."

Deep Impact Spacecraft Finds Clear Evidence of Water on Moon, University of Maryland

"Deep Impact was not designed to study the Moon, but for a famous 2005 mission in which it successfully knocked a hole in comet Tempel 1 to find out what was inside. Its data on lunar water were obtained as part of calibration opportunities that occurred during June 2009 and December 2007 flybys of the Earth and Moon needed to get adequate gravity boosts to travel on its EPOXI mission to a second comet, Hartley 2, which the spacecraft will encounter in November 2010."

NASA to Reveal New Scientific Findings About the Moon

"NASA will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new science data from the moon collected during national and international space missions. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the briefing from the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, in Washington. For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video, visit:"

Keith's note: Curiously, while these missions (or instruments) are managed by SMD, no one from ESMD is on the panel of speakers. That's rather odd given the implications for supporting humans and human activities on the Moon blatantly inherent in this announcement - something Carlie Pieters saw fit to specifically mention in her paper.

Behind the scenes sources point to a slow motion tug of war between ESMD and SMD regarding the public presentation of these findings from Deep Impact (EPOXI), Cassini, and Chandrayaan-1. ESMD is very excited (with good reason) and views these findings as being enabling in nature for its interest in conducting human lunar surface operations - especially when it comes in situ resource utilization. SMD is not interested in that and instead (understandably) has an interest in the scientific aspects of this from the context of how the solar system is constructed.

What is lurking in the background, however, is a fear among the Mars crowd at NASA (led by Ed Weiler) that any discoveries of water or other things that would make the Moon out to be a more attractive place to visit (and stay) would also serve to detract from support for their focus on Mars. With Mars mission cost overruns already distorting SMD's planetary exploration budget, anything that shifts the focus away from Mars to the Moon is seen as a threat. The possibility that LCROSS may find water at the Moon's south pole has Weiler worried - while others are rejoicing at the prospect.

This is wonderful news and everyone in the space and exploration communities ought to be rejoicing. The Moon is even more useful than we previously thought - and it is only a few days away! Alas, anything that makes the Moon more interesting threatens Mars missions in the minds of the Mars crowd. This is unfortunate since they should see that anything that further enables visiting and utilizing the Moon enables Mars - and other destinations. Indeed, anyone who has built a strategy and rationale for going to Mars that is that fragile and susceptible enough to be threatened by news such as this has not built a good case to go to Mars in the first place.

Stay tuned - Machiavellian politics are at work.

NASA may push Ares I as demonstration project instead

"Officials say that in a teleconference last week, Bolden told senior agency managers that he was considering recommending to President Barack Obama that NASA keep working on its controversial AresI rocket as a "technology demonstrator" -- a development project -- for the more powerful Ares V rocket still on the drawing board. Bolden's remarks followed a presentation by NASA managers that showed how, with some changes, its Constellation program of Ares I and Ares V rockets could appear to fit in with findings of a 10-member presidential committee that recently reviewed the agency's plans for human exploration. But one high-ranking NASA official who listened in to the meeting -- but wasn't authorized to talk about it -- said the conversation was "unfortunately caught up in the fantasy" that NASA would be getting an annual $3billion increase to its current $18billion budget -- a hike that administration officials say is highly unlikely. Senior administration officials also cautioned against reading too much into Bolden's comments, saying the NASA chief is still trying on ideas and weighing options."

Keith's Update: There are actually three articles that will be in Science tomorrow - one paper each describing results from Deep Impact aka EPOXI, Cassini, and Chandrayaan-1. Three different spacecraft - three different instruments - all saying the same thing about the presence of water and other materials on the Moon.

The EPOXI (Deep Impact) paper ("Temporal and Spatial Variability of Lunar Hydration as Observed by the Deep Impact Spacecraft", Sunshine et al) says that water has been "unequivocally" confirmed and that "the entire lunar surface is hydrated during at least some portions of the lunar day".

In another paper, previously unreleased 1999 flyby data from Cassini ("Detection of Adsorbed Water and Hydroxyl on the Moon", Roger N. Clark) shows hydroxyl concentrations on "the sunlit face of the Moon". Water was detected in concentrations as high as "10 to 1,000 parts per million" and according to the paper "Regardless of its origin, water is found on the lunar surface in areas previously thought to have been depleted in volatiles."

The Chandrayaan-1 paper ("Character and Spatial Distribution of OH/H2O on the Surface of the Moon Seen by M3 on Chandrayaan-1", C. M. Pieters et al) says "... Modeled abundance could be as high as 770 ppm (20), but is dependent on particle size, and the total abundance of hydrated material in the bulk upper regolith would be substantially smaller if hydration is not retained during regolith gardening. ... data suggests that the formation and retention of OH and H2O is an ongoing surficial process. OH/H2O production processes may feed polar cold traps and make the lunar regolith a candidate source of volatiles for human exploration."

It would seem that NASA has been sitting on a lot of data confirming with regard to the Moon - in some cases, for years. Meanwhile, a lot of people are trying to downplay the importance of these findings in and around NASA at the same time it would seem that the Moon has been revealed as being much more useful than had been previously released publicly. SMD has some explaining to do. Stay tuned.

Water on the Moon?, Nature

"That's not all. Early results from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched on 18 June, are offering a wide array of watery signals. Increasingly, lunar scientists are confident that the decades-long debate is over. The Moon, in fact, has water in all sorts of places: not just locked up in minerals, but scattered throughout the broken-up surface, and, potentially, in blocks or sheets of ice at depth."

It's not lunacy, probes find water in moon dirt, AP

"We argued literally for months amongst ourselves to find out where the problem was," Pieters said. Sunshine, who was on the team, had a similar instrument on NASA's Deep Impact probe, headed for a comet but swinging by the moon in June. So Deep Impact looked for the water-hydroxyl signature and found it. Scientists also looked back at the records of NASA's Cassini probe, which is circling Saturn. It has the same type instrument and whizzed by the moon ten years ago. Sure enough, it had found the same thing. The chance that three different instruments malfunctioned in the same way on three different spaceships is almost zilch, so this confirms that it's water and hydroxyl, Pieters said."

Keith's Update: Interesting ... Cassini made this discovery a decade ago - and yet NASA did not even know that it had done so. Just goes to show you that new discoveries can be found in old data.

Earlier posts below

Boeing Submits Proposal for NASA Commercial Crew Transport System

"The Boeing Company submitted a proposal to NASA on Sept. 22 to accelerate the development of commercial human space transportation as defined by NASA in its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) announcement. Boeing's submission, which draws on the company's experience with proven human-rated spacecraft, proposes development of technologies that will mature its Commercial Crew Transportation System concept. ... Joining Boeing on the CCDev team will be Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace, LLC. Bigelow Aerospace will provide additional investment, requirements for crew transportation to its Orbital Space Complex, and its expertise from testing and validating the technologies necessary to construct and deploy a full-scale, crewed, commercial orbital space complex."

Today's Educational Web Events

Challenger Center - SETI Institute Webcast on NASA's Kepler Mission today at 1:00 pm EDT at

RT @LPI_Library Chat with lunar scientist Dr. Jennifer Heldmann TONIGHT at 8 pm EDT

Challenger Center for Space Science Education partnered with Green Trail Energy to bring its portable solar/wind generator aka "Power Droid" (right side, tower) to the 2009 NASA Desert RATS exercise in Arizona. Both NASA's Chariot and Tri-Athelete rovers were recharged by the Power Droid. Desert RATS base camp is to the center and left. To the extreme left you can see the Lunar Electric Rover - its communications gear appears twice again (partially) due to panorama processing. You can view the full GigaPan panorama here at

NASA Sets Target Date for Ares I-X Rocket's Test Launch

"NASA is targeting Tuesday, Oct. 27, for the flight test of the Ares I-X rocket, pending successful testing and data verification. Senior managers made the decision after a meeting Monday at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Oct. 27 target date has been confirmed with the Air Force's Eastern Range. The launch window will extend from 8 a.m. to noon EDT. There is another launch opportunity on Oct. 28. The date will be finalized at a Flight Test Readiness Review scheduled for Oct. 23 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Sept. 15 House of Representatives Hearing on Space Flight Includes Misconceptions; Industry Group Offers Clarity (White paper Text), Next Step in Space Coalition

"Next Step in Space, a coalition of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of human spaceflight in the United States, today issued a white paper titled "Acquiring U.S. Commercial ISS Crew and Cargo Services Creates New Industry in LEO, Enables Program for Exploration Beyond" to help clarify issues discussed at a September 15th hearing of the House Committee on Science & Technology on "Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program."

"Some comments made at the House hearing last week incorrectly suggested that the Augustine Committee's recommendation to procure crew services to the International Space Station would necessarily be in lieu of further development of NASA's exploration program to travel beyond Earth orbit," said Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "However, these two programs are complementary, not competitive. As former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has pointed out numerous times, the Constellation Program is designed and optimized for missions beyond low-Earth orbit, not for Space Station servicing."

NASA Employee Charged

NASA Scientist Charged With Aiding Wife's Firm, Washington Post

"Mark R. Schoeberl, an atmospheric scientist who has worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center since the 1980s, is charged in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt with one felony count of acts affecting a personal interest. ... Schoeberl's wife, Barbara, owns Animated Earth LLC, which develops and distributes "Earth Today," a museum exhibit that allows people to access data on rainfall, earthquakes and other events displayed on a rotating globe. From 2006 to 2009, NASA authorized purchase orders worth up to $190,727 for Animated Earth's products and services, according to federal procurement data. It is unclear whether the charge is connected to those purchases."


Cureton picked as NASA CIO, FCW

"Linda Cureton will be the new chief information officer of NASA, Cureton confirmed today. Cureton is currently the CIO for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA officials did not respond to requests for more information about the appointment. Bobby German was named acting NASA CIO in January. Jonathan Pettus gave up the NASA CIO position last year to return to his previous post as CIO for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Cureton is a vocal supporter of government agencies using social media, and was a driving force behind the creation of NASA's Spacebook, a Facebook-like tool designed for internal collaboration. She is also one of the CIO community's most prolific bloggers."

Keith's note: Chris Kemp, NASA ARC CIO, will discuss Cloud Computing and Nebula on Fed News Radio today at 10am EDT

"We are a group of MIT students seeking to share the artistic aspects of science with others. On Sept. 2, 2009, we launched a digital camera into near-space to take photographs of the earth from high up above. (see "Flight") Several groups have accomplished similar feats (see "Other Launches"), but as far we know, we are the first group ever to:

(1) Complete such a launch on a budget of $150 total. All of our supplies (including camera, GPS tracking, weather balloon, and helium) were purchased for less than a grand total of $150.

(2) Create a launch vehicle without the use of any electronic hacking. We used off-the-shelf items exclusively (i.e., no electronic chips or soldering) to create our launch vehicle."


Masten Tries For The Prize

Masten Space Systems Attempts to Qualify For Lunar Lander Challenge (With Video)

"Masten Space Systems unsuccessfully attempted a Level 1 flight on Sept. 16 as part of the Centennial Challenges - Lunar Lander Challenge at the company's test facility at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. In order to qualify for Level 1 prize money, a rocket vehicle must lift off from one concrete pad, ascend to approximately 50 meters, travel horizontally, and land on a second pad. After refueling at that pad, the vehicle must repeat the flight back to a landing on the original pad within two and half hours. The vehicle must remain aloft for at least 90 seconds on both flights."

A Green Future for NASA?

NASA to Push Environmental Goals, WS Journal

"NASA's No. 2 official on Wednesday vowed to provide taxpayers "better value" by focusing on environmental goals and promoting science education. In her most detailed explanation yet of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's priorities, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said the Obama administration wants to highlight "how much NASA is making things better on Earth." From providing satellite images to tracking global climate change and natural disasters to spurring greater student interest in science and math, Ms. Garver indicated NASA wants to deliver concrete benefits to taxpayers. Her remarks to an aerospace conference here marked a new approach focused on selling NASA as a catalyst for educational and environmental change."

Obama to focus on innovation in New York speech, Reuters

"President Barack Obama travels to New York on Monday to promote his strategy to improve the U.S. economy by spending on education and innovation, as he shifts his focus from healthcare reform to a week of diplomacy and international economic issues."

Artificial Cloud in Space

NASA rocket sparks reports of strange lights in sky, Newsday

"Staff at several National Weather Service offices in the Northeast received calls of strange lights after NASA launched a rocket from Virginia, a meteorologist with the weather service in Upton said. And along the East Coast, reports of the bright, cone-shaped light poured into weather stations and news organizations, a Boston TV station said on its Web site."

NASA launches rocket, dozens report strange lights, AP

"The space agency said it launched the Black Brant XII on Saturday evening to gather data on the highest clouds in the Earth's atmosphere. About the time of the launch, dozens of people in the Northeast started calling local television stations to report seeing strange lights. The calls came from as far away as Boston, which is about 380 miles northeast of the launch site."

Strange light spotted in New England sky, WHDH-TV

"Many viewers called in to 7News Saturday night with reports about an unidentified "light" in the sky. Reports of a "flashing light" came in from Massachusetts and New Hampshire."

Rocket launch prompts calls of strange lights in sky, CNN

"A series of spooky lights above parts of the northeastern United States Saturday sparked a flurry of phone calls to authorities and television news stations. NASA said strange lights seen in the Northeast on Saturday were caused by an experimental rocket. CNN affiliate stations from New Jersey to Massachusetts heard from dozens of callers who reported that the lights appeared as a cone shape shining down from the sky."

Earlier post: @NASA_Wallops Black Brant XII rocket launch on schedule between 7:32 and 7:49 p.m., Sat, Sep 19. Web cast begins at 6:30 p.m.

Keith's note: The most recent media advisory I got from Wallops says that the launch will be 15 September. Well, it was yesterday, 19 September. Unless you were glued to Twitter last night (I just happened to be), you would not have known it was yesterday. How hard would it have been to send out a revised media advisory when it was clear that the new date would not be 15 Sep. but instead would be 18 Sep.? Drudge report has a link to an AP story about people seeing lights up and down the east coast (I did not see anything in Reston, BTW). Other articles talk about calls to police, TV stations, the National Weather Service,etc. Wow. A light show in space that millions could see. And yet apparently no one knew much - if anything - ahead of time.

But wait, they did - the original press release was the subject of stories about a launch on the 15th. Anyone who went outside looking that night saw that nothing happened. Did Wallops PAO try and get revised releases out? I certainly did not get one. The logical assumption must have been that if NASA announced the launch and it did not happen that there'd be another announcement before they tried again. Or did it launch but was simply not visible?

The original release talked of a 16-20 Sep. back up dates - but when it did not happen on the 15th, did NASA send out an advisory saying when it would try again? No. Everyone was left hanging. Yet curiously Wallops PAO thought it was worth revising an earlier release on 14 Sep. to correct technical details as to what stage fires at which altitude. So .. revised press releases are possible for Wallops PAO to generate.

Imagine if TV stations and radio stations in the viewing area were specifically targeted and alerted and told that they'd get a heads up when the launch was minutes away such that they could tell people to go outside and where to look. It was a Saturday night so it was not a school night and many people did not have to work the next day.

What a wonderful opportunity for NASA to ask for people to have their cameras ready so that they could send their photos in for posting at Flickr or - maybe Photosynth could have been used to create a large image of the three dimensional aspects of the cloud - something of potential scientific interest. It would have been like having a camera hundreds of miles across.

Wow. I just described "participatory exploration" ...

In looking through the WFF website I found no attempt whatsoever to capitalize on this unique event. Indeed, the WFF website often seems to be designed to make it harder to find information than would normally be the case. All it says is "A NASA Black Brant XII was successfully launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at 7:46 p.m. on Saturday, September 19."

This press release webpage at Wallops is the best example of the "let them eat cake" approach to website design - it simply lists press release numbers. No titles. And you can't even read the releases online - you can only downloaded them Word documents. Go figure.

And with all of the public and media interest in what the lights in the sky were, is there any mention at all of this event at the home page? No.

I know they are short handed at Wallops PAO. But this was a chance for MILLIONS of people to share in what NASA does in an almost primal fashion - a beautiful apparition in the evening sky.

WiFi On The Moon

NASA Solicitation: Microwave and Communications Systems Branch Surface Wireless Concepts

"NASA is currently developing an architecture and concept of operations for communications and tracking on the lunar surface or other small planetary bodies. Under the Constellation Program, there will be vehicles, habitats, science equipment, and EVA crewmembers on the lunar surface. There is a strong belief that long haul communications direct to Earth, or to a lunar relay satellite system, will be traditional point-to-point microwave links at S-Band or Ka-Band, and/or optical communication links. These will be implemented via "gateway nodes" on the lunar surface, such as a Ka-Band or optical transmitter on the Altair Lunar Lander. Short range communications between various entities and the gateway nodes needs to be implemented.

Using an international standard, such as something based on the IEEE 802.xx family, appears to be ideal for surface short range communications. For example, EVA crew members or science packages could be connected to Altair or a lunar rover via 802.16 or 802.11. Some systems will be fixed while others, such as EVA crew members and rovers, will be mobile. The network will need to support voice, data / telemetry, and multiple streams of standard and high definition video. The Constellation Program's communications architecture is IP based and that is expected to continue on the lunar surface."

Whatever architecture is developed should also be suitable for surface communications at other destinations in the solar system, such as on an asteroid or on a moon of Mars. With limited technology development funds, having a destination independent architecture is critical.

NASA Solicitation: Recovery Act: Advanced Concept Studies for Supersonic Commerical Transport Aircraft Entering Service in the 2018-2020 Period


The Supersonics Project is aligned with the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) principles of maintaining intellectual stewardship of aeronautical core competencies for the nation in the supersonic flight regime and of focusing research in areas that are appropriate to NASA's unique capabilities. The Project supports the Fundamental Aeronautics Program's (FAP) strategy of developing systems level multidisciplinary capabilities for supersonic civilian and military applications."

Orion Gets Recovery Act Money

NASA Solicitation: Recovery Act Funds for Orion Spacecraft - Contract Modification

"NASA applied funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 to work on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Project. The total amount is $165.9 million. This is a modification to an existing contract with Lockheed Martin Corporation of Denver, Colorado. Funds will be used to reduce schedule risk by initiating purchases of long lead components and moving forward with the design of Orion engineering development units. These items include avionics systems integrated circuit builds, procuring communication systems hardware, avionics integrated lab testing infrastructure, docking hatches, numerous mechanisms, advanced window materials and Propulsion and Environmental Control System units."


"NASA has issued a 266 page report on research accomplished during the 2000-2008 assembly phase of the ISS. Of course, assembly of the ISS has recently been completed. An appendix lists the papers resulting from this work. Most, but not all, are from the proceedings of NASA conferences, but some are from respected, peer-reviewed publications. However, I do not believe any major field of science has been significantly affected by this work, which is not so much wrong as just unimportant."

Reader note: Gosh, leave it to a Physicist to remind us biologists where the real intellectuals reside (i.e. in the physical sciences). Parks says that even though a portion of the work onboard ISS has been published in "...respected, peer-reviewed publications" the resulting science is "...not so much wrong as just unimportant." Bob, at least in Biology (my field) our expert peers can evaluate our research efforts relative to other biologists, but it requires a physicist to tell us what's truly important in the bigger scheme of things? Perhaps its just fear--that we might actually learn something interesting by carrying out biological research in space that bothers you, and most especially if that research involves humans as subjects, experimentors, or (worse) both.

Any other biologists care to weigh in?

-- David Watson, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, National Space Biomedical Research Institute
and Molecular Microbiologist/Co-Investigator for three spaceflight experiments

NASA Publishes Report About International Space Station Science, earlier post

Canadarm2 Successfully Captures Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, SpaceRef Canada

"American flight engineer Nicole Stott using Canada's Canadarm2 on the International Space Station today captured the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV). The Japanese HTV is an unmanned spacecraft used to resupply the Kib Japanese Experiment Module and the rest of the International Space Station (ISS)."

Marc's note: Earlier this week SpaceRef relaunched its Canadian site, SpaceRef Canada, with a new look and interactive features. The new look is what you'll soon see on SpaceRef itself along with the same features. Using our new content management system you can create an account on the SpaceRef Network or login using Google, Yahoo or your OpenID accounts. This means you will be able to login to NASA Watch, SpaceRef, SpaceRef Canada, the Astrobiology Web and all the other sites on our network with one simple login. We hope you enjoy the changes available now and to come.

Congress, Norm, and NASA

Nelson: Obama must "pony up" to save manned-space exploration, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday that President Barack Obama is the only person who can save NASA's human spaceflight program and that the White House must "pony up" more money if it wants to send astronauts beyond the international space station. The Florida Democrat issued his challenge during the second hearing this week on NASA's manned-space program, which faces major problems after the space shuttle's retirement in 2010 or 2011 and was the subject of a three-month analysis by a presidential space panel."

Lawmakers slam experts' report on US human space flight, AFP

"A group of US lawmakers on Tuesday slammed a report by aerospace experts tasked to review NASA's human space flight program that proposed ditching plans to return to the Moon. "When it was announced that you were going to be leading an independent review of the human space flight program, I thought you were going to take a hard, cold, sobering look at the Constellation program," Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords told Norman Augustine, head of the review panel that bears his name. The Arizona Congresswoman said she had expected the group to "tell us exactly what we need to do here in Congress with our budget in order to maximize the chances of success."

Congress in hot seat over human spaceflight, Christian Science Monitor

"Will the Obama administration and the 111th Congress go down in history as the politicians who turned out the lights on the US human-spaceflight program? That is the fundamental question several lawmakers are asking as they pore over options and observations that were presented by a panel charged with reviewing America's human-spaceflight effort."

Security Scare at NASA HQ

Authorities investigate white powder at NASA HQ, AP

"Authorities are investigating a suspicious white powder found in an envelope at NASA headquarters in Washington. D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer says hazardous materials teams have been sent to NASA headquarters in northwest Washington. Piringer says a call came in from someone who reported finding an envelope with white powder."

White powder at NASA HQ not toxic, DC fire says, AP

"Piringer says the caller was on the building's ninth floor and the immediate area was evacuated, but not the entire building. Threats were not received and crews determined the substance was not toxic."

Marc's note: In case you weren't aware of it the Senate Hearing on Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program is on at this time and available on NASA TV.

Testimony by Norman Augustine

"In summary, with the existing budget plan it would be reasonable to extend the use of the ISS for five years and to conduct a robust technology development program. The Committee concludes that no rational exploratory program can be funded under the existing funding constraint and that plans for America's space exploration program would de facto be halted and human operations limited to low earth orbit. With the less constrained budget option, requiring approximately $3B per year in additional funding, a sound exploration program could be conducted. The reason for this seemingly "dead space" between the two budget options is, simplistically stated, that for sixty percent of the needed funds, one cannot go sixty percent of the way to Mars."

Testimony by Joseph Dyer

"Starting over" would surely and substantially extend the gap in the Nation's ability to transport humans into space. As it is directly related, I want to share the ASAP's strongly held position regarding the Shuttle: ASAP does not support extending the shuttle beyond the current manifest. The substantiation of this recommendation is addressed in the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel 2008 Annual Report which I respectfully request be included in the hearing record.

Testimony by Mike Griffin

"It has long been known that some $3+ billion per year will be required to sustain ISS operations past 2015. Failure to plan for this is, and has been, a glaring omission in the nation's budgetary policy. Thus, sustained funding of the ISS as long as it continues to return value - certainly to 2020 and quite likely beyond - should have been established by the Commission as a non- negotiable point of departure for all other discussions."

Keith's note: It is certainly interesting to note that Mike Griffin is now such an ISS fan given the dismissive attitude that he and his inner staff (the "Band of Brothers") often had for this "albatross" - a term they used in staff meetings. The ISS could not go away soon enough for Mike Griffin. Now he's a fan.

Obama official unveils 'cloud computing' initiative at NASA Ames, Mountain View Voice

"Aiming to save billions on infrastructure costs, the federal government is following in the footsteps of Silicon Valley by building its own Google-like server farms and Internet applications with the help of NASA Ames researchers. At a press conference at Moffett Field on Tuesday morning, the White House's first-ever chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, said the Obama administration began working on the initiative in March to address the "duplicative" nature of the federal government's computer networks, "where you have 23 data centers in one agency."

Now, Even the Government Has an App Store, NY Times

"The apps storefront, which is run by the General Services Administration, includes an array of business applications, productivity software, services like storage and Web hosting and social applications. In a speech at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Mr. Kundra said that the cloud offerings could be cheaper and more energy-efficient and allow the federal government to benefit from the same technological advances that most consumers enjoy."

Space Florida choses former NASA official as next leader, Orlando Sentinel

"A committee seeking a replacement for Space Florida's former President Steve Kohler, who stepped down in May under a barrage of criticism, has unanimously chosen former NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale to be the next leader of the state aerospace development body. "Today [Tuesday] in a publicly noticed phone call, Dr. Ken Ford as chair of the Space Florida Board Search Committee told Lt. Governor [Jeff] Kottkamp the Search Committee's unanimous choice is Shana Dale," Space Florida spokeswoman Deb Spicer said in a statement."

Keith's note: According to a reliable source Shana Dale has not been extended a formal offer from Space Florida and she has decided to accept an offer from another company. Shana Dale has confirmed this information.

More Issues for Ares

Old and new studies question safety of Ares I rocket, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA and its contractors building the agency's next-generation moon rocket maintain that it will be the safest, most reliable rocket ever to send humans into space. But several engineering reports sharply question that claim. The latest report to surface was presented four years ago by NASA's Crew Survival Office, a group of engineers at Johnson Space Center specifically charged to find ways to increase astronauts' chances of surviving disaster. It came to light because it was sent to the presidential committee reviewing NASA's plans for human space exploration and was published on its website."

Armadillo Aerospace Makes Record-Breaking Rocket Flights to Qualify for $1 Million NASA PRIZE Presented by X PRIZE Foundation (with videos)

"As part of the X PRIZE Foundation's Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, Armadillo Aerospace, led by id Software founder John Carmack, successfully flew its lunar Lander rocket vehicle, "Scorpius," twice in two hours, flying between a pair of landing pads to qualify for the $1 million top prize purse. This milestone event in privately funded space activity once again demonstrates the value of prizes to stimulate innovation. Other entrants in the competition will have the opportunity over the next several weeks to accomplish the same feat, but Armadillo's flights mean it is certain NASA's Centennial Challenges Program and the X PRIZE Foundation will be giving away at least $1 million before year's end."

Augustine Commission and Space Exploration: Objectives Before Architectures - Strategies Before Tactics, Paul Spudis

"The release of the long-awaited report from the Augustine Commission has generated much discussion in space policy circles. Much of this discussion is congruent with a lot of the debate within the space community in that it focuses primarily on means rather than ends. A more pressing issue is why are we going into space with people and what will we do there. What are we trying to accomplish? We first need to look at our objectives, not the architecture. We need to develop a strategy to achieve our objectives; the tactics are the ways of implementing a strategy. In other words, once again, we are putting the cart before the horse."

Desert RATS Update

Twitter: @KeithCowing I am going to attempt a live webcast of LER crew emerging at 3 pm PDT today @DESERT_RATS keep an eye on

Desert RATS Video: Gopher's Eye View of LER Rollout

"The Lunar Electric Rover (LER) rolls out for its last day of a 14 day mission. NASA Edge and Challenger Center/OnOrbit personnel used their cameras to get a gopher's eye view of the rollout and provided color commentary afterward."

Desert RATS Video: Tour of a NASA Desert RATS Lunar Habitat Module

"Robert Howard from NASA JSC provides a tour of one of the mobile lunar habitat modules at NASA Desert RATS"

Desert RATS Video: Passing the Lunar Electric Rover on a Dusty Road in Arizona

"The Challenger Center/Green Trails Energy truck was hauling a LER cab back to Desert RATS base camp when it caught up with another LER making its way back to base camp."

NASA Desert RATS Video: Athlete Rover Wanders By Our Trailer

"The Challenger Center/Green Trails Energy Trailer is located on the road that enters Desert RATS base camp. As such we see all of what is coming and going. This afternoon, the Athlete rover wandered by, more or less on its own, stopped, and then moved on."

NASA Desert RATS Video: Following The Lunar Electric Rover

"The NASA Desert RATS Lunar Electric Rover heads out of base camp on its last traverse before the end of its 14 day mission"

NASA Desert RATS Video: Tools, tools, and more tools

"These shipping containers carry all of the tools and spare parts needed to keep the various Desert RATS rovers and robots in operation."

Photo Gallery: Day One at Desert RATS

Thinking About Augustine

Which way for NASA? A step-by-step path, Jim Oberg, MSNBC

"As a retired rocket scientist and avid space historian and strategist, I've been watching the debate over NASA's future in human spaceflight with great interest. I've been quite impressed by the questions coming from the independent panel charged with laying out the options for that future. Now that the panel's members have released a report summarizing the options available to the White House, I have even more respect for their analysis."

Potential uphill battle for NASA, Houston Chronicle

NASA supporters are bracing for an uphill battle to get the extra funding needed to take on missions more ambitious than visits to the international space station. A high-level panel told President Barack Obama last week that the space program needs an infusion of about $3 billion more a year by 2014. That may be a tough sell, even though the amount could be considered spare change in a fast-spending capital where the White House and Congress are on track to dole out nearly $4 trillion this year to finance federal operations, including bailouts for Wall Street firms, banks and automakers.

Aerospace Expert Says Job Loss Will Damage NASA, Central Florida 13

On the heels of the Augustine Commission's conclusion that NASA's current plans to get back to the moon and beyond would cost an extra $3 billion a year, it is now up to the White House to decide what's next. The projected 8-year gap as the shuttle program retires and the Constellation program begins could be a strategic nightmare for NASA's manned spaceflight program. It could cost the region thousands of jobs lost associated with the space program at Kennedy Space Center.

Augustine on the Hill This Week

Augustine Taking Findings to Capitol Hill, Aviation Week

"Senators and representatives will get a chance to respond to the recommendations of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee this week, with back-to-back hearings on the panel's findings. Chief among them is the conclusion that NASA won't be able to get human beings out of low Earth orbit without about $3 billion a year more than it's getting for exploration, and even then it probably won't be able to meet the ambitious back-to-the-Moon goals of its current program."

Assaf Ramon

Ramon's fighter jet crashes near Hebron; cause still unknown, Jersualem Post

"IAF officer Lt. Assaf Ramon, 20, the son of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon who died in the 2003 fatal Columbia mission, was killed on Sunday after the F-16 he was piloting crashed into the southern Hebron hills. IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan and head of the IDF Manpower Division Avi Zamir personally went to the pilot's mother, Rona Ramon's house to deliver the news. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also visited the Ramon residence early Sunday night to offer his condolences."

Marc's note: Discovery landed safely at 8:53 PM ET at Edwards Air Force Base. This ends the 14-day mission that delivered supplies and research facilities to the International Space Station.

Missed the landing, watch our video.

"On 20 May 2009 astronaut Scott Parazynski became the first person to have both travelled in space and to stand atop the summit of Mt. Everest. From that vantage point he was able to view a stunning "orbital sunrise" - one not unlike what he had seen during his five space missions.

On his way up the mountain Parazynski managed to capture two GigaPan panoramas - stunningly huge images that are likely to be the highest images of their kind ever taken on the surface of the Earth.

This is a portion of the GigaPan panorama taken by Scott Parazynski at Mount Everest's Camp IV at 26,000 feet (7,924 meters) at approximately 10 am local time, May 19, 2009. The saddle between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world) is also known as theSouth Col can be seen. TheChallenger Center Everest team believes that this is the highest GigaPan image ever taken on the surface of the Earth."

Full story and images at

House Science and Technology Committee Hearing - Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program: Report of the "Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans" Committee

"Panel 2 ... Dr. Michael Griffin, Eminent Scholar and Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Alabama in Huntsville"

Griffin replaces Bolden at congressional hearing, Orlando Sentinel

"New NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is no longer scheduled to appear before Congress next week to discuss the future of American astronauts in space. Instead, former NASA chief Mike Griffin will testify before the U.S. House Science and Technology committee on Sept. 15."

Keith's note: On 15 September we get to hear more complaints from Mike Griffin about how people are cleaning up the mess he left behind. FYI the original plan was for Charlie Bolden and Norm Augustine to testify. There are a lot of people in Washington who are very unhappy with Bart Gordon right now. Pressure is being exerted on him to delay or cancel this hearing.

LOIRP Releases Recovered Lunar Orbiter III Image of Surveyor 1 on the Lunar Surface,

"This image was taken by Lunar Orbiter III on 22 February 1967 at 5:24:14 GMT at an altitude of 54.27 km above the lunar surface. High resolution frame 3 clearly shows the Surveyor 1 spacecraft sitting on the lunar surface complete with a long shadow. Surveyor 1 landed on the Moon on 2 June 1966 in the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) at 2.45 degrees South latitude, 43.22 degrees West longitude. This image has been recovered in its original high resolution format by LOIRP staff from original Lunar Orbiter project data tapes using restored tape drive hardware and will eventually be submitted to the PDS (Planetary Data System)."

NASA Ames to Host Administration's Cloud Computing Announcement

"Reporters are invited to participate in a news conference at NASA's Ames Research Center at 10 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, Sept. 15, featuring Vivek Kundra, White House federal chief information officer. He will outline his vision for a new federal government cloud computing initiative.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and top Silicon Valley information technology leaders are scheduled to attend the news conference. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television."

NASA and ATK Successfully Test Ares First Stage Motor (With Video)

"NASA and industry engineers lit up the Utah sky Thursday with the initial full-scale, full-duration test firing of the first stage motor for the Ares I rocket. The Ares I is a crew launch vehicle in development for NASA's Constellation Program. ATK Space Systems conducted the successful stationary firing of the five-segment solid development motor 1, or DM-1. ATK Space Systems, a division of Alliant Techsystems of Brigham City, Utah, is the prime contractor for the Ares I first stage. Engineers will use the measurements gathered from the test to evaluate thrust, roll control, acoustics and motor vibrations. This data will provide valuable information as NASA develops the Ares I and Ares V vehicles. Another ground test is planned for summer 2010."

Ex-NASA chief Griffin calls Augustine panel "irresponsible", Orlando Sentinel

"Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin apparently has sent a scathing memo to friends and supporters in Washington, lashing out at the work of the presidential committee reviewing NASA's human space flight plans and calling some of its recommendations "irresponsible." ...

Interestingly, Griffin -- who as administrator started NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services to coordinate the commercial delivery of crew and cargo to the International Space Station -- saved his most barbed remarks for the committee's support for the commercial space sector.

"What commercial sector?" Griffin asked. "At present, the only clearly available 'commercial' option is [France's] Ariane 5. Launching a redesigned Orion crew vehicle is a valid choice in the context of an international program if - and only if - the U.S. is willing to give up independent access to low Earth orbit, a decision imbued with enormous future consequences."

Keith's note: Mike you had your chance in the big chair and you blew it. Stop complaining while others try and clean up the mess that you made - and the gap that has grown as a result.

Mike Griffin Lashes Out at The Augustine Committee via Email (full text)

"8) "Technical problems" with Ares-1 are cited several times, without any acknowledgement that (a) knowledgeable observers in NASA would disagree strongly as to the severity of such problems, and (b) Constellation's "technical problems" are on display because actual work is being accomplished, whereas other options have no problems because no work is being done."

Keith's note: Duh, Mike, of course "knowledgeable observers in NASA would disagree strongly as to the severity of such problems". Up until recently their jobs depended upon saying so - regardless of what was actually going on. Why did Steve Cook quit if everything is going so smoothly?

HTV Launched

Keith's note: The HTV has been launched. SRBs and payload fairings have separated from the launch vehicle. First stage has shut down and separated. Second Stage engines have ignited.

HTV/H-IIB Live Launch Webcast Coverage

"HTV/H-IIB Live Launch through the Internet at 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 11th (Fri, JST) The H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) Demonstration Flight and the H-IIB Launch Vehicle are undergoing final launch preparations at the Vehicle Assembly Building waiting for their launch on Sept. 11 (Fri.) JAXA will broadcast a live launch report through the Internet from 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 11th (Japan Standard Time.)"

Japanese space station mission holds many firsts, SpaceflightNow

"Liftoff is scheduled for 1701:46 GMT Thursday (1:01 p.m. EDT; 2:01 a.m. JST) from Launch Pad No. 2 of the Yoshinobu launch complex at the Tanegashima space center."

NASA LRO Weekly Report, Week Ending 09.11.09

"LRO commissioning has continued according to plan. On Wednesday September 9th the LRO Completion of Commissioning Review was held and it was confirmed that would execute MOI and proceed to the 50km nominal mission orbit on September 15th , thus beginning the prime ESMD Exploration mission. All instrument teams reported and defended their readiness to proceed with the primary mission. The status of the LRO Spacecraft and Ground Systems was also reviewed. The Instruments, the Spacecraft, and the Ground Systems continue to operate essentially flawlessly. There are no significant open issues or problems that preclude the start of the nominal mission."

Hey, Has Anyone Seen Heide?

Veteran Astronaut Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper Leaves NASA

"NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper has left NASA to return to the Navy. Stefanyshyn-Piper is a veteran of two space shuttle flights and five spacewalks."

Keith's note: This press release was issued by JSC PAO today. It took them 2 months to get around to it. According to Heide's official bio online at NASA JSC: "Captain Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper retired from NASA in July 2009 to return to the U.S. Navy at the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C."

NASA Needs More Money to Meet Space Goals, Panel Finds, Washington Post

"Don't try to put astronauts on Mars yet -- too hard, too costly. Go to the moon -- maybe. Or build rockets that could zip around the inner solar system, visiting asteroids, maybe a Martian moon. Keep the International Space Station going until 2020 rather than crash it into the Pacific in 2016. Help underwrite commercial space flight the same way the United States gave the airline business a boost in the 1920s with air mail."

Report on NASA's Future Backs Use of Private Contractors, WS Journal

"A blue-ribbon study group is urging the Obama administration to rely on private enterprise to reduce costs and accelerate broad access to low Earth orbit, comparing budding entrepreneurial space efforts to the 1920s, when air-mail contracts sparked a boom in U.S. commercial aviation."

Augustine panel tells White House NASA needs a new plan -- and more money, Orlando Sentinel

"A presidential panel told the White House today that NASA is on an "unsustainable trajectory" and to preserve a "meaningful" human spaceflight program, NASA needs an additional $3 billion annually and a mandate to work closely with other countries and private companies."

Obama space panel says moon return plan is a no-go, AP

"A White House panel of independent space experts says NASA's return-to-the-moon plan just won't fly. The problem is money. The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond NASA's current $18 billion annual budget. "Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable," panel member Edward Crawley, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, told The Associated Press Tuesday."

Augustine Commission member says NASA needs more money for any future mission, Huntsville Times

"It's pretty clear NASA needs more money," said Dr. Ed Crawley, panel member. "We basically said human exploration beyond low Earth orbit is not obtainable within the fiscal year 2010 budget. We did not find a credible plan that would fit within the budget."

Panel: No moon or beyond for NASA without new funds, Houston Chronicle

"NASA has not been given resources matched to the tasks it has been asked to undertake, said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology. "That has to change." That message was echoed by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, the ranking Republican on the House panel that has jurisdiction over NASA. "The benefits of human spaceflight to our nation are innumerable, and as such our financial commitment to NASA and to the aerospace industry should not waiver and in fact should be increased to meet these worthy objectives, Olson said."

Panel: Space goals need $3 billion more a year, USA Today

"I'm very curious about what the administration is going to do with a report like this," said Marcia Smith, a former space expert for the Congressional Research Service and founder of The "committee has made a stark case. They're saying it's $3 billion if you want to do almost anything."

Panel Calls Program of NASA Unfeasible, NY Times

"A blue-ribbon panel said Tuesday that a lack of financing has left NASA's current space program on an "unsustainable trajectory" and that the Obama administration should consider using private companies to launch people into low-Earth orbit."

U.S. and Canada Sign Agreement on Civil Space Cooperation

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean signed a framework agreement Wednesday for cooperative activities in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. Canadian Ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson hosted the signing at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. "NASA is very proud of its long and outstanding relationship with Canada, one that has been nurtured during the past four decades with increasing collaboration in a wide range of space science and exploration activities," NASA's Bolden said. "As NASA continues to enhance the scientific observation of our planet and the solar system, we are looking to Canada and our other international partners to play key roles in our future exploration plans."

Strengthening Canada - U.S. Space Collaboration

"Reaffirming nearly 50 years of collaboration in the peaceful use and exploitation of space for the benefits of their citizens and humanity, Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in the presence of Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, today signed an overarching Framework Agreement on Space Cooperation."

CosmoCam Prepares for Launch

Keith's note: CosmoCam is getting ready to launch the HASP payload (strato-balloon) from Ft. Sumner NM with CosmoCam onboard - see for more information and follow them on Twitter at @CosmoCam1

Bolden on Education

Most-precious resource for NASA: Next generation, Opinion, Charles Bolden, Orlando Sentinel

"Today, we must continue to cultivate new astronauts, scientists, robot designers and computer engineers. As President Obama noted in a recent speech to the National Academy of Sciences, the average age in NASA's Mission Control during the Apollo program was just 26. The average age in the control room for space shuttle Endeavour's July 31 landing was considerably older, and we need to ensure that we are getting an adequate influx of new engineers and scientists to fill our needs. This is a concern shared by many of the nation's engineering and science-related organizations. We need new scientists and engineers if we are to remain competitive and retain our role as the technological leaders in the world."

Augustine panel: NASA needs a new vision -- and more money, Orlando Sentinel

"Last week, senior executives from NASA's contractors -- including ATK; The Boeing Co.; Pratt Whitney; and Lockheed Martin Corp -- held a teleconference to map out a strategy to press for more money to keep Ares and its Orion capsule alive Tuesday, a senior executive for ATK, which is building the solid-rocket first stage of the Ares I and would have much to lose if the rocket was supplanted by commercial lifters, took issue with that recommendation. Charles Precourt, a former chief astronaut for NASA and now an ATK vice president for launch systems, told the Cocoa Beach chapter of the National Space Club that the space community needed to understand the consequences of giving commercial companies a larger role. Asked whether he thought NASA would be willing to put astronauts on a commercial rocket, he said, "I wouldn't be if I were [still] the chief astronaut."

Keith's note: It is stick-in-the-mud, "only NASA can do hard risky things", commentary by former astronauts that only serves to make the commercialization of space harder - not easier. Oh wait ... he works for ATK. Small wonder he is against anything that might work better and cost less than Ares 1. His paycheck depends on Ares. As they say, where you stand depends on where you sit.

More Good News for SpaceX

SpaceX and Astrium Announce Groundbreaking Deal

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Astrium announce a contract for a SpaceX Falcon 1e to launch an Earth observation satellite designed by Astrium or its recently acquired subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL). The Falcon 1e is an 'enhanced' version of SpaceX's successful Falcon 1 launch vehicle. Designed from the ground up by SpaceX, the Falcon 1e has upgraded propulsion, structures and avionics systems in order to further improve reliability and bring to market increased mass-to-orbit capability to better serve the needs of the small satellite community. Astrium and SSTL provide a range of innovative, cutting edge Earth Observation satellite products and through this agreement will be able to offer customers a turnkey solution, with in-orbit delivery of a low Earth orbit satellite system."

Summary Report of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee

"The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources. Space operations are among the most complex and unforgiving pursuits ever undertaken by humans. It really is rocket science. Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations. Such is the case today.

The nation is facing important decisions on the future of human spaceflight. Will we leave the close proximity of low-Earth orbit, where astronauts have circled since 1972, and explore the solar system, charting a path for the eventual expansion of human civilization into space? If so, how will we ensure that our exploration delivers the greatest benefit to the nation? Can we explore with reasonable assurances of human safety? And, can the nation marshal the resources to embark on the mission ...

... The Committee strongly believes it is time for NASA to reassume its crucial role of developing new technologies for space. Today, the alternatives available for exploration systems are severely limited because of the lack of a strategic investment in technology development in past decades. NASA now has an opportunity to develop a technology roadmap that is aligned with an exploration mission that will last for decades. If appropriately funded, a technology development program would re-engage the minds at American universities, in industry and within NASA. The investments should be designed to increase the capabilities and reduce the costs of future exploration. This will benefit human and robotic exploration, the commercial space community, and other U.S. government users."

NASA Internal Memo: Message from the NASA Administrator - Sept. 8, 2009

"In anticipation of the final report, we continue to work with OSTP and other representatives from the Executive Office of the President on our strategy to review and evaluate the options put forth by the committee. Ultimately, of course, the President will make the final decision."

Node 3 Location Issues

Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 3:21 PM
Subject: My Notes: Final Node 3 relocation charts

From this afternoon's meeting with Mr. Suffredini concerning the Node 3 relocation plan.

Node 3 is to remain on the N1p port, and no further work is to be given to the Node 3 temp storage on N1p and later re-location to N1n plan. The PLM will be located N1n, because this location requires the least MMOD shielding (reducing launch weight, and preparation costs).

The Cupola will remain in the planned location. When it looks like Orion may fly, the program will re-look at moving the Cupola at that time to provide a back-up docking port.

The desire to relocate Node 3 was to provide a back-up port for each visiting vehicle, and also to provide 2 additional available ports for future growth of ISS. Mr. Suffredini noted that Biggalow has approached NASA about docking a module to ISS, which he would like to try to accommodate. However, the cost and risk impacts to performing the Node 3 relocation in FY2010 drove the decision to not relocate Node 3.

It was noted my many in the room that if needed in the future, the team thought they could find a way to relocate the Node 3 at that time (given more time to work on the plan and to provided the needed hardware, training and procedures, etc.).

Augustine: A Sanity Check

Augustine Review: October summit set to reveal NASA's forward path,

"The strategic direction of NASA is set to be announced in the first week of October, when new administrator Charlie Bolden and Human Space Flight Review panel chairman Norm Augustine conduct a NASA Executive Summit for all Senior Executive Service employees."

Keith's note: First of all some clarification: this article originally said that the meeting was 5-6 October and yet later in the article it also said it was to be held on 6-7 October. Then the article was changed to say 6-7 October. The earlier version is making the rounds via email. There is indeed an "2009 NASA Executive Summit" being held at the Reagan Building on 6-7 October, not on 5-6 October. Second of all Norm Augustine is not on the draft agenda and is not going to "conduct" any part of this meeting. Ed Crawley has been "invited" (but not confirmed) to speak. OSTP Director John Holdren has also been invited (but also not confirmed) to speak.

"Registration is Now Open (Advance Registration Required) NASA will host a Tweetup with space shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 crew from 3 to 5 p.m. EDT Sept. 24 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The astronauts will discuss their recent mission to the International Space Station. A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. This Tweetup is an opportunity to meet and speak with the STS-127 crew and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA. Plus, you'll get to mingle with other space-exploration-minded Tweeps."

NASA Invites Reporters to Observe Robotics Tests in Arizona Desert

"NASA will hold the annual Desert "RATS," or Research and Technology Studies, field test in the Arizona desert this fall, hosting a media day for journalists on Sept. 15. Desert RATS will help determine what technologies and capabilities will be needed when NASA takes future trips beyond Earth. The tests will include a simulated 14-day mission during which two crew members -- an astronaut and a geologist -- will live inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover. They will scout the test area for features of geological interest and conduct simulated moonwalks to collect samples."

Power Droids at Desert RATS, OnOrbit

"Green Trail Energy has partnered with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education to provide logistical and technical support for Education and Public Outreach (EPO) to be done at NASA's annual Desert RATS activity in Arizona this month. This activity is made possible by a Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Challenger Center. ... The GSW7000 portable power system, whose utilization is being donated to this activity by Green Trail Energy, can provide 2.4 KW of wind power and 4.4 KW of solar power. With its extendable 106 foot tower, it can also serve as a cell phone node and provide WiFi and WiMAX connectivity."

Power Droids Arrive at Desert RATS, OnOrbit

"Both the larger GSW7000 portable power system aka the "Power Droid" and a smaller Solar power/ communications trailer (the mini-Power Droid) arrived in Flagstaff today and ready for operations."

Save Ares Campaign Underway

Ares may look dead but keeps kicking, Orlando Sentinel

"Nonetheless, senior executives from NASA's contractors -- including Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK; The Boeing Co.; Pratt Whitney; and Lockheed Martin Corp -- held a teleconference Thursday to map out a strategy to press for more money to keep Ares and Orion alive. Astronauts employed by contractors working on the project wrote an op-ed piece urging the White House and Congress to "stay the course." And the rocket's backers hit the airwaves and blogosphere, insisting that NASA engineers have found solutions to the rocket's major technical problems, including the likelihood it would drift into its launch tower on liftoff and shake violently enough to injure the astronauts aboard. Last week, the campaign hit the Internet with a video on YouTube that encourages viewers to tell Congress and the White House that NASA should stick with Ares and not "take a chance" with other spacecraft designs."

According to the Augustine Committee's website: "09.03.2009 - A Summary Report is in final preparations for transmittal to the Office of Science and Technology Policy and NASA on Tuesday, September 8, 2009."

The "Deciders" of NASA's future - Augustine Committee, YouTube

"At President Obama's request, a committee known as the Augustine Committee is reviewing Americas plans for Human Space Exploration. Although a thorough review was conducted four years ago--and a direction chosen, contracts awarded, tests conducted, and rockets built--the Augustine committee wants to stop work and do something new. This will widen the gap between the retirement of the shuttle and its replacement vehicle, waste billions of dollars and threaten Americas presence in space. You can STOP this."

Video below

Berlin TV tower 'stolen' by Nasa: amazing video spoof, Telegraph

"Fabian Tischer, 28, grew up just a few miles from the telecommunications tower and produced the clip to realise his childhood fantasy of watching the iconic building lift off into space. "As a child, I used to think the TV tower in the centre of the former capital of East Germany was a rocket. And now, with my technical possibilities, I have transformed it into that," he told"

Video below

Chandrayaan-I was 'killed' by heat stroke, Times of India

"The reasons for early termination of the Chandrayaan-I mission are now tumbling out and they reveal that ISRO had kept the Moon orbiter's problems tightly under wraps. Contrary to the space agency's explanation that Chandrayaan's orbit around the Moon had been raised from 100km to 200km in May this year for a better view of the Moon's surface, it is now known that this was because of a miscalculation of the Moon's temperature that had led to faulty thermal protection. Admitting this, Dr T K Alex, director, ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, said, "We assumed that the temperature at 100km above the Moon's surface would be around 75 degrees Celsius. However, it was more than 75 degrees and problems started to surface. We had to raise the orbit to 200km."

Astronauts reflect on their experiences, San Diego Union-Tribune

"We'll march on Washington, if that's what he wants us to do." Glynn Lunney, a leader in Mission Control during Apollo 13; he later oversaw the Space Shuttle program in its early years: "I like what they're doing at the moment with the Space Shuttle. But I gather there's a major review going on. There's a sense of being on hold. "We were incredibly fortunate to be personally part of the space program. The more I think about what we did in the '60s, it's hard to believe we landed on the moon. It's wonderful to reflect on. It feels good."

Museums ready to salute 'living legends', San Diego Union-Tribune

"I know we could do it, but we're not going to," said Alan Bean, an astronaut aboard Apollo 12 and the fourth man to walk on the moon. "I want to go, but I know I'm in the minority." The nation was driven in the 1960s by the desire to prove its superiority over the Soviets, Bean said. Without a similar motivation now, returning to the moon will be viewed by most Americans as too expensive. "Future generations will have to find a reason," he said. "There's just not a reason now."

Keith's note: I have been told repeatedly by NASA HQ PAO that NASA PAO policy is to not issue materials such as press releases under embargo to media prior to their public release. Yet I have caught JPL doing this multiple times. When I ask JPL PAO chief Veronica McGregor about this she simply refuses to respond. This time my inquiry concerned a press release regarding NASA research, issued under embargo by the ESO for the recent IAU meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When I asked JPL PAO about this I got zero response (again). So, I filed a FOIA request with both NASA HQ and JPL. NASA HQ's FOIA officer replied "The NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs conducted a search and from that search no records were found responsive to your request, Public Affairs also stated that there is no policy for this topic." Curious.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 5 September 2009

"PMA-3 Heater Cable Installation: After the EVA-2 crew discovered that the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter 3) is rotated ("clocked") 90 degrees off ("tail nadir") from the expected orientation ("tail aft"), further evaluation by ground teams confirmed that the on-board jumper harness is not long enough in this orientation. Therefore, this task will not be performed during EVA-3. It was also confirmed that the actual PMA-3 orientation is the same as in 2007 (Expedition 15) before it was relocated to Node-1 nadir, and that this is the correct orientation expected for HTV rendezvous/berthing. There are currently no plans to rectify the situation which requires that entrances to PMA-3 need to be restricted to certain (solar-heated) Beta angle periods to prevent condensation within the module. The root cause for this discrepancy is under investigation."

Generation Mars

NASA ESMD Internal White Paper: Concept Proposal: Generation Mars

"NASA must remain the world leader in human spaceflight and lead humankind to prepare for missions to Mars. We are going to Mars because it is civilization's next major challenge. The Apollo generation had Gemini and Mercury--stepping stones that made the impossible possible. The generation born today is going to Mars; its stepping stones will be the ISS and other shorter-term destinations along the way. Some will be able to experience the journey first hand and many more will be able to experience it virtually. It is exciting, inspiring and what NASA should be doing."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO "Some of us became aware of the document today. As you might guess, a lot of people inside and outside the agency are suggesting ideas in anticipation of the Augustine Committee's final report. We consider this little more than a brainstorming exercise by its authors. NASA will do nothing to get in front of the Committee's work. Until the final report is delivered and we have had time to thoughtfully consider the options presented, it would be premature for anyone to present a path forward."

NASA Mars exploration study drafted, officials say it's not meant to influence Augustine Commission, Huntsville Times

"NASA managers have crafted a draft proposal that outlines a plan to skip going back to the moon and places the space agency on course to send astronauts to Mars."

NASA aims for a Mars landing in 30 years, Orlando Sentinel

"It is unknown who wrote the paper, although NASA officials acknowledged it came from inside the agency. The proposal was published Friday afternoon on from unknown authors inside of NASA's Exploration Mission directorate, the same NASA division that runs Constellation. Another uncertainty: whether there are competing white papers within the agency and how much power the authors wield within the agency. This could affect its chances of becoming real."

Space experts question proposed NASA Mars goal, Huntsville Times

"During public hearings, the Augustine panel has said repeatedly NASA probably will not receive a hefty budget increase, Cowing pointed out. "Supporters of space regularly have a problem translating their enthusiasm for space to the general public," he said. "The public has other issues they are concerned with. If you inelegantly explain this as just 'Give me more money,' then it will drop with a resonating thud. "NASA has to make a compelling case that anybody on the street will agree and say 'Give me some of that.'"

Good News for LCROSS

NASA Internal Memo: LCROSS has rescinded its Declaration of Spacecraft Emergency

"Last night we lifted our declaration of Spacecraft Emergency with DSN with concurrence from the Center. We have implemented a number of mitigations to try to assure that we are in a more robust position against propellant lost as we finish the remaining 30-days of the mission.Our work is of course not done as we continue to navigate our risk for the remainder of the mission, but we need to be aware of other risks which have grown through this process... namely staff fatigue. While our new ConOps plan requires we check S/C health every 9-hours, we are looking into ways to make that monitoring as efficient as possible by setting-up remote access and by seeing if other assets can monitor for our S/C "phone home" if the S/C is in trouble."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: MT-50 Touch Table

"NASA/GSFC intends to purchase the items from Ideum Inc. Competition is impractical because the Table was developed and designed by Ideum and other tables did not meet the needed standards."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: Magic Planet Tabletop With 18 and 24in Sphere

"NASA/GSFC has a requirement for QTY1, Magic Planet Tabletop with 18" and 24" sphere. NASA/GSFC intends to purchase the items from Global Imagination. Based on market research competition is impractical because Global Imagination is the sole supplier of the Magic Planet Sphere."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: Magic Planet Tabletop With 18in Sphere

"NASA/GSFC has a requirement for QTY2, Magic Planet Tabletop with 18" sphere. NASA/GSFC intends to purchase the items from Global Imagination. Competition is impractical because based on market research Global Imagination is the sole supplier of the Magic Planet."

NASA KSC Solicitation: Science on a Sphere Hardware and Accessories

"NASA/KSC has a requirement for computer hardware and accessories to operate Science on a Sphere (see attachment for items details). Science On a Sphere(R) is a large visualization system that uses computers and video projectors to display animated data onto the outside of a sphere. According to FAR 13.106-1(b) (1) the parts are deemed available from only one responsible source (Brand Name) and no other type of supplies will satisfy NASAs requirements. The brands specified for each item are the only brands acceptable to guarantee a fully functional system."

NASA DFRC Solicitation: Magic Planet Digital Video Globe

"The specifications are: Require two digital video globes that allow the projection of data sets on globes in real time. Such data sets include things such as global climate patterns, natural disasters, earth observing, etc."

Keith's note: Three separate field centers, GSFC, KSC, and DFRC, all have a sudden need for these interactive displays with a bunch of procurement activities all initiated within days - or hours - of each other. This is rather curious - and explanations are lacking - except for DFRC. DFRC's notice states that "The global spheres will be used for educational purposes. The intent is to have one large model in a stationary area such as the DFRC Visitor Center and one other sphere to use at different venues such as schools, libraries, or museums; therefore, the smaller sphere will have portability." GSFC and KSC do not explain why they need these specific displays.

Don't get me wrong: these displays are a very good way to show a lot of data - such as global climate and planetary mapping. If you want visitors and students to understand things like this they are an excellent means to do so. But why the hurry - all at once - to buy these things? Then again, it is getting close to the end of the fiscal year and money not spent is money that is lost - so buying some last minute gadgets is one way to spend that money. Too bad these sort of things are not a higher priority at NASA since many people still do not have a clue as to how NASA research affects their quality of life.

NASA OIG on Landsat

NASA OIG: The Landsat Program Is Not Meeting the Goals and Intent of the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992

"We found that LDCM Project management had ensured that the acquisition plan and subsidiary documents prepared for LDCM followed applicable interagency agreements, policies, regulations, and best practices. In addition, we found that LCDM Project management effectively identified, reported, and mitigated LDCM acquisition risks and had implemented an effective Earned Value Management System to improve management of cost and schedule risks. However, NASA's efforts to comply with the goals outlined in the LRSP Act of 1992 needed improvement. Specifically, NASA and the Nation's efforts to develop, launch, and operate a land remote sensing system to maintain long-term data continuity is in jeopardy because no Federal agency has been given overall responsibility for the Landsat Program and LDCM baseline requirements changed after the contract award for the spacecraft, resulting in increased Project costs and possible launch schedule delays."

NASA Awards Wackenhut Agency-Wide Protective Services Contract (24 June 2009)

"NASA has announced the selection of Wackenhut Services Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to perform an agency-wide consolidated contract for protective services. The initial contract value for a possible 10-year period totals approximately $1.2 billion. Wackenhut will provide fire services, security services, emergency management, export control, protective services training, and protective services information assurance and information technology security."

Animal House in Afghanistan, Mother Jones

"Drunken brawls, prostitutes, hazing and humiliation, taking vodka shots out of buttcracks-- no, the perpetrators of these Animal House-like antics aren't some depraved frat brothers. They are the private security contractors guarding the US embassy compound in Kabul. These allegations, and many more, are contained in a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday by the Project on Government Oversight, which has been investigating the embassy security contract held by ArmorGroup North America (a subsidiary of Wackenhut, which is in turn owned by the security behemoth G4S)."

A Speech That I'd Like To See The Next President Deliver

"When the President announced NASA's new plans, he said that the Space Shuttle would be retired once the International Space Station would be completed. Within a short period of time, however, NASA reinterpreted that guidance and said that the shuttle will be retired on a certain date and that the resulting space station - however incomplete - would be "finished". At the same time, NASA began to speak of the space station, something it had fought to build for two decades, as something it would no longer need - and indeed, it would walk away from - just as it was capable of doing all of the things NASA had been claiming it would. Indeed, some at NASA referred to this marvel of engineering as a "mistake". ... The vision, once clear, had now become clouded. NASA also developed a bad case of attention deficit disorder. A scant 4 years after it was announced, NASA's new exploration mission was stuck in a sand bar when it should have been leaving port."

Keith's note: I first posted this in September 2008.

Big Win for SpaceX

Orbcomm and SpaceX Reach Deal to Launch Satellite Constellation

"ORBCOMM Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announce they have reached an agreement for SpaceX to launch 18 ORBCOMM Generation 2 (OG2) satellites to begin as early as the fourth quarter of 2010 through 2014. SpaceX will deliver ORBCOMM's second-generation satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) for the purpose of supporting ORBCOMM's existing constellation of satellites, adding new features, and growing its global Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) offerings. Each new satellite will be equipped with an enhanced communication payload designed to increase subscriber capacity for M2M communication up to 12 times over the current satellite constellation, increase message sizes, and include AIS detection capability."

I have been abducted by aliens, says Japan's first lady, The Independent

"Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan's Prime Minister-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, is a lifestyle guru, a macrobiotics enthusiast, an author of cookery books, a retired actress, a divorcee, and a fearless clothes horse for garments of her own creation, including a skirt made from Hawaiian coffee sacks. But there is more, much more. She has travelled to the planet Venus. And she was once abducted by aliens. "While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," she explains in the tome she published last year. "It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green."

Japan's new first lady says rode in a spaceship, Reuters

"Miyuki, 66, described the extraterrestrial experience, which she said took place some 20 years ago, in a book entitled "Very Strange Things I've Encountered."

Japan's New First Lady Says She Flew In UFO, Time

"I also eat the sun," Hatoyama said on the program, looking up with her eyes closed, raising her arms high as if she was tearing pieces off an imaginary sun. "Like this, hum, hum, hum. It gives me enormous energy." "My husband has recently started doing that too," said the 66-year-old Hatoyama."

Keith's note: Well, I guess we can expect support for increasing JAXA's space budget ...

Keith's note: This item was inserted into the NASA STS-128 FD06 Execute Package:

XCOR Aerospace Reaches Several Significant Milestones in the Lynx 5K18 Rocket Engine Test Program (Videos)

"XCOR Aerospace announced today that it has reached several significant milestones in the 5K18 rocket engine test program. This is the engine that powers XCOR's Lynx suborbital spacecraft. The engine can be seen running in several newly released videos including a video demonstrating the very stable "shock diamond" pattern visible in the engine's supersonic exhaust. "Like all of our rocket engines, this engine has demonstrated the ability to be stopped and re-started using our safe and reliable spark torch ignition system", said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. "The basic cooling design has also been completed and the engine is able to run continuously at thermal equilibrium. With those milestones reached, the 5K18 test program is now moving forward into a second phase of tuning and optimization, in which we will also greatly increase our cumulative run time."

The Coming Food Fight

New Marshall director remains optimistic while waiting on report, WAFF

"With no specific direction and no roadmap for Marshall, Lightfoot is literally managing in limbo. He's waiting for direction from the top while still maintaining continuity at the bottom, trying to reach a balance between people and projects. "You get pocketed off in your programs and forget we are Marshall - not shuttle, not Constellation, we're Marshall," he said."

Keith's note: I think Lightfoot has this somewhat backward. MSFC is a NASA "field center" - one of a dozen or so that is assigned tasks by NASA Headquarters - tasks assigned to it by the White House (and Congress). MSFC, like all other field centers, exists to complete these tasks (projects) for the agency - not the other way around. Without the projects assigned to it, MSFC has no other work of any significance - nor a reason to exist.

Yes, I know it is naive to even say this, much less believe it, but if the field centers started to think more like "NASA" and less like their zip codes the agency might just work a little more efficiently and do so without pointless overlap and duplication and counter productive inter-center squabbling. Alas, stay tuned as one or more multi-center EELV Vs Sidemount Vs Ares IV/V HLV food fights begin shortly in the post-Augustine trade space.

Orion passes milestone, but do problems loom?, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA announced Tuesday that the manned capsule it plans to send to the moon has passed an early internal review with unanimous support. But the good news about Orion came with a caveat. If Orions companion rocket -- dubbed Ares 1 -- is spiked in favor of another rocket, then any Orion mission would be delayed by up to two years so engineers could fit a new rocket to the capsule."

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Passes Significant Design Milestone

"NASA has taken a major step toward building the next crew exploration vehicle by completing the Orion Project's preliminary design review, or PDR. Orion is being designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other destinations. The preliminary design review is one of a series of checkpoints that occurs in the design life cycle of a complex engineering project before hardware manufacturing can begin. As the review process progresses, details of the vehicle's design are assessed to ensure the overall system is safe and reliable for flight and meets all NASA mission requirements."

Challenger Center Welcomes New Board Members

"Challenger Center for Space Science Education announced today that astronauts Barbara Morgan and Richard Garriott and aerospace engineer Karolyn Young were elected to its Board of Directors at its recent annual conference held at the Buehler Challenger & Science Center in Paramus, New Jersey.

"We are looking forward to working with our new board members - each of these individuals brings unique experiences and skills that will help Challenger Center grow and to reach more children, inspiring them to pursue careers in science technology, education, and mathematics," said Challenger Center Board Chair William Readdy."

SpaceX Delivers Hardware to Cape Canaveral in Preparation for STS-129 and Integration with the ISS

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces delivery of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communication Unit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launch on Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-129. The unit will be delivered by Atlantis to the International Space Station (ISS) and integrated in preparation for SpaceX's future flights to the orbiting laboratory. Developed by SpaceX, in collaboration with NASA, the unit allows for communication between the ISS, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, and ground-based mission control. The system also allows the ISS crew to monitor an approaching or departing capsule. As part of NASA's COTS competition, SpaceX will conduct flights of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS and then returning to Earth."

Spaced Out - NASA's vision for human exploration needs some hard questions and perhaps an entrepreneurial boost, Washington Post

"Now that the station is nearly complete, this might be an optimal time to open space to entrepreneurs. Many companies claim they possess the capacity to transport humans and payloads into space; the review committee found their reports convincing enough to suggest that these space entrepreneurs could take over the transport of astronauts and supplies to the space station after the shuttle program ends. It's time to boldly go where no man has gone before. That means opening space to the kind of private-sector competition that revolutionized cyberspace and making sure the next human exploratory efforts are based on real scientific need."

The Case for Commercial Crew, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Given the Washington Post endorsement today, we thought it would be timely to list some of the benefits of the $2.5 billion Commercial Crew program advocated by the Augustine Committee in its final public hearing ..."

Steve Cook Update

Dynetics Hires Steve Cook as Director of Space Technologies

"Prior to serving as project manager for Ares, Cook was deputy and acting director of the Space Transportation Programs, deputy manager of the Next Generation Launch Technology/Advanced Space Transportation Program and a member of Systems Engineering and Management at Marshall Space Flight Center. "I have been honored and privileged to work with the best-of-the-best in the aerospace industry over the past 19 years," Cook said. "NASA has graciously allowed me to pursue dreams of exploration that I have had since my passion was ignited watching Apollo 17 land on the moon. That said, my professional goal has long been to spend the first half of my career in public service and the last half in the private sector. On Sept. 14, I will begin phase 2 of my career, as Director of Space Technologies at Dynetics in Huntsville, Ala. I look forward to helping the Dynetics team take on the challenges associated with space flight."

What does Cook's resignation mean?, Orlando Sentinel

"How should the space community interpret Steve Cook's decision to resign as head of NASA's troubled Ares program? One view, common to this blog and others, contends that Cook is leaving a sinking ship. Ares faces financial troubles, technical challenges and little support from a presidential panel tasked with examining the future of human spaceflight in the United States."

Signatures On Orbit

Did You Sign This Space Station Payload Rack? Lots Of People Did, OnOrbit

"In this image, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk, Expedition 20 flight engineer, is pictured with the oxygen generator system (OGS) rack cover in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.

If you look closely you will see that a lot of people signed this payload rack.

Are you one of them?"



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