June 2010 Archives

The End of the Apollo Era - Finally?, John Logsdon, Space News

"I interpret the new space strategy set out by the White House Feb. 1 to be at its foundation a proposal to move from the 20th century, Apollo-era approach to human spaceflight to a new approach consistent with 21st century national and international realities and future exploration and other strategic space objectives. It is not surprising that those with positive memories of Apollo and with vested interests in continuing the space status quo have been so strong in their opposition to the new approach; they are defending a space effort that to date has served them well. These critics have been met with a -- literally -- incoherent defense of the new strategy by its advocates inside and outside of the government. U.S. President Barack Obama confused the situation even further in his April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center. The result has been a polarized debate unprecedented in my more than four decades of close observation of space policymaking."

The Last Two ETs

NASA's Last Two Space Shuttle External Tanks Are Being Built at Michoud, Ken Kremer

"The last two Space Shuttle External Tanks (ET's) likely to be produced in history are entering their final closeout assembly operations at the NASA-owned Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans as the shuttle program draws ever closer to its looming retirement date, now reset to early 2011. These two final tanks are destined for the last scheduled flight of the shuttle program - STS 134 - and what's currently base lined as the Launch-On-Need (LON) rescue mission (STS 335), respectively. They are designated as tanks ET-138 and ET-122. STS 134 is currently scheduled to lift off on Feb. 28, 2011."

NASA Ames Research Center Helps Underserved School Receive Used Computers

"Times are tough, but none more so than for schools and their students. To promote equal opportunity for all children, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., recently helped Park Avenue Elementary School in the Yuba City Unified District, receive 24 used computers and servers for data storage. It was a perfect match. NASA had surplus computers and equipment that it wanted to give away, and Park Avenue Elementary School needed more computers for its 563 student population, which is 86 percent Hispanic."

Editor's note: Dennis Wingo and Ken Zin are part of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) team. LOIRP make frequent use of old NASA computers and surplus hardware. It is through this experience that Dennis and Ken became familiar with all of the potentially useful equipment sitting around waiting for someone to think of something to use it for. They found a use for it.

Keith's note: It has been a week. Where is the NASA Wallops press release about the launch? Was the rocket recovered? Did students get their payloads back? What was the reaction of students to having this unique experience? There is nothing on the Wallops website except an old notice that is several weeks old. NASA Wallops PAO simply does not care. Nor does NASA's Education Office - since there is still no mention whatsoever on their website. What a great way to kick of the "Summer of Innovation": ignoring a NASA mission that actually put student experiments into space.

- NASA Continues To Ignore RockOn! Launch, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth Launch at Wallops, earlier post

Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on the President's National Space Policy Via Teleconference

"SENIOR ADMINSTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, no. What it does is it sets up best practices for things like transparency, confidence building measures. I don't know if my colleagues want to add anything more on that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, I don't have anything to add.

SENIOR ADMINSTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, it is not an arms -- a legally binding arms control agreement. What it is, again - is, again, set up best practices how responsible space-faring nations would act. And it would be politically binding, not legally binding. That is a confidence in transparency building measure. And I think in the near term that's where the focus of the Administration's efforts will be."

Keith's note: Yesterday, the space media got a 6 minute warning by email that White House officials were going to have a media telecon to discuss the new space policy. NASA PAO only found out at the last minute and did their best to alert us. Yesterday, the State Department also had a stealth press briefing - by telecon - about space and NASA apparently did not get a heads up - ergo no media advisory for the space media. But in addition to no advanced notice, no one at the State Department was willing to use their name or allow comments to be attributed to them. I am trying to decide if this is attributable to arrogance or cowardice. It is probably safe to assume both.

But the most post hypocritical part of this entire stealth exchange is when "Senior Administration Official One" and "Senior Administration Official Two" start to talk about "best practices for transparency." What could these two people possibly know about "transparency"? They won't even use their own name in an official State Department activity, a transcript of which is posted on an official website.

House spending panel punts on NASA policy, Orlando Sentinel

"A key congressional committee today sidestepped a potential vote on NASA's future, opting to take "no position" on White House plans to scrap NASA's moon rocket program and replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets. The House subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget did, however, agree unanimously to withhold funding for the agency's human exploration program until Congress authorizes a plan for the agency -- a move that normally could cause headaches for the administration. But because Congress is unlikely to move this spending bill -- or any 2011 spending bill -- until after election season, the prohibition essentially is rendered moot. With that procedure aside, much of the rest of the two-hour hearing turned into a debate about NASA should do after the shuttle era."

Aderholt's bill tells NASA to stop Constellation cuts, Huntsville Times

"Aderholt's bill, titled the Protecting Human Spaceflight Act of 2010, would require NASA to stop downsizing or canceling Constellation projects. It was introduced in the House shortly after 5 p.m. CDT Monday. The legislation would also require the space agency to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds appropriated for Constellation this year."

Tesla Motors shares surge in 1st day of trading, Business Week

"Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. surged in their first day of trading on Tuesday, gaining more than 20 percent after the company raised more than expected in its initial public offering of stock. Investors snapped up shares of the electric car maker even as the broader markets took a beating. Tesla shares were up $4.10, or 24 percent, to $21.10 in afternoon trading after hitting a high of $21.50 earlier in the session. Tesla's performance was a feat in a sour market that has forced many companies looking to raise funds through IPOs to accept lower prices to get deals done. The IPO came on a day when U.S. stocks fell more than 2 percent -- following Asian and European markets lower -- on worries that the economy is slowing. The offering appealed to investors, raising $226.1 million after selling 13.3 million shares for $17 apiece. It had earlier expected to price 11.1 million shares at $14 to $16 per share.

Keith's note: The Facebook Group Huntsville Space Professionals is tracking workforce issues, layoffs, etc. in the Huntsville area.

HLV BAA Released

NASA MSFC Internal Email: Procurement Sensitivity for Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) NNM10ZDA001K

"The BAA NNM10ZDA001K will be released to industry in the near future for the Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology Systems Analysis and Trade Study acquisition at NASA/MSFC. Effective immediately, all MSFC employees will cease communications with industry concerning this procurement. This 'blackout' period of communication with industry will continue until proposals have been received and evaluated, the contract is awarded, and the BAA Evaluation Team is released from its responsibilities."

NASA Issues Broad Agency Announcement For Heavy Lift Studies

"NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals and industry input on heavy-lift system concepts and propulsion technology."

Subcommittee Markup: Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee - FY2011 Bill

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science will meet today at 3:30 ET to start the markup of its FY11 appropriations bill. This will be an opportunity to see any changes in dollar amounts and conditions for NASA's budget.

NASA and International Space Agencies Meet to Discuss Human and Robotic Space Exploration

"NASA senior managers met with their counterparts representing other space agencies at the National Harbor, Md., on June 23, to discuss globally-coordinated human and robotic space exploration. The meeting participants agreed that significant progress has been made since the joint release of The Global Exploration Strategy (GES) in May 2007. They agreed steps should be taken to coordinate a long-term space exploration vision that is sustainable and affordable."

Saving Constellation

Lawmakers will try to force NASA to fund Constellation program

"U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, is leading a group of lawmakers that will try to force NASA to continue funding the Constellation rocket program for the rest of the fiscal year. Aderholt will introduce a bill in the House later today titled the "Protecting Human Space Flight Act of 2010." It would require NASA to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds on the program in this last quarter of the fiscal year. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden would also be barred from terminating or shrinking any Constellation contract."

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt Tries To Stop Constellation Cuts, WHNT

"At least four other Congressman have co-sponsored the bill, including Rep. Lincoln Davis, Rep. Spencer Bachus, Rep. Parker Griffith, Rep. Jo Bonner and Rep. Mike Rogers. Aderholt says he sees support for Constellation on both sides of the aisle. "I would say 90% or more of Congress right now believes that Constellation is a good program, it's a program that Congress should be investing in, or we don't see a sign of letting up," said Aderholt."


Houston region continues national fight to urge leaders to save NASA's Human Space Flight Capabilities

"The Greater Houston Partnership and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership today urged the Obama administration to reconsider the retirement of the space shuttle and cancel its plan in the FY2011 NASA budget to eliminate the Constellation program - in favor of "hoped for" commercially developed capabilities that are still up to seven years away, assuming there are no further setbacks. Continuing the prevision plan to retire the Space Shuttle while also terminating the Constellation program in the face of such a long gap before the commercial industry can carry U.S. astronauts safely into low earth orbit would deal a severe blow to Houston and the nation, and compromise America's leadership in space."

Space Policy Reaction

Obama seeks international cooperation in space, AP

"Saying the U.S. is no longer "racing against an adversary," President Barack Obama called Monday for greater international cooperation in exploring space. Obama said in a statement that the U.S. seeks peaceful collaboration with other countries that will ward off conflict and make it easier to expand exploration. The United States must do more to address debris and other hazards in space, he said, and called for a "burgeoning commercial space industry."

Obama Focuses Revised Space Policy on International Cooperation

"President Barack Obama called for greater international cooperation for space exploration and bolstering U.S. companies that build spacecraft. Obama vowed to maintain the U.S. competitive edge in space exploration and in systems that support national security operations. At the same time, the president said, U.S. policy must recognize that the world has changed since the end of the Cold War."


Obama calls for international cooperation in space, Orlando Sentinel

"President Barack Obama on Monday underscored his desire to turn space into a place for peace on Monday, releasing a policy paper that advocated international science missions and opened the door for future treaties that could limit space junk and weapons above Earth. But administration officials said the push for international cooperation does not mean the U.S. necessarily would ask its allies to join Obama's proposed mission to send NASA astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, which he outlined during a visit to Kennedy Space Center in April, or immediately seek a treaty that would ban space-based weapons."

Keith's note: I (and other space media) just got this White House Press Secretary advisory one minute ago from NASA PAO. I had a total of 6 minutes advanced notice. I can't think of a better way to cut down on questions:

"Today: Senior Administration Officials to Hold A Conference Call Briefing on the New National Space Policy

WASHINGTON--Today at 1:30 PM EDT, Senior Administration Officials will hold a conference call with reporters to discuss the administration's new National Space Policy.

WHAT: Conference call briefing to discuss the administration's new National Space Policy
WHO: Barry Pavel, NSC Senior Director for Defense Policy and Strategy,
Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy,
Peter Marquez, NSC Director of Space Policy
WHEN: Today, Monday, June 28 at 1:30 PM EDT
Dial-in: United States: (877) 941-8639
Call Title: "White House Conference Call"

I will live tweet the content of this briefing here.

-- National Space Poicy (full text)
-- Fact Sheet: The National Space Policy

This week marked the continued transition from Shuttle operations to future opportunities. This was highlighted by ground breaking on the new Exploration Park at the Kennedy Space Center. Like research parks at other NASA centers, KSC's Exploration Park is an initiative to attract businesses to KSC. This week also marked the anniversary of one very important past mission.

New National Space Policy Conciliatory, not Confrontational, Spacepolicyonline.com

"Whenever it is formally released, President Obama's new national space policy will have a very different tone than his predecessor's. Rumors remain rampant that the new policy will be released on Monday, but some of those in the know say that it more likely will be later in the week. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley intimated on Wednesday that it might even be longer than that. Nevertheless, a one page summary of the policy's "Top Level Messages," dated June 25, is making the rounds. It says that the two major principles of the policy are "responsible use of space" and "nurturing the U.S. space industry."

New Space Policy Calls for Global Cooperation, Wall Street Journal

"The Obama administration as early as Monday is expected to call for significantly greater international cooperation than ever before in outer space, covering a wide range of civilian and national-security programs. The new policy, according to industry and government officials familiar with the details, also endorses the pursuit of verifiable arms-control proposals for space. And it envisions stepped-up U.S. government efforts to bolster domestic rocket and satellite manufacturers, making them more economically viable and competitive overseas."

Keith's note: OK, so the White House makes all sorts of budgetary and contractual changes to NASA programs with little or no advanced warning, questionable pre-coordination, bad rollout - all with no cogent space policy in evidence. Chaos ensues. And then they fiddle with it. Now they are going to actually release a space policy - but only after all of their earlier efforts at NASA have run into brick walls (Congress). Is this going to clarify things - or just make things even more confusing? Stay tuned.

Roy Estess

Roy Estess, Clarion-Ledger

"Roy Simmons Estess of Carriere, Mississippi passed away Friday evening at his residence in Tylertown, Mississippi. He was 71 years of age. Visitation will be held at Tylertown Baptist Church on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 from 12 Noon until 2 P.M. Funeral services will immediately follow with the Reverend Dr. Raymond Leake and Reverend Wayne Ward officiating. Interment will be at Tylertown Cemetery."

Former Stennis director Estess dies at 71, Sun Herald

"From the cafeteria worker to the test-stand operator, workers loved him, she said. "I don't know anyone who didn't consider it a privilege and a pleasure to work for him," she said. "I never heard a negative word about him. He had a special gift for making others feel appreciated."

Tribute to Roy Estess (Senate - July 29, 2002)

Malice, Mischief and Misconceptions, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"The space community has fractured since the disastrous roll out of NASA's "new direction." Preceding the administration's budget announcement, endless delays and rampant speculation about administrators, rockets, and program design and direction kept people guessing. The current trench warfare is not a pretty sight, but it is not unexpected given the lack of a clear direction. Word has it that more detail will come out early next week, adding yet another layer to this growing space onion. The undirected, unfocused, unproductive spin cycle NASA (and the entire space community) has twirled around in for the last 18 months is instructive. It is real time, 20/20 insight on how the new direction will play out during the proposed five-year study hall being scheduled for NASA to find their "right stuff."

Successful science communication: A case study, Ars Technica

"It is no secret that, in general, i.e. outside of dedicated science reporting venues and the occasional medical report on the evening news, the scientific community does a craptastic job of communicating with the general public. While I think we at Nobel Intent do it admirably, we are but an infinitesimal sliver in the pie of science. A report that appeared in a recent edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights a case study of effective science communication and deconstructs it to show what parts may be generally applicable to other areas of science."

At Companies Tied to NASA, Casualties of a Changing Mission, NY Times

"The administration wants to turn to commercial companies for taking future astronauts to orbit while taking a hiatus from any ambitious missions to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. Yet Congress has not agreed to the scuttling of Constellation and added a clause in this year's federal budget that prohibited NASA from canceling the program or starting a new one without Congressional assent. The skirmishing continued in earnest this week. Staff members on the House Committee on Science and Technology are reviewing documents that NASA sent over Friday evening to comply with the committee's demand for information used in formulating the president's proposal. In addition, on Tuesday, 62 House members signed a letter sent to President Obama "to express concern" over the direction of NASA."

ATK gets reprieve in NASA funding, AP

"ATK Space Systems says it has been cleared for a scheduled ground test of a new rocket motor in September. ATK says it received notice from NASA that the company will receive $160 million to prepare for the rocket test despite doubts about the future of the space program. The situation could change after October, when a new federal budget year starts."

ATK: NASA releases funds: Ares rocket work may continue through at least September, McClatchy-Tribune

"NASA in the last month threatened to withhold funding and enforce a contract clause that could force ATK to put up $500 million in termination costs for Ares, which is part of the Constellation space project. ATK officials would not confirm it, but NASA projected the termination clause would cost more than 2,000 jobs at the Top of Utah company."

Does moon plan have a pulse?, Houston Chronicle

"And the full 60-member House Appropriations Committee will be deciding whether to adopt Senate-passed restrictions designed to block an administration effort to have Constellation contractors set aside funds to pay potential contract termination costs - a move that critics contend bleeds the program before Congress has taken action. The language is part of the must-pass wartime defense supplemental bill. The panels' deliberations follow a letter to Obama by 62 House Democrats and Republicans from 18 states on Wednesday that urged the president to work with lawmakers on a compromise on the Constellation program."

Keith's note: The following was sent to all LaRC employees last night: "Most of NASA Langley lost power at approximately 3 p.m. today when a high voltage cable terminator failed in the Center's Stratton substation. Employees may have heard a loud noise associated with the failure. There were no injuries. The cable terminator is on a electrical feeder cable connected to the 22-kV (22 thousand volt) main power bus. A protective relay tripped the bus off line, and most of the damage was limited to the cable terminator. Power was restored by 3:33 p.m. The Center is open for normal operations."

Shifting The Shuttle

Shuttle Era Extended to early 2011, Ken Kremer

"The Era of NASA's Space Shuttle Program will be extended by a few more months into early 2011, slightly staving off the retirement that had long been scheduled to occur by the end of 2010. Space Shuttle Program managers have submitted a formal new "change request" to move the launch target dates of the final two shuttle flights, STS 133 and STS 134. These next, and so far last, shuttle flights had been scheduled to lift off on Sept. 16 with Discovery and in late November 2010 with Endeavour and will now be retargeted to late October 2010 and late February 2011 respectively."

Keith's note: It has been 24 hours and virtually nothing has been released by NASA about the RockOn! rocket launch yesterday that carried a number of student experiments. When you go to the Wallops website it now says "A Terrier-Orion Sounding Rocket was successfully launched on 6/24/10. Stay tuned for information on the next launch from Wallops!". There is no (apparent) link to photos, press releases, videos, or any other information associated with the launch.

The last post on the Wallops Twitter (which is going into hibernation again) at 7:25 am EDT yesterday says "We will post a launch pic later this morning. Thanks for that suggestion." The Wallops YouTube page has one video - but it was posted a year ago. The Wallops Facebook page has a video but you have to go through the process of being approved as a Facebook friend before you can see it. Nothing is apparently posted on the Wallops website.

According to project documentation, the following universities had payloads on this mission: Temple University, University of West Virginia, University of Louisiana University of Minnesota, University of Wyoming, University of Puerto Rico, University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech, University of Northern Colorado, and Colorado State University. Yet there is no evidence that NASA Wallops PAO or the NASA Education Office have lifted a finger to make public notice of this mission.

Given all of the other Summer of Innovation events that NASA is promoting it is rather baffling that NASA's Education office continues to ignore this mission - one where students focused their ideas and imagination on something that actually went into space. I know that they are now aware of this mission. As such this continued omission of mention of the event is no longer an oversight. It is now deliberate.

- Yet Another Stealth Launch at Wallops (Update), earlier post
- Wallops Flight Facility, NASA's hidden launch shop, CNet

Letter From House Science & Technology Committee to Charles Bolden Regarding FY 2011 Budget Information

"The failure of NASA to supply Congress with this information hampers our ability to address the future of NASA's human spaceflight program in a timely manner. Simultaneously, the agency is implementing dramatic changes to the Constellation program which are resulting in the loss of thousands of skilled jobs and which will cause unavoidable delays in the development of Ares-I and Orion, should Congress decide not to terminate those programs. Since NASA has failed to provide the Committee with any detailed supporting materials with which Congress can judge the proposed human spaceflight plan, Congress must insist upon the production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal ... Please provide these materials and information to Room 2321 of the Rayburn House Office Building no later than close of business on Friday June 25, 2010. "

Keith's note: Word has it that the White House views this request as a matter of Executive privilege. As such it is unlikely that NASA will be allowed to provide much of what the House members are demanding to see. This is an old trick. Congress asks for every piece of data that they can think of knowing full well that the White House will say no. Then they have a new issue to thump their chests about: the White House's refusal to be open and transparent with Congress and to provide the requested information. Stay tuned. This is just going to drag on all summer.

Space Economic Task Force Seeks Florida Public Comments

"The Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development has launched an interactive website to encourage public comment on ways to promote economic growth and sustainability in Florida's Space Coast region as it adapts to changes in America's space program. The site offers valuable information about the work the administration is doing to create jobs in the region by fostering a more supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem."

Keith's note: Why is there not a similar flurry of NASA/White House interest in the impact of the Constellation layoffs in Alabama, Texas, and elsewhere?

Sessions says meeting with NASA's Bolden "troubling", Huntsville times

"Senators whose states stand to lose private sector jobs related to space flight want a legal opinion on whether NASA's order to start winding down certain programs this year is al lowed, Sen. Jeff Sessions said Tuesday. "We want an independent legal opinion, which could make a difference in where we are," Ses sions said after a meeting with other senators about NASA. "We think this is clearly a violation of the congressional intent."

Congress touts Constellation, wants heavy-lift rocket now, Orlando Sentinel

"The letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 62 U.S. House members from 18 states, seeks changes in a new White House plan that sets a 2015 deadline for NASA to decide on a so-called "heavy lift" rocket that could launch new spacecraft on missions to asteroids, which Obama wants to do by 2025."

Letter From Members of Congress to the President Regarding NASA Heavy Launch Vehicle Funding in FY 2011

"We are writing to express concern for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 President's Budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Human space exploration is ingrained in the American psyche. It is part of who we are as explorers, entrepreneurs, scientists and Americans. The proposed Exploration Systems Mission Directorate reduction jeopardizes our country's leadership in space and could put our national security at risk. Additionally, we do not see the benefit of a 5-year delay to a decision on exploration system architecture."

Despite Orders, NASA Keeps Funding Projects, WS Journal

"Andrew Hunter, a NASA budget official, said Wednesday the action was intended to prevent Alliant from being forced to abruptly stop all Ares work and lay off employees. Lockheed Martin Corp. also got the green light to receive $80 million for other work related to a crew capsule.Overall, Mr. Hunter said NASA was considering releasing another $630 million in funding for other work related to existing manned-exploration programs. "We are trying to work a fine balance between" competing priorities, Mr. Hunter said in an interview Wednesday. The latest funding decision and Mr. Bolden's earlier orders "aren't inconsistent," Mr. Hunter said. But some congressional staffers and industry officials familiar with the details disagree. They contend the release of funds skirts, and may directly contradict, Mr. Bolden's recent written directives."

Keith's 24 Jun 8:30 am EDT note: The launch occured as planned this morning. Yet the Wallops website still refers to it as "upcoming". I complained to Keith Koehler (again) at Wallops PAO. He sent this reply "We put out a launch advisory (see attached) on June 18. However, because of the visibility of the rocket in the local area, it was only issued to the local media. We put these out about 7 days before a launch and also post one when the launch is completed or delayed. In the future, I'll make sure you get these." Gee, by Wallops PAO logic, KSC should only send shuttle media advisories to the media in Florida and Georgia. With regard to press releases, according to this page, the last press release that Wallops issued was in 2009.

My response: "Did it ever occur to you that the families of the students across the U.S. might want to watch the webcast? I am within driving distance of the launch, did it ever occur to you that other DC/Baltimore area media might be interested? Every time you forget to tell people I complain.Every time you respond you say that you will send me the advisories - and you don't. This is just incompetence, Keith. Really. Incompetence."

I followed up with "It has been an hour since launch. Where's the press release? Don't you have these prepared in advance? You have a Twitter feed - doesn't anyone there know how to post pictures from cellphones via Twitpic? Flickr?"

Keith's 24 Jun 10:50 am EDT note: Three hours since launch and no photo or press release at the Wallops home page - but there is a NASA photo on the Wallops Facebook page (below)

Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research - CRuSR - Flight Services

"This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for commercial resusable suborbital flight services. NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program has a requirement for the transportation of various Government-provided research payloads on the test flights of vendor vehicles (including vehicle prototypes) intended for commercial reusable suborbital markets. Each flight and related services shall be in accordance with the requirements of the Statement of Work (SOW) that is attached to this solicitation. A CRuSR Pricing Sheet is also provided for vendors to quote their proposed firm fixed prices to perform the indicated required services. Additional procurement documentation for completion by the offeror is also attached."

Open Letter To Congress On Commercial Space

"We, the undersigned space leaders, are strong supporters of human spaceflight. We are writing to urge you to both (1) fully fund the commercial crew to Space Station program proposed in the President's FY2011 budget request for NASA, and (2) accelerate the pace and funding of NASA's human space exploration projects beyond Earth orbit."

Letter: Commercial rockets are 'fundamental' to space exploration, Orlando Sentinel

"The war of words over President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA continued this week when more than 50 ex-astronauts, aerospace businessmen and scientists signed a letter supporting his proposal to replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets."


Boost NASA funding, space advocates demand, Florida Today

"The letter urged lawmakers to keep the $6 billion increase that Obama proposed for commercial spaceflight -- and to "accelerate the pace and funding of NASA's human space exploration projects beyond Earth orbit." "These twin pillars of human spaceflight are each crucial to the long-term health of our nation's space program," the letter read."

More Than 50 Astronauts, Scientists, and Industry Leaders Urge Congress to Fully Fund Commercial Crew, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes the support of more than 50 former NASA astronauts, scientists, and industry CEOs and leaders who sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging full funding of Commercial Crew and full support for NASA-led human space exploration beyond Earth orbit."

Senator Brownback Hosts Commercial Spaceflight Event with Norm Augustine

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), the former Chair of the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee, will be hosting an event for his Senate colleagues and their staff on June 24 to discuss commercial spaceflight. Senator Brownback said, "The private sector brings to the table many ideas for the next chapter of America's mission in space, and I look forward to hearing from leaders in the spaceflight industry about the best ways to achieve a thriving commercial spaceflight industry."

Meeting held by Jacobs Engineering could mean big changes for company, WAFF

"Sources say people inside this meeting were given the option to take a voluntary layoff and receive one thousand dollars as well as pay until July 9th. They say workers were also told they can apply for part time work, or stay and see what happens. Jacobs was contacted to get more information. We're still waiting to hear what they have to say about Tuesday's meeting and what's next for their company's future in Huntsville."

No way to run the space program, opinion, Huntsville Times

"Some contractor employees working on the Constellation program have already been told to expect layoff notices and buyout offers, and others will probably join them this week and next. Up to 1,000 or so jobs are at stake at 21 local contractors employing 1,750 people on the Constellation program."

Governor Riley sounds off on space jobs in Alabama, WAFF

"This is going to be an administrative decision, but it has a huge impact on us here. We do have BRAC that's bringing in six or seven thousand jobs. We've got a couple of other announcements I hope to be making in the next several months," said Governor Riley."

Hutchison Strongly Supports John Glenn Statement on NASA

"We need time to assess the station's equipment needs from now until commercial cargo capabilities come on line to ensure the station's survivability and full utilization, both in the short run and until 2020," Senator Hutchison said. "I have proposed several options to extend the space shuttle, some of which do not require additional flights. Unfortunately, the Administration has given no indication that it understands how the President's proposal changes assumptions and plans regarding the space station, or that it is willing to discuss options to extend the availability of the space shuttle. I hope that Senator Glenn adding his voice to those of other space luminaries like Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and Jim Lovell will result in a new direction for our discussion and our nation's vaunted space program."

Making a Splash With a Hint of Mars Water, Science, 30 June 2000

"Opening the press conference, planetary geologist Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems Inc. (MSSS) in San Diego warned that "the actual science may pale before the science fiction that has been written." The fiction grew out of an accurate, if vague, item on the independent watchdog Web site, NASA Watch (www.nasawatch.com), late afternoon on 19 June. It reported, apparently from sources in the astrobiology community, that NASA had briefed the White House (presidential science adviser Neal Lane, as it turned out) on a major discovery involving water on Mars. Other Web sites added details through Tuesday, 20 June; USA Today put a Web-sourced story at the top of its front page Wednesday morning. The information gleaned anonymously from NASA headquarters personnel and researchers around the country ranged from on target--signs of recent spring activity--to unlikely: ponds and even the possibility of geysers. Although no reporters appeared to have seen the paper (by Malin and his MSSS colleague Kenneth Edgett), Science decided to stem the flow of misinformation by releasing it."

Garver Online - Today

Space News Online Industry Forum NASA's New Direction - An Update from the Top
with NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver. June 22, 2010
2:30 p.m. EST More info.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

CxP Layoff Update

Task force still working to save NASA's Constellation program, avoid layoffs in Huntsville, Huntsville Times

"Boeing has already announced that it will issue layoff notices to 100 Constellation rocket program employees on July 2. Battle said he has heard rumors that 700-800 local NASA contractors could eventually receive pink slips."

700-800 contractor layoffs may hit Marshall Space Flight Center, WAFF

"Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says that there could be anywhere from 700 to 800 layoffs for Marshall Space Flight Center contractors. Monday, The mayor's "Second to None" Task Force met with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger to update him on efforts to save MSFC's Constellation Program and secure his support."

Maryland Congressman: Don't cancel Constellation without "roadmap" for NASA's future, Huntsville Times

"During a morning news conference, Ruppersberger said he is concerned about ending the rocket program without a "roadmap" for how America will remain a leader in space."

White House looks to help shuttle workers (outside Florida) , Orlando Sentinel

"When President Barack Obama visited Kennedy Space Center in April, he pledged $40 million to help aerospace workers in Florida find new jobs after the space shuttle fleet completes its final mission, now scheduled for later this year. But the gesture didn't sit well in other states with NASA centers -- particularly Texas and Alabama -- which also would be affected by the shuttle's retirement."

President Obama Proposes Additional Financing For Growth And Jobs

"The president submitted to Congress on Friday, June 18, a fiscal year 2011 budget amendment that targets up to $100 million toward spurring regional economic growth and job creation in the aerospace industry. The amendment would provide up to $40 million in aid for Florida's Space Coast and a maximum of about $60 million for other affected regions. These funds specifically would be made available from the Constellation Program transition element of the agency's exploration request. The amendment does not increase the total of the administration's fiscal year 2011 budget request."

ULA Joins CSF

United Launch Alliance, Operator of the Atlas and Delta Rockets, Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that United Launch Alliance of Denver, Colorado has joined the Federation as an Executive Member. United Launch Alliance operates the Atlas V, Delta II, and Delta IV launch vehicles. Michael C. Gass, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance, stated, "United Launch Alliance has close business relationships with many members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, including Bigelow Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Florida, and XCOR Aerospace. Additionally, ULA is a funded participant in NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program. So joining the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is a natural fit for us, and we are proud to do so."

Statement of Senator John Glenn (ret.) Regarding NASA Manned Space Flight

"These are critical days for the future of Manned Space Flight. Conflicting views and advice come to the President and Congress from every quarter in the aerospace and science communities. There is good reason for the concern.

The U.S. for the first time since the beginning of the Space Age will have no way to launch anyone into space - starting next January.

Our astronauts will have to be launched in Russian spacecraft, from a Russian base in Kazakhstan, to go to ~IJ International Space Station.

Starting at the end of this year, and probably for the next five to ten years, the launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV.

For the "world's greatest spacefaring nation," that is hard to accept."

The past week was a week of change at Cape Canaveral. Organizations within Brevard County united to assist workers the will be laid off when the shuttle era comes to an end sometime next year. At the same time the proposal for there to be one more flight added before the program is ended continued this week. Meanwhile the space shuttle Discovery was fitted with new engines and prepped for her final flight - STS-133. (With video)

Marc's note:
We also have an additional in depth story by Jason Rhian on help for workers on the Space Coast.

Space Coast and National Groups Align to Help Aerospace Workers, SpaceRef

"With some 8,000 space workers facing layoffs at the end of the shuttle program, groups in and around the Kennedy Space Center area are aligning to provide assistance and guidance to help those facing unemployment find new employment. Brevard Workforce Development was recently awarded a $15 million grant to help provide these highly-trained professionals find work in the post-shuttle era. Now the employment-assistance group is putting that money to work with the assistance of other organizations."

John Glenn to NASA: Keep shuttles flying, MSNBC

"Glenn fears that a failure involving Russia's Soyuz craft, the only ship besides the shuttle capable of bringing astronauts to the space station, would almost certainly result in the abandonment of the station."

John Glenn pushes to keep space shuttle flying. Florida Today

"The cost of continuing the shuttle is really very tiny compared to the $100 billion investment that we've made in the station," said Glenn, who became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962 and then returned to space aboard Discovery in 1998 at age 77."

Nasa administrator sees Qatar-US programmes, Gulf Times

"Nasa administrator Charles Bolden has said that Qatar and the US will work together to develop science, technology and educational programmes in the future Bolden spoke yesterday at the residence of US Ambassador to Qatar Joseph LeBaron, where he discussed the approach of President Barack Obama's administration to science and technology, and reaffirmed the commitment the US president made in his Cairo speech one year ago to improving relations with the Muslim world. The former astronaut visited Doha having been to Egypt, and during his brief stay here he met the ministers of education and environment as well as other government officials."

Chaparral launches graduates, The Temecula Valley News

"High school graduates of the southwest Riverside County will go out into the world and come face to face with many truths that are veiled by mist. The Chaparral High School class of 2010 is no exception. The school held its graduation for about 650 seniors last Friday under overcast weather. Charles F. Bolden, Jr. of NASA gave the students their commencement speech beginning with a word of caution - that this is not the end."

Keith's note: According to NASA and Congressional sources, the problems associated with the completion and delivery of NASA's budgetary and policy information to Congress last week were not due entirely to White House's preoccupation with the oil spill. During part of the time the budget numbers were being crunched Charlie Bolden was 7 times zones away in Qatar. NASA and Administration staff have begun to raise questions about the amount of time that Charlie Bolden spends away from NASA Headquarters (and the communication issues that go with that) often dealing with issues that are, at best, peripheral to what the agency needs to be focusing on right now.

- Oil Trumps Space (Update), earlier post
- White House Responds To Congress on FY 2011 Budget, earlier post

NASA boss investigated for possible conflict of interest on biofuel project

"While millions of barrels of spilled oil choke the Gulf of Mexico, NASA is working on an ocean-based biofuels venture that could revolutionize clean-energy production at sea and treat wastewater at the same time. The scientist running the $10 million experiment, called Project OMEGA, uses words such as groundbreaking and exciting to describe his baby. But there's a hitch. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden doesn't believe in OMEGA -- and has sought to slow it down. The reason: He was advised against it by Marathon Oil -- the Texas-based company on whose board Bolden sat until he was named NASA administrator last year. The former astronaut and Marine Corps general also still holds as much as $1 million worth of Marathon stock. ...

... Bolden sat on the Marathon board from 2003 until last year, when President Barack Obama named him NASA administrator. When he left the board, according to his 2009 financial disclosure statement, Bolden received Marathon stock equivalents valued at the time between $500,000 and $1 million. In a brief interview, Bolden confirmed that he still holds the Marathon stock but said that he does not think there was any conflict of interest in his reaching out to the company. He directed further questions to NASA's general counsel. "I am not supposed to talk to you [about this]," he said."

NASA Develops Algae Bioreactor as a Sustainable Energy Source, NASA

"As a clean energy alternative, NASA invented an algae photo-bioreactor that grows algae in municipal wastewater to produce biofuel and a variety of other products. The NASA bioreactor is an Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae (OMEGA), which won't compete with agriculture for land, fertilizer, or freshwater. NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., licensed the patent-pending algae photo-bioreactor to Algae Systems, LLC, Carson City, Nev., which plans to develop and pilot the technology in Tampa Bay, Fla. The company plans to refine and integrate the NASA technology into biorefineries to produce renewable energy products, including diesel and jet fuel."

NASA bags algae, wastewater in bid for aviation fuel, NY Times

"NASA is applying space technology to a decidedly down-to-earth effort that links the production of algae-based fuel with an inexpensive method of sewage treatment. The space agency is growing algae for biofuel in plastic bags of sewage floating in the ocean."

Algae OMEGA, California Energy Commission

"The objective of this research is to improve and advance direct biosynthetic technologies that demonstrate the potential to supply transportation fuels for California in order to: ... Create new in-state fuel production options along with their associated economic development and employment opportunities."

Bolden at Center of NASA Biofuels Controversy [Orlando Sentinel], Space News

NASA Administrator Target Of Ethics Investigation, MyStateline.com

Keith's note: Included in this video is an interview with Mike Griffin wherein he puts his spin on NASA budget issues as leader of the "Constellation Nation".

Huntsville's Constellation contractors getting the bad news beginning today, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville's Constellation contractors find out as early as today about what's left of the rocket program, and that means hundreds of layoff notices beginning next week. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center began sending letters to contractors Thursday telling them how much money they have left to spend on Constellation for the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30."

Laid-off Constellation workers "ideal candidates" for incoming BRAC jobs, Huntsville Times

"The chairman of the Tennessee Valley BRAC Committee said Friday that laid-off NASA Constellation workers will have a "really good" chance of finding jobs in the growing defense industry here. "There are plenty of positions open," Joe Ritch said. "Those people are ideal candidates."

Obama Asks Congress to Shift $100M from NASA for Job Initiatives, Space News

"NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said in a June 18 statement the space agency "is pleased the president has targeted additional support from his fiscal year 2011 budget request to help the communities and workers around the U.S. most deeply involved in our space program meet the challenges of tomorrow. "Our workforce is incredibly talented and dedicated, and we are committed to equipping them with the tools they need to contribute to new developments in our nation's space program and related industries," Cabbage continued. "This $100 million investment in our people is essential to spurring regional economic growth and job creation."

Lockheed Martin moving some workers off Orion space project, Denver Business Journal

"Lockheed Martin Space Systems is moving 300 positions away from development of the Orion space capsule and dropping another 300 subcontractors from the project over the next month."

NASA contractors preparing for the worst, Galveston County Daily News

"The number of layoffs that face NASA contractors in the Houston area is unknown at this point, but major Constellation and shuttle program contractors are preparing for the worst."

Moon Water Update

A Wetter Moon Impacts Understanding of Lunar Origin, Paul Spdis, Air & Space

"A paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes lunar samples containing the calcium-phosphate mineral apatite. Using a sensitive technique, they detected water (in the form of its ion hydroxyl, -OH) within the crystal structure of this mineral. Moreover, these hydroxyl-bearing apatite grains are found in several different rocks from a variety of geological settings. This indicates that the presence of water in the lunar interior is not some fluke, but a general property of the Moon. So the story of water on the Moon advances."

Text of a Letter from the President To The Speaker of the House of Representatives

"In addition, this transmittal contains FY 2011 amendments for the Legislative Branch. As a matter of comity between branches, these appropriations requests of the Legislative Branch are transmitted without change. Moreover, provided for your consideration is a FY 2011 Budget amendment for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This request would fund an initiative to develop a plan to spur regional economic growth and job creation along the Florida Space Coast and other affected regions in furtherance of my Administration's bold new course for human space flight, which revitalizes NASA and transitions to new opportunities in the space industry and beyond."

NASA OIG Review of NASA's Microgravity Flight Services

"NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin released a report today that examines the performance of Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero G), a private company hired by NASA to provide reduced gravity flights for NASA research, engineering, and astronaut training. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that Zero G has provided inconsistent levels of microgravity flight services since it began providing NASA with reduced gravity flights in August 2008. Consequently, the OIG concluded that NASA should revise the contract's performance-based payment structure to motivate Zero G to provide more consistent, high-quality microgravity flights."

Keith's note: This review seems to be focused exclusively on contractor (ZeroG) performance - not the realism of requirements imposed by the customer (NASA) - or how well NASA's own self-provided services have - or would - fare in comparison to its own requirements and/or the costs of owning and maintaining its own aircraft .

However, perhaps it is time for recompetition of this contract as well as a restructuring (including performance fees, etc.) and a sanity check on requirements. It seems that despite the potential benefits such a contract could (and should) offer, everyone has some sort of problem with it - NASA, researchers - and ZeroG.

Gov Forum: NASA Seeks To Optimize IT Innovation, Information Week

"NASA's new CTO for IT, Chris Kemp, wants to more fully exploit the myriad technology innovations created by the space agency's researchers, scientists, and technologists. Kemp this week shared his strategy for channeling that innovation in new ways. NASA CIO Linda Cureton last month announced Kemp's appointment to CTO for IT, a newly created position. Kemp is responsible for NASA's Enterprise Architecture division and for introducing new and emerging technologies. He's also charged with forming a council of CTOs from NASA field centers and mission teams that will foster innovation across NASA. Kemp was previously CIO of NASA's Ames Research Center in northern California."

Live Webcams On Devon Island, 1 June 2010

"There are several webcams currently in operation on Devon Island in Support of the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse located at the HMP Research Station. The greenhouse was installed on Devon Island in the summer of 2002. These webcams update once a day, conditions permitting, through the greenhouse's autonomous systems using an MSAT satellite connection. One webcam is pointed north at the greenhouse itself. The other webcam is located inside the greenhouse and is pointing south, showing the automated plant growing system."

Timelapse Video: Growing Season Begins on Devon Island, 18 June 2010

"If you watch closely you will see that the plants inside the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse located at the HMP Research Station on Devon Island have started growing."

Keith's 16 Jun note: Today's burning question is whether NASA will be able to forward the budgetary language and back up budget info that Congress has asked for by COB today. This is needed so as to tweak the inevitable continuing resolution (CR) in a way that could allow some of the President's policy items to be pursued in lieu of a formal FY 2011 budget such Orion's redesignation as a CRV. Despite a lot of work on NASA's part, the White House is preoccupied with oil (they don't multi-task it would seem). As best I understand the situation, it doesn't look like NASA will meet deadline today. As such, there is a good chance that the CR will just continue things as they were in FY 2010 leaving both the Constellation and Shuttle programs in a zombie state of limbo - neither dead or alive.


Panel Demands NASA Documents to Support Budget, NY Times

"Annoyed that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been slow to explain how it plans to overhaul the human space-flight program, a Congressional committee is demanding that the agency provide a host of records related to its budget request for 2011. The space agency missed a Wednesday deadline to update its budget request with details of its new plan. In a letter sent Thursday to the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., leaders of the House Committee on Science and Technology wrote, "Congress must now insist upon the production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal." The committee said NASA should provide these documents by next Friday."

Lawmakers Demand Documents Behind Human Spaceflight Plan, Space News

"Frustrated by a lack of visibility into the planning and analysis underpinning NASA's dramatic shift in course for its human spaceflight program, House lawmakers have given NASA Administrator Charles Bolden until June 25 to deliver all records, charts, e-mails, voice messages and other supporting materials used in drafting the agency's 2011 budget proposal."

Animal Rights Hijackers Take Over NASA's TWTRCON Feed

"As NASA public affairs specialist Stephanie Schierholz took to the stage at Monday's TWTRCON to weigh in on "customer service," animal defenders elsewhere took to their Twitter accounts and took over the #TWTRCON hashtag--specifically weighing in on NASA's plan to fund a misguided, cruel, and wasteful experiment in which dozens of squirrel monkeys would be blasted with harmful space radiation."

PETA Comes To Houston To Take On NASA, Houston Press

"Commuters on the Gulf Freeway will get a new billboard to ponder sometime soon: "NASA: Take a Giant Leap for Mankind. Stop Torturing Monkeys," it will say."

Destinations in Rhetoric, Eric Sterner, Space News

"The Administrator attempted to put a finer point on the administration's purposes during his Congressional testimony in March, asserting that Mars was the ultimate goal. But, his comments came largely in response to continued Congressional prodding and still were not reflected in the prepared budget material. As such, they had the feel of someone throwing out destinations in order to fend off pointed political attacks. It was not clear that they reflected anything more than the Administrator's personal preference."

Next Steps for the 2011 NASA Budget Proposal, Planetary Society

"The administration continues to do a poor job of making a case for the new program. President Obama's proclamation that more American astronauts will fly to the space station and Earth orbit in the next decade under this new plan does not seem to be understood by many in Congress and in the media. The goal of sending humans into the solar system, and landing on an asteroid by 2025, has aroused some interest and even excitement, but the steps to reach this goal also have not been communicated effectively. The administration sorely needs a spokesperson for the new plan who can clarify the message and inspire public and Congressional support."

The importance of risk for Nasa, Esther Dyson, LiveMint

"Obama did not, however, define the goals tightly, leaving that to Nasa--a sensible and modest approach, but a political mistake. It is never a good idea to replace something with vagueness. Politicians and lobbyists who care only about this year's jobs and next year's votes jumped all over this lack of a plan."

Exoplanets: Show me the data!, Nature

"And according to NASA Watch, the NASA astrophysics division is prohibiting discussion of the new 306 candidate planets until they are confirmed, even though they are now out in the public; the NASA press release associated with the data dump makes no mention of the 306 new candidates."

Kepler Craft Reports Apparent Planetary Bonanza, Science News

"The newly reported findings don't include details about the most interesting 400 of the 706 candidate planets, which orbit the brightest stars Kepler has surveyed. These cases may offer the most promise for finding planets with masses close to Earth's own. Information on these 400 planets won't be made public until next February."

Kepler space telescope finds possible planets, SF Chronicle

"It was only 15 years ago that Swiss astronomers discovered the first "exoplanet" orbiting another star beyond our solar system. Yet in only the first 43 days of its mission, Kepler discovered the 706 strange objects that astronomers are listing as candidates for planetary status."

Kepler Exoplanet Controversy Erupts, Discovery News

"Proprietary periods are nothing new, and provide a balance the helps observers out while preserving the openness of science in the long run. The complaints from the community stem from an extension of the proprietary period for the Kepler team that was granted in April. All of the data were set to be released this month, but the extension is until February 2011."

Keith's note: According to Nature "There are 306 planet candidates in the dataset, many of them Neptune sized, though as many as 50% could turn out to be false positives.". So ... why is NASA willing to release one set of data with such a potential high false positive rate - but not release the rest of the data - the data that seems to be the most provocative in its implications? If Ed Weiler and Jon Morse are really that worried about people running off with data that may not be flawless and jumping to erroneous conclusions, then why release anything in the first place? Anyone on Earth with an Internet connection can look at what was released and the papers submitted for review. This makes no sense.

NASA is struggling to be seen as being more relevant to people - in their daily lives and the future their children will inherit. As such, dangling this tantalizing stuff just out of reach for incompletely explained and outmoded reasons does little to help the agency appear to be relevant - and worth the investment.

Oh yes, a movie about life on an extrasolar planet - discovered by a search project such as Kepler - has grossed over $2.7 billion so far ($750 million in the U.S. alone) ... does anyone at NASA pay attention to things like this?

Kepler Data Dump - And NASA Ignores it (Update), Earlier post

Bigelow Aerospace Joins the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Robert T. Bigelow, Founder and President of Bigelow Aerospace said, "The future is being created now. Commercial crew transportation has the potential to revolutionize the space industry for public and private sector entities alike. The unprecedented success of the Falcon 9's inaugural launch clearly demonstrates that it's possible to dramatically reduce the cost of human spaceflight operations. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule were developed at a price substantially below that of traditional cost-plus programs - this should be a wakeup call that it's time for a new way of doing business. We are becoming a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation at this time to join with like-minded organizations, who want to see America be able to compete again in the global space launch marketplace, and push back against the pernicious misconceptions that are being perpetuated to harm the Administration's commercial crew initiative."

Layoff Update

Latest NASA salvo leading to layoffs, Bay Area Citizen

"NASA headquarters began playing hardball this past week in the fight with Congress over its budget, telling major contractors they must curtail work on the Constellation program or they may be in violation of federal spending rules. The surprise move brought angry reaction from various corners of the country as aerospace contractors went public with their fears that possibly 5,000 jobs could be lost before the end of the year - including quite a few in the Clear Lake area."

City braces for 'serious' Constellation job loss as signs of longterm compromise appear, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville is bracing for "serious and significant job loss" after NASA's decision to cut nearly $1 billion from the Constellation rocket program, Mayor Tommy Battle says. But what could be the basis for a longterm compromise over NASA's space program began forming this week in the U.S. Senate."

Our views: End the stalemate, editorial, Florida Today

"On one hand there's the Obama administration, which keeps pressing its plan to launch astronauts aboard private rockets and kill the Constellation moon project. On the other are some members of Congress from NASA-dependent states, fighting to save Constellation and armed with a law that says it can't be canceled without congressional approval. Common sense calls for cool-headed negotiations to break the impasse, but that's too much to ask in Washington."

Iridium and SpaceX Sign Major Commercial Launch Contract

"Iridium Communications Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are pleased to announce that the Falcon 9 will be a major provider of launch services for Iridium NEXT, Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation. The $492 million contract, while being the largest single commercial launch deal ever signed, nonetheless represents a new benchmark in cost-effective satellite delivery to space."

Keith's note: so much for the SpaceX haters and doubters who are convinced that the company does not have a viable future independent of NASA.

Huntsville bracing for 'serious and significant' space program job loss, Huntsville Times

"This city is bracing for "serious and significant job loss" due to NASA's decision last week to hold back nearly $1 billion in funding for the Constellation rocket program, Mayor Tommy Battle says."

Mayor Battle Demands NASA'S Plans for Constellation Cuts, WAAY

"Mayor Battle held a news conference Tuesday afternoon outlining the city's mission to try and communicate with Robert Lightfoot the Director Marshall Space Flight Center. He has written two letters to Lightfoot. In the first letter the Mayor asked that the agency stop any and all public announcements regarding potential job terminations or contract changes until his office and the Alabama Congressional Delegation can be appropriately briefed on the steps to be taken."

Mayor Battle demands details of NASA's plans for Constellation, WAFF

"Mayor Battle feels the government has turned its back on the future of manned space flight, and it's a slap in the face to the highly skilled engineers and scientists who stand to lose their jobs."

Keith's 6:08 pm EDT note: Surprise surprise, NASA just issued this press release at 6:08 pm EDT "NASA Releases Kepler Data On Potential Extrasolar Planets" even though the papers have been accessible for almost 24 hours, and their release was announced 11 days ago. Yet another example of Ed Weiler and SMD's lack of interest in being "open" and "transparent".

Also, it would seem that Jon Morse, the head of the Astrophysics Division at NASA HQ SMD is ordering his staff and scientists associated with this (and other) projects not to talk about any possible extrasolar planet candidates with the media or anyone else until papers have been peer reviewed. That's fine Jon, but then why do you allow the release the papers for public examination - online - if you are so concerned about unreviewed data getting out into the wild? It just doesn't make any sense. You can't have it both ways, Jon.

There is another location where the papers that Jon Morse would rather that you not see are located. All you have to do is go to the The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System and do a simple search for "Kepler" and these papers also show up here.

- Kepler Eclipsing Binary Stars. I. Catalog and Principal Characterization of 1832 Eclipsing Binaries in the First Data Release, SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
- Characteristics of Kepler Planetary Candidates Based on the First Data Set: The Majority are Found to be Neptune-Size and Smaller, SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
- Five Kepler target stars that show multiple transiting exoplanet candidates, SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

Keith's 5:30 pm EDT note: As best I understand the situation, Ed Weiler and SMD management have consistently refused to allow any NASA publicity surrounding the submission of these Kepler papers - even though anyone can read them via the links below. It is not so much PAO's fault (although there are a few PAO people who should have seen this coming) but rather SMD's clinging to outmoded ways of releasing information.

Then again the Kepler folks posted this update on 4 June that announced this data release. 11 days and they can't agree on a press release?

How SMD can expect people to ignore papers that announce preliminary findings about a large number of newly-identified planets circling other stars simply baffles me. If SMD does not want people to read their papers before they are reviewed, etc. then they should not be posting them on a publicly accessible abstract website for all the world to see.

Keith's 3:00 pm EDT note: Curiously there is no mention whatsoever of this data release at NASA ARC's homepage or on NASA.gov's Kepler mission home page. Its not as if they did not have advanced notice that this data was being released. These papers were posted on astro-ph last night around midnight. Maybe PAO doesn't know that they are online.

- Five Kepler target stars that show multiple transiting exoplanet candidates, astro-ph
- Characteristics of Kepler Planetary Candidates Based on the First Data Set: The Majority are Found to be Neptune-Size and Smaller, astro-ph
- Kepler Eclipsing Binary Stars. I. Catalog and Principal Characterization of 1832 Eclipsing Binaries in the First Data Release, astro-ph

Kepler Withholds Data While NASA Struggles To Be Relevant, related post

NASA Layoff Update

No NASA employees will lose jobs in Constellation cuts, space agency confirms, Huntsville Times

"NASA Headquarters in Washington confirmed today that no government employees here will lose their jobs in current cuts being made in the Constellation rocket program."

Space Policy Fight May Have No Winners, Aviation Week

"Bolden says "most of these reductions will be implemented via reductions in workforce" in the weeks ahead, "beginning immediately" and totaling an estimated "30-60% of the current population, or 2,500-5,000, for the balance of the year."

Job fairs, workshop planned for space shuttle workers, Florida Today

"Two upcoming job fairs and a workshop aim to assist aerospace professionals whose jobs could end with the shuttle program, and those already out of work."

Constellation may not recover from NASA's rare move last week, Huntsville Times

"Details were still sketchy Monday on exactly how many Constellation contractor employees could be laid off here, although Boeing has already announced 100 cuts. Attempts to reach managers of other key contractors were unsuccessful."

Water Worlds

Research Suggests Water Content Of Moon Interior Underestimated

"NASA-funded scientists estimate from recent research that the volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the Moon's interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth."

New CU-Boulder Study Indicates An Ancient Ocean May have Covered One-Third of Mars

"Collectively, these results support the existing theories regarding the extent and formation time of an ancient ocean on Mars and imply the surface conditions during the time probably allowed the occurrence of a global and active hydrosphere integrating valley networks, deltas and a vast ocean as major components of an Earth-like hydrologic cycle," Di Achille and Hynek wrote in Nature Geoscience."

Nelson maps a road forward on space without Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"Although Nelson mentions Ares I and Orion's contracts and assets - the first-phase rocket and crew capsule, respectively, of Constellation -- he does not talk about the program at all. Gone too is any mention of a vigorous test flight program for which Nelson recently requested $726 million. Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, said that upon reflection lawmakers decided that it was up to "NASA as to how to get started on HLV as soon as possible." Nelson's approach appears to be an attempt at compromise with critics of the president's plans who have attacked the proposals as a "road to nowhere" that cedes U.S. leadership in space."

Letter From Sen. Nelson to Sen. Mikulski Regarding FY 2011 NASA Budget

"Thank you for your letter of February 16, 2010, outlining your principles for drafting the fiscal year 2011 funding bill for NASA. I share fully your sentiment that our committees must work together to define the best path forward for America's space program. Over the last four months, I have been studying the President's budget request, as well as various alternative proposals, in determining how we can best move ahead to the next era of human space flight. I write today to share with you some of the key elements that have emerged from that review, including discussions with Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison, Senator Vitter, and other members of our Committee, which will form the bipartisan foundation of a NASA authorization bill."

Bill Would Direct NASA to Begin Work on Heavy-lift Rocket Next Year, Space News

"In a statement issued by her office June 14, Mikulski said the elements of the authorization bill outlined in Nelson's letter offer "an alternative framework for NASA's human space flight program that could snap us out of the 'stagnant quo.'" "I look forward to seeing the details and how this alternative meets the principles outlined in my February 16, 2010 letter: astronaut safety, mission destination, balanced space program, scientific utilization of human space flight, workforce transition, and taxpayer protection," she said."

NASA Appoints Constellation Program Managers

"Lawrence D. Thomas has been appointed manager of NASA's Constellation Program, which manages the effort to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit and develop the next generation launch vehicle and spacecraft. Charles M. Stegemoeller has been appointed as deputy program manager. He and Thomas will be based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."

Keith's note: With the exception of national publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. and space-related media, why does it seem that the only local/state level newspapers and TV stations that are paying attention to the current space policy food fight are in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Utah, and Colorado? Where is the outrage in the rest of the country? Why isn't there more widespread condemnation? Is this just about losing jobs? Or do most Americans just not care about space?

If the rhetoric that Obama space policy opponents fling about is correct in its prediction of dire consequences for America, then where's the national outrage?

Orion Budget is Cut 20 Per Cent with 600 Jobs Eliminated and Progress Slowed, Ken Kremer

"The impact of termination liability on the contract has necessitated a 20 percent reduction across the program within Lockheed Martin as well as our subcontractors and suppliers", says Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. Lacefield told me that "Orion procurements are being reduced to allow work to continue within the budget limitations and about 600 positions among the Lockheed Martin and subcontractor workforce are being moved off of the program to adjust staffing needs."

tates Clamour for Remaining two Shuttles after Atlantis and Endeavour RetireStates Clamour for Remaining two Shuttles after Atlantis and Endeavour Retire, SpaceRef

"There are only three shuttles remaining in NASA's fleet; Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. When all the Shuttles have been retired we know that Discovery will to go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. That leaves Atlantis and Endeavour looking for homes. With just two orbiters available, it should come as no surprise that the contest to see who gets a space shuttle for their state has become spirited."

After a recent series of launches, this past week was much quieter at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral although two major stories seemed to slide almost under the radar. First it was announced that the investigation regarding cocaine that was discovered in one of the Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF) was closed. As well it now appears that the launch dates for the last two shuttle scheduled missions will slip back - pushing the end of the program into mid-2011.

Click on image to download 1.5 MB PDF file from the Space Shuttle Program at JSC.

Space Tugs

Space Tugs: Filling The Space Jobs Gap and Privatization Too!, John Strickland

"US space workers are currently faced with both the loss of the Shuttle program (correctly set in motion by the Bush administration years ago), and also by the temporary gap in space jobs caused by the probable cancelation of the Ares Program. Understandably they are all very concerned about their personal future, and also the seeming end of the manned space program. There is a way to at least partly alleviate both of these problems: (one financial and the other perceptual)."

Japanese Asteroid Lander Hayabusa Plunges Home to Earth, (with video) Ken Kremer

"Japan's Hayabasa asteroid probe staged a breathtakingly beautiful plunge through Earth's atmosphere earlier today (Jun 13) at over 27,000 MPH, the second fastest on record. The heat shield protected the craft from the fiery heat of reentry which exceeded 5000 F."

Constellation funding up to NASA backers to win over Congress, Bud Cramer, huntsville Times

"The president's proposal includes a very different vision for NASA's future and begs the question: Will we continue to have a government-led space program? Will Marshall's workforce have the rug pulled out from under them?"

New NASA cutback a bad idea, editorial, Austin Daily Herald

"There's a two-fold problem with NASA's decision, which is apparently based on the president's distaste for the moon program. First, an enormous amount has already been spent; $10 billion over the past five years. Most, if not all, of that will be wasted with the program's cancellation. Perhaps more importantly, the cancellation will be yet another giant step backward for America's space program, one of the few efforts our nation is making to prepare for the future."

Congressmen still want probe of NASA Constellation decisions, Huntsville Times

"The employees and their families who are experiencing the news of job loss today have my thoughts with them," Griffith said. "It is unacceptable that our region is suffering due to this administration's blatant arrogance and its ignorance of the importance of manned space flight."

NASA move could kill up to 2,000 Utah jobs, Salt Lake Tribune

"Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, a member of the appropriations committee, said he believes they have a 50-50 shot of fighting off the president's plan to scrap Ares in favor of commercially developed vehicles that the government would lease rides on. "I haven't run across anyone outside of the administration who thinks this is a good idea," he said."

Aderholt Pledges Constellation Fight, WAAY 31

"WAAY 31 talked with one of Constellation's strongest supporters in Washington - Congressman Robert Aderholt of Haleyville on Friday. "I think it was a little bit premature" the Republican told us. "considering the fact that Congress has still got to pass the appropriations bill, the money has still got to be appropriated to NASA, and it was just disappointing that they would go ahead and move forward on this without Congressional approval."

Boeing says 100 will lose jobs here due to Constellation cuts, Huntsville Times

"Boeing will issue termination notices July 2 to 100 Constellation rocket program employees here, a spokesman said today. "That's the first increment," spokesman Ed Memi said. Additional cuts could be ahead, he said."

Constellation's cancellation could affect thousands of jobs, WAFF

"ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson said the company has 90 employees in Huntsville, and 2,000 overall who work on the Ares project. "We have received no direction from NASA, so we cannot comment on how we will proceed," commented Patterson."

PETA to crash NASA's Star Trek Live opening, Orlano Sentinel

"Intruder alert! PETA protesters are planning to crash the opening of NASA's Star Trek Live event tomorrow morning. PETA protesters are planning to greet visitors entering Kennedy Space Center and hold up signs in protest of NASA's planned radiation experiment on monkeys."

Animal Defenders International and European Space Agency Strongly Oppose NASA Primate Experiments

"As the Mars500 multi-part ground-based experiments begin in Moscow, Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the European Space Agency (ESA) speak out against NASA plans to use primates in experiments, a practice not utilized by NASA for decades."

Here Come The Layoffs

Keith's note: According to one MSFC reader: "It's basically "say goodbye to Ares Day" here. Managers and branch chiefs are in meetings all morning. There is an all-hands meeting at 2:00 pm. "Tough times ahead" is acknowledged by many."

Rep. Bishop responds to NASA's efforts to end the Constellation, Cache Valley Daily

"This recent directive handed down by NASA officials shows blatant disregard for the laws set forth by Congress to prevent this very action," says Rep. Bishop. "The administration is disregarding these policies with reckless abandon and doing so in a way that I find to be in complete violation of the legal parameters."

Hutchison says NASA is skirting law by shutting down Constellation, The Hill

"For months, NASA's leadership has claimed they are not working to subvert Constellation despite information to the contrary," Hutchison said in a statement."

NASA orders immediate cuts; job losses expected, KENS5

"At the time, economists predicted as many as 7,000 jobs could be lost in Houston as the space shuttle program was phased out and Constellation winded down. Another 4,000 indirect jobs at local businesses were predicted to be on the line."

Constellation contractor Boeing makes Huntsville job cuts, WAFF

"The cancellation of the NASA Constellation program is having an impact on contractors in Huntsville. Boeing spokesperson Ed Memi said they could possibly lay of 60 percent off the 300 people who work on the Constellation and Ares project."

Boeing could lay off 180 after Constellation funding cuts, Huntsville Times

"The Boeing Co., which employs 300 people on Constellation here, said Thursday it will hand termination notices to an unspecified number July 2. Their jobs will end Sept. 3 unless Boeing can find slots in other programs, spokesman Ed Memi said."

Colorado's delegation seeks to save Lockheed jobs, Denver Post

"Lockheed Martin has said it may have to cut some of the 600 to 650 employees who work on Orion in Colorado because NASA expects it and other contractors to shoulder the cost of terminating the Constellation spaceflight project, of which Orion is a part. The company said May 27 it is cutting project costs by 20 percent. About 1,000 people in the state and 4,000 nationwide work on Orion for various contractors."

2,000 ATK jobs at stake; Bishop says directive will deal 'irreversible blow' to Utah industry, Standard-Examiner

"A NASA plan to force Alliant Techsystems to set aside $500 million to deal with potential termination costs of the Constellation rocket program could end up decimating the ATK space systems work force in the Top of Utah, according to space agency documents. A NASA letter, dated June 9, and its attachments estimate the "worst-case scenario" for ATK would be more than 2,000 layoffs beyond those the company has already implemented."

Blog says NASA officials blame Griffin for Constellation budget crisis; Griffin responds, Huntsville Times

"Regarding your question, 'What was your attitude/instruction regarding this set-aside law when you were administrator?,' I had no discussions in connection with and issued no instructions on this matter. In fact, I had no concern whatsoever about it. The NASA Administrator rarely (if ever) is involved in the technical details of procurement and contracting, and certainly I was not. I had, and still have, great regard for and confidence in NASA legal and procurement staff, and am confident that the decisions they made in regard to the apportionment of termination liability will withstand examination."

Antideficieny Act Violations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA OIG, 10 April 2006

"The ADA violations occured because of the lack of internal controls within the OCFO and OCFO personnel's misunderstanding of OMB apportionment requirements."

"Management's response: The Administrator concurred, stating that the OCFO will demonstrate that appropriations available to be spent in FY 2006 can be traced from appropriations, to apportionments, to allotments, to commitments, and to obligations."

Keith's note: Hmm, it would seem that Mike knew that NASA had ADA compliance problems and that he did have some "concerns" despite his statement to the contrary.

NASA JSC Internal Email: Constellation Program FY2010 Replanning Update

"This morning, Ellen Ochoa met with our civil service supervisors from across the Center as well as members of the Joint Leadership Team to discuss replanning of Constellation operations for the remainder of this fiscal year. Ellen was joined by Dale Thomas, Acting Constellation Program Manager, and Charlie Stegemoeller, Constellation Program Planning and Control Manager. They noted that the Constellation Program has been given the authority to proceed immediately to assign preliminary adjustments and funding reductions. This replan will have an impact on contracts, workforce, and planned content of the Constellation Program. We don't know the specific impacts at the Center levels or at JSC yet. The Program is working through the projects and implementing organizations to determine plans and numbers of team members that will be affected."

Hutchison: NASA Leadership Skirting the Law to Shut Down Space Programs

"Senator Hutchison today received a letter from NASA Administrator Bolden outlining the decision and NASA's justification. She noted that it further underscores the extent to which NASA has taken aggressive steps to move in a different direction without providing ample explanation or justification to Congress. The letter from Administrator Bolden contains language discussing the new "principles" to guide spending that are virtually identical to direction reportedly given by NASA headquarters in an email to the now reassigned Constellation program manager more than three weeks ago. The email with these operational instructions has been provided to the NASA Inspector General as part of the investigation Hutchison requested with Chairman Rockefeller into the reassignment of the Constellation program manager."

NASA Moves To Kill Moon Program Despite Congressional Prohibition, Florida Today

"The move to essentially kill Constellation comes despite joint legislation passed by the House and Senate Appropriations committees that prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation work without congressional approval. It also comes despite rulings by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals that places all termination liability on the government rather than contractors. One case in point: A lawsuit brought by DuPont in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, in April 2004."

Congress and contractors reject NASA move on Constellation moon plan , Orlando Sentinel

"ATK believes this was contrived on a recent NASA premise that ATK has been obligated to set aside termination liability estimates on this contract when in fact NASA's contracting officer provided ATK the exact opposite instruction on numerous occasions over the last several years, and directed that such costs not be accounted in any contract processes or procedures."

Contractors Told to Prepare for Moon Program's End, NY Times

"If this is to be the new agency policy and practice, then NASA should shift responsibility for termination liability on all of its current contracts, not simply Constellation," Dr. Pace said. "As it stands, this appears to be purposefully punitive against a specific set of NASA contractors."

Letter From Charles Bolden to Sen. Shelby Regarding Constellation

"Current estimates for potential termination liability under Constellation contracts total $994 million. Once these termination liability estimates are accounted for, the overall Constellation program is confronting a total estimated shortfall of $991 million for continued program effort for the balance of the year, compared with the revised FY 2010 plan. Given this estimated shortfall, the Constellation program cannot continue all of its planned FY 2010 program activities within the resources available. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), NASA has no choice but to correct this situation. Consequently, the Constellation program has formulated an updated funding plan for the balance of FY 2010, consistent with the following principles:"

NASA Sued for Refusing to Release Contracting Data on United Space Alliance, American Small Business League

"On Tuesday, June 8, the American Small Business League (ASBL) filed suit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Federal District Court, Northern District of California. The case was filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after NASA repeatedly refused to release subcontracting reports for contracts issued to United Space Alliance, LLC, a joint venture between defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing."

SpaceX Illustrates Privatization Risk, WS Journal

"Mr. Musk's closely held company still needs a cash infusion of more than $1 billion in the next year or two to reach its goal of transporting astronauts to the international space station later this decade. ... "

Elon Musk Weighs in On WSJ Piece, and Future of SpaceX, PEHUB

"Andy Pasztor's article in the Journal was, I'm sorry to say, rife with errors. He was off by a factor of ten on what it would cost SpaceX to develop a launch escape system. Also, under no circumstances would SpaceX be seeking a financing round from the taxpayers. That doesn't make any sense."

Bolden Talks About The Constellation Team, earlier post

"If you go to 55:18 in this video, I ask Charlie Bolden how he is going to get people to make the transition from flying government-operated spacecraft to commercially- operated spacecraft - and the emotion that goes with making the transition from one way of thinking to another. Bolden's reply gets deep into the emotions and mindsets that underly the changes that the Constellation workforce is now going through - and how he is going to work through that process with them."

Keith's note: Yes, it really sucks that it has come to this. I have seen this movie before: I am a survivor of Space Station Freedom "reorganization". Friends who worked very hard were simply fired for no fault of their own. I turned down several positions and quit NASA civil service in disgust (ever wonder what prompted me to start NASA (RIF) Watch?). And now we are seeing this happen again like a bad sequel. Every CxP job lost belongs to a real human being with a family and bills to pay - and dreams that will now be dashed.

As such, I honestly cannot fault anyone in or around CxP for wanting to fight back. My teammates at SS Freedom did not like what was happening at all. Yet we worked on our version of the "Program of Record" until we were told to stop working - and move on to other things - or be fired. To this day I am proud of the folks I worked with and how they conducted themselves. Pieces of what we worked on orbit overhead right now. We did not mount insurgent movements as much as we might have wanted to. There comes a time when badly-managed and chronically under-funded programs run out of resources. That is what has happened to Constellation. Of course, in the end, the little guy always gets the shaft.

NASA, White House, Congress, and the contractors should never have let things come to this point. They should have been honest with the numbers and what they committed to do. The money to keep everything going is not there - it never was and it never will be. The powers that be did not exercise responsibility and now thousands of hard working people get the shaft as a result of bad management - bad management that runs all the way up to NASA HQ and the previous Administrator and his staff, some of whom are still inexplicably in their jobs at NASA.

What newly-minted graduate in their right mind is going to want to pursue a career at NASA when the agency runs itself like this?

NASA order may force shutdown of Constellation moon-rocket program, Orlando Sentinel

"In a surprise move, NASA has told the major contractors working on its troubled Constellation moon rocket program that they are in violation of federal spending rules -- and must immediately cut back work by nearly $1 billion to get into compliance. As many as 5,000 jobs from Utah to Florida are expected to be lost over the next month. The effect of the directive, which went out to contractors earlier this week and which Congress was told about on Wednesday, may accomplish something that President Barack Obama has sought since February: killing Constellation's system of rockets, capsules and lunar landers that has already cost at least $9 billion to date. .. At issue is the federal Anti-Deficiency Act that requires all federal contractors to set aside a portion of their payments to cover costs in case the project is ever cancelled."

Bolden: Funding Shortfall Requires Slowdown on Constellation, Space News

"In a June 9 letter to key U.S. lawmakers, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the work slowdown could result in "contractor workforce reductions estimated at 30-60 percent of the current population, or 2,500-5,000, for the balance of the year."

ODIN supports iPads?

Apple's Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed, Valleywag

"In government, affected accounts included a GMail user who appears to be Rahm Emanuel and staffers in the Senate, House of Representatives, Department of Justice, NASA, Department of Homeland Security, FAA, FCC, and National Institute of Health, among others. Dozens of employees of the federal court system also appeared on the list."

Keith's note: Wow. ODIN supports iPads? Who knew.

JSC's future relies on moon program compromise, Houston Chronicle

"The political potshots have subsided and the serious horse-trading lies ahead as the White House and Congress grind toward a compromise to salvage parts of the NASA moon program crucial to Houston's Johnson Space Center. ... Obama critics have gained momentum by seizing on NASA's sacking of outspoken Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley, rumors of NASA attempting to cancel existing contracts in violation of congressional language, and the administration's targeted workforce transition assistance for the electoral battleground of Florida rather than all states potentially affected by NASA layoffs."

Keith's note: Dale Thomas has simply picked up where Jeff Hanley left off and has told his staff that this is what he is doing. Nothing has changed and JSC still operates in open defiance of NASA Headquarters - starting with its center director.

Keith's update: If you go to the comments section and scroll to the bottom you will see comments by Jim Muncy. Jim explains things far better than I can with regard to following the "Law" vs following Congressional direction.

First NASA IT Summit

First NASA IT Summit to Gather Industry Leaders and Explore Tech Innovations

"NASA's first Information Technology (IT) Summit will bring together government and industry leaders to explore the outer reaches of information technology. The summit, which takes place August 16-18 at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland, will gather 750 participants and more than 100 expert presenters with themes on collaboration, social networking, innovation, infrastructure, operations and IT security and privacy."

Space Coast task force gathers at White House, Orlando Sentinel

"Top administration officials met at the White House on Tuesday as part of a months-long effort to save the Space Coast economy, which expected to crater once NASA flies it final space shuttle mission this year from Cape Canaveral. No decisions were made, but NASA chief Charlie Bolden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said they were in the process in trying to decide how to spend $40 million in federal dollars to help thousands of Kennedy Space Center workers set to lose their jobs after the shuttle's retirement."

Post-Falcon Feedback

In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Cheer, Motley Fool

"It's a big dream, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk has never been one to shy away from a challenge. In the market for moving dollars from Point A to Point B, he built PayPal into a viable contender to Western Union before he sold off the company to eBay for a small fortune. He's taken said fortune and used it to found both SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla Motors."

SpaceX profitable despite CEO's cash problems -- but is an IPO needed?, VentureBeat

"But now SpaceX has responded to this question: Board member Luke Nosek of Founders Fund, a major investor in the company, told PEHub that SpaceX has been profitable for the last several years, and that it will be again in 2010, with or without federal funding. The company successfully sent its Falcon 9 rocket 155 miles up into orbit last week, and has more than 24 orders (totaling $2.5 billion in revenue) to deliver satellites into space over the next five years. The plan is to reinvest this cash in the company."

Columbia Accident Investigator Speaks Out Against NASA Commercial Crew Plan, Space News

"Fellow CAIB member John Logsdon, now professor emeritus at the George Washington University's Space Policy Institute here, said Tetrault is repeating the mantra of many commercial crew opponents by singling out "new entrepreneurial" and ignoring the fact that large, well-established companies including Boeing and United Launch Alliance are poised to compete for the $6 billion NASA intends to spend over the next five years on the commercial crew initiative."

OMB Memorandum: Identifying Low-Priority Agency Programs

"Your agency is required to identify the programs and subprograms that have the lowest impact on your agency's mission and constitute at least five percent of your agency's discretionary budget. This information should be included with your FY 2012 budget submission, but is a separate exercise from the budget reductions necessary to meet the target for your agency's FY 2012 discretionary budget request."

SpaceX Achieves Orbital Bullseye With Inaugural Flight of Falcon 9 Rocket, SpaceX

"The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future. The company has over 1000 employees in California, Texas and Florida, and has been approximately doubling in size every two years. A majority of the future growth is expected to occur in Texas and Florida."

For Mission to Mars, a New Road Map, NY Times

"At a workshop last month in Galveston, members of NASA study teams looking at how to put in effect the Obama policy presented their current thinking to 450 attendees from industry and academia. The NASA presenters, in describing how the space agency could make it to Mars on a limited budget, said their ideas represented "a point of departure" that would be revised with feedback. The new plans place a heavy emphasis on in-orbit refueling stations, which would reduce the size of rockets needed. For propulsion to Mars, the road map envisions a nuclear-powered ion engine."

In New Space Race, Enter the Entrepreneurs, NY Times

"If this business plan unfolds as it is written -- the company has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already -- Bigelow will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that the Obama administration would like to finance for the transportation of astronauts into orbit -- the so-called commercial crew initiative."

Building Orion

NASA's First Lunar Orion Test Capsule Built, Ken Kremer

"America's first Lunar Test capsule for people since Project Apollo has just been welded into shape. This work finishes the structural framework of the pioneer Orion crew cabin - known as the Ground Test Article - or GTA, by a Lockheed Martin contractor team toiling away at the historic NASA-owned Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, damaged during Hurricane Katrina."

Playing politics: President's NASA policy could haunt his party at the polls in Harris County, Editorial, Houston Chronicle

"A parade of administration officials, starting with the president, has gone to Florida to promise federal assistance. In a speech at KSC, where some 20,000 NASA and contract workers are affected, Obama pledged an additional $40 million in job assistance. No such consideration has been shown toward other NASA facilities around the country, including the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake. It stands to lose up to 7,000 NASA and contractor jobs. We smell the stench of political favoritism in the consideration lavished by the administration upon Florida, a presidential swing state, while facilities in Alabama and Texas, two reliable GOP strongholds, are ignored."

Space Weather Enterprise Forum 2010: Building an Informed and Resilient Society - the Decade Ahead

"As we approach the next peak of solar activity expected in 2013, our nation faces multiplying uncertainties from increasing reliance on space weather-affected technologies for communication, navigation, security, and other activities, many of which underpin our national infrastructure and economy. We also face increasing exposure to space weather-driven human health risk as trans-polar flights and space activities, including space tourism, increase."

Collaborating Clouds

NASA and Japan Announce Cloud Computing Collaboration

"NASA and Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII) have announced plans to explore interoperability opportunities between NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Platform and Japan's NII Cloud Computing Platform. "The interoperability between an NII Cloud and the NASA Nebula Cloud is a combined effort toward the creation of an International academic-information infrastructure, which is essential in promoting the global cooperation of research and education," said Masao Sakauchi, NII's director general. "The interoperability of this cloud infrastructure will make it possible to create new academic activities by enabling the software and content to be shared amongst researchers, faculties, and students worldwide."

Cape Canaveral was in the spotlight this week both domestically and internationally. At Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex a grant was unveiled designed to help space workers find work after the end of the shuttle program. An international team visited Kennedy Space Center and expressed their interest in joining the U.S. in future efforts to explore the solar system. To wrap up the week several veteran space flyers were inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Oh, and how about SpaceX, Falcon 9 lifts off on maiden voyage.

Looming Job Losses

Huntsville leaders to 'turn up the noise' about importance of Constellation space program, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville leaders fighting Obama administration plans to scuttle NASA's Constellation program said Friday they want to work with the current Congress to secure the program's future rather than risk success on who might be in Washington after the November election. So they want to "turn up the noise," Mayor Tommy Battle said. They want people to show Congress their support for the manned space flight program by e-mail, letters, phone calls, web videos and other ways of getting Washington's attention."

Help sought for NASA workers, Houston Chronicle

"The Houston region could lose as many as 7,000 jobs at Johnson Space Center and among NASA contractors as a result of threatened cutbacks in the manned space program sought by President Barack Obama. The requested assistance draws upon the same U.S. Labor Department program that provided Florida's Brevard Workforce Development Board Inc. $15 million in emergency assistance to help roughly 3,200 contract and subcontract workers along Florida's Space Coast."

Ideas abound to save jobs as shuttle program ends, AP

"NASA and Florida's congressional delegation have been pushing the Obama administration to add a third launch next June. Some also have asked the president to reconsider ending the Constellation program, though Congress will make the final decision. "I am not satisfied at this point that the president's plan is the best plan for men in space," said Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, who was on the panel along with fellow Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas."

"Hacking for Humanity", OSTP

"Hacking for Humanity"--never thought you'd hear that phrase, right? Well, Google, Microsoft, NASA, The World Bank, and Yahoo! have joined forces to turn that into a reality and bring us Random Hacks of Kindness, an initiative that brings together the sustainable development, disaster risk management, and software developer communities to solve real-world problems with technology."

Keith's note: Nice idea. Sounds like a worthy cause. I have always wanted to see how one of these events works. Too bad no one outside of a small group of digerati at NASA knew about it until the last minute. This notice was posted at OSTP's blog at 5:05 pm on 3 June 2010 regarding an event that runs from 5-6 June. That's little more than 36 hours notice. On the event link referenced by the OSTP posting they make mention of a reception at the State Department on 4 June that required registration on 31 May i.e. 4 days prior to the first official posting at OSTP. In other words, only a select few even knew about this event. And even if you saw this posting at OSTP and followed the subsequent link to the event registration page you'd need a time machine in order to attend the reception.

In addition, there is no mention of this event at NASA's main home page, news page, NASA CIO page, NASA IPP, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, International and Interagency Relations, Office of the Chief Technologist, etc. even though CIO and CTO staff at NASA HQ and several field centers are participants in the event -- and all of these offices would certainly seem to have some interest in an event with the State Department, OSTP, and the World Bank - one with a global outreach context. Yet if you go to the RHOK website you see NASA's logo.

Clearly, based on OSTP's posting and the NASA branding on the RHOK website, this is an activity officially sanctioned by NASA. Yet no one at the agency seems to have been at all interested in getting people outside a small circle of usual suspects to participate. Yet another example of closed openness and minimal transparency at NASA. When this sort of stealth planning is standard fare at NASA, how the agency ever expects to practice what they preach with regard to being "open" and "responsive" to the public simply escapes me.

Keith's update: Based on the registration list there were between 5-10 NASA employees at this NASA-endorsed/supported event. The focus of RHOK was the development of products for use in a wide variety of applications domestically and internationally. Given that NASA was officially involved, I wonder if the participants will be producing a summary report of their activities and links to the products that they developed. One would think that the NASA CIO would be responsible for this.

Space X update 4:53 pm EDT: Preliminary indications from NASA's recovery ship Freedom Star is that a debris field has been encountered in the area where the first stage was expected to be. Observation airfcraft confirmed the debris field. No parachutes were observed during descent. Apparently the Falcon 9 first stage hit the water rather hard. Initial impact location is 32 deg 07'N, 069 deg 15'W.

Space X update 4:40 pm EDT: Orbital info: Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee.

Congressman Posey's Statement on Today's Space Workforce Town Hall Meeting in Orlando

"Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) released the following statement in regards to this morning's town hall meeting conducted by Commerce Secretary Locke, NASA Administrator Bolden and Democrat Members of Congress on the future of the space workforce. Administration officials removed Space Coast Congressman Rep. Posey from the invitation list. "I'm disappointed that the Administration chose to inject partisanship into what really should be a serious and non-partisan effort to help address the needs of Florida's aerospace workforce."

Transcript: Space Industry Task Force Update

Commerce Secretary Locke: "I know that for many people here in Central Florida, that promising future might seem very, very distant right now. The region has endured some of the worst of the economic crisis that has afflicted the entire nation has to offer. A lot of homes have been lost. Businesses have closed their doors. The unemployment rate has been running at some 2 percentage points higher than the national average, and, of course, the region is now facing the impending retirement of the Space Shuttle program, which will cause even further job losses and hardship. The Space Shuttle retirement, of course, was announced many, many years ago, even before President Obama even announced his candidacy for the United States Presidency, but that doesn't make it any easier on the NASA workers and their families or the businesses that depend on those NASA families for work. Before I leave here today, I hope all of you will walk away with one unambiguous message. We are committed to this region, and the measures that President Obama took to restore our national economy are beginning to work, and we're developing a very ambitious and targeted plan to revitalize the Space Coast region."

Falcon 9 Reaction

NASA Administrator's Statement on First Falcon 9 Launch

"Congratulations to Space X on today's launch of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Space X's accomplishment is an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station. "Preparations are proceeding for the first NASA-sponsored test launch under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project later this year. COTS is a vital development and demonstration partnership to create a commercial space transportation system capable of providing cargo to the station. "This launch of the Falcon 9 gives us even more confidence that a resupply vehicle will be available after the space shuttle fleet is retired."

Kosmas Statement on SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Launch

"But we must both support the emerging commercial space industry and ensure a robust, NASA-led human spaceflight program in order to maintain our international leadership in space and keep our economy strong. I will continue fighting at every opportunity to minimize the human spaceflight gap, protect jobs, and ensure a bright future for the Space Coast."

Space Industry Leaders and Astronauts Congratulate SpaceX on Historic Flight of Falcon 9 Vehicle, CSF

"Space industry leaders, astronauts, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are issuing the following statements following today's launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle: ... "

Hutchison Statement on SpaceX Test Flight

"This first successful test flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs. While this test flight was important, the program to demonstrate commercial cargo and crew transport capabilities, which I support, was intended to enhance not replace NASA's own proven abilities to deliver critical cargo and humans to low Earth orbit. Make no mistake, even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well. This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled as the President proposes."

Falcon 9 launches successfully, Politico

"Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, whose state of Alabama is also a NASA stronghold, further decried the launch as a display merely replicating what "NASA accomplished in 1964." "Belated progress for one so-called commercial provider must not be confused with progress for our nation's human space flight program," Shelby said. "As a nation, we cannot place our future space flight on one fledgling company's definition of success."

Keith's note: This is hilarious. Ares 1-X was a suborbital mission with a fake second stage, a first stage motor different than the final one, and used borrowed avionics. Falcon 9 flew an operational vehicle first time out of the hanagr and put a payload into orbit at a small fraction of the cost that an Ares would require. Falcon 9 has a better chance of closing the gap than Ares 1 will. Apparently the good senator (her staff that is) are utterly unaware of the fact that Ares 1 will not achieve any of its milestones until after Falcon 9 has already done so. Yet we never hear anything from her about that, do we?

As for Sen Shelby's comments, It would seem that SpaceX is better equipped to do what "NASA accomplished in 1964" than the NASA of 2010 can accomplish - and do so faster - and more cheaply. Ares 1 would cost much more and be ready later than Falcon 9.

Keith's note: After a last second halt in the countdown earlier in the day the Falcon 9 launch vehicle made a perfect climb to orbit at 2:45 pm EDT. All indications are that the vehicle performed flawlessly. So much for the commerical space haters out there - they are eating Falcon feathers right now.

Space X update 4:40 pm EDT: Orbital info: Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee.

SpaceX boss: 70-80 % chance of success for Falcon 9 launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Musk conceded that, historically, maiden launches of rockets have had no better than a 50 percent success rate. Their first three launches of a smaller SpaceX rocket, the Falcon 1, failed."

SpaceX cargo rocket set for high-profile maiden flight, CNet

"But in a major change, SpaceX has proposed launching the COTS-2 spacecraft on an actual resupply mission to the space station. The company originally planned to make the first rendezvous on the third COTS mission but Musk said it made more sense to move ahead with an actual rendezvous and to use the third flight as an operational backup."

SpaceX Targets Falcon 9 Launch for Friday, KSC Daily News Employee Update

"SpaceX is preparing the Falcon 9 rocket for its first test launch attempt Friday morning from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will carry a mock-up of a Dragon spacecraft. There will not be a crew aboard the rocket. The four-hour launch window opens at 11 a.m., and the weather forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions. If the weather cooperates, SpaceX will provide a live webcast of the launch events, scheduled to begin 20 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window. If weather or other difficulties do not allow a Friday launch attempt, SpaceX can launch Saturday during the same window."

Keith's note: I find it interesting (and somewhat amusing) how KSC PAO felt that it was necessary to tell employees that "there will not be a crew aboard the rocket". Gee, wouldn't you think that everyone at KSC (and the rest of the space community) would have known by now if there was going to be a crew aboard - especially since flying crew would mean that the "gap" had just disappeared?

Keith's note: On 7 May 2007 Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited NASA GSFC. Apparently NASA Administrator Michael Griffin did not understand the protocol that goes with attending a reigning monarch in a public event. Note his awkward posture and the way that the security guys made him stand back when he got too close to the Queen.

And to all of you who wonder why I posted this video: Mike Griffin purposefully and deliberately continues to insert himself into undermining the Obama Administrations' space policy. The same awkward approach apparent in this video is evident in his current efforts to torpedo what NASA is trying to do. In so doing he makes himself totally relevant to the things that NASA Watch covers.

Sean O'Keefe, Dan Goldin, Dick Truly etc. do not do this. Hence you do not see them featured on NASA Watch. Alas, Mike Griffin just can't fight the urge to fiddle with things and continues to be a factor. As such, he's on NASA Watch's radar. That's how it works folks.

NASA And Commerce Present Update On Space Industry Task Force

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will present an update about the Presidential Task Force on Space Industry Work Force and Economic Development at 10 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 4. The event will be held in the ballroom of the Orlando Airport Hyatt Hotel, Intercontinental Ballroom, Section 5, 9300 Airport Blvd., Orlando, Fla. The event will be carried live on NASA Television and also available on line."

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden To Hold Town Hall Meeting on Space Coast Economy

"The Task Force, co-chaired by Locke and Bolden, is leading the initiative to coordinate and implement a plan to grow the region's economy and prepare its workers for the opportunities of tomorrow. The interagency effort will build on and complement ongoing local and federal economic and workforce development efforts."

Space Shuttles, 5d Mark II's and ipads, oh my!, scottaudette.com

"An Apple WiFi iPad, a Canon 5d Mark II with a WFT-4e II A, a three-year-old linksys broadband router, a first gen REV. A, a Sprint Aircard and some duct tape ... watch out, Macgruber, you've got nothing on us. And what did all of the above give us? A camera that took wicked awesome photos on an iPad out the window of the Reuters trailer at the Kennedy Space Center and all from the comfort of the Hampton Inn in Titusville, Florida. What's the point? My cohorts Joe Skipper, Pierre Ducharme & Michael Berrigan and I have been running a system of cameras at the space center that allows us to get our images back quickly from cameras stationed around the launch pad. This has been fairly successful, but there is always room for improvement."

AIAA Applauds Federal Measures Assisting Transition of Space Shuttle Professionals

"[AIAA President Dr. Mark J.] Lewis continued: "The Labor Department's decision, in tandem with Rep. Suzanne Kosmas' (FL-24) recently introduced 'Space to Schools Act' - which encourages former space shuttle program workers with relevant aerospace experience to qualify as elementary, secondary, or vocational school teachers, by providing up to $10,000 per worker for required teacher training - represent concrete, first steps by the government to assist the transition of space shuttle professionals."

Feds Hope Grant Will Launch NASA Employees Future, CBS4

"The federal government is hoping a new multi-million dollar grant will help soon-to-be unemployed NASA workers launch their new careers. The money is needed for thousands of full-time contractors who work on the space shuttle program."

JSC community left out of $15 million aid package, Houston Chronicle

"The Obama administration dealt another symbolic blow to Houston's space community Wednesday by delivering $15 million in assistance to help Florida aerospace workers get new jobs after the shuttle fleet retires this year. No such money so far has been promised to the Johnson Space Center. "No one should be surprised by this," said Bob Mitchell, head of the Bay Area Economic Partnership. "This is a political statement by the White House and an attempt by this administration to divide the states."

Displaced NASA workers get $15 million from Labor, The Hill

"Today, these hard-working Americans need and deserve our support, and I am pleased that this grant will allow them to upgrade their skills further and gain access to work opportunities in high demand industries," Solis said."

US Department of Labor announces $15 million grant to assist workers in Florida affected by end of Space Shuttle Program

"We must take every step possible to maintain the Space Coast's highly skilled workforce, and this grant will provide critical support to workers and help them find new job opportunities in our community," said Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, who represents Florida's District 24 and joined Secretary Solis in making the grant announcement. "At the same time, I will continue working to minimize the human space flight gap and attract new businesses to the Space Coast in order to strengthen and diversify our economy."

The Star of the International Space Conference, PeTA

"Some people just can't take a little bit of constructive criticism. Over the weekend, a PETA supporter took to the stage at the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference to interrupt a speech by NASA administrator Charles Bolden. Today, we received a phone call from Gary Barnhard, executive director of the National Space Society, threatening to sue us if we released details of the microphone takeover to the media. Ground control to Major Tom? Wondering what happened that the National Space Society doesn't want you to see"

Keith's 3 June 12:26 am update: After a phone call from Gary at midnight, I no longer know who to believe. As far as I am concerned both NSS and PeTA are simultaneously telling the truth - and lying - unless someone can produce an audio recording of this phone call. You can read the he said/she said back and forth I had had with NSS and PeTA below.

TV Station Finds Missing Moon Rock, 7 News

"The station decided to call former Gov. John Vanderhoof to find out if he remembered what happened to the plaque presented to him by NASA astronaut Jack Lousma on Jan. 9, 1974. "Well, governor, what do you know about these moon rocks? Where are they?" a reporter asked. "They're in my house, in my display of things," he said. Vanderhoof, 88, said he didn't know what to do with the display once he left office so he simply decided to take it with him. He said he did not know it was worth $5 million on the black market."

Labor Secretary Plans "Major" Announcement On Shuttle Workforce, Florida Today

"Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis plans a "major announcement" related to helping the shuttle workforce during a Wednesday morning visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. According to a Department of Labor press release, Solis will "make a major announcement to assist NASA workers who will be dislocated as a result of the impending retirement of the Space Shuttle Program."

Kosmas, Secretary of Labor Announce $15 Million Grant to Assist Space Coast Workers

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) joined Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in announcing a $15 million grant to assist workers on the Space Coast. The grant was awarded to The Brevard Workforce Development Board to aid thousands of workers who will be impacted by the impending retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle Program."

Posey's Statement on Labor Secretary's Announcement of Grant for Space Workers

"None of this would have been necessary if the President had kept his August 2008 promise to the people of the Space Coast - that he would close the gap between Shuttle and Constellation and keep America first in space."

Last Shuttle Booster Segments Arrive at KSC, Ken Kremer

"In another sign that NASA's space shuttle program is winding down to retirement, the very last segments for the shuttles mighty Solid Rocket Boosters arrived by train in Florida on Thursday, May 27. Six railroad cars loaded with the last booster segments traveleled across the country, starting from their production facility at the ATK solid rocket booster plant in Promontory, Utah. An ATK spokesman told me that "over 1500 workers have already been laid off" as the booster production lines have been progressively curtailed and shut down."

International Space Station Expedition 23 Crew Lands Safely

"Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi landed their Soyuz-17 spacecraft in Kazakhstan Tuesday, June 1, wrapping up a five-and-a-half-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Kotov, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 8:04 p.m. EDT from the aft port on the station's Zvezda module. The crew landed at 11:25 p.m., east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan."

Watching Falcons

What will you say if SpaceX's test rocket fails?, Alan Stern, The Space Review

"Why is the Falcon 9 crucial? In part this is because NASA is relying on it to help ship equipment and supplies to keep our $100-billion space station operable and functioning after the Space Shuttle is retired. It is also crucial because its lower price is critical to NASA's science program. And, in part, it is crucial because the Falcon 9 has become a proxy for the success of the commercial space flight industry."

Preparations for First Falcon 9 Test Launch, SpaceX

"Friday 4 June 2010: Launch Window Opens: 11:00 AM Eastern / 8:00 AM Pacific / 1500 UTC, Launch window lasts 4 hours. SpaceX has also reserved a second launch day on Saturday 5 June, with the same hours As always, weather will play a significant role in our overall launch schedule. The weather experts at the Cape are giving us a 40% chance of "no go" conditions for both days of our window, citing the potential for cumulus clouds and anvil clouds from thunderstorms."

Human Missions Throughout the Outer Solar System: Requirements and Implementations, APL

"Distance scales and mission times set the top-level engineering requirements for in situ space exploration. To date, the implementation of various planetary gravity assists and long-term mission operations has made for a better cost-trade than technology development to decrease flight times. Similarly, crewed missions to date have not had mission time limits per se as drivers to implementation. However, unconstrained cruise times to the outer solar system are not acceptable for either robotic sample returns or human crews. Galactic cosmic ray fluxes likely provide a human limit for total mission times of ~5 years, and more restrictive limits may be driven by lack of gravity. We consider the implications for taking humans to the Neptune system and back, and, using this example, we deduce the minimum-cost path to realizing human exploration of the entire solar system by 2100."

Protester Takes Over Microphone, Disrupts Conference as NASA Official Takes The Stage, PeTA

"A PETA supporter took the stage and microphone this weekend just before a speech by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference. As Bolden looked on, the protester asked that NASA halt plans to fund a cruel and wasteful radiation experiment on monkeys. She spoke uninterrupted by the crowd for several minutes and received a few cheers from the audience before being escorted off the stage."

Keith's note: Advice to PeTA: if you want to get the media's attention, then going to lovefests among true believers such as ISDC - which never gets mainstream media coverage - is a waste of your time. Indeed, people at the event tell me that the next day attendees staged a mock demonstration making fun of PeTA.

More Boulders As Seen By Lunar Orbiter 2

"This high resolution image, subframe 2128_H2, was taken by Lunar Orbiter 2 on 22 November 1966 at 20:18:27 GMT. Two areas containing craters filled with boulders have been highlighted. Enlarged versions of these locations are shown below. With a resolution of approximately 1 meter/pixel, the smallest boulders visible are several meters across."


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