August 2010 Archives

Letter to Rep. Gordon Regarding House Science Committee Authorization Bill As It Relates to NASA

"President Obama's new strategy revitalizes and expands our investments in technology, commercial spaceflight, student research, and robotic exploration precursors. These are the key elements of the President's new plan for NASA that must be retained in any consensus solution reached by Congress and the White House. These investments will benefit all parts of our space program. Indeed, human space exploration beyond Earth orbit can only be truly sustainable and affordable if commercial spaceflight to low Earth orbit and innovative research and development efforts are pursued as well. We feel that the following programs, which are substantially underfunded in the current House Science Committee authorization bill, are especially critical:"

Keith's note: Given that this letter addresses the future, young people, and education - and commerical space, among the signers, you find

- No one under 50
- Only 1 female
- Little - if any - space commerce experience
- College management only - little/no classroom teachers

Keith's additional note: With all due respect to all the signers, and not to take away from their comments, but I do not see a single person on this list who will spend their entire career in the future referred to by this letter. One would think that their voices would be among the most persuasive.

NASA KSC Solicitation: LIFE-LIKE ROBOT

"NASA/KSC has a requirement for a 5'9" Life-Like Robot, brand-name Engineered Arts Limited, RoboThespian, or equal. The solicitation (14 pages) is attached and includes: terms and conditions of order, salient characteristics for life-like robot, and questions/answers to inquiries about the Request for Information (RFI) that was previously posted."

Keith's 12 July note: I will be the last person to say that NASA does not need to enhance the way that it interacts with the public. The cooler that interaction is, the more you are going to reach people in a memorable way. I have no doubt that RoboThespian is cool. But at a time when NASA is off developing a real (and much, much cooler) robot that will work in space (Robonaut) why not try and use something that resembles actual NASA robots to do education and public outreach? RoboThespian is manufactured overseas in the UK (Cornwall). Quite frankly, at a cost of between $54,000 to $119,000 wouldn't you think that KSC could find an American company that offers something that will fit the bill? Indeed, Disney World is an hour west of KSC in Orlando and they have lots of animatronic robots - indeed, its their specialty.

Maybe we could get RoboThespian and Robobaut 2 to compete for the job ... like they do on Futurama. Imagine some good old robot-on-robot action in the ring. In one corner, RoboThespian, armed with his thesaurus and his fancy accent, and in the other corner, Robonaut 2 armed with ... power tools. Hmmm .. what would Bender do?

Keith's update: NASA KSC decided to buy the Cornish robot. I wonder if KSC could (if asked) actually provide the requirements for this acquisition - requirements that clearly show that only this Cornish droid meets their requirements - and that there was no domestic sources that could also do so. Let's see if DFRC goes ahead with its plan to buy Ethnically Diverse Cylons.

More viewing options here.

NASA and ATK Successfully Test Five-Segment Solid Rocket Motor (with Video)

"With a loud roar and mighty column of flame, NASA and ATK Aerospace Systems successfully completed a two-minute, full-scale test of the largest and most powerful solid rocket motor designed for flight. The motor is potentially transferable to future heavy-lift launch vehicle designs. The stationary firing of the first-stage development solid rocket motor, dubbed DM-2, was the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor test in NASA history. More than 760 instruments measured 53 test objectives."

NASA Tests Engine With an Uncertain Future, NY Times

"The shuttle solids, Dr. [Doug] Stanley said, "have a very high demonstrated reliability." The five-segment motors would also take advantage of the existing factory that builds the shuttle boosters. For James Muncy, a space policy consultant who has been an ardent critic of Constellation, that is exactly the reason he would like the solids to go away. "They work," he said. But he added: "They're expensive. Nobody else needs them."

NASA Selects Two Firms for Experimental Space Vehicle Test Flights, NASA (with video)

"NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.

The flights will demonstrate the capabilities of new vehicles to provide recoverable launch and testing of small payloads going to "near-space," the region of Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads."


Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates Initial Winning Launch Providers in NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) Program

"The commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to congratulate two of its member companies, Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, for winning an initial NASA test flight contract as part of the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) Program. The first round of the program, an open competition for small businesses, was formally kicked off by NASA earlier this year with a Request for Quotations for commercial reusable suborbital flight services."

Upcoming STA Event

STA Event: An Engineering Assessment of the Way Forward in Human Spaceflight

"STA will be hosting a roundtable discussion focused on the topic, "An Engineering Assessment of the Way Forward in Human Spaceflight". Panelists will include: Mike Griffin, former NASA Administrator and Professor, University of Alabama in Huntsville; Bob Dickman, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics; Gary Payton, Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Space and Scott Pace, Director, GWU Space Policy Institute."

India Announces Instrument Suite for Chandrayaan-2 Moon Orbiter, Lander and Rover, SpaceRef

"The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) today announced the suite of instruments for its second mission to the moon after it's first orbiter Chandrayaan-1 was successful in its mission. The second mission is scheduled to be launched on India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in 2013."

SpaceX Asks For Oct. 23 Dragon Launch Slot, Aviation Week

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has requested Oct. 23 on the 45th Space Wing's calendar for launch of its second Falcon 9 rocket, which will aim to place a Dragon cargo capsule into orbit.

The flight is the first of up to three launches planned under SpaceX's $278-million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with NASA, which is intended to help pay for the rocket and capsule's design, development and flight testing."

NASA, Internet Archive and Flickr Launch Historic Image Collection, NASA

"Visitors to NASA on The Commons can help tell the photos' story by adding tags, or keywords, to the images to identify objects and people. In addition, viewers can communicate with other visitors by sharing comments. These contributions will help make the images easier to find online and add insight about NASA's history."

Marc's note: This is cool way to share some great historical pictures and get the public involved.

Learning From The Past

Summoning the Future By Remembering the Past, Dennis Wingo

"Almost exactly 100 years and nine weeks before the famous speech by President Kennedy at Rice University calling for what would be known as the Apollo program, the U.S. Congress, in the middle of a war for the life of the nation, passed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. The "national" railroad as it was called was chartered by the government had as its core purpose to bind the nation together in commerce and open up the frontier to economic development. The government picked the route, set standards for its construction, and paid milestone payments to each of the two railroads (Union Pacific in the east and Central Pacific in the west). The government provided further incentives in the form of huge land grants on either side of the tracks that could be resold by the railroads at a profit. Another note is that the railroad paid back the government at a six percent interest over 30 years, resulting in a direct profit to the treasury."

Bill Lenoir

William Lenoir, astronaut who flew on first operational space shuttle mission, dies, Collectspace

"Former NASA astronaut William "Bill" Lenoir, who flew aboard the first operational mission of the space shuttle in November 1982, died Saturday at age 71. According to sources close to his family, Lenoir died after suffering head injuries during a bicycle accident Thursday. Lenoir, who was selected by NASA for its sixth astronaut group and second class of "scientist-astronauts" in 1967, did not fly in space until 15 years later as a member of the STS-5 crew."

NASTAR Center and Special Aerospace Services Commence Research Study on Emergency Detection and Human Response of Atlas V Profile

"The NASTAR(R) Center, the premier commercial space training and research center in the world, has completed the initial phase of a research effort focused on commercial human spaceflight and systems development related to emergency detection and response using an Atlas V flight profile, under a contract with Special Aerospace Service (SAS) on August 16, 2010. SAS used the capabilities of NASTAR Center's unique Space Training Simulator (STS-400) to accurately simulate the ascent G accelerations of an Atlas V rocket in Atlas 402 configuration. Nominal scenarios were performed with three subjects in order to understand crew reaction times. Subjects are medically monitored and tested at NASTAR Center. One subject, Jeff Ashby, is a former NASA Space Shuttle commander."


NASA held an event that allowed the media to document the arrival of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02 (AMS-02) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) this week. Members of the media were invited to interview the STS-134 crew and the scientists that are working on this project.

NASA TV Airs Interview Excerpts About Assistance to Trapped Miners in Chile

"NASA has been asked by the Chilean government through the U.S. Department of State to provide technical advice that might assist the trapped miners at the San Jose gold and copper mine near Copiapo, Chile."

NASA to treat trapped Chilean miners, PressTV

"It's an opportunity to us to bring the space-flight experience back down to the ground," said Duncan, CNN reported. The NASA team includes two physicians and a psychologist. Despite fears of mental cracks, the miners have been told for the first time they have to wait at least four months before they can be recued."

How can NASA help Chile miners trapped a half-mile underground?, Christian Science Monitor

"Among the advice space and other experts are already providing the Chilean government: Have the miners develop a routine, including work, exercise, recreation, and rest; take steps to help the men maintain some sense of time and the passing of night and day; and foster their sense of connection to the world they've left behind by encouraging written, verbal, and video contact with families and by communicating the triumphs and defeats of favorite sports teams."

How Astronauts' Experience Could Help Trapped Chilean Miners, Gizmodo

"Jack Stuster of Anacapa Sciences in Santa Barbara, California, carried out a systematic analysis of diaries that were kept for this purpose by astronauts during their six-month ISS expeditions. Each of more than 4000 diary entries were categorised as positive, negative or neutral in tone. Stuster found the strongest overall negative tone in the third quarter of expeditions, a period that has also been said to affect scientists on long stays in the Antarctic. Communications with management deteriorated in the third quarter too, and the frequency of interpersonal problems rose by a fifth."

NASA MSFC RFI: Electrodynamic Tether Propulsion Demonstration Mission

"NASA MSFC is seeking a partner capable of providing a spacecraft bus as a part of a technology development proposal team. Responses to this RFI will provide information necessary for the selection of spacecraft providing partners for the proposal team in late Summer/early Fall 2010. This RFI seeks input from vendors with experience and facilities for designing, fabricating, and integrating Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites. Vendors must be able to provide low risk, highly reliable design solutions and have a history of successfully delivering spacecraft bus systems to support Flight projects."

Frank Sietzen, Jr.: Consider how many space initiatives the United States didn't pursue in the past half century. A fully reusable launch vehicle. A 20-person expendable space station. New heavy lift boosters. A permanent lunar colony. The Orbital Space Plane. NERVA and Prometheus. An outpost on Mars. In fact, there have been more false starts and failed approaches than those that worked. By setting budget limits, the hand of the Congress can be seen in all of these programs, but the "failure to launch" can be squarely placed on the Defense Department, the Air Force, and of course NASA.

Massive solar storm to hit Earth in 2012 with 'force of 100m bombs', ANI, Yahoo India

"Astronomers are predicting that a massive solar storm, much bigger in potential than the one that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month, is to strike our planet in 2012 with a force of 100 million hydrogen bombs. Several US media outlets have reported that NASA was warning the massive flare this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet's power grid. Despite its rebuttal, NASA's been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates - 2012."

Sun storm to hit with 'force of 100m bombs', news.com.au

"Dr Richard Fisher, director of NASA's Heliophysics division, told Mr Reneke the super storm would hit like "a bolt of lightning", causing catastrophic consequences for the world's health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken."

Expert rubbishes solar storm claims, AB CNews

"Australia's leading body responsible for monitoring space weather has dismissed claims that a massive solar storm could wipe out the Earth's entire power grid. One report quotes an Australian astronomer as saying "the storm is likely to come sooner rather than later". But Dr Phil Wilkinson, the assistant director of the Bureau of Meteorology's Ionospheric Prediction Service, says claims that this coming solar maximum will be the most violent in 100 years are not factual."

Measuring The NASA Stimulus, National Journal

"... But placing a monetary value on those benefits proved more difficult, even for one of NASA's greatest achievements. The "fact remains that we got to the moon in a decade, but are, as yet, unable to fully measure the present and future economic impact of the science and technology accumulated on the way to the moon (or the aggregate effect of technological progress in general)," noted the authors of a 1971 Midwest Research Institute study. No one's ever really resolved the uncertainty. And as a result, researchers over the years have come up with a wide array of returns on investment for NASA spending. Estimated ratios of revenue generated compared to spending have been as high as 14-to-1."

NASA past performance ratings higher for cost plus contracts than fixed price, FIerceGovernment

"The more a company has a contractually risky relationship with NASA, the more likely it is that the agency will rate that contractor well during past performance evaluations, according to new research from INPUT, a Reston, Va.-based intelligence and analysis firm. INPUT obtained information on NASA past performance evaluations through Freedom of Information Act requests, releasing a proprietary August 16 report supplied by the firm to FierceGovernmentIT."

"After answering the question of how the space potty works, astronaut Mike Massimino now visits the Advanced Water Recovery Systems Development Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Chemists have been working hard to develop a next-generation trash bag for future exploration, including testing different forms of trash...and fake vomit. Watch as Massimino and the scientists lend their noses in the name of exploration and see if NASA's mixture is potent enough in this edition of "NASA Behind the Scenes."

NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Two Planets Transiting the Same Star

"NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star. The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday's issue of the journal Science."

Planets' clockwork goes crazy, MSNGBC

"The Science [Magazine] research was held under embargo until 2 p.m. ET today, but the discovery came to light an hour early when NASA made their news release and other information about the observations publicly available."

NASA To Announce Latest Findings By Kepler Spacecraft

"NASA will hold a media teleconference Thursday, Aug. 26, at 1 p.m. EDT to discuss the Kepler spacecraft's latest discovery about an intriguing planetary system. Kepler, a space observatory, looks for the data signatures of planets by measuring tiny decreases in the brightness of stars when planets cross in front of, or transit, them. In June, mission scientists announced the mission has identified more than 700 planet candidates, including five candidate systems that appear to have more than one transiting planet."

Keith's note: According to a letter released by PeTA, Paul McCartney writes:

"Dear Mr. Bolden: I recently learned from my friends at PETA that NASA plans to fund an experiment in which squirrel monkeys will be exposed to dangerous doses of radiation and then caged for years to study the effects on them, which are likely to be cancer, brain tumours, and early death.

As a supporter of NASA's mission and continued space exploration, I have had the pleasure to work with NASA on multiple occasions. In 2005, I performed for the crew of STS-114 as they flew over 200 miles above the Earth. More recently I worked with NASA to beam Beatles music into space.

I believe NASA has the ingenuity to investigate the health effects of space travel without confining and experimenting on animals as was done in the old days. It would be terribly disappointing if in our zeal to explore new frontiers and to learn about the fascinating universe where we live we began to regress in our treatment of the animals with whom we share this planet. May I appeal to you to cancel this experiment?

Sincerely, Paul McCartney"

Spaceflight Set the Stage for a Story by Sir Paul, earlier post, NASA

"A sea of thousands of concert-goers threw its hands high, clapped and cheered while many chimed in with Sir Paul McCartney. On stage, a story began to unfold. It was a story of human pursuit and success, and spaceflight was at the heart of it."

Perhaps PeTA could get Sir Paul to write a song about this issue and then people can vote for it as a NASA Wake-up song for the last shuttle crews as part of the contest currently underway ...

The Moon: Creating Capability in Space and Getting Value for our Money, Paul Spudis

"Of all the possible destinations in space, the Moon offers the proximity, accessibility, and materials necessary to learn how to use what we find in space to create new capabilities. Harvesting the resources of the Moon will allow us to make what we need in space, rather than carrying it with us from the Earth's surface. The model currently used to pursue our national interests in space - design-launch-use-discard - restrains opportunity, affordability and capability. We can break the limits imposed on all of these factors by learning how to use the resources of space."

Apollo's Urban Legends

Exploding the Myth of Popular Support for Project Apollo, Roger Lanius

"Because of the on-going dispute over the future of human space exploration, I have been reminded of the longstanding perception that in the 1960s NASA's Apollo program enjoyed great public support. That is a misconception. The belief that Apollo enjoyed enthusiastic support during the 1960s and that somehow NASA has lost its compass thereafter still enjoys broad appeal . This is an important conception, for without the active agreement of political leaders and at least public acquiescence no exploration effort may be sustained for any length of time."

Reader note: I took interest in Nmap Developers Release a Picture of the Web from slashdot.org. The article says: "The Nmap Project recently posted an awesome visualization of the top million site icons (favicons) on the Web, sized by relative popularity of sites. This project used the Nmap Scripting Engine, which is capable of performing discovery, vulnerability detection, and anything else you can imagine with lightning speed. We saw last month how an Nmap developer downloaded 170 million Facebook names, and this month it's a million favicons; I wonder what they'll do next?"

So I took the liberty of searching for our beloved icon. Here is the link which finds the NASA logo in the mix.

According to the article, "the area of each icon is proportional to the sum of the reach of all sites using that icon. ... The smallest icons--those corresponding to sites with approximately 0.0001% reach--are scaled to 16x16 pixels." The NASA.gov came up at 232 232 pixels which, if I understand it correctly NASA reach = ((232^2)/(16^2))*(0.0001%) = 0.02%

Again, if I understand right, this means that 0.02% of the people who surfed the web in 2010 have visited www.NASA.gov. As a check on my interpretation of "reach", Google is stated as 11,936 x 11,936 and therefore has a reach of ((11,936^2)/(16^2))*(0.0001%) = 55.6516% ...or >1/2 of all users use Google. Which is certainly a believable calculation.

Another Reader notes: I think it came up as 464 464 pixels. Not 232 X 232.

Chile will ask advice from NASA to attend the trapped miners, Momento 24

"Chilean Health Ministry will ask the NASA for advice to the implementation of efficient techniques in pursuit of maintaining the health condition of the 33 miners trapped in San Jose mine, 700 meters deep, in Atacama desert, and who, according to estimates, will not be rescued until 3 months. The initiative of the trans-Andean country's health portfolio refers that at this moment, the miners' living conditions are similar to those experienced by astronauts in a space station. It is known that they eat food specially designed for this purpose."

Chile miners to get coping advice from NASA, Christian Science Monitor

"With 33 miners trapped deep underground, Chile is seeking advice from NASA on how to keep them mentally and physically fit for the months it may take to rescue them. "We received a request from the Chilean government about advice related to our life science research," John Yembrick, a NASA spokesman, told SPACE.com Wednesday."

Other isolated survivors tell what kept them alive, AP

"Astronaut Jerry Linenger and architect Eduardo Strauch know the remarkable quality that keeps the trapped Chilean miners going: the immense power of hope. Linenger and Strauch are living proof of survival amid isolation. They say that power is in us all."

Game Changing Technology Development Program

"The GCDP focuses on developing radically new approaches to NASA's future space missions and the nation's significant aerospace needs. Where other technology development activities seek the steady and deliberate evolution of system and mission capabilities, the successful products of the GCDP should provide revolutionary advances in capabilities to enable missions that cannot otherwise be accomplished or that significantly improve mission performance compared with conventional approaches. The objective of the GCDP is to mature such technologies starting from a TRL of 2/3 to a TRL of 4."

Space Technology Research Grants Program

"As part of the Office of the Chief Technologist's Early Stage Innovation Division, this Program will foster the development of innovative low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) technologies for advanced space systems and space technology. The goal of this low TRL technology endeavor will be to accelerate the development of push technologies (technology development not directed at a specific mission) to support the future space science and exploration needs of NASA, other government agencies, and the commercial space sector."

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program

"In Fiscal Year 2011, NASA plans to begin the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The Office of the Chief Technologist is fostering the development of innovative, low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) concepts to accelerate the development of transformational capabilities and "push" technologies. NIAC will fund early studies of visionary concepts that could dramatically improve aerospace missions 10 or more years in the future."

'Avatar' Director and NASA Focus on Earth Science Exploration in PSA Campaign

"James Cameron, director of "Avatar," the most successful film ever released, is featured in a series of new NASA public service announcements that describe the many contributions of the agency's Earth science program to environmental awareness and exploration of our home planet. "When NASA ventures into space, it remembers to keep a steady eye on home," Cameron said. "Its fleet of Earth-orbiting satellites constantly reveals our whole planet: its remotest places, its mysteries and the powerful influence of humans."

Danish inventors produce first amateur rocket designed to send humans into space (and one of them is going to test it out himself), Daily Mail

"It might not look much. In fact, it looks practically suicidal. But two Danish inventors hope to launch the world's first amateur-built rocket for human space travel. The homemade rocket is the brainchild of Danish firm Copenhagen Suborbitals, headed by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen."

Copenhagen Suborbitals

"Welcome to Copenhagen Suborbitals Our mission is very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space. This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavor lead by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, based entirely on sponsors and volunteers."

Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era of Space Exploration: An Interim Report, NRC

"In response to requests from Congress, NASA asked the National Research Council to undertake a decadal survey of life and physical sciences in microgravity. Developed in consultation with members of the life and physical sciences communities, the guiding principle for the study is to set an agenda for research for the next decade that will allow the use of the space environment to solve complex problems in life and physical sciences so as to deliver both new knowledge and practical benefits for humankind as we become a spacefaring people."

Former NASA chief of staff pleads guilty to conspiracy charge, Government Executive

"Courtney Stadd of Bethesda, Md., pleaded guilty on Aug. 18 to one count of conspiracy in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Nov. 18. ... Former deputy chief engineer [Liam] Sarsfield, who was paid more than $87,000 by Capitol Solutions through the subcontract, pleaded guilty in November to one count of committing an act affecting his personal financial interest. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 27."

Details Emerge on Criminal Activity by Courtney Stadd and Liam Sarsfield, earlier post


Politics once again swept across Florida's Space Coast area as the Space Industry Report was released this week. The report details recommendations for where $40 million should be spent. Meanwhile, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas toured the region to promote small businesses and entrepreneurs - and a new effort to support the commercial space industry was unveiled.

Keith's original note: This is how a Congressional staffer (Ken Monroe - @KenMonroe on Twitter) conducts himself in public (Twitter). Its a free country, as they say - but I wonder if his bosses agree with his choice of words.

21 August 2010: "If NASA wasn't being run by idiots a petition to keep an orbiter at KSC wouldn't be neccessary. Pls sign: http://www.spaceshuttleproject.com"

Keith's update: Looks like Ken Monroe is trying to erase what he said. He has deleted the Tweet I refered to - but I made a screen grab of it before he deleted it. Curiously, it was Ken Monroe who got all flustered about a Twitter posting a few months ago that quoted Al Ladwig at a meeting - a posting that Monroe got Rep. Olson to throw back at Charlie Bolden, ambush style, in a hearing - asking Bolden if he knew/approved of such comments. Pot-Kettle-Black, Ken.

Earlier tweets by Ken Monroe:

- 30 June 30, 2010: "Obama's space policy is focused on appeasement, not leadership. In fact, "leadership" cannot be found in the goal section of the 2010 policy"
- 7 July 2010: "The Obama administration has even dragged down NASA to become a laughingstock and national embarrassment."
- 20 July 2010: "The Senate numbers don't add up. They are starting to find their mistakes and what must change."
- 22 July 2010: "Prediction: House passes the NASA authorization but Senate does not. Bills become templates for continuing resolutions."
- 22 July 2010: "Senate NASA authorization lacks coherent policy direction and practically ensures failure; it is too schizoid to succeed."
- 22 July 2010: "Loan pgm was a tough sell to some members but I like it. Companies prefer cash b/c there's less recourse if they fail."
- 8 August 2010: "The fact is, the White House has no intention or associated plan to get to Mars in our lifetimes. Pick any date you want."
- 9 August 2010: "What does New Space mean to you? Socialization of risk? Financing scheme? Political ideology? Give me your thoughts?"
- 19 August 2010: "it is absolutely ridiculous for NASA to plan a Commercial Crew Office based on the President's $5.8 billion request."

According to his linkedIn page: "Mr. Monroe is a professional staff member of the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and is a principal advisor to the ranking member of the Science and Technology Committee, specializing in legislation and oversight of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the space-related activities of the Departments of Transportation and Commerce. Mr. Monroe also advises the ranking member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on technical, funding and policy issues."

Orion Starts Test Phase

Orion Starts Testing Phase, Ken Kremer

"The crucial pressure testing phase for NASA's pioneer Orion crew test capsule has begun inside the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana. It will be subjected to a wide ranging and stringent testing regime by the joint NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion team at multiple different facilities over the coming year to validate the spacecraft design."

Layoff anxiety top risk to space shuttle, Florida Today

"NASA's shuttle program in 2006 employed 14,000 contractors and 1,800 civil servants in eight states and Washington, D.C. By November 2009, the work force had been cut to 10,300 contractors and 1,200 civil servants. The contractor work force at the end of May: 8,741. One by one, the 5,158 technicians, engineers and managers who still work for United Space Alliance at KSC recently were called in by supervisors and given notice. Some 902 were told they could be out of a job by Oct. 1. Another 3,256 people will lose their jobs by April if NASA's last scheduled shuttle mission is launched as planned on Feb. 26. The addition of one extra mission proposed by NASA would only slow the company's planned drop to 1,000 to late July or August."

Can We Turn Over America's Space Program to a "Space Cadet"?, Pete Fenn, The Hill

"But SpaceX may be even scarier -- a venture that risks a major program. The New York Times describes a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings who are launching rockets while soaking up $1.6 billion from NASA. My work in this area makes me think that this is a risky gamble with someone like Musk, who promises the sky, the moon and the stars."

Keith's note: The commenters on this blog posting pretty much sum it up. Curiously, Musk's Falcon 9 and Dragon's parachute systems worked perfectly the first time. As for Ares 1-X and Orion ... well, not so good. Where's the outrage over that, Mr. Fenn?

Our economy needs a robust space program, editorial, Houston Chronicle

"It would be prudent to keep the space shuttles flying with new missions to maintain a vital back-up contingency, until replacement spacecraft and commercial space transportation achieve reliable operations. The space shuttle's unique capability to launch heavy payloads into space, or return hardware from orbit, is the only means available of flying critical replacement components to support the $100 billion International Space Station. If the 300-ton space station is ever taken out of service, the space shuttle is the only vehicle in existence that could safely deorbit the massive structure."

Keith's note: Hmm ... "deorbit" implies that you are going to drop the ISS into the ocean. Mir, which was somewhat comparable in size - with things pointing out in all directions. Mir was deorbited with several Progress flights. Why couldn't a series of Progress, HTV, ATV missions do the same for the ISS? Or are you going to use Shuttle propulsion to deorbit the ISS? Or are you talking about taking the ISS apart and returning the pieces to Earth in a shuttle cargo bay? Given how many flights it took to assemble the ISS, that would be a rather time consuming and expensive undertaking. And then what about the Russian segment? That would have to come back too - just like Mir did.

- NASA's 1999 Plan To Splash ISS, earlier post
- Mir deorbit simulation, earlier post
- The Deorbit of Skylab, earlier post

SpaceX Conducts Dragon Parachute Test (Photos and Video)

"SpaceX recently completed its first Dragon high altitude drop test and it was 100% successful! The purpose of the test was to validate the Dragon's parachute deployment systems and recovery operations prior to the first flight of an operational Dragon later this year. The drop occurred on August 12, 2010 about nine miles off the coast from the scenic town of Morro Bay, CA-- 45 miles north of Vandenberg Air Force Base."

- Pad Abort 1 Test Successful, earlier post
- Update: What Really Crashed In The Desert (Orion), earlier post
- Orion Crash Photos and Videos Online - Finally, earlier post
- Orion Parachute Test Crash Update, earlier post

Deputy NASA leader Lori Garver thinks stalemate between Congress and White House is over, Huntsville Times

"Garver was asked how NASA can plan at the same time to either fast-track a new rocket next year or continue working on the Constellation program the administration still wants canceled. What happens to NASA's workforce if the issue isn't decided? "If we were still in a stalemate, a continuing resolution would be tough," Garver said. "The (workforce) transition would be difficult." Marshall Director Robert Lightfoot accompanied Garver to the editorial board meeting and said his center is ready to get to work on a heavy-lift rocket. "We don't need to study it anymore," Lightfoot said. However, he said NASA can't release its heavy-lift acquisition strategy until it knows what the new rocket must be capable of doing. That still hasn't been decided, he said."

FAA Creates Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation

"U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, NM, to lead a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation which includes Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. The center is a partnership of academia, industry, and government, developed for the purpose of creating a world-class consortium that will address current and future challenges for commercial space transportation."

NASA Supports New FAA Commerical Space Transportation Center

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will support the new Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE), a university-led consortium sponsored and announced Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The new center will perform research and development to help build a safe and strong U.S. commercial space industry."

NASA Asks Public For FInal Shuttle Missions' Wakeup Songs

"If you like music, the space program and are a little nostalgic, NASA has the perfect opportunity for you. For the first time, the public can help choose songs to wake up the astronauts during the last two scheduled space shuttle missions."

Keith's note: Here's my nomination "Rocket Man" as performed by NASA Edge

Navy panel votes to discharge ex-astronaut Nowak, Washington Post

"The Navy should discharge former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who lost her NASA job over a bizarre airport attack on a romantic rival, according to a Navy panel that reviewed her case. The panel of three admirals made the recommendation Thursday after a daylong hearing at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville."

Navy mulls punishment for lovelorn ex-astronaut, MSNBC

"The Navy conducted a hearing on Nowak's case on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. Portions of the hearing were closed to the public for testimony on Nowak's mental health, Navy officials said. The board of inquiry will forward its recommendation to Navy Secretary Ray Maybus, who will make the final decision on Nowak's punishment."

Earth and Moon from 114 Million Miles as seen by MESSENGER

"In the lower left portion of this image, the Earth can be seen, as well as the much smaller Moon to Earth's right. When MESSENGER took this image, a distance of 183 million kilometers (114 million miles) separated the spacecraft and Earth. To provide context for this distance, the average separation between the Earth and the Sun is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). Though it is a beautiful, thought-provoking picture, viewing our planet from far away was not the main reason that the mission team planned the collection of this image. Instead, this image was acquired as part of MESSENGER's campaign to search for vulcanoids, small rocky objects that have been postulated to exist in orbits between Mercury and the Sun."

Fighting For Shuttles

Shuttle Diplomacy: Museums Launch Bids for Retiring Space Planes, WS Journal

"The space shuttle fleet's looming retirement ends an era--and launches a new space race. This one is on the ground, among museums scrambling to land one of the three orbiters. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says it has received expressions of interest from 21 institutions. The competition has sparked intensive lobbying campaigns, massive fund-raising drives and a sprint for letters of support from astronauts, politicians and the public."

NASA's Ultimate Spinoff?

NASA Seeks Innovative Ideas About Human Health Challenges

"NASA's interest in technology development and problem solving in the area of human health issues makes hosting this discussion among innovators and thought leaders a natural fit," NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "Solutions to health issues here on Earth have the potential to benefit space explorers of the future, as well as humankind overall."

USAID Partners With NASA, NIKE and State Department to Address Global Health Challenges

"Proposals will be accepted until September 13, 2010 when the challenge will close and the winners will be selected. Those who are selected will be invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Oct. 30-31 where the LAUNCH: Health forum will take place."

NASA Announcement of Opportunity To Participate in NASA's LAUNCH: Health Project

"NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE joined together to host LAUNCH in an effort to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges through a series of forums. LAUNCH searches for visionaries, whose world-class ideas, technologies or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society. Through the next LAUNCH series, up to ten innovators and 40 thought leaders will come together to address an issue that affects every human: health."

The Moon Is Shrinking

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Reveals 'Incredible Shrinking Moon'

"Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon's recent geologic and tectonic evolution."

Former NASA Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Involving $600,000 NASA Contract with Mississippi State University

"A former high-ranking National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") official, Courtney A. Stadd, 55, of Bethesda, Maryland, has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy charges in connection with actions he took to obtain and receive funds from a $600,000 sole-source contract from John C. Stennis Space Center to Mississippi State University ("MSU") on a remote sensing study, United States Attorney Donald R. Burkhalter and NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin announced today.

At the plea hearing, the defendant admitted that beginning in 2004, Stadd, who previously served as NASA Chief of Staff and White House Liaison, conspired with the NASA Deputy Chief Engineer of Programs [Liam Sarsfield] to allocate approximately $600,000 in NASA funds to one of Stadd's consulting clients, Mississippi State University, which subsequently subcontracted $450,000 of those funds to Stadd's consulting business called Capitol Solutions, also known as Capitol Alliance Solutions. .... In furtherance of the conspiracy, Stadd met with senior government officials in an ill-fated attempt to stop the NASA Office of the Inspector General from continuing to investigate his activities. Stadd admitted that, to further conceal the conspiracy, he created false documents in response to a Federal Grand Jury subpoena."

Keith's note: Personally I have always thought that Lee Sarsfield was a self-serving creep. As such, none of what he has admitted to doing really surprises me. But Courtney Stadd, on the other hand, has always impressed me as being genuinely interested in helping people gain personal access to- and appreciate the value of space exploration. Alas, regardless of my personal impressions, these guys were put in positions of authority in America's space program. And what did they do with that opportunity? According to their guilty pleas they tried to cash in and when they were caught, they tried to cover it up. One word comes to mind: betrayal. In the case of Lee Sarsfield, I am not inclined to shed a single tear. But in the case of Courtney Stadd, despite his admitted criminal activity, I am very, very saddened to see someone with such a clear passion for space exploration end up like this.

Both Sarsfield and Stadd face a maximum imprisonment term of 5 years and a fine of $250,000. Sarsfield was originally supposed to have been sentenced on 24 June 2010. Stadd is scheduled to be sentenced on 18 November 2010. They both deserve to be punished for what they have admitted to doing. I do hope, however, that when his debt is paid to society, that there is a second act for Courtney in space.

Courtney Stadd Joins Liam Sarsfield In Pleading Guilty, Earlier Post

LRO News Telecon Today

NASA to Hold Media Briefing on Latest Results from Lunar Mission

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 2p.m. EDT on Thursday, August 19 to discuss new research results from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. To participate in the teleconference, reporters should email Rob Gutro at Robert.J.Gutro@nasa.gov. Requests must include media affiliation and telephone number. Supporting information will be posted at the start of the news conference at:http://www.nasa.gov/lro. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio"

Ex-NASA chief of staff pleads guilty to conspiracy in steering contract to US university

"Courtney Stadd, NASA's chief of staff and White House liaison from 2001 to 2003, pleaded guilty to one conspiracy charge in a nine-count indictment in federal court in Gulfport, Mississippi, said Sheila Wilbanks, a U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman. ... Prosecutors say Stadd conspired with Liam Sarsfield, NASA's former chief deputy engineer in Washington. ... Sarsfield controlled a $1.5 million fund and designed contracts that wouldn't have to be put out for bid. He steered them where he wanted them to go, including to Mississippi State University and a company in Ohio, prosecutors said, netting himself about $270,000 in illegal profits."

Keith's note: So ... what's going on with Liam Sarsfield's sentencing? He was supposed to be sentenced back in June.

Liam Sarsfield Pleads Guilty, earlier post

"Sarsfield entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden. Sarsfield faces a maximum imprisonment term of five years and a fine of $250,000. He is scheduled for sentencing on June 24, 2010."

Aerospace and Defense Companies Hiring, But Face Challenges Retaining Young Pros, Says AVIATION WEEK Workforce Study

"AVIATION WEEK has released results from its 2010 Workforce and Young Professionals/Student Study, a mainstay for aerospace and defense (A&D) planning and trend analysis since 1997, which show that A&D companies plan to hire 15,500 professionals this year. However, retaining younger employees continues to be a challenge -- the voluntary attrition rate (employees choosing to leave) for young professionals rose to 21%, and 41% admit to looking for new jobs. The study also reviewed industry retirement rates and ranked the top universities for A&D alumni hires, with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, at number one."

NASA And Mary J. Blige Encourage Science Careers For Women

"NASA is collaborating with award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuts this week on NASA TV and the agency's website at: http://www.nasa.gov."


Keith's note: Nick Skytland (now with the Open Gov office at NASA HQ) gave a variant on his standard Gen Y presentation yesterday at the NASA CIO IT conference. Of course, his premise is always the same i.e. that his generation of "digital natives" is special and requires special handling and care. While his predilection for singling his generation out for special attention is a little naiive (all younger generations are special and different (i.e misunderstood), by definition), there are some points to be made as to what it is that younger people have as a world view. If the agency is going to serve this subset of the taxpaying population, it needs to be certain that it has an accurate frame of reference with which to calibrate its interactions. At the same time, an ever-growing population of aging baby boomers entering "retirement" is going to become a large constituency that the agency will need to serve - and they are voratious consumers of information, often as adept at being "digital natives" as are Gen Y folks.

Here is one snapshot of the class of 2014 as provided (annualy) by Beloit College. Again, recall that this is what the world looks like, from the perception of a total life experience (thus far) of someone entering college this Fall:

"43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space."

Space Coast Task Force Delivers Economic Strategies Report

"The President's Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, co-chaired by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, today released its report to President Barack Obama with recommendations to enhance economic development strategies along Florida's Space Coast. The task force was charged with developing a plan for how best to invest $40 million in transition assistance from the federal government in the Space Coast region as the space shuttle program winds down."

NASA IT Summit Day 2

Keith's 17 Aug note:

This morning, before anyone spoke, NASA Deputy CIO James Williams said that no sessions can be recorded. This was rather startling given that no prohibition whatsoever was made prior to this. Nor did NASA PAO inform me of this prohibition. No mention is made in the event's printed program. I find this to be the height of hypocrisy on NASA's part. It is also baffling. On one hand they profess their support for Open Government yet they turn around and prohibit attendees at a taxpayer-funded, publicly attended meeting - one webcast live - from recording the presentations.

Heads up to the meeting organizers: I fully intend to violate this recording ban at several sessions today.

Keith's 17 Aug update: NASA just twittered "Just to clarify: Attendees free to record #nasait proceedings with exception of the 1:30 general session at the request of the speaker." Yet if you go to this NASA CIO page you will see "The following speakers will be streamed live from this webpage ... 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 17, 2010 Jack Blitch, Vice President & General Manager Walt Disney Imagineering-FL"

This is quite a "clarification". It is also goofy - I can sit at home, watch and record Blitch speaking via a webcast at a taxpayerfunded meeting open to the public, but I cannot record him in person? This makes no sense whatsoever. I intend to violate this ban.

Keith's 17 Aug update: Well, the Disney presentation was interesting. They are certainly a bunch of creative people. As far as what was so sensitive about the presentation such that recording was prohibited, I guess its the news that the interior cabins on their cruise ships which lack an actual porthole will now have a virtual porthole created by using a plasma screen and a live image taken outside the ship. Must be some ITAR issue, right?

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 16 August 2010

"Stage EVA-17 by FE-4 Doug Wheelock & FE-2 Tracy Caldwell-Dyson was completed successfully in 7hr 20min, fully accomplishing its objective of installing the spare ETCS (External Thermal Control System) Loop A PM (Pump Module) plus additional tasks. The PM has been checked out and is functioning nominally. Loop A will be fully in service later this week. This was the third contingency spacewalk to replace the Loop A ammonia pump."

NASA IT Summit Day 1

"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."

Information, agenda, and live webstream. You can follow the summit tweets via the hash tag #nasait on Twitter Search.

Keith's note: So far the meeting has gone well. The event was very well organized and ran like clockwork. That said, some curious things emerged rather quickly as I observed the sessions and the audience. First of all, the 1,190 registered attendees are overwhelmingly white males aged 40-60. Second, although half of the audience was, at any given time, fiddling with their cellphones (and a few with laptops), only a dozen or so attendees were actually Twittering from/about the meeting. Given the discussion about future trends, social media, and new populations of stakeholders (audiences) this was rather troubling.

Also, unless someone else signed in on the media list, I was the only media representative in attendance. I assume that is what prompted Charlie Bolden to give me a shout out from the podium ("Is Keith here?"). Also, other than IT manager Brian Dunbar and photographer Bill Ingalls, I saw no one else from PAO in attendance. Nor did I see any education and outreach or social media staff from the mission directorates.

Some interesting things took place at Cape Canaveral this week, lighting up the region in a number of ways. NASA held a payload event showcasing several of the flight hardware elements that will be aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-133 mission. Included in that event was a demonstration of the humanoid robotic assistant Robonaut 2 that will be aboard Discovery. Over at Cape Canaveral, the Air Force launched the first in a series of next-generation military communications satellites.

John New

John New, 89; NASA engineer pioneered satellite tests, Washington Post

"John New, 89, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center who developed a series of methods and facilities for testing satellites during the early days of space flight, died July 28 at the Renaissance Gardens assisted living facility in Silver Spring. He had pneumonia."

Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void will give you a whole new view of an astronaut's life

Frank Sietzen, Jr.: For most of us spacers human spaceflight is nothing to, well, joke about. After all, riding rockets into the cosmos is serious business, and there's nothing that NASA or we do better than take ourselves seriously - perhaps too seriously. In the last 30 years or so, only Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" gave us permission to laugh out loud when contemplating some of the inconveniences of spaceflight. Until now, that is.

Mary Roach, one of America's most successful and prolific science writers, has made an art form out of picking a little known or understood area of science and doing some first-person research. In her "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers", she tells us more than we'd ever wish to know about what happens to our bodies after we croak. In "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" she gives us a window on ghosts, spooks, and what many believe follows death. In "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex" she throws herself into deconstructing the sexual impulse, visiting the top sex researchers in the world's universities and laboratories, while enlisting some front-line help from her long-suffering husband, no less.

In "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" Roach gives the same in-depth treatment to global preparations for long duration human spaceflight.

Keith's note: In June 2010 OSTP held an event "Hacking for Humanity" in Washington, DC. A number of NASA employees participated - nearly all of them Gen Y. I should note up front that these folks who attended are, as a group, rather sharp, energetic, and passionate about what they do. Alas, they did not announce this event in advance such that anyone could have known it was happening - much less participate. I made multiple requests immediately after this event in June for a summary of what NASA personnel did at the event and what was developed. I got vague replies that something would be sent to me. Despite these requests NASA provided me with nothing. After waiting 2 months, I sent yet another request today to Robbie Schingler (who now works for NASA CTO Bobby Braun), one of the organizers today. He pointed me to this link which has been online since 1 July 2010. What a surprise.

It would seem that "open government" at NASA HQ really means "we'll get back to you - maybe". Schingler's excuse was that he has been "busy". So sorry to hear that. So, I guess in the future, I need to check this corner of the CIO office website on my own everyday just in case something shows up. When it comes to activities such as this the Gen Y digerati at NASA have yet to figure out how to issue press releases, email advisories, etc. or respond to taxpayer (stakeholder) inquiries. And the sole link on this NASA summary sends me to a page that provides zero information on the projects that these NASA folks worked on. Maybe I'll ask Robbie about this when he speaks at the IT summit next week.

Why do these things in secret such that no one knows what the result is? More closed openness from NASA Gen Y digerati.

More Closed Openness at NASA HQ, earlier post

NRC Decadal Survey: New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Committee for a Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics; National Research Council

"New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics recommends a balanced and executable program that will support research surrounding the most profound questions about the cosmos. The discoveries ahead will facilitate the search for habitable planets, shed light on dark energy and dark matter, and aid our understanding of the history of the universe and how the earliest stars and galaxies formed. The book is a useful resource for agencies supporting the field of astronomy and astrophysics, the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over those agencies, the scientific community, and the public."

Citizen Scientists Discover Rotating Pulsar, NSF

"Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project"

NASA Scientists to Share Ideas at SETIcon Gathering

"NASA scientists will join space experts, celebrities and science fiction writers to discuss science, entertainment and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., at the SETIcon, Aug. 13-15, 2010 at The Hyatt Regency Santa Clara House, 5101 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, Calif."

Keith's note: Alas, even though scientists engaged in SETI can scour the heavens, across many light years using exquisite, cutting-edge radio astronomy equipment, yet as far as I can tell, neither they (or ARC PAO) know how to webcast a conference to humans on Earth using a laptop and commonly available software. I did this from Everest Base Camp for crying out loud.

NASA Exploration Systems Directorate Commercial Crew Planning Status Forum

"NASA will present an overview of common themes captured from industry responses provided to NASA's Commercial Crew Initiative Request for Information (RFI) published on May 21, 2010. The forum will include a general discussion of how these common themes are being addressed by NASA; presentation of the insight/oversight philosophy; and a question and answer session. The event will be conducted on August 19, 2010, at NASA Headquarters, James E. Webb Auditorium, 300 E Street SW, Washington DC from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. NASA will broadcast the forum live on NASA TV and online via webcast. TV and Web viewers will have the opportunity to submit online questions and comments during the forum."

Keith's note: Ah great, one week advanced notice. But at least they will be webcasting and broadcasting the event - with online interaction as well.

Sean and Kevin O'Keefe Recovery (Facebook Group)

(Paul Pastorek) "Have talked with Laura today as she cruises from one part of the hospital to the other to check on "her boys". She is very upbeat and confident about her boys, but saddened about Sen. Stevens and others onboard. Many of you have contacted me and sent good wishes to Sean and his family. We are grateful, but please pray for the recovery of the other survivors and for those who perished. God Bless You all!"

Communication Problems May Have Delayed Search Following Alaska Plane Crash, NY Times

"The conditions of two of the survivors improved on Thursday, as a spokeswoman for the hospital said that James Morhard and Kevin O'Keefe were upgraded from serious to fair condition. Kevin O'Keefe's father, Sean O'Keefe, the former NASA administrator, is still in critical condition. William Phillips, 13, is still in good condition. His father, William, died in the crash."

Lawyers get 90 days to review documents in NASA scientist's spy trial, CNN

"A federal judge overseeing the case of a NASA scientist accused of trying to sell secrets to Israel has granted lawyers 90 days to review classified documents admitted as evidence. No trial start date has been set for Stewart David Nozette, who has been jailed since October on allegations of attempted espionage. Nozette, who appeared in leg shackles in U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman's courtroom, is accused of offering sensitive intelligence information to undercover agents he thought were from Israel."

Earlier stories on Stu Nozette

NASA's chief technologist seeks to develop transformative programs, SJ Mercury News

"Ames has specialized in recent years in building closer ties with technology companies such as Google and Microsoft, and Braun said his office is exploring whether NASA can adapt another aspect of Silicon Valley, perhaps working with venture capitalists to develop some of those high-risk, high-reward technologies. "Venture capitalists, angel investors, they know how to take risks, and there is a lot that we can learn from them, and there is a lot that we can leverage," he said. Braun also said that NASA's future may not be about building bigger, more powerful rockets, but about building tiny satellites with the flexibility to accomplish a wide variety of missions in space -- somewhat like the 10-cubic centimeter "Cubesats" that were originally developed at Stanford and other universities."

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad... 23 years ago, Ars Technica

"To understand the thinking that led to the design of the Star Trek PADD, we spoke to some of the people involved in production of ST:TNG (as well as other Star Trek TV series and films), including Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler. All three were involved in various aspects of production art for Star Trek properties, including graphic design, set design, prop design, visual effects, art direction, and more. We also discussed their impressions of the iPad and how eerily similar it is to their vision of 24th century technology, how science fiction often influences technology, and what they believe is the future of human-machine interaction."

NASA/ISA MOU Signed

NASA and Israel Space Agency Sign Statement of Intent for Future Cooperation

"During a meeting Tuesday at NASA Headquarters in Washington, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Israel Space Agency Director General Zvi Kaplan signed a joint statement of intent to expand the agencies' cooperation in civil space activities. The signing followed a meeting between Bolden, Kaplan and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, Israel's minister of Science and Technology. It advanced discussions that began when Bolden visited Israel in January."

Today's EVA

Wednesday Space Station EVA

"Expedition 24 Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson spent Tuesday completing preparations for their second spacewalk Wednesday out of the Quest airlock to replace the failed ammonia coolant Pump Module on the S1 truss of the complex while the International Space Station Mission Management Team gave its final approval to proceed with the spacewalk."

Watch on NASA TV

Cold night crept by after crash killed Stevens, AP

"Former Sen. Ted Stevens lay dead in the mangled fuselage of the plane. A 13-year-old boy escaped death but his father died a few feet away. Medical workers spent the miserable night tending to survivors' broken bones amid a huge slick of fuel that coated a muddy mountainside."

List of passengers on ill-fated Stevens flight, Houston Chronicle

"Alaska State Troopers identified the victims as Stevens; pilot Theron "Terry" Smith, 62, of Eagle River; William "Bill" Phillips, Sr., no age or hometown given; Dana Tindall, 48, of Anchorage; and Corey Tindall, 16, of Anchorage. Four survivors were taken to Providence Hospital in Anchorage with "varying degrees of injuries." They include former NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his teenage son. The other survivors are William "Willy" Phillips, Jr., 13, no hometown given; and Jim Morhard, of Alexandria, Va."

Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens dies in plane crash, AP

"Four survivors were taken to Providence Hospital in Anchorage with "varying degrees of injuries," Alaska State Troopers said. Former NASA spokesman Glenn Mahone said O'Keefe, 54, and his son had broken bones and other injuries. Sean O'Keefe was listed in critical condition late Tuesday afternoon, while son Kevin was listed in serious condition and sleeping. "There's no way he can talk in his condition," Providence Hospital spokesman John Hogue said of the younger O'Keefe."

Keith's note: One of the participants in this evening's reception in Washington, DC after the NEO conference was a NASA field center director. Given that he recently had some foot surgery and is not supposed to travel, he used an avatar instead. The center director? Why ARC's Pete Worden, of course. His avatar of choice was an "Anybot" droid. I have seen this little wonder in action in NASA CTO Chris Kemp's office at NASA ARC and will be reporting on it in the near future. This droid is currently on loan by the manufacturer to NASA for evaluation.

This droid is very cool. You can see what is going on and talk to people and they can talk to you. It is totally web browser controlled and has navigation software and obstacle avoidance hardware (and LIDAR) on board. You can inhabit not only your avatar but also other ones in remote locations - just like Cylons downloading into new bodies. Actually it is more like "Serge" the butler droid in the new prequel series "Caprica". Do not be surprised if you see one roaming around NASA HQ in the near future.

Keith's 2:22 PM EDT update: According to a family source both Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin survived the plane crash - but they are both rather banged up. In an earlier post I stated that his son Jonathan was on the plane. He was not.

5 believed dead in crash of plane carrying Stevens, O'Keefe, Anchorage Daily News

"Rescuers from the Alaska Air National Guard were able to reach the crash site by helicopter this morning and are "currently providing medical support to the crash victims at the scene. ... Hayes said five people had reached the scene overnight to help the crash victims. It was unclear how they reached the site. A second U.S. government official in Washington said Tuesday that the National Guard in Alaska reported a private medical team was dropped near the crash site by commercial helicopter Tuesday morning. Four of nine people aboard the plane survived, the official said. Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said the agency has a plane flying over the crash scene, scouting it to make sure it's safe for helicopters to come into the area with pararescuers."

NASA NEO Workshop

Huge asteroid on possible collision course with Earth (172 years from now), Christian Science Monitor

"An international team, including NASA experts, say in new research that the space rock has a one-in-a-thousand chance of an impact. They may sound like high odds, but they are enough to mean the threat from the 560-meter (612-yard) wide asteroid will have to be taken seriously."

Will a Giant Asteroid Kill Us All in 2182?, Time

"The future isn't looking bright, (ahem....) but here's a doomsday theory even skeptics can't totally deny: a massive asteroid, named the 1999 RQ36 was discovered in 1999 and has a width of over 1,800 feet. Scientists have said that this asteroid's impact could have a similar effect to that which allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs. Great."

NASA Workshop to Discuss Exploring Near Earth Objects

"NASA will host an interactive workshop to identify objectives for exploration missions to near-Earth objects, or NEOs, on Aug. 10-11 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington."

Live webcast

As the Senate approved a measure to compromise various political plans that would impact the Space Coast region, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke paid his third visit to the area. This time it was to speak to KSC employees facing unemployment and to tour the space center's facilities. An Atlas V is scheduled to launch the first AEHF-1 satellite on August 12. That same day NASA will host an event that will display the upcoming STS-133 mission's payload. Back over at KSC, elements for the final two scheduled shuttle missions were coming into place.

EVA Plans Hit A Snag

Space Station EVA Unable To Remove Failed Ammonia Pump - More EVAs Ahead

"The next spacewalk to complete the removal of a failed ammonia pump module and installation and activation of a new pump module on the International Space Station's S1 Truss will take place no earlier than Wednesday. Expedition 24 Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson completed the first spacewalk to remove and replace the pump module at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday. As the result of an ammonia leak in the final line that needed to be disconnected from the failed pump module, the day's tasks were only partially completed."

Mini-RF Has Just Completed its First Month of Polar Mapping

"The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Mini-RF has just completed its first month of systematic polar mapping. These mosaics cover from 70 to the pole for both the north (top) and south (bottom) polar regions. The left-hand images show radar brightness whilst the right-hand color images also show the circular polarization ratio."

Webb Troubles Continue

Telescope promises new look at universe -- if NASA can get it into space, Orlando Sentinel

"When it works, and if it works, the James Webb Space Telescope could revolutionize astronomy by peering so deep into space that scientists soon could study the dawn of time. But construction of NASA's next big telescope has been so hurt by delays and cost overruns that even its staunchest champion in Congress reached a breaking point. In a letter dated June 29, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., all but ordered NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden to assemble a panel of outside experts to ensure the Webb project doesn't break its latest promise: a 2014 launch on a $5 billion budget. "We like the concept of the Webb, but I tell you, we're not in the overrun business," said Mikulski, who chairs the Senate subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget."

What's missing from the bold plans for human spaceflight, editorial, Washington Post

"But with the funding for NASA set around $19 billion and not likely to change, bold plans for humans in space are simply not feasible. Something must give. If the administration and Congress truly want human spaceflight, they need to fund it adequately. Piecemeal funding that dooms programs to failure is a waste of money -- especially when so many truly vital space functions, from the satellites that supply maps and communications to the telescopes that allow us to glimpse distant worlds, could benefit from such support."

NASA Seeks Data from Innovative Lunar Demonstrations

"NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to purchase specific data resulting from industry efforts to test and verify vehicle capabilities through demonstrations of small robotic landers. The purpose is to inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles.

The Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) BAA will result in multiple small firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million through 2012. Multiple awards are possible with a minimum government purchase of $10,000 for each selected contractor. A minimum order will be funded using FY10 dollars. Orders above the minimum would be competed among the successful offerors dependent on future budget availability. The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 8."

Keith's note: Word has it that Andrew Hunter is moving from ESMD to become the second Deputy CFO.

SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Vehicle Plan, Aviation Week

"The U.S. government should lead development of a nuclear thermal propulsion system for a future Mars mission and leave new heavy-lift launchers to commercial entities, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) says. Unveiling conceptual plans for a family of Falcon X and XX future heavy-lift vehicles at last week's AIAA Joint Propulsion conference here, SpaceX McGregor rocket development facility director Tom Markusic said, "Mars is the ultimate goal of SpaceX."

Keith's note: These are two presentations from the meeting by Tom Markusic: "SpaceX Propulsion" and "SpaceX overview" (Broken links fixed)

Frank Sietzen, Jr: "As the final flights of the Space Shuttle draw near, already some of us are awash in nostalgia for the winged beast, not withstanding its ruinous cost. For nearly a majority of Americans now living, there has never been an American spacecraft other than the Shuttle. Generation after generation have been born and grown to adulthood with the Shuttle missions flying, in many respects, transparently in the background, part of routine life. For millions all over the world, for some who love and for many who hate America, the Space Shuttle and its astronaut crews flying daring missions have become symbols of the American nation-an iconic self-image of who Americans like to think they still are: adventurers, risk takers, explorers. In times of triumph as well as moments of darkness."

Keith's 30 July note: In case you haven't noticed Charlie Bolden has been invisible for several weeks after the Muslim outrech media storm. No one in the media has interviewed him. He hasn't been quoted. He's just been, well, invisible. He surfaced yesterday at a stealth visit to GSFC. NASA only admitted this via Twitter a few minutes ago. No doubt he will disappear again. You can tell if he is arriving (or departing) stealthily if you hear this noise. This way he can avoid the media more easily.

Keith's 5 Aug note: Charlie Bolden emerges! Photo at a NAC meeting: "And here's the @NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presenting award to NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Chair Ken Ford"

Senate Approves Bill Championed by Senator Hutchison to Preserve America's Human Spaceflight Capabilities

"The Senate today approved bipartisan legislation championed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, to safeguard America's human spaceflight capabilities while balancing commercial space investment with a robust mission for NASA. The bill is also supported by Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.)."

Bill challenges NASA to evolve, mind budget, Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Orlando Sentinel

"Still, our legislation would reduce the time we would have to depend on Russia for access to the space station by extending the shuttle for another year. It would thus keep in place much of the talent at the Kennedy and Johnson space centers. Our legislation would push NASA's development of a new heavy-lift rocket forward, with the goal to fly by 2016. And it would make a significantly higher investment in commercial space ventures, specifically by accelerating development of both commercial cargo and crew carriers. Our congressional initiative also would keep the space station and its immense research opportunities going through at least 2020."

Desert RATS 2010: NASA and Challenger Center Hardware Interface Tests (photos)

"Two power interface tests were conducted today at NASA JSC between the GSW7000 solar/wind generator system and NASA's Habitat Development Unit (HDU) and Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV). The SEV and the HDU, along with the GSW7000 will all participate in the Desert RATS 2010 activities later this month and into September."

NASA Desert RATS 2010: Challenger Center Hardware Arrives at JSC (photos), earlier post

Keith's note: GSFC PAO has taken to bragging a bit. This little gem is posted at the bottom of some photo captions on their Flickr account: "NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe."

Is this accurate? I'm not exactly certain that it is. The words they use are not exactly defined i.e. "organization". Perhaps GSFC PAO could provide the statistics upon which they make this claim.

NASA Moves Space Station Repair Spacewalk To Saturday

"The first of two spacewalks by NASA astronauts to replace a failed ammonia pump on the International Space Station has been moved to Saturday, Aug. 7. A second spacewalk is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 11, to complete the repairs. Teams of flight controllers, engineers, and spacewalk experts have made significant progress in preparing for the first spacewalk, but need an additional day to get ready. The additional time allows for final procedures to be sent late Thursday to the station, giving the crew a full day to review the plans developed by Mission Control. Managers also moved the second spacewalk to Wednesday to give the crew more time to rest and prepare."

"[The NASA system that we reviewed for this audit] is a core system used to process, store, and distribute vital Agency intellectual property, such as [. . .], and crucial program and project information. [The reviewed system] is categorized as a "high-impact system" under Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Publication 199, "Standards for Security Categorization of Federal Information and Information Systems," February 2004. As such, a compromise of security controls1 for a high-impact system could result in severe adverse impact, leading to degradation in or loss of NASA's mission capability, harm to individuals, or life-threatening injuries. In October 20[XX], NASA awarded a 4-year contract to [a contractor] for, among other things, operation of [the reviewed system]."

Full report

Keith's note: I can certainly understand redacting information that would compromise national security. But this report is often incomprehensible due to the huge number of redactions. Simply redacting the entire report would have made more sense. Plus, if there really was a concern about keeping the contractor/system from being identified, why give hints as to when the contract being discussed was awarded? If I really wanted to take the time I could go back and look at NASA press releases from the month of October between 2000 and 2009 and search back through one of more easily accessible websites for NASA contract awards as well.

Keith's note: Word has it that Mark Geyer has decided to cut the Constellation Flight Test Office budget by 75%. This is the same group that recently completed the very successful Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) launch. The remaining budget will only be enough to mothball equipment and facilities. The majority of the team is located at DFRC but the program is managed at JSC.

Secretary Of Commerce Meets With NASA Workers, WFTV

"The U.S. Secretary of Commerce met with soon-to-be laid off employees Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center before he had to report to President Obama. The meeting is about finding the best way to spend $40 million meant to help laid off shuttle employees. The money won't be enough to help all the workers who will lose their jobs. The Secretary of Commerce wouldn't say exactly how he is going to propose using the money, but he hinted it could be used as business incubators."

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke tours KSC labs, pledges support, Florida Today

"Locke suggested the money would likely strive to attract or expand technology and alternative energy businesses, promote research and partnerships with higher education institutions, and finance ideas proposed by local economic development leaders."

NASA Desert RATS 2010: Challenger Center Hardware Arrives at JSC

"As was the case in 2009, Green Trail Energy has partnered with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education to provide logistical and technical support for Education and Public Outreach to be done at NASA's annual Desert RATS activity. The GSW7000, whose utilization is being donated to this activity by Green Trail Energy, can provide 2.4 KW of wind power and 4.4 KW of solar power. With its extendable 110 foot tower, it can also serve as a cell phone node and provide WiFi and WiMAX connectivity. This unit can be deployed by one person and be operational 30 minutes after arrival at a remote location. The entire unit compacts into the volume of a standard shipping container and can be pulled by a 1 ton pick up truck."

CAPE CANVERAL - The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF-1) atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on Aug. 12. The launch window will open at 7:13 a.m. it will close about 20 minutes later at 7:34 a.m. EDT. The launch is scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC 41).

Why NASA's New Video Game Completely Misses the Point, Popular Mechanics

"Which makes Moonbase Alpha all the more unfortunate. The game serves as an epitaph for what appears to be NASA's lost decade. The agency failed to stay on time or on budget throughout the life of the Constellation program, its highest and most expensive priority. But while manned spaceflight foundered, unmanned exploration thrived. The modern-day equivalent of Aldrin and Armstrong are Spirit and Opportunity, robotic vehicles that survived years longer than expected on the surface of Mars. The rovers uncovered signs of water, and paved the way for the discovery of actual Martian ice by other intrepid bots."

Keith's note: I got an email from an editor at Popular Mechanics asking me to consider posting a link to this article on NASA Watch. I read the article and responded that I thought that the author had used the excuse of reviewing a video game as an opportunity to just dump on NASA, Obama's space policy, etc. Indeed, the bulk of the article seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the video game it purports to review. Rather it goes on at length about how bad NASA has been. The editor tried again and again to convince me that I was wrong, but in re-reading the article I am now firmly of the opinion I originally voiced.

To be honest I have not played the game since it is not functional on Macs without running windows. So I have no idea if it is as "excruciatingly boring" as the reviewer claims it to be. That said, NASA aimed this game at an audience: students. This review makes no mention as to whether the reviewer is a student or if any students were asked to review the game and provide feedback for inclusion in this "review". So if there is a mismatch between reviewer and intended audience one would expect that the review is inherently flawed, yes?

If Popular Mechanics wants to dump on NASA, by all means, have at it. But trying to cloak political commentary under the guise of a game review is rather misleading to prospective readers.

New NASA Online Game Snubs Macs And Other Operating Systems, earlier post

Where Do We Go From Here?

As Space Priorities Shift, Orbiting Station Takes On a Central Role, NY Times

"NASA's Moon program, known as Constellation, has been hamstrung. Although pieces of it could survive in bills under consideration in Congress, it remains unclear what rockets NASA is to build, what their destinations would be and how long it would take to get there. Without the space station, NASA's financing of commercial rockets to take crew and cargo there would almost certainly evaporate. And without government financing, companies would be unlikely to invest billions of dollars to pursue a speculative market."

More Detail Sought On Commercial Crew Plan, Aviation Week

"Members of the panel's commercial space subcommittee expressed dissatisfaction with some of the information they have received from NASA managers on the agency's approach to what is known as commercial crew. Panel members complained that the agency has not been clear on just how it would use commercial vehicles to deliver astronauts to the ISS, which the panel found would make it difficult for industry to set up the kind of public-private partnerships NASA seeks. The NAC subcommittee wants a better strategy for spending the $6 billion requested for commercial crew transportation over the next five years. "We strongly feel that you need to go do this, because what we're hearing from you is all over the map," said Bret Alexander, who as chairman of the commercial space panel will ask the full NAC to endorse his subcommittee's position at the JPL meeting."

Kepler Science Status: Statement to Ames Center Director

"Recently there have been reports to the effect that Kepler has discovered many Earth-like planets. This is not the case. Analysis of the current Kepler data does not support the assertion that Kepler has found any Earth-like planets. Kepler is producing excellent results and is on a path to achieving all its mission requirements and actually determining the frequency of Earth-size planets, especially in habitable zones. We will announce our results when they become available and are confirmed."

Message to NASA Civil Service and Contractor Employees: Social Networking Tools and Web 2.0 - Appropriate Use of Web Technologies

"The use of Web 2.0 tools can significantly enhance NASA's ability to communicate with employees and the public about its mission. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to NASA civil service and contractor employees regarding the use of these Web technologies to facilitate collaboration and information sharing within NASA. These Web technologies include tools such as wikis, blogs, mash ups, web feeds (i.e., Really Simple Syndication and Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), and forums, which are often collectively referred to as Web 2.0.

NASA Headquarters and the NASA centers are encouraged to use Web 2.0 tools. Employees implementing Web 2.0 technologies or integrating these tools into the NASA environment are responsible for posting and using content in accordance with applicable ethics, information assurance (IA) and privacy laws, regulations, and NASA policies. They also must adhere to IA, records management and privacy policy guidance. Policy regarding the appropriate use (both personal and professional) of government equipment with regards to Web 2.0 can be found in NPD 2540.1.

Using social media in a professional capacity (e.g., creating a Twitter feed for a mission) is an example of an official NASA communication. The informality and enforced brevity of such media notwithstanding, NASA personnel using Web 2.0 tools are representing the agency, and their communications must be professional and factually accurate."

Keith's note: An example of the implications of this policy: those of you who have Twitter accounts that you use to relay information about NASA can no longer block people from following you. You need to be open and transparent about the information you relay as a NASA employee (civil servant and contractor). If you cannot refrain from Twittering about both personal and work-related stuff then a remarkably simple solution is to get another Twitter account for your personal use.

Astrium signs development contract with Vietnam for an Earth observation satellite - VNREDSat-1

"Astrium has signed a contract worth 055.2 million with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) for the development, manufacture and launch of an Earth observation optical satellite system. This follows on from last November's intergovernmental agreement on space co-operation between France and Vietnam, in which the French government affirmed its commitment to building a closer partnership with Vietnam in the domain of science and technology."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 2 August 2010

"Time again for Skvortsov & Yurchikhin for recharging the Motorola Iridium-9505A satellite phones located in Soyuz TMA-18/22S (at MRM2) & Soyuz TMA-19/23S (docked at MRM1), a monthly routine job and Fyodor's 2nd, Sasha's 4th. [After retrieving the phones from their location in the spacecraft Descent Modules (BO), the crewmembers initiated the recharge of the lithium-ion batteries, monitoring the process every 10-15 minutes as it took place. Upon completion, the phones were returned inside their SSSP Iridium kits and stowed back in the BO's ODF (operational data files) container. The satphone accompanies returning ISS crews on Soyuz reentry & landing for contingency communications with SAR (Search-and-Rescue) personnel after touchdown (e.g., after an "undershoot" ballistic reentry, as happened during the 15S return)."

Keith's note: I hope these phones work better on the steppes of Kazakhstan than they did at Everest Base Camp (lots of big mountains in your face). Scott Parazynski and I used to have phone conversations with our families back home via our Iridium phone (that I smuggled into Nepal since no one knew how to give me a formal permit) albeit in 2 minute increments interspersed with 5 minute intervals of silence while another satellite popped into (and then out of) view. That said, Scott and the Singing Sherpas did manage to sing Happy Birthday to Mike Barratt on the ISS via an Iridium phone at 21,500 feet on Mt. Everest.

Confusion Over Kepler's 'Earth-Like' Planets Explained, Science

"NASA's mini fiasco in public communication last week was a scientist's attempt at public outreach gone awry. Kepler mission co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov of Harvard University, speaking at the popular TED talks, tried to convey the excitement of hunting for Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars. But his sloppy terminology and careless graphics, says Kepler Principal Investigator William Borucki, led to headlines that Kepler had just discovered hundreds of Earth-like planets. That's not true, says Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. "I'm disappointed one of our members confused people."

Rumors in Astrophysics Spread at Light Speed, NY Times

"Last week, Dr. Sasselov was busy eating his words. In a series of messages posted on the Kepler Web site Dr. Sasselov acknowledged that should have said "Earth-sized," meaning a rocky body less than three times the diameter of our own planet, rather than "Earthlike," with its connotations of oxygenated vistas of blue and green. He was speaking in geophysics jargon, he explained."

Report: Fairness and Contracting Integrity in NASA's Space Communications Networks Services Competition

"Committee staff received several allegations about contract misconduct by the management and acquisitions staff of the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). These all related to large support contracts managed out of the Center. Many of the allegations were tied to the current Space Communications Networks Services (SCNS) contract competition. After a thorough review of the materials provided to the Committee by NASA and others and many interviews by Committee staff of both current and former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employees, contractor employees involved in the SCNS competition from ITT, Honeywell and outside consulting firms, and discussions with contract law specialists at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service, we believe that staff at GSFC have engaged in conduct that is inconsistent with either the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) or the agencys own rules. The result is that the SCNS competition has been skewed in such a fashion that, at a minimum, creates the appearance of the agency favoring one bidder over another."

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 1 August 2010

"Region 1092 (N13E21) produced a long-duration C3/Sf flare at 01/0826Z. The flare was associated with a Type IV radio sweep, an 890 sfu Tenflare, and an Earth-directed full-halo coronal mass ejection (CME). A disappearing filament (DSF) occurred during 01/0750 - 0811Z, centered near N37W32 and time coincident with the C3 flare. The DSF was associated with an Earth-directed partial-halo CME."

SDO video

Centenarians Participate in Challenger Learning Center Mission

"If you have ever seen a photo of someone participating in a simulated space mission at a Challenger Learning Center, odds are it is someone around 10 years old. Recently, however, a group of women, some of them ten times that age, pushed that participant envelope to new heights. One of the women is Gussie Levine. Gussie clearly remembers her 59th birthday. On that day humankind made its "giant leap" as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. This year, less than a week after celebrating her 100th birthday, Gussie followed in their footsteps and took a simulated journey to the Moon at the Town of Ramapo Challenger Center in Rockland County, NY."

Wayne Hale's New Job

N. Wayne Hale, Jr. Joins Special Aerospace Services

"Special Aerospace Services (SAS) of Boulder, Colorado, is pleased to announce that N. Wayne Hale, Jr. has joined SAS as Director of Human Spaceflight Programs. Mr. Hale brings comprehensive experience in the field of human spaceflight following a career of more than 30 years with NASA. As one of his many instrumental assignments at NASA, Mr. Hale served as Program Manager for NASA's Space Shuttle Program during the critical period following the Columbia accident, where his leadership significantly contributed to the return of the space shuttle to flight operations. Prior to that, Mr. Hale served as a Space Shuttle Flight Director for 40 missions during 15 years. Most recently Mr. Hale served as NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Strategic Partnerships in Space Operations."

Did Kepler Astronomer Realy Jump The Gun?, Ray Villard, Discovery News

"Science reporters were primed for this "shoot-ready-aim" response because they are growing impatient with one of NASA's most exciting and inspiring space observatory missions."

Keith's note: Gee Ray, I suppose you have data to back up this wacky claim. Could it be that the media reacted to what Sasselov actually said?

"The semantics over "Earth-like" and "Earth-sized" got confused in stories. Let's set the record straight. Kepler will never find an Earth-like planet. All Kepler is seeing is the shadows of planets as they pass in front of their star (transits). .... Once on the Internet, Sasselov's lecture was translated by reporters. Important ideas got misinterpreted in the translation. This was due in part to the fact that no press conference or substantive press release accompanied the June publication of some of the data."

Keith's note: These are after the fact attempts at spinning things on your part, Ray. Sasselov said "Earth-like". Its on his charts as well. So if these worlds are not "Earth-like" then it is the fault of the media and the general public for not knowing that "Earth-like" does not really mean "Earth-like"? If so, then why did Sasselov say "Earth-like" in the first place? As for your suggestion that media "translated" his comments (anyone can watch the video by the way) - they didn't translate them at all. Sasselov used the words "Earth-like" - and so did the media.

At no point in this article (or at the link to his other articles) does Ray Villard bother to mention that he works at the Space Telescope Science Institute as News Chief (villard@stsci.edu). STSCI operates NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and funds for Villard's salary come from ... NASA.

Cape Canaveral reverberated with the effects of politics this week. One of the Republican candidates for Florida governor stumped around the area as space contractor giant United Space Alliance (USA) laid off another 900 employees.

This however did not dissuade Kennedy Space Center Director from predicting a bright future for the space center.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 1 August 2010 (early edition)

"After losing one cooling system pump (of two), ISS is currently stable, although thermally on single string (no redundancy). Last night (at 7:48pm EDT) RPC1 (Remote Power Controller 1) in RPCM (RPC Module) S11A_D tripped open, powering off the Loop A ammonia pump of the S1 ETCS (External Thermal Control System), resulting in the loss of one half of the cooling to ISS. This required a number of powerdowns (i.e., turning off selected systems for thermal protection), including redundant power to four CQs (Crew Quarters), three in Node-2, one in Kibo JPM, with both fans in each CQ remaining functional but zero fault-tolerant (crew is still Go for CQ use). Due to loss of heater power, MBS (Mobile Base System), SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System), and SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) are currently zero fault-tolerant."

International Space Station in Stable Configuration After Loss of Cooling Loop

"The flight control and management teams today approved a preliminary plan to replace a planned spacewalk Thursday by Expedition 24 crewmembers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson with at least two spacewalks to swap out the failed Pump Module that resides on the station's S1 truss. There are two spare Pump Modules on stowage platforms on the station's truss. The replacement module under consideration for replacement resides on External Stowage Platform 2, which is adjacent to the Quest airlock. The crew is being informed that replanning for alternate spacewalk activity is underway."

Keith's note: Of course, YouTube has the solution to this problem ...


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