October 2010 Archives

Ancient Mars Looks Cozy

Silica on Mars Volcano Tells of Wet and Cozy Past

"Light-colored mounds of a mineral deposited on a volcanic cone more than three billion years ago may preserve evidence of one of the most recent habitable microenvironments on Mars. Observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter enabled researchers to identify the mineral as hydrated silica and to see its volcanic context. The mounds' composition and their location on the flanks of a volcanic cone provide the best evidence yet found on Mars for an intact deposit from a hydrothermal environment -- a steam fumarole, or hot spring. Such environments may have provided habitats for some of Earth's earliest life forms."

Shuttle Countdown Begins Today for a Targeted Wednesday Afternoon Launch, SpaceRef

Steve Payne said "we completed early this morning our flight pressurization of our on-orbit control systems tanks and main propulsion tanks, and all went well. That is behind us now. We resolved our remaining issues with our nitrogen quick disconnect poppet valve, turns out it was a ground support equipment valve upstream that was providing too much pressure and not allowing the poppet to close, we isolated that with another valve upstream of that and we were able to close the poppet and the leak is now behind us, so those issues are now resolved."

Trick or Treat On Orbit

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, Expedition 25 flight engineer, is pictured with a bag of candy floating freely in the Unity node of the International Space Station. high res (1.4 M) low res (95 K)

Space Shuttle Discovery now set for Wednesday Launch, SpaceRef

"After meeting this morning to discuss the status of repairs to replace both shuttle and ground side couplings, NASA Managers decided to delay the launch another 24 hours to allow engineers to complete testing and to allow for repressurization of helium tanks. "

China to launch manned space lab around 2020: report, Reuters

"China said on Wednesday it would launch a space lab to be manned for long stretches within about 10 years, a move it believes would bring it closer to the United States and Russia as powers capable of reaching the moon. The official Xinhua news agency, quoting an unidentified space official, said a trial space lab would be launched before 2016 to test equipment and techniques. But it was not clear if that lab would be manned for long periods."

NASA chief visits China manned space launch site, AP

"The visit succeeded in boosting understanding between the sides about their programs and the "importance of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of any future interaction between our two nations in the area of human spaceflight," Bolden was quoted as saying. No specific proposals were discussed during the visit, he said."

Keith's update: Hmm ... Bolden goes to China and doesn't discuss anything of importance. Then a few days after he gets home China announces that it is going to build its own space station.

US drifting from China in space, Asia Times Online

"In fact, Bolden and other NASA personnel must be very careful about what they say to Chinese space officials. Any discussion of specific projects involving joint cooperation on human space flight activities in particular is tantamount to a powder keg in Washington, DC. This delicate state of affairs has now taken on added meaning given China's announcement in late October that its own manned space station project has commenced with a possible completion date of 2020."

Orbital Paths of U.S., China Set to Diverge, Wall Street Journal

"Gen. Charles Bolden became the first head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to tour China's highly sensitive manned space flight facilities during his visit last week--access that both sides might have portrayed as a major breakthrough in a different climate. China then underlined the scale of its manned space program when it announced Wednesday that it planned to launch the first part of a manned space station by 2016, and to complete a "relatively large" laboratory by around 2020."

China is on path to 'militarization of space', Christian Science Monitor

"Meanwhile, some have pointed out that China's moonshot, like all space programs, has valuable potential military offshoots. China's space program is controlled by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is steadily gaining experience in remote communication and measurement, missile technology, and antisatellite warfare through missions like Chang'e 2."

China piecing together space station, Nature

"The Tiangong-2 space laboratory, which will be used for scientific experiments and to test living conditions, will be launched by 2016. The Tiangong-3 core cabin unit, which will extend the experimental facilities, will complete the ensemble in 2020. What this means for recent negotiations concerning China's participation in the International Space Station were not clear. "

China kicks off manned space station program, Xinhua

"China planned to launch two unmanned space modules, Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8, in 2011, which were expected to accomplish the country's first space docking and were regarded as an essential step toward building a space station. Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace, would eventually be transformed into a manned space laboratory after experimental dockings with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, with the last two carrying two or three astronauts each."

Nile Delta at Night As Seen From Orbit

"From 220 miles above Earth, one of the Expedition 25 crew members on the International Space Station took this night time photo featuring the bright lights of Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt on the Mediterranean coast. The Nile River and its delta stand out clearly as well. On the horizon, the airglow of the atmosphere is seen across the Mediterranean. The Sinai Peninsula, at right, is outlined with lights highlighting the Gulf of Suez and Gulf of Aqaba."

NASA Solicitation: Aircraft Maintenacne Operational Support and Microgravty Services Market Research Questionnaire

"Johnson Space Center's (JSC) Flight Crew Operation Directorate (FCOD) anticipates procuring services under an Aircraft Maintenance and Operational Support (AMOS) and/or Microgravity Services (MS) contract. As part of the Government's continuous information exchange with industry while formulating the acquisition strategy for the AMOS and/or MS services requirement, the Government requests your assistance as it seeks to arrive at the most suitable approach for acquiring AMOS and/or MS services. In order for NASA to make this determination, the Government requests information in order to gain knowledge from potential offerors."

NASA Solicitation: Aircraft Maintenacne Operational Support and Microgravty Services Market Research Questionnaire, earlier post

STS-133 Launch Delayed

Keith's note: NASA has delayed space shuttle Discovery's launch countdown by a day to repair air leaks in the right hand Orbital Maneuvering System Pod. The earliest launch attempt will be on 2 November. There will be a press conference today at 10:00 am EDT to discuss this issue.

- Watch NASA TV
- Updates

Update from Marc at KSC: Space Shuttle Discovery Leak Delays Launch to Tuesday, November 2, SpaceRef

"NASA briefed the media this morning on the helium and nitrogen leaks found last night on the space shuttle Discovery's right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System pod. NASA is confident the repairs will be successful allowing for a launch next Tuesday."

Budget cuts may doom extra shuttle launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Just weeks after President Barack Obama signed into law a new blueprint for NASA -- one that was supposed to add another space shuttle launch next year -- the compromise is in danger of coming undone by a lack of money. But with gains likely on Election Day, congressional Republicans are expected to have the muscle to block increases in the federal budget -- including a $300 million uptick for NASA -- during this year's lame duck session."

Obama welcomes Chilean mine rescue heroes

"[President Obama will] meet with some of the Americans involved in the rescue of 33 miners earlier this month. The rescuers were recruited from NASA and several U.S. businesses."

Keith's 9:00 am EDT note: Hmm ... NASA people at the White House. Curiously there is no mention whatsoever at NASA.gov. Nothing on NASA TV. No media advisory, no Q&A opportunity - nothing.

President Obama and NASA Administrator Bolden Recognize Employees for Roles in Chilean Miner Rescue

"President Barack Obama welcomed NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and a NASA team that assisted trapped Chilean miners to the Oval Office on Thursday for a ceremony that recognized Americans involved in the rescue."

Keith's update: This release only went out at 5:30 pm EDT - after the event. Luckily for Mr. Bolden, the event was held inside the White House security perimeter - and there were no reporters there to ask him questions.

NASA Survey Suggests Earth-Sized Planets Are Common

"Nearly one in four stars similar to the sun may host planets as small as Earth, according to a new study funded by NASA and the University of California. The study is the most extensive and sensitive planetary census of its kind. Astronomers used the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii for five years to search 166 sun-like stars near our solar system for planets of various sizes, ranging from three to 1,000 times the mass of Earth. All of the planets in the study orbit close to their stars. The results show more small planets than large ones, indicating small planets are more prevalent in our Milky Way galaxy."

RTGs and Congress

AAS email: Plutonium 238 Production: An Ongoing Issue for Washington

"It is not often that a $30M issue in an appropriations bill gets a lot of attention. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear Senate staff state that they have $100M round off errors, but recent language in Congressional legislation appropriating funds of this magnitude can have a direct, negative impact on the long-term success of US planetary science and, potentially, creative approaches to power generation for future astrophysics missions, earth observation missions and other research activities in space."

Auctioning Off NASA Patents

NASA Goddard to Auction off Patents for Automated Software Code Generation

"NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is auctioning an exclusive license to five patents for automated software development on November 11, 2010. The patents encompass a new method for automatically creating software code which is verifiably equivalent to user requirements specified in natural language, graphic formats, or other formats with a known semantic structure. "Other approaches have claimed this, but this is the first time that the relationship is fully proven mathematically."

Surface Water Found On Mars?

NASA's Mars Rover Spirit Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water

"The ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis. Researchers took advantage of Spirit's months at Troy last year to examine in great detail soil layers the wheels had exposed, and also neighboring surfaces. Spirit made 13 inches of progress in its last 10 backward drives before energy levels fell too low for further driving in February. Those drives exposed a new area of soil for possible examination if Spirit does awaken and its robotic arm is still usable."

Stacked Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters On the Move at KSC, Ken Kremer

"The twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB's) that will power Shuttle Endeavour for her final flight to orbit in February took a rare road trip outside the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center today, Wednesday, October 27. I witnessed the beautiful move first hand from just a few hundred feet away at the outskirts of the VAB. The scene was made even more remarkable since it was conducted adjacent to the Ares 1 Mobile Launcher built for NASA's now cancelled Project Constellation Return to the Moon program."

Chinese Computer Trumps US One as World's Fastest, CNBC

"A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower. The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings."

Chinese Supercomputer Likely to Prompt Unease in U.S., WS Journal

"But Mr. Dongarra and other researchers said the machine should nevertheless serve as a wake-up call that China is threatening to take the lead in scientific computing--akin to a machine from Japan that took the No. 1 position early in the past decade and triggered increased U.S. investment in the field."

Is NASA Covering Up the 100-Year Starship?, Fox News

"NASA official may have made a 35-million-mile slip of the tongue. The director of NASA's Ames Research Center in California casually let slip mention of the 100-Year Starship recently, a new program funded by the super-secret government agency, DARPA."

Keith's Note: Once again Fox attempts to understand space exploration but gets on the train to crazy town instead. "Super secret"? Then why are people opely talking about this? DUH.

Kepler Observes Starquakes

NASA'S Kepler Spacecraft Takes Pulse Of Distant Stars

"An international cadre of scientists that used data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft announced Tuesday the detection of stellar oscillations, or "starquakes," that yield new insights about the size, age and evolution of stars. The results were presented at a news conference at Aarhus University in Denmark by scientists representing the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium (KASC). The team studied thousands of stars observed by Kepler, releasing what amounts to a roster of some of humanity's most well-characterized stars."

STS-133 Launch Date Set

NASA Sets Launch Date for Space Shuttle Discovery Mission

"Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to begin an 11-day mission to the International Space Station with a launch at 4:40 p.m. EDT on Monday, Nov. 1, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-133 mission is Discovery's final scheduled flight."

NASA Administrator Statement On China Visit

"Although my visit did not include consideration of any specific proposals for future cooperation, I believe that my delegation's visit to China increased mutual understanding on the issue of human spaceflight and space exploration, which can form the basis for further dialogue and cooperation in a manner that is consistent with the national interests of both of our countries."

U.S.-China Joint Statement

"The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit. Both sides welcome reciprocal visits of the NASA Administrator and the appropriate Chinese counterpart in 2010."

Keith's note: That's it? No photos of what he saw, trip itineraries, speech transcripts, presentations? What about the taxpayer-funded stops in Viet Nam and Indonesia? No mention at all? Of course it would be too much to expect Bolden to have a Q&A with the media on this trip. Then again, even if he wanted to, the White House won't let him. Curiously, Lori Garver readily and comfortably interacts with the media, real people on the National Mall at education events ...

Keith's update: According to NASA PAO Charlie Bolden did not go to Viet Nam and Indonesia - as had been his original plan. Also, Bolden was walking around the National Mall last weekend but managed to avoid any media who might have been present.

NASA Seeks More Proposals On Commercial Crew Development

"Multiple awards are expected to be announced by March 2011 for terms of up to 14 months. Approximately $200 million total is expected to be available for awards under this announcement, but funding is dependent on the 2011 fiscal year appropriations from Congress. The deadline for submitting proposals is Dec. 13."

NASA Changes Widespread, Garver Says, Aviation Week

"Garver acknowledged the rancor and concern triggered by the Obama administration's decision to switch to a more commercial approach for flying crews to and from the station. "In order to be expected to loosen our grip on transporting our precious astronauts, our national treasures, to and from space, we need to assure ourselves -- and the nation -- that there are capable companies ready to carry that torch forward," she says. Part of the resistance to Obama's plan to procure launch services for astronauts rather than have NASA operate the transportation system itself stems from uncertainty about what the civil government space program would do next, Garver says. "We need to do a better job of planning and articulating what we will do."

NASA Human Exploration Framework Team Industry Affordability Meetings

"A few members of HEFT and its designees (Exploration Systems and/or Space Operations Mission Directorate employees) will meet with company representatives individually on October 21 and Nov. 3-5, 2010 and listen to the company inputs. Industry representatives are encouraged to bring hard-copy materials of their input to accompany their discussion/briefing. We will meet with as many companies as possible during the stated timeframe. The meeting duration is anticipated to be approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour. We will schedule meetings as requests are received in the order of receipt."

Google Lunar X PRIZE Update, William Pomerantz for SpaceRef

"The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. After helping our colleagues celebrate the awarding of the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, we hit the road to attend the 61st International Astronautical Congress in Prague, and then to host the 4th annual Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Summit on the Isle of Man. With all of the recent activity, and with the competition just having celebrated its third "birthday," now seems like a good time for an update."

Nye takes Armstrong to the moon, Politico

"In April, Armstrong and Apollo commanders Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan called Obama's effort to scrap plans to return manned rockets to the moon "devastating."Nye told POLITICO the astronauts were ignoring longer-term goals of exploring other parts of space. "They're solar systemic heroes, but they have not had their eye on the ball the last couple of decades," Nye said in a stop by POLITICO's newsroom. He said the "deep misconception" that Obama wants to cut back manned flights "started with astronauts of a certain age who had not been paying attention to what's going on."

Keith's note: While I disagree with Armstrong and Lovell's specific stance vis a vis the Obama space policy as mentioned in recent Congressional hearings, I am not sure where Bill Nye The Science Guy comes off suggesting that Armstrong and Lovell have "not had their eye on the ball the last couple of decades". Just how would Nye know this? From listening to one Congressional hearing? You'd think that Nye would do a little more research before making such ignorant comments. Armstrong has been a member of the NASA Advisory Council for years and Lovell manages to keep his hand in things - more so, I imagine, than 99% of the populace does. Indeed, I'd venture that they have more of working background on such things than a jittery TV host of a children's program (or a know-it-all blogger like me) would have.

As for the comments regarding "astronauts of a certain age", such slams against senior citizens are simply uncalled for. I cannot fathom how the Planetary Society would endorse such comments by its Executive Director.

This has nothing to do with being out of touch or age, Bill. Rather, Armstrong and Lovell (and Cernan and others) have a different point of view - and they are not alone in holding those views. So stop being a jerk and making comments about their age and listen to these guys - like I imagine you listen to Rusty Schweickart and Buzz Aldrin who are also "astronauts of a certain age". You might learn something from all of them. When they are gone you are going to wish that they were still around to offer advice.

Bill Nye Is A Little Confused, earlier post

Keith's note: According to an anonymous source familiar with operations at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) "Apparently, an Adult team was allowed to browse through the storage warehouse and get their hands on anything they could find. I have attached some pictures, censoring the faces of the campers and counselor. Note that in pic "003" [Soyuz suit], the uncensored face is the son of Curator."

Previous stories about USSRC and its lack of care for artifacts.

Photos below

The Moon Has Much To Offer

Strange Lunar Brew, Paul Spudis

"Just after it has been relegated to a "been there, done that" status, the Moon again shows us we have a lot to learn about its history, physical state and the potential value of its resources. We must take the initiative to learn more as the Moon is crucial in developing and advancing a sustainable space faring infrastructure."

Virgin Galactic eyes NASA commercial space work, Reuters

"Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of billionaire Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group VA.L, plans to compete in the upcoming race to develop orbital space vehicles, Branson said on Friday. NASA plans to issue a solicitation as early as Monday for a follow-up to its $50 million Commercial Crew Development program, (for developing commercial crew spaceflight concepts), as part of a broader revamping of the U.S. space program under President Barack Obama. The program is funding work by five companies -- Sierra Nevada Corp, Boeing Co (BA.N), United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Paragon Space Development -- as part of Obama's bid to bolster support for private space companies."

Spaceport Runway Dedication Includes Sir Richard Branson and NM Governor Richardson

"Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, said, "With the recent signing of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 by President Obama, it is clear that our nation's future space efforts will be working even more closely than with the growing commercial space transportation industry," She added, "Innovative approaches that foster this new commercial industry will bring more competition and opportunities that will lower the costs of spaceflight and payload services for America's aerospace programs, and introduce new human space transportation systems."

NASA Releases Report About Australia Balloon Mishap

"A NASA panel that investigated the unsuccessful April 28 launch of a scientific balloon from Alice Springs, Australia, has released its report. The board was led by Michael L. Weiss of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The board's report listed 25 proximate, intermediate and root causes related to insufficient risk analysis, contingency planning, personnel training, technical knowledge, government oversight and public safety accommodations."

Foursquare On-Orbit

Astronaut Doug Wheelock Checks In With Foursquare From International Space Station

"NASA astronaut and International Space Station Commander Doug Wheelock became the first person to "check in" from space Friday using the mobile social networking application Foursquare. Wheelock's check in to the space station launches a partnership between NASA and Foursquare to connect its users to the space agency, enabling them to explore the universe and discover Earth. The partnership also features a customized section of the Foursquare website for NASA, where the agency will provide official tips and information about the nation's space program in locations throughout the United States."

Sean O'Keefe Recounts Surviving Alaskan Crash, AOL

"The degree of separation between survival and not was a fraction of what you'd imagine," said O'Keefe, who still wears a brace for his fractured neck and a leg guard for his severely broken ankle. He also suffered a dislocated hip and broken ribs. "It could have been anybody. The randomness of this whole experience was such that any doubt you have about divine intervention goes away," said O'Keefe, 54, who returned to work this week at the Washington office of a European aerospace firm."

Stevens Plane Crash Survivor Recounts Experience, AP

"He said he was greatly relieved that his 19-year-old son, Kevin O'Keefe, survived. "I can't even imagine surviving from this experience if he were not OK," he said."

He survived plane crash that killed Ted Stevens

"Former NASA Administrator and Secretary of the Navy Sean O'Keefe was dazed and confused when he regained consciousness, unaware for a moment that the single-engine DeHavilland DHC-3T he and eight others had been flying en route to a remote Alaskan fishing camp had just crashed into the side of a mountain."

China's space program: phantom menace or new hope?, GlobalTimes.cn

"It's the silly season in the US. So it's no surprise, just a disappointment, that some of the US legislators, especially the Republicans set to retake Congress, are again sharpening their sword and sticking it to China. I'm not talking about exchange rates, jobs, the environment or human rights, but something more deadly serious: the future of the final frontier. It's Star Wars season in Washington and the US empire is striking back. This silliness is only eclipsed by the stupidity of timing the visit this week to China of former astronaut and now National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) head, Charlie Bolden so close to election day. The visit was reportedly agreed by Chinese Presidents Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama when they met last November, but I can't believe that the visit had to be scheduled at a time that provides a clear opportunity for China-bashers in the US."

Three-legged space race for China and US?, Shangaiist

"That being said, space analyst, Morris Jones comments that nothing too exciting is going to be happening at these meetings. "Bolden is there basically just to shake a few hands. It's the first step in a very long process to get co-operation between the US and China in space flight... [r]elations between the US and China are very bad at the moment for all sorts of political and economic reasons." You don't say. Could it have to do with China callling the US a preening pig?"

Keith's note: While the semi- and quasi-official media in China attempt to spin an/or dissect the political undertones of Bolden's visit, NASA is utterly inert when it comes to any news whatsoever regarding Bolden's activities in China. No travel itineraries, no speech transcripts, photos - nothing. Its as if, once again, he has gone into overseas stealth mode.

Keith's update: According to Lori Garver Bolden is on his way home. Still no news.

Announcing the Launch of IaaS, powered by Nebula

"Today, the pre-release of NASA Cloud Services, powered by Nebula is available to all NASA personnel. Plans call for the pre-release to be seamlessly transitioned to production after the Operational Readiness Review (ORR) is completed in the coming weeks."

NASA wants to run space missions, not data centers, ComputerWorld

"NASA CTO Chris Kemp said he believes that compute resources are fundamentally a utility, no different than electric power. And "we don't own power plants right now - we don't own other services that are provided as utilities," he said "I don't see why NASA needs to operate any infrastructure," said Kemp. "We can build space probes, we can build deep space networks, we can stay out on the frontiers, where the American public wants us to be and not spend over $1 billion a year on it infrastructure."

OpenStack: An Open Cloud Initiative Makes its 1st Release, ReadWrite Cloud

"It's official. Open Stack has made its first release. It's a major moment for the nascent open cloud initiative, a service that combines the Rackspace object storage capabilities with NASA's Nebula, the open computing effort from the U.S federal space agency."

Keith's note: I have sent multiple requests to NASA LaRC PAO, posted requests on their Facebook page, and made Twitter commentary. Yet they still refuse to release the names of the people who will be speaking at this NASA-sponsored and supported event. Why are they refusing to release this information? Laziness? Bad planning? Arrogance?

Keith's update: Once again NASA LaRC's Stephen Craft has formally refused my request for a list of speakers. Craft et al clearly know who these speakers are by virtue of their Twitter teases yet they seem to be in utterly uninterested in the transparency and openness that you see coming from the White House, NASA HQ, etc. It is quite obvious that Lesa Roe (who has been cc:ed on these requests) thinks that rules that apply to the rest of the agency do not apply to her employees at LaRC.

Oh yes, NASA civil servants are allowed to charge their time (up to 8 hours) to a special account while NASA LaRC contractor employees need to charge the time to annual leave.

- TEDxNASA Organizers Did Not Learn Much From Last Year's Event, earlier post
- TEDxNASA 2010 Focus: Science and/or Pseudoscience?, earlier post
- TEDxNASA 2010, earlier post

NASA Missions Uncover The Moon's Buried Treasures

"By understanding the processes and environments that determine where water ice will be, how water was delivered to the moon and its active water cycle, future mission planners might be better able to determine which locations will have easily-accessible water. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won't have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel."

United Space Alliance Memo: CEO/COO Message: Retirement Plan Changes

"As you know, United Space Alliance has been undergoing a significant transformation in order for the company to remain competitive and successful following the completion of Shuttle Program operations and the closeout of the Space Program Operations Contract (SPOC). Retirement plans like USA's defined benefits plans are a significant cost driver, and many of USA's competitors have eliminated such plans to drive their costs down. After fully considering all options available, USA is announcing its intention to terminate all of its defined benefit plans, effective as of the close of this plan year. You will receive official notices via US Mail to your home. This memo is an explanatory "heads up" of what this means to you."

NASA Deputy Administrator Available for Interviews at Spaceport

"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will attend a dedication celebrating completion of the runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico at 11 a.m. MST on Friday, Oct. 22. She will be available before and after the event for media interviews. Garver will speak at the runway dedication event and also will be a keynote speaker on Thursday at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M."

An Overview of the Canadian Space Agency Exploration Core Program, SpaceRef

"At the recent 61st International Astronautical Congress in Prague, Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, Head of Exploration Planning at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), provided an overview of Canada's preparatory exploration activities. While Canada has been involved in exploration activities for 25 years with its contributions in robotics, science and astronaut core, it wasn't until 2007 that the CSA created the Exploration Core Program to unify the activities within the agency."

"Dear Gen. Bolden: My friends at PETA tell me that NASA plans to fund a cruel radiation experiment on squirrel monkeys at Harvard's McLean Hospital and New York's Brookhaven National Laboratory. These scientifically invalid experiments squander $1.75 million of taxpayers' money and cost animals their health and freedom, so the price isn't right on any count. The sensitive, intelligent squirrel monkeys who would be blasted with radiation in this experiment would no doubt suffer from brain damage, cancerous tumors, blindness, and a loss of motor control. Following the exposure, these social animals would spend the rest of their lives isolated in barren laboratory cages and subjected to years of behavioral experiments."

NASA Open Government Summit Emphasized Data Exchange

"NASA is working to publish more of its data sets online and create more opportunities to engage with the public using digital tools. This was a major part of the discussion during the monthly Open Government Community Summit at NASA Headquarters in Washington last week. NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer and Office of the Chief Financial Officer hosted the meeting. The event brought leaders from both government and public sectors together to discuss transparency, participation and collaboration in an era of emerging new technologies, maturing systems and increased generation of open data."

Europe's VSE

Building Europe's vision for space exploration

"Europe's vision for launching astronauts and robot explorers out into the Solar System will come into sharper focus on 21 October when the ministers responsible for space activities meet in Brussels to discuss Europe's goals for space exploration. Events can be followed live on the web. Ministers from the 29 ESA and EU states will rendezvous in Brussels this week for their second International Conference on Space Exploration as the next step towards creating a future European exploration strategy. The ministers will build on the debate begun a year ago in Prague during the first high-level conference dedicated to the topic."

SDO's First Lunar Transit

NASA's SDO Observes First Lunar Transit

"This was a first for SDO and it was visually engaging too. On October 7, 2010, SDO observed its first lunar transit when the new Moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the Sun. With SDO watching the Sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark Moon created a partial eclipse of the Sun."

Space Station Partners Release International Docking Standard

"The International Space Station Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) has approved a docking system standard. The international standard will provide guidelines for a common interface to link future spacecraft ranging from crewed to autonomous vehicles and from low-Earth orbit to deep-space exploration missions."

Letter To Charles Bolden From Representatives Larsen, Boustany, and Kirk (PDF)

"As NASA develops the new Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) based on the work already done on the Orion crew capsule, the U.S. should begin discussions on a common docking ring between the CRV, Shenzhou and Soyuz. While serious security concerns exist, a joint rescue capability enabling the U.S, China and Russia to rescue each other's space crews should be common sense, and we urge NASA's attention to this matter."

Keith's note: Well, it looks like this issue is now more than resolved since anyone with Internet access can download this IDSS Interface Definition Document - China, India, Bigelow, SpaceX ...

Bigelow Aerospace Begins Testing Life Support Systems with Crew

"Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Las Vegas, NV, has begun the process of human rating its Environmental Control and Life Support System. The contained volume humans in the loop testing is in preparation for the 2015 launch of Sundancer - an expandable module approximately 27ft long, 22ft in diameter, with an internal volume of 180m3 and supports a crew of three. When completed, the process will have demonstrated the life support system's ability to safely support a crew of three persons for extended durations."

US may outsource lightweight satellite launches to India, India Strategic

"Lockheed Martin's India Chief Executive Roger Rose told India Strategic that as the US was moving towards longer distance and more sophisticated probes, it made commercial sense to outsource launching of some satellites. There was a dearth of low-cost launching facilities in the world but ISRO and Antrix had a commendable track record in this regard. Lockheed Martin was also interested in cooperating with ISRO on India's manned space flights. The corporation had substantial technological inputs on many or most of the US space missions, and some of these could be shared with India. He said that senior executives from Lockheed Martin had visited Bangalore in August and held discussions with ISRO and Antrix. Some of the US satellites assigned to Lockheed Martin could be outsourced to India and they could "ride piggyback on Indian rockets."

US may outsource lightweight satellite launches to India, Economic Times

"The United States could outsource lightweight satellite launches to India. Lockheed Martin, the biggest US defence, aerospace and military technology corporation, broached the subject recently with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its export arm, Antrix."

Keith's note: While Charlie Bolden is in China looking for ways that America and China can cooperate in space - including human spaceflight - corporate America is looking to partner with China's arch-rival India on the very same things. Ouch - Bad timing.

Half Way To Pluto

Reaching the Mid-Mission Milestone on the Way to Pluto!

"On Sunday, Oct. 17, at 3:24 Universal Time, we passed the halfway mark in the number of days from launch to Pluto encounter - the last of our halfway milestones en route to Pluto! From here, we have fewer days in front of us than behind us."

More Pluto News

Sean O'Keefe Update

Keith's note: Sean O'Keefe returned to work today for the first time since his plane accident this past summer. He is still taking it slow but should be back to full capacity soon. If you have a chance to see it, there will be a segment on Dateline NBC this week hosted by Ann Curry that deals with the accident.

Paul Pastorek's note: "Sean decided that he wanted to tell his story fully and soon in order to express his heartfelt gratitude for the first responders, Coast Guard and National Guard personnel who helped him, his son Kevin, and the two others who survive the crash. He also wanted to use the opportunity to praise the public life of service and mourn the loss of his mentor, Senator Stevens and the four others who died in the crash. Sean, Kevin and Laura were all interviewed late last week by Ann Curry of NBC News. NBC's Dateline will have an hour-long program on the accident airing at 9PM this Friday, October 22. Prior to Dateline airing, Sean is scheduled to appear live on NBC's Today Show at approximately 7:32 AM on Friday morning and shortly after 9AM on CNBC. Having told the story, Sean is looking forward to getting back in the saddle at EADS and turning his focus to the business challenges and opportunities ahead."

Sean and Kevin O'Keefe Recovery, Facebook

Keith's note: I have found a girlfriend for Robotnaut2. Her name is HRP-4C. Perhaps JAXA can find a way for her to fly up to the ISS on an HTV. Watch this astonishing video (preferably in 1080i). Imagine what this girl cylon could do as part of JSC's Project M. Oh yes: she has legs and software that lets her dance (unlike Robonaut2).

- KSC Wants To Buy A Cornish Robot To Greet U.S. Visitors, earlier post
- Dryden Seeks Ethnically Diverse Cylons, earlier post
- Robonaut Packed for Space, earlier post
- Video: JSC's Project M, earlier post

Bolden: Fading From View?

Critics question Charlie Bolden's focus on NASA's new 'vision', Orlando Sentinel

"During a media conference call on the day of the signing, Bolden read a statement, thanked reporters and turned the call over to Garver -- a practice that has become routine. Two sources said Bolden continued to listen to the questions addressed to Garver but was barred from speaking. In fact, an Administration source said the White House originally planned to hold a public signing ceremony but canceled it when Bolden expressed interest in changing his travel plans and attending. Although the White House denies it, Administration sources said Bolden has been told to keep a low profile. He has all but disappeared from public view since the White House publicly reprimanded him last month. That reprimand came after NASA's inspector general found he acted "inappropriately" when he consulted with Marathon Oil Corp. about a proposed NASA biofuels program."

Stormy skies for NASA's chief, Houston Chronicle

"Obama's decision to sign NASA's hard-fought legislation into law alone and without Bolden by his side robbed the NASA chief of the high-profile White House signing ceremony and cherished White House photo that amount to symbolic presidential backing in the status-conscious capital. "I don't think Charlie has been treated very well by the White House," says space historian John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "He has been faithful in his defense of the Obama strategy for space, but some seem to believe he has not been totally convincing." Bolden, in the job since July 2009, did not comment for this story. Instead of standing out front, Bolden has been relegated to reading prepared statements and taking no questions during telephone news conferences."

NASA Hosts Media Telecon Featuring Results Of Moon Mission Impact

"The Science journal has embargoed information until 2 p.m. EDT on Oct. 21. NASA will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 21, to discuss additional findings from NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, missions. The results will be featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Science. The journal's embargo on these results will be lifted at the start of the telecon."

Keith's note: Once again a private publication gets to determine when NASA-funded research results are released to taxpaying public.

Bolden's World Tour Part II

NASA's Bolden walks tight rope on China trip, Christian Science Monitor

"The trip, at the invitation of Chinese space officials, comes at a time of upheaval in the US human spaceflight program, and amid growing ripples of doubt among observers in Washington about Bolden's future at the space agency's helm. "He's sort of viewing the trip as a victory lap," says Keith Cowing, editor of the website NASAWatch, as momentum appears to be building to replace him."

Nasa chief on visit to China, Al Jazeera

"Space programmes require a lot of technology, industry, and money but remain an international status symbol, Morris Jones, a space analyst, told Al Jazeera. But Morris said he did not think Bolden would be given much in the way of useful technical data during his visit. "Bolden is there basically just to shake a few hands. It's the first step in a very long process to get co-operation between the US and China in space flight," Morris said. "Relations between the US and China are very bad at the moment for all sorts of political and economic reasons."

Orion Launch Abort System Stops in Philadelphia During Cross Country Trek, Ken Kremer

"A full scale mock-up of the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) is hitting the road for a cross country trek of several museums and science centers. The public can see the LAS spacecraft hardware up close and personal and learn about the Orion crew vehicle and abort system."

Keith's note: Orion will now be used as a crew return vehicle - only - from the ISS. No crew will be launched in it. Therefore no launch escape system will be needed. Why is NASA exhibiting a piece of hardware that no longer has any use? Does this exhibit inform the public of the changes in NASA's Orion plan?

Adios, Outpost

Reader note: Nothing left.(

JSC's biggest metaphor is engulfed in flames, Implementation, Detail

"The Outpost tavern apparently burned down tonight. Let me rephrase that. The remains of the Outpost tavern, which had been balanced precariously on cinder blocks and scrap lumber for the last several months, apparently burned down tonight. Let me rephrase further. Another aging NASA institution died tonight. Rest In Peace, The Outpost. Does this mean we can we get on with exploring?"

- Outpost Tavern fire, Webster TX, 10/15/10, Flickr
- Puting the fire out, YouTube

More photos below.

One Last Load To Haul

Discovery's Cargo Arrives at Launch Pad for Final Flight, Ken Kremer

"Discovery's primary cargo is a new module for the International Space Station which will provide much needed storage space for the resident crew of the orbiting outpost. The module -or PMM - will be the last permanent addition to be contributed by the United States to the ISS. The secondary cargo element is the Express Logistics Carrier-4 which will house exterior space parts. The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) - also named Leonardo - was transported inside a large shipping canister from the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) to the top of Launch Pad 39 A. The canister was then hoisted up to a holding position on the massive Rotating Service Structure (RSS) from which the cargo will soon be loaded into the shuttle payload bay."

"Full docket text: Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Halil S. Ozerden: Sentencing held on 9/27/2010, for Liam Sarsfield. Court sustained in part and overruled in part Defendant's objections to PSR. Remaining objections to PSR rendered moot based upon agreement of the parties. Court granted Government's 5K1.1 Motion for Downward Departure. Count 1: Defendant sentenced to 3 years probation; $5,000.00 fine; restitution of $87,752.55 to NASA; and $100 special assessment. Presentence Report filed under seal. Government's Exhibits G-1 and G-2 admitted into evidence. Appearances: AUSA's Alyssa D. Farrell, Jerry L. Rushing, for the Government; Peter H. Barrett, Amanda B. Barbour, James B. Tucker, and William C. Barrett, Retained, for Defendant; USPO's Patrick Williams and Robyn Gulledge; DUSM Charles Kaes; CSO Stanley Vance."

Keith's note: So, this creep Sarsfield betrays the significant trust placed in him at the agency, sells out that trust for money, gets caught, sells out his friends by cooperating, and all he has to do is pay back the money he diverted to himself with a $5,100 fine? That's less than 6% interest. This is about as painful as paying off a home equity loan.

Previous postings

Statement from Buzz Aldrin On The White House Space Policy (April 2010)

"As an Apollo astronaut, I know full well the importance of always exploring new frontiers and tackling new challenges as we explore space. The simple truth is that we have already been to the Moon - some 40 years ago. What this nation needs in order to maintain its position as the 21st century leader in space exploration is a near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies that will take us further and faster - while expanding our opportunities for exploration along the way."

Why Mars? Buzz Aldrin Wants a Lunar Base First (October 2010)

"President Obama recently green-lighted a brand new mission and a new budget for NASA, including a grand long-term goal: a manned mission to Mars. But Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, says the moon is much more essential to American space efforts. In its haste to make new policy, Aldrin and other experts say, NASA is overlooking a critical component of space travel: a permanent, manned base on the moon that would make reaching Mars a much easier task. Establishing a lunar base could provide a safe source of water and a site for fuel depots, which would reduce the cost of transporting fuel from Earth for an eventual Mars mission, Aldrin told Fox News.com."

Keith's note: I'm a little confused. Back when the President's space policy was released, Buzz had his sights set on Mars, and didn't think that we shoud be going back to the Moon to any great extent - if at all. Now he has done a 180 and says we need to build a Moon base. Which is it Buzz? Moon base or Mars base - or both?

NASA Opens Registration for TEDxNASA

"One of "Woman's Day" magazine's 50 women changing the world, an author who could be the next JK Rowling, and a software developer who has an "app" for that - these are just some of the speakers at TEDxNASA, Nov. 4, at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News, Va. All are people with big ideas about "What Matters Next," the theme of TEDxNASA. This year's event, which is sponsored by NASA's Langley Research Center and the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Va., will feature more than 20 top speakers who will share inspiring and thought-provoking stories. Presenters already announced include NASA's Chief Technologist Bobby Braun and Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Green will speak at the same time NASA's EPOXI spacecraft is flying by and snapping close-up images of comet Hartley 2, more than 11 million miles away from Earth."

Keith's note: This is getting silly. I have sent multiple requests to NASA LaRC PAO requesting the names of the speakers at this event. They simply refuse to release that information. Yet they put out a press release that describes some of the speakers - yet they still refuse to identify them by name. Clearly they know who these people are. So much for being open and transparent. NASA LaRC PAO touts this event as being one whereby the public and NASA can meet to exchange ideas. Curiously, when you go to register for this event, you are asked to pick one of these choices:

"- NASA Langley Civil Servant
- NASA Langley On-Site Contractor
- Other NASA Center - Civil Servant
- Other NASA Center - On-Site Contractor
- Other Government Employee
- Other"

LaRC PAO seems to be concerned (with great specificity) with regard what flavor of NASA/contractor/government employees attend. However, with regard to understanding the backgrounds (interests) of everyone else (teachers, students, doctors, accountants, truck drivers, nurses - i.e. the taxpaying public) LaRC PAO simply lumps everyone into one giant, impenetrable category called "other". This is typical NASA behavior: the agency simply does not understand how to collect metrics about their events so as to show their value in terms of outreach tools. Instead they ask for information in a way that confuses and ultimately obscures the collection of those metrics.

Previous TedXNASA postings

Letter From Representatives Larsen, Boustany and Kirk (PDF)

"We are writing to congratulate you on your upcoming trip to China. U.S.-China space cooperation is an important piece of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship and we hope your trip proves successful. Specifically, we ask your support for the the U.S. and China to establish a joint-rescue capability in space that would enable the U.S., China, and Russia to rescue each other's space crews."

Marc's note: Well it would seem while some members of congress are upset with Bolden's trip to China others see the trip in a totally different light.

Keith's note: These are excerpts from internal NASA email "NASA Administrator Addresses Workforce Later Today -- Thursday, Oct. 14" "You are invited to watch a special message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden later this afternoon. The administrator has been meeting with the entire senior leadership team over the past two days discussing the path forward for the agency, and he wants to share with you the key points from this important dialogue." "Please join Administrator Bolden for this broadcast today. However, if you cannot watch this afternoon's remarks, the administrator will send an updated message to all employees later today."

Curiously these comments will not be on NASA TV or made available to the public or the media - unless someone inside NASA leaks details. This is, of course, not PAO's doing - but rather the agency adhering to White House direction to avoid all possible interaction (direct and indirect) between Bolden and the media. He'll beam in, talk to his staff, and then beam out.

Keith's update: NASA circulated this internally but did not see the need to send this to the public. If you are inside NASA's firewall you can watch a video of this presentation here.

Internal Message from Charlie Bolden to NASA Employees: Moving NASA Forward

"Over the past two days, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and I were joined by NASA's senior leadership -- the center directors, the heads of our mission directorates, and other members of our management team -- at a retreat to plan the agency's future. With passage of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, we now have a clear direction and can begin making plans for moving the agency forward. All of us engaged in a thoughtful and productive dialogue about the challenges and opportunities we face, and you'll be hearing more about the outcomes in the near future. We are united in our goals."

Virtual Moon Rocks

NASA And Gowalla Launch Partnership With Search For Moon Rocks

"NASA and Gowalla, a mobile and web service, have partnered to bring users one small step closer to the universe. The partnership populates Gowalla with NASA-related information and four virtual items -- moon rocks, a NASA patch, a spacesuit and a space shuttle -- that can be found at agency-related venues. ... Gowalla users can find virtual moon rocks by checking in to any location where a real one is on display. The United States successfully brought lunar samples back to Earth during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions. NASA provides a number of lunar samples for display at museums, planetariums and scientific expositions around the world. Most lunar displays are open to the public."

Keith's note: I wonder if Gowalla has the location of these four small Apollo 11 Moon rocks on display - on the ISS...

Space Station Living, Radiation, and Monkeys, Discovery

Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao "You may have heard about planned monkey radiation experiments, and the recent protests against them. I understand the necessity of animal experiments in developing drugs and treatments, but I must admit that this one has me scratching my head a bit. I have no doubt that some advances in scientific knowledge would be realized through these planned experiments, but I'm an operational guy (despite my Ph.D.). How would these experiments help us to survive in deep space? I don't see it. The bottom line is that exposure to high levels of radiation is bad. We need to figure out how to detect, and protect against exposure as well as to treat if exposure occurs."

Keith's note: The following was forwarded to me by PeTA today: "We recently received several documents from the Department of Energy which indicate that in Aug 2010 the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) made a decision about whether to move forward or not with the controversial NASA-funded monkey radiation experiments. Attached is a heavily redacted statement that BNL drafted and sent to the DoE announcing their decision (although it has yet to be released to the public). You may have seen that NASA has recently stated publicly that the experiment 'might not happen'. These new documents are the first we've heard of any final decision being made at all."

NASA Chief's Trip to China Sparks Controversy, space.com

"NASA chief Charles Bolden is preparing to visit Chinese space authorities. But the trip has met opposition from some lawmakers over its intent to continue a dialogue on human spaceflight cooperation between the U.S. and China."

NASA Administrator's China visit draws congressional ire, Nature

"I do not believe it is appropriate for the Administrator to meet with any Chinese officials until Congress is fully briefed on the nature and scope of Mr. Bolden's trip," said one of the congressmen, John Culberson (R-TX), in a 12 October letter addressed to President Obama."

NASA boss to land in China, Global Times

"Although it has been impossible for the two sides to work out any substantive agree-ments, the visit could pave the way for possible future cooperation," Hu Yumin, a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times Thursday. "The US, a leader in space technology, possibly conceives cooperation with China as helpful to addressing obstacles in future US space projects," he said. "Many scientists in both countries have longed for cooperation between China and the US. Bolden's trip will not only cement bilateral cooperation but also increase trust between the two countries," he added. In an exclusive interview with the Global Times in January, Bolden said that, as a former astronaut, he advocated international cooperation in space that could benefit humankind and that he preferred collaboration over conflict with China."

Reader note: "Have a look at this September 13, 2010 Youtube video "Music Hack Day London 2010: interview with Kelly Snook (Imogen Heap)" recorded in London. NASA's Kelly Snook is featured and her name badge says "NASA/Imogen Heap". She says that she is a studio engineer for Imogen Heap (a band that performs in Europe) and that she also works for NASA.".

Keith's note: Kelly has always been very creative artistically. From what I understand she's on a sabbatical - without pay - in the UK.

Keith's update: Kelly was at MIT last year as a "Sonic scientist" and attended Berklee Music where "Music production lights me up like nothing else in the world," she says. "The professional benefits of simply doing it, as opposed to sitting at my desk at NASA and just dreaming about doing it, are already immeasurable, but adding to that the systematic knowledge and training of the Berkleemusic coursework is light upon light."

Budgetary Limbo Mode

US midterm elections: Policy row launches NASA into limbo, Nature

"Congress baulked, and on 29 September passed an act requesting funds for projects initiated under Constellation and granting less than half of the administration's request for private spaceflight. With Congress now in recess and unable to allocate funds, NASA is funded at current levels and cannot change course. "It has to keep spending on programmes that it's going to kill, and can't start new programmes that it wants to," says Keith Cowing, editor-in-chief of the website NASA Watch. ... For Cowing, competing interests could spell a troubled future for the space agency. "How can NASA progress if it's pulled in ten different directions?" he asks."

Flight added to shuttle mission, Houston Chronicle via St Louis Today (they initially stated that this was an AP article - it is not)

"Even as President Barack Obama signed off Monday on plans to steer the nation's space program toward Mars, Senate staffers on Capitol Hill reported growing speculation that the White House was preparing to replace NASA administrator Charles Bolden. Bolden, a former astronaut, has the reputation of being a can-do leader known for sometimes ignoring bureaucratic constraints. However, top administration officials have eased him into the background as the midterm congressional elections approach."

Keith's note: The White House is very dissatisfied with Mr. Bolden's performance of late. Departure and replacement choices are topics of frequent discussion in the White House and on Capitol Hill. This will all pick up once the mid-term elections, STS-133, and Thanksgiving holiday approach.

NASA Selects Astronaut Leland D. Melvin to Lead Office of Education

"My passion for education was inspired by my parents, who were both middle school teachers," Melvin said. "I witnessed the direct impact that educators can have in a community and on an individual's destiny. NASA's people, programs and resources are unparalleled. Our unique assets are poised to engage students, to captivate their imagination and to encourage their pursuit of STEM-related studies that are so vital to their future. This is an exciting challenge and I am ready to work with Administrator Bolden, my colleagues at NASA, our partners, and students across the country to usher in a new era of opportunity to inspire that next generation of explorers."

Challenger Center Lauds NASA's New Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"Melvin has an exceptional background for this position, both through his flight experience as an astronaut, and his educational leadership as co-director of NASA's Educator Astronaut program, and his current work developing NASA's educational strategic plan. "Leland is an extremely talented astronaut, engineer, scientist and athlete. Moreover, he is a great friend of educators and students. His selection as NASA's Associate Administrator for Education bodes well for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in our country. Challenger Center looks forward to supporting him in this new role." said Scott Parazynski, astronaut and Chair of the Board for Challenger Center."

NASA Administrator's Statement on Chilean Miners Rescue

"On behalf of the entire NASA family, I want to ask that our heartfelt thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the courageous miners, their families and friends, and the dedicated people who have been working to safely reach those who are still trapped underground."

NASA contractors dispute statements about access, Washington Post

"During oral arguments, Katyal told justices that the questions are justified on national security grounds because ID badges worn by contractors give them access to JPL and all other NASA facilities. "It's such an important credential that it would allow them to get within, for example, six to 10 feet of the space shuttle as it's being repaired and readied for launch," Katyal said. In a letter sent late last week to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr., Robert M. Nelson, the lead plaintiff in the case, demanded a retraction of Katyal's statement, calling it "an insult to all of our co-workers at Kennedy Space Center who labor continuously to protect the safety of all NASA launch vehicles."

Previous HSPD-12 News

Congressional Concerns Remain as NASA Chief Prepares for China Trip

"U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and John Culberson of Texas -- both Republicans serving on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that approves NASA's annual budgets -- are opposed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden leading any collaborative talks with Chinese officials about manned spaceflight programs when he visits China Oct. 16-21. Both lawmakers have requested a briefing on the trip before Bolden and his NASA colleagues leave town. A NASA official said Oct. 12 that Bolden would be tied up in a senior management retreat before he departs Oct. 15 for China. "No formal briefs are scheduled but we will be prepared to answer any questions," the official said."

Keith's update: The 2 day senior NASA management retreat is being held in the Hampton/Norfolk area. Center directors, AAs, etc. will be there.

Letter From NASA Administrator Bolden to Rep. Wolf Regarding China

"Thank you for your letter regarding my planned travel to China later this month. As we discussed during our recent meeting, I greatly value your advice and direction on this matter, and I can assure you that I fully appreciate the concerns you have raised in your letter. In preparation for my visit, and in our planning for a subsequent reciprocal visit of senior Chinese officials to NASA, my staff and I are coordinating closely within the U.S. Government to ensure that agencies and departments with an interest in NASA's activities with China are fully informed and engaged, and I have personally met with the leadership of the national security and foreign affairs community to ensure the consistency of these exchanges with U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives."

Keith's update: Apparently OSTP Director John Holdren and his entourage leave today for China on a trip that will discuss a variety of science topics.

"WASHINGTON -- Media representatives are invited to participate in a teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT, Oct. 11, for reaction to Monday's anticipated signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 by President Barack Obama. The President is expected to sign the bill later this afternoon after it was passed overwhelmingly by Congress last week. It provides bipartisan support for NASA's new direction in space exploration. Participants in the media teleconference include:

* NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
* NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver
* U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida
* U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, Florida's 24th District
* Former Augustine Committee member, physicist, and former astronaut Sally Ride

Media representatives who want to participate in the teleconference should contact Katherine Trinidad either by telephone at 202-281-8171 or email at katherine.trinidad@nasa.gov. The teleconference also will be made available on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov"

Keith's note: Some news media only got a 90 minute advance warning about this. Some only got a 4 minute heads up. Today is a Federal holiday. Why not wait until tomorrow when everyone is around - and so that people can actually participate?

Keith's update: I was unable to participate in this telecon due to its last minute scheduling. However I have spoken/exchanged email with multiple media participants who did. Mr. Bolden made a brief statement and then left. He was therefore not available to answer questions from the media. How anyone can characterize this as "participation" in a media teleconference baffles me.

Mr. Bolden seems to be uninterested in playing a personal role in the agency's engagement with the media, the public, or his workforce. First he schedules foreign travel of dubious value to the agency at a time when thousands of his employees are being laid off and critical congressional battles are being fought. Then he goes out of his way not to make himself available to the media after the President signs this critical legislation into law. How much longer is this going to continue? Phoning in and doing flyby appearances is not what the agency needs right now.

Oh yes, this bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support - often times with Republicans being more supportive of the legislation than members of the President's own party. Yet were there any Republicans participating in this media telecon? No.

Obama signing NASA law today, but funding still isn't assured, Huntsville Times

"Bolden read a statement praising the legislation as an "exciting new course of exploration and discovery," but left the teleconference without taking questions. A photo released by the White House shows the president signing the legislation at his desk in the Oval Office with no NASA supporters around him."

President Obama Signs NASA Authorization Bill, Space News

"Later, during a question-and-answer session for which Bolden was not present, Nelson said he would seek bipartisan support for funding the authorization bill, which he said anticipates $11.5 billion over six years to fund a new heavy-lift launch vehicle and authorizes an additional space shuttle mission next year."

President Obama signs NASA budget authorization, CBS

"Nelson made the comments during a NASA teleconference with reporters before the president signed the legislation. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made an opening statement but as has become standard practice, he took no questions and left the briefing in the hands of his deputy, Lori Garver."

NASA has the plan, but can it get the money from lameduck Congress?, Huntsville Times

"Reporters were given only 90 minutes notice of the teleconference, and embattled NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. left immediately after reading an opening statement and without taking questions."

Obama Signs NASA Reauthorization Bill, Aviation Week

"Garver took over at a hastily assembled press teleconference Oct. 11 after Administrator Charles Bolden read a prepared statement on the bill and dropped off the call for what a spokesman said was another engagement."

Earth's Highest iPhone

iPhone Equipped Balloon Leaves Brooklyn for the Edge of Space

"Video from a camera attached to a weather balloon that rose into the upper stratosphere and recorded the blackness of space. Seven-year-old Max Geissbuhler and his dad Luke Geissbuhler dreamed of visiting space. Armed with just a weather balloon, a video camera, and an iPhone, they basically did just that. The father-and-son team from Brooklyn managed to send their homemade spacecraft up nearly 19 miles, high into the stratosphere, bringing back perhaps the most impressive amateur space footage ever."

"JSC Director Mike Coats will speak to employees from 9 to 10 a.m. today, Oct. 12, in the Building 2 South Teague Auditorium. All JSC team members are invited to attend. Those unable to attend in person can view the program live on RF Channel 2, Omni Channel 3 or on the Web (IPTV Channels 102, 202) at: http://mcs.jsc.nasa.gov/Multicasts4.aspx The event will be recorded for playback on Thursday and next Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m."

Written Statement Delivered to Employee All-Hands Event by NASA JSC Center Director Michael Coats

"While we won't be doing quite what we have been doing, there is opportunity in the Authorization Bill, signed yesterday by the President, to do some really exciting things, so we intend to do everything we can to drive our own future. The 'core' of who we are and what we do will not change, and we remain pre-eminent in the world at what we do. Some realities shape our future, such as contracting budgets and modified scope... but our core competency here at JSC is human space flight. The nation expects us to maintain that core competency, and we will."

Mike Leinbach Looks Back

Inside the Firing Room with the Space Shuttle Launch Director, Ken Kremer

"As Shuttle Discovery was being processed in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for her very final mission of exploration (STS 133), I interviewed the Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach inside the Shuttle Firing Room 4 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) - where access is highly restricted. Launch Director Leinbach graciously spoke to me in the midst of an extremely busy and momentous day at KSC as the 100 ton orbiter was hanging by narrow cables from a bridge crane under the roof of the VAB for mating to the ET/SRB fuel stack that will power her last mission to the high frontier."

NASA Administrator Thanks President Obama and Congress for Agency's New Direction Support

"We will foster a growing commercial space transportation industry that will allow NASA to focus our efforts on executing direction in the act to start work on a heavy-lift architecture to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit and to develop a multipurpose crew vehicle for use with our new space launch systems."

Coalition applauds President Obama for signing into enactment, the NASA Authorization Bill

"The passage of this legislation is a testament to our Congressional system," said Glenn Mahone, chairman of the Coalition. "Those who championed this bill obtained unprecedented, unanimous support in the Senate and advanced it through the House. With the President's signature, we enter a new chapter in 21st-century space exploration."

A Snapshot of NASA Today

Layoffs Continue as NASA Slows Moon Program Spending, Space.com

"Spending on Constellation, which includes development of the Ares I rocket and Orion crew capsule, is expected to decline as much as 25 percent for the two months ahead, according to NASA spokesman Michael Braukus. In an Oct. 1 e-mail Braukus said NASA plans to immediately reduce its Constellation spending from an average rate of $282 million per month down to $212 million per month. If Congress fails to enact a 2011 budget when it returns in November and instead extends the continuing resolution beyond Dec. 3, "that amount will go lower," Braukus said."

NASA Glenn upbeat on replacement bill, Crain's Cleveland Business

"About half of Ohio's congressional delegation opposed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, a bill expected to replace the Bush-era Constellation program with a space exploration plan that pays private companies to develop rockets for NASA and puts more emphasis on long-term technology development. A few members of the delegation even circulated letters saying the bill would be bad for NASA Glenn; so did the Greater Cleveland Partnership."

Shuttle Launch Pad Towers Coming Down, Aviation Week

"Pad 39B was modified for the test flight of Constellation's Ares 1-X booster last year, but many shuttle-unique systems were left intact, including its rotating and fixed service structures. Over the next nine months, the steel towers will be cut apart, removed in pieces and hauled away to be recycled, leaving the pad with a concrete surface, the water sound-suppression system and three 594-ft. lightning masts that were installed as part of the Constellation program."

Jobs after space shuttle take top priority at public forum at Brevard Community College, Channel 13

"While leaders were discussing the wind-down of the shuttle program and how to preserve jobs, President Barack Obama prepared to sign the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. A large chunk of the budget funds commercial spaceflight - a new concept at Kennedy Space Center. The fourth annual space forum took place Monday morning at the Florida Solar Energy Center on the Brevard Community College Campus in Cocoa."

To Design Miners' Escape Pod, NASA Thought Small, AOL

"Clinton Cragg is a NASA engineer on a troubleshooting safety team set up in the wake of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He had spent much of his professional life in the Navy, where he served as a submarine captain, accustomed to living in confined space. So when the Chilean rescue authorities settled on a plan for reaching the 33 miners trapped 2,400 feet below a desolate desert, but needed a contraption to bring them to the surface, Cragg would become the perfect man to pitch in. It had to be the smallest possible vehicle for the job, a capsule that would fit into a hole the size of a bicycle tire, with no wasted space for luxury, no elbow room for comfort."

Trapped Chile Miners Eat NASA Diet, Aspirin to Prepare for Coming Rescue, Bloomberg

"The 33 miners in Chile will spend the next few days in tunnels almost half a mile underground eating a special diet recommended by NASA and doing exercises designed to aid their rescue by midweek."

VSS Enterprise Completes First Manned Glide Flight

"10th October 2010, Mojave, CA. Virgin Galactic, the US company developing the world's first commercial manned space flight system and tourism business, is delighted to announce the successful completion today of the first piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. The spaceship was released from its mothership at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 metres). During its first flight the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates SpaceShipTwo Team for Milestone First Glide Flight

Keith's 6 Oct. note: NASA Watch sources report that this upcoming trip to China and then Indonesia is Charlie Bolden's idea first and foremost. The White House did not ask him to go to either country - nor do they want him to go. But he is going anyway. The trip to Saudi Arabia was similarly unrequested and unsanctioned as far as the White House was concerned. This begs the question in the White House and elsewhere as to why Bolden is focusing his energy on foreign trips at a time when NASA's domestic support is sagging. Moreover, there is growing concern within the White House as to why Bolden is not getting the message that the White House has been sending to him. Bolden's recent gaffs in the Middle East and ethics issues with Marathon Oil haven't exactly helped his relationship with the White House. Stay tuned.

Human Spaceflight on Agenda for Bolden's China Trip, Space News

"But it remains unclear whether Bolden is making his trip at the behest of the White House or on his own initiative. White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro declined to comment on Bolden's China visit and referred media queries to NASA. When asked about Bolden's trip NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage referred to last November's joint U.S.-China communique that calls for expanded discussions on human spaceflight cooperation. Cabbage said the trip "is being coordinated with all appropriate government agencies," even as a senior Republican lawmaker requested a security briefing on the visit before it happens."

U.S. Lawmaker Balks at NASA Chief's China Visit, space.com

"In an Oct. 5 letter to the NASA chief, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he strongly opposes any partnership with Beijing that involves human spaceflight, including efforts to involve China in the international space station. "I need not remind you that no such planning or coordination has been approved by the Congress," wrote Wolf, the ranking member on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending. "In fact, several recent NASA authorization bills have explicitly sought to place strict limitations on coordination with China."

Keith's 9 Oct. update: That's rather odd. The White House is normaly much more forthcoming on commenting on matters such as this given that a senior government official such as Bolden is going to China (and Indonesia and Viet Nam). Unless, of course, as is the case with this trip, this is not their idea and they'd rather that he not go on the trip in the first place. Relations between the U.S. and China are rather frosty right now. As such, you don't really want someone prone to public gaffs making a highly visible trip with media dogging him the entire time. Stay tuned.

"The Open Government Community Summit Series is an inter-agency collaborative event hosted by a different agency each month. Several working groups have formed out of previous workshops, and the focus for the final two workshops of 2010 is to actually build-- not just talk about-- the infrastructure (i.e. collective knowledge resources and standard operating procedures) necessary to sustain the open government community over the long haul. This month's summit is generously hosted by NASA and facilitated by the Open Forum Foundation."

Make Magazine: 10 Do-It-Yourself Space Projects

"MAKE blasts into orbit and beyond with our DIY SPACE issue. Put your own satellite in orbit, launch a stratosphere balloon probe, and analyze galaxies for $20 with an easy spectrograph! We talk to the rocket mavericks reinventing the space industry, and renegade NASA hackers making smartphone robots and Lego satellites. Of course, as usual, we've got a full payload of other cool DIY projects, from a helium-balloon camera that's better than Google Earth, to an electromagnetic levitator that shoots aluminum rings, to a simple stroboscope that takes the most amazing freeze-frame photos.

Plus: party-pleasing automated photo booth that prints out photo strips, MythBusters' Adam Savage teaches you hard-shell moldmaking, and much more. MAKE Volume 24, on sale October 26.

Short listing of articles: ..."

Conspiracy Theorists Confident: Altered Image a NASA Cover-Up, Fox News

"The person responsible for the manipulation, Emily Lakdawalla, told a forum of excitable theorists that she made the changes because of the way Cassini takes photos. "Cassini takes color pictures by snapping three sequential photos through red, green and blue filters," she said. "In the time that separated the three frames, Dione moved, so if I did a simple color composite I would be able to make Titan look right, but not Dione; or Dione look right, but not Titan." "So I aligned Dione, cut it out, and then aligned Titan," Lakdwalla explained, "and then had to account for the missing bits of shadow where the bits of Dione had been in two of the three channels."

Keith's note: Truth be known, Emily's covert job is to cover up any and all evidence of life in the universe. In this case it is the existence 2 billion aliens that live on Dione that she's hiding. You'll note that the original photo on the left shows the lights from their many cities. But thanks to Photoshop, they have all disappeared. This cover-up has been going on for years. Back in 1998 I uncovered evidence of sophisticated construction work on Mars - that is, until Emily got hold of the image and scrubbed all of the evidence away using Photoshop. I managed to save a copy of the original image. The truth is out there.

Scientists Demand Retraction From Gov't Attorney In NASA Privacy Case, space.com

"A group of scientists has demanded that the U.S. Attorney General's office immediately retract remarks made by a government attorney during arguments before the Supreme Court over privacy concerns with NASA background checks. The scientists said they want the attorney general to retract a statement made by acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal during his opening statement, which at one point addressed how easily employees at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., could access sensitive areas and facilities using a new security badge."

JPL scientists demand retraction in Supreme Court privacy case, Pasadena Star News

"Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees Thursday accused the federal government's lawyers of lying to the U.S. Supreme Court when the justices heard arguments this week in a legal battle involving new security background checks."


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ChasingAugustine, Wayne Hale

"A couple of months later I was notified that I would receive a Group Achievement Award for helping with the [Augustine] committee. I told them I did not want the award and would not accept it. They didn't know how to handle that request. I boycotted the awards presentation but they still sent me the certificate in the mail. My first impulse was to burn it. I still may. A fair question to ask is what about the committee's work so thoroughly upset me? There were a number of factors, far more than I can explore in one short post. So I will deal with the #1 reason: the committee was snookered by OMB."

Astrobiology News

Titan's haze may hold ingredients for life, University of Arizona

"In an experiment exploring the chemical processes that might be going on in the hazy atmosphere enshrouding Saturn's largest moon, a University of Arizona-led team of scientists discovered a variety of complex organic molecules - including amino acids and nucleotide bases, the most important ingredients of life on Earth."

Water discovered on second asteroid, may be even more common, University of Central Florida

"This discovery suggests that this region of our solar system contains more water ice than anticipated," said University of Central Florida Professor Humberto Campins. "And it supports the theory that asteroids may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water and the building blocks for life to form and evolve here."

Enceladus May Keep Oceans Liquid with Wobble, NASA

"Saturn's icy moon Enceladus should not be one of the most promising places in our solar system to look for extraterrestrial life. Instead, it should have frozen solid billions of years ago. Located in the frigid outer solar system, it's too far from the sun to have oceans of liquid water -- a necessary ingredient for known forms of life -- on its surface."

Astrobiology News on Twitter

Anna Chapman waves off space rocket in Kazakhstan, Guardian

"The already improbable Anna Chapman saga took another surprising twist today when the 28-year-old former Russian spy resurfaced in Kazakhstan to wave off a space rocket. Chapman, who was one of 10 Russian agents to be deported from the US in July, became a tabloid sensation after sultry pictures of her were published in newspapers around the world. Early today, however, Chapman arrived at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to see off a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts bound for the International Space Station. She appeared at the farewell ceremony for the space crew and was quickly moved to a guest house near the launch pad accompanied by a guard who blocked reporters. She made no public comment."

Anna Chapman, glamorous Russian spy, bids farewell to astronauts, Christian Science Monitor

"Clad in a hot red jacket and tight-fitting black slacks, Ms. Chapman was today spotted smiling and waving at the former Soviet space launch center Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, as she attended an exclusive farewell ceremony for Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and American astronaut Scott Kelly."

Glamorous spy sees Russian rocket blast off for ISS, AFP

"Russian media reports said she has been working as an advisor for a bank that is involved in the Russian space programme but officials at Russia's space agency Roskosmos were quick to deny it was involved in her visit. "Roskosmos has nothing to do with Anna Chapman's visit. As far as we know, she came here as a private individual on the invitation of an executive of a commercial bank," a Roskosmos official said. "Miss Chapman neither met with the Roskosmos leadership nor with members of the Soyuz crew," the official told the Interfax news agency."

Obama Space Adviser Leaves White House, Space News

"Peter Marquez, director of space policy for the White House National Security Council, stepped down Sept. 27 to pursue new opportunities. Marquez, who was appointed to the post in 2007 by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, played a central role in shaping U.S. President Barack Obama's new national space policy issued by the White House in June."

Suborbital research hitches a ride on commercial space cruisers, Physics Today

"The promise of frequent, relatively inexpensive flights to suborbital space has attracted a growing number of researchers who are poised to send, or even accompany, experiments on multi-use commercial spaceships. The fledgling commercial space sector is now testing manned and unmanned rockets that could cruise for three or more minutes in a steady-state, low-vibration microgravity environment at altitudes around 100 km. Commercial space vehicles can take an experiment to space and bring it back at far less cost than conventional unmanned, single-use NASA rockets or a trip to the International Space Station, if one can even be arranged."

Keith's 7 Oct note: Today's dumb press release title comes from UC Berkeley: "NASA mission asks why Mars has no atmosphere". DUH, last time I checked Mars most certainly has an atmosphere. If it did not have one, then the parachutes that have been used to slow down spacecraft would not work, there would be no dust devils, clouds, sand storms, etc. Indeed, if Mars "has no atmosphere", how can MAVEN study it? Indeed, why send an atmosphere-studying spacecraft to a planet that "has no atmosphere"? Oddly, the press release itself says "MAVEN will carry three instrument suites, totaling eight instruments, to probe the Martian atmosphere and its interactions with the sun."

Time to get a new editor guys.

Keith's 8 Oct update: UC Berkeley added the word "almost" to the ress release title on this page. Here's what it originally looked like before the fix.

Hutchison: NASA Bill Provides Clear Direction and a New Path Forward for America's Space Agency

"Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said the NASA reauthorization bill, which the president is expected to sign into law, provides clear direction and a new path forward for America's space agency. The bill was approved by the Senate in August and by the House in September."

Hutchison lauds NASA reauthorization bill, The Hill

"The bill, which passed the Senate in August and the House in September, significantly alters the landscape of America's space program by moving resources away from the space shuttle program and toward the commercial space industry. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law this week. "

Container with Soyuz spaceship sustains damage, The Voice of Russia

"The container with the "Soyuz TMA-20" spacecraft was damaged in transit, apparently because of sloppiness on the part of the train driver on the Kazakh section of the railway, a source at Baikonur said, sounding concern that the ship could have sustained damage too."

Russian Soyuz spacecraft damaged: engineer, AFP

"A source in the space industry told Interfax that the damage to the Soyuz container could require the ship to be sent back to the Energiya factory in the Moscow region. "According to the results of the initial inspection of the damage, it cannot be ruled out that the ship will have to be returned to the factory," the source said. "A final decision will be taken in the next few days."

Layoffs Continue as NASA Slows Constellation Spending, Space News

"Although the U.S. government's 2011 budget year began Oct. 1, lawmakers failed to pass any 2011 appropriations bills before leaving Washington last month until mid-November, leaving NASA and the rest of the federal government to operate through Dec. 3 under a stopgap measure called a continuing resolution that funds agencies at no greater than 2010 spending levels. For NASA, that means making do for at least the next eight weeks with 1.5 percent less than the $19 billion the White House has budgeted for the agency for 2011."

Marshall's future includes plenty of vital missions, Huntsville Times

"However, because of the end of the Constellation program, Lightfoot reiterated that there would be a loss of 150 to 250 contract jobs at Marshall, as announced last week. However, "when the appropriation bill comes in ... we'll have to see what we can do if we get to bring people back," he said."

Manned commercial space flight could mean jobs for North Alabama, Huntsville Times

"While hundreds of private contractor jobs related to NASA's Constellation program have been eliminated, officials with two private aerospace companies said the commercial spaceflight industry would create new jobs here."

Keith's note: Jeff Bingham, a staffer on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, posting as "51D Mascot" on nasaspaceflight.com notes that Congress will be watching how NASA does or does not comply with the new authorization bill when it is signed into law.

"Well, many of the same people who wrote the 2005 and 2008 Authorization Acts were involved in drafting S.3729, so they are VERY aware of the potential for "non-compliance." They are also very much aware of continuing efforts on the part of certain parties to "slow-roll" or otherwise undermine the letter and intent of what will soon be signed into law. With regard to the bill itself, the very detailed report required in Section 309 is the first "early warning system" built into the bill to ensure steps are taken towards compliance, well before the two-year scenario you described. If it appears that the completion of that report is being delayed arbitrarily and without justification, there are a number of fairly aggressive "oversight" steps that can--and likely would--be taken that would ensure "transparency" of those activities--and accountability for those undertaking them--which appeared intended to dilute or subvert the law."

Keith's note: There are certainly reasons why Congress needs to be certain that NASA does not drift away from compliance with the law. But there is also a point at which legislators and their staff are not qualified to make decisions. That usually has to do with actual rocket science. As such, one would hope that this "early warning system" has a feedback mechanism that warns and prevents over-enthusiastic congressional staff from playing rocket scientist.

As for Jeff's posting as "51D Mascot" .... more below.

NASA must build rocket, not Congress, editorial, Sun Sentinel

"Congress did, fortunately, leave NASA a loophole. The bill says the space agency must use existing elements of other programs "to the extent practicable." That leaves NASA some room to make its own decisions. It should, however, use that wiggle room cautiously, ever mindful that Congress may look for other ways to meddle in NASA's work. When you have 535 meddlers, expect meddling."

NASA technology chief: We'll decide what rocket we want to build, Orlando Sentinel

"But the legislation leaves a large loophole for NASA engineers. While it encourages NASA to use existing parts, it is says only "to the extent practicable." In other words, if NASA decides it is not practical to use solid rocket motors, it doesn't have to."

Shelby Statement on House Passage of NASA Authorization

"However, the bill is not a perfect strategy. I remain concerned with the limiting direction set forth on the heavy lift rocket's design. NASA must not deliver a rocket that is simply a shuttle without wings. This would not represent a step forward for innovation or for the future of our space program."

NASA Scientist Urges Canada Not To Touch Oil Sands, AHN

"Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada (AHN) - Another nail was driven into Alberta's oil sands industry on Tuesday after a top NASA scientist advised the province to leave the tar fields alone. James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies gave the advice to a panel reviewing the proposed Total E&P $9-billion plan to build the Joslyn North Mine."

Oil sands should be left in the ground: NASA scientist

"One of NASA's top scientists has told a panel reviewing a proposed oil sands mine in northern Alberta that the resource should simply be left in the ground. James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies says allowing new developments such as Total E&P Canada's $9-billion plan to build the Joslyn North mine would make it too hard to manage the impact of climate change."

NASA scientist tells hearing that oilsands should be left in ground, Oilweek

"One of NASA's top scientists has told a review panel considering a new oilsands mine that the resource should simply be left in the ground. James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies says allowing new developments such as Total's $9-billion Joslyn mine would make it too hard to keep climate change impacts manageable."

Keith's note: I don't dispute anything that Hansen says about this issue, global warming etc. And I do appreciate his enthusiasm and dedication. BUT I am just wondering why he is able to openly flaunt his "NASA" employment in every article that he gets mentioned in, without qualification or exception, as he makes these statements in an overtly public fashion. When other NASA employees do this they get slapped down.

I never dreamt I'd be a spaceman: NASA chief, The Himalayan

"Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Charles Frank Bolden Jr. had never dreamt of becoming a spaceman when he was a school kid. "I was not so brilliant; nor had I ever dreamt of becoming a spaceman. When I started my career in the Marine Corps, I came to know what space meant," Bolden told a gathering of youth in Kathmandu today. Advising the youth on how to pave the way for success, Bolden said, "A risk taker wins the game but risk should not be taken in haste." Probably, Bolden is the first NASA chief to visit Nepal."

NASA administrator speaks to youth, Republica

"Interacting with the participants, Bolden shared his experiences of space. For him, his out of orbit exploration "strengthened his faith" religiously because he was able to see Earth from a different and unique perspective. "As far as we know, it's the only planet inhabited by life," Bolden, who was appointed by US President Barack Obama in May 2009, said. "We should take care of the planet."

NASA chief launches programme to address environmental issues, MSN News

"In line with these GEO societal benefit areas, NASA has reinvigorated its applied science programme to bring the results of our ground-breaking research back to the people in areas that address their immediate needs such as public health, air quality, disaster management, water management, weather and climate, NASA chief said."

No Market For Commercial Space Flight?, WAAY.TV

"I don't believe there's a market for it on a large scale for commercialization," said [Dave] King. King says commercial companies could be used for tourism and to possibly take some cargo to low earth orbit but he doesn't believe there will be enough people willing to pay companies for low earth orbit exploration, like education at the space station. "My personal opinion is that commercial companies should be taking cargo to low earth orbit but if it's a human NASA should probably be involved," said King."

Keith's note: Well Dave, you had your shot at building big government rockets with no concern for what things cost in the real world, so I can understand why you'd think this way.

NASA Speaker Questions Relevancy of NASA In Today's World

"VHS tapes, record players and other gadgetry have been declared "outdated" due to the advent of more robust and efficient technology. Now that NASA has reached middle age, is it also considered "outdated?" On Tuesday, Oct. 5, at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, U.S. space program advisor A. Thomas Young will present "Does NASA Matter?" at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center. Young hopes to give insight on NASA's role and importance in the mature space world of today."

Keith's note: Sounds like an interesting evening: a topic with relevance to all of NASA - the public - nationwide by a speaker with an impressive resume. Alas, only a hundred or so people will ever hear it. But, if someone at LaRC were to bring a laptop with a webcam, microphone, and a WiFi connection they could stream it via USTREAM.TV or some other service such that the audience could be amplified. You don't need a production team. If I could do this from a cold windy tent at 17,500 feet at Everest Base Camp then someone at NASA ought to be able do it from downtown Hampton. If LaRC PAO can't figure this out, then perhaps there is some local high school student who can do it.

Keith's update: Well, as expected, NASA LaRC PAO was unable to figure out how to webcast this event to the rather large number of taxpayers who do not live in Hampton, VA. Apparently there were no teenagers with laptops and webcams in the immediate vicinity. So far as I can tell they did not even try to make this available to a wider audience. Proof positive that this NASA PAO office is simply and demonstrably incompetent in this regard. Alas, there is no accountability in evidence with regard to substandard performance, so I am certain that no one's job is at risk.

Lets see if they have the technological know how to stream TEDxNASA live next month. They are still unable to provide a simple agenda for that event. T-30 days and you have no idea who is talking? FAIL.

SpaceX Update: COTS Demonstration Flight 1 (with photos)

"On September 15th we completed a successful wet dress rehearsal (WDR) which involved rolling the rocket out to the pad, loading it with propellants, performing a complete launch countdown sequence to just before ignition, and then unloading the propellants and returning the vehicle to a safe state. This latest wet dress rehearsal included new steps and sequences necessary to accommodate the operational Dragon spacecraft. Prior to the successful WDR, we completed our first integration of a Falcon 9 and an operational Dragon spacecraft. We integrate Falcon 9 and Dragon horizontally in the hangar. This makes payload processing easier, and also eliminates the large expense of building and maintaining a vertical mobile service tower."

Court considers NASA employee background checks, Reuters

"Supreme Court justices questioned on Tuesday whether the federal government in its background investigations of employees can ask about their drug treatment, medical conditions or sexual practices. The high court during arguments in a case about NASA background checks of scientists in California considered what questions could be asked without violating their constitutional privacy rights. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito asked the Obama administration attorney whether any limit existed on the questions that can be asked. They cited questions about sexual practices, genetic tests, medical conditions and even about what a person reads. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal defended the background investigations and described them as standard for federal employees since 1953 and for contractors since 2005."


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NASA: Collaboration with Saudis a 'cornerstone' of U.S. policy, World Tribune

"Officials said Riyad and Washington have been discussing ways to expand space cooperation, including joint satellite production. They said other options for cooperation could include joint missions, technology development as well as a training exchanges between the U.S. National Aeronautics Space Agency and the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology. "It is a cornerstone of NASA policy," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said."

Keith's note: A number of you have sent me notes about this specific story. I have sent an inquiry to NASA PAO to see if this is what Bolden actually said - as he is quoted as having said it in this article i.e. "It is a cornerstone of NASA policy". No one else is reporting this quote with attribution specifically to Bolden. I have seen references of technology exchange - with many countries - in other publications as being an interest of the Obama Administration - but no specific singling out of Saudi Arabia. Moreover, no author/reporter is listed for this article, and no one representing this publication was in attendance at events in Saudi Arabia. More to follow.

Keith's update: According to NASA PAO, Charlie Bolden showed a slide that he and others at NASA have shown countless times over the years dealing with the agency's charter.

"International cooperation at NASA:

- Is directed by the National Aeronautics and Space Act that created NASA in 1958, continues to be part of national space policy
- Has been a cornerstone of NASA's activities throughout its history
- Includes over 4,000 agreements with over 100 nations
- Brings multiple benefits to NASA and its partners"

In other words NASA's cooperation with all foreign countries (not any specific one) is a "cornerstone" of its overall policy. This article takes this chart utterly out of context and frames the story with the title "NASA: Collaboration with Saudis a 'cornerstone' of U.S. policy" as if Bolden was speaking only about Saudi Arabia. He was not.

According to ESA: "The Space Game is a game and a crowdsourcing experiment run by the Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency aimed to improve the methods for designing interplanetary trajectories. We do not claim that computers are not able or are particularly bad at solving such problems. Rather, we think that 'watching' humans design complex interplanetary trajectories can be of help to improve the intelligence of computer algorithms."

Seeking Signs of Life: A Symposium Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of NASA's Exo/Astrobiology Program

"NASA's Astrobiology Program addresses three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth, and if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe? Experts in a range of relevant disciplines will engage in an exciting day of discussions . . . . Are we alone? Confirmed speakers include Baruch S. Blumberg, The Honorable Daniel S. Goldin, David Grinspoon, Noel Hinners, James Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, and Steve Squyres."

The Ultimate Soyuz

A Digital Soyuz, IEEE Spectrum, Jim Oberg

"For almost 40 years, the Soyuz series of spacecraft has carried cosmonauts into orbit and back safely, if not always comfortably. The workhorse human transport vehicle has undergone a series of upgrades during that period, and it is now about to undergo its latest--and probably final--revision. At long last, Soyuz is all digital. The next Soyuz launch, scheduled for 8 October, marks the culmination of a series of overhauls that will allow the launch rate of Soyuz crafts to double--a rate needed to maintain a crew of six aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in the absence of the retiring U.S. space shuttle fleet."

NASA technology chief: We'll decide what rocket we want to build, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA engineers -- not Congress -- must determine the design of America's next big spaceship to take humans beyond the moon, according to the agency's top technology official. Robert Braun, NASA's chief technologist, told the Orlando Sentinel that even though Congress last week passed legislation demanding that NASA use parts of the space shuttle and its now-defunct Constellation moon-rocket program to make a new heavy-lift rocket, sound engineering and not politics should ultimately determine the way to go. "I think it remains to be seen what heavy lift will be," Braun said. "I would like to believe now that we are making progress in Washington towards the 2011 plan that the engineers...will weigh in and that we will move towards the technically correct choice."

NASA's Kepler Mission Wins 2010 Software of Year Award by NASA Software Advisory Panel

"NASA's Kepler mission Science Operations Center software system was named winner of the 2010 NASA Software of the Year Award by the NASA Software Advisory Panel."

Keith's note: So ... a NASA advisory panel gives a NASA project an award, and NASA ARC PAO thinks that this is "news"? This is self-manufactured news.

Supreme Court to hear NASA privacy case, AP

"None of the JPL workers who sued work on classified projects or have security clearances, though several are involved in high-profile missions including the twin Mars rovers and the Cassini spacecraft studying Saturn and its moons. The plaintiffs don't deny that the government has the right to confirm a person's identity and education for employment. But requiring background checks of low-risk employees, which includes probes into medical records, finances and drug history, is an invasion of privacy, they say."


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Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle! NASA.gov Beat Google!

"So how are we doing? Pretty well it seems. Our scores for September and for the third quarter of 2010 were the highest we've ever gotten. We continue to outpace web sites generally and most other federal-government sites, and we remain fairly close to some of the most widely used commercial sites. Our September score of 83 wasn't too far behind Netflix and Amazon, and it was well ahead of some others. And, heck yeah, we were higher than Google last month. I can only recall one other month that we were even; Google is usually the highest rated site of all that use this particular service. Most likely it's a one-month aberration, and the more interesting question is what caused them to drop so precipitately. But you'll have to ask them."

Metal From "Outer Space" Falls Down on Chinese Villages, Gizmodo

"The Chang'e II is the country's second-ever lunar orbiter--something that cost the country the equivalent of $134 million. It's taking five days to travel to the moon and will spend around six months observing it with its hi-res cameras, mapping it from a distance of around 15km so they can accurately land spacecraft in the future. Let's hope they're more accurate with shedding boosters in the future too, to keep the fatality rate at zero for rocket-based deaths."

NASA astronaut sues Dido for '08 album cover, KABC

"Bruce McCandless II claims that the British star used a photo of his 1984 space flight on the cover of her 2008 album, "Safe Trip Home." In the complaint, McCandless claims the photograph, which shows him flying freely about 325 feet from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, was misappropriated by Sony Music Entertainment and others. McCandless is suing Dido, Sony Music, and Getty Images."

Dido Sued by Astronaut for Using Space Flight Picture, Bloomberg

"McCandless' Feb. 7, 1984, flight remains the only occasion on which the manned maneuvering unit has been flown to such a significant distance from a shuttle and allowed such photographs to be taken," the former astronaut said in the complaint."

Keith's note: This is just plain goofy. This iconic picture has been in the public domain for a quarter of a century and has been republished countless times. You can buy posters of it at various NASA gift shops. Moreover, you cannot possibly fathom who the picture is of i.e. see his "likeness". Just read NASA's official guidelines. Can you see his face? Can you read his name tag? What about all of the people who are also in that image (on the Earth below)? Can they sue too?

You'd think that a space explorer - one who got all of their rides into space at taxpayer expense - would be thrilled that this photo can still be inspirational today. Oddly, in looking at this image, no one probably remembers - or cares - what specific human is in the photo. McCandless' lawsuit presumes some rather specific knowledge to be in people's heads with regard to this EVA to affirm his identity. Absent that specific detailed information, no one would ever know it was him. They will only learn of his identity by virtue of this pointless lawsuit.

I wonder if Ed White's family has ever sued anyone over the use of this photo.

I am republishing the image - so sue me too Bruce.

Reader note: The Afghan Whigs released an album in '98, called 1965, with Ed White on the cover - here is the original photo. I Never heard of White's estate being petty enough to sue over a photo owned by the people of America - last I saw the photo says NASA, not an individual.

Price too high on space module for hire, Daily Yomiuri

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has received few requests from private corporations wanting to lease space in the research module Kibo on the International Space Station, with the high cost thought to be a major reason for the lack of interest. Under a pricing system introduced by JAXA in June last year, corporations can pay 5.5 million yen per hour to have astronauts from Japan, the United States or other nations carry out scientific experiments or other activities in Kibo. JAXA expected to receive commissions for 10 to 30 hours per year, but orders have fallen well short of that, the agency said. Since JAXA began leasing space in Kibo in September 2008, just four commercial operations have been conducted in the module."

Japan Seeks To Reorient Space Spending, Space News

"The Japanese government wants to promote more private-sector space development by reorienting its spending away from its research focus and toward commercially oriented programs and crafting a new law to permit commercial launch services, Japanese government and industry officials said Sept. 28."

Bolden World Tour Update

Saudi Arabia signs two agreements with Nasa, Guf News

"Riyadh: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has signed two agreements with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). The deals signed on the sidelines of the Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference that began in Riyadh on Saturday are for extended scientific cooperation and exchange of research between them. They also signed a letter of intent in the space and aeronautics area."

NASA Chief Who Called Muslim Outreach 'Foremost' Job Heads to Saudi Arabia, Fox

"Though Bolden's comments about Muslim outreach earlier raised concerns that the White House was squeezing him into an out-of-place diplomatic role, NASA spokesman John Yembrick said the trip "was not initiated" by either the White House or the State Department. "This trip, including the visit to Saudi Arabia, is driven by specific, appropriate agency-level objectives," he said in an e-mail."

Space: More neighborhood than frontier, TMC.net

"Gen. Charles F. Bolden, administrator of NASA, told delegates that NASA seemed to have a secure future after the recent passing of the budget authorization bill by the House of Representatives in late September. Bolden opined recently that he felt that NASA's projected move away from the moon-focused space programs to a wider program of research and possibly near earth object study and interdiction was the way forward."

Layoff Update

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to lay off 45, AP

"JPL spokesperson Veronical McGregor tells the Pasadena Star-News the layoffs will affect less than two percent of the total workforce of about 5,000 employees. McGregor says there was no single area or departments selected for workforce reductions. A JPL contractor tells the newspaper so far people have been let go in the acquisition, housekeeping and travel accounting departments."

Amid layoffs, NASA charts a new direction, space.com

"With the end of that program, scores of jobs at NASA and its contractors will be lost. On Friday, nearly 1,400 shuttle workers were laid off at NASA contractor United Space Alliance, a joint venture by Boeing and Lockheed Martin."

NASA Workers Join Unemployed, My Fox Houston

"Houston's space community found little to celebrate on Friday. We've known for months, but today reality set in when 333 NASA contract workers in the Houston area got pink slips. In all, the main supporter of NASA's space shuttle program, United Space Alliance, announced it will layoff about 15% of its workforce or 1,200 employees."

NASA still expects Huntsville layoffs, but says jobs may come back, Huntsville times

"Marshall Director Robert Lightfoot warned NASA and contract workers in an "all hands" meeting Tuesday that the layoffs were likely if Congress ordered NASA to start the new fiscal year under a continuing budget resolution. Until it gets a new appropriation, NASA must work on the new program with the current budget, meaning a so-called "ramp down" of Constellation was inevitable before it ends completely. NASA expects to be under the continuing resolution until early December, at the earliest."

Marshall Center Director Robert Lightfoot to Meet With Media to Discuss Impact of NASA Authorization Bill

"On Oct. 5, Robert Lightfoot, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be available to discuss the significance and impact on Marshall Center of the NASA authorization bill recently passed by Congress."

Keith's note: I will be on today's Space Talk, hosted by Jim Banke live from Florida's Space Coast, beginning at 2 pm ET. Listen in at http://wmmbam.com.

Back to the Past

Back to the Past, editorial, NY Times

"President Obama's call for sweeping changes in the space program got mugged by lobbyists and pork-minded legislators. An authorization bill for NASA -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- that cleared Congress will leave the agency mired in past technologies. ... A primary goal of those who drafted the legislation was to provide money and save jobs at existing NASA centers and their contractors. At a time of high unemployment, it's hard to argue with that impulse. But the result will be to postpone -- possibly for decades -- the development of the new technologies that could revolutionize long-distance space travel."

NASA Solicitation: Commercial Crew Development Round 2

"As a continuation of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiatives begun in 2009 to stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities, NASA intends to extend efforts to foster activity leading to the development of commercial crew transportation systems. Through this activity, NASA may be able to spur economic growth as capabilities for new space markets are created and reduce the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability."

ATK's Senator Gloats

Hatch: Passage of NASA Reauthorization Takes Utah's Solid Rocket Industry off Life Support

"Hatch was successful in getting language inserted in the bill which details specific payload requirements for a heavy-lift space launch system that, Utah industry experts agree, can only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors like the ones manufactured by ATK in northern Utah. The legislation further requires NASA to use, to the extent practicable, existing contracts, workforces and industries from the Space Shuttle and Ares rockets, including solid rocket motors. The bill also requires an operational capability for the space launch system by the end of 2016. This deadline makes it very difficult for the development of an alternative system which does not use solid rocket motors."

NASA And Univision Team Up

NASA And Univision Collaborate To Engage Hispanic Students

"NASA and Univision Communications Inc. are teaming up to launch an on-air and online initiative to help engage Hispanic students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. NASA is committed to preparing the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists. Univision, a leading Spanish-language media company with television, radio, online and interactive assets focused on improving graduation rates and preparing Hispanic students for college."

The Rough Guide to Solar System Mountaineering, io9.com

"Let's take a look at the extraterrestrial mountains just waiting to be summited. To do that, we spoke to three experts on this rather unusual subject. Joe Romig is a space scientist and the coauthor of the lecture "Seven Summits Of The Solar System", along with renowned climber Glen Porzak. Keith Cowing is a former NASA scientist and the current writer of NASA Watch, OnOrbit, and SpaceRef, as well as an amateur mountaineer. William Hartmann is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and the author, along with Ron Miller, of The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System."

Mountaineering and Climbing on Mars, earlier post



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