November 2011 Archives

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Had Planetary Protection Slip-Up,

"The issue involves a set of drill bits carried by the Curiosity rover, which launched Nov. 26 to Mars. When project developers made an internal decision not to send the equipment through a final ultra-cleanliness step, it marked a deviation from the planetary protection plans scripted for the Mars Science Laboratory mission."

Is Something Wrong With the Drill on MSL?, earlier post

"The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the Curiosity rover and the rock-sampling drill on the rover, has passed all functional testing, and final preparations for launch on Nov. 25 are on schedule."

Apollo 13 checklist brings $388,375 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas

"The Apollo 13 Lunar Module Systems Activation Checklist upon which Commander James Lovell made his handwritten calculations to guide his wounded spacecraft and crew home - scant two hours after uttering the famous words, "Houston, we've had a problem." - consigned by Commander Lovell himself, brought $388,375 today as the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions' Nov. 30 Space Signature(R) Auction."

NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post

"Soon after settling into a booth, [74-year-old suspect Joann] Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff's deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery."

Former Apollo astronaut relents, gives camera from moon mission to Smithsonian, earlier post

"Mitchell said he doesn't understand why the sale of the camera so inflamed government attorneys. He and other astronauts have given away and sold other mementos that were given to them from their moon missions. "This whole thing, frankly, seems to be some young new lawyer in the organization trying to make a name for himself," he said. "It's been frustrating."

The Alan Bean Online Gallery

"Thus the base layer of all of his paintings contain small pieces of his space suit and the command module and also very small amounts of Moon dust. Finally, the paintings, themselves, convey unique memories of an unique era."

Keith's note: It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts.

MAC IV&V Follow-on contract

NASA Awards Software Services Contract

"NASA has selected TASC Inc., of Andover, Mass., to provide software services to the agency's Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, W.Va. The services and support include independent verification and validation; software assurance; research and development and technical quality monitoring."


"Starting at 9a, Speakers from around the center will talk about inspiring students, innovation, and new scientific discoveries. Astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Cadie Coleman will share their perspectives about Earth and space."

Keith's note: You would think that an event like this would be something that NASA would want to share across the entire agency - indeed, with the general public as well. How hard would it be to webcast this? I am baffled as to why things like this end up as choir practice and internal pep rallies and not part of NASA's overall Education and Public Outreach (EPO) activity.

Keith's update: According to a comment from "pamspace": "We'd love for the public to tune in! We are working the final kinks out of our webstreaming process today and do plan to Livestream our event here: We have a backup plan if this path doesn't work and will post an update if needed. Looking forward to a great event!"

Keith's note: This pointless hand sterilizer swag [video] was given out at the NASA Educational Stakeholders Conference. Go figure. Cost? Relevance to space exploration?. You lost me on this. Here's a thought: what if NASA gave out credits to students on for ebooks relevant to space ...

Lanco (the commercial vendor for these things) charges a dollar for this product. Fair enough. That's what these products cost. No big deal, right? NASA is giving these things to its educational professionals. What kind of example is being set? That's the cost of an iTunes download, or many smartphone apps. No one at NASA ever seems to stop and think about this. They just write checks to buy this crap. And they give it to their own employees and meeting attendees. Total cost - a few thousand dollars. I will readily admit that this is just noise in the greater scheme of things. But the fact that NASA sees this as a worthwhile expenditure - when other things could be offered (an iTunes card to purchase space-releated aps) is emblematic of an agency that is out of touch.

Will NASA Obey The Anti-Swag Executive Order?, earlier post

"If NASA actually had a coherent education and public outreach activity that spanned all directorates, projects, missions, and field centers - one that adhered to a clear, cohesive strategy - and was measured and evaluated with metrics, I would suspect that the expenditure of these EPO funds would result in something of tangible value. Alas, just watch as NASA finds a way to evade the intent of this executive order and continues to spew these useless trinkets under the misimpression that they actually have value."

NASA Internal Memo: Lynn Cline Is Retiring From NASA

"Dear Colleagues: When I came to NASA for what was supposed to be a 3-month student internship, I had no idea NASA would become my life's work. I look back with great appreciation for all of the opportunities I have had. I have worked with many wonderful and dedicated people -- my NASA colleagues, partners in industry and academia, and international partners."

Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference Abstract Deadline is Fast Approaching

"Session topics range from planetary science, atmospheric science, microgravity sciences (fundamental biology and physics), earth science, and astro/solar physics applications to talks on integration, launch and funding for scientific payloads."

Will NASA Ever Recover Apollo 13s Plutonium From the Sea?, Txchnologist

"I don't think that anyone has seriously considered that," said Leonard Dudzinski, a NASA program executive who deals with radioisotope power systems. The plutonium was in an oxide form contained in fuel capsule, which itself was inside a graphite and ceramic fuel cask. "The cladding would not be compromised over time by the seawater," Dudzinski said. The current expectation is that the cladding will survive for 10 half lives of the Plutonium, close to 870 years. If anything, the Apollo 13 disaster proved that NASA nuclear safety engineering worked."

Keith's note: Compared to the Soviet Union's abandoned and rotting submarine fleet and the vast amount of industrial crud we pour into the oceans, I suspect that this heavily-clad RTG, miles under the ocean, is a trivial problem.

Mike Leinbach Is Leaving NASA

NASA Shuttle Launch Director Resigns, WMFE

"In an email to colleagues, Leinbach said he is going to work for (quote) "a major aerospace company." He did not name the company but said the job will allow him to stay on the Space Coast. Leinbach's resignation is effective Wednesday."

- Where You Stand Depends On Where You Sit, earlier post
- Mike Leinbach Looks Back, earlier post

apps@NASA Now Online

NASA Launches apps@NASA

"NASA launched apps@NASA, a website where NASA employees and contractors can download mobile apps that securely access NASA systems. These apps enable our users to perform critical job functions at anytime from anywhere via personal and NASA mobile devices."

NASA Launches Mobile Apps Store, Information Week

"The agency was at the forefront of the feds' adoption of cloud computing, building its own cloud infrastructure, Nebula, that it is using internally to host applications and services. Mobile applications are another area in which NASA has been an early adopter, offering apps for both iPhones and Android devices. However, its mobile apps store for employees is a bit thin at the moment; the site currently has only two applications available in its apps store, but NASA plans to add more in the future."

Retro NASAWatch

NASAHackSpace This Weekend

Medvedev suggests prosecution for Russia space failure, Reuters

"Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty," Medvedev told reporters in televised comments. "I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment," he said."

Keith's note: I am sure there is a translation issue involved. Otherwise it would seem that Russia's leader just said that Soviet space program workers were executed by firing squads - or joked about that previous management practices that included such punishment. Either way this sounds rather creepy, Dmitry. Curiously. just a few months ago, before things stopped working, y'all were rather giddy about your space prowess.

Rejoice Comrades! Glorious Era of Soyuz Begins (Update), earlier post

MSL Is On Its Way To Mars

An United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft was launched 10:02 a.m. EST. First stage and second operations were nominal. Spacecraft is in coast phase until second engine burn to send it on its way to Mars.

Watch Launch Live on NASA TV

More MSL information

ESA station unable to establish new link with Phobos-Grunt

"After establishing contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars mission earlier this week, ESA's tracking station in Australia received no signal from the spacecraft last night. ESA engineers are investigating the cause in close collaboration with Russian mission controllers. Despite listening intently during four scheduled communication passes during the night of 24-25 November, ESA's 15 m-diameter dish antenna at Perth, Australia, did not receive any signals."

ESA station keeps contact with Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt, ESA

"Following the first successful contact on Tuesday, ESA's tracking station in Australia again established two-way communication with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft on 23 November. The data received from the spacecraft have been sent to the Russian mission control centre for analysis. Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft's systems. "The signals received from Phobos-Grunt were much stronger than those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better knowledge of the spacecraft's orbital position."

ESA tracking station receives signal from Russia's Phobos Mars mission, ESA

"On Tuesday, 22 November at 20:25 UT, ESA's tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. This was the first signal received on Earth since the Mars mission was launched on 8 November. ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communications with the spacecraft."

Ron Garan: "Saying goodbye to our friends and our home on the International Space Station was bittersweet after nearly six months in space. Although Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev and I were eager to return to our beautiful Earth, we wanted to savor our last moments as we took a couple of laps around our Fragile Oasis before coming back down. Today, November 21, 2011, we look forward to welcoming our crewmates Mike Fossum, Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa as they come "Down to Earth" after their half year onboard the International Space Station. God Speed & Welcome Home Guys! Thank you Peter Gabriel for allowing your music to accompany all of us. Perfect!"


Space Shuttle Enterprise Is Now Officially A New Yorker, Says NASA, Gothamist

"Our insider source tells us that today, "the official transfer of title of Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise from NASA to the Intrepid" was made. "The contract was signed by Lynn Cline, NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations and Susan Marenoff-Zausner, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum." No take-backs, you guys!"

- New York's Deceptive Shuttle Bid, earlier post
- Anyone Can Now Petition The White House For a Space Shuttle, earlier post
- Did NYC Mislead NASA About Shuttle Plans? Did NASA Check?, earlier post
- Houston Takes Another Shot at New York Over Shuttle Exhibit, earlier post

United Launch Alliance Completes Crucial Milestone Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight

"ULA has successfully completed the second required major performance milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement. The Design Equivalency Review (DER) completes a rigorous assessment of the flight-proven Atlas V launch vehicle's compliance with NASA human spaceflight requirements. Three of the four current NASA CCDev partners providing commercial crew integrated services have selected Atlas V as their launch vehicle."

Virginia Completes Study of Commercial Space Flight Facility

"Speaking about the report, Governor McDonnell said "As home to one of only four facilities licensed by the FAA to send rockets into orbit, the Wallops Flight Facility at MARS has the potential to become the leading commercial space flight facility in the United State, all while creating much needed jobs and economic development in all corners of the Commonwealth. With our tremendous educational institutions, manufacturing capabilities, workforce, and ranking as the number one state in the nation in which to do business, the recommendations contained in this report will help Virginia seize a growing portion of this critical sector. Opportunities abound for Virginia in today's commercial space flight industry."

Retro NASA Watch

John Grunsfeld - New SMD AA?

Astronaut tipped to lead NASA science division, Nature

"John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist and astronaut who fixed the Hubble Space Telescope, has been chosen to lead NASA's science mission directorate, according to several sources with knowledge of the selection. Grunsfeld is currently deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble. He would replace Ed Weiler, who resigned his post as NASA associate administrator in September."

Keith's note: Click here or on the image and you will see why John is the perfect choice for SMD AA.

Soyuz Lands Safely

Space Station Trio Lands Safely in Kazakhstan

"Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in frigid conditions on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST Nov. 21 (8:26 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 22). The trio arrived at the station on June 9. They spent 167 days in space and 165 days on the complex. Volkov, a two-time station crew member, now has accumulated 366 days in space."

Seize Virginia's spaceflight opportunity, Op ed, Daily Press

"While any company conducting human spaceflight from Wallops has much to gain, the benefits that human spaceflight would bring to the Commonwealth would be even greater. Human spaceflight from Virginia's Eastern Shore would create thousands of primary and secondary jobs. .. Anyone who visited Florida's Space Coast during the heyday of the Apollo or the Space Shuttle programs can attest to the unparalleled impact human spaceflight has on job creation. ... However, none of this will matter if elected officials in Richmond and Washington are asleep at the wheel. A strong, coordinated and bipartisan effort must be made to incentivize and pressure companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to conduct commercial crew operations from Wallops. We have been presented with an unprecedented and historic chance to make the Commonwealth the gateway for NASA's human spaceflight future, and in today's tough economy failing to make a concerted effort would be the worst kind of tragedy."

SpaceX Searches for New Commercial Launch Site

"Four U.S. states - Virginia, California, Alaska, and Florida - have active launch sites. Given the complexity of developing a rocket launch site, SpaceX will be pursuing several options concurrently in order to fully understand the pros and cons of each location."

Statement by AIA President & CEO Marion C. Blakey on Today's Supercommittee Announcement

"The announcement this afternoon that the supercommittee cannot reach agreement to avoid sequestration is of grave concern. At stake are $1.2 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts hitting the Defense Department, NASA, FAA and other federal programs. The Defense Department will need to start applying cuts to the fiscal year 2013 budget immediately and job losses will increase as the Pentagon is forced to halt work. AIA will continue to make sure that the impacts to our nation, economy and industry are well understood by all Americans."

Super committee fails to agree on deficit-reduction plan, LA Times

"The committee faced a Wednesday deadline to vote on a proposal to slash the nation's deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade. The panel that was brought into existence as a result of the summer debt ceiling fight spent three months in mostly secret negotiations. A deal needed to be posted by Monday evening to provide a 48-hour review. The failure of the committee now triggers mandatory spending cuts that slice equally across defense and discretionary accounts, to begin in January 2013."

OMB directs agencies to cut 2013 budgets, Government Executive

"The Obama administration is directing federal agencies to submit fiscal 2013 budget requests that are at least 10 percent below their current appropriation level."

OMB Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies: Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Guidance

"In light of the tight limits on discretionary spending starting in 2012, your 2013 budget submission to OMB should provide options to support the President's commitment to cut waste and reorder priorities to achieve deficit reduction while investing in those areas critical to job creation and economic growth. Unless your agency has been given explicit direction otherwise by OMB, your overall agency request for 2013 should be at least 5 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation. As discussed at the recent Cabinet meetings, your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation."

NASA budget erratic, Florida Today

"The good news for Kennedy Space Center and Brevard is in the form of a major investment in a new super rocket and Orion crew spaceship, publicly run rather than privately developed, but destined to be prepared and launched from here. Funding for both projects is solidly in place and will help stabilize jobs at the spaceport now and create potentially thousands more in the coming half-decade. ..."

"... The boondoggle James Webb Space Telescope was kept alive -- and provided a multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout -- as politicians gave up on empty threats to finally cancel the latest NASA project to blow its budget and schedule. The telescope, an important science mission worthy of completion, is devouring so much of the NASA budget that other good work is being delayed or canceled."

Florida: No Space Pork Here - Only In Virginia, earlier post

According to NASA PAO: "The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has been delayed one day to allow time for the team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery. The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The one hour and 43 minute launch window opens at 10:02 a.m. EST."

Keith's note:There is another TEDxNASA event today - hosted by NASA Langley. This event was only publicly announced three days in advance, well after the "invitation only" attendees were selected. Taxpayers across the region were not given a chance to attend. There is no mention of this event at NASA's Office of Education webpage, at or the event calendar, the students page,or in the most recent issue of NASA Education Express. One would think that an expensive education-oriented event such as this would be worthy of coordination with NASA's Education Office. In the press release issued only 3 days before the event no mention is made of how media can attend, no provisions for the hearing impaired (interperter, captioning, etc) are mentioned, and it is being held at a time when most people are taking time off i.e. on a weekend. And since it is being held on a weekend, why couldn't this have been aired live on NASA TV? All that is on the schedule is re-airing of things that happened last week.

Despite having hosted several TEDxNASA events in the past, no emails were sent to previous TEDxNASA participants. The agenda is not easy to find either - NASA does not list it. I stumbled across it here on another organization's website. What has ANY of this to do with space exploration? If this is only about STEM education sans any space component, then why is NASA doing this to begin with - and not the Department of Education? Are there any attendees from Northern Virginia? Any home schooled students? Any disabled students?

To be certain, it is nice that Lesa Roe and Steve Craft are interested in education, etc. But they repeatedly avoid the common sense, PR 101 aspects of these TEDxNASA events and therefore pass on a chance to leverage these things to the advantage of the entire agency and people who do not live in Hampton, Virginia.

SpaceX Launch Site Updates

SpaceX Searches for New Commercial Launch Site

"Four U.S. states - Virginia, California, Alaska, and Florida - have active launch sites. Given the complexity of developing a rocket launch site, SpaceX will be pursuing several options concurrently in order to fully understand the pros and cons of each location."

Availability of the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for Issuing an Experimental Permit to SpaceX for Operation of the Grasshopper Vehicle at the McGregor Test Site, Texas

"Although an experimental permit would authorize an unlimited number of launches, the FAA, in conjunction with SpaceX, developed a conservative set of assumptions regarding the possible number of launches that could be conducted under any one experimental permit for the Grasshopper RLV at the McGregor test site. The FAA has assumed that SpaceX would conduct up to 70 annual suborbital launches of the Grasshopper RLV under an experimental permit at the McGregor test site. This estimation is a conservative number and considers potential multiple launches per day and potential launch failures."

Keith's 18 Nov 12:25 pm EST update: NASA PAO just provided the following response: "The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the Curiosity rover and the rock-sampling drill on the rover, has passed all functional testing, and final preparations for launch on Nov. 25 are on schedule. Testing indicates that the rover can meet all of its mission success criteria. Experiments continue on engineering models of the rover's sampling system, including the hammering drill, to refine understanding of the best ways to use the system once Curiosity is on Mars. Continued testing on Earth will study which aspects of the drill performance will degrade during the mission and how to exercise operational workarounds. An example is that the percussion mechanism in the rotary-percussion drill can develop electrical shorts after prolonged use (beyond that required for mission success). The drill will be used in rotary-only mode on some rocks to prolong availability of hammering. The potential also exists for material to come off the drill bit as it wears and to complicate analysis of the powdered sample. In both cases, workarounds exist including the use of rotary-only drilling, replacing the bit, and using the scoop to provide soil samples directly to the analytic laboratory."

Earlier posts below.

Congress Slashes Budget of White House Science Office, AAAS/Science Insider

"First words, then deeds. Frustrated that White House officials have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Science lobbyists say that's a bad idea. A 2012 spending bill expected to be approved later this week slashes OSTP's current $6.6 million budget to $4.5 million. The cuts won't mean layoffs or furloughs for the office's 90-person staff, many on loan from other agencies or outside institutions. But it "will have real consequences on OSTP's operations," says OSTP spokesperson Rick Weiss, forcing OSTP "to prioritize existing activities" in fields ranging from science education to sustainable energy."

- Report on U.S. - China Security Issues Published, earlier post
- Hearing on China, OSTP & NASA (Political Theater Synopsis), earlier post
- Did China Hack U.S. Satellites? (NASA Update), earlier post
- Hearing: Wolf Vs NASA/OSTP on China, earlier post
- NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is Still Bashing China On The Job, earlier post
- -Other posts on China

State Department: Leading with Diplomacy to Strengthen Stability in Space

"Remarks by Frank A. Rose Deputy Assistant Secretary U.S. Department of State at the USSTRATCOM Cyber and Space Symposium: The space environment is at serious risk from a number of sources, including space debris and a lack of transparency in the conduct of space activities. It is our belief that one of the most beneficial multilateral TCBMs for strengthening stability in space could be the adoption of "best practice" guidelines or an international "code of conduct." A code of conduct could help establish guidelines for safe and responsible use of space, avoid collisions, reduce radiofrequency interference, and call out irresponsible behavior."

Key Controls NASA Employs to Guide Use and Management of Funded Space Act Agreements Are Generally Sufficient, but Some Could Be Strengthened and Clarified, GAO

"Finally, though federal standards for internal control highlight the importance of training to maintaining competence, NASA does not require or offer formal training for individuals responsible for managing funded Space Act agreements. For its Commercial Crew program, NASA did develop and document a process to guide program officials through procedures associated with its agreements. Although the documented process is a positive step for the Commercial Crew program, given the unique nature of funded Space Act agreements and the judgment that can be executed by agreement managers, training could help ensure that future agreements are executed appropriately."

- Sen. Rockefeller (statement)

Witness Panel 1
- Charles Bolden(statement)

Witness Panel 2
- KSC Center Director Robert D. Cabana
- JSC Center Director Michael L. Coats
- MSFC Center Director Robert M. Lightfoot

NASA Administrator Bolden Lauds Apollo 11 Crew And John Glenn

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made these remarks today during a ceremony in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where leaders of Congress honored astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with congressional gold medals...."

Keith's note: This morning's edition of the Washington Post had a huge color picture of this event (Video - photos). So I guess someone told them about it in advance. Oddly enough, NASA did not give any advance notice to media or to the public that this prestigious event was going to happen and that the NASA Administrator would be participating. This is not unusual. Take a look at the speeches posted here by Charlie Bolden. How many of these appearances were announced by NASA in advance? Not many. Indeed, more than half of these events just "happened" - and the transcript of Bolden's comments show up quietly - often weeks after the event - if at all. Yet NASA PAO constantly crows about how open and accessible Bolden is to the media.

Space Quarterly MagazineThe following is an excerpt from an article that appears in the next issue of Space Quarterly Magazine to be released on December 1. Following the excerpt is the table of contents for both the U.S. and Canadian editions.

Where is U.S. Space Policy Headed? By Marcia S. Smith

President Obama released his National Space Policy (NSP) in June 2010. Although it made few national headlines, it was big news for the space community.

Consider Supporting Shackleton Energy Company's Fuel Depot Business, NASAHackSpace

"The process of establishing the world's first operational lunar base and propellant depot business in space is underway as SEC launches its initial fundraising campaign. This comes in the footsteps of recent amazing new discoveries of huge deposits of propellant-feedstock ice on the Moon by NASA and other international space programs. Joining forces with RocketHub, one of the largest crowdfunding platforms, SEC seeks to raise the initial seed capital necessary to complete its top level planning in order to then secure the first major round of investment capital necessary to complete preliminary designs of all system elements."

NASA Named One of Best Places To Work in Government

"NASA remains one of the best places to work in the federal government. In a survey released today by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization, the agency retains its ranking of number five. The rankings draw on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Employee Viewpoint Survey of more than 150,000 executive branch employees. The evaluation helps job-seekers assess agencies and federal managers improve their workplaces."

SpaceX's Secret Sauce

1 visionary + 3 launchers + 1,500 employees = ? Is SpaceX changing the rocket equation?, Andrew Chaikin, Air & Space magazine

"After nearly a decade of struggling to reach this point, Musk isn't about to reveal the finer details of how he and his privately held company have created the Falcon and Dragon. They don't even file patents, Musk says, because "we try not to provide a recipe by which China can copy us and we find our inventions coming right back at us." But he talks freely about SpaceX's approach to rocket design, which stems from one core principle: Simplicity enables both reliability and low cost. Think of cars, Musk says. "Is a Ferrari more reliable than a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic?"

2011 Report to Congress of the U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission

"... authoritative Chinese military writings advocate attacks on space-toground communications links and ground-based satellite control facilities in the event of a conflict. Such facilities may be vulnerable: in recent years, two U.S. government satellites have experienced interference apparently consistent with the cyber exploitation of their control facility."

Conferees OK $17.8 Billion For NASA, Aviation Week

"I have had the opportunity to engage in conversation with individuals in the Office of Management and Budget [OMB]," said Steven Squyres of Cornell University, the Mars expert who headed up the planetary science decadal survey at the National Academy of Sciences, when asked if OMB is willing to commit to a joint Mars program with ESA. "In those conversations I have been told the administration is not ready to make such a commitment." Pressed by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Squyres said Sally Ericsson, OMB program associate director for natural resources, energy, and science, told him of the White House's unwillingness to commit to the deal tentatively struck between NASA and ESA in 2009. Ericsson declined an invitation to testify before the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics."

Conference Report to Accompany HR 2112 -- NASA Excerpts

"... the formulation and development costs (with development cost as defined under 51 U.S.C. 30104) for the James Webb Space Telescope shall not exceed $8,000,000,000: Provided further, That should the individual identified under subparagraph (c)(2)(E) of section 30104 of title 51 as responsible for the James Webb Space Telescope determine that the development cost of the program is likely to exceed that limitation, the individual shall immediately notify the Administrator and the increase shall be treated as if it meets the 30 percent threshold described in subsection (f) of section 30104 of title 51."

"... $406,000,000 shall be for commercial spaceflight activities, and $304,800,000 shall be for exploration research and development: Provided further, That not to exceed $316,500,000 of funds provided for the heavy lift launch vehicle system may be used for ground operations: Provided further that $100,000,000 of the funds provided for commercial spaceflight activities shall only be available after the NASA Administrator certifies to the Committees on Appropriations, in writing, that NASA has published the required notifications of NASA contract actions implementing the acquisition strategy for the heavy lift launch vehicle system identified in section 302 of Public Law 111-267 and has begun to execute relevant contract actions in support of development of the heavy lift launch vehicle system."

NASA Receives Clean Audit Opinion

"NASA has released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), which provides a summary of the agency's annual performance and financial information. This year's report marks an important financial milestone for the agency -- a "clean" audit opinion. This is NASA's first clean financial statement audit opinion in nine years."

Photos: Robonaut-2 Gestures In Space

Keith's note: I have seen Robonaut-2 in action and its dexterity is interesting - and rather facile. So ... how could NASA demonstrate this dexterity in new ways, make it a little more "human" or approachable, - and reach a new segment of the populace that is normally overlooked? Program it to use Sign Language. Background: I worked for more than a decade as a professional certified (educational) sign language interpreter. This idea occurred to me when I was looking at this picture and instantly wondered what Robonaut-2 "wanted" or why it was seemingly in the process of saying "here" or maybe "give". Imagine how fast a video of Robonaut-2 saying something in American Sign Language from space would go viral. NASA could have a competition wherein people submit questions for it to answer. NASA already has a signing astronaut and SMD and NLSI already put out books in Braille. Just a thought.

P.S. Maybe he could repeat what that alien signed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (video). If you watch that scene, the alien that is signing actually moves its hand like Robonaut does. I first saw this film when it came out with my hearing impaired roommates - none of us knew that aliens were going to sign so we all freaked out when one of them did. Of course, it was natural to us that all aliens would know how to sign - since they all already speak English, right?

Getting Our Priorities Straight: Setting the SLS Vs Propellant Depot Argument In a Greater Context, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"In October 2011 of a report leaked out of NASA showing that a Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) architecture based upon the use of propellant depots vs the implementation of the heavy lift Space Launch System was being studied by NASA. Since that time much heat has been generated on both sides of this debate. However, the debate that is happening does not address the fundamental issue that has led us to the sorry state of affairs. The fundamental issue of concern is that NASA and the BEO exploration program are utterly irrelevant national needs in today's trying times. Money is certainly not the problem. Insight can be gleaned by looking at an area where government funding in the last few years has dramatically outpaced spending on space."

Exploring Mars and Beyond: What's Next for U.S. Planetary Science?

"- Dr. Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director, Science Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

- Dr. Steve Squyres, Chair, Committee on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, National Academies of Science"

- Statement of Rep. Donna Edwards
- Statement of James Green
- Statement of Steven Squyres

Keith's note: Conferees filed their conference report for the first minibus appropriations bill Monday night. This is what they propose for NASA:

- NASA (whole agency): $17.8 billion
- ISS: $2.8 billion for ops, research, and cargo
- Commercial Crew: $406 million
- SLS: $1.8 billion
- MPCV/Orion: $1.2 billion
- Webb Space Telescope: $529 million
- Technology: $575 million

A Post-Mission Conversation With NASA NEEMO Aquanaut Steve Squyres

"Cowing: Let's go back to what we were talking about several weeks ago before you began your NEEMO mission - the idea that being there - and doing it as - opposed to intellectualizing things ...

Squyres: ... yea, it is really different when you actually have to do it!"

Astronaut confident NASA will rebound from 'limbo', Des Moines Register

"Clayton Anderson] said the agency needs a firm target, such as a manned mission to Mars. President Barack Obama has backed off that plan, shelving a return to the moon and instead looking at a possible asteroid visit. "We lack leadership," Anderson said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "We've had lulls like this before, but I'm not sure we've had many that are quite as tough as what we have now. Now, we are in a limbo state." ... Anderson said he most likely won't fly again after getting crosswise with the current NASA brass. He had some choice words for Mission Control about space station procedures and life, and the bosses didn't want to hear it, he said. "They told me I was too candid and blunt with Mission Control and others, and that my skill set did not match long-term space missions," Anderson said."

Marc's note: This morning I received an email from NASA's YouTube channel informing me that they had uploaded a new video of the Expedition 29 launch. Great I thought, I'll grab the code and post it to SpaceRef. But much to my surprise I could not view the video because the BBC claimed copyright. This would funny if it weren't serious.

How an astronaut with Parkinson's Disease still won his own space race, The Telgraph

"They never told me to keep it quiet but I knew if I told the world I had Parkinson's that would put Nasa in a bad place. It would make press conferences all about me, it would raise questions."

The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter

"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 60 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."

The Astronaut's Secret, official website

Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I have pledged $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell. Help him tell it.

Status: 138 BACKERS - $17,929 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 5 DAYS TO GO

Status: 143 BACKERS - $18,679 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 4 DAYS TO GO

The Money Pit (TV report), WOIO, Channel19 Part I - Part II

"In these tough times, it seems like everyone in Cleveland has been forced to cut corners. Except for Northeast Ohio's branch of NASA, who just bought a $20,000 dollar conference table, a $1,500 dollar office chair and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars remodeling! The best part? It's all with your money! A Carl Monday investigation that is just outrageous!"

Keith's note: Its rather odd that GRC would not allow a camera crew into the GRC Center Director's office under the pretense of concerns regarding terrorists, security, etc. -- and yet photos and video taken in the Oval Office in the White House seem to get in the news many times a week. As for the custom conference table (really), the absurdly luxurious granite floors (with logo), and near-weekly airline travel by the GRC Center Director ... you be the judge. I am more or less certain that no one at NASA cares about things like this any more. Let them eat cake, etc.

Obama nixes federal swag, Politico

"On Wednesday, Obama signed an executive order that will direct government agencies to, among other things, "stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag." What exactly falls under the category of "swag"? Plaques, "nonessential items used for promotional purposes" like clothing, pens and mugs, and "other unnecessary promotional items that agencies purchase," according to the White House, which did not respond to multiple requests for more details about the "swag" and its cost."

Executive Order -- Promoting Efficient Spending, White House

"Sec. 7. Extraneous Promotional Items. Agencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing, and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective."

NASA solicitation: Drawstring Backpack Wooden pencils and jumbo pens

"NASA/LaRC has a requirement for Drawstring Backpack, Qty: 12,000 EA in accordance the attached requirements: Round Wooden Pencils, Qty: 10,000 EA in accordance with the attached requirements and Ink Pens, Qty: 10,000 EA in accordance with the attached requirements."

NASA solicitation: NASA educational outreach items

"NASA/LaRC has a requirement for various educational, outreach items with the NASA logo: Astronaut stress reliever, Earth squeeze ball, Drawstring backpack ..."

Keith's note: NASA buys this give-away crap in huge quantities without any notion as to whether its distribution accomplishes anything of value to the agency or to the individuals who receive it. All too often NASA staff end up throwing a lot of it away because it is cheaper than shipping it back to their office after an event. ESMD and SOMD are among the worst offenders. And now with the merger of ESMD and SOMD much of it will get pulped because the mail codes have changed. Remember all of that Constellation stuff ... I have asked HEOMD's Beth Beck more than once for her "plan" for EPO and the metrics she uses to measure its effectiveness. She has never bothered to reply. Its is obvious that there is no plan - nor are there any metrics. Nor does she seem to be at all bothered by this situation. The same is true across the agency. To make things worse - no one coordinates anything. The net result is both duplication and competition.

If NASA actually had a coherent education and public outreach activity that spanned all directorates, projects, missions, and field centers - one that adhered to a clear, cohesive strategy - and was measured and evaluated with metrics, I would suspect that the expenditure of these EPO funds would result in something of tangible value. Alas, just watch as NASA finds a way to evade the intent of this executive order and continues to spew these useless trinkets under the misimpression that they actually have value.

NASA headquarters, four other centers turn to buyouts, Government Executive

"Several NASA locations are offering buyouts and early retirement packages to employees. According to NASA public affairs specialist Grey Hautaluoma, the agency's headquarters in Washington on Nov. 7 offered buyout packages worth up to $25,000 per employee. While 147 employees are eligible for the offer, only 50 packages will be available. Employees must apply by Nov. 18. Four other NASA centers have extended separate buyout offers. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida offered 150 buyouts through Nov. 7, targeting the budget and legal offices, information technology and general administrative personnel. To date, almost all the applications have been processed."

Will Tight Budgets Sink NASA Flagships?, Science (subscription required for full access)

"One big question that needs to be answered relatively soon is where NASA will find the money to complete the Webb telescope by 2018, provided Congress does not terminate the project. NASA officials have declared the $8.7 billion instrument an agency-wide priority and would like to take half of the addition $2 billion needed over the next 5 years from within the Science Mission Directorate. (The rest would come from other parts of the $18.5 billion agency.) That plan is causing consternation among researchers outside astrophysics, who say that it is unfair for the planetary, earth science, and heliophysics programs to support an over-budget astronomy mission. "JWST has been held up as the most important thing to be done, at all cost," says Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "But it is not scientifically responsible to undermine other programs to cover JWST."

Guest Blog: Apollo's Spirit Alive and Well, Andrew Chaikin, Space News

"Four decades later the challenge is not just to follow Apollo's trail into deep space, but to do it affordably and sustainably. That's not going to happen if NASA continues to be run as a jobs program as much as a space program. These are the things I think about when I hear people like my manager friend say that commercial companies should be patient and wait for the fruits of NASA's experience to spin off to the private sector. They apparently don't see that this spinoff has already happened, that companies like SpaceX have digested the collected wisdom of NASA's first half-century and are building on it. And they are doing so with a boldness that could be game-changing -- even for heavy-lift launchers. The spirit of Apollo is alive and well, if only NASA and Congress would allow it to flourish."

NASA on Google+

Government Agencies Go Google+, Information Week

"Most of the agencies thus far have been posting news, multimedia, and information of the type one might expect to be posted on their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. For example, with the exception of a post introducing itself to Google+, the Marine Corps' Google+ posts have thus far been carbon copies of its posts on its official Facebook page. Since joining Google+, NASA has been the most active of the new entrants with almost two dozen posts, mostly images and multimedia, and many of them different from information shared on other social media platforms. The page already has more than 18,000 followers."

Keith's note: Why is former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly still using an official NASA Twitter account ShuttleCDRKelly - with the NASA logo and links to NASA - more than a month after he retired from NASA? Do the rules apply differently to former astronauts than they do for everyone else? Anyone visiting this Twitter page would get the clear impression that Kelly still works for NASA. Yet NASA continues to allow Kelly to give that incorrect impression - even when you bring it to the agency's attention. @NASA_Astronauts follows him as well. In addition, Kelly is using a Twitter following that his webpage generated during official duty at NASA. Yet non-astronaut former NASA employees would get in big trouble if they did this after they left the agency. Double standard, anyone?

Jose Hernandez, Social Media, and Politics, earlier post

Keith's update: Mark Kelly has changed the appearance of his Twitter page so as to not make it look exactly like the official NASA Twitter page that it once was - one that was overtly promoted by NASA in press releases and updated by NASA personnel during his missions. This is what it looked like before the change. That said, Mark Kelly was prompt - and proper - in responding. Also, as a result of this posting, it is my understanding that NASA CIO and PAO have started to amend and clarify their guidelines with regard to situations such as this so as to make things clearer for others who depart the agency.

Keith's note: In a Mars Science Laboratory pre-launch press conference today, NASA's Doug McCuistion said "MSL is seeking signs of life but this is not a life detection mission". NASA is still confused as to what this mission is about - or at least its PR people are confused. If you are seeking "signs of life" then it is not impossible that those "signs of life", if detected, might also be an indication of extant life. So I guess if NASA detects life on Mars it won't say anything since it is not looking for life to begin with? It is this sort of confusing verbiage that makes PR problems for NASA. Remember the Kepler story last year wherein a project scientist referred to "earth-like" planets but stumbled (days later) to say that he did not really mean that they were "earth-like"?

On one official NASA MSL website at JPL ( - NASA seems to need more than one official website) says "The rover's onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.". That could include extant life too, based on how this is written. If MSL CANNOT detect existing life then NASA should say so. If it can, then NASA should say so.

Oh yes, the official NASA MSL website at (which does not link to the JPL MSL website above) links to another MSL website at JPL - instead. NASA seems to be incapable of having one place where it describes this mission, thus compounding public confusion.

Virginia Vs Florida in Space

Launching Virginia's space industry, Roanoke Times

"With the Orion space capsule and the Space Launch System the latest federal space launch system already set for the Kennedy Space Center, Space Florida selfishly continues to seek to nix human spaceflight from Virginia. Florida seeks to soak up all domestic federal space dollars. Virginians need to know of the newfound position in space technology capability within our commonwealth. As NASA Watch blogger and Northern Virginia resident Keith Cowing pointed out, fewer than one in 100 in the state have realization of the commercial space launch pad assets on Wallops Island. This state of knowledge must change."

Video: J-2X Engine Test

Video: NASA's New Upper Stage J-2X Engine Passes Major Test

"NASA conducted a successful 500-second test firing of the J-2X rocket engine on Wednesday, Nov. 9, marking another important step in development of an upper stage for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS). Data from the test will be analyzed as operators prepare for additional engine firings. The J-2X and the RS-25D/E engines for the SLS core stage will be tested for flight certification at Stennis. Both engines use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants. The core stage engines were developed originally for the space shuttle."

United States Attorney Southern District of New York Press Event with NASA Inspector General

"A press conference will be held today to announce charges against seven individuals who engaged in a sophisticated, international Internet fraud scheme that infected more than four million computers in over 100 countries and manipulated online advertising.

- Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
- Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-In-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Paul Martin, Inspector General of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Inspector General"

U.S. Attorney Charges Seven Individuals For Engineering Sophisticated Internet Fraud Scheme, Department of Justice

"Of the computers infected with malware, at least 500,000 were in the United States, including computers belonging to U.S. government agencies, such as NASA; educational institutions; non-profit organizations; commercial businesses; and individuals."

Crofton man finalist for White House award, Baltimore Sun

"A Crofton man who works for NASA is one of four finalists for a White House award that recognizes federal employees who offer ideas to make government run more efficiently, the Obama administration said Wednesday. Matthew Ritsko's idea of creating a tool "library" to avoid duplicative purchases of pricey tools was selected by the Office Of Management and Budget from nearly 20,000 ideas. The winner will present their idea to the president."

Keith's note: There will be a Live webchat with Ritsko, three other winners, and the President at 11:00 am EST. Oddly, NASA PAO does not seem to know about this event involving the President and a NASA employee.

AAAS Letter Expresses "Grave Concerns" for OSTP Budget

"In a letter dated 8 November 2011, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of Science, expressed "grave concerns regarding the prospect of a 50 percent reduction in the budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)," as proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Keith's note: It would seem that Rep. Wolf is still angry at OSTP and that his way of expressing that anger (other than shouting and displaying giant posters at staged hearings) is to cut OSTP's budget by an arbitrary 50%. If the entire Congress was angry at OSTP, that would be one thing, but the fact that Wolf's China hearings were held in front of a virtually empty hearing room (photo) suggests that Wolf's Cold War redux is simply a personal one ala Captain Ahab.

China Space & Cyber Challenges Seminar, upcoming event

"Our speakers are Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia (Chairman, House Appropriations - CJS), Congressman John Culberson of Texas (House Appropriations - CJS), and Peter Marquez of Orbital (former Director of Space Policy, the White House)."

Hearing on China, OSTP & NASA (Political Theater Synopsis), earlier post

Russia's Mars Mission May Be In Trouble, Discovery News

"We had a difficult night," Russian space agency head Vladimir Popovkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, reports. "We could not locate the spacecraft for a very long time. Now we know its coordinates."

Russian Mars mission halted by glitch in low Earth orbit, SpaceflightNow

"A subsequent story in Novosti late Tuesday night said such a problem could be due to software or hardware issues. If it was a software glitch, the odds of recovery are good, while a hardware anomaly could have more dire consequences for the mission, the report said."

NASA Administrator Names Peck Agency's Chief Technologist

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Cornell University Professor Mason Peck to be the agency's chief technologist, effective in January. Peck will serve as the agency's principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning technology policy and programs. As the chief advocate, Peck will help communicate how NASA technologies benefit space missions and the day-to-day lives of Americans. The office coordinates, tracks and integrates technology investments across the agency and works to infuse innovative discoveries into future missions. The office also documents, demonstrates and communicates the societal impact of NASA's technology investments."

Group Letter From Former Astronauts To Congress Regarding NASA's Commercial Crew Program

"We understand there are many programs competing for limited NASA funding; however, Commercial Crew funding must be kept as one of the top priorities if America is to retain its position as the world's number one spacefaring nation, ahead of other spaceflight powers like Russia and China. Simply put, Commercial Crew represents the most rapid way for America to get back its human space transportation capability following retirement of the Space Shuttle, and for America to end the "gap" in human spaceflight. The US will be back with its own capability soonest through Commercial Crew. Without Commercial Crew, America will be on the sidelines for years and years. And as long as America lacks a domestic means to access and maintain our $100 billion International Space Station, then we are running a risk that any setback to the Russian space program or a deterioration of US-Russian relations could force us to temporarily or perhaps permanently evacuate the American crew from the ISS."

NASA Acknowledges James Webb Telescope Costs Will Delay Other Science Missions, Space News

"In the report, NASA also acknowledged for the first time that building and operating the long-delayed flagship telescope for five years will now cost $8.835 billion, or about $100 million more than the agency conceded in August."

This tweet is just one example of a long string of lobbying tweets: "All Webb Telescope #science supporters,new ACTION ALERT on my web page. Senate & House to conference in <10 days; #JWST"

Keith's note: So, this officially-branded AURA twitter account is utilized by AURA personnel during work hours to lobby for projects of clear interest to AURA and .... who pays their salary to do this lobbying? Hmmm ... where does their funding come from? Either NASA or NSF.

Group Letter To Congress and the Obama Administration Regarding NASA's Commercial Crew Program

"We, the undersigned space leaders, are strong supporters of human spaceflight. Among us are former NASA astronauts, executives, and advisors, CEOs and directors of firms large and small, space scientists, space journalists, and others. We write today to urge you to expedite plans to use commercial companies to carry crew to the Space Station. This effort is critical to the health of the Nation's human spaceflight efforts. More specifically, we are alarmed by possible congressional budget cuts to the $850M FY2012 budget request for NASA's Commercial Crew program--the fastest paced and surest effort to restore US human access to orbit. We are also alarmed by changes to NASA's planned contracting and oversight methods that threaten to complicate and slow progress toward developing US capabilities to put American astronauts in orbit via the Commercial Crew program."

First Orion Flight in 2014?

NASA Proposes Orion Spacecraft Test Flight In 2014

"This Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, will fly two orbits to a high-apogee, with a high-energy re-entry through Earth's atmosphere. Orion will make a water landing and be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Exploration Flight Test 1

"EFT-1 flight test objectives are focused on demonstrating beyond low earth orbit (BEO) spacecraft capabilities. The flight conditions required for EFT-1 were selected to demonstrate integrated vehicle performance for ascent, on-orbit flight, and a high-energy re-entry profile of approximately 30,280 feet per second from BEO."

NASA Space Technology Research Fellowships - Fall 2012 Fellowship Grant

"Point of Contact

Name: Claudia M Meyer
Title: NASA Space Technology Research Grants Program Exec
Phone: 000-000-0000
Fax: 000-000-0000

Keith's 4 Nov. note: Where is area code 000? You can "contact" Claudia Meyer at GRC (no mention of GRC in the NASA HQ procurement notice) at 216.977.7511 or at (via

Keith's 8 Nov update: No one (including Claudia Meyer the "NASA Space Technology Research Grants Program Exec") seems to care that the principal contact for this official government solicitation refuses to post a valid telephone number such that taxpayers, students, etc. can contact her. "Open and transparent"? Not so much, I think.

Museum Seeks State Money for Space Shuttle's Home, NY Times

"Officials of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan have taken their pitch for government support of the proposed museum out from behind closed doors. ... But now they hope to build a 75,000-square-foot building across the West Side Highway that would include laboratories for teaching science to children as well as retail space and a rooftop cafe, Mr. Woods said. To do so, they still need permission from the state's Department of Transportation, which owns the site -- and $85 million."

Keith's note: Wait a minute: wasn't this all supposed to have been worked out before New York submitted their application to get a space shuttle - not after the fact? Sounds rather deceptive to me.

Did NYC Mislead NASA About Shuttle Plans? Did NASA Check?, earlier post

New Radar Image: Asteroid 2005 YU55 Approaches Close Earth Flyby

"This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech."

The Highest Resolution Image of the Sun's Surface Ever Obtained in Visible Light

"The 1.6-meter aperture New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), has captured the highest resolution image of the surface of the sun ever obtained in visible light. The image was acquired with adaptive optics."

Jack Townsend

Former Goddard Center Director John Townsend Dead at 87

"John W. "Jack" Townsend, Jr., a space pioneer who was among the first employees of the newly formed Goddard Space Flight Center in 1959 and later served as its Center Director from 1987 to 1990, died October 29 of lung cancer. He was 87. Townsend was a rocket and satellite pioneer who was influential in creating the first meteorological, communications, and Earth viewing satellite systems."

Budget pressures squeeze the dreams of Mars explorers, Washington Post

"At a White House meeting during the last week of October, administration officials "were clearly not very keen on signing up" for unmanned Mars missions in 2016 and 2018, said Daniel Britt, who attended the meeting as head of the planetary science division of the American Astronomical Society. ... White House officials said no decision to kill the Mars program has been made. The administration is deliberating how to mete out NASA's uncertain budget, said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

NASA Funding Added to Must-pass Minibus, Space News

"NASA funding is among the differences House and Senate conferees must resolve before the two chambers can give final approval to the so-called minibus the week of Nov. 14. House appropriators voted this summer to fund NASA at $16.8 billion -- about $1.6 billion below this year's level -- and recommended canceling the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope. The Senate bill, in contrast, would fund NASA at $17.9 billion and include additional money for Webb."

Standards, Wayne Hale

"Much of the time NASA appears to be a loose confederation of 10 quasi independent fiefdoms, each pretty much in charge of their own business. People often ask me what would I do if I were king of NASA for a day. They expect me to say something like: build this rocket, launch that satellite. Rather I think how I would standardize the procurement processes, or the human resources procedures, or the engineering standards used across the agency. But then I always was a dreamer, tilting at impossible windmills. Launching rockets is easy; getting engineers to agree on standards is hard."

Obama and NASA This Week

White House Photo of the Day, 3 Nov 2011

"Janet Kavandi, Director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson Space Center, presents President Obama with a jacket during a drop by with the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in the Oval Office, Nov. 1, 2011. The jacket features patches from several past space shuttle missions. Pictured in the background, from left, are: Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus, Commander Chris Ferguson and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)"

Pres. Obama talks NASA's future with Dave Ward, KTRK

"What we've said with NASA is that we need to re-tool, to take that next big leap forward in space. The shuttle program had a wonderful run but the truth of the matter is that the next phase, including the Orion project, was way behind schedule and didn't seem to be meeting its budget objectives," President Obama said. "So what we've done is to try to say let's take a step back, let's figure out how do we re-tool."

'We've got to do more', MyFox, Tampa

"We are, for example, working with NASA and the private sector to bring additional jobs to central Florida. Boeing just made an announcement that we're very happy about."

White House: No E.T. - Yet

White House Responds to Petition: Searching for ET, But No Evidence Yet, OSTP

"Thank you for signing the petition asking the Obama Administration to acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth. The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye. However, that doesn't mean the subject of life outside our planet isn't being discussed or explored. In fact, there are a number of projects working toward the goal of understanding if life can or does exist off Earth. Here are a few examples:"

Opportunity and Risk Ahead for Canada's Space Industry, SpaceRef Canada

"Maclean noted that Canada had signed two major treaties recently. The first in 2009 with United States and most recently a 10 year extension with the European Space Agency. He also mentioned that the Canadian Space Agency very recently got cabinet approval to go ahead and negotiate a treaty with Russia and that it should be signed shortly. This will facilitate Canadian industry access to Russia. He also said that Canada has begun talks about a treaty with China and hopes in the future to sign an agreement. No timetable for a signed treaty has been released though."

NASA Still Studying Space-Based Fuel Depots, Aviation Week

"Michael Gazarik, NASA's space technology program director, says that CPST and the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket currently under development are complementary technologies. "To explore deep space we need a heavy-lift vehicle -- SLS -- and we need this technology. We need to be able to demonstrate how to handle cryogenic fluids in space." The CPST project is being led by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, which was set up by the Obama administration to develop technologies that will be needed regardless of the final exploration architectures the U.S. space community hammers out. The depot-demonstration mission will serve any of them, Gazarik says."

- Update on NASA's Hidden Fuel Depot Studies
- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- Fuel Depots and Congress, earlier post
- In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer Demonstration Mission Concept Studies, 2011, NASA GRC, earlier post
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs, earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress, earlier post

Alexander Saltman Selected As Executive Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Federation has selected Dr. Alexander Saltman as the organization's Executive Director. Saltman is a physicist who has most recently served as the Legislative Director for Congressman Adam Schiff of California. ... Separately, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation is currently conducting an executive search for a new President to replace Rear Admiral Craig Steidle, who stepped down earlier this fall for medical reasons."

Propellant Depots Instead of Heavy Lift?, opinion, By Michael D. Griffin and Scott Pace, Space News

"The most reasonable claim made in support of fuel depots is that if they are employed to the exclusion of a heavy lifter, one saves the cost of building the heavy lifter. This is certainly true -- but then we do not have a heavy lifter!"

Keith's note: Hilarious. Griffin and Pace cannot see through their own tired, myopic, Apollo on Steroids rhetoric. If you save the cost of building a heavy lifter then you SAVE MONEY. Get it? you SAVE MONEY. You can can use that money that you were going to spend on monster rockets to buy EXISTING ROCKETS to create the fuel depot and other aspects of a cislunar infrastructure. You then utilize that same existing commercial launch capability to accomplish what you only thought possible with the heavy lift behemoths you seem so chronically addicted to. The only reason NASA is building SLS right now is because Congress i.e. the space states misses your Ares V and all the jobs it created/saved. They do not seem to care if there is no money provided for payloads to fly on these rockets. This is certainly not about efficiency.

Photo: JAXA Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa Backlit Only By Earthshine

"Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, Expedition 29 flight engineer, holds a still camera while looking through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station Space Station."

Keith's note: As you can see from this screen shot from the hearing's webcast (shown only on NASA TV) as John Holdren and Charlie Bolden were testifying, that virtually no one other than Rep. Rohrabacher, ranking member Rep. Carnahan, and their staffs even bothered to show up for this hearing. A few selected tweets:

- Rohrabacher: DOJ says that WH can do whatever it wants in terms of diplomacy. My colleagues and I will fight this overreach.
- Rep. Carnahan: I have a different view on how we can engage with China and push ahead with reforms.
- Rep. Wolf "NASA wants to work with the PLA who is killing people for their organs"
- Rep. Wolf is now showing posters and shouting.
- It is now clear why Rep. Wolf needed his own panel - he is taking up the time that 3 witnesses would normally take
- Rep. Wolf is showing more posters and shouting about China blocking UN missions
- Bolden: my predecessor travelled to China to talk about space cooperation while GW Bush was president. I travelled there in 2010.
- Rohrabacher: this came to you from DOJ? Holdren: DOJ's opinion represents the Administration's opinion on this matter & it is binding on me
- Holdren: WH asked DOJ lawyer to be present - that request not granted by the committee - Rohrabacher said he would have granted had he known
- Most absurd aspect of the China/OSTP/NASA hearing: Committee staff refused to allow a DOJ rep to explain its decision for WH to follow

Hearing: Efforts to Transfer America's Leading Edge Science to China

- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (subcommittee chair) - statement
- Rep. Carnahan (ranking minority member) - No prepared statement

Panel I
- Rep. Frank Wolf - statement/press release

Panel II (new)
- Thomas Armstrong, Managing Associate General Counsel, GAO - statement
- John Holdren, OSTP Director - statement
- Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator - statement

Panel III (new)
- Rick Fisher, Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center - statement
- Adam Segal, Ph. D., Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations - statement

Office of Science and Technology Policy--Bilateral Activities with China, October 11, 2011

"Section 1340 prohibits OSTP from engaging in bilateral activities with the government of the People's Republic of China or Chinese-owned companies unless specifically authorized. Because OSTP was prohibited from using appropriated funds to participate in the Innovation Dialogue and the S&ED, OSTP violated the Antideficiency Act."

Wolf Asks Justice Department to Hold White House Science Adviser Accountable for Breaking Law

"Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee, today asked the Justice Department to hold the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) accountable for breaking the law for leading science policy discussions with China."

NASA Announces Steven Squyres as New NASA Advisory Council Chairman

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Cornell University Astronomy Professor Steven W. Squyres, as chairman of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), an assembly of experts from various fields that offer guidance and policy advice to the administrator of America's space agency.Squyres' scientific research focuses on the robotic exploration of planetary surfaces, the history of water on Mars, geophysics and tectonics of icy satellites, tectonics of Venus, and planetary gamma-ray and X-ray spectroscopy. His best known research includes the study of the history and distribution of water on Mars and of the possible existence and habitability of a liquid water ocean on Europa."

Senate Passes Budget With Full Funding for James Webb Space Telescope

"The Senate today passed its Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) 2012 Appropriations Bill, which includes full funding for the embattled James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble successor that will be run largely out of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STscI) in Baltimore."

NASA Acknowledges JWST Replan Will Delay Science Missions, Space News

"Saving the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- an infrared deep space observatory now expected to cost $8.8 billion -- means that some other NASA science missions slated for launch after 2015 will have to be delayed, the U.S. space agency acknowledged in a report delivered to Congress in late October. NASA, however, did not say in the report which missions might be delayed."

Video: Hacking Kinect - NASA Applications?, NASAHackSpace

Think for a moment: "Remember all of the things in "Avatar", "Star Trek", and other SciFi films that were controlled by people waving their hands over sexy looking devices, wandering around holodecks, or using remotely controlled bodies. When Kinect was first released, Microsoft was against anyone hacking it. A similar thing happened when LEGO Mindstorms was released and hobbyists began to fiddle with the software. As was the case with LEGO, Microsoft has done a complete 180 and has overtly embraced the notion that people can take technology and do things that its originators never imagined. How could Kinect hacks change the way that NASA does things? What would it be like to use Kinect as a whole body interface with 360 degrees of movement while living in microgravity aboard the ISS? Could NASA control Robonaut this way?"

Recent NASAHackSpace Entries:

- NASA Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge
- Thinking Green at NASA
- Inventing the Tractor Beam
- PETMAN: Avatar - Styled Exoskeletons



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