February 2012 Archives

Canadian Space AgencyCanada Commits to the International Space Station Beyond 2015, SpaceRef Canada

"The government announced today that Canada intends to renew its commitment to the International Space Station(ISS) beyond 2015. Minister of Industry Christian Paradis made the announcement in Quebec City where the ISS Heads of Agency meeting is currently taking place. The news was expected but it took some time for Canada to commit, making it the last of the other participating nations to do so."

In other news from Canada this week:

Canadian Space Agency Budget Estimates Before Budget Cuts Released, SpaceRef Canada

"According to Treasury Board of Canada Main Estimates for 2012-13 released yesterday the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is estimated to see its budget reduced from $424.6 million from 2011-12 to $363.2 million representing a 16.9% decrease in its budget. The CSA budget was already scheduled to be reduced to $371.1 million, a decrease of 14.4% according to the CSA Report on Plans and Priorities 2011-12 estimates released last year."

Another Pointless EPO Junket

LAUNCH: Innovating the Way We Create, Beth Beck

"The amazing LAUNCH core team is gathering in San Francisco to host a brainstorming session with thought leaders in the field of "sustainable waste" -- creating less and creating more value from existing and future waste. We call this brainstorming session, LAUNCH: Big Think."

Keith's note: NASA HEOMD's EPO lead, Beth Beck is off on yet another fun trip - one whose value to NASA is hard to fathom. But apparently that isn't important - even as NASA struggles to inform the public and its "stakeholders" of what it does - and why. What does this event have to do with NASA human spaceflight i.e. the part of NASA where Beth works? As far as I can tell, nothing has been published, released, or otherwise discussed wherein value to the agency has been described resulting from Launch.org activities. There seems to be no description of what has been provided of value to NASA human spaceflight efforts. Nor is there any mention of what NASA's human spaceflight programs have provided of value to launch.org. Why isn't NASA External Relations doing this? Or perhaps the CTO? It is pointless junkets like this that get Congress angry and force them to issue those "no travel" edicts.

Let's Double NASA's Budget

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Jon Stewart: "Your Earth is spinning the wrong direction.", io9

"Last night, Jon Stewart had astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Daily Show to talk about the his new book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. It's a great interview, but the highlight of the conversation definitely came towards the end of the exchange, when Tyson made his case for increasing space funding, causing Stewart to respond with an impassioned call for Tyson's presidential candidacy."

Proposed Mars Mission Has New Name

"A proposed Discovery mission concept led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to investigate the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets by studying the deep interior of Mars now has a new name, InSight."

JPL's InSight: Ignoring The Real Costs - and its MPL Heritage, earlier post

"The highly successful Mars Phoenix is (logically) mentioned as a way to claim cost savings. But when Phoenix was proposed the cost savings from heavy reuse of failed Mars Polar Lander heritage hardware were cited - but never fully explained. If this mission is approved there is no doubt that JPL and SMD PAO will once again try and claim massive cost savings and simultaneously not mention the money spent to develop the hardware for previous missions."

Keith's note: Oddly, NASA SMD leadership present at the MEPAG meeting cast considerable doubt on having a lander heading for Mars until 2018 - at the earliest (if then). Indeed, they were far more certain that whatever might fly to Mars in 2018 would be an orbiter - not a lander.

Jeanne Becker, Director, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Space News

"CASIS will ultimately act as a networking service between space scientists, payload integration specialists and, in some cases, investors. It will also be a financial analyst of sorts, evaluating candidate science projects for those with the potential to generate profitable spinoff products. The first CASIS solicitation for ISS-bound research is due toward the end of the fledgling group's first full year of operation, said Jeanne Becker, who in September became CASIS director."

- CASIS RFI Webinar Presentation and Q&A Session - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST

- CASIS Still Doesn't Do Anything - Not That Anyone Notices (Update), earlier post

- The Long Confusing Path Toward Space Station Utilization, earlier post

Planetary Candidates Observed by Kepler, III: Analysis of the First 16 Months of Data

"New transiting planet candidates are identified in sixteen months (May 2009 - September 2010) of data from the Kepler spacecraft. Nearly five thousand periodic transit-like signals are vetted against astrophysical and instrumental false positives yielding 1,091 viable new planet candidates, bringing the total count up to over 2,300. Improved vetting metrics are employed, contributing to higher catalog reliability. Most notable is the noise-weighted robust averaging of multi-quarter photo-center offsets derived from difference image analysis which identifies likely background eclipsing binaries."

Architecture of Kepler's Multi-transiting Systems: II. New investigations with twice as many candidates

"Having discovered 885 planet candidates in 361 multiple-planet systems, Kepler has made transits a powerful method for studying the statistics of planetary systems. The orbits of only two pairs of planets in these candidate systems are apparently unstable. This indicates that a high percentage of the candidate systems are truly planets orbiting the same star, motivating physical investigations of the population."

NASA stealth meetingQuebec City to Host Space Agency Leaders This Week, SpaceRef Canada

"Starting today Quebec City is hosting approximately 80 delegates for the International Space Agency Heads of Agency meeting. Attending will be representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) along with the hosts the Canadian Space Agency."

Marc's note: The Canadian Space Agency plans to issue a release for the event but this event has already started. It should be noted however that it is traditional for the ISS Head of Agency meeting to take place in March each year. However there usually is some heads up.

Scientists See Red on NASA Cuts of Mars Missions, AP

"To scientists, the message from the White House seems simple: Bye-bye, Mars. On Monday, upset Mars researchers are meeting with NASA officials to figure out how to reboot the program beyond the 2013 mission. If Obama's budget sails through as outlined, "in essence, it is the end of the Mars program," said Phil Christensen, a Mars researcher at Arizona State University. It's like "we've just flown Apollo 10 and now we're going to cancel the Apollo program when we're one step from landing," he said."

- Second International MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group) Meeting (with WEBEX instructions)

- Live tweeting from this morning's session at @NASAWatch hashtag #MEPAG

Keith's MEPAG Observation: despite the fact that the Mars community is facing budget cuts all they can think about is more expensive missions to Mars. No interest in alternate approaches to sample return i.e. in situ characterization. FAIL.

NASA Official Announces Chair of New Mars Program Planning Group

"NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, has named former veteran NASA program manager Orlando Figueroa to lead a newly established Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) tasked to reformulate the agency's Mars Exploration Program. Figueroa's first assignment is to develop a draft framework for review by March 15."

Scientists see red on NASA cuts of Mars missions, AP

"NASA said it does not quite know what a reconfigured 2018 mission would look like, but it would be cost-capped at $700 million and it will not be landing. If it is lucky, it may orbit Mars. After Curiosity lands in August, the next NASA Mars surface mission probably is close to a decade away, Grunsfeld said. To scientists, the message from the White House seems simple: Bye-bye, Mars."

Mars, Europa missions battle for scarce NASA funding, SpaceflightNow

"NASA's statements about resuming Mars missions later this decade irked some scientists promoting voyages to the outer planets, who said that if the flagship Mars rover was canceled, the decadal survey explicitly prioritized a Europa mission over other, less-ambitious Mars projects.
A mission to closely observe Europa has been on scientists' wish list for more than a decade."

NASA Raids Outer Planets Budget To Fund Fast Start on Mars Reboot, SpaceNews

"Meanwhile, with the funding changes described in the operating plan, NASA will now be spending only $9 million on outer planets programs in 2012. Those funds will all go toward studies for missions to the planetary science community's highest-priority outer-solar-system destinations: Jupiter's icy moon Europa, the gas giant Uranus and faraway Neptune. A concept study for a mission to Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, is planned for 2013."

Keith's 25 Feb note: Looks like NASA has adopted the adventure movie promo production approach - loud music that tells you to pay attention, quick edits, all for the new video Commercial Crew Program video "Taking America To New Heights". This video only appears on the official NASA KSC YouTube channel. No mention is made anywhere else at NASA. Who is the intended audience for this? The public? Congress? Media? What did they spend on it? If they are going to spend time and money on this sort of stuff at HEOMD then, at a minimum, they should promote it to get their money's worth.

This video makes heavy use of animations produced by a variety of commercial space contractors, with NASA's logo on it with this curious caveat added to the video page: "If a recognizable person appears in this video, use for commercial purposes may infringe a right of privacy or publicity. It may not be used to state or imply the endorsement by NASA employees of a commercial product, process or service, or used in any other manner that might mislead. Accordingly, it is requested that if this video is used in advertising and other commercial promotion, layout and copy be submitted to NASA prior to release."

This is just goofy. First NASA makes a video that goes out of its way to hammer home an overt endorsement of commercial space into your eyeballs and eardrums - and then they post a disclaimer that says that "It may not be used to state or imply the endorsement by NASA employees of a commercial product, process or service, or used in any other manner that might mislead." Moreover, NASA won't let the people/companies who actually created the source videos and imagery of their own products that were edited (with taxpayer dollars) to make this video - unless NASA says that they can. Am I missing something?

Keith's 29 Feb update: The video was originally posted on the official NASA KSC YouTube page here. That video has now been deleted. But it is still online on a non-NASA YouTube page here. NASA also posted it here on NASA.gov. So why did KSC delete it (with its odd disclaimer) while NASA.gov added it online elsewhere? Oh yes, oddly, there is no mention whatsoever of this video at the official NASA Commercial Crew webpage.

International Space Station National Laboratory Education Project (ISS NLEP)

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Education, NASA Higher Education Office in cooperation with the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Office of Education, invites proposals to seven (7) areas within the ISS National Lab Education Project's (ISS NLEP) portfolio."

Keith's 9 Feb note: As has been the case for months, there is no mention of CASIS in this announcement, and CASIS makes no mention of this announcement on its website. Also, there is no mention at the NASA Education website, nothing at the ISS National Lab website, or at the NASA ISS website. No one at NASA Human Spaceflight seems to care about coordinating with each other or informing the public anymore.

Keith's 25 Feb note: The ISS National Lab website now has a link to ISS NLEP, but there is still no mention of ISS NLEP at CASIS - despite the fact that this is exactly what CASIS was created to do in the first place. Nor is there any mention at the NASA Education website. Meanwhile, CASIS has this notice on its website "CASIS RFI Webinar Presentation and Q&A Session" for an event to be held in 3 days. Oddly, neither NASA or CASIS has issued a press release, media advisory, Federal Register notice, etc. How are people supposed to know about events like this if there is zero advanced notice - unless you happen to stumble upon the CASIS website? And of course, there is no mention of this event anywhere at the NASA websites listed above - places where you'd expect such activities would be prominently mentioned. CASIS also claims that it will be part of this event in California yet the NASA press release makes no mention whatsoever of CASIS.

NASA is taking JPL workers for granted, Schiff says, La Canada Valley Sun

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who visited JPL on Wednesday, said the agency will try to restructure its Mars program in order to save jobs and preserve skills developed during past Mars missions. JPL Director Charles Elachi explained that administrators might transfer other projects funded by the 2013 NASA budget to JPL. Schiff said shuffling jobs misses the mark. "I'm not at all comforted by what I hear from NASA," said Schiff. "It's not about substituting other projects to keep people busy. It's about doing things no one else in the world can do. If that talent pool leaves, putting it back together later is going to be darn near impossible."

Op-ed: Don't gut America's planetary science, op ed by Reps. Adam Schiff and John Culberson

"Slashing NASA's budget for exploring the solar system would be a serious mistake that would threaten our nation's hard-won and long- held leadership role, and would come at a terrible time, now that China and other nations are rising to challenge American primacy in space. Meeting that test is good for science and good for America; by exploring other worlds, we remain competitive on our own."

NASA chief pledges Mars help, Pasadena Sun

"Although he offered little detail, Bolden said that NASA will attempt to restructure its Mars program in ways that would save jobs at JPL and preserve its Mars exploration brain trust. "There are a lot of things about going to other planets that nobody knows, except here," said Bolden. "We will be working with folks here at JPL in trying to restructure our robotic Mars exploration program." JPL Director Charles Elachi said the administrative restructuring could involve bringing other NASA work funded under the 2013 budget to JPL, but specific projects have not yet been identified."

Keith's note: I wonder if the White House knows about this. This can't be a real solution i.e. taking work from other NASA field centers and sending it to JPL to offset White House-directed cuts in Mars work - at JPL. Other NASA facilities are facing cuts, why shouldn't JPL? Giving preference to a FFRDC (JPL) over NASA (government) field centers? I don't think so. Also, what sorts of promises are being made to the other centers affected by 2013 budget cuts? This is a zero sum game at the end of the day - Bolden can't promise the same thing to more than one center - or can he? I doubt this idea will ever get pass the "Oops, I misspoke phase. Stay tuned.

Future Lunar Bases - Space Quarterly Magazine PreviewThe following excerpt is a free preview from the March issue of Space Quarterly magazine. This article is only available in the U.S. edition of the magazine.

Future Lunar Bases, Why, Where, and How By Dennis Wingo

Lunar bases and their location is a subject that has been discussed and argued about for decades, without any real consensus, because each interest group is driven to a different area. Some think little of the Moon and see it as nothing more than a distraction on the way to Mars. The thesis of this article is that not only is the Moon vitally important for developing a sustainable infrastructure to support the eventual settlement of Mars, it is vitally important for the overall future of mankind and for the economic development of the solar system. It is far beyond time for our community to make this intellectual commitment and then develop our thoughts and plans from there. In order for mankind to prosper on the Earth in the long term, the resources of our solar system, beginning at the Moon, are crucial, and it is time to quit apologizing for this stance. To provide structure three general regions of interest will be discussed, based upon utility, cost, and long-term viability.

Col. Coyote SmithThe following interview excerpt with Colonel Coyote Smith, USAF, is a free preview from the March issue of Space Quarterly magazine. This interview is only available in the U.S. edition of the magazine.

An Interview with Coyote Smith - By Emmet Cole

Colonel M.V. "Coyote" Smith, the United States Air Force's (USAF) "chief futurist" and Director of the USAF Center for Strategy and Technology (Project Blue Horizons) at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL recently sat down with Space Quarterly's Emmet Cole to talk about everything from the rise of the Chinese space program through the commercialization of space, the singularity and robotically-constructed lunar bases. Colonel Smith also serves as Professor of Strategic Space Studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and as associate director of the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies at the USAF Academy.

American Astronomical Society Issues Statement on President's FY 2013 Budget

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today issued a statement thanking President Obama for his strong support of science as embodied in his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013 but asking him and the Congress to strive harder to maintain a balance of small, medium, and large space missions in astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science, and solar physics. Some provisions of the President's FY 2013 budget, especially a 20 percent cut in NASA's planetary science funding, threaten to undermine the recommendations of recent decadal surveys of these fields by the National Academy of Sciences."

Division for Planetary Sciences Challenges NASA FY 2013 Budget, earlier post

Obama campaign could trip over space policy, Houston Chronicle

Mike's alternate universe fantasy: "Access to space should have been a campaign issue in every election since Nixon cancelled Apollo in the 1970s," added Griffin, an adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney."

Vs reality: "You'd have to distort reality to make that a partisan issue in the fall campaign," insists John Logsdon, a space historian and veteran of the Columbia accident board who helped Obama develop his policies. "We are where we are because of decisions by the last two presidents and both parties in Congress. This should not be a campaign issue."

Huntsville to have co-pilot in NASA (editorial), Huntsville Times

"Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot's promotion to NASA headquarters should bode well for Marshall as NASA focuses on development of America's next generation rockets. ... Huntsville lawyer Mark McDaniel, who served on the national NASA advisory council from 2000 to 2005, said Lightfoot will be a key player in decisions by the NASA administrator, president and Congress. "In Washington, access is everything. The associate administrator will be right down the hall from the administrator and deputy administrator."

Keith's note: So in other words, it would seem that McDaniel et al expect Lightfoot to put MSFC concerns (e.g. SLS) ahead of the rest of the agency due to his "access'. Yet these same people complain when other centers get their way. Hmm. Lightfoot's position is at NASA "Headquarters" and it concerns the management of the entire agency - not sending things down to Huntsville because he owns a house there. I'm not sure that the Huntsville folks undersand that.

DIA DIrector: China Preparing for Space Warefare, Washington Free Beacon

"Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed new details of China's space weapons programs last week, including information regarding China's anti-satellite missiles and cyber warfare capabilities. ... "China's successfully tested a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) missile and is developing jammers and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions," he said. "A prerequisite for ASAT attacks, China's ability to track and identify satellites is enhanced by technologies from China's manned and lunar programs as well as technologies and methods developed to detect and track space debris."

Testimony (go to page 19)

Keith's 22 Feb note: NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) has their "Future Innovation" website online (screen shot in case they change things). Curiously, it has this odd copyright notice on it. " Copyright Future Innovation 2012. All Rights Reserved." How can a NASA.gov website be the copyright protected property of anyone/anything other than the Federal government? Indeed, by default, virtually everything NASA does is in the public domain.

This website is all about "innovation" (it says so), but has been noted with regard to the NASA Technology Gateway (also operated by NASA LaRC), this "Future Innovation" website is oblivious to the recent spate of technology transfer notifications that LaRC has been posting over the last several months. Why is that? Is it that these NASA LaRC tech transfer announcements are not "innovative"?

NASA LaRC CTO Rich Antcliff is listed as the responsible NASA official. Maybe he can explain the copyright notice and the continuing eforts by LaRC to ignore all of the new technology that his center is announcing via the Federal Register.

- All I want for Christmas (for NASA), NASA LaRC CTO Rich Antcliff, previous post
- More Stealth NASA Spinoffs (2nd Update), previous post

Keith's 23 Feb update: Not a day seems to go by when one part of NASA LaRC sends out an innovation, tech transfer, or advanced technology notice while the rest of the Center's CTO/Innovation activities ignore the notice - as does the rest of the agency's CTO/Spinoff organizations. Is anyone actually in charge of this or is it just a free-for-all? This notice was posted in the Federal Register today. No one at NASA.gov has taken notice.

NASA Request for Information Seeking Potential Interest and Use of Langley Research Center Unique Capabilities in Structures and Materials

'NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) seeks to enhance the use of the Center's distinctive lab and facility capabilities to support government and commercial aerospace activities. We believe the extraordinary resources available at NASA Langley, including facilities, labs and human capital, can be of great benefit to the nation and enhance technology development and infusion."

Keith's 23 Feb later update: @NASATechGateway sent a direct message by Twitter (they are unwilling/unable to tweet this to all of their followers) containing this non-obvious link to a "marketplace" - one wherein teeny tiny icons (that cannot be read) are shown in a large pile. When downloaded, it is clear that the titles on these documents do not mesh with what has been posted in the Federal Register. I guess this is unimportant.

Keith's note: "Rocket Boys" author and former NASA employee Homer Hickam has a new book coming out titled "Crater". According to his website: "A mining colony on the moon. A teen sent on a deadly mission. And a secret bigger than two worlds. It's the 22nd Century. A tough, pioneering people mine the moon for Helium-3 to produce energy for a desperate, war-torn Earth. Sixteen-year old Crater Trueblood loves his job as a Helium-3 miner. But when he finds courage he didn't know he had and saves a fellow miner, his life changes forever. Impressed by his heroism, the owner of the mine orders Crater to undertake a dangerous mission. Crater doubts himself, but he has no choice. He must go." Check out the nicely done trailer for the book.

New Angry Birds game blasts off March 22, will team with NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"[Andrew] Stalbow also mentioned that National Geographic and NASA have signed on as launch partners. "Science and education are very important to us, and we're very excited to have NASA and National Geographic as launch partners on Angry Birds Space," he said. Unfortunately, the Yahoo story was short on details about the nature of the collaboration and neither Rovio nor NASA responded to a Los Angeles Times request for comment Monday morning."

Keith's note: New Trailer. Yea, this video nails it. NASA would do it this way. Meanwhile, I wonder if the angry birds will make those horrid noises in the vacuum of space ... Oh well - it will certainly be more interesting than those banal PAO people talking over boring ISS video ...

Is This A Martian Ice Cave?

Mars HiRISE Image: Well-Speckled Polar Dunes

"These barchan (crescent-shaped) sand dunes are found within the North Polar erg of Mars. This type of dune provides a great record of the wind environment when they formed and moved: barchan dunes' horns point downwind. Although the question of present-day sand motion is still open, it appears possible that these dunes are active (when not covered in frost) as their crestlines are very sharp and their slipfaces (the inner curved region between the horns/downwind surface) appears very smooth and steep."

Keith's note: If you look at the hi res image there certainly seems to be an overhang of some sort - seemingly cave-like. I'd ask JPL PAO but they either ignore me or offer non-answers when they do respond. FWIW, this terrain reminds me of Hoth and you know what lives there.

Scientists Launch NASA Rocket into Aurora, University of New Hampshire

"Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfven resonator (MICA) mission sent a 40-foot Terrier-Black Brant rocket arcing through aurora 186 miles above Earth. The rocket sent a stream of real-time data back before landing some 200 miles downrange shortly after the launch."

Rocket Launched into Northern Lights To Illuminate GPS Effects, Cornell University

"A NASA-funded collaborative research team led by Steven Powell, Cornell senior engineer in electrical and computer engineering, launched a sounding rocket from Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8:41 p.m. Alaska Standard Time (Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 at 12:41 a.m. EST) to collect data straight from the heart of the aurora."

Keith's 20 Feb note: While these two universities are obviously excited about this launch, NASA certainy isn't. All that was announced by Poker Flat (on their webpage only) was a long launch window. No press release, media advisory before or after the launch. Nothing whatsoever from NASA or any of its field centers either. According to the Poker Flat website "Poker Flat Research Range is the world's only scientific rocket launching facility owned by a university. Poker Flat is located approximately 30 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska and is operated by the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, which is part of the Goddard Space Flight Center."

Ah, that should explain the situation: Wallops is apparently mentoring Poker Flats on PR. Not a good sign since NASA Wallops PAO is barely capable of even the most rudimentary launch event public awareness itself.

Keith's 21 Feb update: CNN just spent 30 seconds showing this pretty picture. Too bad NASA doesn't seem to think enough to post it.

Keith's 22 Feb update: NASA is still ignoring this NASA rocket launch. Very odd.

What has happened to Nasa's missing Moon rocks?, BBC

"There were 370 pieces gathered for this purpose from the two missions. Two hundred and seventy were given to nations of the world and 100 to the 50 US states. But 184 of these are lost, stolen or unaccounted for - 160 around the world and 24 in the US."

Keith's note: JSC Moon rock people: I need to confess: I never actualy formally returned the Apollo 11 Moon rock (#10085,134) that I took to Nepal (the one that was taken to the summit of Mt. Everest by Scott Parazynski). Sorry about that. My bad. I gave it to some astronauts and it ended up on the ISS. So ... do I need to go get it and return it - or can you guys just do the paper work and check the box that says "returned"? Thanks.

- Moon and Everest Rocks At Home in Space, earlier post

Orbital Blames Spaceport for Another COTS Delay, SpaceNews

"As was the case with the previous schedule slip, Dulles, Va.-based Orbital placed the blame for the delays squarely on the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which is responsible for preparing the launch pad for Orbital's Antares rocket -- formerly named Taurus 2 -- and its Cygnus space station cargo module."

Launch pad rework pushes Antares launch to summer, SpaceflightNow

"Unfortunately, the first flight of our new Antares medium-capacity launch vehicle, the rocket we formerly referred to as Taurus 2, was delayed again in the quarter," Thompson said in a quarterly conference call with investment analysts. "This was caused by problems of completing construction work on the launch pad's propellant handling and pressurization systems."

Next Issue of Space Quarterly Magazine Set to be Released, SpaceRef

"The latest edition of Space Quarterly magazine will be available March 1. This issue is our biggest effort to date with 17 articles, 84 pages, covering a wide range of topics including a focus on military space and the moon."

Marc's note: The covers for both the U.S. and Canadian editions are available. Can you spot the one graphical element in each cover that's different? And can you identify it? Subscribe here.

NASA Administrator Announces Senior Leadership Changes

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Tuesday changes to his senior leadership team. Associate Administrator Chris Scolese was named director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Robert Lightfoot, director of the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will serve as acting associate administrator. Both will assume their new responsibilities on March 5."

Marshall's Robert Lightfoot Promoted To Acting Associate Administrator of NASA, WHNT

"Lightfoot's deputy, Gene Goldman, will serve as Marshall's acting center director."

Keith's 25 Jan note: No mention of these tech transfer opportunities at NASA OCT. No mention at LaRC Technology Gateway (but they mention LENR/cold fusion), No mention at NASA TechBriefs. Unless one reads the Federal Register, all of these nifty NASA spinoffs and discoveries just go unnoticed.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Quick Change Ceramic Flame Holder For High-Output Torches
- Technology Transfer Opportunity: Real-Time Interferometric Fiber Optic Bragg Grating Sensors
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Self-Scrubbing Technology for Reconfigurable Rad-hard Memory Arrays

Keith's 31 Jan update: Hey, there's more spinoff goodness coming out of LaRC - but NASA still doesn't seem to want to promote it - other than burying it in the Federal Register. Go figure.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: High Performance High Temperature Resins for Dielectric Films, Coatings, Composites, Adhesives and Solid Parts
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Zone Zeroing Out Negative Effects - Biofeedback training for Optimal Athletic Performance
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: A Byzantine Fault Tolerant

Keith's 21 Feb update: LaRC keeps spinning these things out and yet their website, OCT, and NASA Tech Briefs still continue to ignore them.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Low Frequency Portable Accoustic Measurement System to Detect & Locate Turbulence and Severe Weather
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Wireless Inductance Capacitance Sensor Suitable for Small Packaging
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Powerless Passive Inductor Capacitor Sensor for Measuring Fluid Level Pitch & Roll Angles & Volume
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportuniy Flexible Hightemp Thermocouple Silver Electroplated Film
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Fail Safe High Temperature Composite Structure
- NASA Notice of Intent To Grant Partially Exclusive License: Photogrammetry System and Method for Determining Relative Motion Between Two Bodies

APS Division for Planetary Sciences: American Planetary Exploration Is in Grave Danger

"Under the proposed budget NASA will be forced to cancel its plans for its most ambitious exploration missions, slash the Mars Exploration Program, and kill the Lunar Quest Program. The cuts will also end collaborations with the European Space Agency on the 2016 Mars Trace Gas Orbiter and the 2018 ExoMars rover, delay the economical Discovery and New Frontiers space programs, and force cuts in operations and data analysis for a number of current missions."

Celebrating America's First Manned Orbital Flight - Friendship 7 50th Anniversary

"February 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the day in 1962 when U.S. Senator John Glenn piloted his Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first U.S. orbital mission. This video recounts that event in history."

- @SPOTScott (Scott Parazynski): "No way to properly thank my boyhood hero and eventual crewmate, John Glenn- My fav photo: bloodletting w/Dracula fangs!" (Image)

- Video: John Glenn's Flight

NASA's Misaligned PR Machine

John Kelly: NASA needs to power up PR machine, Florida Today

"The solution is for NASA to use its broad, and well-funded, public relations arm to make sure that the public does hear about its successes and its progress. NASA must make it known that the new super rocket is being built, tests are being completed, and progress is being made toward test flights."

Keith's note: I am a chronic critic of NASA PAO, but this throwaway line by John Kelly begs a response. NASA's "public relations arm" is anything but "well-funded". Quite the contrary: overall PAO resources have been reduced nearly 75% since 2006. That does not mean NASA does not spend a lot of taxpayer's dollars on various communications activities. As the agency's corporate communications ability shrinks (thanks in large part to a $10 million OMB mandated reduction for a project wrongfully credited to NASA PAO), individual NASA projects and mission directorates make up the difference through independent PR efforts executed under an umbrella known as "public outreach".

However, those public outreach efforts are rarely coordinated with each other or with the agency's corporate communications arm at NASA PAO. As such, PAO often watches in frustration as money is spent on websites, philanthropic efforts, videos, and toys that have little overall value to NASA while resources for the agency's primary communications efforts dwindle due constant Congressional cuts.

If you want to send a message to the managers of SLS and Orion and other spaceflight projects, tell them to worry about completing their projects on time and on budget, and stop trying to figure out how to make these vital programs popular with the American people. They may be terrific engineers but they often make lousy decisions when it comes to executing PR activities and almost always ignore in-house expertise, thus duplicating efforts and wasting money.

Instead, the programs and projects should turn over the resources, responsibility, and accountability to the agency's communications professionals and empower them to execute the kind of coordinated and strategic efforts suggested in Kelly's article. And of course, if NASA gets too good at the sort of PR Kelly would like to see, then he and the rest of the news media will invariably start to dump on NASA - but this time for spending too much money on PR.

Keeping NASA's Next Space Telescope Under Control: Q&A with Scott Willoughby, Space.com

"The $8.8 billion observatory has become synonymous with cost overruns, and last summer, House appropriators recommended scrapping the project entirely. But JWST survived, and in November, President Barack Obama granted NASA $17.8 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, which included full funding for the observatory. Still, the project remains a source of contention, and critics claim that JWST is tying up valuable funds from other worthy science missions. Obama's proposed 2013 budget for NASA revealed earlier this week, for example, includes deep cuts to planetary science missions to help pay for JWST."

NASA's Webb telescope: Revolutionary design, runaway costs, LA Times

"The delays boosted the cost even more. By last year, the cost estimate to build the telescope hit $8 billion, not including about $940 million in contributions by international partners and about $800 million NASA will spend for five years of operation. The launch date slipped from 2014 to 2018, meaning an army of experts will have to keep working years more on the project. In the past, NASA could tap reserves in its larger budget to get through technical problems, but those funding pools have dried up, Howard said."

Obama's NASA budget: Mars takes a hit, but space science isn't dead, Christian Science Monitor

"To be sure, in President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget proposal, two major Mars missions for 2016 and 2018 lost a budgetary wrestling match with the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Web Space Telescope. But Mr. Obama's plan also includes money to begin preliminary studies on a mission to Saturn's moon Enceladus, as well as an orbiter-probe mission to Uranus."

Keith's note: NASA JPL Employee @doug_ellison recently tweeted "Based on some MIPS benchmarks, and the RAD750 cpu on MSL...my iPhone 4S is 12x more powerful than Curiosity."

Gee ... NASA is always bragging about all of the advanced gizmos they have (justifiably) - but they never talk about how outdated some of their things are - and why. Among other things, the reasons why old stuff is used have to do with the brutal nature of the space environment (and what will reliably "work"). But the reasons also have to do with NASA's slow-motion design practices and mission delays due to self-induced cost overruns.

Then again, my toaster is much smarter than Voyagers 1 and 2 (together) and yet they will both last far longer - and JPL wizards keep updating their apps and OS as they enter interstellar space - 35 years on. That said, NASA probably flies yesterday's technology a bit more often than it should. Gotta work on that, NASA. Maybe that $700 million in the FY 2013 budget for "technology" will give that process a kick start.

Hmm ... cellphones smarter than Mars robots. Why isn't NASA putting cellphones inside of spacecraft? Just wrap them in Lead.

JPL's math problem, Pasadena Sun

"Meanwhile, it would be foolhardy to impose a radical reduction in the Mars program. Exploring Mars is not the same as running a Laundromat. You can't just close one day (or fiscal year) and then reopen the next without losing progress and expertise. Nor can you do so while staying ahead of other nations in the space race."

NASA Leadership In Space Exploration Shaken, Aviation Week

"Because NASA is "protecting the civil service workforce," job losses resulting from that cut will be felt among contractor personnel and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is run by the California Institute of Technology. Contractor job cuts are already well understood, according to Robinson, but the impact of changes in the Mars work at JPL remains to be seen. Overall, some 300-400 jobs that will be lost as development on MSL winds down may not be preserved with new work, Robinson says."

NASA OIG: Final Report: NASA's Management of the Mars Science Laboratory Project

"In February 2009, NASA delayed the MSL's launch 2 years because of the late delivery of several critical components and instruments. This delay and the additional resources required to resolve the underlying technical issues increased the Project's development costs by 86 percent, from $969 million to the current $1.8 billion, and its life-cycle costs by 56 percent, from $1.6 billion to the current $2.5 billion. In addition, due to planetary alignment the optimal launch window for a mission to Mars occurs every 26 months. If MSL was to be delayed again, the Project would require significant redesign at a cost of at least $570 million."

Keith's note: Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity", en route to Mars, is $1 billion over budget and 2 years late. The blame for this falls squarely on JPL's shoulders. While it is foolish to gut future Mars exploration, it is the height of hypocrisy for JPLers to cry foul about budget cuts after they have abused the process by looking the other way as costs went out of control. Yet JPL has gotten smart about controlling costs before. After JPL crashed MPL and MCO into Mars (one crash being due to "math problems") they rebounded with Spirit and Opportunity - talk about an absolutely incredible return on investment. Contrary to the Pasadena Sun's comments, maybe the JPL folks could learn something from people who operate laundromats after all.

Conrad Foundation: Best-of-the-best High School Teams advance to Finals of Global Product Challenge

"Officials with the Conrad Foundation today announced the names of 15 high school teams from across the country and the Isle of Man that will compete in the final round of the 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge. The annual competition, presented by Lockheed Martin Corporation and PepsiCo, challenges high school student teams around the globe to combine innovation and entrepreneurship along with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to create commercially-viable products to solve global and local challenges."

Keith's note: @seanherron posted this somewhere and it has been making the rounds. It is so true it hurts. Sorry if this is getting around, Sean. Its your fault for being accurate. Click on image for larger version.

Keith's update: Well, someone@nasa has a slightly different take on things. To be honest this resonates better with my experience as an actual NASA employee. The artist said "Thanks for the "Working at NASA" link. I very much enjoyed it, so much so that I made my own - which was surprisingly therapeutic." Click on image to enlarge.

Dale Returning to House Science Committee, Space News

"Former NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale is returning to Capitol Hill to serve as principal policy adviser to Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."

Keith's note: I was deeply saddened to learn that my friend Russ Bardos has died. Russ and I worked at the Space Station Freedom Program Office in Reston. Any of you who worked with our rag tag bunch in Reston will know that a special bond developed between all who endured those crazy years.

In the following years Russ and I often talked about how we could make things better. His last job was as a consultant to Aerojet. I will miss that gravely voice on the other end of the phone line (and often on my voice mail) and that big smile (you know which one) and steely hand grip when we'd meet in person. Ad astra, Russ.

Arrangements below.

Robonaut-2 Speaks

Space Droids Using Sign Language?, earlier post on 15 November 2011

"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."

Keith's note: @AstroRobonaut just tweeted: "Did you catch that? I don't have a voice, but I sent you a message -- Hello world ... in sign language!"

ISS: Users Wanted

Keith's note: Interesting commentary by HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier at the FAA Space Transportation Conference this morning. Refreshingly, he openly admitted that NASA built the ISS - at great cost - but did not put much real thought into how to use it. Now, there is a 900,000 pound research facility in orbit and it is the size of a 5 bedroom house. Yet according to Gerstenmaier, NASA cannot use all of this capability and the agency is looking for new ways to use it. Ideas are welcome. NASA is offering free rides up, free downlinks, and other services to potential users. Gerstenmaier challenged the attendees to think about new ways to use the ISS.

Houston-area members of Congress again press NASA on awarding Enterprise to NYC, Houston Chronicle

"Nine Texas Republicans led by Rep. Pete Olson, whose Sugar Land district includes JSC, are challenging NASA administrator Charles Bolden once again on virtually every aspect of NASA's decision to move the Enterprise from a Smithsonian facility outside the nation's capital to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum."

- NASA Has Given Enterprise to New York's TBD Final Location, earlier post

Budget Reactions

Obama wants $2.1 billion for NASA's Florida spaceport, Reuters

"The center's proposed budget increase won't mean more NASA jobs, however. Cabana told reporters he expects Kennedy Space Center's workforce to remain at about 7,500 employees through 2013. That number includes about 2,050 civil servants."

NASA Seeks More Money For Space Technology, Information Week

"NASA's budget request for space technology for 2013 is $699 million, a $124 million--or roughly 18%--increase over last year."

Rep. Rohrabacher Critical of Administration's NASA FY '13 Budget Request

"The administration's FY'13 budget includes almost $1.9 billion for continued pursuit of the SLS Titanic, a 'monster rocket' based on 40-year-old Space Shuttle technology in an attempt to recapture the glory days of the Apollo Saturn V," said Rohrabacher."

Rep. Schiff Statement on Meeting with NASA Administrator

"As I told the Administrator during our meeting, I oppose these ill-considered cuts and I will do everything in my power to restore the Mars budget and to ensure American leadership in space exploration."

Letter to Hillary Clinton and John Holdren: James Webb Space Telescope and our International Commitments, James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee (JSTAC)

"In this letter we wish to reiterate to the Administration the importance of JWST to our international partners and of our commitments to them. Through a series of unfortunate cancellations of planned NASA participation in key space science missions (e.g., Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, International X-Ray Observatory, ExoMars) the long-term US collaborative relationship with Europe through the European Space Agency has deteriorated substantially."

Keith's note: NASA cancels U.S. participation in ExoMars (and its associated international committments) to cover Webb Space Telescope cost overruns, and now the Webb community is citing this cancellation as a bad precedent - and then use this as an excuse to generate more support for Webb? This is both hilarious - and incredibly duplicitous.

NASA Infographic: The Future of Human Spaceflight, NASA

"NASA has released a new infographic which seeks to collect future space vehicles, destinations, and possible paths of exploration together into one "Big picture".

NASA's Dueling Concept Maps, Road Maps, and Infographics

"As you can see below, there is no shortage of roadmaps and graphical representations of where NASA should be going in the coming years. To be certain, concept maps, roadmaps, and infographics are different things. Done properly, they serve a similar, overlapping function: to contain a series of things you need or intend to do, and present these things in a way that allows others to understand what it is you want to do - and why. A good roadmap or concept map should be easy to make into a good infogrpahic. But if your roadmap is not well thought out, or your concept map has incomplete logic, then your infographic is going to be confusing."

In Search of Charlie Bolden's Solid Plan for NASA

"According to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden in yesterday's budget press conference, "The time for debate about our future is over. We have a solid plan, a sustainable plan, and we are moving out to implement it, opening the next great chapter of American exploration." "Solid plan"? Quite the contrary."

Boing Boing: "Chris sez, "My name is Chris Peterson. I run web communications for MIT Admissions and have been a loyal BB reader for years. For the last several years we have been sending our admitted students their acceptance letters in cardboard tubes. First because we sent a poster, but now it's its own thing. 2012 is the anniversary of an old MIT balloon hack, so we put a letter in all of the Early Action admit tubes telling them we wanted them to hack the tubes somehow. Lots of them are great, but this one, from Erin King (MIT '16) in Georgia, is the best."

YouTube direct link

Keith's note: I sent my old NASA badge to the summit of Mt. Everest [image], so ... I totally understand.

Why Did NASA's Administrator Refuse To Answer a Simple Budget Question - At A Budget Briefing?

"NASA held a press briefing today regarding the FY 2013 budget. What's rather troubling is how little budget information NASA Administrator Bolden Charlie Bolden actually discussed and how many substantive questions he dodged during this briefing. The most blatant example was when Bolden was asked if he could list the projects and missions that were cut in order to pay for James Webb Space Telescope overruns."

Keith's note: Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #asknasa. NASA will try and answer some of them. Here's my question:

"Mr. Bolden: one of features of this budget are dramatic cuts to NASA's planetary program - specifically, to Mars exploration. This comes at a time when NASA has to cover $1 billion in cost overruns for the Webb Space Telescope. Meanwhile, Mars Science Laboratory is on its way to Mars, itself a billion dollars over budget and 2 years late. Space Station, NPOESS, and other projects with multibillion dollar cost overruns orbit overhead. When is NASA going to stop rewarding large projects that overrun by paying whatever it takes to complete these missions - thus taking funds from other missions that are either on budget or yet to be built? Why is it that after 50 years of space exploration NASA's ability to predict and control costs on large programs seems to be decreasing - not increasing - as one would expect as the agency gained experience?"

FY 2013 NASA Budget Released

NASA's FY 2013 Budget: A Quick Snapshot, SpaceRef

"This budget is just the beginning of a conversation. The past several years have seen budgetary roller coaster rides as the new norm. Add in possible future cuts due to other, broader budgetary issues, congressional push back, and the extra combustible politics that go with a re-election, and mush of what is in this proposed budget will morph before all is said and done. That said, it is clear that NASA still hasn't figured out what it wants to do - or why. Absent a clear, strategic plan, any budget is O.K. since you can just change the briefing charts when political winds shift or Congressional hearings loom."

NASA FY 2013 Budget Press Confeence - Full Transcript

"This year, we are trying something a little different. As well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today's presentation, and we will be taking questions via Twitter using the #AskNASA. So we thank everyone for joining us for today's presentation."

Science Pushed to the Brink: Proposed FY 2013 Budget Would Devastate Planetary Science in NASA

"If Congress enacts the proposed budget, there will be no "flagship" missions of any kind, killing the tradition of great missions of exploration, such as Voyager and Cassini to the outer planets. NASA's storied Mars program will be cut drastically, falling from $587 million for FY 2012 to $360 in FY 2013, and forcing missions to be cancelled. The search for life on other potentially habitable worlds -- such as Mars, Europa, Enceladus, or Titan -- will be effectively abandoned."

Red Planet meets red ink: budget ax could chop two NASA Mars missions, Christian Science Monitor

"Overall, the reports suggest that the total budget request for NASA will come in close to this year's budget of $17.8 billion. But the agency is having to absorb significant cost overruns for the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to The Hubble Space Telescope, and has had to do likewise with the Mars Science Laboratory, currently en route to the red planet."

Europe Turns to Russia as NASA Cuts Loom, WS Journal

"The latest budget crunch not only threatens the future of Mars exploration, according to scientists and lawmakers, but separate efforts to explore Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons, and other parts of the solar system where scientists have been looking for past signs of life. Within the past two years, NASA has backed out of two unrelated robotic missions with European space officials."

U.S. Space Science Confronts New Economic Reality, Wired

"Right now, everyone needs to step back a little bit and ask not 'how can I have mine' but 'how can we have ours,'" said astronomer Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute that oversees operations of Hubble and other telescopes."

Keith's note: Among the "citizen journalists" at Monday's press briefing on the FY 2013 budget will be Bethany Jones @AAS_Bethany_J (aka @AAS_CAPP, the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow for the American Astronomical Society. You'll note that she is being paid by an organization that has a vested interest in supporting funding for both Hubble and Webb - but also all other aspects of space and planetary science.

My favorite tweet of hers is from 1 September 2011: "@NASAWatch Where did you get this information? Or are you spreading vicious rumors?". I wonder ... will Bethany Jones ask a question regarding the funding of the Webb cost overruns or about cutting planetary science? Or both? You see, the AAS membership is on both sides of these issues - somewhat dysfunctionally I might add. Stay tuned. Too bad other organizations with interests in space policy are now being afforded this opportunity.

Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #askNASA NASA will try and answer some of them.

- AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Express Concern Over Budget Priorities, earlier post
- AAS SPD Memo to AGU Heliophysics Section on Webb Costs, earlier post
- Webb Cost Overruns Concern AAS Members (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: A note for all of the "citizen journalists" who will be participating in the budget briefing on Monday at NASA HQ. This is a great idea - but this is by no means a "first". There is a long road - one traveled by others before you to where you will be - and it started more than 10 years ago, before "blogging" was even a word, when there were no Tweetups, and the first citizen journalists dared to claim that they were legitimate media and demanded access to their government. As such, for those of us who helped pave the way (inside and outside of NASA), do us proud. Don't waste the opportunity. Ask something useful.

Brian Welch would find this all to be rather fascinating. He had his hands full just dealing with only me ...

Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #askNASA NASA will try and answer some of them.

Letter from the NASA Inspector General to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, 4 February 2000. Topic: NASA Watch's application for press accreditation. Note: by this point NASA "RIF" Watch had been online for more than 3 years.

"The editor of NASA Watch has twice applied for press accreditation from NASA and was rejected both times. The first application was a verbal request to NASA Headquarters PAO for credentials to attend the launch of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft in June 1997. That request was verbally rejected on the grounds that NASA Watch was not legitimate press but rather was closer to a "vanity press." The editor of NASA Watch again applied (via email) for press credentials to NASA Headquarters PAO in July 1999 (see Appendix B) and was again rejected (see Appendix C) on the grounds that NASA Watch did not meet the PAO's new policy for press accreditation (see Appendix D). NASA has no formal process for appealing rejection of press credentials."

Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, October 1996

"Donald Teague, president of the NASA Headquarters Professional Association, says the RIF Watch site provides invaluable information. "You have to turn it on each morning to see what's going on," he says. A committee of headquarters employees nominated Cowing for an agency award for running the RIF Watch site. But NASA Associate Administrator for Headquarters Operations Michael Christensen, rejected the idea. "The tone of the page is unacceptable," says Christensen. "None of us dispute his right to run the Web site. My own personal decision was that it would be inappropriate to honor him for it."

Back to the Moon

Back to the Moon--For a Fraction of the Old Price, Charles Miller

"As a former NASA executive, I am saddened by the media response to Newt Gingrich's proposal that we return to the moon. The mockery and ridicule does America a great disservice. Space exploration and development is an important national issue. It's not only possible and necessary to safeguard our future--it can be a lot cheaper than anybody dreams."

Keith's note: There was supposed to be an embargoed press briefing on the FY 2013 budget at NASA HQ today at 2:00 pm EST. That has now been cancelled. I do not know who cancelled it but Brian Berger at Space News is reporting that this was done on orders from the White House - and that's a good enough source for me. I was not planning on attending this event (I have in the past) since these things tend to be high level, no policy questions allowed, no quotes, and you have to decide between listening to the off the record briefer or furiously write down the budget numbers they flash on a screen (no handouts). Of course, if you attend you are then under an embargo until the budget is released on Monday - and I honor embargoes when I agree to be under them. But now the White House has clamped down on this so its a moot point. That said, I really do appreciate NASA PAO for taking the time to try and do this and for inviting me and others.

NASA Wants A Flat Budget For Fiscal 2013, Aviation Week

"NASA will take only an $89 million cut in its topline spending request for fiscal 2013 compared to this year's operating plan, sources said Friday, but the $17.711 billion NASA budget proposal due out Feb. 13 will axe the joint effort with Europe to return samples from Mars to pay for development overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope."

Scientists say NASA will cut missions to Mars, MSNBC

"Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University who also serves as president of the nonprofit Planetary Society, said "there's some validity" to the criticism of NASA's budgetary record. He said the scientific community "has heard that message" and is trying to focus on the highest-priority planetary projects for the next decade, including missions to Mars. "The community has a responsibility to demonstrate that we can do this within cost limits. ... If there are to be cuts, let's try to make them as fair as possible," he told msnbc.com. "It would seem to be fair if everyone across the board is being asked to scale back. The cuts should be equitable, but I don't think we're seeing that."

Congressman Adam Schiff opposes potential cuts to NASA's planetary exploration program, San Gabriel Tribune

"Schiff described his meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as "tense." "What I'm hearing that they're proposing will be absolutely devastating to planetary science and the Mars program," Schiff said. "If this is what they have in mind, I'm going to be fighting them tooth and nail."

Scientists say NASA cutting missions to Mars, AP

"Two scientists who were briefed on the 2013 NASA budget that will be released next week said the space agency is eliminating two proposed joint missions with Europeans to explore Mars in 2016 and 2018. NASA had agreed to pay $1.4 billion for those missions. Some Mars missions will continue, but the fate of future flights is unclear."

Keith's note:Meanwhile the James Webb Space Telescope crowd is eerily quiet. They know that the cost being covered for their latest overrun grossly eclipses the cuts that are being made elswhere. Alas, the grossly over-budget and oft-delayed MSL is on its way to Mars while the grossly over-budget ISS orbits overhead.

50 years of doing this - and NASA still can't figure out what things will actually cost?

Ed Weiler Says He Quit NASA Over Cuts to Mars Program, Science Insider

"The Mars program is one of the crown jewels of NASA," says Ed Weiler. "In what irrational, Homer Simpson world would we single it out for disproportionate cuts?" Weiler's resignation in September caught the space science community by surprise. But he says it was the culmination of a soul-sapping and ultimately unsuccessful battle with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on how to accommodate the rising cost of the James Webb Space Telescope within an overall agency budget being squeezed by efforts to reduce federal spending and shrink the deficit. "It all left a very bad taste," Weiler told ScienceInsider this morning from his house in Vero Beach, Florida."

Keith's note: This is sadly hilarious. Of course Ed Weiler's chronic inability to control James Webb Space Telecope's costs is what led to this situation in the first place. So, I guess Ed Weiler quit to protest his own poor job performance, right? Ed also neglects to mention the large cost overrun and 2 year delay in MSL - also under his tenure. I guess that did not affect things either, right Ed?

Bioreactors Drive Advances in Tissue Engineering, NASA Spinoffs 2011

"Johnson Space Center innovators created a rotating wall bioreactor that mimics microgravity conditions, allowing for healthier, more natural-forming cell cultures. Licensed to Synthecon Inc. of Houston, the technology now enables drug development and medical research into treatment for conditions such as diabetes and cancer."

New method makes culture of complex tissue possible in any lab, University of California - San Diego

"Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a new method for making scaffolds for culturing tissue in three-dimensional arrangements that mimic those in the body. This advance, published online in the journal Advanced Materials, allows the production of tissue culture scaffolds containing multiple structurally and chemically distinct layers using common laboratory reagents and materials. According to the UC San Diego researchers, this process is more affordable and widely feasible than previous methods that required expensive equipment and expertise."

- While NASA Flies In Circles Technology Advances Back on Earth, earlier post
- Another Alternative to ISS-Based Research (Update), earlier post
- Using the ISS: Once Again NASA Has Been Left in the Dust, earlier post

Keith's note: Too bad that NASA OCT does seem to know how to feature - or at least make people aware of - articles like this - and do so in real time. Articles like this on prominent blogs such as Gizmodo point to the true potential - and real spinoffs - that NASA has already created - ones that await promotion and full utilization. Gizmodo gets 5.9 million page views per day and has approximately 3 million unique visitors - daily. Funny thing, NASA ARC and JPL PAO have been helping Gizmodo with this series of articles. But no one at NASA PAO seems to talk to anyone at NASA OCT (or vice versa). Free PR, y'all.

NASA KSC Solicitation: Commercial Crew Integrated Capability

"NASA intends to begin a new initiative, the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap), to facilitate industry's development of an integrated CTS. This activity is expected to result in significant maturation of commercial CTS ."

Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Pre-Proposal Conference

"A Pre-Proposal Conference will be held on February 14, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. (EST). The conference will not be available via teleconference or webex."

Keith's note: First NASA quietly "announces" today's event last Friday less than 4 days before the event (with a weekend in between) - and only in the Federal Register. No media advisory. Suddenly, Charlie Bolden is blogging about this. Then they toss out news of a workshop and they haven't the inclination or the know-how to do a simple telephone dial-in or Webex for the rest of the U.S. (like they did today)? Its like these commericial folks just do not know what they are doing until the last minute - and then they would rather have as few people know what they are up to as possible.

Keith's 8 Feb update: But wait, another part of NASA has figured out how to do what KSC does not know how - or does not care to try - to do. Indeed, this sounds far more complex than a simple telephone/webex hook-up to a procurement dog and pony show like KSC's: NASA JSC Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program Integration Contract Virtual Industry Day: "NASA/JSC intends to conduct the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program Integration Contract (MPIC) Virtual Industry Day via WebEx on February 28, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., Central Standard Time (CST)."

Commercial space industry welcomes FAA bill, The Hill

"By extending the learning period, we're opening the door for continued growth and job creation, while also helping keep America at the forefront of space travel and exploration. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this burgeoning industry," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes Passage of Legislation to Provide Regulatory Stability to Growing Industry

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Congress's passage today of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which includes a key provision granting regulatory stability to the commercial spaceflight industry."

Guest Commentary: Moon base is not a loony, Denver Post

"The moon continues to surprise and enthrall us with possibilities for scientific breakthroughs, resource utilization, and human exploration. We only scratched the surface of the moon's potential during the Apollo program, covering an area smaller than Coors Field during Apollo 11. It's time to go back to the moon -- and, this time, to stay."

Ex-NASA exec: Gingrich moon colony lost in the laughter, CNN

"Lost in the laughter over the past two weeks has been GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's core point about America's future in space. We shouldn't just explore space, we should develop and even settle it, using the same enterprise-friendly approaches that helped open the West and the skies."

Robert Citron

Robert A. Citron dies at 79; space visionary

"In 1983 he developed Spacehab, a pressurized module that fit inside the cargo bay of the space shuttle. He had envisioned it for human cargo."

NASA and Industry Join Forces for Virginia Aerospace Day

"NASA leaders from Langley Research Center in Hampton and Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore will join aerospace industry representatives statewide to bring this message to Virginia General Assembly members on AeroSpace Days 2012, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 8-9, in Richmond. Concluding the two-day event, media are invited to a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in the General Assembly 4 West Conference Room."

Keith's 6 Feb 10 pm EST note: No mention on the WFF website- but it is mentioned at LaRC.

Keith's 7 Feb 10 am 3 pm EST note: Still no mention by Wallops. This is pretty pathetic. Wallops expects to get attention in Richmond and yet their management is incapable of updating its own website about this event? Not even the local media (Daily Press, Virginia-Pilot, Delmarva News) has picked up on it.

Janice Voss

Keith's note: I just learned that Astronaut Janice Voss has died. Details to follow.

Astronaut Janice Voss Has Died

"NASA astronaut Janice Voss passed away from cancer overnight after a courageous battle. One of only six women who have flown in space five times, Voss' career was highlighted by her work and dedication to scientific payloads and exploration."

Susan Niebur

@WomenPlanetSci - @whymommy - Susan Niebur, astrophysicist/mother has passed away from breast cancer. See: http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/goodbye/

Anthony Calio

Anthony J. Calio, NOAA administrator

"Anthony J. Calio, 82, a physicist and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who also had been a senior executive of NASA, died Jan. 14 at his home at Whidbey Island, Wash."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes Passage of Legislation to Provide Regulatory Stability to Growing Industry

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Congress's passage today of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which includes a key provision granting regulatory stability to the commercial spaceflight industry."

AIA Praises Congressional Passage of FAA Reauthorization

"The Aerospace Industries Association welcomes House and Senate passage of the conference report on H.R. 658, the "FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012." It is critical to FAA operations and offers stability and predictability to the aviation industry instead of the uncertainty fueled by one short-term extension after another."

Reader note 31 Jan: "The following relates to previous discussions on NASAwatch about what text, pictures, items, etc belong to NASA and which belong to the astronauts themselves. I really have been enjoying reading Don Pettit's blog at Air & Space about his life on the ISS. It appears that NASA or someone has censored his blog. His blog entry "Remove before Flight" posted yesterday 1/3/0/2011 is no longer available. Try: this original link and it comes back with nothing. If you enter this into Google, you will see Google's cache of the post: cache:http://blogs.airspacemag.com/pettit/2012/01/30/remove-before-flight/ . I'm also attaching an image of Google's cached page in case the Google cached page disappears."

Keith's 1 Feb update: I am still waiting for a NASA PAO response. I have also requested the original image of the "CAUTION" tag so that we can see what it says.

Keith's 6 Feb update: Well, it has been a week and JSC PAO has said nothing. This is what I have learned behind the scenes. Fact is, JSC PAO did not have a role in this - at first - since they were out of the loop until the blog post was deleted and inquiries started. The Astronaut Office ordered the removal of this post. Don Pettit's blogs were being sent directly to Air & Space magazine without prior approval by the Astronaut Office or JSC PAO - just as Ron Garan's postings to "Fragile Oasis" had been handled throughout his entire mission. The Astronaut Office saw this post by Pettit, thought that it was unacceptable, and told Air & Space that they had to take it offline. The post remains offline with no reason given as to why it was unacceptable or what could be done to make it acceptable. (you can still read it here) Now, JSC PAO hopes that I will get tired of beating this issue and then move on. JSC PAO is also afraid that if the whole story got out that the Astronaut Office would be made to look bad. So, if JSC responds formally to my request you can rest assured that they are not telling the whole story.

Its too bad that control freaks have gotten the middle of this. Pettit (and Garan before him) are unusually good at relating their experiences to wide audiences at home. Now these long-term ISS residents will have official worriers from the Astronaut Office sitting in a cubicle trying to make sure that the fresh and unfiltered nature of these blog postings never sees the light of day.

Newt defends his space program, Politico

"Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Sunday defended his comments about expanding the U.S. space program. "This was not some slip. This was a deliberate effort to start a conversation," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Last month, Gingrich said during a campaign stop in Florida that by his second term as president the U.S. flag would be planted again on the moon and that there would be a permanent lunar base."

Growing Opportunities on Earth Rather Than Colonies on the Moon, Rick Santorum RedState

"Already, the debt of the U.S. federal government threatens to engulf the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Each American citizen's share of the United States' public debt is over $48,000, but let's be honest for a minute. This burden won't fall on our shoulders: it will fall on our children's. There is over $200,000 in government debt for every American child. My goal is to shrink this number, and we can if we pursue policies that make life better for American households -- unlike Speaker Gingrich's moon colony. Our children are far too precious to be saddled with growing debt for a government that doesn't keep its promises. This money is better spent on earth - or kept in the pockets of American families, where it truly belongs."

Keith's note: And of course, SNL got in on space policy by opening with a segment titled "Newt Gingrich: Moon President". Oh yes, another segment "Secret Word featured U.S. astronaut Buster Allright who had some peculiar post-flight problems with "probes". If you are outside the U.S. you can watch the skit here on YouTube.

Commentary: Cutting NASA's budget would be a bad move, Commentayr, Washington Post

"When released next week, President Obama's 2013 budget will undoubtedly kick off another round of discussions over how much to spend on the nation's space program and which space projects should be funded. In this era of austerity, a likely issue will be NASA's support of commercial space enterprises, which some view as low priority."

NASA Commercial Crew Forum

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present an updated status of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) strategy on Tuesday, Feb 7, 2012. The Forum will be held at the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Commercial Crew Program will accept clarification questions during the forum webcast from attendees and via teleconference. Webcast access is encouraged. However, individuals may attend the forum by pre-registering online."

Keith's note: Its great that NASA is webcasting these events - but giving only 4 days advance notice - 2 days of which are over a weekend, no press release, no media advisory etc. is a good way to decrease attendance/participation.

Study challenges existence of arsenic-based life, Nature

"A group of scientists, led by microbiologist Rosie Redfield at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have posted data on Redfield's blog that, she says, present a "clear refutation" of key findings from the paper. Redfield and her collaborators hope to submit their work to Science by the end of the month. She says that if Science refuses to publish the work because it has been discussed on blogs, it will become an important test case for open science."

- The Arsenic-Based-Life Aftermath, C&EN
- Is This New Study the Nail in the Coffin of "Arsenic Life"?, Popular Science
- - Closely Watched Study Fails to Find Arsenic in Microbial DNA, Science
Arsenic-based life finding fails follow-up, ScienceNews

Spanning the HEOMD-SMD Gap

NASA science chief advocates ties with human spaceflight, SpaceflightNow

"Grunsfeld told Spaceflight Now he met with Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA's human exploration division, in his first week in office. "One of the reasons I'm in this job now is because NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden believed that teaming with human spaceflight on those things that make sense, on our exploration program, for science to take advantage of the resources of human spaceflight, for human spaceflight to be informed by the science we can do at planetary destinations, for instance, can make the whole program stronger," Grunsfeld said."

Roger Boisjoly

Roger Boisjoly, 73, Dies; Warned of Shuttle Danger, NY Times

"Six months before the space shuttle Challenger exploded over Florida on Jan. 28, 1986, Roger Boisjoly wrote a portentous memo. He warned that if the weather was too cold, seals connecting sections of the shuttle's huge rocket boosters could fail. "The result could be a catastrophe of the highest order, loss of human life," he wrote. The shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launching, killing its seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from Concord, N.H."

Report Endorses NASA's Proposed Contribution to Euclid Mission

"A new National Research Council report responds to a request from NASA to evaluate this possible U.S. contribution to Euclid and concludes that the investment of approximately $20 million in hardware would be a valuable first step toward meeting the scientific goals of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which is one of the top-ranked priorities recommended in New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the National Research Council's recent decadal survey of research priorities in astronomy and astrophysics. However, the new report concluded, the Euclid mission on its own is not sufficient for achieving the broader decadal survey goals for the WFIRST mission, nor will it seek to accomplish the more ambitious goals for WFIRST's dark energy measurements."

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)

NASA Receives Second Highest Number of Astronaut Applications

"More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO, NASA received 8,000 astronaut applications in 1978. Hmm ... It was during 1977 that NASA used Nichelle Nichols to help encourage a broader range of applicants. According to Memory Alpha: "After meeting Nichols at a Star Trek convention in 1975, scientist Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer suggested that the actress take part in NASA's recruitment drive. Nichols took up the role in 1977, making recruitment and training films, and supervising astronaut recruits and hopefuls. She noted that the applicant count went from fewer than 100 a year to 1,649 within six months."

Cislunar is the next destination for America in space, Cislunar Space Next (Paul Spudis)

"Develop a space transportation system using existing assets to the extent possible, build new reusable vehicles to transit cislunar space, develop lunar resources with the aim of propellant production, emplace staging nodes in LEO (use existing ISS), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), Earth-Moon L-1, low lunar orbit (LLO) and on the lunar surface."

Brochure

NASA Internal Memo: Public release of 'We Explore Space' Concept Maps

"We are pleased to notify you that the human space exploration project you graciously offered your time and expertise to support has been completed and is being released to the public at this very moment! You may launch into the "We Explore Space" concept maps from the NASA website."

Keith's note: At first blush there is a blatant omission in this presentation: commercial space - crew and cargo. Given the large amount of money NASA is spending, and the hopes that the agency pins on the private sector for acccess to space, you'd think this would be a prominent theme. Guess not. And the "Previous" and "Next" links do not work on my Mac running OS 10.6.8 in Safari, Firefox, or Chrome browsers.

Keith's update: Well I fiddled with it some more and I found a page that deals with commercial space. But finding it was rather counterintuitive requiring multiple steps where the word "commercial" is not used. Again, given the battles that NASA and the Administration have had with Congress over this issue you'd think they'd want to explain how commerce fits into it. Or maybe they are trying to de-emphasize it so Congress won't complain. Oh yes, you can't print these charts out (easily) on a single sheet of paper. PDF versions would be nice.

That said, I am a fan of mind maps, so this is an interesting approach. The question that really begs an answer is who is the intended audience for this website? The media? Policy wonks? The public? How much this activity cost? How much was the grant? Why is there no press release?

Virginia Govenor Robert McDonnell to Address 15th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference

"Notable speakers will include: The Honorable Robert McDonnell, governor, Va. ..."

Billie Reed, leader of Virginia's spaceport, is planning retirement, Daily Press

"Virginia is one of handful of states with an operational spaceport courting the aerospace companies. Proposed legislation would boost the authority's budget to $15 million from roughly $2 million in 2011. If approved, the authority will likely double its staff to 12, hire more contractors and, possibly, begin work on infrastructure projects, Reed said. Additional legislation would shrink the board to nine members from 13. Two reports released last year recommended changes to the board, which is made up of state officials, local elected leaders, private industry and academics."

Russia orders Soyuz delays in wake of test mishap, Spaceflight Now

"Outside experts have questioned Russian quality control, but Suffredini said the problems appeared to be unrelated and he expressed confidence his counterparts will get to the bottom of the latest incident, implement corrective actions and move on."

NASA confident in Russia despite space accidents, Reuters

"The latest accident involved a Soyuz capsule being prepared to fly a new crew to the $100 billion orbiting research laboratory on March 29. The spacecraft was inadvertently over-pressurized during testing, rendering it unsuitable for flight."

NASA takes first ever video of dark side of the moon, Fox News

Keith's note: Of course, video has been shot from lunar orbit before and there is no "dark side" of the Moon - all portions of the surface are dark or sunlit at one point or another depending on where the Moon is in its orbit. The only exceptions are some craters in the polar regions which have areas that are always "dark". But if there actually was a "dark" side of the Moon, how would you be able to take a video of it? Alas, despite the inaccurate headline that some genius at Fox came up with, the article itself, written by Space.com's Tariq Malik is completely accurate.

NASA's Management of Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Contracts Funded by the Recovery Act

"We found NASA's Recovery Act internal controls were generally effective in ensuring proper oversight, management, and transparency of Recovery Act funded SBIR/STTR contracts. The contracts we reviewed largely met cost, schedule, and performance milestones. ... However, we also found that due to resource limitations NASA did not implement three Recovery Act internal controls, including two controls relating to COTR certification and training."

NASA Administrator Leads Action Session of President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, NASA

President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and NASA Administrator to Hold Listening and Action Session Highlighting the Importance of Science Education, White House

"On Friday, February 3rd, the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will hold a Listening and Action Session in Seattle, WA. The Jobs Council, in partnership with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, will discuss ways businesses and organizations like NASA can enhance educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics beyond the classroom to develop a competitive and innovative workforce."

Keith's note: White House and NASA PAO announce this less than 24 hours in advance. There will be no webcast so that we can hear what everyone says. NASA PAO will then they take a week or more to post Bolden's prepared remarks. No one will ever know what was discussed in any great detail. Another dog and pony show.Why NASA continues to hide Bolden's presence at things like this until the last minute and then beam him down isbaffling. This is an important topic. It deserves more than a last minute media advisory -- and webcasting it does not require rocket science or loads of money.

Human Rating the Atlas V

United Launch Alliance Completes Critical Milestones Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced the completion of two key milestones leading toward the certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight. ULA has successfully completed the third and fourth milestones of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA). In December, ULA conducted a series of detailed reviews that reflected the culmination of efforts involving technical experts and representatives from NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP)."

Keith's note: Little more than a week ago, at an campaign event with Newt Gingrich, Gingrich asked a bunch of space company reps specifically what it would take to human-rate the Atlas V and how long that would take. No one from ULA could answer. Now this press release comes out addressing that same question in detail. Odd.

Gingrich Talks About Space Policy in Florida (Update), earlier post

This Is NASA's Cancer-Sniffing Cellphone Sensor, Gizmodo

"What if you could use your phone to test the air for toxins? What if you could monitor your health simply by blowing on it? Sounds amazing, right? Nanosensor technology developed by NASA Ames is going to make that a reality."

Keith's note: NASA Ames PAO worked with Gizmodo to generate this article - and others - as part of their "SpaceCamp" series that looks at things inside NASA. Other than a tweet about his series of articles by NASA CTO's Joe Parrish who is actually paying attention (alas he only has 72 followers - please follow him) NASA has done zippo to promote this spinoff. The more things I find written about the value of NASA research the more I find evidence that NASA is asleep at the wheel. This stuff mostly gets written in spite of NASA. And when NASA does assist people as they write stories the agency is clueless as to how to make a simple link on their website to the stories that result.

I am beginning to think that NASA simply doesn't care any more. And if they don't have the energy to do simple PR 101 sort of tasks, why should anyone care what the agency gets in terms of a budget? And who will complain when the budget is cut? Just like the kidney stone spinoff work NSBRI is doing, this NASA-developed sensor array also has the potential for wide utilization here on Earth. But NASA would rather not expend the energy to tell the ultimate stakeholders - i.e. taxpayers - that this is the cool payback that they get for all those billions spent on NASA. Mind boggling.

Keith's update: I am partially wrong. NASA ARC did release a short press release about chemical sensors for a smartphone. But look at the pictures that were released. They are for another, simpler prototype sensing system. This newer hardware is much more advanced and closer to "production". I wonder what this will look like in another couple of months? That's the funny thing about technology. It doesn't stand still while NASA's sluggish PAO efforts do not strive to stay current.

To the moon? It's not that loony, MSNBC

"GOP hopeful Mitt Romney says that he'd fire anyone who suggested spending hundreds of billions of dollars to build a moon colony -- but what about tens of billions of dollars? A former NASA adviser says he and others at the space agency drew up an approach that could put astronauts on the moon for $40 billion, as a "Plan B" for future exploration. "We figured out at NASA how to do it in about 10 years for $40 billion," said Charles Miller, who recently left his position as NASA Headquarters' senior adviser for commercial space and is now president of NextGen Space. "The question is, would Mitt Romney fire me for a proposal to return to the moon for $40 billion?"

Keith's note: According to the official web page for the proposed InSight mission to Mars at NASA JPL: "The InSight mission will fly a near-duplicate of the Mars lander that the Phoenix mission used successfully in 2007 to study ground ice near the north pole of Mars. The reuse of this technology, developed and built by Lockheed-Martin Space Systems in Denver, CO, will provide a low-risk path to Mars without the added cost of designing and testing a new system from scratch." No cost numbers are provided to verify the cost cutting claim.

The highly successful Mars Phoenix is (logically) mentioned as a way to claim cost savings. But when Phoenix was proposed the cost savings from heavy reuse of failed Mars Polar Lander heritage hardware were cited - but never fully explained. If this mission is approved there is no doubt that JPL and SMD PAO will once again try and claim massive cost savings and simultaneously not mention the money spent to develop the hardware for previous missions.

Keith's update: Gee, that was fast. Spin control has begun. JPL PAO's Veronica McGregor just tweeted "@NASAWatch MPL was a different design from the 2001 lander." The University of Arizona's Phoenix site says "The Phoenix Mission uses the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, built in 2000, but later administratively mothballed." According to the NASA NSSDC entry on Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander: "The mission will be based on the Mars '98 Polar Lander". Here we go again, JPL is trying to have it both ways - they want you to accept the fact that InSight uses Phoenix heritage (i.e. the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander) - but they do not want you to know that Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander was very, very closely based on the Mars Polar Lander design - indeed, modifications to what became Phoenix were the direct result of the failure analysis of MPL - that is how closely they were related.

- NASA SMD's Cost Overrun Coverup (updated with Telecon notes), earlier post
- Yet Another Mars Phoenix Cost Figure, earlier post
- The Actual Cost of Mars Phoenix is $520 Million, earlier post
- Why Does The Official Cost of Mars Phoenix Keep Changing?, earlier post
- NASA Has a Problem Calculating - and Admitting - What Space Missions Really Cost, earlier post

Space researchers develop ultrasound technology that detects, treats kidney stones, NSBRI

"Just the mention of kidney stones can cause a person to cringe. They are often painful and sometimes difficult to remove, and 10 percent of the population will suffer from them. In space, the risk of developing kidney stones is exacerbated due to environmental conditions. The health risk is compounded by the fact that resource limitations and distance from Earth could restrict treatment options. Scientists with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing an ultrasound technology that could overcome some medical care challenges associated with kidney stone treatment."

Keith's note: Wow, a real spinoff with potential applications to a vast number of people on Earth. But is there any mention at the OCT website? ISS National Lab? CASIS? Why is NASA so woefully incapable of promoting the actual benefits from its research that it crows about in Congressional testimony and PAO puff pieces?

Keith's update: What is really pathetic - and troubling - is the response posted by ISS contractor employee Justin Kugler in the comments section. Kugler and the people entrusted with the utilization of this expensive national asset seem to be oblivious to the responsibility that they have to explain to all "stakeholders" (including taxpayers) what these tens of billions of dollars have been spent on. When these people can't even get off their collective asses to make note of true and exciting spinoffs of great potential to people (such as this one) you really have to question whether NASA has the right people working on this project - and that starts at the top (Mark Uhran).

Twin inukshuks on Devon Island. On the left is the Challenger Inukshuk on the right is the memorial to a member of the Columbia crew.

NASA Haughton-Mars Project Space Shuttle Columbia Inukshuk Memorials

"To honor the memory of the seven astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia's last flight, and at the suggestion of our colleague Keith Cowing of SpaceRef, the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) has established seven astronaut memorial sites on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic, during the summer field seasons of 2003 and 2004. Each site was chosen for its special significance in the NASA HMP's analog exploration program near Haughton Crater, and is marked by an Inukshuk, a traditional Inuit "Stone Person". The Inuit erect Inukshuks to mark land and to guide and comfort travelers on perilous journeys across the Arctic."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"I asked Joe Amaraulik if anyone had ever figured out how long these structures would last. He said he wasn't sure if they had been dated but that there were some that had been in place for many centuries. As for how long this one, which we had just built, would last, Joe (a man of few, but well-chosen words) said "forever". In other words - the next ice age."

Report Identifies 16 Highest Priorities to Guide NASA's Technology Development Efforts for Next Five Years

"It has been years since NASA has had a vigorous, broad-based program in advanced space technology development," said Raymond Colladay, president of RC Space Enterprises Inc., and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "Success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced developments that should already be under way."

NASA Receives Final NRC Report On Space Technology Roadmaps

"The report strongly reaffirms the vital importance of technology development to enable the agency's future missions and grow the nation's new technology economy," said Mason Peck, chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The report confirms the value of our technology development strategy to date. NASA currently invests in all of the highest-priority technologies and will study the report and adjust its investment portfolio as needed."

Keith's note: According to this project description at the NRC, this project began on 24 September 2010 with a projected final report 17 months later. Given the glacial pace at which NASA incorporates advice - and its tendency to only adopt the portions of the advice they actually want to implement - it will easily take another year to align the NRC report and NASA's plan, synch it with the budget, ongoing and new procurements, etc. Only then will NASA be ready to implement what the NRC has recommended. That's a 2 year lag between advice and implementation.

Of course, just as the new plan settles into place at NASA there might be a new Administration or a new Congress - both of which will fiddle with everything once again. Net result: NASA is always behind. NASA needs to shorten this cycle such that it can respond to emerging trends in technology as they make themselves known - not wait several years and then play catch up. Note that the committee chair said "Success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced developments that should already be under way."

Space tourism to accelerate climate change, Nature

"Climate change caused by black carbon, also known as soot, emitted during a decade of commercial space flight would be comparable to that from current global aviation, researchers estimate. The findings, reported in a paper in press in Geophysical Research Letters, suggest that emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would persist high in the stratosphere, potentially altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone. The simulations show that the changes to Earth's climate could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 deg C, and reduce polar sea ice by 5-15%."

Technologies that we've lost - and the quest to find them again, io9

"I asked NASA Watch's Keith Cowing about this, and he explained that this is just an urban legend. The schematics are all still around, mostly on microfiche, and any ancient computer files just hold images of the original plans as opposed to now unreadably obsolete data. Still, while the knowledge wasn't lost, it was certainly forgotten, and worse, it was badly organized. As Cowing - himself working on the rediscovery of old NASA documents with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project - told me, all this archival information was basically abandoned until NASA's started working on the Constellation program last decade, and now that that project has been forgotten the information is again beginning to gather dust. If there is a point of disconnect, it's more in terms of how we understand the information and the different ways in which we approach science forty-five years on"

Unshaking Ares 1

How NASA Solved a $100 Million Problem for Five Bucks, Gizmodo

"A few years ago, back when the Constellation Program was still alive, NASA engineers discovered that the Ares I rocket had a crucial flaw, one that could have jeopardized the entire project. They panicked. They plotted. They steeled themselves for the hundreds of millions of dollars it was going to take to make things right. And then they found out how to fix it for the cost of an extra value meal."


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