March 2012 Archives

ATV-3 Power Connection Successful, Reboost Set

"Multi-national flight controllers successfully connected a backup power channel Saturday to the European Space Agency's "Edoardo Amaldi" Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo ship, enabling electricity to flow from the International Space Station to the ATV to set the stage for a reboost of the station Saturday afternoon while avoiding an early undocking of the resupply craft."

Candidate challenged over 'astronaut' title, The Fresno Bee

"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states. ... The suit notes that Hernandez reported to the clerk of the House of Representatives that he received $150,000 from work as the "executive director for strategic operations" with MEI Technologies. "In the same disclosure to Congress, [Hernandez] reported that he received no income from NASA in 2011," the lawsuit states, adding that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life."

Keith's note: These lawyers are loons. Of course you can call yourself an "astronaut" if you no longer work for NASA. People have been doing this for decades. Indeed, you can do so if you have never worked for NASA or never plan to. Charlie Walker worked for McDonnell Douglas when he flew in space as an "astronaut". Brian Binnie is an "astronaut" and worked for Scaled Composites. Are you an "astronaut" if you don't have another flight scheduled? Was John Glenn not an "astronaut" during the decades that he was in the Senate? My guess is that Hernandez is going to win the election - and his opponents know it. Otherwise you would not see goofy, desperate legal challenges like this.

Judge: Jose Hernandez can be 'astronaut' on ballot, SF Chronicle

"It took a Sacramento Superior Court judge Thursday to rule that the Democrat can be described an "astronaut" on California's June 5 primary election ballots in a nationally watched House battle."

"This year, we are giving everyone the chance to attend the Innovation Summit - virtually. We'll stream live footage of the Summit's opening remarks, daily fireside chats, interactive student workshops, and opening and closing ceremonies."

Live webcast Link

Today, in a message from the International Space Station, Astronauts Don Pettit and Dan Burbank welcomed students to the Conrad Foundation Innovation Summit at NASA Ames Research Center. Burbank refered to a comment made by President Obama to participants at the Second Annual Science Fair at the White House: "Don't be bored - make something!". Video (go to 00:35)

NASA administrator warns agency may have to cut 'everything' but top 3 priorities if no budget deal

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden warned Wednesday that, unless Congress reaches a deal with the White House to avoid mandated budget cuts next year, NASA would have to cancel all of its other missions to keep its three top priorities moving forward."

Washington Monument Syndrome

"Washington Monument Syndrome ... is the name of a political tactic allegedly used by government agencies when faced with reductions in the rate of projected increases in budget or actual budget cuts. The most visible and most appreciated service that is provided by that entity is the first to be put on the chopping block."

Stephen Hawking Accepts Prestigious NSS Award on Society's 25th Anniversary

"The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Hawking as the 14th recipient of NSS's Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. The award [was] be presented to Dr. Hawking at a special ceremony at the Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery, Texas on Wednesday, March 28 and is given in recognition of his outstanding and continuing public efforts in support of human space development and settlement."

Keith's 23 Mar note There were two Congressional hearings this week, one with House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on NASA's FY 2013 budget - and the other by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on the FY13 FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation budget. Both hearings made frequent and repeated mention of many aspects of commercial space issues. Yet there hasn't been a peep out of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation about the issues raised.

While the CSF was ostensibly created to focus on commercial space, other organizations - and companies - were all rather quiet too. Given some of the borderline hostile things said this week (and previously in a Senate hearing) about funding for - and regulation of commercial space, one would think that the industry would be out there talking this up. Its not like there isn't anyone out there to do this - indeed, Rep. Wolf made specifc note of the large number of lobbyists etc. that have been hired to promote/protect commercial space.

Keith's update: Commercial space came up at yesterday's hearings. Commercial Spaceflight Federation continues to be silent - just as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

NASA administrator warns agency may have to cut 'everything' but top 3 priorities if no budget deal

"Shelby also criticized Bolden's defense of the commercial space company SpaceX, which Shelby said, "was originally scheduled to complete three demonstration flights by September 2009 (but has) only completed one and many expect the date of their second launch to slip again soon, as it just did in February."

Keith's note: Commercial space is almost certainly going to come up at each of these hearings. I wonder if the Commercial Spaceflight Federation will continue to be silent as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

Hearing Airs Concerns with Sustaining Space Station and Fulfilling Research Potential

"Although NASA has done a credible job of ensuring that the ISS can last for years to come, the question that remains is whether NASA will be able to service the station and productively use it for science," Ms. Chaplain said. "Routine launch support is essential to both, but the road ahead depends on successfully overcoming several complex challenges, such as technical success, funding, international agreements, and management and oversight of the national laboratory."

- Science, Space, and Tech Committee Hearing: Securing the Promise of the International Space Station
- Hearing Charter
- Statement: Ralph Hall
- Statement: William H. Gerstenmaier
- Statement: Cristina Chaplain
- Statement: Thomas P. Stafford

- Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Hearing on NASA Budget

- Statement: Sen. Mikulski
- Statement: Charles Bolden
- NASA Budget Estimates

- Odd Silence on the Commercial Space Front, earlier post

References to CASIS in House Hearing on Space Station Utilization

GAO: "Since the establishment of CASIS as the management body of ISS research is relatively recent, we have not examined its effectiveness; therefore, it is too early for us to say whether it will be successful in ensuring full scientific utilization of the station as a national laboratory."

Democrats Emphasize the Need for a Clear Plan for Utilization of the International Space Station

"In short, we need clear, prioritized and integrated utilization plans from NASA, and we need to be assured that those plans are being carried out, both by NASA and by the independent ISS research management organization, CASIS, that was set up for that purpose."

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget, earlier post

"Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way."

Space Station's Future Rides on Commercial Cargo Haulers, SpaceNews

"Lawmakers also raised concerns about the Florida-based nonprofit organization CASIS that NASA hired six months ago to run the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is in the midst of a reorganization following the resignation of its director this month. Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) called for review of CASIS by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Hall did not comment publicly on the request."

Earlier CASIS postings

F-1 Engine Recovery, Bezos Expeditions

"I'm excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we're making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don't know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they're made of tough stuff, so we'll see."

Marc's note: it will be very interesting to see what condition the engine(s) are in if they are able to raise one or more of them.

Evacuation? Surely we can do better!, B612 Foundation

"The other day we had a couple of small asteroids narrowly miss hitting the Earth, and we only discovered them about a day before they flew by. This is actually a fairly common occurrence (and these particular asteroids are like most of these cases quite small and relatively harmless). But consider what would happen if a larger asteroid like the one that hit Tunguska in 1908 was found to be on a collision course just a day or so ahead of impact. Our only option would be to evacuate the impact area."

NASA's Twitter Account Receives Shorty Award

"NASA's activities in social media were recognized on Monday in New York when the agency's official Twitter feed, @NASA, received a Shorty Award for the best government use of social media. The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare and others. NASA's nomination cited multiple aspects of the agency's social-media efforts, including the popular Angry Birds in Space game and encouragement of science among young people."

NASA Successfully Launches Five Rockets from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

"NASA successfully launched five suborbital sounding rockets this morning from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream. Each of the rockets released a chemical tracer that created milky, white clouds at the edge of space. The launches and clouds were reported to be seen from as far south as Wilmington, N.C.; west to Charlestown, W. Va.; and north to Buffalo, N.Y."

Rumors of NASA's demise greatly exaggerated, opinion, Nick Lampson

"Right now, NASA is building the next-generation deep-space crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to explore farther than ever before. NASA is also expanding use of the International Space Station by partnering with American companies to create transportation capabilities for reaching the station in low Earth orbit. This will stimulate the economy and decrease our reliance on foreign launch providers. Congress has directed all of these activities in a bipartisan manner."

Crater, By Homer Hickam

Book Review: "Crater" By Homer Hickam

"Crater" by Homer Hickam, is aimed at younger readers and manages to deliver quite a well-paced adventure. The book focuses on the adventures of Crater Trueblood a 16 year old blue collar kid who lives on the Moon complete with a mysterious past and a penchant for invention. He also has a knack of stumbling into one mini-adventure after another as he makes his way across the lunar surface to catch a ride on a spaceship to obtain a secret object for his boss. In a nutshell, "Crater" is sort of like Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones on the Moon - with some John Guest thrown in for good measure."

NASA Is Becoming Boring

James Cameron Completes Record-Breaking Mariana Trench Dive

"Now "the science team is getting ready for the returned samples," expedition astrobiologist Kevin Hand, of NASA, said in an email. ... Because Cameron had prepared extensively for the dive, he should be in good psychological health, said Walter Sipes, an aeronautics psychologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center."

Keith's note: A former NASA Advisory council member and MSL imaging co-investigator goes to the deepest place on Earth - with a NASA astrobiologist supporting his dive. The media seek out NASA experts for comment. Alas, no mention at NASA's Astrobiology website or anywhere else at NASA. Not surprising since NASA blew off "Avatar" as just another SciFi movie - until it made several billion at the box office. When Felix Baumgartner jumps from the edge of space soon NASA will ignore that too even though there are NASA alumni advising him. Meanwhile, NASA still can't figure out the name of the asteroid they (or might not) might visit in 10 or 15 years. And then the agency complains when people don't pay attention to what they do. Why should they, NASA is becoming boring.

As Times Change, She Returns to the Basics of Dining, NASA LaRC

"I've been at NASA Langley for more than 30 years," said Cheryl Cleghorn, the center's outreach and protocol coordinator. "I've seen lots of changes in the last five or six years." Many of them involved money. "Before, NASA was given its budget and did what it was going to do with it," Cleghorn said. "Now we're collaborating and competing for additional funds for the center." The key word here is "partnership," and Cleghorn brought together 17 women and three men from Langley who might be called upon to dine with potential partners who could bring business to the center. They were there to learn to "Outclass the Competition: Dine Like a Diplomat."

Keith's note: I'll be the first to agree that most NASA employees have little or no experince in the business environment out in the real world - and it shows. But I am a little baffled as to why the agency is spending money and time to teach people how to eat.

Satellite to burn in atmosphere above Pacific, Russia Today

"Satellite's propulsive unit was turned on at 14:33 MSK to give the 5,775-kilogram vehicle a de-orbital burn and the craft's debris is expected to reach the surface at 17:32 MSK to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. The impact area will be closed for ships and planes for two hours."

- Antarctic Researchers Cite Benefits of Repurposing Express-AM4, previous post
- Express-AM4: Repurposing Space Assets For Exploration, previous post
- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, previous post

ESA, China Discuss Shenzhou Docking At ISS, Aviation Week

"European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). The two sides met at Dordain's request on the sidelines of the European Space Agency's third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launch to the ISS March 23 to further establish a dialogue and lay the groundwork for potential Sino-European cooperation in manned spaceflight."

von Braun @100

Remembering the Nazi Scientist Who Built the Rockets for Apollo, The Atlantic

"Few figures in the history of technology provoke a reaction as quickly as Wernher von Braun. The rocket scientist was a card-carrying Nazi who built the world's first ballistic missile with slave labor from concentration camps. As the war wound down, he surrendered to the Americans and took his rocket-building team and talents to the United States. Eventually, he became a leader in the American space program, building the rocket (the Saturn V) that carried Apollo 11 to the moon. Today would have been his 100th birthday. He died in 1977."

Remembering Wernher von Braun on his 100th Birthday, Roger Lanius, Air & Space

"Wernher von Braun was a stunningly successful advocate for space exploration and has appropriately been celebrated for those efforts. But because he was also willing to build a ballistic missile for Hitler's Germany, with all of connotations that implied in the devastation and terror of World War II, many of his ideals have also been appropriately questioned. For some he was a visionary who foresaw the potential of human spaceflight, but for others he was little more than an arms merchant who developed brutal weapons of mass destruction. In reality, he seems to have been something of both."

Keith's note: My father was injured and almost killed by a V-2 in London. His roomates were killed. Slaves died to build these rockets. Unlike a lot of people who are tripping over one another to heap praise on von Braun today, I simply note his accomplishments - all of them.

Second Life for Failed Russian Satellite?, Science Magazine

"Sixteen hours of continuous broadband coverage would certainly be a big boost, particularly for scientists working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which currently gets just a few hours a day of coverage. And while the South Pole Station's communications problems are the most acute, communications for the entire continent have been a problem for many years. Wingo describes it as a cyclical problem: The small Antarctic community "doesn't have sufficient market potential to justify the construction of a $150 to $200 million dedicated satellite to cover the area," he says--but once such a satellite is in place, there will be "an explosion of demand that would prove the market." Bringing in Express-AM4, he suggests, would be the necessary band-aid."

- Express-AM4: Repurposing Space Assets For Exploration, previous post
- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, previous post

NASA considering space station as dry run for 500-day Mars trip, would test human endurance, Washington Post

"The International Space Station may provide the setting for a 500-day pretend trip to Mars in another few years. NASA said Tuesday that consideration is under way to use the space station as a dry run for a simulated trip to and from Mars. It would be patterned after Russia's mock flight to Mars that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center."

Let's Stop Going in Circles - And Go Somewhere (2002), SpaceRef

"Re-dedicating the International Space Station to the specific task of flight certifying humans for travel to Mars - on a fixed schedule - and then holding to that schedule would bring a long absent focus and general direction to this meritorious but meandering program."

Keith's note Its about time NASA decided to do this. I think they should have been doing this from the moment that the first crew arrived.

Reader note: "NASA JSC Public Affairs interviews ISS Flight Director Royce Renfrew and the interview was posted on NASA's ReelNASA YouTube channel. Starting at 16:38 the discussion turns to SLICE experiments being performed by the current ISS crew. At 17:26 Renfrew says "We don't actually have a NASA center in Cleveland ..." What??"

Keith's Update: Someone representing the ReelNASA YouTube channel replied in the comments of the video: "Mr. Renfrew was referencing the fact there is not an ISS Mission Control Center in Cleveland that is capable of speaking with the crew. He was highlighting the fact we can arrange for researchers to have direct communication with the crew regarding their research, a benefit of doing Station science. NASA Glenn Research Center is located in Cleveland, but it does not have a mission control center that interacts with the station crew. We appreciate your comment. ..." Typical JSC PAO - never admit any mistakes - ever.

The facts according to NASA GRC: "Since 2001, the TSC has provided over 26,000 hr of continuous support for diverse microgravity research experiments onboard the ISS, 24 hr a day, 7 days a week, while requiring less than 100 hr of crew intervention. Secure, dedicated audio, video, and data interfaces are provided to payload teams, including a digital stream of two channels of video from the ISS and the ability to communicate directly with the ISS crew."

Houston, we have a NASA center,

"I feel for the guy. ... That's an answer he probably wishes he could suck back into his head," said NASA Glenn Director Ray Lugo. "The statement was taken a little bit out of context. The more you pick on it, the worse it gets. ... The last thing I want to do is add to it."

Keith's 27 March Update: The ReelNASA Youtube channel posted this video yesterday: "ISS Update Commentator Pat Ryan interviews Dr. Paul Ferkul, Principal Investigator for the Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment" with Dr. Paul Ferkul participating in the interview from NASA Glenn Research Centers Telescience Center."

Remarks by the President on Energy at Roswell, New Mexico

"It was a wonderful trip over here. We took the helicopter. We landed in Roswell. I announced to people when I landed that I had come in peace. (Laughter.) Let me tell you, there are more 9- and 10-year-old boys around the country -- when I meet them, they ask me, "Have you been to Roswell, and is it true what they say?" (Laughter.) And I tell them, "If I told you I'd have to kill you." So -- and their eyes get all big. (Laughter.) So we're going to keep our secrets here."

Keith's note: Oops. The White House (OSTP) likes this - on Twitter

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"When asked about CASIS, the non-profit organization chartered to manage the U.S International Laboratory on the ISS, Bolden did not know what the history behind CASIS was (how or why it was formed), did not know how many people worked there, and would not give a grade for its performance thus far. When Rep. Wolf noted that the Director of CASIS had quit recently and that this was like "the captain leaving the ship" Bolden said "they're just getting started". Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way"."

CASIS Reviews NASA Experiments for Commercialization Potential, CASIS

"The panel, led by Timothy Yeatman, a veteran surgeon, scientist and pioneer in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine, is the first of its kind. The effort marks the first high-level international scientific review of NASA experiments with the aim of maximizing use of the station and unlocking the value of America's investment in the $100 billion orbiting platform."

Keith's note: This statement by CASIS is simply untrue or, at best, grossly over-hyped. NASA has been convening review and oversight panels for this purpose for decades. I know because I used to help organize some of these panels and have attended innumerable others set up by NASA, NIH, NAS/NRC, and others. That said, the previous panels have not done very much of lasting signifigance since no one outside of a small subset of NASA really understands what the ISS can do - or has done. So maybe this new CASIS panel will be different. Given the weak and incomplete infrastructure in place at CASIS I would not hold high expectations for the output this first panel. Also, given that Rep. Wolf and House Appropriators have put CASIS on notice to get "with it" in the next 30-45 days the folks at CASIS who are "just getting starting" (according to Charlie Bolden) need to get this done properly - right out of the gate. The clock is now ticking.

Previous CASIS postings


"Tell the United States Congress and President Barack Obama that you want NASA's annual budget increased to one penny on the taxpayer dollar. Tell them that making NASA 1% of the total budget is worth it for the future of our great nation!"


- Petition at

NASA KSC internal Memo: NASA KSC Laptop Theft

"On March 5, 2012, a NASA laptop computer containing sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was stolen from a NASA KSC employee. We have verified that personal information was contained in the files that were on this laptop at the time it was stolen."

NASA KSC Response to Employee Laptop Theft

"Originally, a limited number of employees and less sensitive personal data were thought to be on the stolen computer. But as part of the investigation and response to the theft, NASA IT, security and human resource personnel confirmed (through backed-up records of the stolen computer stored on protected agency servers) more precisely what information was contained on that laptop, and it was learned on March 14 that many more employees and more sensitive data, including social security numbers, were involved. NASA is sending "letters of notification," first in the email below, to provide faster notification, and then by paper letter by March 19, to affected employees."

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"When Wolf mentioned the recent NASA IG report on computer security and the spate of incidents, Bolden said that he was going to sign a directive and that all portable devices would use encryption. He said he should have known better and that it was his fault that this had not been implemented sooner. Bolden said that he had talked to his staff and that when compared to other agencies' IT security, that NASA was "woefully deficient"."

Scientist Nozette Called Brilliant, Greedy Traitor, FAS

"As a condition of his plea agreement, which lowered his sentence recommendation from 262 months to 156 months, Nozette was debriefed by law enforcement and intelligence officials. But "the value of these debriefings was limited. Defendant provided no actionable information. There were times that defendant's professed lack of recollection was baffling."

Keith's note: Here's a Video of creepy convicted traitor Stu Nozette giggling and shoving food into his mouth while talking about being a super secret man of mystery with fake identities, offshore bank accounts, escape routes, places to hide out, extradition restrictions, taking lessons from 9-11 terrorist Mohammed Atta on how to get out of the U.S. - and that this decision to betray the U.S. was a "career decision".

Earlier posts

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"Bolden made frequent attempts to defend the Administration's cuts to planetary science - at one point saying that part of the justification included an assessment that the Mars program was doing well. In essence Bolden said that not doing missions better positioned NASA to do these missions. He also said that NASA had never signed on to do ExoMars and that no sample return mission was ever on the books. Rep. Schiff was totally angered by this and accused Bolden of using "Orwellian language" saying "canceling flagships does not mean you are pushing ahead with the Mars program. It is exactly the opposite". Schiff also admitted to being perplexed by Bolden's statement that "the Mars Program was in the best shape" as part of the rationale for cutting that same program."

Rep. Schiff and Appropriations Members Take Issue with NASA Administrator Over Mars Budget Cuts

"Culberson called the proposed cuts to planetary sciences ""unacceptable," and stated that NASA's vision for future robotic exploration is "not consistent with reality." He continued: "I grieve for my country - I grieve for NASA. There's no way you can say the planetary program can survive a cut of 21 percent."

DOD Faces Challenges in Fully Realizing Benefits of Satellite Acquisition Improvements

"Though it still faces an array of challenges, DOD continues to work to ensure its space programs are more executable and produce a better return on investment. For example, DOD intends to follow incremental or evolutionary acquisition processes and it has acted to streamline management and oversight of the national security space enterprise. The agency has taken steps toward reforming the defense acquisition system to help its programs to meet planned cost and schedule objectives. Because DOD intends to address the root causes of problems, it will take time to determine if these actions are successful or need further actions on how best to lead, organize, and support space activities."

Can We Repurpose Space Assets?, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"An attempt to repurpose this satellite hardware appears to be a win-win for everybody. The National Science Foundation gets a new satellite asset for safe and productive communications with and operations in the Antarctic, Polar Broadband gets to sell this service to the NSF, and by giving a green light to this endeavor, the Russians will have benefited the international scientific community. There are no guarantees but the possibility for these rewards make the attempt worthwhile. This experiment also holds relevance for future lunar exploration. What is being proposed for Express-AM4 is to create a reliable satellite system so that a distant base can communicate with its mission control for science and operations."

- Express-AM4 Satellite Salvage Plan For Antarctic Internet In Jeopardy, Slashdot

- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, earlier post

Subcommittee Examines FY13 FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation Budget Proposal

"Testifying on behalf of FAA, Dr. George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said that once the moratorium has ended, "Regulatory standards governing human spaceflight will evolve as the industry matures so that regulations neither stifle technology development nor exposed crew or spaceflight participants to avoidable risks."

Subcommittee Reviews Budget of FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation

"Democratic Members expressed concern that several important policy issues need to be resolved, including how risks and responsibilities will be treated; how financial responsibilities will be handled; how safety regulations will be developed; whether AST's dual role as both a regulator and promoter of the commercial spaceflight industry is appropriate; and how partnerships between AST and other agencies such as NASA are being managed."

Opening Statement by Rep. Palazzo: Commercial Space Transportation's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request

"The AST budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013 includes a 2% increase, which is intended to allow AST to double the number of staff in field offices in anticipation of potentially up to 40 launch and reentry operations in 2013. This significant increase reflects several launches for ISS cargo resupply, and long- anticipated flights in the suborbital tourism market."

- George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration

- Capt. Wilbur C. Trafton (USN Ret.), Chairman, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

Eastern Shore land battle comes to Capitol Hill, Washington Post

"In the northernmost county of Virginia's Eastern Shore sits a quiet, 32-acre parcel of land, thick with grass and little else -- except controversy. Though mostly empty, the land, which was handed over to Accomack County by the federal government in 1976, holds future economic promise, as it sits near NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. So this week, the House will take up legislation to remove restrictions on the property, allowing it to be developed. Such land transfer bills are usually routine business on Capitol Hill, passing with broad bipartisan support under rules allowing for expedited consideration. Not this time."

Wallops Research Park

Repurposing Express-AM4: Mission Possible: Recycling Space Junk into Antarctic Science Treasure

"There have been reports that the Express-AM4 spacecraft has received too high of a radiation dose, beyond that expected for its entire 15 year mission, thus rendering the use of the satellite to risky for our purpose. This analysis is likely based upon older computer models of the radiation environment in its current orbit. The current solar cycle (solar cycle 24) has so far only been a fraction of past solar cycles, upon which most current computer radiation models are based."

Legal Smackdown: NASA, Religion and Intelligent Design, Times

"Neither the Constitution nor employee-protection laws can regulate feelings -- no more than they can or should regulate belief systems. They can, however, circumscribe behavior on both sides of that faith-divide. From the filings at least, JPL appears to have stayed well within those boundaries. Coppedge appears to have jumped the rails entirely."

Video Interview: Sarah Waechter, Partner Manager for Excalibur Almaz Inc., SpaceRef Forum

"NASA Public Affairs Officer Kyle Herring talks with Sarah Waechter, partner manager for Excalibur Almaz Inc., on the status of the Space Act Agreement. Excalibur Almaz is one of seven partners associated with the Commercial Crew Program."

Launch of NASA's NuSTAR Mission Postponed Due to Launch Vehicle Software Issues

"The planned launch of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission has been postponed after a March 15 launch status meeting. The launch will be rescheduled to allow additional time to confirm the flight software used by the launch vehicle's flight computer will issue commands to the rocket as intended. The spacecraft will lift off on an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket, which will be released from an aircraft taking off from the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands."

Life on Mars? Funds to Find Answer Fade, NY Times

"In a letter sent March 5, a group of Mars scientists that provides feedback to NASA said it was "appalled" by the proposed budget cuts. "Among the many dire impacts, the cuts threaten the very existence of the Mars exploration program which has been one of the crown jewels of the agency's planetary exploration," wrote David J. Des Marais, a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in California and chairman of the group."

Researchers Call for Continued Exploration of Mars

"A new position paper by researchers at the Planetary Science Institute calls for sustaining NASA funding for the exploration of Mars. Concerned by the administration's budget proposal to scale back and effectively bring to an end what has been a spectacularly successful program, the paper's authors have outlined a path to continue and benefit from a robust American effort to explore Mars."

Felix Baumgartner Completes Test Flight Ahead of Freefall Record Attempt From The Edge of Space (More Images Added)

"Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian BASE jumper aiming to break the world freefall record by jumping from 120,000ft above the earth's surface, moved a step closer to achieving his dream today after the successful completion of a test flight from 71,581 ft. (21,818 metres). Still-to-be-confirmed figures indicate that at 09:40am MT after an ascent lasting about 1 hour and 30 minutes at a rate reaching speeds of 1,200 ft. per minute, the Red Bull Stratos capsule and a modified version of the balloon reached its top manned altitude of 71,581 ft. above the earth's surface."

SpaceX announces a date for first private space dock with space station, Ars technica

"SpaceX's Company President Gwynne Shotwell used the Satellite 2012 Conference to announce that it has a thin launch window on April 30 that would get it to a scheduled May 3 berthing slot at the International Space Station. The mission, known as COTS 2/3, carries a political payload far larger than the food and clean underwear inside the spacecraft."

Space travel moves to private sector, CBS 60 Minutes

"60 Minutes talks to the man who believes he will be the first entrepreneur to put a man in orbit. Watch Scott Pelley's report on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. ET/PT."

NASA Should Phase Out Lower-Priority Aeronautics Activities, Focus on Higher Risk, Higher Payoff Projects

"At a time when NASA's aeronautics funding is at a historic low, the agency needs to restart its highly successful flight research program, rather than devote most of its efforts to small-scale research, says a new report from the National Research Council. To accomplish this, the agency should phase out lower-priority aeronautics activities and select two to five programs with the greatest potential."

Capture10, A Unique Technology and Aerospace Business Development Firm to Open in District

"Capture10 announced today that it will be opening its headquarters this April in the District of Columbia. The firm will be led by Lawrence Williams, who most recently served as Vice President for Strategic Relations at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and as an advisor for Tesla Motors, companies founded and run by entrepreneur Elon Musk."

Keith's note: Anyone who has followed the history of SIlicon Valley high tech companies knows the story of how the giants of today all started as spinoffs, and separate ventures formed by the (initially) small group of individuals who started the electronics revolution in the 1960s. When I asked Larry Williams why he made the decision to make this change in his business focus right now, he said "Given the progress of the commercial crew and cargo programs, this is a natural time for me to move on and pursue my own venture. Elon and I are parting on good terms and I remain a supportive shareholder of SpaceX." It will be interesting to see how the emerging commercial space sector will start to encourage and spawn the development of newer companies such as Capture10 that operate completely (or partially) within the ever-expanding ecosystem that is developing around commercial space.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Human Health and Performance Organizational Conflicts of Interest

"NASA/JSC is requesting information from industry regarding potential organizational conflicts of interest (OCI) arising from the Human Health and Performance Contract (HHPC). The nature of the work anticipated under HHPC may create a situation, where there could be a potential for an OCI as currently described in FAR Subpart 9.5. "

Russia to finally send man to the Moon, Telegraph

"A spacecraft will "conduct a demonstrative manned circumlunar test flight with the subsequent landing of cosmonauts on [the Moon's] surface and their return to Earth" by 2030, according to a leaked strategy document from Russia's space agency, Roskosmos. ... Yury Karash, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, said that prestige would not be restored with a symbolic flight to the Moon. "Back in the 1960s the Soviet Union was competing head-to-head with the United States," he said."

Union Absurdity at Ames

NASA ARC Memo: Management Appointments: Details and Appointments

Keith's note: ARC Center Director Pete Worden made a series of standard personnel announcements yesterday including his chief scientist. In what has to be one of the goofiest things I have ever heard a union rep claim, it would seem that the Union wants to have a vote or a popularity contest in the routine filling of these positions. Is this civil service or voting for who is "most popular" in high school? And who picks this "panel", the union? I give up. I guess the words "Center Director" mean nothing these days.

"Sadly, Dr. Worden ignored the Union's appeal to his better angels and instead moved forward with the selection of a new Chief Scientist by royal proclamation, instead of embracing a merit-based, fair, and open competition. Rather than his asserting absolute power in this matter, we had hoped that he would rely on the wisdom and counsel of an independent selection panel of distinguished Life, Earth, and Space Scientists from Ames and elsewhere (or some effective equivalent), after a review of applications to an open call. Unfortunately, he chose not to go in that direction."

The End Of The ACE Project, Loveland

"A Space Act agreement signed in late 2010 by NASA and CAMT created a partnership aimed at speeding up the commercial roll out of aerospace and energy technologies. It has been estimated that the business park could house up to 100 companies and create 10,000 jobs.." These absurd claims were being mimicked by local politicians, newspapers, business groups, real estate brokers and everyone who wanted to be the first to tell the public the good news. Even those closest to LovelandPolitics kept a safe distance from our more reasoned view of the situation. Now that CAMT is out, the City of Loveland is trying to re-write history with a new spin."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: High Power Uplink (Near Earth Objects Characterization)

"NASA/HQ has a requirement to provide high resolution, high power uplink capability at Ka-band for the use in characterizing Near Earth Objects (NEOs), orbital debris, and to fill knowledge gaps in space situational awareness. In fiscal year 2012 NASA will begin to build on its three element interferometer testbed consisting of 12m dishes to demonstrate: 1) uplink arraying with real time characterization and correction of atmospheric turbulence, 2) significant power and gain increases enabling high resolution object imaging and 3) real-time continual system phase control eliminating the need for costly, highly stable components."

Robonaut-2 Says "Hello world" in American Sign Language From the ISS (video)

Keith's note: This afternoon NASA's Robonaut-2 said "hello world" in American Sign Language (ASL) from the International Space Station. I have been told that the idea for this was sparked by an earlier posting of mine on NASAWatch. Being a former professional Sign Language interpreter, this is pretty cool. This is not the first time Robonaut has signed from space (can't seem to find NASA videos of this online). In February @AstroRobonaut tweeted: "Did you catch that? I don't have a voice, but I sent you a message -- Hello world ... in sign language!" What is odd about this tweet (by a human) is the fact that Robonaut does indeed have a "voice" and he speaks (understandably) in a language used by millions of people every day. PAO might want to keep that in mind in the future.

Space Droids Using Sign Language?, earlier post

GM, NASA Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

"General Motors and NASA are jointly developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. The Human Grasp Assist device, known internally in both organizations as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from GM and NASA's Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which launched the first human-like robot into space in 2011. R2 is a permanent resident of the International Space Station."

NASA, GM Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

Keith's note: Talk about a cool spinoff - being developed in real time on Earth and in space - one that leverages a public/private partnership between NASA robotics and private sector manufacturing know-how. You'd think that the people at NASA who have the job of promoting spinoffs, advanced technology, etc. i.e. The Chief Technologst's Office (OCT) would be drooling over this - and helping to promote it every way that they can. Guess again. No mention of this at the CTO main website (although the CTO's travel plans seem to be important) and no mention on the Spinoff page.

Conrad Foundation: Cast Your Vote for Prestigious Student Award

"It is the power of the people that will select the 2012 winner of the People's Choice Award which is bestowed on the student team with the most innovative new product in the Conrad Foundation's annual Spirit of Innovation Challenge (Conrad Challenge). Through March 23, the public is invited to review the profiles of the 15 finalist teams, view their product videos and cast a vote. One vote is allowed per person per challenge category.

Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria Named President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that former NASA astronaut, International Space Station (ISS) commander, Naval Aviator, and test pilot Michael E. Lopez-Alegria (Capt., U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective March 19, 2012. Lopez-Alegria was selected for the position following a vote of the Board of Directors of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF)."

Record-Setting Astronaut Lopez-Alegria Departs NASA

"During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10 spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev."

Sen. Hutchison challenges NASA spending on commercial spacecraft, Houston Chronicle

"I'm frankly floored as you know from our conversation that it would be so blatant to take it right out of Orion and (the space launch system) and put it into commercial crew rather than trying to accomplish the joint goals that we have of putting forward both and making sure that we didn't take away from the timetables for the future to shore up commercial crew," Hutchison told Bolden.

NASA chief defends 2013 budget in Congress, via MSNBC

"I don't doubt your sincerity in shared goals, but what I'm very concerned about is the implementation that is reflected in the numbers of the budget that the president released," Hutchison said."

NASA may need to use Russian flights longer, Wall Street Journal via Fox

"NASA is drafting backup plans to prolong the use of Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, even as agency officials play down those options and express hope that private rockets and capsules will be available for such trips within five years."'

Russia Space Agency chief Popovkin hospitalised

"Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin has been taken to the Burdenko Hospital in connection with his health deterioration, the agency's press service told Itar-Tass."

Keith's note: I just learned that John Cox passed away last night after a lengthy illness. I got to know John very well when I worked for him at the Space Station Freedom Program Office in Reston (Level II). Those of you who also worked there will recall that it was a place where people often expressed their opinions with little restraint - and it got to be rather boisterous at times. In contrast, John always seemed to be one of the calmest people in the room.

John had quite an unusual background for someone who rose through the ranks at Mission Control (where he was known as "Granite Flight") - his doctorate was in biomedical engineering. As such, he always seemed to have a slightly different angle on things than the typical NASA manager - and he did not need a bunch of acronyms to express that view.

Appropriators Blocking Mars Mission Move, Aviation Week

"This proposal represents a significant deviation from the robotic exploration program plan as it was approved by Congress in NASA's fiscal year 2012 appropriations, and the committee believes that so radical a change in policy needs and deserves to be fully considered by a process that is more rigorous and more inclusive than" the reprogramming notification, Wolf writes."

Rep. Schiff Applauds Decision to Reject NASA Request to Divert Mars Funds

"I want to thank Chairman Wolf for rejecting this reprogramming request by NASA," said Schiff."NASA's effort to mothball the Mars program is a disaster for America's leadership in planetary science, and I'm glad this first step has been rejected by the committee. Thanks to the brilliant scientists at JPL, we have the unique capability to design, fly and land sophisticated robotic spacecraft on our planetary neighbor, and this is not a talent pool NASA should abandon."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson both testified before the Senate on NASA's FY 2013 budget the other day. Simple word clouds reveal starkly different messages. Click on word cloud image to enlarge.

Wordle: NASA Testimony on FY 2013 BudgetTestimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, today it is my privilege to discuss the President's FY 2013 budget request for NASA. Our requested budget of $17.7 billion will enable NASA to execute the balanced program of science, space exploration, technology, and aeronautics agreed to by the President and a bipartisan majority of Congress."

Wordle: Neil Tyson on NASA BudgetTestimony by Neil deGrasse Tyson Before the Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation

"Currently, NASA's Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s --on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later."

NASA Launches International Competition to Develop Space Apps

"NASA, governments around the world and civil society organizations will co-host the International Space Apps Challenge on April 21-22 with events across seven continents and in space. The apps competition will bring people together to exploit openly available data collected by space agencies around the world to create innovative solutions to longstanding global challenges. An initiative of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, the challenge will showcase the impact scientists and citizens can have by working together to solve challenging problems that affect every person on Earth. Events will take place in San Francisco; Exeter, U.K.; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paulo; Nairobi, Kenya; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo; McMurdo Station, Antarctica; and the International Space Station."

Tracking Space Junk

Lockheed Martin Space Fence Radar Prototype Tracking Orbiting Objects

"A prototype of a new radar system developed by a Lockheed Martin-led team is now tracking orbiting space objects, bringing the U.S. Air Force's Space Fence program one step closer to revolutionizing our nation's space situational awareness. On February 29, the Air Force granted its final approval of Lockheed Martin's preliminary design for the system."

iPads Would Be Great in Space, Astronaut Says, TechNews Daily

"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who commands the space station, said that while he doesn't own a new iPad -- or any other tablet -- he definitely could use one in space. "I don't have an iPad yet, and I most certainly don't have one up here on the space station," Burbank said today while answering a question from a student in San Jose, Calif., via a video link. "At some point I think that would be a really good tool to have up here because it would be a lot easier to have a single tablet, a single screen, to take with you to do procedures and science experiments instead of having a big laptop with you."

The iPad and an Angry Bird Head to Space, iPad News (28 Oct 2011)

"The next unmanned resupply vehicle headed for the International Space Station next month will be loaded with much needed propellant, oxygen, water, thousands of pounds of crew equipment and 2 iPads all ready to entertain the Russians who will receive them."

Keith's note: So I guess the Russians won't let their American crew mates use their iPads.

Velcro and NASA

Images: Moving Around in Weightlessness in "2001" and 2012

"With little experience in weightlessness inside a large spacecraft, the experts consulted by Stanley Kubrick in the 1960s felt that space travelers would need to be anchored to something in order to move around. While this is often true for some chores (including the use of Velcro), astronauts will often just fly or float from one point to another."

Keith's note: Speaking of Velcro, yesterday, in a hearing with NASA Administrator Bolden, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said about NASA research in space "who knew that we would get Velcro". Not true: it was invented by a Swiss guy in 1948. Someone at NASA Legislative Affairs needs to do a remedial NASA spinoff briefing to Sen. Hutchison and her staff. This is the same staff (some are ex-NASA) who have been pushing for the ISS National Lab. It is unfortunate that the staff so badly inform this senator (and others) as to what has actually been discovered by NASA - and that NASA (or CASIS) never seems to want to correct these mistakes when they occur.

The Epic Struggle Between Birds and Pigs Moves to Space with a NASA Science Twist

"For nearly three years, millions of gamers have used physics in the battle between birds and pigs in the video game Angry Birds. In cooperation with NASA, Finland-based Rovio Entertainment, creator of the Angry Birds franchise, announced its newest game, "Angry Birds Space," on Thursday, March 8. NASA and Rovio are working together to teach people about physics and space exploration through the internationally successful puzzle game."

Keith's note: I, for one, welcome our new angry avian overlords.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Members Critical of President's NASA Budget Proposal

"Today in a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to review the fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget proposal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Members expressed several concerns to Administrator Charles Bolden over funding priorities."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Committee Reviews Budget Request for NASA

"Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review President Obama's fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget request the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Testifying before the Committee was the Administrator of NASA, the Honorable Charles F. Bolden."

Hutchison spars with NASA Administrator Bolden over funding for rocket system, Dallas Morning News

"Reviewing that budget and the call that you made to me gives me great concern, and I have to question the degree of the commitment that we made," said Hutchison, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce and Science Committee. "I was frankly floored." Bolden said he remains "incredibly passionate" and "confident" about the program but needed to direct more funding to other programs that were less developed."

NASA chief says computers are secure despite thefts, Orlando Sentinel

"Why is NASA is so far behind the rest of the government in securing data on personal devices?" asked U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. Bolden had no immediate answer but said the agency was taking steps to address the encryption problem - and telling employees to be more careful. "One of the things that I'm doing is emphasizing to our employees is that they have to be vigilant. They can't leave a laptop ... on the front seat of the car. Locking the car with a NASA laptop [inside] is not sufficient security," he said."

Testimony by Neil deGrasse Tyson Before the Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation

"Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what's never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night. When you innovate, you lead the world, you keep your jobs, and concerns over tariffs and trade imbalances evaporate. The call for this adventure would echo loudly across society and down the educational pipeline."

Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Making the Case for Human Missions to Asteroids, Space Quarterly

Marc's note: The following article is a free sample from the current issue of Space Quarterly Magazine. It is our hope that if you enjoy this article you will consider subscribing to the magazine.

"By Jeff Foust

When President George W. Bush unveiled the Vision for Space Exploration in January 2004, he outlined a series of destinations for human exploration: a return to the Moon by 2020, followed by expeditions at later, unspecified dates "to Mars and to worlds beyond". This "Moon, Mars, and beyond" concept made logical sense as a set of stepping stones for human expansion into the solar system, even if the "beyond" part was vague in terms of specific destinations and timetables."

Some space station partners appear ready to welcome China into the group, CP

"Jean-Jacques Dordain, head of the European body, said he hopes the International Space Station partnership would be open, adding it would benefit from co-operation with China. "I am in favour of seeing how we can work together with China," he told reporters after the meeting in Quebec City. "It will take some steps, but it will come, I am sure. "This is not a closed partnership, it is an open partnership and anyone who can help support this partnership is more than welcome." ... Bolden has told The Canadian Press that NASA is an organization that looks at international co-operation, but it's prohibited by Congressional action from any bilateral activities with China."

Letter From Rep. Wolf to NASA Administrator Bolden Regarding China and the ISS

"As chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA - and the author of the statute banning bilateral cooperation with the Chinese - I believe that any effort to involve the Chinese in the space program would be misguided, and not in our national interest. The U.S. has no business cooperating with the PLA to help develop its space program."

SLS Will Never 'Back Up' Commercial Crew, Jim Muncy, Space News

"One such argument is the claim from both houses of Congress that the funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) -- which increases from the 2012 level -- is too small to enable the SLS to launch the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) as a backup for commercial crew services. Some even suggest that NASA is putting too much money into the legislatively stipulated primary means of carrying astronauts to and from the international space station (commercial crew) and therefore shortchanging the backup (SLS). Of course, NASA is spending nearly four times as much on Orion and SLS as it is on commercial crew, so the argument appears lopsided."

OIG: Review of NASA's Lessons Learned Information System

"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA's project managers do not routinely use LLIS to search for lessons identified by other projects, nor do they routinely contribute new information to LLIS. Consequently, we found that the LLIS has been marginalized in favor of other NASA knowledge sharing system components and is of diminishing and questionable value. Specifically, other than the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, no NASA Center consistently contributed information to LLIS from 2005 through 2010."

CASIS Names Bobby Block Director of Communications

"Today, Robert "Bobby" Block was named director of communications for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the non-profit entity selected in 2011 by NASA to maximize utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. In this position, Block will be responsible for promoting the CASIS and ISS National Laboratory brands internationally through targeted communications, marketing and public relations campaigns. He will also lead an aggressive effort to build lasting partnerships with industry and stakeholder media."

Keith's note: CASIS has finally done something right. Bobby Block ought to be able to explain to these folks that their public image is lacking in credibility and that their public image reflects the inner way of doing business, dealing withstakeholders, partners, NASA, etc. The easiest way for CASIS to get beyond this self-induced PR mess is to start to do what it is they are supposed to be doing, stop spinning their wheels on pointless pursuits, and effectively communicate withthe external world. The full utilization of the ISS is too precious a resource to be squandered because of food fights back on Earth.

CASIS Director Resigns - Accusations Start To Fly - Leadership Turmoil, earlier post

Keith's note: I had planned on listening in on the NASA Advisory Council's Education and Public Outreach Subcommittee meeting today via Webex. But I changed my mind and decided that it would be a waste of time - time better spent on doing real work (and cleaning out my garage). I am not sure that what the NAC or any of its subcommittees does or says actually matters in any significant way. NASA clearly ignores them. The NAC is actually rather passive (more so than ever in the past) and never actually says anything strategic or insightful. And they never, ever push NASA hard on the things that are clearly screwed up. Indeed, all the NACsters ever say is "nice job", "what would you do with a bigger budget?", "thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us", or "there's a typo on your chart". Check the calendar on the right for their other meetings over the coming days. Or not. Yawn.

Keith's update: Let me add that the new NAC Chair, Steve Squyres should be a breath of fresh air. He is an explorer's explorer and, contrary to a lot of NAC members, he does not dwell behind a desk or reflexively seek a TV camera. Instead he goes to remote and dangerous places to explore and to make sure that the Mars rovers that he helps to build will be able to do their job. Whether he can inpsire his fellow NACsters to show a little spine and advise NASA in a more pointed and strategic fashion remains to be seen. I wish him luck.

Air Force sets up competition for rocket launches, Washington Post

"It's obvious that the current prices we're paying are just too high," Richard McKinney, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, said in an inter- view last month at the Pentagon. ... The Air Force says it's willing to take more risk with the lower-cost missions, giving newcomers the opportunity "to gain experience operating with government pay- loads," Vicki Stein, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an e-mail."

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"As a result of undue and onerous political pressures exerted over the almost six months of existence of CASIS, business operations have been difficult in standing up this brand new organization. Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally but also on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS.

The fact is that ProOrbis was recruited and paid by NASA to write the ISS National Lab Reference Model, which became the basis for the NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice soliciting for a nonprofit organization to manage ISS National Lab. Space Florida contracted ProOrbis to write the CASIS proposal submitted in response to this Cooperative Agreement Notice. What remains difficult to rationalize is the fact that the interim board admittedly identified inurement and excess benefit issues even as the CASIS proposal was developed."

ProOrbis Statement re: CASIS Director Resignation

"As is a matter of public record, Dr. Becker was included in the CASIS proposal as its Executive Director. In her commitment letter submitted with the original proposal, she stated "I am supportive of the management concepts as presented in the CASIS proposal being submitted." However, since taking on this role, she has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated. Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed in the Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts. Dr. Becker's concerns about a non-profit organization working with a private company were addressed by legal counsel, which determined that they would not in any way prevent CASIS from engaging ProOrbis or executing the proposal."

Jim Royston Named Interim Director of CASIS Dr. Jeanne Becker Steps Down From Leadership Role

"The Board received Dr. Becker's resignation last week and accepted it as a result of ongoing disputes in relation to the pace and direction of the implementation of CASIS' mission. The Board has now established an Executive Office of the Chairman within CASIS to drive the organization toward rapid development during this period."

Astrotech Corporation President Terminated, 16 July 2010

"Astrotech Corporation, a leading provider of commercial aerospace services and in the commercialization of space technologies, today announced a realignment of its corporate structure in order to optimize operational efficiencies. The Company's action follows an evaluation of each business and a review of strategic alternatives. Astrotech's corporate realignment includes the termination of James Royston, President of Astrotech Corporation."

Keith's note: I just received the CASIS statement around noon. It interesting how ProOrbis responded - directly to NASA Watch - on Sunday night - before CASIS itself even issued a statement. Also, despite issuing a statement to NASAWatch, ProOrbis has not posted anything on its website or issued statement via press release. This is a CASIS matter - why is ProOrbis taking the lead? Who is running the show here - CASIS or ProOrbis? That is what seems to be the core issue in this food fight.

Also note that interim CASIS Director Jim Royson was "terminated" as president of Astrotech in 2010. No reason is given for that termination - nor is mention made of the termination in his CASIS bio.

Video: Lego Space Shuttle Flies To The Edge of Space, NASAHackSpace

"My Lego tribute to the end of the space shuttle era. Proving that although retired, this machine can still fly, albeit in toy form. The launch took place from central Germany and reached a max altitude of 35000m. A 1600g meteo balloon filled with helium was used alongside a GoPro Hero, Spot GPS and of course Lego Space Shuttle model 3367."

Double the Space Budget?, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"More funding would enable more activity, but to do what? As we no longer have a reasonable, near-term strategic goal (and I do not count empty promises of human Mars missions 30 years in the future as such), more money might accelerate progress on some programs, but money alone will never establish a healthy and vigorous space program. What has held us back from creating a strong space program? I contend that it is the lack of any strategic direction, by which I mean not simply a goal, but a believable goal, one that combines clear and pressing societal value with attainable, decadal timescales, at costs at or less than their projected budget line. Under the existing operational template, most proposed space goals satisfy one or two, but not all conditions."

Cislunar Space Next

"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."

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen's Field Reports: Lake Untersee, Antarctica (Gigapixel panorama)

"Those early ecosystems resulted in the formation of luxuriant microbial mats with a variety of morphologies which are seen today in the stromatolitic fossil record scattered around the globe. Until recently, there have been no reports of modern microorganisms forming such structures, but in 2008 our research team discovered large conical stromatolites forming beneath the thick perennial ice of Lake Untersee in Antarctica."

Keith's note: SCUBA diving with robots under the antarctic ice in search of life. Good practice for looking for life's signs on Mars, Europa, Enceladus ...

Testimony by NASA IG Paul Martin: NASA Cybersecurity: An Examination of the Agency's Information Security

"Between April 2009 and April 2011, NASA reported the loss or theft of 48 Agency mobile computing devices, some of which resulted in the unauthorized release of sensitive data including export-controlled, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and third-party intellectual property. For example, the March 2011 theft of an unencrypted NASA notebook computer resulted in the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station...."

"...In one of the successful attacks, intruders stole user credentials for more than 150 NASA employees - credentials that could have been used to gain unauthorized access to NASA systems. Our ongoing investigation of another such attack at JPL involving Chinese-based Internet protocol (IP) addresses has confirmed that the intruders gained full access to key JPL systems and sensitive user accounts."

Testimony by NASA CIO Linda Cureton: NASA Cybersecurity: An Examination of the Agency's Information Security

"The NASA IT Security program is transforming and maturing. The real-world requirement is to protect NASA's information and information systems at a level commensurate with mission needs and information value. Therefore, NASA is increasing visibility and responsiveness through enhanced information security monitoring of NASA's systems across the Agency."

Space station control codes on stolen NASA laptop, CNet

"A laptop stolen from NASA last year contained command codes used to control the International Space Station, an internal investigation has found. The laptop, which was not encrypted, was among dozens of mobile devices lost or stolen in recent years that contained sensitive information, the space agency's inspector general told Congress today in testimony highlighting NASA's security challenges."

GAO Summary: Cost Overruns, Schedule Delays, Ongoing Technical Problems With Mars Science Laboratory

"The project has additional concerns regarding the spacecraft's software that enable its functionality once it arrives at the landing site. Project officials stated that the basic software for landing and traversing exists, but it needs to be upgraded in order to achieve full capability. The project plans to release updates and test its flight software for entry, descent, and landing (EDL) and software for surface operations during the spacecraft's 9-month cruise phase to Mars."

NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, GAO

"Of the 15 projects in implementation, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has reported the most significant cost and schedule changes since last year. The development cost and schedule growth reported for JWST is not typical of the cost and schedule changes NASA has reported for its other major projects this year. Specifically, the JWST project has had over $3.6 billion--or 140 percent--in development cost growth and a schedule delay of over 4 years. To put the JWST project's development cost growth into perspective, its cost increase is over $443 million greater than the total life-cycle cost of the seven smallest major projects included in our review."

Olson, Colleagues Urge White House to Correct Safety Glitch (NASA Commercial Crew)

"Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) and several colleagues today urged White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren to follow through on his understanding that NASA should retain all encompassing responsibility over the safety requirements for development of commercial crew vehicles. Under proposed agreements between NASA and commercial crew entities, NASA would not have the necessary authority to oversee and approve the safety measures needed to keep our astronauts safe."

Keith's note: This is really starting to get wacky. Republican (supposedly pro-business) members of Congress are trying to undermine the core principles that comprise "commercial" crew. For all intents and purposes they are slowly re-erecting all of the tradtional government/contractor interactions NASA has used for decades. Every time they do this, they diminish the ability of the private sector to do this "commercially". Do commercial aircraft get built this way?

Audit of NASA's Process for Transferring Technology to the Government and Private Sector

"NASA has missed opportunities to transfer technologies from its research and development efforts and to maximize partnerships that could provide additional resources, and industry and the public have not fully benefited from NASA-developed technologies. .... we interviewed 38 personnel (15 IPO officials, 2 Center Chief Technologists, 21 project managers) from 4 Centers, and found that none of them had ever developed or assisted with the development of a Commercialization Plan. Moreover, none of these individuals was familiar with the NASA policy governing technology transfer and commercialization. The Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters, who is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of NASA's technology commercialization policy, conceded that working knowledge of NPR 7500.1 among NASA personnel might be lacking."

Final Report: Audit of NASA's Process for Transferring Technology to the Government and Private Sector

"NASA has missed opportunities to transfer technologies from its research and development efforts and to maximize partnerships with other entities that could benefit from NASA-developed technologies."

- Dysfunctional Technology Efforts at Langley, previous post
- More Stealth NASA Spinoffs, previous post
- Today's NASA Spinoff/Invention/Cool Gadget That NASA is Ignoring, previous post
- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Won't Tell You About, previous post
- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, previous post
- More spinoff postings, previous post

Canada Commits to the International Space Station Beyond 2015

"The meeting will wrap up tomorrow [Thursday] with a press conference at 1:00 pm ET where a group communiqu will be released. The substance of that communiqu will likely not contain any new developments other than a continued commitment to using the space station to its fullest capability."

Keith's note: NASA PAO never bothered to tell media that there was a press conference today.



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