April 2012 Archives

Scientists discover enzyme that could slow part of the aging process in astronauts -- and the elderly, FASEB Journal

"New research published online in the FASEB Journal suggests that a specific enzyme, called 5-lipoxygenase, plays a key role in cell death induced by microgravity environments, and that inhibiting this enzyme will likely help prevent or lessen the severity of immune problems in astronauts caused by spaceflight. Additionally, since space conditions initiate health problems that mimic the aging process on Earth, this discovery may also lead to therapeutics that extend lives by bolstering the immune systems of the elderly."

Keith's note: When NASA flew John Glenn on his second space mission, much mention was made of the possible connections between aging on Earth and effects observed in astronauts and other organisms in space. Indeed, one of NASA's biggest PR thrusts has always been the applicability of space-based research (especially biotech) upon life back on Earth. Well, here is one example. Interestingly, FASEB, which published this research, has a long history of often criticizing NASA's human space life science program. So there must be something to this research, right?

You'd think that NASA, CASIS etc. would be playing up these results, right? No. Not at all. Just silence. You see, NASA no longer tracks this sort of news (but they used to). Nor do NASA and CASIS seem to have the collective or individual smarts to understand that the best way to garner support for future ISS research is to stay current with the benefits of past research - and tell everyone exactly what the benefits of that research is - as soon as that knowledge becomes available.

This is cluelessness in the extreme. Indeed, not making mention of this at NASA.gov and at CASIS borders on professional negligence.

Oh yes, full disclosure: 15 years ago (ouch!), I heaped my fair share of criticism on NASA for John Glenn's flight (see below). While there is no obvious connection between these new research results and the experiments conducted on Glenn's shuttle flight, it would seem that Sen. Glenn (apparently) still knew something that I did not ...

NASA Simply Stopped Being a Priority, Huffington Post

"For the past four decades, America's budget made it clear that space was not a top priority. As we think of America over the span of centuries and not from budget cycle to budget cycle, will we look back and ask ourselves whether the decision to abandon space was a wise decision? Or will historians look back and identify this decision as a textbook example of when America sacrificed long-term strategic goals for short-term interests?"

Ask an Expert: Explorer's lessons for asteroid miners, USA Today

"No dummies, the firm has some NASA funding already for their development, reports Keith Cowing of NASAWatch. And a recent Forbes pieces hints that they may be stalking the remote-sensing industry with these small telescopes, ones that might eyeball our planet with even more ease than they spot passing asteroids."

How Billionaire Asteroid Miners Make Money -- Without Mining Asteroids, Forbes

"So when I had a chance to discuss the technology and business of asteroid mining with Chris Lewicki, the company's President and Chief Engineer, one of my first questions was about that statement - is it true that Planetary Resources is already making money? "That's correct," he said. "When we started the company, one of the first things we did was to identify the roadmap that would get us from now until we got to the asteroids. That way, we could identify who would be interested in the things we'd be developing along the way. We already have contracts with NASA, some private companies, and even a few private individuals."

Is Planetary Resources Already a NASA Contractor? (Yes), earlier post

Keith's note: SpaceX had a short albeit successful hot fire of its Falcon 9 today.

According to @elonmusk on Twitter: "Woohoo, rocket hold down firing completed and all looks good!!"

OIG: NASA's Use of Research Announcement Awards for Aeronautics Research

"Based on our sample results, we estimate that ARMD's 447 NRA awards during this 5-year period contained $25.2 million in unallowable or unsupported costs. Moreover, we project that by addressing the deficiencies we identified NASA could avoid awarding approximately $3.6 million in unallowable and/or unsupported costs annually in ARMD NRA awards."

Keith's note: After being inert for a while NASA SpaceSmart.com is back and its official NASA Twitter account @SpaceSmart has suddenly become active again. Included are odd grammatically flawed tweets such as "[JOHN] I don't think NASA-inspired inventions space propulsion technology." and "[JOHN] I want a manned Mars mission should grow.". I have asked Beth Beck what the purpose of this SpaceSmart thing is before (continue below) but she simply refuses to reply to any requests to explain what she is doing on the agency's behalf. As such I doubt she will be any more forthcoming this time.

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: CASIS and ISS (excerpt)

"An important element in the decision making about the long term status of ISS is whether it can demonstrate sufficient research value to justify the continuation of its operating budget. Currently, the fraction of the overall ISS budget devoted to research is extremely small, and plans for leveraging outside funding through the ISS National Lab are moving slowly because the National Lab's manager, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), is still establishing its management and governance structures ..."

Keith's note: Looks like the T-38 chase plane got some nice high altitude shots during the fly over of New York City this morning. Larger view.

More images below - send in yours if you like.

BRPH: The Old and the New in Spacecraft Facilities, Commercial Space Watch

"Switching out a spacecraft maintenance facility is definitely not an easy task. Besides the obvious requirements to contain toxic fuels and provide enough power, there is also the work of deciding what previous structures will be useful to new contractors."

Marc's note: We hear a lot about the big commercial space companies or the some of the so called "NewSpace" companies but what about the smaller commercial companies working in the background? Many of these companies contribute significantly to the economy. Here's a good story on BRPH featured on our site Commercial Space Watch. BTW the new web address for Commercial Space Watch is spaceref.biz, why not bookmark it?

Enterprise @NYC

Photo: Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives in New York

"Space shuttle Enterprise, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is seen off in the distance behind the Statue of Liberty, Friday, April 27, 2012, in New York. Enterprise was the first shuttle orbiter built for NASA performing test flights in the atmosphere and was incapable of spaceflight."

Blue Origin Tests Design of Next-Generation Spacecraft

"Blue Origin successfully tested the design of its next-generation Space Vehicle, completing a series of wind tunnel tests to refine the aerodynamic characteristics of the spacecraft's unique biconic shape. The tests were carried out as part of Blue Origin's partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Blue Origin is designing the Space Vehicle to provide safe, affordable transport of up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station."

NASA Aeronautics Research Critical to Maintaining America's Lead in Global Aviation Market

Democrats Urge Continued Support for Aeronautics Research

"Because of the lengthy gestation period needed to move from concept to deployment, industry has often been reluctant to apply resources to high risk, fundamental aeronautics research and development (R&D) --an investment often needed as a forerunner to bringing to market new technologies and capabilities. NASA and successive Congresses believe that NASA has a unique role to play in this pre-competitive area and see sustaining the Nation's competitive edge in aviation as requiring an examination of innovative technical concepts and sustained government investment in R&D."

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: Commercial crew (excerpt)

"The Committee believes that many of these concerns would be addressed by an immediate downselect to a single competitor or, at most, the execution of a leader-follower paradigm in which NASA makes one large award to a main commercial partner and a second small award to a back-up partner. With fewer companies remaining in the program, NASA could reduce its annual budget needs for the program and fund other priorities like planetary science, human exploration or aeronautics research."

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: Planetary Science (excerpt)

"The Committee's recommendation of $1,400,000,000 seeks to address programmatic areas where the Administration's proposal is most deficient in meeting the decadal survey's goals while also ensuring that the program, as a whole, maintains balance among program elements."

Keith's note: According to tweets by Bill Adkins and Marcia Smith mark-up has been completed (with no changes to the NASA portions) and the bill will be the first appropriations bill sent to the House floor on 8 May 2012.

Space Marketing Wars

Space Marketing Campaigns Heat Up , Commercial Space Watch (With 3 videos)

"United Launch Alliance has launched another salvo in the space marketing campaign war with its latest video title "What We Believe". Dan Collins, Chief Operating Office, opens the video saying it's not about the "smoke and fire", which coincidentally is what Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne called their marketing video four months ago."

Keith's note: One night in January I got frustrated trying to find something on NASA's Human Spaceflight website(s). So, I decided to map them. As you can see from this chart (enlarge), NASA's HSF web presence - like much of NASA's sprawling cyber infrastructure - is an unorganized mess. Yet despite this convoluted web structure, people often manage to find things simply because a lot of what NASA does is so compellingly cool. People find this stuff despite the convoluted and confused way that NASA organizes things (Google).

As I have already noted, most missions at NASA have two, often three (or more) official websites and web addresses. The websites are often out of synch with each other and yet also duplicative - at the same time. NASA also has multiple entry points for the same topic, dead ends, and pages that reflect programs that are dead. I sent this chart over to NASA. They agreed: its a mess. 5 months later. No change. So I thought I'd share it with y'all.

NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online, earlier post

Wanted: Meteor Imagery

NASA Asks Public to Provide Videos and Photos of Meteor (with photos of fresh finds)

"NASA and the SETI Institute are asking the public for more information to help find amateur photos and video footage of the daylight meteor that illuminated the sky over the Sierra Nevada mountains and created sonic booms that were heard over a wide area at 7:51 a.m. PDT Sunday, April 22, 2012."

Keith's note: NASA Office of the Chief Technologist has no link to NASA Tech Briefs. NASA Tech Briefs does not link to NASA OCT. In fact, I did a search of the source HTML code on the NASA Techbriefs home page. There are no links to anything at NASA.gov whatsoever. Yet this page features the NASA logo. Baffling.

Astronaut Don Pettit's Diary of a Space Zucchini

"January 5, 2012: I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me. I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart. I am the kind that makes little boys gag at the dinner table thus being sent to bed without their dessert. I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini - and I am in space."

Keith's note: When I was in high school I was mesmerized by a film that is often relegated to being a "cult classic" "Silent Running". While the premise is from the 1970's popular mindset, the premise is simple: a bunch of plants and animals are kept alive in space in giant greenhouses. I soon went on to become a biologist - eventually a space biologist at NASA - and these images from the film were always on my mind.

Keith's note: Sources report that ProOrbis is considering taking formal legal action against the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It is expected that this will be made public in the very near future. The specifics of this possible lawsuit are unclear. But it would beinstructive to recall that when Jeanne Becker, the first Executive Director of CASIS resigned, she said:

"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 butalso on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal andstand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizationalrisks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions."

To which ProOrbis responded

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] 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 inthe Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts."

Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco andProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded inresponse to the very same procurement they helped craft?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already been asked to look into this. The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) are also looking into this as are several congressional offices.

So here's the picture to contemplate: While the International Space Station orbits overhead, complete after two decades and ready for us to use it, we collectively fumble the process of tapping its great potential back onEarth. Lawsuits and investigations by GAO, OIG, OGC and others will inevitably hobble whatever progress CASIS would have otherwise made - just as CASIS was starting to make visible steps toward getting itself ready to do the important tasks that it has been assigned.

Net result: Lawyers and accountants will kill the usefulness of the International Space Station - for all of us.

Earlier posts on CASIS

A Conversation with Dr. Scott Hubbard of Stanford University, Commercial Space Watch (Video)

"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Scott Hubbard at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Dr. Hubbard is professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University. He has been engaged in space-related research, as well as program, project and executive management for more than 35 years, including 20 years with NASA, culminating as director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

In our conversation we talk about Scott's new book Exploring Mars, Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, his shaping of the Mars program, the current state of planetary science and cuts to the Mars budget. As well Scott discusses work at Stanford including advances in hybrid propulsion, the FAA Center of Excellence at Stanford for Commercial Space and much more."

New venture aims to mine near-Earth asteroids, Washington Post

"This project aligns well with our national space policies and goals," NASA spokesman David S. Weaver said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday, adding that as the space agency moves toward sending humans to an asteroid for the first time, "we will certainly look to take advantage of private-sector resources and data."

Planetary Resources officially kicks off its asteroid mining venture, Venture Beat

"The company says it is cash-flow positive, but declined to go into much detail as to where the money is coming from other than saying it does currently have a contract with NASA. They went on to vaguely said the company already has several relationships with other companies and several customers already."

Planetary Resources set to begin hunt for asteroids to mine in 18-24 months, Ars Technica

"NASA really has no involvement in what Planetary Resources is doing, no prior knowledge, and no hardware capable of matching the company's."

Asteroid Mining Venture Aims To Lay Foundation with Small, Cheap Space Telescopes, SpaceNews

"We were operating under the name of Arkyd Astronautics for the last two years quite honestly because it was not as obvious what we were up to," Anderson told Space News. "If we had been called 'Planetary Resources,' it would have been obvious to people."

Keith's note: But wait, it looks like Arkyd er, I mean, Planetary Resources is already using NASA STTR money to develop its telescope spacecraft. 2011 money to be precise - a total of $124,000. This STTR contract is just starting, how much are the follow-on phases worth? Planetary Resources is claiming to make spacecraft in the "single digit millions". Follow-on STTR money will likely be in the "single digit millions". Why didn't they bother to tell anyone about this today? First they do a switcheroo on their name and purpose - not telling the NASA/JPL asteroid study team what they were really up to. Now they are being less than forthcoming on their existing business relationship with NASA. What else are they not telling us?

Update on SpaceX COTS 2 Launch

"After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data. While it is still possible that we could launch on May 3rd, it would be wise to add a few more days of margin in case things take longer than expected. As a result, our launch is likely to be pushed back by one week, pending coordination with NASA."

NASA Issues Statement on SpaceX Launch Date

"We appreciate that SpaceX is taking the necessary time to help ensure the success of this historic flight. We will continue to work with SpaceX in preparing for the May 7 launch to the International Space Station."

Asteroid Mining Plans Revealed by Planetary Resources, Inc. (with video)

"Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible."

Sander van den Berg: "The footage in this video is derived from image sequences from NASA's Cassini and Voyager missions. I downloaden a large amount of raw images to create the video."

Looking For Life on Mars - Without Fiddling Around

"We really want to address the big questions on Mars and not fiddle around," says Dirk Schulze-Makuch, whose earlier proposals have included an economical one-way trip to the red planet. "With the money for space exploration drying up, we finally have to get some exciting results that not only the experts and scientists in the field are interested in but that the public is interested too."

U.S. Astronomers Make Case for Science on Capitol Hill

"Fifteen members of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are traveling to Washington, DC, April 24-25 to thank Congress for recent appropriations in the fiscal year 2013 spending bill and to express the need for continued federal funding of research and development (R&D) programs, which are critically important to American economic growth."

NASA JSC Briefing: Propellant Depot Alternate DRM 34B - Mission Risk, Reliability, and Availability Analysis

"From the standpoint of S&MA's role in technology assessment and prioritization, it seems depot technologies should be a high priority for investment due to their potential to achieve Agency goals to achieve "Low Cost Reliable Access To Space", if the technology can be successfully developed, demonstrated, matured, infused, evolved, and applied in future architectures so as to fully realize its benefit."

Transcript Regarding Fuel Depots, Hearing on "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System"

"ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: I don't have the answer, and I'll get it for the record. But I will tell you in the ongoing evaluation that I asked in coming to the conclusion that I did on the SLS, we looked at multiple scenarios, one of which was, you know, flight to Earth orbit or what we call an "Earth orbit rendezvous," and it turned out that that was not as economical nor as reliable as the single flight beyond Earth orbit rendezvous, the way that we envision it now."

- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- NASA's Ongoing (But Closely Held) Interest In SLS Alternatives, earlier post
- Update on NASA's Hidden Fuel Depot Studies, earlier post

Does SLS Threaten JSC?

Space Launch System is a threat to JSC, Texas jobs, Chris Kraft and Tom Moser, Houston Chronicle

"SLS is killing JSC. SLS is killing Texas jobs. SLS is killing our national space agenda. We are wasting billions of dollars per year on SLS. There are cheaper and nearer term approaches for human space exploration that use existing launch vehicles. A multicenter NASA team has completed a study on how we can return humans to the surface of the moon in the next decade with existing launch vehicles and within the existing budget. This NASA plan, which NASA leadership is trying to hide, would save JSC and create thousands of jobs in Texas. It is time for Texas' elected members of Congress to wake up and do something about it before it is too late."

Boeing SLS, CCiCap Update

A Conversation with Jim Chilton and John Mulholland of Boeing, Commercial Space Watch (Video Interview)

"A conversation with Jim Chilton and John Mulholland of Boeing. Mr. Mulholland is Vice President and Program Manager - Commercial Programs, Space Exploration while Mr. Chilton is Vice President and Program Manager Exploration Launch Systems. In our conversation we talk about NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev), Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap), space exploration including a return to the moon and more."

Keith's note: Today these three Technology Transfer Opportunities were posted on NASA's procurement page by NASA LaRC media specialist Sean Sullivan.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Facile Synthesis of Supported Nanocatalysts with Metal Oxide Nanoparticles
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Autonomous Slat Cove Filler Device Reduction of Aeroacoustic Noise
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: A New Method for Develping Boron Nitirde Nanotubes with Superior Morphology

As I noted last week, if you look back at this list of things released by NASA LaRC you will see that three of these Technology Transfer Opportunity notices are released every week. Not two, not four, but three. This is rather odd. I have sent an inquiry to LaRC. Let's see how they explain this. I cannot understand why they simply do not post everything.

A Conversation with Wayne Hale (Video), SpaceRef

"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Wayne Hale at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Mr. Hale is a former NASA space shuttle mission controller, flight director, space shuttle program manager, Deputy Associate Administrator for Strategic Partnerships and currently the Director of Human Spaceflight / International Programs with Special Aerospace Services. Wayne share his thoughts on the current status of the space program, the future and his current work."

International Space Apps Challenge Is Happening This Weekend

"The International Space Apps Challenge will take place this weekend, April 21-22, 2012. Nearly 2,000 people are registered to attend in 24 cities around the world. NASA is working with 8 other government agencies and over 100 organizations world wide to host the two-day technology development event. Solutions to over 60 challenges related to open source software, open hardware, citizen science platforms, and data visualization will be worked on throughout the event, including an opportunity to launch your code to space on NASA's phonesat!"

NASA Reaching for New Heightsm Charles Bolden and Dr. John P. Holdren:

"In his gloomy Washington Post commentary today on yesterday's ceremony transferring ownership of the Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Charles Krauthammer urged readers to think of that transfer as the funeral for U.S. leadership in space. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States remains far and away the world leader in space technology and exploration. As long as appropriate support continues to be forthcoming from Congress, this will remain the case indefinitely. "

The Skylab Trainer Is Still Rotting in Huntsville

"The Skylab trainer built to train astronauts has been sitting outside at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville for a long time. Right now, as can be seen in the photo below, it is simply rotting away when simple measures to protect it could at least slow down the destruction."

Rep. Posey Introduces Commercial Space Legislation

"Today, Congressman Bill Posey introduced legislation to allow for private sector investment in the Department of Defense for space transportation in an effort to modernize America's defense capabilities, promote America's commercial space industry and help America regain the loss of commercial launches."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports Increased Budget for Commercial Crew Program

"The Senate Appropriations Committee has released details of its draft Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that provides $525 million for NASA's Commercial Crew Program for the 2013 Fiscal Year, an increase from the $406 million provided in the final bill last year. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science draft bill provides $500 million for the program."

NASA Transfers Shuttle Discovery to National Air and Space Museum

"National Air and Space Museum Director, General John "Jack" Dailey said, "Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America's shuttle fleet. In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come. The Museum is committed to teaching and inspiring youngsters, so that they will climb the ladder of academic success and choose professions that will help America be competitive and successful in the world of tomorrow."

NASA's Approach Under Fire in Panel Discussion, SpaceRef

"Amid the talk of international collaboration and co-operation at a panel of space leaders, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver found herself answering questions about the cancellation of NASA's commitment to ExoMars, and the lack of launch capability for astronauts on American soil."

A Conversation with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 28th National Space Symposium, SpaceRef

"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. The conversation centered around his idea of doubling NASA's budget as it would spur innovation and fuel the economy. We also discussed his latest book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier."

Marc's note: Tyson gave memorable speech on Tuesday. It was similar to some of what he said to Congress last month. Our conversation touches on all of the highlights from his speech. It's 20 minutes worth watching.

"The Future of Space

"Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 10:30am - 2:30pm: A new company will be unveiling its mission to revolutionize current space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth. Don't miss your opportunity to be among the first to find out what's next from the world's leading commercial space pioneers and the people who will chart the future."

Space Exploration Company to Expand Earth's Resource Base

"Supported by an impressive investor and advisor group, including Google's Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr., the company will overlay two critical sectors - space exploration and natural resources - to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources'."

Keith's note: What's really ridiculous is how these billionaires are charging attendees at their press event $25 each. You have to wonder how much they are putting into this if they charge admission to press conferences ...

House Panel Wants NASA to Plan Mars Sample Return

"If an NRC review of NASA's mission concept concludes that it will not lead to a sample return, the bill directs the agency to spend the $150 million on developing a mission to orbit Europa, one of Jupiter's icy moons. That would be in line with the priorities laid out in the NRC's planetary science decadal survey, released in March 2011."

Senate Bill Good News for NASA Mars Missions, Science

"It's not clear yet if this restored funding--if the bill should become law--will in fact restore components of the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions that NASA had originally intended to undertake in collaboration with the European Space Agency."

Keith's note: In today's media telecon with NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Mason Peck, Abdalati mentioned a letter that had been sent to CASIS wherein NASA "challenged CASIS to demonstrate how they will honor their cooperative agreement with NASA" and that asked them to "drum up 3 partners or investigations by the end of the year". I have requested a copy of the correspondence between NASA and CASIS.

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget (22 March 2012)

"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"."

Keith's update: Through the persistence of space journalist Irene Klotz, NASA has released these letters:

Letter from NASA to CASIS regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"Moreover, the functions identified in the Cooperative Agreement and the milestones in the Annual Program Plan (APP) are critical given the limited amount of time remaining to do research on the International Space Station (ISS). NASA would like assurances from the Board that CASIS will be able to meet the milestones in the APP. The agency also requests the interim board explain in writing how these milestones will be met."

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"The following are key elements of performance that we will report on at the end of the initial first two quarters of operation. In general, they represent progress on the key goals of facing the market, finding new customers for the ISS, and standing up the organization to service existing and new markets:"

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding 2012 Annual Program Plan

"We are evaluating your response and will get back to you with a formal NASA position."

ARC ITAR Inquiry

Senator Asks NASA About Alleged Disclosure of Sensitive Information, Science

"NASA chief Charles Bolden is reviewing a request from a U.S. senator for a briefing on alleged misconduct at the agency's Ames Research Center (ARC) in California. The allegations appear to involve violations of U.S. laws meant to guard national secrets. In a letter obtained by ScienceInsider, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, today asked "to be briefed by knowledgeable NASA officials" on "serious allegations from whistleblowers."

House Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill (NASA)

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $17.6 billion in the bill, which is $226 million below fiscal year 2012 and $138 million below the President's request."

Fiscal Year 2013 Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Mark (NASA Section)

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level."

Image: Jarod Ondas (left), of Virginia, and his brother Austin, watch as space shuttle Discovery approaches the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for its fly-over, Tuesday, April 17, 2012, in Chantilly, Va. - nasa hq photo's photostream

Space Shuttle Discovery Draws Eyes to Sky for Final Flight, PBS NewsHour

[Valerie Neal NASM] "I think it's probably a surprise to everyone how the public turned out today with such enthusiasm. And it's quite clear that Americans are still very much interested in human spaceflight and very proud of their space shuttle."

Shuttle Discovery flyover dazzles D.C. area, Washington Times

"When are you ever going to see something like that again?" asked Daniel Pallotta, a Boston resident who drove down with his son to watch the shuttle landing. "You're not. This was awe-inspiring."

NASA's Discovery shuttle wows Washington in 45-minute flyover, Washington Post

"At the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly -- Discovery's new home -- 8-year-old Alex Corica wandered the parking lot wearing an orange shuttle flight suit and a helmet too large to fit his head. He was ready not just to witness, but to fly."

Tweet from Shelby Spires to Alan Boyle: "It amazes me how many people become interested in America's space shuttle program after it over."

Keith's note: If you want an idea what the flyby was like as a few hundred people and I parked illegally and stood on the side of the road outside of Dulles International Airport, go to this video and advance to 2:35 and play. Yea, just like that. For a few seconds our entire field of view was nearly taken up by Discovery and its 747 carrier.

How We Nearly Lost Discovery, Wayne Hale

"Now that Discovery is safely delivered to the Smithsonian, I think I can tell the story of how we nearly lost her in July of 2005, and how well intentioned, highly motivated, hard working, smart people can miss the most obvious. ... So were we stupid? Yes. Can you learn from our mistake? I hope so."

NASA Internal Memo: Spacebook Being Decommissioned

"On June 1 Spacebook, NASA's social network site, will be decommissioned. All data will be archived and all user accounts will be closed. Spacebook was implemented in 2009 as a social network for civil servants and contractors to collaborate and share information. Unfortunately participation has not been as high as anticipated. On average, only 14 users log on per weekday and zero on the weekends. There are alternate internal social media tools, such as Yammer..."

Keith's note: Another reinvented wheel that needed to be uninvented. I can only imagine what they spent to create and maintain this bad copy of Facebook.

Space Shuttle Discovery: Old Friend, New Neighbor

"Space Shuttle Discovery arrived at her new home today - the National Air and Space Museum at the Udvar-Hazy Center, adjacent to Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC. While the news of her arrival had been circulated here in Washington for some time, it would seem that many people made their decision to see her arrive at the last minute."

Video: A Conversation with NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

"At the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs SpaceRef sat down with NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver for a short conversation."

Additional SpaceRef coverage of the National Space Symposium

It's Tax Day -- Send in Your $.005 for NASA, Discovery

"I've always wondered why are we cutting it? Why aren't we doubling it? Even then, it wouldn't be a full percent of what our federal budget is. Double it and actually fund it so that you can work successfully toward starting and finishing something. All this starting and stopping stuff -- that's not an efficient way to go forward," she said."

At least double NASA's annual budget to one penny for every government dollar spent, We The People Petition

"Tomorrow is gone without NASA. Please at least double NASA's annual budget, and continue to support the most inspirational program in the country.


Trial winds down for NASA specialist who claims firing was over intelligent design beliefs, Washington Post

"A former computer specialist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was laid off because he was combative and didn't keep his skills sharp -- not because he advocated for his belief in intelligent design while at work, an attorney said Monday in a case that plays on the tensions over the origins-of-life concept. David Coppedge, who worked on NASA's Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, sued JPL for wrongful termination in a case that has generated intense interest among proponents of intelligent design -- the idea that life is too complex to have evolved through evolution alone."

Coverage Set for NASA/SpaceX Launch and Mission to Space Station

"Following the completion of NASA's flight readiness review, the second SpaceX demonstration launch for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is scheduled for Monday, April 30. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule will liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a single instantaneous launch opportunity at 12:22 p.m. EDT."

NASA Planning Group Takes Key Steps for Future Mars Exploration

"Starting today, the scientific and technical community across the globe can submit ideas and abstracts online as part of NASA's effort to seek out the best and the brightest ideas from researchers and engineers in planetary science. Selected abstracts will be presented during a workshop in June hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston."

Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration

"While we hope to accommodate all possible concepts, the workshop venue is limited to roughly 185-200 participants. If the number of submitted abstracts exceeds this limit, a NASA-designated program panel will review the abstracts and develop the final workshop attendee list. In order to encourage broad participation, industry and government laboratories (including NASA Centers) will be asked to limit participation to individuals presenting ideas/concepts. University research groups are encouraged to send principal investigators as their representatives, and to recognize that the number of attendees will be limited."

Keith's note: At today's media telecon NASA representatives stressed that this review process and this meeting were going to be "transparent and open" and that people from outside NASA would be encouraged to attend. This does not synch with the meeting description that has been posted. It sounds like NASA is going to limit attendees and presentations. Moreover, instead of trying to encourage new ideas (younger participants) the older PIs are the ones who will attend. All too often these "independent" NASA activities are just the same old faces engaged in choir practice and Powerpoint generation. I asked if this event would be webcast in its entirety and Doug McQuiston said "yes". I wonder if NASA will allow remote participation - you know, like everyone in the real world can now do. Stay tuned. Will this MPPG activity be yet another slow motion exercise resulting no real change in the status quo other than lowered budget reactions or will NASA really think outside the box this time?

Viking Data Suggests Life?, Universe Today via NASA's Astrobiology Magazine

"Researchers from universities in Los Angeles, California, Tempe, Arizona and Siena, Italy have published a paper in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences (IJASS) citing the results of their work with data obtained by NASA's Viking mission."

Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?, Science.nasa.gov

"There's a tiny moon orbiting beyond Saturn's rings that's full of promise, and maybe -- just maybe -- microbes. In a series of tantalizingly close flybys to the moon, named "Enceladus," NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed watery jets erupting from what may be a vast underground sea. These jets, which spew through cracks in the moon's icy shell, could lead back to a habitable zone that is uniquely accessible in all the solar system."

Keith's note:I am a biologist. Back in the day I ran many NASA peer review panels for exobiology research and helped plan NASA's initial astrobiology program. I run astrobiology.com and would absolutely love this story to be true i.e. microbes raining on Enceladus but ... its not true - at least no one has proved it. Dr. Porco's guesses are imaginative and inspired and are not without some strong supporting data but they are just guesses - and Cassini does not have any way to prove that there is anything alive in these plumes. So yes, "let's go back".

Lighting a rocket is easy; tough part is controlling it, making parts work together, AP

"Anybody can make something go boom. Controlling it is hard," said former NASA associate administrator Scott Pace, director of space policy at George Washington University. ... "In many ways, the worst enemy of NASA is `Star Trek'," Pace said. "Captain Picard says `engage' and the ship moves. And people think `How hard can this be?'"

Keith's note: This is an odd thing for Scott Pace to say given that he's a very smart guy. If anything, Star Trek is often NASA's best friend. For several generations it has been Star Trek and other popular TV shows and movies that have so totally embedded the value and need to explore space within the minds of the citizens whose taxes keep NASA going. When cuts are proposed for NASA, what memes do supporters and energized taxpayers cite? Of course they use lines and themes about exploration and inspiration that you hear Star Trek characters saying.

When everything goes right, NASA loves to bask in the glowing PR and does not deter people from lofty comparisons to Star Trek. But when something goes wrong (or might go wrong) they like to lower expectations and say "Rocket science is hard". And yet, NASA seems to do it right nearly all the time, leading one to logically ask 'so how hard can this be'? This is the problem with NASA. They want to have it both ways.

How Commercial Space Is Paying Off Now, Aviation Week

"We are aware that SpaceX does have an upgrade coming to the Falcon 9 that they intend to use for crew," Jett says. "[I]f they win CCiCap, we would see in their certification plan . . . [just] how they would get comfortable certifying that vehicle. They're going to tell us how they would certify it, and then we'll balance that against how we would certify it, and be able to understand that delta of what we would be able to do under that certification contract [which is] going to come sometime in the future."

Doubts linger about space station's science potential, Orlando Sentinel

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said Marybeth Edeen, NASA manager of the station's national laboratory. The inability to completely fill NASA's science racks, she said, is simply one of priorities. Up until now, NASA has been more focused on building the station. Indeed, the station crew -- which expanded from three to six members in 2009 -- now spends about 50 hours a week on science, as opposed to just three hours a week in 2008. "Our goal is to get the racks fully utilized," she said. To help do that, NASA hired a nonprofit group last summer called the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the national lab and find new experiments.

Keith's note: NASA has had well over a decade to figure out how to fully utilize the ISS. And yet they haven't done so. The ISS was declared "complete" some time ago. So ... what is the hold up?

CASIS and NanoRacks Announce Expanded ISS Research Capabilities, Nanoracks

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a deal with NanoRacks, LLC, to reserve space on the first commercial platform available for researchers outside the ISS in the extreme environments of space."

CASIS and NanoRacks Close Deal to Use Commercial Research Platform in the Extremes of Space, CASIS

"In June, CASIS will issue a formal solicitation to the research community and private enterprise for their proposals to use this one-of-a-kind platform for anything from earth observation to materials, and biological sciences."

Commercial Platform Offers Exposure at Space Station< NASA

"The contributions by NanoRacks and Astrium are the most recent example of NASA efforts to expand the station's research capacity through innovative partnerships with commercial companies."

From a Boy Who Loved NASA: How 49 Heroes Lost the Right Stuff and Sullied Their Names, Huffington Post

"I guess it shouldn't have surprised me these gentlemen -- 49 out of tens of thousands of former NASA employees (more than 18,000 people currently work for NASA, so this is about 0.27% of current employees) would next move into the emotional language. It shouldn't have surprised me, but it disappointed me just the same."

On Astronauts, NASA, and Climate Concerns, NY Times

"Here's the note I received from Russell Schweickart after I alerted him about the letter (he was unaware of it): To my knowledge most of the signatories on this letter are in fact engineers (or former engineers). Some are (or were) scientists... But none, to my limited knowledge, are what I would consider qualified climatologists. AND... they have every right to state and argue for their opinion, and I fully support their right on that score."

NBC space expert [Jim Oberg] on North Korea satellite launch, MSNBC

"The significance of the launch, of course, is the booster itself. The booster is bigger than it has to be. It's based on Han missiles. It's not a military missile ... but it's darn close. Like we've said on TV, this rocket is not a weapon, but it's maybe 98 percent of one. It can be converted all too easily and all too frighteningly into a weapon, and they don't need it. They don't need a booster of this size, of this cost, to launch a satellite they say they want to. They seem to be overdoing it, and that can hurt a country, not help it."

Keith's note: North Korea's rocket launch - like the rest of the country - was a total failure. It broke apart a minute or so after launch. Now they can get back to starving their population to pay for it.

Prepared remarks of Tom Kalil at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation April 12, 2012 Washington, DC

"Another recent prize was NASA's Green Flight Challenge that called upon aviation innovators to build and demonstrate a super-fuel efficient full-scale aircraft. The cash prize purse of $1.65 million offered by NASA attracted 14 teams, which collectively invested more than $6 million. In a historic achievement, the two winning teams exceeded the performance requirements by nearly a factor of two, flying more than 200 miles on the energy equivalent of just half a gallon of gas, all while averaging 100 mph with two people on board. NASA further leveraged taxpayer dollars, by partnering with the CAFE Foundation, which invested over $1 million in rigorous evaluation and publicity - extending the impact of the prize. The high-profile demonstration of safe, low-emission technologies may spark a new electric airplane industry."

Moon to be private colony - NASA, AAP

"Our private industry partners have built every single space craft we have ever flown. "NASA has never built a single human-rated space craft."

Keith's note: C'mon, Charlie, be honest. Of course NASA has built human-rated spacecraft - along with its aerospace industry partners. It has always been that way. Wordsmithing won't change the facts.

I just love it when NASA and Congress plays this semantic game i.e. "commercial" vs "government". Charlie Bolden uses this throw away line to justify the current focus on utilization of commercial launchers to provide crew and cargo services. Fine. For "commercial" efforts, aerospace contractors provide services with less than usual government oversight, with significant government seed money, but also with significant private investments. Yet, simultaneously, NASA (i.e. "government") mandates and oversees the construction of Orion using one of the very same aerospace companies that is involved in the "commercial" efforts (I would hope NASA's Orion is human-rated) and also directs the construction of the SLS - likewise using another aerospace company that also participates in the "commercial" activities.

Former NASA scientists, astronauts admonish agency on climate change position, Science and Public Policy Institute

"49 former NASA scientists and astronauts sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week admonishing the agency for it's role in advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change while neglecting empirical evidence that calls the theory into question. The group, which includes seven Apollo astronauts and two former directors of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, are dismayed over the failure of NASA, and specifically the Goddard Institute For Space Studies (GISS), to make an objective assessment of all available scientific data on climate change."

Keith's note: This press release/group letter should have been titled "Former NASA [JSC] scientists, astronauts admonish agency on climate change position" since virtually everyone who signed it seems to live in Texas or once worked at JSC. In addition, more than 90% of the signers have no apparent "science" background - and this letter is about science (I guess). That said, a lot of the names are very recognizable from NASA's history, and they seem to be upset about something. Oh yes, guys (I only see one female signer): SMD AA John Grunsfeld (also a former JSC employee) has a perfectly good Ph.D.

Note: if comments go off topic and degenerate into a Democrat Vs Republican food fight (as they always seem to do on this topic) I will shut them off.

Response from NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati to Letter on NASA Climate Studies

"NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate. As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue 'claims' about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion."

Commercial space companies pushing back against NASA certification, Huntsville Times

"[Marshall Space Flight Center acting Director Gene] Goldman said private companies have their own ideas. "We've been pushed back on when we try to advocate our requirements for certification, and they say, 'We don't need your requirements, this is our venture,'" Goldman said. "There's absolutely a lot of truth in that." He predicted again that it could come down to the makeup of the crews and said he is "not exactly sure how that is going to play out."

America's space act is about to lift-off to a spectacular new future, Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison

"If we are to move forward, we must avoid a false competition between our long-range space exploration goals - the moon, Mars and beyond - and commercialized ferrying of cargo and crew members to the space station. In fact, both programs are essential.Assisting development of commercial space capabilities will eliminate America's reliance on the Russian Soyuz system for crew transportation to low-Earth orbit, while developing our next generation heavy launch capability is a necessity if we are to expand space exploration beyond Earth, to Mars and beyond."

Keith's note: According to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation staffer Jeff Bingham (posting as "51D Mascot"): "It is clearly NOT the intent of people I work with to impede or slow development of Commercial crew, despite all the characterizations to the contrary. The issue is balanced development efforts across the agreed-upon priorities within the context of a severely--and in my view inappropriately--constrained top line budget for NASA."

I sense that the ground is being laid (in slow motion) for raiding commercial space to fund other things at NASA. "Balanced" is code language for "let's move money around". Stay tuned.

Space station used for Ardbeg distillery experiments

"Experiments using malt from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay are being carried out on the International Space Station to see how it matures without gravity. Compounds of unmatured malt were sent to the station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October last year, along with particles of charred oak. Scientists want to understand how they interact at close to zero gravity. NanoRacks LLC, the US company behind the research, has said understanding the influence of gravity could help a number of industries, including the whisky industry, to develop new products in the future."

Important Scientific Experiment: Can Scotch Mature In Space?, Forbes

"The Ardbeg Distillery has been distilling and maturing Scotch Whisky for over 300 years, and you don't last that long without innovating. It's no doubt that drive that has led Ardbeg to pursue its latest experiment - to see whether Scotch can properly mature while it's in space, on board the International Space Station."

Keith's note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space. Fermentation and distillation are industrial processes with many other applications than just making spirits. Outcome? Who knows. Only the experimenters have commented. Does NASA or CASIS make note of this? Of course not. Will they mention it in the future? Doubtful. Why bother? No one has ever asked the ISS National Lab or CASIS folks to be responsive or innovative. Why start now?

Previous CASIS postings

U.S. Budget Cuts Threaten to Sink Undersea Research Fleet, Science

"Last week, researchers began to plead their case, asking lawmakers to reject an Obama Administration plan to eliminate the $4 million National Undersea Research Program (NURP), which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). ... The program also funds investigators to work at NOAA's Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater laboratory that sits in 18 meters of water 5.5 kilometers off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. ... It is less clear what will happen to NURP-funded assets if the program is defunded, although NOAA officials say they plan to get rid of Aquarius Reef Base, the Pisces V submersible, and other vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2013."

NASA Solicitation: NASA Extreme Environment Missions Operations (NEEMO) Support Vessel

"The ship must be on location for nine calendar days from June 11th, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. EST until June 19th, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST. The ship will need to mob/demob the Deep Worker submersibles at a nearby port the day before (on June 10, 2012) and the day after (June 20, 2012)."

Mars can wait. Oceans can't, CNN

"While space travel still gets a lot of attention, not enough attention has been accorded to a major new expedition to the deepest point in the ocean, some 7 miles deep -- the recent journey by James Cameron, on behalf of National Geographic. The cover story of the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs lays out the "Case for Space." "60 Minutes" recently ran a story about the dire effects on Florida's space industry of scaling back our extraterrestrial endeavors. Newt Gingrich gained attention earlier this year by calling for building a permanent base on the moon. And President Obama has talked of preparing to eventually send Americans into orbit around Mars. Actually, there are very good reasons to stop spending billions of dollars on manned space missions, to explore space in ways that are safer and much less costly, and to grant much higher priority to other scientific and engineering mega-projects, the oceans in particular."

Keith's note: Is exploration a zero sum game - one wherein we must do one thing well (Earth) but not another (space)? Or can we do both? Should we do both? If the current (traditional) way of funding exploration via government funding is running out of steam, what other ways (i.e. Jim Cameron's recent private expedition) should be considered?

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars"

FAA: Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for SpaceX Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas

"The FAA is preparing an EIS to analyze the potential environmental impacts of SpaceX's proposal to launch orbital and suborbital launch vehicles from a private site in Cameron County in southern Texas. The EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts of the Proposed Action and reasonable alternatives, including the No Action Alternative. The successful completion of the environmental review process does not guarantee that the FAA would issue launch licenses and/or experimental permits to SpaceX. The project must also meet all FAA safety, risk, and indemnification requirements."

NASA Releases New Open Government Plan

"NASA today released version 2.0 of its Open Government Plan, which includes a flagship initiative to build a new web architecture and a renewed focus on open data sharing, open source development and a variety of technology acceleration efforts. The plan also features a directory of more than 100 participatory, collaborative and transparent projects, offering citizens opportunities to understand, support and engage with the agency. Throughout the next year, NASA will continue to add projects to the directory."

NASA races to find tenants for vacant shuttle facilities

"With the space-shuttle program ended, NASA either must find someone to lease major buildings -- such as the facility where workers repaired shuttle tiles -- or abandon them, because the cash-strapped agency lacks the money to demolish them. Besides looking bad, the crumbling buildings would hinder efforts to remake KSC into a modern spaceport, an initiative estimated to cost $2.3 billion during five years.

NASA KSC: Replace Control and Power Systems VAB 175 Ton Electric Overhead Bridge Crane

"NASA/KSC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for replacement of industrial overhead bridge crane control, drive, and miscellaneous systems on the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)175-ton crane located in the LC-39 Area of KSC, Florida 32899.

NASA Astrophysics Urged To Slim Down, Aviation Week

"The SRC strongly urges the HST to consider all possible avenues, vigorously pursuing ways to accelerate cost reductions without compromising mission safety even if some science is not enabled," the panel cautioned the Hubble team in the April 4 report that included the Kepler extension recommendation. "To keep HST operating while maintaining the overall balance of NASA's astrophysics program, it will be necessary to seek further cost reductions, even at the expense of some observing efficiency."

NASA Extends Kepler, Spitzer, Planck Missions

"NASA is extending three missions affiliated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. -- Kepler, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the U.S. portion of the European Space Agency's Planck mission -- as a result of the 2012 Senior Review of Astrophysics Missions. The 2012 NASA Senior Review report, which includes these three missions and six others also being extended, is available at: https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/2012-senior-review."

Viewpoint: Commercial Space Will Renew NASA, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Aviation Week

"Decisions by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to retire NASA's space shuttle and cancel the Constellation program were both received with much--and varied--emotion among my fellow astronauts, the NASA family and others nationwide. ... As of Atlantis's final flight last July, our nation has no means to launch humans into Earth orbit from U.S. soil. Period. Whether considered from a geopolitical, economic or technological perspective, recovering that capability should be a national strategic priority. NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) represents the fastest and most cost-effective path to that end."

The Space Report 2012: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity Reveals 12.2 Percent Global Space Industry Growth, Space Foundation

"The Space foundation today announced the availability of the 2012 edition of the Space Report to media today and to the public next week. According to the report the global space economy grew to $289.77 billion in 2011, reflecting a surprisingly robust single-year expansion of 12.2 percent and five-year growth of 41 percent* in a global economy that has been suppressed in many other sectors."

NASA space shuttle Enterprise to arrive in New York City on April 23, NY Daily News

"[Sen.] Schumer ruffled feathers from Florida to Texas for using his congressional clout to score a shuttle for New York, which had a limited role in space exploration. ... Houston, home to NASA's mission control, was left out. Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn fumed at the time that "clear political favors trumped common sense and fairness" in handing out shuttles to Los Angeles and New York."

Keith's note: According to the Tax Foundation:

- In 1981 Texas citizens paid $40,786,000,000 in federal taxes and got $32,851,000,000 back. In 2005 they paid $146,932,000,000 and got $148,683,000,000 back.

- In 1981 New York citizens paid $48,641,000,000 in federal taxes and got $43,574,000,000 back. In 2005 they paid $168,710,000,000 and got $144,876,000,000 back.

New York taxpayers have paid more in federal taxes than they got back. New York taxpayers paid more in federal taxes than Texas taxpayers did. Texas taxpayers got more from the federal government than they paid in taxes.

NASA is funded by tax dollars. New Yorkers paid more for NASA than Texans did. The argument that New Yorkers had less to do with space exploration is fundamentally flawed. New Yorkers' money helped pay Texan salaries at NASA. All of America paid for the Space Shuttle program. All of America should get to share in the shuttle's legacy.

Leader of 'Darpa for Spies' Steps Down, WIred

"Porter started her government career as a Darpa program manager, before becoming the head of NASA's aeronautics division. Bringing that Darpa-esque spirit to the intelligence world wasn't always easy. Not long after Iarpa was cobbled together from research groups within the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Porter faced an exodus of talent. The old guard just wasn't used to the Darpa combination of far-off end goals with very measurable steps to those goals along the way. Nor did they appreciate her in-the-weeds approach to managing research projects. .... It's not clear what Porter's next step will be. But it's worth noting that the director of Darpa recently stepped down. Porter has repeatedly been mentioned as a potential successor."

Space Astronomy Archive and Supernova Are Named for Senator Barbara Mikulski

"One of the world's largest astronomy archives, containing a treasure trove of information about myriad stars, planets, and galaxies, has been named in honor of the United States Senator from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski. ... In addition, an exploding star that the Hubble Space Telescope spotted on Jan. 25, 2012, has been named Supernova Mikulski by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess and the supernova search team with which he is currently working. The supernova, which lies 7.4 billion light-years away, is the titanic detonation of a star more than eight times our Sun's mass."

Keith's note: This has to be one of the most shameless acts of kissing up to a congressional benefactor in recent years. Anything that Sen. Mikuski did in her job involved taxpayer dollars and she often favored projects in her own state at the expense of equally meritorious projects located in other states. I wonder if the STScI folks bothered to tell Sen. Mikulski that they can't actually name stars after anyone. Under the archaic way that astronomers name objects and features, only the IAU can name things. Also, it would seem, according to IAU's rules, that there is no process for naming a supernova after a person i.e. "Supernovae are named for their year of occurrance and an uppercase letter, e.g., "SN 1987A". If the alphabet is exhausted, double lower case naming is used: [Year] aa .. az, ba .. bz, etc; e.g., "SN 1997bs"." And if IAU does allow this name to become official they too become a party to this blatant act of political payback and simply undermine what the credibility that their naming rules have.

NASA Science Chief Statement on Naming of Space Telescope Science Institute's Astronomical Database for Senator Mikulski

"The Space Telescope Science Institute's decision to name its database for Senator Mikulski is an honor very much deserved. She is a tremendous advocate and supporter for science, NASA and the astrophysics community."

Keith's update: (Sigh) now NASA itself has gotten in on the official political pandering as well. Maybe we should name JSC's Mission Control Center the "Kay Bailey Hutchison Mission Control Center" and the VAB the "Bill Nelson Big Rocket Barn". I wonder how many hours were charged at NASA and STScI to concocting and celebrating this whole activity. I guess there is a side benefit to this. The next time JWST goes over budget Sen. Mikulski is certain to support another infusion of cash.

CASIS Names Dr. Timothy J. Yeatman Interim Chief Scientist, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today named renowned surgeon and researcher Timothy J. Yeatman, M.D., as CASIS Interim Chief Scientist. Additionally, Dr. Alan Stern, a planetary scientist, aerospace consultant, and former NASA executive, has been appointed CASIS Scientific Advisor. Doctors Yeatman and Stern will lead research initiatives for the organization.

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget (22 March 2012)

"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"."

Ohio Delegation Calls on NASA To Fire ISS Nonprofit, Space News

"Members of Ohio's congressional delegation urged NASA to strip a Florida nonprofit of its status as manager of the international space station's national laboratory and give the job to a Cleveland-based group instead."

Brown Urges NASA Leadership To Reconsider Contract For The International Space Station National Laboratory

"CASIS was hired to develop research pathways that connect basic and applied research, and develop a pipeline of funding and projects to support the wide range of research opportunities available in the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. It is the general impression of the situation that CASIS is neither performing this type of work, nor actively heading toward being able to perform this type of work. Because of the limited life of the ISS, it may be time to consider a switch in leadership for this activity."

Keith's note: It has been 14 days since Wolf's comments. The clock is ticking for CASIS. The NASA Inspector General's Office is looking into CASIS issues and a request for a GAO study of CASIS is being considered in Congress. And now the Ohio delegation is calling for NASA's agreement with CASIS to be cancelled. Do these appointments announced today by CASIS count as being "with it" (as Rep. Wolf suggested) or is this just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Stay tuned.

Earlier CASIS posts

Tiny, Speedy, Cheaper?

Smaller, Quicker, Secret, Robotic: Inside America's New Space Force, Wired

"From huge, slow and expensive to tiny, speedy and cheaper, Atlantis' and the X-37s brief proximity last summer represented a passing-of-the-torch for the world's leading space power. The era of big space missions is fading. "Small" is the new watch-word for America's orbital force. But as the X-37 and a host of other new spacecraft demonstrate, small doesn't mean less capable."

Obama camp, Dems swipe at Mitt Romney over space policy, MIami Herald

From a transcript of a call with Obama supporter and Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake said: ... "Romney has repeatedly stressed he'd make no promises about funding for the space program or the future direction of NASA. When it comes to NASA and space exploration, it is clear that Mitt Romney is completely wrong on the issue and out of touch with the Space Coast."

Mike Griffin, Romney Space Advisor, earlier post

NASA budget might have less space for JPL's planetary science, LA Times

"U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) has pledged to fight the cuts, and he grilled NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the budget request last week at a meeting of a congressional science subcommittee. Schiff was joined by several Republicans, including Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who said NASA's planetary science program would not survive the proposed cut. "We're making intriguing progress in identifying the building blocks of life in other places," Schiff said in an interview. "To walk back from that and leave those questions unanswered means that we step back from potentially game-changing revelations about the origins of life in the universe, about our place in the cosmos. It's hard to put a price tag on that."

NASA budget might have less space for JPL's planetary science, Pasadena Sun

"President Obama's $17.7-billion budget request for NASA for the 2013 fiscal year includes a $300-million cut to planetary science, the very work JPL specializes in. That could mean a 20% reduction in NASA's planetary science budget and, at JPL, job losses in the hundreds."

"Taken 2/29/12 in the Oval Office - Live Long & Prosper!"

Larger image

Keith's note: So ... where's Charlie?

Strengthening America's Leadership in Space Exploration

"Charles Bolden: On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a story that captured some of what the space shuttle era meant to Florida's Space Coast. Unfortunately, the piece also missed an awful lot of important context about the end of that era and where we're headed from here. As a former shuttle astronaut and the Administrator of NASA, nobody has higher regard for the incredible men and women who worked on the Space Shuttle Program. And I certainly understand that for some of those men and women, this transitional period will not be easy."

NASA Memorandum for the Record: Protection of Sensitive Agency Information

"This memorandum reinforces NASA policy regarding the protection of Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) information. The memorandum applies to all Centers, Mission Directorates and their supporting commercial contractors that process NASA information. Individuals responsible for handling SBU information should be cognizant of the requirements outlined within this memorandum to ensure the protection of all SBU data."

- Stolen KSC Laptop Has Employee Personal Info On It (Update), earlier post
- NASA IT Security is a Mess - Stolen Laptops and Hacking JPL, earlier post

The Secret History of OpenStack, the Free Cloud Software That's Changing Everything, Wired

"So [Federal CIO Vivek] Kundra summoned Chris Kemp to the White House, and he eventually used NASA Nebula to launch USAspending.gov -- a site that shared the government's spending with the world at large -- while drawing up plans to expand the platform to other agencies as well. The problem was that certain U.S. lawmakers and NASA bureaucrats were intent on killing the project. Chief among them was Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to Kemp. Shelby's office didn't respond to an inquiry from Wired, but Kemp says that the senator saw Nebula as a jobs-killer. "Whenever I would talk in Washington about this cloud technology enabling data centers to run without people, this was interpreted as jobs going away," Kemp says. "There was a serious political challenge to the project...and I was called before the NASA administrator -- of the whole agency -- to explain it."

Orbital Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Company's Founding, Orbital

"Orbital Sciences Corporation celebrated the company's first three decades in the space business today as it completed 30 years of operations since the enterprise's founding on April 2, 1982. At anniversary events at the company's Dulles, Virginia headquarters and at other sites in Arizona, California, Maryland and Virginia, Orbital executives thanked employees and customers for making possible the company's successes to date, and for providing exciting opportunities for future achievements."

Marc's note: We've included the video address by David W. Thompson, Orbital co-founder.

Impact of Delays in Selection and Funding of Research and Data Analysis Program Awards, PSI

"Consequences include: The personal assumption of research expenses by scientists, the potential loss of students, funding instability or inadequacy for postdocs, undermining funded research, general loss of efficiency in programs and research, a sense of overall lack of support for these foundational programs that underpin our solar system exploration efforts, and the potential loss of scientists from planetary science."

NASA Lands $75,000 in Patent Auction, Wired

"The market can be cruel, but it doesn't lie: Software development algorithms are worth more than cool nanotechnology swarming technologies. That's what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found out this week when it tried to auction three lots of its Goddard Space Flight Center software patents at an event run by the ICAP Patent brokerage. The software development patents sold for $75,000. With a starting price of $50,000, nobody bid on the nanotechnology stuff. And they also steered clear of a bargain-basement $30,000 NASA patent that covered a fancy way of reporting a broken smoke detector."

Keith's note: Its great that the taxpayer gets some return on its investment in NASA research. But rest assured NASA won't tell you what it spent to generate this research in the first place. Rest assured, it was a lot more than $75,000. Not only does the agency not want you to know what its total investment was, it could not even figure out what it spent to generate this intellectual property that was auctioned, even if it wanted to tell you. As for the patents that did not sell, this does not mean that the initial research was not warranted. But it does blow a hole in the notion that all of the cool stuff NASA does is inherently sexy (i.e. patentable).

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"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. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal and stand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizational risks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions. "

ProOrbis Statement re: CASIS Director Resignation

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] 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."

Keith's note: Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco and ProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded in response to the very same procurement they helped craft? In Dr. Becker's resignation letter, and ProOrbis' response, this issue of potential conflict of interest was raised. Indeed, the core thrust of Becker's departure, in part, seems to be her frustration in being unable to retain the non-profit status (and Intent) of CASIS against external pressures to engage in overt commercial activities via ProOrbis.

Curiously, NASA's Mark Uhran and Jeanne DiFrancesco (Principal of ProOrbis, LLC and the President and CEO of ProOrbis Ventures, LLC.) are on the advisory board of U.S Rare Earths.. U.S Rare Earths is a for-profit mining company. How is it that one of the main government officials behind the CASIS procurement (still a NASA civil servant a manging various ISS activities) and a senior representative of the company that was part of the team that won the CASIS contract are allowed to participate in a external business activity?

Earlier CASIS postings



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