May 2012 Archives

Re-enter The Dragon

The Dragon Has Landed

"This morning, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific. The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land."

Michael Duncan

NASA Statement from Michael Obrien, Office of International and Interagency Relations Associate Administrator:

"The NASA community was saddened by the news of Dr. Michael Duncan's untimely and tragic death. Mike provided invaluable support in the space medicine field for NASA's space shuttle and International Space Station astronauts. He was one of the lead flight surgeons who supported the first landing by American astronauts in a Soyuz vehicle in Kazakhstan for Expedition 6 in May 2003. As the lead for the NASA team that provided assistance to the Chilean government's rescue of 33 trapped miners in a copper and gold mine near Copiapo, Chile, in 2010, Dr. Duncan exemplified NASA's commitment to bring spaceflight experience back down to the ground and utilize it for people here on Earth. Our condolences go out to his family at this difficult time."

Keith's note: Visitation will be held on Friday from 5 to 8 pm at the Gawler Funeral Home, 5130 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, Md. 202 966-6400. Services will be held at Gawler Funeral Home at 11 am on Saturday.

Two Dead In Fauquier County Plane Collision, Manassas Patch

NASA-funded Research: Earlier Detection of Bone Loss May be in Future, ASU

"Are your bones getting stronger or weaker? Right now, it's hard to know. Scientists at Arizona State University and NASA are taking on this medical challenge by developing and applying a technique that originated in the Earth sciences. In a new study, this technique was more sensitive in detecting bone loss than the X-ray method used today, with less risk to patients. Eventually, it may find use in clinical settings, and could pave the way for additional innovative biosignatures to detect disease."

Keith's note: Wow. A real spinoff - one with an immense potential benefit to people living on Earth. But is there any mention of this PNAS paper at NASA or CASIS? Of course not. Indeed, neither NASA or CASIS seem to be at all interested in promoting ongoing results of space-based and NASA-funded research - unless its budget time, that is. Indeed, no one in the ISS utilization world can find the vanishingly small amount money needed to put this simple, regularly-generated listing of actual research publications online. Any PR-savvy organization looking to make its accomplishments known would be making sure that the AARP knew about this. Not NASA. Baffling.

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness 25 May 2012 (Recent Space Life Science Research Results)

Keith's update: NASA OCT's @NASASpinoff did take time out today to tweet about "Space bread".

One Convert At A Time

Obama's tough decisions will lead nation forward in space, opinion, Mark Kelly, Orlando Sentinel

"The decision to commercialize certain parts of our space program was not easy. I was not a fan at first of canceling the Constellation rocket program. I worried about what it would mean for NASA's overall mission, and what it would do to the brilliant and patriotic men and women who work there. But I'm impressed by how far SpaceX has come in the past 17 months. And it's a bargain: The dramatic cost savings of commercial spaceflight -- savings we need to reduce the deficit and grow our economy -- let us expand the frontiers of space and stay at the forefront of technological innovation. The president made a tough, bold decision -- and I now believe he was right. It's part of a series of tough decisions he has made to stand by NASA and especially Florida's Space Coast. The president is investing in work-force training to connect Space Coast workers with emerging clean-energy businesses."

SpaceX's Dragon capsule docks with international space station, Washington post

"On Friday, Musk said that SpaceX could be ready to fly people into space by 2015. But Scott Pace, a space policy expert at George Washington University and an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said the company first needs a track record. "They need to fly [cargo] six or seven times consecutively," he said."

Keith's note: More Griffin era, out-of-date, sour grapes thinking from a Romney campaign advisor. Please tell me, Scott, where are the legal or agency requirements or 6 or 7 cargo flights prior to crew flights on Falcon 9/Dragon? Answer: there are no such requirements. You are just throwing imaginary hurdles in front of SpaceX so as to make their successes look less impressive than they are. And where is a precedent for such hurdles? Certainly not in the historical record of American human spaceflight. Why was the Space Shuttle allowed to fly with a crew on its very first flight? Human crews flew on the third Gemini/Titan II flight, Apollo crews flew on the third Saturn V flight, etc. How many cargo-only Ares 1/Orion flights were you and Mike going to have before you flew crews? Certainly not "six or seven times consecutively". So why are you suddenly calling for SpaceX to meet criteria never levied upon NASA by you or anyone else?

Keith's update: Curiously, you see a markedly different (and reasoned) tone than the dour stance taken by Mike Griffin and Scott Pace from another individual identified as a space supporter of the Romney campaign:

"Mark Albrecht, a former Republican space-policy maker who also previously ran Lockheed Martin Corp.'s international rocket business, called the launch "a watershed event" and a "Sputnik moment for the U.S. space program and the entire aerospace industry." Large aerospace rivals need to "take heed, adapt or go the way of the electric typewriter," he said."

So ... who speaks for Gov. Romney - and who does not? With Griffin and Pace there always seems to be a lingering "what if" bitterness - of the sort often associated with talking about having lost some big game way back in high school.

- Obama to Romney: Will You Fire Mike Griffin?, earlier post
- Partisan Romney Space Advisor To Call For Non-Partisan Space Policy, earlier post
- Obama Campaign Issues Space Policy Fact Sheet, earlier post

False Claim of NASA Participation in Wrinkle Research

"According to information provided by NASA PAO, the "AS10" food substance mentioned in this news story is not a NASA food product. This food substance may have been developed by someone else using a product developed originally by AmeriSciences but NASA itself has not used any material or food substance described in these various news stories related to wrinkles nor is it conducting any research related to the claims made in these news stories."

Keith's note: NASA LaRC now has its official cold fusion video online titled "Abundant Clean/Green Energy" which refers to a new form of "nuclear energy". How do NASA's Chief Technologist and Chief Scientist allow this stuff to be funded with taxpayer dollars without going through any of the agency's standard peer review processes? Or do Rich Antcliff and Lesa Roe just fund this stuff with local center director's discretionary slush funds and not tell HQ what they are doing?

- Quack Science: Why Are NASA Glenn and Langley Funding Cold Fusion Research?, earlier Post
- Why is NASA Langley Wasting Time on Cold Fusion Research?, earlier Post

The ISS crew opened the hatch with Dragon at 5:53 am EDT this morning and are now preparing Dragon to have its cargo unloaded. Watch their activities live

- Photos: ISS Crew Enters The Dragon

Keith's note: The International Space Station crewsuccessfully captured the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 9:56 am EDT. It was berthed to the ISS exactly 3 two hours later.

- First Images of Dragon Captured by ISS
- Images: Berthing Dragon

Space Community Leaders on Historic Berthing of Dragon to the International Space Station, OSTP Blog

The Dragon Spacecraft has Berthed with the International Space Station: Statement by OSTP Director Holdren

"For the first time, a private American company has successfully launched a spacecraft into orbit and berthed it with the International Space Station--an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance and a key milepost in President Obama's vision for America's continued leadership in space."

SpaceX Dragon Scehdule for Friday

"Around 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern NASA will decide if Dragon is GO to move into the approach ellipsoid 1.4 kilometers around the space station. If Dragon is GO, after approximately one hour Dragon will move to a location 250 meters directly below the station. Dragon will then perform a series of maneuvers to show systems are operating as expected. If NASA is satisfied with the results of these many tests, Dragon will be allowed to perform the final approach to the space station. Sometime around 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern, astronauts on the space station will grapple Dragon with the space station's robotic arm and the spacecraft will attach to the station."

Watch Live

Follow progress via @NASAWatch : Dragon is now within 100 m of ISS . Projected Capture time is 9:10 am ED . ISS crew now has abort authority if anything does wrong

Will Mitt Romney Fire Space Advisor Michael Griffin For Proposing Permanent Moon Base?, BarackObama.com

"While speaking to Global Space Exploration Conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Romney Space Advisor Michael Griffin renewed his calls for a "permanent base on the moon." Given Romney's promise to fire anyone who proposed putting a colony on the moon, will Romney keep his promise by firing Griffin?"

Keith's note: Mr. Romney has said next to nothing about space policy thus far. But on the one notable instance where he did say something, Romney stated that he'd fire anyone who took the position of supporting moonbases - the stance that Romney campaign space advisor Mike Griffin has taken. You have to wonder whether Mike Griffin actually knows what his candidate's positions are with regard to space policy - or is this an indication that Romney's positionon moonbases has changed? Stay tuned.

- Partisan Romney Space Advisor To Call For Non-Partisan Space Policy, earlier post
- Obama Campaign Issues Space Policy Fact Sheet, earlier post

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Completes Key Tests In Quest to Visit Space Station Most Difficult Challenges Still Ahead, SpaceX

"Today, Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft completed key on-orbit tests as part of a historic attempt to be the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the days since SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the vehicle has steadily completed one task after another as it prepares to berth with the International Space Station. Only minutes after the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage, its solar arrays successfully deployed, providing power to the spacecraft. The door that had been covering sensors needed for proximity operations opened successfully. "

Track ISS and Dragon

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

"NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon."

Iconic Lunar Orbiter Image of Copernicus Re-released, LOIRP

"Today an iconic image from the initial exploration of the Moon is being re-released showing detail that could not have been seen using technology available at the time the photo was taken. This image features a dramatic view inside the majestic crater Copernicus - a view that left millions in awe when it was first released. This image is being announced at the First Global Space Exploration Conference, co-sponsored by the AIAA and IAF, in Washington, DC."

Iranian 'Cyber Warriors Team' takes credit for NASA hack, MSNBC

"A group of Iranian student hackers known as the Cyber Warriors Team claims to have stolen the personal information of thousands of NASA researchers. The Cyber Warriors Team boasted in a May 16 Pastebin post that it exploited a secure sockets layer (or SSL) vulnerability in the space agency's website to swipe "information for thousands of NASA researcher[s] with emails and accounts of other users." In the hackers' poorly worded English message, "How and reasons to Hack NASA SSL Certificate," the group said the security glitch still exists, and leaves the agency open to more malicious attacks."

NASA denies Iranian cyberattack, CSO Data Protection

"NASA said it discovered the Pastebin post within hours and launched an investigation of the claims. "Although the investigation is ongoing, all results thus far indicate that the claims are false... At no point were any sensitive, mission, or classified systems compromised," Beth Dickey, a NASA spokeswoman, said in an email."

FACT SHEET: President Obamas Accomplishments for NASA and Floridas Space Coast

"On the heels of the first successful launch of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station ushering in a new era of space exploration, Obama for America-Florida released the following fact sheet on President Obama's space policy and accomplishments: "I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future. Because broadening our capabilities in space will continue to serve our society in ways that we can scarcely imagine. Because exploration will once more inspire wonder in a new generation sparking passions and launching careers. And because, ultimately, if we fail to press forward in the pursuit of discovery, we are ceding our future and we are ceding that essential element of the American character." -President Barack Obama"

Keith's note:Of course, we'll be more than happy to post space policy statements from the Romney campaign - as soon as they issue them.

Satellite Industry Association Report Shows Modest Growth in 2011 Satellite Industry Revenues, Commercial Space Watch

"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its annual State of the Satellite Industry Report which showed a modest growth of 5% in world satellite industry revenues which totalled $177.3 billion in 2011. The report was completed by Futron Corporation for the SIA."

First Look Inside the SpaceX Dragon, SpaceRef

"SpaceX has released this first look inside the Dragon spacecraft in orbit preparing for its attempted rendezvous with the International Space Station three days from now. The Dragon spacecraft has 306 kilograms of non-critical food and crew provisions headed to the ISS. The Dragon spacecraft also has another 154 kilograms of non-critical utilization payloads including a NanoRacks Module student experiments and ice bricks."

Marc's note: Watch this video of the reaction of the SpaceX employees on hearing Dragon was in orbit and the solar panels had deployed.

SpaceX Falcon 9 on Historic Journey Begins with Successful Launch, SpaceRef (With video of launch)

"At 3:44 a.m. EDT a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Space Station launch complex 40 for its maiden voyage to the International Space Station on its second demonstration flight as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program."

Statement by John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, on Launch of Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon Spacecraft

Keith's note: Last Friday I joined CASIS as a member. Ever since then, when I attempt to login all I get is "Authorization Failed! You are not authorized to view this page. You must either login or you do not have sufficient privileges to access this information ..." But the page that tells me this has a link that says "logout" so I guess I am both logged in and logged out simultaneously. I am not certain how CASIS is going to build the online community it seems to desire when they cannot get something as simple as this figured out.

Keith's update: OK, now when I log in I get sent back to the membership page. Do they still want money from me?

Previous CASIS posts

"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, plays a guitar, while Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, flight engineer, plays a musical keyboard during off-time in the Unity node of the International Space Station." ISS030-E-267658 (21 April 2012) --- high res (1.4 M) low res (109 K)

Keith's note: There are several labels in this photo of the ISS that need updating. With Dragon and other crewed spacecraft soon to be visiting ISS, the evacuation spacecraft pointers need to be updated - including the deletion of the shuttle icon too - as well as the "HAB" pointer.

SpaceX Launch Attempt Set for 3:44 AM Eastern on Tuesday, May 22nd

"Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 22nd, at 3:44 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit in an exciting start to the mission that will make SpaceX the first commercial company in history to try to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Sending a spacecraft to the space station has only ever been accomplished by four entities - the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union."

AIAA President to Call for Space Exploration Policy Goals Which Transcend Partisan Political Concerns

"Event Features AIAA President Dr. Michael Griffin - space exploration policy goals which transcend partisan political differences, enhancing the future of the US space program and its ability to cooperate more fully with its international partners."

NASA Budget Would Be More of the Same ... on the Surface, National Journal

"Unfortunately, the Committee has lost confidence in NOAA's ability to control procurement costs or articulate reliable funding profiles. Therefore, we have taken the unprecedented step of transferring responsibility for building our Nation's operational weather satellites from NOAA to NASA," [Mikulski] said."

U.S. could lose aging eyes in the sky, CNN

"Of 23 such satellites now aloft -- carrying dozens of instruments that help weather forecasters produce storm warnings and measure pollution, ocean winds and sea levels -- only six are expected to remain in operation by 2020, and efforts to replace them have stalled, the National Research Council reports."

Satellites at risk, Washington Post

"The NRC proposes restoring NASA's earth observation satellite funding to the level seen in the late 1990s -- before President George W. Bush reprogrammed money from those satellites into things such as manned spaceflight to Mars. That level stands at about $2 billion."

Budget Pressures Prompt ISS Partners To Justify Costs, Aviation Week

"NASA needs to get out of the business of running the competition and selecting experimenters and researchers to fly on ISS," Bolden says. "We realize if we truly want to enhance the utilization, we've got to cast our net as wide as we can in bringing people aboard to do experiments." But Florida-based CASIS has yet to identify any proposals worth funding and has been dogged by public relations issues, notably the resignation of its CEO after less than six months on the job. If CASIS can sort itself out, "then our proposal would be that we expand it even more broadly so you don't just have academia and the partner organizations doing the research on station," Bolden says."

Kelly once against Obama space plan, now open to it, MSNBC

"MSNBC: Do you think that private companies going into space will work? Do you see this as truly the future of space flight ?

Mark Kelly: You know, initially i didn't. I was not a big fan of this plan that the Obama administration had early on. But just seeing how it's developed over the last few years, to see companies, as an example, Spacex, how close they are, they're going to deliver cargo to the space station next week. That's amazing. They're going to ultimately be able to deliver people to the space station. So I see the decisions that were made were very innovative. So they can be a little bit disruptive but ultimately I think this is good for our country and I think it's good for the state of florida as well."

'Radical' bill seeks to reduce cost of AIDS drugs by awarding prizes instead of patents, Washington Post

"More broadly, the Obama administration has pushed prizes for technological advances, sponsoring 150 contests across 40 agencies since 2010. NASA has helped lead the way, handing over $6 million to 23 prize-winning companies since 2005 for such items as better astronaut gloves and more fuel-efficient airplanes. From 2000 to 2007, philanthropic groups have put up some $250 million to spur technologies as varied as robotic moon rovers and cheaper tests for tuberculosis, according to a recent report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

This morning's attempt to launch a Falcon 9 with a Dragon spacecraft was scrubbed when a high pressure reading was discovered in first stage engine 5. The launch vehicle is now being put into safe mode. The next launch window will be on Tuesday at 3:44 am EDT.

Marc's update: Here's my story and the post-launch attempt briefing video.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Launch Scrubbed (Updated with video)

"Right up to t-minus 0.5 seconds it looked like there was going to be a launch. Unfortunately the Falcon 9 computer shutdown the rocket just as it was set to launch due to a high pressure reading on engine number 5, one of nine engines on the Falcon 9 first stage."

Keith's note: NASA is giving CASIS $15 million a year and the keys to a large portion of a $100 billion space station - one funded by taxpayers. But in order for a taxpayer or company to get everything that CASIS is offering they have to pay. Check out the CASIS membership site. This is fundamentally absurd - and I cannot fathom how NASA would agree to this. Everything that this taxpayer-funded organization does with NASA funding on the ISS should be available to all of those people who are already paying for it - and have been paying for it for decades. Whatever happened to the "transparency" and "openness" that NASA was supposed to be demonstrating? And what about the DIY ethos that the White House has been promoting? Putting a government-funded asset like the iSS behind a paywall is the antithesis of this.

U.S. House Unanimously Approves Posey Commercial Space Legislation

"Today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill introduced by Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) as an Amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, that enables the Department of Defense (DoD) to work with Space Florida and commercial companies to improve space launch infrastructure to better meet national security and commercial space launch needs."

Two more military missions booked on EELV rocket fleet, SpaceflightNow

"The maiden missions for both rockets occurred 10 years ago under the direction of their original parent companies -- Lockheed Martin for Atlas and Boeing for Delta. But in subsequent years, the Air Force pushed for the creation of United Launch Alliance to operate both rocket lines, ensuring they remained viable and alive, while reducing overhead costs and erasing duplication in efforts between the two aerospace giants."

Orbital Sciences CEO Criticizes DoD's Proposed 'Block Buy' Of EELVs From ULA, Defense Daily (subscription)

"The Pentagon's proposed "block buy" of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) from United Launch Alliance (ULA) will perpetuate a "long-term, high-cost monopoly" and will "seriously inhibit" the prospects for..."

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Debuts New Website at iss-casis.org

"Today, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station (ISS), announced the unveiling of a new website (www.iss-casis.org) that will serve as a portal for researchers, businesses, educators and students to discover the unique opportunities available to them on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory."

NASA's Deputy Administrator to Discuss Future of Commercial Spaceflight with Industry Representatives

NASA Ponders Transporting Tourists to International Space Station, WS Journal (link probably won't work)

"But for the first time, a senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official on Thursday publicly talked about ways the U.S. eventually could offer the same service and reap similar benefits. The trips could begin later this decade, when a new generation of private, U.S.-built space taxis is expected to begin transporting American crews into orbit. "We are very, very open" to the possibility and intend to "work on details with the company or companies" that end up winning contracts to take American astronauts back and forth from the station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told reporters during a teleconference."

Keith's note: To expand further on my question (described above), I noted that people have been able to fly to the ISS via commerial means for over a decade but their trips are explicitly considered as being via Russia's participation. Use of any U.S. facilities is usually at extra expense to the customer. I asked if NASA was considering A. Allowing individuals to buy seats to visit the U.S. segment B. allowing commercial concerns to be able to send up their own astronauts for periods longer than just a brief visit and C. how would NASA seek to determine the charge(s) for these visits. Lori Garver answered as noted above. I then asked how such trips might be arranged - i.e. if they'd be done via CASIS (which is supposed to me managing commerical research in the ISS National Lab) or some new TBD arrangement. Garver replied "No - I haven't heard any discussion about this and CASIS." She also noted that NASA has "come a long way since Dennis Tito when NASA wasn't even certain if they'd open the hatch."

Responding to the President's Call, a New Effort to Help More Students be Makerse, OSTP Blog

"As the President said at the launch of his Educate to Innovate campaign to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, "I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things." That's why today, we are excited to highlight a new effort that responds to the President's call to action: the Maker Education Initiative (MEI). With leadership from Dale Dougherty, a White House Champion of Change and founder of Maker Faire, MEI has founding sponsorship from Cognizant, Intel, and O'Reilly Media."

- Keith Cowing at Maker Faire: Famous NASA Hacks
- Matthew Reyes at Maker Faire: Smartphone Smallsats and Hybrid Rockets

Sen. Grassley wants answers on Google execs' air fleet leasing at NASA field, The Hill

"Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to know if Google is getting a sweetheart deal from its lease of a California airfield operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Grassley inquires as to "troubling allegations" regarding the fleet of aircraft owned by Google executives at California's Moffett Airfield, a former Naval Air station now operated by NASA."

Holding company exec to Grassley: Not Google's planes, The Hill

Grassley's letter

"Ambrose also tells Grassley that H211 pays "above market rent" for the hangar at Moffett, and that the company has operated more than 150 scientific flights for NASA. A Google spokesman told The Hill that the aircraft are fitted with NASA equipment for these flights. Ambrose responded to concerns that the Google executives are purchasing fuel at a reduced price by telling him that the only fuel available at the field is controlled by a Defense Department contractor, "so that is the fuel we use."

Keith's note: Grassley's ace investigators seem to be unaware of the fact that the deal Google has for aviation fuel at Moffett Field is between Google and the USAF - NASA is not a part of it. Also, it would cost significantly less for Google to house its fleet at SJC or SFO than it does at Moffett Field where Google is paying premium price - and their jets are available for NASA to use. In addition, I am told that the 5% figure cited by Grassley for science flights is wrong - it is actually 15%. Other stories refer to "humanitarian groups" being denied access. Apparently a single, small organization run by an individual with no airplanes tried to get a deal. Its hard to store something that you do not have.

If this is a "sweatheart deal" then NASA is the one benefitting the most. Stay tuned. Oh yes, this agreement was initially negotiated and signed in 2007 and then amended. when Romney space advisor Mike Griffin was NASA Administrator. Griffin approved of it. An extension was signed in 2011 when Bolden was Administrator - and he approved of it also.

Grading CASIS On its ISS National Laboratory Performance Thus Far

"Clearly the clock is ticking. Given CASIS' chronic tardiness and lack of performance thus far, by the end of June NASA and Congress will either know a lot more about what CASIS has been doing and plans to do with the ISS - or they'll be asking if it is time to pull the plug on this half-hearted management experiment and try again. Meanwhile, this amazing facility orbits overhead while its return on investment diminishes with every single day that it continues to be underutilized."

NASA Lends Galaxy Evolution Explorer to Caltech

"NASA is lending the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, where the spacecraft will continue its exploration of the cosmos. In a first-of-a-kind move for NASA, a Space Act Agreement was signed May 14 so the university soon can resume spacecraft operations and data management for the mission using private funds."

Keith's note: Wow. Is NASA going to adopt this approach for the reuse of other spacecraft? This could be very interesting.

NASA Will Not Fly Next Mars Rover Until 2020, Aviation Week

"But the fact remains that "the train has left the station," as NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green said when asked if more funding would allow NASA to resume joint Mars exploration work with the European Space Agency. ESA has shifted to partnering with Russia for Mars exploration after NASA's bailout. [Orlando] Figueroa, heading the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) as it drafts a downscoped, go-it-alone Mars exploration program, told planetary scientists on the NASA Advisory Council May 8 the $700-800 million that will be available for robotic Mars exploration by 2018 under the new NASA budget request will not support a rover. "A stationary lander may be possible in 2018," Figueroa says. "A mobile lander, a rover, doesn't fit the budget we have available, so we need to jump one opportunity to generate enough funds to be able to do it."

Keith's note: Well, it sounds like the career NASA SMD bureaucrats have already made up their minds as to what they want NASA to do, what they want you think NASA cannot do, and who cares what anyone else thinks. So why bother going through the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) proceess? Let's face it: people like Figueroa, Green et al are fresh out of ideas, focused simply on lowering expectations, and content upon doing routine Powerpoint presentations for meetings where nothing of importance is ever decided.

Poor NASA. It has already forgotten how to do low-cost, out-of-the-box Mars missions like Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers. Very depressing. Is this any way to explore the solar system?

- NASA's Out of Date Search for Life on Mars, earlier post
- NASA's Mars Program Planning Group: Same Old Answers or Open To New Ideas?, earlier post

Private Sector Edges Deeper in Space, NY Times

"The only way to make a dramatic reduction of price is to assume a dramatic increase of launches," said Mr. Greason of XCOR. "You have to assume there is some market, that there will be enough demand to support that low price." The current rockets -- most of them good for one launching only -- are very expensive regardless of whether they are built by entrepreneurs or government. The future of low-cost travel in space hinges on reusable rockets and technologies not yet developed, space experts say."

Astronaut Don Pettit Recreates the Stargate Sequence From "2001".

"Below is a frame from the "Stargate Sequence" from the iconic film "2001: A Space Odyssey". These three images below are a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit is the photographer. It would seem that he has managed to recreate the stargate sequence - in space."

NASA's Inconsistent Support of the International Space Apps Challenge

"Several weeks ago NASA and a number of sponsors held the International Space Apps Challenge. The intent was to enlist people from all across the world to create solutions to problems and issues associated with spaceflight. The participants were truly spread out across our planet including Antarctica with support from the crew aboard the International Space Station. ... I think it is inexcusable that NASA has not made more of an effort to promote things such as the International Space Apps Challenge - especially when the White House places such a priority on things like this. There is much risk in this ad hoc and dysfunctional public engagement policy at NASA. Now that the first apps challenge event was such a success, efforts like this could continue - without overt NASA involvement - thus making NASA less - rather than more relevant."

An Article of Hope, Kickstarter

"Dawn is breaking on the morning of February 1, 2003 above West Texas. Suddenly the peace of the early morning is shattered by two loud bangs. The Space Shuttle Columbia is announcing its return home ... Gone is its precious cargo of seven astronauts from around the world. Among them, Col. Ilan Ramon, Israel's first Astronaut. Also gone, an artifact that embodied the glory of the Shuttle's mission and the despair of its demise: a tiny Torah scroll - smuggled into a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust; safeguarded by Joachim Joseph, a Holocaust survivor; and carried into space by Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut."

AIP FYI: FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: NASA

"Not surprisingly, considering the size of NASA's budget and its wide range of programs, the appropriators included extensive language in the House and Senate reports accompanying the funding bills regarding NASA. This FYI provides report language regarding the agency's science program. Language within each report on all programs stands, unless there is a conflict that will be resolved in the final conference report. This final conference report, likely to be written in late fall, will also resolve differences in recommended funding levels."

John Llewellyn

Keith's note: John Llewellyn, Apollo era flight controller "Black RETRO", died on Tuesday. Details to follow.

"Houston, We've Had a Problem", Jim Lovell

"In Mission Control the Gold Team, directed by Gerald Griffin (seated, back of head to camera), prepares to take over from Black Team (Glynn Lunney, seated, in profile) during a critical period. Seven men with elbows on console are Deke Slayton, Joe Kerwin (Black CapCom), Vance Brand (Gold CapCom), Phil Shaffer (Gold FIDO), John Llewellyn (Black RETRO), Charles Deiterich (Gold RETRO), and Lawrence Canin (Black GNC). Standing at right is Chester Lee, Mission Director from NASA's Washington headquarters, and broad back at right belogs to Rocco Petrone, Apollo Program Director. Apollo 13 had two other "ground" teams, the White and the Maroon. All devised heroic measures to save the mission from disaster."

Chairman Hall Statement on Passage of Science Appropriations Bill

"Importantly, this bill maintains development of a new heavy-lift launch system and crew capsule. It maintains a healthy space science enterprise, continues to support innovative aeronautics research, and funds the Administration's commercial crew program at the authorized level of $500 million. Our Committee will continue to provide oversight of the commercial crew program and work with Appropriators to support a program that has the best chance to succeed on schedule, with appropriate safeguards for the crew, and with the best use of taxpayer dollars."

NASA Budget Takes $126M Hit on House Floor, Space News

"But by midnight, the House voted 206 to 204 to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) to take $126 million out of NASA's Cross Agency Support account -- which covers overhead at the agency's nine government-run field centers -- and move it to the Justice Department's COPS community policing program. With the additional cut, NASA would see its budget shrink by $324 million -- a 1.8 percent drop compared to 2012."

Keith's note: Congressional sources report that some people had a problem getting in touch with NASA Legislative Affairs AA Seth Statler during recent House budget deliberations. These sessions are seen as crucial hand-to-hand combat - a time when the Code L AA is expected to be in the trenches ready to work behind the scenes at a moment's notice.

NASA's James Hansen Slams Obama's Failure to Lead on Climate, Rolling Stone

"President Obama can't catch a break: Just when he gets right with the gays, the greens come after him. In today's New York Times NASA's leading climate scientist James Hansen takes the president to task for not doing jack on climate change. "President Obama speaks of a 'planet in peril,'" Hansen fumes, "but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world's course."

NASA Administrator Announces Webb Telescope Management Change

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced today that Geoff Yoder will assume leadership responsibilities for the James Webb Space Telescope, serving as program director at the agency's headquarters in Washington, effective June 30, 2012. He succeeds Rick Howard, who retires on that date."

Comments by Charles Bolden at the COMSTAC Advisory Committee Public Meeting

"The key to achieving our goal of facilitating a strong commercial space industry is adequate funding and good old-fashioned American competition. We are working hard to maintain both. NASA's 2013 request for commercial crew development is $830 million. Despite a bi-partisan agreement to ensure American astronauts are traveling into space on U.S. built spacecraft as soon as possible, some want to short-change this job-creating initiative and limit competition in the commercial space arena."

CASIS Expects To Send First Payloads to ISS by Early 2013, Space News

"What we're looking for are some of those very specific examples of things that can be done better in space than on Earth," Timothy Yeatman, CASIS's interim chief scientist, said. Protein crystallization best fits the bill, Yeatman said, citing the decision of a blue-ribbon panel of science experts CASIS convened to evaluate which scientific fields were likeliest to be advanced through in-space experiments."

Keith's note: Growing perfect crystals in space (on the Space Shuttle and Space Station) has been one of NASA's favorite promotional items in its mantra of promoting the use of the ISS as a "world class laboratory". The need for large crystals grown at great expense in space is quickly vanishing due to advances made on Earth. As mentioned in the earlier posts below, NASA dragged its feet on this and missed the bus.

Space Foundation Student Art Contest Winning Artwork Bounces Off the Moon

"The Space Foundation's annual Student Art Contest winners are developing a reputation for actual space travel. Digital versions of last year's winners are all permanently in residence on the International Space Station. Two of this year's winners have traveled an additional 277,000 miles to the Moon and back."

SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace Join Forces to Offer Crewed Missions to Private Space Stations

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) have agreed to conduct a joint marketing effort focused on international customers. The two companies will offer rides on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, using the Falcon launch vehicle to carry passengers to Bigelow habitats orbiting the earth."

Figueroa Rules Out Another NASA Mars Rover Before 2020, Space News

"Figueroa reiterated previous statements that his team will consider only missions that contribute in some way to an eventual Mars sample-return mission, which is the U.S. planetary science community's top priority for flagship-class Mars exploration endeavors."

Keith's note: This is a mindset ripe with old thinking. Even without the budget cuts, the costs for a Mars sample return mission have steadily increased over the decades that NASA has planned for it. NASA needs to head down a new path (or series of paths) wherein basic questions regarding the presence of current or previous life on Mars are addressed through more advanced and focused technologies - ones that can be used in situ. Instead, Figueroa et al are simply tied to old ways of thinking that make answering these questions move further into the future rather than making them move closer - all because the sample return mantra is etched into their brains from decades of repeating it among themselves.

It has been nearly 40 years since the twin Viking landers were sent to Mars. This is the last time NASA tried to do in situ testing for the presence of life on Mars. It is rather embarassing that NASA has not tried to do this again in the ensuing four decades or that it apparently won't try to do in the coming decade.

ATK Liberty Launch Vehicle Targets First Crewed Flight in 2015, Commercial Space Watch (With video)

"It was 15 months that ATK announced with Astrium (an EADS Company) announced that they were working together and would compete in NASA's Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement. At that time they announced an initial test flight by the end of 2013, a second test flight in 2014, and operational capability in 2015. Today's announcement reinforces the previous plans with a few changes and offers some new information."

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"Uhran notes that the timescale of a typical [Space station] research project is three to five years, which doesn't easily mesh with corporate priorities like reaching sales or profit targets for the next quarter, or even the next year."

Keith's note: So ... what do Mark Uhran and his colleagues do about this issue (by no means a new one)? They simply repeat it again and again as if it were an absolute, immutable fact of life at NASA and that there is nothing that NASA can (or will) do to change it. And then they wonder why there is not more interest in the commercial use of the ISS. Baffling. If the time lag is too long for commercial interests then obviously NASA needs to shorten it. Is CASIS the black box within which that miracle is supposed to happen? This commercially naive mindset at NASA is an ongoing example of the strange approach that Uhran et al took back in the 1990s with regard to finding users for the space station i.e. "build it and they will come". Yes they actually used that phrase. So did I when I worked there.

OK, Mark: you've built it - so where is everyone?

Keith's note: NASA FY 2013 Budget debate is now live on C-SPAN. Watch live.

Comments Made During House Debate on NASA FY 2013 Budget

"Mr. Rohrabacher: I rise today to engage in a colloquy on NASA's Commercial Crew program. The chairman has shown great leadership on space and science issues. He and I have often worked together on issues of shared interest, and he is a great friend. The report of this bill contains some strong language about NASA's Commercial Crew program, and I admittedly have some concerns about that language. I believe it makes a flawed comparison between commercial crew program partners and the energy firm Solyndra. In addition, it requires an immediate downselect to a single program partner, which I do not believe is the best path forward."

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"The European Space Agency is hatching plans for a branding campaign aimed at making people more aware of the benefits of spending their hard-earned taxes on the International Space Station. ..."It frustrates people, because we know we have a valuable asset," Mark Uhran, NASA's assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station, told Reuters at a conference in Berlin of scientists from the 15 nations backing the project."

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."

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

"- website is in beta testing. Should be functional by mid-April."

Keith's note: And yet despite all of this gushing urgency about the potential of the ISS, Uhran et al can't even get their own website and the website run by CASIS to coordinate with one another or for either to be responsive to news - the very same news Uhran seems to think that people are desperate to read? The new CASIS website was supposed to be functional nearly a month ago. Then CASIS sends out a media advisory with 22 hours notice for a meeting (yesterday) with their scientific "team" (the "team" being comprised of 2 people - both consultants). Wow, what a big "team".

If NASA and CASIS don't take the ISS seriously to give it the manpower and visibility it deserves, then why should anyone else?

- NASA/CASIS Ignores NASA's Own ISS Research Announcements

Apollo Commanders Back Call For Quick Commercial Crew Selection, Aviation Week

"It seems unlikely that NASA will receive significant budgetary relief in the foreseeable future," the three retired astronauts wrote in a May 4 letter to Wolf. "Consequently, it is mandatory to maximize return on the limited funds available to access low Earth orbit. An early downselect would seem to be prudent in order to maximize the possibility of developing a crew-carrying spacecraft in time to be operationally useful."

NASA: Competition at core of commercial crew program, Spaceflight Now

"Ed Mango, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, said Tuesday a "downselect" to a sole company could double the cost of fielding a privately-built human transportation system. "We need competition as long as possible. The price to go with one [provider] starting today, and then all the way through certification and into services, is at least twice what it would be if you had competition at least as long as possible," Mango said."

NASA LaRC Notice of Intent To Grant an Exclusive License: Allotropica Technologies

... Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/.

NASA KSC Notice of Intent To Grant Exclusive Copyright License: Diversified Industries, C&IS Inc.

... Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://technology.nasa.gov/.

Keith's note: These two official NASA notices regarding a "Notice of Intent To Grant an Exclusive License" were both published in today's Federal Register. Curiously, the notice from KSC says: "Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://technology.nasa.gov/". Yet the LaRC notice says: "Information about other NASA inventions available for licensing can be found online at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/". NASA's patent people - in two different locations - have their notices issued simultaneously (they are on the same page) - yet they tell people to go to two different websites for the same official information - and in the case of the link used by LaRC - there is no website operating at http://techtracs.nasa.gov/.

One more example of how NASA's technology folks simply do not coordinate with one another or pay attention to what they tell the public.

- NASA's Technology Transfer Continues To Be Uncoordinated, earlier post
- Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post

Early Buzz: Reactions from the First Test Screening for Alfonso Cuaron's 'Gravity', Slashfilm

"The expectations are sky-high for Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, the director's first film since 2006s Children of Men. In fact, between the A-list cast (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), its intriguing sci-fi premise, its ambitious long shots, and gushing praise from colleagues like Guillermo del Toro, we have plenty of reason to believe the film could be his most brilliant yet. On the other hand, this wouldn't be the first time we've been dead wrong about a movie this early on."

Keith's note: (sigh) another film that NASA decided not to cooperate with.

Keith's update: NASA PAO paints a contradictory story to what other sources (quite reliable ones) have provided. PAO says that NASA actually reached out to the producers of "Gravity" on their own inititiative early on but that the studio desired no assistance or input from NASA.

White House promises veto of GOP spending bill, AP

"The White House on Monday vowed to veto a House spending bill for the Justice Department, NASA and several other agencies, charging its GOP authors with violating last summer's budget pact and cutting programs like legal aid to the poor too deeply."

White House threatens veto on Commerce, Justice spending bill, The Hill

"The White House has said that Obama will sign none of the 12 annual spending bills, even if they make it through the Democratic Senate, unless the House GOP abandons its overall budget plans."

Statement of Administration Policy H.R. 5326 (NASA excerpt)

"The Administration strongly opposes the level of funding provided for the commercial crew program, which is $330 million below the FY 2013 Budget request, as well as restrictive report language that would eliminate competition in the program. This would increase the time the United States will be required to rely solely on foreign providers to transport American astronauts to and from the space station. While the Administration appreciates the overall funding level provided to NASA, the bill provides some NASA programs with unnecessary increases at the expense of other important initiatives."

NASA Hacked Again

NASA, ESA confirm hacks; The Unknowns says systems patched, ZDNet

"For the NASA hack, the group also decided to leak one of the research center's databases. They released names, employers, home addresses, and e-mail addresses of 736 victims on Pastebin. ESA is the other organization for which they also leaked more data, also via Pastebin. Both NASA and ESA have now confirmed the attacks. NASA security officials detected an intrusion into the site on April 20 and took it offline," a NASA spokesperson said in a statement. "The agency takes the issue of IT security very seriously and at no point was sensitive or controlled information compromised. NASA has made significant progress to better protect the agency's IT systems and is in the process of mitigating any remaining vulnerabilities that could allow intrusions in the future."

Keith's note: NASA's John Olson will be on detail to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) starting on 21 May 2012. He'll be there for anywhere between 1-3 years as the Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the Executive Office of the President, replacing Damon Wells. Olson currently serves as Director, Strategic Analysis and Integration Divison (SAID) and Director, Mission Support Services Office (MSSO) at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Olson also has a new assignment at the Pentagon at OSD (AT&L) in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering - ASD(R&E).

Coalition for Space Exploration announces video contest: "Why Explore Space?"

"Today, the Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) launched a video contest, "Why Explore Space?" to hear from the American public about why space exploration matters to them. Participants are encouraged to share their ideas by submitting a video. The creator of the winning entry wins an iPad3. Entries must be submitted by May 19. From there, the public will vote on the best videos."

Is Texas forfeiting the private space race?, Houston Chronicle

"We are pretty interested in the possibility of Texas and building a spaceport there," said Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX. However, Musk says that interest has yet to be reciprocated by Texas officials. "There's been a lot of good action by the authorities in the Brownsville area; there's not been that much at the state level, and we'd certainly appreciate more from the state level," Musk said.

Texas could land private launch site, MySanAntonio

"The state of Texas ought to be on it like a duck on a June bug," said Tom Moser, a former NASA space station program director who led an effort to build a Texas spaceport in the 1990s. But is the state? Apparently not."

Terry Reese

Keith's note: The NASA CFO staff have circulated this update including information on Terry's memorial service: "As you may have heard, Terry Reese unexpected passed away last Friday. He had taken a day of annual leave to work around the house, had a massive heart attack while working outside and died immediately."

Keith's note: Scott Parazynski and I did a number of live video chats with Miles O'Brien while while we were at Everest Base Camp exactly 3 years ago. Miles was originally supposed to have joined us but ended up being stuck in his laundry room in New York which doubled as his media studio. Toward the end of this video I pulled out a piece of hardware and teased the audience to guess what it was and its purpose. I don't think I ever asked for reader comments at the time. So ... anyone care to guess what I am holding and why we had it with us?

New Huggies Themes for the Space Station Crew

Keith's note: If you look to the right side of this image, along the cabin wall, you will see that the ISS crew has an assortment of colorful Huggies wipes packages featuring many of their favorite storybook characters including new friends: a princess and penguins. These cute little packages have been featured on the ISS for nearly a decade. NASA even has formal specs for them.

Keith's note: Ardbeg Distillery recently announced its "U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour" - which apparently has a rocket prop as part of the overall PR effort. [Larger image via Facebook]. Ardbeg has a commercial experiment that is currently operating aboard the International Space Station via Nanoracks. While this company seems to be extremely excited and willing to use space research as part of their overall advertising campaign, NASA doesn't seem to be remotely interested in talking about it - despite all the agency's hype about wanting to encourage commercial research on the ISS. Go figure.

- Whisky in Space - the Road Show, earlier post
- An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores, earlier post

International Space Station Symposium 2012 HighlightsInternational Space Station Symposium 2012 Highlights (Videos), SpaceRef

"Leader and researchers of the partners in the International Space Station (ISS) gathered in Berlin this week for the ISS Symposium 2012 to celebrate the completion of the ISS and to discuss the future path and priorities for research on the ISS. The three-day symposium covered case-studies in fundamental and applied research and the actual or potential spin-offs for the benefit of humankind."

Chairman Hall Criticizes NOAA Spending on Magicians

"First reported in Government Executive, the contract opening was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website earlier this week. The opening sought to hire performers to deliver presentations that include "experiential exercises, physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor and team-building exercises, designed to demonstrate how to stimulate creativity, encourage active participation, and practice needed skills and competencies."

International Space Station Wearable Technology - Future Spinoff, Commercial Space Watch (Video)

"The research program to make the wearable technology shown here engaged students from the University of Minnesota and could have future commercial applications.

In these videos NASA Public Affairs Officer Lynnette Madison talks with Human Interface Engineer Cory Simon about wearable technology containing sensors, displays and controls to assist future astronauts and augment their capability to perform more elaborate and complex tasks and with students of the University of Minnesota."

Carwash Will Help Raise Funds, Awareness.Professional Carwashing & Detailing, Carwash.com

"Across the country, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will be holding charity carwashes on June 9 to help restore cuts to NASA's Planetary Exploration Budget, according to the Planetary ExplorationCar Wash& Bake Sale website." It also is being used to "raise awareness" on the effects of the cuts. The publication asks, "Will a nationwide charity carwash raise enough money to restore NASA's programs?"

Keith's initial note: This item was contained in today's 'Bulletin News' which is circulated within NASA. No one seems to have tried to correct this. Note that the bake sale website says "Funds collected by each event sent by event organizers to House or Senate Appropriations - dozens of letters with cash."

Keith's 3 May 7:19 pm update: The website at SwRI has been changed. This is what it originally looked like - note wording in lower right hand corner. Now the site says "recommend token pricing, e.g.: $2 for a carwash - the purpose of collected funds is just meant to cover the cost of soap, towels, etc, required to host the event." So ... what's the point? Its sounds like virtually no money will be raised by this event. As far as I can tell this webpage talked about giving Congress "letters with cash" for several weeks. Then it is mentioned here on NASAWatch and suddenly the event's organizers drop the overt fundraising - which seems to have been the core purpose in the first place? Why not donate the proceeds to NSS or the Planetary Society?

Shots fired into the Davidson Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Times

"Someone fired three shots into the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at about 10 a.m., but no one was injured, space center officials said. The shots, which appear to have come from somewhere along Interstate 565, police said, put a hole in the Saturn V rocket on display inside and broke three windows."

Stephen Colbert To Receive NSS Award from Buzz Aldrin May 3 on The Colbert Report

"On Thursday, May 3, Stephen Colbert will be presented with the National Space Society's 2012 Space Pioneer Award for Mass Media on his popular show, The Colbert Report, on the Comedy Central cable network. The award will be presented by Apollo XI Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a member of the NSS Board of Governors and friend of Colbert's."

Newt Gingrich brings campaign to a close, with swipes at Obama, jokes at his own expense, Washington Post

"And in bowing out, Gingrich made several joking references to his campaign-trail plan for a permanent moon colony - a proposal that has come to symbolize Gingrich's descent from one of the most powerful players on the national stage to an also-ran often ridiculed for his often-grandiose ideas."I want to just say I'm cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space," Gingrich, who spoke in front of a black velvet curtain and at a podium bearing his campaign logo, said as he came to the end of a long list of issues he said he intends to continue addressing in appearances across the country. "My wife has pointed out to me approximately 219 times, give or take three, that moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign," he continued. "I thought, frankly, in my role as providing material for 'Saturday Night Live,' it was helpful."

Keith's note: (Sigh) it would seem that talking about extending our species to other worlds is still not a topic for serious public discussion - unless you make SciFi movies or write for Saturday Night Live. Like him or not, Newt stuck his neck out on this topic - and also for the commercial space policy of the Obama Administration - even though he had to cross partisan lines to do so. I am sure we'll be hearing more from Newt about space and It will likely be interesting.

Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) Releases AO for International Research Participation on ISS Kibo Module

"The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has released an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) to fund experiments to be conducted aboard the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, on the International Space Station in FY2014 or later. JAXA is recruiting proposals that "make full use of the Kibo's unique environment that will have major impacts on science, technology, industry and society" according to the JAXA Press Release."

Keith's note: NASA sent this notice out today regarding research opportunities in the JAXA Kibo lab module on ISS. But is there any mention of this announcement on the ISS National Lab homepage? No. Is there any mention at the CASIS website? Of course not.

NASA runs two main ISS research entry points and they do not bother to stay in synch with each other - and neither one stays current with other NASA announcements on ISS research. The U.S. has always had payload accommodations allotted to it per the ISS MOU in partner labs such as Columbus and Kibo. If NASA cannot get its own story straight for the prospective researcher - and the taxpayers in general - then who will?

Keith's note: According to SpaceX; "May 7th launch appears unlikely. We are continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA. We will issue a statement as soon as a new launch target is set."

SpaceX launch of Dragon capsule to space station to put NASA strategy on display, Washington Post

"If Dragon fails at launch, that's a bad thing that will get people concerned," said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "But if it gets close but can't dock, I would say that's a setback but not a tragedy," he added. "If they're able to get close or even dock, then it would do quite a bit for commercial space -- a real validation for those in NASA who set this in motion." While that view is common among officials involved in the effort, it is not necessarily the view of the SpaceX employees trying to make it work."

UrtheCast's HD Video From Space Station: Real Product or Hyped Vaporware?

"A Canadian company called UrtheCast has begun to claim that it is going to place the first live HD video feed on the International Space Station in a few months. Despite all of their PR and hype, NASA isn't so sure that there actually is a real product and service - as advertised by UrtheCast."

Space Budget Woes Lead to World-Wide Collaboration, UrtheCast

"Few remember that the predecessor of the ISS was Space Station Freedom, a solely American venture to build a year-round floating laboratory in space. President Ronald Reagan directed NASA to complete the project within a decade during his 1984 State of the Union Address. But by 1993 the Freedom project had gone through two major design initiatives and was still nowhere near completion."

Keith's note: Um, you really need to check your historical facts as well as your technical facts: Space Station Freedom was an international space station. Japan, Europe, and Canada were partners.

Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment

"Ardbeg Distillery is pleased to announce the U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour. The tour, which will showcase a life-size rocket, celebrates Ardbeg's participation in a pioneering research project on board the International Space Station. The Ardbeg Rocket Tour will kick off in Chicago on May 3, 2012 and will stop in 22 states in 28 weeks. Tour stops include key U.S. landmarks in states including California, Texas, New York and Florida. An Ardbeg Brand Ambassador will be on board the tour to educate consumers on the experiment, the brand, and where legal, to sample Ardbeg, recently rated by The Whisky Bible as the "Best Single Malt Scotch - 10 Years and Under."

An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores

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 (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) 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 with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.

OIG: NASA's Efforts to Identify Improper Payments

"JPL is a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). JPL received $1.6 billion from NASA in FY 2010 and is the second largest recipient of Agency procurement funds after private businesses. However, NASA excluded payments made to and by JPL from its IPIA [Improper Payments Information Act] review because it is the Agency's position that the payments NASA makes to JPL are not at risk and that payments made by JPL to its subcontractors are not subject to IPIA. However, we believe that payments made to and by JPL meet OMB's definition of payment, which includes disbursements to and by a governmental or other organization administering a Federal program or activity. At a minimum, to comply with IPIA NASA should assess the risk of improper payments to and by JPL consistent with its assessment of other Agency programs."

Right on schedule yesterday NASA LaRC posted 3 (not 2, not 4) of these Technology Transfer Opportunities.

- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: Thin High Contrast Targets for Ultralightweight Structures
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: High Density Optical Storage System
- NASA Technology Transfer Opportunity: New Probe for Detecting Deep Flaws in Structures

Keith's note: A week or so ago, I submitted some questions to NASA and Rich Atcliff at NASA LaRC was kind enough to send me a prompt reply. Among the questions I asked was "Why are there never more (or less) than 3?" Atcliff replied: "This is simply a matter of workforce available to respond to the opportunities. Three has worked out to be a reasonable number such that we can respond to the inquires in a timely way and not leave the potential customers waiting."

My response: "In other words you actually have technology transfer info available to release but you will not release it other than 3 per week - and the reason being that you can only respond to more than three topics/week? What about all of the previously released tech transfer opportunities? There are certainly more than three of them. Do people not ask questions about those previously-released topics - and just the three you release every week? Or do they not see them because you only post them in the procurement pages and FedBizOpps (not the best way to reach business, the media, or the public, BTW) Have you ever stopped to consider that people do not ask about this stuff because they never see it?"

Of course, NASA Tech Briefs and NASA OCT pay no attention to things like this. NASA OCT has no link to NASA Tech Briefs. NASA Tech Briefs does not link to NASA OCT. Last week, I did a search of the source HTML code on the NASA Techbriefs home page. There are still no links whatsoever to anything at NASA.gov. Yet this page features the NASA logo. Baffling.

Uncoordinated Technology Transfer at NASA, earlier post

As Star Trek: The Next Generation Cast Reunites - Overcrowding Mars Event, SpaceRef (With video)

"There were times this past Saturday when the weekend-long Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo more resembled a mosh pit than a gathering of fans seeking interaction with their favourite celebrities, which included the entire main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

SpaceRef saw corridors choked to a standstill with attendees leaving star discussion panels, or trying to get in. Rows of fans waiting for autographs from movie stars and comic illustrators spilled into the aisles, leaving confusion as lineups blended into one another."


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