August 2012 Archives

Letter from Rep. Wolf to NASA Regarding Attendance at the International Astronautical Congress

"In your June 15 response to me, you wrote, "As the NASA Administrator, I take my responsibility and accountability for use of taxpayer dollars in this area very seriously..." and you outlined your process for reviewing NASA-sponsored conferences exceeding $20,000 and non-NASA-sponsored conferences exceeding $100,000. That is why I was concerned to learn from the Web site NASAWatch.com that, "[sjources report that 50 or more NASA employees will be attending the IAC (International Astronautical Congress) meeting from 1-5 October in tourist-friendly Naples, Italy."

NASA's Delegation to the IAC, earlier post

America's Future in Space: Continuing this Quest, Republican Platform (page 28)

"The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation's technological prowess. From building the world's most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country's technological and economic engines.

Today, America's leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate--and surpass-- NASA's accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Development of Aneutronic Fusion Power for Spacecraft Applications

"NASA/JSC intends to purchase research and development services from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for a continuation of an aneutronic fusion research project currently being conducted at the Johnson Space Center."

Aneutronic Fusion Spacecraft Architecture, OCT

"The proposed design is based on neutron-free nuclear fusion as the primary energy source. An innovative beam conditioning/nozzle concept enables useful propulsive thrust directly from the fusion products, while some fraction of the energy is extracted via direct conversion into electricity for use in the reactor and spacecraft systems."

A Fusion Thruster for Space Travel, IEEE

"Instead of using deuterium and tritium as the fuel stocks, the new motor extracts energy from boron fuel. Using boron, an "aneutronic" fuel, yields several advantages over conventional nuclear fusion."

Future Neil Armstrongs

Neil Armstrong's lasting legacy, Dan Goldin, Washington Post

"This summer I witnessed the landing of Curiosity on Mars from mission control at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After the "seven minutes of terror" and Curiosity's successful arrival, I knew that NASA still has the right stuff. NASA is filled with future Neil Armstrongs -- outstanding rocket engineers, scientists and dreamers. I can think of no greater testimony to the entire Apollo team than to undertake another audacious activity that, although risky, will raise the American spirit and create opportunities for future generations. This next challenge will be the catalyst for the scientific and engineering breakthroughs central to the future vitality of our nation. We must reach for the stars."

AIAA Foundation to Establish the Neil A. Armstrong Scholarship Endowment Fund

"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation (AIAA Foundation), at the request of the family of Neil A. Armstrong, who was the first person to set foot on the Moon, and an AIAA Honorary Fellow, has established the Neil A. Armstrong Scholarship Endowment Fund."

Keith's update: There will be a Huffington Post Google Hangout [revised link] discussion about space at 2:30 pm EDT today. Guests:

- Andrew Chaikin, Author of "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts"
- Andrew Kessler, Space Enthusiast and author of "Martian Summer"
- Dave Brody, Science & Technology Writer at SPACE.com
- Edward Hudgins, Author of "Space: The Free Market Frontier"
- Keith Cowing, Founder of NASA Watch, Former NASA Scientist

This discussion was spawned by an article by Wayne Hale. Alas, Wayne was unable to join in at the last minute:

Space Exploration - A Presidential Priority, Huffington Post

"The real destination goal for America's space program should encompass all of the potential destinations, with the priority and order set by the needs and capabilities of the developing infrastructure. This will not be a short-term, one administration, or one party goal, but neither was America's westward expansion over a century ago."

RNC 2012: Mitt Romney speech to GOP convention (Full Text), Washington Post

"I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. When President Kennedy challenged Americans to go to the moon, the question wasn't whether we'd get there, it was only when we'd get there. The soles of Neil Armstrong's boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent's sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world. God bless Neil Armstrong. Tonight that American flag is still there on the moon. And I don't doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong's spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American."

Keith's note: The following is put at the bottom of most press releases issued regarding Mars Curiosity.

"More information about Curiosity is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl , http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl."

Why does NASA pay to maintain three separate websites (two run by JPL) - all of which are out of synch with one another? NASA is constantly complaining that they never have enough money to run all of their EPO and PAO operations. Yet they can afford multiple websites when only one is needed? If you ask NASA about this (it happens with virtuallky every mission), you either get no answer, a shrug and/or sigh, or something really stupid. So, I am asking (again) ...

Keith's update: There's also http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ which is the same as http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ - that makes three web addresses, two of which point to identical but parallel websites, and one that points to another, different website - all at JPL.

- NASA's Tangled Human Spaceflight Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Sprawling Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online, earlier post

Space Quarterly Magazine September 2012 Table of ContentsSpace Quarterly Magazine September 2012 Table of Contents, SpaceRef

Marc's note: The September 2012 edition of Space Quarterly Magazine is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, September 4. There many highlights to the issue including an update on the Israeli and Iranian space programs, an interview with Jim Armor of ATK, Orbital Antares takes flight, the Plutonium shortage and from Neil deGrasse Tyson why a healthy space program equals a healthy economy and much more.

Follow the link for the complete table of contents and to subscribe.

Media Advisory: Neil Armstrong Private Memorial Service Information

THIS SERVICE IS CLOSED TO THE MEDIA--WITH NO EXCEPTIONS

"To everyone who has so graciously remembered Neil Armstrong: The outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us and we appreciate it more than words can express."

Plans are underway to conduct a national service in Washington in the next two weeks.

Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?, Reddit

President Obama: "Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level - so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight."

NASA's Space Station Manager Did Not Like The Idea of Legos in Space

"Suff inquired about the relevance of performing the Lego experiment onboard from an ISS research priorities perspective. Ms. Robinson explained that Lego is Leland Melvin's top priority - for education given that Legos are something that children are very familiar with and that can reach tens of thousands of students. Suff asked if the folks at HQ had considered the negative aspects of showcasing Legos in that it may seem we are not utilizing 1SS resources to their fullest capacity. Ms. Robinson explained that she was not aware that people had considered that perspective and would pass this on."

Keith's note: The United States has spent somewhere between $60 to 100 billion on the International Space Station - and the agency's program manager doesn't think that a simple education project - one that uses something simple (Legos) that millions of "future explorers" use every day - is relevant? I do not hear Mike Suffredini objecting to all of the other stuff (baseball caps, college t-shirts, cartoon characters) that make their way onto the ISS. So why pick on something simple that (potentially) allows children to have a personal connection with this incredible on-orbit research facility? This is simply baffling.

NASA's WISE Survey Uncovers Millions Of Black Holes

"Images from the telescope have revealed millions of dusty black hole candidates across the universe and about 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. These powerful galaxies that burn brightly with infrared light are nicknamed hot DOGs. "WISE has exposed a menagerie of hidden objects," said Hashima Hasan, WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington."

NASA Completes Maximum Parachute Test For Orion Spacecraft

"During the test, a C-130 airplane dropped a dart-shaped test vehicle with a simulated Orion parachute compartment from an altitude of 25,000 feet. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed at approximately 20,000 feet, followed by small pilot chutes, which then deployed the three main parachutes. Each of the main parachutes is 116 feet wide and weighs more than 300 pounds."

NASA's 'Mighty Eagle' Robotic Prototype Lander Takes 100-Foot Free Flight (with video)

"During the 35-second run, the vehicle was "open loop" -- navigating autonomously without the command of the onboard camera and flying on a preprogrammed flight profile. Once it reached the 100-foot mark, the "Mighty Eagle" identified a new, larger target on the ground about 100 feet away, took pictures, processed the images and safely landed."

NASA's Kepler Discovers Multiple Planets Orbiting a Pair of Stars

"NASA's Kepler mission has discovered multiple transiting planets orbiting two suns for the first time. The system, known as a circumbinary planetary system, is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Coming less than a year after the announcement of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b, this discovery proves that more than one planet can form and persist in the stressful realm of a binary star."

Building Blocks of Life Found Around Young Sun-like Star

"The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde -- a simple form of sugar -- in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before, but this is the first time it has been found so near to a Sun-like star, at distances comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System. This discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation."

Photo: Oreo Honors Neil Armstrong

Keith's note: Interestingly, Oreo (Nabisco) paid for promotional placement of this tweet on Twitter for the popular, Armstrong-themed hashtag #WinkAtTheMoon: "Celebrate the man that made dreams a reality #dailytwist pic.twitter.com/6LO4vqSt" - thus ensuring even greater visibility.

True American Hero Neil Armstrong Honored by Clear Channel Outdoor on Digital Billboards

"Starting today, Clear Channel Outdoor will honor one of our nation's greatest heroes and a man who lived a humble, yet heroic life, with a memorial on every one of the company's 963 digital billboards in 37 different metropolitan areas - including Columbus and Cleveland in Mr. Armstrong's home state of Ohio. Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. The memorial honors him using his most famous quote when he first stepped onto the moon; "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The memorial makes one small edit to honor Mr. Armstrong, "That's one small step for a hero, one giant leap for mankind."

The Top American Science Questions in 2012, Sciencedebate.org

"ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail ...

12. Space. The United States is currently in a major discussion over our national goals in space. What should America's space exploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and what steps should the government take to help achieve them?"

Keith's note: This is how the exit sign for JPL looked yesterday. Larger image.

Video: Administrator Bolden's Message on the Passing of Neil Armstrong

"Neil will always be remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own, but it was his courage, grace, and humility before, during, and after his historic Apollo 11 mission that has continued to lift him and all of us far beyond that breakthrough achievement."

Passing of an Era, Paul Spudis, AIr & Space

"It's become cliche to say that Neil Armstrong holds a unique place in history. On this occasion, we should pause to consider just how singular his place is. No one - not the first human to Mars nor the first crew to venture beyond the Solar System - will ever achieve the same level of significance as the first human to step onto the surface of another world. The flight of Apollo 11 was truly a once in a lifetime event - and by that, I mean in the lifetime of humanity. That first step was indeed one to "divide history," as the NASA Public Affairs Office put it at the time."

Keith's update: Proclamation by the President: Flags To Be Flown at Half Staff: Death of Neil Armstrong

Statement from the Family of Neil Armstrong Regarding Memorials and Donations

"The outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us and we appreciate it more than words can express. Many have asked if a memorial has been designated. If anyone wishes to make a memorial in his name, we suggest, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to one of these worthy organizations:"

Keith's note: A private family memorial is planned in Cincinnati on Friday. A public event is in the planning stages.

Echoes Of A Single Step

An Echo of Neil Armstrong's First Lunar Step at Earth's North Pole

Moki Kokoris: "As he undoubtedly was for many, this photograph proves just how profoundly Neil Armstrong had been a role model to me. Upon reaching the geographic North Pole, my first thought was to double-check my GPS for validation, and the second thought was to recreate my own rendition of his "One small step" moment. Here is my boot-print at degree 90-North, taken in April 2003."

'Wow' Moments

Two 'Wow' Moments In The History Of Space Exploration

"After his historic trip to the moon, Neil Armstrong became close friends with one of the first two humans to summit Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary. The two historic figures later traveled the world together - including a trip to the North Pole. At one point they both had to sign in at a small lodge in a remote town in the Canadian high arctic ..."

A Hinge in History

Keith's note:We first sent humans to the Moon for reasons that now seem more romantic and idealistic than than they are relevant to today's world. That said, this achievement transcended the politics of the day to become a moment in human history on a par with some of the greatest accomplishments our species has ever achieved. Whereas we once thought the notion of reaching the Moon was fanciful, we all too quickly made it reality.

Now, more than a generation later, half the world was not even alive when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon. Indeed, a lot of people think it was faked in a TV studio. Those who are trying to send us back to the Moon lament that it may take longer to do it today than it did in the 1960s. Neil Armstrong entered this dialog toward the end of his life - his previous silence making his comments event more poignant. Now he is gone. While others who walked on the Moon will continue to speak out about space exploration, none will come close to evoking Armstrong's humble authority on the subject. It may be another generation before we see someone like Neil Armstrong step once again into history on another world. But regardless of where they step, Neil Armstrong will have symbolically been there before them.

On a personal note: this is my connection to Neil Armstrong. I carried some rocks in my pocket for a month - rocks that he picked up from the surface of the Moon. Ever wake up in the middle of the night to feel a lump under your chest only to realize that it is a Moon rock?

Photo: President Obama Winks at The Moon - For Neil Armstrong

"Neil's spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown--including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure--sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step."

Keith's note: I have been informed that this photo was taken several months ago. It was posted on this Tumblr page the other day with the quote from the President referencing Neil Armstrong's passing. I apologize for the incorrect description.

Neil Armstrong Has Died

Keith's 3:14 pm note: Multiple sources in and around NASA and the space community confirm to NASA Watch that Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on another world, has died at the age of 82. More to follow. This is a hinge in history. More information at http://neilarmstronginfo.com

Statement from the Family of Neil A. Armstrong

HD TV From ISS Soon

NASA Selects Visionary Solutions' AVN443 Encoders to Deliver HD Video from International Space Station

"NASA is upgrading its internal cameras onboard the International Space Station to commercial standard 720p/1080i formats, thus requiring new encoders capable of transmitting a high-definition signal. Through a combination of Visionary Solutions' sophisticated H.264 hardware compression and optimized transmission technology, the AVN443 encoders provide an HD, full-frame rate, IP video stream from within the ISS, as well as an external view of the ISS and a view of Earth."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Visionary Solutions Encoder

Defense and Industry on Space Cooperation Podcast on Space Talk @SpaceRef, SpaceRef

"The Secure World Foundation and Space Foundation co-hosted a Congressional briefing to discuss current international initiatives aimed at outer space security and sustainability. The luncheon panel discussion featured leading defense and industry perspectives."

Column: Manned missions to Mars aren't just sci-fi, opinion, Lou Friedman, USA Today

"Human travel to Mars is inevitable. Human journeys beyond Mars will be virtual. This makes Mars the ultimate destination for humans, in body at least. Once we realize that, the context of robotic missions like Spirit, Opportunity and, now, Curiosity changes. President Obama may actually understand this; he is the first president to announce that human expeditions to Mars (he said by the mid-2030s) is the goal of America's space program. The president may understand it, but his administration doesn't. It has cut out most future Mars plans in NASA. That disconnect needs fixing."

Keith's note: I simply do not agree with Lou Friedman when he suggests that personal, physical human exploration is going to be limited to Mars - with no human venturing beyond in person. This is narrow, defeatist thinking in the extreme. Friedman talks about the potential amazing technological advances in on sentence (electronics) for future robotic spacecraft - right after he says that human life support technology is stuck in the 1960s and apparently is immune to similar technological advances. He's already given up and decided what is hard and what is not.

Alas, Carl Sagan spoke for decades about humans inside starships. Not everyone sees Mars as the "utlimate destination" as Friedman does. Rather, many see Mars as just a first step - one of many steps to be taken by human boots - accompanied by robots.

But I do agree with Friedman on one point: if you are going to set a goal i.e. sending humans to Mars, then the monetary resources to build up to that capability need to be in place to enable the development of that capability - now.

As for being Friedman's statement that Presient Obama "is the first president to announce that human expeditions to Mars (he said by the mid-2030s) is the goal of America's space program." I guess Lou missed this 2004 statement from President Bush: "With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.". This was immediately followed by the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. In 1989 his father said that America would be "sending humans back to the Moon, and ultimately sending astronauts to Mars". I was at both events and clearly heard the word "Mars" both times.

Atlas of ISS Science

NASA Contract Award to Resources for the Future: Measuring Research Performance in Space Station Research (redacted copy)

"Our objective is to design an Atlas of ISS Science, a systematic, rigorous and peer-reviewed framework and analysis that is then visually displayed to compellingly characterize and demonstrate the new knowledge created from the nation's "lab aloft". In essence, the Atlas, and the data and analysis on which it is built, will be the visual representation of the metaphor of maximization of "delta K over K - an expression used by the Chief Scientist of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to appeal to the science community to define, as a task of scientific leadership, how the agency's research changes our knowledge relative to what we know."

Keith's note: NASA JSC PAO worked to provide NASAWatch with this document in response to an inquiry submitted in assocation with an earlier post: Cryptic Space Station Procurement From JSC

"2 Applications research is a critical component of the ISS as a national laboratory; however, the goal of this proposal is to design a science of science framework for the basic science research on ISS. The protocol we develop has applicability to applications research, however. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is developing a database to attempt to evaluate economic benefits/performance through its portfolio, and we may be able to leverage this to some extent if CASIS has advanced its model of their early research portfolio around year 3 of our proposed effort. We have included the opportunity for CASIS to send a representative to our proposed external steering group to allow regular exchange of information."

Keith's note: I am surprised (actually no I am not) that CASIS has made zero mention of this Atlas of ISS Science effort thus far. Also, it seems a bit odd that the Resources for the Future team doesn't plan to talk to CASIS until year 3 of their task i.e. 2015. It certainly sounds like NASA is engaged in yet another well-intentioned, but parallel and somewhat stovepiped activity when it should be combining efforts for maxiumum synergistic efficiency - and making this information available much sooner than seems to be their plan.

NASA Aircraft To Fly Over Los Angeles Area August 25

"NASA, in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, will conduct training and photographic flights over the Los Angeles area on Saturday, Aug. 25. Two NASA jets, a T-38 and an F-18, will fly approximately 1,500 feet above Los Angeles starting at 8 a.m. PDT. If delayed by weather or other circumstances, the jets will fly at 12:30 p.m. These flights are intended to capture photographic imagery."

Endeavour Heads for L.A.

"Endeavour, which will be transported on top of NASA's Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is expected to arrive at LAX mid-day of September 20. The target date is flexible, pending weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center, along the flight path and in Los Angeles."

Keith's note: Gee, I wonder why NASA will be flying T-38s and an F-18 over Los Angeles? Do you think this has something to do with the fact that Space Shuttle Endeavour is going to arrive in Los Angeles on 20 September? Why NASA and/or FAA can't be honest and just admit why they are doing these flyovers is just goofy. As if no one can figure it out.


NASA Administrator Announces New Commercial Crew And Cargo Milestones

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday new milestones in the nation's commercial space initiatives from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The latest advances made by NASA's commercial space partners pave the way for the first contracted flight of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) this fall and mark progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next 5 years."

Keith's note: There has been no mention of this overtly commercial event by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. No mention of XCOR's big announcement either. CSF certainly isn't paying much attention to commercial space these days.

NASA JSC Award: Open Innovation Support Services for a Consortium Network Builder Platform Provider

Keith's note: This JSC award has been given to YET2.COM Inc. for a contract not to exceed $2,700,000. No description whatsoever is given by JSC as to what this money will be used for. Having been to some NASA and OSTP open innovation-themed workshops, I have an 'idea' what this might be for. A quick Google search turns this up - but it does not speak to what this award is for. As I noted last week with regard to this other sparsely detailed (and inaccurate) JSC award, what baffles me is why JSC - and other parts of NASA - seem to be totally uninterested in providing taxpayers with even the barest rudiments of a description - an abstract or summary - as to what their tax dollars are being spent on.

JSC PAO has been working the earlier issue and told me last week that I am supposed to get something any day now - but I haven't gotten a response back on my earlier request. See NASA Contract Award to Resources for the Future: Measuring Research Performance in Space Station Research (redacted copy). What is somehwat funny about this is that that this award seems to have something to do with making NASA more open and accessible to ideas from outside parties - yet the agency has gone out of its way to be anything but open about the process of obtaining such services.

- Cryptic Space Station Procurement From JSC, earlier post

Earthrise + 46 Years

First Earthrise Photo Taken 46 Years Ago Today

"46 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics."

NASA Mars Rover Begins Driving at Bradbury Landing

"NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury. Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity's drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago."

Keith's note: The other name under consideration by NASA for this location would have honored astronaut Sally Ride.

XCOR to establish operations and manufacturing base in Florida

"Plans call for XCOR to commence initial operations from a Florida location in 2014 when they plan on bringing the Lynx Mark I prototype for demonstration and pathfinder flights. This will be followed by the basing of a Lynx Mark II production vehicle in Florida, and eventually production of Lynx vehicles and other XCOR products should market demand materialize and the emerging commercial space industry maintain its current momentum."

Keith's note: This event has been known about for weeks. Does the Commercial Spaceflight Federation make any advance mention of this important event for one of its members - or note today's announcement? No. No mention of Bolden's media event on commercial space either.

Keith's 22 Aug note: Multiple sources report that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is planning to fire/reassign Ames Center Director Pete Worden and two other center directors as well.

Keith's 22 Aug update: Sources report that Bolden has also discussed replacing both GRC (Ray Lugo) and JSC (Mike Coats) center directors even though neither have done anything to warrant replacement. Reassigning Woodrow Whitlow from NASA HQ has also been discussed. However, Bolden's real focus is on going after Pete Worden - and these other replacements and/or chess moves are being discussed as window dressing to obscure that focus.

This is a good time to try and pull something like this off: the long Labor Day weekend is approaching, most of Congress is out of town and/or distracted by the upcoming conventions, the presidential election, and, in many cases, their own re-elections.

Cleveland's NASA Glenn chief has no departure plans, despite blog report, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"But Lugo told The Plain Dealer Wednesday night that he had spoken to Bolden earlier in the day, and that the NASA administrator "confirmed to me that he is not planning to replace me or move me. To the best of my knowledge - and I've talked to the boss - there's no truth to the rumor." ... In light of that, "Charlie and I, and most of the rest of the center directors, had a discussion about what people's plans are for the near-term future, the next six to seven months," Lugo said. Bolden "was just asking everybody what are their plans."

Rumor: NASA chief Bolden considering replacing JSC director, Houston Chronicle

"The following statement comes from spokesman Mike Cabbage at NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C.: "We have a great management team at NASA, doing amazing things every day to keep the United States the world leader in space exploration. We've just landed the most sophisticated rover ever on Mars and we're launching a space weather mission on Friday. Right now, we're just focused on building on this record of success."

Keith's 23 Aug update: NASAWatch stands by its postings. Personnel plans often change quickly - especially when they are made public. As such, sources now report that Mr. Bolden has been directed not to make any of these senior personnel actions.

Ex-astronaut Eugene Cernan steps on Obama, Politico

"I don't think he fully understands what traditional America is all about, because he didn't literally grow up here," the Apollo 17 commander told Fox News's Neil Cavuto. "I don't think that I could convince him why this is important. I don't know that he wants America to be first. I don't know that he doesn't want us to play on a more level playing field. I don't know that he doesn't care if Russia or China gets to the Moon and we're dragging tailbone." ... Cernan also said he has "been offered an opportunity to be part of" the GOP convention in Tampa."

Keith's note: President Obama was born in Hawaii (a U.S. state, by the way) and has lived in the United States for his entire life except for 1967-71. Between 1966 and 1969 Mitt Romney lived in France. John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone and spent much of his youth living abroad. So what? As for what the phrase "traditional America is all about" means, perhaps Cernan will enlighten us as to what he's implying if/when he participates in the Republican national convention.

FOIA Front: Space agency on different planet with FOIA response?, Washington Examiner

"Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also demanded detailed records of conference spending by agencies in April. So knowing of those requests to NASA, The Washington Examiner submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request earlier this month seeking all documents the agency prepared in response to the OMB memos and the Issa letter. The newspaper also requested databases or other documents showing agency spending on conferences over the past five years, information similar to what the agencies must begin posting on their web sites in January. NASA officials responded that they are unable to process the request because they are not sure what documents the Examiner seeks."

CASIS Announces Upcoming Requests for Proposals in Materials Science and Earth Observational Science

"The ISS National Lab supports a variety of platforms to exploit the space environment in the development and testing of new materials for both commercial and academic investigators. Through these solicitations, CASIS continues in its mission to promote the full utilization of the ISS. ... This RFP will utilize the NanoRacks External Platform."

NanoRacks Announcement of Opportunity-1: Building a NanoLab Community for Space Station Users

"NanoRacks, the leading company in low-earth orbit research and educational utilization, seeks to further stimulate the market for International Space Station usage by offering to designate and promote up to five (5) companies that can offer for retail sale NanoLabs for use in NanoRacks hardware now on the space station and on suborbital platforms."

Keith's note: CASIS makes a big deal out of its agreement with Nanoracks - but they don't seem to be interested in making any mention of this Nanoracks Announcement of Opportunity utilizing the ISS. Baffling - especially given the bundle of money CASIS gave Nanoracks.

NASA Administrator to Announce Commercial Space Progress During Media Availability at Kennedy Space Center Aug. 23

"Media are invited to an interview availability and facilities tour with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden at noon EDT, Thursday, Aug. 23, at various locations in and around the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the media tour, Bolden will detail recent progress related to NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives."

XCOR Aerospace Announces Operations and Manufacturing Base in Florida

"XCOR Aerospace will announce details regarding its intent to establish a manufacturing and assembly center for XCOR Lynx Mark II suborbital reusable launch vehicles on Florida's Space Coast. ... Astronaut Encounter Theater Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex"

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden will be all over KSC on the same day - talking up space commerce - but he is not listed as a participant in the XCOR announcement. Strange.

Keith's update: Jim Muncy, XCOR etc. seem to disagree with what I have posted. OK, then why is Charlie Bolden's chief of staff listed as a participant in the XCOR event - and not Bolden himself? Given the respective positions of the others on the agenda Bolden's absence is puzzling.

>Notice of Intent to Solicit Science Definition Team for National Reconnaissance Orbiter Optical Hardware via Dear Colleague Letter

- NRO Gives NASA Two Hubble-Class Telescopes (Shh!), earlier post
- NASA's Stubby Hubbles and Fumbled PR
- Are NASA's New Telescopes NRO Future Imagery Architecture Leftovers?, earlier post

Keith's 20 Aug note: According to this NASA notice, "NRO" stands for either "National Reconnaissance Observatory" or "National Reconnaissance Orbiter". Nice way to say thank you to NRO.

Keith's 21 Aug update: They fixed it.

Notice of Intent to Solicit Science Definition Team for National Reconnaissance Office Optical Hardware via Dear Colleague Letter

"NOTE added August 21, 2012: This community announced is being reissued to (a) clarify the nature of the parallel coronagraph study, (b) correct the export-control driven eligibility requirement from U.S. citizens to U.S. persons, (c) announce a wider survey for potential uses of the telescope assets that will be undertaken later in 2012, and (d) correct some typographical errors (including what NRO stands for)."

Keith's note: Sources report that 50 or more NASA employees will be attending the IAC (International Astronautical Congress) meeting from 1-5 October in tourist-friendly Naples, Italy. Attention is paid on the official website to things to see outside the event that have nothing to do with the intent of the meeting. Registration is between 730-900 euros ($900 - $1,100). Add in airfare and hotel and you are looking at $3,000 per person - or around $150,000 for NASA's participation. Of course you know that lots of the NASA attendees will add on extra days and bring a spouse for a mini-vacation.

The number of actual presenters from "NASA" seems to be rather small. I checked 30 sessions at random and I did not find a single presenter who is listed as being from "NASA". There must be NASA speakers, right? I wonder how many attendees will file a trip report (an interesting FOIA topic)? Of course, professional meetings are important - no doubt about it - and more real work often gets done in the hallways and bars than in the sessions. I think Congress is overly sanctimonious and often goes overboard about most routine Federal agency meeting costs (there are glaring exceptions of course) when they allow their own members to go on luxury junkets around the world.

But given that there are several recent large meetings at NASA with questionable costs currently under investigation, you'd think that NASA would at least have a few more people listed as actually presenting at the meeting. So ... how many of these 50+ NASA attendees are presenting? Oh yes, there seem to be a fair number of speakers representing CNSA and other Chinese government entitites. I am certain that Rep. Wolf will want a detailed list of every interaction.

Keith's note: Yesterday @ISS_NatLab (an official NASA Twitter account) announced that "This official NASA ISS National Laboratory Office Twitter account will be shut down by October 1, 2012." and "Visitors are urged to follow National Lab activities at https://twitter.com/isscasis, maintained by Center for the Advancement of Science in Space".

That's fine but a little weird. Why not put "@ISSCASIS" in the tweet thus making it a lot easier for people to follow them using their Twitter account? @ISS_NatLab has 16,000+ followers. @ISSCASIS only has 1,211. Better yet - why not just give the @ISS_NatLab account to CASIS? That's their job, right? That way you keep the followers. Take the NASA logo off and add the CASIS logo. Meanwhile, a parallel NASA account, @ISS_Research, with 21,000+ followers remains online and never makes any mention of CASIS or @ISSCASIS. So you can bet that this dysfunctionality between JSC ISS and CASIS will continue regardless of how many Twitter accounts they have and what they call them.

Ryan on NASA

A conversation with Paul Ryan about Medicare reform, Cuba and NASA, ABC Action News

"Ryan, who voted against the 2008 and 2010 NASA Authorization Acts, said he believed in a "robust space program." He said the space agency, which has shed thousands of jobs after the retirement of the space shuttle and the cancelation of its Constellation program, was an "invaluable asset to our national security." "President Obama has advanced what we think are devastating and irresponsible cuts to defense programs. We want to restore that because we believe in peace through strength. We believe in scientific research. We obviously believe that a robust space program is in the vital national security interests of America," he said. "Mitt Romney has committed to restoring our national defense which we see as a national security issue including our space programs." Ryan declined to say which role, if any, commercial space companies such as Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, would have under a Romney-Ryan administration."

Keith's note: Sources report that NASA has selected JPL's InSight mission to drill on Mars. Given that this is based on Mars Phoenix which, in turn, heavily utilized Mars Polar Lander designs, you can rest assured that NASA will never be able to tell you how much this mission really cost or how much was "saved" by using existing designs.

- JPL's InSight: Ignoring The Real Costs - and its MPL Heritage, earlier post
- Confusion About Future NASA Landers on Mars, earlier post

Keith's note: Telecon note: If you look at the NASA JPL website and other related materials there are frequent references to InSight's design heritage i.e. "The InSight mission is similar in design to the Mars lander that the Phoenix mission used successfully in 2007 to study ground ice near the north pole of Mars. The reuse of this technology, developed and built by Lockheed-Martin Space Systems in Denver, CO, will provide a low-risk path to Mars without the added cost of designing and testing a new system from scratch."

When I asked how much money was saved by re-using this design NASA (Jim Greene) could not answer. He said that NASA only looked at the current design and not at any previous mission. When I asked how it is that NASA can cite the cost saving/risk reduction from using a previous mission design in one location but then say that it is not relevant in another situation i.e. that this sounded contradictory, Green's reply was confusing and did not answer my question. I guess I will have to listen to the replay to see if it makes any sense the second time around.

SMD AA John Grunsfeld did make a good point that InSight is designed to last for several years in a more equatorial location whereas Phoenix had a limited life due to its polar location.

Sad Photos: Rockwell Downey Building 1 Demolition

"The following photos were taken by a longtime Rockwell (now Boeing) Downey employee last week. They are tearing down much of Building 1. It will be replaced by a shopping center. This is where large portions of the Space Shuttles and Apollo spacecraft were built."

Likely footprint of spiky dinosaur has NASA's Md. campus on cloud nine, Washington Post

"A scalloped mini-crater with four pointy toe prints pressed into ruddy rock, the putative dinosaur track juts out from a scruffy slope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center..."

NASA's Nodosaur Track, Smithsonian

"Officials at the NASA campus are already moving to protect the fossil, and they plan to bring in paleontologists to look for other dinosaur tracks. The NASA scientists want to keep the site a secret, Vastag reports, but ultimately want the public to be able to see the track."

Keith's note: Too bad NASA couldn't take this opportunity - one so close to its facilities - to treat this excavation as if it were a scientific endeavour using robotics i.e. practice for work on Mars or elsewhere. Besides, what things do kids like the most? Dinosaurs and outer space. This is a twofer.

Keeping the location "secret" is a wise precaution to take when there is no security to protect sites like this from looters. But this site is located inside a NASA field center with what one would hope is a secure perimeter. Does NASA think people might break in to GSFC and chip the footprints out of the ground? Or do they not trust Goddard employees? Given the immense value of other things lying around at GSFC, one would think that the agency would trust its employees enough to honor a "do not disturb" sign just like they do every other notice they encounter. Photos anyone? We'll post them anonymously.

Keith's update: NASA GSFC Has posted an Update on this story. They still will not reveal the exact location inside this secure Federal facility. i.e. "Goddard Facilities Manager Alan Binstock said the agency considers the footprint and its location "sensitive but unclassified."

Super-heavy carrier rocket could be created jointly with Ukraine, Kazakhstan - Energia, Interfax

"The Energia-Buran project includes the launch system, which is still viable. At least it can be brought back to life. It also includes the "A" rocket units, used in the Zenit carrier rocket, and also engines made today. We proposed using oxygen-kerosene engines instead of the hydrogen central part, and make the first and second stages of five units," he said. "Concerning the carrying capacity, it's difficult to speculate, but it could be up to 70 tonnes, which is sufficient to circle the Moon," Lopota said." "If ambitions and political will are there, this project could be accomplished in a few years without falling behind our American colleagues," [Energia President and General Designer Vitaly] Lopota added.

Super-heavy carrier rocket could be created jointly with Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Voice of Russia

"The Energia-Buran project was suspended in the 1990s, when five rocket frames at various degrees of readiness were available at the Baikonur cosmodrome and at the Energia corporation assembly premises. They were destroyed. The RD-170 rocket engine, developed for the Energia project, has been upgraded and is used in Zenit Russian-Ukrainian carrier rockets as RD-171, and in American Atlas 5 launch systems as RD-180."

Read the increasingly desperate tweets of Martian rock N165 as it is zapped by Curiosity

"Poor little N165. It never really had a chance. As soon as the Curiosity rover warmed up its rock-vaporizing laser, it was certain to be used as target practice. But thanks to the miracle of social media, that Martian rock has a voice, and it's not happy."

@N165Mars (the first of many Mars rocks to twitter)

Keith's note: N165 isn't alone. NASA has attacked helpless Mars rocks before. Curiosity and Spirit ground holes in lots of them. Ray (a NASA Watch reader) and I were both reminded of a historical precedent, of sorts: the 1967 attack on a Horta by Kirk and Spock. If you will rceall the Horta was associated with small round mineralized spheres (like super-sized Mars "blueberries") that were its eggs. They may look like plain old rocks to us. I'm just sayin' ...

NASA Curiosity Rover's Laser Instrument Zaps First Martian Rock

"Today, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called "Coronation."

Keith's update: Looks like they changed N165's name.

Photo: First Laser-Zapped Rock on Mars

A space pact with China could be the new 'SALT', opinion, Washington Post

"China's SALT moment with the United States will not involve nuclear arms control and reduction treaties. U.S. and Chinese nuclear arsenals are too dissimilar in size for negotiations, and Beijing is too sensitive about transparency to negotiate verifiable nuclear restraints, let alone arms reductions. Instead, it will focus on space, where the competition is heating up and the stakes are high. What happens in space will heavily influence whether relations between China and the United States become more dangerous or more cooperative."

NASA Request for Information for a Mission of Opportunity to Aid in the Detection of Very-Near Earth Asteroids

"NASA HEOMD and SMD, through the Joint Robotic Precursor Activity (JRPA) office, are interested in instrument concepts for a mission of opportunity to be hosted on a US Government or commercial spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit that will be capable of detecting and tracking asteroids in orbits very similar to Earth's, including Earth-trojan asteroids. "Very-Near Earth asteroids" are envisioned as a set of asteroids to be discovered, in an orbit very similar to Earth's, that offer low delta-V solutions for human exploration missions. This RFI solicits information from potential sources for an instrument that can be delivered for flight as soon as 2016."

NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences Portfolio Review Committee Submits Report, NSF

"In 2011 NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) commenced a Portfolio Review process in order to review the entire portfolio of AST-supported facilities, programs and other activities. The goal of the review was to recommend to AST how support for existing facilities, programs, and activities should be prioritized and interleaved with new initiatives recommended by the National Academy of Sciences decadal surveys, within the limitations of realistic future budgets."

Report: Advancing Astronomy in the Coming Decade: Opportunities and Challenges

Initial Public Statement From AUI and NRAO on the Report of the NSF's Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee, NRAO

"AUI and NRAO have made a preliminary examination of the report released today from the NSF Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee (PRC). Among the recommendations of that report are that the NSF's Green Bank Telescope and Very Long Baseline Array be fully divested from the NSF Astronomy Division's portfolio of research facilities in the next five years, with no further funding from the Astronomy Division. AUI and NRAO recognize and acknowledge the need to retire obsolete facilities to make way for the state-of-the-art. However, both the GBT and the VLBA are the state-of-the-art, and have crucial capabilities that cannot be provided by other facilities. Separately the two telescopes provide unparalleled scientific access to the universe. When their information is combined, the instruments provide the highest sensitivity and resolution available for any astronomical instrument in the world."

NASA's 'Mighty Eagle' Robotic Prototype Lander Finds Its Target, NASA

"NASA's "Mighty Eagle" successfully found its target during a 32-second free flight Aug. 16 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. This small, versatile robotic lander prototype demonstrates technologies applicable for the final descent of an autonomous controlled landing on the moon, asteroids or other celestial bodies."

Masten Video: Xombie 650m Mars EDL Divert Trajectory, Masten,

"Building on the success of the 500 meter downrange flight on July 25, we're excited to announce the completion of a flight that reached 476.5 meters in altitude and translated 650 meters downrange on August 9, 2012."

NASA's Morpheus Lander Crashes During First Free Flight Attempt, Earlier post

"During its first attempt at free flight today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA's Morpheus lander crashed and caught on fire."

X-51 Status Update

X-51A Flight Ends Prematurely, USAF

"The X-51 safely separated from the B-52 and the rocket booster fired as planned. However, after 16 seconds, a fault was identified with one of the cruiser control fins. Once the X-51 separated from the rocket booster, approximately 15 seconds later, the cruiser was not able to maintain control due to the faulty control fin and was lost."

Enabling Support Equipment and Services for International Space Station as a National Lab

Keith's 16 Aug 4:30 pm update: NASA JSC re-released the Award notice. It now says "Classification Code: 16 -- Aircraft components and accessories; NAICS Code: 541712 - Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)" but it still lists the award recipient as being "Research for the Future Inc., 1616 P ST NW, Washington, DC 20036-1400" even though the awardee is actually "Resources for the Future" located at that street address. I guess the name of the company isn't important in NASA awards.

Earlier posts below.

We're NASA and we know it

'We're NASA and we know it' parody marries NASA and LMFAO for the best viral video you'll see today, Washington Post

"The video, which landed (pun intended) on a new video channel called Satire, marries the popular LMFAO hit "Sexy and I Know It" with factoids from the NASA Curiosity mission. It comes complete with shout-outs to Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. ... The team has yet to hear feedback from NASA, although a member of the cast and production team, Anne Ketola, is a former NASA employee. The badges the team wears on their shirts, says Cohn, are actual NASA mission badges."

Mars Rover's Discoveries, The Onion

"After completing a difficult landing on the Martian surface last week, NASA's car-sized rover Curiosity has begun deploying its highly advanced cameras and instruments, which will provide the most thorough data on the Red Planet yet. Here are several of its early discoveries:"

An Interview With Alexander Kumar at Concordia Station, Antarctica

"Dr. Alexander Kumar is currently residing at Concordia station located at Dome C, Antarctica at 75°06'06''S - 123°23'43''E at an elevation of 3,800 meters. Alex is serving as Concordia Station Doctor for the Institut Polaire Francais (IPEV) and as a European Space Agency sponsored research doctor. I recently had a chance to ask Alex a few questions about his experiences in Antarctica - and elsewhere as they related to space exploration - and exploration in general."

New National Research Council Report Presents Research Program for Solar and Space Physics Over the Next Decade

"A new report from the National Research Council presents a prioritized program of basic and applied research for 2013-2022 that will advance scientific understanding of the sun, sun-Earth connections and the origins of "space weather," and the sun's interactions with other bodies in the solar system. This second decadal survey in solar and space physics -- the product of a 18-month effort by more than 85 solar and space physicists and space system engineers -- lays out four scientific goals for the next 10 years along with guiding principles and recommended actions."

USAF Support For ULA Is Scrutinized, Aviation Week

The chairman and the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence even go so far in an Aug. 2 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as to call the Air Force's launch capability contract with ULA--worth billions of dollars annually to pay for the launch workers and support engineers--an "infrastructure subsidy."

EELV: DOD Is Addressing Knowledge Gaps in Its New Acquisition Strategy (Reissued with corrections)

This report was revised on August 13, 2012, to correct text regarding the space sector survey on page 10.

- GAO on DOD EELV Acqusition, earlier post
- GAO: EELV: DOD Needs to Ensure New Acquisition Strategy Is Based on Sufficient Information, earlier post

NASA Announces Next Opportunity for CubeSat Space Missions

"CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh about 3 pounds."

Keith's note: Inches? Quarts? Pounds? What happened to the NASA policy directing the use metric units? Curiously, if you read the official CubeSat Design Specification Rev. 12, from California Polytechnic State University (an American educational institution) the specs are in metric units. So has someone@NASA.gov gotten yet another waiver to not use of metric units in their program? Or is this another PAO author being lazy? Then again, it was this confusion over units of measure that allowed Mars Climate Orbiter to make a surprise landing on Mars.

Assessment of NASA's Use of the Metric System, G-00-021 (2001)

"Following the loss of the Mars Climate Observer, the NASA Office of Inspector General initiated a review of the Agency's use of the metric system. By law and policy, the metric system is the preferred system of measurement within NASA. However, our review found that use of the metric system is inconsistent across the Agency. A waiver system, which was required by law and put into effect to track metric usage and encourage conversion, is no longer in use."

NASA Still Can't Get That Metric Stuff Right, earlier post

NASA Dawn Mission Status Report 14 August 2012

"During a planned communications pass on Aug. 9, the team learned that the reaction wheel had been powered off. Telemetry data from the spacecraft suggest the wheel developed excessive friction, similar to the experience with another Dawn reaction wheel in June 2010. The Dawn team demonstrated during the cruise to Vesta in 2011 that, if necessary, they could complete the cruise to Ceres without the use of reaction wheels."

Romney Taunts Chinese Moon Landing Plans, TPM (with video)

"On the campaign trail in Florida - home of the Space Coast - Monday, Romney taunted Chinese plans to land an unmanned probe on the on the moon in 2013. Romney: "This is still the greatest nation on earth. I know there are people around the world who are always critical of America, have something negative to say, say our greatest days are in the past. Baloney. We just won more Olympic medals than any other nation on Earth. You also just saw we just landed on Mars and took a good look at what's going on there. And I know the Chinese are planning on going to the Moon and I hope they have a good experience doing that and I hope they stop in and take a look at our flag that was put there 43 years ago."

Ex-NASA boss defends GW Bush "vision" (again...), Doctorlinda (Linda Billings)

"Griffin told the committee that he's grown "tired" of pronouncements that the United States is "the world's leader in space."* "We barely rank number 3.... Our vision today is mostly talk," he said ..."

Keith's note: Gee, it certainly sounds like Mitt Romney doesn't agree with his space advisor Mike Griffin when it comes to America Vs China in space.

Keith's note: It would seem that Mike Griffin has given up on becoming Mitt Romney's NASA Administrator. I guess that means that the way has been cleared for fellow Romney space advisor Scott Pace: "Schafer Corporation Appoints Michael Griffin Chairman and Chief Executive Officer"

Click on image to enlarge. Source: The Internet.

Transcript of Remarks by President Obama to the Mars Science Lab Team at NASA JPL

"I understand there's a special Mohawk Guy that's working on the mission. (Laughter.) He's been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. And I, in the past, thought about getting a Mohawk myself -- (laughter) -- but my team keeps on discouraging me. And now that he's received marriage proposals and thousands of new Twitter followers, I think that I'm going to go back to my team and see if it makes sense. (Laughter.)

DR. ELACHI: That's going to be the new fashion at JPL. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors. (Laughter.) You guys are a little cooler than you used to be. (Laughter.)"

Let's bring logic to NASA's budget process, Editorial, Houston Chronicle

"Culberson's and Wolf's bill would model NASA's budget process after that used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Doing so would make the agency less political and more professional. It calls for the president to appoint the NASA director to a 10-year term and would make the budget cycle multiyear rather than annual. The notion has Coats' endorsement. He notes that if they were able to plan out four or five years "it would be amazing what we could do with our team."

Keith's note: An election-oriented, invitation-only roundtable discussion is being held today in Melbourne, FL. Sponsored by the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, the event features former OSTP Chief of Staff Jim Kohlenberger and Obama for America Florida Policy Director Laurie Watkins. The topic is education and aerospace sector issues affecting Brevard County. Local educators and aerospace companies with a presence in Florida are sending representatives.

Obama campaign to Romney on Space Coast: Where are you on space?, Orlando Sentinel

"Dale Ketcham of the EDC said the Romney campaign has been invited to address the EDC-Space Coast about his space vision, but has not responded. "There's always a standing invitation from the EDC and this community. We did it for past presidential candidates and candidates for governor, senator, congress. There's been a tradition and expectation of the candidates coming to this district and talking about their vision for space," Ketcham said. "There's certainly time for them, but it would be a little puzzling if they don't. They're certainly handing the president a chance to beat them over the head."

Space Coast leaders pushing presidential candidates on space policy, 13 News

"Jeff Bechdel, Florida Communications Director, Mitt Romney For President issued this statement Friday: "Governor Romney will provide the clear, decisive, and steadfast leadership the space program requires. As President, Romney will bring together leading officials, researchers, and entrepreneurs to establish clear goals and missions for NASA that fulfill its objectives of spurring innovation, pursuing exploration, and symbolizing American exceptionalism."

Ocean Optics Spectrometers Land Safely on Mars

"Three Ocean Optics instruments have completed their eight month journey to Mars to study soil composition as part of the ChemCam mission. The company's modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mt. Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude."

Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest

"If you've ever seen a Starfleet away team beaming down to a new planet, you know that the first thing they do is whip out their tricorder and scan everything. Many of NASA's astrobiologists want one. Well, Scott and I had one at Everest."

Keith's note: I carried this cool device up to Everest Base Camp and then Scott carried it up the mountain. Its not unusual for people to trek into Everest with the latest high tech gear on display but every time I pulled this thing out people stopped to watch me go through my procedure. I took this promo photo of Scott using the Jaz unit while we were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp. An instant later we heard a loud noise coming from the icefall. I quickly switched my camera from still to video and shot this video since I was literally pointed at the exact right spot already. This was one of the largest avalanches in recent seasons.

Had I not been taking the PR shot of Scott and the Jaz unit I'd have missed most of this avalanche. (More details in comments below). Now I see that our good friends at Ocean Optics have hardware on Mars. How cool - especially since I had 4 little Moon rocks in my chest pocket when I shot these pics and video - and our Moon rocks are now on the ISS.

NASA's Morpheus Lander Crashes During First Free Flight Attempt (with video)

"During its first attempt at free flight today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA's Morpheus lander crashed and caught on fire. According to NASA PAO: "During today's free-flight test of the Project Morpheus vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight. No one was injured and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel. Engineers are looking into the incident and the agency will release information as it comes available."

Keith's 6:25 pm EDT 12 Aug update: An update has now been posted on the Morpheus Lander website. Looks like they're going to push ahead.

Keith's note:For a while this page at NASA.gov had Space Biology Program Awards Space Biology Research Grants awards listed by congressional district. Then they took it offline. NASA has not explained why this information was removed - nor why it was online in the first place. Why did NASA check to see which congressional district got which grant? Not exactly "transparent" or "open".

Russian space industry laden with failures, ITAR-TASS

"For the last few years the space industry has not been reformed yet. The corruption is reigning in it. The prices are growing, but the quality is falling. There is no tough control over the quality of component parts, which are delivered by the subcontractors, which had mushroomed around the enterprises of the space industry. The transparency of pricing lacks that resulted in multibillion budgetary injections to be wasted," head of the international security centre in the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov stated."

Medvedev says space failures cost Russia prestige and cash, Reuters

"Moscow is losing prestige and money due to botched space projects, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday after Russia junked two satellites in the latest launch failure to dog the once-pioneering industry."

NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities: Assessment of Agency's Real Property Leasing Practices

"Specifically, we found that NASA did not have clear guidance to ensure that property identified for leasing had a current or future mission use; lacked a complete inventory of space available for lease as well as an effective marketing program to attract potential tenants; lacked internal controls to ensure that its leases provide the best value to NASA and are fair to potential partners; and did not have guidance to ensure that in kind consideration that it accepts as part of a leasing arrangement benefits NASA."

Good Morning Mars

Curiosity Image: Good Morning Mars

"This image was taken by Navcam: Left A (NAV_LEFT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol2 (2012-08-08 07:11:08 UTC) . Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech"

Review of NASA's Computer Security Incident Detection and Handling Capability

"In general, we found that the SOC has improved NASA's computer security incident handling capability by providing continuous incident detection coverage for all NASA Centers. ... However, we also found that the SOC does not currently monitor all of NASA's computer networks. Even though networks we reviewed had their own incident management program that included network monitoring, dedicated staff to respond to incidents and documented processes the networks' management programs do not provide the centralized continuous monitoring coverage afforded by the SOC. In addition, NASA needs to increase its readiness to combat sophisticated but increasingly common forms of cyber attack known as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)."

First moonwalker Neil Armstrong 'doing great' after heart surgery, NBC

"The first human to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, is "doing great" after undergoing cardiac bypass surgery, his wife reported."

Statement from NASA Administrator Bolden Regarding Neil Armstrong

"NASA wishes Neil Armstrong the very best for a quick recovery from surgery," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Neil's pioneering spirit will surely serve him well in this challenging time and the entire NASA Family is holding the Armstrong family in our thoughts and prayers. I know countless well-wishers around the world join us in sending get well wishes to this true American hero."

Seeking Inputs on NASA's Plans, Programs and Priorities, open.NASA

"In the FY2012 appropriations bill that funds NASA, Congress requested an independent study of NASA's strategic direction. The study is being conducted by a committee of the National Research Council. The study statement of task directs the committee to "recommend how NASA could establish and effectively communicate a common, unifying vision for NASA's strategic direction that encompasses NASA's varied missions." Strategic direction can be thought of as the steps NASA needs to take over time to accomplish its vision and mission."

Keith's 7 Aug note: In its 30 July press release listing all MSL media activities and opportunities, no mention is made by NASA that offsite media would be allowed ask questions during press briefings - other than the vague "Two-way question-and-answer capability will be available for some of the news briefings from participating NASA locations". Yesterday (Tuesday) a number of media asked questions by telephone. Yet no formal media advisory was sent out by NASA noting that this was an option and how/where to participate. So early yesterday afternoon I sent a request for dial-in/off-site procedures to multiple people at JPL PAO, SMD PAO, and HQ PAO. No one from PAO ever replied.

Keith's 8 Aug update: JPL PAO sent me dial-in information 14 minutes before the press briefing began. A minute after I got this email I also got a general email from JPL PAO to news media alerting us of a dial-in capability. This was the first such note they sent out. Several other space media colleagues had told me that they were unaware of the dial-in option - until they saw my note or got this email. Annoying - its not as if JPL PAO has never done this before.

Endeavour Update x 3

NASA Mars Rover Opportunity Update: July 25, 2012 - August 01, 2012

"Opportunity has been roving at the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater."

Preparations for shuttle Endeavour's trip to California near end, Florida Today

"Kennedy Space Center crews this morning attached a tail cone to the orbiter Endeavour, one of the last major preparations for its planned ferry flight to California next month."

Scientist hopes to find wreck of Capt. Cook's Endeavour

"A marine archaeologist is hoping to find and recover the wreck of Capt. James Cook's famous ship the Endeavour in Newport Harbor."

HMS Endeavour, Wikipedia

NASA's Mars Rover Crashed Into a DMCA Takedown, Vice.com

"This isn't the first time that a claim by Scripps News Service has grounded a NASA video on YouTube. According to Bob Jacobs, NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, such claims happen once a month, and tend to be more common with popular videos. If claimed videos aren't blocked, they are slapped with ads from the fraudulent claimant. In April, Scripps also claimed ownership for a video of one of NASA's Space Shuttles being flown atop a 747, causing it to briefly disappear from NASA's account."

X-48C Takes to The Air

Transformed X-48c Flies Successfully

"The remotely piloted X-48C aircraft successfully flew for the first time Tuesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. The aircraft, designed by The Boeing Co. and built by Cranfield Aerospace Limited of the United Kingdom, is flying again in partnership with NASA. The new X-48C model, which was formerly the X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft, was modified to evaluate the low-speed stability and control of a low-noise version of a notional, future Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) aircraft design."

NASA is Buzzworthy

NASA Is the Government's One True Viral Hit Factory, Atlantic Wire

"NASA may only consume0.5 percent of the federal budget, but it generates practically all of Uncle Sam's viral marketing buzz.Never was that more apparent than on Monday morning following the successful Mars landing of Curiosity, the biggest and most advancedspacecraft ever dispatched to another planet. In an explosion of tweets, Tumbls, status updates, and blog posts, the Internet showed its love of NASA in a way other parts of the government could only dream of. So what's NASA's secret?"

First Image From Europe's MSG-3 Weather Satellite

"Today, the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument on MSG-3 captured its first image of the Earth. This demonstrates that Europe's latest geostationary weather satellite, launched on 5 July, is performing well and is on its way to taking over operational service after six months of commissioning."

Speaking of Mohawks

NASA's 7 Minutes of 'Mohawk Guy' Goes Viral, PC Magazine

"Meanwhile, the Mohawk Guy puzzle may have been solved, but there were other curiosities in the JPL's Curiosity broadcast that have yet to surrender their mysteries. We'll leave you with this: Embedded below is the video showing the reaction at mission control when Curiosity's landing was confirmed. Ferdowsi is there, of course, but see if you can also spot Old Hippy Guy and Jump-the-Gun-Celebration Guy."

Keith's note: Word has it that the head of Mars TSA (picture to the right) has been fired after allowing Mars Curiosity and its laser to land on Mars undetected. Speaking of mohawks ... if you watched *any* MSL landing coverage you saw Internet nerd icon "the Mohawk guy" (Bobak Ferdowsi) sitting at his console. You can follow him at @tweetsoutloud .

JPL folks are notoriously open about expressing their emotions and individuality during landings at mission control (think back to the Pathfinder landing) yet they do things as equally amazing as are done from JSC and KSC. Yet you'd never see a mohawk in MCC or LCC. Why is that?

Space Policy Snapshots

Can NASA keep public's curiosity piqued?, Houston Chronicle

"Paul Spudis, a senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said Curiosity's success doesn't change the fact that the agency is still looking for a vision. "It's tangential to the agency's fundamental problem - where is it going and why?" Spudis asked. "Since (2010) NASA has been floundering in strategic aimlessness and national irrelevance. Only the momentum of existing programs started long ago, like the International Space Station and Mars Science Laboratory, are keeping it alive at all."

Editorial: Curiosity rover critics shortsighted, USA Today

"Those who would slash space program budgets apparently haven't learned history's lessons and don't see the great possibilities that the future presents -- possibilities reflected in every image transmitted back from the rover."

Editorial: NASA scientists nail gold medal Mars dismount, Ventura Star

"President Barack Obama, who has been accused by Republicans of being insufficiently ardent about "American exceptionalism," called the landing an "unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."

Video: Curiosity's Descent To Mars

"The Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) captured the rover's descent to the surface of the Red Planet. The instrument shot 4 fps video from heatshield separation to the ground."

Image: Mars Curiosity Front Hazcam on Sol 0

"This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Left A (FHAZ_LEFT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 0 (2012-08-06 06:23:34 UTC) . Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech."

Statement by the President on Curiosity Landing on Mars

"Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history. The successful landing of Curiosity - the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet - marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination."

Bobby Braun: President Obama's Policies Bringing Continued Progress To Space Exploration, BarackObama.com

"The President's plan for NASA also enables continuous manned operations of the International Space Station, development of the critical space transportation building blocks required for our deep space exploration future, and investment in a suite of innovative space technology research efforts to enable bold science and exploration missions in the future. Such a concerted effort of robotic and human exploration is essential to capture the spirit, imagination and creativity of the world, and will yield lasting economic, national security and societal benefits."

Viewpoint: U.S. Must Remain Leader In Planetary Exploration, Bobby Braun, Aviation Week

"Mars surface missions do not all need to be multi-billion dollar efforts; in fact, Curiosity is the only surface mission in the past two decades to cost more than $1 billion. I am confident that a cost-effective surface mission can be developed that is capable of following up on the discoveries to be made by Curiosity, and advances our readiness for an eventual sample return effort."

Rep. Schiff Cheers Curiosity Landing at JPL Tonight, Renews Call to Fully Fund Mars Program

"This success must reinvigorate our efforts to restore funding for planetary science and future Mars missions. While we have restored some of the funding -- almost $100 million so far -- much work remains to return the Mars Program to health. Without the certainty of future missions and support, we will find it impossible to maintain the most specialized workforce on earth -- the brilliant engineers and scientists who made this mission possible."

Keith's note: According to Presidential science advisor John Holdren speaking at the post-landing press briefing: "There is a one ton automobile-sized piece of American ingenuity sitting on the surface of Mars"

Curiosity Lands On Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Sends Back Image of Curiosity Rover Descent, SpaceRef

"NASA released an image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which was taken during the descent of the Mars Science Laboratory with the Curiosity rover and shows the deployed parachute and the spacecraft as it prepares to land."

NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain

"NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack."

Video: Relive the Mars Curiosity Rover Landing on Mars , SpaceRef

"In a technological feat never before tried the Mars Science Laboratory with the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars on time with apparently no apparent glitches and because the Odyssey orbiter was in a good alignment, a few pictures came in right away."

NASA's New Mars Rover Sends Higher-Resolution Image

"About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA's Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater. Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., received the image, taken by one of the vehicle's lower-fidelity, black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras - or Hazcams."

Planetary Exploration Newsletter Editorial from Mark Sykes: Mars Science Laboratory

"MSL lands this evening, but our community will not be "forever changed." I disagree with Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Division Director ... We are weakened by bad policy recommendations and decisions of the past ten years, crippling the former workhorse Discovery program and canceling the Mars Scout program, while backroom deals are pursued to allocate yet more resources to large, uncompeted projects. The greatest challenge facing U.S. solar system exploration is making the transition from an adolescent focus on firsts to rebuilding our foundational programs and embracing science as "the endless frontier."

Note from James Green, Director Planetary Science, NASA on Mars Curiosity Rover Landing, earlier post

NASA takes more than a year to provide shuttle decision documents, Dayton Daily News

"After the National Aeronautics and Space Administration chose not to assign a retired space shuttle last year to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Dayton Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking NASA to provide documents supporting its decisions on where to send the orbiters. NASA initially took 13 months to deny in full the newspaper's request, then partially granted an appeal by providing a package of dozens of essentially identical letters that had been sent to members of Congress, governors and big-city mayors to state reasons for the space agency's allocation of the orbiters."

As NASA Announces Partnerships With Commercial Crew Program, Floridians Worry About Romney's Silence On Space Policy, Obama for America-Florida

"As Floridians have seen President Obama's continued commitment on moving our nation's space program forward, Mitt Romney refuses to answer even the most basic questions surrounding space policy. He won't say if he supports President Obama's efforts to support and grow America's commercial space industry, and as each day passes, it becomes increasingly clear that Mitt Romney has no clear vision for NASA." - Eric Jotkoff, Obama for America-Florida"

Keith's note: NASA just flashed this Mars scoreboard graphic again in an effort to lower expectations about MSL's landing chances and to give everyone an appreciation as to how hard it is to land something on Mars. One problem: NASA did not really explain the numbers "Earth: 15 Mars: 24". The U.S. has not tried to send 15+24 or 39 missions to Mars. Not even close. NASA is referring to all missions sent - by everyone - to Mars over the past half century. But they say "we" when they show the chart and refer to previous NASA missions. If you look at this Wikipedia page you can see that 17 or so of the failures were USSR/Russian missions in the 60s and 80s i.e. 30 to 50 years ago. What do half-century-old primitive Soviet Mars probes - many of which never even left Earth - have to do with 21st Century missions? Somewhat misleading to say the least.

'Seven minutes of terror': Mars rover landing will be a nail-biter, Christian Science Monitor

"Humanity's track record for Mars missions isn't stellar, James Green, NASA director of planetary science, suggested ... Since 1960, when the first attempt at a Mars flyby was made by the Soviet Union, "the historical success rate at Mars is only 40 percent," he wrote. That figure, however, includes all space-faring nations, such as Russia, pre- and post-Soviet collapse, which is 0 for 19, most recently with the loss of last year's Phobos-Grunt mission to study the moons of Mars. Out of the 18 mission NASA lists with Mars as the destination or as the main target for a flyby, the agency has a batting average of .730. Of the attempts at landing spacecraft on the surface, beginning with the Viking missions in 1975, the agency is six for seven."

Note from James Green, Director Planetary Science, NASA on Mars Curiosity Rover Landing

"As you may already know, the historical success rate at the planet Mars is only 40%. Although our landing percentage odds are higher (100%), successful landing with an unproven, next generation, landing system...well, that will be a white-knuckle- experience to say the least."

Keith's note: Jim, how can you say that NASA has 100% landing rates when Mars Polar Lander and DeepSpace 2 crashed into Mars? I guess a "crash" = a "landing" at NASA (who knew). If that's the case we're doing even better than 100% since Mars Climate Orbiter crashed (I mean "landed") on Mars - and it wasn't even supposed to be a lander!

NASA to Announce New Agreements for Next Phase of Commercial Crew Development

"NASA will issue a news release to announce new agreements with industry partners for its Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative at 9 a.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 3. At 10 a.m. NASA will host a news briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website. NASA also will host a follow-up teleconference for media representatives with detailed questions at 10:45 a.m., immediately following the briefing."

Slides being discussed during media telecon.

NASA Announces Next Steps in Effort to Launch Americans From U.S. Soil

"NASA Friday announced new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. Advances made by these companies under newly signed Space Act Agreements through the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative are intended to ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.

CCiCap partners are:

-- Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
-- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
-- The Boeing Company, Houston, $460 million"

Futron Releases 2012 Space Competitiveness Index, SpaceRef.biz

"Futron has released its 2012 Space Competitiveness Index marking the 5th anniversary of the yearly publication. According to the report, the United States remains the overall leader in space competitiveness but is seeing a decline for the 5th year in a row."

Ex-NASA boss defends GW Bush "vision" (again...), Doctorlinda (Linda Billings)

"Griffin told the committee that he's grown "tired" of pronouncements that the United States is "the world's leader in space."* "We barely rank number 3.... Our vision today is mostly talk," he said, insisting that the Constellation program put in place in response to President Bush's so-called "Vision for Space Exploration" was, and still is, a good plan and affordable to execute. He asserted that Bush's strategy was "the right strategy, was endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and did not a massive increase in the NASA budget."

Keith's note: What is Mike Griffin Smoking? Futron shows the U.S. in #1 position but Griffin claims that it is #3. Does Griffin know something that the experts at Futron do not know? Where does Griffin get his data? Is he going to share the numbers with the rest of us? Is this some secret campaign data that the Romney folks have unearthed or just more hot air and sour grapes on Mike's part? Truth be known: Mike Griffin needs the U.S. to be in an inferior and declining position so as to hype his own voodoo rocket science. It makes no sense otherwise. He seems to think that if he just says things often enough that people will think what he says is true.

Mike Griffin/Scott Pace Road Show Update, earlier post

"Once again Mike Griffin and Scott Pace are using a third party forum to (1) whine about the big game they lost in high school and (2) advance their personal views - views that may or may not represent the Romney campaign - which is (3) an organization that they may or may not represent depending on how they (4) want the media to report what they say or did not say so as to (5) stay in the news so that (6) one of them gets to run NASA (again)."

NASA Rolls Out New App to Increase Space Based Knowledge

"What: NASA plans to launch its new Space 365 App this Friday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Space 365 offers quick access to NASA events and quirky trivia facts that happened each day of the year. More than 4,000 NASA events are contained in the database. If you want to follow the latest on the Mars Curiosity Rover, check out a special date in history, or simply love trivia, you'll want to discover more about NASA's newest app. For the rollout event, we'll have a big screen and a demonstration area for you to check out this cutting-edge app, developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville."

Keith's note: Is this an official NASA application? The reason I ask is that there is no NASA logo anywhere - not on the app page, in the iTunes store, or within the app itself. The only contact you are offered is someone named "Dr. Steve". The only way I'd know his last name is this press release. There is no obvious way in this app to reach NASA.gov. Why is NASA putting an official application out without any discernible NASA branding? When I type in "Mars Curiosity" the most recent event I get is an event on 26 Nov 2011 - yet the default home page has a picture of John Grunsfeld on the Colbert Report last night. NASA has been sending out multiple releases about Curiosity - why doesn't this app know about them? Indeed, what is the point of this app again?

According to the iTunes page for this app the languages supported are "English, German, Northern Sami, Spanish". For a U.S. audience, English and Spanish make sense. German - not so much. But Northern Sami? This language is only spoken in the northern portions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. One would think you'd try for French, Chinese or Russian before you thought about Northern Sami.

Futron Releases 2012 Space Competitiveness IndexFutron Releases 2012 Space Competitiveness Index, Commercial Space Watch

"Futron has released its 2012 Space Competitiveness Index marking the 5th anniversary of the yearly publication. According to the report, the United States remains the overall leader in space competitiveness but is seeing a decline for the 5th year in a row. The decline is attributed to enhanced capabilities in other countries while the U.S. is undergoing a transition with 'significant' uncertainty. New to the index this year are emerging space nations Argentina, Australia, Iran, South Africa and the Ukraine."

Report of Investigation into Allegations that Members of a NASA-Supervised Advisory Committee Violated Federal Conflict of Interest Laws

"In summary, after reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing more than 20 witnesses, the OIG found that by co-signing the letter to the FCC Parkinson improperly participated in a particular matter that had a direct and predictable effect on his financial interest. Parkinson's conflict resulted from his status as a stockholder and board member of Trimble Navigation Limited (Trimble), a California manufacturer of precision-GPS devices that helped form a coalition of GPS makers and users to block the LightSquared plan. However, we also determined that Parkinson's actions were not motivated by a financial interest but rather appeared to be driven by his desire to protect a critical national resource he had helped create."

Focus Charlie. Focus.

NASA chief: U.S. won't go it alone on manned Mars mission

"U.S. astronauts won't land on Mars by themselves but with international partners in the 2030s, NASA's chief said Wednesday. "I have no desire to do a Mars landing on our own," Bolden said. "The U.S. cannot always be the leader, but we can be the inspirational leader through international cooperation" in space exploration. Obama administration plans are for the $17.7 billion space agency to land an astronaut on an asteroid in 2025, then go to Mars by the middle of the 2030s."

Keith's note: Given these time frames - "2025, middle 2030s", no one presently working in the White House or on the 9th floor of NASA Headquarters will be in a position to implement - or even do the initial planning for - a human mission to Mars. Indeed, for missions more than a decade or two in the future, they will have little if any impact on what is or is not done. As such, this commentary by Charlie Bolden is simply pointless - including his "desires". Charlie Bolden needs to focus more on the near future where he can actually have some impact.

As for Bolden's statement that "The U.S. cannot always be the leader", gee, that sounds preemptively defeatist. Why bother trying? If Bolden is already thinking that way, then all this future stuff he pontificates about is really beyond his influence. Time for a leadership reboot.

Hearing Charter

"The introduction of new commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles (SRVs) in the private sector has enabled the emergence of new markets. A number of these new companies are already testing their vehicles and plan to initiate commercial operations within a few years. This hearing will examine the potential launch markets and applications for SRVs, the unique benefits that SRVs offer the scientific community for research, and the regulatory uncertainties that currently have the most impact on the emerging commercial SRV industry."

Witness statements: Carissa Christensen, Alan Stern, George Whitesides, Bretton Alexander, Andrew Nelson, Stephan R. McCandliss


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