October 2012 Archives

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden held his SES summit the other day. This time it was done virtually so as to save travel funds. 400-500 people were on the telecon from across the agency. According to participants, at one point Bolden was asked a question about the election and what he thought as a political appointee. Bolden replied "I do not see myself as a Democratic political appointee." He then went on to talk about how he often did not agree with what the White House wanted him to do at NASA and how he had brokered some political deals with republicans. He added "if I had done what the President had wanted then NASA would just be a technology program".

Keith's update: According to NASA PAO this is a transcript of what Charlie Bolden said (in contrast to what multiple sources who listened in on the telecon have told NASA Watch):

"Let me make a subtle correction to something you said. I'm appointed by the president. I work for the president. I have the utmost respect for the president. My job, however, is to add advise the president on what force the agency should be. I like our priorities because I think we help develop those and they may not be -- they may not be exactly where somebody else sitting in this seat would have been. We helped to develop those priorities and so that's where I'm trying to keep the agency aligned. I don't view them as democratic or Republican priorities. I emphasize that these -- they represent significant compromises. If the president had gotten his way, the number 1 priority for the agency probably would have been something like technology development. That is something about which he is passionate and if you notice, it is not one of the three major priorities. But it is -- it is the underpinning of everything we do."

I asked NASA PAO for a full transcript of Bolden's remarks but NASA PAO has declined to provide one. Note that the question that Bolden is responding to was not transcribed by NASA - only his response. i.e. "Let me make a subtle correction to something you said." OK, what was it that the questioner said? My sources say that Bolden was asked about the political implications of the election as a political appointee aligned with a Democrat affiliation.

Obama failed space program; Romney would revitalize it, opinon, Gene Cernan, Orlando Sentinel

"Frankly, the world's leading space-faring nation shouldn't have to pay Russia for rides to the International Space Station. That's not only an insult to the hundreds of women and men like me who have built a legacy based on, literally, reaching for the stars, but it also hurts the local economy and puts local jobs at risk at a time when Florida's unemployment rate is already higher than the national average."

Keith's note: With all due respect, Gene, a little history lesson (not that you care): when George Bush decided to shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2004, there was a blatant and openly admitted gap in American human access to space that no American spacecraft - Constellation or otherwise - would have met under even the most optimistic scenarios until 2014-2018 (that date constantly slipped). Your good friend and ghostwriter Mike Griffin openly admitted that repeatedly. George Bush set us on the path to paying Russia to gain access to the ISS - regardless of what timeline you chose to refer to. He then proceeded to underfund Constellation and did not push Congress for funding so as to make it incapable of achieving its avowed goals.

Under the plans now in place for NASA's commercial crew programs, there will likely be indigenous American access to space sooner than Mike Griffin would ever have achieved with his bloated, underfunded, and oft-delayed Constellation program. Let me suggest that you check your facts before you embarrass yourself further.

NASA's Huge New SLS Rocket Could Power Missions Far Beyond Mars, Space.com

"NASA is contemplating space journeys far beyond a near-Earth asteroid, the moon or Mars for its new heavy-lift rocket in development. The Space Launch System (SLS), as it is called, could instead visit the moon of Pluto or return samples from other outer planets."

Keith's note: Curiously, not a word is mentioned in this article about the cost of these missions (both launching the SLS and building/operating the payloads). The reason for that omission is quite simple: there is no budget to pay for any of these proposed payloads - however cool, nifty, or useful they might be.

Soyuz spacecraft launches 32 fish, hippo to space station, space.com via Fox

"I think it's going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," Novitskiy said in a NASA briefing before the mission. Novitskiy picked a small toy hippo, a gift from his teenage daughter Yana, to use an indicator of when the Soyuz reached the weightless environment of space."

Keith's note: Contrary to what some space bloggers and writers have suggested, this is not a "hippo". Rather, it is a plushie version of Suni Williams' dog "Gorbie" Indeed, she pulled the plushie version of Gorbie out for me during the on-orbit interview I did with her in September - more than a month before this recent Soyuz was even launched.

THIS is what a hippo looks like in a Soyuz.

Keith's 29 Oct note: The @NASA_SDO twitter account just noted "Due to the impact of Hurricane #Sandy @NASA_Goddard the @NASA_SDO website is down. Sorry for the inconvenience We will have it up again ASAP".

This is baffling. The most weather we have here in the DC/Baltimore area right now is steady rain. No hurricane effects are being felt yet. But none the less a GSFC website is offline? I wonder what would happen during a solar storm when the website is actually needed. Hasn't NASA learned how to prepare for such simple contingencies i.e. placing its websites (or at least a back up mirror) in the cloud? Maybe if the SDO folks spent a little more time on routine web support and less time on their dead rubber chicken mascot this wouldn't happen.

But wait: since NASA is incapable of having one official SDO website (due to a chronic organizational inability to adopt a simple website plan) there is another official NASA SDO website online here but it has nothing to do with this equally official SDO website here (which is offline) except that it loads images from the site that is offline right now.

Keith's 30 Oct update: It has been 24 hours. The hurricane is gone. All of NASA's websites seem to be working just fine - none seem to have been knocked offline - except for the SDO website at GSFC which was taken offline. The other (competeting) official NASA SDO website that relies on this downed GSFC server for images shows blank space where the "Latest SDO AIA Image" should be.

Keith's 31 Oct update: The website is back online. What is really odd is this notice they posted:

"The SDO Website is Down Mon, 29 Oct 2012 Due to anticipated power grid problems caused by Hurricane Sandy the SDO website has been shutdown. We regret the inconvenience. The website should return tomorrow. All SDO data is sent to the ground and stored at the data centers."

Think about this for a second. They posted this notice on 29 October on a website that no one could see on 29 or 30 October. Who did they expect to read this notice? You would have had to actually be able to see the website in order to see the notice that the website was offline. Only at NASA.

Space Shuttle Exhibit Collapses After Sandy (Photo), CNN

"The space shuttle exhibit on the Intrepid, normally a giant grey bubble from the outside, has completely collapsed due to Sandy."

Keith's note: This Instagram picture shows another view of the damage to the bubble that surrounded Enterprise. The museum's live webcam (which stopped updating before the storm hit) shows the bubble before it was destroyed.

First Outing for SpaceX, Editorial, New York Times

"SpaceX currently has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to carry out at least 11 more cargo resupply missions through 2016. Another company, the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., has built a new cargo spacecraft under NASA contract and is preparing for a test flight next year. The best news from this first commercial flight is that the Falcon 9 rocket was able to complete its cargo delivery mission despite the loss of an engine. Although it was not perfect, the outing shows that private companies can carry out relatively mundane tasks like space cargo transport."

NOAA's GOES-13 Image of Sandy on Tuesday Morning

Keith's note: This image was taken this morning by GOES-13. More recent images and animations can be found here.

MetOp-A captures Image of Hurricane Sandy

"Europe's polar orbiting weather satellite, MetOp-A, captured this image of Hurricane Sandy just as the huge storm hit the east coast of the US yesterday."

GOES-13 Satellite Shows Sandy's Extent on Monday

"NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured a visible image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Monday, Oct. 29 at 9:10 a.m. EDT that showed the immense extent of the storm."

Marc's note: NASA Goddard is still under a code red for today. We'll update you with any changes as we hear them. Please send in your news, tips, pictures to nasawatch@spaceref.com.

- The headline on the New York Times says it all: A REGION CRIPPLED

- Potential Weather Satellite Gap Finally Getting Media Attention Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Space Policy Online

"Perhaps one silver lining from Hurricane Sandy is that the storm is raising awareness of the long-known likelihood that there will be a gap in weather satellite coverage a few years from now because new satellites are not ready to launch before older satellites cease functioning."

NASA Hurricane Hunter

NASA Preps Drone Hurricane Hunters, But Misses Sandy, Wired

"Hurricane Sandy has slammed onto the eastern seaboard. There's been widespread damage and flooding across more than six states. There's been loss of life. But at NASA, researchers are developing a pair of experimental unmanned drones to track future storms in the hope of being better prepared for when they strike."

NASA Watch Updating

Keith's note: Power will eventually go out here in the metro DC area as hurricane Sandy strikes. When I go offline Marc Boucher will keep NASA Watch up to date from Toronto, Canada until such time as I get power back. Of course Toronto is going to get hammered too at some point so we may not update for a while. Who knows. Stay safe.

Keith's note: Amazingly we did not lose power and had no damage but others were not so lucky.

Russian Industry Problems

What's Happening to the Russian Space Industry?, Commercial Space Watch

"On the morning of August 6, the Russian space industry woke up to yet another failure in a long list of failures over the last 2 years. 2 months later, on October 16th that failure became a catastrophe with the explosion of the Briz-M upperstage. Are we witness to the end of the dominance of the Russian space industry?"

Marc's note:Further down in the article when discussing the Briz-M "break-up" and the ISS.

"The differing rates at which the two orbits precess around the Earth's polar axis mean that the ISS orbital path will periodically move in and out of the debris cloud, and will sometimes spend several days at a time with a large part of its orbit within the cloud.

Depending on the actual number of fragments, this event may eventually be considered to be the most dangerous fragmentation event ever to have occurred in space."

Cleveland's Glenn Research Center seeking stability with uncertainties ahead for NASA, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"During an eight-week stretch this summer, for instance, a prominent NASA blogger reported that Lugo was about to be replaced (he wasn't), and a former NASA administrator advising Mitt Romney's presidential campaign warned that the space agency was planning to scrap all human space flight work and eliminate its 244 jobs at Glenn. (Both NASA and the White House issued unusually blunt denials.)"

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden is not happy with the waves that Ray Lugo is making. Lugo has been told to put his reorganization on hold by NASA HQ but it would seem that he is still moving ahead with it. Stay tuned.

- Lugo's Big Mistake: Changes Ahead at GRC Halted, earier post
- Bolden Seeks To Replace Multiple Center Directors, earlier post

Dragon Spacecraft Returns to Earth in First Official Cargo Resupply Mission to Space Station, SpaceX

""This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk. "The reliability of SpaceX's technology and the strength of our partnership with NASA provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come.""

SpaceX Dragon Returns from Space Station with NASA Cargo, NASA JSC

"A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:22 p.m. CDT Sunday a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. The splashdown successfully ended the first contracted cargo delivery flight contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station."

Felix Baumgartner Sounds Off on NASA, Sir Richard Branson, Daily Beast

"A lot of guys they are talking about landing on Mars," he said. "Because [they say] it is so important to land on Mars because we would learn a lot more about our planet here, our Earth, by going to Mars which actually makes no sense to me because we know a lot about Earth and we still treat our planet, which is very fragile, in a really bad way. "So I think we should perhaps spend all the money [which is] going to Mars to learn about Earth. I mean, you cannot send people there because it is just too far away. That little knowledge we get from Mars I don't think it does make sense." Earlier this year Nasa landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. The plutonium powered robot will explore the surface of the Red Planet for upwards of 10 years at a cost of $2.5 billion ( 1.5 billion). "That is tax money," Mr Baumgartner, 43, added. "People should decide 'are you willing to spend all this money to go to Mars?' I think the average person on the ground would never spend that amount of money - they have to spend it on something that makes sense and this is definitely saving our planet."

Keith's note: I find it baffling, to say the least, that someone like commercial thrill seeker Felix Baumgartner - who just did something rather gutsy and improbable by jumping from a balloon 24 miles above Earth - thinks that sending humans to Mars is not possible because "it is just too far away". Really, Felix? How defeatist of you. As for the cost of what NASA does - the last time I checked, Felix was not an American taxpayer (you know, the people who actually pay those "taxes" for NASA) but rather, is an Austrian citizen. NASA doesn't get Austrian tax funding. It would seem, based on some simple Google searches, that Austria doesn't really have much of a space program to speak of. Nor do they seem to want one. Yet decades of polls clearly show that Americans really like their space program.

So, Felix ... we'll run our space program the way we want to - and perhaps you should focus your space exploration criticism at home - where you pay your taxes? Maybe Austria can have a space program someday.

Oh yes, Felix, since you raised the point: how many millions of dollars did your skydive project cost? How did it help to "save our planet"?

Red Bull Pays Record U.K. Fine for Failing to Recycle Packaging Waste, Environmental Leader

"Soft drink company Red Bull has been fined 271,800 (about $448,400) for failing to meet its requirements to recover and recycle packaging waste for eight years between 1999 and 2006, ... This beats the previous highest fine of 225,000 (about $371,107) that was imposed in January 2008 on a company that also failed to register as a producer of packaging..." (hat tip to @SarcasticRover).

Keith's update: It would seem that Felix Baumgartner has some other controversial things to say. I don't think he's going to be invited to speak at many space events ...

Baumgartner: "Wir wrden eine gemigte Diktatur brauchen" (Google Translate: Baumgartner: "We would need a moderate dictatorship"), Kleine Zeitung

"Ist ein Wechsel in die Politik eine Option fr Ihre Zukunft? FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Nein, man hat das am Beispiel Schwarzenegger gesehen: Du kannst in einer Demokratie nichts bewegen. Wir wrden eine gemigte Diktatur brauchen, wo es ein paar Leute aus der Privatwirtschaft gibt, sie sich wirklich auskennen."

[Google Translate] "Is a change in the policy is an option for your future? FELIX BAUMGARTNER: No, we have seen the example of the Schwarzenegger: You can not move anything in a democracy. We would need a moderate dictatorship, where there are a few people from the private sector, they know really."

Daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner opts for 'moderate dictatorship', AFP

"Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian parachutist who broke the sound barrier by jumping to earth from the stratosphere said in an interview published Sunday he backed the idea of a dictatorship, though a moderate one."

Charlie Bolden Intends To Press President Obama on Mars Mission Mandate for NASA

"This long term ISS operations plan did not sit well will NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. Bolden said that he needed to know directly from President Obama whether or not missions to Mars starting in the 2030s was to be NASA's ultimate goal. If this is not the President's goal for NASA, then Bolden wondered why NASA should be expected to continue funding the ISS for another decade and a half. At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."

Keith's 25 October note: NASA GRC put out this small business set aside solicitation "Alarm Philosophy Development Workshop" on 25 October 2012. Responses are due a mere 24 hours later on 26 October 2012. The solicitation states "This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for an Alarm Philosophy Development Workshop for twenty-five (25) people from November 5, 2012, through November 9, 2012." GRC says "all responsible sources may submit an offer which shall be considered by the agency" and "Selection and award will be made to that offeror whose offer will be most advantageous to the Government, with consideration given to the factors of proposed technical merit, price, and past performance."

But nowhere is the "Alarm Philosophy Development Workshop" even described such that someone can submit a bid - assuming that they can even pull one together with only 24 hours notice. Curiously, this formal NASA procurment notice, issued on 25 October 2012, also states "All contractual and technical questions must be in writing (e-mail or fax) to ... not later than close of business Wednesday, October 24, 2012." In other words you need a time machine so as to be able to submit comments required - a day before this notice was even released - assuming that you know enough to submit anything in the first place.

Keith's 26 October update: Someone must read NASAWatch. This mod was just posted today. A time machine is no longer needed. "You are notified that the following changes are made: Date for receipt of technical/contractual questions is close of business October 29, 2012. Date for receipt of quotations is close of business October 31, 2012. The due date for responses is extended to close of business October 31, 2012." This mod adds a statement of work that explains what the government will actually spend your money on. Guess what: its all about "alarms". I sent email inquires to the individuals listed on the original notice but they never responded. They never do.

James Royston Statement at Hearing Highlighting Research, Discovery aboard the International Space Station, 25 July 2012

"Through a series of evaluations, interviews, and down-selects, the Interim Board has identified the first group of permanent Board of Directors candidates, all of whom represent the best American minds in the fields of scientific research and management from academia, government, and industry. An announcement of the first set of Board members will be made shortly, with the remaining 15-member Board finalized soon thereafter."

William Gerstenmaier Statement at Hearing Highlighting Research, Discovery aboard the International Space Station, 25 July 2012

"NASA is working with CASIS' interim Board of Directors to identify and evaluate a diverse group of outstanding individuals for that board, and the Agency is also in the process of transitioning existing National Laboratory agreement holders to CASIS."

Letter from NASA to CASIS regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation, 21 March 2012

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

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation, 28 March 2012

"A Selection process for the full Initial Board has been approved and is underway."

Keith's 23 Oct update: Three months since the hearing. Seven months since the memos. Still no news from CASIS as to who is on their board of directors or when this board will be announced. Sources report that no one (White House, NASA, Congress, research community) likes the names that CASIS has floated.

Are Gen Xers Lost In Space?

How many Gen Xers know their cosmic address?

"Less than half of Generation X adults can identify our home in the universe, a spiral galaxy, according to a University of Michigan report. "Knowing your cosmic address is not a necessary job skill, but it is an important part of human knowledge about our universe and--to some extent--about ourselves," said Jon D. Miller, author of "The Generation X Report" and director of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden will be speaking at "Charles Bolden Speaks at The Future of Strategic Partnerships in Space" hosted by the Atlantic Council on 23 October. According to the Atlantic Council this event will be "closed to press and off-the-record". But apparently anyone can ask to attend but they waive their right to free speech in so doing, it would seem. Why is the NASA Administrator having a discussion with a private organization about matters that the media cannot report on - and that no one in attendance can reveal? How did NASA public affairs sanction Bolden's participation in such an exclusive, elitist, and clearly non-transparent activity? With China's space program being one of the stated issues of concern for this event it is rather baffling that Bolden's comments would be declared unrepeatable by/to the public. I wonder what a FOIA request for Bolden's prepared comments would get as a response from NASA.

Keith's update: NASA PAO has declined to respond to a request made yesterday morning seeking clarification on this issue.

The Vision for Space Exploration: A Brief History (Part 1), Paul Spudis

"Near the end of my recent two hour co-appearance with Dr. Jim Vedda on The Space Show (October 19, 2012), an ongoing misconception emerged about the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and prompts me to detail some of the history of the VSE and its original intent. Such a review is timely as discussions rage about NASA's current and future direction."

Photos and Video: Blue Origin Suborbital Crew Capsule Escape System Test

"Blue Origin conducted a successful Pad Escape test last week at its West Texas launch site, firing its pusher escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital Crew Capsule from a launch vehicle simulator. The Crew Capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 feet under active thrust vector control before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 1,630 feet downrange."

Mitt Romney: Lost in Space ..., opinion, Jim Kohlenberger (former Obama OSTP official), Space News

"In 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office had identified poor planning around the looming space shuttle retirement and its follow-on program as one of 13 "urgent issues" that any new president would have to confront when they came into office in 2009. Because of years of mismatch between vision and resources, the independent Augustine commission found that the Constellation program was not viable under any feasible budget scenario. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle agreed. Rather than walking away, President Obama knew we had to do better and laid out an ambitious new agenda of human and scientific missions that promise to take NASA and America's space program to historic new heights."

... Or Ready to Restore Lost U.S. Leadership in Space?, Opinion, Scott Pace and Eric Anderson, Space News

"Unfortunately, American leadership is in jeopardy. Today we have a space program befitting a president who rejects American exceptionalism, apologizes for America and believes we should be just another nation with a flag. President Barack Obama has put us on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space. For the first time since the dawn of the Space Age, America has chosen to forgo its own capabilities for putting astronauts into space and instead relies on the Russians. The space shuttle's planned retirement was known on the day President Obama took office, yet the earliest that Americans will again ride American rockets into space is 2016."

Keith's note: What a pair of memory-challenged hypocrites.

Its rather odd that Space Adventures CEO Anderson would be party to such comments. in April 2010, when he was Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Anderson is quoted as saying the following about the Obama Administration's space policy: "This visionary plan is a master stroke. It's exactly what NASA needs in order to continue to lead the world in space exploration in the 21st century." In May 2012, on the occasion of the first launch of the SpaceX Dragon, CSF Chairman Anderson is again quoted, saying "This is a testament to the viability of the commercial spaceflight industry ... Congratulations to SpaceX for successfully completing the first steps of this demonstration flight. Elon and his team's success today is an important milestone in achieving a sustainable space program."

That's quite a reversal in opinion for Mr. Anderson given what he is quoted as having said before. Curiously CSF hasn't changed their stance and Anderson continues to serve on their board.

Its also rather curious that Anderson would be against flying American astronauts (for a fee) on board Russian Soyuz spacecraft and also a plan whereby American commercial vendors (such as SpaceX) would be used to fly cargo and eventually future American crews to the ISS given that Anderson's company has been taking money from rich Americans to buy seats on the very same Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. Indeed each sale his company facilitates results in a large check being written to Russian companies. How is that helping the U.S. commercial launch sector? - especially when Gov. Romney has already identified Russia as being "without question our number one geopolitical foe."

Scott Pace's comments evidence total amnesia on his part. Regardless of whether you think it was a good or bad idea, the plan to retire the Space Shuttle and rely upon Russia to transport Americans to the ISS for a number of years was put in place by the Bush Administration - not the Obama Administration. After working in the Bush White House to develop that policy, Scott Pace spent 4 years with Mike Griffin at NASA during the Bush Administration implementing this policy. FYI I am told this phenomenon has become known as "Romnesia"

Pace and Anderson lament a gap between Shuttle retirement and first possible U.S. access to space in 2016 yet that date was already accepted as fact for Orion/Constellation while Pace and Mike Griffin were still running NASA. Indeed 2018 was cited as a more realistic estimate. As for the commercial access to space being pursued by SpaceX and others, Mike Griffin (one would assume with Scott Pace's agreement) signed a number of agreements with private companies to bolster their involvement with NAS A including this one with SpaceX and Orbital in 2008.

In other words Scott Pace and Eric Anderson were most certainly for the things that the Obama Administration has been doing - before they were against them.

- Double Standards and Sour Grapes From the Romney/Griffin Camp, Earlier Post

- The Romney Campaign has a Space Policy Etch-A-Sketch, Earlier Post

Romney for president, Houston Chronicle

"As Texans, it is a particular vexation that this president's attitude toward the interests of our state has occasionally bordered on contempt, particularly in decisions relating to the NASA budget and the energy sector. The hurtful symbol of this attitude of insensitivity to Texans' feelings was the administration's choice to deny Space City's bid to become home to one of the retired space shuttles."

The Chronicle is wrong on NASA, opinion

"While the Romney campaign has largely been quiet on space policy except to criticize President Obama or mock Newt Gingrich's lunar base proposals, what noise has been made from his camp is coming from the same former administrators and policy wonks who got us into this mess in the first place, like former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin."

This Video was achived by "stacking" image sequences provided by NASA from the Crew at International Space Station. These "stacks" create the Star Trails, but furthermore make interesting patterns visible. For example lightning corridors within clouds, but they also show occasional satellite tracks (or Iridium Flashes) as well as meteors - patterns that interrupt the main Star Trails, and thus are immediately visible. The many oversaturated hot pixels in some of the scenes are the inevitable result of ultrahigh ISO settings the Nikon D3s in ISS-use are pushed to for keeping exposure times short by all means (owed to the dramatic speed the ISS travels). As there are no dark frames or RAW data currently available, hot pixels are not easy to remove.

Ryan tells Fla. crowd: Obama 'not telling you what his second-term plan would be', The Hill

"Ryan was later pressed about what his administration would do about funding to NASA, a potent issue in the state that houses Cape Canaveral. The Wisconsin lawmaker used the opportunity to swipe at the president for saying "just about everything that is wrong today was the last president's fault," parlaying that into an attack on the Obama administration's changes to NASA funding. "The Obama administration came in and they inherited a plan for NASA from the Bush administration. They had a plan for space. They jettisoned that plan," Ryan said. "They put it on, basically got rid of that plan. Now we have effectively no plan. We are not putting people in space anymore." Ryan noted that NASA now sends astronauts to space aboard Russian spacecraft, and transitioned into an attack on the looming sequestration deal that could cut defense spending."

Uranian Weather Revealed

Keck Observations Bring Weather of Uranus Into Sharp Focus

"In 1986, when Voyager swept past Uranus, the probe's portraits of the planet were "notoriously bland," disappointing scientists, yielding few new details of the planet and its atmosphere, and giving it a reputation as a bore of the solar system. Now, however, thanks to a new technique applied at the Keck Observatory, Uranus is coming into sharp focus through high-resolution infrared images, revealing in incredible detail the bizarre weather of the seventh planet from the sun."

Bashing Jupiter

Jupiter - Turmoil from Below, Battering from Above

"Jupiter, the mythical god of sky and thunder, would certainly be pleased at all the changes afoot at his namesake planet. As the planet gets peppered continually with small space rocks, wide belts of the atmosphere are changing color, hotspots are vanishing and reappearing, and clouds are gathering over one part of Jupiter, while dissipating over another."

Keith's note: Former U.S. Senator - and astronaut - John Glenn appears in this Obama campaign video. While astronauts have endorsed candidates in the past - and even run for (and won) office, I think (as best as I can tell) that this is the first time that an astronaut has appeared in a campaign video (film) in support of a specific presidential candiate. Fact checking by NASAWatch readers would be appreciated.

Earth-Mass Planet Found Orbiting Alpha Centauri B

"European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system -- the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012."

NASA Statement On Alpha Centauri Planet Discovery

"The following is a statement about the European Southern Observatory's latest exoplanet discovery from NASA's Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator, Dr. John Grunsfeld. "We congratulate the European Southern Observatory team for making this exciting new exoplanet discovery. For astronomers, the search for exoplanets helps us understand our place in the universe and determine whether Earth is unique in supporting life or if it is just one member of a large community of habitable worlds. NASA has several current and future missions that will continue in this search."

American Astronautical Society Cancels 2012 AAS National Conference

"Integral to our planned program in November was the presence of key government speakers from NASA and other agencies that would provide the high level of program and policy information expected by attendees. Due to the unexpected increase in government budget restrictions on travel and support for conferences, none of these NASA speakers who originally intended to participate will attend. In this regard, AAS is hardly unique - a recent American Meteorological Society conference lost 100 out of 130 NOAA attendees at very short notice and this past summer, a large number of NASA attendees had to cancel attendance at the first annual ISS Research and Development Conference due to restrictive travel policies implemented by the Office of Management and Budget after an egregious misuse of taxpayer funds in Las Vegas by the General Services Administration."

Pluto's Moons and Possible Rings May Be Hazards: New Horizons and the Gauntlet it may Encounter in 2015, SwRI

"Although we'd prefer to go closer, going farther from Pluto is certainly preferable to running through a dangerous gauntlet of debris, and possibly even rings, that may orbit close to Pluto among its complex system of moons. ... We may not know whether to fire our engines on New Horizons and bail out to safer distances until just 10 days before reaching Pluto, so this may be a bit of a cliff-hanger. Stay tuned."

Keith's note: That there are conditions surrounding this distant world - ones that are just being discovered - should not be unexpected. That's why we go to such great lengths to explore these worlds in the first place. But these discoveries about Pluto and its environs are not being made by the New Horizons spacecraft - but rather by Earth- and space-based telescopes we've had for a long time - before New Horizons was even launched. But now (oops) 7 years after launch and this potential show stopper pops up. Perhaps some better pre-launch recon was in order prior to departure.

As for use for the phrase "bail out", I wonder what PR genius approved that quote - it makes it sound like NASA did not do its home work first and may eventually have to make a drastic decision as a result.

Also, it is rather odd for NASA not to be announcing a potential threat to one of its spacecraft and a serious departure i.e. "bail out" from its prime mission. What's up with that? Waiting for NASA to reply. I am told a reply is being formulated to the questions I submitted to SMD PAO:

"- Will there be a formal statement from NASA regarding debris issues in the vicinity of Pluto and how it will affect mission plans?
- Will NASA be spending additional funds for additional telescope observations of Pluto? If so how much will these observations cost, what budget pays these costs, what telescopes/spacecraft will be used, and how long will these observations be conducted?
- When will contingency plans for changing the trajectory of New Horizons at Pluto be finalized?
- Who (Individual, agency) makes the final decision as to whether New Horizons continues on its original trajectory or if that trajectory is modified?
- When was NASA notified by New Horizons mission team that the original flight trajectory was in jeopardy due to debris concerns?"

Sen. Coburn: "Washington is set to spend at least $3.6 trillion this year while running a $1.3 trillion deficit. The waste is overflowing and it's time to take out the trash. This coming Tuesday, October 16, we'll be releasing our annual Wastebook 2012 edition."

Download link (Now online)

Keith's note: This year's cover includes the Planet Mars and Darth Vader.

Senator Tom Coburn's Annual Waste Book 2012 - NASA Excerpts

"Imagine pizza so out of this world, you would have to travel to Mars to have a slice. That is the goal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Advanced Food Technology Project, which has already developed a recipe for pizza and about 100 other foods that could be served some day on Mars. Of course, NASA no longer has a manned spaced fleet and no current mission plans for human space flight to Mars, but some are hopeful a trip to the red planet could possibly be taken in the mid-2030s at the earliest. Even this goal is optimistic, however, due to budget constraints that have reduced the appetite for costly space missions. Yet, NASA spends about $1 million annually "researching and building the Mars menu."This year, NASA also awarded $947,000 to researchers at Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to study the best food for astronauts to eat on Mars."

@NASAWatch Tweet: 24 hrs - nothing from #NASA.gov mentioning Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space - just one single tweet yesterday bit.ly/RN6PiR

Keith's note: Buzz surrounding Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump from 24 miles, with a top descent speed of Mach 1.24, is still all over the media and clearly captured the public's imagination. 8 million people watched on YouTube - a new record. Tribute and parody YouTube videos have already gone viral (cats anyone?). Yet, other than a single tweet yesterday (unless I missed something) NASA has not said a single thing about this amazing feat. Yet there was constant mention by the news media as to how such a jump could lead to better spacesuits for NASA (among others). Alas, NASA was originally approached to participate in this activity but declined the offer to do so. Sources tell me that many NASA managers went out of their way to find ways to say "no" to this.

Its now clearly possible for non-NASA entities to approach - and reach space - and do things NASA cannot do. And, after half a century, NASA's increasing absence from these efforts doesn't even seem to be odd anymore. Is this the end of an era - and the beginning of another?

Has NASA even noticed?

Yes, the Space Jump Mattered, Mashable

"So pay no attention to the naysayers. This was just as giant a leap as it felt. It reminded us that making a taller iPhone does not have to be the ultimate ambition of the technically minded. We can dare to look up from our Star Trek-inspired smartphones, gaze at the heavens, and dream of doing things that seem completely ridiculous."

Reusable Booster System Business Case Incomplete; Underlying Technologies Show Significant Potential, NRC

"Due to uncertainties in the business case and yet-to-be mitigated technology risks associated with the Reusable Booster System (RBS) concept, it is currently premature for Air Force Space Command to invest substantially in developing RBS, says a new report from the National Research Council. However, the report strongly endorses the continued research and advanced technology development needed for future launch systems and concludes that reusability remains an option in the future."

NASA and United Launch Alliance Complete Space Act Agreement (with full text of SAA)

"NASA partner United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed the fifth and final milestone for its Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The Hazard, System Safety and Probabilistic Risk Assessment detailed how ULA's Atlas V rocket launch system hardware would ensure crew safety during launch and ascent. "The ULA team did an outstanding job outlining how it plans to integrate its launch vehicle with completely different spacecraft designs," said Ed Mango, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager."

After glitches and delays, Endeavour finally reaches its new home

"It was built for orbital speeds approaching five miles per second, but space shuttle Endeavour took its own sweet time Sunday as it wheeled triumphantly onto the grounds of its new home, the California Science Center. "Mission 26 -- mission accomplished," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced, amid the cheers of thousands of spectators. Before it was retired by NASA, the spacecraft had logged 25 flight missions. However, its final journey was slowed by unexpected maintenance issues and last-minute maneuvers to avoid obstacles like trees and utility poles. Ultimately, the 85-ton orbiter survived the trip with nary a scratch."

Photo: Endeavour Makes Its Final Journey

"Cable technicians raise their cherry pickers watch and photograph the space shuttle Endeavour as it is maneuvered through the streets of Inglewood, Calif., on its way to its new home at the California Science Center, on Oct. 13, 2012."

Red Bull Stratos: Mission Accomplished (with photos)

"Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records while delivering valuable data for future space exploration."

Status Reports

Keith's note: The non-proft organization Quest for Stars has simultaneously launched a high altitude balloon that sent back live images of Felix Baumgartner's ascent. More information here.


NASA Signs Agreement to Develop Nasal Spray for Motion Sickness, NASA (with full text of Space Act Agreement)

"Under the Space Act Agreement, Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. Scopolamine is effective and can be administered as a tablet or injected. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form."

Epiomed and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement for INSCOP, an Intra-nasal Scopolamine Product

"Epiomed will take responsibility for further development and commercialization of INSCOP, assisted by NASA-HH&P (Human Health & Performance Directorate) technology, and assume sponsorship of the IND (Investigational New Drug) from NASA under the SAA."

- Larger GRC Org Chart image

Keith's update: This recent Glenn Research Center reorganization attempt by Ray Lugo was in direct defiance of orders given out by Charlie Bolden to all NASA center directors to not shake things up prior to the election. You see, Ohio is a crucial state in terms of this election - and Lugo's actions have caused a bit of a stir. As a result Ray Lugo's days as GRC Center Director are numbered as far as Bolden is concerned. Bolden has shut this re-org down. Of course, there will be official denials - but that's what is going on behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Bolden has already been admonished by the White House not to shake things up either after his attempt to replace a bunch of center directors. Stay tuned.

Reader comment: "when Mr. Lugo presented the chart to the employees of Glenn Research Center he predicted that some employee would release this to NASA Watch, even though it was made clear that the chart is "pre-decisional", where is the integrity in that."

Keith's update: It still amazes me that a decade into the 21st century that some parts of NASA are stuck in the 19th century.

Bolden Seeks To Replace Multiple Center Directors, earlier post

B612 Foundation Forms Independent Sentinel Special Review Team (with full Space Act Agreement text)

"The SSRT will provide technical advice and assistance during the development and operations of the Sentinel Space Telescope mission. Members include scientists and aerospace experts independently selected by the B612 Sentinel leadership, and members assigned by NASA, which is providing technical support through a Space Act Agreement."

LEGO Education and NASA

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No it's a Satellite! Rocketing Into Space with LEGO Education and NASA!

"It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No it's a Satellite! Rocketing Into Space with LEGO Education and NASA! Crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) will share with students what satellites can be used for. Crew will also explain how these communication devices are launched and carried into space. Students will then be asked to think of other ways to use information gathered from satellites and design their own custom satellite. Topics covered include developing an awareness of outer space, exploring communication devices and understanding data collection. Check out the video with lesson plans here."

Mike Suffredini Objects to Legos in Space, earlier post

"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."

Other Lego postings

Weird Facts That You Didn't Know About E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, io9

"6) E.T. was Spielberg's response to the "stalled space program."

That's what Spielberg said in 1981, adding: "If the government won't fund the space program, to allow people's imagination to soar, then all I can do is make movies that bring space down to earth and make it more accessible to the imagination."

Keith's note: Of course, E.T. was also a hacker.

New NASA TechPort Online Tool Available to Agency Employees

"NASA's Technology Portfolio System (TechPort) is a new agency internal website now available to NASA civil servant and contractor employees who log in from a nasa.gov domain. TechPort is an integrated, agency-wide software system designed to capture, track, and manage NASA's portfolio of technology investments. TechPort provides detailed information on individual technology programs and projects throughout NASA. ... The Office of the Chief Technologist will seek employee feedback on the website, and plans to make TechPort publicly available in the future. Users will be able to browse, search, track, analyze and report on the portfolio of technology investments being pursued at program and project levels, with the resulting benefits being the easy access to information about programs and project results."

Keith's note: Given the self-professed interest on the part of NASA to show taxpayers that there are many non-space ways that NASA-developed technology provides added uses (often and inaccurately referred to as "spinoffs") one would think that there'd be great interest in getting this sort of tool in the hands of consumers, taxpayers, developers, students etc. ASAP. As with the case of many online tools, crowd sourcing is often a great way to take a tool and make it better - by allowing the end-users to participate in the improvement process. I asked NASA when TechPort would be available to the public. They responded: "for the first year we plan on keeping TechPort internal. This is to both help familiarize the resource with employees and to encourage their use of it as a collaborative tool for tracking and managing projects and programs. After our "shake down flight" of TechPort, we hope to make it public -- in about a year."

This seems like a rather long time to me. I guess it also makes me wonder if TechPort is intended as an internal tool that will eventually be made public (with full or partial functionality) or a public tool that will be played with internally for a year before public release. Let's find out. Given NASA's chronic inability to link its various technology activities (see links below) this sounds like a hopeful departure. But as long as it is hidden behind the firewall, most people will never know. The site is online (via nasa.gov only) at https://techport.nasa.gov. Screen grabs, FAQs, downloads of TechPort from internal NASA users would be most appreciated. Send them to nasawatch@spaceref.com

Keith's update: A NASAWatch reader sent this screen grab of TechPort. Larger view.

Also, you would think that NASA's technology efforts would combine all of its established branded technology activities - including NASA Tech Briefs (with its existing subscriber base) - except ... NASA and NASA Tech Briefs make virtually zero mention of each other - and do not seem to be at all bothered by this mutual ignoring of one another.

I decided to snoop around NASA.gov to see what I could find. According to the NASA.gov search function, this link http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/strategic_integration/tech_portfolio_tracking_detail.html used to point to "NASA - Technology Portfolio Tracking An Agency-wide process and system for tracking all of the significant technology investments, activities, and products by NASA." but now it simply points to the OCT home page.

This "DRAFT not for official use" Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan (online at NASA.gov with a creation date of 17 July 2012) says:

SpaceX CRS-1 Mission Update: October 10, 2012

"The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has been successfully captured at the International Space Station. At approximately 6:56AM ET / 3:56AM PT, Expedition 33 crew member Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used the station's robotic arm to grapple Dragon. Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA remarked, "Looks like we've tamed the Dragon. We're happy she's on board with us."

Science From Hell, Seth Shostak via Huffington post

"Here's an idea you probably haven't considered. Astronomer Edwin Hubble, who first discovered the expansion of the universe, was part of a devilish plan. Measurements of nearby galaxies suggesting that the cosmos began with an explosive event -- what we now call the Big Bang -- were a conspiracy to ensure that you don't yearn for spiritual salvation.

What?

No, really. This is the claim of Paul Broun, a Republican representative from Georgia ... here's the zinger: Broun sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology."

Keith's update: Today's balloon attempt was aborted due to high ground winds. There is a backup ballloon for another attempt. Weather is expected to be questionable tomorrow and then it deteriorates further after that.

Status Reports

LIVE WEBCAST

The telescopes that came in from the cold, Nature

"Some astronomers, however, are questioning whether the value of the free hardware-- each NRO telescope is worth at least US$250 million-- can compensate for the extra costs entailed in going from a 1.3-metre mission to a 2.4-metre mission, which will require a larger rocket and a larger camera. Although the WFIRST mission was expected to cost $1.5billion, one NASA estimate puts the NRO option at $1.75billion."

- NRO Gives NASA Two Hubble-Class Telescopes (Shh!), earier post
- Are NASA's New Telescopes NRO Future Imagery Architecture Leftovers?, earier post

Obama Space Endorsements

Astronauts, Business Owners, and Space Leaders Agree: Obama Vision for Space Exploration Ensures a Brighter Future, BarackObama.com

"Sunday night's successful SpaceX launch marks another extraordinary new milestone in space. It also provides an opportunity to assess the significant advances we've seen in just four years on Florida's Space Coast. ... We, the undersigned, believe that President Obama's vision for growing America's leadership in space through investments in U.S. commercial space companies, high-tech research and development, and deep-space exploration capabilities, is critical for Florida's Space Coast and essential for continued U.S. leadership in space."

SpaceX Successfully Launches First Official Cargo Resupply Mission to Space Station

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on the first official cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch went off on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company's cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station's Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware."

SpaceX CRS-1 Mission Update: October 8, 2012

"Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night's launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued immediately. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Our review indicates that the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads ruptured due to the engine pressure release, and that none of Falcon 9's other eight engines were impacted by this event."

ORBCOMM Launches Prototype Satellite - OG2 satellite's insertion orbit lower than planned

"The OG2 prototype satellite, flying as a secondary payload on this mission, was separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle at approximately 9:00 pm EST. However, due to an anomaly on one of the Falcon 9's first stage engines, the rocket did not comply with a pre-planned International Space Station (ISS) safety gate to allow it to execute the second burn. For this reason, the OG2 prototype satellite was deployed into an orbit that was lower than intended. ORBCOMM and Sierra Nevada Corporation engineers have been in contact with the satellite and are working to determine if and the extent to which the orbit can be raised to an operational orbit using the satellite's on-board propulsion system."

More evidence that Voyager has exited the solar system, Houston Chronicle

"New data from the spacecraft, which I will discuss below, indicate Voyager 1 may have exited the solar system for good. If true, this would mark a truly historic moment for the human race -- sending a spacecraft beyond the edge of our home solar system."

Voyager Recent 6 Hour History

Voyage Cosmic Ray Subsystem (Data Graphic)

NASA and International Partners Approve Year-Long Space Station Stay

"NASA and its international partners have announced an agreement to send two crew members to the International Space Station on a one-year mission designed to collect valuable scientific data needed to send humans to new destinations in the solar system. The crew members, one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut, will launch and land in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and are scheduled to begin their voyage in spring 2015."

South L.A. shuttle boosters are feeling jettisoned, LA Times

"Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted it as "the mother of all parades" -- a historic celebration in a part of Los Angeles that doesn't get much fanfare. Over two days, on the major thoroughfares of Westchester, Inglewood and South Los Angeles, space shuttle Endeavour would slowly make its way from LAX to its new home at the California Science Center. Community activists planned events, residents said they would line the streets and local businesses organized viewing parties. But that excitement has turned to anger as officials clamped down on security and significantly reduced public access to the shuttle route. The Los Angeles Police Department announced this week it would close off most sidewalks along the way, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the public to see the shuttle go by."

How To Steal The Space Shuttle: A Step-By-Step Guide, Jalopnik

"The LAPD officers in charge of the security portion of the massive moving project were there, but it was pretty clear their responsibilities had to do with keeping people and the city safe, not protecting the Shuttle from theft. I asked both officers if they thought, given Bond supervillian-levels of resources, it would be possible for someone to steal the shuttle. They made two mistakes in their answers. First mistake was that the first cop told me it was "impossible." The second mistake was that the other policeman told me "I won't say impossible." Now it sounds like a challenge."

SpaceX Dragon to Carry 23 Student Experiments to Space Station

"SSEP offers a unique flight opportunity that allows students to experience both the excitement and the challenges inherent in conducting research in a microgravity environment," said Roosevelt Johnson, deputy associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It really is STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] in action, using the International Space Station -- which has America's only orbiting National Laboratory -- to host these students' science experiments."

Keith's note: No mention is made of this news at the CASIS website. Nor is any mention made at the Space Station or ISS National Laboratory websites. NASA's education website does mention this news. CASIS seems to be going out of its way to ignore the very things it is supposed to be promoting. This project involves Nanoracks which signed an agreement with CASIS to utilize the ISS. Yet CASIS continues to ignore what Nanoracks is doing on the ISS. Baffling.

Photos of Cubesat Deployment From The International Space Station

NASA'S Techedsat Launches From International Space Station

"NASA engineers, student interns and amateur radio enthusiasts around the world are listening for signals from a small, cube-shaped satellite launched into orbit from the International Space Station Thursday."

Keith's update: No mention is made of this news at the CASIS, Space Station, ISS National Laboratory, or NASA education, or Chief Technologist websites.

IAC 2012 Commercial Space Transportation Initiatives (Video), Commercial Space Watch

"Plenary Event 3 at the 2012 International Astronautical Congress in Naples focus was on commercial space transportation initiatives.The Plenary Event provided "a snapshot of the political, economic, and technical landscapes to best determine if, when and how much humankind could be ready to embark on futuristic scenarios based on massive space commercialisation."

Panelist included:
- Alan Bond, Founding Director, Reaction Engines (UK)
- George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (USA)
- William Gerstenmaier, Associate Director, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (USA)
- Silvio Sandrone, Head of Business & New Programmes Development Astrium Space
Transportation (France)
- Luce Fabreguettes, Vice President Business Development, Arianespace (France)
- Georges Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic (USA)

Singer Sarah Brightman Outbids NASA for Space Tourist's Seat, ABC

"ABC News has learned that singer Sarah Brightman, of "Phantom of the Opera" fame, will be the next tourist in space, sometime in 2014 or 2015. To get her seat she had to pay the Russian space agency more than the $51 million NASA budgets on average to send its astronauts to the station. To maintain its presence in orbit when Soyuz seats are limited, NASA had to agree to commit at least one of its astronauts to spend a year in space, instead of the six months they currently stay. Brightman's trip will be announced in Moscow on Oct. 10."

Keith's note: In case you were wondering, for $51 million, according to a per-person cost of $2.58 from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, you could vaccinate 19,767,442 people (yea 19+ MILLION) in developing nations with "5-in-1 vaccine" or "pentavalent" vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B. You could also buy 275,675 OLPC XO-1.75 laptops for students in a developing country at $185 each.

Of course, its her money so she can spend it as she wishes. But I wonder what Sarah Brightman is going to do in conjunction with her flight that compares with the impact that this $51 million could have elsewhere. I certainly hope that she talks with Anousheh Ansari, Richard Garriott, Guy Laliberte, and Mark Shuttleworth.

Here's a thought. She's a stunning vocalist. Take a cue from "First Orbit" and "Fragile Oasis" - and the record sent on the Voyager probes. As she flies over the hundreds of ethnic and national borders on our planet, sing a song - in every language she flies over - in real time. Make a recording - donate all proceeds to a non-profit organization. That would be cool.

I'd ask her this question, except, based on past experience, Space Adventures would simply never allow me access to her in a media opportunity.

No astronauts were 'bumped' in the making of this space tourist, Fox

"An ABC News report by producer Gina Sunseri claimed opera singer Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat aboard a Soyuz rocket -- and an astronaut was consequently bumped from the rocket ride. Nonsense, the space agency said. "Crews for International Space Station expeditions have been assigned through 2013," NASA spokesman Joshua Buck told FoxNews.com. "None of those astronauts has been 'booted' from his or her respective mission."

"From:
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 2:56 PM
To:
Subject: Center Ops Reductions

FYI. Attached is more info on the extent of the reductions at Center Operations. A couple of things to take notice of in the attached: facility repairs will occur during working hours, reduced trash pick-ups (may even have to take our trash to a central location), work stoppages, and reduced security patrols."

NASA JSC Center Operations FY 13 Service Reductions and Eliminations, 1 October 2012 (PDF)

Keith's note: Check out a larger version of this aerial shot of JSC. Look in the upper left hand corner. That sure looks like an ISS solar array ...

NASA's Curiosity Rover Checks-In on Mars Using Foursquare

"NASA's Curiosity Mars rover checked in on Mars Wednesday using the mobile application Foursquare. This marks the first check-in on another planet. Users on Foursquare can keep up with Curiosity as the rover checks in at key locations and posts photos and tips, all while exploring the Red Planet. "NASA is using Foursquare as a tool to share the rover's new locations while exploring Mars," said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This will help to involve the public with the mission and give them a sense of the rover's travels through Gale Crater."

Keith's note: What PAO hasn't explained is why Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity hasn't already checked in on Foursquare. After 8 years it should be the mayor of Mars.

'Arsenic-life' bacterium prefers phosphorous after all, Nature

"Tawfik says that he was shocked by how good the proteins were at discriminating between the essential phosphate and the deadly arsenate. This does not mean that arsenate does not get into the bacteria, he points out. "It just shows that this bacterium has evolved to extract phosphate under almost all circumstances." The exceedingly high preference for phosphorous found in the key proteins in that species represent "just the last nail in the coffin" of the hypothesis that GFAJ-1 uses arsenic in its DNA, says Tawfik."

The molecular basis of phosphate discrimination in arsenate-rich environments, Nature

NASA's Big Arsenic-Based Life Claim Was Wrong, earlier post

The Big Data Challenge

NASA Tournament Lab to Launch Big Data Challenge Series for U.S. Government Agencies, NASA

"NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science announced on Wednesday the launch of the Big Data Challenge, a series of competitions hosted through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). The Big Data Challenge series will apply the process of open innovation to conceptualizing new and novel approaches to using "big data" information sets from various U.S. government agencies. This data comes from the fields of health, energy and Earth science. Competitors will be tasked with imagining analytical techniques and software tools that use big data from discrete government information domains. They will need to describe how the data may be shared as universal, cross-agency solutions that transcend the limitations of individual agencies."

NASA Tournament Lab & TopCoder Launch Big Data Challenge Series for U.S. Government Agencies, TopCoder

"NASA and Harvard University have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which with the enabling capabilities of the TopCoder community allow for competitions to create the most innovative, most efficient, and most optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges being faced by NASA researchers. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to "order" a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies."

Wyle Takes Part in TechAmerica Report on Big Data, Wyle

"TechAmerica Foundation's much anticipated report "Demystifying Big Data: A Practical Guide To Transforming The Business of Government," which was released today, gives the federal government a comprehensive roadmap to using "Big Data" to better serve Americans."

Discovery: Replica Beagle plans expedition to further Darwin's legacy, Financial Times

"An Anglo-Chilean project aims to further the legacy of the great naturalist by building a replica of the wooden Beagle and retracing the voyage it made to circumnavigate the globe, accompanied around Chile's 4,000 mile coast, and those of other parts of Latin America, by a modern, steel-hulled research vessel tentatively named The Adventure, after the Beagle's own sister ship. The aim, the organisers say, is to ignite minds and bring "the adventure of science to life", with participation from schoolchildren in hands-on projects along the ship's route, as well as groundbreaking research by scientists. A collaboration with Nasa, the US space agency, also aims to bring some modernity to this voyage of exploration and discovery."

China's Chang'e Missions - to the Moon and Beyond, SpaceRef

"For the 63rd International Astronautical Congress held in Naples, Italy, Meng Linzhi from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) presented a paper for the Moon Exploration session held on Tuesday 2 October."

Paragon's NASA Funded Technology Now Used in Mine Refuge Chambers

"This is a great example of NASA investment fostering entrepreneurial activity in other markets" said Phil McAlister, director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development in Washington. "The technology was developed as part of an effort to stimulate the private sector to develop commercial space transportation concepts and enable capabilities for future commercial support of human spaceflight with U.S. taxpayer dollars and Paragon's private investment. The company then found another market for it, leading to the development of a new commercial product and service, which will help save the lives of American miners."

Keith's note: No mention is made of this at NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development website, NASA Spinoffs/OCT or anywhere else at NASA.gov

Odyssey Moon & NSL Satellites Ltd. to Launch Science Experiments to International Space Station

"The project is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. Says Managing Director Jeffrey Manber, "NanoRacks is delighted to again be working with the educational community, this time for showing students the potential of using space as a tool for learning."

No mention of this is made at CASIS, ISS National Lab website, or anywhere else at NASA.gov

More Stealth NASA Spinoffs (2nd Update), earlier post

Keith's update: I have learned that NASA posted this article on the mining technology on 27 September and sent out one tweet via @Commercial_crew. Otherwise, no media alerts were sent out by email. If you saw the single tweet or happened to visit the commercial crew or KSC webpage, then you saw the article. Otherwise, you would not know where to find it. Meanwhile, the Odyssey Moon/NSL, Nanoracks news is till being ignored by CASIS and NASA.

American Resupply Missions to the Space Station Progressing

"Orbital Sciences Corporation Monday rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad of the nation's newest spaceport - the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. - while in Florida, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) moves ahead with preparations for an Oct. 7 launch to the International Space Station for NASA's first Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission. These developments mark progress in returning space station resupply missions to American soil."

NASA Awards Space Launch System Advanced Booster Contracts

"NASA has awarded three contracts totaling $137.3 million to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for a future version of the SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit."


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