December 2012 Archives

Nasa plan to 'lasso' asteroid the size of two buses and turn it into a 'space station' to orbit the moon, Daiy Mail

"Nasa scientists are planning to capture a 500 ton asteroid, relocate it and turn it into a space station for astronauts on their way to Mars. The White House's Office of Science and technology will consider the 1.6bn plan in the coming weeks as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade. Nasa declined to comment on the project because it said it was in negotiations with the White House, but it is believed that technology would make it possible within 10-12 years."

Bolden: NASA Does Not Have To Actually Go To An Asteroid

"Bolden also said "on our way to an asteroid or Mars we may find a way to get people to the Moon or a LaGrange point .... some reporter in the back of the room is going to write saying that we are going to a LaGrange Point. I did not say that"

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

"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."

Is It Time For Charlie Bolden To Pound His Shoe?, earlier post

"When NASA gets its FY 2013 budget passback from OMB they will see that in addition to not approving the L2 station, there is none of the additional, strong Mars commitment that Charlie Bolden declared must be in the budget (other than what the President has already said, that is). No word yet as to whether Bolden has requested a meeting at the White House for his shoe pounding event."

Keith's note: The President directs NASA to send a human mission to an asteroid and prepare for a trip to Mars in the 2030s. NASA responds with plans to build a space station at L2 and Charlie Bolden says he'll bang his shoe on the table if the President does not give NASA a mandate to go to Mars and says that a mission to an asteroid doesn't need to actually go to an asteroid. Now NASA wants to bring an asteroid back to Earth. You can get whiplash if you follow Charlie Bolden's strategic planning too closely. When it comes to having a coherent, consistent, strategic plan, NASA doesn't have one. Instead, it spins around in 10 directions at once - as if it has institutionalized Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Someone needs to hit the reset button.

Editorial on NASA Planetary R&A Programs, Mark V. Sykes, Planetary Science Institute

"At a minimum, this year's decline needs to be reversed to ensure that selection rates are improved to stop the imminent loss of the younger generation of planetary scientists as well as many seasoned researchers. The cost is frankly small and demands high priority. Multi-year budget planning is essential. We also face significant negative consequences from the effective collapse of the Discovery program combined with the termination of the Mars Scount program."

- NASA SMD Responds to Community Budget Priority Concerns, earlier post
- Losing a Generation of Planetary Scientists, earlier post
- Independent Look at NASA Planetary Science Budgets, earlier post

Keith's note: In October NASA SMD PAO was caught totally off guard when the New Horizons team announced that debris in the vicinity of Pluto might force them to "bail out" (their term) of the original encounter. I submitted the following questions to NASA SMD PAO on 16 October and was told that a reply was being prepared. It has been 2 1/2 months and I still haven't heard anything back from them. My questions:

"- 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?"

Will NASA Have To 'Bail Out' On Close Pluto Encounter?, earlier post

Implications of Ongoing Fiscal Cliff Negotiations for NASA

"As you are all likely aware, the Administration and Congress are continuing to work to resolve a series of economic or fiscal events, collectively referred to as the "fiscal cliff," that are scheduled to occur around the end of the year. One of the key issues involves potential across-the-board reductions in Federal spending-- also known as "sequestration"-- that were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Under current law, these reductions are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. Many of you have raised questions regarding the impact of a potential sequestration for NASA, and I would like to take a moment to clarify a few things."

Guidance for Administrative Furloughs, OPM, December 2012

"An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any other budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations. This type of furlough is typically a non- emergency furlough in that the agency has sufficient time to reduce spending and give adequate notice to employees of its specific furlough plan and how many furlough days will be required. An example of when such a furlough may be necessary is when, as a result of Congressional budget decisions, an agency is required to absorb additional reductions over the course of a fiscal year."

Jesco von Puttkamer

Keith's note: Internal NASA memo: "Jesco passed away today at ~11am. He died at home. He had flu like symptoms for the last week. He is survived by his wife Ursula. This was unexpected and a shock to everyone. Ursula is still making plans and will likely want a simple remembrance. Sam will coordinate and we will keep you informed of plans. Jesco was a tremendous representative of NASA. Jesco will be missed. His passing is a reminder to all of us that each day is precious."

Jesco von Puttkamer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"After World War II, during which his family lived in Switzerland, von Puttkamer studied mechanical engineering at Konstanz and the Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen) in Aachen, graduating with a university degree. In 1962 he left Germany for the United States, where he joined Wernher von Braun's rocket team at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as an engineer during the Apollo Program."

Keith's note: It will be some time before the daily ISS Onorbit Status reports appear again. You see, Jesco did these reports every single day for more than a decade. The only time I can recall where there was a hiatus was last year when he was on vacation in Europe and his laptop died. There is an interesting story behind the origin of these reports - it has to do with some things Jim Oberg and I posted and wrote about a long time ago during the problems on Mir and how Congress reacted ... Jesco was an unusual link between the Apollo era and today. I am certain that a number of people will post here and elsewhere about his unusually long connection with space exploration - a legacy that many people might not be totally aware of - or totally appreciate. Also, FWIW, he took 30 minutes out of his schedule to talk with a certain young Biology major in late 1975 ...

Ad astra, Jesco.

Marc's note: Video from NASA on the next page.

SpaceX's Grasshopper Takes Giant Leap Towards Reusability with 40 Meter Flight (with two videos)

"SpaceX's Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Grasshopper, SpaceX's vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds."

NASA Planetary Division Management Responds to Community Concerns, Planetary Exploration Newsletter

"Contrary to statements being made by some individuals in the science community, the recent announcement of the Mars 2020 rover has nothing to do with the current R&A selection rates nor has it impacted the current or projected amounts to be spent in the R&A program. The Mars 2020 rover will be designed to "conduct mobile surface-based science at a site selected for its ability to preserve evidence of life, and prepare for the future return of samples per the NRC Planetary Decadal Survey."

Keith's note: I find it to be a little odd that Jim Green would wait until Christmas Eve to send out his official NASA response - and only send it to one newsletter - not to the rest of the media via PAO. It is sort of hard to reach the space science community using this approach.

NASA LaRC Internal Email: 2,498 laptops later: The Miracle Has Occurred

"As you all know, today is the Agency deadline for all laptops to be fully encrypted. I am happy to report that as of 10:30 this morning Langley reached our goal by completing the DAR encryption of 2,498 government and ACES systems."

DAR Implementation Email from LaRC Center Director Lesa Roe, earlier post

"The Administrator has told all of his direct reports that he expects 100 percent completion by the 21st or it will be reflected in our performance. For clarity, I will do the same with each of you. I think you all know this but I will state it clearly ... this isn't an option ... it is mandatory for employment"

Keith's note: Of course, Lesa Roe had to explicitly warn her employees of possible disciplinary action from her office if this deadline was not met. She seems to have forgotten all about that. She, in turn, felt that Charlie Bolden had issued a similar warning to senior agency management. Something is seriously broken when you have to say things like this to your employees. Happy Holidays y'all.

NASA Chief Scientist Abdalati Returning to University of Colorado

"Gale Allen, associate chief scientist for Life and Microgravity Sciences, will serve as acting NASA chief scientist until a successor is named. Allen joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in 2011 from the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) at Headquarters, where she was director of Strategic Integration and Management. Before joining ESMD, Allen was deputy for Bioastronautics in the Office of Biological and Physical Research."

NASA Internal Memo: Breach of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Update

"NASA has reallocated resources and has been working overtime to achieve the goal of 100 percent laptop encryption as quickly as possible and has made tremendous progress. In the past few weeks, more than 11,000 laptops have been encrypted, and, as of December 17th, NASA had encrypted 32,500 laptops, or about 85 percent of the laptops requiring encryption."

Keith's note: Today is 21 Dec i.e. the deadline set for complete laptop encruption. They have had more than a month to do this - and they expect to complete encryption of 15% of NASA's laptops in just one day - just before the Christmas/New Year holidays when everyone is disappearing on annual leave?

- OIG Doubts NASA Can Meet Laptop DAR Deadline, earlier post
- NASA's One Size Fits All DAR Solution Stumbles, earlier post
- NASA's Stolen Laptop and Data Problem Just Got Worse, earlier post
- earlier posts

Editorial: U.S. Planetary Program Poised to Lose a Generation of Scientists, Planetary Exploration Newsletter

"National Research Council reports have long recognized these programs as fundamental to US solar system exploration efforts. The recent NRC planetary decadal survey gave them high priority, independent of the fiscal situation (the worse the fiscal climate, the more important these programs are to sustaining national capabilities in this area). Unfortunately, policy decisions by NASA leadership have resulted in selection rates for competitive proposals plummeting to historic lows with negative impact."

Further up Yonder

A Message from the International Space Station to All Humankind, (Video) NASA

"NASA Television shares this inspiring production by Italian videomaker, Giacomo Sardelli, about the International Space Station, its inhabitants, and its role in space exploration. Sardelli writes of the video, "I'm not the first one to use NASA's pictures taken from the International Space Station to craft a Timelapse video. You can find many of them on the Internet, that's where my inspiration came from. What I wanted to do, though, was to look beyond the intrinsic beauty of those pictures, and use them to tell a story and share the messages sent by the astronauts who worked on the station in the last 11 years."

NASA Watch is on Hiatus

Keith's note: NASA Watch is (more or less) on hiatus until 2 Jan 2013. Happy holidays.

If you are reading this over the holidays, then shame on you - unless you are a NASA contractor employee. If so, you have reason to be checking on the news. With the collapse of the budget deal with Congress, your government has failed you - and it looks like the fiscal cliff is something to really worry about. As we all know, when budget issues like this arise, NASA contractor employees are the first to feel it. This is completely above Charlie Bolden's pay grade and he has little (if any) flexibility as to how he deals with this.

CuriousMars: Curiosity Begins Rock Triage to Avoid Dangers of "Martian Honey", SpaceRef

From Craig Covault and A.J.S. Rayl "The first use the rover Curiosity's drill to obtain subsurface samples from inside a rock on Mars will be delayed until mid to late January to reduce risk to the rover during its first drilling operations."

"The delay is needed to complete extensive target rock "triage" to ensure that the heat from drilling friction will not cause the pounded rock sample to turn into a kind of gooey "Martian honey" that would foul rover components, perhaps fatally."

NASA employee at KSC arrested on forgery charges, Click Orlando

"A NASA employee, who works at Kennedy Space Center, was arrested on forgery charges on Thursday 38-year-old Candrea Thomas, an employee in the Public Affairs department at the Kennedy Space Center, has been booked into the Brevard County jail, according to Brevard County Sheriff's Office. Deputies said Thomas faces 5 felony charges for allegedly forging documents."

@NASAVoyager2 END MAYACAL BTUN 12.19.19.17.19 SHUTDOWN:UNIV(12) BEGIN BTUN 13.0.0.0.0 BOOT:UNIV(13)

Bolden: Don't Have to Travel Far to Asteroid to Meet President's Goal, Space PolicyOnline

"Bolden said that when the President announced that an asteroid would be the next destination for NASA's human spaceflight program, he did not say NASA had to fly all the way to an asteroid. What matters is the "ability to put humans with an asteroid," Bolden said. An NRC report released earlier this month concluded that sending people to an asteroid has not won wide support in NASA or the nation. Bolden did not criticize that report directly, but said that NRC committee had only a short time to complete its study and it was done at a time of "relative silence" from NASA because of the election and did not have the benefit of the information he was presenting this morning. The only new material he presented this morning was this information about the asteroid mission and the news that NASA will soon stand up a Space Technology Mission Directorate."

Keith's note: Bolden also said "on our way to an asteroid or Mars we may find a way to get people to the Moon or a LaGrange point .... some reporter in the back of the room is going to write saying that we are going to a LaGrange Point. I did not say that"

NASA Really Doesn't Want to Do That Whole Asteroid Thing, earlier post

NASA Solicitation: Science Definition Team for the 2020 Mars Rover

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invites scientists, technologists, and other qualified and interested individuals at U.S. institutions and elsewhere to apply for membership on the Science Definition Team (SDT) for the 2020 Mars science rover mission (hereafter Mars-2020). Mars-2020 is a strategic mission sponsored by NASA's Planetary Science Division, through the Mars Exploration Program, all of which are part of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD)."

U.S. defense bill lifts barrier on satellite exports, Reuters

"Tucked into the annual U.S. defense budget bill making its way through Congress this week is a long-fought and potentially lucrative reprieve for U.S. satellite manufactures and suppliers to export their products, officials said on Wednesday. Since 1999, spacecraft and their components have been grouped with ammunitions, fighter jets and other defense technologies and subject to the nation's most stringent export controls. The restriction followed a 1996 Chinese rocket launch accident that claimed a U.S.-manufactured satellite. In the course of the investigation, the company was accused of inadvertently transferring restricted technology to China. Before 1999, the State Department had the option of processing satellite and spacecraft component export requests under more lenient commerce control guidelines. "We are going to give the president back that power," space attorney Michael Gold, who headed a Federal Aviation Administration export control advisory group, told Reuters."

Expedition 34 Launches

Soyuz Rocket Launches Expedition 34 to the International Space Station (With video), SpaceRef

"At 7:12 a.m. ET this morning the Soyuz TMA-07M rocket with the Expedition 34 crew of Chris Hadfield (Canada), Tom Marshburn (USA) and Roman Romanenko (Russia) launched to the International Space Station on Expedition 34 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan."

National Academy of Sciences Committee on Human Spaceflight Meeting

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight

"The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law on 11 October 2010. It has taken more than 2 years for everyone to get around to starting this study. The start date listed for this committee is November 2012 and its report is due for delivery in May 2014. That's 1 year, 7 months. This NRC is responding to authorizing legislation passed in 2010 by the 111th Congress, with a committee now being requested by the 112th Congress, and its report will be presented to yet another Congress (113th) during the second year of a new presidential administration in mid-2014 - one where policies are in place that will differ from those in place when the task was assigned, with budgets that differ from initial conditions under which the study was undertaken.

Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million."

S.3661 - Space Exploration Sustainability Act

"SEC. 4. REPORT ON CIS-LUNAR SPACE.

Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall submit to Congress a strategy to achieve the long-term goal of sustainably expanding a human presence beyond low-Earth orbit under section 202(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18312(a)) through robust utilization of cis-lunar space."

IFPTE Letters Opposing S. 3661, the Space Exploration Sustainability Act

"S. 3661 in its current form is a flawed and unbalanced effort to improperly prioritize a few outsourced and offshored activities, while neglecting NASA's internal core capabilities and other critical needs. It is focused on catering to the demands of the Russian government and on preserving Russian aerospace jobs all the way through the end of this decade, while doing absolutely nothing to protect NASA's federal workforce."

Keith's note: IFPTE is obviously interested in protecting government jobs - simply for the sake of protecting government jobs. They are a union, so that is to be expected. Otherwise, the IFPTE seems to be uninterested in what this legislation is trying to do in terms of American space policy. Indeed, where the IFPTE folks get some of this arm waving and scary hyperbole is just baffling.

This Year at NASA 2012 (Video), NASA

"A look back at the year that was at NASA in 2012. Highlights include the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, the flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station and much more."

NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride, NASA

"NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team. Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole."

NASA's Efforts to Encrypt its Laptop Computers, NASA OIG

"NASA Unlikely to Meet December 21 Encryption Deadline: As a result of the October 31 laptop theft, NASA accelerated the deadline by which all ACES- managed laptop computers were to be equipped with a DAR solution from March 2013 to December 21 , 2012. The Agency estimates that this expedited encryption effort will cost at least $259,000, not including the time civil servants have devoted the project. The Agency also established the same deadline for encrypting non-ACES machines. In our judgment, it is extremely unlikely that the Agency will meet its December goal primarily because the Agency does not have a full account ofthe number of ACES and non-ACES laptops in its possession. Without knowing the full universe of laptops that require encryption, the Agency cannot be sure that all of its laptops are protected with whole-disk encryption software."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO: "NASA takes information technology security very seriously and thanks the Inspector General for its recommendations for further strengthening NASA's systems. Most recently, NASA has accelerated its commitment to encrypting all agency laptops, encrypting more than 11,000 agency laptops in just the last few weeks. NASA has also implemented new policies and processes that will prevent future losses of personally identifiable information, such as directing that no NASA-issued laptops containing sensitive information can be removed from a NASA facility unless whole disk encryption software is enabled or the sensitive files are individually encrypted."

DAR Implementation Email from LaRC Center Director Lesa Roe, earlier post

"The Administrator has told all of his direct reports that he expects 100 percent completion by the 21st or it will be reflected in our performance. For clarity, I will do the same with each of you. I think you all know this but I will state it clearly ... this isn't an option ... it is mandatory for employment"

- NASA's One Size Fits All DAR Solution Stumbles, earlier post
- NASA's Stolen Laptop and Data Problem Just Got Worse, earlier post
- earlier posts

Smallsats on the Rise

Smallsats on the Rise, Space Quarterly Magazine

"In the last decade, and especially in just the last few years, the pendulum has started to swing back to smaller satellites, at least for some applications. Advances in electronics and the miniaturization of other spacecraft components now make it possible for smaller satellites--weighing from a few hundred kilograms down to as little as a few kilograms--to perform missions that previously required much heavier spacecraft. While there are many applications that will still require large spacecraft, smallsats are carving out a growing share of the market among users in universities, governments, and industry."

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

China's Chang'e-2 Does Close Flyby of Asteroid Toutatis (with image), CNSA

New milestone for China: Probe snaps close-ups of asteroid Toutatis, MSNBC

"China's official news agency is reporting that the country's Chang'e 2 deep-space probe made an amazing flyby of the asteroid Toutatis this week, snapping a series of pictures as it passed just 2 miles away. The achievement signals China's entry into yet another exclusive space club. Only four of the world's space efforts have managed close encounters with asteroids: NASA (with NEAR Shoemaker and Dawn, for example), the European Space Agency (with Rosetta), Japan (with Hayabusa) -- and now China with Toutatis."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

JSC TODAY HEADLINES

1. Joint Leadership Team Web Poll
2. Gangnam Style Parody 'NASA Johnson Style' to be Screened in Teague ...

Annual Embarrassing NASA Holiday Videos Appear, earlier post

"The Administrator has told all of his direct reports that he expects 100 percent completion by the 21st or it will be reflected in our performance. For clarity, I will do the same with each of you. I think you all know this but I will state it clearly ... this isn't an option ... it is mandatory for employment" ...

... "Let me be clear, there are NO exceptions to the Agency-wide directive and it applies to every employee and every laptop. I am directing supervisors to ensure that employees take whatever steps are required, including adjusting employee leave schedules if necessary, the ensure that every laptops is DAR encrypted, waived, or excessed by next Friday, December 21st. Employees who do not comply are in violation of clear Agency direction aan coud face disciplinary action up to and including removal from Federal Service."

Larger image

Study Warns of Sequestration Impacts to NASA, NOAA Programs, AIA

"As negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff heat up, little attention has been paid to the impact that mandatory budget cuts would have on the nation's civil space program and our ability to accurately forecast dangerous storms."

Study: Thousands would lose jobs from NASA, NOAA budget cuts, Government Executive

"The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group for government contractors, found in its study that the automatic cuts set to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013, unless there is a deficit reduction deal would cost 20,500 NASA contractors their jobs in 2013 ... AIA based its estimates on the Office of Management and Budget's guidelines that sequestration would slash both agencies' budgets by 8.2 percent."

1,300 aerospace jobs said at risk in Huntsville if nation goes over fiscal cliff, Huntsville Times

"More than 1,300 aerospace jobs will be at risk in Huntsville in 2013 if the national budget goes over the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to an aerospace industry study released Thursday."

Will NASA fall off the fiscal cliff? Budget cuts to cost Houston more than 5,000 NASA jobs, study says, Houston Business Journal

"A report from the Aerospace Industries Association found that if the 8.2 percent cut to NASA's budget goes through, 5,610 jobs would be lost at Houston's Johnson Space Center next year. This would have a direct impact of more than $320 million."

Obama's Asia team caught off guard, partying when rocket launched, Foreign Policy

"The Obama administration's Asia team was caught so off guard by North Korea's Dec. 11 rocket launch, several of them actually had to put down their drinks and suddenly leave a holiday party being held in honor of the Japanese emperor's birthday."

Vietnam, US boost space technology cooperation, Vietnamnet.com

"At an exchange with senior high school students in Hanoi on December 11, Charles Bolden, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US, attributed his success to hard work, study and not being afraid of failure."

Keith's note: Bolden is also slated to visit Japan. Nothing has been posted by NASA about this trip. Now that North Korea's satellite has been launched, Bolden's activities in Japan have fallen completely off the radar.

CASIS Board of Directors Press Availability

"In November, seven individuals were inducted into The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Board of Directors. Following the group's first in-person meeting at The Florida House in Washington, D.C., Board members will make themselves available to the press corps for a limited period of time to introduce themselves and answer media inquiries."

Keith's note: You can catch tweets as to what was said on @NASAWatch. The audio was intermittent (could not hear media questions) and the webcast abrubtly died. In summary this was the very first meeting of the CASIS "core board". The CASIS board seems to know very little about the ISS or how it is utilized (by NASA or other partners) and they are using this meeting to learn about the NASA Authorization Act and the NASA MOA with CASIS. They said that they also need to find an executive director for CASIS and add members to their board.

CuriousMars: Opportunity Hunts for Clay Minerals on Matijevic HillCuriousMars: Opportunity Hunts for Clay Minerals on Matijevic Hill, A.J.S. Rayl and Craig Covault, SpaceRef

"The Mars rover Curiosity has been commanding headlines with its every move from its historic, breathtaking landing last August to its first major discovery of an ancient stream bed formed by fast flowing water. In recent week's rumors, speculation, and wild conspiracy theories about what Curiosity has found have demonstrated, if nothing else, just how much the public is interested in Mars.

Curiosity is this week zeroing in on its first drilling target, but driving downhill toward it slower than planned because of difficult terrain, said Rick Welch mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

But on the other side of the planet, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has been quietly soldiering on in her younger sibling's shadows."

NASA Named Best Place to Work in Government

"NASA was named the best place to work in the federal government among large agencies in a survey released today by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization. This ranking, which reflects NASA's highest results since this index was developed, makes clear that the agency's work force is focused on carrying out the nation's new and ambitious space program. The rankings are based on responses from nearly 700,000 federal workers."

Internal NASA LaRC memo: "Once again with DAR the NASA CIO's office has developed a well-thought-out and reasonable plan that effectively covers 90% of NASA computing resources beautifully, then is attempting to apply it to 100% of all computer systems in spite of the consequential damages. This is made worse by the bizarre deadline imposed during the Christmas holidays ...

... Risks? Plenty: this is what happens when a good policy made by smart people wh have looked at all the options is implemented by inflexible fool[s] who don't understand how people use computers and who do not weigh the consequences."
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- NASA's Stolen Laptop and Data Problem Just Got Worse
- earlier posts

Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016, We The People, White House

"Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016. By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense."

Keith's 7 Dec note: It would seem that the vast majority of the 5,118 6,111 8,709 10,823 14,108 25,000 signers of this petition are male.

Death Star petition on White House website succeeds

"The petition, which calls for the administration to "begin construction of a Death Star by 2016, crossed the mark Thursday for 25,227 signatures, which is the level the White House requires before it will respond."

India Races China in Space For Asian Prestige, Military SecurityIndia Races China in Space For Asian Prestige, Military Security, Space Quarterly Magazine

"A surging space race between India and China is underway amidst nearly a dozen other Asian nations, like India, trying to avoid a loss of prestige or military security to China's aggressive space program."

Marc's note: A timely piece in light of North Korea's launch. You'll find more timely and thought provoking articles in the December issue of Space Quarterly Magazine which we just released. The following article is a free sample. It is our hope that if you enjoy this article you will consider subscribing to the magazine.


NASA and AlternAtive Worlds

AlternAtive Worlds - a publication of the National Intelligence Council

"Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the fifth installment in the National Intelligence Council's series aimed at providing a framework for thinking about the future. As with previous editions, we hope that this report will stimulate strategic thinking by identifying critical trends and potential discontinuities. We distinguish between megatrends, those factors that will likely occur under any scenario, and game-changers, critical variables whose trajectories are far less certain. In this volume, we expanded our coverage of disruptive technologies, devoting a separate section to it in the work. To accomplish that, we engaged with research scientists at DoE laboratories at Sandia, Oak Ridge, and NASA in addition to entrepreneurs and consultants in Silicon Valley and Santa Fe. We have also devoted strong attention to economic factors and the nexus of technology and economic growth."

Keith's note: Funny how NASA constantly gets tapped by other agencies when it comes to blueskying futuristic out of the box ideas - but when it comes to implementing these ideas inside of NASA ... well, that's another story.

NORAD acknowledges missile launch

"North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST. The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."

North Korea Launches Rocket and Claims Satellite in Orbit, VOA

"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12. The satellite entered its present orbit."

North Korean satellite 'tumbling out of control,' US officials say

"The object that North Korea sent into space early Thursday appears to be "tumbling out of control" as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News. The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle but they still haven't been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do."

The Space Policy Wheel Turns

Here We Go Again. The Space Policy Wheel Turns. What Was, Is, Dennis WIngo

Just as the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 did not put the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in charge of the economic development of California and the yet to be formed states in between, there is no reason for NASA to be in charge of the economic and industrial development of the solar system. Thus the vision statement for a national space policy short and succinct could be: "The economic and industrial development of the resources of the solar system for the benefit of the United States of America and all mankind is the goal of our national space efforts."

NASA Space Policy Hearing

Hearing: The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America's Space Program

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Live webcast

"Over-Arching Questions

- What steps could the government take over the next 3 to 5 years to help maintain America's capabilities and retain world leadership in space?
- What are the priorities that policy makers should consider when evaluating future NASA plans?
- How best can NASA and its stakeholder community reach consensus on identifying and preserving critical capabilities necessary for future space science, aeronautics, and exploration programs and missions?
- What steps can NASA, Congress, and the White House take to promote greater overall efficiency at the agency, as well as maintain programmatic and funding stability for projects and programs?"

Witness testimony: Robert Walker, Ronald Sega, Marion Blakey, Thomas Zurbuchen, Scott Pace

NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus, NRC

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is widely admired for astonishing accomplishments since its formation in 1958. Looking ahead over a comparable period of time, what can the nation and the world expect of NASA? What will be the agency's goals and objectives, and what will be the strategy for achieving them? More fundamentally, how will the goals, objectives, and strategy be established and by whom? How will they be modified to reflect changes in science, technology, national priorities, and available resources?"

- NRC Report on NASA's Goals and Objectives, earlier post
- Space Policy: Going Everywhere - and Nowhere?, earlier post
- NASA's Somewhat Confused Destination(s), earlier post

Keith's 10 Dec note: I never understand the purpose of these videos since everyone in them just looks ... well ...

Keith's 11 Dec update: The video has now been made private. You can see a preview here. Lots of Star Wars costumes, women wearing fuzzy antlers, cheerleader uniforms, etc. IMHO there were too many antlers and not enough cowbells.

Keith's 11 Dec additional update: The video is viewable again. The responses to the posting of this video are hilarious. Let me summarize: Several dozen NASA people make a video wherien they act overtly silly at work. They then go out of their way to tell NASA Watch about it. Surprise: I posted a link. If they did not want to be seen being silly by others then why did they make a video, post it on YouTube, and then tell NASA Watch about it? As for those of you who do not get the "cowbell" reference, you really need to watch more Saturday Night Live.

FWIW had there been YouTube when the Space Station Freedom Program Office in Reston was operational in the 1990s you can rest assured we'd have out done these JSC folks with our antics.

NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Programs - An Assessment, Editorial, Mark V. Sykes Planetary Science Institute

"Despite high priority in the recent Planetary Decadal Survey and prior NRC reports, NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis programs continue to suffer from uncertain budgets and low selection rates, undermining US solar system exploration. I have written a report, with the above title, on the budget history and status of these programs."

SQ-Dec-2012-USA-cover-200x260.jpgSpace Quarterly Magazine December Issue Available

Space Quarterly December 2012 U.S. Edition Table of Contents

  • - Interview: NanoRacks: Providing a Commercial Pathway for Research in Low Earth Orbit
  • - Business Briefs
  • - The Commercial Crew Program Enters the Next Phase
  • - NewSpace: Turning the Corner?
  • - JPL Curiosity Team Challenged by Exciting Data, Sampling Workload
  • - The A-Train and Formation Flying
  • - Current State of the Satellite Industry
  • - Earth Observation: Presence and Future
  • - Hosted Payloads
  • - Smallsats on the Rise
  • - India Races China in Space for Asian Prestige, Military Security
  • - The Chris Hadfield Story
  • - Future Space: Ionizing Radiation and Space-born Electronics

Why We Need NASA To Fix Its Problems And Lead America To Money-Making Opportunities in Outer Space, Forbes

"A bunch of tech wonks and nerds issued a report last week that provided a shockingly accurate conclusion about NASA's Strategic Plan: it's vague, generic, and there's no national consensus for taxpayer support. Now it's time for the agency to look beyond its comfy fishbowl of geeks and contractors to fix its problem."

Report: NASA is broken and it's up to us to fix it, Ars Technica

"Again, the lack of a consistent vision has been a problem. The manned program is specifically called out as a paragon of confusion. "Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars," notes the report, "there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA's spectrum of mission areas."

Duelling visions stall NASA, Nature

"There is no broad acceptance of the asteroid as the next principal destination for space flight, despite the fact that the president has indeed said so several times," says Albert Carnesale, chairman of the committee behind the report and a former chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles. For its part, NASA -- whether through inertia or out of practicality -- seems unwilling to shift the focus of its human space-flight efforts away from the Moon.

NASA Needs 'National Consensus' on Mission, Report Concludes, Science

"The report recommends that Congress, the White House, and NASA pursue one or more of a number of options to set things straight. Options include restructuring the space agency's programs so as to reduce infrastructure and personnel costs; finding ways to partner with other agencies, the private sector, and international partners; and increasing NASA's budget or shedding programs that don't fit NASA's current budget profile."

Direction for Space Needed, Paul Spudis, spudislunarresources.com

"Interestingly, the report does not state the obvious conclusion - that if the first option has any validity, the last two options are not only pointless but actually undesirable from the standpoint of wise governing practice. Why should we spend more money on something perceived to be of marginal value? On the other hand, if the agency could be "restructured" to accomplish its mission with the current budgetary profile, why wouldn't it be?"

National Disagreement Over NASA's Goals and Objectives Detrimental to Agency Planning, Budgeting Efforts

NASA Human Space Flight Industrial Base in the Post-Space Shuttle/Constellation Environment, Bureau of Industry and Security's Office of Technology Evaluation

"The Shuttle retirement and CxP transition will impact future NASA HSF programs through a loss of unique skills, capabilities, products, and services by select suppliers. The assessment highlights and prioritizes immediate areas of concern for NASA, with focus on the 150 survey respondents that identified themselves as dependent on NASA. Within the group of 150 NASA- dependent companies, the 46 NASA-dependent companies that reported negative net profit margins for at least one year from 2007-2010 should be given particular attention. Without continued business opportunities, these companies have the highest potential of shutting down. Ongoing efforts to develop a deep-space exploration capsule and heavy-lift rocket capability are important first steps to maintaining capabilities, and should be viewed as the building blocks to spur a sustainable HSF supply chain."

Reader note: "This evening I received a second letter from NASA, stating that I'm also "one of a small number of individuals whose personal data was contained in the hard copy documents stolen with the laptop in the laptop bag." Now there's no question about whether my PII data has been exposed. Now more than ever, the one year offer of identity and credit monitoring that is being provided free of charge seems hardly a sufficient amount of time. I plan on 1) contacting NASA requesting additional duration of monitoring and 2) contacting my Representative, Adam Schiff, requesting for a Congressional inquiry as well. The redacted version (my personal info and NASA contact info have been removed) of the latest letter is attached."

Keith's note: NASA CIO Linda Cureton: please define "small number" given that over 11,000 employees had their personal information on this laptop due to your office's inept mismanagement of IT security. Is there any mention - in any memo to employees - of the fact that hard copies of employee information were also stolen? No. Do you post anything about this on the NASA CIO website? No.

NASA is just begging for a class action lawsuit by virtue of their inept response on this matter.

Oh yes - we blurred Richard Keegan's signature. Wonder why?

- NASA's CIO Anticipated The Laptop Theft, earlier post
- Data-at-Rest Is Not A New Requirement at NASA, earlier post
- Calls for Congressional Inquiry into Laptop Data Theft, earlier post
- JPL Employees Want Congressional investigation Over PII Laptop Theft, earlier post
- Agencywide Message to All NASA Employees: Breach of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), earlier post
- other posts

CuriousMars: Martian Science Detectives Aid Curiosity and OpportunityCuriousMars: Martian Science Detectives Aid Curiosity and Opportunity, SpaceRef Mars Today

"Mysteries on opposite sides of Mars are drawing the Curiosity and Opportunity rover science teams closer together in a search for habitable environments that could have supported Martian life early in the planet's history."

Marc's note: Today SpaceRef debuts CuriousMars by Craig Covault and A.J.S. Rayl. CuriousMars is a major new weekly feature with authoritative and insightful reporting and analysis on all aspects of current and future robotic operations on the Martian surface and in Martian orbit. CuriousMars will report on the adventure of exploration and science combined with the realities of policy, cost, politics and international cooperation.

Also of note the new features coincides with the relaunch of Mars Today (http://spaceref.com/mars/), SpaceRef's dedicated site to Mars with over 5700 Mars mission reports categorized by mission and at times by instrument.

National Disagreement Over NASA's Goals and Objectives Detrimental to Agency Planning, Budgeting Efforts, NRC

"A current stated interim goal of NASA's human spaceflight program is to visit an asteroid by 2025," said Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. "However, we've seen limited evidence that this has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA's own work force, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community. The lack of national consensus on NASA's most publicly visible human spaceflight goal along with budget uncertainty has undermined the agency's ability to guide program planning and allocate funding."

National Disagreement Over NASA's Goals and Objectives Detrimental to Agency Planning, Budgeting Efforts, National Research Council

"Without a national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA, the agency cannot be expected to establish or work toward achieving long-term priorities, says a new report from the National Research Council. In addition, there is a mismatch between the portfolio of programs and activities assigned to the agency and the budget allocated by Congress, and legislative restrictions inhibit NASA from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure. The White House should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA's future in order to more closely align the agency's budget and objectives and remove restrictions impeding NASA's efficient operations."

Expert panel: NASA seems lost in space, needs goal, AP

"In his statement, NASA's [David] Weaver said: "We're fully utilizing the International Space Station; developing a heavy-lift rocket and multi-purpose crew vehicle capable of taking American astronauts into deep space; facilitating development of commercial capabilities for cargo and crew transport to low Earth orbit; expanding our technological capabilities for the human and robotic missions of today and tomorrow; pursuing a robust portfolio of science missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope; developing faster and cleaner aircraft and inspiring the next generation of exploration leaders."

[Panel member Marcia] Smith said that statement itself shows the problem: "If it takes you that many phrases to explain it, then you do not have a crisp, clear strategic vision."

NASA's Deep-Space Station Idea Lacks White House Approval

"NASA has not cleared the EM-L2 outpost with the White House, and the space agency has not requested funding for it in the current fiscal year or the subsequent one, the official told SPACE.com. "So it's kind of just one of those one-off projects that [NASA hopes if it goes] to the press, or to [Capitol] Hill, that it'll get funded," the official added. "But I don't think that's going to be the case."

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

"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 note: When NASA gets its FY 2013 budget passback from OMB they will see that in addition to not approving the L2 station, there is none of the additional, strong Mars commitment that Charlie Bolden declared must be in the budget (other than what the President has already said, that is). No word yet as to whether Bolden has requested a meeting at the White House for his shoe pounding event.

Coalition for Space Exploration Introduces New Leadership for 2013

"The Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) today announced veteran aerospace communicators George Torres of ATK and Mary Engola of Ball Aerospace will lead the Coalition in 2013. Torres will serve as the new chair and Engola will continue her role as the deputy chair. Each will serve a one-year term, effective January through December 2013."

Lockheed-Boeing Launch Monopoly to Be Ended by Pentagon, Business Week

"The U.S. Defense Department plans to open more than a dozen rocket launches to competition, moving to end a monopoly held by a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing (BA) Co. joint venture. The Air Force is authorized to buy as many as 14 booster cores over the next five years from potential challengers such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, and Orbital Sciences Corp., Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, wrote in a Nov. 27 memo obtained by Bloomberg News. A booster core is the main component of a rocket."

SpaceX Bests Orbital Sciences In First OSP-3 Duels, Aviation Week

"Already, about $100 million has been obligated under a new Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract for the missions. Another $162 million is expected to be set aside in the coming days, Pawlikowski says. SpaceX "was considered the best value to the government," she tells Aviation Week."

NASA Announces Robust Multi-year Mars Program - New Rover to Close Out Decade of New Missions

"Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives. The future rover development and design will be based on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) architecture that successfully carried the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface this summer."

NASA's John Grunsfeld Speaks With Media About New Mars Mission

"Grunsfeld will host a media briefing on these plans at 7 p.m. EST (4 p.m. PST) today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco."

Cowing: "When will NASA actually try and find evidence of life on Mars? Viking tried in 1976 but since then NASA has gone out of its way to state that each and every one of its missions cannot actually "detect life" but rather that the hardware can only detect things that might point to the possibility - that maybe there might be something that might hint at life - maybe."

Grunsfeld: "I side with Keith on this. I think it would be interesting to send a mission to a location where there could be extant life on Mars. There would be some planetary protection issues. On the original ExoMars proposal the UK had a life detection experiment planned. During the MPPG the UK wanted to put it on a new lander. All of these things are on the table. The Science Team should evaluate all of these things. I think that this would be a very exciting thing to do."

Space Foundation Recommends NASA Adopt Pioneering Purpose

"In a report released today, the Space Foundation made a number of recommendations for strengthening the focus, oversight and funding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and strengthening the U.S. civil space program. The 70-page report and a separate executive summary are now being distributed to policymakers, industry leaders and media by the Space Foundation, an independent non-profit advocacy and education organization committed to advancing space exploration and utilization."

James Webb Space Telescope: Actions Needed to Improve Cost Estimate and Oversight of Test and Integration

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has provided significantly more time and money to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) than previously planned and expressed high confidence in the project's new baselines. Its current cost estimate reflects some features of best practices for developing reliable and credible estimates."

Curiosity Analyzes First Martian Soil Samples

"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. ... SAM tentatively identified the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate. This is a reactive chemical previously found in arctic Martian soil by NASA's Phoenix Lander. Reactions with other chemicals heated in SAM formed chlorinated methane compounds -- one-carbon organics that were detected by the instrument. The chlorine is of Martian origin, but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carried by Curiosity and detected by SAM's high sensitivity design."

Keith's note: Last month NASA Administrator Bolden spent 6 days on a trip to Hawaii. He was guest of honor at a fancy Marine Corps party. NASA PAO has declined to explain what he did during the rest of his trip. Given that political employees of Bolden's rank do not actually get vacation time (they are considered on duty at all times) Bolden's salary during this trip was charged to NASA - even if the Marine Corps paid his travel expenses.

Now Bolden is preparing for a 10 day trip to Asia - to Japan and Vietnam. NASA has not explained where he is going or how this trip is related to NASA. Given that NASA is going to get its budget passback from OMB soon (Bolden is not going to like a lot of what he sees), the lingering problems with the looming fiscal cliff (and how it could impact NASA), and other headaches such as the stolen laptop with NASA employee personal information on it, you'd think that Bolden would hang out a little closer to home.

In this week's telecon with NASA center directors, Bolden ended the telecon by asking if any of the participants had anything to add. When no one did, Bolden volunteered the comment that people should not believe everything that they read in the news and that he is still interested in being NASA Administrator so long as the President desires that he serve in this capacity.

Bolden's future as NASA chief uncertain, Orlando Sentinel

"The senior White House staff is aware of the [NASA] administrator's inability to advance their agenda and will have to decide whether they make an adjustment in a second term," said a senior administration official not authorized to speak on the record. ... "No one can deny, though, there has been an accumulation of distractions, and in order to maximize NASA's opportunities, the U.S. civil space program would benefit from a leader fully committed to implementing the bold policy put forth by the president and his administration".

Keith's update: Multiple sources (some close to Charlie Bolden) report that the possibility of Bolden becoming the next ambassador to Japan have been floated around. That would explain the purpose of this trip. Stay tuned.

Plastic beads on Mars: The short life of a NASA spoof site, MSNBC

"Update for 10:30 p.m. ET: Veronica McGregor, who manages the news and social media office at JPL, sent me an email that filled in most of the remaining gaps in the story. "What I know about the site is, the manager/owner was contacted," she wrote. "The content on the site was not a concern, in fact we've truly enjoyed all of the spoofs out there. As you mentioned, it was the use of the page design, name and logos --and the possibility of confusion-- that was the concern. ... We didn't think people would be confused over the beads, just the page design."

Keith's note: Veronica McGregor only wants nice pro-JPL things out there. When a parody appears that strikes too close to home and intrudes on JPL's comfort zone she suddenly gets nervous and pulls out the rule book. Funny how all of the parodies out there that make overt use of NASA imagery, personal likelnesses (haircuts), etc. that make the Curiosity team look good are not only tolerated - JPL actually assists in their production - sometimes on-site.

Protecting and Safeguarding NASA Information and Information Systems (page 6), IT Talk, July-September 2012, NASA CIO

"What if this article was the national headline across the United States? Is NASA protecting and safeguarding its information and information systems? Is it possible to protect and safeguard information and information systems 24/7?"

Keith's note: Well, it happened. No fancy cyber break-ins occurred. No massive network failure was at fault. Nothing complicated or deliberate happened - the sort of stuff where overt high-tech protection and safeguards would be called into play. Instead, a NASA employee was dumb enough to leave an agency laptop with sensitive information in her car such that it could be stolen. And that laptop had a substantial amount of personal information on 10,000 or more NASA employees that the CIO's office was inept enough to allow to be on a laptop taken out of NASA in the first place.

The CIO's own official publication openly talked about what might happen if the theft of a NASA laptop with "10,000 employees private information" became "an actual NASA Headline". But instead of focusing on the real world where people can and will do dumb things, the CIO focused only on all the complicated technological threats to NASA's IT. The CIO utterly ignored simple human behaviors that could be just as damaging as a cyber attack if not dealt with. Other than than a memo (2 weeks after the theft) to employees announcing an emergency disk encryption program and a half-hearted attempt to assist employees in case of identify theft, the NASA CIO has done absolutely nothing to address the core issues at hand. And now the NASA CIO cannot even bear to mention this situation on her own website - with the exception, of course, of this hypothetical article written months before the event.


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