"When NASA started flying shuttles again, Hale told the new team of mission managers: "We are never ever going to say that there is nothing we can do." NASA developed an in-flight heat shield repair kit. ... Hale said he is now writing about the issue because he wanted future space officials not to make the mistakes he and his colleagues did. The loss of the Columbia astronauts -- people he knew -- still weighs on Hale. "You never get over it. It's always present with you," Hale said. "These are people I knew well. Several of them, I worked closely with. I was responsible for their safety. It's never going to go away."
January 2013 Archives
Reader note: "Thought you might find this sadly amusing. I am NASA contractor. I just received notice today [29 Jan 2013] that my personal data was compromised in the Laptop theft from a NASA HQ employee on 10/31/12. The letter I received notes that NASA understands the 'seriousness' of this matter - so much so that it only took 3 months to notify me of this breach. Apparently the idiocy of their 'concern'is self-evident to all except the NASA bureaucracy."
Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, Excerpt from "New Moon Rising", by Frank Sietzen, Jr. and Keith Cowing
"At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. Steeling her emotions with grace and clarity, she spoke elegantly and briefly. She thanked all for coming. And then she talked of her husband, and the flight of the lost shuttle. "Our mission in space is not over" she told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space -- that means there will be more."
Scott Parazynski: Still on Cloud 10 (on the summit of Mt. Everest)
"I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens."
"While at NASA, he acted as a Project Manager for the Surveyor Program (seven unmanned moon landing spacecrafts). Mr. Dwornik co-authored several books including Atlas of Mercury. One of his fond memories was providing the first substantial NASA grant monies to a young astronomer named Carl Sagan. After Mr. Dwornik's retirement from NASA, he enjoyed a second career with Ball Aerospace, including volunteer work helping to create a planetary Braille map and being a speaker for ElderHostel courses."
CuriousMars: California Dreamin' on a Martian Day, Craig Covault, SpaceRef
"There are already plenty of stars around Malibu, California, but could the place be actually like the planet Mars? The NASA rover Curiosity is about to find out.
Two California locations, including an area near the Santa Monica Mountains stretching north from Malibu, were searched in late January for rocks strikingly similar to the Martian rocks that Curiosity is about to drill into on Mars. The samples found are completing final tests for use in assessing the success of the first rock drilling and sampling on another planet.
The drilling and analysis of samples from the inside of a Martian rock should be underway next week with the first shallow drilling tests as early as Feb. 2-4, according to Robert C. Anderson, a member of the Surface Sampling System (SSS) Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."
"We are sad to let you know that Adrian Hooke died on January 7. He was at home in Malibu with his wife. In his classic fashion, he continued his work on CCSDS and DTN right up through early December."
"Adrian was an admitted Space geek for 46 years. He worked on the Lunar Modules for Apollo 9, 10, 11, and 12, from 1966 to 1969. He was on the flight control teams for the Mariner 9 and 10 missions that visited Mars, Venus, and Mercury. He worked on Voyager and SEASAT, and in 1976-77 he spent a year at the European Space Agency helping with the Shuttle-SpaceLab program."
Marc's note: I just learned about Adrian's death today. I can't say I knew him well, but I briefly worked with him about 10 years ago as part of the InterPlanetary Networking Special Interest Group. He welcomed me to JPL and was willing to listen to a newbie such as myself. If you read the note on his passing you'll see how much he contributed to the community. He will be missed.
NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus, Briefing to FISO Telecon Jan. 30, 2013 Marcia Smith, SpacePolicyOnline.com, NRC Committee Member (link fixed)
"- NASA does not and cannot set its own strategic direction.
-- A national consensus is required
-- There is no national consensus at this time
- The administration should lead in developing that consensus, working with Congress, and holding technical consultations with potential international partners
- President Obama's proposal that an asteroid be the next destination for human spaceflight has not won broad support within or outside NASA, undermining the ability to establish a strategic direction.
- There is a mismatch between the programs Congress and the White House have directed NASA to pursue and the resources provided to accomplish them."
Keith's note: NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecons are held on a regular basis. But NASA doesn't really want to share the information with the public until after the fact (try and find links to this on NASA.gov). To further obscure access, they post presentations on a webserver at the University of Texas at Austin (not NASA.gov). This caveat is posted "Note: This is NOT a public telecon. You may share this link only with qualified participants. Feel free to share publicly our archive site, which is at http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/archivelist.htm".
Here is how to listen in (until they change it): Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecon Wednesdays, 3pm EST Dial in: 877 921 5751 Passcode: 623679" Next week's topic is "CST-100 Program Status" Keith Reiley, Boeing". But you are not supposed to know that since most of us are not "qualified participants".
What is especially odd is this statement: "The content of these FISOWG telecon presentations are considered the intellectual property of the person who gave that presentation." Since when are NASA employee presentations not in the public domain when they pertain to the person's official responsibilities? Oh yes, then there is this: "Presentations, papers, visualizations, and graphics produces by the FISOWG and collaborators are archived here -- http://www.futureinspaceoperations.com/". Click on the link. It goes to "Future In-Space Operations Hints on dealing with aging difficulty related to physical attractiveness". Wow. The future of space has to do with physical attractiveness. Who knew?
Oh yes, I almost forgot. All of these FISO presentations are very cool. Too bad NASA has no idea how to make all of this more widely available and accessible.
"NASA successfully launched a Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital rocket at 5:50 p.m. EST this evening from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. During the flight, two red-colored lithium vapor trails were produced. Reports from those viewing the launch or vapor trails came from as far away as the Outer Banks, N.C.; eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey."
"Earlier this month the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its 2012 Annual Report. Looking for hazards across the space agency's wide-ranging portfolio of on-going and proposed operations and facilities, the panel assessed six issues and concerns. Only one of the six in the three-color-coded graphic was red: the continuing issue of funding uncertainty. "NASA's budget is the 'elephant in the room' both for commercial space and for longer term exploration" the panel warned."
Let NASA Pursue a Balanced Planetary Exploration Program, Planetary Society
"We must also emphasize that the serious budget cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division have not been averted. The new rover mission is conceived to fit within the already reduced budget environment proposed by the Obama Administration in February 2012, which, if fully implemented, would result in deep cuts across the entire planetary exploration program. Likely outcomes include early termination of ongoing missions, including the Cassini orbiter at Saturn and the MESSENGER orbiter at Mercury; delays of future missions in the Discovery and New Frontiers programs; and reductions in basic research grants that fund current and future scientists. It also precludes a mission to Europa, long-considered one of the most compelling and scientifically rich destinations in the solar system. A strategic mission to Europa is prioritized as a close second to a caching mission to Mars in the Decadal Survey. We find the shift in budgetary priority deeply troubling. Namely, it represents a step backwards from our nation's long commitment to exploration and the pursuit of answers to the big questions of "where do we come from?" and "are we alone?"
"In summary, we support the decision by NASA to pursue a 2020 Mars rover mission as long as it fits within the specific recommendations of the Decadal Survey, which include both scientific and cost-cap guidance, and is part of a balanced exploration portfolio. We urge Congress and the Administration to maintain NASA's leadership in planetary science by restoring the division's budget to FY12 levels of $1.5 billion per year."
NASA CIO Linda Cureton is retiring from government, FCW has learned. Cureton, a 2011 Federal 100 winner, has held her current position since September 2009. Cureton had alluded to her plans at the Oct. 24 GCN awards gala, where she was recognized as the Civilian IT Executive of the Year. At the time, however, she and her aides said that no firm decision had been made. "It had always been in my plan to either retire or change jobs... after the election," Cureton told FCW when reached for comment. "Having been through transitions at the political level before, the timing to leave seemed appealing to me."
Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch, Robert Walker and Charles Miller, Wall Street Journal (subscription) (Paste the article title into the Google search box and it will give you a link that works)
"NASA, in fact, has not successfully developed a new rocket in over three decades. U.S. private industry successfully developed three brand-new rockets in just the past decade--Boeing with the Delta IV, Lockheed with the Atlas V, and SpaceX with the Falcon 9. Industry succeeded because of a partnership with the government, much like the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. Industry was responsible for development and was taking large risks, but with government incentives. ,,,, A renewed and refocused NASA is critical to America's future. So as the country struggles with trillions in debt and deficits, it makes no sense for NASA to build rockets that are already available or can be developed at much lower cost by U.S. private industry. Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?"
"On Monday January 28, Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) will recognize the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy as it continues its work to strengthen students' interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The non-profit organization was formed as a living tribute to the seven members of the crew and is dedicated to the educational spirit of their mission. Challenger Center and its network of Challenger Learning Centers will recognize the anniversary in a variety of ways, including launching rockets, writing letters about how the crew provided inspiration, and designing commemorative anniversary badges. The Challenger Center staff will visit the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery."
"This program will commemorate and reflect on the challenges of human spaceflight, and consider possibilities for the future with the International Space Station and travel to other bodies in the solar system."
"In addition to doing our webcasts, the other main task we had was the building of a memorial inukshuk to the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger. An inukshuk is stone structure built by the Inuit to mark a specific location - for a variety of reasons. Some times they are marking a navigation point. Other times, a good place for hunting. Some times it is a doorway through which a shaman would pass as part of a religious ritual. Other times, who knows - they thought the place was worth marking."
Keith's note: On a sad note, a number of us who have worked and travelled in the arctic and antarctic are familiar with Kenn Borek Twin Otter planes and their amazing crews. As such, it was very sad to learn that the specific plane that crashed last week in Antarctica was one that I and many others had flown on more than once.
"According to Iran state media, Iran launched a suborbital rocket last week with a monkey onboard and recovered the capsule a short time later with the monkey still alive. The space capsule was code-named Pishgam (Pioneer)."
"NASA wants to know how you can improve the International Space Station as a technology test bed. NASA's International Space Station National Laboratory and Technology Demonstration offices are asking for proposals on how the space station may be used to develop advanced or improved exploration technologies. NASA also is seeking proposals about how new approaches, technologies and capabilities could improve the unique laboratory environment of the orbiting outpost."
Keith's note: Nowhere in any of the supporting documents is CASIS mentioned. CASIS makes no mention of this on their website. No mention at NASA's ISS website here, or at the ISS National Lab website. No one involved with the ISS National Lab, CASIS, SOMD, JSC, or elswhere seems to be at all interested in a cohesive, coordinated approach to the utiliztion of the ISS - one whereby all NASA operated and funded entities work together.
Keith's note: NASA SMD sent this "thanks but no thanks" email to everyone who offered their services to the 2020 Mars rover Science Definition Team - but were turned down. SMD made sure to let everyone on the list see everyone else's name/email addresses. Class act.
"From: "Schulte, Mitch (HQ-DG000)"
Subject: 2020 Mars rover Science Definition Team
Date: January 20, 2013 10:51:50 AM EST
To: [DELETED] -- Everyone (more than a hundred) who volunteered but were turned down
Cc: "Meyer, Michael A. (HQ-DG000)", "Tahu, George (HQ-DG000)", "Beaty, David W", John Mustard
20 January 2013
Thank you for your letter of application (LOA) for the Science Definition Team (SDT) for the 2020 Mars science rover. I regret to inform you that you were not selected for the team. We received 158 applications to participate in this important activity from a highly distinguished group of colleagues, and the decision was difficult. We recognize the high level of expertise represented in the LOAs and will be looking to many of you to be expert witnesses to the SDT. We also are planning on forming a red team to critically review the products of the SDT and we will rely heavily on the LOAs to identify the red team members. We hope that you will consider serving in these important roles if asked.
We are delighted at the overwhelming response to the call, and with the quality of the applications. To us, this clearly indicates that the Mars science community is vibrant, active, and engaged, because of people like you, and we look forward to working with this community as we move forward with the Mars Exploration Program.
Dr. Mitch Schulte
Program Scientist, Mars 2020"
"It's my hope that we will be considered a bipartisan committee, working together for the best interests of our country."
"The Committee will also examine the impact of large increases in funding for the Earth Science Directorate relative to funding requested for other science disciplines."
House Science Chairman Lamar Smith puts climate change assessment on agenda, Dallas Morning News
"I believe climate change is due to a combination of factors, including natural cycles, sun spots, and human activity. But scientists still don't know for certain how much each of these factors contributes to the overall climate change that the Earth is experiencing," Smith said through an aide. "It is the role of the Science Committee to create a forum for discussion so Congress and the American people can hear from experts and draw reasoned conclusions. During this process, we should focus on the facts rather than on a partisan agenda."
"Within the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee's jurisdiction, activities warranting further review include costs associated with cancellation of the Constellation program..."
Keith's note: With Mike Griffin's former staffer Chris Shank on Lamar Smith's staff, it was inevitable that this moot topic would be revisited one more time. As such, you should expect to see Mike Griffin's name on witness panel when this ends up as a hearing. Perhaps the most baffling thing is that Rep. Smith no longer felt that he needed the incredible expertise offered by having former NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale Fagan on his staff.
"You requested the Technical Performance Metrics (TPM) presented to SLS senior management on a monthly basis for TPMs created during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. The documents requested contain export-controlled information and are being withheld in their entirety pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)."
"Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope is the untold inspirational story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot and son of Holocaust survivors who became the first and only astronaut from Israel, embarking on a mission with the most diverse shuttle crew ever to explore space. Ramon realized the significance of "being the first" and his journey of self-discovery turned into a mission to tell the world a powerful story about the resilience of the human spirit. Although the seven astronauts of the Columbia perished on February 1, 2003, a remarkable story of hope, friendship across cultures, and an enduring faith emerged."
"NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Ellen Ochoa, astronauts and other NASA employees will join the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee and the Patricia Huffman Smith NASA Museum in Hemphill, Texas, to pay tribute to the crew lost aboard the space shuttle Columbia 10 years ago Feb. 1."
"NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will pay tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance observance on Friday, Feb. 1, the 10th anniversary of the Columbia tragedy."
"The NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is beginning its 10th year roving Mars, completing nine years of "shocking" performance and historic discoveries that began with a bouncing airbag roll into tiny Eagle crater on Jan. 24, 2004."
"It's amazing, we never expected these kind of results!", says Pete Theisinger, the original MER project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Calif. He also led JPL's Curiosity rover development in the same role."
State requests spaceport land near Oak Hill, Daytona Beach News Journal
"In a response released last week, NASA said the property in question isn't "excess," that it's still needed as a buffer zone between NASA missions and the community and as "a potential site for future mission requirements. However the agency indicated it would like to "further discuss" how it might make lands available for a commercial launch complex "independent of the federal range." Space Florida President Frank DiBello called the response "disappointing," saying it did not reflect the "sense of urgency or commitment for commercial market thinking." On Saturday, Dale Ketcham, Space Florida's chief of strategic alliances, said the corporation "won't give up on this effort to develop new commercial launch capabilities."
"Chairman Smith: "The Science Committee oversees agency budgets of $39 billion, most of which is focused on research and development. That enables us to invest in the future, sometimes the distant future, and spur innovation, increase America's productivity, and improve our standard of living."
"Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association have agreed on liability issues that will form the basis of legislation that Senator Mary Kay Papen will introduce tomorrow and which is expected to have broad bipartisan support."
Deep Space Industries Unveils Mining and Manufacturing Plans, SpaceRef Business
"Deep Space Industries (DSI) is another new entry in the asteroid mining field who want to go beyond just mining asteroids and into manufacturing products in space. As with another recent new commercial space venture, Golden Spike, DSI showcased some savvy space veterans but lack the resources to execute their plans to completion."
"In fact both companies made a point of going public so that potential investors might take notice. Unfortunately they and other like minded companies are all after the same investors who don't seem to be interested at this stage."
"Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch.com, said he was not yet convinced by Deep Space Industries' plans. "Is the prospect of using asteroid resources crazy? No it's not. Is if difficult? Yes it is. Can you make a business case for it? People are trying, and making progress." But he said any company must have a product, experienced people and a business case. "This is like a three-legged stool. You need all three legs, otherwise it's not a business, it's a hobby," he said."
"Senior leaders at NASA have been briefed on DSI's technologies, which would make eventual crewed Mars expeditions less expensive through the use of asteroid-derived propellant."
Keith's note: I asked NASA PAO for a statement regarding DSI's claim. This is NASA's official response this morning - no mention of any briefings by Deep Space Industries, just the same sort of generic but positive comentary about space commerce that they have issued on other occassions.
"President Obama's space policy is aimed at creating an environment where commercial space companies can build upon past successes, allowing NASA to focus on the Administration's ambitious path for deep space human exploration, which includes sending humans to an asteroid for the first time and ultimate to Mars. The increasing number of private U.S. companies attempting to push the boundaries of space shows the wisdom of that policy."
During their press conference yesterday, DSI stated that they had briefed the White House (OSTP). I haven't seen any commentary on this from OSTP.
"Nearly four years after launching its Kepler space telescope to search for worlds outside our solar system, NASA officials confirmed Tuesday they had yet to find a planet with sufficient resources to support the space-exploration agency and its 18,000 employees."
179 Round Trips to the Moon & 7 Other Things You Could Do in the Time Since Senate Democrats Last Passed a Budget, Speaker of the House John Boehner
"If you follow the same plan as the crew of Apollo 11, you could fly to the moon and back 179 times."
Keith's note: (really) quick and rough budget snapshot: Apollo was estimated to cost roughly $170 billion in 2005 dollars - divide that total cost by 25 or so Apollo/Skylab missions and you get a rough average of $6.8 billion/flight. So doing Apollo 179 times (in 4 years!) would costaround $1trillion ... oh and you'd need a dozen copies of KSC to do it in that time frame - but that is still not enough to buy a Death Star however.
"Astronauts on board the International Space Station captured this view of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area on Sunday, Jan. 20, one day before the public Inauguration of President Barack Obama."
"On Saturday morning, Jan. 19, 2013, at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling (JBAB) in Washington, Steve LaDrew, with Capitol Exhibit Services, adjusts the Mastcam on a replica of the Mars Curiosity Rover."
@SpaceArtAl: @tweetsoutloud's special hair tattoo for #inaug2013 parade. I always loved the @NASA worm logo. bit.ly/WAO4Ry
"@Cmdr_Hadfield - Chris Hadfield - Washington D.C. on Saturday night of the Inaugural Weekend. You can even follow the parade route."
"@SpaceArtAl [Alan Ladwig] NASA is the only Federal Agency [Other than DoD] in the Inaugural Parade. Still think this Administration doesn't support space? #inaug2013"
S.Korea: North's missile parts from China, NHK World (With video)
"The South Korean military says part of the North Korean missile launched last month were made in China. South Korea's military has analyzed pieces of the debris from the three-stage rocket, including a fuel tank that were salvaged in the Yellow Sea. A military official says some of the parts appear to have been imported from five countries including China."
"Three months ago I asked the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) some simple questions regarding possible changes to the New Horizons encounter with Pluto based on recent data indicating debris in the region. I was told that I'd get a prompt reply. SMD PAO finally got around to responding to me today after three months of silence. One would think that these answers would be simple to provide - and based on standard mission operating procedures. Guess not."
Denney J. Keys, NASA engineer, Washington Post
"Denney J. Keys, 54, who had been a senior technical fellow for power systems engineering at NASA, died of cancer Dec. 30 at his home in Mitchellville."
Denney J. Keys (guestbook)
"Mr. Keys joined NASA in 1990 as lead Power System Manager for the Space Station Freedom Program Office and was responsible for overseeing the Agency space station electrical power system development effort."
Keith's note: I was just out walking, listening to NPR's "Science Friday" when noted data visualist (and CAIB Powerpoint analyst) Edward Tufte was on. During a short break the announcer mentioned that Science Friday was "sponsored in part by CASIS" followed by a short description and their web address. A week or two ago I noticed that CASIS took out a full page adverstisement in Science magazine. CASIS may still be dragging its feet in many areas, but at least someone at CASIS is putting some thought into catching the attention of scientists - and people interested in science - in the places that those people are likely to be found.
"As the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science team completes final assessments of the mission's first drilling target in the bedrock at Yellowknife Bay, Curiosity is roving through "a whole different world," uncovering evidence for rocks saturated with water and other diverse and unexpected aqueous clues that hint of an ancient and very wet environment at Gale Crater.
It's a world of conglomerate rocks, sandstones, siltstones, spherules - known as "blueberries" to MER followers - lustrous pebbles, cross-bedding, tiny grains and filled veins, cracks, and fractured rocks - and, it appears, no end of evidence for past water. "We wouldn't have predicted any of this stuff from orbit," said John Grotzinger, MSL project scientist, of Caltech during a telebriefing on January 15th. "This is a great example of the occurrence of serendipity in scientific discovery."
"Earlier this month during a semi-weekly contact with the spacecraft, the team detected an increase in the amount of torque required to spin one of the three remaining reaction wheels. This increase in friction occurred before the Jan. 11, 2013 quarterly roll, and persisted after the spacecraft roll and several momentum desaturations of the reaction wheels. Increased friction over a prolonged period can lead to accumulated wear on the reaction wheel, and possible wheel failure. To minimize wheel friction, the team implemented several mitigations including increased operating temperatures, higher spin rates, and bi-directional operation following the failure of reaction wheel #2 in July 2012."
Keith's note: If a second reaction wheel fails, the mission is over.
"JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl , http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl."
Keith's note: Why does NASA spend money to maintain three different MSL websites - websites that do not even link to one another? I can (sort of) understand if there is a turf war of sorts going on (there is) but this press release admits by default that NASA is incapable of coordinating its websites. At a time when Congress is looking for examples of taxpayer dollars being wasted, this is just begging to be investigated - especially when NASA advertises the fact that it is maintaining 3 websites simultaneously. I hear constant complaints from within NASA that they do not have enough funds to maintain their websites. When I see ongoing nonsense like this, those complaints begin to ring hollow. It looks like NASA has more than enough website money.
Oh yes - There's also http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ which is the same as http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. That makes 4 website addresses - one of the multiple websites actually has a duplicate. Why?
To summarize: JPL runs two MSL websites that overlap/duplicate one another but don't cross link - and JPL has an extra copy of one of these sites for good measure. Yet none of these JPL sites interact with the site at NASA HQ - and yet they all cater to the same audience. According to formal NASA policy, this is not supposed to happen. But it still does. NASA enacts NPDs and other policies and then ignores these same policies. Why bother having procedures if they are simply ignored?
- Why does NASA need multiple websites for the same mission?, earlier post
- NASA's Tangled Human Spaceflight Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Sprawling Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online, earlier post
Keith's note: Former NASA GRC Center Director Ray Lugo is now Director of the Florida Space Institute. No press release issued that I can find.
"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Wednesday a newly planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology. NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration."
Keith's note: I will be live blogging the press conference at @NASAWatch
Keith's update: Apparently some news media were given advance copies of a press release and images while others were not. Some of us were given dial-in information for the press event, others were not. If NASA and its commercial partners want the media to pay attention to what it is they are doing, then they need to make it easy - not hard for us to do so. FAIL.
"ESA agreed with NASA today to contribute a driving force to the Orion spacecraft planned for launch in 2017. Ultimately, Orion will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle technology. Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) have been resupplying the International Space Station since 2008. The fourth in the series, ATVAlbert Einstein, is being readied for launch next year from Kourou, French Guiana."
"NASA will participate in the inauguration of President Obama with several events, including an open house, a star party and a NASA Social; exhibits on the National Mall and at NASA Headquarters; and with two floats and marchers in the inaugural parade. During the events Jan. 18 - 21, members of the public will have an opportunity to meet and mingle with several astronauts and members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team responsible for the Curiosity rover, which is five months into a two-year mission on the Red Planet."
"The marker shows the position of the planets as viewed from the South Pole on Jan 1, 2013. There are seven brass planets displayed on a copper inlay. In the very center is a small copper star that marks the South Pole. "In the center of the marker (in brass) we have the sun, sunset and moon, with the Southern Cross, including the pointers. If you look carefully, the small inscription above the moon reads, 'Accomplishment & Modesty.' This was a reference to honor Neil Armstrong, as he passed away when I was making this section with the moon."
How to Solve Protein Structures with an X-ray Laser, Science (subscription required)
"For over a decade, biologists have asked whether x-ray lasers can be used to determine the structures of biomolecules such as proteins. Such methods have the potential to allow structure determination from micro- or even nanoscale crystals, but radiation damage can be extensive and data interpretation is fraught with difficulty. On page 227 of this issue, Redecke et al. (1) overcome these problems to determine the room-temperature structure of a protein of importance to drug discovery."
"The three-dimensional structure of protein crystals is studied to determine how structure affects the function of individual proteins. Scientists want to understand how proteins work, how to build them from scratch, or how to improve them. To conduct this type of study, scientists must first generate crystals that are large enough and uniform enough to provide useful structural information upon analysis. Protein crystals grown in microgravity -- the near weightlessness experienced on a spacecraft in orbit -- are often significantly larger and of better quality than those grown on Earth."
Keith's note: Once again, yet another research team has demonstrated that structural information for biomolecules can be obtained from vanishingly small biological samples using a X-ray laser - on Earth - no space station required. So much for the official story NASA has told for 20 years that the ISS is crucial for such work. If NASA hadn't dragged its feet for the past several decades perhaps the agency could have made more progress before Earth-based research caught up and passed them by. You can be certain that CASIS won't be linking to this research.
This doesn't mean that the ISS has no value as a research platform - quite the opposite. What NASA needs to do, however, is get off its collective butt and adopt a research cycle for ISS research - from start to finish - that is commensurate with what happens back on Earth. Otherwise more of the "discoveries" made up there will arrive back on Earth after they have been done 'faster, better, and cheaper' back on Earth.
Using the ISS: Once Again NASA Has Been Left in the Dust, earlier post
"Delays in the federal budget process means that the President's traditional budget message is unlikely to occur by the time of the presently scheduled February 26 and 27th MEPAG meeting in Washington D.C. You are surely all aware of the announcement in December at the Fall AGU meeting by Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld that NASA intends to launch a new rover to Mars in 2020. However, the 2020 Rover Science Definition Team is just now being formed and will not be far enough into its deliberations to give a meaningful out-brief in February."
"Congress and the White House struck a budget deal on New Year's Eve that avoided tax hikes on middle-class families and delayed a 2013 budget sequester until March. That last-minute "fiscal cliff" deal has thrown a wrench into the annual budget process, sources say, because it did not finalize 2013 appropriations or replace nearly $1 trillion in automatic discretionary cuts imposed by the August 2011 debt-ceiling deal. "They have no baseline," one expert said. The expert said it may also be the case that the administration does not want the budget to be taken as an opening offer in the coming fight over raising the nation's $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. The Congressional Budget Office also faces fiscal cliff-related challenges in writing its annual budget outlook. That outlook, which normally comes out in January, is coming out Feb. 4, CBO announced Monday."
This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For, White House
"The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
- The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
- The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
- Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"
Keith's note: So ... is Charlie Bolden going to pound the table with his light saber over this latest snub from the White House?
Hey - Let's Make NASA Build a Deathstar! (Update), Earlier post
"After weeks of searching, the Mars rover Curiosity's science and engineering teams have selected a fine-grained slab of Martian rock as the candidate target for the first rock drilling on Mars, a significant first in planetary exploration."
"The rock was selected Jan. 7 based on data about its composition, hardness, likelihood of generating powder needed to coat internal surfaces, and the safety of the drilling mechanism and rover when drilling this particular slab."
"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: I wonder if NASA met its 21 Dec DAR installation deadline across the agency. Are all NASA laptops now equipped with DAR?
"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."
"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."
Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.
It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.
"We are operating in a zero sum game right now," [Paul] Hertz said. The talk comes as James Webb's $8.8-billion price tag - up by $3.1 billion - has squeezed the astrophysics division's budget, taking up more than expected by the priority-setting 2010 decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics. Though NASA's overall astrophysics budget is predicted to rise slightly in the coming years, the James Webb telescope is set to take up roughly half it by fiscal year 2014, Hertz said. Thus, the slice of money for all other astronomy and astrophysics missions has thinned somewhat. "It's not that our budget has gone down, it's that we're spending more on James Webb than we had planned on at the time the decadal survey was done," Hertz said."
"NASA is soliciting the submission of multiinstitutional team-based proposals for research as participating members of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). The Institute will succeed the current NASA Lunar Science Institute. Proposals must clearly articulate an innovative, broadly based research program addressing basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the nature of the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies, to enable human exploration of these destinations. Proposals in the areas of astrophysics and heliophysics that are enabled through human and robotic exploration of the Target Bodies are also solicited through this Cooperative Agreement Notice."
Keith's note: It is important to note that this renamed and expanded "virtual institute" based on the existing NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) will continue to be managed at NASA ARC. ARC pioneered the implementation of virtual institutes back in the late 1990s with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and later with the NLSI.
"A lack of federal support and local funding has forced the University of North Carolina Wilmington to stop operations at Aquarius, the world's only permanent undersea laboratory - a loss that will take away a key component of the school's marine science program, a school official said. "Aquarius is unique. It's the only asset like this in the world," Aquarius director Tom Potts said of the facility in the Florida Keys. "UNCW does lose a little of what makes it unique by losing this program." But the program is not completely lost. It will soon be operated by Miami-based Florida International University."
Space Tourism Companies Make Giant Leaps In 2013, HuffPost Live
"Space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic are planning to send spaceships into the skies this year. Will private space travel finally lift off?"
Keith's note: I'll be one of the participants on this Google Hangout. Starts at 5pm EST.
"What are the odds of a devastating asteroid impacting the Earth? How will the privately-funded Sentinel Mission work to map Near Earth Asteroids in the inner solar system? Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder Dr. Ed Lu and Mission Director Dr. Harold Reitsema will be available to answer your questions about the Sentinel Mission and all things asteroid related. Join us!" Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM (PST)
"NASA will hold a status update news conference to discuss the progress of the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website."
"The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there."
"NASA's Kepler mission Monday announced the discovery of 461 new planet candidates. Four of the potential new planets are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's "habitable zone," the region in the planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet. Based on observations conducted from May 2009 to March 2011, the findings show a steady increase in the number of smaller-size planet candidates and the number of stars with more than one candidate."
Earth-Size Planets Are Common in Our Galaxy, University of California Berkeley
"An analysis of the first three years of data from NASA's Kepler mission, which already has discovered thousands of potential exoplanets, contains good news for those searching for habitable worlds outside our solar system. It shows that 17 percent of all Sun-like stars have planets one to two times the diameter of Earth orbiting close to their host stars, according to a team of astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa."
"Volunteers from the Planethunters.org website, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse project, have discovered 15 new planet candidates orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars. Added to the 19 similar planets already discovered in habitable zones, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, the new finds suggest that there may be a "traffic jam" of all kinds of strange worlds in regions that could potentially support life."
"Mars will be thrust into international politics during 2013 as India builds toward the planned November launch of its first Mars mission, an orbiter to study the Martian atmosphere and challenge China in a surging Asian space race."
"NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will hold a news briefing at 10:30 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 16, to discuss the details of a recent agreement for ESA to provide a service module for the Orion spacecraft's Exploration Mission-1 in 2017. NASA Television will carry the briefing live from the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston."
"The agreement reached by Congress and signed by the President delays sequestration for a period of two months, until March 1, 2013. Accordingly, no automatic reductions in budgetary resources will take place at this time. The deal provides Congress with additional time to work on a balanced plan that can prevent these automatic spending cuts from ever occurring. This means that, for the time being, there will be no changes to our day-to-day operations or any personnel actions taken due to the threat of sequestration. We will continue to operate as normal. As the new deadline approaches, and until such time as Congress acts to permanently cancel these reductions, I will continue to keep you informed of all relevant developments."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's plans to transition to a content management system with open source architecture are on hold for a little while. The agency awarded a $40 million blanket purchase agreement in mid-December to Rockville, Md.-based InfoZen to replace the agency's existing CMS - operated for several years by eTouch Federal Systems LLC - with open source architecture to run its 140 websites and 1,600 web assets and applications. But that contract has come under protest from eTouch Federal Systems LLC, which filed a formal bid protest on Dec. 28 against NASA's new deal with InfoZen."
"NASA has selected InfoZen Inc. of Rockville, Md., for the Web Enterprise Service Technologies prime blanket purchase agreement to support agency websites."
"The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease."
Keith's note: I can't seem to find any mention of this NASA-funded research at NASA.gov. Given the animal rights controversy that surrounded these experiments, and the results of this specific research project (with clear relevance to missions to asteroids, Mars, etc.), you'd think that NASA would want taxpayers, stakeholders, and the media, to know about these findings. Guess not.
NASA produces a regular listing of publications (NASA Spaceline Current Awareness) on the space life science research it funds. However, NASA is unable to find a way to publish it online. As a result no one really gets to see what the agency does - unless they visit SpaceRef, that is. We have a complete archive online stretching back to 1999.
Keith's update: This PLoS research paper made the rounds of various news outlets - all of them asking the question: Does space travel cause/aggravate Alzheimer's? Given than many of us have had our families directly affected by this disease, stories that mention it tend to get our attention. NASA's public response? Nothing. Yet, its not as if they are not concerned about radiation health (they funded this research after all). This was a perfect opportunity for the agency to show how its research not only serves space exploration needs but also has a relevance to issues facing the public.
By coincidence, this solicitation "Development of the Expandable Coil Concept" was issued today by NASA JSC and shows one way that this issue is being addressed in terms of spacecraft design. Yet another golden opportunity for NASA to link up its research and inform the public. Again, nothing but silence. If NASA does care enough to tell people what they are doing, then how can the agency expect people to care enough to be interested?
"NASA/JSC has a requirement to continue the study of active radiation shielding for crew protection, a key challenge with human exploration of space."
NASA mulls plan to drag asteroid into moon's orbit, New Scientist
"Researchers with the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is mulling over their plan to build a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit. The mission would cost about $2.6 billion - slightly more than NASA's Curiosity Mars rover - and could be completed by the 2020s. .. Robotically bringing an asteroid to the moon instead would be a more attractive first step, the Keck researchers conclude, because an object orbiting the moon would be in easier reach of robotic probes and maybe even humans."
Keith's note: This study has not been released yet so we don't know what is in it. All we hear is how to go get an asteroid and bring it back to Earth - but not why. If the idea is to study an asteroid close up, I would think that you could send a swarm of satellites, large antennas, etc. based on existing hardware to an asteroid and allow high fidelity telepresence capability for the same/less cost and less complexity than using brute force to bring it to Earth. The only possible rationale for bringing an asteroid back to Earth would be to use the materials in it. I have yet to see any mission statement that charters NASA to mine asteroids. Indeed, the White House doesn't even support the more modest L2 station that Charlie Bolden (sometimes) wants to build using traditional engineering.
The last time I checked, one of the main reasons why the White House tasked NASA to send humans to an asteroid in the first place was to test out long duration deep space human capabilities as a prelude to sending humans to Mars. Bringing their asteroidal destination to Earth sort of defeats that initial intent. Who knows: maybe Charlie Bolden wants to bring Mars closer to Earth to cut down on travel time.
Keith's update: the original report has indeed been released previously. But the specific mission proposal that NASA has sent to the White House has not been released - nor will it be any time soon since this is all "predecisional" stuff.
"Calling U.S. students and U.S. young professionals! If you could choose humanity's next destination in space, where would you choose? We want to hear what you think should be the next destination for humans to explore and why your destination is the best. As today's 21- to 35-year-olds, you will be the senior engineers and mission managers who will be carrying out and leading the next human missions to explore space, and we want your input. Why wait 10 years to be heard?! We invite you to share your ideas with space leaders in government, industry and academia at the International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, China, 23-27 September 2013!"
Keith's note: I think it is great that NASA seeks the input of the next generation of space explorers. But its somewhat odd that NASA is asking people what "humanity's next destination in space" should be when (depending who you listen to) the agency has already been given that destination. Is this request seeking the next destination after asteroids/Mars - or is this one instead of asteroids/Mars? Given that NASA Administrator Bolden does/does not want to go to an asteroid - or may want to bring that asteroid back to Earth - or maybe also wants to go to L2 and/or Mars, I guess yet another destination exercise won't really make things that much more confused.
Charlie Bolden's Meandering Strategic Plans, earlier post
NASA seeking to lease or sell space-shuttle facilities, Orlando Sentinel
"The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. NASA has at various times published official notices seeking proposals and spelled out that the proposals should be space-related, though the agency will consider alternative uses under certain circumstances. But information about who wants to do what may not come until agency officials actually select finalists for negotiations."
Keith's note: Odd how NASA hasn't bothered to issue any overt procurement notices on this. Why can't they list what is for sale on their website so everyone can see?
"Section 203 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18313) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(c) Sense of Congress Regarding Human Space Flight Capability Assurance- It is the sense of Congress that the Administrator shall proceed with the utilization of the ISS, technology development, and follow-on transportation systems (including the Space Launch System, multi-purpose crew vehicle, and commercial crew and cargo transportation capabilities) under titles III and IV of this Act in a manner that ensures-- ..."
"The Senate action on Monday and House action today extends a liability risk-sharing regime created by Congress that requires commercial launch companies to purchase insurance for any reasonable risk of damage to third parties, and provides an expedited appropriations backstop above that amount and below a statutory limit."
Congress Approves Bill Supporting Human Space Exploration, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"NASA now relies on commercial providers to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station," said Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). "The future of the U.S. space program and commercial spaceflight industry relies on a predictable environment. Provisions in this bill provide a solid framework for the U.S. space enterprise to succeed in the future and continue to be the world's leader in space."
Keith's note: This newly retrieved high resolution image, frame 3121_H1, was taken by Lunar Orbiter 3 on 19 February 1967 at 19:22 GMT. The prominent feature in this image is Tsiolkovskiy, a large impact crater located on the far side of the Moon. We'll be posting a total of 4 recently retrieved Lunar Orbiter 3 images of the Tsiolkovskiy region this week at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project.
"With the retirement of Doug McCuistion, Director of the Mars Exploration Program (MEP) at the end of December, I would like to announce the following:
Acting MEP Director: James Green
Lead MEP Program Executive: Lisa May
Lead MEP Program Scientist: Michael Meyer"