March 2013 Archives

Aerospace Industries Association Crowdfunding Campaign to Advertise for Space Program

"The Aerospace Industries Association is leading a first-of-its-kind crowdfund campaign to showcase to students and young people the exciting new era of U.S. space exploration."

Please Support We Are The Explorers - A Movie Trailer for Our Space Program (With Video)

"NASA recently made an inspiring new online video narrated by Mr. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime (see above), to show the progress being made on these new systems, but the agency is barred by law from buying advertising time for such a spot. Today we're running a crowdfunding campaign to edit this video into a 30 second spot, and place it in over 50 movie theaters around the country, starting with the premier of 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'"

Keith's update: The $33,000 goal was met a few minutes ago. According to the site "Now for the next "giant leap." With still weeks to go, we can expand our reach to the whole country. Our current funding pace puts us on target to place ads in at least one theater in every state in America. If we raise our funding total to $94,000, students, young people, and the general public will see this video from coast to coast. This new goal will expand our reach from 59 movie theater screens to 750 screens! "

NASA DFRC Award: Production Music Contract

"Contract Award Amount: 15528.00
Contractor: UNIVERSAL MUSIC/KILLER TRACKS 2110 COLORADO AVENUE SUITE 110 SANTA MONICA, CA 90404
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 512110 - Motion Picture and Video Production"

Keith's update: Looks like someone did not get the memos.

Orbital's private launch may show whether NASA made right call, Orlando Sentinel

"In the past four years, a different Orbital rocket failed on two separate NASA missions. Jeff Foust, editor of The Space Review, said Orbital needs a success to stake a bigger claim on the space-launch market. "If they have problems with [these Antares test flights] ... it starts to raise the question on whether they can make this whole thing work," Foust said, adding that it's a test of whether a midsized company such as Orbital can survive in an evolving space economy that features both upstart tourism ventures and heavyweight defense companies such as Lockheed Martin."

NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources

"NASA is about to get a chance to try something totally new: instead of just visting or landing on things in space, it is going to go grab something huge and bring it back to Earth. Details will be formally announced on 10 April 2013 when the new budget is rolled out. The fact that we are now capable of going out and grabbing an asteroid and moving it to a place that we have chosen signals the first major step in the utilization of extraterrestrial resources by human civilization. We are embarking on the rearrangement of our solar system to better suit human needs. That's a paradigm shift folks."

Chinese ex-NASA worker to be released pending trial

"At a detention hearing today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard ordered Jiang released after a federal prosecutor acknowledged there is no evidence so far that he was in possession of any sensitive, secret or classified material. Jiang will be under supervision of the federal probation office, will be prohibited from traveling outside the Eastern District of Virginia, and will be tracked by an electronic monitoring system. He has surrendered his passport."

Ex-NASA Langley contractor released on bond, Daily Press

"Jiang's court-appointed attorney, Fernando Groene, said that Jiang didn't have access to sensitive or classified information when he worked at NIA. Groene says that Jiang did violate NASA's policy by taking the equipment out the country, but there was nothing classified on the laptop or hard drive. "NASA has looked at the computer up and down and can't find any information that violates the export control act," Groene said."

Former NASA Langley Research Center pleads not guilty to lying, judge OKs release on bond, Washington Post

"Groene has suggested that Jiang is only in jail and under investigation because U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has inferred that Jiang may be a spy. Wolf has targeted Jiang in news conferences and congressional hearings about NASA security, saying the space agency is using contractors to get around rules prohibiting citizens of certain countries from working for NASA."

Bo Jiang To Plead Not Guilty; Will Ask For Jury Trial, earlier post

Keith's note: After interaction with/pressure from NASA JSC and MSFC Inspiration Mars is now considering use of single launch of SLS for their mission. Of course, the use of SLS for Inspiration Mars is problematic if a 2018 launch is required. And even if the launch happens would NASA allow it to be used on on of the very first flights for a mission that many inside NASA think is risky - with no real ability to bail out? This is not the same NASA that did Apollo 8 on the third Saturn V flight. As for what this would cost Mr. Tito - that's anyone's guess. What is the commercial price for a SLS launch? I am not certain NASA has even considered that. How do you calculate that price - the same way that the Shuttle commercial launches were priced? We've seen that movie before. Oh yes: there is the pesky little matter of public law that prohibits NASA from offering serrvices on a commercial basis that compete with services that the private sector can offer. Stay Tuned.

Earlier Inspiration Mars posts

Paypal To Drop VMware From 80,000 Servers and Replace It With OpenStack, Forbes

"Backed by Intel and Dell, Mirantis has emerged as a clear leader in the OpenStack world heavily promoting and supporting the adoption of the platform originally developed by NASA and Rackspace."

NASA CIO Dumps NASA-Developed Open Stack, earlier post

"NASA's prestige and participation has been a selling point for advocates of the OpenStack open source cloud project, which NASA co-founded with San Antonio infrastructure-as-a-service provider RackSpace. Unfortunately, they'll have to get along without NASA from here on."

Earlier OpenStack postings

American Astronomical Society Decries Impact of Federal Travel Restrictions on Science

"The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today expressed deep concern about the U.S. government's new restrictions on travel and conference attendance for federally funded scientists. Enacted in response to the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1st, the policies severely limit the ability of many researchers to meet with collaborators and to present their latest results at professional meetings. The leadership of the AAS is especially worried about the restrictions' deleterious effects on scientific productivity and on scientists' and students' careers."

Keith's tnote: If you ask NASA how much they spend on travel in a given year they can't tell you. If you ask them how much these new travel restrictions to save they can't tell you that either. They are just making this up as they go.

NASA's Explosives Problem

NASA OIG: Review of NASA's Explosives Safety Program

"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA's Explosives Safety Program was poorly managed and exposed personnel and facilities to unnecessary risk. Specifically, we identified 155 violations of regulations, policies, procedures, and processes involving unsafe conditions and practices - some of which could have resulted in significant damage, injury, or death to NASA personnel, contractors, and the public."

Hangman's Noose Found at Wallops Flight Facility Construction Site

"The American Federation of Government Employees is working to address recent indications of racial harassment at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). Last week, AFGE has learned of a hangman's noose being placed at a construction site on the Wallops Main Base. It has also been brought to our attention that this is not the first demonstration of racial animus and an intention to intimidate and to create a fearful atmosphere."

NASA GSFC/WFF Internal Memo: Investigation Into WFF Incident (Hangman's Noose Found)

"I am anticipating a report this week with the results of an investigation I directed to examine the facts regarding an incident that took place some weeks ago at the Wallops Flight Facility. I want to assure you that I am committed to ensuring a work place that is free of harassment of any kind, and there will be zero tolerance for any employee at GSFC who violates the laws and policies in place to safeguard every employee's rights and expectations of a harassment-free work place."

The Eighth International Conference on Mars Postponed Until 2014

"The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15-19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014."

Keith's note: If you are outside the NASA firewall and try to access NTRS you still get this notice:

"The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the site's content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

But if you try to gain access internally and are a civil servant or contractor you can register and then gain access. But wait, wasn't access by contractors supposed to have been the problem in the first place? Why doesn't a warning appear on the screen that tells contractor employees who are citizens of "China, Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan" not to bother?

- Why Has NASA Banned Access to its Partner Saudi Arabia?, earlier post
- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post

Keith's note: Last week NASA Education AA Leland Melvin sent a memo out to the Education Coordinating Committee regarding funding issues. In that memo he more or less exempted all of the activities that his directorate funds from cuts associated with sequester-related budget activities. I have asked NASA PAO for a copy of that letter and will post it if/when NASA provides me with a copy.

Keith's 11:00 am update: NASA PAO has decline to provde a copy of this letter and has said that I need to file a FOIA request in order to get it. I have filed the FOIA request. This usually takes weeks although they could expedite this. With all of these memos circulating around - with contradictory and confusing statements in them - you would think that NASA Headquarters would want to clarify things for people and just issue the memo along with an overall statement of policy regarding the topics raised in these other memos.

Keith's 11:45 am update: Here's the memo - from sources other than NASA. Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

Why Has NASA Banned Access to its Partner Saudi Arabia?, SpaceRef

"Last week NASA Administrator Bolden announced that access to NASA computer networks and facilities would be curtailed for citizens of various countries. Among the countries listed was Saudi Arabia. It is more than a little unusual to see Saudi Arabia targeted like this given the strong relations between the Saudis and the U.S. in a wide range of scientific and technological fields. It is even more odd that NASA would publicly snub a major U.S. ally in the Middle East in the midst of a presidential trip to the region. ... Right now there is a contingent of NASA JPL employees in Saudi Arabia discussing space-related issues. .... It will be rather awkward for the former Caltech president, now in the same position at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, to have to explain to his Saudi staff and students why JPL (located at Caltech) won't let them have access any more."

But the issue at hand was security regarding technical information - not human rights or religion. To be certain, China, Iran, and North Korea are bad actors when it comes to transfer of sensitive information, human rights, etc. But it is rather hard to find instances where citizens of Burma, Eritrea, Sudan, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia have been accused of hacking into NASA computers or stealing sensitive information. So why does the list of nationalities banned from NASA by Bolden look more like a list of counties associated with human rights and religious discrimination than a list of countries known to seek out U.S. technology? Who gave who gave Bolden this list of countries to ban? Did he think it up himself or did Rep. Wolf give it to him?

Who are the top hacker countries in the world?, geopolitech.tumblr.com

"Despite all the bad press China is getting for its recent hacking activity, the US remains firmly on top in terms of sheer volume. This remains true for rankings tabulated by different think-tanks like Symantec and NCCGroup. Usual suspects China and Russia are consistently within the top five, while Germany and the UK show up consistently within the top ten."

CuriousMars: Triple Sample Set for SAM, as NASA Cheers Revived Plutonium Production

"Restarting science operations after 3 weeks of computer problems, the Mars rover Curiosity will be using its robotic arm and the Goddard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory to process a triple-dose of drilled subsurface rock in a more intense search for organic carbon before April 4, when Mars will move behind the Sun blocking communications until May 1."

Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs

"Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs The Sequester's recent cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs must not be allowed. These cuts would end the many programs NASA has for educating the children of our society, as well as many other forms of public outreach held by NASA. In an internal memo issued on the evening of Friday, March 22, the Administration notes that "effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects."

NASA Suspends All Education and Public Outreach (Update), Earlier post

NASA Internal Memo: Guidance for Education and Public Outreach Activities Under Sequestration

"Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.

The scope comprises activities intended to communicate, connect with, and engage a wide and diverse set of audiences to raise awareness and involvement in NASA, its goals, missions and programs, and to develop an appreciation for, exposure to, and involvement in STEM. Audiences include employees, partners, educators, students, and members of the general public. The scope encompasses, but is not limited to:

- Programs, events, and workshops.
- Permanent and traveling exhibits, signage, and other materials.
- Speeches, presentations, and appearances, with the exception of technical presentations by researchers at scientific and technical symposia.
- Video and multimedia products in development (and renewal of existing products).
- Web and social media sites in development (excludes operational sites).
- External and internal publications, with the exception of Scientific and Technical Information as defined by NPD 2200.1B.
- Any other activity whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities."


Keith's note: This is just insane. How much money will this actually save? NASA's response to the sequestration is to go out of its way to not communicate with the outside world? Is any other agency doing this?

Then again this might have a silver lining by forcing everything to a serious life and death review - there are some pointless money holes - all done as EPO - that NASA loves to just pour cash into. I have talked to knowledgeable folks at NASA HQ - and they say that this is not an indication that NASA does not think that EPO is important. Rather, that its time for everyone to justify the actual need for projects on a case-by-case basis.

While NASA is looking at all EPO activities they need to look at other things as well. For example, JPL runs two MSL websites that overlap/duplicate one another [1, 2] but don't cross link - and JPL has an extra copy [3] of one of these sites for good measure. Yet none of these JPL sites interact with the site at NASA HQ [4] - and yet they all cater to the same audience. What does it cost NASA to support 3(4) official websites for one mission?

Keith's update: This memo was issued inside NASA this afternoon - after the memo above.

Memo: NASA AA for Communications David Weaver to Communications Coordinating Council: EPO Activities Under Sequestration

"I am providing additional information and instructions regarding the review of public outreach activities under sequestration as outlined in the memorandum from the NASA Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Staff dated March 22, 2013."

Sequestration forces NASA to hold up educational and outreach efforts, CosmicLog/NBC

"It's important to point out that it's a suspension, not a cancellation," [NASA spokesman Bob] Jacobs wrote. "The agency's budget for the fiscal year is more that $1 billion below the original request. We are taking prudent steps to ensure the resources expended on outreach activities are done so wisely."

Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

NASA's CIO is MIA

Keith's note: You would think that the NASA Chief Information Officer would at least have something to say about all of this IT hysteria. You would think. The CIO blog has been dormant since October 2012 (no mention of the laptop fiasco either). The incumbent NASA Chief Information Officer, Linda Cureton, is leaving - but she's still on the job until 4 April 2013 - and there is a staff at the CIO to do things like this. There's nothing on the NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program blog either. One has to wonder if the CIO is part of the problem or part of the solution.

NASA Tightens Security In Response To Insider Threat, Information Week

"NASA has closed down its technical reports database and imposed tighter restrictions on remote access to its computer systems following the arrest of a Chinese contractor on suspicion of intellectual property theft."

NASA Technical Reports Database Goes Dark, Secrecy News

"There is a HUGE amount of material on NTRS," said [National Academy of Sciences] space policy analyst Dwayne Day. "If NASA is forced to review it all, it will never go back online." ... "I'd also note that a large amount of historical Mercury/Gemini/Apollo documents that were previously available at NARA Fort Worth is now apparently withdrawn due to ITAR [export controls]," said Dr. Day."

Keith's note: There is a new notice on NTRS now: "The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the site's content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

How can we be certain that there isn't something posted on SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System Abstract Service or at lanl.arXiv.org? If NASA was really trying to check on whether things have been posted that should not have been posted then shouldn't NASA lock down these sites too? What about NASATechBriefs? Look at all that technology transfer goodness on their site.

If NTRS is offline why are the JPL Technical Report Server, NASA Johnson Technical Reports Server and the NASA Engineering Network online? If you want to see the NACA material from 1917-1958 that NTRS has taken offline (1917? Yes, the Wright brothers built warplanes) you can still see it here. The University of Texas seems to have a lof NTRS stuff online as well.

NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post

Former Huntsville NASA center boss Robert Lightfoot will lead foreign security probe, Huntsville Times

"NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will lead a new in-house probe of foreign access to NASA field centers in the wake of the arrest of a Chinese national allegedly attempting to smuggle data out of the U.S. to China. Lightfoot was director of the Marshall Space Flight Center before being promoted in 2012 to the top civil service position in the agency."

Wolf Threatens To Call NASA Security Whistleblowers To Testify, Aviation Week

"Career civil servants" have been coming out of the woodwork with reports of lax security practices at NASA since Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) raised the issue publicly, and the powerful committee chairman may call some of the whistleblowers to testify publicly about their charges."

Keith's note: At the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach meeting on 5 March 2103 Leland Melvin, the AA for Education at NASA, correctly lamented that people at NASA were not promoting the International Space Apps Challenge (20-21 April 2013) and urged committee members to spread the word. Well ... have a look at the NASA Education website. Two weeks later and there is still no mention is made of the International Space Apps Challenge. Nor is there any mention in the 21 March edition of NASA Education Express. There is still no mention on NASA.gov's calendar.

However, mention of the International Space Apps Challenge is now made at the NASA CIO and NASA Open Government websites.

Earlier posts on International Space Apps Challenge

Attorney: Former Chinese contractor at NASA's Langley Research Center to plead not guilty, Washington Post

"Jiang's attorney Fernando Groene said Jiang was unfairly targeted and is looking forward to being vindicated. He said he plans to ask for a jury trial and wants Jiang's side of the story coming out. Groene said Jiang was leaving the country because his work visa was about to expire and he had been unable to find other employment since losing his job in January."

Attorney: Former NASA contractor subject of 'witch hunt', Daily Press

"... But Jiang's lawyer, Fernando Groene -- a former federal prosecutor who now practices out of Williamsburg -- said he's not going to let Wolf misportray Jiang. ... Groene challenged Wolf to come to the trial in Newport News federal court to present his evidence against Jiang. If Congressman Wolf testifies as a government witness, Groene said, "We'll be glad to cross-examine him." Asked why Jiang was going to China, Groene said, "He was going home."

- Congress Vs NASA on China (Home Alone with Wolf and Bolden), earlier post
- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- Former NASA/NIA Employee Arrested by FBI Trying to Leave U.S., earlier post

American Astronomers Call on Congress to Support Investments in Research and Development, AAS

"The AAS delegation was part of a group of more than 200 scientists, engineers, and business leaders who converged on Capitol Hill for the 18th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD), held March 12-13 and sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group. CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies, and educational institutions whose members feel strongly that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our nation's future."

NASA locks out foreigners, orders security review following concerns of Chinese spying, Fox News

"NASA has locked its facilities to foreigners, disabled online research databases and ordered a complete review of access by foreign nationals to its facilities, as allegations swirled of foreign spies within the space agency. In addition to the security review, Bolden announced that he had closed down a publicly available NASA technical reports database due to the risk of confidential information leaking out. A message on the site indicates that "until further notice, the NTRS system will be unavailable for public access. We ... anticipate that this site will return to service in the near future."

Congressman: NASA intentionally skirted rules, Daily Press

"Robert D. Wyman, a spokesman for NASA Langley, did not return phone calls this week seeking comment on Wolf's assertion that Langley officials intentionally circumvented the rules. Calls to NASA headquarters in Washington were routed to Allard Beutel, the chief of the NASA communications office there. Beutel did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. Timothy Allen, a spokesman with the National Institute of Aerospace, declined to comment on Wolf's assertions that Langley conspired with NIA to get around the rules. "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation," he said."

Keith's 20 March note: I asked LaRC PAO the following questions:

"- Was this shutdown in response to a request from Rep. Wolf? If not, then who requested the shutdown of this website?
- Was there any technical material posted on the NTRS website that violated ITAR regulations or any other NASA/government security requirements?"

LaRC declined to answer these specific questions and would only say "As you know, the NTRS system is unavailable for public access. NASA is reviewing the sites content to make sure it's consistent with the U.S. export control laws, regulations and review processes that are in place."

Clearly the fact that NASA took the extreme action of pulling the entire website down - one that had been online for decades - means that they either found something on there that did not belong and/or could not affirm that all applicable rules were being followed. Someone had to make the decision to take this action. Either Rep. Wolf asked them or someone to do this or someone at NASA decided to do so on their own. LaRC PAO is unable or unwilling to admit that this is the case. Isn't it rather odd for NASA PAO not to respond with comments in support of what the agency's administrator said in open congressional hearings? Meanwhile, neither NASA or the House Appropriations Committee has bothered to post Bolden's prepared statement.

At today's hearing Rep. Wolf gave the NASA OIG and "F" grade for their ARC and LaRC investigations and suggested to Bolden that the agency needs a new IG. Wolf also lectured Bolden about blind dissidents and human organ trafficking in China. Wolf asked if Bolden would meet with various Chinese activists/dissidents at NASA HQ. Bolden said he would if he could ask them a question as to why Congress prohibits any interaction by NASA with China's space agency. When Bolden talked about the progress of moving the Arc Jet facility from JSC to ARC Wolf said "just make sure the spies are not involved out there" (i.e. at ARC).

Probably the most important thing to emerge from this hearing was the fact that both Wolf and Bolden liked the two "Home Alone" films.

Keith's 21 March update: here is the Prepared Statement by Charles Bolden Before House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. NASA still has not released it (but Congress has). Do a search for the word "China". Nothing. NASA really does not want to talk about this.

- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- Former NASA/NIA Employee Arrested by FBI Trying to Leave U.S., earlier post

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project: how you can help save historic space data, Boing Boing

"The LOIRP team managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft between 1966-67. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the project has been run on a shoestring budget. The LOIRP effort is housed in an abandoned McDonalds burger joint at Moffett Field, California (also known as "McMoons"). The LOIRP folks used spare parts bought on eBay, discarded government equipment, new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in 50 year old documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, RocketHub

Keith's earlier note: Only a few hours left. The $50,000 $52,000 $53,000 $56,000 level was just passsed - more than 2/3 70% 76% of the total fundraising goal of $75,000. Over 410 446 468 502 funders have made donations ranging from $10 to $5,000. Proof positive that people are willing to pay for space exploration out of their pockets - even if it is for data recovery from missions that flew almost half a century ago.

Keith's update: The final funding level achieved is $62,560 - 84% of the goal - from 548 donors. A special thanks to Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing for being the project's biggest fan.

AGU: Voyager 1 has left the solar system, sudden changes in cosmic rays indicate

"In the GRL article, the authors state: "It appears that [Voyager 1] has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing [hydrogen] and [helium] spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium." However, Webber notes, scientists are continuing to debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system."

NASA Voyager Status Update on Voyager 1 Location

"It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space."

Bolden Keynote At AAS Wednesday Morning Will Be Livestreamed, Space Policy Online

"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will keynote the American Astronautical Society's Goddard Memorial Symposium tomorrow morning, Wednesday, March 20, and AAS will stream the event live."

NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post

"v. Examples - For example, the following conferences do NOT meet the new criteria and NASA funded participation will not be allowed:

1. National Space Symposium
2. The American Astronautical Society's Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium and Goddard Memorial Dinner"

Keith's note: This is just baffling. Charlie Bolden tells all of NASA that specific meetings are not going to be supported by NASA funds - and then he turns around and goes to one of the meetings specifically cited in his official agency policy that do "NOT meet the new criteria and NASA funded participation will not be allowed" to speak in an official capacity. I wonder if Bolden is using NASA-provided transportation (that limo) to go to this unsupported meeting - and if he will have NASA staff with him - also traveling from NASA HQ to Maryland for this event - at NASA expense.

Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post

Keith's update: According to this tweet: @Jeff_Foust: Bolden, on travel bans for this event and Nat'l Space Symposium, notes he came here since it's local, "doesn't cost the gov't a dime." Charlie Bolden thinks he's not breaking any rules. Unless Mr. Bolden drove himself to and from this event - with no staff - in his own car - and took time without pay - then it most certainly did cost the government something. The fact that Bolden is oblivious to this fact speaks volumes. His travel prohibitions will save a vanishingly small amount of money and amount, at most, to a stunt.

Keith's update: According to NASA PAO Bolden was accompanied by one NASA civil servant who drove to/from the event in their own car. NASA will not discuss Bolden's travel arrangements due to security concerns. As such it is safe to assume that he was using government transportation and security - and that costs money. Bolden's presence supported the meeting using NASA funds in violation of his own policy. Was this a large expense? No. That's the point - these arcane travel restrictions will have negligible impact on NASA's expenses.

NTRS Collections - NASA Technical Reports Server

"Until further notice, the NTRS system will be unavailable for public access. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and anticipate that this site will return to service in the near future."

Keith's note: NASA just yanks this website offline. No press release, no official notice at NASA.gov. Why is this invaluable resource offline? NASA brags about all of its spinoffs and then one of the largest online repositories thereof is stealthily taken offline. Oddly these related NASA sites with linkage to NTRS are still online for "public access".

- JPL Technical Report Server
- NASA Johnson Technical Reports Server

Oh wait - there's this item from Rep. Wolf the other day. Coincidence?

Wolf: Chinese National Potentially Involved In NASA Langley Security Violations

"Second: NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review and all controlled documents are removed from the system."

Keith's update: According to a response from NASA HQ PAO this morning "It's down for review to ensure there is no sensitive content on the server." Why is it that NASA cannot be honest with people in the note on the NTRS website and explain why the site is offline? What is really baffling is how this site could have been online - for decades - and not have had a process to prevent inapproprate material from being posted. Did Rep. Wolf's office actually find something online - specifically at NTRS - that shouldn't have been there - or is this a knee jerk reaction - on both sides? Why aren't other NASA technical information websites offline? When I sent an inquiry to the person listed as the point of contact for NTRS he declined to reply and referred me to LaRC PAO.

NASA Sources Sought: Commercial Crew Transporation System Certification Contract Phase 2

"The CTS certification contract (s) - Phase 2 is part of the Commercial Crew Program's phased acquisition intended to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from low earth orbit including the International Space Station (ISS). This acquisition strategy utilizes competitive down-selection procedures that will enable the eventual purchase by NASA of commercial services to meet its ISS crew transportation needs, once the capability is certified by NASA."

March 2013 Issue of Space Quarterly Magazine Released, SpaceRef

"The March 2012 edition of Space Quarterly Magazine is now available. Here are the table of contents for the U.S. and Canadian editions."

Wolf: Chinese National Potentially Involved In NASA Langley Security Violations

"Even more troubling, the investigative report identified how Mr. Jiang was allowed by NASA and NIA supervisors to take his work and volumes of other NASA research back to China for a period of time, as documented in an investigative report I received."

Federal agents stop, arrest NASA Langley contractor on plane for China, Daily Press

"A former employee of a NASA Langley Research Center contractor was sitting on a Chinese-bound plane at Dulles International Airport on Saturday when federal agents came on board and asked to have a word with him. Federal prosecutors are now accusing that man, Bo Jiang, of lying to those federal investigators about what he had in his possession."

Affidavit in Support of an Application for Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant

Criminal Complaint

Bo Jiang, LinkedIn

Research Scientist - National Institute of Aerospace
October 2012 - Present (6 months)Visual Information Processing Lab, NASA Langley Research Center
- NASA Aviation Safety Program, External Hazards Sensing and Mitigation:
-- Developing a computational visual servo, which provides an active, automatic image enhancement,
-- Researching on generic pattern recognition combining computer vision and neuroscience.

Research Assistant - University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
July 2004 - June 2007 (3 years)Chengdu, China
- Adaptive median filter for multi-layer noise reduction,
- Image recognition based on Neural Network and Gabor filter,
- Speech recognition based on Neural Network and Hidden Markov Model.

Frank Wolf's Weekly Hearings on NASA and China, earlier post

NASA SMD Memo: LPSC Travel Confusion Under The Sequester

"Recent guidance has come from the Administration that needs interpretation relative to supporting travel for all NASA activities. These rules will go into effect on March 19, 2013. We are in the process of executing all elements of the guidance and will notify those that are affected. For instance, we have worked with all the NASA Centers and JPL employees and have completed an approved list of attendees."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden is curtailing NASA travel to scientific and technical meetings to save a vanishingly small amount of money in the grander scheme of things - yet he still allows this solicitation to be put out: NASA Solicitation: Scale Models of the James Webb Space Telescope. So ... toy telescope models trump participation in science meetings? That's how Charlie Bolden sees it.

NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post

OIG: NASA's Process for Acquiring Information Technology Security Assessment and Monitoring Tools

"NASA has not fully implemented a process for identifying its IT security assets, a necessity to meet federally mandated requirements and improve IT acquisition outcomes. Lack of such controls result in missed opportunities to capitalize on efficiencies and leverage purchasing power on critical IT security investments. NASA could use two internal management control processes Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) and APM to improve visibility over purchases of IT security assessment and monitoring tools."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project: how you can help save historic space data, Boing Boing

"The LOIRP team managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft between 1966-67. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the project has been run on a shoestring budget. The LOIRP effort is housed in an abandoned McDonalds burger joint at Moffett Field, California (also known as "McMoons"). The LOIRP folks used spare parts bought on eBay, discarded government equipment, new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in 50 year old documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."

What Do Star Trek and Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Have in Common?

"As you will recall Kirk, Spock and McCoy go back in time to the 1930s. At one point Spock has to hack his 23rdcentury tricorder with early 20th century electronics to get data off of it. In our case, we used early 21st century electronics to hack mid 20th century electronics to gain access to 45 year old data."

SpaceX Likes Texas

SpaceX official testifies before House committee, Brownsville Herald

"At Thursday's committee hearing, Caryn Schenewerk, counsel and director of government affairs for SpaceX, testified that Texas is high on the list for the future site of a launch facility for the company's rockets. "We want to be somewhere where our activity is valued." she added. The SpaceX official testified that what SpaceX is doing is a capital-intensive endeavor and before the company chooses a site it wants to ensure that it will face no last-minute legal issues that might prevent rocket launches. "We don't want the one-in-10,000 person who wants to stop our activities and tries to get, for example, an injunction against the noise it will create. We want to know that we come to a community and to a state that values that noise," she said."

Keith's note: BTW @SpaceX refers to the Grasshopper cowboy as "Johnny".

Cowboy Rocketship, earlier post

Message From The NASA Administrator: New Policies in Response to Sequestration

"This guidance is to be applied to NASA employees and to all contract employees, including JPL employees, to extent permissible. Program managers, project managers, and contracting officers should apply this guidance to all NASA direct-funded contractor travel. You should know that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and I have already begun to adjust our activities in line with these guidelines. We have both canceled travel and participation in the April National Space Symposium in Colorado and I have also canceled a planned overseas trip. ... At this time, there is no change to the Agency's current hiring policy. Centers may continue to transact hires as planned in their submitted phased hiring plans up to their FY2013 FTE ceilings. This includes hiring in all categories, including new intern hires, intern conversions, and all other early career hires."

Sequestration Claims its First Victim at NASA, Planetary Society

"Of special note is that this letter defines "foreign" travel as anything outside of the continental United States. Sorry Hawaii and Alaska!"

NASA clamps down on travel spending, FCW

"Event planners hoping to book NASA speakers: You have a problem."

@elakdawalla: "As others have pointed out to me, sequester doesn't just limit NASA travel; also USGS, DOE, any federally funded organization or lab."

Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, Mike Loucks, John Carrico and Dennis Tito

"Dennis Wingo provided some comments for us in his article Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan. Dennis Wingo is a friend of ours. We welcome input from any source, especially visionaries like Dennis. Our IEEE Paper is an attempt to show the feasibility of the simplest possible Mars flyby mission. We chose a simple Mars flyby trajectory (the one from the Patel reference), and will choose a simple ECLSS, heat shield, etc., using existing designs and technologies on a single launch. We may eventually deviate from these assumptions, but only when we have proven that we must."

Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, Dennis Wingo, earlier post

Oversight Hearing - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Wednesday, March 13, 2013: Witness: Paul Martin, NASA Inspector General"

Oversight of NASA - Statement of Paul K. Martin NASA Inspector General

Keith's note: For some reason today's hearing with the NASA OIG will not be webcast. So much for trying to be open and transparent.

Keith's update: According to someone present at the hearing, Rep. Wolf focused a lot of this attention on news reports of a Chinese national who had been hired by LaRC. Wolf also asked Martin about ARC. Rep. Fattah suggested that if there are Chinese nationals employed by NASA that there should be some Americans employeed at at Chinese space centers. Wolf and Fattah then asked NASA for a list of the NASA employees currently working at Chinese space centers.

Oversight Hearing - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Wednesday, March 20, 2013: Witness: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator"

Earlier posts on China

Enact Legislation to Restrict the NASA Budget to No Less than 1.00% of Federal Funding, as of FY2014, We The People Petition

"In 1961, at the height of the space race, the NASA budget was 4.41% of federal outlays. In 2005, despite the federal government spending only ~$15 billion on NASA, $180 billion of economic activity was created by this outlay . The 2013 budget expects ~$19 billion of funding for NASA (Guardian link above), or half of a percent of spending; truly this is a pittance, but one that yields vast economic and scientific rewards. NASA advances our nation when well-funded; by guaranteeing that no less than 1% of federal spending will be on NASA, we promote job creation, encourage creativity in the economy, and gain insight on our universe."

Oversight of NASA - Statement of Paul K. Martin NASA Inspector General

"We found that NASA's efforts to reduce its underutilized facilities have been hindered by several longstanding and interrelated challenges: 1) fluctuating and uncertain strategic requirements; 2) Agency culture and business practices; 3) political pressure; and 4) inadequate funding. To its credit, NASA is undertaking a series of initiatives aimed at "rightsizing" the Agency's real property footprint. However, we noted that many of these efforts are in the early stages and may ultimately be insufficient to overcome the cultural and political obstacles that have impeded past efforts to reduce unneeded infrastructure. Accordingly, an independent outside process similar to the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission may be necessary."

Layoffs at GRC and GSFC?

More than 150 NASA Glenn jobs in jeopardy, Rep. Marcy Kaptur's office says, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"NASA Glenn Research Center stands to lose more than 150 jobs when automatic spending cuts under the "sequester" go into effect, according to the office of Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials told Kaptur the cuts would end cryogenic propulsion research headquartered at Glenn, resulting in the loss of 10 to 15 jobs. A separate $14.5 million sequester-related cut in Glenn's operational budget will cost another 150 support staff jobs, said Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought. "It appears to be a very difficult fiscal environment for NASA Glenn," said Fought."

Sequestration 2013: Hoyer Says NASA Goddard Could See Layoffs, Greenbelt Patch

"While, thankfully, it appears that NASA Goddard Space Flight Center may not be as severely affected as some other NASA centers, we are still likely to see local businesses that contract with NASA and with the military, like many of you here today, take a significant hit," Hoyer said at a luncheon hosted by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable in Greenbelt."

The Floor of Copernicus

Copernicus Crater Mosaic, NASA Lunar Science Institute

"This mosaic of the floor of crater Copernicus was created by combining the following 24 high resolution images taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967. By comparing old images of the Moon to recent images, LOIRP offers a time machine of sorts, whereby changes in the lunar surface over the past half century can be identified. LOIRP has also done original science by comparing their highest resolution images with the latest high resolution lunar images to look for changes that could indicate quakes, meteor impacts, or volcanism. But more work remains to be done."

Keith's note: Please Support Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at RocketHub

NASA Space Act Agreement With Paragon Space Development Corporation for Inspiration Mars Evaluation

"This Agreement shall be for the purpose of NASA corroborating with the partner evaluating the aerocapture and reentry phases of Paragon's proposed Inspiration Mars Mission using baseline vehicle architecture and Paragon-defined mission parameters, NASA will use its unique expertise and facilities to predict the aerodynamic and aerothermal environments during the Earth reentry maneuvers and assess the performance of critical vehicle systems, such as the thermal protection system (TPS)."

Curiosity Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

"An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Senate funding measure gives NASA $2.1B for SLS for rest of 2013 (updated), Huntsvile Times

"A bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee budget for the rest of fiscal year 2013 continues strong funding for NASA's Space Launch System and calls on the agency to speed up its construction. The measure released by committee leadership Monday night gives the overall SLS program $2.1 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, including $260 million for ground-related launch support construction, and also provides $515 million for NASA's commercial crew program."

Explanatory Statement for the Senate Substitute Continuing Resolution (NASA Excerpts)

"This Act includes $17,862,000,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A table of specific funding allocations for NASA is delineated below, and additional detail may be found under the relevant account headings."

Mr. Rohrabacher's Additional Views on the Science Space & Technology FY 2014 Budget

"We continue to hear that the SLS/MPCV system will serve as a back-up for Earth-to-orbit transportation in the unlikely event that none of the other systems in development are successful. Last year's request for this "back-up system" was more than 300% of the appropriated level of the primary system. By acting on this type of faulty logic, we have created a national debt as large as our GDP and still our nation refuses to take its foot off the deficit spending accelerator. SLS is unaffordable, and with relatively modest expenditures on specific technology development, we do not need a heavy lift vehicle of that class to explore the Moon, Mars, or near-Earth asteroids."

Views and Estimates for FY 2014 Budget, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (NASA)

"While NASA's Commercial Crew program could be the primary means of transporting American astronauts, we cannot be solely reliant on this program. The Orion MPCV, Space Launch System, and Commercial Crew programs require a program track with a sufficient budget to support the Space Station as soon as possible in preparation for the next steps of human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit and ensure American preeminence in space."

Keith's note: It would seem that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have a fundamental disagreement when it comes to the implementation of NASA's human and commercial space flight priorities.

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Seeks Public Support To Retrieve Apollo Era Moon Images

"The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is seeking support from the public as it continues its efforts to recover and enhance Moon images from the 1960s using modern technology. The LOIRP was started with funding by several volunteers in 2008. The original volunteer effort was followed by financial support from NASA which has now been exhausted. Five Lunar Orbiter missions were sent to the Moon between 1966-67 to map the lunar surface to help select landing sites for Apollo human missions.

The LOIRP managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the LOIRP has been run on a shoestring budget. Housed in an abandoned McDonalds restaurant at Moffett Field, California, the LOIRP team used spare parts bought on eBay, developed new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in original documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."

Cowboy Rocketship

Grasshopper Hovverslam (with Video and Johnny Cash)

"SpaceX's Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) today, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad. At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9. Today's test was completed at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas."

Keith's note: The image to the right is the best one I could find of the cowboy that stands on the deck of the Grasshopper. You can see it at the end of this video for a few seconds. SpaceX PR folks did not have anything better to offer me. When you enlarge this video frame grab you can see that the SpaceX cowboy bears more than a passing resemblence to Guy Fawkes. I'm just sayin'...

Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"While as of yet the plan is incomplete, it is a baseline from which to build on, and most importantly it does, I think, what Mr. Tito intended, which is to change the conversation about exploring beyond Earth orbit. I am not interested in comparing the Inspiration Mars plan to NASA's plans but to focus on what could be done to improve that mission."

CuriousMars: Rover's SAM organic and CheMin Labs Outrun Computer Snafu For Extra Rock Analysis, SpaceRef

"Scientists with the $2.5 billion Mars rover Curiosity will reveal potentially historic discoveries about Mars next week in Washington D. C."

"There are indications that the planned March 12 NASA Headquarters briefing could reveal the finding of organic carbon on Mars - "key ingredients" for life on Mars, as the space agency reinforced this week."

Bob Phillips

Keith's note: I just learned that my long time friend Bob Phillips has died. Bob was one of the original crew members selected for the Spacelab mission which eventually became SLS-1. He was disqualified a few years after selection for medical reasons but continued to work on the mission. Indeed, if you look at the STS-40 mission patch you will see that the stars representing the crew members forms a "P" in his honor. I got to know Bob very well over the years via the ASGSB (now ASGSR) and worked closely with him on the Space Station Freedom Program where he served as Chief Scientist. Indeed, shortly before I decided to leave NASA I had been given permission to serve as his deputy. We wrote this paper together at one point. When you look at what happens on the ISS today, you can thank Bob for helping make that science happen at a time when science was not a priority.

Wolf says NASA prompted hiring of person linked to Chinese espionage; may be dozens more in agency, Washington Examiner

"Today, Wolf said he has not received a response from Pete Worden, the retired Air Force general who is director of the Ames facility."

NASA ARC Centerwide Announcement: Ames and National Security (12 Feb 2013)

"I have offered to talk to the news reporter, meet with the US representatives and/or testify under oath regarding export control issues at Ames."

Keith's note: Worden has offered to testify on this issue - under oath - nearly a month ago. Apparently Rep. Wolf's staff didn't get that message. Or they forgot. Or they don't care. The NASA IG met with Rep. Wolf et al a few days ago to tell them all that there is nothing to the IG's knowledge to substantiate the reports about ITAR issues and espionage at ARC. Yet Rep. Wolf continues to link these claims about ARC to China even after the Justice Department and the NASA OIG state that there is no "there" there.

USW Condemns Chinese Spying; Urges U.S. Government to Thoroughly Review Security Procedures and Protocols at NASA

"Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) issued the following statement today after House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) identified alleged security lapses at the National Aeronautics & Space Administration's (NASA) Langley Research Center at a press conference. "Space may be the final frontier, but it is apparently already a target for espionage by the People's Republic of China."

Wolf says NASA prompted hiring of person linked to Chinese espionage; may be dozens more in agency, Washington Examiner

"Wolf said during a Capitol Hill news conference today that "at least several dozen other Chinese nationals," are employed at Langley, and he charged that they are employed in a manner to "circumvent" congressional bans on Chinese involvement at NASA facilities."

Lawmaker: NASA broke law with visits by China officials, USA Today

"A congressman says NASA broke a national security law last year by failing to notify Congress about two visits Chinese officials made to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said the visits -- one in June and one in December -- were barred by a measure he authored in 2011 requiring NASA facilities such as Kennedy to give lawmakers at least 14 days notice before hosting "official Chinese visitors."

Wolf: More On Potential Security Violations At NASA Centers

"Even more troubling is that this Chinese national was allegedly employed by a Langley contractor allegedly at the direction of NASA officials in an apparent attempt to circumvent appropriations restrictions the Congress has in place to prevent the hiring of certain foreign nationals of concern. Additionally, it is my understanding that NASA spent several hundred thousand dollars to pay for this individual's contract."

House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, Congressional Record

"As with the Lunar Orbiter's images themselves, the efforts of those who have devoted themselves to this project should not go unnoticed or unrecorded. Although space exploration is a vast, complicated enterprise, it ultimately relies on individuals who have the vision and imagination to move us forward. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project is an example of that kind of vision and imagination, and those who have contributed to the Project and to preceding efforts surely deserve our gratitude."

Keith's note: A number of us have been donating time and money to this project since 2008. Thanks to your generosity, the LOIRP has already raised enough to order a tape drive head to be refurbished. Please support the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at RocketHub as our team works to finish this project.

NASA GRC Award: Continuing Non-NASA New Business Support Services

"Contract Award Amount: $400,000
Contractor: Jefferson Consulting Group, LLC 1401 K St NW STE 900 Washington, DC 20005-3455
Description: Continuing Non-NASA New Business Support Services"

"A previously competed MAS Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) award, NNCI 1DC82D, to Jefferson Solutions resulted in the development of a Center Strategic Plan for identifying and attracting non-NASA Business. The contract also led to the development of a three day training course for Business Development, External Partnering, and Communication and Engagement Skills for Business Development. At this time, the center desires to provide two additional sessions of the training course and to assess the implementation of the plan on a quarterly basis as well as, if necessary, to revise the plan andlor training based on said assessment. The Government estimates, but does not guarantee, that the volume of purchases through this agreement will be $400,000."

Keith's note: I wonder if NASA GRC is able to quantify how much new business (in a dollar amount) has been (or is expected to be) generated by this $400,000+ contract and the activities it covers. The real question: does this government expenditure actually generate real business? What metrics are used to determine if this training is worth doing?

Letter From Rep. Wolf to NASA Administrator Bolden Regarding Chinese Visitors to CEOS Strategic Implementation Team meeting

"It has come to my attention that NASA will be hosting the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Strategic Implementation Team meeting at the Langley Research Center from March 12-14, 2013, and that officials from the government of the People's Republic of China are currently planning to attend. ... Because it is now less than 14 days before the commencement of the CEOS meeting and no such certification has been provided, the hosting of any Chinese visitors would be in clear violation of the law. Accordingly, I expect any participation by official Chinese visitors will be promptly cancelled."

Earlier posts on China

International Space Apps Challenge

"The International Space Apps Challenge is a technology development event during which citizens from around the world work together to solve challenges relevant to improving life on Earth and life in space. Join us in over 75 cities around the world or at home on April 20-21, 2013."

Keith's note: At the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach meeting on Tuesday, Leland Melvin, the AA for Education at NASA, lamented why people are not promoting the International Space Apps challenge and urged committee members to spread the word. Well ... have a look at the NASA Education website. No mention is made of the International Space Apps Challenge. No mention at the NASA CIO, NASA Open Government, or NASA.gov's calendar either. Yawn.

NASA's Inconsistent Support of the International Space Apps Challenge, earlier post

"I think it is inexcusable that NASA has not made more of an effort to promote things such as the International Space Apps Challenge - especially when the White House places such a priority on things like this. There is much risk in this ad hoc and dysfunctional public engagement policy at NASA. Now that the first apps challenge event was such a success, efforts like this could continue - without overt NASA involvement - thus making NASA less - rather than more relevant. If that happens NASA only has itself to blame."

Keith's update: Here's a related event that also gets zero mention on NASA's Education website - or on NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate - the sponsor of the event itself.

Dark Side of the Jam: 'On March 8th, game developers around the planet will gather to make games about space and science. The Dark Side of the Jam is open to all, whether you're a veteran developer, hobbyist, or student. Ideally your games will not only be great achievements in coding prowess, but will help capture the public's interest in the real science and technology advancements being made in aerospace exploration. DSJ is an educational project of the Night Rover Challenge. Learn more about this $1.5 Million dollar NASA Centennial Challenge for advanced energy storage technology."

A Scientist's Misguided Crusade, op ed, NY Times

"As a private citizen, Hansen, 71, has the same First Amendment rights as everyone else. He can publicly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline if he so chooses, just as he can be as politically active as he wants to be in the anti-Keystone movement, and even be arrested during protests, something he managed to do recently in front of the White House. But the blast e-mail didn't come from James Hansen, private citizen. It specifically identified Hansen as the head of the Goddard Institute, and went on to describe him as someone who "has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, producing irreversible climate impacts that would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed."

Keystone XL Pipeline Gets Upbeat Analysis From State Department, ENN

"Keystone XL, if the public were to allow our well-oiled government to shepherd it into existence, would be the first step down the wrong road, perpetuating our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, moving to ever dirtier ones," warned Dr. James Hansen on Friday. Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and is adjunct professor of Earth Sciences at Columbia University's Earth Institute."

Jim Hansen Arrested For Yelling or Something (Again), earlier post
James Hansen Continues To Have Special Privileges, earlier post

Keith's note: Why is it that only Jim Hansen can overtly identify himself as a NASA Employee and say whatever he wants with regard to what he does during his day job (paid with NASA money) and yet other NASA employees cannot? Before the snarky comments ensue, let me say that I agree with 90+% or more of what he says. That's not the issue. I am just baffled as to why he gets a special pass by NASA.

Keith's note: According to comments made by PAO AA David Weaver, speaking at the the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach meeting on Tuesday, NASA expects that its budget will be released on 18 March - but that date may slip. Weaver, Charlie Bolden, and others were at the White House on Monday. Stay tuned

According to Science magazine: NASA Dives Into Its Past to Retrieve Vintage Satellite Data:

"They cleaned, rebuilt, and reassembled one drive, then designed and built equipment to convert the analog signals into an exact 16-bit digital copy. "It was like dumpster diving for science," says Cowing, co-team leader at LOIRP. In November 2008, the team recovered their first image: a famous picture of an earthrise taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on 23 August 1966. The team's new high-resolution version was so crisp and clear that it revealed many previously obscured details, such as a fog bank lying along the coast of Chile. "We thought if the Earth's surface looks that good a quarter of a million miles away, what does the moon's surface look like 100 miles beneath it?" says Cowing."

Keith's note: A number of us have been donating time and money to this project since 2008. Please support the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at RocketHub as our team works to finish this project.

More information on this image can be found here and here as we overlaid Nimbus II imagery on a Lunar Orbiter image of Earth. Oh yes, on this date, in New York City, just over the Earth's limb as seen from lunar orbit, the Beatles were preparing to play at Shea Stadium ...

Chris Hadfield Quote Turned Into Cartoon By Zen Pencils, Huffington Post

"More than a few of us Earthlings have found ourselves thoroughly inspired by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as he zooms around our planet aboard the International Space Station, tweeting all the way.

Aside from providing us with breath-taking photos of the Earth and a gravity-free cooking lesson, Hadfield has been doling out advice to his young fans with off-planet ambitions.

During a recent Reddit AMA, Hadfield was asked to give advice for young people considering a career in space science, and his heartfelt answer hit Australian artist Gaving Aung Than hard."

Marc's note: Chris Hadfield is not the first astronaut to inspire a younger generation. However with the social media tools available now along with almost weekly live interactions with youth, has fostered a following like no astronaut before him. The repeated messages, of which the central one has been turned into this cartoon, is hitting home. Keep up the good work @cmdr_hadfield.

NASA Repeatedly Attacked, Jet Propulsion Lab Compromised, eWeek

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was under heavy attack over the past two years, as adversaries tried to infect machines with malware or use advanced persistent threats to get into the network, according to Congressional testimony.

Attackers from a Chinese-based IP address had breached the network at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and gained full access to the networks and sensitive user accounts, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin told the House Science, Space and Technology committee Feb. 29. NASA made the discovery in November, and the JPL incident is still under investigation, according to Martin."

Marc's note: One reader pointed this story out to me and now another has notified me I should have looked at the date a little closer. My bad, the story is a year old. With all the Chinese hacking being reported these days I assumed the story was from last week. My apologies.

Sequestration Message from the Office of the Chief Acquisition Officer

"At this time, NASA is taking every step to mitigate the effects of these cuts, but based on our initial analysis, it is possible that your contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Space Act agreement may be affected. In addition, planned actions for new and existing work may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the degree to which it directly supports the Agency's mission goals. To the extent that your contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Space Act agreement is affected due to these budget cuts, you will be contacted by your Contracting, Agreement or Grant Officer with additional details."

Dragon Update

SpaceX's Dragon Carrying NASA Cargo Resupplies Space Station

"The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station at 8:56 a.m. EST Sunday. The delivery flight was the second contracted resupply mission by the company under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract."

SpaceX Dragon Docks with the International Space Station (Video)

Europe May Work With China on Space Station, Scientific American

"China aims to establish a large manned space station within the next decade, officials have said, and the latest reports suggest that this outpost could host not only Chinese astronauts, but European spaceflyers as well. A plan is afoot for China and Europe to cooperate on the venture, which might see the European Space Agency (ESA) building technologies, including a rendezvous and docking system, for the station, in exchange for opportunities for its astronauts to visit the facility."

Dragon Launch Update

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches But Anomaly Detected Which Delayed Solar Array Deployment, SpaceRef Business

UPDATED at 3:50 p.m. EST and includes launch video and audio file of post-launch media briefing: "This morning at 10:10 a.m. EST, a SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon spacecraft launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on its second of 12 NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS)."

Less than 24 hours after launching, the SpaceX Dragon was supposed to arrive at the ISS where the station crew would grapple and berth the spacecraft to the ISS for an expected three week visit.

However, after the Dragon spacecraft had separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and just before the Dragon solar arrays were to deploy, an anomaly occurred with the thrusters where only one of four was enabled. The spacecraft appeared to be in the correct orbit."

Congresswoman Eshoo Announces Plan for Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield

"Following a meeting with Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), GSA, NASA, and the White House at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 26, the General Services Administration will issue a Notice of Intent regarding Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield, which reflects the following: 1. Moffett Federal Airfield will NOT be excessed. It will remain a restricted Federal Airfield and NASA will remain its custodian. 2. The Notice of Intent outlines a competitive bid process and the Request for Proposal (RFP) will be released this spring seeking a qualified lessee to provide for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic Hangar One."

Notice of Intent - Leasing Opportunity - Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield

"While the primary objective is to facilitate the expeditious re-siding of Hangar One, the Government will also consider proposals to manage the Moffett Federal Airfield."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden has been relentlessly trying to shut this airstrip down and/or get rid of it for years.

Update: 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference Presentations by NASA and JPL Personnel

"We have learned that NASA has severely restricted travel of NASA and JPL employees to the 2013 IEEE Aerospace conference. This is impacting many of the authors at this year's conference. I, on behalf of the conference board and the conference committee, want to extend our condolences to those who are affected by the restrictions, and provide the following guidance with regards to paper presentations."

Reader note: "Of course sunk costs like registration ($1000), lodging, and many flights are long past the opportunity to be refunded, so we're not actually saving much money and causing a lot of trouble for employees, some of whom have personal expenses that will not be reimbursed."

MSL Enters Safe Mode

Mars Curiosity Rover Enters Safe Mode

"The ground team for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has switched the rover to a redundant onboard computer in response to a memory issue on the computer that had been active. The intentional swap at about 2:30 a.m. PST today (Thursday, Feb. 28) put the rover, as anticipated, into a minimal-activity precautionary status called "safe mode." The team is shifting the rover from safe mode to operational status over the next few days and is troubleshooting the condition that affected operations yesterday. The condition is related to a glitch in flash memory linked to the other, now-inactive, computer."

"We are looking for people to help us complete the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). We call this technoarchaeology - mining the past to support science in the future. Between 1966 and 1967, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to the Moon. Their mission was to photograph the lunar surface to help identify future Apollo mission landing sites. The spacecraft carried 70mm photographic film which was developed automatically in lunar orbit aboard the spacecraft. The developed film was then scanned with a light beam and this modulated a signal which was sent back to Earth." More at RocketHub

CuriousMars: SAM and CheMin Ace Rock Analysis, Ready for More, SpaceRef

"The Mars rover Curiosity is this week in the midst of potentially historic discoveries as the full range of its capabilities are brought to bear for the first time on a gray powdered Martian subsurface rock sample."

"The sample, drilled from within a mudstone type rock, was totally unexpected this early in the mission and could reveal whether this once water soaked region of Mars preserved organic carbon pertinent to past life on Mars."


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