July 2013 Archives

Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors

"NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) has released solicited research response area NRA NNJ13ZSA002N-TWINS "Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors" that solicits applied research in support of HRP goals and objectives. This response area is Appendix D of the Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) NRA (NNJ13ZSA002N)."

Funding Opportunity Description

"There is a singular opportunity to propose limited, short-term investigations examining the differences in genetic, proteomic, metabolomics, and related functions in twin male monozygous astronauts associated with differential exposure to spaceflight conditions. This opportunity has emerged from NASA's decision to fly veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a period of one year commencing in March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth. Scott Kelly, a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights as well as a six-month ISS mission, will have a cumulative duration of 540 days in low Earth orbit at the conclusion of the one-year flight, while Mark Kelly, a veteran of four Space Shuttle flights, has a cumulative duration of 54 days in low Earth orbit. This opportunity originated at the initiative of the twin astronauts themselves."

Keith's note: I have to say this is a cool idea. Hats off to the Kelly brothers for making this offer.

Small Bodies Assessment Group FIndings

"While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-Rex, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission). Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate."

NASA Completes First Internal Review of Concepts for Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA

"In preparation for fiscal year 2014, a mission formulation review on Tuesday brought together NASA leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission.

"At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who chaired the review at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "The agency's science, technology and human exploration teams are working together to better understand near Earth asteroids, including ones potentially hazardous to our planet; demonstrate new technologies; and to send humans farther from home than ever before. I was extremely proud of the teams and the progress they have made so far. I look forward to integrating the inputs as we develop the mission concept further."

Senate panel approves NASA bill that conflicts with House version, Florida Today

"A key Senate panel narrowly approved a bill reauthorizing NASA on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the House over how much money the nation's space program should get to carry out its missions and which ones it should be allowed to execute.

The three-year bill, which now heads to the full Senate, would give the space agency $18.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $18.4 billion in fiscal 2015 and, $18.8 billion in fiscal 2016. NASA received $17.7 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the bill 13-12 along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed."

NASA Response to NASA Advisory Council Recommendations from April 2013 (Includes PDF), NASA

"Dear. Sr. Squyres:

Enclosed are NASA's responses to the nine recommendations from the NASA Advisory Council meeting held April 24-25, 2013, at NASA Headquarters. Please do not hesitate to contact me if the Council would like further background on the responses. I appreciate the Council's thoughtful consideration leading to the recommendations and welcome its continued findings, recommendations, and advice concerning the U.S. civil space program.

Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Administrator"

The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan, Mother Jones

"President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:...

...In a way, the Times got scooped on this story. By the Onion. More than two years ago:..."

Marc's note: What to say ...

Extracting Public and Stakeholder Opinions: Unusual Suspects Need Not Apply, ECAST

"Public opinion in this country is everything," stated President Abraham Lincoln in 1859. Fast-forward 154 years to the age of trending Twitter topics and 24-hour cable news. Public opinion seems to have a significant effect on social issues and in some cases, like the recent DOMA Act repeal, triggers changes in policy. However, its influence over science and technology policy is far less, where stakeholder opinion reins supreme. The general public is largely excluded, on the grounds that they are uninformed and therefore their opinions are not particularly useful for policymaking.
This de facto policy of exclusion was recently demonstrated at the National Research Council Committee On Human Spaceflight's meetings. The meetings on public and stakeholder opinions were closed to the public, with the exception of the first 30-minute, early morning session."

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight

"... the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."

Keith's note: This committee had a meeting in the vacation community of Woods Hole, MA from 24-26 July 2013. No agenda was posted - and apparently none will be posted. The entire meeting - one that dicussed public input - was closed. Indeed this web page says "No outside materials were distributed to the committee.", Go figure.

NASA defends Space Launch System against charge it 'is draining the lifeblood' of space program, Huntsville Times

"NASA is defending its Space Launch System against a new analysis arguing that SLS is too expensive to fly and is "draining away the lifeblood - funding - of the space program."

"I understand the premise of the article," NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Dan Dumbacher told al.com and The Huntsville Times in a July 23 interview, "but I think we need to realize there's a broader set of trades that really form up the decision process."

Dumbacher referred to "Revisting SLS/Orion launch costs" by John Strickland published July 15 on the website The Space Review. Strickland is a member of the board of directors of the National Space Society, but wrote the article independently."

Update: The Congressional debate over NASA's asteroid capture mission ignores the ageny's real spaceflight problem, Houston Chronicle

"Being the subject of congressional infighting, of course, does NASA no good. But this battle is a distraction from NASA's real problem, which neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to acknowledge. Namely, the space agency is being tasked with building a huge and powerful rocket it will not be able to afford to fly."

NASA suspects life-support pack in spacewalk emergency, Florida Today

"NASA engineers are narrowing in on the cause of the dangerous spacesuit water leak that could have drowned Italy's first spacewalker, officials said Monday.

Meanwhile, Luca Parmitano and crewmates aboard the International Space Station started unpacking a Russian space freighter that hauled up three tons of supplies and a spacesuit repair kit over the weekend.

Engineers "are looking at what steps to take next, this week," NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said. "They actually have isolated the failure to the spacesuit's Primary Life Support System, which is essentially the backpack of the suit."

Marc's update: NASA released a video this morning with Chris Cassidy talking about the faulty suit.

The Silicon Valley of space could be Silicon Valley, The Space Review

"For nearly a decade, many have called the Mojave Air and Space Port the Silicon Valley of the entrepreneurial space, or NewSpace, industry, and understandably so. The spaceport is home to Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic's The Spaceship Company, XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Stratolaunch Systems, and others, filling the spaceport's hangars and buildings to capacity. More recently, the Seattle area as tried to brand itself as a Silicon Valley for NewSpace, with a diverse set of companies ranging from Blue Origin to Planetary Resources.

...During that time, few considered Silicon Valley as an entrepreneurial space hub...

...What's different this time around is that the space companies taking root in the region are looking less like the large, established aerospace companies--sometimes dubbed, at least somewhat pejoratively, as "OldSpace"--but more like the other entrepreneurial companies in the region..."

Marc's note: With a half-a-dozen and growing small "NewSpace" companies setting up in the Valley and surrounding area, a change is underway. While traditional companies still dominate, and will for some time, these small new companies and others in other regions are worthing noting. The economics are changing. Are we seeing the groundwork for a sustained, broader and larger industry emerging? If so, then the next phase in the space age may be upon us.

NASA X-ray Telescope Observes Planet Passing in Front of its Star for the First Time, NASA

"For the first time since exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the sun, were discovered almost 20 years ago, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star.

An advantageous alignment of a planet and its parent star in the system HD 189733, which is 63 light-years from Earth, enabled NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM Newton Observatory to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet transited the star."

Tropical Storm Flossie Headed for Hawaii, NASA

"The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this image of Tropical Storm Flossie at 1:10 p.m. local time (23:10 Universal Time) on July 28, 2013. The storm was moving westward across the Pacific Ocean, headed for the Hawaiian Islands. It is expected to be the first tropical storm to make landfall on the islands in nearly 20 years."

NASA Welcomes New Chief Scientist, NASA

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named planetary geologist Ellen Stofan the agency's chief scientist, effective Aug. 25.

The appointment marks Stofan's return to NASA. From 1991 through 2000, she held a number of senior scientist positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., including chief scientist for NASA's New Millennium Program, deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus, and experiment scientist for SIR-C, an instrument that provided radar images of Earth on two shuttle flights in 1994."

NASA and Korean Space Agency Discuss Space Cooperation, NASA

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Seung Jo Kim, met in Washington Monday to discuss collaboration in aeronautics research and space exploration, including KARI's robotic lunar mission and NASA's asteroid initiative.

Bolden and Kim also discussed NASA's plans for a new asteroid initiative, previously announced in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. Kim welcomed the chance to discuss opportunities for collaboration."

NASA at 55


NASA at 55, SpaceRef

"President Eisenhower commissioned Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator. The National Aeronautics and Space Act, the United States federal statute that created NASA, was signed into law 55 years ago today on July 29, 1958.

NASA officially began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics.
---

The Birth of NASA
By NASA's Chief Historian, Steven J. Dick
(First published March 28, 2008 for the 50th anniversary.)

It may well be argued that NASA has become the world's premier agent for exploration, carrying on in "the new ocean" of outer space a long tradition of expanding the physical and mental boundaries of humanity. Fifty (Five) years ago, however the agency that pushed the frontiers of aeronautics, took us to the moon, flew the space shuttle, built the International Space Station and revealed the secrets of the cosmos, was in its birth throes, and fundamental decisions were being made that profoundly shaped all that was to come."

Marc's note: What are your thoughts on NASA 55 years after it came into existence?

NASA OIG: NASA's Progress in Adopting Cloud-Computing Technologies

"The OIG review found that weaknesses in NASA's IT governance and risk management practices have impeded the Agency from fully realizing the benefits of cloud computing and potentially put NASA systems and data stored in the cloud at risk. For example, several NASA Centers moved Agency systems and data into public clouds without the knowledge or consent of the Agency's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Moreover, on five occasions NASA acquired cloud-computing services using contracts that failed to fully address the business and IT security risks unique to the cloud environment. Finally, one of the two moderate-impact systems NASA moved to a public cloud operated for 2 years without authorization, a security or contingency plan, or a test of the system's security controls. This occurred because the OCIO lacked proper oversight authority, was slow to establish a contract that mitigated risks unique to cloud computing, and did not implement measures to ensure cloud providers met Agency IT security requirements."

Previous IT Stories

NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Meeting 29-31 Jul 2013, NASA

"The meeting will be open to the public up to the capacity of the room. This meeting is also available telephonically and by WebEx."

--Subcommittee Reports
--Program Status
--2013 Science Plan

Russian Soyuz Progress Resupply Mission Launches to the ISS [Watch], SpaceRef

"At 4:45:08 p.m. ET a Russian Soyuz Progress resupply spacecraft (#52) launched on a quick trip to the International Space Station with a docking scheduled for 10:26 p.m. ET.

The Progress 52 is carrying 2.8 tonnes of supplies, hardware, fuel and water to the Space Station. Included is a hastily put together repair kit for Luca Parmitano's spacesuit which began filling up with water during his July 16 spacewalk. The spacewalk was aborted after 1 hour 32 minutes into a 6 1/2 hour scheduled spacewalk. Subsequently to the problem NASA has convened a Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board."

NASA Sees Enthusiastic Response to Asteroid Call for Ideas, NASA

"NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.

"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."

Marc's updated note: Members of Congress have been very vocal about their desire that NASA should NOT proceed with the Asteroid Initiative, specifically the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Until Congress is reassured about the merits of the mission, it will be difficult for NASA to proceed.

New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo

"While news stories focus (inaccurately) on a contrived rivalry between space billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, entrenched interests in Florida are seeking to keep new players away from using launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. These efforts could well backfire and cause these potential employers to pick locations other than Florida to conduct their growing commercial space activities.

Predictably, It is the possible commercial use of pad 39A that has caused a lot of concern for the powers that be in the Cape Canaveral are specifically United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA launches Boeing's Delta II/IV family and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V under a de facto monopoly on EELV-class missions sanctioned by the U.S. government. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin pose a threat to this status quo - especially when they bring their decidedly new ways of doing things and lower costs to the half century old rocket launching world of the Space Coast."

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A
- Memo From Rep. Aderholt Staffer Mark Dawson: "NASA Launch Pad 39A; what's the big deal?"

IRIS First Light

New NASA Telescope Offers a First Glimpse of the Sun's Mysterious Atmosphere [Watch], NASA

"NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft has captured its first observations of a region of the sun that is now possible to observe in detail: the lowest layers of the sun's atmosphere.

The first images from IRIS show the solar interface region in unprecedented detail. They reveal dynamic magnetic structures and flows of material in the sun's atmosphere and hint at tremendous amounts of energy transfer through this little-understood region. These features may help power the sun's dynamic million-degree atmosphere and drive the solar wind that streams out to fill the entire solar system.

"With this grand opening of the telescope door and first observations from IRIS we've opened a new window into the energetics of the sun's atmosphere," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The mission is a great example of a successful partnership for science between government, industry, academia, and international institutions. We look forward to the new insights IRIS will provide."

Hot-Fire Tests Show 3-D Printed Rocket Parts Rival Traditionally Manufactured Parts, NASA

"What can survive blazing temperatures of almost 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting? What did not break apart at extreme pressures? What is made by a new process that forms a complex part in just one piece? What takes less than three weeks to go from manufacturing to testing? What can reduce the costs of expensive rocket parts by 60 percent or more?

Answer: 3-D printed parts

Engineers know that 3-D printed rocket parts have the potential to save NASA and industry money and to open up new affordable design possibilities for rockets and spacecraft. But until recently, no one had tested rocket parts critical to engine combustion in a hot-fire environment."

Marc's note: I believe SpaceX has already tested 3D printed parts in a hot-fire. Nonetheless, the premise of saving money by using 3D printed parts is the focus of the story and is a cost-saving measure that will reduce the cost of flight.

NASA Discusses First IRIS Solar Images in Media Teleconference, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT today to present the first images from NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), which was launched June 27 on a mission to study the sun."

The panelists for the briefing are:

-- John Grunsfeld, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
-- S. Pete Worden, director, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.
-- Gary Kushner, IRIS project manager, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.
-- Bart DePontieu, IRIS science lead, Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center, Palo Alto, Calif.

- Supporting information will be available online just before the briefing at: http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth

- You can listen to audio here.

North American Climate Change in the Coming Century [Watch], SpaceRef

"NASA has released two videos showing projected precipitation and temperature changes in North America by 2100."

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Initial Recovery Tests, NASA

"The initial test began on Thursday, July 18, 2013, with RW4. In response to test commands, wheel 4 did not spin in the positive (or clockwise) direction but the wheel did spin in the negative (or counterclockwise) direction. Wheel 4 is thought to be the more seriously damaged of the two.

On Monday, July 22, 2013, the team proceeded with a test of RW2. Wheel 2 responded to test commands and spun in both directions."

Marc's note: It looks like there has been some partial success however there's still a long way to go before Kepler can be recovered to operate as it should.

Tenth Parachute Test for NASA's Orion Adds 10,000 Feet of Success [Watch], NASA

"A complicated, high-altitude test Wednesday demonstrated NASA's new Orion spacecraft could land safely even if one of its parachutes failed.

The 10th in a series of evaluations to check out the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle's parachute system dropped the test capsule from a C-17 aircraft at its highest altitude yet, 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. One of three massive main parachutes was cut away early on purpose, leaving the spacecraft to land with only two. The test at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground was the highest-altitude test of a human spacecraft parachute since NASA's Apollo Program."

Marc's note: Unfortunately the broadcast quality was subpar and barely worth watching.

Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, SpaceRef Business

"The plans laid out in this draft document embody a radical departure from the current approach to awarding prizes i.e. one winner, one big prize with several smaller runner-up prizes. Now, multiple teams will be able to get even smaller cash prizes for efforts already completed or near completion - but far short of actually sending a mission to land on the Moon.

If approved, this approach would help inject some much needed cash into the coffers of several competitors. No word yet on whether this plan will be formally adopted or when it will be adopted but a quick turn around time for comments suggests that there is an interest in getting these new rules in place soon."

Keith's note: This document has been widely circulated among several hundred people inside and outside of the Google Lunar X Prize community for several weeks. No markings were placed on this document to note that it is either confidential or proprietary. Indeed, the cover memo encouraged its wider distribution for review and comment.

Marc's note: Changes to the Google Lunar X Prize have been rumored for some time. It should be noted that the competition deadline of end of 2015 has not changed. The changes should they go forward will energize a competition which seemingly had stalled. While some teams have had some success in raising funds, none to my knowledge, had raised enough to actually launch and successfully land on the money.

NASA Wants Spacesuit Repair Kit on Russian Launch, AP via Florida Today

"NASA is rushing to get spacesuit repair tools on a launch to the International Space Station this weekend.

... The Russian supply ship is set to lift off Saturday from Kazakhstan."

Draft Findings: 9th Meeting of the NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group, NASA

"(2) Draft Finding - Travel Restrictions

The current NASA and government restrictions on travel and attendance at workshops, conferences, science team meetings, etc. is severely impacting the ability of the planetary science and engineering communities to conduct their work. The increased level of oversight forces a disproportionate amount of time and effort by agency personnel to comply with the necessary waivers and forms to attend such functions at the expense of focusing on NASA goals and objectives. In addition, these travel restrictions undermine the effective planning of domestic and international meetings by suppressing attendance in a manner that is difficult to predict, limiting vital interactions of individuals working on projects and missions relevant to NASA interests.

(9) DRAFT FINDING - Relevance of ARRM to Planetary Defense

Given the size of the ARRM target (< 10m), ARRM has limited relevance to planetary defense. Retrieving a NEO this small only tangentially benefits planetary defense, as the stated target body may not be representative of the larger, hazardous bodies."

Keith's note: Although this document has been widely circulated, these are DRAFT findings and are subject to change. A final version will be issued next week and will replace this draft version.

Marc's note: I've only highlighted two of the findings here but there are several others worth reading.

NASA Creates Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board, NASA

"NASA has appointed a board to investigate the July 16 early termination of a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, develop a set of lessons learned from the incident and suggest ways to prevent a similar problem in the future.

The board will begin its work Friday, Aug. 2, in close coordination with a NASA engineering team already examining the spacesuit and life support equipment astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) used during the excursion. The engineering team is working to determine why water built up inside Parmitano's helmet."

Boeing Unveils Interior of CST-100 Manned Spacecraft [Watch], Boeing

"NASA astronauts Serena Aunon and Randy Bresnik conducted flight suit evaluations inside a fully outfitted test version of The Boeing Company's CST-100 spacecraft July 22, the first time the world got a glimpse of the crew capsule's interior."

House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison, Space Politics

"With the passage on Thursday of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, it's possible now to compare that bill's funding levels for various NASA accounts with the House version of the same bill and the administration's original fiscal year 2014 budget request (amounts below in millions of dollars)."

Keith's note: Care to guess where this donation box is? Note the diversity of currencies. This diversity is quite normal for this location. Click on image to enlarge.

NASA JSC PAO Internal Memo: Space Station Live Placed on Hiatus

"However, in order to have the time to ensure that our products align to our ERO BHAG and align with the desires of our partners, we can't just keep piling on additional work. To that end, after extensive discussions, we're placing Space Station Live on hiatus at the end of the week. And, we're working with the ISS Program to consider other things as well - using a new, regular meeting where leaders from ERO and ISS share updates and collaborate together. For example, we'd use this forum to discuss a pilot effort where we support uncrewed vehicle launches, dockings and undockings differently--perhaps providing commentary only through social media."

Keith's update: I just got a call from NASA JSC PAO to clarify things. They are not looking to shut down the ISS live App or website - (the email was a little confusing) rather they are looking to halt the creation of an hour long daily update about ISS events and the weekly posting of a summary thereof. I asked if they had metrics on what their viewership/readership was and they said that they were not allowed to track such information. This is odd given how much NASA just loves to crow about the number of people who visit their websites. No attempt has been - or apparently will be - made to ask users/viewers of these discontinued features as to whether they like things, if things can be improved - and how. Rather, they will just shut things off and see who (if anyone) complains. As for the use of the word "partners" JSC PAO tells me that this refers to internal partners at JSC.

To be certain, it is good that NASA periodically revisits the things that it does - especially when funds are tight - to see if they are offering the best value to their audience based on their needs and interests. I am just baffled as to why NASA spends so little time actually talking to - or consulting with - actual audience members before they make these decisions. Charlie Bolden loves to babble on about "metrics" when it comes to how he makes decisions about NASA education programs. But in reality NASA has very few audience metrics when it comes to its overall education and public outreach. And when they do have metrics, they just ignore them or bungle their interpretation of what the metrics are saying.

As for my rant about JPL's three websites for MSL. I still think that such efforts are wasteful. Back to my vacation.

NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract CCTCAP Draft RFP, NASA

"The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017.

The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. This procurement is a full and open competition. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 336414 and 1000 employees, respectively."

NASA CFO Robinson Headed To Department of Energy, Space News

"NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson will be nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S. Department of Energy's undersecretary, the White House said July 18. If confirmed by the Senate, Robinson will become Energy's third-in-command."

Trailer for Cosmos the TV Series [Watch], SpaceRef

"At Comic-Con in San Diego this past weekend Neil deGrasse Tyson introduced the first trailer for the Cosmos, a 13 part miniseries he'll be hosting on Fox next year made in conjunction with National Geographic.

The series is a remake of the immensely popular 1980's series when Carl Sagan was host and which aired on PBS in September 1980 through December that year."

Marc's note: A reader points out that the official trailer from Fox is out where you can hear Sagan and Tyson talking. I've updated the video link.

NASA Budget Reaction

House, Senate fund different paths for NASA, Florida Today

"Congressional votes on Thursday provided more evidence the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate have fundamentally opposing views of the space program. Key committees in both chambers approved divergent paths for NASA that will have to reconciled later this year.

The difference is not just about money, though most lawmakers agree there's a significant gap between the $18 billion the Senate Appropriation Committee wants to give NASA in fiscal 2014 and the $16.8 billion authorized by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."

Impasse: House Science Committee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill on Party Line Vote, AIP

"We are just never going to agree on this," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) midway through an hours-long committee markup yesterday of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. Grayson's comment reflected the deep-seated division between the Republican and Democratic members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about the approach that should be taken to funding NASA, and in a larger sense, all federal agencies in coming years.

Yesterday's markup session of this bill to set policy and funding direction for the space agency for FY 2014 and FY 2015 started shortly before noon, and lasted until 5:30 PM, with the committee considering 35 amendments to the bill. In general, the deliberations were cordial, but decisions involving roll call votes were almost always along party lines."

Marc's note: At some point we'll have a compromise but it could be awhile.

2013 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study, NASA

"NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact.

The selected proposals include a wide range of imaginative concepts, including 3-D printing of biomaterials, such as arrays of cells; using galactic rays to map the insides of asteroids; and an "eternal flight" platform that could hover in Earth's atmosphere, potentially providing better imaging, Wi-Fi, power generation, and other applications."

Full Committee Markup - H.R. 2687, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Space & Technology

- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statements on House Appropriations Committee NASA Budget
- Committee Approves Bill to Prioritize NASA's Missions
- Committee Republicans Set NASA up to Fail with Flawed Bill - Positive Democratic Alternative Defeated
- Statement by Rep. Edwards
- Statement by Rep. Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Palazzo: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization
- Statement of Rep. Lamar Smith: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization

Marc's note: Yesterday's long NASA Authorization Act of 2013 markup meeting, which was passed, included 35 amendments, available on the full page of this article, of which 10 amendments were approved, 3 withdrawn and 22 defeated. Of the 35 amendments put forward only 1 was by a Republican and was passed.

All of the substantial amendments put forward by the Democrats were defeated and only small changes were approved.

Of note for the historians out there, Representative Kennedy (D-Mass.), related to that other Kennedy, had his Amendment 004 passed which added the following paragraph to the Bill:

"The President should invite the United States partners in the International Space Station program and other nations, as appropriate, to participate in an international initiative under the leadership of the United States to achieve the goal of successfully conducting a crewed mission to the surface of Mars."

- Download or play audio of the Committee meeting. (173MB mp3 - Edited to 5 hours 2 minutes)

Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012, NASA OIG

"NASA May Have Augmented its Appropriations at the 2011 IT Summit. Donations of goods and services by outside entities can lead to an augmentation of an agency's appropriations and a violation of the Antideficiency Act unless they are authorized under a gift acceptance statute or other statutory authority. ... The 2011 IT Summit steering committee members did not consult with the OGC or OCFO about NIA's contributions to the Summit and therefore did not follow NASA policy regarding the acceptance of gifts from outside entities. We believe this occurred because the steering committee members viewed the awards luncheon and other meals and receptions NIA paid for as NIA events rather than NASA events and therefore did not interpret NASA policy to require consultation under such circumstances. In January 2013, NASA clarified its policy to make clear that the consultation requirement applies to "complimentary activities" like the NIA-sponsored events.

... Reported Conference Costs Were Underreported. NASA estimated the 2011 IT Summit would cost $1,176,307, and reported actual costs of $1,291,889, a difference of approximately $116,000. We found that NASA did not include in the estimated cost figure $548,209 incurred by contractors who attended the event and billed NASA for their attendance and travel costs or an additional $128,439 in miscellaneous expenses."

In this video "NASA CIO Linda Cureton's NASA IT Summit Reception speech is attacked by a flash mob". Here is Another view. Then there was the Smashcast at 2011 NASA IT Summit. Too bad they could not get the actors who did the Star Trek thing for that IRS conference.

- Earlier NASA CIO and NASA IT postings

NASA Administrator Message: Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012

"I welcome this review as part of NASA's culture of continuous improvement and our commitment to transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer money. In fact, as noted in the report, we began taking steps to improve our conference policies and procedures several years ago and have significantly enhanced our conference oversight review processes. It is also important to note that we further strengthened those processes in the two years since the conferences described in the IG's report."

Keith's Note: Truth be known Bolden et al have been very familiar with this ongoing OIG activity and these cost excesses and procedural abuses for years and have been dreading the inevitable release of this report. NASA HQ knew damn well that this CIO event was out of control even as it was being planned and they chose to just look the other way. Earlier NASA efforts with regard to travel and meetings are, of course, mere window dressing under the guise of sequestration issues, and were applied often without much thought given to logic or actually controlling costs. Mr. Bolden is not interested in fixing anything. Rather, he just wants to stay out of the news - and when NASA gets in the news for doing bad things, he wants NASA to exit the news as fast as possible.

Closing Marshall?

NASA Amendement Would Weigh Marshall Closure, Space News

"U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Science space subcommittee, is expected to introduce an amendment to the NASA authorization bill July 18 calling for a commission to consider closing NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala."

Marc's note: If true, this would be seem to be a political shot across the Republicans bow as part of the budget battle with Alabama's Representative Mo Brooks, and fellow committee member in mind. It's unlikely to get traction to happen.

NASA Announces Effort to Form New Collaborative Partnerships with Private Space Industry, NASA

"NASA officials Wednesday released a synopsis requesting information from U.S. private enterprises interested in pursuing unfunded partnerships. The aim is to advance the development of commercial space products and services.

"As we have seen with NASA's previous agreements with the private sector, U.S. companies could significantly benefit from the agency's extensive experience and knowledge in spaceflight development and operations," said Phil McAlister, NASA's director for Commercial Spaceflight Development. "For new entrepreneurial efforts in space, NASA's archive of lessons learned, technical expertise and spaceflight data is an invaluable national resource and engine for new economic growth."

NASA's Appropriations Committee Markup, NASA Blog

"Today, the House Appropriations Committee is marking up legislation to provide 2014 appropriations for NASA. While we appreciate the support of the Committee, we are deeply concerned that the bill under consideration would set our funding level significantly below the President's request. This proposal would challenge America's preeminence in space exploration, technology, innovation, and scientific discovery. We are especially concerned the bill cuts funding for space technology - the "seed corn" that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions - and the innovative and cost-effective commercial crew program, which will break our sole dependence on foreign partners to get to the Space Station. The bill will jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.

In the coming months, NASA will continue to work with the Congress to move towards legislation that funds a balanced portfolio for NASA to spur economic growth here on Earth and maintain American preeminence in space exploration."

Marc's note: The next salvo has been launched in the budget battle.

NASA Astronaut and Elite Athletes Host Google+ Hangout

"NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins will discuss health, fitness and astronaut training with several elite American athletes in a Google+ Hangout at 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT) Wednesday, July 17.

The Hangout can be seen live on NASA's Google+ page or on NASA Television. Participants will be:

- Rachel Flatt, 2010 U.S. Olympic team figure skater
- Curt Tomasevicz. 2010 U.S. Olympic bobsledder
- Rich Froning Jr., CrossFit Games champion
- Jared Crick, Houston Texans professional football player
- Peter Moore, Men's Health magazine
- Sam Kass, an Obama Administration senior policy advisor on nutrition and executive director of the White House's Lets Move! campaign
- Mark Guilliams, Hopkins' lead strength and conditioning coach
- A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Hopkins is in the final phase of his mission training as he and his crewmates prepare for their Sept. 25 launch to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"

Orion's Heat Shield Takes Shape [Watch], NASA

"Technicians at Textron Defense Systems near Boston are applying Avcoat ablator material to some 330,000 cells of a honeycomb on the heat shield of NASA's new Orion spacecraft. To ensure that each cell is filled correctly, they are individually X-rayed and a robot is used to machine the material, sanding off fractions of an inch so that the heat shield matches Orion's precise plans."

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $18 Billion for NASA in FY2014, Space Policy Online

"The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA approved $18 billion for the agency for FY2014 this morning, a significant increase over the level recommended by its House counterpart last week and more than the Obama Administration requested.

The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also chairs the full committee, approved the bill with little discussion in a short markup session. Full committee markup is scheduled for Thursday at 10:00 am ET."

Marc's note: Before you get too excited remember that the House will want to lower the budget. So this is yet just another House-Senate ongoing battle leading nowhere at the moment.

UPDATE: Here's the House Bill with more details.

"The Committee recommends $16,598,300,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $928,430,000 below fiscal year 2013 and $1,117,095,000 below the request."


Marc's note: Today's spacewalk had to be cut short after only an hour and 32 minutes as a water leak in Luca Parmitano's suit was causing a build-up of water in his helmet. Both astronauts returned safely to the confines of the Space Station. The location of the leak within Parmitano's suit is to be determined.

You can watch the post-EVA activities on NASA TV.

UPDATE: The post spacewalk news briefing revealed that NASA does not know what caused the problem with Luca's suit at this time. They will be reviewing all the data and examining the suit to figure out the issue. Watch the press conference.

Revisiting SLS/Orion launch costs, John Strickland for The Space Review

"A year and a half ago, I wrote an article very critical of the Space Launch System. To see if this assessment should now be updated, I checked a series of sources and found that little in the situation has changed, with no reliable cost estimates of an SLS launch yet available anywhere. It is actually amazing how hard it is to get cost estimates for any part of the SLS/Orion system. Another assessment corroborates this problem. While I was working on this article, two startling pieces of information came to light.

It is hard to see how a large rocket like the SLS, which is, with all of its components, destroyed in the course of a launch, could possibly cost a lot less than the Space Shuttle on a per-launch basis. It will probably cost considerably more, since all of the expensive rocket engines and other equipment will either smash into the ocean at high speed or reenter the atmosphere and burn up. Note that the Space Shuttle and SLS systems are somewhat comparable in the amount of mass that reaches orbit, although the shuttle's functional "payload" is only what it carried in its cargo bay (about 20 tons) when it was being used as a launch vehicle, rather than the roughly 100-ton mass of the orbiter itself."

Marc's note: This is an interesting perspective on the costs of SLS/Orion. With NASA's budget set to shrink and SLS/Orion seemingly taking a larger percentage of the budget and at least commercial options available, it raises the question, why is NASA developing the SLS? Wouldn't a commercial option be better value? Why not have NASA focus on an exploration vehicle like the Nautilus concept?

Congress of course mandated NASA to build SLS, so that question is easily answered. It's a jobs creation program for those States that have have a stake in SLS. Isn't time though that someone assert some leadership and steer NASA on its proper course? The public doesn't understand the repercussions of the current mess Congress has made of this. Congress continues to say that we must retain our leadership in space yet by its very own actions is causing the opposite to happen. It doesn't help that the White House isn't providing any leadership either.

Milt Silveira

Obiturary, Washington Post

"Dr. Milton Antone Silveira, former Chief Engineer of NASA passed away July 11, 2013, at his residence in McLean, Virginia. He worked on all USA manned spacecraft programs in pursuit of putting a man on the moon: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. He was the Program Manager of Little Joe II in support of the Apollo Program and supported the Skylab Program. Later he was Manager of the Space Shuttle Engineering Office and then Deputy Manager of the Orbiter Project Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He left JSC to go to NASA Headquarters becoming the Assistant to the NASA Deputy Director and later NASA Chief Engineer."

UK Space Agency to Develop World's First Air-Breathing Rocket Engine [Watch], UKSA

"Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million ($90.5) in the development of the SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionize the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space.

SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximise the UK's access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion ($20.8) launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.

Built by UK company Reaction Engines (REL), the unique engine is designed to extract the oxygen it needs for low atmosphere flight from the air itself, paving the way for a new generation of spaceplanes which would be lighter, reusable and able to take off and launch from conventional airport runways."


Hubble Finds New Moon Orbiting Neptune, NASA

"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the distant blue-green planet Neptune, the 14th known to be circling the giant planet.

The moon, designated S/2004 N 1, is estimated to be no more than 12 miles across, making it the smallest known moon in the Neptunian system. It is so small and dim that it is roughly 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. It even escaped detection by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew past Neptune in 1989 and surveyed the planet's system of moons and rings."

Space Florida Initiates Environmental Study Process for Proposed Commercial Spaceport, Space Florida

"A Federal Aviation Administration-led environmental study to address the potential impacts of constructing and operating a commercial launch complex in the general vicinity of the former citrus community known as Shiloh, Fla., will be performed by an independent consultant in accordance with FAA conditions and procedures, the State's aerospace development organization announced today."

Marc's note: While the Air Force will be having a discussion on the concept of handing over the management of the Cape's Eastern Range to the FAA, it is only talk at this time. As such Space Florida needs to go ahead with the Shiloh study in case nothing comes of the Air Force's very preliminary discussion.

Loony or logical? Bill favors national park on moon, Florida Today

"Imagine a U.S. National Park like Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains on the moon, one that would protect artifacts left behind by the Apollo astronauts. Sound crazy? It's not as far-fetched as it seems.

A bill introduced in Congress recently would "endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, are co-sponsoring "The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" -- also known as H.R. 2617."

- Text of H.R.2617 (PDF)

Marc's note: Protecting the Apollo sites within the legal framework of the U.S. is one thing, and might makes sense. Using UNESCO to make the sites "World Heritage Sites" is an international legal conundrum. While the U.S. is a signatory of the 1969 Outer Space Treaty it has not signed the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Bill might protect the sites from U.S. citizens disturbing them but has no international legal standing. However, merely passing the Bill might deter other nations citizens from disturbing the sites.

Air Force considers privatizing Cape operations, Florida Today

"Under a preliminary concept to be discussed in a public forum Thursday and Friday in Colorado Springs, responsibilities now handled by the 45th Space Wing would be turned over to a spaceport operator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration."

The Fixer-Upper, Space KSC

"Posted on the Federal Business Opportunities web site FedBizOpps.gov is an invitation to attend a public forum in Colorado Springs "to discuss a potential future concept to convert the Eastern Range (in part or whole) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) from an Air Force managed range to an FAA-licensed commercial launch site (i.e., a spaceport)."

Marc's note: Now here's an interesting development. While this is still very preliminary, a discussion only, it does reflect the growing move towards the commercial sector and the fiscal reality of the times.

House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986, Planetary Society Blog

"The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986.

The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While SpaceNews reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation."

Marc's note: The caveat here is if the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, that the House Subcommittee on Space marked-up earlier this week, doesn't change substantially. What the final Bill will look like is yet to be determined. But even when the Senate weighs in, it appears with the current Congress, and for at least the next few years, you can expect a lower NASA budget. I don't see the White House expending political energy, to truly fight for NASA.

No Contest for Pad 39A? SpaceX Appears To Be Only Bidder, Space News

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) appears to be the only company that put in a proposal to NASA to take over one of the space shuttle's mothballed launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A."

UPDATE: Blue Origin Bids for Shuttle Launch Pad, Space News

"At least one other company is competing against Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to take over a decommissioned space shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) here.

Privately owned Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, also responded to a NASA solicitation for proposals for Launch Pad 39A, company president Rob Meyerson told SpaceNews July 16."

The Satellite Industry Association Files Comments Supporting Draft Rules to Reform Satellite Export Controls, Satellite Industry Association

"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) filed comments on Monday on the Administration's proposals to reform the U.S. export controls for satellites and related items. The Departments of State and Commerce published draft regulations in May to significantly update the satellite export control system, following the passage of enabling legislation in January. SIA's comments conveyed support for the Administration's proposals, citing the importance of efficient, clear, and sensible export control rules in supporting innovation, investment and competitiveness for the nation's space sector. SIA also identified several areas where the rules could be adjusted to improve clarity or bring them into better alignment with commercial practices and technology."

- SIA Comments (PDF)

Asteroid retrieval is costly and uninspiring, Lamar Smith Op-ed, The Hill

"The proposed asteroid retrieval mission would contribute very little to planetary defense efforts. The size of the target asteroid for this mission is only 7-10 meters in diameter, too small to cause any damage to Earth. Any insight gained by such a mission would have little relevance to protecting against larger "city-killer" asteroids. Congress directed NASA in 2005 to identify and track 90 percent of asteroids larger than 140 meters by 2020. Asteroids of this size are ones that could cause significant damage, and NASA still has work to do to accomplish this goal. Asteroids that are 7-10 meters simply disintegrate in our atmosphere."

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down, Space.com

"The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT." That's 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The Russian fireball likely produced the most powerful such space rock blast since a 130-foot (40 m) object exploded over Siberia in 1908, flattening 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

Ariane 6 Next Steps

Ariane 6, ESA

"In November 2012, European Ministers responsible for space, meeting in Naples, Italy, approved the start of preparatory activities for Europe's next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The objective of Ariane 6 is to maintain guaranteed autonomous access to space for Europe, while minimising exploitation costs and suppressing any support to exploitation."

Baseline configuration selected

The selected 'Multi P linear' concept is based on a lower 'composite' of four motors, each loaded with around 135 tonnes of solid propellant, providing also synergies with the Vega evolution perspectives. An "in-line" arrangement of three will serve as the first stage, while the fourth will be mounted above as the second stage.

The third stage will be an adapted version of the Ariane 5 ME upper stage, equipped with the Vinci engine and specific propellant tanks.

The 5.4 m-diameter payload fairing will be able to accommodate the same volume of satellites as Ariane 5.

... Ariane 6 will benefit from the advances by European industry in solid and cryogenic propulsion, structures, systems, avionics, ground segment and operations through the Ariane and Vega programmes."

Marc's note: I meant to post this a few days ago but with the budget news I held off. This rocket would still be on the drawing board if it weren't for SpaceX and their efforts with the Falcon Heavy. While there's no doubt that the heritage of the Ariane line will help development efforts, I have serious doubts that the Ariane 6 will be able to compete with the Falcon Heavy on price unless it's subsidized. SpaceX has a list price (2012) of $83 million to GTO for up to 6.4 tonnes and $128M for greater than 6.4 tonnes while reports suggest Arianespace is targeting €70 million ($91m) for 6.5 tonnes

Hubble Spots Blue Planet [With Video], NASA/ESA/STSCI

"Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have, for the first time, determined the true color of a planet orbiting another star. If seen up close this planet, known as HD 189733b, would be a deep cobalt blue, reminiscent of Earth's color as seen from space.

But that's where the similarities end. This "deep blue dot" is a huge gas giant orbiting very close to its host star. The planet's atmosphere is scorching with a temperature of over 1000 degrees Celsius, and it rains glass, sideways, in howling 7000 kilometre-per-hour winds."

The asteroid mission: Why we choose to go, The Hill

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?" -- John F. Kennedy

"Fifty-one years ago, a young president asked a question that cut to the heart of the American explorer spirit. For me, NASA's vision statement says it all. Why do we choose to go? To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.

NASA astronauts, from the original Mercury 7 to our newest class of eight -- 4 men and 4 women -- have embodied that vision. They have been on the front lines of service to humanity in myriad ways and have lived lives of exploration and adventure.

It is hard to imagine anything more beneficial to humankind than protecting our planet from a dangerous asteroid that could strike Earth with devastating force, something we don't currently have the ability to do. In addition to developing technologies that will aid in our planning for the first human journey to Mars, an asteroid mission will help us learn more about how to prevent an impact from one of these mysterious objects."

NASA Satellite Provides First View of the Solar System's Tail [Watch], NASA

"Like a comet, the solar system has a tail. NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has for the first time mapped out the structure of this tail, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover. Scientists describe the tail, called the heliotail, based on the first three years of IBEX imagery in a paper published in the July 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal."

This morning's hearing of the Subcommittee on Space Markup of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 was a partisan affair with an outcome that surprised no one.

Chairman Palazzo and other Republicans, including a very vocal Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), railed upon the Democrats for the current fiscal mess and said until such a time as the budget is dealt with NASA's budget would be curtailed.

Representative Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) presented her amendment to the Authorization bill that would have increased NASA's funding and while other Democrats used their time to support the amendment, the Republican majority on the committee voted it down 12-9 with all votes being on party line.

One note of interest from the hearing is that Representative Rohrabacher stated he voted for the Bill with the understanding changes would be made that address his concerns before the final Bill goes to the full committee for markup. Chairman Palazzo agreed. We'll have to wait and see what changes are made for the final markup but it doesn't appear that any of Rep. Edwards changes from the amendment will make it into the final Bill.

- Listen to the hearing (MP3).
- The Subcommittee on Space will meet to markup the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (PDF)
- Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) Space Subcommittee Markup of
Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013

- Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on Edwards Amendment - With Charts (PDF)
- Opening Statement Rep. Donna Edwards Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill - Maintains Priority Programs and Provides Consistent Direction to NASA
- Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA

The other hearing this morning was the Subcommittee Markup - FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill

- FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill - Subcommittee Draft (PDF)

House Democrats Preparing Their Own NASA Authorization Bill, Space News

"Democrats in the House are set to unveil their own NASA authorization bill, which unlike a much leaner Republican proposal due to be marked up June 10 would authorize $18 billion in spending for 2014 -- more than NASA has gotten since 2011.

... The Republican bill would ban an asteroid retrieval mission the Obama administration proposed in April and instead direct NASA to send more astronauts and hardware to lunar space. The Republican bill, which assumes NASA will be subject to across-the-board sequestration cuts for the foreseeable future, also called for shrinking NASA's Earth science program and restructuring NASA management.

The official summary of the Democratic bill mentions none of these things, and directs NASA to only one destination: Mars. The agency would be on the hook to draw up a 15-year Mars road map for Congress, under the Democrats' bill, but it would be entirely up to NASA to decide whether the road to the red planet included detours to the Moon, asteroids or Mars' natural satellites. "

UPDATE: Ranking Member Edwards Introduces Legislation to Authorize NASA, Cites Need to Return Agency to Path of Greatness, Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)

UPDATE July 10: The amendment Rep. Edwards proposed was defeated 11-9 at today's hearing.


Science Team Outlines Goals for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover, NASA

- Report of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (PDF), NASA

- Appendices (PDF)

- Audio of today's teleconference (MP3)

"The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) has outlined a mission concept for a science-focused, highly mobile rover to explore and investigate in detail a site on Mars that likely was once habitable. The SDT-preferred mission concept employs new in situ scientific instrumentation in order to seek signs of past life (had it been there), select and store a compelling suite of samples in a returnable cache, and demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration of Mars. The mission concept fully addresses the requirements specified by NASA in the SDT charter while also ensuring alignment with the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey for Planetary Science (Visions and Voyages, 2011).

Key features of the integrated science mission concept include:
- Broad and rigorous in situ science, including seeking biosignatures
- Acquiring a diverse set of samples intended to address a range of Mars science questions and storing them in a cache for potential return to Earth at a later time
- Improved landing technology to allow unprecedented access to scientifically compelling geological sites
- Collection of critical data needed to plan for eventual human missions to the martian surface
- Maximizing engineering heritage from NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission to constrain costs
"

From Worms to Meatballs -- NASA Talk Traces Emblematic History, NASA Langley

On Tuesday, July 9, at NASA's Langley Research Center, retired NASA aerospace engineer Joe Chambers will present, "Wings, Meatballs, Worms and Swooshes: The Unknown Story of the NASA Seal and Insignia,"

Chambers will discuss the history and origins of the official NASA seal and the less-formal NASA insignia and how they became two of the most recognized emblems throughout the world.

This evening at 7:30, Chambers will present a similar program for the general public at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. This Sigma Series event is free and no reservations are required.

Update on Russian Federal Proton Glonass Mission Failure, ILS

"Personnel: Our number one priority at ILS is safety, and we are pleased to report that all personnel associated with the Astra 2E campaign were a safe distance away at the ILS safety area, and are all safe. Additionally, we have been told that there were no injuries or casualties to Russian or Kazakh personnel.

Launch Pad facilities: The impact area was a far enough distance from LP24 and LP39 and we understand that neither launch pads were damaged.

Russian Launch Investigation: ...There are many rumors and much speculation on the internet and through other sources, and you may have your own thoughts and questions as well. The Russian State Commission will complete their work and release their findings in due time."

Previous: Russian Proton-M Launch Failure

NASA Discusses Mars 2020 Plans in July 9 Teleconference, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 9 to provide details about a report that will help define science objectives for the agency's next Mars rover.

The report, prepared by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team (SDT) NASA appointed in January, is an early, crucial step in developing the mission and the rover's prime science objectives."

NASA Hosts July 10 Online Media Briefing on Solar System Finding, NASA

"NASA will host its first Google+ Hangout news briefing at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 10, on a new finding from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission.

The briefing will be shown live on YouTube, NASA Television and the agency's website. Journalists may participate in the briefing and ask questions by phone by contacting Steve Cole at 202-358-0918 or stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov with their affiliation by 10 a.m. July 10."

Marc's note: I'm all for holding a news briefing by Google+ Hangout but why not allow questions using the Hangout features?

NASA OIG: NASA's Efforts to Maximize Research on the International Space Station,

"The OIG found that although NASA has made progress towards maximizing the research capabilities of the ISS, opportunities exist for increased utilization. NASA uses three main data points to assess utilization of ISS research capabilities: average weekly crew time dedicated to research activities, number of investigations, and use of allocated space for research. While no one measure provides a complete picture of the utilization rate, NASA has generally increased the level of activity for each metric since completion of ISS assembly in 2011.

Further progress in maximizing Station research capabilities largely hinges on two factors: the ability of CASIS to attract sufficient interest and funding from private users and the availability of reliable transportation to and from the Station for crew and cargo."

Significant Titan Flyby Happening on July 10th, NASA

"For the Radar instrument, one of the most significant Titan fly-bys of the extended Solstice mission occurs July 10. Measurements from this flyby, combined with data from the previous flyby, will allow scientists to produce stereo images of lakes.

Inbound, the imaging science subsystem (ISS) will acquire a mosaic of high northern latitudes on Titan's leading hemisphere, approaching northern summer. This area of Titan's surface has only recently been well observed and each new flyby adds significantly to our data set."

Marc's note: There will be two subcommittee meetings on Wednesday related to NASA's budget.

- Subcommittee on Space Markup of Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (10:00 am)

- Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee FY2014 Appropriations Bill Markup (11:00 am)

FAA Commercial Space Office Fares Much Better in Senate, House Cut Would be "Crippling", Space Policy Online

"The House and Senate Appropriations Committees completed action on the FY2014 funding bill that includes the FAA this week. The two took opposite approaches to funding the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace calls a substantial cut approved by the House committee "crippling." Conversely, the Senate committee recommended more than the request.

On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, making no change to the almost 12 percent cut to AST recommended by its T-HUD subcommittee: $14.16 million instead of the $16.01 million requested. That is roughly 8 percent less than its current funding level."

Related:

- Senator Nelson Weighs in NASA Authorization Bill
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere
- Hearing Today: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
- FAA Commercial Space Launch Office Deep Budget Cut Possible
- Draft Only: Highlights of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013

Marc's note: After the 4th of July break the budget battle will be back on and it's shaping up to be quite a battle as the House and Senate clash.

UPDATE: Just before the holiday Space News reported that an "undated 35-page legislative proposal -- which also contains many noncommercialization suggestions for Congress to consider -- was crafted by NASA in response to the draft NASA authorization bill unveiled June 19 by the Republican leadership of House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee.

... An industry source agreed that a NASA authorization bill is far from a certainty this year, and added that a regular appropriation bill is even more unlikely.

Congressional staffers "are telling us to expect an omnibus appropriations [bill] for 2014," the source said June 28."

Marc's note: It's looking more like a stalemate with Congress having forgotten what the word bipartisan means.

Grasshopper 325m Test | Single Camera (Hexacopter) [Watch],SpaceX

"On June 14, SpaceX's Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet)--higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building--before smoothly landing back on the pad. For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing."

Some Hope for Kepler

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Preparing for Recovery, NASA

"The engineering team has devised initial tests for the recovery attempt and is checking them on the spacecraft test bed at the Ball Aerospace facility in Boulder, Colo. The team anticipates that exploratory commanding of Kepler's reaction wheels will commence mid-to-late July. The Kepler spacecraft will remain in PRS until and during the tests.

Later this month, an update to the data processing pipeline software will be deployed. Called SOC 9.1, this enhancement has been underway for several months and is in the final stages of verification and validation. This software release provides additional refinements to better tease out small planet signatures from the four years of Kepler data. It will also decrease the frequency of false positives."

Related: NASA To Attempt To Revive Stricken Kepler Telescope in July, Space News

"I think the general feeling is that the odds are not good. We might see a wheel spin, but I suspect that it will not spin freely, that there will be noise on it -- vibrations -- which would not make the science happy," Charlie Sobeck, deputy project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center, told SpaceNews."

Marc's note: According to the Space News article they will work on wheel 4 first and then 2. Let's hope they beat the odds and some remote engineering does the trick.

Letter to Congress From Space Companies Regarding NASA Space Technology,

"On behalf of our nation's universities, small and large businesses in the aerospace industry, and those of us in the space-science research community, we write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology account for FY 2014. Space Technology creates critical capabilities required for NASA's future science and exploration missions, enables a vibrant and competitive U.S. space industry, and forges technology-based partnerships across government agencies. To remain the leader in space exploration, space science and space commerce, we are convinced that NASA must invest in new technologies and capabilities. As such, we urge the Congress to provide $740 million for the Space Technology account."

Long-Running NASA/CNES Ocean Satellite Takes Final Bow

"The curtain has come down on a superstar of the satellite oceanography world that played the "Great Blue Way" of the world's ocean for 11 1/2 years. The successful joint NASA and Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Jason-1 ocean altimetry satellite was decommissioned this week following the loss of its last remaining transmitter.

Jason-1 has been a resounding scientific, technical, and international success," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The mission met all of its requirements, performed an extended mission and demonstrated how a long-term climate data record should be established from successively launched satellites. Since launch, it has charted nearly 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) of rise in global sea levels, a critical measure of climate change and a direct result of global warming. The Jason satellite series provides the most accurate measure of this impact, which is felt all over the globe."

Marc's note: While Jason-1 is decommissioned, Jason-2 continues operation and Jason-3 will be launched sometime in 2015.

NASA Seeks Information on Commercial Robotic Lunar Lander Capabilities

"NASA Tuesday issued a Request for Information (RFI) that will help agency officials better understand current plans in the U.S. commercial space industry for a robotic lunar landing capability. The RFI will assist NASA in assessing U.S. industry's interest in partnerships to develop a robotic lander that could enable commercial and agency missions.

NASA does not envision an exchange of funds between the agency and any industry partners. Potential NASA contributions to a partnership could include the technical expertise of NASA staff on integrated teams, providing NASA center test facilities at no cost, or contributing hardware or software for commercial lander development and testing."

Related:
- NASA RFI on Potential Partnerships for Industry-Led Development of Robotic Lunar Landers
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere

Marc's note: No doubt commercial entities will be intrigued to have access to NASA expertise etc. but at what cost? They have to think about their business plan, intellectual property (IP) etc. What does NASA get out of it? There's no exchange of funds and there's definitely an IP issue to consider. How will Congress react? Is this a possible model for private/public commercial exploration of the moon?

Russia's Proton Crashes with a Trio of Navigation Satellites, Russian Space Web

"A Proton-M with a Block DM-03 upper stage lifted off as scheduled from Pad No. 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 2, 2013, at 06:38:22 Moscow Time (on July 1, 10:38 p.m. EDT).

The rocket started veering off course right after leaving the pad, deviating from the vertical path in various directions and then plunged to the ground seconds later nose first. The payload section and the upper stage were sheered off the vehicle moments before it impacted the ground and exploded. The flight lasted no more than 30 seconds."

New spectacular video:

Comet ISON Brings Holiday Fireworks [Watch], NASA

"This July Fourth, the solar system is showing off some fireworks of its own. Superficially resembling a skyrocket, comet ISON is hurtling toward the sun presently at a whopping 48,000 mph.

Its swift motion is captured in this time-lapse movie made from a sequence of pictures taken May 8, 2013, by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. At the time the images were taken, the comet was 403 million miles from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The movie shows a sequence of Hubble observations taken over a 43-minute span and compresses this into just five seconds. The comet travels 34,000 miles in this brief video, or 7 percent of the distance between Earth and the moon. The deep-space visitor streaks silently against the background stars.
"

Message from the NASA Administrator: Federal Benefits for Legally Married Same-Sex Couples, NASA

"As you may know, last week the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and extended equal protection to all legal marriages in America, regardless of gender. This will affect the Federal benefits available to legally married same-sex couples. For the purposes of Federal benefits, legally married means that the marriage was celebrated in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

... Today, NASA will begin a series of communications on Qualifying Life Events inclusive of all legally married NASA employees, their spouses, and their children."

NASA Tests Game Changing Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank [Watch] NASA Marshall

"NASA recently completed a major space technology development milestone by successfully testing a pressurized, large cryogenic propellant tank made of composite materials. The composite tank will enable the next generation of rockets and spacecraft needed for space exploration.

... "These successful tests mark an important milestone on the path to demonstrating the composite cryogenic tanks needed to accomplish our next generation of deep space missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This investment in game changing space technology will help enable NASA's exploration of deep space while directly benefiting American industrial capability in the manufacturing and use of composites."

... "The tank manufacturing process represents a number of industry breakthroughs, including automated fiber placement of oven-cured materials, fiber placement of an all-composite tank wall design that is leak-tight and a tooling approach that eliminates heavy-joints," said Dan Rivera, the Boeing cryogenic tank program manager at Marshall."

NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Two Human-Critical Reviews, SpaceRef Business

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., recently completed two milestones for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

These were the fifth and sixth milestones for SpaceX, a partner in NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The company is on track to complete all 14 of its CCiCap milestones by mid-2014.

... The beauty of having the pad abort test review was it allowed both NASA and SpaceX to start coalescing toward an understanding of what will be tested and how we'll measure success," said Ed Mango, NASA's CCP manager. "We're really looking forward to seeing SpaceX's pad abort system take off from along Florida's Space Coast.""

NASA Makes the Grade on the SBA Procurement Scorecard, NASA

"NASA has achieved an "A" on the fiscal year 2012 (FY12) Small Business Administration (SBA) Procurement Scorecard.

During the past six years, NASA's demonstrated commitment to the agency's small business program has raised the agency's overall grade from an "F" to an "A" after receiving a grade of "C" in FY09 and FY10 and a grade of "B" in FY11.

The annual SBA Procurement Scorecard measures how well federal agencies reach their established small business and socio-economic prime and subcontracting goals. It also measures how the agencies provide accurate and transparent contracting data and report on agency-specific progress.

Despite the overall spending decrease by the agency due to federal budget constraints in FY12, NASA awarded approximately $2.6 billion directly to small businesses. This was about $100 million more when compared to FY11, clearly demonstrating NASA's overall commitment of support to the nation's small businesses."

Space Station Changes its Position for Solar Science, NASA

"The sun lightens our world and enlightens our scientists as they look to our closest star for a better understanding of solar activity and what it means for our planet. Unique data from solar studies help researchers build on their knowledge of the Earth's atmosphere and climate change. June 30 marked the second time the International Space Station literally went out of its way to accommodate this research by providing a better viewing opportunity to meet Solar facility science objectives."


NASA Unveils New Web Site Design, SpaceRef

"Over the weekend NASA unveiled a new design for it's web site. The new look is only a partial update to the web site. There are more changes coming between now and September. As well NASA is planning a complete overhaul of the site early next year, it's first since 2007.

What do you think of the new interim look?"

Marc's note: There's definitely a transition ongoing here. Some sections, including the daily ISS status report, aren't to be found, yet. The old reports, in the old section are there, just no new ones and no link from the new HEO page. I'm waiting on word on the status of these reports. Have a look at the site and vote in our poll on SpaceRef from the link above.

UPDATE: The daily ISS reports have been moved to a new blog at http://blogs.nasa.gov/stationreport/. Of course you can always find the archived reports on SpaceRef.

"Charles Bolden talked about his experiences as an astronaut and his current duties as NASA administrator. He discussed some of the more than 100 missions he flew over North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during his career as a Marine pilot flying the A-6 Intruder. He recounted the improbability of an African American being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in a time of racial segregation in his home state of South Carolina. He spoke about his final mission into space and the unlikely friendships that he developed with the two Russian astronauts who flew with him. Other topics included the NASA budget, the space shuttle program, and the international space station."


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