August 2013 Archives

JWST, Commercial Crew Spared Cuts in NASA FY2013 Operating Plan, Space Policy Online

"With only six weeks left in FY2013, Congress and the Obama Administration finally reached agreement on NASA's FY2013 operating plan that details how the agency will spend the money appropriated by Congress. Although the agency was subject to across-the-board cuts of about 7 percent that were to be applied proportionately to all its activities, at least two projects were spared those cuts -- the commercial crew program and the James Webb Space Telescope."

Finally, an FY13 NASA Planetary Budget, Just 11 Months Late, Planetary Society

"The FY13 budget approval was especially messy this year because Congress failed to pass a final budget until last spring (around six months late). The budget was then automatically cut through a process known as the Sequester. The Administration then reportedly proposed larger cuts to the planetary program to spare other parts of the NASA budget the effects of the Sequester. Congress reportedly rejected that division of cuts, resulting in negotiations and the final budget supplied to Space Policy Online.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Doesn't Think Elon Musk's SpaceX Will Put People On Mars, Business Insider

"Renowned astrophysicist and StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think a private enterprise, such as SpaceX, could ever lead a space frontier. "It's not possible. Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks," Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us. "Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free market capitalization of that enterprise."

Keith's note: Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who does TV shows and runs a planetarium. Elon Musk is a billionaire who builds rockets that fly into space. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes out of his way to talk about how you can't do things. Musk just goes out and does those things. deGrasse Tyson is afraid to take the risks that go with exploration. Musk takes the risks.

My money is on Musk.

NASA is Adrift

Logsdon and Pace Criticize Lack of White House Leadership on NASA, Say Agency is Adrift, SpacePolicyOnline

"George Washington University (GWU) space policy experts John Logsdon and Scott Pace agree NASA is adrift today, particularly with regard to the human spaceflight program, and blame the White House for a lack of leadership. ... Both believe NASA is adrift today and criticized the Obama Administration for its lack of leadership. Logsdon stressed that when he talks about a lack of leadership he is referring more to the White House than to NASA itself."

Message from the Chief Information Officer: Bring Your Own Device and Mobile Computing at NASA, NASA CIO

"In the coming months, the NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) will be working to develop a formal policy to govern the use of personal devices, also known as "Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)". Until then, I have directed the OCIO to enroll every personal mobile device that accesses the NASA email system into a management profile that helps to secure NASA data, just like is currently done on NASA's government issued devices. This change, effective September 10, 2013, will enforce a minimum set of security requirements on your personal mobile device if you wish to directly access NASA's email and calendaring resources from your device's email client. This change will only affect mobile devices, i.e., those running a mobile operating system such as Apple's iOS, Google's Android, etc. It will not affect laptops, nor will affect any access to email via webmail."

Minimum Security Requirements for Personal Mobile Devices, NASA CIO

AFEU Memo: Message from the Chief Information Officer: Bring Your Own Device, Ames Federal Employees Union, IFPTE Local #30

"You should assume, if you connect your personal device in this manner, that the agency will be able to read and access any data you have on your personal device and that the agency will retain the ability to remotely erase everything on that device. The union has secured an agreement that employees' personal phones will not be remotely wiped without prior permission from the owner, and I will keep you posted if that policy is altered."

Keith's note: It is nice to see NASA slowly dragging itself into the 21st century. But based on the non-stop trail of IT blunders and damning OIG reports on NASA's chronic inability to get IT right, I'd be very leery of directly connecting any personal computer to NASA. Do you really trust the same group that allowed all of your personal info to sit on laptops that seem to be stolen on a regular basis?

Have a look at the NASA CIO security requirements that NASA wants to place on what you can and cannot do with your mobile device if you connect it to NASA and what NASA can do to it if you do. You might as well just give the phone to NASA.

- NASA is Taking More Servers Offline - With No Explanation, earlier post
- NASA OIG IT Report Highlights Governance Problems, earlier post
- OIG on Information Technology Security Tools, earlier post
- NASA Still Has Not Encrypted All Laptops, earlier post
- OIG Doubts NASA Can Meet Laptop DAR Deadline, earlier post
- NASA IT Blunder Update, earlier post
- other postings

Virginia, Alaska form space launch alliance, AP

"The spaceports don't compete for the same launches, so they could work together to offer customers launching options on both the East and West coasts, said Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. Nash came to Virginia in 2012 after departing as CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp, which operates KLC, a spaceport on Kodiak Island. The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn't bring in more business."

Governor McDonnell Announces New Partnership with Alaska to Strengthen Virginia's Space Industry, Virginia Office of the Governor

"The MOU defines the intent of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Alaska to initiate a collaborative and cooperative partnership for spaceport operations. Future launch customers will realize business advantages as the partnership will promote efficiency between MARS and the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) designed to create commonality between the two spaceports that decreases costs and improves performance."

Bruce Murray

Bruce Murray (1931-2013), Planetary Society

"One of the most remarkable minds of 20th century exploration was stilled this morning, August 29, 2013, when Bruce C. Murray died of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 81. The Planetary Society owes its existence to Bruce, who with Carl Sagan, decided in 1979 that the world needed an organization that would harness the public's fascination planetary exploration and demonstrate to politicians that voters would support those who supported planetary exploration. Bruce and Carl directed the organization together for sixteen years, until Carl's death, and Bruce took over as president for another 5 years."

Bruce C. Murray, NASA space scientist, dies at 81, Washington Post

"Dr. Murray was director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a space exploration arm of NASA, from 1976 to 1982. He began working for the space laboratory in 1960 while serving as a geology professor at the California Institute of Technology, which manages the JPL, based in Pasadena, Calif."

Summary of Rules and Requirements, Google Lunar X Prize

"The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013."

China sets course for lunar landing this year, CNN

"China set a bold new course in its ambitious space program Wednesday, when it announced plans to land its first probe on the moon by the end of the year."

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Changes Coming to the Google Lunar X Prize, earlier post

Delta IV Heavy Launches NRO Payload, ULA

"A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 here at 11:03 a.m. PDT Wednesday. Designated NROL-65, the mission is in support of national defense. This is ULA's eighth launch in 2013, the 24th Delta IV mission and the second Delta IV Heavy launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base."

Larger image by Pat Corkery/ULA

Are We All Martians?

'We are all Martians': Chemist's otherworldly claim stirs debate, NBC

"Is Benner's story too kooky to believe? One thing's for sure: Benner is not a kook. He was one of the first chemists to voice skepticism about the claims for arsenic-based life, which stirred up such a fuss in 2010. ... This time, the wet-blanket role is filled by David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Grinspoon, who's spending a year doing research at the Library of Congress, says that he's a "huge fan" of Benner's, but that his extraordinary claim isn't sufficiently supported by the evidence."

New Research Supports Theory That Life Started on Mars, Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology

Elon Musk Wants to Build the Iron Man Hologram UI For Real, Gizmodo

"The hologram interfaces Tony Stark uses in Iron Man are awesome, no doubt. But they also aren't real. Yet. Elon Musk has been cooking up something very Stark-y, and he's planning to show it off soon. Musk isn't sharing any of the nitty-gritty details yet, but he mentioned his grand scheme on Twitter. This better not be a joke."

Russian rocket engine export ban could halt US space program, Russia Today

"Russia's Security Council is reportedly considering a ban on supplying the US with powerful RD-180 rocket engines for military communications satellites as Russia focuses on building its own new space launch center, Vostochny, in the Far East. A ban on the rockets supply to the US heavy booster, Atlas V, which delivers weighty military communications satellites and deep space exploration vehicles into orbit, could put a stop to NASA's space programs - not just military satellites."

Keith's note: The RD-180 powers the Atlas V. This report is posted on Russia Today - an organization that loves to post conspiracy theories as "news" and often serves as a de facto propaganda arm of the Russian government. The link to this story seems to work intermittently.

NASA Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Report #3 2013 (Video)

According to NASA "NASA's Orion, Space Launch System and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs continued to make progress towards sending humans beyond Earth's orbit during the past quarter." This video has lots of computer animations and video of how SLS and other systems are being designed and built.

Curiosity Rover Debuts Autonomous Navigation

"NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has used autonomous navigation for the first time, a capability that lets the rover decide for itself how to drive safely on Mars. The capability uses software that engineers adapted to this larger and more complex vehicle from a similar capability used by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which is also currently active on Mars. Using autonomous navigation, or autonav, Curiosity can analyze images it takes during a drive to calculate a safe driving path. This enables it to proceed safely even beyond the area that the human rover drivers on Earth can evaluate ahead of time."

NASA GRC Internal Memo: Center Reorganization Update

"In my June message, I indicated that I would be working to assign SES personnel to positions and would then be validating those selections at Headquarters.  I have had a number of discussions with individuals at Headquarters and continue to receive positive feedback and full support.  There were a few details that I needed to work out and believe those have been resolved. I am targeting an All-Hands meeting for the week of September 16.  There will be more information coming on the date and time."

The Save-the-World Foundation, Science (Subscription required for full access)

"In the new economy of commercial ventures into Earth's orbit, the B612 Foundation is aiming for much farther--into deep space--propelled by nothing but philanthropic dollars. Although the team's mission design has sparked some dissent and the fundraising goal is steep, all agree that Sentinel's dynamic cartography of the swarm of objects in Earth's milieu would transform planetary science. Says physicist Mark Boslough, an impact specialist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico: "If we're going to take the impact threat seriously, we have to do something like this."

B612 Foundation

More Evidence of Water on the Moon

"NASA-funded lunar research has yielded evidence of water locked in mineral grains on the surface of the moon from an unknown source deep beneath the surface. Using data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected magmatic water, or water that originates from deep within the moon's interior, on the surface of the moon."

The Importance of Lunar Water, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"The argument of the Mars advocates are all based upon the results of missions to the red planet over the past few decades, this lunar advocate just wonders how much more we would have learned about the Moon if a similar number of missions had flown there. Mars is a destination of romance, the moon of utility. At the end of the day, utility will triumph as without the utility of the riches in resources that the Moon brings, there will be no romance on Mars."

- New research shows water present across the moon's surface - It turns out the moon is a lot wetter than we ever thought, earlier post
- Water on the Moon: It's Been There All Along, earlier post
- Water on the Moon and Earth Came From The Same Primitive Meteorites, earlier post

Inspiring Creative Thinking About Space Settlements

"Over the last 26 years, NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif., has organized a global Space Settlement Design Contest to encourage students around the world to tackle the many challenging issues critical to designing habitable space colony environments and transportation systems."

Space Colonies - Retro Idea - Suddenly Hip Again

"So as you study your work, your yard, your watershed, your bio-community and human community, your weather, your access to tools, your night sky, and your prospects in Space, be aware that they are studying you."

Keith's note: CASIS sent out a news release today by email to the news media. At the bottom of the email was a confidentiality clause i.e. "The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message."

I was never asked in advance by CASIS or anyone else if I wished to receive confidential information from CASIS nor do I desire to receive confidential information from CASIS. So I asked CASIS about this.

Col. Gregory H. Johnson Named CASIS Executive Director, CASIS

"Today, Gregory H. Johnson, Colonel (Ret), was named executive director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the nonprofit entity selected by NASA to manage the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Col. Johnson will assume his role effective September 1, 2013."

Astronaut Gregory H. Johnson Leaves NASA, NASA

How to Watch the Launch of LADEE (with lots of images), Orbital

" ... Although the views are shown in daylight, the LADEE launch is scheduled to occur at approximately 11:27 PM EST. The views below give an indication of the direction where you should look to see the launch, along with nearby features. In addition, weather and local lighting conditions can and will have a large effect on what a viewer will see."

Keith's note: Luckily for me, I can walk across the street from my house in Reston, VA and look at an opening in the trees to the east and see nearly all of the launch.

Keith's note: NASA has lots of Twitter accounts and websites - more than any other Federal agency - by far. But as NASA PAO AA David Weaver recently said at a NASA Advisory Council EPO Subcommittee (and I paraphrase) "clearly quantity does not always equal quality". Virtually every NASA project, program, center - and mission - has at least one (sometimes more) Twitter account and website. In the case of Mars Science Laboratory NASA pays to maintain 3 (or 4 depending on how you count) websites for MSL - and they do not seem to think this is wasteful.

But what about the New Horizons mission to Pluto?

Robert Kramer

Robert S. Kraemer, NASA's former director of planetary exploration, dies at 84, Washington Post

Robert S. Kramer, Washington Post

"As Director of Planetary Exploration at NASA, Bob was instrumental in sending spacecraft to all eight planets of the Solar System. At the Rocketdyne division of North American Aviation in CA, he had a hand in designing every rocket engine that sent Americans into space until the Space Shuttle. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA's highest honor."

$10 million Genomics X Prize canceled: 'Outpaced by innovation', NBC

"For the first time in its 18-year history, the X Prize Foundation is canceling one of its $10 million competitions for technological innovation: the Archon Genomics X Prize, which was designed to reward quick and accurate whole-genome sequencing. ... In her report on the prize program's cancellation, PHG Foundation's Phillippa Brice said the decision was bad news for the entrants, "who apparently come away with thanks and good wishes and (presumably) a refund of their $25,000 entrance fee, but without so much as a memory stick to help further their research."

Master Team Agreement 4.1 out for Team signature, EuroLuna Blog, Google Lunar X Prize

(typos corrected) "The Master Team Agreement version 4.1 is now out for signature. Given the importance of this document, and the time it has taken to reach this point, a signature timing of 10 days in the middle of August seems a bit too short... The Euroluna Team has therefore asked for an extension until the 7th of September 2013."

Keith's note: The deadline for all Google Lunar X Prize entrants to sign the mandatory (revised) Teaming Agreement was Friday 23 August. This teaming agreement contained a major revision to the rather strict set of rules levied upon all entrants as to what they can and cannot do. Sources report that a number of existing entrants did not sign the agreement by the deadline.

LADEE - Back to the Moon

LADEE - Going Back to the Moon [Watch], NASA

"A model of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is seen in the foreground during a LADEE mission briefing at NASA Headquarters, Thursday, August 22, 2013 in Washington."

Marc's note: While the debate continues on how many launches have taken place at Wallops, we do know that this is the first to the moon. And along with the adjacent Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Orbital launches from there, the Virginia space profile is increasing. You can follow the happenings in Virginia through our Twitter account Space Virginia.

First Earthrise Photo Taken 47 Years Ago Today

"47 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics."

More information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission [Watch], NASA

"NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid."

Marc's note: So while Congress refuses to fund the Asteroid Redirect Mission in the current budget process, NASA is pressing forward as if this mission is going to happen. You have to love their tenacity. However since Congress can't agree on a budget NASA is proceeding as it should under its existing mandate.

Gordon Fullerton

Retired NASA Astronaut, Research Test Pilot Gordon Fullerton Dies

"C. Gordon Fullerton, who compiled a distinguished career as a NASA astronaut, research pilot and Air Force test pilot spanning almost 50 years, died Aug. 21. He was 76. Fullerton had sustained a severe stroke in late 2009, and had been confined to a long-term care facility in Lancaster, Calif., for most of the past 3 1/2 years. Fullerton logged 382 hours in space flight on two space shuttle missions while in the NASA astronaut corps from 1969 to 1986. He then transferred to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, where he served for 22 years as a research test pilot on a variety of high-profile projects. During the latter years of his career at NASA Dryden, he served as Associate Director of Flight Operations and as chief of the directorate's flight crew branch prior to his retirement at the end of 2007."

Keith's note: I can clearly recall seeing Gordon Fullerton's antics in the portion of this video that starts at 09:48. I worked at Rockwell Downey at the time and my co-workers did all of the company's launch and landing photography. They were complaining for weeks about having to take all of their cameras apart to get the gypsum dust out after the landing at White Sands.

NASA Spacecraft Reactivated to Hunt for Asteroids, NASA

"A NASA spacecraft that discovered and characterized tens of thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system before being placed in hibernation will return to service for three more years starting in September, assisting the agency in its effort to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as well as those suitable for asteroid exploration missions.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will be revived next month with the goal of discovering and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs), space rocks that can be found orbiting within 45 million kilometers (28 million miles) from Earth's path around the sun. NASA anticipates WISE will use its 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope and infrared cameras to discover about 150 previously unknown NEOs and characterize the size, albedo and thermal properties of about 2,000 others -- including some of which could be candidates for the agency's recently announced asteroid initiative."

Joyce DeVenny

Joyce DeVenny passed away Sunday, August 18, 2013. Joyce first joined NASA as part of the Space Station Freedom Program Office in Reston, VA and later transferred to the Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters. Visitation will be held Friday, August 23 at Mattingley Gardiner Funeral Home in Leonardtown, MD from 10 to 11 a.m. with a service in the Chapel at 11. Any inquiries or request for information or address for condolences can be forwarded to Vicki Thorne at vwt22 - at - comcast.net

NASA Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop, NASA

"The purpose of this conference is to publicly examine and synthesize highly rated responses to the NASA's Asteroid Initiative RFI. Findings will be developed and provided as inputs to NASA's planning activities.

Dates: (12 p.m. CDT) Monday, September 30, 2013-(5 p.m. CDT) Wednesday October 2, 2013

Address: Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, TX 77058."

Wallops History - Launching Excellence Through the Years (2010)

"Established in 1945 under NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) ... Wallops launched its first rocket on July 4, 1945. Since then, we have fulfilled our mission with the launch of more than 14,000 rockets."

Wallops Island - 60 Years of Exploration (2005)

"Since 1945, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility has launched more than 15,000 rockets from Wallops Island for science studies, technology development, and as targets for the U.S. military."

Keith's note: Lets see. 1945-2010 - that's 65 years of rocket launches - 23,725 days. If Wallops did complete 14,000 rocket launches you'd need to launch a rocket every 1.7 days nonstop for 65 years. Or if you believe the 2005 number of 15,000 launches (60 years, 21,900 days) that would require a rocket launch every 1.5 days.

I wonder if Wallops actually has records to back up these conflicting claims. Or is this just something they keep repeating - because the old hands say its true and no one really cares to check. Indeed, Wallops PAO can't even get their own grand history straight. In 2005 they claimed it was 15,000 launches. Five years later it was 14,000. How did the number go down - shouldn't it be going up? It is interesting that both numbers are exact multiples of a thousand and that they differ by exactly 1,000.

Keith's update: I asked Wallops PAO "Do you have actual statistics to support the 14,000 / 15,000 launches from Wallops claims that appear on NASA.gov webpages? Why are there different official numbers? Can you direct me to those statistics - and explain what a "rocket launch" actually means i.e. does it include model rocket launches, mortars, etc.?"


EVA 23: exploring the frontier, Luca Parmitano Blog

"At this exact moment, just as I'm thinking about how to uncoil the cable neatly (it is moving around like a thing possessed in the weightlessness), I 'feel' that something is wrong. The unexpected sensation of water at the back of my neck surprises me - and I'm in a place where I'd rather not be surprised. I move my head from side to side, confirming my first impression, and with superhuman effort I force myself to inform Houston of what I can feel, knowing that it could signal the end of this EVA. On the ground, Shane confirms they have received my message and he asks me to await instructions. Chris, who has just finished, is still nearby and he moves towards me to see if he can see anything and identify the source of the water in my helmet.

... As I move back along my route towards the airlock, I become more and more certain that the water is increasing. I feel it covering the sponge on my earphones and I wonder whether I'll lose audio contact. The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision. I realise that to get over one of the antennae on my route I will have to move my body into a vertical position, also in order for my safety cable to rewind normally. At that moment, as I turn 'upside-down', two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see - already compromised by the water - completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose - a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can't even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid. To make matters worse, I realise that I can't even understand which direction I should head in to get back to the airlock. I can't see more than a few centimetres in front of me, not even enough to make out the handles we use to move around the Station."

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 20, 2013

Question: According to NASA, what is the largest living organism visible from Earth orbit? Answer: Australia's Great Barrier Reef

"The Great Barrier Reef extends for 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) along the northeastern coast of Australia. It is not a single reef, but a vast maze of reefs, passages and coral cays (islands that are part of the reef). The white calcium carbonate that coats the living coral reflects light, making the water above the reef appear bright blue from space. This phenomenon allows the reef to be the largest living organism visible in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite photos and videos ..."

Keith's note: Wrong. Coral reefs are collections of lots of organisms of many different species - not a single organism. "The largest living organism visible from Earth orbit" is most likely Pando - although larger examples may be awaiting discovery.

Pando (tree), Wikipedia

"Pando (Latin for "I spread"), also known as The Trembling Giant, is a clonal colony of a single male quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) determined to be a single living organism by identical genetic markers and one massive underground root system. The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kg (6,600 short tons), making it the heaviest known organism. The root system of Pando, at an estimated 80,000 years old, is among the oldest known living organisms."

"NASA and 11 other ISECG member agencies have released an update to the 2011 Global Exploration Roadmap. The updated document reflects ongoing dialog and continued preparation for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit - beginning with the International Space Station (ISS) and expanding human presence throughout the solar system, leading to human missions to the surface of Mars. The GER highlights the critical role of the International Space Station in preparing for deep-space exploration.

It also demonstrates that the global community is working together on a space exploration strategic plan, with robotic and human missions to destinations that include near-Earth asteroids, the Moon and Mars. NASA plans to host a workshop in early 2014 to engage the space community in discussions about the updates to the Global Exploration Roadmap. Comments are welcome! NASA is interested in obtaining feedback on the Global Exploration Roadmap. You are invited to submit your comments to: HQ-GER-Comments@mail.nasa.gov" Download the Global Exploration Roadmap (5.8 MB PDF)

Keith's note: Page 8: "Observation: In order to build a sustainable human space exploration endeavour that lasts decades, agency leaders should maintain a focus on delivering value to the public." Alas, Charlie Bolden still cannot explain to the public why NASA needs to go grab an asteroid and put it into lunar orbit and then have people visit it. How can people see the value of this mission if no one at NASA can explain why it needs to be done?

NASA Seeks Uses for 3 Mobile Launch Platforms at KSC, Florida Today

"Commercial rocket launcher? Museum exhibit? Artificial reef?

All are potential uses for three historic mobile launch platforms from which NASA's moon rockets and space shuttles leapt toward space, but which now sit idle.

If those don't pan out, the two-story, 8.2 million-pound structures could be bound for the scrap heap.

"NASA does not currently have a need for the Mobile Launch Platforms to support current and future mission activities," said Tracy Young, a Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman. "Because of this factor, we are seeking information and concepts for traditional and non-traditional potential use of the structures as well as potential disposal options."

NASA Explores New Uses for Historic Launch Structures, NASA

Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, 3rd from left, meets with members of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory team on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. August 6, 2013 EDT will mark the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover's landing on Mars. Larger image

Keith's note: I am the first one to complain that NASA does not touch the public as well as it could and am always eager to applaud them when they do. Its nice that "Mohawk Guy" (authentic rocket scientist Bobak Ferdowsi) has energized some subset of the geek chic community. But NASA seems to be obsessively focusing on him and his niche impact while gutting education and public outreach programs across the agency. In addition, while travel is being cut for scientific and technical meetings, Bobak gets to fly all over the place to do receptions and photo ops. Where's the NASA focus on jocks, history majors, people without a career interest, inner city youth, blue collar workers, farmers, accountants, and everyone else who pays taxes and has a stake in what NASA does - and probably doesn't even know what NASA already does for them? How many young people did he actually energize in the OSTP meeting room and at the receptions on Capitol Hill?

So long as NASA stays obsessed with their infrequent home grown media stars such as Mowhawk Guy they will not focus on the rest of us. No offense Bobak, I know you mean well, and that you do a lot of things on your own time out of sincere interest in NASA - and I hope that you continue to do so, but NASA needs to be about much more than a cool smart guy with a edgy haircut.

NASA needs to reach out to the remaining 98/99% of the people who pay the bills and have little or no idea what NASA does or means to their daily lives. NASA does not need to focus its limited resources on nerds who already understand what NASA does. Enough with the choir practice.

Mohawk Guy at State of the Union Address, earlier post

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?, The Space Review

"In a speech the following day at the conference, [Mike] Griffin said that X-vehicles in general can do several key things essential in aerospace development, including proving out technologies before getting locked into vehicle configurations, determining what the requirements should be for future vehicles, and demonstrating systems engineering. He lamented, though, the lack of X-vehicle development today. "It is a lapse of government science and technology policy at the very top levels that has caused our aggressive pursuit of X-vehicle programs to lapse," he said. "I would do anything to bring it back to the forefront of public thinking."

Keith's note: Gee, Mike ... who was it that killed everything that Craig Steidle wanted to do at NASA? There was certainly a whole lot of x-vehicle type thinking in Steidle's plan. And Steidle's plan was killed so as to create your government-designed "Apollo on Steroids" (your exact words)? Am I missing something? Pot-Kettle-Black, Mike?

Keith's note: Correct me if I am wrong but I do not seem to recall an official NASA Twitter account using the #americanmade hashtag for tweets about SpaceX, Orbital, Bigelow, or SNC spacecraft. Is this part of a new NASA media strategy for commercial space? They don't use #russianmade when they tweet about Soyuz or Progress launches. Just wondering.

Keith's update: @Bernard_Stedman Just Tweeted: "@NASAWatch So will there also be a #europeanmade hashtag for @NASA_Orion's service module I wonder ? !"

Musk, Bezos fight to win lease of iconic NASA launchpad, Orlando Sentinel

"Sources on Capitol Hill and within NASA said Blue Origin's protests forced the space agency to announce a competition for the pad in May. The dispute also has drawn the attention of two members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. In a July 22 letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said "NASA appears to be racing to lease LC-39A" and urged a closer review. "Given that taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars, to develop this launch complex, there are serious questions of fiscal responsibility and transparency," they wrote. Agency officials have put no timeline on a decision, although it's widely thought NASA wants to select a winner by Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year."

- Long-term Lease for Pad 39A Almost Set, earlier post
- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post

Orbital's Cygnus Readying for First Space Station Flight, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo craft is bound for the International Space Station on a test flight. This flight will prove Cygnus' ability to rendezvous with the station and be captured by the crew on board."

Marc's note: With just under a month to the Orbital Antares launch to the Space Station, NASA has released this slick video on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program itself including SpaceX, but focusing on Orbital's Cygnus.

Much at Stake for Proton, Antares as September 15 Nears, Space Policy Online

"Purely by coincidence, if all goes according to plan September 15 will be a big day for a venerable Russian rocket recovering from a recent spectacular failure as well as a new U.S. rocket that is powered by Russian engines. A lot is at stake for both.

... A successful Proton launch could help restore confidence in the Russian space launch industry. A failure would add to the gloom and potentially drive commercial customers to competitors like Ariane, Sea Launch, and SpaceX.

Quite separately, the U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corporation is targeting September 15 for the first launch of its new Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Antares will launch Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial cargo program."

ISRO Scrubs GSLV-D5 Launch Due to Leak, SpaceRef Business

"India's attempt at launching the GSLV-D5 rocket today with the GSAT-14 satellite was postponed due to a leak found in the second stage. The mission is a critical one for India as it is their second attempt at launching a rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine. The first attempt failed."

Crater Wargo

NASA Asks International Astronomical Union to Name Lunar Crater After Mike Wargo

"NASA is asking the International Astronomical Union to name a crater on the moon in his honor "so his name will be forever enshrined in the heavens."

- NASA Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Statement on the Passing of Dr. Michael Wargo, earlier post
- Mike Wargo, earlier post

NASA's mission improbable, Washington Post

"It is really an elegant bringing together of our exciting human spaceflight plan, scientific interest, being able to protect our planet, and utilizing the technology we had invested in and were already investing in," said Lori Garver, NASA deputy administrator. But the mission is viewed skeptically by many in the space community. At a July gathering of engineers and scientists at the National Academy of Sciences, veteran engineer Gentry Lee expressed doubt that the complicated elements of the mission could come together by 2021, and said the many uncertainties would boost the costs. "I'm trying very, very hard to look at the positive side of this, or what I would call the possible positive side," he said. "It's basically wishful thinking in a lot of ways - that there's a suitable target, that you can find it in time, that you can actually catch it if you go there and bring it back," said Al Harris, a retired NASA planetary scientist who specializes in asteroids. "Of course there's always luck. But how much money do you want to spend on a chance discovery that might have a very low probability?" said Mark Sykes, a planetary scientist who chairs a NASA advisory group on asteroids."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post
- Asteroid Redirect Mission Full-Court Press Continues, earlier post

NASA Selects Innovative Technology Proposals for Suborbital Flights, NASA

"NASA has selected for possible flight demonstration 10 proposals from six U.S. states for reusable, suborbital technology payloads and vehicle capability enhancements with the potential to revolutionize future space missions.

After the concepts are developed, NASA may choose to fly the technologies to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms. These types of flights provide opportunities for testing in microgravity before the vehicles are sent into the harsh environment of space."

Leading the end of one space era, and the beginning of another, Washington Post

"And this is subtle. I have this discussion with my science friends all the time and those who are purist. The president said by 2025 we should send humans to an asteroid. What he meant was, you should send humans to somewhere between Mars and Saturn, because that's where the dominant asteroids in the asteroid belt are. But no, he didn't say that. He said: humans to an asteroid."

Keith's note: Unless he is misquoted, Bolden seems to be a little confused. Bolden also neglects to mention that there is a big difference between sending humans to regions of the solar system where asteroids are located as a stepping stone toward sending humans to Mars -- and bringing the asteroid to Earth so we do not have to go as far to visit it. This defeats the original intent of sending humans greater distances during longer missions and replaces that intent with placing a small rock in orbit around a place we've already visited. We're really not much closer to sending humans to Mars - and the President never said "bring the asteroid back to humans" either. That idea bubbled up on the 9th floor and at OSTP.

To be blunt, there is no compelling rationale for the Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM). There never has been. Based on the way that Charlie Bolden continually stumbles through his conflicting explanation of what the mission is and is not, there never will be a clear reason why it needs to be done.

Final Report - IG-13-022 - Status of NASA's Development of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

"For example, the MPCV Program is beginning to experience testing delays that could result in schedule interruptions and cost increases down the road. Specifically, test dates have slipped 4 years on the Ascent Abort-2 test and 9 months on the Exploration Flight Test-1. NASA has also delayed development of many of the life support systems required for crewed missions. Similarly, reliance on timely progress of the SLS and GSDO programs and the ESA for the Service Module adds risk that is outside the control of the Program and could have a negative impact on the MPCV and NASA's overall exploration mission goals. Moreover, even after the MPCV is fully developed and ready to transport crew, NASA will continue to face significant challenges concerning the long-term sustainability of its human exploration program. For example, unless the Agency begins a program to develop landers and surface systems, NASA astronauts will be limited to orbital missions using the MPCV. Under the current budget environment, it appears unlikely that NASA will obtain significant funding to begin development of additional exploration hardware, thereby delaying such development into the 2020s."

NASA Ends Attempts to Fully Recover Kepler Spacecraft

"Following months of analysis and testing, the Kepler Space Telescope team is ending its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order, and now is considering what new science research it can carry out in its current condition.

Two of Kepler's four gyroscope-like reaction wheels, which are used to precisely point the spacecraft, have failed. The first was lost in July 2012, and the second in May. Engineers' efforts to restore at least one of the wheels have been unsuccessful.

Kepler completed its prime mission in November 2012 and began its four-year extended mission at that time. However, the spacecraft needs three functioning wheels to continue its search for Earth-sized exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, orbiting stars like our Sun in what's known as the habitable zone -- the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of a planet might be suitable for liquid water. As scientists analyze previously collected data, the Kepler team also is looking into whether the space telescope can conduct a different type of science program, including an exoplanet search, using the remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters."

Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System, Says New Study, University of Maryland

"Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers. Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments - including the Low Energy Charged Particle detector designed, built and overseen, in part, by UMD's Space Physics Group - NASA's Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, these researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun's influence."

NASA Statement on Competing Models to Explain Voyager 1 Data

"Other models envision the interstellar magnetic field draped around our solar bubble and predict that the direction of the interstellar magnetic field is different from the solar magnetic field inside. By that interpretation, Voyager 1 would still be inside our solar bubble. The fine-scale magnetic connection model will become part of the discussion among scientists as they try to reconcile what may be happening on a fine scale with what happens on a larger scale."

NASA Announces Additional Commercial Crew Development Milestones, NASA

"NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones to agreements with three U.S. commercial companies that are developing spaceflight capabilities that could eventually provide launch services to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.

The milestones are:

-- Boeing Spacecraft Safety Review. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014.

-- SpaceX Dragon Parachute Tests. NASA's investment is $20 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished over several months culminating in November 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Critical Design Review #1. NASA's investment is $5 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in October 2013.

-- SNC Incremental Reaction Control System Testing #1. NASA's investment is $10 million and the milestone is planned to be accomplished in July 2014."

NASA Announces New Strategic Vision for Aeronautics Research [Watch], NASA

"Nearly every aircraft flying and air traffic management system now in use includes NASA-supported technologies that improve efficiency and safety," said Bolden. "This new vision will expand on that by fully integrating into aviation advances in other industries and parts of the economy to meet the future demands for global mobility in ways we can only begin to imagine today."

The new strategic vision greatly expands the relevancy of NASA's research and is based on three themes: understanding emerging global trends, using those trends to drive research directions and then organizing NASA's aeronautical research work in response to those drivers.

- Charles Bolden Speech (PDF)
- Aeronautics Research Strategic Vision (PDF)

Marc's note: It appears few media outlets deemed it necessary to cover this announcement. Other than publishing the press release there's scant coverage of it.

SpaceX Grasshopper Performs Divert Test [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX completed what appears to be a successful divert test yesterday of its Falcon 9 Test Rig, code named Grasshopper.

According to SpaceX the Grasshopper flew to a height of 250 meters with a 100 meter lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. Grasshopper is is taller than a ten story building."

NASA to Debut Water Falls Movie this Fall [Watch Trailer], SpaceRef

"This fall coming to select theatres, is a movie about water, one that NASA thinks will change how you view our watery world. Water Falls, A Science on a Sphere Film is a different type of movie.

According to NASA, the movie is designed for playback specifically on spherical screens and "the project immediately demanded an abstract, poetic presentation of its subject."

Marc's note: Goddard has set up an excellent web site to complement the movie with educational resources for teachers.

Virgin Galactic CEO Counts 625 Customers For Suborbital Trips, Aviation Week

"Virgin Galactic has signed up 625 individuals for its planned suborbital spaceflights, lining up revenue of at least $125 million, in what CEO George Whitesides asserts is a strong sign of the excitement and potential of commercial space ventures."

More Than 200 Tickets Sold For Space Travel, Curacao Chronicle

"About 230 tickets of $ 100,000 each were now sold to travel to space from Curacao space, according to a NOS report. The first flight from Curacao will be carried out in 2016 by Space Expedition Corporation with the Lynx. The commercial space flight is becoming a reality."

Marc's note: While the numbers and revenue look ok for a pricey service which hasn't launched a single customer yet, the true test will be to see how the customer rate climbs after the few customer launches. Meanwhile according to the Curacao Chronicle XCRO has sold 230 tickets though it's launch base in Curacao has yet to be approved.

Dream Chaser Completes Ground Tow Tests [Watch], Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the completion of the Dream Chaser Space System tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The ground tow tests were conducted in preparation for the upcoming approach and landing test scheduled for the third quarter 2013."

"We are very excited to complete this series of tests and achieve another critical milestone for our Dream Chaser flight test program," said Steve Lindsey, SNC's Space Systems senior director of programs and former NASA astronaut. "Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team. We are another step closer to restoring America's capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station."

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Update: Swapping Motion-Sensing Units, NASA

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is switching from one motion-sensing device to a duplicate unit onboard.

... The spacecraft has two identical copies of this motion-sensing device, called IMU-1 and IMU-2. Either of them can be used with either of the spacecraft's redundant main computers. Each contains three gyroscopes and three accelerometers.

"The reason we're doing this is that one of the gyroscopes on IMU-1 is approaching its end of life, so we want to swap to our redundant unit early enough that we still have some useful life preserved in the first unit," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Manager Reid Thomas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."

Marc's note: An apparent minor servicing for MRO which has been on-duty for seven years and appears to be still be going strong.

Suborbital Rocket Launches From NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, NASA

"A Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital rocket carrying experiments developed by university students nationwide in the RockSat-X program was successfully launched at 6 a.m. EDT, August 13, from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."

Masten and JPL Team Up

JPL, Masten Testing New Precision Landing Software, NASA

"A year after NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's landed on Mars, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are testing a sophisticated flight-control algorithm that could allow for even more precise, pinpoint landings of future Martian spacecraft.

Flight testing of the new Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance algorithm - G-FOLD for short - for planetary pinpoint landing is being conducted jointly by JPL engineers in cooperation with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., using Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing experimental rocket."

Marc's note: It's great to see this type of collaboration. With a limited market at the moment, and purely for discussion, I wonder if Masten might be an attractive acquisition by a larger company who would be interested in their technology and with the funds to do more.

Hyperloop


Hyperloop By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO, Tesla

"When the California "high speed" rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL - doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars - would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying "one of". The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn't the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

Marc's note: Musk has put forward another potential disruptive idea that if enacted could disrupt terrestrial transportation as we know it. Musk has made it clear he doesn't have the time to devote to this project but would be willing to collaborate with others and having someone else take the lead. Any takers?"

Update: In a teleconference Musk said his thinking has changed and he would like to build a "demonstration article".

Easily Retrievable Objects among the NEO Population, arXiv.org

"Asteroids and comets are of strategic importance for science in an effort to understand the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are of particular interest because of their accessibility from Earth, but also because of their speculated wealth of material resources.

The exploitation of these resources has long been discussed as a means to lower the cost of future space endeavours. In this paper, we consider the currently known NEO population and define a family of so-called Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs), objects that can be transported from accessible heliocentric orbits into the Earth's neighbourhood at affordable costs.

... Despite the highly incomplete census of very small asteroids, the ERO catalogue can already be populated with 12 different objects retrievable with less than 500 m/s of {\Delta}v. Moreover, the approach proposed represents a robust search and ranking methodology for future retrieval candidates that can be automatically applied to the growing survey of NEOs."

NASA Selects University Teams for New SmallSat Collaborative Projects, NASA

"NASA has selected 13 university teams for collaborative projects to develop and demonstrate new technologies and capabilities and spur innovation in communication, navigation, propulsion, science instruments, and advanced manufacturing for small spacecraft.

Selected project teams will work with engineers and scientists from six NASA centers. The goal of these efforts is to transform small spacecraft, some of which weigh only a few kilograms, into powerful but affordable tools for science, exploration and space operations."

Videoconference providers see uptick in federal demand, Washington Post

"NASA, for instance, estimates that it will reduce its travel costs by about $21 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Although not all the savings can be attributed to videoconferencing, "we do look to use that medium to allow our managers, scientists and engineers to be able to still participate in events when being there in person isn't possible," NASA spokesman Allan Beutel wrote in an e-mail. Last month, NASA held its first Google+ Hangout news briefing on its Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite. It "let our scientists present the IBEX mission's latest findings and answer questions from journalists and the public at the same time without having to travel to a certain place just to participate in the news conference," Beutel wrote."

Keith's note: Just as NASA is starting to get innovative in the whole world of virtual meetings, NASA also thought it was OK to fly a bunch of JPL folks to DC to go to receptions and briefings on Capitol Hill and the White House to mark the first anniversary of Curiosity on Mars. The rules are clearly not being applied equally.

- AIP Bulletin: Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- Growing Impact of Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post
- Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post

NASA Notice of Intent to Release Mars 2020 Announcement of Opportunity

"NASA SMD intends to release an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) entitled Mars 2020 Investigations to solicit proposals for investigations for a space flight mission to Mars, to be launched in July/August 2020. The target date for release of the AO is no earlier than (NET) September 16, 2013. The SMD budget for Phases A-D is expected to be approximately $100 million in real year (RY) dollars. Investigations comprised of individual instruments or multiple instruments (suites) may respond to the overall Mars 2020 science objectives to explore and quantitatively assess Mars as a potential habitat for life, to search for signs of past life, and to collect carefully selected samples for possible future return to Earth. Proposals that address objectives for advancing knowledge or technologies for future robotic and/or human exploration of Mars will also be solicited."

- Mars Rover 2020 Science Definition Team Report, earlier post

Meteor Show Media Mayhem

The XKCD Guide to Meteor Showers (Spoof), XKCD

"This comic spoofs the way that astronomical events are often reported in the mass media -- events are often tagged with undeserved superlatives or described as being more dramatic than they actually are. In some cases, outright misinformation is spread. This phenomenon occurs in part the result of over-eager scientists, and in part because of journalists misunderstanding the subject."

Has CubeSats Time Come?

Can CubeSats do quality science? For one group, yes NewSpace Journal

"While interest in CubeSats--spacecraft as small as ten centimeters on a side and weighing one kilogram--has grown in recent years, one challenge facing the community of CubeSat developers is whether such spacecraft can perform useful missions, beyond education (many satellites are built by student groups) and technology development and demonstration. For one group at the University of Colorado, it appears that CubeSats can carry out research worthy of publication in scientific journals."

Astronaut Michael Foale Leaves NASA After 26-Year Career, NASA

"NASA astronaut Michael Foale has retired, ending a 26-year space agency career that included 375 days in space during six space shuttle missions and extended stays aboard two space stations.

Foale spent 145 days aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997 and 194 days aboard the International Space Station as commander of Expedition 8 from October 2003 to April 2004. He also conducted four spacewalks over his NASA career totaling almost 23 hours."

Statement from SARG Chair Dr. Steven Collicott on Suborbital Research Needs, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG) of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation notes John Carmack's August 2, 2013 statement regarding the hibernation of rocket development at Armadillo Aerospace. The STIG rocket appeals to researchers by providing many of the advantages characteristic of next-generation suborbital vehicles including a gentle lift-off, pressurized payload bay, late payload access before launch, rapid payload access after landing, and a lower cost than traditional sounding rockets. Armadillo's success to date, including domestic and international payloads lofted and safely recovered on several mission development flights and a flight to 95km memorably captured on video, highlights how close their hard work has brought them to achieving an important operational research capability eagerly awaited by many scientists. The researchers of SARG encourage Armadillo and all of the new suborbital companies in their pursuit of success with investors and vehicles""

Previous:
- John Carmack Joins Gaming VR Company Oculus Rift
- Armadillo Aerospace "Out of Money"

Marc's note: Armadillo Aerospace isn't the first space startup to run out of money and it won't be last. It's nice to see the CSF standing up for Armadillo and others but it's a bit late for Armadillo. Carmack has moved on and has made it clear the company is low in his priority list. As for others, market forces and or government support will determine if they survive and possibly thrive.

Europa Questions

If We Landed on Europa, What Would We Want to Know?, NASA

"Most of what scientists know of Jupiter's moon Europa they have gleaned from a dozen or so close flybys from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979 and NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Even in these fleeting, paparazzi-like encounters, scientists have seen a fractured, ice-covered world with tantalizing signs of a liquid water ocean under its surface. Such an environment could potentially be a hospitable home for microbial life. But what if we got to land on Europa's surface and conduct something along the lines of a more in-depth interview? What would scientists ask? A new study in the journal Astrobiology authored by a NASA-appointed science definition team lays out their consensus on the most important questions to address."

Japan's HTV-4 Cargo Ship Arrives at the International Space Station [Watch], NASA

"Six days after launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, the unpiloted Japanese Kounotori4 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4), met up with The International Space Station.

It was captured by the Expedition 36 crew aboard the ISS, using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The HTV-4 was launched with more than 3 1/2 tons of cargo and experiments for delivery to the ISS."

Soliciting Community Input: Alternate Science Investigations for Kepler

"The purpose of this call for white papers is to solicit community input for alternate science investigations that may be performed using Kepler and are consistent with its probable two-wheel performance. Herein, we provide initial information as to the preliminary assessment of the pointing ability of the Kepler spacecraft using only two reaction wheels. In addition, we provide baseline information on the Kepler focal plane imaging CCD array (Kepler's only instrument) and give estimates of the photometric performance that may be possible in two-wheel mode."

NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online

"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.

... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""

Air Force X-37B support might be included in KSC renovation, Florida Today

"Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program.

The agency's board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.

As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money."

At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News

"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.

And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."

Astro Mad Men: NASA's 1960s Campaign to Win America's Heart, The Atlantic

"In some ways, NASA's tentacular publicity efforts are unique to the NASA -- and to the world -- of 2013. All the truisms that the Internet has brought to the worlds of advertising and publicity -- direct user engagement! authenticity! -- have found their way, inevitably, to the space agency. NASA's contract with Life ended in 1970, 11 years after it had begun. It lives on, though, in some sense, in every story we tell ourselves about space and humans' place in it. It lives on in every tweet and Tumblr post and Facebook update and email blast, in every attempt to capture and then maintain our attention and our love. It lives on in the fact that, when we talk, still, with wonder about humans' success in putting a man on the moon, we're less inspired by the moon itself, and much more inspired by the man."

More Names Emerge for NASA Deputy Administrator, Space News

"The thing about throwing out names is that it encourages other people -- smarter, better connected people -- to follow suit, even if only privately.

And, boy, have they. Followed suit, I mean.

Included below are some solid candidates for NASA deputy administrator I shouldn't have overlooked and others I wouldn't have thought of myself. No tongue in cheek here. All top-shelf candidates, two of which could easily replace Charlie Bolden as NASA administrator if he's as sick of Washington as he sometimes lets on. "

Marc's note: The list includes: Pam Melroy, Patti Grace Smith, David Radzanowski, Ann Zulkosky and Richard DalBello. And this is only the beginning.

Oculus Rift hires Doom co-creator John Carmack as Chief Technology Officer, engadget

"It turns out that Doom co-creator John Carmack is more than just a virtual reality fanatic -- he's joining the company that's leading the most recent VR revolution, today announcing that he's taking the reins as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. In an email from the folks at Oculus, Carmack was confirmed to be out at the company he helped found -- id Software -- and joining Oculus full-time as CTO. He will apparently still serve some role at id, as id's parent company told Engadget, "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected." We've asked both Oculus and id's parent company for clarification."

Marc's note: Carmack tweeted this: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!" indicating exactly where his priorities are. Unfortunately with his new gig as CTO of Oculus Rift it would appear Armadillo Aerospace is truly out of business until such a time as some funding comes it way.

Departure of NASA Deputy Administrator Garver, NASA

"While I am sorry to be losing such a talented and passionate co-pilot, I am happy that Lori is continuing to pursue her dreams and make her mark in the aerospace industry.  Her last day at NASA will be Sept. 6, and she assumes her new role at ALPA on Sept. 9.  I will personally miss her candid and sage advice and good humor.  Lori will always be a great friend to me and to our agency."

- Statements on NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver's Announced Departure, NASA
- Deputy Administrator, Lori Garver leaving NASA: Champion of NASA's vision, workforce and U.S. aerospace to join Pilot's Union, IFPTE
- CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria Statement on Lori Garver's Departure from NASA, CSF
- Congressman Fattah Statement on the Departure of NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

Letter From Virginia Secretary of Transportation to NASA Administrator Regarding Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia Secretary of Transportation

"... we are concerned with two issues that may undermine Virginia's ability to continue developing MARS. The first involves allocation of 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program Funds. While the NASA/MARS team now provides half of U.S. access to the ISS, Wallops Island/MARS has received only a minimal amount of the 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program funding appropriated by Congress. In fact, the overwhelming majority of available funds has been spent in Florida. The second issue involves the pending lease of Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ("KSC"). It is our understanding that NASA is considering leasing that pad to a commercial launch provider for a de minimis amount that does not reflect either the actual value of the pad or past investments in it."

- Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A, earlier post
- Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

A Year of Curiosity on Mars [Watch], NASA

"Curiosity Rover team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., re-live the dramatic Aug. 6, 2012 landing and the mission's achievements to date in an event aired on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Marc's note: In case you missed JPL's Curiosity birthday special today, here it is.

Shelton Orders Shutdown of Space Fence, Space News

"The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its space surveillance network for tracking orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, "has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated" effective Oct. 1, the memo said. "This is your notice to begin preparing the site for closure."

Marc's note: Just as this project was about to go full-scale it's getting shutdown in a cost cutting move.

Mike Wargo

Keith's note: According the NLSI Twitter: "NASA's chief exploration scientist, Mike Wargo, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. We will miss his leadership and friendship enormously." I'll post more information as I receive it. Very sad - Mike was such a nice person and believed in space exploration in a very personal way.

NASA Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Statement on the Passing of Dr. Michael Wargo

"The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) on behalf of the broader lunar community wishes to expresses its deep shock and sadness at the news that Dr. Mike Wargo passed away unexpectedly over the weekend of August 3-4, 2013. Mike was the Executive Secretary of LEAG and championed the Moon at NASA HQ."

CASIS Is Clueless

Keith's note: Below is a Twitter exchange this evening - obviously CASIS really has no idea what the ISS has done since it started to operate. They are clearly unaware of the biweekly NASA Spaceline Current Awareness which has been produced by the agency for well over a decade. Alas, no one at NASA knows how to post it online since they took the website offline years ago. Yet the report is still produced faithfully every 2 weeks - and it does a stellar job at chronicling what NASA research is done on the ISS and where it is published. Here's our archive back to 1999.

@AstroAllie5: @ISS_Research Hi! Do you have a link to list/directory/catalog of all science ever done in space?

@ISS_Research: @AstroAllie5 That might not exist! Here's a start, all @ISS_Research: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments_category/index.html

@NASAWatch: .@ISS_Research why is @ISS_CASIS incapable of posting this #NASA generated report on current ISS research? http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=44418 #inept

@AstroAllie5: @ISS_CASIS @NASAWatch I'm trying to understand your meaning. What happened? Where did u get that list? Y can't they do it?

@NASAwatch: @AstroAllie5 @ISS_CASIS can't do this because they have no idea what part of #NASA generated this report every 2 wks for more than 10 yrs

@AstroAllie5: @NASAWatch @ISS_CASIS Wow. I did ask CASIS before today and was told it's not their job. That I should ask ISS Office. Just seems wrong.

No Tax Dollars Went To Make This Space Viking Photo, NPR

"The inspector general won't discuss how much all this cost, but [Ved] Chirayath did a quick calculation, totaling up the number of interviews, multiplied by the work hours, multiplied by the salary of the investigator and others involved. "I came to a lower-end budget of around $40,000, and an upper end of around $600,000," he says. That's far more than the cost of a professional photo shoot, even if NASA had paid for it, he says. Grassley says that these sorts of inquiries are not part of a Viking witch hunt, but that asking questions like this are part of his job as a senator."

Letter from Sen. Grassley to Charlie Bolden

"For example, I recently received information that at least four NASA employees, including highly paid SES employees, participated in a so-called "Physics in Vogue" photo-shoot, dressed in Viking garb. The shoot appears to have been conducted on a Friday in December during normal working hours and depicts NASA employees growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers."

Keith's note: In other words, Sen. Grassley's staff can send goofy letters to NASA and force them to waste taxpayer's money proving that they did not waste any taxpayer's money - because he can.

Since Sen. Grassley's crack staff are clearly rather desperate for things to investigate, maybe they should dig into the cost of this 2012 JSC staff holiday video. There are no Vikings in it (sorry) but I do see Yoda, banana guy, antler girls, neon feathered boa girls, santa's helpers, guitar guy, cat in the hat, MIB guys, weightlifter guy, astronauts, cheerleaders, and Darth Vader. And while there was no "growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers" there was gratuitous bad lip synching, silly dance moves, and a lot of props - some of which could have caused grave injury if mishandled (a great OSHA angle). Plus, as an added bonus, the video even has an official NASA logo (twice!) and it was filmed while the sun was up in a NASA building.

Just think of all the research Sen. Grassley's staff can do on government time and the goofy questions they can ask Charlie Bolden to make his people research and respond to - on government time. How dare these government employees have a Christmas party. What were they thinking?

John Billingham

Keith's note: NASA sources report that John Billingham has passed away. John ran the SETI Program Office when NASA used to do SETI. He also ran life science at NASA Ames. John was one of the first people I met when I started to work at NASA's Life Sciences Division in the 1980s. He was not your stereotypical NASA employee - his accent, background, and demeanor - were decidely old world mixed with a dose of California crazy. An M.D. and former RAF officer running NASA's search for extraterrestrial intelligence? That sounds like something out of Dr. Who. That was John - he was always a hoot to be around and will be missed.

John Billingham, SETI Institute

"Captivated by the prospect of detecting sentient beings elsewhere in the cosmos, Billingham joined with Barney Oliver - then director of research and development at the Hewlett Packard corporation - to organize a joint summer design study of the technology and science of SETI. Two dozen academics spent three months considering what sort of equipment was needed to make a serious, systematic search for signals, and where they should point the antennas. Their conclusions, published as "Project Cyclops," became the bible of SETI research for decades to come, and are still important today."

Orbits of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, NASA

"This graphic shows the orbits of all the known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), numbering over 1,400 as of early 2013.

These are the asteroids considered hazardous because they are fairly large (at least 460 feet or 140 meters in size), and because they follow orbits that pass close to the Earth's orbit (within 4.7 million miles or 7.5 million kilometers). But being classified as a PHA does not mean that an asteroid will impact the Earth: None of these PHAs is a worrisome threat over the next hundred years. By continuing to observe and track these asteroids, their orbits can be refined and more precise predictions made of their future close approaches and impact probabilities."

Marc's note: On a lighter note, imagine Planetary Resources, DSI and others "cleaning" up near space by mining these.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."

Japan's H-II Rocket Launches the HTV4 Spacecraft to the Space Station, NASA

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) HTV-4 Transfer Vehicle launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Once there, the HTV-4 will deliver 3.6 tons of dry cargo, water, experiments and spare parts to the International Space Station. Unlike a Russian Progress vehicle which docks automatically, the HTV-4 will be captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony module. The cargo spacecraft will be commanded to fly within about 40 feet and then hold where Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg will operate the Canadarm2 during the approach and rendezvous of the space stations latest visitor."

Kepler Mission Manager Update: Pointing Test, NASA

"While both RW4 and RW2 have spun bi-directionally, friction levels remain higher than would be considered good for an operational wheel. However, it will be important to characterize the stability of the friction over time. A constant friction level may be correctable in the spacecraft's attitude control system, whereas a variable friction level will likely render the wheels unusable.

With the demonstration that both wheels will still move, and the measurement of their friction levels, the functional testing of the reaction wheels is now complete. The next step will be a system-level performance test to see if the wheels can adequately control spacecraft pointing.

... The team anticipates beginning the pointing performance testing on Thursday, August 8, 2013 and will continue into the following week if all goes well. A determination of whether Kepler can return to exoplanet data collection is expected a couple weeks after these pointing tests are complete."

NASA Curiosity Rover Approaches First Anniversary on Mars, NASA

"NASA's Curiosity rover will mark one year on Mars next week and has already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions.

... Curiosity team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.,will share remembrances about the dramatic landing night and the mission overall in an event that will air on NASA Television and the agency's website from10:45 a.m. to noon EDT (7:45 to 9 a.m. PDT) on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Immediately following that program, from noon to 1:30 p.m., NASA TV will carry a live public event from NASA Headquarters in Washington. That event will feature NASA officials and crew members aboard the International Space Station as they observe the rover anniversary and discuss how its activities and other robotic projects are helping prepare for a human mission to Mars and an asteroid. Social media followers may submit questions on Twitter and Google+ in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askNASA."

Artist Concept: NASA Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"NASA has releases new artist concepts of the SLS and Orion spacecraft including being stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

KSC Releases New Commercial Crew Program Marketing Video, SpaceRef Business

"The two minute video aims to capture the history and spirit of human spaceflight. The slick video does capture the essence, but seems to fall short of its goal."

Carmack: Armadillo Aerospace in "hibernation mode", NewSpace Journal

"Armadillo Aerospace, the suborbital vehicle company founded and funded by video game designer John Carmack, has kept a low profile in recent months. The company did not participate in the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, an event where Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace all had special sessions. The last news from the company was in late February, when it reported on the launch of its STIG-B rocket at Spaceport America in early January. That launch failed when the main parachute snagged and didn't deploy properly, causing the rocket to hit the ground at high speed.

There is a good reason for that silence over the last five months: the company is, for the time being, effectively out of money. "The situation that we're at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode," Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. "I did spin down most of the development work for this year" after the crash, he said."

LIVE Launch: JAXA Launch H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI"4 (HTV4), SpaceRef

"The KOUNOTORI is an unmanned cargo transporter to be launched by the H-IIB launch vehicle. It is designed to deliver up to six tons of supplies including food, clothes, and experiment devices to the ISS in orbit at an altitude of about 400 kilometers and return with spent equipment, used clothing, and other waste material. The KOUNOTORI with waste material is incinerated when it makes a re-entry into the atmosphere.

Launch Date: August 3, 2013
Launch Time: 3:48 p.m. ET - 19:48 GMT - 4:48 a.m. JST
Broadcast: LIVE on SpaceRef starting at approximately 3:00 p.m. ET. Check back for link.
"

NASA's Space Launch System Completes Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA has achieved a major milestone in its effort to build the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle by successfully completing the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review.

Senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluded Wednesday the design, associated production and ground support plans for the SLS heavy-lift rocket are technically and programmatically capable of fulfilling the launch vehicle's mission objectives. NASA is developing the SLS and Orion spacecraft to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, with the flexibility to launch spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, including to an asteroid and Mars."

Lease on Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39 may be near, Bolden says, Florida Today

"A long-term lease of a mothballed Kennedy Space Center launch pad may still be near, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden suggested Wednesday.

At least one company and some members of Congress have asked NASA not to award a single company exclusive use of pad 39A, saying it should be made available to multiple launchers.

But Bolden said it was the neighboring pad 39B, which NASA is overhauling to support its own exploration rocket, that the agency has always envisioned for shared use."

Previous: Fighting Innovation at Pad 39A

Update: Space Florida has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Bolden.

Space Florida Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: Launch Complex 39A

"Chairman Wolf has long been a champion of a strong and vibrant US space program and we have no doubt his intentions are well founded. However, the nature of this letter, and particularly the subsequent explanatory correspondence provided by Representative Aderholt's staff, seem uncharacteristically random and offer a number of implausible assertions that serve only to obstruct the ongoing KSC process. I believe the Chairman is being poorly advised to follow this course of action.

... We strongly advocate for allowing NASA to continue to transfer its underutilized infrastructure to commercial operators in a fair process with terms and conditions that support a commercially driven business approach. NASA's planned approach on Pad 39A for partnership with private industry will accelerate the capability to deliver not only cargo, but also crew, and quickly end our dependence on other nations to transport our nation's crew to the International Space Station."


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