September 2013 Archives

'Balancing' the 1-year mission risks, NASA Johnson Space Center

"If you've ever stumbled out of bed in the middle of the night, fallen out of a yoga pose or had trouble "finding your legs" after hopping off a rollercoaster or a boat, then you know getting your balance can be challenging. This is even truer for astronauts who have just returned from extended spaceflight in microgravity.

Spaceflight causes changes in physiological systems that can affect things like balance, strength, vision and endurance. Although NASA scientists have studied how these changes impact astronaut performance a few days after returning to Earth, a new test promises to provide scientists with data about these changes just moments after crew members exit the spacecraft. This information is increasingly important as NASA moves closer to sending an astronaut to the International Space Station for one year and, eventually, to asteroids and Mars."

First CASIS-Funded Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, congratulates Orbital Sciences on a successful launch of the Antares rocket and on the berthing of the Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Orbital's successful mission also represents a milestone for CASIS: The first-ever CASIS-funded payloads have now arrived at the ISS. Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule berthed with the station Sunday morning."

SpaceX Launch Update: This Sunday SpaceX will attempt to launch the first Falcon 9 v1.1. While similar to the original Falcon 9, the upgraded version sports the more powerful Merlin 1D engines which have yet to fly, a much longer fuselage, a new larger fairing and a number of other upgrades to the rocket including its software. The launch will be webcast.

The primary payload is the Canadian Space Agency CASSIOPE satellite. Several secondary nanosats will also be launched.

SpaceX is categorizing this launch as a "demonstration flight" with the risk higher than usual for a Falcon 9 launch. However I don't expect them to launch unless they are as certain as they can be of mission success.

UPDATE: SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon 9 v1.1 on its maiden flight.

- SpaceX Successfully Launches Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket on Maiden Flight [Watch] UPDATED, SpaceRef

Cygnus Rendezvous Complete

Updated Cygnus Rendezvous Date, NASA TV Coverage for Orbital Sciences' Demonstration Mission to International Space Station, NASA

"NASA and its International Space Station partners have approved a Sunday, Sept. 29, target arrival of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft on its demonstration cargo resupply mission to the space station. NASA Television coverage of the rendezvous will begin at 4:30 a.m. EDT and will continue through the capture and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft."

Update: Cynus completed its rendezvous this morning and was berthed by the stations Canadarm2 at 8:44 am EDT.

- Statements on Berthing of Orbital Cygnus Spacecraft to the International Space Station, NASA

- NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Completes First Flight to Space Station as Astronauts Capture Cygnus Spacecraft, NASA

- Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Berths With The International Space Station, Orbital

- The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates NASA and Commercial Industry Partners on Successful Berth with the International Space Station, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

New NASA Climate Models

NASA Data Shows Potential 21st Century Temperature, Precipitation Changes [Watch], NASA

"New data visualizations from the NASA Center for Climate Simulation and NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., show how climate models used in the new report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate possible temperature and precipitation pattern changes throughout the 21st century."

Also released today: Climate report by international panel says warming 'extremely likely' man-made, Washington Post

"Scientists can now say with extreme confidence that human activity is the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the 1950s, a new report by an international scientific group said Friday.

Calling man-made warming "extremely likely," the (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system."

- Key Science Points from the 2013 IPCC Report, NASA Earth Observatory Blog

- Ranking Member Johnson's Statement on the Release of the IPCC Climate Change Report

- Lamar Smith (R-Texas) Statement on IPCC Climate Change Report


Astronauts Practice Launching in NASA's New Orion Spacecraft, NASA

"Astronauts Rick Linnehan and Mike Foreman try out a prototype display and control system inside an Orion spacecraft mockup at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston during the first ascent and abort simulations for the program.

For the first time, NASA astronauts are practicing a launch into space aboard the agency's Orion spacecraft, and provided feedback on the new capsule's cockpit design."

Water for Future Mars Astronauts?, LANL

"Perhaps most notable among findings from the ChemCam team is that all of the dust and fine soil contains small amounts of water."

A Martian Igneous Rock That's Surprisingly Earth-like, Caltech

"But Curiosity is far more than a one-trick rover, and in a paper published today in the journal Science, a team of MSL scientists reports its analysis of a surprisingly Earth-like Martian rock that offers new insight into the history of Mars's interior and suggests parts of the red planet may be more like our own than we ever knew."

NASA paywalls first papers arising from Curiosity rover, I am setting them free, Michael EIsen

"The Mars Curiosity rover has been a huge boon for NASA - tapping into the public's fascination with space exploration and the search for life on other planets. Its landing was watched live by millions of people, and interest in the photos and videos it is collecting is so great, that NASA has had to relocate its servers to deal with the capacity. So what does NASA do to reward this outpouring of public interest (not to mention to $2.5 billion taxpayer dollars that made it possible)? They publish the first papers to arise from the project behind a Science magazine's paywall."

Keith's note: I am really baffled by this. I got this unsolicted email today from the JPL OIG. I had no idea that this SOFIA audit was going on. My reply (to PAO, OIG): "Thanks for thinking that I may have opinions relevant to your audit/investigation. But what I want to know (and, heads up,  I consider this to be newsworthy and hence publishable) is why are you using an official  NASA.gov email address to send me (media) wholly unsolicited email with threatening legal language attached with regard to disclosure of this unsolicited email? Again, thanks for thinking I might have useful commentary, but I do not like to have people in government positions send me news about a government activity - in an official capacity - and then dangle legal threats at the bottom of the very same email."

After I sent my response I got this "Xu, Tiffany L (0920-NASA) would like to recall the message, "NASA - Discussion regarding SOFIA"." Duh. I do not work at NASA so you can't "recall" anything. Then I got the same (original) email again. I do not care what legal language the OIG attached. The email was official, unsolicted, and sent again after an initial complaint.

Keith's 30 Sep note: Neither PAO or the OIG has responded to the comments I included when I forwarded all of this to them. I have to therefore assume that they have no issues with this process.

Here it is - maybe some of you have information on the value of/problems with SOFIA to provide to the JPL OIG:

Mr. Cowing, My name is Tiffany Xu and work for NASA Office of Inspector General out of our field office at JPL. Currently we are conducting the survey phase of an audit on the SOFIA project. Since SOFIA has had many delay of instrument deliverables, one of the question that we are be tasked to find out is how astronomical society feel towards SOFIA: is it still an observatory that the general community is excited about, is the project delivering what it has been promised, and is it still relevant considering the up and coming JWST.

We have noted the many articles you had written about NASA and we are interested in getting your feed on this project. Specifically, we are trying to determine

NASA's Compliance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information

"However, while the Agency's procedures meet Federal requirements, its implementing directive does not require Agency personnel with classification authority to receive all necessary training. Additionally, we found instances in which Agency personnel were not consistently following these NASA policies. Specifically, we found classified documents that were improperly marked,training requirements that were not met, and self-inspections that were not fully implemented. Although these deficiencies were relatively minor in nature, failure to comply with these requirements increases the risk that personnel may inadvertently misclassify material."

According to SpaceX on 20 Sep: "SpaceX has nearly 50 missions on manifest to launch over the proposed 5 year lease period and we can easily make use of the additional launch site. At the time we submitted the bid, SpaceX was unaware any other parties had interest in using the pad. However, if awarded this limited duration lease on 39A, SpaceX would be more than happy to support other commercial space pioneers at the pad, and allow NASA to make use of the pad if need be."

Musk Calls Out Blue Origin, ULA for 'Phony Blocking Tactic' on Shuttle Pad Lease, Space News

"[Blue Origin] has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development," Musk wrote. "If they do somehow show up in the next 5 years with a vehicle qualified to NASA's human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs. Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct."

Congress Voices Support for NASA LC 39-A Leasing, earlier post

CNSA Chief Says China Would Gladly Join Global Space Roadmapping Group if Asked, Space News

"One non-Chinese government official said China is already an observer to the ISECG [International Space Exploration Coordination Group] work and that it was China, not ISECG, which in the past had resisted China's joining as a full member. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who regularly fields questions about the apparent U.S. government policy of hostility to China's space efforts during annual conferences like IAC, said nothing in U.S. policy would prevent China's becoming a full ISECG member. Bolden said that as far as he was concerned, China was already a part of the ISECG process."

International Partnership Releases Space Exploration Benefits Paper, NASA

"NASA and the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) released a white paper Friday outlining benefits of human exploration of space."

Keith's note: If you go to the last page of the August 2013 ISECG Global Exploration Roadmap you will see a graphic of Earth surrounded by space agency logos. CNSA's logo is included. However, the word "China" or acronym "CNSA" do not appear anywhere in this document. If you go to the USECG website CNSA is listed as a member. So apparently China is "observing" - but doing little else.

- Earlier posts on China

Space Forensics Website, NASA GSFC

"This announcement constitutes the only solicitation, which is issued as a Request for Quotation (RFQ); quotes are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued ... Questions regarding this acquisition must be submitted in writing via e-mail ino later than September 26, 2013]."

Keith's 23 Sep note: NASA GSFC posts this solicitation on 20 September late in the day - the day before a weekend. That leaves 23, 24, 25, 26 September for any software firm that did not have a healthy heads from NASA up to create input for a credible proposal or quote - from scratch. In reality, this is clearly a sole source procurement masquerading as an open solicitation. Too bad GSFC can't be honest enough to admit that. As for the intent of the solicitation - sounds interesting. Too bad NASA GSFC is not willing or able to allow sufficient time for the best possible input to be developed from a wide range of potential bidders. At the speed they are doing this GSFC might be able to pick a vendor before the end of the fiscal year. I'll be that a simple FOIA request would reveal that they already know who they want to award this contract to.

Keith's 24 Sep update: NASA has posted an Amendment to the solicitation: "The due date for responses has been extended to October 9, 2013. Questions will be due no later than October 7, 2013." What a coincidence.

Cygnus Rendezvous Delayed Until 28 September

"This morning, Orbital and NASA together decided to postpone the approach, rendezvous, grapple and berthing operations of the Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station until after the upcoming Soyuz crew operations are complete. The Soyuz crew is due to arrive at the ISS very late on Wednesday, September 25. The earliest possible date for the next Cygnus approach and rendezvous with the ISS would be Saturday, September 28. An exact schedule will be determined following the successful completion of Soyuz operations."

Sam Pool

Keith's note: Sam Pool died this morning after a battle with cancer. His family will be making arrangements for a memorial in Houston. Details will be posted. According to NASA: "Dr. Pool served as NASA's Assistant Director of Space Medicine in the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) during Phase 1. He and the flight surgeons were responsible for providing medical support to the astronauts and their families pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight, They were also in charge of training the crews in medical techniques necessary and potentially necessary on-orbit. Pool has worked for NASA since the Apollo Program and helped to develop a set a of medical standards for spaceflight, which are used to medically screen astronauts."

NASA Infrastructure: Enabling Discovery and Ensuring Capability, Testimony of NASA OIG Paul Martin

"NASA is the ninth largest Federal Government property holder, controlling approximately 4,900 buildings and structures with an estimated replacement value of more than $30 billion. More than 80 percent of the Agency's facilities are 40 or more years old and beyond their design life. However, NASA has not been able to fully fund required maintenance for its facilities and in 2012 estimated its deferred maintenance costs at $2.3 billion. Moreover, a 2012 Agency study estimated that NASA may have as many as 865 unneeded facilities with associated annual maintenance costs of more than $24 million."

NASA Desperately Needs Road Map to Manage Aging Assets, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"According to NASA's own study, the agency has a backlog of nearly $2.2 billion in deferred maintenance. NASA is the ninth largest real property holder in the federal government. However, nearly 80 percent of the agency's facilities are 40 or more years old."

Testimony of NASA AA Richard Keegan on NASA's Aging Infrastructure

Keith's note: Summary: NASA does not admit that there are any problems and wants you to think all is well. NASA does not really do anything to address the issues raised by everyone else, but they sure do a lot of studies.

Subcommittees Review Looming Gap in Weather Satellite Coverage Call for Better Prioritization to Ensure Consistent Weather Data, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified a high probability in degraded weather satellite coverage starting as early as next year, and has designated this data gap as a new high-risk area in a report earlier this year. Given this potential gap in weather satellite coverage, today's hearing addressed questions about the administration's priorities in funding weather satellites and research as compared to climate change-monitoring satellites and research."

- Subcommittees Discuss Remediation and Avoidance of Crucial Weather Forecasting Gaps, Status Report, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Improve Mitigation Strategies for Satellite Coverage Gaps, GAO
- Geostationary Weather Satellites: Progress Made, but Weaknesses in Scheduling, Contingency Planning, and Communicating with Users Need to Be Addressed, GAO
- Polar Wather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention, GAO

NASA Has A Plutonium Problem

NASA's Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration, Wired

"The country's scientific stockpile has dwindled to around 36 pounds. To put that in perspective, the battery that powers NASA's Curiosity rover, which is currently studying the surface of Mars, contains roughly 10 pounds of plutonium, and what's left has already been spoken for and then some. The implications for space exploration are dire: No more plutonium-238 means not exploring perhaps 99 percent of the solar system. In effect, much of NASA's $1.5 billion-a-year (and shrinking) planetary science program is running out of time. The nuclear crisis is so bad that affected researchers know it simply as "The Problem."

Bolden in China

Nasa chief Charles Bolden to visit Beijing, South China Morning Post

"In China we will be meeting with the heads of international partners of the International Space Station [ISS], as well as the heads of some space agencies that don't participate, but with whom we have partnership," he said. Bolden did not respond directly when the South China Morning Post in a media conference call asked about collaboration between US and China in such areas as manned space flights. "We also support any nation that seeks peaceful utilisation of space, and that goes to everyone," he said."

Keith's 11 Sep note: NASA was hacked yesterday by the BMPoC to protest U.S. cyberintelligence activities. One more reminder that everything everyone posts everywhere is seen by everyone. These NASA websites (at ARC) were affected and are currently offline:

kepler.arc.nasa.gov, amase2008.arc.nasa.gov, event.arc.nasa.gov, amesevents.arc.nasa.gov/sites, academy.arc.nasa.gov, planetaryprotection.nasa.gov, virtual-institutes.arc.nasa.gov, astrobiology2.arc.nasa.gov, nextgenlunar.arc.nasa.gov , lunarscience.nasa.gov, moonfest.arc.nasa.gov, iln.arc.nasa.gov, lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov

NASA ARC has this notice up if you try to reach these websites: "Down For Maintenance. The requested webpage is down for maintenance. Please try again later. Affected sites include but is not limited to:

* lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov
* kepler.nasa.gov
* nari.arc.nasa.gov"

Keith's 19 Sep note: More than half of these websites are still offline. Wow. NASA really does not have a lot of resiliency when it comes to responding to a hacking event, despite what PAO would have you believe.

Brazilian hackers confuse Nasa with NSA in revenge attack, The Telegraph

"At no point were any of the agency's primary websites, missions or classified systems compromised," said Nasa spokesman Allard Beutel. "We are diligently taking action to investigate and reconstitute the websites impacted during web defacement incident," he said."

China's space station to open for foreign peers, China Daily

"China is willing to provide training and open the Chinese space station to foreign astronauts, senior space flight officials said. "We would like to train astronauts from other countries and organizations that have such a demand, and we would be glad to provide trips to foreign astronauts," said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency. "We will also welcome foreign astronauts who have received our training to work in our future space station." Yang, China's first astronaut, who went into space in 2003, said many countries submitted proposals to the Chinese government during the development of the space station, hoping China would help train their astronauts and then send them to the station to conduct scientific experiments. "The effect of including foreign participants in our space programs is not only that these nations can send their people to outer space, but also that we will enable them to develop their own space projects." Yang made the remarks during the five-day United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology, which opened in Beijing on Monday."

NASA Internal Memo: Planning for Potential Lapse in Appropriations

"However, prudent management requires that we be prepared for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month. A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding. It would also mean that a number of employees would be temporarily furloughed. To prepare for this possibility, we are working with our General Counsel and our Chief Financial Officer to update our contingency plans for executing an orderly shutdown of activities that would be affected by a lapse in appropriations."

OMB Memo: Planning for Agency Operations during a Potential Lapse in Appropriations

NASA Ames Federal Employees Union Memo: Potential Shutdown Looming Yet Again

"With the turmoil of the DOI snafu and its 4-day delay in paychecks fresh on our minds, you need to be acutely aware that a shutdown could have a much bigger financial impact on you and your family, especially given that we would not likely receive retroactive pay as we did after the shutdowns of the 1990's.  Please act accordingly and keep some funds in reserve, if you possibly can."

Keith's note: Looks like all the invitees to this gun shooting team building event are from JSC Code NA - Safety and Mission Assurance Office. This was sent out the day after the Navy Yard shootings here in Washington, DC. I wonder if these JSC "safety" folks would have announced such a team building event the day after that horrible shooting incident they had at JSC a few years ago? Also - what if one or more of the people who got this email do not want to participate in a gun-related activity as part of their day job? Does that mean that they are not "team" players? How can their management put them into such a position as civil servants?

From: NETT, KAREN SUE (JSC-NA111)

Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 05:08 PM Central Standard Time

To: Baumer, Gregg C. (JSC-NE111); Butler, Sharyl A. (JSC-NA121); Carrington, Thomas E. (JSC-NT111); Doremus, Robert C. (JSC-NA111); Dyer, Keith W. (JSC-NC111); Engle, Jean E. {Jeanie} (JSC-NA141); Fodroci, Michael (JSC-NE111); Kaye, Irene E. (JSC-NA111); Loyd, David T. (JSC-NS111); Mcarthur, William S. (JSC-NA111); Menard, Stacey A. (JSC-NS111); Packham, Nigel (JSC-NA111); Ross, Clarence L. (JSC-NT111); Rush, James D. (JSC-NC111); Schwartz, Mary Beth (JSC-NA121); Watkins, Vincent D. (JSC-NA111); Johnson, Rosalind E. (JSC-NA111); Tenhet, Kay E. (JSC-NA)[REDE CRITIQUE NSS JV]; Kaplan, David I. (JSC-NA111); Byerly, Deborah (JSC-NA121); Johnson, Teresa A. (JSC-NA121); Kidwell, Patrick K. (JSC-NA121); Starling, Kenesha L. (JSC-NA121); Thelen, David F. (JSC-NA131); Andrews, Cheryl R. (JSC-NA141); Fontenot, Brent J. (JSC-NA141); Marker, Walter (JSC-NA141); Meza, David (JSC-NA141); Brainard, Lydia L. (JSC-NA141)[REDE CRITIQUE NSS JV]; BARNES-GOBER, JULIE (JSC-NA141)

Subject: Please join in our TEAM BUILDING EVENT!

Cygnus Launched

The #Antares rocket has launched http://wapo.st/1eQ78ZA  on Twitpic

NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Launches Demonstration Mission to Space Station [Watch]

"NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., successfully launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

This is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia is blazing a trail toward the International Space Station, heralding a new U.S. capability to resupply the orbiting laboratory."

The skies. The limits: The international space station is one of humanity's great engineering triumphs. But what is it for?, Washington Post

"So even if the station's life is extended beyond 2020, it is coming down, eventually. NASA could try to salvage a piece here and there, but there are no plans to deconstruct it, so the controlled de-orbit will be a spectacular, fiery event. Too big to burn up completely, the station will crash somewhere in the open water of the South Pacific. It will be perhaps the most expensive man-made object that human beings have ever intentionally destroyed. This vision of the future will sink to the bottom of the sea, ending another chapter in the history of what people used to call the Space Age."

Keith's: Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post does not seem to think that the ISS does much, is dangerous, and will just be dumped in the ocean. He clearly went looking for ISS problems - not the promise and potential of the ISS when he wrote this article. This is how the detractors of the ISS (and perhaps human spaceflight) will start their slow motion campaign - whether they mean to or not. Bit by bit they will portray the ISS as having no value or purpose and that it is not worth keeping aloft - despite the marvels and capabilities it has yet to fully tap. Soon, no one will want to expend the energy to keep it operational. And when it is gone we will moan and wave our arms about its demise - just like the capability we threw away with Apollo, Mir, and Skylab. "What were we thinking?" we'll once again ask ourselves.

Letter from Members of Congress to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

"In particular, we commend NASA for undertaking an open, competitive process regarding Launch Complex 39, Pad A, (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). As you are aware, the NASA Inspector General and the Agency have identified LC-39A as excess infrastructure and have no "future rnission-related uses for these facilities" (Report No. IG- 13-008). Consistent with the OIG's recommendation, as well as the need to reduce overhead in the current constrained fiscal environment, we understand that NASA is currently undertaking an open competitive process to transfer LC-39A to a private entity, with formal decisions relating to lease terms and duration to be determined through proper negotiation subsequent to award. Given KSC's expertise, it should be within their purview and judgment to determine what factors to consider and outcomes to render. We urge you to proceed with these plans."

Letter from Sen. Nelson and Sen. Rubio to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A, earlier post
- New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo, earlier post
- NASA Announcement for Proposals: Commerical Operation of Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

A critical time for commercial launch providers, The Space Review

"For a time last week, it looked like we would be in the midst of an unusually concentrated period of critical launches. In the span of less than a week, four launches of new, nearly new, or returning to flight vehicles were on global launch manifests: the inaugural launch of Japan's Epsilon small launch vehicle, the first launch of SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1, the second launch of Orbital Sciences Corporations Antares rocket carrying the first Cygnus cargo spacecraft, and the first Proton launch since a dramatic launch failure in early July.

Launch manifests are subject to change, of course, and that's what happened. While the Epsilon launch went off on schedule, and successfully, on Saturday, Orbital slipped its Antares launch a day, from this Tuesday to Wednesday, while the Falcon and Proton launches have been delayed until at least late this month. Nonetheless, all three upcoming launches remain critical in separate, but often interrelated, ways."

Vesta Atlas Released

Take a Virtual, High-Resolution Tour of Vesta, NASA

"An atlas of the giant asteroid Vesta, created from images taken as NASA's Dawn mission flew around the object (also known as a protoplanet), is now accessible for the public to explore online.

The set of maps was created from mosaics of 10,000 images taken by Dawn's framing camera instrument at a low altitude of about 130 miles (210 kilometers)."

Too Bad NASA is Not NSA

Replica Enterprise bridge used to sell surveillance to Congress, Boing Boing

"A long, fascinating profile of NSA "cowboy" Gen. Keith Alexander in Foreign Policy reveals that the top spook is fan of science fiction movies and built his old command room to look like the bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He sold members of Congress by letting them sit in the big chair and "play Picard."

- Video of top NSA spook Gen'l Alexander's Starship Enterprise clone/Information Dominance Center, Boing Boing

- The NSA showed off its 'information dominance' from the bridge of the Starship 'Enterprise' (with actual photos), The Verge

"We are NASA, not NSA"

NASA HEOMD Internal Memo on Personal Electronic Devices, NASA

"- Contrary to the nonsense you've been reading at nasawatch or elsewhere, NASA does not obtain control of your personal device; NASA cannot remotely read the contents of your device; NASA does not know your unlock code; and NASA will not remotely trigger a wipe of your personal device without your direct authorization to do so. We are NASA, not NSA. Don't drop the first 'A', eh?"

NASA Internal Memo: ActiveSync Security Policies to be Applied to Mobile Devices Connecting to NOMAD, NASA CIO

"Employees using their own mobile device for downloading NASA email /calendar directly via their phone's mail client should be aware that NASA has the ability to access your device and to erase ("wipe") it. While the current NASA policy is that no such access or wiping will occur without the employee's explicit permission, it remains possible that such adverse events could nonetheless occur inadvertently."

Keith's note: Funny how the same group of IT people who were unable to prevent the loss of personal information for hundreds of NASA employees, repeatedly allowed personal employee data to get onto latops that were taken outside of the agency, is unable to stop website hacks, and stumbled over itself to figure out how to encrypt data on laptops, can be so certain that data on your mobile device will never be affected (by NASA) if you connect to NASA's networks.

NASA officials talk challenges, and thrills, of capturing an asteroid, LA Times

"Having trouble getting excited about NASA's planned mission to redirect an asteroid? Maybe William Gerstenmaier can help. "Turn off your logical side and turn on your touchy-feely side, the one you almost never use," Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, told attendees of an aeronautics and astronautics conference Wednesday in San Diego. "Then jump up and down and do some break-dancing. We're going to grab a space rock and we're going to move it!"

Keith's update: Response from HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier to NASAWatch: "We provided an hour on technical details, reasons and logic for the asteroid mission. The mission fits well with expanding experience in beyond low earth orbit. We showed charts that show how this mission supports Mars. We also had discussions on this mission supporting commercial asteroid activities. The logic, rational, and feasibility were covered in a detailed manner. I added a flip comment at the end. This is predominately what the LA times picked up. They might have understood the humor intended. The web cast and briefing show the thoughts and work that the teams have put into a very creditable mission. Other articles capture the technical discussions and logical points well."

Keith's 12 Sep note: This is typical of NASA's increasingly baffling asteroid mission PR strategy. Since no one at NASA (starting with Charlie Bolden) is able to give a clear reason why NASA wants to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to go grab an asteroid and move it to lunar orbit, they just skip "the logical side" and go for "the touchy-feel side". Now they want you to just "jump up and do some break-dancing". In other words, don't worry - be happy.

NASA HEOMD Internal Memo on Personal Electronic Devices, NASA

"No one wants their personal property tampered with -- we understand that. If you complain loudly because your device does something you don't like as a result of the policies and settings pushed to your personal device as a result of our efforts to improve IT security, or if mistakes are made and you happen to be the unlucky victim of one, and it gets enough attention, either personal devices may be banned in the future from connecting to NASA email and non-public facing systems, or you'll have to officially request the ability to connect a personal device, take SATERN training, sign paperwork explicitly accepting the risks to your personal device or data, and so on. That will add more bureaucracy and obstacles and hassles to doing what should be a reasonable thing, which is enabling you to read and respond to email via your personal devices. It's up to you how you respond to these changes. If you don't want NASA making any changes to your personal devices, please do not connect your personal device(s) to NASA email or internal networks. This is a compromise that allows your flexibility and choice. And please note that these changes will help protect your personal data on the device, not just NASA data."

Keith's note: In other words NASA wants you to think that they are doing you a favor by allowing you to use a cellphone that you paid for to do government work. Also ... if you use your personal device to connect to NASA and something goes wrong you had better shut up and do not complain about it - or bad things will happen.

- Do You Really Trust NASA Not to Ruin Your Mobile Device?, earlier post
- NASA Bring Your Own Device Update, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA NSSC employees are getting this memo today from DOI (who does NASA payroll). Looks like it may affect other parts of NASA. Someone at NASA HQ who uses NFCU got a direct deposit but another person at NASA HQ who uses a regular bank did not.

September 12, 2013 MEMORANDUM
To: FPPS User Group Representatives
From: Linda Y. Rihel-Todd, Chief //signed//
Payroll Operations Division
Subject: Correction Electronic Funds Transfer for Pay Period 2013-19

The Official Pay Date for all agencies is the second Tuesday following the end of the pay period. Generally payments are provided to Financial Institutions for an early deposit prior to the Official Pay Date. This is routinely accomplished by the first Friday following the end of the pay period. An oversight occurred during the certification process for pay period 2013 19, which inadvertently disbursed the EFT payments after the Friday, September 13, 2013. Efforts to process a new payment file with Department of Treasury was unsuccessful. Therefore, the payments will be made by the Official Pay Date, September 17, 2013. Next pay period we will resume to our normal processing. We apologize for any inconvenience to employees. We recommend you distribute this memorandum or information to your Servicing Personnel.

Keith's 12:50 pm EDT update: The following memo is now being sent around NASA:

Ground Control to Major Frog, Burrito Justice (w/cool frog GIF)

"Ground Control to Major Frog
Commencing countdown engines on
WTF are you doing in the pond
Check ignition and may frog's love be with you"

Keith's note: According to this Facebook post: "On September 21 the Space Generation Advisory Council is hosting its SGC Gala Dinner in Beijing, China. Enjoy a nice evening with young professionals, students, and current space leaders from around the world, as well as our featured speaker, Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator."

Isn't NASA supposed to be avoiding interactions with China? Or is Bolden just going to phone his speech in? I wonder if Frank Wolf knows about this.

Earlier China posts

NASA Internal Memo: Do Not Access Public Web Sites Containing Classified Information

"Individuals with a security clearance have agreed to certain restrictions regarding classified information. Accessing classified information on Wikileaks, even from home, constitutes a security violation. Viewing classified information from a computer that isn't authorized to access classified information, and/or viewing classified information that he or she is not authorized access to, is a security violation. And, use of official Government computers for other than authorized purposes is prohibited by federal ethics laws."

Keith's 11 Sep 7:00 pm EDT note: Looks like NASA will admit on Thursday that Voyager 1 has indeed left our solar system, but that it did so more than a year ago. NASA prefers Yes/No answers i.e. has it or has it not crossed that imaginary dotted line that is in place around the edge of our solar system.

The press event will be at 2:00 pm EDT. NASA has still not sent out a media advisory.

What's sort of funny is how all of the science types go back and forth as to whether Voyager 1 has or has not crossed this imaginary line that marks the boundary of our solar system - when no one has never been to the place where that line is - and the line is based on things we expect to find - but we don't exactly know when/where that magic line crossing will actually happen (or have already happened).

What I want to know is when Voyager 1 becomes VGER. Just wondering.

Jonathan McDowell agrees and wants NASA to rename Voyager 1 as "VGER" now - i.e. "Voyager Grand Extrasolar Recon".

What say you?

- A Porous, Layered Heliopause,
- NASA Is Not Sure if Voyager 1 Has Left The Solar System, earlier post
- Is Voyager 1 in Interstellar Space? The Debate Continues, earlier post
- Has Voyager 1 Left The Solar System?, earlier post

Keith's 12 Sep 11:00 am EDT update: NASA PAO finally squeezed out a media advisory.

NASA News Conference Today To Discuss Voyager Spacecraft

"NASA will host a news conference today at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT), to discuss NASA's Voyager mission. It is related to a paper to be published in the journal Science, which is embargoed until 2 p.m. EDT."

Confirmed: NASA's Voyager 1 is Travelling in Interstellar Space, NASA

"New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars."

Keith's 3:10 pm EDT note: LADEE slipped into safe mode again yesterday morning when its star trackers experienced an alignment error. This error has been fixed and the spacecraft is expected to exit safe mode today and proceed normally with the mission.

Keith's 5:16 pm EDT update: I just got this baffling update from ARC PAO 4 hours after I asked for a statement (they have been sitting on this for 3 hours): "On Sept. 10 around 7 a.m. Pacific Time, the spacecraft went into safe mode due to an alignment error between the two star tracker camera heads affecting the rate estimator when the sun occludes one of the cameras. We corrected that and came out of safe mode this morning, Sept. 11, to resume normal operations. To keep the media and public informed about the spacecraft status, NASA will issue weekly Project Manager Updates written by Dr. Butler Hine. The incident that occurred Sept. 10 and was corrected Sept. 11 will be in the next Project Manager Update."

Why isn't @NASALADEE tweeting about this? It happened more than 24 hours ago. Why isn't the official NASA LADEE website being updated with this information? Why is NASA ARC PAO waiting for a "weekly project manager update" to release this information to the public? What else are they not releasing?

Keith's 7:29 pm EDT update: according to this tweet: @worden: After two not unexpected glitches since launch @NASALADEE just demonstrated main propulsion system.

Keith's 9:00 pm EDT update: @NASALADEE only tweeted about this news 36 hours after the fact. It must be so hard at NASA these days to find the right 140 characters ...

Astronaut training resumes at undersea lab in the Florida Keys with 5-day mission, AP

"Starting Tuesday, five astronauts will spend five days living and working at the Aquarius Reef Base. While they're underwater, they'll be trying out an exercise device that could be used on the International Space Station and spacewalking tools."

Keith's note: NASA Astronauts living underwater - sound familiar? NASA's NEEMO used to do this. Not any more. NASA killed NEEMO. Now they have a stealthy low-key version they call "Space Environment Analog for Testing EVA Systems and Training (SEA TEST)". There is no mention of this activity at NASA HQ. JSC has a page up but no press release was ever issued. No mention of "NEEMO" is made - not even in photos that are shown from earlier NEEMO missions. Why is NASA being so shy about this activity? Is NASA embarrassed to admit that it killed NEEMO? Among the current visitors of the Aquarius Facility is legendary aquanaut Sylvia Earle. You'd think that some one at NASA would be paying attention. Think again.

- Aquarius Reef Base, main website
- Live streaming video

Even though NASA PAO is ignoring these activities you can follow tweets at @ReefBase, @Astro_Soichi, @AstroAcaba, @Astro_Andreas, @Asto_Kate7, and @Thom_astro

Keith's note: 1.7 million views so far. I have ridden a full acceleration simulation of SpaceShipOne's flight in the NASTAR Centrifuge. Rest assured - this has got to be quite a kick - even more so in reality.

It's rocket science at Penn State's Applied Research Lab, Penn State News

MOA Between NASA JSC and Penn State for Collaboration on the Development and improvement of Reaction Control Engines

"NASA JSC and Penn State wish to collaborate on the further development of a JSC inhouse designed liquid oxygen (L02)lliquid methane (LCH4) reaction control engine (RCE) to characterize its performance over an expanded range of operating conditions... Penn State is seeking an RCE for their Lunar Lion vehicle as part of its participation in the Google Lunar X-Prize."

Bad News From Earth

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

ActiveSync Security Policies to be Applied to Mobile Devices Connecting to NOMAD

"a. The use of your own mobile device (i.e., cell phone or tablet) to retrieve your NASA email/calendar or to conduct NASA business is entirely voluntary. Users should refrain from using a personal mobile device to access NASA information and systems if uncomfortable, unable, or unwilling to comply with these minimum security requirements. As the use of personal mobile devices is purely optional, employees cannot be expected to use their own devices to accomplish their assigned tasks if they choose not to do so. Your supervisor may not require you to do so. If a mobile device is required for you to perform your assigned duties, management will provide you with an appropriate NASA-owned device consistent with the Negotiated Agreement, unless you voluntarily choose to use your own device. You cannot be required to provide your personal email address or cell-phone number to management.

b. Employees using their own mobile device for downloading NASA email /calendar directly via their phone's mail client should be aware that NASA has the ability to access your device and to erase ("wipe") it. While the current NASA policy is that no such access or wiping will occur without the employee's explicit permission, it remains possible that such adverse events could nonetheless occur inadvertently. Therefore, employees should backup their personal phones often to reduce their vulnerability of data loss."

Do You Really Trust NASA Not to Ruin Your Mobile Device?, earlier post

How Science Fiction Powers NASA

NASA is turning science fiction into fact (Interview with NASA ARC Center Director Pete Worden), New Scientist

"Is science fiction a big source of inspiration? Here, there's almost a secret handshake among engineers who have read lots of science fiction. It lets you dream - how can we make that technology real, how can we make a better future?

What are your dreams for exploring space? A principal tenet of science fiction is that there are planets out there with intelligent life. For most of the history of astrophysics we haven't been able to see those worlds, but we are starting to see planets like Earth. I dream of going to those worlds. That's my life's inspiration.

What excites you most about your work? This century, even more than the last one, is the space century - especially with the private sector and many more countries getting involved. The stuff we're doing at Ames is turning science fiction into fact. This is the coolest job I have ever had."

NASA expert explains what the Gravity trailer gets wrong, Michael Interbartolo, DVICE

"I usually try not to nitpick space movies, because they are entertainment, not documentaries, but when folks start heaping praise on a movie as the best space movie or most realistic, I feel the need to chime in."

Lunar Orbiter Imagery Presented on NASA Ames Hyperwall 2, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"Last week one of the images retrieved by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) was presented on the NASA Ames Hyperwall visualization system. The image that was presented was a portion of the floor of crater Copernicus taken by Lunar Orbiter 5 on 11 August 1967. Specifically frame 5151_H1. FYI at the native resolution of this restored image and the resolution of the individual monitors used in this hyperwall, we'd need 50 - yes fifty - hyperwall 2 set ups to show this LOIRP image at its full resolution."

Outgoing NASA Deputy Reflects on High-profile, Big-money Programs, Space News

"Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general and former shuttle commander loyal to his troops and trusted by lawmakers, had quickly lost the White House's confidence in his ability to explain and defend administration policy. During his first week on the job, NASA abruptly canceled a long list of scheduled media interviews with Bolden after the White House took issue with his performance during a televised all-hands meeting. Among the causes for concern, current and former administration officials have told SpaceNews, was Bolden's off-script comments about the Moon and Mars and the role NASA would play in a National Security Council-led space policy review then getting underway. "When the budget came out, they were not comfortable he could defend it," one official said. Subsequent NASA press briefings often were held via teleconference with Bolden reading an opening statement before turning it over to Garver or another official to field questions. It is Garver who will forever be known as the champion of NASA's Commercial Crew initiative, which aims to outsource crew transportation to and from the international space station."

Defense and Civilian Agencies Request Significant Funding for Launch-Related Activities

"In contrast to procurement, the agencies indicate that together their need for RDT&E funding will decrease during the same period. NASA's expected RDT&E launch funding requirements outpace DOD's, with the agency planning to spend about $10.5 billion for launch-related development from fiscal years 2014 through 2018. Of that amount, NASA anticipates the need for approximately $7 billion for the development of its own deep space launch vehicle known as the Space Launch System, and the associated ground systems, to support human deep space exploration."

Significant SLS Delays Ahead?

New NASA rocket faces delays, Orlando Sentinel

"Lori Garver, leaving NASA after four years as deputy administrator, said NASA and Congress long have oversold the agency's ability to build the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and its Orion capsule on an annual budget of roughly $3 billion. "It's very clear that we could have slips of a year or two," said Garver, referring to both the 2017 launch -- which won't have a crew -- and the first planned flight of NASA astronauts aboard the SLS rocket in 2021. "People are more optimistic than ... reality," she said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel."

Chris Kraft on NASA and SLS (Updated)

"So what you've got is a beast of a rocket, that would give you all of this capability, which you can't build because you don't have the money to build it in the first place, and you can't operate it if you had it."

LADEE is Heading For The Moon with One Small Glitch (with video)

"NASA has confirmed that the reaction wheels of its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) were successfully brought back on-line and the spacecraft has acquired its safe-mode attitude profile."

Mission updates will be carried on NASA TV. You can also track mission status by following @NASALADEE or at the mission website.

Space Laser: Testing an Interplanetary Internet from the Moon, OSTP

"Optical laser communications will enable a variety of robust future science and human exploration missions--providing a higher data rate, and delivering more accurate navigation capabilities with reduced size, weight, and power requirements. Someday, maybe, the Solar System will be peppered with a high-speed interplanetary communications network much like the wireless Web currently spinning here on Earth."

Keith's note: A farewell reception was held at NASA Headquarters on Thursday for NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. In addition to the long list of thank yous to staff and friends, Garver had some parting observations and recollections to share.

Garver said that she had three personal objectives while at NASA: "to try and align NASA with national objectives; to provide value to taxpayers; and to try and be a consistent leader."

Responding to criticism she said that people had characterized her as just pushing change for the sake of change, being the "commercial crew girl" or "asteroid girl". She chalked this off as being the outcome of having worked to advance her overall goals.

As for her relationship with Charlie Bolden she said they they had "the best relationship team of any NASA Administrator and Deputy in my history and I've seen a lot of them", that she "learned so much from Bolden".

Garver reflected back to her efforts before being nominated to be Deputy Administrator - specifically leading the Obama transition team in 2008 following the election. She noted that she and her team had a "rocky start" and that she was "the only member of the entire transition team that had to deal with an agency head (Mike Griffin) who was openly hostile to the team and who had instructed his folks not to share information with us." Garver noted that Griffin "had a campaign headed by his wife that sought to try to keep him in his position." She joked that this whole drama ended up giving her more visibility within the senior leadership of the transition team than might otherwise have been the case.

Garver closed with a top ten list of things she had learned as NASA's Deputy Administrator:

Russian Cosmonaut Bails Out of Upcoming Spaceflight, RIA Novosti

"An experienced Russian spaceman set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015 suddenly tendered his resignation for unclear reasons, a Russian space industry representative said Thursday. Yury Lonchakov will be formally discharged from his job on September 14, Irina Rogova of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center told RIA Novosti. Rogova's boss, Sergei Krikalev, was cited by Russian media as saying that Lonchakov "found a more interesting job," but did not elaborate. Rogova could not name Lonchakov's new job."

Keith's note: Lonchakov flew on STS-100, Soyuz TMA-1, and Soyuz TMA-13/Expedition 18. So he certainly has had some spaceflight experience. Time to do new things, I suppose. This is sadly interesting, however: "Once a dream job for Soviet kids, being a cosmonaut does not hold much allure in modern Russia: Only 5 percent of adult Russians actually wanted to grow up to be cosmonauts, with doctors, teachers, truck drivers and aviators all being more popular, according to a 2011 study by the Public Opinion Foundation. Russia's first-ever open cosmonaut recruitment drive attracted a mere 300 applications last year, compared with 6,000 for NASA in 2011."

Keith's note: Due to sequestration, civil servants at some agencies have sacrificed with mandatory furloughs.  NASA cut travel instead. Yet some NASA civil servants are accepting their portion of the agency's sacrifice by traveling to a foreign resort at taxpayer expense.

According to this GSFC web page, a conference titled "Explosive Transients: Lighthouses of the Universe" is being held 15-20 September 2013 in Santorini, Greece. The co-chairs of this conference are Neil Gehrels, Fiona Harrison, Chryssa Kouveliotou, and Julie McEnery. Three of them are NASA civil servants (Fiona Harrison is not). The participants of this conference include at least five NASA civil servants: Kouveliotou, Gehrels, Racusin, McEnery, and Cenko.

The meeting is being held at the Petros M. Nomikos Conference Center which is "located at Firostefani on the outskirts of Fira, the capital of Santorini island. It is a neoclassical mansion, overlooking the caldera and the volcano.". In addition to the meeting NASA is sponsoring an Optional Boat Tour of the Caldera and the Volcano and "Homemade lunch, local wine and fruits will be served on board!"

Indeed, NASA went out of its way to create a poster for the event which shows a black hole rising over the scenic island of Santorini (enlarge).

Three NASA missions are listed as sponsors. The meeting is chaired by NASA civil servants. NASA's travel policies state that "Foreign conference participation and sponsorship is prohibited unless the conference as a whole is specifically approved by OCFO." So who in the NASA CFO Office approved this Fall vacation on Santorini?

Keith's 5 Sep update: This is not the first time that these NASA astronomers have been to Santorini on official business. Gehrels and Kouveliotou were also involved in a 2005 meeting on Santorini and are also shown in a picture from a 2003 event - also on Santorini. Neil Gehrel's father Tom Gehrels was even involved in the discovery of an asteroid that was eventually named 19034 Santorini - originally discovered in 1960. What a coincidence.

Keith's 6 Sep update: According to NASA PAO: "When sequestration guidelines were enacted, NASA canceled its planned $10,000 sponsorship of this conference. NASA has not contributed any funding. Also, the agency is sending only six civil servants and their participation has been approved by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer under the required waiver process. All six will be involved in meetings with international partners regarding the future operation of NASA gamma-ray missions such as Swift and NuSTAR. Any of the six participating in the optional boat tour will be required to purchase a ticket at his or her own expense. The conference poster was produced by another conference organizer, not NASA. The Goddard Space Flight Center Web page on which it appears was created when the conference was organized and before restrictions on foreign conference attendance were in place. "Explosive Transients: Lighthouses on the Universe" is one in a series of conferences being sponsored by scientific organizations around the world. The conference is an opportunity not only for science presentations, but also for these organizations to do joint planning of gamma ray missions."

- Message From The NASA Administrator: New Policies in Response to Sequestration, earlier post
- Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post
- Growing Impact of Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- NASA Makes Cuts in Travel Budgets, earlier post

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."

Keith's note: I just got a press release from Orbital Sciences. It was sent to a news media distribution list (that is not shown) so I do not know if I am supposed to get this email or not i.e. if I am ain "intended recipient". As is the case with all Orbital press releases it ends with legal mumbo jumbo (below) that could easily apply to me. Or maybe not. It talks about "reader" or "recipient" but no mention is made of all of the people who read a news website. Since NASAWatch can be read anywhere on Earth, the ITAR caveat applies (right?). How am I supposed to know what is or is not ITAR relevant? No other aerospace company does this (but CASIS does). The notion that people are supposed to "destroy the email message" if they get it in error shows an utter lack of understanding as to what email is and that it can never truly be destroyed - not even close. Just goes to show you what happens when you insert IT-deficient lawyers into the PR process.

Keith's note: I just got an email from [someone@nasa.gov] inviting me to an event on the 9th floor today. The email (from someone at Valador Inc. who works at NASA, uses a NASA.gov email account, sent this on official NASA business) had this rather odd disclaimer at the bottom (twice):

"Visit http://www.gov.uk/fco for British foreign policy news and travel advice and http://blogs.fco.gov.uk to read our blogs. Please note that all messages sent and received by members of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and its missions overseas may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded in accordance with the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000. We keep and use information in line with the Data Protection Act 1998. We may release this personal information to other UK government departments and public authorities."

Why is anyone at NASA (an American government agency) sending out official email with a disclaimer that suggests that people (most likely Americans) visit a foreign government's official website - and then warn these same Americans that "We may release this personal information to other UK government departments and public authorities"?

Keith's update: I am told that the person who sent me the email was forwarding it from someone who had forwarded it from the UK Embassy ...

Annual Invitation for Public Nominations by U.S. Citizens for Service on NASA Federal Advisory Committees

"NASA announces its annual invitation for public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also submit self- nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's Federal advisory committees. NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area."

Keith's note: Having sat through more NAC meetings and subcommittee meetings than I can count over the past 25 years, I have to say that while there is some useful discussion, most of what is presented is rewarmed content that has been heard or discussed elsewhere. Once in a while someone climbs on a soapbox and rants (sometimes about something important) but the issue fades as soon as they are on the plane headed home. Charlie Bolden listens (I guess) to what the committee members have to say and then ignores 99% of what is said. Its mostly a slow-motion Kabuki theater: NASA people moving in the shadows - but little real substance up front.

Further, by the time anything ends up in a formal letter or report most of the teeth have been removed. Only the National Academy of Sciences does a better job at watering down real issues than the NAC. That said, it is good to have people on these committees who will sometimes try and do the right thing. These committees are only as good as the people who serve on them - so please nominate some good people - so they can try.

Looking Silly for Space


Click on image to animate.

Bill Nye Joins Dancing With the Stars Because He Loves the Cosmos, Wired

"In order for us to carry out our mission to get the world -- our world -- excited about and supportive of space exploration, we need to engage people everywhere. The show is watched by millions. I'll be there as your CEO of The Planetary Society and a student of Carl Sagan. Buzz Aldrin appeared on this show three years ago."

Keith's note: I am the first one to suggest that NASA and space enthusiasts need to find new ways to connect to the other 99% of society who need some outreach. But I expect that the net value to the popularization of space exploration by this stunt will be the same as was the case with Buzz Aldrin's appearance on Dancing With The Stars: fleeting, hard to measure, and somewhat embarrassing. Based on this sample of Nye's jittery dance style I do not think he'll stay on the show long enough to make a difference. I don't even think that a colored mohawk haircut would help him. Wake me when it is over.

Sunday conversation: NASA veteran Chris Kraft upfront with criticism, Chris Kraft, Houston Chronicle

"The problem with the SLS is that it's so big that makes it very expensive. It's very expensive to design, it's very expensive to develop. When they actually begin to develop it, the budget is going to go haywire. They're going to have all kinds of technical and development issues crop up, which will drive the development costs up. Then there are the operating costs of that beast, which will eat NASA alive if they get there. They're not going to be able to fly it more than once a year, if that, because they don't have the budget to do it. So what you've got is a beast of a rocket, that would give you all of this capability, which you can't build because you don't have the money to build it in the first place, and you can't operate it if you had it."

NASA's original flight director calls agency's direction a "tragedy", Ars Technica

"But Kraft's harshest words are directed right where they should be: at the top. "Bolden," said Kraft of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, "doesn't know what it takes to do a major project. He doesn't have experience with that. He's never known what it takes to do a massive program. He keeps talking about going to Mars in the 2030s, but that's pure, unadulterated, BS."

Keith's note: Have a look at the Twitter account @ExperienceNASA. It describes itself as "Welcome to your one-stop shop for opportunities to participate in/contribute to NASA goals/missions! Need help? Ask me! Washington, DC nasa.gov". This site is openly operated by NASA civil servant Erika Vick from her desk during the work day as part of her job as executive secretary of the NASA Advisory Council Education and Public Outreach Subcommittee. NASA has confirmed this to me more than once.

Yet when you ask Erika whether this site expresses her opinions or official NASA opinions, she tweeted "@ExperienceNASA isn't official" and also tweeted "@ExperienceNASA points to http://nasa.gov  ...any account can do that...had hopes it would be but alas". Yet Erika's personnal Twitter account says "@ExperienceNASA by day". Erika can't have it both ways. If she is going to sit at her desk and use a Twitter account to overtly do her day job and configure the Twitter page so as to give a clear impression that NASA is behind it then she needs to operate it in a fashion commensurate with official NASA social media accounts. Otherwise she needs to make sure it is clear that this is a personal effort she does during coffee breaks. She can't have it both ways.

Is it good to try and enhance NASA EPO? Yes. Is it bad to mislead people in so doing? Yes. Once again it is clear that NASA has no standard policy for use of social media.

NASA Selects Top 96 Asteroid Initiative Ideas

"NASA has chosen 96 ideas it regards as most promising from more than 400 submitted in response to its June request for information (RFI) about protecting Earth from asteroids and finding an asteroid humans can explore."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale, earlier post

Female Astronauts Said To Face Discrimination Over NASA's Space Radiation Concerns, Huffington Post

"Depending on when you fly a space mission, a female will fly only 45 to 50 percent of the missions that a male can fly," Peggy Whitson, the former chief of NASA's Astronaut Corps, said. "That's a pretty confining limit in terms of opportunity. I know that they are scaling the risk to be the same, but the opportunities end up causing gender discrimination based on just the total number of options available for females to fly. [That's] my perspective."

Habitable Planets Around White Dwarfs: an Alternate Mission for the Kepler Spacecraft

"Our proposed survey requires a total of 200 days of observing time, and will find up to 100 planets in the white dwarf (WD) habitable zone. This survey will maintain Kepler's spirit of searching for habitable Earths, but near new hosts. With few-day observations and minute-cadences per field, it will also open up a completely unexplored discovery space."

Keith's 3 Sep update: Additional Kepler white papers have been posted.

- Kepler: Searching The Habitable Zones of the Brightest Stars
- Kepler: Asteroseismology of Solar-Like Oscillators in a 2-Wheel Mission
- Kepler: Monitoring young associations and open clusters with Kepler in two-wheel mode
- The Kep-Cont Mission: Continuing the observation of high-amplitude variable stars in the Kepler field of view
- The Kepler-SEP Mission: Harvesting the South Ecliptic Pole large-amplitude variables with Kepler

Keith's 4 Sep update: Even more Kepler white papers have been posted.

- NEOKepler: Discovering Near-Earth Objects Using the Kepler Spacecraft
- Searching for Terrestrial Planets Orbiting in the Habitable Zone of Ultra-Cool Stars and Brown Dwarfs
- New Uses for the Kepler Telescope: A Survey of the Ecliptic Plane For Transiting Planets and Star Formation

3-D Printing in and for Space

NASA and 3D printing Sky-rocketing, Economist

"Aerospace was one of the first industries to take up three-dimensional (3D) printing. This is because 3D printers are good at making things which are complex and lightweight. ... So far, 3D-printed aerospace parts tend to be used in non-critical areas, such as brackets or ducts. Now NASA has shown that the technology is capable of a far more demanding role: making rocket engines."

- NASA Tests Limits of 3-D Printing with Powerful Rocket Engine Check, earlier post
- 3D Printer Headed to the International Space Station Passes Crucial Milestone, earlier post
- 3D Printing, NASA Hackspace


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