January 2014 Archives

Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.

Sent by Keith at Arlington.

Day of Remembrance

NASA Observes Day of Remembrance Jan. 31

"NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Friday, Jan. 31. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery Friday morning."

Keith's note: The other day I wrote about the announcement made by Waypoint2space about the astronaut training services they are currently selling - services that claim use of NASA JSC facilities. I did get a few responses from the company (with legal disclosure caveats attached) before they stopped responding. I have asked NASA PAO to respond but they have yet to do so. Below are some observations regarding what is still posted on the Waypoint2space website. I'd be more than happy to post any responses from Waypoint2space - so long as they do not attach legal restrictions on the dissemination of those responses.

Keith's note: According to Waypoint2space.com "To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."

Sounds cool. But a closer look raises some important questions.


Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, Excerpt from "New Moon Rising", by Frank Sietzen, Jr. and Keith Cowing

"At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. Steeling her emotions with grace and clarity, she spoke elegantly and briefly. She thanked all for coming. And then she talked of her husband, and the flight of the lost shuttle. "Our mission in space is not over" she told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space -- that means there will be more."

Israel explores possibility of sending another astronaut to space, Jerusalem Post

"Eleven years after tragic loss of Colonel Ilan Ramon in Columbia shuttle disaster, the Israel Space Agency is in contact with the US, European, Russian and Chinese space agencies about the possibility of their dispatching an Israeli astronaut for a few weeks' stay on the International Space Station."

Scott Parazynski: Still on Cloud 10 (on the summit of Mt. Everest)

"I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens."

NASA Haughton-Mars Project Space Shuttle Columbia Inukshuk Memorials

"To honor the memory of the seven astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia's last flight the NASA Haughton-Mars Project has established seven astronaut memorial sites on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic, during the summer field seasons of 2003 and 2004. Each site was chosen for its special significance in the NASA HMP's analog exploration program near Haughton Crater, and is marked by an Inukshuk, a traditional Inuit "Stone Person". The Inuit erect Inukshuks to mark land and to guide and comfort travelers on perilous journeys across the Arctic."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"I asked Joe Amaraulik if anyone had ever figured out how long these structures would last. He said he wasn't sure if they had been dated but that there were some that had been in place for many centuries. As for how long this one, which we had just built, would last, Joe (a man of few, but well-chosen words) said "forever". In other words - the next ice age."

Challenger Center Commemorates Anniversary of Shuttle Tragedy

"Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) and its network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers around the globe will commemorate the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy as the organization continues its work to inspire, engage, and educate students around the world. The nonprofit organization was formed as a living tribute to the seven crew members lost on January 28, 1986."

Reinventons le programme Ariane pour rivaliser avec les Americains, LeMonde (English translation)

[translation] " ... its technical definition and industrial organization has, since the beginning, been designed with the goal of minimizing development and operations costs: instead of being a cutting edge technology launcher, the Falcon 9 uses proven technology engines that were easy to develop and inexpensive to industrialize/mass produce, and there are very few subcontractors involved in launcher construction, which reduces production costs." ...

"... It is clear that today, the USA are challenging us to compete with them by showing us the way with a system that puts into practice all those recommendations. And while, for many years, we feared competition from emerging economies with their cheap labor, competition is instead coming from the USA and their ability to innovate and to challenge themselves.

Europe's space launch supremacy was hardwon/very expensive. Ariane 5 is the best launcher in the world, due to its reliability, conquering launch after launch since 2003, and it will remain the best since Europe has decided to support its operation and its adaptations to the evolving market. As such, we must react to SpaceX's challenge and move forth with the development of Ariane 6. The goal isn't to make yet another Ariane launcher, but rather to reinvent Ariane development by taking the same turn that IT did in the 70s and SpaceX is taking now. This is the lesson we learn from the Californian garages."

Keith's update: This is really kinda funny - its like a cheese company noticing that everyone is now buying salads and one day they say "let's convert from cheese to salads" - like its THAT easy - and yet they are aways going to be cheese people at heart. Why does this article (i.e. the English translation thereof) make me think of "Talladega Nights"? And why did Elon Musk fly a wheel of French Le Brouere cheese on the first Dragon flight to ISS? Just sayin'.

NASA GRC Educational and Outreach Support for NASA's Orion Program

"NASA/GRC intends to contract to Alphaport, Inc. This is a follow-on effort to activities originally performed by Alphaport under contract NNC13QB53P in which Alphaport developed a visually library of Orion illustrations, graphics facts sheets, and other media products. Currently, Alphaport is the only contractor who has develop the initial media material and has the needed understanding of the media activities to complete the SOW requirements in the limited time available to support Orion Exploration Flight Test 1."

Keith's update: Huh? Just what have HEOMD and NASA PAO been doing the past several years? Why does GRC need to develop "a visually library of Orion illustrations, graphics facts sheets, and other media products" in addition to what HEOMD and PAO have already developed? Why does NASA constantly need to have multiple teams doing the same thing? And how can GRC possibly state that Alphaport is "the only contractor" with this capability? And yet everyone in the EPO and PAO world is constantly whining about not having enough money. Gee, I wonder why.

- NASA's Tangled Human Spaceflight Web Presence, earlier post

2014 BA3 Goldstone Radar Observations Planning

"2014 BA3 was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Survey (Arizona) on January 21, 2014. It has an absolute magnitude of 28.3 suggesting a diameter within a factor of two of only 7 meters, but nothing else is known about its physical properties. This object is one of the best candidates ever discovered for NASA's new Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission, so we will try to detect echoes at Goldstone to improve the asteroid's orbit and to characterize its physical properties. ... 2014 BA3 will approach within 0.0151 AU on January 26. This object is at about 20th magnitude so it is a difficult target for observers using optical telescopes. "

- Asteroid 2014 BA3, JPL Small Body Database Simulator
- NASA Asteroid Initiative

Keith's note: NASA has spent $2 billion on Curiosity. But NASA allows researchers to post the research results - results paid for by taxpayers - behind a paywall at Science. You have to pay twice if you want to see what has been discovered. Too bad NASA is not interested in following OSTP guidelines on Open Data, Transparency, etc.

Keith's update: Note: the papers from the 24 January issue of Science are now also online here at JPL (some are listed as being from 9 Dec 2013) with the warning "This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only.". With two exceptions, if you go to Science magazine (see links below) which is what all the public statements would prompt you to do, Science still requires payment in order to read the articles.

This posting of the papers at NASA.gov is a good step forward, but NASA really doesn't tell you that the papers are even online at NASA.gov. Nothing in the website menu leads you to think they are online and nothing is included in press releases. There is another list of other papers but all of them require steep fees in order to read in full.

If only NASA made ALL of the research it conducts with taxpayer funds openly available, and then prominently featured these papers so as to overtly tell people that these papers are online, then the agency would see the greatest possible use of these discoveries.

Another Lunar Orbiter Earthrise Retrieved and Enhanced, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"The other day, as we were going through tapes from Lunar Orbiter IV we came across a picture of the Earth and the Moon - one that was not instantly familiar to us. This image is not included in the LPI Lunar Orbiter IV image gallery but is listed in another, more obscure document at LPI. So we downloaded the data and set to work on restoring and enhancing the image."

Keith's note: Space Artist Don Davis Has Re-imagined our newly emhanced Lunar Orbiter IV Earthrise.

Adam Mann (@adamspacemann) at @wiredspacephoto and @wiredscience was nice enough to tweet a link to our Lunar Orbiter IV earthrise image to over a million followers as the WIred's Space Photo of the day - thanks, Adam!

Critics doubt value of International Space Station science, Orlando Sentinel

"The old adage is that if you build it, they will come," said Keith Cowing, a former NASA space station payload manager who runs the popular website NASA Watch. "Well, it's there, but NASA has a lot of catching up to do in terms of fully utilizing the capability of the space station."

"... Another way NASA has tried to better use the station was hiring a nonprofit group in 2011 to manage the part of the station designated as a U.S. national laboratory and to entice non-NASA researchers to do their work there. But the Florida-based group -- the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS -- had early management problems and was able to get its first sponsored payload onboard the station just this month."

- CASIS Defines Bedtime Stories on ISS as "Major Payload", earlier post
- CASIS Is Clueless, earlier post

NASA Has Another TDRS

NASA Launches TDRS-L a Third Generation Communications Satellite (with video)

"NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L), the 12th spacecraft in the agency's TDRS Project, is safely in orbit after launching at 9:33 p.m. EST Thursday aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."

- Boeing TDRS-L Relay Satellite Sends 1st Signals from Space
- ULA Successfully Launches Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

SNC Announces First Orbital Flight of Dream Chaser

"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces that it has confirmed that the first orbital flight of its Dream Chaser(R) Space System will occur on November 1, 2016. Dream Chaser will be brought to orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Alabama and will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida."

Keith's note: So ... who is paying for this launch? There's no mention of that in the press release. No mention anywhere else either. These things are not cheap ....

Garver Drove Shift In Space Policy, Aviation Week Person of the Year (#2)

"Lori Garver does not inspire ambivalence. Few who worked with her when she was deputy NASA administrator came away from the experience with a neutral opinion. To some, she is a ruthless powerhouse whose abrasive ego has run roughshod over opponents, leaving in her wake lost careers and hurt feelings as she trashed policy adversaries among the U.S. space agency's civil servants and congressional backers. To others, she labored tirelessly to put the U.S. space program on a more realistic footing, redirecting it from its role as an overtasked, underfunded government pork barrel. In this view, Garver has been key in moving NASA toward a true public-private partnership where the government will only take on pre-commercial projects before they generate any profit."

Virgin Galactic Conducts Successful Test Firings of LauncherOne Liquid Rocket Engine

"As part of a rapid development program, Virgin Galactic has now hot-fired both a 3,500 lbf thrust rocket engine and a 47,500 lbf thrust rocket engine, called the "NewtonOne" and "NewtonTwo" respectively. Further, the NewtonOne engine has successfully completed a full-mission duty cycle on the test stand, firing for the five-minute duration expected of the upper stage engine on a typical flight to orbit."

Clementine +20

Clementine - The Mission, Twenty Years Later, Paul Spudis

"In the twenty years following the end of the Apollo program, the lunar science community tried to interest NASA in sending a robotic orbiter to the Moon to map its shape, composition and other physical properties. Such a mission would not only document the processes and history of the Moon, but would also serve as an operational template for the exploration of other airless planetary objects through the collection of global remote sensing data and use of surface samples to provide ground truth."

Dueling NASA Flagships?

The Final Frontier's Financial Limits, NY Times

"The Obama administration, which proposed deep cuts in the planetary sciences budget the past two years, could also ask for more money for 2015. "The administration remains committed to operating the pathbreaking Cassini and Curiosity missions as long as they keep passing these rigorous reviews," said Phillip Larson, a White House space policy adviser. "If we keep one going, that doesn't mean we have to cancel the other." The administration's budget request is likely to be disclosed in late February or early March."

- Bolden: No More Flagship Missions (Update: Bolden Flip Flops), earlier post

Space Launch System Program (SLSP) Lgistics Support Analysis (LSA) Report 26 April 2013, NASA

Page 14 of 149: "Given the SLS Block 1 launch processing manifest (4-5 years with little to no activities), there is a potential of not having sufficiently trained personnel. Issue - Yellow (May require personnel with advanced skills not readily available)"

Space Launch System Program (SLSP) Integrated Logistics Support plan (ILSP), Version 1, 15 April 2013 , NASA

Page 8 of 111: "The developmental approach for the SLSP, consisting of 2 exploratory missions years apart, followed years later by the operations phase, presents unique logistics challenges."

- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (Part 1 of 3), 14 Jan 2004
- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (part 2 of 3), 15 Jan 2004
- Beyond the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (Part 3 of 3), 16 Jan 2004

"The advantages were obvious. The new capsules would not require a huge new rocket like Apollo's Saturn V -- even though the Apollo capsules did. Instead, Bush's planners proposed using existing U.S. commercial Delta IV and Atlas V rocket boosters -- keeping the cost relatively low. Another way to enforce cost constraints was to hold open the possibility of using foreign boosters -- something that horrified U.S. launch firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Missions to ISS would be followed by flights to high Earth orbit -- above the Van Allen radiation belts -- then to the moon for 14 days. The lunar experience would then be expanded, possibly with a lunar base until technologies needed to mount more ambitious missions were developed. NASA's new moon ships also would carry a series of modules, propulsion stages and small cargo units that could be mixed and matched depending on the flight planned. One of the biggest drawbacks of the space shuttles has been their lack of flexibility. Designed for hauling large payloads and modules into space in their cavernous bays, they could not be reconfigured to bring up just a small amount of equipment. NASA has a space trucking fleet which new only one type of cargo: big."

Keith's note: In January 2004 Frank Sietzen and I broke the story about what would eventually become known as "The Vision for Exploration" in a series of articles in the Washington Times. We went on to write a non-bestseller "New Moon Rising" on the genesis of the VSE. It was an exciting time - one born out of the tragedy of Columbia's loss. Everyone seemed to be moving in the same direction. Looking back, I just wonder what would have happened if the original plan had been implemented as it had originally emerged.

Had it done so, by now we'd have seen the emergence of a mix of government and commercial assets, perhaps fuel depots and other in-space infrastructure all designed to provide true flexibility as to when and how to go to places we wanted to go. The hardware to send humans back to the lunar surface would already be under construction.

Instead we got "Apollo on Steroids" followed by SLS, the big rocket to nowhere. 10 years later and we are still a decade or so away from even thinking about getting close to putting humans near a place such as the Moon. This is not progress. This is an embarrassment.

- A Decade of the Vision for Space Exploration: An Alternative Retrospective, Paul Spudis, earlier post
- Going Beyond The Status Quo In Space, Dennis Wingo, Paul Spudis, Gordon Woodcock, earlier post

Rosetta Is Awake

ESA's Rosetta Wakes Up From Hibernation

"It was a fairy-tale ending to a tense chapter in the story of the Rosetta space mission this evening as ESA heard from its distant spacecraft for the first time in 31 months. Rosetta is chasing down Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will become the first space mission to rendezvous with a comet, the first to attempt a landing on a comet's surface, and the first to follow a comet as it swings around the Sun."

U.S. and Chinese Academies of Sciences Create Forum for Space Science Interchanges, SpacePolicyOnline

"The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will hold two meetings in 2014 as part of the first CAS-NAS Forum for New Leaders in Space Science. The first will be in Beijing from May 8-9 and the second from November 3-4 in the Los Angeles area. The forum "is designed to provide opportunities for a highly select group of young space scientists from China and the United States to discuss their research activities in an intimate and collegial environment," according to an announcement on the Space Studies Board (SSB) website."

Keith's note: There is no prohibition on the official webpage. on U.S participants in terms of their employment with or receipt of funding from NASA.

NASA Conducts Orion Parachute Test

"Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA's Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight. The test was the first to give engineers in-air data on the performance of the system that jettisons Orion's forward bay cover. The cover is a shell that fits over Orion's crew module to protect the spacecraft during launch, orbital flight and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. When Orion returns from space, the cover must come off before the spacecraft's parachutes can deploy. It must be jettisoned high above the ground in order for the parachutes to unfurl."

SpaceX Tests Dragon Parachute System

"Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gathered in Morro Bay, Calif., in late December to demonstrate how the company's Dragon spacecraft's parachute system would function in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent. The test was part of an optional milestone under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative and approved by the agency in August."

Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"The book is not closed on 2014. Now that NASA has its money, it has to spend it. It does this through its operating plan, where the agency can make minor adjustments to project funding based on programmatic needs. Last year NASA abused this process and tried to shift all additional money allocated for Planetary Science by Congress to unrelated projects. I feel that this is unlikely to happen again, but it's something that we will be watching closely. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you have to ensure that NASA spends planetary money on planetary projects."

The big problem with the "big win" for NASA's exploration program budget, Houston Chronicle

"Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA, and bills himself as "one of the leading architects of a plan to build a new monster rocket and crew capsule for deep space exploration," said of the plan, "This is a big win." NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, also praised the budget deal. This is the same Nelson who along with other congressional leaders and the White House agreed on a budget plan to fund and build the SLS and Orion during the summer of 2010 (see authorizing legislation). In that bill Congress called, for example, in fiscal year 2013 to fund the SLS rocket at a level of $2.64 billion. It received significantly less than that in fiscal year 2013. And one would presume funding along those lines, or more, would be needed as the SLS rocket program was building up toward a 2017 test launch. So what did the government give NASA in the new budget for fiscal year 2014? $1.6 billion."

Keith's note: Let's see what the FY 2015 Budget looks like. Those projects that benefited from the FY 2014 budget may see different news in a few weeks. And some projects that did not benefit in FY 2014 may well do even worse in FY 2015. Alas, everyone seems to be parroting the buzz phrase "flat is the new up". When your budget is supposed to be ramping up, "flat" is a budget cut folks.

Once the dust settles is will become clear that there is still not enough money for everything. Congress is going to fund SLS/Orion no matter what the White House or NASA wants them to do and they will raid commercial crew and technology budgets to do so. And when Congress realizes that even more money for SLS is needed it will go back and take more. The asteroid mission is one step away from dead as far as Congress is concerned. Commercial crew is substantially underfunded and will not be able to continue at NASA's advertised pace of flying its first crew in 2017. And despite all of this, the space science crowd thinks that they are somehow immune from these pressures and should be given more money. They are in for a shock.

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report for 2013

"In an effort to devise a program that fits within available funding, the CCP is requesting proposals to develop a new system to transport humans into space by means of a fixed-price contract and source selection crite- ria that cause some within the space flight community to worry that price has become more important than safety. Competition between two or more CCP contractors potentially fosters improved attention to safety. However, the ability to sustain a competitive environment may fall victim to further funding shortfalls."

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting (Revised notice)

"SUMMARY: This is an amended version of NASA's earlier Federal Register Notice (13-153) previously published on December 23, 2013 (78 FR 77501). A USA toll free conference call number has been added to SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION."

NASA Is Not Allowing Remote Access to Some Advisory Meetings

"Notice anything missing? NASA is not offering Webex or dial in access to these meetings - something that the NAC has been offering for the past several years for its activities (these three are non-NAC committees). Several of these committees have had remote access before. By denying such access to these meetings, NASA is deliberately inhibiting the the public's ability to observe these meetings thus decreasing openness and transparency - something that all government agencies have been directed to do."

Morpheus Flies Free Again

Morpheus Completes Third Free Flight Test at Kennedy Space Center (Video)

NASA to GAO on protest over $2B SAIC contract: You got it wrong, Washington Business Journal

"NASA has responded to the Government Accountability Office's decision to sustain a protest over a nearly $2 billion contract award to Science Applications International Corp. And it's saying the GAO got it wrong. That response came by way of a motion to reconsider, which was filed with the GAO Jan. 6, 10 days after the watchdog agency decided to sustain a protest over NASA's $1.76 billion contract for medical, biomedical and health services supporting NASA human spaceflight programs."

Did NASA screw up a $2B contract award to SAIC?, Washington Business Journal

"Science Applications International Corp. is not the same company it was last summer -- something it tried to warn NASA about while bidding for a nearly $2 billion deal. So whose fault is it that the agency opted to ignore the obvious?"

Decision Matter of: Wyle Laboratories, Inc., GAO

"Protest is sustained where the awardee's proposal, and the agency's evaluation thereof, failed to reasonably reflect the manner in which the contract will be performed, the level of costs likely associated with performance, and the corporate entity that will perform the contract."

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Passage of Bill Providing Funding for Commercial Programs and Renewal of Government Risk-Sharing

"The bill funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at $696 million, a significant increase from FY13. "With this bill's strong Commercial Crew funding, Congress has acknowledged the importance of quickly developing a U.S. system to carry American astronauts and reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure," said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. "We applaud Congress for recognizing the importance of a robust U.S. space program and, in particular, an organic capability to provide human access to Low-Earth Orbit."

Keith's note: "strong Commercial Crew funding"? What CSF seems to not comprehend is the fact that the $696M in this budget is $125 million less than the $821M White House asked for in FY 2014. When you take into consideration that of this $696M, $171M is not being given to NASA anytime soon (unless they produce the ISS report that Congress requires), then NASA will only have $525M in FY 2014. $525M is $296M less than the White House asked for i.e. a one-third cut in what was requested.

In FY 2014 budget hearings last year Charlie Bolden was clear that if he did not get the $821M that the White House asked for in FY 2014 then having a commercial crew capability in 2017 was not going to happen. In addition, the NASA OIG noted in a report that previous cuts in commercial crew budgets have already forced a slip from 2015 to 2017. One would assume that future budget shortfalls would have a similar consequence.

No matter how you slice this, NASA is not getting the $821M that was the basis for the line in the sand drawn by Charlie Bolden last year with regard to the FY 2014 budget. Neither $696M or $525M is even close. If Bolden was accurate when he made these public statements, then as soon as the President signs this budget bill into law, NASA needs to be sending notification to Congress, per Bolden's statement, that 2017 is off the table. If not, then you have to question whether NASA can back up any of its statements with regard to what it needs for large projects - SLS, JWST, etc.

NASA Chief:Commercial Crew Safe from Sequester, for Now, Space News

"If we aren't able to get up to the $800 million level [FY 2014], then I will have to come back and officially notify the Congress that we cannot make 2017 for availability of commercial crew," Bolden said at that hearing."

NASA IG Warns on Commercial Crew as NASA Celebrates End of COTS, SpacePolicyOnline

"The OIG did not make any recommendations on the issue of unstable funding, but noted that for FY2011-2013, NASA received only 38 percent of its requested funding for the program, resulting in a delay from FY2015 to FY2017 of the first expected commercial crew flight. "The combination of a future flat-funded profile and lower-than-expected levels of funding over the past 3 years may delay the first crewed flight beyond 2017 and closer to 2020, the current expected end of the operational life of the ISS." The report includes the following table showing NASA's successive 5-year budget projections for the commercial crew program beginning in FY2009."

- Charlie Bolden Has His Head In The Sand Again, earlier post
- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP, earlier post
- Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP Released, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report on Commercial Crew Program, earlier post

Federal travel and conferences: Spending down, as lawmakers consider more restrictions, Washington Post

"But the $1.1 trillion funding bill congressional negotiators unveiled Monday does attempt to put some restrictions into law, at least for the rest of the fiscal year. Agencies would have to submit reports to their inspector general on any conference that costs more than $100,000 and include the number of participants, the purpose and a detailed breakdown of food and other costs. Inspectors general also would need to be informed of conferences that cost more than $20,000. Agencies could not send more than 50 employees to an international conference, unless it involves law enforcement personnel."

Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

NASA's Strategic Sourcing Program: NASA's Strategic Sourcing Efforts Are Disjointed and Incomplete, OIG

" While NASA established a Strategic Sourcing Program as required by a 2005 Office of Management and Budget memorandum, it has never conducted a comprehensive, Agency-wide spend analysis to identify commodities that could benefit from a more strategic procurement approach. Further, although NASA performed limited spend analyses on individual commodities, it has not established requirements regarding how such analyses should be developed, analyzed, and used. While NASA officials said they have realized savings under specific strategic sourcing initiatives, NASA does not track its Agency-wide strategic sourcing efforts and therefore was unable to determine the extent of any efficiencies or cost savings."

NASA Receives Bi-Partisan Support for Budget, Exploration Plan
"This appropriations bill reaffirms support for the bi-partisan space exploration plan agreed to by the President and Congress. The bill keeps NASA's deep space exploration program (the Space Launch System and Orion) on track and provides funding to formulate the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission, an important stepping stone on the path to Mars.  The bill also provides funding for our plan to return American space launches to the U.S., ground-breaking scientific discoveries, game-changing technologies and cutting-edge research into cleaner and quieter airplanes.  The $17.6 billion provided in this measure will continue to spur American innovation and keep the U.S. the world leader in space exploration."

Keith's note: Contrary to Charlie Bolden's happy thoughts (he and Rich DalBello have been talking, it would seem), commercial space is strongly hampered by this bill while SLS and Orion are clearly the agency's most important projects - even if they have no approved destination or funded payloads. Congress really does not like the Asteroid Redirect mission and has tried to kill it more than once. Congress has also has cut the new technologies needed to get humans to Mars and elsewhere, and has left the planetary program on a slow road to decline. But Charlie is happy.

- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP

Keith's note: Um, I wonder why DalBello (OSTP Assistant Director for Aeronautics and Space) would say this budget is "pretty darn good"? Among other things, the Administration's request for commercial crew is gutted ($821M requested, $696M offered). At this pace NASA most certainly won't make the 2017 date.

Moreover, NASA can't touch $171M of that $696M until it does a study that certifies that the commercial crew program "has undergone an independent benefit-cost analysis that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station." Guess what: the expected life of the ISS was just extended to 2024 and may take years for all the partners to agree to this. How can NASA possibly make this certification to Congress until everyone is on board with this new extension (or has decided not to continue) - something that won't happen until several years from now? As such, that $171M is going to be in limbo for years - so NASA only has $525M to work with on commercial crew for FY14.

Also, this Omnibus bill only funds space technology at $576M. The White House asked for $742M. The bill has made certain that SLS/Orion funding cannot be touched for anything other than SLS/Orion. So ... where is all the new technology everyone is clamoring for going to come from? And where are the payloads that will fly on Orion and SLS going to come from (the asteroid mission is in limbo too)?

But Rich DalBello thinks it is "pretty darn good".

JPL's RoboSimian

"Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., was the place to be late last month for an unusual two-day competition: the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. But if you went expecting high-octane cars zooming around the track at blazing speed, you might have been disappointed. The 16 robots participating in the challenge moved more like the tortoise than the hare, as they performed such tasks as opening doors or climbing a ladder; tasks aimed to speed the development of robots that could one day perform a number of critical, real-world, emergency-response tasks at natural and human-made disaster sites."

Keith's note: This article about Robosimian appears on JPL's home page. Other than an exclusive opportunity given to IEEE Spectrum magazine several months ago, NASA JSC has not released anything officially to document how Valkyrie robot tied for last place (Robosimian placed 5th) in DARPA's competition. No mention as been made by NASA JSC as to whether work will continue on this robot, how much more will be spent, if there will be addtional attempts to compete, etc. Nor has anyone explained by the Valkyrie team needed a fancy racing car trailer complete with a Cadillac-themed golf cart stuffed inside.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- NASA JSC's Expensive Custom Trailer For Val the Robot, earlier post

Robert L. Sackheim

"Robert L. Sackheim May 16, 1937 - December 22, 2013. Robert L. Sackheim lost his battle with respiratory illness, his family by his bedside. He's survived by wife Babette, daughter Karen (Gary), son Andrew (Lindsey), grandchildren Adam, Madison, Benett. Bob worked at TRW and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center(Assistant Center Director/Chief Engineer for Space Propulsion)."

Appropriators Release FY2014 Omnibus Bill, NASA Does Well, Space Policy Online

"It may not be the full enchilada, but NASA did pretty well all things considered in the proposed FY2014 omnibus appropriations bill released tonight (January 13). Assuming approval by the House, Senate and President, NASA will get $17.6 billion for FY2014, not that much less than its $17.7 billion request.  Under some scenarios, NASA could have gotten as little as $16.1 billion, so this is a tremendous improvement."

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Berthed to the International Space Station

"Below is an overview of the major payloads now on board the ISS sponsored by CASIS: ... Story Time From Space - Patricia Tribe, T2 Sciences & Math Education Consultants and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, Author - This project aims to bring space station science to communities through the simple beauty of reading a book to a child. Crewmembers on the International Space Station host Story Time From Space by producing videotaped readings from a children's book, which are later broadcast on Earth. The astronauts also complete simple demonstrations that accompany the science, technology, engineering and math concepts in the books. The videos are edited and posted to an online library, with related educational materials, for use by educators and parents". 

Keith's note: I am the first one to say that using the ISS for educational purposes is important. While some of the other things listed are interesting, lumping this this bedtime story thing into the "major payload" category makes me wonder whether CASIS is truly up to the fullest utilization of the ISS for the maximum benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

Max Luke and Jenna Mukuno: Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before, Wall Street Journal

"When you include the energy of the entire Virgin Galactic operation, which includes support aircraft, it is seven times more than the flight from Singapore to London. As such, a single trip on Virgin Galactic will require twice as much energy as the average American consumes each year. (These numbers were confirmed by a representative for Virgin Galactic.)"

Virgin's Spaceship Already Meets Fuel-Economy Goal, , George Whitesides, Wall Street Journal

"The article rightly implies that a return economy trip from London to Singapore, in any modern airliner, will generate a C02 footprint per passenger of at least two tons. The FAA estimates that Virgin Galactic's fully reusable SpaceShipTwo passenger spacecraft will take you to space and back leaving a carbon footprint of just 0.28 tons--in fact, less than the carbon output of an economy return seat from Los Angeles to New York. To be fair to the authors, Virgin Galactic, for safety reasons, launches its spacecraft from a specially designed carrier aircraft. This aircraft is the largest all-carbon-composite aviation vehicle ever built and is the lightest and most fuel-efficient aircraft of its size. Therefore, in a typical space mission fuel usage for the carrier aircraft will only equate to a carbon footprint per astronaut passenger of about 1.5 tons, giving a total for aircraft and spaceship of around 1.8 tons (less than a return economy class ticket from London to Singapore)."

SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic for Third Time, earlier post

Editorial: First Do No Harm, Mark V. Sykes, Planetary Science Institute

"The most immediate threat is the ROSES2014 proposal due date of late February 2015 for the monster "Solar System Workings" (SSW) to which 1/3 of all planetary research and data analysis proposals will be submitted. For proposers to the major programs Cosmochemistry, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Planetary Atmospheres and Mars Fundamental Research, this means a 20-22 month interval from the previous due dates in 2013, guaranteeing funding gaps for scientists, many of whom will be forced to seek other employment."

SpaceX may pick Texas over controversial Merritt Island launch site, Orlando Sentinel

"Though Florida officials admit that the state is an underdog in the fight, they contend that Spaceport Shiloh, named for an abandoned citrus town in the Cape Canaveral area, is worth fighting for -- and not just for SpaceX. "We are going ahead with Shiloh with or without SpaceX," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, a booster group for the aerospace industry. As an alternate, Space Florida has looked at the Washington-based company Blue Origin, which has expressed an interest in launching its vehicles from Florida. "We remain keenly interested in Shiloh, as well as potential commercial launch sites in Florida and other locations," said Robert Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, in a statement."

Why Does Space Florida Need Its Own Spaceport?, earlier post

Kennedy: Launch presages economic benefits for state, Times DIspath

"Virginia's $150 million Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) asset awaits Richmond decision-making on whether it is to be a part of the future of human spaceflight. A leap to include commercial spaceflight passenger service to the commercial cargo launch manifest from the Eastern Shore requires public-private partnership investment and long-term planning."

Proposed SpaceX site near Brownsville sits on 87 acres near Boca Chica, The Monitor

"The proposed site of a facility for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., where the world's first commercial rocket-launching complex would be located, consists of 87 acres in four tracts along state Highway 4 at Boca Chica Boulevard. The California-based space exploration firm has leased slightly more than half the land, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, and additionally owns about a quarter of the tracts on the site, as shown in public deed records providing information about property ownership in the area."

Cygnus Berthed at ISS

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Spacecraft Docks With Space Station

"The spacecraft was then grappled and berthed with the station by the Expedition 38 astronaut crew earlier this morning. After Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital's Antares(TM) rocket on Thursday, January 9 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, it completed a series of thruster firings and other maneuvers bringing the spacecraft in close proximity to the ISS."

Astronaut Leland Melvin to Leave NASA

"I am sorry to inform the NASA family that my good friend and our Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin, has decided to retire next month after more than 24 years of NASA service. Since assuming the role of AA in 2010, Leland has streamlined NASA's education organization and portfolio to deliver science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content more effectively to educators and students. Using NASA's unique missions, programs and other agency assets, he has helped cultivate the next generation of explorers - one that is truly inclusive and properly reflects the diverse make up and talent of this nation's youth and our agency's future. - Charlie B"

Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight

"Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay."

Electronic Warfare Technology, ONR

"The goal of Electronic Warfare (EW) is to control the Electro-Magnetic Spectrum (EMS) by exploiting, deceiving, or denying enemy use of the spectrum while ensuring its use by friendly forces."

ONR_BAA14-006_Attachment_2.pdf (221.17 Kb) Description: This is a more legible version of Attachment 2 - 2 JAN 2014 (Image of document listing Kirk, Spock, and Scotty and Warp Drive-related tasks)

U.S. Navy document asks: What would Captain Kirk purchase?, Blastr

"As imaginative as the naval exercise is, if it were real, the contracting proposals would raise red flags for any auditor. A captain of a ship funneling grants to his former crew's private businesses? If it weren't for the pneumatic swish, this would sound a lot like a revolving door."

Remarks for NASA Administrator Bolden at International Space Exploration Forum

"Although we understand that our ISS Partners' governments may not yet be ready to make a decision with respect to ISS extension to at least 2024, we hope that each of the ISS Partners will come to a similar decision through its own government process."

NASA, Obama Administration Highlight International Space Station Extension at Global Forum

"The ISS is a unique facility that offers enormous scientific and societal benefits," said Holdren. "The Obama Administration's decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space."

NASA wants to keep the International Space Station going until 2024. Is that a good idea?

"The space station has plenty of supporters -- not least because of the economic angle. In 2011, NASA bought goods and services in 396 of the 435 congressional districts. One example: Florida's space industry took a big hit after the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. So it's no surprise that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is in favor of keeping the space station aloft: "This means more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center as we rebuild our entire space program." But there are other arguments, too. Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), a member of the House appropriations committee in charge of NASA funding, applauded the move on national-interest grounds. ""It's inevitable and I'm delighted that NASA understands the value of ensuring that America continues to hold the high ground."

Remarks by OSTP Director John Holdren at the International Space Exploration Forum

"We may have different flags patched to our space suits, and different cultures, traditions, and political systems. But as the success of the ISS has shown, we can transcend these differences in space."

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!, opinion, Clay Anderson

"It is time for all of us to step up and proclaim that we will "never give up and never surrender" our pre-eminence in space leadership. It is time for us to contact our representatives and voice our opinions that NASA is worth it. Yes, there are naysayers out there; people who believe that NASA is its own intergalactic "collapsing star," where U.S. tax dollars disappear like rays of light into a black hole's event horizon, with little to no visible benefits."

Keith's note: NASA gave the Space Frontier Foundation $100,000 with the specific intention that it be distributed to winners in their "NewSpace Business Plan Competition". SFF was not "giving away $100K to NewSpace startups" This was never their money in the first place. In addition to NASA money, the SFF also administered smaller prizes donated by several aerospace companies. But they seem to want people to think that it was their money that was being given out and do not mention NASA and other sponsors while they brag about the money they "give away".

There were problems with this recent business plan competition and it will be interesting to see how NASA picks the organization to conduct a similar function next time. Given that SFF had no competition when it was chosen by NASA in the past several years, one would hope that NASA puts this out for competition such that organizations with a track record in the business world have a chance to submit proposals to run future competitions offering NASA funds as prizes.

Cygnus Is in Orbit

Cargo Launched to Space Station Aboard Orbital-1 Mission

"The launch aboard Orbital's Antares rocket took place from NASA's Wallop's Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday, at 1:07 p.m. EST."

Orbital Launches Antares Rocket Carrying Cygnus On ISS Cargo Resupply Mission

"Under a $1.9 billion CRS contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments."

Remarks at the International Space Exploration Forum William J. Burns Deputy Secretary of State

"First, we should encourage more countries to participate in the activities of the International Space Station. The Station remains the leading space platform for global research and development. The Station is the foundation for future human exploration to an asteroid, the Moon, and ultimately Mars. And it is a lasting testament to how much more we can accomplish together than we can on our own. Second, we should explore ways to encourage entrepreneurial ventures and support the kind of robust and competitive commercial space sector that is vital to the next era of space exploration. Already, two U.S. companies - Space X and Orbital Sciences - have become the first private sector entities to send missions to the International Space Station, allowing NASA to focus on cutting edge missions beyond low earth orbit."

NASA's Decision Process for Conducting Space Launch System Core Stage Testing at Stennis, NASA OIG

"Similar to the OIG's conclusions 5 years ago, the OIG found that NASA failed to follow its internal policies or its agreement with the DOD when it decided to spend approximately $352 million to refurbish and test the SLS core stage on the B-2 test stand at Stennis. Moreover, the OIG found that NASA did not adequately support its decision given that refurbishing the B-2 stand will be more costly and take longer than two other possible options: an Air Force test stand at Edwards Air Force Base in California and a test stand at the Marshall Space Flight Center. In addition, although SLS Program managers spent considerable time and money studying the B-2 option, they gave the joint NASA-DOD testing board minimal time to assess the cost, schedule, and risks of the other test stand options."

NASA OIG: Final Memorandum on the Review of NASA's Plan to Build the A-3 Facility for Rocket Propulsion Testing (2008)

"We found that NASA's Upper Stage Engine (USE) Element Manager, located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, reviewed the J-2X rocket propulsion testing options and selected the A-3 test stand to be built at Stennis without the required formal reviews or recommendations of the NRPTA, or NASA's RPTMB."

NASA's Defunct Project Survives on Mississippi Pork, Bloomberg

"NASA will complete a $350 million tower to test rocket engines for a program that was canceled in 2010. The A-3 test stand will be finished early this year at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Its funding survived thanks to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from that state who supported the test stand's completion even though NASA doesn't need it."

The NASA Launchpad To Nowhere, Time

"Congress ordered NASA to complete a $350 million rocket-testing structure that may never be used, Bloomberg News reports. The 300-foot tower at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was designed to test how the Ares I and Ares V engines would work at high altitudes, for rockets under development that would send people into space and up to the moon. But the project was scrapped after the Constellation program spearheaded by former President George W. Bush was cancelled in 2010."

Watchdogs hit NASA for spending $352 million in Mississippi on test stand already in Huntsville, Huntsville Times

"Federal watchdogs today criticized NASA for spending $352 million to refurbish a Mississippi test stand for critical upcoming tests on the Space Launch System when cheaper test stands were available faster in Huntsville and California. NASA responded by admitting it didn't follow its own rules and agreements, but "is confident it made the right decision."

Orb-1 Launch Rescheduled

Orbital to Proceed With Antares Launch Tomorrow

"Following a comprehensive review of data related to the radiation environment in space, further reviews and modeling of the rocket's avionics systems, and the forecast for favorable terrestrial weather conditions at the Wallops Island launch facility, the Antares launch team has decided to proceed forward with a launch attempt of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, January 9."

Orb-1 Launch for Jan 8 Has Been Scrubbed

"Early this morning, Orbital Sciences Corp. decided to scrub today's launch attempt of the Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the company's first resupply mission to the International Space Station due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on Antares."

James Webb State Telescope: Meeting Commitments but Technical, Cost, & Schedule Challenges Could Affect Continued Progress, GAO

"Overall the project is maintaining a significant amount of cost reserves; however, low levels of near-term cost reserves could limit its ability to continue to meet future cost and schedule commitments. Development challenges have required the project to allocate a significant portion of cost reserves in fiscal year 2014. Adequate cost reserves for the prime contractor are also a concern in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 given the rate at which these cost reserves are being used. Limited reserves could require work to be extended or work to address project risks to be deferred--a contributing factor to the project's prior performance issues. Potential sequestration and funding challenges on other major NASA projects could limit the project's ability to address near-term challenges."

NASA gets White House backing to extend space station by 4 years

"The world's most expensive science project -- the $100 billion-plus International Space Station -- is poised to get four more years in orbit. According to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the station's operations by four years until 2024. The decision follows years of pressure by top NASA officials, who consider the station a critical steppingstone to future exploration. But a four-year extension likely would cost NASA about $3 billion a year from 2021 to 2024. That's a major chunk of the agency's annual budget, which is now about $17 billion, and a longer mission could force NASA to make tough financial decisions in the future."

NASA Will Face Solomon's Choice in 2014, earlier post

"If a budget in the range of $16.6 billion is what happens NASA will have a major problem maintaining both the International Space Station (ISS) and the SLS/Orion Exploration program. Given that the funds are simply not going to be available to keep the ISS alive and functioning and to fully construct and operate the SLS/Orion system, something has to give. Are we going to have to kill one to insure the other's survival? That is the choice that that is presenting itself - a clear recipe for disaster as far as NASA's human space flight plans are concerned."

Obama Administration Extends International Space Station until at Least 2024

"First, it will allow NASA to complete necessary research activities aboard the ISS in support of planned long-duration human missions beyond low-Earth orbit--including our planned human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. NASA has determined that research on ISS is necessary to mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions. A related critical function of ISS is testing the technologies and spacecraft systems necessary for humans to safely and productively operate in deep space. Extending ISS until 2024 will give us the necessary time to bring these systems to maturity."

SNC and ESA Sign MOU on Dream Chaser

"ESA and American company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), have signed an understanding to identify areas of collaboration with European industry for developing hardware and mission concepts for the Dream Chaser orbital transportation system"

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces International Expansion of the Dream Chaser Space System

"As the only lifting-body, low-g reentry spacecraft with the capability to land on commercial runways, anywhere in the world, Dream Chaser is uniquely adaptable to meet a variety of mission requirements, making it the only multi-mission space utility vehicle in the world."

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."

Webcast Events Today

- NASA and Smithsonian to Host 10 Year Anniversary Events for Mars Rovers

8:30 AM - 12:00: NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the event. The discussion will also be Webcast live at: www.livestream.com/mars. Reporters and the public can ask questions from NASA centers and via Twitter using the hashtag #10YrsOnMars.

- American Astronomical Society NASA Town Hall

12:45pm-1:45pm, AAS meeting, Potomac Ballroom A http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hubble-stream and http://hubblesite.org/explore_astronomy/deep_astronomy/

Keith's note: Have a look at the Federal Register notices for these upcoming advisory committee meetings at NASA in January:

- NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee Meeting (Today)
- NASA Applied Sciences Advisory Committee Meeting
- NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting

Notice anything missing? NASA is not offering Webex or dial in access to these meetings - something that the NAC has been offering for the past several years for its activities (these three are non-NAC committees). Several of these committees have had remote access before. By denying such access to these meetings, NASA is deliberately inhibiting the the public's ability to observe these meetings thus decreasing openness and transparency - something that all government agencies have been directed to do.

As noted in "Unexplained NASA Advisory Council Changes (Update)" posted last month, NASA said "Under the 2013 NAC Charter, the number of NAC meetings per year is approximately three.  Under the 2011 NAC Charter, it was approximately four.  The decision to reduce the number of NAC meetings per year was driven by budget considerations."

Is NASA really trying to save money by not offering Webex or dial-in access to some of its advisory meetings? If so, there are ways to do simple audio streams and posting of presentations that should cost virtually nothing - in the real world, that is. Indeed, if NASA finds physical meetings too expensive, the easiest and most cost effective thing for them to do is use remote access whenever possible!

Indeed, the ASAP and ISS committee meetings are only an hour long. Think of all the money NASA is spending to fly people in for a one hour meeting when they could dial in or participate via WebEx.

Space exploration in 2014: Waiting on the House to act, Daily Kos

"Suppose every time a civilian or pure research plane lifted off there was an obscure law, originally passed with good intentions, that had to be regularly reauthed by Congress or no more flights. And let's just say that Congress became hyper-polarized, a do nothing body, where even the simplest, once uncontroversial act morphed into a potential hot potato in a mid term election year. Air traffic would grind to a halt. Well, that's a fair analogy for a bureaucratic hurdle currently faced by NASA, along with contractors and customers, all waiting on a critical reauthorization before a score of rockets can be duly licensed and cleared for launch in 2014. Follow me below, deep into the cosmic weeds, and we'll review just how easy this should be to fix."

- Extending Commercial Launch Provider Indemnification, earlier post

Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks: 2013 Letter Report (2014), IOM

"Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks: 2013 Letter Report is the first in a series of five reports from the Institute of Medicine that will independently review more than 30 evidence reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has compiled on human health risks for long-duration and exploration space flights. This report builds on the 2008 IOM report Review of NASA's Human Research Program Evidence Books: A Letter Report, which provided an initial and brief review of the evidence reports."

Keith's note: At a time when NASA science budgets are being slashed, I find it to be a little odd that USRA, a non-profit that could simply not exist without a constant influx of NASA funds (and the overhead that they charge on those funds) is able to find the money to host a reception for 5,000 astronomers - and to be telling everyone that they have done so. Receptions like this can easily cost $20 to $30 per person - or more. Perhaps USRA can tell us what they spent on this. My guess is that it would cover a good portion of someone's college education.

I guess this was what it was like when Rome was burning.

The Obama Legacy in Planetary Exploration, opinion, Mark Sykes, Space.com

"Now, the Obama Administration is preparing to go after the seed corn of the U.S. solar-system exploration program: its planetary research and analysis programs. Actions to be implemented over the next couple of months will have their primary impact in 2015, when many planetary scientists (primarily younger members of the community) will be forced to find other employment and careers -- and many will not wait. This loss of critical manpower and capability cannot be restored overnight. It will take a generation. ... This restructuring is occurring at the direction of NASA Planetary Division Director James Green. There is no immediate need for it."

- NASA's Starvation Diet For Planetary Science, earlier post
- SMD Planetary Town Hall: Time For Planetary Scientists To Job Hunt, earlier post
- NASA's FY 2015 Budget Process Is About To Get Nasty
- NASA Town Hall, AAS meeting, Tuesday, 7 January 2013, 12:45pm-1:45pm, Potomac Ballroom A

Antares launch update: No Earlier Than January 8

"Orbital, in consultation with NASA, has decided to reschedule the Antares CRS Orb-1 Space Station Resupply Mission launch for no earlier than Wednesday, January 8, 2014.  The new target date was set due to the extreme cold temperatures that are forecasted for early next week, coupled with likely precipitation events predicted for Sunday night and Monday morning.  While we are preserving the option to launch on January 8, it is more likely that the launch will take place on Thursday, January 9 because of a much improved forecast for later in the week."

Keith's note: I have no idea if this is even remotely accurate in whole or in part (seriously doubt it). But it sure is funny. Anyone who has different math, please feel free to post. According to a post on Reddit:

"The fuel costs are, according to Musk, about $400.000. Let's round that off and say 500.000, so that the empty rocket costs 56 million.

The Falcon 9 carries about 475 tonnes of propellant. If we can convert dollar bills into kerosene and oxygen perfectly, using 1 dollar bills and assuming a mass of one gram, we get a fuel cost of 475 million dollars. So, now a Falcon 9 costs 531 million dollars, and lifts 13150 kg. That's 40380 dollars/kg. The space shuttle cost 1.5 billion dollars per flight including everything, and could get 25 tonnes into LEO, so that's 60.000 dollars/kg.

Holy crap, you're right. (don't take this too serious.)

Edit: If we can convert dollar bills into kerosene and oxygen perfectly. Stop telling me that paper doesn't burn hot enough."

Keith's note: Lori Garver, Scott Pace, Mike Gold, and Joel Achenbach were guests on Diane Rhem Show (radio) today at 11:00 am EST

Lori Garver said that she favored cancellation of SLS and Mars 2020 rover. Scott Pace spoke enthusiastically about SpaceX launching commercial satellites and bringing that service back to America. Mike Gold tried to explain Bob Bigelow's recent statements about private propery ownership of things on the Moon. And Joel Achenbach said he does not think we should become a multiplanet species until we have fixed all of our problems on Earth (in other words, never).

Mars on Earth

Winnipeg deep freeze as cold as uninhabited planet, CBC

"The Manitoba Museum is reporting Winnipeg's temperatures on Tuesday were actually as cold as the surface of Mars. According to the Curiosity Rover, Mars reached a maximum temperature of -29 C on Tuesday, a temperature Winnipeg only reached shortly before 3 p.m. The deep freeze over much of Southern Manitoba prompted extreme wind chill warnings in the area and most of the north. In Winnipeg, the daytime high temperature for Tuesday was only expected to reach -31 C, but the windchill made it feel more like -40 to -50. That means exposed skin can freeze in less than five minutes."



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