February 2014 Archives

Honoring Neil Armstrong

NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming

"Two generations of aerospace engineering excellence will come together March 1 when NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., is redesignated NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.  The agency's center of excellence for atmospheric flight research is being renamed in honor of the late Neil A. Armstrong, a former research test pilot at the center and the first man to step on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969."

Dakota Creek launches R/V Neil Armstrong

"Dakota Creek Industries (DCI) launched the oceanographic research ship R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) at its Anacortes, WA, shipyard on February 22nd, 2014. Construction of the  R/V Neil Armstrong and her sister vessel R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), also well under way at DCI, have progressed according to plan, meeting original schedule and cost baselines."

Cooke: America needs a plan for space exploration, Opinion, Houston Chronicle

"Through logical progression and meaningful missions, I believe Americans will be motivated to support appropriate but reasonable budgets, that are commensurate with the value of the plan and the work needed to accomplish it. We cannot afford to delay or prolong the debate, because timing is critical to catch the unique planetary alignment that makes the first step possible in 2021."

Keith's note: Once again Doug Cooke is incapable and/or unwilling to give budget estimates. But he knows enough, so it would seem, to state that everyone will accept these "reasonable" costs. He never says that NASA's budget will need to be increased substantially in order to do this Mars flyby with SLS/Orion. Does that mean he will take the funds from elsewhere? Flying a mission to Mars in 2021 means that NASA needs to start on this yesterday - and its current and projected budgets will simply not allow SLS/Orion/Mars flyby and ISS to be fully supported simultaneously. Clearly ISS will bear the brunt of the obvious budget reconfiguration. He is saving the sticker shock for later.

Cooke also neglects to mention that he is a Boeing consultant (they are heavily involved in SLS) and that he advises Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars project - where this whole flyby thing began.

Letter from Rep. Wolf and Smith To NASA About Mars Flyby 2021

"Last year the Administration championed an Asteroid Mission as a next step. However, the mission was not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community before it was presented formally to Congress. Upon review, a majority of experts said that such a mission did not demonstrate sufficient technical applicability to an eventual Mars landing."

Keith's note: This is beyond hilarious. It is pathetic. Lamar Smith (upon the advice of Mike Griffin's former staff on both sides of the dais) did not like Constellation's cancellation so they immediately dismiss whatever this White House and NASA puts forward. They claim "a majority of experts" (who are they?) agree with them. So what do they do? They take a multi-millionaire's ever-changing Powerpoint presentation (with no cost estimates) that NASA is expected to pay for with additional money no one has identified, and hold a hearing with NASA specifically banned - and no contrary opinions allowed.

But wait: this Mars flyby concept is also "not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community" (their main complaint about the asteroid mission). But that doesn't stop the contradictory hypocrisy on the part of Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf et al. They just direct NASA to study it. It should be obvious that whatever NASA says will be unacceptable by this committee. But who cares?

Then you see Republican NASA Administrator-in-waiting Scott Pace pontificating about what a space policy should be i.e. a bigger picture with missions selected to implement the grand plan. In fact Pace is saying that he wants to see this specific mission happen and that a space policy should then be crafted after the fact to justify it. He's got his own ideas about space policy backward. Again, who cares?

Isn't that the problem NASA/Congress/White House has had for the past 30+ years? They keep changing their mind about what they want NASA to do - and complain about what it is doing - but then go off and do something new anyway. Then they change the rules to justify what they have already done. And then just as they change the rules (or some big problem erupts) someone changes what NASA should be doing and the idiotic cycle starts all over again. And this process is fueled by partisan hearings that are actually pre-staged puppet shows with everything scripted toward a desired partisan outcome.

You can get neck damage trying to watch things swing back and forth. Imagine trying to distill a cogent, long-term policy from all of this. It is clearly impossible. Yet all of these half-baked, ever-changing ideas absolutely require a long-term bipartisan, multi-administration commitment in order to happen.

Whiplash is no way to explore space. Small wonder other countries are nipping at our heels. We make it so easy for them to do.

- Dennis Tito's Congressional Infomercial - in 5 Tweets, earlier post
- The Band of Brothers Wants a Mars Flyby, earlier post

Hearing: Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?

27 Feb 2014 10:00am live webcast

- Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University Statement
- General Lester Lyles (ret.), Independent Aerospace Consultant and former Chairman of the Committee on "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program" established by the National Academies Statement
- Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Statement
- Dr. Sandra Magnus, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Statement

- Rep. Lamar Smith Statement; Hearing on Mars 2021 Flyby Mission
- Statement from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson - Mars 2021 Flyby Hearing
- Statement by Rep. Steven Palazzo on Mars 2021 Flyby Hearing
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats Emphasize Need for Human Space Exploration Roadmap
- House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Examines Mars Flyby Mission
And oh yes

Statement from Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito on Feb. 27 "Mars Flyby 2021" Hearing

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of its Smartphones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices

"The OIG found that weaknesses in NASA's mobile device management means the Agency is unable to ensure that it is not paying for a significant number of unused devices. Specifically, NASA lacks a complete and accurate inventory of Agency-issued smartphones, tablets, cellphones, and AirCards (used to provide internet access) because the information system NASA uses to order equipment from its main IT contractor is not fully functional or integrated with the database the Agency uses to track IT assets."

- Do You Really Trust NASA Not to Ruin Your Mobile Device?, earlier post
- NASA Mobile Security Requirements: Why Now?, earlier post
- OIG on Information Technology Security Tools, earlier post

NASA Officials to Discuss Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will brief reporters about the agency's fiscal year 2015 budget at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 4, from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson and Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese will join Bolden. The news briefing will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Following the news briefing, journalists in attendance at Goddard will have a media opportunity with the associate administrators of NASA's mission directorates. This will not be carried on NASA TV and is only available to media at Goddard."

Keith's note: In other words unless news media representatives are physically present at one NASA field center (not at NASA HQ) they will not be allowed to talk to AAs about the various Directorate and mission budgets. Apparently NASA GSFC does not have the technical sophistication to set up a few phone lines. Nor will the taxpaying public be able to hear what they have to say. This is an excellent way to make it harder for the media and therefore the public to learn about the budget. Also, you can expect Charlie Bolden to disappear before its time for the media to ask questions. That is what he does every year. But NASA will want everyone to support this budget none the less. So much for openness and transparency.

NASA Provides Updated Commercial Spaceflight Report, SpaceRef Business

"NASA has released its 14th 60 day Commercial Spaceflight Report. The bi-monthly report outlines the progress of NASA's commercial crew and cargo development programs. Highlights include Boeing completing 15 of 20 Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones, SpaceX completing 12 of 17 and Sierra Nevada 8 of 14."

"Of the five milestones left for Boeing, two will be completed in the first quarter of this year; M10: Spacecraft Primary Structures Critical Design Review and M17: Pilot-in-the-Loop Demonstration. Boeing's contract value is $480 million of which $404.5 has been paid with $75.5 remaining."

Dale Gardner

Dale Gardner, Astronaut Who Helped Corral Wayward Satellites, Dies at 65, NY Times

"Dale A. Gardner, an astronaut who helped lead the first salvage operation in space, steering a jet-propelled backpack to corral two wayward satellites and bring them aboard the space shuttle Discovery, all while orbiting 224 miles above Earth, died on Feb. 19 in Colorado Springs. He was 65. His death was confirmed by NASA, which did not provide a cause."

Federal Labor Relations Authority Invites Customer Input on Representation Issue

"The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is inviting customer input on a significant representation issue arising in a case currently pending before the Authority: National Aeronautics & Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Island, Virginia, Case No. WA-RP-13-0052, 67 FLRA 258 (2014) (Member DuBester concurring). The Authority order granting review in pertinent part can be found here. This case raises a legal question of first impression concerning whether S 7111(f)(3) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and S 2422.12(d) of the Authority's Regulations apply to decertification petitions filed by individuals."

- Decisions of the Federal Labor Relations Authority 67 FLRA No. 65
- Notice of Opportunity To Submit Amici Curiae Briefs in a Representation Proceeding Pending Before the Federal Labor Relations Authority, Federal Register

Keith's note: NASA civil servants working at Wallops Flight Facility have been seeking to decertify the existing union there since June 2013. They claim that union representation is no longer necessary at that location. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) has not yet decided if they will conduct a special secret ballot election among those civil servants to decertify the current union at Wallops (American Federation of Government Employees - AFGE).

NASA Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board Report

"While I am concerned about ensuring this particular incident does not happen again, I am especially concerned about cultural factors that may have contributed to the event. In our exuberance to get the job done, we may have allowed ourselves to accept the commonly accepted causes for small anomalies. We have a responsibility not to move on from any abnormal situation until we understand it fully or have suitable mitigations to prevent it happening again. Our work both in-house and with our industry and commercial partners should entail diligence in assessing risk and commitment to ensuring mission safety."

- News Conference Presentation - 2/26/14 (120 Kb PDF)

- Full report (11.2 Mb PDF)

"In summary, the causes for this mishap evolved from (1) inorganic materials causing blockage of the drum holes in the EMU water separator resulting in water spilling into the vent loop; (2) the NASA team's lack of knowledge regarding this particular failure mode; and (3) misdiagnosis of this suit failure when it initially occurred on EVA 22."

NASA Updates Media on Spacewalk Safety Investigation

"NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EST today to discuss the findings of an investigation into the July 2013 spacewalk at the International Space Station when water built up in an astronaut's spacesuit helmet. Soon after the incident, NASA created a Mishap Investigation Board to identify factors that may have contributed to the incident and recommend changes that could be implemented to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. This safety investigation ran concurrently with an engineering investigation into the equipment failure."

Michael Meyer Selected as Interim Director of NASA Astrobiology Institute

"Effective April 7, 2014, Michael Meyer will serve on a one-year detail assignment as the interim director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. NAI is a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams that integrate astrobiology research and training programs in concert with the national and international science communities. It is supported by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington."

NASA Media Telecon to Announce Latest Kepler Discoveries, 26 Feb.

"NASA will host a news teleconference at 1 p.m. EST (18:00 UTC), Wednesday, Feb. 26, to announce new discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope."

Kepler Has Discovered 715 New Extrasolar Planets

"NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system."

One. Amazing. Person.

"Just a Flesh Wound", Miles O'Brien

"I wish I had a better story to tell you about why I am typing this with one hand (and some help from Dragon Dictate). A shark attack would be interesting. An assassination attempt would be intriguing. Skydiving mishaps always make for good copy. An out-of-control quad copter that turns on its master would be entertaining (and would come complete with a grim, potentially viral, video). No, the reason I am now one-handed is a little more prosaic than those scenarios."

Keith's note: I was stunned, then horrified, then ... well, not at all surprised about my friend Miles O'Brien's recent mishap and how he has been dealing with it. I am in complete awe of him right now.

NASA Proposed Rule: Profit and Fee Under Federal Financial Assistance Awards

"NASA is revising the NASA Grant & Cooperative Agreement Handbook to clarify that NASA does not pay profit or fee on Federal Financial Assistance awards, i.e. grants and cooperative agreements, to non-profit organizations. This proposed rule would make changes to NASA regulations to reflect that revision."

"... There appears to have been some confusion with regard to the term `management fee'. Management fees that are allowable, allocable, reasonable and necessary costs in accordance with an entity's established accounting practices and Government cost principles will be paid by NASA. This rule is clarifying that NASA will not pay profit or fee where profit or fee is defined as the amounts above allowable costs. The language in this rule has been revised to clarify this point."

Tom Pierson

Keith's note: SETI Institute Founding CEO Tom Pierson has left our planet. Learn more about his life here. Ad Astra, Tom.

"Under Pierson's guidance, the Institute grew from a tiny, narrowly focused research center with a handful of employees to its current status: an internationally known organization that is home to more than 130 scientists, educators, and support staff.  While founded to conduct SETI searches, the Institute soon broadened its mandate to encompass all aspects of understanding the nature and prevalence of life beyond Earth."

New NASA Policy Directive Signed: Challenges, Prize Competitions and Crowdsourcing Activities

"To encourage the use of challenge activities (challenges), including prize competitions and crowdsourcing activities, to further the Agency's mission at all levels of the NASA organization. The Federal Government has been encouraged to use prizes and challenges as tools to solve problems and drive innovation for specific needs. Challenges use afocused problem-statement approach to obtain solutions and/or stimulate innovation from a broad, sometimes undefined, public rather than a specific named group or individual. Prize competitions and crowdsourcing are two specific techniques for implementing challenges."

Keith's update: Waypoint2space is still selling their "train like an astronaut" courses - even though they admitted to NASAWatch that they are not training people to become astronauts. That does not stop them from prominently asking asking "Have you ever wanted to be an ASTRONAUT" on their main webpage.

This webpage claims "At Waypoint 2 Space, we are proud to be leading the evolution of Commercial Spaceflight Training through our collaboration with NASA centers. Operating from the global hub of space technology - Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - we are helping to shape the future of the Commercial Space Industry."

What "collaboration?" Has any agreement been signed between Waypoint2Space and NASA? NASA says no. Waypoint2space still claims to be "operating" from JSC (technically correct since they have a small office in a tech transfer building onsite) but they make no mention of the fact that their training will actually happen offsite in a rented building. Very misleading. They have removed all of the commercial space company logos that were previously shown on their website. They have also changed their main page so that you cannot easily see other links - but if you go to this page the old menu is still on top.

- Can You Train Like An Astronaut at JSC for $45,000? Not Without NASA's Permission, earlier post
- Waypoint2space: Closer Look at Website Claims About Operations at NASA JSC, earlier post
- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post

Google Lunar XPRIZE Reboots

Rebooting the Google Lunar XPRIZE with an Increased Prize Purse and Finalists for the Milestone Prizes, SpaceRef Business

"Getting a spacecraft to land on the moon is both expensive and difficult. To date only three countries, Russia, the U.S. and most recently, China, have done so, and this through government programs.

It's with this daunting task in mind that teams of students and professionals globally began the challenge in 2007 of trying to send a small spacecraft to the surface of the moon and have it, or a deployed rover, travel a distance of no less than 500 meters and return high definition video and imagery."

... "However, as each team has discovered, winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) is an incredibly difficult task. And it's not just the technical challenges they must surmount, their primary problem is finances, or lack thereof."

Procedures for Disclosure of Records Freedom of Information Act Regulations (NASA, Federal Register

"Sec. 1206.300 How to make a request for Agency records.

(b) NASA does not have a central location for submitting FOIA requests and it does not maintain a central index or database of records in its possession. Instead, Agency records are decentralized and maintained by various Centers and Offices throughout the country.

(c) In accordance with the Agency Records Management procedures NASA has not yet implemented a records management application for automated capture and control of e-records; therefore, official files are primarily paper files."

Who Owns The Moon?

Lunar property rights, Economist

"According to the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, signed by every space-faring country, no nation can claim sovereignty over Earth's lunar satellite. 102 countries have entered into to the 1967 accord; China joined in 1983. But space law scholars debate whether the Treaty actually implicitly prohibits, or allows, private ownership on celestial bodies. Some commercial companies, such as Bigelow Aerospace, are hoping to use the ambiguity of the treaty's language to their advantage. Founded in 1999 and based in Las Vegas, the firm aims to manufacture inflatable space habitats. It already has an agreement with NASA to expand the International Space Station in 2015 using its flexible modules, and also to devise a plan for a privately developed, NASA financed, lunar base architecture."

Keith's update: Looks like the Constellation rehash FISO telecon (see below) has been changed (no explanation given). Instead, this week's presentation is "Making Human Mars Exploration Affordable: Results of a Workshop" Joseph Cassady, Aerojet Rocketdyne & Michael Raftery, Boeing". It will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3pm EST. Dial in: 877-921-5751 Passcode: 623679.

Also, and perhaps I am being a little paranoid, but when I try to reach this link and this link from my office (in the U.S.), I am told that I am "forbidden" to have access. Yet when I use an anonymizer service (in Europe) or my iPhone to gain access, I can get in. Other people across the country report that they have access. How odd.

Keith's update: According to their website (again accessed through another route):

"Denial of Service Policy: The FISO telecon archives are being accessed by an ever-increasing number of users. As a result, we now find it wise to more carefully administer those requests. In particular, we have begun "denial of service" to selected IPs. These IPs are those that:
* attempt repeated attacks on our system, and have been identified as being malicious
* download the same file many, many times
* use bandwidth by downloading the entire 3GB archive
* are mp3 robots that only go after mp3 files (we consider it somewhat suspicious when the mp3 file is the only presentation file accessed)
* download pdfs in lots of very tiny pieces, each with an independent server request (we believe this is from downloads to some mobile devices -- this mucks up our logs)
If you find that your IP has been blocked, please get in touch with us, and we should be able to trace why that happened."

Well, I have certainly never done any of these things and I defy Dan Lester at UT to prove that I have. If NASA is going to overtly sponsor, support, participate in, and promote this activity (i.e. allow civil servants to charge their time and present material directly related to their NASA job) then they cannot be a party to the actions of a partner who blocks taxpayers (the ones who pay for this work) from access to these telecons.

Blood-Moons Fallout NASA Goes Hiding, WND

"On Wednesday, Feb. 12, WND published a story titled "Rare phenomenon to shake Planet Earth." The story focused on a cycle of four upcoming lunar eclipses, also called blood moons because of the color the moon often appears when it becomes darkened. Mark Biltz, an American pastor with El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Wash., used NASA's Eclipse Website to correlate the celestial events with God's holy days mentioned in the Bible, discovering the four blood-moon eclipses in 2014 and 2015 actually coincide with the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. On the same day as WND's report, Feb. 12, NASA took down its site which for years provided detailed information and schedules about upcoming eclipses."

Keith's note: I have a sneaking suspicion that God is not dumb enough to allow a website at NASA to be online in the first place - for years - if it really revealed his secret plans since this sort of astronomy stuff is not exactly a secret (ask Google). If NASA was really trying to make things disappear to avoid heavenly wrath then they'd ask the Internet archive to purge their record of the site. The real reason that it is offline is that the guy who used to update it retired from NASA several years ago and it was out of date. But who wants a simple explanation, eh?

Manned missions from Wallops?, DelmarvaNow

"Substantial development of the launch facilities on Wallops Island would be required to accommodate human space flight, [Mike Gold Bigelow Aerospace] said. But he called manned flights from Wallops "not only the next logical step but...a step we must take if we want to continue to grow our capabilities." The Virginia spaceport does not provide a particularly attractive trajectory for satellite launches, Gold said, adding, "That's why you see a company like SpaceX located in Texas rather than Wallops." "What we are good for is human spaceflight--the Eastern Shore has a great trajectory, great capabilities to support human spaceflight."

Looking For Other Earths

Looking for a Mirror, NY Times

"The challenges to photographing a mirror Earth are daunting, but not insurmountable. A small rocky planet is a dim mote of dust lost in the glare from a thermonuclear fireball we call a star. For every photon of planetary light that goes into making a picture, 10 billion stellar photons must first be filtered out; remarkably, researchers have already devised several ways to do this. All that the planet-hunters really need to find the mirror Earths is a big mirror, high above the Earth's blurring atmosphere -- a space telescope large enough to gather the faint light of Goldilocks worlds around a sizable sample of stars."

Opportunity Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle

"Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January. Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier."

#WhatIsNASAFor and the Defending NASA, earlier post

"@NASA tweeting resulted in 17,597,370 impacts. @NASASocial produced 7,627,023. @NASAWatch produced 5,296,071 and @SpaceRef produced 1,632,662."

Keith's note: I am not certain what David Weaver is crowing about. The agency used its main Twitter accounts @NASA and @NASASocial for the #WhatIsNASAFor effort a few times. That's it. None of the agency's field centers, major mission Twitter accounts, etc. bothered to participate - even though they were made aware that participation was encouraged. As such, it is somewhat embarassing that @NASAWatch and @SpaceRef - run by one person in their basement - were able to generate Twitter impacts on a par with the largest space agency on the planet - the same agency that loves to brag about its unrivaled social media prowess. In this instance NASA decided (by default) to sit the whole effort out because it could not figure out how to use the resources. They could have easily generated hundreds of millions of Twitter impressions. But they didn't. As they say on Twitter #FAIL.

NASA: An lndependent Review of Foreign National Access Management

"Over the last year, security incidents involving foreign nationals at NASA research Centers have drawn the attention of the NASA Administrator and other agency leaders, Congress, and the media. Recognizing the growing threat of cyber-attacks and espionage aimed at government agencies by hostile nation-states and foreign adversaries, NASA asked the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct this review of its foreign national management processes."

Rep. Frank Wolf Statement On Independent Report Critical Of NASA's Security Protocols

"Frankly, I was taken aback at the breadth and depth of security challenges identified across NASA and I am deeply disappointed the agency has restricted access to the report. The report should be made public as soon as possible, with any necessary redactions in the interest of national security, because it confirms not only the serious security challenges that need to be addressed, but a persistent organizational culture that fails to hold center leadership, employees and contractors accountable for security violations. This must change."

Departures

Peter J. Salerno, NASA engineer

Peter J. Salerno, a senior electrical systems engineer for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for 30 years, died Jan. 6 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. He was 53. He had a heart attack and complications from diabetes, his mother-in-law, Dorothy Boerner, said.

Richard Horace (Dick) Battin

Dr. Richard Battin, formerly of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and the MIT Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics, passed away on Saturday, February 8. Dr. Battin played a key role in the development of guidance and navigation theory used in the Apollo Program. His books Astronautical Guidance and An Introduction to the Mathematics and Methods of Astrodynamics have been important references for several generations of engineers in the space program.

Snowstorm Update

Monster Snow Storm As Seen From Space

"The monster winter storm that brought icing to the U.S. southeast moved northward along the Eastern Seaboard and brought snow, sleet and rain from the Mid-Atlantic to New England on February 13. A new image from NOAA's GOES satellite showed clouds associated with the massive winter storm stretch from the U.S. southeast to the northeast."

@NASA_Marshall Marshall will resume operations & reopen Friday, Feb 14. Only Gates 9, 7, 1 will be open for early commute. Watch for ice; travel carefully!

OPM Status

Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are OPEN under 2 hours DELAYED ARRIVAL and employees have the OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK. Employees should plan to arrive for work no more than 2 hours later than they would be expected to arrive.

NASA OIG: Final Report - IG-14-014 - NASA's Award Closeout Process, NASA OIG

"As of October 2013, NASA had more than 15,000 award instruments that had expired but were not yet closed. NASA contracts with a private company to assist with the closeout process. The OIG found that although NASA has slowed the growth of its backlog of instruments awaiting closeout, the Agency needs to make further improvements to its closeout process."

Keith's note: According to this high level analysis of the impact of Twitter using the hashtag #WhatIsNASAFor between 7-10 February, a total of 17,597,370 impacts were made. On this chart Twitter impacts are calculated by multiplying the number of tweets someone makes times the number of followers they have. Personally I think "reach" and "impact" are more complex than this - but this gives you a general idea of the relative scale of impacts.

@NASA tweeting resulted in 17,597,370 impacts. @NASASocial produced 7,627,023. @NASAWatch produced 5,296,071 and @SpaceRef produced 1,632,662. However members of the NASA Social community and others were also responsible for a substantial number of impacts on Twitter as well. Of note is @AgilistaAG (Angela Gibson) who was the main power behind the mobilization of the NASASocial community. This is a new and growing trend.

This response is similar to what happened during the government shutdown when NASA was unable to talk about itself but Twitter users with the #WhatNASAMightTweet hashtag mounted a similarly large response. Its one thing to respond to matters of an urgent nature with surges of interest and support.

Also, FYI NASA did very little tweeting in response to #WhatIsNASAFor (@NASA only made 3 Tweets, @NASASocial made 7). Indeed, PAO and mission staff around the agency more or less totally ignored this activity on social media even though they were made aware of it internal to NASA. Had NASA gotten off its collective butt and engaged in a more aggressive presence on Twitter, the the "impact" would be measured in hundreds of millions. Now that Charles Seife has released a more detailed rant - one that openly mocks NASA's initial response, it will be interesting to see if NASA and its supporters step up or sit this out.

If NASA cannot be bothered to defend and explain itself, then why should anyone be inclined to do so? Maybe Siefe is right after all and NASA is an endangered species.

Straight from the panda's mouth: What NASA thinks it's for, Charles Seife

"What's left is science -- and science is where NASA's greatest achievements lie. NASA spacecraft are helping us answer some of the biggest questions in the universe. (Heck, I wrote an entire book describing a revolution in cosmology sparked, in part, by NASA programs like Hubble, WMAP, and COBE.) But that drive is fundamentally incompatible with the agency's perceived need to hype bad science and trying to convince the world that its astronautic boondoggles are producing world-class scientific achievements. That's NASA's dilemma in a nutshell: despite all the agency has done, despite all it has to offer, so long as human spaceflight is at the core of NASA's existence, it will never evolve beyond a faint echo of its prior self."

Keith's note: Some NASASocial alumni have adopted an "angy panda" in response to Seife's characterization of NASA as a panda. We'll see if this catches in on a substantive way.

- Today's NASA Propaganda Accusation by a Journalism Professor, earlier post
- Today's Gratuitous Dump on NASA By A Journalism Professor, earlier post

NASA Tries to Rewrite the Book on Science Fiction, Wall Street Journal

"Getting a message across embedded in a narrative rather than as an overt ad or press release is a subtle way of trying to influence people's minds," says Charles Seife, author of "Decoding the Universe," who has written about NASA's efforts to rebrand itself. "It makes me worry about propaganda." Enidia Santiago-Arce, a NASA official who is coordinating the author-scientist exchanges, says the agency isn't pushing pro-NASA story lines. The collaboration doesn't include any NASA funding. "They write whatever they want," she said. "We provide them with people who have the expertise to help make it as accurate as it can be within the realms of science fiction."

Keith's note: (Sigh) now NASA hater and journalism professor Charles Seife thinks NASA is mounting a "propaganda" effort via SciFi writers. WIth regard to bias and propaganda, I wonder how he'd describe his inaccurate rant from last week. Was he trying to sway people's opinions about NASA? Tsk tsk. Had he bothered to read the language of recent NASA authorization legislation - which is now signed into law - Seife would know that NASA is overtly and specifically prohibited from things such as propaganda, advertising, etc.

If Seife had any powers of observation, or had done just a little research before commenting, he'd know that SciFi has been inspiring NASA - and NASA has been inspiring SciFi - and both have been inspiring the rest of us for more than half a century - perhaps even longer. That relationship is not going to go away any time soon.

Indeed, the painting on the right, by Norman Rockwell, is one of many artistic compositions commissioned and enabled by NASA with the intent of conveying the Apollo program to a wider audience. At the time, as a young boy, I saw this image as future reality. That's what SciFi often does, right? Then NASA makes it real.

Today's Gratuitous Dump on NASA By A Journalism Professor

Union says 'supervisory mischief' leads to 'robust' bias at NASA

A federal union representing NASA employees said racial "bias is robust" in a letter last week to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) told OPM Director Katherine Archuleta that "NASA's performance ratings are improperly influenced by demographic factors such that, on average, white employees are rated higher than minority employees. The bias is robust across centers and has been a persistent feature over time." The letter from Lee Stone, an IFPTE vice president, said "NASA has two levels of above-standard performance which invites supervisory mischief whereby the highest level often ends up preferentially allocated to friends-of-management, leaving the next tier for high-performing employees who are not plugged-in with management, including exceptional minority employees."

IFPTE Letter Regarding NASA and 5 CFR S430.208

"It is with great sadness that I must provide you with compelling evidence that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been systematically violating 5 CFR S430.208 as well as the 14th amendment rights of its employees for at least the past six years."

Keith's note: This is a serious accusation - one that IFPTE needs to actually prove - i.e. with verifiable numbers, reports, statements, etc. "Mischief" does not a formal case make.

Keith's note: Silicon Valley sources report that NASA will announce that Google-backed developer Planetary Ventures has been selected to lease Moffett Field and Hangar One. Details to follow.

Keith's update: GSA, NASA Competitively Select Planetary Ventures LLC for Rehabilitation of Hangar One, Use of Moffett Federal Airfield

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

Delight Over ISS Extension, Debate Over Regulations Highlight 2014 FAA Commercial Space Conference, SpacePolicyOnline.com

"The FAA's annual Commercial Space Transportation conference covered a lot of ground this week (February 5-6, 2014), but two topics were highlights:  the Obama Administration's recent decision to extend operations of the International Space Station (ISS) by four more years and debate about the extent of government regulation of commercial human spaceflight."

Marc's update: Audio of the conference sessions are now available on SpaceRef Business.

Canada Unveils New Space Policy Framework Taking a Step in the Right Direction, SpaceRef Canada

"The Canadian government unveiled a new space policy framework today that reinforces what many within the space sector already new, space is an integral part of Canadian's everyday lives and its importance will only grow."

"The fact that the government recognizes this and is releasing a new policy framework is a step in the right direction. The new framework also implements some of the recommendations as outlined in the Aerospace Review conducted in 2012."

What Is NASA for?, Slate

"This isn't to say that all of NASA's research is worthless. Far from it. But NASA's need to find a justification for its existence has damaged its integrity. The agency reeks of desperation as it gropes for some rationale for human spaceflight beyond the weirdly circular we-need-to-put-humans-in-space-to-study-what-happens-to-humans-when-we-put-them-in-space logic it's used for the past four decades. As NASA attempts to peg its future to will-o-the-wisp projects to the moon, to Mars, to a local asteroid, each of which has a less-than-even odds chance of coming to fruition, NASA's science slowly deteriorates."

"The ISS cost upward of $100 billion and probably more than $200 billion--so huge that I'm not sure anyone has a valid accounting."

Keith's note: This article by Charles Seife is full of claims of a far smaller magnitude wherein specific papers or sources are semi-quoted. But none is mentioned for the largest claim of all - the $100 billion ISS cost claim. Saying that it might cost $200 billion is sheer unsubstantiated fantasy on the part of the author. But hey, this was a slam piece from its very first sentence, so why bother checking facts, eh?

This article by Slate is a classic example of how a whole imaginary history of HSF and the ISS can be allowed to circulate - as if it was fact.  The more it circulates the more successive authors cite the previous faux history. NASA never challenges this stuff - it just lets millions of people read or hear things like this hoping that it will go away. If this article and others like it are inaccurate then it behooves NASA (as the public's funded space agency) to set the record straight. If they do not then they forfeit the right to whine and complain when subsequent inaccuracies are published. If NASA can't/won't refute these points, then maybe these authors are right - why do we need a space station if we cannot explain what it does?

Slate's Misleading Hit Piece on the Future of NASA, Planetary Society

"Seife's logic is fuzzy and his solutions non-existent. He wraps his screed in a veneer of respectability by saying that he wants to have a conversation about why we have humans exploring space, but the tone of his writing and the quality of his arguments would barely pass muster in the comment threads on space policy forums. After reading this article, I have no idea what Seife wants NASA to do, what he wants us to think, or what his solution would be, beyond that "NASA must adapt or die."

Watch Live - Agenda

Keith's update: Guess what: this conference will be webcast live after all! In all of my interactions with FAA Commercial Space Transportation Office - as late as Tuesday morning - no one in that office knew about a webcast of this meeting. There is no mention whatsoever made of a webcast on the registration website or at their FAA website. Yet according to the helpful folks at FAA Headquarters Media Relations, this is the link for the two day event: http://weblinkaudiovideo.com/faa-live-webcast.php. The FAA Commercial Space Transportation Office staff need to talk to their own PAO office a little more often - they might learn something.

Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act: Hearing Charter

"The industry has grown over the years since the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-575) thirty years ago, and this law has been amended several times since then. The Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) provides authority to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to license launches and indemnify launch providers from third-party claims should an accident occur. The law also provides a framework for the FAA's regulatory authority. This hearing will examine the various changes in the industry and what, if any, accompanying changes to the Commercial Space Launch Act may be needed going forward."

- Prepared Statement by George Nield
- Prepared Statement by Henry Hertzfeld
- Statement of Rep. Steven Palazzo
- Statement of Chairman Lamar Smith
- Commercial Space Launches: FAA's Risk Assessment Process Is Not Yet Updated, Alicia Puente Cackley, GAO

Review of NASA's Agency Consolidated End-User Services Contract, NASA OIG

"NASA's lack of adequate preparation prior to deploying the ACES contract together with HP's failure to meet important contract objectives has resulted in the contract falling short of Agency expectations. We attribute these shortcomings to several factors, including a lack of technical and cultural readiness by NASA for an Agency-wide IT delivery model, unclear contract requirements, and the failure of HP to deliver on some of its promises. In general, these issues fall into two categories: (1) issues related to the Agency's overall IT governance and (2) management and problems specific to the ACES contract."

Ten Tough Days for NASA, Clay Anderson, Huffington Post

"But did we, America, learn and truly understand? As I discussed in my previous Huffington Post blog post, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," some of us did, while others did not. Understand that these tragedies did not have to happen. But the lessons learned and the resultant technological growth would ultimately contribute to discoveries and opportunities benefiting all humankind. And that, I believe, should be the legacy of these brave men and women. We must continue to explore."

Ralph Roe Named NASA Chief Engineer, NASA

"As chief engineer, Ralph will be responsible for the overall review and technical readiness of all NASA programs. The chief engineer serves as the agency's principal advisor on the execution of our programs and projects with proper controls and management of technical risks and ensures our work is planned and conducted on a sound engineering basis."

Controversial Appointment At NASA, Daily Press (2003)

"A key player in the doomed Columbia shuttle mission was named director of a new safety office at NASA Langley Research Center on Friday. Ralph Roe, one of a team of people who dismissed falling foam debris as a threat to the shuttle during its final flight, is now director of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center."

Keith's update: As you will see below this just got sillier when NASA GSFC PAO responded.

LADEE Extended

NASA Extends LADEE Moon Exploring Satellite Mission

"NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, observatory has been approved for a 28-day mission extension. The spacecraft is now expected to impact the lunar surface on or around April 21, 2014, depending on the final trajectory. The extension provides an opportunity for the satellite to gather an additional full lunar cycle worth of very low-altitude data to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the moon's atmosphere."

Putting ISS Into Perspective

How Big is the International Space Station?

"As you watch football today, you might be interested the know tha the International Space Station's length and width is about the size of a football field. At the time of the anniversary, the station's odometer read more than 1.5 billion statute miles (the equivalent of eight round trips to the Sun), over the course of 57,361 orbits around the Earth."


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