May 2015 Archives

Jim Rose

James Turner Rose

"James Turner Rose, 1935-2015, known throughout the space community to have been an early pioneer of space as a place for commercial pursuits, Jim Rose was among the first to develop a business proposition that involved capturing the advantages of microgravity. He created Electrophoresis Operations In Space (EOS), the first joint endeavor agreement between industry and NASA to bring space commercialization into reality."

"From: Watkins, Vincent D. (JSC-NA111)
Date: Fri, May 1, 2015 at 7:53 AM
Subject: Check Out New JSC S&MA Director's Blog
To: "JSC-DL-S&MA-ALL-HANDS-(LOC-&-REM)"

Great blog on courage and dissenting opinions. Leave a comment and be a part of the discussion! https://safety.jsc.nasa.gov/"

Keith's note: Oh well. Too bad no one outside of the NASA JSC firewall you can see this blog (jsc-sma-a02.ndc.nasa.gov 139.169.149.20) about "courage and dissenting opinions".

Planet Labs Turned Its Interns into Company Leaders with This Program, Firstround.com

"Seeing the actual hardware there really excites people when they come around," [Chris] Boshuizen says. You know that you're working on game-changing solutions the trick now is to convince bright new talent that they can and will have a meaningful role in that work as well. You want to come armed with tons of examples and compelling stories about what past interns have had the chance to do and what they've been able to build. This is your best weapon for standing out. If you can bring some visuals of what work and life is like during the program showing off how hands-on interns get to be that's even better."

Keith's note: Guess where this company's senior management came from - and where they learned how (and how not) to do this? Does NASA apply their lessons learned? Of course not. NASA can't even be bothered to make note of their ongoing success in space.

Science Drives NASA's Journey to Mars, NASA

"Repeat after me: Mars matters," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the auditorium of participants at the May 5, 2015 Humans to Mars Summit organized by the non-profit Explore Mars, Inc. "Mars matters!" everyone agreed. But why does Mars matter? "Because it's there' isn't good enough," stated Bolden. Luckily, summit presenters had a host of compelling reasons for humans to venture to Mars, ranging from political, economic, and at the forefront, scientific reasons."

Recent Space Poll: The Public is Not Always in Synch With Space Advocates, previous post

"The study also notes "Just over 4-in-10 (42%) Americans are in favor of the U.S. government spending billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids, while half (50%) oppose such an expenditure. There are no partisan differences in this opinion, although men (50%) are more supportive than women (36%) of funding this new program."

Keith's note: A rah rah speech to a pep rally of true believers is hardly the basis upon which to proclaim that going to Mars is "compelling" or that it "matters". Says who? Poll after poll show that while some of the American public is supportive not a majority of them are. Space advocates (and NASA Administrators) need to come up with real world reasons that make sense to the public to support space projects. 'Because we say so' is not going to work. Otherwise, spending billions of dollars and decades to send a couple of people to Mars when (fill in your favorite other thing to spend money on) is a more pressing and immediate concern to the public is going to win every single time.

- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, previous post
- Previous policy postings

International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, GAO

"- CASIS, however, has not been able to fulfill its responsibility in the cooperative agreement to interact with the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee, which NASA was statutorily required to establish under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, because NASA has yet to staff the committee as required by the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. As a result, CASIS is not able to fulfill its responsibility in the cooperative agreement that requires it to coordinate with this committee and review any report or recommendations it originates.

- NASA and CASIS did not establish measurable targets for these performance metrics, and NASA's annual assessment of CASIS was not documented.

- CASIS officials told GAO in July 2014 that setting measurable targets would be arbitrary because CASIS processes and metrics are still evolving. In January 2015, however, the Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors told GAO that setting measurable targets is a priority for the board. CASIS, however, has yet to establish a date by which measurable targets will be developed. Using the established metrics, NASA is required by the cooperative agreement to perform an annual program review of CASIS's performance."

USAF Space and Missiles System Center Certifies SpaceX for National Security Space Missions

"Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, has announced the certification of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Launch System for national security space missions. SpaceX is now eligible for award of qualified national security space launch missions as one of two currently certified launch providers. The first upcoming opportunity for SpaceX to compete to provide launch services is projected to be in June when the Air Force releases a Request for Proposal (RFP) for GPS III launch services."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/ride.gif

Sally Ride: Behind the Google Doodle that marks the late space pioneer's birthday, Washington Post

"Sally Ride, this trailblazing astronaut turned physics professor, for so long keenly studied, and then for so long taught, the laws of bodies in motion, as one thread in her lifelong work in science and technology. So it's especially fitting that Google unveils a "Behind the Doodle" animation, as we get to see Ride's own inspiring life-trajectory in motion. Sally Ride, in so many ways, still seems right out of central casting, as if the tale of an American space star was dreamt up in Los Angeles where, in fact, she was born."

Using Space Radar To Hear Human Heartbeats in Nepal, SpaceRef

"On 24 April 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. Dozens of aftershocks have rattled the country daily for the past month. One especially large aftershock of magnitude 7.4 on 12 May caused the already-shattered infrastructure to collapse further. Nepal needed help - help that did not rely upon a non-functional infrastructure. Much of the help was traditional. But some of that help arrived in the form of assets in space and space-derived assets on the ground."

Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture needs commercial orders to survive, Reuters

"Bruno last week announced a 30-percent cut in management as part of the restructuring. On Thursday he said Boeing and Lockheed were still approving investment in the new Vulcan rocket only one quarter at a time given uncertainty about how Russian engines the company can use to compete for national security launches. He said the Air Force had a strong argument to request a Pentagon waiver if Congress continues to block use of Russian engines ordered but not paid for before the Crimea invasion. Barring a waiver or change in the current law, ULA would only be able to compete for five Air Force launches between 2019 and 2022, when the new rocket is expected to be certified. ULA says its other rocket, the Delta 4, costs too much to compete. "We must have access to the Atlas as a competitive platform until we have the replacement rocket engine. There really is no Plan B," he said."

America Plays Russian Rocket Roulette, Wall Street Journal

"But recent allegations that Mr. Putin's cronies gain big rewards from the RD-180s (by inflating delivered engine costs and taking other markups via various middlemen) are damaging to the pro-Russian-rocket side. After a November 2014 Reuters report on the purchases of rockets with RD-180 engines, Sen. John McCain said in a statement that he had long been concerned that U.S. taxpayers "are paying millions of dollars to companies that may have done no work but merely served as a 'pass-through' to enrich corrupt Russian businessmen connected with Vladimir Putin." Let's be clear: No one should play down the significance of the Air Force's concern about ensuring reliable access to space. And despite some bluster in Moscow about holding up shipments of RD-180 engines, no reports have surfaced of delivery delays. Moscow desperately needs the hard currency."

Putin-backed RD-180 Markup Scheme Unveiled, earlier post

McCarthy-Smith SPACE Act Passes with Broad Bipartisan Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in praising passage of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act. Almost 50 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill with broad bipartisan support, 284-133."

"House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List - Misses Opportunity to Pass Bill that Could Become Law, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry's desires. .. Congresswoman Edwards said, "Pursuing House passage of a bill that is going nowhere in the Senate seems to me to be the ultimate exercise in futility, and one that does a real disservice to the commercial space launch industry that we all are trying to help succeed. But we don't have to go down that path."

- Pro-Commercial Space Bills Approved in Committee, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Congress Can Help the Commercial Launch Industry This Week if We're All Willing to Work Together, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hultgren: SPACE Act Facilitates Pro-Growth Environment for Commercial Space Sector (with video)
- The Facts Behind SPACE Act, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Chairman Smith Speaks in Support of SPACE Act (Remarks), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Recent posts on Congress and NASA

NASA FISO Telecon: A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s

"Our Wednesday, May 20, Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon colloquium will host Mr. Hoppy Price (JPL) who will speak on "A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s. As always, the colloquium will be at 3pm ET. And please note that there is a new dial-in number for the colloquium as NASA has migrated to a new service: TEL: 844 467 4685 PC: 442398"

Keith's note: If you go to NASA's Journey to Mars page there is no mention of this NASA-sponsored, openly-accessible telecon regarding a NASA study of how the agency might go to Mars. There is no mention of this telecon on NASA's calendar either - nor is there mention on NASA's Human Exploration and Operations home page, or NASA Goddard's home page (where telecon organizer Harley Thronson works), or on JPL's home page where presenter Hoppy Price works. Indeed, this NASA-funded JPL study apparently had a lot to do with the Planetary Society's recent stealth Mars workshop (note the agenda). Yet the Planetary Society is mum on this too.

Investing in Our Journey to Mars Posted on May 19, 2015 at 6:01 pm by Administrator Charles Bolden.

"This at a time when a new consensus is emerging around NASA's goal, timetable, and plan for sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016. Make no mistake: This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable."

Keith's note: "Sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016" Charlie? Really?

This is a screengrab of what the blog post originally looked like - NASA eventually changed the post to say "2030s".

OMB Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2262 - Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015

"The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill."

OMB Letters to House Appropriations Committee Regarding FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

"The bill cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program by $243 million, or 20 percent, relative to the President's Budget. The Commercial Crew Program will build a safe and costeffective U.S. capability to launch astronauts to the space station. The Subcommittee bill cuts will delay the program and force continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts. While directing an impractical level of funding toward the Jupiter Europa mission, the bill cuts important NASA Science programs by more than $200 million compared to the President's Budget, jeopardizing Earth Science missions that are helping us understand how our climate is changing and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events. The bill also reduces investments in Space Technology by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry."

First In Humans Clinical Trial Demonstrates Non-Invasive Expulsion of Kidney Stones, NSBRI

"The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) announced that Dr. Jonathan Harper will present the findings of an FDA-registered "first in humans" trial to non-surgically propel and expel kidney stones from the body, during today's plenary session at the 2015 American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting in New Orleans. ... This clinical trial has been advanced with funding from NSBRI, as a project within the portfolio of the Institute's Smart Medical Systems and Technology (SMST) Team. The goal of the SMST Team is to develop intelligent, integrated medical systems to deliver quality health care during spaceflight and exploration. New technologies developed by this team also deliver immediate benefits for medical care on Earth."

Keith's note: NASA funding into space exploration has resulted in technology with clear potential to deliver health benefits to the population as whole back on Earth. This is the sort of "spinoff" NASA yearns to develop. But try and find mention of this news online at NASA at ISS National Lab, CASIS, NASA Spinoff page, NASA Technology, etc. You won't. Why?

- Report No. 114-____] Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes. (NASA starts on Page 58).

- REPORT [To accompany _____] The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.

Russian Cosmonaut Says Alcohol Should Be Allowed on ISS, MosNews (2005)

"The Russian cosmonaut said that it would be "desirable" for spacemen to have 50 milliliters of wine or cognac every day. "But only to improve our work, to better cope with the psychological stress," Sharipov said."

Keith's note: Perhaps this is a good idea. It sure beats the alternatives if on-orbit "psychological stress" is allowed to go untreated ... ISS Emergency Procedures: Behavioral - Suicidal - Emergency and Behavioral - Acute Psychosis

"Talk with the patient while you are restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe. Restrain patient using Gray Tape around wrists, ankles, and use a bungee around the torso. Administer 5 mg *Valium (Diazepam) Oral (P1-A12) - Sedative, (blue) anticonvulsant, antiseizure drug"

NASA Office of Inspector General Semiannual Report October 2014 - March 2015

"Over the past year, the Office of Inspector General has raised concerns about the sustainability of NASA's varied missions given that the Agency's "top-line" funding level is likely to remain relatively flat for at least the next several years. Accordingly, we believe the principal challenge facing NASA leaders is to effectively manage the Agency's varied programs in an uncertain budget environment."

NASA Administrator: Please Welcome Deputy Administrator Dava Newman

"Please join me in welcoming Deputy Administrator Dava Newman to NASA! Dr. Newman took her Oath of Office on Friday, and today is her first full day on the job. On a personal note, I have known and admired Dava for several decades. Her talents and skills as an educator and technological innovator will bring a new energy to our NASA leadership team, and I'm ecstatic to have her on board."

Dava Newman Begins Work as NASA's Deputy Administrator

"Along with Bolden, Newman is responsible to the agency administrator for providing overall leadership, planning, and policy direction for NASA. Newman will perform the duties and exercises the powers delegated by the administrator, assists the administrator in making final agency decisions, and acts for the administrator in his absence by performing all necessary functions to govern NASA operations and exercises the powers vested in the agency by law. Newman also is responsible for articulating the agency's vision and representing NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal and other appropriate government agencies, international organizations, and external organizations and communities."

New NASA Deputy Administrator is a Radio Ham, Southgate Amateur Radio News

"Prof. Dava Newman KB1HIK was sworn in as NASA Deputy Administrator on May 15 from her MIT office"

Lockheed-Boeing venture lays off 12 executives in major reorganization, Reuters

"United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, on Friday said it was cutting its executive ranks by 30 percent in December through what it called voluntary departures by 12 executives. Tory Bruno, chief executive of the venture, told Reuters in an emailed statement the layoffs were part of ULA's ongoing efforts to adapt to what he called "an increasingly competitive business environment" and redesign its leadership team. ULA, formed by the two largest U.S. weapons makers in 2006, has long been the sole company able to launch U.S. military and intelligence satellites into orbit, but the Air Force expects to certify a new rival, privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, to compete for some of those launches next month."

Google, NASA work together on Disney show to inspire girls into sciences, Washington Post

"There are certain television tropes about computer scientists that just drive programmers nuts. They include the portrayal of coders as sun-starved and soft-bellied nerds who spend long hours alone in front of their computers. And almost always, those TV characters are male. So when Disney Junior approached Google and NASA last year for a new series about a space adventure-seeking boy, his smart sister who codes and mother who drives the family spaceship, everyone involved in the project was determined to bury those stereotypes. They agreed that done right, the show could help get girls interested in the sciences at an early age. After all, the data on gender and careers showed that the media can play a huge factor in girls' decisions to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a 2014 report by Google."

Military pushes for emergency robots as skeptics worry about lethal uses, Washington Post

"Most of the [DARPA Robotics Challenge] entrants resemble humans, with two arms and two legs, and could be cast in Hollywood's next futuristic blockbuster. But there is also "CHIMP," developed by Carnegie Mellon University, a squat, long-armed machine that uses wheeled treads to get around. Another, named "RoboSimian," is a four-legged "ape-like" creature developed by NASA that, depending on how its limbs are situated, is also strikingly arachnid-like."

NASA Centennial Challenges Program: Space Robotics Challenge Request for information, NASA MSFC

"The robots involved as testbeds for the challenge would be both the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 humanoids, as examples of surface and in-space robots. ... The target platforms for this challenge are the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 robots at NASA JSC. ... Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 platforms would be available for preparing for the final challenge. Robots would be accessible at NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA is currently seeking separate proposals for hosting Valkyrie robots around the country."

Keith's note: The next event is 5-6 June in Pomona, CA. There is no mention from NASA or JPL about Robosimian's participation in this event. JSC's Valkyrie robot is a no-show since it placed last in 2013 (they are not listed as a qualified team). Is JSC still funding Valkyrie? Is NASA HQ? The Centennial Challenges RFI seemingly speaks of Valkyrie as if it is still a viable ongoing/future program. But it is not clear who pays for it. What is JPL spending on Robosimian? Why is it not part of the Centennial Challenge effort along with Robonaut and Valkyrie? How are Valkyrie and Robosimian related to Robonaut? Does NASA actually have a coherent, focused robotics program or are various centers and directorates just doing whatever they want (because they can/lack of managerial guidance)? NASA spends all this money on these cool things, puts out a few flashy news things, and then they go silent about what they are doing. If you ask for a plan, they have none to offer and they just mumble #JourneyToMars and #YearInSpace.

If there is a strategy here, I do not see it.

Keith's update: I stand corrected NASA has posted 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps: Robotics and Autonomous Systems. I am not sure that a "roadmap" is a "strategy" or a formal "plan" - but this is NASA, so words like these are never clearly or consistently defined and are often used interchangeably. To my earlier point: if you search the document for the word "Valkyrie" you will see that this robot is not mentioned. Neither is "Robosimian". But "Robonaut" is mentioned several times. Not exactly an inclusive document that references all of what NASA is doing - and why.

- 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
- JPL Rolls Out Robosimian While JSC Hides Valkyrie, earlier post

A Bad Day for Russia

ISS Orbit Correction Failed, Sputnik News

"Engines of the Progress M-26M cargo spacecraft, which is currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS), did not start on time, and a planned correction of the ISS orbit could not be carried out, a source in the Russian Federal Space Agency said Saturday."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 18 May 2015

"A reboost of the International Space Station using the Russian Progress 58 cargo craft was completed successfully on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CDT. A previous attempt on Friday evening was aborted one second into the burn automatically by the Progress vehicle. Russian flight controllers identified an issue with one of the eight thrusters on the spacecraft that was disabled for Sunday's backup attempt."

Russian Proton Rocket Experiences Anomaly Shortly After Launch [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"Almost exactly to the day a year after Russia lost a Proton-M rocket, yet another Proton-M has failed. In this latest setback to the Russian commercial space program, today's Proton-M rocket appeared to launch normally, but failed soon into the launch and did not deliver its payload, a Mexican satellite, to orbit."

Marc's note: The Russians must be besides themselves with all these anomalies ongoing. It begs the question, if the Progress and Protons are having issues, could the venerable Soyuz have issues going forward?

NASA using carrot, not stick in push for shared services, Federal News Services

"NASA isn't forcing its centers to move to IT shared services. Instead, Larry Sweet, NASA's chief information officer, is trying to make it so attractive that the 18 centers and facilities can't resist the offer. "I've initiated a program called enterprise first. That's where we focus first and foremost on our enterprise services, so I want NASA users to first consider the I3P program and consider the services that we offer there. Then we have a shared services center," Sweet said. "I'm a believer in using shared services for a lot of reasons. One is they can offer a more affordable service to NASA, generally speaking. I want to try to get us up to that 80 percent to 90 percent use of commodity-based IT that is offered through these enterprise services and shared service center."

Keith's note: This may be the pragmatic thing to do given the dysfunctional way NASA runs itself - but its also a pretty pathetic admission i.e. that NASA Headquarters cannot direct its field centers to do basic managerial and operational tasks and that they have to trick them into complying instead.

- OIG Dings NASA on IT Security - Again, earlier post
- GAO Cites NASA Technology Access Issues, earlier post
- Hearing (Tries to) Focus On NASA Security Issues, earlier post
- OIG: NASA Has No Idea How Many Portable Devices It Has, earlier post
- NASA Bring Your Own Device Update, earlier post
- Do You Really Trust NASA Not to Ruin Your Mobile Device?, earlier post
- NASA OIG IT Report Highlights Governance Problems, earlier post

NASA OIG: NASA's Compliance with the Improper Payments Act for Fiscal Year 2014

"We concluded that although NASA complied with IPIA, it can improve its risk assessment process, payment recapture audits, and annual reporting. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which issues implementing guidance for IPIA, an agency must meet six criteria to comply with the Act, including conducting a program-specific risk assessment for each program or activity and publishing and posting on its website an AFR each year. NASA met all applicable OMB criteria for FY 2014.
However, as discussed in our previous IPIA reports, we continue to believe NASA can improve its risk assessment process to increase the likelihood of identifying improper payments."

Markup FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropropriations Bill (NASA)

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $18.5 billion in the bill, $519 million above the 2015 enacted level."

Keith's note: The bill passed out of the House Appropriations subcommittee to the full committee yesterday with ease. No date yet announced for further action. But, as you can see below, there was a lot of silliness at this mark-up. Many of the members wasted everyone's time spinning yarns about all those good times being a member of Congress. One member went off about "sea lions eating all of the salmon and getting fat" back home. NASA used to have to go up against the Veterans Administration in this subcommittee for funds. Now it has to compete with salmon.

Sen. Cruz and Ranking Member Nelson Introduce U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

"Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement regarding S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, that he filed with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that extends the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extends the regulatory moratorium through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector, among other initiatives."

House Appropriators Propose Big Increase for Europa, SLS, Cut to Commercial Crew

"The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that will be marked up at subcommittee level on Thursday. It recommends the same total budget level for NASA as the President requested, but allocates the funding differently. Among the changes is a big increase for a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a favorite of subcommittee chairman Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who has led successful efforts to add money for it in the past. The Space Launch System (SLS) also gets a boost, including funds for an "enhanced" upper stage, while the commercial crew program is funded below the request. ... The commercial crew program, by contrast, would get $1.00 billion compared to the $1.24 billion request. That is still a significant increase over the $805 million provided for FY2015, but NASA insists that anything less than the request could mean renegotiating the fixed price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing."

McCain rejects Pentagon push for more Russian rocket engines, Reuters

"U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Wednesday rejected a request by U.S. officials for changes in federal law to let the two largest U.S. arms makers use more Russian rocket engines to compete for military satellite launches against privately held SpaceX. McCain's comments reflect frustration among some lawmakers about the Pentagon's failure to halt purchases of the RD-180 Russian engines after Russia's annexation of Crimea. As SpaceX becomes a potential competitor to current monopoly launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, billions of dollars of orders are at stake and both sides are lobbying lawmakers hard."

Postponement of Flight Plans, Sarah Brightman

"Sarah Brightman announced today that she is postponing her plans to launch aboard the upcoming Soyuz TMA-18M spaceflight mission. Ms. Brightman said that for personal family reasons her intentions have had to change and she is postponing her cosmonaut training and flight plans at this time. She would like to express her extreme gratitude to Roscosmos, Energia, GCTC (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center), Star City, NASA and all the cosmonauts and astronauts, for their support during this exciting time in her life."

Climate Denialists In Congress Acting As NASA's Kryptonite, NPR

"But even with the broader effort, the emphasis on NASA seems particularly pointed. How many people even know what the NSF stands for or what the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does all day? But NASA is different. Every kid knows NASA. Every parent knows NASA. NASA is cool. NASA is Superman. So, when NASA tells us that Earth's climate is changing because of human activity, it carries a lot of weight. It's a weight climate denialists have a hard time bearing up under. Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA? The answer is pretty clear."

Republicans Vs NASA Earth Science, earlier post

NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045, The Onion

"It may seem impossible now, but we hope to realize the vision of establishing a human presence in NASA deeper into the century than ever before imagined," Bolden added. When questioned about the plan's viability, Bolden told reporters that while certain doubts remain, the project was nonetheless an absolutely crucial undertaking for NASA."

Keith's update: We can call it #JourneyToNASA. Funny: although The Onion is a satire publication, its mockery often speaks more truth than the target of the mockery may be willing to admit. NASA often acts as if its purpose is to exist.

Video: U.S. Strategy for Civil and Military Space, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"Sean O'Keefe, former Administrator of NASA, and General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will have an easy chair discussion moderated by Dr. John Hamre, President and CEO of CSIS, on U.S. strategy for civil and military space."


Marc's Note: General Cartwright and Sean O'Keefe provided some perspective and insights to the issues related to U.S. civil and military space strategy including how we're in the "second machine age" and the implications of computer speed and access are having on strategy and policy.

NASA Announces Journey to Mars Challenge, Seeks Public Input on Establishing Sustained Human Presence

"NASA is embarking on an ambitious journey to Mars and Tuesday announced a challenge inviting the public to write down their ideas, in detail, for developing the elements of space pioneering necessary to establish a continuous human presence on the Red Planet."

Keith's note: I was listening to WTOP radio around 11:15 am today when Scott Goldberg from ABC Radio came on as a guest. He was talking about NASA's recent call for the public to submit ideas for how to go to Mars. Goldberg wondered if there weren't enough rocket scientists already at NASA to work on this and that perhaps NASA was doing this to somehow keep the public momentum going while they battle for funds in Congress. (main points, rough paraphrase). It would seem that the PAO #JourneyToMars thing isn't fooling the news media much.

Keith's note: There's more than NASA Authorization Acts being introduced in Congress. As always, it is Spring time, and all of the new space legislation is starting to bloom. Here's a selection. There will be more. Some will pass, others will merge, most will disappear - only to pop up again next year. Regardless, they will be mostly ignored - by NASA, future administrations - and Congress. And that is most unfortunate given what these bill might otherwise spark.

Keith's update: House Science Committee Markup

H.R. ____, the "Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015;"
H.R. 1508, the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Commercial Remote Sensing Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Office of Space Commerce Act."

Keith's note: With regard to the Eagle Works EmDrive "warp core" research underway at JSC, NASA HQ PAO has told NASAWatch: "While conceptual research into novel propulsion methods by a team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston has created headlines, this is a small effort that has not yet shown any tangible results. NASA is not working on 'warp drive' technology. "However, the agency does fund very fundamental research as part of our advanced concepts and innovative investments that push the frontiers of science and engineering. This is part of what NASA does in exploring the unknown, and the agency is committed to and focused on the priorities and investments identified by the NASA Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan. "Through these investments, NASA will develop the capabilities necessary to send humans further into space than ever before."

- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive: Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post
- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Gizmo, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post

Marjorie Townsend

Marjorie Townsend, who managed a U.S. spacecraft launch, dies at 85, Washington Post

"In 1959, Mrs. Townsend became one of the first female engineers to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In the next decade, she became the first female spacecraft project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. From the mid-1960s to 1975, she managed the agency's small astronomy satellite program, where she was responsible for the design, construction, testing and orbital operations of NASA's first astronomical spacecraft."

Humans to Mars Summit 2015 - Political Roundtable, Building Political Sustainability, SpaceRef Business

"While there were plenty of interesting sessions at the Humans to Mars Summit it was the political roundtable which brought home some of the key messages of the conference."

NASA's Physical Science Informatics Database Now Open to the Public, NASA

"At NASA, we are excited to announce the roll-out of the Physical Science Informatics (PSI) data repository for physical science experiments performed on the International Space Station (ISS). The PSI system is now accessible and open to the public. This will be a resource for researchers to data mine the PSI system and expand upon the valuable research performed on the ISS using it as a research tool to further science, while also fulfilling the President's Open Data Policy."

Public Release of NASA GeneLab Data System 1.0, NASA

"Based on the philosophy of open science, the GeneLab Platform will maximize the scientific return on investment and maximize the use of the International Space Station given the limited number of biological research opportunities in space. Open science will expand the number of researchers in the community, bringing new ideas and innovation to space biology research, while enabling discovery and advances for both NASA Exploration and Earth-based benefit."

Keith's note: Great news. As a one-time biologist at NASA I find this approach to posting data online to be one of the most important things NASA can do to show the value - and availability - of research done on the ISS. NASA has been generating research papers for more than half a century. One very useful resource is NASA Spaceline (latest issue) a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Given all of the hype and hoopla over the Kelly twins and the #YearInSpace research that is underway, you'd think that NASA would be promoting what it has done - and is doing - on ISS.

Guess again.

Republicans: NASA Wastes Money on Climate-Change Research, National Journal

"NASA controls more than a dozen satellites and spacecraft, monitoring everything from melting ice to water storage to rain and snow. To the agency's scientists and supporters, these programs are essential to understanding the planet and the changing climate, and part of its core mission. But to congressional Republicans, they are just another example of an administration wasting money on climate-change research, zapping funds away from what NASA should be doing: blasting into and exploring space.
House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, last week moved a two-year NASA bill through his committee that would shift money away from the Earth Science program to spend on planetary exploration. "There are 13 other agencies involved in climate-change research, but only one that is responsible for space exploration," Smith said at a recent hearing."

- NASA Authorization Act Markup, earlier post
- The Planetary Society is Both For and Against Earth and Climate Science, earlier post
- Showdown Over NASA Earth Science Budget Looms, earlier post

Keith's note: When I was growing up in the 1960s NASA said that they'd have humans on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. They did.
- NASA also said that they'd have humans on Mars by 1981. I would have been 26. Tick Tock.
- Now NASA says they might have humans on Mars by the mid-2030s when I will be in my mid-80s.
- NASA went from zero to humans on the Moon in less than 10 years.
- But humans on Mars takes an additional 60+ years?
- And we have not even sent humans back to the Moon?

- Charlie Bolden almost seems to be bragging these days when he proclaims "I have spent my life being '20 years away from Mars' now we're closer than that". He's just admitting how pathetic NASA has become in this regard. And he's so utterly clueless as to not even be embarrassed as he says these things.

- This has nothing to do with the White House or Congress. Rather, it has to do with NASA's ever-diminishing ability to translate its undeniably stellar, collective genius into clear-cut programs with timelines that can be met, budgets that can be (more or less) adhered to, and deliverables that can be delivered. To compound things, NASA has no idea how to explain what it does to the people who pay the bills. Pretty pictures only go so far.

These days NASA does less - with more. Not a good sign.

As the kids say #EpicFail

That NASA Warp Drive? Yeah, It's Still Poppycock, Wired

"The reason the Eagleworks lab presents results in unrefereed conference proceedings and Internet posts, according to Eric Davis, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, is that no peer-reviewed journals will publish their papers. Even arXiv, the open-access pre-print server physicists default to, has reportedly turned away Eagleworks results. Why the cold shoulder? Either flawed results or flawed theory. Eagleworks' results so far are very close to the threshold of detectionwhich is to say, barely perceptible by their machinery. That makes it more likely that their findings are a result of instrument error, and their thrust measurements don't scale up with microwave input as you might expect. Plus, the physics and math behind each of their claims is either flawed or just...nonexistent."

Keith's note: Wired.com did some leg work. Yet despite all of this speculative PR NASA JSC PAO has still not said a single thing about any of this during the recent online flurry of stories about advanced propulsion research that NASA is openly funding.

- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Gizmo, earlier post

Dragon Abort Test Successful (Photos and Video)

5 Things to Know About SpaceX's Pad Abort Test

"This will be the first flight test of SpaceX's revolutionary new launch abort system, and the odds of encountering delays or issues are high. Fortunately the test doesn't need to be perfect to be valuable--our primary objective is to capture as much data as possible as the data captured here will be key in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017."

Oscar Carl Holderer

Oscar Carl Holderer

"Nov. 4, 1919 - May 5, 2015 -- Mr. Holderer was born in Preum, Germany. He was the last surviving member of Wernher von Braun's original team of 120 engineers and scientists coming from Germany as part of Operation Paperclip in 1945."

DHS and NASA Technology Helps Save Four in Nepal, DHS

"Four men trapped under as much as 10 feet of bricks, mud and other debris have been rescued in Nepal thanks to a new search-and-rescue technology developed in partnership by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The device called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) uses microwave-radar technology to detect heartbeats of victims trapped in wreckage. Following the April 25 earthquake in Nepal, two prototype FINDER devices were deployed to support search and rescue teams in the stricken areas."

"FINDER" Search and Rescue Technology Demo May 7 in Virginia

Report Released: The Humans to Mars Report 2015

The non-profit Explore Mars Inc. group today released its first annual Humans to Mars Report. According to Explore Mars the report "provides updates on challenges, plus progress in areas such as mission architecture design and development, scientific discoveries, policy, public perception, international cooperation and competition, and new private capabilities".

Marc's note: The report is not comprehensive but it does promise a website for ongoing updates and an annual report. We'll see what the website provides once it's launched and how it evolves before passing judgement. This isn't the first try for something like this, the Mars Society and other have tried.

Keith's note: Eugene Tu will be named today as the new Center Director at NASA Ames Research Center. Tu will replace Pete Worden who retired from the position last month. Tu is currently the Director of Exploration Technology at NASA ARC and has held this position since November 2005.

Eugene L. Tu

NASA Briefing: SpaceX Commercial Crew Pad Abort Test

"A May 1 news briefing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, previewed the pad abort test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, May 6."

House Science Committee Markup of NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017

- H.R. 2039, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017
- H.R. 2039 Highlights

NASA Administrator Statement on House Authorization Bill

"The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events. In addition, the bill underfunds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars."

House Science Committee Passes NASA Reauthorization by Party-line Vote

"Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "These cuts have absolutely nothing to do with making America safer or stronger. Nothing. They are simply the expression of the Majority's stick-your-head-in-the-sand ideology. This is especially disappointing because we had worked so hard just three months ago to make our NASA authorization a bipartisan bill which could be broadly supported by the aerospace and science community. It's a shame to be throwing all that work away in pursuit of a narrow ideological agenda."

- Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Letter from the American Astronomical Society
- Letter from the Association of American Universities
- Letter from the American Geophysical Union
- Letter from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Letter from the Geological Society of America
- Letter from the Universities Space Research Association

OSTP Director Holdren: House-Proposed Funding Cuts to NASA Earth Science and Space Technology Programs

"If enacted, the NASA authorization bill headed to the House floor later this month would do serious damage to the Nation's space program, as well as to Earth-observation and Earth-science programs essential for predicting, preparing for, and minimizing the damage from disasters both natural and human-induced. The bill's cuts to space-technology development would not only risk continued U.S leadership in the space industry, but would also impede progress on precisely those technologies - on-orbit refueling, advanced space propulsion, radiation protection in deep space, and more - needed to make crewed missions to deep space a reality."


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