October 2015 Archives

Keith's note: CASIS (The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Non-profit organizations are established to do things in the public interest and not to generate a profit - or enrich their employees or advisors. Recently the IRS has started to look more deeply into compensation of non-profit executives and staff. CASIS likes to pay a lot of its employees hefty salaries - the top ten employees make much more than virtually everyone at NASA - including the NASA Administrator.

According to the Foundation Group: "There are legitimate, charitable organizations whose executives make up to, and sometimes more than, $250,000. For a very select few, a lot more. But let me put it like this if you have an employee whose compensation package exceeds $100,000, you better be prepared to defend it. Needless to say, Wall Street-style perks and bonuses are out of the question. And, depending on your organization's budget, a $10,000 salary package could be considered unreasonable."

According to a report "Nonprofit Organizations Salary and Benefits Report", published in 2014 by the NonProfit Times "The average salary for a nonprofit chief executive officer/president last year was $118,678. The median salary was $100,000 while the maximum found was $666,266. The average tenure for a nonprofit CEO was almost 12 years and almost 40 percent of participating organizations paid their CEO some type of bonus."

Let's look at the reportable compensation and nontaxable benefits for the top employees at CASIS as listed on their 2013 Form 990, Part VII: Gregory Johnson, President and Executive Director: $148,333 + $5,375; Duane Ratliff, Chief Operating Officer: $225,000 + $31,689; Jorge Fernandez, Chief Financial Officer: $200,000 + $18,689; Charles Resnick, Chief Economist: $220,000 + $30,701; Warren Bates, Director of Portfolio Management: $200,008 + $19,370; James Royston, Interim Executive Director (Until 9-9-14): $228,012 + $11,312, Eddie Harris, Director of Development: $197,000 + $29,986; Melody Kuehner, Director of Human Resources, $160,000 + $27,277; Brian Harris, Director of Business Development, $153,000 + $26,756, and Kenneth Shields, Director of Operations and Education: $131,220 + $32,117. That's 6 employees making over $200,000 a year and 4 others making over $170,000 a year. By comparison the NASA Administrator made $179,700 in 2014. 99.96% of CASIS funds come from NASA. Note: The fiscal year for CASIS ends on 30 September - so they have a while to file their next return with the IRS. Sources report that the 2014 Form 990 for CASIS will show a salary for Greg Johnson in the $300,000 range.

Budget Deal To Ease Sequester, Boost Discretionary Spending For Two Years, AIP

"Congress approved a major bipartisan budget agreement, negotiated with the White House, that increases discretionary spending by $80 billion total in FY 2016 and FY 2017, creating room for boosts to spending at federal science agencies and offices starting this year. Early this morning, the Senate passed and sent the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015" to President Obama, concluding a major bipartisan effort between the White House and congressional leaders in both political parties that brings budget stability to the federal government for the next two years. The agreement, which the President has clearly indicated he will sign into law, lifts the federal debt ceiling through March 2017 and dials back for two years the federal budget sequester that has been in place since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011."

Former NASA Langley employee pleads guilty in federal case, Daily Press

"A former NASA Langley Research Center employee pleaded guilty this week to violating a NASA regulation by allowing a foreign national unrestricted access to a company computer. Glenn A. Woodell entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of violating a regulation and order of NASA and was sentenced to six months probation and a $500 fine, according to a judgment order signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask. The charge stems from Woodell allowing Bo Jiang, who worked as a contractor at NASA Langley, access to a computer of a deceased NASA employee in 2011."

Prior posts on NASA IT

NASA Review of Orbital ATK Accident Released, NASA

"The team determined the proximate cause of the Antares launch vehicle failure was an explosion within the AJ-26 rocket engine and identified three credible technical root causes, any one or combination of which could have resulted in the engine failure. The team outlined six technical findings and made seven recommendations to address those technical findings. In addition, since Orbital ATK was in the process of procuring and testing new engines to replace the AJ-26 for future Antares flights while the investigation was ongoing, the team provided several recommendations for Orbital ATK and the ISS Program that were used to support those testing activities and to reduce overall risk for Antares return-to-flight and follow-on mission efforts. The NASA team's findings are consistent with the AIB's findings."

NASA's Efforts to Manage Health and Human Performance Risks for Space Exploration, NASA OIG

"Although NASA continues to improve its process for identifying and managing health and human performance risks associated with space flight, we believe that given the current state of knowledge, the Agency's risk mitigation schedule is optimistic and NASA will not develop countermeasures for many deep space risks until the 2030s, at the earliest."

The First (Analog) Tweet From Space - In 1968

"On October 14, 1968, the Apollo 7 crew became the first to broadcast live from space. Count the characters in their message. "Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!". 44. A perfect Tweet. In 1968."

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Commercial Space Legislation, SpacePolicyOnline

"House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a compromise version of commercial space legislation that passed the House and Senate earlier this year. Details of the compromise have not been made public, but the revised bill could be voted on soon. The Senate bill, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (S. 1297) passed in August. The House bill, Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act (H.R. 2262), passed in May. The House and Senate versions have many differences, but Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), the new chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, recently characterized them as minor during an appearance before the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).."

Charles Elachi to retire as JPL Director, NASA

"Charles Elachi, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2001, announced today he is retiring at the end of June 2016. He will become professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, where he currently serves as a vice president and professor of Electrical Engineering and Planetary Science. Elachi began his career at JPL in 1970."

Coalition for Space Exploration takes steps to ensure broad support for deep-space exploration

"The Coalition for Space Exploration, an ad-hoc organization of space industry businesses and advocacy groups, today announced it is taking formal steps to provide a single, unified voice for the deep-space exploration industry. The organization is seeking 501 (c) 6 status, appointing an executive director and changing the name of the organization to the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration."

Keith's note: The Coalition for Space Exploration was originally created by many aerospace companies to promote all aspects of space exploration and they managed to do a good job at being balanced and enthusiastic. That effort has now been taken over by the so-called "Four Amigos": Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, and Orbital ATK and will now be a de facto lobbying effort in Washington DC for SLS and Orion. It will be interesting to see how its new executive director Mary Lynne Dittmar deals with conflict of interest issues given that she also works for CASIS (which gets 99.9% of its funding from NASA) and is a member of the National Academies of Sciences Space Studies Board Executive Committee. Given the broad and overlapping aspects of all these jobs/positions, it is a little hard to see where government, private sector, and advisory aspects of her employment would not overlap at least once a day.

The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post

Keith's update: Congress has been moving ahead with a budget today. Does this new organization speak out against the cuts to NASA commercial crew (which affects the 4 Amigos) or stay silent and only praise funding for SLS/Orion (which benefits the 4 Amigos)? Stay tuned.

Bob Farquhar (Update)

In Memory of Robert Farquhar, the Original Space Hacker, Motherboard

"Bob was laid to rest the other day after 83 orbits around the sun. Bob liked to tinker with things - especially spacecraft and their orbits. Let me change that. Bob was a hacker. Since he actually was the smartest guy in the room, he always had the numbers on his side. And he was persistent - sometimes waiting months, years, or even decades to get something to happen the way he envisioned it."

Heroic Junkyard Owner Says He Saved Priceless Moon Rover From Scrap Heap, Motherboard

"Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there's a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition."

Someone in Alabama Sold a Priceless Lunar Rover for Scrap Metal, Motherboard

"According to documents acquired by Motherboard as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, a priceless lunar rover prototype designed for the Apollo missions was sold to a junkyard in Alabama for scrap metal sometime last year. Specific names and details are redacted in the documents, which include internal emails and reports by NASA's Office of the Inspector General, the agency responsible for investigating and recovering lost and stolen NASA property."

- Skylab Is Still Rotting in Huntsville, earlier post
- JSC Is Letting a X-38 Rot In The Rain, earlier post

Charlie Bolden: Advancing the Journey to Mars (Video)

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke about the agency's journey to Mars during remarks to the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC., on Wednesday, October 28, 2015. NASA recently released the report "Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration," outlining its plan to reach Mars in phases, starting by testing technologies and conducting research aboard the International Space Station; developing the necessary hardware and procedures in the proving ground around the moon; and finally sending astronauts to Mars itself."

- NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will speak at the Center of American Progress at 10 am ET. The event will be live-streamed on NASA TV and on the CAP website
- NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will deliver keynote remarks at the Von Braun Symposium at 1:30 pm ET remarks will be live streamed here.
- The NASA FISO Telecon on "The James Webb Space Telescope" telecon starts at 3 pm ET. Details here.
- The NASA Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars will be streamed all day. Details here
- The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Fall Symposium will be live streamed all day. Details here.

First NASA Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars

"NASA's first Landing Sites/Exploration Zones Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars will be held Oct. 27-30 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. The agency is hosting the workshop to collect proposals for locations on Mars that would be of high scientific research value while also providing natural resources to enable human explorers to land, live and work safely on the Red Planet."

NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

"No one with even a shred of fiscal accumen will tell you that a multi-decade program to send humans to Mars - as is typically done by NASA (delays, overruns, and PR hype) - is going to be done "within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth."

Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post

"There is no "plan" in this "plan". Its a description of a bunch of things what NASA says it needs to do but there is no budget, firm timeline, architecture, or overarching mission goals. This is just another PDF file with pretty pictures and a unorganized shopping list of ideas."

Culberson Will "Vigorously Enforce" Restrictions on NASA-China Relationship, SpacePolicyOnline

"Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said today that NASA did not fully inform Congress about the recent State Department-led meeting in Beijing on bilateral U.S.-China civil space cooperation as required by law. He stressed that he plans to "vigorously enforce" the law, which requires NASA to notify Congress in advance of such meetings that technology transfer, for example, will not occur."

Culberson Reaction to Indictment of NASA Supervisors

"Yesterday's indictment is further proof of widespread negligence at NASA and throughout the Obama Administration when it comes to protecting U.S. intellectual property and sensitive information. "I want to thank my predecessor Congressman Frank Wolf who understood the threat posed by the Chinese. His leadership on this issue exposed many of the problems that have led us to this point."

NASA Supervisors Charged in Chinese Spy Case, Daily Caller

"Two NASA supervisors were criminally indicted Tuesday under U.S. espionage laws for "willfully violating" national security regulations while allowing a visiting Chinese foreign national to gain "complete and unrestricted access" to the space agency's Langley Research Center, according to the U.S. Attorneys office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictments of NASA Langley supervisors Glenn A. Woodell and Daniel J. Jobson cap a federal investigation into the two supervisor's decision to permit Bo Jiang unrestricted access for two years at Langley. Bo Jiang was deported back to China in 2013."

Bolden Says Ban On China Space Interaction Is Temporary, Previous Post - October 2015

"The reason I think that where we are today is temporary is because of a practical statement that we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, because everybody ... who has any hope of a human spaceflight program ... will go to whoever will fly their people," Bolden said. His comments were echoed by China."

Previous China postings

Keith's 27 Sep note: Golden Spike Company (http://goldenspikecompany.com/) was going to do all sorts of commercial stuff on the Moon with lots of illustrious names attached. Their website went dark a week and a half ago and no one seems to have noticed. Not a good way to maintain a business presence. Oh well.

Larger image

Keith's 29 Sep update: After being offline for several weeks someone at Golden Spike finally noticed that their website was down an hour or so ago. It now says "under construction". Either no one at the company pays much attention to their website - or no one outside of the company visits the site often enough for its absence to be noted. Take your pick, I guess.

Keith's 27 Oct update: A month later and the website still says "under construction". This is what it looked like in August 2015 when they were asking for non-tax deductible donations. Business must be a little slow if a functional website is such a low priority. Just sayin'.

Making More Orions

Lockheed Martin Moves into Full-Scale Assembly and Test of NASA's Orion Spacecraft

"Lockheed Martin and NASA have completed the majority of Orion's Critical Design Review (CDR) which means the spacecraft's design is mature enough to move into full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test of the vehicle. It also means that the program is on track to complete the spacecraft's development to meet NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) performance requirements. The complete Orion EM-1 CDR process will conclude after the European Service Module CDR and a presentation to the NASA Agency Program Management Council in the spring."

Stan Schmidt

Stanley Schmidt Former Ames Aerospace Engineer Dies

"In 1959, even before President Kennedy had announced that we choose to go to the Moon, Stanley F. Schmidt was developing a midcourse navigation system needed for a space capsule on a circumlunar voyage. Stan then was chief of the dynamics analysis branch at NASA Ames when his former boss, Harry Goett, challenged him to do pioneering research in advance of the Apollo mission. High-speed computer processing was in its infancy, and processing vast amounts of data in real time accurately enough to direct a spacecraft to and from the Moon was a daunting challenge."

Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, & Fans Celebrate Past & Future of Space Exploration at Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary

"Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and 19-year Planetary Society Board Member, received The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Tyson, Director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, hosted Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, a television series that paid tribute to Carl Sagan's original Cosmos program. "Every day, Neil deGrasse Tyson inspires this and the next generation of explorers," Nye explained. "He encourages us all to use the process of science to ask questions, to seek answers to nature's mysteries, to keep searching, to know the cosmos and our place within it. Neil inspires the students among us today, who will carry on with the search for life on Mars and Europa. They will solve cosmic mysteries that many of us have yet to even imagine. It's an honor to know him."

Keith's note: Once again the Planetary Society's own mutual admiration and self-indulgent society awards one of its members with an award invented just for them - an award even more grandiose than the last one they gave him. Meanwhile Neil Tyson has already started to blast another movie he is not involved in. Sooner or later they are going to run out of award to give on another.

According to "Neil deGrasse Tyson on 'Star Wars,' 'Star Trek' and 'StarTalk'," Wall Street Journal: "Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hasn't gotten around to watching the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer yet--and he also doesn't think the "Star Wars" franchise takes science seriously enough to be worth his time. "When you are that kind of storytelling, I don't spend time analyzing what you're doing," Tyson says."

So I guess that we can expect a torrent of Tysonisms about how Luke's light saber wont work or how Jedi mind tricks will never happen (recent articles in Science and Nature challenge that but who reads those papers before tweeting,eh? )

NASA Calls for American Industry Ideas on ARM Spacecraft Development, NASA

"NASA's ARRM is being formulated to perform a number of technology demonstrations needed for the agency's journey to Mars, including the use of a 20-fold improvement in state-of-the-art deep space solar electric propulsion capability to move and maneuver multi-ton objects. The objective of the robotic segment of ARM is to acquire a multi-ton boulder from a large asteroid and redirect it to a crew-accessible orbit around our moon, setting the stage for future integrated crewed and robotic vehicle operations in deep space."

NASA Virtual Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission Community Update

"NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission and the robotic component of the overall mission will be the topic of an online Adobe Connect community update on Friday, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT. During the update, NASA leaders will share recent developments for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, including the recent spacecraft design study solicitation and the selection of the mission's Formulation Assessment and Support Team members."

Conceptual Studies for the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Spacecraft

NASA Completes Critical Design Review for Space Launch System

"Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. Credits: NASA"

Keith's note: OK - the Core stage color makes sense. But why do the SRBs have a disco-era paint scheme - like you'd expect to see on a 70s muscle car? Does this make the rocket go faster or easier to track? Did the SLS program formally decide on this?

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/moonraker.jpgTo be honest it looks like someone saw the James Bond film "Moonraker" (left) a few too many times. Earlier NASA artist's concepts of SLS were done to make people think of the Saturn V. Before that Ares V images wanted you to know there was a shuttle hardware heritage.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/Rockwell_International_logo.gifThis new SLS paint scheme has those swoops on the SRBs that sort of remind you of Space Shuttle wings that are no longer there - or the Rockwell International logo (they built the shuttle). These paint schemes are all political. Is this really what SLS is going to look like? If NASA is going to use graphic design to make their rocket look better they really need to consult professionals.

Larger image, Alternate view, Diagram, View of SLS in flight

- SLS, Saturn V, And Ares V Color Schemes (Update), earlier post
- Nickname for Liberty, earlier post
- Repainted Ares 1 For Sale as "Liberty", earlier post

USGS slams study's claim of 99.9% chance of large L.A. earthquake, Los Angeles Times

"The U.S. Geological Survey is raising serious doubts about a recent study that calculates a 99.9% chance of a large earthquake in the Los Angeles area in the next three years. The USGS took the rare step of issuing a statement raising questions about the study, recently published in the journal Earth and Space Science and coauthored by a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Caada Flintridge. "I have serious doubts that the conclusions of the paper are supported by the analysis that's presented there," Robert Graves, a USGS seismologist and Southern California coordinator for earthquake hazards, said in an interview Tuesday. The study lists Graves as a consultant who helped with calculations for the study, but Graves says he has deep concerns about the study."

NASA Study Improves Understanding of Los Angeles Earthquake Risks

"A new NASA-led analysis of a moderate magnitude 5.1 earthquake that shook Greater Los Angeles in 2014 finds that the earthquake deformed Earth's crust across a broad region encompassing the northern Los Angeles Basin and northern Orange County. The shallow ground movements observed from this earthquake likely reflect strain accumulated on deeper faults, which remain locked and may be capable of producing future earthquakes."

Potential for a large earthquake near Los Angeles inferred from the 2014 La Habra earthquake, AGU

Keith's note: On Wednesday 21 October there will be another unpublicized NASA-funded/supported FISO telecon "CASIS: Enabling Research on the ISS National Lab for the Benefit of Earth". There is no mention of this telecon at the GSFC website (where telecon sponsor Harley Thronson works), at NASA HQ's Calendar (which is empty for October anyway), at the ISS national Laboratory's webpage - or (no surprise) at CASIS. How strange: CASIS spent $862,234 on advertising in 2013 and yet it has yet to find a way to send an email out to these obvious websites (and news media, "stakeholders", etc.) to notify them of public events wherein the topic of using the ISS will be discussed? What are they spending all of this advertising money on since no one seems to know what they are doing?

- CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It, earlier post




NASA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Revision to Regulations Governing Crew Members

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is proposing to amend its regulations that govern International Space Station crewmembers, mementos aboard Orion and Space Launch System (SLS) missions, the authority of the NASA Commander, and removes the Agency's policy on space flight participation and other policies that were relevant to the Space Shuttle. The revisions to this rule are part of NASA's retrospective plan under Executive Order (E.O.) 13563 completed in August 2011."

14 CFR Part 1214 - SPACE FLIGHT

Keith's note: Gee, the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 - and the retirement date was known for several years before that. SLS/Orion has been under development even longer. Yet it took NASA 4 years or more to simply remove "space shuttle" relevant verbiage from these regulations and add SLS/Orion wording? Why did this simple task take so long? And what was the impact of leaving the verbiage in these regulations for 4 years after the Shuttle stopped flying? Nothing, it would seem. So ... the regulations were flawed/out of date for 4 years and no one cared? One has to wonder if these regulations really mean much of anything if it takes so long to change them and everyone ignores the parts they want to ignore.

I wonder how long it will take NASA to revise these regulations so as to allow the whole #JourneyToMars thing to happen so that astronauts can bring their favorite college t-shirts to Mars.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/wh3a.jpg

Keith's note: Other than a short presentation by the President, Astronomy Night at the White House was a webcast with long periods of silence, dark murky streamed video of people in the dark standing next to TV lights, and bad audio. After an hour or two the actual interviews started - but no actual students were ever heard - even though the whole thing is about students. Neither NASA or the White House invited space media to cover the event and talk to actual students (or maybe they did - no one will answer that question for me - no media advisory was sent to me - and I asked). Apparently the kids there (including Ahmed Mohamed) had fun. Good for them. But as a highly-hyped webcast this thing fell short - it was just adults talking to each other. I wonder what this whole thing cost and how many college educations could have been paid for with the TV production costs.

Oh yes, NASA's Inspector General said today that NASA's Education programs are still broken.

Keith's note: (sigh) I only asked NASA and others a bunch of times about this. Clearly there are communication issues within NASA and between NASA and OSTP on things such as Astronomy Night. Funny thing: I was only interested in talking to actual students at the event - not the government wonks who are afraid to talk to me - and never say anything anyway.

If you go to the White House press briefing/media advisory page nothing is mentioned - just a fact sheet issued hours before the event. There is no place on the website to sign up to get press releases or media advisories by email or to apply to cover events. NASA PAO has a list of media who cover NASA in the DC area. They use that list all the time. They also make phone calls to media to alert them to upcoming events. The White House grounds were crammed with NASA personnel for this event. But not a peep from NASA PAO. If NASA PAO political appointee Lauren Worley had the White House media advisory why did it not occur to her that the people who cover NASA might be interested?

Marshall Space Flight Center director announces retirement in email today, Huntsville Times

"NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Director Patrick Scheuermann announced to center staff today that he will retire on Nov. 13. In his email to the Marshall team, Scheuermann did not say what he will do next, but that he and his family will remain in the Tennessee Valley. He has been director of Marshall since 2012. There was also no immediate word on Scheuermann's successor. The center recently announced that Todd May, formerly head of the Space Launch System (SLS) program, would become deputy director. May replaced Teresa Vanhooser, who also retired earlier this year as deputy director."

Keith's note: NASA MSFC is blocking access to links from SpaceRef.com using a common URL shortener - in this case http://srs.gs/jMZ NASAWatch uses the same URL shortener for links sent out via Twitter. The MSFC IT people have no idea how the Internet works. I wonder what other "gambling" sites they are blocking?

Oddly this link points to "NASA's Marshall Center to Conduct Active Shooter Emergency Exercise Oct. 22". Wouldn't you think that MSFC would want as may people as possible to know that this is an "exercise" and not something else? And if MSFC is now blocking what employees can see on Twitter, they may learn to regret this given that social media is often how law enforcement and employees find out what is going on during real shooter incidents.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/x38.1.s.jpg http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/x38.2.s.jpg http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/x38.3.s.jpg

Keith's note: JSC used to be so proud of its X-38 program. Not any more. The X-38 V-201 orbital test vehicle is currently sitting atop its ground mobility carrier outside at JSC behind Building 49. It is totally exposed to the elements and sitting next to a trash dumpster. You can even see it in Google Maps. Click on images to enlarge.

C'mon JSC. How much would it cost someone to go to Home Depot at lunch time to buy one of those blue tarps everyone in Houston uses on their roofs after a hurricane? Why not donate this X-38 to Space Center Houston if you can't think of anything better to do with it than to park it outside next to a dumpster?

JSC got all upset about not getting a Space Shuttle and yet this is how they treat a spacecraft they built all by themselves?

- JSC Is Abandoning NASA History, earlier post
- More History To Be Destroyed in Huntsville, earlier post
- The Continued Rotting of Skylab, earlier post
- X-38 Put in Storage at Johnson Space Center, earlier post

Keith's note: Cool stuff, eh? Yet if you go to @NASANewHorizons (the Twitter account run by NASA) you see no mention of it - and infrequent mission updates such as this engine firing. But if you go to @NewHorizons2015 (run by mission PI Alan Stern) there are more official mission updates. Stern's salary (and those of other SwRI employees) when working on New Horizons comes from NASA. Yet SwRI staff specifically block access to news media Twitter accounts such as @NASAWatch forcing additional steps to be taken to get this information - information about a NASA mission paid for with NASA money. This also makes it impossible to directly retweet these Tweets to @NASAWatch followers (over 60,000 at this point). Again, what a splendid E&PO campaign this mission has i.e. blocking news media to easy access to mission information such that it is harder to redistribute that news. Funny, Alan Stern uses his @goldenspikeco Twitter account to follow @NASAWatch.

Blocking Good News From New Horizons, earlier post

NASA OIG Audit: NASA's Education Program

"NASA's Office of Education has taken steps to improve its management of the Agency's diverse education portfolio ... However, the Office's efforts have been hampered by an outdated strategic framework and a lack of long-term goals upon which to evaluate the success of NASA's education activities. Specifically, the Office of Education did not update a 2006 framework document to align with the priorities outlined in the Agency's 2014 Strategic Plan until July 2015. Furthermore, the updated framework did not include measurable long-term goals that address the Nation's need to increase the number of students who earn advanced degrees in preparation for STEM careers. ... In addition, a lack of timely and comprehensive management information has adversely impacted the Office of Education's ability to effectively monitor program accomplishments and accurately report NASA contributions to the Administration's STEM education goals. ... in contrast to Federal guidance, NASA risks funding a fragmented portfolio of activities. We believe the Office of Education could reduce this risk by emphasizing coordination and consolidation as a priority in the initial stages of the competition and subsequently engaging the Centers to identify common themes."

Bob Farquhar

Keith's note: My friend Robert Farquhar left this life today. He orbited the sun 83 times. He was big on orbits and designed some of the most esoteric and complex spacecraft trajectories ever attempted which were executed with stunning precision. Between ISEE-3's crazy trips around the inner solar system to the recent flyby of Pluto, Bob had a hand in many missions.

The ISEE-3 Reboot effort during which I got to know Bob very well - was spawned by Bob's relentless persistence and was the capstone to a career that spanned decades and saw into the future with immense precision. He was a hacker in his 80s and simply stunned some of the younger folks who worked on our team.

Bob was a steely-eyed missile man and a genuine space cowboy who always knew exactly how to get NASA to do what it needed to do - even if NASA did not know it at the time. Bob taught me that you are never too old to try new things and that being a pain in the ass serves a vital role in the exploration of space.

I went to visit Bob a week or so ago at home. He was weak but still smiled when I reminded him that he and I had agreed to go outside and wave at ISEE-3 when it flies by Earth again in 2029. More to follow in the days ahead.

George Mueller

George Mueller, NASA engineer who helped enable moon landing, dies at 97, Washington Post (Extensive obituary)

"George Mueller, a coolly decisive, hard-driving engineer, scientist and administrator who was given much of the credit for enabling NASA to meet President John F. Kennedy's manned moon landing timetable, as well as for initiating the Skylab and space shuttle programs, died Oct. 12 at his home in Irvine, Calif. He was 97."

Remembering George Mueller, Leader of Early Human Spaceflight, NASA

Jeb Bush Wants Aspirational Goals for NASA, SpacePolicyOnline

"Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush enthusiastically called for NASA to pursue aspirational goals in concert with the private sector during a campaign Town Hall meeting yesterday. The former Florida governor has previously expressed his support for the space program. ... Asked what he would do as President to get Congress to allocate more money to NASA to restore U.S. leadership in space, Bush said "I think we need to be more aspirational again." He criticized the Obama Administration for making the United States reliant on Russia for launching people into space and stressed the need for an independent means for getting crews to the space station."

Jeb Bush: Newt Gingrich's moon colony idea was 'cool', CNN

"When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed the idea of forming colonies on the moon during his 2012 presidential bid, he got a lot of laughs. But not from Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor said Wednesday that he actually liked the idea. Recalling the skeptical responses to Gingrich's pitch, Bush said he remembered thinking, "Really? I think it's pretty cool."

NASA finally talks Mars budget, and it's not enough, Houston Chronicle

"At the Capitol Hill luncheon, Lightfoot said a Mars program would have to be accomplished with a budget that is one-tenth of the budget that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. "From a NASA perspective it'll be done for about one-tenth of the budget that we were doing back then," Lightfoot said, according to Space News. A NASA spokeswoman said after Lightfoot's speech that he was comparing the Apollo budget and the agency's current budget based on percentages of the overall federal budget. NASA received 4 percent of the total federal budget during the height of the Apollo Program, and today NASA has 0.4 percent. "We intend to carry out our current ambitious exploration plans within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth," NASA's Lauren Worley said. The release of the "Journey to Mars" report that contained no specific budget for a Mars mission frustrated some members of Congress."

Keith's note: NASA's answer just confuses things further. No one with even a shred of fiscal accumen will tell you that a multi-decade program to send humans to Mars - as is typically done by NASA (delays, overruns, and PR hype) - is going to be done "within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth." This is just back peddling NASA PR mumbo jumbo designed to try and make it seem that Lightfoot said something other than what he actually said. Oddly, as they berate NASA for its delays that are often due to wacky budget actions by Congress, Congress neglects to mention that between FY10-15 the White House has given $1.8 billion more to NASA than Congress wanted to give the agency while Congress simultaneously and consistently cuts the President's request for Commercial Crew every year.

No one has a plan or a budget. This is no way to send people to Mars.

Night Wolves Biker Gang Flag Flown In Russian Segment of Space Station, Moscow Times

"President Vladimir Putin's favorite nationalist biker gang, the Night Wolves, flew their flag aboard the International Space Station a $150 billion project co-managed by the U.S. and Russian space agencies. A photo of the group's flag appeared on Twitter on Wednesday, when it was posted by an unverified account apparently owned by the gang's controversial figurehead, Alexander Zaldostanov known to his friends, and even Putin himself, as "the Surgeon."

Night Wolves, Wikipedia

"Members of the Night Wolves have fought on the side of pro-Russian militants during the Crimean Crisis and war in Donbass. They have blockaded the main routes into Sevastopol and participated in attacks on a natural gas facility and the naval headquarters in the city. In April 2015, Agence France-Presse stated that Alexei Vereshchyagin had fought against Ukrainian government forces in Luhansk."

New Horizons Publishes First Pluto Research Paper, NASA

"New Horizons has revealed a degree of diversity and complexity in the Pluto system that few expected in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system. The New Horizons team describes a wide range of findings about the Pluto system in its first science paper, released today."

The Pluto system: Initial results from its exploration by New Horizons, Science

Keith's note: Great news, right? - the sort of thing you'd want to make sure everyone knows about. Not so with New Horizons The @NewHorizons2015 Twitter account which is operated by New Horizons PI Alan Stern specifically blocks @NASAWatch from following. What a wonderful approach to NASA education and public outreach: deliberately hindering media access.

Barnstorming Enceladus

Closest Northern Views of Saturn's Moon Enceladus, NASA

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft has begun returning its best-ever views of the northern extremes of Saturn's icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. The spacecraft obtained the images during its Oct. 14 flyby, passing 1,142 miles (1,839 kilometers) above the moon's surface. Mission controllers say the spacecraft will continue transmitting images and other data from the encounter for the next several days."

New Closeup Images of Enceladus, NASA

Berkeley astronomer in sexual harassment case to resign, Nature

"Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy is stepping down as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, following revelations that a university investigation found he had sexually harassed multiple students between 2001 and 2010. ... Marcy has also resigned as principal investigator of the Breakthrough Listen project, a US$100 million initiative announced in July to search for signs of intelligent life in the Universe."

Keith's note: The organization chosen by NASA to promote the scientific utilization of the International Space Station has been unable to raise funds it planned to raise. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Developed at the direction of Congress, CASIS was to be given NASA funds to promote research on the ISS while seeking to generate additional funds from the private sector to augment this research. The maximum annual value of this arrangement with NASA is $15 million per year.

According to the CASIS Strategic Plan, one of their operational strategies is to: "Develop a robust financial model to supplement government funding. CASIS funding from NASA is currently projected at $15M per year, to cover operating costs and to provide seed money for promising R&D. To meet the variety of demands on personnel, infrastructure, business processes and outreach that will grow over time, CASIS must develop additional resources in the form of partnerships and funding and create rigorous business and economic models in order to sustain these. Sources will include private financiers, corporate sponsorship, philanthropists and federal grants that may leverage cost sharing and equity investment in new ventures. Additionally, CASIS will practice management excellence in its operating models to ensure costs are minimized while ISS utilization is maximized effectively toward mission success."

Well CASIS has failed miserably in this regard. If you look at their IRS 990 forms from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (the only returns available) you will see that for at least the past 3 years 99.9% of CASIS' income was from NASA.

NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Services Contracts for CubeSat Satellites

"The three companies selected to provide these new commercial launch capabilities, and the value of their firm fixed-price contracts, are:
- Firefly Space Systems Inc. of Cedar Park, Texas, $5.5 million
- Rocket Lab USA Inc. of Los Angeles, $6.9 million
- Virgin Galactic LLC of Long Beach, California, $4.7 million"

Keith's note: This is really strange. NASA KSC PAO is having a press event today - one they announced last week - to announce the selection of these three companies when in fact, as noted on NASAWatch on 7 October these awards were already announced and posted on NASA's procurement website on 1 October. So why wait 2 weeks to announce something that has already been announced?

What Is NASA's Venture Class Launch Service Announcement?, earlier post (with links to NASA contract awards)

Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies Announces Appointment of Michael Suffredini as President, Commercial Space Division

"Michael T. Suffredini will lead the Commercial Space Division, a new enterprise for SGT. The Commercial Space Division will focus SGT's and its affiliated companies', spaceflight engineering, operations and hardware development capabilities on space related commercial opportunities. Through private and public/private partnerships the division expects to play a significant role in the development of low Earth orbit capabilities to support and foster the growing economy and commercialization of space. Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, the CEO and President of SGT stated "Mike's experience and accomplishments are the perfect match for our Commercial Space Division and he will build a new future for SGT as we embark on the commercialization of space."

NASA and Israel Space Agency Sign Cooperation Agreement

"NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) of the Ministry of Science signed a new civil space cooperation agreement on October 13, 2015. The agreement was signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Menachem Kidron - Director General of the Israel Space Agency during the International Astronautical Congress hosted in Jerusalem by the ISA. The last agreement between NASA and the ISA was signed in 1996 and remained in effect until 2005. The two sides agreed that now is the right time to renew their commitment to their mutual cooperation. The new agreement, which is more far-reaching and in-depth than its predecessor, will enable NASA and ISA to cooperate in the exploration and research of space for the betterment of mankind and for peaceful use."

Jerusalem Welcomes the International Space Community Amidst Wave of Violence, SpaceRef

"The opening ceremony featured several speeches from dignitaries including the Minister of Science of Israel, Ofir Akunis and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Of note, both the mayor and Minister spoke on the recent wave of violence which later in the evening hit a little too close for comfort for the delegates as an Arab man stabbed and tried to grab the gun of an Israel Defense Force soldier just 200 meters from the International Convention Center on a bus while the welcome reception was underway. The attacker was killed in the skirmish, which also lightly injured one other person."


The Journey to Mars Starts with the Journey to the Moon, SpaceRef

"China for its part stressed the desire to have full international cooperation with other countries. This idea, which was later brought up during the Q&A, elicited a response from NASA's administrator Charles Bolden that NASA was "temporarily" unable to cooperate with China and that he felt they were "on the outside, looking in" as other nations, including all on the panel, were discussing cooperative projects with China."

NASA chief says ban on Chinese partnerships is temporary, Reuters

"The United States should include China in its human space projects or face being left out of new ventures to send people beyond the International Space Station, NASA chief Charles Bolden said on Monday. ... During a heads of space agencies panel at the International Astronautical Congress, he said he believed the ban was temporary. "The reason I think that where we are today is temporary is because of a practical statement that we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, because everybody ... who has any hope of a human spaceflight program ... will go to whoever will fly their people," Bolden said. His comments were echoed by China."

Previous post on China

About Those SpaceX Rumors

Pentagon denies ULA waiver on Russian engines, Washington Post

"The Pentagon announced Friday that it would not grant the United Launch Alliance a waiver allowing it to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made engines that the company has said it desperately needs to compete in the multibillion-dollar national security launch market. ULA, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that had a monopoly on national security satellite launches for a decade, had pleaded with the Pentagon for a waiver that would allow it to use more RD-180 engines to power its Atlas V rocket. The company has four of the engines in its inventory that it could use for national security launches, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno recently told reporters. But he said ULA needs at least 14 to compete to launch national security payloads, such as spy and communications satellites, before it is able to use a new, American-made engine it is developing with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)"

SpaceX raps ULA bid to get U.S. waiver for Russian engines, Reuters

"Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has slammed a bid by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, to get a waiver from a U.S. ban on Russian rocket engines for military use. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla Motors and chief executive of SpaceX, told Defense Secretary Ash Carter that federal law already allowed ULA to use "a substantial number" of engines. ULA's threat to skip an upcoming Air Force competition to launch a GSP satellite unless it got a waiver was "nothing less than deceptive brinkmanship for the sole purpose of thwarting the will of Congress," he wrote in a letter dated Oct. 5. A copy was obtained by Reuters on Thursday."

Previous RD-180 posts

Hearing: Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration

"October 9, 2015 10:15 a.m. ET: The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing on the impact of the president's budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations. Witnesses will discuss NASA's plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration's budget request affects these programs."

- Archived webcast
- Statement of Dan Dumbacher
- Statement by Doug Cooke
- Hearing Examines Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration
- Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Deep Space Exploration
- Hearing charter

"On August 27, 2014, NASA announced a one year slip of EM-1, the first launch of SLS, from 2017 to 2018. This announcement was made despite numerous statements from NASA officials to Congress that the program was on schedule and that no additional funding was needed. Last month, NASA made a similar announcement about the Orion, pushing the launch readiness date for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) back two years to no later than 20237 from an original date of 2021."

NASA Releases Plan Outlining Next Steps in the Journey to Mars

"NASA is leading our nation and the world on a journey to Mars, and Thursday the agency released a detailed outline of that plan in its report, "NASA's Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration." "NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Today, we are publishing additional details about our journey to Mars plan and how we are aligning all of our work in support of this goal. In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to discuss the details of our plan with members of Congress, as well as our commercial and our international and partners, many of whom will be attending the International Astronautical Congress next week."

Keith's note: This is just pathetic. There is no "plan" in this "plan". Its a description of a bunch of things what NASA says it needs to do but there is no budget, firm timeline, architecture, or overarching mission goals. This is just another PDF file with pretty pictures and a unorganized shopping list of ideas. This is not how you prepare for a "Journey to Mars" or a journey anywhere else for that matter. And how does this "plan" integrate with NASA's recently issued Strategic Plan? Wouldn't you think that they'd be intimately integrated?

NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post

"This thing reads like an annual report - there is no "plan" in this strategic plan. The authors are utterly confused as to what a "goal", "objective", and "strategy" are and confusingly use the terms interchangeably. It is almost as if they say "it is important that we do what we are doing because we are already doing it".

Lakes on Mars

Curiosity Rover Team Confirms Ancient Lakes on Mars

"A new study from the team behind NASA's Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity has confirmed that Mars was once, billions of years ago, capable of storing water in lakes over an extended period of time."

Powerboats on Mars, earlier post (1998)

"Despite suggestions in various news tabloids, project scientists were quick to dispell any suggestion that the branched structure seen northeast of the dam-like structure is a marina. In making this statement, project scientists point out that there is very little air on Mars and that sailboats would be impractical nor is there enough Oxygen to support the internal or external combustion engines used in powerboats."

Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto, NASA

"The first color images of Pluto's atmospheric hazes, returned by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft last week, reveal that the hazes are blue."

NASA scientist hints at 'amazing' Pluto finding, NY Post

"NASA won't let me tell you what we're going to tell you on Thursday," Dr. Alan Stern, the mission's lead scientist, told students on Monday at the University of Alberta in Canada, according to The Guardian. "It's amazing." "This world is alive," Stern added. "It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology." But NASA said there's nothing out of this world to announce. "There is a false rumor going around that there will be a BIG New Horizons science announcement tomorrow," according to a tweet from the New Horizons team on Wednesday. "Completely false."

Keith's note: I am not sure Stern was wrong in what he is quoted as saying. I think think this news is a big deal. As for how the "false rumor" started. It should obvious that @NewHorizons2015 was promoting it (by retweeting an excited quote) before it was debunking it.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2015/alive.retweet.jpg

NASA to Announce Selections for Small Satellite Launch Contract

"NASA will host a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to announce the outcome of the Venture Class Launch Service (VCLS) competition. The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Keith's note: NASA issued these Venture Class Launch Service contract awards last week. Rocket Lab got $6,950,000, Firefly got $5,500,000, and Virgin Galactic got $4,700,000 (or is there a missing decimal point?). What else is NASA going to announce?

- NASA KSC Contract Award: Venture Class Launch Service - Rocket Lab USA
- NASA KSC Contract Award: Venture Class Launch Service - Firefly Space Systems
- NASA KSC Contract Award: Venture Class Launch Service - Virgin Galactic

"VCLS is a Firm-Fixed Price contract for a dedicated launch service for U-Class satellites with NASA having sole responsibility for the payload on the launch vehicle. NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) supports the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) by providing launch opportunities for CubeSats that are currently on the manifest back log."

Keith's note: The following was sent out by Belansky, Michael J. (JSC-NS231) to a lot of people at JSC yesterday. Given Mark Watney's poo and potato experiments in "The Martian", its seems that this topic is on JSC management's minds these days.

"From: Belansky, Michael J. (JSC-NS231)
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 10:54 AM
To: HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE (DELETED) Larger image
Cc: JSC-WCC-Work-Control-Center
Subject: Need Your Help

Build 20 Residents,

It seems it's time to send out a reminder about proper potty etiquette. Please remember that only toilet paper should be flushed besides human waste. In the event that more than a reasonable amount of toilet paper is needed, please perform a preliminary flush before overwhelming the commode with massive amounts of toilet paper. If by chance you forget these guidelines and do overwhelm the toilet or notice a clogged commode, please be courteous and report the stopped up toilet immediately by writing an email to JSC-WCC-Work-Control-Center (jsc-wcc@mail.nasa.gov) and .cc both me and David Nayles. This way the problem gets resolved quickly."

An Alarming Number Of People Think "The Martian" Is A True Story, BuzzFeed

"The Martian, the new movie by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars, is being rightly praised for its fairly accurate portrayal of science. But maybe it was too realistic, because an alarming number of people out there have come away from the film thinking it is based on a true story."

Sheila Jackson Lee

"In 1997, while on a trip to the Mars Pathfinder operations center in California, Jackson Lee confused the planet Mars with Earth's own moon, asking whether the Pathfinder had succeeded in taking a picture of the flag planted on Mars by Neil Armstrong in 1969."

As an Emerging Space Nation Israel Makes a Statement in Hosting the International Astronautical Congress, SpaceRef

"Israel's space program was born out of military need, but in recent years the civil space program has received an infusion of funding and next week it will host the annual International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem."

Marc's note: Charlie Bolden will take part in the annual Heads of Agencies plenary next Monday.

I will be at Congress covering it with stories to be posted here.

Related: Q&A with Isaac Ben-Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency, SpaceNews

Israeli Google Lunar XPrize Team is First to Sign Launch Agreement for Private Mission to the Moon on SpaceX Falcon 9

"At a press conference held in Jerusalem today, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced a significant milestone in its race to the moon: securing a "ticket to the moon" on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, with a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017. With this, SpaceIL becomes the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, and aims to accomplish not only the first Israeli mission to the moon, but also the world's first private lunar mission."

Marc's note: With this contract SpaceIL now has until December 31, 2017 to win the competition. It is also good news for the remaining teams in the competition. The deadline for teams without a contract is now extended to December 31, 2016. They have to show a verified contract by that date to stay in the competition.

This news comes just over a week after Moon Express announced it had a launch contract. However, unlike SpaceIL, their contract has yet to be verified by the Google Lunar X Prize.

Previously:

Google Lunar X Prize to Verify Moon Express Launch Contract, SpaceRef Business

Chanda Gonzales, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPRIZE said on the contract issue "Our decision is based on a holistic assessment of whether the launch contract is genuine, whether there are any legal issues that might pop up, whether there are any obvious non-compliances with the rules, and whether a substantial commitment was made by both the team and the launch provider (e.g. non-refundable deposit of some certain minimum value)."

Keith's note: "The Martian" is doing very well in theaters. Reviews are strong, space advocates love it, and the media has been putting forth some long, often thoughtful, discussions about the value of human exploration and NASA's ability to work with a prominent film to get that message out. That's human exploration by the way - as in humans going to places to explore. But at the Planetary Society, there is ongoing doubt about this exploration paradigm.

Last week senior Planetary Society staffer Emily Lakdawalla referred to humans on Mars as "filthy meatbag bodies" in response to her organization's report on their preferred mission to Mars where humans would be held at bay for years and maybe land on the surface 25 years from now. Maybe. And they have to kill the ISS to make that plan happen.

As I noted last week, it is quite obvious that the Planetary Society would be happy if it took longer to put humans on Mars than NASA and others would like it to take since "Filthy meatbag bodies" don't belong on Mars - if at all possible. An additional tweet from Lakdawalla tonight, coupled with one last year (there have been others) shows that Planetary Society staff are openly hostile to the notion of humans on Mars - or anywhere else in space. These anti-human spaceflight tweets are never deleted. The Planetary Society never disputes or disavows them. The Planetary Society prefers robots to humans - period.

Meanwhile, if you visit the National Space Society's webpage or Twitter feed @nss you will see no mention whatsoever of this space movie with blockbuster potential. How sad. They were once such a forceful advocate for a balanced program of human and robotic exploration of space. A once prominent space advocacy organization is now a corpse that can't even go through the motions of being relevant.


- Planetary Society Does Not Want Humans on Mars, Earlier post
- Planetary Society is Both For and Against Human Spaceflight, Earlier post
- Planetary Society's Mars Mission Takes Longer To Do Less, Earlier post
- Not Everyone Wants To Be The Martian, Earlier post

NASA Wakes Up: Saving Earth From Killer Asteroids Is A Waste

"The answer to the first question should we be monitoring what's out there is yes, but not with the urgency so many advocate. And to the second question should we be prepping the defenses the answer is not likely. We may get some very smart, very famous people arguing counter to this, but even smart people fall prey to a common human fallacy: risk estimation when the odds are low but the consequences are great. ... There are real dangers to Earth (and to the humans on it) facing us today, but asteroids aren't one of them. If our species sticks around for another few thousand years, it will be time to make that investment. But until then? We've got a planet to save, and an entire Universe to discover."

Keith's note: This has to be one of the dumbest things I have read in a long time. Forbes doesn't fact check their articles, so it would seem. The author uses lots of numbers in his article. But when you ask the author for the specific sources of his data - data used to make specific risk assessment statements, he won't provide it.

Don't worry. Matt Damon won't get stuck on Mars. NASA can't get him there, Washington Post

"We're setting expectations for something that is decades away. The public has a short attention span," said Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA under President Obama. Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for exploration, thinks NASA needs to spell out intermediate steps to Mars. There's one obvious stopping point between the third and fourth rocks from the sun: The moon. Cooke says it could be a proving ground for off-world living. "There needs to be more of a plan for actually getting there," Cooke said. "You can't have a flat-line budget indefinitely and think you're going to put all of this together by 2030."

Astronauts again blast off at box office, 'The Martian' lands with $55 million debut, US News & World report

"The 20th Century Fox release, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut left for dead on Mars, exceeded expectations to nearly rank as the top October debut ever. The estimated North American opening of "The Martian" surpassed that of Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" ($47.5 million) and virtually equaled the debut of Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" ($55.8 million)."

Keith's note: Once the feel-good hoopla surrounding "The Martian" fades, NASA will be in the exact same place it was before the film was released: frantically inserting "Journey To Mars" into every public utterance - however tenuous the actual connection - with no clear plan or guaranteed budget to actually make it all happen. And there aren't any more Mars movies in the Hollywood pipeline to keep the buzz going.

The Martian: How NASA Soars - and Stumbles - Simultaneously, earlier post

Russia's New Rocket Won't Fit in Its New Cosmodrome, Moscow Times

"Work at Russia's new $ 3 billion spaceport in the Far East has ground to a halt after a critical piece of infrastructure was discovered to have been built to the wrong dimensions, and would not fit the latest version of the country's Soyuz rocket, a news report said."

- Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome Has Big Problems, earlier post
- More Negative Progress at Vostochny Cosmodrome, earlier post
- Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

Film Review: "The Martian", Keith Cowing

"The Martian is a really good movie. It would be a good movie even if it was not set in outer space. But it does happen in space and does so in superbly flawless fashion. The movie is fast-paced and really doesn't miss a beat. Little time is wasted on things that do not support the story. You are on Mars with Mark Watney and you really want to see him get home."

ULA needs relief on Russian engines before GPS launch bid -CEO, Reuters

"United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on Friday said it cannot bid in a U.S. Air Force competition to launch a GPS satellite unless it gets some relief from a ban on use of Russian rocket engines. ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno told reporters in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that the company was seeking a partial waiver on trade sanctions enacted last year that ban U.S. military use of the Russian RD-180 engine that powers ULA's primary workhorse Atlas 5 rocket. The issue is now in the hands of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Bruno said. Without the waiver, he said, ULA could not compete for that launch or any other new national security launches until a new American-built engine is ready in 2019."That's not a viable business model," he told reporters."

United Launch Alliance under pressure from Elon Musk's SpaceX upstart and Congress, Washington Post

"ULA is facing a challenge from SpaceX, the hard-charging upstart founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, which just won certification by the Air Force that would allow it to compete against ULA for the next Pentagon launch contract. And ULA faces an even bigger problem: the Russian-made rocket engine it relies on has been entangled in a messy political fight that could threaten its ability to compete at all."

NASA = Mars = Delusional, Paul Spudis

"Apparently, NASA believes that as this movie takes off in popularity, a public wound-up about space exploration will demand that the agency be showered with additional money."

Keith's note: No, Paul I have yet to find a single person even remotely involved in PR or EPO efforts at NASA who thinks that this is going to happen and/or have adopted this as a strategy. Indeed a lot of them are a little leery that some space advocates seem to be operating under this delusion. NASA PAO folks are doing the PR for the reasons I cite below in "Growing The Next Generation Of Space Explorers" I do have to pose the question: why are so many movies (viewed by the public) about going to Mars, and so very few about going to the Moon? Hollywood (at least) tries to make movies that large audiences will go and see. The Moon is not sexy right now - hate to burst your balloon. Whose fault is it that the Moon is not hip right now?

That said, if you strip out Paul's barely suppressed hostility about Mars-o-mania, he does touch on some important points in this posting - and you should read it. As Spudis knows, I think the notion of sending humans back to the Moon has been ignored for far too long. So has the notion of sending humans to Mars. We should do both in a coordinated, synergistic, evolutionary way. The fact that prominent space advocates/scientists fight in public like this simply reaffirms my ongoing commentary about how space policy is (rather is not) made and that space advocates need to stop talking to one another and go outside their sandboxes into the real world and see what passes for important.

I suspect that the elusive secret sauce needed to link what NASA and the space sector can do, what they should do, and how they should do it - in a growing fashion - lies outside the agency all together. Space fans just have to accept some humility, adopt a open mind, and look. Its there. Sometimes it lingers just out of reach when a big space movie comes out. Other times its brought on by something interesting in the sky. Its there. Its like dark matter since we can see its influence. But space fans have yet to figure out how to actually detect it.

So long as prominent members of the space science/policy advocacy communities have these stark, incompatible, almost religious disagreements about where to go (and where not to go) they will make no progress. Indeed as costs increase they are going to continue to make negative progress. Absent from all of these intramural squabbles is a lucid explanation as to why NASA should spend billions of "regular" people's tax dollars on things that a lot of regular folks simply do not understand - all while college tuition has become obscene and health care costs are increasing like a runaway train. Given this dysfunctional behavior I remain totally baffled as to how the space community at large (or its various dueling tribes) thinks that they can just turn around and get the public to clamor for more money for ANY of these projects when they are so utterly detached from the real world that pumps money into NASA's lap in the first place.

Moon Express Launch Contract to be Verified by Google Lunar XPRIZE, SpaceRef Business

"Yesterday Moon Express became the first Google Lunar X PRIZE participant to sign a launch contract with a launch service provider, albeit one who has yet to launch a rocket."

"The contract with Rocket Lab, a New Zealand startup based in Los Angeles but with a launch site in New Zealand, still needs to be verified by the Google Lunar X PRIZE authorities."

Marc's note: For the competition to be extended beyond this year the Google Lunar X PRIZE needs to verify the launch contract signed between Moon Express and Rocket Lab. If Moon Express had signed a contract with SpaceX, I think this would be a formality. However Rocket Lab has yet to launch their Electron rocket. Does that play into the decision process? Or is it just a matter of verifying the legality of the contract? I'm waiting for a response from the Google Lunar X Prize on this question.

Marc's update: Here's what Chanda Gonzales, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPRIZE said on the contract issue "Our decision is based on a holistic assessment of whether the launch contract is genuine, whether there are any legal issues that might pop up, whether there are any obvious non-compliances with the rules, and whether a substantial commitment was made by both the team and the launch provider (e.g. non-refundable deposit of some certain minimum value)."

How Matt Damon could rocket NASA to Mars in real life, MarketWatch

"Public support is seen as crucial to the agency as it works to make due on a promise to send humans to the red planet within 20 years. As excitement regarding the potential to travel to, land, and possibly even live on Mars grows, scientists say it could prop up NASA's missions and help secure ongoing funding. This week, a number of scientists heralded the film's factual accuracy, NASA announced a breakthrough discovery regarding flowing water on the red planet, and a rare blood moon on Sunday attracted a significant amount of attention on social media sites. The momentum has set the film up for a solid opening weekend, with Fandango reporting that pre-sales for "The Martian" are exceeding those of the 2013 sci-fi thriller "Gravity." Box office tracking company BoxOffice.com estimates the film will rake in $56 million this weekend."

Keith's note: OK, so lets just say for a moment that a visually stunning movie about an adventure on a strange new world sets box office records and goes on to make a billion dollars or more. In the process media visibility is relentless and the movie sells itself through word of mouth and a creative PR campaign. And oh yes, the real NASA is part of the PR effort. Well, take out the NASA part and the film I was describing was "Avatar". A couple of years later "Gravity" had a smaller, but similar effect. And Last year's "Interstellar" made its mark with some distinction as well.

Where is the budget bump for NASA directly (or even indirectly) attributable from these films? Did NASA's astrobiology and extrasolar planets budget get a big bump? ("Avatar"). How about human spaceflight? ("Gravity") Breakthrough propulsion and astrophysics? ("Interstellar"). Did Congress introduce bills inspired by any of these bills? Did the White House initiate any new legislative efforts? Did a citizen's movement arise and deluge Congress and the White House with letters asking for more support for space exploration thus causing a policy pivot? No.

Ignoring recent history (as space advocates regularly do) the usual space advocacy suspects have been trumpeting "The Martian" as a game changer for NASA and space exploration. Will it have an effect on inspiring young people? Of course it will - as did all of the other films I mentioned plus others. Decades ago like "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Star Trek" shaped my future career (and still do). And the inspiration in the near term may grown and evolve into something more pervasive and real in years to come. No one doubts that these movies can affect people in a life altering way. But there's not going to be special congressional committees called into existence to respond to citizen demands as a result of "The Martian" - since there will be no such demands.

NASA has been closely linked to PR and education and public outreach in connection with the movie - a wise, excellent decision. So far NASA has conducted itself perfectly, using the film to help explain basic things that it does and when drama trumps science, why this was done and what the real science is. They also helped the producers make it as close to reality as is practical with any scifi drama. There is no downside to this. Well, actually there is: NASA has nowhere near the budget for the Mars stuff in the film and what work it is already engaged in is beset with cost overruns and significant delays. But the movie goers aren't going to see a budget presentation. They are going to see a story. Maybe they will walk out of the theater with that story playing in their head. And perhaps some time in the near (or far) future when asked about space in a poll, or to vote for someone who mentions space, they might see their actions driven by this film (and others). But signing petitions and engaging in organized lobbying? I think not. Its just a movie.

But if people make humans to Mars something that they own as a result of seeing this film - something that they internalize personally - or see as what their children want to do, then you have to nucleus of a chance to sway policy decisions. This only happens if you plant the seed and nourish it. And this interest should not be forced to conform to the tired, broken tactics that Space advocates use (i.e. talking to one another but not the 99.999% who are not in the room). Rather it should be sought out in poor inner city schools or farming communities - not just magnet/charter schools in rich suburban communities. If space advocates want to so this space stuff for all humanity then they need to involve all of humanity.

This magical change that the space advocates expect will arise and will alleviate all of NASA's woes will not happen. Movies - even the most popular and successful - have yet to affect NASA's space policy. As my long-time friend Alan Ladwig noted, no one makes movies about NIH (or NSF) but their budgets go up without that cinematic boost. As far as NASA is concerned I (and Alan!) would sincerely love to be wrong - but I do not see it happening with "The Martian".

But this film will have a positive impact even if it's impact invisible at the moment. And other movies will follow with similar impacts. NASA will derive its best benefit from this and future scifi movies in terms of soft power - not from an onslaught of loud space advocates doing a march up the Mall in Washington demanding money for NASA. Rather, it starts with a student paying a little extra attention to a hard class in school this month - or changing their major next year. Maybe its a new merit badge in scouting or an interest in greenhouses or hacking an Arduino board to do something new. Maybe its a parent picking a different birthday present. Or maybe its a slowly building gut feeling that there are things out there that need to be explored. And the secret to this is education. Alas, NASA's education system, however well-intentioned, has been underfunded, uncoordinated, and mismanaged for decades. That needs to be fixed if NASA wants to have the next generation equipped and able to engage in the adventures the agency wants to embark upon.

Space exploration supporters in general need to take a lesson from "The Martian's" Watney - and "Insterstellar's" Cooper: become farmers and grow an army of supporters no matter where the potential supporters may live. The place to start is where those supporters actually are in terms of their dreams and interests. You can't force your dreams onto someone else.

When you set out to grow a tree you do not hammer a stick of wood into the ground and just walk away. You plant a seed or a seedling and then wait. And you nurture when needed. Space advocates need to put aside their hammers.

Europe helps Russia get banned US electronics for ExoMars project, TASS

"Russia has run into difficulties as regards the obtaining US-made component parts for its research equipment to be used in the ExoMars inter-planetary project, the launch of which has been scheduled for 2016, Oleg Korablyov, a Deputy Director General of the Space Research Institute in charge of materiel for ExoMars told reporters on Wednesday. "The sanctions have had a strong impact on us, since we didn't manage to buy some component parts (of US manufacture) for ExoMars," he said, admitting along with it that the Russian side had bought the bulk of the elements needed during the 2016 mission in advance."

Lockheed Martin Eliminated From NASA's Cargo Competition, Wall Street Journal

"NASA has quietly eliminated Lockheed Martin Corp. from a pending multibillion-dollar competition to ship cargo to the international space station starting in roughly three years, according to people familiar with the details."

Lockheed Martin Solution For NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Designed For Reliable Space Cargo Delivery, Lockheed Martin

"The Lockheed Martin CRS-2 solution brings many affordability benefits with it. Not only does it employ a reusable spacecraft and create the option to host commercial payloads, it's also designed to support future exploration missions in deep space."

Keith's note: This certainly has to factor into Lockheed Martin's thoughts about whether they want to try and sell their interest in ULA.


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