January 2016 Archives

RD Promotion Process Survey (Jan 2016), LaRC Survey at Surveymonkey

"The RD Promotion Process Team is evaluating the efficiency and transparency of the promotion process for AST's and technicians in RD. The top-level goals of this team are to evaluate and recommend improvements to the RD promotion process that will improve the efficiency and transparency of these processes for all AST's and technicians in RD."

Keith's 1 Feb update: The survey has suddenly closed. Oops.

Why investors are following Musk, Bezos in betting on the stars, Washington Post

"The new space investors are catching up with the slow, but growing development of the commercial space sector, which NASA has been fostering for years. With the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA has awarded billions of dollars in contracts to commercial companies so that they could develop rockets to fly cargo and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station. Still, the industry is diverse, and different sectors are more advanced, and profitable, than others. Cubesats, the tiny satellites that can swarm around the Earth beaming back images of the planet, are already in high demand. Launching commercial and government satellites is also big business. But the emergence of other sectors, such as space tourism and asteroid mining, is still in the future."

NASA isn't going to touch B.o.B.'s flat-Earth rant, Washington Post
.
"Here's the anthology of the bizarre-o flap: The rapper began sharing images and whack-job conspiracy theories in support of his position on Sunday. After astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stepped in to school him, B.o.B. threw shade at the scientist and the space agency in a diss track. ... Tyson even enlisted his nephew to pen a song responding to B.o.B's. But NASA is planning to stay (much like an Earth-monitoring satellite) above the fray. "We don't think there's a debate to be had," an agency spokeswoman said. Instead, she pointed anyone interested in the issue to the agency's' website and cache of images of our fair planet sent from space."

Keith's note: With no science fiction movies around to dump on, Neil Tyson needs something to get him on Comedy Central. Because, in the end, Neil Tyson is just an entertainer with a Ph.D. What nonsense issue will Neil Tyson go after next? Oh wait: X-Files is back on the air

- Going to Mars: Talking Head Vs Rocket Builder

Inspiration Endures

My Aunt, Judy Resnik, by Jenna Resnik

"You can shape your destiny and create your future, if only you try. Go find your 'other world', and remember that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars. The sky's the limit, people! Lastly, during all of your future endeavors, don't let what anyone else thinks get in your way, because as Aunt Judy said, "It is very important for you to realize that people who you consider to be heroes are really quite like yourselves. Only hard work and perseverance will help you to succeed at any venturethere is no magic of being more 'special' than someone else."

McCarthy Introduces Legislation to Reinstate Ban on Russian Rocket Engines

"Today, Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation to reinstate congressionally imposed restrictions on the purchase of RD-180 rocket engines (Russian rocket engines) for military space launches. This bill repeals language from the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that not only allows for the unlimited purchase of Russian rocket engines, but also undermines months of transparent debate and bipartisan policy the was signed into law in the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act."

Keith's 27 Jan 6:30 pm update: Moments ago Sen. McCain just gave a shout out on CNN to SpaceX as being able to provide a competitive alternative to the RD-180 saying "we paid this outfit ULA $800 million just to stay in business". McCain went on to note that the company that serves as a middleman in the sale of RD-180s between Russia and ULA "involves thugs and cronies of Vladimir Putin".

McCain vows to undo U.S. legislation that eased Russian rocket engine ban, Reuters

"U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Wednesday said he planned to introduce legislation that would strike language included in a massive 2016 spending bill that eased a congressional ban on the use of Russian rocket engines. McCain told a hearing on the issue that he and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy would introduce the legislation on Thursday, the first of many actions planned "to ensure we end our dependence on Russian rocket engines and stop subsidizing Vladimir Putin and his gang of corrupt cronies."

Hearing: Military Space Launch and the Use of Russian-made Rocket Engines

- Testimony of Deborah Lee James, Secretary Of The Air Force (not yet posted)

- Testimony of Frank Kendall III
Under Secretary Of Defense For Acquisition, Technology And Logistics

"In this constrained budget environment, we believe that competition between certified launch providers on a level playing field is the best mechanism to incentivize the innovation required to do so. The simple fact is that the Delta family is not cost competitive, and with the restrictions on the use of Atlas, the Department must continue to look for alternative launch capabilities which are compliant with the law."

- ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby
- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Congress Blinks on RD-180s, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

NASA Remembers Its Fallen Heroes, 30th Anniversary of Challenger Accident

"NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Thursday, Jan. 28, the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery."

Keith's update: The Arlington National Cemetery wreath laying will now start at 11 am EST.

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

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

Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"Given the sheer mass of the structure, and the slow manner with which things change here, this inukshuk may well be standing 500 years from now. That should be long enough. Maybe someone serving on a starship will think to visit it."

Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers

"A week prior to my departure I got a call from June Scobee Rogers, the widow of Challenger's commander Dick Scobee. She was thrilled with what we were doing and asked if we'd like to place a few mementos in the inukshuk. She then described what she was sending. A day or so later a package arrived. As I opened it I told my wife, with a bit of a tear in my eye, "this is history". I had been sent one of the few items Dick Scobee had left in his briefcase when he took off for his last mission: a business card and a mission lapel pin. I am certain that his family has so little in the way of such items. As such I was really honored that the family had chosen this inukshuk we planned to build on Devon Island, as the place where such precious items would rest."

Accomack Supervisors Blasted With Issues, Eastern Shore Post

"The rocket that malfunctioned at Wallops Island in October 2014 showed a grim picture of what could happen to nearby landowners. NASA's blast zone is worrying those who reside inside, people whose families have lived on the farms for generations. Some are scared of property damage while others are wondering just how the designation will shape their future. "It ought to be a big concern to anyone who lives in these circles," said Fred Darby of Assawoman, adding that those who live farther south haven't escaped because if his property values go down, those who live or own in Belle Haven or Parksley or elsewhere will have to "take up the slack." Darby warned, "There has to be a balance." And he noted the effect on the local "quality of life."

An astronaut's complaint about the president perfectly captures what is wrong with NASA, TechInsider

"During a Reddit AMA from the International Space Station on Jan. 23 Astronaut Scott Kelly called out the US government for its lack of financial support for NASA. When a Reddit user asked Kelly what he'd like to see the next president of the United States do, Kelly had an interesting answer: "I would like the next president to support a budget that allows us to accomplish the mission that we are asked to perform, whatever that mission may be," Kelly wrote. ... To Kelly's point, even though the Obama administration directed NASA to start working on a manned mission to Mars, many have criticized the administration and Congress for not adequately funding NASA, causing critical Mars projects to fall behind schedule."

Space Advocates Like To Talk To Themselves (Sept 2015)

"Rick Tumlinson and his New World Institute had all the space advocates in Washington all pumped up for his "Pioneering Space National Summit" event in February 2015. No media were allowed in. If one were to believe all of the pre-game hype, discussions were to be had amongst the pillars of the space community, and momentous statements intended to break the deadlock and propel us all into space were to be issued."

Move Along. This Is Not The Space Policy You're Looking For. (Feb 2015)

"One theme that is circulating among the people who have been invited are window dressing for an apparent push to get everyone to throw their support behind SLS. I wonder how many in attendance know that there are efforts afoot to sculpt this get together into something other than advertised."

Pioneering Space National Summit: So Far, Nothing But Crickets (June 2015)

"The organizers (most notably Rick Tumlinson and Mary Lynne Dittmar) spoke of all the wonderful things that would result from this event. Well, it has been 4 months. Other than a declaration that was proclaimed shortly after the meeting, nothing else seems to have been generated. Checking the website there seems to be little in the way of output. In Spring 2015 two documents that are only a couple of pages long, comprised mostly of semi-edited meeting notes/outlines emerged: Report: Deliberation #1 - Vision (Group A) and Report: Deliberation #2 - Strategy (Group A). Two other documents are apparently being edited." That's it.

Keith's note: Well it has been a year. Nothing new about the Pioneering Space National Summit has emerged from Team Tumlinson that comes anywhere close to the national consensus or powerful alliance of space advocacy and industry groups that everyone thought would emerge. Something called the Alliance for Space Development (a re-tread of some other alliance) emerged with only small and fading organizations as members. It has done nothing. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration emerged, itself a refit version of an earlier industry effort (minus the word "Deep") emerged, led by Dittmar. This reboot is now focused solely on lobbying for SLS and Orion. The earlier incarnation, the Coalition for Space Exploration, actually did some useful things. However, it's "Deep" version does not seem to do anything except prompt Dittmar to retweet other people's tweets.

So here we are, a year later, with none of the coordinated space policy goodness that all of the space advocates promised one another. They - we - all sit on the cusp of yet another presidential election - yet once again no two space advocates can give you the same vision of what a good, broadly-supported space policy should be for America.

Y'all had your chance - and you blew it (again).

Keith's update: This just in: Rick Tumlinson has written yet another op ed wherein he chastises all of the other space advocates while they all wait for the results from his space policy extravaganza last year. Note that he tweets this as a "warning to DC space". Alas, Tumlinson has become part of the very same "smoke and mirrors" crowd that he professes such disappointment with.

A Letter to the Washington Space Establishment, Huffington Post

"While you've wasted a lot of our time and money on dead ends, I still have hopes for you. While anyone else might look at what you've done -- the lies, the smoke and mirrors, the way you would sometimes dress up our future so nicely and then go out and cheat on it with someone who only wanted our money -- and walk away, I want to give it another go."

- Pioneering Space National Summit Details Emerge, earlier post
- Alliance for Space Development: Yawn - Yet Another Space Group, earlier post
- Space Advocates Work Together By Not Working Together, earlier post
- Move Along. This Is Not The Space Policy You're Looking For., earlier post
- Yet Another Plan For Outer Space, earlier post

OPM Status

"Applies to: Applies to: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 FEDERAL OFFICES in the Washington, DC area are CLOSED. Emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency's policies, including written telework agreements."

Snow Covered Washington DC Metro Area Seen From Space

"The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this natural-color image of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. on January 24, 2016."

British explorer Henry Worsley dies crossing Antarctic, 30 miles short of goal, CNN

"Worsley's last statement sent from Antarctica said: "The 71 days alone on the Antarctic with over 900 statute miles covered and a gradual grinding down of my physical endurance finally took its toll today, and it is with sadness that I report it is journey's end -- so close to my goal."

NASA Has To Fight The Forgetting, NBC

"[Space workers] need the consequent inescapable ache of fear and the gnawing of doubt that keeps asking, over and over, if they've covered all angles and done all they can. And if their stomachs do not knot up, and mouths go dry, as they confront such decisions perhaps they need new jobs. They do not need comforting myths about "valuable sacrifices" and "space-is-very-very-hard" rationalizations for the failures of individuals and teams. And most of all, they do not need more human sacrifices to remind them of things they knew, but somehow allowed themselves to forget."

Blue Origin Flies New Shepard To Space - Again (with video)

"The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse. This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582 feet (101.7 kilometers) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse."

Keith's 21 Jan note: This NOTAM - Notice to Airmen - has been issued by the FAA for the area where Blue Origin launches.

"!FDC 6/5414 ZAB TX. AIRSPACE VAN HORN, TX. TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS DUE TO SPACE FLIGHT OPERATIONS WI AN AREA DEFINED AS 17 NM RADIUS OF 3127N10446W OR THE SALT FLAT/SFL/VORTAC 125 DEGREE RADIAL AT 24 NM, SFC TO UNL. PURSUANT TO 14CFR SECTION 91.143 TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT. DLY 1300-2100 1601221300-1601232100."

Keith's Update: They did.

Massive Blizzard Heads Up U.S. East Coast

"NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite snapped this image of the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument's Day-Night band."

Russia's new spaceport will have only one launch pad for Angara rockets due to budget cuts, TASS

"Only one launch pad for Angara carrier rockets will be built at the Vostochny spaceport, deputy head of the Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure Andrey Okhlopkov said on Wednesday. "There will be one universal [launch pad]," Okhlopkov said adding that it will be capable of servicing all types of Angara rocket, including Angara-A5V. The decision was made after federal target programs for developing cosmodromes were cut."

Russian space agency scales back plans as crisis shrinks budget, Reuters

"Russia will spend 30 percent less on its space programme in the next decade and scale back a slew of projects to save money in the face of tanking oil prices and a falling rouble, a plan presented by the country's space agency showed on Wednesday, According to the blueprint, presented to Russian media by Igor Komarov, head of space agency Roscosmos, the space programme budget for 2016-2025 will be cut to 1.4 trillion roubles ($17.36 billion), down from 2 trillion roubles."

- Russian Space Follies, earlier post
- Putin's Favorite Paramilitary Biker Gang Flies Flag in Space, earlier post
- Russia Built Its New Cosmodrome Wrong, earlier post
- Russian Sanctions Are Affecting Space Projects, earlier post
- Earlier Russia posts

Cancer and Climate Change, Piers Sellers, New York Times

"I'm a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I've spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?"

Climate deniers attack NASA scientist dying of cancer, Grist.org

"And yet, it took no time at all for the climate change deniers to start attacking Sellers, as ThinkProgress points out. James Delingpole author of such illuminating articles as "Paris Climate Talks Are Doomed Because China Knows 'Climate Change' Is A Hoax" wrote a post on Breitbart with the ridiculous headline "NASA Chief: Global Warming Is Real Because I Have Cancer".

NASA Chief: Global Warming is Real Because I Have Cancer, Breitbart

"Sorry, but no. Sellers' cancer says no more about the validity of global warming theory than Einstein's having shagged Marilyn Monroe says about the validity of his theory of relativity. Interesting biographical details and personal tragedy have nothing to do with the scientific method. (Well, not unless it's Francis Bacon killing himself while experimenting on a frozen chicken). I'm genuinely surprised that NASA thought it was at all a good idea to publish this emotive piece. I shouldn't be surprised if it alienates more people than it persuades. After all, if climate change were really such a desperately important, scientifically proven issue, it certainly wouldn't need moving pleas from dying men to push its cause. The facts would speak for themselves."

Global Warming Continues

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015, NASA

"Earth's 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much."

Ranking Member Johnson Statement on Announcement that 2015 was the Warmest Year on Record

Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet, Caltech

"Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the distant solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the Sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the Sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly."

Charles D. Walker: Don't relinquish all space exploration to private firms, Charles Walker, Arizona Daily Star

"The idea is attractive, even if commercial plans for a Mars mission are hypothetical at best. But as much as I support the private space industry, experience and common sense tell me that a commercial Mars human landing won't ever get off the ground not unless NASA goes there first. Businesses are slaves to short-term balance sheets, and private space-industry investors and shareholders are notoriously risk-averse. Even wealthy entrepreneurs won't throw their money away. They'll back straightforward missions like delivering cargo to the space station 250 miles above the Earth using mature and well-tested technologies if they can turn a profit within a reasonable time with acceptable risk."

Keith's note: This is the sort of Pro-SLS, only-government-can-explore sort of nonsense that Mary Lynne Dittmar and her Coalition for Deep Space Exploration are pushing. (this op ed is linked to from the Coalition's website). This is how Dittmar retweeted a link to this op ed:

This statement by Dittmar is fundamentally silly given that the "whims of market or investors" are precisely what push the management of Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Orbital ATK, ULA, Aerojet, and the rest of the aerospace sector to pursue big government projects such as Orion and SLS. Dittmar can't have it both ways.

Keith's additional note: At the NASA Advisory Council meeting last year, Bill Gerstenmaier made it very clear that NASA needs to have a fully commercialized LEO infrastructure in order to free up NASA resources to focus on SLS/Orion-based exploration of cislunar space - and later, of Mars. When asked what would happen if that LEO commercialization did not happen, Gerstenmaier said that NASA would have to reassess how it would accomplish its exploration goals. Clearly, Mary Lynn Dittmar, NASA's future exploration of space is intimately tied to the success of LEO commercialization - an activity that will be driven by the "whims of market or investors". Besides, everyone knows that NASA's ability to explore is, always has been, and always will be "held hostage to whims of" -- Congress. As such, what is wrong with trying to find an alternate path to enable the exploration and utilization of space?

SpaceX Puts Jason-3 In Orbit and Almost Lands On A Barge (With launch video), SpaceRef

"The Jason-3 Satellite was successfully place in orbit today by a Falcon 9. However while that rocket's first stage landed within 1.3 meters of its target on the barge leg #3 did not lock properly."

Jason-3 Launches to Monitor Global Sea Level Rise

Instagram video of landing

RUD = "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly"

Keith's note: Beautiful pictures of flowers in space have been posted by Scott Kelly on Twitter - and they're very popular. Alas, NASA does not post these high resolution images online. There's no mention at Scott Kelly's flickr, JSC's Flickr, etc. But more importantly this "First ever flower grown in space" claim is totally bogus - just ask Google. It has been done more than once - and many years ago. Score another failed tagline for PAO's fact checking folks.

First species of plant to flower in space, Guinness

"In 1982, the then Soviet Union's Salyut-7 space station crew grew some Arabidopsis on board. During their 40-day lifecycle, they became the first plants to flower and produce seeds in the zero gravity of space."

Plant growth, development and embryogenesis during Salyut-7 flight, Adv Space Res. 1984;4(10):55-63.

"The seeds sown during the flight germinated, performed growth processes, formed vegetative and generative organs and, judging by the final result, they succeeded in fecundation, embryogenesis and ripening."

Modification of reproductive development in Arabidopsis thaliana under spaceflight conditions, Planta, April 1996, Volume 198, Issue 4, pp 588-594

"Reproductive development in Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. cv. Columbia plants was investigated under spaceflight conditions on shuttle mission STS-51. Plants launched just prior to initiation of the reproductive phase developed flowers and siliques during the 10-d flight."

June 17-26 - Diary of a Space Zucchini, Don Pettit (2012)

"Sunflower is going to seed! His blossom is wilted-brown and has a few lopsided packed seeds. This is not quite normal, but then, we are living on the frontier and things are different here. They are not ready now; I wonder if they will be by the time Gardener is with his seed pod?"

NASA astronauts just made flowers bloom in space - but they're not actually the first, Washington Post

"And according to the website NASA Watch, cosmonauts produced flowers several times in the pre-ISS days of spaceflight. It seems that in at least one case, the entire growth process occurred during flight. That was a lettuce plant, but lettuce plants can flower - and according to research published on the subject, it appears the Russian lettuce did."

Keith's note: I received a hard copy of NASA Spinoff 2016 today. I have not actually held a hard copy of this publication in a long time. Having worked on portions of NASA Spinoff reports in the 80s and early 90s I have to say that this document is much more detailed and varied than what I worked on back in the day. That said, as hard as this office tries to include things, they often mission some glaringly obvious spinoffs. In one instance they missed a spinoff that has actually saved lives all by itself. The spinoff NASA missed is FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), an innovative device developed by JPL that uses radar to detect the heartbeats of people buried under rubble after a natural disaster such as an earthquake. Alas there is no mention of FINDER in the 2016 or 2015 NASA Spinoff reports. There was no 2014 report. If it is mentioned somewhere in these reports, then I apologize, but I could not find it.

On 24 April 2015 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. NASA FINDER technology was on site with a very short period of time and was used to locate victims under collapsed buildings. The basic technology behind FINDER is a microwave radar system that can detect a human heartbeat as well as their breathing under 30 feet of rubble or through 20 feet of solid concrete. The device is so precise that it can differentiate between a human and animals. This amazing device has quite a story. NASA and DHS sponsored a media demonstration in May 2015 while rescue operations were still underway in Nepal. I wrote about this in "Using Space Radar To Hear Human Heartbeats in Nepal". NASA also put a prominent feature online as well. Yet NASA's Spinoff people seem to not be paying complete attention to what the agency is actually doing.

Again, while NASA's tech transfer and spinoff efforts have made great improvements, they still manage to pass over some truly amazing pieces of technology that NASA has developed - hardware with a proven ability to save lives.

- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Ignores, earlier post
- NASA's Latest Stealth Spinoff, earlier post
- Another NASA Spinoff That NASA Isn't Telling You About, earlier post

NASA Administrator Communicates Harassment Policies to Grantees (link fixed)

"The following is a letter from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to grantee institutions running NASA-funded programs regarding harassment policies: As a leader in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), NASA endeavors to make our collaborations with our grant recipient institutions as productive and successful as possible in all facets of our shared objectives. This means that we seek not only the most innovative and cutting-edge scientific and technological research from our grant recipients, we also expect strong efforts to create and sustain welcoming and inclusive educational environments. We view such efforts not as "something nice to do" if the time can be spared, or something that human resources or the diversity and equity offices are responsible for, but rather as an integral and indeed necessary aspect of all educational program environments. Let me be perfectly clear: NASA does not tolerate sexual harassment, and nor should any organization seriously committed to workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. Science is for everyone and any behavior that demeans or discourages people from fully participating is unacceptable."

Dava Newman: NASA Communicates Harassment Policies to Grantees

Keith's 15 Jan 5:00 pm note: Kudos to Charlie Bolden for making a very public and unequivocal stance on this issue. No one will ever doubt NASA's stance on this issue. In fact Bolden may have just set a new, higher standard in this regard.

Keith's 15 Jan 1:35 pm note: The issue of sexual harassment in space science and astronomy has taken on a life of its own in traditional and social media. The hashtag #astroSH for these discussions has been trending nationally on Twitter. This has attracted a number of women who have opened up about experiences they had to endure while trying to pursue a career - thus inspiring others to comment as well.

As with anything that gets popular in social media there are now fake Twitter accounts popping up behind which people hide and snipe on #astroSH conversations. Other fake accounts use the hashtag as part of so-called spambot marketing schemes. Yet the core focus of #astroSH continues to grow. And of course #astroSH is a subset of much larger issue of harassment in research and the workplace.

NASA funds a substantial portion of the astronomy and space science research that forms the core of this community's activity. While these specific harassment cases are indeed internal issues within specific non-NASA institutions, NASA does have an unequivocal moral stake in the way that these cases are handled - as well as pushing to make such behavior unwelcome in the first place. Yes, NASA like all other government agencies has a list of formal policies on this matter. However having these policies does not seem to have stifled this behavior. But NASA does have people at its helm - specifically NASA Administrator Bolden, Deputy Administrator Newman, and Chief Scientist Stofan, who could use their prominence to speak out on this issue. So far we've heard nothing but silence. One would hope that will change soon.

NASA Awards International Space Station Cargo Transport Contracts

"NASA has awarded three cargo contracts to ensure the critical science, research and technology demonstrations that are informing the agency's journey to Mars are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 through 2024. The agency unveiled its selection of Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California to continue building on the initial resupply partnerships with two American companies."

Building a Robust Commercial Market in Low Earth Orbit En Route to Mars, NASA

"NASA is on a Journey to Mars and a new consensus is emerging around our plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Our strategy calls for working with commercial partners to get our astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station while NASA also focuses - simultaneously -- on getting our astronauts to deep space."

- CSF Congratulates ISS Commercial Resupply Awardees and Partners
- NASA Selects Orbital ATK For Space Station Cargo Contract
- NASA Selects Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser Spacecraft for CRS2 Contract
-Smith, Babin Congratulate NASA Commercial Cargo Awardees

Yosemite to Rename Several Iconic Places, Outside

"Bid goodbye to Yosemite's familiar Ahwahnee hotel, Yosemite Lodge, the Wawona Hotel, Curry Village, and Badger Pass ski areaor their names, anyway. The National Park Service said today it will rename many well-known spots in Yosemite, as part of an ongoing legal dispute with an outgoing concessionaire that has trademarked many names in the world-famous park."

Yosemite Forced to Rename All Its Hotels Due to an Opportunistic Intellectual Property Battle, Gizmodo

"Concessionaire Delaware North, which previously ran The Ahwahnee, Curry Village, and other properties at Yosemite, claims it was forced to purchase the intellectual property of the properties it operated, including the names, in 1993. Now Delaware North has lost the park contract to competitor Aramark and wants to be paid $50 million for the naming rights."

Keith's 14 January update: I am told that NASA will NOT be issuing a statement after all with regard to Trademarks held for "space shuttle atlantis" by Delaware North - the same company that ran services at Yosemite and still runs the KSC Visitor's Center.

KSC meeting portrays SLS as scrambling for a manifest plan, NASASpaceFlight

"An "All-Hands" style meeting was held in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Monday, overviewing the spaceport's current and future initiatives.

Payload concerns, high costs, and competition cloud future of NASA rocket, Ars Technica

"During the all-hands meeting, according to the report, Lightfoot told employees the space agency is considering moving humans off of EM-2 and onto EM-3. The reason he cited is NASA's desire to use a more powerful upper stage on EM-2. For the EM-1 first test flight, NASA is using an "interim" upper stage, but, to use the interim stage for a crewed flight, NASA would have to spend $150 million or more to ensure it is reliable enough for humans. Because NASA may not want to fly crew members on the initial flight of its untested upper stage, EM-2 may have to be re-designated as a non-crewed mission as well. During the Florida meeting Lightfoot expressed his preference for launching a Europa spacecraft. This robotic mission has widespread support in Congress, but, as Ars has exclusively reported, it will not be ready to fly until the end of November, 2023, at the earliest. If that is the case, EM-3, the first mission to carry astronauts into space, would not occur until 2024 or 2025, long after initially promised."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report 2015, ASAP

"With its external stakeholders, primarily Congress, NASA executive management has committed to a 2023 EM-2 launch with a 70 percent schedule confidence level. However, NASA's internal direction to the programs is to work to a 2021 EM-2 launch date, which has a schedule confidence level close to zero at requested funding levels. ... Externally committing to a 2023 launch for EM-2 while making decisions based on a 2021 launch date is a risky situation, because safety could be unnecessarily compromised unless guiding safety principles are established and maintained."

Keith's note: So ... NASA originally said that it needs SLS for the whole #JourneyToMars thing - just like Ares V. Then reality sets in (as it always does) and NASA's response is to keep two sets of books - the internal set says that it will launch humans on SLS in 2021 while the public one aims for 2023. Now there's a third set of books is being kept wherein a 2024-2025 launch date is being worked. But wait there's more. Because HEOMD can't get its own payloads ready to fly on the rocket that was designed to carry them, there's a desperate rush to find something - anything - to fly on SLS. Right on cue Congress votes to require NASA to fly a Europa lander and to do so on SLS. Again, just like NASA started to do with Ares V when problems arose. Soon enough you'll start to see a stealthy encroachment on SMD's budget to help pay for SLS costs under the whole Europa thing. No doubt Congress will make yet another run at Commercial Crew and Cargo as well to free up some cash for SLS.

- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report 2015

"In October 2015, NASA published what it called "a detailed outline" of its next steps in getting to the Red Planet. Unfortunately, the level of detail in the report, NASA's Journey to Mars: Pioneering the Next Steps in Space Exploration, does not really validate whether NASA would be capable of achieving such an ambitious objective in a reasonable time period, with realistically attainable technologies, and with budgetary requirements that are consistent with the current economic environment."

- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post
- Charlie Bolden's Meandering Strategic Plans, earlier post

Keith's note: (Now freelance) Space journalist Dan Leone managed to corner me last week to do a podcast interview in the "NASAWatch bat cave" [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3 NEW]

President Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address

"Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny Sputnik was up there. We didn't argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon. That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We're Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We're Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride."

NASA Goes Glam

NASA Launches David Bowie Concept Mission, The Onion

"NASA officials announced today the successful launch of the new shuttle Moonage Daydream, marking the beginning of a long-anticipated two-week conceptual mission inspired by British rock star David Bowie. According to NASA administrator Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr., the highly experimental glam space program dubbed Project Starman has been in development for exactly five years. Though engineers initially feared the mission might "blow our minds," the historic launch ultimately proceeded without incident."

Caltech suspends professor for harassment, Science

"For what is believed to be the first time in its history, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena has suspended a faculty member for gender-based harassment. The researcher has been stripped of his university salary and barred from campus for 1 year, is undergoing personalized coaching to become a better mentor, and will need to prove that he has been rehabilitated before he can resume advising students without supervision. Caltech has not curtailed his research activities. The university has not disclosed the name of the faculty member, but Science has learned that it is Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics who studies gravitational waves and other signals from some of the most violent events in the cosmos."

Memo from Caltech leadership Regarding Faculty Harassment/Discrimination Issues, Caltech

Congresswoman reveals prominent astronomy professor's history of sexual harassment, Mashable

"A U.S. congresswoman is calling out a leading astronomy educator who violated the sexual harassment policy at the University of Arizona, saying the case highlights a larger problem of holding known offenders accountable in higher education."

Astronomy roiled again by sexual-harassment allegations, Nature

"The new revelations confirm that harassment is a widespread problem in science with only some of the instances now coming to light, says Joan Schmelz, an astronomer at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and longtime advocate for women in astronomy. "You can't just sweep this stuff under the rug, declare it confidential and hope that no one ever knows about it," she says."

What astronomy can do about sexual harassment, Meg Urry/AAS, CNN

"Last week, at its annual winter conference, the American Astronomical Society held a well-attended plenary session to address harassment and next steps. To an outsider, the many articles about the incident might make astronomy seem like a bad place for women. But having worked in physics and astronomy for some 40 years, I see this bad news about astronomy as really good news."

- Stopping Sexual Harassment In The Space Science Community (Update), earlier post
- Dealing With Harassment at American Astronomical Society, earlier post
- Harassment Hypocrisy from the AAS Membership, earlier post

Video: SpaceX Recap of Falcon 9 Launch and Landing

SpaceX has released a slick new video of the December 21 Falcon 9 launch with new footage from the landing. Put it full screen, turn up the volume and enjoy.

ISS Solar Panel Rip, Secret Space Escapes, (Video) Science Channel

How Astronauts Cope When Things Go Wrong in Space, Mental Floss

"Scott Parazynski is no stranger to dangerous situations and extreme environments. The astronaut/doctor/inventor/pilot has summited Mount Everest and gone SCUBA diving in a volcano. But it's his last spacewalk that sticks in his mind. Parazynski was up on the International Space Station in 2007 when a hole appeared in one of the station's electrified solar panels. "As this thing was being unfurled, it began to rip apart," he tells mental_floss. "So we had to go and physically repair a live, fully energized solar panel." It was a dangerous mission, but the crew didn't really have a choice. "If we weren't able to repair the solar panel," Parazynski says, "we would have had to [throw] away a billion-dollar national asset. It would have limited the work that could have been done aboard the International Space Station. It certainly was a huge amount of pressure on my shoulders and on the rest of the team."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2009/IMG_3918.s.jpg Keith's note: Scott likes to fiddle with things. The technical term is "McGyvering". In this video on the STS-120 solar panel repair you can see him using a bent item called the "Hockey Stick" made by wrapping lots of Kapton electrical insulating tape. When Scott and I were at Everest in 2009 we needed to come up with a way for him to handle a small lucite hemisphere (the size of a large gumdrop) filed with 4 little flecks of Apollo 11 moon rocks. Our code word for this little collection of moon rocks (which had been in my chest pocket for 3 weeks) was "The Nugget". Given that we wanted Scott to hold the Nugget up on the summit with the Moon in the background - and then bring it back we needed to make it bigger to handle. Five miles in the sky with little oxygen and brutally cold temperatures we needed for Scott to handle the sample without dropping it and if he did drop it we had to make it more readily findable. Losing a moon rock on the summit of Mt. Everest was not an option. Using the resources at hand we got two lids from some Pringles cans (a favorite food there) and some duct tape. Space Nerds that we were we called the completed McGyvered item the "Nugget Containment Device". And it worked perfectly. For me down below it was also fun to stand at Everest Base Camp and hold the Nugget Containment Device up to the sky and eclipse the Moon - with piece of the Moon. The Nugget plus a piece of the summit of Everest are now aboard the ISS.

In your face Mark Watney.

More on the Moon rocks and Everest at "Playing With Moon Rocks and Duct Tape at the Dinner Table" and "Moon and Everest Rocks At Home in Space"

Bigelow Hearts Trump

Donald Trump tells 10-year-old that 'space is terrific' but potholes are more important, Washington Post

"You know, in the old days, it was great," Trump told the boy, along with an audience of more than 600. "Right now, we have bigger problems -- you understand that? We've got to fix our potholes. You know, we don't exactly have a lot of money." But it's not that Trump doesn't love space. After all, he once tweeted in August 2012: "It is very sad to see what @BarackObama has done with NASA. He has gutted the program and made us dependent on the Russians."

(Mostly) Thumbs Down on ExoNames, ManyWorlds

"One of the co-discoverers of HD 149026 b is Debra Fischer, now a professor of astronomy at Yale University. Asked her view of the 31 new exoplanet names she replied: "It would take a big push to change the names of exoplanets in the published literature. Every future publication would need to cross-list the former name(s) and this would be awkward and somewhat time consuming. Never say never, but it would require significant motivation for me to do this and I'm not feeling it right now." Jason Wright, an astronomer and astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University, said that doesn't expect the new names to catch on with exoplanet scientists, with academic journals, and as a result probably not with the public. Wright is one of several who maintain exoplanet databases and who sent a letter to the IAU in 2013 questioning its proper role in exoplanet naming."

Name An Extrasolar Planet - For Free, earlier post

Attempt no landing there? Yeah right we're going to Europa, Ars Technica

"NASA is very publicly planning a mission to Europa in the 2020s, one that will soar over the intriguing moon dozens of times. Yet the reality is more thrilling. Quietly, the same engineers who masterminded the daring Curiosity landing on Mars in 2012 have been plotting how best to drop a lander onto the nightmare glacier. In early November, they presented their preliminary findings for a 230-kg lander to the one person in the world who can, and who dearly wants to, make that happen. "I told them to do whatever it takes," said Representative John Culberson after meeting with the NASA scientists. "All of humanity is going to want to know what's under the ice."

A Lander for NASA's Europa Mission, Planetary Society

"There's been almost no official information on the lander. What we know comes from a long article from Ars Technica's Eric Berger on the then possible addition of a lander and a dedicated plume flyby sub-satellite."

Keith's note: This is one of the more odd posts by the Planetary Society. My talented colleague Eric Berger committed some actual journalism and published a story on this. Then the Planetary Society (or one of their preferred bloggers, Van Kane) did a story - on Eric's story - with some passive insinuations about its veracity such as "Berger is a long time space reporter and has developed a good relationship with House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX)." And then it goes on to use variations on "Berger says" a dozen times - as if Eric is the source of everything about this concept. No, he's a reporter - a rather industrious one at that. Kane then goes on to cast doubt on the notion that anything could - or should be landed on Europa. Oddly, the author never (apparently) spoke to Rep. Culberson. Or to Eric Berger. Or to NASA. The Planetary Society was all over the notion of sending a mission to Europa when it was fanning the flames over the recently approved budget. Now, well, not so much, it would seem. Its becoming difficult to figure out what Planetary Society is against - or what it was for - before it was against. There's no disclaimer on the article other than to note where it first appeared. How odd. A member of Congress totally 'gets' astrobiology and exploration - and yet this second guessing post is the best that Planetary Society can put forth?

Keith's note: Per my earlier post about the whole topic of harassment as it is being discussed at the American Astronomical Society Meeting. This is how astronomers respond (Click below). In this case Jeffrey Silverman, a member of the faculty at the University of Texas Austin. I'm not sure I take the AAS membership that seriously any more. They complain (rightfully so) about something and then their members negate whatever point was trying to surface. And then the guy who commented earlier injected race into the whole conversation. Their members exhibit the same behavior that they profess to reject.

Keith's note: The issue of harassment - of all kinds - in all aspects of science - and elsewhere - is a pervasive, malignant issue that needs to be aggressively addressed - and eliminated - period. That said, how the space/astronomy community uses social media to address this issue needs a little more in the way of logic checks and community monitoring. I came across this tweet from an American Astronomical Society meeting attendee. The usually vocal Twitter crowd at AAS has been amazingly silent with regard to this tweet. This is the very first time in the 19.95 years of NASAWatch that profanity has ever appeared on this site. I hope it is the last time. Its use is the sign of a lazy mind, if nothing else. But in this case, it is news. Hence, I post it.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/profane.jpg
And now Marshall Perrin from the Space Telescope Science Institute agrees with Danny Barringer's comments from #aas227. Harassment is a problem that has many sympathizers - both passive and agressive. This is insidious, folks.

And yes, there is a certain pot-kettle-black issue here on NASA Watch. I certainly push the envelope. But there is a clear line between commenting on someone's opinion - and commenting on the person - as a person. Using threatening, profane comments clearly crosses the line. What has been really astonishing is seeing the way that AAS members use Twitter to harass people - who raise issues about harassment. Eye opening. AAS needs to take a close look - at how they take a close look - at harassment.

Layoffs at Bigelow

Statement by Robert Bigelow Regarding Bigelow Aerospace Staff Reducations

"In December of 2015, we analyzed the amount of staff that we employed throughout all of our departments at Bigelow Aerospace, and discovered that numerous departments were overstaffed. Regrettably, we had to make the choice that, beginning with the New Year, we need to follow standard business protocols, which sensibly requires an attempt to achieve balance in how much staff is necessary. These layoffs will not compromise in any way our ability to execute the work and activities that we presently have ongoing."

Big Changes at Space News, Inc., SpacePolicy Online

"An email from Space News Publisher Bill Klanke last month announced that the "must read" newspaper/website for anyone who wants to know what's happening in the space business (apart from SpacePolicyOnline.com, of course!) was changing from a weekly newspaper to bi-weekly magazine format. The difficulties facing news publications in today's digital/social media age are well documented and that alone was not much of a surprise. But farewell messages today from Executive Editor Warren Ferster, a 21-year Space News veteran, and reporter Dan Leone, who covered the NASA beat, were stunning."

Keith's note: We at NASAWatch.com and SpaceRef.com wish Warren and Dan the best and hope that our friends at Space News continue to cover the space beat as they have for several decades.

Keith's update: Space News Copy Chief Todd Windsor and Office Manager Christine Frazee were also let go.

Keith's note: Duh. So has every rocket that has gone into space for more than half a century. In the meantime NASA has yet to come up with avionics that can come close to matching the efficiently packaged, elegant wetware inside the small brain of a falcon.

Funny how NASA omits mention of the rocket named FALCON - you know - that reusable rocket that can take off and land - and then take off and land again - just like a real falcon - something that SLS will never be able to do.

If elected, Hillary Clinton vows to 'get to the bottom' of the UFO mystery, Geekwire

"If we were visited someday I wouldn't be surprised," he said. "I just hope that it's not like 'Independence Day.'" When Hillary Clinton was asked about those comments and the prospects for getting a visit from extraterrestrials, she replied, "I think we may have been.[visited already]. We don't know for sure." Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, has long called for more disclosure about UFO cases, although he hasn't said specifically what needs to be revealed. When he left his post as senior adviser to President Barack Obama, he tweeted that his "biggest failure of 2014" was his inability to secure the disclosure of UFO files. Today, Podesta noted Hillary Clinton's reported comment that he made the candidate "personally pledge we are going to get the information out" about aliens and Area 51."

Keith's note: Great. The goofy UFO beliefs of long-time Clintonite John Podesta are apparently one of the cornerstones of Hillary Clinton's new space policy.

Keith's note: Now that Sen. Shelby has used his Dark Side powers to enable ULA's addiction to Russian engines to continue, ULA is off using its staff to sow seeds of anti-reusable technology such as that being promoted by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. This slow motion desperation is a clear sign of a paradigm shift that has begun to leave some companies behind. In this case its ULA.

- ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post
- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA, earlier post

Keith's note: This is what Alan Stern, the Principal investigator for the NASA New Horizons mission does with the Twitter account @NewHorizons2015 that served as the the official - and then the quasi-official mission's Twitter presence. He wants you to know that he just bought an expensive Tesla. Clearly the job pays well. Check out the most recent IRS 990 form for SwRI. Scroll past Part XII for "additional data" and you'll see that senior SwRI staff (including Stern) are exceptionally well paid - vastly in excess of what anyone at NASA is paid. Of course, with regard to work on New Horizons, the funding comes from NASA.

What NASA's $1.3 billion budget increase means for JPL, Los Angeles Daily News

"The higher than usual appropriations are "almost unprecedented," according to Jason Callahan, a space policy advisor for the Planetary Society, an advocacy group based in Pasadena. It's members sent over 120,000 requests for an increase to Congress and the White House this year. "JPL comes off very well in this budget," Callahan said." NASA received $1.631 billion for Planetary Science, nearly $200 million more than 2015, after years of cuts. The $250 million for the Mars 2020 Rover should give the space agency more room if problems arise down the road, Callahan said. "It really takes the pressure off of that mission," he said."

Keith's note: In other words, JPL is worried that they will have to slip Mars 2020 Rover due to technical issues/cost overruns for the same reason that its half-brother MSL experienced similar problems. After half a century of building Mars probes JPL still can't do anything more efficiently or cheaper. And of course the Pasadena-based JPL cheerleaders at the Planetary Society won't discuss this issue.


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