February 2016 Archives

Don Williams

Association of Space Explorers: "We are very sad to pass along the news that former astronaut Don Williams has passed away. Fair skies and following seas, Cap'n."

NASA astronaut bio

"Born February 13, 1942, in Lafayette, Indiana. Died on February 23, 2016. He is survived by his wife and two children. He enjoyed all sports activities and his interests included running and photography."

Air Force Awards Final Rocket Propulsion System Prototype OTAs, Space and Missile Systems Center

"Today the Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the final Other Transaction Agreements for shared public-private investments in Rocket Propulsion System prototypes. One award is to Aerojet Rocketdyne for development of the AR1 rocket propulsion system. The initial government investment is $115.3 million. The other award is to United Launch Alliance for development of the Vulcan/BE-4 rocket propulsion system and the ACES rocket propulsion system. The initial government investment is $46.6 million with $45.8 million for the Vulcan/BE-4 effort and $0.8 million for the ACES effort."

Aerojet Rocketdyne, ULA Announce Public-Private Partnership with USAF to Develop RD-180 Replacement Engine

"The U.S. Air Force selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to share in a public-private partnership to develop jointly the AR1 engine an American-made rocket propulsion system."

Aerojet Rocketdyne Names Dynetics as Key AR1 Engine Team Member

"Following the U.S. Air Force selection of AR1 for a Rocket Propulsion System award, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), named Dynetics of Huntsville, Alabama, as a key team member for the AR1 engine development."

United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Partner with Air Force to Develop New, All-American Rocket Engine

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, entered into a public-private partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop a new rocket propulsion system to power Vulcan -- ULA's next-generation launch system."

Staying course on the Journey to Mars, Lou Friedman via SpaceReview

"NASA does not yet have a plan for its now generally agreed-upon space exploration goal, human missions to Mars. It would be a mistake if they did. A plan now, without a specified and approved program and with many options for mission design and technology development, would be premature and wasteful. It would force both a timetable and cost estimates that, by their very definition, would be unrealistic and unsustainable. A premature plan might foreclose some of the options cited above for reaching into the solar system, years before the requisite experience is gained to make the best choices."

Keith's note: It would be a "mistake" for NASA to have a plan for human missions to Mars? Really? How do you develop a budget unless you have a plan against which to derive costs and schedule? Indeed, how do you develop a plan if you do not have an overarching strategy with goals and objectives to guide the development of that plan? How do you know what you need to learn and develop if you have no idea where you are going? Lou Friedman is living in some alternate universe where he thinks that we should run that process in reverse.

If Friedman's cluelessness was not already established by this statement, it should be clear from his support for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a one-off stunt promoted by the Planetary Society that has no strategic relevance to a human mission to Mars (or the Moon). Watch as it evaporates after the election - regardless of who wins. But wait, there's more. Undeterred from supporting one pointless mission, there's yet another that Friedman supports: the Humans Orbiting Mars mission. In this plan the Planetary Society expects NASA to spend billions and take longer than is currently envisioned in NASA plans to *almost* send humans to the surface of Mars.

Its these half-baked ideas that distract people from making the big decisions that need to be made with regard to America's future in space - decisions that need to be clearly stated, clearly described such that everyone understands where NASA wants to go (and why), and then clearly funded such that anyone can glance at a one page chart and see if everything is/is not going according to plan. Without clear goals, coherent strategy, and a solid plan, NASA will continue to stumble down a ever-changing and increasingly hard to support path on the #JourneyToNowhere

Space Access '16 Conference Information

"Space Access '16 is Space Access Society's twenty-third annual conference on the business, technology, and politics of radically cheaper access to space, this year with a strong sub-focus on policy decisions and technology directions needed for Beyond Low Orbit: The Next Step Out."

Keith's note: Unless I have made an error not a single speaker at the upcoming Space Access Society's event is female. It was like this last year too, etc. etc. Yet another space advocate meeting where the speaker demographics simply do not reflect reality and are seemingly stuck in another era. Hardly a way to address topics that affect future generations.

Keith's update: As expected, I made a mistake. One of the speakers in 2016 is female and two in 2015 were female - on agendas with over two dozen speakers. Like I said 'unless I have made an error'. My point still stands. These agendas are totally skewed disproportionately toward males.

The Last Man on The Moon Wants You To Go Back (Review), SpaceRef

"Nearly half a century ago we sent people on improbable voyages to another world - because we could. Indeed, for a while, such voyages became routine. Then, suddenly, it was over. We stopped visiting the Moon before we had barely figured out to do so. We knew that it might be a while before we went back, but we would go back - right?"

Keith's Update: Nearly 3 days after I originally submitted my Gorilla suit request to NASA PAO (long after foreign publications had already gotten answers from NASA PAO on this topic) I finally got my response back from NASA. What is hilarious is that NASA says officially that it has no idea what the suit is made out of (or how much it weighs or what volume it uses) but states that it meets all safety requirements. How does one say that a safety certification has been made unless you know what the suit is made out of? In addition, no one at JSC approved it for shipping. It just got stuck in there.

I am all for the health and well being of the crew, but when NASA drags its feet on such a simple set of questions and then issues replies that are inherently contradictory, you have to wonder if there actually is a "process" in place or if they just make this all up as they go. As for the cost: well, it costs money to send things up, and even if there is an allocation for these things, it still costs the same amount to ship a pound of science as it does to ship a pound of gorilla suit. Just sayin'

Here is the official NASA response (below) from Brandi Dean at NASA JSC, verbatim:

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Reviews Bill to Bring Stability to NASA, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The Space Leadership Preservation Act will improve our space program and improve morale at NASA centers by ensuring that we take the politics out of science and provide NASA with clear direction and guidance that outlasts the political whims of any one presidential administration and the political whims of Congress."

Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Holds Hearing on Space Leadership Act

"Democrats on the Committee expressed numerous concerns with the bill: that allowing Congress to use a party-based formula to appoint Board Members would inject partisan politics into that Board; having the Board prepare a NASA budget at the same time as NASA would create wasteful duplication, confusion, and instability; and that establishing a fixed, 10-year term for the Administrator would increase instability, not mitigate it, especially if a new President plans to pursue a different policy agenda from his or her predecessor and doesn't see that Administrator as being part of his or her "team"."

Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"Tomorrow, February 25 at 10:00 a.m. ET, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the need for stability at NASA through changing presidential administrations. The hearing will feature former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Colonel Eileen Collins, as well as former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will also testify. Culberson is the author of legislation the Science Committee will review on Thursday, the Space Leadership Preservation Act, which is intended to bring stability to NASA despite changing presidential administrations."

Keith's note: So ... would Mike Griffin entertain the notion of being Donald Trump's NASA Administrator?

Hearing Charter: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

Statement by Eileen Collins: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run. As a shuttle commander, I would never make a huge decision without input from all the experts, even the ones I do not agree with. So what will keep us from having surprises like this that set us back years? Answer: A continuity of purpose over many years, over political administrations, and over normal changes in leadership throughout the chain of command. I know there must be ways to do this through policy, organizational structure, and strong leadership."

Statement by Michael Griffin: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"What might the "right path" look like? I have been clear in the past and hope to be clear now to me the most logical step beyond the ISS is an international partnership, led by the United States, to return to the Moon, this time to stay. In the course of so doing we will learn what is needed to go beyond, to go to Mars. And if, as I have long suspected, the Moon turns out to be quite an interesting and useful destination in its own right, well then, so much the better."

GAO: NASA: Preliminary Observations on Major Acquisition Projects and Management Challenges, GAO

"Our ongoing work has also found that the Space Launch System and Orion, the two largest projects in this critical stage of development, face cost, schedule, and technical risks. For example, the Space Launch System program has expended significant amounts of schedule reserve over the past year to address delays with development of the core stage, which is the Space Launch System's propellant tank and structural backbone. The Orion program continues to face design challenges, including redesigning the heat shield following the determination that the previous design used in the first flight test in December 2014 would not meet requirements for the first uncrewed flight. The standing review boards for each program have raised concerns about the programs' ability to remain within their cost and schedule baselines. If cost overruns materialize on these programs, they could have a ripple effect on the portfolio and result in the potential postponement or even force the cancellation of projects in earlier stages of development. We have ongoing work on both of these programs and we plan to issue reports on them later this summer."

Keith's 4:38 pm Update: Well, if nothing else, PeTA finally got a protester inside the International Space Station. As readers of NASA Watch know, I am all for making the ISS relevant to the public in new ways and for making childish jokes at NASA's expense whenever possible. But given the immense cost of the ISS, its untapped potential for research, and complaints from potential users that there is not enough upmass or crew time, I have to wonder why NASA goes out of its way to highlight such stuff - especially when people like Sen. Grassley already criticize some of the real science done on ISS.

I did not hear back from NASA PAO on my initial request so I sent the following questions to NASA PAO. Someone will tell me to go file a FOIA request and then NASA will try to weasel out of answering that request. But if they can spend money flying a gorilla suit into outer space then they can waste some more time explaining why they did it. The answer may well be simple and routine but NASA will make the process as complicated as they possibly can.

- Can you tell me what the Gorilla suit is made out of i.e. what kind of material(s)?
- Is this Gorilla suit COTS (where was it purchased?) or was it specially made? How much did it cost?
- Was the Gorilla suit subjected to standard outgassing, flammability, microbial, and particulate standards? Did it meet those requirements or was a waiver granted?
- How much does the Gorilla suit weigh and how much volume did it use inside the cargo vehicle that carried it up?
- Is the suit considered "crew preference", "crew clothing", or "education and outreach"?
- Will the Gorilla suit remain on the ISS after Kelly leaves? If so where will it be stored?
- Did the shipping of the Gorilla suit to orbit bump anything off the manifest - if so, what was bumped?
- Was this manifested by JSC or CASIS?
- Who approved of the shipping of the gorilla suit to the ISS? Was NASA HQ involved in the decision making process?

Keith's 6:23 pm update: ULA says that it charges something around $100 million for an Atlas V launch. ULA also says that it charges $164 million for a Atlas V launch. Lets go with the lower number. The most recent Cygnus OA-4 carried 7,745 pounds of cargo. Lets not even bother to include what it cost to build the Cygnus. Assuming a $100 million launch cost simple math shows a per pound cost of $12,911. If you use the higher number its $21,174 per pound. This amazon.com gorilla suit weighs 4.3 pounds. Lets assume that the gorilla suit in space is a generic gorilla suit. That means that NASA probably spent between $55,517 and $91,052 to ship a gorilla suit to the ISS that will probably only be worn once - and only for an hour or two. In other words it will probably end up as trash at some point and be thrown away. Then, of course, there was the personnel cost to certify that it could fly safely, pack it, etc. etc. So the real cost goes up a lot - certainly close to $100,000. Scott Kelly has already completed more than 99% of his mission. He could have waited another week to wear the gorilla suit and saved NASA a lot of money. Just sayin'

Keith's 24 Feb 2016 8:07 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.

Keith's 25 Feb 2016 4:04 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.

Keith's note: Too bad NASA JSC's R5 Robot is broken - and when it does work it can only do so on tethers and hoists. This Boston Dynamics robot can follow you home through the woods and then clean up your garage. Or pick up moon rocks and put them inside the sample return vehicle.

- Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?, earlier post
- Too bad NASA's R5 robot is broken and can't do anything unless it is on hoists and tethers., earlier post
- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Fact Checking SLS Propaganda

Upon Closer Look, NASA's Exploration Systems are Game-Changers, OpEd, Mary Lynne Dittmar, SpaceNews

Dittmar: "The point is that there has never been a launch system like this - one that can deliver NASA human exploration and science missions throughout the solar system."

Keith's note: Nonsense. The Saturn V existed and flew more than 40 years ago. Abundant studies were in place whereby it could have been used to send things all over the solar system. But we threw it away. Saturn V's flew at a pace of 2 times a year. SLS launches, as NASA currently plans them, will be years apart. Your basic Saturn V could put 310,000 lb in to LEO. But the more powerful SLS will put 150,000 to 290,000 lb into LEO.

Dittmar: "For the last several years the President's budget request and congressional appropriations have been out of sync, forcing NASA and its contractors to work at a slower pace under greater budget pressure for the first part of the year until congressional appropriations are set at the necessary levels."

Keith's note: GAO: "In 2014, we found that NASA had not matched cost and schedule resources to requirements for the SLS program and was pursuing an aggressive development schedule. This situation, in turn, was compounded by the agency's reluctance to request funding in line with the program's needs. In addition, we found that the agency's preliminary life-cycle cost estimates for human exploration were incomplete."

Dittmar: "With the funding levels appropriated by Congress in the FY16 omnibus, the systems that will enable this the Space Launch System, or SLS, and the Orion crew vehicle are on track for launch of an uncrewed test mission in 2018, and a crewed mission in 2021."

Keith's note: NASA has been keeping 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.

Dittmar: "It will carry three times more than the Space Shuttle and, eventually, fly faster than anything human beings have ever hurled toward the heavens."

Keith's note: Faster than the Atlas V that launched New Horizons to Pluto? (It took 9 hours to reach the Moon).

Dittmar: "... the speed of the SLS will cut years off of planetary science missions."

Keith's note: What planetary missions? Not a single planetary mission has been approved for flight on SLS. Congress wants a Europa lander. NASA does not. There is no projected budget, no SLS vehicle has been set aside to launch it. SLS was not developed to launch planetary missions. It was designed to send humans to Mars until NASA was desperate for other ways to sell their expensive, delayed rocket - then suddenly it was designed for planetary missions. And the one mission approved by NASA that would send humans to another body in space, ARM, as been specifically banned by Congress. NASA is building the rocket and is now desperately searching for things to do with it.

Dittmar: "Further, every launch of the SLS can enable multiple missions."

Keith's note: Duh. Launch vehicles have been able to launch multiple payloads and support multiple missions for half a century.

- SLS Upper Stage Woes on The Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- NASA Has Three Different Launch Dates for Humans on SLS, earlier post
- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars , earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- SLS/Orion Gets a Lobbying Organization in Washington (Update), earlier post

More SLS postings

Keith's note: Recent news stories claim that Apollo astronauts reported hearing strange music during their mission. NASA has debunked this claim with a statement issued today.

"While listed as 'confidential' in 1969 at the height of the Space Race, Apollo 10 mission transcripts and audio have been publicly available since 1973. Since the Internet did not exist in the Apollo era, NASA has only recently provided digital files for some of those earlier missions. The Apollo 10 audio clips were uploaded in 2012, but the mission's audio recordings have been available at the National Archives since the early 1970s. As for the likely source of the sounds questioned in the television program, Apollo 10 Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan told NASA on Monday, 'I don't remember that incident exciting me enough to take it seriously. It was probably just radio interference. Had we thought it was something other than that we would have briefed everyone after the flight. We never gave it another thought.'"

Transcript: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/mission_trans/AS10_LM.PDF
Audio: http://history.nasa.gov/ap10fj/audio/a10o-1021010.mp3 and https://archive.org/details/Apollo10"

Cernan told NASA PAO staff that the only music the crew had were tapes they played on a cassette recorder they took with them on the flight.

Start-Up Space Report Shows More Venture Capital Invested In 2015 Than In Prior 15 Years Combined, Tauri Gorup

"The year 2015 was a record-setting year for start-up space ventures with investment and debt financing of $2.7 billion (excluding debt financing, $2.3 billion). Nearly twice as much venture capital ($1.8 billion) was invested in space in 2015 than in the prior 15 years, combined. More than 50 venture capital firms invested in space deals in 2015, the most in any year during the 15-year study period (2000-2015)."

Record Number of Americans Apply to #BeAnAstronaut at NASA

"More than 18,300 people applied to join NASA's 2017 astronaut class, almost three times the number of applications received in 2012 for the most recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978. "It's not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, himself a former astronaut. "A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft."

Keith's note: Of the 18,300 applications NASA will pick - at most - a dozen candidates. And those new NASA astronauts that are selected can expect to wait nearly 20 years before they go on the #JourneyToMars or wherever. One has to assume that most of the people applying knew it was a long shot. Many probably did it so that they could get the rejection letter (larger image) to frame and show people that they tried. Many more, however, really, really, REALLY would like to fly in space.

NASA did a good job via social media in pumping people to apply. But what is NASA going to do with this interest once reality sets in and 99.9% of the applicants get the rejection letter? Think about it - a marketing plan (oh wait, NASA is not supposed to that) - an education and public outreach (EPO) effort - has just identified 18,300 people who want to fly in space. I suspect the real number out there has multiple zeros after it. That said, NASA now knows who these 18,300 people are. They applied for a job, so all manner of government privacy regulations kick in. As such, NASA probably can't do a damn thing with this priceless information. Or maybe they can.

NASA has done a lot of #NASASocial stuff. It is useful, but I think it has reached the limit of its effectiveness. NASA now needs to enlist a more robust, personal, one-on-one approach to its EPO efforts. NASA has/had a "solar system ambassadors" program as well as other EPO programs that enlisted interested educators and citizens. Guess what: 18,300 potential participants just popped up on NASA's radar screen.

Again: 18,300 citizens just said that they want to fly on a NASA rocket. What is NASA going to do with this influx of self-identified and overtly-avowed space explorers?

SLS upper stage caught in political tug-of-war, SpaceNews

"NASA is stopping work, at the request of Congress, on human-rating the initial upper stage for the Space Launch System, even as the agency argues that its funding projections require it to use that upper stage on crewed missions. At issue is the future use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), an upper stage derived from the Delta 4's upper stage. The ICPS is intended for use on at least the first SLS launch, which will not carry a crew. NASA confirmed Feb. 18 that it has instructed teams to stop work on efforts to human-rate the ICPS for later, crewed SLS missions, following instructions from Congress in the report accompanying the 2016 omnibus spending bill."

NASA moves to enforce early switch to EUS for SLS, NASASpaceflight.com

"The EUS recieved a specific reference from NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski in comments made to the media after the announcement, citing that the reduced funding could impact on implementing the EUS on the second flight of SLS."

Keith's note: On one hand NASA stops work on anything that would involve use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for a crewed EM-2 mission but on the other hand its FY 2017 budget request is nowhere near enough to develop the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) such that crewed EM-2 can stay on its current schedule. In other words the White House, NASA, and Congress are all but ensuring that the first flight of SLS with humans will most certainly slip - possibly after the second term of the next person to be elected president. NASA started this big Ares-V/SLS effort back in the middle of the Bush presidency. This latest threat to SLS could mean that more than two, double-term presidencies will have passed before NASA can send its new big rocket with anyone on board.

I wonder how many Atlas, Delta, and Falcon rockets you could have bought with the money NASA has spent on Ares-V/SLS? How much sooner could we have begun to build and operate a real cis-lunar infrastructure had we gone with private sector rockets? Yes, it would take more launches, but given the chronic inability for NASA to field its new big rocket, we'd have been further along - for less money - if we'd taken the commercial approaches first envisioned when the Vision for Space Exploration was announced in January 2004. But no, NASA is on a #JourneyToNowhere instead.

- NASA Is Building A Rocket That It Can't Afford To Use, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

NASA Report Details Expert Team Investigation of Asteroid Redirect Mission

"A new report chartered by NASA provides input to important areas of robotic mission requirements development and explores the science benefits and potential knowledge gain from the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). NASA will visit an asteroid boulder during the Proving Ground phase of its journey to Mars in cislunar space the volume of space around the moon featuring multiple stable staging orbits for future deep space missions."

Report: "A precursor to the ARRM target body in order to scout for boulders and provide surface and boulder physical characteristics would effectively increase the characterization phase duration and should be investigated further. This precursor could be a dedicated mission or be co-manifested with the ARV, arriving at the target earlier. Additional benefits would be gained if the precursor had some means of interacting with the surface to provide geotechnical data."

- Asteroid Boulder Retrieval Mission Starts To Drift Away
- Earlier posts on Bolden and asteroids

SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic

"Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJS, today unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo. The rollout ceremony was attended by Sir Richard Branson and his family, Virgin Galactic's Future Astronauts, and partners. Based on the smaller X-PRIZE winning SpaceShipOne designed by Burt Rutan, SpaceShipTwo is designed to take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to space. Virgin Galactic's space flight experience features an air launch followed by a rocket-powered ascent at three and a half times the speed of sound, the silence of space, several minutes of out-of-seat weightlessness and views of our home planet."

NASA PAO has provided this statement: "NASA's Johnson Space Center does not prohibit the use of any specific religious terms or names in employee newsletters, or other internal communications. The 'JSC Today' daily electronic newsletter has cited numerous religious themes and holiday events throughout its history. A May 28, 2015, 'JSC Today' posting for the Praise and Worship Club was cited by some employees as proselytizing and an inappropriate use of federal resources. However, the newsletter has continued to make postings that have been religious in nature for both the Praise and Worship Club and other organizations, and on multiple occasions have cited specific references to the name 'Jesus.' There is an exceptionally strong sense of community at Johnson and across the agency, which is why NASA is consistently rated among the very best places to work in the federal government. Johnson's leadership has fostered that spirit of community and mutual respect over the years, and believes it is a crucial contributor in achieving mission success."

- Excerpts from JSC newsletter (PDF) (Compiled by NASA PAO)
- Complaint About NASA Banning Someone's First Name, earlier post

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/iss.silent.jpg

Silent Running on the International Space Station (with pictures and video)

Keith's note: I was looking at Scott Kelly's Flickr page today and was immediately struck by several photos that were hauntingly familiar. More flower pictures. I am a biologist and spent a lot of time studying (and teaching about) plants in college and grad school so I like to look at things like this. In particular the close-up, high resolution pictures of his zinnias really caught my attention. Then I realized why this looked so familiar. "Silent Running" - a cult classic film released in 1972. I first saw the when I was at the impressionable age of 16 and it has been stuck in my head ever since. Decades later it inspired me to build a spacecraft-inspired green house on a remote arctic island. Look at these two pictures - and then watch the opening of the film. Scott Kelly was most channeling his inner Freeman Lowell.

Advising The Next President

Sean O'Keefe reflects on high-profile positions, recent appointment to advise next US president, Daily Orange

"O'Keefe's next challenge will be having a spot on the National Academy of Public Administration's (NAPA) Presidential Transition panels. As one of six panel members, O'Keefe will help advise the next U.S. president on issues involving public governance and public management. ... The six members on the panel come from very diverse backgrounds, O'Keefe said, but they all have one common denominator: they have previously served in a public capacity."

Keith's note: O'Keefe tells me that he and his fellow panelists serve in an honorary capacity and that they will provide advice across a broad range of issues. Whether the TBD administration listens to what they have to say, well, that is another question.

NASA's New Budget Would Gut Europa But Otherwise Support Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"Europa isn't Mars, and studying and eventually getting humans to Mars is NASA's current overriding goal. Pure politics. Several of the Congressional leaders who are strongly backing the Europa mission and planetary exploration in general are highly conservative politically. While they favor spending more money on planetary missions, they also want to cut funding for missions for NASA to study the Earth, especially climate change. Essentially proposing to push out the launch of a Europa mission to forever may be part of a hardball negotiating tactic to trade more funding for the Europa mission for also fully funding the President's generous proposed budget for Earth science missions."

Keith's note: This is hilarious. The Planetary Society is using the "politics" dog whistle when in fact politics is all that they engage in when they lobby Congress for their referred projects - and against those they do not like. In this case, they are not getting their way, so, of course it is due to that horrible Washington scourge called "politics". What will be fun to watch is when the Planetary Society eventually realizes that the only way that they are going to get their preferred Europa mission ala Rep. Culberson, is to fly it on a SLS. That means that they will have to start lobbying for SLS - and against (or not in support of) Earth science and/or commercial crew (where their extra Europa money will come from). Of course SLS is at the heart of NASA's #JourneyToMars so the Planetary Society will have to start to support that effort (which is also eating Europa funds) and not their Almost-Mission to Mars concept.

Trends in ISS Anomalies

International Space Station (ISS) Anomalies Trending Study, NTRS

"The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) set out to utilize data mining and trending techniques to review the anomaly history of the International Space Station (ISS) and provide tools for discipline experts not involved with the ISS Program to search anomaly data to aid in identification of areas that may warrant further investigation. Additionally, the assessment team aimed to develop an approach and skillset for integrating data sets, with the intent of providing an enriched data set for discipline experts to investigate that is easier to navigate, particularly in light of ISS aging and the plan to extend its life into the late 2020s. This report contains the outcome of the NESC Assessment."

What Happened When a NASA Astronaut Got Harassed on Twitter. Motherboard

"In late 2013 and early 2014, Twitter, Google, and three law enforcement agencies in two countries tracked down a British woman who allegedly harassed a NASA astronaut over the course of several months in 2013, according to documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information Act request. According to the documents, the astronaut and the woman began direct messaging on Twitter and also texted and called each other several times. After the woman realized the astronaut had a girlfriend, she began sending "false and malicious statements that include excessive profane and abusive language," according to the documents. Motherboard will not be naming the astronaut out of respect for his family's privacy."

NASAWatch's Keith Cowing is The Agency's Biggest Critic and Most Obsessed Fan, Inverse

"Despite the small staff, the website pushes out content daily, and a lot of it ... it has a small but influential audience of NASA employees, policy makers, and the requisite amount of fellow space geeks. ... [with regard to critics] These types of scuffles, to Cowing, are "junior high sort of stuff," yet owns up to having his share of detractors. "I assume 50 percent or more don't care for what I do a lot of people who read my stuff would be terrified to be seen talking to me in public," he tells me. "Everybody is critical of me, to be honest." For the most part, It's not what Cowing says that bothers people; it's how he says it. The polarization around his online persona is likely due to the website's balance of solid watchdoggery and irreverent, sometimes abrasive commentary, that even for non-space nerds, is highly entertaining stuff."

Keith's note: Of course when you write a profile about someone, a good writer seeks to get contrarian points of view. That said, its funny how Rand Simberg (who is quoted) thinks that I am afraid of guns. This picture of me shows me engaging in polar bear defense target practice on Devon Island (located 800 miles from the North Pole) in 2003. I am actually a rather good shot and, as a Mac user, I rather enjoyed putting shotgun blasts into that Dell PC cardboard box with a target painted on it. I could have done that all day. Also, its funny how Ethan Siegel says "I've considered blocking him multiple times". Well, Ethan, since I do not follow you on Twitter (or anywhere else), block away - I can guarantee that you'll feel better for having done so.

Canadian Space Agency President Signals New Dialogue with Stakeholders, SpaceRef Canada

"Speaking to a packed room of 200 stakeholders at the first Canadian SmallSat Symposium organized by the Canadian Space Commerce Association, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Sylvain Laporte signalled a new dialogue with stakeholders which is very much in tune with the openness of the new Liberal government." ...

"Laporte also indicated he has had ongoing discussions with the new ISED minister, Navdeep Bains and that he will meet senior leadership at NASA next month to discuss future collaboration."

Bernie Sanders on Science and technology, Feel The Bern - unofficial Bernie Sanders Fan Site

"Does Bernie support funding for space exploration? Bernie believes space exploration is beneficial and exciting, and is generally supportive of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but when it comes to a limited federal budget, Bernie's vote is to take care of the needs of struggling Americans on this planet first.

In a Q&A session on the online forum reddit on May 19, 2015, Bernie wrote: "I am supportive of NASA not only because of the excitement of space exploration, but because of all the additional side benefits we receive from research in that area. Sometimes, and frankly I don't remember all of those votes, one is put in a position of having to make very very difficult choices about whether you vote to provide food for hungry kids or health care for people who have none and other programs. But, in general, I do support increasing funding for NASA."

Keith's note: This is not an official Sanders campaign site, so your mileage may vary when it comes to what Sanders' official stance is on space. I doubt that there is much, if any difference, however. Of course what these Sanders fans have posted is simply a variation on the classic "why spend money in outer space when it should be spent on Earth" rationale for not supporting NASA. The millions in property damage (something that can disportionately affect "struggling Americans") that is avoided by better weather forecasting from satellite data seems to be unimportant- as are many well known benefits from space technology. Also, like it or not, 100% of the salaries paid to people by NASA are paid to people living on Earth and all of that money is spent by people on Earth who give that money to other people - on Earth. The color of the money paid to NASA employees or their contractors is precisely the same as is paid to employees (or grantees) of any other government agency or contractor and is of equal value when it comes to buying food or paying rent. Also, its sort of odd that NASA is always singled out as somehow depriving children of food when other government programs vastly greater in size (pick one) are never mentioned. The root of this common mindset is as much NASA's problem by virtue of it not explaining what it does as it is with ignorant citizenry who never bother to learn what what their government does with their tax dollars.

Reminder to commenters: Stick to the topic of space policy in 2016. If you misbehave in the comments section I will delete your comments. If this turns into an other off-topic partisan food fight I will shut comments off completely. Have a nice day.

GW150914: First results from the search for binary black hole coalescence with Advanced LIGO, The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the Virgo Collaboration

"In addition to possible gravitational-wave signals, the detector strain contains a stationary noise background that primarily arises from photon shot noise at high frequencies and seismic noise at low frequencies."

Gravitational Waves Detected

Gravitational Waves Detected, NSF

"For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window to the cosmos."

Hanford's scientists finally spill gravitational-wave secrets - but they still can't tell all, Geekwire

"Meanwhile, there are already rumors that LIGO registered more readings that aren't yet ready to be reported."

- Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger, Physical Review Letters
- The First Sounds of Merging Black Holes, Physics

Keith's note: Taxpayers have seen more than $600 million spent on LIGO yet NSF purposefully shut off their live webcast from their LIGO event well before it was completed. Why would taxpayers want to hear what the scientists have to say?

NASA budget proposal widens divide between White House and Congress, Ars Technica

"Although NASA is proceeding with development of the SLS, a number of outside panels have questioned whether NASA can afford to build, fly and, sustain the expensive program, especially with projections of low flight rates of one launch or fewer per year. The biggest concern is that the rocket is so expensive to fly it precludes a meaningful exploration program within NASA's existing budget."

Keith's note: With the cuts to both SLS and Orion in the Administration's FY 2017 budget you can expect the same food fight with Congress to pick up where it left off last time. And as was the case before, Congress will go after Commercial Crew and Cargo, Technology, and Earth Science to put SLS and Orion back at the level Congress wants. Of course, election time will soon skew everything and the chances that there will be a formal budget will drop. The net result is that NASA will not know for certain what its budget will be and this uncertainty will cause launch dates to slip to the right. With these slips the overall cost of the SLS and Orion programs will increase - and commercial crew will take longer to happen than might otherwise be the case.

Naturally, the next Administration will stall for time and eventually appoint a blue ribbon panel to write a report and the cycle will start all over again. Their conclusion will be that NASA has no plan (and that it needs to hurry up and develop one) and, by the way, NASA cannot do all of the things it has been tasked to do under a budget that does not grow. Considering that all of these arguments are set to occur under a NASA budget that is likely going to stay flat, nothing will change since no one will give up pushing for the things that they want NASA to do. The inevitable result will be that NASA will end up with a launch system that will have nothing to launch on the imaginary #JourneyToNowhere.

NASA's asteroid mission isn't dead yet, Ars Technica

"This week, as the agency's chief financial officer, David Radzanowski, discussed the president's budget in a conference call with reporters, he let slip a seemingly huge piece of news. The robotic spacecraft NASA planned to grab an asteroid boulder would not launch in 2020, as originally planned, but some time in the early- to mid-2020s. The agency's notional launch date had changed to 2023, Radzanowski said. But he then cautioned reporters not to focus on that date. It could be earlier than that, he said, adding: "Don't get fixated that there's a delay at this point in time." But it is difficult to see 2023 as anything but a three-year delay."

Keith's note: This evaporating interest is not surprising given that NASA never really knew why it was doing this Asteroid Boulder Retrieval Mission anyway. Either it was/was not trying to protect Earth and/or this was/was not a stepping stone on the #JourneyToMars or something. Charlie Bolden's confusion on this topic was in evidence last year at budget time:

- Earlier posts on Bolden and asteroids

Keith's note: @NASA tweeted this to more than 14,600,000 followers:

Keith's note: NASAWATCH replied:

Keith's note: A request for NASA:

With regard to "1,600 new technologies a year" OK: "a year" means annually i.e. within a 365 day period. Implicit in this claim is the suggestion that this is (or has been) done every year. That public claim having been made, can you provide a list that includes each and every one of these "new technologies" - technologies that were created/announced/revealed within any single 365 day period in NASA's existence? Please provide that year, the name of each of the technologies, and how each item is a separate "technology" from any other "technology". Oh yes, please define what you mean by "technology". If you cannot provide such a list then, one might task, how can you make such a claim? Has this happend in more than one year?

With regard to "Thousands of products, services, and processes", the plural "thousands" clearly implies multiples of 1,000 i.e. more than 2,000. Can you list each of the "products, services, and processes" that you have collected so as to be able to make this claim? Again, if you cannot provide such a list then, one might task, how can you make such a claim?

Yes there will be FOIAs and additional requests for you to ignore. If your claims are true, then that's very cool and worth further promulgation. If they are not then this is a substantial disservice to taxpayers.

The State of Our NASA is Strong: Remarks on the State of NASA by NASA Administrator Bolden

"... it's because of the work of our contractors and our partners in classrooms, boardrooms, laboratories and even garages across our country, that: The state of our NASA is as strong as it's ever been and when I say "our," I really mean it. Because of the work of you and your NASA colleagues to make aviation cleaner, greener, safer and quieter ... the state of our NASA is strong."

Director of Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Responds to Administration's FY2017 NASA Budget

"The greatest challenge to these programs is not technical, but budget stability, plain and simple."

Rep. Lamar Smith Statement on President's Final Budget

"Today we received another unrealistic budget from the president that spends money we don't have and increases taxes on Americans by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. This level of spending insults hardworking American families who don't want to be burdened with higher taxes and slower economic growth."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statement on FY17 Budget Request

"Within the NASA portfolio, the request continues the bipartisan commitment to the United States achieving safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil by 2017."

Keith's note: In the budget media telecon today I asked NASA CFO David Radzanowski what NASA is spending on education in 2017. As is always the case, NASA can never tell you exactly what it spends on education - or what "education" means. Their budget charts talks about $100 Million in 2017 - a cut from $118 in 2016. But wait there's more: $25 million for education from Astrophysics and another $6 million from Earth science. So NASA is actually spending $131 million on education in FY 2017 - not the $100 million shown on their chart. But this is only STEM education according to Radzanowski. When I asked Radzanowski what NASA's total expenditure for education and outreach will be for 2017 he said "I don't have that number".

NASA never has that number - so they won't get back to me on that because (again) they never now that number. They don't know it on purpose (or at least they will never admit it). If they answer the question accurately about what is categorized as "education" then someone somewhere at OMB or in Congress will try and cut that item because it has been labeled as "education". So things get hidden inside of budgets. As a result, no one will ever know what NASA actually spends on education activities. It is like this all over NASA.





Bolden Speech Highlights "State of NASA" Events at Agency Centers Feb. 9

"NASA centers across the country are opening their doors Tuesday, Feb. 9 to media and social media for "State of NASA" events, including a speech from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and unique opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at the agency's progress on its journey to Mars. These events follow President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal delivery to the U.S. Congress. Also on Tuesday, at 5 p.m. NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski will brief media on the agency's 2017 budget proposal."

Detailed NASA budget info is now online at http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fy_2017_budget_estimates.pdf

Basic NASA Budget information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html

Budget charts for NASA media briefing at 5 pm ET - live at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio






Was The V-2 a Nazi Weapon?, Popular Science

"The short answer is that, no, the V-2 wasn't strictly speaking a Nazi weapon. The long answer is more complicated, and a lot more interesting."

Keith's note: Amy Shira Teitel who has done PR things for NASA on occasion, posted a video in December that accompanies this article wherein she splits hairs over whether the V-2 rocket was a "Nazi weapon". Of course it was. Its kind of odd that anyone would even ask that question. As Teitel happily wanders through a superficial review of German military history she seems to be thinking that because it was a German Army project before some Nazi walked in and took complete control over, that this affects whether or not to call it a "Nazi Weapon". At best this is a distinction without a difference. Anyone who has read one page in one book on World War II knows that the Nazis ran Germany - period. Teitel ends her video with a bubbly "The V2 is a really interesting rocket that played a very interesting role and it can be looked at so many different ways." Yes, it was an "interesting rocket", Amy. My father was severely injured by a V-2 that struck London - his roommates were killed by it, so I guess I am biased. But I am not alone in holding this view.

Amy Teitel can look at the always "interesting" V-2 anyway she wants from her millennial revisionist viewpoint 3/4 of a century after the fact- and she can even try to recast the V-2 as something it was not. Oddly, you never hear her mention the horrific and subhuman conditions that slaves endured to produce this "interesting rocket". I guess this is a trivial detail that gets in the way of her story telling. In the end the V-2 was created by Nazi Germany plain and simple. The V-2 is and always was a Nazi weapon. Klar, Amy?

NASA bans the word 'Jesus', Fox

"The name of Jesus is not welcome in the Johnson Space Center newsletter, according to a complaint filed on behalf of a group of Christians who work for NASA. The JSC Praise & Worship Club was directed by NASA attorneys to refrain from using the name 'Jesus' in club announcements that appeared in a Space Center newsletter. "It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating," NASA engineer Sophia Smith told me. "NASA has a long history of respecting religious speech. Why wouldn't they allow us to put the name Jesus in the announcement about our club?" Liberty Institute, one of the nation's largest religious liberty law firms, threatened to file a federal lawsuit unless NASA apologizes and stops censoring the name 'Jesus'."

Keith's note: Right. The name "Jesus" is being censored at NASA. Go to people.nasa.gov and type "Jesus" in the first name search box. Look at all the results. [Larger image] If this loony claim is real then any time any of these employees named "Jesus" is quoted in the newsletter or wants to place a want ad, etc. they will have to do so under a false name. And when they write technical papers, they will have to use a false name too. I wonder what happens when it comes to the name on their pay checks. Do the people who write these opinion pieces ever bother to think before they hit 'send'?

Keith's note: NASA PAO sent me the following statement: "NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications. The agency allows a host of employee-led civic, professional, religious and other organizations to meet on NASA property on employees' own time. Consistent with federal law, NASA attempts to balance employees' rights to freely exercise religious beliefs with its obligation to ensure there is no government endorsement of religion. We believe in and encourage open and diverse dialogue among our employees and across the agency."

Introducing Asteroid Day, ESA

"The press conference to reveal the events and partners for Asteroid Day 2016 is due to start on Tuesday, 9 February at 1500 CET (1400 UTC). It is being held at ESA's ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands."

Asteroid Day Press Event

"Building on the highly successful first-ever Asteroid Day in 2015, organisers, together with the European Space Agency, will announce partners and the addition of premier and independently organised events for Asteroid Day 2016, scheduled for June 30 around the world. The Press Conference will use multimedia platforms to accommodate speakers from around the world."

Keith's note: Interesting. People from all over the world are gathering in person and remotely for this event. This makes sense given the global nature of the threat posed by asteroid impacts. One thing that is glaringly absent about this event: not a single participant is representing NASA. This is especially bizzarre given that NASA has a multi-billion dollar mission (ARM) to retrieve a piece of a Near Earth Object and return it to Earth. NASA trips over itself to cite all of the reasons why this mission is important (to NASA) including lots of asteroid threat studies. Yet when it comes to this global effort: nothing but crickets.

And then this release comes out from PSI promoting the use of the NASA Webb Space Telescope to observe NEOs.

James Webb Space Telescope to Offer Better View of Near Earth Objects, PSI

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will allow scientists to better find, study and understand Near Earth Objects (NEOs), a new paper by a Planetary Science Institute researcher said. ... From its orbital position, JWST could have access to observe nearly three-fourths of NEOs, and nearly all asteroids and comets beyond Mars could be observed."

USSTRATCOM Detects, Tracks North Korean Missile Launch into Space, USSTRATCOM

"OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - U.S. Strategic Command systems detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch into space at 6:29 p.m. CST. The missile was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea."

Highlights and Initial Thoughts From The DPRK Launch, Arms Control Wonk

"You can also expect the US and South Korea to attempt to recover the wreckage of the first and second stages of the rocket. In 2014, the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea documented many components of foreign origin."

North Korean rocket puts object into space, angers neighbours, US

"The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected a missile entering space, and South Korea's military said the rocket had put an object into orbit. North Korea said the launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, named after late leader Kim Jong Il, was a "complete success" and it was making a polar orbit of Earth every 94 minutes."

U.N. Security Council calls emergency meeting over North Korean rocket launch, CNN

"North Korea launched a satellite into space Sunday, its state media reported, triggering a wave of international condemnation and prompting the United States, South Korea and Japan to call for an emergency meeting of the U.N."

Source Selection Statement for the ISS Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) Contract, NASA (PDF)

Scores:
SpaceX: 992/1000
Orbital ATK: 880/1000
Sierra Nevada: 879/1000

Edgar Mitchell

Astronaut Mitchell Dies Exactly 45 Years After His Moon Walk

"Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell died yesterday. Coincidentally, on 5 Feb. 1971, Mitchell, lunar module pilot for the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission, stands by the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the early moments of the first extravehicular activity of the mission."

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, 85, dies in West Palm Beach , Palm Beach Post

"Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, who was part of the Apollo 14 space crew that flew to the moon in 1971, died late Thursday in West Palm Beach, according to his family. Mitchell, 85, lived in suburban Lake Worth and died at a local hospice at about 10 p.m. Thursday, his daughter, former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell told The Palm Beach Post."

NASA Administrator Remembers Apollo-Era Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

"He believed in exploration, having been drawn to NASA by President Kennedy's call to send humans to the moon. He is one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand."

Space experts warn Congress that NASA's "Journey to Mars" is illusory, Ars Technica

"Another panelist, Tom Young, the former director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and former president and chief operating officer of the Martin Marietta Corporation, agreed that NASA does not currently have a clear pathway to Mars. "What we do not have is a plan, strategy, or architecture with sufficient detail that takes us from today to humans on the surface of Mars," he said. Young said he favored continuing with a mission to Mars but that following such a course required hard choices and narrowing NASA's focus. The agency cannot both have a flourishing program in low Earth orbit with the International Space Station while also trying to mount a Mars exploration program, he argued. Agency officials have said they are not ready to talk in detail about Mars plans because they are evolving."

Congress asks: Can NASA really get astronauts to Mars?, Christian Science Monitor

"We pretend that we are on a '#JourneytoMars,' but in fact, possess neither the technology nor the economic resources necessary to undertake a human Mars mission now or within the foreseeable future," testified Paul Spudis, senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, a Texas-based space research institution."

The Moon or Mars? NASA Must Pick 1 Goal for Astronauts, Experts Tell Congress, Space.com

"[Tom] Young spoke about the desire to have fewer "tombstones" for cancelled projects and more "memorials" to successful ones. He reiterated the thesis of his opening remarks, that what NASA needs more than anything is a concrete plan for how it should proceed. "I am personally passionate about humans going to Mars, but I'm equally passionate about a good, disciplined plan that is not frivolous," he said. "A plan that does what is required, but also doesn't just do what's possible."

Many politicians are unhappy with what they see as NASA's disregard for concrete details and deadlines, Inverse

"The committee seemed most irritated about how the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) NASA's plan to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a giant boulder, and bring it to lunar orbit for a crew to study fits into the overall Mars objective. .. [ARM] is a misguided mission without a mission, without a launch date, and without ties to exploration goals," said Representative Lamar Smith from Texas. "It's just a time-wasting distraction."

- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars
- 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: After using Uncle Google for a while and searching for NASA airplane tail numbers etc. I came across a website run by NASA Ames online at http://asp-archive.arc.nasa.gov If you go here you can download all kinds of NASA airplane and drone footage going back a number of years. This really, really ugly HTML 1.0-flavored NASA website is sort of a central uploading point for lots of NASA aircraft imagery and flight data before that data is used by various programs for their research activities. No hacking or FOIA requests required. As best I can tell, some of these "hacked" YouTube videos would seem to have been from NASA's DC-8 N817NA and also NASA 439 C-130H (neither of which are "drones", BTW).

And of course if you go to this other NASA website https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/aircraft_detailed_cal you can see which NASA planes went where over the past few years via a somewhat better designed website. Nothing is being done in secret.

So -- everyone needs to get busy downloading these oh-so-secret NASA videos and then upload them to YouTube with hashtags suggesting that they are somehow #clandestine or #secret or involved with #chemtrails

NASA Publicly Posted 'Drone Videos' Just Like the 'Hacked' One, Motherboard

"Cowing challenged the hackers to release the logs of their activity if they really want to prove their claims. At the same time, he also admitted that it's possible that the group did get into some NASA system and didn't even realize where they were. "They may have hacked in but their gopher tunnel may have gone sideways as opposed to deep in, and they just bumped into something that was already publicly available," Cowing told me. With the new evidence he found online, that theory appears more likely every day."

- Evil NASA Drone Hack Update, earlier post
- Did Someone Hack NASA's Evil Drones? Answer: No., earlier post

NASA Mission: Orion's Next Step, NPR Morning Edition

"The space agency hopes the Orion capsule, which has been transported to the Kennedy Space Center, will one day take astronauts to the moon and Mars. The program, however, faces budget challenges."

Keith's note: My little bit of snark is included toward the end of this story.

Buzz Aldrin: The next giant leap for space exploration, Washington Post

"Thus, taking our trajectory deeper into space is about more than just the United States. We must explore our solar system with the entire community of current and future space-faring nations. To this point, China should be a part of a global space outreach, as should the 16 nations that currently participate in the International Space Station. We should also look to include the emerging space-faring countries, such as India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. Nothing will do more to promote international understanding, particularly when it comes to developing norms of behavior in space."

Food For Thought

Keith's 2 Feb update: Eric Stallmer and his staff at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation have risen to the challenge (on very short notice) and have set up their own livestream of this conference - you can view it here: . Too bad the FAA has not figured out a way to tell everyone that this event is now being streamed.

Keith's 1 Feb 2:53 pm note: The annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference is being held in Washington, DC on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Unlike the past several meetings none of the sessions will be webcast. So, unless you are in the room, you won't be able to listen in. As best I can understand the situation from the FAA they do not know how to do a webcast themselves and/or can only do a webcast that costs vast sums of money. Its too bad the FAA did not invite NASA TV to come over and do a webcast. NASA TV covers virtually everything that NASA does - and the whole space commerce thing is something that NASA is hot on these days. Indeed, if you look at the agenda multiple panels at this event are filled with NASA people. Oddly, no one from CASIS is speaking - and they are all about space commerce.

When things are deliberately closed off like this, its hard to take a lot of what FAA and NASA say about space commerce seriously - especially when they approach the promulgation of their activities so half-heartedly. NASA wants everyone to know that they are doing commercial crew and cargo and that they want the private sector to take over routine chores in LEO so that NASA can focus its efforts elsewhere. Indeed, their whole cis-lunar exploration plan requires that this happen. But when it comes to the meetings wherein the nuts and bolts of commercializing LEO are discussed - its suddenly too hard to do a simple webcast. Yes, its FAA's meeting - but the agency most affected is NASA. You'd think that something as simple as a webcast would be easy to do. I did them from Everest Base Camp for crying out loud.

The NASA 'Hack' Is Probably The Most Mundane Hack Ever, Motherboard

"Dan Guido, the founder of security firm Trail of Bits, who reviewed the hackers' claims for Motherboard, said that some of their claims were feasible, but overall, he was skeptical. "I think these hackers did gain access to *something* inside NASA," Guido said in an email. "It was clearly unclassified since all of the servers they claimed to hack were online on the internet. I doubt they are accurately describing their breach and that the reality is likely even more mundane. This obfuscation is likely motivated both by a desire to hype their reputation and to obfuscate efforts at incident response in NASA." In fact, a screenshot they included in the zine, claiming that it showed how they bypassed NASA firewalls, seems to be lifted from a NASA site."

NASA Brushes Off Claims One Of Its Drones Was Hacked, Forbes

"NASA has a lot of freely-available information that hackers could claim was taken from internal systems. The agency's Open Data websites offer more than 30,000 datasets for interested parties."

- Did Someone Hack NASA's Evil Drones? Answer: No., Earlier Post

Hackers Allegedly Hijack Drone After Massive Breach at NASA, Inforwars

"The collection of files, provided to Infowars by AnonSec admin Dêfãult Vírüsa prior to being made public Sunday, include 631 videos from aircraft and weather radars, 2,143 flight logs as well as the names, email addresses and phone numbers of 2,414 NASA employees. A "zine," or self-published paper detailing the hack, dubbed "OpNasaDrones," reveals everything from AnonSec's motives to the specific technical vulnerabilities that enabled the extensive breach."

Keith's 31 Jan note: Normally I'd never link to Infowars since much of what they post is paranoid conspiracy mongering and arm waving. In this case there is overt suggestion that NASA is somehow involved in climate hacking or geoengineering. Since NASA PAO is probably going to be responding to this claim - and this post has lots of screen grabs etc. - what the heck. As for the NASA employee names, mails/phone numbers - anyone can easily get that information from people.nasa.gov.

Keith's 1 Feb update: NASA PAO has replied (it took them several days to comfirm things internally):

"Control of our global hawk aircraft was not compromised. NASA has no evidence to indicate the alleged hacked data are anything other than already publicly available data. NASA takes cybersecurity very seriously and will continue to fully investigate all of these allegations. NASA strives to make our scientific data publically available, including large data sets, which seems to be how the information in question was retrieved. Our Open Data websites offer easier access and use of NASA data through tools and shared experiences using more than 30,000 datasets:

- Open.NASA.gov
- Data.NASA.gov
- API.NASA.gov
- Code.NASA.gov
- GitHub.com/NASA"

Keith's 1 Feb update: The snarky human behind Dêfãult Vírüsa at @_d3f4ult refuses to provide me with a link to the stuff they hacked from NASA - preferring to use profanity laced taunts telling me to use Google - and when I do, to note how unworthy I am as a Google user. Eventually someone else provided an actual link https://nasadrones.thecthulhu.com/ Meanwhile InfoWars has not updated their article to reflect NASA's statement yesterday.

Keith's 2 Feb update: Well InfoWars did mention NASA's response - but only part of it.

Keith's 2 Feb update: They are going to add the full NASA statement since NASA did not send it to them.

Keith's note: Of course this is not the first time that the New Horizons team has played games with NASA when it comes to naming things on Pluto.

- More New Horizons Nomenclature Food Fights, earlier post
- Bolden Gets EPO Briefing From New Horizons Mission Team, earlier post
- Campaign for Public Participation in Naming Features on Pluto, earlier post
- NASA Extends Campaign for Public to Name Features on Pluto, earlier post
- New Horizons Redefines Definition of "Planet" and "Moon", earlier post

Todd May Named Marshall Space Flight Center Director

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Todd May director of the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. May was appointed Marshall deputy director in August 2015 and has been serving as acting director since the Nov. 13, 2015 retirement of Patrick Scheuermann. As director, May will lead one of NASA's largest field installations, with almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees, an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion and a broad spectrum of human spaceflight, science and technology development missions."

Keith's note: Brian Duffy and Scott Parazynski have been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Scott did not know it at the time, but this is one of the tests, administered by me at Everest Base Camp in 2009, that helped determine if Scott was suitable material for the Astronaut Hall of Fame. He passed.


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