August 2016 Archives

Keith's note: I wondering why a non-profit organization like the Planetary Society overtly promotes the for-profit Netflix activities of its paid CEO Bill Nye.

- Monitoring in a continuum with the RATAN-600 astronomical candidate objects SETI, SAO

- Breakthrough Listen Follow-up of a Transient Signal from the RATAN-600

"In this memo, we briefly report on our own follow-up observations, undertaken using the new Breakthrough Listen back-end instrument at the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). This preliminary analysis will be followed up in time with a more formal refereed publication of the initial scientific results from Breakthrough Listen."

First DNA Sequencing Conducted in Space, NASA

"For the first time ever, DNA was successfully sequenced in microgravity as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment performed by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins this weekend aboard the International Space Station. The ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space opens a whole new world of scientific and medical possibilities. Scientists consider it a game changer."

In Depth Look: Sequencing DNA in Space, SpaceRef

"NASA is not often known for making the best use of existing COTS (commercial off the shelf technology) aboard the ISS. Then again, sometimes they are. This is an example of when the agency really grabs cutting edge biotech and sends it into space. There's usually quite a lag time. The reasons range from slogging through the often cumbersome payload safety and integration process to people at NASA who are simply not up to date with what the ral world is doing in their field. In this instance a rather remarkable gizmo is being flown in space that truly puts genetic sequencing in the palm of your hand. Indeed, its almost as if NASA was flying part of a version 1.0 Tricorder in space. This is cutting edge technology folks."

Keith's note: Of course, do you see any mention of this groundbreaking accomplishment inside the ISS National Laboratory on the CASIS website? Of course not. But the NASA ISS National Lab webpage and NASA.gov mention it. CASIS seems to be totally unaware of what is going inside the facility it is supposed to manage. More on that in the weeks ahead.

SES-10 Launching to Orbit on SpaceX's Flight-Proven Falcon 9 Rocket

"SES and SpaceX announced today they have reached an agreement to launch SES-10 on a flight-proven Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster. The satellite, which will be in a geostationary orbit and expand SES's capabilities across Latin America, is scheduled for launch in Q4 2016. SES-10 will be the first-ever satellite to launch on a SpaceX flight-proven rocket booster."

Transparency lacking in spaceport search, editorial, Las Cruces Sun News

"There may be no more important hire in southern New Mexico this year than the next person who is selected to lead Spaceport America. Sadly, we have lost all faith that the process will be comprehensive or transparent. It was decided early on that, instead of hiring a search firm to lead the effort, the Spaceport Authority would rely on social media to get the word out. A subcommittee of four members of the Spaceport Authority board of directors was selected to review applications with former CEO Christine Anderson and send the best ones to Santa Fe for Gov. Susana Martinez. But before that subcommittee could hold its first meeting, the decision was made to call off the search and ship the applications to the governor's office. The Sun-News filed an open records request on Aug. 16 seeking copies of the applications being turned over to the governor's office. The response from the Spaceport Authority was that they would be unable to comply with the requirement that documents be produced within three business days, and would need until the end of the month instead. That's troubling, given that Spaceport Authority board Chairman Rick Holdridge has said that it is his intention to have a new CEO named well before then if possible."

Trump's Campaign CEO Ran a Secretive Sci-Fi Project in the Arizona Desert, Mother Jones

"Long before Stephen Bannon was CEO of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, he held a much different job - as the acting director of Biosphere 2, a $200 million scientific research facility in the mountains outside Tucson, Arizona. ... Bannon left Biosphere 2 after two years, and the project was taken over by Columbia University. (It is currently part of the University of Arizona.) But his departure was marred, as the Tucson Citizen reported at the time, by a civil lawsuit filed against Space Biosphere Ventures by the former crew members who had broken in."

Before Breitbart, before Trump, Bannon bullied people in Biosphere 2, Boing Boing

"Archival reports from 1993 found in the Star-Telegram archives show that Bannon was hired to take over the project at a point where it losing $12-15 million a year. Bannon was a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who ran a firm based in Los Angeles and New York that specialized in media and entertainment investments. .. Bannon's actions soon ended up as part of a civil suit filed by some of the original Biospherians against the new guard. In court, he admitted speaking angry words that echo some more recent accusations against him."

Biosphere 2, wikipedia

"Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original intended purposes as a closed-system experiment: once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Both attempts, though heavily publicized, ran into problems including low amounts of food and oxygen, die-offs of many animal and plant species, squabbling among the resident scientists and management issues."

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples, NASA

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing."

NASA FISO Presentation: The Deep Space Network - The Next 50 Years

"Dr. Leslie J. Deutsch is the Deputy Director of the Interplanetary Network Directorate at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This Directorate provides information services to spacecraft exploring the solar system and beyond. The Directorate's facilities include NASA's Deep Space Network, the giant antennas used to communicate with these spacecraft."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

A Tough Act To Follow

Van Hollen Vows To Continue Mikulski's Passion for Space, SpacePolicyOnline

"Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) vowed to continue the strong support for NASA and NOAA evidenced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski if he is elected as her successor in November. Mikulski is retiring and Van Hollen is widely considered to be the front runner to replace her. Overall, Van Hollen's message today at a luncheon sponsored by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) was one of reassurance. Mikulski's advocacy for NASA and NOAA, especially, but not only, earth science missions, is legendary. Many in the space community are apprehensive about what her departure will mean for NASA and NOAA space programs and budgets. Van Hollen is a relative unknown in space circles and today he clearly wanted to convey his enthusiasm and dedication to continue the fight."

Woody Bethay

Joseph Arwood Bethay

"He entered the US Army Ordnance Corp in 1957 and was assigned to the Army Guided Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal where he managed development of ground support equipment for the Corporal Missile System and warhead development for the Sergeant Missile System. Woody joined Marshal Space Flight Center in 1960. In his 35 years at MSFC he worked on research and development programs including the Saturn, Skylab, High Energy Astronomy Observatories, Space Shuttle, Spacelab, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra. He retired from NASA in 1995 as the Associate Director of MSFC."

NIAC Has An ITAR Problem

NASA advanced technology reports taken offline after export control issue, Space News

"NASA has taken offline technical reports associated with a cutting-edge technology program out of concerns of a possible export control breach, an agency official said Aug. 24. Speaking at annual symposium of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jason Derleth, the NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters, said the final reports associated with various NIAC research projects have been removed from the agency's website after one of them appeared to contain information that ran afoul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export control rules."

Earth-mass Planet Found In The Habitable Zone Of Proxima Centauri, ESO

"Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us -- and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the solar system. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016."

Don Curry

Don Curry, Clayton Funeral Homes

"He loved his work at NASA and was involved with every program, from Mercury through the Space Shuttle, before retiring after 45 years. He became one of the world's leading experts on thermal protection systems, receiving much recognition for his work. Don was respected and beloved by his colleagues who referred to him as "The Legend."

Donald M. Curry, NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project Edited Oral History Transcript

"I think most people that worked on the Apollo program out here worked for no extra pay because we were too interested in it. It was too much of a challenge because there wasn't anything known. When [President John F.] Kennedy said, "We're going to the Moon," well, we didn't even have the material. We didn't have the guidance schemes. We'd never done some of these things. We'd only flown one Mercury flight, in fact."

NASA's 'act of desperation' demonstrates continued cyber deficiencies, Federal News Radio

"One of NASA's main networks used by almost every employee and contractor and managed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise is in such bad shape, the agency's chief information officer could no longer accept the risk and let the cybersecurity authorization expire. Renee Wynn, NASA's new CIO, didn't sign off on the authority to operate (ATO) for systems and tools under the $2.5 billion Agency Consolidated End-user Services (ACES) contract, which HPE won in 2010. Under the 10-year contract, HPE provides and manages most of NASA's personal computing hardware, agency-standard software, mobile information technology services, peripherals and accessories, associated end-user services and supporting infrastructure. A NASA spokeswoman confirmed the ATO expired on July 24. She said Wynn signed a "conditional" ATO for the systems under ACES, but internal NASA sources said the authorization is just for the management tools and not for the desktops, laptops and other end user devices. Letting an ATO expire on a major agency network is unheard of in government. Multiple federal cyber experts said agencies know at least a year in advance when an authorization and accreditation needs to be renewed."

NASA Totally Flunks FITARA Scorecard 2 Years In A Row, earlier post

"I need to thank NASA's AA for Legislative Affairs, Seth Statler, for pointing out the hearing - and NASA's 'F' grade. NASA has the distinction in 2016 for being the only agency to get an overall 'F', so congratulations are in order. Of course, in telling everyone about FITARA, it is quite obvious that Statler was doing a little blame shifting as he spoke for NASA CIO Renee Wynn - while throwing her under the bus."

- Earlier posts

Roscosmos plans to reduce Russian ISS crew to two, TASS

"Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos plans to reduce Russia's crew at the International Space Station (ISS) from three to two cosmonauts, the Izvestia newspaper writes on Thursday, citing Roscosmos manned programs director Sergei Krikalev. "Plans to reduce the crew stem from the fact that less cargo ships are sent to the ISS and from the necessity to boost the efficiency of the program," the newspaper quotes Krikalev. Apart from that, it will make it possible to lower expenses on the space station's maintenance."

Space station crew may drop to five because of Russia, Ars Technica

"In a statement on Monday, NASA confirmed that Russia is considering dropping back to two crew members. However, the agency did not provide any additional information. According to NASA: "Any questions about the near-term Russian Space budget or Russian ISS expedition size should be directed to the Roscosmos press office. Roscosmos has joined NASA and other International Space Station partners in extending support for the orbiting laboratory to at least 2024, and the current level of research of both NASA and the international partners on ISS is at an all-time high."

Mars On Earth

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/Mars.devon.jpg

Full-Circle Vista from NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Shows 'Murray Buttes'

"Eroded mesas and buttes reminiscent of the U.S. Southwest shape part of the horizon in the latest 360-degree color panorama from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover."

Keith's note: This is why we call Devon Island "Mars On Earth". Top: Mars 2016 Bottom: me on Devon Island 2002. I have been to Devon Island 3 times - twice for a month. Without exception, a day did not go by when my eyes were telling me that I was on Mars every hour or so.

Marco Rubio declares support for NASA plan, calls on presidential nominees to do same, Florida Politics

"Saying NASA needs long-range political assurances, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio declared broad backing for the space agency's agenda Friday and called on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to do the same. Rubio met Friday with space industry representatives and others in a roundtable discussion organized by the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast and Space Florida, the state's space industry development corporation. They heard from him what they wanted: that Florida's junior senator, seeking re-election, is behind NASA's most ambitious programs, to turn over as much lower-Earth orbit activity as possible to private companies, and focus the nation's manned space flight efforts on getting to Mars."

How much will SLS and Orion cost to fly? Finally some answers, Ars Technica

"My top number for Orion, SLS, and the ground systems that support it is $2 billion or less," [NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development Bill] Hill told Ars. "I mean that's my real ultimate goal. We were running at about three-plus, 3.6 billion [dollars] during the latter days of space shuttle. Of course, there again, we were flying six or seven missions. I think we're actually going to have to get to less than that." Ars has learned that the agency's ultimate goal for annual production and operations costs is about $1.5 billion. ... Production and operations costs - P&O in NASA's acronym laden jargon - of $2 billion or less would leave a significant amount of money within NASA's budget for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon, to its surface, or eventually crewed missions to Mars. In fiscal year 2016, NASA received $3.7 billion for exploration systems development, essentially the SLS, Orion, and ground systems budget. The number is likely to grow to $4 billion before the decade's end. If it could eventually spend half of that on deep space habitats, landers, surface living quarters, and myriad other systems, the agency could have the beginnings of a viable program in deep space."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Annual Report 2015, earlier post

"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."

Double GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable

"... the SLS program has not positioned itself well to provide accurate assessments of core stage progress - including forecasting impending schedule delays, cost overruns, and anticipated costs at completion - because at the time of our review it did not anticipate having the baseline to support full reporting on the core stage contract until summer 2016 - some 4.5 years after NASA awarded the contract."

- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- NASA Has Three Different Launch Dates for Humans on SLS, earlier post
- Earlier SLS/Orion posts

The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space, Washington Post

"For years, many have been waiting for the commercial space industry to become a real market, one where companies actually make money and prosper. William Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human spaceflight division, said he thinks that the industry "is on the crest of another wave." "There's a lot of hype," he said at a Federal Aviation Administration space conference this year, citing other times when industry felt it was on the cusp of revolutionary change. "But will we be able to generate enough demand?" he said. "It can't just be solely government demand. It has to be augmented by the private sector. . . . Will that be enough to push us over or to reach that tipping point that actually enables this industry to become more self-sufficient than it was in the past?"

Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post

"The substance that the companies behind SLS and Orion use to keep people employed is identical to what they would theoretically use to operate ISS and routine crew and cargo transport: money. The money either comes from NASA or it doesn't but the financial health of these companies is all running on the same fuel. And whatever money NASA does not have to spend on one thing, it supposedly can spend on another. But this is an ecosystem - one that seems to want to expand off-world - where government money, money earned from government recycled back into other areas, and money from outside the NASA/contractor honey pot all gets mixed together. If one thing can feed another and spur interest amongst investors while others derive profit for the risks they took with their own money, well, that's how actual commerce establishes itself."

NASA FISO Presentation: Design Space for Space Design - Cybernetics, Human-Centered Design

"Tibor Balint is a researcher at the Royal College of Art, School of Design, finalizing his second PhD in Innovation Design Engineering. He spent 4 years at NASA-HQ as the Senior Technical Advisor; the Program Executive for GCD at STMD; and a Senior Technologist at OCT. At JPL he worked for 8 years as a mission architect and technologist."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

NASA Wants to Bring Enterprise to the Space Station

"In its RFI, NASA stressed that that for the moment, it just wants to hear ideas. It doesn't have a budget to help spur any proposed projects, or plans to release them for public perusal. NASA received 11 submissions "from a broad range of respondents including individuals, small companies and large companies," Sam Scimemi, division director for the ISS program, said in an e-mail."

NASA hopes to hand the International Space Station to a commercial owner by mid 2020s, TechCrunch

"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," [NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill] Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit. ... NASA didn't specify any potential buyer, but two commercial entities are about to add significant real estate to the ISS: a new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the station in 2017."

Keith's note: Every time someone from NASA talks about the future of ISS and the #JourneyToMars thing they contradict themselves and further muddy the issue.

1. CASIS is supposed to be doing this commercial stuff already with the U.S. portion of the ISS - NASA doesn't mention that very often.
2. The ISS is owned by more countries/agencies than just NASA. So how can NASA hand the ISS over to anyone?
3. "Buyer"? NASA is going to sell the ISS? (see #2)
4. Boeing and SpaceX own their visiting spacecraft - "real estate" that comes and goes.

NASA's Plan For Commercializing Low Earth Orbit Is Still A Mystery, earlier post
NASA: We're on a #JourneyToMars - But Don't Ask Us How, earlier post
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

Notice of Centennial Challenges Space Robotics Challenge

"The following virtual challenge scenario serves as a backdrop for developing coding advancements that enable the autonomy of humanoid robotics: In the not too distant future, R5 as arrived on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission. Overnight a dust storm damaged the habitat and solar array, and caused the primary communication antenna to become misaligned. R5 must now repair an air leak in the habitat, deploy a new solar panel, and align the communication antenna. Teams will use software to control a simulated R5 in order to resolve the problems caused by the dust storm. ... The competition arena will contain a rover, solar panels, communication dish, and a habitat on a Martian plain. Each component will be within eyesight and walking distance of each other."

Keith's note: Gee, this sounds like a summary of "The Martian" including the notion that wind on Mars is powerful enough to mess with the main communication antenna.

"In 2035, NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, has been left stranded on Mars after the crew of the Ares III mission were forced to evacuate their landing site in Acidalia Planitia due to an intense dust storm with high winds. Watney was impaled by an antenna during the evacuation and believed dead. His injury proves relatively minor, but with no way to contact Earth, Watney must rely on his own resourcefulness to survive."

The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post

"While NASA pours money into its goofy R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist, controlled by a human, and is always broken, Boston Dynamics continues to make astonishing progress on autonomous robots."

It is a little odd that NASA is issuing a challenge that focuses on a functional (but simulated) R5 robot when NASA's R5 does not even work - and two college teams have been given contracts to fix what NASA can't fix. One would think that the R5 problems would be solved before people spent a lot of time using its current design to create simulations of how a real robot might work. Indeed, wouldn't it make more sense to use state of the art robots that already exist? You'd think that NASA would encourage people to work with robots that actually work. As currently designed R5 would be part of the problem on Mars - not the solution.

- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- Is JSC's R5 Droid Worth Fixing?
- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades, earlier post

NASA Unveils New Public Web Portal for Research Results

"Public access to NASA-funded research data now is just a click away, with the launch of a new agency public access portal. The creation of the NASA-Funded Research Results portal on NASA.gov reflects the agency's ongoing commitment to providing broad public access to science data. "At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio of scientific and technical publications," said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. "Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air and space."

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA's Space Launch System: Powering the Journey to Mars

"Now available is the August 3, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers were Chris Sanders (AeroJet Rocketdyne), Mike Fuller (Orbital ATK), and Bob DaLee (Boeing), who discussed "NASA's Space Launch System: Powering the Journey to Mars."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

Marc's note: The future is SLS folks, that's it. Just have a look at slide 9 for the comparison to existing rockets such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy (soon to fly) and ULA's Atlas V and Delta-IV. Oh, and the comparison is to the possible future SLS Block 1B and 2B, neither of which are funded or will be built anytime soon.

Keith's note: And of course what the BoeingLockheedMartinAerojetRocketdyneOrbitalATK guys never, ever mention is cost - what it cost to develop SLS, what each flight costs, what it would take to fund these larger versions of SLS. Yet they compare their rocket with things like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy that you can buy - now. How many Falcon Heavy's can you buy for the the cost of one of these SLS vehicles? How many could you buy with what it cost to develop the SLS overall? That question is impossible to answer - since no one knows what SLS actually costs.

Here's What President Obama Is Reading This Summer, Time

"The presidential reading list also includes two big page-turners: Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, a sci-fi adventure about space explorers returning to a post-apocalyptic planet Earth."

Seveneves, Wikipedia

"At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown force causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the shattered remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science popularizer "Doc" Dubois Harris calculates that the number of collisions will increase exponentially. A large number of moon fragments will begin entering Earth's atmosphere, forming a "white sky" and blanketing the earth within two years with what he calls a "Hard Rain" of bolides; this will cause the atmosphere to heat to incandescence and oceans to boil away, and make Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. ... The Cloud Ark is to be based around the International Space Station (ISS), currently commanded by American astronaut Ivy Xiao. The ISS is already bolted onto an iron Arjuna asteroid called Amalthea, which provides some protection against moon debris."

Keith's note: Hmm ... I wonder if this has anything to do with the White House's continued interest in the Asteroid Retrieval Mission and lack of interest in the Moon. Just kidding. FWIW I am a big Neal Stephenson fan and I really liked "Seveneves".

NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships to be Released in September Seeking Hosted Payloads and Investigation Team, NASA

"The Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships(ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) will solicit concept studies for basic and applied research and technology demonstrations, and mission investigations through partnerships with the ARM. The full BAA Solicitation, with two appendices, is expected to be issued in early September."

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission Completes Robotic Design Milestone, NASA

"Earlier this year, NASA updated the target launch date for the robotic mission to December 2021 in order to incorporate acquisition of the industry robotic spacecraft development into the project schedule. To reflect this new target date, the project's cost cap was increased at KDP-B from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This figure does not include the launch vehicle or the post-launch operations phase. The crewed segment, targeted for launch in 2026, remains in an early mission concept phase, or pre-formulation."

NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post (2015)

"And NASA can't even admit that the $1.25 billion cost (without launcher) would balloon to $3 billion or so when it uses the two SLS flights it wants to use. And oh yes: the OSIRIS-REx mission will already do nearly all of the sciencey stuff ARM is doing (as an afterthought) - at a fraction of the cost of ARM."

- House Appropriators Seek To Defund Asteroid Mission - Push NASA To The Moon & Mars, earlier post
- ARM Defenders Forecast Nasty Things If It Is Cancelled, earlier post
- Asteroid Boulder Retrieval Mission Needs a Precursor Mission, earlier post

NASA Report: New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment, National Academies of Sciences

"NASA's WFIRST, the top-ranked large space-based mission in the 2010 survey, is designed to answer questions about dark energy, exoplanets, and general astrophysics. Since the release of the survey, the WFIRST scope and design have evolved to include a 2.4-meter telescope, larger infrared detectors, and an instrument called a coronagraph that enables directly imaging an exoplanet by blocking the light emitted by its parent star. These changes, while scientifically compelling, could result in further increased costs and further delays for the mission, the committee said. It recommended that prior to final confirmation of the changes, NASA conduct an independent review of the project to ensure it does not crowd out investment in the rest of NASA's astrophysics portfolio and, if necessary, de-scope the mission. The report also finds that the driving factor in the delay or non-pursuit of some new NASA initiatives, including WFIRST, was the schedule change and increased cost associated with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) - a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that is set to launch in 2018. As a result, NASA's WFIRST mission was delayed, and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) - a space-based gravitational wave detector that first took shape as collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) - did not go forward."

GAO Best Practices for Evaluating the Readiness of Technology for Use in Acquisition Programs and Projects, GAO

"NASA space missions are more ambitious and require the development and integration of more advanced and complex scientific instruments and vehicles than ever before. Hardware systems embedded with software challenge traditional ways of viewing and evaluating critical technology. 13 The issues include a lack of distinction among software types (newly developed, reused, and commercial-off-the-shelf), insufficient experience and knowledge when moving from the laboratory to a "relevant" environment, poor oversight during development, and inconsistent definitions of what represents new software technology. In addition, in some cases, it is no longer possible to evaluate the maturity of certain hardware technologies without their embedded software."

"NASA introduced TRLs in the 1970s and DOD introduced TRAs in the 1990s; they have been adopted by other agencies and industry, and internationally as effective tools for facilitating understanding and increasing knowledge about the maturity of critical technologies and their readiness for integration into larger acquisition systems. Some experts, however, have argued that existing assessment tools are not well suited to addressing various areas - including software systems and systems' integration. For example, historically, the TRL scale has not always been understood in terms of what needs to be demonstrated when it comes to software at each of the nine maturity levels, since software development did not start until the later phases of the acquisition life-cycle, such as after critical design review. New assessment tools or variations on existing tools have been developed for these areas and others."

SpaceX Launches Japanese Satellite JCSAT-16 and Returns Falcon 9 First Stage [With video]

NASA FISO Presentation: Mars Science Enabled by the Mars Base Camp 2028 Proposed Architecture

"Dr. Steve Jolly is the Lockheed Martin Chief Engineer for the Civil Space line of business. He was the Chief Engineer and Principal Scientist for the GOES-R program and Chief Engineer and Deputy PM for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Steve Bailey has worked exclusively on human and robotic space exploration systems since 1983."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

Marc's note: The concept of a human pre-cursor mission to Phobos and Deimos is not new. I remember having lunch with Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute/Mars Institute along with Elon Musk in 2004 where Pascal pitched the Phobos mission. Elon wasn't interested. However not too long afterward Buzz Aldrin was. In fact, he called me while I was still working with the Mars Institute to discuss the idea and offer his support.

Advocates of a direct mission to Mars will vocally disagree and I can't blame them. After all, we've been discussing a human mission to Mars for as long as I can remember and we're still years from it becoming a reality. But, the idea of a pre-cursor mission is still worth discussion and consideration.

Challenge to presidential candidates: Debate about science, Washington Post

"Climate change. Mental health. Space exploration. Vaccinations. The health of the oceans. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs. These are not the typical meat-and-potatoes topics of presidential debates. Often, the candidates and people who ask them questions skip over such topics entirely. But dozens of non-partisan groups that represent millions of scientists and engineers across the country are eager to change that. For the third consecutive presidential election, the folks behind ScienceDebate.org are asking candidates to hold a debate exclusively about major issues in science, engineering, health and the environment. Since that almost certainly won't happen (it didn't in 2008 or 2012, either), the organizers have put together 20 questions they are asking candidates to address in writing. Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said answers from the campaigns could help voters gauge how a candidate plans to use scientific information to make important decisions in the White House."

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Member Futuramic Recognized by Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) is pleased one of its members, Futuramic Tool & Engineering (Futuramic), was recognized yesterday by Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton as "being on the front lines of a manufacturing renaissance in America." ... Clinton referenced Futuramic's role in the manufacturing of SLS stating the rocket was "being built to go from Macomb (Michigan) to Mars."

Keith's update: Looks like the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration's lobbying worked - almost - "NLSLS" (what she said) is not SLS - and Third World countries do build rockets. But Hillary did say "Mars".

NASA FISO Presentation: The Film Evaporation MEMS Tunable Water Microthruster Array

"Miniaturization of satellite systems provides potential for reduced launch and operations costs
- Small sats i.e. micro, pico, nanosats are emerging technologies.
- Cubesats (4 inches cube) are low cost alternative for some applications.

Propulsion systems resist miniaturization
- Viscous losses at small scale
- Low mass fraction due to power processing mass
- Excessive power demands for small sat applications
"

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

NASA MissionSTEM Summit 2016 - Opening Session and Keynote Address, NASA

"For two days, experts in civil rights compliance and education will discuss best practices for ensuring equal opportunity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and exchange ideas for tackling the challenges faced by grantee institutions and compliance officials. The summit is designed to take NASA's civil rights technical assistance efforts relating to STEM to a new level."

"Special guest speakers at this opening session include NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, Tina Tchen, assistant to President Obama and chief of staff to the First Lady, and Jo Handelsman, associate director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

Previous:
- Update: Stealth NASA STEM Event is Actually A Stealth Sexual Harassment Event
- Dava Newman's Mission STEM Conference Still In Stealth Mode
- Dava Newman Announces Stealth STEM Conference

NASA Selects Six Companies to Develop Prototypes, Concepts for Deep Space Habitats

"NASA has selected six U.S. companies to help advance the Journey to Mars by developing ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats."

"The selected companies are:

- Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas
- Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
- Lockheed Martin of Denver
- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
- Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
- NanoRacks of Webster, Texas
"

Marc's note: It's interesting to note that in this follow-on contract from the 2015 NextSTEP selections, Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks are included. NanoRacks in particular is an intriguing participant as they attempt to expand their available products.

- NextSTEP Partners Develop Deep Space Habitat Ground Prototypes

What can Space Resources do for Astronomy and Planetary Science?, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"The rapid cost growth of flagship space missions has created a crisis for astronomy and planetary science. We have hit the funding wall. For the past 3 decades scientists have not had to think much about how space technology would change within their planning horizon. However, this time around enormous improvements in space infrastructure capabilities and, especially, costs are likely on the 20-year gestation periods for large space telescopes. Commercial space will lower launch and spacecraft costs substantially, enable cost-effective on-orbit servicing, cheap lunar landers and "interplanetary cubesats" by the early 2020s. A doubling of flagship launch rates is not implausible. On a longer timescale it will enable large structures to be assembled and constructed in space. These developments will change how we plan and design missions."

The Peaks of Eternal Light: a Near-term Property Issue on the Moon, arXiv.org e-Print archive

"The recently revealed highly inhomogeneous distribution of lunar resources changes the context of these issues. We illustrate this altered situation by considering the Peaks of Eternal Light. They occupy about one square kilometer of the lunar surface. We consider a thought experiment in which a Solar telescope is placed on one of the Peaks of Eternal Light at the lunar South pole for scientific research. Its operation would require nondisturbance, and hence that the Peak remain unvisited by others, effectively establishing a claim of protective exclusion and de facto appropriation."

U.S. Government Approves Plan For Moon Express to Become First Private Company To Venture Beyond Earth's Orbit, Moon Express

"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources."

UrtheCast Elevates High-Tech Farming With Superior Precision Agriculture, UrtheCast

"With Earth's population growing at an exponential rate, the future of agriculture - in particular precision agriculture - will continue to grow in importance as the world works to support its population. Satellite monitoring, a key component of precision ag, aids in the analysis of everything from crop type and crop health to yield prediction. And as the global agricultural stakes are raised as the population balloons, so too does the need for increased access to extremely high quality imagery, on a reliable and frequent basis."

NanoRacks External Platform is Outside of International Space Station, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks' commercial gateway to space is officially open for business. The NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) has been placed outside of the International Space Station (ISS) on the JEM Exposed Facility. The self-funded NREP is the first-ever commercial gateway-and-return to the extreme environment of space. Following the CubeSat form factor, payloads can now experience the microgravity, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment, observe earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth."

The First Commercial Interplanetary Mining Mission, Deep Space Industries

"Deep Space Industries announced today its plans to fly the world's first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1™ will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid, and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. This mission is an important step in the company's plans to harvest and supply in-space resources to support the growing space economy."

SpaceVR Signs Launch Contract with NanoRacks to Deploy The World's First Virtual Reality Camera Satellite into Space, SpaceVR

"SpaceVR, a platform for creating cinematic, live, virtual space tourism, announced today that it has signed a launch agreement with NanoRacks LLC to send Overview 1, the world's first virtual reality camera satellite, into space. Overview 1 will be delivered to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-12 Mission. The satellite will then be deployed into Low Earth Orbit from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD)."

Lockheed Martin Finalizes Contract for NASA Lunar Imaging CubeSat, Lockheed Martin

"For being our familiar anchor in the night sky, the moon still holds mysteries for scientists. To illuminate the unknown, Lockheed Martin ) has signed a contract with NASA to deploy SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat planned to launch to the moon in 2018 with Orion's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1)."

NASA FISO Presentation: New Estimates of Space Radiation Risks are Favorable for Human Exploration of Mars

"Dr. Cucinotta developed the astronaut exposure data base of organ doses and cancer risk estimates for all human missions from Mercury to the International Space Station (ISS), and developed risk models for acute, cancer and circulatory disease."

Note: The audio file and presentation are available online and to download.

Keith's 8 August update: NASA MissionSTEM Summit 2016: Opening Session and Keynote Address - Live 9:30 -11:00 am EDT. No mention is made of this event or the opening webcast at NASA.gov, NASA's education website, or NASA's event calendar. Its almost as it NASA overtly decided not to tell anyone that this event is happening.

Oh yes: NASA TV actually cut off Tina Tchen from the White House in mid-sentence at 11:00 am EDT to show clouds from space.

Keith's note: One week ago at the NASA Advisory Council meeting Dava Newman was gushing about a "Mission STEM" conference they NASA is holding in Washington, DC on 8-9 August with "hundreds of attendees" and partnerships with other agencies. A week after my first post, there is still no mention of this event at NASA's calendar, NASA's Education webpage or even at the official missionstem.nasa.gov. webpage. If you look at the weekly NASA Education Express Message -- Aug. 4, 2016 from NASA's Education Office you will see no mention of this event either. How are people outside of NASA's little bubble supposed to know about these things?

Dava Newman Announces Stealth STEM Conference, earlier post

Frank Sietzen

Keith's note: My long time friend and collaborator Frank Sietzen Jr. passed away comfortably on Sunday. Born in May 1952, Frank as a consumate space advocate, historian, policy analyst, and journalist. He lived and breathed space. We wrote a book together a few years ago "New Moon Rising" about the Bush Administration's "Vision for Exploration". Indeed, we broke the story of this new plan's existence on the front page of the Washington Times. Frank worked for everyone, so it seems: among others the Space Transportation Association, Aerospace America, SpaceX, UPI, and served as a speech writer for NASA Administrator Bolden. A full resume and bibliography would fill pages. Frank lived his entire adult life amidst space policy. Nearly every phone call with Frank started with "You'll never guess what I just learned" As such, if there is one thing that I think Frank would ask if his life's work were to be analyzed, it would be "well, did you learn something?" I sure did.

Ad Astra Frank.

Arrangements and other details to follow.

Doug O'Handley

Doug O'Handley, Indomitable​ Influence for Hundreds of Space Professionals, Passes

"Douglas Alexander O'Handley, Ph.D., died peacefully at home in Morgan Hill, California July 28, 2016, at the age of 79. ... In the mid-1990s, Doug created and taught a multi-disciplinary undergraduate course in astrobiology at Santa Clara University. He - and the course - were wildly popular. From this course and the program initiated by Jerry Soffen at NASA Goddard, the seeds were planted for the NASA Ames Astrobiology Academy - a summer leadership development program committed to excellence that has operated for nearly 20 years (later the Space Exploration Academy). The Academy catalyzed and inspired the lives of more than 240 students, many of whom are now well-established in scientific disciplines and careers around the country, ranging from NASA flight surgeons and principal investigators on multiple missions, to leaders inspiring others with their careers in academia, government and industry. Doug and Christy drew enormous pleasure from hosting the students that each year brought to their home on evenings, weekends and holidays - whether skiing with astronauts at Squaw Valley, boating on Lake Tahoe or backyard BBQs. The Academy students quickly became a part of Doug's family, always welcome at any time. Doug was present for many life events of his former students, including officiating three weddings and introducing more than a dozen couples who are now married."

----

"We invite you to join us at St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, California, on Saturday, August 20, at 2 p.m. for a mass in honor of Doug and a reception to follow to enjoy the many wonderful memories and accomplishments."

Keith's note: Doug was doing things 20 years ago that no one else at NASA was doing - before there was social media, STEM, NASA socials, etc. While lots of "education" people talk about education and put out powerpoint slides, Doug rolled up his sleeves and just made things happen. More than once Doug would invite me to give his students a lecture on "How To Break the Rules at NASA". He wanted them to know how the place really worked. His efforts led directly to the inspiration of a large number of very fine young people - many of whom work in the NASA family. Doug and his wife took each class of students into his home as if they were family. There are hundreds of students whose careers went into overdrive as a direct result of Doug O'Handley and the NASA Academy. Each one of them has a story to tell - each story points to the enduring power of NASA as a motivator - with Doug holding a hand while also holding a big magnifying glass and bull horn to accentuate the effect. One only has to look at Doug's Facebook page to see the responses from students who have learned of his passing. Doug leaves behind a living, breathing legacy that will endure and expand for decades - one that will expand off this planet.
Ad Astra Doug.

U.S. Government Approves Plan For Moon Express to Become First Private Company To Venture Beyond Earth's Orbit, Moon Express

"The U.S. Government has made a historic ruling to allow the first private enterprise, Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit and land on the Moon in 2017. This breakthrough U.S. policy decision provides authorization to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon's surface, beginning a new era of ongoing commercial lunar exploration and discovery, unlocking the immense potential of the Moon's valuable resources. Moon Express received the green light for pursuing its 2017 lunar mission following in depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies."

Fact Sheet - Moon Express Payload Review Determination, FAA

"Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty requires, in relevant part, that "The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty." The FAA consulted with the Department of State as to the relevant portions of the Treaty and considered comments from the Department as part of the payload determination."

FAA-AST Awards Virgin Galactic Operator License For SpaceShipTwo

"The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST) has awarded Virgin Galactic an operator license for SpaceShipTwo. The license award, which will ultimately permit commercial operations of the vehicle, was the culmination of several years of in-depth interaction with the FAA. The license review process consists of an in-depth review of the vehicles system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis, culminating in FAA-AST approval."

Virgin Galactic receives FAA license for SpaceShipTwo tests, SpaceNews

"The license prohibits Virgin Galactic from flying what are officially classified as "spaceflight participants" on SpaceShipTwo until the company can "successfully verify the integrated performance" of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. "Verification must include flight testing, and the results must be provided to the FAA prior to conducting a mission with a space flight participant on board," the license states.

Virgin Galactic opted to receive the launch license, with those restrictions, over an alternative known as an experimental permit. Such permits allow for testing of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under a more streamlined regulatory environment, but prohibit the company holding the permit from using the vehicle for any commercial application. Blue Origin, for example, has an experimental permit for test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle."

NASA FISO Presentation: Near Real-Time State Models - a Foundational Technology for Space Automation and Robotics, SpaceRef

"Now available is the June 22, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Gary Barnhard of Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc. (XISP-Inc) who discussed Near Real-Time State Models - a Foundational Technology for Space Automation and Robotics."

Includes: Presentation and audio recording of the telecon.


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