"SpaceX said Sunday that the first Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A, a former shuttle-era complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to send a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station in mid-February, deferring a mission with an EchoStar communications satellite that was set to take off this month."
January 2017 Archives
"I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens."
Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings, SpaceRef
"Given the sheer mass of the structure, and the slow manner with which things change here, this inukshuk may well be standing 500 years from now. That should be long enough. Maybe someone serving on a starship will think to visit it."
"A week prior to my departure I got a call from June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger's commander Dick Scobee. She was thrilled with what we were doing and asked if we'd like to place a few mementos in the inukshuk. She then described what she was sending. A day or so later a package arrived. As I opened it I told my wife, with a bit of a tear in my eye, "this is history". I had been sent one of the few items Dick Scobee had left in his briefcase when he took off for his last mission: a business card and a mission lapel pin. I am certain that his family has so little in the way of such items. As such I was really honored that the family had chosen this inukshuk we planned to build on Devon Island, as the place where such precious items would rest."
"The largest risk to the Mars 2020 schedule is the Project's Sample and Caching Subsystem (Sampling System), which will collect core samples of Martian rocks and soil and place them on the planet's surface for retrieval by a future robotic or human mission. At Preliminary Design Review (PDR), three of the Sampling System's critical technologies were below technology readiness level (TRL) 6, meaning the prototype had not yet demonstrated the capability to perform all the functions required. Projects are evaluated during PDR to ensure they meet all system requirements with acceptable risk and within cost and schedule constraints. The immaturity of the critical technologies related to the Sampling System is concerning because, according to Mars 2020 Project managers, the Sampling System is the rover's most complex new development component with delays likely to eat into the Project's schedule reserve and, in the worst case scenario, could delay launch. As of December 2016, the Project was tracking the risk that the Sampling System may not be ready for integration and testing - the period when a spacecraft is built, undergoes final testing, and is prepared for launch - in May 2019, as planned."
"Boeing has set a "no earlier than" date of August 2018 for its first crewed test flight, and SpaceX has targeted May 2018. But those dates seem optimistic. Ars spoke to a handful of sources familiar with the commercial crew program this week, and all expressed pessimism about the public timelines the companies have for reaching the launch pad. According to this unofficial analysis, even a single crewed test flight in 2018 by either company now appears unlikely, as teams from both Boeing and SpaceX continue to work through significant technical issues."
Remembering the Challenger Crew, Challenger Center for Space Science Education
"On this day 31 years ago, Space Shuttle Challenger and its seven-member crew were tragically lost. The crew members - Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith - were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. Challenger Center, formed by the families of the crew, is dedicated to the educational spirit of their mission. Every year, together with our 43 Challenger Learning Centers, we provide more than 250,000 students with the opportunity to become scientists, engineers, and innovators through unique education experiences."
"A new tribute opened Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, dedicated to the lives, accomplishments and memories of the three astronauts who perished 50 years ago in a launch pad fire while training for the flight of Apollo 1. The tribute exhibit stands only a few miles from the long-abandoned Launch Complex 34, the launch pad where the fire took place. The pad was dismantled in 1968 after the launch of Apollo 7."
"The fire made NASA personnel more aware and focused on "quality control," said Charlie Duke, another astronaut. [Walt] Cunningham, who was on the backup crew, said it didn't really change him as an astronaut, but "may have given me a little bit more mental commitment to not go along with some of the things on the design, and what-have-you." After the fire, Sieck said, personnel did speak up more. "There was a lot more questioning of, 'well, please explain this to me,'" Sieck said. "'I see what's here, I hear what you're saying, but tell me more. I don't totally understand it.'" It was a lesson NASA would have to learn again after the space shuttle Challenger disaster. And again after the space shuttle Columbia disaster."
Keith's note: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will re-introduce Bipartisan Apollo 1 Memorial Act today at 2:00 pm ET toay. Additional co-sponsors are needed. Spread the word.
"These new accounts also raise the fascinating question of whether "alternative" or "rogue" or "resistance" social media accounts will become a new norm even in Western nations that have not typically had a history of "governments in exile." One could imagine that every administration would have its "rogue" employees who disagree with particular policies heading out to Twitter to fire up their own resistance accounts. Taking this a step further, the party not in power could set up its own alternative Twitter accounts for each federal agency and issue their own statements interpreting the actions of each agency through their particular partisan lens."
Keith's note: I could not be happier to see this happen. NASAWatch started out as RIFWatch - an effort to inform people about an impending downsizing (RIF) at NASA. Guess what - that may be in NASA's future once again. I used to warn NASA that someday there would be dozens of websites like NASAWatch. I am so happy to have totally underestimated that number.
Keith's update: At first these Twitter accounts focused mostly on science issues. Then their originators (government employees, based on tweets these accounts made) handed the accounts over to non-government employees. Shortly thereafter, as visibility exploded, a lot of the commentary and follower's comments took a turn into overtly partisan, anti-Trump territory. Now its hard to extract the science policy issues from the rest of the noise. Such is social media.
"So [George] Abbey thinks the architecture of NASA's future plans should be thoroughly examined and redrawn. It won't even require a budgetary increase - just a smarter allocation of the currently available funding. For instance, he suggests scrapping the SLS program altogether. There's too much redundancy in the heavy-lift rocket market - SpaceX is working on their Falcon Heavy, Blue Origin is busy developing the New Glenn booster, and United Launch Alliance is drawing up plans for a Vulcan rocket. He also thinks a simple scaling-up of Boeing's already-proven and successful X-37 would create a serviceable replacement for the decommissioned shuttle fleet - a spaceplane that could be fitted for crewed flights and that also has the ability to transport matériel into space for orbital, in situ assembly."
"The Trump administration's "beachhead team" for NASA showed up Monday. So far, according to Lightfoot, everyone's just getting desks and phones and computers assigned. There has been no command from on high to change policies about communications - nor any attempt to take down the agency's extensive online discussions of human-influenced climate change or other scientific issues."
"To fund preparations for the exploration of the Moon and Mars an international cooperation campaign will have to be launched and private investors invited to participate to raise the money required, the chief of Russia's state-run corporation Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, has said. It emerged in the spring of 2016 that the Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya and the US Boeing were developing a joint project of a lunar orbital station in two versions: either two small living modules or one big module. An SLS super-heavy carrier rocket being developed by NASA is expected to be used to deliver the station's elements and the crew to the Moon's orbit. In case of a multi-modular project, they are intended to be launched together with a US spacecraft Orion, which is also being developed by NASA."
Keith's note: According to NASA HQ PAO there is no change in NASA policy with regard to the release of data or information to the public.
"The White House denied on Wednesday that the new Trump administration ordered a curb on the flow of information from several government agencies involved in environmental issues. "They have not been directed by us to do anything," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, adding employees have been told to adhere to their agency's own policies. "But that directive did not come from here."
"The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. The communications director for President Donald Trump's transition team at EPA, Doug Ericksen, said Wednesday the review also extends to content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame. Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations."
"Don't blame this one on the Trump administration. In a bungled attempt to anticipate the wishes of their new political bosses, the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) on Monday imposed what was widely interpreted as a gag order on its scientists communicating with the public. But a senior ARS official tells ScienceInsider that it was a poorly-worded effort by career officials - not anyone appointed by Trump -- to remind employees of a longstanding U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy on clearing statements that have policy relevance with senior officials before releasing them."
Robert Braun named new dean of engineering and applied science, University of Colorado Boulder
"University of Colorado Boulder Provost Russell L. Moore today announced the appointment of Robert D. Braun as dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Prior to joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 2003, Braun worked at the NASA Langley Research Center for 16 years."
White House, SpaceX Veteran Phil Larson Joining CU Boulder, University of Colorado Boulder
"The University of Colorado Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Bobby Braun is announcing the appointment of Phil Larson as assistant dean for communications, strategy, and planning, where he will lead strategic relations for the college. Larson - who was senior advisor for space and innovation at the White House, where he served from 2009 to 2014 - will join CU Boulder in February. Most recently, Larson was part of Elon Musk's SpaceX team, supporting communications efforts as well as managing corporate projects."
"But that didn't stop House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) from taking the House floor Monday night to claim the media would cover Trump differently if he weren't a Republican. ... Smith said. "No, the national liberal media won't print that or air it or post it. Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth," he concluded. Smith delivers House floor speeches at least once a week criticizing the mainstream media. Earlier this month, he denounced a New York Times column describing the impact of droughts in Africa believed to be exacerbated by climate change as "fake news."
"Whither space exploration? Space was never a front-burner issue for the Obama administration, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was generally viewed as at best a cheerleader for policies on human and robotic exploration that were poorly articulated and never adequately funded. Does Trump have a more muscular vision? Is "unlocking the mysteries of space" a tacit endorsement of what some influential Republicans hope will be a costly robotic mission to find life on a watery moon of Jupiter? Does it presage astronauts returning to the moon? And what will be his administration's stance on commercial space ventures?"
"During the presidential campaign, advisors to President-elect Trump expressed praise for the focus on public-private partnerships in space. However, those same advisors hinted that all of Obama's efforts in strengthening NASA's Earth Science division may be undone, and that all of the space agency's climate missions may be transferred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly and abruptly canceled a major climate change summit scheduled for next month shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, according to emails sent to those scheduled to speak and obtained by E&E News. The Climate and Health Summit was scheduled to be held in Atlanta, where the CDC is headquartered, in February. Agency leaders did not directly address why the summit was canceled and instead forwarded an email sent to participants indicating it may be rescheduled. "We are currently exploring options so that the Summit may take place later in the year," CDC officials wrote."
"Asked about concerns that the next administration could violate principles of scientific integrity at the federal agencies, or even delete federal climate change datasets, McNutt replied: "There are protections in place through government data integrity and scientific integrity acts that would, if [these data suddenly disappeared,] would say, 'Hold it. That is not allowed. This data has to come back online.' ... It would take, in my view, an incredible coordinated move to delete all copies of...climate data. On the other hand, I don't see any reason why, if people want to copy this data and back it up one more time, that it's something they shouldn't do."
"In the science community there have been alarm bells, reports that the president has already launched a war on science," says Tobin Smith, vice-president for policy at the Association for American Universities in Washington DC. "I think it's way too premature to draw that conclusion."
"Many of the programmers who showed up at UCLA for the event had day jobs as IT consultants or data managers at startups; others were undergrad computer science majors. The scientists in attendance, including ecologists, lab managers, and oceanographers, came from universities all over Southern California. A motley crew of data enthusiasts who assemble for projects like this is becoming something of a trend at universities across the country: Volunteer "data rescue" events in Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Michigan over the last few weeks have managed to scrape hundreds of thousands of pages off of EPA.gov, NASA.gov, DOE.gov, and whitehouse.gov, uploading them to the Internet Archive. Another is planned for early February at New York University."
Keith's note: Last week NASA HQ was told by the incoming Trump administration that they wanted Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski to stay on for while after the Inauguration to help with the transition. Then the Trump people suddenly changed their minds and Dave was no longer a NASA employee at noon on Friday. As such Dave did not have a proper chance to say farewell to folks at NASA. Before he was CFO he was the NASA Chief of Staff. Dave is one of those people in government that most folks never hear of. He just did his job diligently without any arm waving and did it exceptionally well. Dave was absolutely vital to how NASA worked - especially when it worked well. Its too bad he was not able to have a proper send off. You done good, Dave.
Revenge of the bureaucrats, Politico
"The Trump personnel team led by Kay Coles James and Linda Springer, both also Bush alumni, has broad goals to reduce the size of domestic agencies while slightly bolstering the defense workforce, say sources close to the transition. Aides are also mulling a process, known as "reduction in force," that would allow the new administration to skirt the civil service's complicated rules for hiring and firing. The easiest way to make such reductions might be through budget cuts to each agency, which would be outlined in Trump's first budget proposal this spring."
Trump freezes hiring of many federal workers, Washington Post
"President Trump instituted a governmentwide hiring freeze Monday, signing an executive order that he said would affect all employees "except for the military."
How Trump Could Unravel Obama's Science Legacy, Scientific American
"The much-larger ranks of non-political 'career' employees, meanwhile, could shrink under Trump, who has pledged to freeze federal hiring within his first 100 days in office. Staffing levels at science agencies - which stayed relatively flat under Obama, despite his enthusiasm for research - could eventually dwindle by attrition."
"Trump named Autry his White House liaison, a role NASA Watch editor Keith Cowing calls "traditional" - and Noble his White House senior advisor at NASA. That's less typical. "Does that mean he's at NASA, or is he just another liason?" Cowing says. "My guess is these guys are two peas in a pod." Which is to say, they'll probably work together to maintain open lines of communication between the space agency and the Oval Office. ... Will these appointees help Trump on his mission to unlock the secrets of space? "Neither of these guys dropped out the sky," Cowing says. "They both know what NASA means, at least."
Erik Noble, White House Senior Advisor at NASA
- Political Data Analyst - Trump Data and Voter Outreach Team, Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.
- Adjunct Assistant Professor, Atmospheric Science, The City College of New York
- Scientist, Atmospheric Science, NASA January 2007 December 2013 (7 years) New York, NY
- University of Colorado at Boulder, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Environmental Studies: focus on Atmospheric Sciences
Gregory Autry, White House Liaison
- Assistant Prof. Clinical Entrepreneurship, USC. Space industry expert. Entrepreneur. Writer.
- Member of the Editorial Board, New Space Journal
- Research Lead, Commercial Space Group, AIAA
- Producer, Death By China - Film
- Senior Economist, Coalition for a Prosperous America
"The Interior Department reactivated its official Twitter accounts early Saturday after an abrupt shutdown following two shares of tweets that were unsympathetic to President Trump during his inauguration. Thomas Crosson, a spokesman for the National Park Service, the Interior agency whose employee retweeted the offending tweets, said the action was "inconsistent with the agency's approach to engaging the public through social media." "The Department of Interior's communications team determined that it was important to stand down Twitter activity across the Department temporarily, except in the case of public safety," Crosson said in an email. "Now that social media guidance has been clarified, the Department and its bureaus should resume Twitter engagement as normal this weekend." With one exception, Crosson said: No social media posts on the policy priorities of the new Interior secretary, because Trump nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) has not yet been confirmed. It's safe to assume that the Park Service won't be estimating the crowd size of Saturday's Women's March on Twitter."
Keith's note: This is troubling. I wonder if similar action will be taken against @NOAA and @NASA for posting all of these tweets regarding recent scientific studies about the scope, scale, and causes of global climate change.
"As the transition progresses, we have some initial assignments from the new administration. Erik Noble has been named White House Senior Advisor at NASA. Greg Autry, who was with the Agency Review Team, has been named White House Liaison. I know you will all join me in giving them a warm welcome to the NASA family and thanking them for becoming part of this great agency. There will be other new and familiar faces arriving at Headquarters, and we will communicate with you as often as possible to keep you apprised of those developments."
"In recent weeks, the Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX CEO has been named to Trump's team of business advisers and visited Trump Tower twice. The first time he was part of a big meeting with tech CEOs; the second came earlier this month for a private meeting with Trump's top aides. The blossoming relationship between Musk and Trump's camp has caught the attention of Tesla investors. "Elon Musk has an important line of communication to Donald Trump through his role as a strategic advisor to the President-elect," Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, wrote in an investor note Thursday. "We believe this level of coordination with the new administration could actually evolve into greater strategic value than with the prior administration," Jonas added. While the investor note was specifically about Tesla, it could also apply to SpaceX, which has lucrative government contracts for space shipments."
Trump team prepares dramatic cuts, The Hill
"The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump's team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years."
"For example, about half of the government's discretionary spending is on the military. Cutting all discretionary spending each year means cutting all funding for the military, which is both politically and rationally a nonstarter. The formulas for how much is spent on the non-discretionary spending can be adjusted, but Trump has pledged not to cut spending on the so-called "entitlement" programs."
Keith's note: There as a live Facebook webcast today about the New Horizons mission. I submitted this question which was asked of New Horizons PI Alan Stern: "A variety of names are used by the New Horizons team in public and in scientific publications for features on Pluto and Charon based on images obtained during the flyby. Have any of these names been formally submitted to the IAU by the New Horizons team or NASA? Have any of these feature names been formally approved by the IAU?"
Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015 a few months before New Horizons flew past Pluto. IAU has already approved a bunch of names on Ceres yet no names have been formally approved for Pluto. During the webcast Stern replied to my question by saying that the IAU required that a proposal for themes for naming be submitted, that "the ball is in the IAU's court", and that once that has been approved then they will submit names by the end of this year. Yet if you go to the IAU website you will see that they already have a naming theme for Pluto and its moons. So it is somewhat confusing as to why New Horizons has yet to submit any feature names.
Meanwhile all of the unofficial feature names are used in scientific papers and even on commercial products such as Pluto globes. It would certainly seem that the New Horizons team is in no hurry to send anything to the IAU due to the "dwarf planet" nomenclature hostility that has been simmering between them for years. In other words they can force the issue of their feature names being accepted (in contrast to what IAU had already established) by dragging their feet and allowing the names to become official by default. There's certainly nothing wrong with allowing the discoverers of new planetary features name those places. But if there is a process that NASA has signed up to for all of its missions - missions that it has paid for - then everyone needs to follow the same rules.
The Real Origin Of Some Notable Pluto Nomenclature, earlier post
"Written by Weir, Mission Control revolves around the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists who juggle their personal and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error."
Keith's note: According to NASA PAO NASA has been approached by the show's producers and they are waiting on a script for final consideration. At this point NASA has not committed to assist the producers, allow use of its logo, facilities, staff etc.
Keith's note: Sources report that Chris Shank is headed to DOD as part of their Beachhead team and is not staying at NASA or returning to Capitol Hill. Shank's former NASA boss Mike Griffin recently met with Trump Transition Team members and has expressed an interest in being nominated to be Secretary of the Air Force. Shank served for more than a decade in the Air Force. Stay tuned.
Keith's 23 Jan update: Trump to nominate Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, Reuters: "President Donald Trump will nominate former U.S. Representative Heather Wilson to become Air Force secretary, the White House said on Monday."
NASA "Beachhead Team" Taking Shape, Lightfoot Optimistic About NASA's Future, Space Policy Online
"Three landing team members who are rumored to be staying on are Greg Autry (as White House liaison), Rod Liesveld and Jeff Waksman. Two other names that have surfaced are Erik Noble, rumored to be the new White House advisor for NASA, and Brandon Eden. Noble is an atmospheric scientist who worked at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York from 2007-2013."
"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."
"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."
"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."
Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.
Seems that Boeing got the right to buy Soyuz seats as part of Sea Launch deal to offset the $298M owned to @Boeing by Energia— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) January 17, 2017
"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."
"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."
Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.
In 1927 Lindbergh flew from NY to Paris. 45 yrs later, in 1972 we last walked on the Moon. 45 yrs later, in 2017 we... we... we...— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 16, 2017
"The family of Apollo Astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, announced that he passed away today following ongoing health issues. "It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father," said Cernan's family. "Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend." "Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space and encouraged our nation's leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the Moon," the family continued."
Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef
"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Worden sent me this picture today. He is currently in Chile to announce that Breakthrough Initiatives has teamed with the European Southern Observatory to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the destination of Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. Enhancements will be made to the VLT to allow it to detect small, potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system and possibly other star systems. So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory."
"SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., transformed the aerospace industry with innovative rocket features and Silicon Valley-style software design principles mandated by Mr. Musk, its billionaire founder and chief executive. The 15-year-old company became the first American firm in years to compete for commercial launch contracts, and the first company to launch and return a spacecraft from orbit. SpaceX declined to comment on details of its finances, but said it has a solid record of success and strong customer relationships. "We have more than 70 future launches on our manifest representing over $10 billion in contracts," said SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnson. "The company is in a financially strong position and is well positioned for future growth," adding it has over $1 billion of cash and no debt.
@NASAWatch Funny - I thought our first two years at NASA were our best years. Sorry Charlie didn't agree!— Lori Garver (@Lori_Garver) January 17, 2017
Keith's note: I managed to watch today's NASA Town Hall broadcast (internally) on NASA TV today. Here are my @NASAWatch tweets - in sequence.
- NASA Landing Team has asked #NASA CFO David Radzanowski to stay on to "help get them over the hump" According to Charlie Bolden
-Bolden "Dava and I are going to leave Dave [Radzanowski] here to take care of Robert [Lightfoot]" #NASA
- NASA internal Town Hall: Lightfoot: "We need to show that we can transition our agency and not miss a beat"
- Bolden gave @DavaExplorer the #NASA Distinguished Service Medal today
- Town Hall: Bolden talking about @DavaExplorer coming to the A Suite said "we did OK before - but she brought some pizazz" 1/2
- But Bolden made no mention of @LoriGarver and how she kept him out of trouble for 6 years 2/2
- Town Hall: Bolden: "My first two years were horrible. I thought I just sucked as the #NASA Administrator"
- Town Hall: Bolden: "To put it bluntly I wasn't comfortable."
- Town Hall: Bolden: "I still come to work each day scared about what is going to happen that day"
- Town Hall: Bolden: "We brought Mike French and David Weaver over. Mike French encouraged me to do my job."
- Town Hall: Bolden: "French - You're the NASA Administrator & do not have to sit back & just say yes. You can tell ppl what you want to do"
- Bolden presented the #NASA Distinguished Service Medal to Mike French today
- When asked at Town Hall if the new Administration will continue with SLS and used it to send humans to Mars Bolden said "yes".
- Bolden "When I came here in 2009 Constellation was a great idea - but it was an idea"
- Bolden "our entrepreneurial partners are really excited about what they are doing"
- Bolden "we have met those goals that we have established"
- Bolden tells NASA employees to "become thebest story teller that there is" in explaining to others what they do at #NASA
- Bolden: "if you take care of your people they will take care of you" #NASA
- Bolden: "Don't forget about the other people who make it possible for you to do what you do."
- Lightfoot noted that a kid sent him a Xmas card - sat next to him on a plane while Lightfoot showed him a #NASA powerpoint presentation
Keith's note: There are only 5 working days left before the Inauguration at which time the Transition Team ceases to exist. Of the 4 people that were supposed to be added to the NASA Landing Team to augment commercial space expertise, only one (Charles Miller) actually made it onto the NASA Landing Team. Brandon Eden never made it onto the team due to the fact that so many people outside of NASA thought he'd be a good addition - and that apparently bothered someone within Team Trump. This is something Eden should take as a compliment.
Alan Lindenmoyer and Alan Stern (both of whom also have actual expertise) have yet to be formally named to the NASA Landing Party and, given the short time remaining, are probably not going to be joining the efforts at NASA HQ. As such the additional visibility for commercial space issues in Landing Team activities was not as prominent as was hoped. But given the fact that Elon Musk has met with Team Trump twice (the second time with Gwynne Shotwell in attendance) should indicate that the interest in commercial space has not faded.
Sources at NASA HQ report that the Landing Team, under Chris Shank's leadership, has conducted itself in a pleasant, professional manner and that things are now starting to wrap up. Charlie Bolden and Dava Newman are keeping their farewell activities low key but they will be departing in a few days. The question remains: who will be running NASA? Even if NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator nominees were to be announced tomorrow it would likely be some time before they were confirmed. Speculation has been that Robert Lightfoot would be named acting Administrator
but no one seems to have heard that this is indeed going to happen. Update: Lightfoot will be acting NASA Administrator effective 20 January 2017 at noon ET.
As mentioned last week, an interim 120 day "Beachhead" team is being assembled that would likely include Chris Shank as Chief of staff. It would not be surprising to see current Landing Team members Rodney Liesveld or Jeff Waksman as part of this interim team. Note: people who show up on the 9th floor at NASA Headquarters for short term tasks often tend to stay a while.
Update from Today's internal NASA Town Hall: the NASA Landing Team has asked NASA CFO David Radzanowski to stay on to "help get them over the hump" According to Charlie Bolden.
US Rep. Jim Bridenstine has now made it perfectly clear to Trump Tower that he would be honored to become NASA administrator.— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) January 12, 2017
Now available is the January 11, 2017 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Ben Reed (NASA GSFC) who presented "NASA Satellite Servicing Evolution."
Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.
"At this critical time, with designs maturing, hardware being produced, and testing intensifying, it is important to maintain a focus on safety, risk reduction, and mission assurance. Challenges and difficult decisions will need to be faced with clarity, transparency, and thoroughness. Inevitably, there will be risks that must be accepted, but that should occur only after thought- ful deliberation of alternatives, understanding the benefits of acceptance, and careful documentation of the decision including the process and rationale for arriving at it. The ASAP reiterates the need for consistent program goals, funding, and schedules, also known as "constancy of purpose." Human space flight and exploration are inherently challenging and risky and require far-reaching, long-term national com- mitment to capitalize on painstakingly achieved knowledge and to realize the results of resource investments. The lack of consistent commitment negatively impacts cost, schedule, performance, workforce morale, process discipline, and - most importantly - safety. The impact on NASA programs from continuing employment of Continuing Resolutions (CRs) is of concern to the ASAP. The uncertainty of an assured and exact budget for a long-duration, technically challenging program and the partial release of funds as the CR unfolds adds, at best, complexity to managing programs and, importantly to the ASAP, can distract from maintaining the required focus on safety."
"The House Appropriations Committee announced the members who will chair its 12 subcommittees today. At the same time, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the Republican members and chairs of its six subcommittees. There is no change for NASA and NOAA, but the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will get a new chairwoman -- Kay Granger of Texas. She joins fellow Texans in chairing key space-related committees and subcommittees."
NASA Transition Binder, NASA HQ
"NASA's historic and enduring leadership and cutting edge roles for the nation fall within three major strategic thrusts: discovery, exploration, and development. NASA's activities make advances that contribute to fundamental national purposes and goals that align to the core focus areas of our Mission Directorates (Science, Human Exploration and Operations, Space Technology, and Aeronautics Research). In addition, the Agency has a number of activities and support areas, including those in its Mission Support Directorate that enable NASA's missions. NASA's strategic landscape continues to be characterized by six major elements: ..."
Keith's note: This 95.6 MB, 366 page PDF document even has an opening video and theme song.
"*In preparation for public release, selected portions of this report containing sensitive security information have been redacted under exemption (b)(7)(E) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
NASA received 27 out of 100 possible maturity level points, indicating that overall it has not yet implemented an effective information security program."
Keith's note: Attention news media: Mike Griffin is scheduled to chair this AIAA session tomorrow in Texas. Also, former SMD AA Alan Stern has expressed interest to people in being considered for Trump's NASA Administrator as well.
What would NASA in the age of Trump look like?, Houston Chronicle
"I don't expect anything grand and dramatic about space for the next two or three years," said Keith Cowing, a longtime NASA observer - and sometimes critic - who oversees a pair of websites related to NASA and other space matters. "They have to figure out how to run the government first. I don't think there is a grand picture for NASA yet. It is the last thing they are thinking about." One thing very much on Trump's mind, apparently, is the promised gargantuan tax cut. Though it is hard to imagine even a Republican Congress agreeing to a $7 trillion-plus loss in revenue over the following decade, even a more modest plan could gut discretionary spending and the government agencies that rely on it - like NASA."
"The discussion was very thoughtful, very focused on good objectives and focused on science value," he said in an interview after the town hall meeting. "We were ready for that. Every division director was ready to talk about their programs that way." The landing team, he added, has received all the information they requested. [NASA's Science Mission Directorate AA Thomas] Zurbuchen said he had not been able to glean any information from the landing team about the incoming administration's plans. That included, he said, who it might nominate to be the next administrator of NASA, or when that might take place."
Harriet Jenkins, The History Makers
"From 1974 until 1992, Jenkins worked as the assistant administrator for equal opportunity programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ... From 1992 until 1996, she worked with the U.S. Congress and served as the director at the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices in the U.S. Senate. ... Jenkins retired from the federal government in 1996. In 2000, NASA established a fellowship program in her name, awarding doctoral fellowships to qualifying minority students. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including placing her retirement in the Congressional Record."
UPDATE: The viewing for Dr. Jenkins are listed below:
Keith's note: NASA does not seem to know how large Canada actually is - check the illustration they have online.
"Elon Musk, the billionaire president of SpaceX and Tesla, is meeting with Donald Trump's senior counselor and chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to the press pool. Musk was spotted walking into New York's Trump Tower on Friday a little before noon. There aren't many details about what the two will be talking about at this point. It's not the first time Musk, who has a role advising Trump as part of the President's Strategic and Policy Forum -- has come to Trump Tower to meet with members of the incoming administration. In December he was one of several big, big names in the tech industry, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon's Jeff Bezos, that met with the president-elect in a gather that led to, if nothing else, some awkward photographs."
Keith's note: Charles Miller has joined the NASA Landing Team. No word yet as to whether the conflict of interest checks for Alan Lindenmoyer and Alan Stern have been completed. Given that Steve Cook (who works for a SLS subcontractor) made it onto the team to work SLS issues, this should not be taking as long as it has. Then again the presence of these commercial add-ons to the NASA Landing Team was imposed upon NASA Landing Team leader Chris Shank by Trump Tower to correct an imbalance in team expertise so some foot dragging is to be expected.
Given the rapidly approaching Inauguration (the point at which all Transition Team activities halt) Chris Shank has been proposing a "Beachhead Team" that would start work at NASA on 20 January with himself as Chief of Staff. Shank's proposal is that his job and others on the Beachhead Team would only last for 120 days and that the new NASA Administrator would then pick their own permanent team. This of course assumes that a new NASA Administrator is named and that they get through the confirmation process within 120 days without hitting the traffic jam posed by some of the more controversial appointees that looms ahead. Based on prior experience, when "temporary" people arrive at the 9th floor at NASA headquarters, they tend to hang around for a long time.
"In addition to selecting the Lucy and Psyche missions for formulation, the agency will extend funding for the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) project for an additional year. The NEOCam space telescope is designed to survey regions of space closest to Earth's orbit, where potentially hazardous asteroids may be found."
NASA Cancels Space Act Agreement With B612 Foundation, earlier post
Keith's earlier note: Isn't it a litte odd that the decision to cancel the Space Act Agreement with B612 for its "Sentinel" asteroid hunting mission suddenly came to light on the eve of Discovery mission finalists being announced -- and that JPL's asteroid hunting "NEOCam" mission is among those selected for further work?. These spacecraft even look a lot alike. JPL folks clearly saw Sentinel as competition - even if it was Sentinel team that first pushed the envelope on this whole idea. JPLers were pushing Lindley Johnson and others at NASA HQ to end the Sentinel agreement. At this point Johnson could use all the help he can get given how miserably his organization's NEO work has been progressing.
Keith's update: A lot of people in the planetary science community were pushing for an in-space NEO/asteroid detection capability such as this. For a while, NASA SMD used to get around the issue (and funding it) by saying "Oh, we don't have to worry about that, B612 is going to do that for us". But then the pressure from JPL began to mount and NASA pulled the rug out from under B612 to make the way easier for NEOCam. Now, a year later, they don't even pick NEOCam - but they keep it on life support - perhaps until JPL can submit another proposal next time.
"NASA will discuss the results of its latest Discovery mission selection during a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Members of the public also may submit questions to be answered during and immediately following the briefing using #AskNASA."
Streaming audio of the briefing will be available on this page: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
"NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system - a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively."
"The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy (Strategy) and the forthcoming National NearEarth Object Preparedness Action Plan (Action Plan) together seek to improve our Nation's preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking. The Strategy and Action Plan build on efforts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to better detect and characterize the NEO population as well as recent efforts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prepare for and respond to a NEO impact. Together, they aim to foster a collaborative effort in which the Nation can better understand, prevent, and prepare for the effects of a NEO impact."
Keith's note: Now you can have your own personal Trump Transition Team "tweet buddy". Bravo. How very Trump.
Could Donald Trump be better for NASA in Alabama than Obama?, Huntsville Times
"Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel was on the NASA Advisory Council when George W. Bush was president. He says Bush's old plan might make a good new plan. "I personally think deep space is something the government should do," McDaniel said, noting that the moon is deep space. "We talked about that when I was on the Advisory Council. The key word (in Bush's plan) was 'beyond.' We were going to the moon, Mars and beyond. "If you go back and it's in preparation for going to Mars, an asteroid or beyond Mars, that's great," McDaniel said. "We as a nation have to do things that have never been done before."If you say we're just going back to the moon," McDaniel said, "been there, done that."
More False Memories About the Origin (and Cost) of SLS, earlier posts
"Then there's this other whopper from Mike: "And, contrary to some suggestions, SLS launches will cost no more than existing commercial U.S. systems - which are currently advertised at about $4.5 million per ton of payload." How can you possibly make such a statement when the number of launches is unknown - and a lot of SLS development was paid for by Ares V and not included in Mike's secret math. But who cares, right? No one inside or outside of NASA has ever grasped what it really costs for the agency to develop and launch things."
Keith's note: Typical anti-commercial space bashing from one of the usual Huntsville mouthpieces who can't think of anything new to say.
- OIG Reality Check on Orion Cost and Planning
- NASA Still Has No Idea What a SLS Launch Will Cost
- Double GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable
- earlier SLS/Oriopn osts
GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine Seen as Top Choice for NASA Chief, Wall Street Journal
"Boeing and other legacy contractors have rallied behind Doug Cooke, a former senior NASA official under President George W. Bush, people with knowledge of the situation say. Mr. Cooke is known as a critic of some commercial initiatives. Many of those serving on the formal NASA transition team share those views, while favoring greater emphasis on manned exploration missions to the moon and deeper into the solar system. The plans are largely built around NASA's proposed heavy lift rocket, dubbed the Space Launch System, and companion Orion capsule. By contrast, champions of commercial space interests, including supporters of billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Blue Origin LLC, a closely held rocket-making company run by Amazon.com Inc.'s founder and chairman Jeff Bezos, favor less federal direction and more public-private partnerships, people with knowledge of the situation say. They have pushed hard for Mr. Bridenstine as a likely change agent, and at this point seem to have the upper hand, the people added."
Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Bridenstine
"While most satellites are not currently powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, next generation satellite architectures could utilize the lunar propellant if low-cost in-orbit servicing were available. Commercial operators will follow if the United States leads with its own constellations. Such leadership would require a whole-of-government approach with the interagency support of the newly reconstituted National Space Council. The objective is a self-sustaining, cis-lunar economy, whereby government and commercial operators save money and maximize the utilization of space through lunar resources."
Keith's note: The NASA Landing Team resumes work tomorrow. Charles Millier should be joining the festivities. No word yet as to whether Alan Lindenmoyer and Alan Stern's conflict of interest background checks have been completed. These three were added at the direction of Trump Tower in response to concerns that commercial space was not getting an equal seat at the table. As such there is a lot of nuancing going on with this Landing Team. Indeed, the commercial space faction sees this this as an "away team" opportunity while the status quo factions sees it as a "boarding party".
Meanwhile, anyone who claims to have an idea what is going on in the confusing world behind the scenes of the still-embryonic TrumpSpace policy effort has an equal chance of being wrong - or right - or both. Andy Pasztor has had a tendency to get things confused on this story, so ... that said, were I to venture a guess as to where the selection might be headed I would agree that the commercial faction within Team TrumpSpace has the edge, and, unless he decides to go for USAF, the job is probably Bridenstine's to decline. There is no obvious second choice from the commercial faction should Bridenstine not be named NASA Administrator - so do not count out the Status Quo/SLS/Alabama crowd just yet.
A personal opinion, if I may: Doug Cooke and the other members of the Griffin Clan on the Trump Landing Team and NASA represent the past - old fashioned ways of thinking that requires decades, eschews innovation, is addicted to political favoritism, and needs ever-larger buckets of money to keep going. That is the last thing that NASA needs right now - more of the same - especially when discretionary spending has a big bullseye painted on it. Bridenstine himself may be short on management skills, but he has managed to attract an impressively large amount of support from across the commercial space sector - where innovation and cost effectiveness are pre-requisites - and good management is the key to profitability. Going with the old way of doing things will inevitably doom NASA to increasing irrelevance. Alas, there is no guarantee that moving U.S. space efforts in more of a commercial direction will solve all of NASA's problems - but it does at least offer a chance to try things that have worked elsewhere.
"The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the overwrap. The corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations."
Keith's note: A chaotic year ends another, possibly more chaotic year begins. Suspend reality for a moment and watch this video, then think of how to push through today's chaos toward that exciting future of exploration - one that is seemingly under constant delay - today.