May 2018 Archives

NASA's 'Impossible' Space Engine Tested--Here Are the Results, National Geographic

"The 'thrust' is not coming from the EmDrive, but from some electromagnetic interaction," the team reports in a proceeding for a recent conference on space propulsion.

NASA's EM-drive is a magnetic WTF-thruster, Ars Technica

"The best part is that the results are the same when the attenuator is put into the circuit. In this case, there is basically no radiation in the microwave cavity, yet the WTF-thruster thrusts on."

- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Gizmo, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post

Previous posts

GAO: NASA Information Technology: Urgent Action Needed to Address Significant Management and Cybersecurity Weaknesses

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has not yet effectively implemented leading practices for information technology (IT) management. Specifically, GAO identified weaknesses in NASA's IT management practices for strategic planning, workforce planning, governance, and cybersecurity.

- NASA has not documented its IT strategic planning processes in accordance with leading practices. While NASA's updated IT strategic plan represents improvement over its prior plan, the updated plan is not comprehensive because it does not fully describe strategies for achieving desired results or describe interdependencies within and across programs. Until NASA establishes a comprehensive IT strategic plan, it will lack critical information needed to align resources with business strategies and investment decisions.

- Of the eight key IT workforce planning activities, the agency partially implemented five and did not implement three. For example, NASA does not assess competency and staffing needs regularly or report progress to agency leadership. Until NASA implements the key IT workforce planning activities, it will have difficulty anticipating and responding to changing staffing needs.

-NASA's IT governance does not fully address leading practices. While the agency revised its governance boards, updated their charters, and acted to improve governance, it has not fully established the governance structure, documented improvements to its investment selection process, fully implemented investment oversight practices and ensured the Chief Information Officer's visibility into all IT investments, or fully defined policies and procedures for IT portfolio management. Until NASA addresses these weaknesses, it will face increased risk of investing in duplicative investments or may miss opportunities to ensure investments perform as intended.

NASA has not fully established an effective approach to managing agency-wide cybersecurity risk. An effective approach includes establishing executive oversight of risk, a cybersecurity risk management strategy, an information security program plan, and related policies and procedures."

How Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX beat Boeing to become a $28 billion aerospace juggernaut, CNBC

"SpaceX has upended the rocket industry, making founder Elon Musk the world's most disruptive space pioneer. The visionary entrepreneur is bent on building giant low-cost reusable rockets and spaceships that can be used to colonize humans on Mars. In the process, he is helping to catalyze a private space exploration industry in the United States while outmaneuvering mammoth aerospace companies like Boeing. SpaceX is the No. 1 company on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, announced Tuesday."

Ariane chief seems frustrated with SpaceX for driving down launch costs, Ars Technica

"With this background in mind, the chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, gave an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel. The interview was published in German, but a credible translation can be found here. During the interview, Charmeau expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the US government."

Steve Jurczyk Appointed NASA Associate Administrator; Krista Paquin Retires; Melanie W. Saunders Named Acting Deputy Associate Administrator

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Steve Jurczyk as associate administrator, the agency's highest-ranking civil servant position. Jurczyk has been serving in the position in an acting capacity since March 10. In addition, Deputy Associate Administrator Krista Paquin will retire from NASA at the end of May. Melanie W. Saunders has been assigned as the acting deputy associate administrator, effective June 10."

NASA Sends New Research on Orbital ATK Mission to Space Station

"Astronauts soon will have new experiments to conduct related to emergency navigation, DNA sequencing and ultra-cold atom research when the research arrives at the International Space Station following the 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus lifted off on an Antares 230 rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Orbital ATK's ninth cargo mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations underway on the space station."

Contamination found in SLS engine tubing, SpaceNews

"At a May 17 meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, panel member Don McErlean said the committee had been briefed on a "late development" with the core stage, being constructed at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. A "routine quality assurance inspection" of the core stage, he said, discovered contamination in tubing in the engine section of the core stage, which hosts the vehicle's four RS-25 main engines and associated systems. That contamination turned out to be paraffin wax, which is used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured but is supposed to be cleaned out before shipment."

Earlier SLS postings

Trump's new NASA head: Humans contributing in 'major way' to climate change, The Hill

"President Trump's newly minted head of NASA said Thursday that climate change is happening and humans are contributing to it in a "major way." Jim Bridenstine, a GOP congressman who was confirmed as the new administrator of NASA last month, made the comments while speaking to employees at his first town hall at NASA headquarters in Washington. "I don't deny the consensus that the climate is changing, in fact I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we human beings are contributing to it in a major way," Bridenstine said."

That NASA climate science program Trump axed? House lawmakers just moved to restore it, Science

"The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA unanimously approved an amendment to a 2019 spending bill that orders the space agency to set aside $10 million within its earth science budget for a "climate monitoring system" that studies "biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change." That sounds almost identical to the work that NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) was doing before the Trump administration targeted the program, which was getting about $10 million annually, for elimination this year."

Cruz, Nelson: Congress, And Only Congress, WIll Decide When To End Funding For ISS, Space Policy Online

"Cruz grilled Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, on why NASA missed the statutory deadline to submit the ISS Transition Report. He also demanded to know why NASA had not provided all drafts that were sent from NASA to the White House and rejected as he and Nelson requested in a February letter. The implication is that OMB, not NASA, picked the 2025 date. Cruz's effort to get Gerstenmaier on the record as to who chose the date were unsuccessful. Gerstenmaier carefully navigated the intense questioning without implicating any particular part of the Administration."

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"NASA is preparing to secure the Nation's long-term presence in LEO by partnering with industry to develop commercial orbital platforms, and capabilities that the private sector and NASA can utilize after the cessation of direct U.S. Federal funding for ISS by 2025."

- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post

GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels, The Hill

"A Republican lawmaker on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee said Thursday that rocks from the White Cliffs of Dover and the California coastline, as well as silt from rivers tumbling into the ocean, are contributing to high sea levels globally. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) made the comment during a hearing on technology and the changing climate, which largely turned into a Q&A on the basics of climate research."

Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise, Science

"The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet. Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday."

Here's how big a rock you'd have to drop into the ocean to see the rise in sea level happening now, Washington Post

"Certainly 3.3 millimeters doesn't sound like a lot of water to displace, and it does seem, to Brooks's point, that it's an amount -- about 0.1 inch -- that would be easy to displace with a cliff collapse near San Diego. The equivalent rise relative to surface area in an Olympic-sized swimming pool would be 0.0000000000114 millimeters. That's not possible, though, since a water molecule isn't that small. But when you apply 3.3 millimeters of rise to the entire ocean? We're talking about a lot of water that's displaced -- 3.3 millimeters across about 362 million square kilometers of surface area. The total volume displaced, then, would be 1.19 trillion cubic meters of water."

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks loses to science in a landslide, Huntsville Times

"It would have been comical if it had come from a middle school science fair, but it didn't. It came from a guy on a committee making decisions for the most powerful country on earth about the future of the planet. Brooks made his comments while questioning climate scientist Philip Duffy, who had pointed out that seas across the world are rising four times faster than they did a century ago. Instead of dealing with the ways to protect the future, to consider the possibility climate scientists know what they are talking about, he just threw rocks. "Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up," he said. Mo's laws. Perplexing for a scientist. "I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are miniscule effects," Duffy responded."

Rep. Mo Brooks responds to John Archibald's 'vilifying' column, Huntsville Times

"Over the history of planet Earth, far and away the #1 cause of sea level rise has been erosion and its resulting deposits of sediment and rocks into the world's seas and oceans. There is no close second cause of sea level rise. At a minimum, over many millions of years, thousands of cubic miles of eroded material have been deposited into the Earth's seas, forcing rising sea levels."

Keith's note: NASA has developed a bunch of pre-prepared questions to be asked of NASA Administrator Bridenstine. NASA Employees were allowed to submit questions at http://nasa.gov/townhall. Then everyone had a chance to see them all and upvote their favorites. Oddly, a lot of these questions would certainly put Bridenstine on the spot if they were asked.

Tune in to the NASA Town Hall With Jim Bridenstine at 11:00 am EDT on NASA TV to see which of these questions get asked - and which ones are actually spontaneous. You have your user guide to see which is which. I am told that the top questions will be asked.

Reader note: "The top two questions (one about full-cost accounting, and one angling "diversity" toward accommodations for disabilities) have 70 more votes than the next top question, which is strange because neither of those questions were even ON the list at 4:25pm EDT yesterday. See attached ... the sudden viral nature of those two new "top questions" seems very strange indeed."

Keith's note: Its going to be a busy morning for NASA here in Washington DC. I'll try to post as much as I can. H/t Marcia Smith

- Hearing: America's Human Presence in Low-Earth Orbit 10:00 am EDT (webcast)
- Full Committee Markup - FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, 10:00 a EDT (webcast)
- Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting 10:30 - 11:45 am EDT (audio)
- NASA Town Hall With Jim Bridenstine 11:00 am EDT (NASA TV)

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"The Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS) manages the activities of the ISS National Laboratory to increase the utilization of the ISS by other Federal entities and the private sector. CASIS works to ensure that the Station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological, and industrial communities. The ISS National Laboratory is helping to establish and demonstrate the market for research, technology demonstration, and other activities in LEO beyond the requirements of NASA. Commercial implementation partners are now bringing their own customers to LEO through the National Laboratory, as well."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin

"Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

Keith's note: CASIS still depends on NASA for 99.7% of its $15 million annual budget from NASA. After 7 years it is still unable to fully utilize all of the crew and ISS resources that have been allotted to it. Yet NASA expects that CASIS will lead the way in all of its plans to end funding of ISS in 2025 and transferring ISS operations to the private sector. Good luck with that.

Study for Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit

"In May of 2018, NASA will be releasing a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercialization. The purpose of this NRA is to inform NASA's strategy for enabling the commercialization of human spaceflight in LEO and meeting NASA's long-term LEO needs."

Questions and Answers Set #3

"79. Can the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) propose?
A: The NRA is open to all U.S. organizations, including industry, educational institutions, and nonprofit institutions."

- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, Archived webcast

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, NASA

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin, NASA OIG

"While all of these actions are positive steps, NASA's current plan to privatize the ISS remains a controversial and highly debatable proposition, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit. Specifically, it is questionable whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies can create a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Government funding. In particular, it is unlikely that a private entity or entities would assume the Station's annual operating costs, currently projected at $1.2 billion in 2024. Such a business case requires robust demand for commercial market activities such as space tourism, satellite servicing, manufacturing of goods, and research and development, all of which have yet to materialize.

Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

"Even if the Agency ends direct funding of the ISS in 2025 as envisioned in the President's FY 2019 budget request, it is unlikely that the bulk of the funding currently devoted to the ISS Program could be immediately diverted to these and other exploration activities. Even with termination of most Station activities, NASA expects to retain a presence in low Earth orbit and therefore would need to fund related crew and cargo transportation costs. Furthermore, significant funding would be required to maintain offices and infrastructure currently funded by the ISS Program such as the Mission Operations office, which is expected to be needed by future exploration programs."

"In January 2017, NASA completed a draft plan to address various deorbit scenarios; however, the plan has not been finalized and is pending review by the Russia Space Agency. And, while NASA engineers continue to work on the technical details of deorbit scenarios, the Agency presently does not have the capability to ensure a controlled deorbit of the ISS in the event of an emergency."




Report to Accompany House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019 (PDF)

"The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes."

(NASA starts on Page 57).

Back To The Moon 3.0

Back to the Moon, Again: Will the Third Time Be the Charm?, Air & Space

"By coincidence, on the same day the White House formally announced that goal in December, a group of space historians and policy experts convened at the National Air and Space Museum to try to put the new lunar initiative into historical context. Overall, the mood was skeptical. Mark Albrecht, who had been President George H.W. Bush's space advisor during the days of the (aborted) Space Exploration Initiative in the early 1990s, and who watched George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration collapse more than a decade later, put it bluntly: "We are currently 0 for 2. The question before us now is, will we go 0 for 3?" Bridenstine meant to reassure contract hopefuls at NASA's Moon meeting that the answer is no. Appearing unwounded by the protracted battle over his Senate confirmation, he strode into the NASA Auditorium, delivered a few pointed remarks, then left the group to its work. "This will not be Lucy and the football again," he promised. "We are going to the Moon." Thomas Zurbuchen, who heads NASA's science office, reinforced the message that there will be no reversals, or even dawdling, this time. The agency intends to "go to the Moon fast," he said."

Report to Accompany House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019 (PDF)

"Lunar Discovery and Exploration.-- The Committee supports the requested level of $218,000,000 for the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program, including $18,000,000 for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $200,000,000 for the new Lunar Future initiative. The Committee directs that the new Lunar Future initiative follow the lunar science priorities established by decadal surveys and the National Research Council's Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon and collect data to address the strategic knowledge gaps important for human exploration of the Moon. The Committee anticipates additional reports from the Academies regarding NASA's plans for lunar science and exploration. The funds provided for moon exploration are intended to support a mix of commercial lunar payload services; science instrument development; small satellite development; and long-duration lunar rover development. These funds will support science payloads and instruments for Lunar lander missions such as those developed in partnership with the private sector as part of NASA's Lunar CATALYST program. These robotic missions will provide NASA with access to the lunar surface and allow for an affordable procurement of a variety of science and exploration payloads to prepare for future science and crewed Exploration Missions."

NASA Announces That Mark Geyer Is The New Director of Johnson Space Center, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Monday the selection of Mark Geyer as the next director of the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He'll assume the director's position on May 25, when current Center Director and former astronaut Ellen Ochoa retires after 30 years at the agency."

Old Data Reveal New Evidence of Europa Plumes, NASA

"Scientists re-examining data from an old mission bring new insights to the tantalizing question of whether Jupiter's moon Europa has the ingredients to support life. The data provide independent evidence that the moon's subsurface liquid water reservoir may be venting plumes of water vapor above its icy shell."

Evidence of a plume on Europa from Galileo magnetic and plasma wave signatures, Nature Astronomy

"Here, we report in-situ evidence of a plume on Europa from the magnetic field and plasma wave observations acquired on Galileo's closest encounter with the moon. During this flyby, which dropped below 400‚ÄČkm altitude, the magnetometer recorded an approximately 1,000-kilometre-scale field rotation and a decrease of over 200‚ÄČnT in field magnitude, and the Plasma Wave Spectrometer9 registered intense localized wave emissions indicative of a brief but substantial increase in plasma density. We show that the location, duration and variations of the magnetic field and plasma wave measurements are consistent with the interaction of Jupiter's corotating plasma with Europa if a plume with characteristics inferred from Hubble images were erupting from the region of Europa's thermal anomalies. These results provide strong independent evidence of the presence of plumes at Europa."

Keith's note: NASA is bringing its Robonaut unit back from the ISS to fix it. Meanwhile two of NASA's R5 Valkyrie robots are being fixed by college students. Neither R5 or Robonaut can move from one point to another unless they are hung from cables or moved by humans. They come in at the bottom of the heap whenever they compete against other robots. Yet NASA continues to pour money into their JSC in-house robots while the private sector surges ahead - Boston Dynamics' Atlas being one example.

Instead of proving that NASA does not know how to build a fully independent droid why not just put out a RFP to the private sector and let them provide the droids that NASA is looking for? At a minimum NASA should reveal how much money they have spent on their bots (including the shipping costs to/from ISS). They should also reveal the actual program plan for R5 and Robonaut - you know, what specific technological or programmatic needs are these things supposed to be meeting - and how well have they met those needs.

- Hey NASA: These Are The Droids You Should Be Looking For, earlier post
- Does NASA Have A Robot That Can Do This?, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Keith's note: Yet another post for which I had to shut off comments because everyone started to attack the host and not what questions were asked and what Bridenstine actually said. Knock it off.

Megan Powers Appointed NASA Press Secretary

"Megan Powers has been selected by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to be the agency's press secretary, working in the Office of Communications. As press secretary, Powers will act as a chief agency spokesperson, support Administrator Bridenstine's media requests, provide strategic communications planning and execution, and serve as a senior advisor for the administrator."

Inside Trump's Campaign Headquarters With NYU Republican Megan Powers, NYU Local

- LinkedIn
- Twitter

Keith's note: I have had to delete nearly a dozen sexist comments to this post and have sent warnings. I have banned one person from posting. I am tired of this. I have turned off comments. From now on of anyone who posts anything - anywhere - that I consider to be sexist (and my bar is notoriously low on this) will be banned - with no warning. Knock it off.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/candorville.jpg

Larger image at Candorville.

Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts, Science

"You can't manage what you don't measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage - and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet's flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump's administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC today from 8:35-8:55 am EDT.

NASA Preproposal Conference for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Acquisition

Elon Musk's SpaceX is using a powerful rocket technology. NASA advisers say it could put lives at risk, Washington Post

"... But in a 2015 letter to NASA, Thomas Stafford, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and then chairman of the agency's space-station advisory committee, wrote that "there is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally." At the hearing this year, William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the agency had not decided whether it would allow SpaceX to load crews before loading the fuel, but he did not rule it out. He vowed that the agency would "make sure that we're really, really safe to go fly, and the system is ready for crew before we put them on board."

Jen Rae Wang Resigns As NASA Associate Administrator of the Office of Communications

"I just wanted to let you know that Jen Rae Wang has resigned her position as associate administrator of the Office of Communications. I want to thank Jen Rae for the hard work she put into leading the office during this extended transition time. In the interim, I've asked Bob Jacobs to pick up duties as acting associate administrator as our search for a successor begins. Bob is no stranger to this role, and I'm confident we will be able to advance the important work underway in Communications as we look for a new associate administrator. Please give Bob your full support."

Keith's note: Jen Rae Wang was a Trump Administration political appointee. She resigned and left the building barely 2 weeks after a new NASA Administrator showed up for work. Clearly there was a difference in opinion as to how NASA public affairs was going to operate. I do not know her and had no interaction with her whatsoever during her time at NASA - but I certainly wish her well.

Keith's note: Few people ever get a chance to fly something they helped to design in space. Even fewer people get to be a NASA mission Principal investigator. These missions are paid for by NASA and NASA is paid for by taxpayers. Contractual fine print aside, when you have a position like this on a NASA mission, you represent the agency - especially when you talk to taxpayers about it. In this case a taxpayer paid the New Horizons mission several compliments. And how does the mission's PI respond? He dumps on the positive things that the taxpayer says because he's ultra-sensitive about the whole Pluto is/isn't a planet thing. The proper thing to do would be to take the compliments when you get them and say thank you to those who paid for the party.

Insight Is On Its Way To Mars (with video)

"An Atlas V rocket lifted off at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying NASA's InSight spacecraft. The rocket is on its way, carrying NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) to begin its six month voyage to Mars."

NASA Deep Space CubeSats Are Alive And Well

"Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that launched along with NASA's InSight Mars lander at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California."

JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing, Space News

"In a presentation at a meeting of the National Academies' Space Studies Board here May 3, Greg Robinson, the JWST program director at NASA Headquarters, said some "screws and washers" appear to have come off the spacecraft during recent environmental testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California. Technicians found the items after the spacecraft element of JWST, which includes the bus and sunshield but not its optics and instruments, was moved last weekend from one chamber for acoustics tests to another to prepare for vibration testing. "Right now we believe that all of this hardware - we're talking screws and washers here - come from the sunshield cover," he said. "We're looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan." The problem, he said, was only a couple of days old, and he had few additional details about the problem. "It's not terrible news, but it's not good news, either," he said."

Keith's note: "It's not terrible news?" Really, Northrop Grumman? The spacecraft was designed such that every part was included for a reason, yes? If the parts are falling out during routine ground handling that means something went wrong. After how many years of delays and billions in cost over runs, Northrop Grumman can't even keep bolts properly tightened on the spacecraft?

NASA Expands Plans for Moon Exploration: More Missions, More Science

"NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners as part of an overall agency Exploration Campaign in support of Space Policy Directive 1. It all starts with robotic missions on the lunar surface, as well as a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway for astronauts in space beyond the Moon. Right now, NASA is preparing to purchase new small lunar payload delivery services, develop lunar landers, and conduct more research on the Moon's surface ahead of a human return. And that long-term exploration and development of the Moon will give us the experience for the next giant leap - human missions to Mars and destinations beyond."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Bridenstine was clearly caught off guard last week hours after he was sworn in when it became clear that his staff had cancelled a prominent lunar mission, Resource Prospector. A few hours after the dust settled he was tweeting about it - from his perspective. One look at the title of this NASA press release ("More Missions, More Science") and his tweets should leave little doubt that he is calling the shots.

Next week there is a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Industry Day at NASA HQ. While these events have a lot of Q&A for potential contractors, there are a lot of NASA presentations scheduled - and Bridenstine tweeted that he would be there. If NASA is really interested in getting the word out about its lunar ambitions, putting this event on NASA TV would be an easy way to start by broadening the reach of this otherwise closed off event. No word yet if any of the event will be presented live to a larger audience.

- Trying To Understand What NASA Is Saying About Resource Prospector, earlier post
- Commercial Lunar Payload Services (Update), earlier post

NASA Statement on Resource Prospector and RESOLVE Costs

"NASA's early prototype work on the Regolith and Environmental Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction or RESOLVE project, which was an integrated set of general prospecting payloads, provided the basis for the initial instruments for the Resource Prospector (RP) mission concept. The agency invested an estimated $22 million in RESOLVE's early technology development/prototyping efforts. Since the RP team was formed in 2014 after the completion of a mission concept review, NASA has invested an estimated total of $80 million toward refining the mission concept and mission-specific risk reduction activities. NASA's overall Resource Prospector work toward risk reduction activities to advance instrument developments, component technologies including rover components, and innovation mission operations concepts will help inform future missions. An agency review to send selected instruments from Resource Prospector to the Moon is ongoing."

Lunar Community Responds To Resource Prospector Cancellation (Update), earlier post

LSINC Corporation Appoints Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr. President

"LSINC Corporation today announced that Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr. will join the company as President. LSINC is a rapidly growing firm dedicated to helping clients achieve mission success by providing innovative strategy assurance and product development, to bring client ideas to reality. Lightfoot is for the former Acting Administrator of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) serving in the position for the last 15 months."

3 Black Girls Competing to Win Trip to NASA Reportedly Hacked by Racists, The Root

"The three, who volunteer at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator program in D.C., sought to create a technology that would purify public schools' water systems through filtration jars that filter water while detecting pH imbalances. After making it to the semifinal round, the young women were in the lead with 78 percent of the vote (which someone was kind enough to take a screenshot of) when NASA closed voting a day early to "protect the integrity of the vote." Although several media outlets erroneously reported that the early close was because the girls and their fans had voted too much, apparently what happened was that someone hacked into the voting system to take votes away from IN3."

Three black teens are finalists in a NASA competition. Hackers spewing racism tried to ruin their odds, Washington Post

"But while the teens were gaining traction on social media and racking up votes, users on 4chan - an anonymous Internet forum where users are known to push hoaxes and spew racist and homophobic comments - were trying to ensure the students wouldn't win."

NASA Statement

"On Sunday, April 29, hackers attempted to change the vote totals in the NASA OPSPARC Challenge, so managers of the challenge decided to end public voting to protect the integrity of the results. The challenge team has an accurate record of the voting results prior to the attempted disruption. The top three Public Choice teams in each category will be notified and recognized on the challenge website. In accordance with the judging criteria and voting procedures stated on the OPSPARC website, a panel of NASA Goddard judges will make a final determination of the winners using the published rubrics."

Keith's note: NASA Needs to fix this. It should never have happened and should never happen again.

NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

Pages 39-40: "Another trend, the aging of NASA's workforce, has both negative and positive effects. About 56 percent of NASA's workforce is 50 years old and over, an increase of about 7 percentage points over the past 5 years. Officials said that NASA's workforce is aging because NASA has a low attrition rate - about 4 percent annually - and high numbers of staff stay several years past retirement. We also found that, as of the beginning of 2018, 21 percent of the workforce is retirement eligible, about another 23 percent will become eligible in less than 5 years, and the average number of years staff that stay past initial retirement eligibility varied by occupation. On average, individuals remain at NASA between 4-7 years past their initial retirement eligibility date, but staff in the engineering and science occupations stay on longer than other occupations, such as professional and administrative.

Officials said there are both advantages and disadvantages to having an aging workforce. For example, human capital officials noted that having an aging workforce is good for maintaining institutional knowledge due to experienced staff staying longer, but that having a low attrition rate makes it more difficult for the agency to make changes to its workforce skill mix as needed. Officials within the Office of the Chief Engineer and Mission Support Directorate said that they were looking at ways to be more strategic in hiring or using existing capabilities to meet their skills needs."

Port of Los Angeles OKs SpaceX rocket plant on Terminal Island, Daily Breeze

"The median age of SpaceX's 6,000 employees is 31."

Culberson urges NASA contractors to press forward, Houston Chronicle

"[Rep. John] Culberson also queried Orbital ATK on whether the SLS rocket boosters are reusable. Both Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are developing reusable rocket components, with Blue Origin's latest test flight occurring Sunday in West Texas. It flew the New Shepard, being designed for space tourism, for its eighth test. Both the spacecraft and booster had flown before. "If Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are successful in launching rocket bodies and engines four to 10 times, at least, that changes the whole equation," Culberson said. The SLS engines are not designed to be reused, said Brian Duffy, Orbital ATK vice president for NASA Programs."

NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects has deteriorated, but the extent of cost performance deterioration is unknown. NASA expects cost growth for the Orion crew capsuleone of the largest projects in the portfoliobut does not have a current cost estimate. In addition, the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years of assessing major NASA projects.

The deterioration in portfolio performance was the result of 9 of the 17 projects in development experiencing cost or schedule growth. Four projects encountered technical issues that were compounded by risky program management decisions. For example, the Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems programs are large-scale, technically complex human spaceflight programs, and NASA managed them to aggressive schedules and with insufficient levels of cost and schedule reserves. This made it more difficult for the programs to operate within their committed baseline cost and schedule estimates."


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