August 2018 Archives

Soyuz Leak Repaired On The International Space Station

"The International Space Station's cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure. After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station."

Keith's note: FYI you may notice that emails from folks at JPL will soon have different addresses: jpl.nasa.gov will be changing to jpl.caltech.edu. Apparently NASA finally realized that people employed by JPL, a FFRDC, actually work for Caltech - not NASA.

Paul Spudis

Keith's note: I am not even sure where to start. I knew Paul for 30 years. He was truly the "man in the moon". I am not sure that there was any one person left among us who had that Apollo-era sort of knowledge of the Moon - its geology, its resources, and its untapped potential. He was an unrelenting advocate for lunar exploration and he will be truly missed. This is a tremendous loss for space science. Ad Astra Paul.

The Passing of Paul Spudis: Moon Exploration Expert, Leonard David

"Spudis was Deputy Leader of the Science Team for the Department of Defense Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994, the Principal Investigator of the Mini-SAR imaging radar experiment on India's Chandrayaan-1 mission (2008-2009), and a team member of the Mini-RF imaging radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission (2009-2018). Spudis authored or co-authored over 115 scientific papers and 7 books, including The Once and Future Moon, a book for the general public in the Smithsonian Library of the Solar System series, The Clementine Atlas of the Moon, by Cambridge University Press, and The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live and Prosper in Space Using the Moon's Resources, by Smithsonian Books. Spudis was a major lunar scientist based at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas at the time of his passing. For a glimpse of the renowned work of Paul Spudis, go to: http://www.spudislunarresources.com/"

NASA Earth Science Director Announces Retirement

"Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters since 2006, announced he will retire from the agency in February 2019. Freilich leads NASA's mission to increase understanding of our home planet and help safeguard and improve lives for humanity's future."

Open Positions at NASA HQ: Planetary Science Division Director and NASA Deputy Chief Scientist

"NASA is now advertising for the Director of the Planetary Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate. In addition, NASA is now advertising for the Deputy Chief Scientist in the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS)."

Keith's note: In addition to all of the unfinished work from ISS that will somehow be accomplished on the Lunar Gateway NASA also wants to handle samples returned from Mars. Back in the 80s when NASA toyed with this idea they decided that an entire mini-space station was needed. Oddly it was on the same scale as the Gateway. To be certain, technology has advanced since then but the notion that NASA can shove activities with requiring high levels of biocontainment into a small, cramped mini-space station strains the limits of credibility.

Keith's note: After decades of selling the ISS as necessary for the human exploration of space NASA now seems ready to walk away from ISS before all of that critical human biomedical and risk reduction research is complete when funding for ISS stops in 2024. Where will that research be done? NASA won't tell you but suggests that the Lunar Gateway thing (a mini-ISS) is where some of it could be done.

Keith's note: After a series of problems the participants in this telecon gave up. You would think that a NASA field center located in the middle of Silicon Valley would have this whole telecon thing down by now. Guess again.

John McCain

Why private space labs should start on the International Space Station, opinion, Politico

"With this in mind, the Trump Administration wisely requested $150 million for this coming year to enable and mature commercial capabilities in low earth orbit (LEO). The Trump Administration was also smart enough not to dictate in any specific detail how this money will be spent. They are welcoming ideas from industry, and it will be the job of new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to make the final decision in the coming months."

Keith's note: Wait a minute: while he lauds the potential for possible commercial uses of ISS as a reason to keep it operational NASA Trump appointee Jeff Waksman (who was fired earlier this year) forgot to mention that it is the Trump Administration that wants NASA stop funding ISS after 2024. So they are creating the problem that he seems to be trying to solve. He also omits mention of the fact that the White House wants the entire cost of ISS to be paid for by commercial entities after 2024 but does not explain where that money will come from. Yet he talks about using SLS to launch new ISS components. I am not sure anyone at NASA is talking about $1 billion SLS launch fees to put new modules on the ISS. I think Waksman is trying to say that the ISS has a lot of potential. He's quite right. I'm just not sure he knows how to tap that potential.

More Trump Staff Changes at NASA HQ (Update), earlier post

Early Retirement for Space Shuttles Unlikely, Lawmakers Say, space.com (2005)

"A group of Republican lawmakers led by Mike Pence of Indiana last week said the $104 billion to replace the shuttles with a new spaceship and rockets to carry astronauts back to the moon ought to be canceled to help pay to rebuild the hurricane-wrecked Gulf Coast."

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration's Space Policy Priorities Houston, TX

"The end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011 left America without a viable human Space launch program. While I was a member of Congress, I actually had the opportunity to attend three different shuttle launches - some of the most inspiring experiences of my little family's lives."

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Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration's Space Policy Priorities Houston, TX

"And finally, to those of you who will guide this mission, on a personal level, I just -- I want to assure you that millions of Americans will carry you in their prayers. And they have faith and hope you have confidence that, as you go, you do not go alone. That millions of Americans will claim that ancient promise that if you "rise on the wings of the dawn", if you "go up to the heavens," "even there His hand will guide you," and "His right hand will hold us fast." Our heroes will go with the prayers of the American people."

Keith's note: Once upon a time everyone lamented that the occupants of the White House (pick one - any one) did not care about space. And if they did, there was no money to back up whatever they wanted NASA to do. Now we have a Vice President who clearly does care about space - and then some. No argument there. Alas, there was no news from Johnson Space Center today. The Vice President was in Texas to do a fundraiser for Rep. John Culberson and stopped by JSC give a space sermon with a short introduction from NASA Administrator Bridenstine. As for the sermon-esque aspects of Pence's presentation - that's how he rolls. I did find one reference Pence made to resonates with things I have ranted about (before) on NASA Watch from the film "Interstellar":

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

"U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees."

Morhard's response to questions from the committee

Watch Live

Testimony: Mr. James "Jim" Morhard, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"I believe transformational leadership and the empowerment and strength of partnering, will ensure a new era for America's space programs, advance scientific knowledge for the Earth, and inspire a new generation to enter the STEM fields. If confirmed, it would be my highest honor to help NASA in these endeavors. This is the time."

Watch live starting at 1:45 pm EDT

Mike Pence to headline Houston-area fundraiser for U.S. Rep. John Culberson, Texas Tribune (9 August)

"Vice President Mike Pence is coming to Texas later this month to help raise money for U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, amid a tough re-election fight. Pence will headline a fundraiser for Culberson on Aug. 23 in the Houston area, according to an invitation obtained by The Texas Tribune. The invitation for the breakfast event bills Pence as a "very special guest."

Vice President Pence Talks Future Human Space Exploration at NASA's Johnson Space Center, NASA (21 August)

"Vice President Mike Pence, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will visit NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston Thursday, Aug. 23, to discuss the future of human space exploration and the agency's plans to return to the Moon as a forerunner to future human missions to Mars."

Keith's note: So ... did VP Pence decide to visit Texas to do the Culberson fundraiser - and then added the JSC visit - or vice versa? When was the Bridnestine visit to JSC added? This is his second visit to JSC for both Pence and Bridenstine whereas other NASA field centers have not yet been visited once.

Update: NASA caught their omission and corrected it.

Senate emerges as obstacle to Trump's 'Space Force', The Hill

"The Senate has emerged as a major impediment to President Trump's hopes for a new "Space Force." While the House GOP has been largely supportive of the idea of creating a new military branch for space, skeptics in the Senate from both parties have raised concerns about its cost - and the potential for adding to bureaucratic overhead at the Pentagon. There's a recognition that players like China are increasingly turning to space, leaving a risk that the U.S. could be left behind. But there are also fears that it will turn into an expensive boondoggle."

Keith's note: Last week it was Space Force merchandise from the Trump 2020 campaign. Now, it looks like the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) has jumped on the whole space thing. The fact that we no longer fly this particular space vehicle seems to be of minor importance. But hey, we now get to say SPACE FORCE all the time.

- Hey, Its The Trump 2020 Campaign Space Force Logo Contest, earlier post

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Keith's note: NASA Administrator Bridenstine says that NASA has renamed the NASA Office of Education as the Office of STEM Engagement. Yet if you look at the NASA Education website or the NASA Education Office website there is zero mention of that name change. Nor is there any mention at the NASA organization page.

Is A Space Force Needed?

Security center director: US needs counterspace capabilities as part of Space Force, The Hill

"A security director is backing President Trump's idea of creating a Space Force, citing a troubling development of counterspace technologies by some of the United States' biggest rivals. Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that while the U.S. still has a "great advantage" over countries like China and Russia, the U.S. military is not doing enough to protect itself. "Where other countries are causing concern for us is not that they're developing space capabilities, but they're developing counterspace capabilities," Harrison told Hill.TV during an interview that aired on Friday, referring to weapons and other destructive systems designed for offensive uses."

The Space Force isn't silly. Reshuffling the Pentagon might be, opinion, Washington Post

"For now, it is unclear whether a big, new military reorganization would add anything useful to what the administration is already doing -- setting up a joint space command, putting more emphasis on developing new space military technologies and pushing harder for the cultivation and promotion of space-oriented officers and specialists. The administration should step up these efforts, not inaugurate a massive bureaucratic overhaul that could for years prove a diversion and distraction."

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

"U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees."

- Nomination questionaire

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From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth, NASA (2015)

"A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated "dark side" of the moon that is never visible from Earth."

Keith's note: Ok, putting aside the inaccurate nomenclature for a moment, NASA, if the "dark side" is "fully illuminated" then its not the "dark side", right?

NASA boss Bridenstine '100 percent' behind SLS and Alabama center. AL.com

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday that he supports "100 percent" the agency's Space Launch System program and the future of Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center. Bridenstine spoke to reporters in historic Marshall Building 4619 while taking his first tour of NASA's propulsion center in Huntsville since the Senate confirmed him as administrator in late April."

How can NASA return to the Moon? By making everything reusable, chief says, Ars Technica

"But if we can take advantage of commercial industry that can develop a reusable rocket, we want them to be successful," he said after Geyer was done speaking. "We want to partner with companies that are willing to step up and take that challenge. It is not an 'either/or.' Right now, our best, closest capability is going to be SLS and Orion, but if 10 years from now, 20 years from now, there's a commercial capability that's successful, we're going to use it. And we want them to be successful. In fact, we're partnering with those companies today on commercial crew and other things."

Keith's note: When you are playing a home game you praise the home team. Curiously, when Bridenstine is not attending a home game he is much more willing to talk about other ways to send things into space than SLS - as was the case recently at JSC. According to sources present, Bridenstine all but cut off JSC director Mark Geyer as he gushed about SLS. Instead Bridenstine, as quoted in the article above, made a point of suggesting that SLS is not the only answer.

What is really interesting is his comment "... if 10 years from now, 20 years from now". Take a look at NASA's various notional cartoons about how it wants to do the Moon/Mars thing. Their plans stretch into the 2030s. That certainly falls in the 10-20 year future time frame. So ... that would seem to imply that Bridenstine is willing to consider alternatives to using SLS for Moon/Mars. Up until now to suggest such a thing would have been heresy. Now, it depends on what Zip Code the press briefing is being held in.

Bridenstine may be 100% supportive of SLS - but exactly what that means is open to speculation. One thing is for certain: he may sip the SLS Koolaid but he's not drinking it.

Bridenstine May Not Be Drinking That SLS Koolaid, earlier Post

Pentagon punishes reporters over tough coverage, Politico

"Another example involved the military-news outlet Defense One, which was left out of a media roundtable with the deputy secretary of defense earlier this month to help roll out President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force. The slight came after a Defense One reporter got an early scoop on plans to set up the new branch, breaking the story before the Pentagon was ready for it to go public. Kevin Baron, the executive editor of the site, confirmed that none of his reporters were invited to the briefing and said that [Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana] White had conceded to him in an email that the snub was due to the initial story."

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Keith's note: Looks like Boeing is taking this recruitment drive seriously. Now you can become a member of their official fan club by going to this link and get exclusive content. Of course, to do this you have to sign in with your Facebook account (with all the risks that go with that) or give them your email. By visiting this page Boeing puts a cookie in your browser to track what you are doing. If you agree to become a member of their fan club you risk all of the things listed in their Boeing Privacy and Cookie Statement which says:

"Boeing collects personal information from and about individuals for a variety of purposes. In some cases Boeing requests personal information from you, or from your employer in the case of organizational Services. In other cases we obtain personal information by noting how you and the devices you use interact with our Services. Examples of personal information include: first and last names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, passport or government identification information, gender, date of birth, country of residence ... We acquire data from credible third-party sources that are either publicly or commercially available. This information includes personal data such as your name, address, email address, preferences, interests, and certain demographic data. For example, personal data is collected when you access our applications through social media account logins. We combine personal information collected through our Services with other information that we or third parties collect about you in other contexts, such as our communications with you via email or phone, or your customer service records. We treat such combined information as personal information and protect it in accordance with this Statement."

And if you are older than 14 Boeing will happily collect this information from anyone. Why does Boeing want to know this about you? We've discussed this creepy activity in previous posts.

- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post
- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, previous post

Keith's note: Looks like Trump boarding party/transition team member Jonathan Dimock has burrowed into the depths of NASA HQ. He's landed at the NASA HQ Space Technology Mission Directorate Communications and Operations Code OD00) with a job title of "Public Outreach/Partnership". It is somewhat odd that NASA would give a job that seemingly requires interacting with the public to a former campaign staffer who sent a job audition email to the White House stating:

"National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA or Deep Space Exploration Administration or DESA) - Aside from the fact this is based very heavily in science, there is also a large cry to reduce their $105.5b budget and even movements to roll our space program into DSEA. With the help of, and to the credit of, the administration there can be drastic cost cuttings for big wins for the administration. ... Aside from understanding the technical aspect of NASA and the components that goes into it. I can also understand the economics of launching satellites and supplies into space for both private and government entities. We all know that Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk with Space-X and various investors including Shaun Coleman with Vector Space are racing for more contacts with NASA and others. This is a time when NASA can scale back without huge loss to their operation and we can continue to provide suitable funding for suitable research that benefits the citizens both scientifically and economically. It is not outrageous to believe that a small cut in the $105.5b budget cannot be cut by even a small percentage for a large gain to the taxpayers while providing a big win for the administration."

One would hope that Dimock now has his budget facts straight and that he knows the actual name of the agency where he works - now that his job is to communicate all of that technology stuff to the public.

Oh yes: Although Dimock is not formally a White House Liaison for NASA and is buried multiple levels down in the org charts he regularly does the liaison thing with the White House - directly - just not through the normal channels.

How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

NASA Logo Designer Bashes Trump's Space Force Logo, TMZ

"Richard Danne -- the designer of a NASA logo from 1975 -- went off on Trump's Space Force artwork. Danne ripped into the designs released by the Trump Administration ... telling TMZ, "This logo effort is typical of the present administration: impulsive, ill-advised, superficial, and second-rate." "A random student from the Los Angeles Art Center could put these logos to shame ... They are, in a word: sophomoric!" Richard is peeved some of the Space Force designs were lifts from past NASA logos. "The images are totally derivative from NASA graphics but are -- All flash and no substance, and comical really."

Jim Bridenstine on CSPAN

Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense

"Establishing a sixth branch of the Armed Forces requires Congressional action. This report outlines immediate steps by the Department of Defense to protect U.S. vital interests in space, including:

- Accelerate space technology and anchor development initiatives to the modernization priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy,
- Establish a Space Development Agency, a joint organization charged with rapidly developing and fielding next-generation capabilities,
- Establish a Space Operations Force of career space experts who are trained, promoted and retained as space warfighting professionals and who form a space community of engineers, scientists, intelligence experts, operators, strategists and more,
- Establish an affordable and efficient operating structure with accountable civilian oversight to provide service and support functions for the Space Force,
- Establish a new U.S. Space Command to improve and evolve space warfighting, including integrating innovative force designs, concepts of operation, doctrines, tactics, techniques and procedures."

ULA Launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe to Touch Sun

"Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida Sunday to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible. Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally. The mission's findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids."

ULA Delta IV Parker Solar Probe Heavy Scrub Statement

"The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy carrying the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold. There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle. The launch is planned for Sunday, Aug. 12 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 3:31 a.m. ET."

Keith's note: I did another interview on the whole Space Force thing with CGTN this morning. Yes we talked about the official Space Force logo contest.

NASA package that fell from sky with note mentioning Trump sparks alarm in New Jersey, CBS

"A suspicious package that fell from the sky over New Jersey caused some alarm because it contained a note that mentioned President Donald Trump. South Brunswick police say the package, attached to a parachute, was making a hissing sound and included a note that said: "NASA Atmospheric Research Instrument NOT A BOMB!" If this lands near the President, we at NASA wish him a great round of golf."

Keith's note: Hey gang - it looks like you too can vote on the design of the new logo for The Space Force. Which one do YOU like? (larger image)

According to this official Trump 2020 campaign email from Brad Pascale: "Friend, President Trump wants a SPACE FORCE -- a groundbreaking endeavor for the future of America and the final frontier. As a way to celebrate President Trump's huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear. But first we have to make a final decision on the design we will use to commemorate President Trump's new Space Force--and he wants YOU to have a say. Vote for your favorite logo."

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Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

"And while these steps have been vital to our national defense, they're really only a beginning. They're only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future. As President Trump has said, in his words, "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space." And so we will. (Applause.)"

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Space Force Update Today

Keith's note: According to the White House Vice President Pence will visit the Department of Defense on Thursday and will be joined by Secretary of Defense Mattis at an honor guard ceremony and a DOD briefing. Following that briefing the Vice President will give formal remarks. Among the topics to be covered with be President Trump's proposed Space Force.

- Watch live starting around 11:15 am EDT
- President Trump Links NASA To The Space Force, earlier post
- Previous posts

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

"And while these steps have been vital to our national defense, they're really only a beginning. They're only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future. As President Trump has said, in his words, "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space." And so we will. (Applause.)"

President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. - President Donald J. Trump"

Keith's note: I'm the last person to say that NASA should not explore new ways to put its branding in front of people so as to further explain the agency's mission and accomplishments. Indeed I harp on NASA relentlessly to seek out new ways to get its brand out. People like to identify themselves with what NASA is and what it does. In so doing, NASA itself gets more visibility. And NASA just turned 60 so its doing a victory lap right now.

This recent article "NASA Releases Streetwear Fashion Line To Celebrate Its 60th Anniversary" talks about the new clothing line by Heron Preston that features NASA's retired "worm" logo: "If you would have asked me to figure out how NASA would celebrate their organization's 60th anniversary, I probably wouldn't have guessed a new streetwear fashion line. Yet, that's exactly what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration opted to do. .... If you're hoping to get your hands on some of the NASA gear, you better have some deep pockets, as t-shirts are currently priced at $326, while some of the more popular items like the iconic backpack ring up at a hefty $1,342. The most expensive item in the collection, the parka pictured above, will set you back nearly $2,000."

Great stuff. The items being sold by this designer perfectly match the logo usage that the agency's original stylistic guidelines specify and they look a lot like the stuff I used to buy in NASA gift shops when I worked at the agency in the 80s and 90s. And of course, as many of you know, I am a NASA worm logo fan. But I paid $20 for those t-shirts - not $326. Hmm.

Keith's update: There is a meeting about Mars exploration underway at the University of Colorado in Boulder sponsored by SpaceX. Contrary to some initial descriptions the meeting is not "secret". But its not exactly "open" either. Rather, it is invitation-only. The purpose of the meeting according to sources is for SpaceX to ping Mars exploration experts outside their company about the technology needed to implement the Mars exploration plans that have been described by Elon Musk. It is likely that SpaceX will do more of these external events in the future.

While NASA has yet to confirm that any of the 50-60 attendees are from the agency, sources report that the following institutions are represented: Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado, Boulder; NASA HQ, ASI, JPL/Caltech; SpaceX, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona; ASURE, MIT, Bechtel Corporation; Schlumberger; University of Florida; Freestyle Analytical & Quantitative Services, LLC; Ball Aerospace; Arizona State University; Brown University; NASA Ames; NASA Marshall, NASA KSC, EchoStar; NASA Glenn; JAXA; SpaceX/Tesla; BAERI; ESA; University of Central Florida; University of Western Ontario; Caterpillar Inc; NASA JSC; Aerospace Corporation; Maxar Technologies; MBRSC - UAE; Planetary Science Institute; LASP / University of Colorado, Boulder; and Honeybee Robotics.

The big question is whether NASA is considering participating in the SpaceX Mars plans - plans which would send humans to Mars a decade or more before NASA does. While NASA human spaceflight people at HEOMD were invited to this event none of them apparently attended. Only Mars science types showed up. That's rather odd for a meeting where the prime focus is humans to Mars in giant rockets and building permanent human bases.

Keith's further update: I spoke with NASA Science Mission Directorate AA Thomas Zurbuchen about this meeting. He said that that some of his program staff were invited to give presentations of what NASA was doing (and planning to do) on Mars but that they really had no input into the meeting structure itself. One of the topics that interests Zurbuchen is how SpaceX might be able to work collaboratively with NASA on sample return. Zurbuchen says that he has encouraged discussions about commercial, public/private partnerships on this and other topics sich as smallsats. But as for participation in human exploration, Zurbuchen said that no policy positions should be implied by NASA SMD's participation in this meeting about SpaceX's human Mars plans and that to the best of his knowledge no one at NASA has really been authorized to have such a policy discussion.

SpaceX organizes inaugural conference to plan landings on Mars, Ars Technica

"This appears to be the first meeting of such magnitude, however, with nearly 60 key scientists and engineers from industry, academia, and government attending the workshop, including a handful of leaders from NASA's Mars exploration program. The invitation for the inaugural Mars meeting encourages participants to contribute to "active discussions regarding what will be needed to make such missions happen." Attendees are being asked to not publicize the workshop or their attendance."

Keith's note: Looks like NASA may be having some second doubts about its own #JourneyToMars thing - or what is left of it - and are seeking out alternatives. Smart. Of course no one is talking about this at SpaceX, NASA, or CU. Kudos to Eric Berger.

Keith's update: I am still waiting for NASA HQ to admit that it's people are at this meeting even though I know that they are. As for the admonition to attendees not to talk about the meeting or their attendance, well, there's always Twitter.

NASA Makes Progress Toward Planetary Science Decadal Priorities, National Academy of Sciences

"Despite significant cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division budget early in this decade, the space agency has made impressive progress in meeting goals outlined in the 2013-2022 planetary decadal survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, says a new midterm assessment from the National Academies. The report notes that the agency met or exceeded the decadal survey's recommendations for funding research and analysis, and for technology programs. However, NASA has not achieved the recommended timeline for New Frontiers and Discovery missions for the decade. At least one more New Frontiers mission and three Discovery missions should be selected before the end of the decade in order to achieve the schedule recommended in Vision and Voyages. The decadal survey, "Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022", recommended a suite of planetary science flagship missions that could provide a steady stream of important new discoveries about the solar system as well as prospective mid-size missions and science, research, and technology priorities. It also included a set of decision rules on how to deal with funding shortfalls as well as possible increases. The new report assesses progress made by NASA so far and offers recommendations for preparing for the next decadal survey."

Potential Reduction At Wallops Flight Facility, WBOC

"Goddard Space Flight Center said they are evaluating opportunities to streamline and improve the relationship between the center's in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Island. Goddard told WBOC today in a statement, "The importance of a synergistic relationship between the two campuses is vital to the future of each campus and Goddard Space Flight Center as a whole." Bale is disappointed that Goddard is even entertaining the idea of any potential reduction. "We're unclear and unclear is not good," Bale said. "That area of uncertainty would be very detrimental to how we operate, attracting new customers, and attracting the potential business opportunities that continue to evolve here." Goddard is expected to make its final decision within 45-90 days. There is a meeting scheduled next week for the many people who want to spare Wallops from any reduction with a vision of expansion in the future."

NASA Wallops Flight Facility to explore efficiencies with sister campus, Delmarva Now

"Keith Koehler, a spokesman for NASA Wallops Flight Facility, issued the following statement from Ken Human, who recently retired from NASA and is leading the review team: In light of agency efforts to improve management efficiencies and the increasing prominence of commercial space, Goddard has formed a team to study and evaluate opportunities to improve the organizational structure and effectiveness of the relationship between Goddard Space Flight Center's campuses at Greenbelt, Md., and Wallops Island, Virginia, Koehler wrote in an email on Friday."

Keith's note: Notice how NASA will not explicitly rule out job reductions at Wallops? Phrases such as "exploring efficiencies" and "streamline and improve" are the passive-aggressive ways that NASA spokesmouths avoid saying that job reductions are under consideration when in fact they most certainly are on the table. Notice how NASA will only say "The 90-day study will wrap up by late October ... and is not expected to have any impact on the Wallops facility before the study is completed." The operative phrase here is "before the study is completed". What about after the study is completed? I've seen this movie before.

Keith's note: It is rather obvious from prior comments - and especially this tweet from today - that President Trump equates NASA activities and those associated with his whole Space Force thing. Given 60 years of civilian focus, this could represent a significant change for NASA. Let's see how NASA, OSTP, DoD, and the National Space Council try to parse, spin, unpack, and otherwise explain this tweet. Maybe someone will finally explain what Space Force is and what NASA's role is with it. NASA Adminstrator Bridenstine retweeted this tweet and has spent more time talking about Space Force than anyone else. Perhaps he knows what is really going on.

Keith's note: I saw this TV ad for Bayer aspirin the other day featuring a window washer. I found the commentary to be interesting. Usually TV ads are not very deep intellectually. Having done window washing exactly once on a much smaller building (only 6 stories) when I was in my first rock climbing phase in college in the 70s, (and having climbed things 10 times higher years later when I worked at NASA) I can relate to what the guy in the ad is saying about doing this for a living:

"The first time that I was up on a high rise cleaning a window I was terrified. But once I made it to the ground I was stoked. I needed to do it again. That moment when you are going over the edge is like getting on the rocket that is going to Mars. You need to be clear minded. I have to feel my best to be able to do my best ..."

NASA is constantly trying to better convey to people just what it is that the agency does to be relevant to their daily lives. Sometimes they get it right. More often NASA is really only talking to itself and misses the mark entirely. Assuming that this window washer is more or less speaking honestly from his own experience, he's relating how he does a risk/benefit analysis every day. Sound familiar? And his way of expressing it to others has to do with what he imagines an astronaut goes through. I wonder how many other seemingly commonplace occupations share these similarities - if only NASA would seek them out.

There's a lot of talk during election time of "flyover country" or the "99%" - in other words the majority of people who usually do not figure into all of the rhetoric. Perhaps if NASA started to listen to people outside of the usual suspects that they usually cater to they might find memes and messages that they can use to better explain what NASA does and why it does these things. In the process, perhaps NASA itself can better understand what it is doing and maybe how they might tweak these things so as to be more relatable to the people who pay for all the shiny rockets. Just sayin'

NASA Assigns Crews to First Commercial Spacecraft Flights, NASA

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space." The agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA's safety and performance requirements."

Dan Herman

Obituary, Washington Post

"Dan, 91, died peacefully on July 26, 2018, at his home in Vienna, VA. He reached for the stars when he went to work for NASA and combined his engineering knowledge with his passion for space exploration. Over his career he worked on many ground breaking space missions, including the successful Galileo mission to Jupiter."

How can NASA return to the Moon? By making everything reusable, chief says, Ars Technica

"However, the big rocket NASA has been developing since 2011, the Space Launch System, is entirely expendable. It will cost $1 to $2 billion per launch, in comparison to much less expensive (and moderately less capable) commercial vehicles. A senior NASA official sitting at the table, Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, responded, "It's a good question about the rocket." What the SLS brings, he said, is an enormous Delta V capability that, combined with Orion's tug capacity, was necessary to build the Deep Space Gateway. "Energy is a key part," Geyer said. "So it's a big rocket, with a large size. To date, that's not something we've been able to reuse." Bridenstine, however, would not be deterred from his interest in the potential of commercial companies to drive down the cost of spaceflight."

Keith's note: Instead of making Bridenstine available in a forum where space media from around the country can ask Bridenstine questions about broad areas of NASA policy, NASA PAO limits his access to small groups of media. While Bridenstine is rather open and engaging in these settings, this does limit the ability of the news media around the country to ask Bridenstine questions on a regular basis. And important news tends to dribble out instead. Of course, there is a simple solution invented back in the Apollo days - but apparently NASA does not have enough speakerphones to go around right now.

As for Bridenstine's comments on SLS, it should not go unnoticed that he does not reflexively hop on the SLS propaganda bandwagon as being the answer to all things that NASA may want to be doing in space - forever. Let's see how this stance evolves as SLS delays and costs continue to mount while private sector solutions - even if they are delayed - start to eat SLS's lunch when it comes to cost per unit weight of cargo launched.

Trump's pick to head White House science office gets good reviews, Science

"[meteorologist Kelvin] Droegemeier, who has served on the faculty of The University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman for 33 years and been the school's vice president for research since 2009, has long been rumored to be in the running for the OSTP job, which entails advising the president on technical issues and overseeing coordination of federal science policy. He is no stranger to Washington, D.C.; then-President George W. Bush named him to the National Science Board, which oversees NSF, in 2004, and Obama reappointed him in 2011. He served as the board's vice-chair from 2014 to 2017. He has also served as a formal and informal adviser to federal and state politicians. He leads a state science advisory panel named by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, and advised former Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine (R), now the administrator of NASA."

Keith's note: The new OSTP Director is a prominent scientist from Oklahoma. The Administrator of NASA used to represent part of Oklahoma in Congress. As such, one would hope that there would be some instant connectivity between NASA HQ and OSTP. But then again there's the National Space Council who also has its own ideas with regard to what NASA should/should not be doing. It will be interesting to see how NASA walks the tight rope between these two science power centers in the White House. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: Boeing held a media telecon today to discuss the problems they had with a recent test of their Starliner. But instead of making sure that all of the space media had the story, Boeing hand-picked the media who were allowed to participate. NASAWatch was not contacted. This is not surprising since I have been mocking their lame, tone deaf human spaceflight PR campaign of late - so I probably hurt their feelings. My bad.

But they did not contact Space News to participate. That is odd given their long-standing reach across the space industry. As for what was discussed - apparently, based on tweets from those who did participate, there was less detail offered than Irene Klotz from Aviation Week already tweeted yesterday (see below). So I am not certain what the point of the media telecon was today other than to give quotes.

As we approach an era of commercial crew flights paid for by the government it will be interesting to see if companies like Boeing can be as open and transparent as NASA PAO tries to be when there are mishaps, accidents and mistakes. Hand picking news media isn't the way to do that. Just sayin'


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