September 2018 Archives

NASA Birthday Parties In DC

Ivanka Trump sent over the moon by Russian cosmonaut's message from ISS, ABC 13

"Before ending the call, NASA commander Dr. Andrew Feustel said he would be remiss if he didn't give Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev a chance to say hello. "Ivanka, I think you very kind and nice person," Artemyev said, as the crew looked on. "When I see you on TV and the news, my mood improves and rises." Trump blushed and let out a laugh. "That's very kind of you to say! Thank you!" she responded."

Keith's note: Everyone at NASA and Roscomos breathed a deep sigh of relief today when Oleg Artemyev made an overture to Ivanka Trump. The meeting between Dmitry Rogozin and Jim Bridenstine over possible Soyuz sabotage by U.S. astronauts will go much smoother now. Thanks Ivanka!

Ivanka Trump touring NASA's Johnson Space Center on Thursday, Houston Chronicle

"Ivanka Trump will be in Houston on Thursday for a tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center. President Donald Trump's daughter will be accompanied by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine."

Ivanka Trump to visit Mesquite on Friday to see how Walmart trains workers for today's economy, Dallas Morning News

"Ivanka Trump isn't the only member of the Trump family who'll be in Texas in the coming weeks. Texas State Rep. James Frank announced on his Facebook page that Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr. would be in Wichita Falls for a rally on Oct. 3. And the president announced on Aug. 31 he would be coming to Texas in October to hold a "major rally" for Cruz."

Keith's note: That's three visits to JSC in Texas in a matter of a few months for Jim Bridenstine. All other NASA centers have had only one visit. Just sayin'. Also, FWIW Ted Cruz has a political rally shortly after his JSC campaign appearance with Ivanka tour just down the street at Franca's Real Italian Restaurant at 1101 East NASA Parkway on Thursday night (that's nice and close to JSC). Let's see who else shows up.

Keith's update: A hearing scheduled for next Wednesday titled "Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space" chaired by Ted Cruz suddenly appeared on the webpage of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. Its certainly convenient to have these JSC visits, rallys, and hearings all scheduled so close together. If Cruz is re-elected - and the Senate does not flip - then this is probably a good thing for human space flight at NASA. If either of those things do not happen well, who knows.

- VP Pence Visits Texas For A Fund Raiser And A JSC Visit, earlier post (23 August 2018)

Why NASA Needs a New Logo, Space.com

"The logo looks more vintage than victorious, according to the designers I interviewed. (Disclosure: None of the designers I spoke to works for, or has worked with, NASA. They are all experts, however, regarding branding campaigns for major public or private organizations.) The logo is an anachronism. A new logo should appeal to the entire nation, since NASA works with scientists and engineers throughout the United States and is funded by American taxpayers. It should show us where the agency intends to go, with our flag planted not in conquest but in camaraderie, with satellites among the stars and our spaceships as vessels of peace and goodwill."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/IMG_5388.m.jpgUnderstanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post

"You would think that NASA would want to capitalize on such a potent branding strength. To be certain, they try. Due to Federal regulations the NASA logo cannot be used for commercial purposes or to imply any endorsement without formal approval by NASA. While this limits its use to some extent NASA is able to control its brand - something that is very important. But the one thing that you would think that NASA should be able to do i.e. use that logo in overt advertising and promotion, is banned by Federal law. Congress seems to think that NASA promotes itself too much. Yet they simultaneously chide NASA for not explaining itself better."

Keith's note: This Space.com article by Michael D. Shaw needed more research. NASA had a logo. Then they got a new one. Then they used the old one again. Impact? It's silly to try and get yet another logo for improved advertising and PR purposes when NASA is overtly prohibited by law from advertising. After more than 20 years of re-use, the NASA meatball logo is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. NASA's problems have nothing to do with brand visibility. It has that. Rather, NASA needs to find a way to get its mojo back again. Playing with logos will not accomplish that.

Shanahan downplays disagreements over Space Force structure, Defense News

"Days after the Air Force released a Space Force memo that seemed to contradict a plan laid out by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the number two at the Pentagon downplayed any differences of opinion."

Wilson: $13 billion Space Force cost estimate is 'conservative'", Space News

"Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said her initial $13 billion cost estimate to stand up a Space Force and sustain it for five years is likely to be revised upward as more data is crunched. In a detailed memo submitted on Friday to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Wilson provided the first glimpse into the potential cost, size and makeup of a military branch for space. The $13 billion projected cost over five years is based on a force of 13,000 people, including a headquarters of about 2,400."

New Space Force price tag fuels Capitol Hill skeptics, Military Times

"Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman had already decided to lead opposition in the U.S. House to President Donald Trump's "Space Force" proposal. But a widely leaked Air Force estimate that creating a space force as a new military service would cost $13 billion over the first five years only stiffened Coffman's resolve. Coffman, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee and sits on its Strategic Forces Subcommittee, was sure other lawmakers agree with him. "A really bad idea is a 'Department of Space,'" Coffman said in an interview Tuesday, adding, "I feel confident we can block this. The president will not have the votes."

SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle Unveiled in Washington D.C., earlier post (2003)

"Among the speakers at the rocket's unveiling were Elon Musk, President and CEO of SpaceX and Patti Grace Smith, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA. Musk and Smith were introduced by Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch.com."

Keith's note: How time flies. I must say that this was a really interesting event. I was also one of the people standing at the podium to introduce Patti and Elon referring to the Falcon 1 as "not your father's rocket". The idea for this, as best as I can recall, emerged from a discussion that my late friend and co-author Frank Sietzen and I had. At that time Frank was SpaceX's first employee in Washington, DC. I think I said something to the effect of "why not bring the rocket to DC and just park it in front of NASA Headquarters?" Frank said I was crazy and then admitted that Elon was a little crazy too. He suggested it to Elon. Then it happened - again, as best I recall.

FYI one of the buildings in the picture is the old NASA HQ. Maybe I should Photoshop a Falcon 9 in front of the current NASA HQ ...

The Next Expedition To The Moon Will Be Filled With Artists

"SpaceX exceeded everyone's expectations tonight by announcing that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa bought not just one but all of the seats in a BFR mission to fly by the Moon. Stating "I choose to go to the Moon", Maezawa, who made his money in the entertainment and clothing business, explained that he had been fascinated by the Moon since he was a kid. Maezawa said that he did not want to go alone. So, in Elvis Presley fashion, he bought out the venue and is going to invite a number of artists to go along on the Moon trip with him."

Keith's note: Once again we see an exercise in checking the boxes with regard to the making of space policy. A White House-created committee of experts, hand-selected to focus on a desired ad somewhat pre-determiined outcome, goes through the motions of being interested in what people have to say. They only go to friendly locations where dissent or differences in opinion are unlikely - and consensus can be proclaimed by default. They never talk to anyone from the remaining 99.9999% of American electorate who ultimately pays for all of the shiny space toys.

Then, at their next meeting, they can show a Powerpoint chart with a group that they have reached out to with a check next to it. In this case the Users Advisory Group is almost entirely composed of either political favorites or representatives of large aerospace companies looking for more contracts from NASA and DOD. There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber.

In this case (see the AIAA photos below) the room is nearly empty and there is no webcast. The echo must be particularly evident this time - but there is no one there to (other than Jeff Foust) to notice.

U.S. - Canada Space Cooperation Remains Strong

Canada and U.S. Space Cooperation Remains Strong but Funding Drives Programs, SpaceQ

"On September 7 the Wilson Center's Canada Institute in Washington organized a one day event titled "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-U.S. Space Cooperation?" As with many events like this, discussions behind the scenes is where a lot of the action was. Though, there was one clear fact that no one could surmount."

@SpaceX: "SpaceX has signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle--an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who's flying and why on Monday, September 17."

Jody Singer Named Director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Jody Singer director of the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Singer has been the center's deputy director since February 2016, and has been serving as acting director since the retirement of Todd May as center director in July. She is the first woman appointed to the position."

Ranking Member Johnson and Vice Chairman Lucas Introduce the Hidden Figures

"Today, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.R. 6795, the "Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act." Vice Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) is an original cosponsor of the legislation. This bill awards the Congressional Medal of Honor, Congress's highest civilian honor, to Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and all the women computers, mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, and its precursor organization NACA, who devoted their talents in service to the United States through World War II, the Space Race, and the Cold War. During this period, women submitted their work anonymously, were paid less than their male peers, and had few opportunities for career advancement. In addition, women of color were initially subjected to the indignity of segregated dining and bathroom facilities. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a Senate version of the legislation, S. 3321."

NASA, Roscosmos Statement on International Space Station Leak

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin met for the first time yesterday via teleconference to discuss the status of International Space Station (ISS) operations in response to a request from Roscosmos. "As part of their discussion, Dmitry Rogozin informed his American counterpart about Roscosmos' decision to establish a Roscosmos-led Commission to investigate the cause of the leak in the Soyuz (MS-09/55S) spacecraft currently docked to the station."

Russian theory that NASA sabotaged the space station spreading like wildfire, Ars Technica

"A growing number of Russian publications have been putting forth an absurd new theory--that a NASA astronaut deliberately caused the leak on board the station in order to force the evacuation of a sick crew member. The story has spread like wildfire during the last 24 hours, according to Robinson Mitchell, who translates Russian space stories for Ars."

Could November elections scramble a controversial U.S. mission to a frozen moon?, Science

"Culberson's lander has been somewhat controversial among scientists because it hasn't gone through NASA's traditional selection and vetting process. And today, researchers at an agency advisory meeting debated whether the congressional elections in November could bring a new lander-related headache: the defeat of Culberson, who is facing a tough re-election contest. If Culberson loses, NASA risks becoming "locked in" to an expensive and complicated project that lacks a key champion in Congress, one researcher worried.

"The science goals of the Europa lander do not follow from our current knowledge of Europa," said Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Although there is abundant ice for a lander to sample on Europa, he suggested, there is no concrete evidence of other ingredients necessary for life, such as carbon, nitrogen, biologically useful energy, or organic molecules. But given that the lander is already receiving money, he concluded in an about-face, scientists should support it. "A bad life detection mission is better than no life detection mission," he said."

Keith's note: With regard to the frank commets by participants in the NASA Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting as presented in this Science article: the event was open and on the record and news media were listening in. Based on this article one can easily get the impression that the Europa Lander is viewed by some NASA scientists as having little value other than political - but its funded so - hey, lets run with it and take the money. The politicians who support this mission are viewed as disposable i.e. if one is not re-elected or the House flips and they lose their committee chairmanship, another politician can be found to support a given pet NASA/JPL/SwRI/etc. mission. This may be true in a cynical sense, but I feel silly having to remind a bunch of otherwise smart people that they are saying things in a not-so-smart context. The politicians are listening. What are they and their staff supposed to think when they hear this stuff? They stick their necks out to listen to the science community, support missions, get the money year after year, fight off enemies, and sign NASA's praises and yet the ever-so-clever scientists at NASA sit in their little meetings and try to out-strategize the actual decision makers. People at NASA are never satisfied with good enough and can't fight the urge to complain when their particular science thing is not the way they want it to be. This behavior never ends well for NASA.

A note of science clarification: Chris McKay is quoted as saying "A bad life detection mission is better than no life detection mission." The Europa Lander is not a "life detection mission" any more than Europa Clipper is. Reading the Europa Lander Study 2016 Report it becomes immediately and abundantly clear that this mission is looking for biosignatures - not overt life detection. This may sound confusing but there is a big difference. Biosignatures are a range of measurements of substances and conditions known to be produced (most likely if not exclusively) by Earth life. But any one biosignature is not necessarily a solid indicator of life (past or present). Indeed, in many cases organic molecules associated with life (biosignatures) can also be formed naturally by chemical processes (abiotic) that do not involve life at all. But data taken from a series of biosignatures, repeatedly taken in various locations over time can be used to point to life's increasing probability - or absence. Short of actually seeing a life form and directly measuring its chemistry detecting life on another world is not going to be a simple, one shot "detection" process. To understand the current NASA Astrobiology approach to searching for biosignatures please read the 2018 NASA-authored paper "The Ladder of Life Detection"

You can be assured that future meetings of NASA's Outer Planets Assessment Group will have many more people listening in. NASA people need to learn when to speak their minds and when to sit down and shut up. This has nothing to do with transparency. It has everything to do with common sense.

AIA Presents Wings of Liberty Award to Sen. Richard Shelby

"The Aerospace Industries Association is proud to present the annual "Wings of Liberty" award to Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama for his work to ensure funding for defense and non-defense programs vital to our national security and the health of our nation's aerospace industry. Senator Shelby is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and chairs the Defense Subcommittee. Previously, Senator Shelby chaired the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee, which provides funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Transportation Subcommittee which handles the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."

NASA Policy Statement on Anti Discrimination In NASA Conducted Or Funded Programs, Activities, and Institutions, NASA

"At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), we are committed to achieving our missions and realizing our vision to discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity. To accomplish our missions and vision, we invest in programs and activities involving non-Federal institutions. As authorized by Federal laws and NASA civil rights regulations and policies, we are also fully committed to helping these partner organizations - that participate in NASA-conducted programs or receive funding from NASA - adhere to all applicable civil rights authorities, and refrain from discrimination on the bases of race, color, and national origin, sex (including sexual harassment), disability, and age."

NASA Science Mission Directorate Statement on Anti-Harassment

"I am writing concerning an issue that I am relentlessly passionate about: building effective and innovative teams that achieve amazing results for NASA Science. To achieve excellence, we need focus and commitment from the best and brightest of all backgrounds. This goes hand-in-hand with my strong belief in the value and imperative of diversity and inclusion. As the Associate Administrator for Science and as an educator, husband, father and friend, I have personally experienced the value of diversity in my life. On the flip side, I have supported many individuals who have been hurt by harassment, and I have seen the devastating consequences it has had on them and on our community."

Why NASA's next rockets might say Budweiser on the side, Washington Post

"NASA has steadfastly stayed away from endorsing any particular product or company -- even going so far as to call the M&Ms astronauts gobble in space "candy-coated chocolates" out of fear of appearing to favor one brand of candy. But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the "provocative questions" of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars. "Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?" Bridenstine said. "I'm telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don't know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is."

Bad News From Earth

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth, SpaceRef

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

Keith's note: I am sick and tired of getting emails from conspiracy mongering idiots who think that there has been some sort of massive left wing revisionist editing of history in "First Man" whereby American flags have been erased from history. Contrary to modern style, back in 1969, not every piece of official astronaut work clothing had American flags on them. I am certain NASAWatch readers can find more examples. This took me 2 minutes using Google.

Keith's note: Repeating Apollo would be a mistake, But evoking the excitement of that era would not be incorrect.

The lunar flag-planting was no big deal. Leaving it out of the movie is no big deal too., opinion by Homer Hickam, Washington Post

"The history here is instructive. Although the lunar flag-planting may seem like a given in hindsight, for months before the flight of Apollo 11 there was a debate within the federal government and in the press as to the wisdom of doing it. The argument for the flag was that the voyage was an entirely American effort that was paid for by American taxpayers, who deserved to see their flag planted in the lunar regolith. The argument against was that it could cast the landing in the eyes of the world as a nationalistic exercise, diminishing what was otherwise indisputably a triumph of American values and ideals, not to mention a demonstration of our technical superiority over our great adversary, the Soviet Union. Ultimately, just a few months before the flight, Congress ordered NASA to put up the flag. The result, a rushed bit of engineering, was a set of spindly tubes holding a government-issued flag valued at around $5 and, since there was no room in the moon lander, flown clamped to a leg of the vehicle. Armstrong and Aldrin put up the flag and saluted it, then got on to other business."

Keith's note: CASIS has had a less than stellar record of accomplishment since its inception. After kicking the can down the road for more than 5 years NASA has finally started to actively manage CASIS and has told them what needs to be fixed. CASIS' Management among the many things that had to be addressed. Given that NASA seems to feel that CASIS is going to play a pivotal role in the commercialization of the International Space Station starting in 2024, its about time they paid attention to its operation.

In a 15 November 2017 letter from NASA to CASIS NASA directed that "CASIS must examine its processes and communication in order to ensure inclusion and transparency to all CIPs. As partners in upholding the public's trust, we must quickly address these concerns - particularly those that could give even the appearance of impropriety - in order to ensure continued confidence in the ISS National Laboratory. To that end, I propose the following actions: ... - Installation of an experienced Chief Operations Officer (COO), to be responsible for day-to-day CASIS operations within the organization and working with implementing organizations in executing National Lab activities. The COO would be under the authority of the CASIS Executive Director and would report activities to the CASIS Board of Directors along with the CASIS Executive Director."

In the 22 January 2018 response from CASIS to NASA CASIS responded to mostly everything NASA discussed at a high level and semi-committal fashion but made no mention of changes to CASIS senior management that NASA had suggested. Yet 3 weeks later CASIS informed NASA in a 14 February 2018 letter that "the Executive Director / Principal Investigator position. Col. Gregory H. Johnson, the current Executive Director and Principal Investigator, will be leaving CASIS effective March 10, 2018." on 29 June 2018 CASIS sent a letter to NASA informing them that "CASIS has hired a new Executive Director, Joe Vockley, and will begin his employment on July 1, 2018. There will be a transition overlap period between Executive Directors as Mr. Vockley becomes familiar with all aspects of the ISS National Lab operations."

In a 1 March 2018 letter to NASA, CASIS said "The Board also made a careful and well-considered review of the performance of its Executive Director: The Board felt that he had made many important improvements and had built the CASIS organization into a strong level of capability. However, we felt that a new set of talents and style of leadership would be needed for the dynamic new environment facing the CASIS mission. Hence, a decision was reached to seek new leadership for the program. A national search for a replacement has been launched." They go on to say that "Additionally, and at the request of NASA, the Board created the position of Chief Operating Officer. Warren Bates was selected to serve in that position until a permanent appointee has been named. A national search was initiated but was subsequently suspended pending the selection of a new Executive Director. Mr. Bates, in the opinion of the Board, is serving ably in his new capacity."

Reading the letter that NASA sent to CASIS seems to suggest that NASA was directing CASIS to find some new blood to be COO. Instead, they picked Warren Bates, someone who has been at CASIS since 2012 who, based on his LinkedIn profile, is not the "experienced Chief Operations Officer" NASA was looking for CASIS to hire.

When CASIS hired Johnson he had no apparent scientific or nonprofit or research management experience. He had familiarity with NASA but he was a former fighter pilot/astronaut - not an obvious choice to lead a new organization with educational, commercial, and scientific responsibilities. Johnson's replacement Dr. Joseph Vockley certainly has an extensive background in biomedical research and management, but has no apparent background in space research and utilization.

So ... CASIS has gone from being run by an astronaut with no science or management background to being led by someone with decades of science and management experience - but no background in space. One could argue that the science and management experience is what CASIS desperately needs right now. There are plenty of space people floating around to advise Vockley. Based on what is posted on various web pages about Vockley, this would seem to be a wise move.

Vockley's linkedIn page describes his current position as being "Executive Director (CEO) of International Space Station US National Laboratory (CASIS)". That's somewhat inaccurate. Also, the CASIS website refers to Warren Bates as the "Director of Business Strategy and Portfolio Management". That is also inaccurate since he is the COO. If CASIS can't be bothered to get people's titles correct ...

Meanwhile many more managerial issues remain with CASIS - one being its Board of Directors. Stay tuned.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Previous CASIS posts

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS. In a 16 November 2017 letter to CASIS from NASA, Sam Scimemi listed a series of specific, wide-ranging complaints about how CASIS conducts its activities in support of the International Space Station. Given the long period of time that CASIS has been in operation this is rather damning. But given how long NASA has allowed these things go on clearly points to mismanagement on NASA's part as well. In the letter below CASIS repsonds to NASA's concerned. Are they fixing their problems? Stay tuned.

Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"We are responding to your letter dated November 16, 2017, presenting several issues voiced by the ISS Program, outside stakeholders, and ISS National Laboratory Implementation Partners (IPs). First, we would like to thank you for your candid feedback and confirm that we take these issues very seriously. We have corrective actions already in process; a subset was previewed with you in our meeting in Houston in December. Our interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), Warren Bates, will be leading these activities until the permanent COO national search begins later this month. The COO, who will function as the day-to-day operational executive at CASIS, will report the status of operational activities and receive guidance frequently from me and our Board of Directors. These actions are outlined below addressing concerns listed in your letter."

CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post

Russia says space station leak could be deliberate sabotage, PhyOrg

"Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said the hole detected Thursday in a Russian space craft docked at the orbiting station was caused by a drill and could have been done deliberately, either back on Earth or by astronauts in space. Astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small loss of pressure that was not life-threatening. "There were several attempts at drilling," Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments. He added that the drill appeared to have been held by a "wavering hand." "What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?" he asked. "We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space."

Fracture on Soyuz spacecraft most likely caused by technological error -- Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"It is a matter of honor for Energia Rocket and Space Corporation to find the one responsible for that, to find out whether it was an accidental defect or a deliberate spoilage and where it was done - either on Earth or in space. Now it is essential to see the reason, to learn the name of the one responsible for that. And we will find out, without fail," he pledged."

Errant drill likely the culprit in hole in Space Station that caused air leak, Russia says, Houston Chronicle

"The hole astronauts discovered in the Soyuz spacecraft, measuring a fifth of a centimeter in diameter (the thickness of a penny), is a perfect circle followed by a trail of scuffs and scratches. The image was released in a NASA video that the space agency later deleted. The picture of the hole instantly reminded Cowing of his very poor drilling skills, so much so that he said he was surprised Russian officials didn't drop the idea of a space debris impact sooner. "Immediately, this looked like a drill bit bounced or did something wrong," he said. "A micrometeorite hit would have formed a different shape."

Statement by Rick and Mark Armstrong and James Hansen Regarding "First Man"

"Although Neil didn't see himself that way, he was an American hero. But he was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows. In short, we do not feel this movie anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don't take our word for it. We'd encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves."

CASIS Is Still Broken

Keith's note: Recently there has been a lot of talk about halting NASA funding for the International Space station is 2024 with the hope that all of the costs currently paid for by NASA would be picked up by the private sector. NASA hopes to use the savings they expect to achieve to pay for the Gateway and its Moon/Mars plans. So ... who will handle the commercialization of the ISS? When you ask NASA if CASIS is part of that plan they say yes - but never get too much into the details.

As you all know NASAWatch has taken a special interest in CASIS and its poor performance over the years. Apparently NASA is not too thrilled with CASIS either. This 16 November 2017 letter from Sam Scimemi at NASA to CASIS is rather blunt. There will be much more to follow as to how CASIS says it will respond to NASA's concerns and what led up to this situation.

Keith's update: A response from CASIS Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

"I am writing this letter to you to address recent complaints about CASIS activities that have been brought to my attention both by the ISS Program and by outside stakeholders that require serious and immediate attention. Additionally, it is necessary to communicate some significant concerns brought forward by a number of the National Laboratory's commercial implementation partners (CIPs) so that actions may be taken to address these issues.

As part of NASA's oversight of agreements with companies who operate their own commercial hardware on ISS, NASA solicits feedback from them annually to assess their satisfaction with progress towards a robust commercial presence in space and to solicit opinions on any changes that may be needed. There were a number of positives from these exchanges; however, a number of items were raised indicating possible trends that must be addressed. NASA's chief concerns include the following:

- Unbalanced support to CIPs possessing similar capabilities: Since there are more ideas than there is funding available at this point in time, it is critical that CASIS continue to help all users find funding sources, whether they come from CASIS's own contacts or are commercial customers of the various CIPs;
- Lack of transparency and parity in CASIS's CIP selection process: Complaints were raised that CASIS was not consistent nor transparent in determining which CIPs would support National Lab users. While not strictly bound by the same procurement regulations as the federal government, it is critical that CASIS does not enter into situations that create real or perceived conflicts of interest;
- Protection of CIP intellectual property: CIPs indicated that their unique ideas, when brought to CASIS for funding consideration, were not always protected but instead openly competed;
- Delayed communications with CIPs: Complaints from a broad spectrum of CIPs that CASIS is not timely in providing responses to CIPs as well as potential users on projects they have been proposed to CASIS, including a lack of feedback to proposing CIPs on why they were not selected;
- Insufficient communications between the operations and business development teams: Reports of conflicting messages from CASIS departments to CIPs results in frustration and waste of limited resources;
- Limited CIP access to customers which were initially identified by CASIS: Reports of obstruction of direct communication between CIPs and organizations whose initial contact was through CASIS, as well as attempts to control CIP's ability to directly solicit funding at the source rather than going through CASIS;
- Perception of representational orcanizational conflict of interest: The appearance that CASIS endorses, supports, or otherwise advocates on behalf of some CIPs, but not all."


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