November 2018 Archives

We need to change the way we talk about space exploration, National Geographic

"When discussing space exploration, people often invoke stories about the exploration of our own planet, like the European conquest and colonization of the Americas, or the march westward in the 1800s, when newly minted Americans believed it was their duty and destiny to expand across the continent. But increasingly, government agencies, journalists, and the space community at large are recognizing that these narratives are born from racist, sexist ideologies that historically led to the subjugation and erasure of women and indigenous cultures, creating barriers that are still pervasive today. To ensure that humanity's future off-world is less harmful and open to all, many of the people involved are revising the problematic ways in which space exploration is framed."

Keith's note: This article proceeds from a false premise: that human exploration will always result in subjugation and exploitation. Oops: that hasn't happened in Antarctica. Humans can learn from their mistakes.

Culberson's ouster could spell big problems for NASA's Orion program, experts say, Houston Chronicle

"NASA programs -- especially Orion, which is focused on putting humans back on the moon -- could be in trouble after Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson lost his House seat to Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. Culberson, a Republican from Texas, led the House Appropriations Committee that funds NASA for the last four years. And he's been a stanch advocate of science and human spaceflight over his nearly two decades in office, said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "Nothing is better than to have an advocate for space science and exploration sitting on the committee in the House where NASA funding starts," Cowing said Wednesday morning. ... "Culberson may be partisan, but he's a clear advocate for science," Cowing said. ... Still, it's a shame to lose Culberson, Cowing said, because "so few people are championing science and exploration missions and putting their partisan stances aside, but here's Culberson forcefully looking for life elsewhere."

"The question is how will that affect NASA's space science portfolio?""

Some takeaways for science from yesterday's U.S. elections, Science

"Representative John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs a spending panel that funds NASA and the National Science Foundation, lost to Democrat Lizzie Fletcher. Culberson has been a major advocate of NASA's Europa Clipper mission to a jovian moon; his defeat could mean the project will face obstacles."

What the 2018 midterms mean for NASA and planetary science, Planetary Society

"Europa Clipper, the mission currently in formulation that would fly by Europa dozens of times, is likely to continue without Culberson's support. NASA has formally endorsed the mission, and it is highly ranked by the planetary science decadal survey report. If pressed, I would say the odds of Europa Clipper launching on an SLS have now dropped considerably, and its launch date also now likely to be in the mid-2020s as opposed to 2022. I have a hard time seeing how the Europa lander project continues without Culberson, because NASA has not formally requested the mission, and it lacks consensus support from the scientific community. Culberson had been planning -- and still may be able to -- allocate hundreds of millions of dollars to this effort in fiscal year 2019, but no other member of Congress is likely to pick up that effort in 2020 or beyond."

Keith's note: Looks like Planetary Society wants you to think that its time to give up on the exploration of Europa.

Russian space leader issues decree against trash, "sloppy" work attitudes, Ars Technica

"Dmitry Rogozin is not having the best year. Earlier, he was essentially demoted from his position as deputy prime minister over defense and space to a position managing Roscosmos, the Russian space corporation. And since then he has had to grapple with a number of embarrassing spaceflight problems, including an errant drill hole in a Soyuz spacecraft and an emergency landing of another one after a rocket exploded mid-flight. But Rogozin is nothing if not a fighter, and he now appears to be taking steps to address the deteriorating situation at Roscosmos - and the Russian aerospace companies that build rockets and spacecraft for the country."

Election Snapshot

Keith's note: Sen. Bill Nelson D-FL and Rep. John Culberson R-TX have been defeated. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson D-TX is seeking to become the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Keith's update: Dana Rohrabacher R-CA has lost as well. Bill Nelson apparently wants a recount.

Keith's note: If you go to this NASA CIO page "Security Requirements & Policies" you will see that they list all of their directives and memos but you cannot download any of them since there are no links. Lets focus on the first one on the list: "NPR 1382.1A, NASA Privacy Procedural Requirements, July 10, 2013". If you go to NASA NODIS (NASA Online Directive Information System) and enter the document number the search engine cannot find the document. But if you go to the link 1000-1999 Organization and Administration and search for it manually you can find it. But if you use Google and just cut and paste the title in the search box a link to the document magically appears. So please tell me how much credence you can put on a IT management system or a CIO organization where you cannot even use an official policy policy document search engine to find the documents that governs their own core responsibilities?

Google has enlisted NASA to help it prove quantum supremacy within months, Technology Review

"Quantum supremacy is the idea, so far undemonstrated, that a sufficiently powerful quantum computer will be able to complete certain mathematical calculations that classical supercomputers cannot. Proving it would be a big deal because it could kick-start a market for devices that might one day crack previously unbreakable codes, boost AI, improve weather forecasts, or model molecular interactions and financial systems in exquisite detail. The agreement, signed in July, calls on NASA to "analyze results from quantum circuits run on Google quantum processors, and ... provide comparisons with classical simulation to both support Google in validating its hardware and establish a baseline for quantum supremacy."

NASA/Google Space Act Agreement

Keith's note: If you search for "Space Entrepreneurship Conference USC Marshall" you get this link but if you go there, it says "404 - Page Not Found". If you go to the events page at USC Marshall there is no mention of this event. Greg Autry, who was fired by the Trump NASA Transition Team, has taught at USC Marshall. Yet another example of choir practice in an echo chamber by the usual suspects out of reach of the people who actually pay for the all the shiny space things. This whole National Space Council thing lacks transparency and simply rubber stamps things done behind the scenes, out of sight of the rest of us. And NASA is complicit in the way that these things are being done.

NASA Awards Grant for New Life Detection Project, NASA GSFC

"NASA has awarded funding for a new interdisciplinary project called the Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures (LAB). The award, totaling nearly $7 million dollars, will be used to develop new, non-Earth like life detection approaches for use on Mars and on Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons."

NASA Making Changes to its Astrobiology Program, earlier post

"To better support the broad, interdisciplinary field of astrobiology - the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe - NASA is announcing a new programmatic infrastructure for the Astrobiology Program."

New Report Calls For NASA To Expand Astrobiology Research, earlier post

"To advance the search for life in the universe, NASA should support research on a broader range of biosignatures and environments, and incorporate the field of astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine."

Keith's note: The people at the Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures (LAB) just got $7m from NASA - specifically from NASA GSFC. Even though this is overtly Astrobiology-related, the official NASA press release makes *zero* mention of "Astrobiology". The grantee makes no mention of anything related to NASA Astrobiology on their website. In addition, no mention is made of this Astrobiology-rich grant award at https://astrobiology.nasa.gov, https://nai.nasa.gov, or https://science.nasa.gov

I'm really shaking my head at this one since this entire effort is 200% about Astrobiology - and it resonates with what the recent NAS report and Congress want NASA to be doing with regard to Astrobiology - specifically with regard to Europa. If NASA is going to be re-organizing its Astrobiology research, a good place to start would be on super simple things like this. One hand does not seem to know - or care - what the other is doing in Astrobiology with NASA funding.

U.S.-Russia space partnership has had its ups and downs, but failed launch might end up helping, LA Times

"For more than 20 years, NASA's relationship with Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has been the model of post-Cold War reconciliation between Washington and Moscow. Those ties only grew deeper in 2011, when the U.S. retired its fleet of space shuttles and Russia's Soyuz rocket, a design that dates to the 1960s, became the sole means of reaching the $100-billion space outpost. This marriage between the two space programs has weathered the atmosphere of distrust that now permeates U.S.-Russia relations. Across the field of bilateral ties between Moscow and Washington, only space exploration has succeeded in staying above the fray. But when evidence arose that the hole in Soyuz was deliberately drilled, that resilience was put to a test."

Russia to hold 2 new space launches in wake of Soyuz failure, UPI

"The quick turnaround of getting the Soyuz back to space quickly comes from the need to relieve the crew currently manning the ISS. After NASA shut down its space shuttle program in 2011, the Soyuz has been the only delivery method for astronauts going to or leaving the floating space station."

Airbus Delivers First European Service Module for NASA's Orion Spacecraft, Airbus Defence and Space

"Airbus will deliver the first European Service Module (ESM) for NASA's Orion spacecraft from its aerospace site in Bremen, Germany on 5 November 2018."

"An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. This is the result of four years of development and construction, and represents the achievement of a key milestone in the project. ESA selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the first ESM in November 2014."

Note: Includes the video of the Orion ESM delivery ceremony from Bremen, Germany. (In German and English)

NASA's Astrobiology Program Evolving to Meet the Future, NASA

"To better support the broad, interdisciplinary field of astrobiology - the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe - NASA is announcing a new programmatic infrastructure for the Astrobiology Program."

"By the end of 2019, the Astrobiology Program will establish several virtual collaboration structures called "research coordination networks" (RCNs) that will replace the Program's virtual institute, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). With this shift, NASA's overall investment in the Astrobiology Program is not changing. Astrobiology is an important part of NASA's portfolio and Congress formally added Astrobiology as one of NASA's ten objectives in 2017. This will only change how this interdisciplinary research is coordinated between researchers."

NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system's earliest chapter. Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennae trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge."

Dawn Mission Cancelled, earlier post (2006)

"Upon returning to her office from this morning's hearing, Mary Cleave cancelled the Discovery "Dawn" mission. Curiously, with several hours during the hearing to do so, she did not bother to mention to the House Science Committee that she was about to do this."

- Congress Hears About Dawn Mission Cancellation, earlier post (2006)
- Letter from PSI Director Sykes to House Science Committee Chair Boehlert Regarding Cancellation of NASA's Dawn, earlier post (2006)
- Cancellation of Dawn Mission on Hold Pending Review By NASA Administrator , earlier post (2006)
- NASA Reinstates the Dawn Mission, earlier post (2006)

Keith's note: At its last meeting in September 2018 the NASA Advisory Council adopted this recommendation:

"Elevating the Status of the Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education. Recommendation: The Council recommends that the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education should become a regular committee of the NAC. Major Reasons for the Recommendation: A regular committee of the NAC that focuses on STEM engagement, and is made up of representatives from key stakeholder groups, will provide a set of diverse perspectives from difference constituent groups about trends and current events in the national STEM movement. Consequences of No Action on This Recommendation:
- The institutional knowledge developed by the current NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education over the last 43 months will be lost.
- The Terms of Reference for the NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education indicate that with no extension or formalization, the Task Force dissolves in November 2018."

On 26 October 2018 NASA Administrator Bridenstine sent a letter to NAC Chair Lester Lyles with the following response to this recommendation:

"NASA Response: NASA concurs with the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) recommendation to elevate the NAC Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education to become a regular committee of the NAC. To that end, BASA is in the process of formally amending the NAC CHarter to reflect this change. The name of this committee will be the STEM Engagement Committee. This change will tak effect immediately upon the signature of the NASA Administrator to the amended NAC Charter."


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