January 2019 Archives

Shutdown Update

NIA hosting Community Support Open House Thursday 1-3pm

"The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) will host a Community Support Open House for People Impacted by the Government Shutdown from 1-3pm this Thursday, January 17 at the NIA, 100 Explorations Way in Hampton."

Message From the NASA Ames Center Director

"Ames civil servants and contractors are invited to an informal "drop-in" event at the Tee Minus One Bar & Grill at the Moffett Field Golf Course on Thursday, January 17, from 10am to 1pm. Please feel free to come by at any time during this period to get some information or just connect with your colleagues."

Message from Bob Gibbs to the NASA Workforce - Important Information Related to the Government Shutdown, NASA

"I am reaching out on behalf of NASA's leadership to provide you with an update on the government shutdown and provide information and resources during this difficult time. While some of this information may be repetitive, we wanted to take this opportunity to both provide you with the updated information we currently have as well as highlight important issues. First, I understand that this is a difficult time for everyone. So, I would like to thank you all for your commitment and patience as the lapse in funding continues. As a reminder, important information is being added to NASA's shutdown public website on a regular basis so please remember to visit often."

Temporary Opportunities For People Affected During Shutdown (TOPAS), LinkedIn

NASA employess have created a LinkedIn Group to share Government Shutdown information: "The group offers people affected by shutdown chance to look for temporary opportunity. Businesses can find talented workforce to solve problems on temporary basis without long-term commitment."

Funding furloughed NASA postdocs, GoFundMe

"This is an emergency for these folks, both financially and professionally. A lack of funding for them will push them to find other jobs, and could lead to a significant brain drain for the United States space sciences community. So we are starting a GoFundMe campaign to allow them to continue their research during the government shutdown."

NASA's head confirms readiness to visit Russia, TASS

"During the conversation, Dmitry Rogozin and Jim Bridenstine stressed that Roscosmos and NASA are committed to the goal of space exploration," Roscosmos said. "They agreed to continue cooperating, both on the program of the International Space Station and Moon exploration projects, and on other missions of exploring outer space. Dmitry Rogozin invited NASA's head to visit Russia and Baikonur [spaceport] in the next few months, in order to discuss all relevant issues in person. Jim Bridenstine confirmed his readiness to make a working visit to Russia," the Russian space agency added."

Russian space agency gets NASA's letter on revoking invitation for Roscosmos chief, TASS

"According to Rogozin, the heads of the two space agencies needed to discuss further interaction. NASA press secretary Megan Powers later told TASS that Bridenstine did not plan to make trips abroad, including to Russia, in the imminent future."

Keith's note: Nothing from NASA about this ...

Shutdowns and Dream Jobs

Experts worry government shutdowns will drive NASA employees to the private sector, Houston Chronicle

"But Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news, suspects the duration and frequency of the shutdowns soon will plant seeds of doubt in peoples' mind about working at the history-making space agency. "A lot of people take a salary cut to work at NASA," Cowing said. "But when you can't pay the bills and you have to do chores for your landlord for rent, there's nothing worse than having your dream job taken away from you because of this." A decision like that is a heartbreaking one, Cowing said, but it's one that the next shutdown could force people to make. "There's nothing worse than thinking, 'My god, I got to NASA and I can't afford to stay here,'" he said."

Shutdown makes it difficult for NASA to attract young talent, says tech labor leader, The Hill

"NASA has been a very attractive place for people to go to work," Shearon, the president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on "Rising." "If you're a young person coming out of college today, and you've got maybe an advanced degree in engineering or science, and you take a look and you say wait a second, how could it possibly be that NASA scientists are not working, and they're at home not getting paid? That's not what I went to school for," he continued. "My love of science is far greater than my love for my employer."

Washington, DC Area Applies to: Monday, January 14, 2019

"STATUS: OFFICE CLOSURE FEDERAL OFFICES in the Washington, DC area are CLOSED. Emergency employees and telework employees continue to work."

Greenbelt Campus: Center Operating Status - Code Red

"Goddard's Greenbelt campus is currently operating under a Code Red status through Monday, Jan. 14. The campus is closed and only critical and emergency personnel will be permitted access. Only those who report to campus during normal Code Red activities should access the facility. For furloughed employees, your status remains unchanged. All employees who enter Goddard's Greenbelt campus during a Code Red operating status are required to sign in at the main gate."

Keith's note: The GSFC status was sent out at Sunday January 13th, 2019: 09:05 p.m. EST to GSFC employees well after OPM closed government offices in the DC area due to snow.

Federal Workers At Nasa Eligible For Emergency Loans During Shutdown, San Francisco Chronicle

"A union for federal workers at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View is offering emergency loans to assist employees who have not been paid during the partial government shutdown. The Ames Federal Employees Union is giving members $100 and has arranged for up to $2,500 in loans through the Menlo Survey Federal Credit Union."

NASA workers, nearby business owners get support during government shutdown, khou

"Friday was the first time since the government shutdown last month that thousands of furloughed federal workers didn't get paid. NASA civil servants are among them. An "Employee Furlough Support Open House" was held in the Clear Creek area on Friday. KHOU 11 spoke with several engineers who said they never expected the shutdown to last this long."

NASA contractors struggle without pay during government shutdown -- and may never see the money, Orlando Sentinel

"Nearly 60 people had turned out for the meeting of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2061 in Cape Canaveral seeking answers about how to endure the stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress over a border wall with Mexico."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/boeing.iss.jpg

Keith's note: Boeing is continuing its creepy and deceptive social media campaign - one that lures you with an innocent social media ad on Facebook to a website where they grab a lot of information about you for uses that they will not describe. Boeing uses social media ads that do not mention Boeing. In this case, they ask you to sign a petition to support the ISS. Sounds innocent enough. You click on the link and this is what it is actually sending you to:

https://watchusfly.com/campaigns/space-iss-3-0-petition-acquisition/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=link-post&utm_campaign=acquisition_petition_space-iss-3-a&utm_term=space&utm_content=enthusiast

You have now been caught on a Facebook ad. You arrive at the petition page at watchusfly.com which claims that "Watch U.S. Fly is a community of Americans that believes that America should lead the world in technological advancements. We realize that in order to maintain our edge, American aerospace must have the support of policymakers so they can continue to chart the future." In the lower corner in a small, faint font, it says "Copyright © 2019 Boeing"

The disclaimer says "Site intended for use by U.S. residents 14 years of age or older. Boeing may use the information you provide to send you future communications about Boeing and issues that may be of interest to you. For further information, please review Boeing's Privacy Policy." But they do not tell you this when they entice you to visit from Facebook. Too late. If you sign in to their page using Facebook then they really have you. Their cookies are in your browser and all of your Facebook, Internet, and geolocation information is now theirs to use and/or sell as they see fit - unless you take convoluted steps to try (I repeat try) and extricate yourself from their info cache on you. Here's what they tell you that they can do with the information they tricked you into giving them. According to Boeing's Privacy Policy page.

"Boeing Services often contain cookies or similar technologies from third-party providers that help us compile statistics about the effectiveness of our promotional campaigns, perform analytics, enable social networking features, and other operations. These technologies enable the third-party providers to set or read their own cookies or other identifiers on your device, through which they can collect information about your online activities across the Services and other, unaffiliated devices, applications, websites, or services... Boeing also enables cookies and third-party tracking mechanisms to collect your information for use in interest-based advertising. For example, third parties use the fact that you visited our Services to target online ads for Boeing services to you on non-Boeing websites. In addition, our third-party advertising networks use information about your use of our Services to help target non-Boeing advertisements based on your online behavior in general... Data collected from a particular browser, app, or device can be used with a linked computer or device. For example, we or our third-party service providers display ads to you on your laptop based on the fact that you visited Boeing Services on your smartphone."

Remember, if you visit, its too late unless you have disabled cookies, use a VPN, etc. Most people do not. But if you sign the petition, they got you. Boeing never tells you who they will share and/or sell your data to. Nor do they tell you what these third parties will do with the tracking that they can now do based on your visit to the watchusfly.com site. Political campaigns can buy this information, Boeing can now make pro-Boeing, anti-someone else ads appear on your browser - as you probably know by now. We've taken notice of this creep behavior before (see links below). Boeing is doing a lot of lobbying and targeted media buys these days.

This is how big aerospace is using the same shady tactics that skewed the 2016 election for their own, undisclosed purposes. Congratulations, if you visited this stealth Boeing site you have now become part of this ongoing sneaky Boeing effort.

- Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, previous post
- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity, previous post Online
- Boeing's Creepy Petition Wants To Track Your Online Activity, previous post

10% Layoff At SpaceX

SpaceX to lay off 10% of its workforce, LA Times

"SpaceX will lay off about 10% of its more than 6,000 employees, a person familiar with the matter said Friday."

SpaceX Statement on Workforce Downsizing

"To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft anda global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. We are grateful for everything they have accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX's mission. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary."

Keith's note: Below is an internal memo sent to employees of ZIN Technologies, a contractor at NASA GRC. Rumor has it that there will be a complete closure at ZIN in mid-February if the government shutdown persists.

"This memo is to advise all ZIN personnel of the fact that due to the Government shutdown of NASA, ZIN is currently not being paid for work you are performing. As a result, we must address our cash flow and take the following temporary actions. These actions are effective beginning Sunday January 13, 2019 and will first impact your paycheck dated February 5, 2019. Your paycheck for January 22, 2019 will not be effected."

Full memo below:

Keith's note: There was a protest rally in Washington today. NASA folks participated. One of the speakers was Barry Epstein, the new head of the union at NASA HQ. A tweet from a Washington Post reporter appeared quoting him: 'Barry, a NASA engineer, says the #GovernmentShutdown could impact astronauts on the International Space Station. He and others tasked with "ensuring their health and wellbeing" in space are furloughed.'

Two things. First, NASA civil servant and contractor employees are being punished for something that has nothing to do with them. Civil servants will eventually get paid but contractors could well get stuck with no pay. Either way this totally sucks and everyone involved should be angry as hell and protesting.

Second: Barry works at NASA HQ and sits behind a desk. He is not one of the engineers tasked with keeping the crew on ISS safe. If something breaks he does not get a phone call. The people tasked with this responsibility are considered "essential" and are sitting behind consoles in Houston. Moreover, the suggestion that NASA is running the ISS in a fashion that puts the crew at risk is simply incorrect. To stand in front of a microphone in public and try and suggest the contrary is irresponsible. Arm waving and shouting misinformation helps no one right now, Barry. Stick to the facts.

Keith's update: Someone who was at the rally says that there is a misquote and that Barry Epstein didn't make that claim - instead he was highlighting how NASA ISS support teams are working without pay, and without them the ISS crew would be in danger.

It is my understanding based on actual employment at NASA that if the ISS was not being maintained per NASA safety and mission requirements that the crew would be brought home. I have not heard of any indication that this is even being considered right now. As such, if we are to believe NASA's rules and regulations, that means that the crew is safe and not in danger of becoming unsafe.

AFL-CIO head pushes back against Trump's claims, MSNBC

Go to 7:50 into the segment: "There's a guy named Steve [last name] he's a technician at the NASA Space Center. He monitors the power grid. He's out - he has two co-workers that have special needs kids and he's trying to help them. But in the mean time two technicians are doing the work of what ten used to do. And so the missions - the center's missions - and even the International Space Station - is at risk now because they are working short-handed and having higher stress on the job - two people trying to do what ten did."

Keith's note: If the ISS is not being maintained per NASA safety and mission requirements the crew will be brought home. Simple. There is no indication that this is even being considered right now. As such, the crew is safe and not in danger of becoming unsafe. Until/unless that situation changes it is simply inaccurate to raise this as a risk. However it is totally accurate to mention workload levels, stress, hardship, and the overall terrible situation that confronts the larger NASA family right now. If those things combine to put the ISS at risk, then its time to raise that issue - and to hear that coming directly from Jim Bridenstine himself.

Keith's note: Megan Powers, the NASA Press Secretary for Administrator Bridenstine, will be leaving NASA tomorrow for a new opportunity in the private sector. We here at NASAWatch wish her well.

- Megan Powers Is NASA's New Press Secretary, earlier post

Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope

"At 17:23 UTC on Jan. 8, the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations due to a hardware problem. Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated."

Keith's note: The original comment due date for NASA DRAFT 2019 Announcement of Opportunity for Planetary Science Division Discovery Program was January 16, 2019. Due to the government shutdown that date will be extended - but the new due date is currently TBD. Stay tuned.

- NASA DRAFT 2019 Announcement of Opportunity for Planetary Science Division Discovery Program
- AO text

Keith's note: Attention NASA employees: if you have any questions about the furlough go to nasapeople.nasa.gov and click the furlough link.

NASA rescinds invitation to Russian space chief amid pressure from US lawmakers, RT

"Cooperation in space is one of the very few areas where the US and Russia are still able to find common ground and have mutual interests, so the idea of the Russian space chief coming to the US does not sound completely unreasonable - but peddlers of the anti-Russian narrative in the US media and an array of hawkish lawmakers have made a strong case against allowing Rogozin in."

Cancellation of Rogozin's visit could disrupt the joint mission of US and Russia to Venus, TASS

"NASA's cancellation of the visit by the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin to the United States could lead to the disruption of a joint Russian-American scientific mission to Venus, said Lev Zeleny, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Russian Academy of Space and scientific director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Sunday. ... In 2017, the final report of the joint working group on the mission to Venus, published on NASA's website, reported that the launch of the Russian-American interplanetary station Venera-D could take place from late May to late June 2026."

Keith's note: These news organizations are controlled by the Russian government - so your mileage may vary. As for the Venus mission: it is a paper study. Cancellation would result in less paper.

- Waiting For Rogozin (Update), earlier post
- Earlier Russia postings

Cooperation needed in space exploration, South China Morning Post

"Quite a few countries have active space agencies, but none has been as successful as Nasa, which has, as the Star Trek saying goes, boldly gone where no man has gone before. Nasa is also freely sharing valuable data with anyone or any country that takes an interest in the mission. Such missions are laying the foundation for planetary travels. It seems only a matter of time, perhaps decades, for humans to land on Mars. Led by America, such efforts should be cooperative and show what humans could achieve when they work together. This is the kind of leadership the world can and will admire about the US."

China's lunar first unlikely to kick off a new space race, Houston Chronicle

"It's the gold standard of technological accomplishments, to be a nation to send someone or something to the moon," Cowing said. "I think there's been a general renaissance in thinking ... that space is something you should no longer be afraid of trying to do."

Culberson Optimistic Restrictions on US-China Space Cooperation Will Remain, Space Policy Online

"Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said today that he is optimistic Congress will continue to prohibit NASA from engaging in bilateral cooperation with China unless certain conditions are met after he leaves Congress. Culberson chairs a key subcommittee and has included that restriction in each of NASA's appropriations bills since he became chairman four years ago, continuing a practice begun by his predecessor Frank Wolf. Culberson lost his reelection race, however, so will not be returning in the 116th Congress."

China's First Payload Arrives at the ISS, earlier post

"There is always a clever technical solution to overcome cumbersome political policies. People just have to want to find the solutions. Every time you do something like this, the original problem becomes less of a hindrance and is eventually replaced by new, usually unexpected, opportunities. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. If we can calmly and professionally share a space station with the country who tried to steal our election then we can certainly share it with the country that makes our iPhones."

Keith's note: The Chinese clearly want to cooperate with the U.S. in space. There is strong sentiment within NASA and the space science community for doing so. But edicts from an earlier Congress prevent this fron happening. Given all of the rocky - often hostile - relations between the U.S. and Russia these days space is a comparatively benign and productive realm of cooperation. So if we can work with Russia in space - why can't we try and work with China in space in an equally productive fashion? With Culberson's departure and new House leadership maybe the prohibitions can be softened - or removed.

Earlier posts on China

How the Partial Government Shutdown Is Hampering Climate Efforts, EE News via Scientific American

"The inevitable result [of a shutdown] is that everything costs more and you do less," said Keith Cowing, editor of the space publication NASA Watch. Most of NASA's workforce has been furloughed, with the exception of top officials and those who work on critical missions such as the continued operation of the International Space Station. That puts NASA's climate scientists in a strange position, Cowing said. Their instruments and satellites still will collect data, but few if any researchers will be around to analyze the information. "What's affecting them is affecting every mission at NASA," he said. "There's nobody there. The lights are not on."

Trump threatens years-long shutdown for his wall as GOP support begins to fracture, Washington Post

"President Trump warned Friday that the partial government shutdown could go on for months or even years, delivering no real breakthrough with congressional leaders as his own administration scrambled to shore up support among Republicans for a gambit that has started to fracture."

Houston, We Have a Problem -- It's Washington (Op-Ed), Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers

"Houston, we have a problem." Remember back when NASA missions, such as Apollo 13, were scrubbed due to mechanical issues? Today, NASA's missions are being delayed and the space agency is being damaged for the long-term -- not by equipment failure, but by the failure of our elected leaders to reach a budget agreement. On Dec. 22, 95 percent of NASA's scientists, technical workers and other employees were furloughed -- for the third time in the past year."

Keith's note: How will NASA be able to accomplish the tasks it has to accomplish if this shutdown continues long-term as the President is threatening to do?

China's lunar first unlikely to kick off a new space race, Houston Chronicle

"Cowing said he will not be surprised to see a Chinese flag on the moon in coming years. "When they will do it, I'm not sure. Their resources are more constrained than ours but they are nothing if not relentless," Cowing said. "I think there's an excellent chance that if our goals start shifting toward the early 2030s, if we go back we'll be waving at China saying, 'Hi guys, we're back.'" If that happens, he said it would make sense to partner with the Chinese on the lunar surface. "If you build a beach house next to someone else's beach house, you're both going to get worried when there's a storm and you're going to try to avoid the problems," he said. "That's the underlying theme in space, too."

China lands Chang'e-4 probe on 'dark' side of moon, Deutsche Welle

"If we are as a species going to study the moon further, we need to go to the far side," NASA Watch editor Keith Cowing told DW."

'Wow': NASA startles with invitation to sanctioned Russian, Politico

"It absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily, for the purpose of inviting him to speak to students at one of our nation's premier universities," said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leader of the committee's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. "This is appalling," said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. "It's utterly inappropriate given who he is and the fact that he is on our sanctions list." More than two months after Bridenstine's original invitation, however, the details remain sparse. A Dec. 7 TASS report said that Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is planning for Rogozin to visit in "early 2019," but neither the U.S. nor Russia has announced a specific date. The Russian embassy declined to comment on the proposed visit, and NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers said only, "Planning for a potential visit by the Director-General is still underway."

Rice University has no plans to host head of Russian space program in Houston, despite reports, Houston Chronicle

"Facing mounting speculation and criticism that it would host the head of Russia's space program, a politician known for a track record of racist and homophobic statements, Rice University affirmed Wednesday that it had no plans to bring Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin onto its campus. Rice University spokesman Doug Miller said although NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine invited Rogozin to visit Houston and the university, there is no plan for Rogozin to come to Rice."

Keith's note: Rogozin's extensive and unfavorable background certainly precedes him. He's also the head of the space agency with which the U.S. built and continues to operate the largest space vehicle in history. This cooperation is not going to change any time soon. Oddly, of all the things that the U.S. and Russia do to get back at each other, the one realm of interaction where hostilities are nearly - if not totally - absent is space. Perhaps it is fitting that this one arena of cooperation serves as something to build upon. But: if Rogozin's visit is an issue with people (and it is totally understandable why this is the case) then perhaps the U.S. should be looking to end its interactions with Russia in space too - since Rogozin runs the show over there. But we're not going to do that, are we? We're joined at the hip - literally. As such we need to interact with Rogozin. Bridenstine is trying to bridge a chasm and improve and solidify the relationship. Perhaps we should at least let Bridenstine try.

- Can Sanctioned Roscosmos Chief Rogozin Visit The U.S.?, earlier post
- NASA Has Soft Power Conversations With Sanctioned Head Of Roscosmos, earlier post

Keith's note: I did an interview live on CGTN 3 hours before the landing of Chang'e-4 was confirmed. I was on Deutsche Welle just after the landing.

Keith's note: From someone@nasa.gov: "Me and my colleagues are out of work during this shutdown with no prospect for ever getting back our lost wages. The federal government has a hard time recruiting people in my field because of a large salary difference with private sector companies. We choose a career with federal agencies because we believe in the mission of protecting the United States. NASA is going to lose a lot a talent in cyber security as workers like myself seek more stable employment elsewhere."

Ultima Thule Revealed

New Horizons Reveals Ultima Thule

"The new images -- taken from as close as 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) on approach -- revealed Ultima Thule as a "contact binary," consisting of two connected spheres. End to end, the world measures 19 miles (31 kilometers) in length. The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across)."

New Horizons Phones Home

New Horizons Successfully Explores Ultima Thule

"Signals confirming the spacecraft is healthy and had filled its digital recorders with science data on Ultima Thule reached the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) today at 10:29 a.m. EST, almost exactly 10 hours after New Horizons' closest approach to the object."


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