September 2019 Archives

Bobby Braun Is Headed For JPL

Personnel and Organizational Announcements, NASA JPL

"I am very pleased to inform you that Bobby Braun will be joining the Laboratory Executive leadership team effective January 15, 2020 in this capacity. ... Due to the increasingly integrated nature of NASA's Planetary program, and to Bobby's long experience with the Mars Program, we will conduct a study this fall to merge significant portions of the existing Mars Exploration Directorate (6X) into the Solar System Exploration Directorate (4X)."

Bobby Braun, Dean Of CU Engineering, To Step Down In 2020, UC Boulder

"Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science Bobby Braun is stepping down in January 2020 to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory executive leadership team. JPL is an operating division of the California Institute of Technology."

Um, Which Rocket Is Delayed?

AIAA Memo Regarding Diversity, AIAA

"Increasing the diversity of the aerospace community and the future workforce has been--and continues to be--a mission priority for AIAA. We've been seeing improvements in recent years, especially through the hard work of our dedicated AIAA Diversity Working Group. This year all 10 of the 2019 AIAA graduate awards were presented to highly qualified students, all male. These were the most qualified students based on the blind selection process. However, the aerospace industry and AIAA need to better represent the diverse world around us. .... It will take years of intentional, hard--but important--work to increase the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities in our industry, but we must achieve this moral imperative. I urge everyone to help build a stronger more diverse workforce for the future."

AIAA Shuns Gender Diversity In Scholarship Selections, earlier post

Rocket scientists mourn end of Redstone Arsenal's RSIC library, AL.com

"The Army is closing what its supporters say is one of the world's great rocket science libraries in Alabama next week, and veterans of America's space program are angry. ... The decision to close was made early this year and posted on the aerospace blog Spaceref. But it is not believed widely known in Huntsville, where more than a few rocket Phds did their doctoral research among the library's stacks. Unconfirmed reports have some current Army and NASA managers sending teams to the library to check out selected books and stack them in conference rooms and out-of-the-way places for saving. One project engineer posted in a group chat that RSIC "has been valuable to understand the basic equations of vibroacoustic modeling and see how others are using them. I don't think these techniques are taught in college. In my job, historical data is absolutely a necessity."

Announcement Regarding Redstone Scientific Information Center (RSIC) Transition to Virtual, SpaceRef

"The virtual RSIC will consist of online-only access to scientific and technical journals and ebooks, plus a repository for electronic versions of technical documents. The printed books and journals RSIC currently holds will be disposed of IAW applicable Army regulation; the printed technical documents (other than NASA documents) will be digitized and stored in the online document library. Access to online journal content should be available on 1 October; the electronic document repository will be brought online incrementally, with full availability by July 2021."

Keith's note: I guess its time for everyone in Huntsville who is concerned about this to go to the library with a hand truck and check out as many books as they can - and not return them. Strange how NASA provided the vast majority of the funds to build this library and the Army gets to shut it down.

Keith's note: I got this response from NASA GSFC PAO with regard to my initial posting last night. This is what happens when a biologist (me) thinks they are a know-it-all. I stand thoroughly corrected. My initial post follows below this correction.

Hi, Keith. You write:

"Anyone who saw the film Interstellar would recognize the similarity between the NASA and film images of a black hole. Oddly there is no mention by NASA of the fact that the initial work on the core aspect of this visualization was done by a team formed by Nobel laureate Kip Thorne who was working on."

The initial work on the core aspect of this visualization is much older than you suggest. It was first calculated to produce in a "simulated photograph" published by Jean-Pierre Luminet in 1979 (Image of a Spherical Black Hole with Thin Accretion Disk, Astronomy & Astrophysics 75, 228-235), where he specifically linked it to the possible appearance of the supermassive black hole in M87 (his image can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Pierre_Luminet#/media/File:Luminet's_Simulation_of_a_Black_Hole_Accretion_Disk.jpg); the results have been replicated in many visualizations since, including the one shown in Interstellar. One aspect shown by Luminet and the visualization we released (and that Interstellar chose not to, apparently because the director thought it would confuse the audience) is the asymmetric emission across the disk. We also released numerous extra graphics that show the simulation from perspectives not seen in the movie.

Jeremy has been working on his black hole rendering code since his graduate work in the early 2000s. You may be interested in Jeremy's talk, "The Science of Interstellar: Life on Planets Around Black Holes," on the Library of Congress website (https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-7344). We have also issued a couple of other videos around Jeremy's work: "Turning Black Holes into Dark Matter Labs" (2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_HlPxZUkIo) and "Peer into a Simulated Stellar-mass Black Hole" (2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rhJOLzwraA). Links to the stories can be found in the descriptions.

Best regards,

Frank"

Keith's update: Three days ago I asked NASA PAO these questions.

"1. Why was this paper posted on NTRS, a publicly accessible NASA website and then taken offline? Will it be reposted?
2. Who is funding this research? NASA? A private company (if so who)? Both? How much has NASA spent on this project? How much have commercial parters spent on this project? Is the project ongoing or has it been completed?
3. Can you send me a copy of the original paper as it was posted on NTRS? I have posted a cache version I found that has typos in it and I'd rather have people read the un-garbled version."

This is the response I just got from NASA ARC PAO. They can't/won't even admit that this research exists but sometimes people make mistakes and publish things too soon.

"Hi Keith, we don't have information we can share at this time. However, I wanted to follow up about why a paper might be removed from the NASA Technical Reports Server. Draft research papers go through internal review processes prior to being submitted to journals and peer-review. This can involve uploading drafts to NASA websites. In the case of an administrative human error causing a paper to be released prematurely, NASA would remove the paper from the website in order to wait for a final draft, respect publishing considerations, and hold until an appropriate date for release. Thanks again for reaching out. We look forward to more news to come."

Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor, NASA

"Here, we report using a processor with programmable superconducting qubits to create quantum states on 53 qubits, occupying a state space 253 ˘1016. Measurements from repeated experiments sample the corresponding probability distribution, which we verify using classical simulations. While our processor takes about 200 seconds to sample one instance of the quantum circuit 1 million times, a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task."

Keith's note: Last week a paper authored by NASA Ames Research Center employee Eleanor G. Rieffel, titled "Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting" Processor, was posted on the publicly accessible NASA NTRS but was then removed. Apparently the Finanical Times was the first to catch this - their article is here behind paywall. NASA has not provided a reason for its removal. I located a Google cached version of the paper here which I have posted on SpaceRef.

Quantum computer bests all conventional computers in first claim of 'supremacy', Science

"The age of quantum computing may have begun not with a flashy press conference, but with an internet leak. According to a paper posted briefly--and presumably mistakenly--to a lab site, physicists at Google have used a quantum computer to perform a calculation that would overwhelm the world's best conventional supercomputer. Although the specific computation has no known use, the result means scientists have passed a milestone known as "quantum supremacy."

Senate Appropriators Propose $22.75 Billion for NASA in FY2020, Some Extra for Artemis, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Appropriations Committee began marking up its version of the FY2020 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NASA today. The eagerly anticipated action is seen as a bellwether of Senate support for NASA's Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. The results appear mixed, with some but not all of the extra $1.6 billion NASA requested in May. It is an improvement compared to the House version, however, which did not include any of the $1.6 billion. Overall the agency did slightly better in the Senate committee than in the House, with a top-line of $22.75 billion compared to $22.32 billion."

Keith's note: Too bad NASA can't buy robots like this. Instead they build clunky things like Valkyrie and Robonaut in-house - tethered droids that break often and don't do much of anything. This robot can try out for the Olympics. At least the Russian's FEDOR space droid who just came back from a flight to ISS knows how to shoot a gun. Just sayin'

Earlier posts

How SpaceX Is Perplexing NASA

Keith's note: The other day I had someone of senior stature with decades of aerospace engineering experience at NASA ask me which of several pictures of Starship floating around social media were real and which are faked. One image was tweeted by Elon Musk at Boca Chica. Another tweeted pic was a deftly done Photoshop image of what Starship will look like when it is all done in a week or so. The person I spoke with told me that they had a problem separating Photoshop from reality while following your progress.

My response: "This is what happens when rapid prototyping happens in plain sight - in real time. Would NASA ever build a rocketship outside? Would NASA ever build a rocket in a few months - and then fly it - with a live webstream? Why are they photoshopping it? Because they can't wait to see it fly. Do you see people camped outside of SLS assembly sites eagerly awaiting the addition of every little piece? Have I answered your question?"

NASA Awards Lockheed Martin Contract for Six Orion Spacecraft, Lockheed Martin

"NASA and Lockheed Martin have finalized a contract for the production and operations of six Orion spacecraft missions and the ability to order up to 12 in total. Orion is NASA's deep space exploration spaceship that will carry astronauts from Earth to the Moon and bring them safely home. Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor during the development phase of the Orion program."

NASA Commits to Long-term Artemis Missions with Orion Production Contract, NASA

"This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America's leadership in the human exploration of space," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA."

"As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America's continued leadership," said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. "Today's announcement signals that we are moving closer towards operation and production. While I look forward to learning more of the details, it's encouraging to see that this program is moving along as it should be. I am proud of the Orion program team and contractor partners at Johnson Space Center as they move towards getting the vehicle 'flight ready.' Without the brilliant minds and extraordinary leadership of the hard-working men and women at Johnson, our country would not be the preeminent spacefaring nation in the world."

"The men and women at Johnson Space Center represent the best and brightest scientific minds, and I'm confident with additional Orion spacecraft they will push the limits of exploration to the Moon and beyond," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "I commend the Trump Administration for recognizing the importance and tradition of Houston as the center of human spaceflight and exploring the next frontier."

Keith's note: Does NASA even have a confirmed budget to build the 6 SLS rockets to actually launch these 6 Orions to Gateway? Meanwhile, It certainly looks like NASA Legislative Affairs made up for dropping the ball during the Human Lunar Lander announcement in Huntsville by getting happy quotes from the major Texas politicians.

- Texas Responds To NASA Lunar Lander Management In Alabama, earlier post
- Friday's NASA Lunar Lander Event Stirs Up Some Dust (Update), earlier post

A Speech For The Next SECAF To Launch A New Era Of Spacepower, Peter Garretson, War On The Rocks

"But Congress also has a much broader view concerned with comprehensive national power. Our Congress and our industry have vast visions. They want to mine the Moon and asteroids, to build giant solar power stations, to move industry off Earth, to become a multi-planetary, even star-faring species, and for millions of Americans to live and work in space. They want to transform it from a mere $500 billion industry to an industry worth tens to hundreds of trillions. And, here is the kicker: They want a U.S. Space Force up there to protect it. They aren't just talking about support for terrestrial warfighting -- not just spotter balloons for artillery. They aren't just talking about satellites circling the planet -- not just coastal fishing vessels forever in sight of the shore. They are anticipating blue water operations in the great beyond. ... Congress has given us a task -- to build a Space Corps. We all have a lot to do. But if you really think about it, it is pretty exciting -- our generation gets to build Starfleet."

Ad Astra Review

A Review of Ad Astra: Apocalypse Now In Outer Space, SpaceRef

"Ad Astra" should really have used the entire phrase "Ad Astra Per Aspera" - "through hardships to the stars" - as its title. Brad Pitt certainly endures more than his fair share of hardships during his Homeric trek across the solar system to find and then confront his father.

Under secret orders, Brad Pitt (Major Roy McBride) begins his quest across the solar system in search of his famous astronaut father H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). The elder McBride, once thought to have died many years ago, is still alive and is up to some dangerous stuff in the outer solar system that is wreaking havoc on Earth. And Earth wants him to knock it off.

As I watched this saga unfold Roy McBride's inner motivations and misgivings immediately reminded me of what Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) went through as he sought out the mysterious Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in his remote lair in the classic film "Apocalypse Now". Roy McBride's travels toward his singular destination were equally challenging internally as well as physically."

Research Survey On NASA

Keith's note: I got an email from Diana Acosta, a Masters student at London Business School. She and her classmates have chosen to research NASA for a team course assignment. They are particularly interested in the perceptions of NASA both outside the organization and within. Their own experience and research to date indicate that opinions and sentiments vary. At this point, however, they lack an appropriate breadth of data on perspectives within the organization. Their next step is to release a short survey to remain open through Monday 23 September. So ... please visit their site and consider participating in their survey which is now live here.

NASA leader vows to seek answers about space station from Russia, Houston Chronicle

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine vowed Thursday to speak to the head of the Russian space agency after reports that the cause of a hole found on the International Space Station last year would be kept secret."

Russia knows how a hole formed in the space station last year. It refuses to tell., Houston Chronicle

"Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news, said Wednesday that he attributes this secrecy on Russia's part to embarrassment -- they don't want to admit when they do something wrong. They also did not handle the public relations of the entire incident well, he added. However, he doesn't feel that the hole discovered in August is a huge deal. "Nothing is perfect, all you can do is strive not to have anything happen," he said. "The problem was found, it was remedied, it was fixed in short order and no one's life was at risk."

Keith's note: I do find it odd that the Russians are so upset about a minor drilling error yet they just flew a humanoid robot to ISS and let it use a power drill. It also shot guns on Earth. Just sayin'

Some NASA contractors appear to be trying to kill the Lunar Gateway, Ars Technica

"These members, including Oklahoma Democratic representative and committee chair Kendra Horn, as well as Alabama Republican representative Mo Brooks, were particularly skeptical of private rockets in their comments and questions during the hearing. They also pressed NASA on why the agency is not moving more quickly with development of a powerful second stage upgrade for the agency's Space Launch System rocket. This "Exploration Upper Stage" would increase the amount of mass the rocket could send to the Moon from 26 tons to 37 tons. Wednesday's hearing was notable because it appears to mark an escalation in an intense lobbying battle going on behind the scenes by some contractors--most likely led by Boeing--to kill NASA's proposed Lunar Gateway and instead accelerate funding for the Exploration Upper Stage ...

... What was surprising is that Horn and others at the hearing also appeared to be swayed by Cooke's view that bypassing commercial rockets and the Gateway would lead to a simpler and faster lunar mission. "I believe there is value in developing commercial capabilities," she said toward the end of the hearing. However, she added, "I am concerned that the decisions are not being driven by what is most efficient or effective and what is most cost efficient."

Keith's note: Yesterday Doug Cooke was pushing for the Exploration Upper Stage - something Boeing has been trying to get NASA to fund for years. Cooke has worked for Boeing for years. I thought it was a little odd that no one brought up that fact in the hearing - especially when you can see from his Truth in Testimony Disclosure Form that he as been paid $466,250 between 2017 and today. The bio at the end of his prepared testimony makes zero mention of "Boeing" but pushes the EUS. Just sayin'

This not so subtle campaign to eliminate Gateway has been underway for months.

'

Hearing: Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA's SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Watch live

Keith's note: Doug Cooke was pushing for the Exploration Upper Stage - something Boeing has been trying to get NASA to fund for years. Cooke has worked for Boeing for years. I thought it was a little odd that no one brought up that fact in the hearing - especially when you can see from his Truth in Testimony Disclosure Form that he as been paid $466,250 between 2017 and today. The bio at the end of his prepared testimony makes zero mention of "Boeing" but pushes the EUS. Just sayin'

NASA: Actions Needed to Improve the Management of Human Spaceflight Programs

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) three related human spaceflight programs are in the integration and test phase of development, a phase of the acquisition process that often reveals unforeseen challenges leading to cost growth and schedule delays. Since GAO last reported on the status of these programs in June 2019, each program has made progress. For example, the Orion program conducted a key test to demonstrate the ability to abort a mission should a life-threatening failure occur during launch. As GAO found in June 2019, however, the programs continue to face significant schedule delays. In November 2018, within one year of announcing an up to 19-month delay for the three programs--the Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle, the Orion crew spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS)--NASA senior leaders acknowledged the revised launch date of June 2020 is unlikely. In addition, any issues uncovered during integration and testing may push the date as late as June 2021. Moreover, GAO found that NASA's calculations of cost growth for the SLS program is understated by more than 750 million dollars."

Chairwoman Horn's Opening Statement for Status of NASA's Exploration Systems Development Programs Hearing

"I ask these questions because we need to know how the near-term status of SLS and Orion affects our overall exploration goals. The House will vote soon on a Continuing Resolution for FY 2020--a relatively "clean" CR with no additional funding for the Moon program. What will this mean for the 2024 date? In the absence of detailed information, a plan, and an estimated budget profile for the Moon program, I can't get to a clear answer."

Chairwoman Johnson's Opening Statement for Status of NASA's Exploration Systems Development Programs Hearing

"Moreover, it has now been more than two months since the head of the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate was removed from his position, with no permanent replacement yet identified--even though that position is critical to the success of NASA's Exploration and ISS programs. And we have been told not to expect a cost estimate or budget plan for the President's Moon program before next year."

Rep. Frank Lucas' Statement at Space Subcommittee Hearing on NASA's SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems Programs

"Year after year, the Trump Administration has proposed increased funding for NASA Exploration Systems, only to have Congress appropriate even more than the Administration requested. This year the Administration took the extraordinary step of amending their budget by requesting an additional $1.6 billion to accelerate our return to the Moon by 2024. This will serve as a down payment on the systems necessary to enable this goal. The primary elements are already well under development."

Opening Statement of Rep. Brian Babin at Space Subcommittee Hearing on NASA's SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems Programs

"While I am excited by the promise of how strategic assets like SLS and Orion will enable America's return to the Moon, this Committee has a responsibility to conduct oversight to ensure these programs are successful. All three exploration system elements - SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems -- have experienced many delays and cost overruns over the years. Some of the setbacks were caused by Administrations that tried to stifle program budgets and even cancel the programs."

NASA Marshall to Host Small Business Alliance Meeting Sept. 19 at U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville

"Officials from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will share the latest contract opportunities with representatives of large and small businesses, NASA prime contractors and subcontractors at a Marshall Small Business Alliance meeting Sept. 19 at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, part of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Registration will begin at 7 a.m., followed by the event from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m."

Keith's note: Of course none of this will be streamed live or offered as a dial-in for the media. Its easy to do. A laptop is all that is needed - and the willingness on NASA's part to do so. MSFC is where SLS is built. Its also the place where the human lunar lander will be managed. Lots opportunities - nationally - for small businesses to participate. Last week at JSC there was an event with the states comptroller about the economic impact of NASA in Texas. NASA made no effort for media or small businesses inable to attend or located in other states to listen in to the event. If you go to 2019 Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Locations and click on Alabama 106 suppliers are located, But that's just Alabama. If you were to look at SLS program suppliers then there's hundreds of suppliers across the U.S. contributing to SLS and/or Orion.

While the NASA MSFC home page just added a post (for an event starting in 36 hours) There is no mention of this event on the nasa.gov calendar, the NASA exploration systems page. Once again, as was the case with the JSC event, you would think that NASA would want the local, state, and national level economic impact of the SLS/Orion and Artemis programs to be as widely known as possible. NASA is going to need all of the support it can muster when it comes time to push for funding in Congress. Instead, all that NASA does is to post things at the last minute and make these events and discussions as difficult as possible to hear.

- JSC Is Not Very Excited About NASA's Economic Impact on Texas (Update), earlier post
- JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update), earlier post

Two Emmys For NASA

NASA Wins Two Emmy Awards for Interactive Mission Coverage

"NASA's efforts to engage a broader audience in exploration through the use of social media and online features was recognized with two Emmy Awards for interactive programming this weekend. During ceremonies held Sept. 14-15 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences recognized NASA for its coverage of a Mars mission and the agency's first test of a spacecraft that will help bring crewed launches to the International Space Station back to U.S. soil."

SNC Welcomes Janet Kavandi to Lead Space Programs Former NASA Astronaut and Center Director Joins Space Innovator (16 September)

"... former NASA astronaut and Glenn Research Center director, Janet Kavandi, will join SNC as Senior Vice President for the company's Space Systems business area. After 25 years with NASA, Kavandi retired this month as director at Glenn, having led the center's Moon to Mars work."

NASA Glenn Director and Veteran Astronaut, Janet Kavandi, to Retire After 25 Years of Service (12 September)

"Dr. Janet L. Kavandi announced her retirement from NASA on Monday, Sept. 9 following 25 years of service with the space agency. Kavandi has served as director of NASA's Glenn Research Center since March 2016. Her retirement is effective at the end of September."

Ad Astra: A Conversation with Brad Pitt, James Gray and NASA Officials

"Join us for a special evening with Brad Pitt as he discusses his new film Ad Astra. He will be joined by writer and director James Gray as well as NASA officials, Dr. Sarah Noble and Lindsay Aitchison. Ad Astra is a science fiction, adventure film that was created with the intention of presenting "the most realistic depiction of space travel that's been put in a movie" to date. The filmmakers worked with experts to fully capture and convey the dynamism and power of the astronaut experience in outer space. The conversation will be moderated by Washington Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday."

Brad Pitt to Speak with NASA Astronaut on Space Station about Artemis Program

"Pitt's Earth-to-space call will air live at 11:35 a.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 16 on NASA Television and the agency's website. ... "We reviewed a script of Ad Astra early in production," said Bert Ulrich, the agency's liaison for film and TV collaborations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Although there was no NASA storyline, we provided some of the exciting images and footage for the film especially of the Moon and Mars. Sci-fi films like Ad Astra, the Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity take movie audiences out of this world incorporating some of NASA's most inspirational photography and footage."

Ohio senators propose renaming NASA site for Neil Armstrong, AP

"Ohio's U.S. senators want Congress to rename a NASA research facility in Ohio after astronaut Neil Armstrong. Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown introduced legislation Thursday to honor the Ohio native by renaming the NASA Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. Portman says he raised the idea with Armstrong in 2012, a year before Armstrong's death. The senator says Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, wasn't comfortable with the attention it would bring. Portman says he has since spoken with NASA and Armstrong's family and they support renaming the facility."

Keith's note: Wait a minute we already have a NASA Facility named after Neil Armstrong - NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC). Don't these congressional staffers have Google to check this stuff out before running it up to their boss? Or is NASA going to have two centers/facilities named "Armstrong"? I wonder what the good people of Sandusky think about this? Besides much of this facility is no longer even used - parts of it have already been demolished and the reactor has been decommissioned. How many Orion and Service Module tests are going to be done there before GRC has to go out and find something new to do with the old buildings. Oh yes a reader reminds me that NASA/KSC also has the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility just east of the HQ building, which is where Orion is assembled and tested. If NASA is not done honoring Neil Armstrong then perhaps picking a quasi abandoned facility out in the woods is not the best way to do so. Maybe Jeff Bezos can name a rocket after him.

NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming, Earlier post (2014)

"Two generations of aerospace engineering excellence will come together March 1 when NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., is redesignated NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center."

Dakota Creek launches R/V Neil Armstrong , Earlier post (2014)

"Dakota Creek Industries (DCI) launched the oceanographic research ship R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) at its Anacortes, WA, shipyard on February 22nd, 2014. Construction of the  R/V Neil Armstrong and her sister vessel R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), also well under way at DCI, have progressed according to plan, meeting original schedule and cost baselines."

Keith's update: I got another response from Barton Bollfrass at Opifex Global and their commercial astronaut training company in response to questions I submitted after they contacted me about doing a possible story. (Posted below)

I really do not want to dump on the enthusiasm that these folks have for what they want to do. Everyone should have a chance to become an astronaut. There many paths to get there. I have had microgravity, centrifuge, construction in remote hazardous locations, and expeditionary training. These folks claim to often a different approach. I just think they need to do a little more home work on their curriculum an campus - based on what I can see in public view. Perhaps we will hear more from them in the future.

"Keith, Apologies for the delayed response. We are a small team at present and have been working to add content to our website. We listened to your suggestion and posted a new website today. Here are the responses to your second set of questions, and thanks for your continued interest in what we're doing. Below you will find the answers to the follow-up questions. "

Additional Questions and answers below

NASA: A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact, Texas Comptroller

"The Johnson Space Center (JSC) makes a $4.7 billion annual impact on the Texas economy and supports more than 52,000 jobs, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said today in a visit to the NASA facility as part of his Good for Texas Tour. JSC currently operates three facilities in Texas covering nearly 1,700 acres. It's the site of Mission Control, which manages manned space missions, including the International Space Station, and serves as training center for the agency's 38 active astronauts and 11 astronaut candidates."

Keith's note: Here is the Texas Comptroller's report on NASA's Economic Impact on Texas. You have to dig through their website to find it. Alas JSC does not provide a link to the report on its website.

Keith's update: It took a while but JSC added a link to the report. I just did a news search. The first two results are press releases I posted on SpaceRef and an article by Aviation Week. That's it. Otherwise no one else (as mentioned below) is paying attention.

NASA's Chief Financial Officer is the former State Treasurer of Arizona. You'd think that he'd want to tell people about this. He is not. Given all of the rah rah rhetoric coming from NASA and the National Space Council on the economic potential of space you'd think that NASA HQ would mention this report. They do not.

You'd think that the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation , the Aerospace Industries Association, etc. would mention it. They do not. Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Brian Babin, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson make no mention either.

JSC Goes Out Of Its Way To Hide Good News (Update), earlier post

"This is silly. After the decision to put the Human Lander responsibility in Huntsville, NASA wants everyone to know how much of an impact NASA spending has in Texas. But unless you can make it to a room at JSC next Thursday you won't be able to hear what is said. Johnson PAO apparently does not know how - or does not care to provide a simple dial-in for media - or an audio or video feed for people elsewhere to listen/watch. One would think that NASA would understand that this sort of news, while pertaining to Texas, has applicability to the region and can also raise awareness in other states with regard to NASA's economic footprint. Given the sheer number of vendors for Artemis and other NASA programs, the entire country benefits."

Keith's note: Several weeks ago I posted some commentary "Marsha Ivins Opines On Gender Diversity At NASA: "Enough Already!" With regard to an opinion piece in Time magazine by former astronaut Marsha Ivins wherein she takes issue with comments by Dr. Saralyn Mark who testified before the National Space Council. Time magazine has declined to respond to her comments so I have offered to post them here.

Saralyn Mark: "As Ms. Ivins states in her TIME editorial ("I'm a Retired Female Astronaut and I Can't Understand the Obsession with 'Gender Diverse' Space Crews"), she did not fully listen to my 8/20/19 National Space Council testimony on sex/gender-inclusive design and innovation nor the related questions and comments from the Vice President and the Administrator which is unfortunate.

Please see the links to the actual C-SPAN coverage of this National Space Council meeting and to a Space.com article which accurately reflects my testimony. I've attached my written testimony (below) which had to be shortened in its delivery to 3 minutes due to time constraints.

Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that it is not about a "numbers" game when we discuss equity regarding women in professional positions. There is equity when everyone is given the tools, resources and opportunities to do their jobs well and safely on Earth and in space.

I hope that this discussion will continue in a constructive manner inspiring all of us to reach for our individual stars."

Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space?, Op Ed, The Hill

"And that's a dangerous place to be. Nobody wants to be on record as having been the one who "lost space" and enabled a "red moon." If anything happens after November related to space that alarms the American people, the question to Inhofe, Reed, Shelby and Leahy, will be: Why didn't you act when you had the chance? It's becoming very clear that we are in a serious space race with China, and Beijing has begun a bold strategic initiative. When it becomes clear to the American people they are behind, they will ask why we weren't better prepared."

- Space Force Is Worried About Being Called Silly Names, earlier post
- DoD Seems To Be More Interested In Space Futures Than NASA Is, earlier post
- White House Wants Space Force To Be Armed Forces Sixth Branch, earlier post

Keith's 13 Sep update: Peter Garretson, the author of this op ed tweeted a link to this prepared statement by Dr. Namrata Goswami at a Hearing on "China in Space: A Strategic Competition?" held on 25 April 2019. It makes interesting reading. FWIW The phrase "Red Moon" is not mentioned.

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 have lived in the Metro Washington DC area for 33 years - more than half my life. When I first moved to DC to work at NASA HQ I lived in Pentagon City directly across from the Pentagon in the River House III apartment building. The Pentagon was what I saw outside my window every single day. In the afternoons after work I often used to run on the road between the old heliport and the west side of the Pentagon - right where American Airlines Flight 77 struck. This image still makes me shudder. As I would run by I'd always note a window where the yellow crane is in the left side of the image. There was always a red begonia in the window. I could easily drag my fingers on the smooth limestone surface of the building as I ran by. There was simply no real security back then.

Had I still lived in my old apartment on 9-11 this horror would have unfolded outside my home's window. A friend of mine was driving to work and saw the plane come in. Others I knew were in the building and felt the impact. On a stunningly beautiful day we had been attacked in a brutal way by an unknown enemy.

I was home in Reston, Virginia near Dulles Airport desperately trying to post accurate info on NASAWatch. I was getting calls from NASA HQ about a plane circling the Mall and of another one coming up the Potomac. No one knew what was going on. American Airlines Flight 77 flew out of Dulles and almost certainly flew over my house. Later that day the skies went silent and jet fighters buzzed my house. One of my neighbors never came home.

One thing I'll never forget the flag someone had spontaneously draped across the railing atop the pedestrian bridge on Wiehle Avenue near my house the day after the attack. It was an old 48 star flag. It looked to have been folded in triangular fashion many, many years ago and had only been unfolded that day ...

I stayed away from downtown for several weeks since the Pentagon area was a mess. When I did eventually drive into town I saw that the State Route 110 exit sign from I-66 toward the Pentagon said "CLOSED". It all hit me again. A week or so later when I first saw the Pentagon from 110 when it reopened I almost hit another car since I was making the exit to Pentagon City. That scar on the building was overwhelming. A few minutes later I stood atop the Pentagon City parking garage and could see it in all of its gruesome glory. I was weak in the knees. I used to look out on this building for 3 years every single day. Now it bore a wound that defied belief.

Just the other day I was being driven into town to do a TV interview and the driver drove down the diverted path State Route 110 now takes around the Pentagon, I could still see the path it once took. I could also see places I used to run that are now behind fortified fencing. It is impossible to see that window on the other side of the Pentagon where the red begonias once bloomed due to fortifications that have since been built. A memorial now stands where I used to run.

The office with the flowers was devastated and has since been replaced. I'd like to think that the new occupants like begonias.

Cruz's test: how to keep Houston central to space flight [Editorial]

"But the flesh-and-blood part of the techno-wizardry of the Space program has always run first through Houston. Not Huntsville, Cape Canaveral nor any of many NASA facilities around the country. Isn't the Texas congressional delegation disproportionately influential on this issue? It sure ought to be. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas chairs the Senate subcommittee on space. Rep. Brian Babin of Woodville is the ranking Republican on the House space subcommittee. Yet, a key part of one of the most ambitious plans in NASA history quietly walks out of Houston and ends up nearly 800 miles away. That dog don't hunt. Even before the announcement was made officially, Cruz, Babin and Texas' senior Sen. John Cornyn fired off a letter Aug. 15 demanding the pending decision be reconsidered."

NASA Invites Media to Economic Impact News Conference with Texas Comptroller's Office

"NASA will host officials of the Texas Comptroller's Office and news media on Thursday, Sept. 12 as the Lone Star state announces a special economic impact report for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The report, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): A Texas Institution with a Large Economic Impact," highlights employment numbers, average wages, gross domestic product, and grants that NASA introduces to the state. The report also details the center and its workforce's influences on education, tourism and future growth, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. NASA's impact on Texas, and Johnson's position as the world leader in human spaceflight, remain strong as the agency moves toward human exploration of deep space with the Artemis program and a landing on the Moon by 2024, initiatives that include many key roles at Johnson. The news conference will begin at 11:15 a.m. CDT Sept. 12. Media wishing to participate in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11. Dial-in participation will not be available."

Keith's note: This is silly. After the decision to put the Human Lander responsibility in Huntsville, NASA wants everyone to know how much of an impact NASA spending has in Texas. But unless you can make it to a room at JSC next Thursday you won't be able to hear what is said. Johnson PAO apparently does not know how - or does not care to provide a simple dial-in for media - or an audio or video feed for people elsewhere to listen/watch. One would think that NASA would understand that this sort of news, while pertaining to Texas, has applicability to the region and can also raise awareness in other states with regard to NASA's economic footprint. Given the sheer number of vendors for Artemis and other NASA programs, the entire country benefits.

Oh yes the press release says "View the upcoming economic impact report and get more information on the Texas Comptroller's office at: https://www.comptroller.texas.gov/". There is no obvious mention of the report on that website. But if you search for "NASA" you get a link to this page where you see lots of pretty NASA pictures - but no link to the report. There is no mention of this event at the JSC home page. NASA HQ makes no mention of this press release on their press release page or the Artemis page. Nor is there any mention on the nasa.gov home page or its calendar of events.

Look at this Texas portion (larger image) of the list of companies that are suppliers to SLS/Orion/Artemis: "2019 Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Locations". These 182 companies are located all over Texas. I'll be willing to bet that nearly all of these companies have no idea that there is a NASA website that lists all of the small business that work on this project. The Texas Comptroller seems not to know about it. JSC does not mention it either. Why go through the time and expense of collecting this information if no one is told that it exists?

If you make it hard for people to find - or hear - your good news they may not find it. NASA has yet to figure out how to tell people about its good news. Meanwhile Jim Bridenstine has managed to learn how to livestream events from his cellphone. Baffling.

Report: The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy: Report on the Space Futures Workshop, Air Force Space Command 5 September 2019

"Key conclusions reached were:

- The U.S. must recognize that in 2060, space will be a major engine of national political, economic, and military power for whichever nations best organize and operate to exploit that potential.
- The U.S. faces growing competition from allies, rivals, and adversaries for leadership in the exploration and exploitation of space.
- China is executing a long-term civil, commercial, and military strategy to explore and economically develop the cislunar domain with the explicit aim of displacing the U.S. as the leading space power. Other nations are developing similar national strategies.
- A failure to remain a leading space power will place U.S. national power at risk. To avert this, the U.S. coalition must promote and optimize the combined civil, military, and commercial exploitation of space to best serves the nation's interests.
- The U.S. military must define and execute its role in promoting, exploiting, and defending the expanded military, civil, and commercial U.S. activities and human presence in space."

Larger image

Hooray: Space Command / Space Force Is Here!, earlier post

Statement from NOAA

"From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. This is clearly demonstrated in Hurricane Advisories #15 through #41, which can be viewed at the following link. The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."

Keith's note: Looks like the political hacks in NOAA PAO are taking their orders directly from the White House and not from NOAA's own scientists and weather experts. Let's hope NASA does not find itself in this situation.

NOAA staff warned in Sept. 1 directive against contradicting Trump, Washington Post

"Nearly a week before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly backed President Trump over its own scientists, a top NOAA official warned its staff against contradicting the president. In an agencywide directive sent Sept. 1 to National Weather Service personnel, hours after Trump asserted, with no evidence, that Alabama "would most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated," staff was told to "only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon."

NOAA's support of Trump over its own scientists provokes uproar in weather community, Washington Post

"Three former NOAA heads have expressed this concern. Kathryn Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who ran the agency under President Barack Obama, said that throughout NOAA's history, the agency -- including its political appointees -- has committed "to not let any political factors sway the scientific credibility and clarity of Weather Service forecasts and warnings." She stated: "The anonymous and disingenuous statement NOAA tweeted out is a major breach of scientific integrity that damages the NWS and stains the agency's leadership."

National Weather Service chief backs forecasters who contradicted Trump's Dorian claim, AP

"The head of the National Weather Service issued a strong public defense Monday of forecasters who contradicted President Donald Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama as it approached the United States. Director Louis Uccellini said forecasters in Birmingham did the right thing Sept. 1 when they tried to combat public panic and rumors that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. It was only later that they found out the source of the mistaken information, he said. Speaking at a meeting of the National Weather Association, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters "did what any office would do to protect the public." "They did that with one thing in mind: public safety," said Uccellini, who prompted a standing ovation from hundreds of forecasters by asking members of the Birmingham weather staff to stand."

Report: Wilbur Ross Threatened To Fire NOAA Employees After Birmingham Statement, TPM

"Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs from Greece to threaten him and top officials with termination if they didn't contradict a statement from the Birmingham, Alabama office undermining President Donald Trump's bogus Hurricane Dorian meteorology. According to the New York Times, Ross called Jacobs two days after Trump wielded his infamous Sharpie map to undergird his baseless conviction that Alabama was originally projected to be hit by Hurricane Dorian."

What will we call the men and women of the Space Force?, The Hill

"In the shorter term, Space Force personnel may conduct operations beyond Earth orbits in the near- to mid-term, so the nickname "orbiter" may unduly limit their potential. Defining Space Force personnel by motive power seems both limiting and premature. But "rocketeer" and "orbiter" have the obvious negatives of sounding a bit silly and not commanding respect. ... The main drawbacks of "trooper" might also sound silly because of pop culture references, and there is no clear understanding of what a space "trooper" does. Since the Space Force will probably not field anything resembling "Starship Troopers'" Mobile Infantry anytime soon (or for that matter, "Star Wars'" storm troopers), trooper may also be considered false advertising by the American public. In addition, it would not be a good idea to mirror image the Russians and copy their model when we are trying to create a separate and unique force of our own."

New documents reveal SpaceX's plans for launching Mars-rocket prototypes from South Texas, Business Insider

"New FAA documents sent to Business Insider provide a glimpse into SpaceX's plan to develop a disruptive new rocket system over the next two to three years. Every day at Boca Chica -- a hot, humid, narrow, and sandy strip of clay at the southernmost tip of Texas -- SpaceX workers toil over the rocket company's big project, called Starship. Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, envisions the vehicle as a shiny steel two-stage launch system that may stand nearly 400 feet tall and reduce the cost of access to space by 100- to 1,000-fold by having fully reusable hardware. It may be capable of sending massive payloads into orbit, humans to the moon and Mars, and scores of passengers around the world in half an hour."

Letter From OMB To Senate Armed Services Committee Regarding National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020

"Space Force (Sections 1601, 1602, 1603, 1604, and 1608). Elevating the space domain to be on par with the air, land, and sea domains is critical to advancing the role of space power in our national defense. The Nation must transform our approach to space from a support function to a domain of competition-and potential conflict-in which our space forces are prepared to deter aggression and, if necessary, to fight and win. While the bill provides some elements to elevating the space domain, it does not provide the necessary legislative authority to establish the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. The Administration strongly urges the Congress to explicitly designate the Space Force as a separate sixth branch of the Armed Forces and include all related technical and conforming amendments. Further, quickly developing a strong, multifaceted culture is critical, and the Administration urges the Congress to provide authority to transfer personnel from all branches of the Armed Forces into the Space Force."

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: Fiscal Year 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities Full document, OMB/OSTP

"Advanced Military Capabilities: Relevant departments and agencies should invest in R&D to deliver the advanced military capabilities that will help meet emerging threats and protect American security into the future, including offensive and defensive hypersonic weapons capabilities, resilient national security space systems, and modernized and flexible strategic and nonstrategic nuclear deterrent capabilities.

Critical Infrastructure Resilience: Departments and agencies should invest in critical infrastructure R&D that improves resilience to natural disasters and physical threats, including extreme terrestrial events, cyber and electromagnetic pulse attacks, and exploitation of supply chain vulnerabilities. Departments and agencies should prioritize investments in space weather R&D according to the 2019 National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan2 and, where applicable, pay specific attention to improving research to operations and operations to research capabilities...

... Earth System Predictability: Knowing the extent to which components of the Earth system are practicably predictable - from individual thunderstorms to long-term global change- is vitally important for physical understanding of the Earth system, assessing the value of prediction results, guiding Federal investments, developing effective policy, and improving predictive skill. Departments and agencies should prioritize R&D that helps quantify Earth system predictability across multiple phenomena, time, and space scales. Strategic coordination and leveraging of resources across agencies on research and modeling efforts is needed to accelerate progress in this area. Additionally, agencies should emphasize how measures of and limits to predictability, both theoretical and actual, can inform a wide array of stakeholders. They also should explore the application of AI and adaptive observing systems to enhance predictive skill, along with strategies for obtaining substantial improvements in computational model performance and spatial resolution across all scales.

... 5. American Space Exploration and Commercialization

R&D investments should continue to leverage efforts underway at American universities and in the private sector and focus on ensuring American leadership in space by supporting the Trump Administration's call for a return of Americans to the Moon's surface by 2024 and utilizing the Moon as a proving-ground for a future human mission to Mars. Departments and agencies should prioritize in-situ resource utilization on the Moon and Mars, cryogenic fuel storage and management, in-space manufacturing and assembly, and advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities. Departments and agencies should also prioritize activities that ensure an industrial base for commercial activity in space and that will broadly speed private-sector progress in meeting stated Government goals and furthering the space economy. Finally, departments and agencies should seek opportunities to work with advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and machine learning capabilities that have broad potential applications in space and on Earth."

The Science of Social Media Strategy, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA

"With this rapidly evolving platform, informed strategy is key. During a recent review, we took a look at all of the social media accounts associated with NASA's Science Mission Directorate. We found that there are around 300 accounts across 8 platforms (Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube). Although well-intended in all cases, our initial "more is better" strategy did not always work in all cases as we hoped. For example, a significant number of these accounts were inactive for time-periods over years, and others were highly duplicative and confusing at times, with respect to focus and content, resulting in the fact that many great posts were not seen by large audiences. Because of this and to improve the reach and impact of our social media efforts, we are working on a strategic social media plan that will consolidate these existing profiles across the 8 platforms. This consolidation does not mean that information will no longer be shared. In fact, the goal is to share the same information under more thematic and broader account handles that have larger audiences. Based on our deeper understanding of social media gained during the past years, we believe that this more focused and aligned effort will result in higher followership for these accounts and broader engagement, especially around missions or research efforts that might not normally get public attention."

NASA Internal Memo: Website Modernization and Enhanced Security Protocols (PDF), earlier post

"Currently there are an estimated 3,000 public-facing NASA Web sites, yet the top 10 sites receive 80 percent of all Web traffic. Additionally, some NASA partners operate Web sites on our behalf outside of the Agency, creating redundancy and accumulating unnecessary costs. Not only does this duplication of information cause confusion, each Wen site provides potential access for a cyber-attack on NASA's assets. The shutdown earlier this year gave us a clear view of the cyber vulnerabilities inherent in operating thousands of Web sites. We need to take steps to protect our resources in a hostile cyber landscap, examine our digital footprint, reduce costs, and maximize the effectiveness of communications efforts. In addition to security risk, multiple sites dilute our effectiveness in communicating key messages about our missions."

NASA Can't Figure Out What Astrobiology Is - Or Who Does It, earlier post

"Oh yes the NASA Mars 2020 website has two different addresses: https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mars2020/ and https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/. Then there is another Mars 2020 webpage at NASA HQ which does not point to either of these web links but points to yet another Mars 2020 page at NASA HQ instead."

- Overhauling NASA's Tangled Internet Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Semi-Stealth Astrobiology Mission, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post
- NASA's Astrobiology Programs Ignore One Another, earlier post


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