December 2019 Archives

Keith's note: I was on on CGTN at 12:45 p, EST today to talk about China's launch of its Long March 5 rocket and what it means for China's plans to build a space station and exploring the Moon and Mars.

My friend Leroy Chiao was on CGTN too:

Keith's note: I was on Deutsche Welle TV - live - just after Noon EST today talking about the Mars 2020 rover mission..

Happy Holidays

Boeing Just Fired Its CEO

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is out after disastrous year, CNN

"A spacecraft the company is building to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station also malfunctioned last week during its first-ever trip to space. The uncrewed test flight, which came after years of delays and setbacks, was intended to be the final major test before it was finally ready to fly humans. The company has also been roundly criticized by federal oversight officials over billion-dollar cost overruns and missed deadlines with another NASA contract: to build the Space Launch System, a massive rocket that the space agency wants to use to return humans to the moon. Boeing still has a strong balance sheet, and its stock is up marginally this year despite all of its setbacks. But questions about the company's leadership grew louder as the company's missteps added up."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post
- More Fake SLS News From Boeing, earlier post

Keith's note: 11 hours. Hmm. Apparently Starliner thought it just took off from Nepal - or the Phillipines - depending how you count an 11 hour time zone difference. That's a little bit more than having a clock that's a few minutes off. Just sayin'.

Starliner Has Landed

Boeing Starliner Completes First Orbital Flight Test with Successful Landing, Boeing

"Shortly after its December 20 launch and separation from its booster rocket, Starliner experienced a mission timing anomaly that made it use too much fuel to reach the intended destination of the International Space Station. Flight controllers were able to address the issue and put Starliner into a lower, stable orbit. The vehicle demonstrated key systems and capabilities before being signaled to return to Earth."

NASA, Boeing Complete Successful Landing of Starliner Flight Test, NASA

"Although Starliner did not reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station as planned, Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the flight related to NASA's Commercial Crew Program, including:

- Successful launch of the first human-rated United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket
- Checked out the Starliner propulsion systems
- Tested space-to-space communications
- Confirmed Starliner tracker alignments using its navigation system
- Tested Starliner's NASA Docking System
- Validated all environment control and life support systems
- Completed a positive command uplink between the International Space Station and Starliner"

Keith's note: Alas there are congressional prohibitions which limit what NASA can do with regard to advertising and promoting itself.

Full audio recording. My question starts at 46:00

Keith's note: During the post-launch media briefing yesterday I was not allowed to ask a question even though I was listed by PAO as being online. Today I was last on the list (happens a lot) and there was a technical problem (ahem) so I had to repeat my question. I am not totally certain that everyone heard what I asked. Telecons are not something NASA has figured out how to do yet.

Otherwise not much in the way of news. Starliner will land tomorrow morning at White Sands around 7:57 a.m. EST. Boeing does not know why the Starliner's clock could not get the right data from the Atlas V, and the spacecraft is performing flawlessly.

NASA Television to Air Boeing Starliner Spacecraft Landing

Remarks by President Trump at Signing Ceremony for S.1790, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, White House

"It was nearly half a century from Kitty Hawk to the creation of the Air Force. And now it's 50 years after Apollo 11 that we create the Space Force. With today's signing, I will proudly appoint General Jay Raymond the first Chief of Space Operations. And he will become the very first member of the Space Force. And he will be on the Joint Chiefs. He will be on the Joint Chiefs, which we're now expanding by one position. That's a very powerful position. So, General Raymond, congratulations, and thank you for you everything you've done. (Applause.)"

With the stroke of a pen, U.S. Space Force becomes a reality, U.S. Space Force

"By creating a new, separate service with a dedicated purpose, the United States will maintain space superiority, even as space becomes more crowded and contested. The new defense law also directs that the Space Force "shall provide the freedom of operation in, from, and to space, while providing prompt and sustained space operations."

Barrett, Air Force leaders applaud Space Force's formal creation, U.S. Space Force

"With the establishment of the Space Force we elevate the 'organize, train and equip' function consistent with the criticality of the space domain," said Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command. "The Space Force will deliver the capabilities U.S. Space Command needs to control and exploit space for national advantage."

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Keith's note: Boeing's Starliner was launched on time this morning. ULA gave it a perfect flight up to the point where the spacecraft separated. Then things started to go wrong. A planned engine burn did not happen because the spacecraft's clock was wrong and the spacecraft thought that it was somewhere else. Boeing tried to do a burn to fix the situation but a gap between several TDRSS satellites meant that the command would have been sent too late to allow the mission to have a chance to reach ISS. Boeing says that it has no idea why the clock was wrong. The curent orbital path will bring Starliner into a position to do a landing at White Sands in 48 hours. In talking about this problem NASA and Boeing tried to spin the mission as a success even though a prime objective was to dock with the ISS. It is too soon to know if a repeat flight to accomplish the original objectives will be required or if the next flight - with a crew - will be the first time that a Starliner docks with ISS.

One thing that was rather odd today: as soon as things started to go wrong NASA went dark. No TV, no meaningful updates. They said to go visit Boeing's website which had no information. After a couple of hours information started to emerge - not from NASA PAO or Boeing but from Jim Bridenstine's personal Twitter account. Indeed @NASA and @BoeingSpace were mostly mute. It is certainly good that the NASA Administrator has the personal capability and intent to inform the public what is going on. But I have to say that in the 25 years I have been covering NASA I have never seen such a news blackout drop into place for a launch or landing - and that includes the loss of Columbia.

Of course this is Boeing's mission so NASA is somewhat in the back seat in terms of PR. Boeing has none of the cameras on their flight like SpaceX does - just video images of motionless people with headsets staring at monitors. Boeing had to be ordered by Bridenstine to live webcast their recent parachute test (which also had problems that Boeing tried to ignore). And Boeing is lobbying Congress for the SLS Exploration Upper Stage which they claim will be used for Artemis III despite public statements to the contrary by the NASA Administrator. One certainly has to wonder if Boeing is going to exhibit the transparency and honesty one would expect as they continue to receive billions of taxpayer funds. Moreover NASA is asking taxpayers to foot a fast paced effort to return to the Moon. You'd think that someone at Boeing and NASA would get the bright idea that stonewalling and avoiding the media is not the way to garner public support.


GAO: NASA Lunar Programs: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Analyses and Plans for Moon Landing

"NASA conducted studies to inform its lunar plans, but did not fully assess a range of alternatives to these plans. GAO best practices state that analyzing alternatives provides a framework to help ensure that entities consistently and reliably select the alternative that best meets the mission need and justify agency decisions. Given NASA's schedule, conducting this analysis is no longer viable. Instead, NASA intends to create a summary of the studies that informed its lunar plans. However, it has not committed to a completion date. Without a documented rationale, NASA is ill-positioned to effectively communicate its decisions to stakeholders and facilitate a better understanding of its plans."

- NASA Really Really Needs An Artemis Plan - Soon, earlier post
- Artemis Update From Bridenstine and Loverro, earlier post
- Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: If you read the management response at the end of this report you will see that NASA will "provide a preliminary cost estimate fo the Artemis III mission by the end of calendar year 2020, once the agency makes baseline cost and schedule committments for the Human Landing System currently planned for September 2020)" ... " NASA is developing a document that will summarize the trades and architectural studies which constituted an analysis of architectural alternatives and resulted in the agency's decision to baseline the current lunar architecture and associated programs ... NASA currently pans to complete this document by July 2020". NASA also says that it will develop a "Moon to Mars campaign strategy".

In other words NASA is not going to be in a position to provide much detail in the National Space Council's requested report report (already 60 days overdue) until next summer - a year after it was requested. Nor are they apparently going to be able to tell Congress what it needs to tell them in order to get all of their funds released. Moreover NASA will not have its Artemis cost estimates figured out until late next year - barely three calendar years before they expect to put humans back on the Moon. And NASA still does not have a plan for the whole Mars thing - and can't say when they will.

Exactly two years ago the White House stated "Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations". In March 2019 a frustrated Vice President Pence said "In Space Policy Directive-1, the President directed NASA to create a lunar exploration plan. But as of today, more than 15 months later, we still don't have a plan in place. But Administrator Bridenstine told me, five minutes ago, we now have a plan to return to the moon." Moments later he said "it is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years."

In their response to this GAO report NASA says that they won't even have a plan until late next summer - a year after Pence expressed his frustration about the lack of a plan. in March 2019 Pence gave NASA 5 years to put footprints on the Moon which is now seen as being no later than 31 December 2024. The agency is now telling us (and Pence) that it will have taken them yet another year to come up with a plan. And if the agency stays true to its bad habits the plan will still have major holes in it and no one will be able to stand there with a straight face and say how much it will cost. And then, just as they deliver this plan the election happens and ...

Boeing Starliner launch on Friday comes at critical time for company amid 737 Max controversy, Washington Post

"A successful launch would be a moment of triumph amid the tumult that has dogged the company the past year and the news this week that it will halt production on its troubled 737 Max airplane in January, a decision that could not only harm Boeing's bottom line but also send shock waves through the economy. And [Jim Chilton] issued an emotional call to arms, both defending the company and its workforce while also pushing back against critics and competitors. The email, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, is part of a broader strategy inside Boeing to fight back aggressively that includes a radio ad playing in Washington touting the flight, saying it "is paving the way for the new age of space exploration." "Let's not allow this inaccurate report or the critical media coverage it's generating to become a distraction," Chilton wrote. "Our Starliner teammates have put their hearts and souls into developing a spacecraft that we can all be proud of, and they need all the support they can get from our broader space and launch team in the countdown to first flight."

- Bridenstine Calls B.S. On Boeing Exploration Upper Stage Claim, earlier post

Do you want to fly into space? Do you know someone who does? If so then this book is worth reading. "See You In Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight" by Alan Ladwig presents a comprehensive look by a space insider into the history of what space travel means to people. It details how individuals, space agencies, and companies have sought to give more people a chance to visit space.

In essence personal space travel has always been a factor in what we've done in space even if it was impractical. Efforts to expand the cadre of people going into space started before we even sent people into space and have continued ever since. Eventually some of these efforts caught on. To be certain there was always internal resistance as there was resistance from the outside as to who should go into space - and why. Now, nearly 3/4 of a century after we first threw things into space the dream of personally seeing space is as vibrant as ever. But now the ability to realize that dream is within the grasp of people who'd never have been offered a ride before.

Alas, this involves large sums of money and limits who gets to go. The eternal hope is that somehow this first generation of space tourists or spaceflight participants or commercial astronaut-passengers or whatever you want to call them will spur the development of more capabilities. In turn this surge of customer demand will somehow lead to a drop in the price of a ticket to space such that everyday citizens can anticipate a trip into space - for whatever reason propels them to do so. As to when that breakthrough happens, it seems to be getting closer than it has ever been but it is still illusively just out of reach.

Barrett, Rogers consider declassifying secretive space programs, Defense News

"As members of the Armed Services Committee and the defense appropriators, we get it. But we have to have our other colleagues in the Congress to be supportive of us making the changes we need and the resources we need into this," he said. "It's not going to happen until they understand the threat and the dependence we have. And I don't think that can happen until we see significant declassification of what we're doing in space and what China and Russia are doing, and how space is in their day-to-day lives." Once Americans have access to that currently classified data, they will throw their support behind a Space Force, he concluded. "The lack of an understanding really does hurt us in doing things that we need to do in space," added Barrett. "There isn't a constituency for space even though almost everyone uses space before their first cup of coffee in the morning."

- Space Force Is Worried About Being Called Silly Names, earlier post
- Cutting Deals To Get The Space Force, earlier post
- Dear Space Force Fans: Please Chill Out, earlier post
- Some Space Force Fans Actually Want To Build Starfleet, earlier post
- DoD Seems To Be More Interested In Space Futures Than NASA Is, earlier post
- More Space Force goodness

Artemis Wins Only Lukewarm Support In Final NASA FY 2020 Appropriation, Space Policy Online

"More than half the Artemis-related funding may not be obligated until NASA submits a multi-year plan explaining how it intends to execute that program and development of human lunar landers received far less than requested."

Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

"'[Pence] And I recommend to the public's attention the public record that you will find that we are setting specific timelines for the Administrator in the next 60 days to designation of an office and submission of a plan for a sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars."

Keith's note: I asked NASA Administrator Bridenstine about the report requested by the Vice President and the National Space Council last week. The last meeting of the took place on 20 August 2019. Pence's 60 day due date would therefore have been 19 October. It has been 61 days since the due date passed. Bridenstine said that the report has not been delivered and would provide a date when it will delivered.

Current top to bottom Artemis reviews being conducted by new HEOMD AA Doug Loverro are going to take some time. This recent budget action requires an Artemis program plan before all of the funds are released. Vice President Pence and the National Space Council also called for NASA to deliver an Artemis program plan. It is quite obvious by now that the White House and Congress do not have a clear idea as to how NASA is going to place humans on the Moon by 2024. They want to see plans.

Based on 20+ years of watching NASA, the agency has never been good at delivering this sort of plan to Congress and/or the White House. NASA never delivers these plans on time and the plans that are delivered usually punt on many of the important points which spawned the request for the plan in the first place. The Vice President expressed clear frustration with NASA Artemis progress and plans earlier this year. Congress has provided (at best) lukewarm support - along with healthy skepticism as to the why and how of NASA's plans.

NASA needs to hit the ground running in January. There is no more schedule margin to burn. The sooner NASA provides a plan that is realistic - one that is not based on faith-based notional plans - the better the chance they will have to pull this off with the resources needed to make it happen. As for the contractor community: it is time for them to do what they are paid to do - on time - and knock off lobbying Congress for more money to do things that NASA is not asking for.

<Artemis Wins Only Lukewarm Support In Final NASA FY 2020 Appropriation, Space Policy Online

"The House and Senate Appropriations Committees released the final versions of all 12 FY2020 appropriations bills today and hope to get them passed by the end of the week. The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA is combined with three others -- Defense, Financial Services, and Homeland Security -- into H.R. 1158, the "national security minibus." It includes $22.629 billion for NASA, almost exactly the same as the $22.616 billion amended request, but with different priorities than the Trump Administration. Landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 does not seem to be one of them. The bill rejects Trump Administration proposals to terminate or postpone a number of programs, and only partially funds the supplemental request for the Artemis Moon-by-2024 program. More than half the Artemis-related funding may not be obligated until NASA submits a multi-year plan explaining how it intends to execute that program and development of human lunar landers received far less than requested."

Russian, Japanese companies plan to jointly design moon robot, TASS

"Russia's Android Technology Company and Japan's GITAI startup plan to create a robot to operate on the lunar surface, the Russian company's executive director, Yevgeny Dudorov, told TASS. "We will sign a cooperation agreement. Later, we will outline joint plans for 2020, 2021 and other years," Dudorov said, adding that the deal would be signed soon. Once the joint project is a success, the sides will present their developments to the national space agencies - Russia's Roscosmos and Japan's JAXA."

Keith's note: Check out the picture. I wonder which parent the Moon droid will resemble. The Japanese droid is designed to be friendly. The Russian droid shoots machine guns. Meanwhile no one talks about NASA's Robonaut any more.

- A Strange Tweet From Russian Space Droid Fedor, earlier post
- Russian Space Robot Fyodor / Robonaut/R5 Valkyrie Cage Match Cancelled, earlier post
- Hey NASA: This Is The Droid You Should Be Looking For, earlier post

Recently Retired USAF General Makes Eyebrow Raising Claims About Advanced Space Technology, The War Zone

"[U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Steven L. ] Kwast delivered a lecture at Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C. on November 20, 2019, titled "The Urgent Need for a U.S. Space Force." Kwast's wide-ranging speech described the power of new technologies to revolutionize humankind, referencing the competitive advantage the discovery of fire offered to early humans and the strategic value that nuclear weapons offered 20th-century superpowers. When it comes to current revolutionary technologies, Kwast says the "the power of space will change world power forever" and that it's up to the United States military to leverage that power."

Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, partners with NASA Ames to offer startups access to space technology

"The Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, announced this week it signed a partnership agreement with NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, to help startup founders connect to selected NASA software and technologies while providing a robust global network of startup resources. The accelerator also announced open applications for the "Founder Institute Advanced Technologies Accelerator" program in Silicon Valley. The new program will help startup founders and entrepreneurs to leverage NASA Technology and and the Founder Institute's Global Network to build companies of the future. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 180+ cities and 60+ countries, the Founder Institute has helped its alumni raise over $800 million in funding."

Remarks by Vice President Pence to NASA's Ames Research Center Employees and Guests

"To Dr. Tu and all the innovators and visionaries here who are designing and building that bright future of American leadership in space, it's a great honor to join you here in the beating heart of Silicon Valley at the NASA Ames Research Center. ... "Ames is proof that in today's age, the public and private sectors can achieve far more together than we ever have apart," Pence said. "And I really want to commend each and every one of you for the way that NASA and the way that NASA Ames are engaging the private sector to bring the best of America back to space."

Keith's 8 Dec note: There is no mention of this important news at the Main NASA Ames website, on its news page, or via @NASAAmes on Twitter. NASA HQ does not seem to know anything about this news. Ames sits in the middle of Silicon Valley. Vice President Pence noticed. So did The Founder Institute. The Founder Institute and Pence noted the value of public/private partnerships and the immense potential resident within NASA Ames. Too bad Ames PAO seems to be oblivious to both its location and potential.

Keith's 16 Dec update: Still no mention of this by Ames.

Rocket Lab Opens Launch Complex 2, Confirms U.S. Air Force Payload as First Electron Mission from U.S. Soil, RocketLab

"Rocket Lab, the global leader in small satellite launch, has today officially opened Launch Complex 2, the company's first U.S. launch site, and confirmed the inaugural mission from the site will be a dedicated flight for the U.S. Air Force. Located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 represents a new national launch capability for the United States. Construction on the site began in February 2019, with the site completed and ready to support missions just 10 months later. Designed to support rapid call-up missions, Launch Complex 2 delivers responsive launch capability from home soil for U.S. government small satellites. The ability to deploy satellites to precise orbits in a matter of hours, not months or years, is increasingly important to ensure resilience in space. At a press conference held at NASA Wallops Flight Facility today, the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program has been announced as the first customer scheduled to launch on an Electron vehicle from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2. The dedicated mission will see a single research and development micro-sat launched from the site in Q2 2020."

Keith's note: In case you have not been paying attention. NASA has been promoting commercial space - a lot. There was an announcement today by RocketLab at Wallops Island, Virginia regarding the opening of its new commercial launch facility. The facility is located on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (M.A.R.S.) directly adjacent to NASA Wallops. Great news, right? You'd think that NASA and M.A.R.S. would want to tell people about it. Guess again. No mention is made on its home page or on its news page but they did tweet about it - so its not like there was any prohibition on mentioning the event. Wallops is just too lazy to update its website. No mention is made on the M.A.R.S other than an old post from several months ago. website either. And NASA HQ seems to be totally uninterested - again, despite the agency's big push for commercial space. Just sayin'

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In an interview, Bridenstine said that while the upper stage will be a great asset for NASA some day, he said "any plan that requires an EUS to be ready by 2024 is a plan that reduces the probability of success. It's just not going to be ready. ... "All of our contractors lobby Congress to achieve what is in their best interest even though it may not be in the best interest of the nation," Bridenstine said in an interview. "This is another example of that. My job as NASA administrator is to make sure we do what's right for the country, and for the taxpayer.""

Farther, Faster: The Next Stage of America's Moon Rocket Takes Shape, Boeing

"As the first Space Launch System (SLS) core stage completes final functional tests ahead of delivery to NASA, Boeing is building the second core stage while accelerating work on a powerful new upper stage that will boost the rocket's performance for the third moon mission and beyond."

Keith's note: This self-serving puffery by Boeing et al obscures the real costs of things and makes it harder to do an apples:apples reality check in the open at a time when no one really trusts any of the costs or schedules associated with Artemis. Indeed bogus claims like this one by Boeing certainly sounds like 'fake news' ;-)

Boeing, NASA clash over push for Congress to fund new stage for moon rocket, Washington Post

"In the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill for next year, lawmakers included language dictating that the agency "continue development" of the upper stage so that it could be ready for the third flight of the SLS, or Artemis III, which would be in time to land humans on the moon by 2024. While there is no House version of the bill, or an appropriation, Boeing's early success at pushing a compliant Congress to mandate the new upper stage for the third flight, instead of a later one, as is now planned, could upend NASA's lunar landing plans and put Boeing in the position of redirecting policy that had been set by NASA's leaders, engineers and scientists who have something other than profits as their priorities. To meet the White House's 2024 lunar landing date, NASA has been trying to build a broad coalition of companies, and has said repeatedly that everyone needs to pull together to help make the moon mission possible by 2024. Listen: Moonrise podcast "When we have one contractor trying to dictate policy that benefits them over the others, it puts the whole program at risk," said one senior NASA official on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly."

Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

"For starters NASA is building the SLS. Boeing - along with Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Orbital ATK, and Airbus are building the pieces. One page says it is Boeing's SLS. The other says it is NASA's. Which is it? And yes, Starliner will be sending human crews into space but it is not "the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." It is one of the methods - SpaceX is another method."

- Join Boeing's SLS Fan Club So They Can Track Your Activity Online, earlier post
- NASA OIG SLS Audit: Poor Management By Boeing - Send More Money, earlier post
- Is This Any Way To Go Back To The Moon?, earlier post

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro attended the Space News award event in Washington today. I asked them about the Moon/Mars plan that the Vice President and the National Space Council asked NASA to deliver in 60 days. Specifically I asked them if it had been delivered and if so could we see it. Bridenstine replied that it had not been delivered as requested and did not indicate when it would be despite it being rather overdue. See "Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update)"

Prior to my question Doug Loverro announced that he was assembling a Baseline Assessment Team to conduct a review to see where the Artemis/SLS/Orion program is and then decide how to move forward. Specifically Loverro said he did not know what the Artemis 1 launch date would be and that this date would only be set once the entire program had been given a look over.

Loverro went on to say that he did not want to see funding as a "crutch" for not meeting the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. He noted that he "does "not complain about gravity or radiation" and that funding is just another obstacle to overcome. Bridenstine cautioned that just because the date of Artemis 1 may change that does not necessarily mean that all other launch dates will be delayed.

When asked about the budget situation Bridenstine said he thinks that there is a chance that NASA will get areal appropriation by 20 December. If not, he said that he's talking to his lawyers about ways to "move forward in this politically charged environment". NASA has other lunar-focused efforts underway that have adequate funding and it is possible that some of them could be used to further assist the human lander effort.

With regard to the ISS Bridenstine said "We know that the space station can't last forever. What are we doing now to make sure we do not have a gap in LEO since we are not going to build another ISS.

Inevitably the topic of Space Force came up in light of recent agreements in Congress. Both Bridenstine and Loverro are strong supporters of Space Force and it showed in their comments. At one point, Loverro sought to link what he's doing at NASA with what Space Force will be doing at DoD: "I am going to the Moon in 2024 and I do not want there to be any space pirates out there". He was kidding. I think. But wouldn't you want a few pirates in the mix? Just sayin'.

Keith's 10 Dec update: ; I asked Jim Bridenstine today if this report has been delivered. He replied that it has not.

Findings from the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Preliminary Draft, 4 December 2019

"At the 6th meeting of the National Space Council, the following recommendation was adopted: "Within 60 days, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator will designate an office and submit a plan to the Chairman of the National Space Council for sustainable lunar surface exploration and development, including necessary technologies and capabilities, to enable initial human missions to Mars."

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council, 20 August 2019

'And I recommend to the public's attention the public record that you will find that we are setting specific timelines for the Administrator in the next 60 days to designation of an office and submission of a plan for a sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars."

Keith's 6 Dec note: The 6th meeting of the National Space Council took place on 20 August 2019. The 60 day due date would therefore have been 19 October. It has been 47 51 days since the due date passed. Has anyone seen this report? Was it ever delivered? If not, when will it be delivered?

- Dear Colleague Letter From The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group On The Proposed NASA Budget Amendment, earlier post
- The Planetary Science Community Is Split On Artemis/Moon2024, earlier post

NASA Administrator Names Robert Pearce Head of Agency Aeronautics

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Robert Pearce as the next associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Pearce replaces Jaiwon Shin, who retired from the agency on Aug. 31. "Bob is a visionary leader with a deep understanding of the current and future aeronautics environment," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "He'll do a great job directing NASA in helping create a generational shift in air travel for the United States and the world."

Keith's note: This creepy tweet shows Fedor, the Russian space droid who recently spent some time on the ISS, looking out the window at a nuclear explosion. The weird picture is accompanied with this text (Google translation):

"You can call me anything you like - a "dumb piece of iron" or something else, but when I find out about the VADA solution, I'll still tell you this:
1) those who invented it have big problems with the processor in their heads,
2) and those who are willing to tolerate this do not have not only a rod, but also a spine. And it's even worse"

It is often hard to tell what Russian social media accounts are official or quasi-official - or something else. The account's Twitter profile says "Fedor @ FEDOR37516789 The first anthropomorphic robot to work in space, the call sign Skybot F-850, an assistant crew of the International Space Station. Here are just facts about space." It was rather active during Fedor's flight. It only follows 8 other Twitter accounts, @NASA, @SpaceX and then the major Russian space agency accounts - including the head of Roscosmos @Rogozin.

I think maybe "VADA" is "WADA" (World Anti-Doping Agency) who just banned Russia from participating in sports due to doping. Some commenters are arguing whether VADA is referring to a "piece of iron" or "an Indian bagel". Why a space droid is tweeting about doping (or Indian bagels) is weird. Looking at a nuclear explosion while doing so is even weirder.

Trump's Excellent Space Force Adventure, Washington Post

"The creation of a Space Force is still being negotiated in Congress, where different versions of it have passed the House and Senate. As of press time, it's unclear whether the new military service will be included in the upcoming defense authorization act -- but, with bipartisan support, America's extraterrestrial military efforts are, one way or another, poised to accelerate."

Congress, White House near deal to create Space Force in exchange for paid leave for federal workers, Washington Post

"Congressional lawmakers and the White House are on the verge of reaching a sweeping agreement that would extend 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal workers in exchange for making "Space Force" the sixth branch of the U.S. military, according to four people with knowledge of the tentative deal. The deal is part of a defense authorization bill that is slated to pass this month. If consummated, the agreement could mark one of the biggest deals President Trump has cut with Congress. It would secure a massive expansion of benefits for federal workers, something Democrats have long sought, in exchange for a realignment of the U.S. military that Trump has sought to secure as part of his legacy."

Dear Space Force Fans: Please Chill Out, earlier post

"With a little less of this hyperventillation and crass political favoritism - and perhaps a little more basic wartime defense/prevention discussion - maybe a few more people might support this Space Force thing. Otherwise this sort of breathless op ed arm waving invites nothing more than mockery on a slow news day."

Keith's note: Yesterday at the STA luncheon Jim Bridenstine said that "the NASA brand is the most valuable brand America has" - Inside - and outside our borders. In October I cited an example of how NASA's logo - its brand - has a ubiquitous, global reach - and that it is associated with exciting, hopeful, advanced things with no known downside.

"This is a perfect example of so-called "soft power". This costs NASA virtually - literally - nothing. Having worked with folks in Nepal on things related to this, the mere visibility of the NASA logo and recognition by NASA is enticement enough to generate in-country resources and support. Done properly you can have a global awareness of what NASA is and does and spark interest in other nation's space efforts. And the cases where a country has no space activities, spur their development. One would hope that this becomes part of what NASA includes in its Artemis outreach activities - since the ultimate goal is to go there with other nations."

NASA has done a good job - an increasingly good one - at allowing the logo's use - and not discouraging its use when the its is used in a positive and inspiring context. This is a consumate, textbook example of soft power. One would hope that NASA can continue along this path and that legislation that currently hinders NASA's ability to project its message via advertising and other venues - can be lifted by Congress.

- NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated, earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- NASA is Still A Potent (If Underutilized) Brand, earlier post
- Using NASA's Logo: Expensive T-Shirts Or Global Soft Power?, earlier post
- NASA's Pervasive Brand Recognition, earlier post
- One Major Road Block To Bridenstine's Advertising Ideas, earlier post

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/firstcontacthd1572.jpg

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine spoke at a Space Transportation Association luncheon today in Washington DC. At one point he talked about seeing a "million people living on the Moon in 50 years". So I tweeted that. Soon Twitter lit up with people doing weird math as to how many SLS flights would be required and at what cost. Seriously space fans? SpaceX Starship anyone? Anyway I got a call from Bridenstine a bit later and then tweeted this out:

"OK I just spoke with @JimBridenstine about what he thought he said - and meant to say - but had a slip of the tongue. He meant to say "a million people on the National Mall" celebrating our progress on the Moon 50 years from now. First he referred to huge crowds on the National Mall in DC this past July for Apollo 50 events. He referred to seeing 500,000 people on the Mall here in DC before (we all have) noting "They are usually not happy". The Apollo crowds were happy. Then he started to talk about how we are going to the Moon to stay, and started to imagine what things would be like 50 years hence such that we could "have a million people on the National Mall" celebrating our exploration and utilization of the Moon."

Hmm ... maybe Bridenstine was subconsciously channeling "Star Trek First Contact" (even if he claims to be a SpaceBalls/Star Wars fan):

"Zefram Cochrane: You don't have a moon in the 24th century?

William Riker: Sure we do. Just looks a lot different. There are 50 million people living on the moon in my time. You can see Tycho City, New Berlin... even Lake Armstrong on a day like this."

One other thing Bridenstine said was "the thing about Apollo is that it ended. We want Artemis to continue". Imagine If Apollo never ended 50 years ago and that lunar exploration and development continued and expanded. How many people might be living on the Moon now? Its time to catch up.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/moonraker.gif

The Space Force's moment of truth, op ed, Peter Garretson, Politico

"Within the Bay Area itself are Made-in-Space, NASA's Ames Research Center, and a conglomerate of Silicon Valley affiliated companies. How will they fare without the Space Force? A recent report State of the Space Industrial Base: Threats, Challenges and Actions outlined the threat these companies face by China's predatory pricing, investment in front companies, control of supply chains, and theft of intellectual property. Just this month, the US-China Economic and Security Commission, created by Congress, endorsed a Space Force to ensure" freedom of navigation and keeping lines of communication open, safe, and secure in the space domain, as the U.S. Navy does for U.S. interests in the maritime commons."

Keith's note: Huh? How is Space Force going to help Made-in-Space? There is no Space Force now and they're doing just fine. Is Space Force going to place armed guards around the ISS to keep the Chinese away? Is Space Force going to prevent China from utilizing space for commercial purposes so that only the U.S. can? Is Space Force going to engage in IP and patent protection in space and on Earth? The national defense aspect of Space Force has some logic to it. But the way the Space Force fans are whipping this whole thing up its as if there will be Space Force Cops patrolling in outer space writing parking tickets, chasing bad guys, and directing space traffic.

Oh and then there's this little gem "Second, it will have a devastating and compounding effect on jobs in key congressional districts." Aren't all congressional districts "key"? Or is this a scare tactic for big aerospace and the members of Congress they have ensnared in their lobbying efforts?

With a little less of this hyperventillation and crass political favoritism - and perhaps a little more basic wartime defense/prevention discussion - maybe a few more people might support this Space Force thing. Otherwise this sort of breathless op ed arm waving invites nothing more than mockery on a slow news day.

Keith's note: From a retired NASA employee and long-time NASAWatch reader:

"Keith, the attached photo was just too instructive to pass up. Let me explain. This is at the Gilruth Center at JSC.

I believe that it visually shows the risk averse nature of NASA and says something about space politics. I.e., one stop sign wasn't enough. A second one is safer. And then a sign explaining what a stop sign means. Man are we safely redundant.

I am a retired NASA engineer and could not pass up the hilarious sight.

Enjoy."

Larger image

NASA to Present First Findings of Solar Mission in Media Teleconference

"NASA will announce the first results from the Parker Solar Probe mission, the agency's revolutionary mission to "touch" the Sun, during a media teleconference at 1:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 4. During the teleconference, mission experts will discuss research results from four instruments on the probe, which are changing our understanding of the Sun and other stars. Their findings also will be published at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the website of the journal Nature. Teleconference audio will stream live at: https://www.nasa.gov/live"

Parker Solar Probe: We're Missing Something Fundamental About the Sun, University of Michigan

"Our closest-ever look inside the Sun's corona has unveiled an unexpectedly chaotic world that includes rogue plasma waves, flipping magnetic fields and distant solar winds under the thrall of the Sun's rotation, according to University of Michigan researchers who play key roles in NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission."

A big salary, luxury cars, and a new dacha--Russia's space leader lives large, Ars Technica

"A leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, recently turned his attention toward the country's space program. In an entertaining 13-minute video not unlike those produced by "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" on HBO, Navalny tackles corruption surrounding the construction of the Vostochny Spaceport in far-eastern Russia, as well as the apparently lavish lifestyle of Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin. (The video is in Russian; it was translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell. The English-language captions are mostly accurate.) ... Evidently Rogozin's job has other perks. According to the documents, Rogozin has also purchased new vehicles: for himself, a Mercedes-Benz S560, and his wife, a Range Rover. Combined, these vehicles are valued at about $300,000. And then the Roscosmos chief also acquired an 8,600 sq. foot dacha north of Moscow worth about $3 million. And the documents appear to obscure even more gains, Navalny argues."

- Vostochny Spaceport Corruption Has Not Gone Away, earlier post
- Russia Wants To Lead In Space By Spending Less Money On It, earlier post
- Vostochny Spaceport Has A Few Criminal Issues, earlier post
- Putin Wants To Jail Spaceport Employees, earlier post
- Earlier Russia postings

Full video

"NASA held an Agency-wide Town Hall with Administrator Bridenstine and Douglas Loverro, NASA's new Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at noon EST. During the Town Hall, the Administrator introduced Douglas Loverro, and they answered questions from the agency's workforce."

Keith's note: On Tuesday at 12:00 pm EST NASA will air an agency-wide Town Hall meeting on NASA TV to introduce the new Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Douglas Loverro. Watch live here.

New Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate: Douglas Loverro, earlier post

"From 2013 to 2017, he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy. In this role, he was responsible for establishing policy for the United States allies to the benefits of space capabilities and to help guide the Department's strategy for addressing space-related issues. He led Departmental activities in international space cooperation, assessment of the national security impacts of commercial space activities, and oversaw the establishment of a strategy for addressing growing challenges in space security."

Commentary: Beyond the decadal surveys: Establishing policy for US space science, Physics Today

"A surprisingly small number of individuals at the OMB are involved in space science: the director of the OMB and the associate director for natural resource programs, both of whom are political appointees; the deputy associate director for the energy, science, and water division; and the fewer than 10 individuals who make up the division's science and space branch. Space science is, for the most part, handled by just a few career civil servants. I've not come across anyone in Congress or the executive branch who simply did not want to fund space-science missions. I have, however, encountered government officials who are vividly frustrated with cost overruns, and I have found that bureaucrats tend to value flexibility. The folks I met at the OMB and on Capitol Hill were sensitive to unforeseen occurrences or prescriptive options that placed undue limits on future actions, particularly if they interfered with agreed-on courses of action or involved a time frame beyond which policies--or politicians--might experience turnover."


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