March 2020 Archives

NASA SMD: Frequently Asked Questions about Grants and Research during the COVID-19 Epidemic

"If you have questions about conducting your research or managing your grants during the COVID-19 epidemic, NASA SMD has prepared a Question and Answer document. The document outlines SMD's implementation of recent guidance from the Office of Management and the Budget as well as questions regarding the processing of existing awards and the donation of Personal Protective Equipment purchased using NASA grant funds."

Keith's note: I got this note from a Lockheed Martin employee last night:

"Keith: I have been an avid reader of NASAWatch since the 1990's (RIFwatch times) and I saw the post on Lockheed Martin's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a large Lockheed Martin team working last week and this past weekend with local hospitals in Denver to help make items to replace PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that are critically needed. Some are as simple as repurposing the standard surgical masks into 3D printed cartridge filters that can attach to respirator masks, making 3D printed respirator masks, and even rapid prototyping PAPRs (Powered, Air-Purifying Respirator) that the hospital cannot get.

I have worked here for three decades and this is still the coolest thing I have seen Lockheed Martin do. I am even more surprised and proud that the company is doing this without PR. Corporate is really behind this and it is all overhead or volunteer hours (one of my designers has been in over 30 hours this weekend to support).

From what I have seen locally they really are working hard to do just about all they can do on short turn around. This is not just local though. All portions of the company from Space, to Aero, to Information Systems have been engaged to do this same support - with the specific focus driven by local needs of hospitals - not corporate. I am actually proud of what corporate is doing. Great efforts are being done with no press and that is wonderful and worth lauding."

I am told from another source that Lockheed Martin has collected maks and safety glasses from their shops in their Denver facilities, Michoud Assembly Facility, and Kennedy Space Center.

Well done.

- Lockheed Martin Details How It Plans To Respond to COVID-19, earlier post

NASA JPL Internal Email: Creating the Future of Planetary Science, NASA JPL

"Today, the Mars Exploration Directorate and the Solar System Exploration Directorate are integrating to form the new Planetary Science Directorate (4X). This new organization comes at a critical time as the nature of NASA's planetary science efforts continues to expand and the next decade's blueprint has yet to be written. This new organization is designed to improve our alignment and communications with NASA HQ and our partner organizations, improve the integration & communication of our priorities and challenges across the Lab, and strengthen our collaboration and interactions with the planetary science community."

NASA JPL Internal Memo: Creating the Future of Planetary Science (with JPL Planetary Science Directorate leadership assignments), NASA JPL

"Since the fall, we have been assessing options to best position the Lab to execute its future in planetary science. Effective today, the Mars Exploration Directorate and the Solar System Exploration Directorate are integrating to form the new Planetary Science Directorate (4X). This organizational change is designed to improve alignment and communications with NASA HQ and our partner organizations, improve the integration & communication of our priorities and challenges across the Lab, and strengthen our collaboration and interactions with the planetary science community. We will team with other organizations across the Lab in development of a strong, diverse and inclusive personnel pipeline for the future roles in the Directorate and across the Lab. We will learn from each other and be an even greater force for discovery going forward."

Keith's note: I also tweeted this response: "Thanks for the cosmic buzzkill. Just what everyone needs right now - purposeful negativity by you when we all should be trying to pull together and look beyond - and above - today's bad times to a hopeful future that lies ahead." That said, Elon had a better response - one that he can back up with action.

NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - March 30, 2020, NASA

"Thank you for all your questions in last week's Ask the Administrator. Our agency's response to COVID-19 is admirable and characteristic of the strength and spirit of our team. If you haven't had a chance to view the recording, you can do so here. These difficult challenges have a way of bringing out our best and because of that I believe we will be better for it. Please continue to stay in frequent contact with your supervisor and check the NASA People website regularly for updates."

NAS Space Science Week 2020 Events March 31-April 1

"During Space Science Week, five committees meet simultaneously to discuss recent advances in their fields, hear from federal agencies about upcoming projects, and plan future work. We invite you to tune in remotely for the open sessions of these meetings, which will take place on March 31-April 1, 2020."

Keith's note: According to https://nasapeople.nasa.gov/coronavirus/ four five six nine ten NASA facilities are now at Stage 4 on the NASA COVID-19 Response Framework: Ames, Michoud, GISS, Stennis, Glenn, Plum Brook, Goddard, Wallops, Armstrong and now Marshall. Everyone else is currently at Stage 3.

Boeing Statement on Passage of CARES Act

"Boeing's top priority is to protect our workforce and support our extensive supply chain, and the CARES Act will help provide adequate measures to help address the pandemic. We have also taken a number of measures for affordability and liquidity as we navigate the challenges our industry currently faces, including forgoing pay for our CEO and board chairman, suspending our dividend until further notice, and extending our existing pause of any share repurchasing until further notice."

Statement From Lockheed Martin Chairman, President And CEO Marillyn Hewson On COVID-19 Response

"At Lockheed Martin, we recognize that the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its wide-ranging impacts have caused severe disruption across society and tragic loss of life around the world. We also recognize that the global pandemic has created a need for urgent action by government, business, communities and citizens. In response to this crisis, our company will be guided by and operate with three clear priorities. First, we will continue to protect the health and safety of our men and women on the job and their families. Second, we will continue to perform and deliver for our customers because what they do for our national security, global communications, and infrastructure is critical to our nation and our allies. Third, we will do our part to use our know-how, resources, and leadership as a company to assist our communities and our country during this period of national crisis."

Keith's note: Boeing begs for $60 billion in tax dollars but won't say what they will do with the money or how they will help their employees while Lockheed Martin specifically talks about taking care of their people and others. Hmmm ... $60 billion for Being. Assuming 150,000 employees (give or take) that would be $400,000 per employee. That's enough to keep people employed for a year or two. Just sayin'

Former U.N. envoy Nikki Haley quits Boeing's board over its plea for $60B in aid, Geekwire

"Earlier this week, Trump told reporters that he supported a Boeing bailout -- and referred indirectly to the company's 737 MAX troubles: "it was unthinkable what happened, with respect to Boeing. Probably I would consider it the greatest company in the world prior to a year ago. Now they get hit in 15 different ways and they have different management. I've met the new people running Boeing. I think it's going to be outstanding. "But, yeah, we have to protect Boeing. We have to absolutely help Boeing. They were doing a job. ... It was coming along well. And then all of a sudden, this hits. So, obviously, when the airlines aren't doing well, Boeing is not going to be doing well. So we'll be helping Boeing."

Boeing CEO says company may reject stimulus if Treasury seeks equity stake

"Boeing chief executive David Calhoun on Tuesday suggested that the aircraft manufacturer would not accept federal aid as part of a pending economic rescue bill if it meant giving the Treasury Department a stake in the company. ... Boeing is requesting $60 billion in federal loans from a $500 billion corporate assistance program created in the Senate's $2 trillion economic stimulus bill. The bill, which is still being negotiated, also allows the Treasury secretary to take a stake in bailed-out corporations, as the government did to major banks who received federal rescue funds in 2008."

Boeing to Emerge as Big Stimulus Winner, WS Journal

"The company has declined to detail the components of the $60 billion it has been seeking. After the Senate passed its stimulus bill late Wednesday, Boeing praised the package, saying its liquidity boost was "critical for airlines, airports, suppliers, and manufacturers to bridge to recovery." Faced with mounting financial strain, Boeing has suspended its dividend and has been considering potential layoffs. Executives have said they were working to avoid cutting or furloughing employees from its 65,000-worker commercial arm. Under the proposed stimulus plan, certain loan recipients must maintain at least 90% of their current workforce through Sept. 30, among other worker protections, eliciting praise from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Boeing factory workers in the Seattle area."

Teamwork and Resilience: Today's Ask the Administrator, NASA

"Thank you for all the great questions submitted for this week's virtual Ask the Administrator. With the assistance of Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk and Chief Health and Medical Officer Dr. J.D. Polk, we got through as many questions as possible in this session. I encourage you to take a moment to watch the video online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCKR9Ge-5Gw. The video also will be posted to https://nasapeople.nasa.gov/coronavirus."

NASA Virtual Town Hall: Ask the Administrator 25 March 2020 (Transcript), NASA

NASA Science Division Updates to the Community, NASA

"The NASA Science Division Directors will provide community updates on Tuesday, March 31, when they address the discipline committees of the National Academies' Space Studies Board (SSB) during Space Science Week 2020. During the updates, the Science Division Directors will discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for NASA Science and other Division specific updates of NASA's science programs."

Elon Musk's SpaceX puts employees in quarantine after two workers get coronavirus, telegraph

"An employee and a medic at Elon Musk's SpaceX have tested positive for coronavirus, causing the company to put at least 12 of its workers in quarantine. Employees were told on Monday afternoon that two people working at the company's facility in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles had the virus, according to a company email seen by The Telegraph."

Keith's note: I am starting to see Facebook and social media posts by people I know - who know people who are sick with COVID-19 - or have died. This will start to accelerate sharply albeit exponentially in the next week or so. Remember back in the 80s and 90s when your gay friends would comment once in a while about the increasing number of friends they lost to AIDS and the air of despair and hopelessness that accompanied that loss - and the aching hope for a cure? Think of that decade or so of prolonged loss compressed into mere months. That is what COVID-19 can and will do unless everyone does their part to limit the spread. Add in what we all went through during/after 9-11, Columbia, and Katrina for good measure. We've all seen those movies before. And we all made it through each of them.

If you have worked at NASA for more than 5 minutes then you have heard the old "there is no 'I' in team" management theme. Well, guess what: that is now obsolete. The "I" is now of paramount importance. Every single person can - and must - make a contribution by staying home, being cautious, listening to medical professionals, and adapting to the new normal of doing rocket science from home. Acting as an individual is now of core importance to the team.

As Jim Bridenstine noted "Each of us has the important responsibility of taking extra precautions to protect ourselves and our team. If you are performing on-site work and feel sick, do not go to work. Contact your supervisor immediately and schedule an appointment with your primary care provider."

I take Jim 200% at his word. If your center is not at Stage 4 yet and you think that it should be, then tell your management. If you do not feel comfortable doing so or think that they are not listening then please borrow the NASAWatch comments section - or send an email - and I will make sure the message is delivered - with anonymity.

In the mean time, now that working at NASA - is working from home - in isolation - there is one example to emulate: Think like Mark Watney. He teleworked from Mars for years. He eventually showed up at his NASA office on Earth after all the bad stuff was over.

So can you.

Message From The NASA Administrator: March 24 Update on Agency Response to Coronavirus

"Our nation is fighting an invisible enemy - coronavirus (COVID-19). NASA is implementing important measures across the agency to do our part to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our communities. To continue NASA's inspiring mission, the safety of our workforce is our top priority. We will not ask employees and contractors to perform work if we do not have the highest confidence that it is safe to do so. ... Each of us has the important responsibility of taking extra precautions to protect ourselves and our team. If you are performing on-site work and feel sick, do not go to work. Contact your supervisor immediately and schedule an appointment with your primary care provider."

ISS National Laboratory: COVID-19 Response and Update, CASIS

"Effective March 20, 2020, we elevated the COVID-19 response level at the ISS National Lab, enacting a mandatory telework policy for our team. ... As we endeavor to navigate this very dynamic situation, we will provide status updates as necessary. For now, let's all do the best that we can to remain safe and healthy. Let's also make an effort to remain connected to one another through this challenging time. All the best and trying to be Mark Watney."

ESA COVID-19 Responses

ESA scales down science mission operations amid pandemic, ESA

"In response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, ESA has decided to further reduce on-site personnel at its mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The new adjustments require temporarily stopping instrument operation and data gathering on four Solar System science missions, which are part of the wider fleet of 21 spacecraft currently flown by the Agency from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt. ESA implemented risk mitigation measures early on. The vast majority of ESA's workforce has been teleworking for nearly two weeks. Only key personnel performing critical tasks, which include maintaining real-time spacecraft operations, are still present on site at ESA's establishments throughout Europe."

NASA Science Mission Directorate Virtual Town Hall 2020

"The leadership of SMD recognizes that the COVID-19 epidemic has placed tremendous strain on all of us and our families, disrupting our lives and putting new hurdles in the way of accomplishing our professional goals. Our first priority is the safety of everyone who works on NASA missions and funded research and SMD leadership is committed to doing all it can to support our community. I want to thank all of you for your patience and hard work as we transition to this new normal.

We know that progress on funded research may slow and in some cases even stop due to necessary telework and lack of access to facilities and labs, the closing of public schools and daycare facilities for our children, the transition of teaching activities to on-line classes, and other family obligations. SMD understands this potential outcome of the current epidemic response and will work with the research community and its institutions to mitigate any impacts and to make plans, when possible, for a way forward. This situation will undoubtedly cause some inefficiencies, but we continue to be supportive of any research that can be done remotely."

NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - March 23, 2020

Most of the agency remains at Stage 3 of NASA's Response Framework to COVID-19, with mandatory telework for all employees and limited exceptions for on-site work. Ames, Michoud and Stennis are at Stage 4 with personnel on-site to protect life and critical infrastructure. Recently, Glenn Research Center in Ohio and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City have also been elevated to Stage 4. Every precaution is being taken to safeguard the health of our workforce. Agency leadership is regularly evaluating mission-essential activities and determining what can safely proceed and what should be completed through telework. Please continue to stay in frequent contact with your supervisor and check the NASA People website regularly for updates.

White House Announces New Partnership to Unleash U.S. Supercomputing Resources to Fight COVID-19

"The White House announced the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world's most powerful high performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus. ... "We are pleased to lend NASA's supercomputing expertise to assist in the global fight against this pandemic. For more than six decades the agency has used its expertise to take on challenges that have benefited people worldwide in unexpected ways," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator."

NASA COVID-19 Community Update from Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen

"We know that progress on funded research may slow and in some cases even stop due to necessary telework and lack of access to facilities and labs, the closing of public schools and daycare facilities for our children, the transition of teaching activities to on-line classes, and other family obligations. SMD understands this potential outcome of the current epidemic response and will work with the research community and its institutions to mitigate any impacts and to make plans, when possible, for a way forward. This situation will undoubtedly cause some inefficiencies, but we continue to be supportive of any research that can be done remotely."

Boeing worker at Everett plant dies from coronavirus infection, Seattle Times

"The man's job was to oversee unfinished work that had traveled out from the factory to the flight line. He was also a shop steward in the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union. On Saturday, while he was still in intensive care, his brother posted a plea to Boeing on Facebook. "Boeing Everett plant, please close your doors and shut down," his brother wrote, adding that the man had worked at Boeing for 27 years. "My brother is on life support. Please pray for him and all affected by the virus," he concluded.In a subsequent post, he said his brother had died."

Boeing to Temporarily Suspend Puget Sound Production Operations in Response to Escalating COVID-19 Pandemic

"Boeing [NYSE: BA] announced a temporary suspension of production operations at its Puget Sound area facilities in light of the state of emergency in Washington state and the company's continuous assessment of the accelerating spread of the coronavirus in the region. These actions are being taken to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and the local community, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with the requirements of its customers."

COVID-19 Pandemic Management Course, Johns Hopkins

"As scientists, doctors, and governments try to get a grip on COVID-19, surgeon and partner of ES4P David Joyce, MD MBA, and Emergency Medical physician and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, MD, are partnering to offer a new online course on COVID-19 for healthcare providers. The course aims to go beyond improving providers' understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering critical advice on what providers can do to care for their patients while mitigating the risks of contracting and spreading the disease themselves."

Submit Your Questions for NASA's First "Ask the Administrator"

"Do you have a question about NASA's response to coronavirus (COVID-19)? Submit your questions and Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk, and Chief Health and Medical Officer Dr. J.D. Polk will answer them during a recorded video Q&A session. The question queue will be open until noon EDT Tuesday, March 24. The video will be posted online Wednesday, March 25, for the entire workforce to watch and we'll let you know as soon as it's available and where to watch it!"

Editorial: Why Coronavirus Cannot Kill Aviation, Aviation Week

"It is vital for governments, lawmakers and industry leaders to recognize that aviation will need help getting through such destructive upheaval. But in some cases, the optics will invite legitimate criticism. For example, Boeing has returned nearly $50 billion to its shareholders over the past five years while investing far less. Now it wants taxpayers to cough up tens of billions for a bailout? U.S. airlines are no better: They have sent 96% of free cash flow to shareholders over the last five years. And what about those airlines in Europe that should have been allowed to die long ago? Will they use this crisis as leverage for yet another government rescue?"

Trump says he is 'OK' with forbidding buybacks as condition of corporate bailouts, CNBC

"President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would not oppose barring companies that receive federal assistance during the coronavirus pandemic from conducting stock buybacks."

KSC Worker Confirmed with COVID-19, Talk of Titusville

"An employee with Jacob's Space Exploration Group, a subcontractor based at Kennedy Space Center, has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. According to email sent by management on Sunday, March, the employee has been out on leave for over a week and was feeling well but no symptoms when they left for leave."

Keith's note: I have been hearing from NASA and contractor employees who are still working and considered to be "essential". "Essential" is a term used by the government and does not mean that other people are not "essential". That said, those people who have been deemed to have an "essential" role face the same risks, stresses, and concerns as the rest of us. This email from someone at KSC speaks very clearly to this issue. Perhaps NASA can respond to those people who cannot telework and must be onsite.

"Hi Keith,

I am a Contractor employee at KSC working on SLS. Could you do the Mission Essential Contractor Team at KSC a favor and ask the NASA Administrator a question. Since we are all concerned about the Corona virus and since every day at work we hear a Safety message why are we still working SLS at KSC. Seems kinda hypocritical. Close the NASA Centers and discontinue all work in an abundance of caution until we as a Country get through this. Safety first.

Thanks"

Keith's update: KSC Worker Confirmed with COVID-19, Talk of Titusville

The Parallels Between Space Missions And COVID-19 Isolation, Jack Stuster

Keith's note: Jack Stuster has been conducting studies for NASA on how crews live and work in space and the parallels that can be found with expeditions on Earth for decades. He has provided this commentary about confinement and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the parallels within his studies.

"Dear Keith: I have been asked recently by two German journalists for suggestions about how families and others might adapt to confinement and isolation in their homes in response to the current pandemic. As you know, I have studied conditions analogous to space stations and to expeditions to the Moon and Mars for nearly 40 years, and I studied life on the ISS during the 13-year Journals Flight Experiment. I have described the research in articles/papers, NASA technical reports, and a book, Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration. I am offering the recommendations, below, and on the attached one-page document in hope that the information might be useful to your readers."

Seventh Meeting of the National Space Council Postponed

"The Seventh Meeting of the National Space Council, scheduled to take place on March 24th, 2020 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., has been postponed. A new date for the meeting will be determined."

NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus, NASA

"We are going to take care of our people. That's our first priority," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can't safely do that we're going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities." The agency has defined mission-essential work as that which must be performed to maintain critical mission operations to ensure the schedule of time-sensitive mission-critical launches, or work to protect life and critical infrastructure. This includes work to support America's national security and mission-essential functions for the nation. NASA leadership will continually assess all activities as the situation evolves."

NASA Stennis Space Center Site Status 20 March 2020

"Stennis Space Center is in Stage 4 for COVID-19 NASA leadership continues to make the health and safety of the Stennis workforce a top priority. Due to the rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the local area, and the number of self-isolation cases within our workforce, Stennis is moving into Stage 4 of our Agency coronavirus response framework effective Friday, March 20. While there is only one confirmed case at Stennis, this step is being taken to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 and protect you and your families. Access to Stennis during Stage 4 will be limited to personnel supporting activities necessary to protect life and critical infrastructure as identified by the resident agencies and SSC leadership."

NASA Administrator Bridenstine: March 19 Update on Agency Response to Coronavirus, NASA

"NASA leadership is determined to make the health and safety of its workforce its top priority as we navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. To that end, the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center are moving to Stage 4 of the NASA Response Framework, effective Friday, March 20. ... NASA will temporarily suspend production and testing of Space Launch System and Orion hardware. The NASA and contractors teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume. Once this is complete, personnel allowed onsite will be limited to those needed to protect life and critical infrastructure."

NASA OIG: NASA's Development of Ground and Flight Application Software for the Artemis Program

"We found the EGS Program has taken appropriate steps to manage GFAS by implementing a flexible software development process and exercising appropriate oversight and risk management. However, we found that challenges from simultaneous hardware and software development efforts resulted in revisions to GFAS and contributed to increased development costs. In addition, NASA and Lockheed Martin--the contractor developing the Orion crew capsule--took 2 years to resolve information technology security issues that delayed the GFAS team from obtaining remote access to critical test equipment at the contractor's laboratory. Overall, as of October 2019 GFAS development has cost $51 million, about $14 million more than originally planned. Although EGS managers expect GFAS to be ready in time to launch Artemis I, it is essential that the Agency incorporate lessons learned from cross-program development, integration, and testing challenges to minimize risks to future software development."

ESA Mission Control Adjusts To Coronavirus Conditions, ESA

"Responsible for spacecraft orbiting Earth, the Sun and exploring the Solar System, teams at ESA's ESOC mission control deal with in-flight challenges every day, from faulty hardware, problematic software and hazardous space debris to computer viruses that could affect ground stations. So how do they keep missions flying when a viral pandemic puts the people of the Agency at risk?"

Keith's note: How are NASA (JSC, JPL, KSC, WFF), DoD, APL, SpaceX, Rockelab, Blue Origin, ULA etc working Coronavirus/COVID-19 social distancing into how they run their launches and missions?

NASA Ames Update: Update: Second Ames Employee Case Confirmed

"We have received notification that a second Ames employee has acquired COVID-19 illness. There is no indication that this second case is related to the first case. Based on the circumstances and elapsed time since the employee was on site (more than 19 days ago), we believe that there is no additional risk at the center."

NASA is Prepared for this Challenge, Jim Bridenstine

"Our nation is facing a challenging time amid this national health emergency. The well-being of you and your families remains the top priority for NASA leadership. While we know this situation presents a number of difficulties for our missions, we are confident there is no team better prepared for doing hard things. We have accomplished so many incredible feats as an agency. We put Americans on the Moon, landed on Mars (seven times!), launched hundreds of crewed and robotic missions into space, created life-changing technologies, transformed aviation and sustained human presence on a laboratory that flies 250 miles above Earth for nearly 20 years - just to name a few things that once were thought to be impossible."

Al Worden

Humanity's First EVA

Keith's note: As a biologist I cannot let this pandemic go by without paying close attention to the details. They are scary. If you are young the risk is less equally - perhaps more likely that you are going to be seriously sick if infected - and you will still able to spread COVID-19 to others. If you are in good health you will probably be OK. But if you have any - I repeat any - underlying physical issues and/or are a Boomer (or older) then you should be very afraid. The death risk goes up - well above Flu. Stock up on the essentials. Make sure you have an extra supply - and take - your meds. Become a hermit. If your spouse gets this - so will you. You can interact with others to your heart's content online for a few months. There is no treatment. There is no cure. Only prevention and common sense are available to you. This is survivable but you need to take responsibility for your own survival.

Our current federal government will fail you in this regard. Get used to it.

Be Mark Watney.

Hello from Italy. Your future is grimmer than you think., Washington Post

"Writing this from Italy, I am also writing to you from your own future. From our state of emergency, we have been watching the crisis unfold in the United States with a terrible sense of foreboding. Please stop waiting for others to tell you what to do; stop blaming the government for doing too much or too little. We all have actions we can take to slow the spread of the disease -- and ensuring that your own household has enough canned goods and cleaning supplies is not enough. You can do a lot more. You should do a lot more. Stay away from restaurants, gyms, libraries, movie theaters, bars and cafes, yes. But also: Don't invite people over for dinner, don't let your kids go on playdates, don't take them to the playground, don't let your teenagers out of your sight. They will sneak out with their friends, they will hold hands, they will share their drinks and food. If this seems too much, consider the following: We are not allowed to hold weddings or funerals. We can't gather to bury our dead. For us, it might be too late to avoid an incredible loss of life. But if you decide against taking actions because it seems inconvenient, or because you don't want to look silly, you can't say you weren't warned."

March 17 Update on NASA's Response to Coronavirus, NASA

"This evening, NASA leadership has decided to elevate all centers and facilities to Stage 3 of NASA's Response Framework. Effective immediately, all employees and contractors will move to mandatory telework until further notice. Mission-essential personnel will continue to be granted access onsite. Please contact your supervisor as soon as possible if you have any questions."

NASA OIG: Audit of NASA's Development of Its Mobile Launchers

"NASA has greatly exceeded its cost and schedule targets in developing ML-1. As of January 2020, modification of ML-1 to accommodate the SLS has cost $693 million--$308 million more than the Agency's March 2014 budget estimate--and is running more than 3 years behind schedule.

Looking ahead, the project faces a risk of further cost increases and schedule slippage as ML-1 completes testing for Artemis I and undergoes modifications for Artemis II. The Agency's acquisition approach for ML-1, which lacked coordination and competition with design contractors, coupled with immature SLS requirements resulted in design errors and integration challenges that drove the project's cost increases and schedule delays.

Specifically, the ML-1 project experienced numerous design errors during the outfitting of the tower that resulted in cabling and structural conflicts, equipment that did not work as intended, and issues with fabrication of the connections known as umbilicals that provide power, communications, oxygen, and fuel. NASA exacerbated these issues by accepting unproven and untested designs from one of the project's contractors. Additionally, immature SLS requirements resulted in integration challenges that also contributed to increased costs and caused schedule delays. As a result of these issues, NASA incurred substantial unplanned costs for a system the Agency currently plans to use for three or four missions."

"Shelter in Place" Guidance for Ames Community , NASA Ames

"In compliance with the Order of the Santa Clara County Health Officer, effective 12:01 a.m. PDT, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Ames Research Center is on mandatory telework for ALL personnel with the exception of limited personnel required to maintain safety and security of the center. All previously approved exceptions for work onsite are rescinded and new approvals will be required in order to gain access to the center."

COVID-19: Guiana Space Center suspends launch campaigns, Arianespace

"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to fully implement the measures decided by the French government, launch campaigns underway at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana have been suspended. These launch preparations will resume as soon as allowed by health conditions. This exceptional measure is designed to protect the health of employees and the local population, while also maintaining the security needed to prepare for scheduled launches. Arianespace, French space agency CNES and all companies involved at CSG are currently overseeing operations to place launchers and satellites in safe standby condition, in line with standard procedures."

NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge Cancels In-Person Competition; Virtual Awards to be Presented in May, NASA

"The safety and protection of the Rover Challenge student teams, our NASA workforce and all those supporting the competition is NASA's top priority. According to guidance of the Center for Disease Control and other federal agencies, traveling and gathering in large groups are heavily discouraged at this time. In an effort to comply with guidance and help restrict the spread of COVID-19, we regret that we must cancel this year's competition. However, some awards will still be given virtually, to reward the work that teams have already completed."

Statement on NASA Goddard's Coronavirus Prep Actions

"Out of an abundance of caution, Goddard has canceled all non-mission-essential visits to its facilities. Goddard also is closing its Visitor Centers at Greenbelt and at Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, beginning Friday, March 13, as a means to be protective and encourage social distancing."

NASA Travel Guidance as of March 14, 2020

"The protection and care of our team is the top priority. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves, the agency is following a phased response based on conditions at, and in the vicinity of, each NASA facility. NASA leadership also is monitoring conferences to determine risk and will continue to provide guidance on attendance accordingly."

NASA JSC: Special: March 14 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

"The protection and care of the Johnson team is our top priority and critical to the success of our mission. While we do not have any confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) at Johnson as of today, March 14, out of an abundance of caution, the center is transitioning to Stage 2 of our response framework. Telework is strongly encouraged for employees who can work remotely. If you already have everything you need to work remotely, you can begin telework on Monday, March 16."

Update on NASA's Response to the Coronavirus

"As we navigate this difficult time, the protection and care of the NASA family continues to be our top priority and the key consideration as we make decisions on how to move forward. NASA leadership is coordinating closely with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and interagency partners in our nation's unified response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and regularly re-evaluating the conditions at each center. Your careful observance of recommendations is key to protecting our team and ensuring we accomplish our mission."

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to Close Temporarily Due to Threat of COVID-19

"Out of an abundance of extreme caution and in the best interest of our guests and crewmembers, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will temporarily be closed as of March 16, 2020 until further notice. During this closure guests will not be permitted onto visitor complex grounds. As always, the health and safety of our employees and guests is the highest priority for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Our goal is also to mitigate the spread of the virus."

From: NASA.Emergency@nasa.gov
Subject: MSFC - Mandatory Telework - Stage 3 Effective Immediately
Date: March 14, 2020 at 7:50:46 AM MDT

This is an emergency message from NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center. Effective immediately, MSFC has gone to mandatory telework, Stage 3. For additional details, please check the email sent by the MSFC Director, Jody Singer.

Statement By NASA Marshall Center Director Jody Singer

"On the evening of Friday, March 13, we received confirmation that one of our employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Contact tracing will begin immediately in order to identify and notify individuals who may have had significant contact with that employee. "Access to the center will be restricted to mission-essential personnel only, as defined in the response framework. More guidance will follow for those who do not have equipment to work from home or who work in labs or other facilities requiring similar technical equipment that is a fixed asset."

Gateway No Longer Mandatory For 2024 Lunar Landing, Space Policy Online

"The head of NASA's human exploration program said today that the lunar Gateway that has been a linchpin of the Artemis program no longer is a mandatory component of getting astronauts back on the Moon by 2024. NASA has decided to "decouple" getting to the Moon "fast" versus getting there "sustainably" and Gateway is not needed to get there fast. This dramatic turnaround was driven by the need to meet the Trump Administration's deadline to put astronauts on the lunar surface before the end of a second Trump term if he is reelected."

NASA takes Gateway off the critical path for 2024 lunar return, SpaceNews

"We can now tell the international partners] 100% positively it will be there because we've changed that program to a much more what I would call solid, accomplishable schedule," he said. He added there were unspecified changes to the Gateway design to reduce its cost "so I don't get into a struggle" between the cost of the Gateway and human lunar landers, suggesting there were cost overruns with the Gateway. "Frankly, had we not done that simplification, I was going to have to cancel Gateway because I couldn't afford it," he said. "By simplifying it and taking it out of the critical path, I can now keep it on track."

American Astronomical Society: COVID-19 and the 236th AAS Meeting

"In response to the increasing threat of COVID-19, the American Astronomical Society is looking into converting its 236th meeting, currently scheduled 31 May to 4 June in Madison, Wisconsin, from an on-site/in-person conference to a fully remote/virtual conference. ... While this is an extraordinarily difficult decision, we believe it is the right one to protect the health and welfare of our members, staff, vendors, and other meeting participants. If we can pull it off, holding a virtual AAS 236 would likely have positive long-term effects. Our Sustainability Committee has been wrestling with how to lower the carbon footprint of AAS meetings and has been encouraging the Society to experiment with ways of enabling remote access to some sessions. Until recently, every software product we explored for this purpose left a lot to be desired. Now, though, virtual conferencing technology appears to have proliferated, matured, and become more affordable. We are optimistic that AAS 236 could not only be successful as an all-digital conference, but also that it could serve as a trailblazer to a future of more inclusive and sustainable AAS meetings."

Space Symposium Postponed

Space Foundation Postpones 36th Space Symposium

"The Space Foundation issued a statement today announcing the 36th Space Symposium, previously scheduled for March 30 - April 2, 2020, has been postponed: "The Space Foundation is working with its partners, The Broadmoor, the City of Colorado Springs, and its members and other key stakeholders to identify future dates and details that will assemble the world's space community again in Colorado. "In the coming days, we will be issuing additional guidance about those steps and the identified path forward. We ask for your patience as that guidance is assembled and conveyed to our partners, attendees, the public, and the space community we are proud to serve."

Keith's note: From the White House: "The next meeting of the National Space Council, originally scheduled to take place on March 24th, 2020 at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will now be held in Washington, D.C.

The meeting, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, will convene at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 24th, 2020. The meeting will be livestreamed, and additional details will be forthcoming."

ExoMars to Take Off for the Red Planet in 2022, not 2020

"In the frame of a dedicated meeting, ESA and Roscosmos heads Jan Wörner and Dmitry Rogozin agreed that further tests to the spacecraft with the final hardware and software are needed. In addition, the parties had to recognise that the final phase of ExoMars activities are compromised by the general aggravation of the epidemiological situation in European countries."

Keith's note: The other day I posted a note about the passing of Nancy Evans. I got a nice note from Michael Ravine at Malin Space Science Systems about Nancy. She was truly another often unsung hero in the tradition of "Hidden Figures":

"Your story about Nancy made me think about her contribution to something I was involved in: I spent the second half of the eighties working for Ed Danielson at Caltech, building the Mars Observer Camera for Mike Malin, then at ASU. The team was mostly twenty-something kids, smart but inexperienced, but Ed leavened it with a few people had actually worked in the space business before. One of those was Nancy Evans. Ed hired Nancy to run the schedule and deal with the other paperwork tasks that this business demands. None of us kids had much patience for that stuff, and I know it was an ongoing challenge for her to maintain a rational schedule on top of the chaos that was going on at the work level. But she did it, and we eventually got the instrument delivered. The MOC was lost when Mars Observer blew up, but we put together the spare MOC and it was flown on Mars Global Surveyor. That, fortunately, made it to Mars, and made some amazing discoveries. Like many other people, Nancy deserves a slice of credit for that.

One day in 1988, I brought my camera into work and shot pictures of everyone, to try to capture what it was like there, then. I shot this one of Nancy, caught (I see now, squinting at the picture) entering an RFA from our recent instrument CDR into a spreadsheet so she could track it. Now, I'm older than she was in this picture, and I'm the one that gets build spreadsheets to track RFAs."

Larger image

Coronavirus crisis hits ice-locked Arctic research expedition, Nature

"The coronavirus outbreak has reached the Arctic -- and is imperilling a massive international scientific project, after a team member tested positive for the virus. The mission, called MOSAiC, is operating from the German research vessel Polarstern, which has been intentionally frozen in Arctic sea ice since last October. From this ice-encrusted platform, a rotating cast of scientists and technicians are sampling the ice, atmosphere and ocean in an attempt to understand the intricacies of the rapidly changing Arctic climate. The team member who contracted the virus works on the airborne component of the expedition -- a key part that has now been delayed to protect those on board the ship. This part of the mission will use scientific aircraft to take measurements around Polarstern to provide context for those taken at the ship."

Boeing to freeze hiring, overtime on 737 MAX, virus impacts: sources, Reuters

"Boeing Co is freezing new hiring and overtime except in certain critical areas in efforts to preserve cash due to the coronavirus outbreaks and the 737 MAX grounding, people familiar the matter said on Wednesday. Layoffs or furloughs were also a "real possibility" but were seen as a separate, later action, one of the people said. A second industry source said job cuts were likely as the aviation industry is squeezed by plummeting travel demand and a safety ban on the 737 MAX after two fatal crashes hit the one-year mark."

The Official SATELLITE 2020 Statement

"In light of the DC Health Department's announcement today recommending gatherings of 1,000 or more people be postponed until March 31st, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center has decided to close this evening at the conclusion of our scheduled events. This impacts both the exhibit hall and conference sessions for Thursday, March 12th."

Coronavirus shaking up America's defense industry, Defense News

"Lockheed, Raytheon and Honeywell were among dozens of companies that pulled out of last month's Singapore Air Show, which is typically the largest defense trade show in Asia―and SXSW, a show AIA participates in, was cancelled. The two offer a glimpse into how fears of corona virus could impact other defense trade shows and conferences. "It felt like a ghost town. It definitely was a strange experience," Fanning said about the Singapore conference."

Keith's note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic the president just announced a 30 day ban on all travel (apparently including cargo) to the U.S. from Europe beginning at midnight Friday. As such one could expect a wide range of space community activities will be severely impacted.

NASA: Reporting Requirements Regarding Findings of Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Harassment, or Sexual Assault

"NASA is publishing, in final form, a new term and condition regarding sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, and sexual assault. ... The many hundreds of U.S. institutions of higher education and other organizations that receive NASA funds are responsible for fully investigating complaints under and for compliance with federal non- discrimination laws, regulations, and executive orders. The implementation of new reporting requirements is necessary to help ensure research environments to which NASA provides funding are free from sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, and sexual assault. Additionally, NASA is bolstering our policies, guidelines, and communications. These requirements are intended, first, to better ensure that organizations funded by NASA clearly understand expectations and requirements. In addition, NASA seeks to ensure that recipients of grants and cooperative agreements respond promptly and appropriately to instances of sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, and sexual assault."

- New NASA Statements on Discrimination and Harassment Policies, earlier post
- NASA Speaks About Harassment in Space Science and Astronomy, earlier post
- New Report On Harassment in Science & Engineering Released, earlier post

NASA OIG: NASA'S Management of Space Launch System Program Costs and Contracts, OIG

"NASA continues to struggle managing SLS Program costs and schedule as the launch date for the first integrated SLS/Orion mission slips further. Rising costs and delays can be attributed to challenges with program management, technical issues, and contractor performance. For example, the structure of the SLS contracts limits visibility into contract costs and prevents NASA from determining precise costs per element. Specifically, rather than using separate contract line item numbers (CLIN) for each element's contract deliverables, each of the contracts have used a single CLIN to track all deliverables making it difficult for the Agency to determine if the contractor is meeting cost and schedule commitments for each deliverable. Moreover, as NASA and the contractors attempt to accelerate the production of the SLS Core Stages to meet aggressive timelines, they must also address concerns about shortcomings in quality control.

Based on our review of SLS Program cost reporting, we found that the Program exceeded its Agency Baseline Commitment (ABC)--that is, the cost and schedule baselines committed to Congress against which a program is measured--by at least 33 percent at the end of fiscal year 2019, a figure that could reach 43 percent or higher if additional delays push the launch date for Artemis I beyond November 2020. This is due to cost increases tied to development of Artemis I and a December 2017 replan that removed almost $1 billion of costs from the Program's ABC without lowering the baseline, thereby masking the impact of Artemis I's projected 19-month schedule delay from November 2018 to June 2020. Since the replan, the SLS Program now projects the Artemis I launch will be delayed to at least spring 2021 or later. Further, we found NASA's ABC cost reporting only tracks Artemis I-related activities and not total SLS Program costs. Overall, by the end of fiscal year 2020, NASA will have spent more than $17 billion on the SLS Program--including almost $6 billion not tracked or reported as part of the ABC."

Keith's 10 March update: I was able to listen in to the internal NASA webcast on Corona virus issues and live tweed as much as I could - you can see the tweets plus the questions submitted by NASA employees at @NASAwatch. You can check out the questions submitted and voted on here: https://arc.cnf.io/#!/dashboard

Keith's 10 March update: This Town Hall meeting will only be webcast internally at NASA.

Keith's 9 March note: NASA will have an agency-wide meeting on Tuesday 10 March at 12:00 pm Noon EST. The event will be streamed live within the agency. I am not sure if the public will be able to see it.

I was able to listen in to the internal NASA webcast on Corona virus issues and live tweed as much as I could - you can see the tweets plus the questions submitted by NASA employees at @NASAwatch

NASA Administrator Statement on Coronavirus Situation

"Last Friday's agencywide voluntary telework exercise was a good test of NASA's large-scale preparedness with no reported issues to the overall IT system. I've asked all NASA employees to continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency's Chief Health and Medical Officer, and if they have questions, don't hesitate to talk with their supervisor.

"You've heard the agency's leadership say the protection and care of our NASA team is the top priority and critical to the success of the agency's mission, and it's true. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves, we'll continue to closely monitor and coordinate with federal, state, and community officials to take any further appropriate steps to help safeguard the NASA family."

Boeing Statement on Employee Diagnosed with COVID-19

"Boeing is providing its full support to an employee at our Everett facility who has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is now in quarantine receiving the care and treatment necessary for their recovery. We have notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials. As a precaution, we've asked all coworkers of the employee who were in close contact to remain home to self-quarantine and self-monitor, and we've conducted a thorough cleaning of the work areas and common spaces."

Keith's 9 March note: Let's see how many of you pay close attention to all of the photos that NASA releases from Hubble - there have been so many over the past 20+ years. Where is this image from?

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/87539860.jpg

Keith's 10 March update: OK, so I played a trick on some of you when originally posted this yesterday. This is not a Hubble image. It is actually a portion of a photo I took yesterday in the woods near my house.

By an utterly eerie coincidence, this press release came out today .... Astronomers use slime mold model to reveal dark threads of the cosmic web: "A computational approach inspired by the growth patterns of a bright yellow slime mold has enabled a team of astronomers and computer scientists at UC Santa Cruz to trace the filaments of the cosmic web that connects galaxies throughout the universe."

I am a biologist - who used to work for NASA - and I run the Astrobiology.com website. So I see biological and astronomical pattern similarities pretty much everywhere. I was wondering if others did too. When I looked down into this stream yesterday I was immediately reminded of the Eagle Nebula aka The Pillars of Creation, Based on the responses, it looks like I am not alone. The connections between microscopic life on Earth and the vast structure of the cosmos are obvious. Oh yes, and I watched "Cosmos" on TV last night, so ....

"Dear Ames Personnel,

NASA's Ames Research Center will temporarily go to MANDATORY telework status effective immediately and until further notice. More guidance will follow for those who do not have equipment to work from home or who work in labs or other facilities requiring similar technical equipment that are fixed assets.

On Sunday, March 8, we received confirmation that an Ames employee tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). We believe the exposure at the center has been limited, but -- out of an abundance of caution, and in consultation with NASA Headquarters and the NASA Chief Heath and Medical Officer in accordance to agency response plans -- Ames Research Center will temporarily go to a mandatory telework status until further notice.

Access to the center will be restricted to essential personnel only as required to safeguard life, property, and critical mission functions approved at the level of the associate center director. Limiting personnel at the center will allow Ames medical personnel and public health officials to determine potential contacts and assess areas that may require additional cleaning and mitigate potential exposure to center personnel.

The protection and care of the Ames family, their families, and the entire Ames community is our top priority and critical to the success of our mission.

The status of the center will be updated regularly through centerwide messages, the emergency notification system, and on the ARCSOS site at https://arcsos.arc.nasa.gov/. Please stay in close contact with your supervisor. I greatly appreciate your understanding, patience, and support.

Eugene Tu
Center Director"

Nancy Evans

"Nancy Liggett Evans 11/22/1937 - 1/17/2020 was born to M. Margaret and Dr. Robert Samuel Liggett in Denver Colorado. She was married to E. Wayne Bamford bearing a daughter Megan Ann. She was later married to William J. Evans of Denver. Moving to California in the 70's, she was employed in planetary exploration at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA headquarters and the California Institute of Technology. Known as the "mother" of the Planetary Data System; she later enabled the digitization of the Lunar orbiter images. However, the work of her lifetime was the development, documentation and practice of veterinary acupuncture. She was working on a book about this subject, but it was not completed. She is remembered by her daughter Megan, son in law Mike Flynn, her sister Margaret Ann and many friends and acquaintances."

Image: From 2008: Lunar Orbiter Program Manager Lee Scherer and Nancy Evans in front of the restored and operational FR-900 tape drive used to retrieve Lunar Orbiter images. There was not a dry eye in the house when they both visited. Link

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos, Wired

"When they learned through a Usenet group that former NASA employee Nancy Evans might have both the tapes and the super-rare Ampex FR-900 drives needed to read them, they jumped into action. They drove to Los Angeles, where the refrigerator-sized drives were being stored in a backyard shed surrounded by chickens. At the same time, they retrieved the tapes from a storage unit in nearby Moorpark, and things gradually began to take shape. Funding the project out of pocket at first, they were consumed with figuring out how to release the images trapped in the tapes."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/earthise.old.new.med.2.jpg

Keith's note: Nancy Evans saw the undiscovered value in the Lunar Orbiter tapes when no one else did. NASA usually likes new, shiny things - not old, dusty things. Nancy put her money where her mouth was and fought to save these tapes as best she could - as well as the drives needed to read them. As a result the world now has an archive of ultra-high lunar imagery from the mid-1960s which can often exceed contemporary imagery and can be used to study changes in the lunar surface over the span of half a century. That imagery is now online in the Planetary Data System - which Nancy lead the development of - where it belongs, along side data from other NASA missions.

Sometimes being a true space pioneer can be as simple as not throwing things out when you are told to throw them out. History is an inexhaustible resource for new discoveries. Nancy Evans did a diving catch and saved some of that NASA history. NASA would do well to take a fresh look at its old data. Who knows what lies within that data awaiting discovery.

Ad Astra Nancy.

- Memorial information (21 March 2022).
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, official (archived) website
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, Wikipedia
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Online Data Volumes, NASA PDS

Keith's note: NASA and Boeing held a media briefing today about the report of the NASA Internal Review Team (IRT) report on the various problems with the recent Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT). In summary the IRT found 61 things - recommendations - action items - problems - call them what you will - that need to be attended to by Boeing. We really do not know what they are since NASA and Boeing have not released them. But maybe they will.

According to NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro this was a close all with the possibility that the Starliner could have been lost at the beginning of the mission or at the end of its mission. Since this is a Boeing project with significant NASA insight Loverro has started the process with the NASA Safety office to set up an organizational root assessment of all Boeing and NASA actions leading up to this mission.

When Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch initially spoke he was, in essence, saying that he wanted to thank NASA IRT for helping Boeing to find these 61 issues that Boeing was unable to find prior to launch - despite the biliions spent on Starliner - and despite all the help from NASA.

Doug Loverro said that he was designating this whole Starliner thing as a "High Visibility Close Call" (HVCC) which is NASAese for setting up an internal NASA process that includes all involved plus NASA Safety to find out what went wrong. Loverro noted that Boeing had "graciously" agreed to support this team. Uh huh. Nice of them to be gracious about it.

I asked a question about these 61 technical issues and Chilton started to get into semantics as to whether they were "61 technical problems" since many of these things mapped against the same problems. And then NASA hung up on me before I could hear the rest of my question. It took a while to be able to reconnect to the telecon. Maybe its the snarky questions I ask. Then again Jeff Foust from Space News got thrown out of the question queue. Houston we have a problem ...

Listening to Doug Loverro talk he got into many fundamental aspects of how to manage a large aerospace program that speaks to experience gained from a 40 year career doing just that. Although he was trying to be positive about this it is clear that he is aware of pervasive Boeing/ NASA Starliner problems and that some structured adult supervision is required.

Everyone on the call wanted to know if there would be another OFT flight without a crew or with a crew. Loverro explained that the initial requirement for crew transport was to show NASA that the vehicle could safely deliver a crew to the ISS. Boeing opted for an actual docking to prove this requirement and NASA wrote it into the contract. Whether an un-crewed OFT re-flight is needed to do this or whether a crew can fly next time and make up for missed requirements is still TBD - and NASA was not showing its cards on this. Chilton later said that Boeing would re-fly the OFT if need be, but we do not know who'd pay for this extra mission.

Between my first question and my re-asking of that question an hour later I inquired of Boeing that since Boeing had all of these undiscovered problems prior to launch - of what they thought was a perfectly good spacecraft = one would assume that a more complex Boeing space vehicle such as the SLS would now require even more time to double check. Chilton said that there was output from the Starliner IRT effort and that it was being sent around their company for everyone to analyze to see if it applied to their programs. But other than that he did not get into specifics.

Loverro added that the pacing items on SLS were not software but instead were the green test (engine firing) and that other than a ground system issue at Stennis, no software needed to be finished. He also noted that the software team at IV&V was looking to all of this as well.

Of course Boeing and NASA originally thought that the Starliner's software was good to go - so its a little curious that no one is overly concerned that there are more undiscovered things lurking in otherwise certified SLS software given all of the software issues the Boeing SLS people have experienced at MSFC. And again, SLS is a much larger, energetic, and complex spacecraft than Starliner - one upon which a crewed vehicle will eventually fly.

As to whether the way that NASA Has bought commercial services is the issue Loverro commented that he has had great successes with fixed cost and cost-plus contracts as well as failures from both types of contracts. So the contracting mechanism is not the issue.. Instead Loverro thinks that this is a managerial issue - hence the convening of the follow-on internal assessment of how NASA and Boeing did what they did on the Starliner flight. No timeline was given so one would assume that no Starliners are going to fly until this effort is completed. So .. barring any unforeseen problems SpaceX looks to be poised to win the flag that awaits them on board the ISS.

When asked if any more Soyuz seats are being bought Loverro said that they are talking to Russia and the plan is to buy one more seat. The telecon closed with Loverro saying the obligatory "we won't fly unless its safe ... stuff" and the operator ended the teleconference. I was busy typing and did not hang up right away. Other reporters did hang up. Then the NASA guy came back and said that Jim Chilton had some closing thoughts and he had an important one - that if NASA wants Boeing to re-fly OFT then they will. Nice of NASA to tell reporters that the telecon was over before Chilton had a chance to say this.

If I sound a little impatient with NASA's teleconferencing system - I am. I did live video webcasts from Everest Base Camp for a month in 2009 using gear I carried on my back with far fewer technical problems than NASA has with a simple dial-in system. Seriously NASA, fix it. And get some new on-hold music too while you are at it.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

"NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Participants in the briefing will be:

- Douglas Loverro, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
- Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
- Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program
- John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Program"

Listen live

Boeing Statement on Independent Review Team Recommendations for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test Anomalies

"We accept and appreciate the recommendations of the jointly led NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team (IRT) as well as suggestions from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel following Starliner's Orbital Flight Test (OFT). Their insights are invaluable to the Commercial Crew Program and we will work with NASA to comprehensively apply their recommendations.

- Regarding the Mission Elapsed Timer anomaly, the IRT believes they found root cause and provided a number of recommendations and corrective actions.
- The IRT also investigated a valve mapping software issue, which was diagnosed and fixed in flight. That error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn. What would have resulted from that is unclear.
- The IRT is also making significant progress on understanding the command dropouts encountered during the mission and is further investigating methods to make the Starliner communications system more robust on future missions."

Keith's note: To date none of these Starliner briefings have revealed good news - for Boeing - or NASA. Boeing made a lot of mistakes - and NASA let them and/or did not notice. The IRT report is certain to flesh out the bad news we've already heard and, if the trend continues, will reveal more issues with Starliner. NASA has to decide how Boeing will fix all of the problems that have been identified before they fly Starliner again. The big question is whether there will be people on board the next Starliner flight - or not. NASA may require Boeing to re-do the initial flight without a crew on board. If they do there is a big question as to who pays for the launch which could easily exceed $100 million.

- Boeing's Starliner Transparency Is Still Cloudy, earlier post
- Starliner's Clock Was Really Really Wrong, earlier post
- Boeing's Starliner Mission Flops Due To A Broken Clock, earlier post
- Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test Was Technically A Success - But ..., earlier post
- Boeing's 737/Starliner/SLS Problem Strategy: Blame The Media, earlier post


Message From the Associate NASA Administrator: Coronavirus Update

"As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve, I am updating you on behalf of the NASA leadership team regarding actions we are taking to respond to this serious and evolving situation. As always, the protection and care of our NASA team is the top priority and critical to the success of our mission.

. Friday, March 6, will be an agencywide telework day. The purpose of this exercise is to test our capabilities, resources, and preparedness for large-scale teleworking. Participation is optional and highly encouraged. Remember to take home your government-furnished computer, if you have one.

. A separate email will be sent later in the week with additional information about the agencywide telework day. The email will include guidance on use of the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and virtual collaboration tools, and other helpful information. This is also an opportunity to ensure your home internet connection can support teleworking.

. Contractors should speak with their program manager and/or COR regarding telework eligibility and then they are required to follow company guidance/policy regarding telework, travel, and all other work activities. NASA will remain OPEN throughout this exercise."

Chuck Berry, M.D.

Charles Berry, an early NASA physician, dies at 96, Huston Chronicle

"Dr. Charles "Chuck" A. Berry, a NASA physician who helped select the country's first astronauts and devised tests to see if they could survive the demands of space, died in his sleep Saturday night in his Houston home. He was 96 years old. Berry is considered a pioneer in aviation medicine, with a 68-year career in which he served as a flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force, director of life sciences for NASA, an aviation medical examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration and an aerospace medicine consultant."

NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project Edited Oral History Transcript: Charles A. Berry

"I have a deep and abiding faith in the human capability to adapt to almost--the human body is set up in a way that it will adapt to most anything within reason, within some reason. It's going to go through adaptive changes. Of course, then the big question, in my mind, is, is what we're seeing an adaptive change and how far can it go and still be adaptive and not interfere with the performance of the individual involved. That was the real crux of everything that we were going to do. When we got the people to go for those time periods and saw that they could perform and things weren't getting worse, we still didn't know at the end of the Gemini Program, we didn't know which way things were going to go. Had we reached a point where things weren't going to get worse? We certainly didn't know."

Virginia Middle School Student Names NASA's Next Mars Rover

"NASA's next Mars rover has a new name -- Perseverance. The name was announced Thursday by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Zurbuchen was at the school to congratulate seventh grader Alexander Mather, who submitted the winning entry to the agency's "Name the Rover" essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory. "Alex's entry captured the spirit of exploration," said Zurbuchen. "Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it's going to make amazing discoveries. It's already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today -- processing for launch. Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they're going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can't wait to see that nameplate on Mars."

Keith's note: I had a chance to ask a question at the Mars 2020/Perseverance media telecon: "it was good to hear the word Astrobiology and Mars 2020 in the same sentence since this is an overt Astrobiology mission. Astrobiology is an emergent discipline for the 21st Century that the Artemis Generation will be studying as they prepare for careers studying Mars. The word "Astrobiology" is used elsewhere by NASA, and is in the title of innumerable high school and university classes and text books around the world. Is NASA going to use the Mars 2020 mission to enhance the visibility of its Astrobiology program? We humans are going to have as many as 4 rovers on Mars doing Astrobiology in the near future. This is unprecedented. Are there any plans to have coordination of public outreach for the 4 rovers that will soon be doing Astrobiology research on Mars - again as something to inspire the Artemis Generation?"

Lori Glaze replied "We intend to use Mars 2020 to bring visibility to Astrobiology as a discipline and a focus of this mission. We'll also use Dragonfly and Europa Clipper to highlight Astrobiology as well." She added that it is going to be a fantastic international year on Mars with 4 rovers and we are looking to bringing more focus on the partners and cooperation on Mars.

When asked of it is OK to call Perseverance by the nickname "Percy" Thomas Zurbuchen said it was just fine and that this sort of personalization is part of the way that people will identify with the mission.

Man charged in Springfield killing is NASA executive, former police officer who fatally shot two others, Washington Post

"A Springfield man charged with shooting and killing a neighbor Tuesday is a NASA executive and a former police officer who fatally shot two people in separate line-of-duty incidents, according to family members and government officials. Michael J. Hetle, 52, worked in NASA's headquarters on risk mitigation for the space agency's programs and activities as part of the Enterprise Protection Program, NASA said Wednesday. He joined the agency in 2010 and served in various positions."

Judge delays reckless murder trial of former NASA astronaut, ABC

"A judge in Alabama has delayed the reckless murder trial of a former NASA astronaut charged in a crash that killed two girls four years ago, court records show. Former space shuttle commander James Halsell of Huntsville was set to go on trial Monday. But the defense requested a postponement citing the death of the father of lead attorney Jim Sturdivant, and a judge agreed in an order filed Sunday."

NASA Approves Development of Universe-Studying, Planet-Finding Mission

"The FY2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act funds the WFIRST program through September 2020. The FY2021 budget request proposes to terminate funding for the WFIRST mission and focus on the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope, now planned for launch in March 2021. The Administration is not ready to proceed with another multi-billion-dollar telescope until Webb has been successfully launched and deployed."

FY 2021 Budget, OMB

"Consistent with prior budgets, the Budget provides no funding for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope".

White House Wants To Kill WFIRST - Again (2019), earlier post

"The Budget proposes to terminate the WFIRST mission and instead focus on completing the delayed James Webb Space Telescope."

AAS Officials Concerned with Proposed Cancellation of WFIRST, (2018), earlier post

"Sharing alarm voiced by other scientists, leaders of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are expressing grave concern over the administration's proposed cuts to NASA's astrophysics budget and the abrupt cancellation of theWide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)."

More posts on WFIRST

Jurczyk: Artemis I to Launch in Mid-Late 2021, HLS Contracts Within Weeks, Space Policy Online

"NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said on Friday that the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft, Artemis I, will take place in mid-late 2021. He also said NASA will award contracts "within weeks" for the Human Landing System (HLS) as NASA strives to meet the Trump Administration's goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 -- the Artemis program. Embracing Artemis is the first step towards a trillion dollar cislunar space economy according to space industry executive Tory Bruno who spoke at the same conference in Laurel, MD. He urged everyone to stop "squabbling" and support the program."

GAO Anticipates First SLS Launch Date In 2021, earlier post

"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 spacecraft, and supporting ground systems - NASA senior leaders acknowledged the revised date of June 2020 is unlikely. Any issues uncovered during planned integration and testing may push the launch date as late as June 2021".

NASA Flips A Coin Again To Pick A New SLS Launch Date, earlier post

"NASA says "December 2019" because it sounds better than some date in "2020" - even if the launch date was 1 January 2020. Its like saying that something costs $19.99 instead of $20.00. It sounds better. Truth be known they have no idea - as OIG and GAO have been saying again and again every year."

More Bad SLS Orion News From GAO, earlier post

"Three of the largest projects in this critical stage of development-- Exploration Ground Systems, Orion, and the Space Launch System-- continue to face cost, schedule, and technical risks. In April 2017, we found that the first integrated test flight of these systems, known as Exploration Mission-1, will likely be delayed beyond November 2018."

NASA Has Three Different Launch Dates for Humans on SLS, earlier post

"So ... NASA originally said that it needs SLS for the whole #JourneyToMars thing - just like Ares V. Then reality sets in (as it always does) and NASA's response is to keep two sets of books - the internal set says that it will launch humans on SLS in 2021 while the public one aims for 2023. Now there's a third set of books is being kept wherein a 2024-2025 launch date is being worked."

Keith's note: On 21 February 2020 a memo titled "Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Flights Over NASA Centers/Facilities", written by Joseph S. Mahaley, Assistant Administrator, Office of Protective Services, was sent to the entire NASA workforce. It opens with:

"This communication is forwarded at the direction of NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurcyzk to educate all employees, contractors, tenants, and others having access to NASA properties on the threat posed to people, facilities and operations by unauthorized UAS/drone flights over NASA Centers/Facilities."

OK, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to advise employees about. Drones are problematic for many reasons. After going into the damage that can be caused by - and punishment for violations of NASA drone use policy, the author goes on to describe the various uses of drones:

"UAS/drones are used to film weddings, properties, inspect power lines, and to identify fires in remote forests. Criminals use them to "peep" into windows and to deliver contraband to prisons. U.S. Law Enforcement officials are concerned that terrorists may use UAS/drones in future attacks. Soon, UAS/drones will deliver packages to homes, ferry people to and from their destinations and for purposes not yet imagined: all with the help of NASA UAS traffic Management Systems!"

This is a weird train wreck of strange word capitalizations (editor needed), a list of the benefits of drone use, and the bad uses of drones - and they are all apparently benefiting from the NASA UAS traffic technology. Its like a list of NASA spinoffs for good guys and/or bad guys. The author then goes further to list the dangerous uses of drones:

"The Department of Defense very successfully uses UAS/Drones to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance. In January of this year, U.. Forces using an MQ-9 Reaper UAS, at the direction of President Trump, eliminated top Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani (leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force) under whose direction scores of U.S. Forces were killed or maimed and who was in Iraq to plan more attacks against Americans. UAS/drones can be used for good or ill; depending on the skill/intent of the operator."

To be clear this evil b*stard deserved no mercy. Full stop. You can debate whether or not it should have been done this way but not in a NASA memo. This paragraph reads like some political talking points and election year arm waving sent directly from the White House spin office. Why is NASA using an internal memo to employees to brag about a military attack mentioning the President by name - unless, perhaps, this is also a spin off of NASA UAS traffic management technology? I think we all doubt that this is the case. So why is it even mentioned?

This memo would be just fine without this overtly political paragraph. And to mix NASA benefits in the middle of a memo designed to warn people of certain dangers is a goofy place to try and promote NASA technology. Save that for a separate memo and focus on the risks. I hope someone in Jurcyzk's office pays a little more attention to incendiary and politically-tanted verbiage being sent out in official memos.

Get an editor, Steve.

I sent these questions to PAO etc. to see if someone can explain this: "Can someone explain why overt mention of a specific military action in Iraq was deemed necessary to mention in a memo designed to warn NASA employees about drones flying over NASA facilities?" and "Why was a memo used to warn employees about drone risks also used to promote the benefits of drone use?"

Full memo.

Keith's update: This is NASA PAO's non-answer answer: "Hey Keith. As you know, NASA is involved in the development of unmanned aircraft, and drone technologies and traffic management systems. The intent of the phrasing was to point out to employees that there are positive and negative uses of these technologies, and to give examples of both. The communication was intended to convey the risks to people, facilities, and operations posed by unauthorized flights over NASA Centers and facilities. The mention of the military drone strike was included, as this was a very recent example of the potential power and lethality of drones."


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