May 2020 Archives

Keith's note: At today's media telecom with Jim Bridenstine I asked if he could clarify NASA's media reach during the Demo-2 launch since he says that it topped everyone's viewing habits. I got one number "10.3 million concurrent viewers across all NASA platforms". I asked about these "heat charts" that NASA showed which seem to only show limited interest in the states where Dragon was built and flown and asked for additional viewership statistics. I don't expect to see any. I also asked how NASA can be seen as being relevant when we see split screens on TV with NASA on one side and riots on the other. How is NASA going to convince these angry and worried people who are out in the streets wearing gas masks - and not watching 2 guys take off in a rocket ship - that this is more important than problems "back here on Earth" (as this question is often couched). His response below:

Keith's note: Over the past several days media giants such as CNBC and National Geographic have been filing copyright takedown requests on YouTube - which have been granted - against people using their own material that they generated from the launch of DEMO-2 as well as NASA public domain material. National Geographic took this a step further by having NASA's own video taken down, asserting that National Geographic had the copyright on NASA's own footage. This has been going on for days. It is baffling that NASA PAO ever allowed this to happen - much less to continue as long as it has. At a time when global chaos has people focused on other things NASA needs every single amplifier of the value of space exploration that they can get.

Remarks by President Trump at Kennedy Space Center

Keith's note: Today at a media briefing Jim Bridenstine said that there was representation "from both sides of the aisle" at the Demo-2 launch. Yet this is what the President chose to say about Congressional members present at they events:

"Also with us are many members of my Cabinet, including our great new DNI, John Ratcliffe. Thank you,John. Thank you.(Applause.) We have a great friend of mine, a special man, ran a great, great campaign: Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. (Applause.) Thank you, Ron. Thank you, Ron. Your Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Leader Kevin McCarthy. Kevin, thank you very much. (Applause.) Great job you do, Kevin. And Representatives Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Daniel Webster, Brian Mast, Elise Stefanik, Bill Flores, Brian Babin, Rodney Davis, Roger Marshall, and Steven Palazzo. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you. (Applause.) What a great group of people. They're warriors. They're really warriors. They helped so much get this done, and so many other things."

All of the people mentioned are Republicans. No Democrats were mentioned. Apparently they did not make any contribution to the day's events - otherwise they'd have been mentioned, right? Today at a crew conversation from JSC Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and House Science, Space, and Technology ranking member Brian Babin (R-TX) were there. That committee's chair, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was nowhere to be seen. "Both sides of the aisle?" Just sayin'.

Remarks by President Trump at Kennedy Space Center

"Today, the groundbreaking partnership between NASA and SpaceX has given our nation the gift of an unmatched power: a state-of-the art spaceship to put our astronauts into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the Space Shuttle. And it's much better. From now on, the United States will leverage the fast-growing capabilities of our commercial sector and the finest pieces of real estate on Earth -- which you need very badly -- to send U.S. astronauts into space. Under NASA's Commercial Crew program, we will use rockets and spacecraft designed, built, owned, and launched by private American companies, at a fixed price for the American taxpayer. Today's launch makes clear the commercial space industry is the future. The modern world was built by risk-takers and renegades, fierce competitors, skilled craftsmen, captains of industry who pursued opportunities no one else saw and envisioned what no one else could ever think of seeing. The United States will harness the unrivaled creativity and speed of our private sector to stride ever further into the unknown." [larger image]

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/30may2020pence.jpgRemarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center Cape Canaveral, FL

"And in that spirit, today we begin a new era of human space exploration. And the credit goes to dedicated men and women all across this country, to the ingenuity and the hard work of the entire NASA team. America is proud of the men and women of NASA. (Applause.) But for the first time in our history, our astronauts have taken to the skies on a commercial rocket built by America's private sector. So join me in a vigorous round of applause for Elon Musk and the dedicated men and women of SpaceX. Job well done. (Applause.) That's great. Well deserved. (Applause.) Thanks, Elon." [larger image]

Russian space agency calls Trump's reaction to SpaceX launch "hysteria", Reuters

"The U.S. success will potentially deprive Roscosmos, which has suffered corruption scandals and a number of malfunctions, of the lucrative fees it charged to take U.S. astronauts to the ISS. "The hysteria raised after the successful launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is hard to understand," Vladimir Ustimenko, spokesman for Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter after citing Trump's statement. "What has happened should have happened long ago. Now it's not only the Russians flying to the ISS, but also the Americans. Well that's wonderful!" Moscow has said previously that it is also deeply worried about what it fears are U.S. plans to deploy weapons in space. Moscow would not be sitting idly by, Ustimenko said."

Remarks by President Trump at Kennedy Space Center

"We have created the envy of the world and will soon be landing on Mars, and will soon have the greatest weapons ever imagined in history. I've already seen designs. And even I can't believe it. The United States has regained our place of prestige as the world leader. As has often been stated, you can't be number one on Earth if you are number two in space. (Applause.) And we are not going to be number two anywhere. (Applause.) Nowhere is this more true than with our military, which we have completely rebuilt. Under my administration, we have invested two and a half trillion dollars in new planes, ships, submarines, tanks, missiles, rockets -- anything you can think of. And last year, I signed the law creating the sixth branch of that already very famous United States Armed Forces: the Space Force. (Applause.)"

Viewing A Dragon Launch From Orbit

"Ivan Vagner @ivan_mks63 2 minutes before the #CrewDragon launch the @Space_Station passed Cape Canaveral. Captured some pictures of LC39A from where the Falcon 9 launched. Congratulations to everyone and looking forward to seeing @Astro_Doug, @AstroBehnken"

SpaceX Launches Astronauts on Historic Mission

"For the first time in history, NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

SpaceX's mission: A new chapter in space exploration -- and in humanity's age-old quest, OpEd, Sean O'Keefe, The Hill

"The Obama administration modified the strategy, slowing NASA's spacecraft development but accelerating the commercialization plan to develop new systems to competitively sustain the space station. This was the objective SpaceX has successfully pursued for the past few years, sending cargo and supplies to the space station -- the biggest, most advanced laboratory in space the world has ever conceived."

Trump Takes Credit For Space Launch That Got Its Start A Decade Ago, NPR

"Actually, it was two past presidents who put NASA on the path to this SpaceX launch, though it would be hard to know that from listening to the post-launch speeches."

- Commercial Crew Did Not Start With Trump. Just Sayin', earlier post

Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on Today's Successful SpaceX Launch at Cape Canaveral, Joe Biden

"I congratulate NASA, SpaceX, and all the hardworking women and men who made today a victory for American innovation and persistence. This mission represents the culmination of work begun years ago, and which President Obama and I fought hard to ensure would become a reality. We planted the seeds of today's success during the 2009 Recovery Act, which according to NASA, has saved taxpayers up to $30 billion and invigorated an aerospace industry in Florida that accounts for more than 130,000 jobs in the state. As President, I look forward to advancing America's commitment to pursuing space exploration and unlocking scientific discoveries that will inspire a new generation of dreamers to gaze up at the sky and imagine all that our future may hold."

Kyle Yunaska Named Deputy Chief of Staff At NASA Headquarters

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Kyle Yunaska as the agency's Deputy Chief of Staff. ... Yunaska also served as the Principal Deputy Director and Chief of Staff for DOE's Office of Policy and held several advisory roles throughout the Department. Prior to his work at DOE, Yunaska held a range of positions at various academic, nonprofit, and private sector organizations."

Eric Trump's brother-in-law gets promoted. E&E News (2017)

"Eric Trump's brother-in-law is now chief of staff in a Department of Energy policy shop that was once tasked with carrying out President Obama's climate change agenda, according to DOE's online registry. Kyle Yunaska at DOE's Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis (EPSA) may manage the front office operations and strategy and advise EPSA's principal deputy director, Carol Battershell, and Executive Director Sean Cunningham, according to a description of the position on DOE's website."

Meet The Hottest Bachelors Of Washington D.C., Inside Edition

"Kyle Yunaska is an accounting manager for a non-profit. The 29-year-old is ready to settle down."

Kyle Robert Yunaska, ProPublica

Oh, Hello Elon

Russia will not accept attempts to privatize the Moon, says Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"Attempts to privatize the Moon run counter to international law, CEO of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Agency Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station on Monday. "We will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon. It is illegal, it runs counter to international law," Rogozin pointed out. The Roscosmos CEO emphasized that Russia would begin the implementation of a lunar program in 2021 by launching the Luna-25 spacecraft to the Moon. Roscosmos intends to launch the Luna-26 spacecraft in 2024. After that, the Luna-27 lander will be sent to the Moon to dig up regolith and carry out research on the lunar surface."

- What Are The Artemis Accords And Why Do We Need Them?, earlier post

"It has been nearly a decade since an American space crew last lifted off from U.S. soil in a spacecraft built here. That's expected to change Wednesday afternoon with the relaunch of manned space flight. But the occasion will be very different from past launches, as this time, a private company is leading the way as a NASA partner. Miles O'Brien reports on the potentially "revolutionary" moment." Featuring Wayne Hale, Lori Garver, Garrett Reisman, Michael López-Alegría and Keith Cowing.

Keith's note: I asked a question at a media event today. During Apollo NASA went out of their way to lets us know everything about astronauts including what they eat. Yesterday a reporter asked a simple routine question and got a routine 'I don't know - I'll get back to you response'. Another reporter followed up and got a response to the effect that breakfast menus are exempt from disclosure. Really? NASA regularly puts features up about things like this. How can NASA expect to excite the Artemis Generation when they have lame excuses for not disclosing the most innocuous things? The answer I got was three astronauts talking about the food they ate. No one actually answered my question. Yes this is sily. That's the point.

Keith's note: I am currently writing a piece now about the so-called "Artemis Generation", a phrase coined by NASA. Will they rise above things that now confront them or succumb to them? I am not sure. My Dad grew up during The Great Depression and then endured World War II - nearly being killed by a V-2 impact in London. From the sacrifice of the so-called "Greatest Generation" sprang the forces that propelled America to the Moon and later to send spacecraft into interstellar space on converted ICBMs - rockets directly derived from the missile that almost prevented me from existing. (Image: My Dad's dog tag and a spent round fired at his funeral).

The Artemis Generation faces many things - school shootings, crushing debt, the pandemic, and a government that seems to have failed them. Its almost as if they have to deal with The Great Depression and post-World War II life all at once - at high speed. My generation grew up inspired by humanity's first visits to the Moon as they unfolded before our young, impressionable eyes. World War II was as close to us then as 9/11 is now. Will the Artemis Generation be similarly inspired? If NASA wants to have a similar Apollo-like impact with the Artemis Generation they need to double down and work even harder than they are.

Meanwhile, on this Memorial Day I thought I'd repost an article I wrote about my father's brush with death from a weapon that fell upon him from space. I still stand in awe of what his generation went through and what they did after that was over.

That Time Wernher von Braun's Rocket Tried To Kill My Father

NASA Should Beware of Viruses From Outer Space, Bloomberg Opinion

"This summer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will launch a rover designed to collect samples of the Martian surface and store them until they can eventually be brought back to Earth. When they arrive, according to a former NASA scientist, they'll be "quarantined and treated as though they are the Ebola virus until proven safe."His statement caused a minor media sensation, and understandably so. ... At the same time, a public scarred by the coronavirus is likely to be wary of any space missions that require Ebola-level containment strategies. If NASA and other spacefarers want to assure people that they shouldn't be worried about Martian Ebola, they need to prove that their safety efforts are as failsafe as their engineering."

Keith's update: Scott Hubbard needs to apologize to everyone working at NASA for his ignorant remark. It is still echoing through the news media. This calls for a public retraction by him saying that he was wrong and that the report that he claims to represent did not mention the words "Ebola" or "disease" or cover that issue and that he was in error suggesting that it did. The author of this new article clearly did not research before writing it. He just repeats what was already bouncing around from Hubbard's original gaffe. Saying stupid stuff like "Ebola" simply gives the media something to arm wave about - especially when we are in the midst of a pandemic. Why are people going to take NASA science seriously when former senior NASA officials say uniformed things like Hubbard did - and then do not have the professional responsibility to correct the record?

MARS ATTACKS Stanford professor warns Mars rock samples 'could bring alien viruses to Earth' and they 'must be treated like Ebola', The Sun

"A STANFORD professor is warning that new rock samples from Mars could bring new viruses to Earth."

Larger image

Stanford's Scott Hubbard contributed to new 'planetary quarantine' report reviewing risks of alien contamination, Stanford University

"In my opinion, and that of the science community, the chance that rocks from Mars that are millions of years old will contain an active life form that could infect Earth is extremely low. But, the samples returned by MSR will be quarantined and treated as though they are the Ebola virus until proven safe."

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2020/ebola.scott.jpg Keith's note: Scott Hubbard is certainly free to speak his mind - especially if he is on a panel that writes a NASA advisory report. But he really should not be at the forefront of discussing the planetary protection topic in public. The use of the word "Ebola" in the same sentence with NASA's Mars sample return plans is just ill-advised arm waving and results in follow-on articles that pick up on the use of the word "Ebola". Oh yea and we're IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, Scott. Talk about the worst time to link something NASA wants to do with a lethal infectious disease.

And guess what, Scott - when you make comparisons like this you inevitably get headlines in follow-on articles and quotes that hype the "Ebola" mention that millions of people will read as a direct result. Not the smartest thing to say right now - or at any other time. Look at the quick Google news search for "Scott Hubbard Ebola" (larger image). I'm sure NASA loves headlines like this from the Sun: "MARS ATTACKS Stanford professor warns Mars rock samples 'could bring alien viruses to Earth' and they 'must be treated like Ebola'".

But wait, there's more: download the report that Scott Hubbard is referring to. Link here: "Assessment of the Report of NASA's Planetary Protection Independent Review Board". Do a simple word search for "Ebola". Guess what: the report never mentions "Ebola". The report makes no mention of the words "disease", "pandemic", "virus", or "Coronavirus" either. Then why is Hubbard freelancing and making a comparison to a lethal pathogen - a topic that the report itself does not even mention?

President Trump to travel to Central Florida for historic astronaut launch

"President Donald Trump will be in attendance on Wednesday when NASA and SpaceX launch astronauts from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. A White House officials tells WESH 2 News that Trump will travel to Central Florida to view the launch at Kennedy Space Center. "Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security," Trump said."

NASA Invites Public to Be Its Guests to Celebrate Historic 'Launch America'

"For the first time ever, NASA is hosting a global "NASA Social," an opportunity for social media users to get a behind the scenes view of the launch - virtually - and a unique way the public can celebrate the return of human spaceflight to American soil."

Airspace, Road, Bridge and Water Closures for SpaceX Demo-2

Keith's note: NASA got more from this guy in 6 months than some people contribute in an entire career.

NASA Advisory Council Meeting

"Virtual meeting via dial-in teleconference and WebEx only. ... Note: Please be advised that the NASA large event WebEx account is being used to support this meeting; this WebEx account is incompatible with the newest Mac operating system introduced in October 2019--MacOS Catalina."

Keith's note: Anyone who has attempted to connect to NASA FACA meetings such as the NASA Advisory Council by Webex over the past several weeks has discovered that NASA's Webex thing is usually screwed up - especially on Mac OS computers. So what does NASA do about that? They just go ahead and continue to use Webex even though there are many alternatives with a simple 'that's too bad - sorry' note in the Federal Register. If everyone was sitting inside a secure NASA facility using Webex that would be one thing. But virtually all participants are going to be sitting at home.

Why is it that millions of regular people who have never teleconferenced at home are attending virtual weddings and graduations - and in my case doing TV interviews - but NASA can't figure out how to do a simple telecon? One solution would be to broadcast the event on NASA TV. NASA has done split screen stuff before. But even that is apparently too hard for them to pull off. The National Space Council event hosted at NASA HQ earlier this week was an embarassment - even though Jim Bridenstine was onsite at JSC and the DEMO-2 crew were onsite at KSC you could not understand what they said. Even VP Pence noticed saying that he "missed every fifth word".

This virtual reality is not going away any time soon NASA. it is past time for you to bite the bullet and adapt to it.

All Hands Note From Douglass Loverro To The NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate

"The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences. And therefore, it is with a very, very heavy heart that I write to you today to let you know that I have resigned from NASA effective May 18th, 2020. I want to be clear that the fact that I am taking this step has nothing to do with your performance as an organization nor with the plans we have placed in motion to fulfill our mission. If anything, your performance and those plans make everything we have worked for over the past six months more attainable and more certain than ever before. My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we have accomplished together."

NASA Message Regarding the Lead of Human Spaceflight

"Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro has resigned from his position effective Monday, May 18. Loverro hit the ground running this year and has made significant progress in his time at NASA. His leadership of HEO has moved us closer to accomplishing our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. Loverro has dedicated more than four decades of his life in service to our country, and we thank him for his service and contributions to the agency."

Annie Glenn

NASA Remembers Annie Glenn

The following is a statement on the passing of Annie Glenn, wife of former NASA astronaut Sen. John Glenn: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Annie Glenn. A stalwart member of the space and military communities, her courageous support of her legendary husband John was unmatched. "She provided an example for other women who followed to face the challenges of being part of our nation's space program, and the stress of having spouses in combat. She stood steadfastly by her husband as he took to space once again as the oldest person to orbit Earth, even as she continued her own lifelong public service on behalf of children, the elderly, and the disabled. "The Glenns dedication to each other is well known, and we looked to them as an unmatched example of the strength and compassion that a lifetime of devotion creates. She will be missed."

Vice President Mike Pence to Convene Seventh Meeting of the National Space Council

"The Seventh Meeting of the National Space Council will be held in Washington, D.C. on May 19th, 2020 at 10:30 AM EDT. The meeting, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, will convene at the NASA Headquarters building. The meeting will be livestreamed here on NASA TV, and additional details will be forthcoming."

National Space Council Announces Users' Advisory Group Nominations

"Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, today announced the nomination of candidates to serve on the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group for two-year terms. The nominated members of the Users' Advisory Group will serve to fulfill President Trump's directive to "foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange" across our nation's space enterprise to ensure that the United States remains the world's foremost spacefaring country."

What Are The Artemis Accords And Why Do We Need Them?, SpaceRef

"NASA has formally announced the "Artemis Accords" - a series of principles and processes whereby America and other countries would agree to a common set of principles covering how the Moon is to be explored and its resources utilized. But what are these accords and why do we need them? Given the renewed and expanded interest by many nations to explore the Moon this makes sense. There are two main issues involved here. One has to do with the common sense approaches that need to be made among multiple parties to ensure that things go smoothly. The other is the legalistic and diplomatic tedium that goes into international agreements."

Space Force flag to be unveiled to the world, presented to President Trump on Friday, Fox News

"For the first time in 72 years, the official flag of a new U.S. military service will be unveiled on Friday. Military leaders will present the flag of the newly created Space Force to President Trump in the Oval Office during a signing ceremony for the 2020 Armed Forces Day proclamation."

Keith's note: The fun begins at 12:30 pm EDT in the Oval Office.

- Artemis Accords website
- Artemis Accords briefing charts

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine recently made some public comments about his interest in having NASA organize its efforts and interactions along the lines of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic) a buzz word that describes a strategic use of various forms of national power and influence. Often times you see the term "soft power" weaved into this discussion i.e. how can a nation use its capabilities in a peaceful, educational/humanitarian nature to project power while actually helping others.

I saw this interesting Tweet by @usembassydhaka - the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka (Bangladesh) about a partnership that NASA has with the EMK Center in Bangladesh. It has become obvious to me and a lot of people that NASA has an immense global brand awareness - and it is apparently almost perfectly good. I made mention of this in "Understanding NASA's Global Reach" where the NASA-assisted rescue of Chilean miners seems to have left a lingering positive glow and also in "NASA's Global Branding Reach Is Often Under Appreciated" which features a tweet about a group of students participating in NASA International Space Apps challenge in Kosovo. Now that NASA is sponsoring a special COVID-19 Space Apps Challenge NASA's visibility is certain to grow further.

This joint effort in Bangladesh is interesting. I have a strong interest in the region after the time I spent at Everest in Nepal in 2009 and I have supported multiple education projects in Nepal since my visit. So I sent NASA PAO and others at NASA HQ this inquiry. Let's see how they respond.

Keith's update: The folks at NASA PAO did a lot of sleuthing - globally - to answer my questions - thanks! As you can see this is not necessarily a NASA activity per se but it does show that the NNASA brand has substantial global impact such that it is seen as a de facto gold standard that many people and organizations w=seek to be allied with.

1. Can you tell me who the point of contact for this activity is at NASA?
This activity was initiated by the EMK Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh (see below), and NASA is not directly involved.

2. Who initiated this effort - NASA? The State Department? The Embassy in Bangladesh? Organizations in Bangladesh? Are there other NGOs or agencies involved?
This activity was initiated by staff at the Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The EMK Center is run by the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka through its American Center in the city, in partnership with the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The State Department informs us that EMK Center staff received information about the NASA at Home program from the State Department's regional public engagement specialists in India, as part of programming ideas during COVID-19 lockdown. EMK Center staff came up with the idea to use the NASA STEM@Home resources as a hook to engage virtually with Bangladeshi students (primarily classes 6-13) and EMK MakerLab program participants, as well as the broader public stuck at home due to the Government of Bangladesh's COVID-19 lockdown and to encourage them to participate in STEM activities. To incentivize participation in the program, EMK is offering prizes to participating students and a certification of participation for all participants. The top 5-10 projects will be displayed at EMK once it reopens to the public again and shared via EMK social media platforms at the end of the contest period. After the program started, "কিশোর বাতায়ন (Konnect), a Government of Bangladesh digital educational platform that works with adolescent and youth, joined EMK as a partner.

3. Is this a formal or ad hoc agreement? Is there a signed Space Act Agreement or MOU or cooperative agreement?
No agreements are required for this type of use of NASA-produced educational materials.

4. Is this part of a larger program to engage people around the world? NASA's online educational materials are freely available to all users.
NASA coordinates with the State Department to inform U.S. missions overseas about its digital content, and to respond to requests from individual posts on a case-by-case basis.

5. Is there any linkage between this effort and the NASA Space Apps Challenge?
This activity is not related to any of the Space Apps programming in Bangladesh.

6. Does NASA consider this effort part of its interest in reaching the "Artemis Generation"?
The Artemis Generation are today's students - regardless of location - who will take us farther into space than ever before. The NASA STEM content and activities found on the NASA@Home site is intended to inspire these students in science, technology, engineering and math and to be a part of the future STEM workforce.

7. The original tweet had a 30 April 2020 deadline and the Embassy tweet says that it is 31 May 2020. Is this effort still underway? Where will the results of this activity be posted publicly?
Initially, the EMK Center proposed April 30, 2020, as the deadline for submission of projects, but as the shutdown of the schools was extended gradually, it decided to extend the deadline to May 31, 2020, to reach the maximum number of students. As noted above, in addition to offering prizes to the top 5-10 projects, the best projects will be posted on EMK Center social media platforms and displayed at the EMK Center once it reopens to the public.

Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Horn Holds Bipartisan Teleconference on NASA's Response to COVID-19

"Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a bipartisan teleconference with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Dr. Mike Watkins, Director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The purpose of the teleconference was for Members to discuss NASA's uniquely skilled workforce and their activities and role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL), which was designed and developed by JPL engineers in 37 days."

NASA's Approach to Increasing On-Site Work & Town Hall Transcript

"As these conditions become safer, there will be a phased and gradual return to work at agency centers and facilities. We know it has to be at a "condition level" where you really do feel safe. If you do not feel comfortable working on-site, or returning to work on-site, please talk to your supervisor about options to address your concerns. We will make every effort to provide alternate work arrangements without reservation or reprisal. Those who can accomplish their job via telework are encouraged to continue doing so."

Keith's note: Stop for a moment and look at the expanding disarray in terms of America's relations with other nations - one that is exacerbated by a global pandemic. Where is the one place where a multi-national program has operated - smoothly - as a real partnership - with no real problems between the partners? Answer: the International Space Station. This is a consummate example - for all involved - as to the value of soft power. There actually are things more important than transient food fights back on Earth. This aspect of the ISS is often lost and rarely played up to the extent it warrants. Living in space can teach us how to live on Earth. Oh yes: Let's try and keep the ISS success story in the forefront as we start to make noises about war in space and claiming things out there for personal use.

Keith's note: Looks like Mike LA may have a new call sign: "Goose".

Aerojet Rocketdyne defends SLS engine contract costs, Space News

"Maser declined to give the cost of an individual engine alone, without the additional labor and overhead. "There's a lot of other activity included in there that is well beyond just assembling and testing engines," he said. The $40 million cost estimate widely cited for the SSME does not have a date attached. If it comes from 2000, around the time the Block 2 SSME design was in production, that $40 million would be about $64 million in 2020 dollars, using NASA's New Start Inflation Index. If it comes from 1980, just before the shuttle started operations, it would be nearly $150 million in 2020 dollars. While not providing a specific cost for an RS-25, the contract includes an estimated 30% reduction in the cost per engine when compared to the SSME, which he said would be phased in over the course of the production contract."

Keith's note: On one hand Aerojet wants you to think that they are doing everyone a favor by cutting the cost of their RS-25 engines - yet on the other hand they refuse to tell you how much each engine costs. Caveat emptor

- Only NASA Would Spend Billions To Make A Reusable Engine Disposable, earlier post

Space Council To Update 2010 National Space Policy, Space Policy Online

"The White House National Space Council is looking at revising the existing U.S. National Space Policy, issued in 2010 during the Obama Administration. Space Council director Scott Pace said today he expects a lot of continuity with the existing policy, but enough has changed to warrant an update. Meanwhile, the head of Russia's space agency blasted the White House's plans to create a legal blueprint for lunar exploration and utilization reportedly called the Artemis Accords."

Keith's note: Look what I stumbled across in a Google news alert for "Ames Research Center": "Founder of Philadelphia life sciences firms targets RNA as key to knocking out Covid-19 "Aishwarya said his companies are already collaborating on Covid-19 research and related programs with Dr. Afshin Beheshti, principal Investigator at the NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Masad Damha and his collaborators at McGill University in Canada, and three U.S. universities he could not name for confidentiality reasons."

Hmmm ... that's news to me, so I did some Googling and found this at NASA Ames: Space Biosciences Research Branch Scientists Lead Projects Supporting the COVID-19 HPC Consortium "We have enrolled COVID-19 patients in a research study to examine their host transcriptional responses over time. From this data we will design drug targets and develop and test with in vivo models. Our team (consisting of 30 scientists) has expertise in coronaviruses, RNA-Seq methods, drug design, building therapeutic platforms, and SARS-CoV-2 mouse models."

Which led me to find this GeneLab AWG Collaborates on New COV-IRT Website "Afshin Beheshti of NASA GeneLab is a co-founder of COV-IRT, an international research team using a large consortium open science model to efficiently and rapidly improve understanding of COVID-19. The Consortium COVID-19 project was initiated by scientists who are members of the NASA GeneLab Multi-Omics Analysis Working Group (AWG) led by Beheshti from NASA Ames Research Center."

And then I found this: @NASAGeneLab #NASAGeneLab's Multi-omics Analysis Working Group launches COVID-19 International Research Team that uses a large consortium #openscience model to efficiently and rapidly improve understanding of #COVID19. Learn more on their new website: https://cov-irt.org #NASA #genomics

Yes NASA has several things online - but you need to already know to look for them before you find them. Oddly, no mention is made here in the press release issued after Jim Bridenstine's recent media event: NASA Contributes Expertise, Ingenuity to COVID-19 Fight or here at NASA's Coronavirus Response website. Unless I missed something NASA has not issued a press release about this. So the news media have to resort to stumbling across this interesting and relevant like I did. NASA Ames can't even be bothered to put it on their home page.

Really NASA - how hard is it to cobble together a 4 paragraph press release with a few links?

Keith's note: I tweeted this and it went viral due to a retweet by Trump critic Rick Wilson. Oops.

Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

"Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law."

Trump administration drafting 'Artemis Accords' pact for moon mining, Reuters

"The Artemis Accords are part of the Trump administration's plan to forgo the treaty process at the United Nations and instead reach agreement with "like-minded nations," partly because a treaty process would take too long and working with non-spacefaring states would be unproductive, a senior administration official told Reuters. As countries increasingly treat space as a new military domain, the U.S.-led agreement is also emblematic of NASA's growing role as a tool of American diplomacy and is expected to stoke controversy among Washington's space rivals such as China."

Keith's note: I know that you need to start somewhere. But cutting corners on the ususal process and expecting that major space powers like Russia and China will not sign sounds like this thing will be lopsided at the onset. And everyone is going ahead with their existing Moon plans and will claim areas as their own zones. How is this going to have any real impact unless everyone who is going to be doing things on the Moon agrees in advance? Just wondering.

Keith's note: Oddly Space Force officials tell recruits that their jobs will be on Earth but then their OR people put out a video that suggests that there are offworld jobs available to recruit people. Confusing? Misleading?

NASA Live Virtual Town Hall

NASA Adminstrator Jim Bridenstine: "I will host a live virtual town hall at 10:30 am EDT Wednesday, May 6 along with other agency leaders to answer your questions about the agency's approach to increasing on-side work. Please read this message, then, to submit questions, go to http://www.nasa.gov/townhall and click on "Ask The Administrator: Return to On-Site Work". Enter your center name, then post your question and/or vote up questions already posted."

Message From The NASA Adminstrator: Planning for Increased On-Site Work - Town Hall

"The response of NASA's workforce to the challenges stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Across the agency, I have seen individuals and teams find new ways to keep the mission moving forward, support each other, balance work and family, and even dedicate their expertise and personal time to aid in the national response. Now that operations have reached a steady cadence, a lot of folks are wondering about the when and howof returning to "normal." As we plan how best to increase on-site work, please know that we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of the workforce."

Keith's note: The event will air live on NASA TV.

Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk's SpaceX, Deadline

"I'm hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk's Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film - an action adventure - to be shot in outer space. It's not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff."

Keith's 4 May note: I have asked NASA PAO if this is true.

Keith's update: Yup.

"Conversation with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: Join the CSIS Aerospace Security Project for a conversation with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. We will be discussing NASA's plans to go to the Moon and Mars as well as NASA's broader role in overall U.S. foreign policy and national security. May 5, 2020 11:00 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada) Register"

Keith's note: I'm told that this will be interesting. CSIS is dropping hints about this event being about "DIME" - which, in DC policy wonk talk, refers to "Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economics". As such, I'd be astonished if there is no mention of Space Force. You may hear mention of an interest in having NASA be funded as part of a larger infrastructure initiative in response to the pandemic.

NASA will pay a staggering $146 million for each SLS rocket engine, Ans Technica

"However, this is not the true price of these engines. NASA has previously given more than $1 billion to Aerojet to "restart" production of the space shuttle era engines and a contract for six new ones. So, according to the space agency, NASA has spent $3.5 billion for a total of 24 rocket engines."

Keith's note: Only NASA would spend billions to develop a reusable engine and then spend billions more to make the reusable engine into a disposable engine. But wait - there's more. Its not the first time NASA spent vast sums of money upgrading an old engine design. Aerojet Rocketdyne also got a pile of money to develop the modified Apollo era J-2 (J-2x) engine for use on the SLS' predecessor the Ares V. And where did the $1.4 billion J-2x funding go? Answer: a bunch of engines that will never be used and hardware that needed to be re-redesigned for RS-25.

NASA Awards Upper Stage Engine Contract for Ares Rockets, NASA (2007)

"NASA has signed a $1.2 billion contract with Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne Inc., of Canoga Park, Calif., for design, development, testing and evaluation of the J-2X engine that will power the upper stages of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles. The contract includes ground and test flight engines. It continues work that began on June 2, 2006, under a preliminary letter contract with Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne."

NASA's Management of Space Launch System Program Costs and Contracts, 20 March 2020, NASA OIG

"The RS-25 Adaptation contract with Aerojet provides for the retrofitting of Space Shuttle main engines for use on the SLS under a cost-plus-award-fee and incentive-fee structure. This contract began in 2006 under the Constellation Program to develop J-2X engines for use on the Ares I rockets. In 2011, the SLS work was added to retrofit and certify 16 RS-25 Engines for the first four Artemis missions. ... The $2.06 billion contract will end in March 2020, of which $1.4 billion was spent on development of the J-2X engine for the Constellation Program. ... Specifically, Aerojet anticipated reworking the Constellation Program's J-2X ECU for the SLS Program, but found instead they needed to develop a completely new ECU, which added time and cost to the contract."

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Statements on Artemis Human Lander Systems Contract Awards, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"Unfortunately, more than a year after their announcement to accelerate the Artemis program, NASA has yet to provide Congress a transparent architecture and technical and cost assessment, despite our repeated requests. The American taxpayer deserves to know their money is being spent wisely, especially if they are being asked to invest billions of taxpayer dollars in a private lunar landing system. Our nation should dream boldly and pursue aspirational goals but we have to do so thoughtfully and intentionally. I look forward to working with NASA in good faith to steer our nation's space program in a direction that allows our country to achieve inspiring goals and explore space in a responsible and measured way."

Key House Democrats "DIsappointed" With HLS Awards, Space Policy Online

"However, if Johnson and Horn's views are shared by appropriators, it could signal trouble for NASA getting the funding increase it needs not just this year, but for the next several years, to execute Artemis. The FY2021 budget request alone is a 12 percent increase over current spending. Bridenstine expressed optimism yesterday that NASA's budget will not be impacted by the trillions being spent on COVID-19 relief. Noting how small NASA's budget is compared to the rest of government spending, less than half a percent, he said "We're not going to be the solution to balancing the budget. ... I don't think we're in any jeopardy."

- NASA Picks Human Lander System Developers

"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program."

- Does NASA Know The Real Cost Of Sending Humans To The Moon?, Earlier post
- NASA Releases Its Artemis "Plan" - 5 Months Late, Earlier post
- GAO Wants To Remind You That Artemis Is Lacking Detail, Earlier post
- NASA Authorization Bill Markup, Earlier post

Unlike NASA, sheriff asks people to come to Brevard to see historic space launch

"Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey is encouraging people to come to Brevard County to watch the scheduled May 27 historic launch of a SpaceX rocket with two astronauts aboard. .. But Ivey's invitation runs contrary to a NASA recommendation for people to watch the launch on television. Administrator Jim Bridenstine reiterated that call on Friday during a pre-launch news conference ahead of the May 27 mission."

Keith's note: Jim Bridenstine has asked people to "join us for this launch - but do so from home. We are asking people not to travel to Kennedy Space Center." Meanwhile the local Sheriff says c'mon down folks. Stay tuned.

Will People Really Stay Away From The SpaceX Crew Launch? (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: There has been a lot of discussion of late about risk and safety - COVID-19, launching people on commercial vehicles, etc. There has also been a lot of talk about going back to the Moon too - to pick up the exploration of that world from where we left off half a century ago. The PR pictures are pretty and the videos are inspiring. But the exploits of Apollo still have an alternate reality to them - as if those people were somehow different than we are. In the end, human exploration is inherently risky. It was then. It is now. It will be in the future. And the people who set off on these expeditions to other worlds need to be prepared for things you can't easily prepare for. In Pat Rawlings iconic painting this injured lunar explorer just happened to have an ambulance nearby with two EMTs. That is not usually the case on expeditions.

Things can happen quickly on an expedition to remote, hazardous locations - even when you think you are safe. On this date, 1 May 2009 Astronaut Scott Parazynski and I were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Before us lay the massive Khumbu icefall and the shoulder of Mt. Everest. Scott was preparing to climb the mountain. I was there to do education and public outreach. I am a space biologist and Scott is a M.D. so we were also doing a little astrobiology field research on the side for a friend at NASA.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2020/IMG_3935.jpg http://images.spaceref.com/news/2020/IMG_3936.jpg

Click on images to enlarge

We had a commercial sponsor for our spectrophotometer (our tricorder) so we needed to get some promo shots of it for the company to use. I picked the icefall as a good backdrop to use. We were standing 2 km or so from its edge. It was 11:28:25 am local time. I took a series of pictures of Scott with the spectrophotometer. (see images above) Suddenly we heard a loud cracking/roaring noise and turned toward our left to look at the west side of the icefall. Something was happening. I got off one still photo and then switched my camera to video mode. What unfolded was widely described as the largest avalanche ever recorded on Everest. I did not plan for this. It just happened.

Luckily no one was killed. Alas, a week later, while Scott was climbing on the icefall a similar avalanche from the same location happened. I did not know what his status was for half an hour. Scott's climbing partner might have been killed had it not been for some quick thinking by his sherpa. In the middle of the area hit hardest by the avalanche a western climber was pulled out of a crevasse. His sherpa was not so lucky. I just happened to record that too. My footage has been used on multiple TV shows and the feature film "Sherpa." Until 2015 when some more graphic footage of another avalanche made news after a massive earthquake my video had an unfortunate notoriety to it. No more.

In 2009 Scott and I were standing where our outfitter had set up camp amidst the small temporary nomadic village of a thousand people at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall. Everyone thought this to be a safe place since the constant avalanches (you hear smaller ones constantly day and night) never reach this location. At one point Scott and I took some promotional shots for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education (we were both on the board of directors). Again, we did so in front of our tents.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/scot.keith.cliff.jpg

In 2015 as I analyzed where the fatal avalanche came from I was shocked to learn that it was a hanging piece of snow between two peaks that let lose. Had we been in the same location by our tents we'd have stood an excellent chance of being killed. Again - the experts all thought this was a safe location in 2009. Things change. People camp elsewhere now.

Expeditions to other worlds are going to need to be prepared to adapt to dangers like this - both the obvious ones and the unexpected ones. NASA needs to start working on a broader expeditionary mindset wherein the agency - and the public - are taught to better understand the risks as well as the benefits - of human exploration.

You can read more about our Everest adventures at "My Star Trek Episode at Everest".

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: Why our Launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 Mission to the International Space Station is Essential

"NASA is committed to fulfilling its obligations to the station's international partners as we work to return human spaceflight capability to American soil. Our commercial crew providers are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems. To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until these new capabilities are routinely available, NASA is in negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall. NASA's contract with Roscosmos will meet the recommendations of several advisory committees including the GAO, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and the NASA Office of the Inspector General."

NASA to Host Preview Briefings, Interviews for First Crew Launch with SpaceX

"With the first mission to return human spaceflight launches to American soil now targeted to lift off May 27, NASA will highlight the historic flight with a series of news conferences Friday, May 1, that will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. In addition, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who will serve as crew for the mission, will be available for remote interviews."

The briefings start at 11:00 am EDT and air live at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

NASA Names Companies to Develop Human Landers for Artemis Moon Missions, NASA

"The following companies were selected to design and build human landing systems:
-- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, is developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) - a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama, is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS) - a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system.
-- SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is developing the Starship - a fully integrated lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket."

- Maxar Selected to Support Dynetics in Designing and Building a Lunar Human Landing System for NASA
- NASA Selects Blue Origin National Team to Return Humans to the Moon
- SNC to Lead Crew Module Development for Critical Piece of NASA's Artemis Program
- Dynetics to develop NASA's Artemis Human Lunar Landing System
- CSF Statement on NASA's Selection of Multiple Commercial Human Lander Awardees
- AIAA Statement: NASA selection of Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX for Artemis Lunar Lander Development
- Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Comments on HLS Awards


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