June 2020 Archives

NASA Names Joel Montalbano International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment was effective June 29 following the June 26 retirement of Kirk Shireman, who held the position since 2015. ... Montalbano had served as deputy program manager for NASA's space station program since 2012, a role in which he shared responsibility with the program manager for day-to-day management, working across organizations and with NASA centers, other government agencies, and partners to ensure seamless and efficient space station integration."

NASA's mission to the moon is about far more than cost, Op Ed, Mary Lynne Dittmar/Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, The Hill

"As a result, the role played by national assets in deep space cannot be fulfilled solely by privately owned systems. Bringing someone else's rocket and crew vehicle to the geopolitical table does not convey the same intent. A national presence, backed by the full faith and measure of Congress, focuses international attention and creates incentives for partnerships around the globe."

Keith's note: This is nonsense. In the case of the U.S. the "national asset" i.e. SLS/Orion is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Meanwhile SpaceX and other private companies could conduct the Orion/SLS plan for lunar exploration far more cheaply and flexibly than the SLS/Orion architecture ever could. Falcon 9/Heavy/Dragon work. SLS/Orion have not yet shown that they can.

It has apparently escaped Dittmar's notice that the original SLS/Orion plan - one that only used SLS and Orion has been continuously morphed into a program that uses more and more commercial capabilities to do the things that SLS/Orion cannot do - either for cost or capability reasons. Were NASA to have relied upon the SLS/Orion "national asset" alone it would have been impossible to meet this Administration's 2024 goal to land humans on the Moon. In fact, even with the shift toward enhanced commercial participation, chronic problems with SLS/Orion system now make it almost certainly incapable of doing its part in the current NASA plan to land humans on the Moon by 2024.

You cannot convey the intended political intent if the rocket you want to use to exert that intent has not flown and will not fly at the cost - or schedule - originally envisioned. Take a look at what European government-backed and Chinese-backed "commercial" companies are doing. They are copying SpaceX - they are not copying SLS/Orion. They learned from American successes - and failures. Can we?

Keith's update: NASA issued this press release today about initial authorization for the SRBs needed for 6 additional SLS flights - and that the eventual contract will "extend through Dec. 31, 2030". Yet nowhere in this release do they say when the first SLS launch will actually occur.

Florida breaks new daily record with 9,585 coronavirus cases, Orlando Sentinel

"The Florida Department of Health reported 9,585 new coronavirus cases Saturday, shattering the previous daily high for positive COVID-19 infections made just the day before. The state has now registered 132,545 positive cases to date. The previous record for a single-day increase of 8,942 cases was reported Friday, followed by 5,508 cases reported Wednesday."

Texas Gov. Orders Bars To Close, Reduces Restaurant Seating As COVID-19 Cases Surge, NPR

"The rollbacks come amid a statewide surge of new coronavirus infections. On Thursday, the state health department reported 5,996 new cases, the third day in a row of record-high new infections in the state. The rate of positive test results, as of Wednesday, is also approaching 12%. "As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the state of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said."

L.A. County faces 'critical moment' as coronavirus cases keep surging, LA Times

"Another day of big increases in both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations prompted health officials Saturday to warn Los Angeles County is entering a "critical moment" and that some of the easing of stay-at-home orders are in jeopardy unless the trend changes."

Keith's 28 June note: Infection rates are soaring in Florida, Texas, and California. Yet KSC, JSC, JPL, ARC, and Armstrong are still at Stage 3 - not stage 4. But other centers (GSFC, WFF, GISS) in states with declining infections surges are at stage 4 according to NASA. There seems to be an inconsistency.

Keith's 29 June update:

NASA issued this COVID-19 update today which really does not say much of anything other than confirmed cases are increasing and check the NASA website for updates.

June 29 Update on NASA's Response to Coronavirus

"The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in states where many of us work and live necessitates heightened vigilance and personal responsibility by all NASA employees and contractors."

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says, NY Times

"American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan - including targeting American troops - amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter. ... The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options - starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said."

NASA OIG: Evaluation of NASA's Information Security Program under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act for Fiscal Year 2019

"NASA has not implemented an effective Agency-wide information security program. SSP documentation for all six information systems we reviewed contained numerous instances of incomplete, inaccurate, or missing information. We also performed a limited review of the Agency Common Control (ACC) system, which aggregates and manages common controls across all Agency information systems, and found that many controls were classified as "other than satisfied," indicating they had been assessed as less than effective. Moreover, the NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has not addressed these deficiencies in the ACC SSP. .

.. Of the six information systems reviewed, we found that four were operating without current contingency plans. While three of the four systems eventually updated their contingency plans in RISCS during the course of our evaluation, these systems had been operating under outdated plans for as long as 4 years. The fourth system is currently operating under a 2016 contingency plan.

... Moreover, the number of systems without a current or available contingency plan in RISCS puts NASA at an unnecessarily high risk by hindering the Agency's ability to recover information systems if needed in an effective and efficient manner, thus threatening the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of NASA information maintained in those systems. .

.. During our review of selected OCIO IT security handbooks and other related governance documents, we found that 27 of 45 documents had not been reviewed and approved in more than 1 year and 8 that not been reviewed in over 3 years. OCIO policy states that IT security handbooks shall be reviewed or updated on an annual basis or more frequently if appropriate. However, the OCIO policy management process does not provide adequate oversight of this process or a reliable list of policies requiring review."

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA named its headquarters building after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. By coincidence Wil Pomerantz, Vice President of Virgin Orbit, started a Twitter effort to change the name of Stennis space Center - with some solid reasons based its namesake's segregationist past as to why it should be considered. I asked via Twitter why the bust of Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun stands in a place of honor at Marshall Spaceflight center - a center whose namesake George C. Marshall had issues with integrating troops during World War II.

At a time when everyone seems to be taking a hard look at commemorating past events with a light shone on racism and the denial of human rights, one would think that someone at NASA would reconsider having the heroic bust of a Nazi SS member who used slave labor to build his rockets as the way to greet people who arrive for work every day at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. NASA openly admits that von Braun used slave labor. Yes he was the first center director at Marshall and led a large part of the Apollo effort that landed humans on the Moon. No one is suggesting that this be erased from the history books. But should NASA continue to honor him like this?

Campaign to Rename Stennis Space Center Kicks Off, SpacePolicyOnline

"In a statement, NASA responded that the agency is dedicated to advancing diversity, but did not agree or disagree with the idea of renaming the Center. 'NASA leadership is sensitive to the discussions of racism, discrimination and inequalities going on around the world. We are aware of conversations about renaming facilities and ae having ongoing discussions with the NASA workforce on this topic. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity and we will continue to take steps to do so.' "

How Much Did Wernher von Braun Know, and When Did He Know It?, Smithsonian

"Michael Neufeld: I agree that he didn't have much, if any, power. And that to say very much of anything was dangerous for him personally. But, again, I would emphasize his personal responsibility for having gone along with this regime, in its aggressive war plans, in building weapons for Hitler, in being a loyal member of the Third Reich, and being a member of the party and the SS. And being personally responsible for using concentration camp labor."

Biography of Wernher Von Braun, NASA

"The V-2 assembly plant at the Mittelwerk, near the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, used slave labor, as did a number of other production sites. Von Braun was a member of the Nazi Party and an SS officer, yet was also arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 for careless remarks he made about the war and the rocket."

Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp

"The inmates at Dora-Mittelbau were treated in a brutal and inhumane manner, working 14-hour days and being denied access to basic hygiene, beds, and adequate rations. Around one in three of the roughly 60,000 prisoners who were sent to Dora-Mittelbau died."

Alabama sees second highest total for daily coronavirus cases, records 25 more deaths, Al,com

"Alabama added 954 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a large increase over case counts from recent days, and the second highest single-day uptick since the start of the pandemic. The new cases pushed the state's 7-day rolling average up to almost 673, an 80-case increase over Tuesday's average."

New record: Florida sees all-time high of 5,511 newly reported COVID-19 cases, Click Orlando

"As Florida pushes forward on its path to reopening, state health officials continue to report what Gov. Ron DeSantis called an "explosion" of COVID-19 cases. Across the state, new cases of the novel coronavirus are reported by the thousands, with infection numbers surpassing those seen when the pandemic first caused the state to shut down. The Florida Department of Health reported a record-shattering 5,511 new cases of COVID-19 since approximately the same time the day before, as well as 43 new deaths and 258 more hospitalizations. This is the most cases reported in a single day since the pandemic hit Florida in early March."

Gov. Gavin Newsom prepared to 'revert back' to stringent COVID-19 restrictions as CA sees increase in cases, KABC

"Gov. Gavin Newsom says he is prepared to "revert back" to more stringent coronavirus restrictions, if necessary, as California continues to see a rise in cases. During a routine update Monday on COVID-19's impact throughout the state, Newsom stressed the importance for individuals to "mitigate the likelihood and need" to reverse course by being mindful of their actions as more aspects of the economy are reopened."

Gov. Greg Abbott recommends Texans stay home as coronavirus cases surge, Texas Tribune

"Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home." Within hours, Abbott made two announcements to alter the reopening process. He scaled back a previous statewide order and gave local officials the ability to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people, a threshold he originally set at 500 people. And Abbott said the state would enact mandatory health standards for child care centers after prior rules became voluntary earlier this month."

NASA Names Headquarters After 'Hidden Figure' Mary W. Jackson

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency's headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal."

Mike Griffin Departing DOD, SpacePolicyOnline

"In a joint email to colleagues today, Griffin and Porter said they were taking advantage of an opportunity in the private sector and will leave DOD on July 10. 'As has been our practice, this is from Mike's email, but equally from both of us. We want to inform you that we have submitted our resignations from our present positions, effective 10 July. A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together. It has been a pleasure leading this great team over the past few years. We greatly appreciate your hard work, diligence, integrity, and devotion to technical excellence and technical truth in furtherance of the R&E mission. We wish you all the very best.' "

The Pentagon's Research Chief and His Deputy Are Resigning, Defense One

"Less than a month on the job, Griffin boasted to a room of industry executives: "I really only care about people who can overrule me." ... Soon after Shank and Kennedy were dismissed, Inside Defense published a scathing report about Griffin's management style and his attempts to assume more power within the Pentagon."

'Smartest guy in the room': Pentagon R&D chief under fire after controversial firings, Inside Defense

"Former Capitol Hill staffers with knowledge of Griffin's confirmation process and subsequent dealings with defense committees said it is unsurprising that his office has been beset by disruptions and allegations of poor management. "This was always going to happen -- he's a toxic leader," one former staffer said. "He thinks he is the smartest person in the room, he is condescending, and he is incapable of hiding it. Now look -- he is a smart guy. But he doesn't play well with others."

NASA Developing a Plan to Fly Personnel on Suborbital Spacecraft

"For the first time in the agency's history, NASA has initiated a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on future commercial suborbital spaceflights. NASA's Flight Opportunities program has successfully worked with emerging commercial suborbital transportation systems to fly research payloads to space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Flight Opportunities program recently released a call that allows those non-NASA researchers to propose accompanying their payloads in suborbital space."

NASA Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services

"In conjunction with a system qualification of suborbital transportation systems, NASA is considering acquisition of Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services for NASA Astronauts and other NASA personnel from one or more U.S. providers through commercial services contracts. Depending on mission requirements, NASA may purchase single seats, multiple seats within one mission, or seats for an entire 'charter' mission. NASA is seeking pertinent information from industry which may be used to formulate one or more solicitations related to the SubC effort."

One Of Everything: The Breakthrough Listen Exotica Catalog

"We present Breakthrough Listen's "Exotica" Catalog as the centerpiece of our efforts to expand the diversity of targets surveyed in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). As motivation, we introduce the concept of survey breadth, the diversity of objects observed during a program. ... As far as we are aware, this is the first object list in recent times with the purpose of spanning the breadth of astrophysics. We share it with the community in hopes that it can guide treasury surveys and as a general reference work. Accompanying the catalog is extensive discussion of classification of objects and a new classification system for anomalies. We discuss how we intend to proceed with observations in the catalog, contrast it with our extant Exotica efforts, and suggest similar tactics may be applied to other programs."

Making a Splash With a Hint of Mars Water, Science 30 June 2000

"It began as a whisper on the Web a week ago Monday evening, grew to a noisy torrent of media babble by Wednesday, and on Thursday morning crashed onto the front pages. Moving at the light-speed pace of modern media, a wave of chatter about water and therefore possible life on Mars swept a paper at Science into headline news a week before its scheduled publication. ....

.... Opening the press conference, planetary geologist Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems Inc. (MSSS) in San Diego warned that "the actual science may pale before the science fiction that has been written." The fiction grew out of an accurate, if vague, item on the independent watchdog Web site, NASA Watch (http://www.nasawatch.com/), late afternoon on 19 June. It reported, apparently from sources in the astrobiology community, that NASA had briefed the White House (presidential science adviser Neal Lane, as it turned out) on a major discovery involving water on Mars. Other Web sites added details through Tuesday, 20 June; USA Today put a Web-sourced story at the top of its front page Wednesday morning. The information gleaned anonymously from NASA headquarters personnel and researchers around the country ranged from on target--signs of recent spring activity--to unlikely: ponds and even the possibility of geysers. Although no reporters appeared to have seen the paper (by Malin and his MSSS colleague Kenneth Edgett), Science decided to stem the flow of misinformation by releasing it."

Keith's note: I almost forgot about this little scoop that was on NASAWatch on 19 June 2000. It caused quite a stir and a media feeding frenzy. Those older pages from NASAWatch are sitting on a Zip Drive somewhere. But Science magazine - which rushed the scientific article to publication - chronicled the scoop.

Here's the article "Evidence for Recent Groundwater Seepage and Surface Runoff on Mars", Science

Boeing tried to amend bid after guidance from NASA official, raising concerns it received inside information, Washington Post

"A person with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said: "I can tell you with 100 percent confidence that no laws were broken. What we are talking about are conversations that occurred outside the normal dictated channels but didn't violate the sanctity of the procurement process." ... But the probe is also focusing on Boeing, officials said. "This certainly goes both ways. It's one thing to have a mistake that violated the Integrity in Procurement Act," the aide said. "It's another if the company took that information and acted on it."

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council Huntsville, AL (2019), earlier post

"But to accomplish this, we must redouble our efforts here in Huntsville and throughout this program. We must accelerate the SLS program to meet this objective. But know this: The President has directed NASA and Administrator Jim Bridenstine to accomplish this goal by any means necessary. ... But to be clear, we're not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can't meet this objective, then we'll find ones that will. If American industry can provide critical commercial services without government development, then we'll buy them. And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be. Urgency must be our watchword. Failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the Moon in the next five years is not an option."

Keith's note: VIce President Pence super duper turbocharged the whole Artemis program to land humans on the Moon by 2024. No one denies the political significance of this date i.e. before the end of a theoretical second term. This was a Herculean task to say the least and the White House certainly delivered with a massive budget request increase. That said, NASA clearly had to think outside of the box, bend some rules, and dial up procurement. And Pence certainly gave them the firm ground rule "to accomplish this goal by any means necessary". Them's fightin' words. So guess what: NASA and its contractors took up the challenge. And this happened. We won't know much more until the OIG issues its report. But it is important to remember that when the White House uses words such as Pence used then the White House needs to anticipate that people will feel that a fire has been lit under them and that they will respond accordingly. I am not offering an excuse - but rather, an explanation.

NASA Updates Date, Time for Media Teleconference with Administrator, New Head of Human Spaceflight

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate."

Keith's note: I asked Kathy Lueders: "I have a simple yes/no question. Given delays due to COVID-19 and chronic cost overruns and launch date slips will NASA be able to land people on the Moon by December 31, 2024? yes or no?" she replied "I don't have a crystal ball. ... I wish I knew the answer. It would make my job a lot easier. We're going to try. ... You need to start. One step at a time, right? If you say I can't get there, well, you're not going to get there. ... If things come up along the way where technically it takes us longer ... we'll go figure it out, but right now the team is trying. It is tough." Jim Bridenstine added "asking a yes/no question is the wrong approach. If you ask me I will answer "yes" and we are working at this every day."

Readout from the Vice President's and Second Lady's Call to NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station

"The Vice President and Second Lady congratulated the astronauts and led a discussion of their experience living and working in space as part of Expedition 63, including upcoming planned space walks. All three astronauts previously flew on Shuttle missions to the ISS, and Vice President Pence asked what it means to them personally to be involved in this historic mission. The Second Lady asked the astronauts what advice they would give to young Americans they have inspired to become space professionals. Vice President Pence thanked the astronauts for their courageous service and professionalism as the United States leads again in space. He assured them that they have the confidence and the prayers of the American people."

Keith's note: That's nice. So why hasn't video of the actual conversation been released? Apparently it was an innocuous chit chat sort of thing but why can't we hear what was actually said?

Defense Space Strategy

Defense Space Strategy Summary June 2020

"The Department is taking innovative and bold actions to ensure space superiority and to secure the Nation's vital interests in space now and in the future. Establishing the U.S. Space Force (USSF) as the newest branch of our Armed Forces and the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) as a unified combatant command, as well as undertaking significant space acquisition reform across the DoD, has set a strategic path to expand spacepower for the Nation. It is a path that embraces space as a unique domain of national military power that, together with the other domains, underpins multi-domain joint and combined military operations to advance national security."

Top Challenges Facing Federal Agencies: COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Response Efforts (NASA Excerpt)

"As of May 5, 2020, NASA has committed approximately $8.5 million of the $60 million in emergency funding. The majority of the committed funds relate to contractor impact claims, information technology services, and cleaning supplies. Future use of the remaining funds are expected to include increased cleaning efforts at each NASA facility as well as purchases of personal protective equipment."

Keith's 16 June update: As we first reported last night ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman is leaving NASA. Additional NASA sources have confirmed that he has announced his retirement effective 26 June, This departure is quite a surprise to people at NASA.

NASA Updates Date, Time for Media Teleconference with Administrator, New Head of Human Spaceflight

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate."

NASA Names Joel Montalbano As Acting International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as acting manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment is effective Friday, June 26, the date Kirk Shireman, who has been in the position since 2015, is retiring from the agency to take a position in private industry."

Vice President Pence Congratulates Appointees to the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group

"Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, released the following statement on the appointment of members to serve on the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group. Nominated by the Vice President, the members of the Users' Advisory Group have been appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for two-year terms. The Users' Advisory Group serves 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."

Lessons learned from (and since) the Voyager 2 flybys of Uranus and Neptune, Heidi Hammel

"More than 30 years have passed since the Voyager 2 fly-bys of Uranus and Neptune. I discuss a range of lessons learned from Voyager, broadly grouped into process, planning, and people. In terms of process, we must be open to new concepts: reliance on existing instrument technologies, propulsion systems, and operational modes is inherently limiting. I cite examples during recent decades that could open new vistas in exploration of the deep outer Solar System. Planning is crucial: mission gaps that last over three decades leave much scope for evolution both in mission development and in the targets themselves. .. I turn to people: with generational-length gaps between missions, continuity in knowledge and skills requires careful attention to people. The youngest participants in the Voyager missions (myself included) now approach retirement. We share here ideas for preparing the next generation of voyagers."

John Annexstad

John Annexstad

"In 1968 he joined the Apollo Space Program in Houston, Texas, as the associate curator for lunar samples (moon rocks). While employed with the Johnson Space Center he led the creation of the Antarctic Meteorite Program to continue NASA's research of planetary materials. Under his supervision this program discovered numerous meteorites in Antarctica, now all in the NASA collection. Annexstad Peak was mapped by the U.S Geological Survey and named by the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names for John Annexstad, geomagnetician and Station Seismologist at Byrd Station."

Keith's note: FWIW NASA just Re-created The Office Of Space Science and Applications (OSSA)

Kathy Lueders Selected to Lead NASA's Human Spaceflight Office

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Friday selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency's next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. Since 2014, Lueders has directed NASA's efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft, which culminated in the successful launch of Demo-2 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30."

Keith's note: So much for the Mark Geyer stories I was being fed. I guess he finally said "no" enough times ;-)

Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Pay $10 Million to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today the settlement of an age discrimination lawsuit against Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The laboratory has agreed to pay $10 million, along with injunctive relief, in order to reach an early resolution of the suit. According to the EEOC, JPL systemically laid off employees over the age of 40 in favor of retaining younger employees. The complaint also alleges that older employees were passed over for rehire in favor of less qualified, younger employees. Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2:20-cv-03131-CBM-JC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agreement through its conciliation process. In addition to monetary relief to dozens of older employees, the three-year consent decree settling the suit, which remains under the court's jurisdiction during the term, includes injunctive relief intended to prevent further workplace discrimination."

JPL Will Pay $10 Million Fine For Age Bias Toward Employees, earlier post

OIG: A Review Of Allegations Of Unauthorized Activity By An Executive Assistant To A Former NASA Administrator

"In his OIG interview, Bolden initially denied that the EA had provided administrative support to him following his resignation. He stated that the EA could not provide additional support to him while she was a government employee and "I knew it was inappropriate for her to do that." When asked how he knew that, Bolden replied: "Because it's illegal. It's unethical for me to come in and ask a NASA employee ... to do administrative work for somebody who's not in the government." Id. "She can't serve as my executive assistant when I'm not here.... That's wrong." ... When asked if he ever considered instructing the EA to stop providing administrative support to him, Bolden said no and conceded "my judgment was clouded." He said, "I did not think I was asking her to do personal work for me since almost everything I was doing was space related." Bolden, however, took responsibility for creating the problem. He stated, "This was my error. This was my error in judgment."

Keith's note: Bolden used government employee services for several years after he left NASA. Indeed:

"In January 2017, immediately prior to his departure from NASA and in direct response to concerns about the lack of transition planning when the previous Administrator left NASA following the 2008 presidential election, Bolden added a third Critical Element to the EA's Employee Performance Plan. This new element explicitly authorized the EA to continue to provide administrative support to Bolden such as coordinating his appearance at certain speaking engagements and providing contact information to him and others following his resignation as NASA Administrator."

But since Bolden charges $20,000 speaking fees and did a lot of free stuff for NASA after leaving the agency the OIG did some math and decided that these NASA-provided services probably balanced out. Bolden admits this was all wrong but the OIG says that only the Executive Assistant probably broke the law. It does not seem to be fair to me that a subordinate gets stuck with the illegality.

Keith's note: Looks like we have another Trump space promotional video to enjoy on Trump TV. This video starts with some routine Biden bashing, followed by the "Make Space Great Again" campaign advertisement that the Trump campaign quickly pulled offline last week. At 4:10 the live chat begins. It is hosted by Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle who works on the Trump campaign. Her guests are former NASA Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit and former astronaut and NASA GRC Center Director Janet Kavandi who is now a Senior Vice President at Sierra Nevada Corp. Apparently the Trump family is really into space - Eric Trump's brother-in-law Kyle Yunaska is the new Deputy Chief of Staff at NASA.

The video starts with Guilfoyle saying "with President Trump's inspirational leadership the United States has officially made space great again". She also mentioned that she was at the first DEMO-2 launch attempt. It is a little strange that political campaign people were on the invitation list when virtually no one else was invited. Oh well. Anyway, after a clip of the President taking credit for things that previous presidents initiated the hyperbole that follows continues that theme leaving one with the impression that before the President showed up NASA was closed for business or something. Oh and DeWit complains that the press does not give Ivanka Trump the credit she deserves for whatever it is she does. Like I said space is a family affair for all the Trumps.

- The First 2020 Election Space-Themed Campaign Commercial Flops, earlier post
- White House Post-Launch Commentary, earlier post
- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., earlier post

Keith's note: At a ASEB virtual meeting today SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen announced that Webb will not be launch in March 2021 saying "That is not in the cards right now." Delays due to COVID-19 resulted in single shifts of work instead of the planned double shifts. No new launch date has been offered but Zurbuchen was optimistic that a launch in 2021 is still possible.

Pace, Bowersox Worry About Artemis Funding, Space Policy Online

"The National Space Council's Scott Pace and NASA's Ken Bowersox both expressed concern about getting the money needed to execute the Artemis program today. Pace thinks that even if Congress approves the 12 percent increase for NASA this year, the agency's budget will grow only at the rate of inflation thereafter. Bowersox said although Congress has given NASA a lot of money already, he senses they are not yet convinced of the need to get back to the Moon by 2024. Both spoke to a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine."

S. 2800, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2019 - As ordered reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on November 13, 2019, CBO

"The bill would
• Authorize appropriations totaling $22.8 billion in 2020 for activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and would provide direction on those activities
• Extend operation of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030
• Extend NASA's authority to enter into enhanced-use lease (EUL) agreements
• Permit NASA to increase voluntary separation incentive payments from $25,000 to $40,000

Estimated budgetary effects would primarily stem from
• Extending operations of the ISS
• Spending of the authorized appropriations
• Potential use of third-party financing to construct and renovate facilities for energy production, launch, and other specialized uses under EUL agreements

Areas of significant uncertainty include
• Estimating the value of investments and amount of government use of facilities constructed by third parties under EUL agreements."

Keith's note: Given the pandemic-induced economic crisis and what will be needed to dig out of it, the probability that there will be adequate funds for a sprint program to land on the Moon by 2024, is rapidly evaporating. Add in chronic delays and cost overruns for the SLS/Orion, chaotic management continuity at HEOMD, Congressional doubts, and a presidential election with an inevitable re-evaluation of space goals and possibly an acting Administrator, and the chance that this will happen at all is minimal. Even if this Administration gets a second term NASA has not done what is necessary to pull this off.

Look at what the Congressional Budget Office put into their analysis. What happens if NASA does not get funding at the $22 billion level in the next few years? They will either have to cut or cancel things - or delay things which simply ends up costing more in the end. And oh yes, there's a lot of old stuff at NASA that is falling apart and new facilities that need to be built. The only possible hope NASA can cling to is a huge infrastructure/recovery/stimulus package as we emerge from our current troubles that would enhance government spending. But hope is not the best basis upon which to plan a high speed return to the Moon.

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef (earlier post)

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory. In 2010 NASA was instrumental in rescuing 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in the San José copper mine. The mine is located near Copiapó, Chile. Parnal Observatory, where the VLT is located is 411 Km north of Copiapó a town with a population of 200,000. La Serena, the town where this photo was taken, is located 349 km south of Copiapó and also has a population of over 200,000. These locations are all connected by the same road (Route 5). I would have to assume that NASA remains a very popular entity in the region after the mine rescue - popular enough that its logo is something that children want to wear."

Keith's note: I have posted a link to this story many times. It involves a boy in Chile wearing a NASA logo t-shirt. Check out the tweet below. Apparently there are others in Chile who follow what NASA and SpaceX - have been doing lately. Yet another example of NASA's global reach. Oddly, NASA never talks about this global reach except to say it is big and broke records (sound familiar?). I have asked NASA for some detailed statistics about their reach during Demo-2. I got a few numbers about YouTube. Nothing about Internet reach in terms of country statistics, Twitter impressions, etc. You know - the sort of things that can show just how truly global NASA's reach is - with real numbers. But it is more than numbers. It is also about action. Why not retweet this tweet from Chile? It is non-controversial and inspirational. But NASA doesn't do that sort of thing. NASA has a vast, and mostly unappreciated global reach - a reach NASA itself simply does not understand or know how to fully utilize.

See "The True Extent Of NASA's Reach During The Demo-2 Launch"

Keith's note: In light of recent turmoil in America from racial issues, a gloomy economic downturn, and pandemic disease, NASA has been trying to put forth a meme that the exploration of space is inspiring and that it can get people looking upward and forward to better times ahead.


Astronaut Kathy Sullivan just returned from a dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. She was the first American woman to walk in space and is now the first astronaut to both fly in space and visit the deepest place on our planet. In 2010 a piece of the summit of Mt. Everest plus 4 small Apollo 11 Moon rocks that went to the top of Everest were sent to the ISS and now reside within the cupola. Those rocks were brought back by Scott Parazynski, the first astronaut to both fly in space and stand atop the highest point on our planet. Astronaut Bob Behnken was on the STS-130 shuttle mission that delivered the rock to the ISS back in 2010. He just returned to the ISS on the first American commercial flight into orbit. What an amazing confluence of inspirational accomplishments - all with a nexus on board the ISS.

If I were running the NASA public Affairs Office (suspend belief for a moment, if you will) and I was trying to promote these inspirational exploration themes I'd have someone on NASA TV aboard the ISS look out of the cupola as they flew over the Pacific ocean. I'd have them say something profound and congratulatory, show the Everest rocks and the Apollo 11 moon rocks together a few feet away from the view from the cupola, and combine it all together into a push for exploration on Earth - and beyond. I'd then have them add how such feats of exploration can help us see beyond today's troubles - and that such daring things can be done equally well by men - and women - you know the whole Artemis thing. If I were running PAO, that is.

And oh yes The Challenger Deep was discovered by the H.M.S. Challenger, the namesake of Space Shuttle Challenger - the same space shuttle from which Kathy Sullivan conducted her spacewalk in 1984.

Apparently Kathy Sullivan did have a phone call with the ISS crew. But NASA has made no mention of it. A few years ago an astronaut was posting pictures he took from the ISS cupola as he flew over Mt. Everest and yet he made no mention of the piece of Everest located inches away from his right knee. No one remembers anything at NASA it would seem. No one bothers to use Wikipedia either. What use is an inspirational outpost in space - one that is poised on the cusp of an exciting tomorrow, if NASA ignores the chance to use it - whenever possible - to promote that exciting future?

All the only news from - or about - space that we have seen this past week is a half-assed rah rah political commercial using NASA footage and royalty free music.

NASA investigating former official's contacts with Boeing on lunar contracts, Fox News

"NASA's inspector general is investigating an allegation that a high-ranking NASA official earlier this year improperly guided Boeing Co. regarding an agency competition for lucrative lunar-lander contracts, according to people familiar with the details The probe, according to these people, focuses on communications Boeing officials had with the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's human-exploration office, Doug Loverro, before he resigned in May. The inspector general's staff, these people said, is looking into an allegation that Mr. Loverro improperly provided guidance that could have offered the Chicago aerospace giant unusual insight into aspects of the competition. Boeing ultimately was eliminated in the competition for technical and cost reasons unrelated to the communications with Mr. Loverro, according to these people. The outcome was viewed as a blow for Boeing, long formidable in U.S. space exploration efforts."

Feel. Think. Act.

Keith's note: Along with the now silenced "Make Space Great Again" political campaign advertisement that was yanked within hours was another space-related PR effort - but the U.S. State Department. The State Department seems to have had a social media campaign of sorts to promote the @SpaceX DEMO2 mission around the world via the #LaunchAmerica hash tag. I guess this is supposed to be soft power except mostly it says "Hey - America did this". Sometimes they put the tweet out in the target country's official language. Often times its only in English. Some times they included videos that are narrated - and captioned - in English such as the one aimed at Colombia (the point being ...?). Curiously, the tweet aimed at Ukraine is captioned in Ukrainian.

In 2018 Ukraine had 41.98 million people. Colombia had 49.65 million. Given their similar size, you'd think that they would both warrant a local translation/captioning of the video. But wait: there are only 35 million Ukrainian speakers worldwide vs 572 million spanish speakers (53 million in the U.S.). 20 counties count Spanish as an official language. You could certainly create many more tailored tweets from U.S. embassies to each of these 20 countries with one video translation and reach many more people than the one-off Ukrainian translation. Just sayin'

NASA's accomplishments have always led the rest of world and continue to be a raw source of immense soft power. Now, if only America knew how to ask everyone else to work with them in a calm, collaborative fashion, and not just wave our flag at them on Twitter. Again, just sayin'

Keith's note: This video is posted on a non-Trump campaign YouTube account.

Keith's note: Parts of this Trump campaign commercial look like portions of a promo for the Netflix show "Space Force" or outtakes from the end of the film "Armageddon". Statements by the President such as "Because we are Americans and the future belongs totally to us" certainly do not suggest that international cooperation is something that the campaign is promoting. The Trump producers also ripped off a logo from Disney too. Did the NASA employees openly shown in this video give their permission to be shown in a partisan political commercial? Astronaut Karen Nyberg certainly did not think so. NASA policies seem to disagree as well. The campaign eventually pulled the ad offline but it has started to pop up again online elsewhere.

Media Usage Guidelines, NASA

"Current NASA employees, including astronauts, may not appear in commercial material," those guidelines state. "If a recognizable person, or talent (e.g., an astronaut or a noted personality engaged to narrate a film) appears in NASA material, use for commercial purposes may infringe a right of privacy or publicity. Permission should be obtained from the recognizable person or talent if the proposed use of the NASA material could be viewed as a commercial exploitation of that person."

- Trump Campaign Pulls Space Launch Ad That Violated NASA Rules, MSN
- Trump campaign removes space-themed ad amid complaints from former astronaut, others, CNN
- Trump campaign pulls 'Make Space Great Again' video that may have violated NASA regulations', Space.com
- Trump campaign pulls space-themed ad after complaints, SpaceNews
- After sparking consternation at NASA, Trump campaign pulls ad featuring SpaceX launch, Geekwire
- In Space No One Can Hear You Campaign: Trump Team Pulls Ad, Barrons

Statement from AURA President, June 2020

"AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, believes that a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is our most valuable asset. We believe that a community of people of different genders and gender identities, color, ability, systemic advantage and disadvantage, and more - people from all walks of life - are essential to ensuring excellence both in our organization and in the scientific community as a whole. We remain committed to respecting and valuing each and every individual in our organization as a professional and as a person. We recognize that our success relies upon that respect and upon embracing the unique perspectives each one of you brings to work every day."

American Astronomical Society President Calls on Members to Support Black Americans

"On behalf of the AAS, I would like to express our unwavering support for those in our community who are rightfully concerned for their safety or that of their loved ones, and who have experienced or continue to experience bias and institutional racism in their personal or professional lives. "The AAS is committed to making a positive difference in the professional lives of our members. This commitment will be reaffirmed in our upcoming strategic plan, which will have diversity, equity, and inclusion at its core and woven throughout our priorities and plans as a Society."

Message from the NASA Administrator - June 1, 2020

"This is not the first time America has seen times of unrest and division, and looked to NASA for inspiration and confidence that we are capable of something magnificent. Let me be clear, NASA is a place where unity, respect, and decency are prioritized, and we will continue to promote an agency culture that aligns with these core beliefs."

NASA human spaceflight directorate reorganization on hold, Space News

"During a June 1 webinar by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said that a reorganization of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate will be delayed until after the agency hires a successor to Doug Loverro, who left the agency May 19."

Keith's 4 June update: Bringing Mark Geyer back to NASA HQ to run HEOMD will make many people in the organization comfortable since there'd be a certain Gerstenmaier-like familiarity. But Jim Bridenstine originally replaced Bill Gerstenmaier with a new face and approach so as to refocus HEOMD to make the Artemis 2024 lunar landing feasible. Now a lot of that will be dialed back to the way it was before Doug Loverro took over. Between pandemic delays, election year uncertainties, and chronic SLS/Orion delays and cost overruns, Mark Geyer certainly has an immense challenge ahead of him.

Keith's 2 June note: When former HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier was fired last summer it took NASA 6 months to replace him. During that time major aspects of Artemis and SLS were put on hold or dialed back until a replacement could be found. The new AA Doug Loverro showed up in early 2020 and did what he was told to do and the system bounced him as a result. Now NASA is searching for a replacement for Loverro who, himself, was a replacement. And once again NASA is putting things on hold - as if the pandemic-caused delays were not bad enough.

If NASA follows precedent it will take quite some time to replace Loverro. The reorganization of HEOMD was planned based on a top to bottom assessment of HEOMD - by HEOMD. One would think that the reorganization was independent of one person's opinion and that it had broad organizational buy-in. Guess not.

Now NASA will put the whole Artemis thing on hold again for months until someone takes the job and then stay on hold for a few more months more while the new person gets up to speed and takes ownership of HEOMD. There is simply no way NASA will ever meet the Moon landing deadlines it has been given if every decision has the fate/opinion of one NASA employee as a potential single point of failure. If NASA cannot come up with a fault tolerant way to manage its people on Earth then the whole Moon thing is not going to happen as planned. Just sayin'.

Keith's update: These two events happened a few hours - and a few hundred feet - apart from one another. Some people are looking up to the sky for answers while others seek some answers back on Earth.

NASA to Ring The Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell from the International Space Station in Honor of the First Commercial Crew Launch

"NASA will ring the Nasdaq Opening Bell remotely from the International Space Station to commemorate the first Commercial Crew launch. Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, Demo - 2 Launch Crew, Robert Behken, Douglas Hurley, and ISS Commander Chris Cassidy, will ring the Opening Bell in a virtual bell ringing ceremony from the International Space Station. Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET"

Keith's note: Its not clear what bell will actually be rung - the ISS has a ship's bell which was rung to welcome the Dragon crew yesterday. A live event "Tue., June 2, 9:20 a.m. EDT: SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation with ISS crew" is shown on the NASA TV schedule with the ISS crew starting at 9:15 am. Watch live

Message from the NASA Administrator - June 1, 2020

"NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch this past weekend was a tremendous accomplishment. Seeing Doug and Bob safe and sound aboard the International Space Station, after traveling there on history's first human commercial spaceflight, fills me with so much pride in what the NASA team can do when given the opportunity. Truly a new era of space exploration has begun! But this also is an example of what we can do when we come together as a nation. This is not the first time America has seen times of unrest and division, and looked to NASA for inspiration and confidence that we are capable of something magnificent. Let me be clear, NASA is a place where unity, respect, and decency are prioritized, and we will continue to promote an agency culture that aligns with these core beliefs. For a brief moment Saturday, the United States of America looked up as we once again launched humans into orbit from our home soil, recalling our nation's remarkable ability to accomplish astonishing, impressive achievements, and we demonstrated that we could bring people together peacefully for a common goal."

Keith's note: I just got some additional preliminary information from NASA PAO about their television, Internet and social media reach. Yesterday I asked (audio) Jim Bridenstine for some numbers to substantiate his glowing description of NASA's reach. Bridenstine said "I think a lot of people saw it - I think the whole world saw it - and we're very proud of that." NASA Communications Director Bettina Inclán said "Our metrics are saying that peak viewership of the May 30th joint NASA/SpaceX Launch webcast across all NASA platforms was at least 10.3 million concurrent viewers - the most watched event we've ever had ... those numbers are only for the NASA/Spacex (event). That does not count broadcast and other agencies and news outlets that were talking and promoting this incredible achievment for humanity."

Here are the new metrics from NASA PAO: During the 4 hour period surrounding the launch NASA had 50 million total viewers. That is just YouTube. NASA also had the top 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Twitter trends during that period. For a brief moment a lot of people were watching that launch.

I look forward to receiving more detailed stats from NASA on the reach that this event had - nationally and globally.

Image: A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Story

- NASA Media teleconference: Riots and Rocketships, earlier post
- That Time National Geographic Claimed Copyright On NASA Videos
- America's Excitement for #LaunchAmerica Is Not Equally Distributed, earlier post

Earlier posts on NASA's global reach

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

Arnie Aldrich

Arnold Deane Aldrich

"Arnold Deane Aldrich, 83, of Vienna, VA, passed away on May 28, 2020 after a brief battle with cancer. He was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on July 7, 1936. Arnold enjoyed a 35-year career at NASA spanning all manned-mission programs including Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle. He served as Skylab deputy program manager; Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Deputy Manager during the Apollo Soyuz Test Project; and Orbiter Project Manager during development of Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis. Following the Challenger accident, Arnold was appointed director of the Space Shuttle Program where he led recovery and return-to-flight efforts. He then served as NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology and, later for Space Systems Development. Arnold also led initiatives with Russia leading to the incorporation of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as the on-orbit emergency rescue vehicle for the International Space Station. Arnold joined Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in 1994 as Vice President. He retired in 2007."


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