September 2020 Archives

NASA human spaceflight directorate completes reorganization, SpaceNews

"The NASA directorate responsible for human spaceflight efforts has completed a long-anticipated internal reorganization intended to better align activities ranging from the International Space Station to Artemis. At a Sept. 16 Washington Space Business Roundtable webinar, Kathy Lueders, who took over as NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations three months ago, said that NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk formally approved a reorganization of her mission directorate the previous day."

Hearing link, Hearing on Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Information Technology Management, Policies, and Practices at NASA

Prepared statements

- Rep. Kendra Horn
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Rep. Brian Babin
- Jeff Seaton, Chief Information Officer (Acting) National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Diana L. Burley, Vice Provost for Research, American University

- Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Our concerns with NASA's IT governance and security are long-standing and reoccurring. For more than two decades, NASA's OCIO has struggled to implement an effective IT governance structure that aligns authority and responsibility commensurate with the Agency's overall mission. Specifically, we have found that the Agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) and IT security officials have limited oversight and influence over IT purchases and security decisions within Mission Directorates and at NASA Centers. The decentralized nature of NASA's operations coupled with its long-standing culture of autonomy hinder the OCIO's ability to implement effective enterprise-wide IT governance. For example, in an August 2020 audit we found OCIO's visibility into the process Centers use to authorize and approve IT systems and devices to access Agency networks remains limited.4 Although the NASA CIO is responsible for developing an Agency-wide information security program, OCIO relies on Center-based CIOs and IT security staff to implement and enforce the Agency's information security policies. This practice has allowed Centers to tailor processes to meet their own priorities, which has in turn led to inconsistent implementation of NASA's enterprise-wide IT security management. Such a decentralized approach to cybersecurity management limits OCIO's ability to effectively oversee NASA's information security activities and make informed decisions related to project timelines, costs, and efficiencies as well as realistically assess the overall security of NASA's numerous IT systems."

- Earlier posts on NASA IT

Keith's note: After 20 years of continuous human occupation, the full potential of the ISS has yet to be tapped. To borrow a phrase from Star Trek - which was borrowed from Shakespeare - the ISS is the 'undiscovered country'. With all the talk about how we'd conduct a human mission to Mars, we have a Mars transit spacecraft analog flying over our homes every day just waiting to be used to its fullest extent. Seeing the ISS passing by Mars in this image should be a reminder of the amazing potential of this expeditionary base camp in Low Earth Orbit. Let's use it - before we lose it.

Hell Is in Space and It Belongs to Russia, Roscosmos Chief Says, Gizmmodo

"Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus," Rogozin told attendees at the 2020 HeliRussia exhibition, according to Russia's state-run TASS news agency. "The [Russian] spacecraft gathered information about the planet -- it is like hell over there." "We believe that Venus is a Russian planet," Rogozin added. "Both agencies have historically struggled with funding. ... The Russian government has slashed funding for Roscosmos repeatedly in recent years, even as it's facing pressure from competitors like SpaceX who offer cheaper, reusable rockets. Rogozin has offered a lot of bluster about Roscosmos' capabilities despite the cuts, but this week he admitted that insufficient funding was taking a toll. "I don't quite understand how to work in these conditions," Rogozin said. "We are seeing that leading foreign space agencies are increasing their budgets." Going to hell just isn't as easy as it used to be."

Day 2 of ISSRDC Online Series to Feature Space Investment, Commercialization, and NASA-driven Programs

"Day 2 of the 9th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) will take place virtually this Thursday, September 17, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the general public to showcase the benefits of conducting research and technology development onboard our nation's industrial incubator in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each year, ISSRDC is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. The day will kick off with a session focused on space-based research that is leading to commercial product applications. Multiple plenary sessions will be dedicated to NASA-driven initiatives like GeneLab and the Cold Atom Lab. Additionally, a session focused on trends within the investment community will be led by executive leadership within Nasdaq."

The conference will also air on NASA TV

Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In Works From Space Hero Company & Propagate, Deadline

"The trip of the Space Hero winner will be on a SpaceX Dragon rocket. Space Hero, billed as the first space media company, is working with Axiom Space, manufacturer of the world's first privately funded commercial space station -- a module for the ISS where the private astronauts can stay -- and full-service human spaceflight mission provider. Led by Mike Suffredini who served as NASA's International Space Station program manager for 10 years, Axiom handles all aspects of the Space Hero private astronaut mission, from brokering the trip to the ISS -- currently earmarked for early 2023 -- and securing the rocket seat to training the aspiring astronauts and insurance coverage."

NASA astronauts have a new task: make videos of Estee Lauder products, CNN

"The International Space Station has served as the world's most unique laboratory for two decades, hosting hundreds of scientific experiments, crews of astronauts and even the occasional slime. But now, NASA, one of the space station's primary operators, is preparing to oversee the largest push of business activity aboard the ISS. Later this month, up to 10 bottles of a new Estée Lauder (EL) skincare serum will arrive at the space station, a NASA spokesperson told CNN Business. NASA astronauts are expected to film the items in the microgravity environment of the ISS and the company will be able to use that footage in ad campaigns or other promotional material."

Keith's note: So ... civilian space agency NASA is now looking at "areas of collaboration" with military space agency Space Force, according to Jim Bridenstine. I thought the whole point of having a civilian space agency was to have a civilian space agency - not a partner of a military space agency. Curiously, Jim Bridenstine was talking about the purposeful creation of a civilian space agency just yesterday.

Slippery Slope.

Where Will Artemis III Land?

House Science Bills on Space Weather and Election Technology Pass the House

"S.881, the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow Act, more commonly referred to as the PROSWIFT Act, improves our ability to monitor and forecast space weather. Space weather is generated by magnetic activity on the Sun and can affect technologies on Earth ranging from cell phone communications to GPS navigation to the electric grid. The bill includes an amendment by Lucas to create a pilot program that will ensure that emerging private sector companies have a seat at the table and will be able to provide monitoring and forecast data which the federal government can purchase and utilize in space weather forecasts."

NASA OIG: NASA's Planetary Science Portfolio

"While PSD and the Centers are focused on meeting current mission needs, they are at risk of neglecting investments that would help ensure long-term maintenance of NASA's unique planetary science infrastructure. These include (1) sustaining technical capabilities to support future mission needs; (2) a workforce facing increasing risk from an impending wave of retirements that is exacerbated by the lack of sufficient workforce data for management to make informed decisions, challenges associated with transfer of knowledge, and limited awareness of hiring authority best practices; (3) a lack of adequate funding to repair, maintain, and modernize the Deep Space Network, which provides tracking, telemetry, and command services for deep space missions; and (4) funding mid-level technology development. Moreover, the lack of a cohesive "One NASA" approach by stakeholders, including Center management, Mission Directorate management, and NASA's technical workforce, is hindering the Agency's ability to identify, prioritize, and address longer-term risks to planetary science infrastructure."

Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Study into Search for Primitive Life in the Clouds of Venus

"Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet's atmosphere. The science team undertaking the research will comprise world-class physicists, astronomers, astrobiologists, chemists and engineers, led by Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Physics and Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group will investigate the scientific case for life and analyze the technical challenges of an exploratory mission in the event that such evidence proves compelling."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy Program

"The lack of clear and achievable performance expectations and lack of concurrence between SMD and SOFIA management on science output goals including publication and citation metrics has reduced productivity and threatens the Program's future viability. The Program is unlikely to achieve the community's expectation of 150 publications per year by 2022, or the Program's goal of 100 annual publications, as it only produced 33 publications in 2019 and the actions proposed to meet this goal fall short of the transformational changes required to address current operational and technical challenges. Further, the proposed actions are unlikely to mitigate SOFIA's lack of competitiveness because of the Program's poor efficiency on a science-per-dollar basis when compared to other observatories."

Is Artemis Starting To Fade?

Keith's note: Are we seeing an indication that the expansive, fast-paced goals NASA has for Artemis are now colliding with reality?

Stay Safe Stennis and Michoud

Hints of life on Venus, RAS

"An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule - phosphine - in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes - floating free of the scorching surface, but still needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial 'aerial' life. The new discovery is described in a paper in Nature Astronomy."

Keith's 14 Sep update: Apparently the RAS has changed its mind about how it is going to do their big announcement and a live stream will be presented at 11:00 am EDT here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IIj3e5BFp0

Keith's 13 September 18:32 pm note: There is a big press release coming out tomorrow (Monday 14 September) morning at the Royal Astronomical Society. They want you to know its big news. The press release has been issued in advance to some journalists under embargo - but not others (like us). We have not seen the press release. But according to several sources knowledgeable with the details of the announcement (who are not under embargo) phosphine has been discovered in the atmosphere of Venus. Its presence suggests - suggests - some strange chemistry going on since phosphine is something you'd only expect to see if life (as we know it) was involved.

The presence of phosphine is seen by many astrobiologists as a "biosignature" i.e. an indicator of the possible presence of life. The detection was made by the Atacama (ALMA) array located in Chile and the James Clerk Maxwell telescope located in Hawaii. The research team includes members from the University of Manchester, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cardiff University. A paper will appear in the 14 September issue of Nature Astronomy.

From what we're told the researchers have concluded that abiotic mechanisms (i.e. ones that do not involve life) that might produce phosphine cannot account for the large amount that they have detected. The phosphine has been detected in the region within the atmosphere of Venus that is considered by some to be potentially habitable. As to what spin the researchers put on this, we'll have to wait for reporters who have the press release or are allowed to participate in the Zoom press conference thing tomorrow at 15:00 GMT to let us know.

Jay Melosh

Space Resources are the Key to Safe and Sustainable Lunar Exploration

"Today, we're taking a critical step forward by releasing a solicitation for commercial companies to provide proposals for the collection of space resources. When considering such proposals, we will require that all actions be taken in a transparent fashion, in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, and all of our other international obligations. We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity. The requirements we've outlined are that a company will collect a small amount of Moon "dirt" or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location, and conduct an "in-place" transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for our use."

Keith's note: As you may recall last year I posted a story "That Time Wernher von Braun's Rocket Tried To Kill My Father" about my father's near brush with death from a V-2 attack in London in March 1945 and how he - and later I - grappled with the personal impact of a weapon that fell from space. I visited the impact site in Hyde Park 2016. I recently got this email from Brian Roselle who is my age and had parents who lived through part of World War II in London. As it happens his mother was there at the impact area too as the rocket came in. Like Brian, I almost did not exist because of this rocket. In my case, it gave me a career 40 years later.

"Visiting my brother this weekend we looked in a shoe box with pictures and articles from our parents from WWII, and it reminded me of an incident my Mom mentioned years ago. Mom once told me of this incident she had while she was in London, where she had a close call. A V-2 rocket struck the Hyde Park area near where she was at the time and the explosion was extremely big and shook her up quite a bit, to the point where she wasn't sure if she was going to survive whatever was happening. She was OK and subsequently found a fragment that landed in the park, picked it up, and it was still very hot. She ended up keeping the fragment and this was among the items we looked at this past weekend along with a note identifying it as the V-2 piece picked up in Hyde Park. I took a picture and attached it here. I found your article on NASA Watch while looking up more background on V-2 incidents. As you might guess, the article resonated with me. Between my Mom and Dad I think there were probably a few close calls in the European Theater at that time that went my way, so she could become a war bride to an American soldier and I could eventually come along. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience, I have learned a little more."

At the end of my article I described a chance encounter with a young european couple and their boy at the foot of the V-2 at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. As it happens, they live in the Netherlands a few blocks away from where the V-2 that nearly killed my father and Brian's mother was launched. Small world.

NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk: Agencywide Quiet Fridays are Here!

"With much of the NASA workforce currently teleworking, gone - for now - are the days of the casual collaborations and conversations that happen in hallways or office pop-ins. In their place, many of us are seeing a significant increase in more formal, scheduled meetings. In an effort to help employees maintain a balance of communication, collaboration, and individual productivity, NASA is implementing an agencywide "Quiet Friday" program effective Friday, Sept. 25."

Keith's note: NASA needs to spend a little more time promoting International SpaceApps Challenge than it has done in the past. Given that humans now live in orbit permanently - and have done so for 20 years - you'd think that NASA would be looking for ways to capitalize upon its global brand reach and the inherent soft power opportunity that goes with being a bright light in an otherwise gloomy time here on Planet Earth. Everyone is isolated - globally. This is a chance to connect and utilizing that NASA global brand.

Keith's update: NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - Sept. 8, 2020

"Shout Out: NASA's International Space Apps Challenge 2020, dubbed the largest global hackathon in the world, will be kicking off its 9th year on Oct. 2-4. The event brings innovators of all ages and backgrounds together to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. NASA employees can share the opportunity with friends and family, or involve kids learning at home in the all-virtual event this year. Teams can choose from space- and Earth-related challenges to challenges focused on history and youth. There's something for everyone!"

Gerstenmaier warns against ending space station program prematurely, Space News

"We don't want to do an Apollo: a rush to a single objective and then have nothing left," he continued. "We need to build infrastructure, leave pieces behind that the private sector can use, as well as the government, to move forward." Gerstenmaier said he didn't know how long such a transition from the ISS to private facilities would take, but didn't think there was a firm deadline for ending the station. "I don't know that there's a hard date where the station needs to be retired," he said. "I think there will be probably a push to retire the station with the idea that you're going to free up funds for exploration. That's what I described to you as a false choice."

Keith's note: When most people hear the phrase "space science" it is logical to expect that they think of "science" in "space". Maybe its astronomy or planets. Maybe its studying how humans live in space. Perhaps its analyzing samples from another world or looking for life in the universe. It might even include looking down at Earth from space. But "space science" simply refers to "science" - and not any one discipline or sub-discipline.

But at NASA "space science" it has been used for decades to refer to missions that do astronomy, astrophysics, heliophysics and to some extent planetary and Earth science. ISS would never be mentioned unless it is for some astronomy or astrophysics payload on board. And there'd be no mention of any "science" done in "space" by NASA's Human Exploration, Technology or Aeronautics Directorates - even if the science was done in space. Since NASA people use a subset of the English language that reflects the NASA phone book and budget plans - and power point lingo - and not how the rest of the world sees things - its websites tend to reflect these distinctions peculiar to NASA. Advisory bodies, OMB, and Congress fall into the same trap. "Space Science" at NASA is not what the phrase probably means to English speakers who hear the two words used together.

Google's top link from a search for "space science" is to a Wikipedia page "outline of space" which defines it this way: "Space science encompasses all of the scientific disciplines that involve space exploration and study natural phenomena and physical bodies occurring in outer space, such as space medicine and astrobiology." Sounds like they mean all science done in - and about - space. Makes sense. Sometimes the top link from Google goes to "Space Science" at the National Air & Space Museum which says "Space science--science performed from vehicles that travel into Earth's upper atmosphere or beyond--covers a broad range of disciplines, from meteorology and geology, to lunar, solar, and planetary science, to astronomy and astrophysics, to the life sciences."

But use the phrase "space science" to a NASA person and the defintion is much smaller and limited. The first NASA link to come up from a Google search for "space science" is "Space Science & Astrobiology @ Ames" which offers this de-facto definition of their piece of space science as:

"The Division will pursue primary leadership roles in NASA missions and mission support activities, based on our current capabilities in the following key strategic focus areas: Life Detection Research and Technology, Mission-Driven Analog Research and Mission Concept Operations, Radiative Transfer Modelling, Laboratory Astrophysics Research, (Exo)planetary Formation, Evolution, Characterization, and Technology Studies"

That is somewhat smaller than the top search result. But it is the first time something from NASA shows up. Not everyone is going to understand the whole field center organizational aspect of NASA. They will simply see "NASA". The next search result you get us is "Space Science" - a PDF reflexting the FY 2003 budget plan that says:

"NASA's Space Science Enterprise will continue to address these four profound questions: How did the universe begin and evolve? We seek to explain the earliest moments of the universe, how stars and galaxies formed, and how matter and energy are entwined on the grandest scales. How did we get here? We investigate how the chemical elements necessary for life have been built up and dispersed throughout the cosmos, evidence about how the Sun affects Earth, similarities between Earth and other planets, and how comets and asteroids in our solar system affect Earth. Where are we going? Our ultimate place in the cosmos is wrapped up in the fate of the universe. Humanity has taken its first steps off our home world, and we will contribute to making it safe to travel throughout the solar system. Are we alone? Beyond astrophysics and cosmology, there lies the central human question: Are we on Earth because of an improbable accident of nature? Or is life, perhaps even intelligent life, scattered throughout the cosmos? Now, in support of the President's new vision of space exploration, orbiting observatories and planetary probes will be joined by human explorers in seeking answers to these questions. Robotic scouts will blaze the trail, reconnoitering the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets of the solar system in advance of human expeditions, as observatories monitor the sun and its effects on its planetary retinue. The Space Science Enterprise will work with the new Exploration Systems Enterprise to develop and deploy new technologies, first on automated spacecraft and then on human missions."

That is much more expansive and seems to include pretty much everything that the Wikipedia definition describes. But there is no mention of Artemis. Oh wait: that is because it is from the FY 2003 era "Vision for Space Exploration" era under President George W. Bush. This is 2020. A 17 year old page like this showing up in a Google search result is easily found and easily remedied. But NASA does not seem to care. Nowhere in the top pages of search results for "space science" is there a link to a NASA page other than the one to the division at Ames. NASA is the pre-eminent space agency when it comes to space science so this is a little odd when a search for "space science" results in one page from a field center and another from 2003.

So lets make the Google search a little more specific for "NASA Space Science". The first search result we get - which is highlighted by Google is the one mentioned above describing a division at NASA Ames. The second result is Science at NASA - science.nasa.gov - the main NASA Science Mission Directorate page at science.nasa.gov. If you click "about us" you get some pictures but no definition of what Space Science is. The link on that page to "NASA's Science Vision" gets you to this:

"NASA's science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all: How and why are Earth's climate and the environment changing? How and why does the Sun vary and affect Earth and the rest of the solar system? How do planets and life originate? How does the universe work, and what are its origin and destiny? Are we alone?"

No mention is made of studying humans in space or other science done on ISS. But if you go down several links you get "Space Station Research & Technology" which talks about the science done in space on the ISS with lots of useful links to other resources. Alas, there is no link to this page from science.nasa.gov nor does this page link to science.nasa.gov - so anyone landing at science.nasa.gov will not know that there is a resource for ISS research unless they dig around for a while. Conversely people arriving at this ISS science page might not get a full appreciation of the vast scope of NASA's various science programs.

If you take the route of skipping Google and just going directly to NASA.gov you see these categories at the top of the page: "Humans in Space, Moon to Mars, Earth, Space Tech, Flight, Solar System and Beyond, STEM Engagement, History, Benefits to You"

The "Earth" and "Solar System and Beyond" pages point to content outside of the official NASA Space Science page at science.nasa.gov and do not point to science.nasa.gov. Conversely science.nasa.gov does not point to the "Earth" and "Solar System and Beyond" pages. So you have two independent and inconsistent lines of communication. But wait there's more: The "Humans in space page" page linked to from nasa.gov does not point to the "Space Station Research & Technology" page. So you have a similar redundant path in NASA's overall web strategy that is duplication and unnecessary.

Google cannot improve on bad website design. Its algorithms simply bring forth results on how things are arranged on websites and how people find and link to these resources. NASA could easily delete old information like the 2003 space science page (or replace it with current information); cross link pages that merit cross linking and delete duplicative pages. If need be referral or redirect pages at old links can send people to the right location. A good web design will also allow Google's search spiders to find pages more easily and, if done properly, find them along the lines of topic organization that make sense when someone uses Google to find something. People using a revised NASA website design which is built with an eye on how search engines find things would also find things more easily.

NASA was tasked by its Administrator more than a year to fix this sort of mess. They have not. One of the problems, IMHO is that NASA is only used to being in transmission mode. They do not listen very much. They are used to being providers of information about NASA but they seem to lack any real input from actual users of information about NASA. If they did then their websites would look a lot different. I was once told by a former NASA AA that NASA is popular in spite of itself and its bad outreach coordination simply because its stuff is so compelling and cool. They are quite correct. And NASA is not only stuck in transmission mode, everyone uses a different frequency on incompatible systems to transmit.

NASA people are forever talking about how NASA benefits everyone else and how frustrated they are that more people do not see this. But these same NASA people are hampered by a system of stovepipes and competing fiefdoms at every organizational level at NASA that make a coherent and consistent story impossible to tell. It has been like this for decades. That said, NASA's cool stuff reaches around the world in spite of the internal roadblocks. Imagine what the agency could do if it finally fixed its outreach mechanisms online so as to facilitate - not hinder - this spread of massive NASA coolness?

Form follows function, NASA.

Keith's note: Today the White House is releasing Space Policy directive 5 (SPD-5) "Cybersecurity Principles for Space Systems" according to a media briefing with senior administration officials. This is the first policy for space systems to apply key cybersecurity principles to protect space systems for government and commercial operators. SPD-5 promotes SPD-3 "Space Traffic Management" including space debris issues and other government defense and security directives. SPD-5 notes that cybersecurity practices that apply to terrestrial systems also apply to space systems. Promotes a culture of prevention, risk management, and best practices. SPD-5 Further defines best practices, establishes norms, and will apply across our industrial base and calls for space systems software to be developed using risk based cyber security engineering cybersecurity. SPD-5 calls says that space system developers should protect against unauthorized access, jamming, spoofing, infiltration of ground systems, cybersecurity hygiene, and supply chain risks. SPD-5 says that developers should leverage widely adapted best practices and norms of behavior, and that operators should make appropriate risk trades appropriate to their systems cybersecurity.

President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive Establishing America's First Comprehensive Cybersecurity Policy For Space Systems

"Today, President Donald J. Trump issued Space Policy Directive-5 (SPD-5), the Nation's first comprehensive cybersecurity policy for space systems. SPD-5 establishes key cybersecurity principles to guide and serve as the foundation for America's approach to the cyber protection of space systems."

NASA Administrator Announces Senior Leadership Updates

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has announced updates in senior leadership positions at Headquarters in Washington, including Stephen Shinn becoming acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Melanie Saunders, who has served as acting Chief Financial Officer since February 2020, will return to her position as NASA Deputy Associate Administrator. She has held that position since 2018. Cathy Mangum, who has been the acting Deputy Associate Administrator while Saunders was acting CFO, will continue to lead the agency's COVID-19 response and other agency priorities."

"I appreciate Melanie and Cathy stepping up and taking on these critical positions, especially during this unprecedented year with the COVID-19 pandemic," said Administrator Bridenstine. "And I'm confident in Steve's leadership while we await Senate confirmation of the President's NASA CFO nominee."

- Former NASA CFO Jeff DeWit Joins Trump Campaign As COO, earlier post
- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., earlier post
- NASA Has A CFO Nominee, earlier post

"Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key position in his Administration: Dr. Greg Autry, of California, to be Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. ... Dr. Autry previously served on the NASA Agency Review Team and as the White House Liaison at NASA."

Keith's note: Autry's nomination is listed on the executive calendar as of 29 July 2020 - #2150 - but it has not been referred to any committee yet. It is unlikely that this nomination will be taken up by the Senate before the election. If Trump loses it will never see the light of day.

The NASA CFO's job used to be about the agency's financial matters and nothing else. In the past 4 years it has become a way for White House political influence to be maintained at NASA via a different channel. Of course presidential son Eric Trump's brother-in-law Kyle Yunaska is NASA's Deputy Chief of Staff - so there are multiple direct channels from the Trump Administration into NASA HQ. Oh yes, former CFO Jeff DeWit is the COO of the President's re-election campaign.

Keith's note: A year and a half ago Jim Bridenstine directed NASA to fix its online services. he told the agency "I am calling for a full modernization of NASA's digital presence to best reflect the priorities and activities of the Agency in this new era of science, discovery, and exploration. To accomplish that we will: ..." . Have they done what he asked them to do? No. In fact, some things have just gotten worse.

Here's one example. Go to NASA Science Mission Directorate homepage and click on "news" and then "press releases". You'd expect to see a current listing, right? Guess again. The last one posted is dated 30 July 2020. No mention of NASA's Chandra Opens Treasure Trove of Cosmic Delights or Primary Mirror for NASA's Roman Space Telescope Completed or The Moon Is Rusting, and Researchers Want to Know Why issued in the past 24 hours. If you go to More science news they are not mentioned either.

But if you go to NASA.gov these things are available. Curiously when you go to NASA.gov there is no way to find the SMD homepage. If you click on Solar System and Beyond you see SMD's recent stories but no link to the SMD homepage. If you look at the SMD homepage you will notice that there is no link to NASA.gov - unless you scroll all the way down to a little link at the bottom of the page.

If you use the NASA.gov search engine and look for "astrobiology" the official NASA Astrobiology website never shows up in the search results (I stopped looking after 3 pages of results).

In summary: NASA SMD won't easily send you to NASA.gov and NASA.gov won't send you to SMD. None of these sites has a consistent and current link to the things that SMD releases - and the search engine for all of NASA can't even find the main home page of the program (Astrobiology) that drives all the science on the fancy new $2 billion rover headed to Mars.

- NASA Has Had A Year To Reorganize Their Web Presence. Did They?, earlier post
- SMD Sends A $2 billion Astrobiology Mission to Mars and Then Forgets About Astrobiology, earlier post
- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- NASA's Confusing ICESAT-2 Websites, earlier post
- Progress Made In Making NASA's Internet Presence Leaner, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA has an Astrobiology rover heading to Mars. Time to dial up the Astrobiology stuff, right? Guess again. Check out the NASA SMD website. Do a search for Search for "astrobiology". These are the top search results - yes they are rather stale. Not exactly the top shelf outreach that you'd expect SMD to be doing for a $2 billion Astrobiology mission on its way to Mars. Just sayin'

- Dr. Michael New - Astrobiology Discipline Scientist Mar 24, 2008
- Due Dates delayed for C.20 Astrobiology Science And Technology For Exploring Planets (ASTEP) Mar 16, 2011
- Amendment 8: New TBD C.23 Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research
SOLAR SYSTEM May 9, 2019
- Sled Dogs Carry Astrobiology to Dizzying Heights EARTH Mar 12, 2008

Keith's update: As a reader has noted it you click "newest" then the results are more current. But please tell me what website design thought went into making "relevance" the default setting for search results when it shows random news more than a decade old? Did NASA SMD bother to have actual humans test drive this? And regardless of which button you click there are few search results regarding actual NASA Astrobiology research - despite databases that are online that can provide that information. I see no search results that link to the official NASA Astrobiology website at astrobiology.nasa.gov. My point still stands. NASA has no idea how to present its search for life in the universe - Astrobiology - to a public audience. And when you bring these issues to their attention they simply do not care.

If you go to Pubspace - a research results database established by NASA at NCBI and search for "astrobiology" you get 1,192 search results which are all scientific papers. If you go to the Astrophysics Data System which the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under NASA Cooperative Agreement you get 218,350 results - again, all research results. If you go to arXiv.org preprint server and search for "astrobiology" you get 503 results of relevant research. Searching for other relevant key words such as "biosignatures" or "habitable" would yield even more results. Why doesn't NASA SMD include these resources in their search engine algorithm? If this is beyond the skill set of the web folks at NASA then why doesn't NASA make prominent mention of these research search engines - not just for astrobiology but for other aspects of NASA space science research - by simply linking to them?

If you go to the official NASA Astrobiology website you will see that the top story is a recycled post from 4 January 2020 about a comic book. Yes, a comic book. If you want current Astrobiology news that covers the actual research go here.

Earth's First Space Teacher

Pick an agency, any agency, Space Review

"Congress, though, rejected the proposal, with appropriators skeptical that Commerce was the best agency to handle civil STM. Prior to SPD-3, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, had been the leading candidate to handle STM in addition to its work licensing commercial launches and reentries. While the administration decided to give that authority to the Office of Space Commerce, some in Congress still thought AST was the better home. ... The report, led by a panel chaired by Michael Dominguez, former assistant secretary of the Air Force and which included former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and former NRO director Marty Faga, was released August 20. And, much to the relief of the administration, it concluded that the Office of Space Commerce was indeed the best agency for the job. "Following its evaluative criteria, the Panel determines OSC to be best suited to perform STM tasks within the federal government," the report succinctly stated."


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