December 2020 Archives

Report: National Strategy for Planetary Protection

"Today, the National Space Council released the National Strategy for Planetary Protection. This Strategy will advance the Nation's role in the sustainable exploration of space by appropriately protecting other planetary bodies and the Earth from potentially harmful biological contamination from space exploration activities. Planetary protection refers to the policy and practice of protecting scientific investigations by limiting biological contamination of other planetary bodies and protecting the Earth's biosphere by avoiding harmful biological contamination by returning spacecraft. This national strategy balances U.S. interests in promoting scientific discovery, human exploration, and the growth of private sector space activities, all with due consideration for public safety and applicable domestic and international obligations."

Gil Moore

R. Gilbert Moore

"Gil Moore has been active with numerous organizations such as the American Rocket Society and its successor the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Utah's Advisory Council on Science and Technology, the Hansen Planetarium, the Utah Science Center Authority, and the Utah State University Research Foundation board of trustees. He is a life member of the Air Force Association and has been a member of the American Meteorological Society, the Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of the Sigma Xi, the U.S. Space Foundation, the National Space Foundation, the Aerospace States Association, and the Space Business Roundtable. Additionally, he has served as an unofficial advisor on space issues for two U.S. Congressman, two U.S. senators, and three state governors."

NASA OIG: Fiscal Year 2020 Federal Information Security Modernization Act Evaluation - An Agency Common System

"... We found that NASA had not assessed the Agency common control entitled SI-04, Information System Monitoring, since April 2015. Moreover, the control was classified in 2015 as "other than satisfied," but system security officials still had not taken appropriate action to address the control deficiency by developing either a POA&M or Risk-Based Decision document. Based on discussions with system security officials, both the overdue control assessment and the failure to develop either a POA&M or Risk-Based Decision document were the result of an oversight. However, we believe the oversight was caused, in part, by the Agency Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) not prioritizing and allocating the personnel resources needed to address control weaknesses in the ACS system. Since the system has the ability to affect all NASA systems that inherit controls from it, we are concerned that NASA's failure to address the control deficiency could negatively affect the appropriate monitoring of all NASA systems."

"... Continued delays in accomplishing the work necessary to authorize the hybrid common controls system occurred because the OCIO did not prioritize the work and allocate the necessary personnel resources to meet their intended timetable. Based on discussions with the ACS security control manager, the OCIO assigned only two people on a part-time basis to address several known issues involving the ACS system and to develop the new hybrid common controls system. Consequently, the development and authorization of the new hybrid common controls system fell behind schedule."

"... We found that NASA did not develop or include cost estimates for remediation of any of the nine POA&Ms we tested. According to a representative from the OCIO, this occurred because, as a general practice, cost estimates are not included for POA&Ms. We take exception with this, as it is contrary to NASA guidance and inconsistent with best practices for administration and management of remediation efforts for known security weaknesses and vulnerabilities associated with information security controls."

- Two Decade NASA CIO Struggle To Implement Effective IT Governance, earlier post
- The NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Congress won't block Trump's order to strip civil service protections from many federal workers, Washington Post

"The bill is silent regarding an executive order issued just before the election that would change the status of federal employees whose work involves making or carrying out policy or giving confidential advice to top officials. Under the order, they could be dismissed with little cause or recourse, much like the political appointees who come and go with each administration, and competition would no longer be required when filling such jobs. Federal agencies have been working to complete lists of such positions ahead of a Jan. 19 deadline -- the day before President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated -- for conversion into a new category of positions to be called "Schedule F."

- NASA Employees: Beware Of Schedule F - And Burrowing
- Civil Servants Are Going To Lose Protections, earlier post
- Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service, White House

After ISS - What?

The International Space Station can't stay up there forever. Will privately run, commercial replacements be ready in time?, Washington Post

"Wary of a gap, Bridenstine has increasingly been sounding the alarm, urging Congress to fully fund its requests to build a commercial presence in Earth orbit that would include private stations. Last year, NASA requested $150 million as part of its plan, but Congress granted just a tenth of that. For the fiscal 2021 budget, NASA requested the same amount but will receive just $17 billion, sparking a new round of warnings: "ISS won't last forever & incentivizing the private sector to begin follow-on capabilities are needed now," said Lori Garver, who served as NASA deputy administrator in the Obama administration. "This concept isn't hard, have we learned nothing in the last 10 years?"

JoAnn Clayton Townsend

JoAnn Clayton Townsend (1935-2020), Space Policy Online

"JoAnn Clayton Townsend, former director of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) at the National Academies and an AIAA Fellow, passed away last night from congestive heart failure. She had just turned 85. A native of Tulsa, OK, JoAnn traveled the world with her husband, John Clayton, a journalist with the U.S. Information Service, until his untimely death when their two children were still quite young."

Commerce Department Will Publish the First Military End User List Naming More Than 100 Chinese and Russian Companies

"The MEU List informs exporters, reexporters, and transferors that a license will be required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) designated items to listed entities. The U.S. Government has determined that these entities represent an unacceptable risk of use in or diversion to a 'military end use' or 'military end user' in China, Russia, or Venezuela."

Dmitry Rogozin comments on trade restrictions against Russian companies, Roscosmos

"Now, it turns out that our American colleagues have their 'trampoline working' again, and the first thing they did is spit into the Samara well. Isn't it too early, colleagues, in case your 'trampoline' breaks again suddenly and you will have to satisfy your passion for space from our well again?"

- Rogozin: Russia Is Not Interested In Working With NASA on Artemis (Or Maybe They Are), earlier post
- Bellicose Roscosmos Thinks Trump Is Hysterical Over Dragon, earlier post
- other posts on Russia

Final FY 2021 NASA Funding Provides Only 25% of HLS Request, Space Policy Online

"Congress finalized FY2021 appropriations today. Overall, NASA will receive $23.271 billion, almost $2 billion less than requested. Importantly for the Trump Administration's Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, it provides only $850 million instead of $3.4 billion for Human Landing Systems."

Artemis I Orion Progress Update, NASA

"During their troubleshooting, engineers evaluated the option to "use as is" with the high-degree of available redundancy or remove and replace the box. They determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system."

SLS Team Completes Propellant Loading of Core Stage During Green Run Test, NASA

"Part of the test was to simulate the countdown with the tanks loaded, leading up to 33 seconds prior to the engines firing. However, the test ended a few minutes short of the planned countdown duration.The core stage and the B-2 test stand are in excellent condition, and it does not appear to be an issue with the hardware. The team is evaluating data to pinpoint the exact cause of the early shutdown. Then they will decide if they are ready to move forward with the final test, a hot fire when all four engines will be fired simultaneously."

Space Launch System Exploration Upper Stage Passes Critical Design Review

"To accomplish NASA's Artemis I lunar mission, the Block 1 variant of SLS will use a Boeing/United Launch Alliance Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with one RL-10 engine to take an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight to the moon. SLS Block 1 rockets will be used for two subsequent crewed flights, including the first human mission to lunar orbit since the Apollo program."

Keith's note: Where to begin? There is nowhere near enough money to keep the Artemis program focused on a 2024 landing - or any landing. NASA is flying Orion on Artemis I with broken hardware because the spacecraft was designed poorly so as to make routine replacements hard to do. The SLS Green Run should be running a bit more smoothly given how many years NASA has had to prepare for it and the last test before firing shut down early? As for the Boeing CDR release: What about human lunar landings on SLS Block I - isn't that what Artemis III is supposed to do? It is nice that the CDR is complete but there is no approved funding to actually build and fly the EUS. Yet Boeing writes these releases to downplay the Block 1 capabilities as if the EUS/Block 1B is a done deal. It is not.

Not enough funding, flying broken hardware on Orion, a flawed booster test, and faith-based planning for an upper stage that is not even funded. Such is the current status of NASA's new Moon program.

Aerojet Rocketdyne to be Acquired by Lockheed Martin in $5.0 Billion All-Cash Transaction, Aerojet Rocketdyne

"We are pleased to bring together our complementary companies in a transformative transaction that will provide premium cash value for our shareholders and tremendous benefits for our employees, customers and partners," said Eileen P. Drake, CEO and President of Aerojet Rocketdyne. "Joining Lockheed Martin is a testament to the world-class organization and team we've built and represents a natural next phase of our evolution. As part of Lockheed Martin, we will bring our advanced technologies together with their substantial expertise and resources to accelerate our shared purpose: enabling the defense of our nation and space exploration. On behalf of the Aerojet Rocketdyne Board and management team, I'd like to thank all of our employees for their unwavering dedication and focus in helping us achieve this great milestone."

Keith's note: Every time one of these big aerospace dinosaurs eats another dinosaur they promise that there will be increased value to the customers etc. Except it never happens. Costs always go up and projects are always delayed. Stockholders may realize some profit but the customers (taxpayers) invariably have to spend more money for the same products.

Lockheed Martin now owns Aerojet Rocketdyne (Aerojet and Rocketdyne merged a few years ago) which means they control all SLS propulsion except for the SRBs and they build Orion. Boeing oversees SLS. Northrop Grumman ate Orbital ATK which was formed when Orbital Sciences and ATK merged. They control Cygnus and Antares and the SLS SRBs. So the SLS is now built by 3 companies that used to be 7 just a few years ago. Oh yes - Lockheed Martin co-owns United Launch Alliance with Boeing. ULA is going to use Blue Origin engines. Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman formed the HLS "National Team". Just keep this in mind when the whole Artemis project gets revisited in a few months because it costs too much and is years behind schedule.

S.2800 NASA Authorization Act

Space Economy, Bureau of Economic Analysis

"BEA has developed a preliminary set of statistics measuring the contributions of space-related industries to the overall U.S. economy. These estimates give business leaders, policymakers, and the public a new tool to analyze the space economy and to inform investment decisions. Preliminary estimates of the U.S. space economy's GDP, gross output, private employment, and private compensation by industry were published in the December 2020 Survey of Current Business. BEA will continue to explore options for further work and extensions to these space economy statistics."

NASA, UN Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Peaceful Uses of Space

"NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful use of outer space. The MOU, signed Thursday, Dec. 17, brings together NASA's wealth of publicly available Earth observation data and dynamic exploration opportunities with UNOOSA's unique position as the only U.N. entity dedicated to outer space affairs."

Keith's note: OK, so where is the text of the MOU?

NASA, USDA Sign Agreement to Improve Agricultural, Earth Science Research

"NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth. The agreement brings together NASA's experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA's scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands."

Keith's note: OK, so where is the text of the MOU?

NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program

"NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) finalized an agreement between the United States and Canada to collaborate on the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide vital support for a sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA's Artemis program."

Keith's note: OK, so where is the text of the agreement?

NASA Administrator Signs Statement of Intent with Brazil on Artemis Cooperation

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the Government of Brazil Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI) Marcos Pontes signed a joint statement of intent during a virtual meeting on Dec. 14, 2020."

Keith's note: OK, so where is the text of the joint statement?

Keith's note: It looks like NASA is trying to toss forth every policy thing that it can before Jim Bridenstine leaves. Brazil, Canada, UN, nuclear power in space, USDA ... its all fine stuff - but there is no apparent strategery behind or between any of this. NASA just shoots it out and can't be bothered to even let the public read what the agreements actually say.

The USDA/NASA thing is great stuff. As a part of this, has anyone looked at states with large agriculture sectors that are strongly affected by COVID, the economic downturn, and how NASA relates to their livelihood - and how the NASA/USDA thing could help? Has anyone figured out how to make NASA interactions with 4H, Future Farmers of America, etc. work in this regard? Drones and remote sensing of crops are important - how does the NASA Aeronautics Directorate interact with this USDA agreement? A drone will be doing remote sensing on Mars in a few weeks. There are obvious tie-ins between Mars Ingenuity, agricultural remote sensing, and UAVs. Why not make this part of the Mars mission newly relevant to an underserved sector of society?

NASA is an amazing mess of missed opportunities.

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract to Blue Origin for New Glenn Launch Services, NASA

"NASA has awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to Blue Origin and their New Glenn launch service in accordance with the contract's on-ramp provision. The New Glenn launch service will be available to NASA's Launch Services Program(LSP) to use for future missions in accordance with the on-ramp provision of NLS II."

Keith's note: It is good to see that NASA is including the ever-expanding launch market to accomplish its various missions - even when the rides they buy are on vehicles that have yet to actually fly. Alas, once upon a time, NASA only gave out contracts such as this to companies with rockets that actually existed and had flown a half a dozen times. Now, NASA relies more on other factors to make these awards. Given the huge amounts of money involved and the fact that this rocket is part of what may support the Artemis Program, you'd think that we'd get a peek at the actual rocket. Some some insight into what basis upon which NASA made this decision - as was the case with Falcon 9 and Antares - would also be nice. Just sayin'

President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 6 Establishing National Strategy On Space Nuclear Power And Propulsion, White House

NASA Supports America's National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion

"In support of SPD-6, NASA's near-term priority is to mature and then demonstrate a fission surface power system on the Moon. NASA, the Department of Energy, and industry will design, fabricate, and test a 10-kilowatt class fission surface power system. NASA plans to demonstrate the system on the Moon in the late 2020s, providing power for sustainable lunar surface operations and testing its potential for use on Mars."

Keith's note: Is there any new funding set aside for these efforts at NASA or will things continue to chug along at the low level rate that they have been progressing? Details, details.

Canada Heads To The Moon

A Canadian astronaut will be on the first NASA Artemis mission to the Moon , SpaceQ

"So I'm excited that a Canadian will be on Artemis II. But what I'm telling you about with all these other opportunities is that we are paving the way to Canadians doing even more things in space, eventually, hopefully one day Canadian on the Moon, and on Mars, those are our goals. And we believe in the trickle down effects from them."

NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program, NASA

"Under this agreement, CSA will provide the Gateway's external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm3. CSA also will provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway. The agreement also marks NASA's commitment to provide two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II."

NASA Administrator's Agency Honor Awards Virtual Ceremony

"Each year the NASA Administrator recognizes individual employees who have made an extraordinary and indelible impact on the agency's mission success throughout this past year. All of these individuals help enable missions to explore and discover both our world and the universe."

Keith's note: Let's take a look at the Program for the 2020 NASA Honor Awards to check on the gender of the people named. Guess what: only 3 of the 37 listed 2020 Distinguished Service Medal honorees are female. Of the 14 Distinguished Public Service Medal honorees none are female. It is rather baffling that with such an immense workforce NASA cannot seem to honor anyone except older male employees for their contributions. Why can't younger people - and women - be found who have made similar contributions?

This is not exactly new. Go look at the 2019 NASA Honor awards. 2 out of 32 Distinguished Service Medal winners were women. None of the 10 Distinguished Public Service Medal honorees were female. Yet in 2018 of the 27 Distinguished Service Medal honorees 9 were women - one third. That's not perfect - but it is certainly vastly better than the number of women deemed worthy of awards in 2019 and 2020. These women do exist, NASA - and they are certainly not hard to find. Just sayin'.

GAO: NASA Human Space Exploration - Significant Investments in Future Capabilities Require Strengthened Management Oversight

"What GAO Found

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) again delayed the planned launch date for Artemis I, the first uncrewed test flight involving three closely related human spaceflight programs--the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS). Together, these programs aim to continue human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The most recent delay, to November 2021, resulted in part from manufacturing challenges and represents a 36-month slip since NASA established a schedule to measure performance in 2014. This new launch date does not account for the effects of COVID-19. According to NASA officials, COVID-19 delays and schedule risks will place pressure on NASA's ability to achieve this launch date.

Development cost estimates for key programs also increased. The cost of the SLS program increased by 42.5 percent and the EGS program by 32.3 percent since 2014, for a combined increase of over $3 billion, bringing the total to $11.5 billion. NASA does not plan to complete revised estimates for Orion, which are tied to the second, crewed test flight (Artemis II) before spring 2021.

NASA awarded billions of dollars in development and production contracts to support flights beyond Artemis I, but the flight schedule has changed frequently due to a lack of clear requirements and time frames for planned capability upgrades. Limited NASA oversight also places efforts to plan and execute future flights at risk of adverse outcomes, such as increased costs or delays. For example, NASA is committed to establishing cost and schedule performance baselines for these efforts, but it plans to do so too late in the acquisition process to be useful as an oversight tool. In addition, senior leaders do not receive consistent and comprehensive information at quarterly briefings on future efforts, such as a program to begin developing a more powerful upper stage for SLS. This is because current updates provided to NASA management focus primarily on the more short-term Artemis I and II flights. This approach places billions of dollars at risk of insufficient NASA oversight."

Keith's note: As you can see in the GAO report there is a series of dominoes that will fall and will push Artemis well past 2024: Green Run delays; shrinking times between Artemis I, Artemis II, and Artemis III, and less assurance that funding will be inplace to keep the whole party going. Also, there is a growing concern about flying Artemis II with full-up ECLSS and a crew for the first time and significant heartburn about flying a lunar lander with a crew for the first time on Artemis III. NASA now says that Artemis III will land without the Gateway - but that Gateway is needed in order for the Artemis program to be "sustainable". Yet Gateway will actually make the Artemis program harder to be "sustainable" given the delays and overruns experienced thus far. This cannot go on forever - can it? Nothing about this program has ever happend on time or within budget. If NASA can land humans on the Moon without Gateway in 2024 then it may actually be more "sustainable" to keep doing it that way.

Then there is this part of the report that reeks of naive faith-based program management. After a decade of delays and cost overruns, NASA is now hoping that "Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS." Why would Boeing want to change from a winning formula filled with cash and acceptance of delays?

"The contracts are predominantly cost-reimbursement type, under which the government bears the risk of increases in the costs. NASA is taking steps to control long-term program costs by planning to transition to fixed-price type contracting and other cost reduction strategies, but it will be years before NASA is in a position to do so. ... The SLS program plans to control long-term production costs of SLS core stages and EUS by structuring the SLS Stages Production and Evolution contract to allow a transition from costtype to firm-fixed-price deliverables. Program officials told us they expect the first series of core stages and EUS under this contract to be produced under cost-type orders, but they expect to eventually transition to the use of firm-fixed-price orders as Boeing develops more expertise and certainty in the production of core stages and EUS."

- Previous SLS/Orion posts
- Previous Artemis Posts

Keith's note: Heads up Jim Reuter: Have you seen "Welcome to NASA's Virtual Technology Day on the Hill" The page has 11 videos with speakers. Only one speaker is female.

Really?

Solar Winds, Probably Hacked by Russia, Serves White House, Pentagon, NASA, Newsweek

"Two unnamed sources told the outlet that the hackers entered U.S. systems through updates released by SolarWinds, a software company based in Austin, Texas that also provides services to the White House, Pentagon and NASA, according to their website. Additionally, the company provides services to the country's leading telecommunications providers, as well as "more than 425 of the U.S. Fortune 500."

CISA Issues Emergency Directive To Mitigate The Compromise Of SolarWinds Orion Network Management Products, CISA

"The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) tonight issued Emergency Directive 21-01, in response to a known compromise involving SolarWinds Orion products that are currently being exploited by malicious actors. This Emergency Directive calls on all federal civilian agencies to review their networks for indicators of compromise and disconnect or power down SolarWinds Orion products immediately."

Keith's note: NASA has not said anything publicly about this. And if you ask them they won't say anything publicly about this. FWIW a cursory scan of recent reports on NASA IT efforts shows them to be lacking - in the extreme. So it stands to reason that they are concerned about this.

- Two Decade NASA CIO Struggle To Implement Effective IT Governance, earlier post
- Previous posts on NASA IT security

National Geographic Orders NASA Series 'Return To The Moon', Variety

"National Geographic has commissioned event series "Return To The Moon" (working title), which will chronicle NASA's historic Artemis program that will see a woman step on the lunar surface for the first time. ... The series will track the Artemis program right up to the moment NASA lands the first woman and the next man on the moon. Shooting across four years, from now until the lunar landing launch, it will follow the progress of the mission, through Artemis I's orbit of the moon, Artemis II's crewed flight around the Moon and ultimately Artemis III's lunar landings and return to Earth."

National Space Policy of the United States of America

"It is the policy of the United States to ensure that space operations are consistent with the following principles.

- It is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of space activities. Responsible space actors operate with openness, transparency, and predictability to maintain the benefits of space for all humanity.

- A robust, innovative, and competitive commercial space sector is the source of continued progress and sustained United States leadership in space. The United States remains committed to encouraging and facilitating the continued growth of a domestic commercial space sector that is globally competitive, supports national interests, and advances United States leadership in the generation of new markets and innovationdriven entrepreneurship.

- In this resurgent era of space exploration, the United States will expand its leadership alongside nations that share its democratic values, respect for human rights, and economic freedom. Those values will extend with us to all space destinations as the United States once again steps beyond Earth, starting with the Moon and continuing to Mars.

- As established in international law, outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. The United States will pursue the extraction and utilization of space resources in compliance with applicable law, recognizing those resources as critical for sustainable exploration, scientific discovery, and commercial operations.

- All nations have the right to explore and to use space for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with applicable law. Consistent with that principle, the United States will continue to use space for national security activities, including for the exercise of the inherent right of self-defense. Unfettered access and freedom to operate in space is a vital national interest.

- The United States considers the space systems of all nations to have the right to pass through and conduct operations in space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems, including supporting infrastructure, will be considered an infringement of a nation's rights. Consistent with the defense of those rights, the United States will seek to deter, counter, and defeat threats in the space domain that are hostile to the national interests of the United States and its allies. Any purposeful interference with or an attack upon the space systems of the United States or its allies that directly affects national rights will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing."

- NASA Exploration Mission Integral to 2020 National Space Policy
- Statement from the President on the National Space Policy
- President Donald J. Trump Continues to Advance American Leadership in Space
- Remarks by Vice President Pence at Installation Renaming Ceremony | Cape Canaveral, FL
- NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions
- Message From The NASA Administrator: Artemis Team Announcement
- U.S. Department of Transportation is Advancing Space Policy

Pandemic Comfort Food In Space

"Look closely: Wasabi peas, Ocean Spray Crasins, apricots, French's yellow mustard, Smuckers strawberry jam, and of course, Sriracha sauce - with Huggies velcroed on the wall to clean up astro faces after eating."

Keith's note: According to sources at NASA Headquarters, per standard protocol, when Jim Bridenstine and Jim Morhard leave NASA, Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk will become the acting NASA Administrator. Given past history, Jurczyk will likely be in that position for 6 months or so. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate then an Administrator nominee will likely be approved sooner. If the Republicans retain control then that may take a while longer.

Trump's Plan to Gut the Civil Service, Lawfare

"But this new executive order exempts agencies from following the civil service rules for hiring and firing Schedule F employees. If you are a career civil servant in either the competitive or the excepted service, your agency can simply move you into Schedule F--after which you lose your civil service job protections and can be fired at will. You would also lose the right to file an appeal to the MSPB if you are fired from a Schedule F position. What's more, current political appointees can be placed into Schedule F positions without competition--a form of "burrowing in," which the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is supposed to guard against. Improper "burrowing in" occurs when a current (or recently departed) political appointee is hired into a permanent competitive service, nonpolitical excepted service, or career Senior Executive Service position."

Trump lays the groundwork for a massive government purge on his way out the door, Washington Post

"Now that he's lost, it's reasonable to wonder if Trump simply plans to fire (and perhaps not replace) as many career experts as possible, leaving Biden with a hollowed-out government unable to perform even its most basic functions. In other words: a purge. If that sounds alarmist, recall that Trump has engaged in similar government purges before, of both political appointees and career civil servants whom Congress intended to be shielded from such retaliation. This has usually happened under the guise of "draining the swamp."

Keith's note: As far as I can tell, NASA has yet to tell anyone if they've been re-classified as Schedule F. Given tidbits that have dribbled out of places such as OMB, a significant number of NASA employees could find themselves in this new category with little or no advanced notice. NASA apparently does not have to say anything to anyone about their reclassification decisions until 19 January 2021 - the day before the Trump Administration ends. Given the recent stacking of obscure panels with Trump loyalists and all of the insane election lawsuits, anything is now possible.

But wait, there's more. While being lumped into Schedule F can allow you to be fired for virtually any reason, Trump political employees already at NASA or elsewhere in the government can be reclassified as Schedule F with a moment's notice thus allowing them to burrow in to a NASA career position and thus stay employed past the end of this Administration - unless the Biden folks decide to fire them using Trump's new rules. Trump political appointees are located at NASA HQ. Most are heading out the door - as is the traditional, professional thing to do as an Administration comes to an end, and I wish them well. But at least two of them at the highest levels of the agency like working at NASA a little too much and are talking about trying to use political influence to get a schedule F reclassification i.e. *Shazam* and you have a new job that could last forever without having to compete for it.

I debated whether to get into this with folks since, well the pandemic already has everyone on edge, but I feel a responsibility to post what I know. Feedback is always welcome. Sources are protected. Happy holidays.

- Civil Servants Are Going To Lose Protections, earlier post
- Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service

NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

"Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover (in orbit), Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins (in orbit), Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins, Stephanie Wilson"

TrumpSpace Series Finale

Vice President Mike Pence is set to name a cadre of Artemis astronauts, Ars Technica

"Vice President Mike Pence will announce a cadre of 18 astronauts from whom NASA is likely to choose the commanders, pilots, and mission specialists who will go to the Moon as part of the Artemis Program. Multiple sources said Pence would release a list of names on Wednesday at the National Space Council meeting in Florida as part of an update on NASA's Artemis Moon program. These will not be formal crew assignments for upcoming missions but rather a cadre from which astronauts will be selected for upcoming flights. Some of the astronauts will be in attendance."

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

"The Eighth Meeting of the National Space Council will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 9th, 2020 at 12:30 PM EST. The meeting will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting will be livestreamed here on NASA TV, and additional details will be forthcoming. Following NASA's COVID-19 response protocols, the use of face coverings will be required for invited guests, and hand sanitizer stations will be available. Attendance will be limited to promote social distancing, and temperature screenings will be required prior to entry."

Keith's note: The other day I asked about Artemis Astronauts, training, etc. (see NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission). I asked when crews would be selected, when training would begin, etc. In response I got a non-answer. OK, so the Vice President was going to make a big a announcement. I get the non-answer, don't steal his thunder thing. But, in their defense, everyone on the NASA side of the media briefing was either not in the loop as to what was going to be announced by Pence or ordered to not spill the beans. The smart thing would have been to hold this science plan briefing after the Vice President's announcement - not several days before it so as to not put the NASA folks in this situation. Doing so might have also served to bolster the notion that NASA has been thinking the whole 2024 deadline through seriously. But NASA PAO is not known for thinking things through like that.

After the "Make Space Great Again" series finale thing at KSC is over I will submit some questions to NASA PAO. It is unlikely that they will actually answer them - and if they do, the answers will be designed to occupy characters in an email - not to provide substance. Just Remember: NASA says (with a straight face) that it is going to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 - their deadline to do so is exactly 4 years from today.

Four years from today.


- NASA Releases Science Plan For First Artemis Human Landing Mission, earlier post
- DRAFT Agenda: Meeting of the National Space Council Wednesday, December 09, 2020, earlier post
- National Space Council Superspreader Series Finale (Update), earlier post
- Earlier TrumpSpace postings

Chuck Yeager

NASA Administrator Statement on Passing of Gen. Chuck Yeager

"The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the passing of Gen. Chuck Yeager: "Today's passing of Gen. Chuck Yeager is a tremendous loss to our nation. Gen. Yeager's pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America's abilities in the sky and set our nation's dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age. He said, 'You don't concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.'"

NASA Invites Media to Discuss Science Priorities for Artemis III Moon Landing

"NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 7, to discuss the release of a report defining the agency's science priorities for the Artemis III mission, which will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024. The teleconference will stream live on NASA's website."

NASA Artemis III Science Definition Team report

"The Artemis III mission will be the first human mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st Century, and will build on the legacy of Apollo to usher in the modern era of human exploration and development in deep space. The lunar surface is an ideal location to answer fundamental planetary science questions. In the 50 years since humans last visited the Moon, new advances arising from robotic lunar missions, reanalysis of older data, modeling, and sample analysis have produced dramatic results and new questions about planetary volcanism, volatiles, impact processes, tectonics, and the lunar environment. Driven by new questions, we set out a robust science plan for the Artemis III crew return to the lunar surface."

Keith's note: According to this document NASA still does not know how it is going to land humans on the Moon and return them to Earth. At this point prior to Apollo landings there were posters on the wall of every school room in America laying out the Apollo mission profile. NASA has 4 calendar years to figure this out - they need to design, test, and fly the hardware - and it all needs to work. There is no room for error in the current schedule. Four years out and crews have yet to be selected. Crew training facilities do not yet exist since much of the mission hardware is still TBD. We are about to return to a world we left half a century ago and we seem to be in a hurry to do so.

"Artemis III will be the first human mission to the Moon in the 21st Century. Astronauts aboard Orion for Artemis III will rendezvous with a Human Landing System (HLS) vehicle in lunar orbit to make their descent to the lunar South Pole. NASA has awarded three companies, Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX, to begin refining their HLS designs. Artemis III astronauts will spend up to 6.5 days on the surface, living inside the HLS crew cabin that they will then use to launch back to lunar orbit to rendezvous with Orion. The Artemis III crew may rendezvous with the lander at the Gateway or may board the lander directly from Orion. While the SLS will launch crew aboard Orion, and potentially carry co- manifested payloads to lunar orbit, the increasingly capable commercial launch market will be the workhorse of lunar development. Commercial rockets are expected to carry CLPS landers and many other surface and orbital assets, including Gateway modules after Artemis III."

My question at the media telecon: "The science part of the report looks great. I am confused about the human part. At this point prior to the Apollo landings - as early as 1965 - Apollo program astronauts were in the field training for lunar geology and flying simulators based on an established mission architecture. At the same point prior to the first landing the Artemis program only has part of this in place. When will you pick crews and start training in simulators and in the field - and how will you do that given that the mission architecture is still several years away from being defined? Can you really pull this off so as to be ready to go no later than 4 years from TODAY? It seems a bit compressed."

Ken Bowersox replied "We expect to see a lot of progress in the next year when down select to our commercial partners. As for talking training I expect you will see that in the next year or so." When I asked when field training is going to start Bowersox said that some of this already happens in the field and in places like Desert RATS "flight specific training will start 1.5 to 3 years prior to the mission." Jacob Bleacher added that Apollo veterans have provided some input into Artemis training.


NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations

"Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars."

"This video, that starts with a view of the top of Tower 4, was taken from the vantage point of an Arecibo Observatory drone, utilized for monitoring the condition of Tower 4 support cables." More: Video Of The Collapse Of the Arecibo Observatory

Update on Orion Final Assembly and Transfer, NASA

"While powering up the spacecraft to prepare for the pressurization of the crew module uprighting system, which ensures the capsule is oriented upward after splashdown, engineers identified an issue with a redundant channel in a power and data unit (PDU) on Orion's crew module adapter. The team is continuing with other closeout activities while troubleshooting the issue, including installation of temporary covers to ensure components are protected during ground processing and fit checks for bonded tile on the crew module side hatch."

Keith's note: It is likely that this fix will require months since the PDU is not all that easy to reach and things would need to be removed that are not designed to be removed once installed. It is rather unlikely that NASA would allow this Orion spacecraft to fly with this issue since the unit and its redundancy exist to meet some rather basic requirements set by NASA. The current plan (which is always on wheels) calls for the first full-up SLS/Orion launch (Artemis-1) to happen in November 2021. Add in delays caused by weather and the pandemic with the Green Run engine testing of the core stage, and it is becoming rather improbable that this launch will happen at any time in 2021.

Keith's note: I will be on CGTN at 2:04 pm EST and on Deutsche Welle just after 3:00 pm EST today to talk about the successful landing of China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft on the Moon this morning.

CGTN


DW


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