February 2021 Archives

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls NASA Astronaut Victor Glover

"In celebration of Black History Month, NASA astronaut Victor Glover welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris to the International Space Station for avirtual chat. In the video recorded Feb. 24 and shared Saturday, the conversation ranged from the legacy of human spaceflight to observing Earth from the vantage of the space station, Glovers history-making stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, and preparing for missions from the Moon to Mars."

Excerpt from full text of comments made by President Biden

"But then, last week -- (applause) -- guess what? -- we also landed a rover on Mars. (Applause.) We -- led by a NASA team in Pasadena, California. A rover carries instruments developed by a team here in Houston that will be used in the mission of our time and our dreams. Imagine. We tell -- everybody has been so down the last number of years about what America -- what can we do? Who are -- we can do anything! America can do anything. (Applause.) And now we see the images that are truly stunning: battling COVID, beating cancer, going to Mars."

Nearly Half the Public Wants the U.S. to Maintain Its Space Dominance. Appetite for Space Exploration Is a Different Story, Morning Consult

"Making space exploration a priority though, even during a pandemic, could bode well for Americans' morale, Logsdon said, such as what happened with the first moon landing in 1969 that came on the heels of a decade of domestic and international civil unrest. "It was a counter balance to the negativity of the time," Logsdon said. "If we do inspirational things in space -- go back to the moon or travel beyond land rovers on Mars -- that gives us a sense of future, a sense of positive achievement to counter the pervasive negativity." ."

Opinion: The U.S. put a man on the moon. But it might be harder to do the same on Mars.Mitch Daniels, Washington Post

"If and when humankind reaches that next frontier, though, there are reasons to doubt that it will be a U.S. government space project that leads us there. Ironically, the society that put a man on the moon may be just the wrong one to succeed in this next great endeavor, at least through a grand national project like Apollo."

Keith's note: In his OpEd former OMB director Mitch Daniels spends 95% of his time explaining why NASA will probably never send humans to Mars - as if it were an indisputable future - one that is really not open to further discussion. His only bright light in terms of sending humans to Mars is a single paragraph punt to the private sector - with no real elaboration as to how it might happen. In other words government=bad, private sector=good. Details to to follow.

Daniels has had a chance to really get into the issues surrounding human spaceflight a decade ago. But his efforts were widely panned as being a flop. He mentions a report issued by a committee he chaired. Specifically it was the "Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight", issued by the NRC in response to a requirement in the NASA Authorization Act of 2014. NASA paid millions of dollars for this multi-year report generating effort.

As I wrote at the time: "NRC says NASA Is on the wrong path to Mars. That's about the only thing they took a clear position on in their report. In writing their report the committee dodged all of the big questions with the excuse that it was beyond their scope/charter. Trivial mention was made of commercial alternatives or whether the SLS-based model is the right way to get to Mars. In the briefing yesterday Mitch Daniels said that funding for all of this is "the secondary question". So there you go - yet another space policy report - one that cost $3.6 million and is being delivered more than 3 years after it was requested. The White House and NASA will ignore it. Congress will wave it around and then ignore it too. In the end we'll all be where we are now - with incomplete plans, no strategy, a big rocket with no payload, and nothing close to a budget to make any of it happen."

So ... here we are 7 years later and we are still trying to figure out where NASA is going to go - and why. Daniels et al had a chance to try and reset NASA's course but they shied away from a chance to do so - and they overtly told everyone that that they were not going to answer the big, obvious questions this report raised. Now its time for him to pop up and criticize what has/has not happend in the intervening 7 years. Like cicadas I guess we'll have to wait another 7 years for the next Daniels update.

As mentioned above, Daniels has found religion in commercial space. He found it but does not know what to do with it. Daniels is somewhat correct in stating that: "To do so, our commission concluded, would require making the goal a central, single-minded priority of the U.S. space program; a relentless, unswerving multi-decade commitment to a pre-agreed path to reach the goal; and constant investments in amounts well above the rate of inflation. American democracy is not very good at any of those things." Again, as I noted, Daniels et al listed the problems but had no idea what the solutions were. So why have a report if the report does not offer a solution to a problem? Oh wait: I almost forgot; this is Washington. Reports are solutions in and of themselves. Whether they offer anything useful is beside the point.

Daniels concludes his op ed by saying "The new Biden administration's overall agenda is bigger and more expensive than any before it, yet it appears to leave little or no space for space. With a micromanaging Congress resetting budgets on an annual basis, picking out a priority for NASA and sticking to it for 20 years or more is likely not in the cards; we've proved very poor at "perseverance." Plus, our legislators regularly carve out NASA dollars for favored non-exploratory causes such as environmental monitoring, and fiercely protect multiple space centers and resulting costly redundancies."

Again, Daniels does a nice job citing all of the problems and challenges and predicting a post mortem on things yet to come - things that he thinks are immutable and unable to be changed. In many instances he is right. But enough with the problems already.

So Mitch - is there ever going to be a solution forthcoming? The Biden/Harris team - at age 1 month - has already been prompted to respond to the space issue multiple times. Each and every response - many unprompted - has been one of support. Yes, words and empty promises are the prime commodity here in Washington. But at least the Biden/Harris team proceeds from a point of optimism and hope when it comes to space. No doubt the reality of governing post-pandemic America will dampen some of this - but at least they start from a good place. You? Not so much. People tend to accomplish more if they start out thinking that they can. There's a little hope. Let's run with it - while we can. Ad Astra Mitch.

- Why Does Space Policy Always Suck? (2013), earlier post
- Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight (2013), earlier post
- Space Studies Board is (Not Really) Interested In What You Think, (2013), earlier post
- NRC Says NASA Is On The Wrong Path to Mars , (2014), earlier post
- Hearing on NRC Human Spaceflight Report, (2014), earlier post

Scrap the Space Launch System, Bloomberg

"Perhaps predictably, the program has been plagued with problems from the start. A report last year from NASA's inspector general warned of "rising costs and delays," "shortcomings in quality control," "challenges with program management," "technical issues," "development issues," "infrastructure issues," "performance issues" and more. A watchdog report in December found "uncertain plans, unproven cost assumptions, and limited oversight."

Bloomberg Assails NASA Space Launch System With Misconceptions And Faulty Logic, Forbes

"The editorial board at Bloomberg News launched a nonsensical attack on NASA's human spaceflight program last week. It was full of dubious assertions about alternatives to the Space Launch System, the first deep-space rocket NASA has built for human transport since Saturn V lofted Apollo missions to the Moon half a century ago. I don't normally call attention to arguments that I think are wrong, but since Bloomberg's screed was explicitly aimed at the Biden administration, I thought it might be useful to rebut some of the questionable claims advanced by the editorial board."

Keith's note: Forbes is pretty desperate for "news" comment when they print these blatantly biased columns about aerospace companies by Loren Thompson whose think tank employer is funded by the very same companies who get zillions of dollars from NASA to build the SLS. Despite his claim that he's responding to someone else's inaccuracies, what he actually wrote is a collision of contradictory nonsense, self-licking ice cream cones, and recycled Big Aerospace lobbying points.

This is my favorite, by far: "The editorial board complains that SLS is "years behind schedule." If it had bothered to look, it would have realized that every major launch vehicle developed by NASA and by private industry ends up running years behind schedule." So in other words, its OK for NASA to propose schedules and then let the companies walk all over them and stick out their hands to say 'more money please' since everyone overruns. Who needs schedules or budgets, right? It is just taxpayer money anyway.

To be honest though. I'm not sure the Biden folks are giving either of these op eds a whole lot of attention since they are two sides of the same problem.

Letter From House Science Committee Republicans To NASA On Soyuz Flights

"NASA's recent solicitation for "International Space Station Seat Exchange," indicated that "NASA has no remaining crew seats on Soyuz." At the January 2018 Committee hearing, the NASA witness testified that "[t]he manufacturing time of a Soyuz of approximately 3 years will not allow additional Soyuz to be manufactured." Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place. In order for the Committee to better understand what NASA intends to use the aforementioned solicitation to procure, and more specifically, how it intends to procure those services, please facilitate a bipartisan briefing for Committee staff. If you have any questions related to this request, please contact Mr. Tom Hammond with the minority Committee staff."

NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American (Update), earlier post

"So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?"

Keith's note: Rumors are starting to bubble up. Bill Nelson wants you to know that he really, really wants to be the next NASA Administrator. There is one small problem however: according to his own previously established criteria for who should - or should not - be NASA administrator, he is not qualified. Oh yes: former NASA Adminstrator Charlie Bolden agreed with Nelson's qualification criteria. Just sayin'

Keith's update: there was mention of this topic at the daily White House Press briefing:

Reporter: There are reports that Presiden Biden is considering former Florida Senator Bill Nelson to be the NASA Administrator. Are those reports accurate? Is he under consideration? And when do you expect an announcement?
Psaki: I do not have any personnel announcements for you or any expectation as to when we will have an announcement on a NASA administrator - or a list of potential people. But that is an interesting one.

Will Bill Nelson be the next NASA administrator? Twitter raises that possibility, Florida Today

"If Joe Biden is elected. I will give a recommendation of a handful of people that I would recommend to be the head of NASA, and my recommendation would not include myself," Nelson explained in August."

A politician who said politicians shouldn't run NASA wants to run NASA, Ars Technica

"In 2017, Nelson also led the opposition to Jim Bridenstine becoming administrator of NASA. Then serving as the ranking member on the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which oversees NASA, Nelson said Bridenstine was too partisan and political to lead NASA. He also accused Bridenstine of not having the expertise to do so."

What Qualified Bill Nelson To Be An Astronaut? Politics, earlier post (2017)

"Nelson overtly used his political position to force NASA to fly him on a space shuttle mission. His only professional qualification? He was a lawyer."

Bill Nelson: Do As I Say Not As I Do, earlier post (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Mr. Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Friday."

Rubio, Nelson blast Trump's NASA pick, Politico (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO."

Trump's nominee for NASA administrator comes under fire at Senate hearing, Washington Post (2017)

"The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," said Nelson, who wields great influence over the space agency, in his written opening statement. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration."

Bolden Throws Bridenstine Some Shade, earlier post (2017)

"He would not have been my first choice because he's a politician. And he is the first person, to my knowledge, ever selected from political office to become the NASA administrator. I don't think it's healthy for the agency to have someone who's a partisan in that position. The position calls for somebody who can carry out the president's agenda to the best of his ability but do it in a nonpartisan way and be able to work across the aisle. And I think his history is such that he may find some difficulty in working across the aisle."

NASA Mars Perseverance Excerpt: Remarks by President Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference

"I know we can do this. We've done it before. Just yesterday -- after a seven-month, 300-million mile journey -- NASA successfully landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. It's on a mission of exploration, with elements contributed by our European partners to seek evidence of the possibility of life beyond our planet and the mysteries of the universe.

Over the next few years -- "Percy" is (inaudible) call -- but Perseverance will range and collect samples from the Red Planet and pile them up so another mission and rover, envisioned as a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency, will retrieve this trove of scientific wonders and bring it home to all of us.

That's what we can do together. If our unbound capacity to carry us to Mars and back don't tell us anything else, they tell us we can meet any challenge we can face on Earth. We have everything we need. And I want you to know the United States will do -- we'll do our part. We'll stand with you. We'll fight for our shared values. We'll meet the challenges of this new moment in history.

America is back. So let's get together and demonstrate to our great, great grandchildren, when they read about us, that democracy -- democracy -- democracy functions and works, and together, there is nothing we can't do. So let's get working."


Space exploration more about collaboration than competition, says Nasa's Dr Bhavya Lal, Times of India

"Congratulations on your new appointment. What do you see as the major challenges for Nasa and its leadership over the next 10 years?

Climate change poses an existential threat not just to our environment but also to our health and well-being. Nasa will be expanding its climate change research. Another challenge we would be focussing on is to re-establish America's standing through global engagement and diplomacy. We want to engage not just with our traditional partners but also emerging spacefaring countries and adversaries, too. Not just collaborating on the science and technology but also to develop norms of behaviour to ensure that space remains safe and sustainable for future generations. Another issue we need to be working very hard on is to build a diverse STEM workforce and inspire future generations. Last but not least, there's a lot to be done to support the International Space Station (ISS) and then to return astronauts to the Moon and then prepare to go to Mars."

Building Artemis Back Better

Acting NASA chief says 2024 Moon landing no longer a "realistic" target, Ars Technica

"NASA's acting administrator said Wednesday evening that the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 no longer appears to be feasible. "The 2024 lunar landing goal may no longer be a realistic target due to the last two years of appropriations, which did not provide enough funding to make 2024 achievable," the acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, told Ars. "In light of this, we are reviewing the program for the most efficient path forward."

Keith's note: This is, of course true - but it is not the whole story. It was widely assumed within NASA that when Vice President Pence suddenly advanced the Artemis lunar landing date to 2024 that it would be rather hard to make that happen. But NASA had to accept that challenge - and they did and worked hard to make it happen. But it did not happen. The prime reason for the problems lay at the feet of the chronic delays and cost overruns for SLS and its associated ground support systems. Even when NASA got the money it needed it still fell behind year after year as both the GAO and OIG noted with consistent regularity.

Then, of course, there was the ever-changing Gateway which added and then discarded features faster than the NASA graphic artists could update the pretty website imagery. And the lunar lander grew larger and more complex every time NASA mentioned it. So ... Jurczyk is right - he is just not fessing up to the whole story. It is mea culpa time for NASA.

NASA is as much to blame for the Artemis quagmire as past Congresses and White House Administrations are. Now, a new Administration has thrown a hopeful lifeline to the Artemis program albeit a vague one. The pandemic, a crashing economy, exploding government debt, and dysfunctional politics is going to force every program - in every agency - to redouble its explanation as to why it needs to be done.

The Biden Administration's slogan "Build Back Better" should be something that everyone at NASA pays attention to. Artemis is going to change - and be fixed - for the "better". A reformatted Artemis may well accomplish much of its original intent - but NASA may also be directed to focus human spaceflight efforts elsewhere as well. But refocusing of human spaceflight at NASA - regardless of what that ends up being - is only going to work out well if NASA stops the whole smoke and mirrors, shift the blame, give-us-what-we-want-because-we-say-so, tactics and openly admits that it did things wrong with Artemis.

Moreover, instead of being an outlier when it comes to overall national priorities, NASA needs to start becoming more of a "whole of government" player. Otherwise it may just find itself standing there with an empty, outstretched hand. NASA is also going to have to learn to let go of some things and adopt other novel approaches in the process of building back Artemis better. As soon as the new TBD NASA Administrator arrives the agency needs to hit the ground running.

- Big Aerospace Still Wants Everything That Trump Promised, earlier post
- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- Surprise: SLS Will Cost 30% More Than The Last Big Cost Increase, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Surprise, Surprise: Orion Is Behind Schedule, Over Cost, And Lacks Transparency, earlier post
- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- previous SLS/Orion posts

Moscow denies visa to candidate for NASA post, says U.S. has made similar move, Reuters

"Moscow said on Wednesday it had denied a visa for a candidate to head the mission of U.S. space agency NASA in Russia, in what it described as retaliation for the U.S. denial of a visa to an undisclosed Russian official. Russia did not identify the U.S. official who had been denied a visa, or provide further details of the incident for which it was retaliating. The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

NASAWatch: "With regard to the exploration of Mars: just as the case with the Moon, there is a growing international presense in orbit and on the surface. Indeed the UAE and China joined the Mars club just last week. Just as things are becoming more complex with lunar exploration, wouldn't the issues of planetary protection, traffic management, communications & science collaboration demonstrate a need for the establishment of good practices on Mars - especially in advance of possible commercial human missions?"

Thomas Zurbuchen: "You are of course correct - that is that the exploration of Mars is one that has many players now - and we're so excited about the two missions that arrived only days ago. We celebrate all peaceful exploration of outer space - and as especially it is done as individual countries are spending their treasure towards benefiting the science community as a whole. So, we're really glad for that. It is also true that as we already have a number of spacecraft in orbit around Mars, for example, we have had a number of discussions - bilateral discussions - with the community overall just to make sure that these assets are safe in orbit around Mars. Discussions with the community overall need to focus on the benefit of all players who are in orbit. It is also true with the Artemis Accords, as you said, that they were seeking to create a platform with multiple signees in the international community that were already getting experience from the Moon. It is very much worth thinking about the framework within which we expand go forward - as we would expect given the excitement of Mars - with the multiple players that will still enter the community of Mars Explorers going forward.."

Keith's note: Just in case you missed it, this report by IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute came out in March 2020: "Measuring the Space Economy: Estimating the Value of Economic Activities in and for Space". Among the authors is Acting NASA Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal.

"The purpose of this report is to provide more targeted estimates of the size of the space economy than are currently employed. It does so by adopting a more restrictive definition of the space economy that only includes the value of goods and services provided to governments, households, and businesses from space or used to support activities in space; it excludes activities that are enabled by space, but are primarily generated terrestrially. We adopt this definition because we believe that an estimate of the size of the space economy focused on activities from or in space would help U.S. Government policy makers develop better policies to foster the growth of commercial activities for or in space, and help clarify for investors and entrepreneurs interested in the space economy the current extent and size of markets focused exclusively on space."

NASA is bargaining with a US space startup for a Soyuz seat, The Verge

"NASA is planning to buy an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft through Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space, according to two people familiar with the plans. It was unclear how much NASA is considering paying Axiom for the single Soyuz seat or what cut Axiom would get from the deal."

Keith's update: Nice scoop by Joey Roulette. So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?

NASA Weighs Options for Additional Crew Transportation for Spring Soyuz Mission to Space Station

"NASA now is considering obtaining a supplemental seat on the upcoming spring Soyuz crew rotation mission for a NASA astronaut to add additional capability to the agency's planning. The agency issued a public synopsis to identify all sources that potentially could provide the crew transportation service in the needed timeframe beyond the capability NASA already has in operation with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. ... Securing an additional Soyuz seat assures the back-up capability of at least one U.S. crew member aboard the International Space Station in the event of a problem with either spacecraft. NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds."

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers, 25 January 2021

"Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration that the United States Government should, consistent with applicable law, use terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States. The United States Government should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America's workers thrive. Additionally, to promote an accountable and transparent procurement policy, each agency should vest waiver issuance authority in senior agency leadership, where appropriate and consistent with applicable law."

Keith's 9 Feb note: NASA has been crowing about its commercial crew capabilities with SpaceX and soon, with Boeing. The whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was to provide the U.S. with its own redundant ability to launch astronauts and to end the reliance on foreign providers. The idea behind having more than one domestic provider was that one could back up the other using dissimilar redundancy i.e. two different systems. Now, NASA apparently wants to back-up the back-up citing dissimilar redundancy as the rational. So it now wants doubly-dissimilar redundancy, it would seem. Or do they have doubts about Boeing and/or SpaceX?

With regard to NASA saying "NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds.", the "in-kind services" that NASA is offering cost NASA something to provide. They are not provided to NASA for free. NASA is offering something that cost them money in exchange for these Soyuz seats - seats provided by an offshore source.

Meanwhile the White House issued an executive order mere days after taking office that mandates a government focus on procuring goods and service domestically. Is NASA somehow special in thinking that it can overtly ask for a foreign provider when we make nice sexy spaceships domestically? SpaceX just announced that it is launching an overtly commercial flight, and launching another for Axiom, and yet another for Tom Cruise. Is there really a lack of domestic capability? Or is NASA just falling back into old habits. Just wondering.

Bob Naughton

Robert J. Naughton

"Robert J. Naughton, age 82, passed away peacefully on February 7, 2021, in Houston, Texas, after a courageous battle with pulmonary fibrosis. ... In 1989, Bob became NASA's Chief of Aircraft Operations Division at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He held that position until 2004, and while at NASA, was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Medal and Distinguished Service Medal and was recognized in 1995 by President Bill Clinton with a Meritorious Senior Executive Award."

Lucy Geyser

Lucille "Lucy" C. Geyser

"Lucille "Lucy" C. Geyser, 85, a 1990 retiree with 30 years of NASA service, died Oct. 16, 2020. Geyser joined NACA/NASA in 1954 as a computer. She served primarily in the Computer Services Division and earned acclaim as a member of the Mainframe Systems Branch. She co-authored three award-winning NASA Tech Briefs and earned NASA Group Awards on system migration and integration teams. She was one of the founders of Glenn's Business and Professional Women's Club and held offices in the IFPTE union."

Final FY21 Appropriations: NASA, AIP

"Under its fiscal year 2021 appropriation, NASA's budget is increasing 3% to $23.3 billion, with most of the additional funding allocated to its human exploration directorate. However, the increase falls short of the $25.2 billion the Trump administration had requested to support its goal of landing astronauts on the Moon in 2024.

The budget for NASA's science directorate is increasing 1% to $7.22 billion. This figure excludes the $79 million budget of the Biological and Physical Sciences Division, which was transferred to the science directorate from the human exploration directorate last year. All major science missions will have funding needed to move ahead on schedule. In addition, Congress has given the Europa Clipper mission leeway to launch on a rocket other than the in-development Space Launch System, a move that NASA estimates will save more than $1.5 billion.

An explanatory statement accompanying Congress' appropriations legislation provides funding and policy direction, and language from the House Appropriations Committee report conveys additional direction unless specifically negated in the final statement. The Senate Appropriations Committee did not formally submit its report, but language from a publicly released draft is incorporated in the explanatory statement."

NASA's Climate Communications Might Not Recover From the Damage of Trump's Systemic Suppression, Time

"Soon after, I was told by higher-ups including JPL's director of the Office of Communication, also a career employee rather than a political appointee, to stop reporting on and sharing climate-related content from other government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Department of Energy--groups I'd been collaborating with for years. I was also banned from working with non-NASA academic climate scientists and educators."

Keith's note: From what I saw during the Trump Administration NASA managed to fare somewhat better than NOAA and other agencies when it came to science communication in general and climate science in particular. But that is just a relative comparison. This account about events several years ago does reflect how pervasively anti-science the Trump Administration was. That is now behind us as the Biden Administration has already made emphatic moves to address climate change and make up for lost time. One would hope that the behavior of JPL PAO as described in this article comes to an end.

NSC Memo May Spell End Of National Space Council, Breaking Defense

"It is not quite clear what this portends for the National Space Council," said Brian Weeden, head of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, echoing the sentiments of a number of space insiders. "It does seem like they are going with the NSC, as they mention NSMs will be used for national security and space policy documents, but it's not entirely clear. ... Weeden explained that "both the George W. Bush and Obama admins used the NSC process and documents for their space policy decisions, but had either NSC or OSTP as the lead agency." During the Obama administration, when Biden was VP, the NSC had the lead for natsec space and OSTP had the lead for civil and commercial space."

Memorandum on Renewing the National Security Council System

"This document is one in a series of National Security Memoranda that, along with National Security Study Memoranda, shall replace National Security Presidential Memoranda and Space Policy Directives as instruments for communicating Presidential decisions about national security policies of the United States."

Dealing With NASA's New Science Challenges, earlier post

"It will be interesting to see what happens to the National Space Council since OSTP has been elevated to cabinet-level ranking and the PCAST is being established as the nation's focal point for generating scientific advice, policy etc. The National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group would seem to be duplicative and a needless layer of government."

Craig Talley (Update)

House fire leaves one person dead in Southeast Washington, Washington Post

"Kristen Metzger, a spokeswoman for D.C. police, said the victim was a man who was found dead at the scene. The victim was later identified as Craig Talley, 60, of Southeast."

Teresa Faw Grimes: "Sad news for the NASA family and beyond. Craig Talley, 60, a wonderful long-time NASA HQ colleague and kind soul, passed from a fire in his home. ~ Craig's astute professionalism and calm demeanor were among his hallmarks for providing HQ with exemplary AV customer service. His path crossed so many over the years, and he will be deeply missed. Ad Astra ~ Namaste"

Keith's 8 Feb update: A GoFundMe Page has been set up by Craig's family for final arrangements.

Millie Hughes-Fulford

NASA Remembers Millie Hughes-Fulford, NASA

"NASA is remembering Millie Hughes-Fulford, the first woman to fly as a NASA payload specialist, who died Thursday. Hughes-Fulford was selected as a payload specialist in January 1983 and flew in June 1991 aboard the space shuttle Columbia on the STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1) mission, the first mission dedicated to biomedical studies."

Millie Hughes-Fulford, Wikipedia

"Selected as a payload specialist by NASA in January 1983, Hughes-Fulford flew in June 1991 aboard STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1), the first Spacelab mission dedicated to biomedical studies. The SLS-1 mission flew over 3.2 million miles in 146 orbits and its crew completed over 18 experiments during a nine-day period, bringing back more medical data than any previous NASA flight."

Millie Hughes-Fulford: Scientist in Space, PBS

"Molecular biologist Millie Hughes-Fulford was the first American woman to travel into space as a working scientist in 1991. Since then, the University of California researcher has sent experiments into space that could one day help travelers going to Mars and aging people here on Earth. Ever the pioneer, her most recent experiment, in 2014, was the first to go up on a privately operated rocket."

Keith's note: I am heartbroken over this. I first met Millie when I started at NASA in the mid-1980s. I was supporting Spacelab 4 - which eventually became Space Life Sciences-1 (SLS-1). The mission flew on STS-40 in 1991 when I was working life science payloads at the NASA Space Station Freedom Program Office. Our paths would regularly interact over the next 30 years. Throughout her life Millie was NASA's biggest fan and contributed a steady stream of space life science research while mentoring young researchers. Indeed, she has an experiment going up to ISS in August.

Millie was a cell/molecular biologist and was a trail blazer as the first female payload specialist to fly on a Shuttle mission. Kate Rubins, who is now in orbit, is, in many ways, the modern day Millie. As such, it would be most appropriate for Kate to say something about Millie from orbit - especially since they are working with genomic sequencing on ISS as well as with the VEGGIE unit which was dedicated to Millie's friends and mentors Thora Halstead and Ken Souza.

Ad Astra Millie. You done good.

Keith's update: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki just made the following comments at the daily press briefing: "Kristen ... asked a great question about the Artemis program - which I dug into and I am very excited about it now to tell my daughter all about it. So .. for those of you who have not been following it as closely, through the Artemis program, the United States government will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon - another man and a woman to the Moon - which is very exciting, [It will] conduct new and exciting science, prepare for missions to Mars, and demonstrate America's values. To date only 12 humans have walked on the Moon - that was half a century ago. The Artemis program, a waypoint to Mars, provides exactly the opportunity to add numbers to that, of course. Lunar exploration has broad and bicameral support in Congress, most recently detailed in the FY 2021 Omnibus spending bill - and certainly we support this effort and endeavor."

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: Your predecessor laid out a lot of highly-ambitious plans, like landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024 and establishing a long-term lunar base. I assume Artemis isn't being abandoned, but are you still pursuing those same timelines?

Jurczyk: Every indication we have so far, in week two of the new administration, is that Artemis will not be abandoned."

Message from NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk and Senior White House Appointee Bhavya Lal, earlier post

"We are excited about the opportunities that await us -the Perseverance Mars landing; the next Launch America mission; our focus on the study of our home planet; and returning American astronauts to the surface of the Moon, and then on to Mars."

"Q: One more space question: NASA's Artemis Program which was the Trump era program to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024 - what is the President's plan - what is he going to do with that program - is he going to keep it intact?

Jen Psaki: I am personally interested in space. I think it is a fascinating area of study - but I have not spoken with our team about this particular program - so let me see if we can get you a more informed overview of that."

Letter From U.S. Senators To President Biden Regarding NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) Program

"NASA's Artemis Program will return America to deep space, support economic recovery, strengthen national security, promote scientific research, and inspire the next generation. The HLS Program will develop 21st century crewed lunar landers - a critical piece of the Artemis architecture. We urge you to proceed with the planned selection and to include all necessary funding for HLS in your FY 2022 budget request."

- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- Jurczyk Is Sticking With A 2024 Artemis Lunar Landing Date - For Now, earlier post

NASA Announces New Role of Senior Climate Advisor, NASA

"In an effort to ensure effective fulfillment of the Biden Administration's climate science objectives for NASA, the agency has established a new position of senior climate advisor and selected Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York, to serve in the role in an acting capacity until a permanent appointment is made. "This position will provide NASA leadership critical insights and recommendations for the agency's full spectrum of science, technology, and infrastructure programs related to climate," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. "This will enable the agency to more effectively align our efforts to help meet the administration's goals for addressing climate change."

Keith's note: According to the 27 January 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad Sec. 103 (c) NASA and other agencies will "shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses." That is the only thing that NASA is chartered to do at this point.

It is commendable that NASA has selected its best, Gavin Schmidt, a world-renowned expert, for this position representing the entire agency. That said, it is not clear if he - and NASA - are actually expected to play a prominent role in the Administration's Climate Change Task Force and related efforts - one that is commensurate with NASA's substantial capabilities. NASA studies not just Earth's climate and surface with a fleet of satellites it builds these systems for other agencies. Moreover, NASA studies climate on other worlds in our solar system - even beyond. Yet NASA is not on the Climate Task Force and is only tasked with writing a report that is due in 120 days. Maybe Gavin Schmidt can change the Administration's mind on this decision to leave NASA on the sidelines.

- NASA Is A Minor Part Of The Biden Climate Change Action Plan (Update), earlier post

Keith's footnote: Dealing with Climate Change is one of the top urgent items that the Biden Administration has claimed to be focusing on since the moment that they won the 2020 election. You'd think that NASA would try and make its expansive Earth and Climate science portfolio front and center. As of the time I am posting this (11:20 am EST) NASA has yet to make mention of this senior climate change appointment on the agency's main page or its Earth Science page. No mention at the main Science Mission Directorate web page or its Earth Science page. But they did tweet a link to its press release via @NASA to 45,000,000 people.

Its not as if NASA itself did not have advanced notice of its own news - NASA Public Affairs issued a press release at 9:38 am EST yet this article appeared on the Washington Post at 8:56 am filled with a long interview and quotes done well in advance of the official release. Yet NASA PAO's websites still make no mention.

One part of NASA does not know what other parts are doing.

"Q: The top republican on the House Armed Services Committee is asking y ou to apologize for some of the comments you you made about the Space Force in the briefing room yesterday. WIll you apologize?

Jen Psaki: I did send a tweet last night - you may not all be on Twitter - we invite the members of Space FOrce here to provide an update to all of you on all of the important work that they are doing. We certainly look forward to seeing continued updates from their team.

Q: Big picture here - I mean: does the Space Force have the full support of the Biden Administration or is the President, perhaps, at some point try to get rid of it, or in some way diminish it?

Jen Psaki: They absolutely have the full support of the Biden Administration and we are not revisiting the decision to establish the Space Force. The desire for the Department of Defense to focus greater attention and resources on the growing security challenges in space has long been a bipartisan issue informed by numerous independent commissions and studies conducted across multiple Administrations. Thousands of men and women proudly serve in the Space Force. As you know it was established by Congress and any other steps would have to be taken by Congress - not by the Administration."

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: Your predecessor laid out a lot of highly-ambitious plans, like landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024 and establishing a long-term lunar base. I assume Artemis isn't being abandoned, but are you still pursuing those same timelines?

Jurczyk: Every indication we have so far, in week two of the new administration, is that Artemis will not be abandoned. ... I think that the Moon-to-Mars strategy of Artemis is still our strategic vector. And then we have to look at the funding in our fiscal year 2021 appropriation. We've proposed roughly $3.2 billion in 2021 for the human landing system. And I think we received roughly about a quarter of that, about $850 million. So given that change in budget, particularly for that landing system, we'll have to look at the timeline for what we now call the Artemis III mission, which is the mission that would land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. Mostly driven by budget and not necessarily by policy, we're looking at the timeline for the Artemis III mission and that might affect the Artemis IV mission. We are holding the Artemis I mission for later this year. The baseline is to launch in early November. That's the only uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft. And then we're planning on the crewed test flight, a mission to go around the Moon and return, Artemis II, in the 2023 timeframe."

Keith's 1 February note: The Biden White House issued an Executive order on 27 January 2021 "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad" which outlines its immediate steps to deal with the threat of climate change on society and our economy in a "whole of government" fashion.

As you all know, The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, lists a variety of things that NASA Is chartered to "to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives". The first one on the list is: "The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space." NASA builds and launches all of NOAA's satellites and pioneered the Earth resources capabilities used by all sectors of the U.S. government - expertise that it has applied across the solar system. The Earth Science budget at NASA for FY 2021 is $2 billion. As such, you'd think that NASA, as the provider of Earth observation and research capabilities, would be a prime participant in the Biden Administration's Climate Action plans. Guess again.

The only place that NASA is mentioned by name (or even inferred) in the Executive Order is Sec. 103 (s): "The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses."

The Executive Order goes on to say "National Climate Task Force. There is hereby established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force shall be chaired by the National Climate Advisor" followed by a list of more than 20 Cabinet agencies and high level government offices. NASA is not mentioned.

NASA is only mentioned once in this entire Executive Order. The word "space" is mentioned once - but only as part of NASA's name. The word "satellite" is never mentioned. So ... the big task force chartered to handle America's "whole of government" climate change response makes no mention of NASA as a member - other than to suggest that the NASA Administrator has an action item due in 120 days.

So - all NASA does is write a memo. Am I missing something?

Keith's 2 February update: Later in the day the NASA HQ main page and its Earth science page added mention of Schmidt's appointment. But if you go to the Science Mission Directorate page and its Earth Science page you'd never know that this happened. Yet the NASA GISS Page and NASA Goddard pages have prominent mention. Again, one part of NASA has no idea what other parts are doing - even when they focus on the same topics. And in this case, the organization (SMD) at NASA HQ who spends NASA's billions on Earth and climate science research is the one that remains out of the loop.

Keith's 2 February update: As noted yesterday the recent Executive Order dealing with Climate change clearly suggests that NASA is apparently going to have a minimal role in that effort. In this interview with FUturism Jurczyk was only able to reflect in NASA's current activities in this interview in a broader sense but did not state with any specificity what NASA's role would be going fourth with regard to this executive order. But this Administration is only 2 weeks old - so who knows.

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: It's been reported that the White House wants NASA to reemphasize climate change. I'm curious what you think about NASA's capacity to focus on climate change research in addition to space exploration, and how you plan to balance those priorities.

Jurczyk: ... Yeah, it would be pretty premature to comment on what the impacts might be on the overall budget of NASA and other areas of NASA. But we're going to do that work and see how we can potentially accelerate some of those observations or earth science missions, to accelerate the research, to contribute to the administration's whole of government approach to dealing with climate change."

SpaceX: World's First All-Civilian Mission to Space Will Usher in New Era of Commercial Space Exploration

"Plans for the world's first all-civilian mission to space were announced today from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. The mission is being targeted for the fourth quarter of this year and will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, the 37-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments [NYSE:FOUR] and an accomplished pilot. Named Inspiration4 in recognition of the four-person crew's mission to inspire support for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® and send a humanitarian message of possibility, the journey represents a new era for human spaceflight and exploration. Isaacman is donating the three mission seats alongside him to crew members who will be selected to represent the mission pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity."

Ford v. Ferrari--in Space!, by acting Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal, Issues, June 2020

" ... this seems to be a victory for both the American taxpayer and the nation's space program. SpaceX intends to take not only NASA astronauts to the ISS but also private spaceflight participants, leveraging government investment to commercialize its now-proven launch services."

NASA Names Leaders to Key Agency Roles

"NASA has named appointees for senior agency positions. Bhavya Lal joins the agency as acting chief of staff, Phillip Thompson will serve as White House liaison, Alicia Brown will serve as associate administrator for the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Marc Etkind will serve as associate administrator for the agency's Office of Communications. In addition, Jackie McGuinness will join the agency as press secretary and Reagan Hunter will serve as special assistant for the agency's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs."

Keith's note: What a difference 4 years, an election, and a pandemic can make. When the Trump "beachead team" descended upon NASA, they began to act more like a boarding party from a pirate ship. They squabbled amongst themselves almost immediately. Some of them had no expertise in space. All too soon job titles shifted like "Musical Chairs" as they jockeyed for power. I can recall going to a NAC meeting where a seat was reserved for the "Chief of Staff" and no one knew who that person's name was since it had shifted several times. Soon it was like "Hunger Games" with one after another of the Trump folks were ejected from NASA - by the other Trump folks. Several of them liked to go around Washington to meetings, barking orders at the space community along the lines of "there's a new team in town". Indeed.

Eventually, at least two of them were escorted out of NASA HQ by security after being told to clean out their desks. The ejected ones went to other agencies and roles where they caused new sorts of problems. They were mostly gone when Jim Bridenstine arrived. But their impact was long lasting and left a bad taste in people's mouths.

Contrast this with the people that are showing up from the Biden White House. They do so virtually with most (if not all) not even badged into the building yet. They have all either had their jobs before somewhere else or have skillsets that are matched to their new roles at NASA - and they hit the ground running - as a team. I for one welcome the ... calmer, more professional Biden management team to NASA.


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